Sam had dreaded seeing Pete. She couldn't tell him the truth - no one knew anything about her marriage to Daniel or their baby and she wanted to keep it that way -- but she couldn't be with Pete either. It wasn't right to put it off no matter how she felt and they met in a small restaurant two weeks after her return and the day after the government had informed him of it. Pete hadn't seemed surprised at her choice of such a public meeting place. It became immediately apparent that he realized that they were not going to pick up where they left off when she saw him walking toward her table. He didn't greet her like a lover but rather as an old friend.
As they sat sipping wine, he searched her face kindly and with concern. "It's been really hard hasn't it Sam?" She could only nod. "If you want to talk about it," he laughed a little, "that is, if you can talk about it, I'm here."
"That's okay Pete. I just have to live long enough for the memories to have a chance to fade." Then she looked at him, really looked at him for the first time since he had sat down. "It's just, well, I'm different. It all changed me. I …"
But he stopped her and said, "Sam I missed you so much but like you said, time goes on, we change. " He wrinkled his forehead. "You'd think I hadn't practiced how to say this 100 times." He laughed ruefully. "The thing is, I couldn't deal with constantly waiting for news and after awhile, I guess I mourned for you as if you were dead. And, well, a few months ago, I started seeing someone else." He looked at her with so much caring. "You're magnificent Sam and I am so terribly glad you are alive and home safe." And so they parted as friends, mutually relieved.
She couldn't terminate things so cleanly though with Daniel. By the time they had come through the gate, he had pretty much given up trying to talk with her about their relationship but she could tell he hadn't given up in his heart of hearts. They still had to occasionally interact for the job. When they did, he never said anything or did anything specific except for once or twice calling her Sama but there was the hurt and the hope in his eyes when he looked at her. There was how handsome he was and all the little mannerisms and habits that made her remember their time together. There were all the qualities about him that had made her love him in the first place. And there was the damn silver medallion. Every time she saw it through an open collar she could see the little face it held in her mind. There were one or two weak moments when she almost asked him to let her see it. When she allowed herself to regret refusing the locket that had been made for her but she managed to fight down the urge.
Everybody could tell that something was wrong with her but no one figured it out. They just made her crazy trying and eventually she drove them all away.Teal'c had resigned from Stargate Command a year before to be with the Jaffa band to which his son belonged. He returned as soon as he found out Daniel and Sam were back. It was very clear to him that Sam was not herself but he also misdiagnosed the problem. When she rebuffed him, he spent a lot of time with Daniel before returning home. She trusted Daniel absolutely to keep their secret as far as not directly revealing anything. When Teal'c came to say farewell to her before he left, she realized that Daniel must have left an awful lot for him to read between the lines.
"DanielJackson is very sad, Colonel Carter. He would not tell me what his sorrow was but it seemed to me like what I felt when I thought I would never see my wife and son again." Sam didn't respond to that but studied the hands folded in her lap. He looked at her for a very long time and then said softly, "I did not want to leave you in that cursed place but I was given no choice. However you feel he failed you, I must believe he also had no choice. Please, as my friend, stand a friend to him because I cannot stay here any longer at this time."
Sam said, "I'll do the best I can." What else could she say? And it wasn't a lie because try as she might the best she could do was avoid Daniel.
Worst of all her would be psychotherapists was Jack. He could tell that not only was there something really wrong with each of them, there was something terribly wrong between them. In fact, he seemed to be of the opinion that this was what was wrong with them individually. He kept trying to get them together, to put them in situations where they would have to talk. Daniel would cooperate but Sam successfully avoided his traps. Jack wasn't really clever about this sort of thing but damn he was persistent. After all he was retired now and seemed to have decided that his hobby would be meddling in his friends' lives.
Perhaps encouraged somehow by Jack's efforts, Daniel started a more active campaign. He sent her flowers. Not once but so often she began to wonder how he could afford it and she had a really hard time explaining them away. He started finding ways to run into her more often at work. She started to feel like he was almost stalking her.
So she came up with what seemed like brilliant plan at the time to derail Jack and discourage Daniel permanently. She started dating Jack. At first Jack didn't realize that was what they were doing. He thought he was just bucking her up. She talked all sorts of dribble to make him think that he was functioning as a shoulder to cry on. In fact what she was doing was making sure they went to restaurants and other places where they would be likely to run into people from the base and then putting her arm in his when she knew they were looking or making some other affectionate gesture. She managed to drop the fact that they were dating into conversation with a couple of the more notorious Stargate Command gossips.
Sam wasn't sleeping well at all. Her dreams were all about P4K58L9. She dreamed variations of Janet's death where she was trying desperately to save her. She woke up from these in tears. She also had really happy dreams sometimes. She and Daniel making love. She and Daniel talking about astrophysics in the sod hut. She and Daniel with their new baby. She woke up smiling but then plummeted to an even deeper sorrow to have everything snatched away from her yet again. She was also not liking herself at all for the way she was using Jack and hurting Daniel but she couldn't seem to change it.
Sam tried to convince herself that she really did love Jack. After all, she had spent years with a secret crush on him that had been perfect for where she had been in her head at the time. Regulations prevented anything from happening and he was quite frankly emotionally unavailable anyway. Perfect. Now he met the most important current qualification. At his age and with the loss of his son followed by the lost of Ska'ra, he wouldn't want or expect children. She could not – would not – ever be a mother again.
One night, when Jack took her home, she kissed him with every bit of skill that she had perfected in her years with Daniel. Jack was completely taken aback at first.
"Whoa, Carter, where's this coming from?" he asked holding her off at arms length.
"Don't you like it, Jack? Because I really did and I'd like to do it again."
"Of course. I mean you're a beautiful woman and I'm not THAT old. But we're like old combat buddies or something aren't we? It feels sort of wrong."
"That's just a conditioned response from all your years before you retired. I can help you get over it, " she offered, moving back against him.
"What are you after here, Sam? Are you thinking recreation? A Relationship? I need to see a guidebook before I get on the bus."
"I don't know Jack how things will turn out but I really care about you. I always have and now that you are retired we are free to see if there might be more to it." She was doing a sales job on herself at the same time she was trying to convince him.
"Okay, so we get a little romantic but I think we should take it slow. You've really been hurt by this Pete thing and I'm, well, still a work in progress."
Even with their dating now being completely real, Sam was afraid that all of this might be only accomplishing her first objective, confusing Jack. Daniel seemed to operate in another world sometimes when work was really occupying his mind and she had always thought he was oblivious to gossip. Circumstances took care of the problem completely by accident. She and Jack had fallen into a kiss leaning up against his car in the parking lot of a favorite restaurant. And suddenly there was Daniel. The look on his face was a knife in her gut. He stood staring at them poleaxed. Jack noticed him and broke the kiss.
"Hey Daniel. I bet you never expected to see this." Jack was completely misreading Daniel's reaction. "It surprised us too. Say her brother's miles from here so can I get your blessing as a sort of unofficial brother? My intentions are really good."
Daniel laughed, completely without any humor. "My blessing. Wow," he said flatly. He looked at Sam with absolutely loathing and disgust. "Yeah sure." He said softly in Kloterian, "Few people have the opportunity to connect the way we did, to love the way we did. I've tried to save you from yourself Sama but I can't keep fighting. I don't know who you must hate more – me or yourself -- to commit adultery with a man who is so close to me. I honestly wish you happiness because I don't think Jack deserves to be as miserable as you'll make him otherwise." In English, he told Jack, "That was just a little something we learned back on P4K58L9. Let me know when you get the silver pattern picked out." He walked away.
Jack looked at Sam. "Here's just an educated guess," he said sarcastically. " I don't think he's really happy about this. In fact, I think he's jealous."
Sam tried to laugh it off. "That's completely ridiculous Jack. You saw us together for years. There was never anything going on." When she saw that Jack wasn't buying what she was selling she said, " Look we were isolated together for a long time. Daniel started to think he felt something romantic for me but it was just the situation. I had to discourage him really strongly."
"And that's what's been wrong between the two of you?" Jack asked not sounding like he completely believed his own hypothesis.
"Yeah, that's what's been wrong."
Most of the time Sam really enjoyed Jack's company. When they kissed though, she kept remembering Daniel's words. Had she ever thought she would be a cheating wife? Did that really apply?Were they really married? No matter what her reservations, she seemed to be standing outside herself letting the train run ahead. One night they stayed in at Jack's place to watch some of the tapes he had been compiling for her of her favorite shows over the years she was gone. He was drinking beer and she had a lovely Chardonnay, maybe a little too much of it. She drifted to sleep in his arms as they lay on the sofa together, the screen flickering in the background. Jack muted the sound and watched her sleep, drowsy himself.
Sam was dreaming. She and Daniel were standing on the parapet of the fortress. There were men in black impossibly climbing up the walls, like flies, getting closer and closer with knives in their teeth. Daniel was holding Janet's limp body and about to jump over the edge. Sam began to cry. Her tears were soaking Jack's shirt and making him completely awake. And then she began to mumble. It was indistinct but he could definitely make out the name Danny. He was about to wake her out what was obviously a nightmare when she said very distinctly, "No Danny no. Don't leave me. I love you so."
Then he did wake her up. "Sam tell me the truth. You need to tell someone the truth. What happened on your last mission?"
She stared at him her eyes wide, feeling the tears on her checks, and realized that she must have talked in her sleep. Suddenly she couldn't hold it in anymore. Ever since the day they buried Janet she had only been able to cry in her dreams. Now she sobbed, huge racking sobs. The anguished cry, "I killed my baby," was all Jack could get from her.
Finally she lay back exhausted and it all came out, the first time she had talked to anyone about what had happened. She told Jack everything. He listened and somehow not really surprised as she talked a bout her love for Daniel. When she finished, she looked at him, ashamed. "Jack, I haven't been fair to you at all. I can't really love anyone except Danny. I can't be with him but I'm still his wife in my heart. I should have known that."
"Why can't you be with him? I haven't heard anything that makes sense with that statement. Sure you may have screwed up in exposing your identities – that's debatable given everything else -- but it was a reasonable command decision. I would have made the same one." He stumbled around in an aside, "That is if I was married to Daniel which I guess would have made Daniel a girl. Whatever."
"Really. You think it was a reasonable thing to do?"
"Sure and he obviously does. He kept trying to get you back. Would he have been doing that if he blamed you? " He stood up and took her hands to pull her to her feet. "I'm going to drive you home now and I want to you sleep on this. I am ordering you to forgive yourself – consider me temporarily recalled to active duty. Tomorrow I want you to figure out how you're going to get back with Daniel."
Amazingly Sam felt like it was possible. Finally talking it out with someone, hearing that someone who had lost a child himself thought she could be forgiven, did make a difference. It didn't happen overnight though. She spent days going up and down an emotional roller coaster. She talked it through with Jack several more times. Jack was wonderful considering how she had treated him. Perhaps, like Pete, he was deep down relieved that they still had, and always would have, such a deep, caring friendship.
Finally Sam made the decision to try to get Daniel back. That raised the question of how. Or if, in fact, she still could. She had really disillusioned him. Sam's first plan was to go to him at home. She found out he had moved and she didn't have his new address. She also didn't have his home phone number. Since they were not working together directly, she had no good reason to request it at the base. Jack didn't know where to find Daniel either. Daniel had completely avoided Jack since the kiss episode 2 months before and Jack didn't have his new phone number. She thought about asking Pete to find out the information she needed but that was just too weird. Even though they had parted friends and had talked a few times since their dinner, it was just too weird.
Before she had figured anything out, Daniel went off world to consult on some Ancient ruins for two weeks. Sam was really frustrated and crying at the drop of a hat over anything and everything. Chick flick heroines did not run into these sorts of stupid prosaic problems when the music swelled for the romantic reunion. It appeared that logistics dictated that she approach Daniel at the base.
Sam waited one day after he had returned and then she went to his office. The door was part way open and so she didn't knock. She just stepped quickly inside, closed it and, leaning against it, reached behind her and locked it. Daniel looked up, identified his visitor, and looked back down at the papers he was working on. "May I help you, Colonel," he asked with exaggerated politeness and an emphasis on the Colonel.
She had rehearsed the whole thing several times but now she was a total blank. The first thing she thought of came out of her mouth without any editing. "I'm not seeing Jack any more, not romantically. It never really got much beyond friendship while it lasted."
"I'm not sure what your personal affairs have to do with my role here at Stargate Command, Colonel. He is quite a bit older than you but doesn't really qualify as an archeological subject."
She sighed and then moved decisively around the desk and sat on it directly in front of him.
"Colonel you are rumbling some relatively important papers here."
Sam didn't answer but reached into his shirt and pulled out the chain. "How do you open this thing?"
"Why would you want to?" For the first time there was a little uncertainty in his tone along with the hostility.
"I loved her so much Danny. I want to look at her. I want us to look at her together." He looked very confused and wary but he didn't ask for any more explanation. He opened it to the two tiny pictures and cradled it in his palm. She stroked the smiling face with its precious rosebud mouth, round cheeks, and blue, blue eyes. Tears began to slip down her cheeks. Reluctantly but unable to help himself, or so it seemed to her, he brushed the tears away with his other hand. She caught it, raised it to her cheek, turned her mouth into it, and kissed it. Without letting go, she asked, "Can you forgive me for her death? For letting them find us? If you can forgive me, maybe I can forgive myself."
He replied softly, "I never blamed you for anything. I thought you blamed me. If you want forgiveness you have it but there is nothing to forgive."
She started crying now in earnest. Daniel pulled her down into his lap and held her. Someone knocked on the door, was ignored, and went away. At last she had the courage to continue. "Can you forgive me for pushing you away?"
His hand stilled from stroking her hair. He asked almost inaudibly, "What do you want? What is this all about?" The wariness was back in his tone.
It was time to look him in the eyes, to quit hiding. She pulled back and took his beloved face in her hands. "I want a whole hell of a lot. I want you. I want everyone to know that we're married. I want to live together. I want to, I don't know, change my last name to Carter-Jackson or maybe we both do." He was utterly frozen listening to her. "I don't know if I'll be willing to have another child. I'm getting old for that anyway. But if you give me time to heal, maybe..."
He interrupted then, "You're for real? You really mean this?"
She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him and he kissed her back. After awhile, he drew her silver medallion from his pocket where he always kept it and put it around her neck. He ruffled her cropped hair and asked, "Will you grow it out long enough to braid?"
"It will be my long delayed wedding present to you."
As she told their twins at the end of bedtime stories a few years later, they all lived happily ever after.