TITLE: Nothing We Can't Handle
AUTHOR: Matt, May/June 2005
SUMMARY: After Jacob's death, Jack O'Neill and Sam Carter have some decisions to make.
SEASON/SPOILERS: Season 8 – pre-season 9 / spoilers for episode Threads
CATEGORY: Angst, with character deaths
DISCLAIMER: Characters are the property of MGM et al. I claim only the story.
DEDICATION: For Shaz. I hope it's what you wanted, hon, and that you like it.
NOTE: This was written for the sjficathon on Live Journal. Thank you to Allie for the edits.
The rain came down steadily, casting an air of depression over the Midwestern graveyard. Three people stood watching silently as a coffin was slowly lowered into the ground. Two were in Air Force uniform, the other was in civilian clothing.
The woman stepped forward and knelt down. She switched her black umbrella from right hand to left and picked up a handful of dirt before rising. The soil was lightly thrown down and over the coffin.
"You're with mom now," she murmured, "but I'll still miss you."
The civilian man came to her and placed a comforting arm around her. Her head lowered to rest on his shoulder as her own shook with quiet sobs.
The second man felt as though he was intruding on an intensely personal scene. This was a time for family: the two children grieving, the father freshly interred, and the mother in the grave alongside. He flipped a salute towards the open grave. "Rest easy, Jacob," he whispered before retreating to a safe distance.
He'd come out of respect for the retired General Carter and at the request of his daughter, Lieutenant Colonel Sam Carter. The viewing and memorial service had taken place in Colorado Springs, but Jacob's will had revealed that he wanted his remains lain next to his wife. His body had had to be cremated, thanks to the presence of Selmak, but it had been easy to carry out the rest of his wish. Consequently, Sam and Mark had made the trip to the town they'd been forced to leave many years ago due to their father's reassignment shortly after their mother's death. And Jack had accompanied them as a representative of the military organisation Jacob Carter had served for so long.
Mark Carter had seemed surprised and curious as to why General O'Neill was with them. He'd been pacified by Jack's answer; that Jacob had been a friend, a colleague and a wonderful mentor. But now, as the rain continued to pour and Jack pulled his overcoat closer to him, even he wondered if it was right for him to be there.
The siblings finally turned away from their parents' graves. As she approached him, Sam smiled sadly.
"Thank you for coming, Sir," she said softly.
"It was an honour," he replied.
Mark Carter stuck out his hand. "You're alright, Jack" he said as the General accepted the handshake. "My father was right about you." Seeing that his sister had moved beyond them to the car, Mark held onto Jack's hand and leaned his head in. "I know you'll look after her."
"Good." He sighed. "When I saw her with Pete at the viewing, I had a feeling they were in trouble. They're great people, but not together." Mark grinned ruefully. "I never thought they'd get as far as they did when I introduced them, to be honest." He paused for a moment and his expression changed. "She lost a good friend last year, didn't she?"
Mark nodded. "She needs people around her. I'd invite her to San Diego if I thought she'd come. But she won't. She'll bury herself in her work. She did the same when Mom died, buried her head in her books and wouldn't come out for months."
"We'll look after her," Jack replied, mentally including Daniel and Teal'c in his promise.
"I know you will, Jack." Mark clapped a hand on Jack's shoulder then looked beyond him. "I guess we better get going, before Sam starts getting suspicious."
The men walked in silence to the black town car. Jack couldn't be sure, but it sounded as though Mark Carter was trying to encourage a closer relationship between him and Mark's sister.
Getting everyone to agree to go to the cabin proved to be an accomplishment in itself. Daniel claimed a backlog of work after his latest brush with ascension, and Teal'c initially refused on the basis of his prior experience in Minnesota. However, once Jack played the sympathy card, both men agreed to the trip as a way of helping their friend. Sam finally agreed once he ordered her to take her downtime off base. He and Mark had been right: Sam had wanted to work in order to keep her mind occupied. Even Cassandra reluctantly agreed to join them.
Certainly, the cabin was cramped with all five staying there, but Jack took pride in his property when he saw the enthusiastic smiles on his friends' faces. Daniel and Cass immediately set about an exploration of the area, while Teal'c settled himself in a chair by the water.
Only Sam seemed out of sorts. Since her father's funeral it appeared she was getting quieter and quieter, and Jack was concerned she was withdrawing into herself – an act he was all too familiar with. She kept herself distant from the others, only joining them when she had to. Consequently, they only saw her at mealtimes and in passing at bedtime. Cassandra even told Jack that, despite sharing a room, the two women had only exchanged a few words. Sam Carter, it appeared, was unreachable.
Even at the cabin, Jack rarely had a night of unbroken sleep. The slightest sound could jerk him wide awake and ready for action. Over the years he'd gradually adjusted to the sound of Daniel's breathing and Teal'c's soft footsteps, but a woman's brief shriek was unfamiliar and thus woke him.
To be fair to Sam, it wasn't enough to wake the others. However, it had been enough for Jack and, in less than a minute, he was in the kitchen facing an embarrassed Sam Carter.
"I'm sorry," she said, looking rather red-faced. "I saw something and it startled me." She laughed. "I can face down Goa'uld and Jaffa, but I'm scared by a tiny mouse."
"Aargh," Jack groaned. "They're back again." He quickly opened a drawer and pulled out a mousetrap.
"Wh-what are you doing?"
"Setting a trap, Carter. What does it look like?"
"You're going to kill it?"
He finished setting the trap and, after placing it strategically on the floor, turned to face her. "Here a mouse is not a computer accessory, it's vermin. There's a reason I don't keep food stored when I'm not here. What?"
He'd noticed that she was looking rather pale.
"I'm sorry, Sir. It's just the thought of more death."
Jack knew something had to be done, and fast. If they stayed inside, she'd be waiting for that trap to snap. Noticing that Sam had a full bottle of water on the counter beside her, he opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle for himself. Then he steered her out the back door and towards the small jetty overhanging the water.
They sat on the wooden boards in silence, sipping their water and taking in the sounds of the rural Minnesotan night. Finally, he felt compelled to speak.
"I miss him too. He was a good man."
He heard her sigh. "I suppose I should be grateful he didn't die six years ago, that I had the second chance with him. It's hit me harder than I expected though, I think."
"Carter, if you weren't affected by death, I'd be concerned about your mental state and your ability in the field. This was your father, not some faceless Jaffa."
"I guess I either thought he'd die in battle or outlive us all. For it to be a case of old age was just… unexpected."
Jack thought about the unexpected losses in his life. "It's always hard when you don't expect it," he said slowly. "As soldiers, we know there's a chance we might not come back. But when it's not a battle situation, or it's someone else that doesn't usually go into the field…" He trailed off.
They sat in silence again. Off in the distance a bird called out, and there was the soft plop of something in the water.
"What's it like?" Sam asked suddenly.
"What's what like?"
"What's it like sending us through the Gate, knowing we might not come back?"
"Like hell," Jack admitted. Being effectively grounded left him in a perpetual state of helplessness. "I still feel I should be out there, watching your sixes. Now I know why generals get the big bucks. It's because every time we send out people under our command, we're effectively sending them out to die."
He thought about it some more. There'd been something on his mind for a while and, in the dark of night, it didn't seem so bad to admit it. "I've thought about retirement, for real this time, no going back. But I'd still know you were out there, and I'd still worry. Only I wouldn't know if you'd made it back safely or not. At least now I know right away."
Sam nodded thoughtfully. "I think I know what you mean. I've contemplated requesting reassignment off a front line team. But I'd be worried for everyone else."
"You'd still be on base, though. Right?" Sam's statement had come as a surprise to him.
"I guess. I'd like to spend more time in the lab."
He allowed himself to picture a scenario in which she didn't go through the Gate. His conclusion was, perhaps not surprisingly, that he'd be a lot less worried.
"If you did get that reassignment, I'd feel a lot better about retiring." He cringed as he realised how it must sound. "Sorry, didn't mean to sound like that put the onus on you."
She laughed lightly. "It's okay, I understand. At least you'd know I was coming home every night."
Jack wondered if he'd heard correctly. Did she mean to imply she'd be coming home every night to him, or was that simply wishful thinking on his part?
He knew, however, that it wasn't the right time to question her on it. He'd begun drawing her out of her self-imposed shell and that was the main thing. "Yeah, right," he snorted. "And how many times would you stay all night in your lab if given the opportunity?"
He received a friendly jab in the ribs for his observation.
He hated funerals. There was no way they should happen this frequently. At least this time the sun was shining and he didn't feel out of place in his dress blues. There was a large military turnout for this particular burial, including a couple of the Joint Chiefs.
He watched as the grieving daughter received the flag from the coffin, and then switched his attention to another grieving daughter – the one standing beside him. She was trying desperately not to cry and he longed to be able to publicly comfort her.
Since their conversation that night on the dock he and Sam had begun to resolve a few of the complications in their lives. A few days after their return to base, she'd come to his office and requested her reassignment. Jack had been shocked at first, but something in the words she hadn't said had encouraged him to take a complete look at the scientific departments and her hard earned doctorate in theoretical astrophysics. He'd had no problems acquiescing to her request and forwarding it to General Hammond for final approval.
Now the ball was firmly in Jack's court. He decided to allow a month or so for Sam to settle into her new position, and for Daniel and Teal'c to adapt to the situation and make their own decisions. It hadn't really been a surprise that Teal'c had requested to spend more time with the Free Jaffa Nation. Daniel, meanwhile, had buried himself in his lab, only emerging to go off-world with whichever team needed his expertise at the time. Currently, there was no SG-1 on the team roster; Jack had decided to leave the status of that team designation to whoever followed him to the 'big chair.'
George Hammond's sudden heart attack had thrown everything into disarray. The Department of Homeworld Security had effectively ground to a halt, pending the appointment of a new Secretary. Only the daily, routine, aspects of the Department were still functioning. It was as well the galaxy was relatively quiet for the moment.
And Jack O'Neill had a problem. In his pocket was a letter from President Hayes. The President wanted him to take over at the Department. The Joint Chiefs had approved the nomination, and the Air Force Chief of Staff had suggested it would be a very good career move for him.
While Jack understood the merits of such a position, he wasn't bothered about making good career moves. After all, this was the man who had presumed the rank of Colonel would be the end of the line for him. He hadn't anticipated even being promoted to Brigadier General.
Where would that leave his relationship with Sam? She'd been in his office, assisting him with his retirement letter, when he'd received the call informing him of Hammond's death. She didn't yet know of the nomination, but he wouldn't make any decision without her input. If he moved to Washington, he wouldn't be her immediate CO, but there would still be a potential for conflict since the Department oversaw the SGC. They could still embark on a personal relationship, but the long distance could also be a problem for them.
He sighed, causing her to look at him. "What's wrong?" she whispered.
Jack shook his head. Arlington National Cemetery wasn't the place to discuss the issue. "Nothing we can't handle," he told her.