Chapter 3.

An hour later, it was over. Jack was resting beside Charlie and Sam was walking to the car with only his flag in her arms. Her mind was reaching for him; pulling forward all the memories they'd made together, memories of quiet days, laughter and his warm, charismatic eyes. She could still hear his voice in her head, teasing her, challenging and comforting her. She yearned for his arms around her as she squeezed the flag tightly against her chest and kept her promise not to cry.

Daniel watched her all afternoon as her house filled with friends and acquaintances expressing their condolences. It was an amazing gathering. Congressmen, Foreign Dignitaries, scientists, educators, neighbors, children, high ranking military from all branches and enlisted personnel all drawn together by their relationships with Jack. Sam was gracious and attentive, occasionally drifting unnoticeably into her own grief. She was also desolate, Daniel could see it in the slight slump of her shoulders and her forced smile, but she carried on bravely until the last guest had departed.

"I'm sorry, Sam. I wish I could've spared you that."

She sat in a chair close to him and smiled sadly. "It's ok, Daniel. They mean well and they were Jack's friends."

"Well, you need to rest. Is there anything else you need?"

'Jack.' Her mind answered, but she just shook her head. "Nothing."

"Give yourself some time, Sam. I know how you must be feeling, but it will get better."

"Yeah." She spoke softly, doubt painfully evident in her voice.

His brow furrowed in concern as he watched her. She'd dropped the mask that she'd been wearing all day and with just the two of them present he could easily see the depth of her sadness. He knew she was mourning, but watching her now he suddenly realized how painful it was going to be and how little he, or anyone, could do to help her.

She awoke the next morning in heightened despair. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. She had requested an extended leave, unwilling for the first time in her life to face military regulations and well-meaning friends. She had no desire to command, no longing for exploration or the quest of knowledge. She only wanted Jack and he was gone.

She glanced around the room and every corner reminded her of him, something he'd said or sometime they'd shared, but she didn't push it away – she welcomed it, holding onto the memories, keeping him close. As she pulled the cover snug around her, feeling cold and alone, she allowed her tears to fall unhindered.

Somehow the endless days turned into weeks and Daniel was accompanying her to the attorney's office. There were always the legal matters to take care of but there would be no surprises, it was merely formality and red tape. They had prepared their wills together long ago, knowing that someday they'd need them but she dreaded it all the same. Someday had seemed so far away and now seemed to make everything so…final.

Daniel had been a godsend. He stayed at her side, lending his strength, his knowledge and his shoulder when she needed it. He was a good friend and he was hurting, too but he never failed her.

"Sam." She turned back to Thomas, weary eyes meeting his calm, professional stare. "Jack left this for you." And he extended a large brown envelope to her.

Her eyes flashed a short look of surprise as her fingers shakily grasp it, surprised at the weight of it as Thomas released it into her hand. "What is it?"

"I don't know, Sam. Jack said it was for you. And that's just the way he gave it to me, I didn't open it."

She turned the envelope in her hands and felt tears fill her eyes as she saw her name spelled out in Jack's handwriting. "Thank you, Thomas."

"Sure, Sam, if there's anything…."

"Thank you, I'm fine."

"Well, just know I'm here."

She smiled and turned away, Daniel at her side, gently guiding her arm.

Several hours later

She finally managed to convince Daniel that she was ok and he had reluctantly left her. She knew he was worried and was sure he'd made some promise to Jack that he was trying to keep but for now, she wanted to be alone.

The envelope was lying on the table, unopened. She was staring at it, almost mad that Jack had left it for her. There weren't supposed to be any surprises, they had talked about this and everything had been settled. Say everything now…not later. And over the years they had said it all, she had no regrets. They hadn't held anything back…so why did he feel he had to leave something behind.

She didn't know how long she sat there staring at the envelope, but afternoon had turned to darkness before she finally opened it. She slid her fingers beneath the seal slowly and then dumped the contents onto the table. Inside was another envelope, also addressed in his familiar scrawl, a CD and a small smooth stone. She stared down at the contents with a puzzled expression and reached for the small envelope. As she unfolded the pages a twinkle of gold caught her eye as it untangled itself and fell into her lap, a three dimensional star. She studied it for a moment and then laid it aside to read the letter in her hands, Jack's final words to her.

Sam,

I know, I know. I'm breaking our agreement but there's a few things I want to say and I want to get them right. So, please forgive me just once more.

First, I love you more than you'll ever know. More than I've ever known how to say. You know if it were up to me, I'd never leave you, but it looks like I'm not calling the shots on this one. Someone up there in the starry skies still outranks me and they're giving the orders. But I'm not really leaving you, Sam. I'll go kicking and screaming. Even then I'll be only a thought away. Just look over your shoulder – I'll be there. Always.

Second, I don't want you to be unhappy. And I don't want you to be alone. We had a great life, Sam, more than I deserved and less than you did. If I lived a million years, I'd still die wishing for another day with you.

I know you're sad because I would be, but you can't stay in that place. So I want you to take this stone and put all your grief into it. Keep it with you, force it to accept your sadness and seal it inside. Then when you're done grieving, and I hope that's soon, throw it away. Toss it into a lake or off a cliff, I don't care. Just throw it away and take back your life. Then hang this star on your bracelet; they were after all the common thread that brought us together and changed our lives in more ways than we could have imagined and they are still shining brilliantly above you, a constant reminder of our days together.

The CD? Well, that's just the last sentimental gesture of an old fool. We played it at our wedding. Remember? The words I wanted to say, wanted you to understand, written more eloquently than I ever could. My Best Friend, you are so much more than that to me, so much more. And Remember Me. Yeah, I want you to remember me. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. But that doesn't mean you stop living, Sam, you've still got a lot to accomplish, a lot of good days out there waiting for you.

So enough grieving, Carter, come on. On your feet, let's go. Save your ass.

I'm ok and you will be, too. I'll be right here, waiting for you.

I love you always,

Jack

She pushed the CD into the player and selected one of the songs he'd mentioned. As the music filled the room, she listened, really listened to the lyrics and finally understood why Jack loved these songs. She let it play while she reread the letter, holding the stone in her hand with tears cascading down her face, as she remembered dancing close to him and his voice whispering the words softly against her skin.

She returned to duty and began wrapping up all her projects. She assigned young brilliant officers to those she could not finish and tried to point them in the right direction, leaving behind her research and theories. When she had done all that she could, she retired.

She transferred their memoirs to the classified vault of the SGC, locking away the treasured days of their lives within a few hundred pages that they had written together before Jack's passing. She sent a few priceless mementos to Teal'c, Daniel and Cassie, leaving instructions for the rest and sold what she no longer needed or wanted. Then she stood back and reflected on her life.

She returned to her friend Thomas and amended her will, fine tuning all her final requests, assuring that she would rest beside Jack for eternity, detailing the distribution of her assets and leaving her own sealed letters for Daniel and Cassie. She set up a trust to insure that Jack's beloved lake and the surrounding area would remain an untamed sanctuary, available to a precious few and their heirs for their lifetimes. Methodical and driven, she tied up every loose end until there was nothing left to do. Then she closed down the house and moved to the cabin in Minnesota.

She spent her days beside the lake, watching as the seasons changed around her and remembering her days with Jack. At night she sat beside the fire, reading his letter again and again while her hand constantly stroked the polished stone and her feeling of loss deepened.

She was there when Daniel found her. He had been plagued by a deep worry and when she had stopped writing or calling he had headed north to the cabin, afraid that she had taken ill or was stranded alone in the Minnesota winter.

He rushed in calling her name, anxious to see her, guilty that he'd let her stay alone here for so long and his heart almost stopped when he saw her withered form sitting in the chair. She was wrapped in a blanket, sitting beside the dead fire, her eyes closed and the room cold around her.

"Sam! Oh, God, Sam!"

He shook her and was relieved to see her eyes briefly flutter open. "Daniel?"

"It's ok; you're going to be ok. I'll get you out of here."

She smiled so slightly that he almost didn't see it. "No, Daniel."

"Sam, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have left you here alone."

"I was never alone, Daniel."

"But Sam…"

"Daniel. I'm going home." He stared into her eyes, vacant of the life that had always flourished there and reached out to take her hand as her eyes fluttered closed and opened again.

"Ok, Sam. Whatever you say."

Tears trickled down his cheeks as he sat helpless beside her. He watched as the light returned briefly to her eyes and she smiled. Then staring over his shoulder, she held out her hand and released the stone, whispering a single word, "Jack."

The End.

Remember Me and My Best Friend are commercially recorded music, performed by artist Tim McGraw. All original copyrights are protected and remain the property of the original owners.