NOTES: I had to delete and repost this story because I realised that it will otherwise make no sense unless I do some explaining first. It will help if you read 'The Difference Between Men and Boys' and 'Certainties' first. It's not exactly a sequel since I changed Sam's name to Alex (Alexandra) - in honour of a friend's story (sgcbearcub at LiveJournal) about the 'mini SG1s', but it could work along the same timeline with a similar premise.
This story was written for the LiveJournal community 'fanfic100' (100 fics on a character or pairing). The pairing is Sam/Jack, and the keyword for this one is #19 'White'.
It was a nice day.
"Alex?" Helen poked her head around the door, the orchids in her hair swinging loose. "Ow!" One hand reached up to catch the dangling flower as she said, "There's a man here to see you. He's out on the porch."
Alex frowned. "Did he give a name?"
"Just called himself the General."
She turned so fast, she nearly endangered the floral spray pinned in her own blonde hair. "General Hammond?"
Helen shrugged. "Guess so."
Alex hauled up her skirt and padded out of the room, relieved that she hadn't gone for the white meringue. Jon had shrugged when she told him this. "You look good in anything - or nothing." His smirk was appreciative and she'd rolled her eyes at him. "I don't care what you wear to our wedding, Carter, as long as you turn up!"
She had no intention of not turning up.
The floorboards of the house were warmed by the morning sun, and she padded across them barefoot. Although it was getting cooler now that the summer was fading, it was still warm enough that her dress had no sleeves and only a light shawl.
The screen door creaked as she pushed it open and stepped out into the still-warm morning of a Colorado autumn. "General, I'm glad you came..."
He turned on his heel at her voice, the neat little spin that she remembered so well - in the corridors of the SGC, in the grass or dirt of some planet four-hundred light years away, even on the path leading up to her front door at least a handful of times.
Not General Hammond then.
"I... Sir, I thought..."
He looked older than she remembered. Then again, for the last three years she'd only really seen the younger version of him - the man he was and man he'd been, all in one lean, compact package.
To see him old - really old - was a shock.
If the expression on his face was any guide, to see her young was a shock, too.
"Hey," he said. "I... I heard about today and I wanted to drop this by..."
'This' was a present, thin and oblong, neatly wrapped in silver and white paper and tied with a silver ribbon.
"Thank you. Sir." The mode of address was tacked on the end, awkwardly. It had taken her a while to get out of it with Jon; surprising how difficult it was to get back with the man she still thought of as 'the Colonel' - although she knew of his promotions. "I...will you be...?"
Something like a smile touched his face. "No. I don't think so." He took a deep breath and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Had my fill of weddings. But I hope... I hope you're happy."
There was nothing to say to that but, "Thank you. Sir."
She watched him leave, wished she could offer him something - some recompense for what she'd cost him, for what he'd given up. Too many years, too much blood, too much loyalty, too much duty.
To the sound of his truck engine roaring off down the street, Alex opened the package. Jon wouldn't mind and she had to know...
Her fingers trailed across the glass of a photoframe: plain wood, nothing fancy. They weren't fancy people, after all. And nothing showed that better than the photo in the frame. A simple shot, complex emotions, frozen for all eternity by the lens of the camera.
Instinct made her turn the picture over, read the words he'd written on the back in his blocky lettering.
Compassion made tears slip down past her nose, without consideration for the makeup she'd applied that morning.
"Alex?" Helen came out from the back. "Who was it? Oh, honey..."
An arm came down around her shoulders. Alex shook her head, rejecting the comfort. "No, I'm fine." She reached for the kleenex box. "The visit was just...unexpected."
"Alex?" Her bridesmaid was watching her, uncertainly. "What's happened?"
She looked down at the photo she still held in her hand, felt the clench of her heart and the hollow echo of lost hope. But her answer was quiet. "Nothing," she said as she dabbed at her eyes. "Nothing's happened."
But when Jon came for her an hour later - breaking the 'rules' was nothing new for them, after all - she pulled him aside while Helen ordered Ben around to collect the last few things they needed before they headed off to the Academy chapel.
"He came to visit."
Eyebrows rose. "He?"
"Oh." There was a long considering pause, during which his hand found hers. "Well, what did I have to say for myself?"
She shrugged, her fingers tightening around his. "Same as usual. Not much."
"Still a man of many words, eh?" There was a pause, then, quieter, "What happened?"
The question echoed Helen's. "What makes you think anything happened?"
Something like regret flickered across his face, and she looked away. Even after three years, it was hell adjusting to her instincts to shut him out. She'd gotten so good at it through the years.
She pulled away from him, picked up the photo and held it up for him to see. "You never said."
He looked at the photo. Looked at her. Looked away. "What was there to say?"
"Alex, things were different then! You had everything going for you, what did I have to offer that you could possibly want?" His voice grated, the adult voice that she'd heard give orders and tell jokes, hand out reprimands and urge encouragement, deny everything and admit to what she didn't want to hear.
By his sides, his hands had fisted. He'd kept to his code of honour, but the cost...
She'd never seen the cost. He'd been careful to keep it from her.
Something like humour flickered across his face. "I'm marrying you, aren't I?" But the hesitation remained - the old wounds still ached.
Alex knew how that went.
"Did you ever see us? Before, I mean."
"Will it make a difference whether or not you marry me today?" Alex recognised the gambit; typical O'Neillian tactics - bait and switch, divert and distract.
By now, he should have known that a Carter never went for anything less than the direct route.
"Answer the question, Jon."
In the silence that followed, she could hear birds singing, cars driving by, the whirr of someone's leafblower, the bark of a dog echoing across the rooftops of suburbia, and Helen and Ben holding a conversation in the rooms behind them.
"I never let myself," he muttered. "I couldn't. And you didn't want me to, either."
"That's not true!"
"Let's keep it in the room?"
"You agreed to it!"
"Only after you said nothing had to change! For crying out loud, Carter, what did you want me to say? 'No, actually, Carter, I'd like to have a clandestine affair that would permanently compromise your career'? What kind of man do you take me for?"
So the bitterness was still there. Delicately put: they had issues. Bluntly put: they'd have to deal with them.
"I'm taking you as a husband," she said at last. "That counts for something. Doesn't it?"
The silence went longer than she liked, but she never looked away and neither did he. They were done with dancing around the blue elephant in the living room.
Finally, he spoke. "For me, maybe. For him...?"
She set the photo down on the table, aware of the silence in the back of the house. Helen and Ben were probably staring at each other and wondering if the wedding was going to go ahead after all.
Alex was wondering.
Jon closed the space between them, taking her in his arms. "C'mere."
And that was how Helen found them when she peeked in a few minutes later. "We ready to go?"
He looked down at her in query. "Ready?"
She unwrapped herself from his arms and met his gaze. "As I'll ever be."
This time, the smile was genuine. "Then let's go."
Sam Carter had followed Jack O'Neill through the wormhole for seven years, in and out of all kinds of adventure, and fallen in love with a man of many feelings and few words.
Things were the other way around for Alex; she'd known she loved Jon but to follow his lead - again - and have him trust her to watch his back...well, that was a more difficult thing.
But, as she grabbed her bouquet and the slim, beaded purse in which she was keeping her basics for the day, her eyes rested on the photo with a pang of regret.
It was a nice day for a white wedding.
- fin -