Author's Note: This was inspired by a West Wing fanfiction I read a little while ago by a story called The Same Day Every Year, by Penelopody. I consider this story to be a Sam/Jack story, but you are warned that there is some Sam/McKay in here. Also, warning for those who haven't seen 'Heroes', there're are a couple of spoliers in here.

I hope you enjoy and please tell me what you think.

Summary: A possibility of Sam's life over the years after the battle over Antarctica.

Rating: PG-13 (T)
Pairings: mostly Sam/Jack; some Sam/McKay
Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Stargate world, because then we might have some problems.

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Because Pretending Would Be Easier…

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It would be after three long weeks of hiding, after trying to escape from the press and the public eye. She would be lounging back in her desk chair, trying not to do any work, as she listened absently to the commercial for some new movie. She would realize that she hadn't seen a movie in years, that the preview, the commercials, the products meant nothing to her. It would be then that she would turn around to see her face on the TV, then that she would let Janet's words infiltrate her mind.

As she watched, she would be reminded again about her old friend. Her old friends. About all those she had lost. Those dead. Those she had removed herself from, had been too busy, too tired, too detached to call back. She wouldn't think about all of the good things the stargate brought- the new technology, the medicine, the friends. She wouldn't think about the smile she had worn as she spoke about some technical thing and the stargate and the flashing lights behind her. She wouldn't think about those things because the dead faces would flood her mind, all the bad dreams, all the firefights, all the Gou'ald.

And then she would storm away, retreating to the sanctity of her back porch, leaving the year old documentary humming in the background.

She would go there only because it reminded her of him. Because the view of trees would bring back all the wry comments. Because she could almost pretend she wasn't on Earth any more.

He would call. She would ignore it at first, not caring who it was. It would be the first time she was alone in weeks. But she would answer it just before the caller hung up, breathing a lazy "hello". He would chuckle on the other end, and tease her about being asleep, maybe by saying, "Technobabble finally bore you to sleep?" She would tell him that she was just ignoring him. They would joke for a little while, tease each other, but they would say nothing about the Stargate, nothing about the media frenzy or the documentaries, nothing about any of it. They would just talk like they were normal people.

She would sit on her porch and watch the sun fall over the tips of the trees. She would complain that she was tired, he would tease her for using her brain too much, she would laugh but hang up anyway.

/-

It would be a year later and still she ducked away from people, avoiding their stares and whispers. The same documentary would still be played and replayed, only now with more to say, more added on after other reporters would get access to the SGC once again. There would be no mention of Atlantis, no one would know the dangers faced by the city and her occupants. No one would understand the dangers that had faced the world in the past, and no one would know about the dangers they still faced.

She would go to work in a haze, as she had for years past, but it would some how be different. The differences would be easy to spot if she was looking for them, but they would have occurred so slowly that she wouldn't.

The Colonel would have been promoted after the battle over Antarctica. She would have as well. SG-1 would be offered to her to command and she would accept. For a while it would be just the three of them with the General standing over Walter looking down at her. After a few months, Teal'c would have returned to his people to help them rebuild, visiting when he had time, coming to them with news of the Jaffa. She would feel a rush of pride, thinking that she had had a hand in freeing the first of them. She would feel a rush of embarrassment, thinking that there had been a time that she hadn't believed the day would come.

With Teal'c's absence, another Air Force officer or Marine or some other military officer would join them. It would be someone she and Daniel labored over, someone they chose together. Someone that they had trouble opening up to at first, still so unused to all the changed around them, but they would learn to like their newest member. The General would tell them that it was time for a fourth member to complete their ranks and she and Daniel would return to the mountain of files they had discarded. They wouldn't invite their newest member, only because they wouldn't think about it, and in the end they wouldn't chose anyone. Finally they would decide on a medical doctor. Missions would be less about fighting the Gou'ald and more about discovery. The doctor would be the first regularly on the field, but more would follow.

It would be a while, but eventually Daniel would find a culture that he was as drawn to as he had been to the Abydonians. He wouldn't say it at first and they would stay longer then they intended and slowly Daniel would find himself attracted to one of the natives. She would sigh, smile at him, and tell him to stop packing his things. He would ask if they were being allowed to stay longer. She would tell him that he could stay as long as he wanted, if he wanted. He would smile sadly, and she would understand. Then she would step through to gate and return to the stack of personnel files alone.

The General would visit her more after that and she would be silently thankful for the gesture. But months would pass and she would gradually become comfortable in her position and with her new team. She would become close friends with them, but never as close as she had been with her original team. It wouldn't be the same and some nights she would find herself longing for the way it had been. Then she would shake her head and realize how much better the world was- that's what she would tell herself. That it was better, that that was what they had worked so hard for. But some nights it would be harder to believe.

The General would leave- promoted again to take over General Hammond's job. A new General would come. He would be nice and would smile, because he wouldn't know what she and many others like her knew. He wouldn't have been around during the Gou'ald and he would only know stories. But he wouldn't need to know these things, she would tell herself. By then it would be a scientist's dream. No longer military missions, but civilian studies.

Late one night, she would switch on her TV and listen half-heartedly as she collapsed onto her couch after a week long mission. The phone would ring. She would ignore it for a minute, not wanting to move. But she would, because she always did in the end. It would be his voice on the other end of the phone. She would hear the exhaustion and then she would remember how much later it was where he was. It was silent in the background and she would wonder where he was. But she wouldn't ask, just as he wouldn't.

He would start with a joke, but it was forced and she would know just how tired he was. She wouldn't ask what was wrong, because that was for him to tell her. So she would tell him about her team. He wouldn't know the newest one- the archeologist that replaced Daniel. He wouldn't know that she was good and quick, but she would never be Daniel. But he would listen and laugh shortly when appropriate. She would tell him about what Daniel had said two or three weeks ago when he checked in and she would tell him how the Jaffa were doing. He would already know, but she would tell him only because it made her feel like she was telling him about Teal'c.

Eventually, he would tell her a little about how it was in Washington. He would hate it there, but he would tell her it was fine, that he didn't mind. She would know that it was a lie. He would say that he was getting too old for the Air Force. That it was time for him to consider throwing in the towel and spend his days fishing. She would laugh, because she didn't know what to say. She would laugh because she couldn't imagine him sitting still for the rest of his life. She would laugh because it was the only way to hide how much she was praying for him to do just that. She would laugh because she knew that was why he had called that night. Then she would get quiet because she would know that he had already typed the document weeks ago.

He wouldn't talk about it again, but she would hear it in his voice. After that, he wouldn't have anything else to say, and she wouldn't help. She would turn her attention to the TV and let the silence flow between them until the screen got fuzzy and she felt herself drifting to sleep. She would vaguely recall him breathing goodnight and thinking how far away he seemed.

/-

It would be only months later that the changes finally hit her and she found herself alone while surrounded by her team and her fellow scientists. She would leave her team to be filled with naïve and innocent faces, as nameless to history as the original team would be.

She would make her way to Atlantis- a change in scenery and a change in people. But it was the action she went for, the adrenaline, the bond, the new technology around every corner. It would be easier to forget about Daniel and Teal'c and Janet and the General. It wouldn't be, but she would pretend.

She would lead one of the teams and respectfully acknowledge that the Wraith weren't her domain. Just as on Earth, she would retreat to a shared lab and drown herself in work. McKay would be there to bother her, but as time would pass, their banter would become less hostile and as things worsened it would gain a bitter edge for they would both know why they hid in their labs.

It would be two years after they had found the Ancient outpost, after the General was saved by the Asguards, after the stargate went public. She would come back to Earth- reluctant to leave the battle raging- but she would because she could only pretend for so long. The world would celebrate it and all its benefits- they wouldn't be so frightened by it any more. They still wouldn't know about the battle she had returned from. They would honor the dead, the living, and unknowingly the dying. The President would point to her, to SG-1, and to all the others that had survived, and call them heroes. She would blush under the scrutiny and tell herself she wasn't. But then she would look out into the crowd and realize how many times, how many ways she had saved every face starring up at her and for a moment she would believe.

Daniel would be there with maybe a new wife- the native of the planet he had never left. Maybe they would be engaged, or some version of it. Maybe she would find out that it never worked out. Teal's would be there, and maybe Bra'tac and Rya'c. He would tell her how the Jaffa were doing. Maybe by then they would have a President of some kind. And the General would be there. It would be in Washington, so he would show them around and tell them how he was doing, how Washington was treating him. He would lie, but they wouldn't call him on it. Teal'c and Daniel would invite themselves to stay with him and so the General would invite her as well. They would leave a few days after but she would stay and wait until the Daedalus left. He would entertain her when he wasn't at work, and she would explore the city by herself. They would talk truthfully about their years at the SGC and about people they hadn't seen in years and would joke and smile, but would shy away from the harder topics, the sensitive ones. It would be the first time he brought back the topic of retirement. She would ask if he was serious, he would tell her that he'd already filed the papers, then she would look and see in his eyes what he was thinking, implying. She would smile sadly and look away, not ready to give him an answer. It would be like the publicizing of the stargate- something she dreamed of but would never be prepared for. He would get quiet then, maybe embarrassed.

Two days later he would bring her to the Daedalus and smile as he hugged her good-bye. His eyes wouldn't glow with his smile and she would know it was because of her rejection. She wouldn't look out the window like she normally would, because she didn't want to watch it vanish again. Because she would want to pretend that she had never said good-bye.

/-

Weeks would pass before things would get worse. The battle to rid the world of the Wraith would be a futile war. Things would get desperate in battle, the tension and fear would be palatable off-world. They would all pretend not to feel it, but it would be there.

She would start to spend more time in her lab, trying to keep a rift between her and her team. Two would be taken by the Wraith, but there would always be more to take their place and so she would give up trying to get to know them, all of them. McKay would be there as well. They would begin to talk more; they wouldn't throw around bitter remarks as much. It was an evolution that would happen slowly over the months that made him the closest friend she had there. She would find that a scary thought, considering her original impression of him.

But as battles raged on over their heads, as she and McKay and the others raced to find new ways to kill, as so many more were killed, a friendship between them would evolve. She would go to him on night she didn't want to be alone. he would invite her in because he would be thinking the same thing. They would sit and talk, or just stay silent, and eventually she would fall asleep on his shoulder. She would awake later either next to him or laid out on the bed with a blanket draped over her. It would surprise her how quickly it would change. Perhaps it would be after some hard mission, after an attack on the city, or some other lonely night that she would go to him, like any other night. He would invite her in and she would head inside, but that night would be different. Perhaps it would be her that would kiss him or maybe it would be him to make the first move. Maybe it would be mutual, expected, or a sudden thing neither would consider.

Later, he would go to her after bad missions and she would seek him whenever the loneliness overcame her. He would kiss her cheek, or maybe kiss an invisible tear. His gentle hands would carefully stroke her hair, her face, down her back, against her flushed skin. Maybe she would kiss him, hard on the lips, because it was easier than talking. He would let her into his room, or she would lead him into hers. He would be gentle when he was with her, slow and careful. And when he went to her, she would let him imagine he was wherever he needed to be, let him imagine her as whoever he wanted her to be. She would go to him, wishing to forget. Closing her eyes, he became the General in her mind. The soft words were not Rodney's, but the General's warm tone. She would leave afterwards, not willing to wake up and find herself in someone else's arms. He would often stay, wanting most to hold her. People wouldn't talk about their relationship, because they wouldn't know or because they understood the reason.

It would be the third anniversary of the stargate going public. There would be another ceremony, but she wouldn't return to see it. Her team- her friends would be there and she would want to go, but she would have no time and so instead she would find McKay late at night and silently ask permission into his room. He would kiss her lightly, knowing why she was there. She would close her eyes and invent her fantasy, pretend that she had met the General back on Earth, that they had returned to his house in Washington. But eventually the moment would end and Rodney would be gently stroking her back and looking at her with his soft eyes and she let herself find solace in the man at her side.

/-

Atlantis would be abandoned when the Wraith became too strong and the deaths exceeded the victories and their power had drained too low. They would retreat back to Earth, a tattered band of five hundred scientists, military personnel, and Athosians would step through the gate, stunned and disorganized. She would go home to her apartment and sleep away the week before returning to the SGC. She would offer her service, and the General would shake his head and order her to take a longer vacation.

She would spend a few days brooding in ice cream. After two years away from Earth, she would step outside and see the benefits of their work. No one would notice her any longer. She wouldn't be famous, people wouldn't stop and recognize her, and she wouldn't mind.

It would be two weeks later when the loneliness would get to her. When her exile from the stargate made her feel so detached from Daniel and Teal'c and her sudden closeness to the General made him feel even farther away. She would consider picking up the phone and calling him several times, she almost would but then she would put down the phone and go on ignoring it. It would be an impulsive thought that had her on a plane. It would be what compelled her into a cab and down the sidewalk. She would only hesitate before she knocked. He would answer her by calling from the back, rushing to the door only a minute later. She would watch his face as shock flashed over it and then a smile tugged at his lips. He wouldn't look as haggard, like maybe he had gotten some sleep. She would smile at him, happy to see him even as she pretended he was someone else.

McKay would let her in, but unlike their meetings on Atlantis she wouldn't throw him against the door and he wouldn't pepper the back of her neck with kisses. It would feel like they were old friends. He would offer her coffee and she would ask for a beer. They would talk while standing in the kitchen, but he wouldn't ask why she came. Looking at him, she would know that he already knew because it would always be the same reason.

She would stay for a while but eventually she would return home. He would arrive a week after her. Their relationship wouldn't change much. They would hide in their lab, and without being on SG-teams they spent most of their time there. It would be the same reasons why she went to him at night, but she would know that his had changed. He would never move in and they would never become serious, never close to marriage or permanence, but she could trust him to be there when she needed him.

It would be almost nine months after they abandoned Atlantis when he called. It would be the first time she had spoken to him in two years. She wouldn't know at first who it was. The vibration of the phone on the dresser would wake her from a light slumber. Rodney would be snuggled close to her, not something they often did. She would caress his chest and slip away from his arms. In a simple motion she would cover herself and flip open the phone, quietly whispering hello. His voice would surprise her, but at the same time she would have expected it.

"Missed you at the anniversary," he would say and she would nod, retreating to the hallway.

"Yeah, couldn't get away."

"Yeah."

She would look up at Rodney's sleeping form and smirk when she saw that he hadn't moved from his side.

"Who else was there?"

"No one really. Kind of getting old."

"Seeing people?"

"No," he would say and she would imagine him lounging back in his patio chair shaking his head as he looked out at the clear pond in his yard. He would sigh and she would know what he meant. The hero comments, the worshipping of school children who had just learned about them in school. "Teal'c came shortly, but he had to leave. And Hammond was there. Some other guys, but I didn't stay long."

They wouldn't say much more, wouldn't take the time to catch up. He wouldn't ask if there was anyone in her life because he didn't want to hear that he had been replaced. She wouldn't ask because she didn't want to hear that he had taken her rejection to heart. He wouldn't ask why she hadn't called a year ago and she wouldn't tell him that she had thought about it. She wouldn't tell him that she had nearly gone to his cabin. She wouldn't because she didn't know what she was so afraid of. She would convince herself it was because she didn't know what to say, but she would know it was because she had gotten too good at pretending.

Rodney would start to stir near the end of the conversation and she would close the door some. He would croak out her name, though, and she would know that the General had heard him. He wouldn't say anything though, but his good-bye was short. She would hang up and stare down at it until she heard Rodney getting up from the bed. The phone would be discarded on the table and the sheet would be dropped to the floor. Rodney wouldn't say anything because he would recognize the look in her eye and would once again become the object of her heart for her.

/-

They wouldn't talk again after that phone call. She would pause sometimes when she past the phone and would consider it, but she never quite found the strength to do it. She would want to apologize, to explain, to tell him how she felt, but she never would.

They would find some break through. Maybe a weapon on some planet. Maybe they would already have the weapon. Maybe they would finally have a fleet of ships and fighters at their disposal. Maybe they would have a ZPM or two. No matter what the reason, they would finally have what they needed to return to Atlantis. It would have been well over a year that had past but they would finally be going back. She would consider it, and she would nearly agree, but in the end she would decide that it had never felt like her fight. That no matter how bad their time with the Gou'ald had been, there had been a team for her to fall back to but on Atlantis there would only be Rodney. She could pretend, but she wouldn't want to any longer.

Rodney wouldn't often come to her, it was usually she that beckoned him to her home or she that went to his, but the night before he left he would knock on her door. She would open it and wordlessly let him in. He would kiss her hard on the mouth, because it would be easier than talking and she would let him touch her and hold her and pretend that she was anyone and anywhere that he needed her to be because it was the least she could do for him. He would leave at some time early in the morning and he would never say good-bye.

She would continue on with her life and painfully realize that he was the one thing left that she would call close. Months would pass and she would continue working at the SGC. Daniel would return once and she would spend time with him. Those days would only reopen a half healed wound and leave her longing again for the way things once were.

The stargate would be moved out of the SGC at sometime in March or April after they received word that the Wraith were a limited threat and three weeks later she would be in Washington, standing before the stargate. An MP would yell at her, but she would ignore him because he would recognize her after she looked at him. She would run her fingers lightly over the grey-purple material, a lover's caress. An incoming wormhole would have her leaving the area and back to her lonely hotel room.

It would be a cold day when their team was reunited for the first time in three years. Rya'c would be a grown man and maybe Bra'tac would have already succumbed to his age. Her father would be there and she would feel reassured by his youthful appearance. Daniel would be the first familiar face she would recognize, but he would be different. Maybe the disheveled start of a beard or shallow lines to mark his aging. Maybe it would be the foreign clothes the natives of his new planet had made. But she wouldn't care because she would be too happy seeing him again. They would hug and grab a drink as they stood off from the crowd. Teal'c would find them next and she would smile and be amazed at his youth as well and the dark curls he was supporting. His clothes wouldn't be a shock, but it would make her smile to see him in the robes. He would refuse a drink and tell them about his son and surrogate father. Even as they talked cheerfully, her eyes would search the crowd. He would be the last to find them- following General Hammond, who would have retired, and her father, maybe Walter and some others. The General- Jack, as he would insist she call him- would saunter up to them with a beer in hand and dressed in his blues. She would comment and he would tell her that he hated suits. They all would laugh, but she wouldn't meet his eye.

No one would say anything about not keeping in touch over the years, because that wasn't something they ever talked about. Instead Teal'c would repeat to Jack what he had told them about Rya'c and Bra'tac. Daniel would tell them about his planet and the wife he may or may not have. She would try to avoid the questions about her life and so she would compromise by telling Daniel about Atlantis. She would leave out the Wraith and Rodney and she would suspect that they noticed.

The conversation would never stop, because someone would think of some tale to regale them with. Perhaps an old memory, one none of them had thought of in some time. Perhaps with a story from the past years, something that friends told to reconnect and something that would just make them feel farther apart. Eventually Daniel would ask her why she didn't go back to Atlantis. She would glance at Jack, he would be gazing steadily at her, and she would never answer. He wouldn't ask again.

The President would speak after a while and all the guests and former and current members of the stargate program would listen, some with rapt attention, others squirming under the scrutiny. Food would follow and reporters would swarm anyone with a recognizable face. She would smile for the cameras and answer the questions as shortly and quickly as possible. Jack would save her from them. Then the four of them would sneak out and find some bar no one knew about. They would all get drunk- except Teal'c of course- and the Jaffa would bring them to his hotel. She would wake up to Jack sitting in the chair nursing coffee. She wouldn't say anything but he would get up silently and bring her back a mug. She would wonder if it was a habit that he hadn't lost since their nights on alien planets.

A museum would open across the street from the stargate. They would be invited to view it first. She wouldn't be eager to go and she would notice that neither were her three guys. But they would all be there, smiling and shaking hands, taking pictures and laughing when a reporter ask how it felt to be heroes. Jack would probably answer with some witty joke, maybe one that no one but them would understand, and they would enter. It would be a long tour and they would occasionally speed away from the group to keep from reliving a moment that they had almost accomplished in erasing from their memory. Occasionally one would find themselves slowing to study a picture or object more carefully. She would find herself staring at a picture of her fallen comrade, her friend and confidant. Dr. Janet Fraser would be smiling at the photographer and she would realize with a pain that it was Daniel who had taken the picture a few months before she had died.

The former elite SG-1 would be soberly quiet as they exited the building. More flashes of pictures would greet them but they wouldn't manage very convincing smiles and they wouldn't speak.

Daniel and Teal'c would leave the next day. Jack would drive her back to her hotel room. Standing there with another person inside would just make it seem all the more empty. She would invite him inside and he would hesitate before nodding. Then maybe they would sit quietly, one not knowing quite what to say to the other. Maybe they would relax on the couch, sipping beers and laughing about the old times. About Danny and Teal'c, about everything except what made them stop and speed up at the museum. Maybe they wouldn't talk about the stargate, but beyond that life they had little else to say. Maybe they would reopen the wounds that never quite healed and remember a time they would long to return to though they wouldn't quite know why. Maybe she would apologize, say the words she had rehearsed many times before. Or maybe it would be their first time together when she wouldn't just think of crossing the distance between them, but would actually do it. Maybe it would be the first time she saw the flash of desire in his eyes and urged him to act on it. Maybe it would be the first time their lips meet for real. Maybe that would be all that happened. Or maybe it would be the first time his hands burned fire across her cool skin; the first time she walked him to her bedroom.

/-

There would no longer be an SGC, not the way she knew it. She would be offered to join some scientists and military personnel who would reestablish the base on the Alpha Site. She would decline. McKay would call from another galaxy, he would beg her without pleading to join him and she wouldn't know why he cared so much. She would tell him that she would think about it, that she had a lot going on, but they would both know the truth. They both would know that she'd never come.

She would take a break for a while, staying in Colorado Springs as they dissected the base. It would be turned into a museum. She would go once, but seeing it as a shrine, seeing all the ghosts in vivid color was too much for her and she would never go back.

Instead she would leave and make her way to Washington where she would get a job at the Pentagon. She wouldn't like it, and she would find herself realizing what Jack had gone through. She would pass by the stargate most days. Many times in the beginning she would stop and watch the dialing, the whoosh, and the shimmering event horizon. She would sigh, a reminiscent sigh, and turn away before she saw who came through or who left.

Only once her job would call for her to step through the gate herself and she would find it awkward stepping through without a weapon or her pack or her team. She would instinctually survey the horizon and have to stop herself from calling for a perimeter search. Being invited into a building wouldn't faze her as much, but she would always feel an imminent threat loomed in the near future. She would approach first when they left and would find herself dialing from memory. Someone would watch, puzzled, and she would never explain. Then she would search for a GDO and be concerned when someone stepped through before she sent the code. She would be the last to go through and would cringe, waiting for the iris to stop her. It never would.

She wouldn't go through the gate again, not for a while, only because the entire system had changed so much without her. She would return to her office and continue working on simulations, on backwards engineering, on things she had done before the stargate had changed her life. She would be promoted that year and suddenly felt life slipping through her fingers. That day she would stare out at the stargate and wonder what things she had missed over the months. She would wonder why she missed the fighting, the death, so much and somewhere in her mind she would know it wasn't that that she missed, it was the friends and the fun and the jokes and the stories they still had to tell years later.

She would call him that day, but he wouldn't answer. She would just leave a short message. He would call her later, but she wouldn't answer, just watch the phone vibrate against the table. He would leave her a message, then hang up. She would listen to it for days before she would finally call. He wouldn't be home, and the cycle would continue for months. Sometimes she wouldn't answer just because she wanted to listen to his voice for longer than a few minutes. It would be easier than talking, listening was easier. Maybe he would think that as well, maybe he would purposely not answer for the same reason.

It would be six years after the battle over Antarctica, five years since Teal'c and Daniel left, four since she first went to Antarctica, three since she first went to McKay for comfort, two since they abandoned Atlantis, one since they all had seen each other. It would be the day of the anniversary of the battle when she would answer the phone without looking. There would be a long pause on the other end of the phone and she would stop suddenly. Then his voice would radiate over the phone and echo in her ear. He would be chuckling, surprised, as he spoke. "Long time no speak, eh, Carter?"

"Yes, sir," she might respond as a joke for him calling her Carter. Or he might call her Sam instead, as maybe she instructed him during one of her messages, and so she might call him Jack.

"You sound well."

"Yeah."

He would sigh and maybe they would go on to talk about something else, something they might talk about in their message conversations. Or maybe he might go right into, "So are you going to the thing? The anniversary thing?"

"Yeah."

"Oh."

"Why? I thought you were?"

"Haven't decided yet."

"It's in two hours," she would laugh, but then she would hear what he was saying and she would hear the honking of a horn in the background. Her smile would vanish.

"Yeah, I know," would be all that he would say. There would be a long pause and he would know that she understood, because they simply understood each other that way. She would listen as he spoke some more about whatever and then she would hear someone outside. Without asking and without commenting, she would open the door and let him in as the phone slid away from her ear. He would smirk, because he knew that's what she would do. She would never ask if he had planned that, and he would never volunteer the answer. But she would invite him inside and they would talk, face to face for the first time in a year, for the first time since he had left her hotel room a year ago.

Maybe it would just be old friends talking, maybe they would fall into a pattern like lovers. Or maybe they already had that pattern and there was no distinction between the two. Maybe they would go to the ceremony and maybe they would join the tour through the museum. Maybe they would succumb to the overwhelming call for them to share a story with the guests that had showed. Maybe they would escape before it came to that. Maybe they wouldn't go, but instead they would stay at her house. Maybe they would talk, have a beer, or go out to eat. Maybe he would begin to stroke her cheek and she would find it hard to convince herself it was actually him and not Rodney. Maybe he would start to kiss her, or maybe she would kiss him. Maybe nothing would happen that day. Maybe there would be some silent promise of a future, or maybe she would imagine it.

/-

It would be over twenty years after the battle over Antarctica, the memory would be a blur of words and adrenaline by then. She would work most of those years somewhere within the stargate program until she felt herself too old to keep up with eager young recruits who went to school learning to build her Naquada generator and other technologies she helped to invent or understand.

Atlantis would become public, perhaps six or seven years after its discovery. The stargate would remain in Washington and as Puddle Jumpers became more widely used, the other nations began to care less about its location. Medicines would be found to cure most diseases and defensive weapons would be installed all over the planet. Changes would shift the borders and political power and the world would become more peaceful as war became a distant memory of her past.

She would hear from Rodney sometimes. When he visited from Atlantis he would look her up or call her. He would ask her to come to Atlantis, she would tell him no. He would never ask her why, nor ask her again until he returned some months down the road. He would never ask who it was that she had longed for during their years together, because he would see in her eyes that she had found him. So he would smile and say he was happy for her and she would know for the first time that she had broken his heart. They wouldn't see each other again after their last meeting a year after Atlantis was revealed to the public and he would rarely call. The last she would hear of him would be the discovery of his death two years later. Maybe he would die quickly on some hostile planet, or maybe slowly, tortured by an unknown enemy. She would never know, and she would never be inclined to ask.

Perhaps she would see Daniel more often as the years went on. Perhaps his wife would die and he would return to find comfort on Earth. Maybe he would find it, maybe he would return to his new home. Maybe she wouldn't see him often, maybe just at important events.

Teal'c would be a seldom seen face. He would be elected to lead his people and his responsibilities would keep him elsewhere. She would see him on occasion, when he would come to Earth for ceremonies or political business.

She would never have children, though she would have considered it at one time. She would never have married, not officially, but some would call them spouses. The relationship wouldn't be turbulent, but it would have its insecurities. He would want her to move in with him and she kind of would. Her job would move and he would reluctantly follow every time. There would be arguments that had him back at his cabin. Only once would she run after him, the others he would go back to her. As the months and then years flew by, she would begin to see that he was almost jealous of her continuing career. He would want to be inside the action, only there really wouldn't be any anymore. She would sigh and ignore it and watch as everyone seemed to be getting younger, only to finally realize it was her growing older.

It would be twenty five years after the battle over Antarctica and thirty three since she had first met him. She would stand in Washington and the President would point to her and the few surrounding her and call them heroes and she would look up at the stargate and then at the aged faces of men and women she barely knew. She would walk through the museum that had been founded twenty years before. She would find the same picture of Janet's face smiling up at her, the one Daniel had taken, and be struck by the fact that it no longer hurt so much. She would find many pictures of her and her team, of him, of old friends. There would even be one of her father in there, when he was young and before he was blended with Selmak. A fake zat and a manikin dressed awkwardly in a uniform. She would laugh at it because he would wear a helmet and a full pack with a fake gun hanging from his neck and a zat attached to his leg. She wouldn't mention that when they still wore all that- which made her laugh harder at the memory- that they didn't know what a zat was. She would move on and be overwhelmed by the distorted memories that flooded her mind. A young boy would make her smile when he saw her face, then with wide eyes he would look back to a picture on the wall. He would look back at her and she would smile because he seemed so surprised to discover some of them still lived.

She would leave when there was still plenty of light and find her way through the city. She would walk slowly to her destination and she would walk it alone. White stones stood perfect distances apart. She would look far down one row and her eye would catch one she frequented years before. Then she would look up over the small hill before her. There would be one stone up there she would always mean to visit, but would only see once. She would instead arrive at a different one. She had cried for Janet and she would for Daniel and for Hammond, and even shortly for Rodney. But for him she wouldn't. Perhaps she would in the solitude of her sheltered home, perhaps she would only cry inside. Perhaps that day she would. But she would kneel and kiss her fingers and place a single hand on the smooth rock. She would whisper a few words for his ears alone. She wouldn't curse the gods like she had for Janet and she wouldn't stand a respectful distance as she had for Hammond. She wouldn't try to impress him with the Ancient she had learned, as she would with Daniel. She would merely talk, because it was easier than pretending she would be fine. Because it was easier than pretending…

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I really loved writing this, it was a lot of fun and I hope you enjoyed it away much as I did. Hugs!