Author's Note: Hi, all! Here's my first challenge story. Just so people don't get confused, I'll warn you that it follows the episode of Ex Deus Machina- I pulled a few scenes from the ep- and there's also one scene from Atlantis, which is supposed to "coincide" with the Stargate ep. Anything that's not from one of those two episodes, is Sam/Rodney remembering something from the past. It's pretty explanatory, but I thought I'd warn you guys. Hope it's not too confusing… Enjoy!

Summary: In Ex Deus Machina, Carter tells Barrett that she and Pete broke up. When he asks if she's dating, her response is "not exactly"… what if she was thinking of Rodney?

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Romance

Pairings: Sam/Rodney

Spoilers: Ex Deus Machina, Redemption; Trinity, Letters from Pegasus

Disclaimer: Some dialogue and scenes were taken from Stargate SG-1's Redemption, Part 2 and Ex Deus Machina and also from Stargate Atlantis' Letters From Pegasus and Trinity. Don't sue, I'm not using them for any profit or gain. Trust me, I'm pathetically broke.

/-

Not Exactly…

/-

Sam swerved around a stray Airman, tilting under the weight of the boxes she was pushing. "Whoa," Daniel called after her, "Sam, hey, come on let me- let me give you a hand."

Sam sighed in relief as he took control of the trolley. "Thank you. So uh… General Landry briefed me on the circumstances surrounding our mystery Jaffa."

"Yeah… I think I got something on that."

Sam's brows pressed together as he handed her a newspaper. She looked down at it, skimming the first few words. "Farrow-Marshall?"

"Yeah," Daniel tossed back at her, "You uh… familiar with them?"

"They're an aeronautics firm headquartered in Bethesda… the department of defence is there biggest client."

"Yeah, it turns out that their plant in Virginia employed about eight hundred residents of Edison until it closed down six months ago. Now it's located just outside of town and about a… about a mile and a half from where our dead Jaffa turned up."

She looked over at him as they turned into her lab. "Really? Ah… pardon the mess," she said, looking over the boxes and files skewed over her tables, "I'm still unpacking."

Daniel ignored the apology, following behind her as she headed over to her laptop. "Ah… Farrow-Marshall. Let's see what they've been up to lately… here we go," she said to herself as she pulled up a page, "Their chief financial officer went missing yesterday morning…"

"Interesting timing."

"Yeah," she sighed, eyes skimming over the information. "According to his wife, he left for a business meeting in Richmond, Virginia… and never came back."

/-/-

"Right here," McKay told Siler, gesturing with his hands at the EM pulse emitter. Looking away from the engineer, he caught sight of Sam at the edge of the ramp. Placing his naturally smug smile in place, he sauntered down the ramp to her, stopping a few feet away. "You just want to be able to take credit for it when it works."

"For the record, I hate you." She spoke with malice, but the smile on her face betrayed her. Rodney just smirked wider.

"Well, can't get any worse, then, can it?"

"Oh no. I'm rapidly working up to despise."

He let out a breath, something akin to a chuckle. "You know, we're obviously gonna have to get over this physical attraction thing if we're going to work together."

Sam took a step closer, leaning in to whisper, "I think I can act as though it never existed."

He let out a huff, stepping back. "Shall we save the world?

"Before I take the credit for this," Sam glanced over at the emitter, a grin still firmly placed on her lips. "Shouldn't the EM pulse generator be pointed at the gate?"

"You're good!" Rodney joked, pointing at her. Sam pointed back, donning on a similar sarcastic expression. She walked away, still smirking. Rodney groaned. With a roll of his eyes, he turned and twirled his finger at Siler.

/-/-

"You're telling me a member of the Jaffa high council claims that Ba'al has been here on Earth for the better part of the last nine months?"

Mitchell gave a half shrug at the General as they headed up to the briefing room. "Yes, sir."

"There any chance she may be right?"

Teal'c arched an eyebrow. "My information suggests that Ba'al is hiding in the Archiva system… he had been sited there as recently as a week ago…"

"So the council member is either lying or she's a victim of bad intelligence."

"Well, not all bad, sir," Carter added onto the conversation. "They knew enough to look for Ba'al at a trust related facility. If he were on Earth, that would be the best place to start."

"If the Jaffa genuinely believe Ba'al to be on Earth," Sam looked to Teal'c as he spoke, "They will continue to search for him."

"Well, that's obviously unacceptable. Tell the council we've begun our own investigation. If he's here, we'll find him."

"It would not be in Gerak's best interest to allow that to happen."

"Why?" Landry asked the Jaffa.

"Ba'al's capture would be a big moral victory as well as a huge political gain for whoever brings him in."

Teal'c titled his head, in a manner Sam knew meant he agreed with Daniel. "Should Gerak be successful, he would win the hearts of many undecided Jaffa, there by ensuring undisputed influence over the council."

"So all we have to do is find Ba'al before they do," Mitchell proposed.

"Yeah," Carter said, resisting the childish urge to roll her eyes at Mitchell. She pushed away the thought that followed, not knowing why she associated it with a particular arrogant scientist.

/-/-

Rodney McKay had struck her as the stereotypical geeky scientist. The clothes left much to be desired the first time they had met, and his personality matched it. When they met for a second time, he had improved. She found the shirt and khakis pants to be a step up and while the arrogance didn't step down any he seemed easier to bounce around witty repartee.

With his third surprise appearance, McKay had gone a step farther. His arrogance was as sharp as ever, followed quickly with his sharp wit and pessimistic sarcasm. But the clothes had improved. In fact she found him looking… dare she say handsome. Simple jeans fit him perfectly, framing his hips and butt in just the right ways. He wore a light purple coloured dress shirt, the sleeves rolled just up to his elbows and only half the buttons down up leaving the red shirt beneath just visible. Her mouth hung open in surprise at the look, but she managed to conceal it behind a sly smirk. Her eyes glanced him over; she had to admit he was quite sexy in that.

"Carter."

"McKay… What are you doing here?"

"I have managed to escape from Russia. Your wonderful little mountain is my last stop before I head back home."

"Taking a vacation?"

"Me? Amazingly yes." She noticed the twitching in the corner of his lip. He had noticed her looking. "Anything you want an extra pair of eyes on? You've got to have something challenging I can put my amazing intellect into?"

"I might," she said with a chuckle and a shake of her head. "Come on. We'll find you something to do to keep you entertained. How long are you going to be here?"

"Just for the day. My flight's at some ridiculous hour in the morning."

"That's the Air Force really taking care of it's scientists."

"Tell me about it… So," he said, bonding on his heels as he followed her, "What are we working on?"

/-/-

"Of all the retirement destinations he could choose, he has to pick out planet."

Sam scoffed at Cameron's outburst. Setting the phone in its cradle, she walked over to the briefing table, "We have teams outfitted with naquadah detectors in several major urban centers but there's no way we can cover the whole country."

"The Prometheus has instruments that can detect naquadah from orbit, does it not?"

"Yes," she answered Teal'c, "but so far the scans have come up empty."

"So it could be a bluff," Landry said hopefully.

Sam shook her head. "Or Ba'al may have found a way to shield the bomb from our sensors."

"Bluffing or no, he's still a threat," Daniel put in, "As to the fact as the head of the trust operations, he has the resources and capabilities to do a lot of damage. Naquadah bomb or not…"

"So…" Cameron thought, "Problem number one: how do we find him? Problem number two: how do we take him out without inflicting collateral damage."

"Ah, good point," Daniel said, "Ba'al's probably surrounded by security, no doubt most of them human with no knowledge of his true identity. If we go after him, we risk injuring innocent people."

"Not if we use the symbiote poison the Tok'ra developed," Sam said, "We already know it won't harm human physiology."

"And with the right delivery system," Cameron thought aloud, "Nothing but net. Nice."

"I'll contact the R&D. See what they can put together."

Landry nodded. "Which leaves us with problem number one?"

"The NID is running surveillance on the individuals identified in the photographs with Jameson. Hopefully, eventually one of them will lead us to Ba'al."

"Of equal concern are Gerak's Jaffa. We have no control over them. If they decide to move on Ba'al, Earth with face Ba'al's full reprisal."

"And I'm guessing," Cameron said to Teal'c, "Those Jaffa aren't exactly kicking it back at the local Denny's. Plus, isn't it a long sticky ride from Dakara in a cargo ship?"

"Indeed. It is more likely that Gerak has a mothership somewhere in the vicinity of Earth."

"Well, if the Prometheus was going to detect the naquadah from orbit, it would have done it by now."

"Alright," Landry nodded at Sam's proposal, "I'll send them out to look for the mothership. Colonel Mitchell I want you and Teal'c on board. Colonel Carter, Dr. Jackson, you coordinate with the NID. In the event they locate Ba'al, I want you there." With his orders, the group nodded and Landry stood, exiting the briefing room. With a glance at each other, the three moved to leave.

Cameron reached into his pocket, pulling something out. Sam glanced at him as she walked behind Daniel, noticing the awkward grin on Cameron's face.

"Hey. Wait up," he called to them. Daniel and Teal'c turned. Cameron took a few steps closer to Daniel. Sam watched, her brows pulled together as Cameron pull off the SGC badge on Daniel's arm, slapping on another. When he moved his hand away, she read the large '1' printed on it. Cameron turned to her, holding up another patch in his hand. She smiled at him, giving him a nod of approval to do the same.

She looked down at it, her mind taking her back to her years of traveling through the gate, of all the people who had touched her life. Her mind took her so far back, she didn't notice Cameron handing Teal'c his.

"All right… That's better."

/-/-

McKay came sporadically over the two years. Sometimes it was for real things, the times Sam and her minions needed a little extra help. Sometimes it was just a stop between who knows where, mostly just to come and annoy her because he could. Because they both knew they had fun when he did.

She noticed how he changed with each time he visited. His arrogance was always a part of his character- she had even grown to tolerate it- but he had also developed a deeper respect for her and what they did there at the SGC. It was something he had hinted at at the end of his second stint in the mountain.

It was the end of the year, she was tired, frustrated, her commanding officer was frozen in ice up in Antarctica, and several good men had been lost in battle with Anubis. He was standing down the hall with his back to her, his hands stuffed in his pockets and laptop case slung over his shoulder. She sighed. She was too tired to have any interest in any interaction her fellow scientist had to offer at that moment.

"Sam!" he called when he turned and saw her. She flinched, having been hoping that she could escape before he noticed her.

She turned slowly back to face him. "Hey."

He jogged to catch up with her, adjusting the strap. "How's it going?"

"It's going." He nodded. She glanced at him, looking over his khaki clad legs and button down shirt. He fell into step with her. It amazed her how easy it was for him after so little time spent together. Moving anyway; their easy dialogue was something to be expected. He was one of the few who could keep up with her when she went off on a rant. She looked forward to those exchanges, but that day she didn't want to speak with him. She didn't want to speak with anyone.

"I was kind of surprised to hear that you weren't going up to Antarctica."

"Sorry?"

"The Ancient outpost. You weren't on the list of people going."

"No. I have to stay here… Daniel might go up later."

"You aren't the least bit intrigued?"

"Oh no, I would love to go, I just can't."

"SG-1 responsibilities?"

"What's left."

"Sorry?"

She looked at him. Had she had the energy, she would have creased her brows and showed her confusion. She would have squinted her eyes and tightened her lips, given off an aura of anger. She might have let some of the sorrow seeped through. But she had no energy left to expend. Not on him, not on anyone.

"Colonel O'Neill had the Ancient Repository downloaded into his brain." She looked at him. His lips moved to say something- probably "again"- but he refrained from saying anything. "He's frozen up at the outpost right now. They're going to bring him here… as soon as they figure out how."

"I'm sorry… I hadn't heard… Russians don't say much."

"No they don't."

Her footsteps stuttered; Rodney glanced over at her, noticing her hesitation. She looked over at him, watching how his eyes were gazing off into her lab. She thought about giving him a look, one to persuade him to part ways and head off wherever he was going and leave her alone. She looked to the door, then back to Rodney. She wanted to be alone, she didn't want to have to talk to anyone or think or react or respond. But for some reason she did want him to leave.

"You're going to the outpost?" she said, her tone conversational, as she leaned into the door.

"Yeah… yeah, figured you would be too," he sighed, twisting his hands as he stepped inside her lab. "Kind of was looking forward to working together again."

"I have to stay here."

"Yeah, I understand," he brushed her off, slowly pushing the door closed as he moved to the end of her table.

She looked up when he didn't say anything farther. The hesitation was evident in his stance, the way he shifted the weight to his right foot, then left, the way he tucked his hands in his pants' pockets. She saw that he wanted to say something, by his mere stance she knew what it was. "I'm fine, Rodney." The muscle in his cheek twitched, his eyes fell, his shifted again.

"I'm a good listener when I want to be, you know. If you want to talk-"

"I really am fine, Rodney. I just have a lot of work to do."

"Yeah. Okay…"

"When are you leaving?"

"Two hours."

She looked up. "How long have you been here?"

"Standing in your office-?" Sam rolled her eyes at him, tilting her head to the right. He tried to smile at her, but she didn't return. "Right. Three days. You were… off somewhere."

"P4X-2297."

"Yeah. You sure you don't wanna talk?"

"I'm fine, Rodney."

"You're getting too good at telling that one."

She forced a soft smile, one that curved at the edge of her lips but didn't touch her eyes. Bowing her head, she stepped around the table separating them. Her eyes darted to the side, her mouth gapping opened trying to say what her mind wouldn't let her articulate. Her head tilting to the side again, her eyes avoiding contact with his. She could feel her gaze on her, patiently waiting for her.

She had brought herself so close to him without realizing; she could feel his breath against her face, against her lips. Tempting as the sensation was, she fought back the urge to look at him. She shifted her weight to her left foot, rocking to the side, her thigh resting on the table. She couldn't say anything to him. Her eyes fell onto the white silk fabric covering his stomach. She didn't think when she reached out her hand to touch it, feeling the soft material beneath her fingers. She didn't know how long, but a few moments later, Rodney leaned into her hand. She could feel the muscles contract; she nearly smirked at the thought that he was ticklish. When her mind caught up with her hand, she tensed, worried how he might interpret the gesture. Her eyes flickered up, finding his lips. They were pursed, but not expectant. Her eyes fluttered up to eyes. He caught her fleeting glance. His brows were pulled together with curiosity; his eyes were searching but not lustful. Sam leaned forward, her hand pressing harder against his firm abs, her lips brushing over the stubble on his cheek. She leaned back, almost too quickly, as if shocked by her own action. Practice allowed her to mask her shock by forcing a smile to her face. "Good luck down there."

/-/-

If he were honest with himself, he didn't really know what this thing- this great, powerful weapon of some sort- did. It was Ancient and far beyond them. Hell, the Ancient themselves didn't know how to work it.

Rodney rubbed his face. Operating on nothing more than energy bars and coffee wasn't a foreign concept for him. After all, he had lived off much worse in college, and some interesting other combinations since.

He rubbed his face as he spoke into the radio in his ear, "What I want you to do is pull the crystals. Pull them when I say go, all right?"

Zelenka didn't answer and suddenly the base powered down around him. Rodney dropped his head, closing his eyes as he slowly counted. What he wouldn't give for a sane soul, one sane person to help him. One sane genius rather.

As he turned, his legs marching him in Zelenka's direction, he could think of only one person he had ever know who had fit that description.

/-/-

There had never been a destination in mind when he left the mountain. He just needed to go, to be somewhere else, to be where there weren't people exhilarated by a mere thought, where there weren't people pestering him every moment with thoughts and ideas and wanting to check his equations- they were right, it was all fine. He needed to get away from people who expected him to be excited. He was, but he was far more afraid, far more terrified than he had ever been in his life. Hiding it was all he could do to keep from screaming.

It surprised him to find her there. At the end of the dirt path where his feet had lead him. He saw her sitting there in the grass, her body relaxed, her position childlike. It was the first time he had smiled in weeks.

He watched her a while, choosing not to interrupt the serene peace she had found. But eventually her instincts kicked in and she noticed him behind her. She beckoned him next to her but he didn't sit down. He looked out at the sight, he tried to imagine what she saw, but he couldn't. It was just a park full of trees at night when only a few stray boys were still around.

She eventually stood and their silence was broken by her asking him why he was there. He followed her, speaking quietly, as if a louder tone would break the stillness of the night air. He didn't realize until her gait slowed that they were no longer in the park but at the block across the street. It wasn't until they stopped that he looked away, seeing something other than what was in his mind's eye. Her house loomed over them, and Rodney felt it scare him more than the mission, more than anything in his life, but he couldn't convince his feet to stop.

They made it to her walkway before she mentioned her house. They made it to the porch before he mentioned the time. They made it to the door before either of them felt awkward. They didn't make it any farther before Sam stepped closer.

He remembered the blissful feeling of her delicate lips peppering his skin. Those two moments in his life were burned deeper into his mind than his first time with a woman. Sad, perhaps, but he treasured his time with the lovely blonde scientist. Every moment was catalogued in the back of his mind; every word she had every said to him, every snarky comment, every feather light touch, every fantasy.

But that moment was surreal, no matter how long he had dreamed of it, no matter how vivid the memory of her lips was in his mind. Her hand was rested flat against his stomach; he flinched, a ticklish response that was out of his control. She didn't notice, didn't move it. In fact she stepped forward, pressing her lips against the corner of his own.

He didn't move. He couldn't move. He couldn't breath, couldn't remember how. He couldn't remember how to think, let alone move, breath, or react.

The pressure increased against his stomach and somehow he knew that she was going to step back. He did the only thing that he could think of. He turned his head, just enough so that his lips brush hers. He froze, suddenly aware of what he was doing. Suddenly aware that the pressure against his stomach was still there and that Sam hadn't stepped away.

Instinct took over again. He leaned against her, his lower body coming closer, making contact with nothing more than the material of her clothes. His pressed his lips against hers, increasing the pressure, hoping that she wouldn't break away. He resisted the urge to raise his hands to her hips; he didn't know what she would make of it.

Her left hand found its way to his hair, tangling her fingers through the light strands. He fluttered his eyes closed; it was a feeling he had never imagined, fantasies never included the feel of her fingers massaging his scalp. She scooted closer; their stomachs were touching. It was the first sign that made him feel safe enough to raise his hands to her bare arms. The tips of his fingers brushed over the creamy skin. He felt her shudder beneath his touch.

He didn't know how bold to dare to be with her. Moving to kiss her was bold for him, asking her permission to deepen the kiss felt beyond McKay. She made the choice for him. He opened his mouth at her pleading, granting her tongue access.

Bliss…

Euphoria…

He had no word to describe the sensation.

Her lips tentatively pulled away, her left hand coming to rest on his cheek. Her thumb rubbed the sensitive skin by his nose. Her breath came in short harsh gasps; the hot moisture tickled the hairs on his chin.

"It's late," was the first thought that had come to his mind. She nodded and he felt her tense, preparing to step away from him. He held tight onto her arms, not willing to break the contact.

"You have to leave tomorrow." He nodded. He didn't know why she wanted to bring that up. He didn't answer; there wasn't anything to say.

His eyes flickered from her bright eyes, finding her lips. He wanted to lean back, to capture her lips again, to touch more, to feel the silkiness of her hair, her short blonde curls. He wanted to ask her to invite him in; he begged her with his eyes. He didn't know how to ask; he didn't know if she would want him to kiss her again.

"I envy you."

"Why?"

"Getting to go to another galaxy. The lost city of the Ancients? I wish I could go."

"I wish you could too." It came out before he could stop it. She had a tendency of doing that to him. "I'm going to miss you."

"I will too."

"I don't want to leave."

"It's Atlantis-"

"I don't want to go back to my car right now. I don't want to let go of you." He wanted to say that he wanted to kiss her, but he didn't. She searched his eyes; he begged her to see what he wanted. What he needed. He knew that she saw it; he didn't know if she would act on it. "I want to kiss you again?" It was a question, the same his eyes were asking.

She didn't answer with words, there was no reason to. Her hand slowly snaked around his waist, bringing his body even closer to hers. Her left wrapped behind his neck, bridging the small gap between their faces. Her lips tentatively brushed over his; it was sweeter than the lust of the last one, less desperate but still curious, still rushed and begging. His own hands traveled down her arms, finding their way to her hips, pulling her against him. She surprise him when she stepped away, pulling her lips from his. A harrumph escaped his throat, the whine a reaction he couldn't control. He regretted it only until he saw Sam's grin. He smirked, awkwardly, nervously as he pulled his brows together, wondering what she was doing.

She saw the confusion, or at least he assumed that she did, and stepped closer. Her soft skin rubbed against his, her lips resting at the base of his ear, her hands splayed over his chest. It was the feeling of a fantasy he had too often invented. The reality was far more intense. "Stay here then."

"Are you sure?"

"For the night…"

/-/-

"Agent Barrett," Daniel said with a soft smile, ducking into the back of a black van. "Thanks for the lift."

The black haired agent shook his hand, offering a smile for Sam as she closed the door behind her. "Well… I couldn't exactly have you guys catching a cab to the stake out now, could I?"

"So what's the latest?" Sam asked, jumping to business. Barrett nodded, shifting gears.

"Well… one of our agents following the Jameson leads spotted an individual matching Ba'al's description at the Gilbride hotel on fifth street… Looks like we got him."

/-/-

"I almost caught mono kissing a girl in Algebra Club. Missed an entire month of school. Still, the kiss was, uh, somethin', so it was, uh, probably worth it." Sam looked up for the first time during the monologue. Five days ago, Earth had received a transmission from the Pegasus galaxy. She'd spent hours going through the mission reports and anything else she could get her hands on. Just that morning they had discovered personal messages; Sam had volunteered to help go through some of them. Rodney's was her first.

He was sitting perched on a stool, gazing thoughtfully off into the corner of what she assumed were his quarters. "April Bingham- cute blonde! God. You see, I love blondes, especially with the, uh, the short hair." He smirked, taking a breath before looking back at the camera, "Mmm. Samantha Carter, if you're watching," he slapped his hand playfully to his chest. She rolled her eyes, but smirked despite herself. "The torch is still burning- sadly, soon to be extinguished, but, uh… You know, you should know- I think you are just… so… well, you're great- you're really, really great, and, uh, I would go so far as saying you're the hottest scientist I've ever worked with. In fact, there's probably not a night that goes by that I don't, uh, find myself, uh… Okay, Ford, let's, let's lose that." He got up off his chair and Sam shook her head. It figured that Rodney would shy away from any attempt at emotion when so close to his own demise. "And let's get back to, uh…" she watched him clear his throat, setting his feet firmly on the ground as his arms folded over his chest. It reminded her of a bad comic book hero. "Leadership."

Sam sighed, going back to the papers on her desk. She had been listening to his half-witted attempt at reflecting on leadership. He hadn't gotten farther than announcing his intent.

She watched him sigh, his eyes glazing over as he lost focus again. The façade dripped away from his face. He looked back at her, fear reflecting in his eyes, the glimmer of hope fading too quickly. "Sam? You still listening? Hmm… well I guess you might never have been listening, but anyway… there's not much to say really- well, no, actually there's way too much to say, I just can't begin to try and articulate it all… I feel like I should apologize for that night before I left- I feel like I should, but I'd rather not. That night… that night was… it was… it was the best night of my life. I'm not talking just about the… the sex thing- that was really good but, uh… See, this is why I stick to science. No feelings, none of this complicated stuff… Right… That night… all I'm trying to say is that you were like engaged or something that night. Dating someone, I don't know. I shouldn't have asked what I did, I shouldn't have done what I did, but I did and I meant it all."

Her eyes fell closed at his words. He was right about Pete; the two of them had just started to date then. But he had been out of town, and Rodney was right there about to leave, and it was the only thing she could think to do. She needed to touch him, to feel him, before he left. Before she risked never seeing him again. "I guess I'm just saying that I'm surprised you said yes and let it happen. You're probably back on Earth right now, married," his voice continued, but she wasn't watching the pained look on his face. Instead her eyes were focused on an object she couldn't see from where she was sitting. She hadn't said yes to Pete yet, she didn't know if she wanted to. She had to laugh at the three men in her life. Three perfect men if only the one wasn't about to die in some distant galaxy and another wasn't a General, wasn't her General, and the last wasn't… well, Pete, Denver cop not intergalactic hero.

"Maybe you're thinking about kids. I don't even know if you'll ever see this. Probably getting screened right now, some poor airman has to sit through this… I always wanted kids. Did I ever tell you that I'm eight years older than my sister? I used to baby-sit her all the time. Always wanted a little girl of my own. Not going to have that any more. My dad sucked at being a dad. Not the kind to take you out to a hockey game. My stint on the little league team didn't even last more than two days- my dad didn't think it was a good pass time for someone like me. Piano instead was his solution… I hated the piano. I could play- I told you that- and I wanted to be good and go on to big things… I wanted to prove to my dad that I wasn't going to screw everything up like I always did… I screwed up piano. Wasn't any good. Screwed up this whole scientist thing… Was there a point to this again? Right, being a father. I would love to be a dad, do it right- try to anyway… This isn't a proposal, just so you don't start to freak out, Sam. Besides, you should marry a good man, settle down. You don't want me to be annoying you every day for the rest of your life. Not that it would be very long considering the armada of enemy ships heading for us right now… Guess all that's left to say is… well, uh, good luck, Sam. I hope you, uh… I hope the rest of your life goes well for you…"

His eyes grew distant, searching the floor and just below the camera. He tilted his head away, shifting in his chair, and Sam found herself afraid that he was about to cut the tape. Instead, he surprised her. He didn't look back at the camera. He leaned back, sprawling out in the seat. "Never cared for dogs: too much work, too needy, too unpredictable. I mean, you leave one door open, the tiniest little cracks, and they're gone. You look for them, you put up fliers. It's no use. And since your father refused to pay for a licence, the Animal Shelter has no way of tracking them. Y'know, God knows what happened to that little guy." He sighed and Sam couldn't help but smile at him. She wasn't insulted by the randomness. "Now cats- now that's a whole different story. Cats are self-sufficient, they're dependable; you shake the box, they come running. Cynics would say it's because of the food but my cat… see, I truly believe he enjoys my company." Sam smiled with him, returning her eyes to her work. She doubted he would say anything else to her, doubted even less that he would say something classified, but she loved to listen to his voice. It was melodic- in a grating kind of way, but she loved it nonetheless. His randomness was even more what she needed. "There's something very comforting about coming home from work at the end of the day and having a familiar face waiting for you, you know? Still- I digress." He looked around, picking up an index card. "Where was I? Uh, right. Leadership…"

She smirked, rolling her eyes, her pen looping to form the intricate figures of her hand writing. His voice trailed off after only a few words. She glanced up, her hand not stilled. "That's another sight I'll die without having seen," he commented suddenly. She assumed he had thought of something without saying anything. "See- to be fair, when you've travelled as much as I've travelled, you'd think that missing Niagara Falls would be no big deal, but you know what? It gnaws at you." She laughed out loud, shaking her head. Her hand stilled for only a moment; it had never bothered her before that she hadn't seen Niagara Falls. "A lot of movies I wish I'd seen and won't see now. Never saw 'Grease', even though I had a thing for Olivia Newton John when I was a kid. Always wanted to see 'Ghandi'. Only saw the first half of 'The Sixth Sense'- always wondered how that ended…"

His head snapped up suddenly and Rodney shifted around in his seat again, straightening. Sam heard the change and looked up. "My sister. Ford, if you cut everything else, just, um, keep this part, okay?" Sam shut down the recording with those words. Though she knew she would have to listen to it some day before it went off to his sister, or to anyone else, she couldn't right then. She wished she could ship it off to someone else, but she didn't dare let that person hear what he had said about her. It was part of the reason why she had wanted to listen to his; the other being that she missed his voice and had secretly let the hope that maybe there were a few words left in him for her grow in the back of her mind.

She shut down her laptop, she couldn't watch any more. Not right then. She needed to think. She needed to get away from everything. From McKay, from Pete, from Jack, from everyone…

/-/-

Sam watched out the window as a man, whose name she had learned was Williams, ran up to the van. He glanced over his shoulder before ducking inside. Shifting in his seat, he turned to Barrett as the agent asked, "What's the situation?"

"They're still inside… since 16:02. All the exits are covered; we're just waiting for the green light."

Barrett nodded, "Dr. Jackson, you go with Williams." Daniel looked at Sam and she nodded to him. He gave a short nod back, his hand brushing against her arm as he exited the van, Williams a moment behind him. Sam looked out after them, looking back to her equipment when the closed doors obscured her view. She started fiddling with a few switches, Barrett's cough bringing her back to reality. "Uhm…how have you been?"

"Pretty good," she shrugged. Looking at him, "You?"

"Yeah… pretty good… can't complain." He smirked and she nodded at him, going back to her work. He looked at the screen over her shoulder, shifting his weight, "What's new?"

"Uh…" she started with a sigh, "Let's see… I was leading R&D for a while there."

He nodded, "Well, I never figured you the type to settle for a desk job…"

"I needed something with more flexible hours. Janet's adopted daughter Cassie was going through a hard time."

"Oh, I see…"

She sighed, moving past the thought, "Spent some time on the Prometheus… away on deep space reconnaissance." Barrett made an interested sound. Sam grinned suddenly, remarking sarcastically, "Oh. Help stopped a dangerous new enemy from getting a foothold in the galaxy."

"Yes," he laughed, "Yeah, I heard about that." She smiled, letting the conversation hang in the air. Looking away, she put in her ear piece. Barrett didn't look at her as he asked, "How's Pete?"

"We broke up?"

"Really?" the agent asked, some amusement shinning through from her hesitation. She looked up at him and his face fell. "Uh… I-I mean… I'm sorry to hear that."

She shrugged. "Oh, it was the best thing for both of us."

He nodded and, after a moment of leaving the silence hanging, he said, "So you're single again?"

Sam hesitated. She felt his eyes fall back onto her. "Not exactly." Her smiled brighten as his dimmed. She bit her lip, suddenly uncomfortable again.

/-

"If you could just-" Sam nodded absently at the technician, taking the pen from him and signing her name quickly. She handed it back to him, her eyes flying over the crates in front of her.

The Daedalus had just returned from its first voyage to the Pegasus Galaxy, bringing back good news about the Ancient city, along with a few members and quite a few samples of their discoveries. A good portion of it had made its way to the R&D, though a lot of it had remained with the SGC.

Sam sighed, thinking of Rodney. After the whole mess with Pete had ended, she found herself darting between thoughts of him and thoughts of the General. It was nearly a month ago that he had been promoted and left for Washington. She had requested a transfer not long after- Teal'c had already informed her of his wish to be more active with his people and Daniel was overly vocal about his departure to Atlantis. Cassie was having a rough time still and though Sam wasn't her legal guardian, she felt an obligation to the girl. With all the changes, she tried not to think. But now and then, mostly when a particularly challenging project came her way, she could help but think about him, about how he might be the perfect man to come to her aid. But he was in a city of wonders and she was too caught up in a million matters to get the chance to go there with him.

For the past three days she had worked restlessly on her latest project, uncomfortable with the thought that he was just a few seconds away. That morning she had heard it mentioned that he was stopping by to check on a few things. She didn't know when he'd been there, and quite frankly she was nervous about the possibility of running into him. She found herself acting too much like a teenager for her taste- dying for the cute guy to walk by and notice her and dreading the awkwardness of the moment when it actually happened.

They hadn't talked since the night before he left for Atlantis; they hadn't really talked that day at the SGC. It was her opinion that he purposely avoided her, but then she hadn't tried to find him either. There had been his transmission from a month ago, but, she had tried to reason, he had thought he was going to die and never have to deal with the consequences of his words. She knew how sincere he had been in his message, that that night had meant something to him, perhaps as much as it had meant to her. But no matter what he had said on that tape, it wasn't really them discussing things, it just left questions drifting out in the open. How casual was their relationship? Did he want more? Want nothing? Could they make something like that work? Pete hadn't lived in Colorado Springs, but Denver wasn't another galaxy- hell, it wasn't even another state. Something like that would bring long-distance relationships to a whole new level.

She might have wondered and reflected and deeply pondered her feelings and her thoughts about Rodney, but never had she come close to a proper answer. She had considered even the possibility of something between them before; even that hadn't left her with a solid opinion. Rodney was far more an enigma than her; she didn't know whether it was something he had ever stopped to think about. What did he want?

"Fine. Don't say hi to me. I'm not offended."

She spun at the sound of the voice behind her, her mouth curving around the word before she saw the face, "Rodney?" He stood there, his hips supporting a faded pair of jeans and an old sweatshirt hid the t-shirt beneath completed his distinct lack of professionalism. He smirked at her, and Sam quickly recovered, giving him her own bright smile before stepping up to him and wrapping her arms loosely around his waist. To her surprise, he didn't tense, but responded by rubbing her back gently until she pulled away. "Been a while."

"A long while… Kinda afraid it was going to be never for a time there."

"But of course your amazing genius saved the day."

"As a matter of fact…" she laughed, cutting off the rest of his thought. He just smiled back. "So… I was surprised to hear that you left the SGC?"

"Yeah," Sam shrugged, touching his back to lead him down the hall. "Needed more flexible hours; Cassie's having a bit a tough time."

"Cassie? You mean, um-"

"Dr. Frasier's daughter."

"Right." Rodney nodded, leaving the issue alone. She didn't know if he really knew her old friend, but he seemed to know enough not to question her.

Sam sighed, letting her hands fall into her pockets as they headed for the elevator. "I got your message, by the way."

"Huh?"

"Your message. I-"

"Yeah, yeah, got that. Just… I… I-"

"It was cute. Something entertaining to listen to for a while."

"Oh… what I said about… I… I actually was hoping to run into you so… See I'm not real sure what happened."

"You need someone to help you with-"

"Not that." Sam smiled at his aggravation; he relaxed after a moment, giving her a short glare as they stepped into the elevator. "I meant more… you're not married, are you?"

"No… that… didn't work out."

"You were engaged?"

"When you made that recording, yes. When we… had sex, no."

"Oh… good, I think. Um… but you're not now?"

"No."

"So… you're single again?"

Sam smirked, shifting her weight to look at him. Mischief bounced around in his grey orbs. Her grin widened and she shook her head. "Yeah, I guess I am."

"Good…"

/-/-/-/-

So, what do y'all think? I personally loved the end there, but that was me just admiring how well I wrote myself into the perfect corner (I had no idea how I was going to end this, but I think that worked just fine).

Please feel free to hit the little purple button right down there. Don't be alarmed by the white box that pops up, it just wants you to type a few words down. :smirks; hides as people rolls their eyes:

Thanks for reading! Hugs!