Stargate SG1 is somebody else's, probably MGM/Gekko Corp/Sci-Fi, and I freely admit that whoever's it is, I'm borrowing their show and they retain all rights, etc.
Author's Note: A big thank you to everyone who followed the story; an especially big thank you to everyone who took the time to send a review or a message with encouragement, support or even gentle constructive criticism - all is very appreciated. Rachel :)
Just a quick overview of what I'm doing…feel free to skip ahead but I will warn you up front that there will be spoilers for all Seasons of Stargate SG1 in this story and some for Stargate Atlantis.
This AU story begins between Threads and Moebius in Season 8 of Stargate SG1 based on the premise that in a reality somewhere SG1 didn't accept the fish being in the pond (last scene of Moebius) and corrected the timeline. Hence this is a universe where Jack's pond remains fishless and obviously has implications for the way events post-Season 8 evolve. The main pairing is Jack/Sam and their relationship does form a major theme.
It's not that I particularly dislike Season 9, I actually think given the limitations the production team were working with given RDA's exit, Tapping's maternity leave and essentially having to reinvent the series, they did a pretty good job. However, as I'm not constrained by at least the first two (which had major implications for the use of their characters in Season 9) this is really what I would have preferred to see. I hope you enjoy it too.
To a complete stranger, Brigadier General Jack O'Neill looked completely engrossed in conversation with his close friend and former SG1 team-mate, Daniel Jackson. Of course, to anyone who knew him well, it was obvious that Jack's attention wasn't really on the subject of whatever it was Daniel was babbling about and definitely was on the tense figure of Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter as she made the rounds at her father's memorial service reception. It was a sign of the deep friendship that had developed between the two men in the years since they had first gone through the Stargate to another planet that Daniel knew Jack wasn't paying attention to him but kept talking to provide his friend with the cover anyway.
The two men were stood politely off to one side of the wide formal living room in the former Washington D.C. residence of the late General Jacob Carter. They each held a glass of punch and were dressed in formal mourning clothes; O'Neill in his sharp blue Air Force uniform; Jackson in an equally sharp black suit and tie. They made quite a pair; the soldier and the scholar. Two contrasting styles and approaches; one unshakeable bond that was a constant surprise to both men given their initial antipathy. The older had grey hair trimmed short, deep chocolate brown eyes and a classic hero's face with deep carved lines and square jaw; the other had a lanky body honed in the gym and field work, startling blue eyes in an intelligent face and a new haircut that left the brown strands spiky in a messed up fashionable style that added to the slight air of absent-minded professor. In another setting, the single women in the room might have approached but there was a subtle tension in the way the men stood that warned others to stay away.
Jack nodded absently to Daniel's comments and let his brown gaze flicker back to Sam. If he knew her – and he prided himself that he did – she was due to fall to pieces any minute…now. He sighed as he saw it. The momentary flash in the sapphire blue eyes as it hit her; her father was dead; gone; as in never coming back. For a millisecond, her classically beautiful features looked like she'd been hit by a zat, one of the alien weapons the team had discovered during their first year of Gate travel. He had to hand it to her though, Jack thought, she pulled it together fast. So fast that a less observant person might have missed the way her shoulders slumped or how her chin wobbled before she pinned her bravado back into place, excused herself from the well-meaning condolences of a matronly looking woman and slipped out the side door.
Jack sighed. 'Dammit.'
'It had to happen sometime.' Daniel murmured switching from his thoughts on Incan mythology to their bereaved friend without breaking stride. 'She was running on fumes a couple of days ago when I got back from…from…' he struggled to find a euphemism.
'Being dead again?' Jack suggested sweetly.
Daniel's eyes held a measure of resignation at the quip but really, thought Jack, the younger man was making a habit of coming back from the dead; a habit he was going to have to break now that it looked like the being mostly responsible for keeping Daniel from death, the Ancient known as Oma, was going to be battling the evil Goa'uld, Anubis, for the rest of affinity.
His gaze wandered to Sam's fiancé who was stood with her brother on the opposite side of the room. Pete Shanahan seemed oblivious to Sam's distress. In fact, the man had seemed oblivious to Sam all day. Jack felt the first stirrings of anger in his gut and took a deep breath. He had tried really hard not to have an opinion about Shanahan but the cop had seemed like an OK guy…until today. Maybe Shanahan was annoyed at not being able to sit with the family at the service, maybe…maybe the guy should get over whatever it was and go comfort the woman he supposedly loved and was going to marry.
'Dammit.' He said again as his gaze hardened and he felt his chest tighten with frustration; his hand clenched around the fragile glass he held ominously. Sam needed someone with her and Jack knew it should be Pete…so why wasn't the cop moving? Maybe he should go…no.
He and Sam had recognised years before that their feelings went way beyond being team-mates or even friends but with both of them in the Air Force and in the same chain of command a romantic relationship between them was against regulations and there was no way around it. Sam had seemingly accepted the reality of their situation and moved on; she was about to marry another man after all. Jack had let her go – how could he have done anything else? They were where they were which meant military ranks that prevented him being in a position to offer her anything and it was important to him that Sam was happy. It had been hard to accept her being with someone else but he had tried to move on too.
He had begun a relationship with another woman, a nice woman…but Kerry wasn't Sam and she'd quickly ditched him when she'd realised the truth; that Jack hadn't moved on from his feelings for Sam at all. Jack flushed. He couldn't blame Kerry for wanting out and even if he was prepared to admit she was right about his feelings, Pete was still Sam's fiancé; Jack was Sam's CO. The litany ran back across his mind like an old tape recording.
'We should go after Sam.' Daniel said conversationally.
'It doesn't look like he's going anytime soon and she needs someone now.'
Jack's eyes flickered back to Daniel surprised at the edge of anger in the other man's voice. The archaeologist was a passionate man when arguing his position but rarely roused to outright temper. Slow fuse, thought Jack. Most people underestimated Daniel because of that, usually to their detriment.
'I'll get Teal'c and meet you.' Daniel continued.
Jack nodded slowly giving in because he badly wanted to go to her anyway; he handed Daniel his punch. He followed her escape route out of the side door and hesitated not certain which way to go next. His eyes scanned the corridor and he took a couple of steps down the hallway to glance through the dining room. The table was still laid out with the remnants of the buffet and the caterers were beginning to clear up. A movement beyond the French doors in the garden caught Jack's attention and he glimpsed sight of Sam walking rapidly across the lawn.
He strode through the room and out of the doors. The garden was large; the patio giving way to a wide expanse of lawn and, at the back, there was a tall fence covered in ivy. It had an archway in the centre that led to a small walled garden filled with roses and it was where Sam had ended up. He hesitated in the entrance as he caught sight of her. She stood by the back wall near to a bench. Her back was to him but he could see her shoulders were shaking, her head, with its shock of sunshine blonde hair, was bowed and her hands covered her face. He took the remaining steps from the archway to her without conscious thought.
His hands rested lightly on her shoulders as he turned her to him before his arms slid around her to hold her as tightly as he dared. He hadn't spoken a word and had expected resistance; he got none. She curled into him, burrowed her head on his shoulder and leaned on him while she cried. He shouldn't be surprised, Jack thought, but he was. There were times he felt that Carter still tried to prove what a good soldier she was despite everything they had been through together. His hand stroked down her back as her sobs lessened and still, they didn't speak.
Sam hiccupped and breathed in the scent of the man holding her. Jack. She'd known the instant she'd felt his hands on her shoulders that it was him; she would have known him anywhere. Her awareness came back in stages. Of the soft breaths that gently shifted her hair, of the scratchy material under her cheek as it pressed into his shoulder and of the way he was holding her, wrapped tightly in his arms. She felt comforted. She felt safe. She felt loved. By her CO. The thought had her stirring anxiously.
Jack knew the moment she came all the way back and he let her ease away, hiding his disappointment.
Sam took a step back from him and swiped at her face. 'I'm sorry, sir.'
Sir. He really hated that word. He gentled his voice, hoping she'd look at him sometime soon. 'You OK?'
Fresh tears sprang to her eyes at the question and he reached out to brush the tears from her cheek with a callused thumb. She finally looked at him and the depth of her grief hit him like a steamroller. 'C'mere.' He snagged her hand and tugged her toward the wooden bench. They sat down.
It was a few minutes before Sam realised he hadn't relinquished her hand just kept it clasped in his own, the fingers rubbing against hers. It was amazing that the simple action filled her with the same comfort she'd felt when he'd held her. It had been almost a week since her father had died; a busy week what with Anubis trying to destroy the galaxy again, Daniel returning from the dead and trying to arrange a memorial service without explaining to her brother why their father's body had been cremated…she dashed away another flood of tears.
'You want me to get Pete?' Jack forced himself to ask the question when she stayed silent. She was never normally this quiet.
Her blue eyes darted to him confused. 'Why would I want you to get Pete?'
Jack's eyebrows rose slightly. 'Oh I don't know…because you're getting married to the guy?'
She flushed and a wave of red flooded her face. 'I forgot I hadn't told you yet, sir.'
'Told me what?' Jack asked.
'I gave back the ring.' Sam said. It was another item on the long list of things that had made the previous week busy. 'Pete and I broke up.'
His brown eyes widened. The last time he and Carter had touched on the subject of her wedding just before her father had collapsed, she had told him that she was having second thoughts. She had been about to tell him the reason why when they had been interrupted. He wondered briefly at it. Looking back, he was sure she had been about to say it had something to do with how she felt about him but it could just be the way his ego wanted to interpret what she'd said. Hell, who cared, he thought with a flash of happiness, maybe there was a chance…he stopped that thought in its infancy. He was her CO; there were regulations…he halted the mental litany as he realised abruptly that she was waiting for him to speak. He opened his mouth to say the usual words of 'sorry to hear that' and couldn't bring himself to utter them; he wasn't sorry at all. He searched for something else.
'I broke up with Kerry.' OK, Jack thought, wasn't quite what he'd had in mind.
'The CIA agent?' Sam checked although the other woman was imprinted on her brain especially the sight of her coming out of Jack's house as though she was very much at home there.
'Yeah.' Jack shrugged at the unspoken question in her eyes. 'It wasn't working out.'
There was an uncomfortable silence; they were treading very close to the subject they never discussed – the subject that was against regulations for them even to discuss. Jack sighed. The idea that they'd left the elephant that was their unresolved feelings for each other in a room years before was laughable; the elephant usually accompanied them wherever they went and right then, Jack felt like it sat between the two of them like an unwelcome chaperone. He cleared his throat. 'Sam…'
Their heads snapped to the sight of Daniel standing inside the garden by the archway, Teal'c beside him. The large dark-skinned Jaffa was the fourth member of their team and despite the black suit and matching Panama hat that suggested he was human, there was still an alienness about him. The hat served to hide the gold symbol of a snake tattooed on his forehead; the mark of the Goa'uld Apophis. They had defeated Apophis years before and Teal'c's people were now free from the slavery the Goa'ulds had subjected them to for centuries.
Jack waved the rest of the team over. They were both across the short expanse of grass in a heartbeat. Teal'c stood by Jack as Daniel took the seat next to Sam and folded her free hand into his.
'How are you doing?' Daniel asked.
The question shook the control she'd regained and more tears glimmered in the blue eyes looking back at him.
Daniel's lips twisted wryly. 'Dumb question, huh?'
'Indeed, Daniel Jackson.' The gentle agreement rumbled out from Teal'c's heavy lips in a dark deep tone that prompted a shaky laugh from Sam. Jack's brown eyes flickered to Teal'c's with quiet gratitude.
'Teal'c,' Sam smiled up at the Jaffa, 'I haven't had a chance to thank you for coming all the way from Dakara.'
Teal'c inclined his head. 'It is an honour to attend the memorial service of your father who often fought alongside me to free my people from the Goa'uld.'
'Undomesticated equines, eh, Teal'c?' Jack teased.
'As you say, O'Neill.' Teal'c's brown eyes gleamed with humour.
Sam and Daniel exchanged an amused look. The joke was an old one and reminded them of the bond the four of them shared together. Sam felt the bubble of their protection surround her and relaxed. She trusted them with her life; after all, they'd been to Hell and back for one another; literally.
'So how long are you staying for Teal'c?' Daniel asked.
'I do not know.' Teal'c wondered at his reluctance to return to Dakara. He had spent years battling the Goa'uld to win independence for the Jaffa and now he had achieved his goal, there seemed to be an assumption amongst the Jaffa that Teal'c would leave Earth and return to lead them; it was a future Teal'c had never considered. 'There is much to do on Dakara.'
Jack rolled his eyes. Only Teal'c could reduce setting up a whole new nation to such an understatement. He caught on something in Teal'c's expression and he scanned the faces of the others thoughtfully. There were shadows under, and in, all their eyes; probably in his own too. They had all been through a tough time.
'You know what we all need?' He threw out casually.
Sam's eyes were the first to narrow at him in suspicion. 'What?'
'A vacation?' Daniel repeated. He turned the suggestion over in his head. 'Actually, you know Jack, that's not a bad idea.'
'Really?' Sam asked before she could stop herself. Vacations were never usually taken by the team willingly.
Jack shot her a look. 'I think,' he stopped whatever smart remark Daniel had been about to make with another look, 'we should all take the weekend off and go fishing.'
The other three looked at him dubiously.
'Aw, come on. Rest, relaxation, some good company.' Jack continued eagerly. His eyes met theirs hopefully. 'It's been a while since the four of us spent any time together.'
Daniel caved under Jack's pleading eyes. 'I guess a weekend of fishing couldn't hurt.' He guessed Sam would reject the idea of fishing but that the core one of spending a weekend together would be accepted.
'I concur.' Teal'c murmured realising the plan the archaeologist had formed. He hadn't enjoyed the one and only other time he had gone fishing.
All three men turned to look at Sam. She was reminded briefly of the moment they had all decided to disobey orders to stop a possible attack on Earth. They'd all looked at her for her decision then too. At least, she mused, if they were all going fishing there would be no question of impropriety. 'OK, I'm in too.'
Daniel and Teal'c stared at her in horror.
Jack's face broke into a wide smile but before he could say anything, a movement by the archway had them all turning to find Sam's brother by the entrance.
Mark Carter gestured back at the house to cover his unease at the way the four of them had turned as one; at the way the three men shielded his sister as though he, her brother, was the threat. 'General O'Neill, there's a call for you back at the house.'
Jack sighed heavily. The responsibilities of command. Why had he ever thought becoming a General and running Stargate Command was a good idea? His mind drifted to the conversation he'd had with the President that morning; of the new opportunity that he was being offered…more responsibility…another star on his uniform…and one that would mean leaving everything he'd built over the previous eight years including the team in front of him.
Sam squeezed his hand. 'We'd better head back, sir.'
'Right.' Jack let her hand slip from his and they all stood up.
Daniel tucked Sam's hand under his arm as he escorted her back to the house. Jack tried not to feel jealous that he didn't have the same luxury of open affection that Daniel's status as a civilian provided him with. He was barely back in the hall when he snatched up the receiver Mark indicated.
'O'Neill.' He listened for a few moments. 'I understand. We'll be back immediately.' He dropped the receiver back in the cradle and turned to the waiting SG1 team. 'We have to go, people.'
'Right now?' Mark asked incredulous.
'Right now.' Jack confirmed. His eyes went to Sam. 'I'm sorry, Colonel, but we've all been recalled.'
'What can be so important about deep space radar telemetry? Can't Sam stay?' Mark asked puzzled and a little angry at being left to deal with the rest of the reception alone.
'I'm sorry but the situation requires Colonel Carter's unique…uh…talents.' Jack covered. The doorbell rang. 'That's probably the car they've sent.'
'I'll meet you outside, sir.' Sam said seeing the huffy expression on her brother's face.
Jack nodded. 'My condolences, Mark. Your father was a good man.'
'Yes,' Daniel nodded, 'I'd like to offer my condolences too.'
'And I mine.' Teal'c said.
'Thank you.' Mark said politely his eyes still on his sister.
'One minute, Carter. We have planes waiting for us at Andrews.' Jack said before he reluctantly left her with Mark.
Sam hugged her brother. 'I'm sorry, Mark.'
'Don't worry.' He indicated the room behind him. 'I'll handle it but don't you want to talk to Pete before you leave though?'
'You invited him and pressed him into coming, Mark. I told you we're not engaged anymore and I don't think talking to Pete right now is the best thing to do.' Sam's lips tightened at Mark's unhappy expression. 'I'll call you later, OK?'
'Right.' Mark gestured at the door. 'You'd better get going.'
Sam tried hard not to let his ultra polite tone upset her as she turned and walked out of the house; tried hard not to notice it was the exact same tone her father would use to make her feel guilty. She schooled her features before she climbed into the limousine and at the knowing looks wondered if she was fooling anybody.
'So,' she said brightly, 'what's the emergency, sir?'
Jack's gleeful eyes met hers across the small space. 'They found a ZPM.'