Terms of Endearment
Rating: Teens/Older teens (near the end)
Category: Alternate Universe
Season: If still going by "regular" time, somewhere around 7/8, but definitely AU.
Summary: What happened "later". The sequel/continuation to Doppelganger.
Special thanks to my beta reader Melissa for all your help and suggestions. :)
Major Samantha Carter had years of experience in recognizing an impending brawl. It was in the tone of the voices, the thickness that crept into the air from a central point, swirling outwards as more and more people were involved in the original point of friction.
Instinct had her turning to look behind her just as the swift right hook sailed out and connected with the opponent's nose. Biting back her sigh, Sam waded through the surrounding crowd towards the two foes, who were now rolling around on the ground exchanging blows. Sam reached down and hooked her arm around her son's chest and pulled Nate off of the boy on the ground. Sam held Nate away from the other boy with one hand, while she quickly ran an appraising hand over the nose of the whining and whimpering boy. While it was bleeding freely, the nose was not broken, Sam noted with relief, before one of the other mothers came over to lead the crying child away, stemming the flow of blood. Sam gave the woman a smile of thanks before turning her attention back to her son who was glowering at the retreating boy.
Kneeling before him with her hand on his shoulder Sam questioned quietly, "Nate? Care to tell me what that was about?"
The four year old directed his sullen expression at his mother before grousing, "It's not my fault! Desmond started it. He pushed Katie!"
Sam sighed as she thought, not for the first time, about how the playground really was a microcosm of the universe. Nate had started preschool the year before and had quickly become the ringleader and fast friends with his own, younger version of SG-1 and the United Nations. Katie, a quick-witted Oriental girl, might as well have had "linguist" stamped on her forehead; Usman was as stoic as Teal'C and his wiry, skinny frame belied the boy's strength – as bullies quickly discovered. The Indian boy had quickly become the group's protector; Malcolm was an incredibly chatty African-American boy whose non-stop questions and observations evidenced the brain that never stopped working, trying desperately to figure out all the whys and wherefores of the universe around him. Thinking back to her own childhood, Sam had quickly suggested to Malcolm's grateful mother that she might want to make several trips to Goodwill now to spare their household electronics.
As for the rest of the children, Sam recognized characteristics of a smattering of other races from off-world. The Tollans in the group of kids already hardwired with the latest in handheld games, personal music players and cell phones – who would not share their electronic gadgets with anyone else. The Nox children, generally offspring of light-hearted, Yoga-practicing, vegetarian parents who taught them to respect the customs of others. Nate had even found himself an Asgard in the form of a solemn boy in Grade 3 who would occasionally step in to intervene on Nate's behalf.
Then there was Desmond – a more 'Goa'uldish' child than Sam had ever seen. Sam hadn't thought it was possible for a child that young to be so incredibly arrogant and self-centred, but she had been proven wrong. Desmond had started preschool the same day as Nate and within half an hour the two had an almost immediate, intense distrust of each other. The mini-SG-1 and Desmond's group of friends were instant enemies. Usually the arguments didn't come to blows however, courtesy of Usman's silent indication that whatever trouble Desmond started, Usman would quickly finish. Unfortunately, Usman was home sick that day and although Sam had no doubt that Desmond had indeed started things, that was not an excuse for Nate to escalate matters, despite his inborn need to protect his "team".
"It doesn't matter who started it, Nate, you're going to go apologize to Desmond. You gave him a bloody nose and you could have seriously hurt him."
"I'm not gonna!" was Nate's sullen response as he glared at his mother.
"Jonathan Carter O'Neill! Don't you dare speak to your mother like that!" a clipped voice declared sharply from behind Nate. Sam pulled her gaze from the frowning brown eyes of Nate and up into the almost identical frown of Colonel Jack O'Neill. The two had matching brown eyes and similar facial features. Nate's hair was lighter than Jack's had been at the same age, one of the features that he would have inherited from Sam, although Jack's hair had now become a dignified silver (he would say "old gray") colour. Nate turned to face his father, his expression now downcast. Sam flashed a quick smile at Jack, who merely responded with a quick nod, keeping his expression stern for his son.
"I'm sorry, Daddy."
"Why are you apologizing to me? Don't you think that's something you should say to your mother instead?"
The young boy spun around quickly to hide the tears that burned his eyes and buried his face into his mother's neck, his arms wrapping around her and squeezing tight. Sam closed her eyes and held Nate close to her as he muttered his apology to her quietly. She rubbed Nate's back a few times before gently unclasping his arms from around her neck.
"Apology accepted. Now go and apologize to Desmond, please."
Jack extended a hand to help Sam to her feet and together they watched their son approach the boy he had hit, who was now being held protectively by his irate (and equally Goa'uldish) mother. Jack smiled his approval as Nate said he was sorry and turned back towards his parents. Jack's smile turned to a look of confusion as Nate looked at Sam sheepishly. His gaze bounced back and forth between the guilty look on Nate's face and the stern look Sam had on hers. Sam maintained eye contact with the boy for a few minutes before glancing over at the now mollified Desmond and his mother. Closing her eyes briefly she shook her head gently and let out a sigh.
"Fine. Go play," she stated with resignation lacing her voice.
As Nate gleefully scampered away to join Katie and Malcolm on the monkey bars, Jack questioned, "Sam…?"
"Your son has been learning 'Uncle Daniel' by osmosis."
"He didn't really apologize."
"Yes he did. I heard him say he was sorry."
"If you listened to how it was worded, what he actually said was that he was sorry that Desmond's actions had resulted in him hitting Desmond and that in the future Nate wouldn't hit him first."
"I'll be damned."
"Yup. However, it seems to have appeased Desmond and his mother, so I guess it'll do. Besides," Sam concluded with a grin, "I have no doubt Desmond got what he deserved. Oh, and apparently your right hook is genetic."
Jack grinned broadly and the two of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder watching their son fondly, both acutely, and silently, aware of how lucky they were that the boy was a part of their lives. Though he was their child in any way that mattered: physically, emotionally, even biologically – any DNA test would say it was so – Nate should not have been with them. He was the offspring of another Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill. His mother had travelled from an alternate universe to give him life and left him with the people who would best be able to care for him. Who better than another version of his parents in a place that was not about to be overrun by Replicators? Unfortunately, she had given her life in the process, sacrificing herself in the brilliant blue plume of the Stargate, deep below Cheyenne Mountain. Her living remembrance was the little boy now chasing his friends around the playground, and neither Sam nor Jack had ever made it through a day without saying a silent thank you to the woman who had given them their beautiful boy.
Jack had always felt he and Sam would become a couple in every sense of the word. The attraction was there. They were comfortable with each other. They worked together as well in the home as they had in the field, and they trusted each other implicitly. He assumed it would happen naturally at some later date. However, despite Jack's original hopes, 'later' had never really happened. Time had passed in a whirlwind of diapers and feedings, colic and playgroups. Things had been a little difficult for the first year. After all, Sam didn't really have any experience around kids and, to be honest, neither had Jack. Even though he and Sarah had had Charlie, Jack was often away when Charlie was growing up.
So even though the arrival of Nate helped ease the pain in Jack's heart from the son he had lost, Jack had no idea just how difficult it was to raise a child, often by himself. The meal preparation, the sleep deprivation, the amount of attention and supervision a child needed, the grocery shopping, the playing, the laundry… the laundry! Jack often wondered, especially during the first year or two, just how such a tiny little thing could generate that much laundry. He had considered having Sam work out a formula to show him, but figured that (a) she would actually take him seriously and work it out, and (b) he wouldn't understand the answer anyway.
The SGC had been surprisingly accommodating in the circumstances, a clear indication of how important both Jack and Sam were to the program. Out of necessity, Sam had been transferred to SG-6 and then the schedules adjusted so that SG-1 and SG-6 were not off-world at the same time. Whoever wasn't off-world would work on the base and care for Nate.
Fortunately, General Hammond also made sure that they had several days off at the same time each month so that they could have some "family time" instead of a steady rotation of single-parenthood – one week on, one week off.
They now referred to each other as "Sam" and "Jack" instead of "Sir" or "Carter", although as Nate got older even that had increasingly changed to "Mommy" and "Daddy".
Sam and Jack had both sold their houses and moved in together, to a house that had three large bedrooms – one for each of them – even though Sam and Jack secretly longed to be sharing a room with the other. But the more time passed, the more awkward it seemed to bring up the feelings that lurked quietly in their heads and hearts. They already had years of practice in sublimating and avoiding their long-forbidden feelings. Although the new situations they found themselves in while caring for a child sometimes made it much more difficult than it had ever been at work.
After all, Jack couldn't help having to look at Carter's six while they were on a patrol. He was supposed to be watching her six, wasn't he? Unfortunately, he couldn't really think of a valid excuse for watching Sam as she gently swayed side-to-side, lulling Nate back to sleep after a scary dream.
Likewise, Sam could previously pretend that she was merely interested in making sure Colonel O'Neill was properly geared for his protection when she ran a quick, appraising glance over him when the Colonel emerged from the tent in the morning while off-world. She had no such reason for letting her eyes linger on the muscles of Jack's chest emphasized by the now wet t-shirt after he had received a good dousing during their son's bath time.
The scent of Sam's shampoo, the faintest whiff of which had always caught Jack's attention (and other parts of him as well), now overwhelmed him when he entered the bathroom following her morning shower. It had become a part of his morning routine to step into a frigid shower in order to combat the urge to grab Sam by the shoulders as she emerged from the bathroom and kiss her senseless.
Sam, who had always fought the butterflies in her stomach when Jack smiled by solving complex mathematical formulas in her head, now faced several smiles a day and had started to set herself increasingly complex puzzles involving subspace readings and the periodic table. It wasn't working very well.
Their memories of sweat-slicked flesh sliding against another hard body were still just the remnants of recollected dreams.
They had come close, once.
Jack had managed to last almost a month following Daniel's death, ascension – whatever, before succumbing to the anger that had been steadily building inside him. After drinking the better part of a bottle of whiskey, he made his way out to the shed in the backyard in the middle of the night with the sole purpose of taking it out on any object he could lay his hands on. In silent fury he had thrown over the workbench, used the tools that had scattered off it to shatter glass jars which released the contained nails and screws all over the floor. Jack had a passing thought of using the gasoline from the lawnmower to increase the damage, but that was gone in the blink of an eye. The destruction needed to be hands on. Instead he kicked open a bag of fertilizer and then went back to smashing things with tools.
How long he raged, Jack would never have been able to say. It wasn't until he stood in the middle of the shed panting that he realized that Sam was standing in the doorway watching him, her expression unreadable. Sam had deliberately schooled her emotions; she didn't want her own anguish to add to Jack's grief.
Sam held her ground unflinching as Jack stalked towards her then yanked her out of the doorway and into the shed. Forcing her against the wall, her shoulder digging into the edge of the bike rack, Jack kissed Sam, his mouth hard and unrelenting. But Sam matched the violence of his kiss with pressure of her own, moving herself closer against him and thrusting her tongue into his mouth, her fingers digging into his shoulders.
After several minutes Jack pulled away from Sam gasping. He covered his face with his battered hands as he struggled to regain control. He looked at Sam, her face flushed and her breath coming in sharp gasps, and as tempting as it was to close the distance to her (somehow knowing that Sam wouldn't resist) even in his drunken haze, Jack knew he couldn't. Although it had settled to a dull throb, the urge to break was still in him. This was something that he would not break.
Sensing the change, Sam stepped towards Jack and led him by the arm back into the house. Sam led him to the bathroom, urging him to sit down on the edge of the bathtub as she pulled out the first aid kit. She quickly disinfected and bandaged Jack's hands in silence, Jack fixing his gaze over her shoulder as he slowly regained his senses. When Sam was almost done, Jack leaned his forehead against hers, eyes closed, in silent apology. Sam closed her eyes as well and the two of them leaned into each other, sharing their grief. Eventually Sam stood and after quickly brushing Jack's sweat-soaked hair off his forehead, she returned to her room.
The next day, as she rocked Nate to sleep on the back porch, Sam again watched Jack quietly as he tidied up the shed. When Nate finally drifted off, she placed him in his playpen and helped Jack pull things back together.
Jack and Sam sat to chat with Anne, Katie's mom, while the kids played for a bit before heading home. Then they said goodbye and hopped into Jack's truck for the short ride home. Jack had gone to do some grocery shopping when Sam had gone to the school earlier, so they all carried in some groceries, hindered by Houdini, who was incredibly skilled at getting underfoot.
About six months previous, Sam had returned home to an empty house and a note saying that the boys had 'gone fishing', Jack's code for getting out of the city and doing nothing. They usually went to a nearby state park and tromped around in the woods, getting filthy dirty. Jack would treat Nate to some kind of junk fast food on the way home and then deposit the exhausted child straight into bed when they finally got home late in the evening, so Sam was a little surprised when the door opened about half an hour later and Nate came barrelling through to the living room.
"Mommy, mommy! I'm supposed to say that I get to keep him!" declared Nate, as he threw himself into her arms
"What?" Sam was completely bemused.
From the front hall Jack called, "Actually it's supposed to be 'He followed me home, can we keep him?'"
With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Sam responded with, "Jaaaaack?"
Jack was pulled into the living room by a dog on a leash. A very large dog, about a year old. The dog saw Sam and immediately made its way over, its whole body wagging along with its tail. It jumped and licked at Sam's hands or any other part of her it could reach. Nate pulled away from his mom to sit on the ground where he was bowled over and licked, as he giggled non-stop.
Sam closed her eyes in disbelief. "Jack…"
Sheepishly, Jack cut in with, "We did talk about getting a dog a few weeks ago."
"I thought we were just having an abstract discussion. Not that you were actually going to get one. Without speaking with me about it first." Sam kept her voice low, trying to keep the brewing argument from reaching down to Nate on the floor.
Jack was unusually meek as he shuffled his feet and looked at the floor. "I know, I know. It's just… when I saw him, I just couldn't help myself." He looked up at Sam and when she saw the look of longing in his eyes, any resolve that Sam may have had evaporated. She glanced from him, down to the two on the floor, and then back at Jack, her expression softening. It had been too late to say 'no' anyway; Nate would have been crushed. But the thought of crushing them both? Sam just couldn't do it.
"He is your responsibility Jack. He is your dog. You understand me?" Sam kept her voice as stern as she could, like she was speaking to her son not her older, former commanding officer.
Jack pulled her into a crushing hug. He muttered a quiet, "Thank you," into her ear.
The movement above caught the dog's attention and he abandoned the boy on the floor in favour of jumping up against the adults nearly knocking them over. They stepped apart and Sam ran an appraising eye over the dog, now sitting and panting, looking up at them with adoring eyes.
"So, did you two name him?"
Nate nodded excitedly. "We named him Spot!"
"How… cliché," she quipped, taking in the dog's appearance. "You do realize that the dog doesn't actually have any spots, right?" She addressed the question to Jack with a sideways glance. The dog had the appearance of a husky, but was clearly some kind of mutt because the body type reminded Sam of a type of racing dog, very lean. And his eyes were brown. 'Good lord, I'm outnumbered. Brown eyes are going to be my downfall,' Sam thought with a small smile.
Jack just continued to grin broadly and shrugged his shoulders. Sam rolled her eyes. 'Downfall,' she thought again.
A week later, Sam was calling the dog anything but 'Spot'. In fact, most of the terms she was employing weren't usually used in polite company.
The dog had decided that the person he really belonged to was Sam. He loved Nate. He adored Jack. But he worshipped Sam.
And that was why Sam was currently scouring the neighbourhood, again, for the four-legged member of her family. After Spot had managed to worm his way out of the backyard one day, Sam had hunted the neighbourhood high and low with a tearful Nate in tow until they found the dog a couple of streets over, sniffing a garbage can. Sam had sighed with relief and then scolded the dog the entire way home.
Unfortunately, in his little doggy brain, Spot had realized that this was a way of getting Sam's attention and had made it his mission in life to escape from the backyard at any opportunity he got. Spot was a very smart dog, so he was incredibly good at it.
If Jack had been home she would have sent him out to find 'that damn dog'. Unfortunately, Jack had gone to get his hair cut and had taken Nate along with him. She stormed down the street muttering curses under her breath in between calling out, "Spot!".
"And why doesn't that damn dog know his name yet anyway? I yell it often enough. Stupid, damn dog," Sam said aloud to herself as she walked.
"Mrs. O'Neill! Mrs. O'Neill!"
With a sigh, Sam turned towards the voice of one of her neighbours. She had tried to explain to the woman on several occasions that her last name was "Carter", but the woman apparently thought that it was a sin for a man and woman to live together, and have a child together, and not be married. 'If only she knew the truth,' Sam smirked to herself.
"Mrs. O'Neill. If you're looking for that dog of yours, it's in my backyard digging up my flowerbed for the second time this week." Sam winced at the irate voice of the woman standing on the porch of the house.
"I'm terribly sorry, Mrs. Wilson." She followed the woman along the side of the house and into the backyard. Sure enough, there was the dog, paws covered in dirt. Having heard Sam's approach, he had stopped digging and was sitting there wagging his tail, tongue hanging out of his mouth.
"Perhaps you should start securing your dog better in the future, Mrs. O'Neill."
"Oh believe me, I've tried everything I can think of. The dog is just a da- darn Houdini!" At the word 'Houdini' the dog's ears perked up and he cocked his head to the side, regarding Sam. Sam looked at the dog, her eyes narrowing. Ignoring Mrs. Wilson, who was looking at her like she had two heads, Sam called to the dog.
"Hey Spot. C'mere." The dog sat in the garden thumping his tail.
"Hey, Houdini." The dog cocked its head to the other side and thumped harder.
"Houdini? C'mere." The dog jumped to his feet and trotted over to Sam, sitting down on her feet and leaning against her legs.
"Huh," grunted Sam. "Okay, Houdini, let's go home." The dog got up and trotted ahead of Sam, glancing back occasionally to be sure she was following. He made a beeline straight to the house and sat on the porch by the door until Sam let him in. The dog was heading straight for the living room and Sam could picture in her mind the dirty paws marking up the couch.
"Houdini! Go to the kitchen!" she called quickly, picking up her pace hoping to minimize any damage. But sure enough the dog had listened and was sitting in the kitchen.
"Huh," Sam repeated. "Okay, now stay." She turned to go upstairs and the dog got up to follow her.
"No. I said 'stay'," she said firmly. The dog sat back down and then lay down on the tiled floor. Sam looked at him and then went upstairs to grab a towel. She came back and wiped off the dirty paws. "Okay. You're good. You can leave the kitchen, Houdini."
The dog's head shot up and licked her cheek before Sam could get out of range. She groaned, "ewwwwww," but was still smiling ten minutes later when she settled onto the couch with a book, the dog at her feet with his muzzle resting on her knee. When Jack and Nate came back to the house, Sam had fallen asleep with the book on her chest. The dog didn't move from his place with her on the couch, merely cocked an ear and wagged its tail. Jack's eyebrow quirked up. This was unusual.
Nate hurried over to his mother and planted a kiss on her cheek, almost as slobbery as the dog's, before he hurried away to play. When her eyes blinked open she fixed Jack with look that he couldn't interpret.
"The dog's name is Houdini," she informed him.
Jack was scheduled to go off-world the next day, so Sam started making dinner to give the boys, all three of them, a chance to play. They wandered off to the backyard while Sam puttered around the kitchen, throwing together a quick casserole. After the casserole was in the oven, Sam pulled out her laptop and settled in at the kitchen table to get a bit of work done.
She'd been working for about half an hour when Nate, followed by the dog, came back into the house, flushed from his exertions. Sam smiled down at him when he came to stand next to her to watch her work. Houdini flopped down under her feet with a sigh.
"Tired of playing outside?" she asked.
"Mmhm," Nate mumbled before climbing up onto her lap, Sam moving the chair back a little so he'd fit between her body and the table. Nate sat for a while, uncharacteristically quiet for a change, before asking, "Mommy, can I play a game?"
"Sure, let me just save this okay?"
Nate nodded his head in agreement and settled further into her lap as Sam quickly saved her work and pulled up one of his favourite computer games. To Sam's amusement and Jack's disgust the game involved solving math equations and puzzles. Sam wrapped her arms around Nate as he played, resting her cheek on the side of Nate's head. After a couple of minutes, she realized that Jack hadn't appeared.
"Nate? What were you playing outside with Daddy?"
Distracted by the game, it took Nate a minute or two before responding with, "Ummm, hide and seek?"
Sam chuckled and said, "Don't you think it would be a good idea to tell him you're not playing anymore?"
Nate looked at her with a big grin on his face, "Oops!"
"I'll say. Let's go get him."
Sam stood and shifted Nate onto her hip as she walked to the back door. She frowned when Nate slumped onto her shoulder. 'He really is quiet tonight,' Sam thought. 'Maybe it's because Jack is leaving tomorrow.'
Sam pulled open the door and called into the backyard, "Jack?"
There was no answer so she called again. There was still no answer from Jack. With a sigh, she realized the problem.
"Jack, you can answer. Nate's here with me. He's tired of playing hide and seek."
Jack immediately popped up from where he was buried, deep in a bush near the back of the yard, "What?"
"Come inside, Jack."
"Alright, I'm comin'." When Jack got to the door he smiled at Nate and said, "Was my hiding place too tricky for you to find, kiddo?"
Even though Nate smiled at his dad, he just shrugged his shoulder in answer. Jack shot a look at Sam, who responded with a shrug of her own. She went back to the kitchen table and sat back down so that Nate could continue with his paused game. When he was engrossed in the game again, Sam moved one of her wrists onto his forehead and held it there for a minute until Nate noticed and wriggled his head out from under her arm.
"Mommy," he protested, "I'm playing my game."
"All right, all right. Just checking."
Sam answered the question in Jack's eyes with a nod of her head. Nate was a little warm. Sam suddenly remembered that Usman had been home sick today, so Nate was probably just coming down with something.
When the timer on the stove rang, Sam started to shift Nate off her lap before Jack waved her back down. Jack pulled the casserole out of the oven and, while it sat for a bit, quickly put a salad together. Jack looked at Sam and Nate cuddled up together on the chair and felt a momentary pang. He wished he didn't have to leave them for a couple of days.
With a sigh, Jack pulled out some plates and cutlery. At the table, Sam saved Nate's game and started shutting down the computer, clearing it off the table. Sam sent Nate off to wash his hands and rinsed hers quickly before setting the table. Sam and Jack moved easily around the kitchen together, their movements as in sync here as they had ever been in the field.
The family sat and ate dinner, Nate perking up a bit after he had a bit of food. But he was still kind of flushed and quieter than normal. Usually he kept his parents entertained during dinner, but tonight Sam and Jack carried most of the conversation.
After dinner, they got Nate ready for bed. Story time was for the whole family, even though Jack was doing the reading that night. Everyone, including the dog, squeezed themselves onto the bed. After kissing both of his parents goodnight, Nate settled in to sleep. Houdini usually stayed with him until he fell asleep.
Jack and Sam went back downstairs to clean up the kitchen. After puttering in comfortable silence for a while, Jack asked if Sam was going to go back to the base that night. Sam would usually go and get a couple of extra hours of work done when Jack was going to be away because she wouldn't be able to stay late while he was gone.
Sam frowned, a little reluctant to leave if Nate wasn't feeling well, even though she had told Daniel earlier that day that she would be in to continue working on a device the two of them had been asked to look at.
Jack knew what she was thinking. "I can always call you if he wakes up. Maybe he just needs a chance to sleep it off."
"Yeah, you're right. I'll try not to stay too late though."
"Sure, I've heard that before. Maybe I'll call Teal'C and have him remove you from the lab at a half decent hour."
Sam laughed as she moved into the hall to pick up her coat and purse, "You wouldn't! Wait, what am I saying? Of course you would."
"You betcha! Tell Daniel I said hi."
Sam waved back as she left.
Jack was surprised to see Sam in the kitchen the next morning when he came downstairs after his shower. It was only 6:30 in the morning and Jack knew that Sam hadn't come home at the threatened 'half decent hour'. Jack never could sleep properly until he knew she was home safe and sound, so he knew that she hadn't made it home until 3:00.
And it showed. Sam had started a pot of coffee for him, but she was standing by the counter with her eyes closed, head resting on one fisted hand. As he watched, she gave a huge yawn, covering her mouth with her non-propping hand.
Jack grinned as he moved into the kitchen. He bent over to pat the dog, who was sleeping on the floor near Sam. Acting as if he didn't know already he asked, "Late night?" Taking advantage of her drowsiness, he moved in closer than he normally would as he pulled a travel mug out of the cupboard, relishing the feel of her against his body.
"Mmmm. Yeah. But it's all Daniel's fault."
"Great, so I'll have to deal with a dopey archaeologist on planet P2X-yada yada yada today? I mean, I know it's supposed to be uninhabited, but we both know how that usually works out."
"P2X-788. And yes, yes we do," Sam replied with a small smile. "But it was worth it. We figured out what that thing SG-4 brought back does."
"And that would be…?"
"It burns things."
"Yeah, it's like a tiny flame thrower," Sam perked up a bit as she talked about the alien technology, even taking her head off her hand to look at Jack.
"Teal'C didn't really think so."
"No? How come?"
Now with a huge grin on her face, Sam turned around and said, "Let's just say that it's a good thing he's already bald. Otherwise your archaeologist wouldn't just be tired; he'd be a little bruised."
Jack doubled over laughing. "I wonder if I can get the security tapes for that?" he questioned, still laughing.
"Don't worry. I already spoke with Siler about that. You'd better get going, or you'll be late."
"Yeah." Jack leaned in close and smacked a quick kiss on Sam's lips, aiming for something that seemed casual; reining in the impulse to make it longer. "I'll be back in a couple of days, okay?"
Her lips tingling, Sam nodded and walked behind him to the front door, standing pajama-clad in the doorway to wave goodbye. She lingered in the door for a while watching the departing truck before closing the door and moving back inside. With another huge yawn, Sam decided to go catch another hour of sleep before she had to get up for the day.
Sam went in to Nate's room to wake him for school. As he muttered and stirred, she pressed her hand against his forehead and frowned when she found him still warm. As Nate slowly roused himself, Sam made her way into the bathroom to find the thermometer. As she opened the drawer, Nate came into the bathroom behind her.
"Mommy, I don't feel well."
"I know baby, I was just looking for the thermometer. What's the matter?"
"I'm hot, and my stomach feels sick. And I'm itchy."
With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Sam pulled the ear thermometer from the drawer and put a new protective slip on the end before placing it in Nate's ear. She pressed the button and waited for the beep. The reading said 101 degrees.
Sam sat down on the edge of the tub and pulled up Nate's shirt. He had a red rash spreading across his tiny stomach. Just then the phone rang.
"Nate, I just have to grab the phone. Go back to bed and I'll be in in a minute, okay?"
Nate nodded and went back to his room. Sam hurried to her room as the phone continued to ring and picked up the receiver.
"Hi, Sam? It's Anne."
"Oh, hi, Anne. What's up?"
"I'm calling because I just got a call from Usman's mom. Apparently he has…"
"Chickenpox?" interrupted Sam.
"Yeah. I guess Nate has it?"
"I just found the rash. Poor kid."
"I told Sajani that I would call you and Nadine to warn you. So far Katie and Malcolm look okay, but Nadine and I think we might keep the kids home today anyway. After all, the four of them spend so much time together that chances are they have it too."
"More than likely. Thanks for calling, Anne. I want to get back to Nate."
"You're welcome. I'll chat with you later, Sam."
Sam disconnected the call and then dialled the number for the base.
"Hi, it's Major Carter. Can you patch me through to Dr. Frasier, please?" Sam waited on hold as she was connected to the doctor.
"Sam, what's wrong?"
"Hi, Janet. I just wanted to let you know that Nate has chickenpox."
"Aw, the poor kid. Do you need me to come take a look at him?"
"No, I should be okay. If you have time tonight you could always stop in for a visit. I just wanted to let you know because Jack is scheduled to go off-world today. I wasn't sure if you'd need to know for the pre-mission physical and I don't know if he's had the chickenpox before. Jack knew that Nate was under the weather yesterday, but we didn't know why, so if you could let him know…"
"Of course. I don't think that it will interfere with Jack's mission, but I will mention it to General Hammond as well. I'll also let the General know that you'll need a few days off. If nothing comes up, I should be able to stop by for a couple minutes after work tonight before I pick up Cassie."
"Great. Thanks, Janet. I'd better go."
"Okay Sam. If anything changes, I'll give you a call."
Sam disconnected the phone and made her way back down the hall to Nate's room. He had fallen back into a fitful doze and Sam decided to let him sleep.
By the end of the day, Nate was miserable. He was covered head to toe with the itchy blisters and was still a little feverish. Sam was doing everything she could think of to distract him so that he wouldn't keep scratching, but nothing she thought of kept him distracted for very long.
Janet had stopped by for a visit after work. She gave Nate a quick look over, but agreed that once you've caught chickenpox, you just have to wait it out. She told Sam to keep a close eye on any blisters that developed in his mouth and that if it looked like he was getting any in his throat to give her a call.
After settling Nate back onto the couch with a video that he would hopefully doze off in front of, Sam and Janet sat in the kitchen where they could keep an eye on him in case he was scratching and talked over coffee.
Janet told Sam that Jack had been sent off-world that day, although he hadn't been very happy about it at all. General Hammond had decided that since Jack had already had the chickenpox and they were going to an uninhabited planet, Jack was not at risk of infecting anyone other than the team. Daniel and Captain Morgan, who had replaced Sam on her transfer, had already had them and Teal'C was not at risk because of his symbiote.
"I hope you reassured Jack that Nate would be okay, Janet."
"Of course I did, but he still worries. About both of you," the doctor said pointedly. Sam, of course, either ignored or missed her friend's subtle hint. She simply responded with,
"I'm sure we'll be fine. Nate's not the first kid to get chicken pox."
Janet decided to try a different approach to get her point across.
"How was your house anniversary last week?" she asked.
"Oh, it was good. We have some big plans for the house this year," Sam replied with a smile. Jack had surprised her the year after they moved into the house by planning a special dinner for the anniversary date of their move. They had kept up the tradition, deciding each year on a special home improvement that they wanted to make to the house.
"Mmhm. We're going to knock down the shed in the back and build something a bit bigger, with two levels. The ground level will still be a shed and work room, but the upstairs will be a one room guest house with a bed, small sitting area, kitchen and bathroom. We thought that it would be nice for Dad to have a place of his own to stay when he comes to visit. Or Teal'C if he wants to spend some time off of the base."
Janet grinned at Sam's enthusiasm, which lit up her face as she described the guest house. "That sounds great, Sam. What a wonderful idea!"
"Yeah. Jack filed for the building permits a couple of days ago, so hopefully we will hear back from the City soon and then we'll start getting some quotes from contractors. Although, we might do some or all of it ourselves."
"You know, I always thought that there would be another anniversary to celebrate after the two of you moved in together," Janet said, her voice deceptively innocent. Sam's smile fell from her face, replaced by a pleading look.
"Janet, please don't start. Not again," she responded with a sigh.
"I just don't get it. I'm surprised that neither of you have ever acted on your feelings." A blush crawled up Sam's cheeks as she thought again about Jack's kiss that morning. Of course, Janet noticed and her eyes narrowed. "Unless you've been holding out on me, Sam…"
"No! No. It's just… well, sometimes I think that we might, but then Jack pulls away and I'm not sure why."
Janet thought that she might have an idea. "It could be that he's worried he'll make you uncomfortable or that you're not interested. Maybe he wants you to take the initiative so that he knows it's okay."
Sam considered this with a frown marring her forehead, "I never thought of that. I should-"
Unfortunately whatever she was going to say was lost when Nate called for Sam from the living room. 'But with any luck, I've given Sam the nudge she needs,' Janet thought smugly as she followed her friend into the other room.
Several days later, Sam was ready to pull her hair out. Nate, with the combined personality traits of Sam and Jack, was a less than cooperative patient. He was irritable. He was moody. He was tired because the itching kept him from sleeping. He was impossible to keep occupied. Sam was at her wits end. She was also irritable, moody and tired. So when the phone rang, her sharp "hello" was less than friendly.
"Having fun yet?" asked the voice on the other end.
"The one and only. Let me guess, you're about to throttle Nate."
"Oh you have no idea."
"Actually, I'm pretty sure I do. Katie caught it too. So did Malcolm."
"Oh, God. I'm sorry. So you do have an idea then." A bit of her usual good humour managed to creep into Sam's voice.
"Yeah, several of them. Which is why I'm calling. I'm volunteering my house for a play date."
"What? You're joking."
"I'm serious, Sam. All of the kids are going wrangy, they're already all infected and none of them are feeling sick anymore. They're just a bit spotty. So why shouldn't they play together? We can each take a turn so that everyone gets a bit of a break." When Sam didn't say anything, Anne questioned, "Sam? Are you still there?"
Breaking out of her stunned silence Sam said, "Anne. I. Love. You. I'll be over in five minutes."
The sound of Anne's laughter was still ringing in her ears as Sam hung up the phone. She went into the living room where Nate was sulking on the couch.
"I don't wanna watch this movie," he declared mutinously not even breaking his gaze from the television.
"Okay." Sam picked up the remote and turned off the television.
Nate immediately started to whine, "Mooooooommy…"
"Look Nate. I know you're not feeling well, but that's no reason to be rude."
"Yes. You were. Go get a pair of socks and your slippers, kiddo."
"Why? Are we going somewhere?"
"If you can behave, yes."
Nate was off the couch and on the way to his room in a shot. He grabbed the socks and slippers as he'd been told and went back downstairs.
"Mommy, do I have to wear my socks?" he asked softly and then hurriedly explained why, not wanting his question to be considered rude. "Just 'cause the socks rub the chicken pops on my feet."
"I know, honey, and I'm sorry, but if you're going outside you have to have your socks on, especially because of the chicken pox on your feet. But I'm not going to make you put your shoes on, just your slippers, okay?"
"Okay. Can you put my socks on for me, please?"
"Sure." Sam put them on as carefully as she could, trying not to let the socks tug on the blisters on his feet and then put on his slippers. They went out to the car and, after buckling Nate into his safety seat, pulled the car out of the driveway and down the road.
"Where are we going? Not the doctor's, right? Aunt Janet already looked at me."
"No. I'm taking you to Katie's house."
"Katie's? Really? I can play with Katie?"
"Katie and Malcolm and Usman. You're all sick, so you can all play together and it'll be okay."
"Woohoo!" crowed Nate.
"You said it, little man."
It didn't take long to get to Katie's house, and as the two made their way up the walkway to the front door, Nate practically hopping. He probably would have been hopping if that didn't hurt his feet.
Sam rang the doorbell and as they waited for an answer, she reminded Nate that he was to behave and be polite. The door was answered by Katie, herself, with Malcolm close behind her and Anne standing behind them. The kids immediately took off into the recesses of the house. Anne and Sam stood chatting on the porch listening to the echoes of children's giggles.
"You really are a lifesaver, Anne. Thank you for thinking of this."
"You're welcome. It just made sense. They're always happier when they're together anyway. You just missed Nadine. She said she'd take them tomorrow. Any time after 11:30."
Another car pulled into the driveway behind Sam's and Sajani joined them on the porch, Usman following Anne's direction to look for the others in the kitchen.
Sam closed her eyes and leaned against the wall with a sigh. When she opened her eyes, she saw Anne and Sajani looking at her with concerned smiles.
"Sorry, I'm exhausted. Nate hasn't been sleeping well. So I haven't been sleeping well."
"Go home and get some sleep, Sam. I'll drop all the kids off later today, maybe around 5:30? Sound good?"
Sajani and Sam agreed that it sounded better than good as they moved towards their respective cars.
Returning to the house, Sam stood in the living room, looking at the mess it had become with dishes, glasses, books, games and videos strewn over every available surface. She knew that the kitchen was just as bad. With a sigh, she wearily started collecting dishes to be washed. Maybe after the dishwasher was loaded she would have a bit of a nap before she tackled the rest of the stuff.
After a couple of trips to the dishwasher, Sam had decided that a nap really was a good idea when she was startled by the sound of the front door opening. She relaxed when she heard a familiar voice call her name.
She moved towards the hall in time to see Jack kick off his shoes and throw his coat down onto the bench by the door. He moved towards her, his face full of concern.
"How are you? How's Nate? Sorry I wasn't home yesterday, but Janet wanted to keep me quarantined in the mountain a little longer - something about Nate having a decreased immune system because of the chicken pox."
"That's okay. I actually have a bit of a break today. Anne took all the kids because they all came down with it. But the poor kid, he's so spotty. I get itchy just looking at him."
Jack narrowed his eyes and looked at Sam carefully as she absently scratched her stomach. He pulled Sam's hand away from her stomach, his fingers automatically seeking the pulse point. With his other he pushed up Sam's shirt, his thumb nestling between her breasts and his fingers just under the swell. Sam stared down at his hand in confusion, her own hand moving to rest over his and moving her fingers gently across his wrist.
"Sam, you're itchy because you have them too."
"What?" Sam's forehead wrinkled in confusion.
"You have chicken pox, hon. Come on, let's get you into bed."
"I can't have chicken pox. I had them when I was a kid. Jack!" She pulled weakly against his hold in protest.
"Sam. Trust me. You have chicken pox! I can't believe you didn't notice yourself. Now, c'mon."
As Jack settled her between the sheets of her bed, tucking her in, Sam figured she'd argue with him later. Her bed was comfortable and cool and she was just… so… tired.
Sam awoke to a noise she couldn't place. With her eyes closed, she tried to figure out what it could be and when she realized what it was she forced her eyes open. Nate sat on the floor near her bed, leaning against the wall, with his knees drawn up to his chest. He was crying quietly. Dimly Sam thought that Nate was supposed to be at Katie's, but she'd worry about that later.
"What's the matter, baby?"
Nate looked up at her with red, tear-filled eyes. "I made you sick."
"No. Nate it's not your fault. C'mere." Sam reached over the side of the bed and helped pull him up next to her. Houdini jumped up as well, settling himself at her feet. Sam pulled Nate close to her and he snuggled into her arms. As Sam drifted back off to sleep she thought, "Hon?"
Sam quickly went from bad to worse. Chicken pox was often more serious in adults than in children. Sam hadn't worried because she had been told that she'd had it when she was much younger. In fact, she had a vague memory of being bundled up with her brother on the couch because of it. Sam thought Mark was about the same age as Nate at the time, which would have made her about two and a half.
Unfortunately, if she had had them when she was younger Sam clearly didn't have a strong enough case to build up an immunity. So here she was, in her 30s with itchy sores and blisters all over her body, some in places she really didn't want to think about. She also felt like she'd been hit by a Mack truck – her entire body ached. She had tried to get out of bed once and after that attempt, Jack had firmly put his foot down. The only place he would let her go was to the bathroom and even then she found herself on at least one occasion crawling to get there. Of course, there was no way she was telling Jack about that. As it was, she was mortified enough with all the care he was giving her.
'Speak of the devil,' she thought with a small sigh and forced herself to open her eyes.
"Sam, I'm just going to drop Nate off at Usman's house, okay? I'll be back soon." Nate and his friends were pretty much spot free. They would be returning to school the following week.
Forcing more life into her voice than she felt, Sam replied, "Sure. You know where I'll be." She hoped that didn't sound as bitter as she thought it did.
"Do you need me to get you anything while I'm out?"
Sam made the effort to shake her head no. She listened as Jack and Nate made their way downstairs and out the front door. Houdini was back at the foot of her bed, where he had placed himself as her protector for the last couple days.
When she heard the door close, the tears started.
That's how Jack found Sam when he returned to the house fifteen minutes later, her head turned into the pillow and her body wracked with sobs.
"Sam?! Sam, what's wrong?" he asked as he sank down on the bed next to her.
Sam didn't say anything, just shook her head no, shoulders heaving.
"Sam! Dammit Sam, what's wrong?"
"Nothing… I… don't… know…" she forced out between sobs.
Jack did the first thing that came into his head. He leaned over her… and grabbed the phone to call Janet. He took the phone out into the hall, knowing that he wouldn't be able to form a coherent sentence if he tried to speak with Janet while watching Sam in that state. After talking to the doctor who promised him that she would be on her way over immediately, Jack returned to the room and sat next to Sam on the bed, gently rubbing a comforting finger over a miraculously bare patch of skin on her shoulder and making soft shushing noises in an effort to calm Sam down.
Janet arrived at the house quickly, politely announcing her arrival with a knock on the door before letting herself into the house. She made her way upstairs and into Sam's bedroom where she found Jack still sitting with Sam. Sam had calmed a bit, but was still crying. When Jack saw her at the door, he moved off the bed and over to where Janet stood in the doorway.
In a low, worried voice he said, "I don't know what's wrong. She just won't stop crying."
Janet touched his arm reassuringly and then moved towards the bed. She sat next to the upset woman and said, "Sam? Sam, you need to tell me what's wrong."
Sam sat up and threw her arms around her best friend. Sam started to talk, her voice punctuated by shuddering breaths as she continued to sob.
"It's, it's so stupid. I ca-can't stop crying. It's just chicken pox. I k-keep telling myself that I've been hurt worse. I've been z-zatted, and tortured, a-and all kinds of other stuff. But my body aches, my head aches, I'm so tired and I'm g-gross. My entire body is covered in oozing b-blisters and they're in my hair and, and I just… I just can't stop crying!"
Janet met Jack's eyes as she rocked Sam gently, like a child. She soothed, "I know. I know, sweetie. It's okay. Tell you what; why don't we run you a nice warm bath and I'll help you rinse your hair. It'll make you feel a bit better. After that you can get a bit of sleep, okay?"
Jack moved towards the bathroom to run the water, happy to be doing something, anything, to help out. A few minutes later, he was joined in the bathroom by Janet who came to check that the water temperature wasn't too hot.
"Is she going to be okay?" Jack asked, hoping that the vague note of panic in his voice was only noticeable to him. Janet nodded and smiled at him, again trying to reassure the usually even-headed colonel.
"She's going to be fine. I think she's just overly tired. She's been so busy taking care of Nate and now being so sick herself, she hasn't had a decent night's sleep for a while. The virus generally affects adults more than it affects children. And don't look guilty, Jack. It's not your fault."
"I should have been here. I should have stayed here to help her out with Nate. He's never been that sick before and now she's caught it…"
"Jack, you couldn't know that Sam would get sick too. She thought she was immune. Even if you'd been here, she likely would have picked it up. I'll give her a mild sedative after her bath and I think she'll be okay once she gets some rest. However, I am going to take a blood sample for testing, just in case. Although I doubt it's the case, for all we know, the naquadah in her blood could be interacting strangely with the virus.
"Now, stop beating yourself up about this. Can you find me some clean pajamas for Sam to change into after her bath?"
Janet helped Sam bathe, gently washed her hair and then led her back into the bedroom. Jack had not only laid out a fresh change of clothes, but had changed all of the sheets as well, reasoning that having everything new and fresh would help lift Sam's spirits. He re-entered the room after Janet had helped her dress and settled her in under the covers bearing a tray with a bowl of soup and a sandwich.
Under Janet's watchful gaze, Sam finished as much of the meal as she could and then, for once, willingly accepted the shot that Janet wanted to administer. As the sedative started to take affect, Sam smiled wanly at Jack, who was hovering beside the bed. Sam started to apologize for how she had been acting earlier, but Jack merely waved her into silence and tried to lighten the mood.
"Don't worry, Sam, I understand. Of course, that's not going to stop me from telling Daniel that you cry like a girl. You might even be able to give Teal'C some competition in the waterworks department."
"If Janet hadn't already given me a sedative, I'd be kicking your ass right now, Jack."
"Mmhm," Sam mumbled as she settled further down in bed. Jack moved to her side and removed the tray, setting it on the nightstand so he could pull the covers further up around Sam, tucking her in. He brushed a kiss across her forehead and then turned to pick up the tray, his eyes landing with a wince on Janet. He'd forgotten that she was there. He glowered at the smirking doctor as if daring her to comment on what she had just seen, but Janet merely picked up the bag she had brought containing her medical supplies and said that she'd come back the next day to check on Sam.
"Stay with Sam, Jack. I'll let myself out."
Jack stood in the hallway cursing himself, his special ops training and Samantha Carter in equal measure. In the weeks following her recovery from the chicken pox, he and Sam had been more familiar around each other than they had ever been over the last four years. The casual touches and glances had increased and, on Jack's part anyway, weren't actually casual at all, with each movement deliberately calculated to look accidental. But because Sam seemed receptive, he wasn't going to alter his game plan.
''Later',' he had decided, 'happens now.'
So he was extremely happy when SG-1 returned from an off-world mission a day early. The entire way home, Jack had planned on surprising Sam at home. He had already pictured the way her eyes would light up with delight, although even in his daydream he wouldn't go so far as to think that she would hug him. No, instead she'd probably just touch his arm a couple times over the evening, to silently reassure herself that Jack had, indeed, returned safely.
But no. Instead, he was standing frozen in the hallway listening to Sam and Anne talk about how Sam should start dating.
"Don't you think it would be… weird for us to date?
"Why would it be weird?"
"Well, for starters, I live here. With Jack and Nate. That doesn't really fit into the whole 'dating' concept."
"C'mon, Sam. You can't tell me that you're happy with the way things are now."
Jack's heart stopped during the long pause, during which he could fully comprehend the meaning of time being relative, and then froze when Sam answered with a sigh,
"I'm… content. I know I should be happy with what I have, but I can't stop myself from wanting more." Her voice was laced with guilt.
Jack forced himself to walk back down the hall to silently exit the house the way he had come in. He hopped back into the truck and drove away. He could only get a couple of streets away before he was forced to pull over to the side of the road. Turning off the truck, Jack closed his eyes and laid his head on the steering wheel, his mind churning and his guts clenching.
Sam wasn't happy.
Sam wasn't happy and it was all his fault. But she was the one that felt guilty.
Jack knew the guilt should have been all his. It was his idea that the two of them raise Nate together. Sure, she had accepted the idea, but Sam had been emotionally overwhelmed at the time and Jack knew he hadn't given her time to adjust to his proposal. He hadn't wanted to give her time to think; he hadn't wanted to give her time to change her mind. Jack had thought everything would work itself out.
Jack had only thought of himself and now Sam was feeling guilty about wanting more.
Sam wanted more.
Jack didn't know how long he had been pulled over at the curb, his mind churning over and over, but it must have been long enough to catch someone's attention because the quick whoop of a siren drew his attention to the patrol car pulled up behind him. No doubt they had already run his plates and, finding them registered to an Air Force colonel, were giving him a chance to move along voluntarily before they decided to question him. Jack quickly flashed his four-ways and was answered with a responding flash before he started the truck and drove away slowly, trying to decide where to go. The patrol car followed him for a couple of blocks and then the officers must have decided he was on the up-and-up because they pulled down a side street and allowed Jack to continue on his way.
Jack didn't know where to go. He wanted to go home, home to Sam and Nate, but he didn't think that was a good idea. Not until he had a plan. He wouldn't be missed until tomorrow. He had a day to pull himself together.
A day to figure out how to make Sam happy.
Sam had everything figured out.
The last couple of weeks had been sweet. Ever since Jack had taken care of her during her bout with the chicken pox, Sam had known something had changed. The dynamic between the two of them had changed. They had always joked, laughed, enjoyed each other's company. There had always been casual contact, but now there seemed to be more. Thinking back to the conversation she had had with Janet, Sam was trying to be less apprehensive. In turn, Jack seemed… less guarded. Sam tried to think of how things had changed and realized that the hesitation was gone. Jack had always seemed to be holding a part of himself back. After all, Sam should know. She had been doing the same thing. Always cautious, careful, the kind of person who checked her calculations twice (or more if she wasn't under the threat of immediate fire), Sam had made sure her true feelings for Jack were never fully exposed, just in case they weren't welcomed.
But now, Sam was sure that they were. She had everything figured out. Well, almost everything.
"Earth to Sam. Hello? Sam?"
Sam and Anne were drinking coffee in the kitchen of Sam's house while the kids played out back. Sam was lost in her own thoughts and when Anne finally interrupted her musings, she blurted out,
"I love Jack."
Anne laughed. "Well, I would hope so."
"No Anne. Really, I love Jack. God, I can't believe I've never said that out loud before!"
Taking in the distressed look on Sam's face, whatever Anne was going to say died on her lips. Instead, after a long silence, she said, "Why haven't you ever told him?"
"We're not really a couple. We're just together because of Nate," Sam admitted with a sigh. "We worked together. Jack was my CO…" Trying to think of a way to sidestep the incredibly personal, and confidential, circumstances of Nate's conception and birth Sam continued, "We weren't really together. And, well, let's just say that having a baby wasn't exactly something that the two of us planned."
Anne, nodded her understanding and Sam didn't do anything to correct any possible misinterpretation. It was better to let Anne think that the two of them had engaged in an illicit affair.
"But, you're the most compatible couple I've ever met. And don't tell me you just 'stay together for the kid'. That can't all be an act," Anne continued quickly cutting off Sam's attempt to speak, "I know, you've just said your feelings aren't an act. I don't think his are either. I've seen the way he looks at you, Sam, and if that's not a man in love, then I don't know what is."
Sam digested her words in silence sipping her coffee before she allowed herself a small smile. "He called me 'hon'."
"Yeah." Her smile got a bit bigger.
"When he told me I had the chicken pox. It's been going through my head ever since. And lately, it's been… it's been really… nice. And I…"
"You love him."
"Yeah." Sam sighed, "But I don't know what to do about it. I don't know how he feels. It's not like we've ever talked about this. Ever. What if… what if he doesn't feel the same way?" Sam finished quietly.
Sam's head shot up. "I can't just ask him how he feels about me out of the blue!"
"So ask him out on a date and then tell him. Or better yet, show him," Anne concluded with a smirk.
Sam couldn't help but laugh out loud, "Thanks, Anne. Glad to see that you're so sympathetic to my plight."
"Oh, please. The 'plight' is your own fault. How you've managed to live here platonically with that gorgeous specimen of a man for four years is beyond me."
Sam once again laughed out loud before letting the silence fall between them again, Anne smirking at Sam while Sam grinned like a fool, occasionally snorting and shaking her head in disbelief at Anne's bold comment.
Eventually Sam asked, "Don't you think it would be… weird for us to date?
"Why would it be weird?"
"Well, for starters, I live here. With Jack and Nate. That doesn't really fit into the whole 'dating' concept."
"C'mon Sam. You can't tell me that you're happy with the way things are now."
Sam thought for quite a while before answering with a sigh,
"I'm… content. I know I should be happy with what I have, but I can't stop myself from wanting more." Her voice was laced with guilt. She paused again.
"What if he-" Sam voice caught in her throat, "What if he doesn't feel the same way?"
Anne regarded her thoughtfully for several minutes before answering, "Don't you think you owe it to yourself to find out?"
"I guess so, but not yet. We're all supposed to go up to the cabin next week for the spring break. Just in case Jack doesn't – well, I don't want things to be awkward between us. Right now, things have been… really nice," she repeated.
"Since he called you 'hon'."
Sam swatted Anne's arm. "Yes. Since he called me hon! Will you drop it?"
"Hon. Short for honey. What about cutie pie? Snookums? Ooo, I know - pookie!"
Anne called after Sam as she made a strategically hasty retreat into the backyard, ostensibly going to check on the children.
Sam was just about to turn her computer on after putting Nate to bed when the phone interrupted her.
"Daniel?" Sam's heart immediately leapt to her throat. Why was SG-1 back from their mission early and what had happened to Jack that it was Daniel that was calling?
Oblivious to Sam's racing thoughts and heart, Daniel said, "I bet that you were happy we're home early. I'm sure that Jack already told you that the mission went really well. We might even have found a source of naquadah!"
Struggling to keep her voice even Sam replied, "That's great, Daniel."
"Yeah, it is." Daniel continued to tell Sam all about the planet and its people while Sam fretted quietly, glad that Daniel's usually uncanny perception was overwhelmed by his excitement. Where was Jack? Finally her reverie was broken when Daniel asked if Jack was available to talk.
"Sorry Daniel, Jack's not here right now," Sam replied as evenly as she could.
"Oh, okay. I just thought of something and wanted to ask him before I forgot."
"You could write yourself a note." Despite herself, Sam couldn't help poke at Daniel with SG-1's long-standing joke. His reminder notes had a tendency to get lost in the jumble of papers on Daniel's desk and it wasn't uncommon for him to find them several weeks after the issue had been resolved.
Daniel chuckled. "Gee, thanks, Sam."
"I'll tell you what, when I see Jack I'll tell him that you called. Hopefully between the two of you, you'll remember what you wanted to ask."
"Thanks, Sam. Have a good night."
"You too, Daniel."
And with that, Sam was left with her teeming thoughts.
Sam was known for her unfailing sense of logic. So as she sank unnerved onto the couch, she tried to school her racing thoughts into some sort of order.
'Just think,' she told herself. 'Why wouldn't Jack come home?'
'Okay, it sounds like they got home earlier today. So he could still be on the base. But then Daniel probably would have known he hadn't left.
'He couldn't have been in an accident. God, he couldn't have been in an accident! No. If there had been an accident I would have had a call from Jack, the police, or the hospital.'
She pushed that thought aside and quickly latched onto another one, 'Maybe… maybe he just wanted to be alone.' At that thought, Sam relaxed. It was understandable that Jack might want to take some time for himself. After all, it wasn't easy to get a moment to yourself when you lived with other people - she should know. Sam tensed again at her next thought,
'Maybe he does it all the time.'
After all, it wouldn't be that hard to fudge the scheduled time of his return. Granted, a whole day was probably a rarity. But a half day here or there, a few hours. If she wasn't on base when the team returned, Sam probably wouldn't have noticed a discrepancy. She wouldn't have even thought to question it. She was always just so happy when she knew that Jack had returned safe and sound that, unless SG-1 was overdue for a scheduled return, the timing never crossed her mind.
'What would he do? Where would he go? What if… what if he's meeting with someone? Oh god, what if he's dating someone?'
Sam's chaotic thoughts spun out of control until she drifted off into an unsettled sleep sitting up on the couch.
At the sound of Nate's slightly worried-sounding voice coming from the direction of her room upstairs, Sam shot to her feet, immediately getting tangled in a blanket she didn't remember having last night. Hearing a low, male voice start talking to Nate upstairs, Sam sat back on the couch, relaxing yet tensing at the same time. Jack was home.
She heard them make their way quickly down the stairs as she bent over to get herself out of the blanket. Sam was almost done when Nate bounded over to hug her.
"Mommy! Daddy's home! He's going to make me French toast for breakfast."
Sam pinned a smile to her face. "Yes, I can see that Daddy's home." Raising her head, but not looking Jack in the eye, she said, "Thanks for the blanket."
If Jack noticed, he didn't comment. He just responded with, "No problem."
Jack had come in quite late the night before. He'd spent the night at a bar, nursing a beer and ignoring the sports showing on the television. At last call, Jack had briefly thought of going to a motel, but figured that would just be silly. Jack came home to find Sam fast asleep, fully clothed and with a small frown marring her forehead, sitting upright on the couch. He had stood there watching her for a couple of minutes before carefully draping a blanket over her so she wouldn't get chilled.
Sam trailed after Nate and Jack as they made their way towards the kitchen, Nate chattering all the way. Sam sank into one of the kitchen chairs as Jack moved around, pulling out the ingredients and pan he would need to make the French toast. Nate begged to be allowed to go into the backyard with Houdini until breakfast was ready and, after pulling on a jacket, he disappeared. Immediately, an uncomfortable silence descended between the two adults still in the kitchen.
"Do you want some too?" Jack offered finally.
Sam's stomach flipped at the thought of food. Shaking her head she said, "No thanks. I'm – not really that hungry."
Once again, the two of them were silent, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Sam cleared her throat.
"Um, I should… I have some stuff in my lab that I should… check on."
"I'll be back later this afternoon."
Sam pushed away from the table and hurried from the room.
When she came downstairs after taking a quick shower and throwing on a clean pair of clothes, she was met by Nate holding a plate with a couple of slices of toast.
"Daddy says you should eat something before going to work. He says that if you don't eat, then you'll forget and your stomach will grumble if you have to talk to the general, and he would laugh at you and you'd be embarrassed. Would Uncle George laugh at you, Mommy? If your tummy grumbled?"
Sam couldn't help but smile at Nate's rambling. Catching sight of Jack from the corner of her eye watching them from down the hall, she ruffled Nate's hair.
"He has before," Sam had to admit grudgingly. "Tell Daddy I said thanks for the toast," she continued sincerely, well aware of the fact that Jack would be able to hear her from where he stood.
The next couple of days passed by relatively smoothly, primarily because Sam and Jack seemed to have subconsciously worked out a schedule of minimal contact; Jack would leave for work early in the morning and Sam would stay on base late in the evening. The brief moments that they were in the same place at the same time, they engaged in small talk. But on Wednesday night they found themselves at home, sitting at opposite ends of the couch, following a parent teacher conference.
Without shifting his gaze from the television show they were both not watching, Jack said, "So, um, I was thinking… that I might head up to the cabin by myself next week."
"Oh!" Sam's exclamation slipped out as Jack caught her completely off guard. "Oh," she repeated quietly. They had always gone to the cabin together on their leave, ever since Nate was born. Nate…
"What about Nate?" Sam questioned. Nate loved going up to the cabin and had been looking forward to spending the upcoming spring break there.
Jack winced. Of course, Sam would want him to take Nate along. If she wanted to go out on a… on a date, then she wouldn't want to worry about finding a babysitter for him. Trying to keep his voice even, Jack said aloud, "Nate. Of course, I'll take Nate. We could - make it a 'boys' week. Nate, Houdini and I. Give you some… peace and quiet."
'So, it's just me that he doesn't want to spend time with,' Sam thought sadly. Trying to keep her voice chipper, she said, "That sounds great."
'Yeah, great,' she thought bitterly.
Jack once again winced. She thought it was great.
Neither of them looked at the other during their brief discussion. They were both focussing straight ahead of them, trying to distance themselves from the conversation they didn't want to have. If Jack had looked at her, he no doubt would have noticed the sad look on Sam's pale face. And if Sam had looked at Jack, she no doubt would have seen the winces that had passed over his. But as it was, the two of them sat unseeing, side by side, sinking in their own misery.
Eventually, Sam could stand the tension no more. Making her excuses, she quickly left the room and hurried away. Jack slumped morosely on the couch while upstairs Sam sank onto her bed, tears pricking her eyes.
Saturday morning dawned bright, crisp and clear and they were all up very early. While Jack finished packing supplies into the back of the truck, Sam was fastening Nate into his safety seat in the back of the cab.
"Why aren't you coming with us, Mommy?" Nate whined.
'Why indeed?' thought Sam. Biting back the sigh that threatened to escape, she deadpanned, "Because sometimes mommies like to have something called 'peace and quiet' and mommies can't get that when they are surrounded by furry dogs, little boys and grown-up men."
"But Daddy always says that there's nothing but peace and quiet up at the cabin. And then he complains about something called in-ter-gal-act-ic-in-ci-de-nts and someone named… Thor."
Even feeling sorry for herself, Sam started to laugh. She caught Jack's eye and saw that he was smiling too.
Finally she replied, "Yes, but the peace and quiet at the cabin is different. And would still be interrupted by furry dogs, little boys and grown-up men. And Thor." Sam hugged Nate tightly. "I'll see you when you get home. You behave for Daddy, okay? And you too," she said, addressing the dog sitting on the seat next to Nate. The dog responded with a lick up the side of Sam's face before she could move away quickly enough. With a moan of disgust and a roll of her eyes, Sam wiped the dog slobber off of her cheek, before hugging Nate again and kissing him on the forehead.
Sam shut the door and moved around the front of the truck to where Jack was now standing by the open door to the front seat of the truck cab. They regarded each other awkwardly before Sam, unable to stand it anymore, spoke first.
"Give me a call to let me know when you get in, okay?"
"Yeah, of course. I don't know yet if I'll drive straight through or not. I might decide to spend the night at Sioux Falls."
Sam nodded her head in understanding. Usually they drove straight through, but that was when Sam was there to share the driving.
The two of them stood in silence, looking down at the ground and shuffling their feet uneasily before Sam once again broke first. Impulsively she wrapped an arm around Jack's neck, giving him a quick hug with a whispered 'drive safely' breezing past his ear, then moved away quickly before the stunned Jack could even respond. She took a couple of hurried steps backward, trying to distance herself from Jack, worried about how he would react to her suddenly invading his personal space. She kept a carefully schooled smile on her face and breathed a sigh of relief when a whine from an impatient Nate pulled Jack's searching gaze from her.
Jack hopped up into the cab and raised a hand to Sam in farewell before shifting the truck out of park and pulling out of the driveway. Sam waved goodbye from her place on the lawn until the truck had turned off onto the main street and they could no longer see her. With a sigh, Sam trudged back into the house.
Sam roamed the house restlessly for the balance of the day. She moved from one thing to another, never concentrating enough to get wrapped up in any one task. The book she tried to read was left propped open on the coffee table. The stereo was turned on and then shut off when the CD it held was one of Jack's favourites. At some point in the afternoon, Sam found herself sitting listlessly on Nate's bed just staring off into space. It was at that point that Sam decided she'd had quite enough quiet.
Sam pushed herself off of her bed and moved quickly to her room to grab her car keys and her jacket.
She slid behind the wheel of the car and started it. When the car moved towards the end of the driveway, she resolutely pushed aside the voice in her head that told her to follow Jack to Minnesota. Instead, she steered the car towards the mountain.
There was always work that she could do.
Although the base under the mountain never slept, there were times when it was quieter than others. The Saturday night before the spring break was one of those times and, as she buried herself in her lab to work, Sam was pleased that her arrival at the base went largely unnoticed.
At least until Teal'C strode into her lab at midnight carrying a tray from the commissary.
A startled Sam quickly tried to think of some sort of explanation that didn't make her sound like a pathetic woman scorned, but she needn't have bothered. Teal'C, with his usual uncanny awareness of the situation around him, forestalled anything Sam was going to say by handing her the tray.
"You have not eaten for several hours, Major Carter."
Sam drew in a breath to protest that she wasn't hungry, but stopped when Teal'C's sympathetic gaze hardened. It was almost imperceptible, something that would have been missed by anyone that did not know the man. In fact, most people would have been cowering in fear at the expression originally on his face. Sam, however, knew the man standing before her very well. Which is also how she knew that she had no choice but to eat the meal that Teal'C had brought for her.
Teal'C inclined his head before settling cross-legged on the floor of Sam's lab. Trusting that Sam would eat, Teal'C closed his eyes and started to kel'no'reem.
With a fond smile on her lips, Sam watched him for a moment before digging into the meal and returning to her work at the same time.
When Teal'C arose from his meditation, Sam was startled to see that it was already 8:00 in the morning. With the same tone of voice as when he had given her the food the night before Teal'C stated, "I believe that you should return home to rest, Major Carter."
Sam rolled her eyes, but saved her work and shut down her computer. They walked in companionable silence to the elevator, where Teal'C waited with her instead of heading towards his own quarters. When the elevator arrived, Sam hugged the large Jaffa, stretching on her tiptoes to circle his neck with her arms.
No words were necessary between the two of them as Sam pulled back and moved into the elevator. As the door slid shut she thought she saw a flicker of a smile on Teal'C's face and she was smiling herself as she left the mountain.
By the time she returned home, Sam was no longer smiling. She knew she should get some sleep, but the longer she lay in bed staring at the ceiling, the more elusive it became. With a sigh of resignation, Sam pushed herself off of her bed and wandered aimlessly around the house until she was drawn to Nate's room. She lay down on his bed and plucked absently at the ear of a teddy bear that had been propped up on the pillow. Still unable to rest, Sam resisted the pull as long as she could before traipsing down the hall to Jack's room. She tentatively pushed open the partially closed door, almost as if expecting the man himself to jump out from a hiding place at this invasion of his personal space. She crossed the room and stood staring down at the bed, lost deep in her own thoughts. Finally, she gave in and settled herself carefully onto the bed. Not wanting to disturb things too much, she pulled the extra blanket, folded neatly at the bottom of the bed, up to cover herself. With her own version of Goldilocks completed, Sam could finally fall asleep.
Sam was jarred from sleep a couple hours later by the ringing of the telephone. Disoriented, she fumbled with the unfamiliar set up of the bedside table before her fingers closed around the receiver.
"'llo?" she questioned, her voice scratchy.
"Jack?" She sat bolt upright with a flood of guilt. Here she was, sleeping in his bed! Sam could almost hear the frown in his voice when he asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yes! Yeah. Just… sleeping."
Jack bit back the snort of disbelief and hurt that threatened to escape. He hadn't missed the guilt that tinged her voice and, excluding when she had been sick, Jack could count on one hand the number of times Samantha Carter had voluntarily slept during the day. Whoever it was she was dating, it certainly seemed to have heated up quickly.
With a flat voice he said, "Well, just thought I'd let you know that we got in okay."
"Great. How was the drive? How's Nate?"
'Yeah, you were really worried, weren't you?' Jack thought uncharitably.
"Fine. He's fine. Anyway, I'll let you get back to your… nap."
Crestfallen, Sam replied, "Oh, okay. I miss y- tell Nate I miss him. Have a good week."
Sam put the receiver back on the cradle, all thoughts of sleep driven from her. She pushed herself from the bed and returned to the base.
This time, Sam wasn't quite as fortunate with her sympathetic companions.
Teal'C had indeed shown up again a couple of hours after she returned to the base, once again bearing food. Tonight, he regarded her with concern as she avoided his gaze and merely pushed the food around on her tray while trying – and failing – to immerse herself in her work.
And then Daniel had walked by the lab. He carried on, apparently lost in the book that he was reading, before stopping dead and backing up to the door. Squinting, as if unsure the person in the lab was there or just a figment of his imagination, he said, "Sam? What are you doing here?"
"Oh, hi Daniel. I'm just catching up on some stuff," Sam replied as nonchalantly as she could.
Daniel took another step into the lab and spotted Teal'C, once again sitting cross-legged on the floor. His concerned gaze ping-ponged between Sam, who was studiously avoiding his eyes, and Teal'C who, when he opened his eyes, told Daniel that his concern was justified with a look and a furrowed brow.
Unlike Teal'C, Daniel was not the kind of person to lend support to his friends by merely being available to them. His support was usually active; forward; wordy. Therefore, he set about trying to figure out what was wrong with Sam and, more importantly, how he could help.
"Why are you catching up on stuff?"
"You know how it is, there's always work to be done, Daniel."
The evasion noted, Daniel pressed forward.
"It's kind of late, Sam. I'm sure that it can wait until morning."
'Why? Why couldn't Daniel still be caught up in the excitement of finding that naquadah source?' Sam cursed mentally. Outwardly, she just shrugged her shoulders.
"I don't want to have to analyze the data in the morning. I'd rather just finish tonight, Daniel."
Daniel tried to think of a tactful way to say that Jack would probably prefer it if she was home with him, when a thought hit him square between the eyes.
"Aren't you and Jack on leave this week?" He blurted out, so surprised he was uncharacteristically tactless.
Sam sighed. "Yes, Daniel."
Daniel considered her simple answer, his brain quickly connecting the dots, but realized he must be missing some information when the picture ended up a big scribble.
"Sam?" Daniel's unanswered questions coloured his voice.
"Daniel. Please-" Sam's quiet, unfinished plea was enough. Whatever questions he had, Daniel decided to leave them unasked for the moment. 'I'll ask Teal'C later,' he thought.
Noisily pulling a stool up to the table, Daniel changed the subject.
"What are we working on?" he asked with a smile.
Sam released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and started explaining her experiment to Daniel, while Teal'C returned to his silent vigil.
There was another way that Daniel differed from Teal'C. He wasn't above calling in reinforcements. When Sam arrived at her lab on the Monday night, she found Janet waiting for her, arms crossed and leaning against the closed door. Sam eyed the petite woman, more leery of her than she would have been of a group of Jaffa. Janet's eyes roved over the other woman's face and body as Sam drew closer to the door. With a frown, she noted how pale she was, the dark rings under her eyes and, more telling, the slump to her shoulders. It wasn't often that Janet saw the tall, confident blonde look so defeated.
The two stood watching each other in silence for a long moment. Janet finally sighed, "Go home, Sam."
"Don't make me make it an order," Janet cut in quietly and saw Sam's shoulders slump even more. It helped to strengthen the doctor's resolve. If Sam wasn't even going to argue with her, then things were really serious. "I'll walk you to the elevator."
Sam merely nodded as she turned to walk back down the hall, shortening her steps so the smaller woman could keep pace with her.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Janet asked. When Sam shook her head no, Janet clarified, "You know I'm asking as your friend and not as your physician. Unless, of course, I change my mind and decide to lock you up in the infirmary," she concluded. Janet was happy to see a small smile tug up the corners of Sam's mouth.
"I love the way you operate, Janet. Pardon the pun," Sam retorted. With the mood a bit lighter, Janet repeated that she was there if Sam wanted to talk about what was wrong.
Again, Sam shook her head no but said, "I just… Not right now, okay? I can't talk about it yet."
"Okay. Why don't we-"
Janet was cut off by wailing klaxons and a base-wide announcement of an unscheduled off-world activation of the Stargate. Janet immediately changed her direction for the stairs, knowing that if she was needed in the infirmary that it would be faster to travel down the two levels on foot. Catching the torn look on Sam's face, she called out, "Go home!"
Reluctantly, Sam continued on her way to the way to the elevator, although slightly reassured when the klaxons ceased their racket and there were no other announcements. She swiped her security card through the reader next to the elevator and waited for the car to arrive. She was about to press the button to take her to the surface when she remembered that her jacket and car keys were still in her locker. In the haste with which Janet had herded her towards the elevator, it had almost slipped Sam's mind. Sam pressed the button to take her down to Level 25. She made her way to the locker room she shared with the rest of her team mates on SG-6 and quickly grabbed her jacket, deciding against actually changing back into her civilian clothes. Instead, she threw the clothes into a backpack and left the room. As she made her way down the hall, she heard someone calling her name. Turning, she saw Colonel Dixon walking quickly towards her.
Sam smiled at the sight of the large man's still wet hair. She put two and two together and figured that the unscheduled activation was due to the return of SG-13. She had always gotten along well with Colonel Dixon, the commander of SG-13. Although he wasn't as irreverent as Jack, he still had a knack for putting people at ease.
As Colonel Dixon drew level with her, Sam nodded. "Sir, I hope your team is back safely."
With a large grin, Dixon nodded and said, "Sam, I'm glad I saw you. This is one debrief you are not going to want to miss! Come on, General Hammond is debriefing us in 10."
"Yes, sir," she said as she turned to walk with the colonel. Sam gave a mental shrug at the slight prod her conscience gave her.
'Well,' she reasoned with herself, 'Janet didn't actually make it an order. And Dixon does outrank me, so…' Besides, her curiosity was piqued - a debrief not to be missed?
Jack shifted the boy sleeping in his arms so he could unlock the door of the house, wincing as every sound seemed to echo loudly as sound did at 3:00 in the morning. He eased the door open as quietly as he could and moved into the house, followed by Houdini who immediately galloped upstairs. Jack winced. So much for stealth.
Jack closed and locked the door before kicking off his shoes. Then he pulled Nate's shoes off and dropped them onto the bench. He briefly considered the issue of Nate's jacket and decided he'd take it off upstairs when he put the boy to bed. Even in his sleep there was a faint frown etched across his forehead. 'Just like his mother,' Jack thought with a pang.
They had missed her. All three of them had been completely miserable at the cabin without Sam. Until now, Jack hadn't really thought about all the things that were made better just by Sam's presence. After arriving at the cabin on Sunday, Nate had spent the time moping and whining with the dog laying morosely by his side. For his part, Jack had used the surge of jealousy from his call to ignore his own glum thoughts Sam's absence caused.
After breakfast the next day, Jack watched as Nate stomped over to the tire swing. Instead of swinging, the boy lay down on his back with his feet propped against the tire kicking it with his heels. With a sigh, Jack put on his shoes and went out to talk to his son. Laying down on the grass next to him, Jack turned his head to look at the sulking boy.
"You miss Mommy."
Nate didn't say anything. Instead, he kicked the tire harder.
"I miss her too, but…" All the reasons he had for staying vanished in an instant when, "Let's go home," came out of his mouth instead. Any doubts he had immediately vanished when he saw Nate's grin. Sam might not be happy to have her week of privacy cut short, but the look on Nate's face and the weight off of Jack's heart had him deciding to worry about that bridge when he came to it.
So here they were, returning home at an ungodly hour of the morning after Jack had driven straight through from Minnesota, only stopping for meals and pee breaks. Jack was a bit surprised that Sam hadn't greeted them in the hallway upstairs with all the racket the dog had made. They both slept more soundly at home than in the field, but Jack figured that her instincts would have had her investigating. He put Nate to bed, joined by Houdini, who had finished his sniffing inspection of the second floor. He left Nate dressed, but removed the jacket before heading down the hall towards Sam's room. He reasoned it would be better to wake her quickly now to let her know they were back instead of her being startled in the morning.
He knocked on the door to her bedroom and then entered, his eyes roving over the empty bed. The jealousy surged through him again, picturing her wrapped around some faceless man in a strange bed. Knowing that there was no need for quiet, he stomped down the hall to his room. Not bothering with the light or changing, he flopped down on his bed, sitting back up startled when he encountered an unfamiliar bundle. His questing fingers realized that it was the blanket that he usually kept folded at the end of his bed. Flipping on the light by the bedside table, Jack's eyes scanned his room his training kicking in to note anything else unusual. Other than the blanket, the room initially looked as he left it. Then he noted that some of the items on his bedside table were shifted, almost as if… 'As if someone unfamiliar with it was searching for the phone,' his brain supplied. Jack frowned, puzzling over this information.
'Why would Sam be sleeping in my bed?' he questioned himself. He had no doubt that it had been Sam, but she wasn't here to ask. Pulling the blanket she had used over himself, Jack flung an arm over his eyes hoping to stop his churning thoughts and get some sleep.
The next day had started out a bit better, but quickly went downhill. Nate had been excited to be home, but when Sam wasn't there and didn't come home after a few hours, he started whining again. He kept asking Jack if he could call Sam. Jack resisted, thinking that if Sam was still not home after a hot and heavy date, he would look petty. Jack didn't want Sam to think he was using their son as a way to keep tabs on her.
Eventually, Jack's brain had kicked in. Regardless of where she was or what she was doing, Sam would want to talk to her son. Picking up the phone, he called her cell phone, which was answered on one ring.
"Jack…" Daniel's voice had a wave of bile surging up Jack's throat, but he fought it back.
"What happened?" Jack kept his voice clipped as he fought an internal battle with his emotions, forcing them to the back of his head.
"This isn't a secure line, Jack."
"Right. I'm on my way in." Jack slammed the phone down. He stood motionless in the kitchen for a moment before going looking for Nate.
"Hey kiddo, looks like Mommy had to go to work. And now I have to go in for a bit, so you're going to have to come with me, and visit with Aunt Janet, okay?"
Nate jumped excitedly to his feet, the first sign of a good mood following a couple of miserable days. He didn't often get to go to the base. It wasn't a place for children after all, so he was thrilled with the possibility of getting to see it again. His mom's lab was one of his favourite places on base with all the different computers and equipment. Maybe he'd get to see his mom there.
They were soon on their way to the base.
Sam was stuck off-world.
The thought circled Jack's head over and over, a silent, steady counterpoint to the argument he was having with General Hammond.
Sam was stuck off-world and they weren't doing anything about it.
The rational part of Jack's mind poked at that thought. Of course, they were trying to do something about it. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like anything could be done.
Sam had accompanied SG-13 back to M4V-519 to investigate an unusual power source. The technology was not Goa'uld or Ancient and, as General Hammond had told Jack, Sam had been eager to join them.
His fault. The thought added itself into his silent mantra. Sam was stuck off-world. It was all his fault.
When SG-13 had failed to contact the SGC at their first scheduled check-in, Hammond had ordered that the SGC establish contact, but no wormhole would form. The final chevron would not lock. Despite repeated attempts to dial the moon, no connection had been made by the SGC and if SG-13 had attempted connection at their end, no evidence was apparent. The technicians were now crawling all over the equipment and searching through computer code in order to solve the problem.
Jack was dimly aware of Daniel and Teal'C sympathetically watching him as he paced and railed at General Hammond.
"Dammit! We can't just sit here and do nothing!"
"What do you propose we do, Jack?" General Hammond questioned evenly. "We're doing all we can."
Although he would be entitled to have the irate colonel court-martialled, Hammond held a special place in his heart for the original Stargate team and in particular for Jack and Sam. So the general knew that Jack was just going insane with worry and he didn't take it personally. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to let this loud discussion continue for much longer; the open stairwell to the control room below meant that quite a number of people were getting an earful along with him.
"We've contacted our allies – the Asgard, the Tok'Ra. Hell, even the Tollans. They have all assured us that they will do what they can."
"I want to-"
"I'm not letting you go through the Gate, Jack. You're in no state to help and I'll have Janet make it official if I have to," George concluded quietly so that only the four men in the immediate area would hear him. "Go home, son."
Defeated, Jack sank shuddering into a chair, his face buried in his hands, "Oh God. What am I going to tell Nate?"
He had thought long and hard before going to the infirmary to collect Nate. Jack didn't want to lie to Nate, but he didn't want to worry him too much either. Jack sat down with Nate and explained that Sam and some of her friends had run into a problem when they were working. He explained that there were a lot of people trying to fix it and hopefully, the problem would be fixed soon. Jack's stomach clenched and his mind swam with the dread that maybe, just maybe, it would never be fixed.
As the days stretched into a week, and then longer, taking care of their son was the only thing that kept Jack somewhat sane; he was sure the anxiety would have killed him otherwise.
The day the call came in from Janet, Jack sank boneless onto the couch. His mind had tuned out everything, all her explanations of what happened. He registered only the heart of the message.
An eternity later, following a short, but necessary preliminary debrief, a tired, drawn Sam entered the house. She took a long look at Jack sitting slouched on the couch, as if committing the sight of him to memory, before she moved up the stairs, heading unerringly to Nate's bedroom. Jack followed her.
He watched as Sam carefully lifted the napping boy out of his bed and into her arms, cradling him to her as tight as she dared. Every muscle in her body looked like it was going to snap from the tension of trying not to squeeze the little boy too hard. Sam sank down onto the small bed, rocking back and forth. Nate stirred with the movement and opened his eyes, blinking sleepily at the person holding him. When he saw that it was his mom, he smiled a delighted but sleepy smile. With a sigh, he said, "Mommy," and then drifted back to sleep, snuggling closer.
Her body shook with her sobs and the tears flowed freely, spotting her shirt and landing on her son. Jack moved quickly to her side. He lifted Nate from Sam's arms, muttering soothing words when she tried to keep him from taking the boy. He put Nate back to bed and then pulled Sam out of the room, leading her down the hallway to her room.
They sank onto the edge of the bed and Jack held her tightly as Sam continued to sob, her arms tight around him, her tears covering his neck where she had bent her head. Jack loosened his tight hold on her and leaned down to nuzzle her ear, then butted her head gently with his until Sam moved away from his neck. He lowered his mouth to hers and ran his tongue over her lips until she parted them. His tongue slipped over her teeth, her tongue, gently exploring until he felt her start to respond. Jack kissed her a moment longer and then pulled away from her. Her laboured breathing was no longer caused by her crying. More importantly, the guilt he had seen in her eyes from the minute she walked though the door has changed to something… else.
Jack kissed her softly once more before moving her to tuck her into bed, ignoring her muttered protests and the enticement of her hands running along his arms trying to pull him back down onto the bed with her. Sam was asleep before he was at the door, her emotional and physical exhaustion hitting her with full force.
When she woke with a start, the house was dark. The arm wrapped firmly around her waist tightened and Jack's voice grumbled into her ear.
"You're okay. You're home. Go to sleep, hon." Sam, still exhausted, fell back asleep.
The next time she woke, Nate was curled up against her chest and Jack was still spooned behind her, his arm apparently cemented to her waist. Houdini had settled himself across the feet of the adults. With a smile, she hugged Nate closer to her with one arm while the fingers of her other hand sought out and linked with Jack's. She was home.
Sam awoke to a warm back, a cool front and the feeling that someone was watching her. Cracking open her eyes, she smiled sleepily at the grinning boy sitting and staring at her a little further over on the bed.
"Hi kiddo. I love you," she said quietly, not wanting to wake up Jack.
"I love you too, Mommy," Nate replied quietly. His smile dimmed. "I was scared that you were hurt."
Sam closed her eyes briefly as the guilt washed over her again. "I wasn't hurt baby, just lost for a bit. I missed you so much."
"I missed you too. And Daddy was really grumpy."
Sam chuckled, wondering if Jack was already awake. His stillness and even breathing behind her gave away nothing, but she wouldn't be surprised if he was.
A little verbal poking might help her find out, "I bet he was. I heard he even yelled at Uncle George." There was no response from Jack.
In a voice as disbelieving as a four year old got, Nate asked, "Really?"
"Yup. Aunt Janet said so."
Nate digested this information for a while before saying, "I bet Uncle George was mad. He doesn't like it when people yell at him. Can I have some breakfast?"
"What time does the clock say?" As off-kilter as her internal body clock was right now, Sam could tell that it was still very early.
"4. 5. 2."
Sam groaned quietly. "It's far too early for breakfast, kiddo."
"But I'm so hunnnnngry," Nate protested.
"There are usually some granola bars in the small cupboard and juice boxes in the fridge. Do you think you can get that yourself?"
"Yup! Can I watch cartoons too?"
With a sigh she said, "Sure." They didn't usually let him watch TV by himself, but knew he probably wouldn't stumble across anything he shouldn't watch because they had the TV programmed to lock out all but the child friendly channels. Of course, he was a smart kid and could probably figure out how to unlock them if he tried hard enough, she thought ruefully as Nate slid off the bed, followed by his shadow, Houdini.
Allowing her eyes to slide shut, she followed Nate's progress with her ears as he proceeded downstairs, babbling at the dog, opening the cupboard and the fridge, the garbled sound of the voices on the TV. She was just starting to drift back off to sleep when Jack's teeth nipped the back of her neck. Sam flinched away from the sudden, unexpected contact, but managed to keep in her squeak of surprise. She started to turn towards him and Jack used that to his advantage, ending up atop of her, pinning her legs with his and capturing her hands.
Struggling against his hold, looking for a possible advantage, Sam glared at him, "What was that for?"
"Trading tales with Doc Frasier, were you?"
"It's not a tale if it's true, Jack."
He cocked his head to the side as if giving consideration to her comment before admitting, "Okay, I might have been a little grumpy. Just a little." He lowered his head to hers as his eyes darkened and kissed Sam's forehead. "I was worried."
Sam tensed as she closed her eyes and swallowed hard, the guilt flooding back in at her.
"I'm so sorry, Jack. I didn't think… I can't do that again. I can't-" She kept shaking her head, fighting against Jack's hold. She would not go through the Gate again; would never put either of them through the hell of not knowing where she was ever again.
"Yes. You can. You have to, Sam."
Sam was starting to get herself worked up again, so Jack fell back on his tactic from the night before. If kissing her into submission did the job, who was he to argue? As Sam's tongue slid against his, he released his hold on her hands letting his slide down her body as her arms circled his neck, their legs twined together. Jack then broke the kiss to whisper into her ear.
"You do what you have to do, Sam. There's a risk--there always has been. We're combat soldiers. What we do is important. So you and I will keep going through that damn ring, until we can be sure that no snake is going to end up instead the head of our boy. Or anyone else's boy."
Sam's eyes snapped open and locked with his. The guilt now warring with outrage and revulsion at the thought of Earth being overtaken by the Goa'uld.
After a moment, she broke the heavy silence that had descended over the two of them.
"It's just… It was hard enough to leave before, Jack. When it was just an abstract idea of something that might happen. That one of us might get-," her breath caught, "hurt, or trapped off-world or killed and now that it's happened... I couldn't stop thinking about both of you. About how worried you'd be…" She trailed off.
"I know. I know, Sam." Jack lowered his head to hers again, kissing her seriously before pulling back and dropping small kisses and nips along Sam's jaw line. He smirked as she moaned when he hit a particularly sensitive spot.
"And don't think I'm going to let you keep getting away with this, either."
"What?" Jack's expression oozed innocence.
"You can't just kiss me into submission, you know. It won't work," Sam replied, pinning him with a glare, although he could see the light dancing in her eyes.
"Are you sure? It has so far." Jack's smirk widened as Sam's glare deepened and she started squirming, trying to get the upper hand. In response, Jack pressed his hips sharply against hers, rubbing against her. Sam's breath hissed in through her teeth before she let it out on a moan, instinctively moving one of her legs around and up Jack's body, holding him closer to her.
When she heard him chuckle against her ear, she muttered, "Smartass," before moving her head to catch his lips with hers again. The two of them moved languidly, rubbing against each other, exploring skin still hidden under clothing, finding out whether the sweet spots that had thrived in their imaginations translated into real life.
A giggle from the door made them both freeze and had their heads turning towards the door.
"Are you making a baby?" Nate asked, curiosity lighting his eyes.
Jack stifled a groan as he let his head drop onto Sam's collarbone. How were they going to get out of this one?
Fortunately for him, Sam replied calmly, "Not just yet. What makes you think that, kiddo?"
"'Cause Malcolm said that he saw his daddy moving on top of his mommy and now she's having a baby."
"That's great. I'll have to remember to congratulate Nadine. What did you want, sweetie?"
"Oh, um, Houdini wanted to go out in the backyard and now he's not there anymore. Sorry, Mommy."
Now it was Sam's turn to groan. "Okay, I'll be down in a sec."
Nate went back downstairs as Jack rolled off of Sam, feeling a momentary pang at the loss of her heat. "I can go get him, if you want," Jack offered as Sam eased herself off the bed with a sigh, rearranging her clothes to make sure she was moderately presentable before heading outside.
"That's okay. You know the damn dog is just trying to get my attention," she said ruefully. "He hardly ever takes off anymore."
Jack rolled over to follow her off of the bed and quickly wrapped his arms around her from behind before she could leave the room. As he nibbled on her nape, Sam relaxed back against him, her chin sinking towards her chest to expose more of her neck to his exploration even as she protested, "Jack-"
He smiled against her nape before saying, "I just had a question for you."
"Mmmm?" Sam hummed absently.
"What did you mean by 'not just yet'?"
Sam raised her head and pulled away slightly from his grasp, although not succeeding in escaping completely.
"Well, I just… I don't know if you'd even want… I just thought, maybe, someday…" Sam stammered, suddenly shy, with such a weighty issue being raised so quickly into the start of their reforming relationship.
Loosening his grip, Jack turned Sam around so that they were face to face – his serious, hers filled with trepidation. Regarding her seriously he said evenly,
"Am I going to have to kiss you into submission to get you to have my kids, Sam?" As the look on her face morphed into one of relief, he grinned before becoming suddenly very aware of the dangerous glint in Sam's eye overtaking the relief.
Jack stepped back warily, but Sam followed and Jack found that he was trapped between Sam and the bed. Sam quickly wrapped her arms around him and kissed him soundly, her tongue sweeping into his mouth and teasing his tongue. Jack groaned and pressed his lips harder against hers, when suddenly Sam ended the kiss with a pop. Jack groaned again from the loss of contact.
"Looks like that kissing thing works both ways," Sam commented with a smirk before leaving Jack standing dazed in her wake.
Sam awoke to a warm back, a cool front and the feeling that someone was watching her. Cracking open her eyes, she smiled at the sight of Jack, blanket in hand, who was staring down at her naked form. Sam couldn't tell how long she had been out, but long enough for Jack to have pulled on his pajama bottoms, although his chest was still bare. Sam rolled onto her back and deliberately stretched, watching Jack's eyes darken as they raked over her body. The heat from the fire washed over her where she lay on the rug in front of it.
Smiling, Sam said, "I'm a bit chilly. My heating pad seems to have wandered away."
Jack's eyes wandered over the erect nipples of her chest, although whether they were in that state from the cold or his perusal could be up for debate. However, he simply responded with, "I can see that." He dropped to his knees, setting aside the blanket, and then covered Sam with his body. In between the light kisses he placed on her lips and neck, he said, "I was getting you a blanket."
"Why would I need a blanket, when I could have you?" Sam questioned between her own kisses along Jack's shoulder.
"Having sex in front of the fireplace was your idea, remember? Probably 'cause you knew you were going to hog all the heat from it afterwards." His exploring hands and grin took any bite from his words.
"I don't remember you complaining."
"You were kissing me."
"That really does come in handy, doesn't it?" Sam quipped with a small laugh.
Jack growled at her, "I think it's my turn." He was lowering his mouth to hers when the quiet of the cabin was disturbed by a cry. "Dammit! It was my turn," Jack grumbled petulantly, already rising to his feet and pulling Sam up after him.
"I'll go, you can get dressed."
Sam nodded absently, already searching for her pajamas that had been discarded on the floor earlier. She had just pulled on the bottoms and found the top when Jack came back into the room carrying a small, fussing bundle.
"It's okay, sweetie. Mommy will feed you soon enough. Won't she?" Sam smiled as her husband cooed at their daughter. She held out her arms and took the three-month old from him before settling into the recently installed rocking chair close to the fireplace.
"It's okay, kiddo. Here you go." Sam positioned the baby against her chest, and the baby instinctively latched on and began to feed.
Their daughter had, surprisingly, been named by Nate when she was born. Sam and Jack had been arguing over baby names, with Jack insisting that she should be named after Sam, despite Sam's protests. Jack had taken to jokingly calling the baby "Carter Junior" before the birth. When Nate first got to hold the red, wrinkly baby, he had asked in wonder, "Is this really Carter June?" trying to reconcile the child in his arms with the being that had inhabited his mother's body. The June had stuck.
Jack sank down on the end of the bed watching Sam feed June, stroking a hand gently across the soft down of her head. He smiled as he saw Sam's eyes start to drift closed. Although her arms remained firm, carefully cradling the baby, Sam's chin sank towards her chest. Jack watched them a moment longer, before realizing that Sam had goose bumps standing out on her bare flesh. He looked around and spotted Sam's pajama top and moved over to where it lay on the ground. He moved back and tried to drape the top over her carefully, so as not to wake her, but the light brush of material startled Sam awake.
"Sorry, you looked chilly."
"It's okay. I should burp her anyway." Sam moved the baby away from her and up onto a now cloth-clad shoulder, rubbing the child's back. After a substantial burp, Sam settled the baby to the other side. Jack lay down, legs crossed, leaning against the stack of pillows. He crossed his arms behind his head to keep an eye on his two favourite women. Sam watched him from under lowered lashes as this time Jack started to drift off to sleep. He was completely asleep by the time the feeding was done.
Sam burped and then changed the baby, moving quietly around the room, before heading down the hall to the children's room. Trying not to wake Nate, Sam lowered June into the crib, freezing when the baby started at the feeling of being settled into the crib. Sam relaxed when June didn't show any more signs of waking up, but when she turned around she was greeted by two pairs of eyes watching her from the bed across the room. Hurrying over, she crouched down and whispered to Nate,
"Sorry, kiddo. I didn't mean to wake you up."
"You didn't. I woke up when June cried. It's okay."
"Will you be able to go back to sleep?" Nate had apparently inherited Sam childhood problem with bouts of insomnia. Jack liked to joke that it was probably because at that age they hadn't learned to switch off their endlessly thinking brains. He was surprised when Sam agreed with his theory.
When Nate yawned widely and nodded, Sam smiled and kissed him on the forehead. Wishing him a good night, she patted Houdini on the head and moved back towards her own room.
Sam smiled at the sight of Jack still flaked out in the same position on the bed. She double checked that the fireplace was properly screened so no sparks would end up on the rug, and then moved over to the bed. As comfortable as he looked, Sam knew Jack would get chilled if he didn't move under the covers. She kissed him softly.
He still didn't respond when she dropped another kiss on his lips, but Sam was sure he was awake now. She moved her kisses along his jaw line towards his ear and grinned when he was unable to stop his instinctive, convulsive swallow as arousal flooded through him. With a low growl, he grabbed Sam and pulled her down to the bed, rolling so that she was pinned beneath him.
"I was sleeping," he rumbled.
"You would have gotten cold, Jack." The laughter in Sam's eyes destroyed the innocent look she was aiming for.
"Maybe I was looking forward to crawling under the covers with you in a couple of hours to warm me up, huh? What about that?" He dropped a kiss onto the tip of her nose and allowed her to wiggle free from underneath him.
"Crawl under the covers with me now."
"Yeah, yeah. Since I'm up, I might as well use the facilities before turning in. He kissed Sam again before pushing off the bed. When he returned to the room, Sam was cocooned deep under the covers. He turned off the light, raised the blankets on his side, and then moved towards the centre as Sam did the same to meet him in the middle. When they were spooned together, Sam sighed, giving in to the tug of sleep. She started with a yelp when a cold hand snuck underneath her top. Jack chuckled from his position behind her. Sam opened her mouth, no doubt to berate him for being childish and deliberately running his hands under the cold water, but Jack took the opportunity that presented and kissed her deeply. Sam melted with a sigh, but her voice had a bit of ice to it when they finally stopped making out and she stated,
"You'll pay for that tomorrow, Jack."
As Jack drifted off to sleep, he mumbled, "Yes, hon."
How could she argue with that?