Season 10 SPOILERS for 'COMPANY OF THIEVES,' 'THE QUEST, PART 2,' and 'LINE IN THE SAND'
Cameron's weight is warm against Sam's leg where he munches happily at a bag of macaroons, apparently not too terribly offended by Sam's rejection of his get well soon gift. "More for me," he could be heard to mumble in between bites.
Sam can't help but smile, despite being stuck in the infirmary.
"Don't forget to change that password," he gently reminds her a few minutes later, nodding his head towards her laptop.
Sam feels a deep twinge in her side remembering their conversation on 882. She hadn't been giving up, she tells herself. The wound was just more pain than she can remember feeling. And with Daniel gone…she didn't want to take anymore chances. Daniel wouldn't have been around to get his letter, but she's pretty sure he knows what it says anyway. And he'll be back. She knows that with every fiber of her being.
The letters were a tradition Sam started after Emerson. There are so many life-altering before and after moments in Sam's career, but Emerson's murder was one of the most defining. It wasn't that she had never seen death up close before. Just never something quite so…ruthless. And she didn't for one moment doubt that she could just as easily be next. Anateo's barely concealed threats of sexual assault and her superior's body left on the floor in clear view threaded their way under her skin. That was when Sam began to realize that maybe she used up all her good luck and close escapes against the Goa'uld. She would never survive the Ori. It just wasn't statistically possible.
The letters were her way of dealing with it. Or maybe just compartmentalizing those fears. She took anything that could be considered a regret and stuffed it into a letter, comforting herself that they would make up for everything she hadn't done. Or said.
Because a letter is better than nothing, right?
She feels Cam's weight levering off the bed and looks up to see him retreating from the room. He kept her alive on that planet, and not just with his field medicine. When she felt ancient and used up and sure that this fight would end without her, he was there with easy companionship and such certainty.
She was like that, once. Back before she started wondering if there could ever be an end to this string of fights.
But Cam looks at everything with fresh wonder and Vala soldiers blindly through her own tragedies, hiding them all behind raw enthusiasm that Sam can't quite muster even on her best days. But maybe with Cam and Vala, the statistics stacking against Sam could be rebalanced, just a little bit.
Cam waves from the doorway and suddenly Sam doesn't want to file Cam away in a letter with everything else.
"Cam," she says, stopping him. "I don't think I ever thanked you for getting SG-1 back together again."
He pauses at the doorway, looking mildly surprised. "I'm just happy to be tagging along," he replies, his accent deepening the way it does when he's being self-effacing or trying to cover up his uncertainty.
"You're leading in more ways than you can ever know, Cam," she says, well aware of the strange song and dance they have both been doing around the issue of command.
This time he doesn't deflect her with another homegrown quip, and she can see that he gets what she's saying.
"Thanks, Sam," he replies, his eyes honest and open, giving her just a glimpse of how much her words mean to him.
Emotional honesty is new to her, but she feels such lightness in its wake that she's forced to rethink her theories.
For once, two weeks of medical leave don't feel like a prison sentence, but her house is too quiet and she can't quite settle to anything. Maybe it's time for a little distance. Or maybe distance is what's been plaguing her all along.
The townhouse is on a quiet lane with wide sidewalks and carefully maintained trees arching over the road. Traffic is light, but various families on foot are out and about enjoying the Sunday afternoon sunshine.
Sam sits on the steps in front of Number 118 with the bright red door, watching the people wander about their everyday lives. She tries to imagine what it would feel like to be that blissfully ignorant.
When Jack eventually appears, walking down the street in casual civvies, it strikes her that he almost looks like he fits here. She never considered that, but it makes her feel just a little bit better.
His steps slow for a moment when he notices her, but then he continues on, coming to a rest with one foot on the lowest step.
"I wrote this letter for you," Sam tells him without preamble, one finger running along the blunt edge of a plain envelope. "I told Cam to make sure you got it if…" She lets her voice trail off, clearing her throat as if she could swallow the unspoken words. "But then I thought of you reading this someday when I'm dead and buried…and it felt a bit too much like cowardice."
"So you decided to come all this way to give it to me?"
Her hand tightens reflexively on the envelope and she realizes that she doesn't want to give it to him. Because she knows even in the letter she's been dishonest. Cowardice from beyond the grave.
"I have one for you somewhere inside if you want me to go dig it up," he offers, leaning against the banister.
She looks up at him in surprise and realizes that he doesn't look taken aback that she's here, not even a little. Like he's just been waiting for her to show up.
She considers asking to see the letter, because there was a time she would have done anything to read his words written only for her. But she suspects that neither letter is about honesty. They were about giving up. And that's why he even bothered mentioning it. It's his way of saying he understands, that he's been there himself.
Of course he understands. She doesn't know why she ever thought he wouldn't. The tension unwinds from her body and she's almost forgotten what it's like to have someone just get her. All of her. It's nice not to feel so damn complicated.
"I was ready to give up out there," she confesses. "I had accepted that I wasn't going to make it back."
She dares to look up at Jack and he's staring out at the street, but his hand is white-knuckled where he clutches at the railing.
"And Mitchell kicked your ass for even considering it," Jack surmises in a tight, even voice.
And that's the very moment Sam realizes Cam had never been some random choice by Jack. That command of SG-1 wasn't an empty gesture of a parting gift for Cam's sacrifice on their behalf in Antarctica. Jack knew SG-1 would never stay disbanded, so he gave them the one thing he knew would be essential. Someone who would never let them give up, no matter how long the war stretched or what new, horrible places it took them.
"There's always going to be another battle, Carter. You know that. We'll get past these Ori somehow, but then, in our infinite wisdom, we'll just trip over something else. It's human nature. It's what we fight for."
Always another fight. Never an after.
When Jack first left Colorado and she transferred to Nevada, Sam had let herself believe it finally was her after. She started calling him for no particularly job related reasons and she felt something shifting between them, maybe sliding free at last. But then she got the message from the SGC and Daniel was telling her about some great new evil and that last tendril had escaped her grasp.
So she buried it in a letter and forced herself to forget.
"I just thought…maybe someday…," Sam admits.
And he does know, because this has never been her dream alone. She forgets that sometimes.
Jack is still watching her closely when she begins to rip the letter in half again and again until it is nothing more than ragged bits. She finds it bizarrely cathartic, as if obliterating her words could somehow erase the weakness they represented.
The pieces litter the ground as she pushes up off the steps, her stitches pulling painfully. Jack's fingers are grasping her elbow, helping her to her feet until they are standing side by side. He reaches one hand out to the bulky lump on her side, hovering protectively and she knows he's thinking maybe he could have prevented it, if he had just been there. But he's already done everything humanly possible to keep her safe. It's just up to her not to let the statistics win.
"You're not going to tell me what was in there?" he asks, nodding towards the white confetti spilling down his stoop.
"No," she says, deciding that's the not the way she wants this to end.
Jack nods once, looking gratified to put this rather morbid discussion to rest. "So no more letters, okay?"
"No more letters," Sam promises.
Jack reaches out and gently grasps at a strand of her hair, letting it run between thumb and forefinger, looking for all the world like he has touched her this way a thousand times before. But he never has. Watching him, seeing his familiar fingers tangled against the glint of her hair, Sam's having a hard time remembering the last time she saw Jack in the sunlight. That's the way she always thinks of him, walking by her side on an alien world, all hard angles and soft flesh thrown in high relief. Distant, but concrete.
But here, under the light of their native sun, as she steps into Jack's space his hands fall to rest gently on her hips with such ease that Sam has to pause a moment in wonder. One subtle step, one decision, one moment of being just two normal people, standing out in the suburban sun and things just aren't so hard anymore. But maybe that impenetrable boundary that has lived between them was really nothing more than an imaginary line, scratched in her mind.
She wants to apologize but he's smiling down at her and she knows there's no need because the distance has finally been crossed.
All that's left is sunshine.
And there's so much blood on all our hands
It cuts an even deeper line in the sand
Oh but the promised
Is just across another line in the sand
I hope a forgiving
rain will fall sometime
And wash away that line…
-'Line in the Sand' by Lucy Kaplansky