Chapter 1


In the end the Tok'ra allowed Sam to bury her father next to her mother, forgoing the usual cremation ceremony that was their custom out of deference to the unique blending that Jacob and Selmak had had. A few members of the Tok'ra High Council had actually attended the funeral, their unusual attire drawing some odd glances from the human friends of the Carter family who had no inkling of what Jacob Carter had become in the past six years. The day was overcast and chill, the two dozen or so people who had gathered at the graveside drawing their coats around them to fight off a stiff wind that would whip Sam's hair against her cheek like a lash.

On the other side of the casket, her brother Mark, his wife and two children stood, facing into the wind, their cheeks pink and their Southern Californian bodies obviously unaccustomed to the brisk temperature of a late Colorado spring. Sam felt guilty looking at them. Her relationship with her father had been so close these past years, mostly because they had worked so much together. Jacob had mended fences with Mark too and spent as much time with him and his family as he could manage, but it had never reached the level that she had enjoyed with her father. And since Mark did not know the truth of what she or Jacob did, or even what Jacob had become, it made it that much harder. She wanted so badly to tell him how heroic their father had been, what he had done to help save their planet—in fact, the whole galaxy—how he had sacrificed his life to make the weapon work that had eventually defeated the replicators and Anubis; how much they all owed him. But she couldn't. Her brother would never know, and it pained her that this truer understanding of their father would be kept from him forever.

The wind beat at Sam's back in a blustery gust and she sensed more than saw Jack and Teal'c move in closer to her, as if trying to shield her from it. Jack, as she, was in his full dress uniform. She seldom saw him in it, and when she did, he always seemed different. Day to day, as he schlepped around the SGC in his BDUs, he was just one of the troops. But once in dress blues his whole demeanor changed, and now that he sported a general's star it seemed as though the weight of the uniform seemed especially onerous to him. Sam knew he had mixed feelings about accepting the leadership of the SGC and had done it more out of a sense of protecting the SGC than any real desire for the rank or the responsibility that it entailed. Nearly a year had passed since his promotion, and although he seemed more at ease with himself and the job than he had in the beginning, she didn't get the sense that he enjoyed it any more. She knew him well enough to know that his heart went with them every time they stepped through the gate, and he relished any chance he could to go off world himself, as their foray to rescue Maybourne a few months ago had proven.

Teal'c, as ever, was a bastion of strength. His forehead strategically covered by a hat, he was an intimidating presence nonetheless. She had seen a few distant family members glace at him uncertainly, trying to figure out how he fit in with a retired US Air Force General, but she hadn't bothered to try to explain anything. Nor had she tried to explain Cassie, who had stood by her side through the receiving line, and had held Sam's hand during the service. With first Daniel and now her father gone, the last thing Sam felt like doing was trying to think up cover stories for the few people in the world that she still cared about. Let people wonder. She wasn't going to explain.

Neither was she going to explain why Pete was not there. Jack had asked about him, as had her brother, but she had given some vague reply to both of them and knew she had left them wondering. She was wondering herself, truth be told: not why he hadn't come, but why she hadn't invited him.

Some of it, she knew, had to do with the sense she had that her father and Pete never would have gotten along. Their first meeting had been a near disaster. Pete, in his nervousness, had babbled constantly, trying to be funny as a way to cover his discomfort. Not that Jacob Carter didn't have a sense of humor, but it certainly didn't run in the same vein as Pete Shanahan's. Sam's worst fears over the meeting had nearly come true, and after a tortuous hour and a half, Pete had mercifully left. Her father's lack of comment afterwards had told her everything she needed to know; Pete had not gotten high marks. At another point in her life she might not have cared what her father thought. But that was a different Sam—and a different Jacob. Their short stint in Hell had changed them and their relationship forever, and even though Sam had insisted to her dad that she was going to marry Pete, deep down she had been troubled by Jacob's failure to warm up to him. That her father had not liked Pete did matter to her, and it had added fuel to a flame of doubt that had already been burning deep inside of her.

Jacob hadn't helped things along in the following days either. Dying, he had put the truth before her as plainly as he could without actually stating it. He knew. Sam wondered if it was a father's insight or if she had just been so obvious that everyone on the base was aware of her feelings. Of course she had denied it, asserted she was happy, that she had everything she wanted, but it was a lie. She knew it. Her father knew it. He had given her an indulgent smile, the kind he gave when he knew she was being stubborn, and backed off. But his words had stayed with her, playing over and over again in her head, and each time her own response to them sounded more and more hollow.

And then Jacob was gone. She had stood there, next to him, and suddenly wished she had told him so many things. Despite how close they had become there was so much she had still held back. Now she wanted to tell him everything: how she felt and whom she loved and why her life, in so many ways, was wonderful and yet so damned frustrating at the same time. Sam had held his hand and let the tears come.

The door behind her had opened and then Jack had been there. He had let her be alone with her father when he died, remaining in the observation room. But then he had come. His hand on her shoulder offering comfort, but at that moment she had wanted—she had needed—more. Turning to him she'd stepped into his arms. Even then she could sense his moment of hesitation, and then he had held her as she had wept.

When she had finally run out of tears, she'd pulled away. Their eyes had met, and in that moment something changed. Sam wasn't sure, how, or why, but it did.

And that, thought Sam , if she was being honest with herself, was the real reason Pete was not at Jacob Carter's funeral. She had known, in that instant of unspoken communication with Jack that she could never, ever marry Pete. That as nice as he was, as much as she cared for him, her life was not meant to be a normal life, with a yellow kitchen and a dog in the back yard and a nice safe day job that ended at six pm every evening. At least not now. And it would not be fair to Pete to marry him when, despite her best efforts, she loved Jack. Had always loved Jack. Would always love Jack.

And now she knew that Jack loved her. It had been there in his eyes. It had been there in his casual remark a few days later that he and Kerry Johnson had broken things off. It didn't make things any easier—he was still her commanding officer—but it had been enough.

The Air Force honor guard was folding the flag that had covered her father's casket. With precision they made every fold, turn and tuck, brought it to her, saluted and then stepped back. Overhead a formation of jets roared past, one breaking away to leave a gap—the missing man formation. Sam felt her throat catch and her breath came jaggedly. Of all the honor ceremonies the military did, the missing man formation had always gotten to her the most. A hand at the small of her back offered her quiet support and she looked at Jack gratefully. Finally, across the cold, clear cemetery, came the brief report of three successive rifle shots followed by the ringing of Taps from some distant hill, and then it was over.

Sam drove Mark and his family to the airport and went home alone. Cassie was spending the night at a friend's, so the house was dark and silent when she arrived. As they left the cemetery, Jack had asked her if she were going to be all right. She assured him she was, but now her certainty slipped. The aloneness settled on her like a dark mantel and she wished desperately that Cassie had not been gone. Sam switched on the TV, so there would at least be another voice to listen to beside the one inside her head, but the incessant news shows or the inane other fare that she found cruising the channels was barely tolerable. In frustration she turned the TV off and opted for the silence instead.

Which was why the sudden chime of the doorbell startled her. Still in her uniform skirt and blouse, she opened the door to find Jack standing there, still in his uniform as well.

"Sir," she said, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

Jack shrugged.

"I don't know." He mugged a grin. "Actually, it's a funny story. I was out driving. You know, in my truck," he indicated the dark street where his truck was obviously parked. "And I drove here. So I thought, hey, I'd drop by and see how you're doing."

Sam smiled, in spite of herself.

"I see…come in?"

Jack made a show of moving reluctantly inside. Sam closed the door behind him. The chilly day was giving way to a chillier night.

"You just get home?" he asked, indicating her attire.

"Yeah—I had to drive Mark and his family to the airport."

Jack looked around.

"Where's Cassie?"

"She's staying the night with a friend."

"Ah." Jack paused. "Pete?"

Sam looked at him squarely.

"Uh, Pete doesn't live here, sir."

Jack looked a little uncomfortable.

"No—I just thought…I mean, I just thought, since he wasn't at the funeral today…."

Sam downed her head for a moment, and then looked back up at him.

"No, he wasn't."

Jack looked at her with an "and" written all over his face.

"To be honest, General, I didn't invite him."

Jack seemed to take in this news carefully.


"Well, it's not so much that I didn't invite him," Sam hurried to explain. "I just…didn't exactly tell him when it was going to be."

Jack studied her.

"Any particular reason why? I mean, he is your…fiancé,"

"No—he's not," Sam replied quickly. Jack raised an eyebrow at her, obviously surprised by her words.

"I mean…I'm calling off the wedding." Sam swallowed hard, watching Jack for any reaction. His face was curious, but she could read nothing more there.

"Does Pete know this?" he asked her. Sam winced.

"Not yet. I haven't exactly had a chance to tell him."

"Ah," he replied. "Awkward."

"Yeah," Sam conceded, nodding. She blew out a deep breath.

They stood for a few moments in silence, Sam's brain refusing to function in any coherent way. Part of it was just the fatigue of the day, but part of it was equally due to her memory of the last time she and Jack had been alone and what she had thought she had read in his eyes. Now, having told him Pete was out of the picture, the logical thing seemed to be to finally get things out in the open, just as she had planned to do the day she had stopped at Jack's house. But logic didn't necessarily inspire articulation, and the silence lingered.

Finally Jack, looking a tad uncomfortable, spoke:

"Look, Carter—this past week, I know it's been rough, so if you need some time…."

Time off? Was that what this visit was about? God, had she been that stupid?

"No!" Her reaction was quick—sharper than she had intended. "I mean, I don't need any time. I'd rather be doing something than…." she indicated the empty house and shrugged.

Jack nodded, knowingly. He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his overcoat.

"Sure. Fine. Whatever you want." He paused a moment. "So…you okay here tonight?"

Sam was about to give the bravado answer, the one her life had trained her to give. But it wasn't the truth. She wasn't all right and she desperately didn't want to be alone. She hesitated just long enough that Jack seemed to sense something.

"Cuz, you know, I could hang around a while, if you'd like…"

He'd saved her. Saved her from having to confess that she didn't want him to leave. Her face broke into a grateful smile.

"Sure—yeah, that'd be great. Do you mind if I…" she indicated her uniform. Jack waved her off.

"Go—go. I'd love nothing more than to get out of this monkey suit myself." He shed the overcoat and then the uniform jacket, loosening his tie and unbuttoning the collar of his shirt in one swift move.

Sam sighed with relief and disappeared to change into some jeans and a sweatshirt. The strain of the day was settling in on her. Her body ached all over and she wanted nothing more than to curl up on the sofa and try to think of absolutely nothing. In a way she was glad Jack hadn't brought up their…whatever it was. Too many emotions had already assaulted her that day; she wasn't sure she could handle any more.

"Mind if I put the hockey game on?" called Jack from her living room. Sam told him to go ahead. Hockey would be just mind-numbing enough to help her relax. When she returned to the living room Jack seemed to have made himself at home on the sofa, his feet propped on the coffee table and a bottle of beer in his hand.

"Hockey," pronounced Jack. "The sport of kings."

"I thought horse-racing was the sport of kings," countered Sam sitting next to him and tucking her legs up beneath her.

"Okay—the sport of really cold kings. Norwegian kings. Olaf and the Scandinavians. Oof-dah. You know."

"If you say so, sir."

She felt him stiffen beside her.

"Carter—Sam…. Could you not do that "sir" thing. We're off duty, for God's sake."

Sam was taken aback. In all the years she had only called him by his first name to his face a handful of times, and only under the most desperate of circumstances. Ever since her experience alone on the Prometheus, in her thoughts he was always "Jack", but years had trained her tongue to translate that into military protocol. This would be...different.

"You like hockey?" Jack asked, not giving her time to say anything in response.

"I can't say I'm a big fan," Sam confessed, glad to change the subject. Jack turned and eyed her suspiciously.

"Don't tell me you're one of those NASCAR types?"

Sam smiled and shook her head.

"If I can't drive it, I don't want to watch it."

Jack nodded, satisfied.

Sam indicated the screen.

"Who's playing?"

"The Canucks and the Bruins. It's the play-offs."

Sam nodded, trying to show an interest, but she couldn't. The speed of the puck and the swiftness of the skaters had a hypnotizing effect on her. Before long she jerked her head up, having dozed off. Jack caught her.

"Don't tell me you think this is boring?" he admonished her.

"Sorry—guess I'm kinda tired."

"Time for me to go?" He set down his beer and moved to get up.

"No!" She realized she had said it too quickly, but she couldn't help it. She'd watch hockey all night if she had to, as long as Jack stayed. "I mean, not unless you really have to."

Jack stretched out his legs and put them back up on the coffee table.

"Nope. I've got no place else to be. Teal'c asked if I wanted to watch Star Wars—you know, the new version? But I don't know. I just wasn't in the mood to watch some kid grow up and become Dark Helmet."

Sam eyed him suspiciously. He was doing his "Jack" thing.

"I think you mean Darth Vader."

"Oh yeah? Darth Vader? You sure?"

"Pretty sure," Sam replied, in a tone to indicate that she was absolutely positive. Jack's brow was furrowed.

"Then Dark Helmet was…?"

"Space Balls. It was a Mel Brooks movie."

"Mel Brooks—isn't he the guy that did the voice for Bugs Bunny?"

"That was Mel Blanc," said Sam, with a weariness that was only partially feigned.

"Really?" Jack paused a moment. "You sure Dark Helmet's not Star Wars? I mean the guy had the mask and a big…dark…helmet…?" Jack's voice trailed away

"Trust me. I'm sure."

Jack shrugged and turned back to the game. Sam smiled in spite of herself. It always amused her when Jack did one of his, "how stupid am I" routines. Well, almost always. There had been a few occasions when his pretended denseness was quite irritating. But it had usually been Daniel who rose to the bait. Their verbal dueling had seemed to happen less and less since Jack was in command , and Sam had missed it. Daniel's loss sprang to her thoughts again, adding weight to her weariness.

Sam turned her attention back to the television. Anything to take her mind off of…everything. A fight seemed to have broken out on the ice. The benches were emptying onto the rink and sticks were flying in every direction. It looked like a mess. Sam leaned her head back and closed her eyes, listening to the announcers and the roaring crowd. The sounds blended and swirled like colors in a kaleidoscope, and eventually faded to nothingness.

Sam awoke in a dark room and took a few moments to recollect who she was and where she was. The TV was dark and silent, and her automatic timer had shut off the table lamp. A heavy weight was resting on her arm and her pillow seemed to be rising and falling with a slow rhythm. There was even a faint beating sound within it.

When full consciousness came, she realized that the pillow was Jack's chest, the rising and falling his steady breathing, the beating, the sound of his heart. And the weight that pinned her arm to her side was Jack's arm, wrapped around her, holding her against him. Sam checked her illuminated watch and saw that it was after 5 am, nearly time to get up if she was going to be at work on time. She wasn't sure how exactly the two of them had ended up together like this—the last thing she remembered was a fight at the hockey game. Jack must have fallen asleep too. Why else would he still be here?

Sam carefully eased his arm off of her and tried to sit up. Jack woke in an instant, the jerkiness of his movement suggesting to her that he was uncertain as to where he was as well.

"Sorry," she said quietly. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"What time is it?" he asked, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. Sam checked her watch again.

"Five-fifteen. I need to get ready if I'm going to make it to work on time."

"Whoa. I gotta go too. I've got an 0630 conference call with Hammond and a bunch of guys at the Pentagon. They really hate it when I'm late."

Sam decided to brave it.

"Jack—why are you still here?"

In the early morning darkness that wasn't really that dark she could tell he was studying her.

"I just thought…you know. You might want somebody around last night …if you like, needed to talk or anything."

The simpleness of the gesture touched her. He had spent the night on her couch, in clothes he detested, watching her sleep, just so he could be there if she had needed him. She was glad of the murky light so he couldn't see the tears that welled up in her eyes.

"Thanks," she said hoarsely. She took his hand and squeezed it. He squeezed hers back.

"Well, gotta go," he said, standing now and stretching. She guessed he had quite a crick in the neck by the way he kept trying to stretch it out, but he didn't complain. Sam walked him to the door, as he gathered his jacket and overcoat. Through the front windows she could see a faint rosy glow outside as dawn was putting in an appearance.

When Sam opened the door for Jack to leave, he suddenly froze in place and stiffened. Sam followed his gaze and a similar chill passed through her. Standing on the doorstep, his hand obviously reaching for the doorbell, was Pete. He appeared to be frozen too, his hand in mid-air and a look of disbelief on his face.

Sam couldn't help herself.

"Oh God," she muttered, realizing how this must look. There stood Jack, half out of uniform, hair rumpled, a night's beard growth, leaving her house at the crack of dawn. If she had been Pete she would have thought exactly what she knew he was thinking.

"General O'Neill…" Pete managed at last.

Jack replied slowly.


"Oh boy…" tried Sam, but words failed her.

"Well, this is awkward," said Jack at last.

"Really?," Pete answered sarcastically, finally dropping his hand. Both of them turned and looked at Sam.

"Pete, it's not what you think. I swear," she pleaded with him. Part of her said it didn't really matter what he thought, it was over between them and she was going to move on with her life. But the other part of her wanted to protect Pete, to let him down gently, to not hurt him, or have him think badly of her—which was obviously not what was going on right at the moment.

"What I think," said Pete, stepping back and clearing his throat. "Is that maybe I should just come back later."

Sam tried again.

"Pete, listen to me. We just…I just…my dad's funeral was yesterday and I didn't want to be by myself last night."

"We watched hockey," Jack inserted helpfully.

"Your dad's funeral was yesterday and you didn't tell me?" said Pete accusingly, his eyes growing hard.

"I think I'll leave now," interrupted Jack. "Carter, I'll see you later?"

"Yes, sir," Sam replied, acknowledging that they were back on duty. Jack stepped past Pete and only when he was at the gate that led to the street did he turn and give Sam a glance of encouragement. She appreciated it.

"Pete—come inside, please," she offered the man who still remained on her doorstoop.

"Yeah—you know, I don't think so," Pete replied. "I kinda need to sort some things out…" he rubbed the back of his neck and turned as if to leave before turning back to face her. "I can't believe you didn't tell me about your dad's funeral!"

"I'm sorry, Pete. Really, I am, it's just…would you come inside please, so we can talk?"

Pete's agitation finally erupted. He began to pace back and forth on her porch, shaking his head as if trying to make sense of a bizarre reality.

Sam felt like she had to try one more time.

"Please, Pete. I want to explain."

He stopped and looked at her as if she had suddenly sprouted a Jaffa tattoo on her forehead.

"Yeah. You know…I think I'll pass on that right now." He stepped off the top step and made movements to leave.

"Will you at least meet me later?" Sam called after him.

"Later," repeated Pete, as though he couldn't quite comprehend the concept.

"At lunchtime. Noon. At the house."

In the ever-growing light, Pete looked up at her. The pain in his eyes she knew would haunt her for the rest of her life and she floundered for a moment, her courage wavering. But then her resolve set in again. She had another future waiting for her, and it did not have Pete in it. She had already hurt him once today and she knew she would have to hurt him again. But in the end it would be the best thing for him, whether he thought so at the moment or not.

It would be the best thing for both of them.

"Yeah. Okay. I'll be there. Noon. I…uh…I gotta go." And he turned and left, the gate at the road squeaking loudly with his departure.

Sam slumped against the door jamb and sighed deeply. As awful as yesterday had been, she had a feeling in her gut that today was going to be just as bad. Maybe even worse.

Sam didn't see Jack at all that morning after she got to work. Chief Harriman told her that the general had been on the red phone in the his office since the moment he'd set foot on base. Word had come from Bra'tac and Teal'c that Anubis had deceived them and had launched the full strength of his forces at Dakara with the intention of taking control of the Ancient weapon. Brat'ac and the Jaffa ships were returning as swiftly as they could, but he did not hold much hope.

Intellectually, Sam knew that should the Jaffa lose—and there was no reason to think they could stand against the forces of Anubis—then nothing of what was happening in her little life was going to matter a hill of beans. Anubis would use the weapon and all life in the galaxy would be gone in an instant. Emotionally, she felt numb. There had been too much lost in too little time. The threat of galaxial annihilation just wasn't sinking in. Daniel. Jacob. And to some extent, Pete. Those were the losses that were real. The rest, well, she'd deal with it when she had to.

After trying for the fourth time—without success--to run a simulation in her lab, Sam gave up and looked at her watch. It was still an hour and a half until she was to meet Pete. All things considered, she knew she should probably stay on-base, but not being able to concentrate she realized she was of absolutely no use until she had put the whole matter with Pete behind her. At least if they all died today, she would do so with a clear conscience. And frankly, she felt she owed Pete. To not show up—even though it was for a very good reason—would just be wrong.

The day was beautiful. Too beautiful, Sam thought, morosely. The day the world ended should have been more like the day before. Gray and ominous and unlovely. But here, today, the sun was shining and the flowers, that had survived the previous day's wintery blast, seemed to be blooming more brightly than ever. As Sam pulled up to the house Pete had put the down payment on, she could see that there were giant hydrangea bushes planted near the house that were laden with pink and lavender colored blossoms.

Studying the house, Sam sighed. It was a beautiful house, and Pete had been so pleased with himself when he brought her to see it. But she had known in an instant that she could never live here, never have the life that Pete was envisioning for them. That's what had driven her to go to Jack's house later that same day. It had taken every ounce of courage she could muster, but she had been determined to have the conversation with Jack that she had imagined having with him when she'd been alone on the Prometheus. There her subconscious had provided Jack's words. That day she had wanted to know what he would say for himself.

She had never found out. Her life had started to careen out of control from that moment and she knew, in another few minutes, it would take another irrevocable twist. But at least this one was of her own doing, and there was a sense of relief that in not too long a time, at least she could put this particular chapter behind her.

Sam saw Pete's car draw up slowly and park behind her's. She took a deep breath. This was it. The little voice that said she didn't have to do this started whispering again, but she silenced it. Her future—if she had one—lay elsewhere.

Pete didn't look up at her as he walked toward her but kept his head down, studying the grass as he made his way carefully across the lawn.

"Hey," she said quietly, when he had reached her. Only then did he look at her, and Sam noticed that his face did not break into the smile it usually did whenever he would see her. Hoo boy, she thought. This is going to be tough.

"Hi," he answered her, sitting on the bench. Sam had never seemed him so subdued.

"Thanks for coming," Sam told him. He seemed to study his hands.

"Yeah," Pete finally looked up and met her eyes. "So…what's goin' on, Sam?"

Sam stretched out her hand and opened it. In it lay the little black ring box with Pete's engagement ring inside.

"I'm sorry Pete…I can't do this…I can't marry you."

Pete studied the box for a moment and then took it from Sam's hand.

"Yeah—I kinda had a feeling this was coming."

"Pete—I know what it must have looked like this morning, but I swear to you…"

Pete laughed humorlessly.

"You see, Sam, the thing is—I believe you. And even if I didn't, I'm not sure what would have hurt most—knowing you had been with someone else or the fact that you didn't think enough of me to let me come to your dad's funeral."

Sam flinched. Pete was right. After all this time together, it was wrong of her to do what she had done. But she'd had her reasons.

"I know. And I'm sorry." The apology sounded inadequate, but she couldn't manage any better.

"I would have been there for you, Sam, you know that."

Sam fiddled with her fingers, not wanting to look at Pete's face.

"I do. But it would have made doing this all that much more difficult."

Pete furrowed his forehead and sighed.

"Yeah. I guess." He gestured toward to house behind them. "Was it the house? The dog? The florist? I mean…I thought we had gone this far, I guess I figured you were pretty sure."

Sam studied her hands.

"I tried to tell myself I was. But suddenly, when you bought the house, there was this…this life stretching out in front of me, and it wasn't mine. I just couldn't do it."

"Look, you know, we don't have to buy the house…and hey…phht…forget the dog. They're noisy and they pee all over the rugs," tried Pete, a note of hope in his voice.

Sam shook her head.

"It's more than that, Pete. I haven't been honest with you…because I haven't been honest with myself. I care about you…I really do. But…" Sam took a deep breath and for the first time actually said it out loud. "I also care about someone else."

Pete's face hardened.

"Jack O'Neill," he said dully.

Sam's silence confirmed it.

"Like I didn't see that coming," muttered Pete, more to himself.

"It's…complicated," Sam tried.

"I bet."

The two of them sat in silence for several uncomfortable seconds. Despite the sunshine Sam felt chilled to the bone.

"I knew from the beginning," said Pete finally. "Guess I just thought when you said 'yes' that…" His voice trailed off as they both seemed to focus on their hands. Pete finally looked up at her. "You were worth the risk."

Sam was about to contradict him, but he stopped her.

"Don't say I deserve better," he warned her. "Can't get much better than you."

"That's not true," Sam told him, shaking her head. Could he make this any more difficult?

"I wish I could believe this had something to do with your father…you needed some time to sort things out."

Sam was silent, and she knew Pete could tell that time wasn't going to change anything. Finally, he seemed resigned.

"I guess all I can say is…I hope you get what you want."

Sam waited another moment. For some reason she had expected him to respond more passionately. Yell at her. Plead with her. She didn't know what. But this calm acceptance hadn't been what she'd prepared for.

"That's it?" she said, trying to give him a chance to vent at her. Finally a flicker of anger crossed his face.

"What do you want? You want me to get down on my knees and beg?"

"God, no! Of course not!" That wasn't what she'd meant at all. " I just…I thought you'd react differently."

She could see he was struggling to control his emotions now. Anger…grief…she wasn't sure which. He made as if to speak then seemed to change his mind, as though he didn't trust what would come out of his mouth.

"Bye, Sam," he managed at last, rising and walking away.

"Pete…" Sam pleaded. She hadn't meant for it to end this way, but he ignored her, walking to where the bright "SOLD" adorned the top of the realtor's sign and ripping it off. Sam watched as he got in his car and drove away, out of her life. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There were so many ways that could have gone better. She berated herself for how she'd handled it. Hell, she berated herself for letting it go this far in the first place. When she thought of all Pete had done for her—his transfer to the Colorado Springs department, his putting up with her long periods of absence while she was off-world or on a mission, his careful attempts to cater to her every wish, her every preference—she realized how utterly and totally unfair she had been to him. He was hurt and angry and she knew he had every right to be. Maybe one day—if they all lived that long—the opportunity would arise when she could apologize to him and ask his forgiveness; but for now, she would have to live with the guilt of what she had done to him.

"Carter…you okay?" Jack's voice brought her back from reliving, for the dozenth time her encounter with Pete. She looked up and saw Jack looking at her in a very concerned way. He was out of his BDUs and looked ready to head home. He also looked extremely tired. Sort of how she felt. In the past six hours she had called off her engagement, learned that the Ancient's weapon had fallen into the hands of Anubis, stood on the edge of total annihilation, received word of the defeat of Anubis' forces and witnessed Daniel's return, once again, from the dead. Even for SG-1, days didn't get much more dramatic than that.

"It's been a busy day, sir," she replied simply. Jack smiled in agreement.

"Indeed it has," he turned to go.

"I told Pete," she said to his back. He stopped and slowly turned toward her.

"How'd he take it?"

Sam shrugged.

"Calmly, I guess. But I could tell he was pretty hurt. It's my fault—I shouldn't have let it go on this long. I should've ended it long ago."

Jack pondered this.

"Yeah, well…," she could see he was struggling for something to say. His brow creased. "Don't beat yourself up over it."

Sam smiled wistfully.

"I'll try. You heading home?"

"I was, but I just got a call from the Pentagon. Seems some archeological dig in Giza uncovered something that looks suspiciously like a ZPM. A fully charged ZPM."

Sam felt some of her energy return.

"You're kidding?"

Jack put on a shocked look.

"Would I jest about something like that?" He grinned when he saw Sam smile. "Yeah. I just told Daniel. He's practically giddy. Wants to use it to power the gate to Atlantis and see if we can send some help to Weir. I made the mistake of telling him about that data burst we got while he was…semi-ascended, and he's already started pouring over the portions of the Atlantean data base that came through."

Sam nodded, her mind filling with all sorts of possibilities a fully charged ZPM presented.

"That's fantastic."

"Could be. If it's as billed. Strange thing, though. They said they found a video camera perfectly preserved in a sealed 3000 year old canopic jar. They're sending both the video camera and the ZPM over tomorrow. If the ZPM checks out, we'll need a plan in place to rescue the Atlantis folks. I've got a few more hours' work to do before I get to get out of here."

"If you need any help…" Sam offered, but Jack cut her off.

"Look, Carter—don't take this the wrong way, but you look like hell. Go on. Get out of here. Go home. Rest. That's an order."

Sam grinned tiredly.

"Yes, sir."

Jack turned to leave, but snapped his fingers and turned back.

"I almost forgot. I'm standing SG-1 down for a week. With what the three of you have been through these past weeks, I think a little R&R is in order. I myself am taking a few days off."

"Going fishing, sir?" Sam asked casually. Jack tilted his head.

"As a matter of fact, I am. Wouldn't care to join me, would you?"

Sam took a deep breath.

"Actually—I would."

Jack arched an eyebrow at her.


His surprise was evident. Sam tried to sound cavalier.

"Yeah. Could be…fun."

"I was going to invite Daniel and Teal'c too….." Jack added.

Sam nodded.

"Sounds great."

Jack studied her a moment, as if mulling over something more profound than a weekend fishing trip.

"Yes. It does." He recovered himself and rubbed his hands together, grinning. "Excellent! We'll leave day after tomorrow. Pack warmly. Minnesota evenings are chilly!"

Sam watched his retreating back and smiled. Fishing. With Daniel and Teal'c.

And Jack.

Suddenly she didn't feel quite so tired or quite so awful about Pete.


It was a start.

(Acknowledgement: Some dialogue in the break-up scene was taken from the Stargate SG-1 episode Threads, written by Robert Cooper. No copyright infringement intended.)