A/N: Bummer! Sorry about the delay; site was being glitchy.
This is it, the conclusion! Sam's wild ride ends here. Thanks for hanging on. I felt inspired by your feedback all the way. I played around with Sam a bit so read carefully. Sorry, Zoser; you reminded me that Pete was very much in the picture (behind the scenes, thankfully) in New Order, drat. Anyway, I hope the ending works for all who faithfully followed. Did it or didn't it? Tell me about it!
7. All Ahead Full
Sam swore that the next few days passed with a speed she could only dream of on her bike. She'd wasted no time calling the psych doctor and set up an appointment for that next day. Thompson was right: Before she knew it, the session was two hours in, and Carl was as focused as when she'd begun. No 'tell me about yourself, your mom and dad, etc' stuff. Just right into the dreams and sleeping problems. Sam found herself more relaxed and tuned into her day than ever. She'd slept even better that night and the ones that followed.
Sam thought she'd successfully reestablished the professional 'distance' with Jack. They met two days after her break-out for a final debriefing with Dr. Weir. She found herself talking easier about her experience with Fifth, focusing on the replicator's abilities and operations rather than the dreams he invoked. The meeting concluded without reference to her 'chicken run' as Jack called it. That finally tied up her official business with Fifth.
But she should have known that Jack was attuned to her discomfort. The day before the transition ceremony, the team met for breakfast. Sam's appetite was returning and they teased her for eating her meal and part of Jack's. To which a small battle of forks had ensued with Sam usually snatching the tidbit she aimed for. Goodness but he had almost as much food as Teal'c!
"Well, I guess this changes things for you two," Daniel said after they had eaten. Sitting side by side, the two had frozen in place. "I mean, we won't be on the same meal schedules," Daniel offered into the suddenly tense atmosphere. His blue eyes grew big with puzzlement behind his glasses at the change in the air.
Of course that's what he meant, Sam pondered later. Cleared for limited hours in her lab (Thompson had ample enforcement via Team SG-1 this time!), she recalled how mortified she'd gotten over Daniel's words. For some unkind reason probably aimed at making her lose her mind, she thought about Pete and her last conversation with him. It was not a happy one; she'd given him as much detail of her recent absence as she could before invoking the "it's classified" tag. But he persisted with questions even after that. Sam was relieved that she was confined to base, and didn't have to see that 'you don't trust me?" look in his eyes again.
Sam gave up on her work for a moment. She had grown antsy about Pete since Fifth stirred that vision into her head about them, the ranch and horses and dogs. And pancakes. Dear god, did Pete even like pancakes? She should be sure of that by this time and she wasn't. She wasn't really sure what he did like. What Sam was sure about was that the scenario Fifth planted didn't suit her at all. It was fortunate that she and Pete were just friends and of course, lovers; it was enough for now.
"Well, that look has got to mean you've solved the mysteries of the universe. Oh, wait," Jack's voice pulled her away from her deep thoughts. He was leaning on the door jamb in black tee shirt and BDUs sans jacket, as comfortable as if he'd been there for ages. Sam frowned; had he? "Or, it's the hum-worthy Pete Shanahan." And Sam's jaw dropped.
Jack watched Sam for several minutes before deciding to speak rather than leave. He had a suspicion that she'd be stressing over The Boyfriend. It made him ache, knowing she was facing the same obstacles to a relationship that he'd faced in his marriage. From her recent distracted air and her attempts to be even more professional with him than before (if that was even possible) he'd guessed her situation.
"That obvious, sir?" Sam asked finally. She angled her chair to face him. Color had returned to her, her eyes no longer looked sunken and fever bright. He stepped in and took position on the other side of her desk. "I should have called him sooner," she said wryly. "He was worried, and no one would tell him anything." Damn he hated that look of doubt in her eyes.
"You needed time to sort all this out, Carter. You called him when you could. Can't fault yourself there," he offered. She watched him a moment. "You know there are things you won't be able to share with him. Don't worry, he'll catch on. Pete's a cop, he knows," Jack replied. He sure hoped he did. Pete's behavior so far didn't impress Jack, but it was Sam's belief that secured his clearance. Her fingers picked up a square doohickey and fiddled with it. Uh-oh, Carter's fiddling with a doohickey…
"Sir, about my 'clingy' conduct at your house. I just want you to know that I don't usually do that –"
"Oh, like the last time you got clingy? Let me see, that was…Oh, yeah, never," he answered in full sarcasm. Her eyes sparked. Good girl. "Never's too soon for you?" Jack watched as she fairly slammed the object down. Wow. "Well, there was that snuggling thing," he said as if deeply considering. Man, her face colored fast! He was never going to be sorry for that.
"Sir, I really didn't…I wasn't -"
"No, no problem, Carter. Actually, I kind of liked that –" Jack added wistfully. She glared when she realized he was teasing her. As if being a general could cure him of teasing Carter; practically a perk. But she was speaking again.
"Sir, you know what I mean. I didn't want, oh, damn it," Sam said. She sat back and folded her arms across her chest. "I didn't want things to get, well, complicated between us, you know? You'll be base commander, and I don't want to overstep any lines. Give you the wrong impression, I guess," Sam explained. There was regret in her eyes, her voice; he felt the same.
"Here, now; don't tell me you're going to go all subordinate on me? Can't bail on me now that I'm The Man, Carter," he answered. The little melancholy and worry were still there, but so was the old Sam, the confident and smart aleck one.
"You've always been The Man to me, sir," Sam murmured. Jack rocked back in surprise. "You were my CO for seven years. Believe me, you know how to be The Man."
"Ah, yes, there is that, except when you didn't give a fig that I was The Man," Jack said. She smiled at that. "Keep speaking your mind, Carter. Can't be The Man without a thorn at my side, can I?" Sam's brow furrowed then her eyebrow went up and a mysterious smile spread over her. "What?" Jack asked, suspicious. "It's tradition! I was the thorn in Hammond's side, so I'm here now, and that means you ," he explained, using his hands to indicate her.
"Let me get this straight: You're giving me permission to be this thorn?" Sam asked, sitting forward, leaning her elbows on the desk. Jack hesitated before he nodded, wary. "At your side."
"Can't buck tradition - whoa. IN my side," he corrected.
"You said 'at' your side, sir."
"Didn't - HEY! General, here, says didn't. Why would I even say 'at'?"
"Just practicing being your thorn, sir." Sam said, sitting back and crossing her arms again. "I might like being your thorn." Sam grinned. He groaned and shook a finger at her.
"Did I say grasshopper? Frankenstein," he grumbled. She just smirked. Ok, his change in rank seemed to have made Sam more at ease with him again. He'd take that over her stiff, ultra-professional stance these past days. They were quiet a moment.
"Look, I'll never be too big to listen when you need an ear. For anything," Jack said. Sam searched his eyes seriously, then she nodded. Not that he wanted to hear of Mr. Hum-worthy causing her problems (he was watching his blood pressure and there were pesky laws against assaulting an officer), but he'd be there for her anyway.
"Thank you, sir. And I meant it, too. And you're still welcome at our commissary table," Sam offered. Her smile was mischievous. Jack simulated offence.
"Why, that could be considered a threat, major," Jack said, causing her to shake head. "Speaking of commissary, your obligatory lab time is officially half over, meaning, you're coming for chow. I double dare you to even look at my plate."
Sam leveled a challenge at him as she led the way out. Could a major still joke with a general like this? If she wanted distance, tomorrow she would have it. But at least she'd let him know her reckless night and all her following actions (clingy, yech!) were just aberrations. Jack was a peach to suggest he didn't mind. She wondered if he'd be so kind about it if she told him how good he was at handling that situation. Hah; she'd never tell him that!
But when he reassured her that Pete would come around about her job eventually; she knew Jack still had her six. Sam was determined to give Pete a chance to understand and accept the difficult limitations her work might have for them. She really hoped, though, that the vision of The House and Farm was some picture from the back of her very, very young mind. With all that was going on it just didn't fit her, and she wasn't sure it ever would. Sam was very sure Pete wouldn't even consider the Big House in the Suburbs at this stage of their association.
"I'm not just fast on wheels, sir. My fork's the fastest around. Feeling lucky?" Sam asked. His dark eyes twinkled. He stuck his hands in his pockets and lifted his formidable chin.
"I'm a general. I don't have to be fast or lucky. Just, higher," Jack responded, falling in step beside her.
For the next few minutes and the rest of the day, Sam just enjoyed the last moments of their old camaraderie. She didn't know why he'd said a thorn 'at' his side instead of in it, but it made her feel, oddly enough, at ease. And naturally she couldn't help pushing him on it, just a little. Oh, bad Sam one last time!
Full speed ahead it is, then.
Sam's thoughts wandered as she stood in formal dress blues with the rest of the base personnel while Dr. Elizabeth Weir introduced Jack as the new commander. He glanced at them quickly in passing. Sam thought about her ongoing sessions with the base psychologist, who was satisfied that she was on her way to handling her ordeal. Apparently, making the appointment herself was a good sign. According to Daniel, Jack had said that would be best. Smart man.
And it didn't escape her that only a very fortunate confluence of events – the SGC's leadership in transition, the infirmary's temporary doctor and Jack's friend in the Springs police department, oh, and Jack's presence – allowed her to be here. The consequences of her joy ride could have been so very different, and not in a good way.
She knew that the real healing began in Jack's living room, and the memory of their deeper bonding strengthened her. He didn't share every trauma in his life (Iraq wasn't on the menu). What he did share was enlightening about him and herself. Even though Jack had moved from off-world commander to general in command of the base, it was a good change. Right?
Sam felt real pride in his promotion, knowing how he'd more than earned it. And that pang of regret that he wouldn't be going with them through the gate anymore; well, it'll pass. She'd begun to relax around him again, maybe even more, since 'General' Jack didn't mind informality. She could already see what his command style would be! Then her attention came back to the proceedings as the new commander spoke.
"And the reason I accepted this job is so I can do really cool stuff like this. It is my pleasure to make my first official order of business, the promotion of Major Samantha Carter to the rank of Lt. Colonel!" Brig. Gen. Jack O'Neill announced from the podium.
Sam was caught in shock and amazement. Teal'c and Daniel, standing on each side of her, grinned at her surprise. Of course, they knew! And the General knew. She basked in their looks of pride and affection. She let her heart do the racing this time, as she stepped forward to embrace the next phase of her career and her life.
Love to know what you think, please talk back! And thanks for reading.
A/N: A final note to thank the sterling efforts of my dedicated beta, Luzita (talented author of Liberating Males ) for helping this hard-headed author stay on track. Being a beta is as much labor as love, and you didn't take it lightly so neither could I. The final product (and all the changes I didn't tell my beta) are, of course, all mine, errors and all! Alas, hard heads aren't cured overnight. , Luzita: Standing Ovation at ya! – 7LB