Daniel and Teal'c sat silently on the hard cot in the SGC holding cell staring at the blank gray wall opposite them. Neither had spoken in hours. Both men knew the security cameras would be recording their every move and sound. They couldn't risk giving away any information. This mission was personal and the people involved to important to both men to allow for any mistakes. The silence was harder for Daniel who wanted to scream at the self enforced silence, but for his team he could and would do anything.
The door to the brig suddenly opened and the two friends looked up as Lt. General Jack O'Neill entered the room. He threw a hard look at both of his former teammates. The three had been close at one time, but hadn't spoken in quite a while. Still neither man looked like they had been infected by an alien virus or brainwashed. The doctors had assured Jack that both were fine but still it wasn't beyond reason considering what they all did for a living. Jack paced in front of the cell as the anger flowed off him in waves. He quickly shut off his emotions and assessed the situation in front of him, formulating the best plan of attack. He finally yelled for the SF to unlock the cell door and he pulled a chair over to Daniel and Teal'c and sat down.
"What happened?" Jack asked in a quiet controlled voice. The two men turned to look at each other as a silent conversation seemed to pass between them. After a moment both turned back to their former teammate and remained mute.
General O'Neill waited for an answer that didn't seem to be forthcoming as he continued to look for an opening to get them talking. He knew his best shot for information was Daniel as Teal'c hardly said anything on his best days. The former first prime's will was just too strong. Yep just get the archeologist riled up and he would spill his guts. So Jack turned his hard stare to Dr. Jackson and tried again.
"Just what the hell where you two thinking and why didn't you stop her? I thought I knew you guys better than that. Don't you even care what will happen to Cater when all this is over?" Jack let his earlier anger break through to the surface once again hoping that Daniel would rise to the bait. He hated to think he was using his black ops interrogation training against the two men he had once considered brothers, but he had to find her before it was too late. Maybe he could even pull a few strings and save her career.
"Don't you dare judge us!" Daniel spat back at him as his eyes flashed with anger. "You weren't here so where do you get off telling us what we should have done. You have no idea. If you hadn't left us, this never would have happened! We were the ones left to clean up your mess."
"You blame me for this?" Jack yelled at the two. "This I have to hear! How is it my fault that Carter went AWOL and terminated all gate activity when I have barely talked to her in almost 4 years?"
"I believe you said you did not wish to be informed of any consequences O'Neill. We simply respected your wishes," Teal'c spoke for the first time. Jack's head jerked to face the big Jaffa in confusion. Teal'c read the confused look in his old friend's eyes and continued "Is that not what you told Samantha Carter at your cabin?"
Jack's thoughts were immediately drawn back to the only time the four had been together at his cabin in Minnesota. After Carter's dad Jacob had died and she had sent that idiot Pete away, he had invited his team to spend a week together fishing. They had all needed to get away and at first everything had been great. The four had spent the week fishing and enjoying each other's company. It had almost been like the early years again, but somehow even better. As the week drew to a close, Jack had wandered down by the dock to find Carter alone one afternoon. She seemed lost in her own thoughts so he had approached her quietly. Jack knew they had gotten close in the last week. Their rocky friendship was back on track and the flirting that had been missing was suddenly back and not as innocent as before. Sure nothing had happened yet but O'Neill was hoping to change that. Kerry and Pete were gone and it finally seemed to be the right time for them. He joined her in staring at the water in the late afternoon sun.
"It really is beautiful here, Jack. Thanks for finally dragging me up here," she quietly said.
"You don't have to leave you know. I'm staying another week and I know you have the week off too. You could stay with me" he replied as he turned to look at her nervously. Sure they had flirted but did she really want the same thing he wanted? His doubts fled as Sam had turned and smiled at him.
In the end she had stayed and it had been everything each had ever dreamed it could be. They spent their days exploring the woods around the cabin and their nights exploring their feelings for each other. Jack hadn't felt such peace and happiness since his son had been alive. Retirement seemed like a great idea if he could continue to have Sam in his life and his bed. They hadn't really talked much about the future yet. Truthfully, Jack was afraid to do anything to mar this time with her. The depth of his love for her scared him. He began to worry that everything was too perfect and something would come along and take her from him.
Reality reared it ugly head on the fourth day in the form of a phone call. His retirement was being denied. Instead he was informed that George Hammond was retiring as Head of Home World Security and Jack was being promoted to take his place. The promotion and second star was supposed to make up for losing the woman he loved Jack thought bitterly. He fought it with everything he had and lost. Apparently saving the world several times didn't earn him any favors only lots of people who thought he was indispensable. He knew this would be the death of his new found relationship with Sam. This new position would leave him in her chain of command no matter what she did and even more damaging to her career would be the rumors and innuendos that would follow her. He loved Sam to much to let that happen. So that night he had made love to her for hours trying to tell her without words how much he loved her as well as goodbye. In the early hours of dawn he had written the note he knew would break her heart, but he was too afraid to stay. He knew that if he faced her he would never be able to leave her behind like he needed to do. Jack was a realist and always suspected that a future with Sam was too good to be true. He didn't deserve something so perfect after the life he had led. So he had simply left her a note on his pillow saying he couldn't face the consequences of their actions and that he was sorry. It was a lie of course, but it was better she hate him and move on with her life.
Jack got into his truck that morning before she had awakened and drove back to Colorado Springs only stopping when he had too. He packed up his house and moved to Washington DC without ever talking to his former teammates. Sure they had called him at first but he just didn't pick up and told his new assistant not to put them through when they called his Pentagon office. After all what was there to say? Jack had run to DC and was doing his best to hide from his friends. It was just too hard on his bleeding heart. He would love Carter until his dying breath he was sure, probably even after but she was on her way up professionally and Jack wouldn't be the one to hold her back, especially when all he had to offer her was an old broken soldier's heart. She deserved so much more.
That had been four years ago and the pain of losing her and his team still haunted him. His life in DC was empty. Sure he met lots of people in Washington, but none that he considered friends. They all wanted something from the Head of Home World Security. Everyone had an agenda. He completed more paperwork in one day than any solider should have to deal with in a lifetime. The politics and bureaucrats were even worse than a roomful of scientists spewing technobabble at him. At least the long hours left him too exhausted most nights to dwell on the fact that he went home to an empty townhouse, but Carter was supposed to be safe. He had done it all for her and now they were telling him it was his fault. He looked at Daniel and quietly asked "What happened?"
"Not here, Jack." He replied as his blue eyes jerked to the security cameras. There were too many eyes and ears here for what he had to say. If Jack really wanted to know then he would have to arrange a place for this conversation. One thing Daniel had learned over the last few years was that that the enemy had eyes and ears everywhere. Besides he knew that in the end Jack was a private person and would not want anyone else to hear this.
It had taken three hours but Jack had finally gotten the guys released into his custody and the three men were now settled in a back booth of their old hangout O'Malley's with a round of beers. Well Daniel and Jack were having beers. Teal'c was having some nonalcoholic concoction. Jack waited until the three were alone and then motioned for Daniel to begin.
Daniel opened with a question. "Why are you really here Jack? You could have let Landry or someone else handle this. We have barely seen you in the last few years."
"Does it matter?" Jack asked in an irritated voice. His patience was long gone, not that he was known to have much on his best days.
"Yes it matters. Are you here as General O'Neill or Jack? Before I say another word I need to know. We haven 't heard from you in a long time and you almost destroyed Sam when you left so before we let you anywhere near her I need to know why you are here."
"Destroyed her? What the hell are you talking about Daniel? What is wrong with Carter?" Fear began creeping into Jack's heart. He needed to know that Sam was ok.
"What did you think would happen when you ran off to DC and married the first woman you found?" Daniel almost snarled across the table.
Daniel's anger had returned as he remembered back to that dark time so many years ago. He had flown to DC with Sam and Teal'c in an attempt to get Jack to talk to Sam. His two friends had loved each other for years in secret and Daniel wasn't about to let Jack give up the best thing to have happened to him. As the trio had rounded the corner in the hall outside the office of one General Jonathan J. O'Neill, they stopped in shock at the sight in front of them.
"Hey beautiful! Ready to go get hitched?" Jack greeted a dark haired woman in a soft voice.
"Absolutely" she replied with a smile and a quick kiss to his cheek. They stared quietly into each other's eyes for a moment.
"Are you sure you really want to get married Beth?" Jack had asked her. "I mean this has all been really fast and you know I will still be here no matter what."
"Of course Jack" she said with a little confusion in her voice.
"Well I just had to make sure" he had said. "One last chance to back out you know."
Beth had just stood there looking at him until she finally smiled up at him and said with quiet conviction in her voice "I have never been more sure about anything Jack. Are you having second thoughts about this?"
"Nope. Just wanted to make sure this is what you wanted. Let's get going." Jack had beamed down at her.
The two had turned and walked away without seeing Daniel, Sam and Teal'c standing just out of sight. The three were shocked to the core that Jack was apparently getting married and hadn't even thought enough of them to let anyone know.
Sitting in the booth in O'Malley's Jack's mind was reeling. Married? What was Space Monkey playing at? Maybe he had been infected by an alien virus after all. "I haven't been married in years. You know that Daniel or at least you should. As far as running off to DC well yeah I did. I couldn't hurt Carter's career. She is too good to be tied to a grumpy old bastard like me."
Teal'c and Daniel looked at each other in confusion. Jack sipped his beer with his head down. He could feel the headache beginning and he was in no mood to be interrogated about his past. Carter was in trouble and he needed info now. "Would you two start from the beginning and put it in real simple terms for me?"
Daniel was really puzzled now but after a silent nod from Teal'c he began. "After you left Sam at the cabin she returned to the SGC and agreed to an immediate transfer to Area 51. They had been after her for sometime to head their R&D department. Teal'c and I were off world with SG6 and by the time we got back she was gone. I tried calling her but I got the standard Sam Carter 'I'm fine and trying to move on with my life' routine. I knew she wasn't doing well but she kept telling me she was just tired and stressed out settling into the new job responsibilities.
The longer it went on the more worried Teal'c and I became so I called Cassie to go check on her. Sam tried to avoid her too but Cassie planted herself on Sam's doorstep one day and said she wasn't leaving. Thank God Cassie did because she said Sam looked like hell. She wasn't sleeping or eating. Sam was dealing with everything by throwing herself into her work. We hadn't seen her this bad since that time you went missing for three months. No one at Area 51 knew her well enough to know just how close to the edge she was. Sam collapsed one morning at the house. Cassie called the ambulance and then me. Teal'c and I flew out immediately. Sam had lost at least 15 pounds and was just a ghost of her former self. Her blood levels were all screwed up from not eating or sleeping and with the pregnancy…"
"What?" Jack spit his beer across the table in shock.
"Yes Jack Sam was pregnant, but she almost miscarried that day. The stress, heartache and not taking care of herself were almost too much for her body. It took about a week before the doctors were able to release her and assure her that the pregnancy was not in any immediate danger."
That week still haunted Daniel to this day. Sam had been crying on his shoulder about losing Jack when the doctors had told her she was pregnant and that she was showing signs of miscarrying. She immediately began blaming herself and it was only the thought that it might do the baby more harm that had finally broken through her pain and finally allowed her to begin to find a small amount of peace. The hormones and exhaustion caused his friend's emotions to be all over the place that week.
"Cassie, Teal'c and I spent the next few weeks nursing Sam back to health and trying to convince her to talk to you. We kept telling her that there had to be some reason you left that damn note and that you would never want your child to grow up without a father. The two of you had to work something out if just for the sake of the baby. So Sam made plans to fly to DC to talk to you. She was so calm and still on the outside but I could tell she was terrified on the inside. We flew out with her only to find you on your way to your wedding with Beth. God Jack do you have any idea how much that hurt Sam?"
"Beth? Daniel what are you talking about? The only Beth I know is Kawalsky's sister and we are definitely not married!"
Then Jack's mind began to catch up and he felt as if cold water had been thrown on him. He had met Beth almost 20 years ago through his good friend Charlie Kawalsky. When Charlie had died the first year of the Stargate Program, Jack had felt it was his responsibility to break the news to her in person. They had remained friends over the years with the occasional Christmas card or phone call. He had promised Charlie to look after her as the two had no other living family. After his move to DC, Beth had called him with the news of her upcoming marriage and had asked Jack to walk her down the aisle in Charlie's place. The day of the wedding she had insisted on picking him up at his office saying she wanted to make sure he wasn't late.
Teal'c had been silently watching the conversation up to this point. Daniel Jackson was the talker of the group. The big Jaffa was suddenly beginning to suspect that all was not as they had believed these years. Perhaps the man in front of him hadn't changed so much after all and they had misjudged him.
"It seems we may have been mistaken Daniel Jackson."
"Guys, Beth is Charlie Kawalsky's sister. She is married to a Marine. The day you saw me I was walking her down the aisle in Charlie's place," Jack whispered. His heart began to squeeze painfully in his chest. How he had hurt Sam first with his own fear and insecurities leading him to write that stupid note, then how much courage it must have taken for her to fly to DC to try and talk to him only to think that he was marrying someone else. No wonder they blamed him for everything that had happened.
"What happened then Daniel?" Jack was afraid to hear any more but somehow sensing that this was still just the tip of the iceberg.
Daniel jerked back to reality at Jack's quiet words. His own mind quickly reliving the events of that horrible day and now he could see just how wrongly he had interpreted those events. He was shaking his head sadly when he heard Tealc's voice once again.
"Samantha Carter was most distressed that day. She insisted we return to Nevada and never speak of it again."
Daniel was once more coming out of his own memories and added. "She thought you were happy Jack. It broke her heart but she said more than anything she wanted you to be happy and she could learn to live without you. She went back to Area 51 that afternoon and swore us to secrecy. Sam didn't want what had happened to hurt you or your career. As far as I know she never told anyone you were the father. She threw herself back into her work but made sure she took care of herself this time. This was her one chance at being a mother and she was determined to do everything right."
"That sounds just like Carter," Jack said bitterly. He had really screwed up this time. "What happened to the baby?"
"Well here is where it gets a little more complicated Jack. For several months everything was fine. Sam was doing well physically although she never really smiled like she used too. She was trying but her heart was broken and it showed. Smiles just never reached her eyes anymore unless she was talking about the upcoming birth. When she was about 8 months pregnant, Teal'c and I decided to surprise her at Area 51. If we hadn't been there I am not sure what would have happened that day. When we pulled up to Sam's house we found the front door wide open. Three guys had attacked Sam and were trying to abduct her. They were working for the Trust and from what we later found out they wanted to experiment on them. They needed tissue samples and didn't care who had to die to get them. Sam had been injected with some drug and was unconscious on the floor of her kitchen. They weren't expecting anyone to show up and we were able to take care of them pretty easily. Sam was rushed to the base hospital but we almost lost them that day. The drug and stress from the attack caused Sam to go into premature labor."
Fear and anger were rising in Jack and his two friends could see the change come over him. An attack on any child was enough to set the alpha male in Jack off but an attack on a child of his or the woman he loved would spell death for anyone foolish enough to try. Dr. Jackson was suddenly very happy that those men were locked up in a cell right now.
"Teal'c and I were with Sam for the next 36 hours as she struggled through labor and delivery. She was bleeding a lot and the doctors refused to give her any pain meds. They were just too afraid of a reaction with the naquadah in her blood and whatever drug the Trust had used. In the end Grace Danielle and Jacob Teal'c Carter were born and although very tiny, they were both healthy.
"Twins?" Jack asked suddenly. He was still trying to get his head around the fact that Sam had been pregnant and what the Trust had attempted to do to Carter. He had almost lost another child without even knowing it. Losing Charlie had almost killed Jack and to think that Sam had almost had to deal with that type of pain alone was unbearable.
"Indeed. My godchildren are exceptional," Teal'c answered with obvious pride in his voice.
Wow Jack thought as his heart swelled with pride and love for the two children he had yet to meet. They were almost four and he had lost so much time with them but he pushed that thought aside. He needed to solve the problem at hand first. Then he would find a way to be a part of his children's lives. In truth he wanted more than that. He wanted a life with Sam and their precious children but it had been so long and he had hurt her so much he wasn't sure that was even possible. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. What if Sam had found someone else? What if his kids thought of someone else as Daddy? That chilled him to the bone.
"Uh, guys did Sam meet …anyone ….else you know? Well is there someone we should tell about her leaving ..or.." Jack trailed off. He had always been the worst at voicing anything personal and he couldn't find the words to ask the question burning inside him. His fear and discomfort flicked across his eyes and was gone behind the military mask just as quickly.
Dr Jackson just looked at his friend in confusion before glancing at the big Jaffa beside him. "I believe O'Neill would like to know if Samantha Carter found a new mate since he left."
"No! Jack, Sam has spent all her time either at work or with the twins. Even though she has never admitted it I think she is still in love with you Jack. Everything she has done over the years has been for Grace, Jacob or you. She even refused to list you as their father on the birth certificates. Sam was afraid that if she did someone would find out and you would be court martialed. Plus the kids were in danger just because they carried the protein marker left over from Jolinar and naquadah in their blood. If someone discovered they also carried your Ancient gene they could be in even greater danger. Let's face it Jack you have quite a few enemies yourself."
Comprehension showed on Jack's face as he asked "Are you saying there have been more attempts on Sam and my children?" He was pretty sure he knew the answer before it was given but he had to know. Daniel was right. Jack had made plenty of enemies on his own over the years and many would not hesitate to hurt him by targeting his family.
"Indeed," Teal'c replied as his eyebrow raised. The old warrior knew full well how unscrupulous some humans could be.
Daniel hated revealing any more but knew he had to tell Jack everything if the three were going to find a way out of this mess. "When the twins were two the Trust once again tried to kidnap them. The attempt ultimately failed but after that General Hammond convinced Sam to move back to the SGC. He may be retired but he was the only one she would listen to. He felt that she and the kids would be easier to protect here. We could better control who had access to them. Grace, Jacob and Sam have been living in the mountain ever since. It has been hard for Sam and the kids. She tried to make living on base as normal as possible, but the kids were under such tight security that even going outside became too big of a risk. I can't remember the last time they have seen the light of day."
"But I have been to the mountain several times over the years. Why didn't I notice that there were two kids living on base? How did I miss what was going on? I'm the Head of Home World Security for crying out loud!"
"General Hammond called in a lot of favors. Most people in the mountain to this day do not know about Sam and the kids besides your trips to the SGC seemed to mostly occur when we were off world." Daniel explained patiently as his friend tried to understand.
"Yeah," Jack agreed staring down at his beer. Over the years he had avoided visiting the SGC if he could. It was just too painful to risk running into Sam. He didn't want to see the hurt on her face or even worse see that she had moved on. So when he did travel to Colorado he tried to make sure that SG1 was off world during his visits. The few times he had seen her they had both stuck almost painfully to military protocol. It had been awkward to say the least.
"Anyway Hammond kept the knowledge to only a handful of people. Information was kept very compartmentalized with only Sam, Teal'c and I knowing the full details. General Landry only knows that Operation Phoenix exists on the base. He has no idea what exactly it even is. Grace and Jacob's protective detail and doctors were hand picked and only know that due to the nature of Sam's job the kids are in danger. Sam never really believed that any of them were safe though and she hated the life they were forced to live. It took us about six months to set up an emergency escape plan for Sam and the children for when they were eventually discovered. We were pretty lucky that we had that much time. A few days ago we put that plan into motion when we discovered that the Trust had once again tried to infiltrate the SGC in order to kidnap Gracie and Jake. Sam and the kids left through the gate while Teal'c took care of security and I loaded Sam's computer virus into the dialing computer. It disabled the gate and erased her destination so no one could follow them. From there they will be taking a ship to their final destination. The virus will automatically restore the gate in two days."
All of this was getting to be too much for Jack. In less than 24 hours he had learned that his old team had disabled the stargate, Sam had gone AWOL, and he had two children who were being hunted by the Trust. His fingers began tapping out his agitation on the table. He grabbed his beer and took a long drink. He needed to think. He needed some air. Jack jumped to his feet and almost toppled over at the sudden movement.
Daniel and Teal'c watched their former commander as he walked out the front door without a word to them. "Did we make a mistake telling him?" the young archeologist asked his teammate. "I am unsure Daniel Jackson," came the Jaffa's somber response.
Once outside Jack paced the parking lot. The cool night air was calming and the shock was slowly beginning to wear off. He had a son and daughter out there somewhere. The thought hit him in the gut but it began to warm his heart in places he had thought dead long ago. He had two children with Samantha Carter. He felt like he had just won life's lottery.
Reality hit him about the same time. Someone was obviously after Sam and the children. Plans began to formulate in his mind. Everything was crystal clear to him. First this threat had to be neutralized and then he would be free to find Sam and convince her to come home to him. His former doubts and insecurities disappeared with the knowledge of his children. He and Sam belonged together. Now he just had to win her back. He knew that putting his family back together would be the hardest campaign of his life. Good thing he liked a challenge; he smirked at that thought. His former 2IC wouldn't know what hit her.
Jack was about to head back inside when the guys came out the front door. "It's about time you two. Hurry up we have plans to make."
Both men looked at Jack with skepticism, but they noticed a spring in his step that hadn't been there before and a twinkle that had been missing from his eyes earlier. Maybe everything would be ok after all.
During the next six weeks Jack continued to surprise and amaze his friends. This was a Jack O'Neill they had only seen a few times before. He was determined, focused and absolutely ruthless as they rounded up the people who were after Sam and the kids. General O'Neill was sending a clear message to all. Mess with his family and there would be no place in the universe that you could hide from his wrath. The leaders of the Trust were no exception. One man had foolishly tried to pull a gun on the former black ops general during the last raid. Jack had basically begged the idiot to pull the trigger so that he would have a reason to kill him outright.
Two days later Jack was climbing the walls on base. With the threat to Carter, Grace and Jacob gone Jack couldn't wait to put the next phase of his plan in motion. The President and top brass at the Pentagon had been less than thrilled when O'Neill had made his demands known. He was not asking them, just informing each of his plans to put his family together. Carter would be forgiven all and there would be an executive order giving him permission to marry her. Jack would be moving his office back to Colorado Springs with occasional trips to DC only. They would also be approving every requisition he put in front of them in order to retrieve the three most important people in his life.
Teal'c and Daniel found Jack in the commissary eating a piece of cake. Neither mentioned that a bowl of blue Jello sat uneaten on the table next to him. Since this had begun Jack had started buying the jello each meal in a silent tribute to the missing member of SG1. The men would be leaving in a few hours first by stargate and then cargo ship to go after Sam and the children, but Daniel wanted to check on Jack. His friend was tense and the lack of sleep was evident in his tired features.
"We brought you something, Jack," Daniel said sitting down across the table from his teammate. "Teal'c and I realized that you hadn't seen any pictures of Jake and Gracie so we made some copies for you."
O'Neil's tanned face immediately changed. The tense and tired look in his eyes immediately was gone and in its place there was a sparkle of anticipation. He looked down at the small photo album his friend slid across the table to him. Inside were pictures of Sam, Daniel, Teal'c and Cassie with each of the kids through the years. As he flipped through the pages, tears began to form in his chocolate eyes. Grace and Jacob were amazing! Both had definitely gotten his O'Neill genes he thought with a smile. Jacob had his eyes and unfortunately his hair, the poor kid. It stuck up everywhere. Grace had gotten his hair color but her longer hair hung in ringlets down her back. Her eyes and smile were all Sam Carter though. He could get lost in those eyes. Jack ducked his head and took a shuddering breath in order to gain control over his emotions. It was obvious in the pictures that Sam was a great mother and that the kids were happy and well adjusted in spite of everything that had happened to them. It was bittersweet really. There were pictures of first steps, birthdays, and holidays that he had obviously missed.
"Thanks guys." His gravelly voice sounded. "What are they like?"
"Well they are definitely your kids Jack! Grace may look like an angel but don't let her fool you. She is just like you on the inside. She reads people in a way that I have only ever seen you do. It is way beyond her years. That sweet face of hers also hides a strong personality and an even stronger temper. That said, she is also incredibly loyal to and protective of her baby brother. Gracie is tough as nails and still somehow remains all girl too. I guess she got that from her mother.
"Jake looks so much like you it is scary at times. Many times he looks at me in the same way you used to do. He seems to see right into a person's soul. However, he got most of Sam's personality. Where Grace is the warrior of the two, Jacob is the heart and soul. He is also the quieter one, preferring to take things apart or ask questions. Jacob shares your love of sports as well as both his parents' stubborn streak. When he wants something, he can be extremely determined."
Daniel continued to stare at Jack as he once again flipped through the pictures as if committing each one to memory. "Let's go bring them home Jack."
The three men stood and silently walked out of the commissary to gear up for the most important mission of their lives.
Samantha Carter sat outside on the porch of her house watching her children play. Each was enjoying the feel of the late morning sun on their faces and the fresh air around them. They had been living on this deserted planet for almost two months and Jacob and Grace were still getting used to the simple joys of being outside. At the moment the kids were chasing an animal that reminded Sam of a frog and giggling with laughter. The sound was like music to her ears. She hadn't heard their joy nearly enough over the last few years.
Thanks to the Asgard and the Nox Sam had set up this little haven for herself and her children. There was no stargate or anything worth exploring on this planet deep in Asgard space. These two facts would help ensure that they stayed safe. Thor had really come through for her this time. They had everything they needed here. The house while filled with Asgard technology was styled after homes on Earth and surprisingly comfortable and homey. The food replicater was programmed with a variety of Earth recipes and all of the kids' favorites. He had even included a workspace for Carter and kept her supplied with plenty of projects to keep her mind occupied. The shield around the house and yard was large enough to allow the kids ample room to play outside and enjoy many of the things they had missed out on while living on Earth. There was even a small shallow pond for them to splash around in on warm afternoons. Here they were safe and able to live a more normal life. Their life would never be completely normal but Sam was determined to give them this chance.
"Jake, Gracie, it's time to go inside and eat," Carter called as she stood closing the book she had been reading. The kids needed lunch and then a nap. She planned on making some progress on one of the latest finds Thor had left for her while they slept. It was giving off an interesting energy signature that intrigued her. It helped pass the time here and keep her mind off everything she had lost. Samantha loved her children and being a mom. They were her top priority and that would never change, but she missed having Teal'c and Daniel around to keep her company. She was beginning to worry about them. They should have contacted her by now.
Her heart immediately reminded her of the loss of one very important person. Truthfully it was always in the corner of her mind, just out of reach. She shook her head to clear it and close off the emotions that still after all the years threatened to overwhelm her. She would not think about Jack O'Neill. He was lost to her, and her children needed her. In some ways, her precious babies had saved her during that dark time, given her a reason to live and continue fighting. Grace, Jacob, Daniel, Teal'c and Cassie were her family now and the only ones that she allowed to get close to her. They were her life, but a large part of her heart had died when Jack had betrayed her. That was a hurt she now knew that she would never recover from. The best she could do was to just shut it all away inside her self, bury it deep and never allow it to see the light of day again. There it could fester and have a life all its own without overtaking her. It had tried to poison her soul once, but she had battled it to a stalemate. Now she realized that while there would never be a cure for her heartache, she was at least not going to succumb to its poison either.
With lunch over and the kids asleep for at least an hour, Sam went downstairs to her lab space and began running a few tests when the proximity alarm began beeping. She left the test running to go check out their visitors. The shield would protect them but she activated the cloak Lya had given her as well. The Nox might be earthy pacifists, but they did know how to keep things hidden. After all, she couldn't be too careful with their safety. Hopefully, it would be Daniel and Teal'c or Thor with news.
She walked outside and watched as a ship landed in the clearing not far from the house. The military officer in Carter cautiously waited to see who was inside before letting down her guard. A sigh of relief burst forth as she saw the two men she considered brothers exit the ship. She activated the controls on her wrist device to disable the cloak and lower the shield. Each man hugged her tight and smiled with relief at seeing her safe and well.
"You just missed the kids. They are down for a nap, but they will be so excited to see their godfathers!" Sam enthused.
"Uh, Sam we brought someone else with us," Daniel told her nervously.
She was immediately on edge. Daniel's tone was enough to worry her, but the gentle giant next to him almost looked terrified of her reaction to this mystery guest. Now she was really worried. Teal'c wasn't afraid of anything. What was going on?
"Hey Carter, I think we need to talk," came the velvety voice of her former CO.
Samantha's head jerked from the two men before her over to the ship's entrance to see General Jack O'Neill slowly exit the ship and walk towards her. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. He was walking towards her with the stealthy grace of a panther. God he still had the ability to make her heart race and her breath catch in her throat. Just the sound of his voice was enough to make her blood race. He looked amazing, marriage obviously agreed with him. That thought was enough to break the spell for her. He was married to another and bitterness rose up once again.
"Go home General. There is nothing for you here," Sam declared with a quiet conviction. Then she spun on her heels and walked purposefully back into the house and firmly closed the door.
Daniel looked nervously over to Jack. He knew this wasn't going to be easy for his friends and he was still worried how Jack was going to take Sam's rejection. After all Jack was known for his quick temper and lack of patience. "Maybe I should go and talk to her," Daniel told O'Neill. Dr. Jackson had over the years mediated many treaties, but somehow he wasn't sure that all his experience would be of any help in these peace talks.
Inside the house, Carter was pacing furiously. Her troubled mind was running a marathon right now. Caught up in her inner turmoil, she never even heard Daniel open the door and approach her. "Sam, can we talk about this?" His voice brought her to a halt. She turned and glared at the younger man. "What were you thinking, Daniel? What if he finds out about the kids?" she almost yelled at her friend. Right now she just wanted to send him straight to Netu!
"Sam, he already knows about Grace and Jacob! He had a right to know about them. Please Sam, we were wrong about Jack. Please just listen to what he has to say. If not for you then for your kids," Daniel pleaded.
"Low blow, Daniel! I never thought you would use my children against me." Samantha replied quietly as she continued to glare at him. Neither moved or spoke as each was lost in their own thoughts. "Fine! I will talk to him, but not in my house. He is not getting near my children," she said angrily as she threw up her arms in exasperation.
Carter stormed outside once again. The tension in her body was evident to all as she walked directly up to her former CO. "Follow me," she growled at him as she walked inside the ship the men had just exited. O'Neill joined her and shut the door behind him. He could tell this was about to get ugly, but was willing to let her have some control for now. When the door shut firmly behind them, angry blue eyes met his chocolate ones. "You have two minutes to say whatever the hell it is you came to say and then I want you gone. If you are here to take me back to the SGC for my court martial, you can save your breath and just go home. My children are happy here."
"Our children, Carter," Jack growled stressing the first word. "They are our children and I am not leaving them. How could you even ask me to do that?"
"Our children?" Sam repeated in quiet anger. "I'm sorry. I must have forgotten you being there when I was in the hospital and they almost died or when I gave birth. Where were you in the middle of the night when they were sick or teething or hungry? What about when the Trust tried to kidnap us? Did you see their first steps or hear their first words? Daniel and Teal'c have been more of a father to them than you over the years. Grace and Jacob have never been your children, Sir. You didn't want to deal with the consequences of our time together so why should they be any different? They don't need you and neither do I. If you want to play daddy, go home to your wife." Sam told him with quiet stubbornness.
Yep Sam was hurt he thought. Sure she was trying to hide it behind this wall of controlled anger, but he could see it in her eyes. They would have to deal with that in time but for right now the most pressing matter was just getting her to just accept his being here.
"Damn it, I am not married and I am definitely not leaving. Carter, look I know I have made a mess of things here, but you had to know that I would have been there for you and our kids if I had known. Let's not forget that you never gave me the chance. I just want to do the right thing. Let me get to know Jake and Grace."
"Your time is up, Sir, now please just go home." Sam stubbornly refused to even hear what Jack was telling her. He wasn't surprised really. It would take more than a few words to overcome her walls and anger to eventually get to the hurt that was fueling all this. The gauntlet was about to be thrown down. She might be stubborn, but he was just as stubborn and he had no intention of giving her an inch in this war.
"I'm sorry Sam but I can't do that because where ever you, Gracie and Jake are is my home." Jack declared quietly. There he had struck the first blow. He knew this small victory would be short lived in the end, but it was an important one in his mind.
Sam opened the door and purposely stalked towards the house. Jack silently followed her until she reached the porch and turned to stare defiantly once more into his eyes. "That is where you are wrong, General," she said as she touched the control on her wrist once more. Jack immediately felt himself being transported outside the shield. Sam was still standing on the porch where she threw him a self satisfied smile before walking into her house and firmly closing the door. Well Jack thought that hadn't really gone very well but it had gone as he had expected.
Inside the house Daniel and Teal'c were waiting for her anxiously. They knew she would be mad at them for forcing her hand like this, but they hadn't seen any other way to do this. Sam would never have willingly let them bring Jack here and whether or not she wanted to admit it those two had issues that needed to be resolved. Daniel was tired of their strange dance around each other. They were both miserable since this mess had begun. It was time for it to end.
"Sam, I" Daniel began but she cut him off immediately.
"Don't Daniel I do not want to hear it. Just leave me alone." With that said, Sam left the two men in her living room and escaped to her lab to think.
Two hours later Sam was no closer to solving the problem with her unexpected guest. She knew she would have to deal with this and soon, but she wasn't ready just yet. First Sam would deal with Daniel and Teal'c. She was calm enough now to realize that while her two friends were annoying they were also well meaning. Both men had also given up so much to help her and she did love them like brothers. She decided to stop hiding in her lab and face the two. As she came around the corner she could her Grace and Jake's voices. They were obviously enjoying having the guys around. Putting a smile on her face for her children, Sam entered the living room to see Grace climbing all over Teal'c while Daniel had been drawn into some game with Jake. "Mommy!" both children yelled with excitement to see her.
"Hi guys. Sorry about earlier. I was just shocked." Sam apologized to each man. "I know you were only doing what you thought was best for me and the kids."
"Samantha, I believe you and O'Neill have much to discuss," Teal'c told her.
"Yes we probably do, but I am just not ready. Can we just enjoy ourselves? I have missed you two these last few weeks."
"Of course we can Sam," Daniel's gentle voice came to her from across the room. Inside he was smiling. Without realizing it Sam had just agreed to talk to Jack. That was finally a step in the right direction. He knew it would take time but at least his two friends were making progress.
That night was filled with laughter at the kid's antics. Only after Sam had put the kids to bed and the dinner dishes put away did she decide to tackle the elephant in the room. She couldn't hide Jack's presence from the kids for long. They would undoubtedly see him and ask questions. Her answers would depend on what she heard tonight.
"Guys, I think I am going to head outside and try to talk to the General." She said with more confidence than she felt. Actually, she was terrified to face him.
"Okay Sam we are going to head on up to bed. I'll see you in the morning," Daniel told her as he reached over to hug her. He whispered in her ear. "Everything will be ok and if Jack acts like an ass, I'll have Teal'c throw him out an airlock for you!" She smiled at Daniel as she gathered her courage and walked out the front door.
Jack had set up camp just outside the shield and was sitting on a log near the fire. It was a sight she had seen many times off world. Somehow it suited him she thought. He looked so relaxed staring at the fire drinking a cup of coffee. She lowered the shield as she approached him. He didn't give any indications that he heard her, but she knew he was acutely aware of her.
"Is there any more coffee?" she asked quietly as she sat down near the fire. He stood up and walked back to the ship where he retrieved a second cup. Once filled with coffee, he handed her the steaming cup and sat back down without saying a word. "Thanks." She said after he had returned to his place on the log.
Jack was waiting for her next move. He had been surprised to see her tonight. She needed to be the one who came to him he knew. He had thought it would take her longer to come to him like this. She seemed to be calmer now so perhaps they could work through at least some of their mistakes.
Silently, Sam continued to drink her coffee. She could do this she thought after all she had blown up a sun. She had been in the same room with him a few times over the last four years. She could hold a calm, reasonable conversation with this man. Start with something small she thought and just see how it goes.
"How is DC?" she opened looking at the fire as it popped.
"Full of politicians," Jack replied with a grin looking at her briefly.
Sam couldn't help herself. She smiled back at him. That was just so Jack O'Neill, never one to suffer fools or politicians.
"You know I am still mad at you right? You really hurt me. I won't let you hurt Gracie and Jake. They have been through too much already in their short lives." Sam told him quietly.
"I know. I'm mad at you too." Jack told her just as calmly.
"What did I do?" Sam asked with anger rising in her voice.
"Can we talk about that later? Tonight we need to talk about the kids." Jack wanted to keep this first conversation focused on a safe topic. If this first attempt at conversation went poorly, he knew Carter wouldn't be likely to be willing to open up to him again. There would be time later for the harder topics.
"Yes Sir that is probably a good idea." She agreed. The real problem was that she had no idea how they would solve this problem. She and the kids couldn't go back to Earth. It wasn't safe for Grace and Jacob and after the way she had left the only thing she had to look forward to at home was a cell in the brig. Jack would eventually want to return to Washington and his wife. At best he would only be able to visit a few times a year. Sam was also concerned that no matter how careful he was someone would eventually follow him here. Then the kids would be in danger once again. "How do you want to handle this, Sir?"
Jack sighed. Patience really wasn't his thing. Neither was diplomacy. That was what Daniel and Sam had been around for on missions. He wanted to just jerk Carter up and shake her senseless. "First I need you to lose the Sir. Next, I want to get to know my kids tomorrow." He had more planned for the future but thought it better not to tell her about his plans for marriage and family. Those plans were certain to cause a response he was trying to avoid tonight. He had lost her once and he would find the patience to make sure he didn't lose Carter again.
"I know you want to get to know the children and that is fine, but I am not sure it is a good idea to tell them who you are, Sir. I mean Jack."
The last of O'Neill's calm disappeared. "What? What the hell Carter? Why wouldn't it be a good idea to tell them I am their father?" He fought for control, but it was a losing battle. Did she really think he would sit back and not claim is children?
"Please, think about this first. Think about what this will do to them. If they know you are their father, what happens when you leave and go back to Earth? Gracie and Jake will be crushed when their father leaves them. Think of the emotional damage it will do to them. If you are just Jack, then they won't be hurt when you go home." Sam argued. She had barely survived his leaving once before and wasn't even sure she could do it again. She wouldn't let her children suffer the pain of his rejection.
"Carter, I meant what I said. I am home. My home is you, Jacob and Grace. You are not alone anymore and I am not leaving you. As far as Earth goes, we will just have to see." Jack's anger was gone now. In its place was determination. He had to make Sam understand.
"Look, Sir, I understand that you want to be a part of their lives, but if we are going to work out a solution to this we must be honest with each other."
"What are you talking about Carter? I am being honest here." Confusion was evident in Jack's tone.
"Jack, you don't have to pretend to care about me in order to have access to the twins. Besides, we both know that the kids and I can not return to Earth and that you have a wife on Earth waiting for you!"
Jack jumped up and started pacing. He lost his cool and yelled at Sam, "I told you I wasn't married! Beth is –"
"Don't, I saw you with her. I know you married her!" Sam jumped to her feet and marched over to him. She may never have lost her cool with her former CO, but she wasn't going to give the man who had broken her heart that same respect.
"I know what you thought you saw! Daniel told me in great detail. Beth is a friend, not my wife." He let out an exasperated sigh. " She's Kawalsky's sister. I walked her down the aisle, not married her. The only woman I have wanted to marry in the last twelve years is you!"
Sam's mind was reeling. She dropped to the ground in front of him staring into the fire. He wasn't married? Jack wanted to marry her? That couldn't be right. How could he want to marry her when he had left her? Her heart was torn. It was all she had ever wanted, but her mind screamed that his actions did not support his words. Then her mind grasped at the only logical conclusion it could find. He wanted the children with him so much that he would say anything to gain her agreement and her heart broke once more.
Jack watched his long time 2IC as the emotions played across her face. She could be so easy to read sometimes. He dropped down beside her and gently grabbed her shoulders to make eye contact with her. "No Carter! I am not just saying that because of the kids. I mean it. Even if Grace and Jacob didn't exist, I still would want you in my life. Hopefully, the future will even include more children. I screwed up big time with you and it cost me the woman I love and years with my kids. Sam, I hate that I missed all the important firsts with you and the kids. I lost the chance to be with you before they were born, to feel them move inside you, or hear their first cry. I can't get those back, but I promise you I am not going to miss any more of their lives."
"Look, you know I am not good with words and this is not how I would have liked to do this, but I do love you. One day I hope you will agree to marry me and come back to Earth. I want to be there with you when we have another child. I want to see our newborn in your arms for the first time. I want to be there for everything I missed with Grace and Jacob. I know that it will take time for you to trust me again. We have a lot to talk about, but for right now I need you to know that I am here for you, Jacob and Gracie. Please let me in. Just give me a chance to get to know my children and you once again."
Sam had never heard Jack so serious in her life. He really seemed to be earnest about his desire to be here. Maybe he was serious, but she knew it would take more time. The real question was would she give him the chance to be a part of their lives. In the end, it came down to the fact that Grace and Jake deserved the chance to have a relationship with Jack. Her own relationship with her dad had been rocky at times but in the end they had gotten really close. She cherished those last few years with him. She couldn't deny her children this opportunity. As far as her own relationship with Jack, well that would be harder. She wasn't sure she would ever be ready for that.
"Ok, Sir I will tell them in the morning." Sam quietly surrendered to him.
"No, we will tell them. From now on, we are in this together and what did I say about calling me Sir?" he clarified.
Sam nodded and relaxed for the first time since he had arrived and Jack couldn't have been more pleased with how this was turning out. The two continued to sit by the fire for a while and drink coffee. The night was quiet and each was content to let the comfortable silence lull them. Finally, Sam realized that it must be getting late and that they both needed to get to sleep soon. Jack's sleeping bag had been stretched out by the fire earlier. The familiar sight reminded her of the old days when SG1 had spent many nights sleeping on the ground off world. She was glad those days were over. Sure she had been off world in the last few years, but her body always protested sleeping on the hard ground now. It must be worse for Jack she thought. He would really be feeling it tomorrow, although she knew he wouldn't utter a single complaint. He really wouldn't get any sleep tonight if he stayed out here.
"The guys are sleeping in the guest bedroom, but the couch is free," she said as she looked over at him. "It isn't much but it is better than the ground."
Jack was stunned by the offer. "I don't want to push you."
"It's just the couch, Jack. Besides if you want to keep up with our very active three year olds tomorrow you will need a good night's sleep."
"Only if you are sure, Carter." He said as he looked at her trying to determine if she really was ok with all this. He couldn't afford to push her too far to soon, but the couch sounded like Heaven compared to the hard ground right now. He already ached from sitting on the ground tonight.
She stood up and dusted herself off as she walked over to him. "If you can call me Sam then I am sure." She reached a hand down to help him up.
"I can do that Sam." He smiled at her as he grasped her hand and rose from the ground. Jack quickly put out the fire and then followed her back towards the house. Once they were close enough to the house she reset the protective shield.
Sam opened the door to the house and immediately walked down a short hallway to the linen closet. She pulled out an extra pillow and blanket to take to Jack. Wow, she thought, this wasn't what she had expected to happen today. Taking the bedding back to the living room, she realized she needed to walk this road. Hopefully she would be able to put closure on her past with Jack. As she handed Jack the bedding she decided to make one more offer tonight. "I need to check on the kids before turning in for the night. Would you like to go with me?"
Brown eyes shot up to meet blue. He was overcome with emotions and simply nodded too overcome to even speak. Sure he had known about his children for weeks now and even seen pictures of them, but this was different. This was the real thing he thought as he silently followed her up the stairs to a closed door. Sam quietly opened the door for him and waited for him to enter. Inside the room he waited for his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room. Jack stared at the two small bodies on the beds across the room for a long time.
Carter watched him struggle to maintain his hold on the emotions threatening to overtake him. Stepping over to Grace's bed, she quickly pulled the blanket up over her daughter before softly kissing her head. She moved to do the same for Jacob before returning to the door where Jack still stood taking in the sight of his babies for the first time. He couldn't believe his eyes. There on the beds were two perfect angels and he was afraid that any movement would cause the perfect vision in front of him to disappear. They stood there for several moments just enjoying watching their children sleep. Each caught up in the moment.
Her yawn brought Sam back to reality. She gently placed a hand on Jack's arm and steered him back out into the hall closing the door behind them. When he turned to walk back towards the living room, she stopped him with a hand on his arm. "What ever happens in the future between the four of us, I want to thank you. You gave me the two most precious things in my life." She whispered to him blinking back tears before turning and walking into her bedroom and closing the door behind her.
Jack stood in the hall for a long while processing everything. Seeing his children had done things to his old battered heart. He couldn't move as he had watched Carter cover and kiss each child. Then to hear her thank him was too much. He was humbled. Big fat tears found their way down his face. After everything that had happened and how he had hurt her she had thanked him for their children. Jack was sure he would never feel like he deserved the perfect miracles he had been given. Finally, he turned and returned to the living room to grab a few hours of sleep.
The next week brought surprises for Jack and Sam. The first happened early the next morning. The twins found Jack sleeping on the couch and immediately began screaming "Daddy" with excitement. Apparently the two had overheard Daniel and Cassie talking one afternoon long ago about Jack. They needed no explanation as who Jack was. To the children, their father's sudden appearance in their lives was just a happy surprise. They immediately accepted him into their circle and couldn't seem to get enough of him.
The next week found the four adults falling into an easy life on the planet. Daniel found a set of ruins to explore not too far from the house. He happily spent long hours at the site most days asking Teal'c to accompany him. It really was just an excuse to give Jack and Sam some time alone with the kids. Jack spent most of his mornings getting to know Gracie and Jake as Sam worked in her lab. He couldn't believe how wonderful the two were. Jake had obviously gotten Sam's brains and Jack's love of the outdoors, but Gracie had her daddy wrapped around her finger immediately. She was his princess in combat boots. Jack invited Carter to join them each morning, but she always declined knowing the three needed time to bond on their own. The afternoons were a different story though. Each afternoon Sam made sure she was finished in her lab by the time the twins woke up from their nap. Then she would join Jack and the kids in their activities.
This afternoon the four had spent time playing in the nearby lake. After a couple of hours in the sun Sam had retired to the shade on a blanket to watch. It wasn't long before the kids were playing near the shore and Jack came to join her on the blanket.
"You know it isn't really fair," Jack told her.
"What do you mean?" Sam asked as she glanced his way warily.
"Well, did the kids have to get all your intelligence? I mean Jacob is already reading like a kid twice his age. I won't even able to understand half the things that come out of his mouth in a few years. At least I will have a little more time with Gracie before that happens." Jack told her. He had noticed over the last few days just how intelligent his son was and it was a little scary for him.
Sam looked at Jack and started to giggle. Then it turned into a full out laugh as she finally understood what he was trying to say. His confused look brought her back just enough to help him understand. "Jack, hiding your intelligence must be hard wired into the O'Neill DNA and you forget that I know exactly what your IQ is. You are no where as dumb as you let people think. They don't make stupid people Lt Generals very often. Besides who do you think taught Jake to read anyway?"
"I assumed that you did."
"Nope, I didn't have anything to do with that. Your daughter is responsible for that one!" Sam told him as she burst into laughter again at his expression. "She is even smarter than her brother. Grace is just better at hiding it than he is."
Sam continued to giggle at Jack's reaction. He had spent years hiding his intelligence behind sarcasm and confused looks. Sure he wasn't as dumb as he pretended to be, but he had learned early on in life that being smart was the fastest way to having the crap beat out of you on the playground. O'Neill just hadn't thought that Grace would have the same tendencies. He had been outsmarted by his own daughter!
By an unspoken agreement, both adults had agreed to keep their daily interactions light and stay away from any topic that might stir up hostility in front of Jacob and Grace. Each night the two found themselves at Jack's campsite from that first night. Only in the darkness in front of the fire did they allow themselves to work through the issues that still plagued them. Many nights those discussions quickly became heated exchanges of anger, hurt and pain. It was as if the two were lancing painful sores in their souls. The only rule they had agreed upon was that neither was allowed to leave the campsite and walk away. They had entered into this together and would leave together. Some evenings they spent the entire night in front of the fire but slowly over time they were able to work toward a place of peace with the other. When they did return to the house each night, the two would once again check on Grace and Jacob before turning in to their separate beds.
During these evenings, Jack told Sam of the changes he had made during her absence on Earth. He was moving the office of Home World Security to the SGC. That was where the action was anyway. He would also be closer to Area 51 and farther away from the politicians. Most of his work could be completed by secure phone and computer connections anyway. Jack would still have to travel to Washington once a month for meetings, but he and Landry had agreed not to send Sam and the guys off world during that time. That way one parent could always be available to the kids.
He had hoped that Sam wouldn't be too angry with him for interfering with her career when he told her the rest. She would not be facing a court martial for her actions in disabling the gate when she returned. She was free to return home anytime she wanted. The most important change though to Jack was that he and Sam had been given permission to get married and finally have a life together. He had been serious about putting his family back together. Now he just had to convince Sam of it. She had been stunned when he had told her of his plan and asked her to marry him immediately upon their return to earth. At first Sam had been furious that he would assume that she would ever forgive him and denied that she would marry him. Jack just patiently told her that he knew she needed more time and was willing to wait and prove to her that he did indeed love her and the proposal would stand until such time as she was ready.
Each night Jack would awaken at least once when Sam's bedroom door would open and she would almost silently creep into their children's room to check on them once again. He also began to notice the dark circles under her eyes that seemed to be a permanent fixture on her pale face. She definitely hadn't gotten a restful night's sleep since he had been there and began to wonder at the cause. He would have to ask Danny about that Jack thought as Sam returned to her room for the third time that night.
"Daniel, what's up with Sam not sleeping?" Jack asked several days later. It had taken him longer than expected to get the younger man and Teal'c alone. This wasn't something he wanted Carter to overhear.
"Oh, that. I'm not really sure. She has had nightmares for a long time now. They seem to always get worse after there is an attack on the kids. In fact the only time I remember her having a restful night's sleep is the few times we were off world on a mission. Sam won't talk about it though," Daniel warned him.
"You are incorrect Daniel Jackson. Colonel Carter does not sleep deeply off world. She rarely allowed herself to rest on a mission." Teal'c told his two friends.
Jack nodded thoughtfully as he considered the new information. He knew as a soldier that nightmares were a part of life. They came with the territory but somehow this seemed different. Also, Carter had always slept well off world. Something had changed and he needed to find out what it was.
Sam awoke in a cold sweat once again. It was just a nightmare she thought desperately, trying to reassure her self for the second time since going to bed a few hours earlier. Getting up and pulling on her warm robe, she quietly opened her bedroom door and went to check on her children. The sight of them sleeping peacefully finally allowed her fear to pass. Sleep would elude her this night she knew so she decided to head outside into the quiet night. There she had found she could relax and calm her soul.
Once seated outside by the water she allowed the still night to soothe her. These nightmares were getting worse instead of better. In them, the Trust had captured her and the children. Most nights Sam was forced to watch as someone experimented on and murdered her children. It never mattered how hard she fought, begged or cried. She couldn't save them. Grace and Jacob were sacrificed in the name of scientific research. She could hear the researchers telling her how wonderful it was to finally be able to study the effects on her children of her blending with the Tok'ra as her children's blood dripped around her.
The dreams had begun shortly after Grace and Jacob were born. At first she had just thought it was due to the fact that the Trust had tried to kidnap and drug her. In time they had faded, but always returned after an attack on the children. The nightmares were unsettling but had morphed into something new since Jack had shown up on the planet. Now as she fought and struggled to save her babies, Jack was in her nightmares too.
Jack had heard Sam get up and check on the children once again. It was the second time tonight and he watched her as she made her way outside. Whatever these dreams were they were tearing her apart from the inside out. She couldn't continue like this for much longer. He got up and pulled on his pants as he followed her outside determined to find out what was going on inside that beautiful head of hers. It was obvious that she was totally lost in her own thoughts tonight. Quietly he approached her and sat down next to her, not wanting to frighten her.
"What's going on?" Jack whispered to her.
Startled at his nearness, Sam just looked at him for a little while. Finally he repeated his question for her. "Oh, nothing, just couldn't sleep" she lied hopefully convincingly.
"Sam," he sighed, "You haven't been sleeping for a while. I have had enough nightmares to know the signs. Tell me what is going on."
Damn she thought she had done a good job at hiding them. Daniel and Teal'c didn't even suspect the severity of the terrors that plagued her. Sam had been careful. They knew she had the occasional nightmare, but she assured them that she was fine. The few times she had to be off world with them at night she made sure she never let herself sleep deep enough to dream. It was a skill she had picked up long ago and had perfected it over the years.
"It is nothing, really" she told Jack once again a little more firmly. Jack noticed she didn't meet his gaze as she once again lied to him.
"Sam, let me in. You're not alone anymore. Tell me what is going on." He pleaded once again. She looked over at him and he could tell she was considering his words, trying to decide if she really could trust him. They sat there for a long while as she stared into his eyes. Finally, she sighed and her tense shoulders relaxed as she turned to once more look out at the water. Continuing to wait for her to reach a decision, Jack sat next to her and wondered what it was that was tearing her apart.
"The nightmares started shortly after the twins were born. That was when I realized that the Trust were after the kids and would never give up. They are always the same. I see Grace and Jacob being experimented on and murdered before me. I see you holding our children covered in their blood." Sam began quietly shaking as she continued to tell him all the details of how her children were hurt. She could still hear their terror filled screams until they were finally quiet and still in death. Then she would hear O'Neill's disgusted voice telling her it was all her fault. That she had killed Grace and Jacob with her genetic legacy.
Jack saw the tears run down her face as she remembered the anguish of the nightmare. The raw pain that radiated from her reminded him too much of his own pain from his son Charlie's death. He hated to see her in so much pain and pulled her into his arms. He rubbed soothing circles down her back as she clung to him and wept. He whispered soothingly into her hair as she continued to cry.
Once she had regained some of her composure he pulled her gently away from him. "Sam, baby, I told you the Trust is gone. The guys and I made sure that they could never hurt you or the kids again. You're safe now." Jack looked deeply into her blue tear filled eyes trying to make her believe him.
She looked so ashamed and lost. He had only seen that look on her face a few times before. It was usually when something had gone terribly wrong like that time that evil replicator version of Carter had shown up and tricked them all. Sam had been racked with guilt during that time for not seeing through her double's lies. The truth hit him in the face suddenly. Just like before she was blaming herself for this! Somehow she had decided that everything was her fault and she was torturing herself about it.
Sam's emotions were all over the place right now. The nightmares and guilt were drowning her slowly. Then Jack had appeared and pulled her into his arms. She had felt safe for the first time in years. He always had been her rock even before they had become more than friends. Turning to stare at the water once more she tried to hide herself from him. She knew this truce that had happened between them was a house of cards at best. One gentle breeze and it would tumble down around her. Terror filled her heart as she knew once he understood that everything was her fault, he would once again leave her. It was inevitable she knew and so she had tried to not let him get close to her once again. It would only lead to more heartbreak for her.
Jack watched as Sam removed herself from his embrace and turned once more to the water. Trying to make herself as small as possible, she pulled her knees up and buried her face in them. She was retreating into herself once again before his eyes. "No, Sam, look at me. Tell me." He commanded. "Tell me why you think that this is your fault."
Gasping, her head shot up and blues depths met brown. The card house came tumbling down and just like that it was over she thought. He wouldn't let it alone and once he knew he would leave her. Visions from her nightmares returned to her. Every hurtful thing she heard him say to her in those dreams came back to her.
"It is my fault, Jack. You tell me so every night in my dreams. They wanted to hurt our children because of what I did to them. I passed the protein marker and naquadah on to Grace and Jacob. It is my fault that they are hunted and have to be hidden away! If it hadn't been for what I gave them, they would have been safe not living on some alien planet." Sam's voice had started off strong but ended in nothing more than a whisper.
Jack was too stunned to speak and Sam interpreted his silence as confirmation of her fears. Of course, he would blame her she thought sadly. Not able to face him, she quickly got up. Her only thought was of retreating back into the house to hide from him. As she turned to leave, a warm hand grabbed her wrist to stop her. He pulled her back down into his lap. "It's not your fault," he told her softly as he cradled her in his arms. "You are not any more at fault than the time when that whack job Conrad kidnapped you. The kids are safe and happy. You did that almost totally on your own for years. Now you have me and together we can make sure no one ever hurts our children."
He continued to hold her as Sam cried great wracking sobs into his chest. Years of fear and terror finally letting themselves pour out of her onto Jack. He simply held her soothing her with his solid presence until he heard her breathing even out and slow. He knew that she had exhausted herself and needed to sleep. Awkwardly, he rose with Sam in his arms and carried her back to the house. Once in her bedroom he gently placed her on the bed and covered her. She looked like an angel in the moonlight and for a moment Jack wanted nothing more than to join her in the bed and never leave. His hand came up and caressed her face tucking a stray hair behind her ear before turning to leave.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his arm startling him. Looking back he heard her quiet whisper. "Stay" she said shyly as azure depths met his chocolate ones. "Please Jack, I don't want to be afraid anymore."
This was the first time in years that she had ever asked anything of him for herself and Jack's heart soared. He would have given her anything, his very last breath or drop of blood. Instead she had asked for him. Smiling down at her tenderly, he couldn't think of any place he would rather be than here with Sam tonight.
"Move over," he smirked at her "but no funny business. This old man needs his rest." Sam giggled and shifted over in the bed as O'Neill stripped down to his boxers and climbed into bed. Once he was settled, he pulled Sam to him and she relaxed into him hearing his strong heartbeat under her. Tomorrow she thought with a smile she would tell him that she was ready to go home and marry him. Then they could start working on that sibling for Gracie and Jake that Jack wanted. He placed a light kiss on her head and squeezed her to him as they both slept peacefully safe in the other's arms.