Fighting Time - part 14

This is it! The final chapter! I'm sorry it took me so long to write it, but I do hope you enjoy it. Please review!

Sam sighed, and drummed her clipped fingernails on the table-top. Waiting sucked. Waiting at the Alpha site while one's teammates were off engaging the enemy, literally luring a powerful enemy towards them, and being unable to help them, sucked more. She wanted something to do. Or some news, that would do.

"I'm sure they'll be fine, Sam. They've done this dozens of times before." Jacob Carter attempted to reassure his daughter, and only earned himself a glare.

"Not without me. What if something goes wrong? What if the bomb doesn't go off, or they need back-up, or there's a problem with the Stargate?" She argued, aware as she said it that she sounded a little hysterical and irrational.

"You think they can't manage to pull it off without you?" Her father asked, in that condescending tone only a father can master. Sam sighed again, and started pacing. Jacob shook his head and returned his attention to the report he was writing. "If you want something to do, Malek's working on an idea for an iris and IDC system similar to the SGC's. I'm sure he'd appreciate some help." He suggested.

Sam shrugged. "Fine. See you later."

She was half-way across the compound, when the Stargate started dialing.

"Incoming wormhole!" A jaffa she didn't recognize yelled, and signaled for the nine or ten armed jaffa at the gate to take defensive postitions. She jogged to the SGC comm. station, hovering behind the marine manning the radio board.

The wormhole opened, the vortex billowing outwards before settling back into the event horizon. The seconds passed, with no communication and no incoming travelers.

"Come on…" She muttered under her breath, willing something to happen.

"Alpha site, this is General Hammond of the SGC, come in please." Hammond's reassuring voice erupted out of the comm. station with a rush of static.

"This is the Alpha site, go ahead SGC." The marine spoke into the microphone, depressing the transmitter button while he spoke.

Another pause, and then the General's voice again. "Please inform Major Carter that SG-1's mission was a success, and she is clear to return to the SGC."

Sam broke into a smile, and felt her father's hand slap her on the shoulder and then his arm encircle her. "What did I tell you?" He muttered into her ear just before she reached for her own radio.

"This is Carter sir. I'll dial home in ten minutes."

"See you soon, Major. Hammond out."

The wormhole blinked out, and Sam turned to her father with a smirk on her face. "Thanks for putting up with me Dad. I know I was getting on your nerves."

"You were worried about your team. It's perfectly understandable." He gave her a hug, and patted her on the back. "Come on, let's get your gear so you can go home."

SG-1 were waiting for her in the gate-room when Sam got back to the SGC. She smiled at them as she walked down the ramp towards them, unclipping her MP5 as she went. "So …?"

"Ba'al's toast." Jack said with a tiny smirk.

"A dead false God?" Sam asked, grinning at Teal'c.

"Indeed." He replied, bowing his head to her.

"Excellent." She said, in a flawless impersonation of her CO impersonating Mr Burns. He grinned in appreciation, while Daniel rolled his eyes.

"Come on, let's get out of here." Jack suggested, herding them all out of the gate-room. For the first time in a long time, he felt like celebrating.

Jack spent most of that evening surreptitiously watching Sam. The team had gathered at his house, drinking beer (or ginger ale in Teal'c case), and letting the tension of the last god knows how long drain away. It felt good to watch her smile, see her banter with Teal'c, and tease Daniel, without the dreaded fear that at any moment she'd be taken from them. She was safe, at least as safe as any of them were, and he'd blown up the bastard snake-head Ba'al himself. Of course, he'd have much preferred a more personal, intimate, face-to-face assassination, but Ba'al was dead so who was he to be picky?

He realized with a start that she was looking at him - she'd caught him staring. D'oh. He stood up, excusing himself to get another beer, and retreated to the safety of the kitchen. Of course, he should have known better than that – she followed him, and a second later heard her stop in the doorway, her eyes drilling holes in his back.

"You need something Carter?" He asked, going for casual and only achieving strained.

"Sir –" she started, but stopped herself, frowning. He turned to face her, and she met his gaze hesitantly, before looking away and leaning back against his kitchen counter, twisting her hands self-consciously.

He sighed, and scrubbed his face with his hands. He was too tired to have this conversation now, but it seemed like she needed it. He walked over to her, and took her arm in a loose hold. "Come on." He led her out of the house, out to his back deck. If Daniel and Teal'c noticed, they didn't follow or comment.

Jack leaned against the wooden railing, staring out at the stars. "That day at the zoo, I thought you wouldn't remember." He started, after a few moments of silence in the cool evening air.

Sam sighed silently and closed her eyes briefly, reminding herself that she'd started this conversation. She moved forward to stand next to him, looking out at his dark backyard and the trees beyond. "You were taking a loop off." She said, as a prompt for him to continue.

"Yeah, I was." He squinted at the darkness, not at all sure what she wanted to hear from him. "I'm sorry I made you go to Janet to get sedated on your own that day."

"Daniel was there." She reassured him.

"But I should have been there too." He said, a quiet statement of fact. "I was there when it happened. Daniel came and got me."

Sam looked round at him in surprise. "Thank you." She whispered.

Jack winced, his guilt not letting him take the thanks. "I should have figured it out quicker. You shouldn't have had to die that many times. You shouldn't have to remember dying that many times."

A sharp intake of breath let him know he'd hit a sore spot. A quick glance revealed she was staring straight ahead, her face determinedly fixed into a blank expression that didn't give anything away – or at least that was the intention. He'd used that particular expression too many times himself not to know what was going on beneath the surface.

"It was worse for you." She whispered after a moment. "I didn't remember it each time the day reset – you had to deal with the responsibility of fixing it all on your own. I don't know how I'd have coped with being helpless to stop you from being killed over and over again."

The conversation was starting to hit a little too close to home for his comfort, images of Ba'al's fortress and shifting centers of gravity flitting through his head. He opted for the safe ground – reassurance.

"Well, it's over now. Ba'al's dead."

Sam nodded silently, but clearly wasn't entirely buying the satisfied act he was putting on. Jack felt like hitting something. They were tiptoeing round the real issue as effectively as always, but this time it wasn't enough for either of them. He'd watched the woman he loved die in awful ways so many times, helpless to save her, and she'd seen him slowly fall apart at the reality that he couldn't stop it. They'd had one wonderful, if bittersweet, day at the zoo together, which wasn't supposed to have been remembered – wasn't really supposed to have happened. Now, he was dying to hold her and tell her how it had killed him to lose her, and how happy he was that she was going to be ok. Meanwhile, she was dying to take his pain away, and to let herself be wrapped in his arms while he told her that it was going to be ok – no one was going to suddenly appear at her side and slit her throat. It hurt, both of them, the things they couldn't say.

"And hey, maybe, one day, we can go to the zoo again." He offered quietly, looking at her so intensely that she felt a little weak. She smiled slightly, knowing exactly what he meant – and knowing it was as close as they were going to get to saying all the things they wanted to.

"I'd like that." She took a deep breath, and shifted ever so slightly closer into his side, both taking comfort in the small contact, reveling in it, before, inevitably, they would have to go back inside, and go back to waiting for one day.