Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime / Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. The titles of the story and chapters 3 and 6 are by ee cummings; chapters 1 and 5 by Robert Frost; and chapter 2 by Nancy Sullivan. Obviously I don't own those lines, either. I just wish I did. There's also a reference to Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury- I really wish I owned that one!
I'm sure a thousand people have written a tag to Threads, but one more can't hurt. I wrote this for fun and hope you like it. Sam & Jack, a lot of angst, a little fluff. This one might earn its rating. It could be a prequel to my story, Space.
Countless Silken Ties
Sam could still hear the echo of the wormhole vortex ringing in her ears as the historic first joint United States Air Force and Tok'ra funeral drew to a close. As strange a ceremony as it was, it still seemed fitting since during the past six years her father had felt more comfortable "out there." Now he'd be "there" permanently, and Sam was sure that he'd take pleasure in that, if somehow he knew. She forced herself to turn away from the ramp and face some of Jacob's former colleagues, with Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson on either side of her.
"Are you holding up all right, Sam?" General Hammond asked kindly, taking her hand between his.
Sam smiled weakly. "For now, sir. I have my moments."
"We owe our lives to his helping us out there on Dakara." Hammond added. Sam nodded. Few other of Jacob's Air Force colleagues attended the funeral, not because of his sometimes gruff demeanor, but because so few had had the clearance to get them down to Level 28. More Tok'ra were present, however, their voices quiet and sometimes startlingly deep.
O'Neill shifted uncomfortably. He'd been to far too many funerals and wanted to leave this one as soon as possible. "Daniel," he leaned over behind Sam, "You okay staying? I'm going upstairs." Daniel, incongruous in his civilian clothing, nodded and stayed behind with Sam. He held the folded flag for her, and tried to stay composed as Jack made his retreat, which really wasn't fair considering Daniel had been dead himself only two days earlier. Teal'c, meanwhile, feeling the need to say even less than usual on this occasion, had already excused himself to mourn alone in his quarters immediately after Jacob's body had disappeared.
The only other civilian in the gate room glanced up to watch General O'Neill enter the briefing room. Mark Carter excused himself and, with his airman escort, took the elevator up two floors and tapped on the open door to O'Neill's office.
"Hi, Mark, come on in."
"Thanks, General. It was good of you to allow me in to the facility for my father's funeral."
"Well, being a military kid, I figured you know about keeping secrets."But actually, there was no way in hell I was going to say "no" to your sister. "And call me 'Jack'." O'Neill began to unbutton his jacket. Formality made him nervous, and so, for some reason, did Mark.
"All right." Mark placed his hands in his pockets. He didn't like the military, but he did like, or at least trust, Jack- because Jacob had. " I was wondering if you could do a small favor for me, regarding Sam." Jack looked up and Mark continued. "You know she's got a few days off, but I have to leave tomorrow. I'd like you to check in on her, if you don't mind."
"I'd planned on it, anyway." Jack put his coat on the rack and loosened his tie.
Mark thought for a moment. "That's good of you Jack. I thought you two were fairly close."
"People tend to get to know each other pretty well when they're about to be killed on multiple occasions." Jack suspected Mark was up to something, but he didn't know exactly what that might be- and since Mark was being a little pushy, Jack thought he'd push back.
"What about Pete?" he asked, sitting down at his
desk. Sam had told him that Mark had introduced her to Pete.
"Pathetic, I know," she'd said. No
shit, Sam. He is pathetic. For you.
"Well, to be honest, Jack, I'm not sure he's going to be around. That's one of the reasons I'd really like someone to check up on her. Jacob's death isn't the only problem she has. She's got some turbulence ahead." After all these years, and no matter how hard he tried, Mark was still influenced by his father. Jack wondered if he even knew.
The two men studied each other, and then Sam appeared in the doorway. Tired, but beautiful anyway in her uniform blues and heels. "Excuse me, General."
"It's all right, Carter." Jack stood up. Mark noticed.
"Mark, I've just about had it. I'm ready to go." Sam leaned on the doorjamb. He nodded sympathetically.
"Thank you, Jack." Mark said, shaking O'Neill's hand. As Mark turned to Sam, a slight wince crossed her face. "Oh, Mark, I forgot the flag. Would you go down and get it from Daniel? I'll meet you in front of the elevators on this level."
"All right. I won't be long." He glanced at Jack, and walked through the door.
Sam walked a few steps into the General's office. "Thanks for putting this funeral together, sir. I'm sure you had to pull a few strings." Sam thought she had herself under control, but her eyes started to well up with tears. Again. She bit her lip.
Jack walked around his desk and over to her. "He deserved it, Carter. He saved our collective butts a number of times." They looked at each other briefly, and since they were in mutual agreement that Jack was basically incompetent at expressing emotions other than the easy ones like anger, impatience and distrust, he simply put his arms around her, mentally willing some strength back into her depleted body. But there was always more than just comfort in their embraces, and this time was no different. In fact, this one was worse, or better, depending on one's point of view.
Mark looked up from the gate room and saw them. He sighed, and for a moment resented that last phone call he'd had with Jacob and the one last favor he'd agreed to do for his father. He put the carefully folded flag in the crook of his arm and turned to leave. Turbulence. Right.
The following morning, Mark stepped into the passenger's side of Sam's car, and put the sun flap down to shield his eyes from the early-morning glare. "I'm sorry I have to leave so soon, Sam."
"It's all right Mark, just promise you'll bring the whole family back with you next time, " Sam smiled, sadly.
"I will." He looked out the window as they pulled away from the curb. There was a momentary silence. "Sam, why didn't you invite Pete to the funeral?"
"He doesn't have clearance," she said, simply. It was the universal excuse. Unfortunately, being a military kid, Mark didn't buy it.
"He said he went to see Jacob."
"Mark, you know that it's all on a 'need to know basis.'" Sam shook her head ruefully. "I can't believe I said that- anyway, he's never seen the most important parts of the facility. The military gives special consideration for family, but fiancées aren't in that category."
"I would be willing to bet that you didn't even ask."
Sam was silent. She kept her eyes on the road heading out to the airport.
"You have to be straight with him, Sam."
"I know," the words slipped out before Sam could stop them.
"So you are going to call it off, aren't you?" Mark looked directly at her. He was happy that she was trapped in the car, because this was just the kind of situation in which she'd otherwise find an excuse to run off.
"Mark, I don't really feel like talking about this right now." Sam gave him a fleeting look, wondering how he could be so perceptive. She'd talked to him about having pre-wedding jitters, but not much more than that.
"You have to talk to someone about it sometime."
I tried that once but it didn't go so well.
Sam sighed. She wished the airport were closer to town. "I hate to use a cliché, but we're just not meant for each other."
"And that's it?" Mark said dubiously.
"Mark, I don't understand what you're getting at." Sam shook her head.
"He's my friend Sam. Tell him the truth," he said pointedly. Then, looking up, "Here's my terminal, United, right there."
Sam parked the car and got out to see Mark off. After he retrieved his bag from the trunk, she gave him a kiss and hug. "Thank you for coming, Mark."
"Thank you for getting us back together all those years ago, Sam." Mark smiled and touched her shoulder, and he walked off a few steps, stopped, and turned around. "Tell Pete you're in love with someone else." He disappeared into the revolving door, and left Sam standing there watching the door turn for long time.
Jack sat at his desk, rolling his pen absentmindedly. He didn't know what to make of his conversation with Mark, but he did know that he was right about at least some of what his blonde-headed Lt. Colonel was trying to tell him when she appeared at his house four days ago. She wasn't going to marry Pete.
His blonde-headed Lt. Colonel. It occurred to him that he'd never call Siler his blonde-headed chief engineer.
A tap at the door let him know that Daniel and Teal'c were there. "Jack, we'd like to see if Sam's all right, you know, see if she needs anything." Daniel said. "When would be a good time? Did she say what she'd be doing?"
"Colonel Carter indicated her brother would not be able to stay long. It is unwise to leave her alone during this period of mourning." Teal'c added, concern glazing his usually impassive face.
O'Neill leaned back in his chair. "Mark will be around for a couple of days. Why don't we visit her after he leaves?" He didn't even mean to lie and was startled by how easily it rolled off of his tongue.
"Yes…. survivors do tend to get too many visitors right away." Daniel mused, slipping into his anthropologist's perspective. "We should probably try to remember that the point is to make her feel better, not to make us feel better." He rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully but that made his glasses slip and he had to push them up again.
"O'Neill, will you notify us of the earliest possible time at which it would be appropriate to see Colonel Carter?" Teal'c queried. Jack nodded.
"Okay, Jack." Daniel agreed, his eyes troubled. He and Teal'c left, and as soon as they did, Jack got up and grabbed his jacket.
Sam sat on her bed, still in her pajamas, wishing that that Janet were still alive- for so many reasons. The new doc was nice, but she wasn't Janet, didn't have her history with SG-1. Sam still had an uneasy feeling that perhaps Janet could have saved Jacob, as she certainly was the earth's authority on symbiote/human interactions. Then she shook her head ruefully- there was no use in wondering about that now. Still, it would have been wonderful just to be able to talk to Janet about Jacob- God knows she'd understand the way few others could. She'd also have anticipated that Sam wouldn't sleep a wink, and sent her home with some sleeping pills, because Sam certainly wasn't going to ask for any, and consequently had slept very little. Then the doorbell rang. Glancing in the mirror she hoped whoever was there was someone she knew well because she really looked like hell.
"General." He, of course, looked terrific. Sam ran her fingers through her hair.
"Hi Carter. Just checking up on you."
"Please come in, I- I wasn't expecting anyone." Sam said, once the initial shock had worn off. "May I take your jacket?"
Jack walked in the house, and into the living room. "No, I'll just throw it on the nearest piece of furniture." He studied Sam. "I don't mean to be rude, but you don't look so good."
"I didn't get much sleep last night. None, actually."
"You eat anything today?"
"Let me make you a sandwich, okay? And," Jack said, opening the refrigerator, "since we're not using my food, you won't get food poisoning."
Sam sighed, and smiled a little. "All right." She turned to go back down the hall. "At least let me get out of these pajamas." She shut the door to her room.
O'Neill coughed. Whatever you say, Sam.
Sam came back a few minutes later, sat at the kitchen counter and looked at her lunch. "That's pretty impressive. I can't eat all of that, sir."
O'Neill was once again rummaging through the fridge. "Well, you've got half of Safeway in here." He suddenly stood up and looked at Sam suspiciously over the top of the door. "Wait a minute…. Mark bought all this, didn't he?"
"He's a good man."
"Yes, he is. He asked you to come here, didn't he, General?"
O'Neill shut the refrigerator door with his elbow and put two cans of coke on the counter. He looked at Sam for a moment. "I told him I would have come anyway." Over hot coals, if I had to.
Sam put her sandwich down, and looked up at him. "Thank you, sir."
"Carter," Jack sighed, "you don't have to thank me. Do you remember what I told you in the infirmary?"
"I remember." Sam said, looking straight into his intense brown eyes. But I don't know what you meant. Neither one of them moved for a moment.
"All right, then. Now please eat some more of that or you'll hurt my feelings." Jack popped the lid on a coke and handed it to her. Then he took his own and sat beside her.
Sam opened her eyes to find herself lying on the couch, with a blanket over her and Jack's feet (no shoes, at least) on the table in front of her. She sat up slowly.
"Have a nice nap?"
"How long was I out? I feel a lot better."
" Not very long. You know, there's something just wrong about fake fires and lights that come on by themselves. Also, you really need to get some magazines. Motorcycles and physics. Can't you get something in between, like National Geographic?"
"I don't even read the ones I do get, Jack."
He looked at her. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
Sam's heat skipped a beat, She knew he could be blunt but…
"You only say my name when one of us is about to die."
Sam smiled with relief. "No, I think we're safe."
"That's about as good as it gets."
"Ah. Break-ins, kidnappings, a stargate in your basement…"
"A crazy man or two in your house."
"Three, to be precise, Carter. Some more than once."
"I think we're even, then, sir."
The salutation hung in the air between them and Jack wished he hadn't said anything about it.
"It's good to see you smile, Carter. I haven't seen that since before Jacob died." He took his feet off of the coffee table. "You know, there are a few things he kept at the base. Would you like the rest- I mean what's not classified?"
"Yes, I would." She looked at the folded flag in its triangular case on the mantle, realizing that she wasn't past the point of crying at the thought of her father, after all.
Jack wished he didn't have to, but he went on. "Do you want me to have them sent over, or do you want to come to the base?"
"Please have them sent. It's hard enough as it is. Did you know this is- was- his house? I'm to the point where I think I ought to move."
"Don't do that, Carter. Give it time." Jack reached over and touched her arm, then slowly withdrew his hand. For a moment, Sam thought seriously about grabbing it back, wrapping his arm around her and crying into his shirt for a couple of hours, but then the soldier in her took over and she resisted.
So she just looked at him gratefully. Neither of them were strangers to loss. "We did get a chance to say our goodbyes. I was always afraid one of us would just vanish, and we'd never get that chance."
"I still worry about that."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Oh, well, you know- the three of you gallivanting all over the galaxy without me, now. I'm shocked that you can make it home."
Sam faked a frown. "Still don't trust my command?"
"I never said that. It'd just be nice to know I'm needed."
"Don't pout, sir. It's behavior unbecoming a General." Sam teased.
Jack was glad to see she was in a better mood. Maybe now was a good time to ask. "Carter, when you were at my house the other day…"
Sam cut him off. "I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have come over- unannounced." As days went, that was her number one all-time worst day, ever- and considering her line of work, that was really saying something.
Jack wasn't going to be so easily deterred. "You had something you wanted to tell me."
"I did, sir." Sam didn't look at him.
"The part about Pete?" He glanced over at her. She nodded.
"I was… am… will. Yes. I mean- I'm not getting married." Sam stammered.
Jack took a deep breath. "Oh."
"Pete's not the guy for me. He never was. I'm not what he needs, either." Sam would like to have pulled the blanket up over her head, but realized it would not work to her advantage. So she switched from defense to offense. "There's a big part of my life he'll never know. At least you and Kerry can talk about work."
Jack studied her for a moment. "Carter, you can talk a blue streak about particle physics, but when it comes to talking about yourself, you just clam up. This isn't about me."
"You're mixing your metaphors; and it is about you." She stopped. Jack fixed his eyes on hers.
"You said something like that at my house right before Kerry came out."
"I thought so." Jack was trying, really trying and she wouldn't give him one damn inch. He cursed his own stupidity- it would have been so simple to make an excuse about helping his 2IC in her hour of need- in fact it would have been expected. But he was afraid- afraid to go with her- afraid to hold her and comfort her, afraid to hear what she had to say because it wouldn't have taken anything at all for his painstakingly constructed defenses to crumble into dust once he knew Pete was out of the picture.
And of course it took Kerry about ten seconds to correctly interpret his hesitation and peg him for the fool he was.
Neither of them said anything. Finally Jack stood up. "Do you want another coke?"
Not unless there's rum in it. A double, Sam thought. "No thanks."
"Mark's got some decent beer in there. Not to imply you have poor taste in beer."
"Although I do." Sam smiled.
"Trying to be polite here." Jack got out two beers and sat back down. He took off the caps and started to flip one, then stopped. "Sorry." He looked sheepishly at Sam and put it on the table.
Sam took a drink. Her resolve had disappeared. She fervently wished that she'd caught Jack alone that day, when she'd worked up the courage. Alone with him now, it was so much harder. She took another drink, hoping for its disinhibiting effects to kick in right away.
Jack rolled the bottle cap around on the table. "You were going to finish telling me what you started to tell me over at my house the other night." He remembered that her cheeks had been flushed- and that she had been even more beautiful than usual standing there in his yard.
"I just did, sir." Sam said, evasively.
"Carter," he sighed, "Stop calling me sir, just for a while, all right?" Just finish whatever the hell it was that you were going to say, so I can get on with my life.
Sam drank the last of her beer. She'd definitely drunk it too quickly as something was making her feel warm and a little dizzy. "I had to talk to you, Jack."
"About what?" Jack thought she looked just like she had in his yard.
Sam put the empty bottle on the table. "I wanted to tell you the real reason why I couldn't marry Pete."
"Which is?" Jack pressed her. He tried to sound nonchalant, but what he really wanted to do was to take her by the shoulders and shake it out of her.
Then the doorbell rang. And rang again.
"Are you going to get that?" Jack finally said. He was just so totally screwed when it came to Sam. It had to be fate.
"It doesn't sound like I have a choice." Sam shook her head and went to the door, to find Pete standing there in the late afternoon sunshine.
"Do you have a visitor? Sam, I can come back later. It's just the phones haven't been working all day. I've been worried." Pete seemed relieved, but concerned.
Sam let him in. "No, it's okay. I was trying to sleep and then I just forgot to put it back on the hook. I'm sure my cell is dead. General O'Neill came by, that's all."
Pete walked into the living room, his smile fading. "General O'Neill."
"Hello, Pete." Jack smiled. He could afford to. They didn't shake hands and Sam took that as an ominous sign.
"Pete, can I get you something to drink? We were just talking about my Dad." Sam tried desperately to think about how to get one or the other of them out of her house.
"Sure, Sam, and I'd love to hear some war stories about Jacob." Pete said, sitting down. He looked expectantly at Jack.
Jack put his hands in his pockets. "Sorry, Pete, there's not much we can tell you. It's classified." Sam, in the kitchen, heard Jack and cringed. Don't take it out on Pete. It's my fault.
She came back into the living room with a coke and a glass. "Here you are, Pete. General O'Neill was just leaving," Pete didn't seem to hear her.
"That's always the way it is with you two, isn't it?" he said. "Everything's always classified." Jack put his coat on as Pete continued. "Hell, you could be banging each other and I'd never know, because it's classified."
Jack didn't say anything. He walked toward the door and as he did he passed by Pete. Leaning down, he quietly said, "If you ever talk to her like that again, I will personally make your life miserable in ways you can't even imagine." Then Jack walked down the hall and out the door, letting it slam behind him.
"What's the matter with you?" Sam said angrily
"What's the matter with you, Sam? All I know is that since the day your dad went into the hospital I haven't been able to get near you. Even Mark told me to keep my distance for a couple of days. Then I come here and find you with O'Neill, who sees you every day, all day, and sometimes all night, I guess. What's he doing here, too?" Pete was visibly upset, his usually upbeat demeanor shattered. "And you know what else Sam?"
"What, Pete?" Sam asked quietly.
"Mark and I ran into some old friends of yours. When they found out we were engaged, they assumed my name was Jack."
Sam sighed and lifted her coat off the hook by the door. "Let's go take another look at that beautiful house, Pete."