Changes

Genre: Angst
Pairings: Sam/Daniel UST, perceived Daniel/Vala, Sam/Team friendship
Season: Ten, missing scene from Line in the Sand
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of Line in the Sand
Rating: K+ for serious themes and minor language
Disclaimer: The only thing I own that's related to Stargate is my DVD collection. I'm not making any money off of Stargate. In fact, the reverse is true.

Summary: While recovering from her injury, Sam takes the opportunity for a long overdue update of the letters for those she'll one day leave behind. Written for the Sam/Daniel-thon.

Big hugs to my beta, Thraesja, who found time to help me with this story even while she's preparing for the arrival of her firstborn.

--

The first thing I noticed was the rhythmic hissing and beeping of medical equipment. I opened my eyes to find the familiar concrete-and-piping ceiling of the infirmary. Great.

"Welcome back, Sam," said Cam.

All things considered, I was in less pain than I expected. My eyes followed an IV line from my hand to a bag suspended over my bed. "Did I go somewhere?"

"Very nearly," came Teal'c's voice from the other side of my bed.

I turned to him, holding out my hand. He stepped closer and took it in his. I stared at him with a silent question. He shook his head, and I squeezed my eyes closed. Still no word about Daniel.

"You okay?" asked Cam.

"No," I said, looking again at Teal'c. I put my hand to the injury on my abdomen as I turned to Cam. "But this will heal. Thanks to you."

He waved a dismissive hand at me. "Takes more than an Ori staff blast to take you out of the game."

"Indeed," said Teal'c.

A charred odour lingered in my nostrils. I looked around for the source for a moment before I realised it must be from my injury. Lovely.

I forced myself to smile at my friends. It had been close this time. Someday, possibly soon, I was going to die. Frankly, I was surprised we'd all made it this far. Most of us, anyway.

Dying was something none of us had much control over. The only thing we could do was prepare for it.

I turned back to Teal'c. "Can you bring me my laptop?"

"Oh, no you don't," said Cam. "You're not working until you're cleared by Doctor Lam."

I raised a hand to stop him, staring at my Jaffa friend. Teal'c bowed his head solemnly and withdrew from the infirmary.

"I mean it, Sam," said Cam. "You need to take time to heal."

I gave his arm a reassuring pat. "Teal'c wouldn't bring my laptop right now if he thought I was going to use it for work."

Cam glanced at the doorway Teal'c had disappeared through and frowned at me, clearly awaiting an explanation.

"It must be more than a year since I thought about them." His frown deepened, so I clarified. "The letters on my computer. Funny how we always forget about things like that until we have another close call."

"Hey." Cam squeezed my hand in his. "Enough with the death talk."

I pushed the button on the side of my bed to raise my head, wincing as my injury protested. "It's important to be prepared for changes you can't prevent."

"Well, you're not dying on my watch."

"We've lost too many people already." I squeezed his hand. "The password on each of our directories is 'fishing'."

"Jackson has a folder of letters, too?"

I nodded. "We all do."

For a moment, I thought he might ask if Teal'c and I had accessed Daniel's letters. He seemed to think better of it and just nodded instead. I smiled. It was good he was finally catching on.

"So, why 'fishing'?"

I chuckled, but stopped when the movement caused a ripple of discomfort in my side. "General O'Neill insisted on something he could easily remember." I felt my pained grimace turn to a fond smile as I remembered the conversation. "Five-three-foxtrot-oh-one-tango-three? You've got to be kidding me!"

"What?"

I grinned at Cam. "That was General O'Neill's reaction to the password I suggested."

"I see. Can't really blame him."

"He decided we should all use 'fishing'. And then—" I stopped, tugging at my bottom lip with my teeth.

"Sam?"

"And then Daniel said we just had to make sure we never had to use it," I said softly.

"Well, he's right. We will make sure of that."

I was about to respond when Teal'c walked through the doorway, my laptop tucked under his arm. He held it out, and I took it, smiling my thanks.

I opened the computer and pointed at the link on my desktop. "There it is."

After double-clicking on the icon and entering the password, I brought up the directory listing of letters. A quick glance at the files displayed brought an old ache to my heart again.

"I was right," I murmured. "It has been over a year. More than twice that, actually." With a deep breath, I tried to smile at Cam. "First things first, though."

With a few deft keystrokes, I created a new document called 'Cam'. "There. Now you're officially part of the family." I looked up at him. "I trust all of you to make sure that these get where they're supposed to go."

He gave me a look as if he was in physical pain.

"Perhaps we should allow you to concentrate, Colonel Carter."

I reached out to squeeze Teal'c's hand. "Thanks."

"I'll be back later," Cam said. "I'll bring you something to make you feel better."

I smiled and nodded.

Teal'c gestured for Cam to lead the way out of the infirmary. With one more silent head bow in my direction, he followed. I turned back to the blank document before me.

And I began to type.

Dear Cam,

I know I give you a hard time, but you have to remember this: I only bug the people who are worth the effort. If I didn't like you, I wouldn't bug you. But I think we've known each other long enough that you understand.

You reminded me of the time when going through the stargate was fun. After seeing everything I've seen, it's so easy to become disillusioned. To lose track of why we do what we do. I can't thank you enough for giving me back my perspective.

You're a good man and a good leader for SG-1. You've earned my trust, and it's been an honor to serve with you.

Knock 'em dead,

-Sam

Quiet voices from the corridor caught my attention. I looked up, watching the doorway, expecting to be interrupted. When no one entered, I turned my attention back to my computer and created another new file.

Dear Vala,

I'll be the first to admit that our friendship began on rocky ground. The first time I heard about you was in Daniel's debriefing about what happened on the Prometheus. I definitely had a few prejudicial feelings toward you. You did steal my ship and injure my dearest friend, after all.

But I took the time to get to know you, and I'm so glad I did. I didn't realize before how much I was missing a female presence in my life.

I'll never forget the long chats we had about our experiences as hosts. My time with Jolinar in no way compares to what Qetesh did to you, but I hope you found some comfort in our talks. I know I did. Just knowing that someone truly understands... Well, it helps. Thank you.

I'm not worried about you, Vala. No matter what situations you might find yourself in, I know you'll be okay. You have this fierce inner strength that will carry you anywhere.

It's been a pleasure getting to know you. Take care of everyone for me.

Your friend,

-Sam

I reread the letters, then, satisfied, closed both files.

Are you sure you want to save the changes to 'Cam' and 'Vala'? asked my computer.

I smiled. Being a creature of habit, change was not something I was known to embrace. That was probably one of the reasons I fit so well within the military. As Colonel Carter, I could regulate the changes in my life.

Some changes were easy.

Adding Cam and Vala to the family was definitely one of those. I moved the cursor to the 'yes' button and clicked.

Changes saved.

The directory listing displayed again on the screen, and I sighed as the ache in my chest grew. Reluctantly, I highlighted the file labelled 'Dad'.

Too often I'd had to remove files from this folder. Too many people dying before their time. Janet's had previously been the hardest. Dad's was just as difficult. With a deep breath, I pushed the 'delete' key.

Are you sure you want to permanently delete 'Dad'?

Some changes were inevitable.

I hated them.

I clicked the button.

'Dad' deleted.

Before I could dwell on that for too long, I forged ahead, opening the next few files. I reread my letters for Cassie and Mark, making a few changes and additions here and there. I realised that Mark's kids were getting to the age where I should have separate letters for them. Time really did pass far too quickly. The next time I blinked, they'd be adults with children of their own.

More hushed voices from the corridor threatened to interrupt me, but miraculously, no one entered. I took my time to create letters for my niece and nephew. As I closed and saved those files, I realised I should also write one for Carolyn. We'd grown to be friends since her assignment to the SGC. The letter I saved wasn't nearly as emotional as the one I'd once had for Janet, but it would do.

The letters I'd written for General Hammond, Siler, Harriman, and the few people in my lab who knew me well remained more or less the same. In a world filled with uncomfortable changes, they were constants in my life. People I could rely on to never change. I was grateful for that.

Which then, of course, brought me to the letters I'd written for General O'Neill and Teal'c. There wasn't much that needed updating, but I read through them just the same.

General O'Neill,

We've been lucky, haven't we? So many people at the SGC, so many teams were wiped out time and time again. But by some miracle, SG-1 always survived. Even when one or all of us died, we always came back.

Despite the precedents that have been set, I suppose it was unavoidable that, someday, I would die for good. I imagine it's because I missed something you tried to teach me.

I'm not talking about your attempts at teaching me to barbeque, sir. As you well know, cooking has never really been one of my strengths. To be honest, I'm not entirely convinced it's one of yours either...

One of the great things of working together for so long is that some things never have to be said. However, when someone contemplates their own mortality, it becomes obvious that sometimes those things should be put into words. Even if they're only shared after death.

I need you to know that you were the best commander I've ever served under. You made me want to become a better officer. I know we've had our disagreements, but I hope, in the long run, that I've made you proud.

It's been an honor, sir.

-Carter

Satisfied with the minor changes to the General's letter, I moved on to Teal'c's.

Teal'c,

We've been to hell and back, and we're still fighting. Still side by side. I wouldn't have it any other way.

You're a pillar of strength and stability in a hurricane. You are my shelter. When I stand next to you, I know I am strong.

You taught me so much. Patience. Sacrifice. Honor. Trust. And the difference between revenge and justice.

I hope my death was an honorable one. I hope I've proven myself to be worthy of your steadfast friendship.

May you find peace, dear friend,

-Colonel Carter

When I was finished with them, I clicked the 'close' button.

Are you sure you want to save the changes to 'General O'Neill' and 'Teal'c'?

The three of us had been through things that I could never have imagined before joining the Stargate Program. They'd held me together when I'd thought I might shake right apart.

Some changes were hard.

But with the support of family like General O'Neill and Teal'c, they were surmountable.

I moved the cursor and clicked.

Changes saved.

Finally, I opened Daniel's letter and reread it. It was eighteen pages long and contained a lot of things I wanted to share with him. However, there was one thing it didn't even attempt to say. I highlighted the entire text and deleted it. My fingers poised over the keys for a long moment before I worked up the nerve to begin the new letter.

Daniel,

As I write this, you're gone. Taken by Adria. We have no proof that you're still alive, but I know you are. I know it.

How could you have lied to me? You said you were right behind me. I realised afterward that you never intended to follow us. How could you do it? You've never lied to me before. We do not leave our people behind. I never would have left if I knew what you were planning!

You're always sacrificing yourself for everyone else. Just once, why wouldn't you let us sacrifice ourselves for you? Are you the only one of us worthy of becoming a martyr? Or are you too cowardly to cope with survivor's guilt? God knows you've forced us to deal with it often enough!

I stopped and took several deep, cleansing breaths. The last thing I wanted was for my last words to Daniel to be about how angry I was at him, even if it was currently true.

No, what I had to say to him wasn't about anger. I allowed myself a moment to calm down and deleted the last two paragraphs.

When we get you back – with you, it's always 'when', never 'if' – I have to tell you something.

I know I've seemed distant over the last...too long, really. I'm sorry. It's been hard for me to deal with some of the changes going on within the Team.

I know you've been through a lot with Vala, and there are plenty of rumors. She's a wonderful woman and a dear friend. Is she more than that to you? Have you fallen in love with her?

There was once a day when I would have known the answer to that question. We used to talk about everything. Now, I feel you slipping away.

We're going to get you home. I have no doubt about that. When we do, there's something I really have to tell you. Something I should have told you a long time ago. Something that will change everything between us.

The trouble is that things here are getting pretty intense. I had a close call, and it's possible that I won't be here when you get back. If that happens, I won't be able to tell you in person. But I want you to know. I need you to know.

I love you.

Always have.

Always will.

Yours,

-Sam

I stared at them. Right there in black and white. The words I'd been terrified to say all these years. Even though the letter would only be delivered after I died, the fact that I'd written those words down promised that I'd tell him when he returned.

Those words would change everything. It was terrifying. How could I face death every day and be terrified of three little words?

I positioned my cursor and squeezed my eyes shut as I clicked the close button. More voices from the corridor made me look at the doorway again.

"Come on, Muscles," came the first voice. "I just want to say hello."

"I suggest that you return later, Vala Mal Doran," said Teal'c.

"But I brought flowers! That's the appropriate thing to do when a friend is injured, you know. I looked it up on Daniel's computer."

"Colonel Carter does not wish to be disturbed."

"It's alright, Teal'c," I called. "I'm finished."

Vala bounced through the doorway with a gigantic bouquet of brightly-coloured tulips and snapdragons.

"They're beautiful," I said. "Thank you, Vala."

She grinned broadly at me as she set the flowers on a nearby table and began fussing with the arrangement.

I turned my attention back to the screen, where my laptop was asking me a question.

Are you sure you want to save the changes to 'Daniel'?

Some changes were impossible.

I moved the cursor over the button and clicked.

Changes discarded.

THE END