Chapter One: Trouble in Paradise
Samantha O'Neill seldom slept in. From long years of military discipline and force of habit, she was usually up and about before sunrise. But these days were different. Six months pregnant, she'd been fatigued and irritable. Unable to get to sleep before midnight on these hot summer nights, especially with Jack out of town, she'd taken to staying in bed till nearly 0800, at least on the weekends.
Slowly pulling herself to a sitting position on this particularly bright Saturday morning, Sam reluctantly took stock of her current predicament. Her habits were changing, her body was changing and to her surprise, she was changing. This pregnancy hadn't been the easiest. (Though Sam had nothing to compare it to, Dr. Lam had said as much.) Troubled by early bouts of morning sickness, a threatened miscarriage and unexpected mood swings, she was out of her element. Give her a good fight with a Goa'uld, a sun to blow up or a solar flare to predict and she was golden. But this was different. Sam had to admit, she was a bit taken aback by it all, particularly with Jack away in Washington so much.
When they'd finally gotten together a little over a year ago, it was with the understanding his final retirement would be a fait accompli in the near future. But here they were, one week shy of their first wedding anniversary and Jack O'Neill was still Head of Homeworld Security, the go-to-man whenever the President was feeling antsy about top secret intergalactic relations. Early on, when it became clear the retirement would happen later than anticipated, Sam had assured Jack it wasn't a problem. After all, she was a big girl with an important, powerful career of her own. She didn't need him by her side at all times simply because they were married. But now, pregnant, insecure, hormonal, she wasn't so sure. He'd been gone in Washington two weeks now, leaving her in Colorado Springs, knee deep in her own work and her own worries.
Sure he called or she called every day, sometimes twice a day when they were apart, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't the same as the safety, the reassurance of his arms around her. Damn it, right now, in spite of herself, she needed that. She never thought she'd become that dependent on anyone, ever, not even the man she loved. If this is what happened when a woman was pregnant, she wasn't sure it was a very good idea anymore.
That thought frightened her. At first, she'd worried she wouldn't be able to conceive at all. And she wanted so much to have Jack's child. When they'd first discovered she was pregnant, both she and Jack were over the moon. It was the fulfillment of a cherished dream. But some days now she wasn't so sure.
If anyone deserved to be happy, to make it in a marriage, she thought, it was the two of them. They'd waited so long. Their love was true and tested. Certainly, they could make it through a little more separation. It shouldn't have been a problem. Maybe it was her, it had to be her, Sam thought. Jack loved her; she had no reason to doubt it. What she doubted was that she was enough for him. Let's face it, at six months pregnant she wasn't exactly the woman she used to be. She was huge, at least she felt huge. How he could be attracted to her now, she couldn't imagine. She'd already gained twenty pounds, most of it carried right up front, like a beach ball. To her own eyes she was ungainly. She'd finally resorted to maternity clothes and they made her feel even worse.
Of course Jack, prince that he was, told her she was more beautiful than ever. On her good days she believed him. Others, she suspected he was humoring her. Though they made love often, when he was gone she found herself worrying he might find someone else, someone younger, prettier, and not pregnant. She knew other women found him attractive. After his last trip to Washington, Jack had told her how one of these women put the moves on him at a post-conference reception. She could tell he felt guilty even though nothing had happened, at least that time.
To make things worse, her responsibilities at work had been curtailed, Landry restricting her to the occasional consult in the lab or working from home. She could thank Dr. Lam for that restriction. Actually, looking back she realized it was a result of her own stupidity.
She'd fainted in the Gateroom, forgotten to eat. It hadn't been the first time, but Carolyn Lam had decided it would be the last during this admittedly high risk pregnancy. For a moment, Sam couldn't remember why that was such a big deal, she'd skipped meals many times before when focused on a project. But the difference was she was pregnant. She couldn't get away with cutting the corners she'd cut so often in the past.
She wasn't the same person and she was beginning to feel fairly useless. Today was a case in point. Here she was at home, a long day stretching ahead of her, and not a heck of a lot on her schedule. Daniel was coming over for a visit this afternoon; for that she was grateful. And, thankfully, Jack would be home tomorrow. She needed a distraction, and she needed an attitude adjustment.
Just as Colonel Samantha Carter was preparing herself for an uneventful, boring day, the doorbell rang. It was one of the children from the house next door. Five-year-old Laurie stood on the porch, smiling up at Sam.
"Hi, Sam," Laurie said. The little girl frequently found her way to the O'Neills' while her mother watched from the house next door. She was always a ray of sunshine. Sam was glad to see her.
"Hi, Laurie," Sam replied. "How are you today, sweetheart?" Sam asked, waving to Laurie's mother across the driveway.
"I am wonderful!" The irrepressible little girl answered in her typically high spirited tone. "I brought you mail," Laurie continued, reaching up to offer a small envelope.
Sam looked at her quizzically and then towards her mother. By now, Laurie's mom, Karen, had walked across the drive and was standing behind her daughter. With a shrug of her shoulders she denied any knowledge of what might be in the envelope.
"Don't know Sam," Karen said. "A woman came to the door this morning and handed this to Laurie. It had your name on it."
"It's okay," Sam said. "I'll check it out."
"Okay," Karen said. "Oh, after you do, why not come over for a visit."
"I'll do that," Sam said. A little visit with the neighbors might be just what the doctor ordered. "Give me an hour to get myself together and I'll be over."
Saying a pleasant goodbye to Laurie and Karen, Sam went back into the house, poured herself a cup of coffee. Giving in to her curiosity, she opened the envelope. There was a small note card tucked around what was obviously a DVD, apparently homemade.
Two lines were scribbled on the note card.
"Colonel Carter, I thought you should know what your husband is doing behind your back. He doesn't deserve you."
Of course the note was unsigned.
For a moment, Sam considered tossing out the DVD and the note. Anonymous, uninvited information about someone she loved, well, she knew better than to put much faith in that sort of thing. Still, she had to know what it was.
With that thought in mind she popped the DVD into the player and sat down to watch whatever would be displayed. The first images that greeted her were of well known landmarks in Washington, sites she was familiar with from her own days there and from her recent visits to Jack's office and apartments. Whatever the unknown person or persons taped must have happened fairly recently as she caught sight of a demonstration in the background, one she'd read about only this past weekend.
Then Jack's face came into view. The shot was a cropped close up, most likely taken with a telephoto lens from some distance. He was walking in front of the Pentagon. As the camera pulled out, it was clear he wasn't alone. A young brunette was walking with him. Though there was no sound, they seemed to be having a heated conversation.
Suddenly the scene changed. The camera panned widely to highlight the lobby of a hotel. Sam was familiar with this location. She'd stayed there with Jack more than once. But before she could acclimate herself, the scene changed again. Her breath caught in her chest. It couldn't be … this wouldn't happen … Jack wouldn't do this …
The television screen filled with the image of a sumptuous bedroom, presumably in the same hotel. The camera focused on the king sized bed in the middle of the room.
The same woman she'd watched innocently walking with her husband a moment ago was now sprawled across the bed, wearing nothing more than a bra and panties. Without preamble a man walked into the scene and joined her, tossing off what seemed to be a hotel issue robe to reveal a well toned, lean muscular body. It didn't take Sam long to realize the man's identity. She didn't need to see his face. She was looking at the man who'd made love to her with fierce gentleness and gentle longing these past several months, the man who'd fathered the child she carried, the man she loved more than she imagined possible. As her heart fluttered painfully, she watched that man approach the other woman and lower himself to the bed, covering her with his own body. She watched until she could watch no longer. Then she switched off the picture, placed her head in her hands and cried.
A/N: My intention with this piece is to tell an adult (not explicit sex, but real, explicit emotions) story about the relationship between Jack O'Neill and Sam Carter as I imagine it progressing after season 10. Unlike other recent novel length works I've put out there, I am promising to keep this one to ten chapters or less. Most likely they will be longer chapters and posted less frequently, however my goal will be to put one up at least once a week until the story is done. Your reviews will be eagerly awaited and much appreciated.