A/N: It is really difficult to set a story against a two-part season ender. So...I decided on this. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again to all who review. I really do save and savor each one and respond to those who provide the means to do so.
Set after 1969 and before Out of Mind.
A Glimpse of What Could Be
Sam Carter added another log to the firepit and scratched absently at the still-healing cut on her hand. At least the stitches were out as of this afternoon. She studied the slightly jagged line of reddened tissue, smiling as she thought of how she'd gotten it. Of all nights to be caught by her CO in the lab, it was the one time she'd dashed down there from her quarters. Dressed only in shorts and her sleeping tee, she'd shoved her feet into the unlaced boots sitting at her bedside, intending to get in and out of her lab with nobody the wiser. Sam shook her head slightly. When have things ever really gone according to plan, Sam?
She looked up into the warm eyes of her CO and responded automatically to the small smile on his face. Giving him one of her own in return, she shook her head. "No...not really. I was just thinking."
The Colonel snorted as he handed her a still steaming mug of hot chocolate. "Of course you were, Captain. You're always thinking."
"Yup." Sam sipped her hot chocolate for a moment and then smiled at him as he settled onto the cushion beside her. "But that's what you pay me for."
"Nope, not me, Captain!" O'Neill closed his eyes as he drank his coffee. "Ahh. It's good to be home. At least for now."
"Hey, Jack?" Daniel joined the two officers, carefully balancing his own steaming mug and a plate of graham crackers, marshmallows and chunks of chocolate. Teal'c followed closely behind, an enormous stack of sweets on his own plate. "Cass asked me to bring these down, and she wants to know where you keep the special sticks?"
"Cass!" O'Neill leaned his head back to rest it along the bench seat as he called back toward the house. "Come on down, kiddo. They're down here!" Sam winced as he practically shouted into her ear, and when he saw, O'Neill frowned. "Sorry," he muttered.
"It's okay, Sir. I'm sure I'll get my hearing back in time for our mission."
O'Neill stretched his legs out toward the fire and settled himself more comfortably against the bench behind them, his shoulder brushing Sam's as he relaxed. "Maybe we'll be able to postpone...you know, if you can't hear."
Sam turned to study her CO. It wasn't like the Colonel to not want to go on a mission. "You okay, Sir?"
O'Neill faced her, his brown eyes on hers. "Yeah, Carter. I'm good. Just...you know. Tired." He paused for a moment, frowning. "And...well, I have a...funny feeling about tomorrow's mission."
O'Neill jerked one shoulder up. "Dunno, Carter. Just an...I'm probably just tired."
"Yes, Sir. Me too."
"Sam!" Cassandra's excited voice carried over O'Neill's backyard. "We're here, finally." She made a point of glaring at her mother before turning again to the four team members already gathered around the fire. She leaned down to hug Sam, who carefully held her hot mug out to avoid spilling it over both of them. She felt the Colonel pull the mug from her hands and took advantage, wrapping both of her arms around Cassandra's lithe form and pulling her down for a proper hug.
"Wow, Cass. You're really growing!"
"Tell me about it." Janet said drily as she joined them. She stepped around the fire, choosing to sit with Teal'c and Daniel in their customary spots opposite Sam and O'Neill. "That's why we're late. We had to get some new clothes, she's outgrowing everything!"
Cass burrowed herself further onto Sam's lap so that she could reach O'Neill too. "Jack, I've missed you." She pulled back and studied them both. "I've missed you both. You've cancelled our family night dinner three times."
Sam frowned and look at her CO in confusion. "Was it really three, Cass? I know I missed one, but..."
"It was three." Now the young woman sounded almost petulant.
"Cassandra." Janet's quite reprimand carried across the fire.
The Colonel shook his head at Janet. "No, she's right, Doc. We made a promise and broke it." He pulled Cassandra's weight off of Carter and onto his own lap. "Wow, Car...er, Sam's right. You're getting too big for this, young lady." He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight, making the girl giggle in response. When he released her he leaned back slightly, the movement putting more of his weight on Sam's frame.
Sam watched as her CO carefully studied Cassie's face, his features suddenly solemn. She knew what he was thinking, what he was wondering. After a long moment, Cass broke the mood by leaning in closer and crossing her eyes. She stuck out her tongue and then gave O'Neill a smacking kiss on the cheek.
"It's okay, really, Jack. I know you..." and she gestured to all of them. "I know you can't always predict when things...happen." She shrugged, her simple gesture artlessly graceful. "I just...I miss you, that's all."
Sam reached across the Colonel and hugged the girl again. "I know, sweetie. We...I miss you too." She tucked her chin into Cassie's shoulder and held her close, only slightly startled when the Colonel's arms wrapped around them both. Sam savored the moment, the clean and slightly sweet smell of the girl they'd rescued who'd become so important to all of them, the deeper, spicier scent of the Colonel's aftershave as his arms enveloped them, all mixed with the tangy scent of the cheerfully crackling fire. Sam closed her eyes and held one, leaning deeper into the Colonel's embrace, unwilling to let go of them both. Teal'c's deep voice finally forced Sam to release the teen.
"Cassandra Fraiser. You must assist me. Daniel Jackson is attempting to sabotage my efforts at making the perfect dessert."
Sam and the Colonel gave Cass a boost to her feet and watched as she rounded the firepit to save Teal'c's dessert. As she deftly began the process of building a s'more for the Jaffa, the Colonel again handed Sam her drink. She took it, her fingers brushing his, as her eyes remained on the girl-turned-young woman across from them.
"Hard to believe she's the same kid, isn't it?" O'Neill's voice was slightly gruff.
"How old do you suppose she was when we..." Now his voice was lower, he was careful to pitch it so that the others across the fire wouldn't hear.
Sam tilted her head slightly, her eyes still on Cassie. "Hmm. She looked to be about, oh, I don't know. Seventy maybe? Seventy-five?" She felt the Colonel's movement as he raised his coffee to his lips.
"Yeah, I thought so too."
They were quiet for a moment, watching the interaction as Daniel and Janet quietly talked and Cassie patiently explained a knock-knock joke to Teal'c. O'Neill's quietly spoke again, his voice, coming so close to Sam's ear that she barely suppressed a shiver down her spine.
"What are you thinking about so hard, Carter?"
"The future." Sam's voice was equally soft as she let her imagination take over for a moment, wondering at the possibilities. "Everything in the gateroom was covered...shrouded. Like it was...I don't know..."
"Yeah. Forgotten." Sam shivered slightly. "I don't like the idea that, that..."
"Everything we think is state-of-the-art is obsolete? Mothballed? Phased-out?" O'Neill's tone was joking, but when Sam turned to face him she could see that he was serious.
"Yes, Sir. That." She turned back to where Cass was now sitting cross-legged at Teal's feet, her back resting against the Jaffa, happily toasting another marshmallow. "And I wonder, what happened to...us?"
"Us, Carter?" This time there was no stopping the frission of warmth that rippled through her as he asked his question.
Sam turned to him again, surprised to find his face so close to hers. "Uh...yes. You know..." She gestured vaguely across the fire. "Us. Th– the team."
"Ah." O'Neill pulled back slightly, but kept his eyes on hers. "That 'us.' Well, we know that Cassie grows up to a ripe old age and takes to wandering around the SGC...or what's left of it...in her jammies."
"Sir!" Sam smothered a giggle, careful not to let it carry across to the teen in question. She took another sip of her hot chocolate before catching his gaze again. "If she was seventy-five, we went sixty-two years too far. Think of it. Sixty-two. We must have gone at least to the year 2061. Wow. That would mean that..."
"That I'm really old."
"Colonel." Sam shook her head. "I'm sorry to say, Sir. That it means you're, um, most likely–" Sam stopped, suddenly aware of what she was about to say. And just as suddenly aware of how lost that made her feel. Her eyes filled and she quickly looked away, horrified that he might see and equally stunned at her own reaction to his future death.
She felt bereft. She felt like... felt like... Oh my God, she thought. I...it feels like when Mom...but...not. Worse. I...if he's de– she couldn't even think it, let alone say it. Suddenly queasy, Sam looked again at her CO, begging him with her eyes not to finish her sentence.
He held her gaze for a long moment, and Sam knew that he had seen her tears. She hoped he hadn't seen more. O'Neill glanced quickly across the fire and, apparently satisfied that everyone's attention was focused on their own discussions, brought his hand up to brush away the tear that had fallen down her cheek. His gesture hidden by the enveloping darkness and untouched by firelight, he let his hand linger for a moment. "I'm most likely...retired. Right Carter?"
Sam closed her eyes, unable to hold his gaze. If she did she knew he'd see everything. She knew...had known for a while that what she felt for her CO bordered on inappropriate. That as much as she loved and admired both Daniel and Teal'c and would go to the very ends of the Earth for both men, what she felt for this man was more. So very much more. And so very, very wrong–at least as far as the Air Force was concerned. It seemed, however, that while Sam had lived just about every day for the last ten years or more by the rules the Air Force set forward, her heart had other plans. Just the thought that she had, for a brief time, been in a world from which Jack O'Neill had passed left her with an ache she didn't know what to do with. Couldn't ease away.
"Carter." O'Neill's voice was gentle. "Sam, look at me."
Sam felt his fingertips under her chin and she opened her eyes again as he tipped her face upward. "You know...you know I..." With a quiet oath he broke off, turning again to look across the fire, his hand dropped away from her chin. After a moment or two he looked back again, holding her gaze. "Sixty-two years is a long, long time, Sam. A long time. Lots of things can happen...can change."
Her eyes still on his, Sam simply nodded, fiercely suppressing the thrill that ran through her at his words. They sat together, their faces inches apart while the night wore on around them. Sam could feel the current that always seemed to run between them pulsing with tension...with emotion. She swore she could almost feel him at that moment, even though the only contact between them was the barest brush of her shoulder against his. Sam wrestled her emotions back into control, wondering why it was that when they were together around a fire that the barriers were so thin...so permeable. She took a deep breath, and another. In through her nose, absently noting his scent mixed with hers as she did so. She closed her eyes and took one last steadying breath and blew it out again before opening her eyes again. This time she met his gaze with a faint smile.
"Yes. Sir." Sam breathed in again, feeling the last of that ache fade away. "Thank you."
"You know the best part of what Cassie...I mean future Cassandra said?" Jack asked, a hint of a smirk on his lips.
"That our journey was just beginning?"
"Nope." The Colonel looked back across the fire then quirked his chin to where Daniel sat huddled with Fraiser. "That she hardly recognized Daniel with hair."
Sam dipped her head into his shoulder briefly, stifling the giggles that overwhelmed her at his words. She was still shaking inside at the realization of the depth of her feelings for him. At how lost and alone she felt at the thought of his being gone...lost to her. But...as he always did. And always would, she realized, he made her feel better. Just by being who he was. And he was right, she realized. Sixty-two years was a long time.
Anything could happen.
Afterword: And thus we come to the end of Season 2! Wow! Thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed, and recommended this series. The first story of Season 3 is in the works right now. More to come! Thank you. ~Pol