Stargate SG1 is somebody else's, probably MGM/Gekko Corp/Sci-fi, and I freely admit that whoever's it is, I'm borrowing their show and they retain all rights, etc

Author's Note: Sam/Jack so please turn away now if you're not that way inclined. Teal'c/Ishta. Hints of Daniel/Other. Winner of 2008 Stargate Fan Award - Best Overall SG1 Ship Story & Best Sam/Jack Ship Action/Adventure Category.

This started out life as a challenge to myself to write a post-Threads story which didn't have Sam and Jack at the cabin or together straight away. I hope you enjoy.

Let Go and Hold On

Chapter 1

It was raining.

Sheets of grey fell from the bleak sky in a never-ending curtain. A dirty stream of water ran down the sidewalk and into the drain. Jack O'Neill barely glanced at the depressing weather as he made his way to the waiting car, far too aware that it matched his mood. He took a moment to wordlessly give a nod of thanks to the young driver before climbing into the warm interior of the vehicle.

Jack removed his cover and threw it to the far side of the back seat. He placed the briefcase on the seat beside him and opened it. Washington traffic was terrible and it would take at least an hour for them to get to where they were going. Jack had learned his lesson on the day he had arrived and in the days since had taken to using the time productively for his paperwork. His stint as the commander of the Stargate programme had served him well in training him into administrative discipline. He knew if he didn't deal with paperwork with expediency, it would simply multiply like Replicators and there were days when he could swear that the paperwork seemed the more intractable enemy.

The folders in his briefcase bore the stamp of the United States Air Force; the contents were sanitised in case there was an accident mid-transit. They gave no indication of Jack's current assignment as the Head of Homeworld Security. Jack flipped through six folders quickly enough; the report on the latest space-craft the Odyssey (carefully disguised as a report on a new Air Force stealth bomber in public knowledge), and another five which held the personnel information for the Pentagon's short list of candidates for the craft's commanding officer. Jack had it down to two in a heartbeat; Colonels Ellis and Emerson. It was an easy choice; both men came with his former CO's recommendation. General Hammond had always been a good judge of character and Jack figured the decision was a quick win given some of the other weightier decisions on his shoulders. Still, Jack wrote a note on the file that he wanted to meet with both and he would make a final determination then.

The seventh folder held a brief summary of the next day's anticipated SGC missions, again carefully disguised as training scenarios; six in total, five being follow-up sessions with various allies, and the sixth being a survey of some ruins. SG1 were scheduled for the latter mission with SG12 as back-up. It would be the last SG1 mission for the remaining members of his former team; Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson. Jack scribbled a note to confirm he'd seen the contents and slapped the folder shut as a pang of guilt and anxiety shot through him.

He rubbed a hand over his face and reached for the next folder in the stack. It was not his fault that SG1 was reduced to two, Jack reminded himself briskly. OK, so maybe he should have followed protocol and assigned a fourth member back when he'd been promoted to lead the SGC. In his heart he knew he hadn't done it because he'd selfishly wanted to keep that fourth spot for himself – just in case he changed his mind. He sighed. Of course, his departure had been followed by Teal'c who had recently left in the wake of the rebel Jaffa's success at Dakara.

'I always knew he was going to leave, I just didn't know know.'

Daniel's words after Teal'c had stepped through the wormhole came back to Jack. He and Carter had looked at each other in amusement but they'd understood the archaeologist's words. Teal'c's departure had been inevitable; they'd all known it. Their former team-mate was the leader of the rebel Jaffa after all. Yet none of them had planned for it – not even Teal'c, Jack mused. It was though all of them had been in some kind of deep mutual denial at the inevitable because to contemplate it was too painful. So, Teal'c had left leaving an impressive Teal'c sized hole in their every day lives. Jack missed his friend and he knew Carter and Daniel felt the same way.

Of course, Teal'c's departure seemed to have set in motion a chain of events that had turned their worlds upside down, although Jack knew on some level it had more to do with them finally defeating the Replicators and breaking the Goa'uld dominance over the galaxy. The war they had fought for the last eight years was effectively over. Change was in the air. Teal'c's leaving was just a part of it.

Jack fidgeted with the report on his lap, opening it and flipping through the contents unseeingly. He'd known change was coming but like Daniel, he hadn't known known it. A couple of months before he'd taken the entire team up to his cabin to spend time together – they'd all needed to take a few days especially Carter who had lost her father. He hadn't realised at the time that it would be a goodbye trip.

He shifted uncomfortably. The day after they had returned from the cabin, they had received a transmission from the missing Atlantis expedition. Twenty-four hours later, back-up had been sent to the city to prevent it from being taken over by some creatures called the Wraith. A week later, with the Daedalus on its way back to the Milky Way carrying the Atlantis senior staff to debrief, Teal'c departed and Jack had been summoned to Washington.

His meeting with President Hayes had been brief; Hammond had put in for retirement and Jack had been assigned as his successor. Jack had protested; he wasn't good at diplomacy, he was hopeless at paperwork and he was better deployed right where he was – at the SGC guarding the frontline. Hayes had been resolute. The President needed someone leading Homeworld Security who had experience in the Stargate programme; Jack was the only viable candidate. All of Jack's half-formed plans for his own retirement had been scuppered in the space of a heartbeat. He'd gone back to the SGC and broken the news to Daniel and Carter.

Total silence.

Jack swallowed the urge to clear his throat and ran a finger down the edge of the workbench. He darted a look at Sam. She looked pale and her blue eyes had dropped to the floor.

'Really?' Daniel asked pushing his glasses up his nose. His blue eyes were stunned behind the panes of glass.

'I know.' Jack agreed fervently with the disbelief in the single word.

'Con…congratulations.' Sam managed finally.

'I don't want it.' Jack blurted out. He shuffled under their shell-shocked gazes. 'It's just…' If he didn't do it, there was no-one else; no-one else to protect their backs in the political den of inequity that was Washington.

'We understand.' Daniel patted him on the back consolingly.

Jack looked over at Sam. Ever since her father's death, it was as though they had come to some kind of unspoken agreement about them and this was going to screw with that big time. Did she understand?

She nodded at him. 'Daniel's right, sir. And, really, it's a huge honour.'

'It doesn't change anything.' Jack said confidently.

In hindsight, Jack wondered who he had been trying to kid – himself or them. Of course, his new assignment had changed everything. Daniel and Carter had supported him like they had always done; helped him organise his departure, welcomed Jack's replacement – Hank Landry, and wished Jack goodbye at his farewell party with his favourite cake. He had left comforted by the notion that he might not be there on a day to day basis anymore but they were and at least he knew where they were, knew they were safe and it wasn't as though they weren't going to see each other again. It was to be a fleeting comfort.

'You've done what?' Jack's hand tightened around the receiver and he glared at the folder on his desk as though it would take back the words Hank had just uttered.

'I've authorised Doctor Weir's request that Doctor Jackson be assigned to the Atlantis expedition.'

'This is a joke, right?' Jack snapped. 'Tell me you seriously haven't taken Daniel off SG1.'

'Colonel Carter has agreed to the transfer, Jack.' Hank let Jack stew on that fact for a long moment.

Of course Carter would have agreed to it; she knew how badly Daniel had always wanted to go to Atlantis.

'He's the foremost expert on the Ancients and the expedition needs someone with his skills and experience.' Hank continued brusquely. 'I don't have a valid argument for keeping him here since Anubis has been neutralised; do you?'

He didn't.

Jack threw the report into the briefcase. The most he had been able to do was delay the archaeologist's departure for a month or so, claiming they needed the time to ensure a smooth handover of Daniel's ongoing work. Luckily, Daniel had agreed to the ruse; Jack suspected he felt guilty at leaving Sam – he'd told Jack that he had only agreed to go because Sam had told him that if he turned down Atlantis because of her she would feel awful. Still, Daniel's reassignment left Carter metaphorically without a team.

And it had hurt her. Jack had seen it in her eyes when he'd stopped by to say goodbye to the Atlantis expedition. All three of her team-mates had effectively deserted her within a space of a few weeks. They hadn't meant to but that hadn't stopped it from happening. But maybe it had been fate. A few days after the Atlantis expedition had returned to Pegasus, the head of Stargate R&D out in Nellis had suddenly stepped down following a heart attack. Sam had requested being considered for the position; Hank had immediately put her forward; R&D command had immediately snapped her up. Jack had only known about it after the fact.

'Are you sure about this, Carter?' Jack asked. His brown eyes took in her resolute expression.

'I'm sure, sir.' Sam replied. 'I mean, everyone's moving on. I think, maybe I should too.'

'You don't have to.' Jack pointed out. 'You could stay. Build a new team.'

'I don't want a new team.'

The blunt truth of it had them both looking away. Neither of them wanted a new team; their old team was a hard act to follow.

Sam sighed. 'I appreciate what you're trying to do, sir, but I'm fine. Nellis is close to Cassie, I'll have more time to work on my projects. It's a good command post for me and I won't have to worry about anyone shooting at me anymore.' She tried a smile.

'There's that.' He agreed and tried very hard not to notice how the smile failed to reach her eyes.

Sam would transfer out to Nellis in twenty-four hours, and Jack was suddenly furious; with Hammond, Hank, Daniel, Teal'c and most of all with himself. Jack had promised Carter as her father lay dying that he would always be there for her and where was he? Stuck in traffic in Washington. He reached for the phone.

'This is General O'Neill. I need a secure line to Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter at NORAD.' He barely acknowledged the operator's acquiescence to his order. The phone rang at the other end and Jack felt his heartbeat speed up.


Her brisk efficient answer brought a reluctant smile to his face. 'Hey.'

'Sir.' Her voice warmed and he relaxed back against the hard cushions of the car seat.

'So I hear you have an exciting mission scheduled for tomorrow.' Jack said lightly. He could almost see her rolling her eyes at him.

'Just some ruins, sir.' Sam reported.

'Right. You and Daniel all set for your last mission as SG1?' Jack asked getting to the heart of his call.

Sam paused as though considering her answer seriously. 'Actually, Daniel's not coming along.'

'What?' Jack's eyebrows shot up in the privacy of the car.

'General Landry has asked him to brief the visiting IOA officials on the Atlantis situation.' Sam explained.

Jack felt his anger stirring; surely Hank could have chosen a different time for the briefing. It was their last mission, for crying out loud. There was no note of judgement in Carter's voice though just acceptance; she'd always been better at following orders than he had. He let out a frustrated sigh and let his anger drift away with it.

'So just you?' Jack murmured, remembering his thoughts from a few moments before.

'Just me.' Sam agreed.

'Well, I just wanted to…you know.' Jack stumbled over his words.

'Wish me good luck and Godspeed?' Sam joked gently.

'Something like that.' Jack said. 'I wish I could be there.'

The words were out of his mouth before he could recall them. They weren't usually too emotionally honest with each other. There were too many emotions between them for honesty to be entirely comfortable given their working relationship and military ranks. But they'd had their moments; across a force-shield waiting to die, trapped in a za'tarc test, on a planet where they'd only remembered feeling feelings, in an observation room as Jacob Carter lay dying, on a dock fishing together.

Jack had never spoken to her of his plans for retirement and his hope that they would finally have a chance to be together. Sam would never admit it but she had been fragile on the fishing trip; grieving for her father and coming to terms with her broken engagement. She'd needed a friend; Jack had been a friend. But he had also truly believed they had time to move forward to the promise of something more. Somehow life and duty had gotten in the way again.

'Me too, sir.' Sam replied. She cleared her throat awkwardly. 'How's Washington?'

'Good. It's good.' Jack muttered. 'Raining.' He grimaced.

The internal intercom sounded; his driver's voice crisply informed him that they were pulling into their destination.

'I have to go, Carter.' Jack sighed. 'Sorry.'

'I understand, sir.' Sam said easily. 'Thank you for the call.'

Jack heard the dial tone and reluctantly hung up the phone. He quickly shoved the folders back into order in his briefcase and closed it. He reached for his cover as the door opened. Jack stepped out and welcomed the protection of the large size umbrella as water fell in rhythmic pitter-patter beats against the nylon. He took a moment to stare at the White House in front of him.


Major Paul Davis reached for his briefcase and Jack released it into his XO's custody as they started forward to the side entrance. 'Davis.' The former liaison between the Pentagon and the SGC had accepted the position on Jack's staff claiming it was an honour and Jack liked working with him.

'The President is waiting for you in the Oval Office, sir.' Davis said briskly. 'There's a situation in the Gulf he'd like your opinion on. I've rescheduled your meeting with General Vidrine.'

'Right.' Jack said only half-listening. He turned back as they got to the entrance. He ignored the impressive building behind him and focused on the weather; the rain was still falling from an endlessly grey sky. Yep. He really wished he wasn't in Washington.