Author's notes:

I know...I haven't posted a Campfire story in weeks, but with a broken wrist and a full-arm cast, typing is nearly impossible. I have several stories backed up in the brain and will get them out when I can type at a decent rate. This story sprang from a recent discussion on Gateworld regarding Sam's having Jack's picture in her quarters in Season 4. The idea that she hadn't put the photo in her luggage came to me and I spent all day painstakingly typing it mostly one-handed. Feedback and critiques welcome and always answered.

Enjoy.

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Mementos

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Sam shrugged her dark blue service dress coat off and draped it over the back of her chair. Glancing around the room at the various bags and boxes that had been delivered to her new quarters on Atlantis, she decided to tackle the suitcase first. The Airman who'd delivered her belongings had piled them rather haphazardly in the corner, so it took Sam a moment to wrestle her case out and place it on the bed.

She shoved aside the blue carryall container that contained mementos from her SGC lab to make room for the hard black case. Popping the latches open, Sam reached inside to pull out her regular duty uniform, the familiar blue fabric—faded from countless washings—soft and comforting under her fingertips. Lifting the shirt, Sam frowned as she felt something unexpectedly hard under the fabric.

What the...?

Unfolding her shirt she found a square flat object wrapped in brown paper. With a puzzled frown she slowly opened the wrapping and turned the object over to find Jack's face staring back at her. Sam inhaled quickly; the unexpected appearance of his dearly missed features made her heart stutter for just a second, and her breath catch in her throat.

When the hell did he...?

Swamped by the sudden wave of homesickness, Sam slowly sat on the edge of the bed, her eyes filling with tears and blurring her view of Jack's gentle almost-smile as he gazed up at her from the frame. In a flash she was back in the park the day the photo was taken. He'd just given Cassie her puppy, declaring that it was an 'Earth rule' that all kids have a dog. She'd caught his eye and raised an eyebrow, knowing that Janet was going to eat him for lunch for this present. Daniel must have taken the picture then, just as Jack was smiling...almost smirking...back at her, daring her to be the one to break Cassie's heart. As if Sam could deny either of them anything.

Oh, God, Jack. I miss you. What the hell was I thinking? Why the hell am I here?

Just as her tears spilled over, Sam saw a scrap of yellow paper on the floor at her feet. It must have fallen when she unwrapped the photograph. Gently setting the picture aside, she bent and retrieved it, immediately recognizing the neat block lettering.

Sam,

If you're reading this you've obviously unwrapped my surprise. Surprise! I had T slip this into one of your bags before you left. I have two things to say, and you know how much I love to talk, so...here goes.

First. Carter. Colonel Carter. Who'd have thunk it, eh? From the pushy Captain who challenged me to arm-wrestle in front of our new CO to what you are today...commander of the most secret and important project in our planet's history. As your former CO, I can't begin to tell you how proud of you I am. I like to think I had some influence in how you've turned out as an officer. And not all bad influence, either. Two things to remember...CO's are never late, they're always 'unavoidably detained' and never, ever question your right or your ability to be where you are. You are, without a doubt, the finest officer with whom I have ever had the pleasure of serving. Bar none.

Second. Sam. This is as me, plain old Jack. I love you more than words can express. I'm so proud of you I could (and have done) kiss you senseless in the middle of the SGC for all to see. More on that when you get home. Be well, do good work, and come home to me soon.

Always,

Jack.

Sam closed her eyes, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks unchecked. Leave it to Jack to get to her from thousands of light-years away. How long she sat there, note clenched in one hand, the other resting on the framed photo she'd set aside, Sam had no idea. For the first time in her nearly twenty years of service, she resented a duty assignment. Resented the power the service had over her life, over who and when she could love. For the first time in her life Sam Carter seriously considered quitting. Her father's words echoed through her thoughts, Carter's don't quit, kid. We never retreat when the battle gets tough.

"No, Dad, we don't retreat. But sometimes we need to advance in another direction." Taking a deep breath, Sam slowly looked around the room that was to be her home for the foreseeable future. A step up from utilitarian, it was a far cry from her home in the Springs. It was an even farther cry from the home she and Jack had begun to build together in Minnesota. Reading Jack's note again, Sam felt her resolve to do well here begin to weaken. She rose and moved to the small table that served as the desk in her quarters, opening her laptop as she set Jack's note beside the machine.

Before she could begin to type the letter she had half-formed in her head, her message minder beeped, letting her know she had new mail. The data bundle from Earth must have come through early. Sam clicked on the mail icon, smiling as she saw that it was from Jack. Her elegant eyebrows rose as she realized the message contained a video file. "Well, well, Jack. Had Siler help you out, eh?" Despite knowing that Jack couldn't see her, Sam quickly wiped her eyes and smoothed her hair before clicking "play." She sat back, her small smile growing into a full-fledged grin as Jack's face filled her screen, and his warm voice enveloped her, warming her soul.

Hey Carter,

I think this is working, the little red light and little green light are both on and that's what Siler said had to happen when I called him. Okay, so...why the video email? Proud of me? I mean, it's working and all...anyway. So. I just wanted to say...well...hell. Carter look. Sam. I meant what I said in my note. Damn. I hope you've already read it or this is gonna sound really stupid. For cryin' out loud, I shoulda thought of that.

Sam laughed out loud as Jack ran his fingers through his short-cropped hair, clearly frustrated with himself. God, she loved this man!

Okay, look. I'm just gonna go with the idea that you've read my note. I hope you don't think it was egotistical to send a picture of me to you, but I had Sergeant Schaeffer grab it from your lab in Nevada. Made me feel closer to you...almost like I'm there, watching your back like you're watching mine. I just wanted you to know that I, uh, well, I love you and want whatever you want. I know by now you're really feeling alone, but it won't always be that way. Give it some time, okay? I really want you to do well in Atlantis. I know it's so damned far away. But...we've waited a long time, and, ah...hell this isn't making much sense. I'm ah, gonna sign off now. This assignment'll go by fast. Who knows, maybe I can swing a trip to your neighborhood. Keep your chin up, don't quit, and all those other clichés you know I love.

Jack's face suddenly turned serious and he leaned into the frame a bit, his voice dropping to a quieter, more intimate level.

Sam. You can do this and you can do it well. We need someone there who knows it all—the science and the command stuff. Show 'em how it's done and then come home, okay? I'll be here. Okay...bye. Love you.

Sam bit back a fresh wave of tears as Jack's hand loomed toward the camera and the video turned to black. She sat staring at the screen, wondering how he'd known what she'd planned to do.That the first thing she would want to do after reading his note would be to write her letter of resignation and send it in the next data packet going back to Earth. He knew her better than she knew herself sometimes. It would have been scary if it didn't fill her with a wonderful sense of fulfillment and love. It was nice to know that even thousands of light-years away he still had her back, still knew her inside and out.

Rising and straightening her skirt, Sam crossed again to the bed and picked up the photo. This picture she'd keep in here, where he would be the first thing she saw each morning and the last each night. Before she could find a place for it a chime rang through her quarters, letting her know she had a visitor. She laid the framed smiling face of Jack down again and stepped over to open the door, somewhat startled to find a pair of legs and arms holding an enormous fruit basket.

"Colonel Carter? Welcome to the neighborhood."