A/N: Here it is...the epilogue. And it is unapologetically shippy. Truly. Smarmy, even. I'm posting this at 11:05 PM (PST) on Thursday because...it's Friday somewhere, isn't it? More notes at the end.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The morning sun slipped around the edges of the blinds, warming Sam's face and bringing her slowly from her slumber. She slowly opened her eyes, blinking sleepily, glad to feel the mind-numbing exhaustion that had dogged her for weeks was finally fading. She thought back to her time on Atlantis as they'd frantically searched for some sign of the missing ship. Seventy hours of no word from Jack or Odyssey followed by fifty-nine hours of agonizing, mind numbing effort as they searched for the galactic equivalent of a needle in a haystack.
0642 (Earth-Cheyenne Mountain Time)
Sam checked her watch again as she anxiously waited for Sheppard to report from the planet's surface. Twenty-two minutes. The crew of the Atlantis quietly went about their duties, their voices low with barely suppressed tension. Suddenly, Sam couldn't stand it any longer. She keyed her mic and opened a channel to the team below. "John? What's going on?"
The solar flares that had plagued Jack's communications with Earth seemed to have subsided and Sheppard's voice came through loud, clear, and unbroken. "I'm sorry, Colonel O'Neill. There's...nothing."
Sam felt her stomach plunge to her toes and she bent her head, fighting for control. She wasn't aware of Woolsey's presence behind her until he placed a hand on her shoulder, clumsily patting her. Startled by the comforting touch from such an unexpected source, Sam glanced up at him and offered a weak smile. Reaching up, she touched his hand in thanks and then turned back to the console. "John, feed the video signal up, we're set to record."
"I'm on it, Colonel."
Woolsey and Sam watched as the screen before her flickered to life and Sam bit back a gasp at the devastation revealed by the little handheld camera. Gone were the towering ruins from Daniel's original video barely a month before. Sheppard was right. There was nothing left save for dusty and smoking ruins. The amount of destruction was truly stunning, Sam had never seen anything like it. Teyla panned the camera in a circle, and Sam saw that the Stargate SG-1 had used to originally arrive on the planet was canted at an awkward angle, knocked from it's pedestal by an incredible force.
"Teyla, can you get to the base of the gate?"
"Yes, Colonel. Just a moment."
The images on the screen shook and jumped as Teyla scrambled over fallen columns. Sam leaned back and looked away quickly, the camera's unsteady movement making her nauseas. She looked back again as the images steadied, jiggling slightly as Teyla, slightly out of breath, tried to hold the camera steady.
"Oh, no..." Sam simply couldn't believe it.
"Are you getting this, Colonel O'Neill?"
"Yes," Sam answered faintly. "We see it." She pushed back from the desk and turned away, striding to her old office and closing the door. Behind her, Woolsey silently watched her go, then turned and watched numbly as Teyla slowly zoomed in on the shattered crystal and twisted trinium that had once been a functioning DHD.
Sam closed her eyes, shutting out the memory of the despair she'd felt at that discovery. She had convinced Woolsey to let her go down to the surface and join the ground teams as they searched for some sign of the missing teams. While Sam and Siler studied the fatally damaged DHD, Sheppard and his team had been the first to uncover a lead. Teyla literally stumbled into a hole that led to a large chamber. John and his team had begun digging, and had grimly reported on the awesome number dead Wraith littering the corridors leading to the cavern. An hour later he excitedly reported a second gate within the large room. Sheppard had insisted Sam stay on the surface, declaring the site too unstable for her to be climbing around. Siler had gone instead and verified, based on trace elements in the air, that the gate had recently been activated but he couldn't determine the coordinates that had been dialed. Sheppard also discovered evidence of Earth weaponry, including a discarded C4 detonator. But it was his last discovery that had wrenched Sam the most.
Sam stood at the edge of the hole into which Sheppard's team had disappeared, restlessly kicking aside small pebbles and twigs while she waited. A soft cough and the sound of tumbling rocks heralded the arrival of the Atlantis team. Teyla exited first, pausing to lay a hand on Sam's arm, the action instantly causing Sam's heart to stutter in fear.
"What? Teyla, what is it?"
Teyla gave her arm a squeeze, then stepped aside to allow Ronan and Sheppard to emerge. Sam caught her breath as she saw what Sheppard carried. Jack's ALICE vest, his worn, green hat still tucked securely in the webbing. She reached out with trembling fingers, pulling the vest from Sheppard's grasp.
"Was there...did...is there..." She swallowed and couldn't finish. Her normally facile mind stuttered from thought to thought and she was unable to string words together to make a coherent sentence.
John bent to make sure she was looking directly at him as he answered. "Colonel." Not seeing any response he grabbed her shoulders, giving her a gentle shake. "Sam! He's not down there. None of them are. This is all we found. Nobody...no...bodies...other than the Wraith." Sheppard waited for her nod before he continued. "And they did a hell of a number on the Wraith, let me tell you."
Sam could only nod her head in understanding, her mind still numb. He wasn't here. There was still a chance. She turned away, clutching the vest to her chest, barely aware of Teyla leading her back toward the Jumper.
They'd found no other evidence of Jack or SG-1 on the planet, although Atlantis had found debris from Odyssey floating in orbit. Analysis of the fragments quickly determined that it wasn't enough to have been the entire ship, so McKay and Zelenka began their own search, attempting to find any trace of the route the Odyssey had taken. Nearly sixty hours of searching, seventeen jumps through seventeen wormholes, in a widening pattern. Each new jump harder on Sam than the last, but nobody was willing cry 'uncle.' In the end, it came down to pure, dumb luck. A combination of a gut feeling by Sam, evidence of more debris near their exit point, and a dropped zero by McKay–to which he refused to admit. Floating dead in space, engines fried and life support beginning to fail, but still beautifully whole half a light-year from the wormhole floated Odyssey.
A distant horn pulled Sam from her thoughts, and yawning again, she sleepily slid her hand across the mattress, reaching for...what the hell is that? She quickly pulled her hand back and turned her head, blinking slowly and trying to bring the unexpected occupant of the bed into focus.
Where she expected to find her husband, she instead found herself looking at an impossibly soft puppy. A puppy that was...no way. Sam leaned closer to be certain. Is he...snoring? Shaking her head in disbelief Sam smiled; she hadn't even known dogs could snore. Staring at the sleeping puppy she rubbed her eyes, wondering if she was dreaming. A soft chuckle from the doorway drew her attention away from the snoring furball and she turned to find her missing husband leaning against the door frame, a gentle smile on his face.
"Hi." Her voice was low and rough with sleep.
Jack smiled at her and returned her greeting, moving closer for his good morning kiss. He took his time, savoring the rare quiet moment with her.
His lips were warm and soft on hers and Sam let herself float along, momentarily forgetting her new bedmate. Too soon, however, Jack pulled back and seated himself on the edge of the bed. He gestured with his chin to the furry bundle warming his pillow and asked Sam, "Do you like him?"
"I, ah, we haven't actually met. And when did we get him?"
Jack quirked a small smile and stretched out alongside Sam, propping himself up on one hand and reaching across her to tickle the belly of the puppy, hoping to pull him from his dreams. "Cassie picked him out a week ago and she's been keeping him for us since we've been traveling so much."
Sam nodded. In the four weeks since Atlantis had helped Odyssey limp back to Earth, she and Jack had barely spent three days at home. Atlantis's spectacular return to the planet had simply been too big to cover up. Its second return, after they'd found the Odyssey, had been the capper and the President and the IOA had decided the time had come to go public. With everything. That meant that Jack, as Director of Homeworld Security, and Sam, as the person who'd commanded Earth's first line of defense in the battle that had revealed all, were in popular demand. The schedule had been exhausting, the travel grueling, all of it culminating with Sam collapsing in the midst of her third press conference in one day. Jack had finally had enough and put his foot down, telling the President to find someone else to entertain the press for a while, he was going to take his wife home and they were going to take care of each other for a while. A very long while. They'd arrived home late last night and Sam barely remembered crawling into bed.
She looked at the puppy, who was just now stirring, then turned and smiled up at Jack. The puppy's coat was an interesting combination of blueish grey and black on a field of white, and Sam could just make out floppy, pointed hears pressed against Jack's pillow. "What made Cassie think we'd even want a puppy?"
Jack gave her a long look, his brown eyes twinkling with suppressed mirth. "She said it's an Earth rule, 'every kid's gotta have a dog.'" Repeating what he'd told Cassie so many years before, Jack held Sam's gaze, daring her now, just as he had then, to say no to the dog.
The puppy, awake now thanks to Jack's gentle prodding, rose and stretched, yawning widely much as Sam had earlier. His stubby tail wagging, he spotted them watching him and hopped over the blankets to join his new people, his little tongue unerringly finding Sam's face.
As unable to resist the puppy's blue eyes as she was Jack's loving brown ones, Sam found herself quickly falling under the spell of the little guy. She reached out and pulled him off of her chest, marveling at the softness of his downy-soft fur. She held him up and studied him intently for a moment before planting a kiss on his wet nose, deftly avoiding his eager puppy kisses. She'd always been partial to Australian Shepherds and this one's eyes held had a mischievous glint–one with which she was very familiar–he'd fit in perfectly around here.
"Who am I to argue with an Earth rule?"Sam turned her face to Jack's for another kiss, feeling him smile against her lips. She pulled the puppy close and felt the baby move slightly in response to the added warmth and pressure. "She's a smart girl, that Cassandra. Must have been raised by geniuses." As Jack reached out and gathered Sam and the puppy close, wrapping his family securely in his arms, Sam let out a gentle breath, content to stay where she was for as long as possible.
Afterword: These are the notes I wrote immediately after my first viewing of Enemy at the Gates two weeks ago. These are what prompted this fic:
Caldwell says that the Odyssey is on "...some secret mission even I'm not supposed to know about."
"O'Neill wanted Sheppard in 'the Chair'"
Landry is heading up a "Task Force" in Washington
Sam is going to command the General Hammond (formerly the Phoenix)
Davis is now with Homeworld Security (was he always?)
So...what reason would there be for Sam to be in an overly large BDU shirt? Why intentionally make her look pregnant?
So...there you go. As I've said throughout, all feedback is read, answered (unless you review anonymously or have some other way of turning off your reply-to), and saved. Thanks to all who faithfully and steadily reviewed, especially (in alphabetical order) ascifigirl, CeltAngel, cflat, Devilish Me, docderentis, dp, jhalya, kathyhol, LaraSGCLena, leiasky, lkhoward88, Majikthize, Noontide, Phoenix786, sammie77, SammieAtHome, scarletwitch0, sg1star, Starlover1990, and WhatATragicComedy. If I've missed anyone, I apologize. I do appreciate each and every comment.