Title: Never Be Forgot
Pairing: Sam Carter/Major Paul Davis
Summary: Doctor Sam Carter gets some bad news from General Jack O'Neill. AU, Major character angst.
Sam growled and cursed the scientist who had collected the data currently on her screen. It just didn't make sense. Once again, she wished she was based at the SGC and able to go off world when she needed to. Based on her medical history, however, that was never going to happen. Her father had said her disability would always be a liability, and sadly, she had to admit he was right. That shark had a lot to answer for; she'd not been surfing since the accident either.
She fired off an email to Lee at Cheyenne Mountain asking him to have the data verified before she went any further with it. Considering it was Friday, she didn't anticipate a response until after the weekend.
Sam checked the time and smiled at the thought that came to mind. Paul would arrive back on Earth soon, and hopefully his debriefing wouldn't last that long. He'd promised to call her upon his return and she was looking forward to it. Not only could she live vicariously through his mission reports, but they could also put together the arrangements for his flight into Washington the following Wednesday. She'd not seen him in two months.
Quick footsteps approached her office before stopping. Upon hearing the three staccato raps on her door Sam called out, "Come in," pleased to have a distraction from the nonsensical data on her computer.
She was surprised to see Major General Jack O'Neill enter the room. O'Neill was a friend of her father's and, by extension, hers also, but he rarely stopped by her office. In fact, she usually only saw him when her father came to visit and the two men went golfing on a Saturday morning. She knew little about him except that he was a widower with a grown-up son.
"Sir." She scrambled up from the seat to come to attention. She wasn't military, but she was a military 'brat.' She'd been drilled in giving respect, regardless of whether or not the recipient was in uniform.
"Sit down, Sam," he said quietly, which also surprised her since the man was usually loud and blunt.
"Er, yes, Sir." She sat back down and watched him close the door.
He took the chair across from her and closed his eyes briefly. Sam immediately knew he was the bearer of bad news. He'd had the same look on his face when he'd come to tell her that her cousin, Janet, had been killed in Iraq.
"Sir? Is it my father?"
He shook his head. "Your father and brother are both fine, Sam. It's Paul."
Sam's hands gripped her chair's armrests. "What?" Her voice sounded thick so she cleared her throat and started over. "What happened?"
"You know about his mission this week?"
Sam nodded. "Yes. It was to a planet formerly occupied by the Ori. He was trying to convince the leaders to resume their alliance with Earth."
"My understanding is that the locals felt we were to blame for the Ori and chose to take out their anger on Paul and his team."
Sam looked down, wanting desperately to wake up from this unexpected nightmare. "When?"
"I don't know yet. I think Landry only found out this morning." O'Neill paused. "I'm not going to tell you what he told me. I've seen a lot over the years, but this sounded bad, and I'll have to go through it all again when I do the investigation."
His voice sounded strange, and now Sam remembered. "It wasn't just Paul, was it?" When he didn't reply, she knew she had her answer. Daniel Jackson had been on Paul's team, and he was the General's best friend.
O'Neill's aide, Walter, drove Sam home. After she hastily packed, he took her to Andrews. A private aircraft then flew her and the General to Peterson in Colorado Springs. Finally, another car whisked them away to Cheyenne Mountain.
On some level, Sam knew and accepted that Paul was gone. He was career military and this was one of the risks of making such a decision. Her father had accepted those risks, as had her brother. Their wives had married them knowing the possibility existed that one day they might not come home, and Sam had tried to adopt the same attitude when she'd begun her relationship with Paul. He might have been her father's aide when they'd first met, but he'd been transferred to the SGC two years ago after successfully diffusing a difficult situation between Earth and two potential allies. O'Neill – in his former position of SGC CO – had pretty much snatched him from right under her father's nose.
Despite all the facts presented to her, however, a part of Sam still hoped Paul would be waiting for her on base. She'd heard numerous tales of how Doctor Jackson had been presumed dead – more than once - only to resurface. This had to be one of those times. And this time, Paul would resurface right along with him. This wasn't like Janet's death. That had been on Earth, in a war zone. Sam had watched the coffin come off the plane and, later, watched it buried at Arlington. Now there was no coffin and no body. Therefore, Paul and the archaeologist would appear. They had to.
She was ushered into a conference room, along with the General. A coffeepot sat on a side table and O'Neill offered her a cup. She shook her head and stared through the window at the Stargate in the embarkation room. Perhaps if she waited long enough she'd see it start to spin, the chevrons click into place and the wormhole billow into formation.
The door behind her burst open, and Sam turned to see a black-haired woman dive into O'Neill's arms. "I can't believe it," she sobbed as Sam watched him attempt to comfort her.
Sam knew how the woman must feel. "I keep expecting them to come through the Gate," she confessed.
The woman pulled her head back from the General's chest. "Exactly! Daniel can't die! He's proven it repeatedly. He's not dead, Jack. He's not, he's not!" She punched the General's shoulder for emphasis before collapsing back against him.
General Landry came in, accompanied by a man Sam identified as Teal'c, the former First Prime of Apophis. Landry shook O'Neill's hand while Teal'c formally inclined his head and gently removed the woman from O'Neill. Finally, everyone took seats around the conference table, and Sam attempted to focus on the current Commanding Officer of the base.
Mercifully, the briefing was kept short. The Memorial Service would be held in the morning; the dark-haired woman was called Vala something or other and told she was welcome to stay – whatever that meant – and O'Neill would head up an investigation into the failed mission, along with someone called Woolsey who was part of the Atlantis project. Sam and the General were also allocated quarters on base for as long as they wanted.
Vala came to her afterwards. "So, you're Sam," she said, attempting to smile. "I've heard a lot about you." She drew Sam aside. "If you're not let into Paul's quarters, let me know. I know how to get in." Sam raised an eyebrow at the woman's confession, but Vala merely shrugged. "It has the same locking mechanism as Daniel's. Anyway, come see me and I'll help." She winked at Sam and left quickly, leaving the scientist to wonder what exactly the other woman meant.
"You must excuse Vala Mal Doran, Doctor Carter."
Sam looked at Teal'c but said nothing.
"Like myself, she is not of the Tau'ri. However, it is evident that she deeply loved Daniel Jackson."
The service was held in the embarkation room. The Stargate was activated and four wreathes were sent through. General O'Neill gave the eulogy, speaking of the men who had given their lives. Sam and Vala received tightly folded flags, as were two other people. When Sam shuffled back into her place, clasping the flag to her chest with one hand, she felt a comforting and guiding arm around her waist. It belonged to her father, and she was grateful to have his support.
Retired General Jacob Carter had flown in overnight. Prior to his retirement, he'd been the head of Home World Security. He'd introduced his daughter to his aide three years ago and had appreciated the way the young man had looked past Sam's disability. After retiring, he'd moved to Arizona to be closer to Sam's brother Mark who was stationed at Luke Air Force Base. Mark had been reassigned from Hackam AFB on Oahu in Hawaii six years previously, just months after the shark attack that had ended any hope Sam had of one day going through the Stargate. It had been a move welcomed by the entire family, even though it had come too late to save Sam's foot.
Afterwards, there was a small wake in the Officer's Mess. People mingled, including her father, but Sam was grateful for a chance to sit down. Her arms ached from balancing on her crutches during the service. A few people stopped by her table, including Doctor Lee, who wanted to discuss the anomalous data Sam had had problems with. It was a relief to focus on a subject other than Paul, if only for a few minutes.
"Doctor Carter?" The young man looked vaguely familiar, but Sam couldn't put a name to his face. He wore a suit, indicating he was a civilian, and Sam wondered if he was another scientist.
He smiled broadly and sat down opposite her. "I know we've never been properly introduced, but my name is Jonas Quinn."
Sam nodded, recognising the name. Jonas was another resident alien. He'd sought refuge on Earth a couple of years previously, after an incident that had resulted in one of Daniel Jackson's apparent deaths. Before that, he'd been a high-ranking official on his home planet, despite his relatively young age. His strengths lay in diplomacy, and Paul had been mentoring him.
She smiled back. "Of course. Paul spoke of you often."
"He was a good friend."
"I'm sorry I didn't recognise you."
Jonas grinned again. "Hey, that's okay. I think the last time you were here, I was heading into a meeting with some off-world representatives. Not that that's an uncommon occurrence. I think sometimes they all think Earth can solve their problems." His face turned sombre. "Either that, or they think Earth is responsible for all their problems, like the Ori. Then they think the best solution is violence."
She nodded. "It happens here, too, you know. We're not so perfect."
"Yeah, Paul kept telling me that. I don't go off base much, so I watch a lot of your television. Your planet is like mine in so many respects. Paul used to remind me that we couldn't be expected to always be successful in our negotiations since we didn't have peace on our own worlds."
"But it's still important to you, right?"
"Oh yeah. It doesn't matter if you're required to solve disputes between neighbours or cementing alliances between Earth and other planets. Paul used to joke about how we'd solve galactic peace first and then we'd -"
"Solve the Middle East," Sam chimed in. "Yes, I know. He'd talk about the outsider's perspective and how you sometimes see things different to those who are too close to the situation."
"I heard you sometimes made him look at your scientific stuff for that different perspective," Jonas joked.
"You have to put your money where your mouth is, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. It's why Paul was determined to renew these alliances in the wake of the Ori defeat. He believed it could be done." The young man sighed. "I offered to help him, even said I'd go with him or instead of him. If I'd only gone this time -" He put his head down and stared at his hands.
Sam felt a wave of sympathy for him. "Hey," she said softly. "Don't think of the what-ifs. I had to learn that a long time ago. I used to wonder what might have happened if I'd joined my brother in the Air Force, or what if he'd not been stationed in Hawaii. What if I'd not gone surfing that day?" She placed her hand over his. "Jonas, if you'd gone you'd be dead, either instead of him or most likely with him."
He stared at her, stricken. "He could have still been here. I wish he was."
"I know." She rubbed her free hand across her eyes, willing the tears not to fall. "And I will wish he was still here for the rest of my life. But it doesn't change things."
The young man nodded. "Paul always spoke so highly of you, and I know he loved you."
"I love him too."
Jonas pulled his hand back. "Look, I won't keep you for much longer. I'm getting together with Vala and Teal'c later to, well, remember him and Doctor Jackson in our own ways. You're definitely welcome to join us. But I wanted to ask; have you had a chance to go through the stuff in Paul's quarters yet?"
Sam shook her head. "I didn't know if I'd be able to or not."
"Well, you've got clearance to be here, so I don't see why not. Someone will have to do it, and it should be you since you were closest to him."
"I suppose." Sam had spoken to Paul's sister before the service. His family were going to sort through his apartment after the public funeral, but they couldn't come on base.
"There's a small table by his bed. Check the top drawer."
"There's something in there he wanted you to have. I think he was going to give it to you this week."
"What is it?"
"I'm not going to say, but you'll know it when you see it."
Jonas was right. Sam knew exactly what she was looking for the moment she saw it. The small velvet box was nestled among Paul's socks and underwear.
She sat on his bed and held it in her hands. She was almost afraid to open it, not sure that she could handle what she'd see. She reasoned with herself, thinking maybe it was simply a pair of earrings he'd bought for her, but part of her already knew that wasn't the case.
She couldn't stare at a closed box forever. She could hear Paul chiding her, pointing out that the box wasn't important. He used to laugh at how scientific she was in everything, always wanting to explore and document an item thoroughly. She opened gifts like that: exploring the outside first before carefully removing the wrapping. "It's not a bomb, Sam," he'd say. "It won't explode in your face. Don't be so afraid of it."
Sam couldn't be afraid now. This was from Paul, a man she'd trusted completely when he was alive. She couldn't change how she felt just because he was gone. She knew what was inside the box and knew what Paul had wanted for her, for them. She'd wanted the same thing. She'd wanted to be with him forever. If he couldn't be by her side, then he'd be there in her memories.
"Yes," she whispered.
And she opened the box.