Stop! Before reading this fic it is essential that you read the brilliant fic for which this is a tag. Elegy by AstraPerAspera. You won't understand this one without it.
HUGE thanks to AstraPerAspera, not only for lending me her idea and letting me run with it, but for all her ongoing encouragement and her magic red pen :)
Sam checked the clock on the dashboard of her car as she pulled into her usual parking space at Cheyenne Mountain. Just after midnight. But it wasn't dark here, the bright lamps scattered throughout the base kept night at bay. Her eyes barely needed the adjustment as she entered the compound, cleared the first checkpoint with polite nods to the on duty airmen straightening as she swept passed them, and descended into the bowels of the mountain.
After swinging by her lab to pick up the long cardboard cylinder she'd left waiting, Sam headed to the infirmary. The lights here were dimmed, in coordination with the late hour on the surface. Moving quickly but quietly, she slipped past the sleeping patients unnoticed; remarked only by a lone nurse who knew better than to accost a member of SG1 when they were visiting a fellow team mate, no matter what the hour. His rank afforded him some measure of privacy...either that or Janet decided his grousing was too trying on the nerves of her other patients...and Sam gave a soft knock on the door of one of the infirmary's smaller rooms before sliding through and closing it behind her.
"Sir? Are you awake?" She asked in a loud whisper, though she knew quite well that he was.
There would be no slumber for Jack O'Neill for the next 24 hours. It was August seventeenth.
"Carter." He complained as he turned over in the bed to face her. "What's goin' on?"
"Oh good, you are awake," was her light reply, as she tucked the cylinder she carried under her arm and pulled up a chair next to his bed.
She watched his eyebrows rise in surprise and then lower into a scowl. "Carter. Do you know what time it is?"
"Yes sir." Sam told him and then felt a jolt of sudden unease. Maybe he was trying to sleep. Maybe he didn't want to see her. "Sorry sir, did you want to get some sleep? I could go." The last words came out slightly stuttered despite her best efforts and she suppressed her cringe.
A year ago today she had vowed not to leave him alone with the pain this day engendered in him. They were off world at the time, and, with Daniel's and Teal'c's help they had managed to sufficiently distract him. And she hadn't even had to resort to the playing cards she'd stowed in her pack.
A lot had happened between them since then. Many truths, carefully hidden beneath the surface of professionalism and team camaraderie, had come to light. But though terrifying, it had also been somewhat of a relief, at least to her, that finally he knew what she truly felt for him. And most surprising for her, that he should feel the same way.
With the Colonel stuck in the infirmary until morning due to the wounds those deadly fire-flies of M4C-862 had inflicted yesterday, he had no means of escape, no sufficient distraction that she knew he needed to keep him from drowning in the agony of his son's loss. Though their behaviour might still be governed by the constraints of their duty, their feelings were not. And she had hoped that the new understanding and mutual acknowledgment of those feelings might enable her to offer him the distraction he needed without enlisting the help of the others, at least for tonight. Looking at the deep crease between his drawn brows now, she wondered if she had been mistaken. If perhaps she should have summoned Teal'c to keep this night's watch.
He sat up and swiped his hand through the air. "No, it's...I mean, that's fine. I wasn't asleep. What's up?"
Sam suppressed the urge to release her pent up nervous breath in a gush and instead shot him a self-conscious smile as she launched into the speech she had been preparing since they got back earth-side. "Well sir, as you know, since we had those problems with the X-301..."
"Problems?" Her CO interrupted incredulously. "Sending T and I on a pleasure cruise to the Oort cloud was a 'problem'?"
Sam had the good grace to drop her head sheepishly – she had chosen her words well - and beat back the smirk that threatened. But there was no anger or malice in his voice and she lifted her gaze to him through her eyelashes.
"Catastrophic malfunction?" She offered, the smirk breaking through just a little as she watched his eyes brighten.
"Better." He approved.
"So anyway..." Sam continued. "You know that we've decided to build our own vessel, based on the glider templates and the knowledge we gained from studying it?"
She waited for his nod before resuming. "So, I've been working on some of the blueprints for the new X-302 project." She held the cylinder she'd brought with her aloft and smiled nervously. "And I was hoping you could take a look at them for me."
When he just looked at her bewildered, she clarified. "You have experience with the real thing as well as the X-301. We could use your input."
The Colonel shrugged, still looking a little shocked, but when he acquiesced Sam wasted no time and eagerly drew out the first sheet, unrolling it flat onto the bed in front of the him. He took hold of one side, and snagged the gameboy off the side table to weigh down one corner before he frowned down at the plans.
"So Carter...first things first...phasers!"
Looking through the blueprints had taken most of the night and Sam had completely lost track of time when she noticed the lights brighten and low murmurs and footsteps outside in the main infirmary. She took her leave of the Colonel, apologising for keeping him up all night, and claiming that if Janet discovered her she'd be dead meat. She carried the sight of the dimmed light in his eyes and his forced smile with her as she made her way to the locker rooms.
Showered and changed - they'd agreed on blue today – she stopped by Teal'c's quarters, rubbing the drowsiness out of her eyes. Her plan for the day was hastily made as she'd been banking on the fact they would still be on that moon, but since the bugs had turned bad, she decided she'd have to improvise.
She spoke to Teal'c as they rode the elevator back to the infirmary level. "How are those driving lessons coming along?"
"They are not. There has been little time between missions." He replied in his bass tone.
"Yeah, I guess it has been pretty hectic." Trying for nonchalance, she took aim. "Maybe the Colonel could take you out today? Janet said she'll be letting him out this morning and the welts aren't really bothering him. Besides, who knows when you may get another chance."
Sam flicked her gaze up to watch the flashing numbers on the elevator control panel as her friend studied her with tilted head and raised eyebrow. "Perhaps." Was his only reply.
They found the Colonel already dressed in his BDUs and battling Janet who was trying to give him a bottle of meds.
"Thanks Doc, but I won't be needing them. Fit as a fiddle." He slapped his chest jovially and tried to hide his cringe behind a feigned cough.
"Humour me," Janet insisted and shoved the bottle into his hands. "And you might as well get out of that uniform Colonel, you aren't going anywhere until I'm sure you won't have any reaction."
The Colonel's growl was cut off by Teal'c's greeting. "O'Neill."
"T. Carter," he said, nodding at them. "Tell me you've come here to spring me?"
Teal'c glanced at Janet. "Is Colonel O'Neill not yet allowed to leave the infirmary Doctor Fraisier?"
"I didn't say that." She replied with a glare at the Colonel behind his back. "But I don't want him away from the base for long..." She rushed on when she noticed the Colonel's in drawn breath as he was preparing to cut in. "And absolutely no going offworld for the next few days." She finished waggling a stern finger at him.
So that had been what the argument was about. She'd known he would try to get himself offworld. And she'd known he would fail.
The Colonel's frown deepened. And Sam was well aware that his limited patience was at an end. His features began to cloud as anger swelled. A defence mechanism. However unwittingly, Janet had cut him off from his usual avenue of escape on this dark day. Anger was easier to face; easier to feel, and easier to release than the real emotions buried deep and scarring his soul.
Sam forced her lips to turn up in a smile and elbowed Teal'c who eyed her askance with an arched brow before stepping into the Colonel's space. Colonel O'Neill was the only man she knew who wasn't intimidated by the sheer bulk and presence of Teal'c.
"O'Neill. Perhaps we might take this opportunity to continue with my automobile training."
As the Colonel's attention – and glower – shifted to Teal'c. Sam snatched the opportunity to snag Janet's elbow and steer her aside with questions about what she had planned for Cassie's birthday coming up in just a few months.
Eventually, with little grace, Colonel O'Neill agreed to take Teal'c driving. Relieved, and satisfied that the Colonel would be occupied for a few hours at least, Sam decided to grab a sandwich and a coffee and retreat to the refuge of her lab where she promptly shut out the rest of the world and heaved a tired breath.
Unfortunately, her team mate's outing didn't take up as much of the day as Sam had thought and she found her solitude broken as the door of her lab slid open abruptly and Colonel O'Neill marched in with Teal'c on his heels.
"That's it Carter! From now on, teaching Teal'c to drive is your job." He declared, irritably.
"What happened?" Sam asked, startled.
"He ran into a shopping cart, Carter! And scratched my truck!" Jack aimed his tirade at Teal'c who stood stoically, his hands clasped naturally behind him.
"I saw no damage to your vehicle O'Neill."
"Then you need glasses." He retorted, plonking himself on a stool with his arms petulantly crossed.
Sam struggled, trying not to smirk, and failed.
"I'm glad you find the assault on my truck amusing Carter." Her grin grew, and it was all she could do to keep her laughter at bay. "Here's a tip. Avoid the shopping malls when T's drivin' your Volvo."
She lost her smile. And somehow he regained his.
Sam blinked at her CO. Her car was almost as precious to her as her bike, and the thought of teaching a novice driver in it was not appealing. Which the Colonel very well knew. But the genuine smirk on the lips of the man before her, and the rekindled light in his eye might be worth it. Still, there was no reason why she shouldn't spare her vintage car if she could...
"You know, we could just get Teal'c his own car. He'll need one anyway."
"Car shopping?" The colonel asked, perking up.
"Why not? Then he can have his lessons in his own car."
"I like this plan Carter." The Colonel asserted, hopping off the stool and rubbing his hands together.
Unable to resist smiling up at him, Sam fell into step beside the colonel and they sauntered out of her lab and into the hallway as they deliberated over the best lots to try. They both froze mid step when a low throat clearing was heard; still back in Sam's lab.
Spinning, they took the few steps back to the lab entrance. "Er, that is if you want your own car Teal'c?" Sam appealed, guiltily.
"Of course he wants his own car, Carter. Right T?" Colonel O'Neill asked enthusiastically. The hands shoved into his pockets the only thing that betrayed his own embarrassment. They had all but forgotten their team mate was with them.
With a dignified lift of his chin, Teal'c answered. "This plan is agreeable to me."
The colonel slapped his palms together satisfied. "Great! Then let's go," and eagerly retreated down the corridor.
Teal'c, only a step behind, continued. "However, I wish to choose the style of the vehicle myself."
"Been checkin' some cars out T?" The colonel inquired.
"Daniel Jackson provided me with some literature."
"Car and Driver?"
By the time Sam pulled the sleek, black SUV into the parking bay next to the Colonel's truck it was already getting dark out, and some of the spotlights on base had flickered to life. She watched with affectionate amusement as Teal'c skimmed his hand over the shiny hood of his very own car.
She felt, rather than saw Colonel O'Neill beside her shift his weight. He rocked onto the tips of his toes once before he called out a quick congratulatory remark to Teal'c and, swinging around, strolled toward the elevators that would take him down into the SGC. Leaving Teal'c with a quick excuse, she caught up with him and they rode down together. She had managed to take them from dealership to dealership, all across town; coming up with all kinds of reasons for looking elsewhere for Teal'c's perfect vehicle. She had used all her technical and engineering expertise to invent paltry excuses for the inadequacy of car after perfectly suitable car. In this way she had managed, at least she hoped she had managed, to keep the Colonel sufficiently distracted and entertained. Even still, she had noticed the far-away look in his gaze at times; the way his eyes narrowed ever so slightly and his lips pressed together while his hand bunched into a fist.
Now, though, she was out of options. It was late, he should be heading home though she knew he wouldn't. But Sam could think of nothing more that she could do without rousing his suspicions, and she couldn't allow him to realise what she was doing, what she knew, under any circumstances. Even if it meant leaving him to his pain. Daniel had been right when he'd said last year that the colonel would hate it if he knew...and Sam would have lost the only way to help him - at least in some small measure - that she had available to her. She couldn't touch him, or hold him or tell him she understood and that she was sorry. This was all she had.
So she had said nothing when he'd pressed the button for level 28. She had wished him a polite goodnight when she had disembarked on the locker room level. And she had tried to go to sleep and leave him to fill the last few hours of this dreadful day the best way he could. It shouldn't have been this difficult to get to sleep, especially considering she hadn't slept the night before. Her mind wandered time and again to the Colonel. Wondering where he was, what he had found to do, whom he was badgering. And her thoughts turned to the last stand on that moon just the other day, and his not unusual risk and sacrifice. She felt a sudden peal of guilt...who would sacrifice themselves for him? But she knew the answer...she would...and she could no longer lie in her bed.
But she still didn't know what else to do for him. She just knew that she could not rest knowing that he couldn't. Before she'd even realised it, her restless feet had taken her to the control room. Sgt Harriman was on duty this night and she gave a polite nod and smile in return to his respectful greeting. Not really knowing why, she had told the Sergeant to ready a MALP, and had M4C-862 dialled up. When he questioned, she'd told him she wanted to test a theory and see if things had settled down with the vicious fire flies. There was a lot of equipment left behind that needed to be salvaged if possible, she'd said.
As events and procedures unfolded under her direction, Colonel O'Neill slipped into the control room behind her. She felt him there, a tangible and familiar presence. Under his gaze she worked, only the barest of exchanges between them. Until outside, the sun's golden rays kissed the tip of the mountain, and finally the Colonel scrubbed a hand over his weary face.
"Time for some shut eye, Carter." He said, in a soft voice that carried only to her.
Sam looked up at him from her console. "Good Night, sir."
"That's Good Morning, Carter. And you too, let's go." He ordered, hiking a thumb toward the stairs.
She feigned a sigh of resignation because she knew he would expect it and rose to meet him. Strolling through the halls of the SGC together, they retreated to their respective quarters and laying her tired body down she felt her eyelids droop...the Colonel must be asleep by now, she thought...and she let them close.
I hope you all enjoyed it, and would it be demeaning to beg for reviews? ;)