A/N: Final chapter! Thanks to all of you who are still here! I appreciate the support and hope you've enjoyed this.
Once again, a big thank you and many hugs goes out to the patient and wonderful mrspollifax. This would have remained a bunch of silly e-mails and nothing more if not for her. She did a great deal of work on this and deserves to be rewarded with lots of cake. And a jeweled crown. Possibly a small country :) Also, a shout out to the ISH gals for lending their encouragement, frank opinions, and for all the giggles.
Part 9: The View From the Mountain
August 22, 1892
"I don't know about this, Janet." Sam nervously smoothed down the front of her skirt.
Janet had been listening to Sam's concerns and excuses all morning. She was not going to take another minute of this ridiculousness. Now that the colonel was home, this misunderstanding could easily be resolved if two stubborn people simply talked to each other.
Janet swung open the front door to the sheriff's office. Across the room, Jack's eyes locked onto Sam's, full of panic.
"Sam, leave. Now."
He'd never called her anything but the proper 'Miss Carter' in mixed company, and it seemed Sam's mind could process nothing further than that puzzle alone. Thus, she did not immediately obey, nor did she see the man standing off to her left holding a gun on the sheriff and deputy Lorne.
"Get inside!" the gunman shouted.
It was Janet who moved first, swinging the door shut. And when the gunman added, "Lock the door," she followed that instruction as well.
"Look," Jack said sternly. "They're not involved in this. Let them go."
"You let my friends go first."
"I told you, I have no control over that. They are in jail in Denver.""
Sam's brain finally caught up, and she realized this man must be the 'Neubus' the rest of the gang was talking about that night in the woods.
Neubus swung the gun to Sam and Janet. Janet gasped quietly, but neither woman made any other outward indication of fear.
Sam watched Jack's eyes turn hard, angry, dangerous. "It's me that you want, Neubus." He took a step forward.
"Don't come closer," Neubus replied. "Or the women will get it." Jack took another step in defiance to the words. "I mean it!" Another step.
Neubus swung the gun back and squeezed the trigger. His aim was off the first time, but the second hit Jack in the shoulder.
"No," Sam shouted, shifting as if she were about to move to Jack's side, but the gun was back on her.
"I said, don't move! Why can't you all listen?" He shot widely again, missing Sam but apparently catching Janet. Sam heard Janet fall back against the wall, but didn't dare turn and look. A couple of tears burst loose; Sam took a breath and fought against any further distraction.
"I'll go to Denver with you!" Sam insisted. "I'll go with you, we'll get your friends out of jail. Leave these people here. We don't need them."
Neubus lowered the gun slightly.
Sam continued. "I'm the one that they took, it was my witness report that put them in jail. If we go up there, I will take it back. I will say I made a mistake."
"You're that Carter lady?" Neubus started to smile now, in a way that made Sam very uncomfortable. But she also saw out of the corner of her eye that while Neubus was distracted with Sam, Lorne was inching his way toward his desk. She didn't know what the plan was, but she knew there was a plan. Her job now became distracting Neubus long enough for Lorne to do whatever it was he was doing.
"Yes, I am Miss Carter."
Neubus leared, "Pretty little one, ain't you?"
"I'll go with you to Denver. You can leave these people here to get medical treatment."
"Well, well." Neubus stepped closer to her. "Won't say I'd mind a nice long trip with a sweet thing like you."
Sam saw only a blur, and then a loud noise rang out, and Neubus slumped to the ground. Sam turned to see Lorne with has his pistol still aimed, and he put three more shots in Neubus, two in the heart and one in the head.
August 23, 1892
It was hours later when Dr. Frasier finally allowed anyone to enter surgery room 2, and at the door Jacob hung back, nodding to Sam to go ahead; he seemed content to remain outside the room but nearby.
Jack was sitting on the bed, pulling on a clean shirt. When he looked up at Sam, his eyes were fatigued, but clear and focused.
"Hi," he said, a bit of a crooked smile appeared.
She crossed the room and lingered near the edge of the bed, unsure. "Janet's going to pull through."
"That's good." His hand moved across the sheet and his fingers brushed a pleat in her skirt. "You OK?"
"Fine." Damn, she did not want to cry in front of him. "When he… when I thought…"
Jack stood up. "C'mere." He opened his arms, and she stepped into his embrace. Warmth sprang inside her as the hug went on and on, and she put her head on his shoulder.
"Sam," he whispered into her neck, his lips close to her skin. Sam's eyes slid shut, squeezing out some tears in the process, but she didn't care as much suddenly. It felt so good to be there, in the space she shared with him, knowing he was alive and because of that alone, there was still a chance for a shared future.
"I couldn't protect you," his voice caught. Sam was pretty sure he meant it in a grander way, not only today's events.
"It will always be you first instinct." Sam lifted her head from his shoulder in order to meet his eyes. "And that's good, so long as shortly thereafter, you remember the rest."
"Jack." She swallowed back more emotion. "Please go speak with my father." She'd beg if she had to, no matter how unladylike.
"Well, I would…" He caressed a hand down her cheek, regretting the worry in her expression. "But why would I ask permission to court you? If before I left for Denver I already asked and was granted your hand in marriage."
"You…" Happiness flooded her face.
"If you'll have me?"
"Yes." Then suddenly her eyes darkened. "You let me believe you'd changed your mind." She smacked him on the shoulder playfully, and despite that, she still wore a smile.
"Yeah, about that…"
But she didn't give him chance to form a proper apology; his mouth was otherwise engaged.
October 31, 1892
"Leave it to your father to dress as General George Washington for Halloween," Jack griped. "He likely thinks that he and the General are one and the same." Only recently had it begun to set in that Jacob was to become his father-in-law. It was the one fatal flaw in having won Sam's love.
Sam stifled a chuckle. "Stop it."
"The rifle isn't loaded, is it?"
"You're dressed as a sheriff, and I don't think that should be allowed."
Jack glanced down at the clothes he wore just about every day. "I thought the point of Halloween was to dress up as something you're not. And you always said I'm a very inadequate sheriff."
"Only the one time."
She looked up at Jack, knowing that all the jokes and misdirection were his way. But they'd faced everything together and made it; this would be no different.
"Come," she tugged his arm a little, and he followed her out the back door of the hall. They left the music, dancing, costumes, and Halloween candy behind. She began to walk, with her arm in his, and at first he seemed to simply give in to her wish for an escape into the cool night air. Until he suddenly recognized where they were headed.
He halted. "No, Sam."
"But you go every year. Daniel told me."
He looked away from her. After a long moment he said, "That was before."
"Before?" She stepped around to face him once again. "You've never once asked me to change who I am to be with you. How could I not do the same for you?"
"I'm not sure…"
"But I am," Sam took his hand, and he had no choice to continue to walk beside her. They arrived at the little cemetery, and as the gate swung open, the creak of the hinges was the only sound in the still air.
"Which way?" Sam asked. He led her over to a corner, near a lilac bush. Sam crouched down and traced her fingers along the inscription on the headstone.
"Hi, Sara," Sam spoke softly. Then she paused, having no idea what to say next. This woman had been so much a part of shaping the man who would now become her husband. And Sam wondered, briefly, if the situation were reversed, what she'd want to know. "I promise to take good care of him."
She stood, and before she had a chance to turn, Jack's arms came around her from behind. He buried her head in her hair, and though he was silent, she knew there were tears. She stood there, and would continue to stand for as long as he needed her to, as Jack leaned on her.
After a while, his lips found her neck, placing kisses behind her earlobe. "Thank you," he whispered. The arms around her squeezed and released, and she turned to face him.
"No, thank you."
He was clearly confused. "For what?"
Being patient, giving in, teaching her, loving her, and so much more, she wasn't sure where to even begin. "For everything."
So it was said that Lady Langford was right after all, for when Samantha Carter finally found the right one, she was in quite a hurry to marry her beloved and get on with sharing her life with him. And Lady Langford never failed to remind Sam of that fact every year on the O'Neill's wedding anniversary, for many happy years to come.