A/N: Well. Go figure. I wrote a piece for Ship Day 2009, Small Steps and Giant Leaps, fully intending that it would be a stand-alone story. However, many folks wrote an asked for a sequel, or a "10 years later" kind of thing, but it was GateSeeker2 who provided the inspiration for this story and the next. I hope they meet her expectations and that you all enjoy them as well. As always, I love reading your reviews. It's how I get better.
I deliberately left the timeframe for Small Steps and Giant Leaps rather vague, intending that the reader should place the story where they most felt it fit. However, since I'm now adding two more stories to that piece I'll say that Small Steps and Giant Leaps took place in Season 4 (the ultra-shippy season!) and this in Season 8, set during Threads, just after Sam and her Dad discuss his having met Pete.
Promissa Facta Sunt
Muttering under her breath, Sam inched deeper into the closet. With one hand on the drill and the other supporting the weight of the shelf, she frowned as the painful grinding sound of a Phillips-head bit stripping its screw filled the room.
Readjusting her grip, she squinted into the darkness of the corner. What the hell had she been thinking when she'd put this stuff in? It wasn't like it had to withstand escape velocity, for crying out . . . she stopped that thought instantly. Even in her head she was shying away from any references to the Colonel and using his favorite phrase certainly topped the list of things from which to keep away. What she really needed was a flashlight and . . . Sam couldn't help but let out an almost pained chuckle, she knew just where she'd find one.
With a quiet sigh, she fished in the pocket of her soft cotton shorts, pulling out the small Maglite. It was attached to a ring that held the light securely to two other helpful items; a small mini-Leatherman style knife and an eight-gigabyte jump drive. All three items showed signs of wear, as would anything that she carried on a daily basis for years. The Colonel, Jack, she thought, secretly savoring his name as she said it in her head. Jack had given it to her a little over four years ago. She remembered Cassie cracking up as Sam had opened the inexpertly wrapped gift. Jack's eyes had twinkled as he explained to Sam that he considered the gift the "Sam Carter World-Saving Kit," and with it—and a little duct tape—she should be able to accomplish anything. They'd shared a small smile before Daniel interrupted, demanding that Sam open his gift to her.
Sam absently fingered the items, thinking of how often she had, indeed, used the three tools in the course of her work. She'd carried them with her every day since she'd opened them, on and off duty. Well, in terms of not thinking about him, Samantha, this is a failure, Sam mentally chastised herself. If you carry around a gift from him and think of him every time you use it, then . . . what's the point of deciding not to think about him? She closed her eyes for a second before turning the flashlight on and aiming it at the darkened corner of the closet. "Oh, shut up," she muttered to the annoying voice in her head.
Sam jumped at the unexpected voice, then swore softly as she banged her head on the shelf she was trying to remove. For a fleeting second her heart leapt and she was sure that the voice belonged to Jack. She flashed back to that afternoon so long ago when she'd looked up from this very spot to find him standing there, hand extended toward her. The pain in her head receded as her body remembered what had followed.
What they had shared.
What they had promised.
With an almost audible pop that memory exploded, chased away by the sensation of a large hand on her bare leg sliding up toward her knee. Sam reflexively pulled her leg up and out of reach, then rolled out from under the shelf. She rubbed her fingers across her forehead, feeling for the lump she knew would follow her encounter with the shelf. "Pete. Hi."
Sam tried not to wince at his habitual term of "endearment." She hated when he called her that.
"Who were you talking to?"
Pete squatted down, bringing himself to her eye level. Slight concern crossed his soft features, and he searched Sam's face for a moment, his eyes darting to the reddening spot at her hairline. "When I came in, I heard you talking. Thought you might be on your phone."
Sam shook her head. "Oh, no. Sorry. Talking to myself." She gestured toward the closet. "Stripped screw."
Pete patted her bare leg, then let his hand linger there, his fingers caressing her skin. Once again Sam fought back a wince, then sternly ordered herself to get it together. "What are you doing here?" Her question came out sounding a bit more direct than she intended and Pete's eyes widened in surprise. Taking a deep breath, Sam tried again, deliberately softening her tone. "I mean, I thought you had a thing in Denver."
"Not 'till tomorrow night. Got postponed."
"Oh." Sam closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall, wondering just when it was that she'd run out of things to say to this man, the man to whom she'd committed herself. After leaving her Dad to rest in his on-base quarters, she had headed home, at loose ends as to what to do with herself with two days off. Two days off with a potentially galaxy-destroying crises looming. Great. But . . . Ja–the General had been clear. Take the days, he'd call when things looked like they were coming to a head. A long run had done little to settle her chaotic thoughts, so Sam had decided to tackle the project of rearranging her small home office into a useable second bedroom.
They sat in silence and Sam couldn't help but compare her time on the floor now with Pete to the comfortable and loving silence she and Jack had shared here before. Shaking her head to get rid of those thoughts, Sam blew out another frustrated breath. Dammit. I need to get a grip. It's been four years. He practically ordered me to do this . . . to get a life. I want this. I want him. Pete, I mean. I want what he's offering. What we can make together . . . Sam sighed again.
"Babe, you bonked your head pretty hard. Let me do this for you, okay?" Without waiting for her response, Pete took the drill from her hands and gently elbowed Sam out of the way. He slid on his back into the closet, then reached around and fumbled for the small light that still lay on the floor. "Wow, this is so tiny it's almost useless. I can get you a better one, you know. And . . ." he swore as the attached knife and jump drive hindered his movements, "these are kind of a pain, don't you think?"
Sam jerked her head up, then shook it, barely—just barely—resisting the urge to snatch Jack's "Carter Special" out of his hands. "No, I don't think so," she said bitingly. "They work just fine for me."
"Must be 'cause you have tiny 'girl' hands." Pete shrugged and then grunted as he forced the drill to grind and scream, finally pulling out the recalcitrant screw. Holding it up like a trophy he waved it at Sam. "See? I am good for some things!" He flexed his arm and added, "When all else fails, my dear, brute strength."
Sam didn't answer. She couldn't. She knew, just knew, that if she did she'd lose whatever chance she had at a normal life. The better part of valor, in this once instance, was to keep her lips firmly closed. Her mind, however, whirled. 'Girl' hands? She glanced down at those hands, now fisted in her lap. Slowly opening them she had another flash of memory, this one so strong as to almost make her gasp out loud. Running the fingers of her . . . 'girl' hands . . . across a strong jaw line, tracing the small laugh-lines branching from golden brown eyes. Eyes that held hers and promised . . .. Sam clenched her fists tighter, digging her nails into her palms and using the pain to chase away that visceral memory.
Maybe it was the setting. A late afternoon with warm sunlight painting the room with color, the dust in the air dancing along invisible currents. Maybe it was the room, this room. This closet. This . . . space. The space she'd shared with him. Sam frowned to herself. I'm beginning to feel as if I'm living a Harry Potter book. Jack has become, in my head even, 'he who must not be named.' With a soft, quiet sigh she leaned back against the doorframe again and watched as Pete continued to remove the screws holding the shelf brackets in place. When he spoke again, she realized that even his voice was beginning to annoy her.
"So, Babe. What's the project?" Pete glanced down to where Sam sat slumped just outside of the closet. "I mean . . . we're getting married, which means moving to another place, so why the home improvement?"
"Cassie. She'll be home from school in a week, and . . . well . . . the last time she was here I felt really bad that I hadn't had a chance to make a place for her. You know . . . just for her."
"Ah. Good idea." Pete continued his task, moving on to the next level of shelves. "Is she almost done? With school, I mean?"
Frowning slightly, Sam answered shortly. "Pete, you know she isn't. I told you last week. She's just finishing her first semester at Penn."
"Sorry." Pete shrugged, almost indifferently. "It's gonna be weird, though, you know? I mean . . . our kids will have an older . . . what? Sister? Aunt? And do we buy a house with an extra room for her? I mean, it's not like she's gonna live with us, is she?"
Sam just stared at him, open-mouthed.
When she didn't answer, Pete glanced at her, then slowly set down his drill. He sat up and reached for Sam who still didn't respond. "Babe, I'm sorry. I'm not sayin' I don't want her. Cassie's welcome to stay with us when she's in town." He looked around the room at the piles of books in one corner and the bed Sam had set up in another. "I guess I just always figured that when we put together a room for a kid, it'd be our kid." He pulled her toward him, his tone cajoling. When Sam didn't respond or resist, Pete leaned forward, bending his head to kiss her.
It was the brush of his lips against hers that did it. Sam started and jerked backward, lurching awkwardly to her feet. No, no, nonononononono. This is wrong, this is wrong! She stood back and stared at the man lying at her feet.
He'd ruined it for her.
How many times had she sat here in this, her little home office, and stared at the spot where he now lay? The spot where she—and Jack—had whispered words of love and promise to each other. Sam realized now that her favorite time of day to be in this room was always late afternoon to early evening, when the sun was painting the sky in glorious colors that blended slowly together into a fathomless midnight blue. The time of day she and he had opened up, sharing a part of each other. Like that room at the SGC, this patch of carpet had become a talisman for her, and now . . . now it was no longer that.
With a flash of clarity so strong it rivaled that of an Asgard beam, Sam awoke as if from a dream. She sank onto the bed she . . . and, oddly enough, Jack . . . had picked out for their young ward. Her hands trembled as she brought them to her face and her eyes caught the sparkle of the ring that lay like a tiny manacle around her finger. Around her heart. Looking up into the confused eyes of her fiancé, Sam knew what she had to do.
"Pete . . . I . . ."
Pete jumped and held up a finger as he delved into his pocket and retrieved his beeping cell phone. Sam watched his face light up as he answered. She couldn't dredge up even an ounce of curiosity when he, with an excited glance toward her, agreed that yes, eleven-o'clock tomorrow would be a great time to meet. He snapped is phone closed and rose to his knees, scooting closer to the bed.
Sam held out a hand to stop him as he again bent toward her. "Pete–"
"No, Sam. Can't tell you who that was. It's a surprise." His eyes were alight with a joy that tugged at Sam's conscience.
But . . . as hard as this was going to be, and knowing what she had to say would extinguish the light in his eyes, the words that were forming on her tongue brought with them a kind of joy. A lightness of heart that she had long been missing and was now eager to reclaim.
"No, I. Pete . . .," she tried again, but this time it was her phone that interrupted. Her eyes still on his, she flipped open her phone and said, wearily, "Carter."
Sam's heart skipped a beat as Jack's voice washed over her. She barely noticed when Pete patted her knee and returned to his work in the closet.
Closing her eyes, Sam took a deep breath. She felt like a woman who had just been tossed a lifeline. His voice reached through the raging storm in her mind and brushed across her senses, bringing with it a tendril of hope for . . . something. "J–Sir."
"I need you."
O'Neill's voice was low, loaded with tension, and Sam responded automatically, even as her mind registered his words. Oh God. She couldn't fight the wave of longing that washed over her at his words. She knew he didn't mean them that way. Knew he couldn't possibly be calling her to say those words in the way she suddenly was so desperate to hear. Despite that, she couldn't help the small sound that slipped past her lips, part whimper, part . . . she didn't really know what.
Sam cleared her throat. God, get a grip Samantha! "I . . . uh, I'm here, Sir."
"I know it's your day off, but–"
"You need me," Sam said quietly into the phone as she turned partially away from Pete, suddenly glad that the sound of the drill covered her words.
The silence on the other end spoke volumes, and then O'Neill said, quietly, his tone suddenly deeper, heavier. "I do."
Sam looked over her shoulder at the man spread out on her floor. The wrong man, she suddenly knew. The space to which he'd helped himself wasn't his. Would never be his. Not the space on the floor and not the space in her heart. Both, and all that came with them, belonged to another, just as she did. It was time, too, to lay claim to what had been hers for so long.
"Sir? I'm coming to you." Without waiting for a response, Sam snapped her phone closed and rose, stepping over Pete's legs. She tapped them to get his attention.
"Pete. You . . . you need to leave."
"I have to go."
Pete set the drill aside and scrambled to his feet. "But . . . Babe. It's your day off."
Sam spared him a brief glance as she led him toward the door, barely slowing long enough to grab her wallet and keys. She pushed him out the door ahead of her and strode quickly to her car. "Pete, my name is Sam, not 'Babe.' And I know it's my day off. I've got something I need to do. A promise to keep."
Looking somewhat startled to find himself standing outside of her car as she slid into the driver's seat, Pete could only nod. As she started the engine he tapped on the glass. "Ba–er, Sam. Don't forget, we have the florist in the morning."
Sam could only nod as she backed out of the driveway and headed toward the SGC. It didn't matter if whatever it was Jack needed took less than ten minutes, she knew she wouldn't be making that florists' appointment, or any other wedding appointments. She was done with this, the pretense, the playing house. As she'd told Pete, Sam had a promise to keep. A promise made on the whisper of a kiss in the fading afternoon sunlight four years ago.
The man to whom, and with whom, she'd made that promise might have forgotten, or thought she had forsaken it, but she hadn't. She'd merely . . . lost focus . . . for a while. It had taken a different man in that same place to jar her back to reality. This time, Sam vowed, nothing and no one would stop her from making that promise a reality. For both of them.
Afterword: ""Promissa Facta Sunt" is the literal Latin translation of, "Promises were made."