A Reason for the Season
Setting and Summary: Shortly after the events of Stargate Continuum. It's Thanksgiving. Sam and Jack are together and they have a child. Everything is perfect. Or is it?
A/N: This started out as silly fluff and morphed into a more angsty piece.
This wasn't how it was supposed to be, at least not in Jack's mind. Much as he tried to be open and flexible about shifting roles in a family, he still believed mothers should spend a lot of time with their children, especially when said child was very young. But that wasn't what had been happening lately, not by a long shot. In the realm of motherhood, his wife had been missing in action over the past month, maybe longer.
Only an hour ago, he'd arrived home from Daniel's house. He'd taken the baby and attended a nice comfortable Thanksgiving celebration with a few of their old friends. He'd come back early once little Jake started to get fussy; he'd learned about the parenting rule of diminishing returns a long time ago. Now his son was all settled in his bed, sleeping off a very exciting day. All that was missing was Sam. To the best of his knowledge, she wasn't even on the planet.
No, she was commanding the Hammond. Of course he was proud of her, but that was beside the point. She belonged here with him, or at least with their son. Didn't she? He'd asked himself over and over again if he was being unreasonable. His friends wouldn't give him a straight answer, probably not wanting to take sides. It was hard to know. What he did know was Jake needed his mother and he needed his wife. Much as he tried not to, he needed Sam.
Yeah, he could get by without her. God knows he had for years. But Jake shouldn't have to, Jack reasoned. At eleven months of age, Jake knew better than most children the experience of having cries for Mama go unanswered. Hank Landry assured him the boy would be unscathed; he was well taken care of and Jack was around as much as his own responsibilities allowed. Still it hardly seemed enough. Their son deserved more.
Jake had been their miracle. After four years of marriage, they'd given up on the possibility of having children. Sure they both wanted a child but they weren't together all that much what with their respective assignments. Sometimes you didn't get what you wanted, they'd told each other sadly. In any case, they'd let go of that particular dream. Until out of nowhere, Sam began to experience suspicious symptoms, morning nausea, vomiting, and lightheadedness. Jack was worried. He needn't have been. Sam's obstetrician assured them it was perfectly normal in early pregnancy.
They'd been so happy. It was going to happen after all. They were going to be parents.
He'd taken time off to be home with Sam. She'd taken all the necessary precautions to guarantee a healthy pregnancy, even giving up some off world opportunities in the process. She'd said she was okay with the changes in her career and the way having a child would curtail her freedom. He'd believed her. God knows, he wanted to believe her. He was over the moon with the thought of being a father again. He assumed she felt the same way about being a mother.
At the beginning, everything was fine. They'd both been transfixed by the wonder that was their son. They were in love all over again and little Jake connected them in a way nothing else could.
Then, the Hammond was ready to be commissioned. The Air Force called on Sam to take her on the shakedown flight. Just around the galaxy they'd said. Samantha Carter O'Neill had been the driving force behind the new technology integrated into the Hammond's design and it was only fitting she be on hand to see its launch and troubleshoot any problems that might develop. She'd had Jack's blessing.
It was only a week. For Sam it had been a week away from the new and unfamiliar responsibilities of motherhood, a week of remembering what it was like to be back on the front lines, in the thick of scientific discovery, commanding a team of military professionals. She loved it. It was what she was born to do. And she'd wanted more. When they called back less than two months later, saying her unique talents were required once again, Sam seemed eager to return to the Hammond in a more permanent capacity.
It wasn't that Sam didn't love him. In his more rational moments, Jack realized she loved him and always would. And she certainly loved little Jake. That went without saying. In Jack's mind, the real question was what was more important to Sam, her family or her career? Sure, like he'd told her, she could have both, but something had to land in second place. In all honesty, Jack admitted second place didn't suit him, not when Jake was standing here with him. And this time it had been a month. She'd been gone a damn month, a month of subspace phone conversations, a month of worry, a month of single parenthood. No, second place didn't suit Jack O'Neill at all, not when it came to his wife.
But what would he do about it? Jack had no intention of making things worse. He didn't want Sam doing anything she didn't want to do. It had always been that way with them. He demanded nothing of her, waited for her to offer, to be willing. In fact, she'd offered him the same consideration. Maybe that was why it took them so long to get together in the first place. Did either of them have a right to expect anything different?
It was the work, the everlasting desire to save humanity, the planet, attending to everything besides what was best for them. Would it ever end? Would it ever be enough? Or would the needs of the universe continue to devour any chance they had at happiness? There came a time when he had to put his foot down, to say enough was enough. Maybe this was that time. Now there was a child to consider. They'd certainly offered up enough of themselves over the years. When was it their turn?
She was lonely. Sure she was surrounded by over 300 fellow crewmembers, the best and brightest the Air Force had to offer, yet on this day, Thanksgiving, she was lonely beyond words. Originally she'd planned to take some brief leave time this weekend, but then had thought better of it, wanting to pursue the mystery on P5C- 912. Jack had understood as always, but when the day came, it didn't feel right to be so far away. Something about the holiday ate at her unlike any of the days that came before it.
This day was about family. At least it had been when she was growing up. Yes, Jacob had been gone a lot, but she'd always known he'd be there if he could. She'd understood, hadn't she?
Stop to think of it, she wasn't so sure she had.
Is that what it would be like for Jake? Is that what he had in store for him, an unpredictable relationship with an unavailable mother? Hearing herself think the words made her shiver. She hadn't wanted it to be like this.
It had been a month. As deployments went it wasn't that long, still it had seemed an eternity and there was no end in sight. She'd seen Jack and Jake over subspace transmissions nearly every day. Of course it was nowhere near the same as being there. What had she been thinking?
She was thinking of her career, her ego, her ability to problem solve better than most anyone else. She'd wanted the challenge of this assignment, the joy of seeing her work come to fruition. Still, she'd felt this day coming. For the past week or more she'd been on the verge of tears whenever she'd hung up with Jack and their baby. It was unnatural, at least for her. To be so far away from them was doing violence to them all. She knew that now. Sure enough, the tears started to flow.
To her abject humiliation, said tears had been witnessed last night. A gratefully discrete Teal'c had been on board for a visit on his way back to the SGC. As was his habit the past few days, he'd stopped by her office door on his way to his quarters. As always, the solemn Jaffa had quietly shown his concern, sitting down and simply waiting for her to speak. It was a technique that never failed to elicit the truth from Samantha Carter. No pressure, only friendship offered freely.
They'd talked for some time, Teal'c mostly listening of course. In the process, Sam had listened, really listened to her own convoluted thought process, the way she'd attempted to justify time away from her family. She didn't much like what she heard. Of course, Jack was more than capable of caring for Jake with the help of his friends and an au pair. But that really wasn't the point now, was it? Jake needed more than caretaking. Sam wanted him to have more. After all, why had she wanted a child so desperately if she wasn't going to be there for him? And Jack…oh Jack…
She'd broken down completely with Teal'c. Of course he'd seen her cry before, but these tears were a bit different. A mixture of sadness and shame, regret for what she'd already missed and fear of what Jack must think of her. She knew what had to be done. It became clearer by the moment as Teal'c sat quietly by her side. Voicing her resolution aloud lifted a burden from her heart.
In Colorado Springs, Thanksgiving Day was coming to an end. It was nearing midnight and Jack had just decided to call it a day. Once Jake had settled down, he'd passed the time watching an Avalanche hockey game. His team lost. It was the not so perfect ending to a generally frustrating day.
Yes, he knew he had a good deal to be thankful for, but still…
With that thought unfinished, Jack startled to the sound of a key in the lock of his front door. By the time he made his way to the front foyer, the door had opened and admitted an unexpected "visitor". This visitor was unexpected, but more than welcome.
Sam dropped her keys and gloves on the hall table as she saw Jack standing there. Her eyes were already moist from the crying she'd done earlier today and now she felt herself tearing up again. Jack was more than a little taken aback by her distraught appearance. It had been a long time since she'd looked so sad.
"What happened?" Jack asked, walking over to her and holding out his arms.
Without stopping to answer, Sam took his invitation and settled into the warmth of Jack's embrace. The tiny whimper that escaped her lips worried him.
"Are you alright?"
By way of reply, Sam pulled back just far enough to catch his eye. The tears were falling in earnest now. Hours ago, she'd given up on trying to stop them.
"Can you forgive me?"
Jack looked at her. He had no idea what she was talking about.
"What's going on?" He asked, beginning to worry anew. "Can we sit down and start over. I'm a little lost here."
Sam nodded silently. She allowed Jack to help her slip off her jacket, tossing it over the nearest chair. Then they made their way to the living room.
Once they were seated side by side, Jack turned to face her.
"Welcome home," he said sincerely, realizing he'd skipped the sentiment completely. "I thought you said you weren't able to make it today."
Sam nodded wanly. She'd said a lot of things.
"I know," she said aloud. "I really thought I needed to examine the artifacts we brought back from P5C-912."
"And … I realized they weren't going to vaporize if I stopped what I was doing to take time with my family."
"Ah," Jack replied. "I'm glad." A half smile tugged at his lips and Sam could swear she caught the glint of tears in his eyes. "I missed you," he continued, "but why the tears?"
"I've resigned my commission, Jack," she said. "I want to come home."
"You know you don't have to do that," he countered, as he always did. "No matter how much I miss you, I'd never ask you to do that!"
"I know," she said. "That's why I'm doing it. I should have done it months ago. I miss you and Jake so much; I don't belong on the Hammond while the two of you are here. I belong with you. At least I hope I still do."
"Of course you do," he said, reaching out and pulling her back into his arms. "You'll always belong with us."
"I'm so sorry," she said. "I left the two of you for a whole month. I made a mistake. Can you forgive me?"
"Not sure there's anything to forgive," Jack murmured. "Still I'm glad you'll be on the same planet with us from now on."
"Me too," she said.
There wasn't much else that needed to be said right then. Jack knew the specifics of the transition would take some doing, but not tonight. For a few moments they sat quietly, content in each others arms. Jack felt no need to question her. He knew she'd talk more as she was ready. And Sam was perfectly content where she was until she remembered the missing member of their family. She knew he'd be sleeping, but …
"Jake …he must be sleeping…"
"Well, he's too young to wait up for his mom," Jack quipped, "but I'm sure a visit could be arranged."
Sam smiled as she followed Jack to the nursery. It had been so long since she'd put her own baby to bed. Whatever the reasons, she knew they weren't worth what she'd lost. Those days could never be restored. But she could make sure they'd make new memories with their son.
Standing over Jake's crib, Sam and Jack watched the easy rise and fall of their son's chest and tummy. Sam instinctively reached in to touch the little boy, doing her best to avoid waking him. Before she knew it the tears were falling again. Her arms ached for him.
Jack knew what she needed and reached into the crib. Before Sam could say anything he'd scooped up the peacefully sleeping baby and held him out to his mother. Sam folded Jake in her arms without a second thought, bending her head down to breathe in his scent.
"Oh my baby… I've missed you…" Sam whispered. She turned and walked over to the rocker, then settled in with Jake in her arms. By then the little tyke's eyes had opened and found his mother. Instead of fussing as he usually did upon awakening at an odd time, Jake burst into a huge grin and began to giggle, reaching up for his mother's face.
"Mama!" he called with delight.
Sam lifted him joyfully in front of her and then brought him close once again, while Jack stood watching, a huge grin on his face. This was the way life should be, he thought. They needed more of this, less running all over to save the world. Maybe, just maybe this would be the beginning.
As if in answer to his silent hopes, Sam looked up at him.
"We've got some talking to do, Jack," she said.
"Yes, we do," he agreed.
Together they could do anything.