A/N: This poor thing is meant to do nothing more, really, than fill in some of the space between other of my fics. But maybe it can manage to be more than it is… This is totally and completely AstraPerAspera's fault. Totally.
She sat on the toilet seat, forcing herself to keep her eyes firmly fixed on the watch on her wrist instead of trying to sneak a glance at the small white stick sitting on the marble counter next to her. The time wasn't up - yet - and so a negative result wouldn't necessarily mean anything, anyway…
The time was up. She picked up the test.
One pink line.
Part of her, deep down, had known it would be. It had been eight months since she'd been promoted to General and taken over command of the SGC. Eight months since, having finally achieved a relatively stable home life, they'd decided now was finally the time to see if maybe they couldn't give five year-old Matthew a baby brother or sister. Only, since going off the pill, her periods had been consistently late or light when not missing altogether. And she was a good enough scientist to be unable to deny what that meant.
She'd told herself this was the last time. The last test before making an appointment and seeking the medical diagnosis which she already knew in her heart of hearts to be true.
She stood up from the toilet, wrapped the used test back in its wrapper and then in a wad of toilet tissue, and dropped it into the waste basket. It landed with a resounding, hollow thud which echoed through the nearly empty container.
Sam left the small bathroom, turning the light out as she did so, and stepped to the bed. She slipped back in, careful not to disturb Jack asleep on the other side, and rolled over onto her side away from him. No point in waking him now. It could wait until morning. Or possibly until she had spoken to a doctor….
A hand on her shoulder was the first sign her caution had been unnecessary. "Sam?"
She paused for a moment to make sure her voice was steady before answering, "Yes?"
"I'm not asleep."
She couldn't control her slight smile at his matter-of-fact tone. "I'd noticed."
"I mean… c'mere." He tugged lightly on her shoulder and she rolled over, into his arms, burying herself against his chest. "Anyway," he continued after a long moment. "The way my knees are going, maybe it's a good thing. Running after Matthew's Terrible Twos nearly destroyed me. I'm not sure I could do that again."
She didn't laugh. It wasn't funny. But she was honest enough to admit it was possibly true. Still, she knew it wasn't completely true, and that he'd wanted another child just as badly as she had herself. "You could if you had to."
Jack tightened his arms around her. "Maybe. But I don't have to. Matthew alone's almost more than I can handle, and don't even get me started on his mother."
That time she did laugh. A little. "I love you too." And she really did feel better.
He kissed the top of her head before saying, "Good. Now… try to get some rest. You've got a staff meeting in the morning, and those are hard enough on eight hours of sleep. And I've promised banana pancakes…."
She tried to comply, but as her brain drifted towards sleep, a sudden thought brought her back awake. "We're out of bananas," she observed, relieved the kitchen would be spared the consequences of yet another of Jack and Matthew's experiments.
"At IHOP," he concluded triumphantly. "Now…for god's sake, General…sleep."
And surprisingly, though she was awake far longer than Jack himself, eventually she did.
She looked up from the seemingly bottomless pile of paperwork on her desk to find Colonel Sharpe standing in the door of her office. Grateful for the distraction, she said, "Yes?"
"Do you have a moment?"
"Sure, come in." She gestured to the seat in front of the desk.
He sat down, looking vaguely uncomfortable as he began, "Ma'am, I wouldn't normally bother you with something like this, but I've talked with everyone I can think of, and I can't think of any thing else to do." He paused, and when she didn't respond, he continued, "You remember Sergeant Conner?"
"Yes." How could she forget? His had been one of the very few fatalites in her ten months as SGC commander. And even that one shouldn't have happened. Colonel Sharpe's team had been exploring a world which had been a battleground during a conflict between Apophis and another Go'uld whose identity they had still been attempting to discover when Conner had stumbled upon an unexploded ordnance.
He'd been dead before they'd gotten him back through the 'gate. Well. Most of him. She shuddered slightly at the memory. As she'd first learned back on Atlantis, sometimes standing at the foot of the ramp was harder than actually being there. But not always. It had been particularly hard on Sharpe and the rest of his team precisely because it was so unexpected. A simple exploratory mission, during a time of relative peace, gone so suddenly and horribly wrong. That had been three months ago, though, and she'd assumed they'd moved on - as well as they could. They'd even filled Conner's place on their team just a few weeks ago.
"Well, I don't know if you knew this, but his wife died two years ago. That's why he transferred from SG-4; he figured exploration would be less dangerous than first contacts and recons." Sharpe didn't need to point out the irony of that. "You see, Ma'am. I don't know if you saw her at the memorial, but Conner had a kid. She's two - no, three now."
Sam did remember seeing the child during the service, and of having been introduced to her afterwards, a beautiful little girl with chocolate brown skin and tightly braided cornrows in her jet black hair. But it was the child's eyes which had been the most striking, large dark pools glimmering with unshed tears. And her name… "Danielle, right?"
Sharpe nodded. "Yes, Ma'am. You see, her grandmother has been taking care of her, but the woman's pushing eighty and her heart's been acting up… She can't keep Danielle, and there's no one else in the family who can take her. She's talked to a social worker, and Danielle can go to Social Services, but given her age and minority status, her chances of getting adopted… We can't let her go into the system, ma'am. It's just not right. I'd take her myself if I were married, and I've asked everyone I can think of, but I was hoping maybe you might know someone, or could ask around…?"
She nodded. "Absolutely. I'll see what I can do." She paused, and when he didn't speak, she asked, "Will that be all?"
He nodded and stood up. Coming briefly to attention, he said, "Thank you, ma'am," before quickly turning and leaving the room.
She stared after him when he had left, lost in thought. He was right, of course. 'Leave no one behind' shouldn't just apply to soldiers, and those going through the 'gate should know their loved ones left behind would be taken care of if they never came back. But that wasn't what moved her to act. It was dark brown eyes, looking up at her from the depth of grief.
Sam reached for the phone and dialed home.
Even with a letter of recommendation from the President himself, it took ten months - eight after they were certain they could no longer imagine their life without her in it and officially began the procedure - and more paperwork and meetings than even her new parents could imagine before little Denny officially became Danielle Conner O'Neill.
She stepped back into the locker room and went to grab her towel and toiletries from the shelf she'd set them on before her workout. A figure seated on the bench in the center of the room stopped her before she'd gone more than a few paces. The place was usually empty in the middle of the day - that was one of the reasons she preferred to work out then - and so finding anyone was unusual enough, but the other woman hadn't acknowledged her presence in any way. In fact, she hadn't even seemed to notice Sam was there. And people usually noticed when a General Officer stepped into the room.
Yet something in the woman's body language, the way she was hunched over herself, chin dropped to her chest, made Sam think it wasn't simply a matter of poor military courtesy. She knew too well herself an empty locker room - like a bathroom stall - was one of the few places a person could find privacy when the pressure just got to much and escape was necessary. At least for a few minutes.
As Sam watched, the other women's shoulders shook slightly, and she thought she heard a soft sob.
Sam tried to be quiet, to grab her gear and get to the showers without disturbing the other woman, but she looked up before Sam had gone more than a few paces into the room.
Recognizing Sam, the woman started to move as if to stand. "Oh… Sorry Ma'am…"
Sam waved her back down, "No, as you were. I didn't mean to disturb you, just passing through to the showers."
The other woman, whom she had finally placed as Airman Lewis from SG-16, sniffed and nodded. "Yes, Ma'am…" Sam was almost out of the room before Lewis continued, hesitatingly, "Uhm… General Carter?"
Sam turned to give Lewis her full attention again, "Yes?"
"I heard you had a … uhm… When you were on Atlantis…" Lewis took a deep breath before continuing in a rush, "Is it true you let a pregnant soldier stay on one of your teams?"
Ahhh…. It all made sense suddenly. "Yes. But she wasn't a soldier. She was a Pegasus Galaxy native who had decided to fight with us."
The other women's face fell slightly. "Oh… Then I guess…"
Sam crossed to sit down on the bench next to the woman, knees touching, and put her hand on the other woman's shoulder. There were times military protocol became less important than simply being human. "Why?"
Lewis looked back up at her, tears on her cheeks. "I didn't mean to…" she began slowly but, encouraged by the sympathy she must have seen on Sam's face, the explanation quickly poured out. "Things just happen, you know? … And the father wants me to just get rid of it… and I just can't. But I don't know what else to do - I can't keep it, either… I'm just not ready. And alone… I don't want to give up my job or my career…"
Sam smiled gently. "You know, you have another choice…"
Seven months later, Airman Lewis gave birth to an eight pound, five ounce baby boy. After the nurse cleaned off the newborn, she carried him to Lewis, who kissed him lightly on the forehead. Then, as previously instructed, she brought the child to Sam and placed him in his mother's arms. Sam looked down into the red and pinched face of her son, whose newborn eyes focused for the very first time in his life as he gazed back up at her.
It was love at first sight.
The shouting and laughter outside first alerted her to their return. Sam left her warm chair by the fire and crossed to the window. Pulling back the curtains slightly, she peeked outside. Two small forms lept through the snow towards the cabin, alternately chasing and being chased by the small dark dog running with them. Trailing behind them, though he wasn't discernible as anything more than a snow-brushed mound of coat from this distance, Jack pulled a sled on which lay strapped a giant fir tree.
Smiling at the obvious success of their mission, she set Carter - who had fallen asleep quite some time ago as she'd rocked him before the fire - down in his pack-n-play and stepped to the small kitchen. She turned on the stove and set the kettle on the burner to heat water for the hot chocolate she knew would be demanded as soon as she'd unwrapped her two snow bunnies and went back to greet them at the door.
Three hours later, after a confusion of activity which was mostly just a happy blur in her memory, the tree, lit with a thousand tiny bulbs and glittering with almost as many ornaments, shone from its customary corner. And they'd managed to lose only two ornaments in the process, both relatively impersonal glass bulbs. For all people complained, there was something to be said for plastic Hallmark ones, especially when your husband insisted the children be allowed to help with the tree and neither six nor eight year-olds were known for being particularly careful. No matter how many times you reminded them.
Empty boxes and cartons were strewn about the small room, and bits of tinsel fallen from the garland still littered the floor. But all that could wait until the morning. The children had finally gone to bed and Sam and Jack sat curled together on the sofa sipping their own steaming mugs of chocolate, gazing silently into the bright flames dancing in the wood stove set into the fireplace. For the moment, it was enough simply to sit together, knowing their children slept together in the next room, all safe and sound and together at Christmas.
Finally, though, their cocoa long gone, Jack asked, "Ready for bed?"
She nodded and they moved to the bedroom, stopping in the kitchen just long enough to rinse their mugs off and set them in the sink. Jack got into bed as Sam checked to make sure the blankets remained tucked tightly around infant Carter asleep in his crib in the corner. Satisfied that all was as it should be, Sam slipped into bed beside him.