Title: Life goes on
Category: angst, romance
Summary: Life goes on, even after you've lost someone you love.
Season/Sequel: season 8
Spoilers: Threads (8-18)
Archives: my website, others ask please, I never refuse
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don't earn any money; I just do it for fun.
Author's Note: This fic was written for canadianfolk who won a fic from me at qldfloodauction on livejournal. She just told me she wanted Sam/Jack and let me decide on everything else. There was also this prompt for 12_stories ("I will be there for you") that kept nagging at me. And my Muse ended up combining the two. This is set during Threads. Beta'd by the ever so wonderful Jaclyn.
She looked one last time at her father before turning away from him.
Closing her eyes, she half-listened as one of the Tok'ra said what sounded like a prayer. She couldn't hear the words clearly, but that didn't matter to her. He was gone, dead. Just the day before, she was having lunch with him, and now, he was dead.
It had only been a few hours for her, but he had known it was coming for weeks. He had known what would happen if he hung onto Selmak for too long. And it had happened. She wanted to blame him, but she couldn't; she could understand that he didn't want to let go. Not only did she understand his reasons for not wanting to let Selmak go, but she also knew that his symbiote had been an important part of him, his friend. She wished her father was still alive, but she understood why he made that choice.
She opened her eyes, and a few tears fell, leaving a trail on her cheeks. Looking over her shoulder, she said one last silent goodbye to her father before leaving the room. She stopped on the threshold as she noticed that Jack was waiting for her just outside.
"Do you mind if I...?" he trailed off, not finding the words.
"No, please, go ahead."
She felt his hand brush hers as he walked past her into the room. She turned and watched as he approached Jacob's bed. The Tok'ra nodded at him and took a few steps backwards, giving him some privacy.
She watched as he put his hand on top of her father's, and patted it. She couldn't see his face, but she could easily imagine what she would see if she did. He was mourning Jacob just as much as she was, she knew that. He respected him, and she knew he considered him a friend. She was pretty sure she could hear whispering but she couldn't make the words out. She didn't care; it was a private conversation between the two men, even if one of them wasn't here anymore to hear it.
She took a few steps back as she saw Jack turning around and walking towards her. He stopped only a few feet away from her, and she had to raise her head to look at him and into his eyes. She must have shown something, because a second later he had his arms wrapped tightly around her, and her face was buried in his chest.
Breathing in the scent of him, she couldn't hold her tears anymore and began to sob. Holding onto him as if he was her lifeline, and she guessed that in a way he was, she let her tears run freely onto her cheeks.
She could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she cried in front of him. She had always wanted to show him that she was a tough soldier, who could take just as much as he could. Right now though, it was different; she wasn't a soldier anymore, she was just a little girl who lost her father, the only parent she had left.
She felt his lips pressed against her head, and she couldn't help but smile through her tears. She remembered the last time they hugged, after Janet's death, and how he buried his face into her neck and kissed her there. It was moments like this one, stolen moments, the hug they were now sharing and that moment in the observation room, that made her think that she would be making the right choice.
Disentangling herself from Jack's arms, she looked up at him, and gave him a small smile.
"Thank you, Sir."
"I'll call Hammond to let him know, if you want," he offered.
"Please do. I have to call Mark. God, what am I going to tell him?"
"Do you want me to call him too?"
"No, it has to be me. I'll need to go outside for a few hours..."
"Take as much time as you need, Carter."
She nodded in answer, and with one last, meaningful, look at him, she turned away.
She was back at the SGC only a couple of hours later.
She had broken up her engagement with Pete. When she woke up in the morning, she hadn't thought that her day would end like this. Her life had been turned upside down in only a matter of hours, but she felt fine. She knew she had made the right choice by leaving Pete. She probably should have done that months before. The fact that she didn't buy the reality created by Fifth in which she had married Pete and left the SGC should have been a big enough clue.
She knocked lightly on Jack's door, and took a deep sigh when she heard him call her in.
"Carter? I thought you would be taking the rest of the day off, at least," he said, surprised to see her back.
"I need to be here, to do something," she explained, before pausing and licking her lips. She was nervous; she wasn't sure she should be telling him this, but she knew he had the right to know. Letting out the breath she had been holding, she finally bit the bullet. "I broke up with Pete."
By the look on his face, she could tell that he was surprised, shocked even, by her words.
"What? I mean... Are you sure? With your father's death..."
"This has nothing to do with Dad. Well, it has in a way, but I didn't do it because he just died," she said, her voice breaking on the last word. "It wasn't fair to Pete, and to...," she stopped herself at the last second and bit her lip; now wasn't the time to tell him exactly why she did it.
"I've talked to Hammond," he changed the subject as if sensing her discomfort, and she was thankful for that. "He'll be here tomorrow morning. What about your brother?"
"I haven't called him, yet," she admitted, and he wasn't surprised by this.
"Do you want me to..."
"No, it's ok, I'll call in a few. I guess they'll go straight to the airport and try to catch a flight."
"I could probably..."
"No, it's ok, sir," she cut him out quickly. "Don't worry about this."
"If you're sure... Can I at least help with the funeral arrangements?"
She didn't want to. She wanted to be able to do it all by herself, just like always. But in that case, she just couldn't. She wanted it all to be perfect for her father, and she couldn't do that herself.
"If you don't mind..."
"I wouldn't have offered if I didn't want to help," he reassured her. "Carter, sit down, please," he added, as he saw her fidget on her feet.
"Yes, Sir." She released a heavy sigh as she sat on the chair, looking down. "What about Daniel?" she couldn't help but ask.
"He'll come back soon."
"Carter, you might be the expert on the Stargate, but I'm the expert on Daniel. He'll come back, he won't let us down."
"Yes, Sir," she nodded, managing a small smile. "Do you have any news about Teal'c?"
"Not yet. I'm hoping he'll dial in with some good news, soon."
"Let's hope so, sir. I'd like to receive at least one, today," she replied, and he sent her a knowing smile. "I should probably go and call Mark, now."
"Why don't you call him from here?" he offered her. "I have to go to the control room, anyway. Walter has something he wants to show me."
He didn't wait for her answer; he just got up from his chair, and left his office.
She watched him walk away, and silently thanked him. He had somehow known that she was putting off going back to her office. She knew that the news of her father's death had spread around the SGC and she didn't feel like walking by more people wanting to talk to her, to express their condolences. She wasn't ready to hear them, not now, not so soon after it had happened. Here, in this office, she was feeling safe, secluded from the rest of the base; she knew that Jack wouldn't let anyone disturb her.
Picking up the phone, she quickly dialled her brother, and waited for him to answer. She didn't know how to tell him that their father was dead. She knew she should have called him earlier, but her father didn't want her to, and she wanted to respect his choice, one last time. He should have been on his way to San Diego, by now, and instead, he was just gone.
"Hello?" Mark's voice came from the other side.
"Hey, it's Sam."
"Hey! Why are you calling? Wait, don't tell me. Dad can't make it, there's some kind of emergency."
"No, it's not that. It's..." She stopped, trying to keep the tears at bay, but failing; she knew that he could hear the tears in her voice, and she didn't want that.
"Sam, what is it? Did something happen?" he asked, now getting worried.
"Dad's dead," she finally said in a whisper.
She heard the sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line. It wasn't the way she wanted to tell him about their father, but she didn't know what else to say.
The line stayed silent for a minute or so. Sam wondered for a moment if he had just put the phone down, because she couldn't even hear his breathing. She didn't dare to say anything else, waiting, needing, to know how he was doing first.
"What happened? Was there an accident?"
"He had a heart attack," she answered, telling him the lie they had agreed on. "There was nothing the doctors could do." That one wasn't a lie; they did try, but Jacob had been right, and nothing had worked.
"I see," he said, but she could hear in his voice that he didn't really understand. "I'll... I'll get the kids and Carol and we'll go to the airport. We'll take the first available flight."
Just as she was about to reply, the alarms went off, signalling an unscheduled gate activation.
"Look, there's an emergency, I have to go" she said, knowing that he could hear the alarms. Call me as soon as you have your flight information." She paused, remembering the half offer Jack made before she interrupted him. "Actually, if you don't find a flight for the four of you, tonight, call me back. I might have another solution for you."
"I'll do that," he promised. "You're going to be okay?" he asked, the big brother in him resurfacing, and needing to make sure his sister was going to be fine.
"I will," she replied, trying to muster enough confidence to convince him, as well as herself.
They said their goodbyes, and she hung up. Drying her face of the tears that had fallen during the call, she got up from the chair. Just before leaving Jack's office, her eyes fell onto a picture of SG1, taken some time during the first year they were together. She smiled and hoped once more that Jack was right and that Daniel would soon come back.
They were sitting around the briefing table when Daniel came into the room, with clothes on his back, this time. Sam could see that he was still slightly embarrassed by what happened earlier, as he kept avoiding looking them in the eyes. And he wasn't the only one; Jack was also doing his best to not look towards his friend.
"So, Oma is still up there, keeping Anubis busy," Jack summed up what Daniel just told them. "And no one will help her. Remind me to never ask for their help, Carter. That would be a waste of time."
"At the very least, we don't have to worry about Anubis anymore," Bra'tac replied. "I'm going back to Dakara to spread the good news. Colonel Carter, I would like to be there to pay my respects to your father if you accept it."
"He would have liked that. I'll contact you when we know the details."
They all got up, and Jack followed Teal'c and Bra'tac out of the room, leaving Sam alone with Daniel.
"I'm really sorry about your father, Sam," he said, repeating the words he had said when he first found out about it.
She didn't say anything in response, but let herself be hugged by him when his arms encircled her. His hugs, unlike Jack's, were unfamiliar, but she nonetheless felt safe, protected in his arms, too. As they separated, he dropped a kiss on her cheek. She smiled at him, wanting to assure him that she would be fine.
Daniel draped an arm across her shoulders as Jack and Teal'c came back to the briefing room. She realised once more that she was lucky to have them in her life.
Just as Jack was about to speak, her cell phone rang. One look at the caller ID told her it was her brother.
"Hey, sis. They can't put us on a flight until tomorrow morning, no matter the circumstances," he said, cutting to the chase.
"Ok, give me a sec," she replied, and pulled the phone away from her ear. "Sir, does your earlier offer about Mark and his family still stand?"
"Of course, it does. Tell them to go home, and we'll come get them."
"Sir?" she asked, wondering what he meant.
"Just tell them, and I'll explain everything to you after you hang up."
She was still lost but chose to trust him, as always. She put the phone back to her ear and took a deep breath, knowing she wouldn't be able to answer the upcoming questions.
"Mark. I want you all to go home, and wait for us. We'll be there, soon."
"Sam? What do you mean?"
"Please, do as I say. I'll tell you more, later. And call me when you're home."
"I will," he replied, sounding more confused than anything.
They hung up and Sam turned back to Jack.
"Care to explain, now, Sir?"
"Hammond and I talked about it when I called to tell him Jacob was dying. When I called him back later, he told me he got the green light from President Hayes. We're going to let your brother and his family in on our little secret."
Sam was left completely speechless. It didn't happen very often, but this time, he did manage to take her by surprise. She hadn't suspected a thing, and she hadn't even thought it could be possible.
"I went to see your Dad when you left him to go change," he explained. "He asked me about letting them know, after... He wanted your brother to understand what happened in the past few years, and why he was dying, now. And your brother's kids are old enough to keep the secret, too."
She nodded, biting slightly on her lower lip, and silently thanked her father for that thought. She had feared Mark's questions; she had been afraid that he would resent her for having been there, while he didn't even know at the time. Now, he might understand better.
"Thank you, Sir," she replied.
"The Daedalus is in orbit, making some tests, and they're ready to beam us to your brother's house, and back here, once he calls you. And don't worry, they've already tested the Asgard transporter, and it's working." He paused as she grinned. "Why don't we all go eat something?"
"You go ahead, guys. I'm not really hungry."
"Come on, Sam, you have to eat."
"No, really, Daniel, I can't..."
"If you don't follow us willingly to the commissary, I will have to carry you there, Colonel Carter."
She sent a glare in Jack and Daniel's direction, as they smirked at Teal'c's threat. She knew better than to put it to the test, though; she knew all too well that he would do it without a second thought. He had done it once in the past, and it wasn't a moment she liked to remember, being carried over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and not being able to do anything.
Letting out a sigh, she gestured for them to precede her. Daniel and Teal'c left the room first, sharing a conspiratorial look, while Jack waited for her.
Once in the mess hall, she grabbed two cups of blue jello, knowing that if she was to force herself to eat to keep her friends happy and off her back, that was the only thing that she would be able to eat. She saw them wanting to protest at her choice of food, but they wisely kept their mouths shut.
They ate in relative silence, and no one came to interrupt them to offer their condolences; she guessed that they saw Jack, Daniel and Teal'c as a protective barrier, and they didn't dare cross them.
She was almost finished with her second jello, and the men were well into their desserts when her cell phone rang; it was her brother.
"Carter?" She paused, letting him speak, and sharing a look with Jack. "Ok, we'll be there in a few. And I'll explain everything," she promised, once more.
She hung up, and was about to get up from her chair, when Jack's hand on her arm stopped her.
"Finish your jello, Carter. We're not in any hurry, the Daedalus will have us there in no time."
Knowing that protesting would lead her nowhere, she bit back a retort, and spooned the last of her blue jello into her mouth, before turning back to him.
She got up, and he followed suit, grabbing the other two plates of pie he had on his tray.
"They're for your nephew and niece," he replied at the look she sent him, shrugging. "Daniel, Teal'c, hold down the fort, and try not to die again, Daniel."
"Ha ha, very funny, Jack."
Taking his radio from his pocket, he signalled to the Daedalus to beam them up. Soon after, they were on Earth's brand new ship, and a few seconds later in the middle of her brother's living room in San Diego.
"What the...?" Mark sputtered, as the white light faded. "Sam?"
"Hey, Mark! Told you we'd be here in a few," she tried to lighten the mood.
"What the hell happened?" he asked again, shielding his wife and children, who were as surprised as he was by the arrival.
"This is General O'Neill, the commander of the SGC," she introduced him to her family. "Sir, this is my brother Mark, his wife Carol, and the kids, Drew and Nina."
"Nice to meet you all. Care for some pie, kids?" he said, gesturing to the plates he was still holding.
Drew was the first to leave his mother's side, followed by his sister. They each took a plate and thanked Jack.
"Well, go grab your bags, turn everything off, and lock the doors. We'll leave as soon as you're ready."
Mark, having grown up as the son of an Air Force officer, could recognize an order when he heard one. He was at first tempted to point out that it was his house, but his wife put a hand on his back and prompted him to follow her out of the room.
Sam watched them leave before turning back to Jack, sending him a sad smile. She was a bit hurt that her brother didn't even offer her a hug, despite the way she had arrived in his house. And now, she wanted nothing more than to be hugged by Jack. But she knew it couldn't happen just yet; not in her brother's house, not until after she explained everything to him.
"I know, Carter, I know," he whispered, brushing her fingers with his, and she could see in his eyes that he really did know.
"Guess we're ready," Carol said, coming back into the room. Then, without any warning, she pulled Sam into her arms. "I've already berated him for not having done that," she whispered in her ear.
Sam drew some comfort from her sister-in-law, and had to giggle softly when her nephew and niece came to hug them both. She could feel Carol's hand motioning for Mark to join them, and after a hesitation he did.
"Group hug, nice," Jack said after a while.
"You're feeling left out, Sir?"
"Nah! So, you're all set to go?"
"And where are we going?" Mark asked, still wondering how they arrived.
"Back to Cheyenne Mountain," Sam said. "But we'll make a stop first."
"Ok, everyone, hold onto one of us. And kids don't forget the plates, otherwise the commissary staff will be angry at me," he added, which made the kids smile.
Making sure that no one would be left behind, Jack took his radio out of his pocket.
"Scotty, beam us up," he said, making Sam giggle as the transporter beam engulfed them.
"What did I say about giggling, Carter?"
"Sorry, Sir," she replied, automatically, before turning towards her family. "Welcome to the Daedalus, Earth's spaceship."
"We're in space?" Mark asked, incredulous.
"Turn around," Sam just said.
She watched as her family turned to face the window only to see their homeworld from up above.
"We know," she replied to her brother.
"How is that even possible?" Carol asked, still not taking her eyes away from the view she was offered.
"We'll explain everything to you, in a few minutes," Jack answered. "We need to go, now. Colonel, beam us to the infirmary at the SGC."
"Yes, sir," Caldwell answered. "And Colonel, Mr Carter, the crew of the Daedalus and I are sorry for your loss."
"Thank you, Colonel," Sam replied, while Mark nodded at him.
In a flash of light, they were gone.
They spent over an hour in the infirmary. Jack was entertaining the kids while Sam, Mark and Carol said one last goodbye to Jacob. One part of him wanted to be there for her, as always, but another part, the one that was winning, told him that it was a time for the family, and he wasn't part of it.
Drew and Nina kept asking questions about how they could have been in space, and where they were, and he dodged every single one of them, knowing that it wasn't the time nor the place.
When the others joined them, he could see that they had all cried, and once more, he wanted to be able to hug her, to comfort her the only way he could, but he restrained himself. He did the only thing he could and whispered into Nina's ear to go to her aunt. Once in the arms of her niece, Sam thanked him with a look.
"Why don't we take this to the mess?" Jack offered, breaking the silence that had settled upon them. "It's no five star restaurant, but it can't be that bad since we're still alive," he added, managing to make them smile.
They all declined, saying that they weren't very hungry, and he knew he would have to try again later.
Jack and Sam led the way to the briefing room, all the while refusing to answer the questions thrown at them by the kids, which started to frustrate them. Mark and Carol understood that whatever they would be told, it would be in due time, and just watched their children, amused at their impatience.
When they arrived, Daniel and Teal'c were sitting around the table.
"Daniel, glad to see you're still alive."
"Hi, I'm Daniel Jackson, and this is Teal'c," he introduced them both, ignoring Jack completely. "Sorry for Jacob, he was a great man."
"Thank you," Mark replied, shaking his hand. "So, do we get to know, now?" he asked, turning towards his sister.
"Sir?" she asked, as she watched him return to the room with a stack of documents in his hands.
"Just sign these first."
"Do we have to read them?" Carol asked, eyeing what looked like at least 50 pages of legal papers.
"No, it's ok. It just says that you can be tried for high treason if you tell anyone about all this. And you're vouching for your kids, too," he added as an afterthought.
The couple looked at him, their eyes widened at the threat, but they still signed the documents.
"So, what is this all about?" Mark asked, handing the documents back to Jack.
"I'll let Carter explain," he replied, sitting down, and motioning for her to start talking.
"First things first. What we're going to tell you now, and anything related to it, is classified, and like General O'Neill said, you can't repeat it to anybody. Not even to your best friends, guys," she told her nephew and niece, looking at them straight in the eye. She was satisfied when they all nodded at her. "This is a long story, but I'll keep it short for now..."
"What has this got to do with Dad?" Mark interrupted her before she could go any further.
"Everything," she assured him. "In 1928, in Giza..."
"Carter?" This time, it was Jack who interrupted her this time. "Why don't you leave all the historical and scientific details for another time?"
"Yes, Sir. I'm not working in deep space radar telemetry, I never did. This is a cover story for what we're really doing here. We're actually travelling to other planets, thanks to a device called the Stargate," she bit the bullet and said.
"Come on, Sam, do you really think this is the moment to joke?" Mark said, obviously not believing her for one second.
"I'm not joking, Mark. I worked on this project for two years before Daniel finally made it work. This is what I, we, have been doing for the better part of a decade."
"So what, you've met aliens?"
"We did. And actually you did, too. Teal'c isn't from Earth, but from another planet called Chulak."
"That's so cool!" Drew exclaimed.
"Thank you, Drew Carter," Teal'c replied, nodding his head at the boy.
"Mark, you were on the Daedalus, a spaceship. It's all true."
She could see that he still doubted her, and her sanity probably, and proceeded to tell them about everything she could think of. Of the allies and enemies they made. Of the worlds and civilisations they discovered so far away from their own planet. Of the fights they won, and of the fights they lost. Daniel and Teal'c butted in to help her explain a few things, but Jack stayed silent, listening to them.
"You're a hero, Aunt Sam," Nina said, standing up from her chair, and going to hug her.
"Thank you. But you can ask anyone here at the SGC, we don't see ourselves as heroes."
"Why not?" Drew asked. "You fought bad guys and saved the Earth."
"You're right," Jack intervened. "But it was mostly bad guys we made angry in the first place."
"What about Dad?" Mark asked before the kids could say anything else. "I guess he had some link with all this, otherwise, you wouldn't have told us."
"He does. You remember when he had cancer and the doctors said he was about to die?" When her brother nodded, she continued. "It was right around that time that we met the Tok'ra. We told you about the Goa'ulds, well, they're basically like them, but they opposed their ways. The symbiotes only take volunteer hosts. One of the hosts was dying, and they couldn't find a new one."
"So Dad volunteered?"
"We told him everything, and he did. He became the host of Selmak. Selmak cured Dad of his cancer, and he went to live with the Tok'ra. And actually, it was Selmak who convinced him to resolve the tension between you two."
She paused, wanting this to sink in before she came to the last part of the explanation; the one she knew her brother would have a hard time to understand. Tears were pricking her eyes but she willed them away; she wasn't done, yet.
As if he had noticed, Jack's hand came to rest on her thigh under the table, his thumb gently stroking. Turning her head towards him, she thanked him with a look and a smile, and he sent her the same look he did earlier, in the observation room.
Turning her eyes back to her brother and his family, she took a deep breath, and resumed talking.
"A few days ago, Dad came back to Earth to warn us that the Replicators were attacking the Goa'ulds. Dad and I went to Dakara to find a superweapon to get rid of the Replicators once and for all. What he didn't tell me is that Selmak was dying, but Dad told him to hold on. He was right 'cos we needed him, but... This morning, I got a call that Dad was in the infirmary, and there he told me that Selmak had slipped into a coma after we managed to defeat the Replicators."
She paused again. She was sure they could all hear the tears in her voice, now. Daniel put his hand on top of hers on the table, and squeezed, hard.
"Do you want me to continue, Carter?"
"No, it's alright, Sir," she replied, biting back the tears one more time. "Now, as a Tok'ra symbiote dies, it can prevent its host from dying, but Selmak was barely alive. There was nothing he could do."
"So, you're telling me that Dad died because of that thing?"
"Hey!" Jack intervened. "I'm not very fond of the Tok'ra, but Selmak was different. We literally went to hell and back for him, and he saved our collective asses quite a few times. He saved your father, he gave you back your father, and the least you could do is show him a little respect."
"Thank you, Sir," Sam said, while Mark looked sheepish. "Dad chose this. Selmak wanted to leave him weeks ago, but he didn't let him."
Silence fell in the room. Sam could see silent tears falling on her sister-in-law cheeks, and both the kids looked subdued, compared to their earlier outburst. Mark wasn't meeting her eyes, and she couldn't blame him; she had hidden things from him these past few years, things that concerned their father, and she wouldn't be surprised if he was wondering whether or not she told him everything he had to know.
"Hey, you guys want to see the Stargate?" Jack offered, breaking the heavy silence.
The kids nodded eagerly, and he motioned for the whole family to follow him. He made them stand before the metal shutter obstructing the window. He pushed the button, and watched their faces as the embarkation room and the Stargate slowly came into view.
"The Stargate is made of naquadah, a metal that we can't find on Earth, or anywhere in our Solar System. When activated, it generates a wormhole that allows us to travel to other planets, in the Milky Way. We could even go to other galaxies if we had enough power," she added, thinking of the expedition stuck in Pegasus.
Before she could say anything else, the chevrons started to light up.
"Looks like you're going to see a Gate activation," Jack said, though not making a move to get to the control room. "It's probably more Tok'ra. Oh, and this," he added, as the iris closed, "is one of Carter's inventions. It prevents unauthorized visitors from coming through the Gate."
The control room must have received an IDC because the iris was opening. It turned out that Jack was right as several Tok'ra stepped out of the Gate, and walked down the ramp.
"Oh no, not her," Jack whispered.
"You didn't see me," he and Daniel said at the same time, already turning to leave the room.
"Seriously?" Sam shook her head in disbelief, a smile playing on her lips. "You can't tell me you're both afraid of her."
"Yes," they answered together.
"The thing is, Sam, that while Anise is interested in me, Freya is more into Jack."
"She kissed me. Twice," he clarified, holding up two fingers.
"She did?" Sam asked in a small voice.
"It was during the whole Za'tarc fiasco," he replied, now sure he shouldn't have brought this up.
"Well, we'll leave you two to fend for yourselves. We should probably go home."
"Why don't you all stay on base for the night? I can get the VIP quarters ready for you. You'll have more room than at Carter's."
"It's up to you," Sam said, looking at Mark.
"What about Pete? Isn't he waiting for us at your house?"
She had known this question was coming; she had even expected him to ask it sooner. She could see in the eyes of her friends that they were ready to jump in, but she couldn't ask that of them. So she took a deep breath and answered her brother.
"I broke up with him this afternoon."
"What? Why?" Mark exclaimed, taken by surprise.
"I had second thoughts about the wedding."
"It's ok, Sam, they're just pre-wedding jitters. Everyone has them, I did too." Realising what he said, he turned towards his wife, and smiled awkwardly. "Of course, they all went away because I love you so much."
"Anyway, Sam, you can't let some doubts..."
"Mark, please, not tonight. I swear I'll explain everything at a later point, but not now."
"Mark, you heard her, leave her alone," Carol interrupted him. "Now, where are those quarters you were talking about, General O'Neill? I think we could all do with some rest."
"I'll make the call to get them ready. Why don't you all go to the Mess hall, in the meantime? I asked them to keep the kitchens open, as I thought you didn't take the time to have dinner. And no protesting," he added, as he saw Mark opening his mouth.
"Come on, let's go. You coming, guys?" she asked Daniel and Teal'c, and they nodded.
Sam couldn't have been more grateful that Daniel and Teal'c joined them; she knew it prevented Mark from asking any more questions about Pete. But they weren't the only reason. Carol was also glaring at him whenever he opened his mouth, as if daring him to talk about it. She might not be close to her sister-in-law, but she was glad to have her on her side.
Even though they had all taken something to eat, no one, besides Teal'c, was doing anything more than looking at their plates. She still wasn't hungry, and only grabbed another cup of blue jello to keep her teammates happy.
Suddenly, as if it came out of nowhere, a slice of apple pie appeared in front of her. Looking up, she saw Jack standing behind her chair, a smile on his lips.
"Dad wouldn't be too happy if you starved to death, and blue jello isn't enough."
"Thank you, Sir." Under his watchful gaze, she picked up her fork and took a bit of the pie. "I thought you went home," she said as he took a seat beside her.
"No. No one's waiting for me, anyway, so I thought I'd spend the night on base."
She looked up at him sharply, wondering if she had understood the double meaning correctly. And by the look he was giving her, she did. There was no more Kerry, and there was no more Pete. She felt a smile creep up on her face, and returned her focus to her plate.
"What about the funeral?" Mark suddenly asked.
"General O'Neill took care of it," Sam answered, without giving it a second thought.
"I offered your sister to relieve you both of all this. I thought we could leave the details until the morning."
"Thank you, General," Carol replied. "That's really generous of you to do that. And you're right, all this can wait until tomorrow. What I'd like to know though is how an archaeologist becomes involved in the program, Doctor Jackson?"
"It all starts with me being ostracized from the scientific community for saying that the pyramids in Egypt were landing sites for alien spaceships. It turns out I was right, but they don't know that. Anyway, Catherine Langford, the daughter of the professor who found the Stargate in Giza, contacted me to try and make the Gate work. And I did."
"I guess the appeal to learn about new civilisation made you stay."
"Not at first. Our, as in Jack and I, first mission was on Abydos. This is where I met my wife, Sha're. I stayed on Abydos, making everyone, but Jack and Catherine, think I died there. A year later, she was captured by the Goa'uld and became a host for Amaunet. I initially joined the team to search for her. She died two years later, and I stayed on the team."
Silence fell on the table after he finished. Sam could see Carol internally berating herself for having asked in the first place, and she put her hand on hers, reassuring her. She knew that while Daniel still loved Sha're, he had come to term with her loss. Talking about her didn't hurt anymore, and he was willing to do so, from time to time.
They had all faced a lot of losses in their lives, both before and since they worked here. It somehow seemed to be a pre-requisite to work here, she realised bitterly. And these past few years, they had lost just too many people.
"Cassie!" she said suddenly. "I forgot to call her."
"It's ok, Sam. I did it while you and Jack were away. She'll be here as soon as possible."
"Thank you, Daniel."
Somehow, knowing that Cassie would come put a heavy weight on her chest. She knew that Cassie hadn't completely dealt with the loss of Janet, yet, and even though she wasn't as close to Jacob as she was to Jack, Daniel and Teal'c, she still considered him part of her family. She wondered if she had voluntarily put the girl away from her thoughts to not confront her with another death, just a year after her mother's.
But she was still grateful for Daniel calling her; she knew that Cassie would have been angry if she had been kept in the dark.
"It looks like it's time to go to bed," Carol said, as both her children started to yawn loudly.
"I'll show you to your quarters," Sam replied, getting up along with her family. "Good night, Sir, Daniel, Teal'c."
"Good night, Carter," Jack answered for them.
The walk towards the elevator, and then the quarters was made in a relative silence. It was nearly midnight, and they were all tired of their day.
"Here you are. I see that General O'Neill put a bunk bed in the room so that you'll be together. You have a private bath," she said, pointing to a door. "Wait for me here, tomorrow morning, I'll come get you. It's easy to get lost in the SGC if you don't know your way."
"Thank you, Sam," Mark whispered, hugging her. "For everything."
"Anytime. I just wish the circumstances were different."
"Ok, good night, guys. See you tomorrow."
When she left their quarters, she didn't make her way to her own. Even though she was tired, she knew that sleep wouldn't come, and she didn't want to turn around in bed for hours.
She went to the locker room, changed her clothes, and walked to the gym. Exercising would do her good, and would tire her just enough to fall asleep as soon as she hit the pillow.
The next two days went by in a blur for Sam.
The first day was spent making the last few arrangements for the funeral that Jack left up to the siblings. General Hammond and Cassie also arrived on that day. The young woman hugged Sam for long minutes, both taking comfort in the other. General Hammond had talked to both Sam and Mark, giving them a letter Jacob had written and entrusted to him.
And today were the funeral. It had taken place in the Gateroom, with both the SGC personnel and the Tok'ra there. Jacob had wanted his body dissolved by the kawoosh of the Stargate, as was done in the Tok'ra funeral custom, and after Sam explained to Mark what it meant, he had agreed to it. All in all, she couldn't have thought of a better way to say one last goodbye to her father.
Mark was presented the flag, and Sam had noticed his knuckles going white as he held it when the vortex engulfed their father's casket. He tried giving it to her, afterwards, but she had refused, knowing that it would mean a lot to him to keep it.
They were now at Jack's, celebrating the memory of Jacob. There were just the nine of them: Jack, Sam, Daniel, Teal'c, Mark and his family, and Cassie. General Hammond had apologized for not being able to stay, but Sam knew he still had a lot of work in Washington in the wake of the Goa'uld and Replicators' fall.
She was sitting on the couch, Daniel at one side, Cassie at the other, the young woman's head resting on her shoulder, as she listened to everyone talking. Mark was asking more questions about the father he didn't know, and her friends were gladly answering him when they could.
As the hours passed, the conversation changed to more mundane things, and Sam had to smile a few times when Daniel stumbled over some words; he was still nursing his second beer, and was already drunk. She shared a knowing look with Jack.
"Daniel, you really can't hold your liquor," Jack finally said as the archaeologist started to digress. "No more beer for you."
"I'm not drunk! I'm barely eni... inib... inebri..."
"Drunk," Jack finished for him, making everyone smile.
"You'd better not snore tonight, or I'll come wake you up, every single time. And don't count on me to be quiet if you have a hangover tomorrow."
Sam recognized these as empty threats, but she wasn't sure Daniel did in his state. But she was pretty sure he was way past caring, too.
"And kids remember Daniel if one of your friends offers you a drink in the distant future," Mark said, and Jack nodded at him before looking at Cassie.
"And that's for you too, young lady."
"Oh come on, I'm not that bad when... if I ever drink, which has never ever happened," she corrected herself when she realised what she was saying.
Sam patted her hand, as Cassie waited anxiously for Jack to mention her slip up, but he said nothing which surprised them both. He just looked at her with a knowing look, and she made a good show of taking a sip of her soda.
"I'll never be as bad as Sam!" Daniel suddenly exclaimed, surprising them all. "Remember when she took off her..."
"Daniel!" Sam shouted, putting her hands over his mouth to keep him from speaking. "If you say another word on this subject, you'll break your own record, and die twice in just a few days, because I swear I will kill you. Understood?"
He nodded, looking at her straight in the eyes. Satisfied, she slowly took her hands off his mouth. She knew she was blushing; the stuff she had drunk that day, so many years ago, might have been strong, but she still remembered what had happened. The guys had never stopped teasing her about it, from time to time, but she didn't want Cassie or her brother to know about this.
"This must be good if you're blushing like this!" Mark said. "I haven't seen you blush like this since Dad and I walked in on you making out with your first boyfriend on the couch."
She blushed even more furiously at her brother's words; he never failed to remind her of this during the most embarrassing situations.
"It looks like you have interesting stories about your sister. Care to share?"
"Mark!" Sam interrupted him before he could even open his mouth. "If you so much as tell them one word, I will kill you, too! And I don't think you have friends in high places as Daniel does."
From the corner of her eyes, she saw Jack mouthing something that looked suspiciously like 'we'll talk later' to her brother, and she turned a dark stare on him. He shrugged at her, looking completely innocent, and she had to fight back a smile.
Her blush didn't fade under his gaze, and at the moment, the one thing she wanted the most was to stop pretending. They both knew where this was going, and it was time for them to say it out loud.
"Well, since we can't talk about it either, why don't you finally explain to me why you broke up with Pete?" Mark asked, as if he had been reading her thoughts.
She could tell him that she would explain everything in private, but at the same time, she didn't want to delay this any longer. Taking a deep breath, she turned to face her brother, knowing that he might not understand at first.
"Pete put a down payment for a house, without talking to me about it, first. And this made me realise once more that I was making a huge mistake. It had taken me two weeks to say yes to him, did you know that? It should have been enough of a hint."
"So you just decided to leave him?"
"At this point, I was more lost than anything else. I didn't know what to do. And then, Dad was dying, and he told me he wanted me to be happy, and didn't look convinced when I told him I was. Maybe because I wasn't convinced I was, either."
"And now, are you happy?" Carol was the one to ask.
"Not completely. Not yet, anyway, but soon I hope."
She wasn't sure she should say something else, but at the same time, she wanted to assure her brother that she made the right decision. And if they were to maintain a good relationship, he had to understand her choices.
"If you're sure of yourself..."
"I am. I'll just need a few days." She paused, thinking over her next words, and wondering if she should speak them. She finally made up her mind, knowing that it was a now or never moment. "Maybe we could go up to your cabin for a few days, sir?"
At her words, Daniel choked on his beer, understanding the double meaning of her words. And he wasn't the only one; Teal'c cocked an eyebrow at her, and Jack nodded slowly, showing that he heard her loud and clear.
"Whatever you want, Carter. Does anyone else want more beer?" he asked out loud, and then muttered. "I'll need it."
She watched him go, knowing that she had surprised him, but hoping that she hadn't frightened him with her suggestion.
"Really?" Daniel said in a high-pitched voice, when he was finally able to breathe again.
"I think it's time, don't you? And Dad told me not to let rules stand in my way."
"What has that got to do with what you've just said?" Mark asked, clearly confused.
"Everything, Mark, everything."
She looked up to see that Jack had come back in the room, and had obviously heard what she said. He had stopped just at the foot of the steps, and was looking at her.
She could see on his face that he was still unsure; unsure that she had made the right decision, unsure that she knew what she wanted. She knew she wouldn't be able to erase his doubts by just sending him a look. Only one thing could.
Not breaking their eye contact, she stood up from the couch and walked towards him. Rising to her tiptoes, she grabbed the back of his neck with a hand, and pulled his face towards hers.
She barely had time to note his surprise when her lips claimed him, and she kissed him thoroughly, not wanting any doubts to remain at the back of his mind. He was unresponsive at first, but soon, he returned the kiss, deepening it even more.
A tiny part of her mind that wasn't completely absorbed in the fact that she was kissing Jack O'Neill noticed the squeal that Cassie had let out at the sight. That same tiny part also took note that they were making out in the middle of his living-room, in front of their friends, her family, and two, very impressionable, children. But it was only the need for oxygen that separated them.
As they released each other, she took a small step back, a wide smile on her lips.
"We'll talk later about what has to be done. I just wanted you to know that I'm sure of what I want."
Grabbing Jack's hand in hers, she turned towards her brother.
"Do you want to see me happy?" she asked him, and he nodded, surprised by the question. "Then, just trust me when I say that I will be with him."
She looked back at Jack who smiled at her in return, squeezing her hand.
She knew it wasn't going to be easy; as a matter of fact, rules did stand in their way, and she knew that Jack would do nothing to compromise her career. It was time for her to make some decision regarding both her job and her life.
Her father had been right: she could still have everything she wanted.