Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 is not mine. It belongs instead to MGM and all of the other people and places it belongs to. The writing of this was solely for my enjoyment, as well as for the enjoyment of my readers. No copyright infringement intended.

.

Epilogue II

.

Christmas Eve was cloudy, the temperature holding in the low fifties. Presents were wrapped and placed under the tree, Sam's car emptied and Jacob's bag significantly lightened. That night, after a quick dinner of summer sausage, cheese, crackers, Doritos, and potato chips, all six of the Carters loaded up the two cars and drove to the traditional Christmas Eve service.

Candles lined the pews, the simple wax candles with plastic cups attached being handed to each person as they entered the sanctuary. A beautiful pipe organ lined one wall, carved wooden arches sweeping along the ceiling and large stained glass windows lining the outside wall of the sanctuary, all of it creating a cathedral like feel.

With a sigh, Sam settled onto the pew, gently massaging the knife wound above her knee. The lights dimmed and the service started, the choir singing carol after carol, all praising the newborn King.

It had been a long time since she had been to church, Sam realized. Often she was offworld on Sundays, and the few times she was on leave or actually had the time to go to church, she was either recuperating from an injury or was fast asleep, catching up on lost hours of slumber.

When the preacher mounted the podium, he paused for a moment before speaking, his eyes sweeping the congregation. For an instant, Sam would have sworn that he had locked eyes with her, smiling slightly before launching into his sermon.

As the sermon began, the words sort of ran together, all of them sounding like every other Christmas Eve service she had attended. But then, at the very end of the sermon, the preacher said something that caught Sam's attention, something that she had never heard before in a traditional service.

"God, who knew his son would be killed horrifically, still sent his one and only son to the Earth, so that we could find forgiveness through him. Does this mean that we should merely accept this gift and move on with our lives? Or should we, instead, follow his example, forgiving those around us.

Sometimes it seems as if there's something that is unforgivable. Well, God has forgiven us for that sin, and more. In fact, He has forgiven us for the sin of the entire world. Forgiveness is not something that should merely be accepted, but it is something that must be given as well.

Something tells me that some of you out there are struggling with that this Christmas season. I just want you all to leave tonight and think about the fact that God loved us all so much that he allowed his son to pay the ultimate price so we could be forgiven. Don't you think we should follow his example and forgive those around us that have wronged us?"

As the candles were lit and the last hymn sung, Sam could only sit there, gazing straight in front of her as the final words of the sermon sunk into her mind. Somehow, she knew that those words had been meant for her, whether the preacher had known that or not.

She glanced sideways, her gaze quickly finding Jacob who was standing on the other side of the pew from her, his back rigid as he stood there singing the final carol, his eyes unblinking.

The final note hung in the air, finally dying out and fading away.

"Sam?" Mary asked, who was standing beside her. She rested a hand on her sister-in-law's shoulder, encouraging Sam to look up at her. "We're getting ready to go. You coming?"

"What? Uh, yeah," Sam said, standing up and quickly glancing down at her unlit candle. She looked around herself as if just coming out of a daze, following Mary out of the pew.

With Sam following a few feet behind, the Carters left the auditorium, heading out to the parking lot where they converged on the two cars they had brought.

"I'm riding with Aunt Sam," David piped up, bouncing up and down by Sam's side. "Please?" he begged.

Mark looked at his older sister, who nodded, smiling.

"Okay then. Just make sure you do exactly what she says," Mark cautioned. David let out a whoop of excitement, then climbed into the backseat as Sam opened the driver's door.

"See you at home then," Sam said, sliding in as well and fastening her seatbelt.

Sam waited until the Subaru pulled out of its parking spot, driving toward the exit, before she slid the key into the ignition and started her own vehicle.

The two of them talked most of the way home, although it was David who was doing most of the speaking. He was practically about to explode from enthusiasm about Christmas and the presents and excitement of the next day.

After they pulled into the driveway, the two of them got out, Sam pausing to stare up at the stars twinkling high above them.

"Do you like the stars?" David asked Sam curiously, coming to stand beside her and gazing upward as well.

"Yeah, I do," Sam told him, sighing as she tore her gaze away from the glimmering heavenly orbs.

"You ever wish you could go explore any of them?" David asked, skipping up the steps to the front porch in front of her.

"No not really," Sam told him, opening the front door. "I like my life; what I do, the people I work with, the people I meet. I have all the adventure in my life I could ever hope for," she added wryly.

~SG-1~SG-1~SG-1~

A half hour later, Sam retreated to her room, begging exhaustion, and fell into bed, her hair still damp from the quick shower she taken.

Something deep inside of her seemed to be warring with itself; it was as if she was attempting to cover a large, gaping hole in her heart, but she was afraid to, holding onto the remnants of the past, trying to reopen the wound that was buried deep within her soul. She fell asleep, her mind and heart troubled, tossing restlessly.

"Shut up, bitch," Jacob growled, hitting her once again with the belt buckle. She bit her lip, attempting to bite off the yell that tried to force its way from her mouth, determined not to cry. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop a strangled yelp from wriggling free.

"When I tell you something, I expect you to listen and obey me," Jacob snarled, hitting her a second, then a third, and a fourth time. He kicked her savagely, forcing all the air out of her lungs. "Stupid chit," he added, kicking her again so she rolled onto her stomach.

Lines of fire raced up and down along her ribs and spine as he slowly, methodically, opened long gashes in her skin. She tried to move, to throw him off, but he was kneeling on her shoulder and lower back, keeping her pressed against the ground. As the blade, which had dulled considerably since the first day, ripped through her skin, she couldn't keep the scream from wrenching itself from her lips.

Then, once again, she could feel the electric device being forced through her skin, the blunt tip grinding into her collarbone. She screamed again, the piercing currents of electricity racing through her body, the pain only eclipsed by that of the bone slowly breaking and cracking under the force of the blow.

Outside of Sam's room the soft sound of feet traipsing down the stairs was drowned out by her shrill cries. Mark slowly turned the corner, running a hand through his hair as he, for the third time that week, made the journey down into the basement in the wee hours of the morning.

Today, however, like the first night, Mark found his father standing close to her door, gazing at the wood as if it would sting him should he touch it.

"Dad, what are you doing? Just go in there," Mark said, coming to stand in front of Jacob, arms folded across his chest, his chin jutting forward just like his sister's when she was being stubborn.

"Mark, how many times do I have to tell you I can't? She doesn't want me in there, and I can't face her when she's like this knowing what I've done," Jacob said, his own chin thrusting forward, an angry glint in his eyes.

"You're her father," Mark countered. "Don't give me that bull shit about you going in there to help her and making anything worse," he said getting angry, his voice beginning to rise in volume and intensity.

"Mark, you don't understand. You couldn't understand," Jacob barked. "I'm not even worthy of her calling me her father. Not anymore; not after what I did to her."

"You know what being a father is?" Mark asked after a second's silence. "It's looking after your children; being willing to fight for them; for their welfare. To protect them from anyone and anything that will dare to cause them harm. You have to be willing to do anything and everything in your power to be a shield; to guide and support. You have to be willing to give everything: your time, sanity, wellbeing, love, career, and even your life – everything – to be the one that is there for them. It doesn't matter what you want, or what you feel; it's what you know you need to do. It's about doing it even though you don't want to, even though you're scared. Now get your butt in there and show her that you really do care. That, even if she hasn't forgiven you, that you still love her and that you truly are her father."

With that, Mark spun on his heel, stalking down the hallway toward the stairs, calling over his shoulder, "I'm going to bed." He paused at the foot of the stairs, turning back and looking Jacob straight in the eyes. "And if I find out you didn't go in there, you won't step foot in this house again."

An eerie silence fell over the Carter household, the quiet almost palpable. Jacob could only stand there, torn between slamming his fist into the wall and entering the room quietly.

Somewhere, deep inside of his heart, Jacob knew that his son was right. But, at the same time, Jacob realized that he was afraid to face Sam once again; that he was afraid that she would reject him like she had three days before.

One last scream shattered the uneasy tranquility, her fear and pain evident in her undulating shriek.

Jacob withdrew, seeking out the aid and comfort of Selmak. But the only thing he heard from her was a whisper as that of a leaf fluttering on an autumn breeze: This is something you must do yourself, Jacob.

The scream issuing from behind the door reached a new intensity, as if she was feeling like she was being skinned alive. Jacob clenched his teeth, and reached forward to unlatch the door.

The door swung open nearly silently, the carpet that had been laid down on the cement floor muffling his footsteps as he drew closer to the bed. He paused for a second by the desk, flicking the small lamp on so that a soft glow filled the room. Then, carefully, as if he thought he would be scalded by the close proximity to his daughter, he approached the bed.

With a slight creak of the mattress, Jacob sat on the edge of Sam's bed, looking at the sweat soaked, and pale face of his firstborn. She whimpered in her sleep, her hand going once again to the stab wound centered over her collarbone, her other arm wrapping around her torso. Another small cry tore itself from her lips, and the last walls that Jacob had built up around his heart shattered and crumbled into dust.

He reached down, scooping up the tense form of his daughter, pulling her over until she was resting in his arms, her head against his chest. He then wrapped his arms around hers and began to croon softly, rocking back and forth slowly.

A soft, gentle murmur slowly drove away the encasing tendrils of the nightmare, the voice husky and yet comfortingly familiar. Slowly, the dark memory surrounding her gave way to a pearl gray fog, which in turn lifted.

Sam's eyes fluttered open. She saw that she was still in her room at her brother's house, although she realized within an instant that it was not Mark who was holding her, singing to her softly. The unique smell that washed over her brought the feeling of fear and pain. And yet, underneath the memories of terror, there was the feeling of safety and security.

"Hush Sammie, all is well," a kind voice whispered in her ear, a gentle hand rubbing up and down along her spine. "The nightmare is gone; that's all it was, just a dream."

And it was in that moment that the feelings of safety and security eclipsed those of fear and pain.

"Dad?" Sam whispered, craning her head around so she could get a good look at her father.

"I'm here Sam," he said just as quietly, looking down at her. Their eyes met, and more passed between the two of them in that single look than any thousand words could say.

"I'm sorry," Jacob said softly after a few more minutes of silence. And in his brief moment of weakness, Sam was able to see the truth, untainted, and clear.

"I forgive you," she whispered, looking up at the man who held her in his arms.

Something inside of her, something that felt like it had been missing, suddenly fell back into place with those words. It was as if some invisible fracture had just been mended; as if a thorn had been plucked from her soul. Because, in her heart, Sam meant what she had said with every fiber of her being.

Jacob leaned down hesitantly, placing a gentle kiss on his daughter's forehead.

"Thank you." The words were barely audible, almost as if they had been spoken from his soul to hers. And yet Sam heard the two words as clear as if he had shouted them.

Sam relaxed, falling into a peaceful sleep with a smile touching her lips, at peace in her father's arms.

~SG-1~SG-1~SG-1~

Mark trudged down the stairs to the basement, wondering what he would find when he went to wake his sister and his father up. He only hoped with all his heart that his tirade from the night before had accomplished his goal, and that Jacob had heeded his words. But Mark knew that his father was an extremely stubborn man, and Mark feared that he hadn't listened to his son.

Mark stopped in front of his sister's door, raised a hand and knocked tentatively. Only silence responded to his sally, so he tried again. For the second time, no one responded. His brows knitting together in slight worry, Mark pushed open his sister's door and peered in.

The first thing he noticed was that the desk lamp was still on, shining weakly in the predawn grayness that filtered into the room through the small window. Confusion filling his mind like a fog, Mark stepped into the room, and his eyes fell on the bed.

Jacob lay halfway propped up against the headboard, his eyes closed and his breathing steady. In his arms lay Sam, her head on his chest, Jacob's arms encircling her in a slumbering embrace. She, too, was fast asleep, the tension and fear erased from her face.

Mark hated to wake them, but it was Christmas morning, and if he and Mary kept David and Lisa in their rooms for much longer, he knew they would have two overly hyper children to deal with. Mary had agreed to bring the kids downstairs while Mark went to go and collect his sister and father.

Mark closed the distance between the door and the bed then kneeled down, gently shaking Jacob awake. The older man started, his eyes snapping open and his body tensing, his arms tightening around Sam protectively.

Sam's eyes also fluttered open, noticing the tensing in Jacob's body. For an instant she looked panicked, then she seemed to remember where she was, and she relaxed, settling into her father's caring embrace.

"G'morning," Mark said, smiling at the two of them. "Merry Christmas!"

Sam made a grumbling sound in the back of her throat, then sat up, Jacob releasing her and following suit.

"Really? It's morning?" Sam asked Mark, glancing around.

"Yup," he said, his grin widening. "Sleep well I take it?"

"Yeah," Sam said, standing and stretching. From up above them, the three heard squeals and excited chattering coming down to the ground floor, then the thunk of feet crossing the floor above them.

"Shall we go up?" Mark asked. "David and Lisa will be nearly ready to explode from the excitement by now, probably." Jacob laughed, then stood as well, motioning to the door.

"But of course," he said. "People exploding is no fun at all."

Sam grimaced, as did Jacob after he realized what he had said. "Sorry," he muttered, grinning apologetically at Sam. Mark shook his head, not understanding the sudden awkward touch that had colored the air around them.

With Mark leading the way, the three of them ascended the steps up to the ground floor.

"They're here!" squealed Lisa. "Can we open presents now? Please?" she begged. Mary laughed, shooing her wayward daughter into the living room where the presents were stacked in brightly wrapped piles underneath the green fronds of the Christmas tree.

The six of them sat in a circle and, to Mark's genuine delight, he noticed that Sam chose the spot beside Jacob, leaning against the edge of the couch with a sigh.

Mary delivered presents into piles in front of each person, and then the opening of presents began, each person opening one each time their turn came.

Jacob's presents were the most unique, each of them seeming exotic and foreign as if they had come from someplace very far from home. He had gotten puzzles for Lisa and David, although they were puzzles unlike anything either of them had seen before. They were wooden with metal bands wrapping around them, sets of keys and dials and letters carved into them.

"You have all of the clues you need to unlock it," Jacob explained after both of them had unwrapped the cubes. "There's something else locked inside for each of you," he said with a grin.

He had gotten Mark an exquisitely carved figure of a dragon, fire licking its jaws and its scales each individually chiseled. For Mary, Jacob had purchased a canvas painting, the picture depicting a sunset over the ocean, the tips of the waves painted with stunning colors, two pearly blue moons just visible, rising in the background.

Mary looked up with a smile dancing in her eyes. "Jacob, this is beautiful. Where on Earth did you get such a thing?"

Jacob smiled mischievously, his eyes flicking to Sam's, then replied saying, "I travel to a lot of unusual places in my line of work. I found it in a market one day and thought of you." She smiled warmly at him, giving him a hug.

Jacob's gift to Sam was small but, when she opened the box, she gasped. She pulled out a delicate necklace that shimmered silver in the light. The necklace seemed to be made of a dozen entwined metal flowers, blue stones set into the centers of the buds, azure streaks radiating out to the edges of the petals. Jacob helped her attach it around her neck, the necklace coming to rest above her collar bone.

Sam turned and hugged Jacob tightly, whispering, "Thank you."

The remainder of the day passed uneventfully, filled with relaxing chatter and laughter. Slowly the sun began to set and Mary disappeared into the kitchen to prepare Christmas dinner, dragging Sam along to help.

"I really don't think this is a good idea," Jacob heard Sam protest as she vanished around the corner. "I could burn water if I tried." Her objections were swallowed up by the sound of pots banging from the other room.

"I see that you and Sam got things worked out," Mark commented offhandedly.

"We're working on it," Jacob said, leaning back and sprawling on the couch cushions.

"Are you ever going to tell me what happened between the two of you?" Mark asked, seeing that Lisa and David weren't in the room at the moment.

"No," Jacob answered resolutely. "And before you ask why not, just know that, even if the time came that I, personally, was able to tell you, I would still be breaking about a dozen laws."

Mark sighed. "You can't hide behind the 'I can't talk about it; it's classified' façade for forever you know."

Jacob grinned, saying, "Good. Because it's not a façade."

"Sometimes you're a royal pain in the ass, you know that?" Mark grumbled.

"So I've been told. Although not in those exact words," Jacob added, grinning all the wider. To be precise, he'd been called a pain in the miktah, but that was beside the point.

Dinner that night was a scrumptious affair, with an impressive array of food and delicacies. Everyone ate until they were stuffed, then Mark and Jacob were sent into cleanup mode, Mary claiming she and Sam had prepared the meal, the least they could do was clean. They complied with grudging good grace.

Shortly after, both Sam and Jacob went to bed, their drooping eyelids and discontinuous conversations evidence to their exhaustion.

"I don't think either of them have been sleeping well," Mark commented as he and Mary settled in front of the fire with mugs of coffee in hand. "I know for a fact Sam hasn't, and I know the two of them are really close. And whatever was wrong with Sam, it seemed as if it had something to do with Dad as well…" Mark trailed off. "I just hope they can get things straightened out between the two of them."

~SG-1~SG-1~SG-1~

Jacob jerked fully awake, hearing the restless movements from the room close beside him. A sharp cry split the air before it was cut off desperately. Jacob stood, grabbing the blanket from the back of the couch that he had been sleeping on, and making his way to Sam's room.

He opened the door, slipping into his eldest daughter's room, clicking the lamp on yet again.

"Sammie, wake up, it's just a dream," he said softly, sitting on the edge of her bed. She jerked awake, breathing heavily. It only took a few minutes for her trembling to quiet this time, Jacob holding her in his arms the entire time. "It's okay," he soothed.

Once she was quiet, he stood, motioning for her to follow him. She complied, following her father out of her room then out of the house through the basement door.

They were in the backyard, the grass slightly damp and chilly underneath her bare feet. Jacob led her to the middle of the yard where the towering shadows of the trees didn't encroach upon, and spread the blanket he had been carrying. He lay down on it and Sam joined him a few seconds later, both of them gazing up at the stars.

The night air was a tad chilly, having just a touch of a nip to it. The two of them merely lay there, gazing up at the celestial bodies twinkling high above them, beckoning, calling, father and daughter merely enjoying each other's stolid presence.

"Sometimes the sheer weight of what I do comes crashing down on me. That's when it feels almost as if I'm carrying the weight of the world," Sam finally said, breaking the silence.

"That's why you have your team," Jacob answered. "That way you can share the load."

"And family," Sam added quietly.

"Sometimes your family just makes everything worse," Jacob said morosely. "Sometimes we only succeed in making it infinitely more difficult and painful."

"That's just when you have to apologize and take a step back," she replied, silence once again descending.

"I'm sorry Sam," Jacob whispered, turning to look at her.

"I know," Sam answered, smiling slightly at him.

"As is Selmak," her father continued. "She wanted to tell you herself, but she figured she might not get the chance."

"You're forgiven; both of you," Sam told them, blinking her eyes as raw emotion threatened to overwhelm her.

She felt her father move beside her, enclosing her in his arms, pulling her up into a sitting position.

"I love you Samantha," Jacob said quietly, their eyes meeting. "I always have and I always will."

"I love you too, Dad," Sam replied, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. She clutched him tightly, letting his stolidity assuage her fears. Slowly, one by one, they trickled away, leaving only her, Major Samantha Carter, daughter of Jacob Carter, behind.

And in that moment, Sam knew that she was alright.


A/N: To borrow Amanda Tapping's words, "Well that happened." This is the end! OH MY! I've been working on this for almost two full months now, and this is the end! The end of my first ever fanfic, as well as the longest story I have ever written.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me this entire time, offering support and encouragement, and never failing to send me a kind word or two. I hope the wild ride was worth it; I know I enjoyed it, wild ride though it may have been. Thank you again to all my readers.

Reviews are most welcome. In fact, I would love them! I sincerely hope that you liked this final installment of 'The Love of a Father', and I hope you all continue to travel with me as I explore the galaxy with my favorite characters!

~Seren~