and so you had a dream
the devil came by your door
and whispered through the screen
you'll have beauty and nothing more
but you were asleep
and by now you've realized
evil is just something
that people grow behind their eyes

A Way Out - Jill Andrews

oooo

The pregnancy isn't a mistake, but it is a surprise. Sam takes it in stride the way she takes most things. She tosses the pregnancy test into the basket along with the rest of items on her list. She's not sure yet when she buys the test, but she's certainly late and her body feels a little peculiar and they've been sloppy a few times because she's almost forty now and a little worse for the wear after all this time.

Jack helps her carry the groceries into the house but she unpacks them alone while he talks on the phone with the office door closed. She puts the test in the cupboard under the bathroom sink and tries not to think about it for the rest of the night.

"You want a beer?" Jack asks when they're about to sit down to dinner.

"Water is fine," she says, just in case.

In the early morning, she sits on the toilet and fumbles with the packaging while she clenches her muscles together in an effort to fight nature. He must hear the rustling because she's just pulling the test out from between her legs when he sticks his head in. She looks up at him, a little embarrassed. Not that he's seen her on the toilet - that's not new - but because he's caught her with the plastic stick in hand. He looks at it and then at her and opens his mouth.

"Really?" he asks. His face is wrinkled and he looks tired. He's got gook in his eyes.

"I don't know yet," she says, tearing toilet paper off the roll and wiping. He watches her set the test down and pull up her underwear and wash her hands. "Give it a minute."

"Were you going to tell me?" he asks.

"If there was something to tell," she says but she hadn't tried to hide it either. He's not picking a fight - not yet - but this has the potential to be a real touchy subject for him and rightly so. They haven't talked much about it, not seriously anyway, and so she gets that this is a surprise.

"Move," he says, because he has to pee too and she leaves him to it, the sound of his stream hitting the bowl following her down the stairs to the kitchen.

It's easily been three minutes but she still stands at the counter, her fingers on the lip of the sink. Jack is moving around upstairs, just killing time. He should be in the shower already but he's waiting, too. Finally, he doesn't let her stall anymore.

"Babe?" he calls down the stairs. She sighs and heads back up. They'll look together but she already knows what the test is going to say. Her body has never felt like this before.

oooo

She tells Dr. Lam and General Landry at the same time. Jack's back in Washington already. Their weekends always go by so fast.

"I'm pregnant," she says. Best to be direct. Landry's expression moves smoothly into one of congratulations, though she can see him already sorting through this messy development in his mind. Dr. Lam's eyebrows raise.

"How sure are you?" she asks.

"I took a home test," Sam says. "And I feel it."

"Well, I want to do a blood test right away," she says. "And figure out your due date."

"Right," Sam says. She glances at Landry who smiles at her in that fatherly way he has - kind, but it never makes her feel the way the same expression on Hammond made her feel.

"Congratulations, Colonel," he says.

"Thank you, sir."

"Have you told the rest of SG-1 yet?" he asks.

"No, sir," she says.

"I suggest you do so," Landry says. "I'm taking you off field duty effective immediately."

She knows he has to, but it still hurts a little.

"I understand, sir," she says. SG-1 obviously can survive as a four person team because it had for so long, but she's not excited about the prospect of Cam, Teal'c, Daniel, and Vala going out there without her.

"I suppose I ought to call General O'Neill and congratulate him too," Landry says.

"If you'd like, sir," Sam says blandly.

"Come on, Colonel," Dr. Lam says. "To the infirmary."

She tells Teal'c and Daniel first, alone in her lab. Teal'c clasps her shoulder firmly and looks down at her with pride. Daniel gets a little misty and hugs her tightly and then apologizes and kisses her cheek and is generally a huge sap about all of it.

"How far?" Daniel asks when she's shoved him off of her. Enough is enough.

"Carolyn says almost two months," Sam says. "Which I think is about right."

"What does Jack say?" Daniel presses.

"He says he's happy," Sam says. "I'm a little worried, though." She doesn't have to explain why.

"Will you leave the SGC and relocate to Washington, Colonel Carter?" Teal'c asks.

"Uh," she says. "I don't think so. I mean, we haven't really... I'm just assigned to the lab now." She doesn't want to leave them now, not with things with the Ori still so unsettled.

"And Jack?" Daniel says.

"He said he's working on it," Sam says.

"What does that mean?" Daniel demands. "Retirement?"

"Maybe," she says.

"You haven't talked about it?" Daniel's tone of disbelief is giving her a headache.

"O'Neill and Colonel Carter have their own form of communication," Teal'c says sagely. It shuts Daniel up, at least.

"We have time," Sam says. Daniel looks unconvinced. Sam stands, sheds her lab coat. "I still have to tell Cam. And Vala."

"Oh," Daniel says. "Can I come?"

oooo

Cam takes it personally for about a day and a half, muttering about all his work getting the band back together going to waste but she knows he's happy for her, because he can't stop grinning. Vala takes to hovering at Sam's elbow whenever they walk somewhere together, like she might keel over at any minute.

"I'm fine, guys," she says, over and over again. She does have to be more careful because she's older now and it's so early, but she actually feels okay.

The first time SG-1 goes through the gate without her is a little hard to handle, but she dives into her work and it seems to be enough.

She is fine for a while and then she's not. Jack comes home for the weekend to find her stretched out across the couch in the living room, the green afghan over her and the TV on low.

"Hey," he says, letting his bag fall by the door. He doesn't bring much with him - most of his stuff stayed in the house in Colorado. She'd moved in after she'd left Area 51 because it just didn't make sense to rent some little apartment when the house sat empty and hard to sell.

"Hey," she says. "I can't stop barfing."

"I've seen you blow chunks before," he says. "What can I do to help?"

"Nothing," she says and then reconsiders. "Lie down with me?"

"Sure," he says with a smile. He changes his clothes first, trading the uniform for sweat pants and a t-shirt with holes in the armpits. She moves enough so he can ease down behind her on the couch, tucking his body between the cushions and hers. Knees against knees, back against chest, and her head on his bicep as they both face the TV.

"Hi," she murmurs.

"Hi there," he says, kissing the back of her neck. "Sorry you're sick."

"It's normal, I think," she says. He smells good, like the aftershave she bought him for Christmas, and familiar in a way that seems to settle her stomach on some primordial level. Maybe the tiny thing inside her can sense that the donor of its genetic material is near.

"Still," he says. "You up for food?"

"God, no," she moans. He rubs her arm a little and then her hip.

"You want me to help you relax?"

She considers this a moment and then rolls carefully so she's facing him.

"I'm not up for much," she says, which isn't a no. He just smirks and eases her leg up over his.

"That's okay," he says. He doesn't kiss her and she can't blame him because who wants to kiss someone who has been throwing up all day, but he does touch her skin lightly, reverently, all over before he eases his hand into her pants.

"I miss you," she says, her breath catching as he touches her. "I miss you so much when you're gone."

He kisses her temple, says nothing, simply focuses on the task at hand.

oooo

She feels better in the morning, well enough to get up and get dressed. There isn't much in the house, so they call Daniel and Teal'c and meet for breakfast at that diner near Daniel's place. Sam looks pretty much the same, but she feels totally different and all her clothes fit differently, snug in new places and her favorite pair of jeans are not even close to buttoning. Jack tells her she looks pretty; she threatens to punch him and puts on a skirt with an elastic waist.

Maybe it's rude not to invite Cam and Vala, but Jack doesn't know them in the same way and he's never around for long enough that being rude matters. Besides, this way they can fit in a booth. They order three cups of coffee and an orange juice and no one says anything about that. When it comes, Sam sips at the juice carefully, warily. She doesn't start getting nauseous until the evenings, usually, but sometimes it's an all day thing.

"So," Daniel says. "You going to do this long distance thing forever or what?"

"Couldn't even wait until we ordered, could you, Daniel?" Jack says, not looking up from his menu. He orders the same thing every time, she's not even sure why he bothers to keep up the facade of deciding.

"No," Daniel says.

They'd stayed up late talking about it. Jack had made her dinner eventually, something easy and bland. Noodles with an inoffensive sauce and steamed broccoli and she'd sipped at Sprite until she felt better. When they'd finally gone to bed, they'd made careful love, Sam's hands on his hips controlling the speed and the rhythm. She'd gasped when Jack had cupped her breasts, everything so aching and tender. He'd touched her belly, still flat but she'd found it sweet all the same.

"I have to stick around D.C. for a few more months," Jack says, tossing his menu down on top of hers. "And then I'm gonna move home."

Sam doesn't want to warm at the sound of him calling Colorado, and her, home but she can't seem to help it. Jack's hand rests on her thigh under the Formica table and she touches it lightly, just the pads of her fingers on his knuckles. Just so he knows that she's there.

"Retirement?" Teal'c inquires.

"I offered them retirement or reassignment," Jack says.

"Gee, what did they pick?" Daniel asks, sarcasm doing nothing to make him more attractive, in Sam's opinion. Sometimes she misses the old, naive Daniel, even if it isn't fair for her to do so.

"Well, you know, George and I had been kicking the idea of the full-time training facility around for some time and then..." He waves his hand in the air. They'd tried it with some new recruits and it had been effective, but there had never really been enough staff to do it justice back then. But with someone like Jack at the helm, at least they'd get enough resources to get it off the ground.

"Recruits," Daniel says. He doesn't sound all that impressed.

"Yeah," Jack says, a little gruffly. "You know, for when you realize you're getting too old for this shit and we need to replace you."

Sam taps his knee hard, once, and he seems to deflate a little.

"I will enjoy having you near again, O'Neill," Teal'c says, ever the diplomat and Sam smiles at him, grateful all over again that they'd found him.

"When the baby comes," Sam says pointedly, looking right at Daniel, "I'm going to need him around."

"And not just for my looks," Jack says.

"I know," Daniel says. "I didn't mean it like... Jack, I just don't want you to give up something that's important to you."

"God Daniel," Jack says. "You're a bonehead sometimes, you know that?"

"What?" Daniel says, clearly frustrated now. Teal'c leans in slightly, theatrically, to Daniel's side.

"I believe in this equation, Colonel Carter is the important thing," Teal'c says. "And the child."

"I know that," Daniel says.

Sam reaches across the table and takes his hand. She understands him better than Jack or Teal'c. He wants Jack to be happy as much as he wants Jack looking out for SG-1. He doesn't want the Ori to win and he doesn't want to lose their champion in Washington. But still, that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve some ribbing.

"The baby isn't going to change how much we love you, Daniel," she says softly. Jack snorts into his coffee cup.

Daniel rolls his eyes but squeezes Sam's hand.

"Jack's gonna scare all those kids away," Daniel says. "That's what I think."

"I'm sure as hell gonna try," Jack says. "You need nerves of steel to go through that gate." He looks at Sam when he says this, something warm in his eyes.

oooo

She has to requisition new uniforms. It's the first visible change she makes. She doesn't go off-world, obviously, but she hasn't started buying baby things, hasn't decided where she wants to deliver, doesn't think of names, hasn't gotten soft and maternal overnight. She's just gotten... bigger. Wider, actually.

She puts it off until she's so uncomfortable she could spit, and then the newer, stretchier pants are such a relief that she mentally kicks herself for waiting as long as she did. With the shirt buttoned and large, it's still kind of hard to tell, but if she pulls the fabric tight against her, the evidence is hard to ignore. Something is definitely growing in there.

She doesn't see Jack for two months - their schedules just don't allow it - and though now that she's grounded she could conceivably go to him instead of the other way around, he makes a big fuss about her flying and she feels unsteady enough that she doesn't really want to put forth the effort, either. They've gone longer and he calls every day, almost.

When he does come home, it's just the very end of spring and Sam has opened up all the windows of the house. She's feeling better, home for the night and, with any luck, the weekend. Cam had mentioned having everyone over for dinner, so as soon as Jack gets home, they'll have to head over but the air is sweet and warm and she feels tingly with anticipation and heavy with new growth.

She's wearing a stretchy skirt and one of those lacy tank tops that Jack likes so much. When Jack comes in, she's in the kitchen with her back to the door.

"Hey," he says, walking in. She turns around and he stops, his face going totally blank for a moment - he does this when he doesn't want to give away any sort of reaction - but then his eyes crinkle at the corners a bit. "Look at you."

"Look at me," she says.

He hugs her gently because he's still in the dress blues and all the ribbons and medals tend to poke and scratch at bare flesh. She slides her hands up under his jacket and his back is damp with sweat.

"Warm," he murmurs.

"How was your flight?" she murmurs back but he kisses her instead of answering. When that's done, he steps back just enough to rest a hand on her little bump.

"I'm sorry I've missed so much," he says.

"You haven't," she assures him. He looks unconvinced but she doesn't want to get into this maudlin place where everything is about his dead son in the first ten minutes he's home, so she changes the subject. "I told Cam we'd stop by."

"That's fine," he says.

"If you're too tired..."

"Nah," he says. "Let's go. Daniel and Teal'c too?"

"And Vala," Sam says. "Wherever Daniel goes, she's not far behind."

Jack snorts, slips his jacket off, gets a beer, never takes his eyes off of her. "Babe, you look really, really good."

"I feel big," she says. "Is that normal?"

"You aren't big," he says. "I could hardly tell from behind."

"I knew I liked you," she says, slipping into her old, frayed, comfortable denim jacket. She can't button it anymore, but that's okay. "Go change, soldier."

"Yes, ma'am," he says.

At Cam's, everyone else is already there, and Jack is greeted with hugs and slaps on the back like an old friend. He and Daniel disappear almost immediately into the back bedroom and Sam doesn't pretend to understand their relationship after all this time. Some days she isn't sure Jack even likes Daniel, but she knows that he also can't live with out him.

"Hey Mama," Cam says, kissing her cheek. He hands her a bottle of water and his house is all opened up too. Somewhere rockabilly plays from a sound system and she can see Vala in the backyard, bouncing all around Teal'c. "So, what did he say?"

"About what?" she asks.

"About that volleyball you're smuggling under there," Cam says reaching out to her stomach but not quite touching it. She steps back half a step not because she minds Cam touching her, but because the feeling of Jack's hand there is still so fresh in her mind.

"Oh," she says. "Well, he's done this before so..."

"Sam," Cam says. "He's excited."

"Are you guys phone friends and I'm unaware?" she asks.

"Daniel," he says by way of explanation.

"What?" Daniel asks, coming out of the hallway with Jack. Daniel puts his arm around her shoulders. "What's up, preggo? Haven't seen much of you this week."

"You were off-world," she says. "You don't call, you don't write."

Daniel touches her easily and without hesitation, his hand warm on her back. It's like that with all of the original members of SG-1 and though she suspected that they might back off after her thing with Jack, whatever it is, came out in the open, they haven't and she's grateful. She leans into Daniel, happy to let him share her weight.

Vala seems both repulsed and enthralled by Sam's pregnancy now that she's showing. She sees Vala watching her all the time, but it's like Vala makes it a point not to talk about babies or anything related when they speak. Jack seems to think it's because her own pregnancy failed so spectacularly but Sam thinks maybe part of it she's just as scared of change as the rest of them.

"It's just a baby," Sam says into the phone and she can hear Jack think that she doesn't know what she's talking about, even if he doesn't say it.

Today, Vala grins and waves at her, but does not touch her. Does not offer her a seat, does not bring her food, does not finger her hair or ask about names or smile in that way that women smile at one another, knowing and ever-so-slightly superior. Jack doesn't crowd her but he stays close. He watches her a lot.

"He's done this before," Sam says to Daniel, later, cutting the brownies that Teal'c had brought. "It might be hard for him."

"You don't have to make excuses for him," Daniel says, pulling forks out of a drawer.

"I'm not," she says.

"It's not Charlie in there, Sam," Daniel says, looking at her stomach.

"God, Daniel," Sam says.

"Jack knows it, but I don't know if you do," Daniel says.

She sighs, sets the knife in the sink and starts prying the brownies out of the glass dish with a fork. They're quiet for a couple minutes, plating the dessert. Finally, she blurts it out before she can stop her self. "I'm not good at everything, you know."

She licks the chocolate off of her fingers. When she finally meets his eyes, he smiles softly at her, little wrinkles high on his cheeks. Somewhere along the way, they've all gotten old. She worries, constantly, that she is way too old for all of this.

"You're good at the stuff that counts," Daniel says. "And you're good at Jack."

"Yeah," she says. Jack feels like a thing that she finally got right.

oooo

It's fine, she likes being held. She likes the way that Jack is sweet with her and on her, how he can seem to dote without feeling suffocating, how when they sit on the couch, he pulls her feet into his lap and presses on her arches with his thumbs. He brings her water and fruit to snack on in bed, he makes sure the doors are locked so she doesn't have to. He tries to make up for the times he is gone.

Right now, he's snuggled against her, his hand resting high on her stomach, kissing her bare shoulder. And it should be really nice, because she never gets to just be held when he's gone and she misses him like crazy, but all it's doing is frustrating her. All she wants is for him to touch her and instead he's being careful. She can feel that he wants her, catches the small hitch in his breath when she shifts a little and brushes against half an erection before he shifts too, away from her. She holds in a frustrated sigh.

"Jack," she murmurs.

"Yeah?" he says, his lips moving against her shoulder.

"I'm not made of glass."

When he doesn't say anything, she rolls over to look at him. There's that blank face again.

"I know," he settles on.

"Then why are you...?"

He clears his throat. "Ah. Well, when Sara got..."

"Pregnant," she supplies when it doesn't seem like he is ever going to find the word.

"Yeah, I was deployed right away. I mean, she found out and then I was gone a couple weeks later and by the time I got back, she was nearly due and I just... I don't want to hurt you." He squints at her.

She laughs, which maybe isn't how she should respond to his honest confession but he's such a dope sometimes.

"You're not going to hurt me or the baby," she assures him. "Actually, if you don't touch me, I think I'm going to hurt you."

Jack smiles at her, leans in and kisses her. But still, he's careful - tender at a level she doesn't need. It's new, trying to do this with her belly between them, but the mechanics are still the same and suddenly she feels like crying because he's so tense, holding himself so he doesn't put any weight on her when all she wants is to feel him.

"No," she says, pushing him away. "Stop."

He does stop, immediately, rolls off and sits on the edge of the bed, his feet flat on the floor. She sits up too, scoots out from the center of the bed and sits next to him, her stomach touching her thighs and her breasts heavy and swaying with the movement. It's her body, but it's not, and they're both scared.

"I'm sorry," he says.

"Don't apologize," she says quickly. "We just... let's try it with me on top."

It's not a position they usually use because Jack has some weird quirks about being the bottom. When they do try it with her on top, it's usually at her request and it's usually not long before he flips them back over, his dark eyes gleaming. But the pregnancy is demanding all sorts of changes and accommodations and there's gonna be a point where her underneath him is no longer feasible.

"We don't... we can stop, Sam, it's okay," he says. She shakes her head, bites her lip. It's not that she wants to stop, it's that she wants to get fucked and he's being so damn careful that she wants to scream. But she can't say this out loud, not even to Jack.

"Please?" she says. It seems cruel to ask in such a voice except for that she knows he'll move heaven and earth to grant her request when she asks him like that. Manipulative? Maybe. But he lies back pulls his boxers off while she gets rid of the last of her clothes and she just skips the foreplay all together. That's how badly she wants to feel him inside of her.

He hisses and she winces but when she sinks down, all the way down so he's in there deep, she feels like she might just make it through one more day again. She starts to rock and then rise and fall and then, when that's not enough, she rides him, her fingers digging into his chest for support.

"Sam?" he says, his hands on her hips, but she ignores the question in his voice and takes what she needs.

She sinks her teeth into the rope of muscle between his neck and shoulder while she comes. She hears him yelp and he brings a hand down on her ass to get her to let go but she doesn't, just groans through flesh and teeth until the shuddering subsides. Finally, she pries her jaw apart and licks the bright red marks her teeth have left behind. Jack is breathing heavy, still hard inside of her. She feels a little dizzy - it's been a while since she's exerted this much energy in one go.

He lets her lick him, suck his earlobe into her mouth, lets her sigh into his ear before he starts squirming beneath her. He slides his hands up her back and braces to flip them but she says, "No."

"Sam," he says, just a tinge of desperation in his voice.

"Like this," she says and it isn't a request. She sits back up, digging her hands into the mattress on either side of his neck. She starts to move again. She can't remember the last time they finished like this, her hips rocking over him, his face staring up at her, confused but so clouded with pleasure.

After, when the lights are off and they're both under the covers and she's waiting for the sound of his breath evening out into sleep, he finally says something.

"You know you can tell me anything, right?"

But she feels boneless and sated, finally, and is in no mood for this.

"I know," she says, and rolls over. Time for sleep.

oooo

Jack doesn't move home for good until she's about eight months along. She wants to go help him move, but she can't. He tells her it's fine, that he's not bringing much.

"Everything I need is in Colorado Springs," he says over the phone.

She's tired and huge and it takes all her willpower not to beg him to come home right now. He'll be home tomorrow, but the Asgard technology could beam him over right now and she wants him beside her so ardently that she feels it in her teeth.

"Are you crying?" he asks, concerned.

"I don't know why," she sniffs. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah," he says. "But let's stay on the phone for a while anyway, okay?"

She's nervous about him seeing her. She's really big and grows more every day and is constantly exhausted. SG-1 keeps getting their asses handed to them by the Ori and she feels like she's doing absolutely nothing to help. Cam is sweet about it. When he's on-world, he hangs around her lab and brings her snacks and tells her she's pretty. It's like he's trying to be Jack for her while Jack is gone and even though it's a touch creepy, she actually really appreciates it.

"Why are you so good at this?" she asks him as he helps heft her out of a briefing chair.

"Sister," he says. "She's a little baby making machine."

She's gone into work because Jack won't be in until the evening and waiting at home was going to make her crazy. But she's butting right against her maternity leave and Daniel and Teal'c don't really even want her on base as is.

"Do you know what kind of horrors come through that gate daily?" Daniel says. "What if a prior comes through?"

"You didn't seem to mind me facing danger when I wasn't pregnant," she points out.

"I mean, of course I did but this is our kid, Sam," he says. She smiles at him, tilts her head.

"Ours?"

"SG-1's," he says.

"Actually..." she drawls but he just waves his hand.

"I feel like all those years Teal'c and I endured you and Jack dancing around each other entitles me to a small part of this child, at least," he says.

She laughs. "Okay."

She drives herself home around four and settles in for the long wait.

She's done a little - she has a crib still in the cardboard box it was delivered in. She has a car seat and a few drawers of tiny clothes. She figures the guest room will become a nursery but she hasn't done anything about the full size mattress except for push it against the wall.

She's excited, she is, but she can never seem to find the motivation to do anything without Jack.

She's asleep when he finally arrives. She's so tired; has heartburn and the damn kid has a leg pushed into her ribs and just won't turn. She wakes up to Jack sitting on the bed, pushing her hair out of her eyes - it's longer, now, than he's ever seen it.

"Jesus, Carter," he says. "You're huge."

"I will shoot you," she murmurs. "I swear it, Jack, I will kill you dead."

He touches her belly, rubs it but the baby remains stubborn and won't move.

"I don't think you will," he says. He takes off his jacket and toes off his shoes and curls up behind her, tucking neatly against her. He rubs her arm, up and down and she starts to cry. Hot tears, silent, streaming down her cheeks and he doesn't even notice right away until she needs a deep, watery breath and he tenses.

"Sorry," she manages.

"Nah," he says.

"You were just..."

"I know."

"I've been all alone."

"I know," he says. "I'm here now. For good."

"We're not even ready. I'm not ready," she admits.

"That's because it's not time yet," he assures her. "But we're going to get everything all set."

"How can you promise me that?" she asks. "How can I have this baby in a world that might not be here next week? How can I think of having a baby when the possibility of it becoming a slave to a fanatical religion is an actual, legitimate concern?"

"Because that's what people do, Carter," he says. "People have babies even though they don't know what's coming."

"That's the problem," she says, reaching for a tissue on the nightstand and using it to wipe her snotty face. "I do know what's coming and it isn't good."

"Well it's too late to call it off," he says. She looks at him, her eyebrows furrowed.

"Was that supposed to make me feel better?" she snaps.

"You don't think I'm scared too?" he asks. "I'm way too old to be starting over again and it's not like I was spectacular at it the first time around."

They really, really haven't talked about Charlie. She's been meaning to bring it up, to make sure he's okay. Daniel's words haunt her and she knows the baby she's having isn't going to - and isn't supposed to - replace his dead son, but it's still something they should have worked through before now.

"That wasn't your fault."

"Then who's fucking fault was it?" he asks. She winces and hates that fresh tears well in her eyes. She shakes her head, presses the tissue to her cheeks. She cannot control her emotions anymore. Doesn't even try.

He rubs his face, sits up, glances at his watch.

"It's been a long day," he says, finally.

"Me too."

"I don't mean to be an ass."

"I know," she says. "I don't mean to be so needy the second you walk in the door."

"We're gonna get through this the way we get through everything, Carter," he says.

"By the skin of our teeth?" she asks.

He smiles indulgently but then reaches out for her hand. She puts her fingers against his. "Together," he says.

"Oh."

He leans in and kisses her even though she's all puffed up and snot-filled and sometimes when she remembers back to all those years where they couldn't have this, right now stops looking so bad.

"I can't believe you knocked me up," she says against his mouth. He grins.

"The president acted like I'd ground the entire Stargate program to a halt," he says, pressing her back down and back into his arms. Living a life where the president has to be informed of your pregnancy is never not strange. "Colonal Carter? Samantha Carter?" Jack mimics doing a passable impression of Hayes.

"We really are too old for this, you know," she says. He doesn't comment. They lie there together until she has to pee. When she gets out of the bathroom, the bed is empty. The wrinkled blankets are the only indication that they'd been there. She goes downstairs and Jack is in his recliner, the game on the TV.

Life goes on, as usual.

She starts on dinner.

oooo

It feels wrong to have a baby shower when everyone is off fighting a war, when Janet isn't there to throw it for her, when the nursery is only half painted and the house is a mess so she just declines having one all together.

"But I was going to throw it," Vala pouts. "I bought little pink and blue decorative streamers."

"We can have a girls night," Sam offers.

"Can Daniel come?"

Sam smiles indulgently both at Vala's constant desire to be always at Daniel's side and the fact that Daniel would probably be more comfortable at a girls night than doing whatever it is that Jack does when he disappears for a guys night.

"All right," she says.

"Just let her do what she wants," Jack says when Sam won't stop worrying about it. Sam looks at him like he's crazy.

"This is Vala," she says.

"Yeah, but Daniel will keep her in line," he says.

"Jack," Sam says, shaking her head. "If you're gonna live here full time, there are things you should probably know about Vala and Daniel and one of those things is that what you just said is not true."

Vala makes arrangements at O'Malley's because they have karaoke on Saturday nights. Jack and Sam haven't been back there since they were kicked out for starting a brawl but that was years ago and so she doesn't mention it. Daniel does, though, when he and Vala arrive to pick her up.

"What if they don't let us in," he murmurs to Sam and she grins.

"Do I look like I'm gonna be picking fights?" she asks. He smiles. Jack helps her into her coat and gives her a small salute.

"Have fun, Colonel," he says.

"You could come," Daniel blurts.

"Uh, no," Jack says. "I don't think so."

"Are you sure?" Daniel says. "Are you sure, Jack?"

"I thought the dads didn't come to these types of things," Jack says, scratching the back of his head. He's not even really dressed - he's in those faded jeans that don't fit him well and a flannel and has been puttering around the house all day.

"It's not really a shower," Daniel says. "Come on. You love steak. Steak, Jack."

Vala rolls her eyes.

"What do you think?" Jack asks Sam. "You want me to come?"

She doesn't have to even think about it really. She would have been perfectly fine if he had stayed home, but now with the option, she finds herself nodding. "Yes please."

"You're not wearing that," Vala says, disapproval clear in her tone. Jack raises his eyebrows. "General," she adds.

"Go on and get the table," Sam says. "We're right behind you."

Sam sinks onto the couch and waits for Jack to change. When he comes back down in slightly nicer clothes, he has his toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. He says something but she can't understand him and she shakes her head. He holds up a finger, goes into the kitchen to spit and rinse, and comes back.

"I said, if you wanted me to go all along, why didn't you just ask?"

"I didn't know I wanted it until I could have it," she says. "Come here, please."

He does, leans over her until she can reach his face. He'd shaved and she wipes a spot of left over shaving cream from up by his ear. He smiles at her, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and she smiles helplessly back.

"I love you," he says. "Even if you're the size of a mother ship."

"No, no," she says to the empty room. "I saw him first, ladies."

He tosses his toothbrush onto the coffee table and uses both hands to pull her to her feet. Inside, the baby moves, a foot, she thinks, and she takes his hand and holds it against her. He lifts his eyebrows and looks at her.

"I still think it's a girl," he says. She wants the surprise because she's so afraid it will be a boy. She's so afraid Jack will look at their baby and only see his dead son. Afraid the child will actually look like Charlie.

"Maybe," she says.

"Mini-Carter," he says, rubbing a little circle on her belly. Her shirt is made of a stretchy, slippery material and it feels nice on her stretched skin. "Cool."

"Come on, daddy," she says. "We're already late."

She sits next to Vala who watches the karaoke with glee but no amount of wheedling is going to get Daniel behind a microphone. Still, Sam doesn't tell Vala to stop trying. In a lull between songs, Vala looks at her with her big dark eyes, bouncy pigtails, purple dress.

"Have you stopped thinking of the baby as it yet?" Vala asks.

"What?" Sam asks.

"When I was pregnant, the women told me that you know you're ready to be a mum when you think of the baby as a them instead of an it," Vala says, shrugging. "I never did, though."

"Well," Sam says. "It's hard because we don't know the gender. But I think I go back and forth. I... don't feel ready, though. I know I only have a couple weeks left but... I don't know if anyone really feels ready."

"But you want the baby, right?" Vala asks. "What does it feel like to want it?"

"Vala," Sam says, helplessly. She reaches out and takes Vala's hand. She squeezes it, doesn't know what to say. "I think you'll still get your chance."

Vala glances at Daniel with a deep, quiet longing that Sam can't help but recognize.

In the truck, Jack drives with one hand draped on the wheel, the other on Sam's leg.

"You want this baby, right?" Sam asks. Jack looks at her for long enough that she glances nervously out at the road but they're fine.

"What kind of question is that?" Jack asks. "Of course I want her. Or him."

"I was just checking," she says.

"You're gonna be really good at this, Sam," he says.

She's glad he's so sure, because her nervousness increases daily.

oooo

Her water doesn't break. It's not like the movies where she stands and there's a gush and there's a rush to the hospital. But she's been cranky all day and Jack is in the nursery, painting the baseboards. She'd built the crib already. He'd tried to do it, but she'd told him that they should probably stick with their strengths and had called him sir and he'd been kind of pouty for the rest of the day.

She's starting to lose her mucus plug, though, in pieces. It's the weirdest, grossest thing - gross enough that she'd had to change her underwear twice.

"We're close," Sam says in bed that night. It's hot and Jack is struggling to open the bedroom window.

"I like to think so. We've been friends for 10 years," he says, poking at a slight tear in the screen with a frown.

"No," she says. "I mean the baby."

He looks at her. "Tonight?"

"No," she says. "But in the next few days I bet."

"Shit, Carter," he says. She looks back at the book in her hands and pretends to read for a few more moments. "I heard having sex induces labor."

"It's 95 degrees and I'm 9 months pregnant. You want to try that again, flyboy?" she says without looking up.

"Want me to get you some ice cream?" he says.

She smiles at him. "That would be lovely."

He just brings the carton and two spoons and she doesn't complain. She can't sleep anymore, can only doze in small doses, but he doesn't mind sleeping with the TV on so she watches mindlessly - old reruns, bits of movies, infomercials, whatever.

She's flipping through the channel and lands, briefly, on an old war movie. The sound of machine guns makes Jack sit up straight in bed, breathing heavy, reaching blindly for his nightstand.

"Sorry," she says. "Sorry. Honey, it's okay." She shuts the TV off and reaches his for him. His shoulders rise and fall and he looks around, assessing their situation, wild-eyed. "Jack."

His eyes fall on her and he breathes out.

"I had a bad dream," he says, finally. She doesn't tell him it's her fault because there's no point and he'd only be embarrassed that he'd been so easily triggered.

"Yeah," she says. "It's over now."

He rolls into her, presses his face into her warm neck. She's a little bit sweaty - having a baby in August isn't proving to be one of her better ideas - but he doesn't seem to mind and she holds him tight.

He kisses her neck, her jaw, her neck again.

When they first had started sleeping together, this had happened a lot more. Neither were used to having the other in bed with them, and waking up scared had easily turned into touching, to sex. To blood-pounding, toe-curling proof that not only were they alive, but they were alive together.

Jack palms her breast and she gasps. He seems to realize, then, that it can't work like this anymore. He pulls his hand away and looks at her, leaning in to kiss the tip of her nose.

"I'm fine," he says. She reaches for his hand and pulls it back to her chest.

"Let's try," she says. He raises his eyebrows and looks down at her stomach. "Unless you don't..."

"I do," he says, not even giving her the chance to say it. "I do."

It's a bit of a logistical nightmare. She keeps her bra on because her breasts feel huge and sore but he helps pull down her large, stretchy underwear, tossing them over his shoulder. "Won't miss those."

"Me either," she says. He pulls off his t-shirt, reaching behind him for the collar and pulling it over his head. His hair sticks out comically - he hasn't bothered to keep it so short since coming home. He kicks off his shorts, too.

She turns over onto her knees and shoves every pillow on the bed underneath her to help hold her up.

"We can stop anytime," he says, but he's already stroking her, rubbing her back and her ass. She hears him suck his fingers for a minute and then he's touching her, wet fingers against her and she sighs, pressing her face into her arms. "Sam?"

"Yeah," she says. She feels him slip a finger inside of her and curl it and she lets out a little choked noise - everything is so sensitive. She feels it all in her teeth, behind her eyes, all through the tips of her fingers.

"I want it to be a boy, too," he says. She doesn't know what this means, him saying this now but it doesn't matter, because then she feels the head of his penis nudging against her entrance and she finds herself pushing back to take him in. He groans and leans forward to press his chest along her back. She lifts her head so he can kiss her cheek before he sits up again. "Is this okay?"

"Yeah," she sighs. It's not easy because she's heavy and sore but it's worth the effort because this is Jack inside of her and it's going to have to last them for a long time. It feels good, too, deep and familiar.

When she comes, it's on a slow, rolling wave and Jack falls to the mattress beside her, huffing and gleaming with sweat.

"Fuck, it's hot," he mumbles and then leans into kiss her, but she pulls away before he can. The spasms of pleasure have shifted and she feels something clench. "Hey, you okay?"

"I think," she says, and then stops to roll off the pile of pillows onto her back. She takes a deep breath. "that might have been a contraction."

"So I was right about the sex thing," he says.

"Jack!"

"I just... not a lot of times I get to be right, Carter, so can we make a note of this one?"

"I didn't say you were wrong," she says. The feeling recedes and she closes her eyes and waits.

"You want to go to the hospital?" he asks. She opens her eyes and looks at him. He seems so calm - too calm, maybe - and she narrows her eyes at him. He's done this before, of course, so maybe he knows it's too early to panic.

"How long was Sara in labor for?" she asks. He winces.

"You probably don't want me to answer that at this point in your pregnancy," he says.

"Jack."

"It's just gonna... you're not Sara so there's no point in comparisons," he says.

"Answer me please."

"Sam," he says.

"Jack O'Neill, you tell me what I want to know right now or I'll call her and ask her myself," she says.

"Thirty-six hours," he says. "Give or take."

She pales, feels a little dizzy. That's a long time. "Why would you tell me that?" she says.

He presses his lips together. Bites back something. Smart man.

"I'm going to take a shower," he says. "And then I'm going to run a bath for you."

She doesn't have to wait long. Jack showers like the career military man that he is - fast - and soon she hears the tub start to fill. She rubs her belly and waits for him to come get her. He does, a blue towel wrapped around his waist.

"I don't think it's fair you get to stay so attractive and I had to put on thirty-five pounds," she comments.

"Are you kidding me? You're super hot," he says, taking both her hands and helping her to her feet. "I mean, you were always pretty, Sam, but like this? Get outta here."

"If that's a lie, it's a sweet one," she says, leaning into him as they make their way to the tub. She feels it starting again, the low ache. "Oh boy."

"Again?" he asks. She bites her lip and nods.

"Okay," he says, still calm. "Let's get you settled and then I'm gonna call the doctor and see what he says."

He helps her into the tub, kisses her, touches her face and her hair.

"I'm okay," she assures him. Still, he brings the phone into the bathroom and sits on the closed toilet while he calls the doctor. He leaves a message with the night nurse.

"He'll call us back," Jack says. "I feel like I should call Daniel."

"You should," Sam says. They don't have any parents left and Mark is happy for Sam but still several states away so calling him before the birth isn't necessary. The only family Jack has is Sam and his team. And of course, his odd relationship with Daniel.

"I'll wake him up," Jack says, hesitating.

"It's probably just Braxton Hicks anyway," Sam says. "The bath is helping."

The phone rings and Jack answers, winking at her.

"O'Neill," he says.

She sinks down deeper into the tub. The water doesn't cover her completely anymore but it's so hot this summer that air on her wet skin can be a relief.

"You still going?" Jack asks, looking at her. She nods. "How far?"

"Nine minutes, maybe?" she says.

"Pain level between one and ten?" he asks. She holds up two fingers. "Doc, she says two, but you gotta know that Sam has a pretty impressive tolerance for pain so I'd say for a normal human, that's like a five or six."

She rolls her eyes.

"Yeah, okay, thanks Doc," Jack says and hangs up. "He says try to get some sleep call him in the morning. He says that go time is around four minutes apart."

She knows this. She's read the books but she nods at him. "Thanks. Why don't you go call Daniel?"

"You think I should?" he asks.

"Yeah, he deserves a heads up," Sam says. "After all it's his baby too."

"Since when?" Jack asks.

"That's what he says. The baby belongs to all of SG-1," she says.

"Okay, but if that baby comes out half-Jaffa, we're gonna have some words," Jack says.

"Teal'c and I would make a pretty baby," Sam says dreamily, rubbing her hand over her stomach.

Jack just snatches up the phone, glares, and wanders off to call Daniel.

oooo

It's four more days before the contractions start again but when they start, they really start. Jack is out with the truck which was a stupid plan, in retrospect, letting him out of her sight when she's so close to bursting.

She braces herself against the kitchen counter and dials the phone. She doesn't even get it to her ear before the cell phone across the room starts to ring.

"Jaa-aack," she whines in frustration. She hangs up and dials Teal'c instead.

"Colonel Carter," he greets.

"I'm in labor," she says. "Right now."

"Congratulations," he says.

"No! Well yes, thanks, but I mean is Jack with you?" she asks.

"He is not," Teal'c says. "He and Daniel Jackson left the base approximately thirty minutes ago."

"To do what?" she asks. Teal'c pauses for just long enough that she can answer her own question. "They went to the driving range, didn't they?"

"Indeed."

"Why didn't you go?" she asks.

"The last time I went, I could not keep the ball within the length of the range," he says, sounding pretty smug.

"Yeah, well." She hisses here, the pain gripping her again.

"Colonel Carter?"

"Teal'c can you come get me, please?" she asks.

"I am on my way," he promises. She gets herself to the sofa to wait. She tries not to panic - it's her first baby and there's plenty of time. She stares at the clock through another round of contractions. Six minutes apart. Yep, all the time in the world.

Teal'c lets himself in and looks at her stoically.

"The child has not yet arrived?" he asks.

"Not yet," she says with a smile that turns into more of a grimace. "I was hoping to have it at the hospital."

"Dr. Lam said you were welcome to birth your child in the infirmary if the Air Force Academy Hospital is too far," Teal'c says.

"It's not too far," she says. "Actually, I was hoping you'd take me to the driving range."

"Colonel Carter," Teal'c says. "Do you not think I should take you to your place of delivery?"

"I do," she says. "But just humor me. Swing by the range on the way."

Teal'c raises his eyebrow but bites back any comment. He helps her up and picks up the bag by the front closet. He opens the door of his SUV for her and eases her inside. Her knuckles turn white on the handle of the door and she breathes like she's supposed to, deep and even.

"Maybe speed a little," she says to Teal'c. The car lurches forward. She can tell he thinks this is a bad idea and there's a moment when they're at a red light and the car rolls forward a little like he's going to turn the corner and take them back toward the Academy, but she touches his arm and he stays the course.

She can see the truck in the parking lot and past that, she can see the light glint off Jack's white hair. He and Daniel are standing in the shade and Jack is making a motion to the green in front of them with his driver. She'd bought him a new set a clubs last year as an anniversary gift. They don't have a real anniversary so instead they celebrate the day he showed up at her house and pressed her against the wall in the hallway.

"Get up close," Sam instructs and Teal'c navigates the car as close as possible which, sadly, is still kind of far. She rolls down the window and calls Jack's name. He doesn't turn, but Daniel does and holds his hand to his brow to peer into the sun. Jack turns then and finally jogs toward the car.

"Hey!" he says and leans into the window to kiss her. "What's up?"

"What's up is you forgot your phone and what's up is I couldn't reach you and what's up, Jack, what's up is that..." She pauses. "Ow." His brow furrows because it isn't like Sam to stop mid-rant. "Oh, Jesus."

"She is in labor," Teal'c says. "I suggest you and Daniel Jackson get in."

Jack doesn't even argue. He and Daniel just toss the clubs in the back and ride in the backseat. Jack sits behind Sam and keeps his hand firm on her shoulders and she reaches up to lock her fingers with his. They all listen to her breathe, deeper and deeper and they're still five minutes away when she can't help but moan. The noise is involuntary and comes from a place of deep hurt - and she's lived through a lot of hurt. Knives and torture, staff weapons and zats and broken bones and dehydration and exhaustion so bone deep she thought there was no way to wade up and out, but this pain is new and sharp and there is just no relief.

"Jack," she sobs, once it seems to recede. "Please." His hand slips to the back of her sweaty neck and gives her a reassuring squeeze.

"Okay," Daniel says, always the first to break. "We're almost there, Sam. We're so close."

She's profoundly relieved that when it comes down to what may or may not turn out to be the most important day of her life so far, she's with these three people. She knows that no matter what's coming, with her guys around her, she's gonna pull through. That Daniel has been right all along, that this baby isn't just about her and Jack, but it is for all of them.

Teal'c presses her into a wheelchair while they go through the motions of admitting her.

"Is the daddy here?" asks an older nurse in teddy-bear scrubs. She looks at the three men who surround Sam and seems to settle on Daniel as the most likely candidate but then Jack clears his throat.

"That would be me," he says, and takes the clipboard she offers him to sign.

Sam tries to grind her teeth through the pain and Daniel skims his fingers up her shoulders and neck to her jaw and rubs the tension away. As soon as he coaxes her mouth open, she cries out again and reaches up for a hand. Teal'c takes hers and lets her squeeze as hard as she needs to.

"Okay," the nurse says. "Mom and Dad can come with me. There's a waiting room just down the-"

"No," Sam says. "No, I need them all."

She doesn't let go of Teal'c's hand and Daniel is still pressing his fingers into her neck and the nurse looks at Jack who just smiles in that who-me? way he has that inexplicably seems to fool people into thinking he's an average joe.

"You heard the lady," he says.

oooo

When she opens her eyes, Jack is there, pressing her swollen fingers to his lips.

"You okay, Mama?" he asks.

"I'd do it all again," she says. "All of it, Jack."

"I know," he says, nuzzling her hand against his face. "Me too."