This is a sequel to Beauty and Nothing More.
"I dreamed you first
But not so real
And everyday since I've found you
Such moments we steal
Like little thieves, we rub our hands
We hold our hearts between them."
The Weepies - Simple Life
Sam informs him, in that blunt way that she has, that if they ever want to do this again, it had better be sooner rather than later.
"Does the phrase Irish twins mean anything to you?" Jack asks, holding out the soiled diaper. She takes it. Jack doesn't mind changing the diaper, doesn't mind wiping their son's backside clean of any manner of debris, but for some reason walking the dirty diapers to the garbage is always just beyond him. She hefts herself up out of her seat and gets close enough to the kitchen that she can toss the diaper into the trash from where she stands. She doesn't miss.
"Simon will be over a year if I get pregnant right now," Sam says, sinking back into the recliner. "And anyway, O'Neill is Irish."
"So this isn't going to be a logical argument, then," Jack says, snapping the last snap over Simon's diaper. Their son reaches intrepidly for his feet. He has discovered them recently and has also discovered that with some effort, he can get them into his mouth. Those feet keep him entertained far better than any toy Sam could have devised. Jack lifts the baby off the ottoman and into his arms. Sam holds her tongue - Jack knows she hates when he changes the baby on the ottoman. He's old enough to start rolling, can already get himself onto his side, and she doesn't want the kid to roll onto the floor. Jack seems to think that barking "Don't move!" at the baby will hold him in place.
"I'm not saying this is a deal breaker," Sam says, watching the baby kick, watching her son push his little arms against his father's shoulder in an effort to hold up his own wobbly head and peer around. "I'm just saying, if we want to have another one… I'm almost forty."
"Okay," he says. He doesn't like to fight, especially with Simon in the same room. "But you're happy with us, right?"
Her heart flutters a little in her chest.
"So blissfully," she promises.
Jack kisses the top off his son's fuzzy head and hands the baby to her.
"I have to go to work," he says.
"Bye, daddy," she says, nestling the boy into her lap. He slumps forward a little and latches his mouth onto Sam's thumb knuckle where her hand rests on his belly.
"Bye, Carter," he says. "Bye, kiddo. Be good, but not too good."
He kisses her, shrugs on his jacket, walks out the door.
She looks down at the child in her lap as the silence of the morning settles around them. She always feels the most adrift right after Jack leaves. Simon is four months old but she still feels unsure, that she shouldn't be left alone with such a tiny, helpless person. That she is some sort of impostor - but somehow, by growing this boy inside of her, she has been entitled to his care.
"What do you think?" she asks, lifting him and turning him around so he can face her. His eyes light up at the sight of her and his little mouth opens wide with a smile. He emits a squeak of pure pleasure and she can't help but grin, but pull his chubby face to her own and shower it in kisses. "I love you," she tells him. "Love, love, love you to itty-bitty bits!"
She never thought she'd be the kind of mother to use that sappy, high-pitched voice with her child, but she can't help the way it slips out. The lilting, singsongy tone makes him smile again.
Still, she's glad no one is around to see it.
When Simon goes down for his morning nap, she puts him in the crib. He's still sleeping in the bedroom with them at night, but she's easing him in to moving into the nursery. Jack wants him in the crib at night full-time, wants it yesterday but she isn't ready.
"It's about the baby being ready, not you," Jack likes to argue but he doesn't try to pressure her and anyway, Jack checks on him in the night just as much as she does.
With any luck, he'll sleep for an hour or more. She goes into the office and opens her laptop screen. She's still not going off-world. She had thought, while pregnant, that the baby would come, she'd finish her maternity leave, and then she'd be back on SG-1. She'd thought that there'd be nothing that would make her want to stop going through that Stargate. And she does miss the gate, but as soon as the baby came, she'd started dragging her feet. For now, she's still doing lab work full time. She'd had a long meeting with General Landry and had only mentioned the word 'retirement' once before he'd offered her the situation she's in now. She works two days from home and two days on base. Fridays, the SGC training facility that Jack oversees does field exercises and so he's usually home by lunch.
Her laptop whirls to life and she refills her coffee mug before she sits down.
She shifts, a little uncomfortable. She'll have to pump soon.
Her cell phone rings and it takes her a moment to hear it. She's deep in the fog of calculations and simulations. She picks up the phone and glances at the baby monitor. He's still asleep, but his head moves a little and she knows it won't be long now.
"Carter," she says.
"Hi, Daniel," she says. "You guys are back early!"
"Yeah, negotiations broke down around the same time Cam accidentally shot the head off the golden idol of their god of harvest," he says. "I'm sure the two are completely unrelated, though."
She laughs. "I'm sure."
"Anyway, I thought since we're back, maybe I could…?" He lets the unasked question linger.
"Of course. Come over whenever you want," she says. "We'll be here."
"Can I come right now?" he asks, eagerly.
"No, because when I said come any time, I meant excluding now," she says. She looks at the baby monitor again.
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel huffs.
"Oops, I can see eyeballs. I gotta go," she says. She hangs up and tucks the phone into her pocket.
In the nursery, she looks down into the crib and Simon looks back up at her, his blue eyes wide with wonder.
"Hey there sleepyhead," she says, lifting him out. He's still tired and presses his face into her neck. She eases them down into the rocking chair and supports his head with the crook of her arm. His face is already turned into her, rooting around expectantly, little mouth gaping wide like a trout. "Hang on, hang on," she says and eases one breast out from her loose v-neck shirt. Simon latches on, cooing a little as he gulps. The kid is an eater - it's like every time she feeds him, it's the very first time.
Simon gazes up at her while he eats, his blue eyes unfocused. She thinks they might change, get darker like Jack's, but Jack says he hopes they stay blue.
When he starts to grow bored, she sits up him and leans him into her open hand. She pats his back while he looks around, drunk on milk. Nursing him is one her favorite things to do. It makes him cuddly and docile. She gets pleasure from feeding him with a bottle too and she know Jack eats it up, but nursing is so intense and it's something only she can do for him.
He burps, a small noise in an otherwise quiet room.
"Good job, buddy," she says hitches him up over her shoulder so she can tuck her breast away. Now she feels uneven, only half milked, but Daniel will come and entertain Simon while she pumps.
She changes him and is on the last step when Daniel opens the door with a light knock.
"Hey," she says. "What timing."
"Hey," he greets and leans in to kiss her lightly but it's all tactics because when they pull apart, he's taken the baby. Simon looks mildly alarmed for a moment, but then Daniel readjusts his grip into something firmer and the baby settles again. "Hello there!"
She rolls her eyes. For all her baby talk, for all her gushing about nursing, for all her deep contentment at being a mother, Daniel still manages to out-sap them all.
"I need to go pump for tomorrow," she says. "Do you mind?"
"Nope," Daniel says, already taking the baby into the living room. Well, it used to be a living room, but now it's covered with baby paraphernalia - bibs and receiving blankets and plush toys on every surface.
Daniel knows to holler if he needs her, but he's good with kids and great with Simon so back up the stairs she goes. She pumps in the nursery, the door open in case either one of them call for her. On the wall across from her are a couple framed photographs - one of Sam right before she gave birth, huge as a house. There's one of SG-1, all crammed into a restaurant booth. There's one of her and Jack, one of Simon in the hospital, his face still squished and red from being born. But the one she always stares at, the one she studies so intently while the breast pump works, is the picture of Charlie O'Neill.
Daniel stays for dinner. Jack comes home a little tired and a little gruff, but seeing Daniel manages to improve his mood.
He and Daniel sit in the living room while she moves around the kitchen, making dinner. Jack makes dinner most of the time, but she's getting better at it simply because she's home more often and has had time to practice. It's not gourmet, but it's better than MREs and better than the commissary.
Jack comes in to get another beer, the baby in his arms. Jack holds him like a sack of potatoes, Simon's back against his chest secured by Jack's forearm.
"Almost," she says. He grabs a beer from the fridge and then waits until she has a moment to kiss him. He leans down and his mouth is soft against hers. She goes to pull away but he doesn't let her, instead kisses her more deeply, slipping his tongue into her mouth. He tastes a little bitter because of beer, but it's Jack and even after everything, even after all these years, he just makes her want to puddle to the floor. They kiss for several moments, until Simon grows bored and kicks her stomach, making a disgruntled whine. Jack pulls back, hefting the baby more firmly against him.
"What was that for?" she asks.
"I will have as many babies as you want," he says. "You just name the time and place."
She grins at him, hopelessly in love.
She burns the bread, thinking about his words in a happy daze, but she just scrapes the black off and tosses it into the basket.
They've eaten worse.
Teal'c offers to babysit and they take him up on it. Jack doesn't like Simon to go on base because way too much danger happens there. Too many lockdowns, too many breaches of security, too many unknowns. So Teal'c comes to their house and they go out.
"We're going to dinner," Sam says. "Maybe a movie. We won't be too late."
"Take your time," Teal'c says, the baby so small in his huge arms. But Simon knows Teal'c and Daniel like family and seems unperturbed by this exchange. Sam kisses him, kisses him again, pecks Teal'c on the cheek, and kisses the baby again.
"Come on, come on," Jack says, practically dragging her out the door.
They don't go to dinner and they certainly don't waste time with a movie.
"Do you think it's weird that we have to leave our own house to…"
"Ah!" Jack says. "Don't say it. This is our life now, just go with it." He pulls the truck into the parking lot. "Wait here while I check in."
"Yes, sir," she says cheekily. He just grins lecherously at her.
He comes back with the room key and they barely get the door closed before they start tearing off clothes. It's not that they can't do this at home, because they do, but with Simon just down the hall, they have to be quiet and she always has one ear and half a brain on the baby and she ends up feeling guilty she isn't giving Jack a hundred percent. Now, though, with his lips on her neck and his hand pushing aside the cotton of her panties, she doesn't bother to hold back her moan.
Her fingers make short work of his belt and she snakes a hand into his pants. He's half-hard and so she goes to work - they only have a few hours and she really wants to get their money's worth.
"God, Sam," he groans, steering her back onto the bed. It's not as comfortable as their mattress, but she really could not care less because Jack has two fingers working in and out of her and while that's not enough to push her over the edge, it still feels really good and she tells him so. He grunts, turned on by her words in his ear, the way she spreads her legs wider as she says it.
They have to pull apart to finish undressing. Jack grabs at her, but she makes him wait so she can pull back the synthetic comforter and the thin blanket under that. When the mattress is covered by nothing but two pillows and a fitted sheet, she relents and lets him push her down.
Her back on a mattress, her legs in the air - this is pretty much how it happened the first time around. But she tries not to think about her son, tries not to think about how they are having sex to make another life. It's not true - they are having sex because they are in love, because it feels amazing and right and if she gets pregnant again, all the better.
Jack starts to kiss down her body - collar bone, breast one and two. He doesn't linger the way she wishes he would. She's still nursing and the idea of accidentally getting a mouthful of milk is upsetting to him and she doesn't push. It feels good to have Jack focus on her breasts but it's not like she doesn't have someone sucking on them all day, so she's content to let it lie. He is biting at the skin over her hip and she squirms. She's lost some baby weight but certainly not all and where her stomach was once flat and toned, there is now skin and stretch marks and even though he tells her that she's beautiful, she still wants her old body back.
"Just come back up here," she says.
"Just let me do what I want," he answers back.
"Jack," she says, a hint of a whine in her voice.
"Carter," he says and then his tongue finds her clit and okay, maybe she'll just let him because, oh God, he's not screwing around down there. He doesn't tease her, doesn't bring her close and then soothe her back, doesn't keep her right on the edge. No, his tongue is relentless and his fingers are back inside her and she closes her eyes against it, clenches her teeth, groans as her hips slam up against his face.
She hasn't even come back down before he's sliding into her, mouth against hers. She tastes herself; she tastes Jack.
"Fuck," she mumbles against his mouth.
"Yeah?" he says. She can hear the grin in his voice.
"Yeah," she says her breasts pressed so delightfully into his chest.
"Wanna do it again?" he asks.
"Uh-huh," she manages. He manages to sit up a little and pulls her legs closer. This way, he can both watch himself drive into her and he has both hands free to touch her. He likes it this way, likes the level of control it gives him, likes the clear view, likes how he has floor seats to her coming apart. He's not as rough this time. She's already oversensitive and too much will only drive the pleasure away again. Instead he just rests the pad of his thumb against her and lets the motions of their hips create all the movement she needs. She puts both hands on her breasts to hold them in place.
His eyes flicker back and forth between her face and where they're connected. She gets a jolt of pleasure each time their eyes meet but it's also so arousing to watch him watch the way he slides in and out of her. The pleasure is raw on his face, so apparent. His eyes are dark and hooded and he starts to work his bottom lip between his teeth. He's getting closer because he starts adding pressure with his thumb and it's making her a little crazy, making her squirm but each time she does, his thumb slips to the side of her clit and then back on again and she can hear herself start to keen.
"Come on," he says. She can see a bead of sweat on his forehead. "Come on, babe."
"Sam," he says. His eyes roll back into his head a little. "Sam, I can't, Sam, I'm gonna… Sam."
Hearing him chant her name is what does it and she's right there with him, muscles clenching around him, pulsing as she comes.
He's like a furnace on top of her and their bodies slip and slide, lubricated with sweat.
He holds her close, kisses what skin his mouth can reach for long, drowsy minutes.
Teal'c is going to know what they've been up to but Sam doesn't care. Unlike Daniel, Teal'c won't say a word.
They haven't been lying there for very long when Jack lifts his head and studies her. She looks back at him guiltily because she already misses Simon.
"You want to go home?" he asks.
"Kind of," she admits. He kisses her mouth, her chin, her forehead.
"Okay," he says. They help each other find their clothes. He kisses her once more, slow and deep, before they close the door behind them. He even helps her into the truck.
Cam has a week of downtime because of the whole diplomatic failure on SG-1's last mission. Sam doesn't ask him about it, having gotten all the details from Daniel, but she lets him come over and sulk all the same. Cam's downtime means the downtime of all of SG-1, but only Cam shows up at her door.
"Where's Vala?" Sam asks and then furrows her brow. "Where's Daniel?"
"I just… they were bickering like kids and I ditched 'em, okay?" he says.
"Okay," she says.
"Is General O'Neill here?" he asks, peering around her into the narrow front hallway.
"You're safe," she says. Cam rolls his eyes but looks a little relieved. It's not Jack's wrath Cam fears, it's his mockery.
"Where is the little squirt?" Cam asks, stepping in.
"We were just getting ready to have a bath," she says. "Want to help?"
"In the sink, Mitchell," she says.
"Oh. Yeah, sure." Simon is in his bouncy seat in the living room.
"Just watch him while I get the water ready, okay?" she asks.
"Okay," he agrees.
She stands over Simon and gives him a few bounces with her foot. "Maybe Uncle Cameron will get you undressed while Mom is gone," she says and then leaves them to it.
She can't quite see them from the kitchen but she can see Cam's hunched back as he leans over the baby and she smiles. Cam is good with kids - he's an uncle many times over, but Cam is also the king of hero worship and the son of Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill is nothing to fool around with.
When the water is ready, she goes to retrieve them.
"Are you gentlemen ready?" she asks. Simon is in nothing but his diaper and Cam is holding Simon in one arm against his shoulder.
"I believe we are," he says.
Simon fusses a bit at the change of environment but then seems to realize the warm water is nice and quiets down.
"So, I want to point out to you that I haven't pressured you about your return in a while," Cam says. She smirks at him.
"Duly noted," she says.
"But patience isn't one of my particular virtues," he ventures. She sighs. He's right to ask, it's been a while but he's not going to like her answer.
"Jack and I are trying again," she says.
He looks at her blankly.
"To get pregnant," she clarifies. He looks at her, looks at the baby. Sam is rubbing the special baby soap onto his bald head and down his back.
"This one has even't gone stale yet," Cam says. She rolls her eyes. "I mean, I think it's great and I think you should have as many babies as you want, it's just… he's such a little guy."
"I know," she says. "But I don't have all the time in the world and I think if we want the option, we need to do it sooner rather than later."
"Makes sense," Cam says, but he sounds bummed.
"Cam, I've been doing the front line thing for a long time," Sam says, using a plastic cup to carefully rinse the soap from the baby. The cup is blue and has silver flying saucers on it. Jack calls it the Thor cup. "I think I started to forget what the fighting was for."
She lifts Simon out of the water and Cam holds up a little towel.
"I know that the fight is important but I can't keep… I can't go off and leave my boys behind anymore. It doesn't work like that," she says. "You need to do it now. You need to keep us safe without me. I think I've earned at least that much, right?"
"You've earned all that and more," Cam says, helping Sam wrap the baby up in the towel. Simon sucks happily on one fist.
"I'm still in the lab," she says. "I'm still one phone call away."
"I get it, Sam, I really do," he says. "On the one hand, I can't imagine a time in my life where I would voluntarily give up the gate. That's nuts." He looks at Simon squirming in his mother's arms as she rubs him dry. "On the other hand, you have something pretty sweet going here."
"Pretty sweet," she confirms, burying her nose in Simon's damp head. From the front of the house, there is the noise of a key in the lock. "Uh oh," she says, looking directly at Cam with a huge grin. "Looks like Daddy is home."
"Oh shut up," he says. "Give me that baby for protection."
"Nope," she says. "He needs clothes and a diaper, you're on your own."
She meets Jack in the hallway and his whole face lights up at the sight of them. He leans in and kisses her, letting his fingers rest so lightly on his son's head.
"That's Mitchell's car?" he whispers.
"In the kitchen," she says. "Go give him some hell."
Jack smiles in evilly.
The phone rings in the middle of the night. Sam's pretty used to being woken up periodically for feedings but actually, Simon has gotten better about sleeping through longer stretches and so this incessant bleeping of her cell phone is most unwelcome. She reaches for it before she realizes she can't see it all lit up. She's confused for a moment before she hears Jack roll over and bark a groggy, "What?"
She pushes out of bed anyway. May as well check on him if she's up. The clock next to her bed reads 2:58 in sickly green letters and she scowls at it as she walks by. The nursery door is open and the little crescent moon nightlight gives her enough light to navigate by. Simon is still asleep, all snug in his little blue footed pajamas. This is only his first week alone in his crib. He's rolling over now, plenty old enough to be left alone at night. Jack had been elated, had celebrated by kissing her until she gave in, by slipping his hand up and under her nightgown and touching her until she felt like screaming. She hadn't given in to that particular urge, but it had been nice to feel his weight on top of her, pressing her into their own mattress, knowing his grunts and her gasps wouldn't travel all the way down the hall and wake their sleeping infant son.
Confident Simon is still asleep and happy, she goes back to the bedroom to find the lamp on the nightstand on and Jack struggling into a pair of pants.
"What? Why?" she asks.
"That was the mountain," he says. "I gotta go on base."
"No," she says. He glances at her, slightly amused.
"I'll just call back and tell them you said no."
"I mean, why," she clarifies.
"Apparently Thor has requested me," he says. "Actually, he's requested all of us but he's just getting me right now."
"All of SG-1?" she says. "That's never good."
"No," he says, pulling on a shoe. "You and me. And Simon."
Sam doesn't like the sound of it one bit. It feels like her whole body goes cold, and she feels a rush of light headedness - that same burst of energy and adrenaline that would allow a mother to lift a car to save her child.
"What?" she asks.
"I don't know, Carter. I'm just gonna go talk to him. There's no reason to freak out," he says. "It's Thor. He's not going to hurt us."
"I want to come," she says.
"No," Jack says and it sounds so much like an order that it does stop her. "We do not bring that boy onto the base and you know that."
"So you just get to go and I have to stay here and wait and not know anything?" she asks.
"When I know something," he says, standing up. "I will call you."
She bites her lip and resists the urge to go grab her baby and never let him go.
"This isn't an emergency," he promises. "If it were, he would have just snatched me up. This is a social call - it's just bad timing."
He pulls her close, wraps his arms around her and tucks his face into her neck in that way that always seems to right all manner of wrongs. She lets him go because she doesn't have a lot of choice. It's tempting to demand to go with them, but it's also crazy. She's not going to wake up her baby to put him in the truck and drive to one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Still, she stands at the door and watches Jack drive away. Upstairs, she hears the small wail of the baby - as if he knows something isn't right.
She nurses him, his little mouth greedy at her breast but then, for some reason, he won't go back down. He just watches her, his dark blue eyes fixed on her every movement. Part of her is glad. She doesn't want to wait alone. She takes him to bed with her, puts a wall of pillows along Jack's side of the bed and tucks the baby between them and herself. He lies on his back, kicking. She offers her hand for resistance and he kicks against her palm merrily. She unzips his sleeper suit just enough to lean down and kiss his soft, warm belly. He smiles, giggles a high pitched peal each time she does it.
She's just starting to doze a little, exhausted, when there is a flash and Jack is standing at the foot of the bed. At first, she thinks it's him but then he moves and she sees the ripple of the holographic technology. This is her call.
"Jack?" she says. He spins around and looks at her and then the baby.
"Hey," he says. "Thor… Thor wants you guys to come on up. How do you feel about that?"
"The baby and I? On the Asgard ship?" she asks. He nods. She's not actually sure how she feels about that. On the one hand, every time she's on an Asgard ship, something terrible happens. Replicators, cloning gone wrong, something. But at the same time, Thor would not knowingly put their child in danger, would he? She doesn't think so. "What do you think?"
"I think you should come hear what he has to say," Jack says. And that's good enough for Sam.
"Okay, why don't you give us a-"
She doesn't get to finish. She's already standing on the bridge, Simon in her arms. She's barefoot in her nightgown still and Jack immediately takes his leather coat off and drapes it over her apologetically. Thor knows a lot more about the Tau'ri than he used to, but the idea of appropriate clothing is still lost on the little guy. Jack takes the baby so she can slide her arms in.
"Colonel Carter," Thor greets. "I appreciate you and your off-spring coming aboard."
"Anything for you, Thor," she says and she does mean that.
"Does he have a name?" Thor asks, coming over to look up at the squirming baby in Jack's arms. Jack shifts him so he is facing out and he peers down at Thor curiously. He doesn't seem at all afraid and Sam feels inordinately proud about this. In fact, Simon's huge owlish eyes seem appropriate next to Thor.
"Simon," Jack says.
"And does this have some sort of significance?" Thor asks. Sam makes a face and Jack catches it and returns the perplexed look. It isn't like Thor to make small talk. Generally he just jumps right in and explains the impossible task he needs SG-1 to accomplish.
"Jack's grandfather," Sam says, faintly. "Thor, what is it that you need from us?"
"A favor," Thor says.
"Anything, buddy, you know that," Jack says.
"Simon O'Neill-" Thor says.
"Carter-O'Neill," Sam corrects automatically. Thor squints at her and starts again.
"Simon Carter-O'Neill is, I believe, the genetic key to solving the Asgard's cloning problem," Thor says.
"Huh," Jack says, and then holds the baby up to his face. "Way to go, slugger!"
"I don't understand, he's just a baby," Sam says.
"Thus far, the human genome has not be advanced enough to be compatible with Asgard DNA," Thor says. "Though, humans are the closest we have come."
"But Simon is different?" Sam asks.
"Between your intellect, the naquadah in your bloodstream which would have been passed to your son, and General O'Neill's ancient gene, I believe that Simon's DNA is the missing link we need to repair the Asgard genome," Thor says.
"Wow," says Sam.
"Indeed," Thor says.
"So you just need his DNA, then," Jack says. "That's not a problem."
Sam nods. She feels relieved - a blood sample is getting off lightly. The Asgard process probably won't even sting like a needle. She is already thinking ahead to breakfast and Simon's morning nap. Outside, they orbit the Earth slowly, the blue marble just visible outside of the bridge windows.
"Simon's DNA is half the solution," Thor says. Sam's uneasiness returns with all the force of a truck hitting a wall.
"What does that mean?" Jack asks, looking at Sam. She shrugs.
"What the Asgard really need is the ability to reproduce, as we once could," Thor says. "We need Simon's genetic information, but we also need a female."
Sam takes the baby, hardly able to stand it, and tucks him against her shoulder.
"I'm guessing my genetic sample isn't what you mean," Sam says.
"No," says Thor.
"Huh?" says Jack.
"Jack," Sam says, though she's not sure how she's sounding so patient. "Thor wants us to have a daughter."
"Whoa," Jack says.
"Thor, having another baby is a big deal," Sam says. "And even if Jack does get me pregnant again, there is only a fifty-fifty chance we have a girl instead of another boy."
"Colonel Carter," Thor says. "I did not bring you up here without the means to assure what the Asgard need."
"Wait, wait, wait," Jack says. "Huh?"
"O'Neill has already informed me of your wish to procreate a second time," Thor says.
"With Asgard technology, I can both assure your fertilization as well as the gender of the offspring," Thor says.
"How romantic," she murmurs.
"Carter!" Jack says. "Did he just say what I think he said?"
"Yeah," she says.
"Thor, I don't need your help to get my… my Carter pregnant," he says.
"Thor, could you just give us a minute to talk about this, please?" Sam says. Thor regards them, his little head cocked.
"Of course. But since you do not seem to mind the idea of the Asgard obtaining a sample of Simon's DNA, may I have it now?" Thor asks.
Sam doesn't like it in light of this new proposal, but they did promise at least that much, so she takes Simon from Jack and holds him out slightly. His little feet kick into the air. Thor takes a long, metal cylinder off of a tray and touches the end to Simon's chubby arm. The instrument beeps and Thor pulls it away again.
"Thank you. Colonel Carter, you know how to operate the communications system. You may alert me when you are finished with your discussion," he says.
She watches him leave the bridge.
"Okay, so what is happening, exactly?" Jack says.
"What's happening is we have a chance to save an entire race," she says, tiredly. Her feet are cold and the baby is about to get fussy. He's not making any noise yet, but she knows her son and knows his schedule and the clock is ticking down.
"I want to help as much as the next guy," Jack says. "But you're not a brood mare for hire."
"Thanks," she says dryly.
"Well, I mean, we were gonna do it anyway, probably," she says. "Have another baby."
"That's true," he concedes.
"And I would like to have a girl," she says. "Not that I wouldn't love another boy, because I would."
"It would be nice to have the matched set, though," he says and she nods.
"I imagine that with Asgard technology, there would be less chance of complications. She'd be healthy," Sam says.
"I think you're preaching to the choir," he says. "But let's look at the cons."
"Con," Sam says. "Putting pressure on your children to be the saviors of an entire race."
"Right," he says. "Though they don't have to do anything but get born, so is that really a con?"
"I guess not," she says. "Are we ready for baby number two?"
"You're the one who said we were getting old," he says.
"Right," she says. "I did." She bites her lip. Simon starts to squirm and then fuss a bit. Jack comes over, touches his head and leans into her.
"I could knock you up without the help, you know," he says in a low, suggestive voice.
"I know, honey," she says.
"I certainly don't need any help in that department."
"Clearly not," she says, pressing the baby into his arms. "I promise not to, at any point, question your virility."
"That would be much appreciated," he says, tucking Simon into the crook of his arm.
"So we're going to say yes?" she says.
"I guess so," he says.
"Is this... something I ought to be asking Landry about first?" she asks, making a face.
"Absolutely not," he says. "The day I have to get permission from the United States Air Force to fuck my wife-"
"Is the day I get my walking papers," he finishes.
"I'm not your wife," she says.
"Sorry, sorry, domestic life partner," he corrects.
She reaches for the stone that will activate the communications array. "Thor? We're ready," she says.
Jack presses his mouth to the top of his son's head and they wait.
Teal'c comes up to the ship to mind the baby while Sam and Jack are taken to a lab. Teal'c takes the news in his stoic fashion, merely raising his eyebrow when Sam explains that she needs to go get impregnated and would he mind terribly watching the baby?
"I am always happy to watch Simon," he says.
She has to explain to Thor that Teal'c needs to take the baby back to their house in Colorado and not stay on the ship.
"An Asgard ship is perfectly capable of protecting the infant from harm," Thor says dismissively but she sighs and shakes her head.
"All his milk is at home, Thor, and he's going to get hungry very soon," she says.
It's another ten minutes explaining about lactation and breast milk and nutrients and nursing etiquette before Thor finally relents and sends Teal'c and Simon back to Earth. The damage of waiting has been done, though, because Simon had already been crying and she's leaking through the front of her nightgown. She holds Jack's jacket more tightly around her.
This is turning into one of her stranger days. She has a lot of weird days but this is steadily climbing the list.
The lab contains two of those stasis pods and she's not happy about the thought of climbing into one and neither is Jack.
"Explain it to me step by step," Sam says. Thor is patient but looks unconvinced. "Please," she says.
"Very well," Thor says.
Jack wanders the perimeter of the lab while Thor and Sam hover over the console and look over the research that has brought them all to this point. It's nice to see her like this again, bent over alien technology, out in space. It's like the old Sam, like they're still on SG-1 except for he is a general and she's not even dressed and everything is just different enough that he finds it hard to pretend.
"Huh," Sam says, and her tone is enough to draw him back to her side. He doesn't even have to ask. As soon as he appears at her elbow, she points to a paragraph on the screen. He can't read it, it's not in English, but she seems to understand just fine. "There is a fair amount of cell regeneration required to bring me to my most fertile state and you to yours," she says.
"Meaning?" he says.
"This process will probably add a couple decades to our life span," she says.
"They're going to make us younger?" he asks. "Because I gotta say, Carter, I've actually already played this game and I wasn't a fan."
"Not exactly," she assures him. "You can't go back in time - well, I mean, we have, but you can't turn back the clock. All this does is... is stretch the time we have left."
"Oh," he says. He doesn't understand, but she doesn't seem worried so he lets it go. "Will it hurt?"
"No," Thor says. "You will not be conscious for the procedure."
"Carter, are you sure this is safe?" he asks. "Because this is both of us and if we die, then Daniel is going to raise our kid and it will be nothing but trips to the library and the natural history museum and never to a ball game."
"You will not be harmed," Thor assures.
Sam nods at him and she doesn't look scared, but then, it takes a lot to shake her. A lot more than being fertilized on an alien space ship, apparently.
"Okay," he says.
Sam spends the morning of New Years Eve hugging the toilet.
They haven't told anyone besides Teal'c about the pregnancy but Cam puts two and two together first when he follows Teal'c down the hall to where Sam is sitting on the bathroom floor, her back against the tub and her forehead resting on her knees. Teal'c crouches beside her and presses a wet washcloth to the back of her neck - says something into her ear too quietly for Cam to hear.
Cam is holding Simon and is heading for the nursery to give the boy a change. When Simon slurps loudly on his fist, Sam looks up warily. She doesn't shy away from Cam's gaze, doesn't try to play it off or lie and Cam offers her a small smile in return.
"Guess what?" she says, dryly. Cam laughs, gives her a salute.
"Good news I take it?" he says.
"Indeed," says Teal'c. He stands, hands Cam the washcloth, takes Simon, and disappears down the hall to change the diaper. Cam sits next to Sam instead. A smooth hand off. She puts her head back down and he slings an arm across her.
"How long?" he asks.
"Almost six weeks," she says. "Too soon to... you know, advertise it."
"Why on Earth are you having a party, then?" he asks. He and SG-1 had come over first thing to help them set up.
"Partly politics, partly because it's rare that we're all on-world on a major holiday," she says. Christmas had been a quiet affair. SG-1 was supposed to have been back but they ended up being 17 hours overdue. Sam had woken up to find Daniel crashed out on the couch, in civvies but still grimy from the field. "Jack says we can still call it off."
"We can," Cam says.
She shakes her head. "I'm okay. It'll pass. I'll be fine tonight."
"Well, you should probably just rest, mama," he says. "No heavy lifting for you."
"I'm fine," she insists again.
"I can always whip up a batch of macaroons," he teases. But at the mention of food, she makes a face and then scrambles back onto her knees. He strokes her hair and gathers it up and out of the way as she heaves. It doesn't sound like there's much left to lose and he rubs her back.
"Sorry," he says. Dry heaving is the worst.
"It's okay," Sam says, lifting her head and taking the damp cloth to press to her mouth.
She looks past Cam through the open door to where Jack is calling for her.
"In here, General," Cam calls. Jack appears pushing the door open all the way and winces.
"Did you boot again?" he asks. "Jesus, how is there anything left?"
"Charming," she murmurs. "I think it's over now."
"Good," Jack says. "Mitchell, get away from her already and go help Daniel set up the bar, he doesn't know anything about alcohol."
"Yes, sir," he says. Sam squeezes his hand and lets Cam help her to her feet before he goes. Cam leaves her with Jack, pressed into his capable arms. Jack isn't much for public displays, but he wraps his arms around Sam now without hesitation, kisses her forehead, presses his hand to her clammy nape and tucks her into him neatly. She appreciates Teal'c's whispered words of encouragement, she appreciates Cam's nicknames and good sense, but nothing calms her like Jack, like the smell of him. She remembers this from before, from the first pregnancy - being sick as a dog and Jack coming in and just the smell of him made her feel better. She presses her nose to him now and inhales.
"Wanna call it all off?" he asks. His voice rumbles through his chest and right into her.
"No," she says, locking her fingers at his lower back. She loves the way his spine curves in there and he kisses her temple.
"Okay," he says. "You're the boss."
"I think I might try to put Simon down with me for an hour or so," she says. "Will you guys be all right?"
"Oh you betcha," he says. "We got Daniel to keep Vala in line, Mitchell to keep Daniel in line, and Teal'c to make sure we all don't burn the house down."
"I guess we should tell Daniel now," Sam says. Jack pulls a face. "You already told him?"
"I think the only one left who doesn't know is Vala but then, with Daniel, that's hard to say. She's a good little liar so she might know too," he says.
"Why not just take an ad out in the paper?" she says.
"It's Daniel," Jack says and to him that's all the explanation that is ever needed.
"I know, I know, he's your work husband, you tell him everything," Sam says. She's pretty sure that Jack tells Daniel more than he tells her some days.
"Shut up," he says, but he doesn't really mean it. "Go to bed."
"Will you bring me some crackers? I'm starving," she says.
"But you just… okay. Sure," he says, deciding not to argue.
Teal'c has the baby, has somehow settled his hulking girth into her rocking chair and Simon's eyes are almost closed, just tiny slits that show a sliver of his darkening eyes as he tries to fight sleep. Teal'c is good at getting the baby to sleep. Simon must simply feel safe in Teal'c's arms and Sam understands the feeling well. Teal'c has always protected her, has always kept her warm and safe and loved even in the midst of battle. She trusts him with her son so purely; her heart aches at the sight of Teal'c's head lowered over Simon's tiny face. He murmurs to the baby in the same comforting tone that he had murmured to her on the bathroom floor.
You are strong, Colonel Carter, and brave. You will be well again.
He follows her to her bedroom. The cold, dull winter light comes in through the window but it's not too bright and she'll be able to nap through it. The bed is still rumpled and unmade. She hadn't ever bothered to dress despite knowing company was coming so she climbs right into bed with her soft yoga pants and her sweater and shifts to the middle of the bed. Teal'c hands the baby carefully to Sam and she takes him and nestles him snugly against her chest. She'll only doze this way, but it will be enough. She's not sleepy, just tired. Simon smacks his lips and presses his face into the warm valley of her breasts.
"Thank you," she says. She reaches up for his hand and he takes it, squeezes it, slides his fingers up her arm and embraces her the way the Jaffa do, as family and soldiers and friends.
When he's gone, she hears the muted sound of his voice rejoining the others and she lets her eyes slip closed.
Daniel doesn't knock, just pushes the door open. He has a plate with him and she watches him step over Jack's shoes and around the bassinet they haven't bothered to move somewhere else yet. It hasn't been long, maybe fifteen minutes, and Simon is still asleep, drooling a little dark patch onto her shirt. Like father, like son. She smiles at Daniel, heavy lidded and proud. Daniel had been the most reluctant about the baby but he loves Simon, loves him as his own in a lot of ways.
"Jack sent me with snacks," he says softly. Daniel is not shy. Teal'c's culture holds him back from some levels of intimacy, but Daniel treats the original members of SG-1 as if they are just extensions of himself. He is not shy about touching, about personal space. He toes off his shoes and just slides into the bed with her. She's in the middle, so he presses in close and settles the plate of cheese and crackers on his lap. She has her arms around the baby. Simon's mouth moves as he sleeps, sucking softly like he is dreaming of nursing.
Daniel picks up a piece of cheese and offers it to her and she opens her mouth. They don't say much, just chew quietly as they snack - putting something into his own mouth every time he feeds her. Finally, he picks up the last cracker and she shakes her head, full enough for now.
"How is it going out there?" she asks.
"Jack is being an ass and Vala is already a little drunk and Mitchell can't stop taking orders and Teal'c is strangely good at hanging decorations," Daniel says.
"Stay in here with me," she says. "It's quiet and warm."
"Mmm," he smiles. "Just the four of us."
"Are you mad I didn't tell you?" she asks, biting her lip.
"No," he says.
"Did Jack tell you about Thor, too?" she asks.
"Yeah," Daniel says. "He said you were growing a little savior in there. No pressure, huh?"
"No kidding," she says. "Yikes. Did he tell you they wanted to speed up the pregnancy to nine weeks?"
"Uh, no," Daniel says. "That's weird."
"I said no to that," she says. "I am more than an incubator, and besides, how do you even begin to make up a plausible cover story for that?"
Daniel eases the baby onto his own flat chest and lies back. He stirs but doesn't wake and Sam is grateful and flexes her arms to get the blood moving again. She slides down, too, and curls into him, her face by his shoulder so she can gaze at her son while he sleeps. Daniel eases an arm free and she lifts her head so he can put it under her. She's warm and comfortable enough to doze again.
"I know I just did it," Sam mumbles. "But I'm scared all over again."
"Another baby?" he asks. She grunts a confirmation. "You'll be fine," he assures her. "You're a natural."
"Jack is," she says. "I'm just kind of winging it as I go."
"But you wing so well," he says.
She hopes so.
When she opens her eyes again, it's because Jack is slipping into the bed, too. She's still curled against Daniel, but Jack is against her other side and he slides a cool hand up her back, under her shirt, and she arches away trying to stay warm and drowsy.
"Why?" she whines.
"Because your son has his eyes open," Jack whispers and then catches her earlobe between his teeth. She sighs and opens her eyes. The baby is awake, but still glassy-eyed and quiet. Daniel's face is relaxed, his hand holding Simon in place.
"We were napping," she says and rolls away from Daniel and into Jack's waiting arms.
"I can see that," he says and then catches her mouth. It's a chaste kiss by their standards, just warm lips pressing against warm lips, but the way his hand tightens on her waist suggests the spark of something more that always is smoldering just under the surface. "Another man might feel threatened at finding his woman curled up with his best friend, but not me."
"You just consider yourself lucky," Sam says, her voice a mock scold. "Daniel is so cute, it's a miracle I've resisted this long."
"He does have those dreamy blue eyes," Jack says with a grin and Daniel's eyes pop open and turn to look at Jack. "Gotcha, faker." He reaches across Sam and ruffles Daniel's hair, lets his hand drag down to, just for a split second, cup his jaw and then he plucks Simon up and into his arms.
"Guess nap time is over," Sam announces, sitting up.
"Guess so," Daniel says sadly. Jack fishes one handed into his pocket and pulls out the keys to the truck. Daniel catches them easily.
"I ordered some pizza for pick up. Take Vala with you please, please, please," he says. Daniel mutters under his breath but puts on his shoes and disappears out of the warm bedroom.
"There's breast milk in the fridge for him," Sam says. "I'm going to get dressed and I'll start on the food?"
"Okay," he says. He hesitates for a moment and then leans in and kisses her. It's not like the kiss in the bed, but a perfunctory peck. Sometimes Sam gets the feeling that Jack feels like he's floundering a bit, like when he doesn't know what to do, he just plays house. He looks a little lost now so she takes his face in her hands and kisses him again, softer and sweetly.
"It's just a party," she assures him. "I'm fine."
He nods and takes his son away so she can dress.
In the end, half the party guests - including all of SG-1 - gets called back to the base and Sam and Jack ring in the new year without their family by their side.
Sam answers the land line on the third ring, a little breathless. Simon is whimpering, displeased at being set down so unceremoniously into his playpen and he's working up to a steady cry.
"Hello?" she says.
"Sam?" says the voice on the other end. "It's Sara."
"Oh," she says. This is always weird when this happens, always. "How are you?"
"Fine. I was calling for Jack, actually, is he in?" she asks.
"He's at work," Sam says. "He'll be around later this evening though, if you want to call back."
"Actually, I'm in Colorado Springs for a couple days. I have these papers… these legal documents that he needs to sign and I was wondering if I could just stop by," she says. "Or, I could meet him somewhere, if that's easier for you."
Simon lets out an angry wail.
"I can hear you have your hands full," Sara says diplomatically.
"It's fine," Sam says, tucking the phone between her shoulder and her ear and leaning over to heft Simon up. He quiets as soon as he's in her arms, the little monster. "Why don't you come by tonight? You could stay for dinner. It'd be nice to… to catch up with you again."
"Are you sure? It's such short notice," Sara says.
"I'm sure," Sam says. "Jack gets home around six, usually, so any time after that is fine."
"Can I bring something at least?" Sara asks.
"Nah," Sam says.
"Okay, then I'll see you later tonight," Sara says.
She stares at the phone in her hand for a moment and then sighs.
"Looks like we're going to the market," she says to Simon. She calls Jack, but he's not at his desk and he doesn't answer his cell so she sends him a text message that says 'Your ex-wife is coming for dinner, please don't be late.'.
Funny how he calls her right back.
"Sara called and is in town and I invited her to come over for dinner," she says, trying to talk on the cell and strap Simon into his car seat at the same time.
"This is an elaborate joke, yes?" he says. "Punishment for the other night when I forgot to bring you ranch dressing with the pizza?"
That had pissed her off, actually. She could eat ranch dressing by the gallon which is strange because usually she doesn't even like it that well. Pregnancy cravings are serious business, though.
"Nope, this is your real life," she confirms. "Simon and I are going to get something for dinner but I told her you'd be home by six and I really don't want to make small talk with her waiting for you."
"Yeah, okay," he says. "I'll try. I wonder why she's in town?"
"I didn't ask," she says. Jack grumbles some more and then hangs up.
Sam has met Sara a handful of times - the first when she was still a Captain and then not again until after she and Jack had started sleeping together. Jack had taken her to a wedding of a mutual friend and Sam had shaken Sara's hand and spent about ten minutes chatting with her and it had been fine. Sara had been kind, not at all hostile, and Sam thinks that if she knew Sara under different circumstances, they might have been friends. Once, Jack had driven to Sara's father's house to drop something off and Sara had stood on the porch and Sam had waited in the car and they'd exchanged a wave but really, not much more than that. Sara has never met Simon and probably doesn't know that she's pregnant again. Jack talks to her a couple times a year and Sara hadn't seemed surprised at the wailing baby in the background, so Sam assumes that Jack has told her at least that much.
God. She wants to punch Jack in the mouth, kind of. It's certainly not his fault that Sara had called and Sam had invited her to stay, but it is his fault that she has no idea how to act around his ex-wife. They talk about Sara about as much as they talk about Charlie which is absolutely never. She tries to think about pleasant thoughts as she drives, navigates the parking lot, gets Simon into the baby carrier strapped to her chest. Happy thoughts - Jack watching her six, Jack holding their son, Jack in the early morning light of their bedroom, smiling softly.
She's still going to make that tofu casserole that he hates.
The check stand worker is a woman easily in her sixties and looks at Sam with a raised eyebrow and a knowing smirk. Looks at Simon's feet resting against Sam's slightly distended belly - Simon is just about too big for this carrier and Sam just about to big to wear anything strapped to her chest.
"Got your hands full, eh?" she says with a smile.
"I like a challenge," Sam says, swiping her credit card.
"He's adorable," she says. "Do you know what you're having?"
It's too soon to know, technically, but Sam answers anyway because somehow Sam doesn't think the check stand lady is going to question her timeline any.
"A girl," Sam says.
It's still weird to talk about. To tell people who aren't SG-1 - to know that people can just look at her and know she's going to have a baby. The first time, everything was new and she was pregnant because she and Jack had gotten carried away and the condoms had been downstairs still sitting on the counter with the other groceries that had needed to come upstairs - shaving cream, tampons, razor blades - and she'd looked at him, so wild eyed and flushed and had thought, forget it, and slid down on him. He'd let out this choked, desperate noise at the feeling of her skin on his without the latex and then they had gotten sloppy more often, and then, Simon.
But this time, she'd gone to sleep on an Asgard ship and had woken up later, with Jack leaning over her and Thor's voice from across the lab asking her how she felt. They'd had sex later, quietly and hurriedly, as if their joining could somehow negate the clinical, unemotional conception that had taken place earlier. She wonders if it bothers Jack as much as it bothers her but she's never asked him.
Jack is home by five-thirty and she's so relieved that she hugs him the moment he has one foot in the door and holds on tightly and he lets her hug him until she has her fill. He nuzzles at her with his chin and rubs little circles onto her lower back and she has to force herself to let go because she might hold him all night long.
"Hey," Jack says, touching her belly. "You okay?"
"Yeah, of course," she says. She feels like she could cry, maybe, but she gives him a smile. "Just happy to see you."
"Rough day?" he asks, edging into the house enough to close the door, though she's still hovering close.
"He's been a little fussy," she says.
"You tired?" he asks.
"No," she says. She'd been exhausted through her whole first pregnancy, but whatever regenerative magic Thor had worked on her keeps her going strong. Jack says he feels better too, less achy, says he can breathe a little easier. "Will you take him?"
Simon is in his high chair in the kitchen where she'd been cooking, a mashed banana smeared across the tray in front of him.
"I need to shower," Jack says. "We ran drills all day."
He usually showers at work before he comes home but she knows he'd rushed for her.
"Okay," she sighs. "But no lingering."
"As if I would," he says. He hesitates in the door way. "I love you, Carter."
He never tells her this at normal times. Never in bed, fueled by lust or drowsy with release. Never when they're out to dinner or on a date or doing something romantic. Always at these odd moments that catch her off-guard, always out of left field.
"I know," she says. "I love you too, Jack."
He seems satisfied enough with this and she listens to his boots pound up the stairs.
Love isn't something she thinks about very often. She knows she's in love with Jack; she's been in love with Jack since she laid eyes on him in varying degrees. Jack's love is never the thing she feels like she needs to get out of him. She has it, surely, and she knows if she asks him to remind her, he would do so happily. Do you love me? she could ask and the answer would be yes, of course, always, forever. She feels as certain of this as she does of gravity, of taxes, of the rippling blue center of a Stargate.
But there are parts of Jack she cannot get to, parts that she sees other people access with ease. Parts he unfurls only for Daniel, parts that Sara knows and she doesn't and it's infuriating that she can't seem to puzzle out a formula to have it all. She thinks that if she could just ask the right questions, Jack would give her the answers, but every time she tries, the words don't come. She wants to know about Charlie, wants to hear stories of Jack's first attempt at parenting, wants to know if Simon can ever, ever live up to the memory of the boy who came before, but she can't make herself ask. What if he answers? What if he doesn't?
Simon's eyes have turned brown now, all traces of the blue gone. He has her fair skin, but there's more Jack than Sam there and if Sam can see it, she knows everyone else can too.
In all the pictures Jack has of Charlie up in the house, he's a boy. There are no baby pictures, nothing to compare Simon to and because she couldn't ask Jack, she'd asked Daniel. He'd said, "Oh, I think Sara has those," and she hadn't found the courage to ask any more.
She has hopes for this baby she's growing now. There is no dead daughter, nothing to stymie her before she even arrives. Sam hopes she comes out golden and pink and perfect. All she has to do is be born, all she has to do is follow Simon into the world and then Sam will have more of Jack than Sara ever did. It's not right to want that, Sam knows, but she does. She wants to stake her claim.
Jack comes down in jeans and a thermal shirt, his hair damp and smelling spicy and good. He picks up the baby and wipes him down and then goes about setting the table without being asked. Sam has to work not to be his shadow, not to follow him around simply because she's feeling needy and adrift. Watching him with the baby has to be enough for now.
Sara is on time; the doorbell rings at 6:00pm exactly by her watch. Jack answers the door and Sam lets him. She has the baby on her hip, is putting ice in the glasses for water with dinner. Simon keeps wanting to grab the cubes from her but then drops them, surprised, when he gets one. Too cold but then he reaches again, grabby and curious. Sam hears voices, low, pleasant tones.
"Come on in, dinner is just about ready. Sam's in the kitchen," Jack says. The voices get closer. "Have you met the baby yet?" he asks even though he knows she hasn't.
"No, but I got the birth announcement," Sara says. And then they walk in, Sara in black pants and a thick sweater because it's still a little chilly in the beginning of April.
"Hi," Sam says. She reaches out to shake her hand. "I'm glad you could stay for dinner, I hope you like…"
Sara doesn't take her hand and so she trails off and glances at Jack in confusion. Sara is looking at Simon and looks a little uneasy. Then the unease turns to something more and her whole face flushes and then she lifts her hand to her mouth and Jack is suddenly scratching his head in that way he does when something unavoidable is happening.
"Jack," Sara says.
"I know, Sara," Jack says apologetically. It's not a tone Sam hears him use often.
Sam hates being left out of the loop, and she shifts Simon into her body, slipping a forearm under his diapered butt and pushing him against her shoulder.
"What?" she snaps. "What's wrong?"
"It's just… I'm sorry, Sam," Sara says. "It's like looking at a ghost."
"I don't…" Sam says at first but then Simon is squirming and fussing and she has to shift him again he grabs a handful of her hair and she hisses.
"Give him to me," Jack says and all but snatches him out of her arms. He looks at Sara. "I didn't really know how to tell you."
Sam crosses her arms and feels like someone better start talking soon or she's going to start shooting. Sara looks at her, really, for the first time and manages to look even more startled.
"You're having another?" she asks.
"Yeah, didn't really know how to tell you that either," Jack says. Sara seems to have reached her limit and takes a big step back.
"Sorry," she says and rushes out. Sam can hear the front door.
"What the hell?" she asks. "What was that?"
"Simon looks like Charlie," Jack says. "A lot."
Sam gapes at him.
"I'm gonna go after her," he says and then he takes the baby and she hears the front door again.
She's never seen a baby picture of Charlie and Jack has never said one word about it. He'd mentioned that he'd hoped that Simon's eyes would stay blue, but they hadn't and when they'd changed, he hadn't said anything. And that, Sam knows, is the problem. Jack never says anything and Sam never asks and Jack's been living with a tiny copy of his dead son for nine months and she hadn't even known.
She calls Daniel but his office phone rings and rings and she remembers that they're off-world, trying to stop priors from converting more planets. Trying to stop Adria.
She shuts off the oven, leaves the casserole on the table to get cold. The ice in the glasses melts slowly - she hasn't put water in them yet. She wipes her hands and climbs the stairs.
In the bedroom, she sits on the bed and dials Daniel again, just to listen to his voice on the answering machine. If he were here, he'd know how to fix this. He'd tell Sam that Jack isn't that complicated, that she is over-thinking it. But then, Daniel has always been the only one out of all of them who could ever find the right words for anything. She thinks Janet would probably know what to do, too, would at least offer to take Simon for the night so she and Jack could have it out but Janet is long dead, Cassie grown and gone and on her own. Her mother is a fading memory, her father's grave not even in her own star system.
She pulls up her shirt and peers and her firm, rounded belly. There are faded pink stretch marks already in place from before and her skins seems a little dry and itchy.
She hears a car start, hears the door, hears feet on the stairs. When Jack darkens the bedroom door, he's blurry.
"I didn't think it would do any good to tell you," Jack says. Simon is whining and squirming and she reaches for him automatically, one hand already releasing the clasp of her bra to nurse him. He'll eat and then they can put him down for the night.
"You never think it does any good to tell me anything about Charlie," Sam says. Jack helps ease Simon onto her lap and she guides her nipple into his mouth. His brown eyes focus on her as he drinks, one hand curled against his own face.
"That isn't true," Jack says. They're both looking at Simon, both speaking in soothing tones even though the words are hostile.
"You didn't think it was important to me that every time you look at our son, you're reminded of something painful?" Sam asks.
"Simon isn't Charlie, Sam," he says. "It's not fair to Simon and it's certainly not fair to Charlie to act like he is."
"I don't know what you want," Sam says. "I don't know what to do."
"I don't want anything," he says. "I just want you to do what you've been doing, that's it."
"No buts," he says. "Simon is my son and Charlie is dead and nothing we do can change that, so let's just raise him up right the best we can."
"Just like that?" she says. He doesn't answer, just reaches out to touches Simon's head. "And Sara?"
"Her dad died," he says.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she says.
"Me too," Jack says. "I guess he left a trust for Charlie and never had it… after the accident so I just had to sign some… papers about that."
"She didn't stay."
"No, I imagine I wouldn't have either," Sam says. After a moment, she says, "I wish Daniel were home."
"Me too," Jack says and they share a dry chuckle. "You think there will ever be a day when don't need to talk through him for this sort of thing?"
"Maybe," she says, but no, she doesn't believe that will ever happen.
"Yeah," Jack says. "Me neither."
There's something about the fifth month.
Jack can't say what it is, but she hits month five and it's like a switch flips inside her. He wakes up and she wants it, she calls him in the middle of the day, her voice whiny with need. She pounces on him the moment he walks in, can't sleep until she she's had her way.
It's amazing but exhausting. He's having some trouble keeping up though he should know better than to complain.
Teal'c comes to help with training and the two of them stand in the shade of a huge pine tree while the cadets reset the scene for the next scenario.
"So," Jack says.
"Yes, O'Neill," Teal'c says, when Jack doesn't follow that up with anything.
"You've been married, have a kid," Jack says. Teal'c nods. "Were you around much when she was pregnant with Rya'c?"
"Indeed," Teal'c says. "Is Colonel Carter experiencing difficulties with her pregnancy?"
"No-oo," Jack says, drawing it out. "It's just…"
"Perhaps if you just say it, you will feel better," Teal'c says.
"She wants to have sex all the time," Jack says. Teal'c lifts an eyebrow. "No, I mean all the time."
"That does not sound like a hardship."
"Well at first no, but we're talking like twice a day every day," Jack says.
Teal'c looks down at him unsympathetically.
"I'm not getting any sleep!" Jack complains.
"You will adapt," says Teal'c.
"I was in Washington the first time," he continues. Teal'c doesn't have to sympathize, but he still has to listen. "I mean, we had a lot of phone... intimacy but she was working a lot and I was too and I don't think I realized how badly she... you know."
"Indeed," Teal'c says. "It was quite apparent to us all."
"Careful," he says.
"If you truly cannot bear the burden, O'Neill, both Daniel Jackson and myself would be happy to bear some of it for you," Teal'c says.
"Thanks, Teal'c," Jack says, tucking his cap onto his head. Then he realizes what it is that Teal'c has said. "But no fucking way."
"Do you not think that should be up to Colonel Carter?" Teal'c says, offering him a rare smirk.
"I think if we asked her, she'd say yes, so we're not gonna ask her," Jack says.
Later that night, when he gets home, grimy and sweaty from a day out in the sun, Sam climbs into the shower with him.
"Where's the baby?" he asks.
"Asleep," she says, that glint in her eye.
"Sam, I'm filthy, just gimme a second to-"
She grabs his neck and pulls his head down to kiss her. She is insistent, demanding, unyielding as she forces her tongue into his mouth. Her breasts press against his hot chest, her rounded stomach against his.
"I've been waiting all day," she says, when he drags his mouth away. "I can't wait anymore, Jack."
He thinks fleetingly of Teal'c, of his offer and for the briefest second, reconsiders. Shower sex isn't easy for him. His knees have been worlds better ever since the Asgard got a hold of him, but it's not a big shower and they are not small people. Carter expands a little more every day. If she's expecting him to hold her up against the slippery tiles, she is going to be disappointed.
But Carter is the smart one and has had an entire day to consider her options and she seems to know exactly how she wants it. She braces one forearm against the wall opposite the shower head and slides down until her ass is waving enticingly in the air. He'll have to bend his knees a little, but he won't have to bear her weight. Her free hand moves between her own legs impatiently.
"Jack," she whines. He gives himself a few rough strokes, but it's not difficult to get ready with the picture she's providing him. He knows it can be quick, will have to with a sleeping baby. He slides his fingers across her hips and presses into her. She's sopping, practically, is always wet these days, spending her hours waiting in this heightened state. She lets out a ragged sigh of relief and starts thrusting back against him hard.
He won't last like this, she knows it, but she's got herself worked into such a frenzy that his technique and stamina don't much matter. She's so hot around him and he can feel her clenching her muscles in time with his thrusts, working hard for her own climax.
"Christ, Sam," he grunts. He leans over her, his chest against her back. He has to plant his feet carefully so they don't slip, but it changes the angle and he can thrust harder without knocking her head into the wall. She lets out a whimper of approval. He braces himself with one hand and reaches around with the other, his fingers tangling with hers and then, when she realizes it, taking over.
He works her relentlessly, his fingers in hard little circles, his hips crashing against hers. He's learned his lesson the hard way. A pregnant Carter is like a rare specimen. Regular Carter likes long, languorous love making. She likes whispering with him in bed, in the dark. She likes the way he explores every inch of her skin, likes to start and stop and start again, revving each other up all night long.
Pregnant Carter, however, wants what she wants when she wants it and if he doesn't offer it to her, she has no qualms about just taking it.
She comes with a piercing cry that bounces around in the small, tiled shower. He comes right on her heels, grunting, and then he has to hold her up. He spins her, gathering her into his arms. She puts her arms around his neck, links her fingers, and just hangs on, her cheek resting against his shoulder.
From a tiger to a kitten in almost no time. He smiles to himself and reaches for the soap.
She lets him clean her up, lets him lather her and rinse her, lets him kiss her.
"Best husband ever," she murmurs.
"I'm not your husband," he points out.
"Oh right," she says. "Best domestic life partner ever."
"We could get married you know," he says.
"I know, I know," she grouses, pulling away. "Eventually."
She's so dodgy about the subject and he can never tell if it's the right time to press. He thinks about buying her a ring all the time, but what if he buys it and she doesn't want it? What if she thinks it's a waste of money?
Maybe they should just talk about it, but they never do.
She kisses him again, sweetly, and then steps carefully out of the shower.
He finishes his shower in peace, even more tired than before. But Teal'c is right. It's no hardship.
Thor checks in periodically. Sam is on base this time, Jack home with the baby. She's far enough along that people look at her differently, but it's too soon for maternity leave and all she does is sit in her lab or in meetings with the other scientists.
She and Dr. Lee are standing in the conference room just playing catch up when the light surrounds her and she blinks.
Thor blinks back at her from his chair on the bridge of his ship.
"Hello," she says.
"Hello, Colonel Carter," he responds.
She could tell him to call first but she knows it wouldn't make any difference.
"You seem to be progressing quite well," he says.
"Yes," she says. She's a week shy of seven months. It's a good stage. She looks pregnant but not heavy and hasn't hit that final stretch where she really starts to pack the weight on. The baby is still firm and high and she can walk without waddling. "I feel fine."
"I would like to run a diagnostic," he says. "Young Mr. Carter-O'Neill's DNA has been quite illuminating."
"Have you solved the problem?" she asks.
"Not yet," he says. "But we have begun to make clone bodies which include reproductive organs."
"Wow," Sam says. "Do you have any volunteers who want to try them out?"
"That is a delicate question," Thor says.
"Oh," she says. "Right. Sorry."
"I would simply like to scan you and document your..." Thor stops, looks down at the console on the arm of his chair.
"What?" she asks.
"Your base is hailing us," he says.
"Well, you did pluck me out of there with no warning," she says. "Why don't you let me talk to them?"
He nods and she steps onto the panel that will allow Thor to project her image holographically. She can see the briefing room, can see that the base is on alert and Landry looks at her with a sigh.
She smiles and waves apologetically.
"Are you all right, Colonel?" he asks.
"Yes, sir," she says, letting her hand rest on her stomach. "I'm fine. Sorry about the scare."
"Yes, well, while I'm glad that you're all right, I will let you explain that to General O'Neill yourself," Landry says. She winces.
"You called Jack?" she asks.
"Dr. Lee did," Landry says.
"Damn it, Bill," she mutters. "All right, I'll take care of it. I won't be long."
She turns back to Thor.
Thor blinks black, looking perplexed.
"I need you to let me talk to Jack," she says.
Sam thinks maybe Thor is growing impatient with their complex, emotional Tau'ri ways. He just wants some DNA, he just wants to save his people and she understands that, but they've put up with a lot from the Asgard and now Thor is just going to have to put up with her and Jack.
"Very well," he says.
She appears in the driveway, which is unfortunate but luckily, Jack's house is set back and their neighbors are just as reclusive as they are. Jack is putting a wailing Simon into the car seat, talking loudly over his cries.
"Just don't tell mom I took you to the base, okay?" he says.
"Busted," Sam says. Jack spins around so fast he knocks his head on the open truck door.
"Ow, damn it!" he says and then looks at her. "Carter?"
"It was just Thor," she says. "Everything is fine. I'm fine. He just wanted a check up."
"Well shit," Jack says. "He couldn't have called first?"
"Were you really going to take the baby to the mountain?" she asks, her hands on her hips.
"No," he says sheepishly. "I would... no, of course not."
"Liar," she says. "Maybe Thor will bring you guys up, too. I'll ask."
Thor does, simply, she thinks, to move this process along. Simon reaches for his mother, still crying and Jack is happy to let him go.
"Teething," Jack says as Sam presses Simon's face into her neck and makes soothing shushing noises. Thor still looks perplexed. "It's a painful process."
"The hard enamel has to break through the soft tissue of the gums," Sam says. "It makes us fussy."
"I see," Thor says. "Simon is a great deal larger than the last time we met."
"They do that," Jack says.
"Colonel Carter as well," Thor says, finally hopping out of his seat and padding toward her.
"Now if I had said that, I would have been in mega-trouble," Jack says. Sam just rolls her eyes.
"Can we do this while I hold him?" Sam asks.
"We may," Thor says.
"For the record, just snatching people up is why you guys have the reputation on Earth that you do," Jack says, watching Thor scan Sam.
"I was under the impression, O'Neill, that the Asgard and the Tau'ri were on good terms," Thor says.
"You are, we are, I just meant... with the general population. You know, little gray men. Abduction is a word that gets tossed around a lot." Jack trails off. "Never mind."
"Things look very good," Thor announces. "Colonel Carter, I would like to discuss with you your options for your delivery."
"My options?" Sam asks. Simon has stopped crying enough to watch Thor curiously. "I figured we'd just have her at the same hospital we had Simon at."
"The Asgard high council would prefer if you would birth your off-spring on board while we monitored the situation," Thor says.
"Um," Jack says, raising his hand. "I don't think so, buddy."
"Sorry," Sam says. "But there are complications with that. A lot of legal paperwork comes with being born and it will be hard to falsify those documents."
"Plus Tau'ri are born on Earth. It's what makes them a Tau'ri," Jack says.
"You could... I guess I could have her on the base and you could be there," Sam says.
"What! Fifteen minutes ago you were about to chew my head off for taking him to the mountain and now you just want to have an entire baby there?" Jack sputters.
"There is still time enough to consider this proposal," Thor says. "In the mean time, I will return you home."
Thor does exactly as he says. He deposits the three of them back in the driveway. Jack looks around quickly, assessing the situation and then reaches out and rips the patches off her BDUs and shoves them into his pocket.
"I have to go back to work," she says. "And my car is there."
"Take the truck," he says.
"Then you won't have anything, what if there's an emergency and you need to take the baby somewhere?" she demands. "Jack!"
"Okay, okay, I'll take you," he says.
"We won't get out, we'll just drop you at the front gate," he says.
"You'd let your pregnant girlfriend walk all the way from the gate?" she says, shrilly.
"Nope," he says. "You know what I'll do? I'll call Daniel and he'll come get you, okay?"
"Okay," she says. "Hurry up though, I have a staff of scientists who are waiting for the lab schedule to be posted."
He watches her walk into the house with the baby, the door slamming behind her.
He sighs and digs his phone out.
"Daniel," he barks. "Can you come over, please?"
Jack really misses the fifth month.
Sam is in bed where she's supposed to be. Dr. Lam has put her on bed rest and suddenly his bedroom has become the center of everything. There used to be a time where his bedroom was a private, intimate space but now, if there's not a toddler crawling all over everything, there's an alien or a Daniel and if it is, by miraculous chance, just him and Sam, she's usually asleep or he is.
He comes home to find Carter and Teal'c in his bed. She has her shirt all bunched up under her breasts and Teal'c is rubbing lotion onto her distended stomach. It's that thick, creamy balm that Carter had made him go to the mall on a Saturday to buy and now the whole room smells strongly of vanilla. Sam is propped up on pillows, her eyes shut but she still says "Hi, Jack," when he walks in.
"Hey," he says. "Teal'c."
"O'Neill," Teal'c greets. He shifts, like he might rise but then Sam darts a hand out.
"Don't stop," she says.
"Yes," Jack says. "Don't let me interrupt."
Sam cracks an eye for this and gives him a drowsy smile.
"Don't be jealous," she says, even though he's not really and she knows it.
"I'm not," he assures her. "You know I hate that goop all over me. I smell girly all day and the cadets don't say anything, but I know they're thinking it."
"Teal'c's so good with his hands," Sam purrs. Teal'c scoops another two fingers into the little pot and continues working it into her stretched skin.
"Yeah, I'm an understanding guy but keep it above the pants there, buddy," Jack says.
"Where's Simon?" she asks.
"Daniel's picking him up from daycare and bringing him home in about an hour," Jack says. He walks over, touches Teal'c shoulder and uses it as leverage so he can lean down and kiss her. She kisses back. He pulls away when Teal'c grabs his hand and moves it to Sam's stomach.
"Your child shifts within," Teal'c says.
"She likes it, too," Sam says. Jack does feel the flutter of life, and then something more substantially solid like the tiny heel of a foot against his palm. "Ooof."
"Atta girl," Jack says. Teal'c smiles. Simon is kind of Daniel's pet, but Jack has high hopes for Teal'c and his daughter. Teal'c seems so excited, so attentive to Sam. Jack hopes Teal'c will protect this child with the same fervor that he keeps Sam safe.
"On Chulak, is customary to name a daughter after a matriarch," Teal'c says. "Had Rya'c been a female, I would have named her after my mother."
"What was her name?" Sam asks, as Teal'c smooths his hand one last time over the apex of her stomach.
"Mello'ra," Teal'c says.
"Pretty," Sam murmurs.
"We haven't finalized anything, but I like that tradition," Jack says, patting her underbelly. He gets a little ripple in return.
"And your mother, Colonel Carter?" Teal'c asks.
"Eleanor," Sam says. "My dad always called her Ellie."
"I like it," Jack says.
"You're a sentimental old fool, though," Sam retorts, yawning. "We already named one kid after a dead grandparent, do we really want to do that to another?"
"We're already expecting them to be little saviors," Jack says. "I think their names are the least of their concerns."
"I would have liked to have met your mother," Teal'c says.
"She would have liked you," Sam promises him.
"What about me?" Jack asks. Sam grins at him.
"You, she would have put up with."
"Like mother, like daughter, correct, O'Neill?" Teal'c says.
"Right," Jack confirms. He looks at Sam grin at Teal'c, looks at Teal'c so warmly gaze back. "That is my baby in there, right?"
"Only Thor knows for sure," Sam says with a grin.
"Come on, let's go put some meat on the grill and let her rest," Jack says. He sends Teal'c down to start the coals - Teal'c gets an odd amount of pleasure from doing the simple tasks that most people take for granted like stacking charcoal and coaxing it aflame, like driving in commute traffic, like paying for groceries and carrying them home in a paper sack.
Jack looks down at Sam and she looks up at him, her eyes crinkling slightly.
"I am fat and horrid," she says.
"You are nothing of the sort, Carter," he promises.
"I feel so useless," she whines, one hand going to cover her face.
"You are literally lying there, growing a future for the Asgard," he says. "For what it's worth, that's not nothing."
"What if I'm not?" she says. "What if, after everything, it's not enough to save them?"
"Then it still won't be your fault," Jack promises. "Then we'll still have more than I ever thought I would get to have. You and Me and Simon and Ellie and we'll go up to the cabin and spend the summer fishing and hiking and teaching them chess and they'll go to school and dress up for Halloween and it's all going to be okay."
"That's a really nice story," she sniffs. He eases down onto the bed next to her, tucks her close.
"We're gonna be fine, babe," he promises.
"And Daniel and Teal'c will be there too?" she asks.
"Can't pry them from your side, can I?" he grumbles.
"Nope," she says with a watery laugh. "I need my boys with me."
"Your boys need you," Jack says. "But this little girl is gonna even up the playing field."
"Damn straight," Sam says. "Jack."
"Carter," he says.
"Do you still love me when I'm weepy and needy?" she asks.
"And when I can't sleep and keep you up all night?"
"Yeah," he says.
"When I'm all neurotic about your ex-wife and clingy?"
"Still then," he assures her.
"When I'm all sucked into work and I ignore you?" she asks.
"Yeah, even then."
"Do you still love me... even though I can't ever give you Charlie back?" she asks, her voice breaking.
"Sam," he says. "God."
She presses her face into his chest, her hands balling in his jacket. He strokes her back, applying pressure to the lower part where she aches all the time. Just lets her cry.
Sam wakes him up in the middle of the night.
"Do you have the communication stone that Thor gave you?" she asks, her voice thick in the darkness.
"It's in the truck," he says.
"Because it is," he says, his face still squashed into the pillow. "What the fuck time is it?"
"I don't know, I heard Simon cry," she says.
And now that she's said it, Jack can hear it too. Simon's crying will wake him eventually, but Sam has this intense ability to hear every breath that kid takes. Simon is just whining a little, the kind of whimpering that sometimes he can soothe himself through and sometimes it turns into having to get up and rock him.
"I'll go," Jack says. "Do you want me to get it? You having contractions?"
"No, God, no," she says. "You don't think I would have started with that?"
"I have no idea," he sighs.
"I just think maybe we should keep it closer than your truck," she says. "Maybe we shouldn't keep classified alien tech in your glove box."
"Did you wake me up just to yell at me?" Jack grumbles, shoving the blanket back and standing up. He's in his boxers and considers putting on a shirt, but it's the middle of the night and if any of his neighbors see him in his underwear in the driveway, he'll just patiently explain that he's got a pregnant woman and a one-year-old in his house and he knows, just knows, they'll understand.
"Bring Simon in here, please, Jack," she says, sounding cross. And if he were that large, he'd probably be cross, too but he doesn't remember her being so hostile the first time.
He leaves Simon with Sam and runs out into the warm summer night to get the stone. He leaves it on the kitchen counter and flops down on the sofa. No way he's walking willingly back into that war zone.
He wakes up to Simon standing on wobbly feet, his little hands on Jack's face. It's early, the light is gray coming in through the kitchen window and the sliding glass door.
"Daddy," Simon says softly.
"Hey buddy," Jack says. "Where's mom?"
Simon doesn't answer, he's still working on the whole language thing. Whenever Simon goes off with Daniel, Jack's always afraid his kid is gonna come back speaking fluent Ancient and not a word of English. It hasn't happened yet, but Jack is still concerned. He picks Simon up and carries him into the kitchen to put on coffee. Simon is cuddly in the morning, slow to start like Jack. He rubs his little head into Jack's shoulder, sticks his thumb into his mouth.
"Is mom asleep?" Jack asks, pouring water into the back of the coffeemaker. He feels Simon nod. "Did you come down the stairs by yourself?"
Simon nods again.
"Were you scared?" Jack asks, pressing the button to turn the coffee on.
"No," Simon says.
No, of course not. As if there was any way Jack and Sam could have a kid that wouldn't be an adrenaline-junkie little daredevil.
"Brave boy," Jack says. "Come on, let's go see her."
Up the stairs, the bedroom door is open and they can see Sam asleep, surrounded by pillows. The one Jack had been using is now shoved between her knees. He doesn't want to wake her because waking a pregnant lady is not something any sane person would even consider, but he wants to make sure she's okay.
"Shhh," he says, his hand warm on Simon's back. "Let's let her rest."
Sam sleeps until Daniel arrives, a box of donuts in his hand. Jack lets him in and just points to the stairs.
"She keeps yelling at me, you just go."
Daniel seems to be able to say anything to Sam and not get in trouble.
"She's due next week," Daniel says, trying to reassure him probably. "You're almost there."
"Yeah, yeah," Jack grumbles. Jack tries to trade the donuts for Simon, but Simon hangs on, his little arms tight around Jack's neck. "You don't want Uncle Daniel?"
Simon just hides his face.
Jack drinks some coffee and eats a donut, giving Simon a piece to work on. It becomes a sugary, sticky mess in his hands.
"Come on, buddy," Jack says. "Let's clean you and change you and get you dressed."
On the way to the nursery, Jack passes the bedroom, the door cracked just enough for him to glance inside as he walks by. He can see Sam propped up on pillows, can see her legs in Daniel's lap, can see Daniel pressing a kiss to the bottom of her bare foot.
A warm feeling bubbles up in Jack. Everyone he loves most in the world is safe and present under his roof. He is not alone and they have nothing but this soft, summer day stretching out before them.
The day the baby comes is what Sam would classify as a bad day. Were she still on SG-1, she might think it one of their worst days as a team, but because she has stepped back from gate travel, she not only gets to involve SG-1 but her children as well. Not only her children, but everyone who works at the SGC and is on base and, probably, the entirety of the Asgard race. Great.
Dr. Lam has put her in the infirmary against her will. It means she's bored, it means she can't do anything, and it means she doesn't get to see Simon or Jack. Jack comes onto base to see her between work and picking up Simon but she just wants him to take her home and he can't.
"Carolyn is going to induce tomorrow if labor doesn't start," Sam tells him. He sits on a stool by her bed in one of the isolation rooms, his hand pushing her hair back from her forehead. "How is Simon?"
"He's asking for you a lot," Jack says. "But we're fine."
SG-1 isn't even around to hang out with her. They're off-world and she worries about them when they're gone fighting the Ori, fighting Adria.
It's late when she hears the sirens of the gate activating. Sirens mean unscheduled and she just... she just somehow knows that it's SG-1 coming home.
Dr. Lam has been explicitly clear just what bed rest means, but she still steps into her shoes and sneaks out of the infirmary. By the time she makes it to the control room, huffing and puffing her way up the stairs, she can hear Walter say, "It's SG-1, sir."
"Open the iris," says Landry. It's the middle of the night, but it seems like General Landry is always here these days.
"Colonel Carter?" asks one of the techs but she waves them away. Landry turns around to see her and gives her a look but doesn't order her away. Walter stands up and gives her his chair, which she takes. The iris is open.
"Come on guys," she says to her self. "Come home."
And then Cam comes through the gate and she exhales the breath she has been holding. Vala is next and then Teal'c and with each face, there is such relief.
The wormhole flickers and dies behind Teal'c.
"Wait," she says.
Landry puts a hand on her shoulder but she still grabs the microphone and smashes her hand down on the button.
"Where's Daniel?" she says.
Cam looks up, meets her eye because that's the kind of soldier and the kind of man that he is, and slowly shakes his head.
After that it feels like a lot of things happen at once.
She stands up and the chair beneath her is wet. She can feel it soaking her pants, can feel it running down her thighs and into her socks and shoes. She looks down and then at Walter who is staring at his chair with a sort of mildly disturbed expression.
"Oh," she says, and then sits back down.
"Colonel?" Landry asks. "What are you doing?"
"Contacting Thor," she says. She has to work not to cry. Has to work to think about something other than Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. "His ship has been cloaked in our orbit for the last few days."
"Thor," Landry says.
"And then I have to have a baby."
Cam and Teal'c have both appeared in the control room and Teal'c helps her to her feet, his big hand on her bicep.
"Samantha Carter," he says softly.
It's easier not to fight him. It's easier to let him lead her away, easier to let Cam take up position on the other side. Easier to walk dripping down the hallway, with Vala trailing them silently as they make their way back to the infirmary.
Dr. Lam is already in scrubs, has already called the obstetrician, the specialist on retainer who is supposed to come and deliver Sam's daughter.
"Call Jack," she says to Cam.
A nurse comes to hook her up to the monitors, to peel her soiled clothes off of her and put her into a gown. She allows this and even though she's beginning to feel her contractions, she feels mostly numb.
Daniel, Daniel, Daniel.
How is she supposed to do any of this without him?
Thor arrives in a flash of blinding light just as the nurse is putting the IV into her hand and it makes her jump.
"Ow," Sam says. She'll have a splotchy purple bruise across her hand for days.
"Sorry," the nurse says. "That was... startling."
"Colonel Carter," Thor greets.
"Thor," she says. He doesn't make small talk, just dives on in.
"I have developed a procedure that should benefit you greatly. I have modified the beaming technology using your and O'Neill's DNA samples to isolate the child within you."
"You want to beam the baby out?" she asks, slightly horrified.
"I believe it to be safe," he says. "Though untested."
"I don't think so," she says. He blinks at her in that way he has when he finds humans particularly perplexing.
"I can see already that you are in some pain," Thor says. "This will save you a great deal more, as well as time."
"I know you are excited to get your sample," Sam says. "But I am having this baby the natural way."
"As you wish," Thor says. "Though I do not understand your rationale."
She sighs, rubs her face with her hand. The nurse has finished with her but is still watching this exchange, gaping. Sam stares at her until she realizes it and she scuttles away.
"Thor," Sam says. "Childbirth is supposed to hurt."
"In fact, the very act of giving birth is important. It's what triggers my milk production. And my body is well-equipped to handle the pain. It's why Cesarean-sections take so much longer to heal from," she says. "That isn't how it's supposed to work. It's cheating."
"Very well," he says.
"You guys have got to stop cutting corners if you truly want to save your race," Sam says. "You need to do things the hard way again and stop letting technology rule your choices. You need to grow babies and deliver them or you're never going to solve your problem."
"While your body may be well-equipped, the Asgard no longer are, Colonel Carter," Thor says. "Our frames are too small and narrow for child-bearing in this manner."
"Then you need to find the females who can survive the process," Sam says. "Even if it's dangerous. You need to find the strong ones and they need to try. No more clones, no more labs. Do you know why you haven't been able to solve this yet? Because you aren't making any new people. It's the same batch of minds over and over again. You need fresh ideas, younger minds. You need new blood and until you start reproducing like you're supposed to, you aren't going to find it."
Thor tilts his head.
Jack is in the door way.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
"I believe she is lecturing me, O'Neill," Thor says.
"Yes, she does that," Jack says. "Thor, General Landry would like to speak with you. He'll make you comfortable until it's time."
Thor complies and frankly Sam is glad to be rid of him. She holds out her hand for Jack and he comes over to her, puts his hand on her stomach.
"Day care for now," he says.
"Daniel was supposed to keep him," she says. "Daniel..."
"I know," he says. "But you can't focus on that right now."
"How can I..."
"It's Daniel," Jack says. "He'll be okay. He always is."
She wants to argue with him, to tell him not to patronize her, to remind him hotly that she is the smartest person he has ever met, so why does he think he can just tell her everything is going to be okay and she'll blindly believe him.
But the pain swells; her stomach grows hard under his open palm. She finds it's easier to switch gears, far easier than it should be. Her mind wants to worry about Daniel, about the flat look on Vala's face and the circles of red high on Cam's angry cheeks, but her body takes control.
"I don't want to," Sam says as the contraction fades. "It's too much, I don't want to."
"You have to," he says. He does not placate her, doesn't lie to her to make her feel better. Instead he issues orders in that voice that makes her comply without question. "We are having this baby."
"Yeah," she says. She can breathe again, will have a few minutes of relief before the next wave hits. "Yeah, okay."
"Ellie O'Neill," he says. "I know it seems hard, but I'm excited."
"Carter-O'Neill," she says. "And it doesn't seem hard, you ass, it is hard."
"Do you think Thor will leave us alone after this?" Jack asks.
"No," she says sourly. "He'll probably check in once a week wanting stool samples or something."
"Well he can go through our diaper genie all he wants as far as I'm concerned," Jack says.
"I meant from us," she says. He makes a face.
Jack looks up to the observation window where Dr. Lam is at the microphone.
"Why don't you go scrub up?" she suggests.
Sam nods at him. They have plenty of time yet. She'll send Teal'c to get Simon after a while. It's a sacrifice. The last time, it seemed like the only reason she got through the delivery was because she had Jack as well as Daniel and Teal'c. She'd already given up Daniel for the sake of watching Simon and now she has to give up Teal'c too? It isn't fair.
She's crying when Dr. Lam comes in to sit with her.
"You want to talk about that epidural again?" she asks, making a note on Sam's chart.
"No," Sam says. "I'm just... scared."
Dr. Lam looks surprised.
"I know it's the second time, but I'm still just..."
"Oh," Dr. Lam says. "It's not that, it's just... the idea of Colonel Samantha Carter being scared of something has never crossed my mind."
Sam chuckles; wipes her face with the hand that doesn't have an IV in it.
"Just don't let Thor in here," she says. "I think if he had his way, he'd take the baby and I'd never even see her."
"I'll do my best," Dr. Lam says. "The rumor is that the Asgard think your kids are some sort of genetic miracle?"
"Thor thinks it's the naquadah in my blood and Jack's ancient gene together," Sam says. "Which, I guess if you're looking for evolutionary factors that... ow, shit."
"Okay," Dr. Lam says, slipping her hand into Sam's. "General O'Neill will be back in a minute."
They ride it out together, Sam breathing hard and clenching her eyes closed. When she opens them, it's Jack at her side again.
"Hi," he says.
"Hi," she replies. He smiles down at her, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "Tell me you love me."
"You know I do," he says softly.
The next pain comes faster. He doesn't leave her side.
Sam is in bed when Jack brings Simon in to see the baby for the first time. She's still swaddled up tight, her head covered by a little white hat and Simon seems apprehensive, like he knows this is important. Jack lifts him onto the bed and he approaches slowly, looking down at the baby with three fingers in his mouth.
"This is Ellie," Sam says. "What do you think?"
Simon watches her sleep for a moment and then looks at his mom and smiles. She smiles back.
Jack leaves when the phone rings, Simon sitting with them, his little hands resting in his lap.
"Hey, buddy?" Sam says when Jack is gone. Simon looks up at her, tearing his eyes away from the fascinating pink bundle.
When she's sure she has his attention, she says, "You don't have to save anything, okay? You don't have to protect the planet and you don't have to be anyone's savior. Do you understand?"
He doesn't, not really, but he can respond to the sound of her voice. He nods, pulling his fingers out of his mouth.
He reaches up with his wet hand and touches her face. She turns her head until she can kiss his damp palm and he giggles.
Jack comes back, the phone still in his hand.
"Daniel?" she asks, but he shakes his head.
Jack tugs Simon on his lap and sits next to her on the bed. Ellie is asleep. Sam is sore and exhausted and leans her head against Jack's shoulder. They both doze for a few minutes, unintentionally until Simon tries to escape. Jack grabs him, clears his throat and Sam hears him though she doesn't open her eyes.
"Charlie, stop it."
She tenses and he groans.
"Damn it. Simon, I meant... I meant Simon," he says. He doesn't give her a chance to respond, just scoops up Simon and leaves to put him down for a nap.
Sam is too tired for this fight. She hurts enough that she just reaches a shaky hand out for the bottle of pain killers on the nightstand. She swallows one pill dry and shifts the baby in her arms. She's nursing when he comes back in and holding the baby to her breast feels like she has her shields raised. Jack won't hurt her anymore with both Sam and Ellie so exposed.
"It's been a long... couple of days," he says. "We're all tired."
"Doesn't seem fair," she says. "Newborns are so exhausting. Doesn't seem fair that you have to start out tired."
"Life isn't fair," he says.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm sorry this isn't... I know we aren't what you had planned." She's sorry she has to be his consolation prize.
"It's not... you don't have to feel that," he says finally. "Charlie is gone and no one can fix it, not even you."
"I want to," she cries. "Just tell me how to make it better for you."
"You can't," he says. He's firm, he has to be. She needs to understand. Carter, his brainiac scientist who can take anything apart and reassemble it better than before, has no idea how live with Charlie's ghost. "Sam, my son is dead and it's my fault but... sometimes I think about how if that hadn't happened, there'd be no you and I just... I just can't ever make that... fuck. Don't fucking make me choose, Sam. Don't make me pick him or you, just let me have you both!"
"I'm not," she says. "I'm not, I'm not, I'm not." It's a chant, a promise. "You have me no matter what."
"Remember before?" Jack says, sinking down onto the edge of the bed and running one finger over the baby's soft forehead. "Remember when we couldn't touch? When we couldn't look at each other and couldn't hardly sleep in the same tent?"
"Yeah," she says.
"Remember how hard it was?"
She nods. She doesn't know, now, how she woke up every morning without him.
"Well Charlie was still dead," he says. "Except there was no Simon and no you in my bed and no new baby to take care of. There was just Major Carter and the regs."
She shudders, her body wracked with teary sighs and aches and pains. She tries not to move. She can feel the pressure relieving in her breast, can feel Ellie's little jaw working as she sucks so hard.
"This is better," he promises. "Stop trying to repair something that you've already fixed."
"Okay," she whispers.
They both look down at the baby.
"Does she look like Charlie, too?" Sam asks.
"She looks like you," Jack says. "Her little mouth."
"Good," she says.
It is a relief and a reminder that this isn't just something that is happening to her, it's not something Jack is in charge of, it's something that they are doing together. It's hard to leave their old relationship behind completely. It's hard not to absently say "yes, sir" when he asks her to help carry groceries in from the truck or to bring him another beer. There is a reason for all the regulations about this - why most officers who break them never last.
"Maybe we should get married," Sam says, looking back at his face. He stares at her for a long time, searchingly, and then his mouth softens a little.
"Maybe we should," he says.