Pretending

Chapter I

Based upon Stargate: SG-1

Rating: PG

Takes place during "Ripple Effect."

- . - - - . -

There were so many of them. Passing three of them in the hallway and now, sitting in the corner of a room that held a dozen or more of them was surreal, to say the least. He couldn't believe it. He just couldn't believe it.

Some of them looked exactly the same. Some of them looked very different. But there was no questioning who they were.

Samantha Carter.

Every one of them. Each from a different reality. A band of tape on their arms labeled them. Hank was labeling teams with the same letter to keep track of everyone. Personally, Jack was a "Foxtrot."

He stared at all the Samantha Carters milling around the room, trying to solve this problem. Each one of them seemed to love digging into the finer points of theoretical quantum mechanics. He watched them carefully, noticing the differences and pinning them onto the different women.

"Lima" had long hair. "Golf" was much more timid than the others. "Delta" had these big glasses that made her look like a complete nerd. And "Foxtrot" . . . There wasn't a Foxtrot.

Foxtrot Carter . . . His Carter . . . His Samantha had been dead for two years.

"You look out of place," one of those Carters said.

Jack looked up in order to identify her. November. Last he had heard, only 13 teams had come through the 'gate. Apparently, they were up to at least 14. "So do you."

She gave him a quizzical look. "You're the one in the room with a bunch of Sam Carters."

"You're the one not scribbling quantum mechanics."

"Touché."

He gave her a smirk in reward for their banter. She was the first he had actually spoken to since he got here. He just couldn't build up the courage before. He was glad she broke the ice.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked.

"It's not my reality," he responded, gesturing to the chair next to him.

She chuckled. "Not mine either." She sat down, resting her forearms on her knees.

"I noticed, November."

She chuckled softly again. "You can call me by my first name, Jack."

At the sound of his name, he turned his head away from the television to see his wife standing in the doorway of the living room. She was wearing a t-shirt. Only a t-shirt. Her long - long, long, long, LONG - legs jutting right out of the bottom of the XL.

Jack, being the smart man he was, turned off the television and jumped up to his wife. She took his hand and turned, pulling him with her.

"Jack?"

He shook his head. "Sorry. Got distracted there for a minute." There was something about the way she said his name. It was so familiar, but this was Samantha Carter, after all. "Sam it is."

She gave him a sad smile.

"What?" he questioned her expression.

"You haven't called me that in a long time."

"I've never called you that.'

"I meant -"

He nodded. "I know what you meant."

They sat quietly for a moment, watching the other Carters move around the room.

"So how come you're not crunching numbers with the rest of this MENSA chapter?"

"I'd rather sit here with you for a couple minutes."

"Really? They're probably better company than I am," he gestured to the room.

"You're dead where I come from," she said plainly. He almost swore that he felt her move closer to him.

Jack nodded slowly. "Small multiverse," he said. "So are you."

A Daniel walked through the door. Jack looked at his sleeve, November. He must've come in with the Sam sitting next to him. "Hey, there you are," he said, spotting the giant N on Sam's sleeve. "I've been looking for you. I ran into about four of you on the way here."

"More teams came in?" Sam asked.

"They're up to Papa, now."

Sam glanced over at Jack. "Look who I found."

Daniel smiled. "Yeah. I spent the last half hour talking to one. In Lima, I am living on Abydos with Sha're and we have three kids."

"That's great, Daniel," Sam said.

Daniel let the sentiment stand for a minute. "Anyway, General Landry wants us. He's trying to debrief everyone, and we're up."

Sam stood, but turned back to him. "I'll meet up with you later, okay?"

Jack nodded. "I'll be here."

He watched them leave together. There was something about her. There was something about November Samantha Carter. She was just so . . . familiar. So much more familiar than the rest of them.

"November" Carter was a lot like his wife.

- . -

November Carter followed November Daniel out into the corridor and into the elevator. When the doors shut, he turned sharply to her. "You need to stop," he said firmly.

She was taken back by his tone. "What?"

"You know what." He held her gaze. It was the first time she ever felt smaller than him. "Trying to replace what you've lost."

She opened her mouth to remind him that he had spent the day speaking with another Jack O'Neill.

"Don't pretend that you and I were doing the same thing," he answered before she could voice it. "He's dead, Sam," his tone softened a little. "He's been dead for two years."

Those words brought tears to her eyes. She squeezed them shut and clenched her jaw. It had been two years, and she usually didn't react like this. But, seeing him today . . .

Daniel wrapped his arms around her and held her tight for a minute. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

She shook him off after a moment. "No, you're right," she agreed, finding her voice. "That man's not my husband. My husband's been dead for two years."

- . - A few hours later

"Hey!" Sam tried not to visibly cringe when she heard Jack O'Neill come up behind her. It was Foxtrot, she knew, the one that was very much like her husband. "There you are." She turned to see him smiling, he was more than a little glad to see her, she could tell. "For there being a ton of yous around here, you are one difficult lady to track down."

She forced a smile for him.

"Where have you been?"

"Honestly?" She waited for him to nod. "I've been avoiding you."

His expression sunk. "Why?"

Sam took a deep breath in preparation of the bombshell she was about to drop. Reaching into her left breast pocket, she pulled out a photograph and handed it to him. "This is our daughter. Her name is Grace and she never knew her father."

He stared at the picture for a long time without saying a word. He finally looked up at her for a brief moment with a sad smile. "She's gorgeous." He just stared at the picture. After several moments, he spoke again, this time without looking up. "You died before we had a chance to have a baby," he said in a far away voice.

They were married in his reality too, for some reason she had expected that. Sam looked around, suddenly feeling very crowded. "Come on," she took his arm and pulled gently.

"What?" he looked up, suddenly aware that they were moving.

"I have an idea."

She took him to the stairwell - seldom used in a complex that had 29 sub levels. They sat down on one of the stairs, very close to each other. Jack returned to staring at the photograph.

"If we get a way home," she said, "you can have that."

"Really?" he smiled. "Thanks." He kept the picture in his hand, but focused on her. "When did you and . . . um . . . me get together?"

Sam thought back. "About four years. It was after we crashed a mothership into the ocean."

He looked at her with shock.

"What?"

"Me too."

"Really?"

"Yeah," he started to explain. "We were trapped in a little hallway that was filling up with water. By the time Thor opened the door, you weren't breathing. And - And when I got you to breath, you grabbed on to me and said-"

"I'm done with this game, Jack," she interrupted, recalling her own words.

"And so things were different," he said, taking over. They were telling the same story, he was sure of it.

He talked about how she was transferred to a different team. She talked about how they were upfront with Hammond. He talked about how after seven weeks they finally went on a date. She blushed when she mentioned the first time he had slept at her house. The more they talked, the more they realized that they were from very similar places.

"I wonder where the divergence point is."

He gave her a blank stare.

"The divergence point. The event that had two different outcomes, splitting one reality into two."

"You're dead in my world," Jack said softly.

Sam nodded, her excitement over the intricacies of the timestream gone. "Yeah, you too. Maybe that was it."

"It was a routine mission to -666. There was an ambush, five SG teams were sent in to get everyone out." Jack cleared his throat. "You, Daniel, and Fraiser went to go get Airman Wells. Daniel had a camera on him. He - um - He recorded you catching a staff blast in the chest."

Sam leaned into him more. She couldn't believe it was so similar. "Janet got shot on that mission, and so did you. I didn't find out I was pregnant until later."

Jack looked down at the picture in his hands. If he were a man who cried, he would've cried then.

"Jack?" Sam moved to see his face, sensing his mood sink further. She saw him staring at the picture and it all made sense to her. She was pregnant on the mission that Jack got killed. He was now thinking that his wife had been pregnant on the mission she had been killed. "Just because I was pregnant doesn't mean she was."

He didn't take his eyes off the picture. "But what if she was?"

"Oh, Jack," she tried to comfort him. She pulled his head to her shoulder, he went willingly. Stroking his hair, she held him tight. Sam kissed his temple once, twice. Then her kisses trailed down the side of his face, which he tilted up to meet her.

They both continued the kiss. It was almost like he had come back to her after so long. She let the kiss continue for too long before pulling back, shaking her head.

"No, no, this isn't right. It's not fair." She paused, taking a deep breath. "It's not fair, to either one of us. I shouldn't be trying to replace what I've lost."

His hand stilled on her back, and his gaze held hers. Several seconds passed. "What if we pretend?"

"What?"

"What if we pretend that we're what we lost. I won't mind if you do, as long as I can too."

She pulled him to her and held him tight. "Jack, I miss you so much." Then she started to cry.

He made her lean back a little, bringing his forehead to hers. "Don't cry, Sam. Please don't cry." He kissed her in an attempt to banish her tears. It worked a little. He tried a different approach. "Tell me about her," he held the picture of their - her - daughter between them.

She settled leaning into him. "She's . . . perfect."

Jack smiled. "Well, I assumed that."

Sam shook her head. "I don't know where to start." She paused, thinking. "She's a giggler. To her, everything is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Daniel makes her laugh the most, I think. He uses silly voices. She really likes General Hammond, too. She's always trying to touch his head. I just don't think she understands that he just doesn't have hair."

They both chuckled.

"And Teal'c, she loves Teal'c. 'T' might be her first word, I'm thinking. Last winter, we all went out to the parade. Teal'c had the baby pack on his front and zipped her up into his coat. She was giggling and happy right up until she fell asleep. His body temperature is a little warmer than ours, I think that might be why."

Jack chuckled. "He may appear to be tough, but he's just a giant kitten, isn't he?"

Sam laughed, leaning into him tighter. "The biggest."

- . -

"I've been looking for you," a voice new to the commissary said.

Sam looked up to see Daniel, she glanced at his arm to make sure he was her Daniel and she wasn't about to launch into a fifteen minute conversation with the wrong person, which had happened earlier that day. A giant "N" was on his arm, so it was alright.

Even though he was the correct Daniel, she didn't really want to talk to him. Her eyes flicked past him for a second, before meeting his gaze. "You were?"

He nodded. "I came by your quarters this morning and Mike," Mike Sam Carter, he meant, her roommate, "said you left early."

Sam nodded, trying not to look guilty. "Yeah, I got up early to go work out. I'm trying not to think about Grace." That was almost true. She was missing her daughter, and trying not to think about what would happen if she didn't go home.

He smiled with that "I'm Daniel and I understand" face he had. "We've got - what? 17 - 18 Samantha Carters working on this problem? We're going to get home. Grace won't even realize you were gone."

Sam smiled, he did know how to make her feel better.

"They didn't have chocolate cake."

Daniel's smile quickly faded and he turned to see Jack O'Neill behind him holding a cup of Jell-O and a slice of what looked like apple spice cake. He wasn't a fan of carrot cake, but he did like apple spice.

Jack flashed a big grin, moving past Daniel and sitting next to her, handing her the cup of blue Jell-O, as if there were any other kind. "How's it going Daniel? Talking old-timey stuff with the other yous?"

Daniel forced a smile. "Oh, you know, Jack. It's some of the best conversation I've had in years."

Jack chuckled, digging into his cake.

"Sam, you got a minute," Daniel asked, making a jerking motion with his head.

"I'll be right back," she said to Jack as she stood.

"Don't let your Jell-O get gross," he said.

She smiled and followed Daniel into the hall.

"What are you doing?" he asked once the doors had closed, leaving Jack oblivious on the other side.

"Having dessert," she said. Yep, that was a stupid answer.

"Sam," he drew out the syllable in disbelief.

"We're not doing anything wrong," she immediately defended herself. Well, that wasn't 100% true.

Sam sat on Jack's lap, kissing him. Both of her hands cupped his face possessively, and his hands gripped her hips tightly.

Okay, so he wasn't her husband. Okay, so she snuck out of her room to spend time with - okay, make out, they were making out - with Jack O'Neill. Okay, so she lied when she saw Cam on the way here. But, God, he felt good.

She shifted on his lap, causing him to squeeze her hips for a moment and groan into her mouth.

One of his hands slid up her side.

She released his face, sliding one hand to his neck and using the other to comb some of her hair out of the way. He took the opening and his lips latched onto her neck.

She gripped the hair at the back of his head and directed his mouth back to hers. His hand ran up and down her side, making her wish he had slid his hand under her shirt.

"Jack," she moaned, releasing him for a second.

He rested his forehead in the crook of her neck, recovering his breath. "Sam."

She released a small moan at the way he said her name.

"Sam, I want to . . ." he trailed off, unwilling or unable to say the words.

She squeezed her eyes shut, "Me too," she confessed.

"We shouldn't," he admitted.

"No," she shook her head a little, "No, we shouldn't." Gathering strength, she moved off his lap and sat next to him, leaning against him. He put his arm over her shoulders and rested his head on hers.

Daniel eyed her as if he didn't believe her. And, to tell the truth, he was more than a little justified. "Just . . ." he sighed. "Just think about when we have to go home."

- . -

They had eaten dinner together, and now they were sitting in their little stairwell, leaning up against each other. "Daniel told you to stop spending time with me, didn't he?" Jack asked after a long while.

"Yeah," Sam replied, seeing no reason to lie.

He looked down at her. "He might be right."

Sam nodded. "Yeah."

He leaned down to kiss her, which she allowed and reciprocated. Holding on to her with one hand, he put to other down behind her to brace himself as he leaned over, pressing his body into hers.

"Who cares what Daniel thinks, anyway?"

- . - - - . -