A/N: Outside of my cats there are few beings in this world that I let boss me around without objection. Mrspollifax is one of the few. "Go! Write me Continuum fic!" she says, and so I have. Then I made her beta it for me. This was also written because today is the five-year anniversary of Continuum coming out. Five years since we've had new SG-1 material to play with. Five years that I've been missing my favorite team, and one of my all-time favorite ships.
Sam Carter shifted the car into park and finally allowed her hands to unclench from around the steering wheel, her fingers letting go one-by-one as if she were a little kid learning to count. She was used to driving in snow and ice, but usually in places that employed a legion of snowplow drivers and had actually heard of something called road salt. Not to mention streetlights, she mentally added, as she turned the key and the landscape around her plunged into darkness with the absence of her car's headlights. The only remaining beacon was what lamplight filtered out from the curtained windows of the cabin.
Inside, the stillness told her that Jack was already asleep. She left her bags next to the couch, switched off the lamp that he left on for her, and made her way into the bedroom. She was exhausted from the infuriating briefing the day before and the even longer trip to get to the cabin, so she was grateful he hadn't met her at the door hoping to catch up first before going to sleep.
The past several years behind a desk had changed Jack, now General O'Neill, and the most obvious example of that was the way his field skills had diminished. Entering the bedroom, shedding her clothes, and sliding in next to him hadn't altered his steady breathing pattern. In all those years off-world he'd been able to go from sound-asleep-peaceful to ready-to-defend at any sound.
She smiled at the idea of her climbing in his bed being the most dangerous threat of all. She'd have to remember to tease him in the morning, she thought. But as much as her body was ready for sleep, her mind was not, it seemed.
Sam rolled onto her side in the darkness. Five days since coming home from Atlantis, and four days since she decided not to kill Woolsey after all, or at least not until she planned out the most conniving, creative, and painful way to do it. Three days since the boring Ba'al extraction ceremony, and two days since that horrible briefing which could be summed up by saying that her future with the Stargate program was uncertain. After all she'd done for the program and all she'd sacrificed along the way. It was like a bad version of counting sheep to try to sleep, and that never worked for her.
Then there was the letter. The one she was desperately trying not to think about, stuffed into the outside pocket of her computer bag. She found it mixed in with the bills and flyers in her mailbox yesterday. The paper envelope was yellowed, the handwriting familiar but faded. All of that was odd, but Sam lived an odd life. It was the contents of the letter that had her mind twisted in knots.
We had the audacity to believe we knew how the world, how our own lives, were supposed to play out.
An alternate universe wouldn't be able to mail something to her through the standard US postal service, so she presumed it came from an alternate timeline. It wasn't her first encounter with the concept, but never before had it been so personal. Some other Cam Mitchell, from a different time and place, had written her a letter. It was short, but the volumes of emotion hidden inside those few words left her aching for the version of Cam that wrote it, and for the other version of herself that he knew. That Cam had watched that Sam Carter watch Jack O'Neill die. More didn't need to be said, but he did go on, like a brother to a sister with hard-earned advice he felt he had to impart, because he couldn't live with himself if he didn't.
Between the sheep and the mailboxes and the pondering of unlived versions of her life, Sam must have drifted off eventually. The next she knew, her eyes blinked open and sunlight had slipped in between the wood blinds, making contrasting patterns with the quilt pulled up and tucked under her chin. She couldn't have fixed the blanket in her sleep, Jack must have done it. But when she turned her head, he wasn't in bed beside her anymore.
Sam got up and pulled on a sweatshirt, then wandered out of the bedroom to the kitchen. Jack sat at the table skimming the morning paper with reading glasses on, which had appeared suddenly about three months ago. She'd yet to comment on the glasses, even if she secretly found them kind of cute on him. First, because Jack would scoff at being called cute. And second, it was becoming a contest between them. He'd squint at menus, books, briefing papers, almost as if daring her to say something. When she didn't give in, and probably he started to get a headache or it ceased being fun anymore, whichever came first, he'd do the grumpy old man impression he'd been perfecting for years while digging out the glasses and putting them on. Who was she to spoil the fun in that routine?
Sam stepped up behind the kitchen chair and circled her arms around Jack, crossing her hands over his chest. He dropped the paper an inch, which she took as invitation to kiss him on the cheek and mumble a still-sleepy "Good morning."
"Were the roads bad last night?"
"I managed," she replied, moving over to the coffee pot. Her favorite blue mug that she used at the cabin was already out on the countertop; he must have set it out for her.
"And the briefing?" His voice was even, but she knew him too well. He hadn't been in it, but must have known what it was going to be about.
Not yet, she pleaded silently. Too soon, Jack. But she had to offer him something, at least to delay the conversation until she was ready. "Let's just say the roads were less treacherous."
"Ouch." The paper was folded and set aside as she joined him at the table. He studied her for a moment, then must have decided not to push or sensed she'd be better equipped to handle it after coffee, because he changed subjects. "Local paper says no more snow the rest of the week, but the temps are going to keep dropping."
"Ice fishing?" she offered, wondering where along the line her Jack became so addicted to weather reports.
"I'm too old for that."
She snorted, then took another sip of coffee before saying, "I'm going to remind you of that the next time you have suggestions for getting inventive in the bedroom."
It wasn't much after two in the afternoon when the local paper was proved wrong. The snow started with big, fluffy flakes, but as the evening fell the flakes fattened up into the heavy kind that blanket the landscape in silence. She and Jack built a fire in the fireplace and settled in on the couch, him with a Sports Illustrated, her to peruse last month's issue of a theoretical physics journal online. Halfway through reading the issue the Internet connection went out. She sighed and closed her laptop. The outage was probably temporary and related to the minor snowfall, not that she was really invested in reading it anyway.
"Everything OK?" he asked, flipping another glossy magazine page.
"Wi-Fi is out."
One of his eyebrows climbed high in humor. "Are we going to have a situation on our hands?"
Oh, ha ha. She stretched her arms, then snagged his beer and took a long sip. "We could always talk," she said, setting the beer back on the coffee table.
Jack perked up and glanced to the bedroom. In the early days of this, well, the part when physical intimacy started between them, "talking" was code for other things, much more fun and naked things. So was "moon base" and "parking" and "status reports," and OK, they used just about any excuse.
She wanted to laugh at him, but resisted. "I meant actual talking."
"Oh." She could always tell when Jack was trying his best not to look disappointed. "Yeah, sure. We can talk, Carter."
But now she's not so sure. The scientist in her knows that that Cam should've never written the note. She shouldn't have finished reading it when she realized what it was and what potential harm it could do in changing the course of events in this timeline, and telling Jack about it would only make it worse. The problem was, as it always had been, this man sitting beside her. The one that over all these years had coaxed the scientist in her into a more relaxed state, and let the woman inside bloom full.
"Yes," she said, waiting a beat and wondering if that was all it would take.
"Carter, I'm in agreement with whatever you're saying yes to, but could you give a guy a clue here?"
She turned to face him straight on. Behind him, through the window the unpredicted snow continued to fall. Science was wrong sometimes.
"Remember that question you asked me a long time ago? The big one that you couldn't really ask?"
Jack sighed heavily in response to her. He hated games, and she was never the kind of person to play them in a relationship. That wasn't what she was doing here. In fact, Sam started to feel disappointment creep up into her cheeks, that maybe he honestly didn't remember that night off-world, in the cover of the forest, and his proposal that he played off like a joke. Dear god, was it only the fourth or maybe fifth year that SG-1 had been together as a team? And even as the joke tripped off his tongue while Daniel and Teal'c were down by the river filling the water jugs, both she and O'Neill instantly realized that it never, ever should have been teased about.
"Marry me, Carter."
She'd frozen, he'd panicked and tried to backpedal, and it all got even weirder when Daniel and Teal'c came back to their campsite.
He didn't even remember, but she had held onto it like a crystal ball. All those years they'd spent at a professional distance, the memory haunted her dreams, taunted her when she or he were in relationships with other people, whenever it felt like they were further apart than ever.
Now they were closer than they'd ever been, and a letter in her computer bag told her some things she'd always known. That it all could change in a moment. In fact, Sam had come close to losing Jack many times. She'd lived the anguish those close calls had cost her, but that other Cam had seen something unique. His Carter was unable to pull herself together for the first and only time on a mission that he'd ever seen. Ever.
Don't wait, Sam. Not everything can be reset or undone. We can't count on a second chance.
Jack was still staring at her, lost. "A question that I asked…?"
"More like a proposal." Sam said quietly. "And I'm saying yes."
He went still. Jack had the ability in the field to not let a single twitch disturb his surroundings and give his position away to the enemy; he could do it better than anyone that Sam had ever served with. She also knew his penchant to fidget in almost every other situation in life. Of the two, this was maybe not the reaction she was expecting.
"Um," he said, like he was treading carefully into a wading pool that might be filled with symbiotes. "This doesn't have anything to do with the Atlantis situation, Woolsey being a complete ass, and you having a crisis of some kind?"
"So, yes? To the…question."
"You're sure? Because—"
Sam didn't let him finish. Her lips found his hungrily, and his stillness forgotten, or abandoned, he flew into motion again. His hands skimmed up her back, into her hair, cupped her cheeks so that he could angle her head and deepen their kiss. She leaned into him, pushing him back vertical on the couch because she needed, yes, needed to climb over him and feel every curve of her body against every angle of his. To imprint for the hundredth or maybe five hundredth time her skin to his. Hadn't they waited long enough for this? In every lifetime?
She found herself counting down the number of breaths before they fell asleep. Five breaths were rapid, in keeping with the pace of their still racing heart rates. With four he gathered her closer against him, three she felt her mind settle in a way it hadn't for several days now. At two, Jack was smiling, not that Sam could see it, but instead felt it curve against her collarbone where his head rested. She knew she'd done the right thing, this time and every time before.
At one, Sam wondered what she should say to Cam next time she saw him. Or maybe brothers didn't want to know all the details about their sister's life, especially her love life, just that she was happy. He never needed to know his own role in it.
Sam stared up through the skylight over their bed. Flakes still fell lightly, but she could see the stars glint between them. She silently thanked the universe for letting her live this version of herself.