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Fanfiction: Harsh Realities

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S3 Point of View
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sam/Jack UST.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Harsh Realities


The Alternate Universe

Doctor Samantha Carter jerked at the touch of a hand on her arm.

‘You OK, Doc?’ Charlie Kawalsky looked back at her with concern shining from his brown eyes.

She nodded tearfully and wiped away the moisture from her cheeks swiftly. ‘We should get back to the control room.’ Her blue eyes lingered on the mirror that had transported them to a universe untouched by their fate…a universe where Jack O’Neill still lived and breathed.

‘They were great, huh? Those other guys.’ Kawalsky murmured, pushing his hands in his pockets. ‘Really came through for us.’

‘Yes.’ Samantha agreed faintly. ‘They did.’ They had stumbled without hope of anything more than sanctuary in the other universe and had found something greater; rescue. The SG1 of the other universe had saved them from Apophis’s invading army and Earth was now under the protection of the Asgard.

‘Are you sure you’re OK, Doc?’ Kawalsky asked again.

She shook herself; they had too much to do for her to continue to linger on the might have beens and what ifs…their Earth had a great deal of healing to do in the wake of the Goa’uld attack and she couldn’t afford the luxury of grief…

‘Give me a minute? Please.’ It was only a minute, Samantha thought; just a minute before the needs of the rest of Earth would take priority.

Kawalsky laid a hand on her shoulder. ‘Take all the time you need.’ He was gone before she could protest.

She sank to the floor and hugged her knees to her chest as she stared at the mirror. It would be so easy to dial it up and see his face again. But he wasn’t her Jack; her Jack had been killed defending the mountain and that was the reality, no matter how much she wished it otherwise – how much she wanted to change it or flee from it.

Tears started again and she let them fall, her mind spinning over her time with her husband…their first meeting and their swift courtship, forged in the heat of the first mission to Abydos. She had been assigned to Catherine Langford’s Stargate programme when she had successfully identified the seventh symbol and the military had assumed full control. Jack O’Neill had been assigned to lead the team through the Stargate and he had almost barred her from the mission. He had only acquiesced when faced with the fact that his team needed someone who understood the Stargate to get them home.

Abydos had been a wonder; desert and heat, an Ancient Egypt brought to life. She had been fascinated; Jack, Samantha remembered as she sniffled, had been wary. The Abydonians had believed Samantha was Hathor, Ra’s queen, primarily because she had worn an amulet with the Egyptian sign for Ra given to her by Catherine. When Ra himself had turned up, he had been amused and intrigued by Samantha; her beauty and intelligence; her spirit. She had only escaped his clutches because Jack had killed Ra and saved her.

And she had saved Jack too; she knew that because he had told her in a rare outpouring when she had almost died. She had pulled Jack from his grief over losing his family in a terrible accident…helped him to love again as they had fallen for each other in the sands of Abydos. When they had returned to Earth, the programme had been placed in suspension; the Gate left unused and guarded only by a small contingent led by General Hammond. Jack had been reassigned to Washington and she had gone with him. They had married just a year after the Abydos mission and then the sudden appearance of Apophis through the Stargate had forced them both back to the mountain and the SGA to battle the Goa’uld.

They had gone back to Abydos initially, believing Apophis must have travelled from there. They had been greeted by the Abydonians and one young boy, Skaara, had shown them a hall filled with Gate addresses. It had led to their exploration through the Stargate, trying to find weapons and allies. They had been unsuccessful. She had been unsuccessful, Samantha castigated herself, and now Jack was dead.

Samantha thought again of the abandoned dinner waiting for her in the home she had shared with Jack on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. She wasn’t sure she was ever going to go back there; she wasn’t sure she could ever face entering the house knowing he wouldn’t be there…wouldn’t ever return home. She swiped at her cheeks angrily. She should have done more…she should have found a way to save them before the Goa’uld had attacked…she should have…

What? The word resounded furiously in her head. What should she have done? Joined the military? Been Major Samantha Carter? Would that have saved them? Would that have saved Jack? It had in the other universe, her mental voice informed her ruthlessly. The differences between the universes had undoubtedly been what had saved them; the inclusion of the brilliant archaeologist Daniel Jackson in the Stargate programme, the way their Teal’c had somehow found the strength required to join the people of Earth, the fact that Samantha Carter joined the military…only Jack seemed to be constant between the universes and yet Samantha knew deep down that even their Jack had been different to hers.

Her Jack had lost his wife and son but in a tragic car accident while he had been away on a mission. He’d felt guilty and he had been grief-stricken but he hadn’t had the wound the other Jack had suffered when his son had died from accidentally shooting himself with Jack’s gun. Samantha wondered at that; would her Jack have loved her as quickly or as easily if he’d had such a past? She pushed the question out of her mind and thanked whatever God existed that her Jack hadn’t gone through that particular nightmare.

There were other differences between the men too…her Jack seemed more by the book than their Jack; less quick with a sarcastic remark although her Jack had used humour just as much to cover his unease and hide his fears. The mannerisms were the same though; the silver hair cut short and the way their brown eyes stayed guarded around strangers. It had been odd when their Jack had looked at her that way; her Jack hadn’t been guarded with her since that first mission to Abydos…another difference, like the kiss.

Her cheeks flared red and her stomach churned with a mix of shame and guilt. He hadn’t been her Jack yet she had kissed him. Her hands rubbed furiously over her face as though she could eradicate the act. What had possessed her? A longing for him to be her Jack…to have one last kiss…yet it had simply proven without a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t hers.

His lips had been tentative on hers as though she was new to him and she had to remind herself anew that she was…he and his Sam weren’t together romantically. She had felt his lack of knowledge even as she acknowledged his passion and desire for her…no, not for her, for her counterpart. The kiss had told her without question that she wasn’t kissing her Jack. When she had pulled away and looked into his eyes, she had seen the same regret she felt, shining back from his. She had wished him to be her Jack and she knew without question that he had wished her to be his Sam.

She had been right that things were different between them in the other universe but she had been wrong when she had thought their Jack didn’t see his Sam the way her Jack had seen her…he did – he just hid it because in his world he was Sam’s CO. In hindsight, Samantha could see it clearly, just as she could see her own counterpart was in love with Jack whether Major Sam Carter knew it or not. She had seen it when she had worked with Sam on the generator in a lab so spookily like her own she had almost been able to imagine it was.

If she had joined the military, Samantha mused, she and her Jack would have been in the same place; CO and subordinate. Would that have made a difference to them on Abydos when Jack had saved her life, when she had saved his? Would he have accepted her comfort if she had been military? Maybe things would have transpired as they had done in the other universe with her counterpart reassigned before the Abydos mission and no contact with Jack at all until the reformation of the Stargate programme.

Her counterpart had been right, Samantha thought wearily. Perhaps her being in the military had helped to contribute to their survival in that universe; Major Carter’s reassignment because the military was losing faith in Catherine Langford’s team, had left the door open for Daniel Jackson to join the programme and discover the seventh symbol instead of her, for events on the Abydos mission to transpire that little bit differently, all of which had led them to the Jaffa Teal’c…maybe she should have joined the military, after all, Samantha considered bitterly, then her Earth might have been spared the horror of the Goa’uld attack too.

But.

But then she and her Jack would be right where their counterparts were; falling in love with each other anyway and not being able to be with one another. Samantha shivered. What was worse, she wondered; to have loved and lost Jack as she had done, or to love him and never be able to be with him? If someone offered her the chance to go back in time and choose, would she have the courage to save Earth at the expense of her relationship with Jack, the brief time they had spent together? She shook her head nervously; she would never have to make that choice, she would never have to know how she would choose. She feared her counterpart would face that choice one day and Samantha wondered briefly if there would ever be a window of opportunity for Sam; whether the Major would ever find a way to Jack through the mess of regulations and duty…

Duty.

She stood up slowly; every muscle ached, every bone seemed heavier. She felt like she had aged twenty years over night. She had a world she would have to help put back together and she could no longer spend time mourning. That would have to wait; she had her duty.

Samantha took one last look at the mirror; her hand reaching out to touch the surface yet falling short. There was no place else to go; no other universe would have her Jack. He was gone and she would have to go on without him. He would want her to live and help Earth rebuild and she would do it…she had no choice, Samantha mused as she left the mirror behind and closed the door on it.

o-O-o

The Usual Universe

She was speeding, taking corners a little too fast, skidding round curves too quickly, yet Major Samantha Carter didn’t stop. She pushed the motorbike harder, faster, down a long straight road; riding as though to escape a horde of enemy Jaffa. She almost saw the branch too late. It had been tossed down by an earlier storm and it lay directly in her path. She only just managed to swerve in time; the bike wobbled ominously until the wheels balanced again and she braked more gently to bring the machine to a complete halt. Her heart pounded loudly in her chest and her breathing remained ragged at the close call.

Sam took off her helmet and shook out her short blonde hair, her fingers trembling as they combed through the strands. What was she thinking? Sam berated herself harshly. She was a speed freak and loved the thrill of the ride but she had never ridden as recklessly before. She had never had to work with an alternate universe version of herself before either, her mental voice responded defiantly, nor had to watch another Samantha Carter kissing her Jack O’Neill.

Well, OK, thought Sam, as she turned the bike around to head home, Jack O’Neill wasn’t exactly hers. In reality, Colonel O’Neill was her CO, unlike in Samantha’s reality where Jack had been her husband. Sam felt a strange pang deep in her belly; envy, confusion, hope – her emotions churned through them all and the intensity of them had been one of the reasons why she had sought out her bike and taken to the road as soon as she had left the SGC.

Sam gazed into the distant, barely seeing the Colorado countryside around her or the deserted road. She rarely left the SGC at the end of her shifts; there was always something to study or experiments to perform but she had been unable to think about anything but getting away from the mountain after the mission debriefing. It had been a short meeting; the rest of SG1 had helped the alternate Earth make contact with the Asgard; it was safe; the mission had been a success. She guessed she had helped too – she had fixed the power generator with the help of Samantha, but she had been banned from travelling to the alternate universe because of the risk of suffering entropic cascade failure.

Instead, she had been confined to watching the mirror for her team’s return and to provide a guard in case they failed and Apophis discovered the mirror. She had diligently stood watch and had witnessed the goodbye shared between her CO and Samantha in all its uncomfortable detail. The kiss had been witnessed by a lot of people on their side of the mirror; herself, Daniel, Teal’c, a number of Airmen, even General Hammond. But nobody had mentioned it at the debriefing; the embarrassing subject had been avoided. Sam didn’t know if she should be thankful about that; maybe it would have been better to have spoken about it out in the open. Maybe the General had said something to the Colonel in private; she had thought she had heard him ordering Jack into his office as she had hurried from the conference room when the meeting had been dismissed. She had just wanted to get out of the meeting; out of the SGC; away from the stares and curiosity.

Hence why she found herself more than an hour from Colorado Springs and almost coming afoul of a stray branch, Sam thought wryly. She sighed and rolled her shoulders. She would rest for another minute and then head back, she decided. She reached for the water bottle she always carried and took a long slug. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand before she put the drink away.

It had been a crazy couple of days, she allowed. The arrival of Doctor Carter had been a shock. The other woman had been her twin except for the long hair and lack of military posture. She had been more feminine; less of a tomboy than Sam – Sam couldn’t see Doctor Carter strapping on some leathers and riding a motorbike. Somehow the thought was comforting.

It had disconcerted her, she acknowledged. The mirror image of what might have been staring back at her. If she hadn’t joined the military…if she had chosen a different path…yet Sam couldn’t regret her own choices. She loved her career in the Air Force and she had worked hard to achieve her position. She still savoured the honour of her promotion to Major. She liked the structure of the military; the rules and regulations, and while she had been known to break or disregard a rule or two in the past, on the whole, they provided an order to her life she appreciated. The thought of a life without that seemed scary to her…like entering the Stargate without sending a probe first; stepping into the unknown.

She shook herself a little as the cold started to seep through her jacket but she lingered a bit longer, her thoughts straying again to her counterpart. Samantha had seemed as bemused by her decision to join the military as Sam was by Samantha’s decision not to, yet neither choice was right or wrong, Sam mused. Both decisions had led in many ways to the same place; working on the Stargate programme. Yet Sam couldn’t help think that their decisions had also led them to their fates too…she had commented that the differences between the universes had helped to ensure their survival, and she had meant it; just as she had meant that her being part of the military may have contributed.

Sam flushed. When she had made her observation in the briefing room, she had been unprepared for Samantha’s angry reaction but she shouldn’t have been. The comment had been unthinking and looking back, knowing the loss the other woman had suffered in the attack, it had been cruel. No wonder Samantha had reacted so badly. Sam knew in her place, on a strange and mixed up version of Earth and fleeing what she would have deemed a failure on a truly personal level, she would have been sensitive to any suggestion of perceived criticism. They had that in common, Sam thought. Of course, what they didn’t have in common was their relationship with Jack.

The thought had Sam lurching off the bike. She walked over to the branch and hurled it toward the side of the road, venting her frustration and confusion. She walked back to the bike and mounted it; every intention of riding away with the same speed and recklessness that had brought her within inches of crashing into the offending branch and scuttling her bike, and maybe herself, for good. Her cell phone buzzed suddenly and she stopped to pull it from an inside pocket.

Daniel.

He was probably worried about her. Sam sighed deeply and hit the reject button before switching her phone off. He’d get diverted to her message centre. She didn’t want to talk to anyone about what happened; she didn’t know what she would say. She replaced the phone and zipped up her jacket, the memory stealing over her…

This is an incredible piece of engineering.’ Samantha noted, her blue eyes burning with the same intense intelligence that stared back at Sam every time she looked in a mirror.

I know.’

The Asgard gave this to you?’ Samantha queried as Sam made the last of the naquadah ratio calculations.

Actually, the Colonel built it to get to the Asgard when his head was filled with the knowledge of the Ancients. He subconsciously knew they were the only beings who could help save him. It was one of the reasons why the Asgard were aware we were out there and helped us with the Goa’uld.’ Sam glanced across to her counterpart who was looking back at her in shock. ‘I guess that didn’t happen in…uh…your universe?’

Samantha shook her head. ‘No. I guess we’ve visited different places.’ She sighed and pushed her hair back behind her ears. ‘Another difference that probably contributed to your success and our failure.’

I’m sorry about that remark.’ Sam said seriously. ‘I should never have made it.’

No, you’re right.’ Samantha conceded. ‘The differences probably have contributed to the outcome.’ She shrugged. ‘But we’ll never really know, will we?’

Sam nodded. ‘Not unless we find a universe with every variation as a comparison.’

I don’t think we’re really meant to go looking into other universes.’ Samantha noted. ‘Sometimes the what ifs should remain…’

What ifs.’ Sam smiled sympathetically.

For a moment, there was complete understanding between the two women and Samantha sat down on a nearby stool. ‘Jack told me that you know about our being married. I mean, about my being married to my Jack.’

Sam swiftly turned her attention back to the computer. ‘Yes.’ She was surprised at how even her voice seemed.

You’re not curious?’ Samantha asked bluntly.

Sam didn’t even glance at her. ‘When Daniel visited the other alternate universe we’ve encountered, he discovered their versions of the Colonel and I were engaged so I guess your being married isn’t all that different.’ She waited a heartbeat. ‘The Samantha Carter in that reality hadn’t entered the military either.’

Ah.’

The intonation was all Jack’s and it was enough for Sam to glance over at Samantha with barely suppressed irritation. ‘What?’

Samantha bit her lip before she sighed. ‘I was just thinking how wrong I’ve been about everything here. I thought with you being military maybe you just didn’t see Jack as anything but a CO but I was wrong.’ Her blue eyes pinned Sam’s. ‘Wasn’t I?’

Sam blushed furiously. ‘He is my CO.’

And you like him.’ Samantha was triumphant. ‘Come on. This is me, and I am essentially you. I know we’re different but I don’t think we’re that dissimilar that we wouldn’t be attracted to the same man.’

Even if I am attracted, which I’m not saying I am,’ Sam hurried on, ‘nothing can happen between us. There are regulations and besides, he doesn’t see me that way.’

Samantha seemed about to open her mouth to reply when she shook violently with a seizure caused by the entropic cascade failure. Sam moved to hold her hand while her counterpart went through each shake and tremor, feeling the echo in her own cells.

That was a bad one.’ Samantha admitted, breathless from her ordeal.

Maybe we should concentrate on fixing this generator and getting you home.’ Sam said firmly.

Samantha nodded but she held onto Sam when she made to move away. ‘You’re wrong, you know.’

You don’t think it is the naquadah…’

Samantha shook her head. ‘Not that.’ She held Sam’s gaze. ‘He likes you too.’

He…you’re wrong.’ Sam stuttered out in shock.

I know him.’ Samantha insisted. ‘Well, not him, but a him, and I don’t think he’s so different from my Jack that he wouldn’t be attracted to you. He’s just good at hiding it.’ She smiled compassionately. ‘Probably for the same reasons you are.’

Sam yanked her hand away. ‘We have to finish this.’ She was relieved when Samantha changed the subject back to the device they were working on and they were both soon immersed in fixing it…

Sam shook the memory away and glanced around her at the twilight. She should move, she mused and wondered at her reluctance. She had to return to reality soon, she knew that; she couldn’t stay on the deserted road forever. She sighed.

She had known for a little while that she had a crush on her CO. Jack was a very attractive guy; intelligent; funny and underneath the grumpy soldier routine was a good man; an honourable man. She wasn’t in love with him, Sam considered carefully, but she was very attracted to him as her counterpart had figured out.

‘So, was Samantha right about the rest?’ Sam wondered out loud. Did Jack like her that way? He had kissed Samantha…OK, maybe he was attracted. But was he attracted to her, tomboy Major Sam, or to her counterpart, the more feminine Doctor Samantha?

It was probably the latter, Sam mused unhappily. After all, apparently two Jack O’Neills had fallen for a Doctor Sam, and she couldn’t recall her own Jack looking at her the way he had looked at Samantha before and after the kiss. There had been such tenderness in his eyes and in the way he had treated Samantha. Sam had rarely seen that side of Jack on show; once with his ex-wife Sara, another time with a small boy who had helped them repel an invasion of Retu and more recently, with a little girl called Merrin. The closest she had seen him like that with her had been just after her own experience in surviving the death of a Tok’ra symbiote that had taken her as an unwilling host. She had almost died herself and immediately afterwards, Jack had stayed by her side in the infirmary. There had been something in his eyes then…

She shook her head again. Jack had just been affected by the incident with Jolinar, just like the rest of the team. He had simply been glad she survived. They were team-mates, and she liked to think they were friends beyond the command relationship. Sure, they flirted a little but that was meaningless. No, Sam thought decisively; her counterpart had got it wrong. Jack wasn’t attracted to Major Sam Carter but he had been attracted to Samantha, enough to try and protect her; enough to kiss her goodbye.

The question was, Sam mused, what that meant, if anything, for her own relationship with Jack. Nothing, she realised. Nothing had really changed between them. He had kissed Samantha not her, and it wasn’t as though Sam really believed that he had kissed her counterpart in front of her knowingly. The Colonel had probably not realised or had forgotten that they could see him until he had stepped through the mirror and seen Samantha looking back at them. It was messy and awkward given Samantha’s likeness to herself but the fact was Sam knew that the Colonel kissing another woman couldn’t matter to her, shouldn’t matter to her.

It wouldn’t matter to her, Sam thought defiantly. She took one last look at the road and replaced her helmet. There was no place else to go; no other universe to run to. She was a Major under Colonel O’Neill’s command; who he kissed was his business. She would get over her own crush on him and move on. It was for the best; the regulations existed for a reason and her career was important to her; she wouldn’t risk it. Ultimately, Sam thought grimly, she knew had no choice; Jack…the Colonel didn’t see her that way. Sam gunned the engine and tore down the road, leaving it behind.

o-O-o

Jack O’Neill looked up at the night sky and took another gulp of his beer. He sank back into the cosy armchair that he had perched on the flat roof of his house alongside his telescope and contemplated his life choices. Specifically, he contemplated one choice in particular; he had kissed Doctor Samantha Carter. As kisses went it had been disappointing on several levels and embarrassing on another level altogether.

Disappointing primarily because it hadn’t been his Sam; because it had lacked the connection and spark he could feel simply sitting next to his Sam; because it hadn’t tasted or felt like his Sam from the one brief passion-filled encounter they had experienced when they had been under the influence of the Neanderthal virus. Disappointing because he had looked into Samantha’s eyes and seen the same regret in hers; he wasn’t her Jack anymore than she was his Sam. That had been a touch humiliating; seeing the truth bloom in her eyes and seeing her withdraw from him. He guessed he hadn’t measured up to her husband, his counterpart. Of course that humiliation was minor compared to the rest of it.

He could feel his cheeks burning with the memory of touching the mirror and looking back through to the other universe, seeing Samantha and realising that everyone on his side of the mirror had just seen what he had meant to be a private, a very private, goodbye. Hell, he’d even sent Daniel and Teal’c on ahead. He sighed and pushed a hand through the grey strands of his hair. That moment of realisation ranked all the way up there in the list of ‘Most Embarrassing Moments of Jack O’Neill’s Life.’ What had been worse was the second realisation that had sank in almost immediately on top of the first that his own Sam had had a ring-side view of his goodbye with her counterpart. That had made the whole thing truly a ground-open-up-and-swallow-me-now moment.

God; he was an idiot, Jack thought harshly, and it wasn’t as though the kiss had been worth it. Why the hell had he done it, he grumbled to himself. He had known as soon as he had looked over at Samantha as he had said goodbye to Kawalsky that she wanted a moment with him alone. He had half-suspected she would attempt to kiss him – a goodbye she had never got to have with her own Jack, and damn it, he had been eager to be a stand-in; too eager. The opportunity to kiss a Samantha Carter had been too much to resist especially given that he knew he wouldn’t get such an opportunity with his own Sam.

Jack took another gulp of his beer. He knew the exact moment when he had realised he had slid over the regulations line with an officer under his command. It had been a split second when his gaze had landed on the prone figure of Sam in a prison cell, half-dead and dying after an attack from the Goa’uld assassin who had been after the Tok’ra symbiote occupying her. He’d stood and watched as Janet Fraiser had fought to save her and had been unable to suppress the emotions hammering at him.

Sitting by Sam’s bedside as she slept and recovered, he had almost blurted out his feelings. But he had known it would have incredibly selfish; he had known Sam didn’t the feel the same way and to tell her would have simply placed an incredibly unfair burden on her shoulders – one that she didn’t need given the circumstances. So he had kept silent and he had watched her climb out of the personal abyss that her experience with the symbiote had wrought within her and he’d seen her do it with more grace and guts than he knew most of the men he had served with had within them. Somehow along the way they had developed a friendship that was precious to him. But deep down he knew that he had overseen her promotion to Major, brimming with the pride of a man for a woman he loved, not for an officer under his command. He had wondered how no-one had seen the difference. And yet…he had risked his working relationship with his Sam, their precious friendship, for a brief kiss with Samantha.

He closed his eyes and rested his head back against the chair. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Oh, he’d justified it to himself at the time; Samantha was grief-stricken and needy; to refuse would have been cruel given her loss; it was harmless…all of it had been a lie. He had wanted to kiss her, plain and simple. Well, not her. He’d actually wanted to kiss his Sam but Samantha was as close to the real thing as he was going to get given the military relationship and he had figured that it would be the same. Only, it hadn’t been the same at all.

It had been a nice kiss, pleasant but just not what he had expected. The Neanderthal moments with his Sam were etched into his mind; drugging kisses that had teased him with her passion and inflamed his own. He remembered the shape and feel of her mouth on his; the scent of her hair as it brushed his cheek, the taste of her skin…he had barely been able to resist her; if he’d been completely in the thrall of the virus himself at the time, he figured he and Sam would have broken every regulation in the book and then some.

He had some sense; he had known kissing Samantha wouldn’t be a recreation of what had happened with the virus; that had been primal desire, Samantha’s need had been much like his own; all about a hopeless love for someone out of reach. Yet, he had been surprised by the lack of heat; the lack of connection. She truly wasn’t his Sam anymore than he was her Jack.

How had the other man done it? Jack mused. How had not one but two Jack O’Neill’s – if he counted the universe Daniel had originally visited – managed to get a woman like Sam to fall in love with them? They were all essentially the same man by all accounts. He frowned. Of course, the other Jacks hadn’t been constrained by a military relationship, although the regulations still applied to civilians working under the command of a military officer so he wasn’t sure how that had happened either…maybe they didn’t apply in the other universes. He sighed. The main difference seemed to be that the other Jacks had been able to pursue their Sams and that the Sams hadn’t been restricted from seeing their Jacks as only COs. Maybe that was the crux of it, Jack considered sadly. While he and his Sam remained military, they would always be bound by the regulations.

His lips twisted as he remembered the alternate Kawalsky’s disbelieving look when he had given the regulations as a reason for not being with Sam. He guessed the other Jack had been apt to ignore the regulations on occasion too when it suited him, and, truthfully, Jack knew it wasn’t the regulations that stopped him from approaching Sam with his feelings; it was the primary reason why the regulations existed – to protect her. If Sam knew about his feelings, if he couldn’t keep them under control then it was likely she would have to transfer from SG1. The hint of impropriety would be enough to ruin her career and taint her name for promotion boards and command positions. He loved her too much to do that to her.

Which was why everyone seeing him kiss Samantha was such a mess. He clapped a hand over his face briefly before he took another gulp of beer to wash away the bitter taste in his mouth. He’d just effectively done the one thing that he had spent so long trying not to do; giving fuel to the rumours that circulated the base. He knew there were some officers who already believed that Sam’s inclusion in SG1 and her promotion had been down to sexual favours. The incident with the Neanderthal virus hadn’t helped nor being stuck together in Antarctica – the jokes about sharing body heat had lasted for more than a couple of months afterwards. The rumour mill was the main reason why he hadn’t informed anyone else about the marriage between Samantha and her Jack; he’d figured the less people knew the better, but that had gotten out anyway. And then he’d kissed Samantha in full view of half of the SGC.

He hadn’t needed the silent disapproval Teal’c had levelled at him nor the dressing down Hammond had delivered in the privacy of the General’s office to figure out he’d made a huge mistake. He’d half-expected a lecture from Daniel but the younger man had seemed the most understanding, noting only as Jack had gone to find Sam that she had already left the SGC. Jack couldn’t blame her.

He drained his beer bottle. He’d thought about calling by Sam’s apartment on the way home but decided against it. She didn’t need the rumours of his truck being seen outside her place in addition to the kiss nonsense. Still, he had tried to call her and had gotten no response. It worried him. It worried him more that Daniel had called a while back and told him he couldn’t get in touch with Sam either. Jack had made reassuring noises; Sam probably just didn’t want to be disturbed or she’d gone out on her motorbike. And that probably was all it was, Jack reassured himself again. He’d talk to his Sam in the morning at the SGC about what had happened with Samantha. Clear the air; make sure their working relationship and the team dynamic hadn’t been affected.

His Sam. He had to stop thinking of her that way. Major Sam Carter wasn’t his anymore than Doctor Samantha Carter had been. He rubbed at his eyes. God knew he’d tried to move on, although he wasn’t sure one feeble date counted. He’d just have to try harder, Jack thought harshly as he stared up at the night sky. He wasn’t going to end up married to his Sam…to Carter. He ignored the dull ache of disappointment as he closed his eyes on the stars.

o-O-o

Sam snapped on the light in her lab and breathed a sigh of relief at the familiar space. She frowned at the clutter she had left because of her early exit the night before and set about clearing up the debris. An hour later, the benches were back to their usual order and Sam sat at her computer examining the plans of the generator. If they could build a version that could provide a sustainable power flow rather than a one-off power boost than they would be able to save considerable energy…a sudden shiver down her spine had her turning to the open doorway.

Jack froze. ‘Hey.’ He cleared his throat. ‘You have a minute, Carter?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam frowned as Jack closed the door behind him.

Jack took a deep breath and moved the few steps closer to her. He rested a hand on the central bench and met her eyes sheepishly. ‘I, uh, wanted to explain about yesterday, about…’ he waved his hand and his gaze slid away from hers.

Sam’s heart sank. ‘You don’t owe me any explanations, sir.’ She said crisply. ‘Your…’ she struggled to say the word, ‘relationship with Samantha wasn’t, isn’t any of my business.’

Jack’s eyes flew back to hers. ‘There was no relationship.’ He blurted out.

Sam stared back at him, startled by the ferocity of his statement.

‘Look, she…Samantha was…it was…’ Jack sighed in frustration. ‘I reminded her of her Jack, who was dead, obviously, and…look, I didn’t think…well, I thought that it would be cruel to, you know…’ his voice trailed away as he rubbed a hand through his grey hair, disturbing the strands into disarray. He couldn’t have done worse if he’d tried, he thought furious with himself.

Sam would have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so awkward. He was obviously very embarrassed about having to explain the situation but equally determined to ensure she was aware that it hadn’t meant anything; that he didn’t really want to kiss Samantha and had kissed her out of pity. Sam’s hands clenched into fists and she clasped them hurriedly behind her back. He was determined, she thought unhappily, to ensure she knew he didn’t want to kiss her; that he didn’t see her that way.

‘It’s OK, sir.’ She managed eventually, the words falling into the tense silence.

‘Is it?’ Jack asked, patting the bench absently, his brown eyes intent on hers. There had been something in her eyes, he mused, something…a tiny flame of hope flared deep within him.

‘Like I said, sir,’ Sam said briskly, trying hard to maintain her composure, ‘who you kiss really isn’t any of my business.’

The brief hope died as abruptly as it had leaped to life; Sam was definitely not interested in him. ‘OK.’ Jack took another breath. ‘I, uh, I want you to know I didn’t realise about…’

Sam couldn’t prevent the small smile. ‘I know you thought your goodbye with Samantha was a private moment, sir.’

He felt a weight lift off his chest at her words. He was relieved that she knew that he hadn’t set out to have the kiss witnessed by her and everyone else; that she knew that had been an accident. ‘I know things are going to be awkward around here because of it though so’, his gaze held hers so she could see his sincerity, ‘I’m sorry about that.’

She shrugged; she was used to the gossip and the rumours.

‘We should probably keep it completely professional around the base until the rumour mill moves onto something else.’ Jack suggested. Maybe that would help him move on, he mused sadly, being completely professional.

Sam felt her stomach lurch at the thought of no casual flirting or friendly gestures; returning to the brisk professionalism that had marked the start of their working relationship. The loss seemed staggering to her but she nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’

Jack nodded in return. He gestured back at the door. ‘I’d better…before another rumour starts.’

He took a step away from her and Sam resumed her seat at the computer.

Jack glanced back as he reached the doorway. ‘Carter.’

She turned back to look at him. He stood with one hand on the door handle ready to open it.

‘We’re OK with…this?’ His free hand waved between them. ‘Right?’ He’d had to check, had to make sure they were OK.

For a brief moment Sam wondered what he would do if she said no; whether it would make a difference if she told him how she felt…and she immediately disregarded it. She’d just embarrass him and she’d find herself transferred before the end of the sentence. ‘Right, sir. We’re OK.’

‘OK.’ Jack stepped out of the room. He hovered for a moment wondering whether to leave the door open as he had found it. Closing the door…it seemed too symbolic and he just couldn’t do it. He left it open and walked away.

fin.

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