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Fanfiction: The Wrong Timeline - Part V

For disclaimers and author's note see Part II.

 

The Wrong Timeline

Derailed Continued

Year 2006

Jack tugged on the collar of his dress shirt. He couldn’t believe Daniel had talked him into this, he thought furiously. Actually, he couldn’t believe Daniel had got Kinsey to agree to Jack attending the ceremony; the President held a grudge against Jack for pointing a gun at him years before. Jack couldn’t deny that his own anti-Aschen stance gave Kinsey a good reason for blackballing him usually even without the grudge.

He hovered in the wings by the stage out of sight and told himself he was an idiot. Daniel was twice the idiot for thinking this was a good idea. Of course, Daniel didn’t know why it wasn’t a good idea; that Jack and Sam hadn’t actually spoken to each other for two years. Not since their one incredible night together; not since they had come to the same realisation the morning after that whatever they had, they wouldn’t be able to make it work when she couldn’t believe him about the Aschen, and he couldn’t believe her.

It had hurt seeing her drive away but it had hurt more that she didn’t believe him. It hadn’t stopped him from loving her and cherishing the t-shirt she had left in his bedroom like some comfort blanket. It hadn’t stopped him drinking in news of her from letters and messages sent by Daniel, Cassie, and Teal’c like he was a thirsty man in the middle of a desert. He knew she had started dating Joe for real about six months before. Daniel had shown up in Minnesota to deliver that news personally; had stayed while Jack got steadily drunk through the day and put him to bed that night. The next morning, Jack had claimed he was fine.

What happened between the two of you?’ Daniel had asked.

Jack had hesitated over saying anything. He figured Sam had never confided in their friends about their one night together given they were all still talking to him and he hadn’t either. He didn’t want to break that strange, mutual agreement even if they had never spoken about it or actually agreed it. But he had taken a sip of the water Daniel had forced on him and answered anyway. ‘We realised we weren’t meant to be, that’s all.’

Jack had a horrible suspicion that the whole surprise Daniel had talked him into was the archaeologist’s clumsy attempt to bring the two of them together in the same place to…what? Make up? Get together? Sam was with Joe and despite Jack’s lingering hurt over her refusal to believe him, he truly wanted her to be happy. He wouldn’t interfere with that; she deserved to be happy.

The smatter of applause in the auditorium jerked Jack back to the present. He tugged on his collar again. God he hoped this was the right thing. He did want to see Sam again - he hated the way they had left things - and he really wanted to be at this ceremony.

‘And now, I have a small matter of business to attend to,’ Kinsey’s voice resounded through the speakers, ‘if I can ask Lieutenant Colonel Carter to come up here on stage.’

More applause. Jack felt his mouth dry up. It was almost his cue.

‘I’m pleased to announce the immediate promotion of Lieutenant Colonel Carter to Colonel with all the rights and privileges of that rank.’ Kinsey’s voice was almost drowned out by the crowd reaction. ‘Please if I can ask for quiet for a moment.’

Jack took a deep breath.

‘I’ve asked a very special guest to assist me. I’d like to invite retired Colonel Jack O’Neill to the stage.’

Jack stepped out into the spotlights. He ignored the crowd; barely noticed them getting to their feet, applauding, whistling, yelling their approval at a rare sighting of their hero of the Goa’uld war; at the sight of SG1 all in the same place. He barely noticed Daniel and Teal’c on their feet in the VIP chairs behind the President; his mind blocked out Faxon. His attention was on Sam as he closed the distance between them.

She was beautiful; it was his first thought. She was wearing her service blues and her posture was parade ground perfect. She had grown her hair out a little and it curled beguilingly around her face. Her shocked blue eyes met his as he came to a stop in front of her.

‘Sir.’ Sam saluted; he returned it briskly.

‘Carter.’ Breaking protocol Jack winked at her, smiling widely, hoping she would get his silent message. ‘I hope this is OK.’

She smiled back at him genuinely. ‘More than OK.’

Kinsey cleared his throat and began the formalities. Jack stood opposite Sam and watched her eyes widen on him as the Airman assisting undid the eagles on Jack’s shoulders as another undid the silver maple leafs on hers. Daniel might have arranged for his attendance but this part of the surprise was all Jack’s. The Airman handed the eagles to Jack and he stepped forward to pin them on her. He felt his heart swell with pride. He stepped back as the oath finished. Sam saluted Kinsey and turned to salute him. Jack returned the salute.

‘If I may ask Colonel Carter to say a few words.’ Kinsey directed her at the microphone. Jack followed the whispered instructions of the Airman and took the seat next to Daniel who was looking smugly happy with himself.

Sam stepped up to the lectern. She looked at ease but she glanced back over her shoulder; glanced back at Jack. He gave her an encouraging nod.

‘You’ll all have to forgive me if I seem unprepared but this has been a surprise.’ Sam smiled into the bright lights. ‘I feel very honoured and I promise to do my best to fulfil my new duties and responsibilities.’ She paused. ‘There are three men who more than other have shaped my professional life: my father, Jacob Carter, who encouraged me to pursue my dreams; the late General Hammond who took a chance on placing an astrophysicist in a frontline team and finally, Colonel O’Neill.’ She glanced at him again and smiled no doubt at the surprise on his face.

‘I’m honoured to wear the Colonel’s eagles and only hope that I wear them with the same distinction.’

Jack nodded at her in acknowledgement of her words.

Sam turned back to the front. ‘Thank you.’ She stepped back but was ushered forward by Kinsey for photos as were the rest of SG1. It was a while before the press circus completed and Jack found himself pulled along by Daniel to the reception.

Jack escaped to a balcony as soon as he could. He held an untouched scotch in his hands. He placed it on the edge of the balcony wall and rubbed his hands over his face. He figured he had to stay another twenty minutes before Daniel would accept his excuses and allow him to leave. Minnesota was calling him. He barely used the house on Colorado anymore; barely had need of it. He visited once a year around the time of Charlie’s death but he knew he could easily stay at a motel just the same. It was probably time to think about selling the house.

The balcony doors opened and Sam walked through them. They stared at each other.

‘Sorry, sir.’ Sam said formally. ‘I didn’t realise you were out here, I’ll…’

‘Close the door, Carter and pull up a chair.’ Jack waved a hand. ‘There’s plenty of room for both of us.’

‘Thank you, sir.’ Sam closed the door.

‘And for crying out loud, lose the sir.’ Jack added irritated, especially given their previous intimacy.

‘Jack.’ Sam stated out loud in response. She wandered over to the sitting area nervously. ‘You always seem to be outside at these things.’

Jack almost smiled. ‘Maybe because that’s where I belong.’ He offered her the heavy crystal glass he held to stop her from replying. ‘You want some scotch.’

‘No.’ Sam shook her head. ‘Thank you.’ She turned her face up to the sky. ‘Actually, I’m glad you’re out here, I wanted to say thank you in person.’ She looked over at him. ‘For coming and for these.’ Her fingers brushed his eagles.

Jack shrugged awkwardly. ‘I wouldn’t have missed it.’

‘Even after…’ Sam let the sentence trail away.

‘Especially after.’ Jack admitted gruffly, staring into the amber depths of his glass. He took a deep sip and let the liquid burn his throat on the way down.

‘Joe’s asked me to marry him.’ Sam blurted out.

Jack’s eyes flew to her. He was certain his heart stopped beating for a minute. ‘Oh?’

‘I haven’t said yes yet.’ Sam assured him.

‘And yet you haven’t said no.’ Jack pointed out trying to keep his own feelings out of his voice; the hurt, the desire to get on his knees and beg her not to do it.

‘I’m not sure I can stay in the military and be a…be a Mom.’ Sam admitted. Her fingers twisted together anxiously. She wasn’t looking at him.

Jack looked away. He had wondered after their night together whether she would end up pregnant. He hadn’t used any protection but he knew she had probably been on some kind of birth control.

Sam sighed. ‘I wish…’ the words escaped her lips before she could prevent it.

‘No you don’t.’ Jack refuted immediately, thinking he understood what she had been about to say. ‘You don’t wish you could believe what I do because then we would back to where we started; fighting a technologically advanced enemy we can barely hope to win against. Who wants to continue fighting forever? Risk losing people in a war?’ He raised his glass. ‘Believe me, I get it.’

‘But it still doesn’t stop you from believing what you do.’ Sam murmured. ‘And you’re never going to believe otherwise, are you?’

‘Nope.’ Jack agreed softly.

Sam looked at him. ‘Do you think we ever had a chance? If things had been different…’

‘What do you want me to say?’ He asked bluntly.

Sam shook her head. ‘I don’t know.’

They stared at each other in silence.

‘I’m going to marry Joe.’ She said eventually.

Jack grimaced. ‘Well, congratulations, Carter.’ He tossed back his drink. ‘You’ll excuse me if I decline the wedding invitation.’

‘Jack.’ Sam stopped him – a hand on his arm – as he made to walk past her and off the balcony. ‘I’m sorry. You don’t deserve…this.’ She dropped her hand and covered her face. ‘God, this is such a mess. I mean, I’m telling you before I’ve even told him.’

He stuffed his hands in his pockets to resist the temptation to reach out and comfort her; to tell her forcefully that if she was telling him first maybe that told her everything she needed to know.

‘I just…’ Sam dropped her hands and seemed to regain her composure. ‘Joe’s a good man. I want a family, Jack.’ She pressed her lips together; tears shining in her eyes. I wanted that with you.

Her words remained unspoken.

Jack sighed heavily. ‘I hope you get what you want, Carter.’ He left before she could say anything else.

He made his way through the crowd of people; he just wanted to get out, get to the nearest transporter, get to the cabin where he could drown his sorrows in private.

‘Colonel.’

Jack halted at Faxon’s voice, annoyed beyond reason. ‘What?’

‘I think we should talk.’ Joe said quietly.

His dark eyes told Jack that he hadn’t missed Sam and Jack being together alone; that he wasn’t pleased about Jack being there at all. ‘I don’t think we have anything to talk about.’ Jack retorted.

‘Sam’s a pretty important subject, wouldn’t you agree?’ Joe shot back.

Jack looked around; he could see they were starting to gather some curious looks. He forced a smile to his face. ‘Perhaps we should step into somewhere more private?’

Faxon led the way to a small ante-chamber and closed the door.

Jack remained standing; he undid the suit jacket and placed his hands on his hips. ‘What do you want to say, Faxon?’

The Ambassador drew himself up to his full height. He was a tall man but Jack was taller. ‘I want you to leave Sam alone.’

Jack’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Isn’t that Sam’s decision?’ He pointed out.

‘I don’t know what happened between the two of you and I don’t want to know, but she’s with me now.’ Joe said fiercely. ‘I’d like you to respect that.’

‘I respect Carter.’ Jack shot back. ‘And I respect that she’s made her decision.’

‘You think it was the wrong one.’ Joe deduced. ‘You think she should have chosen you.’

‘Actually, no.’ Jack said with a short laugh at how his answer disconcerted Faxon. ‘We don’t believe in the same things anymore. I wouldn’t make her happy. She knows that and I know that.’ His eyes bore into the other man’s. ‘Sam deserves to be happy.’

‘You don’t think I’ll make her happy.’ Joe surmised.

‘She thinks you’re a good guy.’ Jack said tersely.

‘But you know better?’ Joe laughed humourlessly. ‘What have I ever done besides being interested in Sam that makes you think I’m not one of the good guys?’

‘You handed Earth over to an entire alien civilisation leaving us completely defenceless against them.’ Jack snapped. ‘That a good enough reason for you?’

‘They’re an ally!’ Joe defended ferociously. ‘They’re on our side!’

‘So, they’ve never made one demand in all the time you’ve been negotiating with them that seemed unreasonable, that seemed unethical? That set your alarm bells ringing? Not even when they had us over a barrel with the war with the Goa’uld?’ Jack asked cynically.

‘No.’ Joe shot back.

Jack could see the flicker of doubt in his eyes though. He shook his head in disbelief. What did Sam see in the guy? ‘You’d better hope none of the things that just went through your head come back to bite you in the ass.’

‘Or what?’ Joe said defensively. ‘You’ll kick my butt?’

‘I won’t have to,’ Jack retorted, ‘Carter will do that all on her own.’ He stared at the other man in disgust. ‘This conversation is over.’

‘If you love her as much as I think you do,’ Joe said as Jack took a step toward the door, ‘you’ll stay away from us.’

Jack shot him a look and reached for the door handle.

‘She may wear your eagles, O’Neill, but she’s going to wear my ring – maybe not today, but soon.’ Joe warned him.

‘She may wear my eagles,’ Jack said calmly, his eyes glittering with a warning many a Goa’uld would have recognised, ‘and she may decide to wear your ring but Carter doesn’t belong to anyone but Carter.’ He smirked at him. ‘You still don’t get that, do you, Joe?’

Joe flushed.

Jack shook his head and walked out. He steamed across the lobby, more desperate than ever to get out.

Daniel was waiting by the exit. ‘Well, you’re not bleeding.’

‘Neither is he.’ Jack snapped. He tugged at his tie, loosening it.

‘You want to get a drink?’ Daniel asked mildly.

Jack shook his head. ‘I just want to get home.’ He looked back into the hotel. ‘She’s going to marry him.’

Daniel sighed and patted Jack’s shoulder consolingly. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘So am I.’ Jack said sadly; regret crowding in. His heart clenched at the thought of Sam with someone else. He wanted her to be happy; wanted her to have that family she craved. He wanted her to have that with him. But it was never going to happen. Never. ‘So am I.’ He repeated tiredly.

o-O-o

Year 2010

Jack placed the package on the seat beside him; he recognised Cassie’s handwriting. He took a moment to cast a line and take a sip of his beer before he balanced the rod and reached for it wondering what Cassie had sent him. He ripped through the brown wrapping and tossed away the lid of the plain white box.

He picked up the photo frame and opened up the note.

Jack,

I found the photo in my old stuff and thought it would be a good present to commemorate the anniversary. Sorry I won’t be there in person to help you celebrate but you know me and crowds.

Love, Cassie, x.’

Jack’s warm brown gaze swept over the picture; SG1, Hammond, Janet and Cassie altogether. He remembered the day fondly. It had been before they had met the Aschen, when they had still been a team in every sense of the word instead of a bond that was fading with every year; when Hammond had believed they could win every battle; when Jack had still had hope of someday with Sam. It would have been good to have seen her despite their history – seen them all at the ten year anniversary celebration but he doubted whether he would have gone even if he had been invited. He snorted. His invitation presumably had gotten lost in the post.

Jack picked up his beer. He would stay at the cabin. It had become sanctuary. It had given him a place to forget about the outside world where the Aschen touched everything. He glanced behind him as though half-expecting to see Sam walk around the corner of his cabin. He shook his head. Lately, it had seemed like he was waiting for something; that he was expecting something to happen. He shook away his musings with a grimace.

He picked up the fishing line…maybe he should think about getting a dog.

o-O-o

Teal’c examined the brown package with a frown. Rak’nor had brought it with him from Abydos and Teal’c recognised Cassandra’s writing.

‘Are you not going to open it, Husband?’ Drey’auc teased as he continued to hold it with suspicion.

Teal’c shot her a disgruntled look and she smiled at him sweetly.

‘Don’t forget we have to leave for Rya’c’s in a few minutes. I want to see the new baby.’ Drey’auc said firmly, leaning down and kissing his forehead before she went outside. He carefully undid the wrapping and set it aside. The box opened to reveal a picture. He picked up the handwritten note and read it. He nodded understandingly. Cassie wouldn’t be at the ten year anniversary celebrations so she had sent a gift.

He picked up the photo. His features softened with pleasure. The day the photo had been taken remained a fond memory in Teal’c’s mind; the General reinstated, SG1 winning against the Marines.

A good day.

So much time had passed, Teal’c thought. His dark eyes drifted around his home on Chulak. It was more than he had ever hoped for back then. It would be good to see the others, he mused. His duties on Chulak rarely allowed him the convenience of travelling to Earth when he wanted. He wondered if O’Neill would be there and decided the ex-military leader would not attend. O’Neill had made his feelings about the Aschen clear and Teal’c could not help wondering if O’Neill would one day be proven correct in his fears.

His eyes ran over his other team-mates. It would be good to see Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson again. Perhaps Doctor Fraiser would also attend.

‘Teal’c!’

Drey’auc’s call reminded him he had to leave. Teal’c set the photo aside and got up. He would have plenty of time to reminisce with his friends later.

o-O-o

‘Here.’ Cassie thrust the package into Daniel’s hands. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Daniel frowned at her. ‘What is it?’

‘Nothing bad.’ Cassie assured him, grinning. ‘Got to go.’ She gestured at the open wormhole behind her.

Daniel waved her through. ‘Enjoy your day with Sam and say hi to your Mom for me.’

Cassie kissed him on the cheek and with a final flurry of motion bounded into the blue horizon.

‘She has spirit, no?’ Skaara said grinning.

‘Spirit.’ Daniel nodded. ‘Yes, I suppose you could call it that.’

‘Are you not going to open her present to you, Daniel?’ Skaara tapped the gaily wrapped package.

Daniel undid it, dropping the paper onto the ground where Skaara picked it up with an exasperated sigh.

‘What is it?’ Skaara asked curious.

His brother-in-law held out the picture. ‘It was taken ten years ago.’

‘Ah.’ Skaara nodded. ‘She gives it to you to celebrate an anniversary, no?’

‘That’s right.’ Daniel shook his head. ‘It feels like yesterday. We all look so young.’ He laughed lightly. ‘Just after this picture was taken, we, I mean SG1, took on a team of Marines at a ball game. We won. Janet told me once that Cassie wouldn’t believe that SG1 would ever lose.’

Skaara patted his shoulder and handed him the photo back. ‘Cassie knows you are heroes and I agree with her.’

Daniel frowned. ‘I thought you two had stopped hero-worshipping us years ago. I mean, we’re not perfect. We do make mistakes.’ His worst had cost his wife, Skaara’s sister, her life.

‘We know that, Daniel,’ Skaara said waving the paper Daniel had dropped at him. ‘But if you make a mistake you work hard to correct it.’

Daniel nodded and with a knowing smile held out his hand for the paper he had littered on the floor of the pyramid.

Skaara grinned at him and handed it over. ‘See.’

The archaeologist couldn’t help smiling back. He slung an arm around the young man’s shoulders and they walked out into the blinding Abydos sunshine. Daniel only hoped all mistakes were so easily cleaned up.

o-O-o

Sam opened her front door and caught the young woman waiting in a tight hug. ‘Cassie!’

‘Hey, need to breathe here.’ Cassie smiled at Sam’s chiding look as the older woman stepped back. ‘It’s great to see you. You look wonderful.’ Her eyes admired the new designer suit that brought out the blue in Sam’s eyes as they walked through to a stylish sitting room and sat down.

‘Thank you.’ Sam grinned back at her. She waved a hand at the jeans and practical work shirt that Cassie wore; the curly brown hair caught in a ponytail. ‘You look like you just got back from a dig.’

‘I’ve been with Daniel on Abydos.’ Cassie explained. ‘He’s found this Ancient tablet which he thinks could lead to the lost city of Atlantis.’

‘Sounds exciting.’ Sam said. ‘You’ll have to tell me all about it.’

The girly afternoon tea they had planned passed quickly with Cassie filling Sam in on the wonders of her dig; her continuing studies and her rather fraught love life. Tom apparently had been dumped for Kyle but Cassie wasn’t certain it was going to last.

Sam laughed as they finished the last of the cake. She suddenly reached across and squeezed Cassie’s hand. ‘I’m so glad you came today.’

Cassie nodded, her eyes dimming. ‘I’m sorry about next week.’

‘It’s no big deal.’ Sam dismissed her apology with a quick smile.

‘It is a big deal.’ Cassie corrected. ‘SG1 being honoured for meeting the Aschen ten years ago? That’s a big deal.’

‘OK,’ Sam allowed, ‘it is a big deal.’ She smiled understandingly. ‘But I know you hate these types of things.’

‘I guess Jack’s not going to attend either.’ Cassie surmised.

Sam sat back at the mention of the Colonel. ‘I don’t know.’ She replied honestly.

‘He said he wasn’t going to be in town when I asked.’ Cassie said gently.

‘You spoke to him?’ Sam tried not to seem eager for news but some of her zeal must have shown in her eyes because Cassie rolled hers.

‘You could talk to him yourself.’ Cassie pointed out.

Sam shrugged. Jack had made it clear that he didn’t want to talk to her. He hadn’t since the day he had given her the eagles. He’d sent a beautiful gift of a crystal Stargate as a wedding present – Sam had it in her personal study – and a message wishing her well. She had taken it for what it was; a goodbye. ‘How is he?’

Cassie’s eyes narrowed as though she was going to argue about it but she sighed instead. ‘He’s Jack.’ She rubbed her nose. ‘He’s getting more like a grumpy old hermit every time I see him.’

‘He’s not that old.’ Sam chided her without thinking.

‘You still love him.’ Cassie observed.

Sam flushed; her pale skin telegraphing her unease more graphically than anything else. ‘Cassie.’ Her blue eyes flashed a warning for Cassie to drop the subject.

‘I’m not saying you don’t love Joe too.’ Cassie defended picking up the ginger ale she had opted for and taking a sip. She fiddled with the straw. ‘I’m just saying you still love Jack.’

‘I’ll always love Jack, and Daniel, and Teal’c.’ Sam tried a smile. ‘And you and your Mom. We were all part of something very special.’

‘I don’t mean that kind of love.’ Cassie said seriously. She held up a hand as Sam went to deny everything again. ‘Please. I’m not a little girl anymore and I…I hope we’re friends. Why not confide in me?’

Sam sighed heavily. ‘Jack and I haven’t talked about us with anyone, Cassie, because we don’t want to put our friends in the middle.’

Cassie raised an eyebrow and Sam was reminded of Teal’c. ‘We’re already in the middle.’ She pointed out. ‘You ask about him; he asks about you. You think Daniel, Teal’c and I don’t know why you two are estranged?’

It was the truth and Sam squirmed a little. Maybe she and Jack owed the others an apology. ‘Cassie, that’s not the only reason I don’t talk about.’ She admitted finally. Her eyes dropped to hide the pain in them.

‘Tell me.’ Cassie encouraged.

Sam sighed as she realised Cassie wasn’t going to drop the subject or be satisfied with half-truths or evasions. ‘A part of me will always love Jack, Cassie.’ She confessed honestly. She was surprised at the relief of saying it out loud; she had never spoken about her feelings for Jack with anyone before. Not really even Jack, Sam realised with some chagrin.

‘What went wrong?’ Cassie asked gently, stirring the melting ice-cubes in her glass with the straw.

‘Time.’ Sam responded with a sad smile. ‘We drifted apart without knowing it.’ She bit her lip. ‘We ended up believing different things.’

‘About the Aschen?’ Cassie queried, her eyes alive with interest.

‘Yes.’ Sam traced the edge of the plate on her lap.

‘Why don’t you believe him?’ Cassie asked surprising Sam into looking at with astonishment.

‘You believe him?’ Sam asked incredulously.

Cassie waved her straw at Sam. ‘It’s not about what I believe,’ she said firmly, ‘I’m asking why you don’t believe Jack. I mean, you guys always believed in each other.’

‘Not always.’ Sam contradicted. ‘All of us often had very different opinions about everything.’ She smiled sadly as she put her plate on the coffee table and rubbed her arms. ‘It was one of the reasons why we worked as a team.’

‘You still haven’t answered the question.’ Cassie pointed out.

Sam shot her a look. ‘You’ve been spending too much time with Daniel.’

‘Sam.’

‘OK, OK.’ Sam sighed. ‘I don’t know where to begin to explain this.’

Cassie gestured at her. ‘How about at the beginning?’

‘The beginning?’ Sam smiled. ‘Well, in the beginning, we all agreed. When the Colonel raised concerns about the Aschen after the first negotiation, all of us supported him. From our perspective, they’d asked for far too little in exchange for what they were offering us.’

‘So what changed your mind?’ Cassie frowned confused.

‘They answered our questions and we couldn’t find any evidence to prove they were lying or being distrustful.’ Sam shrugged. ‘And then the Colonel was excluded from the negotiations and Kinsey got involved. I just thought he was continuing to worry because of that. The Aschen were being true to their word; they were delivering everything they said they would.’

‘And then the war started.’ Cassie murmured.

Sam’s eyes dimmed. ‘Yes. And then the war started.’ She got to her feet and paced the rug in front of the fireplace. ‘The Colonel assigned Daniel and I to the Aschen homeworld; he and Teal’c went out to the frontlines.’ She stopped and fiddled with an ornament on the mantel-piece. ‘He was protecting us, I think.’

‘But you worked side by side with the Aschen while he battled the Goa’uld.’ Cassie said softly.

‘Yes.’ Sam said. ‘The Colonel never really got the chance to know the Aschen like we did. When he got home the war was over and the world had changed; we had agreed to the Alliance.’

‘Jack says we should never have allowed them so much access to Earth.’ Cassie stated.

‘Because he still didn’t trust them; he hadn’t worked with them and seen the hours and the effort they put in to winning the war.’ Sam pointed out. ‘He thinks they’ve asked for this access so at some unknown point in the future, when they attack us and we’ll be defenceless.’

‘But you don’t think they’ll ever attack?’ Cassie realised out loud.

‘They’ve had plenty of time to attack, Cassie.’ Sam pointed out. ‘They’ve been here six years. I can’t help feeling that if they were going to do it they would have done it already.’

‘It doesn’t worry you that all the technology now is Aschen? That they hold a lot of the high ranking offices?’ Cassie asked. ‘That every workplace has an Aschen overseer?’ She tapped her fingers. ‘Maybe they don’t need to attack; we’ve already given them complete control without them firing a shot.’

‘Cassie, that’s not true.’ Sam argued. ‘We share that control with them as friends.’

‘Isn’t it?’ Cassie gestured with the straw. ‘I spend most of my time off-world, Sam, and every time I come back, it’s like the Earth you first brought me to is a little bit more Aschen.’

‘I’ve never seen any evidence that they’ve lied to us, Cassie, or that their motivations weren’t good.’ Sam rejoined.

Cassie looked at her and sighed. ‘I’m beginning to understand why you and Jack aren’t together.’

Sam laughed and she walked back to the sofa. She sat down. ‘I hope one day the Colonel and I will get past it and be friends again.’

‘I’m not sure Joe will like that.’ Cassie said unthinkingly. She saw Sam’s startled look. ‘Sorry.’ She waved her straw. ‘It’s just…you have to know they don’t like each other.’

Sam nodded unhappily. ‘I know.’ She figured it was one of the reasons why Jack had stopped talking to her; bad enough that she didn’t believe him but to marry Joe, who in many ways was his antithesis?

‘So how are things with you and Joe?’ Cassie asked. ‘You enjoying your retirement from the military?’ Sam had left the Air Force when she had married the Ambassador.

Sam smiled at her gratefully. ‘Things are good.’ She leaned towards the young woman conspiratorially. ‘You have to promise not to tell?’

Cassie made a sweeping cross across her heart.

‘I think I might finally be pregnant.’ Sam confided. Her hand drifted to her abdomen and hovered protectively.

‘Oh, Sam!’ Cassie’s eyes lit up. ‘That’s great!’

‘I haven’t had an official test yet.’ Sam warned her. ‘But I really think this time it might happen for us.’

‘I’ll keep my fingers crossed and don’t worry I won’t say a word to anyone, not even Mom.’ Cassie promised. She glanced at the clock. ‘Speaking of whom, I’d better get going. She’s expecting me.’

They got to their feet and walked back out to the front door. Sam hugged Cassie goodbye.

‘We should do this more often. I miss you.’ Sam said.

‘Me too.’ Cassie agreed. She stepped forward to open the door and suddenly stopped, slapping herself on the forehead. ‘I almost forgot.’

‘What?’ Sam laughed.

‘Your present.’ Cassie hunted in the oversize bag she carried and pulled out a brightly wrapped package. ‘I found it the other day and thought, you know, with the anniversary and everything, it was just fantastically appropriate.’

‘What is it?’ Sam asked curious.

‘Open it later and see.’ Cassie said. She kissed Sam on the cheek and disappeared through the door.

Sam wandered through the house and into her study. The videophone rang as she entered the room and she hurried to answer it, leaving the present on the edge of the desk. She smiled as Joe’s face appeared.

‘Hi.’ Joe waved at her through the video. ‘I just wanted to let you know I’m running late. I might stay over here; the negotiations on the anti-cancer vaccine are taking longer than we thought with the British.’

‘OK.’ Sam nodded.

‘How was your tea with Cassie?’ Joe asked. ‘That was today wasn’t it?’

‘Yeah,’ she smiled again, appreciative that he always seemed interested in her day, ‘it was good. She’s well; enjoying life on Abydos.’

‘And is there any other news?’ Joe hinted.

Sam pressed her lips together. ‘So far, so good.’ She said guardedly.

Joe nodded. ‘I think it’s time for the test, Sam.’

‘Not yet.’ Sam shook her head. ‘I want to wait a while longer just in case.’

‘Sam…’

‘Joe, please.’ Sam touched the screen gently. ‘Give me a week?’

‘OK.’ Joe smiled at her. ‘You’re the boss, honey. Love you.’

‘Love you.’

The screen blinked out.

Sam stretched and sat down in the leather chair. Her hands drifted down to lie over her tummy. Was there a child growing inside of her? She hoped so. She was over a month late but she knew that didn’t mean anything; her cycle was so irregular. They had already had quite a few false alarms. She wasn’t certain she could take another disappointment; wondered if Joe could. He wanted children as much as she did.

She sighed and reached for the phone to make an appointment with an Aschen doctor for the following week. The phone clattered into the cradle when she finished the call. She pushed the chair back and stood up. She wandered over to the crystal Stargate in the window. It was a stunning piece of artwork. She loved it. Her fingers traced over the circle and the seven engraved symbols; Earth’s home address. Jack’s message to her had been simple. ‘For all the times you brought us home.’ She hadn’t been completely truthful with Cassie earlier, she realised. They hadn’t always agreed but he had always believed in her; they had always believed in each other. She wondered when they had stopped. Maybe when SG1 had stopped existing.

For the first time in a long time, Sam found herself considering whether Jack was right. Were the Aschen just waiting for the right time to attack? They looked at everything so much more long term than humans. She frowned and pushed the thought away. Cassie had gotten to her, Sam mused ruefully. All the talk of the Aschen taking over without a single shot fired. She shook herself a little. There was no evidence, she reminded herself. She picked up the crystal and turned it over in her hands, her mind drifting back to the moment Daniel had handed over the package to her…

It had been the night before her wedding. She and Joe had decided to be traditional and spend the night apart; Daniel had stayed over at her house. She’d had second and third thoughts if she was honest. She had babbled most of the evening at Daniel; about the wedding preparations, about anything and everything but what was on her mind.

Sam.’ Daniel had finally stopped her. He had taken her cold hands in his. ‘What’s wrong?’

Nothing.’ Sam shook her head. ‘Everything.’

You know,’ Daniel said hesitantly, ‘it’s not too late if you want to call it off.’

I love Joe.’ She said shocked. She stared at him. ‘Do you think I should call it off?’

Only you know the answer to that.’ Daniel said gently, his blue eyes gleaming with nothing but kindness.

Sam gave a shaky laugh. ‘I’m fine. Ignore me. It’s just…nerves, I guess. I mean this is a big step.’

Daniel got up and walked over to his bag. ‘Jack asked me to give you this.’

Sam carefully unwrapped it. ‘Wow. It’s beautiful.’ She read the card and smiled sadly. She put the gift down and walked over to the fireplace. ‘Do you think he could be right about the Aschen?’

Daniel looked at her in surprise. ‘There’s always a chance, I guess.’

But you don’t think so?’ Sam asked persistently.

Do I think the Aschen are planning some violent attack against us when we’re least suspecting?’ Daniel shook his head. ‘No. It’s not their style. Do I think Jack is wrong to distrust them? Well, that’s who he is. I mean, it’s not in his nature to trust anyone easily.’

He said once that I didn’t want to believe him because then we would be back to where we started; back to fighting a war and losing people.’ Sam murmured.

Was he right?’ Daniel asked curious.

Maybe.’ Sam admitted honestly. ‘We lost so many people, Daniel.’

And we almost lost Jack.’ Daniel said softly.

Sam looked over at him sharply. He and Teal’c had been witness to how frantic she had been when Jack had been captured by Ba’al, how upset. ‘We brought him home.’ She murmured, walking back over to her gift…

Sam frowned. She shook herself a little. She didn’t know why she was thinking about this again. She didn’t believe the Aschen were plotting against them and if she found evidence they were – well, she would be the first to apologise to Jack. She placed the crystal back in its place. Her eyes caught on the package on the desk and she smiled.

She had forgotten about the present from Cassie. She undid the bow and slid a finger under the sticky tape. All their technological advances, she thought with amusement and packaging hadn’t gotten any better. She pulled the present free of the wrapping. Her eyes alighted with pleasure at the silver frame and the picture within.

Her hand went to her hair as she registered the style in the photo. She was due for a cut; maybe it was time for a change. It kind of appealed to have the same haircut she had sported ten years before for the anniversary. Her gaze swept over the image of her and Jack standing so closely together, arms around each other, and landed on General Hammond. She still missed the older man so much. She sighed and set the photo in pride of place on her desk.

Her hand smoothed back over her abdomen. She wanted a child badly. Sam had been worried that she was unable to conceive but the Aschen doctors had been clear that she was fine. It was just a matter of trying and waiting.

Just a matter of time.

fin.


 

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