The heavy footfalls on the metallic platform were a welcome sound as they finally made it back through the Stargate.
"Thank you, thank you," Jack joked, his hands up as if shielding himself from photographers. "I know I look fabulous."
Sam shook her head, fighting a giggle as they walked their way to Terra Firma and passed her zat gun to the waiting SF.
"Welcome back, SG1. Fashion aside," Hammond smiled, "Mission accomplished?"
"Yes sir," Sam answered. "We were able to retrieve the device and find Gna. In 1983."
"Bitchin' year, General, I think you'll agree."
"1983..." the General shook his head. Despite their occasional dealings with alternate universes and the fun they always brought with them, it was the time travel aspect of the job that always baffled him. "Okay, clean up and we'll debrief in one hour."
"Permission to keep the mullet, sir?"
Hammond gave him a look over, fighting a smirk, "Denied, Colonel."
"Aww c'mon! The pastel suit?" He rolled the sleeves further up his arms.
"Shoot. Carter just wore her own gear, I feel an injustice."
"Hey!" she laughed. She had been assigned a rocker vibe for the expedition and just happened to have a wardrobe full of available leather.
"One hour," Hammond grinned. "Good job, SG1."
Sam and Jack fell into step on their way to the lockers. "So, I never asked, was this you in the 80s?"
He looked down, happy to actually get out of the scratchy fabric and into his BDUs. The 80s had terrible fashion. "No, I was in black ops for most of it, so this look thankfully passed me by. Tried the Richard Gere look a few times though, Sara had a thing."
Sam bit her cheek, an image flashing suddenly in her mind.
"What about you? Other than the make-up this seems pretty natural."
"Oh, I was in high school in the 80s so not quite."
"God, you're so young! I forget sometimes."
Their wasn't a hint of condescension in his voice, if anything it was jealousy. "Sorry about that," she grinned. "I was more jeans and a tee and trying to get noticed by Todd Brindle."
"Trying to get noticed?"
"Oh, he thought he was way out of my league."
"No, I'm just trying to imagine a scenario where someone doesn't notice you." They were stopped outside the women's locker room and she had to to fight the blush rising. He had that smirk and twinkle in his eyes, despite the mullet that she couldn't take seriously. "And Todd sounds like an ass."
"Oh he was. Good kisser though." She had her own smirk and turned for the door, "See you in an hour, sir."
The debrief was lengthy, with Jack feeling like he was rehashing every minute of the expedition in real time. Sam went in to detail about the trip back in time (bumpy), the retrieval of the device (easier than expected), who they had encountered (no one famous) and how they had then made the transfer to Gna as planned (piece of cake).
They were finally bade exit after nightfall when the indefatigable Carter was trying to swallow yawns. Jack followed her to the parking lot and waved goodnight, her Volvo peeling out into the dark.
It was only when Carter pulled up at her home that any metaphorical alarms bells began to ring.
There were lights on.
More than that: a kid's bike was propped against the porch, an SUV was parked in the driveway and her mail box now stated 'McMatthews'.
She looked up and the down the street but nothing else seemed out of place. She wasn't exactly head of the neighborhood watch but she knew her neighbors' cars and what was normal behaviour. She was tired but this was definitely her house, except...
She scrambled for the cell phone on the passenger seat and dialled Jack. "O'Neill."
"Sir, I don't..."
"Carter? Everything okay?"
"I'm not sure, Sir. Is everything... normal at your place?"
"Not there yet, just stopped off for groceries. What's going on?"
"Someone's in my house... but it doesn't look like my house?"
"Carter, I'm gonna need more than that."
She explained about the bike and car, the new name on the mailbox.
"Head over to mine, I'll be there in five and well figure this out."
She did as told and pulled up just as he was unloading grocery bags from the back of the truck. She hefted one under her arm and followed him into his house. "And you've, you know, paid your bills. They didn't sell it on?"
"Yes, everything was paid," she would have given him a swat if she could have. "Is everything the same here?"
He looked around his kitchen, opening the fridge to find just butter and a six pack, "Seems it. Beer?"
Her voice was coming from the main room so he followed, twisting the caps off two bottles and holding one out as he followed her eyeline.
She was stood in front of the fireplace and staring at a photograph. "Well, that's new."
"And me. In Hawai'i. I've never been to Hawai'i."
She dragged her eyes away to look at him dumbfounded. He was focusing on the Hawaiian beach and not the fact they were kissing? In swimwear?
He put the bottle on the side and looked for more changes. Now he looked, it was... nicer? Homelier. There was a throw against the sofa, a plant in the corner and science tomes mixed in to his bookcase. He went through the house, Sam on his heels, to find two toothbrushes and hairspray in his bathroom, her Indian next to his bike in the garage and... He lifted it out by the straps and held the white lace lingerie against his chest that was in place of his socks. "Um..."
She felt the blush rise on her chest at the darkening of his eyes.
"Well, this isn't mine...?"
"I think we messed up back in time. Would you put that down, please?"
He scrunched it up into a ball and slammed the drawer shut, "Right."
"Oh god, what else is different? What did we do?" She pulled her phone out of pocket to look up various recent events but automatically brought up her text messages, and what she saw made her sit on the bed in shock.
"What is it?"
Her eyes were sparkling but the colour had drained from her face. She hit a button and a dial tone sounded from the speaker. "Hey Sam! When did you get back?"
"Janet..." She breathed, her eyes never leaving Jack's.
"Yeah. YOU called ME, honey," Janet laughed. "Wait, did you butt-dial me?"
"Talk to her," Jack whispered, sliding down next to her on the bed.
"Hi. Er, hi Janet."
"... Hi. Sam, are you feeling okay? Did the, er, TRIP go okay?"
"Yeah, erm, mostly. ...It's good to hear your voice."
"Honey, you're scaring me now, what's going on? Do you want me to come over?"
Sam looked to Jack unsure of what to say, he nodded. "Could you?"
"Of course. I'm on my way."
"Thank you. Oh! Er, I'm at Colonel O'Neill's."
Janet hung up and Sam was just staring at her phone. "Something we did brought her back to life. Brought Janet back to life."
"Is that not a good thing? I mean..."
"For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction, right?"
"...so if this is a good thing, there's a bad thing that's happened?"
"How do we do find out?"
“There isn't a lot we can do. There isn't a cosmic tally chart we can consult.”
“We should start one.”
She ran her fingers through her hair and heaved out a breath, leaning over to rest her elbows into her thighs. She felt nauseous.
“Carter, bottom line, can we go back to what we-when we were or is this us now?”
“I...don't know. We're in the right time, we haven't changed universes or realities, we just did something when we went back in time that altered the present.”
“What could we have done?”
“It could be anything. There's literally millions of possibilities.”
He scratched the back of his neck, “I need a drink.”
She agreed and followed him back to the living room, both quickly downing their foregone beers as Jack poured them a healthy amount of scotch. He poured a third also, feeling Janet would be needing one after their conversation.
Sam's eyes were drawn again to the fireplace, to the beach picture. Her in a bikini, arms around a topless Jack and laughing into their kiss. They were stood in clear blue ocean, beautiful green mountains behind them that she recognised from countless daydreams through travel brochures. She looked happy; happier than she had in a long time.
“How?” he asked, breaking her from her reverie. “How can..we...be together?
She couldn't answer, could just take a decent slug of the whisky and revel in the burn down her throat. She was saved from answering by the knock on the door. She turned to look at it but hadn't made a step.
Jack wrapped his hand over her shoulder, squeezing to urge her forward. He was a step behind when she finally moved and pulled on the top of the door after she had twisted the handle.
“Hey,” Janet smiled.
She was there, she was actually stood on the step. Her hair was long and dark, touching her shoulders and she was just as tiny as Sam remembered. “Hi.”
Janet's face dropped as she saw tears sparkling in her friend's eyes. “What's going on?” she asked, stepping forward to envelope her in a hug. She silently questioned Jack, but he was staring at her as dumbstruck as Sam had. “Okay, I really need one of you to start talking.”
“Come on through,” Jack said, touching Sam's arm. He lead them to the living room and passed Janet the scotch as she sat on a chair, he and Sam taking the couch. All were sat forward, arms and elbows resting on their thighs.
Janet looked between her two friends, her mind concocting a hundred possible dire scenarios but likely none accurate. “Who's first?”
Jack and Sam looked to each other before looking back, “Okay, the mission we were just on?” Sam began. “It didn't go according to plan.”
“Apparently,” Jack added.
“We... did something that changed, well, time.”
“We all knew it was a possibility, but we were careful-”
“-But everything's different now.”
Janet swallowed, searching their eyes for any sign it was an elaborate prank. “Different how?”
“Well, for one, we seem to be...together. The Colonel and I.”
Janet took a large gulp of scotch, “Okay. Everything in me is saying I should be checking you two over for concussions, but I'll play along because you've never lied to me, and hell, the jobs we have mean you could be telling the truth anyway...” She took a breath, “You're married.”
“Married?” Jack squeaked.
The way Jack knocked back his drink was beginning to convince Janet that maybe they weren't trying to pull the wool over her eyes.
“How? I mean...” Sam's eyes were wide. “How?”
Janet smiled, “You fought tooth and bloody nail.”
“And we're on the same SG team?”
“Not quite. Sam's the lead of SG1, and the Colonel, to use his own words, is 'a floater'. You're rarely with SG1 and go where the need is between all of the teams.”
He could just about see that work. Maybe. He took a swig of his scotch and saw Sam thread her hands through her hair. Janet was watching them sceptically. Hell, he had to ask. “Can I as-... I had a son...?”
Sam's eyes snapped to look at him but he was firmly staring at Janet. The dark look that clouded over the doctor's features told him everything he needed. He excused himself, Sam jerking in her seat to follow but seeing the small shake of his head.
“Gunshot?” Sam whispered. She wanted to go to him, but what could she say? She heard the door click shut.
Janet nodded. “You're really telling me the truth here aren't you? What else has changed?”
She heaved a heavy sigh before turning back to her. “You.”
“You got hit by a Jaffa staff blast off-world two years ago. You died.”
Janet stared until she remembered she had alcohol in her hand. She coughed a little when she downed the lot, “That would explain some things.”
“Cassie?” Sam asked, her fingers intertwining around the glass.
“At her friend's.”
“Good,” she said, relieved.
“You're really not together? In your time?”
Her cheeks coloured, “It's complicated.”
“That's a shame. You're good together. And fought so hard to get it.”
Sam downed her drink and refilled both hers and Jack's, gesturing to Janet's that she held out. “I never even thought how weird this must be for you. You've lost your me. You seemed close from what I saw of your texts.”
“Oh, I'm not nearly drunk enough to work that one out yet.”
Sam grinned, “God, I've missed you.”
“Is he going to be alright?” Janet smiled warmly.
Sam looked down the darkened hallway, “He will be.”
“Do you have any other questions?”
“You, Daniel, Teal'c and Major Martinez.”
“Good guy though.”
“Daniel and Teal'c weren't on the base...”
“Daniel got called urgently to Chicago, something about an exhibit. Teal'c's off world with his son.”
“Is he married yet?”
Her eyebrows rose, “Teal'c?”
“Ry'ac,” Sam smiled.
“What about you?”
“Married? God, no. Chief Medical Officer, Mom, single. Listen,” she stole a look down the hallway. “We can catch up anytime, you should go to him.”
Sam nodded, her features turning dark. “I'll talk to you tomorrow?”
“Of course. I'll see you at the Mountain.”
Sam followed her to the door, “Thanks for coming over.” They hugged again and Sam closed the door, twisting the lock and placing her hand flat against the wood.
This day was causing a giant headache. How did she comfort him? As the Sam she is, or Sam the wife? She felt the decision stretching her inside.
She gently rapped on his bedroom door, waiting for a sound that never came. She looked back to the living area and wondered if she should just leave him with his grief, but...
She pushed gently and it clicked open; he was sat on the far side of the bed, silhouetted beneath the window. He had a photograph of Charlie in his hand when she sat next to him. “Sir, I'm sorry, I didn't think to ask if-”
“It's fine,” he said with more force than he meant. He scraped a hand over his hair and to his neck. “I'm sorry. Janet gone?”
“Any idea how to fix this yet?”
He nodded, his head still ducked. She wanted to touch him, smooth her hand down his back to his knee, maybe rest her head on his shoulder, just comfort him in any way possible. “Guess we might as well turn in then.”
She swallowed through the ache, curled her hands into fists on her thigh. “Do you have any spare sheets?”
“Hall cupboard. You can take the bed though.”
“Couch is fine.” She placed her hands on his shoulder, squeezed gently. “Goodnight, sir.”
She closed the door behind her and padded back through the hall, taking a set of sheets and a few blankets from the cupboard on the way. She made up the couch and then realised she was still in her jeans and sweatshirt from leaving the base. She contemplated just removing her jeans but that did not seem a wise option when sleeping at your CO-come-apparent-husband's house for the first time...
“Um, sir?” she gently tapped at his door again. He appeared wearing just sweatpants, wrestling his arms through a tee shirt and she felt her cheeks almost instantly color. “I'm sorry to disturb you, but, er, I think I may have some clothes to sleep in in here?”
“Right, yeah,” he opened the door wider for her to enter.
“Thanks. Any idea where?”
Well, not the top drawers, that much Jack knew. He stepped forward and tried the long drawer below it. “These?” He held out a pair of grey yoga pants.
“Sure. Is there a tee in there?”
“No... but I can lend you one?”
That sounded like a bad idea but she wasn't really in a position to refuse. “Please. If that's okay?” Her shoulders were up by her ears and he wasn't sure if he had ever seen her look more uncomfortable.
He opened another drawer and pulled the top tee out, passing her the grey shirt with a faded Cubs logo on the front.
“Thank you, sir. That's great. Good night, sir.”
There was already coffee on when he got out the shower. It took him a moment to remember that there was someone else there because, other than the new addition of conditioner and hair spray in his bathroom, nothing was out of place in his room. He quickly changed into dark blue BDU pants and black tee, scrubbed the towel over his hair some more and ventured into the hallway.
She was in the kitchen, socked feet and the yoga pants and (his) oversized tee combo with messy hair and a quizzical look on her face. He watched as she opened and closed cupboard doors in search of something before taking a second and choosing another, finding the mugs in a completely different place to where he had them. His brow pinched before he realised – that was where she would and had put them. His wife. His wife Samantha Carter.
He wondered if he as her husband would have crept up behind her, wrapped his arms around her and whispered good morning into her neck. Would they – did they – dance around each other in a morning, sharing one cup of coffee and bumping hips to get the other's attention with a mouthful of breakfast? Did she give him a toast-crumbed kiss goodbye and tell him a crossword answer before she left?
He felt a pull of nostalgia and something else deep in his chest.
“Morning,” she smiled at the random angles his hair was drying into and poured him a cup from the coffee machine. “Did you sleep?”
“Not really.” She turned so her back leant against the counter. Wrapping both hands around the mug and crossing her ankles, she looked at ease considering this wasn't her kitchen. Technically. “I need to get to my lab to work this out.”
He sat down at the table, “We'll need to see Hammond first.”
“That's going to be a fun conversation.”
“Hey George, so we screwed up and changed the present. Our bad.”
She bit back a smirk.
“Do you think...”
She ducked her head slightly to gesture him to continue.
“I don't know, I mean...” he got up and mirrored her pose against the counter. “Could this be karma? The universe has realised it screwed up killing Janet and decided we...need a break and don't have to...deny it any more?”
She swallowed, her eyes locked on his. “Sir...”
That one word told him everything he needed to know. “Right. No cosmic tally sheet.”
How did she say that she had spent the sleepless night trying to work out if she wanted to fix this, forget if she could. That a large part of her just wanted to be able to be with him and be at the SGC, but it was all too sudden and too unbelievable to be true. Surely. Surely?
“There's towels in the hallway cupboard,”
he hooked a thumb over his shoulder and poured more coffee, stalking past her and to the other room.
Her mouth moved to form words but nothing came out. She screwed her eyes shut in frustration at herself and went for a shower.
The bathroom smelled like him. A spicy musk from his shower gel hung in the humid, damp air and it made something flutter deep in her stomach that she would deny was desire. She quickly showered and washed her hair, helpfully finding all her favourite products in the mirrored cupboard with her hairdryer.
She wasn't too sure where her clothes were so tried a few drawers in the chest, slamming shut both the drawer that contained the lingerie and the one next to it with his underwear.
She was cautious about going back into the kitchen, but the trepidation in her steps was unwarranted. He gestured to the TV, "Cubs still suck. Why couldn't we have changed that too?"
She laughed, the tension in the air dissipating. "You ready?"
He knocked back his coffee and nodded, grabbing his coat and keys.