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not a goodbye; a beginning

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When Samantha Carter leaves the SGC, she says her goodbyes to Daniel and Teal’c who are readying themselves for their own adventures away from the SGC and SG-1. Daniel kisses her cheek and she ruffles his hair affectionately and tells him she’ll miss him.

 

Teal’c places his big, warm hands on her shoulders and inclines his head and wishes her well. She smiles a watery smile at him and throws her arms around him. She’ll never meet another person—alien or not—as caring and sure and supportive as him.

 

There’s a solemnity to her final day in the halls of Stargate Command. Felger hovers in her doorway and slides a handwritten goodbye note across her desk before stammering and blushing and disappearing back into his own lab. Officers—both higher and lower ranking—salute her and her accomplishments.

 

It feels like everyone she’s ever worked with, and even some she hasn’t, has stopped by her lab or stopped her in the halls and said goodbye.

 

Except him.

 

It’s not until five o’clock rolls around and a pair of airmen arrive that she realizes that it’s just wrong to let him hide out in his office—the one he keeps claiming to forget he has. She smiles sweetly at her escorts, passes them her cardboard box of photos, notes, and personal effects, and tells them she promises she’ll be at the top of the base in the parking garage in five minutes, but she has one more thing to take care of first.

 

But the soldiers aren’t looking at her anymore, they’re snapping to attention and staring off into the distance over her shoulder and she knows almost immediately why.

 

She turns slowly, her stomach a riot of butterflies and knots, and falls into a relaxed stance, her arms behind her back.

 

“Sir,” she greets with a tentative grin.

 

He looks good today—he always does—in his blue BDUs, silver hair glinting and brown eyes intense and focused on her. The knots tighten and the butterflies take flight in her abdomen when his head tilts and his mouth parts and then closes a few times, as if searching for the right words.

 

She wonders if this is it. If this is the moment where he kicks down the door and breaks the lock where they once stored their feelings and their someday. The thought terrifies and excites her.

 

Instead, he stuffs his hands into his pockets and scuffs his toe against the concrete and linoleum flooring. “You manage to get all your stuff into one box? I’m disappointed in you, Carter.”

 

Sam sighs in relief and disappointment before falling back into their old patterns and habits. Tease and rile feathers just a shade short of flirting. Safe.

 

“You missed the palette of boxes I already shipped to Area 51 last week, sir.”

 

“Ah.”

 

Silence falls over them and she wonders how two people who once relied on saying so much with so little now can’t even muster up a goodbye. How do you box up almost eight years of pining and longing, eight years of camaraderie, eight years of working side-by-side and wishing you were living side-by-side, too?

 

The airmen shift behind them and Sam grins awkwardly at the General, shuffling backwards and swallowing her disappointment and regrets. This isn’t how she thought they’d end. She’s not sure she ever thought they’d end.

 

“I should get going before the Air Force drags me out, sir.”

 

The General drags his hands from his pockets and runs a hand over his hair, scratching absentmindedly at the nape of his neck, and there he goes again, opening and closing his mouth like he’s searching for words he can’t remember or find.

 

And then he snaps to attention, shoulders pulled back, legs straight and lean and heels pressed together, and his hand in a perfect salute at his brow.

 

Her heart freezes and falls to the pit of her stomach and with heavy, leaden movements, she returns the salute.

 

“It’s been an honor serving with you, Carter.”

 

She’s reminded of a cold Antarctic cave so long ago and wishes she was back in his arms, now, nuzzling against his chest and jaw and pressing close. Instead, she’s three feet away and walking out of his life. It feels colder now than it did in that ice cave.

 

“Yes, sir. An honor, sir.”

 

His hand falls to his side and the moment is over.

 

She got her goodbye. It’s time to go.

 

When she turns on her heel and follows the airmen into the elevator up to the surface, she wills herself to not turnaround. She has a plane to catch and a new chapter of her life to start.

 

_______________

 

 

 

It’s a two hour plane ride commercial and a thirty minute car ride from Colorado Springs to Area 51. On the flight, she works on formulas and calculations, organizes the stack of files faxed to her from her superiors—a list of tech and products that the Air Force needs analyzed, tested, and applied now. She rifles through the personnel files of her team and takes in the years and fields of experience.

 

Anything to stop herself from replaying her exchange with Jack O’Neill over and over in her head. Each time she thinks of it, she sees the sharp line of his body as it comes to a perfect salute, thinks of the words she wished she said, the opportunities and what-if’s closed to them now.

 

Sam gets through Area 51’s security without a hitch and crinkles her nose at the heat and sends a brief, longing thought for the crisp, cool air of Colorado Springs. Her new superiors seem content to let her settle in at her own pace and she hauls her box of belongings down the shiny, sparkling clean hallways of the base that forms a maze of research labs and experimental rooms.

 

Her own lab is situated at the head of the hallway, overseeing the labs and work rooms of her team. She takes note of their names on the doors and begins matching room numbers, names, and projects in her head. When she meets her team tomorrow first thing in the morning, she wants to be prepared.

 

Area 51 is polished and unerringly clean and sleek and, once again, she feels a pang of longing for the exposed piping and dingy concrete of her former underground home. She takes a deep breath and pushes those feelings down and locks them up tight with everything—and everyone—else in Colorado.

 

Maneuvering the box under her arm and using her thigh to support the bottom, she spares a glance at her own nameplate—Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter, PhD— and manages to push her new office door open.

 

The box in her arms clatters to the floor and she can feel her jaw dropping open, her heart pounding hard out of her chest, up and out through her throat.

 

Sitting there, with his feet propped up on her brand new desk, dressed in casual civvies—jeans and a worn, leather bomber jacket—is General Jack O’Neill.

 

“What—“

 

He stands and carefully folds the paper he was reading—a report of some kind—into neat squares and tucks it into her drawer, grinning at her. It’s her favorite smile: all boyish and wide.

 

It’s a smile she didn’t think she’d see anytime soon.

 

“Hey Carter, did you know being a General means you can get to Area 51 in half the time?”

 

She swallows through her shellshock and blinks slowly at him, still trying to work through the visual of him here. “Y-yes, sir. I did know that.”

 

He walks closer to her and she’s surrounded by his presence, his scent. She clenches her hands into fists at her side to stop herself from reaching out for him.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

There should be a sir at the end of that; it sounds insubordinate and sullen, but she can’t help it. Nothing is making sense and she’s searching for logic and order in an chaotic, surprising situation.

 

He steps forward, foregoing all attempts at personal boundaries, at maintaining a professional distance between General and Lieutenant Colonel. She swallows hard when he reaches out an extended finger to brush along her hip, gently, daringly.

 

“It took me about all of thirty seconds after you got on that elevator for me to realize that I didn’t want to let you go again.”

 

Sam gasps and sways and rocks back on her heel, heart racing. How many times had she envisioned this moment? And now it was happening. Now.

 

Jack—could she call him Jack now—hooked a finger into the belt loops of her combat pants and steadied her. His eyes were so brown and light and entirely focused on her. A fleeting, romantic part of her felt like he was drinking her in, as if even a few hours apart was too much for him.

 

“I made the mistake of letting you—letting us,” he corrected, “lock what we were feeling up in some room. We tried it that way and it didn’t work, Sam. We’re not gonna do that again.”

 

“We’re not?” she asked breathlessly, stepping forward and tilting her head up.

 

He shook his head softly and let his hand slide from her hip up the length of her arm and across her neck to cup her face, thumbs brushing softly over the curve of her cheek. “No,” he murmured. “We’re not.”

 

He was so close now. She could see where the sun had darkened patches of his skin here and there into a semblance of freckles or sunspots. She could see the lines around his eyes and mouth and she wanted to trace each and every one of them.

 

A rush of panic and, inexplicably, anger and fear flooded her. It was too much change all at once. Could it really be that easy? After years of suppressing and pushing every feeling down, pretending she wasn’t terribly in love with him, that she didn’t want every piece of him for her own—and now she could just have him?

 

“And I suppose you think this is our happily ever after? That we’re out of each other’s chain of command and we can just fall into each other’s arms and pretend like we were never apart in the first place? Pretend that things aren’t complicated? That I live here now and you live back in Colorado and—”

 

But Jack was still smiling at her, still brushing his thumb over her cheek in smooth, steadying motions.

 

“And you and I—we’re just supposed to pick up where we left off four years ago? Jack, I—“

 

“Yes,” he interrupted, eyes intense on hers. “To all of the above, yes, Sam.”

 

Sam stared at him, hands tentatively reaching for his hips to pull him closer. She could have it—have him—and it was all hinging on her. She thought of a room four years ago and a test that forced confessions from them both and a decision was made then that never should have been made.

 

It was time to rectify that.

 

“Okay,” she said softly, nodding, and stepping into him and lifting her head up to his. “Okay.”

 

And then his lips were on hers, pressing softly for a moment before groaning and hauling her against his chest. She opened her mouth beneath his and licked into his mouth, stroking her tongue over his and sliding one hand over his shoulder and into his hair and one hand beneath the soft cotton of his t-shirt, stroking the warm skin of his hip.

 

He was hot and powerful and so damn sure against her, letting her guide the kiss. Sam had dreamed of this—hallucinated this—and nothing, nothing compared to reality. Her fantasies hadn’t predicted the way he’d groan and sigh as her nails scratched along his scalp. She couldn’t have known that he would walk her back against the wall and keep her pinned in place while he took his time sipping and licking and kissing his way across her lips and neck and the underside of her jaw.

 

In the span of a few minutes, like a soldier on a recon mission, he found each spot that made her breath catch, that made her gasp and sigh and cling to him.

 

And then she heard her name on his lips, sighed out like a reverent, relieved, prayer:  Sam.”

 

Nothing could have prepared her or her knees for the way she’d respond to his voice roughened with desire and want and love. She mewed and tried to hitch a leg over his hip to get closer. He chuckled against her mouth and tightened a hand against her thigh before pushing down and easing the kiss into something less fiery and something softer, more tender.

 

She wound her arms around his waist and buried her face against the crook of his shoulder and sighed out and murmured his name, the name she was once banned from using.

 

When she said it this time—“Jack,”—it didn’t feel like a goodbye or an end.

 

It felt like a beginning.