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All she has to do, Sam realises, is make a slight comment to her new friend Kawalsky, about a boyfriend whose son had died by shooting himself with his father’s gun and then wait. A week, two, and the day when Charlie was due to die, there is no gunshot at the O’Neill household. She knows, because she waits in the bushes for hours on end. She watches the Colonel and his wife enjoy their morning, basking in their love for each other and the sunlight. It would hurt, she thinks, if it wasn’t so wonderful to see him happy. 

 

The machine she uses only ever had two charges, stolen as it was from the ancient library found on PX3-432, and then again by her from the SG stores. “It isn’t hard to mislabel something” Sam thinks to herself, “when you are the only one who knows it exists”. 

 

She stays in the past for a few more days, walking around the base, keeping an eye on Jack O’Neill. His face is young, his steps sure and steady, and she just likes looking at him. It will do for now. She knows when she returns to her own time, that the Colonel will most likely not be at the SGC. He is one man, pivotal to the fight or not, and he deserves his happiness. Her memories of him will fade, too, given time. The truth of the reality that she returns to will fill her to the brim, and push out everything but the vague memories she has of the past that never happened. It will just take a few months. The idea that she may never know this love again, one sided as it was, is still painful.

 

Even now, existing in the time in which the younger version of Samantha Carter lives, she finds the memories overwriting each other, like a program. She remembers attending meetings yesterday that she knows she attended years ago. 

 

It’s this, the knowledge that she will forget how to go back to the future, that forces her to return. One moment she is watching Jack O’Neill live his best life, and the next moment, she is standing before him at the SGC. 

 

“Carter, where did you come from?”

 

Sam is frozen. All she can think is that she must have failed him again. 

 

“You’re not meant to be here!” She exclaims. 

 

“Shit. You’re right. I need to go get Charlie.”

 

The sense of relief that fills her, that she was able to save his son, seeps the energy out of her. She struggles to comprehend what possible future had led him to the SGC, adamant as Daniel was that without the death of Charlie, the Colonel never would have been chosen for the initial mission to Abydos. 

 

“Yes, Sir.” 

 

The Colonel gives her a funny look. 

 

“Don’t make me drag you out of here, Carter.”

 

“No. No, I just have one thing to finish up and then I will follow you out. Promise.”

 

He laughs. Openly. His smile is infectious and she drinks the sight in. Sam isn’t even as devastated by the sight of his wedding ring as she expected to be. She had liked Sara, and she expected this outcome. She remembered how the Colonel had looked at her in Antartica, and whispered the name of the woman he loved. The bittersweet truth, her love for him, it fills her. 

 

He bumps her shoulder in silent affection as he proceeds to the elevator. 

A couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, and the life of Samantha Carter of this alternative universe will crowd into her mind. She plans to love him as long as she remembers to. 

 

—-

 

Her lab looks the same, which is a relief. Sam’s first priority is to check the mission logs, to make sure that she had not caused endless casualties with her actions. Everything looks much the same in the last couple of years, and Teal’c is still a part of SG-1, which is an enormous relief, but she notices differences the further she looks. 

 

Cassandra O’Neill. Wow. That was unexpected, but now that she thinks about it, if Jack thought he could give her a safe home, he would have. He and Sara must have adopted Cass. Good. Poor Janet, Sam thinks. 

 

Kawalsky is still dead. Not in the way she had expected him to be, but on the first mission to Abydos. He never manages to detonate the bomb, and Daniel is considered forsaken. A week after Kawalsky is missing, presumed dead, one Jonathan Jack O’Neill volunteers to go and “fetch him home”. His is the second reconnaissance mission to Abydos. Captain Carter is the only person crazy enough and insistent enough to go with him. When Jack and Sam return, they return with Daniel, Sha’ree, and the cartouche. 

 

Sha’ree lives. She lives. 

 

In this future, Jack O’Neill is not her CO. Had not been since they returned form Antartica. Instead, he trains the new recruits, and assists Hammond with the running of the base. Sam leads SG-1, and is supported by Sha’ree, Daniel, and Teal’C. 

 

The blinking of the screen is her only focus. A re-telling of the life she can’t remember. Sam reads, and reads, and when her head aches, and her heart hurts for what she lost, she thinks this is her penance. 

When she finally goes home, the lights at her condo are on. Perhaps this Samantha Carter has someone waiting for her at home. The idea that she will have to fake a relationship with a man until she forgets who she is, is somehow abhorrent.  

 

Her house is warm, and almost golden. Cassandra Fraiser - no, Cassandra O’Neill, is in her kitchen, cutting vegetables for what looks like a garden salad. 

 

“Hey Mom, the boys said they will be late.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah, I know. Typical, right. Just like them. I bet they forgot I was making dinner and they went through a drive through. I know sharing custody is hard, but its no excuse for junk food. Janet says that a proper diet is a corner stone of good health. Look, I made lasagna. Dad loves lasagna.”

 

Cassandra is fifteen, and from her comments Sam seems to assume that she doesn’t live with Jack and Sara permanently. She wonders if all the O’Neills, including Sara, were coming over tonight because of Cass. That would maybe make sense - if anything in this strange world would ever make sense again. 

 

“Your father?” Sam croaks. 

 

“Mom, are you ok?” Cassandra whirls around, giving Sam an inquisitive look, calculating. “Do you have a, uhh, Canadian condition or something?”

 

“Oh, no, nothing like that, just a long day.”

 

“Dad said he was sending you home early. I won’t snitch, promise.” Cass’ smile is genuine. A shared secret between mother and daughter. Sam’s heart fills with joy and pain, all in once, for something that could have been, for Janet, for memories she didn’t have. 

 

She was a mother. 

 

Sam throws her arms around Cass, and laughs when the young girl squeals and pretends to be grossed out by the affection. Sam steps away, trying to play down both the exhilaration and the panic. 

 

It’s the latter that has her ask - “Is Sara coming to dinner?” 

 

Cass barks out a laugh. “She can hardly stand me, I can’t see her coming for dinner.” The bitterness in her tone tells Sam something strange is going on. Is that why Cassandra O’Neill didn’t live in the O’Neill home? 

 

Cass hands Sam the salad bowl, something made of melamine and inscribed with drawings. “Happy Mother’s Day” in what used to be childish scribbles. 

 

Sam realises that she needs to ask, needs to find out, needs to be 100% sure what is going on here, but the front door opens again, the sound followed by a gust of male laughter, and then there they are, in front of her, Charlie and Jack O’Neill. 

 

Charlie is lankier than she would have imagined, but very skinny, and Sam thinks perhaps a few drive-through meals were not going to hurt him as Cass suspected. His brown hair and whisky eyes remind her so much of the Colonel.

 

“Charlie.” She whispers, her voice stuck in her throat. He gives her an enthusiastic hug, leaning over the bowl in her arms to kiss her cheek. “Hiya, Sammy!”

 

Cass and Charlie hug too - clearly sibling affection has survived whatever strange issue exists over at the world of O’Neill. 

 

“What, no kiss?” The Colonel asks her, startling her so much that she drops the salad she was still holding. “Sir!” She exclaims, but it’s lost in the shrill sound of teenage laughter and yelling. 

 

“Moooom!” Cass scolds, stomping towards the kitchen in a huff. Charlie, slightly younger, clearly in awe of his sister, following at her footsteps. 

 

“Hey, who is raising who here?” The Colonel calls out, crouching to help Sam. “You ok?” he whispers. 

“Yes, of course, Sir.” Sam whispers back. “Why are we whispering?”

 

“I don’t want the kids to hear us fight.”

 

“Why are we fighting?”

 

“You tell me, Carter!” He is exasperated by her. She can sense it, and it makes her irrationally angry. 

 

“Because I am confused.”

 

“I thought you wanted this to work. You and Sara designed this plan. ‘It will work, Jack’. Yeah, sure, youbetcha ”.

 

“I know, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be difficult.” But she doesn’t know. She has no idea what is going on, what the plan was. All she can do is suspect.

 

“You know what. The lasagna is cold, why don’t we go home. Stuff is already in the car.” Cassandra says, coming back with the lasagna wrapped in cling film. Charlie takes the salad from his father, and goes back into the kitchen, presumably to throw out the mess. 

 

Sam’s heart freezes. So she is about to be alone tonight, after all. “No, I, it’s ok.”

 

“It’s been a stressful day. This will wait until tomorrow. We can order pizza.” Charlie volunteers. “Or burgers. Let’s go out for burgers and milkshakes, what do you say, Sammy? I can drive.”

 

His eyes, whisky coloured and kind, bore into her. She knows she could never resist him. 

 

“You’re not driving yet, monkey. Neither is Cass. How about we let me drive, and Sam can concentrate on her strategy for destroying the next salad she meets.”

 

“Hey!” Cassie calls out, and eager to switch to a topic she knows about, Sam interjects with -“Strawberry or chocolate?” As they exit. 

 

 

Chapter Text

The dinner is magical. Something out of a fantasy, really. They joke. The kids laugh at the Colonel’s silliness. If Sam is a bit quiet, no one comments, because there is no mistaking the love and joy in her eyes. 

The drive back is another matter entirely. When the Colonel pulls over at his house, Sam wonders what she’s meant to do now. Why didn’t he drop her off first?

“Mom, help me with the bags?” Cass whines, although Sam suspects that she needs the support to face Sara instead. 

The lights are off, Sam notices. “Maybe she’s out?”- Sam wonders. She wouldn’t feel too crash hot about her husband and kids having dinner with another woman that one of them calls Mom.

“What a strange mess you’ve gotten yourself into.” She thinks, but the sight of Cass and Charlie racing each other to the door makes her smile. It was worth it. Charlie O’Neill was alive - of course it was worth it.

“Carter, I’m not sleeping on the couch over this.” The Colonel says wryly, his voice feels her with anxiety, like a cold ice bucket down her back.

“Of course not.” Sam says, wondering how much trouble her presence will cause tonight.

Something is going on that he’s worried Sara will kick him out of their marriage bed. It makes her nauseous, the thought that in this life she may love him as well. God, were they having an affair? Did they? No, Jack O’Neill wasn’t the sort. She didn’t know what was going on, but she knew him.

“Good.” He says, taking the bag from her shoulder, nudging her again. 

She follows him into the house. It looks similar to how she last remembered it except the shelves are overflowing with fiction books, the couch is new, and the boots strewn at the entrance are that of a family. Mother, father, children.

Her mother’s quilt is over the back of the sofa, her sculptures on the mantle, and the pictures. The pictures. She is lost in them. 

Charlie as a baby, Cassie and Charlie as youngsters, the kids camping with The Colonel, one of her fishing. Charlie, Cassie, in formal wear. And then, then, Samantha Carter, in a wedding dress, with Jack O’Neill.

She’s frozen. Rooted to the spot. Her eyes fill with tears, she thinks she may throw up. The ache is overwhelming. She has never wanted something so badly as the reality now offered to her.

“Samantha?!” His voice carries a tinge of worry.

“Dad, she’s having a Canada moment.” 

“You said you wouldn’t snitch.” Sam whispers, but she doesn’t mind. She doesn’t know how to react - what to say. 

“What’s a Canada moment?” Charlie asks, and Sam can imagine him as a little boy, her step-son apparently, and she knows she has to make this right. 

“Cass is just being rude.” She says, “I’m going to go check something on the computer.” And then, for the first time in her life, Samantha Carter flees. 

Jack follows her up the stairs and down the hallway, and the pushes her through the door of what she realises is their bedroom. God.

“Sir, I..”

“Ahh! What’s with this Sir bullshit? What’s going on? Memory loss? Alien tech?”

“A little bit of both. I’ll tell you if you tell me how we met.”

He regards her in that quiet casual way that she knows is anything but. In his mind, he’s devising tactics. Assessing risk.

“Ok, I’ll bite. You saved my ass on Abydos. And the whole world. Both worlds. So I married you.”

“We didn’t, I mean, you wouldn’t, what about Sara?” 

“Ahh, no we didn’t. Sara and I were divorced when we met. I was seeing Charlie once a month, supervised. She was convinced I had PTSD and was paranoid.”

“Did you?”

He looks guilty. Ashamed. “Absolutely.”

“You got help.”

“I did. You helped too.”

“And Cassie?”

“We adopted her, of course. Sara is mad because I refused to have more children after Charlie was born, and then when I married you I was happy to adopt.” 

“Oh.” 

“She doesn’t know about Canada, obviously.” 

“Obviously.”

“Carter, what’s going on?”

“I did something bad.” She whispers. Grief in her voice. As much as she wants to be, she isn’t really his wife. She gave him back his son but took his wife away.

“Did you have sex with Daniel again?”

“What? What? When? Why?” She knows she’s panicking but, Daniel?!, what?!

“Relax, Sam, you never had sex with Daniel, I’m just being silly.” 

“Oh. I went back in time.”

“What? You never let me go back in time! I want to see the Cubs win!”

“This was important.”

“The Cubs are important.”

“It was Charlie. I went back and saved Charlie.”

“From what? Failing math? Because I knew that was you.”

“No, no, see where I come from, Charlie had died after a gunshot accident - before we even met. I went back in time last week and I changed it. I thought when I came back you and Sara would be still together and ...”

“Charlie is fine! He’s downstairs. Don’t talk like that.”

“Jack, please.” 

“Carter, no. You’ve clearly suffered some terrible memory loss and your confused, Charlie is fine.”

“Of course he is!” She snaps “I made sure of that!”

Jack rubs the back of his head, exhausted, like he’s been battling things and this isn’t another fight he wants to have. 

“I’m sorry, Sir. I know it’s confusing. He’s fine. Ignore why I went back, but I went back, and then I came back to the future” at which he snorts but motions for her to continue. 

“I came back to the future but everything is different and now we are married and...”

“We weren’t married in your timeline?”

“No, you were my CO.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, Sir. It’s all just a bit confusing.” Sam looks around for something to say.

“Do we live here?”

“Only when we have Charlie. Otherwise we live at your place. It’s messy but its what you organised with Sara. Today is custody night. Everyone is on high alert on custody night.”

“What do you want to tell the kids?”

“Nothing! Do we.. what does this mean?”

“I don’t know, Sir.”

“Sam, I usually love when you call me “Sir” but please stops saying that.” His comment makes her blush fiercely. Ok, so, she’s not going to think about that right now. Or ever. Oh god, he knows about the ‘Sir’ thing. 

“Jack, I’m sorry, but I’m not your wife. Sort of. I mean. I will be. The memories will overwrite the ones I currently have. It’s as If I have amnesia.” 

“Right. So we pretend.”

“Yeah.” Neither of them sound too pleased at the prospect. 

Sam looks around the room. She’s married to Jack O’Neill, but he isn’t her Jack and she’s not sure what any of this means. She’s not his wife. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sam stays in the room, finally giving in to the exhaustion from the last month. Jack, and she needs to try to call him that, goes downstairs to play console games with the kids. When Jack comes to bed that night Sam remembers her promise that he wasn’t going to be in the doghouse over this. 

“I’ll sleep on the floor if that will make you more comfortable. I just didn’t want to worry the kids.” He says, reaching for a pillow. 

“No, no, it’s fine, come to bed.”

She had not imagined that her first night with Jack would be like this. The urge to roll over and ask him to tell her their history is overwhelming. She wants to watch him go through his evening absolutions and tell him about her day and be with him completely. 

When his weight sinks onto the bed, Sam wants to cry. Wants to bask in him as if he was the sunlight and she a newborn pup.

“Jack.” Her voice croaks, and then he is there, and she’s in his arms.

“I’m sorry.” Sam whispers into his shoulder. 

“Why are you sorry, Sammy?”

“It was the right thing to do.” She affirms. 

Jack doesn’t speak, she’s not sure he believes her. She wants to protest at the unfairness of it all. Wants to convince him, but understands that at the best of times he wouldn’t want to accept this as truth.

“You don’t believe me.” She says.

“I believe in you. It doesn’t matter what happened or how it happened. You’re Carter, and without some credible evidence that says you’re wrong, what you say is fact.” 

“This me will disappear soon enough, and then I’ll be her again.”

“You’re always Sam, Sam.”

It makes her sob harder. His hand slides gently down her back. A familiar caress, comfort shared and given, although she knows she deserves none of it.

The penance she was supposed to pay for meddling was her heartache. It was ok to create a paradox for someone else’s benefit, but never her own. Instead, she’s gotten everything she wanted and she can’t help and hold out for the other shoe to drop.

“Carter. You can’t tell anyone about this. What you did is treason. Do you understand?”

“Of course, I was there for those regulations!”

“Ok, ok, I’m just worried. If what you say is true-“

“-you said you believed me.”

“For crying out loud, Carter. I believe you. They will say you’re stressed and shoo you off the program. Even when I was your CO, they said I protected you too much.”

“You think the other you cared about me?” Sam wonders out loud.

It makes Jack snort. 

“Go to sleep, Carter. We’ll sort it out in the morning.”

The peaceful calm, the lull of his arms around her lasts but a second. 

“What was our first date like?” She whispers into the darkness. 

“You know what, Carter. I’ll show you tomorrow.”

—-
“Are you and dad fighting because of me?” Charlie asks her over breakfast. Jack had already headed off to the base, and Cassie was *still* in the bathroom, which meant that Sam and Charlie were alone. 

He was a sleepy kid, Sam realised, sitting on the couch, half drowning in his cereal due to a cuddly lethargic disposition. 

It was easy to scoop him into her embrace. At 13, he was at that awkward lanky stage of boyhood. 

“No, monkey! Why would you say that?” The pet name crept out of nowhere, but she saw his eyes crinkle in mirth. 
“Sammy! You haven’t called me that in aaaaages.”

“Monkey see, monkey do.” She replied back, realising that at least something of the life that wasn’t, but was, was actually seeping through. 

“Dad and I are fine, we are just having some work drams we need to deal with, and now that I can see that it’s impacting you guys, I’ll make sure we don’t bring any of that home. Ok?”

Charlie’s expression, or what she can see of it as he tries to squirm out of her embrace, is both amused and doubtful. 

“You’re not going to get a divorce, are you?”

“Who’s getting a divorce?” Cassie calls from the landing. 

“No one is getting a divorce!” Sam insists. 

“Sheesh, you kids need to learn about life and stressors, if you think a little bit of work drama feeds straight to divorce. Come on, breakfast and school!” She shoos at them, but her insides are churning. What was going on with Sam and Jack before she came along?

—-
True to her promise, she went back to the mountain and spoke to no one of the trip back in time. Seeing Sha’ree and Daniel in the mess, teasing, playful, and seeing Teal’c relaxed around them, brought her so much joy. 

The conversation felt natural, much like dinner last night was. She wanted to tell them, but also knew that she would be putting them at a significant risk. Also, how did she even begin to explain to Daniel that she went back to save Charlie but not Sha’ree? Better to steer clear of death and treason. 

Afterwards, she cornered Jack in his office, the one he pretended he didn’t have. “Sir..” she began, but the look on his face was scathing. “Jack. What was going on with you and .... Sam... before I came along?”

“Why?” He crossed his arms and took a defensive pose behind his desk. 

“Something Charlie said today was concerning.”

“Nothing was going on. We were making the best of a bad situation, that’s all.”

“Explain, please.” She was not going to back down on this one. He needed to stop withholding information from her. 

“Look, Sam, you are either my wife, or you are not. You either want in on our problems or you don’t. And so far, you seem to want to escape from me. I get it, you went back in time to do something nice for your CO and now you’re stuck married to the bastard. It isn’t what you want but you think you may want it later when new memories return. It’s so cliched, really, something out of TV. But I don’t have time for this, right now, I have a lot on my plate and the kids are struggling, so either come on board or go hide in your lab like you have been doing.”

She felt like he slapped her. 

“That’s not...” she began. 

“Spit it out, Carter.”

“I had feelings for you. You didn’t have feelings for me.”

“Bullshit.”

“You weren’t even there. How do you know? Where I come from you’re still pining for Sara.”

“Because I know me. If you’re there, and I’m single, then I’m following you like a lost puppy. Christ, woman.” 

“Listen, I’m not upset because I don’t want to be married to my CO. I’m upset because I’m not the me that you married.”

“What does that even mean, Carter? Nothing changed for you up until the day we met, and from what you told me, not much was different after, except...”

“...except that we got married and had a family and I don’t know how to do that. I didn’t even know how to get the kids to school today.”

“Oh.” He looks a big flabbergasted at that, and then ashamed, like he should have helped her figure it out. Maybe she should have asked for help, too. 

“I’m not a mother, I’m not a wife. I am a terrible cook who works too hard.”

“Actually, Sam, you’re all of those things.” 

Well, fuck. 


“I don’t even have a wedding ring.” Sam says on the drive home. Her comment startles Jack out of his reverie, and makes him laugh. 

“We can buy you a new one, Carter. Until you remember where it is.”

 

Chapter Text

Jack tells her, as they walk around the grocery store, that their first date was just that. After six weeks away from home, sorting out Kawalsky and Daniel and Sha’ree on the Second Mission to Abydos, they had both come home to rotten food in the fridge and unpaid bills. 

 

It had been 0700 on a Tuesday, Sam had wanted baked chocolate cheese cake, and Jack was determined to show her that he was housetrained. Back then, he tells her, he didn’t see so much of Charlie and his home was usually devoid of anything decent to eat, much less bake. That came later. 

 

So, they shopped, browsing the isles and discussing the ingredients, judging the shopping baskets of the other stragglers, and taking the time to nudge against each other, a slight brush of fingers here, a little bump of the shoulder there. 

 

The more they walked, the more the friction between them weaved and spun. Jack tells her, as they stand at the cereal isle and she wishes she knew that food her children had for breakfast, that they had argued over FruitLoops until he pushed her against the shelf and kissed her. 

 

“And the rest is history.” He concludes, adding a box of the sugary mess into their basket. Sam frowns at it. 

 

“Kiss me, just like that.” She says.

 

And so he does. 

 

His mouth is wet, open, firm. His lips are warm, and welcoming, and his tongue seeks her out. He kisses her like he has done so, time in and time out, and Sam wants to desperately remember each time. 

 

She can’t help but push herself against him, wanting to get closer, winding her arms around his neck. 

 

When they pull apart, they are both breathless. 

 

“Thank you, for explaining.” Sam says. 

 

“Anything for you, Carter.” Jack responds, sotto voice. 

 

—-

 

At the end of the week, when they drop Charlie to his mother, Sam realises that perhaps there isn’t as much doom as she foreshadowed. Sara was as lovely as she had been the last time Sam had met her. At the door, Sara embraced her son, held him close and ruffled his hair. She then said hello to Cassie, Jack, and Sam, and asked after their weekend. Once ushered inside, Jack and Cassie followed Charlie into the house, and Sam staid outside to chat to Sara. 

 

“How do you want to do this?” Sara asked Sam, which certainly felt like an unexpected battle was about to start. 

 

“Your turn?” Sam offered. “Actually...” she began “I’m worried about Cassie.”

 

“Oh, what’s going on?”

 

“Both the kids feel like the tension is somehow their fault. What’s going on with you and Cassie?”

 

“What? No! I’ll talk to her. She’s my son’s sister. I don’t meant to.. I’m just. When you and Jack told me you were trying for a third child, I guess I was just really bitter. Joe and I haven’t been able to have children, the doctor’s think its an age thing.” The last comment makes Sara blink back tears. 

 

“Sara, I’m so sorry.” Sam manages to stammer out, through her shock. They were trying for a baby? Who was Joe? Fuck. 

 

“It’s ok, I’ll deal with it. Why don’t I have the kids until Wednesday, and then Cassie can go home for six days with the two of you, and then you can pick up Charlie on Monday and have him until next Sunday evening. Does that work?” 

 

“Sounds like a plan to me. Let me know if the talk gets emotional and I can come pick her up.”

 

“Deal.”

 

When Sara leans in to hug her, Sam returns the embrace wholeheartedly. 

 

—-

 

“Jack.”

 

“Oh. Sorry Sam, just trying to fix..”

 

“Jack!”

 

It’s the last comment that makes him straighten up and really look at her. She’s wearing old sweatpants, and one of his hockey t-shirts. Her hair is mussed, and her eyes are angry. 

 

“What did I do?” He asks.

 

“You didn’t tell me we were trying for a baby. Apparently that’s what upset Sara. And Cassie and Charlie have both been besides themselves with worry. What if, what I did, somehow messed up the pregnancy? God, Jack!”

 

“I didn’t think you could handle it right now. We aren’t pregnant, and right now, we are not having sex, so I didn’t see the point of brining it up.” He looks tired, he looks old, and worried, and worn, and she realises that she had fantasised that their marriage would be perfect, if it ever happened. And instead, here they were, married, and they were actual people, and she wondered if the feeling inside her is panic or disappointment. 

 

“Oh. The fact that the children are upset, that wasn’t relevant?”

 

“They aren’t upset. You are, and they are reacting to you. I get it. You feel overwhelmed. I am trying to make it easier on you.”

 

“Stop trying to make it easier on me, and let me help!”

 

“Fine.”

 

“Fine.”

 

And then, in answer to the silence, he asks “do you want me to tell you about our wedding day?”

 

“Yes. Yes. Please.”

 

“Come here.” Jack pulls her into his arms, until they are face to face, in the middle of the living room. When he finally speaks, his voice is low, and full of emotion. The words sound practiced, but well worn, as if he has recited them a hundred times. 

 

“I acknowledge that we are not perfect, that we are not made for each other, that we were not meant to be. I understand that you can’t read my mind, and that I shouldn’t try to read yours. My happiness does not depend on you, and your happiness does not depend on me. I will opt in to loving you every day. I will make sure that my acts of love are intentional, and in a language you understand.” The promises ring true to her. They sound like a philosopher’s pledge that love, real love, requires work and effort.

 

“Our vows?” She whispers, eyes brimming with tears.

 

“Yes. They wen’t down like a lead balloon with the ladies of the O’Neill family. Not romantic enough.” 

Chapter Text

She wakes up to the feel of his fingers trailing across her back. “Shhh, go back to sleep, sweetheart.” The sleepy weight drags her back down, envelops her. Everywhere her body touches his, there is warmth. 

“Jack.” She thinks, rolling into him, pressing her face into the centre of his chest where the scent of him is the strongest. “Jack.”

The fabric of his T-Shirt is soft against her skin, and Sam pushes her hands underneath, until she is running them over his sides. Palms flat, fingers splayed, to touch as much of him as possible. It must be the wrong thing to do, because he freezes. The careful controlled breathing is enough to wake her fully. 

“Sorry, Sir. I, uhh, sorry.” 

“God, Carter, I thought we had broken you out of Sir-ing me to death.”

“Yes, Sir. Sorry. I mean, Jack.”

Sam jumps from bed, ready to rush out and ignore the conversation for another day.

“Sam! It’s the afternoon.” That comment deflates her, and she sits back down on the edge of the bed. “Oh. Yes. Of course.” And now she feels sheepish, because she had in fact come home and fallen straight into bed. 

“I came here to see if you wanted some dinner, but you were having a nightmare. Usually, sitting down next to you helps.” Except he isn’t looking confused or conflicted at all. This is normal to him, to help his *wife* sleep. 

“Yes, I can see how that would work. Thank you, Jack.”

“Well, it didn’t work. I woke you. I’m sorry. Do you want dinner or to try and get some more sleep?”

“It’s been a long day.” Sam isn’t quite sure why she’s so tired, but the idea of going back to bed is unthinkable, this is the first time she has been alone with Jack at home. Both the kids were at Sara’s and the proximity of Jack was making her anxious and excited in turn. 

She had been sleeping next to him for a week now, on the pretence that the they wanted to make everything normal for the children. There were no children at home now, but she had gotten used to the warmth and weight of him against her back in the night, and she was loathe to give it up. 

“Dinner, and an early night?” She suggests, putting off the inevitable question of sleeping arrangements as long as she can.

“Sure. I’ll make a stir fry, or something.”

“Thanks, I think I’ll just grab a shower.”

Dinner is a relaxed affair. They chat some, eat, and read. Jack is focused on reports he has taken home, again, and Sam is still going through the mission reports. 

“What?!” She exclaims. 

“What’s wrong, Carter?” 

“You told me about your secret undercover mission after Edora!” This had been a hot topic of contention between in the world that now didn’t happen. She wondered why it was so different here. 

“Which one was Edora? I can’t keep track of all these planets.”

“Edora - the one you got stuck on for a 100 days and met Laira, and and and ... although I guess that wouldn’t have happened here.”

“Laira? Wasn’t she one of the refugees from, oh yes, the planet with the comet shower? Why would I have been on Edora?” He looks at her, really looks at her, and then leans over to poke her cheek. “Are you jealous?”

“No!”

“Ha! You’re jealous. Don’t be silly woman, I never went anywhere interesting or met anyone interesting. I just staid home and hung out with Anise.” He tosses offhandedly over his shoulder, as he clears the table. 

“Anise!?!” She calls out, but Jack just ignores her, clearing the dishes and heading to the kitchen. 

“Anise, Jack!?” She yells after him. 

“Jealous, Carter?” He sing songs back. 

- -

“I remember something, or I think it’s the logical solution. I’m not sure. Do we move houses because we didn’t want Charlie to feel left out because Cassie lives with us most of the time?” Sam asks over tea that evening. 

Jack is relaxing with a beer, and Sam has a cup of camomile tea that is mostly there to make Jack comment at the grass flavoured water. 

“That’s the deal you and Sara came to, once we adopted Cass.”

“Why am I negotiating your custody deals?”

“Ahhh, that. Sara and you could see eye to eye. She trusted you. She still thinks I am going to up and leave one day and not call for six months at a time. I guess she has not forgiven me for not sticking with any of my retirements. I can’t exactly tell her we are at war. Plus, you’re a control freak.”

“Me? I’ll give you control freak!” Sam exclaims, reaching for the cushion to hit Jack with. He seems calm, until he puts his beer bottle down and then tackles her. The sound of their laughter fills the room. 

- - 

It doesn’t strike her as odd, to have rolled around the floor laughing with her CO, until she is brushing her teeth for bed. The memories of the other Sam have begun to slowly seep in. It is comforting, to know that she can hide behind that casual intimacy and enjoy the time she can spend with Jack.

“Carter, I don’t want to be forward or anything, but if you come to bed wearing that, you won’t be wearing it for long.”

Ahh, that. 

The silk of her camisole feels wonderful against her skin. She has no memories of sleeping with him, but she knows it’s a matter of time. She wants to make new memories before the old ones flood her. She wants to love him while she still remembers not having had him. 

“Well, you said you liked it when I called you ‘Sir’. Have you ever wanted to have sex with a subordinate officer?”

“I just want to have sex with you, Carter.”

“That’s the right answer... Sir.”