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Stargate Atlantis: The Return -featuring Sam Carter

Chapter Text

Sam stepped through the doorway into the infirmary. She paused for a brief moment before she found who she was looking for. Dr. Carson Beckett was seated in the back with several folders open in front of him.

“Hello, Doctor. What are you working on?” Sam asked.

A startled Carson looked up and informed her, “Actually, I’m on a break. Do you need something, Colonel? Are you feeling alright?”

Sam tilted her head as she was about to ask why he seemed to be working on his break, but she quickly realized she of all people probably doesn’t have a right to ask that question. “Oh, I’m fine. I actually just wanted to check on you. I know the transition has been difficult for the members of the Atlantis Expedition.”

“Well that’s sweet of you. I have been settling in fine. There’s a lot of fascinating research happening at the SGC.”

Now Sam had to know what was so fascinating that he was reading files during his break. “May I?” she asked.

“Of course.” Carson responded as he handed the top file to Sam.

It didn’t take long for Sam to figure out that what she was holding was Janet’s old research. Carson must have been able to see in Sam’s face that she knew it was hers. He looked at her with a sympathy and a deep sense of regret in his eyes as he said, “She was brilliant.”

Sam didn’t know what to say to this. A simple, “She was,” didn’t seem like enough. They hardly ever talked about Janet around the SGC anymore. There was just so much happening. It left them little time to properly mourn her. They were just fighting on too many fronts. They had barely defeated the Goa’uld and the Replicators before the Ori showed up. And now the Replicators were back. They may be in a different galaxy, but they might as well be on their doorstep with how small the universe was getting these days.

It was all so unfair. She lost her father because of the Replicators. She knew the Asurans weren’t technically the same Replicators, but that didn’t mean it made her any less angry to know they were out there, even if they were the Ancients’ problem now.

Sam turned her attention back to the file, but she was too distracted to make small talk with Carson about Janet’s research.

A nod was all she managed before Carson continued, “I don’t know how you guys did it, especially in those first few years. We know so much now, and I still struggle with how much there is to learn. I can’t imagine starting research on alien physiology from scratch the way Janet had to.”

Sam could see the wonder in Carson’s eyes when he talked about all they accomplished back then. She stopped to consider this. She hadn’t really thought about how the members of the Atlantis Expedition must see them. Of course, whenever you introduce someone new to the Stargate Program you expect them to be amazed. You expect them to be amazed by the gate, the ships and the planets. She hardly ever gave much thought to how people would look at them.

It was clear, though, the impact that Janet’s work has had on Carson. Most of the time it didn’t feel like the work they were doing was amazing. Most of the time it just felt like they were just barely holding on enough to survive. Their work hardly felt like enough back then. It still doesn’t most days.

However, there were moments when she could appreciate what they’ve accomplished. Like the moment Thor told her it was her “stupid idea” that saved the Asgard, or when Jack announced that she was being promoted to lieutenant colonel. But most of the time, it’s when she gets to spend time with Cassie, when she sees Teal’c with Rya’c, or when she sees how much having friends who care about her has made a difference in Vala’s life. Those were the moments when she knew that any differences they could make, no matter how small, were worth it.

“We do the best we can with the information we have. And if that’s not good enough, we fight like hell to learn more,” she told the doctor.

Carson smiled at that, but behind it, Sam could see pain in his expression. She knew he wasn’t military, but Sam knew better than anyone, when lives are on the line, science is a grueling battle too.

Then the alarm sounded, and she heard Walter’s voice delivering the all too familiar message, “Unscheduled off-world activation.”

She looked toward the door and told Carson, “I better go check that out.”

“Of course, go.” She smiled at him and gave a small wave before she started to head toward the door. “Thank you, Colonel.”

“Any time.”

 Sam took off running toward the control room. She wasn’t sure how much she was able to help the doctor today, but she wanted the former members of the Atlantis Expedition to know they were welcome at Stargate Command. She knows from experience how much their city meant to them, and how painful it must have been to lose it, even if it was to the Ancients.

She thought about all of the times she could have lost the Stargate Program. The time the stargate blew up, the time Cheyenne Mountain was taken over by the aliens with the mimetic imaging devices, the time she was stranded alone on The Prometheus, and of course, the time she stood on the opposite side of a forcefield from Jack begging him to save himself before the mothership exploded.

Each of those times SG-1 was able to fight for a solution and make their way back home, but Sam knew that for the former members of the Atlantis Expedition, there was no fight to be had this time. They simply weren’t welcome anymore in the place they had begun to know as home these last few years.

Sam had been watching from the control room when Colonel Sheppard, McKay, Dr. Beckett, and Elizabeth had stepped through the gate from Atlantis for the last time. It was that moment she knew she had to help them in any way she could, even if all she could do in this situation was be a welcoming presence at Stargate Command. She could see that they were all trying to hide the pain of losing what they had just been forced to walk away from. Sam knew all too well what it was like to hide your feelings for the good of the Stargate Program.

Chapter Text

When Sam reached the control room, she saw Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard helping a clearly injured Major Wallace walk through the gate. She relaxed when she saw that it appeared to be a relatively minor injury, but she noted that John was undoubtedly displeased with his team’s performance on their mission.

The colonel’s conversation with General Landry about the mission didn’t last very long before the alarm sounded again and Walter announced, “Off-world activation.”

This one appeared to be scheduled. Sam stepped out of the way as the general guided Colonel Sheppard toward the monitor in the control room. Her heart began beating a bit faster when she saw Jack’s face appear on the screen.

“General.”

“General,” Jack and Landry greeted each other.

“Is that Sheppard there with you?” Jack asked.

Sam wanted nothing more than to let him know that she was here too, but General Landry hadn’t noticed she was in the room, and she didn’t want enter a conversation with the generals that she wasn’t invited to participate in. So, she stood patiently off to the side, and waited to hear how Jack was doing.

“Talks are proceeding at an acceptable pace, but the real news is that the Pegasus Replicators are heading back to Atlantis,” Woolsey reported.

Now, Sam began to internally panic, despite the fact that Jack and Woolsey explained that the Ancients weren’t worried. Sam knew better. The Ancients were not gods. There was no such thing as guaranteed safety in any galaxy she had been to. As amazing as the Ancients were, Sam had been through far too much the last nine years to believe the Ancients were infallible.

The conversation ended quickly, and General Landry immediately dismissed Sheppard’s offer to help the situation. Sam could see that John was even more disappointed now.

A few minutes later, Sam found Sheppard in his office.

“Can I come in?” she asked.

“Sure, Sam.”

She walked over to his desk and sat across from him. She wasn’t sure where to begin. She was pretty sure they shouldn’t even be having this conversation. She said the first thing that came to mind, even though she was pretty sure she already knew the answer. “So, how’s SG-4 treating you?”

She regretted it the instant she said it. “Oh, just swell,” he proclaimed with enough biting sarcasm to rival Jack when he’s angry. She knew that was something that they had in common. She was pretty sure the reason Jack helped Elizabeth talk John into joining the Atlantis Expedition was because he reminded him of young Colonel Jonathan O’Neill.

Sam responded with a knowing nod, “I’m sorry it has to be this way, John”

He responded with a somewhat defeated, “Me too.” After a moment of silence, he continued, “You know this last mission actually had me missing McKay?”

“Wow,” Sam responded with a small smile, but she knew that despite McKay’s arrogance and other flaws, he was a member of John’s team, of course he missed him. She continued, “I had a conversation with Dr. Beckett earlier. He would never admit it, but I don’t think he’s any happier here than you are.”

“Well what do you expect? They took our city away from us!” John shouted. Sam didn’t mind. She knew he wasn’t really yelling at her, and this was the conversation she was here to have. She let him go on, “And for crying out loud, the idiots at the IOA picked Woolsey to stay when they know  Elizabeth was the most qualified person for that job.”

That last statement resonated with Sam in an unexpected way. John had reminded her so much of Jack she completely missed something. Sam hadn’t noticed until now how much John reminded her of herself, at least, in one particular way. She knew Elizabeth wasn’t military, but Sam knew better than anyone that, even more than science, falling for your commander was a grueling battle too.

There were so many things Sam wanted to say to John now. She was aware that Elizabeth hadn’t been answering her friends calls, and she felt nothing but empathy for John in this moment. There were so many questions she wasn’t allowed to ask, and so much advice she wasn’t allowed to give. Finally, she settled for a question she knew wouldn’t be too much, but one she also already knew the answer to, “You miss her, don’t you?”

At this, John sighed, and answered the question with the propriety that the military had conditioned him to answer with, “We all do.”

Sam accepted that that was the best response the colonel could handle in that moment.

As she was trying to find the best words of encouragement she was allowed to say, the phone in John’s office started to ring, “That would be McKay,” he said.

Sam knew she wouldn’t be able to find the words to help John today, so she decided it would be best to let him talk to his friend, “I'll let you get that then. I’ll see you around, John.”

“See ya,” he responded as he put the phone on speaker and made his way over to the dartboard in his office.

That conversation went about as well as Sam expected, but it made her realize that what the former Atlantis Expedition members needed more than anything right now was each other. She knew where she needed to go next.

Chapter Text

Elizabeth jumped when she heard the knock at the door of her Colorado Springs apartment. She wasn’t expecting anyone. She made a couple futile attempts to pick up some of the mess in her apartment as she made her way to the door.

Before Elizabeth opened the door, she stood on her toes to see who was standing in the hallway. Of all the people she thought it might be, she never would have guessed that it would be Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter. She opened the door and greeted her guest, “Colonel, what brings you by? Is there an emergency at the SGC?” Elizabeth wasn’t sure why they wouldn’t just call.

“Oh, please, call me Sam. And, not exactly.” That seemed like a curious response to Elizabeth, but despite the vague answer, she invited her in. “I’m actually here to talk about something more of a personal matter.” This only made Elizabeth more confused. Sam finally explained, “It’s your team. They need you.”

Although this made Elizabeth more uncomfortable, she at least understood the colonel’s presence now. “Sam, the team was John, Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon, and half of them aren’t even in this galaxy,” Elizabeth retorted with a bitter smile.

This response disheartened Sam. She was beginning to see why Elizabeth had isolated herself from her friends after they returned to Earth. Sam could only imagine how unimportant and small having Atlantis taken away from her made Elizabeth feel, first by the Ancients, and then by the IOA. She wanted to find a way to convince her that that wasn’t true. Stargate Command, the planet, and quite frankly, the galaxy all still needed her.

But none of those things were what brought her here. First, Sam wanted Elizabeth to see that her friends still needed her too. “Elizabeth, you know that’s not true. Just because General Hammond and Janet didn’t walk through the gate with us every week, doesn’t mean they weren’t part of the team.”

Elizabeth looked away at the mention of Janet. She never had the chance to meet Stargate Command’s first Chief Medical Officer, but she could tell she had been a brilliant doctor from the way Carson had talked about her in the past. And now, seeing the pain in Sam’s eyes, Elizabeth could tell how much she meant to SG-1 as a friend.

Elizabeth felt guilty now. She’d read the files. She knew how much Sam and the rest of SG-1 have lost since they joined the Stargate Program. Here she was, moping because she lost a job. They’re in the middle of a war, another war. People were out there dying and killing for their freedom, and all that mattered to her was this one city in a galaxy she may never see again, a city that she supposed was never really hers in the first place.

Deep down Elizabeth knew that Sam was right, but that didn’t stop her from asking herself: how was she supposed to face them now? How was she supposed to help any of them come to terms with what has happened when she hasn’t been able to process it for herself?

“What the team needs, is to move on, and they don’t require my help in order to do that.”

“Look, I can’t say I know exactly what you’re going through, but just because you have to move on from Atlantis, doesn’t mean you have to move on from the friends you made while you were there. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I just wanted to ask you to keep an open mind next time one of them reaches out.”

“Thank you, Colonel. I’ll try.” Elizabeth said considering the possibility.

Elizabeth was still processing everything Sam had told her as they said their goodbyes. She genuinely didn’t know how to help her friends. She didn't even know how to help herself. She felt trapped, as though she simultaneously had all the options in the world in front of her, but nowhere she wanted to go.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She missed her friends, and she wanted to go see them. The problem was, she was afraid to see them too. What if too much had changed since they left Atlantis? What if Sam was wrong, and they didn’t really need her at all?

Elizabeth had been in such a strange position during her time in Atlantis. The people she worked with had become her family these last couple years, but as the leader, there was always a certain distance she was expected to keep. What would their dynamic be now that she wasn’t their boss?

She thought about John. He had become her best friend these last couple years. As the leader of the expedition, she kept her feelings for him in check, but how would she feel about him now that they didn’t have the barrier of their working relationship standing between them? She thought about all of the times she sent him through the gate, and all the times he flew off to fight the Wraith. If she was being honest, each time terrified her, but she couldn’t let that show, because she cared about him. A lot more than she was supposed to.

Elizabeth suddenly tried to dismiss this train of thought. She had no idea how John felt about her; it wasn’t like she could hook him up to a Za’tarc detector. And even if she did know how to ask him, Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she would be more apprehensive if John said he did have feelings, or if he told her he didn’t.

Sam didn’t expect the matter to be resolved tomorrow, but as she walked down the hall toward the exit, she hoped that, in time, what she said could be of some use to Elizabeth. Sam knew moving on from her dream job would be difficult for Elizabeth, but there were so many wonders still to be explored in the Milky Way. Sam hoped that Elizabeth, and the rest of their friends from the Atlantis Expedition, would find happiness with Earth as their home base again.

 Besides, there was still a chance that the Ancients might let the Tau’ri return to Atlantis one day.

As Sam was leaving the parking lot, she saw that what she said to Elizabeth might be relevant sooner than she had anticipated, because Dr. Beckett was walking up the steps to Elizabeth’s building.

 

 

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry, Sir, but with all due respect, we can’t just leave them there to die.”

It was the evening the day after Sam had spoken to Carson, John, and Elizabeth. Sam was standing in General Landry’s office discussing the data burst that they had just received from Jack and Woolsey in Atlantis. The Ancients were wrong. The replicators had taken the city, and Landry seemed to have given up on any chance of a rescue operation.

Sam had been in the control room running some gate diagnostics when the message arrived. The rest of SG-1 had gone out for the evening, and Sam knew she was the only one who was here to advocate for a rescue plan. Jack would have teased her about working while the rest of the team was out having fun, but now, her presence at the SGC might be the only thing that could save Jack’s life.

“I’m sorry, Colonel, but we have standing orders to destroy the city at any sign of a foothold situation. Now, I have meeting I need to get to. Dismissed.”

Sam’s heart was racing from both fear and rage, but dutifully, she turned to leave. She exited quietly, but not before seeing through the window in his office exactly whom the general’s meeting was with.

General Landry said he had orders, and Sam knew what that meant.  General Landry had standing orders from Jack himself. It was his own orders that were preventing his rescue. Sam knew what she was about to do next went against all of her training, but at that moment, she didn’t give a damn.

She turned the corner and made her way to the office of the one person who could help her. She just hoped it wasn’t too late.

When Sam got to the office, it was locked, but she couldn’t risk being seen standing out in the hallway for too long. She had to break in. She knew she was breaking about a dozen rules, but she already made her decision, and these would be far from the last rules she’d have to break in the next couple days. However, if there was a chance she could save Jack, she already knew it would all be worth it.

Sam knew that this was exactly why she shouldn’t have fallen for Jack in the first place. She knew that if this idea of hers didn’t go the way she hoped, it would be disastrous for her career. Hell, even if it did go the way she hoped, she would probably still end up fired.

It wasn’t too late to go back now, but it was her dad’s words that kept her from leaving this office and returning to her lab. “Don’t let rules stand in your way,” was what her father had told her on his deathbed.

“I won’t let you down, Dad,” Sam whispered to herself as she began to formulate a plan with a frighteningly long list of rules she would have to break in order to save Jack this time.

After a few minutes, Sam heard footsteps approaching, and the door to the office she was sitting in opened. As she expected, General Landry didn’t let the meeting last very long. She stood and turned to face the four very surprised people who had just entered the office.

 “Hello, John.”

John was baffled. He looked back at the door then turned to face Sam. He pointed at the door and said with increasing confusion, “That was locked.”

Sam smiled at him. “Please, Sheppard, I know you’ve only been here for six weeks, but you really think a door can stop me?”

With his index finger still raised, John opened his mouth to make a counter argument, but instead he shrugged and agreed, “Fair enough. That still doesn’t answer why your standing alone in my office after 2100 hours.”

Sam didn’t want to waste any time, “I know what General Landry has asked you to help him do, but as much as it pains me to say this, I think I have a better plan.”

That got their attention. Just as Sam suspected, John, Elizabeth, Carson, and McKay didn’t need any convincing to help her finish the plan.

Chapter Text

“The jumper is in its storage area under guard,” McKay explained to Elizabeth as Sam followed, making sure that no one would overhear their conversation. They quickly made their way toward their first destination. “We need for one of us to be added to the authorized personnel list, and there's only one guy who can do that.”

Sam quietly chuckled to herself at the fact that Elizabeth thought that “one guy” was Rodney.

They stopped in front of the elevator to finish discussing the current piece of the plan. Rodney explained to Elizabeth that he needed to add his key card to the authorized personnel list, but he could only do so from inside Dr. Lee’s lab.

“So?” Elizabeth asked.

“Well, he's in his office. So, you need to distract him,” Rodney informed her.

“Me? How?”

“Well here’s what I’m thinking—”

Okay, now Sam knew she needed to step in, “Rodney, I know what you’re thinking, and I think we can save both Dr. Lee and Elizabeth that particular embarrassment.”

“Well, it was just a thought,” Rodney responded defensively. “And I suppose you have a better idea?”

“Always,” Sam responded with a smile to remind him he was no match for her.

“Haha. Very funny,” Rodney responded with his typical McKay brand of sarcasm.

Sam gave a reassuring smile to Elizabeth. “Follow my lead.” She was happy to save Elizabeth from the embarrassment she felt as the “distraction” when she, Janet, and the rest of the women at the SGC had to break out of a holding cell during the Hathor incident.

They made it to Lee’s lab, and as promised, Sam took the lead from there. “Hey, Bill. How’s it going? I just wanted to check in and see the progress you’ve made on the jumper project.”

“Oh, well thanks, Sam,” Bill said. “But what’s Dr. Weir doing here?” he questioned slightly suspicious.

“Oh, well you know she’s been asked to consult for the SGC since her return from Atlantis.” Which technically wasn’t a lie. “I thought it would be helpful for her to have an update.”

“Oh, okay. I guess it wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Elizabeth was far too skilled as a negotiator, and Sam had far too much experience as a soldier, to let anything on their faces give away the fact that people getting hurt because of what they were up to, was a very real possibility.

They were both very uncomfortable with the fact that they had to use their colleague that way. So, as soon as they got the signal that they were good to leave from Rodney, they politely thanked him for his time and made their way to the exit.

Finally, after the Atlantis group had changed out of their civvies and grabbed all the gear they would need, the five of them met up in the hallway outside the jumper storage area. They had reached the point of no return, and not a single one of them had any doubt in their mind that they were going to go through with this.

Elizabeth, Carson, and Rodney lined up silently next to the jumper as Sam and John checked to see how many people were working on it. Fortunately, there was only one. Sam and John made their way to the back of the jumper, and before the man had time to notice anything, John lifted his zat gun and stunned him.

“Sorry, buddy,” Sam said to an unconscious Sergeant Siler as she moved him safely away from the jumper while John and Rodney ran inside to prepare to fly. Why is it always him?

Carson, Elizabeth, and Sam followed closely behind. Sam rushed to the computer and started her program to dial the gate and lock the control room out of the iris controls.

When she was done, Sam made her way to the front of the jumper, “Okay, I'm not sure how much time we have before they get through my hack,” she warned John. If Sam were in the control room, she would have been the one to stop them, but she wasn't at the SGC 24/7 (despite her reputation) so she had trained the people in the control room well.

“It’s alright. I don’t need much time,” John responded confidently.

The last thing they heard before they flew through the gate was General Landry over the radio ordering them to stand down.

Chapter Text

“My turtles!”

Suddenly, the familiar Scottish accent of Carson pierced through the silence that had washed over the jumper once they’d reached the desolate Midway Station.

“What?” a slightly startled and very confused Elizabeth asked.

“I just bought some wee baby turtles, and no one knows to feed them. I figured, I'm back for good, so I might as well get a pet. And, I'm allergic to cats, and uh…well, I'm at work too long to be fair to a dog, so I went with turtles. I probably killed them. Poor little buggers.” Carson was clearly panicking.

“Well, turtles are pretty hardy. I'm sure they'll be fine,” Elizabeth tried to reassure him.

“And they make good soup,” John added with a snarky smile.

That was when Sam decided to step in. She had enough experience over the years with Jack making jokes at the expense of Daniel’s compassion to know how to comfort him while still efficiently saving all their asses. “Don’t worry, Carson. We’re going to find Teyla and Ronon, save General O’Neill and Mr. Woolsey, and retake Atlantis in plenty of time to get a message to someone to feed your turtles.”

In response, McKay gave her one of his traditionally pessimistic glares, as if to sarcastically say “yeah that’s gonna happen,” just as she finished rewriting the last bit of code that they needed to redirect the gate bridge to the planet where they would find Teyla and Ronon.

“How can you possibly know that?” Carson asked.

Sam knew this was about more than just turtles. She knew how terrifying this mission must be for him. She’d be lying if she said that she wasn’t terrified herself. But they had no chance of pulling it off if they didn’t believe they could. “Carson, I know we can do this because we have all spent the last several years of our lives training and working to achieve the impossible. Remember what I told you yesterday? What we do when the information we have isn’t good enough?”

“We fight like hell to learn more?” Carson responded unsure of himself.

“Exactly. Well, when the time comes where we have to protect what we stand for and help the people who need us, we fight like hell then too. I should know, I’ve been there,” she added with a confident smile. “I know we can do this, because we are a team.” She then turned to look at Elizabeth, “All of us.”

Elizabeth smiled briefly at the reference to their conversation yesterday as well, but they were soon interrupted by the activation of the Milky Way gate.

“Did you do that?” Sheppard asked.

“No,” Sam and Rodney answer in unison as General Landry’s face appeared on the display at the front of the jumper.

“Colonel Sheppard. I'm going to assume that you're still at the Midway Station waiting for Doctor McKay to rewrite his macro—” It was then that he noticed Sam’s presence behind Sheppard. He made eye contact with her briefly before sighing and continuing his official statement. “I understand what you're doing, Colonels. Hell, I'll even call it brave, but if you don't turn that ship around immediately and come back to the SGC, I'll see to it personally that your careers in the military are—"

Before he could finish what he was saying, Sheppard shut down the transmission. “That way I won't know what he was gonna say.”

Sam, desperately wanting to set aside what just happened, finally announced that they were ready to dial their next location.

Once they arrived, they quickly made their way to Athosian settlement.

As they were emerging from the forest, John spotted Teyla and Ronon who were turning away from a pot of food cooking over a fire. “That smells great,” he announced to get their attention. “Hope you saved some for us.”

Teyla didn’t need to turn around to know who the voice she had just heard belonged to. Her first reaction was disbelief, but that was quickly replaced by pure joy when she saw that it was in fact her friends from Earth who stood before her. “John?! It is wonderful to see you—all of you!”

“And you,” Elizabeth replied.

“We missed that…whatever that is,” John said in an attempt to continue his joke as he pointed to the food that was being prepared.

As usual, Ronon disregarded John’s failed joke, skipped the small talk, and forced them to get to the point, “Something's wrong.”

Chapter Text

Elizabeth began to explain the situation as they walked toward one of the tents at the settlement. Once there, Rodney showed Sam’s Anti-Replicator guns to Teyla and Ronon.

“They emit a directional energy beam that disrupts the connection between nanites,” Sam started to explain to the group.

“Not what I asked,” Ronon responded.

“Yes, they work good,” Rodney supplied begrudgingly.

“Good. So, you need us because, uh, we know our way around the city?” was Ronon’s next question.

“We need you because you’re part of our team,” John said to Ronon, followed by a quick smile in Sam’s direction.

“What about her?” Ronon asked with a glare that Sam was sure many people would find quite intimidating. She was not one of those people. Sam smiled softly in defiance to communicate that fact.

It was Elizabeth who answered, though, “Lieutenant Colonel Carter is one of the best and brightest the Stargate Program has to offer. During my tenure as the leader of the SGC, Sam commanded the team that saved our entire planet while Jack O’Neill was under the influence of alien technology. Before that, she saved our planet, as well as several others throughout our galaxy, on numerous occasions as the second in command of the SGC’s flagship team. Before that, she was the one who got the Earth gate to function properly without a DHD.

“Sam is the reason we’re here today. In more ways than one. It’s because of her intellect as a scientist we made it farther than the next closest planet. It’s because of her bravery as a soldier Earth has survived all of its interplanetary wars, and it’s because of her compassion we are standing together now as a team ready to save our city. She was a friend to all of us during our time on Earth, and she has traveled to this galaxy with us at great risk to her career and her life. She is part of this team too.”

As this newly formed team, they needed to trust each other. Elizabeth knew that Ronon didn’t easily trust people, and usually it was actions that spoke louder than words in his book, but under the current time constraints, she really needed to expedite the process. She just hoped that Ronon would trust her faith in Sam.

Elizabeth let out a breath she hadn’t noticed she was holding as Ronon simply stated, “Works for me.”

Sam silently thanked Elizabeth with a smile after Ronon released her from his death glare. But it was Teyla who steered the conversation back to the main issue, “There may be hundreds of Replicators on Atlantis by now.”

“We've got a plan. A good one,” Sam said encouragingly.

“I wouldn't ask you to come with us if I didn't think we could do it,” John said.

“Also, General O'Neill and Richard Woolsey were both on Atlantis when the Replicators attacked. There is a chance they're still alive,” Elizabeth explained. Sam could tell she was trying to avoid eye contact with her when she mentioned Jack’s questionable status, they all were (well, except maybe Ronon). They knew how long she’s known Jack, and they knew how close SG-1 was, even if they didn’t know exactly how close she and Jack had gotten over the last year since her father died.

Finally, it was John who broke the silence. He looked at Teyla and Ronon and said, “I'll be damned if I'm going to let a bunch of Replicators take our home away from us. So…you with us?” Teyla and Ronon looked at each other, and the smiles on their faces were all John needed to know their answer.

Chapter Text

The now seven members of the rogue mission to save Atlantis finished discussing their plan and started to make their way back to the jumper. Elizabeth looked at Sam and detected a brief look of apprehension on her face. In the relatively short time she has know Sam, she had thought of her as, certainly the smartest, but also one of the bravest people she had ever known. But Elizabeth knew how important this mission was for Sam.

For one, there was the fact that they would be facing the replicators. The replicators had caused them both a great deal of emotional trauma. Despite all of the amazing things the Stargate Program had given both of them these last few years, it has also taken from them too. Elizabeth feared the pain that Sam would endure if they arrived at Atlantis and they were not able to rescue General O’Neill.

Elizabeth knew that the general’s life was most likely the primary reason Sam was with them, and Elizabeth was okay with that. Sam had only been to Atlantis once, and as much as she cared about the members of the Atlantis Expedition, Elizabeth suspected that Sam wouldn’t have put her life and her career on the line for them just to get their city back. However, Elizabeth did suspect that there wasn’t much that Sam wouldn’t risk to save the life of Jack O’Neill.

Elizabeth hadn’t been their boss for very long, but it didn’t take someone with the interpersonal communication skills of an expert negotiator to see how much Jack and Sam loved each other. Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c were all clearly upset when Elizabeth had denied their request to find the Asgard and heal Jack after he nearly died in order to save Earth from Anubis's attack. It was Sam, though, who came to her office after the meeting and convinced her to reconsider.

Elizabeth had seen the pain in Sam’s eyes that day, even though she appeared strong and argued her point of view well, Elizabeth could see it. Elizabeth hadn’t known Sam well back then, but she already trusted her by that point. Sam had helped Elizabeth understand that the world was much safer with Jack O’Neill around to help protect it. Despite Sam’s pain, Elizabeth had believed that if anyone could successfully save Jack, it was Sam.

That mission hadn’t gone as planned. Sam ended up being kidnapped and tortured by the replicator known as Fifth, but Jack was saved by the Asgard because of Sam actions. Then Jack immediately turned around and saved not only Sam, but the Asgard’s new home world as well.

During that time, Elizabeth had also seen the admiration and pride in Jack’s eyes as he announced Sam’s promotion to lieutenant colonel. It had been in that moment when Elizabeth was sure they loved each other. There was so much they had communicated in their salute at Sam’s promotion ceremony. The looks in their eyes had contained more than just love. They were looks of total mutual respect.

That had amazed Elizabeth. She had dedicated her life to learning to understand other people. It wasn’t until she met SG-1 that she realized that her understanding of other people had always been through the distorted lens of politics. SG-1 was different, though. They gave so much of themselves to help people, but they expected nothing in return. Elizabeth had never met people as genuine with their respect and compassion as they were.

Elizabeth had learned a lot from SG-1, and she tried to follow their example as best as she could while she was commanding Atlantis. In particular, she increasingly found herself following Sam and Jack’s example. For years those two put their duty to their work before their personal feelings.

For a while Elizabeth had wondered how Sam could have fallen for Jack, and she'd wondered how they managed to work so well together while they were both hiding their feelings. When Elizabeth first worked with her, she trusted and believed in Sam. However, it wasn’t until she took command of the Atlantis Expedition and met John that Elizabeth finally understood Sam.

Elizabeth respected that saving Jack O’Neill was the primary reason why Sam was in Pegasus with them. Elizabeth just hoped that it wasn’t too late for the general.

Sam and Elizabeth were the last to leave the tent, and Elizabeth took that opportunity to turn to her and say, “Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll find General O’Neill. Despite what he wants other people to think, he’s a brilliant man. Brilliant enough to keep even Mr. Woolsey alive,” she added with a smile. “He has survived worse situations than this, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he will survive this one. You know why?”

“Why?” Sam asked.

“Because he has you,” Elizabeth responded.

Sam was shocked. She was so appreciative of Elizabeth’s kindness. Elizabeth had just told her exactly what she needed to hear. She was a bit concerned that someone so high up in the chain of command at the Stargate Program could see how much she cared about Jack, but she trusted Elizabeth. Besides, she suspected that Elizabeth might understand her situation more than anyone.

As they walked to the jumper, Sam thought about her conversation with John. Since then, she had been wondering if Elizabeth felt the same way about him. After the understanding she had just shown Sam, there wasn’t a doubt in her mind now that Elizabeth (as Jack would have put it) cared about John a lot more than she was supposed to.

“Thanks, Elizabeth,” Sam said. She briefly hugged her as the door to the jumper closed behind them.

Now it was time to focus. The jumper lifted into the air as Rodney reported that he successfully deactivated the shield protecting Atlantis’s stargate.

John took the jumper through the wormhole, and seconds later, the members of the Atlantis Expedition were home again.

Chapter Text

Jack O’Neill missed Samantha Carter on a good day. He missed her exponentially more as he sat in a dark hallway in another galaxy knowing that, thanks to his own standing orders, he would perish sitting next to Richard Woolsey.

If Jack had only known that informing Woolsey of their fate would have shut him up, he would have told him much sooner. Jack took this rare moment of silence to think about something other than their impending doom, and he began to think about Sam. He closed his eyes and imagined that they were back at his cabin, fishing for the first time.

Sam had just lost her father, but for that brief moment, the wars with the Goa’uld and the Replicators were over, they had no idea who the Ori were, and Sam had finally realized that she loved fishing too. That had been the happiest he felt since before he lost Charlie.

Sam had also just broken off her engagement with Pete. Ugh, what a loser. He'd done his best when they were dating to be supportive of the guy, or more accurately, Sam’s right to date whoever she wanted to. But he couldn’t believe that the jackass actually bought a house without talking to her. Who does that?

Some people might have thought dumping his sorry ass was a rash decision she’d made as a result of the stress of losing her father. Those people didn’t know Sam the way he did. He was there when she lost Jacob. He knew that Sam had felt grateful that Selmak had given her more years with him than she would have had otherwise. He also knew that Sam didn’t make rash decisions, especially when it came to her personal life.

Jack felt as though he missed a lot while Sam was dating the cop. He'd wanted to keep a respectful distance, in an attempt to show his support, and to lessen some of the pain of seeing her with him. There was also the pesky fact that he'd been stuck behind a desk most of that time as the new commander of the SGC.

Even so, Jack noticed something different about Sam after she broke off her engagement. She looked freer, like she had a weight lifted off her shoulders. He’d even dare to say she had a certain glow about her sitting under that Minnesota Sun. Honestly, she’d looked happier than he had seen her in a long time too.

He had seen how carefully she considered the proposal. Hell, she even asked his opinion! “What about you? If things had been different?” God, he had played that moment over and over in his mind. She looked so torn during that conversation. The look she had in her eyes was so intense as she asked him those questions. She almost appeared to be on the brink of tears.

The last time he had seen her cry was when Janet died. That day had been unbearable. For both of them. For the entire SGC really. He’d heard that Sam was so distraught when they got back from P3X-666 (he really needed to have a talk with these people about naming things; they were asking for trouble with crap like 666) that that nosy little twerp Bregman thought it was Jack who died on that planet.

Jack knew that some of Sam’s tears that day were for his injury, but for cryin’ out loud, the woman had just lost her best friend. He didn’t remember much from the Hathor incident (thank God), but he had noticed a shift at the SGC after that day. It seemed to have brought the women closer, in particular, Sam and Janet.

Sam and Janet were the highest-ranking women at the SGC, and Jack couldn’t imagine how difficult their roles must have been. He knew how seriously they both took those roles, and over the years, they had both risen to surpass every expectation that was placed on them. He’d been glad that they had each other for support. He’d give almost anything for that to still be the case.

Jack also wished they didn’t live in a world where women had to work twice as hard to earn the respect they deserve, especially in the military. But Jack suspected that the workaholic ethic that Sam and Janet shared was something that was in their blood regardless. They both loved their work so much, and despite Jack’s annoyance at their technobabble and the ceaseless need Janet had felt to shine that blinding penlight of hers in his eye, he respected the crap out of what they did for the SGC, and who they were as people.

Chapter Text

There were days when Jack felt so guilty about P3X-666. He had never really realized quite how much he cared about the little Napoleonic powermonger until he woke up in the infirmary after that mission only to find that she wasn’t the one who’d saved him, all because he hadn’t been able to save her out in the field. She was his responsibility, and he’d let her down in the worst way possible. He’d let everyone who depended on her as the doc with the best brain when it came to alien-related medicine down. He’d let Cassie down more than he risked letting himself think about. He’d let Sam down.

Sam had gone to him in the infirmary right after he had recovered enough to be up and around. He didn’t want to think about how much time she must have spent sitting at his bedside knowing she had just lost one of her best friends and afraid she’d lose another if he didn’t pull though. She’d been fighting back tears that even she couldn’t stop. She’d looked so broken, even though he’d been the one recovering from a staff blast to the abdomen. He couldn’t stop himself from taking her in his arms and hugging her tightly, despite the excruciating pain it caused his wound.

In that moment, Jack had cursed the fact that he could only touch her when she was in pain and he felt the need to comfort her. Sam deserved so much more than that. Sam deserved so much more than to have her best friends constantly ripped away from her. They got Daniel back eventually, but even with the unpredictable science- fiction-cliché-waiting-to-happen life they lived, Jack knew they wouldn’t be getting Janet back. At least, not their Janet, he corrected himself as he thought about the Janet from the alternate SG-1 that had found her way into their universe last year.

Jack was already in DC at the time, but he had spoken to Sam about the whole ordeal. He could tell, even on the phone, how emotional the experience had been for her. Not only seeing Janet again, but also Martouf, who had died at her hands (even though she had no choice, Jack knew that one would never stop haunting her).

At first, Jack had hoped that getting the chance to say good-bye to Janet might have given Sam some semblance of closure. Even though she hid it well, he could still tell just from her voice that it had only ripped open the wound and poured salt in it.

Sam was the most logical person he knew, almost as much as that alien with the pointy ears in that Star Trek episode T had forced them to suffer through on one of their team nights. Not Spock, but the one from the show where they were all lost on the other side of the galaxy. As if Jack didn’t get enough of that crap in real life (but hey, at least the creators of Star Trek knew how to name a spaceship).

As Jack recalled, Teal’c thought it made more sense that the newer Trek series had “more aliens with a varied range of melanin.” Although, Jack knew T’s favorite pointy pinna party pooper was the one from that prequel series that ended a couple years ago. And even though T liked to deny it, Jack knew it was because she reminded him of a certain leader of the Hak'tyl Resistance. Jack on the other hand, couldn’t help but think of Sam whenever he saw strong and brilliant women.

Jack knew that somewhere in that big logical brain of Sam’s, she had to know that there were other universes out there where Janet survived. That was the thing about Sam, though. She wasn’t just strong and brilliant, she was kind and compassionate too. Although she could hold it together when she needed to with the best of them, over the last year she’d let her guard down just a bit more with him. He could tell when she told him about it, that hugging “Janet” good-bye for the last time was painful, and Sam had one of the highest tolerances for pain that he had ever encountered.

He’d never admit this to Sam, but he was actually jealous of their encounter with the alternate Janet. He wished more than anything that he would have gotten the chance to see the tiny doc in person just one more time. Hell, he would even let her stab him in the ass with one of those giant needles again if it meant that he could see that feisty smile of hers spread across her face just one more time, or hear her reluctantly laugh at one of his and Cassie’s terrible jokes at the dinner table when he got to visit, or even receive one of her sassy eye-rolls at his petty complaining during a post-mission exam.

Chapter Text

Jack had always wondered about the circumstances that led Janet to become a member of SG-1 in that alternate universe, but it didn’t surprise him. He’d noticed some of the top brass had disrespectfully chuckled when they’d heard that part of the report in the briefing. It took all of his restraint to not commit a court-martial offense at their lack of respect for a fellow soldier who gave her life defending not only the country, but the planet, and hell, the entire goddamn galaxy. That was something the men sitting in that room probably couldn’t even wrap their heads around, only barely having set foot in the SGC, and not ever through the gate.

It was an unfortunate reality that the only the people who dedicated their lives to the program would truly understand how remarkable each and every person who worked at the SGC or on Atlantis was. Janet was one of the best. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she had been SG-1 material. For years they had already considered her an honorary member of SG-1 anyway.

Good old George had told him once that when SG-1 was stuck underground on that heap of ice Carter referred to as a planet, the little spitfire was the first one to volunteer for the rescue mission. Hammond had also indicated that he suspected the doc would have expressed some choice words about the dome-dwellers of P3R-118 had she not been talking to her commanding officer.

Jack would have liked to have seen that rescue operation. He knew Major Griff had been placed in charge of the potential mission, but there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the doc would have subconsciously usurped the command and upgraded from Napoleonic powermonger to Napoleonic mama bear mode. Janet was after all, the “mom friend” of the group, as Cassie liked to remind them.

Jack’s suspicion of Janet’s fierce (albeit potentially reckless) dedication to her “cubs” had only been confirmed a year later when SG-1 and General Hammond had reported to Nirrti’s holding room to find the doc with a gun, aimed to kill, pointed at one of their most powerful enemies at the time. The airman in the corner of the room had his own weapon pointed at her, but the steadfast woman standing before them didn’t have a care in the world when it was her daughter’s life on the line.

Jack should have intervened, but it was one of the rare moments when he had been frozen where he stood. Fortunately, Carter and Hammond had the sense to talk her down, because in that moment, Jack had been forced to face the one pain that plagued him most. The pain of a parent losing a child. Despite her steely demeanor, he'd heard the barely perceptible break in Janet’s voice when she was forced to admit the words that rang through his mind and haunted him since that day, “I can’t help Cassandra.”

It had broken his heart all over again when the Doc had said those words. Jack never wanted anyone else to feel the pain that he went through after losing Charlie. There’s nothing worse than the knowledge that your child is going to die and there’s nothing you could do to save them. In that moment, he couldn’t stand to watch his friend face the same suffering, especially when that friend’s daughter was like a daughter to him too.

Part of him wished Janet had killed that snake-headed bitch where she stood, especially after she almost killed Sam a couple years later with her genetic experimentation on P3X-367. But as much as it had pained Janet to admit it, they’d needed Nirrti to save Cassie.

Despite the fact that Janet could have easily been court-martialed for her actions that day, Jack was in awe of her. He dreaded to think what he would have done in her shoes. After everything that snake had done to her daughter, Jack was impressed by the self-control Janet displayed in not shooting her the moment she laid eyes on her. But Janet had the wisdom, and quite frankly, the humility to admit that letting her live (at least for the moment) was the best chance Cassie had.

Janet deserved more than the brass’s respect. She deserved their reverence. These men had even shown Daniel the ultimate science geek more respect. And how many times had he screwed up out in the field? He was only alive today because of his “sheer dumb luck” as Sam would say in that charming fake British accent of hers that she broke out when she was quoting Harry Potter.

Jack would have been honored to have Janet as a member of his SG-1. While people who don’t really know Sam tend to see the brilliance and the strength and overlook the compassion, people who didn’t really know Janet tended to see the brilliance and the compassion and overlooked her strength. Both of those women were so much more than anyone outside the SGC could see.

Jack thought about all the times he teased Janet for what he thought were her overprotective tendencies, even though at the end of the day she usually turned out to be right. He thought about all the lives she had saved as a doctor and a soldier. He thought about all the team dinners that included her, all the laughs they had when the group had found time off-base to briefly forget about the pain their job caused. He thought about the amazing job she did as a single mom, and how grateful he was to her for letting him be a part of Cassie’s life.

Jack had realized that, next to his failure to protect her on P3X-666, his biggest regret when it came to Janet Fraiser, was that he never told her how grateful he was for her friendship, how much he admired everything she had accomplished, and how deeply proud he was of her.

Chapter Text

Jack hadn’t told anyone this, but he kept a secret copy of that documentary they had made on the Stargate Program in his office. He hadn’t even told Sam. He didn’t want to cause her any more pain by reminding her of that day.

People would probably be surprised to find that he had it seeing as he wasn’t too subtle about his disdain for the project. There were a lot of reasons he hadn’t wanted to give Bregman the time of day during the filming. Not the least of which was that he wasn’t really a man of many words. Besides, who could capture everything the program was and all it meant to them in a soundbite?

Somehow, Janet had managed to accomplish just that. There were days when he was buried in paperwork, or days when the threat of the Ori made everything seem so hopeless that he regretted ever stepping through that gate in the first place. Then there were the days when he wanted nothing more than to retire, and he would have his ass beamed back to the SGC as fast as Asgardly possible so he could wrap Sam in his arms and never let go.

It was on those days that he watched his favorite part of the documentary (aside from Carter’s adorkably awkward camera presence). When Bregman had asked Janet if there was an upside to the Stargate Program, she’d smiled that sassy smile of hers and asked him, “Are you kidding me?”

Jack missed that smile. It was the same smile he frequently saw on Cassie’s face. Even though she wasn’t biologically hers, there was so much that young woman had learned from her mother before she lost her. He was glad they all still had Cassie, especially for Sam’s sake.

Janet had said this next, “I think the reason we all manage to persevere is because we feel that we're on the brink of understanding so much more. And not just about medicine, but about who we are. You know, where we came from, what the future has in store, how we fit into the grand scheme of things.”

Jack wasn’t always one to focus on the big picture, so there were times when he needed to hear this, because he knew that Sam and Daniel still felt that way too, even though they weren’t able to proclaim it as gracefully as the doc had. Janet’s face had lit up when she talked about why she loved the Stargate Program, and it was the same expression that he saw in Sam and Daniel’s faces when they found some new doohickey or rock to study.

Jack never wanted them to lose that, his best friends might be a bunch of nerds (hell, even Teal’c was a total Trekkie), but they were his nerds. Jack would sacrifice anything to protect them. He would even die in a cold, wet, dark hallway next to Richard Woolsey of all the beings in all the galaxies, if it meant ensuring their safety.

Much like Janet’s strength when she put the gun down in Nirrti’s holding room, Jack had made the choice to sacrifice what he wanted by going to DC and continuing to fight for that bright future his friends cared so deeply for. And his friends were always where he found the strength to do that.

Jack’s mind turned to Sam again. And again, he thought about the day Sam had shown him the ring from Pete. He’d suspected that she was asking him to give her a reason to say no. It broke his heart that he couldn’t.

Later, Kerry had told Jack to retire for Sam, but he couldn’t do that either. Some might call him a coward. Some might wonder how the relationship they had right now could possibly be enough. But it was enough for Jack because he would take any bit of Samantha Carter’s love that he could get. He knew she loved him, but he knew that she loved her job, her friends, and her planet too. If Sam would ever be willing to give those up for him, she wouldn’t the woman he fell in love with.

Jack wasn’t with Sam every day, but he had decided when he took the job in DC that to lose Carter in that way would be infinitely better than losing her in the way he’d lost Charlie, or Janet, or Skaara.

He thought about the last time he saw Sam. She’d been hiding in the corner of his screen when he’d sent their last data burst through. Ever the respectful soldier, she hadn’t moved from her post when he’d broken the news that the Replicators had taken the city. He had briefly looked at Woolsey who’d been screaming behind him, and when he’d turned to face to monitor again, the transmission had been cut off. The last thing he had seen from Earth was the look of fear on the faces of everyone in the control room, but the one image that was burned in his brain was of the one face that contained more than just fear. It was the heartbreak that appeared in the eyes of Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, PhD, that Jack was burdened with as he patiently awaited General Landry to carry out his standing orders.

Jack could live with his impending sacrifice if it weren’t for Sam. She’d already survived the death of her mother, her best friend (two if you count Daniel), and her father. That was already too much to ask for from someone so young. He didn’t want to put her through that pain again. He knew she was strong, and he knew she would survive this too, but he had promised her that he would always be there for her.

He’d thought it was a relatively safe promise at the time. As the commander of the base, he wasn’t getting out much. Nevertheless, here he was. He wished he could tell her he was sorry. He wished he could tell her how proud he was of her, and how much he loved her. He wished the last memory of her face wouldn’t be the heartbroken one that had just discovered he was probably going to die out here. He wished he could see her face just one more time. He wished he could hear her voice just one more ti—

“Authentication code Alpha Six Delta Charlie Niner. General O'Neill, Woolsey, do you copy?”

Okay… he expected that his imagination would have come up with something a little bit sexier than that, Jack briefly thought before he heard the static that made him realize the voice was coming from his radio, not his own head.

He grabbed his radio and pressed the button, hoping that it indeed wasn’t just his mind playing tricks on him, “Carter?!?”

Chapter Text

“Carter?!?”

Sam was relieved beyond words to hear Jack’s voice, but they had no time for reunions right now. So even though there were a million questions Sam wanted to ask him, the only question she allowed herself to ask was the one necessary for the mission, “Yes, sir. I need to know if you're anywhere near Stargate Operations.”

“No, we're not.”

“Perfect,” Sam responded seriously.

 “Carter?” Jack asked again. His tone was different now. It had changed from shock and disbelief to desire and a hint of desperation that was hidden so well that only Sam could sense it. She knew he wanted more information, not only about the plan, but her as well.

“I’m sorry, we can't talk right now, Sir. We’ll be back in a couple of hours. Carter, out.” Sam took a deep breath and tried to relax. She knew that Jack would trust her, and he would wait patiently for them to return. She would explain everything then.

Sam gave a nod to John and Rodney to indicate that they should begin the next phase of the plan. The moment McKay announced that the package was away, John told them all to hold on as he threw the jumper into reverse.

As planned, the wormhole was no longer active, and the jumper crashed through the glass windows of the control tower. John flew them to a safe distance for them to witness what would hopefully happen any second. Their eyes were all glued to the city, and suddenly, their faces glowed as they reflected the light from fireball that now engulfed the top floors of the control tower.

Elizabeth’s look of amazement at the explosion they were witnessing quickly turned to a look of pain after what they had just done to their home sunk in.  “That went well,” John offered up in consolation. Elizabeth reluctantly agreed, because she knew planting the bomb in the control tower was an unfortunate but necessary step in their plan. Elizabeth also knew that it wasn’t nearly as painful as the next part of their plan would be.

As the fire from the explosion died down, John began to fly the jumper to their next destination.

 

“That sounded like an explosion,” Woolsey observed.

While trying to contain his irritation, Jack calmly informed him that it was, in fact, an explosion. “Is Colonel Carter attacking the city?”

“She better be,” Jack responded despite the fact that he was conflicted. He was confused as to why Sam was the one chosen to lead this mission. All he knew was that he didn’t want her here. He didn’t want her to be the one to execute the orders to destroy the city. He couldn’t stand the thought of the pain she would suffer not only from losing him, but also from the guilt that it was under her command that the orders were carried out.

Why would General Landry put Sam in that position? The rest of SG-1 wasn’t even on base when he sent his last message to Earth. Had Landry called them back to help execute his standing orders? Strategically, the best course of action for General Landry would have been to order Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay to find the best way through the city’s defenses.

Maybe Landry had decided that Sheppard shouldn’t be the one to lead the mission, but if Sam was involved, where the hell was Colonel Mitchell? He might hold the same rank as Sam, but Mitchell was still technically in command of SG-1. Not that the members of SG-1 didn’t occasionally go on separate missions. Still, this didn’t seem quite right to Jack.

“Why can’t she get back to us for two hours?” Woolsey asked, his panic levels beginning to rise again.

“I don’t know,” Jack responded genuinely unsure of what Sam’s plan was. To be honest, he was concerned the explosion wasn’t larger. His orders were to nuke the city. If Sam had successfully carried out the orders, he would have been dead by now. He shouldn’t have even heard from her at all. They clearly got through the gate’s shield. Why wouldn’t they just send the nuke through?

Not even Woolsey would be stupid enough to send a message through first. The replicators could easily reprogram the shield in two hours. There’s no way Carter would have expected to get a second chance to disarm the shield. None of this made any sense. If Carter was carrying out his orders…

That was when Jack finally realized, none of this made any sense unless Carter was not following orders. He felt stupid for not figuring this out sooner, but it wasn’t something he expected from her. How far up did this go? Who was involved? Did Hank give her permission to disobey his standing orders? Or is Sam going to be facing a court-martial if she survived this?

Jack was furious now. She had put her career first for years. How could she waste all of that just to save his life? Jack had told her when he downloaded the Ancient database into his brain the second time. He had made it perfectly clear to her that her continued participation in the Stargate Program was more valuable to Earth than his life.

He knew that after they’d defeated Anubis, Sam had been able to convince Elizabeth that his life was worth saving despite how risky a mission to find the Asgard would be. But at the time, Elizabeth had only been facing orders from Kinsey, and she was a civilian. Elizabeth was smart enough to see how big a corrupt idiot that man was, and she was strong enough to defy him.

This time was different. There was no possible way Sam could have convinced General Landry to defy his orders. The only conclusion that fit all of the pieces of the puzzle was that Sam had disobeyed orders and turned the mission to destroy the city into a rogue rescue operation.

Jack was torn. He didn’t want to die. And he hated to admit it, but the part of him that could never quite believe that this beautiful, kind and brilliant woman had chosen him was in awe of how much Sam loved him. But if Jack had had any say in the matter, she would have never risked her career and her own life just to save him.

That was just it, though. Even if you just want to protect the person you love, you don’t get to make their choices for them.

Jack was still worried about Sam, but once his anger died down, he remembered something else. He trusted Sam completely. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that if Samantha Carter had decided to save him, he was as good as rescued.

Chapter Text

“It was good to be back, however briefly,” Rodney said as he was clearly still trying to shake the horror of blowing up Stargate Operations.

“I feel like I’m gonna be ill,” Carson added.

“Don’t be,” Ronan told him sternly.

“All right, just take some deep breaths, Carson,” Elizabeth said in a comforting tone.

Once again focusing on the mission, Teyla asked why they did not tell General O’Neill what their plan was. John explained that they told him all he needed to know in the moment, and they would tell him more when they got back to the city.

That was when McKay felt the need to throw his two cents in. “Well, that is gonna be easier said than done. With all those hits we took when they shot at us, it's gonna be impossible for me to convert the shield back to a cloak,” Rodney protested.

“And by ‘impossible,’ you mean …” John questioned.

“I mean ‘not possible’. What do you think I mean?” Rodney retorted.

“I’m sorry,” John countered with a snarky smile. “I just remembered, when you look up ‘impossible’ in the Meredith Rodney McKay to English dictionary, the translation reads, ‘ask Sam Carter instead.’”

That got him. Sam stifled a laugh as everyone else in the jumper turned to look at her, but Rodney and John were still focused on their argument.

“That’s ridiculous! I’m the one who—”

“Who what, Rodney?” John stared him down daring him to enter a who’s accomplished more for the Stargate Program than who contest with Samantha Carter.

Knowing that was an argument that there was no way for him to win, Rodney backed down, but was clearly still angry.

Once Sam regained her composure, she wanted to relieve the tension, but there were more important matters at hand, “I can fix the cloak, John,” she offered.

Rodney scoffed at that, “There you go again.” He angrily turned his attention to Sam herself.

“Excuse me?”

“You have the same reckless regard for the laws of physics that you did the day we met. You haven’t changed a bit, have you?”

“Well that’s funny, because I was starting to think you had,” Sam informed him. She saw no point in wasting time arguing with him.

“Well you’re the one who—” Rodney paused as what she said finally sunk in. “Really?” he asked with an unsure smile.

Sam sighed, “McKay, when we first met, you were a selfish, arrogant jackass who was more concerned with being right than saving someone else’s life. But since you’ve gone to Atlantis – well, you’re still fairly selfish and arrogant – but now you have people you care about, who care about you too. You’ve even risked your own life to save them in the past.”

“I guess that’s sorta true,” Rodney agreed.

“But do you want to know what the biggest difference between us now is?”

“What?” Rodney asked with genuine curiosity.

“Hope. Over the years, there were so many times when I could have given up, times when the problem we faced seemed to defy the laws of physics, but I didn’t give up hope.”

“Huh,” was all Rodney managed for a response as he was clearly considering the new information Sam had presented.

Ronon then leaned over to Teyla and quietly admitted, “You know, I think I’m starting to like her.”

Sam turned her attention back to the rest of the group, “Okay, honestly, I might not be able to fix the cloak before we get back to Atlantis, but hey, there’s always Plan C.”

“Don’t you mean Plan B?” John asked.

“Sheppard, honestly when has anything less than Plan C ever succeeded in our line of work?”

“Fair enough,” John conceded. “So let’s just hope we took out the sensors when we blew the tower.”

Elizabeth turned to ask Rodney, “Well, you said they could rebuild remarkably fast. How long before they restore critical systems?”

“Who knows? A couple of hours?”

Their conversation was then cut off by the beeping of the HUD that told them they had found what they were looking for.

Chapter Text

“I have to assume Sheppard and Carter heard my message and chose to ignore it,” General Landry stated as he angrily paced the control room of the SGC.

“There's no way to be a hundred percent certain, sir, but—” Chief Master Sergeant Harriman attempted to defend them before he was cut off.

“They heard me alright. They're already in Pegasus doing goodness knows what. Which leaves me no choice but to lock out their IDCs and invalidate their personal authentication codes.”

“Sir, you can’t be serious!”

General Landry sighed as he turned to find the remaining members of SG-1 entering the control room with a frantic Daniel Jackson leading the charge. “I am dead serious, Dr. Jackson.”

“But, General—”

General Landry was not in the mood to formally reprimand anyone else under his command tonight. Instead, he calmly and quietly pulled Daniel aside and asked him, “Dr. Jackson, for your own sake and the sake of your colleagues, are you sure this is the scene you want to be making? In this place? At this moment?”

Daniel opened his mouth to protest before he realized that on this he agreed with the general. The rumors about Sam and everyone else on the stolen jumper were already rapidly spreading around the SGC. He did suppose that it would only make matters worse for them if he were to make a scene in the control room.

General Landry turned to address the rest of SG-1, “Report to the briefing room. I will be there shortly.”

Daniel respectfully left the control room without another word and followed Cam, Vala, and Teal’c up the stairs to level 27.

Walter was nervous to broach the subject again after the general’s dismissal of Dr. Jackson, but he was still disturbed by the night's events enough to respectfully attempt another defense for the colonels. After all, he had been working with Colonel Carter for over nine years. “But, sir, if they're successful in rescuing—"

“We have no way of knowing whether they've been successful or if they've been compromised. I have my standing orders, and I'm damned well going to follow them. Now, when you're done locking out those IDCs, have Dr. Lee report to the briefing room as well.”

That was the final dismissal of Walter’s protests. “Yes, sir,” was his only response this time. His only option now was to hope that Dr. Jackson would have better luck upstairs.

SG-1 was waiting in silence in the briefing room. Unsure of what would happen next or when the general would arrive, they kept their mouths shut for the time being. Which was fortunate, because it wasn’t long before they heard the general’s footsteps as he ascended the staircase to the briefing room.

The moment he stepped into the room, Cam and Daniel both rose out of their seats. Cam was standing at attention. Daniel was standing because his rage made it impossible for him to sit still. Two of his best friends’ lives were on the line now.

“At ease,” General Landry said to Cam allowing him to retake his seat at the table.

He barely got the words out, though, before Daniel picked up where he left off, “How could you lock out their codes? How are they going to get back after they save Jack? What even happened exactly? Why weren’t we called back immediately when this all started?”

General Landry calmly walked to his seat at the head of the table as Daniel shot off his rapid-fire questions. He figured the doctor would either tire himself out or find the need to take in oxygen eventually. Honestly, he was a bit jealous of the man in this moment. Daniel’s status as a civilian has historically given him a bit more freedom in expressing his emotions and opinions around the base.

The general understood Daniel's frustrations. Hell, he was furious himself. As if an attack on Atlantis wasn’t enough, he had to follow orders that would lead to the death of one of the members of the IOA and the head of Homeworld Security.

Then add on top of that, five of the most prominent members of the Stargate Program have gone rogue. Combined, these people included two high-ranking Air Force officers, a former commander of the SGC and Atlantis, as well as their leading experts in Wraith physiology, intergalactic diplomacy, and the stargate itself.

These people were indispensable to the Stargate Program, and god damn it, they knew it too. But that was what made their actions all the more reckless. They were too valuable to be putting their lives on the line for unsanctioned missions. For crying out loud, what would happen to the galaxy if they lost the brains of both McKay and Carter? The Ori were still out there, and they still hadn’t found Merlin’s weapon.

The general knew it was callous to think of his friends and colleagues in such a manner. But they were at war with the Ori, the Lucian Alliance, the Wraith, and the Pegasus Replicators. No matter how much he cared about these people, their duty to their planet and their galaxy came first.

Landry had been running through every scenario, every course of action he could take, and every possible outcome of this situation from the moment the jumper disappeared through the wormhole. With Jack not in the picture, the responsibility of solving these problems for the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff rested on his shoulders.

He was also the one who had to deal with the IOA— a job that became increasingly demanding with the United States representative in another galaxy as well. Landry knew these people all too well, and despite all their extraterrestrial common enemies, he was certain it was only a matter of time before they would start pointing fingers at each other. And with Woolsey gone, Russel Chapman and Charlotte Wilson were about to receive most of the blame as the British and Canadian representatives. If the other representatives couldn’t fault Woolsey for Carter, Sheppard, and Weir’s actions, they would sure as hell fault Chapman and Wilson for Beckett and McKay’s. And this was all Landry's mess to clean up.

Daniel’s questions finally ceased, and the time for General Landry’s leniency ended with them. Acerbically, he asked, “Any one of those questions you’d like me to answer first, Doctor?”

Chapter Text

Daniel knew from the general’s tone that the question was rhetorical. Despite the fact that it was laced with sarcasm, the stern look on the general’s face told Daniel that he was not in a laughing mood, and he was not prepared to show mercy any time soon.

It seemed as though the general was about to say something else when a very frazzled Dr. Lee entered the briefing room. “Good,” the general began, despite the fact that nothing in his voice indicated that anything was actually “good” in this moment. “Now we can begin,” the general stated with a matter of fact look aimed at Daniel, which ensured that everyone in the room knew this was the general’s meeting. He was in charge.

As Dr. Lee sat in his seat next to Vala he immediately launched into his defense. “I realize I was duped, General, but they were incredible. It was like a scene out of The Sting.”

“Calm down, Bill. That's not why I brought you in here.”

Still fearing potential repercussions, Dr. Lee continued, “In my defense, this was obviously something they had planned for a long time—”

“Forget about it. We need to brief the rest of SG-1 about what’s happened tonight, and we don’t have time for excuses. It has to be about the facts.”

“Yes, sir,” Bill agreed with only a slight sense of relief.

General Landry then turned his attention back to SG-1 and began to explain. “I realize you have probably heard several rumors upon returning to the base tonight. I’m sure what you heard has been stressful,” he then turned to Daniel, “but I need you to focus on what’s at stake here. I realize that the lives of all seven of our people in the Pegasus Galaxy – nine, if you assume that they picked up Ronon and Teyla along the way— matter a great deal.

“However, I need you all to realize that there is something more at stake here: the fate of the entire galaxy. And if any of you believe that General O’Neill would allow you to forget that tonight, then you can walk out that door right now and don’t look back, because you would no longer be the people that man has called friends these last nine years.”

General Landry knew he was being dramatic, but he figured he had the right to be with the fate of the galaxy in his hands. Besides, he figured it would be the best strategy for preventing Jackson from following the rest of the lemmings. SG-1 was nothing if not resourceful after all, it would be just his luck tonight if the rest of them decided to use those resources to do something monumentally stupid.

 “That being said, here’s what happened. At roughly 20:30 we received a data burst from General O’Niell and Mr. Woolsey. The replicators had taken the city. Colonel Carter was in the control room at the time. We then had a brief conversation in which I reminded her that General O’Neill’s standing orders were for us to nuke the city at any sign of a foothold situation as it is the last line of defense this galaxy has against the Pegasus Replicators and the Wraith.”

As the general was speaking, Jackson was angrily pacing around the briefing room, but Landry was confident the doctor wouldn’t dare miss a word of what he was telling them. He was just grateful that the doctor was holding his tongue this long.

“We had called in Dr. Weir, Dr. McKay, and Colonel Sheppard to discuss strategies for getting past the shield to carry out the orders to destroy the city. SG-1’s participation was deemed non-essential at the time. The only reason Dr. Beckett was there with them was because they were all out at dinner too.

“It wasn’t long before their secret plan was underway. They stole access to the jumper’s storage area from Dr. Lee’s lab, they hacked the dialing computer and the iris, and the last we heard from them they were at the Midway Station.”

Finally, Daniel couldn’t hold it in anymore. “But Sir, the fact of the matter is, they could still succeed. If you lock out their codes, we have no way of knowing.”

“No, Doctor, the ‘fact of the matter,’” Landry shot back using Daniel’s own words against him, “is we can’t risk the fate of the galaxy on ‘chances’ and ‘maybes.’ We don’t have that luxury tonight.”

“But aren’t we putting the fate of galaxy at risk by admitting defeat now and giving up on all of them? What will the fate of the galaxy look like without Sam and Jack in it? We need their help to defeat the Ori. Not to mention, the galaxy wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them!”

Landry closed his eyes and took a deep breath in order to maintain his resolve. He knew that that was Jackson’s most valid point in this debate. He also knew that it wasn’t enough to change his mind. If Daniel wasn’t so angry, he probably would have realized that the general had been internally wrestling with that fact longer than Daniel’s even been aware of the situation.

Now was not the time to concede that point, though. No one else could know the doubt that Landry harbored about his orders. It was his job to be the responsible one. He had to maintain his strength in this matter so that those who worked for him could all have what they needed more than anything else right now: a leader.

He was done arguing with Jackson tonight. It was time to move on. “Please, Doctor, time is a factor here. The reason you're all here now is because I need you to tell me the best way to disable the Gate Bridge between galaxies.”

“We just finished building that,” Dr. Lee stated not quite able to process the general’s request.

“I'm aware of that,” General Landry assured him.

“Okay,” Dr. Lee responded with a brief pause. Pensively, he continued, “Uh, well, umm, I-I suppose if one were to detonate a Mark IX at the midway station, that'd pretty much do it.”

“I thought so. I'd like you to supervise the preparation of a Mark IX to keep our options open.”

Keeping all their thoughts and opinions about the new direction the conversation had taken to themselves, SG-1 remained quiet as they had realized that if Daniel couldn’t change the general’s mind, the rest of them didn’t stand a chance.

Dr. Lee sat back in his chair pondering any other option that wouldn’t completely destroy all the work he, Carter, McKay, and their teams had put into building the bridge.

“Ah. You know, you could always dismantle it. Of course, it would take a bit more time.”

“Which we may not have,” Landry pointed out.

“Wow. Th-that is such a shame,” Dr. Lee said as he was still contemplating the ramifications of blowing up the bridge.

For the first time that night, Cam decided it was time to speak up, “Sir, if I may, how are we going to deliver the bomb? The Daedalus is closer to Pegasus, it would take the Odyssey weeks to return to Earth to pick up the bomb and fly out to Midway, and the Apollo isn’t close to being ready yet.”

“I understand that, Colonel. That’s where you come in.”

“How, sir?”

Chapter Text

“Colonel, I realize your connection with Ancient technology isn’t nearly as strong as Colonel Sheppard’s or General O’Neill’s, but I know you have been practicing jumper flight. It’s time to put that practice to use.”

Teal’c had remained traditionally stoic for the conversation, but the general’s request of Colonel Mitchell intrigued him. With a raised eyebrow, he asked, “General Landry, how do you intend to have Colonel Mitchell pilot a vessel that is currently in operation in other galaxy?”

“Teal’c, you know that is not the only jumper we have at our disposal,” the general explained.

“Were we not given direct orders never to use the time jumper upon the discovery of the videos left for us by the alternate SG-1?”

Now it was Vala’s turn to enter the conversation. “I’m so sorry,” she began, although the general was fairly sure the next few words out of the woman’s mouth would not actually reflect any remorse, “but, time jumper?” Vala asked as the news of the commodity piqued her interest.

Daniel, who had finally taken his seat next to Vala, decided to take the bullet on this one. Awkwardly, while avoiding her eyes, he somewhat guiltily explained, “Yeah we sort of… I guess you could say… have another jumper that can also kind of… possibly be used as a time machine.” The last words fell out of his mouth quickly as he cringed waiting for her response.

Dramatically, Vala closed her eyes as she paused taking in what Daniel had just admitted. She opened them as she turned to stare at Daniel in disbelief before smacking his arm with the back of her hand. Irately, she exclaimed, “We have a time machine, just sitting in the basement, and you didn’t think to tell me this, Daniel?”

“Calm down, Vala,” Cam warned before General Landry would want to kick her out of the room. “We haven’t mentioned it because using it is strictly prohibited. Or, at least I thought it was,” he said directing his last statement to General Landry.

“Relax, Colonel. We are not using the time machine component. You will operate the time jumper as though it were any other jumper. We are out of other options,” Landry explained.

“So, you’re asking us to use a time machine to fix our current situation without using the actual time machine? Why don’t we just go back in time and fix the problem before it happens?” Vala questioned.

“First, I am not asking you to do anything at the moment. I’m only sending Colonel Mitchell and Teal’c on this mission. Second, how would you even approach the plan your way? We cannot possibly predict the infinite number of ways that we could make the situation exponentially worse if we start messing with the timeline. Not to mention, the ability to travel back in time still wouldn’t give us a way to defeat the replicators.”

Vala had to admit, she actually didn’t have an answer for that one.

“Colonel Mitchell and Teal’c, once the Mark IX is ready, you will fly the jumper to Midway. At the first sign of trouble from the Pegasus direction, I want you to set the time delay and release the Mark IX. Then enter the macro and gate back to Earth. The Daedalus is about four days away from Atlantis. So hopefully they will be able to complete their mission before we need to destroy the bridge. It’s not ideal, but we need a backup plan. Earth can’t handle another intergalactic invasion right now. Dismissed.”

Once the general ended the conversation, he swiftly made his way back to his office and closed the door behind him. Dr. Lee rushed off to start the preparations of the Mark IX, and SG-1 was left alone.

“So, what are we supposed to do in the meantime?” Vala asked referring to herself and Daniel.

“You’re supposed to keep quiet and not intervene,” Cam informed her.

“Well you see, historically, keeping quiet and staying out of the way hasn’t been where I’ve shined,” Vala countered.

“Learn,” was all Cam had to say about it.

“Come on, you can’t seriously expect us to stay on the sidelines? We are invaluable members of this team.”

“Yes, you are,” Cam agreed, “And as such, the program can’t risk losing you tonight too. General Landry is right about what’s at stake here. You and Jackson need to keep looking for a way to find the Sangraal, and you’re not going to do that sitting in the back of a jumper for four days.”

“Aren’t you going to say something, Daniel?” Vala asked looking for backup.

“He’s right,” was all Daniel had to offer at this point. “I came here to defend Sam to General Landry, not to beg my way onto a mission to destroy her intergalactic gate bridge.”

“Are you really not seeing the opportunity that I’m seeing here?”

“What opportunity would that be?” Cam asked, although he regretted it the second he’d said anything.

Vala began to whisper, which was not a good sign, “You are being given access to a ship that will take you through the gate to a place that has a direct route the very place that our friends are in danger.”

This got Daniel’s attention now, but Cam quickly shot her idea down, “There is no way in hell I’m going to fly us to Pegasus in that jumper,” he whispered back at her. “I am not going to defy orders. Did you even consider the fact that we have no idea what Sam’s plan was? We could end up compromising the whole thing. On top of that, we don’t know where she is, we don’t know how to deactivate Atlantis’s gate shield— not that I’d want to if I did— and without McKay or Carter, we’d have no way of reprogramming the macro to take us somewhere else in Pegasus.”

“Fair point. I hadn’t considered that,” Vala conceded. “I just—”

“Vala, stop,” Daniel cut her off, “We’re all upset about this, and we have a right to be, but I think we should move this conversation to my lab.”

“Fine, Daniel,” Vala agreed, and without another word, they all left the briefing room.

Chapter Text

“There’s more than one type of strength, Lizzie.”

Elizabeth repeated the words of her father over and over in her mind as she looked up at the monitor that indicated her worst nightmare— literally— was sitting right in front of them.

She needed those words of wisdom from her father in moments like this.

Elizabeth’s favorite thing in the world when she was growing up had been school. She’d loved learning anything and everything, except gym class. Elizabeth had never been what one might call athletic. For years when she was growing up, she had always considered herself weak.

At some point, she couldn’t even remember how, her father had found out about this insecurity. As she grew older, she began to suspect that he had always known. That was what Elizabeth loved most about her father. He'd always known when she was upset, he'd always found the right thing to say when she was doubting herself, and he'd always helped her find a way to believe in herself.

The most important lesson he ever taught her began with those eight simple words:

“There’s more than one type of strength, Lizzie.”

Her father had explained to her that many Americans have a habit of overemphasizing the importance of what’s on the outside. They define a person’s worth by how they look or how well they can hit a baseball. And then he'd told her that she had the power to choose to see the world differently, and to see herself differently.

Her father had worked for the United Nations, and he'd met people from all over the world. Elizabeth knew that one of the reasons she had been so good at her old job was because she had learned at such a young age that people don’t all see the world the same way.

“There’s more than one type of strength, Lizzie.”

Her father had taught her that there was strength of mind, strength of will, and strength of character.

She'd actually forgotten about those words until her first day at the SGC, or more accurately, until she'd met Samantha Carter. Never in her life had Elizabeth ever met someone who was as brilliant and as physically strong as Major Samantha Carter, Ph.D. It all brought up old feelings of inadequacy that had only compounded Elizabeth’s confusion as to why she'd been selected to lead this organization.

Elizabeth had actually lost her father not long before she was asked to command the SGC, and her mother had been shocked when Elizabeth had announced that she had plans to move to Colorado. She hadn’t understood why Elizabeth decided to leave behind the life she had built in D.C. It still hurt Elizabeth that her mother didn’t have the clearance to know why. Her mother was supportive, though, and she’d packed a box for her of the things she knew her father had wanted her to have.

Once again, inspiration from her father had found her exactly when she needed it the most. Elizabeth had been sitting in her office— an office that most people at the SGC didn’t feel she deserved— when she had found the letter her father wrote to her before he passed away.

 

My Dearest Lizzie,

 

I’m not sure how well you remember it, but there was a time in your childhood when you thought of yourself as weak. It broke my heart to know that, because even back then, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. In those days I had wished for nothing more than for you to see how truly amazing you were.

Now I wish that I had more time. I wish I had more time to spend with you and your mother so that I could remind you of just how truly wonderful you are in person. Alas, these last few days have forced me to accept that this letter will have to suffice.

Lizzie, I have been unbelievably happy and so very proud to witness the amazing young woman you have become. But despite the fact that this disease will take me away from you and you mother at an age that most people in this epoch would deem too young, know that I have still managed to witness more, live more, learn more, and love more than I had ever imagined possible at your age.

First and foremost, I want you to know that of all the joy I experienced from all the wonders and miracles I witnessed in my travels, none of it could have possibly rivaled the joy I experienced from loving you and your mother.

Now for the wisdom. I realize that I referred to your current state as “the young woman you have become,” but know this, we are never truly done growing, Lizzie. There is so much life you have left to live, and as much as it pains me that I will not be around to see it, I have no doubt that your life will be filled with wonder and miracles too.

Now the catch. I know when you were a kid you thought I had all the answers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. No one is perfect, and I don’t want you to think for a second that I expect you to be perfect. No one has all the answers. The world is a vast and mysterious place that will never stop surprising you as long as you are willing to let it.

It is true that there will be pain in your future. It is an unavoidable part of life. But I have no doubt that you will not only survive, but thrive in spite of it. You truly are the strongest person I know, Lizzie. Don’t ever forget that.

Finally, I want you to take my pocket watch and remember that time is merely an illusion that we created for ourselves, and we can either let it trap us, or let it set us free. The time I have spent on Earth is not defined by the number of days I have had here, but rather, how I have spent those days. Use your strength to appreciate the time you have. Love your friends and your family, but don’t ever forget to love yourself too.

              

With all my love,

Your Father

  

There hadn’t been any doubt in her mind that the pocket watch would be the personal item she would bring with her when she first left for Atlantis. It was the reminder of her father’s wisdom that had helped her become whom she needed to be in order to lead the Atlantis Expedition.

She wished that she had the pocket watch with her now to remind her of the renewed strength that she had found from reading her father’s letter on her first day at the SGC. Instead, she turned to look at Sam, the woman she had been so jealous of on that day — a woman whom, today, Elizabeth was honored to call her friend.

To Elizabeth’s surprise, Sam had already turned to look at her as well.

Chapter Text

The moment John was able to confirm that the bogey that had lit up the screen was in fact who they suspected it was, Sam’s attention turned to Elizabeth. She was worried that Elizabeth might – understandably – struggle with this portion of the mission.

Initially, Sam’s thoughts were of empathy for Elizabeth, but another thought struck her as she noticed the resolve of the woman sitting across from her. There was actually something that amazed Sam about this moment. She couldn’t quite believe how much had changed since they'd met. It was almost as if Elizabeth was a whole new person in Sam’s eyes.

Everyone at the SGC had felt so much resentment toward Elizabeth during her first few days as the new commander, which in retrospect, Elizabeth certainly hadn’t deserved. President Hayes had asked her to serve her country. It hadn’t been Elizabeth’s fault that she’d been asked to replace someone the SGC knew and loved. And it hadn’t been her fault that Robert Kinsey had weaseled his way to the vice presidency.

But there had been another element to Sam’s disapproval that she wasn’t willing to admit to anyone— not even Jack. It was a disapproval that was rooted in jealousy. In addition to her replacing their beloved leader, and in addition to her being an obvious pawn in Kinsey’s scheme, Elizabeth Weir hadn’t served a day in the military and was even younger than Sam was herself.

It wasn’t that Sam had expected to be next in line to command the SGC. That was, quite frankly, the furthest thing from her mind. She’d eventually realized that it was more like she was jealous on behalf of Jack. Sam had always assumed that Jack would be the next one in line. That was why it had seemed so ridiculous that Elizabeth Weir had been given the job.

Eventually, Sam had become grateful that Elizabeth had been made their commander. She’d been grateful from the moment that Elizabeth decided to let her and Teal’c embark on a seemingly hopeless mission to find the Asgard and save Jack’s life. She’d been grateful that Elizabeth had actually turned out to have a conscience, and she’d been grateful that if they couldn’t have had Jack or Hammond as their commander, at least they’d had Elizabeth.

Today was different, though. Today, Sam was just grateful for Elizabeth. She wasn’t merely grateful that Elizabeth was there when they couldn’t have someone better. Today, Sam felt as though she was witnessing someone who truly deserved to be where she was. Elizabeth made sense as the leader of Atlantis. She belonged here with these people, and Sam was proud to be a part of the journey that led her friend to where she needed to be. To where she wanted to be.

Sam had realized that she had no reason to be jealous of Elizabeth. She’d seen enough stars in her life to know that there was room in the universe for all of her friends to shine, as well as herself. And seeing how brightly Elizabeth shined while leading Atlantis made Sam grateful that Elizabeth had been chosen to command the SGC, because it led her to her destiny. It led her to Atlantis.

It no longer mattered to Sam that Elizabeth was younger than her, and it no longer mattered to her that Elizabeth wasn’t in the military, because she remembered that there are more important things in life than a person’s age or service record. Bravery isn’t measured by a uniform or medals. Daniel, Teal’c and Vala never had any of those, yet she trusted each of them with her life. And today, Sam was ready to trust Elizabeth with not only her own life, but Jack’s as well.

All of that had become clearer to Sam the more she saw Elizabeth work with her team these past few years, but something else hit her in this particular moment. Sam realized how grateful she was to have Elizabeth in her own life too. The truth was, even at the very beginning when Sam resented Elizabeth, she'd somehow found herself being inspired by her as well.

Elizabeth’s strength was what had amazed Sam the most when she first met the woman. It wasn’t that she thought Elizabeth could take her in hand-to-hand combat or anything, but the woman had a different type strength that Sam had struggled with in the past.

Sam was a perfectionist. She was terrified of disappointing anyone, and she was constantly fighting the need to have everyone like her. Sure, she was no stranger to standing up for herself when she needed to or fighting stereotypes placed on her because of her gender, her age or her degrees, but there was something about what Elizabeth had faced as the leader of the SGC that was different.

Elizabeth must have walked into the briefing room on her first day knowing that everyone who worked for her hated her. They had all believed she was some useless puppet placed there by a man they couldn’t stand. Nevertheless, Elizabeth had spent her tenure as commander of the SGC with her head held high. She'd known that she had a job to do, and she wasn’t going to let anyone keep her from doing it the way that she believed was right, not even Kinsey— hell, not even the Goa'uld System Lords.

At the time, Sam hadn’t been able to see any of that. She’d been too angry about losing General Hammond as their leader, and she’d been too afraid of losing Jack completely. But in hindsight, Sam admired the strength of will and the unwavering belief in herself that Elizabeth had seemed to have.

In many ways, Elizabeth actually reminded Sam of Jack. They both speak their mind and know how to stand their ground in order to fight for what they believe in, no matter how much power the people who disagree with them hold. They are both able to recognize and admit when they don’t have the answers. And they are both willing to listen to the people around them and lean on them when they need them, because they know a leader is nothing without their team. And those qualities are what make a good leader. Those qualities are what make a strong leader.

Chapter Text

Once she scanned their target, Sam confirmed that his power levels were barely registering. Rodney suspected that that was why the Replicators hadn’t found him, but Sam was fairly certain that if the Replicators had actually wanted to find him, they would have.

Sam wasn’t sure why he thought the Replicators would care so much. Personally, the only one she had witnessed that had any facsimile of human emotions was Fifth. But that had only made her experiences with him even more disturbing.

Sam doubted that the Replicators believed in the same core value that guided SG-1: leave no man behind. Although, she supposed it was possible that the Replicators would have taken him back in order to prevent humans from attempting to use him against them again. But Sam had a suspicion that the Replicators’ arrogance would have led them to dismiss that possibility.

She also considered that the Replicators might have wanted him back to punish him for his betrayal. Sam wasn’t as familiar with the Pegasus Replicators, but from what she’d heard so far, that seemed like the most likely reason to her.

John warned them that he was about to close the bulkhead so that he could open the cargo door and load him into the back of the jumper.

Tensions were running higher as they heard the cargo door open. Concerned about the safety of her team, Teyla asked, “Will we not be vulnerable to the same nanovirus with which he infected Elizabeth?”

Sam noticed only a hint of concern on Elizabeth’s face in response to Teyla’s question. What stood out more was the look in her eyes that communicated that Elizabeth had considered this, but that she understood that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish their mission without him.

Elizabeth then turned her attention to Carson as he explained his hypothesis, “He's been floating in space for over a month now. He's resting in such a harsh environment, direct solar radiation has severely diminished his power levels. We're fairly certain he's almost completely incapacitated.”

Yet it didn’t escape their notice that despite the fact that Rodney was nodding in agreement, his eyes were only communicating doubt and fear.

Ronon, who wasn’t satisfied with Carson’s answers asked the real question that they wanted to know. “Is he dead?”

Mckay responded, “He's mostly dead. Besides, we don't have a choice. He's the key to our whole plan.” 

“All right,” Elizabeth conceded, having known the necessity of this portion of the plan since the beginning. She continued with a defiant look in her eyes, “But if he even twitches…”

Elizabeth looked to Ronon, who needed no further instructions. He tapped his ARGs together as he told her, “Don't worry.”

Elizabeth smiled as she thanked Ronon and breathed a sigh of relief. And Elizabeth knew that Sam had been right yesterday. She was a part of this team. This team that loved and respected her. They were her family, and they would do anything to protect her, just as she would for any one of them.

Despite the danger, Elizabeth realized that it really did feel good to be back with her friends. Her friends that had become her family. They all needed each other. Not just for protection from the dangers of the universe, but also because they loved one another.

Elizabeth turned her attention back to John as he announced that their target was now secured in the jumper. John then asked Carson to take his place in the pilot’s chair as he made his way back to the bulkhead door.

 Sam joined John, Teyla, and Ronon in the first line of defense as Carson announced that the rear compartment had re-pressurized.

The four of them lifted their guns as the frozen form of Niam lay before them.

John nodded at Sam to indicate that they were ready for her to begin new scans now that they had Niam in closer proximity. For once, McKay was more than happy to let Sam take the lead with a scientific portion of the mission. He winced at the thought of having to go back there himself.

Once Sam began to receive some readings on her handheld computer she confirmed, “This is good. His power levels are minimal but not too minimal. I'm fairly sure he doesn't have the juice to regain consciousness.”

That was when Niam’s fingers began to move. Sam’s heart skipped a beat, but no one would ever know. She stood her ground. She didn’t need to look behind her to know that Ronon, John and Teyla were all there, ready to strike if Niam posed a serious threat.

Impatiently, John asked her to load the program.

By this point, Elizabeth had joined Teyla behind John and Ronon, despite the fact that she wasn’t holding a gun. Sam then confirmed that they were ready to move on to the next phase of the plan, and John made his way back to the front of the jumper in order to take them back to Atlantis.

Elizabeth nodded in understanding, but asked, “Why don’t we do this from here?”

She then turned back to face Rodney as he asked from the copilot’s seat, “Do what from here?”

“Render the Replicators helpless, Rodney? Remember the plan?” with a hint of sass that originated from a place of frustration.

“Of course I remember the plan. It’s my plan.”

“Uh, actually, using Niam was Elizabeth's plan,” John replied defending Elizabeth without missing a beat even though he was focused on the jumper controls.

Elizabeth thanked him with a calm confidence that subtlety conveyed the message that she was not going to let Rodney take credit for her idea either.

Sam couldn’t help but smile as the scene unfolded behind her. Despite the fact that her proximity to Niam had chilled her to her core— which honestly had nothing to do with his freezing temperatures as a result of his exposure to the vacuum of space— the respect that John had for Elizabeth had warmed her heart.

Even though Sam suspected that there was something more between John and Elizabeth than just friendship, she knew that John’s steadfast dedication and respect of Elizabeth’s command was also result of his appreciation for her as a leader. In fact, Sam knew that John’s respect for Elizabeth as a leader was exactly why he couldn’t admit his feelings.

John’s behavior was another reason why Sam found Elizabeth remarkable. Elizabeth trusted John after the Air Force had written him off. Elizabeth’s leadership had turned his entire career around. John might not have received his promotion if Elizabeth hadn’t been there to fight for him, but that didn’t mean that he hadn’t deserved it. It was through her kindness and her belief in his abilities that John was able to find a place where he belonged, a place worth fighting for, a place that had brought out the best in John.

Elizabeth had given John a second chance, and after all, what is the Stargate Program if not a place for second chances?

Chapter Text

“Damn it,” Sam muttered under her breath. She’d tested the last idea she could think of to fix the jumper’s cloak with the limited resources they had available out in the middle of space.

Unfortunately, Rodney had heard her. “Problem?” he asked with a surprisingly slightly less smug look than usual.

“McKay,” she warned with a look that reminded him of the pain and suffering she was perfectly capable of inflicting upon him if he even dared telling her he told her so.

Sam was then forced to look past Rodney and report, “I’m sorry, John, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to get the cloak up and running any time soon.” She was confident she could have fixed it eventually if they were back on Atlantis, or maybe even at the SGC, but time was a factor here. She didn’t know how much time Jack had left, that was, if he even had any at all.

“We understand, Colonel Carter. It was worth a try,” Teyla responded reassuringly.

“Well that’s very sweet and all, but might I suggest we get a move on now that we’ve wasted precious time?” Rodney asked.

Sam almost snapped. She didn’t need Rodney to remind her of their limited time, but she decided to hold her tongue out of fear of starting another argument. That didn’t stop the expedition members from starting one themselves.

Carson wanted to know why they couldn’t freeze the replicators out here from a safe distance. And naturally, Rodney felt the need to patronize him as he explained that in order to prevent Niam from waking up, his power levels needed to remain low. This meant they needed to get much closer for the program to transmit properly.

John and Elizabeth stood back and listened as Carson, Ronon, and Telya asked Rodney questions to confirm that they did in fact need to go all the way back to Atlantis with no cloak in order to activate the freezing program.

Nothing was ever easy. Which was why John echoed Rodney’s facetious comment from after they blew up the Atlantis gate room. “Good to be back home, huh?”

Elizabeth didn’t miss a beat before responding, “There’s no place like it.”

Sam knew their comments were meant to be sarcastic in this instance, but she also knew that those jokes had more than just a kernel of truth. They were the whole truth. To them, there really was no place like Atlantis. It had concerned Sam a great deal to see how empty Elizabeth seemed back on Earth. It was hard to believe that that was only yesterday.

After Elizabeth’s comment, silence fell in the jumper as the weight of the next phase of the mission increased with every kilometer of their journey back to the lion’s den. Sam figured for some of them it was focus, for some of them it was out of fear, and for others it was a mixture of both.

The silence was finally broken when John announced that they were about a mile out from the city.

Sam told him that she could start sending out the transmission for the freezing program, but Rodney reminded John that they were going to need to get even closer.

It was Teyla, however, who was the first to spot the drones that had begun to approach the jumper.  John instructed them to hold on as he began to evade their attack.

Tensions in the jumper only increased as John weaved through the buildings on the outer edge of the city forcing the drones to crash into the buildings rather than the jumper. John was clearly rattled as Elizabeth voiced her concerns about destroying more of the city.

Sam was more concerned with another problem that was arising. The freezing program wasn’t working. And she didn't know why. With the way Sheppard was flying, they couldn’t possibly get any closer to the city.

Rodney couldn't figure out why the program wasn't working either, and tensions quickly turned into mass panic as he shouted that Niam would kill them all if he gave him any more power. And just as Ronon pointed out that John couldn’t keep avoiding the drones forever, one of them finally struck the jumper.

It was only after Teyla reported that the shields had been damaged that John thought of a new idea. He retracted the jumper’s drive pods and hurdled them into the ocean where the drones were unable to follow.

Sam let out a sigh of relief as she looked to Sheppard to confirm that they were safe enough to contact Jack again.

John barely finished nodding his response indicating that he had activated the comms system before Sam began asking Jack if he was still there. If he was still alive.

She did her best to hold back tears of joy and relief as he responded, “Yes, we're here. You're late.”

She smiled at his sassy quip. She had told him that they would be back in a couple hours. She knew they weren’t that far behind schedule, but then again, it must have felt longer for Jack. She knew what it was like to be the one waiting for rescue. Waiting was excruciating. The what ifs always allowed your mind to find the worse case scenarios, and the extra time gave you plenty of chances to play them over and over again.

On top of all of that, you feel helpless when you're trapped in a situation like Jack was at the moment. And she was sure that Woolsey was only adding to his stress. Sam also knew from personal experience that Woolsey wasn’t one to stay calm under pressure. Sam smiled because she understood his frustration.

Sam was well aware that Jack's sassy comment was directed at her, but there was another reason it made her smile anyway. Jokes and sarcastic comments at the worst of times were part of what made Jack himself. It was a relief to know that Jack was here. Her Jack. It made this mission feel so much more tangible to her. Just knowing that he was there gave her hope that the mission’s success was truly possible.

The members of the Atlantis Expedition were certainly her friends, and despite some of their flaws, she has greatly appreciated their help and support in getting this far. But knowing that Jack was here now felt different.

Jack was her family. Jack was her home.

Chapter Text

“I just can’t believe she would do something so reckless,” Cam began as he, Daniel, Vala, and Teal’c all sat down in Daniel’s lab.

“Well, I think we all know why Sam went with them,” Vala stated in response.

“Vala, don’t,” Cam warned her.

“Oh, come on. Everybody knows. There’s no point in denying it.”

“What are you talking about?” Daniel asked, almost as angry as he was confused.

“I mean you really can’t blame her,” Vala continued, admiration for Sam’s new-found rebellious side — as well as her taste in men— not even remotely hidden in her voice.

“Vala, this isn’t funny,” Cam responded, anger rising in his voice. “This is serious. Even if Sam survives this, her job is on the line here. The consequences for her actions alone could be bad enough. She doesn’t need to be put in further danger by someone leading the top brass to question her motives as well.”

Vala turned her attention to Cam, and on a dime, she changed her tone to match the severity of Cam’s. She was aware of her reputation around the base for not taking things seriously. She’d let that slide for the trivial things, but not for her family. Her friends on SG-1 had become her family. She was not going to stand here and allow one of her friends to accuse her of not taking the life and job of their other friend seriously.

For some time now, Vala had been experiencing a pain this man couldn’t even imagine. Recently, she had been forced to look into her daughter’s eyes— the eyes of a mass murderer— and face the dark truth that, despite that, more than anything, she wanted to save her. It nearly killed her to know that she couldn’t.

“Only weeks ago, I stood in the briefing room and informed Master Bra’tac that ‘there's nothing to be gained by second guessing yourself. You can't remake the past, so look ahead… or risk being left behind.’ And you know what, Cam? There’s nothing to be gained by second guessing our friends either. We are all each other has in this mess of a universe. When did you stop trusting Sam? We can’t change what she did, and not in a million years would I want to. I’m sorry you can’t even for one second look beyond your strict Tau’ri military code of ethics to see what this is all really about.”

“Excuse me?” Cam asked offended by all the things Vala had just accused him of. “Tell me, oh wise one,” Cam demanded with a level of anger in his sarcasm he wasn’t used to directing at his friends, “what is this ‘all really about?’ We’d all love to know.” Cam regretted his tone, but he was getting a bit sick of Vala’s incessant claims that she knows more than both him and General Landry.

“What’s the point of living if you’re not really living? The universe has already forced us to sacrifice so much of ourselves. Why should any of us willingly sacrifice anything else that we don’t have to? I am perfectly aware that her job is on the line, and yes that matters to me, but why do you think that matters more than the fact that her heart is on the line here as well?”

“Damn it,” Cam sighed as he realized Vala had a point, and he struggled to figure out how he was going to explain this to her. “It’s not that simple. This is what Sam signed up for. She’s not stupid. She knew this was the job description. There are rules we have to have to follow—”

“At the expense of who you are?”

“Yes!” Cam shouted louder than he meant to. “Look, under normal circumstances—”

“Yes, but look at where you are. You’re standing in the most classified underground bunker known to the Tau’ri, talking to an alien! As far as I’ve learned, most people on your planet wouldn’t call this normal. You and everyone else said a heartfelt goodbye to ‘normal circumstances’ the moment you set foot on this base. You people have more asked of you than anyone else on this planet, so why this too?”

Daniel’s head was bouncing back and forth looking from Vala to Cam as he witnessed their cryptic argument. He finally had enough. Frustrated beyond belief, he repeated his question. This time, he was loud enough to cut through Cam and Vala’s fight. “What are you talking about!?”

Vala was shocked. “You mean, you really haven’t noticed, Daniel?”

“Noticed what? Sam defied orders; what secret ‘motive’ could get her in any more trouble than that?”

“Daniel,” Vala addressed him, but wasn’t quite sure how to break this to him, “the reason Sam went with them was because of Jack.”

“So what? Any one of us would have gone with them if we knew we had a shot at saving Jack.”

“Yes, I realize that, but as far as our bosses are concerned, the situation is a bit different for Sam.” After only being met with a blank look, Vala was forced to be blunt about it, “It’s because she loves him.”

“We all love…” Daniel began to say, but he trailed off as he finally understood exactly what she meant. “There’s nothing going on between Sam and Jack,” Daniel protested. “We’d know.”

“That’s what I’m saying, Daniel. We do know.”

“Teal’c, would you please tell her that you have no idea what she’s talking about?” Daniel requested.

“I cannot comply, Daniel Jackson,” was his only response.

“There. You see?” Daniel asked before he realized that Teal’c’s response was not what he’d anticipated. “Wait, what? Are you saying you agree with her? You think Sam and Jack are in love?” The word felt wrong as Daniel said it. He knew they loved each other — SG-1 was a family after all — but in love was something completely different.

“I believe that Colonel Carter and General O’Neill’s feelings toward each other are a private matter that is none of our concern.”

“None of our—? How can you—? What—?”

“Use your words, Daniel,” Vala encouraged him.

Daniel sighed and collected his thoughts for a moment before he continued with a much calmer tone, which indicated that his indignation was slowly being replaced by hurt feelings. “We’ve been friends— no, a family— for nine years. The four of us went through that gate together each week and risked our lives for six years. How could something like this be none of our business?”

“Might I draw your attention to the fact that you and I are standing here today despite your ignorance to their feelings. This matter was not for us to discuss as they never let it hinder their ability to carry out our missions, nor did it ever prevent them from doing their jobs.”

“Well it prevented Sam from doing her job tonight,” Cam countered.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow in surprise at Cam’s statement. He considered Cam’s point for a moment, and then he offered his own opinion. “Regarding this matter, I agree with what Daniel Jackson told General Landry. To save General O’Neill is to save the galaxy. Is that not ultimately Colonel Carter’s job?”

Cam could see he was outnumbered, and he decided that he had to accept the fact that his friends disagreed with him on this.