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Unravelling

Chapter Text

Taking a steeling breath, Sam knocked on the door.

“Come on in. Unless you’re Walter with even more paperwork for me. ‘Cause I’m not done the last batch yet!”

She stepped into the office, giving him a sheepish smile. “Sorry to interrupt you, sir.”

General O’Neill got to his feet. “Carter. I heard you were back on base.”

“Yeah, well, SG-1’s not rostered for any missions until next week so I figured I’d use the down time to get some of my lab stuff finished.”

He shot her an appraising look. “You know, Carter, you don’t have to do that. Consider all deadlines officially postponed!” He offered, with a wave of his hand.

“I know, sir. But I’d really prefer to be working.”

There was that look on his face again, the one he’d been using around her more and more lately, that quiet measuring glance, one that seemed to evaluate her for any signs that she’d fall to pieces. “Sam, look, your father’s funeral was only two days ago—”

“And I’m fine,” she interrupted. “Really, sir. I’ve come to terms with it, I’m okay. I appreciate your concern, I do, but I’m ready to work.”

O’Neill let out a short breath. “Carter, take the time, alright? Mourn your father, sleep in, plan your wedding, I dunno, just take the time.”

Sam tensed, recognising the opportunity to broach the subject that had been the purpose of this visit. “Actually, sir, I don’t need to make any wedding plans.”

His gaze was suddenly fixed on the desk before him, as he fiddled errantly with a pen. “Oh? Your fiancée handling it all?”

She fought the bubbling urge to laugh and shook her head instead. “No, sir. There isn’t going to be a wedding.”

That snapped his attention right back to her. “Is that so?”

“I called it off,” she told him quietly. “It’s over.”

A beat of silence fell between them, stretched out and measured only in the suddenly stifling sound of their breaths. Sam’s palms itched as her instincts urged her to flee, to gobble up all of the words she had suddenly let loose, to run and hide from this terrifying blanket of tension that had fallen over them.

“Why?” He whispered.

She swallowed against all the answers clogging her throat, begging to be released. You, you, you, a voice inside her urged. “There was somebody else.”

His eyebrow quirked upwards in surprise at that. “Didn’t think you ever gave yourself enough free time to go fall for one person, let alone two.”

He didn’t get it. Her eyes fell shut briefly as she took a deep breath. “I fell in love with someone a few years ago actually, and it took all of this to make me realise that I still love them, not Pete.”

She could see something akin to panic flaring in his eyes, his knuckles had whitened as he gripped the pen hard. “Carter,” he began. “You’ve had a tough time lately and –”

“Look, sir, I know this is incredibly inappropriate, given that you’re my boss, and I know you’re seeing someone now, but I was wondering if we could finally go fishing,” she blurted out in a rush, balling her hands into fists to hide her shaking fingers from his sharp gaze.

She couldn’t read his expression anymore, which sent dread shooting through her, eliciting a fight-or-flight response as strong as any she’d had in the field. There it was, a line crossed. After all those years, she’d finally done it – crossed over their carefully drawn line, all but broken down the door of the room they’d metaphorically locked their feelings in four years ago, miss-stepped in their carefully choreographed dance of pretence and denial. She could take it all back, she could claim the stress of her father’s death, of her second failed engagement, she could apologise and leave. She could run, she could flee from this insanity. Or she could stand and wait out the consequences. She could wait for him to let her down gently, and send her home to lick her wounds. Or he could put a stop to it all, order a transfer, get the crazy, grieving, lovesick Colonel as far away him and his pretty girlfriend as possible.

Sam opened her mouth to take it all back, to hopefully stave off her inevitable and immediate transfer to McMurdo when he spoke.

“I’m not seeing Kerry anymore,” he told her. “We broke up.”

What? That wasn’t a dismissal. Struggling to find her voice, she swallowed. “I…I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”

He merely shrugged as though they were simply discussing the choice of beverage stocked in the commissary. “I’m not. It wouldn’t have worked out. Turns out it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t over the last person I fell in love with.”

Something in her chest lurched, and she wasn’t sure if it was out of hope or fear. “Sara?” She tried, voice quiet.

He shot her a look that plainly said don’t play dumb, that’s my gig. “No, Carter, not Sara.”

“Anyone I know?” She offered in a shaky, joking tone that really didn’t work in favour of her plea of sanity.

“You said something about fishing?” He asked, ignoring her attempt at levity.

She found herself nodding. “Yeah. Yeah, I was thinking that, uh…” She trailed off, clearing her throat.

“I’d be surprised if you ever stopped,” he replied softly, and the warmth in his tone emboldened her.

“I was thinking that it’s about time I took you up on your offer. That is, if it still stands, of course.”

“It’ll always stand, Carter.”

A smile broke out on her face before she could help it. “So, fishing?”

His answering smile almost took her breath away. “Sure.”

“Great. That’s…great. So, um, you can let me know when you’re going, and then we can…go,” she finished lamely.

She was sure he was trying not to laugh at her as he stood there, watching her with amused eyes. “You’re on down time until next week, so why not now?”

“Sir?”

“I can get some time off, and you’re not scheduled to go off-world for at least a week, so how about we go this week. You know, if you want.”

She’d learnt him pretty well after eight years working in the field together. She knew his favourite brand of cereal, or which side he sleeps on. She knew his favourite Simpsons quotes, and that Charlie’s loss had left an irreparable hole in his heart. She knew how he takes his coffee, and how to read his every mood and tic. She knew him well enough to see the nerves rattling underneath his casual exterior, and that softens her own.

“I’d love that,” she replied quietly, casting him a fond smile.

He rocked back on his heels, relieved. “Good. Well, I’ll get right on that, and make sure that we’re both free for the weekend. Well, actually, Walter will do that. But I’ll tell him to.”

Her smile widened. “Yes, sir. You’ll let me know when it’s all sorted out?”

“Of course.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll let you get back to work.”

“If you must,” he sighed, but he was still smiling at her. “You sticking around on base?”

“Yep,” she nodded. “There’s still some stuff I want to finish up.”

“Alright, but take it easy. Try and keep all your words to a five-syllable minimum, okay?”

Sam huffed a laugh, nodding. “Yes, sir.” With that, she left the office, feeling more hopeful than she had been in some time.

Chapter Text

Jack sat in the commissary trying to keep the smile off of his face. He was supposed to be The Man, the stern boss, and stern bosses didn’t sit there grinning around their tuna sandwich. One-star USAF generals certainly didn’t. Actually, forget the “one-star” part – counting the number of stars didn’t sound at all impressive until there were two. Let’s face it, all generals had at least the one star. But you know what they didn’t have? Sappy smiles on their faces because a certain Lieutenant Colonel was going fishing with them, and may have said a certain word beginning with L. And damn it, there was that smile again.

“Hey, Jack,” Daniel greeted, flopping into the chair in front of him, the ever-permanent cup of coffee in his hand.

“Hey,” he offered, taking another bite of his sandwich to try and hide his smile.

“Oh, uh, I got a call this morning detailing some stuff about the next Atlantis expedition, they’re really excited I accepted.”

Jack gave a non-committal nod, swallowing. “You’re set on this then?”

Fixing his friend with that oh-so-annoying look of his, Daniel shrugged. “Jack, it’s Atlantis.”

“Believe it or not, I did hear you the first four-hundred times.”

With an eye-roll, Daniel ploughed on. “Anyway, with Teal’c heading to Dakara, I guess SG-1 will be taking a backseat. I can’t imagine it just being me and Sam, and I don’t know if a team minus you and Teal’c would work anyway. So, I guess this is coming at a pretty good time.”

“If you say so,” Jack replied, trying to hide the damn grin that had erupted once more at the mention of her name. Sam. Not Colonel, not Carter, but Sam.

Daniel frowned at him. “Uh, are you okay?”

“Huh?”

“You look like you’re in pain, like a toothache or something. Your mouth is all twisted…”

Jack rolled his eyes, feeling his usual irritation at the archaeologist overriding all Carter-inspired smiles. “I’m fine, Daniel. Shouldn’t you be packing or something for your incredibly important trip to the not-so-lost city?”

“Uh, the expedition isn’t for another month, Jack.”

“Well, preparation is key and all.”

“Right,” Daniel said slowly, still frowning at his friend. “Oh, I, uh, saw Sam just now! I didn’t realise she was back on base.”

“Yeah, she wanted to get some work done.”

“I thought she was on down time? I’m surprised you let her on base.”

“What was I supposed to do, Daniel? Throw her over my shoulder and carry her outta here?” Oh, but there’s a thought. “She wants to work, leave her be. You know that’s her comfort zone.”

And there was the patented Daniel Jackson look being thrown his way again. “Jack, she buried her dad two days ago, shouldn’t we be encouraging her to take it easy?”

“I’m well aware of that fact, thank you, Daniel. And I offered the option of taking it easy, but she chose not to. It’s up to her.”

“Jack, she needs a break, she can’t work through all of her problems.”

With a sigh, Jack dropped the remains of his sandwich onto the plate. “You know what? She is gonna take a break, alright? In fact, we’re going up to my cabin this weekend for some extremely therapeutic fishing, so let it go.”

Daniel blinked at him. “You guys are going fishing? Sam is going fishing? Willingly?”

“Yes, Daniel,” Jack replied irritably. “Willingly. It was actually her idea.”

“Wow. I mean, it’ll be good for her to get away from the base. It’s been pretty crazy lately.”

Jack merely sipped at his coffee, wishing he hadn’t let himself get so riled up at Daniel.

“Hey, why don’t we make it a group fishing trip?” Daniel suddenly suggested, missing how Jack choked on his coffee. “I mean, with Teal’c heading to Dakara, and me heading to Atlantis, this could be our last chance for a while. And SG-1’s off the mission roster until Sam gets back officially, this is perfect?”

“Fishing?” Jack croaked, swiping at his shirt for any coffee stains. “You wouldn’t like it. Too many mosquitoes, not enough rocks and books.”

Daniel shrugged. “We won’t have the chance to have a team thing like this for a while, why not?”

“Ah! But we’re not a team anymore. I left SG-1, Daniel.”

“So?” He glanced at his watch and frowned, getting to his feet. “Okay, I have to meet with Dr Coben. He’s having trouble with a translation of some old runes on an artefact that SG-9 brought back. Anyway, I’ll let Teal’c know about the trip. You’ll make sure Walter confirms the time off?”

Jack nodded, slightly stunned at the speed at which all of his plans were going to hell.

“Great, well, I’ll see you later.”

And with that, Daniel was gone, taking the scent of stale coffee and old paper with him. Finally ceasing his nodding, Jack leaned forward, burying his face in his hands.

What had just happened?

Chapter Text

Sam stared at the computer monitor, chewing on her lip thoughtfully. Area 51 were once again courting her for a transfer, as they’d done for the past few years. Normally, she’d graciously decline, as the temptation of heading up an entire R&D Department was flattering, but her place on SG-1 had always been the biggest draw for her. However, with SG-1 breaking apart, the offer suddenly seemed a lot more enticing. Needless to say, the delighted butterflies that had filled her since her conversation with General O’Neill earlier in the day were very much pro-Area 51 right now. She could lead her own department, she could avoid being the leftover member of the team, she could exit the chain of command.

Samantha Carter had never made her choices, academic or career-wise, based on a man, not once. Sure, she’d had decisions made for her, by higher-ranking men, that influenced her path (a certain misogynistic General West barring her from the premier trip through the ‘Gate was always going to be a memory that stung her with resentment), but she had never allowed herself to make decisions due to a man. She prided herself on that, that meant something to her. But here was this terrifying notion of realising that if she took this job, she could have Jack. And honestly, that was currently the most attractive perk to this potential post.

Her first engagement to Jonas had ended for a number of reasons, a really high number, actually. But one of them was definitely her refusal to follow him around the country as he was posted, instead concentrating on her own career. Likewise, he wasn’t a big fan of her being requested in Cheyenne Mountain at the beginning of the Stargate programme over a decade ago, but she had wanted the job too much to refuse it for him. Needless to say, by the time her transfer to Washington came through, their engagement was well and truly over.

But now? She loved her job, she really did. But Teal’c and Daniel were moving on, and god, she had picked her job over him for years now. And what had it left her with? Another failed engagement, and this constant feeling that she was never going to really be happy. Her dad was right, she deserved more, she couldn’t always pick the job.

So, this was it. The end of an era, but also, could be the start of something really great, something she’d wanted for so long now. Yeah, it was scary, but she was Colonel Samantha Carter, she’d blown up a sun, damn it. She could do this, she would do this, and she’d give it her all, like she always did. She’d start a new adventure, get a whole department of wonderful doohickies, and you know what, finally, actually, kiss General Jack O’Neill. And the world wouldn’t end because of it.

She grinned, and typed a quick reply, letting them know that yes, she was interested in the position, and that she’d have to speak to her superiors about it before making any concrete decisions. And then the email was sent. Sitting back from the monitor, she noticed the figure in the doorway.

“Teal’c! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

“That is alright, Colonel Carter,” he replied amiably, inclining his head. “You appeared to be busy, and I did not wish to disturb you until you were done.”

She smiled at him. “Thanks, I’m all yours now. What’s up?”

“I was just speaking to Daniel Jackson who informed me of the trip.”

“Trip?”

“Indeed, the fishing trip.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, really? I didn’t realise Daniel knew.”

“I was surprised to hear that you were accompanying O’Neill. You have generally refused such invitations in the past, have you not?”

Sam flushed, shrugging. “First time for everything, I guess.”

“There is,” he agreed, smiling. “And despite my previous experience, I have decided to once more take O’Neill up on his offer. I believe the experience will be much more agreeable with both you and Daniel Jackson present.”

Her stomach dropped. “What?”

“Daniel Jackson believes that this trip is a good opportunity for SG-1 to spend one final time together before we part ways. I will be leaving for Dakara next week, and would enjoy the chance. Perhaps with less fishing, I hope.”

Sam swallowed. “You and Daniel are gonna go fishing too?”

“Indeed. O’Neill instructed Daniel Jackson to extend the invitation to me as he prepares our leave with Sergeant Harriman.”

“Wow, that’s great,” she replied quietly, staring down at her lap.

“You appear displeased, Colonel Carter. Have I said something to bother you?”

“What? Oh, no, Teal’c, I’m fine. Daniel’s right, it’ll be good for us to get one last night together.”

“Certainly.” He smiled at her, that wonderfully kind smile of his that made her feel a little guilty about the resentment she was already feeling towards his intended presence on the fishing trip. “Would you like to accompany me to dinner in the commissary, Colonel Carter?”

“Yeah, sure,” she smiled, logging off. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, Carter!”

She glanced up in surprise. “Sir.”

“Hi,” he greeted, stepping into the elevator.

“Hi.”

“Finished for the day?” He asked, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Yes, sir. You?”

“As long as I avoid Walter and his ever-growing stack of paperwork, yep!”

She smiled, shaking her head, missing the way his eyes were fixed on her mouth.

“Oh, uh, speaking of paperwork. Well, actually it’s not paperwork, per se. More so like email-work. E-work? I dunno. Anyway, got an interesting email from you today.”

Sam glanced up at him. “Yes, sir?”

“You’re putting in for a transfer?”

She nodded. “With SG-1 disbanding, it feels like the right time.”

“Well, I assumed you’d stick around, Carter.”

Shrugging, she looked away from him. “It’s a good opportunity, sir.”

“I know that,” he replied softly. “I’d just gotten kinda used to having you guys around, and now you’re all up and leaving.”

There were certain things he liked about the SGC, and he had to say, a certain super intelligent blonde, a certain bespectacled archaeologist, and a certain badass founder of the Free Jaffa were chief among the pros of the place. He was just about dealing with the fact that two of his best friends would be leaving the damn planet, and now Carter was jumping ship to Area 51? After eight years, he wasn’t ready to give up walking through the halls of this place with her, or watching her light up when the commissary was stocking blue jello, or dragging her out of her lab at 3am and being the one to drive her home. Besides, Nevada was overrated anyway.

She was smiling now, a secretive little smile that just sang I know something you don’t know, which wasn’t surprising with Carter. She knew everything, a lot more than he could ever possibly know. But this smile was different. “I understand, sir. But there’s a lot of benefits with taking this job.”

“Benefits, huh? If that’s what you’re after, Carter, I could try and spring for a new chair for your lab? Once of those comfy leather ones, might even spin! Could even push for one that reclines, and you’ll finally be able to sleep in there.”

She laughed, and he drank in the sight of her, because just hours ago, she had finally agreed to go fishing with him. She had called off her engagement because she didn’t really love Pete, and now she was standing next to him in an elevator, laughing at his jokes. Forget all the medals and shiny little stars they might pin on his uniform, nothing would ever make him feel the way he does when he makes Sam Carter smile.

“I have my reasons, sir.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do,” he replied with a melodramatic sigh. “Y’know, it feels like just yesterday I was pushing you through your first wormhole, and now look at you, spreading your wings and soaring to… Nevada.”

“Not quite as ambitious as Teal’c and Daniel,” she agreed with a grin.

“I’m sure you’ll still be brilliant no matter where you are,” he blurted out, not quite intending to air that thought, but then she blushed a little, so he decided it wasn’t such a bad thing. “Oh, I should let you know, Walter has officially cleared my schedule! As of this Friday, I am all yours!”

Her grin faltered slightly, but she recovered quickly. Not quick enough that he didn’t notice however. “And Teal’c and Daniel’s apparently.”

He winced. “Right. You heard. Listen, Carter—”

“I think it’s a great idea, sir,” she interrupted, smiling.

“You do?”

“Sure, it makes sense to have one last team gathering. Why not do it this weekend?”

“Right,” he replied, slowly. In front of them, the elevator doors slid open, and he could feel the cooler, fresher air of the upper levels swirling around them. “So, I’ll pick you all up on Friday morning, and we can drive up there together. I have to be back at work on Monday though, apparently I have a meeting with Hammond and Hayes.”

She gave him a small smile as they stepped out. “Perfect.”

He followed her along the corridor towards the security desk, hoping to catch some inkling that Carter was just as disappointed about the hijacked getaway as he was, but she was unreadable. He’d hoped she’d object to the company of their friends, and then he’d have a reason to reject Daniel’s suggestion, something other than his own desire to have her all to himself.

“So, how long is the journey?” She asked, showing her ID to the airman at security.

“Oh, give or take sixteen hours,” he replied, waving his own ID card in the air, watching as she signed out.

“Wow, that’s some drive,” she remarked, stepping aside to give him access to the sheet. “What time can I expect you?”

“Uh, 0700? Is that too early?” He scrawled his name on the sign-out sheet.

She shot him a wry grin. “Sir, I am a military brat, I think I can handle it.”

“Ah, yes. Rule number one: Never underestimate Carter. Should get that tattooed on my damn arm.”

Carter was chuckling, walking over to the car park entrance. “You sure you’ll be able to get Daniel out of bed that early?”

“Hey, who knows, he might not wake up, and then we won’t have to bring him. What a shame that’ll be!”

Her smile was different now, a little tighter, a little less of it reached her eyes. He wondered at that. “Right,” she nodded, that weird little smile firmly in place. “Just you and me, and Teal’c.”

“Sounds great,” he muttered, missing the flippant tone he’d been angling for. Damn.

She broke from his gaze, and jerked her head towards her car. “Well, that’s me. So, I’ll see you later?”

“See ya, Carter.”

With one last small smile, she got in her car, and he turned to his own. Her odd reaction had only increased his desire to keep their trip to themselves. But that begged the question of whether he could handle an entire weekend alone with just him and Carter, in his cabin, no Teal’c and Daniel, no Kerry and Pete, just them.

Okay, so that was a little nerve-wracking. What if she hated fishing? And the cabin? Carter was all about her gizmos and doohickies, she’d be bored out of her mind in the backwaters of northern Minnesota. And what if they ran outta stuff to talk about? He’d been putting some distance between them ever since Pete had come onto the scene, he wasn’t sure if he knew how to talk to her outside of work-related stuff. God, it could be a disaster. Maybe having Teal’c and Daniel there would make it easier, give them a buffer to work with.

Suddenly, he wasn’t so excited about the prospect of Carter and fishing anymore.