Warnings: No sexual or violent content, rated T™© This warning is choosing to err on the side of caution, and it spoils. Click to read.
Categories: Ship, Het, Angst, Romance
Characters: Jack O'Neill, Sam Carter
Spoilers: Into season eight, but only in that there's one extremely brief reference to Affinity, as well as a brief reference to Abyss from season six.
A/N: New improved angstfic, now with half the buildup and twice the aftermath. Inspired by the November 2006 challenge at sj_everyday on LJ, which explains why I wrote it in February of 2007.
Credits: Beta by Anne Rose.
Disclaimer: MGM doesn't mind, I hope.
Jack had no idea how long it had been. Probably a few days. Long enough that he'd run out of beer. Not long enough that it mattered. But then what could possibly ever matter again?
Carter was dead.
He knew grief. He'd lived with it for so many years that it was a part of him, but this -- he couldn't get his head around this. Not Carter. It wasn't supposed to happen to Carter. He tried, at least half-heartedly, to care about his responsibilities at the base, but he knew Walter could handle things without him. Eventually Daniel would collect him for the memorial service. He'd get through that somehow, he owed her that, but he couldn't think beyond it. Thinking just made the pain worse.
If he'd been there, he could have saved her. Or at least tried. But instead, when she'd needed him, he'd been behind a desk on Earth, while Carter did not only her own job, but his as well. Even Carter couldn't be perfect when doing two jobs at once. That she was insanely good at both didn't matter. Daniel's words kept repeating in his mind, until he could see every detail of the events in his mind. If he'd been there, maybe he could have saved her, or at least he would have died trying.
That sure would have beat the hell out of this.
Carter would want him to do something. She deserved it. He should beat the goa'uld for her. Maybe, if he was out there doing it, but behind a desk . . . what was he supposed to do? Avenge her death through paperwork?
Sleep was a little better, what little he got of it. He'd doze off, and she was there in his dreams. The disappointment of waking up would kill him eventually. He'd take the matter into his own hands, except he couldn't do that to Daniel. Teal'c might recognize the selfishness of it, but Daniel would feel responsible, and he couldn't do that to a friend. So he'd live with the grief, if what remained for him could even be called living.
Sam called first. God, he thought she was dead, and in his place -- she had to talk to him. She called from the infirmary, and kept calling as she drove to his house. She pounded on the door, but she didn't really expect an answer. Fortunately the door wasn't locked.
She found him on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, and the grief lining his face brought tears to her eyes.
"You're not real." He didn't look at her. "God, Carter, I'd give anything for you to be standing there, but -- "
"Jack -- "
"See, not real." Now his eyes did find her. "You look beautiful, though. I hope I'm asleep longer this time. It's better when you're here, even if you're not really her."
Maybe she could have convinced him with words, but she had to stop the pain in his eyes and words weren't fast enough. She went to him, sinking down on the mattress beside him, her hand finding his. "It was a trick, sir. I'm fine."
His reflexes had always been quick, but the speed with which he sprang upright and swept her into his arms took her breath away. He crushed her to him. "Carter -- "
"I know." She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him just as tightly. "It was Ba'al. He -- "
He cupped her face in both his hands, his eyes roaming her face before his mouth covered hers for a breathless, hungry kiss that ended almost as suddenly as it began. "I'm sorry, Carter, I had no right -- "
"You have every right." Her hand found his cheek. "You thought . . . I mean, we . . . what I mean to say is . . . " Her words trailed off as she abandoned her doomed effort to find the right ones, and she kissed him again, because that really seemed the best option under the circumstances.
This kiss lingered, as intense as the first, but softer and slower, and it actually made her dizzy. Eventually she needed oxygen, but even then she had to keep touching him. They sat close, content for the moment to just breathe the same air.
He caught her hands in his, and stared down at them. "Where is it?"
"Your engagement ring. That one little unpleasant bit of reality that would prove I wasn't dreaming."
"You're not dreaming." She squeezed his hands for emphasis. "The ring's probably in my locker. I never wear it offworld." She sighed. "I forgot all about Pete. Does he even know?"
He shrugged. "You'd have to ask Daniel. I wasn't exactly up to taking care of things."
Her heart ached at the pain in his statement. What he'd just been through, it was far worse than anything she'd gone through escaping from Ba'al. All those times when Jack had been stranded offworld, and she had feared the worst -- those were the memories responsible for her sleepless nights. Crawling out of Ba'al's dungeon was nothing.
She slid her hand up to cup his cheek. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."
"Not your fault." Both of his hands closed around the one of hers that he still held. One of his thumbs slid over her ring finger. "You'd better call him."
"I won't marry him," she said. "I'll end things with Pete as soon as I see him."
He let out a slow breath, and she could practically hear him searching for the strength to say the things that, as her CO, he probably should have said. He drew back a bit, but he still held her hand.
"We'll find a way." Her gaze locked with his. "If we have to wait, we'll wait, but anything else just isn't an option. The last few days, it was you I was fighting to come home to. It always is."
For a long moment, he didn't say anything, he just studied her face. Then he looked down, his thumbs stroking the backs of her hands. "Yeah, me too. When Ba'al held me -- Ba'al. You said Ba'al caused all of this. Carter, did he -- "
She shook her head. "It was nothing like what he did to you. I'm fine, really."
He searched her face, and she could read the worry in his eyes. She was glad Ba'al had been too distracted to bother torturing her, because while lying to her CO wasn't really an option, she knew the temptation would have arisen now.
"Really," she repeated. "He practically forgot me."
"Do the guys know you're okay?"
"Walter said he'd call them."
"Good." He reached up to stroke a bit of hair from her face. "So we're sure I'm not dreaming?"
"We're sure." She smiled. "Although I could pinch you."
"Careful, Carter, I might like that."
She laughed and started to respond in kind, but her cell phone started ringing. She sighed. "We should probably -- "
"Wait." He caught her hands again as she started to move. "It might take a while, to . . . find a way."
She nodded, the ringing forgotten as her eyes met his.
"So before we get started on this whole waiting thing . . . " He leaned close. "One more?"
Kissing Carter was definitely his absolute favorite thing to do. It almost made the last few days worth it. Almost.
"We'll find a way," she said again, as they drew back.
"You know," Jack said. "This isn't something simple like blowing up a sun or saving the galaxy. This is government-issue red tape. We might need a little help on this one."
She smiled that incredible Carter smile that lit up whole rooms. "Have a little faith, sir. Nothing keeps SG-1 from accomplishing the objective."
The moment probably called for something witty, but Jack said the only thing that came to mind. "You're hot when you're determined."
He loved it when she bit her lip like that. He loved her, and someone upstairs was looking out for them after all, because she was sitting here smiling at him, and he was actually going to get the chance to tell her that, soon with any luck. He looked forward to that.
"I am determined," she said. "It might take some time, but I won't give up."
"That's the Carter spirit," he said. "Never say die."
"Never." She fiddled with her cell phone for a moment and tossed it aside. "Now, we probably have about ten minutes before Daniel stops calling and actually drives over here." Her hand slid up to curl around his neck. "I think, under the circumstances, that we can afford to put the waiting on hold until he gets here."
"So, we wait . . . to wait?"
She nodded, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
"I like the way you think, Carter." He leaned in to kiss her. "I like it a whole lot. Think Daniel's smart enough to take his time?"
"We can hope."
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Stargate™©, Stargate SG-1™©, and related properties are Registered Trademarks of MGM Studios. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, February 2007.