Permanence

by indie

EMAIL: indiefic@hotmail.com
DISTRIBUTION: Ask first.
RATING: PG
CHARACTERS: Sam/Jack UST. Mentions of Sam/Joe
SPOILERS: Everything up through Season 5 ep: 2001.
TIMELINE: Set during the episode 2010, two missing scenes.
DISCLAIMER: The Stargate SG-1 universe is property of MGM, World Gekko Corp, SciFi Channel and Double Secret productions. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is gained from this work.

***
2010: The night before the mission
***

She sat on the edge of the bathtub, shaking. She was angry, oh so angry. Joe was in the bedroom, she could hear him moving around, hear the low hum of the television. It was so easy, so easy to paint him as the villain, as the man who sold them all out. He’d calmly, coldly negotiated for the demise of the human race.

She sighed, cradling her head in her hands. She’d never been particularly good at lying to herself. Okay, that wasn’t exactly true. But she was out of practice lately. Her anger at Joe was real, but the vehemence wasn’t. The intensity of her anger just made it easier. This way she could justify her own sins. Or she could try. She knew in her heart that she could never truly justify them.

They had been wrong. All of them. So very wrong. As much as she wanted to hold Joe accountable, she couldn’t. Logically she knew that if she had been presented by the Aschen with the same terms, she most likely would have agreed. The population of Earth was unsustainable and the Goa’uld were a very real threat. She knew it must have seemed like a far lesser of evils.

A cold, dark laugh escaped her lips. Naiveté. Who would have thought that the human race after all it had witnessed, after all of the horrors it had inflicted itself, would be possible of such wide-eyed innocence, such blind faith.

Blind faith.

She used to have blind faith. In all of them. Teal’c, Daniel, Jack. She would have given her life for any of them, she knew they would have done the same. Trust wasn’t something they thought about. It was a given. It was just part of the package. It was hard to even remember now, what that had felt like. Thanks to the anti-aging vaccine, she knew that she didn’t look any different. Colonel Carter looked much the same as Major Carter. But on the inside ... The last ten years in ostensible utopia had aged her beyond recognition. She had lost her faith.

Over the last ten years, she had come to know well the bitter taste of betrayal. She had been so wounded by Jack’s refusal to come on-board with the Aschen alliance. She had always known him to be cantankerous and wary. Once upon a time, she would have affectionately used those very terms to describe him. But somewhere along the line the affection had died. Wary became paranoid.

He had left of his own accord, that much was true. But it was also true that all of them had well and truly abandoned him far before that cold November day. They were family. All of them. And they had so completely turned their backs on him. They’d had the gall to be disappointed in him. The irony of it almost choked her now.

A knock at the door startled her from her thoughts. “Sam? Honey, are you okay in there?”

“I’m fine,” she answered quickly. Rising, she walked over to the vanity, staring at her reflection. After this much betrayal, she felt like some of it should be reflected back at her, but as always, she looked exactly the same.

***
earlier that evening: after returning from Cheyenne Mountain
***

“So this is what an Ambassador’s house looks like. Guess the diplomatic corps pays quite a bit better than the military.”

“Who doesn’t pay better than the military?” Sam countered wryly.

He smiled and for the first time in a very long time, it wasn’t a nasty little smirk. “Touché.”

Back and forth. They were always great at that. The only thing that had kept it from being a daily skirmish of wit was Sam’s ability to ignore his baiting. Four years of working side by side day in and day out, they knew each other’s quirks intimately. She had appreciated it at the time. It had made her feel safe and secure. He, more than anyone else, knew how to make her laugh.

Conversely – and she hadn’t realized this until it was far too late – he knew all of her weaknesses just as well. And she knew his. Once, they would have guarded each other’s sixes ferociously. But as the negotiations for the Aschen treaty progressed and SG-1 fell apart, that intimate knowledge became nothing more than very potent ammo in their private war.

Teal’c and Daniel had winced openly as accusations and recriminations were thrown around the briefing room, the mess, wherever was convenient, all concerns for propriety long forgotten. Sam had never thought herself to be that petty, but he knew exactly how to push her buttons. And he did. Every chance he got.

They were cruel and incessant and they had succeeded in not only destroying each other, but themselves as well.

But maybe it was true that time healed all wounds. Time and hindsight. And the ability to admit you’d been an ass. There had been a lot of that – on both sides.

“Come on,” she said, motioning him through the foyer, “I’ll make coffee.”

It was early evening so the house was dim, but not dark. The kitchen had a western exposure, a large bank of windows overlooking their miniscule excuse for a back yard. The setting sun gave the room a cozy feel and Sam didn’t want to dispel that by turning on the lights, so she didn’t.

“What time are you supposed to meet Daniel and Janet?”

“Nine,” he said, taking a seat at the small breakfast table. He tapped his fingers on the granite surface and Sam couldn’t help but smile. Somehow the fact that he still fidgeted was incredibly soothing. As much as some things changed, others always stayed the same.

They were quiet as she ground the coffee beans and filled the carafe with water. Finally clicking the coffee pot on, she joined him at the table.

“I’m sorry.”

He looked up at her with his practiced expression of confusion. “Huh?”

She smiled tightly, not buying his act for a minute. He played dumb – or confused, whichever was more convenient – when it suited his purposes. But she wasn’t in the mood to play games at the moment. She looked down at her fingers, twining restlessly in the fabric of her jacket. “It’s too little too late. I know that,” she said. “But I just want you to know. I’m sorry.”

He waved his hand as if shrugging off her words. “Don’t worry about it, Carter – “

“Don’t.”

Her word was sharp and it stopped him immediately. He looked at her – really look at her. His expression softened. “You have no idea how badly I wanted to be wrong,” he finally admitted.

She shook her head, blinking quickly. “I was so convinced we were right,” she said softly. She frowned, disgusted with herself. “How arrogant is that?”

“Hey, it looked like a good deal,” he offered.

She pinned him with her gaze. “You knew.”

He shrugged. “According to the law of large numbers I was bound to be right about something eventually,” he said self-deprecatingly. “Just sucks that this was the one thing.”

Arching an expertly plucked eyebrow, she said, “Law of large numbers?”

He smiled. “I listened to you a lot more than I let on,” he admitted.

Her resolve stiffened again and she looked at him. “I’m serious, Jack,” she said. “I know that I can’t ever make it right, but I need you to know – “

He covered her hand with his own, squeezing gently. “I forgave you a long time ago,” he told her quietly. “I never really blamed you. You did what you thought was right and you fought for it with everything you had. I wouldn’t have expected any less from you.”

“I should have trusted you,” she said vehemently.

He looked at their hands, hers still covered by his. Slowly, she curled her fingers through his.

“I missed you so much,” she said in a near whisper. “I didn’t even realize how much. I don’t know how I could forget what it feels like to fight side by side.” She didn’t say ‘instead of fighting with you’, but they both heard it and both of their hearts ached just a little more for all of the wasted anger and time.

His brow furrowed, his attention still riveted on their hands. “Does it scare you?” he asked.

She laughed. “Yes. Which part?”

He smiled, acknowledging the overwhelming vagueness in that question. “If we succeed – “

“... when we succeed ...”

He smiled again. “Whatever. Does it scare you to leave it all to chance again?”

She took a deep breath, knowing very well what he was asking. Her fingers gripped his securely. “I’m disappointed in myself,” she said seriously. “More than I ever thought possible. So I can’t say that even with the Aschen out of the picture that I have a lot of faith in my ability to do the right thing.”

“The right thing?”

“Trusting you.”

He looked out at the sky, watching as the deep orange slowly gave way to an increasing dark. “Would it have been different,” he finally said, “that night, if I hadn’t been such an ass?”

She didn’t need him to clarify which night. With her and Jack there was only one night. She shivered at the thought, not wanting to relive that horrible memory almost five years old. “I told you and Daniel earlier, Joe’s a good guy. He really is.”

“I never doubted that,” he replied. “But that’s not what I’m asking.”

Her gaze dropped to the tabletop. “For four years, we saved the world on a daily basis. Our ability to rely on each other, to trust each other ...” She trailed off, taking a deep breath. “After Antarctica and then those damn armbands.” She stopped. She looked up at him, meeting his eyes.

“Joe is a good man,” she said seriously. “He’s kind and caring and smart and funny. I know he loves me. He was a good friend when I needed one.”

He swallowed thickly, knowing the reason she had needed a friend was because he had deserted her so completely. But to his shock, he could still read her as well now as he could then. And he could read her hesitation. “But?”

She shook her head. “It’s not fair to him.”

“What?”

“To judge him by these standards.”

He held her hand a little tighter. “What standards?”

She met his gaze again. “He’s just a man,” she said softly. “A lawyer.”

“Which, admittedly, is an issue,” he quipped. “But what do you mean?”

She took a deep breath. “He’s never going to ... We’re never going to ...” She couldn’t make the words come out right. Cursing under her breath, she forced herself to be articulate. “You and I faced death every day,” she said. “Joe is a fine man, but he’s never going to be in a position where he has to make the decisions we had to make on a daily basis.”

And then it was too much. She stood up, pacing around the small space. “I know him,” she said forcefully. “I know he’s a good man. I know he loves me. I know that if you asked him that he would not hesitate to say that he would give his life for mine.”

Jack watched her pace. “But?”

She stopped, swiveling to face him. “But knowing what’s in his heart is a far cry from knowing without a doubt how he would react in a real situation,” she told him. She took a deep, shuddering breath. “I will never have to look into his eyes knowing that we are both going to die, knowing that he could save himself, but won’t because he would rather die than lose me.”

Jack arched his eyebrows and then nodded slowly.

“I love my husband,” she said quietly. “But is the bond I have with him like that bond I had with you? No. How could it be? What we did, what we were ... you can’t explain those things to someone who hasn’t lived it.”

“I know,” he assured her. And he did. He had loved Sara with everything that he had. But until he met Sam he hadn’t realized just how much was missing. Not just in terms of attraction, or even communication, but trust. He trusted Sam like he had never trusted anyone before or since. His faith in her had been perfect. Their relationship, by the book as it was, had opened up an entire vista of possibilities he hadn’t known existed. All of his relationships before and since, sexual and platonic, had paled in comparison. What they shared went beyond words, beyond comprehension.

“You didn’t answer my question,” he finally said, looking at her expectantly.

She shook her head. “That night didn’t have a damn thing to do with Joe,” she said. And she meant it completely. Yes, Jack had shown up at her place in the middle of the night and Joe had answered the door in a robe. On the surface she knew what it looked like, some kind of jealous lovers quarrel, but that wasn’t it. Not by a long shot. The fact that she was sleeping with Joe, the fact that she and Jack were far more apt to scream at one another than speak, none of that meant anything. “You were asking me to do something that I felt was tantamount to sacrificing the future of the human race,” she said. “I couldn’t do that, not even for you. Anything else, yes. But not that.”

And perversely, her answer made him love her just a little more. She had said it herself, she would have done anything for him, anything that was in her power to give. But the Aschen treaty wasn’t hers to destroy. So she had denied him, in turn hurting herself as well.

He stood, walking to where she was standing in the middle of the kitchen. He smiled wryly. “So here’s to hoping that this time we get it right.”

She looked up at him, tears standing in her eyes. “Yeah.”

His hand came up, gently caressing her cheek. She closed her eyes leaning into his touch, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“C’mere.” He pulled her close and she wrapped her arms around him with desperation. She sobbed, burying her face against his neck. “We’ll get it right this time, Sam,” he said, his lips brushing against her hair.

***
February 2001
***

Sam set her tray down on the table and took the chair opposite Colonel O’Neill. “Janet had the blood on that note analyzed,” she said.

He looked up, eyebrows raised.

“It’s yours,” she said flatly, taking a sip of her coffee. “We believe it was roughly from the year 2010.”

He nodded, then frowned. Given the nature of their jobs, he didn’t have a whole lot of time to dwell on the weirdness of the note that had shown up three weeks ago. But it was odd. “Where’d you come up with the year?”

“Naquadah decay,” she explained. “From our incarceration in Hathor’s fortress where you were unsuccessfully implanted with – “

“Ahhhhhhhh!” he squawked, holding up his hands. “Let’s not use that word.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “Anyway, sir, there are trace amounts of naquadah in your blood and it has a measurable decay rate. Using that, we were able to extrapolate a time of ten years. Of course, that’s assuming you weren’t later implan-“ She stopped short. “That more naquadah wasn’t introduced into your system at some point. If it was, the note could be from any time.”

He frowned, halfheartedly stirring his oatmeal. “The thing that gets me,” he said, “is why didn’t I include more information?”

“You were probably trying to limit the causality violation by keeping it simple, sir,” she offered with a small smile.

He smiled back. “I wonder whose idea that was,” he said pointedly, knowing he sure as hell wouldn’t have come up with that by himself.

A slight blush tinged her cheeks.

“I guess that’s nice to know,” he murmured.

“Sir?”

He looked up at her, smiling softly. “Nice to know that even in ten years, some things don’t change.”
 

END

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