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  1. An early meeting

Sam slammed the door to her lab shut as she exited, aggravated with her lack of progress making sense of the piece of alien tech they’d found. She’d been working on it for weeks with no progress- she could make it function, to an extent, but she couldn’t figure out how it functioned or what it’s actual purpose was. It made a lovely cup of tea but it seemed far too complex to be for simply heating water, which is all she’s been able to make it do. 

Guns on the other hand, she knew how they worked. She knew their parts and the purpose of each part and how to disassemble and clean each part and then put it all back together perfectly. She understood the physics behind why they worked the way they do and how to calculate the trajectories of the bullets. She knew how to use one, and she knew how to use it very, very, well.

When Sam walked into the range she wasn’t expecting anyone else to be there- after all, it was 4:30 in the morning. When she’s in this type of frustrated mood she liked it best this time of day, when it’s just her and the gun in her hands putting holes in a target (which she was usually pretending was the source of her most current frustration). In her few months on this base she’s only run into other people in the range this early once, and they were leaving as she was coming in. So needless to say she was surprised to find Colonel O’Neill there, clipping a new sheet to the target in his lane.

“Carter,” he greeted, noticing her walk in. 

“Sir.”

He set his gun down and took off his hearing protection, “Fancy seeing you here this early- didn’t think you were a morning person.” 

She groaned as she started to set up her lane, “I’m not. Never went to bed, I’ve been in my lab all night.”

“D’oh. I forget you scientists don’t sleep, you just run on coffee.” He looked over. “What pulled you away from the lab?”

“What, no comment that I must be here this early so no one sees how bad a shot a scientist is?” She grumbled. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard it.”

“Carter, if I at any point had doubted your skills with a weapon and your ability to have my six in the field I would have requested another military member for our team. And then had you practice with Danny- no one would have remarked on your skill, they would have been too busy snickering at his.”

“He’s not the best with a gun, is he,” Sam chuckled, thinking of her friend. 

“Besides, I’m your CO, remember? Means I get to see your scores, Captain Highest Scores in your class.” He paused, “So what brings you here?”

“Stress relief. I’ve been trying to figure out that damn device and am so frustrated I just need to shoot something.”

“Which one, the teapot?”

“It’s not a teapot.”

“It’s a doohickey that heats water that you’ve been using to make tea.”

“It’s way too complicated to be just a teapot.”

“Have you tried using it with anything besides water?”

“Like what?”

“Soup. Leftover chinese. The mashed potatoes from the mess that are never quite hot enough.”

“It’s not a microwave, sir.”

“Why not? Could be a handheld microwave. The reusable alien equivalent of the heat packs for MREs.” 

“It’s not a microwave. There’s no indication that it heats the water using microwave radiation.”

“So it’s not a microwave. It can still serve the same purpose as one.” And with that he shrugged, put his hearing protection back on, picked his gun back up, and turned to face his target.

Sam sighed as she did the same. He had surprised her with the idea, and it did have some merit, but testing it would have to wait. Right now she really wanted to shoot something.

 

*

 

  1. In the beginning

He wasn’t even here and he’d still managed to surprise her. 

When someone had asked why she was working so hard to bring him home, she’d responded with the obvious, “We don’t leave people behind.” But later, Janet had commented in private that Sam probably wouldn’t work quite this hard or desperately if it had been someone else, Sam had to pause and think. Janet had been right, but why?

The answer surprised her. Sam knew she’d been attracted to him- it’s hard not to acknowledge that, even if she knew she could never act on it, and she knew she cared about him, about everyone on the team. But she also could admit that she probably wouldn’t work quite so tirelessly for over two months to build a particle accelerator to rescue Teal'c or Daniel. So why was she doing it for O’Neill?

She was surprised when she realized that the answer was because she loved him. Not like a brother, the way she loves Daniel (and sometimes she thinks she loves Daniel more than her actual brother), but because she was in love with him.

 

 **

 

  1. In the middle

Sam stopped herself before she could knock on the door. She hadn’t even realized what she was doing- she’d just left her lab and walked down here out of habit. More often than not, if she’d worked through lunch, Daniel had, too, so she’d grab him on her way to the mess for dinner.  

But not anymore.

She turned and leaned against the wall, closing her eyes and breathing deeply, willing away the wave of grief that threatened to overcome her. 

“Carter.” 

Someone softly calls out. She opens her eyes and moves away from the wall in surprise, standing up straight. Jack is in front of her, two cups of coffee in his hands.

“This is the second time this week I’ve gotten a cup of coffee for him only to remember when I round that corner,” he tilts his head down the hall. 

“Monday when you showed up at my lab with a coffee for me and an obvious lie about being in the neighborhood?”

“Yeah,” he sighed sadly, “You take your coffee the same way, figured you probably needed the pick me up as much as I did.” He holds the extra cup out towards her, “Looks like you could use it now, too.”

“I came down here on my way to the mess for dinner,” she accepted the cup and took a long sip.

“Ah, work through lunch again?”

“You know me.” 

“Indeed.” He replied stoically, doing a really poor impersonation of Teal’c.

Sam huffed, a small smile on her face at his attempt.

“Well, then,” he started, “why don’t I keep you company.”

She turned and they started to walk down the hall, “I’d like that, sir.”

 

***

 

  1. A new beginning

Sam looked at the empty boxes on the floor and at the piles of kitchenware on her table and counters. She’d forgotten how much of a pain it was to move when she’d requested the transfer to Area 51. And the last time she’d moved was 8 years when she’d had much less time to accumulate stuff . Thinking about it, 8 years was the longest she’d ever lived in one place, since they’d moved around so much for her father’s career when she was a kid. 

She leaned back against the counter behind her and groaned.

“BUZZ BUZZ”

She jumped, startled by the doorbell.

She walked over to the door, wondering who it was. Daniel was supposed to come help pack her books, but not until tomorrow morning.

“I brought chinese. And beer. And another set of hands to help pack whatever.” Jack said as she opened the door, holding up a bag of food and a six pack of their mutual favorite beer for her to see.

“Guess it’s a good thing I haven’t packed my chopsticks yet,” Sam replied, a soft smile on her face as she moved aside so he could come in.

He set the food and beer on the counter and raised his eyebrows when he saw the piles. 

“So I take it we need to do some packing before we can eat?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “And don’t even ask me where a bottle opener is.”

He pulled a swiss army knife out of his pocket and opened two of the beers, handing her the first one.

“Got your six. Now point me to where you want to start.”

She pointed him to the pile on the left side of the table while she worked on the pile in the middle. They settled into the task with only the sound of newspaper crinkling breaking the silence. It didn’t take long before the two thirds of the table was cleared off. Jack moved the box they’d been filling onto one of the chairs while Sam grabbed the food from the counter and utensils from another pile.

They sat down next to each other, as they opened the cartons and inspected the contents. Discovering that they’d picked up each other’s favorite, theys switched without a word. Sam took a bite of her lo mein and and hummed.

“Do you think you’ll miss it? Being on a team in the field?”

“I don’t know. Probably. But I won't miss all the near death experiences.”

“That’s fair.”

“Do you miss it?”

“Well, yes and no. I miss being in the field, but you’re all going your separate ways now, so I don’t know. It’s more the working with the team everyday that I miss now that I’m riding a desk.” He paused, “but I’m also still at the SGC, for now at least, so it’s a little different from you.”

“True. It’ll be weird being at a strictly research facility after 8 years of being at an active base with more than occasional combat. It’ll be a completely different type of people, even.”

“Completely different chain of command, too.”

“Yeah.” 

He looked up and glanced at the clock still hanging on the wall. “As of two hours ago, for the first time in 8 years, we are no longer in the same chain of command.

She turned and looked at him, blinking owlishly.  

“I know you only broke it off with Pete recently, but… there’s this thing between us, that we’ve been dancing around for years. We’ve seen how happy are alternate selves have been.” He paused, fiddling with his fork in the carton in his hand. He took a deep breath and continued, quite possibly more nervous sounding than Sam had ever heard him before, “Now that we’re no longer in the same chain of command, I was hoping that maybe we could give this universe’s Sam Carter and Jack O’Neill a shot?”

Sam set her food down on the table, clearly surprised. After a moment of thought, she turned to him and looked up, “I think we owe ourselves that much.” She tapped her fingers on the table, “But what if you get promoted again? Unless there’s some major change your next posting will be DC when General Hammond retires and I’d be back under your chain of command.”

“We can cross that bridge when we get to it. Maybe they’ll grant us an exception. They owe us- we certainly save this planet enough times.”

“Okay”

“Yeah?”

She smiled and leaned towards him, tilting her face up, “Yeah. Let’s do this. Let’s give ‘us’ a shot.” 

He leaned down, his face only an inch from hers. “Okay,” he said softly before placing a gentle, lingering kiss on her lips. “Here’s to us.”

 

 ****

 

  1. Another galaxy 

“Colonel Carter, ma’am, this morning’s data burst included a message from General O’Neill.” Chuck said, poking his head through her open office door.

Sam looked turned to him from where she’d been standing looking out a window at the ocean surrounding the city, “What did he have to say, Chuck?”

“I don’t know, ma’am, it’s marked for your eyes only, though not urgent. I’ve sent it to your tablet” 

Sam’s brow furrowed in confused concern. “Thank you,” she walked over to her desk and sat down. “Please close my door behind you.”

Chuck turned around and did so as he left.

Sam picked up her tablet and propped it against the book she used as a makeshift stand, wondering what on earth Jack had to say that was for her eyes only but not urgent. She opened the file, hoping everything was okay. 

Samantha, 

If anyone asks about this message, joke that I was taking advantage of my position to send gossip without the censors reading it.

She blinked, surprised. Well, that didn’t sound like an official communication. She continued reading.

It’s not that far from the truth. What I’ve got to say would certainly be considered gossip by most, since only a handful of people know of our dispensation and relationship. This was the only way I could think of to send you a personal note without having to mask it as being from just a friend.

I miss you. I miss your voice and your smile and the way you say my name when we’re alone. I know we haven’t been on the same base in 2 years, but at least when you were at the SGC we could talk on the phone and through skype and make weekend visits as long as you were planet side. I miss the sound of you typing away while we talk on the phone. I miss the way you laugh at my stupid jokes. I miss the feel of you in my arms when we sneak away to my cabin. 

Sam smiled softly and sighed. For someone who played dumb and claimed to never be able to say anything profound, Jack certainly had a way with words. She missed him, too. This letter was a pleasant surprise.

I’m half tempted to come up with some excuse to visit Atlantis just to see you in person. I asked Hank to let me know the next time a connection with Atlantis that included A/V transmission was and he smirked at me. I can only imagine how he’d laugh if he saw me scheduled to actually go through the gate. Daniel would probably push me though. He’s gotten a bit frustrated with my apparent moping.

Cassie is doing well, though “physical chemistry is kicking her ass”. Sounds like she’s kicking it right back- she got an A on her first exam. It’s crazy, sometimes, to think that she’s already a junior in college, I remember when we found her and brought her back to the SGC. She says “Hi” and I think there might be an email to you in the personal correspondence portion of the data burst. She doesn’t say it but I know she misses you, too.

I think if I found a way to get to Atlantis to see you, I’d probably have to find an excuse to bring her along.

I miss you. Stay safe out there in that other galaxy, don’t let the space vampires eat you.

Love you in any reality,

Jack 

 

*****

 

  1.  (+1) An ending and beginning

 “Congratulations on your retirement, sir.” Sam says with a grin once the ceremony is over and the reception has begun. 

“You know, now that I’m retired I think you can drop the sir, “ Jack grins back, throwing an arm over her shoulder.

“Especially since everyone here knows about you two,” Cam pipes up, walking over, “Congratulations, sir. It’s been an honor serving under you.” He holds out his hand.

“Thank you.” Jack replies as he shakes Mitchel’s hand.

Sam looks around the room as he walks away and leans into Jack. “Cam’s right, everyone here knows about us, at least unofficially.”

“Not that it matters, anyway. Retired, remember?” He pulls her in closer and drops a subtle kiss onto the top of her head. “Whole reason for this shindig, after all.”

She smiles softly, “Seemed like it would never happen, these last few years.”

Suddenly, Jack is pulled away and engulfed in a hug. “Congrats, old man!”

He pulls away and smiles down at his attacker, “Who are you calling an old man, Lieutenant?”

“My godfather, Retired Lieutenant General Jack O’Neill, sir.” Cassie replies, giving him a casual salute.

Sam laughs as she pulls Cassie in for a hug. “What are you doing here? I thought you didn’t think you could get leave from your residency?”

“I got approval but it was tentative, so I didn’t want to get your hopes up. Was actually pretty easy to get though, once I dropped Jack’s name and explained that the ‘Uncle’ who was retiring was a Lieutenant General high up at the Pentagon who had been my sponsor for the Academy.” She grinned and stepped out of the hug, “I’ll catch up with you later, I’m going to go pester Daniel now.”

Sam grabs Jack’s left hand and they start to make their way to one of the tables that had been set up at the side of the room.

“Congratulations, sir.” Sheppard starts, when he stops them midway. He glances at their joined hands and raises his eyebrows, “I take it this means we don’t have to pretend we don’t know two about you anymore?”

Jack turns and gives her a look, “I thought you said everyone here knew?”

Sam ducks her head, a little chagrined, “Unofficially, they do. Doesn’t mean they’ve all actually been told.” She turns to John, “Yes, you don’t have to pretend not to know anymore.”

“Good, because you were really bad at hiding it,” he laughs. “People in this room only, or is it public knowledge now that General O’Neill has retired? We’ve got a couple of pools this could close up back on the city.”

Sam groans, embarrassed. Jack chuckles and answers, “Feel free to close the pools, but I want a share if you win any of them.”

“You got it, sir. And again, congratulations, it was an honor to serve under you,” John grins and walks away. 

Sam and Jack finally reach the table and sit down. 

“You know, even outside this room we’ll probably get asked that a lot,” Sam says.  

Jack smirks, “Yeah. I’m pretty sure half of our off world allies think we’re married but hiding it.”

“We could be.”

“Could be what?” Jack asks, confused.

“Married. Now that you’re retired. That was the one stupid condition of our dispensation- we could be in a relationship as long as it was off the books and didn’t effect our work. We can be on the books now.”

He looks at her, surprised, “Are you hinting that you want me to ask you something? I’m not sure my knees could handle getting down on one anymore.”

Sam giggled quietly, “No, I’m asking you. Marry me, Jack?”

He leans over and kisses her, lingering. “Yes,” he breaths when they part.

“Yes?”

“Yes.”