Dylan
Rating: K+
Summary: 18 years ago Carter was declared MIA. Now, a young man contacts Stargate Command claiming to be her son...
Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate SG1. Except on DVD.
A/N: I started this fic four years ago. Yes, four years! It lay dormant for much of the time until I dusted it off earlier this year; and a few weeks ago determined to finish it in honour of Gomey’s birthday. Then I forgot to post it here. So here it is now. Enjoy!
Date: 20/05/08

Stargate Command, 2004

“Receiving SG1’s IDC, Sir,” Sergeant Harriman said as the sirens sounded the unscheduled gate activation.

General Jack O’Neill responded with, “About time!” as he ran from the control room.

He entered the ’gate room as Daniel, Teal’c and SG2 stepped through the open wormhole. They were wearing their raincoats and were soaked from head to toe.

Daniel was shaking water from his hands as he headed down the ramp towards Jack.

“It never rains, but it pours,” he commented with a small smile.

Jack raised an eyebrow and looked at him seriously. “That’s it?”

Daniel frowned. “I’m not – ”

“You’re two days late… We haven’t had any contact with you for over sixty hours and that’s all you have to say?”

Before Daniel had chance to respond, Jack had realised the wormhole had deactivated and was frantically looking around the group standing on the ramp. “Where’s Carter?”

“Colonel Carter returned to Earth four hours after our arrival on the planet,” Teal’c responded, a slight frown on the Jaffa’s face at his puzzlement that O’Neill was asking about Colonel Carter.

“No she didn’t.” Inside he was panicking. His heart rate had increased and his throat was constricted with fear. And it manifested as anger.

As Daniel saw the rage building in Jack’s eyes, he stepped towards him. “Jack, we watched her walk through the ’gate.”

“Well then where the hell is she, Daniel?”

--

Stargate Command, 2022

“Have you seen her?”

General Philip Howard frowned at the screen on which Colonel Gena Lewis, commander of his SG1 team, was displayed.

Eleven hours ago, the Stargate had activated and an IDC had been sent through. The ’gate technician on duty had originally had trouble deciphering it, but finally realised that the reason for that was its age. He had frowned, run his check three times, and then turned to the General, announcing that the IDC belonged to Colonel Samantha Carter.

General Howard’s eyes had widened. Colonel Carter had been declared missing in action eighteen years ago and in all that time there had been no indication at all that she was alive.

Protocol dictated that an old IDC would not be sufficient to permit the deactivation of the iris; and the chance that the device had fallen into enemy hands in eighteen years was pretty high.

The General had ordered the transmission of a hold signal, and stepped back to think. Colonel Carter would know that they would not lower the iris for her – unless, of course, wherever she was, eighteen years had not passed. They had seen stranger things.

His decision-making had been interrupted by the announcement that there was a message coming through, though, and the result of the message had been the deployment of SG1 to the planet where the wormhole originated.

Now Colonel Lewis was reporting that the transmission had not been made by Colonel Carter, but by a young man named Dylan – who claimed to be her son.

“He took us to their house…” she explained. “I’ve only ever seen one picture, Sir. It could be her. He seems genuine.”

“You haven’t spoken to her?”

The Colonel’s expression was solemn. “No, Sir. She is very ill… Dylan has requested permission to accompany us back to Earth, so that we can verify that he is who he claims to be, and then allow him to contact General O’Neill.”

General Howard’s eyes widened. “General O’Neill?”

“He wants to speak to him, Sir. Says there is something his mother always wanted to tell him.”

“Why is he just contacting us now?” the General asked.

“Their ’gate has only just been repaired, Sir. It was buried and heavily damaged in an earthquake eighteen years ago… Apparently on the day Colonel Carter arrived on the planet.”

General Howard lowered his head, running a hand across his eyes. He hated decisions like this… But he trusted the judgement of his flagship team leader.

“It’s your call, Colonel,” he said, looking back at the screen.

Gena laughed. “Somehow I knew you were gonna say that… Sir.”

General Howard smiled. “I’m glad I’m so predictable… So you’ll be bringing him back with you?”

The Colonel laughed again. “Seems I’m just as predictable… Yes, Sir… See you soon.”

The transmission ended and General Howard stepped away from the screen, smiling and shaking his head.

--

SG1 and Dylan arrived an hour later and the introductions were made before their visitor was taken to the infirmary.

While Doctor Cassandra Fraiser ran her tests, General Howard spoke to Dylan and, becoming convinced that the boy was speaking the truth about his identity and intentions, agreed to have someone contact General O’Neill.

Hours later, General Howard returned to the infirmary, paged by Doctor Fraiser so that she might tell him the test results.

“Well,” she began, her voice shaking slightly, “He’s telling the truth… I compared his DNA to that on record for Sam – Colonel Carter – He is her son.” Cassandra couldn’t help smiling.

“Doctor?” the General enquired.

“I’m sorry, Sir, I just can’t believe it… After eighteen years we finally know where she is.”

Tears were forming in her eyes as she stood in the doorway of her office, looking into the infirmary where Dylan was pacing beside one of the beds.

General Howard placed his hand gently on Cassandra’s shoulder. “Cassie…”

She shivered slightly at his touch, and tilted her head towards his hand. He pulled it back quickly and composed himself, offering a quick, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay… Sir…” She turned round to face him, her professionalism firmly back in place. “Is Jack on his way?”

“Colonel Lewis is driving him over now.”

Cassandra nodded. “What has she told him?”

“That someone has come through the gate, claiming to be Colonel Carter’s son… She said that was all she needed to tell him. He was out the door straightaway.”

Cassandra smiled fondly. “Sounds like Jack… Are you going to let him go to Avia, with Dylan?”

Howard nodded. “SG1 will accompany him… and you.”

A wide smile spread across the doctor’s face. “I was gonna ask…”

Howard smiled. “You don’t need to.”

“Thanks… I hope there’s some way I can help her.”

He smiled, reassuringly, then moved to leave after saying, “Prepare everything you’ll need. You can leave as soon as General O’Neill arrives and SG1 have been briefed.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Their eyes met briefly and then the General left.

--

Stargate Command, 2004

General O’Neill looked up when there was a quiet knock on his office door. In fact it was such a quiet knock that he though he might have imagined it. With this in mind, he decided to open the door himself rather than call out when there might not be anyone there. At least, this way, he could pretend he was going somewhere, rather than try to explain his shouting to the SF stationed outside his door.

However, he soon discovered he needn’t have worried. Upon opening the door, he found Colonel Carter standing outside.

“Carter.” He sounded surprised.

“Sir,” she nodded. “Were you on your way out?”

O’Neill shook his head. “Just… stretching my legs… What can I do for you?”

Carter stepped into the office and closed the door behind her, while O’Neill retook his place behind his desk.

She gave him a small smile as she sat down opposite him. Not missing the tension in her eyes, O’Neill leaned forwards. “Sam, you okay?” he asked.

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“That’s not as convincing as you may have thought.” He smiled to let her know she could talk to him.

She laughed a little then her eyes latched onto his. “This is harder than I thought it would be,” she said, quietly, looking away.

“It doesn’t have to be. You know that. Just say the word – ”

“No,” she said, quickly, cutting him off. “You’re needed here. I would never…” she trailed off. They’d had this conversation many times; he knew what followed.

Sitting up straight and taking a deep breath, she changed the subject. “Erm, Sir, I need to talk to you.”

Jack nodded. “Go ahead.”

Carter hesitated for a moment. “There’s… I… There’s something I need to tell you – ”

“Unscheduled offworld activation!”

--

Stargate Command, 2022

She never got to tell him whatever it was. That unscheduled gate activation had signalled the beginning of the worst week of his life. Every day since, just before he woke up, Jack would hear her voice, her words. “There’s something I need to tell you.” Then he would startle awake; his thoughts as if it were the very first day that she was missing.

And then he would remember that time had passed. A week. A month. A year. Five years. Eighteen years. There wasn’t a day went by that he didn’t think of her, and every day he still held out the hope that they would find her.

She had been declared killed-in-action three weeks after she disappeared. Against his will. Their reasoning had been that there was no sign that her signal was still contained within the gate, as Teal’c once had been. And to his argument that she may have somehow been sent to another gate, on another planet, they responded that, had that been the case, Colonel Carter would have dialled Earth and returned.

After three weeks of investigation, it was deemed that the only logical conclusion was that her signal had been lost in transfer. Deemed so by his superiors, as he clearly wasn’t thinking objectively.

Now, Jack stood in the doorway of the briefing room and studied the young man who was seated inside. His profile was very much like Sam’s, and he instantly knew that this boy’s story was true.

His heart rate immediately increased, and he found himself lost in the thousands of thoughts flashing in his mind. Surprise, disbelief, joy, relief, all flooded his system. He was going to see her again.

-

Dylan looked towards the door when he caught a figure in the corner of his eye. He stood as a man entered, and something in him told him this was Jack O’Neill.

“General O’Neill,” he smiled. “My name is Dylan Osam.”

Jack accepted Dylan’s offered hand and nodded. “You look like your mother,” he smiled.

Dylan laughed a little. “She always says I look like my father.”

There was a beat of silence as the two men just looked at each other. Dylan saw a brief glint of what looked like recognition in Jack’s eyes before the older man quickly hid it.

“Well,” Jack said, “I’d say for the second time in her life, Samantha Carter is wrong.”

Dylan laughed again. “Just don’t tell her that.” He turned to sit down at the table, but changed his mind, and turned back to Jack. “What was the first time? Just out of curiosity… Mom would have me believe she’s never wrong.”

Jack didn’t respond immediately, a reflective look glazed over his eyes, changing to a look of regret as he spoke. “It was a long time ago,” he said, with a dismissive shake of his head.

Taking the hint that Jack didn’t want to talk about it, Dylan nodded and sat down.

Jack sat opposite him, and, before the silence could become awkward, he continued their conversation.

“How is she?”

It was a simple question, yet it carried so much emotion.

Dylan looked up and saw the concern, worry and anticipation in Jack’s eyes.

“She has good days, and bad days. Our healers haven’t been able to identify what’s causing it… Doctor Fraiser hopes she might be more successful.”

“Cassie’s going?” Jack asked.

Dylan nodded his response.

“You know, we’re not gonna get a word in edgeways once those two start chatting,” Jack commented with a smirk.

Dylan smiled. “Mom talks about Cassie all the time. She always told me she wished I could meet her. My big sister, she calls her… And she talks about Janet. It’s been nineteen years, but she still misses her. I think missing the rest of you as well makes it worse… She doesn’t expect to ever see you again. She doesn’t know I’m here. She’s been working on repairing our Stargate since she arrived on Avia, but it was almost completely buried, and the DHD was virtually destroyed…. She was so close to finishing it when she took ill. She kept trying to go into the lab, but we had to stop her. She’s not strong enough.”

“Carter never would let illness stop her,” Jack said with a small, fond, but sad, smile.

Dylan nodded. “She doesn’t know we’ve got it working. I didn’t want to get her hopes up. We didn’t know what we would find here… We didn’t know if anyone she had mentioned would still be alive.” Dylan cringed a little.

“Are you okay?” Jack asked, half way to being on his feet, with concern.

“Yeah… I’ve just realised she’s probably gonna kill me when she finds out I came through the gate,” he said with a nervous smile.

Jack gave a small laugh and settled back into his chair. “Rather you than me,” he joked. “She’ll probably get over it when she sees you brought Cassie back with you.”

“Maybe… I think I’ll definitely get points for bringing you with me, though. So perhaps I’ll be safe.”

Jack was about to respond when General Howard, SG1 and Cassie walked into the room. Both men stood to greet them, Jack saluting appropriately.

“Please, take a seat,” the General said, seating himself at the head of the table.

--

Stargate Command, 2004

“Why was she alone?” Jack demanded of the recently returned teams.

“She was studying the DHD, it was different to normal,” Daniel explained. “We were further up the hill exploring the caves. We’d checked the area fully before we started work, there were no other signs of life. She was some distance from us, but we could still see her. One of us was watching her at all times.”

“One of you should have been with her at all times!” Jack exclaimed.

A member of SG2 stepped forwards. “Colonel Carter ordered us all to proceed to the caves.”

Jack turned to Daniel. “You could have questioned that order.”

“And you know how successful that would have been… Jack, you’re not the only one who is worried about her.”

The concern in Jack’s eyes met the concern in Daniel’s and the General’s expression softened. “Why was she coming back alone?”

“A storm hit while we were in the caves. We were sheltered but she was exposed to it. So we ordered her to return to Earth, and we followed when the storm cleared… Well, when it died down… We saw her step across the event horizon, Jack.”

Jack desperately tried to think straight, but he couldn’t shake the crushing feeling overwhelming him at the thought of never seeing Carter again. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, trying to calm his breathing and his racing mind.

“Get changed, dry off. Debriefing in half an hour,” he said quietly, before dismissing the teams.

--

Stargate Command, 2022

Jack was the last one to step through the gate, taking a moment to gather his thoughts. It had been many years since he had been offworld. But more importantly, it had been almost nineteen years since he had seen Sam.

She was alive. And he was about to see her again.

--

The Stargate on Avia was housed in a large stone building. The room was empty except for the gate and the DHD, and they encountered no one until they stepped out of the doors and into the orange glow of dusk in the town.

A man, who Jack assessed to be a few years younger than himself, ran towards them.

“I’ve been gone longer than I realised,” Dylan muttered, stepping ahead to speak to their greeter.

“Oh thank goodness,” the man said, enveloping Dylan in a tight embrace. “I told your mother you were with Junaia’s family for the evening meal… But I think she is beginning to doubt my lie.”

“I’m sorry, Malan,” Dylan apologised, sincerely. “I found them though…” With a wide grin, Dylan turned to the group. “This is Cassie, and this is Jack O’Neill.”

Malan’s eyes widened and he stepped closer, looking at Cassie and Jack with something akin to awe. “I believe she will forgive your tardiness,” the man smiled. He held out a hand each to Cassie and Jack, and they politely accepted. “This will lift her spirits higher than anything we’ve attempted,” he said resolutely, squeezing their hands before turning back to Dylan. “We should hurry. She’ll be worrying about me as well now. Thinking Junaia’s mother has entrapped me for a drink again.”

Dylan and Malan laughed at this, and after taking a deep breath to try to settle the butterflies battering his stomach, Jack followed the rest of the group as they set off into the town.

--

“You look as nervous as I feel,” Cassie commented to Jack when they had been walking for a few minutes.

“Oh I’m glad it isn’t obvious,” he quipped with an anxious smile.

She smiled. “You’re white as a ghost… But there’s only a few of us who know you’re not always that colour.”

He laughed once, and she noticed his eyes flitting to their surroundings again.

“I find it fascinating that so many towns we come to through the gate are so similar…” she commented. “And yet, they’re so different.”

Jack nodded. “This reminds me of Edora… Similar architecture.”

Cassie nodded once. She had never been to Edora, so it wasn’t in agreement, but it felt like the appropriate thing to do… The anticipatory tension in the air was only growing as they walked further through the town.

A silence descended. The entire situation was just too surreal for Cassie to make anymore small talk. They were both too excited, and too nervous, to focus on anything else. This was a moment they had waited for for over eighteen years, it was hard to believe that it was actually happening.

When SG1 came to a standstill in front of them, and Dylan approached the door to one of the houses, Jack grasped at Cassie’s arm. “What if you can’t help her, Cass?”

Her throat constricted, his words voicing her own fears. “I’m trying not to think about that,” she quietly.

“But it’s a very real possibility, Cassie… We’ve found her, but we might lose her again.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded once, slipping into Doctor mode. “I know… But that’s the worst case scenario… And if it comes to that, at least, this time, we get to say goodbye.”

--

Stargate Command, 2004

“I’m not going, Daniel.”

“Jack, you’ll regret this – ”

“I’m not going, Daniel,” he repeated, emphasising each word. “It’s too final,” he added quietly.

“Jack, you need to do this – ”

“I know what I need to do, Daniel… And I’m not going. This is the end of our conversation. General Hammond will lead the service. It’s all arranged. You should go, before you’re late.”

“Jack – ”

He looked up at the archaeologist for the first time since he’d entered the office. “Daniel, I appreciate your concern, I do… But just go.”

Daniel held his gaze with his own saddened eyes for a few seconds, then he nodded once and left the office. Jack slumped back in his chair.

--

He couldn’t hear their words, didn’t know what praise she was receiving or what stories her friends and colleagues were telling about her. He saw some of them laugh, some of them cry – sometimes simultaneously – and he saw Cassie grip the podium so hard that her hands turned white. He saw this young woman – already without her mother, now saying goodbye to her best friend as well – determined that she would get through her speech without crumbling.

His hand reached out towards her, and flattened against the cool glass of the briefing room window.

His face crumpled and tears streamed down his cheeks.

--

Avia, 2022

Dylan opened the door to the house and was immediately greeted by his mother.

“Dylan!” she exclaimed, embracing him.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he told her. “Come on, sit down, you shouldn’t be up.”

“I’m feeling better,” she told him. “Where have you been? And don’t give me that story about dinner at Junaia’s. I didn’t buy it from Malan and I don’t want you lying to me as well.”

The whole conversation could be heard by the group waiting outside the house. At the mention of his name, Malan turned to Jack with an exaggerated grimace.

“Mom, you look faint, you should sit down – ”

“Don’t change the subject! Were you at the lab all this time?”

“I got the DHD working.”

They heard her sharp intake of breath. “What?”

“I got it working.”

“How do you know?”

Jack recognised that tone of suspicion and cringed on Dylan’s behalf.

“What do you – ”

She cut him off with a realisation. “Oh my God, you’ve been offworld! Did you not listen to anything I said to you about how dangerous – ”

“I made contact with Stargate Command,” he interrupted her, no doubt wanting to stop her from getting too worked up.

Jack and Cassie exchanged concerned glances as there was silence from the house.

“Maybe we should…” Cassie began, indicating towards the doorway.

“I’ll go in,” Malan told her. “She needs to be told that you’re here before she sees you.”

Malan had barely stepped through the door when they heard Sam’s voice again. “You knew about this?”

“Yes I did,” Malan told her honestly.

“I’ve told both of you what dangers lie through that gate – ”

“I wanted to help you,” Dylan implored.

“By worrying me sick?”

“I didn’t realise I’d been gone so long.”

“So you have been offworld… Dylan – ”

“I went to Earth.”

There was a brief silence. “They wouldn’t let you through… The iris…”

“I sent your IDC last night… and a message saying who I was… They sent a MALP… and then SG1.”

“What?!… When did all this happen?”

“This morning… You weren’t well. We came here, so they could see you and know I was telling the truth. But I didn’t want to disturb you or get your hopes up before I knew…”

“Knew what?” Her voice was quiet now, almost as if she feared what his answer might be.

“If I could do what I planned.”

“You’ve been planning this?… Of course you’ve been planning this, I’m sure you didn’t just think up a message as the gate activated… Dylan, what if – ”

“Mom, I just want to help you. I thought maybe Earth doctors might know more about your illness.”

“Dylan – ”

“And I wanted - … I thought that even if they can’t help you… You deserve to see your friends again. With the gate working, you shouldn’t have to die without seeing the people you love again.”

It was clear from the breaking up of Dylan’s voice that the boy was crying.

“Oh, Honey, I appreciate – ”

“So they’re outside.”

“What?”

“You could have announced it more gently,” Malan softly reprimanded him.

“They’re outside?”

The listening party assumed from the silence that Dylan had simply nodded his response to Sam’s quiet question.

Jack and Cassie exchanged glances again, and he saw the tears glistening in the young woman’s eyes as she grinned excitedly and squeezed his arm.

“This is it,” she whispered.

He nodded and looked at the house, feeling his own tears stinging the back of his eyes. “This is it,” he echoed.

--

Stargate Command, 2005

It had only been a matter of time, really. He wasn’t functioning properly, and really wasn’t fit to be in charge of an ant farm, let alone Stargate Command.

Jack put the last of his belongings into his cardboard box, and took one final glance round his office. He remembered watching Elizabeth Weir in the same situation – packing up to move on. It seemed like it was only yesterday he’d stepped into her shoes. And yet, simultaneously, it was a lifetime ago. A lifetime not worth it without Sam.

“You all set?” Daniel asked from the doorway.

He turned to face his friend and nodded. “Retirement, here I come.”

“Are you sure you do not wish to address the staff before you leave, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked from his place beside Daniel.

“I’m sure, T… I’ve said my goodbyes.”

The Jaffa inclined his head in the way he always did, and the two men parted to allow Jack to leave the office ahead of them. He stopped as he stepped through the door, turning from the sight in front of him, to the two innocent looking men behind.

Daniel shrugged in response to his questioning look. “I guess they hadn’t said their goodbyes.”

“Indeed,” was all Teal’c said.

Jack gave them a small smile and turned back. The corridor was lined with men and women, all saluting him, and as he walked through, nodding gratefully to each, he came to realise his entire path, from the office to his truck was lined in such a way.

He placed the box on the front seat of his truck and looked up at the mountain he was leaving. It was the end of an era. But it was the only thing to do.

None of it had felt right without Sam.

--

Avia, 2022

The woman who stepped through the door of the house was thinner, and her hair was greying, but she was most definitely Sam Carter. Her wide eyes sought confirmation of what she had just been told, and instantly brimmed over with tears when they received it.

“Cassie,” she breathed, her smile wide across her face as she spotted the doctor first.

Cassie’s own tears rolled down her cheeks as she swooped forwards and fell into a hug, both women clinging tightly, as if it would all turn out to be a dream if they let go.

Briefly, Jack wondered if it would.

And then her eyes opened and instantly found his. And his wondering stopped; his brain stopped; his breathing stopped; and he would tell you that this new world they were standing on stopped spinning.

She gave Cassie one more, tight, squeeze and the two women stepped apart. But her eyes never left his.

“Jack,” she whispered, taking a tentative step towards him. Perhaps she was having as much difficulty believing this was actually real as he was.

“Carter… You are way overdue for contact.”

She laughed, and bit her lower lip nervously. “Sorry, Sir… Slight problem with the gate.”

He smiled, hoping it wasn’t trembling as much as it felt like it was. “I’ll let you off then,” he said, before sweeping her into his arms, and losing himself in the feeling of having her close to him again.

--

Carter’s house, 2004

“No, I can get it,” Carter said, her voice strained, as she stretched onto her tip toes on the chair, her arm reaching up as high as it possibly could.

“How did you get it up there in the first place?” Jack asked, crossing the kitchen to stand behind her, ready to catch the bowl if she managed to knock it off the shelf rather than get hold of it.

“I’m not entirely sure,” she admitted. “Maybe I threw it.”

The tips of her fingers touched the underside of the bowl, but she couldn’t move it.

“Damn,” she muttered, lowering her hand in defeat.

“Would you like my help now?” he asked, in a singsong voice.

She turned to glare at him. “No. Thank you. I can get it.”

He watched her struggle again for a few more seconds before moving his hands to her hips and lifting her up.

She squealed with surprise – the most girly sound he had ever heard Carter make – before regaining her composure and retrieving the bowl from the ridiculously high shelf.

“Got it,” she declared, and he lowered her back to the chair. He held out his hand as she looked around to climb down from it.

She met his eyes and smiled gratefully then placed her hand in his, and elegantly stepped down from her makeshift stepladder.

Of course, he didn’t move backwards as she stepped down, and the action brought her closer to him than he had anticipated, squashing their hands between his chest and hers.

“Thanks,” she muttered quietly, removing her fingers from his hold.

He nodded. “You’re welcome.”

Their gazes held for another second and then she backed away – or at least, she tried to, but the chair was behind her, and she backed straight into it.

“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed, reaching out and wrapping his arms around her waist to steady her.

The bowl clattered to the floor as her hands instinctively gripped his shoulders.

She laughed and looked up at him. “Good job it’s plastic,” she smiled.

His response was distracted by the fact that she was in his arms. “Yeah,” he agreed, quietly, dizzy with her proximity. “Seeing as you’re clumsy,” he teased.

She slapped him playfully on the back.

“Violence, Colonel?”

“Well, I know you’re not ticklish,” she shrugged.

“Yes… Teal’c was very disappointed when he found that out.”

Her forehead creased into a cute frown, and then she laughed, shaking her head. “I don’t think I want to know that story.”

He smiled. “I’ll get Teal’c to tell it later. It’s better when he tells it.”

She laughed again and pushed away from him but he tightened his hold on her. “Sam…”

He could see the apprehension in her eyes when she turned back.

“I’m… glad you’re okay.”

She relaxed a little and smiled. “So am I.”

“You know, George made this ‘waving people off to possible death’ thing look easy…”

Her smile turned sympathetic.

“It’s getting harder every time,” he continued, quietly.

She leaned forwards and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into a hug. “We’re okay,” she assured him. “I can’t promise you that we’ll always come back, you know that… But you know that we will always, always give it a damn good try.”

--

Avia, 2022

“I still can’t believe you’re here,” Sam said as Cassie examined her.

“Neither can I,” Cassie replied with a smile of her own. “When Philip told me what Dylan had said, I thought I was dreaming…”

“Well, if it’s a dream, I’ll quite happily sleep for the rest of my life,” Sam grinned.

The conversation lulled as Cassie examined Sam’s neck and throat and then listened to her heart.

As soon as the doctor’s task returned to things that didn’t require Sam’s concentration, like taking blood, Sam resumed their talk, picking up on something Cassie hadn’t even realised she’d said.

“So, Philip?” she queried, the lilt in her voice telling Cassie she was using her women’s intuition.

Cassie laughed, shaking her head. “It’s been a long time since someone’s used that tone to me.”

“You’re trying to change the subject,” she teased.

Cassie put the vial of blood away securely and sat down on the bench beside Sam. “Philip is… General Philip Howard… Current commander of the SGC… That was all I meant.”

Sam studied her for a moment, and Cassie knew the blush on her cheeks was telling her friend everything she hadn’t.

“Oh, Cass,” Sam sighed, brushing some hair away from the younger woman’s face. “Falling for your commanding officer?”

Cassie smiled. “I learned from the best.”

Sam laughed at this, wrapping an arm round Cassie’s shoulders and hugging her closer. “And you thought it looked like fun?”

Cassie laughed now, and settled her head on Sam’s shoulder as they used to sit when she was sixteen and talking about boys. “I thought…” She sighed. “You can’t help who you fall in love with.”

Sam nodded. “That was a lesson I was trying to teach you… Of course you were supposed to then prove the theory wrong, and choose not to fall in love with your commanding officer… Although, maybe that was the lesson for the week I disappeared, and I never got round to it.”

Cassie smiled. She had missed this.

“Is it mutual?” Sam asked, seriously.

Cassie nodded. “We’ve never spoken about it… But, it’s… I’d say it’s as obvious as you and Jack.”

Sam hugged her tighter. “Oh dear.”

Cassie laughed again and sat up. “I’m okay with it… I have a job lined up at a civilian hospital in Colorado Springs… I leave Cheyenne Mountain at the end of the month,” she grinned.

Sam’s eyes widened, and she shot Cassie a mock-glare. “You let me think - …”

“Sam, I told you, I learned from the best… And if there’s one thing you taught me, it’s that it is okay to follow your heart and not your head.”

Sam frowned. “How did I teach you that?”

“Well, sometimes we learn by example, and sometimes we learn what not to do, by example… Although… I think it’s fairly obvious you followed your heart at some point,” Cassie added, with a lilt similar to the one Sam had used on her, and a raised eyebrow.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Sam replied, with a knowing smirk, before falling into a fit of coughing.

“Sam,” Cassie, said, concerned, as she moved to hold Sam as she coughed.

“I’m okay,” Sam managed to croak out between coughs.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Cassie replied. When the coughing had subsided, Cassie began to pick up her things. “I should get back to the SGC and start running tests… And I think you and Jack have some catching up to do… If you’re up to it?”

Sam smiled and nodded. “I’ve had this conversation millions of times in my head… I never actually thought I’d get to have it in person.”

“And knowing Jack, it’ll go nothing like any of your millions of rehearsals.”

--

Carter’s house, 2004

“I think that went well,” Jack said as he piled the dirty dishes into the sink.

Sam’s response was very quiet, and seemed muffled. Frowning, he turned around, to find her, face bright red, eyes sparkling with laughter, and her hand clamped firmly over her mouth.

“Are you still laughing at that story?”

She shook her head; the shaking of her shoulders contradicting that response.

“Carter,” he warned.

She removed the hand, and allowed her laughter to show, collapsing into the nearest chair for support. “I’m sorry… I’m not laughing at you… It’s more the image of…” She trailed off, unable to complete the sentence.

Jack walked slowly towards her. “You know, I’m starting to remember why we never told you that story in the first place.”

Her laughter intensified, and she rubbed both hands over her face. “That story really shouldn’t be shared with too many people,” she managed to stutter.

He stopped in front of her, and she looked up at him, her lips pursed together tightly to stop the onslaught. “Carter…” He leaned forward and rested his right hand on the table behind her. “I believe…” His left hand came to rest on the table, effectively trapping her between his arms. “I put a ban on giggling years ago.”

His proximity seemed to calm her laughter a little, and she looked up at him, a smile still wide on her lips. She shrugged. “Sometimes I just can’t help it.”

He leaned closer to her. “Well, that’s too bad… Because I happen to know that you are ticklish.” Before the last word left his lips, his hands were on her waist. She screamed and tried to escape from his hold, but it was futile.

She wriggled beside him as his fingers teased her, her hands batting against his chest in pointless attempts to stop him.

“You should have learned a long time ago, not to laugh at me, Carter,” he told her as she squirmed.

“Okay, okay,” she squealed, breathlessly, “I won’t do it again!”

“Carter you really shouldn’t squeal like that you’ll wake Cassie.” The tickling continued. “Not to mention every dog in the area.”

She hit him harder now, though he was well aware she had more defence skills than this and could easily have escaped him minutes ago. “Please stop,” she implored, still laughing and screaming.

“You laughed at me, for about three hours in total, Carter, I don’t think you’ve suffered enough.”

He had her pinned against the table with his body now, there was nowhere she could go.

“I’m sorry,” she squeaked. “I won’t laugh again. I’ll erase the hilarious images from my mind completely.”

He continued tickling.

“Stop it, please!… Jack stop!”

Her use of his first name was enough to stop him. His hands stilled on her waist, and his breathing involuntarily deepened when he realised the position they were now in… Although he told himself it was actually due to the exertion of fighting her squirming.

“What?” she asked quietly as he just stared at her.

“‘Jack’?” he questioned, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.

She nodded. “Yeah…” She sounded nervous. “I figured General O’Neill would never… tickle me – anyone – like that, so you must be taking a night off.”

He smiled, sadly. “I would love to take a night off.”

She nodded and swallowed hard, before raising serious eyes to his. “Maybe we should.”

“Sam – ” he said warningly, knowing he was dangerously close to going along with anything she suggested.

“Jack,” she rested her hands on his shoulders, “Maybe we need one night – ”

He broke the eye contact yet, he noted, did not move away. This was not good.

“Sam, we – ”

Her hands slipped down his arms. “It’s getting too hard… Jack, we have lost and sacrificed so much - too much – for this program! You said it yourself, we go daily to possible death. I think we deserve… something… Even if it can only be for one night.”

There were tears in her eyes now. He rested his forehead against hers. “Sam, how would we deal with it just being one night?” he whispered.

“I’d rather know we’ve had one night to be us, than to spend my whole life sacrificing Sam for the good of Colonel Carter,” she whispered back.

“Sam, that doesn’t sound like you – ”

“I nearly died. Again, Jack…”

She pressed her lips into his, and he pulled his head away. “We’ve both been drinking.”

“So you have to stay anyway.”

“Cassie – ”

“Is asleep.”

“And we have to work tomorrow.”

She nodded once. “Tomorrow,” she repeated pointedly, standing up from the table, pressing her body against his this time. “But tonight, Jack?” she whispered.

“Sam…”

“Jack, I am well aware of what I am doing… If you want to say no, then say it because it’s what you want, and not what you think is right for me.”

--

Avia, 2022

Cassie left to head back to the gate, and Jack and Sam were left alone.

“How are you feeling?” he asked her, sitting down in a chair opposite hers, taking in her appearance; how she’d changed, and how she was still exactly the same.

She smiled that wide, beautiful smile that had filled his dreams for eighteen years (although, if he was honest, longer than that). “Much better now,” she whispered.

“Don’t punish Dylan too much,” he suggested with a smirk and her smile widened further.

“I won’t.”

“He’s a good kid.”

Sam nodded. “He is… Jack, he – ”

“I know,” Jack interrupted her, seeing the nervousness in her eyes.

“That’s what I was going to tell you…” The nerves were close to panic now, as if she was worried that he might resent her not having told him.

“Sam,” he said, softly, leaning forward in his seat and taking her hand in his, “I know.”

She nodded, tears slipping silently onto her cheeks each time she blinked. “I’ve wanted to be able to tell you for so long,” she told him, bringing her other hand to hold his. “I’m sorry I didn’t - … I should have made sure you knew.”

“You weren’t to know what would happen,” he soothed, reassuringly.

“Dylan knows about you. I’ve told him all about you – ”

“Sam…” He waited until she met his eyes. “Stop worrying about that. You don’t owe me an explanation. Nothing was in your control. You have raised a great boy – and despite what you’ve told him, he looks just like you.”

Sam gave a watery laugh. “I’ve seen you in him since the moment he was born.”

“Poor kid!”

Sam laughed again, and then it turned into coughing. Jack reached for the glass of water on the table beside her and passed it over. She took a few sips and eventually the coughing subsided.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “It comes and goes…”

They were both silent for a moment, the display of her illness a reminder that their reunion may have come too late.

Sam was the first to break the silence. “Dylan is actually getting married in a month,” she smiled.

“What?!” Jack exclaimed. “He’s barely eighteen!”

Sam’s smile widened. “It’s custom here to marry young, and he and Junaia have been inseparable since they were two. She’s a nice girl.”

“Ah yes. I’ve heard about her mother,” Jack quipped.

Sam smirked. “Yes, Quila is - … On Earth, we’d call her eccentric. She’s nice though. She’s been very supportive since I got here. She was pregnant as well; she helped me through it all.”

“I can’t imagine you adapted easily to this less-scientific society,” Jack smirked.

Sam smiled, softly. “Yeah, it took a while. I guess it’s like when you were on Edora. I was just here longer.”

“I looked, Sam,” he said instantly, not wanting her to think that they’d just given up on her. “If I’d had my way we would have searched every single planet until we found you - ”

“I know, Jack,” she said, taking hold of his hand the same way he had held hers. “It was my stupid fault really,” she said next. “I entered the wrong address.” She shook her head slowly, and he could see the tension and guilt in her face. “I could blame the storm, or the unusual design of the DHD, but it was my fault. I was preoccupied worrying about how to tell you I was pregnant, and what would happen to us, and I … I must have pressed the wrong symbol.”

“That’s understandable, Sam,” he said, urging her to stop blaming herself.

“It was stupid,” she stated, meeting his eyes. “As Jack, you can tell me it’s understandable, but as General O’Neill, you tell me it was stupid. I should have been focussed on what I was doing. I’m Air Force: you don’t focus, people get hurt. That’s exactly why the regulations on relationships exist and - ”

“Sam, blaming yourself isn’t going to change anything. It happened, and now we’re all back together again. That’s all you need to think about now.”

“But Dylan grew up without his father; you missed the first eighteen years of his life; his first steps, his first word – ”

He slipped from his chair and knelt in front of her, taking her head in his hands and making her look at him. “Hey! Dylan and I will catch up on lost time. I will definitely be having a man to man talk with him before he gets married!”

Sam laughed but he could still see the anxiety eating at her.

“Sam, you can’t change the past. Believe me, I’ve been trying to as well. If I’d managed it, I never would have left your house that morning… It’s done, but now we’ve got this second chance. Let go, Sam, we’ll go from here.”

He saw sadness in her eyes now as she placed her hands over his on her cheeks. “But I’m – ”

“Hey! No. We go from here. Whatever happens we can face it together – just like we always did.”

“Jack – ”

“Sam, I never stopped loving you. Whatever time we have been given now, I am not wasting it… Now, this Malan guy are you and he… you know?”

Sam shook her head.

“Are you and anyone…?”

“No,” she said quietly. “There’s no one.”

“Okay. Then if you don’t mind kissing an old man… Permission to kiss you?”

Sam laughed and tilted her head into his right hand. “Is this a dream?” she whispered.

“I doubt I’d be this old if you were dreaming,” he smirked.

She smiled. “Permission granted.”

--

Carter’s House, 2004

Sam’s eyes fluttered open at the soft sound of her name. As the world came into focus, she found Jack gazing down at her.

“Hey,” she said, sleepily, blinking to try to clear her vision.

“Hey yourself,” he smiled. “I’m gonna go. This’ll just be more complicated if Cassie knows I stayed.”

Sam nodded, automatically, and glanced down to find that he was fully clothed.

“You were dead to the world,” he told her with a smirk.

“I was tired,” she shot back with a raised eyebrow.

A proud grin swept onto Jack’s lips. “I’m not surprised.”

They shared a smile for a moment and then reality seemed to return to them both simultaneously, their smiles gradually dropping into serious expressions of concern and disappointment.

“I can hand in my resignation - ”

“No,” she stopped him, gently placing her hand on his chest. “No,” she repeated softly, “I won’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking. I’m offering.”

“There’s too much that needs doing, Jack. We both know we need to stay where we are for now.”

“For now?”

She nodded. “One day, it’ll be our turn.”

“Well if we’re waiting until the world doesn’t need saving, we could be old and grey by then,” Jack quipped, and Sam couldn’t tell if he was joking, or if he was angry.

“We’d better start training people to replace us then,” Sam countered, propping herself up on one elbow so her face was closer to his, “Because I’m not waiting that long.”

“I thought I’d been training you to replace me?”

Sam smiled, “Well, that’s one less thing we need to do then.”

Jack smiled and moved his head forward the short distance required to gently kiss Sam’s lips. It was a brief kiss; a goodbye; an end to their ‘just one night’.

“I’ll see you later,” he said as he stood from the bed.

Sam nodded. “See you later.”

--

Stargate Command, 2022

General Howard stepped into the infirmary, greeting the few patients currently residing in there, and making enquiries as to their progress, then he made his way through to the office where Cassandra was studying the samples taken from Samantha Carter.

“How’s it going?” he asked, quietly, stopping in the doorway.

Cassie turned round, a manila folder in her hands. “I was just coming to see you. It’s a virus; it’s attacking her white blood cells, preventing her body from fighting it. She’s obviously picked it up on Avia, but as the medics there haven’t recognised her symptoms, I’m hoping the Avians have a natural immunity. If I can get some blood samples, hopefully I’ll be able to find a treatment.”

“That sounds promising?”

Cassie nodded. “I hope so.”

Philip offered her an understanding smile and they lapsed into silence. They both glanced around the room, and then finally the silence broke with them both speaking at the same time.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Cassie said, formally.

“No, you go first,” Philip conceded.

“I was just going to say that this is your copy of my findings,” she said, stepping forward and offering him the folder she’d been holding.

“Thank you,” he said with a nod, taking it from her.

“What were you going to say?” she asked him, and he realised he had been silent for a few seconds.

“I was going to ask how the reunion went?”

A wide smile spread across Cassie’s lips, and Philip couldn’t help but smile himself at seeing her so happy. “It was so good to see her, and almost as if we’d never been apart. We fell right back into chatting, and her giving me advice on my – ” She stopped when she realised what she was saying. “Well… I’ve missed her.”

Philip nodded, knowing what it was that Cassie avoided speaking about. “And how was her reunion with General O’Neill?”

Cassie met his eyes and they shared a meaningful look before she replied, “It was… perfect. They’ve been apart too long.”

“Eighteen years is a long time,” Philip agreed.

“They were apart before she went missing.”

At Philip’s frown she explained, “Regulations.”

“Ah.” Something they understood all too well.

Before another silence could fall, Philip asked, “So, you want to go back to Avia?”

Cassie smiled, “Yes, please.”

“Good. You can make sure Teal’c and Daniel find the right house.”

Cassie’s smile morphed into a grin. “You managed to reach Teal’c?”

“Indeed.”

They shared a laugh.

“I thought he was in the middle of a forest somewhere with his grandchildren?”

“He was. I sent a troupe of boy scouts to PX3-572 to find him,” he quipped in response.

“Ah, those boy scouts are good at tracking,” she returned, matching his jovial tone.

“So, Teal’c should arrive any minute now. Daniel was offworld, but they were calling him back and he should arrive soon as well. Are you okay to wait?”

Cassie nodded. “If it’s only going to be like fifteen minutes, then that’s fine.”

Philip nodded – suddenly conscious that he did that a lot. “Okay then. Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Cassie beamed, and for a second he just enjoyed seeing her happy, then she turned back to her desk, and he walked away. The end of the month could not come soon enough.

--

Avia, 2022

“Atlantis?” Sam repeated, her eyes wide. “You let him go?”

They were taking a slow stroll along the stream that ran past the end of Sam’s garden; the wind gently blowing on their faces; Sam’s arm looped through Jack’s, and he was updating on her what Daniel and Teal’c were doing now.

“Well I didn’t really have much say in the matter by that point.”

“You said he’s been there seventeen years?”

Jack nodded. “Off and on.”

Sam stopped walking, bringing Jack to a halt with her. “Jack, why weren’t you in command then?”

“I retired in the February. He left in the April. Obviously drove Bob mad for two months so he caved and let him leave.”

“Jack, please tell me it wasn’t because of me?” she implored.

“No. He always wanted to go, you know that.”

“Not Daniel… You. Did you retire because of me?”

Jack shrugged. “I was always willing to… And you weren’t there to stop me.”

“Don’t make light of this.”

“Sam, it was seventeen years ago,” he said, emphasising the number, “It doesn’t matter now… Unless I get chivalry points for retiring for you?” he smirked.

Sam was silent for a moment and he knew she was unsure whether or not to give in on her point. Eventually, she sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, “Sorry, doesn’t count if I’m not there to enjoy it.”

“Damn it!” he cursed. “Well, it was worth a try.”

“You can have points for trying,” she smiled up at him.

--

Stargate Command, 2004

Daniel fell into step beside Sam as they left their mission briefing, simply walking beside her in silence until she stopped and turned to face him.

“Is there a problem, Daniel?”

He stopped also, and shook his head. “No. No problem.”

Sam’s look told him that she didn’t believe him.

“I just wanted to make sure everything’s okay.”

Sam frowned, looking at him suspiciously. “What makes you ask?”

“Something’s… different with you and Jack,” he told her.

Her frown deepened. “In what way?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted, “It’s just… something.”

She nodded once, slowly, eyeing him as if he was crazy. “Okay… Well, everything’s fine… Although,” she said, piquing his interest, “It is kinda difficult to look at him the same way after hearing that story last night.”

She laughed, and he was sure part of it was at his disappointment. He really was hoping for something better than that. If he had been brave enough to broach the subject, he would have asked her what had happened after he and Teal’c left her house the night before. He was certain something had occurred between her and Jack; but, clearly, if it had, they were keeping it quiet. He just hoped they knew what they were doing.

He laughed also. “Yeah, I’ve never quite seen him as the same person since I found out.”

“I can’t believe you’ve never told me that story before!” she reprimanded him as she started to move along the corridor again.

“Teal’c swore me to secrecy!” he argued, following her “And you don’t mess with Teal’c.”

--

Avia, 2022

Sam and Jack walked slowly back up the garden towards Sam’s house. They had talked about all the people from their days on SG1: General Hammond, Sergeant Harriman, Siler; they’d talked about Daniel’s daily emails from Atlantis when he had first arrived, how most of it made no sense to Jack, and they’d talked about Teal’c’s seven grandchildren. Then they had realised that they had been walking for over two hours, and turned back. On the return walk, Sam had told Jack about her first days in Avia, about Dylan’s childhood and about when Dylan proposed to Junaia.

Conversation came as if they had never been apart. All their feelings were still there, and, now, there was nothing standing between them. He held her hand as they walked, he brushed hair out of her face whenever they stopped for a moment to admire the scenery – he seemed to admire her more than the landscape; and every so often he embraced her in a hug – because he still couldn’t believe they were really reunited.

Sam was tiring now as they returned to the house, her coughing coming in more frequent fits due to the exertion of walking for so long, and his arm around her waist supported her.

He opened the door, standing to the side to allow her to enter first. She smiled as she stepped forward, then paused in front of him. Looking up at him she smiled. “I love you,” she told him.

It was not his voice that reacted to her.

“Well, it’s about time!”

They both turned quickly to see Daniel standing beside Cassie and Teal’c, grinning from ear to ear.

“Oh, sorry. Did I interrupt something?” the archaeologist smirked, his eyes never once leaving Sam; the awe and relief radiating from him.

“Daniel,” she breathed, feeling tears stinging at her eyes, “Teal’c.”

Teal’c inclined his head in that all familiar way, and grinned. “Colonel Carter.”

Sam let out a laugh. “I think you can call me Sam now, Teal’c.”

“It is good to see you,” the Jaffa responded.

Thankfully Jack had noticed that Sam’s hand had never left his throughout the exchange, and he was keeping a firm hold on it. She longed to be able to cross the room and envelope her friends in a neverending hug, but she could feel her energy level dropping by the minute.

“Shall we sit?” Jack asked, and she smiled at his intervention.

“That would be good,” she said, “I think we walked for a little too long.”

“Are you okay?” Cassie asked instantly.

“I’m fine,” she assured her as she settled onto a sofa, Jack sitting down beside her, his hand still not yielding hers. “I just get tired.” She glanced at Jack. “And I forgot that.” She looked back at the group gathered in her living room, taking in each one, fighting back tears again. “I can’t believe you’re all here.”

Jack squeezed her hand, Teal’c inclined his head again and Daniel smiled. “I can’t believe you’re here,” he said, “Living on another planet all this time.”

“Not quite as exciting as another galaxy,” Sam smirked. “Is Atlantis as amazing as you always hoped? Or had you built it up too much?”

“Oh it’s amazing. There’s so much for me to tell you.”

“I’ll forward you the emails,” Jack winked at her.

Sam laughed. “Could you forward me a computer as well?”

“It is strange,” Teal’c said, “To think of you in a world without computers.”

“It was very, very difficult at – ” Coughing cut off Sam’s sentence, and Dylan came into the room with some water.

“Here, Mom,” he said, handing a glass to her.

“Cass, did you…?” Jack asked as Sam calmed down.

“Right, yeah,” Cassie said, “We’ll get that out the way before the reunion begins properly. The tests showed that you have a virus. It’s attacking your white blood cells, that’s why they can’t fight it. I’m hoping the Avians have a natural immunity and I should be able to develop a cure… And a vaccine, just in case it’s…” The doctor’s eyes flitted briefly to Jack. “… contagious.”

Sam offered Cassie a small smile as Jack glared at her.

“Do you think some of your friends might be willing to give me some blood?”

“Malan would,” Dylan responded for her, “And I’m sure Junaia’s parents would be happy to help. I can take you to them.”

Sam smiled up at her son. “Make sure you ask them, please, Dylan.”

He bent down and kissed her forehead. “They’ll be happy to help, Mom.”

“Okay,” Cassie said, standing. “The sooner I get the samples, the sooner I can get to work. I’ll head back to the SGC afterwards. I take it it’s okay if they stay?” she grinned, nodding her head towards Daniel and Teal’c.

“Oh I think so,” Sam smiled, “I’ll throw them out when I get tired of them.”

Cassie gave Sam a hug and then followed Dylan out into the village.

“So,” Sam said, sitting back in her seat, “Seven grandchildren, Teal’c?”

--

Stargate Command, 2004

Daniel and Teal’c stood in the gate room with SG2, waiting for Sam. She had been walking to the room with them, but then had claimed to have forgotten something and returned to the locker room.

Daniel wasn’t entirely convinced by her excuse, she had been a little withdrawn the last few days, but when she did catch up with them, she seemed to be her usual self.

“Sorry about that guys,” she said, “Are we set?”

“Everything okay, Carter?” Jack’s voice came through the tannoy.

She looked up to the control room and nodded. For a moment she looked nervous as her eyes connected with Jack, but then it slipped behind her military cover. “Yes, Sir.”

Jack nodded and spoke to Sergeant Harriman, and the gate began to engage.

“Okay,” Jack’s voice returned, “SGs one and two, you have a go.”

The teams acknowledged Jack’s order with a nod each and proceeded through the gate.

--

Stargate Command, 2022

Cassie checked Sam’s drip was secure and stepped back slightly from the bed.

“Okay. It’s definitely working. A few more hours and you should be able to come off this.”

“Thanks,” Sam said, smiling at Cassie. “You are so much like your mother.”

Cassie laughed. “I do like to torture the teams during their post-mission checks.”

Jack exaggerated a shudder beside her. “Some things never change.”

“It’ll be time for your vaccination soon,” Cassie grinned as she turned to Jack.

“You know, I think I’m fine. I don’t need – ”

“I take it you’ll be visiting Avia again?” Cassie smirked at him.

Jack glanced towards Sam – who was trying not to laugh – and then looked back at Cassie. “Okay, fine. Go prepare your needles.”

The women shared a laugh and Cassie left Jack and Sam alone.

“Doc taught her a little too well,” Jack commented as he took Sam’s hand in his.

Sam just nodded and smiled, her eyes fixed on Jack and never wavering.

“What?” he asked, softly.

“This all still seems so surreal. I still expect to find out that I’m dreaming… Or that I’m being held captive by replicators…”

Jack squeezed her hand gently. “This is real, Sam… I know, because I pinched myself the moment I brought you through the gate… You are home, Sam.”

Her smile widened, but Jack noticed that instead of brightening, her eyes actually dimmed at his words.

“Sam?”

“It’s weird you not calling me Carter,” she commented.

He didn’t take up her diversion. “Sam? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she smiled again.

“Hey,” he said, bringing his other hand to also enclose hers, “You can talk to me.”

He saw the anxiety in her eyes; the nerves, as if she didn’t know how to broach whatever was on her mind. Then it struck him.

“You don’t want to come back,” he stated, not angry, not hurt, not disappointed; just honest.

She swallowed hard, and he could see tears shimmering in her eyes. “Part of me does. Part of me is screaming to get back here, to recapture everything I thought I’d lost… But… it isn’t the same is it? I wouldn’t be coming back to what I left behind. The world moved on… And so did I.”

She brought her free hand across and placed it on top of his.

“Avia’s my home now, Jack. I’m not saying I won’t visit Earth – there’s certainly lots I’d like Dylan to see… But, Avia is our home – Dylan’s and mine – and he’s getting married and – ”

Jack leaned forward and silenced her with a kiss. When he pulled back, she was frowning at him and two tears were slipping down her cheeks. He freed a hand to wipe them away.

“I think I’d like Avia,” he told her. “Dylan tells me there’s a lake. Any fish?” he smirked.

“You’d do that?” she whispered.

“Sam, I have always been willing to do anything for you. I’m just glad I finally have the opportunity to do it.”

More tears spilled from her eyes and she offered him a watery smile. He leaned forward and captured her lips again, his thumb stroking her cheek to catch the tears as they fell.

“Am I going to have to get used to this?” Dylan asked from the foot of Sam’s bed.

Sam smiled against Jack’s lips and he pulled back, turning to look at their son. “You should get used to not interrupting,” Jack smirked at him.

Dylan grinned back, looking so much like Sam. “Well, I’ll be married soon and out of your way.”

“Ah yes,” Jack said, straightening up, “About that – ”

Sam put a placating hand on Jack’s arm. “At least wait ’til we get home,” she told him.

Dylan smiled but then he seemed to realise the implications of that statement. “Oh,” he said solemnly, “I never – ”

“I’m going to move to Avia,” Jack told him. “If that’s okay?”

Dylan looked to his mother for confirmation which she gave, and a wide smile spread across his lips as he returned his gaze to Jack.

“That’s fine by me,” he beamed, “As long as I don’t have to walk in on that every time I leave you alone.” His hand waved between the two of them to show he meant their earlier display of affection.

“Well I can’t make any promises,” Jack smirked, glancing at Sam, “we’ve got catching up to do.”

THE END