Carter made her way to the bridge. They had arrived at the coordinates designated by the Asgard. General O’Neill stood in front of the captain’s chair. He turned to her as she entered.
“Carter, knew you wouldn’t want to miss Thor,” he stated, “We’re just about to drop out of hyperspace.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world sir,” she replied.
“The Asgard are requesting permission to beam aboard sir,” reported a major whose name O’Neill could not remember.
There was silence on the bridge. Teal’c, Mitchell, Vala, Daniel, and Carter all slowly turned their eyes to O’Neill who still looked ahead.
A few moments of silence passed before O’Neill realized all eyes were on him, “Oh…right. Of course they can come over. Its not like needed permission before,” he added as an aside to Teal’c, whose eyebrow raised.
Thor appeared in a familiar white flash. His large black eyes blinking.
“Thor! Buddy!” greeted O’Neill.
“O’Neill, greetings. Colonel Carter, Dr. Jackson, Teal’c greetings to you all.”
“Uh, Thor this is Colonel Mitchell and Vala, new members of SG-1,” introduced Carter.
“You know, we haven’t heard from you in a while. You never call, never write….” quipped O’Neill.
“I am sorry. I have been otherwise occupied. As mentioned in our communication the high council wishes to meet with you to explain in greater detail, but there is not much time. O’Neill with your permission a number of Asgard are prepared to beam aboard immediately to begin installing various technological upgrades to this ship,” said Thor’s monotone voice.
O’Neill could hear a snicker and several murmurs from behind him. He knew there was a betting pool as to why the Asgard had suddenly and mysteriously contacted them. He himself had his bets on a big honkin space gun. They had already given them shield technology, a matching space gun only seemed appropriate. He was having a hard time containing his own excitement, allowing only a slight twitch at the corners of his mouth.
“What, uh…are you planning on installing? Just out of curiousity” asked O’Neill.
Thor paused looking at O’Neill inquisitively…well that’s what O’Neill thought considering the Asgard’s body language was difficult to read.
“Everything we have and know,” replied Thor.
O’Neill looked at Carter. Mitchell looked to Teal’c. Vala smiled, she’d bet on technology to defeat the Ori, ‘everything they knew’ would probably win her the betting pool. She thought she had better at least clarify so their would be no arguing over her winnings.
“By that you mean…?” Vala spoke up.
“Everything. All our most current technology…all our knowledge.”
Daniel spoke everyone’s thoughts, “Uh, why? You’ve always resisted in the past…you always said we weren’t ready.”
“What’s changed?” asked Mitchell.
If he could look sad, Thor did, “As a race we are dying. Very soon. We will all be gone.”
The Asgard proved to be efficient but impatient guests. The installation process was quick. Carter spent most of her time with Thor, questioning, prodding, and hoping that she could assimilate as much information from him first hand as possible. The reality of the Asgard’s situation left a weight around her neck. These benevolent good beings were dying. All their technology could not save them and she felt guilty at the sense of excitement she got at the access to their knowledge. Thor could sense her unease.
“The integration of the computer core should be complete soon. Once done it will be fully integrated in to all the ship’s systems,” he explained. As he finished, O’Neill entered. Guilt had overcome him as well, guilt and sadness.
“There must be something more you can do…” Carter started, lost in her own thoughts.
“I assure you, we are providing you with all the latest Asgard technology and knowledge base including our entire history,” answered Thor.
“That’s not what she meant Thor.” O’Neil interrupted. “You know we do like you Thor, not just because you have lots of technology. You’ve saved our asses more than once. You’ve proved to be good, for the sake of…being good. You…none of you deserve this.”
“I appreciate your sentiments O’Neill. But the physiological degeneration has left each of us with a rapidly progressing disease. We will all shortly die a painful death that you can imagine we wish to avoid. Our fate was decide generations ago. I have left you with a holographic interface of myself or any other Asgard on record in the knowledge base. It can help with any information you require.”
“It won’t be the same…” started Carter, but O’Neill interrupted.
“Thor, you guys can transfer entire consciousness…es, can’t you transfer yourselves into something….else,” he received doubtful glances from both Thor and Carter, “Yeah I know I didn’t really believe you would do that either. Seems a little Goa’uldish when I say it out loud.” He thought for a moment, “What if you came with us? Maybe we can find some way to preserve….” O’Neill tried but was interrupted.
“My place is with the Asgard. You are the fifth race, O’Neill. You proved to us the significance of your people. You’re role is clear. If there is any hope in preserving the future…It lies with you and your people.”
“Yeah…I hope you’re right about us because otherwise you just gave a monkey a shot gun,” replied O’Neill.
Carter concealed her grin but appreciated his attempt to make the gravity of the situation lighter.
“You must go now. Our time is come. Good-bye Colonel Carter,” he turned to O’Neill and paused, his large eyes looked almost sad, “O’Neill it has been my honor to call you friend.”
O’Neill looked at him, reached out his hand and placed it on Thor’s shoulder, “We’re going to miss you little guy.”
Thor was encompassed by a white flash and was gone.
“I never got used to that,” sighed O’Neill to the empty space left by Thor.
“General O’Neill to the bridge,” came over the intercom.
“Gotta go,” he stopped looking back at Carter. Her eyes rested where Thor had stood. “You coming?”
She looked up, having forgotten he was there, “I should probably stay here and manage the new upgrades sir.”
“Right,” he said heading up to the bridge.
One Month Later
General O’Neill walked through the corridors of the Odyssey. It had become his evening ritual. Before going to bed he walked every corridor of the ship. It usually took at least and an hour and a half sometimes longer if he ran into anyone. He did not expect to find anyone up at this hour as it was nearing midnight. He had sat on the bridge staring out into space hoping that if he stared at the stars long enough the answer would come to him. Not the answer to preserving the Asgard technology and getting themselves off the ship, but the answer to keeping everyone on the ship from going insane with boredom. Hard to find the answer when he was fighting it himself. He was not worried about Carter or Daniel for that matter. Carter had enough of a problem on her hands that she would stay busy. Even when she needed a break there was enough Asgard technology available to distract her. He had chuckled to himself when he thought of her actually being entertained by technology. Daniel, too, would be distracted by the shear amount of information left to them by the Asgard.
He didn’t worry about Teal’c either. He was self-reflective, mentally strong. His innate sense of focus on whatever task was at hand would save him. Whether that task was Jaffa meditation or martial arts, he would find a way to stimulate himself away from boredom. It came down to the fact that he was concerned about Mitchell and Vala. Mitchell was like him, a man of action. He liked to feel that he was moving forward towards a goal. Sitting and waiting was going to drive him crazy. Finally, Vala. She had shown difficulties with the situation before they had reached the Asgard in the first place. But luckily she seemed to turn to Daniel to provide distraction.
He hated to admit it; even to himself, that the only way he was going to keep from losing it was to find ways to amuse himself and everyone else in the process. This reminded him to much of the time loop he and Teal’c had been caught in years ago. He had started to lose it then and knew what was coming.
As he walked the last corridor, past the control room, he noticed the door was open, the light still on. He poked his head in the door.
He could see blonde hair peaking over a console. He smiled to himself. How many times had he walked past her lab at the SGC late in the evening to find her asleep in her lab. He missed this.
He walked up behind her and whispered, sing song into her ear, “Carter?”
He got no response.
“Carter?” he said a little louder.
Finally he gently put his hand on her shoulder and shook it, “Carter, wakey wakey.”
Immediately she hit his arm at the wrist, knocking it away, and hit him hard in the solar plexis. She’d knocked all air from his diaphragm. It was all he could do to keep from falling to the floor. Instead he doubled over and, in a manor not becoming to a general, gasped for air.
Carter looked around disoriented. Her hands were shaking and for a moment she did not know where she was. She looked in front of her at a familiar grey-haired General struggling for air.
“Sir! I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…I…wasn’t awake…I fell…I’m really sorry,” she winced as she listened to herself. She placed her hand on his shoulder, which he quickly flicked away from him.
“Its…ok,” he said between rattled breaths. He continued to cough and sputter.
Carter stood back, biting her lower lip.
He finally stood up straight and appraised her as his breathing returned to normal.
“At least you didn’t bite me,” he said, with a slight grin and shrug.
Carter released a strangled chuckle.
“What are you still doing up?” he asked remembering why he’d woke her in the first place. He hoped if he turned the attention back to her she might forget his embarrassing situation. He could never live down being attacked by his own Colonel.
“Just trying to find a solution sir. I have a hard time quitting. I keep thinking the answer is in the next file or Asgard technological report. It feels barely out of reach. I have to keep looking.”
He looked at her inquisitively, “You know it’s not your fault right?”
“What, sir?” she asked.
“That we’re stuck in a time bubble,” he explained.
“Time dilation field, sir,” she added quickly without thinking. He raised his eyebrows in irritation. “Frankly, sir, it is my fault. If I hadn’t jumped on the first solution that came to me we might not be in this mess.”
“Of course we wouldn’t,” he said, “we’d be dead. You did what you thought was best at the time and in ninety-nine percent of situations I would say you do the right thing. This one is no exception.”
She did not reply. She would not continue the argument. She still blamed herself.
“Why don’t you go get some sleep and hit it again tomorrow. Trust me, it’ll still be here,” he said.
“Yeah. I’ll shut things down here and then get some sleep.” He watched her. She hadn’t moved from her stool. In fact she was reading again. She had no intention of going to bed.
“Carter, exhausting yourself is not going to help. You shut things down and I’ll walk you to your quarters,” he offered.
Dang. She hated that he knew her so well. There was no way he was going to leave without her. He hadn’t uttered the word ‘order’ yet but it was coming. She could feel it.
“Yes, sir,” was her defeated answer.
He stood back, leaning against the wall and watched her as she shut down several screens and projections. He hadn’t spent much time with her since they’d been on the Odyssey. She was usually here, doing what she always does. He realized that she needed some rescuing too, as much if not more than Mitchell and Vala.
She gathered her coffee cup, sweater, and laptop.
“Ready, sir,” she said.
He held his arm toward the door and let her lead the way. As they walked he began to wonder. “Carter, have you taken any days off since we’ve been here?” He guessed her answer by the way her body tensed.
“Not exactly, sir,” she replied slowly. She could see where this was going.
“I have an idea. Why don’t you take the day off tomorrow. I think a fresh look at it after a break might help you…reevaluate the situation.”
“That’s not nece…” she quickly argued, but he anticipated her response.
“It’s not a suggestion Carter,” he said catching her eye.
Her lips drew to a tight line.
“Sir, permission to speak freely?” she asked.
“What else am I supposed to do around here? I have one job to do and taking a day off is only going to leave us stuck here longer.” Her carefully hidden frustration was boiling to the surface.
“Hey, at least you have something to work on. The rest of us have been thinking of anything to keep from dying of boredom.” She looked away her face red. “I know you haven’t challenged Teal’c to ping pong yet. Join Daniel looking through the social and anthropo-whatever evolution of the Asgard. I’m sure Vala would love for someone new to play Old Maid. You could go workout with Mitchell. There’s gotta be something you’ve always wanted to do but never had time?” he said.
She nodded her head, slipping into deep thought. She had pondered the many possibilities their being stranded allowed. With only one project to focus on she, she’d never had so much free time to do whatever she wanted. However, there weren’t many things outside of work that she did want.
“I’ve always wanted to learn to play the cello, sir. I wonder if the ship’s computer has enough information for the matter converter to make one,” she said her eyes lighting up.
“See there you go,” he said.
He liked to see the Carter spark. He was proud of himself. He had given her a new problem to work out, one that would get her mind off of solving their time bubble trouble.
They entered the elevator to take them up the several floors to the crew quarters. Carter continued in silent thought. O’Neill caught himself staring at her. He’d never imagined her as a musician.
She finally broke the silence, “What did you do sir?”
She’d caught him off guard.
“What did I do when?” he asked confused.
“Sorry. I was thinking that this is similar to when we were caught in the time loop. I don’t know about Teal’c but I’m sure you didn’t work on translating the entire time. No offense, sir.” She added with a quick smile.
“Uh, yeah I had thought of the similarities myself. Let’s see…golf, bicycle riding, pottery…”
“Pottery?” she asked surprised.
“What? I do have a creative side Carter,” he said defensivly.
“I never thought of you….” Images of the movie Ghost began playing in her mind and made her smile, until she looked at his face. “Umm…anything else?”
It was his turn to smile, “Little of this, little of that.”
“Why haven’t you done any of that here? I know Cam would have told me if you were making pottery. It’s a prefect opportunity, sir. I could look into a pottery wheel for you,” she said.
He shrugged, “Maybe. I’ll think about it. Right now I have a feeling some of our fellow time dilation buddies are struggling more than others. I’ve tried to keep them busy.”
She knew he had been trying to keep everyone from succumbing to depression. She hated what this was doing to her friends. For one moment she had almost forgotten the heavy yoke she felt bearing down on her. It wasn’t just their lives she was trying to save but their sanity as well. She admired his concern for those he commanded.
“What are you doing tomorrow sir?” she asked thoughtfully. Maybe he could use a break too.
His eyebrows furrowed, “Why?”
“I’m sure I could conjure up some golf clubs. We could hit a few balls in the empty cargo hold,” she suggested.
“Why Carter are you asking me on a date?” he teased.
He wished he had had a camera. The look of shock on her face was priceless. She looked away.
“Joking, Carter. Actually, I would enjoy that.”
The elevator doors opened, revealing the corridor leading to the crew quarters. Their ways would have to part as each lived on opposite ends of the corridor.
“I’ll see you in the morning then sir,” she quickly exited the elevator. Her cheeks still burning.
“Hey Carter,” She stopped and turned back, “I’ll pick you up for breakfast first.” She smiled and said good night. O’Neill smiled to himself. He liked being stranded with Samantha Carter.
Mitchell liked to run. There was something about the rhythmic sound of his feet hitting pavement. The pounding of his heartbeat. The challenge of keeping his breath under control. As much as he liked to run, he hated these corridors. It had only been a month and he ran them several times a week. He hated them. He missed the trees and mountains of Colorado Springs. He felt like a hamster spinning in its wheel. No matter how hard he ran he got nowhere.
He was nearing a sharp turn in the corridor. He’d learned early on in his running to be careful of corners. In the first week he had run full speed into Teal’c. While Teal’c seemed no worse for wear, Mitchell had found himself sprawled undignified on the deck with a bruised ego and tail bone.
As he neared this particular turn he could hear laughing, causing him to slow.
He heard a male voice, “He had his pants on backwards?”
The answering female voice kept giggling, “I haven’t even gotten to the action figures.” It brought him out of his well focused breathing pattern. He figured it was Daniel and Vala. They spent a lot of time together and neither O’Neill nor Teal’c laughed that much. When he heard the giggle he knew it had to be Vala.
So when he rounded the corner and found General O’Neill and Colonel Carter he was surprised.
“Sir!” Mitchell gasped, “Sorry I didn’t…”
O’Neill stopped laughing but he kept the twinkle in his eye, “No need to apologize. The Colonel and I were just finishing up a little driving at our new range. Carry on.” O’Neill placed his hand on the small of Carter’s back leading her down the corridor as they continued their lively conversation.
They hardly noticing a somewhat confused Mitchell staring after them.
“Hey, Jackson.” Mitchell entered the library which now consisted of holographic projections and interactive displays thanks to the Asgard.
“Yeah,” replied Daniel. He had not taken his eyes off of a projection of a brown colored world spinning in front of him. Daniel spent most of his time here. The Asgard explored countless worlds and galaxies, making records that covered a limitless number of people and cultures. Daniel currently immersed himself in a culture that lived entirely underground.
“Got a question for you.” Mitchell said.
Daniel still did not turn to face him.
“Go ahead,” said Daniel as he pressed a button causing several moons to appear next to the planet.
Mitchell hated when Daniel responded to human communication when he was acutally on auto pilot. Daniel could not possibly be listening to him and still looking at this ugly planet. Mitchell turned off the projection.
Daniel turned, eyebrows furrowed. The word ‘why’ written all over his face.
“Uh, yeah this is going to sound kind of strange and out of the blue but back when General O’Neill was Colonel O’Neill on SG-1 did he…well…did Sam…did they have a thing?” The words coming out of his mouth sounded stupider than they had in his head.
“A thing?” Daniel asked, irritated.
“Yeah you know…the kind of thing that could have gotten them both…court…martialed.” Mitchell hated gossip and this felt and sounded like gossip to him. But he felt he needed to know, for his own peace of mind.
Daniel’s eyes narrowed.
“Do you think Colonel O’Neill would have been promoted to General if he had a ‘thing’ with an officer under his command? For that matter, do you think Sam would be a Colonel now for the same reason? And you know Sam.” Daniel stared at him as if seeing him for the first time, “Do you think she would do that?”
Mitchell knew better. But something about the two of them giggling together had sparked a memory. Not one he cared to discuss with Daniel.
“Look I know that Sam’s by the book. I also know O’Neill, in general, is not. Stranger things have happened in the military.” He paused, “Have they ever gone fishing together?”
“Why are you asking me this?” Daniel queried.
“I ran into the two of them this morning, literally. It made me think of something Sam said once. I realize it’s none of my business…”
“You’re right it’s not. I think you should leave them alone.” Daniel said turning the planet projection back on.
One year later
Under O’Neill’s orders, Vala had turned one end of the mess hall into a common room. Right now it was decorated with muti-colored balloons, streamers, and a giant Thor-shaped piñata.
Sam was crouched next to Vala behind one of two large sofas.
“He knows Vala. We don’t have to hide like this. I feel ridiculous.” Sam said turning a kazoo over in her hands.
“He doesn’t know, unless you told him,” accused Vala.
Sam rolled her eyes and shook her head no, “I promised.”
“Then how could…” Before she could finish the doors opened, revealing General O’Neill.
“Surprise!” Vala yelled blowing ‘Happy Birthday’ on her kazoo.
The rest of them stood up. Teal’c clasped his hands behind his back, Daniel rubbed his forehead, Mitchell mumbled something that sounded like ‘surprise’, and Carter shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
O’Neill clapped his hands in front of him in mock surprise, “For me?! I never would have guessed.”
Vala’s shoulders slumped in disappointment, “You knew.” Daniel moved to her, wrapping his arm around her.
“Who told!” she demanded, “I swore you all to secrecy!” She pointed her finger at all of them in turn.
“No one told,” O’Neill said.
“Then how did you know?” asked Vala.
“Vala, you throw a surprise party for everyone’s birthday,” O’Neill told her somewhat sadly.
“And holiday…” added Mitchell.
“And every third Thursday,” finished Daniel.
Her body sagged, “Oh my God. I’m becoming predictable,” she fell into a chair, “I never thought I’d see the day Vala Mal Doran would be predictable.”
O’Neill smiled, “Not completely predictable the uh…Thor piñata is definitely a pleasant surprise. As much as I liked the little guy and as grateful as I am for their giving us their entire legacy and all, it’s partly his fault we’re here. So where’s the stick. I’m ready to beat him for awhile.”
Vala perked up, “Right this way.”
A festive birthday party ensued complete with pin the tail on the Goa’uld .
“So Carter let me get this straight. It’s my birthday in here, in our little bubble, but out there,” he said pointing out a window, “it’s been like what…”
“A few milliseconds…maybe,” she finished for him.
“I’m aging in dog years then,” he grunted in defeat.
“Time for presents!” announced Vala.
Teal’c presented him with a small box. O’Neill opened it, eyeing the Jaffa suspiciously. He pulled out a tiny staff weapon, attached to it was a small chain and ring.
O’Neill smiled, “Teal’c, is this what I think it is?”
“I do not know what you are thinking O’Neill,” replied the stoic Jaffa. O’Neill swore he could see a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Is it a…”O’Neill couldn’t finish his own sentence.
“It’s a staff weapon key chain, sir. Fully functional…well it doesn’t use crystal technology it’s more like a concentrated static shock.” Carter jumped in and helped him out. She reached for the key chain and pushed a tiny button on its handle. A small blue beam leapt out and hit Daniel in the knee.
“Ow!” Daniel glared at Sam, “I told you to make it into a lighter. None of us are safe now.”
“Nice,” a vicious gleam entered O’Neill’s eye.
“Colonel Carter assisted me in its construction.” Teal’c added. He was obviously pleased that O’Neill liked his present.
“What’s next?” O’Neill asked.
“This one is from Daniel and I,” said Vala handing him a long thin package.
He opened it and looked at them both in surprise.
“A fishing pole?” He wasn’t sure how to respond, “I appreciate the thought…I do…but there aren’t that many fish on board.”
“Actually that’s where mine comes in,” chimed in Mitchell pulling out yet another present, however this one was smaller and thicker.
His furrowed brows were soon replaced with a slow smile that spread across his face as he pulled out a bass replica.
“These are both great but I still don’t see how I’m going to be able to fish for this thing,” he said holding up his bass.
“Thanks to the Asgard, and Sam, of course, this is not your average bass.” Mitchell took the fish from his hands and dropped it to the deck. With an inch to spare it stopped and hovered. Mitchell pushed the left eye and the fish began to undulate across the floor, turning and darting as it came close to objects in the room.
“Cool, thanks. But how did you...” he asked looking at Carter.
“The Asgard used hovering technology so the specifications are in the database. I made a programming chip and put the hover technology into the fish’s body, which of course I was able to make with the help of the matter converter. The cool part is the program allows its movements to seem random in response to objects in its path. In the mouth there’s a ‘hook’ if you will that the sensor on the end of the fishing line…”
“Carter…spare me the details. I can actually fish with this thing?” he asked.
“Well sort of. You can release it in a room and cast and reel it in to try and catch it.” She explained with a huge grin.
“Nice. What exactly did you do?” O’Neill asked Mitchell.
“Oh, I wrapped it,” he said with a firm nod.
“Thank you everyone. I appreciate the thought and time.” He nodded to Sam in particular.
“There’s one more present sir. You haven’t opened mine.” Carter said.
“Come one Carter you practically made everyone else’s. Please tell me you didn’t do something else,” he looked at her in disbelief.
She bit her lip in excitement, “You have to follow me.”
The five followed Carter to the crew deck. There she led them into one of the unused quarters. What met them surprised everyone. In the center of the room stood a potter’s wheel, several stacks of clay, and in the far corner was a self-enclosed furnace.
Everyone stood in stunned silence, except for Teal’c whose eyebrow raised. O’Neill’s mouth hung open. Carter looked at him expectantly. When he didn’t say anything the smile on her face faded. She wondered if she’d made a mistake.
“Sir?...” She began to shift nervously, “You don’t like it. Umm…I’m sorry I thought when you said…” Her cheeks turned and embarrassed pink.
He held up a hand to silence her, “Carter I like it. I’m speechless, which frankly, is shocking in and of itself, but I like it. Just…let me take it all in.”
Mitchell cleared his throat, “We’ll go get dinner ready. Won’t we guys.” He nodded his head for the others to follow him out the door.
“Of course,” said Daniel.
“I’m setting the table,” volunteered Vala.
The four quickly exited and made their way back to the common room leaving O’Neill and Carter alone.
“Uh…I don’t know what to say Carter, but thank you.” He began to circle the wheel, handling a small piece of clay. “You didn’t have to do all this.” He added as an after thought.
Carter looked at the floor, “I know sir. Its just…you’ve tried so hard this last…what year?..to help us all find some way to occupy ourselves. I thought about what you said you did in the time loop and you still haven’t done any of that, well…except for golf,” she smiled. Their weekly golf session now included everyone and had become a favorite way to blow off steam. “We all wanted to let you know that we appreciate what you‘ve done for us here…sir.”
O’Neill looked at her thoughtfully. His gruff exterior softened at her thoughtfulness. He let his gaze linger on her longer than usual. She began to shift uncomfortably as the silence between them grew.
“Come ‘ere,” he said holding out his hand.
She hesitated before moving towards him, then smiled as he enveloped her in a warm embrace.
“Thank you,” he said into her neck. They moved apart and he ran his hand down the length of her arm slowly taking hold of her hand. He rubbed the back of it with his thumb, but when he looked to her face she shifted her gaze to the floor and took her hand away.
“We should get back to the party sir. You don’t want to miss the cake,” she said.
“Holy smokes there’s cake!” he said, breaking the tension, “How did you guys know I liked cake?”
She rolled her eyes at him. He zapped her in the arm with his key chain on the way out the door.
“I already regret making that thing,” she said rubbing her arm.
“Did you know O’Neill was into pottery?” Mitchell asked Daniel as he brought plates to the table. Daniel followed carrying an Odyssey-shaped cake.
“No. Do you know what that was all about?” Daniel asked Teal’c.
Teal’c nodded in the affirmative, “Indeed. O’Neill became quite accomplished at making pottery in that fashion. However, to my knowledge he has not continued the practice for quite some time. He did tell me once that he found it relaxing.”
“Hmm. You think you know somebody,” muttered Daniel under his breath.
“If you ask me Samantha put a lot of effort into this birthday party…” chimed in Vala.
The three men stopped and looked at each other.
“We could say the same about you Vala. You’ve been making that piñata for the last two weeks. What about this cake?” Mitchell pointed to the Odyssey-shaped confection in front of him.
“Well…that’s different I don’t have anything better to do. Besides it was supposed to be that Homer Simpson character he likes so much. It didn’t turn out. But I have to admit my culinary skills impress even me. I turned a yellow bald-headed man into a space ship,” she smiled at them awaiting their praise for her ingenuity. When none came she continued, “Frankly I don’t understand the two of them. What are they waiting for? Someone better to come along?”
As she finished her sentence their two missing comrades entered the room, abruptly ending the conversation.
“Wow, is that the Odyssey?” asked O’Neill admiring the cake.
Vala slapped Daniel’s shoulder pointing to O’Neill, apparently that was the ego stroking she expected from him.
The next day Carter got an early start in the control room. She had a new theory about the time dilation field. She had not even had time to turn on all the lights before Daniel entered carrying two cups of coffee.
She smiled, “You’re up early.”
“Yeah well I couldn’t sleep,” he said, handing her a coffee. He looked at her seriously.
“Any particular reason?” she queried.
“Oh…yeah,” he replied.
She continued to look at him and began leaning towards him in anticipation. “Are…you going to tell me or do I have to guess? That’s why you’re here isn’t it?”
“Yes. You don’t have to guess though.”
“Good I don’t like guessing,” she added turning to the console in front of her.
“Whats up with you and Jack?” he asked.
“Nothing. Why?” she turned back to her console.
“Oh come on, Sam. There’s always been a bit of a spark. Teal’c and I thought maybe you might get together after he left the SGC but that’s obviously not the case.” He said.
“Daniel what are you talking about?” She asked running her fingers through her hair. Suddenly she felt tired.
“Sam…please you know what I’m talking about.” He paused before continuing, “Why did you break up with Pete?”
She looked at him surprised. This wasn’t what she expected from him, Vala maybe, but not Daniel.
“Come on. I’ve known you two a long time. I…uh thought you guys talked about this when we all went fishing. You went off to R and D, he goes off to Washington. There are no regs anymore. What happened?” He came around and stood across the console from her.
“Nothing,” she replied quietly.
“I can understand if you don’t want to tell me but…”
“No, I mean nothing happened Daniel. I thought for a while that maybe something would. He came and stayed with Cassie and I a couple of weekends. We decided to meet at the cabin to go fishing but then…” she stopped and looked out the window at the Ori vessel.
“Then the Ori came,” understanding dawning on him.
“Yeah,” she replied. The imminent threat of the Ori had taken a particularly hard toll on Sam. She was consistently expected to develop and create technology to aid in Earth’s defense. Daniel knew they each sacrificed personally for their work. But now that they had ample amounts of time to think about those sacrifices they seemed a little too much.
“Ok. So that was then. What about now?” he asked.
“We can’t now,” her focused shifted once again to the console.
“He’s my commanding officer Daniel.”
“Technically I think he’s Mitchell’s commanding officer,” she scowled at him, “Oh come on Sam. It’s one excuse or another. You have to live some kind of a life here. We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
She looked at him. Her eyes clearly showed guilt and hurt. “You don’t need to remind me. What do you want me to do? Let’s say something develops between us. Great. I finally figure out how to get us out of this mess, we go home, we get court-martialed?”
He started slowly as understanding dawned on him, “This isn’t about getting court-martialed is it?” He moved around to the other side of the console so he was standing next to her. “You think…you think if you let something happened between you and Jack you’re admitting that we’ll never get out of here. That you can’t do it. That you’ve failed.”
She looked away, “Maybe.”
“It’s not giving up. It’s making the best of the situation. Have you thought that maybe you two could be happy here and work things out once we get home?” he asked.
“It had occurred to me Daniel,” her voice full of sarcasm “Please leave me alone.”
She moved a white stone to the left and the holographic image of Thor appeared.
The conversation over, he headed out of the room. He stopped at the door and turned back to her, “You’re giving him mixed signals you know.”
She looked up at him.
“He liked what you did for his birthday last night. He couldn’t believe you spent so much time away from this,” he said waving to the room around them. “If you really don’t want anything to happen try acting like it,” with that he left her alone with her thoughts.
Sam sat alone in her quarters. Her work done for the day. She held her cello, practicing a simplified Mozart piece that was proving to be particularly difficult. But her mind was not on her cello. Usually, playing the mellow instrument soothed her nerves, taking her away from the stress she put herself under. But tonight her mind was still in turmoil. Daniel was right. She knew it. Was she leading him on only to shut him down when he tried to respond in kind? She had always imagined being happy with O’Neill. Accepting him would mean that escaping the Ori was not around the corner, not in her next theory, not at the end of her next experiment. Could she accept that?
Anger and frustration began to rise in her. Anger at the Ori for putting the planet in danger again. Anger at military rules. Anger at herself for not solving the problem.
She stopped playing. Her grip on her bow grew tighter and tighter until she threw it across the room. It landed with a snap. She hated being stuck on this ship. She hated O’Neill for being out of reach for so many years. She laid her cello on her bed and began pacing the room with her hands on the back of her head. Angry tears stung her eyelids. She would not cry. She kicked the wall next to her door. Pain shot through her foot, but she welcomed it. It brought clarity to her clouded mind. She leaned against the wall, sliding down it, letting a frustrated tear fall.
As she sat rubbing her foot the chime on her door sounded. ‘Great.’ She didn’t answer but stayed put, hoping who ever it was would go away.
“Carter?” came O’Neill’s muffled voice.
She flopped her head back against the wall. Why him?
“Carter? You okay?” he tapped lightly, “Open the door.”
She didn’t move from the floor.
“That’s an order!” he was becoming angry.
She reluctantly pressed the button to let him enter without picking herself up off the floor. She did not greet him but sat looking at her hands.
He stood outside the door, peaking his head in to see her on the floor. Her cello sat on her bed and her bow lay by her dresser broken on one end. He slowly came into the room, the doors slid closed behind him.
“What are you doing?” he asked simply as if he was asking her what she was eating for breakfast when he could plainly see it was ham and eggs.
“Practicing my cello, sir,” came her quiet reply.
“Hmmm…” he walked over to her bow, picking it up and turning it over in his hands. “I see your bow has gone the way of all disobeying doohickeys.”
She gave a half hearted chuckle and began to rub her foot again.
He sat down next to her, looking at her foot.
“Why did you kick it?” he asked.
“The wall?” she asked.
“No, your bow. Yeah, why did you kick the wall?” he asked.
She smiled at the thought of kicking her bow, “Frustration sir.”
“I’ve heard the cello can be a difficult instrument. Although I’ve also heard violence begets violence. I don’t always agree with that statement, but so I’ve heard,” he shrugged.
“It’s not the cello sir,” she admitted.
“Really,” he feigned surprise. When she did not elaborate he prodded, “Care to share with the rest of the class?”
“Not particularly, sir,” she said quietly to the floor
“Anything I can do to help?” He tried to look at her face but she continued to look away. He reached his finger out and tilted her chin up, forcing her to look at him. Tears began to spill over.
She leaned her head onto his shoulder and sniffled, “I hurt my foot.”
O’Neill was confused. He had seen Carter hike miles with a fifty pound pack on a sprained ankle and not shed a tear.
“Might I guess it’s not the foot?” he ventured.
“No, sir,” she smiled through her tears.
“I’ll only ask this one more time. Care to share?”
“No sir.” He shrugged, “Fair enough. I’ll take you to the infirmary and we can ice your foot.” He put his arm around her waist and helped her to her feet.
The two sat in the infirmary, each with a container of ice cream. Carter sat on a bed with her foot propped up on a pillow covered with ice. O’Neill sat in a chair next to her bed.
“How’s the foot?” he asked through a spoonful of chocolate fudge brownie.
“Its better sir, thank you,” she smiled. She continued to smile, “How did you know chocolate fudge brownie was my favorite sir?”
His eyebrows raised, “Is it? Lucky guess.”
“Sir...I know you don’t like ice cream. In fact, I usually don’t like ice cream except when…” she stopped herself. She only liked ice cream when she was particularly upset or emotional. A fact that she had assumed was hidden from her friends. Apparently she was wrong. She guarded her emotions, especially in front of O’Neill. She didn’t want him to think she was weak. He made her want to be perfect. Without him around she felt free to make mistakes. In fact, once he’d left the SGC she had found herself much more relaxed and open with her colleagues.
“Hmmm…yes I know when you like ice cream Colonel. I thought it might help,” he was happy to see that he had guessed correctly.
They sat in silence each enjoying their ice cream. Carter finally stopped and set her carton down on a table next to her bed.
“What do you miss most?” she asked looking at her hands.
“About home?” he clarified.
“Air fresheners…” he stated matter of factly.
“What?” she giggled.
“No really, I don’t care what you say about this matter converted oxygen, but it doesn’t smell right and its wreaking havoc on my skin,” he shoved in a huge mouthful of ice cream.
“Oh, come on, serious.”
“Yes. What do you miss?” she asked again.
“The sun, trees, my cabin. Although I have to admit that Bart is much better than any fish back on Earth.” He put his ice cream down next to Carter’s.
“Bart?” she asked.
“Yeah, you know Bart…” she stared at him wide eyed shaking her head, “my bass Carter.”
“Oh, right,” she smiled to herself.
“What about you?” he asked.
“The sun for sure, Cassie…and my motorcycle,” she looked guiltily at him.
“You sound surprised,” he pointed out.
“Well a little yeah. I thought I would miss more…people. My brother and his family and then Cassie, that’s it. I guess the last person besides Cassie that I really socialized with outside of work was Pete.” She hesitated and quietly added, “That was quite a while ago.”
“Well that’s because most of your friends are here.” He observed, “You don’t need outside people. Besides they don’t understand what you do.”
“Do you regret breaking it off with him?” he asked.
His personal inquiry surprised her.
“Sometimes, maybe. But not for the right reasons. I don’t miss Pete. I miss…” she stopped. They had reached a point they infrequently crossed when talking of personal matters.
He looked at her expectantly. Waiting.
“I miss how he made me feel,” she shifted, taking the ice off of her foot.
“How is that?” He winced realizing he was pressing for private information. But he found the questions coming out of his mouth with out thinking. He had wanted to ask for so long and now they seemed to have all the time in the world.
“Sir…” she shook her head, “I don’t really…”
“It’s alright. None of my business,” he jumped out of his chair and grabbed the ice cream cartons, heading towards a garbage can.
“Wanted, sir…and needed,” she quietly added. His back was turned to her. She wished she could see his face but was afraid if she could she would not be able to look him in the eye. He slowly turned around and studied her. Without a word, he helped her off the bed and they silently walked back to her quarters.
The doors to her quarters opened, revealing her cello still lying on the bed with her broken bow.
“You know next time, what ever it is that’s bothering you, is bothering you again, before you go ninja on your bow or a bulkhead, come find me. Every now and then I enjoy a break from cake.” He smiled, their eyes meeting. She returned his smile and he was pleasantly surprised when her eyes moved their gaze to his lips. He hesitated for a moment, then moved towards her, his own eyes glancing between her eyes and mouth.
Before he reached her, she cleared her throat and looked at the deck, “Good night, sir.”
He watched the doors to her quarters close and sighed. For the first time, he felt like an old man.
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