Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate or its characters.

Title: Ghost of the Past

Timeline: Present-Day

A/N: Written in honor of the battle being waged on Twitter for a fourth Stargate series. If you're not on Twitter yet, please sign up and follow StargateNow. There will be a massive tweetstorm this coming Friday with the intention of showing MGM that an interested fanbase still exists for this franchise. This movement is being headed by Stargate producer Joe Mallozzi, who made a comment about the fourth series (theoretically) featuring General Samantha Carter as the leader of the SGC.

This vignette is the first set in this "General Carter" world, but it also takes place in the parameters of my fic "Having Everything." This can be seen as a follow up to that story (with slight deviations, because in that fic Sam and Jack were both basically retired), but it also stands alone.

Most of the boxes hadn't even been unpacked yet, but the new house was already a mess. Brigadier General Samantha Carter sighed in exasperation as she took in the state of disarray of the living room. Colorful blocks on the floor, throw pillows strewn about, some dirt from her precious ficus spilling over the side of the planter.

It was quiet. Too quiet.

Her brow furrowed as she took in the dirty dishes in the sink, the crusted macaroni-and-cheese glued to the bottom of the saucepan. There were cookies piled on a plate, and three mostly empty glasses of milk, but it was as if their owners had been beamed away.

Sam huffed under her breath. That better be what had happened. There better be a damn good excuse because she was not going to clean up this house after a 20-hour shift at the SGC. She was supposed to have been home hours ago, but SG-9 had offended some tribal leader - again - and she'd had to negotiate on the radio for their release.

She'd been hoping for a nice quiet evening: maybe a walk with the dog, and then a hot, bubble ... where was the dog?

Sam glanced out the sliding glass door to see if he'd been left outside, but the backyard was as quiet as the rest of the house.

"Homer?" she called, and a muted bark answered her.

"What the -" she muttered under her breath as she set off in the direction of the bathroom.

Along the way, she noted that the master bedroom and the guest room were empty as well. Curiouser, and curiouser.

The bathroom door was shut, and the unmistakable sound of dog nails on linoleum told her the occupant wanted out. She opened the door, and the Golden Retriever shot out, his tail wagging fiercely. Sam reached down to pet the dog, but he clearly had another goal in mind. Taking off, he made a beeline for the basement door. He sniffed at it intently and gave a little whimper.

Figuring she'd finally figure out what was going on, Sam opened the door and Homer flew down the steps.

"No! Sam! Don't let him down!"

By the time Sam reached the bottom of the stairs, the dog was barking madly at a humming contraption. There was a motor and a wheel and there was Jack O'Neill with clay coating his hands and smeared on his face.

"What is that?" she yelled above the barking and the humming.

Her husband looked up with at her with a big, ol' grin. "My present came today!"

The dog wouldn't stop barking at the mechanical intruder, so Sam snapped her fingers next to him and, in her best general voice, told him to go lie down. Jack looked bemused as the dog walked to the round bed in the corner.

"He never does that for me."

"Maybe you're just getting soft."

"Oh, I know I am."

Jack reached beneath the machine to flip a switch, and the smoothed lump of clay spinning on the wheel slowed to a halt. He gestured proudly at the device.

"Like my present?"

"Is this what you've been doing since the kids left today?"

Jack held up a clay-encrusted finger. "In my defense, it arrived this morning, but I waited until Brian picked them up at 4:30."

Sam clamped down on the smile that was forming and rolled her eyes instead. "I'm proud of you, Jack. Though I would have been more proud if I hadn't come home to a warzone after a very, very long day."

Her husband smiled sheepishly as he stood up. "I'm sorry. I was excited to try this out. I'll clean up in a bit." He walked toward her, holding his hands away from his body, and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.

Sam said, "That's right, you will," but there was no frustration in her voice. She had been a long time since she'd since her husband this excited.

"So what set this off?" She gestured at the potter's wheel.

"Nathan got off the bus yesterday with a ceramic bowl he made. You know, one of those clay ashtrays that can't actually hold anything because kids pinch the sides too thin?"

"And you figured you had to one-up a five-year-old?"

He settled back down on the stool and picked a strand of dog hair off his clay. "I like to have fun, too, you know!"

But Sam knew it was more than that.

"And you're bored."

"GOD, I am SO bored!" Jack moaned.

It had been sixteen days since he'd officially and truly retired as the head of Homeworld Security, and Sam knew he was having trouble adjusting to civilian life.

He was still busy during the day; Cassie - that was, Dr. Cassandra Weiland - was still settling in to her new role as assistant medical officer at the SGC, and her husband Brian had just found a new job after their own move to Colorado Springs, so three-year-old Janet Elise had started spending the day with her Papa Jack. Nathan got off the bus at 3:00, and then Brian picked them both up at 4:30. Jack loved their surrogate grandkids, but Sam figured the lack of adult interaction was already wearing on him.

Plus, she hadn't been around much lately either. She'd been promoted to Brigadier General two months ago and given command of the SGC a week later. Jack had sold his place in Washington, and they'd bought this place in the Springs. Between her promotion and moving and getting used to her new digs, they hadn't had much time together recently.

Jack turned the machine back on again and the wheel started spinning. Sam walked up behind him and watched over his shoulder as he wet his hands in a bowl of water and cupped them around the hunk of clay. Sam could tell that he was applying pressure to the mass and as he moved his hands up, the clay came up with it. He wet his hands again and keeping his left hand on the side of the clay, he gently pressed down on the top, flattening and smoothing the surface in order to make it into a more workable shape.

Sam was impressed. "You only been doing this for a couple hours?"

"Ahh, well ... actually this isn't my first time."

"Really?" Sam couldn't imagine when he'd picked up this hobby. "When did you learn?"

Jack tilted his head and said, "Like 17 ... 18 years ago."

"Seriously?" Sam struggled to think when he would have had time around the turn of the millennium to take up pottery. That would have been in their fourth or fifth year as SG-1.

"Well, it's just a hobby," Jack said dismissively. The hunk of clay was now a thick cylinder, perfectly even from top to bottom, but Sam was more focused on his long, strong fingers threading through the slick material. "You wanna join me?"

"What ... doing this?"


"I've never done this, Jack," she said. "I'm going to ruin your work."

"That's fine," he countered. "You're so perfect at everything else, it'll be good for you to fail once in a while."

"I'm not -"

"C'mon." He cut off her predictable response. "It'll be romantic."

"Romantic?" Sam raised an eyebrow. Jack O'Neill could occasionally do romantic things, but to her knowledge, he'd never used the word before.

Jack glanced up at her with a smirk. "Yeah ... wasn't there a movie like that?"

"You mean Ghost?"

"That's the one," he said. "You see, it's romantic."

Jack stood up and gestured to the stool, offering her the seat. Sam smiled coyly, unused to such actions, and perched herself on the front edge. Jack sat on the back and curled himself around her. He grabbed her hands and threaded his clay-covered fingers through hers. Enjoying the closeness, Sam leaned back against him.

"This is nice," he whispered in her ear, and it sent a shiver running down Sam's spine. He chuckled at her response, at the fact that he could still do that to her.

"You gonna show me how to do this?"

The clay still spun in front of them, and Jack reached forward and dipped both of their hands in the murky water. Sam let him guide her hands to the clay, and the cool, slippery material quickly made them as dirty as his. Jack pulled their hands up, smoothing the sides, and then with their right hands, he pressed down gently into the center of the clay. Sam watched in awe as the clay yielded under their fingers, moving out and up as they pressed down. It suddenly looked much more like a bowl or a vase or whatever it was they were making.

Was there no end to her husband's talents?

"You're really good at this," she said as they smoothed the rim.

She hardly caught his soft reply. "That's what you said last time."

Last time? What did he mean by ... Sam's hands froze in his.

"Oh, my God."

She felt Jack's smirk against her ear. "You figure it out yet?"

"The time loop."

"Got it in one!"

Sam shifted to look back at him. "You taught yourself to do pottery during the time loop?"

"And I got pretty good, too!" he said proudly.

Sam's mouth went dry. "And we ... did ... this?" She gestured with their still clasped hands.

"You always took a little convincing."

"Well, I should hope so!" She extricated her hands from Jack's and wiped her hands on a nearby towel. She stood and stepped away from the potter's wheel, which was still humming and spinning around. Her heart pounded furiously and she tried to wrap her head around this. Her imagination ran wild picturing the two of them, nearly two decades younger, in love and off-limits, sitting as close as they just had been. "You were my superior officer!"

Jack turned to face her. "If it helps, I always resigned first."

"You resigned?" she said. "What for?"

"To cover all the bases," he said with a shrug. "In case that alien archaeologist ever turned the device off, I didn't want you to be stuck with the fallout."

Sam's heart swelled at the thought of such an honorable gesture, but she was still trying to deal with the fact that Jack had memories of them that she didn't. Memories of them entwined at a potter's wheel, memories of them ...

"What did we do?"


"During the time loops," she said, crossing her arms. "What did we do?"

"I told you, Carter," he said. "I taught myself pottery. Sometimes you joined me."

"That's all?"

"Uh ... I rode a bike through the hallways, and Teal'c and I golfed through the 'gate-"

"Jack." There was something else.

Her husband looked into her eyes, but she could tell he was remembering a time long ago. "I kissed you."

"You kissed me."

"I kissed you. And you kissed me back."

He said it so tenderly that shiver ran down Sam's spine again. She tried to remember that far back. How much she had wanted to kiss him and thought she never would.

"What was that like?" she whispered.

And Jack was off the stool, his wet and dirty hands on her face, his lips on hers. Sam's stomach leapt, and she thought she could understand what her past-self had felt in that moment. She smiled against him before pulling away. "Just like that?"

Jack chuckled. "Well, actually I dipped you in the control room, but my back can't do that anymore."

"In the control room?"

"In front of Hammond, Walter, and a dozen other people."

"And I kissed you back?"

His grin widened at the memory. "You kissed me back. Several times."

She leaned forward and kissed him again, long and lingering, before resting her forehead against his.

"I wish I could remember."

"I wish you could too," he said. "But you got me through those time loops. Without you, I'd probably have gone insane."

Sam pulled back and narrowed her eyes at him. "It was just kissing, right? We didn't do anything else?"

"I swear, Sam," he said earnestly. "I wouldn't have done that."

"I know you wouldn't," she said sincerely, "but if you retired, I don't know if I could have controlled myself!"

He laughed again and pulled her to him. Sam turned so that her back was to his chest and threaded their fingers together again. The dried clay on his hands broke off and sprinkled the floor, and Sam was suddenly aware of the clay caked on her face. She'd have to wash off now.

"So are you going to turn into a potter down here now?" she asked. "Throwing clay and remembering how it was twenty years ago?"

"Well, I need something to do while you're off holding the front-lines," he said. "Otherwise, this is going to be a very long retirement."

Sam felt a twinge of guilt. "I'm sorry I haven't been around much."

Jack lowered his head to Sam's shoulder, and when he spoke, she could feel the vibrations on her skin. "Well, you could always make it up to me."

"Hmm," Sam murmured. "Tell you what."


"I'll go upstairs ..."

"Yeah ..." His voice was hopeful.

"Draw a nice bubble bath ..."

"Yeah ..."

"And relax while you go clean up that messy kitchen."


Sam chuckled and leaned back against her husband. "But after that we'll see what we can do. I think I'll need a few more of those kisses to make up for all those ones I don't remember, Jack O'Neill!"

"Yes, ma'am!"