Midnight

The lights in the infirmary were dimmed. The clock on the wall read 20 minutes to midnight. The only sound to be heard was the beeping and whirring of the machines set up around the patient. One man was awake and staring. Staring at the unconscious woman lying on the bed.

Jacob Carter shifted in the hard chair and stifled a sigh. His baby girl lay on the bed. Selmak snorted from within his mind.

"Jacob, she is not a baby girl any longer."

"I know, Sel, but she will always be my baby girl no matter how old she is."

"I was trying to raise your spirits, Jacob," Selmak comforted. "You know I love Samantha as well."

"I know," he comforted back.

Hearing a noise from behind him, he turned to see Colonel Jack O'Neill move softly into the room and stand by the bed.

"Guess you couldn't sleep either," Jacob whispered.

"Naah. Any change?" Jack asked quietly.

Jacob shook his head. "Nothing new. The doctor says she's holding her own, just like she has been for the last 48 hours. If she wakes up in the next 24 hours, she should be alright. Otherwise, she might not wake up at all. That's all he can tell us." Feeling himself starting to lose hope, he gave himself a shake. "But you know Sam..."

"No, Jacob, I don't," Jack murmured. Jacob looked up sharply. Jack continued. "I know Major Samantha Carter, not Sam. I know that Major Carter is the best second I have ever had. She's one damn fine Air Force officer. She's also the smartest person I have ever met. I know that she has saved the world so many times I can't begin to count them. And she's saved my butt more than that. But I don't know Sam, the person. Tell me about her, Jacob."

Jacob sighed again. "Draw up a chair, Jack." Jacob turned to look at Sam, but seemed to look through her. "She was a surprise, you know? Elizabeth had so much trouble having Mark that the doctors weren't sure she could ever have other children. We had hoped to have more, but decided we were going to be happy with what we had. Then suddenly, Liz was pregnant. We were overjoyed! It was a dangerous pregnancy and Sam was 2 months early, but she was strong and a fighter even then. She got to come home from the hospital after only 4 weeks." Jacob shifted in his chair. Jack remained silent.

"She always was a bright child. Beautiful. Golden curls, too-blue eyes. And smart. When she was 3 she started to read. Not baby words, either. Liz would read books to her. Sam would sit in her lap and Liz would put her fingers under the words as she read them. It didn't take long for Sam to get the connection. We thought at first that she had memorized the books just from listening. We were wrong. One night she brought Tom Sawyer to me and asked if she could read to me. I thought she wanted me to read to her, so I sat her on my lap and started to open the book. She took it away from me and read the first page to me without a mistake. I couldn't believe it, Jack." Jacob turned to look at Jack.

"I see she hasn't changed!" Jack grinned. So did Jacob.

"Believe it of not, school was a challenge for her. The teachers couldn't keep ahead of her. She took everything they had and wanted more. She always wanted to learn. Moving around every few years with the Air Force was hard. Changing schools. Trying to make new friends. When we lived on base, she had an easier time, but Liz wanted a more normal life so often we lived off base. Sam was always the smartest in her class. The 'new kid' always has a hard time, but when you're smart it makes it even tougher. In junior high, she went through a spell when her grades slumped. She had always been a straight-A student and rarely had to study. In about 7th grade, she started bringing home grades that weren't like her. She had a C in science - can you believe it? Liz couldn't get her to explain what was going on, so while I was home on leave, I took her out to dinner - just Sam and myself. We talked about all kinds of things, but finally it all came out. She so wanted to be like the others - invited to parties, having a boyfriend, just hanging out with friends. She felt left out. The others didn't like her because of her brains. So she chose to make herself 'average' to fit in better." Jacob paused, lost in thought.

"So, what did you do?" Jack asked quietly.

"I told her how special she was. How proud we were of her. And that she should never lower herself to impress anybody, because one day she was going to impress everybody. She thought about that for a while, then gave me a smile I will always remember. After that her schoolwork got back to normal and she worked even harder if possible. Slowly, the other kids accepted her for who she was and she started some kind of social life."

Jacob's face sobered. "It wasn't long after that Liz was killed in the car wreck. Sam was devastated. She was angry with me because I got tied up on base and wasn't able to go pick her mother up. The cab Liz was in wrecked and she died on the scene. I'll never forget having to tell Sam. I was so lost after Liz's death that I couldn't help Sam. She became withdrawn. Wouldn't speak unless spoken to. Quit spending time and talking to her new friends. She just stayed in her room. Oh, she did try to take over running the house. She cleaned, did the laundry and cooked. And Jack," Jacob grinned, "she never has been able to cook!"

Jack grinned back. "Nice to know some things never change!"

"Yeah. Well, I threw myself into the Air Force. Any mission I could get. When the adrenalin is pumping you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself. You don't have time to think about your little girl left at home, having to grow up without a parent there. Mark was still at home and watching out for Sam, but pretty much, she was on her own. Whenever I was home, Mark and I would fight. You know, my temper is not so good. Poor Sam had to contend with two of us. All of us missed Liz so much. We just couldn't get together in our grief. It tended to push us apart. Mark blamed me for Liz's death. Sam blamed me too. Hell, I blamed myself for what happened. Every time I looked at Sam I saw Liz. Sam was so much like her. I guess I pushed her away - just when she needed me most."

He stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. "She threw herself into studying. She had been taking every advanced class that was offered in her school. She took the SAT's as a freshman and made 1580. Highest in the school. She wasn't happy. She had to take it again. And again until she scored a perfect 1600. She had colleges after her from the time she was 14. MIT, Stanford. All offered her full scholarships. Anywhere she wanted to go."

"Everything came to a head her senior year of high school. She was already so far ahead to most of the kids. Of course, this didn't sit well with the kids in her school. They began to taunt her, give her a hard time. That made her push even more and she became more withdrawn. She was in her senior year at age 16, already looking forward to which college she would attend when things changed. A boy in her class started calling the house, paying attention to her. Gene was his name. Gene was a football player. Popular and good looking. At first, she wasn't very receptive, but he was persistent. She was flattered by the attention. No one had ever shown much of an interest in her except to torment her, although I didn't understand why. She was pretty, but didn't really care how she looked, she was so focused on school. She helped Gene with some of his schoolwork and got to know him a little. She finally accepted his invitation to a dance. I was home at the time. We went shopping and she picked out a dress to wear. I remember that she was so nervous when he came to pick her up. I gave him the standard fatherly spiel, you know... home by midnight...take care of her, etc. and they left."

Jacob became silent, lost in thought. Jack let the silence lengthen before Jacob spoke again.

"She got home around 3 a.m. Walked home in the rain, alone. 5 miles. Her shoes were gone, dress ripped. But she didn't cry. I was waiting up for her and I was furious. Before I could fly into her, she collapsed into my arms. Took the wind out of my sails, I tell you. I took her to her room and put her to bed. I sat in her room all night. I must have dozed off, cause when I woke up she was silently sobbing. I finally got the story out of her. It seems some of the football players had dared Gene to try to get "virgin Carter" to bed. She had overheard them joking about it at the dance. Of course, she was heartbroken. As she tried to leave, Gene stopped her and forced her into a side room and was trying to finish the bet. Sam had been around the military so long, she had learned a few tricks. Gene may still be singing soprano for all I know and I hope he is! Anyway, she pulled herself together after a few days and graduated as valedictorian of her class. She didn't date anyone else during high school."

Jack chuckled. "She always has been able to take care of herself, sir."

"Yeah, I thought so to... until Jonas Hanson. Sam immediately applied to the Air Force Academy. She was under the age requirement, but rules were bent so they could get her in. I had nothing to do with it. In fact, I didn't even know she had applied until she had already been accepted. The knew she was too good to be true and didn't want her to go somewhere else."

"She was the brightest and the best there. Her professors were able to challenge her and she thrived in that environment. I think she was happier there than anywhere she had been before. I was promoted to general during that time and of course, the rumors began. She was there because 'I' made it happen. She was "teachers pet". The other cadets made her life difficult there. Nothing blatant that might alert the staff, but just little things to make her life miserable. Books would go missing, papers she had written would disappear from her computer. And you know Sam, she never complained. It wasn't fair to her. She had earned her way there all by herself. She deserved all the recognition she received. She was there in spite of me, not because of me."

Jacob rubbed at his tired eyes. "I managed to screw up her life again. I came to visit her. While I was there she caught the eye of one Jonas Hanson. She was a first year cadet and Hanson was assigned to the Academy, teaching some survival training classes for upper classmen. He recognized her as a potential advantage to his career and wanted to get to know her and by knowing her, have access to me. I could move his career forward faster than he could by himself. He would watch out for my baby girl and that way he would get my attention. He befriended her. Nothing romantic, just someone to talk to. To commiserate with about how the other cadets were treating her. They became close. Even after he was reassigned, they kept in touch. He went into black ops and their contacts were infrequent. After graduation, Sam went into the Gulf War and somehow they got together while she was there. I'm not sure how that happened and she's never wanted to explain."

"They were both assigned to DC after the war. She went into the Pentagon, working of the Stargate project. Hanson was involved in the security forces around the Pentagon. He pushed her to make the relationship romantic. She was still gun shy from the incident with Gene, so he courted her slowly. He knew to impress me he would have to impress her. She slowly began to warm to him. I think he actually started caring for her. Saw her as a person rather than a means to an end. They became a couple, then engaged. I was not happy! I knew his record. He was a killer. Unofficially, I thought he was a mental case, but the doctors never agreed. I went to see her at their apartment, to make her see him like I did. That was the blowup that broke our relationship into millions of pieces."

"Sam screamed at me to get out of her life, that she knew what she wanted. I screamed at her that she didn't know, or she wouldn't have chosen Hanson. It all went to hell really quickly after that. I stormed out, nearly knocking Hanson over on my way out. I guess I should have killed him right there. I would have, if I had known what he was really after."

"Jacob, you couldn't have known. I knew Hanson while he was at the SGC before that last mission. Even I didn't see what he was capable of. Don't blame yourself." Jack comforted the older man.

"Oh, he was charming. He had Sam fooled. Right up until the time he beat the hell out of her. She spent 2 weeks in the hospital with a massive concussion, 2 broken ribs and a fractured jaw. Of course, he convinced her it was post-traumatic stress disorder. He would get help, he promised. It wouldn't happen again. And it didn't for a long time until something upset him again and he went on a bender. This time he broke her right arm in two places. And this time she realized what he was really like. She walked away. Requested reassignment. She wanted to get as far away from him as she could. Her timing was perfect, because the job here at the SGC fell in her lap. We weren't close at that time. She never let me know about any of this until after I had joined with Selmak, after we started to become close again. She came to me and apologized for not listening to me. Jack, my baby apologized to me for letting herself get beat up. That's when I knew I had been a lousy father."

"Jacob, life hands us all sorts of things. How we handle them means we're human. Sam is a lot like you. You're both some of the strongest people I know." Without thinking, Jack reached up and pushed a strand of Sam's hair behind her ear. He gave a slight smile and stroked her cheek, this not unnoticed by Jacob. "Sam sees the best in people. Hell, she brings out the best in people. I know she brings out the best in me." Jack said softly, then blanched. "Did I really say that last part out loud?"

Jacob chuckled. "Yeah, you sure did." Jack looked aghast.

"You love her, don't you?" Jacob asked quietly.

"Jacob, you know as well as I do that it's not allowed. The regs state.." Jack began.

"To hell with the regs. I probably know 'em better than you do. Just answer the question, Jack" Jacob ordered.

After a long pause, Jack nodded slowly. "More than life itself, Jake."

A movement from the bed drew the attention of both men at the same time. Blue eyes flashed open, then shut tightly as a moan escaped from the woman.

"Sam, it's Dad. You're in the infirmary. You're going to be alright." Jacob crooned softly, releasing a long breath he had been holding. "Jack is here, too."

"Colonel?" Sam croaked. "Dad?" Again, her eyes fluttered open. This time she was able to keep them open longer. She tried to focus on something, anything. Jacob helped her to sip water from a straw. Just lifting her head tired her out. Her eyes slid shut.

"Hey, Carter. How ya doin?" Jack spoke softly.

She dragged her eyes back open. "Colonel. What happened? Are Daniel and Teal'c ok?"

"Doc sent them to bed a long time ago. Me too, but I couldn't sleep. You had us worried. The next time I say don't touch anything, listen to me. OK?" He smiled to see her blue eyes trying to focus on his face.

"Yes, sir." She gave him a sleepy half-grin as her eyes closed again she dropped back off.

Jacob smoothed the hair over her forehead. "You need to tell her, you know."

"You know that I can't do that," Jack said angrily. "Maybe later, when all this is over. But not right now."

"Jack, she nearly died. When 'is' going to be the right time? Next time she might not be so lucky. Or it might be you lying here. She loves you too, you know."

"Yeah, we shared those feelings a long time ago but left it in the room. I wasn't sure if she still felt that way. I know my feelings for her have only grown stronger."

"I don't think hers have changed. Jack, I want my baby girl to be happy. I know that you make her happy. I just want you to think about what I said. Don't let it wait until too late."

Jack looked at the clock and said softly. "You know, I've always hated midnight. It was always the end of the day. It always reminded me of Charlie. That was when I missed him the most." He paused, lost in thought.

Jacob stood. "You know, I have always liked midnight. To me it was the end of the present with the future stretching out before you. Tomorrow is an clean slate, that you could make whatever you wanted it to be. I'm going to get some sleep. You be here for a while?"

"Yeah, I'm staying. And thanks, Jacob."

"For what?" The older man turned back around and looked at Jack.

"I don't know, just the talk I guess. I'll left you know when she wakes up again."

Jacob left the infirmary without a backward glance. Jack turned back to the bed, lost in thought. Before he could stop himself he reached out and took one of her hands.

"He's right, you know," he whispered. "The next time could be the last for either of us. I can't stand the thought of you not knowing how I feel. I want you in my life. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. One day, we can be together. Until then, at least you'll know how I feel."

He was surprised when he felt her squeeze his hand. "I know," she mumbled without opening her eyes. "I've always known." She became quiet again for a few minutes, then roused herself.

"What time is it?"

"It's midnight," he whispered, kissing her softly on the forehead.