"Samantha. Come back to bed."

The deep, dark-brown, voice held just a hint of pleading. Sam Carter shivered, wrapping her arms tighter around herself, although the ship was no colder now than it had been 6 hours ago, or 12 hours, or indeed 100 000 hours ago. The temperature, by mutual consent, remained at a constant. As did the view outside the ship's window, the view she looked onto now. The tip of the Ori blast was just visible, breaking the deep black of motionless space outside.

She wondered idly when Teal'c had stopped referring to them all by their full names. Somewhere during their time on Odyssey, they had become Samantha, Vala, Daniel, Cameron. Hank Landry, living out a twilight retirement of plants and hydroponics, remained General, however, to all of them. She used it almost as a term of endearment to the old man now.

Turning, she smiled wanly at Teal'c, noting the worried frown between the eyes, the tensed muscles as he sat in bed, flickering candlelight gleaming off the dark richness of his skin.

"You don't need to worry about me." She sighed and, bending over, blew out the candle burning on the little table beside her. "It's just, well, just a strange feeling, that's all." In the dark half light, she stood still, as if unsure where to go.

"Would you like me to leave you alone tonight?" The voice was gentle and the question sincere, but Sam reacted as if she'd been stung.

"No! No, Teal'c, definitely not!" The indecisive moment broken, she crossed the few steps to the bed and slid in beside him, melding herself to him, borrowing the warmth from his body and holding on tight till the fine shivers ceased. He hesitated barely a moment before hugging her back, sliding them both down the bed and wrapping the blanket around them.

"If you're sure." The low words reached her ears as much via the vibration in his chest as from his voice, and she tightened her hold, twisting her head into his neck and breathing in the scent of him.

"I'm sure." Her speech, too, was very low. "Have I ever told you how much this means to me, Teal'c?' She dropped a featherlight kiss on his collar bone, and it was his turn to shiver. "Without you, without this, I should have gone insane by now." Her voice was sad.

Teal'c rolled onto his back, arms still supporting Sam, and stared at the ceiling. There was a long pause before he spoke again.

"I too sometimes worry that I am betraying him, you know." He cleared his throat, opened his mouth to speak again, and stopped, uncertain of what to say. Sam sighed.

"The hardest thing of all is knowing that less than seconds are passing for him, out there."

The word there was infused with such longing that Teal'c thought his heart might shatter on hearing it, but Sam seemed unaware. Her eyes were turned towards the foot of the bed, where a large box, wrapped in bright paper and sporting a large ribbon, still sat. Vala believed in birthdays, even after fifteen years.

"And this birthday... " she swallowed, then continued, outwardly composed. "This birthday, if I'd managed to work out a solution to this bloody awful time dilation problem and get us home today... " her voice tapered off.

"You would be the same age as O'Neill." Teal'c finished for her, in a low voice.

Again, there was a long pause, then she sighed, and rolled onto her stomach. The blanket fell back, revealing the long, pale curve of her back, the rounded swell of her breasts visible as she raised herself on her elbows. Despite the nature of the conversation, Teal'c felt himself responding, growing hard. Five years he and Samantha Carter had been lovers, and still just the sight of her naked form could do this to him. She fretted about growing old; Teal'c could honestly tell her that he hadn't noticed.

"He was always the older one." She was still thinking of O'Neill, he realised with a guilty start.

"From today, I will be older than him. If we ever get back, I'll be an old woman." Her voice was almost unbelieving, and then, to his confusion, he heard a sound he had not been expecting. Sam was laughing, head down, shoulders shaking, laughing without sound.

"Samantha," and as if his voice had been a trigger, an instruction, the laughter became sobs, great wracking ones that shook her body, and Teal'c, helpless, could do nothing but wrap her in his arms and hold her while she cried.

Much, much later, they made love, gently, expertly, taking their time, acknowledging the ghost of the living Jack O'Neill in the room with them, but resolutely living the life they had, making the most of what fate had handed them. As Sam shuddered in his arms, in pleasure this time, Teal'c felt that ghost slip away, flee back outside the ship, back to the real world and real time. He wished him well. Here, in this timeless place, he would take care of Samantha. Jack could, as always, rely on him for that.