The first time it happened was at a party. One of the shindigs arranged by the President's office and which they all had time, now, to attend. No excuses were accepted, and the old team were all there; Jack resigned, Daniel uncomfortable in his suit, Teal'c hiding boredom under his stoic Jaffa mask.

Sam... Sam looked radiant. She was not in uniform, and the deep pink of her gown lent her creamy, freckled skin a warm glow. Jack had been, well, frankly, blown away when she'd walked down the stairs to the waiting car. He was used to Sam in BDU's, in dress blues, in jeans and one of his old shirts as she made coffee on Sunday mornings in his kitchen. Glamour-puss Sam was someone he saw so rarely that he thought his heart might burst from the sheer gut punch it gave him.

And, of course, being caught so off-guard made him act like an ass. She wanted to dance, and he'd insisted on trying to rock and roll while the band played a waltz. He'd stood on her feet, and knocked her off balance, and her shoulders had set in a way he recognised from countless missions where he'd made one wisecrack too many. He had been regretting his foolishness already when suddenly Teal'c was there, catching Carter by the hand as she stumbled again, righting her effortlessly and in one deft move swinging her round to face him, hand snug against her hip, arms upraised together.

"I do not believe that Samantha wishes to dance in that fashion, O'Neill." His voice was low, and Jack noted with interest that his eyes were focused solely on Sam. "This is the way the Viennese Waltz should be performed."

And they were off, gliding around the room as if they had danced together all their lives, the chandelier glinting diamond lights off Sam's golden hair, catching the deep chocolate burnish of Teal'c's skin, showing clearly how their eyes were held, each by the other. The floor cleared before them, and by the end of the piece they were the only couple left dancing. As the band finished a smattering of applause broke out, and Sam started, glancing around confused, as if she'd only just realised they were there, that it was a party, that the rest of the world existed at all. And a little piece of puzzle clicked into place in Jack's head, a little flicker of insecurity waking in his heart.

Daniel was talking... "wow, guys, that was great! Teal'c, I didn't know you knew the waltz? Where on earth did you learn to dance like that?"

There was a pause, and Jack felt Sam's eyes on him. He didn't meet her gaze, concentrating instead on Teal'c, who bowed slightly to Daniel and replied, softly, "Colonel Carter taught me." A flicker of a smile crossed his face. "And I have remembered."

At that point they were joined by General Brown, the band struck up a ragtime hit, and the moment was lost. But Jack didn't forget.

And then Sam went to Atlantis, and was gone for almost a year. A year when no-one made coffee in his kitchen, when his shirts were his own, a year when he worked so hard he was forced by the dour doctor in Washington to take a compulsory leave period. A year when he saw her twice, for a weekend each time. The only year he could remember where two weeks at the cabin had felt as dry and dusty and uninspiring as a holiday in the Sahara.

The world, however, moves on. With bewildering speed the posting which had seemed perfect for Sam became, instead, perfect for Richard Weaselly ("Woolsey, Jack" Daniel corrected him conscientiously, gaining himself a curled lip and a flared nostril for his trouble) and Sam was home again. Troubled and uncertain (and didn't he just hate the big brass for that? You'betcha) but home.

The first Sunday he came downstairs and found her humming as she filled the espresso machine, he felt at peace for the first time since the name Atlantis had been mentioned between them. She was wearing blue jeans slashed at the knee, and his old flannel shirt. He'd left it out specially, carefully draped over the armchair in his room, half hidden by the ratty old cushion that lived there. He hadn't wanted to be pushy.

She had tied the tails together decorously, not showing any skin but amplifying the curve of her hip and the dip of her abdomen. He moved towards her, taking her into his arms and nuzzling her neck, reveling in the scent of his soap on her skin. Pulling the rough knot undone, he slid his hands underneath the soft material, rotating his thumbs against her hipbones. Her breath hitched, and he grinned against her neck. If he had to make a choice between having the Ancient gene and being able to fly puddle jumpers, or making Sam Carter catch her breath when he nibbled her neck, he knew for sure which superpower he'd give up.

Much later on, freshly showered and with a little more of the long year's loneliness assuaged, they sat drinking cold espresso and reading the papers, only occasionally speaking to ask for another section, to point out a particularly interesting titbit of news, or the name of someone they knew. So engrossing was this pastime that when the doorbell went, they found themselves staring blankly at each other, not sure where the noise was coming from. The insistent briiiiing rang out again, and coming suddenly to an awareness of what it was, they were both galvanised into action, leaping up and almost colliding at the door. Jack got there first.

"This had better be damn well earth shatteringly important," he began as he flung the door open, then stopped, frowning. For there was no Daniel on the doorstep, bearing pizza and wearing an ingratiating grin. No Vala, dark hair swinging and shopping bags festooning her arms, wanting Sam's opinion of her purchases. No. On the doorstep were two men in delivery uniform, and a truck, bearing the legend Bonavetti's Music Store, was parked on the drive.

"Samantha Carter?" The elder of the two men looked from Jack to Sam, as she stepped past him through the doorway. "Colonel Samantha Carter?"

"I'm Sam Carter." She peered over the man's shoulder, clearly fascinated by the truck. "But I didn't order anything for delivery. Particularly not a Sunday delivery."

"No m'am." This time it was the younger man who spoke, his brown eyes conveying a healthy appreciation. Jack, picking up on his interest, noticed that Sam was wearing only his shirt and his gardening shorts, the jeans having been discarded some time since, and he moved closer to her, freezing the youngster with his death glare. Irritatingly the guy completely failed to notice but, on the plus side, Jack had to grudgingly admit Sam hadn't so much as glanced at him. Her attention was held by the truck, and the large crate a third man was hefting out of the back.

"Delivery is care of a Mr Murray." Brown Eyes was reading off a clipboard. "Scheduled for Sunday - cost him a fair bit more."

"Murray?" Sam's brow furrowed, then cleared as she realised who they were speaking of. "Oh! Yes, Mr Murray. Yes, of course. But... what is it?" The last bit was sotto voce, and in the bustle of getting the crate through the door, no-one responded. The clipboard was presented for her signature, in triplicate, and then the back of the truck was closed up and the delivery men left, with one last admiring look from Brown Eyes back over his shoulder. Jack growled audibly, and the man hurriedly leapt in the passenger seat and slammed the door. Within seconds they were gone, and the large wooden crate stood in the hallway, blocking the entrance to the den.

"What on earth is T playing at?" Jack wondered aloud, barking his shin as he tried to squeeze around the corner. "Ow!"

"I don't know." Sam was pulling at the screws holding the wooden slats together; they were only loosely attached and came away fairly easily.

"Well, how do we know it's even from him?" Jack was suddenly aware that he'd let a large box containing God alone knew what into his house. "It could be anything. It could be a bomb!"

"I don't think Teal'c would send us a bomb." She wasn't looking at him, but he could hear the amusement in her voice, and he huffed, coming to stand behind her and wrapping his arms round her waist."And besides, that was a genuine Bonavetti's truck." Her voice trembled slightly. "My mother used to buy her music there. I remember it so well." She gave a fiercer pull, and the lid of the crate lifted a few inches, enough to reveal packing material and a white envelope, with Sam's name on the front.

"Ah!" With skillful fingers she snagged it, and turned in his arms. "This should hopefully go some way to explaining it." Ripping the envelope with careless haste she extracted a single sheet of card. Jack could see Teal'c's big, bold handwriting, but couldn't manage to see what he had said. Sam, however, went very still, then breathed out and pulled away from him, still holding the card.

"What? What is it?" Impatient, he reached out, and she readily handed it over. He saw she had tears in her eyes, and, astonished, he steadied her with his hand, even as his brain absorbed what was written on the card.

"Welcome Home, Samantha. After our talk on Atlantis, I am taking the liberty of sending you this instrument, in the hope that it will bring you pleasure." The card was not signed.

He looked up, puzzled, to see Sam lifting the lid fully away, and pulling out the loose packing material in one fluid movement. There, nestled safely, was a beautiful, cherrywood cello, its bow resting beside it, and a piece of music carefully rolled and tied with ribbon at its foot. Still without uttering a word, Sam leaned in and picked it up, pulling the ribbon and allowing the pages to unfurl. One tear overflowed, and she shook her head, impatiently flinging it away, and concentrated on running her finger along the staves, her lips moving slightly in concentration.

"Sam?" Jack voice was blank. "Why would T send you a, is it a cello?" She nodded fractionally, swiping the back of her hand over her eyes and taking a deep breath, before raising her eyes to look at him. "Why would he send you a cello? What happened on Atlantis?"

Sam ran a finger over the fine-grained wood before answering, with a slight frown between her eyes.

"It was while we were all eating. Someone had music playing, this piece in fact, by Bach," she waved the music in her hand, "and Teal'c got this faraway look in his eyes, and dropped out of the conversation for a bit. When it ended I said to him that I had always loved 'Sarabande'."

She paused, biting her lip, and looked at Jack, the frown still present. "And then he said the strangest thing. He said 'Have you not always wished to play the cello, Colonel Carter?' and the thing is, Jack, I have. It's been one of the things I've wanted to do since my mother died. Dad sent her instrument to a charity shop," her mouth twisted painfully for a moment, "and I always meant to get another, and learn to play." Again she caressed the cello's curves, the frown clearing to be replaced by a slight smile dancing over her face.

"I've never heard you speak of it." Jack's voice felt thick,and he cleared his throat. "Uh, I guess more got discussed over the last few years than I realised ..." He trailed off. Somehow the fact that Teal'c knew about Sam's secret wishes hurt him, poked him right in the tender little space that had opened up, when, over a year ago... At that party. When they'd danced.

She was speaking; he almost missed her words so engrossed was he in surreptitiously prodding the feeling of jealousy he'd discovered.

"I've never spoken about it." Her voice was troubled. "I didn't get to answer Teal'c on Atlantis - the 'gate activated and we all ran. Not even my Dad knew." Her eyes rested again on the cello. "At least, I have no memory of ever talking about it..."

And Jack thought back to Teal'c's words, in response to Daniel's praise. "Colonel Carter taught me. And I have remembered."

Almost unwillingly his eyes met Sam's; he could see that she had recalled the same words, and that she too knew what it meant. 50, maybe 60 years. And I wasn't there, and T was...

The nudges were infrequent, but they came. The next year was frantic, and there were times when it seemed to Jack that the only time Sam truly relaxed was when she was able to practice on the cherrywood cello. The near-loss of the George Hammond to the Lucian Alliance, whilst under her command, had been yet another reminder that despite the end of the Ori War, the galaxy was a dangerous place to be. Jack sometimes ached with the knowledge that she was out there, on the front line, while he was stuck in Washington. It was a sore point; he had attempted to retire a couple of times, and had been asked by no less than the President to stay. Sam, with a twisted little smile, had hugged him and told him he was needed. It seemed to Jack his choices were limited to one, really. Stay.

Teal'c was a busy man too. He spent so much time, along with Bra'tac, dealing with problems arising in the Jaffa Nation that his old team mates saw him only occasionally, and then he often seemed preoccupied, lost in his own thoughts. He did make it to Daniel's 45th birthday party, arranged with great skill and obvious delight by Vala, and, fruit juice in hand, appeared to be more relaxed and happy in the company of his old SGC friends than he had been for a long time.

Daniel was persuaded to have more than two beers; he caused great hilarity by attempting to kiss Vala as a thank-you and almost missed her entirely; he ended up kissing her ear, to loud whoops from those around him. General Landry, himself fast approaching retirement, told a truly filthy joke, which caused Mitchell to blush and left Walter Harriman open mouthed.

Teal'c, normally a difficult audience for Earth jokes, roared with laughter, however, and when Sam, giggling too, poked him in the ribs and asked him how come he got this one first time, Teal'c sobered, and gave her a look which, Jack felt, could best be described as nostalgic. "I have heard it before," was the only explanation he would give, while gently removing her glass from her hand, refilling it and returning it to her. Then, with a bow, he made his excuses and shortly thereafter left with Bra'tac to return to the current session of the Jaffa Council.

Later that night, much later, Jack held Sam close as they watched a crescent of new moon through the bedroom window. A scatter of stars was just visible, peppering the sky outside, and they were playing an old game, the "guess the star" game. There were long pauses between words, punctuated with kisses and sighs. Jack was just dropping off when Sam spoke again, very softly.

"I wonder which planet Teal'c's on." She shifted slightly in his arms, pulling the duvet higher up over her body. The breeze coming in through the window was chilly. "Council's meeting in a secret location, to try and fool the Alliance. He and Bra'tac will be there by now." There was a slight tremor in her voice and Jack stiffened, then, hating himself for the stab of jealousy he felt, shifted and pulled her closer. Sam was no fool though - she'd caught the momentary hesitation.

"Jack?"

"Hmmm..."

"Perhaps it's time we talked about this."

"'Bout what?" He dropped his lips to her bare shoulder, following up with a trail of kisses to the nape of her neck. She shivered involuntarily, but refused to be distracted.

"About this thing with Teal'c, that we don't talk about."

"What thing?"

"Jack."

She turned to face him, and the faint starlight shaded her face and made her a stranger for a moment, a disturbing instant in which she was not the Sam he knew and loved; and then she spoke again. The illusion faded - but not the disquiet of that brief glimpse; and he knew she was right.

"Yeah, we should talk. About T."

For a moment they simply stared at each other, neither sure how to begin, then the words came rushing out simultaneously.

"He hasn't said anything but it's pretty obvious something happened on the Odyssey..."

"He won't say anything about that time on the Odyssey, but his eyes when he looks at me sometimes..."

The words trailed off, then Jack gave a short bark of resigned laughter, and gestured to Sam. You first.

She drew a deep breath, released it, then took another.

"It was 50, maybe closer to 60 years, Jack. It would have been astounding if relationships weren't formed during that time. And to be the only one to remember..." she shook her head, her expression sombre. "And you know Teal'c - he flatly refused to speak to MacKenzie or anyone else. I'm willing to bet he hasn't spoken about it even to Bra'tac, or, or to Ishta."

He didn't miss the hesitation as she spoke the Hak'tyl leader's name, and sighed. Sam held up a hand, and shook her head minutely. She wasn't finished.

"He doesn't speak of it directly, but I don't think either of us can pretend we don't know that something happened, between him and me, on the Odyssey. And Jack, whatever happened... it wasn't trivial." She swallowed, and squeezed his hand tighter. "Or short lived."

The little pinch of jealousy had become a pounding throbbing, and for a moment Jack felt dizzy, flooded with images of Teal'c and Sam laughing, looking for solutions, dancing, holding each other, making love, growing old together...

"Come back." Sam's voice was soft, but her hand against his cheek was steady. "I'm right here, Jack," and with some difficulty he was able to focus on her again, push the images aside, and it was only a moment before he was able to give her a rueful grin and press a kiss into her palm.

"So. You and T. Then. What do we do about the now?"

Carter sighed, a long, troubled sound, and in one fluid motion, well practiced in sharing this bed, this room, she rolled in his arms and snuggled against him, spoon fashion.

"Perhaps there's nothing we can do, or need to do." There was a pause. The breeze had grown stronger, and Jack reached over her and pulled the window shut, then settled down again, nose against her hair, breathing in the scent of her.

"Yeah. And it's Fishin' Trip time in a few months anyway. If anything does need to be said, well, we can find a way to say it then." God, he hoped he didn't have to bring it up. He couldn't imagine how that conversation would go...

Sam nodded slowly against his cheek, and after a few minutes he felt her breathing even out, knew that very soon she slept. Yet he lay awake watching the stars through the cold glass for a long, long time before his own eyes closed, and he slipped into oblivion.

The Fishing Trip. All the members of the original SG-1 unconsciously used capital letters when they spoke of it, and tried to make it a yearly event. It had grown out of a need to stay in touch, after Jack had been promoted to Washington and Mitchell had been given control of SG-1. On a personal note, Jack thought of it as his and Sam's anniversary treat. Nothing physical had happened, that first trip, but the long-delayed conversation had finally been had, that locked room finally opened. He'd taken her to dinner shortly afterward, and she'd flown from Area 51 to DC to see him. She'd come for the day, and stayed for three. They had never looked back.

There was another reason they kept the tradition up, some 5 years on. A need to honour the team on the video tape. The team left behind in Ancient Egypt, who had been them, bar that one small difference. Sometimes, when he was sitting in the trance-like daze essential for effective fishing, Jack thought of that other O'Neill, the other him who had never had the pleasure of reeling in a fat trout from this pond.

This year Daniel was speaking at the UN and wouldn't be able to make the first three days of the trip. Teal'c, however, sent a message via the SGC that he would indeed be joining them. Jack messaged Sam; she was on board the Hammond and he received no more than a distracted "Great" back from her. He patiently packed up all her kit along with his own, making a special effort to secure the cello in the back of the pickup, and was waiting with chilled beers and pizza when she beamed in to the deck of the cabin some hours after his own arrival.

Between the two of them they managed to save only three slices for Teal'c, who arrived as the moon was rising, and an hour or so was spent in good natured grumbling about the greed of the Tau'ri before good nights were said and beds sought. Jack fell asleep with the satisfied feeling of having most of his family close, and the outstanding member on his way to join them soon.

When he awoke it was still dark. Instinctively he reached out to the other side of the bed, finding it empty. This didn't come as a great surprise: Carter kept space hours on the Hammond, and often took a while to readjust to Earth time on her days off. He rolled over preparatory to going back to sleep, and heard the first faint strains of cello music begin to drift through the house. The room she played in was thickwalled, and some distance from his sleeping quarters; still, the clear sweet tones penetrated the quiet night.

She really had improved. Jack remembered the first few months of practice; the botched notes, the cat-screeches, the frustration. Tonight, though, she played the piece of music as if she were born to it, and he lay listening in pleasure.

It was no good just lying there though. Now that he was awake he had to empty his bladder, and with a sigh he rolled out of bed, wincing slightly as his knees took his weight, and made his way to the bathroom.

It was on the way back, when his eyes had adjusted to being awake, that he noticed something he'd missed on his stumble through the hall.

Teal'c was standing outside the room where Sam was playing, leaning against the wall in an attitude of great weariness. As Jack approached, he saw that Teal'c's eyes were closed: his features set in an expression of great sorrow. The lines carved onto his face by the extra years he bore were very clear, and his fists were clenched against his thighs, as though he fought a terrible, silent battle, and was not sure of the victory.

Jack, aghast, was just searching for something to say, some way to announce his presence that wouldn't seem too intrusive in the face of such grief, when the music stopped, and the door opened. Sam, in sleepshorts and T-shirt, hair falling over her shoulders, stood framed in the doorway, backlit by the stars.

There the three of them stood, frozen in tableau for endless moments, then Teal'c's eyes opened, met Sam's, and she moved into his arms as if that was where she belonged, her body pressed tightly against his. After a second his arms came up, clasping her round the waist, cupping the blonde head as he buried his face in her hair. Jack heard his low groan of "Samantha", and without conscious volition he was moving, until he was standing close enough to Sam to feel the heat from her body, close enough to touch them both, although he kept his hands by his sides, and did not do so.

It was left to Sam to act, and she did so with a sureness that led Jack to wonder, afterward, if in fact she had planned for such an eventuality, had rehearsed her actions should the circumstances ever arise. Gracefully she stretched to press her lips to Teal'c's cheek, then turned in his arms and took his hand firmly in her own. Her other hand she slipped into Jack's, and with a softly whispered, "come", she led them both the few steps down the corridor and into the room where Teal'c's few belongings were scattered.

The two men stopped in the doorway, and Sam continued, slipping fluidly from her clothes and then turning, half-falling back onto the bed. The moonlight turned her golden skin, so familiar (and not just to him, Jack realised with a pang) into silver; Jack felt again the sense of otherness that had filled him the night of Daniel's party.

Five years after their first night together, just looking at Sam's body still gave him the same heady rush: desire, passion, love, and now the comfort of long familiarity, even in this pale, cold light. Almost before he knew it, he had shucked his shorts and was kneeling on the bed, stooping and reaching a practised hand to the swell of her breast, teasing her with the faintest brush of his flat, rough palm; until a ragged breath, almost a sob, reminded him of the Jaffa standing beside them, still clothed, and rigid as a statue, yet somehow humming - with what barely-suppressed emotions, Jack wondered? What must Teal'c be feeling, filled with the memories of a lifetime of joy and passion shared with the woman Jack was making love to? And had he, Jack, decided what he felt about that other, unremembered life of Sam's?

He had no answers, and so he simply held his breath and watched as Sam half-rose, reaching up to Teal'c, slowly, lovingly, unfastening the buttons of his shirt, sliding her pale hands up the smooth skin of his chest, over his shoulders to push the shirt to the ground, and then down and around his waist. As she caressed his hips, he finally moved, stepping out of his loose trousers and joining them on the bed.

For a long moment, they lay there: Jack pressed against the side of the woman he had loved, if he were honest, since she had walked into the briefing room at the SGC nearly 15 years before; Sam, half-turned with one hand flat against Teal'c's chest, knowing without remembering that a lifetime had been spent with him; Teal'c, tracing with trembling fingers the features of the woman he had never thought to be this close to again. Jack dropped his forehead against Sam's shoulder, trembling now too and unable to calm himself, powerless to go on, or to stop. Sam lay like ivory in the moonlight between them: it was as if time once again stood still.

"Colonel O'Neill...''

Jack looked up, startled. No-one had called him that for years, and certainly not when he was naked. He raised his head, and as he opened his mouth to protest, Teal'c's lips pressed against his, with a fierceness that ground their teeth together for an instant. Almost before Jack felt it, Teal'c withdrew. Their eyes met in a long moment of understanding; an awareness of the links forged between those who face death together and who ever after live life more fully, love more deeply and trust more completely; an acknowledgment, implicit, he realised, in Teal'c's unexpected use of his old rank, that they shared that bond.

Between them, Sam made a soft, wordless sound, and suddenly there was no more awkwardness, no more fear; just the three of them, together, as if it had always been that way.

It became, not a regular occurrence ("no, Jack, it's most irregular,'' Sam would sometimes tease), but a part of their life, however infrequent. Of their friends, Daniel was aware, and seemed quietly approving. Vala, to Sam's relief given her earthy sense of humour, and Mitchell too, if they worked it out, kept the knowledge to themselves. If anyone had ever asked, Jack O'Neill would have said, tersely, that it suited them, and was no-one else's business.

But no-one ever dared.