Disclaimer: Don't own 'em - Just playing with them. I'ts sooo much fun!
AN - This story is based on the Dan Fogelberg song by the same name. I have heard the song on the radio too many times a day, so my muse kicked in and wouldn't let go until I wrote this. Jack is OOC some and parts of this story are cliche but the song could fit so well with them. If you haven't heard it, please do - it's incredibly sad. Please review - and be kind! I'm more of a 'reader' than a writer!
Same Old Lang Syne
I stepped out of my truck and into the gently drifting show. Shoppers were hurrying to and fro – getting those last minute items they 'had' to have before the stores closed for Christmas Eve. Just my luck! After driving 14 hours from Minnesota, I had arrived to find there was no Guinness in the house! How was I going to get through the lonely holiday without some liquid companionship? Thank goodness the grocery store was still open even though people thronged the parking lot, braving the snowy sidewalks and slippery streets.
I pushed inside the warm store and grabbed a cart – since I was here I might as well get some food to go along with the Guinness. After all – man could not live by beer alone – even if it was an appealing thought.
I wandered the aisles, looking for anything that might strike my fancy, grabbing a bag of gourmet dog food for Marge. I do spoil that dog! As I headed toward the beer cooler, a familiar face caught my eye and made me stop cold.
Down near the frozen foods was a woman I would have recognized anywhere even though it had been 10 long years. In fact, I had really never expected to see her again. Short blonde hair, slender, with long, long legs that went on forever and a figure to die for. She was wearing nicely fitted blue jeans and a heavy parka. I almost turned and left right then, but something held me back. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I had to speak to her. Coming up behind her, I stopped.
"So, Carter" I smirked. "Trying to figure out what type of pizza to have for Christmas?"
Samantha Carter jumped as if she'd been shot. She recognized my voice and turned, staring at me wide-eyed and gave me one of her dazzling smiles – the kind she gave just me.
"Sir! It's so good to see you! I didn't know you would be in town!"
"Retired – so it's Jack! I suddenly had the urge to come back home for a little while – you know, see how the house is holding up, make sure it's winterized, all that stuff. What brings you to my side of town on a grocery trip?"
"We…ah… I live not too far away. I was just on my way home and needed a few things before all the stores closed," she replied. "And it's Sam. It's good to see you, sir… Jack."
We stood there looking at each other, ten years vanishing but the conversation non-existent. Neither of us was sure what to say but didn't want the moment to end. Throwing caution to the wind, she put her arms around me and gave me a hug, in the process dropping her purse. Everything spilled out and we almost bumped heads dropping down to pick the items up.
Reaching towards her, I picked up a keychain and noticed the small picture frame attached. A beautiful curly haired girl smiled back at me from the photo.
"Who's this?" I asked her.
"That's my daughter, Grace. She's nine and quite a handful ," Sam replied quietly, not meeting my eyes. "She's probably waiting on pins and needles for me to get home."
"She's beautiful, just like her mother," I told her sincerely, not letting go of the keychain as Sam went to take it out of my hands. I slowly released it, all the while keeping eye contact with her.
Breaking into our silent gaze, the announcement came over the PA system that the store would be closing in 15 minutes.
"Guess we'd better move that way. After you," I shrugged, motioning for her to go ahead of me. She smiled and started off.
"Ach! Forgot what I actually came in here for!"
I hurried back to the cooler and grabbed three six-packs of Guinness. "Can't have a traditional Christmas without the proper beverage!"
Sam smiled and slowly preceded me to the check out.
We walked out of the store together, each with our items in our carts. Neither of us wanted the moment to end, but we both knew it had to before long.
"How about a drink, you know, for old times sake?" I asked her suddenly, not ready to lose her again after so long apart.
"I guess that would be alright", she replied, glancing at her watch. "It would be nice to catch up with each other after things ended so …suddenly."
I couldn't help but flash back to that 'sudden' ending 10 years ago…the day the world as I knew it ended. My team, my family disintegrated right before my eyes…
We were on P34-029, another lovely planet with a large selection of trees. Uninhabited, or so we thought right up until the time we were ambushed by the local chief and his tribe of merry men. They only had clubs, arrows and spears - primitive weapons, but we were vastly outnumbered. We made a break for the Gate and almost made it before I stepped wrong and went down with my knee. I couldn't put any weight on it.
"Leave! Dial the gate and get out of here, now!" I screamed to Daniel.
To his credit, he followed my order. Teal'c seemed torn as to what to do, wanting to help me but sensing my urgency. Carter…Sam, on the other hand, ignored my order and came back for me.
"We're not leaving you, sir!" She shouted in my face. "Now get your butt up and get moving!"
She tugged my arm up over her shoulder and bodily hauled me to my feet… foot, anyway. We started for the event horizon that had just whooshed out towards us. Teal'c and Daniel continued their cover fire…only it was not enough. There were too many. The next thing I know, I'm back on the ground, lying half on Carter…Sam.
Trying to figure out what had happened, I noticed a spear sticking up out of her back and an arrow out of the side of her knee. She was unconscious and not moving.
Teal'c ran back to us, firing his Zat and taking out the natives closest to us. Daniel came back, too. He lifted me off Carter…Sam, handing me off to Teal'c, who quickly threw me over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and bolted for the Gate, all the while shooting his Zat. Glancing back, I saw Daniel manage to get Carter…Sam over his shoulder and head for the Gate as well . It was close, but we all made it back….but things didn't turn out fine after that.
The spear and arrow that hit Sam had been tipped with poison. The venom worked its way through her body relentlessly, keeping her unconscious for two weeks and extremely weak and disoriented for four more. The wound in her back was easily treated and stitched. The knee however was another story.
Frasier explained the mechanics of the injury, but it all went over my head, other than the fact that the damage was too great to allow her to return to active duty. Eventually she was given a medical discharge and asked to stay on as a civilian department head in the labs. She declined, telling the Air Force she didn't think she could stay and watch as others went through the Gate while she was stuck staying on Earth. She put her house on the market and accepted a job at MIT to lecture and do research. And it had all been my fault.
I visited her frequently before her move, trying to talk her out of leaving, but she was adamant. It hurt too much, she said, to lose out on all that had given her life meaning. She needed to start anew somewhere, anywhere, so she could try to have that normal life.
The guilt ate at me relentlessly. If I hadn't twisted my knee, she would still be healthy and whole. The night before she left, I visited one last time, to try to get her to stay. One thing led to another and we finally consummated our attraction to each other. No words of love were spoken. I was too afraid to tell her how I really felt, and she probably felt the same way. It was as magical as I had always imagined it, but when I woke up the next morning, she was. I was angry that she had left; so angry that I didn't try to find her. My pride became my stumbling block.
I have to say I lost it for a while after that. I was so hurt. We finally had had the chance to see what exactly we meant to each other and she had abandoned the opportunity – and me. Well, two could play that game.
Several weeks later, when I saw her name come up on my caller ID, I didn't bother to answer. She left a timid message, apologizing for walking out, asking me to call her, and leaving her number. I didn't return the call.
Daniel, Teal'c, and even Janet bombarded me with urgent messages to get over myself and make contact, but SHE had walked out on me, so I figured it was up to her to come groveling.
Eventually the calls stopped. My friends somewhat forgave me for my anger towards Sam, but things were never the same. Daniel finagled an assignment to Atlantis, Teal'c left to help the Free Jaffa, and I eventually did the only thing that appealed to me. I retired and moved to Minnesota. Her ghost was all around the SGC, everywhere I looked. Fishing would be my refuge, since she'd never been to the cabin.
Oh, sure, I came to Colorado Springs periodically – couldn't bear to sell the house, but I lived most of the time at my cabin. I thought about Sam often, wondering how she was, but my pride wouldn't let me look for her.
So now here she was, limping across the parking lot next to me…
"Not sure where we can get a drink so late on Christmas Eve. Guess we could always have a beer in one of our cars…" I said, not wanting the time together to end.
She grinned. "Better not let the authorities see that, or else we'll spend Christmas in the brig!"
"Nah, I've still got connection!" I smirked back. "Used to play poker with the Chief of Police, remember?" We walked on to her chuckle.
"Here's my truck," I told her as we got close. We both stopped and she handed me bags to put in the back seat. "Now, what're you driving?"
"I kept my old Volvo, but I normally drive a Volvo CX90. I wasn't sure what the weather was going to do. Plus, it was easier to get the car seat in and out of something bigger when Gracie was little," she smiled, then quickly looked uncomfortable.
"Let's sit in your car then," I suggested, snagging a six-pack of Guinness and steering her on. "Your car's more comfortable than mine."
I followed her to the next row and helped her get her supplies into the silver Volvo. She unlocked the passenger door and limped to the drivers' side. We settled in the seats, opened our beers and silence once again reigned.
Suddenly, we both started to speak. We were both on the same page – apologizing for the past. We stuttered to a stop and just looked at each other, neither one wanting to start the conversation we knew we needed to have – just to clear the air.
"You look wonderful," I told her. "You haven't changed a bit."
She blushed and took a deep swallow of her beer before looking away.
"Thank you," she replied. "You're a sight for sore eyes yourself. Only the hair's got a little more silver in it, but it's nice!"
The conversation grew more animated, recalling some of our adventures through the Stargate. We laughed, we sobered on some memories, but still the reminiscence was cathartic. Then she grew solemn.
"I'm married," she told me, seemingly hesitant. "Have been for nine years to David Bradley. He's a pediatrician. We just recently moved back here from Boston so that I can lecture at the Academy. David was wonderful about…" she trailed off, looking anywhere but at me.
"Do you love him?" I asked her. I sensed something in her tone that gave off a warning flag.
"He loves me," she replied before coming to a halt, what she said answering my question. "I am happy. Janet and Daniel still haven't forgiven me for marrying him, though."
"I'm happy for you. You deserve happiness. That's all I ever wanted for you. If I hadn't blown out my knee on that last mission, you'd be a general now," I told her, feeling the old guilt come creeping back. Who was I kidding….it had never left.
"What about you?" she asked, desperately trying to move the focus elsewhere. "What have you been up to?"
"It's just me and Marge," I replied. She looked somewhat surprised, so I continued. "Marge is my Australian Shepherd. I always told you I would get a dog. Finally did. Never remarried. Never found anyone who…" I left off, not wanting to veer into that forbidden territory. Then, squaring my shoulders, proceeded. "There was no one else I wanted but you."
"Why didn't you answer my calls, get in touch with me then?" Her voice was raised in volume. I could sense the sudden anger sheeting off of her in waves. "I spent months trying to reach you, but you avoided me at all costs! I needed you!"
"I'm sorry. My stupid pride and guilt kept me angry with you for a long time. In fact, I almost left the store without speaking to you tonight, but I knew I might never get the chance again. I wanted to make things right while there was still time. Please forgive me, Sam!"
She was silent for a long while. "I met David in my last trimester with Grace. I was put on bedrest midway through my pregnancy due to complications, and David was her neonatologist and consulted before she was born. She was born 12 weeks early, and weighed in at only 2 lb 1 oz. She stayed in the hospital for 3 months before I could bring her home. David supported me and was there for me the whole time. I grew to care for him and, when he asked me to marry him, I could only think of one reason not to – you – but you weren't talking to me. He's been a doting father to Grace, treated her like she was his own. He's all I could ask for in a husband," she paused and took another long drink of her beer. "He's just never been you" she admitted with tears in her eyes, looking anywhere but at me.
The silence lengthened for a long while as we both contemplated the past and our actions. A beep interrupted the quiet and she pulled her cell phone out of the pocket of her coat.
"Hi Gracie! Yes, I'm at the store. I'll be headed home in just a few minutes. Go ahead and set the table and I'll finish supper when I get there. Love you, too! Bye" she said before she hung up.
She looked at me. "Jack, as much as I've enjoyed seeing you again, I really do have to go home. It's Christmas Eve and …" she tapered off.
I felt as though she had punched me in the gut, but I rallied "You're right. You need to get home to your family. I shouldn't have kept you so long, but it was wonderful to see you"
I didn't know what else to say, so I reached across the console between us and pulled her towards me, giving her a kiss on the forehead, knowing this would be the last time we would see each other. She had a new life and I wasn't included, through my own fault.
"Before you go, I want to give you something," she told me. She reached into her pocket and took out her keys. Deftly, she removed the little picture frame and handed it to me saying, "For you. I miss you, Jack." Tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
Squeezing her hand one last time, I got out of her SUV and into the still gently falling snow. With one last look, I left her behind.
She started her car and slowly backed out and into traffic as I walked back to my truck. Once inside, I looked again at the picture of Grace and noticed for the first time her eyes, her beautiful brown eyes. There was something very familiar about those eyes…
As I turned on the ignition to go home to Marge, the snow that had been falling all afternoon slowly turned into rain. A sad country song was playing on the radio. It felt rather appropriate.
Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg
Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve
She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.
We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.
We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.
We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.
She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.
I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn't sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.
She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.
We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.
We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'auld lang syne'...
The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.
Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain.