A/N - Tag to Unending. Rated M.
The team was gathered at Jack and Sam's house to celebrate the "return" of SG-1, an event everyone knew but declined to acknowledge was just a little weird, considering that Teal'c was the only one who really appreciated that they'd ever been gone. Nonetheless, they were all in fine spirits, especially Sam, who had just learned that Jack was on his way home from DC having finally taken a much deserved break from the political intricacies of the Pentagon.
She was humming as she pulled the fixings for the baked potatoes out of the fridge. Daniel and Vala were likewise engaged in the kitchen chopping vegetables for a salad, while Cam was out back firing up the grill. For his part, Teal'c was content to simply listen to all of them work together from his vantage point in the most comfortable chair in the living room.
As his team chattered away in the background, Teal'c took the opportunity to observe how the room in which he was sitting had changed over the years. For most of his time on Earth, the house had belonged solely to Jack, and while it had always been a comfortable residence, it wasn't until Sam moved in that it had finally become a home. When he transferred to DC, Jack had initially planned to sell it, but with Sam returning from her short stint at Area 51, they'd decided that it made more sense for her to live there instead.
The few pictures of Sara that had formerly graced the walls were long gone, replaced by others depicting Jack and Sam's current family - snapshots of the original members of SG-1, school photos of Cassie, and pictures of their wedding at the cabin. The only thing that remained from Jack's past were his photos of Charlie, placed prominently among the more recent pictures.
So caught up was Teal'c in his observation of the room that he didn't notice Sam approach until she set down a glass of water on the table beside his chair. He smiled up at her appreciatively.
"Everything okay, Teal'c?" she asked.
He bowed his head ever so slightly. "All is well, Samantha."
Teal'c knew Sam was observing him carefully, probably taking note of his graying hair and the fine lines around his eyes, the only evidence of his additional age. Of course, she really shouldn't have been surprised; she must have known that many things had changed over the course of their long years together on that ship, his appearance being the least of them.
She returned his smile, but her brow remained furrowed, her concern for him evident. "Are you sure? Because you seem...pensive. More so than usual," she added quickly, likely realizing that particular adjective could almost always describe the staid Jaffa.
Before he could respond, however, her attention was drawn to Jack's sudden and boisterous entrance. She gave Teal'c one last concerned glance over her shoulder, then turned to greet her husband, who had just set his overnight bag inside the front door.
The Jaffa watched them come together as they shared a heartfelt embrace, Jack pulling her in for a kiss then leaning back to gaze into his wife's adoring face. He tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear, and Teal'c smiled at the intimate exchange.
Though only he remembered, it had been fifty years since they'd held each other.
The voice of Thor repeated once again the phrase that Sam had come to despise. "That function is not possible."
Frustrated, she shoved her notebook off the console, threw her pen across the room, and buried her head in her hands. She had been working on a means of getting them out of the time dilation field and avoiding destruction almost non-stop for an entire year, but she was no closer to a solution now than when she started.
After several deep breaths, she finally looked up again to find that the only thing left on the surface in front of her was the picture of Jack and her fishing at the cabin. It was the only photo of him she had, and she hadn't let it out of her sight since their ordeal began. She picked it up gingerly and noticed for the first time that the edges were starting to wear. The tears began to well up once again.
Without warning, a deep voice from the doorway caused her to jump. "Are you well, Colonel Carter?"
"I'm fine, Teal'c," she said, quickly trying to wipe the tears from her eyes. When he didn't say anything in response, she turned to find him standing with his hands clasped behind his back, a concerned look on his face. "Really," she added softly.
He glanced at the picture in her hand. "I am certain that you will soon have the opportunity to engage in this sport again. Though I believe I will decline to participate."
His statement made her laugh out loud, no doubt his intent. But she also appreciated the vote of confidence, perhaps more than he could know. "Thanks, Teal'c."
He gave her a slight bow before leaving. She turned back to the computer console and resumed working, her determination to find a way off of the ship renewed.
Teal'c rose from his chair when Cam yelled from the backyard that the steaks were ready. However, the sound of raised voices drew the Jaffa's attention to the kitchen. He stood up just in time to see Vala snap the salad tongs at Daniel's index finger, which was currently pointing accusingly at her face.
Their quibbling reminded him instantly of their early days aboard the ship, and he chuckled softly to himself, recalling how it took them only a matter of months to fall in love. He wondered if they would find each other again without being confined with each other 24/7.
He liked to think they would - and that it would be considerably easier on Sam this time.
Every time Daniel and Vala shared an intimate moment, Sam grew quiet, occasionally opting to leave the room when their behavior became too overtly amorous. It was not as though she wasn't happy for them; it was merely that everything her friends had reminded her acutely of what she didn't.
Her ever-so-slightly envious glances didn't go unnoticed by Vala, who never missed much, especially since they had been living together for so long. So, late one night in Sam's quarters, after they were well into their second bottle of wine and their conversation had turned rather bawdy, she apparently decided to propose a solution to her friend's problem.
"You miss him," she stated simply.
Sam furrowed her brow, wondering where Vala was going with this conversation. "Of course I miss him."
Vala turned her attention back to painting her nails. "Maybe you could join us sometime," she suggested without even looking up, just as she placed a final dab of polish on her pinky. "It might help."
Sam was slack-jawed. Surely Vala couldn't mean what she thought she meant. "Join you?"
She shrugged. "I'm sure Daniel wouldn't mind," she said, as though she were suggesting something as mundane as having Sam for dinner.
"Vala..." Sam began but didn't get a chance to complete that sentence before she cut her off.
"Look, darling, I know how uptight you earthlings can be about sex, so it's totally up to you." She gave Sam a pouty look. "I just hate to see you so lonely."
Sam simply shook her head in disbelief at the bizarre turn of events.
The strange thing was, she was less put off by the thought of sleeping with Vala than the thought of sleeping with Daniel. Daniel had been like a brother to her all these years, and he was Jack's best friend. Something about the concept of knowing him intimately disturbed her in a way she found difficult to define. And despite Vala's assurances to the contrary, Sam was relatively certain that Daniel would have some...reservations about such an arrangement.
More to the point, though, it wasn't just the sex she was missing, though she definitely did miss it quite a bit. No, she would have been happy just to have Jack there to hold her, to believe in her, and to provide the strength upon which she had always relied. Because, really, on top of everything else, the very fact that Vala had made such an outlandish suggestion told her all she needed to know about her confidence in Sam's ability to get them home.
But she wasn't ready to throw in the towel yet, not by a long shot.
"I appreciate the offer, Vala, really. But I'm committed to Jack."
Vala looked at her friend sympathetically. "Suit yourself. But if it ever gets to be too much, you know where to find us."
Without warning, she leaned in then and kissed her on the mouth, and Sam was surprised to discover that the experience, while not exactly erotic, wasn't entirely unpleasant. Vala tasted like bubblegum and smelled like tiger lilies, and for just a moment, she contemplated what it might be like to take things further. But even if she weren't married to Jack, she just wasn't wired that way, so the thought of sharing her bed with the mercurial alien woman - undoubtedly to Daniel's utter shock - simply made her laugh.
"Vala!" she exclaimed, pulling away and trying to imbue her protest with all the indignation she could muster, all the while wondering if Daniel had any clue what he'd gotten himself into.
At that, Vala stood and gave her a cheeky grin and a wink before heading for the door. Sam just smiled and shook her head, purposefully choosing to ignore the concern underlying her friend's seemingly facetious actions.
Teal'c watched with interest as Cam, who had finally succeeded in sufficiently charring the steaks, entered the house and approached Jack with his hand extended. His demeanor was familiar yet deferential as he greeted his superior, who still had an arm slung possessively over Sam's shoulder as he shook the younger man's hand.
It was evident the immense amount of respect Cam had for Jack. But it took a truly observant individual to see the deep affection he also held for his wife, and it occurred to Teal'c that Cam may have suffered even more than Sam during their many long and lonely years about the ship.
Like most days, Cam had gone to the gym in an attempt to release some of his pent up energy. On this particular day, Sam, who had found herself especially frustrated with her inability to solve their current predicament, had decided on a whim to join him for a work out session.
They sparred for a good half hour before Sam finally got the upper hand and landed a blow that sent him to the mat. Her training immediately kicked in, and she threw herself on top of him, straddling his legs and using her body to pin him down.
They were sweaty and breathing hard, and it took Sam a few seconds longer than Cam to realize the intimate nature of their positioning. Fascinated, she watched his eyes dilate as he met her gaze. Then she gasped at the sudden and completely unexpected physical reaction of her body to his, as a pang of desire shot down her spine and settled deep and low.
Before she could fully process what was happening, he had flipped her so that his hips pressed hers into the mat. She felt him begin to harden against her, and she let out a completely involuntary moan. In the next second, his mouth was on hers, his tongue quickly slipping past her stunned and slightly parted lips.
She didn't know if she was more shocked by the desperate way he thrust his pelvis against hers or how her own traitorous body had apparently detached from her brain and was pushing back. His hand ran up under her shirt and grasped her breast, causing her nipple to harden as he brushed a thumb over the sensitive peak. Cam let out a moan of his own, and a rush of warmth flooded her core.
Oh, god. It had been so long, she had almost forgotten how good this felt.
But no sooner had that thought crossed her mind, than the still rational part of her brain recognized where this was ultimately leading and that it was nowhere she wanted to go. Things were rapidly spiraling out of control, and she knew she had shut it down fast.
She turned her head to the side, away from his mouth, so she could speak. "Cam-" It was the only word she was able to get out before he began licking and kissing his way down her now exposed her neck, causing goosebumps to erupt all over her overly sensitized flesh. It took all of her control not to give in to her body's intimate response to his touch, because even though this was not the man she wanted, she couldn't deny that she had been wanting for a very long time.
"Cam, wait," she pled breathlessly, but it was as though he hadn't heard her because he simply began moving his hand toward her inner thigh. "Stop! " she finally yelled, using both hands to push against his chest. Instantly, he froze and looked down at her with glazed eyes.
"I'm married," she said softly, and something finally clicked for him. He rolled off of her and lay flat on his back, bringing both hands up to cover his face.
"God, Sam," he groaned. "I know. I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry. It's just..." He pounded the mat with his fist. "Goddammit!"
Not knowing what else to say, she rose and turned to leave him, clearly frustrated, sprawled on the ground, and sporting an impressive erection that the thin fabric of his sweatpants did little to hide.
She all but ran to her quarters, where she stripped the clothes off of her overheated body and jumped into a cold shower. But the icy spray did little to cool her ardor, so after a few minutes, she shut it off and went directly to her bed, where she slipped naked between the sheets.
She hesitated only a second before running her hands over her breasts, then down her stomach and finally between her thighs. As her hips lifted off the mattress and she used her own slick fingers to work herself toward a desperately sought resolution, she thought only of Jack. But after, as she was coming down, it occurred to her that although she could remember exactly how he tasted and smelled and felt, the image of his face was starting to fade, just like the well worn picture she kept by her bedside.
She buried her head in her pillow and began to cry.
It was several days before Cam would look her in the eye, and things between them were strained for awhile, but soon the incident in the gym was all but forgotten - except that Sam would catch him glancing sideways at her every once in a great while, a look of desire etched firmly in his features. Still, nothing else happened until approximately six months later, after their annual Christmas party when they'd both had too much to drink.
Landry had turned in hours ago, Teal'c was meditating in the corner, and Vala and Daniel had just wandered off to their bedroom, when Cam suddenly pulled Sam to him and whispered "I want you" in her ear, his breath smelling heavily of the scotch they'd all been drinking for the better part of the night.
She turned him down immediately, of course, but he became increasingly forward, arguing that it was just sex, that they could keep it meaningless, until she stated in no uncertain terms that she was still married and would remain faithful to her husband.
"Jesus, Sam, he might as well be dead!" he yelled suddenly, and the silence that followed was deafening.
Despite his intoxicated state, Cam knew he'd crossed a line, so he left Sam standing stunned and unable to move in the middle of their makeshift commissary, the tears she'd been holding at bay now threatening to fall.
After all, there was a large part of her that thought maybe he was right. The loneliness at times was almost unbearable, and there certainly had been many a night where her own fingers hadn't given her quite what she needed. But she just couldn't bring herself to give up on Jack, because if she did that, then she might as well have given up completely.
It was only after he left that Teal'c, who up until that point hadn't moved, stood and slowly approached her, laying a heavy hand briefly on her shoulder before following Cam out of the commissary.
Sam had no idea what Teal'c said to him, but he never propositioned her again.
The night was almost at an end before Jack finally sat down beside Teal'c. Because the others were busy playing poker and trying to keep an eye on Vala to make sure she didn't cheat, they took little notice of the two old friends sitting quietly on the couch.
The military man stretched his long legs out in front of him and took a sip of beer. "I like the hair," he said out of the blue. "It's a good look for you."
"Thank you, O'Neill," Teal'c replied.
Jack said nothing further for several minutes, choosing instead to use the time to peel the label off of his sweating beer bottle. Once that was accomplished, he sat back and let out a long sigh.
"So, fifty years, huh? That's a really, really long time." When Teal'c did not respond, he continued. "I know you've been sworn to secrecy and all, but...uh..." he winced. "Look, if there's anything I should know..."
He was trying to keep his tone light, but Teal'c had known the man long enough to recognize when his flippant words masked a serious concern. He turned to face his friend.
"Many things changed during our long confinement aboard the ship. But her love for you is the one thing that remained constant."
Of all of them, Landry's death hit Sam the hardest. She suspected that Teal'c might have been the only one who understood that she saw his passing as more than the loss of a great leader, but the end of any chance she had of returning to Jack. She was now older than her husband by several years, and despite the fact that her best years were far behind her, she still had no idea how to get them home.
So she was thankful for the comfort of Teal'c's embrace and more than willing to have him lead her back to her quarters after the funeral. And when he guided her into the room and held her once more, she was not at all certain she wanted him to leave.
It was for that reason that she hesitated for only a moment before she pressed her lips to his. But almost immediately he pulled away from her.
"Samantha," he said softly, gently running his fingers down the side of her face, "you are mourning."
She knew that he was cautioning her that she was acting out of sorrow. What she didn't know was whether he intended to remind her that she had tried settling for someone other than the man she truly loved once before, and it had ended in disaster. But either way, she couldn't deny the truth - that if she pursued him, she would inevitably break the heart of yet another good man only in a vain attempt to fill a hole in her own that could never, ever be repaired.
She gave him a small nod, and with that he turned to leave. After he was gone, she picked up the photo of Jack and her together, the image nothing more than a vague shadow now, and held it tightly to her chest.
It was another 25 years before Sam, by then an elderly woman, sought out the comfort of Teal'c's presence once more, this time to tell him that while she had finally figured out a way to save them, she couldn't actually do it because it had taken her too long.
Nearly inconsolable, she blamed herself for everything. "It's all my fault!" she cried, as she paced across his room. "We should have died all those years ago." She hung her head in defeat, her voice barely above a whisper. "I wish I were dead now." Slowly, she met Teal'c's worried gaze and tried to make him understand. "Even if I could get back to Jack, he wouldn't want me now."
"Samantha," he replied, her name rolling off his tongue in his deep and steady baritone, "you must not forget that you are the one who saved us. You are worthy of respect." He paused and looked meaningfully into her eyes. "And love."
She merely shook her head, but Teal'c wasn't done. In soft voice, he said, "I have always loved you. I love you now."
Sam stared at him, utterly stunned. "Why?" she asked desperately. "Why did you never tell me?" When he didn't respond, she provided her own answer, her voice barely above a whisper. "Even after all of these years, you're still loyal to Jack."
"No," he replied immediately. "It is not O'Neill to whom I am loyal. It is you."
Unable to bear his earnest gaze, she left his quarters, weeping for herself, weeping for him.
But it was the next day that, with a little help from Cam, she figured out how to get them home.
That night, long after Teal'c and the rest of SG-1 had gone, Jack made love to Sam slowly and purposefully, leaving no spot on her body untouched, worshipping her with his hands and mouth before finally entering her fully, deeply, in a way that stole her breath away.
He took his time, made it last, so that at the end, she was trembling with need and quietly pleading for release. Only then did he relinquish his control, and within a few seconds they were both shuddering with a shared ecstasy that was both more intimate and more intense than anything she'd experienced before.
After, as she lay with her head on his chest, his arms wrapped around her and sleep tugging at her eyelids, she whispered drowsily, "What did Teal'c tell you after dinner?"
It was a long time before he replied. "That you never stopped loving me," he said finally.
She lifted her head a little to look at him, a sad and dreamy smile on her face. "I could have told you that."
He returned her smile before leaning down to kiss her. And in that moment, any lingering doubt either might have had regarding what happened during their time apart dissipated.
They belonged to each other. She was his and he was hers, and nothing would ever come between them - not the comforting touch of another lost soul, not the unfathomable distance between universes, not even the infinite reach of time.
Later that night she untangled herself from his embrace and crept quietly into the kitchen to get a glass of water. There, sitting on the counter, was the picture of the two of them fishing at the cabin, the image as crisp and clear as though it had been taken yesterday. She wondered briefly how it got there. In the end, though, she decided it didn't matter. After all, it was one of her very favorites.
She smiled to herself and thought maybe she would have it framed.
A/N - After much debate, I have decided to end this series here. It seems a fitting spot, since this episode was the last in the original series. I know there are still many more stories that can be told about Jack and Sam post SG-1, and I have some of my own, but I've decided to publish those separately.
I began this series when I first began publishing my Stargate stories. It is my longest running project by far and has been a real labor of love, so I have mixed emotions about bringing it to an end. But I hate to leave things undone, so at the same time I have a great sense of completion.
A special thanks goes to MidKnight Rider, who has beta'd almost every tag in this series, and also to BethanyActually who has done some beta work as well as served as general cheerleader on this story and most of the others. It wouldn't have been the same without you both.
I can't tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you who has read, followed, or favorited this series, and especially those of you who have taken the time to leave comments. It really means the world to me. Thank you.