Word Count: 3525
Summary: What if there had been a second, hidden message that only Jack was able to decipher? Post-ep for 5x10 '2001'. Sequel to We will happen.
Author's Note: Written for the 'Theme Week Day #3' challenge at stargateland for the prompt "If I could turn back time". It was supposed to be a drabble but ah, well, I blinked and before I knew it, it was way over the 100-words...
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don’t earn any money with this piece. I just do it for fun.
Jack fingers the note in his pocket as he leans back against the wall of the elevator. The paper is worn from unfolding and then folding it back together many times, the hastily written words slowly fading from calloused fingers brushing over them again and again.
It's not the note itself that has made him keep it for the last seven months but the hidden message which only he has been able to to see and read, written in a code he learned a long time ago in a desert-hot country that reminds him of Abydos.
Never let her go. Never.
There is only one person his future self can mean and when Jack thinks about the implication of those words, sounding so desperate and pleading even over the distance of space and time, he grasps the paper tighter, a burning sensation at the corners of his eyes. Something must have happened, well, is going to happen, no wait, was going to hap-
“Damn it!” Frustrated he runs a hand through his hair. Time travel has always given him a headache but this time it cuts a little too close to home. Letting his head fall back against the metal with a dull thump, he welcomes the flash of pain. It's distracting him from a completely different kind of pain he feels deep down in his heart.
“Colonel?” His head snaps forward and his sharp eyes fixate the man standing in the open doors. Lost in his own world, Jack has missed the arrival of the elevator at its destined level.
“Walter. Going home?”
“Ah, ye-yes, sir.”
“Good. See you tomorrow.”
“Yo-you, too. Sir.”
He strolls past the stuttering Sergeant, hands stuffed in his pockets, and only those who really know him would see through his facade, would see the darkness lurking in his eyes and the tension in his muscles, would realize that his smirk is all for show and that he is a man walking a fine line.
But neither Daniel nor Teal'c are here now and so no one pays close attention to the Colonel walking down the corridors towards the infirmary, presenting his usual picture of a boyish man. He has always been good at deceiving people.
The door to the infirmary is open but this late - and especially on a Friday night - there is barely any traffic and Jack can hear the bickering women three doors down. The first real smile tugs at the corner of his lips and his demeanor changes from one second to the other.
“Carter! Giving the Doc a run for her money?”
“Colonel! Don't encourage her!”
Raising his hands, the smile turning into a full-fledged grin as he sees Carter trying to smother a giggle, he moves around the tiny doctor who could take out an entire army of Goa'uld with her big needles, reassuring her that he would never, never dare undermining her position.
He comes to a stop next to Carter's bed and leans against it, his hands back in his pockets. The white sheets are a stark contrast to her pale skin but he is relieved to see that at least some color has returned to her face, and the greyish shade it had when she came flying through the Stargate and landed hard on the ramp, is mostly gone.
“So,” rocking back and forth on his feet, he nods toward her bandaged arm. “How's the shoulder?”
“She will need at least a week to recover.”
“No, Sam. I'm serious. You need to take the week off to let your body heal the worst. In a week, if I'm satisfied with your progress, I'll clear you for light duty.”
The crestfallen expression on Carter's face is doing something to him and he curls his fingers around the slip of paper again.
Never let her go. Never.
“She can stay with me.” Jack is aware of Carter' startled look, hears her quick intake of breath but he ignores her and instead keeps his questioning gaze on Fraiser. “I'll take care of her.”
The Doc regards him with a critical eye for a moment before she agrees to his offer and crosses the room, collecting several items from here and there while rattling off a long list of Do's and Don'ts they have to follow.
“Sir...” Carter's voice is soft, quiet, and suddenly Jack is nervous, knows that he is with one foot already over the invisible line they have drawn all those months ago but at the same time is resolved to not step back again.
“What?” It comes out gruffer than he intended but he's not good with words anyway and yet there must have been something in his voice because Carter shifts around until her bend leg brushes against his pants and she lays her hand on his forearm, the heat of her touch searing his skin, and gives it a gentle squeeze.
The first stars appear in the cloudless night sky as they sign out at the front desk, Jack carrying her overnight bag she keeps at the base, Carter the plastic bag Fraiser gave her with enough pills and drugs to stay in the happy place for a very long time.
It feels natural to leave together, slowly walking side by side towards his truck, his free arm curved around her waist to steady her, her hair brushing his shoulder with every step they take. They trade SGC gossip and world(s) news but his reason for offering and her reason for accepting are put in a that room for the moment, to be opened and examined later.
“We will have to get a few things from the store.” Company hasn't been in his plans tonight and his fridge is definitely emptier than empty.
“You haven't got anything in your fridge, have you?” There's a teasing note in her voice and Jack shakes his head, smirking down at her. Even injured and tired to the bone, Carter can still read his mind like no one else does.
“How about pizza?”
“Carter, I'm shocked.” Arriving at his truck, he makes sure she can stand on her own feet for a moment before putting her bag in the trunk and then opens the door for her. “What do you take me for? The frozen stuff guy?” With gentle hands he helps her settling into the passenger seat of his truck and leans across her to buckle her in.
“Do you really want me to answer that?” He stops fiddling with the seat buckle and raises an eyebrow. “Sir.”
“Very funny,” he replies dryly but the twinkle of humor in his eyes belies his words and the cheeky grin he gets in return is worth being mocked by her. Exhausted, her hair tousled and her face bruised, and yet it is the smile upon her lips and her bright blue eyes that make Carter look-
”Beautiful.” The surge of arousal at the sudden thought is nothing new, it's the lack of his inner voices - sounding suspiciously like Hammond and Jacob telling him to remember the regulations - that's slowly eating away his self control when he's around Carter. Lost in the moment, he reaches up, the tips of his fingers gently grazing her skin, and they both stop breathing.
But the world doesn't end. There is just them and his fingertips, lingering on her skin as he lightly touches the contour of her face in the dark of his car, brushing along her jawbone until his thumb comes to rest at the corner of her mouth.
A car starts somewhere in the parking lot, breaking through the blanket of feelings wrapped around them, and they jerk apart.
“Sorry, Carter,” Jack murmurs huskily, averting his gaze, looking away and curling his fingers into a fist, the pain of nails biting into his palm stopping him from reaching for her again. “Didn't mean to-”
“It's okay,” she interrupts him softly and he tilts his head to look at her. “It was not... unwelcome.” A faint blush stains her cheeks as he keeps staring at her but she holds his gaze, unwavering.
He may be a little slow on the uptake but when he realizes what she is saying, something begins to unfold deep inside and he doesn't resist the urge to brush a wisp of hair away from her face one last time before he steps back, shuts her door firmly, moves around to the driver's side and gets in.
Once they are on the street, he lets his hand drift down to cover hers, resting in her lap, and she doesn't hesitate intertwining her fingers with his.
Never let her go. Never.
The drive from Jimmy's to his house is spent in comfortable silence with the radio playing softly, the wonderful smell of spicy pizza waving through the air and Carter leaning back in her seat, her eyes closed and her body finally relaxed.
From time to time Jack glances over at her to check if there's an sign of discomfort but except for the occasional twitching when she moves, there is nothing. In fact, Carter seems to enjoy the ride, if the humming is any indication.
Warm air drifts through the open window, and he rests his elbow on the ledge, breathing in the familiar scents and smells of an Earth spring night.
They don't need words to fill the space between, never have and never will. On P4X-234, after Thor had been retrieved by his buddies and Teal'c went to visit his family, Carter and he barely exchanged words but rather enjoyed the unplanned and yet very welcome chance to enjoy each other's company, saying a thousand words with just one look or gesture.
The paper in his pocket crinkles as he shifts in his seat and Jack wonders what went so horribly wrong to make his future self write those five words down. They had wanted to change the past, that's for sure, save the world any many others from the Aschen, but what personal reasons did his future self have to risk changing their past even more? To change the status quo Carter and he decided on after the Za'tarc test?
The ambassador, Joe, is the only logical explanation and he tightens his grip on the wheel as he remembers the man. Negotiations aren't Jack's thing, and the ambassador did a pretty good job with the Aschen, especially in the end, but the way he looked at Carter and started to actually flirt with her...
Whatever happened in their future, the ambassador must have been part of it, and in the blackest, most hidden corner of his soul, Jack feels something like grim satisfaction about the ambassador's apparent demise.
“Sir? Are you... okay?”
“Yeah, just... annoyed by those dumb drivers.” His excuse is as flimsy as his smile is fake and Carter isn't fooled at all but instead of asking more questions, she nods understandingly and yet Jack can literally see the wheels turning in her head, trying to figure out what's going on with him, fitting together the pieces of the puzzle called 'Jack O'Neill', and he knows, sooner or later she will see the bigger picture.
It is just his luck that in this second her stomach grumbles, rather loudly, and the affectionate grin he gives her this time is all real, the shadow over his soul retreating into its dark corner.
Jack parks the truck in the driveway before facing her, his eyes narrowed in mock indignation.
“Major, are your trying to give me a run for my money?”
“No.” He gives her a pointed look and she bites her lips, laughter dancing in her eyes. “Sir.”
Chuckling, he steps out but ducks back down into the truck, a rakish smile on his lips. “You, Carter, are clearly spending too much time with me.” Before he disappears from her sight to get her bag, he catches her longing expression and her words, whispered so softly, he thinks he imagines them. “Not enough time, sir, not enough.” The deep sigh that follows, so full of yearning, burns right through him, and he places his palm on the rear window, thoughtfully tracing Carter's blurry silhouette, his other hand brushing against his pocket.
Never let her go. Never.
He is being given something special tonight and he is not going to let it slip through his fingers. He is not going to make the same mistake the future Jack did. Grabbing her bag, he shuts the trunk, and moves to her side of the car, opening the door and offering her his hand.
“C'mon, Carter, let's get you inside before you attack the poor food in my truck.”
They decide to watch Star Wars and blame Teal'c for turning it into their all-time favorite but Jack doesn't mind. Secretly he loves it when Carter starts talking technobabble whenever they watch the trilogies. She had told him once that she just can't help herself, it's written in her DNA or something, he cannot recall her exact words, only the light in her eyes and the happiness on her face.
He returns from the kitchen with two glasses of water and sets them next to the open box of pizza. Carter is already curled up on the couch, the blanket from his armchair wrapped around her, reaching for the pizza, and Jack intercepts her before she can complete her move.
“Ah, ah. You want anything, you tell me and I'll get it, 'kay?”
Giving him a mock salute with the wrong hand, she leans back and then holds up a corner of the blanket, wordlessly offering to share. Once he has wrapped a piece of pizza in a napkin and has joined Carter, he gently pulls her close, waits for any sign of resistance but she comes willingly, until she's nestled by his side.
He presses play on the remote and for a while they are simply enjoying a good movie and the delicious food with Jack poking fun at the Storm Troopers as he always does while Carter falls in love with the Millennium Falcon all over again. Halfway through the movie her head finds a resting place on his shoulder and his hand starts playing with a strand of her hair, wrapping it around his finger. They stay like this until the end credits start to roll but even then neither of them makes a move to get up. Jack's instinct tells him it's time and he's right.
Usually she has a thousand and one things to say about the scientific part of the movie, but now Carter's unnaturally silent and yet he can sense her restlessness.
“I can hear you thinking,” Jack teases her, eliciting a soft laugh as she presses her face against his shirt but it is short lived. He feels her taking a deep breath and when she speaks, she asks the question he expected. “The note from your future self... there is more to it, isn't there? About us?” Leaning down, he rests his chin on top of her head. “Yeah,” he sighs quietly.
“What happened to us?” Carter whispers into the dark, sadness and pain lacing her words, and Jack gives her a gently squeeze. “I don't know but...” he trails off and she draws back slightly, raising her head and tilting it questioningly, waiting for him to continue.
He misses her warmth instantly but as he searches her face, he finds concern, hope and love written in her soft features. It makes him catch his breath and his heart beat faster, fueling his desire for her, and he follows its call, reaches up and cups her cheek, brushing his thumb across her lower lip, the contact sending a spark of intense longing through him and his body tightens as he feels her shiver in response.
“But I do know that we are given a chance here and if a future me tells me, don't let it slip through your fingers, I'm gonna trust myself.” Words aren't his strongest suit but when he's with her, he always finds the right ones. “Sam, I don't want to live in a future that hasn't you in it,” he tells her, his voice deep and raspy.
There is no Major. Or Carter. Just Sam.
“Jack...” she exhales shakily, looking at him with her wide blue eyes, shimmering with tears, and he's going under, drowning in them, in her. With a barely suppressed growl, he slides his hand to the base of her neck, tilting her face up as he leans in, until their foreheads touch, her own hand clutching his raised arm, her fingers curling over his forearm and his skin feels like it is electrified. Their faces are mere inches apart, his unsteady breath raking over her skin, the warm softness of her breath caressing him, and when she whispers softly, he's lost.
He groans, low and deep, and brings his mouth down to hers. The kiss is raw, desperate, his lips moving over hers, wanting more, needing more, and as she moans, his tongue slips into the wet warmth of her mouth, and oh, god, he's finally tasting her again.
Her nails dig into the skin of his forearm, the sensation traveling along his nerves, and he feels a sharp tug of desire in his belly. Pushing the blanket away from behind her, he grasps her hip and carefully pulls her into his lap. Startled Sam, breaks the kiss, braces her hand against his shoulders to keep her balance, and stares down at him.
Her eyes are dazed, the darkest blue he has ever seen, the last time when she's attacked him in the locker room, and the memory causes him to shudder against her. Her eyes slide shut, her teeth biting her lower lip, and he growls her name, blood pounding in his ears.
This time it's her who reaches for him, her hand tangling in his short silver hair at the nape, before she's kissing him senseless, pressing closer, rocking against him. His fingers tighten on her hip in response, and he deepens the kiss, delving deeper into her mouth, sliding his tongue along hers.
Never let her go. Never.
He is not.
The bell sounds over the door, and Douglas grins, getting to his feet. His little shop at the outskirts of the town doesn't get much visitors, not many need to rent a car these days, and he's always happy if there is yet someone who needs his service. Even if it's just to buy sweets or drinks.
“Just a moment.” He rounds the corner and comes to an abrupt stop. “My god, is that you, Jacky-boy?”
“Hey, Doug.” Yes, that smirk and twinkle in his eyes are unique to one Jack O'Neill. Douglas steps further into the room, and takes in the man he has known since he was a kid. Jack O'Neill has come a long way from the scrawny hotshot to a fine-looking Lt. General. “It's been what? Five years?”
Jack looks embarrassed and runs a head through his hair. “I'm sor-”
“Don't, Jack. I know why you haven't been here in that long, your doings are the talk of the town.” Stepping closer to Jack, Douglas reaches up to pat him on the shoulder, smiling. “I'm proud of you and what you've accomplished.”
In that moment a blonde woman steps through the door. “Jack, is Doug- Douglas!” The smile on Douglas' face brightens and he opens his arms. The woman doesn't hesitate stepping into them, embracing him. “My dear girl, it's so good to see you again.”
“Stop flirting with my wife, Doug.”
Laughing silently, Douglas shakes his head. Even after all these years, Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter haven't really changed a bit. They are still in love as they were nine years ago when Jack brought her here for the first time. In fact, their bond only strengthened over the years.
Jack pouts at his wife but she ignores him and turns back to Douglas. “Douglas, I was wondering if you had these yummy little candies again?”
After they're done with their shopping, he brings them to their car, and watches them drive off, Jack waving until they're around the corner. Douglas is really happy everything worked out for them.
A cool breeze drifts across the street, dark clouds gathering at the horizon, and for a moment there is a dark, cold shadow brushing along Douglas' mind but before he can grasp it, it's gone again and he dismisses the feeling.
Well, he should get in and secure the windows.
Looks like it's going to rain soon.
- END -