Sam barely got five steps around the corner before she stopped dead. Seeing him again, seeing how he'd changed, and not changed, since... since she'd walked away from him. It hurt.
She whipped around to find Jack behind her. "I..."
Sam sighed, and dropped her gaze away from his. "I can't seem to walk away from you again."
Jack headed for the door to his cabin, determined to stop her before she started. "Just go."
"Jack, I-" Seeing he was about to close the door on her, she rushed forward and stopped him with one foot, causing him to turn back to her in surprise. "Don't you ever wonder what life might have been like?"
"I try not to."
"I do. Everyday."
This time she stopped him from walking away with one hand on his arm. He shrugged her off. "If we're gonna do this, we're gonna do it inside. Doesn't feel like a sunshine conversation."
She followed him in, peeling off her jacket and laying it on a nearby chair. "Jack, I-"
"Why are you doing this, Sam? Why now? Because you can afford to? Because you're about to turn back time?"
"Because I've lost count of the number of times I've wanted to find you, talk to you. Explain. And now I'm here... Like I said, I couldn't walk away. Not without trying. I didn't plan this."
"This conversation. This situation. This life. Take your pick."
"You think I did?"
"I know it was my fault."
"TOO DAMNED RIGHT IT WAS YOUR FAULT!" Sam took an involuntary step backwards, not ready for his sudden outburst. "All you had to do was trust me," he continued in a quieter, somehow angrier tone. "If anyone should have trusted my instincts, given me a chance, it was my wife."
"You know what? I can't do this. Go home. Go back to Joe. Go back to your real husband."
"I'm not sure I know who my real husband is."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"There are times, you know, when I forget this ever happened. I wake up wrapped around my husband, only it's not my husband. Or at least, not the one I thought it was. We never divorced."
"Sam, we were never really married."
"Sometimes it's like that world isn't real, can't be real, because I can't be married to two people at the same time and I married you first. But you're not there." She held up a hand to stop the interruption she knew was coming. "And I know that's my fault, and I should have trusted you. I know that for sure now, as much as I knew I should have at least given you a chance back then. But it was so easy... easy to get caught up in it all. So tempting to believe it would all be over. I thought if things would just work out, if we could beat the Goa'uld, it wouldn't matter that I'd proven you wrong because we could finally tell everyone. Everyone. Then we beat them, but it was too late. You were gone."
"You had Joe."
"Not until later. I knew he wanted more, but despite everything I never let him get close until you were gone. Until long after you were gone."
"You invited me to the wedding."
"Did you ever think that maybe I was giving you one last chance to stop me?"
"Not consciously," she admitted. "But I know you could have."
"I do not need to hear this."
"I think you do."
"Well, if you make this time thing work, maybe next time I'll try."
"I don't know what else there is to say."
Sam looked at him long and hard, trying to read what was in his eyes, but at some point in the preceding years he'd closed himself off to her. She hadn't even noticed when. Shaking her head, she couldn't remember why she'd started this conversation. She didn't have time for anything, there was no point in trying to explain. Not now. She had to get back. She turned around, picked up her jacket and headed out of the door.
As she walked away, Jack called out to her one last time. "Sam! I have to know. Do you love Joe?"
Turning back to face him, she answered, "I love him. I married him."
"I love you. I always will."
She should be in there.
She should be with them.
Janet would be 'gating out about now. Soon Teal'c would arrive, and he, Daniel and Jack would get this done.
She didn't know if it was harder to believe that he had shown up, or that she had ever doubted he would.
She should be in there.
She should be with him.
As Joe came out to join her, she knew she wouldn't be leaving as he'd wanted. She'd played along long enough for him to do his part.
"Alright, let's go."
"I'm staying, you go if you want to."
Joe grabbed Sam's arm, and attempted to pull her with him. "Come on, Sam, we gotta go."
She pulled away from him. Did he seriously believe she could leave them now? "Joe, don't."
"Sam, listen... We'll work this out, alright? But right now I think it's best for both of us if we're very far away from here."
"If they manage to do this it will not matter where we are."
"Then it won't matter that you weren't here!"
"It matters to me! It matters if they need me, and I'm not there. "
"This is about him, isn't it?"
"This is about Jack."
"It's about saving this planet."
"This isn't you anymore. You moved on, it's not your job."
"It is my job, it always was. I'm supposed to back him up. I'm supposed to be right there by his side."
"Sam, he gave up any right to your support when he packed up and left the SGC. I don't know exactly what happened back then and I don't want to. I know he hurt you, and that's enough of a reason for you not to risk your life trying to help him!"
"I didn't listen, wasn't there for him. He did. He is. I have to."
"You're not making any sense. What do you mean you didn't listen, he-"
"It was my fault, Joe!" she shouted. "I won't make the same mistake twice!"
Sam broke away and ran in to help her husband, ignoring Joe's desperate cries to stop her.
Jack sat in his office staring at the note, now protected by a layer of clear plastic. He didn't know how long he'd been sitting there, and didn't move until a knock and a voice at his door caught his attention.
"Sir? Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, Carter." She walked in and closed the door behind her, earning her a raised eyebrow and a questioning, "Carter?"
"I know, but I just can't get any work done. I can't stop thinking about what that note might mean." She looked down at her hands, clasped in front of her. "I thought maybe if I talked to you it would help."
Trying not to glance over his shoulder at the security camera, Jack indicated to the seat on the other side of his desk. "Okay, sit down."
"What's up with you? Why are you so jumpy?"
"I don't know, I... Yeah, you're right. It's just... I don't think you've come in here and shut the door since before-"
"The Zatarc thing," Sam interrupted.
"And rightly so. We need to be more careful."
"Or we could be too careful. It's not unusual for a CO to meet with his second behind closed doors."
"And it's not as if the walls have ears."
Jack laughed. "Eyes, yes, but no ears."
Sam's laugh joined his, but was a little more restrained. Her mind was still on what had brought her to see her husband. She looked down at the note, still in his hands even now. "You've been thinking about it too."
"I've been wondering... what did we give up to send that? Things must have been bad for us, for me, to consider doing something as drastic as altering the timeline, but I can't believe it was all bad. What do you think we gave up?"
"You're assuming you were even there. There's nothing on the note to say that."
"Who else do you know who'd have had half an idea how to pull off sending a note back in time?"
Jack thought for a second. "Okay, it's fair to say you were there. And since you asked, what do you think we gave up?"
"Our future. A life where we could tell people what we mean to each other. Our own home. Children. A dog."
Jack didn't offer her any answer, and his silence unnerved Sam. She thought back over what she'd just said, then paled. "Jack, I'm sorry, I know we haven't-. I'm making assumptions about what you might want, and we haven't talked about any of it."
"There's a lot of assumptions in there."
"You know, we don't know how far into the future that note came from. We might still have been in the situation we are now, you might still have been my CO."
"Or not. There's any number of reasons we might have wanted to turn back time, from the Goa'uld to who knows what other situations there are out there. But there's one thing that would have made me more likely to try it."
"If I'd lost you."
Sam looked confused. "We already agreed I was there."
"There, helping with the note, yes. That we were together is another assumption."
"Jack, don't be stupid. Nothing could take me away from you, you know that."
Jack took one last look at the note, before tossing it onto his desk. "I do. It's just that..."
*COLONEL O'NEILL TO THE GATE ROOM, REPEAT, COLONEL O'NEILL TO THE GATE ROOM.*
Jack got up and hurried out of the door, not looking at Sam as he went past her. Rather than following him, she picked up the note and turned it over in her hands.
She simply couldn't imagine any future in which they weren't together. So long as they were both alive, and it seemed to them both that this note was proof that they were, she would be with him. With one last look, she put it back on his desk, and got up to head back to her lab.
Jack was worrying about nothing.