The Grace of God
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
The corridors were quiet as Samantha Carter walked down the hallway toward Colonel O'Neill's office, even as she wondered if she was doing the right thing. She had some very specific questions regarding `her twin', the woman who had come through the Quantum Mirror looking for sanctuary, and she knew that her commanding officer would be the best person to answer those questions. But she also knew that she could be crossing a line that was better left untouched, and this caused her intense worry as she got closer to her destination.
She slowed her pace as she got closer, suddenly developing second thoughts as she neared the door. What was she thinking? The one thing she wanted to know more than anything brought on doubts and fears of total rejection, not to mention being totally inappropriate to even bring up in the first place, but she had to know exactly what was going on between the Colonel and Dr. Carter. They had kissed and Sam wondered, not for the first time, who it was he was really kissing.
The door to his office was slightly open and Sam stopped just outside, steeling her resolve in order to get up the nerve to follow through on her intentions. She took a deep breath, then knocked while at the same time peeking in around the door, looking to see if he was alone.
"Colonel O'Neill?" she queried, proud that her voice didn't betray her.
"Come in Carter," the Colonel responded. She pushed the door open and stopped short as she stared at the structure occupying a large portion of his desk, and at the Colonel who was bent over, carefully placing another domino piece in its place of honor. He looked up at her once the piece was in place and smiled at her, sending a thrill down her spine, which she studiously tried to ignore. He was her commanding officer and she was not supposed to have feelings any deeper than of friendship and camaraderie, but her heart sometimes refused to cooperate with common sense.
Get a grip, Sam, she thought, even as she smiled back at him. "This is fantastic, sir!" she praised, as she came in to get a better look at the monument. "You must have put in a lot of time building it."
"You think so?" the Colonel asked, the smug look on his face saying it all. "Actually, I've only just started it this morning, but the sad part about all this is that I've just about run out of dominoes. I was thinking about going on another search to see if I can find more." He stopped talking, as he looked at her thoughtfully. "You wouldn't just happen to have any on you, would you?"
"No sir," Sam said, as she continued to admire the construction laid out in formation on his desk. "Pretty impressive," she added.
"Thanks," he replied. He was also looking at the structure, and Sam could tell he was thinking about where to put the next domino.
"Uh... sir? Do you have a minute?" she asked tentatively.
"Sure," he said, as he moved in to place the next domino into a very strategic position. "What's up?"
"Well sir, I was wondering if maybe we could... well, you know..." she stopped then, only to find that he had turned his attention to her, and she sighed while looking away. What a coward, she thought, just a little ashamed. She turned back to him to face him head on and said, "I'd like to talk to you about Doctor Carter."
"Ah," he said, as he nodded his head and gave her a small smile, "Doctor Carter." She nodded at him, then watched as he turned his attention to the domino he held in his hand. "What about her?" he asked, as he went back to studying his construction.
"Well sir," she said, feeling extremely uncomfortable now that she had brought it up. The doubts and fears were moving up to the forefront, and Sam took a deep breath to push them back again. She was here and had already dropped the bomb; she might as well stay to find out if the bomb succeeded in doing its damage. "I was just wondering..." Oh Sam, she thought, irritation moving in to replace the doubts and fears, just say it already. "I saw you kissing her, and I was just wondering what was going on between you two."
His attention was back on her again, and Sam suddenly felt like hightailing it out of there. Instead, she stood her ground and waited for his response, hoping he wouldn't start yelling at her for butting into his business. "There wasn't anything between us, Carter," the Colonel said, as he stood there staring at her in surprise. "Apparently, she was married to the Jack O'Neill in her reality and he had died a few days before she activated the mirror." He went back to analyzing his work of art, as he continued, "She was thinking that I could be the same guy."
"Married," Sam said quietly. Her counterpart had been married to Jack O'Neill, and this woman was jealous of Sam? What a joke!
She watched the Colonel as he continued to study his creation, then placed the domino carefully into it. He straightened up and grabbed another domino, glancing over at her as he did. "Do you know where I might find some more of these beauties?" he asked her, with a look on his face that seemed to dare her to continue with her conversation. She had seen that look before. It was clear that he didn't want to talk about it, but Sam needed to know.
"No sir," she said dejectedly, all the while wondering what to say without irritating the man. She tried to smile at him as she said, "It must have been weird hearing that the other Jack O'Neill was married to the other Sam Carter."
"Yeah," he said gruffly, glancing at her briefly before going back to studying his masterpiece. "Weird," he added.
Well, this is going great, Sam thought sarcastically. She stood there for another minute, gathering the strength she needed to get the answers to her questions, then squared her shoulders. "With all due respect, sir, why did you kiss her?"
He finally turned to face her, giving her his full attention as he stared at her incredulously. "For your information, Major," he said, as he put extra emphasis on her rank, "She kissed me. As to why, I can only assume it was to thank me." He was glaring at her now, and she knew she had overstepped her bounds when he asked, "When did my actions become any of your business?"
"I apologize, sir," Sam said, hoping she could calm him down. He rarely, if ever, got mad at her and she found that she didn't like this attitude now. "I was just wondering if maybe you were...," she stopped, then looked away, the glare on her face directed solely at her own cowardice, "I was wondering if you were maybe thinking of me when she kissed you." She could feel the heat in her face as she suffered through an acute bout of embarrassment, but it was what she had come here to find out. She stood there staring at the dominoes on the desk, unable to look at him now that she had practically admitted her feelings for her superior. God, she was in so much trouble. What the hell had she been thinking?
He didn't respond, and this troubled her. She dared a glance, only to see that he was staring at her in shock. She went back to staring at the dominoes that were laid out so intricately on the desk, and wondered if she had just destroyed the career she had worked so hard for.
"Sir," she began, knowing that she had to get out of there and fast. "I'm sorry, sir. That was highly inappropriate." She stood there, blinking back the tears that were threatening to fall; his silence seemed to tell her everything. "I'll just leave you to your dominoes."
She turned to rush out of the room, but was stopped when he called out, "Carter." She stopped, momentarily staring at the door - she had almost made it - then turned to face the reprimand that she knew was coming. He stared at her for a moment, leaving Sam to wonder what he was thinking. At least he didn't look like he was angry, she thought. Maybe she would be able to hang out in the SGC for a while longer, after all.
"She was having a hard time dealing with her loss," the Colonel said, as he stared back at her. "Maybe she thought I could replace him, or be him, but I couldn't be the man she had married, anymore than you could be happy living her life." Sam nodded her head, knowing he was right, but he wasn't finished with what he had wanted to say. "We are who we are and what circumstances in our lives have made us to be. There's no way I could be who she wanted me to be."
Sam wasn't quite sure how to respond to that, but apparently her response wasn't expected. He looked down at the domino he held in his hand, then looked up to smile at her, "It was just a kiss."
"Yes sir," Sam said, knowing that she was better off keeping the rest of her thoughts to herself. "I apologize again for bothering you with this."
The Colonel just nodded his head, as he sent her a small smile. "Forget about it," he told her.
As if she could, she thought sadly. She had watched the man she wanted kiss another woman, and she had no right to complain about it. In fact, she had no right to want him in the way she wanted him. Fraternization with her commanding officer was severely frowned upon by the regulations and Sam had no desire to face a court martial just because she had a crush on her superior. The worst part of this whole mess is that she really wasn't sure if he had any deep feelings for her - now that would be the ultimate embarrassing faux pas, professing her feelings to him only to have him reject her with politeness and pity.
"If you'll excuse me sir?" she asked, figuring now would be a good time to make her getaway.
"Sure," he responded, as he nodded at her sadly, leaving her to wonder about the sadness. Maybe he did have some feelings for her, but couldn't tell her because of the regulations. She didn't ask, knowing she had already embarrassed herself way too much, as it was. She left his office instead, as much in the dark as when she entered it. She was nowhere near finding out if he felt even the slightest bit of something more than friendship for her. This was something she would probably never know.
"Carter!" Colonel O'Neill yelled after her, causing her to stop and turn toward him. He had stuck his head out of his office doorway and motioned for her to return to the scene of her crime. She walked back toward his office, hoping that he hadn't changed his mind and was surprised when he pulled her in and shut the door. She was even more surprised when he pushed her up against the door, then moved in closer to kiss her. She let him and she returned the kiss, greedily taking what he had to offer. His lips were soft, as he pressed them tightly against hers, and she forgot all about her fears and doubts as he kissed her with a passion she had only dreamed about.
The kiss ended too soon, as far as Sam was concerned, but she knew it was something they shouldn't have done in the first place. She waited for the Colonel to say something, anything to alleviate her worries, but he kept his silence, as he cupped her face in his hand and rubbed his thumb across her cheek.
"Sir?" she asked, wondering what he was thinking.
"That was for taking care of me in Antarctica," he finally said, as he smiled at her. He let her go and stepped back from her, then told her, "I'd also like to thank you for helping me out when that orb thingy speared me to the wall and for coming back for me when Hathor's snake and I were stuck in that freezer, as well as all the other times you came through for me, but we'd be here all night, and we both know what would happen then." He smiled at her as she blushed, then said, "We can't ever let it come to that."
"I know sir," she replied, wishing things could be different. Their military roles kept them apart and Sam couldn't help the jealousy that swept through her as she thought about the alternate reality Samantha Carter, who had known and loved Jack O'Neill freely, without any constraints, something Sam would never know, not unless she or the Colonel resigned or transferred out.
"She was envious of me," Sam said, voicing her thoughts out loud. "We had figured out how to keep the Goa'uld from attacking our reality, while she was unable to." She stared into the Colonel's eyes as she added, "She was jealous of me, when she was the one who was married to Jack O'Neill." She stopped then, as angry tears welled up in her eyes. "Where's the justice in that?"
"Sam," the Colonel said softly, as he struggled to find the words he needed. "You're not missing out on anything. I'm not such a great catch. I mean, look at me. I'm in here playing with dominoes while I should be writing a mission report. Responsibility at its finest," he said sarcastically.
Sam just stared at him, not quite sure if she should tell him that this was one of the things she loved about him. His playful attitude kept her balanced, especially when he would insist that she take her work life a little easier, to not work so hard. It had become a standing joke between them, he would chastise her for being a workaholic and she would tell him that her work was `fun', just to tease him. But she kept her silence on that topic and brought up her own thoughts on the subject of his character. "I have to disagree with you, sir," she said, hoping her words wouldn't be taken the wrong way, "But you are an admirable man who has proven many times over that you are a valuable leader, as well as someone who cares about others and would die for people you don't even know. Besides," she said, as a smile showed up in her eyes, "You can build a fortress with dominoes without them toppling all over the place. If that isn't a description for a wonderful man, I don't know what is."
He grinned back at her, then turned to stare critically at his creation. "It was supposed to be a house, not a fortress." He turned to look at her, while his smile grew wider, "I like the term fortress better. It sounds more elaborate."
"Yes sir," she responded, feeling much better now that they had this talk.
They stared at each other for a minute, before Sam made an effort, "I guess I should leave you to your masterpiece," she said, as she continued to stare into his eyes. She was mesmerized, but this was something they were going to have to keep to themselves. Sam knew that she could do that. Lord knows, she's had enough practice at it. She smiled at him, then finally broke eye contact and turned toward the door. She opened the door, then stopped and turned toward him one last time. "Thank you, sir, for this talk," she said.
He nodded at her, then said, "You're welcome, Carter."
Sam shut the door as she departed, shutting out the implications of what could have been. Dr. Carter had him and lost him, while Sam didn't have him, but was able to continue to see him. They had made their choices in life, and although Sam was still a little jealous of her counterpart, she wouldn't trade places with her for anything. Sam's involvement with SG-1 had saved her reality from Apophis, while Dr. Carter's reality was nearly destroyed, all because of the choices made. Sam knew better than anyone how close she had come to making the wrong choice all those years ago, and sent up silent thanks to the God she had been raised to honor. The phrase, "There but for the grace of God", held a more personal meaning to her now and Sam basked in the knowledge that she had made the right choice for herself, just as Dr. Carter did when she chose to walk through the Quantum Mirror, ultimately gaining the knowledge and technology to save her own reality, what was left of it, that is.
There were an infinite number of alternate realities, all interwoven within themselves and Sam couldn't even begin to comprehend what her alter egos were doing at any given moment in time, but she knew that it all really didn't matter. It was the choices and decisions she made in this one that mattered to her and she could only hope that the ones she made were the right ones.
She smiled as she thought about the decision she and the Colonel had made in regard to a closer relationship between them - there wouldn't be one, at least not in the near future. They were both needed to fight this war, and with the regulations forcing them to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, an intimate relationship was out of the question. They would just have to settle with the friendship that they had developed over the years, as well as the close bond between them that seemed to span through all the alternate realities out there. It seemed that it was her destiny to be a part of Jack O'Neill's life, and she smiled as she realized that she could live with that. There was still a chance somewhere down the road that one or the other would transfer or quit, and Sam chose to believe there still could be something out there for her. In the meantime, she would go on as she always had, being the perfect soldier, all the while waiting for her chance to get what she really wanted.
Sam couldn't help but smile as she made her way toward her lab. She was glad that she had confronted the Colonel. She now had the answer to her question, and then some, she thought, as she remembered the kiss she and the Colonel had shared.
Her thoughts were interrupted when she saw Daniel Jackson and Teal'c heading her way. She smiled at her friends, remembering their role in her life. Daniel smiled back as Teal'c bowed his head in greeting. "If you guys are headed toward Colonel O'Neill's office," she told them with a smile, "Find some dominoes to take with you. He's building a fortress with them."
"A fortress?' Daniel asked.
"What are dominoes?" Teal'c wanted to know, causing Sam and Daniel to smile at each other.
"You'll see," Daniel said, as he continued on his way. Sam smiled at them as they left, then turned to walk the rest of the way to her lab alone.
Yep, she was glad that she had made those choices all those years ago. The Colonel was right, she was much better off in this reality, although she was still jealous of Doctor Carter. Nothing short of marrying her own Jack O'Neill was going to chase away the envy, but she was definitely happier now that she had that talk with the Colonel. Now all she had to do was to convince her heart what her mind already knew. This shouldn't be too hard; after all she had been doing a good job of it for some time now.
She smiled grimly at that thought. Sometimes life as an Air Force Officer was for the birds.
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