Title: Learning The
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Category: Ficlet, Gen, Missing Scene
Pairings: S/J – but not ship
Content Warnings: None
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Lawsuit judgments will be paid in stray kittens. Seriously.
Summary: Sam and Jack air their differences. Set directly at the end of Revelations, wherein Jack insisted the remaining members of SG-1 take the mission to assist the Asgard.
Author's Note: From the first time I saw Revelations, I wondered how Carter and O’Neill could have gone from such conflict back to relative cohesion so effortlessly. Maybe we just didn’t get to see the effort.
Huge and sincere thanks to fabulous betas Jolene and kellifer.
Thanks to the timely arrival of the Asgard version of the cavalry, the trip home from the Adara system was a lot faster than the journey out had been. Somehow, it had just seemed wrong to have faced certain death light years from home and just three hours and a fresh change of clothes later, they had finished a verbal report. Then again, lately nothing had felt right to Sam.
By the time the general wrapped up the briefing and left them to their own devices, Sam’s adrenaline surge had long since ebbed away and her head had begun to ache. As she tried to dredge up the will to stand and leave the room, she realized this was the post-mission point where the four of them would customarily make plans to either meet up or just make tracks for their respective homes. After any other mission, Sam would be looking for distraction, Teal’c would be just looking forward to the next mission, the Colonel would be hungry and Daniel would be up for anything.
Except, now he wouldn’t.
The memory surged back to the forefront of her mind, socked her in the gut, seized her breath and made her eyes sting.
Sam quickly looked around the table to see if anyone had noticed her abrupt shift of emotional gears. Her eyes landed on Teal’c, who was looking intently at O’Neill. The colonel was already up and halfway to the door, but had paused and was looking back at the two of them, his head cocked in silent question
Teal’c turned his gaze toward Sam, apparently deferring to her decision, but what was she supposed to be deciding?
The moment she realized that the colonel meant to follow the custom without Daniel, Sam felt the last straw land squarely on her. All of her outrage and frustration was set free and blinding anger replaced grief as she found her second wind, shot from her seat and whirled away from the table and her remaining teammates. She raced to the stairwell and down, her boots making a sound as hollow as she felt.
O’Neill’s approach to the doorway of Daniel’s lab was as soundless as his approach to the locker room and Sam’s lab had been. Seeing a dim light spill from the open doorway, he guessed she was there even before he leaned around the doorjamb to make visual confirmation.
The bookcase lights were dim, casting her face in long shadow as she leaned one hip on the island worktop. The dark turtleneck she wore underscored her tired pallor. She was staring at a journal in her hands, her fingers brushing up and down the spine. O’Neill stepped out of the shadowed doorway and into the muted light, but she saw nothing but the sight in her mind’s eye.
“Carter,” he said finally.
Startled, Sam fumbled the book and nearly dropped it onto the counter. Taking a moment to process her surprise that he had come after her, she glared at him and replied guardedly, “Sir.”
“Thought you might be headed home;” he said with a nod toward her coat lying on a stool near the door.
“I was. I stopped here first.” Her hand curled protectively around the journal’s spine. “I thought I…ah… left something.”
“Did you find it?”
As she had stood in Daniel’s office alone, the low light and quiet had worked wonders on her nerves. She had felt some equilibrium return and the anger recede. The blatancy of O’Neill’s baiting made her pulse quicken and the pounding in her head pick up the tempo once again. She simply jerked her head in the negative, willing him to leave.
“Come on, I’ll walk down with you,” he offered, waving a hand toward the deserted hall.
“Thank you, but I’ll go in a minute, sir.” Turning away from him, radiating enmity, she laid the book on the counter and picked up a colorful figurine. Most of the time, she was able to deal with conflict with him by means of sheer avoidance. You can’t have a fight when only one person is swinging. She was trying valiantly to rob O’Neill of the war he obviously wanted to wage, but this time she was dangerously close to engaging. Unfortunately, he knew it, too.
Her last hope of avoiding him died as he dropped his jacket on the end of the counter and advanced two steps further into the room. It was two steps too far for her, and she moved further down the counter. Her hands kept busy rearranging the items and swiping imaginary dust to the floor.
“If you tell me what you lost, I’ll help you look for it…” His voice was gently cajoling, but she recognized it for what it was: a gauntlet. “Wanna tell me what it looks like?”
Jack watched her jaw flex as she throttled her first response and fell back on protocol. “Thank you, no sir.”
Sam had never been on the receiving end of this gambit, but she knew the pattern. When the opportunity presented itself, he would draw a confrontation out, play with the enemy a bit before the pin down and then the kill. Sam was far too close to losing control for her comfort. Desperate to avoid engaging him, she suddenly swept her arm out and placed a shard of clay tablet back on the countertop.
“If you’ll excuse me, sir, I remembered there’s someone I need to talk to.” She spoke past him, hoping the element of surprise would buy her enough time to get out the door. In one swift motion she removed her coat from the stool and made her move on the door.
Two long strides placed him squarely in her path, bare inches away. “Someone? I’m someone. Some people think so, anyway.” He grinned but a steely tone belied his jocular manner. The smile he wore never met his eyes.
She knew he was trying to rattle her by his physical proximity, and God help her, it was working. Her fight-or-flight instinct kicked in, and for a moment ‘fight’ was winning.
Sanity made a comeback, and she considered a dodge around him. Knowing that maneuver would be futile as well, it was discarded. “No thank you, sir.” She shrugged the coat on and fussed with the collar.
“Don’t want to talk after all?” he paused, “Or don’t want to talk to me?”
They stood nearly toe to toe, and Sam felt her control slip. She knew that the only way to win this confrontation he was obviously after was not to give it to him. She wanted so badly to win this one, or more importantly, for him to lose.
“I can order you to talk to me, you know. Just in case you forgot, in all the excitement.”
Her outrage spiked. “I wouldn’t call the loss of my friend and our teammate excitement, exactly. Sir.” Even though she knew he was baiting her, she couldn’t help the snap in her salutation.
She knew he didn’t miss that she referred to Daniel’s friendship in the singular.
“And I haven’t forgotten for a moment, sir. You do what you feel you have to do,” she said defiantly.
“You need to get over this, Carter.” His words shattered the last of her resolve.
“Get over this? Get over this?! What, like not getting that pony for Christmas when I was twelve? Pardon me if I don’t break into a chorus of ‘So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Ya’, Colonel!” she snapped.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. I’m talking about the mission.”
“Exactly what about the mission, sir? I was required by my commanding officers to participate. I came, I saw, I fought,” she continued. “If you have issues with my performance and wish to reprimand me, you should be doing it via official channels, sir.”
“Yes, Carter, I’m well aware of your participation in the mission,” he replied cynically. “Yes, your body was there, but it was apparent that part of you wasn’t. This is the first mission we’ve ever had where I felt you weren’t backing me up.”
“Backing you up?” They were standing toe to toe and though she was in the red zone here, she couldn’t make herself move away yet. His proximity was making it very hard for her to maintain the higher ground. “As in assisting you, supporting you, defending you. You know how they say ‘there’s no I in TEAM’, sir? Well there’s no U either,” she bit out. Finally she took two steps backward and glared at him defiantly.
“C’mon, Carter, lay it on me.” Growling his challenge, he stalked toward her obliterating the small distance she’d gained. Still fighting the urge to engage him physically, she moved to the other side of the desk. “Tell me one single thing I could have done differently that would change how this all went down!” he barked at her. “Just one!”
“There was nothing you could have done differently, but that’s not the point, is it? The point isn’t what you did; it’s how you felt. Or, more to the point, how you didn’t! And how you think the rest of us shouldn’t, either!” Shouting now, she threw her arms wide in frustration. As openly hostile as he had ever seen her, in her anguish, anger and exhaustion, she erupted.
“Explain something to me, sir, because I just don’t get it!” Each word was a missile. “I do not understand how you can curse the Goa’uld with one breath and act so much like them with the next!”
Her words scored a direct hit and wiped the last trace of cavalier attitude from him. “What the hell are you talking about?” he shouted.
She gathered herself and sprang. “Do you even know why you’re so angry with me? Why you keep pushing me on this?” No pause was spared for a response. “Because you can’t make me stop mourning. You can’t make me shut it off and move along like nothing ever happened!”
“The Air Force seems to think I’m okay. What family I have left loves me, and I can claim to have a friend or two. Well, one less now,” she added sarcastically. “I’m not hearing complaints from anybody else about how I need to change who I am to better suit them. So tell me, what do you find so wrong with me that you feel like you have to turn ME into YOU?”
“Still waiting to hear how the Goa’uld tie into this theory of yours, Carter,” he snarled.
Having abandoned all resistance, she left the safety of the opposite side of the table. “Easy. How does a Goa’uld get to be a system lord? They take their subjects and constrain them in every way; even what they think and what they feel, so they’ll blindly obey every command and never question. Every aspect of their lives is dictated to them by their egotistic masters. Sound familiar?" She paused only for breath. "Got news for you: my body and my work may belong to the Air Force, but what I feel still belongs to me.”
Her clenched right fist moved suddenly in an uppercut motion and he flinched, not at all sure she wouldn’t swing at him. The fist completed its arc to rap on the center of her chest. “How I feel about Daniel, about you, this war, everything, is all mine. And it’s eating you alive that there’s a part of me you can’t subjugate.” Shaking and wide-eyed, she stabbed a finger in his direction as she spoke. “So, I really want to know! How can you rail against them for doing the same thing you’re trying to do to me?”
His face had turned gray and hard, his eyes gleamed, and he took another step toward her. Not a muscle in her moved but to draw rapid, shaky breath. “So I’m a Goa’uld for wanting to move on, get past Daniel’s death and keep fighting?”
“No. I want that, too,” she rejoined instantly. “I’m just not willing to give up every last thing I am that would make it worth the fight.” It was far too late for pulling punches now, and she wasn’t done. “I’m sorry, *sir*, but something of this host remains.”
The colonel jerked ramrod straight and opened his mouth to speak but pulled himself up short.
Flustered for letting herself go so far, Sam broke eye contact with him as she moved once more toward the door. She grabbed up the coat from the worktop and draped it over her arm. As she made her escape, she took one last shot. “Thank God Daniel got out before you could complete your mission with him.”
O’Neill reeled in her angry wake, sick to his stomach and head pounding. Resisting the urge to start throwing things at the wall, he reached across the counter for his coat and found empty space. His coat was no longer on the counter, but in Carter’s angry grasp.
Sam rocketed away from Daniel’s lab, afraid the Colonel would attempt to draw her back. Shaking from their brutal confrontation, tears threatened and she wanted nothing more than to get in the elevator, out of the mountain and away from O’Neill.
She arrived at the elevator and pressed the call button. As blazing hot as the rest of her felt, her hands were ice cold. She rubbed them together, but it didn’t seem to help. As she tried to steady her breathing and calm her racing heart, she absently unfolded the coat she carried and attempted to slide her arm into the sleeve. Encountering difficulty getting her arm in, she shook the coat out and tried again. Still her arm would not go down the sleeve. She dragged her attention away from the elevator indicator light and focused on finding out why she couldn’t manage to get her own coat on.
The reason became immediately apparent; she was already wearing her coat. The garment she was trying vainly to put on belonged to Colonel O’Neill.
“Oh my God,” she gasped. She held his coat out at arm’s length and stared at it in panic.
O’Neill stood and stared at the counter where his coat had been. His first instinct had been to rush after her, whether to retrieve his coat or continue their angry discussion, he didn’t know. Her livid accusation had left a stinging welt on his soul, and he wasn’t sure he could trust himself not to retaliate.
His head still spun with the things she had accused him of. A Goa’uld? What the hell? How dare she! The very thought made his stomach churn and his teeth clench.
He turned and headed for the door with the intention to catch up with her and settle the issue once and for all. Rank alone should have prevented her from talking to him like that. If he wanted them to take on a mission, there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it and it was about time she got that through her head. If she was going to start questioning direct orders, then she should damn well find herself another team…
He stopped in the doorway, stunned by dawning realization. “Oh, crap,” he said softly.
Sam’s mind spun wildly as she stared at the Colonel’s coat. What on Earth was she going to do with it? She didn’t see any coat racks conveniently sprouting up anywhere, and she couldn’t very well just leave it lying on the floor in the hallway.
That left the only other option, to return to Daniel’s lab and give it back. “Oh yeah, sure,” she muttered to herself incredulously, “Funny thing, sir, I called you an evil parasite then stole your coat and ran away. Aren’t I just a pill? Buh bye now.”
How could she face him again so soon, and after what she’d said? She’d rather go back to Netu. At least there she had a chance of getting out alive.
O’Neill swiped a hand over his face wearily, then dragged a stool over to the counter and dropped onto it. Most of him was still furious over what she had said to him, but he couldn’t deny how he’d pushed her. He shook his head with disbelief at the level of animosity they’d demonstrated.
With a jagged sigh, he looked at the door she had fled through moments ago, then lay his head on the cool worktop.
After a frantic internal debate, Sam arrived back at the door of the lab. She was both surprised and relieved she hadn’t encountered the Colonel in the hallway. She paused to wish fervently that somehow he’d left the area without her knowledge, then stepped through the lab door.
The sight of O’Neill hunched over the table made her flinch. She briefly entertained the thought of tossing his coat on the counter and running like hell, but her dignity wouldn’t let her. She shifted from one foot to another and took the plunge.
“Sir,” she said softly. She flinched again when his head shot up off the counter.
“What, did you think of some other nasty thing you could compare me to?” he asked sharply.
She’d expected this. “Sir, I…”
“Sir, please,” she tried again.
“Donald Trump’s hair?”
Stung anew, Sam flung his coat on the counter and spun toward the door.
“Carter, wait!” The defeated tone of his voice stopped her flight. She turned back, frustration etched in her face. “Was there something else?” he added softly.
Warily she gestured at his coat. “I accidentally picked up your jacket, sir. I’m sorry.”
“That’s not all you’ve picked up,” he said, rising from the stool.
Ok, now he’d lost her. “Pardon me, sir?”
“Somewhere along the way you’ve picked up some bad habits, like speaking your mind. Loudly. I suspect your CO may be a bad influence.”
Her cheeks bloomed full of color. “Ah, about that, sir…”
“We don’t know for sure Daniel’s actually dead.”
She ducked her head, remembering her conversation with the General in this room. “While I agree there’s room for argument there, sir, the end result is the same, isn’t it?” Tears welled up suddenly, and her throat threatened to close. “He still suffered horribly. And even with all the advances we’ve made, everything we’ve gone through, not one of us could do anything to help him. He’s still gone.”
He shook his head slightly, then looked her squarely in the eye. “You’ve got to find a way to deal with not being able to save him.”
“And you’ve got to find a way to stop punishing the rest of us for not hating him like you did!” she retorted, startled he had seen through her so easily.
“I didn’t…don’t…hate Daniel. I never did!” he shouted. “It’s just that in his gusto to discover… everything… he was just so reckless sometimes! I was afraid he was going to blunder into something that would get him, or someone else, or all of us killed!”
“Honest to God, I swear,” he went on more calmly, “I just wanted him to exercise a little caution. Tone it down, back off and think things through a little. I just wanted him to be…” he lowered his head, huffing wry laughter at what he was about to say. “…a little more like me.”
He kept his eyes on the floor and waited for some well-deserved scathing remark. When she remained silent, he began to turn away but she reached a hand out and touched his arm. He looked cautiously back at her face.
“Daniel reacted instantly in a dangerous situation. He sacrificed his life to save thousands of people who will never know his name or what he gave for them,” she said softly. “He was a lot more like you than you think.”
He enfolded her hand with his own momentarily. She gave his arm a squeeze and moved a short distance away.
“Well, ah, if you don’t mind, sir,” she said tentatively, “I’ll wait until tomorrow to sign those insubordination charges.”
“Oh, hell, I probably won’t get to them before next week or so. I’ll let you know,” he replied with a bit of smirk.
Before either one of them had a chance to speak again, they heard footsteps in the hall. Momentarily, General Hammond joined them in the murky lab. “Colonel,” he nodded. “Major, I thought I might find you here.”
O’Neill took that as his cue to leave. “I told Teal’c I’d meet up with him, he’s probably thinking I stood him up.” He gave Sam a pointed look as he picked up his jacket from the counter top. “Wouldn’t want to lose my coat.”
Only a widening of her eyes betrayed her chagrin. With a
small smile, he headed off to find the
“You wanted to see me, General?” she asked with apprehension. Even if someone had overheard their exchange, surely he couldn’t have heard about it already?
“I just wanted to check in, see how you were doing. I really didn’t like sending you into the field under those conditions, but the Asgard are our most important ally, and they really needed your help. I hope you understand.”
Sam felt a rush of gratitude for his concern. “Thank you so much, General. It means a lot to me for you to say so,” she said sincerely. “In the end I was very glad we went; at the very least we gave Thor some chance to recover. And thwarting the Goa’uld is surprisingly cathartic,” she grinned.
“I’m glad to hear it.” He returned her smile briefly, then resumed a serious expression. “Am I to presume you and Colonel O’Neill have come to some sort of understanding? Am I going to need to take some sort of action here?”
“That won’t be necessary. We’ll be all right, sir.” She had started to think so, anyway. “We’ve just got to learn to live with it.”
Sam reached for the light switch. “Walk you to the elevator, sir?”