PG, Gen, S/J friendship, UST if you want to see it. AU from It’s Good To Be King, so S8 spoilers. This is my S/J Ficathon story for Ness. Hope you like it, sweetie. Thanks: Julie and Karen for the betas; Cofax for the crash course in jumper anatomy.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
Sam’s mother was a gardener. Every time they moved, she’d drag her children outside to start hoeing. Sam didn’t mind this as much as Mark did, though she’d rather have gone with her father to check out the new airfield.
When Sam was nine, digging into neglected grass on base housing in Alabama, she found something that made Mark jealous — an arrowhead. Fascinated, she checked out a couple books from the grown-up section of the library and tried making her own. Her arrows never flew very far, but the points were sharp, and they were always better than Mark’s.
Years later, she took a couple geology classes, never imagining that mineral analysis would one day be in her job description. But she does know a little bit about rocks.
General O’Neill, on the other hand …
“You’re making a mess,” she says. He’s perched on one of the benches in the Ancient time ship and collecting a pile of flakes at his feet. His chipping technique is all wrong: she can tell by the sound. And as she watches, he splits his half-finished quartz blade into three useless pieces.
“I’ll clean it up,” he says, unconcerned, and tosses the remains out the hatch, where they make no sound as they drop into the mud.
The general picks up another stone from the small pile at his hip. Sam sniffles, scratches her nose, and turns back to the same circuits and wires she’s been fighting for seventy-four hours now.
Chip, chip, chip, a soft curse as he hits his thumb. Chip, chip, chip again. At least he’s making more progress than she is. She tries again to close the circuit. Nothing.
God, she hates this place. Time. Whatever. They haven’t seen a sliver of sun, it’s muggier than the two summers she lived in Florida as a teenager, and the ship has given her nothing but sparks — and a lesson in temporal physics — since it shorted out above Maybourne’s planet. As an added bonus, she’s allergic to something in the strange, megaflora rainforest. She mentally apologizes to Daniel for teasing him all these years.
If those pillars said anything about her and the general getting stuck here, Maybourne probably laughed his ass off.
One more try, with another two wires, and still no joy. She collapses onto the bench opposite the general, banging her head on the bulkhead in the process. His eyes flick up and then away, his head never moving. For all his nonchalance, he’s been keeping a very close eye on her. She knows he’s worried, too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be trying to invent the axe.
She’s told him all along that they’ll be leaving before they have time to build a shelter, and he’s agreed — “Need something to do while you work miracles, Carter,” he said — but they both know it’s just stubbornness and bravado.
“Sir — ”
He waves the hammerstone at her. “Ah! I don’t want to hear any doubts, Carter!”
She sighs. “Right.”
“It took you a month to save me from my last vacation with Maybourne.” Sam’s heard this before. “Three months the time before that. I figure ten days here, two weeks tops.”
She feels her ears go pink. His faith in her is touching, and absolute, and sometimes it makes her want to zat him. “I had a few more resources then,” she says. Even her laptop has deserted her now. With a few days’ work she can rig up a solar power source for it, but she’ll think about that later. Much, much later.
“Okay, three weeks,” he says.
Sam snorts, shaking her head. He gives her a crooked smile, his point made, and chips off a few tentative flakes.
“Here, let me show you.” She holds out her hand.
He hugs the blade and the hammerstone to his chest. “You get your own damn rocks.”
“I got you those rocks.”
“We’re not gonna be here long enough to need it anyway, right?” He starts chipping again. “Someday you can teach me how to fix time ships.”
Feeling a little more hopeful than she did five minutes ago, she stands back up, reaches into the open access panel, and dismantles the failed circuit. Maybe if she —
“Ow! Dammit!” Sure, now it decides to wake up. She shakes her hand out from the jolt.
“See?” he says. “Now that’s progress.”
“You okay?” he asks in a softer voice, eyeing her hand.
The palm is red, the elbow sore, but the pins and needles are already subsiding.
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
She tries to reproduce the power surge, and fails.
Outside, the rain starts — big, sloppy drops that splash as they land.
He’s gone for half an hour and he brings back a lizard. A still warm lizard that he calls lunch.
“Oh, boy,” she says, dropping her wrench on the metal casing as he shows off his trophy.
“You ever eaten snake, Carter?”
“Yes, actually,” she says. “I got food poisoning from it.”
He stills, his eyes about as wide as they ever get. “Are you serious?”
“No.” She grins at him, then sneezes and rubs her nose. “I’ll start the fire.”
“Nah, I’ll take care of it.” This makes her tense up, for some reason.
“It’s okay,” she says. “I need a break anyway.” She does, too. She’s already rerouted the entire power system three times today, and she’s starting to wish for a minor electrical burn even more than she wishes for a shower.
She suddenly remembers the time she and Mark, each unable to wimp out on a dare, found themselves so high in a tree that the fire department had to help them down. Her father laughed, but her mother was mad at all three of them for a week. And every once in a while, Sam still thinks of what she should have done to win.
It’s drizzling and the brush is sodden, but they’ve got waterproof matches and they’re used to the smoke. Sam imagines Pete, here, with her — Pete, who can barely light newspaper in her fireplace at home — and shoves the thought aside.
While she kneels, blowing on the kindling, the general pulls out his knife and starts cleaning the reptile.
“You didn’t go far into the forest, did you?” she asks. They’ve only explored around the edges, and they haven’t run into anything bigger than a parrot, but the size of the trees suggests to her that there could be some big teeth around here, too.
His expression is unreadable. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I stayed in shouting distance.”
When the fire is burning well enough to battle the rain, Sam starts back inside. She stops before stepping on the hatch and takes a slow breath.
“Hop to it, Colonel. I have no intention of becoming a permanent part of the food chain.”
She turns back to him. He’s on one knee, blood slick on his fingers and his knife. “You know, I can’t always fix things just because you order me to.”
There’s a sharp silence. “Excuse me?” he asks in his command voice. She hasn’t heard it since he ordered her to sleep, forty-one hours in.
She’s being childish, but it feels good. “I didn’t even know time travel in a ship was possible until we came here to rescue that self-serving idiot, and somehow you expect me to duct tape this thing together and get us home.”
His eyes flash, but Sam can see him push the anger back down. He stands. “Oookay. I think I’ll go get some water.” And he’s off, down toward the river, knife in one hand and lunch in the other.
Sam sits on the lowered hatch, stretching her neck to let water fall into her eyes. They’re itchy. The rain burns.
When she finds him a few minutes later, he’s sitting cross-legged in the grass at the river’s edge, his empty canteen lying open and the lizard ready to cook. He’s washed off and reholstered the knife.
“I’m sorry,” she says. He looks up at her. “It’s just a lot to have on your head sometimes, you know? I’m sorry.”
His half-smile is rueful. She knows he’s drafted at least three letters resigning command of the SGC, and sent none of them. “Just go easy when it’s my turn to freak out, okay?”
“Deal,” she says. “When will that be, exactly?”
“A week from Tuesday.”
“Good to know.”
She settles down next to him, knees to her chest. She has little reason to complain, she reminds herself. They’re healthy, uninjured; they’re in a temperate climate. They destroyed Ares’ ship before the stars changed, so Daniel and Teal’c must be safe. There’s plenty of fresh water and wood, and a forest full of potential food sources. They’re actually very lucky. But God, it’s hot.
She wonders how long the search will go on before they’re declared MIA.
“Seriously, Carter.” This is another tone she hasn’t heard in days — since before this mission, probably. “Give me the odds.”
She winces without meaning to.
“That good, huh?”
“Well, maybe ten to one that I can get the ship to fly.” Though even if she does, fuel will be a problem, and where would they go, anyway? “But the rest … I really don’t know.”
He nods. He doesn’t seem surprised. “I wasn’t trying to pressure you,” he says gently, staring at the current.
“I know.” She leans forward and drags a hand through the water. They haven’t seen any fish big enough to eat, yet. “I know what you were trying to do.”
Firelight plays on the giant, wet leaves, and Sam falls asleep on the narrow bench with General O’Neill — and his P-90 — a dark shadow between her and the rainforest. She dreams about the scent of her mother’s hyacinths.
She doesn’t know how long it is until he wakes her. “Carter!”
“What? Is it my turn?”
“No, I want to show you something.”
Sam starts to roll over, then remembers that she’d just fall off. “With all due respect, sir, go away.”
“Carter, will you just come here?” He finds her hand in the dark and tugs.
“Hey!” She nearly trips on the corner of their only sleeping bag. Early on, when this had seemed a lot less permanent, she’d teased him about going offworld unprepared.
“It’ll be worth it, I promise.”
It’s cooler than it was when she went to bed, and the fire’s died. He pulls her to the south side of the ship and says, “Look.”
Sam blinks, squinting into the distance. She can’t see much of anything. “What?”
“No, no. Look up.”
She does, and she sees stars. Hundreds and hundreds of stars, just in their little clearing by the river. She hasn’t realized until now that the rain has stopped, the air dried out. Her nose and eyes are even less itchy. “Wow,” she says.
“Told you it’d be worth it.”
She leans back against the ship, transfixed. He does the same.
“Think you can figure out what millennium we’re in?”
“I did download the Tok’ra star maps before we came,” she says, already devising formulas in her head. “Maybe with enough clear nights. And you’d have to help.”
She can hear the smile in his voice. “I like counting stars.”
Sam gets dizzy, staring. Playing in the dirt is something she learned from her mother; stargazing is from her father. The wind blows, warm and damp, prickling her bare arms and warning that their view won’t last. She thinks of emails from her niece and nephew and Cassie about school, phone calls from her brother telling her to eat a salad once in a while. She misses the rest of her team like a physical pain. And she doesn’t miss her fiancé as much as she should.
“I want to go home,” she says.
He glances at her, then back at the stars, and slings one arm over her shoulders, between her neck and the ship. “You know what I want? I want to invent beer. Can we invent beer?”
She laughs even though she’s sure he knows more about brewing than she does. His fingers dance on her shoulder.
Clouds sweep across the western sky, blacking out stars one by one, and a raindrop falls on her arm.
She wakes him just as the sky starts to brighten, and they spend a couple hours exploring along the river. Still no fish, but there’s a clear lake about three miles downstream. Neither says that it would be a good place to build. Sam jumps in, fully clothed, and the general follows. She squeezes water through her hair and feels almost clean.
Later, she takes a knife to her spare BDU pants, chopping them off above the knee. Then she spends half an hour staring into the main control interface, not even touching it.
It’s the brush of branches against the hull that brings her back. She emerges into the rain, out of uniform, and discovers that he’s constructing a sort of lean-to against the north side of the ship.
“It’ll make lighting fires easier,” he says, watching her closely for a reaction.
She asks if he needs more branches.
When it’s done, they sit under their creation, drinking water and eating something like cashews. Sam wishes for salt, but the not-cashews are okay. Eventually, she fetches the axe head and the hammerstone and starts chipping. It’s almost done.
He watches the rhythmic motion of her hands. She stops for a second to scratch her nose.
“I’m sorry you’re unhappy, Carter.”
It’s not the kind of thing he normally says, but she tries not to show her surprise. “I’m not unhappy.” She can tell he’s about to respond, Yeah, right, so she continues quickly. “I’m frustrated, and confused, and I’d kill for antihistamines and I miss Daniel and Teal’c and my dad like crazy. But I’m not unhappy.”
She concentrates on the rocks and feels him studying her. Finally he says, “Good to know.”
Just a little more work and she’ll be ready to make a handle. “Why are you so calm about this, anyway?”
“I told you, it’s not my turn yet.”
Sam sighs, frustrated, and chips a little too hard. It doesn’t break, though.
“It’s not that different from most of my vacations, you know,” he says.
This makes her smile. “True.”
“And I will get a turn. You’ve been warned.” She laughs, and he studies her again, even longer this time. “Look, I like indoor plumbing as much as the next guy,” he says. “But there’s no hallucinogenic foliage, and the company is … not bad.”
It’s her turn to stare. His eyes meet hers, then flicker away.
“No,” she says. “It’s not bad at all.”
“and as for the future/ what good would it do us/ to be discovered/ a hundred years on/ with this sky gone from these valleys/ and these valleys unknown.” ~ WSM, “At the Same Time”