Disclaimer: No money was made on this story. Don't own the characters. Wish I did. Damn.

Note: This story takes place during the eighth season episode Moebius, and is an AU that starts at the point at the end of the episode, where our SG-1 are watching the video tape in what I think is Daniel's office.

Missed Opportunity

by Linda Bindner

The tape finished and ran out, turning to the static sound of the TV as the camcorder's battery died. Silence descended on the four SGC members. They individually tried to internalize the ramifications of the information given on the tape. Even Daniel, who always had something to say, was silent for the time being.

Okay, O'Neill said, starting off the impromptu meeting that was to follow that tape viewing. Well... Any immediate thoughts?

I agree with everything the Samantha Carter said on the tape, Sir, Carter started to say. She...

But a new sound distracted her enough to keep her from continuing. There was a clunk, and a thunk, followed by the definite noise of clearing of a throat. But it was all given in the muted sounds of a person on television rather than present at the time. All heads turned back towards the TV sitting rather precariously on Daniel's desk. The picture of a dark head arrested them. Only when the person backed away from the camera did it coalesce into the more recognizable form of the Jack O'Neill of the past.

I thought the battery died... Daniel was saying, but Jack shushed him with a curt sound, and they all then turned their attentions to the TV.

*You're right, Daniel,* the Jack TV person said. *We did have a dead battery, but Carter pulled another miracle out of her hat... uh, burnoose... and voila, we have a battery again. Of course, the one on the ship is toast now...*

Sam smiled a bit, then frowned at the thought that by jury rigging the battery from the ship to make the camera work a bit longer, she had effectively stranded them in Ancient Egypt. Of course, the ship had been heavily damaged, perhaps so badly that cannibalizing the battery may have not made any difference. It was somewhat bittersweet news to know that by saving them, she quite possibly had helped in dooming them.

But *Jack* went on, not giving her time to dwell on the mental conundrum. He cleared his throat again, looking decidedly nervous, then continued. *Um, the rest of the gang is busy right now, so it's just me... I kind of planned it that way...* Again he cleared his throat, and rubbed his neck with fingers that all but trembled on the small screen. *Uh... look, what I have to say might make some people really uncomfortable, and the consequences could be pretty high, but I also know that I can't keep either thing from happening, either, and I know that if I don't say something now, well I might not get another chance at all, ever... So here goes, and I'm sorry for anything that happens because of what I'm about to say... That isn't my intention.*

*Jack* paused again, rubbed his head, ruffling his gray hair. The tension in the room rose every time he made a movement of any kind, and the sensation of something tightening its grip on them all wouldn't dissipate. What bad news could this guy possibly know that they didn't?

*Jack* glanced up purposefully at the camera. *Going through the Stargate with you guys, being part of SG-1... that's been the best thing I've done in a long time in my life, and I know that I'm often grumpy or too sarcastic, or... But that's just to cover up the fact that I've always felt really lucky, and... if...* He inhaled a big breath of air, then continued, *... if I haven't given the impression that... um... that serving with you guys has been a real honor, then I want to say it now, so no one can ever say..,* *Jack* took another breath and just blurted, *It's been a great eight years. Though I started out a mess, it was you three who made my life worth living again.*

Daniel rocked in his seat, and stole a peek at where Jack was sitting in front of the TV on his desk. You're really an emotional guy, Jack, he said. Who'd have thought?

But *Jack* was speaking again, and this time, it was Carter who placed her fingers on her lips to indicate the need for Daniel to be quiet.

*Jack* went on. *I guess that brings me to the next thing I want to say,* he said, looked nervously at the floor, then raised his head, a strange mixture of determination and softness on his face. Looking straight at the camera, he appeared to be gathering his courage together, then softly said, *Carter... Sam... This may be my one and only chance... Knowing me, I'll chicken out at the last minute if I ever try to say this later... I... I just want you to know that I... in case anything ever happens to either one of us... I love you, I've been in love with you since the day we met, and I'll always love you, no matter what happens. I... I just wanted you to know.* On screen, *Jack* scrunched his eyes closed, as if he wanted to shut out a particularly painful thought, then walked towards the camera, and must have flicked the power switch to 'off,' because static replaced the sound on the television.

There was stunned silence in the room for a moment, then it was Daniel, the perpetual talker, who muttered the phrase that was on everyone's mind. Oh, boy.

Quiet again descended on the foursome as no one moved. A state of shock and surprise had come over them all. Carter was sitting, glued to her chair, eyes wide at the confession she had just heard. She looked like she was too surprised to do more than think, Oh, my God, over and over again. Daniel appeared as if he were just on the edge of bolting from his office, and Jack looked so sick that he wouldn't be able to run after him if he did.

Finally it was Teal'c who made the first turn to the other members of his team. He looked at O'Neill, the indisputable leader of the entire SGC, as a guide who would make the first move and indicate how they should all react to this revelation.

Except that O'Neill was too dazed to move at all. He just kept staring at the snowy TV, an expression of horror and resigned relief contrasting on his face. Carter, who recovered first from her own state of surprise, had to grab the remote control from the top of the desk and turn off the power to the borrowed TV and VCR. The silence after the static was gone was deafening in its intensity.

At last, Jack wiggled on his stool, but paused again to stare at the cluttered desk top in front of him, debating with himself if it was really so full of stuff that Daniel would have trouble finding anything, or if he knew right where everything was located. When Jack realized that he was doing it again... avoiding his own emotions by contemplating a totally innocuous subject so that neither he, nor anybody else, would be forced to deal with those feelings... he lifted his eyes to gaze at Carter... Sam... sitting beside him.

And that tiny movement sent resolution coursing through his veins. Okay, he thought, it was all out now. There was nothing more he could do to keep his sentiments a secret, and for that he was almost glad. Maintaining the facade of a professional, detached relationship with Sam had almost been the hardest thing he'd ever had to do. Only living with the guilt of being the one who was the indirect cause of Charlie's death was any more consuming. For the first time, he felt lighter, freer, and not bogged down by his sense of a fear of discovery that he had always carried around. And it was because of her, of his feelings for her. He would be damned if he would be forced to feel anything negative because of what he felt for Sam Carter.

Okay, he said briskly, and crossed his arms, glad that his feelings were now out in front of everybody, glad that he no longer had that particular burden to carry inside him. But, no matter how pleased he was at this development, he still had a job to complete. So he softly noted, This isn't something that you all didn't suspect before, anyway. I mean, who am I trying to kid... You're all plenty smart enough to see beyond any of my past attempts to be a big enough pain in the ass to cover up what I've always felt...

Sir, Carter interrupted, though she refused to look straight at him. You don't have to...

Sam, he quietly stated. Please... don't. His voice was affectionate and persuasive. Don't make any excuses or give any false reasons for what I feel... What he... I... said is only the catalyst... it would have been something else if I had only waited long enough for it to show up and give me the opportunity to tell the truth at a later time. I'm tired of pretending, anyway. He turned to the other two, who had walked up beside Daniel's desk so they could be seen more easily, then decided to treat them as a unit instead of the three individual people who had each given him more in life than he had ever expected. Because of that, he wanted to inflict as little pain on them all as possible right now. But he promised himself that he would talk alone with Sam at the earliest possible moment.

When had he started thinking of her as 'Sam' instead of 'Carter?' Jack didn't know, and he tried to ignore the implications of such a switch as he went on, This changes things somewhat, and I would be an idiot to think that things can just go on as before without any repercussions to me or to you... Look, we have several options, now.

It was the Jaffa who first voiced one of the most prominent options. We can ignore what we know.

That's something I can't say that I want to do anymore, Jack said quietly, glancing at Teal'c out of eyes that were steady enough to clearly show his intentions.

Daniel piped up, We can say that this is the end of SG-1 as we know it, then.

O'Neill heaved a sigh. I don't want to be the cause of that happening, either, I admit. What do you three think about such a thing happening?

Teal'c again spoke first, and quickly, before anybody else had the chance. I have never made it a secret that my first loyalties are to bringing peace and freedom to my fellow Jaffa... Perhaps this is merely the excuse necessary for me to break my ties more formerly with the Taur'i in order to better concentrate on my original goal.

Daniel raised his eyebrows at the speech. You're kidding, right? I mean, you wouldn't just up and leave SG-1, would you?

Teal'c looked somber. I rarely kid, DanielJackson, he said. And this is not a surprise, either. Perhaps it is the correct time for me to leave, he repeated. My son, Ryack, is married and on his own. My wife, Drayak, is dead. There are no more reasons for me to stay. He turned back to look at Jack. Perhaps I should be thanking O'Neill for this rare prospect of change, he said.

Jack, too, raised his brows. Well, you're welcome, Teal'c, and any time baring my soul will help you make those life altering changes, you just let me know. His typical, flippant tone was back, even if his words were more personal than they had ever been before.

Teal'c nodded, and enigmatically smiled, but said nothing more.

Daniel looked at the three around the table, sort of flustered, then said, I guess I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that I get at least one job offer from Military Intelligence every week, so you shouldn't worry about me being... cut loose... or anything...

Military Intelligence? Teal'c ascertained.

Daniel nodded. They want me to help with translations, or something, and I suppose reading what the rocks say is just as important as finding them.

'Remiss?' Jack questioned Daniel's previous word choice with a puzzled expression. Then he once again continued. And, no, I can't say that I knew about those job offers, but I also can't say that I'm all that surprised, either. And thanks for telling us, Daniel, he said, softly again. That's a load off all our minds.

Carter was thinking, quite naturally, more along the lines of the Air Force rules that Jack would now have to contend with, since he had spoken and reminded her to be concerned about his future and what it had in store for him. There's always retirement, she suggested in a gentle voice.

Or we can agree to never let this news out of this room, Daniel said. Or you can resign, I suppose.

O'Neill's brow puckered in thought. Can you resign by tape? he asked. I'm not sure, and I'm not sure if you need a letter of resignation in order to retire, either.

Carter spoke again. I, um... I have the Air Force Regulations Manual in my lab somewhere... I can look it up for you and tell you so that you'll know... one way or another, she ended on a more hesitant note.

Jack realized that he had not heard a declaration of affection come from her that was similar to his admittance that had been on the tape, and he wanted to keep it that way... It was one thing for him to retire or resign, but for her to do the same... because of something that he had done... or did in the future... was unacceptable. I would appreciate taking a look at the Manual, he told her, amazed that he could sound so steady when speaking to her, now that she knew how he felt about her. I want to base any decision I make in the next few hours on the truth rather than mere supposition. He thought about what he had just said, then. That would be a relief, actually, to know something instead of just to think I know something. Then he stared more fully at Sam again. And I can assume that you also have somewhere to go if the shit hits the fan on this? he asked bluntly, but not unkindly.

Sam sat for a minute, until she felt the weight of the stares of her teammates falling on her. Then she divulged, I'm not sure I want to stay in the Air Force, anyway, and may have left on my own in the near future.

This information surprised even O'Neill. What? he asked.

Sam squirmed in her chair. Well, my father is dead, Janet's dead, and with you gone, I'm... She took a deep breath, then plunged on. I'm not sure there's a reason to stay any longer.

There was silence once more, a smothering blanket that fell on those seated at the table. Finally, O'Neill turned to Daniel and Teal'c. Daniel, would it be all right if I commandeered your office for awhile?

Daniel was just as surprised by this request as he had been at hearing *Jack* make his announcement. But there was no way that he would stay around the two of them longer than he had to, when this powder keg of unhappiness could very well explode in their faces. Uh, sure, he said.

I think I need to talk to Sam alone, if you don't mind... Jack went on.

Uh, sure, Daniel repeated.

Jack persisted, I'll let you know what... what I decide as soon as I can.

Daniel heard the dismissal in the man's words, though the request hadn't been a formal one. Come on, Teal'c, let's go to the Commissary for coffee, he suggested. Last one there, buys for both of us. That was all he needed to say to get Teal'c to head for the door.

Daniel was a bit slower than the Jaffa, as he had some papers to pile up before he knocked them the rest of the way off his desk. It was just enough time for Jack to say, Thank you, Daniel; I owe you one. The General paused, then in an amused tone, continued, And, if I know you, you will never let me forget that, either.

Daniel suddenly grinned, not quite sure how he should take this new Jack who seemed to be more in tune with his emotions than he had ever been before, but was definitely sure that he liked the change. You're right, I won't. he said, then was gone, chasing Teal'c through the door and down the corridor, heading towards the Commissary.

That left Jack and Sam alone in Daniel's office, something that had only happened on rare occasions in the last eight years. Neither quite knew how to act or what was expected of them.

At last, Jack rose and crossed to shut the door, hoping that a closed door would set Sam more at ease. As she sighed, he settled on the stool next to her and leaned forward.

She wouldn't look at him at first, and he had to prompt her by saying her name into the empty air of the Conference Room. Sam.

She glanced up at him, then, a picture of agony, misery, affection, and indecision. How can you be so calm about this? she blurted then.

Jack appeared to be puzzled again. Am I being calm? he asked.

Yes! she exclaimed. You're so composed, and much more accepting, than I ever anticipated that you would be!

Sam, Jack said, and tried to explain, Maybe I've been thinking about doing something like this for a long time. Maybe I'm getting too old for secrets. Maybe I needed something like this to get me to make the first move and say something... He shook his head. I don't know.

How can you say that, Sir, how can you be so... sedate... when this is obviously the end of everything we've worked for that..?

Sam, Jack interrupted again, and tried to fight the rising sense of hysteria that her words had churned up inside him. To force down the emotion, he took her hands in his, marveling at how soft they felt, considering that Sam was the leader of a field unit that often spent time roughing it on other worlds. Please... He released one of her hands, and rubbed his own fingers across his face, indecisive, then glanced up at her again. Sam, he said, and took her hand once more. Stop. Let me talk. Then he grinned at her. I bet you thought you'd never hear those words coming from me!

Oh, no, there were tears beginning to mist her eyes as she smiled hesitantly back and admitted, No, I can't say that I ever did.

But the moment of brevity was gone almost before it began, and soon the gravity of the situation asserted itself again. Jack heaved in a timid breath, but said, I don't want you to think that you have to respond in any one particular way with this, or that I expect anything from you. I didn't...

Sir, you don't have to...

Sam, I think it's the right time for you to call me 'Jack.'

Sam colored a bright red as she blushed, and Jack couldn't help but delight in the sudden change. Jack, she said, but he wouldn't let her say any more as he interrupted her.

Listen, I don't want you to say anything you might regret later, or do anything that you don't feel is right...

Jack, shut up, Sam commanded then.

Her terse order was enough to make him comply immediately, but it confused the hell out of him, too. What?

She squeezed his hand. Telling me on a tape, in front of the entire team... Jack gave her a worried, apologetic look, but she went on. I have to say that while I didn't quite expect or anticipate that it would be... how it was... that particular way is... well, she went on, It's pretty darned smart. She met his eyes with the teary truthfulness in her own. I wonder why I didn't think of it first.

Jack was a bit uncertain at her announcement, then. I'm sorry if I embarrassed you or anything.

But Sam was shaking her head. No, I'm not embarrassed, or humiliated, or... She glanced up at him through her lashes then, a little hesitantly. Actually, if you want to know the truth...

I do, Jack said.

I'm... I'm actually rather ecstatic.

This came as a surprise to Jack, considering the circumstances of his original revelation, and he couldn't help but think that this conversation was going quite well. You are? he queried.

Sam bit her lower lip, and nodded, then shrugged disarmingly. Well, it wasn't exactly any secret that you felt something for me after the Zatarc testing thing, only that I didn't quite know for sure what it was that you felt, and whether you still felt the same way or anything, and I've always wanted to tel you...

Sam, Jack gently interrupted, I need to know... I can't read your mind, and it's been a long time since that Zatarc thing...

Jack, Sam halted him, if you leave the SGC, it will be so awful, that there's no way I can stay...

Sam, stop talking in circles, Jack cautioned her. I just want to know, once and for all...

There were definitely tears on her cheeks now. Jack, please don't leave without me... She took a shuddering breath, and squeezed his fingers. God, I love you too much to bear it if you leave me here...

Jack reached out to brush the tears off her left cheek, only to have them mingle with the ones on his. Sam... he choked, I could never leave you anywhere, here at the SGC, on another planet... surrounded by trees... anywhere.

She giggled at his mention of trees. The thought of the way the team had handed over to him the pieces of bark from one of their first missions soon after O'Neill's promotion to 'General' drifted across her mind. Hence their first kiss was a bit distracted by thoughts of those very trees that O'Neill was becoming famous for disliking. But she quickly became more mindful of him and the wonderful things he could do with just a touch to her skin... The pounding in her temples would have diverted her to him, anyway, even if the long coveted sensation of his skin under her fingers wasn't already beguiling enough.

When they parted, Jack could just be thankful for the fact that the security cameras had been confined to the corridors instead of the offices when she kissed him again, easily claiming him with lips gone soft and pliant against his own.

Sam, he sighed, then stood so that he could be closer to her, as near as he could get, and his arms wrapped securely around her as she responded in kind.

Jack, I think we have some letters of resignation or retirement or something to write just as soon as we can get to a computer, Sam suggested in a whisper when they parted again. Just as suddenly as most things transpired at the SGC, the thought of leaving the Stargate program did not hurt as much as she'd often thought it would. She had time spent with Jack to look forward to, after all, and even the draw of going to other planets and fighting the Goa'uld seemed to dim in comparison to it.

I'll email mine to you if you email me yours, Jack said in a quiet voice that was laced with the hope he had always buried deep inside himself. Then I promise to share my moving out boxes with you.

Sam grinned against the side of his cheek, where her head was currently resting. She had a better feeling about the potential of this relationship than she'd had about anything else in a long time. Only if I get first choice, she said with a grin still on her face.

Hey, what happened to the highest ranking officer gets dibs on the best boxes? he teased with as answering grin.

Sam smiled softly at him. Physicists first, she retorted in glee.

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