Disclaimer: I don't own them... MGM/UA, Gekko, and Double Secret owns them, but not me. Thank goodness. What a nightmare that must be, to own something like that. On the other hand, I made no money off this fic, so I'm just a poor writer... There is no balance in the Universe. Hmmmmm.

Picture Gallery

by Linda Bindner

It was on floor twenty-seven, in a back corridor that held no important labs, or offices, or control rooms full of computer consoles... So, few people ever saw any of that corridor.

Which made Sam Carter eternally grateful. If no one saw the Picture Gallery all that often, there was less of a chance that she would be caught mooning over one photo in particular.

Yet, not a week went by that Sam didn't find herself visiting floor number twenty-seven, a bundle of files or reports in her hand to use as an excuse if she had to claim that she was on her way somewhere important, to deliver vital information to somebody who had just asked to see it... Thus she didn't have to worry if someone simply found her, distracted for a few minutes, in the Picture Gallery. She could behave as if she hadn't even known it was there.

But she knew. She knew very well where it was. Because his picture was there, on display, with many others.

Sometimes, she visited the Picture Gallery, as that particular corridor of the SGC had always been called, in the middle of the night, when few people were around to interrupt her perusal of the former men, and two women, who had commanded the military installation. But now, at 1130 during a regular work day, there was a group of women currently studying the picture that Sam wished to stare at. So she pretended to be interested in all the pictures hanging on the wall, and listened intently to the group of women's conversation in spite of the space separating them.

Very.., one of the women was hesitantly saying, as if she were deep in thought about the expression on the picture's subject's face, and couldn't quite decide what to say about it to her companions.

They all studied the photo hanging on the wall before them until one of them piped up, and hazarded to ask, Different? Is it different?

Informal? yet a third inquired.

Cute, a fourth finalized for all of them. Definitely cute.

They all turned to peer at her as Sam hefted the folders currently in her arms. She made certain to appear to be staring at a picture of a General Tiberius Flint, who had commanded the base from 1980-1983. He sat at his desk, in his office, scowling at the camera.

Except Sam was barely aware that she was currently gazing at an older man who hardly looked like a friendly, inviting, superior officer. Instead, she was busy watching the group out of the corners of her eyes, and listening intently as they went on.

Cute? the second woman who had earlier spoken repeated what the fourth woman had said. What makes you say that?

Are you kidding? the fourth member of the group incredulously asked. You're blind, right?

The second responded. No, I don't think so, she uncomfortably said as she pushed her glasses up her nose. The action instantly reminded Sam of Daniel, but it was only a fleeting thought that crossed her mind. She turned to the next picture on the wall, and kept listening.

The fourth woman noticeably raised her eyebrows in a show to let her friends know, that, without a doubt, she appreciated what she was looking at. That gray hair... that smile... What's not to like? she asked, and grinned.

He's mine, thought Sam immediately. Hands off. But she couldn't say that out loud, of course. Instead, she continued closer along the row of pictures, hoping to telegraph the hint that the group ought to be leaving now, moving on from their own personal perusal of the photos hanging on the wall. But they were communally stubborn, and kept staring.

I don't know, the third woman answered. It still seems to be a bit informal of a picture for my taste.

The fourth spoke again. The informality just shows that he's willing to have fun.

I wonder what he's staring at that made him smile like that? the first woman wondered. Do any of you know?

A series of head shakes followed her question, and Sam breathed out a hiss of relief at their denial. If they didn't know, then most people on base didn't know, and she always felt relieved to have it again affirmed that her secret was... secret.

Sam had crept so close to the group by that time that she was now staring at pictorial subjects whom she knew, or had heard of in her long time spent stationed at the SGC. General West sent her a tiny smile from his picture as he posed in his chair in his office, pushed back from the desk. In contrast, General Hammond gave her a huge grin as he relaxed in the Briefing Room for his photo opportunity. Hammond was followed by Dr. Elizabeth Weir's picture on the wall. She had been a much younger, civilian commander, and her photo showed the difference as the office and the Briefing Room were absent in her picture. Instead, she posed in an innocuous corridor, wearing a black blazer that contrasted perfectly with the beige, brick wall at her back as she stood with her arms crossed, and smiled for the camera.

Next was the reason that had brought Sam down to the Picture Gallery in the first place at 1130 on this Tuesday morning. But she was stalled, kept from her objective, as the maddening group of women still lingered in front of the photo. Only, now, they seemed to be moving on from their argument about the picture in the Gallery to other, semi-related subjects.

Well, we'll never know about the reason for that smile, will we? said the third woman again. And I don't know about you, but I'm starved.

And we only have half an hour before Cindy has to be back in the Infirmary, stated the first woman.

The fourth woman, the obvious Cindy that they were all talking about, blushed, then pushed them in the direction of the Commissary. Okay, my curiosity has had its fill for the day, honest. We can go now. They moved away, but Sam heard her comment, That wasn't quite a subtle hint, by the way, that you all think it's passed time to leave.

Cindy! the first woman insisted in an amazed tone of voice. We would never think of keeping you from your... curiosity!

The group of women laughed as one.

The third woman added, Of course, satisfying your curiosity every week might be too much even for you to handle!

Cindy grinned while she glanced one last time at the picture hanging on the wall. Maybe. Then she sighed. But I sure would like to know what he was looking at when that picture was taken, she wistfully said, then turned to join her companions as they headed off for lunch in the Commissary.

The corridor emptied, then, leaving Sam alone with nothing to distract her but her thoughts. Not that she wanted a distraction, now, as she moved to stand in front of the picture she had originally walked all the way to the twenty-seventh floor to see.

There he was, staring out at her from his picture hanging in its place in the Gallery of commanders. General Landry's photo was already hanging next to the one of Sam's personal interest, but she didn't stare at Landry's picture beyond a polite glance in that direction. All her concentration was centered directly in front of her. She gave a small smile, as if she were remembering something, and her content sigh sounded loud in the deserted corridor.

Jack smiled back at her from his frozen attitude in his picture hanging on the wall. A name plate made note of who he was, as well as his rank, and Sam did run her finger over the letters that spelled out 'Brigadier General J. O'Neill.' But it was his picture that had caught her attention from the beginning.

He stood, leaning negligently against the 'Gate room doorjamb, his feet crossed at his ankles, dressed in his typical BDUs with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows... That is so... sexy, Sam thought with a sudden grin. He was smiling enigmatically over the shoulder of whoever had taken the picture. Actually, Sam knew the camera operator had been Walter, and Sg-1 had just come down the ramp from a mission to PRX-771, and Sam had just requested an audience with her General when Walter had suddenly entered the 'Gate Room. He told the General to say 'cheese,' and Jack had quickly leaned against the door while Sam had done her best to stand directly behind Walter, out of his way, as he snapped several pictures on the digital camera in his hands. When he had flipped through the shots he had taken, to make sure one was of acceptable quality to be added to the Picture Gallery, all those gathered in the 'Gate Room had agreed that the one with the enigmatic smile on Jack's face had been the correct one to include.

It's about time! Walter had mumbled as he turned off his camera then. I've only been asking you to stand still for five seconds for this picture for weeks!

Oh! Jack had scoffed. It hasn't been that long! I think you're exaggerating again, Walter! He had beckoned Carter forward then, but not before she had seen Walter's harassed expression, and shake of his head. He was the epitome of a long-suffering officer, and remained quiet as she had followed O'Neill out of the room, then. Walter, and his expressive opinions, was lost to her.

But she had known, without having to be told, that in the picture that everyone had agreed was the best, Jack had been looking past Walter until his sight focused only on her as she stood behind the Sergeant, out of the way. And it was clear to her, according to the smile on Jack's face, that he was recalling the day before when they had told each other that their respective relationships were part of the past.

It's over, Sam had said.

At the same time, O'Neill had blurted, It's over.

With Kerry? Sam had asked in surprise and shock.

With Pete? Jack had inquired right after she had spoken.

She nodded. Yeah.

He nodded. Yeah.

Several seconds had gone by as Sam and Jack continued to stare at each other, wondering which one of them would be brave enough to speak first after those revelations. Then Jack had grinned, very slowly, and quietly said, Cool!

Just thought you would want to know, Sam said, then stuffed her hands into her trouser pockets, and walked out of his office with a tiny grin on her face.

Then Sam had left for an overnight mission to the planet next on the SGC's list of places to visit, and she had not arrived back until the very photo moment in question.

And right after that picture, Sam had followed him up the stairs, through the Briefing Room, and into his office, where she dropped her pack and vest into a corner by the coffee table, then proceeded to shut both doors leading from the Briefing Room and the corridor to make sure they wouldn't be disturbed. She hadn't even taken the time to shower correctly first.

Jack couldn't quite hide his curiosity from her. Closed doors - this must be personal, or it could wait an hour until the formal briefing of SG-1... What's up, Carter?

You're right, it's personal, Sam had stated. Then, very decisively, especially for her, she had backed him into the corner by the door leading into the Briefing Room, so no one would see anything except an empty office if they glanced through the Plexiglas window from an equally abandoned Briefing Room. Without preamble, warning, or a 'Hello!' she kissed him as passionately as she had ever imagined in her thousand daydreams of this moment.

Jack had been caught completely by surprise, but his body responded before his mind had sufficiently engaged. Sam had felt his acceptance of her pressing insistently against her thigh through the BDUs he wore as she carefully backed away from direct contact with him. Now there was a hands width of space between them, but Jack surely felt the wild beating of her heart against his own chest.

Yet, there was nothing careful or cautious about the look in her eyes when she whispered, If I don't say something right now, I'm going to explode. And I don't care at this point if you don't feel the same, but I am so in love with you that I can't think of anything else right now, and I just wanted you to know how things stand, and...

Sam, Jack had whispered back, his index finger crooked up to stroke her cheek. Then, he drew her closer to him, and nuzzled her neck just under the end of her blond hair. Shut up, he ordered, and kissed her in a long, slow, gentle show of his ever unchanging affection for her.

A week later, they were married, and a day after that, Jack's reassignment to Washington D.C. had come through, as had her reassignment to R&D at Area 51. They had not grown accustomed to a secret marriage before they had been thrust by circumstances beyond their control to a long distance relationship that neither had ever bargained for.

The assignment to Area 51 had morfed into a more recent reassignment back to Stargate Command. Sam now found herself visiting the Picture Gallery at least once a week as, for that time she was perusing the Gallery, she became ultra aware of the wedding ring dangling from the chain around her neck that constantly carried her military dogtags as identification markers.

That was where Teal'c happened on her a moment later.

He sidled up beside her, his hands linked respectively together behind his back, and stared at the picture of O'Neill with Colonel Carter. They were silent for several breaths, then Teal'c noted, It is not difficult to realize what O'Neill was smiling at when SergeantHarriman snapped this picture... Not if you know O'Neill as well as you, or I, do.

You heard them? Sam asked of her Jaffa team mate, a smile on her lips. That group of women?

Indeed, I did, Teal'c responded. And I witnessed WalterHarriman taking this picture from the opposite door leading into the 'Gate Room. I followed O'Neill's stare as he looked at... where he looked, Teal'c judiciously finished. Then, he smiled as he glanced again at her. Washington D.C. is proving to be a greater challenge to you both than all the System Lords combined, he noted in his soft voice. He turned his head to stare at Sam. Am I correct, ColonelCarter?

Sam felt just a chilling of her blood before she recalled that Teal'c had known about her feelings for Jack for years, and what he was asserting now was the new state of affairs between her and General O'Neill. Her eyes widened just a bit, and she clutched the files in her hand just a fraction tighter, but she grinned. Yes, Teal'c, she whispered. It's quite a... a challenge.

Then Teal'c very pointedly glanced at the spot where her dogtags and wedding ring dangled on her chest, and which never showed, even in silhouette, to the ever curious members of the SGC. He said nothing, but raised an eyebrow, and smiled his trademark smile. Lunch? he asked.

Sam stood for a moment in front of Jack's picture, then grinned. Youbetcha, she said, thinking that she was going to have to make an unscheduled phone call the minute she arrived home. Jack was sure to love this story as much as she did.

With one more glance at the picture hanging on the wall, Sam joined Teal'c as they turned in the direction of the Commissary to companionably walk away from the Gallery. The picture of Jack was left hanging on the wall, leaving it up to those of the SGC to wonder just what the heck he'd been smiling at when the unknown person had taken that picture.

The End


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