Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them. Spoilers for 'Children of The Gods' and 'Secrets'. A 'Secrets' episode addition.
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He heard the sound of her car pulling up. Jack even went as far as to peek out a window, as if he needed that kind of clarification. He'd know the sound of that car anywhere.
Pulling away so she wouldn't see him ogling her car, he waited for the inevitable knock or doorbell.
The inevitable didn't happen.
Frowning, he found a window to peek out of again. Her car was still there, but she...was nowhere to be found.
Movement on the roof.
Just for a brief moment his training kicked in, and he had almost crouched completely to the ground before relaxing. Feeling more than a little foolish - and the twinge in his knee as he stood up - he was soon outside the house and climbing up to his own roof.
She wasn't aware of him yet; he was absolutely certain. That alone spoke volumes about her preoccupation. She was a more than capable 2IC - despite his initial misgivings - and one hell of a soldier. She should have heard an old guy like him climbing up a creaky wooden ladder.
Still perched near the top of the ladder, he took the opportunity to study her. She was looking up at the stars, and all evidence pointed to the fact that she'd been crying.
Carter crying? Crying Carter? That just didn't happen. Not without good reason.
He took the last few steps deliberately loudly.
She jerked her head towards him, eyes widening as she gasped. "Sir!"
How could she possibly sound surprised? She'd been here before. Didn't she know whose house she'd come to? Whose roof she'd clambered up on to? "You're lucky I didn't think you were a burglar. Might have been forced to take you out." The humour was unbelievably awkward. He wasn't used to dealing with her like this.
Nothing. Not even a grin. Still wide-eyed. "I'm sorry sir, I thought...Teal'c said you and Daniel were taking him out for 'an evening of entertainment'."
"Strip club, Carter," He moved closer, shoving his hands into his pockets and wondering why his hands wanted to do anything but that. "It's a strip club." He saw no reason to hide the truth. "And it's tomorrow."
Jack wasn't sure what she was oh-ing at. The fact that they were going to a strip club, or the fact that they were going tomorrow. In all honesty, he had half expected some remark: maybe just a roll of her eyes or a rueful shaking of the head. The kind of "Men!" expression she wore occasionally, and not without good reason.
"I thought it was today," She murmured, answering his unspoken question.
He was going to attempt teasing her some more but she looked...engrossed. Thoroughly engrossed with her thoughts. She'd looked away from him again and was staring at the roof.
She was sitting on the only chair he had up there and made no indication of moving, so he carefully leant his body against one of the wooden railings surrounding the area. He had absolutely no idea what was wrong. If anything, he would have thought that after recent events Daniel would have been the one skulking around on his roof. "What's wrong?"
She looked down further, staring at her hands as they rested on her lap. Her voice was struggling when she responded. "My dad has cancer."
Ah, crap. He fought the urge to move, not quite knowing what would be appropriate, or whether she would appreciate it. "I'm sorry to hear that." He meant it. He really did.
Carter shook her head, still staring at her hands, voice still wobbling. "It's stupid, you know? I haven't seen him for...God, three years. I haven't seen him for three years, and the first thing he tells me is that he has cancer. Actually, the first thing he tells me is that he can get me a job at NASA."
NASA? Job? She was leaving? Why did his stomach feel like it had just been ripped out of his body? "A job?"
"I always wanted to be an astronaut," She announced, finally lifting her head up and staring at the stars again. A faint smile appeared on her mouth. "Always. For as long as I can remember."
How had he not known that? How could he possibly have been her CO and not known that?
"I used to sit on the front porch with this pathetic little hand-held telescope thing. Mom used to tell me I'd ruin my eyes with my squinting but I didn't care; I just wanted to see it, be with it. Experience it." Licking her lips, she continued. "And then one day - on my eighth birthday - I came home and there was a telescope sitting on the front porch. A real one. With its own stand."
Jack grinned despite himself. He could just imagine the young girl that she had been squealing in excitement. "From your dad?"
Sam nodded. "He pretended it wasn't from him of course - that some 'stranger' had left it there for me. But I knew."
Jack envied her somewhat. And - quite to his own surprise - he began to speak. "It was a school trip to an observatory that got me interested in astronomy. I still don't know if I can explain why, it just...struck a chord. I think mostly, I just thought it was cool."
There. A smile. Small.
"Dad didn't particular care and Mom wasn't around much, but I managed to get a job. I worked all through the holidays and then some - even when I wasn't supposed to. I missed more than a few classes."
"There's a surprise."
She *must* have been feeling better. "But the feeling I got when *I* bought it with my own money and *I* brought it home...it was like nothing I'd ever experienced. It was something I'd done myself."
They stayed in silence, for a while, both gazing up at the stars.
"That's a good story."
"So was yours."
"Do you mind if I ask you something?" It was the first time she'd looked at him since telling him about her dad.
"'f course not."
"Why do you pretend to be something you're not?"
"I know for a fact that you know a lot about astronomy. But whenever I talk about it, you act like you've lost half your brain or something. And dad's the same. When he told me about his cancer, he pretended it was nothing big, that it didn't matter. Why do you do that?"
Woah. Could her gaze be any more searing? "Sam, what I do and what your dad does are two very different things."
"Not so different," She argued. "Both of you pretend to be someone other than who you are. Why?"
Sighing, he slid until he was sitting down. His back was resting against one of the lower railings, and his feet were planted firmly on the wooden floor on his roof. Resting his hands over his bent knees, he shrugged. "I can't speak for your dad, but...I don't know, it's just...I know some stuff about astronomy, but you know *everything*. Ever. It's frightening, sometimes."
She blinked. "You're scared of me?"
"I wouldn't put it quite like that...and if you ever tell anyone we had this conversation I'll deny all knowledge."
That smile again, even with the puffy eyes.
Jack studied his hands for a while. "There's always the fear of...getting it wrong. Saying something stupid. Trying to appear intelligent and screwing it up completely. I'm not as smart as you are, Sam. I never will be-"
"Excuse me?" Had she just said that?
She *had* just said that! He honestly couldn't remember ever hearing her swear before.
"Knowing about astronomy has nothing to do with being smart."
"I didn't say it did. And I'm not feeling sorry for myself; I'm just stating a-"
This was apparently a matter of great annoyance for her, because she actually moved from the chair and knelt in front of him.
Carter met his gaze. "You are one of the smartest people I know."
Was she crazy? "Captain-"
"I'm quite serious about this. Some of the tactical decisions and orders you've made have been brilliant. I have never worked with a better CO."
Okay, when did this turn into a 'let's make Jack feel better' mission? This was supposed to be a 'let's cheer Carter up' one. "Do you have any idea how good you are for my ego?"
Chuckling, she lowered her head just for a second.
"Seriously," He re-iterated, making her stare at him again. "My ego likes having you around. I don't think it ever wants you to leave."
The implication would have been obvious to anyone, and Carter - being as smart as she was - understood immediately. Her humour faded. "I'm not leaving. I'm not going anywhere."
And God, his stomach seemed to have vanished again, but for a completely different reason.
It was the easiest thing in the world then to pull her next to him, to put his arm around her shoulder, and to look up at the stars. "We'll find a way to help him," Jack told her. "I'm sure of it."
Her head rested on his shoulder. "I know you are."
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