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TITLE: Fifteen Minutes From D.C.
AUTHOR: Tiv'ester
E-MAIL: tivester@lycos.com
STATUS: Complete
CATEGORY: Drama
SPOILERS: Beginning of season 9, Secrets,
SEASON/SEQUEL: 9
RATING: PG
CONTENT WARNINGS: Slight touch of nostalgia/romance
SUMMARY: Sam discovers the art of moving on
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Stargate SG-1. Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only. No money has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Originally in the Ancient's Gate zine, Remember When



Fifteen Minutes From D.C.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Washington traffic could be bad, especially around Dupont Circle at quitting time. Employees from countless government jobs made up a considerable percentage of the travelers. Cars of various makes and models rode bumper to bumper along the road, each adding itself to the congestion and gridlock.

The lucky ones knew the back roads in and out of D.C. and could avoid some of the traffic. Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter was one of those lucky ones. She could scoot out of the city, away from the buildings and street signs and traffic lights relatively quickly. Like everywhere else, a driver would go from big city to tree lined avenues in a very short time.   It reminded her of the George M. Cohan song that went:

Only 45 minutes from Broadway,
Think of the changes it brings
For the short time it takes,
What a diff'rence it makes
In the ways of the people and things.

She wasn’t traveling 45 minutes. She was only taking a 15-minute drive. Arlington wasn’t very far.

Driving along, she turned up the volume on her radio and sang along with the music. Pretty day, good music, nice, short drive – what more could she ask for on a promising trip like she was taking?

She wished she’d had more time to pack. She was still working out of boxes in her new office at Area 51, still living out of a suitcase in her as-yet-unfurnished apartment and before she could open another box, she was called to Washington to discuss the Research and Development Department’s schedule for the base. She barely had time to iron her spare dress uniform and throw a pair of jeans into her suitcase when the car arrived to take her to the airport. She hoped she would look presentable when casually dressed because she had a few plans to attend to outside of D.C.

Washington D.C. …all those years she spent working on the Stargate project, the team she was assigned to studying the mineral the ‘Doorway to Heaven’ was constructed from, the lunches with the officers at the Pentagon, the incredible amount of information they amassed about the mineral substance, the late hours spent in her lab, even their lack of success trying to determine the truth behind the Stargate added to her memories of the city. So many happy memories, so much opportunity then and now… when the order came for her to return, she couldn’t believe her good luck.   She was going home, even if only for a visit.

The moment she drove down the familiar streets, she felt the same old feeling one gets when traveling down old stomping grounds. She loved the pace and the feel of the city. She knew the best places to eat, the best stores to shop in, even the best roads to avoid the traffic during rush hour. Oh, she did miss it. She loved her job, she did, but she would have had no objections if she had been transferred back to the Pentagon or some other Washington post. She would have been “home,” near friends she’d made both in D.C. and Colorado, and one friend in particular. Yes, there was a reason she was in Nevada, but to return to D.C. in triumph after an incredible career at the SGC would be a feather in her cap.

Returning to D.C. in triumph would be better than the way she had left it.

D.C. had been her first “official” stop for her Stargate career. Working on the team that studied the gate placed her in a position that could have guaranteed an appointment to any place she wanted had she succeeded. All she needed to do was unlock its secrets, but the gate was locked tight and wasn’t willing to share. For two years, the team she was on tried to figure out exactly what the gate was, what it did, how it worked, but for all their research and examinations, it was nothing more than a piece of carved, round rock with symbols on it.

Then…

“Everyone, your attention, please,” Colonel Tollison said as he walked into the lab. He had a rather thick folder in his hands and an excited smile on his face. “I’ve just received word from Cheyenne Base. Three weeks ago, Doctor Langford obtained the services of Doctor Daniel Jackson, an archaeologist and linguist. He’s an Egyptologist as well. In two weeks, he got the device working. It’s a type of gateway that, when engaged, creates a wormhole to another planet.”

The murmurs of disbelief filled the lab. The colonel held up his hand for silence.  

“Unbelievable, I know, but a team has gone through the…” he looked in the folder, searching for the right word. “Stargate, as Doctor Jackson named it. They went to another planet, but the conditions there prompted the team commander to detonate a bomb. Only three returned. Unfortunately, Doctor Jackson wasn’t one of them.” His enthusiasm suddenly left him. “As exciting as this is and as many research opportunities this could afford us, I’ve been informed by General West that the project is being ended and the research abandoned. We’ll all be reassigned to new duties over the next few weeks.”

The murmurs turned into stunned silence. How could it be ripped from them? The research for something like this would take a lifetime! How could the military just end the program?

The colonel handed the folder to the scientists and left the room. Eagerly, Sam started flipping through the pages as they were handed to her. She read the astonishing results with rapt attention.

How had an archaeologist accomplished in a couple of weeks what a team of physicists, astrophysicists and mathematicians couldn’t do in a couple of years?

Constellations? Six points in space? Point of origin?

How had they missed that? How had anyone missed that?

For months afterward, Sam spent a great deal of time trying to recreate Daniel’s steps, but she couldn’t. He’d left no notes to guide anyone. She couldn’t understand the leaps of logic he took because all her simulations she ran in an attempt to duplicate his thought processes reached no logical conclusions. It made no sense.

When not trying to repeat Daniel’s steps, she spent most of that year following the closure of the program studying telemetry reports of comets and the possible presence of dark matter. She wondered what direction her career was going to go in since no one in her team had been able to accomplish their goal of discovering how the Stargate worked. The failure was a black mark on her record which would follow her for the rest of her career. Her attempts to get into NASA had gone nowhere. She thought she would be relegated to scientific study when she got the phone call to report to Cheyenne Base.

So, she left Washington and embraced an entirely new career -- that of a space traveler. As much as she loved the city, as much as she had wanted to believe that she had a future there, she happily left it behind. Her career had taken a new turn; one that she believed could open more doors for her, in more ways than one.

Her thoughts were brought abruptly back to the present as she turned her car down another road and then changed the radio station until she heard an old song she hadn’t heard in a long time. It was a sad song, one that led her down different memories.

Her second trip to D.C. had been less than happy. The chance of being awarded a medal by the president was an honor, but the news of her father’s cancer had devastated her. That had overshadowed everything else, even the news that the reporter had discovered the truth about the stargate. She’d left D.C. that time with a cloud over her emotions. For the second time, the city was associated with something personally bad for her, and the city lost some of its allure.

There had been other trips to Washington, and she had left with a variety of emotions from a myriad of circumstances. This trip, however, was much more than just an official excursion to discuss her new assignment. It was also a pleasure trip. She was eagerly anticipating the end of the short drive. It was something she had thought about for some time and had thought about quite a bit since she first considered what she could do.

That thought of what ‘might happen’ and the possibilities changed her mood considerably.

She put the unhappy thoughts of the past behind her. She had an even brighter future ahead of her than even she could imagine. And D.C.? She remembered the city as she first saw it years ago. The hustle, the bustle, the intrigue, even the mystique. Maybe, just maybe she could be a part of all that again? The city was still the source of influence, the headquarters of the government. Here were the halls of power. It was an intoxicating thing. Yet there was still something more, and she was almost at her destination.

Another turn and she passed the sign for the subdivision settled on the outskirts of Arlington.

It was a nice neighborhood full of quaint homes and pretty scenery. Children rode their bicycles on the sidewalks; dogs ran around in fenced-in yards. It was downtown Suburbia at its most stereotypical. She still didn’t understand why General O’Neill had bought a house in the suburbs. It didn’t seem his style at all. He’d always seemed more… rugged, outdoorsy.

The address had not been an easy one to find. Any Homeworld Security post required that the people working for that department have classified addresses and unlisted phone numbers for security reasons. Sam’s rank as a lieutenant colonel and her security clearance combined to give her access to that information, so it only took a simple inquiry followed up with several phone calls to find the answer. Major General Jack O’Neill was living in Arlington, Virginia.

The information had come through the day before she got word to report to Washington, the same day she found out Daniel’s departure date for Atlantis had been moved up and that Teal’c had already left Earth for Dakara.

Knowing this could be one of the few chances she had to talk to an old friend, she had called Daniel at the SGC.

“Hi Sam,” his voice sounded happy but distracted. Of course he was. He was about to head off to Atlantis sooner than expected. That was something he had wanted to do since the moment he had figured out the address. “How’s Nevada?”

“Much warmer,” she said. “How are things there?”

“Uh, busy as usual. General Landry and I have been going over some of the requirements of the cultural and linguistics departments. He likes to talk to all the department heads from time to time, keep up with what’s going on.”

She could hear the excitement in his voice too. “Then you’re off to Atlantis,” she said

“Going on the Daedelus in a couple of weeks. I’ve already given up my house and took a furnished apartment until then.”

She could hear that bit of distraction again. Whatever he was doing, he was absorbed by it.

“So what’s going on in your neck of the woods?”

“I’m scheduled to fly to D.C. in the morning for a meeting,” she told him.

“Yeah? Area 51 can let you go for a few days?”

She heard the teasing in his voice. “Yes. I think they can do without me for a few days. Anything I should know before I go?”

There was a moment of quiet, as if Daniel was trying to think of any new information. “Did you know that Jack closed on his house? It’s not quite his style, but he likes it. Did you get the address?”

Sam smiled to herself. “Yes. It took a little digging to find it. His address has an even higher security classification since he’s involved with the SGC, Area 51 and the Joint Chiefs.”

“Oh, yeah, right. I’m thinking that’s one reason why we don’t get junk mail since we work here,” he answered absently just before Sam heard the thud of something being shoved in a box.

Then something Daniel said registered. Jack closed on his house, but it’s not his style? “When did you get a chance to visit him?” she asked Daniel.

“Teal’c and I had that meeting with one of the Senate subcommittees last week and stayed at their house while we were there. I thought Jack said he sent you an e-mail about what was going on at the time?”

An e-mail? She had an inbox full of messages; each one marked ‘Top Priority.’ “I haven’t had a chance to read through all of them yet, but I’ve read a few from General O’Neill. Between the new schedules we have and the daily emergencies with new technologies, I’ve been busy. How did they go when you were there?”

“I had to give them a cultural history of the Goa’uld and an overview of some of the SGC reports they’ve read. Teal’c had to testify about everything that’s been involved with the clean-up efforts since the Goa’uld were kicked out of power. At least the senators pretended to be grateful about everything we did and didn’t ask about what kinds of technology we brought back after the battle. Jack had to sit there and listen. I think he was doodling on a scratch pad the entire time.”

Sam could imagine that. “How do you think the general likes living there?”

“He’s not too thrilled living that far away from Minnesota, but I think he’s happier than he’s been in a long time. He had me set up his computer so the Minnesota State website is his homepage.”

“Happier?”

“He’s got everything he wants there, so he’s happy.”

Major General Jack O’Neill was happy in Washington? That must mean there was a lake with a lot of fish near his house. There was nothing else for him in Washington, was there?

There was some more small talk, then they said their goodbyes, and Sam finished up some paperwork before she left for her Nevada apartment.

Sam paid close attention to the street signs and re-checked her directions. She was almost there. Another song she liked came on the radio, and she started humming to herself.

General O’Neill’s living on the other side of the country and her living in Nevada was a bit of an issue she was adapting to, but their jobs meant that they would be thrown together many times. Her visit to D.C. was a prime opportunity for their first meeting since the team had disbanded, and maybe… just maybe, if she was lucky, she might be transferred to D.C. on a semi-permanent basis and then those issues she was adapting might not be issues anymore.

She turned down another street. There were houses on either side, picket fences, front porches, decades old trees… no, this wasn’t the general’s style at all. They were more of what could be called stately homes.

Sam slowed down and scanned the house numbers until she found the one she was looking for. She recognized the general’s truck but there was an unfamiliar car parked in the driveway. She pulled in behind them and shut off her engine. She looked over the house before getting out of the car. Two story, brick, big front porch, fenced in yard – a barking dog ran toward her but stopped at the fence. House, yard, dog – a flash of memory reminded her that this was what Pete had wanted. What he thought she had wanted. She had told him once it was. She even described the house she dreamed of to him and he had found one almost exactly like the one she had told him about. He’d done all that for her so they could have a life together, but it wasn’t quite what she wanted. Not then.

Ignoring the barking dog, she got out of the car and walked up the steps to the front door then stopped. Was this a good idea, showing up without calling first? The general had never seemed comfortable when she’d done that before, but other people had shown up at his house after she did. Maybe having extra people there had made him uncomfortable?

Deciding it was now or never, she reached out and rang the doorbell. All she had to do was wait.

She waited.

The door opened.

A lady, perhaps in her mid-forties, was standing in the doorway. She noticed Sam’s uniform immediately. “Yes? May I help you? Thor! Be quiet!” she yelled at the dog. Immediately, the dog stopped barking but he never stopped looking at Sam.

“Excuse him,” she said. “Thor thinks it’s his duty to bark at everything that moves.”

“That would make him a good watchdog then,” Sam answered, clearly amused by the choice of name. “I’m not certain I have the correct address. I was looking for General O’Neill’s house.”

“This is the general’s house.”

“You work for the general?”

“Oh, heavens, no. I work for General and Mrs. West. Things have been a little busy for everyone, so I’m helping with the clean up.”

“Clean up?” Sam asked.

“From the move. General West asked if I’d help with some of the unpacking since everyone’s busy with meetings and the such like. Are you here to see the general?”

“Yes, I am. I’m here from Nevada and have to fly back this afternoon, but I thought that since I had a few free hours, I’d see how things were going for him here. I worked with him when he was stationed in Colorado.”

“I see. Would you please come in? The general might be back soon. I’m sure he’d be happy to see an old friend. My name’s Marie, by the way. What’s yours?”

“Samantha Carter,” Sam answered. “I’m a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.” She almost kicked herself. Marie worked for General West, she would know what a colonel’s uniform looked like.

Sam followed her into the house, taking note of the arrangements. The room to the left was a den. The general’s familiar furniture, the ones he had in his house in Colorado, was there. The room to the right – a living room perhaps? It was filled with somewhat used but unfamiliar furniture. There was a feminine touch to this room. Perhaps General West’s wife had helped Jack decorate? Pictures… some of the pictures, she knew well. There was the one with Jack, his ex-wife Sarah and their son Charlie, another with the SG-1 team. There was one of Jack and who must have been his father, another with Jack and … was that his mother? But that one – what kind of picture was that?  

Sam took a closer look. The general was wearing his dress uniform. Beside him was his ex-wife Sarah in a simple white dress with an older woman standing beside her. Standing beside Jack were Daniel and Teal’c, both wearing simple suits. They were standing in what looked like a small chapel.

It was getting difficult to breathe.

“I’m not sure how long they’ll be. They’ve got meetings today, but you’re welcome to wait here if you’d like. Would you like anything to drink? I think Mrs. West brought over some soft drinks yesterday –”

“No, no thank you,” Sam answered quickly. “Can you tell me about this picture?” Sam pointed to the one that made breathing difficult.

Marie glanced at it. “That’s the General and Mrs. O’Neill’s wedding picture.”

Wedding picture?

“Can you tell me how long they’ve been married?”

Marie looked at the picture. “A week thereabouts. That young man standing with the general is his best friend, Daniel Jackson. A more polite person you’ll never meet. When we were having the reception, do you know he helped carry the trays? And smart too. He was carrying on all sorts of conversations with some of the guests, some of them in their own language. The U.N. could use someone like him, but the general said that the UN wouldn’t keep his interest. He and that other man, Murray, were here for some hearings but stayed here right after the O’Neill’s got this house. Very nice gentlemen. The lady standing beside Mrs. O’Neill is her aunt. Her father is in a few of the pictures, but they haven’t had time to hang them on the walls yet.”

Sam heard the dog barking again. Marie went to the window and looked out. “There’s Mrs. O’Neill. Excuse me.”

Sam wanted to leave, right then, right there, but she found herself staring at that one photograph. Why hadn’t Daniel told her?

“Teal’c and I had that meeting with one of the Senate subcommittees last week and stayed at their house while we were there. I thought Jack said he sent you an e-mail about what was going on at the time?”

He had told her, sort of. He thought she knew that Jack and Sarah had remarried.

“Colonel Carter?”

Sam turned and was standing across the room from Sara O’Neill. She didn’t look very different from the only time she’d seen her. In fact, she looked very much the same. Taking a deep breath, Sam walked the distance, hand held out in greeting to shake Sara’s. “Mrs. O’Neill. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I’m only in town for a few more hours, and I was curious to see how General O’Neill was doing after his move.” That’s right. Fall back on formality and protocol.

Sara motioned toward the couch. “Please, sit down. I don’t know how long Jack will be. He’s meeting with the Joint Chiefs today, and those meetings can last all day long.”

Sam nodded her head. She could make simple conversation. She knew she could. It didn’t matter that she felt like someone had yanked all the air out of her lungs. “Are things going well for you here? I never thought the general would want to live in Washington.”

“Oh, he hates it here, but it’s close to work. Thank goodness Arlington isn’t the District. He does like the house – it took me a few weeks to find one we both liked. Would you like something to drink? I believe –”

“No, thank you,” Sam said. She was surprised how strong her voice sounded. She glanced at her watch. Time, yes, that was as good an excuse as any to leave. “I really can’t stay. I need to get back to the airport.”

Sara smiled and nodded and walked Sam to the door. “I’ll tell Jack you were here. I think he still misses Colorado, but he told me he felt like life was closing in on him. Almost like something was bearing down on him. I think he needed a change of scenery more than anything. It had to be hard on him watching all those teams go through the gate when he wanted to do the same thing even though he knows leading an SG team is beyond him now.”

“Yes, it can be a very demanding job,” Sam agreed.

“Jack told me that he looked for a while for someone to lead SG-1. He’s placed one of the Antarctic pilots is in command of SG-1 now.”

“You know about Antarctica?” Sam asked.

Sara smiled. “I’ve got a security clearance. Jack told me only the semi-unclassified items that can be discussed openly among the personnel. This pilot, a Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell, was one of the pilots who was covering SG-1 during that mission. I think Jack’s relieved that Mitchell accepted the position. He says all he has to do now is convince Daniel to stay with the team but he’s got his heart set on Atlantis.”

Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell? Cam? He got SG-1? Sam was … surprised. She did know that he was being assigned to an SG team but not in charge of the premiere team.

Sam bid Sara a polite goodbye, and then walked back to her car. Thor basically ignored her, his focus strictly on the street as if waiting for someone. Then, a quick get-away, and she was down the street in a matter of moments.

Jack and Sara were married again.

Her curiosity getting the better of her, she turned her car around and drove back. She parked down the street but with a good view of the O’Neill house. It wasn’t long before a government car drove up. Thor didn’t bark but reared up on the fence, his tail wagging. The driver got out of the car and opened the rear door, and Sam watched as Major General Jack O’Neill got out, briefcase in hand, dressed in his dress blues. The driver saluted, and then got back in the car as Jack walked toward the house. A few moments were spent giving the dog a good petting – obviously, Thor was very happy to see Jack, and then Sara greeted him at the door. There was a quick kiss hello, happy grins on both their faces… domestic bliss or just happy to be together, Sam didn’t know. She watched as they went into the house and as the door closed behind them.

Jack and Sara were married again.

This time, when Sam drove off, she didn’t turn back.

She drove towards the airport, but this time, the music from the radio was ignored.

On that fifteen minute drive from D.C., she had thought … but that was on that fifteen minute drive. At that moment, her thoughts weren’t what they were before because everything was different.

Only 45 minutes from Broadway,
Think of the changes it brings ,
For the short time it takes,
What a diff'rence it makes
In the ways of the people and things.

The End.




Big thanks to EvilJr and DragonTrollQueen for betaing this story




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