It wasn`t the empty space beside me that woke me up, so much as the empty silence in the house. I was more than used to my husband waking well before I did, and often heading out into the backyard to putter around in the garden for an hour or so, usually waiting for me to wake up before starting breakfast. It was this distinct *lack* of his presence, for wont of a better term, that woke me up.
I squinted at the alarm clock and noted that it was just past 0800, well before I normally got out of bed on a Sunday. That is, on a Sunday where I wasn`t on a mission, or needed on base, or thinking of some new way to save the planet. And this, God bless, was just one of those rare Sundays.
The plan had been to sleep in late, indulge in an enormous cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns, while simultaneously reading the newspaper and basking in the morning sun with my husband. From the vast empty silence that was our house, it seemed that plans had changed.
I reached my hand out from under the covers and grabbed my beeper, checking the display in case I`d slept through it`s incessant noise. I hadn`t. The display was blank. I lifted up and checked the phone beside the bed. No blinking lights. No messages. Now I was curious enough to actually get out of bed.
I rolled up and out in one smooth motion, reaching for my dressing gown at the same time. I pulled it on, shivering slightly until the material warmed up. No sleek satin negligee for me. No, as always it was flannelette and cotton. So far Jack hadn`t made any complaints. In fact, quite the opposite. Which reminded me.
`Jack?` I called, walking down the hallway into the living area. The room was dark, curtains still closed. I walked past the sofa into the kitchen. There was an empty mug on the sink, and the coffee maker was bubbling away happily. From the amount of liquid in the base, I`d guess it had been bubbling for a few hours now. I frowned at it accusingly. Like it could answer my silent question on the whereabouts of my missing husband. I briefly checked through the kitchen window to the garden outside, but there was no sign.
It was when I finally looked out the front window and found his truck gone that I realised what had happened. Jack had gone somewhere. Gone out. And he hadn`t told me. I sat down with a thump on the sun-lounge in the front room, staring out at the blank driveway.
It was barely twenty minutes later when he returned, his truck pulling up quietly in our front yard, the exhaust churning out a white cloud of condensation in the cold air. I`d switched on the heater and opened the lounge-room curtains, but other than that, had not moved from the sun-lounge.
I watched as Jack exited the truck, pulling a sack of shopping with him as he did so. The truck locked as he walked away and I saw his hand move to his pocket, putting away the keys. I moved slightly, and he caught the action. He turned his eyes towards me, hesitated and then continued up the path to the front door. I heard the door open, close and then his muffled cough as he put his jacket up on one of the pegs.
`Sam?` He called to me as he stood behind the sofa. I said nothing, just continued to stare out into the front yard. I heard him clear his throat a clear sign of nervousness in my husband then walk into the kitchen.
Within seconds he was back, and I could feel him like a warm wall standing behind me. I bit my lip, scared. This man, my husband, held my whole life in the palm of his hand, and at times he didn`t even know it. Only days ago, I`d told him that I was pregnant with our child. Pregnant. The word itself conjured up amazement, awe and terror in my heart. After Jolinar, both Janet and I had thought I would never be able to have children, especially with the special protein marker I`d inherited as a result of the incident.
But then, just a few weeks ago, I`d begun getting symptoms. Rather than tell Jack and get both of our hopes up, I`d gone in to see Janet and gotten some quiet testing done. And the result was that I was pregnant. When I`d told Jack, though - I bit my lip again. His was not the reaction of a proud, excited father-to-be. And it hurt. Deep, deep down it ripped and tore at me. And scared me.
`Sam? Honey?` His voice was gentle, and I could feel the light touch of his hand on my shoulder. I heard the coffee table creak as he sat on it, felt his fingers trail down my arm to my elbow. `Sam? Can I talk to you a second?` I took a deep breath and turned, trying to blink away reddened eyes. Damn hormones, anyway. Jack swore softly when he saw the state I was in, but I frowned silently at him, and he pulled back.
`I got up early this morning.` He started. I stared. Usually, when we`re fighting, I`m as vocal as he is, if not more so. But today, I was feeling lost and worried. In the days since I`d told him my news, he`d barely said a word, retreating into the shell that protected him so well. I suppose, given his history, I should have been more understanding. But I just couldn`t. History didn`t have to repeat itself. This child I carried was not Charlie. He or she would not die prematurely. I could see it, just as I could see that Jack couldn`t.
`I noticed.` I replied sarcastically. He shot me a look from beneath his eyelashes, then lowered his gaze again.
`I went to church.` He blurted. I stared at him in shock. Jack O`Neill was one of the most apathetic Catholics I`d ever met. I don`t think, in the entire time I`d known him,he`d ever stepped foot inside a church and goa`uld temples did not count.
`You went to church?` I repeated. He nodded. `Why, for heaven`s sake?`
`I don`t know. I woke up before dawn, and I just had this.. need. So I got up and went. You know, St Joseph`s, on Donald Road?` I nodded, still puzzled. Jack went silent for a while, eyes glazed with some internal memory.
`Jack?` I prompted. He blinked and looked at me, taking a deep breath.
`I`m scared, Sam.` He admitted in a rush.
`Scared? Of what?`
`When I was at St Joseph`s, I talked to someone I haven`t seen in almost ten years. His name is Father David McDilian, he`s the priest there. He`s been there for almost fifteen years now. He he buried Charlie. I`ve known him since high school. We talked about things. About you and the baby. About Charlie. About Sara.`
`Jack. What are you scared of?` Sam prodded, instinct telling her that this was the question she needed to ask. This was the question he had to answer.
`I`m scared of loving this baby. Of loving it and losing it. Losing Charlie almost broke me. I know you know that. I`m scared of feeling that way again. I`m not strong enough to recover fromfrom something like that again. But David made me see that it was too late.` He blew a breath out, and I felt it tickle my face gently. `There is no way that I could not love this child. He`s a part of you, a part of me. And he exists already. And I love him already. And that`s what scares me most of all. What I feel for our child is akin to what I felt for Charlie. How do I cope? It scares me, Sam.`
`Jack.` I said, my heart almost breaking for him. I reached forward and grabbed his hands, halting the wringing motions he was making. `I have a question for you. I want your honest answer.`
I could hear the dread in his voice, but continued anyway. `Would you, to rid yourself of the pain you suffered ten years ago, if you had the chance, go back and stop Charlie from coming into existence? Would you rather not have known Charlie at all?`
`God, no!` Jack almost yelled his answer at me, looking horrified at the thought. I sat back and waited. `Are you crazy? I loved my son, I would never wish his life away! Charlie was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can`t believe you would suggest that, Sam!` Now he was looking indignant. I waited a little longer, watching the thoughts flash behind his eyes as he slowly caught up.
`Oh.` He finally uttered, blinking slowly. He shot a look at me, one half of his mouth twisted up in wry amusement. I smiled back the same smile, my hands cupped over my stomach. `I get it.`
`Good.` I replied, reaching out to him. He laid his hand in mine, and I brought it to my stomach, to rest beneath mine on my slightly distended stomach. `This child is ours, Jack. And he or she has a future that is not predestined. Our child will live to give you joy for more years than you care to imagine. You have to have faith in that. And if he or she doesn`t live as long as we would care, then we will still have the joy of knowing our child, of loving our child as hard as we can, for as long as we can. That is all we can do as parents. And it`s something you taught me, Jack.`
`Yes, with Miram. The child that you taught to be a child. You gave her unconditional love. You give all the children you meet unconditional love. That`s what we need and that`s what we will give our child.`
`I know.` His thumb was slowly stroking my stomach, flexing over the curve. `Just give me time?`
`You have six months, Jack.` I replied with another wry grin. `Now I`m hungry. Where`s my breakfast?` Jack smiled in reply, leant forward and kissed me softly, then stood up and walked into the kitchen. Soon after, I smelt the fragrance of frying bacon and sighed appreciatively.
Jack was one of the bravest men I had ever met and he would overcome this fear. Even if I had to beat it out of him. I took that cheery thought with me as I headed for the kitchen and my husband, who was whistling a Monty Python tune off-key as he worked. He cast a smile at me as he laid more bacon in the pan, then broke off his whistling for a second.
`Father David wants to meet you.` He told me with a wicked grin. I raised an eyebrow in question, but said nothing as I grabbed the glass of juice of the counter and took a sip.
`Hey, that`s mine.` Jack protested. I grinned in reply, quoting an oft-used piece of drivel that still had value.
`In this marriage what`s yours is mine and what`s mine is me own.`
My oh so very mature husband retorted by poking out his tongue at me. I snorted into the juice, spraying my nose and the counter with bright orange liquid that Jack mopped up silently, his shoulders shaking slightly with mirth.
And I knew then that whatever happened, we would be okay. I placed my hand over my stomach. All of us.