Title: "Wisdom"

Author: Little Red

Rating: PG

Pairing: mini!OTP

Spoilers: Fragile Balance, vague ones for Chimera

Dedication: for Lisa, who showed me MAINE! and who is the most wonderful hostess ever :)

Summary: They really aren't the same person anymore.

***

The first time around, Sam Carter paid attention in math class.

She knew it all already, instinctively, but she hung on every word - both because she was supposed to, and because she took a perverse pleasure in noting her teacher's every casual error or theoretical mistake. The first time around, she had to stop voicing those criticisms aloud for fear of a poor college application recommendation. This time around she doesn't worry about that (as much), but she still lets the errors - and most of the class period - slide away from her.

The wonders of integration, sine, tangent no longer hold her attention. The erroneous y on the board still annoys her, but she knows now that the teacher is trying his best and, perhaps more so, knows it will help no one to point it out.

She would be lying if she said her mind never wandered in high school calculus back in the 80s, but it was usually because she was busy re-inventing an advanced theory or trying to prove Fermat's Last Theorem in the margins.

Now, she finds herself thinking about him.

Even in a room full of shuffling sixteen year olds, she hears Jack tapping his pen against his notebook three rows of seats away. The teacher had them separated when he suspected Jack was lifting answers from her quiz papers, which he was. She catches his gaze while Mr. Norton's back is turned and rolls her eyes. He grins, the familiar grin in an increasingly familiar face, and her heart turns over in her chest.

She thinks she might love him. Really, honestly love him. The kind of love where, even though he kicks her awake three times a night sometimes ("growing limbs!"), she can't sleep at all without him anymore. The kind where she dreams about him, both as an adult and how he is now, even when she has spent all day with him and probably will the next. It actually stops her dead sometimes, freezing her with awe and disbelief and a childish elation at strange moments. When he notices the pages of her book have stopped turning he'll look up from his magazine, rub her jean-clad skin with the hand that had come to rest on the inside of her knee, and ask her if she's okay.

He doesn't say "I love you" in daytime. She has only heard it a few times when he knows she's awake, in fact, and all of them were out of absolute necessity - her teenage hormones tend to make her a victim of uncontrollable crying fits and her other life, the one before this, has made her afraid of showing tears to anyone.

He doesn't send her sappy notes in class to save in her locker, either - the sweetest she gets from him is a crude stick drawing of the teacher or cryptic instructions to cut third period and meet him in the emergency fire escape stairwell. He will dance with her at dances they are somehow tricked by "friends" into attending, but only to embarrass her. He has never once bought her flowers, but he saved up money from his weekend gig at a construction company owned by the baseball team captain's dad to buy her a state-of-the-art lockpicking set so she could break into the planetarium or the local university science lab at night.

He turned her to a life of after-school crime, too.

"You think they really won't let you BACK into MIT if you get caught illegally playing with microscopes?"

She heard through the grapevine during one of her required post-cloning SGC physical evaluations that the other Sam, Major Carter, her original blueprint self, has taken up with someone else. She has a hard time believing it. Sam appreciates the older woman's point of view in a way that she will never be able to understand anyone else. She can imagine her best intentions, but still, she has a hard time reconciling them, like the Asgard procedure somehow changed the original Sam Carter as much as it changed her. Maybe they really aren't same person anymore. Sam tries to mentally reconstruct the path her life was on before to see how it landed her with a civilian, a friend of her brother's, and can't get there because she knows what this is like.

She knows that he loves her like she has never been loved before. She thinks this is the real thing, the kind of real thing she never admitted to believing in but always, always did. She's still terrified, sometimes, but only when she remembers to be, and where she was once always afraid of what her life could be like without him, now she has a hard time even imagining it. It might be life-long, she thinks at night in their bed and over half-naked breakfast and in math class, and life-long means so much more than it used to.

Dead silence in the classroom snaps her back to attention.

"Samantha? If your artwork could spare you for a moment...?"

There's a snicker, somewhere. She really is drawing little hearts in the margins of her college-ruled notebook, which can only mean she has been hanging around with sixteen-year-old girls too much. She didn't hear the question, and Mr. Norton is known for never repeating himself and assigning detentions when asked to.

"I don't know," Sam admits, and is a bit surprised at how little saying that bothers her.

This time around, she's learning something much more important.

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