Fandom: Stargate: SG-1
Characters: Samantha Carter
Word Count: 12,962
Written for: Christi (daisycm83) for gateverse_remix.
Betaed by: the awesome redbyrd_sgfic
Original story: On Your Mind
Summary: Sam’s always a good girl. Except when she isn’t.
Mommy puts ribbons in her hair and dresses her in her prettiest dress. Samantha doesn’t like the dress—it itches, and she isn’t supposed to scratch.
“You look very pretty, Samantha,” Mommy says. “We’re going over to Colonel Foster’s house for a very special event. Do you remember going to Colonel Foster’s house a few weeks ago?”
Samantha nods solemnly. “He’s Daddy’s boss. And you wanted Mrs. Colonel Foster to like us so Colonel Foster would like Daddy.” She hadn’t liked Mrs. Colonel Foster or her house. The house had been big and cold and filled with fascinating things Samantha wasn’t allowed to touch, and Mrs. Colonel Foster had ignored Samantha the whole time they were there, even though Samantha had done everything Mommy told her to.
Mommy nods and smiles. “Of course you remembered. You’re a very smart little girl. You were very good then, and you need to be very good now.”
Samantha fidgets. She’s always a good girl. “Do we have to go?” she asks. It’s much easier to be a good girl in a place where she can run and play.
“We’re going to see something very special on television,” Mommy says. She pats Samantha on the head like she does when she wants to ruffle her hair but doesn’t want to mess it up. “You see, there are men in a spaceship, a rocket, going to the moon. One of them is named Neil Armstrong, and he’s going to get out and be the first man ever to walk on the surface of the moon. It’s going to be very exciting.”
Samantha stares at her, eyes round. “But you said there wasn’t a man in the moon, Mommy.”
Mommy laughs. “There isn’t a man in the moon, sweetie. Neil Armstrong came from Earth, and he’s only going to be there for a few days, and he’s going to walk around on the moon, not in it.”
“There’s my two beautiful girls!”
Samantha turns around with a big smile. She loves her Daddy, loves it when he picks her up and swings her around. She holds her arms up and whoops in delight when he scoops her up.
“Don’t get her riled up, Jake,” Mommy says. But she’s smiling, and leans in to kiss Daddy.
“Daddy, how did the man get to the moon?” she asks.
“Well, do you remember the fireworks we had on the Fourth of July?” Daddy says. “They built a great big one with a tiny room at one end just big enough for three people.”
“Really?” Samantha’s eyes are wide. She loved the fireworks—they were pretty, and they made such loud bangs when they went off. Mark cried even though he was almost seven, but she was a big girl and wasn’t scared. She wonders how much noise a firework big enough to put three men inside would make, and what pretty colors it would have.
“Really,” Daddy says. “They pointed it at the moon and set it off, and they were up, up, and away!” He throws her in the air, and she shrieks.
“Do it again!”
“We don’t want to be late,” Mommy says.
“Mommy’s right, kiddo,” Daddy says. “We want to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, don’t we?”
Samantha nods her head as hard as she can.
“Then let’s go.” Daddy hands her to Mommy and calls to Mark, and off they go.
Later, after Neil Armstrong has said the words about Man and Mankind, the other children of Daddy’s fellow officers go out to play in the backyard. The adults are talking. The television is showing the newsman talking, and he’s repeating himself a lot. Samantha sits by herself at the television, absorbing every word. It was the most exciting thing she’d ever seen, more exciting than the time the stray cat that lived in their backyard had kittens, even.
One of the women comes over to her. “Did you like the moon landing, dear?” she says.
Samantha looks up at her. “I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up and go to the moon, just like Neil Armstrong!”
The woman is taken aback, but she laughs after a second. “What a funny little girl you are, sweetie.” She turns to one of the others, says something Samantha doesn’t catch.
Samantha bites her lip; she didn’t mean to be funny, and her feelings are hurt, but she doesn’t want to cry about it like a baby. She looks at Mommy, but Mommy is looking at Mrs. Colonel Foster, and Mommy looks worried.
“I see we have a budding feminist in our midst,” Mrs. Colonel Foster says, and some of the women laugh. It doesn’t sound very nice. Samantha doesn’t know what a feminist is, but from the way she said it—from the way Mommy is frowning—it must be bad.
Samantha must have done something wrong, but she doesn’t know what. She was trying to be a good girl.
For Christmas that year, Samantha asks for a Major Matt Mason doll and all the toys that go with it. Mommy lets her help make Christmas dinner, and she even gets to help mix the cookie dough for the cookies. Samantha is so proud when Mommy calls her a big girl. She can’t wait to open presents.
But there isn’t a Matt Mason doll waiting under the tree for her. She gets Barbie and Ken and some books about space from Daddy, and some homemade doll clothes from Mommy. She likes them, she really does, and so she smiles and says thank you, but she can’t help but be disappointed because they’re not what she wanted.
Mark gets a Major Matt Mason Flight Pak, a Moon Suit Pak, and a baseball bat. Mark plays with Major Mason for a while, before shoving them on the dusty shelf that holds his G.I. Joe toys and his few books and taking his new bat outside to play with the neighbor boys.
When he hasn’t so much as touched them again by two days later, Samantha goes into his room and takes them when he’s off at school. He doesn’t notice they’re gone, and Mommy doesn’t make her put them back. So Barbie and Major Matt go to the moon and back at least once a day.
Mommy makes her hide them when Mrs. Colonel Foster or one of the other officers’ wives show up. But for her birthday next May, Daddy gives Samantha Major Matt Mason’s Talking Command Console.
Samantha is thirteen, and they’ve just moved half-way across the country to Whiteman Air Force Base. Dad’s been given a promotion and assigned to the 351st Strategic Missile Wing. It’s the first time Samantha has lived in a place with that many missile silos. She goes to school in near-by Knob Noster,
She’s the only girl. At first she doesn’t mind, because it’s the first time she’s had a math class that wasn’t boring. But none of the five boys in the class (three Air Force brats like herself, two local boys) will speak to her once they figure out she’s smarter than they are. When the teacher calls her up to the blackboard to solve a problem, one of them stretches a foot out just in time for her to trip over it. The teacher makes him apologize, but Samantha knows he did it on purpose.
Samantha had been making friends with a girl her age named Rebecca who lives on the base, a few houses down from the Carters. The day after Samantha gets put in EA, Rebecca won’t sit with her at lunch, and two of the local girls laugh at the idea of a girl in the geeky boy science class. Samantha goes home crying, and Mom hugs her as she sobs out her story. They make cookies together, and that night Samantha wakes up to hear her parents arguing about her classes. The next day Mom takes her to school and talks with the principal. Samantha stays in EA, but she has to take Home Ec as well.
Samantha hates it. The other girls have had a semester and a half to learn things, but Samantha wasn’t in Home Ec at her old school and the things Mom has taught her at home aren’t enough to keep up with the others. She’s behind, and knows it. Feeling stupid is a new feeling for her, and she doesn’t like it. Worse, the other girls giggle about her crooked seams and failed foods behind the teacher’s back.
“Why do I have to take Home Ec?” she asks her mother that evening.
Mom looks up from the bills she’s working on at the kitchen table, takes her reading glasses off. “Home Economics teaches things that will be handy to know when you’re all grown up and married and have a family to take care of.”
“But I don’t want to stay home and take care of kids,” Samantha says. “I want to be an astronaut!” That’s one thing that hasn’t changed since the night she watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon, although she has learned to be careful who she says it to.
Mom sighs. “Samantha, you’re a very smart girl, and it’s good to be ambitious and want a career. But the space program is all but dead, and they don’t let women in it, anyway.”
“They’re building new rockets, reusable shuttles that’ll be cheaper than the old Saturn V rockets,” Samantha says. “The first one will be ready for launch in just a few years. They’re looking for new people for the program, now. And they’re accepting female applicants!” It will take Samantha several years to finish growing up and go to college and get her doctorate, but the space program has entered a brave new era, and she thinks that by the time she’s ready to apply herself, they’ll probably be about ready to send the first manned expedition to Mars.
Mom crosses her arms and watches her for a few moments, a look on her face that Samantha doesn’t understand. “I didn’t know that,” she says. “Even so, you’ll want to get married eventually, Samantha. I don’t want to think of you all alone. A career is important, but it’s not enough if it means you come home every night to a cold, empty house. I want you to make some man a good wife some day, and a good mother. I want you to be happy.”
“I’d be happy if I were an astronaut,” Samantha says. She looks over to where Dad and Mark are sitting in the living room, working on the fishing gear they’re going to take with them on the trip they have planned. “Dad?”
Dad looks up. “Your mom knows what girls need better than I do, honey. I hope you get to be an astronaut, but I want you to be happy, too, not just ambitious.”
“But I’m not happy in Home Ec now,” Samantha complains. She’s not that happy in her EA classes, either, but she won’t mention it; she loves the learning, even if the boys are being jerks, and it will look good on her transcripts when she applies to colleges and, later, to NASA. In Home Ec, her classmates don’t like her and she hates the course work.
“Things will get better, I promise, Samantha,” her mother says. “It will be good for you to learn what it’s like to not be the best at something. And it’s important that you have girl friends your age.” She bends over the bills again, and Samantha knows the conversation is closed.
Samantha goes to her room and shuts the door as loud as she dares. She doesn’t know why Mom thinks Home Ec will make her happy as an adult, but she does know that it doesn’t matter how much she wants to be friends with the other girls if they don’t want to be friends with her.
By the time they’ve been there a month, Samantha still hasn’t made any friends, and she’s found out just how little there is to do for a girl by herself. When Dad and Mark both have spare time, they’re rebuilding an old junker Dad bought from a friend; it’ll be Mark’s car when he gets his license. Sometimes, if she’s quiet and doesn’t bother them, they’ll let her watch. She can only spend so much time helping Mom take care of the house and going with Mom to visit Mom’s new friends. It’s going to be a long summer.
By the end of the next year, Samantha will learn to hold her own in Home Ec, though her grades are nothing special. She talks with the other girls at school, but she still doesn’t really have a friend, someone she can trust and tell all her secrets and plans, someone who will invite her over for a slumber party or go to the pool in the summer with her. She’s not sad at all when Dad tells them he’s been transferred again, and they’ll have to move. Maybe she’ll make a friend in their new base. Mark gets mad and starts shouting about leaving his friends and his basketball team. Samantha just goes to her room to start packing.
Dad’s been assigned to Tactical Air Command out of Langley Air Force Base for a year. He’s very busy; the Tactical Air Command is a Major Command, which means it controls all tactical air missions in the
Mom says that she spends too much time alone, needs to find friends her own age, but all her suggestions run to things like joining the cheerleading squad or choir or a 4-H club that does sewing or cooking or maybe even photography. Sam isn’t very musical, doesn’t like sewing or cooking, and while she likes football and basketball, she’d rather play them than stand on the sidelines jumping up and down for the crowd. She doesn’t know how to be “one of the girls,” anyway, and it’s more painful to be in the group and not a part of it than it is to be completely alone. She does track and field, and she enjoys it, pushing her own limits, not depending on anyone else; besides, it’s the kind of sport the astronaut program would like. (The Air Force Academy would like it, too, and she’ll have a better chance to get into NASA as an officer than a civilian. But that’s a couple years off, and she doesn’t quite have the courage to mention it to Mom, yet.)
This particular afternoon, Mom is out playing bridge with other officers’ wives. Samantha finishes the book she was reading about the time she expected Mom to be home, but she isn’t home yet, so Samantha decides to bake cookies. The summer hasn’t yet gotten hot enough to make baking a chore. Dad will be pleased; he loves chocolate chip cookies. And Mom smiles and calls her “my little woman” when she does household things like that. Assuming Dad comes home on time, tonight, they should still be warm when he gets there.
Mom should be home by now, but Samantha reasons that she might have errands to run and doesn’t think much of it. But then she’s taking the last sheet out of the oven and Dad’s coming through the door with a look on his face like his world just came to an end.
As he explains what happened that day, Sam realizes hers has, too.
Sam comes in the door, not bothering to be quiet; Dad’s probably not home yet, so it doesn’t matter. Mark hasn’t been living at home since he turned eighteen, and with Dad working such long hours it feels like she’s living alone in a large four-bedroom house. It’s too big for one person, and she doesn’t like the feeling that gives her, so she spends as much time as she can in other places like the library or the bowling alley with the least expensive pool table in town. When she gets guilty over the state the house is in (Mom would have been horrified to see it) she cleans until it shines. Then she bakes cookies. Then she goes out and stays away for as long as she can without Dad freaking out.
“Where have you been, Sam?” Dad comes out of the living room as she heads upstairs to her bedroom.
“Out driving,” she says, trying not to blush. She’s not very successful.
“Who with?” Dad asks, glancing out the screen door. But Jimmy’s already driven away. He’s a good guy; she could introduce him to Dad, and she’s going to. But not tonight.
“A friend,” she says, knowing Dad hasn’t paid enough attention to her in years to know she’s never quite learned the knack of making female friends.
He sighs. “Samantha, it’s late—”
“Sam, Dad,” she says, derailing his lecture with their current standing argument. “Call me Sam.”
“Samantha is a beautiful name,” Dad says. “I don’t understand why you want to make it sound like you’re a boy.”
“I just don’t want to sound like a Sixties television character, Dad,” Sam shoots back. Samantha is a beautiful name, but it’s a name for a girl who sings in choir and is on the cheerleading squad and wants to go to college so she can meet nice college men who are going to be lawyers and doctors and executives some day. The kind of girl her parents wanted her to be, the kind she’s never really been.
By the time they’re done arguing over her name, Sam’s trying so hard to hold back tears that she’s shaking. But it kept Dad from asking what friend she was with and what they were doing, which was the important thing. She goes to her room, lies down on her bed, and cries until she decides it’s stupid to get so worked up over a name and she’s cried enough. Something a lot more important happened to her tonight.
She doesn’t feel any more like a woman, any more adult, than she did three hours earlier. She didn’t feel like the Earth moved. (She wasn’t expecting it to; the Earth’s rotation and orbit have been known for centuries, and even something subjectively important like sex won’t change that objective fact.) She doesn’t feel transformed or enlightened or swept away to a mysterious place of pleasure. But she doesn’t feel ashamed, either. She feels … like herself. Jimmy Washburne is a really nice guy; she wouldn’t have chosen him if he weren’t. He was gentle, and he tried to make her happy, and he brought blankets and pillows to make the bed of his truck comfortable for her. For them. She wouldn’t change anything about it, if given the chance. (Well, she might have chosen Richard Gere instead of Jimmy Washburne if she could have, but she’s never been one to confuse fantasy and reality.)
She’s not ashamed, but she does want someone to talk to about it, someone who will listen as she tells the whole story from beginning to end, someone she can share all this with. The last person she could do that with was Mom, and Mom’s been dead almost two years, now.
As she’s staring up at the ceiling, it occurs to her that she probably couldn’t have told Mom about it, either. Mom grew up in the Fifties and for all that she was only twenty-seven during the Summer of Love, that wasn’t her way of thinking and never would have been. In Mom’s world, good girls waited until marriage, and Sam had always been a good girl.
That makes her feel lonelier than she has in several months—she’d thought she was over her grief, moving on with her life. What makes it even worse is that it’s the first time she’s realized she knows what Mom would think about something … and doesn’t think she agrees with her. Sam’s not a child any more, in an entirely not-theoretical way. She made her own decision based on her own wants and needs, not on what either of her parents would want for her. It feels like a worse betrayal of her mother’s memory than the actual act of sex was, and she has the mad urge to go down and start cleaning or baking cookies, as if that would expiate her sins and appease her mother’s ghost.
What would horrify Mom the most, though, Sam thinks, is the fact that she doesn’t love Jimmy. She likes him a lot, but it’s not the kind of grand passion you see in the movies, and it isn’t even the comfortable warm domesticity her parents shared. Sam didn’t want to be alone any more, and it’s easier to find a boyfriend than a real female friend, especially if you’re willing to put out. And she’d been curious about sex, about the things she’d seen on television and in the movies, and she’d heard girls at school giggling about it but wasn’t good enough friends with any of them to ask the real, serious questions she wanted to ask, and Mom had never sat her down and given her The Talk because Sam was a Good Girl. And Sam couldn’t seem to talk with Dad about what they were having for supper; she certainly wasn’t going to bring up the subject of sex.
So she’d fallen back on the thing she knew how to do best: science. She’d done background research, set her objective, formulated a plan to achieve it, identified relevant variables, and tested her hypothesis. Now she’s analyzing the data and drawing her conclusions. She knows Mom wouldn’t approve of the approaching sex like an experiment, and it occurs to her that her peers wouldn’t, either. And maybe they’re both right in their different ways, because maybe if she’d done it the usual way, fallen in love with some guy, the Earth would have moved for her in ways it doesn’t in her science books and she would have felt transformed.
One in three girls have sex before they turn eighteen. That’s a fact she discovered in her research into human (particularly teenage) sexuality. But she doesn’t have what most of those 33% have, and that’s love, or at least some illusion of it.
The sex itself … was okay. But she feels more alone now than she did before. She realizes that if you don’t have mental or emotional closeness with someone already, sex probably isn’t going to magically provide it. Sam blinks back tears. She doesn’t know how to create that kind of closeness with anyone, and she never has. Mom would have. Much as she likes Jimmy, she has no idea what a relationship like that would look like, doesn’t know if she trusts him enough to let him in. And if she did … what would happen next? She’ll be leaving for college soon.
She thinks about that for a long time. A week later, she breaks up with Jimmy even though she feels guilty about it. He really is a nice guy, and she enjoyed spending time with him. She never meant to hurt him, though she realizes as she sees his face fall, she really did. But no matter how she hurt him, he’s too nice to joke about her behind her back, and she’s grateful for that.
This is one experiment she won’t publish the results of.
“No. Absolutely not.” Dad’s voice is rough and loud, and she can see his jaw clenching and unclenching.
“I’ll be eighteen. I’ve already been accepted. You can’t stop me.” She’d thought he would be proud of her, and she wanted to surprise him, despite how difficult it was to get through the nomination and application process without him finding out. But she’s not backing down now.
“The hell I can’t!” Dad yells; it’s frightening because he never yells.
She grits her teeth and blinks back tears. “Dad—”
“All I have to do is make some calls.” He’s not yelling anymore, and it should be a relief, but it’s not. Not with that look in his eyes. “I know a lot of people in this man’s Air Force, and I guarantee you I can find a reason to have them revoke your acceptance to the Air Force Academy.”
“Why, Dad?” Sam asks, forcing the words out past a throat that seems to be strangling with tears. “You wanted Mark to go into the Air Force. You kept hounding him so much he moved out to get away from you. Aren’t I good enough?” She breaks off, horrified that she actually said it out loud.
But maybe it was a good thing she did, because it makes him stop in his tracks and really look at her for the first time since she told him what she was going to do with her life. “Oh, Sam, honey,” he says, and his voice is still rough but it’s not hostile anymore, and maybe it would be better if it were because now she can’t quite hold the tears back. “I’m very proud of you,” he says at last. “You’re smart and you’re strong and I love you. That’s why I don’t want you to go.” He reaches up, brushes some hair out of her eyes.
Sam almost flinches; it’s the first time he’s touched her in a long time. “You’re not making any sense.”
He sighs. “I know you think you can do anything. But believe me when I say the military is no place for women. It’s a hard life, and most of the people you would be working with—both above you and below you—would resent the very idea of a woman in uniform. And they’re going to take it out on you. They won’t respect you, and they’ll harass you in any way they can. If name-calling and spreading rumors is the worst they do, you’ll be lucky.”
“Do you resent the idea of women in uniform, Dad?” Sam asks.
“I just don’t want to see you get hurt,” he replies, but he isn’t looking her in the eyes.
The phone rings and it’s someone from work who needs something from Dad, and that’s the end of the discussion for the day. He tries to talk her out of it, but he never calls anyone to try and get her acceptance revoked. Eventually, he even stops trying to talk her out of it.
He never tells her he accepts her decision, never says he’s proud of her for making it in to one of the most selective colleges in the nation, never says he hopes she does well.
But when he takes her out that summer and teaches her to shoot, she knows that’s what he means.
She’s a second-class cadet (what civilians call a junior) when the Challenger explodes. They’re in the middle of class when the announcement is made over the intercom, and Sam sits in shock rather than praying during the moment of silence that follows.
This is the worst disaster the American space program has ever seen. Only three people died in the Apollo 1 fire, and it might have derailed the space program permanently if they hadn’t been trying to beat the Russians to the moon. There is no such incentive, now, and seven people just died. This is the first American space flight to have casualties during the mission, and the first to launch and not reach space. The space shuttle hasn’t lived up to it’s expectations—even with re-usable parts, it’s not that much less expensive per launch than the Saturn V’s were, and NASA spent a hell of a lot of money designing it in the first place. There have always been people who think space is too expensive a dream to justify; now they’ll be able to say it’s too dangerous a dream, as well. Everything will be shut down while they figure out what happened, and it might not be started up again. All the hard work she’s done to make it this far might not be enough, after all.
That’s what she thinks about for the rest of the class, and later when she looks at her notes she has no idea what they mean. It’s the first time in her life she’s had to copy someone else’s notes.
That night she lies in her bunk and thinks about quitting. Dad was right; the Academy isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for women. She figured out the traps early, and managed to stay out of most of them. She won’t drink until she’s twenty-one and can’t be blackmailed, she never does anything that might even hint at an Honor Code violation, and she is never, ever going to have sex with a fellow member of the Air Force. She’d rather be called frigid than a whore, and she’d rather do a lot of push-ups than risk getting thrown out for fraternization. She only has one or two real friends, and she has a lot of enemies, people who want to see the perfect ice maiden brought low, but if it meant getting to go into space it would all be worth it. Without that dream, she’s not certain it is.
But she was brought up to respect duty, honor, country above everything else, and being an Air Force officer is something to be proud of in its own right. She’s never been prouder of her Dad than she has been since coming to the Academy and learning first-hand just what kinds of things his chosen career entails. She would be proud to wear that uniform, even if she never got to space. Besides, she can’t bear to admit to anyone (Dad) that she couldn’t handle it, that she wasn’t good enough.
But she can’t go on like this indefinitely. Life as a second-class cadet is better than life as a third-class cadet, and infinitely better than life as a doolie, a fourth-class cadet, but that’s not saying much. She needs some way of cutting loose.
She makes it the four months until her twenty-first birthday by the skin of her teeth. Then she goes into
She doesn’t have any more one-night stands, and she still won’t sleep with anyone in Air Force blue, but she does loosen up in other ways. Sometimes she has to force herself to do so, but it does make a few more friends, and that makes everything so much easier.
Dad comes to her graduation, and stands proud in his Air Force blue. Sam thinks her heart will burst the first time she gives him a salute as a fellow officer, not just a cadet. Mark doesn’t come, but she doesn’t expect him to. They’re in regular contact, but only because they have an unwritten agreement that she won’t ask him to try to talk to Dad if he won’t tell her she’s wasting herself by going into the Air Force. She has no one else to invite; she lost track of her few friends from high school when she left for the Academy.
It’s been a hell of a four years. Sam has grown, not just as a military officer, but as a person, and she knows she’ll always be grateful to the Air Force, no matter what happens, for making her the very best person she could be. That makes her sound like a recruiting poster, but it’s true. She doesn’t mind being one of the boys; it’s easier than being one of the girls, in a lot of ways. She’s never wanted the picket fence and husband and 2.4 children everyone assumes for her future, no matter how well they know her. Not that anyone really does.