In his office, Colonel Jack O’Neill rested his head in his hands and sighed deeply. Why now? Why him? It had been a year since he’d left Edora, since he ’d left Laira. He’d promised to go back, and he hadn’t. Now he had to, and he really *really* didn’t want to.
Slamming his hand on the desk, he cursed inwardly. Why on Earth had SG-13 started some petty argument with the Edorrans? And why was General Hammond sending SG-1, of all teams, to be the peacekeepers? Surely the General had noticed what a sore subject the planet was? It was a little hard to miss, after all Jack had been stranded there for three months and things between him and his team mates had been fraught with tension for week afterwards, tension that had nothing to do with Jack’s going undercover and seemingly betraying them so soon after returning.
Jack got to his feet and paced the small floor space of his office, running a hand through his greying hair. He knew he should have been thinking about Laira, and what he was going to say to her, but he found he couldn’t. There was another woman in his mind, a blond with bright blue eyes he could drown in. His second-in-command, and the woman he had hurt so much the first time they had gone to Edora, the woman he had missed more than anyone when he was stranded there, the one he knew he couldn’t forget but had tried to anyway.
Sam. Major Samantha Carter. He wondered how she was going to react when she found out, whether she would feel as uncomfortable at the thought as he did, if not more. Especially with recent developments, with them being forced under unusual circumstances to tell each other how they felt, why he would rather die than lose her, why she had been so desperate for him to leave her behind, why the thought of him dying with her hurt more than death by staff weapon.
With a determined look on his face, Jack swung the door to his office open, slamming it unintentionally hard behind him as he stormed down the corridors, too distracted to notice the Airmen he passed shrunk back in surprise or purposely went out of their way to avoid a dead on collision. He had to tell Sam, he had to get to her before anyone else did. He owed her that much, and nothing was going to stand in his way.
Predictably, Sam was in her lab when he found her. Jack stood in the doorway, just watching her work, oblivious to his presence as she concentrate on some new experiment around a small metal *thing* SG-11 had brought back with them from a recent mission. Her brow was creased slightly in concentration, but she didn’t look tense. She looked alive, her eyes shining as she worked, taking her time, as enthusiastic about solving the mystery as a child trying to sort out a puzzle, perhaps she was even dreaming about what it would reveal in the end.
" Hard at work, Major? By my watch, you should have only just arrived. Seem to be like you’ve been here a while." Jack spoke aloud, unable to suppress a grin when she jumped at the sound of his voice. His grin widened when she turned to him with a guilty smile, a warm flush spreading up her neck to her cheeks.
" Sorry, Sir," Sam mumbled, glancing back to the object on her workbench. It’s just so fascinating.. and frustrating since none of us have any idea what it is or what it’s supposed to do.." Realising she was prattling, as Jack would call it, Sam broke off and blushed again. " Sorry, Sir."
Putting his hands in his pockets and trying to look casual, Jack shrugged her apology off. " Have you got a minute, Carter? We need to talk about SG-1 ’s next mission." Instantly, all remnants of her smile faded and Sam looked away. Jack groaned inwardly, she already knew. Someone had beaten him to it. " Who told you?"
" Daniel," Sam admitted with a small, obviously forced smile. Sighing, Jack shut the door to her lab and walked towards her, hesitating at the brief flicker of surprise on her face. " Is there a problem, Colonel?"
" I was.. I just.." His voice trailed off and he shrugged helplessly, frowning, not enjoying being reduced to such a feeling. " I guess I was wondering how you’re doing, what you think of it."
Sam shrugged and turned her back on him, fixing her gaze on the small object she had been trying to figure out in the hopes of getting her mind off what Jack obviously wanted to talk about. Nervously, she started picking up items from the tray and putting them back down. " I think it’s understandable why they’d ask for you to go out there and make amends. The treaty is important and Captain Samson of SG-13 believes there are some more minerals we missed first time round so I guess I’m looking forward to bringing back some samples of those.."
" Sam." Her hands stopped in their journey back down to the tray and her shoulders tensed as Jack moved to stand close beside her. He took her arm, gently making her turn to face him. " Don’t pretend to want to go on my account. I don’t even want to go."
" But Laira.." She cut herself short of what she had been about to say and bit her lip, pulling her arm away. " I have a lot of work to do, Colonel. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll see you in the gateroom in two hours."
Sighing heavily, Jack gazed at her for a few moments as she moved defiantly around her lab, suspiciously avoiding meeting his eyes. When it became clear she wasn’t going to change her mind and talk to him, Jack left the lab, cursing himself for not getting to her sooner.
As the locker slammed shut, Doctor Daniel Jackson winced, jumping, as the sound seemed to reverberate about the almost deserted locker room. He turned slowly to find Jack scowling darkly as he roughly rummaged around in his backpack, muttering something Daniel couldn’t understand.
" Erm.. Jack? Is there something wrong?" Daniel asked eventually as he shared a confused look with Teal’c, the Jaffa looking as confused as he could do wearing a relatively blank expression.
" What do you think Danny-boy?" Jack practically growled, turning usually warm brown eyes on his friend, allowing him to see the frustration in their depths. " It’s all peachy. Everything’s just fabulous! We’re going back to Edora, Carter won’t talk to me, I have to think of something to tell Laira.. Everything’s great. Couldn’t be better."
Having said his piece, and already feeling a little guilty for snapping at Daniel, Jack marched out of the locker room, his face link thunder, leaving a trail of stunned officers in his wake. Daniel stood with his mouth agape, not even seeing that the door was open and he was standing their shirtless until Teal’c raised an eyebrow and shut the door.
" I do not believe everything is fine, Daniel-Jackson," Teal’c stated. Daniel cast him a look not unlike the one Jack usually gave them when he was in a foul mood and pulled on his t-shirt. He grabbed his backpack and jacket and made it halfway down the corridor, before realising that Teal’c had been sarcastic, one of the many things he had learnt from the Tau’ri in the years he had served with them.
Feeling guilty, Daniel slinked back to the locker room to apologise, only to find it empty. Swearing, he slammed his fist into a locker as he had witnessed Jack do on many occasions, and instantly felt pain spreading up his fingers, to his wrist and up his arm. Biting his lip to keep from yelping, Daniel cradled his arm close to his chest and walked quickly to the infirmary.
Half an hour later, SG-1 assembled in the gateroom. Sam was talking to one of the technicians, refusing to look up when Jack came in, but Teal’c and Daniel, arriving with Doctor Janet Fraiser, who looked far from impressed, caught her attention.
" Like I said, I really am sorry, Teal’c," Daniel was saying, stopping when he caught sight of the uptight command team. " Oh."
" Looks like bad moods and apologies are the theme of the day," Janet murmured knowingly, raising an eyebrow at Sam before turning to Daniel. Now, Doctor Jackson, I want you to rest that wrist as much as possible. Teal’c, see that he takes his medication every four hours, okay? Otherwise it’ll start swelling up."
" I will not let you down, Doctor Fraiser," Teal’c nodded impassively and Janet left, flashing him a grateful smile as she did so. ~ At least one member of SG-1 seemed to have got up on the right side of the bed this morning!~ She thought to herself as she exited the room, leaving the four team mates behind.
" What happened, Daniel?" Sam asked in concern, moving to take a closer look at his bandaged wrist. " Are you okay?"
Daniel blushed and shuffled his feet a little. " I got into a fight with my locker.. I guess it won." He studied her carefully, seeing the lines of apprehension on her face, which only served to increase his concern. " I’m fine. Are you?"
Sam nodded and forced a weak smile. " Couldn’t be better." She looked away from him, at Jack as he stood with his back to them, staring at the inactive stargate. She moved over to him hesitantly as the wheels began to move. Sir?"
" Carter." Jack’s voice was flat, even though she could see something akin to hope in his eyes when he faced her.
" I just wanted to say I’m sorry, about before. I didn’t mean to shut you out." Her apology was followed by a slightly pleading look as she bit her lip nervously. " I.."
" Apology accepted, Sam." Jack grinned slightly to put her at east, sensing the relief emanate from her even as he spoke. He cast a look over his shoulder at Daniel, the young archaeologist looking slightly forlorn, struggling to fasten his backpack with only one hand. " I guess I’ve got some apologies to make of my own." Smiling and nodding, Sam moved a little to the side as Jack walked to Daniel. He pulled the pack from his friend’s hands and deftly closed the clip. Holding it out to Daniel, he smiled slightly. " Peace-offering?"
Daniel grinned and accepted the pack, grateful when Jack helped him put it on after watching him struggle for a few seconds. " Thanks."
" Friends again?" Jack asked as the wormhole engaged, his eyes narrowing slightly at the blue glow.
" Of course." Daniel nodded and fought the urge to grin as Jack his place at Sam’s side again, nodding in response to a silent question she asked him using her eyes. If Daniel had looked away from his two friends, he would have noticed the small grin Teal’c wore, before it was masked by an expression of indifference.
Apologies said and accepted, SG-1 embarked up the ramp, and left for the planet that had changed their lives so much before; unaware it was about to change them again.
If they had been expecting a warm reception, they would have been disappointed. SG-13’s commanding officer, Major Luke Pearce, greeted them, looking relieved at their arrival but there seemed to be a visible dark cloud hanging over his head. Sam and Jack exchanged a look as they arrived through the gate, bracing themselves for whatever he had to tell them that had got him in such a bad mood. They both knew he was usually a calm and reserved man, so something obviously had to have happened. The obvious uneasiness in the air was mirrored by their actions and the behaviour of SG-1. There was no time for jokes on this mission; everyone was as serious as they could be, wanting it over so they could just go home.
An argument had occurred between the SG-team and the Edorrans a few weeks ago and apparently nothing had been done about it. No apologies, nothing, and now the Edorran’s were talking about abolishing the treaty and refusing to have anything to do with the treaty. After two hours of talking with Pearce, Sam and Jack were finally told that no member of SG-13 could remember what the argument was about.
Reluctantly, grumbling all the way, Jack led SG-1 nearer the village and left his team to set up their own camp as he went alone to find out what was going on. Sam, Daniel and Teal’c set up the tents in silence and filled the rest of the day by talking to various members of SG-13 who crossed their path or talking amongst themselves. Daniel noticed Sam’s eyes kept straying in the direction of where Jack was last seen headed, but didn’t say anything, not wanting her to know he knew.
When it started getting dark, they decided to light a fire and move their sleeping bags around it. Purposely, Daniel moved Jack’s bag next to Sam’s, although he debated when this was a wise move as he took over the watch from her and there was still no sign of their errant leader. ~Damn it, Jack, ~ Daniel seethed on seeing Sam’s eyes move to the empty bag beside her own as she got settled. ~What the hell do you think you’re playing at? ~
Less than twenty minutes later, Jack eventually showed up, looking tired. All thoughts of chastising him disappeared when Daniel saw the troubled expression on his friend’s face. " Jack? Want to talk about it?"
" Talk about what?" Jack mumbled quietly as he took off his backpack and moved to sit next to Daniel on the log slightly away from the others that was where they would be keeping watch. " There’s nothing to talk about. Get some sleep, I’ll take over from here."
" I only relieved Sam a while ago," Daniel protested, shaking his head. You look like you need the sleep more than I do."
Nodding to show he was grateful, Jack wearily ambled to his sleeping bag. When your time’s up, wake me," he ordered as he crawled in and shifted till he was facing Sam’s back, smiling slightly to himself as he closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
From his place on the log, Daniel took his eyes from the fire and stared at his friends, smiling to himself as they moved closer to each other in their sleep, eventually coming to rest with Jack’s arm draped casually over Sam’s sleeping bag as he curled around her. It was the same on most of their missions recently, but Daniel had never been awake to see how the two reacted to waking up in that position. As Teal’c relieved him three hours later, he was determined to try and be awake before them to find out.
He wasn’t. The next morning when he woke up, Sam had relieved Teal’c of his shift earlier that morning and Jack was the one who shook the archaeologist awake.
Daniel and Teal’c stood chatting to each other, and to the remaining members of SG-13 as Sam collected her soil and mineral samples, with Jack standing close beside her, rummaging around in his pack to make it look as though he was helping. Sam looked up when she heard Jack curse under his breath, and saw that Laira had joined their team mates a dozen or so metres away.
" Sir?" Sam stopped what she was doing and looked up at her commanding officer, trying to remind herself who he was at the same time as chiding herself for thinking he looked lovely with the light shining on him from that angle.
" Hmm?" Jack sounded distracted, refusing to meet her gaze, his back on Laira despite the fact he could feel both women’s gazes on him.
" You don’t have to help me collect these samples," Sam murmured with a sigh, tightening the lid on a tube and putting it carefully in a container. " I can do it alone.."
Jack raised his head, bringing his eyes to hers. " Many hands make light work, Carter."
Rolling her eyes, she couldn’t fight the small smile that tugged up the corners of her lips. " Yeah, but.."
" Besides," he added a little too hurriedly to be casual. " Laira is over there."
She nodded and bit her lip. " I’d noticed." She admitted uncomfortably. That’s what I meant. If you want to spend some time with her before we go back.."
" No." His quick answer took her by surprise and she met his eyes again, only to find they were deadly serious. " I don’t want to." He sighed and shifted his gaze to the cloudless sky above, looking so uncomfortable she had to feel sorry for him. " What I mean is.. She kinda.. She hit on me last night." He paused and snapped his eyes back down to her face to gauge her reaction, seeing she was looking away from him again. " That’s why I was late getting back to camp."
For a few moments, an awkward silence fell between them. Realising he was waiting for her to say something, Sam fumbled with another little container, taking her time in opening it. " Well.. Given your relationship before.. I guess it was kind of expected."
" That’s the whole problem," Jack sighed, taking her by surprise so that when she looked at him to try and see what he had meant by it, their gazes locked.
" How is it.. Oh, sorry." Sam blushed a deep scarlet when she realised what she had been about to ask. She chided herself for attempting to pry into the personal life of her Commanding Officer. " Sorry, you don’t have to tell me."
" ’S okay," Jack grinned to show her there were no hard feelings. " It’s just.. That relationship.." He rolled his eyes at himself and tugged on her arm so she’d walk a little bit further away from the others with him, taking the equipment so it looked like they were still working. " It shouldn’t have happened." He paused and stared deeply into her eyes. " It wouldn’t have happened.. Not if I hadn’t been stranded on a planet light years away.. away from you." He watched her, waiting. Sam just stared back, her mouth agape, looking as though she was trying to speak but couldn’t quite get the words out. " Major? Hey, Sam? You okay? You’re doing a really good impression of a goldfish."
The teasing tone seemed to startle her out of her state of disbelief. She blushed again, tilting her head to one side to study him. " Sorry.. I.. Really?"
" Oh, yeah, great impression." He flashed her another grin as she rolled her eyes and then it faded, the mood turning sombre again as he reached out and touched her arm gently. " Sam.. I know I acted like jerk when I came back and only part of that can be excused by the plan to catch Maybourne and Makepeace.. But nothing would have happened between Laira and me if.. if I’d thought I was gonna get to come home and be with you again." He moved his hand down her arm to take her hand, drawing soothing circles on her palm, the movement tracked by her eyes as he kept his on her face. " I know, I should’ve know you’d find a way to get me home, that you wouldn’t give up, but after three months.. It stopped feeling possible. And when you did show.." He tried not to flinch at the shadow that crossed over her face, kno wing he’d hurt her a lot more than he had thought by turning his back on her. " I’d already made the mistake.. And started making more." Pausing, he studied her expression, noting how her lowered eyes were giving nothing away. " You gonna say something or let me prattle on like an imbecile?"
Sam smiled softly and brought her eyes up from their joined hands to his face. " I.." She started speaking but her words got caught, so she cleared her throat and tried again. " I’m just trying to figure out what to say.." Her smile turned coy. " And I’m trying to stop myself from doing one of two really *really* inappropriate actions."
" Sounds interesting.." Jack raised an eyebrow, encouraging her to go on.
" One of them is to burst into tears." She looked at him carefully, seeing him frown.
He shook his head. " Oh, well. Don’t do that. I don’t want you to cry, Sam. I don’t want you to cry because of me.."
" They’d be happy tears, I promise," she reassured him, rewarding his concern with a special smile she usually reserved just for him.
" Good." He nodded and waited. She stayed silent. " So what’s the other ‘inappropriate’ action?" He asked, making the inverted commas with his fingers, reluctantly dropping her hand.
She smiled shyly, looking away. " Oh, nothing. Just something along the lines of throwing myself at you and kissing you as though there’s not a chance in Hell tomorrow’s going to get here."
Jack did a comical double take Sam missed because she was looking away, her cheeks tinged with pink. He replayed what she’d said over in his mind, a slow grin spreading across his face as he realised she really had said what he’d thought she’d said. He reached out and touched her face. " Hmm, well. I ’d.. I’d go for the second option if you want my opinion.."
" Shame it’s inappropriate." Sam brought her eyes up to his with a sigh, looking a little disappointed.
" I dunno.." He shrugged one shoulder. " What the base doesn’t know won’t hurt anyone.."
" But Daniel and Teal’c.." Sam’s voice trailed off as he took a step closer.
" ..wouldn’t say a thing.." He finished softly.
She lifted her face up slightly in an unconscious gesture, her mind already thinking about what it would be like to feel his lips on hers. Then she broke away from his hypnotic gaze at their team-mates and sighed heavily. Laira. There’s Laira to consider."
" It would get the message across.." Jack murmured. Her eyes shone and he saw in them the longing, the regret and the disappointment that he knew was reflected in his own as he took a step backwards. " But you’re right, it would be inappropriate."
" Yes, Sir." Sam squared her shoulders and got back to collecting samples. But Sir.. Jack?"
" Yeah?" He almost felt his heart stop at hearing his name on her lips. It was a very rare occurrence.
" Thank you, for saying what you did." She spoke without glancing in his direction and her voice sounded suspiciously hoarse. " It means a lot."
Nodding in understanding even though she wouldn’t see, Jack felt lighter, because he’d finally said what he wanted to, without backing out. " You’re welcome. I meant every word, Sam." She glanced his direction to nod in acknowledgement and smiled slightly, before sealing the container and walking away, back in the direction of their friends. " Every word."
Through sad eyes, Laira watched Jack and Major Carter, feeling a little like an intruder when the two moved closer together. Her heart rose to her throat when Jack moved closer to Major Carter, and she knew he had been about to kiss her. The thought hurt, but not as much as she had expected.
She had known, in her heart, that Jack would never truly belong to her, but when he had come alone to the village the day before, she had allowed herself to hope that there was a chance he was coming back to her. When he hadn’t said more that ‘Fair day’ in greeting to her, she had been momentarily stunned, wondering what had changed about him, seeing something in his eyes and his face that had been there during their first meeting but which had faded, or died, during his prolonged stay. Whatever it was, it was back, and as strong as ever, and looking at them now, she knew it had something to do with Major Carter.
" You are a close team," she commented to Daniel and Teal’c, who had been rendered into silence by the scene as well, although she could see the remnants of a smile tug at the younger man’s lips. Teal’c looked neither pleased nor annoyed, but there was something, a little spark, in the depths of his dark eyes that suggested he was pleased. " Much closer than you were on your last visit."
Daniel cleared his throat and shuffled his feet, feeling more than a little awkward. He was glad that it looked like his friends were finally acknowledging there was something between them, a little disappointed because he knew it would go no further given their current status within the military but more than anything else, he felt uncomfortable at the obvious lament in Laira’s eyes. " Uh, yeah. We’ve been through a lot this year. And we’re more like a family than a team so.."
" Yes," Laira nodded, speaking slowly, shielding her eyes from the sun as she watched Major Carter walk away from Jack, seeing the yearning on Jack’s face even from a distance. She felt a pang of sorrow, certain she had never had him look at her in that manner. " Doctor Jackson, why does Jack not tell Major Carter how he feels about her?"
Taken back at the question, Daniel did a double take and just stared at the woman. He was confused, she obviously still held a torch for Jack, why would she care about what he did and didn’t tell Sam? It was Teal’c who answer the question, a small hint of remorse in his tone that would be easily missed by someone expecting to hear no emotion in his voice. " On Earth, there are rules called regulations. They state O’Neill and Major-Carter cannot be together because they are in the same chain of command. He is her commanding officer and such a relationship is forbidden." His distaste for the rule was evident, giving Daniel another reason to look surprised, as he had never heard his friend show his feeling before, particularly not on the subject of regulations and how they affected the situation facing SG-1.
Laira nodded and sighed. " It is a shame. He deserves to be happy." She moved as if to turn away from them. " And Major Carter is the only one who can make him." She gave them a smile that was quite obviously forced. " Fair Day, Doctor Jackson, Teal’c. It was nice seeing you again." Casting one last look at the broody figure of the man standing alone, Laira sighed and started walking away. She wished, not for the first time, that she had mothered Jack’s child; she no longer wanted it just to give him a reason to stay, but she thought she might have been able to give him some of the joy he deserved.
They didn’t see Laira again that day, and Sam and Jack both seemed lost in their own thoughts so it was up to Daniel and Teal’c to make small talk as they sat by the fire and ate their rations. For once, Daniel was relieved when everyone turned in for the night, there were only so many times he could ask his team mates a question and get a grunt in reply from Jack or a distracted ‘ what?’ from Sam.
He was staring thoughtfully into the fire, prodding it every now and then with a stick, wondering what had gone on between Sam and Jack earlier that day when he heard someone shuffling around.
" Hey, Daniel." Running a hand through her hand, Sam sat down next to him.
" Oh, hey, Sam." Daniel frowned a little and pushed up his glasses as they slipped down his nose. " You should be sleeping.. Aren’t I on first watch?"
" Yeah." She nodded and rested her chin on her hands. " Though why we need to take shifts, I don’t know. Edora is a pretty safe planet.."
" When you forget about the meteorites or asteroids or whatever they actually were," he added with a small grin.
Sam smiled weakly in response, her mind going back to what had happened when one had hit the stargate. " Yeah."
" So." Daniel took a moment to observe her in the light of the fire. " You wanna talk about it?"
" There’s nothing to talk about," she answered without looking him in the eye.
" Yeah, right," he snorted. " And I’m a cross-dresser from Detroit."
" Really?" Sam turned to him, trying with little luck to repress a small smile. " I thought you were from New York."
Daniel rolled his eyes, thinking to himself that she’d been around Jack too long. His feelings were conveyed in his tone of exasperation. " Sam.."
" Sorry." She ducked her head and returned her attention to the fire. Couldn’t resist."
He watched the distant expression that had frequented her face during the day once again grace her features. " So."
" So?" Her voice sounded as distracted as she looked.
Sighing, he put a hand on her arm to catch her attention. " You gonna tell me why you can’t sleep? It’s got something to do with Jack, I know that much." He watched as a faint blush stained her cheeks and she shifted uncomfortably. " Sam, I know being here has to be hard on you.."
" Why do you say that?" Sam retorted defensively, her guard back up.
" I saw you," Daniel answered soothingly. " I watched you wear yourself down trying to find a way to get Jack home. And I’ve talked to Janet. I know what you said."
" What?" Sam exclaimed indignantly, more out of embarrassment than anger. She knew she let her mask of impartiality slip when Jack had been away, she knew she had let some of the helplessness and desperation she had felt show and even now, she wished she hadn’t, wanting to keep it private. " That was private!"
He sighed again, seeing the array of emotions pass fleetingly over her features. " She was concerned, we both were. It was after.. after Martouf.." He bit his lip at saying the name, seeing the brief flicker of pain flare in her eyes and then it was gone, the impartial mask of Samantha Carter back in place. " You had locked yourself away, we couldn’t find Jack.. We were worried about you both. She told me what happened with Anise and the zaytark thing and what you’d said to her when Jack was stuck here."
Sam stared into the centre of the fire, the only rational-thinking part of her mind that was still working hoping no one else was listening into their conversation. When she finally answered, her tone was slightly wistful, her mind wandering back to the days when things were relatively easy between Jack and herself, when the only complication was denying how they felt to themselves and not to each other, before they’d heard of Edora and before a form of Goa’uld mind control had forced her to kill someone a side of her had loved. " That was a long time ago."
" But the feelings are still the same," Daniel persisted relentlessly. He was tired of seeing his friends put themselves through Hell, denying their feelings, especially when he knew what they were missing out on. He had experienced it with Sha’re, no matter how brief their time together, and found it frustration to watch the opportunity to have feel that joy and love pass his two friends, his family, by.
" Yeah," she admitted on a sigh, without a moment’s hesitation. " But that doesn’t change it, Daniel."
" Maybe," he shrugged noncommittally. " Was that the first time you realised.."
" It was the first time I acknowledged it, to myself and to someone else." Sam was surprised to find herself volunteering the information, having warmed to the subject a little. She knew it was doing her no good keeping it bottled in but she didn’t know how much she could say, how much Daniel would understand. " There were certain things I picked up on and thought about before then.. Damn. I’m sorry, Daniel. I can’t talk about this, I know I should but I can’t.."
" Not with me," Daniel finished knowingly. " You need to talk to Jack."
Sighing heavily, closing her eyes tightly as she rested her face in her hands. " It’s complicated, Daniel. You *know* that." She lifted her face and sighed again. " Get some sleep, Daniel. I’ll take over."
Nodding, he realised how worn out he was, and knew she wouldn’t be sleeping even if he did stay on guard. " I’ll go if you answer one thing."
Sam tilted her head to one side, peering up at him. " What?"
" What’s keeping you awake tonight?" His curiosity shone in his eyes as he gave her an expectant glance.
A small smile played on her lips as the image of a certain Colonel and a certain comment came to mind. " Just an image.. of something I said." Still looking confused, Daniel stood and turned to go back to his sleeping bag. Good night, Daniel. Sleep well."
Less than an hour later, the sound of soft snoring told her Daniel was already sound asleep. She felt a little envious of him, wanting the peace and ignorance slumber could provide but her mind was too busy, too full, to let such a thing happen.
" This seat taken?" A husky voice spoke up.
" Umm.." Sam looked up to see Jack smiling down on her, wondering how he’d managed to get up without disturbing her. If he could, what if someone else had done the same? She wasn’t any good to her team on guard keeping watch for an dangers if she couldn’t keep herself from drifting off. " No, Sir." She answered finally, after berating herself for not doing her duty.
" It’s Jack, Major," he told her gruffly, sitting down beside her, far enough apart to keep a respectable distance between them but still close enough for her to feel his presence. " We’re not on duty."
" Technically, we are because we’re on an away mission.." Her voice trailed off into a smug smile as he scowled at her.
" Oh." His scowl faded into an adorably confused expression, though she would never tell him she thought it was cute. Then he shook it away and turned to her with those warm eyes of his. " Anyway, my name is Jack. Use it."
With a smile, she nodded. " Then it’s Sam, Jack. Deal?"
" Deal." He grinned, then a flicker of recollection crossed his face. " So why isn’t Space Monkey here where he should be?"
" I couldn’t sleep so I took over," Sam explained, a hand going up to the back of her neck to rub her nape.
Jack swallowed compulsively, trying to shake the thoughts of what it would be like to have her rubbing his shoulders and fighting the impulse to take over from her and massage her neck. " Why.. Why couldn’t you sleep?"
" Why couldn’t you?" She countered immediately.
" I asked you first," he responded with a smile. " Besides, how could I sleep with you two yapping on and a certain mental image playing over and over in my head."
" I do not yap!" She protested. " Hey! You were listening to us?"
" Oops.." Jack grinned but looked faintly embarrassed at being caught out. Busted."
Laughing softy, Sam raised an eyebrow. " So. You were awake before then and you know why I’m awake."
He nodded, the atmosphere changing, the fact that they both knew creating serious overtones. " Yeah, I know why you’re awake. Same reason."
" Oh," was all Sam managed to say.
" Yeah." Jack looked around uncomfortably. " Nice night."
" Yeah." Sam agreed, her eyes fixed on the fire.
" Well, this is a stimulating conversation," Jack commented sarcastically.
Blushing, she risked smiling at him. " It’s a little awkward."
" Because of.." he let his voice trail off, and both of them instantly saw the same scene played over and over in their heads. For Sam, it was created by her imagination. One she longed for. But she knew it wouldn’t happen in front of General Hammond. For Jack, it was more like a memory, a glimpse into a life forgotten, from a day that had seemed to have no end.
Her tongue moistened her dry lips and Jack found he had to look away to resist doing the same. " I shouldn’t have.."
Silence fell over them. They played a game of eye tag, trying to look at each other without being caught but ultimately getting caught and having to look away in embarrassment. After catching Sam again, Jack felt a small grin tug at his lips, seeing the blush spread across her cheeks as she bit back a smile of her own. They were getting nowhere fast and they didn’t mind, but there was still something on Jack’s mind, and he knew if he didn’t say it soon, he never would. " Sam?"
" Yes?" She turned to him expectantly.
Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to stare her in the eye. " There’s only one way either of us is gonna get to sleep. We just.."
" Get it out of the way," Sam finished for him, irrationally pleased at the look of surprise, followed by a combination of relief and understanding on his face.
" Yeah." He nodded, still staring.
" Yeah," she echoed, her eyes dropping from his eyes to his lips and then back to his gaze. " So."
" So," he repeated. They both laughed nervously as they broke eye contact. I’m beginning to see a pattern here."
She gave him a one-shouldered shrug. " It’s an unusual situation.."
" It’s just one kiss, right?" He looked a little timid, maybe even scared, and if her stomach hadn’t been churning with nerves, Sam might have laughed at seeing her usually so brave Commanding Officer look terrified at the thought of kissing her. Thinking about it, she didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered. The way his eyes kept travelling to her lips, though, and the way he kept inching closer, seemed to suggest she should be the latter. " Just one kiss."
" Just one.. little.. kiss.." She felt her breathing quicken to match the speed of his as they drew together, even closer.
" Oh, yeah," Jack murmured, his breath warm on her lips. Their eyes slid shut the moment their lips grazed one another’s and the kiss began.
It was soft and sweet, and undemanding. It was something they had both been longing for, something they had woke up thinking about day after day. His hand came up to support her head as his other arm snaked round her waist, drawing her closer. Sam’s hands roamed his back, before one settled on his shoulder and the other in his hair, keeping him to her as he titled his head, increasing the pressure on her eager mouth.
Time slowed as they kissed, it seemed like a thousand eternities had passed them by, but when they parted, reluctantly, out of the necessity to breath, the kiss seemed to last only a few fleeting seconds, and it was all they could do to turn away from one another, to try and escape the temptation of starting again.
" Oh." Sam mumbled when she thought she could speak without her voice shaking too much. Instinctively, her hand went up to touch her lips, still warm from where his had been caressing them. " Wow."
" Yeah.." Jack breathed in slowly, not daring to glance in her direction. Wow." After a few minutes, he took the risk, grinning a little. He knew how she had affected him, and from the looks of it, he had affected her in pretty much the same way. He couldn’t fight the small shimmer of triumph inside him, seeing her flushed face and slightly swollen lips, something inside him saying gleefully ‘I did that!’. " So much for being just a kiss."
She managed a small, shy smile in response. " Oh, yeah," she murmured, repeating one of his best-loved phrases.
" So." He prodded the fire with a stick, fidgeting as she could have predicted he would.
" So what?" She asked softly, watching him, amused by his nervousness although she understood it completely.
He faced her with a sly grin in place. " Think we’ll be able to sleep now?"
Rolling her eyes, she shook her head, using a clearly sarcastic tone. " Oh, sure. Piece of cake."
" Nah, I didn’t think so." Jack’s grin widened at the sarcasm she used – and at the smile playing around on her lips. He was more than certain now, what they had was definitely mutual, and wasn’t going to go away. But he could tell from the look in the depths of her eyes that her mind was already turning, thinking and analysing what they had done.
With a heavy sigh, she buried her hands in her head and groaned. " Have we just complicated everything more than it was?"
He shrugged casually, though his tone was soft and serious when he answered her. " I don’t know.. It all seems pretty clear to me."
There was something in his voice, a secretive note that caught Sam’s attention and made her sit upright, a suspicious expression arranging her features. " What does?"
" Nothing." He answered distantly, confirming her suspicions.
" Col.. Jack! What does?" She demanded, her eyes narrowing as she tried to figure out if she’d missed something.
He finally turned to face her, but still gave nothing away. " You’ll see."
" When?" She questioned automatically, her impatience making him smile softly, almost affectionately.
Chuckling, Jack looked up at the stars above. " Didn’t like surprises when you were a kid, did you?"
" I like them even less as an adult," she retorted haughtily, hating the feeling that she was being left out of something, the kiss they had previously shared still fresh in her mind, blurring the boundaries her rational self knew still existed between them, the restrictions that were keeping them apart even though they had already crossed the line once and were hovering dangerously close to crossing it again.
Smiling and shaking his head, he gave her hand a quick squeeze before backing away. " Go to bed, Sam. Before I.."
" Before you what?" She prompted innocently.
His face flushed and he mumbled his reply. " Before I complicate things some more."
" Goodnight, Colonel." Smiling knowingly, perhaps a little longingly, Sam stood and stretched, walking to her sleeping bag.
" ’Night, Major," he conceded, knowing she had intentionally used his rank, for her benefit as much as his. " Sam?" He called out, once she had wriggled into her sleeping bag, quashing his thoughts of joining her.
" Yes?" She half-murmured, half-yawned the reply.
" Someday.." his voice trailed off as he cleared his throat of the lump that had formed. " Someday, we’ll have a chance."
Pleased the bag hid her face, Sam grinned happily. " I know, we just have to wait."
" I don’t want you putting your life on hold.. Not for me.." He couldn’t ask her that; if he was younger, maybe. But he wasn’t fooling himself, he was a greying Colonel with little to give except his love, and she had that anyway. It bewildered him she’d even want to wait.
" Not your choice, Jack," she spoke up sleepily, reminding him of one of the reasons he loved her. She never let anyone tell her what to do or what not to do.
" Good point." He nodded, relief emanating from every inch of his being.
" Anyway," she mumbled with a yawn, just loud enough for him to hear. Wouldn’t be much of a life without you and you sense of humour."
" Thanks.. I think." He rolled his eyes and fought the urge to make a comment about her loving him for his sense of humour, partly because it wasn ’t the time for jokes, and partly because she hadn’t actually come out and said it yet. So he settled for saying good night. " Sweet dreams, Sam."
" Right back at you, Jack." She answered, her voice growing fainter and drowsier as the moments passed. Surprisingly, she found it easy to sleep, and was quite willing to give in and go to a place where she and Jack could share more than just a secret kiss in the dead of night away from the world they lived in. He was staring into the fire, watching the flames burn brightly, his mind focused solely on the woman lying a few feet away when he heard it. " I love you."
His head snapped up. Something stirred inside him, but he wasn’t quite sure what. Something he hadn’t felt before, but something he wanted to feel again. He glanced at her, seeing her still lying there, curled up and still, the only evidence she was alive being the slow and steady rise of the material as she breathed in and out.
Someday, no matter how soon, would never come soon enough.
" I love you, too."
A soft sigh was the only response he got, and when he checked on her three hours later after Teal’c relieved him, he saw the sweet smile curving up her lips, and knew that he couldn’t – wouldn’t – deny them what they had for much longer. Someday would arrive, perhaps sooner than she thought. Getting into his sleeping bag beside her, he casually positioned an arm over her, not caring who saw, grinning when she moved further into his arms.
Oh, yeah. He had to make an appointment with a certain General when they got home. And with that thought in mind, Jack succumbed to the land of slumber, where his dreams were no longer a sour reminder of what he couldn’t have, but a satisfying promise of what was to come in the future.