y I made you cry.
It didn't end with a bang, but didn't end with a whimper either.
The day crept upon them quietly until finally it dawned on them that this was it.
His last day as commander of the SGC.
His last day as her commanding officer.
There was no party, no big grand ceremony to say thank you for the years he'd devoted to the project. Big parties, lavish ceremonies and lots of attention really weren't his thing. He preferred the quiet, slip-out-the-back-door approach.
Throughout the day, various members of his staff dropped by his office to say goodbye. To thank him, some asking him to reconsider.
Jack met them all with a grin, accepted the compliments with as much ease as he was able and reminded himself of the ring in his desk drawer at home whenever someone asked him what his plans were for the future.
Reminded himself of the outstanding promise he'd made to Jacob Carter.
And to himself.
There was a countdown taking place among some members of staff. Among the romantics who were waiting, just waiting, for something to happen.
They were disappointed when SG-1's final debriefing carried on as normal. When Sergeant Harriman reported that yes, at 1300 hours she had entered the General's office but that the door had remained open the entire time and that nothing had been said that implied she featured heavily in the General's plans.
And since Harriman had spent the entire conversation tidying up two pieces of paper left on the briefing room table just a few feet away from the open door, he knew what he was talking about.
With five minutes to go, General O'Neill left his office.
Aware of the eyes on his back, aware of the speculation running rife along the corridors of the SGC.
Aware of the disapproval from some corners.
He stopped by Doctor Jackson's office first, inviting Daniel and Teal'c to join him in the mess hall for cake and jello - the only celebratory party he wanted. The three of them then stopped by Colonel Carter's lab and soon the four original members of SG-1 were stepping into the mess hall.
Daniel and Teal'c exchanged amused glances, Carter flushed and ducked her head.
General O'Neill grinned and rolled his eyes, following Daniel to a table after the pair placed their 'order' with Teal'c and Sam.
Two minutes to go.
After watching the Jaffa pile his own tray sky-high, then as an after thought add the slice of pie and cup of coffee Daniel had requested, Sam set about arranging her own tray.
One bowl of red jello: check.
One bowl of blue jello: check.
One fork, one spoon, with which to eat the jello: check, check.
Two cups of coffee: check.
One slice of cake to share: check.
T minus one minute and counting: check.
Returning to the table, Teal'c sat down after placing his tray down and Carter went to copy him, only to stop when the General put his hand on her arm.
Around the mess hall, eight people held their breaths.
Four looked away in disgust.
"Grab me a spoon for the cake, will you, Carter?"
She rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation but the smile on her face was tolerant. "Yes, Sir."
All eyes were on her as she walked away from the table, grabbed a spoon, and walked back.
Jack glanced at his watch as he took it from her.
He'd been retired for almost a minute.
"Anything else, Sir?"
"Yeah. Just one thing."
He grabbed her arm again, tugged so she had no choice but to lean over. The smile on her face and the way her eyes flickered to the clock on the wall above the door showed him she understood.
As did the way she closed the distance between them, covering his lips with her own in a brief but sweet kiss.
Then she straightened, took her seat and dug into her jello, ignoring the eyes weighing heavily on her back.
Jack grinned again and picked up his fork.
Daniel attempted to exchange another glance with Teal'c, only to find the Jaffa already concealing a grin behind his mountain of food so allowed himself a shrug and took another sip of his coffee.
The twelve witnesses continued to look on in surprise.
The private retirement party took place at Jack's place.
The original members of SG-1 were there, and General Hammond called just as the first bottle of beer was opened so Jack handed over the reins of the barbeque over to Teal'c and went to answer the phone.
"Thank you, Sir."
"I hope you enjoy your retirement. Have you got any plans?"
"Nothing much. Just the usual. Fishing, catching up on my reading, maybe some home improvement, dating Carter.. You know. The usual."
A laugh was the only response. No surprise, no disapproval. Just an easy laugh and "I'll be in town next week. Maybe you can catch me up then?" and the conversation was drawn to a close.
He didn't go back out to the porch and join his friends immediately.
He instead walked to his study, walked over to the desk.
Opened the top drawer and took out the cloth-wrapped bundle.
Remembered Jacob Carter, remembered his promises.
Remembered there was one left he had to keep.
Nudging the drawer closed with a hip, his hand wrapped around the item as he turned to face her, an easy grin on his face. "Retired, Carter. As in no longer goes by the name 'Sir' or 'General'. Or 'pain the ass CO'."
"I never called you CO."
She stopped in the doorway, her smile fading into an expression of uncertainty. She'd come a long way in the two weeks since her father died but her foundations were still unsteady.
Her world not yet completely righted.
"What's up, Carter? Teal'c burn the steak already?"
"No. I just.. wanted to make sure you were okay. With the retiring thing. Because if you're not, I'm sure the Pentagon would jump at the chance.."
"To have me back?" His grin faded into a wry expression, an eyebrow raised. "The pain in the ass, stubborn commander of the SGC with no patience for politics? I think they're pretty damn pleased I'm gone, Carter. Besides, they know where to find me if they want me."
"Here? Or Minnesota?"
He took a step forward, seeing the doubt on her face.
Seeing the hope.
"I was thinking here, mainly." With one hand behind his back carefully concealing Jacob's parting gift, Jack reached out for her with his other hand.
Finding hers, tangling their fingers.
"I just want to make sure you won't regret it." Her eyes fell to their hands, her thumb smoothing over the skin on the back of his hand. "That you won't look back and wish you did things differently."
"I won't." He moved his thumb, trapping hers. "I wanted to take this slow. To get to know you better, find out what you like, what you don't like.. what your thoughts are on maybe getting a dog or moving in with me, preferably both, but.. I always thought I'd wait for the right time, that it wouldn't be for a while but this feels right. I blame your Dad."
"Yes. He put.. ideas in my head." He shrugged at the confusion on her face.
"Yes.. Why are you repeating what I say?"
He took a step forward. One step.
One promise to go.
"Because you keep stopping and it feels like the right thing to do?"
Jack moved his other hand from behind his back. Opened his palm to reveal the cloth bundle.
Saw the lack of understanding on her face.
Reluctantly freed his hand of hers to unwrap the object within, all the while watching her face.
Watching her reaction.
Her eyes widened, darted up to his face then back to the ring.
"Marry me." Another step closer. To her and to keeping his promise. "Maybe not now, maybe not even this year or next year. But eventually, when you're ready. Marry me."
Her eyes lifted, locked with his. "That's my mother's ring. He gave you her ring."
"He knew I couldn't marry Pete, that I wouldn't have been happy.."
He nodded, resisting the urge to close his fingers around the ring, put it away and ask her to forget about it. Ask her to pretend it didn't happen so he could do it again later.
In the future.
When she was ready.
"Dad was a very smart man. I can see where you get it from. But if this.. If you're not ready to start thinking about it.."
Her voice trembled slightly, not quite as much as the hand she held out.
Her smile was brilliant, her eyes gleaming.
With a hand that wasn't as steady as he liked, Jack picked the ring up from his palm and slid it on her finger.
Held onto her hand.
It was Sam who moved closer, who pulled her hand free and stepped into the circle of his arms before he'd even realised they were open for her.
Sam who tilted her face up to kiss him softly before letting her head rest on his shoulder.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
A sigh. A soft, wistful sigh.
"Thank you, Dad."