Jack was at peace sitting on his dock in Minnesota, Sam right next to him, humming to herself and dangling her feet in the water. What more could he want?
The answer was 'a whole hell of a lot more, actually', but he was content with the status quo for now. Sam was here at his cabin at last, and there was probably a future for them sometime soon. She looked and sounded as peaceful as he felt and he'd pay top dollar for that alone, given everything she'd been through in the last few months.
"Humming?" He queried with a small smile.
"I'm in a good mood. It really is great here, Jack." He had insisted on no 'Sirs' or 'Generals'. It was a tough habit to break but she was easing into it.
"I love it but I was never really sure you would."
"You think it's too quiet and tranquil for me?"
"Something like that. I wondered how you'd get along without all your doohickies." His tone was tongue in cheek and her response surprised him.
"You always did make me look beyond the science and at the beauty of things."
"Me? You've got to be kidding." He found that notion laughable and chuckled appropriately.
"No, I'm not! You made me look at the stars when all I looked at was the physics."
"And now I'm making you look at the trees when all you think about is the photosynthesis?"
His tone was jokily sarcastic, the whole concept of a tree being highly questionable - if you believed his grumbles about them on nearly every planet they had ever visited, that is. She laughed, and it always made him happy when she appreciated his humour.
"And the sunshine shimmering on the water, and the bluest of blue skies, and... lots of stuff. Not only that, but I found out your little secret." She replied.
"Oh? Which one?" He raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
"That you actually like trees." She teased, smiling and capturing his gaze.
"Phew! I thought it was the other one." He kidded.
"I'm sure I'll wheedle that out of you eventually."
"Never!" His grin broadened.
Continuing to look into his eyes, her finger started to lightly trace patterns on the back of his hand and he shivered at her touch.
"Sam?" Her manoeuvre caught him off-guard.
"I like being here with you, Jack." She confessed.
Flushing at the compliment, he grinned boyishly. That just about made his day, if not his whole vacation.
"Even better." He said and she squeezed his hand, about to say something more when they were interrupted. 'Damn Daniel Jackson to hell!' Jack cursed inwardly.
Daniel had crept up behind them from the cabin and they were so wrapped up in each other that they didn't even notice until he was on top of them asking what they were going to do today. Sam rapidly removed her hand and eyes from Jack's, but not before Daniel noticed.
Jack wasn't the only one cursing inwardly. Daniel was wondering why it was always him that seemed to interrupt those special moments. Sam and Narim, Sam and Martouf, Sam and Jack. 'What is it with Sam and men, anyway?' he thought. He had never seen Sam as anything more than a friend, and loved her entirely in that platonic way as well as holding her friendship in high regard, but other men seemed to pee in their pants every time she entered a room!
Jack and Sam, though, that would be something else. Daniel really hoped they'd make it because he had a pretty shrewd idea of how they felt about each other. You'd have to be blind to miss it, and he could be pretty unobservant about that kind of thing. Sometimes he thought they were the only ones who didn't know. Then some little thing would happen that would make him believe that they did know. They were a puzzle to him and he thought they should just go for it and everything and everyone else be damned.
"I don't feel like doing much except sit around here, maybe goin' for a walk later." Sam replied hastily, wishing for Daniel and Teal'c to go off somewhere for the day and leave her and Jack alone.
"Well, Teal'c and I feel like going somewhere. Jack?"
Jack sneaked a look at Sam but her expression gave nothing away. Did she want to be alone or would she like him to hang around? He figured the latter, but would check to make sure.
"Lazing around and maybe a walk later sounds good to me." Jack replied.
"We did that yesterday." Daniel pouted, trying to pretend not to notice the undertones of this conversation as he believed that would not necessarily be appreciated. As soon as he'd walked over he'd noticed the sexual tension. You could cut it with a knife. His two friends seemed so relaxed, and yet it was obviously there.
"Actually, Sam and I fished yesterday." Jack responded tartly, wishing Daniel was somewhere else.
"If you call that doing something." Daniel responded, equally acerbic.
"There's no need to insult fishin' just because you can't appreciate its finer points, Daniel. You and Teal'c could go somewhere without us. Nothin' to stop ya!"
"We could? There's a novelty." Daniel quipped in response, thinking, 'I can take a hint. About time they got their act together!'
"Where do you wanna go?" Jack asked.
"We were going to ask you for some ideas."
"I always have lots of those."
"That's what I figured Jack, old buddy." Daniel peered over the top of his glasses a sarcastic look in his eye. "Why don't we talk about it over breakfast? I'll go make some." He disappeared nearly as quickly as he'd appeared and Jack looked at Sam.
"He sure can be a whirlwind, can't he?" It was intended as a statement of fact rather than a question, but she answered it anyway.
"Yeah, but adorable with it."
"An adorable wind-bag, don't you mean?" Sam giggled, at the expression on Jack's face as much as at his words, "Or he might be if he didn't always interrupt those interesting moments." He grinned slyly but quickly turned serious again. "Sam, do you wanna be alone?" He tensed, hoping he was right that she wanted him here with her.
"Not alone. Alone with you."
"Ah!" He visibly relaxed again. "That sounds... kinda great. "
"Yes it does, doesn't it? Now, where were we?"
"Then maybe it's time we were somewhere."
Jack was taken aback by this hint of her intentions. A couple of weeks had passed since the evening when they'd had their previous conversation about their relationship, but he did not believe she was any more ready now than she had been then to pursue anything with him. Had he given her enough time already? It was a little unexpected, but pleased and thrilled him.
"Does this mean you're ready?" he ventured.
"God, Jack, I'm a crazy woman. I've been ready for years. I don't know why I was holding back."
"Ready for years? Sweet!" He felt slightly breathless at the thought. "A little scared, perhaps?" He knew he was!
"It's hard to believe that of Jack O'Neill."
"Oh puleeze!" He exclaimed modestly. "Besides, there's nothing wrong with scared, Sam. In combat it can keep you alive."
"This isn't combat."
"No, it's much more terrifying than that."
His voice held a hint of amusement but she believed he was serious. It was so like Jack to cover up his true feelings, and she was surprised that he was even this honest with her.
"I'm not sure how to take that!" She was chuckling.
"You know exactly what I mean."
"Yes, I do."
They smiled hesitantly at each other and Jack reached over to brush some hair from Sam's face, gently stroking her cheek. He heard her sharp intake of breath as his fingers traced over her soft skin, and his stomach churned with both nerves and excitement.
"So much for being grown ups, huh?" He commented, feeling like a teenager pursuing his heart's desire.
"Maybe the heart never grows up."
"Do you think we should join the guys for breakfast and continue this later?" This type of conversation being so new to the two of them, she was beginning to feel a little awkward, particularly with the guys around.
"Frightened we'll get caught?"
"I want to keep this just for us, for now. This is private, Jack, and special."
He nodded agreement: it was very private indeed, and he hoped it turned out to be as special as she imagined. Getting up, he helped her to her feet, very tempted to pull her into his arms but denying himself that pleasure. It could wait until the boys had gone. He felt more than a little duplicitous.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Daniel was plotting with Teal'c.
"I'm just suggesting we could pretend to break down, or something, and have to spend the night in a motel." Daniel said.
"You want to provide them with some time alone."
"In a nutshell."
"I concur, but will it not be obvious?"
"Does it matter?"
"Perhaps not, but O'Neill is a very private man. I do not believe that we should know anything before we should know it."
Daniel looked at Teal'c askance, his expression the picture of bemusement, and coughed. Why did nearly every sentence his friend uttered have to sound so enigmatic?
"Yeah, sure. Well, act natural and they'll never guess that we've guessed something is going on."
"Act natural?" Teal'c inclined his head in query.
"Just be yourself, Teal'c, but try to be tactful."
"Tactful? Am I not the Jaffa who created tact, Daniel Jackson?"
Daniel frowned and then, spotting the glint in Teal'c's eye and the wisp of a smile in the corners of his mouth, started laughing.
"You've been hanging around us Tauri for too long, my friend."
"Indeed." Teal'c's grin broadened.
"You folks enjoying yourselves are ya?" Jack asked as he walked in the door, closely followed by Sam.
"I'm just teaching Teal'c the fine art of pancake making. He thinks it's funny." Daniel replied.
"Jaffa humour, huh? You're making pancakes? Daniel, will you marry me?" Jack quipped.
"Ask me again when you've eaten some of 'em, and only if you give up fishing, and do all the ironing. I sooo hate that!" Daniel retorted, humorously.
"It was obviously never meant to be." Jack sighed dramatically.
Sam smiled at the banter. Jack and Daniel were forever at loggerheads and it belied their mutual respect and friendship. She loved their more playful jousts, which showed something of that frequently hidden camaraderie. Too often they butted heads like a couple of bulls, although she wasn't sure that analogy was appropriate. Jack was the bull, although Daniel had his moments.
"If the Air Force does not approve of women and men being close 'friends' then I do not believe they would approve of men and men." Teal'c said.
"Teal'c!" Daniel whispered, figuring the last thing that Jack and Sam needed reminding about was USAF Regulations.
"You told me to be myself, Daniel Jackson. Is that not like myself?" Teal'c kept his voice low so that the others couldn't hear.
Sam and Jack exchanged looks.
"What's going on guys?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"Nothing. We're still arguing the toss about pancakes." Daniel responded.
"Arguing the toss about pancakes? Good one Daniel. I'll write that up in my little book of puns."
"So that's where they all come from." Daniel was trying to deflect Jack away from his original question, hoping he'd forget. And, seemingly, he did.
The pancakes turned out to be very good indeed, and the friends tucked into them with gusto, discussing places to visit in Minnesota while they ate. Afterwards, Daniel and Teal'c headed off in the SUV and Jack and Sam were alone at last, neither of them sure how they would spend these precious hours together. They looked at each other bashfully for a while and, eventually, Jack spoke.
"What's the betting that they'll find an excuse not to come back tonight and leave us alone?"
"You think so?" She blushed.
"Sam, it must be obvious, even to Daniel, that something's going on, and Teal'c sees everything. When are we normally this close? We never allow ourselves to be... like we've been."
"Well, we are on vacation." Her blush was deepening.
"Because of them?"
"And because of you."
"This isn't exactly a normal situation for us, Jack. Our friends leave us alone because they think we're gonna have sex? Oh boy!"
"No, this isn't normal. Look, we're just two friends on vacation, Sam; it doesn't need to be anything more than that."
"I want it to be."
He reached out to hold her hand, squeezing it gently, happy that she wanted more than that.
"I won't bite, Sam. Not unless you want me to." He grinned crookedly and she laughed, dissipating some of the tension. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves, huh? Wanna go for a walk?"
Jack was determined not to rush anything, or pressure Sam. The sexual tension between them was palpable; more than it had ever been, and he knew what would probably happen if they hung around the cabin. He wanted that to happen, but not too soon. He wasn't prepared to take any risks that might screw this up for them. A walk might distract them.
"Sure. Good idea."
They both packed a small backpack with water and other essentials; essential to Jack and Sam meaning a whole survival kit. It was how they'd been trained, and one never knows what's around the corner.
It was sunny and the light shone through the trees, producing a moody and distinctive dappled effect. They were surrounded by almost every imaginable hue of green as they followed the track deeper into the forest. Jack knew a really nice spot by a babbling brook where they could sit for a while and he was leading her towards it. He thought it was a romantic and charming place and hoped Sam would too.
As they walked, she took his hand and they chatted amiably about this and that, or were silent for long stretches. Suddenly, she stopped, turning to face him and stroke his cheek. He sighed wistfully.
"Let's go back. I want..." Her fingers combed through his hair and she searched his eyes. It was clear that she wanted them to kiss.
"The regs are still there," he blurted because he had just been thinking about them, but he could have kicked himself. They were both very aware of the pesky things; hadn't they been in the way for too long? Not for much longer, but Sam didn't know it yet. That he did know it made it easier for him to consider breeching them without also feeling too dishonorable.
"Yes." She continued to hold his gaze unflinchingly, seemingly unaffected by mention of the regs, which surprised Jack. She had always been so careful to be professional.
"Are you suggesting that we breech them?" he asked.
"As if we haven't already. Isn't all this beyond the meaning of the regs?"
"We've never crossed a particular line."
"But the line is virtually indiscernible, Jack. I hardly know where it is anymore."
"I think we'll know when we've crossed it."
"Is this crossing it?"
She touched her lips to his, a fleeting kiss.
"I think so."
She grasped his head, kissing him properly, and he kissed back. A kiss of passion, love, frustration and longing.
"Definitely." He whispered as they paused for breath, before they got engrossed in each other again.
"So, what about that thing we always feared we would do if we came here together?" she asked unexpectedly.
Jack swallowed hard. She was proposing that they make love? It certainly seemed that way. He tried to keep his heart rate under control but it continued to hammer away unrelentingly.
"Now that's way over the line. Way, way... out there somewhere." He waved his arm in the general direction of "somewhere", sounding brash, but Sam saw right through that act and was similarly nervous
"Yes it is. Is all this scary enough for ya?"
"Overwhelmingly." His tone was more subdued, almost a whisper. Jack's heart beat even faster as he contemplated his future and the fulfilment of a long held dream.
"Not too overwhelming I hope." She said.
"I'll get over it."
"Despite the regs?"
"I don't wanna think about them. We're on vacation."
"No, they never are. Are you deliberately trying to put me off?"
"You mentioned them first. I'm just trying to be sure we're both sure."
"I hope so. You started it. Let's not over think it, huh?"
"No more talk Jack. Can we go back?"
He nodded and they headed back towards the cabin, hands intertwined as if they were joined and stopping for an occasional kiss and hug. Although they felt closer than they had ever been, as they drew nearer to their goal their mutual nervousness increased, along with the sexual tension.
Jack stopped at the cabin door, turning to face Sam, hands lightly grasping her shoulders.
"Are you really sure this is what you want?" he asked, still willing to forgo instant gratification and pleasure for the longer term gain. "If we once start this, I might not be able to stop myself, Sam." He longed for her too much. "We haven't even started this relationship and we're about to make a big commitment. We don't know what the future holds. We might not even like each other in our real lives."
"You talk as if what we did every day was just a fantasy. You think it's possible that we won't like the normal, day to day Jack and Sam? I guess it is, but we know each other pretty well."
"Not like this!"
"I'm scared too, Jack. We've both wanted this for a long time haven't we? I want us to be committed; to be as close as we can be. This is how we show it, how we prove it."
"You want proof?"
"I just want to be as close to you as is humanly possible. The future is the future. If it doesn't work out, I'll never regret this moment."
Jack's heart was soaring. A few short weeks ago she had whispered that she loved him. That was a big thing, one of the biggest. He had never told her he felt the same way, although he had confessed it to Jacob. She was taking a leap of faith and that was fundamentally important to him for reasons he couldn't fathom.
Did she instinctively know how he felt? Or did she want this anyway, no matter what? He continued to refrain from confessing it; still unsure of himself and their future. She was right: whatever happened, he would never regret this moment either.
"I was planning to romance you a little before seducing you, Sam."
"Romance me? Are you a romantic Jack?" She had always believed that Jack had romance in his soul. Sometimes he showed it, but mainly he tried not to. It didn't go with the job description.
"No, yes, sometimes." He shrugged in an O'Neill like way, "I'm not gonna argue with you. I want to get as close as I can to you too."
He grinned, taking her hand and leading her into the cabin, towards the master bedroom where she had been sleeping since their arrival. How many times had he woken at night wanting to go to her? Over the years there had been many such moments and, since they'd arrived a couple of days ago, he'd been fitful and restless, dreaming of her and waking suddenly, his longing frustrated and unfulfilled.
"Okay." He said with a smile. "Let's go see if we can ease some of this tension, shall we?"