Story Notes: Sequel to Understandings & Misunderstandings Part 3: The Inevitability of Feeling. You need to have read previous parts.

Note: Thanks again to my beta, Bonnie, for slaving over a hot computer to help improve my writing, and for her suggestions and moral support. Thanks also to Ninja Girl for making a wonderful unsolicited piece of cover art for this fic a little while ago. /Waves… you ought to post it to the group, girl!/ Also thanks to all of you who have continued to give me such nice feedback, and encouragement to me keep going in my hour of need.


Understandings and Misunderstandings Part 4: Decisions We Make

Nothing had happened between them; nothing to truly compromise them; nothing irreversible. They were just two friends, talking into the night, comforting each other in an hour of need. Right? Nothing wrong with that; except that it was probably both compromising and irreversible. The non-frat regs did not allow a CO and his second to get even that close.

He woke first, drawing away from her slightly so he could watch her sleeping. He loved that - while they were on missions, or when he happened upon her dozing in the lab - loved that. Sometimes he just reached down to touch her hair, lightly brush her face. Secretly, stealthily. She never knew, no one did; he was careful.

Inevitably, he thought about the previous night, the conversation they'd had well into the early hours. It felt so good to talk to her about that stuff. It was fun, amusing, and warmed his ravaged heart considerably. Conversation between them had been animated, with much smiling and laughter from both. They had talked about their childhood's; things that had happened before they met; since they met; favourite colors; star-signs. Lots of dumb trivial stuff, concentrating on the good things, amusing anecdotes. The time he'd mooned out of the window of Ted's car at some local girls they all disliked. When she'd broken the nose of Johnny Green because he'd dared to call her names. His trouble with the cops for stealing Joe Bradley's bike. Her dad's reaction when she stayed out all night, dancing until the small hours.

It wasn't the right time to talk about any of the bad stuff. Maybe it never would be. Jack knew, if he was ever going to talk about those dark, secret places, hidden deep within him, then she might be the one… However, right now they needed to decide what to do next.

He didn't want her to find out about dark side Jack, didn't want it to end up tearing them apart like it had him and Sara. Eventually, no matter how hard he had tried throughout their marriage, it had destroyed them… once Charlie had died. Maybe Sam was the one that could help him to redeem himself, if only a little. He could never be forgiven for everything he had done, or forget what had happened to him over the years. Instinctively, however, he knew that if anyone could help to diminish the guilt and the shame he felt, ease the nightmares, it would be her.

They had shared so much already, been through a lot together. It just wasn't the same sort of relationship that he'd had with Sara; nothing like the same. It was so much more… He was ashamed to think it. It was a betrayal. Once, Sara had meant everything to him. He would never stop loving her, in his own way. Certainly, he would never forget her, she'd always be a part of him. That was fine with him and he didn't want it any other way.

The thought that the blackness inside of him could destroy him and Sam so utterly troubled him deeply. He quailed inside. Was it too late to back out now? Probably. He was lost. Forever hers. If she'd have him he'd take what he could get and be grateful. Even if she could never give him what he truly wanted. Even if it was only for a little while. Hers…as long as she wanted.

He hugged her lightly, and then gently pushed the stray hairs out of her sleeping eyes, kissing her on the forehead. Sam stirred but did not awaken. It felt so good to hold her in his arms, he wanted her so much. Although he felt himself unworthy, as long as she thought he was, there was still some hope. He had to hang on to that. Jack didn't understand her interest in him, never had, but maybe he could learn to accept. It was a second chance. It comforted him to think that he might get that. The chance to love and be loved by two such extraordinary women in his life? It was remarkable. Not many were so fortunate.

If she couldn't live with that side of him…? How could he expect anyone to do that? Didn't she deserve to know more about what she was letting herself in for? He never thought he could reveal that much of himself. The recent turn of events had changed everything. As a result, something inside of him had been irrevocably transformed. The revelation of his thoughts hit him with a shock. Was he really contemplating opening up to her that much? It would take time. He might never be able to do it and the thought of it scared him. If she knew… if she knew half of what he had done, thought, felt… She couldn't possibly want to stay with him. He couldn't risk that, could he? He could never risk that. So he continued to bury everything deep within that dark place inside of him.

Although Sam was awake, she feigned sleep. She needed time to think before she faced him. When she awoke, feeling him squeezing her slightly, kissing her forehead, she was momentarily disorientated. It suddenly came flooding back to her, what had happened the previous night. Worse, she was in her CO's house, lying in his arms! Ohmigod…panic! No, she was lying in Jack's arms. She remembered that now. The thought calmed her. Boy, it felt good.

She had not anticipated that it could be like this, that he could be like this. That they could talk to each other in this oh, so easy manner, chatter inconsequentially, feeling comfortable in the silences. She had dreamed it, yes, imagined it. She hadn't really believed that it could ever be true. Not recently, anyway.

She loved him so much. She couldn't tell him that. Not yet. She needed to know that it could work between them; that there truly was the possibility of that. There were so many things she didn't know about him. Dark secrets, nightmares and demons. Maybe she could help him to exorcise them. Perhaps not quite that, but to lessen his pain, and his burden. Or maybe they would destroy them. That thought frightened her. It was worth the risk, wasn't it? He was worth the risk? In any event, could she actually back out now? No. She knew it was already too late for her. She was lost to him forever, no matter what. She was his for as long as he'd have her. Nevertheless she wanted to be cautious. She couldn't deny that part of her.

Looking up at him, she smiled in such a way that it made his heart skip a beat. She could do that to him so easily. Then they both suddenly felt gawky and awkward; lying together in his chair, in each other's arms, sleep still heavy in their eyes. Neither was sure enough of what the other was thinking. Despite a reluctance to move, they rose as one and went into the kitchen, feeling the need to do something practical. Almost anything to avoid talking about the next steps.

Sitting companionably, deep in thoughts and coffee, they didn't know what to do, what to say next. Sam decided that she should make some kind of start.

"I'll call Bob. Tell him I won't be seeing him anymore." Jack's heart jumped for joy at the simple statement. But he also felt turmoil, an inner doubt.

"Sam…what if I can't give you what you want…what you need? What if we…? I… I don't want you to burn any bridges, have those sorts of regrets." She could see that he was struggling. He, too, was tormented by thoughts of failure, of destroying them. He, too, wanted to exercise caution, despite his evident desire.

"I'm not going to find that with him, Jack. Never would. I was a fool, stupid. He was… company. That's all. He was… a temporary stopgap." When Jack smiled at that, her heart took a leap at the look in his eyes.

"Your career, Sam, I can't risk your career." He sighed and shrugged, not needing the say it. The regs… they hung heavily between them, a constant barrier. They were only too aware that the wall the regs built could be far worse than anything they could build for themselves. Breaching them was dishonourable.

It gnawed at Jack. Sam had a future in the Air force while his career was reaching a close, probably more rapidly than he welcomed. Sometime soon he would fail the physical that allowed him to continue through the gate. He couldn't imagine sitting behind a desk all day, hated paperwork enough as it was. They were risking it all. He couldn't allow her to do that, though he would do it willingly. All very well when he had so much less to lose.

"My career's not your risk to take, Jack, it's mine. Maybe its time I put me first; think about what I really want. It's worth the risk." Jack's heart thudded loudly in his chest at that. He was worth the risk! He was someone she really wanted! How did he deserve to be so lucky? She was too good for him. It continued to surprise him that she didn't see that.

He pondered how all this would impact and the team, and their work. Screw it! It had to be better than what would inevitably have happened had they continued as before, or had she not come here last night. If she hadn’t come… he shuddered to think of what that might have cost him. We’ll deal with it. We can do that. We have to. He didn’t want to voice his fears. In the end he only said.

"I just want you to be happy Sam. That’s all I ever wanted. I guess I always wanted that to be with me. We don't know that… There's so much…" Unable to find the words, he gestured his frustration, unsure of what else to say. "I have a habit of screwing things up. The really important things. I don’t want to screw it up this time."

She didn't think he even realised just how revealing that was. He thought he was crap at this stuff, but he could convey his thoughts, his emotions, more easily than he wanted to believe. She knew he was full of doubts, about his own ability, about theirs, about how to move on from this. She reached and took his hand, smiling faintly at him.

"There are no certainties, Jack." Then silence again, lost in thoughts.

Neither of them was due in at the SGC today. Sam had been going in anyway, get in more lab time. No way was that going to happen now. She wanted to be here, with him. Anywhere, with him. At least for today. If that's what he wanted.

Unexpectedly, Jack was the one to break the silence.

"What next, Sam? What do we do now?"

Flippantly, she replied. "I don't know… go for a walk in the park? Have a picnic? Go into the hills…?"

He interrupted, feeling the need to sort something out. Anything.

"We have to face this. There are consequences. There are always consequences. We are so close to the line here…over the line. Before going any further over it we need to decide how…" He faltered, "We need to talk"

"Aren't you all talked out?"

Getting up abruptly, he started to pace, hands grasped to his head, frustrated.

"You were right about us not knowing each other… Jack and Sam."

"You want a do a bit more getting to know each other before going too far over the line? Take it slow?" Her natural caution agreed with that. But she wanted him badly, ached for him.

"There is so much you don't know about me. So much that could…could…" Destroy us, he thought, but balked at using that word. "I know you want…more. God, I want… I want it so bad, I can taste it, Sam… But…" He couldn't bring himself to refer to thoughts of making love with her, having that sort of relationship with her. It could undo him. Nor could he admit that it petrified him, his depth of feeling, and the consequences of that. He couldn’t tell her he was anxious that she wouldn't like the real Jack O'Neill. That he would bore her. That all that dark stuff inside of him would drive her away. Hell, she'd probably run and hide down the nearest hole. If she knew him, really knew him... She'd seen some of it, sure, how could it not be so? They spent one heck of a lot of time together. She'd seen some of his worst moments. But…

Ceasing to pace, looking over into her eyes, he said. "Look, right now we haven't gone too far, Sam. We can still go back." But he knew it wasn't true. They both knew that. They could never turn back from last night. Not really.

He was gesturing with his hands. She so loved those hands. There was something sensual about them. And he used them to such graphic effect; emphasising; expressing his frustrations; his fears; his acquiescence. Often saying what he didn't articulate verbally. She loved the childlike way that he fiddled with things. He so rarely kept his hands still. Okay, so he could be a menace with them sometimes, particularly in her lab, but she found them fascinating to watch. Sexy. One of the simple things that made up this very complex man. She didn’t think he even realised quite how charismatic he could be sometimes.

Standing to touch him, she succinctly voiced his own fears. "Scary, isn't it?" A nod of his head was his only response. "You're right. Let's see how it goes, not rush anything… be sure, be friends." It seemed crazy given the length of time they had known each other, longed for each other. But she could do that, take it slowly. She had a degree in that.

They hardly touched for the rest of that day, although they spent every moment of it together. Despite their lack of physical intimacy, they felt closer than ever before. It seemed so right, so perfect. That night he delivered her to her door, gave her a peck on the cheek, the perfect gentlemen. Right, so he hadn't wanted to part with her. He never wanted to do that again. If nothing else, Jack was a pragmatist. They had work the next day, for crying out loud. It was going to be difficult enough.

Later, he felt so alone without her there.

The End

End Notes: Feedback would be loved

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