O'Neill stood in the corner of Hammond's office, watching his second-in-command closely. She sat ramrod-straight in the chair, her face carefully blank as she listened to the General. Her entire manner was respectful and fitting the situation, yet he instinctively knew on the inside she was enraged by the whole affair.
"In light of your behavior during this incident, Major, I have no other choice but to put a reprimand in your permanent file."
"Yes, sir," she replied automatically.
Jack could see her mouth tighten at Hammond's words, but only because he watched her so closely. He had already known that this would happen, and, as it was the lesser of her potential punishments, he had reluctantly agreed with Hammond. Colonel Simmons had wanted her put on suspension and transferred out of the SGC, something which Hammond-to Jack's relief-had immediately vetoed.
"You are also suspended from gate travel for a period to be determined by your CO."
Her eyes snapped briefly to O'Neill's before she turned her somber gaze back to Hammond. "Yes sir, I understand, sir."
Hammond closed the file on his desk; "You're dismissed, Major."
Sam stood, "Yes, sir." She walked quickly out of the office, not looking back.
Jack started to follow when Hammond stopped him, "One moment, please, Colonel."
Jack turned and rocked back on his heels, waiting impatiently for Hammond to speak so he could go talk to Sam.
"I'm sorry it came to this, Jack."
"So am I, sir."
"But with Simmons raising holy heck back at the Pentagon, I had to do something."
"I understand, sir." And unfortunately, he did. Someone had to take the fall for the destruction of the weapon on 636, and it looked like it would be his major. He tried to keep reminding himself that it could have been a lot worse, SG-16 could be dead, she could be dead, and they all could be dead if she hadn't been on the planet when Orlin destroyed the weapon. Rubbing his face wearily, he looked back at Hammond. "Is that all, sir?"
Relieved, O'Neill took his leave of Hammond's office, only to find Daniel and Teal'c waiting for him in the briefing room. Both men's faces held expressions of worry. "Hey, guys."
"Jack," Daniel began anxiously, "what's going on? Sam just passed us in the hallway, wouldn't even talk."
"Indeed, O'Neill, she seemed most distressed."
"Ah, guys," he walked over to the large window, looking out at the Stargate. "There was some disciplinary action taken about what happened on 636."
"Disciplinary action, Jack?" Daniel asked, his tone skeptical.
"I do not understand, O'Neill. Against whom would the General take action?"
Crap, they weren't going to make it easy for him, were they? "Against Carter, Teal'c."
"Major Carter's actions saved SG-16," Teal'c reminded him.
"And probably Earth too, Jack. Given the power that these beings obviously have-and their history of using that power," Daniel added.
"Yeah, well, that may be the case," he turned to look at them, "but she still harbored an alien and disobeyed orders."
"That's a load of rubbish, Jack," Daniel exploded. "This has something to do with Colonel Simmons, doesn't it?"
"Daniel," Jack began wearily, "this topic is closed for discussion."
As he walked past the two men, Daniel reached out to grab his arm. "Jack, are you just going to let them do this to Sam?"
Pulling his arm out of Daniel's grasp, Jack looked at him. "Daniel, there are certain procedures and protocols that have to be followed."
"Ah, right, like the secret surveillance of Sam's home, her personal life."
"Daniel," Jack warned, the guilt he already felt only intensifying with Daniel's reproach.
"Jack, we let Sam down bigtime with this one." Daniel's accusation fell heavily into the room.
Daniel had him there, O'Neill acknowledged grimly, only it wasn't SG-1 that had let Sam down, it was him-the person she had come to for help. "I know, Daniel, I know." With those words, Jack turned and left the briefing room.
Daniel watched his friend walk away, frustration and anger growing inside him. He had seen the pain in Jack's eyes, when he'd accused him of letting Sam down. Of course, he realized uneasily, he hadn't been of much help to her, either.
"Surely Major Carter's devotion and dedication to the SGC and Earth outweigh any action she took on the planet?" Teal'c's question interrupting his train of thought.
"You'd think, wouldn't you, Teal'c." He shook his head; he didn't think he'd ever understand Air Force reasoning. "I think I'll go talk to her."
"A wise plan of action, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel smiled briefly at Teal'c and leaving the Jaffa in the room, left in search of Sam. It didn't take him long to find her, as he figured there would only be one place she'd go. Daniel stepped cautiously into her lab. "Hey, Sam." Sam sat at her worktable, writing furiously. "Whatcha' doing?"
"Filling out a supply requisition," she responded tersely.
"For what?" he walked over to her, looking over her shoulder.
"Material and supplies to build a naquada reactor."
"Ah," he started, only for her to interrupt him.
"Of course no one stopped to think about what might happen if our only naquada reactor was destroyed during their test of that weapon." She threw her pen down and looked at him, her face flushed. "I mean, talk about not thinking ahead, planning for the worst-case scenario! Oh no, they just couldn't see past their greed at a new weapon--."
"Hey, take it easy, Sam," Daniel interrupted, putting a hand on her shoulder.
She took a deep breath, and he gave her a few moments to compose herself. "Sorry, Daniel." She looked away then, but not before he saw the faint sheen of tears in her eyes. "It's just, well, let's just say things haven't been going too well for me lately. And now I have to build a new reactor." She laughed then, a bitter sound. "Of course, I'll probably have plenty of time since I've been suspended from gate travel."
"What?" he asked, stunned by her comment. Jack hadn't mentioned anything about that!
She looked at him, "Oh, not permanently. It's up to my CO to decide how long is long enough."
"Well, I'm sure Jack won't let it be for very long."
She gave him a bleak look then. "I don't know Daniel, he hasn't been exactly supportive lately."
"Sam," he started, only to stop. This really wasn't the time or place for any kind of serious talk. She was obviously hurting, and he knew that at least this time, he wasn't going to let her down. He looked at his watch, "What do you say about getting some lunch?"
She looked at him uncertainly.
"Not here, I mean. Some place off base. We could talk.." He looked at her beseechingly.
Much to his relief, she gave him a small smile and said, "Thanks Daniel, I think I'd like that."
"So, what was he like?" Daniel sat back down on the sofa, next to Sam. The remains of Chinese take-out lay scattered about his living room. A fire burned invitingly in the fireplace, warding off some of the chill from the early spring rainstorm that had suddenly appeared.
Taking the cup of coffee he offered her, she snuggled a bit deeper under the afghan. "He was kind, gentle," she thought a bit more, "very intense and very lonely."
"Did you love him?"
She looked at Daniel then, his eyes reflecting only caring and concern. Her lips curved into a small smile as she replied, "No. I was fond of him." She shook her head at the memory. "He said he loved me, though."
She got a distant look in her eyes as she continued. "Yeah, though I think he'd been alone so long that he would have fallen in 'love' with anyone who came through the Stargate-and not just me."
"I'm sure that's not true, Sam," he protested, half-heartedly.
"Oh, it doesn't bother me, Daniel. I mean, who knows if those beings even have an assigned gender? He said he could take human form-and he took the form of a human male after learning about our culture and me. Maybe if you'd been the one working in the weapon room, the alien would have fallen for you and taken female form," she teased.
Daniel looked a bit uncomfortable for a moment before grinning back at her. "Right, we were talking about you, however."
Her expression became serious once more. "I know." She pulled her knees up to her chest, hugging them under the afghan. "That's what McKenzie always says when I change the topic during one of our visits." She could tell by the look on Daniel's face that he knew immediately to what she referred, having been in that particular situation a few times himself.
"It's okay," she quickly reassured him. "It's all so unfair. Orlin was just lonely-he simply failed to understand the potential ramifications of his actions." Good heavens, she suddenly realized, just like she'd been lonely and had failed to understand the potential ramifications of her actions! Was she that desperate for some male attention and companionship? It was an unsettling thought, and one she didn't want to concentrate on too long.
"Well, from what you've told me, that seems to be his biggest failing."
Daniel's voice broke into her muddled thoughts and she looked at him, momentarily confused until she realized he was referring to her previous comment about Orlin.
"Think about it, Sam. He interferes-against the rules of his race-and helps the aliens on 636 to defeat the Goa'uld. For such an enlightened being, he didn't look beyond the moment." She frowned, but he continued. "And what does he do, the next time he has the opportunity? He attempts to link with you-without your permission-then follows you through the gate and wants a relationship with you."
She started to protest, but he held up his hand. "I'm not judging him, Sam. But you need to keep this in perspective. His motives were not completely unselfish."
"Except at the end," she added carefully.
"Right, except at the end." Daniel took a sip of his coffee, "From what you've told me, it seems like he tried to atone for his interference with the alien culture by making sure we couldn't use the weapon-thus repeating his initial mistake."
She sighed, her expression pensive as she looked into the flames dancing in the hearth. "That's the only explanation I can think of that gives some meaning to his death," she whispered.
"He may not be dead, Sam," Daniel reminded her.
"I know, we have no way of knowing if his 'kind' took him back into their collective before the explosion." She turned her head slightly and looked at him, smiling sadly. "Doesn't really matter though-he's gone. And if he is back with the others, we'll never see him again."
They both sat quietly then, gazing into the fire. Daniel finally broke the silence. "So, Jack said you were disciplined by Hammond."
She didn't look at him. "Yeah, he's putting a reprimand in my permanent file."
"What does that mean, exactly?"
"Hard to say," she replied carefully. "It'll probably just mean that my next promotion will be longer in coming."
"How long do you think you'll be stuck on base?"
She looked at him then, her eyes once more bleak. "That's up to my commanding officer." She saw him wince when she referred to O'Neill as her commanding officer.
"Well, surely Jack won't it let it be more than a week or two."
"I don't know Daniel," she let out a ragged sigh. "I don't think he trusts me or my judgement anymore." She smiled tiredly at his incredulous expression. "Don't act so surprised, Daniel. He had to know about the continued surveillance, and even though he tacitly gave me permission to continue my 'investigation' of Orlin, he has to protect himself."
"Sam, you can't really believe that.can you?"
She reached out a hand to gently touch his arm, "It's okay, Daniel. I understand, it's how the system works. Someone has to take the fall for this, and it's going to be me."
"I don't see how you can be so calm about this."
She stood then, looking around for her shoes. "Well, appearances can be deceiving, Daniel. Let's just say that I've accepted what has happened."
He stood too. "You don't have to go, Sam."
"I know," she smiled fondly at him. "But, I really should be getting home." She put on her jacket and picking up her purse, walked to the door. "Thanks for lunch," she told him.
Daniel grabbed her hand, and she turned to face him. "Sam, you know if you ever need to talk-or whatever-I'm here."
A wistful expression passed across her face, and then she kissed him lightly on the cheek. "I know, Daniel," she whispered, letting herself out the door.
It was dusk as Sam turned onto her street, there was a truck parked in front of her house. She really did not need this, she thought, as she recognized the Colonel's four by four. She pulled her car in behind the huge pick-up, feeling out-gunned by the vehicle and the man inside it. She rested her head briefly on the steering wheel before setting the parking brake and getting out.
The driver's door to the pick-up opened. "Carter."
"Sir," she replied, taking in his casual dress, and the pizza box in his hands. She wondered, a bit wildly, if Teal'c would show up later with dessert. Get a grip, she admonished herself. She walked around him and the front of the truck, up the walk to her front door; he followed silently. She let them in, pausing to take off her jacket and set her purse on the dining room table while he took the pizza into the kitchen.
"Where's your microwave, Carter?" he called from the kitchen.
She crossed over to the kitchen, watching him as he opened the pizza box. "I'm not sure, sir.."
He gave her a penetrating look before commenting, "Right, well, I'll just warm this up in the oven."
"What are you doing, sir?" she asked quietly.
He turned from the oven, to face her. "Heating up our dinner."
"I can see that," she gestured around the kitchen. "What are you doing here?"
He looked non-plussed for a moment, but then replied quietly, "I thought we should talk."
"I've talked to Daniel," she told him curtly, brushing by him to go to the fridge. She saw the look of relief that crossed his face at her words; good-he'd been worried. Too bad he hadn't been worried earlier. Childish, Sam, she scolded herself. He's here, he wants to talk, the two of us wouldn't be in this current mess if we talked more often, she ruefully acknowledged. Ever since the Za'tarc testing.she suddenly realized she'd been standing with the refrigerator door open, the Colonel watching her steadily. She reached in and pulled out two beers, opened them and handed one to him.
She walked away, into the living room, leaving him to whatever it was he wanted to do with the pizza. He followed a few minutes later, leaning casually against the doorframe.
"You got things back to normal pretty fast," he gestured around the room.
She wasn't sure what he meant by that comment. The containment personnel and god knows who else had swarmed over her house like a plague of locusts. The room where Orlin had constructed the mini-Stargate had been totally stripped of its contents. It had taken the company that provided her cleaning service two days to get the house back in order after they'd left and she'd finally been allowed back in. "I have a good cleaning service," was her only comment.
She sat silently, while he stood, drinking his beer. If he felt uncomfortable from the tense atmosphere between them, he didn't let on...but then, maybe she was the only one who felt awkward. Thankfully, the timer sounded from the kitchen. "Good-pizza's done," Jack commented, heading towards the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later, with the pizza, plates and napkins. He sat everything down on the coffee table, then handed her a piece.
"Thanks," she took a bite of the sausage and pepperoni pizza, then set it back down on her plate. It was good, but she wasn't really hungry, just being here with the Colonel had put a knot in her stomach that didn't seem to go very well with pizza.
O'Neill looked at her curiously. "Not hungry?"
"Not really," she confessed, unwilling to tell him the real reason. "I had lunch with Daniel-we had Chinese take-out," she offered by way of explanation.
Jack nodded, and she watched, sipping idly at her beer, as he wolfed down several pieces. Once he'd finished his fourth piece, he seemed satisfied and taking the leftovers into the kitchen, returned with another beer for each of them. Sitting down next to her on the sofa, he slipped off his shoes and rested back, putting his feet on the coffee table. She found herself becoming annoyed that he could be so relaxed and comfortable on her sofa; needing to put some distance between them, she scooted further away from him, curling her legs up beneath her.
He didn't say anything for a long while, just drank his beer, until finally he asked, "What did you and Daniel talk about?"
She started a bit at his question. She hadn't expected him to ask her so bluntly. Fidgeting a bit, she set her beer down before replying, "Oh, you know.the usual stuff. Work, my reprimand, my alien.."
"Carter," he interrupted, his tone cautious.
She ignored him, warming to the subject. "How no one on my team believed me, how they all thought I was crazy." She turned pain-filled eyes towards him, "How someone I trusted betrayed me."
"Sam," he said softly, and reaching out, placed a hand on her knee.
She jumped up off the sofa, "No, don't try to distract me." She paced the small room for a moment before turning back to face him, not bothering to hide her distress. "You hung me out to dry on this! You knew they had continued the surveillance, and you let them use me to get to Orlin and the weapon."
She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling suddenly chilled, looking down at the floor. "They must not be too happy, with the weapon and the reactor destroyed." She turned bleak eyes towards him, before whispering in a soft, hurt voice. "I just don't understand, sir, why you let this happen.to me."
She watched as a myriad of emotions passed over his face-before it settled into his usual unreadable mask. "I was following orders, Carter," he told her in a rough voice.
She laughed harshly. "Right, how silly of me. Jack O'Neill always follows orders."
He took the defensive then, his voice sharp. "I don't have to explain my actions to you, Major. At the time it was deemed the appropriate course of action." He then added quietly, almost as an afterthought, "We had no way of knowing it would turn out like it did."
"Of course you didn't," she murmured, suddenly tired of the whole dirty affair. She looked at her watch. "It's getting late," she commented, hoping he would take the hint. So far, their 'talk' wasn't getting them anywhere.
He stood then, and stepping around the coffee table, came up to stand behind her. He placed his hands on her shoulders, the heat from his palms burning through the material of her blouse to her flesh. "I could stay a little longer," he murmured, his voice husky and his breath warm against her ear.
She let herself relax for a moment against him, the temptation to sink further into his arms almost overwhelming in its intensity. What was he trying to do to her? She thought in a panic. She abruptly moved away from him, putting a shaking hand to her forehead. "No sir, I think you'd better leave now."
His voice was full of longing, or was that just her tired and confused imagination? Good heavens, what was he doing to her? Messing with her mind this way? One minute they were at odds-Colonel and Major-and now it was Sam and he wanted to stay? The tragic thing was that it was so tempting...and something she had wanted for so long. She could feel herself starting to weaken...yet; something told her the time just wasn't right, there were too many unresolved issues between them right now. "No," she replied, trying to keep her voice-and her resolve-strong. "I'm sorry, but you'd better leave."
Sam watched as the door closed behind the SF, pacing restlessly. God! She felt so helpless! She slammed her fist against the wall, frustration at her inability to help the Colonel and Tyler exploding inside her. It hadn't seemed like it could possibly get any worse, until she'd been called for her interview with Simmons, or perhaps interrogation was the better word. Colonel Frank Simmons, of questionable integrity and allegiance; she was glad she'd at least wiped some of the smugness off his face. In all honesty, he seemed more of a threat to SG-1 than any Goa'uld had ever been! She temporarily had the upper hand, due to her lucky guess that he was User 4574, but that would only be helpful for a limited time. And even though she hadn't encountered his type too often, she knew he'd merely regroup and come back for attack through a different venue. Hell, like her life wasn't complicated enough without worrying about the NID? How could she ever have a normal life? She laughed humorlessly. Hell, what would a normal life be like? And then there was the hardly ever acknowledged question--how could they ever have a normal life?
They, she thought in despair, like there could ever be an entity that was the two of them! No, dammit! He had ordered his team to leave him behind! And, being the good soldier she was determined to be after recent events, she had obeyed him after only protesting briefly. She bore the full responsibility for leaving him behind, and she would bear the responsibility for his death. Feeling the tears she usually managed to keep at bay start to surface, and finally not caring about whom saw her cry, Sam crossed the few steps to the cot and curled up on her side with her back to the door. However, once she was on the cot, the tears wouldn't come, instead she lay there dry-eyed. She thought back to her earlier conversation with Janet, the only bit of hope she had. What if the doctor couldn't help them? What if she went to Hammond instead? The 'what ifs' that had been running circles in her brain ever since she, Teal'c and Daniel had returned to the SGC-minus O'Neill-once more chasing through her mind.
Sam rolled to her back and stared up at the ceiling, her thoughts once more drawn to O'Neill. Damn the man, as hard as she tried to keep her distance from him, she couldn't. Her anger over his role in the whole NID mess had quickly evaporated, once she'd had the chance to calm down and think things through rationally. While the Colonel wasn't entirely without blame, she had also been less than forthright with him regarding her actions. And as to her punishment? He could have kept her grounded, but he hadn't. Her suspension from gate travel had only lasted for ten days; the exact number of days from the time of Hammond's announcement of her suspension until their next mission. And had she thanked him or done anything to indicate she'd forgiven him? No, she had stayed holed up in her lab, working on the damn naqada reactor, shunning even Daniel and Teal'c. She had successfully avoided even having to see O'Neill until their mission briefing for P7S-441.
And then, of course, it had been all business-the team functioning as if nothing had happened that had left her feeling less than a part of the 'team'. She had seen the concerned look he'd given her when she'd first walked into the room, but had ignored it, wanting to show him that she could ignore what had transpired between them, just as she ignored everything else that might leave her vulnerable to Jack O'Neill. And where had that gotten her? Separated from him and locked in a cell...unable to help him. The despair and guilt that had been building in her since they'd returned from P7S-441 finally overwhelmed her. The last real conversation she'd had with O'Neill...Jack, had been the night he'd sought her out to try and make amends for the whole 636 mess. And now, well, if he never came back, she suddenly sobbed, the tears finally breaking free, she'd never to have worry about it, now would she?
Sam felt almost giddy with relief as she stood when Hammond got up from his chair at the head of the table; though she kept it carefully under control until the General left the briefing room. The Colonel was back with them! Though the chasm between them was still just as deep as it had been prior to his rescue. However now, she was determined to do something about it. O'Neill looked at her for the first time since the briefing had started and she gave him a tentative smile, which faltered as he ignored her and with a brief nod to Daniel and Teal'c, he left the room. Okay, she took a deep breath, so this was going to be harder than she expected, but since when had anything between them ever been easy?
"Ah, Sam?" She turned towards Daniel, who had come to stand by her side.
"Teal'c and I were talking about going into town, getting some real food. What do you say? Want to join us?"
She looked at Teal'c, who merely inclined his head towards her, and then back at Daniel, whose eyes were filled with affection and concern. She sighed again, what she really wanted to do was talk to O'Neill, but once again she was hardly at the right place and given his cool attitude, it was definitely not the right time. Mustering up a smile, she said, "Sure, let's go!" taking Daniel's arm as they followed Teal'c out of the briefing room.
It was with an almost fatalistic sense of déjà vu when, later on that night, Sam pulled her car in behind O'Neill's truck as it sat parked outside her house. Except this time, she couldn't see him sitting in the vehicle. Getting out of her car, she glanced towards the house, she could see a faint glimmer of light through the front window curtain. Clever man, she thought wryly, wondering if he'd found her spare key or if he'd picked the lock. Hauling her briefcase out of the back seat, she slowly made her way up the front walk, more apprehensive than she would like to admit. Back on base, talking with him had seemed like a good idea, go see him in his office, or better yet, her lab. Keep everything under control, neat and tidy. And now, even though this would take place at her house, she definitely felt like her turf had been invaded. She frowned as the front door swung open under her touch, and taking her coat off and setting her briefcase down on the hall table, she followed the dim light and the muted sounds of the TV through the house to her living room.
Jack straightened up as he heard the front door open, swinging his legs down from where they rested on her coffee table. She was home at last, and he couldn't stop the niggling feeling of jealousy that had crawled into the pit of stomach the longer she had stayed out. Shit, he'd gotten to her house at 1930, and here it was going on 2200! Who the hell could she have been with? Thank goodness there'd been a ballgame on the TV, he thought irritably, annoyed with her and annoyed with himself for being envious of whomever she'd been with. It wasn't like he had any rights to her or anything....
Her footsteps sounded closer and suddenly she was standing in the archway that led to the living room.
"Colonel," she said, her tone one of appropriate formality. "What brings you here?"
Aw, Sam, he thought, his heart sinking and his eyes searching her carefully schooled expression. So this is the way it's going to be? "Well," he gestured towards the pizza box where half of a mushroom and sausage pizza lay congealing. "I thought we could have some dinner, maybe talk?" Jack felt encouraged by the half smile that she tried to suppress. "Looks like you had other plans though?" He hadn't meant it as a question, but it still seemed to come out that way.
She sat down on the chair next to the sofa, perching on the edge. "I went out with Daniel and Teal'c-we had dinner at Fratelli's," she added, naming a popular Italian restaurant.
He nodded and stood then, closing up the pizza box. "Guess you won't be wanting any of this then?" he commented dryly. Walking to the kitchen, he stuffed the box into her garbage can and then opened the fridge, pulling out two beers from the twelve-pack he'd brought over. Walking back to the living room, he handed her one of the bottles.
"Thanks," she murmured, sounding uncharacteristically mild, her attention apparently riveted to the TV and the news anchor who was reporting on the weather. Jack sat back down on the end of the sofa closest to her, stretching out again with his shoeless feet on the coffee table. He took a long draw on the beer, then, setting the bottle down, grabbed the remote and shut off the TV. She turned her head and looked at him, her eyes questioning.
"So...." He murmured into the ominously quiet room. Now that she was here, all of his clever opening statements had evaporated in the flood of relief he'd felt when she hadn't kicked him out.
"So...I'm glad you and Tyler were able to hold the Jaffa off until we got there," her expression communicating to him a curious mixture of restraint and hope which didn't quite fit with her calm words.
He looked at her thoughtfully, his mind racing. She was glad? Frankly, he had been hoping for a bit more enthusiasm from her, but maybe given his cool attitude earlier, perhaps she was waiting to see what he would do? He had been less than cordial before, during and after the debrief, his brain still trying to come to terms with his and Tyler's rescue. One minute he had been sure he was going to die and the next, he'd been face to face with the woman whom he loved more than he had ever thought he could love a woman. Not that he liked admitting it, had fought against even acknowledging it, yet the events of the last month had shaken him. He had been content in the knowledge that her life revolved around the SGC-and that she was always there. Until...she hadn't been there and she had been with him...the alien. Rationally, he knew there was nothing binding between himself and Sam, no commitment; only the barest of acknowledgements that they even shared feelings. But in his heart...in his heart he had clung to the belief that the feelings they shared had bound them together tighter than any words ever could.
It had been more than a shock; it had been a damn rude awakening when he'd finally pieced everything together regarding Orlin. In the long hours spent on 441, he'd had plenty of time to think about how everything had played out and had reluctantly come to the conclusion that he'd let his judgement become clouded. He had let his hurt, confusion and yes, even jealousy over her involvement with Orlin manifest itself in tacit acceptance and complicity in the subsequent NID action taken against Orlin-and his Major. He had vowed he would apologize and make things right with her-if and when he and Tyler were rescued. And, they had been rescued and he fully intended to apologize, but damned if he knew how to make things 'right' between them. The only 'right' he wanted was the right to hold her, kiss her, love her.... A right he wasn't sure he should demand.
"Yeah," he picked the beer bottle back up, raising it in a toast to her. "The cavalry to the rescue, just in the nick of time." He frowned when her eyes flickered and he caught just the briefest hint of hurt reflected in their deep blue depths, before they once more displayed only friendly concern. Way to go, Jack, he silently congratulated himself. Where was the bad-assed Goa'uld-killing Colonel O'Neill now? Hiding behind his safe and habitual façade of nonchalance and casual indifference-his only defense against his overwhelming feelings for her.
"Hell," he snarled, standing abruptly and startling her, her bland look replaced with one of caution as she shifted uneasily in her chair. He stalked over the fireplace, running his hand agitatedly through his hair. This had all seemed so simple when he had been waiting for her to get home, just talk to her and explain, easy enough-not. He stood facing the fireplace, his back to her. "This is..." he ran his hand through his hair again, clearing his throat. "This isn't turning out to be as easy as I imagined."
He couldn't help the stiffening of his spine, his gut twisting and his heart sinking at her softly voiced word.
His heart actually stopped beating, then started racing madly. Had she actually called him by his first name? He turned slowly and looked at her. He could see the nervousness she was trying to hide, her hands clenched in her lap, her expression carefully neutral...but her eyes, her eyes were pleading with him. He quickly crossed over to where she sat, crowding in between her chair and the coffee table, and sitting on the coffee table. He would have knelt on the floor at her feet, but he knew his knees would never take that abuse. As it was, their knees were practically touching, until she angled her legs to the side. He could feel the visceral energy and tension flowing through him as he faced her, and knew she felt it too-that heightened awareness was always present when they were around each other. Even though she now sat further back in the chair, maximizing the distance between them, her pupils had dilated and she was breathing faster.
"Thank you for not giving up on me and Tyler." He smiled wryly. "I know I haven't given you much cause lately to go above and beyond the call of duty." He winced at the pained look that clouded her features. "I let you down, Sam, in a big way, with that whole NID/alien-in-my-house thing." He reached out and grabbed her hands then; god, they were so cold! "I just want things to get back to normal between us."
The words had barely left his mouth and she was suddenly pulling her hands free and struggling out of the chair and past him, practically knocking him off the coffee table in her haste. He stood too, watching cautiously as she finally stopped in the far corner of the room with her back to him, her shoulders bent and her arms wrapped around herself. He moved a few steps closer to her. "Sam?"
She whirled around then, her eyes almost wild. "Normal?" she spat out. "You want things back to normal? Well, tell me sir, just what exactly is 'normal' for us?" Jack winced at the venom in her voice and realized the whole interview was rapidly escalating out of control as she continued, her voice steadily rising and her whole demeanor becoming more and more agitated. "Is normal barely talking to each other except about work? Is normal being afraid to be alone together? To always make sure either Daniel or Teal'c are around? Is normal being so desperate for just the smallest amount of affection that you'll take it from anyone who offers?"
Her last statement fell into the room like a bomb, her admission taking him-and apparently her as well-totally by surprise. Jack watched in bewildered silence as she suddenly realized what she'd said, her eyes flying open wide and then her whole face crumpling, becoming flushed with pain and embarrassment. Sam put a shaky hand to her face, covering her eyes, "Oh god...." She moaned, once more turning her back to him. Jack just stood there, stunned by the pain and anguish evident in her words and posture. He had wanted some kind of emotional response from her, but he'd been totally unprepared for the reaction his comments had apparently unleashed. Her muffled sobs finally broke through to him and he was at her side in two quick strides.
"Sam," he murmured roughly, pulling her into his arms, sensing that actions would speak louder than words at this point. She struggled briefly, but he stilled her movements by holding her firmly, a hand wrapped securely around her waist, the other cupping the back of her head. It took a moment, but he finally felt the tension seep out of her muscles as she relaxed against him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
Sam choked back a sob and shuddered in Jack's arms. Closing her eyes, she buried her face against his throat, grateful for the temporary comfort of his arms around her. And temporary was all it could be, if they couldn't sort out this whole, dreary mess. She clung tightly to him as he rocked them back and forth, trying to get her emotions back under control.
Jack's voice vibrated with emotion as he muttered into her hair; "Sam, oh god, Sam, I'm so sorry. I never wanted things to get this bad between us."
"I can't go on like this," she murmured into his shirt, her voice stark with emotion. Jack stopped swaying at her words and she pulled back far enough so she could see his face. His expression was distinctly cautious now.
"I need more in my life and if I can't have it with you...." She let her voice trail off, but knew her meaning was clear by the brief flash of panic she saw in his eyes. She looked at him for a long moment, patiently waiting for some kind of response, and when it didn't come she gently disengaged herself from his embrace. She wasn't sure what else to say or do; the ball was in his court now. The silence stretched on, becoming more and more awkward as he didn't say anything to her mildly worded ultimatum. She looked at him helplessly, her heart refusing to believe that he'd do nothing....
A terrifying thought suddenly occurred to her-maybe he didn't love her after all? Maybe the intervening months since the Za'tarc testing had given him enough time to 'get over' her? And if that was the case...hell, she just really didn't know what she'd do and after all of this, she was almost to the point of not caring, if all he was going to do was mess with her mind and emotions periodically. His continued silence, however, spoke volumes to her. "So," she finally said, giving him a weak smile and taking a deep breath, straightened her shoulders. She'd already let him see her cry one too many times. "Thanks for stopping by, sir."
Her quiet words of dismissal seemed to shake Jack out of his lethargy and he finally spoke. "No." A frown creased his brow. "Wait, that's not what I meant."
She felt her frustration level grow as he scrunched his face up, obviously struggling with what to say to her. Come on, Jack, she silently urged, it can't be that difficult!
He ran his hand through his hair, making the short gray strands stick up even more than usual. "I want what you want," he admitted, almost reluctantly. "But hell, Sam, I don't know how to make it happen."
Sam smiled wearily. "It's already happening, Jack." She plopped down on the sofa, fatigue pulling at her, watching the look on his face become even more confused. How was she ever going to reach him? In a sudden moment of clarity, she realized that she'd have to spell it out for him. Whether he was deliberately forcing her to voice her feelings or was truly perplexed, she couldn't tell, and she was too tired to talk in circles anymore. "What I know is that ignoring our feelings hasn't done anything positive for either of us-or the SGC. Some things are worth changing your plans for, Jack." She saw the beginnings of comprehension on his face, but took it the extra step, just to be clear. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm willing to change my plans-are you?" Sam watched as life suddenly flared into his eyes, hope growing within her, could it really have been that simple?
"Hell yes, Sam," he growled. And the next thing she knew, she was back in his arms. She clung tightly to him, giddy with relief, her arms sliding around his back as he rained kisses on her face. "I'll change whatever it takes, Sam, for us to have a life together."
She felt her heart explode with joy at his words. Capturing his face between her hands she smiled in wonder at the tender look of love and affection he could finally reveal to her. "I love you," she told him, taking a deep and primitive satisfaction in the flare of arousal and desire that filled his dark brown eyes. She ran her thumb across his lower lip in a delicate caress. "Jack, no matter what happens, we see this through. I'm not going to let you go." She knew her tone and words were possessive, but she didn't care, they had gone way past playing games and keeping things from each other. He was hers-forever.
Jack groaned, desire exploding through his entire body with her words and seductive touch. God, he couldn't believe how much he wanted her! Her unexpected possessiveness didn't really surprise him, as it complemented his own deeply-held possessive feelings for her. He was as much hers as she was his, and he would never let her go! Pulling her close with his left arm around her waist, he threaded the fingers of his right hand through her hair, tugging her head back and holding her in place for his ravenous mouth. Jack lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her hungrily, his tongue teasing along her lips until she opened her mouth, allowing him inside. Sweeping his tongue deep into her hot mouth, he stroked her tongue with his, the tantalizing touches and sweet taste luring him even deeper. He shivered as he felt her hands running up and down his back, before they settled around his waist, tugging urgently at the hem of his shirt as he sucked her tongue into his mouth. He shuddered with pleasure when he finally felt the cool press of her hands against the firm muscles of his back.
Jack couldn't stop the groan that rumbled out from deep inside him when she worked one of her eager hands under the waistband of his pants, cupping his ass and holding him close as she ground herself against him. Pulling his mouth from hers, he buried his face in her shoulder, taking deep breaths, her frantic movements pushing at the threads of his control. Sam continued to move her hips erotically against him, her hands tugging frantically at his clothing. Shit, he needed to slow things down or he'd end up taking her right here on the floor, and he was way too old anymore for that kind of escapade! Finally gathering the willpower he needed, Jack pulled free of her arms, holding her away from him by her shoulders.
"Jack?" she whimpered, desire and confusion evident on her desire-filled face as she swayed towards him.
"Not here, baby," he growled, determined to make it to some place more inviting-and comfortable. "The bedroom."
Understanding flashed in her eyes and her lips slowly curved in a seductive smile. "Follow me," she murmured huskily, grabbing his hand. Jack let her lead him through the dark house until they reached her bedroom; feeling strangely bereft when she released his hand and left him standing alone in the middle of the room. Moments later, the room was bathed in the warm glow of the bedside lamp. Sam turned back towards him then and once more murmured just his name..."Jack." The desire and passion in her voice urging him back into her warm embrace.
He held her close, simply enjoying the feel of her in his arms. "God, Sam," he murmured into her ear, nuzzling her neck. "You don't know how often I've dreamt about this, having you in my arms, holding you, kissing you."
He heard and felt her breathless chuckle against his throat and the warm brush of her lips when she spoke. "Oh, I imagine it's at least as long as I have."
Jack grinned. He still could hardly believe she loved him and wanted to make the changes it would take to be with him! Once more pulling her back into his arms, he let loose all the restraints that had previously held him back, taking them both to a world where only they and their love existed.
Blissfully content, Jack closed his eyes, never wanting the feeling to end. He wasn't sure he'd ever felt this good...or peaceful in a woman's arms before. Their lovemaking had been incredible, the sweet sounds of Sam's cries of fulfillment still echoed in his ears, telling him of her pleasure. He relaxed in her loving arms, settling his full weight down onto her, nestling closer; her softly murmured, "Oh, love," a benediction for his soul.
Turning his face into the hollow of her shoulder, he nuzzled her ear. "I love you," he whispered, finally giving voice to the secret he had guarded, so carefully, for so long. She needed to know it, and he needed to say it-given the course they had just elected to follow. His lover's arms tightened around him in response and he instinctively knew she was smiling.
"Good," was all she said. But, Jack heard the wealth of satisfaction-and possession-present in that one softly voiced word. And it was good, he decided, holding her securely. Determination filled him, to live this moment for the rest of his life, the moment when his heart and mind had finally agreed that there was one thing worth changing everything for.