...Because You Told Me So
She slammed her hand on the whiteboard in an uncharacteristic outburst of temper, smearing the numerous equations written there and ruining an entire afternoon's worth of work.
"Great, Sam. Just great."
She was fairly certain that neither the blow to the board nor her low mutter carried outside the lab, but she immediately regretted her slip into childishness. Her shoulders fell into a slump and she looked up at the badly smudged letters, trying to decide if she could salvage any part of it. Nope, it was all going to have to be rewritten and there was no way she could finish this without being able to read what she had already done. She was going to have to reconstruct it from her paper notes. She grabbed the whiteboard eraser, conceding that the whole thing was a wash and stopped before she had rubbed away even the first one.
To be honest, she wasn't getting much quality work done here anyway. Her mind wasn't on her work and her heart wasn't in it either. She dropped the eraser and slouched back over to her chair, plopping down in the seat with and audible sigh.
The only thing she could think of was *him*...
The same man who'd been on her mind for three days.
Three days ago, she'd stood facing him, her heart in her throat, staring into his eyes, waiting for him to say *something*. She had felt certain that if he would say *anything*, then they would be ahead of the game and perhaps everything would be all right.
As Professor Goward used to say, "My, my, how assumptions can be mocked."
He'd said something all right. And the Fates, if you believed in all of that, laughed when he did.
"I need some time...to think...to..."
He hadn't even been able to continue looking at her face when he'd said it.
She'd been horrified and mortified to think that he honestly didn't want to acknowledge what he felt.
She'd been heartbroken and close to frustrated tears, because she'd been anticipating this moment between them for so long.
She'd been close to ripping his head off and handing it back to him stuck on top of a Phillips-head screwdriver for breaking her trust and refusing to talk things over.
She'd managed to neither beat and curse him nor burst into those frustrated tears, but only just barely.
She sighed and dropped her chin into her hand, pulling up short as she felt the now dry smudge from the whiteboard marker slide tackily across her skin.
She couldn't believe it. She'd 'done the right thing', telling him how she felt about him. She'd put herself on the line, making it easy for him, so he didn't have to think too hard about what to say or do. She had let him know every little thing she felt for him and about him.
And he'd decided he needed 'time'.
Now she was left alone, sitting in her lab with multi-color dry-erase marker smeared on one side of her face and no apparent way to fix this thing between them because he 'had to think'.
Scrambling through her desk drawer, she came up with a pre-packaged wet-nap left over from the time they had introduced Jonas to the wonders of chicken wings. After digging around a bit more in the drawer to ferret out a hand mirror she knew she had left there, she scrubbed at the blue and red markings on her cheek, then the matching ones on her hand, before tossing away the now-stained, lemony-smelling towel. It hit the floor just to the right of the trash can, landing with a wet splat and leaving a mark on the concrete floor.
Great, even her trash was conspiring to make her day worse. She shut her eyes in frustration. After a moment, she released another sigh even bigger than the last.
More than disgusted with her day, she checked her watch. It was late enough that she could probably sneak off for the rest of the day and not feel too guilty about it. It wasn't like she was getting much done here, anyway.
Gathering her laptop, briefcase, and jacket, she hurried out the door before anyone could wander by and keep her here.
She spun around on one leg, lining up the trajectory in her mind even as her lower leg and foot connected with her assailant's upper torso. The solid thunk of bone meeting bone was gratifying and the deep 'oof' that echoed from the walls helped buoy her spirits.
Landing on the balls of her feet, she immediately came back on her guard, only to see a waving hand near the floor and hear a deep voice speaking to her from the general area just below it.
Mike's deep voice was slightly wheezy and she felt a certain satisfaction that she had managed to do that to him. She reached out a hand to catch his, shifting her weight back to her heels and bracing herself as the big man pulled his considerable mass up to his over six foot height.
"Beautiful lady, whoever that was you just beat to a pulp, I'd hate to be him, right now."
"Girl, you can deny it all you want with your mouth, but that last roundhouse was *angry*."
His chocolate eyes twinkled with humor under raised ebony brows and he shook his head as wiped his sweaty face with a towel. Taking the bottle of water she offered, he slung a beefy arm around her shoulders, making her feel like a skinny, under-sized, midget despite her own height and physical fitness.
She smiled as she remembered that first day she'd wandered into the darkened building, wondering if it was really a smart idea to come to a 'macho-man' gym, especially after she'd just been worked over by a couple of Jaffa on the last mission. Mike had taken one look at her and, in what she now knew was typical Mike fashion, had taken charge. He'd laid a heavy arm across her shoulders and spoke in a low, kind tone.
"Whoever he is that did that, he isn't worth it, girl. You agree to leave him and I'll make sure I teach you enough so that no one else'll ever be able to lay a glove on you."
She'd eventually convinced the young mountain of a man that she hadn't been beaten by a lover, but she wasn't certain that he'd really believed her. Either way, since that first day, he'd served as her personal trainer and punching bag while he taught her fighting techniques that had saved her life on more than one occasion out in the field.
Mike knew as much about her job as any civilian could. He'd been there to help her work her battered body back to fighting trim after the many times she had been injured in the line of duty. He was there to listen on the days when she was frustrated beyond all belief by the situations of her life. The big man had served as a confidant, a psychologist, and a big brother all wrapped into one. She'd come to depend on him as she did Daniel and Teal'c.
Today, they sat on a bench, him helping her to remove the thick foam pads that enveloped her hands and forearms as well as the ones that covered her feet and shins. She pulled at her headgear, running a freed hand through her sweat-soaked locks, pulling them out in a halo of spikes that would do any punk rocker proud. She returned the favor of pulling at his Velcro straps, freeing his arms from the pads but letting him work on his headgear and leg pads himself.
"Mike, after what, five years of my coming here-"
"Six. It's six years since you first walked up to the door, all skinny and outta shape, with that huge bruise on your forehead and around your eye..."
"It's just...You remember...the man I told you about?"
"That guy you work with? The one who's too stupid to see what he has working next to him every day?
She felt a flush wash over her face that had nothing to do with her exertions.
"I don't know if I'd say tha-"
"I just did."
A huge grin flashed in his sweating face.
"Anyway, yeah, he's the guy. It's just that after all of this time, he's..."
"What happened, kiddo? He finally wake up?"
"Something like that...I thought everything was going to get...better...between us. He and I...we were talking...And then he just stopped...And...I don't know..."
"Just say the word...I can visit him anytime you want. A little conversation between Mike and the man might make a bit of a difference in his outlook on life."
"Thanks, Mike. But I don't think that would be a good idea. Besides, if you 'talk' to him, he might not be able to talk for a while afterwards."
"Awwww...I'm hurt. You don't think I'd break him, do you?...Much?"
"Mike, I've seen you 'talk' to the heavy bag. Even he doesn't deserve that, believe me."
"Well, maybe *you* ought to 'talk' to him. Seems to me that I'd pay attention if you wanted to 'talk' to me. Sometimes it takes more than a hint...I mean, some guys have been known to need a good whack up side the head to recognize what's right in front of 'em."
His eyes were shining with humor, but she could tell he was serious.
Mike was a happily married man who was a danger to any single female he met. His wife Jeanine worked in the front office of the gym and, shortly after they'd met, Jeanine had warned Sam about Mike's tendencies.
"Mike is the first 300 pound, muscle-bound Cupid you've ever met. If you're not careful, he'll have you married to one of these gym rats before you can blink."
Thinking back on those words, she knew that Mike only wanted to see other people as happy as Jeanine and he were. Truth be told, Sam would love to be as happy as Jeanine and Mike were together.
"Maybe...Maybe we're going to manage to talk...soon..."
She smiled, feeling the sweat running down her back and between her breasts, knowing she looked grubby and probably smelled bad. She mopped at her shoulders and arms with her towel, walking away from Mike with a grin thrown back over her shoulder at him.
"You know you can always hang up that 'Be All You Can Be' crap and come work for me. I can always use a new trainer..."
Mike yelled his comment at her from across the gym floor, so she returned it in kind, without bothering to stop and look back at him.
"I'm Air Force, Mike, not Army. And besides, you already have a full crew."
"Yeah, but you clean up prettier than any of these guys...Hell, you actually look better all sweaty than any of the guys, too."
His hearty laughter followed her escape into the women's locker room.
Relaxing back against the tiles in her shower surround, she settled more comfortably on the built- in seat, preparing herself for a long, undisturbed pummeling by the hot water.
She had turned down the ringer on the phone, turned off her cel phone and pager, and logged off her computer. She was completely disconnected from the world at large and happy to be that way.
It was almost a perfect night. She wished she'd remembered to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home from the gym. It would have been nice to further take the edge off the day by indulging in a little too much spicy Merlot, but once she'd gotten home and had realized that she'd forgotten to stop, she was unwilling to go back out for anything.
The raucous sound of the spray from the faucet accompanied her racing thoughts as the water washed over her. She was completely enclosed in the warm white noise of the running water and she allowed her guard to drop and her mind to wander free.
He was due back at work tomorrow and she wasn't certain what that would mean. He seemed determined to step away from...Them.
Despite the fact that she had put everything out there on the line and shown him what she felt, told him that she didn't want to leave it in the room anymore, he was backing away...
And it made her so angry sometimes that she could spit nails. Other times, it just made her sad.
Maybe Mike was right. Maybe she needed to be more up front. Tell him *exactly* what she wanted.
But she wasn't 100% certain exactly what that was.
She knew that what her heart wanted couldn't come true. Not as things stood right now...What they did for a living, who they were in their jobs, all of the things that made them into the individuals they were, made the possibilities of...pursuing...what was between them impossible.
And she didn't want to change who she was or who he was...She just wanted...To have him be who he was and have her be who she was, but still...
She wanted them to be together.
She knew that either she or the Colonel could quit the SGC.
But having one of them in the SGC while the other wasn't didn't seem to be much of a solution for the problem of them being together. Need-to-know rules of disclosure would keep them from ever discussing the work if one of them was outside the command structure of the SGC. And since the work was so much a part of who they were, it would be hard to share their lives with someone who could never know the answer to the questions 'Why aren't you able to come home on time? How can you disappear for weeks at a time into the mountain complex? When did you get hurt?'
This fact alone made the reason for one of them giving up their work a pointless one.
Anything less than an absolute crystal clear separation of their interests at work would result in an infraction of the fraternization regulations and all of the damage to good order and discipline that would result when they were caught. Even if they were not officially caught and reprimanded, there would be rumor and innuendo -- the SGC was a small, private world in a small, private command and gossip traveled faster than the speed of light within the echoing concrete hallways.
If Hammond ignored the rumors, there would still be damage to the discipline within the command as others thought less and less of breaking the rules that their leaders chose to ignore. Morale would break down as it was perceived that the illicit relationship between two of the members of a field team were given special privilege and consideration by the leadership in the SGC. No, being on a field team together or even just on separate field teams in the SGC meant they could never be together...
While she knew that they had more in common than what they did for a living, she also knew that they both lived too much inside their professions to separate the person from the job all the time. She was not going to ask him to give up something that he loved and did well just for her. Likewise, she could not imagine giving up her work with SG-1 -- even to be with him.
The possibility for either of them to come to resent sacrificing something that they loved for something else they wanted was too great.
But, what *did* she want?
It was really very simple: She wanted to keep her career at the SGC, her friends, her life, and have him become a permanent and very personal addition in that life. She just wanted...To have her cake and eat it, too...
And she had a snowball's chance in Hell of getting it...
Sam closed her eyes, letting the steam clear her head, and trying to turn off her mind. She wiped her fingers across her face, reached over to the shelf where the waterproof CD player sat and let the soothing sounds of Jim West waish over her. Sighing, she leaned back against the wall and let the music carry her troubles away.
She must have succeeded better than she'd imagined she would, because when she woke from her doze, time had passed, the CD was repeating itself, and she, as well as the shower, was ice cold. She lifted a pruny hand to wipe at her face and stopped, amazed at how shriveled she had become.
Right. She pushed the valve to off and ran her hands back through her hair. She'd better get out of here before she turned into one huge wrinkle.
She jumped, banging her left knee against the edge of the toilet as she stepped out to dry herself and heard the distinctive sound of the front door opening down the hall. She dropped the towel into the shower, cursing under her breath as she tried, as quietly as possible, to wring out the extra water it had soaked up from the shower floor.
She quickly wrapped the close-to-sopping towel around her torso, wishing like hell that she'd remembered to bring her robe out of the bedroom. Every sense was on alert as she opened the bathroom door, trying to slip back through it to her bedroom and the safety represented by the phones on her bedside table.
She had just picked up her home phone and dialed 9-1 when she heard a man's voice, saying something she couldn't make out because of his soft tones. She held her breath, trying to hear what he was saying over the rapid beating of her heart. Instead of the voice, she heard something that sent her heart into overdrive: soft footfalls, coming up the hall towards her unlocked bedroom door.
She had just pressed the second 1 on the keypad and was waiting for the line to connect when she heard her own name called in a voice she definitely recognized. Her heart did a stutter-step and she could actually breathe again as she realized who was in her home.
She plopped the phone down before it connected, hoping that the Colorado Springs police wouldn't be sending out a car just because she'd dialed.
She wouldn't need them. Not if that was who she thought it was coming up her hall.
His voice was clearer, and now very obviously right outside her partially closed bedroom door.
She blindly reached for the edge of the bed, sitting down on the corner as she felt the weakness of relief run over her, followed closely by confusion, and then the beginnings of anger. She hitched absently at the sagging towel, trying to get her emotions under control.
What the hell was he doing here? Besides scaring the hell out of her. Her sudden ire brought her voice back and she asked just that question.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Don'cha mean, 'What the hell am I doing here, *Sir*'?"
Her door swung open, brushing across the carpet with a familiar swish. His shadow cast forward from the soft green glow of the catalyst nightlight she kept plugged in out in the hallway. The supernatural green glow lit him from behind, obscuring his features as he strode into the room.
He came around the door, seemingly waiting for his eyes to adjust to the half-light in the room before he spotted her sitting on the edge of her bed. His eyes widened, his mouth fell open, and he stopped dead in his tracks, a stillness falling over him that spoke to her.
She had seen that body language before, when they'd walked into something unexpected that was likely to prove deadly if they weren't careful. Her battle- trained nerves went on immediate alert and her fingers twitched, looking for the familiar weight of her P-90 in her hands.
"What? What's wrong?"
She stood up, looking around the room behind her, trying to figure out what had set him off. His voice, when it came from behind her, was strangled and gruff...and full of something else that she had never heard there before and couldn't identify right away.
"Sam...You, uh...You're uh-...I need to leave."
What the heck was he tal-
As she turned back to catch his retreating back slipping through her closing bedroom door, she felt her towel slip again and realized that she had just faced her CO wearing nothing more than a wet bath towel.
She felt the flush climb her chest, staining her face and making her ears burn. She grabbed up her robe from the foot of the bed, wrapping it around herself as she ripped the towel away, tying the sash as she ran out the door after him.
She caught him at the end of the hall, his hand on the doorknob and the outside door half open. He stopped at the sound of her clattering down the hallway after him, but didn't turn around.
She had seen something in his face, just before he turned away from her in the bedroom...She wanted to know what it meant, why he was here. She pulled out all of the stops, using the one thing she thought would get his attention again. His back stiffened when she used his first name.
"Jack, don't go. You came here for a reason...What do you want?"
He stood still, even now refusing to turn around. His refusal to even look at her unnerved her, making her panic from earlier return in spades.
"Please. Jack. Tell me what's going on."
She reached out and pulled on his arm, her firm grip on the rough cotton making him let go of the knob and turn to face her. The door swung shut with a snap and he backed up towards it until he could feel the solid surface at his back, long-honed instincts keeping him in a defendable position.
His eyes were tightly closed, his face scrunched up in a silly grimace that made him look about five years old.
"Look at me, please."
He shook his head, eyes scrunching harder together. She touched him, one hand coming to rest on his forearm, where he held it in a defensive posture. He still refused to look at her, his body tense, almost as if he was expecting her to hurt him.
She tried to get him to respond to her, her touch becoming bold to provoke a reaction of some sort. She moved her hand to his cheek, sliding her fingers over his short whisker stubble, stopping at the peak of his jaw. She leaned in closer to him, feeling his exhale brush across her own skin as she spoke to him.
"Open your eyes and tell me why you came here."
One eye slowly cracked open, then the other popped open in startlement as he realized how close she was to him at that moment. He jerked back from her, fast and hard enough that her short nails scratched across his jaw and his head cracked sharply on the wooden door behind him.
His voice was low and rough, his expletive heartfelt. She heard real pain there.
"Oh, wow! I'm sorry!"
She pulled him forward, her fingers now searching the back of his head, her fingers running through the soft hair, trying to feel for the place he'd banged it. She heard him take a deep breath, felt him stiffen, and then felt him take her arms and carefully push her back away from him.
"It's okay. Not your fault."
She studied him for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on behind those impossibly bland eyes. She knew she wouldn't get past those shutters until he was ready, so she just needed to wait him out.
"Come on. I'll make coffee while you tell me what this is all about."
She could feel his eyes following her, boring into her back as she started to retreat down the hallway into the kitchen. She looked back to where he hadn't moved, realizing he was about to speak again, when the doorbell rang, making them both jump.
She looked at the clock on the hall table, glanced back at him, and raised her eyebrow in a perfect imitation of Teal'c. He smiled thinly at her and opened the front door as she stepped up behind him.
Seeing who it was, she hit the switches to flip on the indoor and outdoor lights as she stepped forward to speak.
"Good evening, Officer. Can I do something for you?"
The good officer was a large policeman, dressed in a dark uniform with the tell-tale Kevlar bulge underneath and the butt of a holstered heavy automatic pistol gripped in his right hand. He looked ready to take on just about anything as he glanced speculatively at Jack and then made a careful inspection of her robe-clad form.
"Are you Ms. Samantha Carter?"
"Yes, sir. Is there a problem?"
"You tell me that, ma'am. We got a 911 from this location six minutes ago. Did someone here call for help?"
As he asked the last, his eyes were mapping over Jack, checking the position of his hands, the body language he was getting from the other man. She saw her CO's back relax and his stance become less openly aggressive and thanked her lucky stars that he wasn't going to make this any more difficult that it had to be.
"Yes, sir. I started to call...but I hung up before the line connected, I thought."
"Not quite, ma'am. The call was recorded on the system. And we check out *every* call..."
Officer Storms (a quick glance at his uniform shirt gave her the name) hadn't pulled his hand away from his weapon yet, indicating that he was still not comfortable with the situation. A crackle preceded the blatty call from his radio and he reached up his free hand to tap the key and acknowledge the call. He said something to the effect of he was investigating, and Sam knew she was going to have to let him come in and explain what was going on before he would be satisfied.
"Why don't you come in, Officer Storms? That way I...uh, we...can explain what happened."
She pulled Jack back out of the way as the other man stepped into the house.
"Thank you again, Officer."
She closed the door behind him, letting out a gush of breath and closing her eyes as she leaned against the closed door. She had changed clothes after she let the police officer into the house, hastily pulling on a ratty old USAF sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants before shoving her feet into a fuzzy pair of socks. Score one for her: she didn't have to give the police officer a statement while sitting there, clothed in only a damp silk robe, while Jack O'Neill listened in.
The officer had been understanding of the mix-up when Jack explained that he'd become worried when she didn't answer her phones or pager. He hadn't even raised an eyebrow when he found out that O'Neill had a key to her place, and had left with a request that Jack be more careful about surprising her in the future.
One disaster averted, one to go.
She opened an eye to peek down the hallway at her living room.
Yup, he was still there: Hurricane Jack, looking back at her from the safety of her sofa.
He'd been surprisingly cheerful and helpful in diffusing the tense situation that was the result of her phone call to the local authorities, bonding with the policeman in that 'men in uniform are all comrades' way he had and making Officer Storms understand that he'd just surprised her.
She glanced at the clock and realized it was almost 0200. So much for her 'go to bed early and deal with the Colonel tomorrow' plan. Her direct approach hadn't worked to get him to talk at the door, and then the officer had interrupted. She'd give him one more chance before she threw him out of the house.
As if on cue, not a moment later, he appeared at the entry to the kitchen, resting a hip against the counter top.
He paused, shifting positions until he had his hips braced against the counter top, his feet splayed out in front of him. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, their protective posture giving her some idea that he was not feeling 100% comfortable right now.
"I came here to talk to you about...The other night...About what happened..."
Her silence, she hoped, spoke volumes.
He sighed, and she knew he was trying to figure out the best way to tell her what he was feeling, to explain.
"I know you think I welched on our agreement. I said we would talk about what went on, what was on that device."
He paused, but, again, she didn't fill in the silence, afraid that breaking in would let him stop without finishing what he came here to tell her.
"I want you to know...I didn't welch. I just needed time to adjust. To think about all of this...What it means to us..."
"Then why won't you talk to me?"
"I *want* to talk to you. I *need* to talk to you. But I can't think straight. I can't figure all of the angles on this one. I can't..."
"Can't...Couldn't...Figure out a way around who we are and what we do. I've spent every minute since you gave me that device, trying to figure out how to make this work. Trying to find the right way for us to continue our work at the SGC and manage to find a way to be together...Trying to figure out what we're going to do."
"And did you come to a conclusion about what we're going to do?"
"Well, yes. I guess...Maybe...I mean, if it works..."
She looked up at him, standing there with a dejected look on his face, consternation and confusion lining his features.
"I've been thinking about us, too. About what I want...And I...I want it all...I want to have my job at the SGC with a field team. And I want to...To have you in my life. And I know it isn't possible. That we can't have both. We can't have it all..."
She took a deep breath and caught his eyes, her own open and just a bit challenging in their gaze. Her voice was soft when she spoke, but she knew from the way he looked up at her that he heard her.
"There's another question here, though. What do *you* want?"
His eyes burned into hers from across the short distance of her kitchen. What she saw there made her heart do a stutter-step. It was almost like experiencing his emotions on the Tollan cube once again, except this time she didn't have to imagine she could hear his breath, feel the heat of his skin, see the look on his face.
Suddenly she realized he had closed the distance between them, crowding into her personal space, removing the bag of coffee and the scoop from her hands and setting them aside. He was close, and her body's heightened awareness of him sang through her blood, speeding up the pounding of her heart and the breath filling her lungs.
She felt one of his hands slip to her waist while the other climbed her back and came to rest at the base of her skull. She suddenly found herself pressed back against the pantry cabinet and up against the long hard plane of his body and she hadn't felt this way in a *very* long time. Her head buzzed with his nearness and she could hardly put words together into a thought inside her own head.
"What I *want* involves you and me and every horizontal and vertical surface in this house that will support our combined weight. What I *want* might just kill me, but I'd die a happy man. What I *want* will definitely get us both court martialed and kicked out of the SGC. What I *want* would take the next eighty or ninety years to finish properly. What I *want* is a life with you and a lifetime to live it."
As he said the last, he pressed his mouth to hers, his cool lips settling against hers as if they had always belonged there and she'd just never realized it.
As kisses went, it was...
It didn't build, didn't even surge from the cool hesitation of a first kiss into something more. As soon as his mouth touched hers, they were devouring each other, a hot, bruising rush, sweeping away before it any sense of control. His now burning mouth continued to explore her lips, sliding sweetly, slickly across her own mouth and begging entrance with a quick nip at her lower lip.
She opened to him, losing herself in the swirl of the sensations he was creating, reveling in the sweet taste that was Jack O'Neill. Her head spun and her lungs burned, all of it combining in a high that was better than anything Janet had ever dosed her with in the infirmary.
He was kissing her.
The man she loved.
The man who mattered to her.
The man who...
Was her CO.
She broke away, pulling her panicked, flailing mind from the tar pit of his kiss and physically pushing him a few steps back by sheer force of will.
"No! I...I can't do this! We can't do this! I'm sorry!"
He was whispering it aloud, his eyes closed as he leaned backwards over the sink, where he had landed as she pushed him away. His stance was awkward, one hand in the sink and the other braced on the edge of it and, like her, his chest was heaving and his breath rattling in and out of overtaxed lungs. Also like her, the look on his face was a combination of amazement, horror and abject fear.
He opened his eyes, pinning her with his gaze as effectively as he'd held her with his body a few moments before.
"Sam, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...Well, I *did* want to...But I wasn't going to..."
He stopped again, drawing in a deep breath before continuing. His gaze wandered away from hers, moving down to her mouth in an almost physical weight.
"I didn't come here to do...that. I came here to talk to you about us - about what we're going to do. How we're going to work this out."
"What we're going to do?"
"Yeah, what we're going to do. Because if you expect me to walk away from this...Walk away from us...After what you showed me on that device...And after what just happened...Sam..."
He stumbled to a stop on her name, looking directly into her eyes once again as he stepped forward and took her forearms in his hands.
"If you think I'm walking away from this for *anything* - my career, my country, my mental health - you're crazier than I am right now."
She felt her throat close around her heart. She was pretty sure that was what the lump there in her throat was. She heard a buzzing in her ears again, and wondered if he had caused some kind of brain damage with that killer kiss.
"I have a plan, Sam. It isn't going be easy. And it isn't going to be fast. This is going to take time and you're going to have to trust me. Can you do that? Can you trust me?"
His expression was serious, his gaze intense, his grip on her arms almost painfully tight
"I already trust you."
"With your safety in the field, Sam. You trust Colonel O'Neill to lead your team. Can you really trust 'broken-down, damaged-goods, Jack O'Neill' with your heart?"
"It doesn't matter."
His face lost all color as she spoke, his hands spasming and releasing her arms.
"It doesn't matter if you're broken or damaged or whatever you want to call it. I trust you. I trust Jack. I have, for a very long time."
His breath rushed out with the smile that slowly crept across his face.
"Oh, Sam. Sam..."
He couldn't seem to stop repeating her name and smiling.
"But Jack, can't you tell me what your plan is? I mean, I need to know what you're going to do so I can-"
"No. If you know, then we can both be held accountable."
"I *don't* like the sound of that."
He turned away from her for the first time, his gaze firmly locked on the living room across the counter, refusing to look at her as he spoke.
"What I have planned isn't illegal. I want you to know that I'm still going to play by the rules."
"Then why not tell me?"
He glanced over at her, flashing a smile that made her want to taste that mouth again.
"Because one of the things I have learned after almost thirty years in the Air Force is how to bend the hell out of the rules without actually breaking them. I won't ask you to do it, but I will use every available advantage to achieve the objective."
She was flabbergasted. He sounded like he was planning an operation into a Goa'uld stronghold. His voice was grim and determined as he said the words and she shivered as she realized he was deadly serious.
"You sound like you're going to war."
"This is war, Sam. The Air Force has told me that the one thing I want the most in the world is going to cost me everything I have ever worked for. Like it's all some kind of game and you have to trade a life for the work. When I was younger, I fell prey to that way of thinking."
He turned to look at her, keeping his distance when he did so.
"Even now, I think you've fallen for it. You don't want to believe that we can have it all."
"Jack, I just-"
"It's okay, Sam. I know what's at stake. I know how I feel and I know how you do, too. I refuse to believe that playing the game by the set rules is the only way to play. And if I can't win the game by their rules, I'm going to change the rules to give me the advantage I want."
"Setting up my own little version of the Kobiyashi Maru."
She felt a sharp bark of surprised laughter escape her at the ridiculousness of him even knowing that detail.
His grin was infectious and she felt her own smile forming.
"Teal'c has been broadening my horizons. He's the *biggest* Trekkie. I blame Daniel."
She couldn't help it. She had to laugh out loud.
He turned back to her, suddenly stepping close and pulling her into his arms. She felt his laughter as she hugged him back, for a moment forgetting that this shouldn't be happening, shouldn't continue, shouldn't feel so right...
He buried his face in her neck, his lips caressing the spot behind her right ear every time he spoke. She shuddered as he continued, the warmth of his breath wreaking havoc with her ability to process what she was hearing.
"In order to reset the rules, I'm going to have to work the angles. And to do that, I'm going to have to look like I'm backing away from my true objective and looking for a different one. I want them to think I'm giving it up. That's when I make the real move and get what I want. What we want. It's going to happen, believe me"
He held her for a moment, then pulled back and looked into her eyes.
"Do you believe it, Sam?"
No hesitation, no equivocation. Just yes.
"Why do you believe it?"
"Because you told me so."
She looked into his eyes and hoped he could see the trust she had for him reflected in her face. She felt herself smiling at his serious, sincere expression.
"Besides, it sounds like we can't lose. Even without hearing the details, you've got quite a Plan there, Colonel."
"I do. It is. But my Plan isn't going to let us do *this*."
His arms tightened around her, one hand coming to rest on her hip and the other on her shoulder.
"We can't take the chance that we'll get caught at this. So, after tonight, no more. We can't be seen together alone. We can't appear to have anything but a very good working CO and 2IC relationship."
"Well, we've had a few years to practice that one. But after this...It's going to be hard."
He groaned and held her close to him, breathing in her scent, burying his face in her hair.
"Tell me about it."
His mouth descended on hers again. This time the kiss was slow and tender. The heat built between them, going from pleasant warmth to burning conflagration in a matter of slow, sweet minutes, robbing them of their good intentions.
Her hands stole up to his waistband, sliding around and pulling at the place in back where his shirt hung just a bit loose. Her nimble fingers found their way under his suddenly un-tucked shirttail and she groaned into his mouth as they came to rest on warm, pliant skin covering rock hard lower back muscles. Her hands crept upwards, reveling in the growl he made into her mouth as he pressed his body into hers.
His own hands had been busy, holding her head at just that angle, one gliding down her back to pause at her waist, delving up under her soft cotton sweatshirt to even softer skin covering a back that flexed and moved under his hands as she pressed herself closer. His wayward hand then slipped under the waistband of her sweatpants, feeling the firm muscles swoop downward and tracing the dimple at the base of her spine. His lungs burning, he pulled his mouth from hers with an almost audible pop.
She made a noise in her throat, an almost whining keen that at any other point in her life would have embarrassed her beyond belief. But right here, right now, she wanted so much more and knew she couldn't have it. The frustration made her want to scream. The small sound was all the relief she gave herself.
"I need to go."
She shook her head, too comfortable in his embrace to think of letting him go. Ever.
"Sam, if I'm ever going to leave tonight, I need to go right now."
She leaned back, her eyes opening and coming to rest on his as she opened her mouth to speak.
He stopped her with a finger placed across her lips.
"Don't. I know what you're going to say. Just don't."
He heaved a sigh that pushed his body back up against hers for a fleeting moment before the sliver of space reappeared between them.
"If you say it, I won't have the strength to leave and everything I have planned is gonna go down the tubes. And while I'd trade *almost* anything to stay right here, right now, our future together isn't one of those things."
Sam felt the prickle of something close to tears in her eyes. To know how he felt about her was incredible. To have him this comfortable about expressing it was more than she had ever hoped for. She opened her arms as he pulled back, stepping away from him and realizing she was not the only one who would be disappointed about his leaving tonight.
He took her hand, leading her behind him as he gathered his jacket and headed to her front door. There, in the darkness broken by moonlight streaming through the sidelights, he turned and took her face in his hands.
He placed a delicate, warm kiss on her mouth, leaving her lips after a moment, traveling in small, nipping busses across her cheek and the bridge of her nose, pausing to kiss her closed eyes, before traveling over to her ear as he pulled her into a tight hug.
"Hold onto this. No matter what you might think is happening in the future, hold into this. What's between us is real and good and it's our future. It may take us a while to get there, and you might not think it is ever going to happen. But when that feeling comes over you, remember this, tonight, and believe that it *will* happen."
With that he released her, stepped back and stopped. His hand came up, cupping her cheek before he turned away, opened her door and walked away into the night.