More than a year later:
They walked hand in hand through the trees and came upon the clearing suddenly, having heard the falling water for some distance. Smiling at each other when they saw the falls, Jack led her to sit by his side next to the pool and they watched them flow over the rock face.
This was a special place, made doubly so by their trip here last time they'd been to Minnesota. Jack would never forget when they'd made love in this spot; he'd been so certain that sex was not in the cards. Things had changed a lot since then, although bad dreams often haunted them both. However, this was a special place because it was Charlie's place. Jack had come here to talk to him.
"Charlie," Jack started, "I know I haven't been here for a long time and that I haven't had the chance to tell you anything lately. I'm sorry, but some pretty important things have been happening and it's time you knew."
Sam grasped his hand and squeezed lovingly, encouraging him to continue.
"Sam's with me again, you'll notice. I think that's pretty amazing, don't you? We're still together in the face of adversity. But you don't really know much about that because I haven't told you. Sam and I. our recent past and all the problems. they don't matter too much anymore Charlie because what you need to know is about the now.
"We got married son. I hope that isn't too much of a shock to you; I'm sure it isn't. You must know it's what I wanted. I guess Sam wanted it too, which makes me a very happy man.
"I've retired from the Air Force. It's probably about time. It's been hard but I don't regret it for one minute. It seemed the right thing to do and still feels that way. It was the only way that Sam and I could be together like we needed to be; open and honest. Living a lie would have killed us in the end. That was not an option I was willing to risk. Maybe there were other solutions, but it has it's advantages; lots of 'em. The biggest is sitting right here by my side. Mrs Sam O'Neill. Imagine that Charlie, Mrs Sam O'Neill."
He paused, looking at Sam with adoration, and pressed her hand to his lips, brushing it lightly with both his breath and his mouth. She felt herself flush with the feelings he provoked with that simple act, and the expression on his face. Jack was the only man who had ever been able to do that to her and she loved that he still could; probably always would. She hoped so.
Jack was silent for a while, deep in thought, looking back over some of the events of the last year and putting them into words for Charlie.
On the whole things had gone pretty well for their relationship after the night of the proposal. They had their bad moments, but did either of them expect perfection? Sometimes it was wonderful, near flawless, but nothing was totally perfect. Everyone had cracks and they both accepted that there was a lot for them to strive for, but it was more than worth the effort
Sam continued to receive counselling and Jack thought it helped, loathed as he was to admit it. Sam and the counsellor agreed that she needed a hobby. It should be something creative that had nothing to do with her work; something of beauty. It was intended to help Sam relax, and be therapeutic, take her into another part of her mind.
At first she took up painting but the artwork was dark, dismal and ugly; exactly how she felt deep down in her head. Both Sam and Jack found the images disturbing. He worried about her, finding it hard to deal with the outpouring of emotion in her work. It screwed with his mind to know that she hurt that much. One day she spoke to him about it.
"I don't think I'm really enjoying painting Jack. What I paint. scares me. I don't want to be in that place. And I know it bothers you too."
"If you don't enjoy it Sam, give it up. But don't give it up for me, not if you want to do it." Not if it helps, he thought.
"I'm not sure I want to do it anymore."
"Okay, then don't do it. Whatever you decide Sam. You'll find something else, something you like a lot more."
She did, taking up gardening instead. He was happy to support her choice, whatever it was, and encourage her as much as he could. This particular choice gave him a lot of pleasure.
Sam had always loved plants and flowers but now she took to growing and nurturing lots of them. He recalled a few years ago when she had self-consciously confessed she sang to her plants. He and the rest of SG-1 had been amused but she certainly seemed to have an affinity with them. He gently poked fun but found joy in listening to her sing softly as she encouraged them to grow. They seemed to thrive on it.
It was truly beautiful. She lived with Jack now, in his house, and the garden and house were saturated with various greens, and all colours of the rainbow and beyond. She was good at it, the garden design and the nurture, and was in a much happier place.
As a result, Jack was in his happy place too. She made him feel whole even though she was incomplete herself. It was a wondrous thing to Jack and not a day went by where he didn't rejoice his good fortune.
Sam might seem vulnerable and delicate sometimes, just like one of her flowers, but she was tough, resilient and brave. These were some of the traits he had fallen in love with. He'd fallen for the soldier and scientist, Doctor, Captain and Major Samantha Carter, and now he was very much in love with the woman underneath. They had been through a lot as colleagues and friends, and now they had also been through much as lovers, a couple.
He remembered way back when all this had started he'd been afraid she wouldn't love the real Jack O'Neill, because she only knew the Colonel, not the real deal. They'd spent a lot of time getting to know those real people, building up a relationship slowly and bit by bit. To Jack's eternal astonishment she did love the real Jack. She knew more about him than any other person, the dark depths of his soul, his fears and nightmares - and his dreams. This was as real as it was ever going to get with anyone; more real than he had ever dared hope for.
Jack had spoken to Hammond pretty quickly after he'd proposed, tendering his resignation from the US Air Force. Although retired, he was called in to the SGC from time to time as a civilian consultant. Hammond liked having him around and was reassured by his advice and guidance on certain matters.
This had surprised and pleased Jack as he'd never really thought of himself as an expert on anything except killing folks. He was wrong and this forced him to start seeing himself in a slightly different light, much to Sam's delight.
Not wanting to atrophy with inactivity, Jack had taken up 'hobbies'. He'd always been good with cars and their engines so had starting fixing them up for people he knew were hard pressed for the money to pay someone to do it. This led to him getting involved in a community project working on mechanical skills with kids from a deprived neighbourhood. Later, he added a smattering of sports coaching too.
He charmed the kids of course, always did have a way about him, and was getting increasingly involved. A lot of time was invested in the project and he helped out any way he could, even with the paperwork. Jack claimed that was an improvement on writing reports for the USAF and it amused Sam that he got so much pleasure from it, as if doing it for free enhanced its virtues.
Sam had wanted to get married quickly but Jack insisted that he woo her a little first; up front and in public, no more hiding in the shadows. Secretly she had been pleased with that decision. This gave them time to step away from the darkness that had surrounded them on the night he proposed, before they finally tied the knot.
Even so, they set a wedding date for 6 months after that fateful night, which must have seemed quick work for anyone who didn't know they'd been seeing each other. This was a long list. Very few people ever learned that Jack and Sam had been breaching regs because Jack hadn't wanted to sully Sam's spotless reputation in the Air Force with even a hint of it.
Sam had become leader of SG-1 but it wasn't until four months later that the Air Force had seen fit to reward her with promotion her to Lt. Colonel. Jack knew George had been pushing for it and was annoyed that the wheels turned so slowly.
He was so proud of her and delighted that his security clearance at the SGC meant he could attend a ceremony in the gate room. He stood to one side of her, with Hammond on the other, and had the honor of pinning his own silver oak leaves on her uniform. She was thrilled to receive them; that they were Jack's old insignia meant a great deal. Meanwhile he fervently hoped that one day he could give her his Eagle insignia. He was confident she'd get the full bird, if not more than that someday.
She had always respected and admired Jack as her CO and he gave her a lot to live up to. Sam would wear her silver oak leaves with pride because they had once belonged to a talented, brave and worthy man, a true hero, and because she deserved them. That this man was to become her husband was the icing on the cake. She loved him dearly.
Both halves of the couple beamed with happiness afterwards, with Daniel and Teal'c following suit, delighted with Sam's promotion and this wonderful relationship between their friends.
"Congratulations boss." Daniel joked to Sam as he hugged her. "It's about time. You deserve it."
"I am also happy for you ColonelCarter."
Teal'c bowed but she would accept nothing less than a hug and a kiss on the cheek so he obliged, seeming quite pleased, and then she was led away by General Hammond.
"So you missing the old place Jack, the action?" Daniel asked as he saw Jack looking around at the familiar sight of the gate room. Jack sighed.
"Yes and no. It's not like this is the first time I've been back Daniel. Sometimes I miss the action, yes, but you know. I keep myself busy."
"Busier than ever it seems. No regrets?" Daniel pressed and immediately saw the answer in Jack's face. Jack shook his head.
"You're kidding right?" He responded. "She is. I keep thinking that someone's gonna pinch me and I'll wake up. It's like a dream. I don't want her to disappear in a puff of smoke."
"I think I know that deep down. It's taken a while though."
"I know." Daniel's smile was infectious and Jack's face cracked in two with a large grin but soon became serious again.
"Sometimes. Sometimes I worry when she's away on a mission."
"That's natural. We'll take good care of her Jack." The silent Teal'c inclined his head in agreement.
"I know that. I worry that she overworks herself taking good care of you Danny boy!"
Jacob had been thrilled they were getting married, which amused Jack given how pissed he'd been with them before. Indeed, Jacob's attitude towards Jack and Sam had changed so completely that he would have been disappointed if they didn't get married. He wanted Sam to have a family, children, and believed Jack would be the perfect father for his grand kids, and a good husband for his daughter. He and Jack had become firm friends since they'd reconciled.
Sam's father had managed a few short visits over the year but came through the gate a couple of weeks before the wedding. Thus he was able to attend Jack's stag party. Jacob was amused by the antics of the guys as they got less than quietly drunk around him, and sat observing, thinking about his daughter's future with Jack.
Jacob imagined them all getting along together wonderfully, playing with the kids in the garden, barbecues with friends and so on. That is, of course, when he was able to visit his home planet; the Tok'ra kept him pretty busy.
He wondered how they would deal with that in the future; his grand children couldn't know about it any more than his own son could. That troubled him. Eventually someone would catch on that Jacob was a little too long lived, a little too healthy, and start asking questions.
Jacob imagined a time when he would have to disappear from their lives forever and that saddened him. Or maybe his secret had to become a close held family one too. Unless it all became public knowledge of course but, even if the gate did, his situation might not. It was a conundrum that troubled him from time to time but he wasn't going to let it spoil the current celebrations.
Jack's stag night was going very well and the only sober people there appeared to be Jacob and Teal'c, plus Jack himself. Daniel Jackson only had to take a sip of beer to get drunk, it seemed, and most of the rest were hard drinking SGC personnel - armed forces, go figure! Jack had drunk a little but remained stubbornly sober. He seemed to be enjoying it, although Jacob suspected he'd rather spend his time with Sam, or just his old team.
Jacob pondered the reasons why the timing of Jack's retirement coincided so closely with Sam's rescue from the renegade Jaffa. Perhaps Jack's priorities had changed; he'd so nearly lost her and that sort of thing can make one reflect deeply on life. However, Jacob figured that Sam's capture had been more traumatic for both of them than they would admit to him, and that the two events might be related. He'd probably never get to the bottom of it.
Despite his previous doubts about them carrying on against regs, he regretted Jack's departure from the USAF and wondered whether they could have handled it differently. It was too late to go back now and the result was their pending marriage, so he wasn't complaining. He was pleased Jack remained at the SGC in some capacity, convinced the place was much better with him than without him, and that his daughter was safer too.
"Hey Jacob, penny for 'em?" Jack looked down on his future father-in-law with a curious and amused expression.
"I was thinking about you and Sam. What else?"
"Ah!" Jack replied as he slid into a seat opposite Jacob. "Care to share. dad?" His smile broadened and his voice held a sardonic tone. "The old father / son pre-nuptial advice maybe?"
"If I wanted to talk to you about that I don't think I'd choose your stag party. son." They both laughed. "Besides, I get the feeling that we don't need to have that sort of chat Jack." He smiled at Jack slyly. "I think you'll do a pretty good job without my advice. And Sam would only tell me to mind my own business."
"Yeah, probably." A shy grin appeared on his face at the mention of Sam.
"You seem remarkably sober for someone who is the guest of honor at these proceedings, Jack."
"I'm holding this thing so that everyone else can get drunk, not me."
"Isn't it the groom's duty to get drunk?"
"No, only to get married." Jack's smile was cheeky this time and Jacob could see the eager anticipation in his eyes.
"You still intend going through with it then?" The question was a jest.
"What do you think? Try keeping me away."
"Yeah, well let's hope Thor doesn't show up and grab you in a beam of white light just as you're saying I do."
"That might do it. Maybe I should have invited the little guy."
Just then Daniel drunkenly grabbed Jack shoulder.
"Hey Jack, come over here and see what Feretti's doing." He slurred, excitedly.
"I hope you aren't gonna drink alcohol before the wedding Daniel. I need my best man on his best behaviour."
"Would I let you down?" Daniel used his perfect hang dog expression, then pulled at Jack's T-shirt. "Come on Jack, come see."
With that, Jack left Jacob to his own thoughts once more.
Jack gathered his thoughts again and came back to his revelations to Charlie.
"We aren't perfect, Charlie, who is? We've gone through some pretty tough times in this relationship. But it's made us stronger rather than tearing us apart, although there have been moments when I believed it would tear us apart. Sometimes it seemed we'd given up, yet somehow we managed to fight to stay together, and win. It's been an experience, that's for sure, and much harder than fighting those pesky Goa'uld ever was.
"I couldn't let Sam go as easily as I did your mother Charlie; I couldn't live with that again. The only good thing about that stupid mistake is that it brought me to this point, with Sam. I love her so much, Charlie. You know that don't you?"
Sam leaned to kiss his cheek, basking in his words about them. Jack often said little, could keep his cards very close to his chest, but once he started he could be a wonder to behold. He was surprisingly complex for someone who thought himself so simple, and never seemed to get that about himself. Even after all this time, it frequently took her aback that a man like Jack could be so modest and self deprecating. He simply didn't see himself as other's saw him. Sometimes it irked her but she had to accept that it was an integral part of him.
Sure, Jack had his faults, and she wasn't blind to them. She had entered this relationship with her eyes wide open and most of the surprises had been positive ones. Jack's dark side could be scary and difficult to live with, but she understood it more fully now and it was worth every bad moment for the good. It seemed he felt the same about her, for which she was truly grateful.
They say your wedding day should be one of the best days of your life and it had been. The outcome had at least. She wasn't sure how much of it she really remembered as it had passed in a blur of nerves and overwhelming emotion. Jack paused to think again which allowed her mind to drift off to her special day.
Sam was giddy with excitement. Cassie was with her and Sam had regressed to her teens, twittering, chattering, giggling, and anticipating the big event. Her father was staying at the same hotel but discretely kept out of the way to allow the women their pleasure.
Jack was elsewhere with Daniel, Teal'c and a vast assortment of SGC buddies. She hoped he didn't get drunk and turn up at their wedding with a hangover, or worse. Sam harboured secret visions of him getting into a fight at an Irish bar in down town Chicago and ending up in jail or with a black eye. In reality she thought it unlikely as Jack hadn't even got out of control at his own stag party. However, this was the City of his birth, his old stomping ground, so who knew what might happen, or who he might meet up with?
She had been astonished when Jack expressed a desire to get married in Chicago. He didn't even have any family there anymore and Sam thought that, if he didn't choose Colorado Springs, he would have opted for Minnesota. To Sam, home was Colorado Springs. That was where she lived right now, and for longer than she could ever recall.
As the daughter of an Air Force Officer she had travelled around a lot and hadn't put down roots like a lot of people. Her own career in the armed forces had emphasised this. She was happy with that as it was her life. Jack had a strong sense of where he came from, or so she now discovered.
It hadn't even occurred to Sam that they might get married outside of Colorado Springs. She was looking for likely venues when Jack had ventured Chicago, describing the sort of wedding that any woman would find romantic. Apparently he harboured a secret dream of getting married on a boat on the Chicago River. Go figure! She never did find out the origin of the fantasy but loved the idea. She hadn't fixed on anything certain herself, although had one or two unusual possibilities in mind, and decided she preferred Jack's idea. It would be unusual and special.
So they had uprooted all the friends they could muster and moved into a couple of hotels in the centre of Chicago. George Hammond had worked miracles with the rosters at the SGC to allow as many of Jack and Sam's friends to attend as humanly possible, and had arranged to cover his own absence. No way in hell was he missing the big day of two of his favourite people to mind shop at Cheyenne Mountain. If there was a Goa'uld attack while he was gone then the US Government could sue his ass.
A couple of Jack's old Chicago buddies were the only locals who were attending. Sam's brother and family were there from California, Hank had arrived from Minnesota, and a couple of Sam's old colleagues from Washington and the Gulf. There were the odd few friends from both of their previous existences. Jack and Sam didn't have that many friends outside the close circle of the SGC, or the Armed Forces. They were both delighted that Catherine and Ernest could make it. It seemed that everyone of any importance would be there and holding the wedding in Chicago had made little difference to the guests.
Recalling his conversation with Jacob at the stag party, Jack had joked about inviting Thor. They laughingly agreed that little grey men were probably out of the question, and at the notion of dressing Thor up so that he wouldn't be noticed, like ET in the movie. A drunk and staggering Thor conjured another hilarious vision along similar lines.
On the morning of the wedding Sam was pleased to learn from Daniel that Jack did not have a hangover, or sport any black eyes or other visible injuries. On top of that, he had singularly failed to spend the previous night in a holding cell at the local police department. Apparently he had taken Daniel and Teal'c out away from the rest of the crowd, spending his last night as a free man quietly with his closest friends. No strip joints or lap dancing had been involved. All was right with the world.
Both the ceremony and reception were held at the same venue, aboard the yacht Chicago's First Lady. The boat set sail along the Chicago River at 19.30 whether all the guests were there or not and the bride and groom were pleased to find that they all turned up on time.
"You look really beautiful Sam." Her father said when he saw her. She grinned but he could tell she was nervous. "You happy? Any doubts?" he asked, wanting to know she was sure about this commitment.
Previously Jacob had severe misgivings about this relationship but had come to accept it; much more than merely accept, he wanted this marriage to happen. He could see the pair were head over heels in love with each other and knew Jack would look after Sam, not mistreat his baby.
"No doubts dad. A little nervous, but not a single doubt."
"Come on then, let's get this show on the road!"
He took her arm. Sam was so happy that her father had come around to the notion of her and Jack. Nowadays he seemed to positively relish it, a total about face from his first reaction, which had torn them asunder a few months before.
She loved her father dearly but loved Jack more and chose him in an instant when it appeared her father forced her into a choice, and would do the same again. If she couldn't readily make that choice then she had no right to be going out there to marry Jack at all. That hadn't made the choice easy as it had broken her heart to be estranged from her father once more.
Her heart hammered as her father took her arm. He was about to give her away to the man that she loved. It thrilled her that she was about to commit her life to Jack and she felt lucky that he loved and wanted her so much. It didn't seem that long ago that she had believed this would never happen, or that she would ever even kiss or make love to Jack. This day would change her life forever. The smile that she wore as she walked towards her fate could not have been happier. God, Jack looks handsome, she thought - lucky, lucky me!
Jack thought Sam looked stunning as she approached him on her father's arm. She wore a simple dress with no ornamentation. It had a sleeveless peau de soie bodice, empire waist, a very slim organza skirt with organza train and an elbow-length organza veil. In fact the word stunning imperfectly described how he felt when he first saw her on their wedding day.
He still couldn't quite believe this was happening. They had been through hell and back a few times over the previous few months. He hoped that had made them stronger. Their bond certainly seemed to be pretty unbreakable now. They knew each other's dark secrets and that was a blessing, something he would never have imagined as even possible. He was just an ordinary guy but she had chosen him, to be with him and to love him. That was very special. Life had kicked Jack in the teeth many times and now he was getting the best possible reward for his sacrifices. He was a very happy man.
The ceremony took place with the dramatic back drop of the city surrounding them. The sun was setting behind Chicago skyscrapers as they said their vows. By the luck of the Irish, or so Jack claimed, a spectacular fountain on the river bank shot water high into the air just as they exchanged rings. Sam thought he might have arranged it deliberately somehow or, if not him, then General Hammond who always seemed to be owed favours by someone or the other.
The yacht sailed out onto Lake Michigan where they partied the night away with their guests. They both felt good when weeks and months later people were still talking about how exciting and different their wedding was.
Certainly the crew were impressed, and became increasingly willing to please, when they realised that The President of the United States sent his best wishes to the happy couple. The Captain called Jack and Sam to the boat's radio, an astonished look on his face. It had taken the White House staff a while to convince him that this wasn't a prank; it really was the President wishing to speak to the Bride and Groom. Jack and Sam were delighted, of course; it added a certain something to their special day.
Immediately after the ceremony Jacob hugged and kissed his daughter with joy, and shook Jack's hand until it ached. A little later, when he got the chance, he took Jack to one side.
"What is it Jacob? That little father / son-in-law chat?" Jack's eyes twinkled.
"It's a bit late for that Jack." Jacob replied, grinning broadly. "I just wanted you to know how happy I am for you both. Welcome to the family. son."
"Hey, thanks dad!"
"Yeah, well I'm not sure about the dad part."
"Shucks!" They both laughed.
"Selmak wants to speak to you Jack."
Jack was taken aback. He rarely talked to Selmak. The snake kept herself pretty much hidden when he was around knowing he wasn't happy in the company of either the Goa'uld or the Tok'ra. Jacob led Jack to a quite spot on the boat to ensure no one was around to see or hear his symbiote.
"I want to congratulate you Colonel O'Neill. This is a day that I have wished to see for a long time." Selmak said, and Jack raised his eyebrows, even more surprised. "Long ago I saw your love for each other, even when you denied it yourselves. I am very happy to see this union of kindred spirits."
"Ummm. thanks Selmak" Jack wasn't sure what to say.
"Jacob can be a silly and stubborn old man, especially regarding his daughter. But I want you to know that he is genuinely happy and delighted that this day has come at last, despite his earlier doubts. He respects and admires you Colonel, even if he would never say that himself." Jack blushed profusely.
"I'm glad. I hated losing that respect."
"I know, because you feel likewise about him." Jack smiled a response.
"Yes I do." He agreed. "Despite the fact that he's grumpy and obstinate."
"Yes, which reminds me of someone else quite close by." Selmak added humorously.
"Now who could that be?" Jack asked, taking it in good part. He knew there were similarities between Jacob and him and that fact didn't worry him one little bit. Selmak laughed.
"You should get back to your bride Jack O'Neill. Fill your house with children." She said and Jack nodded, leaving Jacob and his symbiote alone.
"Let me at her!" he cried as he approached Sam. She was being given a gigantic bear hug by Teal'c and Daniel was close by. "Hands off my wife you great oaf."
He took Sam away from Teal'c and gave her a long passionate kiss. Suddenly it seemed as if it was just the two of them alone on the boat; everyone else simply melted away.
"Wow, Mr O'Neill, that was quite something!" She exclaimed.
"That was just for starters. Wait 'til you see what I have in mind for the main course." He responded, pulling her close to him. "We're married Sam. We did it!"
"No regrets I hope" She jested.
"Ask me again in another.. oh. say 100 years? You?" he grinned.
"You're kidding, right?" She did a great impersonation of Jack and he laughed. "What did dad want?"
"To welcome me to the family. Selmak wanted a little chat. She seems to like us. Don't worry Sam, it's cool."
"Good. Now give me another kiss like the last one."
So he did. The photographer caught it and, later, it was given pride of place on the mantle. After that things became a bit of a blur.
Daniel had practised his Best Man's speech over and over until Teal'c had got fed up with it and rolled his eyes to the heavens when he heard Daniel say 'How about me saying this Teal'c?' Although Daniel was the chief communicator of SG-1, he could tend to get a little flustered when he spoke and wanted this to be perfect.
It wasn't an easy job to come up with things to say that didn't breach SGC security. He managed to phrase his Jack stories in such a way that nothing secret was revealed to the audience. Jack was pleased to find he was witty and amusing, like a good Best Man should be. Afterwards he struggled to remember Daniel's words and was pleased they had a video of the whole event to jog their memories, and view at leisure again and again.
They took great pleasure in that, skipping to their favourite parts. In the end Jack got a video made of all those parts so they didn't have to keep winding it forward. Daniel's speech was prominent on that video, as was their exchange of vows and the miraculous appearance of the fountain in the background. Jack certainly never admitted to having anything to do with that. The General denied it too.
He remembered one part of Daniel's speech, however, without any prompting.
"Jack O'Neill can be cantankerous, sarcastic and irreverent. He can act like an overgrown kid and drive us all to distraction." Amen to that, thought Hammond at the time. "He isn't the type of guy one should get on the bad side of or wish to make an enemy. I certainly would be worried about meeting him in a dark alley one night. He can be stubborn, harsh, forbidding and downright scary. He was an Officer in the US Air Force, for crying out loud," The gathering laughed at Daniel's use of Jack's favourite expression, "so go figure!" Another titter. "Sam has her work cut out for her, that's for sure. Good luck with that Mrs O'Neill."
This was all said with good humour, the contrived, pained expression on Daniel's face merely adding to the amusement. The smile he gave Sam when he said those latter words was bright as can be and spoke to the assembled crowd of his deep regard for his friend Jack, and his new wife.
"But he is also the most loyal, courageous, gentle, kind and giving man I know and would do anything to help those he considers friends, and frequently those he doesn't. I feel honored that he calls me friend and that he asked me to fulfil this important role for him today. That's very special to me because Jack O'Neill is one in a million. He is the best friend a guy, or gal," He looked at Sam as he spoke, "could wish for and all of us invited here should think ourselves lucky to have such a friend."
Jack was moved by those words. Shucks, they'd noticed his soft side! What had given the game away? He squeezed Sam's hand gently as Daniel spoke and she knew he felt equally honored that Daniel Jackson had chosen to say such things about him. She turned to smile winningly at Jack, leaning to give him a kiss, at which point virtually the whole room cheered, stealing Daniel's thunder. Daniel took it with good grace and managed to soldier on after the guests quietened.
The marriage bound them together as it should, while somehow freeing them to be what they wanted with each other. It was liberating.
Sam was the one who suggested what they do for their honeymoon. Jack imagined they might go to a sunny spot and laze their days away on white, hot sands with water lapping up the shore. He envisaged scuba diving, water skiing and other such extra curricular activities. His thoughts also fondly turned to the time they might spend on extra curricular activity of a totally intimate kind.
Instead Sam expressed a desire to visit Europe. That wasn't the relaxing type of honeymoon Jack had in mind but he was willing to be persuaded. After all, he was getting almost entirely his own way for the wedding itself. They went to a travel agent on Academy Boulevard, which specialised in honeymoons, discussing their options and warming to their suggestions and proposed itinerary.
Thus they flew to London, England to start their honeymoon off. Jack suggested they go for luxury all the way and Sam was in agreement. They spent most of their lives without opulence, sometimes in downright discomfort, and their honeymoon should be something entirely different and totally memorable. It was certainly both of those things.
They stayed in Central London at the Savoy Hotel. It was very plush and wonderfully art deco in it's design. This historic hotel had hosted Elizabeth Taylor's first honeymoon and boasted of pouring the world's first martini in its American Bar. They took a luxury suite which overlooked the River Thames and was excruciatingly expensive. It was worth it. The Hotel was very central, in London's West End, close to most of the major sights and London's theatre land. It even had a rooftop pool and state-of-the-art massage rooms, both of which Sam and Jack took advantage of while there.
As it was on their doorstep they went to the theatre and even managed to catch an opera at London's famous Covent Garden Opera House, which thrilled Jack.
They took in the well known sights that all visitors to London yearn to see. The fairytale quality of the Houses of Parliament were almost on their doorstep, and Trafalgar Square, with Nelson's Column and irritating plagues of pigeons, was literally at the bottom of road. Buckingham Palace was, frankly, disappointing for a home of Kings and they preferred Windsor Castle, outside of London, which looked much more like a Royal residence.
The Tower of London was forbidding and they both imagined that it had been a highly unpleasant place to be imprisoned. It was renowned for it's tortures and beheadings, neither of which held any appeal whatever to Jack or Sam.
You could almost walk from one side of central London to the other through it's large parks and they did just that, from St James to Kensington Gardens, via Green and Hyde Parks. Along the way they stopped off to take a boat out onto the Serpentine in Hyde Park, which reminded them of their day spent on Lake Rose while at Jack's cabin, although the surroundings were entirely different.
"Are you happy Mrs O'Neill?" He asked as he stopped rowing and reached to take her hand in his.
"Very much Mr O'Neill." She smiled.
"I love you Sam."
"Well that's cool Jack because I love you too."
They moved carefully around the boat, so they could hold each other, and let it drift around. Jack was occasionally obliged to take the oars to avoid a collision.
"Hey we're really married!" Sam enthused delightedly. "Man and wife, the honeymooning couple."
"Yep. Great isn't it?"
London contained some of the most varied architecture in the world and both of them enjoyed the wandering the streets marvelling at the different wonders around each corner. Many people walked in London, or used public transport or cabs. Driving around this place would be a nightmare, they imagined, and parking a car near impossible.
There was the very modern mixed with the extremely old in the City of London, which they discovered to be a relatively small part of the relative whole. This was the home of Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral, The Bank of England, Lloyd's of London - the sublime to the ridiculous.
The newly erected Swiss Re skyscraper, known as the Gherkin for its unique shape, took the cake. Jack joked it was a giant phallus blotting the landscape of this great city, and a monument to man's obsession with the size of his private parts. The Gherkin was nothing compared to plans for the gigantic London Bridge Tower which they learned was to be shaped like an tall, thin pyramid and was planned to be the tallest building in Europe at 66 stories high.
"At least it won't be shaped like a giant dick." Jack commented on learning of it. Sam had giggled and then looked apologetically at their present company. No wonder the Brits thought Americans loud mouthed and garish.
When they discovered that the City had been rebuilt after the Great Fire in pretty much the same layout as before, they wondered about the horror that fire must have been with people trapped in the narrow alleyways that comprised much of it. After the fire, Wren had wanted to rebuild a different city, with wide vistas and regimented, straight roads. How different such a city could have been to what they now saw.
The London Eye was, effectively, a giant Ferris wheel on the opposite bank of the river Thames to Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament resided. It's massive steel and glass construction dominated the London skyline but Jack thought it looked cool and was somehow a perfect fit, unlike the giant gherkin. They took the ride and were rewarded with stunning views of the city from it's huge windows.
They took a boat trip down the River Thames from Westminster to what was called the Thames Barrier, a strange construction designed to stop the constant flooding the river's banks, which had caused millions of pounds worth of damage to London over the years. This took them under the famous Tower Bridge and into the heart of London's East End, well known for it's former slums, dock lands and cockney locals but now converted to ridiculously expensive and up market housing and river boat moorings.
Another day they decided to go along the river in the opposite direction, to Hampton Court Palace, another place more fit for King's than the more well known palace in the heart for the city. That trip afforded them very different views of the river and it's environs, passing, as they did, through leafier and greener pastures.
They enjoyed playing tourist and irritating the locals but were disappointed to find that Londoners were not exactly renowned for their welcome and friendliness.
They found the same thing with Parisians when they moved onto Paris, France; the locals were polite but cool. This view was exacerbated by the fact that one of their cases got lost in transit. It was Sam's and she was very pissed. What would she do about clothes? In the end she was pleased she had another case with her as well. They were away for a long time and she had come prepared. Sadly, the lost one contained most of her casual wear.
They were delayed at the airport for a long time while the airport staff seemingly tried to be helpful while they actually weren't. Finally, Jack put his foot down and used his best Colonel, 'in control and you have better do what I say manner', which certainly got their attention. It turned out that Sam's case had mistakenly gone on a flight to the USA, which made both Sam and Jack laugh at the irony. Jack was pissed as he had wanted the honeymoon to be perfect.
"Sam, I'm so sorry. I hope this hasn't ruined it all for you."
"Don't you dare start blaming yourself for other people's incompetence Jack O'Neill. I don't want to let this spoil everything for us. I guess something was bound to go wrong somewhere."
"Damned French! They're so rude!"
"Jack, it's a refreshing change from fake smiles and 'have a nice day!'. " He chuckled.
"Well I guess I hadn't thought of it like that. Thanks you for your unique slant on things Mrs O'Neill."
"Anytime Mr O'Neill." They kissed. "Let's get to the hotel. They say they'll send it to us there, so let's trust that will happen."
"Meanwhile, the first thing we do is go on a shopping spree and buy you some clothes."
"Well, I can't say I have any objections to that. Shopping in Paris?" She grinned and Jack rolled his eyes.
"Hey I wasn't thinking Dior!" Jack knew that once Sam got to shopping it could take forever. and ever, and promised himself to suffer stoically for her sake. He hated shopping. Maybe shopping in Paris would turn out to be different.
Their five star Hotel suite overlooked the River Seine and they could see Notre Dame and a glorious view of the city from their window. However, they were not impressed with the snooty attitude of many of the staff. When Jack explained the luggage situation, asking them to keep an eye on it for them (after all, these folk spoke French and he didn't, neither did Sam) he was angry at their casual, disdainful and unhelpful manner. Similarly when Sam asked them about shops, they seemed determined to set them on the path of designer clothing. It was as if the only part of Paris which existed was that created for the wealthy.
Jack had no objections to Sam buying some designer clothing, if they could afford it. However, they wanted to look elsewhere too. All she wanted was some jeans and a couple of tops. Simple! They hoped her case wouldn't take too long to get there, unless the baggage handlers sent it on a world-wide merry-go-round.
"When I pay this much for a hotel I expect to get the 5 star service thrown into the package!" He ranted.
Finally they found someone who was more than willing to help with anything they wanted - the Hotel Manager. Jack had got their attention at last. They found a great little boutique which fed Sam's need to shop, for now. Jack promised they'd do more shopping another day.
"Jack, I can always go shopping on my own while you do something else."
"What? And let my new bride out of my sight? You're kidding, right? I'll come. If I get bored, I'll leave you there and go get drunk!" he threatened jokingly and she giggled.
"Okay, I'll try not to wear out your very limited patience and attention span."
The luggage showed up two days later, delivered to their door by the Hotel Manager personally.
They did all the usual tourist things. The Eiffel Tower had dizzying and fabulous views over the city; the Louvre, Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile and huge collection of Egyptology, which made them laugh. Monmartre, with the beautiful Sacre Coeur perched on the hillside, it's famous street artists and The Moulin Rouge, which they simply had to visit one night if only for the infamous can-can dancing.
They travelled out to Versailles, which truly was a Palace of Kings; vast and overwhelming with huge and very beautiful gardens. Another must for them outside of Paris was the stunning Giverny, home to the artist Claude Monet, whose works they both admired. The garden of his home was a haven of beauty and the inspiration for his famous works with water lilies.
They were thrilled to see many of these works on perfect display at the Musée de l'Orangeriei in the heart of Paris itself. The paintings were displayed in two oval rooms especially designed for them. The Musée d'Orsay housed the national collection of his art and was worth visiting just to see the building. The site was the converted Gare d'Orsay, an old Paris Railway Station, and was transformed to it's present use in spectacular fashion - it's domed glass roof and vast welcoming vista uniquely highlighting the statues that adorned it's vast interior.
Paris was romantic. They treated themselves to a fabulous array of food while there, from the simple French bread and cheese consumed while sitting on the banks of the Seine watching the world go round, to the truly awesome five course luxury of a candlelit, typically expensive, French meal they had in a restaurant recommended by an unusually friendly hotel employee.
Sam thought that one of the most romantic things of all was the night spent taking a dinner cruise on the Bateau Parisiens along the Seine. The Nouvelle cuisine, and sipping good wine in the charm of Paris by night, accompanied by the sound of a violin playing romantic music, was a highlight of her trip.
"I love you so very much, Mrs O'Neill." Jack declared, having taken her hand in his over dinner, and he slipped a beautiful bracelet around her wrist. Earlier that day, she had admired it, but had thought it a little expensive so Jack managed to sneak off and buy it for her.
"Oh Jack!" She exclaimed, eyes widening in surprise. She loved it, but also knew how much it had cost. "That's. oh my. thank you!"
A thrill of excitement ran through Sam at his declaration in such a romantic setting, and his very generous gift. She had to keep reminding herself that she really was married to this man; that this was for life. She was not daunted by that thought, rather it made her feel safe and secure and filled with her love for him.
"I want to spoil my beautiful, and extremely sexy, wife while we're on our honeymoon. No more gifts after this for a very long time - I can't afford them. I'm retired you know." He grinned and winked at her.
"You think I'm sexy?" She queried with a smile.
"The sexiest! Especially in BDUs with mud all over you. Now that really does something for me." He teased.
"I'll have to bring a pair home then. Who needs sexy underwear?"
"Sexy underwear? You could wear that under the BDUs. BDUs, mud and sexy underwear? Whoa, down Jack!" he waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
"You feeling horny Mister?"
"Sam, you always make me feel horny."
"Sorry, I forgot to pack BDUs."
"Yeah, but I know you packed sexy underwear!"
"Ummm. I think it's time to go back to the hotel."
"Hey lady, are you propositioning me?"
"Too right I am."
"Great!" he grinned. "Dang! I knew there was something I didn't like about having dinner on a boat!"
When it finally docked, they made their way swiftly back to the hotel. The bed was so huge you could get lost in it, but they must have used every inch of it that night, and hardly slept. Both of them were exhausted, sated and extremely happy.
They had decided to really go for broke by travelling to their next destination by the world famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. This might be slower than flying but had luxury written all over it's blue painted carriages in big gold letters. It would carry them across Europe to Italy in the style of a bygone era and the passage through France and Switzerland to reach their goal gave them the chance to view the scenic route it took and, thus, more of the continent.
This was sumptuousness with another huge price tag attached. Neither Jack nor Sam ever spent all their hard earned cash and had money saved, so agreed that it was worth the cost for a truly unique, once in a lifetime experience. If you couldn't do that on your honeymoon, then when?
The journey from Paris would give them a night on board the train and the following day travelling through the towering Swiss Mountains and Austrian Alps before an early evening arrival in the magnificent city of Venice.
The carriage which housed their compartment was built in France and decorated by René Prou. The car had elegant circles of stylised flowers in an ivory-like inlay set in a chequer-board design. Apparently it had been popular with the notorious Duke of Windsor, England's lost king who had fallen for a divorced American commoner and shocked a nation.
The compartment was a private lounge during the day with a banquette sofa, footstool and small table. It had it's own original washbasin cabinet with hot and cold water. They were attended by a Cabin Steward throughout the journey, who was there when you needed him but discreet, staying out of the way when you didn't. When they came back to their compartment after dinner and drinks that night, he had transformed it into a cosy bedroom. To call them bunk beds was to give a lie to their opulence but that's what Jack called them anyway, making Sam smile.
"Don't they do Queen sized?" He murmured when he saw how small each bed was. He wanted to seduce his wife but there was hardly enough room.
"Jack, if we can have sex on the couch at home we can certainly manage it here, if that's what you're thinking." She smiled in a way that showed she was more than willing to participate in such activities and Jack pulled her to him and started to strip off her evening wear with enthusiasm.
This was the sort of journey you dressed up rather than down for. Jack wore a dinner jacket and Sam a long blue dress which showed every curve in the most discreet yet sexy way. Jack had bought it for her in London especially for this night.
They had started their evening in the Bar Car with cocktails, something for which the train was famous. Then they dined in the 'Lalique Pullman', so called because it was decorated by René Lalique in the 'Côte d'Azur' style. The faintly blue opaque glass showed various classical figures holding grapes, with a matching frieze of smaller panels. The tables were laid with fine linen, French silverware and heavy crystal glasses. Jack noticed they had a very large array of cutlery, flawlessly polished and placed.
Dinner was a marvel and they were curious how the French chefs pulled off this miracle of cuisine on a moving train. They ate lobster followed by roast duck supreme with white truffle flavoured 'foie gras', served with baby pumpkins, silver onions and sautéed potatoes. Fine wine was served throughout the meal. Dessert was a crispy bitter chocolate and bergamot ice-cream. Neither had room for the French cheeses that were also on offer, so they washed it down with superb coffee and retreated back to the Bar Car.
The bar was lavish and housed a baby grand piano, which was played skilfully by the resident pianist. Jack thought that must be one heck of a job.
"How do you think they got that baby grand in here?" He pondered aloud.
"Built the carriage around it?" Sam replied jokingly.
"I bet it's like getting the gate in or out of the mountain. The roof retracts or comes off. We could ask a waiter."
"Don't suck the fun out of it Jack," she replied, borrowing a phrase he had said to her on more than one occasion, "I'd rather keep the mystery." He smiled, suggesting they retire for the night and Sam knew what he had in mind from the start.
The next day they breakfasted in their compartment and watched the tranquil beauty of the snow capped Alps as they passed through. Then they passed their time talking with fellow travellers in the Bar Car sipping delicious coffee.
Lunch was served in a different Pullman; this time the 'Voiture Chinoise' which was lined with beautiful black lacquer panels. The lunch was almost as ridiculous as their evening meal the previous night, including smoked Salmon and scrambled eggs as a starter. They both could have drawn a line under that but went on to demolish the main course and dessert anyway.
"I hope you're gonna be able to get into your uniform when we get back." He joked, having sworn he could see them both putting on weight during this trip.
"I'll be lucky if I can get up from the table." Sam said in response, looking replete and satisfied.
"I'll have to hit the gym when I get back. Maybe I can go a few rounds with Teal'c."
"You've never been able to go a few rounds with Teal'c." She smirked.
"Hey, you're my wife, you should be on my side."
"Only when your right Mr O'Neill."
"You mean you don't always think I'm right? Some wife you're turning out to be. Think I can trade you in for a dark haired Latino beauty once we get to Italy? I hear those Italian men really go for blondes."
Jack had always been able to make her laugh. Humour was important to their relationship and it was one of the things that had first attracted her to him all those years ago; that and his ruggedly handsome looks and amazing smile.
In the afternoon they relaxed in their compartment admiring the spectacular scenery as the train travelled through the Italian Dolomites. Later they had afternoon tea, served in the compartment as they passed though the Brenner Pass. All too soon it was time to prepare to disembark as the train crossed the Venetian Lagoon and pulled into Santa Lucia station.
To arrive in Venice on the Orient Express felt very special indeed. This was the final stop of their small but perfectly formed tour of European countries. Jack had insisted on the romance of Venice with it's myriad canals and fascinating architecture. It also had the advantage of it's close proximity to the Lido, so they got some beach time in after all.
They stayed in another wonderful but expensive hotel in the centre of Venice, overlooking one of the canals, and generally arrived at by boat. It was a hop and a skip from Venice to the Lido, which had once been considered highly chic but these days was mostly a little more down market.
They sat happily in the Piazzo San Marco, sipping coffee or beer and eyeing the very special view it provided of The Basilica of St. Mark the Evangelist, the cathedral church of the city and seat of the Patriarch of Venice. The mediaeval mosaics inside the Cathedral were wondrous, depicting stories and episodes from the Old and New Testaments, and akin to the icons of the Eastern Church.
The Bell Tower, or 'El paron de casa' (the lord of the house) as Venetians called it, was also visible from the comfort of their chairs. Each of the five bells in the tower had a name and a purpose. The history of the places they visited enthralled them both.
Just around the corner was the marvellous Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace which was the residence of the Doge up to the fall of the Venetian Republic. All historic periods were represented in it's structure and décor, from the antique foundations, to the huge halls dedicated to political life and decorated by the canvases of the great masters of the Renaissance.
"These guys could out do Ba'al or those damned Iraqis any day." Whispered Jack in the knowledge that many tortures had taken place within those walls. Sam looked him in the eye to judge his mood and saw no horror there, which was a relief. She kissed and stroked his cheek to provide reassurance, in case he hid it well.
Venice was a mass of narrow passageways and canals and an adventure of exploration, but they often ended up in the glorious Piazzo and admired that view. It amused them to think of this place as flooded, which had happened, the only way to get around the Piazzo being a boat.
So convoluted where it's alleyways that they got lost on more than one occasion. Jack cursed that he had never needed to learn Italian, but somehow managed to get by on a mixture of Spanish and pidgin English.
"I like getting lost in Venice." He declared on the third occasion it happened. "I bet we've seen more this way than most tourists ever get to see."
It was true that they'd found some interesting little places off the normal tourist map; café's, churches, beautiful little houses, intriguing miniature canals and bridges. They even managed to find a small glass factory that was obviously not really intended for visitors. Jack charmed them into letting them in, claiming that Sam's blonde hair and wonderful smile held the key; they'd all fallen for his wife. She was special so he guessed he couldn't blame them for that.
Watching the men blowing glass had literally. blown their minds, mesmerised as they were by the skill involved in the making of complex and delicate glassware and ornaments. They bought gifts for themselves and Daniel and Teal'c while they were there.
Then a very strange thing happened the fourth time they got lost and were wandering aimlessly around the beautiful by-ways of the city.
"Jack?" A familiar woman's voice cried.
Jack and Sam both turned at the same time and shocked expressions appeared on their faces.
"I thought it was you but I wasn't sure."
It was Sara. She was holding a man's hand and Jack guessed it must be her husband, Glenn.
"Um, Sara?" This is weird, he thought.
"You must be Sam." Sara smiled at Sam and reached out her hand to shake it. "this is Glenn, Jack."
"Hi." They too shook hands.
"So what are you doing around these parts?" Sara asked. He blushed deep red to the roots of his hair and his reaction bothered Sam. Was he ashamed to introduce his new wife to his old one?
"We're on our honeymoon." He replied, shyly.
"Oh? You got married. Congratulations."
Jack felt guilty that he'd never thought to tell Sara that he was remarrying.
"So. you?" Jack asked.
"Well, actually Glenn is in Italy on business so we thought we'd combine it with a little pleasure."
"Well, this is a weird coincidence." Jack commented.
"Yes it is."
The conversation continued mainly about nothing of consequence for a while, where they'd been, what they'd seen. Both Sam and Glenn shifted uncomfortably, feeling slightly left out and strange about the whole thing.
"So how about we get together for a drink while we're here?" Sara suggested and Sam's eyes widened in horror at the idea.
"Excuse me." she said, running off and disappearing before Jack even had time to react.
"Um, I sorry Sara, I think." he indicated the direction Sam had taken and that he intended to follow, telling her which hotel they were staying in before he ran to find Sam.
However, Sam remained stubbornly difficult to find and Jack got even more lost while he looked, figuring that she probably was too. He was frantically worried. It was a pretty strange thing to bump into one's ex-wife while on a honeymoon with the new one. How spooky was that? Had it freaked Sam out?
He recalled what had happened months previously when Sam had believed him to still be in love with Sara. Surely she can't think that? Was that fear still lurking deep within her? It scared Jack, particularly given everything which had happened to Sam since then. Life hadn't always been a bowl of cherries; far from it.
Oh God, please don't let anything happen to her, he begged silently, please don't let this quirk of fate ruin everything. He wondered if maybe she was trying to find her way back to the hotel, and imagined her being overwhelmed by one of her black depressive moods and running around the streets getting increasingly upset and lost.
Jack, of course, was never totally lost anywhere. He knew which way the sun rose and where it set - east, west, north, south. It wasn't really that difficult to navigate his way around. So he set off in the direction of the hotel, hoping he'd find her already there. She wasn't, although he looked everywhere possible and quizzed half a dozen hotel staff and even a few guests.
He sat in the bar and bought a drink, following that with another drink, and then another. After the first few he got maudlin and manic. He managed to keep his mania to himself and disappeared back to the hotel room to continue drinking so that, if he lost it, no one else would bear witness.
It got dark outside, turned way too late, and he worried himself sick and got increasingly drunk in response. He didn't know what to do. At one point Sara called to enquire about Sam and he tried his best to sound sober. He didn't want to admit that his wife had run off and hadn't come back yet. He lied big style and said they were having some quiet time together and that he would call Sara tomorrow, getting rid of her as quickly as seemed polite.
Didn't Sam trust him? The notion that she didn't truly bothered him. If she didn't this marriage might be dead before it had even started and he couldn't countenance that option. His mood wavered between depression and anger as he cursed his new wife and her pigheadedness and lack of faith, following that with thoughts of loss and love. Trust. It was important to him and he couldn't help but regret the lack of it.
Meanwhile, Sam was wandering around the streets of Venice upset, although not entirely lost. She just wasn't sure she was ready to be found yet. She wasn't really certain why bumping into Jack's ex had upset her so much. The idea of having cosy drinks with Sara and her husband filled her with dread. What did Jack want, for Sara to become her new best friend? Yeah, like that was going to happen. This was their honeymoon and one wasn't supposed to have drinks with ex wives on a honeymoon; one should spend one's time giving total and loving attention to one's new wife! Did that seem like too much to ask?
Although she knew deep down she was probably overreacting, she couldn't help herself. Since her capture and repeated rape she sometimes did overreact to things - go figure! Jack had been wonderful throughout their honeymoon but she still cursed him for being a selfish son of a bitch, along with many other choice insults.
It was gone midnight when she eventually turned up back at the hotel. She opened the hotel room door at probably the worst moment possible. Jack was very drunk by then and was in one of his cursing phases.
"Where the hell have you been?" he shouted at her angrily. His tone frightened her.
"None of your damned business." She screamed back.
"How dare you embarrass me in front of Sara and her husband. What the hell to you think you're playing at? What will she think?"
"I don't give a f*** what she thinks Jack! I'm so sorry if the humble Sam Carter has embarrassed the almighty Jack O'Neill." Her tone dripped with vitriol and sarcasm.
"Need I remind you that you're Mrs Jack O'Neill now?"
"Sam Carter! Or Sam O'Neill at best Jack. Are you drunk?"
"Yes I am. What is it to you?"
"Absolutely nothing Jack. Why should I care about anything you do anymore you self satisfied, selfish bastard?"
Jack stormed over to her and grabbed her shoulders roughly. She flinched but he didn't even notice.
"Me selfish? Take a look in the mirror and then you'll know what the word selfish means." He dragged her over to the mirror and stood her in front of it.
"Leave me alone Jack! Let me go!" She cried, struggling to get away from his iron grip. He was drunk and no match for her in that state. Using her best self defence techniques she threw him to the floor and ran off to lock herself in the bathroom. He pounded on the door.
"Bitch! Let me in, or come out! Sam!"
It was useless. There was silence from within the bathroom. Sam sat curled up in the corner softly crying. She was frightened of his mood. How did she come to be scared of her own husband? This was crazy. He continued to knock and curse for a while and then stopped. She heard him slump to the floor outside of the door. Was he alright? Should she worry? No! Screw him!
She stopped sobbing and went to the door, putting her ear to it and listening. She could hear Jack crying and, although the idea broke her heart, she believed he deserved to feel bad. She felt bad so why shouldn't he? Besides he was drunk and she was damned of she was going to deal with a drunken Jack O'Neill. Or, for all she knew, he could be faking it and lying in wait for her out there. She shuddered at the thought. Jonas had tried that trick on her once.
She thought about it some more, trying to reason with herself. Jack wasn't like that, she had to have faith in him. She had told him she didn't believe him to be like that and now she was doubting him. He was an ass sometimes, but not that kind of an ass. On the other hand he was very drunk and it had hurt when he grabbed her earlier, but he had never been violent with her, not once. They might have played rough sex games occasionally, but that was fun, not threatening. Jack might be a lot of things but he was not a wife beater. If he thought for one moment she believed that it would break his heart.
Pulling herself together at last she turned the key and slowly opened the door, peeking from behind it, ready to snap it shut again. Jack had been leaning against it but as he felt it opening behind him he moved away a little and turned to look up to meet Sam's eyes.
His eyes were bloodshot and his face damp. Jack wasn't given to crying much but it happened occasionally. The first time she had experienced it she had been overawed. He hadn't wanted her to see him like that but it had shown her a Jack O'Neill that she hadn't expected. This time he was drunk rather than sweating and afraid after a vivid flashback nightmare. However, she still saw some fear in his eyes and knew that it was fear for them and their relationship. They'd been through too much already; there had been a lot of pain and sorrow.
He stood up unsteadily and looked at her for a while without saying anything. She made no move or sound but just stared back at him.
"I'm sorry Sam." He whispered eventually. "I don't know what I did to cause you to run away but I'm sorry anyway. If it was Sara. Sam, she's my past, you're my future. I don't want to see my ex-wife on our honeymoon, if that's what you think. I thought you trusted me."
"Could have fooled me." He seemed to have sobered up almost completely and she wondered how he did that.
"I'm not sure I was very. rational Jack. Sometimes I." She faltered.
It was true that he knew. Both of them had suffered traumas and they had left their mark. It was another reminder that not everything in their lives was going to be perfect, that this wouldn't be the last time something similar would happen.
"Me neither I guess." He added. "Will you remind me never to get drunk? I would never hurt you Sam. You have to believe that."
"I do. I just." She didn't know how to explain.
"Can't help remembering?" he asked and she nodded.
Jack really hated that brutal events outside of his control marred their happiness. However, he was resigned to that as an inevitability. Nothing truly erased those sorts of scars - he knew that better than almost anyone. They only appeared more bearable and less ugly with the passing of time. He and Sam would be happy enough. It was way more than he deserved although he thought she could have done better. She didn't seem to agree and that was what counted.
He was reluctant to touch her, afraid that he might see her recoil. He couldn't stand that sort of blow right now. However, she touched him, her hand reaching to his face to wipe away the moisture. He gently placed his hand over hers and lifted her palm to his lips, kissing it.
"Are we gonna be okay?" He asked.
"I want us to be. Is that enough?" She replied.
"Yes, Sam, it's enough."
No more words passed between them. Jack simply took her back to their bedroom and they slept in each others arms. The next morning they stayed in bed and hardly surfaced at all that day. The bitter argument the night before served to enhance the making up.
Needless to say they didn't call to arrange to meet Sara and Glenn for drinks. The vacation continued almost as if nothing had happened.
No trip to Venice is complete without a romantic gondola ride. It was a little corny but they had to do it. You couldn't get around Venice properly without using boats of some kind, so it wasn't as if they hadn't been in one before, but they took a special trip on their own to view the sunset over the lagoon and fulfil their romantic image of the place.
Sitting back in each other's arms, they took in the sights as they wended their way around the city. Jack wished they could get rid of the gondolier so he could make love to his wife in the thing, but that was one fantasy that was not to be.
As they passed under the Bridge of Sighs they sat in dreamy contemplation, until the gondolier told them that the name was derived from the sighs of the 17th century prisoners who passed through it on their way to the prison cells on the other side, most likely seeing the beautiful sight of the lagoon, the island of San Giorgio, and freedom for the last time. That took the gloss off a bit.
In all they spent a month in these three parts of Europe, which gave them lots of time rather than having to do what they wanted in a rush. Even so, they could not see everything although they felt that if they ever visited Europe again they might go to different places. Both had fancied other cities like Prague, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam. It was not possible to fit all of that into their honeymoon plans. For starters they determined to factor in lots of snuggling time, leaving them less time for the actual sightseeing, but more for the sort of pleasure that honeymoons were intended for.
They had discovered a mutual affinity to water and the wedding and this whole trip satisfied even their yearnings to be close to it. The only thing that marred their amazing honeymoon was Sam feeling sick towards the latter end of their trip, although they were delighted with what they believed to be the cause.
The memories flashed through Sam's mind while Jack continued to talk to Charlie. This was way longer than what he had managed to say on their previous visit.
"I guess you've noticed something else Charlie." Jack continued. "You'd have to be blind to miss it. We're having a baby. You're getting a brother or sister. You always wanted one so I hope you're happy for us. We can hardly wait. Less than three months to go, Charlie, only three months."
They had both stopped using any form of birth control a couple of months before the wedding. They figured she was probably already pregnant on their wedding day but hadn't known it yet. They had both been totally overawed and happy that it happened so quickly.
Jack figured he wasn't getting any younger and wanted children before he got too old to enjoy them. He imagined all the things he would do with them; the games they would play together and the places they could visit. He didn't want to miss any of that.
He might be lucky enough to witness the first step, and live long enough to see their children marry and have babies of their own. Jack liked the idea of being a grandpa. After Charlie died he'd lost all hope of that happening but now that hope was renewed in his new and wonderful life with Sam. However, that was getting ahead of himself, he wasn't even a dad yet.
Sam, of course, was positively geriatric in maternity terms. Thus she was glad to start a family so quickly, and start living a family life, as fast as she could. The doctors saw no reason why she shouldn't be able to get pregnant again and carry a baby to full term. That didn't stopped her fretting to herself about the possibility they might be wrong. She was careful, not risking anything that might harm this child she longed for so much. It was the end product of her and Jack's long-lived love for each other and that made it very special.
When the doctor first confirmed the good news she whooped with delight and was deliriously happy. Jack's reaction had topped it all. She didn't think she'd ever seen such a bright and exultant grin, and he picked her up in his arms, swinging her around the room in his delight.
Jack continued to talk to tell Charlie about it, his exuberance and joy crystal clear in every word.
"I'm gonna be lucky enough to be around to see this one grow up. I missed a lot of that with you. It seemed that almost every time I saw you something different had happened and I'd missed a crucial stage in your life. I regret that so much, but now I have a chance to make up for it. It's poor Sam who will be the one to miss out once she's allowed back through that gate.
"Now she's doing my old job she needs to keep on her toes to outdo your father's heroics!" Jack laughed. "No time for babies. yuck! But that's fine by me because I'll be home taking care of him or her. Don't worry Sam, I'll keep the video camera on hand at all times." He smiled broadly at her and she responded in kind, staying silent as this was his moment with his son.
Sam imagined Jack taking literally hours of footage to ensure she didn't miss anything. He'd almost have the camera strapped to his head! She'd felt torn about how they handled the baby, wondering if she should take a different job instead of continuing with the leadership of SG-1. The team had a temporary leader on missions at the moment, while she wasn't allowed to go through the gate.
She had decided to go for it. After what had happened with Charlie, Jack had been scared that she wouldn't trust him with their child. She did. She trusted Jack totally. This would prove that to him once and for all, but it wasn't the reason she had decided to take the job. It was what she really wanted, at least for now. Who knew what the future would hold? If it came to it she could request a transfer later, even leave the Air Force. For now she was happy with the idea of this arrangement.
"I guess they're the main things I need to tell you Charlie. So much has happened. These days I have Sam to talk to and that has made such a huge difference to my life. It feels really good to share, Charlie, really good. Damned amazing, if you ask my opinion. I never believed I could be so blessed, or that I deserved it after you died and your Mom left.
"Nowadays? I think I deserve something; a shot at happiness, another life. I paid a huge price for my mistakes, but now I think I've earned that second chance. I hope you wish me well with it. Bye Charlie, for now. I promise we'll be back to introduce you to your brother or sister one day soon. "
Sam leaned her head on Jack's shoulder and he put his arm around hers. This felt so comfortable, so right. Jack considered what he had said to Charlie. In the end, life wasn't a romantic novel with a happy ever after ending. It was a series of ups and downs, and understandings and misunderstandings. You just had to hope that the ups and the understandings won out and, in spite of everything, for Mrs and Mrs O'Neill, they did.
/The End of The Understandings and Misunderstandings Series/