Jack's heart wrenched painfully, panicking that Sam had left him alone again. Surely she can't have gone! Hurriedly he got out of bed and threw on a pair of jeans and shirt. He quietly opened the door to the spare room hoping to see her shape beneath the covers, the rise and fall of her breath. She wasn't here.
After he had filled more pressing needs in the bathroom, he rushed downstairs and saw no sign of her. Then he noticed a pot of coffee on the breakfast bar. It was still hot. She must be here, outside drinking coffee, he thought, and helped himself to some.
He found her sitting on the porch, obviously deep in thought and oblivious to his presence. Watching for a moment before approaching, once more he was stunned by her beauty and bearing. Sam! His emotions for this woman were incredible, overwhelming and frightening. Sam! This time he unwittingly exclaimed it aloud and when she turned he could see she looked like she had been crying. Jack was reluctant to approach, cautious and nervous, dreading rejection, humiliation and pain.
"Sam…? Honey…?" he said, tentatively.
Sam sensed his hesitation, understanding his reasons, and felt his pain and anguish. I have totally screwed up this relationship, she thought. I've given heart ache where it was undeserved. So she reached out her hand. Immediately he walked over, put his coffee on the table and crouched in front of her, taking the proffered hand in his own and stoking her cheek gently with his thumb. No rejection, no humiliation. However, he was still in pain; it could take a while to stop it rotting his insides. This was his Sam, his greatest love, his future, and his life, and she was hurting. It didn't sit well with him at all.
"It's okay, Jack, we'll be okay." She whispered and he fervently hoped that was true but greatly feared that it wasn't.
"Will we?" He asked, simply, tears pricking at his own eyes.
He fought them off. He had to be strong for her, for both of them, compensate for her own current weakness. She leaned down to kiss his forehead, returning his sweet caress with her own. Her fingers searched his face, soft and loving, and he closed his eyes at the touch, every nerve in his body desperate for the love and comfort.
"Do you doubt me?" She asked and he nodded, determined not to lose the battle he waged with his tear ducts. It was a battle he had won so many times, even when Charlie had died, but he was teetering on the edge and could feel himself falling. God give me strength, he prayed, just one more time.
Sam, was not surprised by his doubt, nevertheless it was painful to her. She had hurt him so badly and it was something else to hate herself for. Add it to the list. She wasn't sure she could comfort him. She could tell him it wasn't him, or them, she feared; it was her and her past. It wasn't entirely true, though. Her past affected them in the present; her fear and self loathing threatened them, could destroy them. It wasn't what she wanted. She wanted her and Jack to be forever. All her uncertainty and self doubt was their biggest obstacle. Jonas Hanson had a lot to answer for; he had come back to haunt her with a vengeance, just like he had always threatened to. Damn you Jonas!
"I feel your pain Jack. I truly never intended to hurt you like that. I hate myself for it."
"Please don't hate yourself Sam, please!"
It was a plea from his heart. He knew what self-loathing was all about; been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt. Sometimes that demon had faced him down and won but mostly he could thwart it, beat it back and deny it. However, it was always there. He realised that it was the same for her. She might have different reasons for feeling it but, essentially, she held it deep inside, always. It wasn't right that she should feel this way. Why was life so unfair? Once again he felt his heart crushing, the tear ducts wanting to open; he could hardly catch his breath.
"I was thinking about Jonas." She said.
Jack was starting to hate the very sound of that name. The bastard had damaged Sam and that was unacceptable. It bothered Jack that he was so helpless to act. He was a man of action who would do anything to help and protect his friends. Why is it that humans so frequently try their best to self-destruct?
"Tell me Sam, talk to me." He urged.
"I'm still scared Jack."
"That I'll leave you? That I'll hate you? That I'll never be able to look you in the eye again? That just ain't gonna happen. You'll never lose me Sam. It's time you understood that. I know a different you. The real you. It's been a lot of years."
"What if that was the real me? Actually, it was the real me!"
"The you that let him treat you that way? Put up with it? Loved it?"
His gaze into her eyes was unwavering and she could see his disbelief there, his faith in her. That faith was a wonderful thing, it always had been, but she feared it was misplaced.
"Yes but…" She hesitated, "but that's not all."
He continued staring into her soul, one hand still holding hers, the other lulling her with its caress of her face and hair. It gave her an indescribable feeling of reassurance.
"Tell me?" Jack's knees were beginning to speak to him, protesting the kneeling position. He bit back the pain, determined not to break this moment. After a while she spoke again.
"I could hardly tell the difference between pain and love. How pathetic is that? He entwined them inextricably. I felt empty, a hollow numbness. The only thing that gave me real joy was my work. I guess that's why I'm such a workaholic. The domination, the rape, that wasn't all it was. There was more to him than that. There were good things too. But he made me feel like a kindred soul, brought out a dark side of me that I didn't know existed. I…I can't put it into words Jack. I'm sorry, it's hard. There's so much you don’t know about me."
"Ditto Sam. Me too. For crying out loud, it's something that's in all of us. Darkness. It wants our souls and we are lucky if it doesn't take them. Don't you think I haven't considered my own inner core a threat? It could destroy us. There are things about me that I'm not sure I could bear for you to know. We all have those things. I'm not him and you're not her - we're us, what we are now."
Sam had frequently wondered about Jack's past and his dark side. She had seen it raise its ugly head more than once but had no idea of the extent of it. She loved him despite it, and maybe because of it. Her meagre knowledge of it just brought her closer to him, but he would probably never understand or accept that. It scared her but she didn't shy away from that fear. Perhaps Jack felt the same way, it had never occurred to her before.
"Jack, that's very philosophical." Was her response, her thoughts hidden.
"Yeah, coming from a dumb ass like me."
"You're no dumb ass Jack. Don’t be so falsely modest."
"You noticed, huh?" She laughed at those words and he smiled. "Look, all I'm saying is that our work, our lives together… crap!" He searched for the right words. "We've been friends for a long time and have shared so much. That's a pretty solid foundation Sam, more than most people have. It'll always be there."
Gently she kissed his cheek and stroked the hand that still caressed her lovingly.
"You're one hell of a guy, Jack O'Neill. A very special one, and full of surprises. I love you Jack, you know that don't you?"
Yesterday she had revealed that she wanted to spend her life with him. Jack knew he should be confident of her love. Nevertheless the three words spoken meant everything to him. He wanted to make love to her, demonstrate his love in the clearest way possible but there was no sign that she wanted that too, despite the kiss and soft caress. Suppressing his urge to kiss her passionately he just smiled.
"I should know, but it feels really good to hear you say it."
It echoed her words to him that first time he had confessed his love on the night they had argued with Jacob, her father. He clearly remembered every word and gesture. They were engraved on his heart, as they were on hers. So, as he had done that night, she told him again.
"Jack? You there? It's me!" A voice called and a man appeared from the surrounding woods. Jack reluctantly rose from his knees. He was stiff and had to stretch to get his muscles moving again.
"It's Hank. One of the neighbours." He whispered to Sam, who rose from her chair. "What the hell does he want?"
"Jack don't be so cranky." As she said it she grinned. "Try to be sociable."
"He has to come now?" He raised his voice cheerily, "Hi Hank!"
"Hey honey," Jack said. "This is Hank. He lives near here. Hank, this is Sam my, um, girlfriend."
He realised he didn't know how to introduce her to people. Girlfriend sounded a lot less than they were. Partner? Too formal. Lover? Too hot. Girlfriend it was then. Sam smiled brilliantly at Hank and they shook hands.
Jack was much friendlier with Hank than his reaction at his arrival made it appear. Hank was a local, living on his own by the lake. He was in his sixties and remembered Jack's grandparent's well, and Jack as a snotty nosed kid who came to visit. Back then the age difference had meant they were not friends. Hank hung around with an older crowd who thought they were mature and didn't want to play with kids. As one gets older those age differences mean less.
Hank's wife had died at around the same time as Charlie. It had bound them together in an inexplicable way. Hank was one of the people that Jack liked around here and sometimes they would sit drinking beer and chatting about this and that. In Jack's long absences, Hank kept his eye on his cabin. He also kept a supply of Jack's food in his excessively large chest freezer. Jack couldn't keep frozen food here because his place wasn't powered up all the time. Hank's was. It had proved useful on more than one occasion.
Jack had wanted to spend this time alone with Sam, that was why he reacted like that to Hank's arrival. He realised that Sam was right, he should be sociable. Luckily it was being sociable with someone whose company he could stand.
"I'd heard that you'd got a pretty girl visitor Jack. I can see the Robinsons got that right." Sam recalled the Robinson's place as one of those she had stopped at while trying to find Jack's cabin.
Jack realised that this was why he had come round. Hank was being downright nosy, wanting to meet this woman of Jack the Loner's. He was the gossipy type, not in any nasty way, but liked to know what was going on locally. Jack inevitably got the low down on everything that went on while he wasn't here. Hank would have hated not being one of the neighbours that Sam had met when she was on her way here. Jack understood that Hank hadn't been able to resist the temptation to pry.
The excuse that he needed some batteries and knew Jack kept good supplies was simply that; an excuse. Jack bet Hank had a whole supply of batteries stashed somewhere. It amused and pleased him that word had got around but he hoped they didn't have too many locals call in for the same reasons. He and Sam would never get any peace. He exchanged a look with Sam and realised that she had caught on too.
"Well thank you Hank," Said Sam, acknowledging the compliment, "Why don't you come in and sit down? Jack was just about to make some fresh coffee, weren't you Jack?"
When her eyes met Jack's it was like the eye contact equivalent of a kick in the shin. Taking the hint, once they went inside he disappeared into the kitchen to make the coffee and left Sam and Hank to introduce themselves in the living room.
As he found the batteries Hank had asked for, and made coffee, he could hear Sam charming the pants off Hank and smiled broadly. He was proud of her. Proud to show her off, and proud that she was able to charm Hank. It made a refreshing change to be able to show off Sam when they so frequently had to skulk around in Colorado. When he came out with coffee he suggested they go outside and sit on the porch. Sam and Jack took the two rocking chairs.
They whiled away the next hour or so by chatting amiably with Hank, and Jack warmed to the social interaction. Hank's gossipy nature led to him relating a few amusing anecdotes about the locals, both recent and historic. Jack learned quite a few things he hadn't known before, and Sam was delighted with his stories, taking a liking to the man.
When she offered him more coffee he asked whether they had any beer. Sam thought it a bit early in the day but said nothing, leaving the two men alone to go get it for him. Jack declined in favour of more coffee. She was curious about what they might say about her in her absence so instead of immediately going to the kitchen she lurked by the open window, listening out of sight, feeling like a naughty little girl eavesdropping on the adults.
"I'm sorry Jack. I think I interrupted something when I arrived."
"No Hank, not at all." Jack smiled shyly at Hank.
"She's a beautiful, intelligent woman Jack. You're a lucky son of a gun!"
Jack laughed. "I know."
"So when you gonna make an honest woman of her? You are gonna make an honest woman of her, aren't you?"
"Hank!" Hank chuckled at Jack's outraged tone.
"Well, you are, aren't you?" He persisted.
"If she'll have me." Jack muttered to his feet, going slightly pink.
Although his voice was low, Sam heard the words filter through the window and smiled to herself, then went to make fresh coffee and get a beer for Hank.
After she rejoined them they talked for a while longer and Jack decided he should pop back to Hank's with him to pick up some food supplies. For starters, Hank had some juicy steaks in his freezer which he was sure he and Sam could demolish over the next couple of days or so. He had some other things too, which might be useful for a picnic or barbecue.
"Sam. Do you wanna come with?"
"I won't if that's ok." She said looking apologetically at Hank. "I'd love to take a bath."
Jack leaned to kiss her cheek and whispered.
"Are you sure you'll be alright on your own?"
"Jack I don't need a baby sitter." She snapped, immediately regretting it when she saw the expression on Jack's face. As if she hadn't done enough damage already. "Sorry." She grasped his arm and squeezed softly. Jack smiled, reassured.
When he returned about an hour later she was sitting on a rocking chair on his porch, staring at the lake, and he took the other rocker. Hank had very obviously been smitten with Sam, which thrilled Jack no end. These local folks were generally so suspicious of strangers. He joked that perhaps he should take her on a grand tour around to all the neighbours to satisfy their curiosity, and boost his ego. Why wouldn't he be honored if all his neighbours fell in love with Sam?
"I enjoyed his company Jack."
"Yeah. Me too."
They held hands in silence for a while, rocking in their chairs, and Jack pondered how that made them appear an old married couple. He liked that, picturing retiring here someday with Sam and sitting for hours on these two chairs.
A little later they went for a short walk so that Jack could show her the surrounding area, and then back for lunch. Neither one of them had got around to breakfast that morning. He was pleased to note that Sam's appetite seemed to be coming back.
To Jack's surprise and delight, after lunch Sam suggested that he show her how to fish. Unfortunately she didn't mean it in the euphemistic sense, but he could live very well with the real thing. She was a good pupil. They sat companionably for a long time, side by side with fishing rods in hands, sometimes talking, sometimes silent. Neither mentioned the traumas of the past weeks. For now, Jack didn't want to raise it unless Sam did. Instead he told her a little about his family, his grandfather and the pearls of wisdom he imparted, the friends he'd made locally when he visited.
Sam relished any revelations that Jack made about his past; it wasn't often that he revealed anything about it. Sure they'd had their moments, but Jack could keep things locked up tight where no one could reach them. He didn't talk about his family much.
The day passed too quickly to night, time for dinner, and time for bed.
"Jack, I'd like to sleep with you tonight if that's alright. I don't mean sex, I mean I'd like to be with you. Do you mind terribly about the sex part?"
"Sex isn't everything Sam." He said, taking her hand in his. "It's nice, great actually, but it isn't everything."
So they snuggled up together for the second night running. Jack thought they were making pretty good progress in the circumstances and hoped it lasted. If Sam had PTSD, which seemed even more likely now than when he had originally thought of it, anything could happen.
Sam awoke next morning to an empty bed. He had extricated himself from her embrace and was already up. She went downstairs and found him in the kitchen, back towards her. He was packing some supplies into two rucksacks. As she watched she considered how graceful he could be when he moved.
"Hey." She said and he stopped what he was doing and turned.
"Morning. Coffee? Breakfast?"
"No to the breakfast, yes to the coffee." He poured her one and she joined him.
"No food? Sam you gotta eat."
"I don’t think so. Morning sickness Jack."
"Why are you women so lucky? You get all the good things, huh?" He smiled and she reached for his hand over the table, squeezing it to show her affection. Then she dashed upstairs and he could hear her retching violently. Yuck! Poor Sam. He hated being sick. How did women stand this?
"Forget the coffee." She said when she came back. Suddenly, coffee was off the Sam Carter menu. Even the smell made her feel violently ill. "I'm sorry Jack, I can't stand the smell." She ran upstairs again.
While she was gone Jack threw away the coffee and opened the window. At the back of a cupboard he found some air freshener which he sprayed liberally around the room. He would miss the coffee but would live.
"Do you want to go for a long walk today? Are you up to it? There's somewhere I'd like to take you" He said when she eventually returned, sounding eager. She didn't want to disappoint him. "It doesn't have to be today. We have other days."
"I feel like this a lot of mornings Jack. I'll be ok; just give me some time. Where are we going?"
"That would be telling. You'll love it. It’s a long walk, but worth it." He considered and added. "Um, we need to camp overnight if we want to spend a bit of time there. I've only got one small tent, Sam. Are you up for sharing? I don't want to…" he looked uncomfortable, "impose anything on you."
"It ok Jack. Really it is. Sounds good." She smiled.
"Would you rather go another day?"
Jack was delighted when she shook her head in the negative. He'd made up his mind that he would take Sam to Charlie's Place after all. It had become overwhelmingly important. He had to introduce her to Charlie. Jack told Charlie everything, unable to tell almost everyone else. He'd come closest to that with Sam but he still had a lot of secrets. She would never know most of them. No one would. Only Charlie.
Charlie knew about his divorce from Sara. He'd been troubled when he received the divorce papers for signature and gone to consult him; venting his frustration, disappointment and anger. He'd told him how he had felt when Charlie had died; how depressed and suicidal he had become and how the SGC and his team had given him a new life and something worth living for. He had spoken of Ba'al, his torture and many deaths. Charlie knew about a lot of things, including how Jack felt about Sam, although not lately. Jack hadn't been there for a while. Charlie was far better than Confession. Often, Jack's visits to the waterfall helped settle his wounded and troubled soul and mind.
Given Sam hadn't eaten breakfast, he packed some extra supplies. It was a long walk on an empty stomach and he planned to coax her to eat en route. They set out heading north along the lake. Jack told her little stories on the way. He'd fallen from that tree and broken his arm. He'd kissed a girl for the first time just over there when he was five years old. A few things like that. She'd learned more about his childhood over the last couple of days than he had ever previously revealed.
He also mentioned some father and son incidents too; he and Charlie. They had gone camping for the first time just a little further down that path, Jack told her. Charlie had been very young and Sara had insisted they not stray too far away from the house. She hadn't slept all night worrying about father and son and big black bears. His stories warmed her. Jack would be such a wonderful father.
She admired the countryside and Jack pointed out things she would never have noticed or known about, like a plant that was great for easing the pain of stings, or the butterfly you rarely saw in these parts. It was a revelation and she was very happy to be here. After about an hour they reached a large stream which emptied into the lake.
"Let's sit for a while before we move on, huh?" He said, thinking that Sam might need a rest. Coaxing time. "Food?" Jack was pleased when she nodded assent without any argument and reached for one of the rucksacks, digging around inside. "Ham sandwich?" It seemed an appropriate breakfast. She nodded once more and he made it for her.
"What else have you got in these bags?"
"Ah, that would be telling." She reached for hers and he stopped her hand, waggling his finger at her. "No peeking. That would be cheating."
"It's ok. I like surprises. As long as they're good ones." Jack merely smiled enigmatically.
She trusted that he knew she'd like whatever it was and ate the sandwich without speaking further. When she finished he made her eat another.
"They were good. Thanks, just what the doctor ordered."
"You know me. Mr 'be prepared for anything'."
"So, shall we go?"
"Hey, you don't want to get indigestion do ya?"
"Jack I've walked miles on a full stomach and you know it. If you are going to handle me with kid gloves all the time then it'll drive me nuts!"
"You haven't given me much option recently Sam." He stated sadly.
She saw the pain flicker through his eyes once more and knew she had a lot to make up for. Could she do it? It scared her that her mood might change again at any time. She did not have total control, although thought that the counselling had helped a little. Dr Zeller was extremely good and Sam was relieved her counsellor was a woman. She could never have opened up to Mackenzie like she had started to with Zeller.
"I'm sorry Jack."
"We'll deal with it Sam, Whatever it is, we'll overcome it." Since she'd mentioned spending the rest of her life with him he'd become pretty confident that they would; somehow.
When they set off this time he headed upstream and they stopped a couple of times along the way, Jack not wishing to tire her.
"We're nearly there." He seemed excited.
Then they came out into a large clearing and the waterfall was in front of them. It emptied into a pool. The place was delightful. Sam gasped and Jack smiled.
"Come." He took her by the hand and led her round the side of the pool, closer to the waterfall. "Let's sit."
After a while he started to speak, needing to tell her a little about this place.
"This is our secret place, Charlie and I. It belonged to us and no one else ever came here with us, not even Sara." Sam's eyes widened. He'd brought her to somewhere his wife didn't come? She was sincerely flattered.
"It's lovely Jack. Magical." He was pleased she said that because he thought it magical too.
"These days I mainly come here to talk to Charlie, to think, recover my equilibrium. I tell him everything." He surprised her by being so open. "I needed to introduce Charlie to you. That's why I wanted to come. Does that sound screwy?" She shook her head. "That's a relief. MacKenzie would probably think so." He laughed and took her hand. If he hadn't believed she would think like that he would never have started this.
"Then we're both screwy." She said leaning towards him and kissing his lips. Although fleeting, it was the first time their mouths had touched since her return. It meant a lot to Jack and his grin grew wider. "You have to be to do our job." He nodded. That might be true.
"Do you want lunch?" He asked, suddenly nervous.
"No. Introduce me to Charlie first. Or are you really famished?"
She gave him a way out, knowing the kind of guy he was. Sam could feel the tension in him. Nerves. He was silent for a long time then looked out over the waterfall. He knew that with her here he couldn't talk to Charlie as he might if he was alone, but that could wait; this was important to him.
"Hi Charlie. I'm back at last. It's been too long." Jack rubbed at Sam's hand absently as he spoke. "This is Sam. I told you she was beautiful. I'm sure you'll agree now you've seen her."
Sam was astonished he had already spoken about her to his son in this secret place. The last time he'd been here was a considerable time ago, before they'd got together. She hadn't imagined him talking about her to anyone back then.
"She's special to me, son, you know that already. I love her very much. I wanted to tell you more about her, what's happened with us since I was here, but I can't say too much because she's with me."
Near the end he used a conspiratorial whisper, as if Sam couldn't hear him, only Charlie. She smiled. It touched her heart like nothing else she had experienced. Jack turned his head to face her.
"Sometimes when I see her and she turns towards me smiling… the world stops."
Oh boy! She thought. Talk about romantic. Her heart fluttered. Jack turned back to the waterfall.
"We're together now Charlie and that has made me a very happy man - most of the time." She noticed him smile and when she squeezed his hand he looked at her again, deep into her eyes. "You should know that I hope to spend my whole life with her, if she'll have me. I wasn't so sure before but now I believe she will. We've got some issues to sort out, who hasn't? The most important thing is that we're together, and stay that way."
Jack thought it sounded terribly corny. Oy! What was he doing? Sam would think he'd flipped. Of course she didn't think that at all. He had used few words but had expressed so much with them. She was moved beyond belief. Jack paused, uncertain how Sam would react to what he needed to say next, so looked towards the pool again.
"Your mom got married again, Charlie. His name's Glenn. Yeech! I know, some name huh? I'm sure he's a nice guy. He can't help his parent's poor taste. I haven't met him so I can't be sure, but your mom would pick a good guy, wouldn't she? Hey, she picked me! Well, hopefully she's acquired better taste since then."
"I want you to know that she still loves you very much. This new guy will never take that love away Charlie, just as nothing will ever take mine away. I hope you are happy for your mom, and Sam and I. I know you'd love Sam as much as I do, and she would have adored you."
Jack paused for a long while, as if collecting his thoughts. Sam hoped he might say more, but there was a limit to Jack's openness. Only in private with Charlie did he reveal his deepest thoughts. Charlie was his confessor and Jack was constrained by Sam's presence. He didn't regret bringing Sam, not for one minute, but promised himself that one day he would come back on his own to tell Charlie everything. Eventually he continued, but only to say goodbye.
"I think I need to go now; entertain our guest. I love you Charlie and promise I'll be back soon. Take care of yourself, you hear?"
Sam felt tears welling up in her eyes. When Jack turned back to her she saw his matched hers. She reached up a thumb to wipe away the wetness that had gathered in his eyes.
"I do love you Jack, despite everything. I wanted Charlie to know it too." She added and, smiling, he ventured a brief kiss on her lips. She let him. "That was beautiful Jack. Moving."
"Thank you ma'am." He coughed to cover his embarrassment, then continued. "Now food." He rubbed his hands together gleefully. There it was, the food thing again. He had to joke, had to say something that detracted from the him he'd exposed so wonderfully to her.
The rucksack contained a cornucopia. Cooked chicken, pasta salad, a cool bag holding some white wine, even unbreakable glasses, plates and real knives and forks. When had he made this? This morning?
"It tastes great Jack." He was pleased to see her tuck in with gusto.
"There's still bread and ham, and I brought fruit for dessert; cherries. I hope I protected them from getting squashed. Hank gave 'em to me especially for us. Oh, and I've got some cheese."
"A banquet in my honor?"
After lunch they sat back and just looked at the scenery. Eventually Sam spoke.
"It's wonderful here Jack. Minnesota, the lake, this place, the cabin." He smiled, slightly dreamy.
"I love this place, and the cabin. It's like a small chunk of heaven that I can visit whenever I like. My granddaddy built it, my mom was raised in it - I almost might as well have been. I have roots are here and I'm proud of that." Sam's mouth turned up into the most glorious smile as she listened to him.
"You should be." She replied, then looked out over the water. "How deep is the water here Jack?"
"About 2 to 3 feet. Not that deep. And there's fish. Why?"
"Fancy skinny dipping? I do."
Abruptly she started to strip off.
"Oh come on Jack, don't be a spoil sport. It may not be deep but it's deep enough. It'll be fun."
Jack rarely saw anyone in these parts but it didn't mean they didn't come here. He figured that a queue of his neighbours would gather just as he took off his pants. Sam squealed as she entered the water.
"It's cold Jack!" Oh yeah? Go figure! "But it's lovely. Come on!"
Oh, what the hell? Jack started to strip off and was soon as naked as her, gasping with cold as he joined her. By now Sam was splashing around in the water, swimming in the shallow depths like a water nymph.
It didn't take long to get used to the temperature as they swam a little and splashed each other with water like a couple of kids. Jack had to resist the urge to take her in his arms and try to seduce her. Unexpectedly she approached, encircling her arms around his neck and kissing him. A real kiss, tongue and all. After the initial shock he reciprocated. As he was naked it was impossible to hide his desire from her. He was getting excited. When her hands started caressing him intimately he stopped her. Way too excited.
"Sam I…" She put her hand to his mouth to stop his words, and let him go, ignoring his confusion.
"What's that behind the waterfall." She asked brightly.
"That little cave? Charlie and I used to sit under there all the time. It can get a little damp."
"We're already wet." She giggled. It was good to see her looking so happy. "I wanna go look."
She waded over to the waterfall, moving under the flowing water of the falls as if under a shower then jumping away again quickly, screeching loudly.
"That's cold!" Jack laughed and she reached her hand to him. "Come on Jack." She pulled him in with her under the freezing falls. "I'll teach you to laugh at me flyboy!"
It was freezing! Sam thought she had teased him enough, and was frozen herself, so led him by the hand out from under the falls, towards the little beach that was at one side of the cave. She had noticed that his desire was dampened by the experience under the falls and that had not been her intention. She closed the gap between them and a small smile touched his lips as she kissed him again, her hands starting to explore his body with expertise. Oh my!
Sam?" He was panting, "If you don't want me to make love to you you'd better stop me right now." He whispered.
"I want you to make love to me Jack." She replied.
He was stunned, had hardly been expecting it here and now, but was more than happy to comply. Jack was getting excited again; it seemed so long since they'd had sex and he missed it. Although he'd been celibate for years, once they'd started making love he'd got totally hooked on her and craved the intimacy. If he wasn't careful this was going to be over way too quickly. Calm down Jack, control yourself, take deep breaths and recite nursery rhymes or something, he told himself.
He pulled her closely to him, taking her lips into a kiss, caressing her soft skin in places he knew brought her pleasure and determined that she enjoy their lovemaking as much as he did. When the kiss stopped, a sudden thought momentarily panicked her.
"Jack, do you mind us doing this here? If this place is sacred to you and Charlie… I don’t want to spoil anything Jack." Far from spoiling anything he thought she was offering him the icing on his cake. "Maybe its about time Charlie learned a thing or two." He replied jauntily. "Sam, you're sure this is what you want? I don't…" He could say no more as her lips stopped his words.
So they made love on the little beach next to Charlie's secret place, the little cave where he and his son had so frequently sat together. Jack was very gentle, taking his time. He thought that was what she would need after her recent violent experiences and was thrilled when she enjoyed it. Things were definitely looking up.
"Now that's what I call fishing!" He whispered to her afterwards and she giggled a response. "After what you told me I figured it would be a long time before we did that again. You're an amazing woman Sam."
He held her close and stroked her hair with his long slender fingers, marvelling at the strength of the woman who had chosen him to be her mate. Chosen him! Not for the first time he was awed that he had been so lucky to find her and to discover that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.
Sam had been very nervous but tried not to show it. The whole atmosphere of the place, Jack's behaviour since she'd arrived, his words and actions, had inspired her to suggest it. Uncertainty, and memory of the violence that had been visited upon her, made her quiver with the fear of it. She had steeled herself to do it, for Jack's sake, in the full knowledge that he wouldn't want that. It was part of what had prompted her. Had he made the attempt, she probably would have spurned him.
It was an act of self sacrifice but she would never reveal that to him. She had not expected to enjoy it, saw it purely as one of the steps required to start repairing their relationship. It was like falling off a bicycle, wasn't it? You had to get back on otherwise you would fear it forever.
Jack had been so gentle, so loving and giving, that, to her surprise, she had enjoyed it after all. For him it had been an act of love, not of self gratification; securing her enjoyment had overridden his own desire. This was one of the many things she loved about Jack, and that would have surprised those people who knew him only as the hard nosed, tough and cynical Colonel he portrayed himself to be. The more he revealed of himself, the more she loved and admired him.
They would need to set up camp soon so they reluctantly left the little beach and allowed themselves to dry off in the sun, while it still held any power. Jack had not packed towels, although it appeared he had thought of almost everything else. Much to Jack's relief they managed to get dressed again without any of his neighbours, or another living soul, dropping by. At least he was saved that embarrassment.
They set to the task of making camp and building a fire in a safe place, where they did not risk the possibility of starting a blaze that could ravage the forest.
"So what about food Jack? You didn't bring your fishing gear so I guess fish is off the menu?" She asked. "At least that kind of fish." She added with a small grin on her face, alluding to the euphemistic use of the term.
"I could find a way to catch fish if that's what you want. A rod is not the only way you know." He replied knowingly, winking and causing her to giggle at his double entendre. Sam didn't doubt it. Jack was a man who would probably survive almost any disaster in any environment. Survival skills were one of his areas of expertise. "But actually, I did have something else in mind."
His cool bag revealed two large steaks and he'd also brought some green salad leaves, a small bottle of dressing and a rather larger bottle of red wine. Then he withdrew one of those small disposable aluminum type barbecues that you get at the supermarket. Sam laughed thinking the rucksacks akin to Mary Poppins's bag; they seemed to contain a never ending supply of good things. It prompted her to hum the tune to "A Spoonful of Sugar" from the kid's movie, which made Jack laugh. He quipped that the packs they took on missions held a lot more than these, which was true.
Jack cooked the steaks to perfection and they happily sat eating them with the salad and wine as the sun went down. Sam thought he had been right in saying she would love the surprises. He was full of them today.
Much later they withdrew to the small tent, having not much option but to lie close together, which was not an unpleasant prospect to either of them. When he had suggested this trip, Jack had feared Sam may not want to be this close, despite what had happened the previous two nights. Here, there was no where else for her to go if she felt the need to. His fear had passed with their actions behind the waterfall. Neither made any attempt to repeat that experience, just sleeping soundly in each others arms.
When Jack woke next morning his heart soared at the feel and smell of her next to him and the memory of the previous day. It had been almost perfect, nearly making them both forget the reality of their situation and the difficult decisions that now had to be made. They still had a few days before they need worry about reality, although he knew that Sam's mood could suddenly swing and bring them there a lot sooner than that. The only reminder was Sam's morning sickness. She disappeared into the woodland but Jack could still hear her in the quiet of the place.
She once again refused breakfast and Jack resolved to stop and feed her on the way back. They packed up the camp, ensuring they were leaving nothing behind to spoil the landscape, or smoulder into a fire.
"Can we just sit and look for a while before we leave Jack?"
"There's no hurry Sam."
So they sat holding hands without speaking, Sam leaning her head on Jack's shoulder. He changed the hand in which he held hers and put his arm around her shoulder. It felt so comfortable and right. A good while later she suggested they set off and they ambled slowly back towards the cabin, Jack taking her on a detour en route so they could see other parts of this wonderful place and not wholly retrace their steps.
They got back and did all the practical things, unpacking the remains from their rucksacks, disposing of rubbish, topping up the wood needed for the fire and stove and the fuel for the generator. By then it was passed time for lunch. He figured Sam must be starving as he never had persuaded her to eat anything yet today. However, she picked at her food, eating very little, and it worried him. He refused to nag her, yet. Later he would ensure she ate properly, as a pregnant woman should. He was very pleased, therefore when she asked for food that night.
"Jack, I'm starting to get hungry. What are we gonna have for dinner?"
"What would you like?"
"I don't know. What you got? Do you want me to cook?"
"No. I'll do it."
"Then surprise me. I'd like to take a bath; lie and soak for a while."
"Ok. You do that and I'll get dinner."
He could hear her humming happily to herself as she lay relaxing in the bath, and was tempted to go upstairs and poke his head around the bathroom door, but resisted that. Then he could hear her pottering about upstairs getting ready. She took a while and he wondered what she was doing; Sam never normally took ages getting dressed like some women could.
Eventually he heard he clattering somewhat noisily down the stairs and was curious as what was making so much noise so left the kitchen to take a look. He gaped and dropped the wooden spoon he was holding in his hand, surprised at her appearance.
"Wow!" He exclaimed, unable to take his eyes from her.
Sam wore a long, flowing black dress and high heels, had put on make up and fixed her hair. She looked dressed to go out for a night out at a good restaurant, or dancing.
"You… You…" He stammered. "You look… amazing Sam. A little overdressed for the wilds of Minnesota, maybe?"
"But not a little overdressed for you Jack." She beamed at him and took his hand, gripping it gently. "I just thought you deserved… well…" She shrugged. "I packed it just in case."
Jack pulled her into a hug, totally bowled over that she had dressed up like this for him.
"Thank you Jack." She whispered.
"Thank you? What for Sam?"
"For being there for me. For putting up with me. For being my friend. For loving me." His responding smile was slightly lopsided and filled with his innate shyness.
"I feel a bit underdressed here Sam. Do you mind if I have a quick shower before we eat? You smell wonderfully clean. I don’t think you can say that about me." He turned up his nose as if he could smell something horrible and she giggled.
"Sure. What did you make?"
"Pasta and tomato sauce. Ma O'Neill's old family recipe. Actually, she got it from Mrs Smith up the street, who was actually Italian and married a Smith. Why am I telling you all this? Shower." And he disappeared leaving Sam feeling mildly amused.
When he came down he had dressed up. He had no clothes in Minnesota that complemented Sam's beautiful gown but did his best with black trousers, black shoes, blue shirt and a tie. A tie? Sam was amazed. Jack O'Neill wore ties as little as he could get away with. It was grey and very stylish with the blue and black. The shirt was actually tucked into his trousers instead of worn loose as was his norm off duty. He had made an effort and Sam thought he looked handsome, sexy and urbane.
He cooked the pasta, opening a bottle of red wine and pouring two large glasses.
"Oh! Maybe you shouldn't be drinking." It had only now occurred to him.
"Probably not." She said carelessly taking a sip. " A little probably won't hurt."
She was trying to persuade herself, feeling the need for an alternative drug to caffeine. Alcohol would do although it didn't have the same effect as coffee. Jack cursed himself for his thoughtlessness but let her have her way. In the end she hardly touched it.
It was a warm evening and they ate outside. Jack knew that once it got dark the external lighting would attract all sorts of pesky bugs. So, instead of the lights, he lit lots of citronella candles and put them everywhere to keep the horrible things at bay. It created a very romantic, and fragrant, atmosphere as they ate and listened to music on the portable CD player he had brought out with them. Sam seemed happy and that made him content. That, and the fact that he now knew she still desired him, started to restore his battered ego.
After they'd eaten he had a crazy yearning and dashed into the house to find something in the small CD collection he kept there. As he looked for suitable music, Sam crept up behind him and wrapped herself against his back, arms entwined around him. He laughed but continued his search. Ah, there! He thought, satisfied, and twisted in her arms to face her.
"Come." He took her hand and led her outside once more, placing the CD in the player. "Dance?" He asked.
Sam was surprised by both the question and the music as it started He'd chosen big band; Glen Miller. It was perfect for dancing slow and close, which was obviously what he wanted, but she'd never thought it Jack's style. Clasping him tightly she lay her head on his shoulder.
Swaying rhythmically to the music, their cheeks lightly touching, they assailed each other's senses with their respective scents. So entranced by the dancing were they that hardly a word was exchanged as they danced. When the music stopped a while later, Jack stopped dancing but Sam held onto him tightly, making him move to the non-existent music.
"Don't stop Jack." She said, encouragingly.
"But the music…?" Sam smiled and squeezed him gently.
"Music? Who needs music?"