Never Alone: Fade-Out To Black
Jack stopped and watched Sam bent to her task of unpacking and arranging his things. Her back was turned but he could see the white of her neck, her blonde hair clinging to that adorable nape, her hands holding and examining the contents of his life.
Strong emotion overpowered his senses and he looked on helplessly, gulping it back. There was something so right about this situation. Jack shivered with an ache of longing that arced right through him and, before he knew it, spoke words that he had been afraid to utter and had been reserving for the right time and place.
"Sam, will you marry me?"
The words seemed to echo loudly around the silent room and he thought 'Crap!', shocked he'd said it and feeling his face redden with heat, 'where did that come from? This so isn't the moment!'
Momentarily frozen, Sam turned to face him, open-mouthed.
"W-what?" she stammered.
Uncertain what that reaction meant, and before she could say more, Jack hurried on nervously. He'd asked, it was too late to take it back and, frankly, he didn't want to, even if he wouldn't necessarily have chosen this particular moment to pop the all important question.
"I know I'm not perfect, and I'm not a real great catch, you could do a lot better for crying out loud, but… moving to this house and… this should be our house and… crap, I so meant to do this properly, just like it should be: flowers, a romantic dinner, dancing, down on my knee. Shit, I really screwed up this time," he sighed heavily, warily glancing at Sam and then down at his feet. Sam moved towards him, grasping his shoulders and forcing him to meet her eyes.
"Jack, say it again."
"Um…" he started, momentarily unable to speak. Fear engulfed him and stopped his mouth. His proposal had simply tumbled out and in many respects that had been way easier than all previous plans he'd had to ask her. At least it was out and there was no going back, hiding, or prevaricating. But now he had time to reflect, his mouth went dry with terror and words failed him. What if she says no?
"Jack?" she prompted when he failed to repeat the question, breathless with anticipation.
"I-I, um… Will you marry me?"
Taking her hand he stared into her eyes with hope and fear. Jack knew he could have picked better words, a better location and a better time. This had so not been what he'd pictured, but it was out and all he needed now was her response. His stomach churned madly as he waited and Sam stroked his cheek wordlessly, grasping his head and kissing him. As their lips drew apart, she hugged him and whispered in his ear.
With the feeling that a huge weight had lifted from him, Jack pulled back and silently stared at her, drinking in her happy smile. She'd said yes! And she'd said it immediately, seemingly without any doubt. His heart pumped rapidly and he was hardly able to draw a breath in his excitement and joy and was unable to tear his eyes away from her beautiful face. She'd said yes!
With a thrill of pleasure, Sam watched the range of emotions that briefly passed over his so frequently imperturbable face. Elation and relief replaced the mixture of fear and hope she'd seen earlier. Then he hugged her again, gleefully swinging her around in his arms, and Sam returned his firm squeeze, as ecstatic as her lover. Jack was unable to recall the last time he had felt this happy.
Remembering the ring, he groped in his pocket where he had kept it safely so he didn't lose track of it during the move and Sam watched in rapt fascination as he opened the box and removed its contents, taking her left hand in his and placing the ring on her finger, and then touching his lips to her knuckles. Her heart was filled with joy. He'd asked, at last, he'd done it! Holy Hannah, she was going to become Mrs O'Neill with two lls!
Thus it was that, amongst the chaos and clutter of his move and the as yet unopened packing crates, Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill became engaged to be married. The ironic twist was that Sam actually found it to be quite romantic.
She stared at the ring for a while and then smiled and threw her arms around Jack, indicating that they should take a break and sit for a while. They leaned against a heavy packing case and Jack took her left hand in his, kissing it gently.
"It's a gorgeous ring, Jack," she proclaimed with a joyful smile.
"You think so?"
"Beautiful," she declared.
"Cassie thought you'd like it," he smiled.
"Cassie? She knows about this?"
"Well, she kinda stumbled across it at Christmas," he explained a little sheepishly.
That surprised Sam who then wondered how long ago Jack had bought the ring and how long he had been planning to propose. Refraining from comment, she kissed him instead and then Jack's arm snaked around her and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"I love you Jack," she whispered.
"I hope so. We'll be married for a long time."
"Not so long, only forever," she responded with a smile, grasping his hand and squeezing and then absently rubbing it with her thumb.
"You said yes," he said, still a little disbelieving that his good fortune had held, his stomach continuing to churn but with excitement rather than terror.
"You didn't think I would?"
"I didn't know for sure. I wasn't taking it for granted. I know you love me but spending the rest of your life with me? That's one hell of a commitment. I'm not an easy man…" and then he chuckled, suppressing the fears that lay deep in his heart, "Trust Jack O'Neill to pop the question in the middle of all this mess. Sam, you deserved something so much more… romantic."
"This is pretty romantic."
"It is? You women sure have a weird way of looking at romance."
"You didn't need to wine and dine me, Jack, you never had to do that."
"I didn't? Sheesh! Just think of all the money I could have saved," he joked and Sam giggled.
"Not that I have any objections to being wined and dined, by the way," she added hastily.
"Didn't think so. I'll make it up to you, honey, I promise."
"Make it up to me? You have nothing to make up to me for. Never think that. I'm happy, Jack. Happy you asked me here and now. It kind of seems fitting don't you think? Moving onwards, and upwards," she laughed softly and Jack smiled.
"It does seem kind of fitting, yeah. But I had so many ideas about how to ask and where. I wanted it to be so perfect. Then I go and let my mouth run away with me and ask you now, of all the dumb things to do. Jimmy promised us free champagne if I proposed in his restaurant."
"Exactly how many people knew you were going to ask me?" she queried, eying him with amusement.
"Oh… just about everyone apart from you, I guess," he replied with a grin, "and me actually. I knew I wanted to but didn't know if I should."
"I just… well, I… there's the plucking up the nerve and the fear you'd say no part and then there's the 'am I really the right guy for Sam?' thing. So it's kind of tough, you know?"
Sam's stomach lurched at the notion of the fear a man must feel about popping that all-important question. It wasn't something she'd ever really considered before.
"My poor darling Mr Scarecrow," she said sympathetically, kissing his neck and moving up to his cheek. He turned his head so they could lock lips for a while. "By the way, it's me who gets to decide whether or not you're the right man, Jack, and you are," she added reassuringly, "I was never going to say no. This relationship is special, and so are you."
Jack responded by grinning inanely and looking deliriously happy and Sam was thrilled that she could bring him so much joy because it seemed like he'd had way too many joyless years. He deserved so much more and she hoped that she'd be able to provide that.
"You know, I was watching you unpack my stuff," he said softly, "and… Jeez… it just seemed so right that you were here doing that and… I got caught up in the moment. I've been wanting to ask for, well, a long time, and I've been thinking about you a lot lately a-and, as I said, caught up in the moment."
Realising he was prattling, Jack stopped talking and Sam was amused by his boyish nerves and exhilaration, wondering whether she looked equally as goofy. She sure felt like she did. Jack wasn't the only one whose heart hammered or whose stomach was plagued by excited nervousness.
"I'm glad. I wanted you to ask me for such a long time. I wanted that a lot."
"You did?" he said, responding with a gentle squeeze. "You could have asked me. I'm just sayin'…" he added.
"I wish I had that courage."
"You have plenty of courage."
"For that it takes a special kind. So thanks for finding yours, Jack."
His happy, self-satisfied smile made her heart leap. Sam thought his was the best smile ever. When his face dimpled and his eyes sparkled with pleasure it delighted her. She so loved that smile and always had.
"You’re the courageous one wanting to take on a guy like me," he responded, "but I guess you know the worst so I hope you’re going into this thing with your eyes open."
"So that’s why you revealed so much and took me to Chicago?" she queried and he nodded.
"Although I think you got to know a little more than I really wanted you to know, Sam," he said ruefully.
"But I’m still here, aren’t I? I might know the worst, Jack, but I know the best too." She pondered for a while and added, "I guess that means you had in mind to marry me all along, huh?"
"I said always, didn’t I? And I meant it."
"Gee, Mr Scarecrow, th-that’s…" she was visibly moved by that statement. Her voice shook a little and Sam couldn’t find the right words, "God, I adore you," she managed to say, her face lightening up with a broad smile.
"I’m not sure a humble scarecrow like me is worthy of adoration, Dorothy, but I’ll take love, respect, trust, friendship and anything else you have on offer," he replied light-heartedly.
"I’ll willingly give you all of those in abundance, Jack, for the rest of my life."
"Right backatchya, Sam. I guess that’s good if we’re getting married."
They sat silently for a while, lost in thought as they contemplated the turn of events, and their feelings about them.
'Engaged to Jack O'Neill! Oh my god!' Sam thought, recalling all those times of wanting and thinking that this day would never come.
This was her third engagement and she hadn't yet made it down the aisle. She was hoping that this was going to be third time lucky. It seemed so clear that this was meant to be; that Jack was the one and always had been. Inside her head, she could hear Betsy laughing her ass off, but it certainly seemed that way to Sam. What a crazy world. She wondered what Jack would think when she told him that story.
Should she tell him? It worried her that the story highlighted that age difference he seemed to be a little paranoid about.
"So, third time lucky for you Sam, huh?" he said as if reading her thoughts, and Sam's eyes widened with surprise.
"God, I was just thinking that! This really is it, Jack. This time it's for real."
"It had better be! I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to grow old and cranky with you."
"Old and cranky? You've got some catching up to do," he retorted.
"You're not old."
"But I am cranky?"
"Can I take the Fifth Amendment on that one?" she joked, eliciting a smile from her fiancée. Fiancée? That sounded so good that she repeated it a few times in her head. Jack O'Neill's fiancée. Wow! Didn't that beat all? The conversation paused for a short time while Sam caressed Jack's chest.
"Do you believe in fate?" she asked tentatively.
"Not really, I believe we make our own fate," he responded, "Why?"
Slightly nervously, Sam proceeded to recount the tale of their previous encounter many years before and how she had secretly spied on him around the base and her heart had broken when he'd moved on. Jack listened with increasing incredulity and surprise, looking suitably stunned and saying nothing, but with mouth opening and closing like a fish trying to breath out of water.
"I don't suppose you would remember that," she said when finished, uncertain what thoughts might be going through his often unpredictable mind.
"Actually, now that you mention it, I do remember. A beautiful blue eyed pubescent girl whose stare and smile totally freaked me out! That was you? Oh my god! You were 13? I was… Crap!"
Sam knew what he was thinking and squeezed him gently.
"It was intended as a nice little story: something I could never have told you before you asked me to marry you, Jack; something secret from my past. It wasn't intended to make you anxious."
"It's a great story, but a little freaky, don't you think?" he replied, catching his breath as he struggled to recover from the shock the tale provoked.
"I thought exactly that when I joined the SGC and was assigned to your team, and I still do."
"You remembered me?"
"Jack O'Neill with two lls? Yeahsureyabetchya, Jack, I never forgot you. Betsy thinks that maybe it was kismet after all, although she didn't think so at the time."
"She was the brunette?" he gulped and Sam nodded, "This just gets curiouser and curiouser. Any time now I'm gonna find myself following a white rabbit down a hole. Let's hope I find some cake too, and maybe a bottle with Jack Daniels inside. I'll have a large one!"
Sam laughed in appreciation of his joke but realised that Jack was genuinely a little spooked and his jocularity was intended as cover for some complex emotions and thoughts.
"I didn't mean to freak you out. I would have told you but… I could never have told you before in case you thought… Jack, what do you think?"
"For crying out loud, I don't know! It's confused the hell out of me, as usual."
"Don't pretend to be a simple man because I know better, remember?"
"You were only 13? Crap! I was close to 30. Captain Jack O'Neill. It was a lifetime ago. Almost like a separate lifetime."
"You were so handsome I thought my heart would burst. It's that knock 'em dead smile and those twinkling eyes. Does it for me every time. Betsy thought you were too old for me but I never did. I knew I'd grow up one day and that wouldn't matter, and I'd make you mine."
"I guess you did just that, Sam."
"I know it's crazy, and kind of embarrassing now I come to think about it. I never really imagined this would happen when I walked into that briefing room that day. Really I didn't. But then as our feelings for each other grew I began to wonder about it. Does it bother you?"
"It's a great story."
"That's not an answer."
"It bothers me that you were only 13 years old. It confirms how nuts this whole thing is. I'm way too old for you Sam."
"I so nearly didn't tell you about it in case you thought so."
Jack eyed her speculatively and a crooked smile appeared on his face.
"The coincidence of the whole thing is way more than kind of weird but if the age issue doesn't bother you then I'm not gonna let it bother me either. I've tried so hard to forget my hang ups about that because I love you and can't envisage a life without you anymore. I don't even want to contemplate what that would be like." He brushed his hand across her cheek. "It's way too late to back away now. We're engaged."
Kissing her tenderly, his eyes met and held her gaze and he chuckled. Sam raised her eyebrows in query.
"So you've been in love with me since you were 13?" he teased.
"I wouldn't put it quite like that."
"How would you put it? Hot for me? Crazy about me?"
"Jack O'Neill, I do believe that this is going to your head," she responded, slapping him playfully.
"You betchya!" he exclaimed with a huge grin, "Exactly what were you thinking that day you walked into the briefing room?"
"Oh, as I walked in I was really nervous. I so wanted to make a success of that posting and to impress. Not because of how I had felt when I was a teenager, although I can't say it didn't cross my mind a number of times, but because you were a Colonel in the US Air Force and, from everything I'd heard about you and your record, I respected the hell out of you. As I walked through the door I took a deep breath and thought something like 'Holy Hannah, Jack O'Neill with two lls! Don't screw this up Samantha Carter!' and then plastered a bright, confident look on my face and walked in."
"Oh?" Jack said with a laugh, squeezing her hand gently, "And what did you think when you saw me?"
"Um, 'Holy Hannah, Jack O'Neill with two lls and he's as hot as ever!' Or something like that anyway," she smirked.
"I've aged a lot since then," he commented.
"And you're still as hot as ever, Jack O'Neill with two lls."
She squirmed out of his arms and straddled him, pulling him towards her for a passionate kiss and clinch and then fondling his chest and back under his t-shirt.
"Whatchya doin'?" he asked with a squeak.
"Here?" he muttered breathlessly.
"Yep, right here."
"We'll never get this stuff unpack…"
She stopped his words with her mouth and Jack participated wholeheartedly, barely able to contain his suddenly lustful desires.
"Screw the unpacking!" Sam exclaimed.
"I'd rather screw you," Jack declared, raising no further objections to her suggestion of a sexual union right there on his dusty, box littered floor. What a way to christen the place! "Is this the fade-out to black part of the movie?" he joked with a leer.
"Yeahsureyabetchya!" Sam exclaimed with a licentious smile. "Stay there!" she added demandingly, and got up.
Earlier, she had spotted a cushion at the top of one of the unpacked boxes and she got that now, also picking up the blanket that lay beneath it in the same box. Returning to Jack, she wordlessly placed the pillow under his head, and the blanket by their side, just in case it got a little chilly after she stripped them both.
Then she straddled him again, making him a very happy man with kisses and caresses and by taking control of a slow seduction, which she paused only to remove their clothing. Afterwards, she sunk down next to him and Jack reached for the blanket, pulling it over them to supplement the body heat that kept them cosy and warm and then pulled her into his arms again, kissing her neck and shoulder.
"Wow!" he exclaimed, a simplistic reaction to such a complex and amazing thing. "You did good, Sam, real good," he added.
"It was pretty damned good," she agreed with a barely heard murmur, burying her face into his neck.
They stayed like that, silently, for a considerable time, enjoying the feel of simply holding each other. Sam was the first to rouse by gently squeezing him and kissing his bare chest.
"Hate to spoil the moment, Jack, but I think we should get up. This floor isn't exactly comfortable."
"In a minute. I just want to hold my fiancée for a while. Fiancée. Hear that? Is that kinda weird or what?"
"Yes, it's kinda weird. Nice though. Wonderful actually."
"Very wonderful," he agreed, kissing the top of her head.
"We're never gonna get this unpacking done, Mr Scarecrow."
"Jeez, Dorothy, you always were far too practical. I don't really care about the unpacking. I'd way rather be cuddling you."
"Yes you do care, lazybones. Get that wonderful butt of yours off the floor and let's get dressed."
"Wonderful butt?" he grinned.
"Mmmm… you have a great ass, Jack O'Neill. I always vowed I'd marry a guy with a great ass, and now I will."
"Great Ass? Really?"
As if to confirm it she squeezed a butt cheek and in her hand and then gave it a pinch between her thumb and forefinger.
"Hey! Two can play at that kind of game!"
Jack started to tickle her in those ticklish places he had taken great pains to discover during their months together and Sam tried to fight him off but ended up giggling helplessly.
"Jack! Please, Jack! This floor so isn't the place," she begged.
"Then let's decamp to the bedroom."
"Are you serious?"
"Absolutely. C'mon," he said, demonstrating his intent by getting up, pulling her after him and leading her to the bedroom. Grasping her ass, he tugged her towards him.
"Oh my, you're getting horny again, aren't you?" she said.
"That didn't take long."
"For a man of my advanced years I have miraculous powers of recovery," he chuckled. "Cmon, and don't even mention unpacking. We'll get to it, eventually, but right now I'm thinkin' that it's time for this movie to fade-out to black again."
Sam chuckled, indicating acquiescence, and he gently urged her onto the bed, kneeling next to her and softly outlining her nipple with a fingertip and they made love again, ending up clasped tightly in each other's arms, blissfully happy and satisfied.
Later, as they showered together, although they embraced under the running water, touching, kissing, caressing and washing each other, neither of them were up to yet more sex. Each wrapped the other in a large fluffy towel and simply hugged and then got dressed, exchanging brief smiles and meaningful looks.
"To keep you happy," Jack said, "we'll unpack a few more boxes and then get changed and go out for dinner to celebrate. How about it?"
Sam readily agreed and when she eventually changed he noted with satisfaction that she wore her red suit and shoes, smiling at the memories that clothing provoked. Tempted though he was to forget the meal and take her into his arms for yet another seduction, his rumbling stomach made him dismiss such thoughts.
'Maybe later,' he thought.
They found a cosy, intimate restaurant in the Old Town of Alexandria and, when the proprietor discovered that they'd got engaged that very day, she gave them the wine on the house in celebration and put some romantic mood music on the CD player, looking on at the couple contentedly. It was clear that they were so very much in love and that made her shiver with delight; she loved a bit of romance.
"Toast to us," Jack said, raising a glass of wine, and they clinked glasses.
"To us," Sam agreed with a huge smile.
Jack and Sam ate heartily and well, not talking much over dinner, but frequently meeting each other's eyes and smiling, touching fingertips or briefly squeezing hands. They were sated, tired and happy.
When they returned home, they decided to go to bed almost immediately and Jack made his way to the bathroom. Quietly following, Sam stood in the doorway watching as Jack finished unpacking a forgotten box of toiletries, carefully placing everything in similar positions to those they had held in his house in Colorado.
Watching Jack busy himself made her smile and, with a slight feeling of disbelief, she was reminded that Jack had proposed and she had accepted. She would become Mrs O'Neill; it was like a dream. She just hoped she didn't wake up anytime soon.
Unusually, Jack hadn't realised she was watching. Normally he would have sensed her presence and looked around, but she figured that maybe he was as shell-shocked by the events of the day as she was. Sam arched her eyebrows in surprise when she saw Jack pick up her toothbrush and look at it goofily for a while before tenderly replacing it where it belonged. He would never have done that if he'd known he was being scrutinised and her heart leapt at his actions, so loving and sappy.
"The real thing is right here Jack," she said, making him jump. He turned towards her with a smile and some color rose in his cheeks.
"Caught me out, huh?"
She said nothing but simply smiled and walked towards him, placing one hand around his waist and softly stroking his cheek, and then hair, with the other. They stared into each other's eyes for a while, mesmerised, and Jack rested his forehead against hers and rubbed her back.
"Seen sense and changed your mind about becoming Mrs O'Neill yet?" he asked with a shaky and emotional whisper, as if the full import of what had happened had hit him at last.
"I'm never going to change my mind. Changed your mind about asking?"
"Looks like my toothbrush is going to stay there one heck of a long time, then."
"Yes, like forever," she agreed.
Jack grasped her face in his hands and locked eyes with her.
"Sam, if this has all gone too fast for you…"
"No! Jack, we're engaged."
"That's what I mean Sam, if it's too…"
"No, it isn't. I'm committed to you. I have been for a long time. You're never getting rid of me!" she grinned.
"That's good because I never want to."
"I'm so tired," she said with a yawn.
"Wanna turn in?"
She nodded wearily and they walked to the bedroom, Jack's arms grasping her waist.
'She is looking pretty damned hot, but no more sex today,' he thought regretfully, overcome by exhaustion.
They slipped between the sheets and Jack spooned against Sam's back, arms enfolding her, and she clutched his arm affectionately as he kissed her hair.
"Goodnight sweetheart, sweet dreams" he said.
"Goodnight my love, you too," she replied, and they fell asleep almost instantly.
And, after that momentous and memorable day, their dreams were indeed very sweet ones.