samandjack.net

Story Notes: SPOILERS: The First Commandment, Cold Lazarus, There But for the Grace of God, Point of View, Divide and Conquer, Stargate the Movie.

ARCHIVE: Sam and Jack and Heliopolis please.

DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

AUTHORS NOTES: This is in answer to Kat’s ‘1999 Sara challenge’. Write a fic where Jack meets Sam while still married to Sara. A HUGE thanks to Kes and Deb for beta’ing this for me!

FEEDBACK: Yes Please! I love to know what you think.


Jack walked into the function room, already hating it. He despised official functions and would never have gone if it weren’t for the fact that his best friend, Charlie Kawalsky, was receiving the Air Medal. Apparently there were quite a few officers receiving medals for their service in the Gulf. Jack had received his medal a few days ago in a private ceremony. Since he hadn’t officially been in Desert Storm, no one would ever see it.

He grimaced as his still healing body protested at standing still for too long. Of course the flight from Colorado Springs hadn’t helped, but his injuries did mean he had a further two months on medical leave. That was another reason for him attending the ceremony in Washington. Having been at home constantly since his release from hospital, his fights with Sara had become far too frequent. A fight had even erupted when he told her that he was going to DC. It seemed that was all he did now, fight with his wife about the stupidest things.

Moving further into the mix of people, Jack scanned the room for his elusive friend. That was when he saw her. She was breathtaking. Her hair was a brilliant gold, her eyes a sparkling blue. She wore her dress uniform, the skirt showing off her long legs, while the tailored jacket accentuated her trim figure. Then she smiled and Jack’s heart melted. Her eyes met his for an instant, her smile growing, before she turned her attention back to the General she was talking to.

“There you are, Jack!” Charlie called, walking in front of Jack as he neared him. “I thought for a minute, you weren’t coming.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, buddy. Although I may not have a home to go back to.”

Charlie grinned. “Sara wasn’t impressed?”

Jack chuckled. “You can say that again.”

As they talked, Jack tried to find the blonde woman again, but she’d moved away. He did see her about half an hour later. She was one of the officers receiving an Air Medal. That was how he discovered her name, Captain Samantha Carter. After the ceremony, he made a point of ‘running into her’ at the drinks table. He couldn’t explain it, but something about this woman captivated him. “Congratulations, Captain,” he said as he walked up beside her.

She looked up, surprised. “Ah... thank you, sir,” she replied with a smile.

“Jack O’Neill,” he told her as he held out his hand.

“Samantha Carter,” she said as she shook the offered hand.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He asked, indicating the punch, which was obviously free.

She laughed, a sound that sent shivers down Jack’s spine. “Thanks, but maybe I should be getting one for you.” She pointed to the sling holding his left arm.

“What this? Nah, I just wear it to pick up women.” She laughed again and Jack never wanted the sound to stop.

While he was asking the waiter for their drinks, Sam took the time to study the man in front of her. He was tall, a little bit older than her, with a weathered but still handsome face and the most gorgeous brown eyes. “There you go,” he said, interrupting her scrutiny as he handed her a drink.

“Thank you, sir.”

He smiled and indicated that they walk over to a corner, sitting in two empty seats. Jack groaned as he lowered himself, giving Sam a reassuring smile as she looked on concerned. “So, Samantha...”

“Call me Sam. I only get Samantha when I’m in trouble,” she told him with a laugh.

“Then you have to call me Jack. Sir makes me feel ancient.”

“Okay, Jack. Can I ask what happened to you? You look a little worse for wear.”

He chuckled. “Had a little disagreement with the ground. Funnily enough, I think the ground won.” He looked at her as she tried to hide a giggle.

As they continued to talk, both found themselves revealing things that they normally wouldn’t tell a perfect stranger. They both felt so at ease with each other and didn’t even realize it was getting late until Charlie came over to them. “Hey, Jack, there you are. I thought you’d bailed on me.”

“Wouldn’t do that to you, buddy. Sam, this is Major Charles Kawalsky. Charlie, Captain Samantha Carter.”

The two shook hands, Charlie giving her an appreciative look before grinning at Jack. “I’m off back to the hotel now. Don’t come knocking,” he said, nodding towards a young female lieutenant standing a few meters away.

Jack shook his head, chuckling. “Don’t get up to too much mischief, Charlie.”

“Always, Colonel. Captain, nice to meet you.”

Sam and Jack watched as Charlie put his arm around the lieutenant and they headed up the stairs and out of the room. Sam turned back to Jack. “How ‘bout a real drink?” She asked him. “I know this great little bar that’s just around the corner.”

Jack looked a little uncomfortable. “Look, I should probably tell you I’m married.” He was surprised it hadn’t come up earlier. Looking down at his left hand, he remembered that he wasn’t wearing his wedding band. They’d taken it off when he was in the hospital and the swelling hadn’t allowed him to put it back on.

Sam laughed. “I wasn’t suggesting we follow your friend’s lead and jump into the nearest bed. I’m engaged.” She held up her hand, showing him her ring and Jack couldn’t believe he’d missed it. A part of him was disappointed, but he quickly pushed that feeling aside as she continued talking.

“All I’m asking is a couple of drinks... and maybe a dance.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “A dance?”

Sam shrugged. “I love dancing, so sue me.”

“Alright, Captain. Lead the way.”

*****

“So,” Jack started after they’d ordered their drinks. “Where’s your fiancÚ? Shouldn’t he have been at your ceremony?”

Sam sighed. “He was supposed to be, but he was called away at the last minute. Some non existent mission that needed his expertise.”

“What, black ops?” He asked, surprised.

Sam nodded. “So, where’s your wife tonight?”

“Back in Colorado Springs with my son, Charlie.”

“Really? I’ll be in Colorado Springs in a few weeks.”

“Cool! Business or pleasure?”

Sam laughed. “Oh, most definitely business. I’m not sure how long I’ll be there for, at least six months. I even managed to snare an apartment.”

“What? Base accommodation not good enough for you?” Jack joked.

They continued talking about there lives, both feeling so relaxed with the other. Jack told Sam about his problems with his wife and Sam told him about her fiancÚ and his need for help. Jack thought the guy sounded a bit psychotic, but it was none of his business. As the night wore on, he found himself not wanting it to end. In all the time he’d been married, he’d never once thought about cheating on his wife. But he knew how easy it would be to act on the simmering attraction between himself and the woman in front of him. It was with some difficulty that they parted company, first exchanging numbers and a promise to meet when Sam went to Colorado Springs.

*****

Sam picked up the phone for the third time, finally dialing the number. She felt a bit weird ringing him at home, especially considering the thoughts she’d been having about him. She’d never fantasized about another man while making love before, but she found herself imagining it was Jack she was with, instead of her fiancÚ. Thankfully, she hadn’t called his name. She hated to think how Jonas would have reacted to that.

She listened to the ringing, her heart thumping in her chest as a thought flitted through her mind. What if his wife answered? She was relieved when the phone was answered by a young, male voice. “Hello?”

“Hi, you must be Charlie. Is your dad there?”

“Yep. Who’s calling?”

“Captain Carter.”

“Dad! Phone!” Jack heard Charlie call from the living room.

“Who is it, buddy?” He asked as he walked through the door.

“Captain Carter.”

It only took a fraction of a second for him to realize who it was, a smile lighting his face. “Sam!” He greeted when he’d taken the phone from his son.

“Hi, Jack. Wasn’t sure you’d remember who it was.”

‘Yeah, like I could forget,’ he thought to himself. “Of course I did. Are you in town?”

Sam smiled to herself, the sound of his voice giving her goose bumps. “Yeah. Got in last night,” she told him.

“Cool. How ‘bout we meet up later?” He asked hopefully.

“Sounds good. I’ve got a meeting this afternoon, but we could meet after that. Say about six?” Her heart thumped in her chest at the thought of seeing him again.

“That’s fine. Catch a cab to O’Malley’s. The driver should know where it is. We can have something to eat while we’re there and I’ll drive you home later.”

“Okay, see you then.”

“Bye, Sam.”

Jack hung up the phone and turned to see Sara sitting on the sofa behind him. “You do realize that my father’s coming over for dinner tonight?” Her tone made it clear that she was not happy with him.

He sighed. “He’s coming over to see you and Charlie. He’s not gonna miss me.”

Sara, for once, didn’t push the issue, instead moving on to another topic. “Who’s Sam Carter? I don’t think I’ve met him before.”

Jack was about to say ‘her’ but stopped himself. The last thing he wanted was an excuse for a fight, they did enough of that as it was. “No, you haven’t,” he told her before turning to Charlie. “Wanna go try out that new glove, buddy?”

*****

Jack arrived at O’Malley’s ten minutes late. As he walked through the door, he immediately spotted Sam playing pool with some airmen and an older woman, who was wearing civilian clothes. He watched as Sam leant over the table, enjoying the view as her dress skirt crept higher up her long legs. She sunk the eight ball, the airmen groaning as they opened their wallets and handed both women some money. “Does this mean you’re buying, Sam?” Jack asked as he walked up behind her.

She spun around and smiled as she saw him. “Hi, Jack!”

“Hi,” he replied, impulsively reaching for her and giving her a quick hug.

“You got your cast off,” Sam noticed, gently touching his left arm.

“Yeah, came off a couple of days ago. Physiotherapist won’t let me arm wrestle with it yet though.” He smiled as Sam started giggling. It was the sound that he had been dying to hear for weeks.

Feeling eyes on him, Jack turned to the older woman who was scrutinizing him. “Jack O’Neill,” he told her, offering his hand.

“Katherine Langford,” she returned, shaking the offered hand.

“Katherine’s helping us out a bit with our latest project,” Sam informed him.

“At NORAD?” he couldn’t help but ask. “I know, I know, don’t ask,” he finished when he saw Sam’s look. “Are you going to join us for a drink, Katherine?”

She shook her head. “No, I’ll leave the two of you to catch up. Have a nice weekend, Sam. I’ll see you bright and early on Monday. Nice to meet you, Jack.”

“Bye, Katherine,” Sam replied with a smile.

They watched as Katherine walked out, before Jack turned back to Sam. “Something important happen today?” He asked, pointing to her dress uniform.

“Just a meeting for funding, nothing too important. I didn’t have time to change before coming.” She smiled in apology.

“Hey, that’s fine by me. I like a gal in uniform,” he drawled, waggling his eyebrows and making her laugh.

They ordered their drinks and settled themselves in a booth. “So, do you have the weekend off?” Jack asked, remembering Katherine’s parting words.

“Yeah. I don’t officially start until Monday.”

“Have you got anything planned?”

Sam shrugged. “To be quite honest, I just want to enjoy some time away from Jonas.”

“You two having problems?” he asked, concerned.

“No more than usual I suppose.”

She sighed and looked down at her hands. Jack did the same and realized that she wasn’t wearing her engagement ring. “Are you having second thoughts?” He ran a finger over the spot wear the ring should have been. “You’re not wearing your ring.”

Sam shivered a little from his touch. “I didn’t want to wear it to the meeting. I want them to think I’m serious about this project and I’m not about to go off and play house wife.”

Jack nodded, noting that the topic had upset her. “So, you don’t have anything planned this weekend?” He asked again, trying to lighten the mood.

“Well, I thought I might have a look around the city. So far, I’ve only seen Cheyenne Mountain, here and my apartment.”

“I could give you the tour if you want. I’ve been living here for a while now.”

“Really? That’d be great!” She grinned, the light coming back into her eyes.

“It’s settled then. Now, how do you feel about steak?”

*****

Following dinner and a few rounds of pool, the pair decided to call it a night. Jack took the long way back to her apartment, showing her the city at night and also driving past where he lived. It was getting late when he finally pulled up outside Sam’s apartment building. “Do you want to come up for a cup of coffee?” She asked as he turned to her.

“Yeah, just a quick one. If I’m too late, I’ll be sleeping outside.”

Sam laughed. “We can’t have that now, can we?”

They walked into the building and got into the elevator. Once on Sam’s floor, they got out and started down the hall. Sam looked up and saw her fiancÚ sitting outside her door. He jumped up when he saw her. “Samantha! Where in the hell have you been?” He looked at Jack. “Who’s that?”

Sam sighed. “Jonas, Jack. Jack, this is Jonas.”

Jack held his hand out, but Jonas ignored it and turned back to Sam. “I’ve been sitting out here for hours!”

“Well, if I’d known you were coming, I may have been here. I thought you were on a mission.” She turned to Jack. “Can I take a rain check on the coffee?”

Jack nodded. “Sure, Sam.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow?” She asked hopefully.

“If you still want to do it.”

She glanced quickly at Jonas, who was glaring at the two of them. “Yeah, I do.”

“Okay. I’ll be around in the morning then. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Jack.”

Jack reluctantly walked back towards the elevator. He had a bad feeling about Jonas, but he wasn’t sure why. He was Sam’s fiancÚ after all. All the same, he couldn’t help but listen to them as he left. “So, are you gonna tell me where you’ve been for the past five hours?” Jonas demanded.

Sam sighed. “Look, if you’re gonna be an asshole, you can leave. I’m not in the mood for your shit.”

The last thing Jack heard was Jonas apologizing and the last thing he saw, as the elevator doors closed, was the couple kissing and Jonas maneuvering them into her apartment.

*****

Jack should have known that a fight would erupt as soon as he saw the look in Sara’s eyes when he walked in the door. He walked over to give her a kiss hello and she started in on him. “You smell like a brewery.”

“And you smell like you’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes,” he replied before he could stop himself. He sighed. “Let’s start again, huh? Hi, Sara. How was your night?”

“It was nice, how about you?” She asked, trying to sound genuine.

“It was good. Do you want a coffee?”

“Yeah,” she replied, following him out to the kitchen.

Jack made them both a coffee and noticed a note on the refrigerator door as he put the milk away. “What’s this?” He asked.

“Dad managed to get us an appointment tomorrow with that friend of his who’s a marriage councilor.”

“Oh, thanks for asking me. I’ve made plans for tomorrow.”

Sara sighed. “Jack...”

“No, Sara. I told you I didn’t want to go to a councilor. Our problems are nobody else’s business.”

“The appointment’s been made, the least you can do is come with me!” She yelled, losing her temper.

“I’m not spending a heap of money to have some guy tell me that it’s all my fault and I should quit my job. You know I will *never* give up the Air Force while I’m still useful.”

Sara threw up her hands. “I don’t know how to get through to you. Do you want this marriage to end?”

“Sara...” He was saved from answering as the doorbell rang. He sighed and walked out into the living room and opened the front door, gasping.

Sam was standing on the step. She had a split lip and the start of a black eye and she was crying. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know where else to go,” she sobbed.

“God, Sam! What happened?” He asked, pulling her to him without a second thought. “Did Jonas do this to you?” He felt her nod against his chest. He pulled back enough to see her face properly. “It’s okay. We’ll deal with this, okay? I’ll help you.” He pulled her back towards him, not really thinking as he kissed her forehead. He knew he shouldn’t care so much about her, but right now logic wasn’t playing a part in the thoughts going through his mind. All he wanted to do was find her fiancÚ and beat him senseless.

He didn’t know Sara was in the room until he heard the coffee cup break on the floor, the sound making Jack and Sam jump apart. “What in the hell is going on?!” She demanded.

“Sara...” Jack started, only to be cut off.

“Don’t you ‘Sara’ me! What in the hell are you doing with another woman in you arms?! In *our* house!”

Sam looked from Sara to Jack, shaking her head sadly. “I’m sorry, Jack. I shouldn’t have come here. You’ve got enough problems.” She turned and fled out the door to her car.

“Sam, wait!” Jack called after her, but it was too late.

He turned and went to get his keys and a jacket.

“You’re going after her?” Sara asked, incredulous.

“Yes, I’m going after her. Her fiancÚ just beat the shit out of her and, thanks to you, she’s probably on her way back to him because she has nowhere else to go.”

“I didn’t realize...”

“No, Sara, you didn’t realize. You just jumped to conclusions. I swear to god, if he hurts her again, I’ll never forgive you.”

Jack turned and rushed out the door and jumped into his car. He really had no idea where to look for her. Part of him hoped she’d gone back to her apartment, but another part knew that if she were there, she’d be in danger. He drove into her street, spying her car in the parking lot. “Well, at least I’ve found her,” he said to himself as he jumped out of his car.

The elevator seemed to take forever and Jack willed it to go faster. Images of what her fiancÚ could be doing to her ran through his head, making his stomach turn. He pushed the thoughts from his mind as the elevator doors opened. He rushed towards Sam’s apartment, noting that the door was ajar. He heard voices as he neared it.

“Come on, Sam. I said I’m sorry. What more do you want?”

“I want you to leave! I want you to take this ring and get the hell out!”

“But I love you, I can’t just leave.”

Jack heard the despair in Jonas’ voice and hoped that Sam wouldn’t fall for it. He stood in the doorway, but neither saw him.

“You love me?” Her voice was incredulous. “How can you say that after what you did?”

“I didn’t mean it, Sam. It’s just... that last mission was a bad one. I came here to be with you, the one good thing in my life and I found you out with some other guy. I guess I overreacted.”

Jack saw Sam falter and thought it was time to make his presence known.

“There you are,” he said as he walked into the apartment.

“Jack!” Sam gasped, surprised.

“What are you doing here?” Jonas growled.

“Oh well, you know, I get kinda concerned when my friends get assaulted by psychos such as yourself.”

“How did you...” Jonas turned to Sam. “Is that where you went?! You went running to *him*?!”

Sam took a step back. “Where did you expect me to go?”

“You slut!” He took a menacing step towards her and suddenly Jack was in between them.

“That’s enough!” He growled. “We’re gonna go now. I expect you to get the hell out of here and not bother Sam again. You got that?”

“This isn’t over,” Jonas returned.

“Yes it is. You come near her again and I’ll have you thrown out of the Air Force so fast, you won’t know what hit you.” Jack turned and placed an arm around Sam, guiding her to the door.

“Sam,” Jonas pleaded. “We can work this out.”

“No we can’t. It’s over. You need help that I can’t give you.”

“Please...”

“Goodbye, Jonas.” Sam turned and allowed Jack to lead her out.

By the time they reached Jack’s car, Sam was shivering. “Here,” Jack said as he took his coat off and helped her into it. She sucked in a sharp breath as he rested his hands on her shoulders. “What’s wrong?” He asked, concerned.

“Nothing,” she replied quickly.

“Sam?” He asked sternly.

“I had a little run in with a wall, I guess the wall won,” she told him, smiling slightly as she remembered their first conversation.

“Come on,” Jack said, opening the passenger door for her. “I’m taking you to the hospital to get checked out.”

“Jack, I’m okay,” she protested.

“Yeah, well I’d like to hear that from a doctor.”

“I am a doctor,” she replied with a small smile.

“I don’t think a doctor of astrophysics is quite the same as an MD. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Sam nodded and reluctantly agreed to get checked out.

They drove to the hospital in silence and Jack led her into the emergency room. It wasn’t very busy and a doctor could see her almost immediately.

“Sir, if you could wait out here while we examine Miss Carter,” the burly nurse told Jack, giving him a challenging look when he went to protest.

“Okay.” He turned to Sam. “I’ll give Sara a call, get her to make up the spare room for you.”

Sam was ushered away before she could even object. Jack found a pay phone and dialed his house.

“Hello?” Sara answered after the second ring.

“Hi, Sara. It’s me.”

“Jack! Where are you? I’ve been so worried.”

“I’m at the hospital.”

“Hospital?” Sara repeated, alarmed. “Are you okay?”

“Of course I’m okay. I wanted Sam to get checked out.”

“So, you found her?”

“Yeah. Can you make up the spare room? I really don’t want her to go back to her apartment. Her fiancÚ’s really cracked.”

“Okay, Jack,” she replied without hesitation.

Jack sighed, thankful that Sara wasn’t going to pick a fight about it. “Thanks, Sara. We should be home soon.”

“See you then.” She hesitated for a moment. “Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m so sorry about how I acted before.”

“It’s okay. We’ll talk about it later.”

Sam walked back out about twenty minutes later. Jack was over to her in a second. “What’s the verdict?”

“Nothing major. Just lots of bruises. They were trying to get me to press charges against him.” Her eyes filled with tears.

“Hey, come on,” he soothed, wrapping her in his arms. “We can worry about what to do later, okay? Right now, let’s just get you home. I’ve got a nice malt whiskey that I may just be willing to share with you.”

Sam shook her head. “Jack, I don’t want to cause any problems between you and your wife.”

“Listen, Sam. Any problems between Sara and I have been there for a while. Besides, she’s expecting you.”

“If you’re sure...”

Jack gave her a soft smile. “I’m sure. Come on.” He ushered her out to his car and he drove her back to his house.

Sara was waiting for them when they came home and met them at the door. “Hi. Sam isn’t it?” Sam nodded. “I’m Sara. Come on in.”

“I’m sorry about before,” Sam told her as she was ushered over to the sofa.

Sara shook her head. “Please, Sam. I’m the one who should be apologizing.”

“It doesn’t matter now. Just as long as you’re safe and away from that bastard,” Jack said with feeling.

Sam flinched visibly and Sara glared at him for being so tactless. “He’s not always like that,” Sam defended. “His last mission must have been a nightmare.”

Jack shook his head, exasperated. “Damn it, Sam, that’s no excuse! I’ve done more than my fair share of black ops and, yes they’re damn horrifying at times, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to become violent. Do you hear me? There is *no* excuse, *ever*.”

Sam nodded, trying to stop her hands shaking as she accepted the glass of whiskey that he offered her and took a large sip.

“Why don’t you tell us what happened, Sam?” Sara suggested. “It might make you feel a bit better if you talk about it.”

Sam nodded and took a deep breath. “Well, after Jack left, we went into my apartment and started to... well, you know.” She blushed. “But he was being so... rough. I told him to stop, but he wasn’t listening.”

Jack’s blood started to boil. “Did he...” He couldn’t even say the words.

“No! I pushed him off me and told him to leave. He grabbed my hand and that’s when he noticed that I wasn’t wearing my engagement ring. He just saw red.” She started to cry. “He thought I’d picked you up in a bar and we were going to... That’s when he hit me.”

Jack engulfed her in a hug. “It’s okay. You’re okay and you’re safe now. I won’t let him hurt you again.”

“If it had been anyone else, I could have defended myself. I’m so weak when it comes to him.”

Sara put a hand on Sam’s arm, trying to ignore the jealousy she felt at seeing her husband comfort another woman. “Jack and I’ll help you be strong. You can stay here for as long as you need to.” She looked up and saw Jack smile at her, mouthing ‘thank you’ over Sam’s head. “Come on, Sam, I’ll get you something to sleep in and you can try to get some rest.” Sam nodded and Sara led her upstairs.

Sara walked back down the stairs a few minutes later, sitting next to Jack on the sofa.

“She’s gone to bed?” He asked, rubbing a hand over his face.

“Yeah, she’s exhausted,” she replied.

Jack nodded and they sat in silence for a few minutes before he spoke again. “Thank you for letting her stay, Sara.”

“That’s okay.” She paused. “Jack, why didn’t you tell me that Sam was a woman?”

“Sara...”

“No, I want to know. Did you think I’d be mad?”

He sighed. “I don’t know. I just didn’t want an excuse for a fight. It seems that’s all we ever do now.”

Sara nodded, thoughtful. “I had a phone call from my sister earlier. She’s been ill and wants me to go up there for the weekend. I thought it might do us both some good if I got away for a few days.”

“What about Charlie?”

“I thought maybe he could stay with you.”

Jack smiled. “I’d like that. He can help me show Sam around town.”

Sara nodded. “I trust you, Jack,” she told him. It sounded more like a warning than a statement of trust.

‘Yeah, sure you do,’ Jack thought to himself. “I’m going to bed,” he said out loud.

*****

Sara left early the next morning, before Sam had even gotten up. She said a quiet goodbye to her son and husband before catching a cab to the airport. Jack then sat Charlie down and explained to him why Sam was there. “...so, she’s gonna stay with us for a while.” He looked at his son, who was sitting quietly, absorbing the information. “Is that okay, buddy?”

Charlie nodded and Jack could see he wanted to ask a question. “What is it, Charlie?”

“Why would anyone hit the lady they were gonna marry? You told me that you should never hit a girl, no matter what the reason.”

Jack cringed slightly and wondered how he was going to explain such an adult issue to a seven year old. “And that’s true, but unfortunately there’s some guys out there who are real cowards and the only way they think they can be a man is to hurt the people they’re supposed to protect.”

“Like people who hit they’re kids? My teacher was telling us about it.”

“Yeah, buddy, same thing,” Jack replied, smiling as Charlie nodded his understanding. “So, will you help me cheer her up?”

“Sure, dad. We can make her breakfast. Do you think she’d like some pancakes?”

Jack nodded, ruffling the boy’s hair. “I think she’d love that.”

When Sam walked down the stairs half an hour later, she heard a racket coming from the kitchen. She pushed the door open and almost started laughing at the scene. The kitchen could have been declared a national disaster area, with pots and pans strewn everywhere and flour covering every surface including both Jack and Charlie. They both looked at her with identical expressions and she had to smile. “Good morning.”

“Mornin’, Sam. Sleep well?”

She shrugged. “I suppose.” She turned to Charlie. “Hi. I’m Sam.”

“I’m Charlie. We’re making you breakfast to cheer you up,” he told her with a grin, just like his dad’s.

Sam looked at Jack, who just smiled, looking sheepish. “Help yourself to coffee. Breakfast will be ready... soon.”

Shaking her head in amusement, Sam walked over and poured herself a cup of coffee. “Where’s Sara?” She asked.

“Mom’s gone to Aunt Helen’s,” Charlie informed her, while he continued mixing the pancake batter.

Sam looked at Jack, worried that she’d caused more problems by being there. His small smile and the shake of his head told her she hadn’t.

They sat down to eat breakfast about twenty minutes later, and after a cautious taste, Sam had to admit the pancakes were very good. “Wow, guys. These are great!” She enthused, taking a bigger mouthful.

A huge grin formed on Charlie’s face. “Look, Dad. We cheered her up!”

Jack couldn’t help but laugh as he ruffled his son’s hair. “You did a good job, buddy,” he told him, smiling at Sam.

After breakfast, Charlie and Sam cleaned up while Jack called Sara’s best friend and asked her to watch Charlie for a while. Sam wanted to get some clothes from her apartment and Jack was worried that Jonas may still be there. He didn’t want his son to be exposed to any violence. He dialed Carrie’s number and waited for someone to answer.

“Hello?”

“Carrie? It’s Jack O’Neill. I need to ask a favor.”

“What’s up, Jack?” Carrie asked.

“I was wondering if you could watch Charlie for an hour or so.”

“Sure, I can. Just drop him around.”

“Thanks. We’ll be around soon. Bye.” He hung up the phone and walked back out into the kitchen.

*****

“Why can’t I go with you?” Charlie asked for tenth time, as they pulled up at Carrie Morton’s house.

“You won’t be here long and then we’re gonna show Sam around town. Come on, buddy, just stay here for a while and play with Scott.”

“But...”

“Charlie, please?” Jack asked. “We’ll go and have hot-dogs when we pick you up.”

That changed the seven year old's tune. “Okay!” He said, getting out of the car and racing over to Carrie’s son and a group of neighborhood children.

With a shake of his head, Jack got out of the car, waiting for Sam to join him before he walked up the path. Sam noticed a woman sitting on the porch, watching them both walk towards her. She was slightly older than Sam, with jet black hair and smooth, chocolate skin. “Hi, Jack,” she said as they walked up the stairs and onto the porch.

“Hi, Carrie,” he returned. “This is Sam Carter. Sam, this Carrie Morton, a friend of Sara’s.”

“Nice to meet you,” Sam said, warmly.

“Yeah,” Carrie returned warily.

Charlie came running up, relieving the tension in the air. “Sam! Come look at this insect in the garden! It’s really cool!”

Sam smiled at the two adults as she was dragged of by the eager little boy. “Okay, I’m coming,” she relented and turned her attention to the insect. Gently picking it up, she explained it to the children, for once thankful that her brother had been obsessed with insects when he was younger. He’d be pleased to know that some of his constant rambling had stuck in her head. That was of course if he ever spoke to her again.

“Thanks for doing this, Carrie,” Jack said as they turned to watch the group of kids surrounding Sam.

“Where’s Sara?” She asked, a bit suspiciously.

“Gone to her sister’s for the weekend.” He looked at Sara’s best friend. “She met Sam before she left. In fact it was Sara that said that Sam could come and stay with us for a few days.”

“Do you really think that’s wise, with how things are at the moment?”

“You tell me, Carrie? It seems everyone else knows more about my relationship with my wife then I do.” He couldn’t help the bitterness that crept into his voice.

“Jack...”

Jack sighed. “Can you please just watch Charlie for me? We’re only going to get some things from Sam’s apartment, but I didn’t want Charlie there in case her fiancÚ hasn’t left yet.”

“Is he the one that did that to her?” Jack nodded. “You never could refuse anyone that needed your help, Jack. Of course I’ll watch Charlie for you.”

He smiled. “Thanks, Carrie.”

*****

Jack could see Sam tense up as he pulled into her street. Reaching over, he took her hand and gave it a squeeze. She gave him a small smile but it didn’t reach her eyes. “It’ll be okay, Sam. I won’t let him touch you.”

Sam nodded, feeling safe with the man beside her. She found it funny that she trusted him so much, when she hadn’t known him very long at all.

Jack parked the car and they got out, Sam pausing before walking through the doors. Jack’s hand on her back was comforting, reassuring her that he was there to protect her. They were silent as they took the elevator up to the eighth floor before heading down the hall to her door. Her hands shook as she got her keys, inserting the right one in the lock and opening the door.

Sam gasped at the sight of her living room. Everything that had been so neatly put in its proper spot was tossed to the floor. Most of the breakable items were shattered. She blinked hard to stop the tears from welling and took a step into her apartment. It was then that she noticed Jonas. He was sitting slumped against the far wall, knees drawn up. He looked at her, such sorrow in his eyes. But seeing him, sitting there among the carnage that was once her living room, scared Sam more than when he’d attacked her the night before. She finally saw the real man, the one she’d tried hard to deny existed.

She felt Jack’s hand, warm and reassuring on her shoulder, and drew strength from it. “Why are you still here?” She asked, surprising herself with the steel in her voice.

“Sam... please, I’m sorry. If we could just talk...”

“We have nothing to talk about,” she returned.

“You don’t mean that. They’re trying to turn you against me, Sam. First your father, now him.” He pointed an accusing finger at Jack. “He just wants you for himself.”

“Would you listen to yourself? You’re sick, Jonas. You need help.”

Jonas nodded, getting to his feet. “Okay, I’ll get help, Sam. I’ll do that for you.”

She shook her head, taking a step closer to Jack as he neared her. “Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself.”

He reached out for her, but she shrank away from him, and a glare from Jack warned him not to come any closer. “I’d do anything for you,” he whispered.

“Then leave me alone. Do that for me, Jonas.”

“But...”

“Please. That’s all I want. I want you to leave me alone.”

He stared at her for a minute, before nodding sadly. Picking up his bag, which was by the door, he turned to her one last time. “I love you, Sam,” he told her before walking out the door.

Jack moved to close the door, locking it and allowing Sam a second to gather herself. “You okay?” He asked as he turned back to her. He was surprised to see that she wasn’t crying.

“Yeah,” she replied quietly, giving him a small smile. “Thank you.”

“I didn’t do anything, Sam. That was all you.”

She shook her head. “I would never have had the strength to do that unless you were here.”

He smiled, moving back to her and wrapping her in his arms. “I’m glad I could help.” Releasing her, he pointed her in the direction of her bedroom. “Go and get your clothes and stuff, so we can go and pick up Charlie. We’ll clean this mess up some other time.”

Sam smiled and nodded, walking into her bedroom

*****

As soon as they pulled up at Carrie’s, Charlie ran over to them. “Can we go have hot-dogs now?” He asked.

Both Sam and Jack laughed. “Just let us go and talk to Carrie,” Jack told his son. “You go and help Scott pack his toys away.”

“Aww,” Charlie grumbled, but did as he was told anyway.

“Everything went okay?” Carrie asked, as they neared her.

Jack took a moment to look at Sam, giving her a reassuring smile. “Better then expected,” he replied, watching as Sam nodded her agreement. He tore his eyes away from the beauty next to him to look at Carrie. “Thanks for watching him. He wasn’t any trouble, was he?”

Carrie smiled. “He was fine, as always.”

Jack smiled. “Well, I’ll get him out of your hair. I promised him a hot-dog, so I better pay up.”

They said goodbye to the Mortons before getting into the car and heading for the park.

*****

Jack laughed as he watched Sam and Charlie on the swings. Sam looked like she was having as much fun on them as any child he’d seen. They’d arrived at the park and promptly found a hot-dog vendor. Once their lunch had been devoured, Charlie and
Sam had started off for the swings. Jack sat on a bench near them, so he could watch.

After several more minutes, the pair finally stopped swinging and wandered back to Jack. “Hey, Dad?” Charlie called.

“What’s up, buddy?”

“Can we get an ice-cream?”

“Ice-cream? You just had a hot-dog!” He replied, wondering how his son could eat so much.

“Aww, please, dad?”

“Yeah, please, dad?” Sam whined, in a childish voice.

Jack shook his head, laughing at the pair of them as they looked pleadingly back at him. “Okay,” he relented.

“Yes!” Charlie shouted, grabbing both Sam and Jack’s hand and leading them to where he knew the ice-cream vendor would be. “I’d like a double choc and Dad’ll have a rum ‘n’ raison,” Charlie informed the vendor, adding a “please,” as an after thought.

“And what will your mom have?”

Charlie giggled and turned to Sam. “What do you want, mom?” he asked, shocking both Sam and Jack.

It took a moment for Sam to find her voice. “Ah, I’ll have double choc as well, please,” she finally managed.

Jack just stared at his son while they waited for his ice-cream. He could understand the vendor’s mistake. Charlie was holding both of their hands, and they probably did look like a family. But he’d never expected Charlie to go along with it. A quick look at Sam confirmed that she too was shocked by his response, but there was something else in her eyes as well. Almost like she was wishing it was true. He shook that thought away as his own wishful thinking and paid the vendor.

*****

They’d stayed at the park a little longer, before going home and ordering pizza for dinner. They’d eaten dinner while they watched a family movie. Jack looked at his son when the credits started rolling. “Okay, buddy. Bedtime.”

“Aww, but Dad...” Charlie whined.

“No buts. It’s time for bed. Sam and I are going to watch our movie now and it’s not for little boys.”

He grumbled a bit more, but got up anyway and kissed them both goodnight. “Don’t forget to brush your teeth. I’ll be up in a few minutes to tuck you in,” Jack told him.

“Can Sam tuck me in?” he asked.

Sam looked up, surprised. “Ah, sure,” she told him.

“Cool. ‘Night, Dad.”

“See ya in the morning, buddy.”

Sam gave him a few minutes before she walked up the stairs to his room. He was already in bed, looking at a book on dinosaurs. “Are you ready to be tucked in?” she asked. He put the book down and nodded. Sam walked over to the bed and tucked the blankets around him. “There you go. Snug as a bug in a rug.”

He giggled. “That’s funny.”

“That’s what my mom used to say to me when she tucked me in at night,” Sam explained.

He giggled again. “Goodnight, Sam,” he said to her, opening his arms for a hug.

“Sleep well, Charlie,” she replied as she hugged him. “Thank you for cheering me up today.” She walked to the door, taking one last look at him before she turned the light off and shut the door behind her.

Jack looked up as he heard Sam walking down the stairs. “He’s all tucked in?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. You really have a fantastic son, Jack. He’s so loving.”

Jack nodded his agreement. “He’s a good kid.” He patted the spot on the sofa next to him. “Sit down, Sam. I’ll put the video on.”

She smiled and curled up where he’d invited her to sit. Jack put on the video and then sat back down next to her.

Neither said much as the movie progressed, both happy with the companionable silence between them. Jack smiled when he noticed she’d drifted off to sleep. She looked so peaceful as she slept, and he couldn’t deny that she also looked so beautiful.
He didn’t have the heart to wake her. She’d been through so much recently and she needed to rest.

Switching off the TV and video, Jack turned and lifted her gently into his arms. She mumbled, but didn’t wake, settling her head comfortably on his shoulder. Resisting the urge to drop a kiss on her hair, Jack carried her carefully up the stairs and into the guest bedroom. Gently laying her on the bed, he pulled the covers over her and tucked her in securely. “Sweet dreams, Sam,” he whispered quietly, giving in to temptation and bending over to kiss her forehead.

*****

The next morning dawned hot and sunny. Sam dressed in a pair of shorts and a tank top before walking downstairs. She was a little confused about how she ended up in bed last night. She remembered watching the movie, curled up on the sofa then the next thing she remembered was waking up in her bed, still fully clothed.

She walked into the kitchen and saw Jack sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper. “Good morning,” she said, startling him.

“Morning, Sam. Did you sleep well?”

“Like a log. Don’t even remember going to bed.”

Jack blushed slightly. “You fell asleep on the sofa. I didn’t want to wake you so I...” He trailed of, but she understood.

“Thanks. It’s been a long time since I slept like that.”

Jack was about to say something else, when he heard Charlie scampering down the stairs. He bounded through the kitchen door, moving to give both Jack and Sam a good morning hug. “What’s for breakfast?” he asked his father.

“I’m thinkin’ food,” Jack replied, straight faced. That was enough to send both Sam and Charlie off into fits of giggles, just as he’d planned.

“What *kind* of food?” Sam asked, still laughing.

“Oh, fine. Typical scientist, has to know the ins and outs of everything,” he groused. “What about some bacon and eggs?”

“Yeah!” Charlie enthused.

“Sam?” Jack questioned, turning to look at her.

“You keep feeding me like this and I’ll never want to leave,” she returned with a grin.

‘Good,’ Jack thought to himself. Shaking his head, he got started on breakfast.

They chatted idly while they ate and then the three of them cleaned up. Jack turned the dishwasher on and turned to look at the other two. “So, what are we gonna do now?”

“Let’s go to the pool!” Charlie suggested.

“Now that sounds like a plan. Sam?”

“Ahh...” She began, really not wanting to go.

“Please, Sam?” Charlie begged.

Sam relented, not being able to resist those brown eyes that were so much like his father’s. “I guess we’re going to the pool then. Just let me get changed.”

She walked up the stairs and into her room. Closing the door, she sighed. She stripped off her clothes and put on her bikini, before standing in front of the mirror. The dark bruises on her arms and the one on her stomach were glaringly obvious against her pale skin. She had managed to lessen the obviousness of her black eye with some make-up, but there was no way she could hide the finger marks on the tops of her arms or the bruises from where he’d punched her in the stomach and where she’d been thrown against the wall.

A knock on the bedroom door startled her from her thoughts and she hurried to get dressed. “Sam? Are you almost ready?”

Slipping into her sandals and wiping the tears from her eyes, Sam plastered a smile on her face and opened the door. “Ready when you are,” she said with a false brightness.

Jack obviously didn’t buy it. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she replied, as she grabbed her bag and brushed past him.

They got into Jack’s car for the short drive to the local pool. Once there, Charlie grabbed both Jack’s and Sam’s hand and led them to the entrance. Jack paid the fee and they found a spot to put their bags and towels. Charlie and Jack quickly stripped off and Jack chased his son into the water. Sam took her shorts off and laid her towel out before sitting down. She took out her sunscreen and slathered some on her legs before sitting back and watching Jack and Charlie.

Her mind soon started wandering and she didn’t notice Jack turn to look at her before slipping out of the pool. She didn’t even realize he was beside her until she felt water drip on her head. She looked up into Jack’s smiling face. “Why aren’t you joining us?” he asked.

“I just don’t feel like swimming,” she told him.

He crouched down beside her and tilted her chin so he was looking into her eyes. “What’s the real reason?” he asked softly.

With a sigh she pulled up her shirt slightly and showed him her stomach. “They’re kind of obvious.”

“So?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Sam didn’t say anything, she just looked down at her hands.

“Sam, don’t let him win. He’s still stopping you from doing what you want to do.”

“How do you know that I want to go swimming?” she asked, sounding more like a sulking child then an Air Force Captain.

“I just do. Now stand up.” He pulled her to her feet and drew her T-shirt over her head. His jaw tightened as he finally saw the extent of her bruises. He hadn’t realized she’d been hurt so badly.

He could tell that she was embarrassed. There was nothing he could do to hide the bruises, but there was something he could do about her somber mood. With a feral grin he picked her up and carried her over to the pool where Charlie was swimming.

“Jack! Put me down!” she squealed.

“Never!” he replied. He stood on the side of the pool and started swinging her. “You gonna catch her, Charlie?”

“Sure, Dad!” Charlie cried, laughing at his father’s antics.

‘Ready? One... two... three!” He let go of her and she was thrown in the water with a squeal. Jack jumped in after her and they spent the next hour playing in the water.

*****

Sara returned home late in the afternoon to find Charlie, Jack and Sam playing baseball in the front yard. They were having so much fun that they didn’t even noticed the cab pull up. She paid the driver and grabbed her bag. She stood, simply watching her husband, child and Sam as they played. They were having so much fun and Sara had to smile. She’d had the weekend to think and the time had helped her to realize that, no matter how bad their marriage was, Jack would never cheat on her. If nothing else, Jack was a man of honor.

Charlie was the first to spot her, throwing down his glove and running to meet her. “Hi, Mom!”

“Hi, Charlie. Have you been a good boy?” She asked, crouching down to hug her son. She looked up as Jack and Sam walked over. Jack looked happy to see her and she thought Sam looked a little nervous. She released her son and gave her husband a quick kiss. Then she turned to her husband’s friend. “How are you doing, Sam?” she asked sincerely.

“I’m okay,” Sam replied, relaxing a little.

Jack grabbed Sara’s bag and they all headed into the house. Charlie took his mother’s bag upstairs while Jack went to make coffee, leaving the two women alone in the living room. “Are you really doing okay?” Sara asked.

“Yeah, I think I am,” Sam assured her.

“Do you know if he’s left town?”

Sam nodded. “He said he would. I saw him yesterday and he promised to leave me alone.”

“Really?” Sara asked, surprised.

Sam nodded. “You know, I didn’t really believe how much he needed help until then.”

“We’re gonna have to do something about that mess too,” Jack told her, carrying in their coffee.

“Its okay, Jack. I can take care of it myself,” Sam assured him.

Sara looked at them both, having no idea what they were talking about. “What happened?”

“Jonas trashed my apartment,” Sam explained.

“Oh, God. I’m sorry.”

Sam shrugged. “Better my stuff then me, huh?”

“I can help you clean up, if you’d like. It may be a little easier with help of the female variety.”

Jack looked indignant. “Are you saying that I can’t clean?”

Sara shook her head. “No, Jack. I’m just suggesting that Sam may find it a little easier if another woman was going through all of her possessions.”

Sam smiled. “That would be great, thanks. To be honest I’m not sure I want to be there by myself at the moment.”

*****

Following an early dinner, Sam and Sara left the boys at home and headed across town to Sam’s apartment. They were quiet as they exited the elevator, and Sam took a deep breath before inserting the key into the lock. She heard Sara gasp behind her. “It’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it?” Sam said, surveying the damage.

“What a bastard,” Sara replied. She closed the door behind her and turned the lock, just to be on the safe side. “Where do we start?” she questioned, moving further into the room.

“The bedroom’s the best of the rooms, so why don’t we start there?” Sam suggested.

Sara nodded. “Lead the way.”

Sam led Jack’s wife into her room and looked around. She was glad now that Jack hadn’t come to help her. All of her lingerie was strewn across the bed, her clothes thrown on the floor. It may have been a little embarrassing.

She looked to her bedside table and noticed her lamp had been smashed, and the photos thrown to the floor. She picked one up and couldn’t help the tears that welled as she looked at the damaged photograph. Sara, noticing her tears, hurried over to her. “Sam? What’s wrong?” She asked, putting an arm around the younger woman’s shoulders.

Sam showed her the photo. “It’s my favorite one of her. He knew it was my favorite,” she sobbed.

“Is that your mom?” Sara asked gently.

Sam nodded. “She died when I was a teenager. It’s one of the few things I have left of her.”

Taking the photo off Sam, Sara carefully removed the broken glass and took the picture out of the frame. “I have a friend who’s a photographer. He also restores photos. He might be able to do something with this.” She gave Sam a reassuring smile. “We’ll find out, okay?”

Sam nodded. “Thank you. I know it must sound stupid...”

“Not at all, I lost my mother as well. I know how you feel.” She looked around the room. “Come on. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go home and open a bottle of wine.”

Sam smiled. “That’s an incentive, if ever I heard one.”

*****

Sam stared up at the ceiling as she lay on her bed in the spare room of the O’Neill’s. She was contemplating what she would do next. There was no doubt in her mind about staying in Colorado Springs. Her new assignment was the most unbelievable opportunity she would ever come across. She was sure people wouldn’t believe her, even if she was allowed to tell them what she was doing. Just the notion of aliens coming to Earth was definitely ‘out there’. But she’d seen the monstrous device, now she just had to figure out how to work it.

So, she’d figured out which city she was going to stay in, but she hadn’t decided where in the city she would stay. She didn’t think she could go back to her apartment. Not only because of the constant fear that Jonas would return, but also because of the memories that the place now harbored. It would be hard to forget if the place held things that would constantly remind her of the nightmare.

She also didn’t think she could continue staying at the O'Neill's. She’d been there a week, and it was already getting too hard to be in the same house as Jack and not be able to touch him. She was ashamed of the thoughts that seemed to constantly run through her head. Sara had done so much for her, and she returned the favor by lusting after the woman’s husband. “Some friend you are,” she muttered to herself.

Making a decision, Sam rose from the bed and headed down the stairs. She potted Sara in the living room, engrossed in a novel as she relaxed on the sofa. “Um, Sara?”

Sara looked up from her book. “Yeah, Sam?”

“I’ve been thinking. I don’t really want to go back to my apartment. I think that a part of me would just be waiting for Jonas to show up, but I’ve intruded enough on you all...”

“You’re not intruding,” Sara insisted.

Sam held her hand up. “Yes, I am. So, I was wondering whether you’d come apartment hunting with me tomorrow. I’d really appreciate another perspective. Besides, I’m still trying to find my way around this place.”

Sara nodded, smiling. “That sounds like fun. We could make it a girl’s day out.”

The next day, Sam called the Realtor and arranged to view a few apartments. The first one they viewed was so small, Sam would have preferred to stay at the base. The second was in a neighborhood that Sara declared off limits to any friend of hers.
The third was way out of Sam’s price range.

By the time they got to the fourth one, Sam was about ready to give up. That was until the agent opened the door and ushered them into the apartment. The two women smiled at each other and went off in opposite directions. “I like this one,” Sara said, walking out of the kitchen.

“Yeah. It’s definitely the nicest we’ve been to,” Sam agreed as she exited the bedroom.

“And it has a doorman twenty four hours a day. Little chance of unwanted guests.”

“That is definitely a bonus,” Sam agreed. She turned to the agent. “This is the one.”

*****

After signing the lease, Sam and Sara went back home, stopping only to pick up a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

“Well,” Sara said, handing Sam a glass. “Here’s to fresh starts.”

“Fresh starts,” Sam agreed.

Jack walked through the front door just as they clinked glasses. “Hey. What are you two celebrating?” He asked, happy to see them getting on so well together.

“I found a new apartment today,” Sam told him, grinning.

“Really?” Jack asked, trying to sound happy for her. His heart sank at the thought of her not being around every day. She’d only been there for a week, but he couldn’t imagine her not being there anymore.

“You should see it, Jack,” Sara enthused. “It’s perfect for Sam. It’s the perfect size, great location and excellent security.”

Jack sat down, listening to them both tell him how great the apartment was, all the while wishing she was staying with them. Or more to the point, staying with him.

*****

Sam was moving into her new apartment the following day, and she wanted to cook the O’Neill’s something special to thank them for everything they had done for her. That was why the four of them were at the supermarket, buying food. Jack and
Charlie had gone off to find something for dessert, leaving Sam and Sara to decide what meat to buy.

“This leg of lamb looks nice,” Sara said, pointing to the piece of meat in question.

“Roast lamb it is then,” Sam replied, picking it up and turning to put it in the trolley. As she straightened up, a voice made her heart stop. “Hi, Sammy.”

Sam looked up, taking an involuntary step back when she saw the man standing near her. “God, why can’t you leave me alone?” she all but whispered, wrapping her arms protectively around herself.

“Because I love you,” he replied, just as quietly. “I’m sorry, Sam. I’ll get help, I promise. I just... I don’t see the point unless I’m doing it for you.”

Sam felt a hand on her arm and turned to see Sara. She gave Sam a reassuring smile. “Let’s go, Sam,” she coaxed, not wanting her to fall for his empty words. Sara’s smile and the warm hand on her arm gave Sam a strength she didn’t know she had. She nodded, returning the smile. Turning back to Jonas, she shook her head. “I can’t take you back, Jonas. After what you did, how could I ever trust you again?”

“You could learn, I know you could.”

“No, I couldn’t. Please, just go back to DC and leave me alone.”

She turned to follow Sara, but before she could take a step she felt a hand clamp on her arm, spinning her around. “Don’t you *dare* just walk away from me!” he raged. “You made a vow to me and you’re damn well gonna keep it!”

“Jonas, you’re hurting me!”

“Oh, and you’re not hurting me?! Do you think I’ll just give up? Just let you walk out of my life?”

The tears were streaming down Sam’s face as she tried to wriggle out of his vice-like grip. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sara rush off, no doubt to get Jack. “Just let me go,” she pleaded, gasping as his fingers dug in tighter.

“I will *never* let you go.” He pulled her closer to him. “Come on, we’re going.”

*****

“So, what do you think, buddy?” Jack asked his son, still trying to decide which dessert to get.

Charlie shrugged. “Both mom and Sam like chocolate, so we could get that one,” he said, pointing to the triple chocolate ice-cream cake.

Jack grimaced. “Maybe something a little less rich.” He turned as he heard someone running towards them.

“Jack! Quick, Jonas is...” Sara hadn’t even finished before Jack had taken off in the direction she’d just come from.

He flew around the corner just in time to see Jonas pulling Sam roughly toward him. “Let her go!” he shouted.

“I should have known you’d be around somewhere,” Jonas sneered. “Her knight in shining armor. She must be screwing you real good.”

Jack’s face hardened. “I said, let her go,” he growled through clenched teeth.

“You want her? You’ll have to fight me for her,” Jonas told him, pushing Sam aside.

Jack got hold of her arm, pushing her behind him and out of harm’s way. He quickly turned to his wife. “Sara. Take Sam and Charlie and go get security.”

Sara nodded and ushered a still crying Sam and a wide-eyed Charlie towards the front of the store.

Jack turned back to Jonas just in time to avoid the punch that was thrown at him. Jack retaliated with a fist in the stomach before pulling the other man’s right hand up behind his back, effectively stopping him. “You just couldn’t quit while you were ahead, could you? I’ll make sure she presses charges this time. I hope you’ve got another job lined up, because your days as an officer are numbered.”

Two security guards ran up to him, taking Jonas and informing Jack that the police were on their way. Jack just hoped they hurried. He was still healing and in no condition to take Jonas on if he got really nasty.

The police arrived soon after, taking Jonas into custody. “Ma’am, we’ll need to get you to come to the station and make a statement,” one of the officers told Sam.

“A restraining order needs to be filed against him immediately,” Sara told him, a protective arm around Sam’s shoulders.

“Is that what you want, Miss Carter?”

Sam nodded. “Yes,” she replied quietly. “I want you to do everything possible to keep that bastard away from me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded to them both before helping his partner take a still shouting Jonas out and into the squad car.

As soon as they’d driven off, Sam turned to Sara. “Thank you for helping me,” she said quietly.

“I told you I would,” Sara replied.

Sam nodded. “I’m just going to get some air.”

“I’ll pay for the groceries and then we’ll get you home, okay?”

“Yeah,” was Sam’s reply as she walked out of the store.

*****

“You okay, buddy?” Jack asked his son, crouching down in front of him.

“That man was trying to hurt, Sam,” he replied, his voice trembling.

“I know, but he didn’t. Sam’s okay and the police have taken him away. He won’t be able to hurt her again.”

“Why didn’t you hurt him?” Charlie asked, shocking Jack with the hatred behind the words.

“Because then I would have been as bad as him, Charlie. You can’t use violence to solve violence.” He thought about how hypocritical his words were considering what he did for a living. But he didn’t want his son growing up thinking that violence was the answer to any problem.

Jack ruffled his son’s hair. “Come on. Let’s go get the girls and go home. I think we’re gonna have to do some more cheering up this afternoon.”

That got the sparkle back in Charlie’s eye as he thought of the things he could do to cheer Sam up.

They walked over to where Sara was standing at the register, talking with the attendant. Jack looked around, not seeing Sam anywhere. “Where’s Sam?” he asked his wife.

“She went outside after the police left. She was a bit upset.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Jack replied. He gave his wife some money for the groceries, before heading outside to search for Sam.

He found her leaning up against his Jeep, head buried in her arms as she sobbed. She jumped when she felt the hand on her shoulder, but when she realized who it was, she launched herself into his open arms, crying into his shirt.

“Shh, Sam. It’s okay. It’s over now. He can’t hurt you anymore.”

“What did I do to deserve this?” she asked, voice choked.

“This isn’t your fault. Don’t ever think that it is. You did nothing wrong.” He stood there, rocking her gently as he whispered words of comfort to her.

They stayed that way until Sara and Charlie came out to meet them. Jack moved to help Sara put the groceries in the car, while Charlie walked up to Sam and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Don’t be sad, Sam. That nasty man can’t hurt you anymore.”

She gave him a watery smile. “Thank you, Charlie.”

He grinned back at her and opened the car door for her.

They headed home and Sam went straight to her room, without saying a word. Sara watched Jack, knowing he wanted to help her. “Just let her have some time to herself. I’ll go and check on her in a little while.”

Jack nodded, suppressing his need to wrap her in his arms and comfort her.

“She’s a strong woman, Jack. This is only going to make her stronger.”

“I hope so, Sara. I really do.”

Sara gave Sam half an hour before she knocked on the door of the guest room.

“Come in,” Sam called, looking up to see who it was.

Sara was surprised to see Sam packing, although her puffy eyes suggested that she had been crying. “How are you doing, Sam?”

Sam smiled. “I’m okay, honest.”

Sara smiled in return. “Things are going to get better now. You do know that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. I feel like a weight has been lifted and I’m finally free. It’s a good feeling.”

Sara walked over and hugged the younger woman. ”I’m glad that you’re doing better now. You’re going to be okay, Sam.” She watched as Sam nodded, and knew that she believed her. “I’m just going to have a soak in the bath. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little tense.”

Sam smiled. “I know what you mean.”

“You’re quite welcome to hog the other bathroom for an hour. The boys can fend for themselves for a while.”

Sam shook her head. “Maybe in a little while. Is Jack downstairs?”

“Yeah. He was in the living room,” Sara replied.

Sam rose from the bed and headed for the door. As she reached for the handle she paused. “I’ve never met anyone as caring and generous as you, Sara. It takes a special person to take in a perfect stranger and help them through a very difficult time. I don’t think I could have done it without you.”

“Nonsense, Sam. You are a strong woman. You just have to start believing in yourself again.”

Sam smiled and walked out of the room. She spotted Jack sitting on the sofa as she walked down the stairs. He was deep in thought and didn’t see her until she walked in front of him.

“Are you okay?” he asked as she sat down.

She nodded. “I will be. I’m glad now that I decided to get a new apartment. I feel like I’m about to start all over again. It’s a good feeling.” She sighed. “Tomorrow will be the start of my new life.”

Jack blanched at the thought of her being by herself. “You sure you don’t want to stay here for a few more days? Just make sure he’s really gone before you’re by yourself.”

Sam shook her head. “Jack, I refuse to let him do this to me anymore. I’m sick of being afraid. I’m an Air Force captain, it’s about time I started acting like it.”

“I’m just worried about you.”

She smiled. “I know and you have no idea how grateful I am.”

Jack reached out and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, his fingers moving down to caress her cheek. She closed her eyes, enjoying the forbidden contact. His eyes focused on her lips, knowing how wrong it was, but wanting nothing more than to feel them on his own.

“Hey, Dad?” Charlie called from the kitchen, making them both jump.

Jack let out a shaky breath, running a hand through his hair. “Ah, yeah, Charlie?” he called back.

“I can’t reach the cookies.”

Jack excused himself and walked out to the kitchen.

“Oh, yeah. Definitely time I got my own place again,” Sam whispered to herself. She was pretty sure that something would happen between them if they lived together much longer. She didn’t want to betray Sara like that. The woman had taken her into her home and helped her in a way that no one else had ever helped her before. No, it was time to move out.

*****

Even after Sam moved into her apartment, she still saw the O’Neill’s regularly. Jack became a regular visitor at her apartment and he started to spend more time there then at his own place. Since Sara was one of the few female friends she had outside of work, they went out regularly, whether it be shopping or just for coffee. She helped Charlie build a motorized model airplane, tweaking it up a bit so he could do more stunts with it.

About two months after Sam moved out, Charlie was back at school after his summer vacation. “Mom? Can you help me with my science project?” he asked, as he walked into the kitchen.

Sara took a look at the sheet her son handed her. She grimaced. It may as well have been in another language. “Um... Charlie, why don’t you ask your dad?”

“Ask Dad what?” Jack asked as he walked into the kitchen.

“I need help with my science project.”

Jack grimaced, he hated science. He was about to give Charlie some excuse, when a thought came to him. “Why don’t we give Sam a call and see if she’ll help you? She is a scientist after all.”

“Yeah! That’d be cool! I haven’t seen her for *days*!”

“I know, buddy. Sam’s been busy.” They both headed into the living room to call her, leaving Sara standing in the kitchen.

*****

Sam showed up half an hour later. “Thanks for this, Sam,” Sara said as she let her in. “I can’t believe the stuff they teach these days.”

“It’s no problem, Sara. I’m sick of the sight of the base at the moment and my apartment’s not much fun.”

“Have you had problems? Jonas hasn’t turned up, has he?”

Sam shook her head. “No, but he found out my new number. He hasn’t stopped calling for the last two days.”

Charlie wandered in the room, grinning when he saw their guest. “Hi, Sam!”

“Hey, Charlie. Where’s this project you need help with?”

Charlie led Sam over to the sofa and Sara excused herself to go and cook dinner.

When she walked back out half an hour later, she wasn’t prepared for the sight. Sam and Charlie were on the floor, laughing as she tried to explain something to him. Jack was sitting in his favorite armchair, paper open, but his eyes were on the two on the floor. He had a soft, loving smile on his face, and Sara was pretty sure it wasn’t solely directed at their son. They looked for all the world like a happy family. She had to clear her throat before she could speak. “Ah, dinner’s ready,” she told them.

They all looked up at her as they heard her speak. Charlie jumped up and raced into the dining room. Jack paused to pull Sam to her feet, putting an arm around her when she overbalanced. “Thanks,” she said quietly, blushing slightly.

He just smiled and ushered her to the table, not noticing the heartbroken look on his wife’s face as she watched.

Following dinner, Sam helped Charlie finish his project before Sara declared it was time for his bed. He kissed everyone goodnight before going up to his room.

“Well I guess I better be going too,” Sam said as she looked at her watch. “Thanks for dinner, Sara. It was delicious.”

“Thanks for helping Charlie,” Sara replied, trying hard but failing to be angry at the woman.

“Anytime,” she replied with a smile, getting up off the couch.

Jack followed her to the door and Sara watched as he helped her into her jacket. His hands lingered a little longer than necessary for the task. Sam gave him a spectacular smile, bright enough to light the darkest night and Sara could see the effect it had on her husband.

“See you later,” Sam said as she opened the door. “Bye, Sara," she called over Jack’s shoulder.

“Bye, Sam,” Sara managed to reply.

“Goodnight,” Jack said quietly, almost as though he didn’t want her to go.

“Bye,” she returned just as quietly, and walked out of the house.

Jack held in a sigh as he watched Sam’s car drive off. It was getting harder and harder to watch her leave. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could do it. Shaking his head, he closed the door and turned back to the living room. Sara was still sitting silently on the couch, a thoughtful and somewhat sad expression on her face. “Hey, you okay? You were very quiet tonight,” he asked her, moving to sit in his favorite chair.

Sara was silent for a moment as she tried to think of how she could bring up what was on her mind. She decided to get straight to the point. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?” It was more of a statement then a question.

Jack managed to choke on the very air that he breathed. “*Excuse* me?”

“You’re in love with Sam. It’s not hard to figure out, Jack. I’ve seen the way the two of you are together. You spend so much time with her. You both look at each other...”

Jack stared at her for a moment. “You think we’re having an affair?” he asked, incredulous.

Sara smiled a sad smile. “I know you wouldn’t actually sleep with her while we’re still together. You’re both too honorable for that. But she’s got your mind and she’s got your heart. It’s not fair on me or her, Jack. Why don’t you just give her everything? Then one of us can be happy and I can move on.”

Jack couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What about Charlie?”

“What about him? I would never stop you from seeing your son and he adores Sam. Hell, even *I* adore Sam. She can make you happy, Jack.”

Jack shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re saying this to me. I... I don’t know what to say.”

“Just be happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you. Just promise me you’ll be happy.”

Getting up, he walked over to the sofa, sitting down and taking his wife in his arms. “I promise, Sara. I *do* love you, you know that don’t you?”

She nodded sadly. “But you’re not *in* love with me.”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault. These things happen.” She pulled away from him. “Go and see her, Jack. Don’t let her get away.”

*****

Jack was surprised that he didn’t get a speeding ticket as he drove over to Sam’s. He wanted to tell her as soon as possible, before he lost his nerve. He couldn’t deny what a wonderful woman Sara was. To willingly step aside so he could go to the woman he was in love with... he was pretty sure he couldn’t have done the same if their roles were reversed.

Parking out the front of her apartment, Jack quickly locked his car before walking inside. He nodded to the doorman as he made his way into the elevator. He’d been to the apartment often enough and they didn’t even stop him anymore. He waited impatiently while the floor numbers clicked off, finally reaching the eighth floor. He jumped out as soon as the doors opened and walked down the hall to the door numbered 811. He took a deep breath before pressing his finger to the doorbell and stepping back to wait.

It was only a few moments before Sam opened the door, a beautiful smile lighting her face. “Jack! Miss me already?” she joked. She opened the door for him. “Come in.”

“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”

“No. I was just about to go to bed.”

“Oh, sorry. I’ll go...”

Sam pulled him inside. “Don’t be silly. Come in.”

“You sure?”

“Yes. Do you want some coffee?”

He shook his head. “No, I’m fine, thanks.”

Jack led her over to the sofa and sat down beside her. “Sara and I have decided to separate.”

Sam put a sympathetic hand on his arm. “When did that happen? I mean everything seemed okay tonight. Sara was a bit quiet but... what happened?”

He shrugged. “She thinks I’m in love with another woman. Problem is, I think she’s right.”

Sam was shocked. She didn’t know what to think. An irrational burst of jealousy raced through her veins as she thought of him with someone else. Someone other than her.

“She also thinks that the woman loves me as well.” He looked at her expectantly. “Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you love me?”

Sam couldn’t speak for a moment. “You’re in love with *me*?” she finally managed to get out.

“Yeah, I am. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I love you, Sam.”

Again, Sam was rendered speechless, so she did the only thing she could think of. She launched herself into his arms and kissed him, only stopping when air became a major priority.

Jack grinned. “Does that mean you do love me?”

“Of course I love you! How could I not?” Their lips met again as they were both carried away by their mutual passion.

*****

Jack just stared at the man telling the story. It was so unbelievable that their lives were so similar, but at the same time so very different. The man was him, well an alternate version of him, and Jack couldn’t help but be jealous of the life he had. “So, you’re still together now?”

The other Jack grinned. “Sure are. Been married for three years. We’ve got a daughter, Allison. She’s eighteen months old.”

“And Charlie?” Jack choked.

“He’s fine in my reality. He lives with Sara, but he’s staying with Sam while I’m away. He’s so great with little Alli. He and Sam get on like a house on fire.”

Jack shook his head. “I can’t believe that one event could change your whole life. I didn’t go to Kawalsky’s medal ceremony. Sara and I had a fight and I didn’t go.”

“So, you guys stayed together?” The other Jack asked.

“For a while. We went to counseling and things were pretty great until... until Charlie died.”

“God, I can’t imagine what I’d do if that happened.”

Jack gave a bitter laugh. “I know exactly what you’d do, because I did it. I gave up on everything. I just wanted to die and get it over with.”

“So what changed?”

Jack allowed himself a small smile. “I met four of the most wonderful people and they gave me my life back. I know I’d be dead, or as good as, if I hadn’t met Skaara, Daniel, Teal’c and... and Sam.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “If only I’d gone to that ceremony. So much would have been different. Charlie would still be alive...”

“You and your Sam would be together,” the alternate Jack finished for him.

“It’s against regulations... speaking of which, how did you get around that?”

AU Jack grinned. “Basically, it was a matter of friends in high places and the fact that they needed us both. I was one of only a few people who had gone through the ‘Gate and Sam was the leading authority on the technology. When the program was re-opened, General Hammond and General Carter banded together and the President agreed. We were the... prototype, I suppose you’d say. There’s now a *very* different set of fraternization rules in our US Air Force.”

Jack could only nod. He was finding it so hard to absorb all of the information that was thrown at him. The only things he could think of were that Charlie was alive, and that he and Sam were together and still at the SGC. He was tempted to pinch himself, just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Then another thought hit him. “Why did you go through to Abydos then? It was a suicide mission, why would you risk all that you had?”

Jack saw a dark cloud cross the other man’s face. “Because they were going to send the woman I love on that suicide mission. They weren’t even going to tell her about the bomb until the last minute and, knowing Sam, she would have been so excited about going through the ‘Gate that it wouldn’t have even clicked until it was too late. I confronted General West and he told me the only way I could stop it was by going in her place. To say Sam wasn’t pleased is an understatement, but she got over it eventually.”

As they continued to compare their realities, neither one of them realized how long they’d been talking until Sam knocked on the door. “Can I come in, Sirs?”

“Sure, Sam,” the alternate reality Jack replied, gesturing her into the room.

She nodded and walked in. “SG-6 brought back the mirror and I managed to repair the device that operates it.” She smiled at the alternate Jack. “We can send you home as soon as you’re ready.”

“Great!” He enthused, jumping up from the bed. “I’m ready now.” He was eager to get back to his wife and children. What his double had been through was disturbing. All he wanted to do was take his family in his arms and thank every deity for his good fortune.

The four members of SG-1 and General Hammond were the only other people present in the store room, as Jack tried to find his reality. “Are you sure you can find the mirror that we have at the base? I don’t particularly want to meet the natives that chased me through the other one I found.”

Sam shook her head. “As far as I understand it, all of the mirrors are linked, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to find the one at your Cheyenne Mountain.”

“Well, hopefully Daniel and Teal’c will be waiting at our mirror. They were waiting at the ‘Gate for me when the natives turned on me. I radioed them and told them I was planning on going through the mirror and I’d meet them back at the base. As long as they made it back...” He trailed off, not wanting to think of that possibility.

Sam gave him a reassuring smile. “Of course they made it back.”

It took them a further five minutes to find his reality. Everyone let out a relieved breath when they saw both Teal’c and Daniel waiting on the other side.

“How can you be sure this is yours?” Daniel asked, remembering some of the similar realities he had seen the time he had used the mirror.

“I just do,” he replied, turning to say his farewells.

The two Jack’s were the last to say goodbye. The pair shook hands and AU Jack leaned close to his double so nobody else would hear him. “You should tell her, Jack. You won’t be happy with anyone else and neither will she.” With that said, he touched the mirror and headed back to his reality.

Everyone stood and watched until the mirror went black, before filing out of the room. Only Jack and Sam remained.

“Are you okay, sir?” Sam asked him quietly.

“Yeah, fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Colonel, I know what it feels like to meet someone who is essentially you. If you need to talk...”

“Thanks for the offer, but I’m fine.”

Sam smiled, not at all surprised that he didn’t take her up on the offer to talk. “Well you know where I am if you change your mind. Goodnight, sir.”

“G‘night, Major.” He watched as she walked down the corridor, away from him.

*****

Jack was certain that this alternate reality wouldn’t have affected him so much if it had happened a year ago. He could have just denied it all, like he had done with the two previous realities they’d encountered. There were two problems with that this time. The first was that Jack now knew, for certain, that Sam had feelings for him. She had been forced to admit them, as he had, when they were re-tested by Anise during the whole zatarc incident. The second problem was that, in those other realities, Sam had been a civilian, hence he just had to remember the regulations and he was fine. But that wasn’t the case with the latest reality. That Jack and Sam had overcome the regulations, and Jack was wondering if his Sam and he could do the same thing.

He was pretty sure that it was a huge mistake to go to his 2IC’s house with the current thoughts in his head, but that wasn’t enough to stop his finger from pushing the doorbell. A minute later, there was movement behind the door and it opened to reveal his gorgeous Major.

“Colonel,” she greeted, surprised. “Is there something wrong?”

“No, no. As far as I know, everything’s fine.” He noticed what she was wearing then and his heart sank a little. “Are you going out?” he asked, indicating the knee length, black skirt and the burgundy blouse.

“What? Oh, no. Well, not anymore. Janet and I were going out for a few drinks, but Cassie’s not feeling well so it’s been cancelled.” She stepped back a little. “Would you like to come in?”

“Yeah, thanks,” he replied as he entered her apartment.

“So, what can I do for you, Colonel?” she asked him as he seated himself on her sofa.

He looked up at her and she saw a myriad of emotions in his dark brown eyes. “Is that offer to talk still open?”

She smiled, sitting down next to him. “Of course it is, Colonel. That offer’s always open.”

He nodded. “The thing is, I want to talk to Sam.”

“Sorry?” she asked, confused.

“I don’t want to talk as Colonel and Major. I want to talk as Jack and Sam. There’s some stuff that Colonel and Major aren’t supposed to talk about, but Jack really needs to discuss them.”

“Um, okay,” Sam replied slowly, suddenly feeling very nervous.

Jack wasn’t sure where to start. He had to be careful what he said to her or he knew he’d lose any possibility of them one day being together. He decided to start by telling her the story that the other Jack had told him. “While you were trying to fix that... thing for the mirror, Jack and I were comparing our realities.”

“Were they similar?” Sam asked, relaxing slightly. She had thought that he’d come to talk about their feelings and what they had decided would remain ‘in the room’ after the zatarc incident.

“Remarkably, but there were still some pretty big differences. For example you and I had met long before the second trip to Abydos. We... or I should say *they* met at the ceremony where you got your first Air medal.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, surprised. “Really? Did you go to that?”

Jack shook his head. “No. I was supposed to, but Sara and I had a fight and I stayed at home. In this other reality, I went and we met. Apparently we got on like a house on fire. Then, when you came to Colorado Springs to start your work on the ‘Gate, we met up and went out. Apparently I... Jack took Sam home and Jonas had turned up.”

Sam winced, having a fair idea what had happened next. She’d never told any of them the full details of her relationship with Jonas. It was a part of her life that she wasn’t proud of and would give anything to be able to forget.

Jack continued on. “Anyway, Sam wasn’t wearing her engagement ring and Jonas went ballistic and hit her.” He looked at the woman beside him, taking in her bowed head and slumped shoulders. The posture seemed to confirm his suspicions. “He hit you too, didn’t he?”

She nodded, not able to meet his eyes.

“How many times?”

“Twice. The first time was just after he’d come back from some black ops mission. I can’t even remember what I’d done, but he went off. It wasn’t so bad that time, I could hide the bruises.”

“Why didn’t you leave him then?”

She sighed. “Believe me, I tried. It wasn’t that easy. It’s hard to explain, but Jonas had this... power over me. I mean, I may have level three advanced training, but I could never raise a finger against him and he knew it. Even when he’d flipped out and thought he was God, I couldn’t touch him.”

“What happened the second time?” Jack asked gently.

“The second time, I’d gone out for a friend’s bachelorette party. He went to every bar in town to try and check up on me. We’d taken Debbie to this strip club and he walked in just as I sticking a dollar bill down a stripper’s thong. He saw red. He decked the stripper and dragged me out of the club.”

“And he hit you,” Jack finished for her.

“Yeah. Two broken ribs and a fractured cheekbone. It was a bit harder to hide that time.” She shook her head. “It was hard. I knew I had to leave him, but I just wasn’t sure how I could. I felt responsible for him, like it was all my fault.”

Jack gave her an incredulous look. “How could it possibly be your fault?”

“It’s easy enough to say that now, but you have no idea how much control a guy like Jonas has. I loved him and I know he loved me. Most of the time, he was a very charming, very passionate man. I never even noticed how much control he had over me until I left him.” She ran a hand through her hair, trying to keep her emotions under control. “Anyway, Debbie’s fiancÚ was Jonas’ CO. I don’t know what he said to him, but he managed to convince him to get help and leave me alone.”

Jack pulled her to him and hugged her close. “God, if only I’d gone to that ceremony. It’s the only difference between the two realities, yet we both went through so much pain because I gave in to Sara.”

“Why? What happened in their reality?” she asked, not moving from his embrace.

“Jack helped Sam. Jonas only hit her once. She got some bruises and a split lip. She got her away from him before he could do more.” He ran a hand through her hair. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you.”

Sam pulled away from him, looking into his eyes. “You have absolutely no reason to apologize for a decision you made before we’d even met.”

“Yeah, but...” he started, only to have Sam cut him off.

“Just because it worked out in that reality, doesn’t mean the same would have happened here. For all we know, Jonas could have killed me... or you. There’s no value in thinking about what could have been.”

She saw the sorrow in his deep brown eyes and knew that it wasn’t only for her. “What else did he tell you?”

“Charlie’s still alive,” he whispered.

“Oh, Jack.” Sam wrapped her arms around him.

“After Jack helped his Sam, they got a lot closer.”

“They were having an affair?” Sam asked, shocked.

“No, but they were in love. Sara told him to go to Sam and he did. He moved out, so there was no gun in the house...”

After a few deep breaths, Jack managed to get his emotions under control. Pulling away from Sam, he noticed the tears sparkling in the depths of her blue eyes. “It doesn’t seem fair. They got happy ever after and all we got was the pain and heartache.”

Sam swallowed hard. “So they’re still together?”

“Yeah, they’ve been married three years. They’ve even got a daughter. Her name’s Allison. She’s eighteen months old.”

She shook her head in dismay. “And she’s still in the Air Force?”

“Yeah. She’s a Major.”

Sam was silent for a long moment and the silence was making Jack nervous. “What are you thinking?” he asked finally.

“That we’re cursed,” she replied quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“Doesn’t it bother you that we can be together in every other reality but this one?”

“It did when Daniel told us about the reality that he went to. And it did when Samantha came through the mirror.”

“But now?”

“Now I have hope that maybe we can be together. If they could do it, why can’t we?”

“You don’t know what you’re asking, sir.”

“Don’t do that. I’m not talking as your commanding officer here.”

“You’re always my commanding officer. As much as I’d like you to be more, there’s no getting around that fact.”

He reached out and touched her cheek. “I want to be with you, Sam. I’m not saying that we jump right in or anything, but I’d really like to spend some time with you. I’d like us to get to know each other as more than just Colonel and Major.”

Sam allowed herself to smile, eyes shining at his admission. “I’d like that as well.”

“So how about we spend some time together and see where it leads us. Just take it one step at a time.”

“Do you think we can do that? Take things slowly?”

Jack grinned. “Well, we can try.”

Sam laughed, getting up from the sofa and heading for the kitchen.

Jack watched her, a thought coming to him. “Hey, Sam?”

“Yeah?” she asked, turning back to look at him.

“Do you like dancing?”

She blushed, dipping her head. “Yes, sir, I do.”

He smiled, walking toward her. “Well, I happen to know this great little bar just around the corner from here. What do you say we go and have a few drinks... maybe a dance or two?”

She held out her hand, a beautiful smile lighting up her face. “Lead the way... Jack.”


THE END




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