Story Notes: SPOILERS: none

SEASON: After 3

ARCHIVE: SJA, Heliopolis, others only have to ask.

NOTES: This little bit of inspiration hit me this morning. Hope you like it. As ever feedback would be nice!

She can't do it.

She just can't.

She told us nearly two weeks ago and I could tell that even through the smiles and congratulations that no one was *really* happy with her decision. Not even Daniel or Janet. They just kinda looked at each other when they heard, as if they were expecting something else, or rather someone else.

But as usual it was me and my big mouth that caused all the hassle.

When I listened as the words came out of her mouth I actually heard my own heart break. I mean it wasn't as if I had any claim on her, but it was at that moment I felt my heart break into a million tiny shards that cut my soul to ribbons that I realised just what a fool I had been.

"I'm going to marry Martouf"

That's what she had said. At first no one reacted, but as usual, her friends rallied quickly and began a 'faux' congratulations that all present knew was as hollow as my head. But not me, oh no. "Mr. Always Speak His Mind" screwed up again.

"Aren't you gonna congratulate me sir?"

Like hell I was. How could I when she had just told me that she was gonna go and marry that snakey little -----. Well you can imagine what word fits into that space, can't you?

She looked at me, almost as if my opinion meant something to her. I know I should have been supportive, but my entire being was in a deep and dark pain. As I looked into those beautiful luminous blue eyes I couldn't do what she wanted me to do.

"How can I congratulate you major when I think you are making the biggest mistake of your life."

I stopped as I realised the hush that had taken up the room, I saw the looks from Daniel and Janet, but I was in no mood to heed their warnings. My Major had just told me that she was marrying that little ----- (once again insert preferred expletive)

Her eyes took on that all too cute confused look that reminds me of me, but I was too hurt and too consumed by my own pain at the myriad of feelings to notice how my words were hurting her.

"He's no good for you Sam, he's just using you as a replacement for Jolinar. It isn't you he wants. He wants the memories you hold and you have walked into the trap. I thought you where smarter than that."

I saw the tears glisten in her eyes, for the briefest of moments I cursed myself for doing this to her, but could I stop myself?


Even though I knew that I had no right to do this to her and that I had no right to feel as rejected as I did, I couldn't stop the words. If only I had have had the courage to tell her how I feel. How I have felt since the day she challenged me to that arm wrestle, how those feelings grew and magnified each time I saw her or spoke to her, and how those feelings became so intense every time she laughed at me.

It took me so long to have the courage to admit to myself that I was in love with her, always promising myself that I would tell her, just after this mission or that mission, just after she saved our butts again, or just after she laughed at me again. I guess I just ran out of time. Now I'll never be able to tell her.

As I look back into her eyes, I can see that she has registered the anger emanating from my own eyes. I see the answering sparks fly across her face and know that I am about to be shot down in flames. But the strange thing is that I wait for her to do it, after all, it is nothing more than I deserve. I have just used her as a vent for the self-loathing I am feeling at my own cowardice. I deserve everything I am about to get.

To my utmost shock, she doesn't come back at me spitting the fire I expect after my totally out of line remarks. She just looks at me and says ever so calmly.

"Sir, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I am going to marry him. I would have liked you to be happy for me, but if you can't, well, that's fine. But please leave, you are ruining the mood"

She couldn't have hit me harder if she had tried. I had been given my payback; I was officially removed from her life as of now. The hurt I was already feeling doubled and tripled as I merely nodded at her and left the room.


I hear the knock on my door, but I ignore it. I'm too busy trying to deny how deeply I am hurting and how stupid and wrong I have been. The knock sounds again, louder this time. Once more I ignore it, I know that its Daniel checking up on me. But I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't need anyone to help me. I can do this on my own. I can feel myself drawing away from the world, shutting myself within and old self-constructed prison, a place that feels disturbingly familiar. A place that only one person has the key to.

The knock grows more impatient, but I know that Daniel won't knock again, so once more ignore the intrusive sound.

Suddenly, the door opens, revealing a silhouette that definitely does not belong to our esteemed archaeologist. I blink against the brightness as I focused on the one person I would never have expected to see.

"Sir, Can I ask you a question?"

Stunned that she is here, I can only nod. After the way I had just treated her I had expected never to be spoken to again.

"Why?" A simple question, but a very difficult answer.

My brain was having difficulty coming around from complete shut down. A state which she recognised and allowed for

"Why did you do that? Do you really hate Martouf so much?"

I still could not speak, but this time it was due to the huge lump of guilt that had embedded itself in my throat.

"Why did you do that Sir? I was telling my friends that I had finally found someone to love me and you destroyed it. I know that it has shocked you all, but I thought you'd be happy for me so I just want to know why you're not"

Finally, my words worked their way past that growing lump.

"Carter, I just don't know. I'm so sorry. You are entirely right. I was way out of line."

"Yes, you where and I want to know why."

I belatedly realise that she is not going to let me get away without answering her original question. At this point I have two choices, I can either make her hate me even more and tell her the truth or I can throw myself at her mercy by begging for forgiveness.

Well, you all know me well enough to guess which path I chose. The path of least resistance? The path where I may have been able to salvage some form of relationship with her?

No. You guessed right, I told her.

The truth.

As I looked into her eyes, I couldn't deny my feelings anymore. Yes it is probably the most selfish thing that I have ever done in my entire life, but I did it anyway.

"Colonel, please. I just want to understand. Why did you do that?" I see the pain that I have caused, but still carry on travelling a path I know will hurt us both even more. Sarah was right when she called me a selfish Son-of-a-bitch.

"Sam" I whisper.

I see her shock and confusion //well stick around sweetheart, it's gonna get even better//

"You can't marry Martouf"

The rest of the sentence sticks in my throat, my conscience screaming at me, warning me against this. I pay no heed, I have already lost her, and it can't get any worse, can it?

"Why, can't I? Tell me why?" She's battling unshed tears again, but I press on.

"Because…" I stumble once more.

"Because what?!" Now she's getting mad. Mad and upset a lethal combination for one Major Carter.

"Because *I* love you"

There it was out, finally. Ok, so the timing stinks, but I feel absurdly proud of myself for finally admitting it. I raise my gaze to hers, waiting for her reaction.

I got a reaction all right.

I was hit with a stinging right hook that would have done Mohammed Ali proud.

As I picked myself up of the floor (yes, floored by a woman, but hey, you take a right hook of this particular woman and lets see how long you stay on your feet) hand on my painful jaw and bloodied lip.

"You selfish, arrogant, *son-of-a-bitch*!"

I couldn't say anything, the charges she had levelled where indefensible, besides, my mouth and jaw still hurt.

But not as much as my heart as I saw the anger blaze across her face as she turned and slammed the door behind her.

I remained and lay back on the bed, congratulating myself on having completely ruined the best thing in my life.


When I asked if it could have got any worse, I didn't expect for that answer to have been yes. But they did.

For the next few days after my little outburst I was 'reprimanded' by virtually everyone I knew. Janet, Daniel, Teal'c and even General Hammond wanted to know what had caused my behaviour.

They tried various tactics, everything from soft reasoning to full frontal orders where attempted. Daniel even tried to get me drunk, but my barriers where strong through years of practise, my defences impenetrable to anyone but her. She had been the only one who had ever been able to reach me. But this time, she would not be there to try again, to bring me out of that place, to help me forgive and teach me to live again.

So of course the attempt of the others led to nought. I didn't want anyone knowing what had made me so weak and selfish. I even got a few nasty looks from the usually nameless SFs, but hey, I deserved it.

The only person who didn't come anywhere near me was Sam, and for that I was strangely grateful. I had hurt her far too much already. I didn't want to hurt her any more. The others seemed to enjoy keeping me up to date with the wedding plans. They had decided to do it on top of the mountain, tomorrow. Janet had taken great pleasure in describing Sam's dress in minute detail, therefore ensuring I had a clear picture in my mind of what I would never see. I can assure you that the torture that they put me through was acute, especially when I was informed that Sam would be permanently assigned to the Tok'ra to join her father and her new *husband*.


My attitude had reached new levels of sarcasm and irreverent behaviour that Hammond ordered me off base while the wedding was set up. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me the excuse to miss what was going to be one of the most painful experiences of my life. To this day I don't know if he knew what had truly motivated me, but you don't get to be a Major General by sticking your head up your ass, do you?


The day of the wedding, I was very busy drowning my sorrows in numerous bottles of beer, when once more a persistent knocking interrupted my self-hating.

Knowing that none of the others would dare come see me today of all days I answered the door, my curiosity too piqued, over riding the calling of my beer.

The figure that greeted me stunned any thought from my mind. The only sensation I could label was fear and dread.

"I want a word with you, Colonel"

Jacob Carter was not at his most happy. Today was supposedly to be one of his proudest, giving his daughter away to the man she was marrying, but here he was with a very less than happy look on his face. I knew that this was not going to be pretty, I had hurt his daughter and for that I must suffer the consequences. Any father would do the same, I know that if some idiot ever hurt a daughter of mine, I wouldn't even ask questions. I would just hurt him, badly.

His whole being released the aura of a man only just holding on to his temper, so in one of my wiser moments I remained silent.

"Colonel, I don't know what you have done to my little girl, she wouldn't tell me. But I do know that you hurt her in a way that no one has ever been able to do. After having spoken to her this morning, certain conclusions have been reached, so I am here to give you a little advice. However much I admire you as a soldier and a man, if you ever hurt my little girl again, I will not be so restrained when I come to look for you again. Do you understand me?"

Although I nodded my head, I could not quite grasp that he had left the room without knocking my head off my shoulders as his daughter had done a few days earlier. Neither could I understand his threat about hurting Sam again. The way I saw it, I would never see her again, she was leaving later this evening and wouldn't be back anytime soon. I also wanted to know what conclusions had been reached, but the alcohol began to invade my mind and that blessed numbness began to work its magic.


A good few hours later, I awoke, remarkably sober. I let my eyes travel to the clock, 9pm, Sam would now be a married woman. The thought re-opened a still raw wound, but the realisation that she was no longer on this planet poured the proverbial salt in the wound. Believe me, it stung like hell.

I had sent her away, my failure to remain her friend, to show her support and then to play with her emotions had lost her to me forever. It is times like this when pain burns deep and strong brandishing a mark on your soul that will never heal.

With a million 'if only's' running through my head I went up on the roof, staring at the stars, in my own way getting myself as close as I could to the woman I loved. The woman my cowardice and selfishness had let leave for the furthest parts of the galaxy without even saying goodbye, or more importantly, without saying sorry.

Refusing to let the tears fall, I loose myself in the millions of tiny dots in the night sky.

"God, Sam. I'm sorry, wherever you are right now, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Why couldn't we have had just a little more time? Why did I not see that you loved him? Why did I not have the guts to tell you sooner? Why could I not be your friend when you needed me to be? Why did you leave me?"

A noise behind me removed me from my pain. When I turned to see the cause, my heart jumped firmly into my throat.

"I didn't leave"

She stood there, an angel on my roof. I could not stop the smile that threatened to crack my face.

"What are you doing here? Your supposed to be…" For the life of me I couldn't say the words

"I couldn't leave and I couldn't get married" I could see the sheen of hurt that crossed her own face, whatever had happened had been difficult.

My face must have betrayed my question, for a second I saw a glimmer of a smile cross he wonderful lips, but she pulled the reign of control tight.

"Do you have any idea how difficult it was to tell Martouf that it wasn't going to happen, who many questions I have had to face about my reasons? The only one who understood without question was my father, he said I had to follow my heart"

"Sam" I finally found my voice, half-afraid to ask the questions running around in my head

"Why are you here?"

"I'm here to tell you that I'm not married and I'm not leaving and that I do forgive you"

The only word that would form on my lips was


Her answer was not immediate, looking to the floor and then to the stars and finally at me, she had a look in her eyes that I had never seen before, but oh my god, did I want to see it again. Her eyes glistened like molten metal; her mouth smiled a smile that I would have gone to the ends of the galaxy to see. When finally she did speak, I thought I was dreaming

"Because I love you too"

I saw the tear fall from her face, no longer responsible for any formal thought I watched as she continued.

"I was so mad at you, but then I realised that you had woken me up. I didn't love Martouf; it was me that was using him, as a replacement you. When Dad helped me realise this morning, I couldn't go through with it, and I couldn't leave you. I love you too, Jack. It was always you"

I couldn't believe that this was real, after spending the last couple of weeks locked back up in my own little prison, here was the only woman who could reach me there offering to release me and throw away the key so that I could never go back. I memorised everything about that moment, knowing that I could keep it safe as a proof of how much this lady awes me. Her forgiveness and courage astound me.

I walk slowly towards her, seeing the smile cross her lips and reach her eyes as I take her in my arms.

"I couldn't stand to think of you with anyone else, it hurt so much. I know I should have supported you, but I couldn't bring myself to give you my blessings when I wanted you for myself. I swear I'll never hurt you again"

As I cupped her face, my hands framing her delicate features, I asked the question I had wanted to ask since almost the first time I had seen her.

"Marry me?"

She laughed into my eyes and replied.

"I'd better, or my dad will kill you. Besides, there are about 50 people waiting for me to bring you back to the mountain. I didn't see the point of wasting all the food"

At that moment, I did my now patented guppy goldfish face.


"We're getting married Jack, tonight, under the stars on top of a mountain. You are too dangerous to be left on your own, now are you coming?"

With that she left my arms and climbed down to the street. Numbly, still trying to process this *really* unexpected turn of events, I followed. Getting in the car beside her, she drove me to my own wedding. I never did lock the doors or even turn out the lights, but hey; there was something more important I had to do.


Ok, so call me strange, but this was the very last thing I had expected today of all days. Here I was being ushered into the mountain by very eager SFs who where all smiles. Entering my room, Daniel and Teal'c stood waiting.

"You're gonna need this" said Daniel, all smiles as he held out my perfectly dry-cleaned dress uniform.

"It took me and the only 24hr Dry Cleaners in Colorado to get that done. Honestly Jack, have you never heard of hangers?"

"I too have taken a liberty O'Neill. I believe it is earth custom to exchange rings. I hope that this will be adequate."

The huge Jaffa extended his hand, opening it to reveal a simple platinum band. I stood speechless at the actions of my friends.

"Thank you, both. I can't begin to…"

"Jack" interrupted Daniel "It's ok. Sam finally made the right choice. We all knew that she was making a mistake with Martouf, but none of us had the courage to tell her that. You did and now you get the reward. She loves you so much Jack, just never let us have to see that look cross her face ever again"

I looked from friend to friend, so different, yet so identical. They where my friends, ones who I could trust and depend on, and I was now marrying the woman I had dreamed of for so long. I did not deserve any of this, but I was sure as hell not going to throw it away. I may be dumb, but I'm not that dumb.


I stood in front of the mirror, fixing my tie as Daniel tried to straighten my carnation, a knock was heard at the door. Teal'c answered and as I turned around I came face to face with two *very* serious Generals. Using the intelligence that he is famed for, Daniel dragged Teal'c from the room.

"I believe 'Thank you' is the appropriate response, Colonel"

Thoroughly confused, I looked on.

"Well, if you don't think making Sam see what a mistake she was making is worth a thank you, well..."

"It was you?" My response was not exactly the most articulate words I have ever uttered, but guys you have to remember that I'm still trying to realise that I'm actually in real life here.

"Yes, Son. Jacob knew she didn't love Martouf, he just couldn't get to Earth before today. When he did, he came to see you to make sure he wasn't wrong and then took care of Sam and I took care of the regulations"

Suddenly both officers broke into grins that threatened to break their faces in two. Through all this last two hours, I had completely forgotten about the regulations, it's a good job someone was thinking. But it was the sudden Eureka moment I had in regards to Jacobs visit earlier that day was one that both men laughed out loud at.

"What can I say Sirs? Except thank you"

"You can say that you are going to take care of my little girl Colonel"

"General, I think that that is a given. I swear, I will never *ever* hurt her again and I will look after her for the rest of my life"

Satisfied by the obvious sincerity in my tone, both officers left me, reminding me to hurry. I stood still just for a moment. Silently I thanked whatever god had seen fit to bless me like this. I quietly picked up my cap and headed topside.


Daniel on my left, Teal'c on my right, my best men smiling into the crowd. General Hammond stood in the first bench smiling, my friends all around me, I waited with ill-concealed nerves as the music started.

I saw Janet dressed in a very becoming sapphire blue and Cassie, in an identical dress, both smiling up at me. But my attention was caught at the sight of a uniformed General, or rather; my attention was caught by what he was escorting down the aisle. A mass of flowing white, and blue eyes and she was walking to *me*

I turned my eyes towards the woman walking towards me. She looked divine. Janet had told me enough for me to be able to picture in minute detail how she would look, but none of my imaginings could compare to the vision before me. She stunned me. All white and glowing as her eyes met mine. Any other detail was lost as she locked her eyes to mine.

"Why me Sam?" I whispered into her ear, taking no notice of anyone but her.

"Because I love you, idiot!"

Guests, Padre, friends and relations never understood why the groom suddenly burst out laughing on one of the most serious events of his life, but the bride did, and she was the only opinion that mattered to this groom.


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