They lay that way for some time, Jack staring up at the stars with Sam cuddled up beside him. He continued to absently stroke his hand up and down her back. Eventually her relaxed body and regular breathing intruded into his thoughts and he realised she had fallen asleep some time ago. Well, she certainly needed it; these last few months had been hard... So much had happened. He was quite frankly amazed she still spoke to him. Beside him, Sam shivered and nestled closer. He sighed. He was reluctant to wake her, but they couldn't stay out here all night. He tried to move to a sitting position, attempting to get her back to the cabin somehow without waking her. She shifted and looked up.
"Hmmm... sir? Whasswrong?" she asked sleepily.
"Time to go inside, Sam," he replied softly, trying to quell the conflicting emotions her calling him 'sir' had evoked. She could curl up next to him like she had been doing it for years, but she still called him 'sir' when she woke. 'It's a habit, Jack,' he thought, 'What did you expect? That after two days she'd suddenly break it and call you by your name?'
"Huh? Oh, okay..."she said as Jack's explanation penetrated her sleep-fogged brain.
He stood and helped her up, putting his arm around her waist as she leaned into him, still more than half asleep. Jack sighed again, looking down the hill towards the cabin. Decision made, he bent and slipped his arm beneath her knees and picked her up.
"Relax, Carter. It'll be much quicker this way."
'And what were you complaining about before, Jack? You just called her Carter,' he thought.
After a moments hesitation, Sam agreed, "Uh huh..." She snuggled against him in her half-doze. Jack tried desperately to ignore the jolt that went through him as she did so.
Finally they reached the cabin, Jack letting Sam's feet slide to the ground as he opened the door. She'd left the lantern on when she came out to find him, and her books were strewn across the table next to it. He guided her through the living area to her room. Upon reaching it, she headed unerringly for her bed, and laid down.
"Sam? Are you just going to bed like that?"
Sam opened her eyes to gaze blankly at him for a moment. Then she nodded. "Yes."
"What about you shoes?"
"Huh?" she looked down to her feet. "Oh." She waved a hand in dismissal, closing her eyes again.
Jack moved towards her bed. "You can't go to bed with your shoes on, Sam," he pointed out.
"Why not?" She was starting to sound grumpy, with that 'leave me alone I'm tired' tone beginning to creep in.
"Come on, sit up, there's a good girl," he said by way of reply, gently pulling her into a sitting position.
"You're always ordering me about," she complained, but she sat up, and swinging her feet off the bed. Jack leaned down and undid her boots, pulling them off and setting them neatly next to the small bedside table. Next he managed to pull down the covers just enough for her to slide between them.
"Good night, Sam," he said softly, drawing the blankets up over her shoulders.
"G'night..." Sam replied, nestling her head into the pillow.
Jack stood and started towards the door.
"Sir?" Jack stopped and turned back. "Thank you," Sam said sleepily.
"Anytime, Carter," he replied, but she was already asleep.
Sam woke late in the morning, and lay in bed for several minutes trying to regain her bearings, and listening to Jack move around the cabin. She thought about what had happened the night before, wondering with a little apprehension what the consequences would be. Everything had seemed fine last night; they had both been comfortable with the decision they'd made. And it had been the right one - the only possible one. But... She sighed. 'Well, lying here isn't going to help anything, Sam, so you might as well get up,' she thought, pushing the covers back to reveal the khaki pants and old denim shirt she had worn the previous day. She groaned. What on earth had possessed her to go to sleep fully dressed? She hated doing that. Well, she at least had had the sense to take her boots off... No, wait... She had a vague memory of sitting on the edge of the bed while the Colonel had pulled her boots off for her...Which led to the memory of him carrying her down the hill...Wonderful. Oh, well, there was nothing she could do about it now. She stood, and went to her bag to find her toiletries. She wanted a shower desperately.
She opened the door to her room to find the Colonel sitting in one of the chairs near the fireplace, reading. He looked up as she emerged, and smiled.
"Yes, thank you."
"I was beginning to wonder when you were going to wake up. I was getting hungry."
"You needn't have waited for me, sir."
He grinned. "I didn't. What would you like for breakfast?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I really hadn't thought that far ahead."
"Go and get washed and I'll fix you some thing,' he ordered, motioning to the bathroom. She smiled at him, and headed to the shower.
Jack put his book down [it was hardly holding his attention anyway] and moved to the kitchen part of the kitchen-come-living-room. He organised what he hoped was an edible breakfast, while listening to the sound of the shower. He suppressed the urge he felt to walk in and join her. He was sure she wouldn't object. 'Don't go there, Jack! You made a sensible decision last night, the right decision. Don't ruin things now,' he warned himself. Truth be told, he was a little nervous about what today would bring. He hoped they were still okay. Yes, it had been a mutual decision not to take things any further, but a line had still been crossed. He just hoped nothing needed to be repaired as a result. They had a great friendship, despite its recent ups and downs, and he didn't want that upset, on a personal level or a professional one. There was more than them at stake here. It sucked, but that's the way it was.
She emerged from the bathroom, bringing with her the scent of soap and shampoo. She was wearing an outfit similar to yesterday's - an old pair of pants and a T-shirt, with an old sweater thrown over the top. She quickly deposited her things in her room, and joined him in the kitchen.
"Pancakes? I'm impressed!" she teased as she took the plate he proffered her.
"I'll have you know I'm handy with more than a zat gun, thank you. And it's better than *your* effort yesterday," he replied with a grin, remembering her sorry attempt at pancakes.
"Hey, that wasn't *my* fault! You need a new stove!"
He gave her a disbelieving look. "Eat your breakfast."
She grinned and saluted him with her free hand. "Yes, sir! At once sir!"
Jack rolled his eyes and set about clearing up the mess he'd made.
Sam had been pleasantly surprised when they had arrived at the cabin two days earlier, after a long and seemingly endless drive from Colorado to Minnesota. She wasn't sure what she'd been expecting but it wasn't this. They had reached the cabin down a long and winding road which led to the lake. There didn't seem to be anyone else about for miles; the nearest town being about ten miles to the south. It was set in a small clearing, at the base of a gently sloping hill, and about five minutes walk to the lake, where Jack kept a small boat in which to go fishing. Inside, the cabin was comfortably but plainly furnished. The front door opened into an open living space - the kitchen and living area sharing the same room. There were two old, yet comfortable chairs and a couch next to the open fireplace on the right of the front door, with a small dining table and chairs opposite, on the same side as the kitchen area. Towards the back of the cabin were two bedrooms - her's on the left, Jack's on the right, with a small bathroom in between. It even had electricity from solar panels on the roof - but only to pump and heat the water. For light they made do with hurricane lamps, and wood to heat the stove to cook on. Jack had explained to her yesterday how he'd installed the solar panels himself, after she'd asked him about it. It confirmed to her that Jack understood more than he liked to let on. She privately wondered why he did that.
They'd spent most of yesterday out on Jack's boat, making the most of the weather. Jack had fished, while she had laid back and read. It had been a really nice, comfortable day, neither of them feeling the need to say much; they had simply enjoyed each other's company away from the base. That evening Jack had cooked up the fish he'd caught [he was quite a good cook, she had to admit, despite his assertion that he couldn't], and afterwards she had got some books out and looked through them, while he went for a walk. Eventually feeling a bit lonely, and missing his presence, she'd sought him out, finding him at the top of the hill, looking at the stars.
"Sam?," Jack's voice broke into her thoughts. She looked up at him, noticing he'd taken the seat opposite her. He cleared his throat. "Ah, are we okay?"
She swallowed the last of her pancakes, and pushed her plate away. "I think so... aren't we?"
He nodded, reaching out and squeezing her hand. "Yeah, I just wanted to make sure." She squeezed back. He gave her a shy and hesitant smile. "So, what do you want to do today?"
Sam shrugged. "As little as possible."
"Oh, I think we can arrange that."
They spent the next couple of days doing exactly that - as little as they possibly could. It was so nice just to be able to sit back and relax, to not have to worry about reports or projects, missions or politics, or any of the other things that went on in the SGC. They fished, they walked, they read, they talked about anything and everything, pleasantly surprised to find just how much they had in common outside of work. But the talk never became personal - and they both knew why. For despite how comfortable they were both feeling, there was an undeniable undercurrent of tension that they could not shake or ignore, no matter how hard they tried. It was the same tension that always surrounded them... but whereas at the SGC there was always something to keep their minds occupied, out here there was nothing but each other.
And while they both had thought that evening under the stars had settled things, they soon came to realise it hadn't. It had just made things worse.
On the evening of the fifth day they were sitting in front of the fire, Sam sipping her wine, Jack his beer. Sam sat with her back against the couch with her legs straight out and crossed at the ankles, reading a trashy western novel that Jack had found hiding somewhere. It was welcome change from her science books and journals - or would be if she could keep her mind on it. Instead she found herself glancing at Jack all the while, wondering what he was thinking, admiring the way he sat with his back against one of the chairs, his pose almost mirroring her own, the form of his body... 'Stop it Sam!' she admonished. 'That sort of thinking is dangerous and will only get you into trouble.' But she couldn't help wishing things could be different, and imagining what it would be like if they were. She looked up, meeting his gaze, and knew that Jack was thinking the same thing.
She shifted uncomfortably, pulling her gaze from his. She put her book down, and stood, picking up her empty wine glass to take to the sink. Methodically she rinsed it out and placed it on the side to drain, trying desperately to regain her equilibrium. Sam felt rather than heard him stand behind her. She still jumped when he put his hands on her shoulders, gently forcing her round to look at him.
"Sam, I..." he started meeting her blue eyes and stopped. She leaned forward slightly, unable to stop herself, placing one hand on his chest. He bent his head and brushed her lips with his, before returning his gaze to hers. She leaned forward a little more, and he bent his head again, kissing her gently, running his tongue across her lips, requesting entrance. Sam opened her mouth and knew she was lost. She ran her hand up his chest to the nape of his neck, drawing him closer as he deepened the kiss. She snaked her other arm around his waist drawing him closer, while his encircled her small waist and moved up her back. His tongue played with hers, thrusting suggestively in and out of her mouth. He pushed her gently backwards against the sink, thrusting his hips against hers. She ran her hand down over his shoulder and arm from his neck, her elbow jutting out and knocking over the glass she'd placed next to the sink with a loud crash.
It was enough to break the spell for both of them. Jack backed off so fast Sam almost fell over. She stood where she was, her head down, staring at the floor, trying to get her heart rate and breathing back under control. She glanced up and knew Jack was trying to do the same thing. She swallowed, running her hands through her hair. Oh god, what had she done? Things had been going well... No, that wasn't entirely true. She took a deep breath, just as Jack turned back, and said, "Sam? I think we need to talk."
Sam was suddenly terrified. Talk would mean confrontation. Confrontation would mean acknowledging the change in their relationship. A change that would make or break them. 'But isn't that what you really came up here with him for?' she asked herself. 'No! It was just two friends, co-workers spending some time together...Bullshit, Sam, who are you trying to kid?' But she couldn't face it. She wasn't ready. Not now. She needed time to think. She shook her head.
"Sam... This can't go on. We need to talk about it."
"Tomorrow," she replied. "I can't do this now. I'm going to bed." Refusing to look at him, she went straight to her room and closed the door. In the living room she heard him swear and throw something heavy. And later, as she lay in bed, she heard the front door open, and knew he'd gone outside to look at the stars. She rolled over and pulled the pillow over her head in frustration.
When she woke the next morning he was still gone, although judging by the cup and plate left in the sink he'd at least been back. Running a hand through her sleep-disheveled hair, Sam sighed and made herself some breakfast, at which she picked half-heartedly. Finally realising she wasn't really hungry, she began clearing up; washing up the breakfast things and putting them away before moving on to the living area. With that done, she decided to take a shower, wondering if Jack planned to be away all day.
When she finally emerged, washed and dressed, he still wasn't back. She opened the cabin door and stepped into the sunshine. They'd been so lucky with the weather that week; it had remained warm and sunny. She looked down through the trees towards the lake, and moved off the porch towards it. Reaching the lakeshore, she could see him far out, across the other side, fishing. He planned on being there for a while, that much was obvious. Sam turned and walked back towards the cabin, trying to analyse her conflicting emotions. On one hand she was glad of the respite, on the other, she had wanted to get this 'talk' over with. She'd had time to think last night, and she knew that burying her head in the sand about their changed relationship wouldn't make it go away; she had to face it, as much as it scared her. Entering the cabin again, she moved to the sofa, finding a couple of journals she had brought with her, and forced herself to concentrate while she waited for Jack to return.
Jack sat out on the lake, ostensibly fishing. Truth was, fishing was the last thing on his mind - he held the rod and made the motions of fishing automatically. If he actually got bite, he never noticed. He kept going over the events of the last week in his mind, especially what had happened the night before. Could he have done anything differently? What if he'd said this or that, instead of that or this? At about midday he realised the pointlessness of his sitting in the middle of the lake worrying about it, and put his fishing rod down and proceeded to row back to shore.
He approached the cabin and opened the door with trepidation. He wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Part of him was certain he would be greeted by Sam's packed bags and an annoucement that she wanted to return home. But he wasn't. She sat at the table cradling a mug of hot chocolate, reading one of her journals, making notes. She looked up at him as he came in, appearing nervous. She gave him a small smile.
"Hi. Did you catch anything?"
He shook his head. "No. I wasn't really trying," he admitted. Sam nodded and closed the journal she had been reading.
"I know, Jack," she replied in a quiet voice, not looking at him. "We need to talk, and I've been thinking about that. I think we need to get everything out in the open. All the reasons why we should, and *shouldn't* do this."
"Alright," Jack agreed, thinking that was a very Sam way of handling this - logic. Place all the evidence in front of them, and then decide. He sat down opposite her, careful not to stretch his legs out beneath the table to brush hers. "Who first?"
Sam dove straight in. "The regulations."
Jack nodded. "No fraternisation. Well, I think we've already broken that one. Just you being up here with me could be classed as an infringement, I think." Sam nodded in agreement.
"I could resign..." she started, but was cut off by his swift and forceful reply. "No! I won't have that. You've worked far too long and hard to get where you are to resign just because of me. I won't allow it. If anyone should resign it should be me."
Her reply was just as swift and adamant. "No, that's just as bad, Jack. I won't let you do that."
"I'm getting too old for all of this anyway, Sam. Besides, you'd probably get your own command."
"No, Jack. I don't want a command; I'm happy as I am. And neither do I want to be involved in a team without you. I'd rather know where you are and what you're doing, thank-you, so don't suggest one of us switching teams."
"Keeping an eye out for my sorry ass, huh? Or saving it more like?"
"Something like that," she answered. Then she shook her head. "Even if we could find a way around the regs, there's Daniel and Teal'c to be considered. What about team dynamics? Would it change things?"
Jack shrugged. "I really don't know... I'd like to say no, but..." He looked at her. "No, I don't think they would. The four of us are very...close-knit, I don't think that the two of us having a personal relationship would really change all that much."
Sam nodded, although she looked doubtful. Then she said something he wasn't quite prepared for.
"Lara," she said softly, staring at her now-empty mug as though her life depended on it, her knuckles turning white as she waited for his answer.
"No, Jack, we have to have everything out in the open. I don't want to look back on this at any time and say 'If I only knew that then...' You understand?" He nodded.
"Lara," she repeated. "Do you love her?" she asked in a barely audible voice.
Jack swallowed; this wasn't easy for him, but judging by Sam's face, it wasn't for her either. "I thought I did," he admitted. "At the time."
"You told her you didn't want to go home."
Jack looked at Sam sharply. "You heard that?" She nodded. Oh god, he hadn't realised...That certainly explained a lot. A hell of a lot. "Sam, I was confused, I didn't know who I was, or where home was any more. I'd only just come to terms with the idea of never being able to go home at all. Lara was very important to me at the time. She kept me stable. I know I should have had more faith in you, and I've already apologised for that." He sighed. "No, Sam, I don't love her. Even if I did, I doubt it would work. We have nothing in common."
Sam nodded, considering his answer, until he threw out a name *she* wasn't expecting.
Now it was her turn to look up sharply. She should have seen that coming. It was only fair.
"Do you love him?"
"I..." God, how to explain her feelings about Martouf when she didn't understand them herself? "Yes," she admitted quietly. She saw Jack stiffen. "But Jack...It's all so tied up with Jolinar, I still don't know whether those feelings are mine or hers. And for that reason alone I would never get involved with him. But when I look at you, I know whose feelings I'm feeling. And they have nothing to do with Jolinar. Martouf would never be a threat, Jack." Of that at least she was certain.
"And neither would Lara."
Sam nodded. Then looked back up at him in surprise at the next name he mentioned. "Jonas."
"What? What's Jonas got to do with this?"
"Everything. You said you had a soft spot for the lunatic fringe, remember?"
"I..." She frowned. "Who told you that?"
"I was walking right behind you, remember? I could hardly help but overhear."
"Oh. And you think that you're part of that 'soft spot'?"
God, she was quick. It would have taken him much longer to figure the same thing out. "Am I?" he asked hesitantly.
She shook her head. "No. I mean, the thing with Jonas... I thought I could change him. Help him. But in the end all he wanted was control. You're not like that. The only thing you really have in common is the time you spent in Black Ops. You're not Jonas, Jack."
"Glad to hear it." He reached over and gently squeezed her hand.
"Sara," she said quietly. He knew that was coming. He let go and pushed back his chair, missing the look of hurt on Sam's face. He moved to stare out the window towards the lake and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "Jack?"
He let out a long, slow breath. "It's complicated, Sam. She was an important part of my life for so long... She still is and always will be. I can't say that I don't still love her because I do, and I always will." That was one of the most difficult things he'd ever had to say. He found it difficult enough to express how he was feeling, but with something as complicated as his relationship with his ex-wife...
Sam swallowed. "I see." Jack turned back to her, and watched as she fiddled with her mug. "Do you?"
She looked up. "Yes. You were married for a long time. She gave you Charlie..."
"That's part of it, I guess. But you have to understand, Sam, our marriage was never easy. There were cracks even before Charlie... I was simply never around enough to notice, or it was *because* I was never around enough, I guess." He stopped for a moment, watching Sam who remained staring at her mug. He decided to take the plunge. She was right. They had to get everything out in the open, no matter how difficult or painful. "There were cracks in our relationship long before I went to Iraq. Sara didn't want me in such a dangerous occupation. She would have liked to have seen me get a desk job, been around home more. We talked about it a couple of times, but... I knew it wasn't for me. The issue made our whole relationship strained. I went away more often, she became more resentful. In the end, the only thing holding us together was Charlie." He stopped again, and moved back to his seat opposite her. She still hadn't looked at him.
"I still love her Sam, but I'm not in love with her. I haven't been for a very long time." He reached forward and took her hand again. 'Please say something,' he thought.
Sam just nodded. They remained quiet for a long time, both contemplating what had been said.
Finally Sam looked up at him, dejected. "Why are we doing this, Jack? There is so much against it. What do we have going for us?"
"I know I want you Sam..."
"But is that all it is? Want?"
"No! Is that all you think this is about? I brought you up here because I *wanted* you?"
"No!" Jack pushed his chair back and stood up angrily. "I brought you up here as a friend, a good friend, who I wanted to spend time with and get to know better. I didn't ask you here to simply start a torrid affair!"
He stopped and let out a long slow breath. He didn't bring her here to fight either. He watched her quietly, desperately trying to figure out what was going on in her head. She remained sitting, her head down, staring at her hands. He moved closer, and knelt beside her. "Sam? Sam, look at me please."
Drawing a shaky breath, she looked down at him with tears in her eyes. He reached up and caressed her cheek. "I care about you, Sam... And I don't want to hurt you. If you don't want this, say so, and we'll never mention it again, alright?"
She shook her head. "I do want it Jack, very much..."
"But I'm scared," she admitted. "What if it doesn't work out? What if we get found out?"
"What if we don't do this and we regret it for the rest of our lives?" he countered. "Sam I have enough regrets in my life, I don't want to regret this as well."
She looked away again. "I... I need some time to think..." she said, getting up. "I'm going for a walk."
"Sure," Jack replied, also standing. He tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his gut as he watched her leave. He leant his hands on the table, desperately trying to contain the urge to break something. She was the most important thing in his life, and he had just let her walk out.
He walked down the path, to find her staring at the water, her arms wrapped protectively around her middle. He stood some distance away from her, his hands deep in his pockets. It was almost sunset, and the light made her hair seem like red molten gold. Uncertain, he approached her from behind, gently slipping his arms around her waist, and drawing her back against him. He held her loosely enough that she could pull away if she wished. She didn't. Instead she leaned back against him with a small sigh, and slid her hands over his.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. He stiffened. 'Here it comes,' he thought.
"There's no need to apologize, Sam..." he started.
She looked up at him then, reaching up with one hand to caress his cheek. She shook her head and bit the inside of her lip, uncertain. She had two choices. She could walk out of his embrace... Or she could lift her head and kiss him. Each would mean a dramatic change in both their lives, and possibly others. She closed her eyes, trying not to think of all the arguments for and against... What did she really want? She opened her eyes to find herself staring into Jack's brown ones, and suddenly she knew with utmost certainty.
She turned in his arms and kissed him.
Well there you go. Please let me know what you think. Alexandra