Isn't that the way it's supposed to finish? Don't all good fairytales culminate with that one immortal phrase that everyone who's ever been a child understands?
The phrase that lets you know that everything is right with the world.
That when Prince Charming meets Princess Charming, they kiss, get married and *always* live happily ever after?
Well, not this "Once Upon a Time…"
Five years ago, Colonel Jack O'Neill was injured on a mission, nothing life threatening, but serious enough to put an end to his field career. Everyone thought he'd retire - again, instead he accepted an instructors post at the Air Force Academy.
He even seemed grateful, but I didn't understand why. At least not until the very end of his leaving party. When with his usual finesse he turned my world around.
'Man of few words'?
You could say that.
We were all stood around him, as he was coerced into making a speech, surprising us all when he began in a tone that was not usual for our mouthy Colonel…
"I really only have one thing to say," his nervous cough was eloquent of his state of mind and it grabbed everyone's attention, mine included. Jack O'Neill was not known for being nervous, at least not in front of his command team and soldiers he'd served with for years.
He was even fidgeting, which didn't go unnoticed and just as the marines were about to let him know they'd seen the famous Jack O'Neill completely fazed by having to give a speech, he moved.
He walked around the room with deliberate slowness and finally came to a stop right in front of me, catching my eyes in a penetrating gaze that never faltered (not even when the cheers and wolf-whistles began). The kind of look that only he knows how to give, the kind that opens you up and leaves no place guarded, the kind that I had longed to be the recipient of for so many years.
My CO was known for his matter-of-fact, straight-line approach, well he certainly lived up to that quirk of personality that night. As the next words he spoke raised the noise levels to the roof and my heart to heaven. He just looked at me with those expressive dark chocolate eyes and his voice was molten fire.
"Major Carter, I love you," and then he simply kissed me until I believed it.
We were married one year later.
We were also filing for divorce two years after that.
Yeah, that's right, my fairytale, my hero and my prince, my husband. He wasn't my happily ever after, after all, and it hurts. It hurts so damn much, that not even six months without even hearing his voice blunts the pain.
We'd saved each other from so many things, but we couldn't save each other from ourselves.
The end came slowly; sneaking up before either of us knew it was there. But when it finally arrived, it was quick, brutal and very, very painful.
Which is why I am stood talking to my reflection as I brush a fleck off my regulation black T-shirt, while trying to convince myself that today can't be as hard as that day six months ago when my world fell apart.
Today, Colonel Jack O'Neill, combat instructor at the US Air Force Academy, my ex-CO, my ex-best friend, my nearly ex-husband and I, will be in the same room for the first time in 182 and ¼ days (not that I've been counting).
So here I am, trying to convince myself that I am not going to react to him, to his eyes, to his voice or to his smile - if I see one that is. It's been a long time since I've seen him smile. Really smile I mean. But then again, I suppose he could say the same about me.
Not for the first time I wonder when he stopped looking at me like I was everything he'd ever wanted.
Instead his eyes grew dull, only showing that cold detachment that had served him and his unit so well for so many years, but now it was a look that I loathed, because it meant he was shutting me out. It was a look I had seen too many times and each time it hurt me more.
Oh, we were happy for a time. Very happy, fairytale happy, and then we just… weren't.
In the end, after that awful realisation, Jack ran to his cabin and I ran, well… here.
Refusing to let the tears (that I know are ready and waiting) actually fall, I look down to the third finger on my left hand and watch the light play off my wedding band set. The last link to him that I could never quite destroy, even when all hell broke loose between us, I couldn't take them off. I couldn't admit to myself that it really was all over, that the man who was supposed to be my Prince Charming, wasn't.
I honestly never thought I'd see him again, to look into his eyes and see the hurt there. To let him look into my eyes and show him the exact same thing. But today, as a result of Daniel all but demanding his presence for "something big", I will have to see him again over that briefing room table, as I had done hundreds of times before.
But this time it was different, this time it was hard.
I look at my reflection one last time and I square my shoulders as I place the symbol of his love on my dresser, my hand feeling unusually light while my heart felt devastatingly heavy.
I force a smile to my lips and walk out the door telling myself that the only man I have ever truly loved isn't going to rip out my heart all over again.
I won't let him… I can't let him.
A sharp knock sounds on my office door and before I have chance to look up and grant entrance, the door opens and there stands the only man that I expected to come through it.
"Hey George, still got you chained to the desk I see," he smiles at me, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes.
Allowing myself the smile back, I offer my hand in greeting.
"Well, you know how it is Jack, I still have unruly Colonels to keep in line," He accepts the hint and shakes my hand
"You wouldn't have had it any other way Sir," as he moves to sit down, I see the subtle pain the simple movement causes.
"You're damn right Colonel" we both laugh this time, but he's wrong, I would've had it *any* other way than him getting caught in crossfire and nearly losing his leg.
"How's the Academy treating you?" I continued although I already knew the answer.
Officially, Jack was a combat instructor at the Academy. Unofficially, he was an intermediary between the Academy and the SGC. His role was to choose the best graduates from the academy and take them to a facility not far from the mountain and adapt their thinking and training to give us the next generation of SGC field personnel. His instincts and experiences made him perfect for the roll, and he was damned good at what he did.
"No complaints, General. These kids are good, but I don't think the Academy did it's job on the "following orders" front" he smiled, again it missed his eyes.
"What goes around comes around Jack,"
"Yeah but at least my innate charm and good looks detracted from my more "pain in the ass" moments"
Again we both laugh, but this time, it doesn't reach my eyes either. The banter and irreverence may be there, but he's not the same Jack O'Neill. He's missing something, that spark, that light behind his eyes… he's missing *her*.
Knowing him as I do, I look at him and can see the unrest just beneath the surface. I know why, but there's nothing I can do to ease it. I wish there was something I could do, but once more my hands are tied.
I had to stand by and watch their relationship pass the bounds of CO and 2IC while ignoring it because they were too damn good at their job. Then I had to stand by once more and watch as those same two people, who should have been perfect for each other, finally got their chance and hit self-destruct.
We chat for a while longer, about nothing in particular, which in itself is telling for a man who has little patience with small talk. Eventually we both realise that we cannot put off the inevitable any longer and without verbal acknowledgement we rise and walk out into the briefing room.
This is hard, no wait… I've done hard. Actually as a team we did impossible (with a side order of insane) on a weekly basis.
But as I follow Hammond, I know that I haven't faced anything as difficult as this for a very long time.
I know she'll already be there of course. She'd never be late for something like this… hell she'd never be late full stop, not unless there was a pesky little sun about to screw up her intricate calculations.
I nearly smile at that, one of those small remembrances of how it used to be, before it hurt.
Forcing myself to keep walking and to keep my face impassive, I enter the room and even manage a smile and a hello to two of the three occupants.
"At ease," comes the familiar command as we sit.
Well, I kinda limp to a seat and more collapse than sit, but hey... this damn knee hurts.
Part of my mind is suddenly focussed on why we are all here, on what Daniel's big secret is; yet it's the feeling in the pit of my stomach that holds my attention. The one I always got when she was close by, the one that used to make me think I was invincible, that I could do anything.
Not anymore, now it just hurts – even more than this damn knee.
The first thing I notice about her is that she hasn't changed a bit, maybe a little thinner, but still… then my eyes notice something different, focussing on that I realise that her left hand shows no link to me and that hits me like a punch in the gut.
OK, so mine has no link to her, but that's a very recent development - recent as in about an hour ago. I can still feel its weight on my finger, kinda like phantom pain. Plus, it's close by, very close… close as in my jeans pocket.
I watch as her eye's dart over me and then skirt the table, then finally her gaze rests on my hands. I see her shoulders stiffen as she stills, acknowledging the lack of gold. She starts to force her head up, I can feel the determination in her movements, but I know her well enough to know that there is pain there too.
Yeah Sam, I know. It hurts doesn't it?
I make myself look at her, full in the face. Call it old habits dying hard, but I had to see if that old exquisite reaction was still there.
I found out as soon as her blue eyes met and held mine. The jolt hit me like a zat blast, only it lasted longer.
She was still as dangerous to my balance as she had always been, and even after the last few months, I was still nowhere near able to protect myself from her.
Six months of complete self-denial only quadrupled her impact. God she was stunning, I remembered everything about that face, every detail and for a second I remembered those eyes laughing into mine, while her smile literally brightened my world, making all the lame ass jokes worthwhile.
But it was such a long time since I'd seen her smile that kilowatt smile just for me that I barely remembered it… Who am I trying to kid?
I remember the exact damn second of time.
I know exactly where we were and exactly what we were doing. It was the morning she left for her mission to 256; she'd forgotten her notes. When she came back in to get them, I was waiting for her, holding them and her keys out to her and she smiled at me.
I remember it as clearly as if it had happened yesterday, because after she got hurt, things changed between us. But I still remember her smiles; I remember everything about her.
Including how it feels to watch her walk out of my life without being able to fight for her.
I struggle to put air in my lungs, knowing that with one look she had made me as vulnerable as I always had been where she was concerned.
She never did understand just how deeply I needed her, if she did she wouldn't have left.
That memory only serves to piss me off.
But she still holds my gaze, the challenge implicit. She's trying to show me that this is easy for her that she can shrug off the memories as easily as she shrugged me off that day six months ago.
She wants me to look away first… not a chance in hell.
I remember shouting after her as she turned on her heel and left me stood standing in the middle of a Mall, I remember waiting for days, weeks for her to come home and let me explain. But she never did. She ran away from me in that mall and she'd been running ever since.
Right now the only thing I wanted to do was to show her that I was fine, to make her realise that I could live without her. Hurt? Me? No way!
I wanted to show her that she meant nothing to me.
But I couldn't do it, I couldn't even *pretend* it, so I fell back on old training and detached myself completely, removed all emotion from my face and locked it up. It was my time honoured and well-trusted defence and I knew would cut at her.
I wasn't wrong.
I'd hit the target true, my aim just as good as it always had been. She dropped her gaze to her hands and did not look back up. But not before I catch a glimpse of old pain.
Why Sam? What did you think was going to happen today? Your precious fairytale is over. I destroyed it. You told me so the night before you heard the message on the answering machine, spied on me and then left me, for once without bothering to find out the facts.
Let me tell you something Sweetheart, I might still have been your prince, had you trusted me and not let that be the only time in your life when you didn't think enough!
Major Sam Carter thought too much on occasion, but that day Sam *O'Neill* didn't think at all and that just *really* pisses me off.
But knowing that's she's only an arm's length away and she's hurting provokes me into old doubts.
Would she have reacted so intensely if she'd stopped loving me? Maybe the fact that she couldn't detach herself and coldly analyse the evidence says more than I want it too right now, I'm too steamed to get deep. The only thing I know is that for the first time, when it mattered the most, my major - my *wife* - didn't trust me. She didn't think and she ended up ending our marriage because of that.
Once again, this room is witness to the sparks that we generate, but the memories of the first time this room crackled because of us is painful to me now. I don't want to be here, it's too hard.
I know Daniel wanted me here for something, but the only reason I came was to prove to myself that I could do it, that I could be near her and not feel. And now I've found out that the only thing I can do is hurt her and in turn hurt me. I just want this to be over.
Jeez, fishing never looked *so* inviting… yeah it did, the day she finally said yes to the invitation.
The only thing that's stopping me from getting my ass right out of here, is Daniel. I never lost touch with either him or Teal'c, (or George for that matter) so they both know what its taking for me to remain here. For him to do something like this, knowing that Sam and I hadn't done "the same room" thing for a very long time meant it must be really big.
I look at him, words marking the first real communication between any of us since we walked in. The tension in the room had stifled all other conversation, and I felt like a goldfish in a bowl.
"So?" I purposely sounded bored, like I used to when Daniel was running a briefing. But my eyes sent him a clear signal… "Get the hell on with it so I can get the hell out of here!"
He gets the message,
"Just a second longer Jack," he mumbles, looking to the door with urgency.
I think he knows that it's all about to go asses-up. Me and Sam in the same room was a bad idea. I'd told him so in not very eloquent terms when he rang to tell me to be here. But he'd played that irritating loyalty and friendship card.
So I'm here, the outside showing indifference while inside I was brutally controlling my gut… only just stopping myself walking out or grabbing her by the shoulders and demanding0 to know why Sam O'Neill couldn't trust me with the same unwavering faith that Sam Carter had.
Finally, something happened… The Doc walked through the door that Daniel had spent the last five minutes staring at.
"Sorry I'm late General, SG-9 decided to go exploring and got the P4X 176 version of poison oak"
Hammond just nodded and motioned her to sit. But she didn't sit, she smiled at Teal'c as she walked past him, let her hand squeeze Sam's in a completely obvious gesture of support as she sent me an evil – no change there then, the Doc always did blame me. Then she did something that really did surprise us all, apart from Hammond.
She walked to Daniel (who was beaming) and kissed his cheek as he took her hand and faced the stunned room.
Sensing the question on everyone's mind, Daniel dropped his bombshell. He and the Doc had gone and got themselves engaged!
Congratulations followed, with the same genuine joy that I had witnessed not so long ago. But it was Sam who caught my attention. I could tell she was doing her best not to cry and as she hugged them both, I heard her whisper "Be happy" and for some reason that simple wish ripped me apart.
"What she means is be happier than us!" The distaste laced my words, leaving no one in any doubt as to my state of mind.
I saw her head snap around to me, but before she could respond, Daniel interrupted.
"Jack, don't be an ass. Don't spoil this for us. We wanted *all* our friends here, to be happy with us. I know this is hard for you, but please…"
I felt like shit, he was right of course.
"Daniel, I'm sorry. Doc, I'm sorry," I look them both square in the eyes to let them see I mean it before I carry on. "I really am happy for you guys, but I think I should go before I do spoil this for you"
Daniel nodded, understanding what I was feeling. The Doc however…
"That's right Colonel, you run away when emotions get involved! You're good at that"
"Excuse me?!" I demanded at precisely the same time as Sam warned,
But the Doc was mad and I knew that when she was mad, you were in for low flying needles and some seriously straight talking.
"I'm sorry Sam, but I'm sick of this. I'm sick of him acting like he never had anything to do with your break-up. The ever so *perfect* Colonel, couldn't possibly be part of the problem! Well wake up and smell the coffee *Jack*. You *were* the problem! You and your macho crap, so you couldn't go through the gate anymore and Sam could… deal with it! But no, at the first sign of trouble you run into Sara's arms!"
Dr. Janet Fraiser had accomplished what many had nearly died trying to do… she'd made me speechless, for a second anyway.
Then I got mad, madder than I had been in a very long time, and right at that moment, I didn't care who was there or why. I may have answered the Doc back, but I was looking at, and talking to, Sam.
"You think it was jealousy? Because I couldn't go through the gate and you could? You think I'm that pathetic?"
I couldn't believe she'd thrown our marriage away because she thought I was some spoilt child who couldn't get his own way. So I said something childish, something I knew would hurt her, a lot.
"You really didn't know me at all, did you?"
I saw her bristle and I just knew that there were tears falling. But I didn't care, because for the first time I was actually hearing her side as she looked at me and spoke with such venom.
"How the hell was I supposed to know you? You pushed me away after the accident and I never knew why… not until I heard *her* on the machine and then I realised you were too busy getting re-aquainted with your ex-wife to bother with your current wife!"
She moved so suddenly and slammed to door so hard behind her that it knocked the picture off the wall. For a second I just stood still, breathing hard, fighting the urge to hit something.
And then I did something that I'd sworn I'd never do again, I went after her and I slammed to door just as damned hard as she had.
I watched him leave, and felt Daniel grip my shoulder, reassuring me.
I hadn't meant to say anything, Sam wouldn't have wanted me to. But when I saw how brave she was being when he was being such a jerk to her. I couldn't help it.
"It's ok," Daniel soothed me "we knew the chances of something like this happening. There's still too much emotion between them for it to have been easy"
"I know," I begin as the General stands and walks over to us "I just wish he hadn't gone after her now. Neither of them are thinking clearly enough. Besides, he should've gone after her when it all hit the fan, not now. She's finally started to get on with her life…"
Daniel held me tighter, and was about to say something when Teal'c interrupted.
"He did indeed attempt to locate MajorCarter six months ago Dr. Fraiser. He was unable to"
I swallowed hard. "I didn't know that Teal'c"
"Not many people did, Doctor," replied General Hammond.
I ran along the corridor, wiping madly at the tears, ignoring the stares from the SF's.
I'd sworn I wouldn't cry over him anymore. But as I remember the pain that came with not being able to understand why my husband shut me out from his emotions and then the humiliation of finding out his reasons… the tears only fall harder.
I reached my quarters and slammed the door behind me, as I leant against it for support.
Ever since 256, he'd pulled away from me. My first command mission that went bad. I'd been seriously hurt and spent nearly a week unconscious in the infirmary to prove it. When I came to, Jack was there, holding my hand and looking like he'd been awake for as long as I had been asleep.
While I was confined to the Academy hospital, things had been fine. It was only when I got home that he pushed away. At first I assumed it was because I had scared him. Knowing I'd feel pretty much the same way if the shoe had been on the other foot, I accepted it. But it didn't end, for four weeks he shut me out so completely that I began to wonder if I'd come home to the right reality. I tried reasoning with him, I tried shouting at him, I even cried to him, but nothing helped. In fact it just made it worse. It was only when I heard the first of two things that the pieces began to fit.
I overheard him talking to Daniel when he thought I was asleep. Granted, I only caught the end of the conversation, but it was enough… "If I'd been there, it wouldn't have happened" He didn't think I was good enough to command my team, that only he would have been good enough to stop an all out Goa'uld attack! I'd always thought I'd had his respect as a soldier, I was wrong.
After I heard that, I stopped trying to understand him and so we started fighting and he pulled away further. It was another month of near constant bickering before I actually found the truth.
Jack was out as usual and I'd been in the shower, so I hadn't heard the phone ring. I didn't think twice about listening to the message that was flashing on the machine. I wish I had.
"Hey Jack, its Sara. 11am at Alessandro's is fine. I know you didn't want me to leave any messages, but I really think it's time Sam knew"
With that one simple sentence my world fell apart. Autopilot got me dressed and drove me to the mall. I had to make sure because some part of me wouldn't believe that my husband was back with his ex wife. I had to see, and boy did I.
I watched through the window as Jack hugged Sara so tightly, his head bent right into the crux of her neck and shoulder as she held him and ran her hands absently through the hair at his nape.
My pain was past bearing, but I walked calmly into the diner, right up to the table. Sara saw me and stiffened in surprise. When Jack lifted his head, all he saw was my hand make stinging contact with his cheek and then he would've only saw my back as I ran out of the shop and away from him, picking the quickest route out of the mall.
As far as I was concerned, that was the end of my marriage. Not only did he not respect my abilities to do my job; he also detached himself from me and ran back to his ex-wife.
I didn't even go home to pack a bag, I left and went to a random motel and cried.
I was suddenly jolted from my memories as the door handle shook with such impatience I thought it would come off altogether. Good job I'd locked it, because I knew exactly who it was.
"Sam, open the damn door!"
I didn't answer. I just stood and swatted at more tears. I didn't want him here; he was six months and a divorce petition too late.
"I swear to God, you either open this door now, or I knock if of its hinges!"
I knew he wasn't kidding, but I still didn't move.
"For Christ's sake, Carter, let me in!" I don't think I'd ever heard him so mad, he was livid. But it was his next words that caught my attention.
"Jesus Carter, you've finally let me know why you threw our marriage away and you think I'm going to leave it at that?!"
'*I* threw our marriage away?' Ok, my turn to be livid… I unlocked the door and swung it open with the full force of 6 months of pain behind me. I knew I'd startled him, but I wasn't about to stop there. Grabbing hold of his leather jacket, I pulled him violently into my room and began *my* side of things.
"I didn't throw our marriage away Jack, you did. When you wouldn't talk to me, when you stopped thinking I was capable of doing my job! When you started to think that only you could have possibly stopped what happened on 256," I heard him draw a quick breath, but I carried on regardless of the fact that he was showing me more about his feeling than he had in nearly a year.
"I heard what you said to Daniel about it not happening if you'd been there. Maybe not, but then again, how could I possibly live up to the amazing Colonel Jack O'Neill? But the worst thing was that you threw me away because you wanted your ex-wife more than me!"
I was crying so hard, but I didn't care that I was letting him see how much he'd hurt me. In fact I wanted him to see it, I wanted him to realise what he had done to me and I wanted him to hurt because of that. I knew I'd succeeded as I watched his expression finally reveal to me something more than detachment. I watched as his eyes showed me that every accusation of mine had hit it's mark and I watched as I saw pure, unadulterated fury wash through his entire being and then an absurd calmness take hold of him. A calmness which was reflected in his next words.
"You think I just pushed you away because I was disappointed in you? That I didn't think you could be as good at my job as I was?"
The shock in his voice should have alerted me that he was about to drop a bombshell…but I was too caught up in his eyes. Deep, dark and in more pain than I'd ever seen as he continued in a voice raw with emotion.
"You weren't as good at my job as I was Sam, you were better. I meant every word I said to Daniel. But it was never about my lack of faith in you. It was because if I had been there, you wouldn't have got hurt, because I would have taken the hit for you. That was my job, as a CO and as your husband. I shut you out because I was more afraid than I have ever been. I was felt so damn guilty because I wasn't there to protect you, and you'd nearly died… just like…"
He sucked in a deep shuddering breath, I knew why.
"Yes I went to Sara, not because I wanted her more than you, but because I needed to talk to someone who knew about guilt. Someone who could tell me why I was making the same old mistakes again and make me stop before I really did lose you!"
I suddenly became vibrantly aware of just how close he stood to me. His breathing ragged his eyes full of pain and I knew without a doubt that he was telling me the truth.
"Yes you saw us together, but you didn't want to see that she was comforting me after telling me what a complete asshole I was being! You just turned and ran away from me without letting me explain."
"You didn't want to explain Jack, if you did, why has it taken you six months to tell me this!"
For the first time in six months he touched me, he grabbed my shoulders and shook me, hard.
"For cryin' out loud, will you just listen to me! I couldn't *find* you to explain! I had no idea where you'd gone and you never came home to give me the chance. After a week I realised that you weren't going to come home and that you'd been judge and jury and found me guilty without trial. You didn't trust me Sam and when I realised that you'd threw us away because you'd trust me as you CO but not as your husband I knew it was over, you only proved that when I got those damn papers by a courier!"
He dropped his hands from my shoulders so suddenly that I nearly lost balance.
"You never told me any of that, you just shut me out of your life!" I accused
"I know," He sounded insecure, "but by the time I understood what I was doing to you, you ran away from me and our marriage"
"I needed you to talk to me a long time before I left you, instead you let the arguments begin without caring that you were ripping me apart"
"I know I was wrong, but I wasn't going to come looking for you again. I waited for you to come home, or to the cabin, convincing myself that you'd start thinking properly sooner or later and that you'd come and find *me* and let me explain. But you never did, you just decided I wasn't worth fighting for"
I couldn't deny the accusation. I hadn't gone back to him, because I couldn't bear hearing him tell me he wanted someone else more than me. I spent five days crying in a motel room. After that, I went back to Cheyenne and on as many missions as Hammond would authorise. Everyone knew I was acting on emotion, but when the man you love appears to have had an affair, logic doesn't really count for much. In my mind our marriage ended the moment I saw his head on Sara's shoulder and her hand in his hair. I petitioned for divorce shortly after and sent the papers to him in Minnesota via courier.
I could see the how badly that had hurt him, but I didn't know what to say. There was so much to take in. Everything I had thought for the last 8 months had just been turned on its head, so I said the only words that I felt expressed my emotions.
"I'm sorry Jack"
It was only when I said those words that I felt better than I had in a very long time and for the first time today, I dropped my guard and really looked at him.
The anger had drained away, leaving only a desolation that I knew all too well. The knowledge that we'd let each other drift away though misunderstandings and fear was almost as unbearable as what had come before.
Slowly with a gentleness that I'd missed so desperately, he took my left hand and looked pointedly at my bare finger then back to my eyes. Something so familiar sparked between us in that moment and I grabbed onto it with all my might.
"I'm sorry too Sam" his voice nothing more than a husky whisper.
I knew what he was referring too, and I knew the symbol that he was using to represent it.
Pulling away from him, I turned my back on him able to sense his uncertainty even without looking.
Walking over to my dresser I picked up the two objects so recently removed and held them out to him so he could see. His shock was almost funny, had the air not been supercharged, I would have laughed at his expression, especially when I placed them back on my finger.
I didn't move. I just looked into those wonderful brown depths and saw the spark light the fires behind them as a slow sensuous smile curved across his lips.
I watched, fascinated, as he slipped his hand into his pocket and fished out something that caught the light. My breath catching as he pushed it ever so deliberately onto the third finger of his left hand.
My heart hammered as he walked with careful determination to stand right in front of me, stopping only when he was so close that the material of his shirt met the material of mine. I stilled completely and watched as his smile reached his eyes and there it was, that same penetrating gaze that still left no place within me unguarded.
I was mesmerised by this man. I was caught in his spell and willingly so.
He picked my up left hand again so that our rings almost touched, while his three simple words washed over me.
"Come here Sweetheart"
And I did, oh I really did.
My hand shook as I place my rings on the dresser and reach for the door handle, careful to make no noise.
Taking one last look at the man still sleeping in my bed, I felt the tear-track down across my cheek, he looked so peaceful, relaxed…happy.
The light from the corridor hurt my eyes and I slid out of the door before it woke him, closing it just as softly behind me.
It was all too much, too quickly and I wasn't ready for him to turn my life upside down all over again. I wasn't ready for him to hurt me all over again.
'God I'm sorry Jack, please don't hate me.' I pray silently that he would understand.
With that I moved along the corridor, intent on finding General Hammond to request time for personal leave and then let Janet and Daniel know. At least that way there would be someone to explain to Jack why he was going to wake up and find me gone.
For the first time in long time there is a smile on my face as I wake up, last night had given me back my smile. Last night had given me back my wife.
I reach for her across the bed and finding no sign of her, I let my eyes roam around the room. Not finding her there either.
Now I *know* it wasn't a dream, I have had enough dreams about my wife to know which are fantasy and which are dead real. Not allowing myself to stay disappointed because she's not here to wake up to, I look at my watch and realise I'd slept longer than usual (that's a shocker after last night!) and she must have had a briefing.
I lie in bed a little longer, re-living last night in all it's exquisite detail, delaying the actual process of getting my ass out of the bed that smells of my wife for as long as I possibly can. Besides, if I'm still in it when she comes back after the briefing… well you know what I'm getting at.
Just then I'm brought out of my daydreams by a knock at the door.
Wondering why she would bother to knock at her own door, I automatically grant entrance. But it isn't Sam who appears, it's Daniel. Just as he is about to start to speak I interrupt.
"Um, Daniel…" I begin, a little flustered, "can you just give me a second here?" Well I am naked under here for crying out loud!
For a second he looks confused, and then I see the light dawn. You know something's never change. "Oh yeah, right… I'll be, um… I'll be outside" and with that he disappears just as quickly. Unable to stop the grin, I haul my ass up and pull on my jeans.
"Ok Daniel, come on in…"
He does as he's asked, but slowly. He even hesitates as he shuts the door. He must be embarrassed… I nearly laugh
"Jeez Daniel, she is my wife you know… it's allowed"
Now I know that it wasn't anything like a joke, but I really didn't expect to see him stiffen when I mention the word "wife". I look more closely at him as I lace up my boots. This time when I see his face, I know something is wrong.
"Jack, there's something I need to tell you…"
I feel the fear coil around my stomach, I don't know what he is going to tell me, but judging by his manner I know I'm not going to like it.
"There's not really an easy way to tell you this…"
"Get on with it Daniel…" my voice tight with impatience and fear as he apparently finds something riveting on the floor.
"Sam's gone Jack. She left this morning. Hammond gave her 4 weeks personal leave. She asked me to tell you that's she's sorry…"
I didn't give him chance to finish the sentence. I barged past him, and still half-naked and I head straight for Hammond's office.
My head leapt from my computer as my door nearly flew off its hinges.
"Where the hell is she?!" he demands, looking like a man only just holding himself from flying apart at the seams.
I close the laptop and look at him,
"I don't know Son, she just asked for personal leave. She said she needed to think"
I know it's not good enough for him, but that is all I know. I'd considered denying her request and ordering her straight back to her husband (who I knew hadn't left the base last night) but I knew better than that. It wouldn't have done any good; she'd have gone anyway.
"And you let her *go*?" I notice that his knuckles are clenched so tightly at his sides.
"I had no choice Jack, you know that" he knows I'm telling him the truth as he rakes a shaking hand through his hair.
"No Sir, I don't suppose you did" and with that he walked out of my office, and I knew, out of the picture.
I walk slowly back to her room, unseeing and uncaring. I can't think; I can only just breathe.
I open the door and see a figure sat on the bed, and for a wonderful second I think it's her, that this was all some big joke. But it's not. It's Daniel.
"Jack, are you ok?" he edges
"I'm fine Daniel" I lie.
"I don't believe you…"
"Believe it" Ah, sweet detachment.
I walk over and nonchalantly pick up my shirt, putting it on while I search for my jacket. I spot it on the chair by the dresser and wander over to it, paying no attention anything other than the need to leave.
"Jack…" I hear him try once again to talk to me.
But something sparkles on the dresser and two objects seize my attention. I pick them up and feel the small weight of them as they make that rock in my gut even heavier.
Looking at them for a moment, I fight my emotions and finally, I put them both in my pocket and feel the padlock close around my heart.
"Leave it Daniel, it's over…" and with that I walk out of the door, out of the mountain and this time, Swear to God, out of her life for good.
"Sam, if you won't talk to him, at least talk to me. This isn't healthy,"
I'm getting frustrated with my best friend. She arrived back on the mountain this morning and this was the first time I'd had chance to speak to her (thanks to SG-3 marines not knowing the difference between sharp and not sharp – jar-heads!)
"Janet, trust me I'm fine. I've had time to think and I feel so much better"
"Oh really?" I question, sounding very much like I don't believe her – something that isn't difficult, seeing as how I don't believe her.
"Yes *really*" She finally looks up from her work and sees I'm not going anywhere, so she sighs and carries on.
"Janet, what happened was the result of us being in an intense situation. It was the first time either of us had spoken about anything and the emotions got the better of us," I noticed her eyes glaze slightly "It was a mistake and it's better for us both not to make another"
"Oh well that's ok then," my sarcasm unhidden
"Janet look, he's probably glad I left. Saved him the trouble of having to make any excuses" her shrug was in complete opposition to everything my instincts told me she was feeling. "He said I didn't think last time, well this time I thought a lot, and it really is better this way. We only end up hurting each other when we're together"
I can't help the words that come out of my mouth next, and Daniel's not going to be too happy with me for this either, but she's being so much like Jack right now that I can't help myself.
"Well Sam, maybe you are better apart," She's surprised by my capitulation, but I continue "according to Daniel, he was *ecstatic* the morning you left and when he found your rings he never looked happier! He kept them by the way"
I see her shoulders straighten against my words, but she won't look at me and I know when I'm wasting my breath, so without another word, I leave.
"Welcome back SG-1, report to the infirmary. Debriefing will be in one hour"
I get three "Yes Sirs" and a head nod as I watch the second incarnation of SG-1leave the room.
They're still good, but they aren't the same. Lt. Bradley works well in the unit; Jack made a good recommendation with her. But there is something missing… and that something is the Major. Oh physically she's there, but she's not the same Major she used to be… she's… detached.
I walk into the infirmary and sit myself down on my usual bed. Daniel, Teal'c and our rookie, Maria Bradley, are already here. I smile at each one of them in turn, but it's forced. Just like 98% of all my other smiles lately.
"Hey Sam," greets Janet "how'd it go?"
"Oh you know, just tree's and temples. Daniel loved it" we both tensed momentarily. It always happens when I say something "Jackish". As usual, we both ignore it.
"Ok, let's check you over" her briskness covering the tension.
She begins the exam and because I'm tired I let down my guard, I let my mind shut off and the first thing I see is Jack. Jack smiling, Jack wet through in the garden after a water fight, Jack looking at me and telling me that he loves me.
I shake my head to clear the images. I miss him so much, but it really is better this way.
I don't even notice Janet has taken blood until she tells me that I can leave.
So I head to my lab fighting my mind, willing the images to stop. It's even harder now, after that night… that wonderful night. But I'm doing the right thing… I know I am.
I don't know how long I've been working, losing myself in the research for PX2 932, and it isn't until I hear someone speaking to me that I lift my head.
"Um, Sam… I think we may have a problem here" Janet sounds strange, something is wrong.
Panicked, I look at her… as she walks into my lab with my blood work- up. My eyes convey my worry.
She looks at me, clearly shocked…
"Sam, you're pregnant"
It takes me a second to understand what she has just said to me… "No, I can't be…"
"You are Sam, the blood work is conclusive"
Oh my God! I just thought it was stress, this last two months haven't exactly been easy. I look back at Janet and know it's true. I'm having a baby… I'm having Jack's baby.
"You have to tell him Sam" she doesn't even question the identity of the father, not like there's any doubt.
Oh God, Jack's baby… my heart lurches… Jack's baby.
The very thought bringing so many emotions to the surface. A year ago, before things went wrong, it would have been everything I… *we* ever wanted…but now… oh God.
"I can't Janet, I can't…" I know the tears are in my eyes, but it doesn't stop me from seeing Janet's reaction.
"Samantha Carter, you can tell him and you will! Don't tell me that you are so selfish to deny that man the right to know he's going be a father, to deny your baby its father. I never thought you where such a coward Sam" her voice is low, but full of anger. "You won't see him because you don't have the courage to face him," her eyes rested on my stomach, "that choice has just been taken out of your hands Sam"
She was right, how could I possibly even think I'd not tell him he was going to be a father again. Of course I'll tell him. I wouldn't ever be responsible for taking another child away from him. I moved my hands over my abdomen and in that moment, I was more scared than I had ever been in my life. Because everything I had fought against for the last two months had just been kicked though the window.
My hand shakes so much as I try to dial the number General Hammond gave me, that it takes me four attempts to hit the right keys.
I can hear the ringing, but my heart is drowning out the noise.
Oh his voice… I missed his voice, so strong and assured.
"Who's there?" I can hear the curiosity and can imagine his eyebrows drawing together as he turns his focus from whatever he was doing to the phone, but I can't seem to find my voice.
"Who is this?" The irritation obvious now, I finally was able to work my voice past the lump in my throat.
"It's me Jack…"
I hear his breath catch and know that I have stunned him, but he quickly gets his emotions under control.
"What do you want?" Oh his voice is so cold…no emotion, purely professional. What else did I expect? Other than him to slam the phone down on me?
"I need to speak to you" If he can do professional, so can I.
"So speak" I hate it when he does this, but for once I let it go because I can't blame him.
"Not over the phone, this is important…" I'm trying so hard to keep my voice neutral, but his next words stop that happening.
"What? You want to make sure you did a good enough job on me last time?" Finally the mask cracks, part of me wishes it hadn't, because hatred drips from every word and the tears begin.
"Please Jack, I need to see you…" he's heard my tears, I can tell because the hate has gone, but the emptiness is worse.
"Well that's too damn bad *Major*, because there is nothing that you could *possibly* say to me to make me want to be in the same building as you, let alone the same room!" Ok, the use of my rank made it impersonal, dismissing me almost… but I have to finish this.
"Damn you Jack, will you just listen to me…"
"No I won't… goodbye…" before he can dismiss me completely I butt in, desperately.
"I'm pregnant Jack"
I don't even know if he heard me, because the line went dead.
Daniel pulled me into his chest as I cried.
"Son of a *bitch*!" I scream as I stare at the phone… willing the damn thing to reconnect.
She calls me up after two months of nothing and drops something like that on me?
'Hey Jack, sorry about leaving your ass literally hanging, oh by the way I'm having your child. Thought you'd like to know… bye' My thoughts ignite my temper and I slam my fist on the desk sending the contents bouncing skyward.
I stand, pushing the chair back so hard that I no longer have a model of an F-16, or the table on which it stood.
I can't believe she's doing this to me? She puts me through hell and back and then for a kick, "Jack I'm pregnant" What the hell am I supposed to do with that, other than hit something?
I swear to God, I have never come closer to wanting to do physical harm to any woman before, but now… Christ I'm sorely tempted…
I walk over to my mirror, the anger I feel threatening to make me lose it completely, but as I watch my own reflection, something inside of me gives.
She's having my baby, I'm going to be a father again.
The sweetness of that thought deflates my temper, "Thank you", I whisper to who ever is listening.
My minds eye shows images long removed from my consciousness… playing catch, telling stories… but the one thing that really hits home… a simple hug from something that loves you completely and unconditionally.
God I want to be a father again, so much that I actually ache with the need and Sam has given me that chance.
The woman who has consistently ripped me to pieces has just given me something I would have died to get. The woman I swore I'd never see again…
It seems I have a choice doesn't it?
"Son of a *BITCH*!!!"
Oops, there goes the mirror…
"Major, we've sent word to the Tok'ra, Jacob should be arrive in the next 36 hours"
"Thank you General"
"He's going to be thrilled Major,"
"I know he will be Sir"
"Now, Dr. Fraiser tells me that it's in the best interest for you and your child to be taken off field duty until the baby arrives, so as you requested, I'm reassigning you to SG-12 Research. I know SG-1 will miss you, but I want to see the first SG baby arrive safe and well"
My smile is mirrored on her face, but it doesn't really reach her eyes.
She's still in shock and I can't say I blame her, she only found out this morning and spent this afternoon crying over a phone call. But she's being efficient again now… professional.
"Thank you Sir"
As she stands to leave, I know I can't let her go without saying something.
"It'll be alright Sam, you only have to ask anything of us and you'll get it. You know that don't you?"
"Yes Sir, I do and thank you. I needed to hear…" her next words are cut short, as my door (which has taken a beating recently) is slammed open.
Her shock is physically tangible as a very uncompromising Jack O'Neill barges through. Before I can do or say anything, he charges over to her and picks her up, swinging her into his arms as if she weighed nothing at all. She's too shocked to react as he starts walking the same way he came in, without so much as a 'how do you do' to either of us.
I stand quickly and follow, because that's just rude in my book.
"Colonel, what the Hell are you doing?!"
Without even glancing back he carries on, it's only as he starts down the stairs that he shouts back.
"Exactly what it looks like General, I'm kidnapping my wife… my *pregnant* wife"
I return to my office to place a call to the SF's on guard. It wouldn't do for them to be killed because they ask him to sign out, now would it?
Reality comes crashing down around me as we reach the elevator and Jack punches the button for the surface using his foot, because his hands are occupied in an iron tight grip on me.
"Jack, what are you doing?" I struggle, but its useless, he's not going to let me go.
"I told you, I'm kidnapping you" He doesn't even look at me, just stares at the doors.
"You can put me down, I can walk you know" I keep my voice soft, touched that he's here.
"Oh I know all about your ability to walk sweetheart, you're very good at walking as I remember. But it usually entails you walking *out* doesn't it?"
His anger is palpable, but it only serves to spark my own.
"Only because you usually make me!" I spit back.
He releases me then and then he hits the emergency stop button so hard I think he might have broke either the panel or his knuckles.
"First time maybe, second time was all your own doing" he ground the words out from behind a jaw so tense that a muscle in his cheek was dancing a samba. "You left me, *again*. You walked out without so much a note and you left *Daniel* to pick up the pieces. I never took you as a coward Sam, but even after I thought we'd… we'd… God Sam, that night was amazing and yet you walked out without even telling me why!"
"Now you know what it feels like… how it feels to have no idea why someone pushes you away and have to wait months for them to explain!" I want to hurt him as his words have just hurt me, and I do…
"That's why? Some petty revenge kick? What, you lure me in just so you can show me what it's like to be you?"
I can see the disbelief in his eyes, knowing that if I confirm his accusation I'll never ever see him again. How can I confirm it though when it isn't true? My fury drains out of me and just leaves me feeling exhausted, but I remain squared up to him in the confines of the elevator.
"No, that's not why" I confess, as tears fill my eyes "I was scared Jack, I was scared of loving you again and it all going wrong. I couldn't live through losing you again"
His shoulders drop, he looks as bad as I feel.
"So you decided you wouldn't even try?"
Have you ever heard Jack O'Neill sound defeated? In that moment I did, and I don't ever want to hear him sound like that again.
"Jack, just because we'd finally talked, didn't mean everything was going to go back to how it used to be, it doesn't work that way" I wanted to touch him, but I didn't.
"Christ Sam, contrary to common opinion, I'm not stupid. I know it wasn't back to your fairytale, but I thought when you put the rings back on, you at least wanted to *try*" He couldn't stop his voice breaking, and I couldn't stop my heart doing the exact same thing. "You'll never know how I felt when I saw your rings on the dresser that morning…"
"Yes I do, because I know how I felt when I took them off"
I watched as so many emotions flickered across his face and he didn't even try to hide them. Suddenly, his eyes cleared, as if he'd come to a massive decision. He reached around his neck and pulled on a long gold chain. Before I knew what he was doing, he'd unfastened the chain and let two objects slide into his hand.
"So put them back on…"
Oh God. Did he know what he was asking?
I stare at my rings in his hand, of course he knew what he was asking… and in that exact second I knew the answer, to everything.
"No Jack" his eyes flashed with an unbelievable pain as he lowered his head, but I hadn't finished.
"You put them on for me"
His head shot up, disbelief written across his face. But as I stared into those deep eyes, he smiled and lifted up my left hand. Using deliberate movements, he placed the rings at the top of my finger, they were still warm from his body... "God help you if you don't mean it, because I won't let you go again" his vow sealed as he slid them back where they belonged.
"I won't be going anywhere Jack, I promise" and as I looked into his eyes, he knew it was the truth. We still had a lot to work through, but we needed each other to do it.
"Good, cause I'm not going to come looking for you again!" He laughed then, a real laugh and I realised in that moment that nothing was worth losing him for. And as our lips met, I fell harder than ever before.
"I didn't think you'd come looking for me this time" I finally said when we surfaced.
"Are you kidding? You tell me we're having a baby and you expect me to stay put?" He's laughing at me again, but I feel my heart clench. He sees it too.
"So you wouldn't have come back otherwise?" I choke back tears.
"No, I wouldn't have, you can't have expected me too. I'd followed you twice before and each time you ran away. I wouldn't have done it again, no matter how much I hurt without you. I wouldn't have let you do that to me again"
God they say the truth hurts… they're right, he opened his mouth to carry on, but I wasn't sure I wanted to hear anymore.
He tilted my chin up, giving me no option but to look and listen.
"Sam, no more hiding from truths, just listen to me. The baby might be why I came back, but it's not the reason I want to stay… I love you and I want you in my life, I want both of you in my life" he said as he put his hand on my stomach.
I placed my hand on his cheek, knowing that this was what we had never done before… talked honestly. This was what we had to do if we wanted to survive, and I knew in that moment that I wanted that more than anything else in the world.
"You've got us Jack" and I sealed my vow with my lips.
Little did I know that deep below us, four people where crowed around a small security monitor laughing, crying, cheering and hugging at what they witnessed in an elevator stuck between levels 7 and 8.
I walk quietly through our house, knowing exactly where I'm going… a little blue room, so recently occupied with the most precious little boy in the world.
As I get to the door, I hesitate, seeing our son cradled so lovinglyto his daddy that you couldn't see daylight between them. I decide not to go in when I hear Jack's voice.
"So Jacob O'Neill, I think its time for your first official bedtime story…"
I just stand and listen, a smile fixed to my face as Jack continued.
"Once upon a time, there was a very stupid Colonel called Jonathon who married a very clever Major called Samantha…"
My smile widens as I hear him tell our son our fairytale.
"…After everything that happened, they finally learned that they could have everything they ever wanted, including a little son," he kisses the top of Jake's head, "and that Jake is your first fairytale…"
I walk up behind my husband and kiss him gently.
"You forgot the best part" I admonish.
"No I didn't, I was just getting to it when we were so rudely interrupted," lifting our son higher so he can fix his already brown eyes onto us both, Jack spoke.
"…And Little Jake, after much hard work, they really did live 'Happily Ever After'"
And we did.