"I love you"
Three simple words that I thought everyone waited to hear. Words that usually lead the way to the fabled 'happy ever after'.
Not for me. Not for us. Those three words once spoken left only a bitter desolation and a mass of confusion. They destroyed the very relationship I had hoped to create by finally having the courage to step up and admit how I felt. But they didn't and now we're here, only talking in that damned professional manner that is just about driving me crazy. I wish I hadn't have listened to my heart, I wish I would have carried on soldier to soldier, friend to friend. Now all I have left is nothing. Not her, and certainly not the outcome I would sign away my soul for.
The worst part of all is that I still love her. Just as much as I always have and I know the same way I always will. That is what makes the pain burn hot in deep dark places that seem to taunt you with your own stupidity. But then again, that's what I was, stupid. Stupid to think that someone as bright and wonderful as she is would ever see me, a cynical, sarcastic soldier with more scars on his soul than on his body, as more than just her CO, her friend. Like I said - stupid.
Three Days Previously:
"Come on Major, it'll be fun. I won't bite I swear"
With that I pulled her up, not giving her a chance to say no, it was just a dance. One single solitary dance. We'd been on PC3 717 for about twenty-four hours; we'd met a people there who could be classed as some of the best party animals we'd met for a while. Carter had found a new mineral type thing that had got her all revved up and Daniel, well, he was just being Daniel and getting all revved up about dirt, rocks and a big old temple. Even Teal'c had smiled more in the last day than in the last three years. I took that by itself to be a good sign and made a command decision to stay for the "lunar chorea" which according to our esteemed archaeologist/anthropologist/linguist meant, "moon dance". Besides, we deserved a bit of fun, missions had been long and hard lately so I thanked whatever god we were under that we had this chance to kick back and have fun.
The party was in full swing, dancing, singing, much food and even more alcohol. Which was far more potent that I had previously realised. Not that I blame that for my telling her. No, that choice was mine. I had watched her laugh, smile and joke and had lost my heart once more. She always has the same effect, Samantha Carter should be put on the illegal substance list, so lethal is she to my equilibrium. So for once I didn't crush the feelings that swamped the pit of my stomach every time I see her and I asked her to dance.
The dance was a sultry number, one that required close contact and serious co-ordination. Well those of you who know me will realise that the second part of that equation was the part I had trouble with. Its strange, in the field or on a mission I don't think twice about the position of my body or how it moves, it just does it. But when there is music involved I become, well, bad. If Apophis or any of those other greasy-assed snakeheads had any common sense, they would only have to pump some music through their ships and I'd be finished.
Holding her like this, having her laugh at my timing (or lack of it to be precise) made me feel like every nerve ending in my body was on fire. As the music faded I let her go and we sat back down, staring at her over the fire, I thought that Narim (slimy, stuck up, arrogant weasel that he is) wasn't far wrong when he called her an angel.
Daniel and Teal'c both bailed soon after, leaving just me, my major and my thoughts. A deadly combination if ever there was one!
Through the music and laughter our silence surrounded us, as I snuck another glance at her I saw that she was lost in her own thoughts. Her brows drawn together in the same way as when she's thinking about how to solve the seemingly unsolvable and save our collective asses while she's rewriting the laws of physics. That was the point I actually felt my self control resign it's commission.
"Penny for them Carter"
Her beautiful eyes met mine, for a moment startled out of the mechanisms of her mind.
"Oh, sorry Sir. Nothing really, never mind, it doesn't matter"
"Come on, don't do that. Just because your not working out how to save the planet, it doesn't mean that what you're thinking is worthless" OK, I don't know who was more startled at my words, her or me. Still can't tell.
"Um, I was just trying to think through some stuff when I got to wondering…" I saw her take a deep breath and realised that she was about to say something that she'd been arguing with herself about for a while. Whatever it was, it was big. My own heart started beating a rhythm so dizzying that Janet would have grounded me in the infirmary for a couple of days.
"Well, ok, um, "
"Get on with it Carter" My impatience had more to do with my nerves than her uncharacteristic vacillation.
"What did you mean when you said you hadn't been acting like yourself since you met me?" I saw her bite her own tongue and mentally wish she'd not just asked me *that* question. I had to squash a grin, was she *really* wanting me to answer that?
Well, in hindsight, I should've made something up, but I didn't. Sometimes that "what have I got to lose" attitude of mine has a lot to answer for. Suddenly I realised I was going to tell her the truth. Whether it was the liquor, the heat of the fire or the heat spreading through me as I watched her, I'll never know. The only thing I know is that I took one of the biggest gambles of my life and lost.
"Well Sam, I thought it was obvious, but if you and you IQ didn't get it, I must have been wrong." I watched as her eyes didn't understand what her ears where conveying. "I meant that ever since you walked into the Abydos briefing I haven't been the same. You made me start to feel again, you woke me up from my self-imposed isolation and… I started to love again Sam." His words trailed into no more than a whisper.
He continued to watch her as she lowered her eyes, her body language registering the shock his words had caused. He waited for what seemed like an eternity for her to raise her head. When she did, he felt a little of his soul crumble and disappear on the sudden breeze.
"Sir, I didn't realise. I'm sorry, but I can't…I'm sorry…"
Once more he watched as she got up, unable to complete the sentence. She left. Almost sprinting to the safety of her tent. He watched her go. The casual onlooker wouldn't have suspected anything; merely two soldiers had turned in for the night. Little could they know that both where now lay alone, one with tears streaming, the other with tears unshed, repeatedly kicking himself mentally for putting her in such an awkward position. For reading her so badly, for being so *stupid*.
The infamous "morning after the night before" proved to be even more embarrassing than he'd have thought possible. She didn't once look at him, only speaking enough to communicate actions and orders. He took her lead and isolated himself from his feelings, refusing to let himself dwell on the previous night.
Once more, those who did not know them well would not have been curious at the attitude of the two commanding officers of Sg-1, but for Daniel and Teal'c the change was obvious. Baffled, the archaeologist and the Jaffa decided that *someone* was going to tell them what had happened, and seeing the look on Sam's face, the surprise choice was Jack.
"Jack, what's wrong with you and Sam?"
Jack grimaced. He'd been waiting for this all morning. He had seen the confusion pass between the two other members of his team and knew that Daniel's natural curiosity was going mean explanations. Jack had considered lying or even telling him to get lost, but Daniel didn't deserve that, besides, he needed to talk to someone. It was that realisation that had surprised him more than anything. He was famous for locking his feelings away, for dealing with them alone, but for some inexplicable reason, he couldn't do that now. He didn't want to.
A little while later, it was Daniel's turn to be shocked by Jack's words. Jack had watched as his face had gone from beaming smile, to puzzlement to shock. He would have laughed if he hadn't been feeling so empty inside.
For his part Daniel couldn't believe that one, Jack had actually told her, and two that Sam had virtually told him no. He knew how they felt about each other, it had been obvious from the start, and to everyone who took the time to watch them interact and Daniel knew it wasn't one sided. He knew that Sam felt the same way and that puzzled him even more. Why had she turned him down? It didn't make any sense. As he looked at Jack and was witness to the pain in the other man's eyes, the answer hit him. She was confused!
"Jack, listen. I don't know whether telling you this will make it easier or not, but you need to understand something about Sam. Ever since Jolinar, she has had a whole load of 'feelings' to sort through. She may be the smartest person we know but it doesn't make it easier to separate her feelings from those of Jolinar. In fact, I think it makes it harder for her, she thinks too much at the best of times, just imagine how much over thinking she does about this. I think you just need to give her time and space, let her sort through this stuff. I know she loves you Jack, she just has to realise it as her feelings not as someone else's"
"Daniel, I'm not that stupid or that insensitive. I know what she's going through. Contrary to common expectation, she has actually spoken to me about it. I do understand. The thing is although you may think you know how she feels about me, you don't. So don't make excuses, I'm big and hard enough to handle rejection. It is that simple"
Daniel recognised the determined stubborn streak that laced his voice, he knew arguing would achieve nothing. He'd made up his mind and that was that. Unfortunately, he couldn't see that he was wrong. He may understand Sam's confusion but he hadn't let himself look beyond that. Daniel couldn't blame him, he was hurt. For a smart man he could really be stupid sometimes.
He had to talk to Sam, just as soon as they where back home with a bit of privacy. He couldn't sit by and let his two best friends lose something so special through fear and confusion. Boy did Martouf have a lot to answer for.
Daniel had tried in vain to talk to Sam, but in the last three days it seemed like Sam had learned the art of disappearance. Every time he tried to find her, she'd gone. The only time anyone saw her was in briefings and those where strained to say the least. So much so that even the General had asked what was wrong between his officers. Daniel didn't tell him, he couldn't. This was, for the moment, between them alone, they didn't need hassle from the airforce too. So he made his way to her lab for the tenth time that morning in the hope that this time she'd be there.
"Colonel O'Neill Sir, the General would like to see you ASAP" The airman saluted smartly as Jack nodded and made his way passed him. He didn't want to hazard a guess at why he was being summoned.
As he knocked on Hammond's door, he knew this wasn't going to be a briefing about the best use of storage room PN11.
"Come in Jack, sit down. I won't waste either of our time so I'll come straight to the point. I have noticed a rather obvious change in relationship between yourself and Major Carter. Care to explain that to me Son?"
Jack knew that despite grammar, the general hadn't issued it as a question, oh yeah, this was not going to be easy.
After nearly an hour of goading and tempting, General Hammond sat quietly, listening to one of his best officers finally confessing his feelings for a subordinate officer. He tried valiantly to stop himself smiling as Jack had told him how he felt about Sam, how he'd been willing to retire so the regulations wouldn't mark he career, but he was going to get a bit of fun out of this. His officers had strung the entire base along for three years with the blatant sexual tension, now it fell to him as commanding officer to exact a little revenge upon one of the pair. However, that plan was quickly deleted as Jack continued to tell him that Sam didn't feel the same way and that she had all but run away from him. That shocked and surprised Hammond. He had a few years on the pair of them and he knew a special relationship when he saw one. He also knew that she felt the same way, why then was she running? The answer was soon upon him as Jack related Daniel's theory.
"So Sir, as you see. There is now no problem with regulations, because there won't be a relationship to contravene them. I just wanted you to understand why things have changed between us. Although I would like to state for the record that I don't want her moved off Sg-1. I may not like her decision, but I respect it and I will not let it interfere with the team as a unit."
"Jack, just hold on a minute. For one, regulations don't count. I had sorted that out a while back." Hammond couldn't control the hint of the grin as he caught the amazement on Jacks face.
"I'm not blind Son, I saw the potential you two had from the start. I didn't want my best team split up because of a regulation that was designed for keeping bad soldiers in line, not for stopping good soldiers from attaining happiness. Secondly, I happen to agree with Dr. Jackson. It's not that she doesn't love you, she just hasn't realised it yet. She's as stubborn as her father is and I know from personal experience how blind that made him. I think you need to talk to her, soon"
"Sir, with all due respect, both you and Daniel are working on the same assumptions I was. I have accepted that I was wrong, so should you. She doesn't love me, she may be confused about what she feels for who, but "love" and "me" aren't connected in her mind. I would just rather give her time to get comfortable again and forget it ever happened, for both our sakes"
"It doesn't work that way Jack, you know that. Nothing is going to change unless you speak to her about this. Besides, I really don't think we're wrong. Give it time, you might think differently in a few days"
Although he spoke the words the General knew that stubborn slant of Jack's eyes. He was just going to push it away, pretend it never happened, pretend he had never felt anything other than comradeship for her. But he knew that there was nothing he could say to that man to change his mind. He shook his head and he thought " for two people so smart in their own way, they where so stupid!" Sooner or later, one of them would break out of the stubborn denial. He also had a pretty good idea who that someone would be.
Samantha Carter sat at her desk, staring at the graphics on the computer screen but not taking them in. Her mind was occupied with the same thing it had been for three days. *He* had told her that he loved her. She still couldn't get the image out of her mind. She wasn't denying that his confession had made her stomach feel like it had the first time she stepped through the gate. She was trying to deny how she felt about him, but it was getting harder and harder as the days passed. She was missing him and his sarcasm. He had not been to see her, but then again she knew he wouldn't. She didn't deserve him to, besides she wouldn't be able to explain it to him. It was hard enough explaining it to herself.
She had been trapped inside a body and mind that was feeling feelings that she had difficulty recognising as her own or as Jolinar's. She couldn't take the risk of acting on anything she felt, just in case she was wrong. She knew that she had felt something for Jack for a long time, but what if the way she felt about the Colonel was just a reaction to Jolinar's memories of Martouf? What if she was projecting Jolinar's feelings for Martouf onto Jack and she didn't *really* love him? She couldn't and wouldn't risk hurting him like that. He'd had too much of that in his past and the only thing that she was sure of was that she wasn't going to be responsible for causing him any more pain than she knew she already had. She'd rather suffer herself, and boy oh boy was she.
She would have given anything to have been able to move into his arms and tell him she loved him, but she couldn't. She did what would cause him minimum pain. She hated to do it, but she knew it was for the best. It was her own fault anyway. If she hadn't asked him about that sentence, non-of this would have happened. Stupid, stupid, *stupid*!
Just then, Daniel removed her from her thoughts. He had finally tracked her down. She'd been avoiding him for days, she didn't want to have to explain this, but now, she had no choice. She could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't going to let her get away again.
"Sam, you ok?" His concern made her smile a sad and weak smile. She knew what was coming next so she just nodded her head, knowing he didn't believe her for a second.
"Sam, look. I just want you to know that if you want to talk about this, I'm here for you"
She knew that although Daniel had spoken the words that seemingly gave her an option she had none, besides, maybe it would do her good to get it off her chest.
As she told him what he already had guessed, he could feel the tangible confusion emanating from her. He had been right about her confusion stopping her from admitting her feelings for Jack, but he hadn't realised just how much she'd been ripping herself apart with guilt. //Martouf *and* Jolinar, you both have a lot to answer for//
As she finished, he saw the tears finally fall and he knew that with them fell away he denial and gave him the chance to sort her out. To make her see what or rather who she needed.
"Sam, I understand what you have said to me, I even admire your logic and strength, but I have just one question for you. If you can answer it, I'll leave you. But if you can't you have to promise me that you'll forget all your intentions and act the way your heart is telling you. Deal?"
She merely nodded again, but Daniel knew he had her just where he wanted her.
"Sam, can you say that you didn't feel the remotest attraction to Jack *before* Jolinar? That you only started feeling this way about him *after* you carried Jolinar? If you can I'll agree with your logic, that you're feelings for Jack are because of Jolinar. But if you can't, well you got someone to talk to!"
She looked at him, stunned. She hadn't thought of that. She had been too wrapped up in the problems of it all that she hadn't stopped to think of the obvious - The timing.
For the first time in three days, she smiled a real smile. She knew that she had loved Jack from the minute he'd smirked at her when she'd issued the arm wrestling challenge! Jolinar had nothing to do with it. She had loved Jack before! She felt a sudden rush of exhilaration, she felt free. For the first time since she'd carried Jolinar, she knew who's feelings where who's.
"Thank you Daniel, thank you so much" She watched him blush ever so slightly as she kissed his cheek.
She got up and almost ran out of the door
"Sam where are you going?" He called after he retreating form.
"Like you said, I have to talk to someone. I have to see General Hammond and resign my commission. Oh and by the way, I love Jack"
Daniel watched her almost skip down the corridor //resign her commission? Why on earth would she…// But then the answer to his own question hit him. Regulations, she had to sort them out first. Hammond would undoubtedly make her a civilian attachment. You see now she was being smart again. He smiled to himself; his work here was done.
"Come in Major, take a seat. Now what can I do for you?" Once more Hammond hid his smile, he was right. She did smart it out first and he knew what was coming next. Seeing as how he'd toyed with the Colonel this morning, he didn't see why he couldn't draw the Major out a little too.
"Well, Sir. I want to inform you that I am resigning my commission and am requesting a civilian attachment to Sg-1"
"I see, May I ask why?"
"Well general, I have realised that I am in love with Colonel O'Neill and I know he feels the same. Before I go to see him, I need to have solved the problem of regulations and us having to be split up" She was gabbling and they both knew it, only the General was having a hard time keeping his face straight.
"I cannot allow that Major" His voice even, his eyes focused "You are too valuable a commodity for the airforce to lose. As for the fact that you have 'feelings' for the Colonel, how do you know he returns them?"
"Because he told me sir. But with all due respect, you cannot stop me resigning my commission, which I will do regardless. I *am* going to be with him sir, once I have apologised that is"
He saw the determination in her eyes; she was more like the man she loved than she knew. He didn't have the heart to continue the charade any longer.
"Well Major, that is quite some ultimatum to issue. I suppose the only thing I can say is, go get your man"
She did a double take, she had expected to have the dressing down of a lifetime, not to have her general tell her to 'go get him'. Her mind on this occasion slipped back into the lethargy that had engulfed it for the previous few days.
"Major, we all knew that the two of you would end up together. So I took the initiative and had the regulations take care of. You will both be answerable to me. If I ever feel that you relationship adversely affects your team, then things will change, but otherwise, you have nothing to worry over. The only piece of advice I would give is don't expect miracles. Jack has spoken to me, and although he does love you, he shut off the possibility that you might feel the same. Nothing that either myself of Dr. Jackson could say would change his mind. It won't be easy for you, but I assume you have a few 'special' advantages that we didn't"
Sam stood rooted firmly in shock. So much information that she had never expected had just been given to her. Her brain needed time to catch up. When it did, she blushed at the Generals innuendo, but then quickly pressed a grateful kiss to his cheek.
"Thank you so much sir. May I be excused, there is someone I need to see"
"Of course Major, good luck."
He watched as she raced down the corridor, it was good to see her smarts had kicked in at last. With a huge grin on his face he went back to his requisition form, knowing that she'd break through the stubborn shield of her colonel, she'd done it before. There was no doubt that she'd do it again. Especially since now she had an extra weapon. The knowledge that he loved her and she loved him and the Airforce wasn't going to stand in their way.
She found him in the gym, in black shorts and a black running vest that clung in *all* the right places. He was beating the living crap out of the punch bag, hitting it at a ridiculous pace, she'd seen him fight before, she knew what he was capable of, but this, woah! For a second she just took in his agile strength. He moved with a grace that she had always admired, at least he did when he wasn't dancing. She smiled to herself, but that brought her back to why she was here.
"Um, Sir. Can I have a word?" her voice was laced with a nervous energy that she couldn't quite hide. He registered it and felt his owns nerves kick in. He wasn't sure what the look in her eyes meant, but her couldn't pull himself away from it. While he tried to regulate his breathing he merely nodded.
"I just wanted to explain something to you, will you give me that chance Jack?"
He thought he had heard her wrong, //she hasn't just called me Jack has she?// But she had, and when she had it had done funny things to his insides. Even if he wanted too he wasn't capable of moving.
"When you told me that you loved me, I panicked. I was confused about my feelings. Since Jolinar…"
"Major, I know all about Jolinar and her effects on you. Look, you don't need to explain. You have nothing to explain. I understand that you don't feel the same and that's ok, I just want us to be friends again"
She felt the sting of the word "Major", she knew he was protecting himself, but she needed him to let her speak.
"For cryin' out loud Jack, will you just shut up and let me say this!"
Her words stunned him once more; //she called me Jack again. Yes!// So he shut up. Although he wasn't in the habit of taking orders from majors, he shut up anyway.
"Jack, when you told me I panicked, because I thought what I was feeling was just a projection of Jolinar's feelings for Martouf, that I was placing them onto you. I have always felt something for you, but I never acted on them because they were so strong they reminded me of how Jolinar felt for Martouf and then I couldn't trust my own feelings anymore. I never stopped to think that I had felt this for you *before* Jolinar, I was stupid. Until Daniel made me see this morning, I thought I was doing the best for us both. But what I didn't see was that I was throwing us away through fear that I couldn't trust myself. I know I hurt you Jack, but please believe me when I say that I do love you Jack, I always have and I always will. I just hope my stupidity hasn't wrecked our chances"
He stood motionless, busying himself with the task of removing his boxing gloves. He didn't look at her; he needed a few seconds to digest what she was saying to him. Not the stuff about confusing her feelings and Jolinar's, he had always understood that. But the fact that she had just told him that she loved him back had robbed him of speech. He was elated and his heart had resumed it previous exercise induced rhythm, only this time, the only cause was the words that had just come out of the mouth of the woman he loved.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he spoke. She braced herself for the rejection she was expecting; after all she deserved it.
"Sam, what makes you so sure now?"
"You. You make me so sure. I love you"
Short, concise and to the point. No convoluted explanations, just her and her words. That was enough, he needed nothing more. With that he moved to her, aware of her nerves, but knowing he was about to send them both to 'happy ever after land'
"It's about time"
He pulled her into his arms and she gratefully leaned against his chest, taking in his scent, his angles, taking solace in his strength.
Looking deeply into her eyes he said with that goofy smirk that made her own heart match his in rhythm
"Sam, my love. I never thought I'd be able to say this to the woman who's IQ is bigger than the combined total of everyone on base, but… kiss me, *stupid*!
With a smile on her lips, she did just that. Knowing that they would indeed live happily ever after.