NO STRINGS by Pauline Fitzsimmons and ziva Other Characters: Hammond, Jacob, Ishta and new Chapter One

Major Jack O Neill, a pilot with the USAF, had just found out he was being transferred to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. He was dreading telling his wife, Sara, who he was pretty sure was not going to be happy about it. He had been stationed in Colorado for the past four years, and she loved it there. She had grown up in Colorado, they had met and married there, and her father lived there. So when he got home that night, from his job as a flight instructor at Peterson AFB outside of Colorado Springs, he tried to break the news to her gently.

You knew I d be transferred eventually. And this won t be so bad, Sara. I ve been to Germany. It s really nice.

Oh no! I am not taking my son away from the only home he s ever known. I want him to grow up here where I grew up. I want him to have a normal life, not grow up on one military base after another. Why don t you quit, Jack? With your qualifications you could get a good job flying for a commercial airlines.

We ve talked about this before. I love my job, Sara; you know that. Look, why don t you stay here for a while. Let Charlie finish up the year at his preschool. Then maybe you can come to Germany for a visit. Once you see it, I bet you ll like it.

Okay, but I still wish you d quit the Air Force. You could make much more money working for one of the big airlines.

Sara, I am not having this conversation with you again! You can stay here in Colorado Springs, but I am not quitting the Air Force and that s final!

And that was where they had left things.

Three weeks later Jack arrived in Germany, where it didn t take him long to settle into the officer s quarters. After all, he didn t have much in the way of personal belongings. The place was really just a small one bedroom apartment. If Sara and Charlie came, he would need to move to one of the family units, but for now this would do.

One day at lunchtime Jack decided to try the commissary, which he had heard served really great food. When he arrived he found the room packed with people. Figuring it as a good sign that the rumor was correct, he got in the long serving line, eager to fill up on what smelled like some mighty fine cooking.

But once he had loaded up his tray, he had trouble finding a place to sit. In fact, the only free chair in the place was at a table which was already occupied.

The young woman seated there was so engrossed in the papers she was holding over her plate, that she didn t even notice him standing at her elbow.

I m sorry to bother you. Do you mind if I sit here? he asked. When she glanced up, Jack was awestruck by her beauty! Not only did she have eyes like Star Sapphires, but she had blonde hair like spun gold and a peaches and cream complexion too.

Oh! Of course, Sam replied as she quickly moved a book and some more papers from the other side of the two-person table. It was only then that she really looked at him, and what she saw startled her. He was gorgeous! As usual she had been concentrating on her work, but now her attention was drawn to this tall, handsome stranger. He had to be new, or she surely would have noticed him before. He was a lot older than her, but he was incredible!

Jack managed to put his tray down without spilling anything, and then he sat down and tried to keep his mind on his food. But it was hard not to stare at her.

You been here long? he asked.

Almost three months. It was her first overseas assignment, and so far she loved Germany. You? she asked, glad that he had spoken to her. She knew she wouldn t be able to concentrate on her work with someone as yummy as him sitting across from her, so she figured she might as well spend her time getting to know him. She didn t have many friends here. Well, the truth was she didn t have many friends anywhere.

Just got here a few days ago. My name s Jack Jack O Neill.

I m Samantha Carter, but most people call me Sam.

I don t know why they d wanna do that, he said without thinking. Samantha s a beautiful name.

She smirked and shook her head at him. She had seen guys try all sorts things to get girls in bed with them, but she thought she was too smart for that sort of thing. I m disappointed in you, Jack. Is that the best pick up line you ve got? she asked, gazing at him over the top of her cup.

I wasn t coming on to you, Lieutenant. I meant it. And in case you didn t notice, I m married, he said, holding up his left hand so she could see his wedding band.

That doesn t stop a lot of men.

Well, it stops me. If you d rather I move to another table, so some other guy can hit on you, I d be happy to, he offered, as he started to pick up his tray. He was only half serious. Actually he was intrigued by her, even though part of him knew he shouldn t be. She was way too young for him, not to mention that he was married.

No! No, I m sorry if I misjudged you. Please, eat. I promise I won t bother you or say anything else stupid. At least I ll try not to, she said, blushing.

She was turning pink from the neck up, and now Jack could feel himself getting turned on. But he knew this was neither the time nor the place for the way he was feeling, so he figured he d better eat and then get the hell out of there. So he lowered his head and started shoveling in the food. It might have tasted like sawdust for all he cared. All he could think about was the gorgeous blonde seated across from him and the very poor first impression he d made on her.

When he didn t say anything else, Sam figured she d done it again. She was always scaring men off with her stupid comments and unfriendly behavior.

I m really sorry I was so rude. To tell you the truth, I don t have much experience with men. I m sort of a geek.

Naw, that s just not possible. How could anyone has pretty as you be a geek?

Sam felt herself blushing even more now, so she handed him one of the papers she d been looking at. Maybe discussing her work would help her calm down? She watched his face and waited for his reaction.

Jack read bits and pieces of the report, which was on wormholes and time distortion. He understood the basics of what she was theorizing, but he handed the paper back to her without saying a word.

Do you understand it?

If I said I don t, would you think any less of me? Oh wait, you already think I m a married man who hits on every woman he meets, so how could you think any less of me, right? Actually he didn t think that what she was proposing was possible, but he didn t want to insult her intelligence.

I already said I was sorry. But that wasn t my point. This is a paper I m planning to submit for my doctorate in astrophysics. She was only 22, and a lot younger than most people in her field. Actually she was younger than ALL the people in her field, and it was tough to get anyone to take her seriously. So usually she had to work twice as hard and be twice as good at everything she did. And that didn t give her much time for socializing.

Okay, I get it; you re really smart about some things, but you have no experience with men. How do you expect to get experience, when you won t even give a guy the time of day? We just met, for crying out loud! For all you knew I could have been a very eligible bachelor in search of his soul mate, or some such crap like that, he grumbled.

Sam almost spit out her tea. When she stopped laughing at his callous, albeit humorous remark, she decided to try and make amends.

How about I show you around? Kaiserslautern is actually a pretty nice place to live.

I guess I could go for that. What harm would it do just to go sightseeing with her?

Great! Are you free tomorrow afternoon say around two? she asked, as she wiped her mouth on a paper napkin.

As a matter of fact I don t have to report for duty until Monday. I have a car from the motor pool, so I ll pick you up. Where are you bunking? he asked, as she stood up. Now he could see how tall she was. He liked tall women, so there was another thing to like about her not that he needed any convincing. He liked her alright. He liked her a lot!

Just up the street. It s the second building on the right. Number twenty-two. I ll watch for you.

It s a date between friends, I mean, he said with a smile, and she nodded.

Jack watched as she tucked her book and papers under her arm, before picking up her tray and carrying it to the door.

He was even more impressed now that he saw her in motion. She had a sure, carefree way of walking that belied any imagined insecurities she might profess to have. He thought anyone seeing her would think she had the world by the tail, and a part of him wished they d met sooner .years ago, before he married Sara. But he knew it was a waste of time to wish for something that could never be. He had made his bed, so to speak, and because of his son he would try to make his marriage work.

Sam walked to the lab where she worked that day, feeling like she was floating on a cloud. She knew the dangers of seeing a married man. Well, not first-hand, but she d heard things about flyboys who liked to take advantage of lonely women posted overseas. But she felt certain she could control herself. After all, up till now she d been able to scare off every suitable bachelor who came her way and a few unsuitable ones too. So, since it had been over a year since she d spent time alone with any man, she decided to try and enjoy the time for what it was, just two friends seeing the sights.