To Every Season

*'If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.'
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel*

Colonel Jack O'Neill stepped out of his truck and, with his hands buried deep into his coat pockets to ward off the winter chill; he walked slowly over to the milling throng of people.

Two days ago he had received a letter from his estranged wife, Sara, informing him that his father in law had died from a heart attack. The news had shocked and saddened Jack, and subsequently he had immediately applied for a leave of absence from the General to attend the funeral.

Now, standing at the back of the crowd of mourners, he idly noted the appropriateness of the weather. The sky was a dull grey, threatening rain and the wind was enough to chill a person to the bone. Sara was stood graveside, resolutely staring down at her father's coffin as it was slowly lowered into the ground.

Jack only half listened to the words of his one time parish priest, choosing instead to watch his ex-wife's body language. He knew from experience that she would not cry whilst surrounded by so many people, her character was too stubborn to show any signs of emotional weakness in front of many whom she would class as virtual strangers. Instead, she would wait until she was alone later that night, and mourn her father in private - just as she had when Charlie died.

Charlie. Images of the innocent, beautiful face of his long dead son crowded Jack's mind as he fought back the tears threatening to fall down his battle-scarred face. It had taken a hell of a long time for Jack to begin the process of forgiving himself for his son's death, and although he knew he would never fully find absolution he was, at last, able to think of Charlie without feeling the searing pain in his heart that he had come to know so well over the years.

Shaking himself out of his silent reverie, he realised with some surprise that the funeral was over and people were slowly making their way towards the myriad of vehicles parked outside the graveyard. Unsure whether or not he should go and talk to Sara, he waited patiently until the last of the mourners had left her side and she walked over to him.

"Jack." She said quietly, her voice breaking with the effort to maintain her composure.

"Hey, Sara." Surprisingly, it seemed that those two innocent words were enough to break his wife's tenuous grip on her emotions, and she folded her arms protectively around her stomach as the tears began to flow freely down her face.

Without hesitation Jack pulled Sara into the warmth of his body and held her tightly against him until her heart-wrenching sobs ceased. When she was calm again, she pulled back from him and looked at his face for the first time since he had arrived.

"I'm sorry, I just..." she began. He smiled back at her warmly. Apologies were most unnecessary at a time like this and he, in a way, felt morbidly glad that she had chosen him to cry on.

She looked away for a moment, staring dolefully under hooded eyelids at her father's grave before glancing up at her husband once again. "Thank you for coming." She whispered, afraid that her tears would begin again if she spoke any louder. "I really needed you here today."

"Hey, no problem." He replied just as quietly. "You need a lift home? Or is there a wake to go to?"

"Paul agreed to hold the wake at his place, but I need to go home and prepare myself." She glanced at him questioningly. "Can you give me a ride or are you expected back at the base?"

"No. The General gave me the day off. I'm not due back 'till tomorrow." Keeping his arm firmly around Sara's shoulder, he steered her towards his truck. "It was a lovely service." He commented quietly as they walked.

"Yeah." Sara replied. " Dad chose his own service a long time ago. The doctors told him a while back that his heart had been weakened by the last attack, and when he found out that any more would kill him, he got everything in order - including his funeral. He even paid for it himself." She smiled sadly.

"Yeah. That was Dad. Always thinking of everyone but himself." Jack grimaced at the intimacy of the name he used for his Father in Law; and even more so at the conjured images of Jacob Carter that immediately sprang to mind. Realising how wholly inappropriate his thoughts were at a time like this, he mentally chastised himself before changing the subject entirely.

"I hope you don't mind a bumpy ride." He said as he pulled open the passenger door to his truck.

"I can't believe you still have this old thing!" Sara exclaimed, a bemused smile forming on her lips.

"Yeah, well, I keep meaning to trade it in for something a little newer, but I never seem to have time. Besides, Carter keeps promising to fix it up for me."


Jack cringed at his lack of appropriateness. "Yeah." He said slowly, ensuring that no more damning words fell out of his mouth before his brain had a chance to catch up. "Major Carter. Just someone I work with."

Glancing at his passenger he sighed inwardly, relieved that she appeared satisfied with his explanation.

"So, who's Paul?" he asked conversationally.

Now it was Sara's turn to look embarrassed. "A colleague." She said quickly. Too quickly. She studied her nails for a moment, and chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully. Jack knew what was coming, but continued to drive in silence, deciding it was best to keep his own council and let her tell him in her own time.

"He's my boyfriend." She blurted out eventually, her face red with embarrassment.

Jack looked at her, grinning stupidly at her choice of words. "Your 'Boyfriend'?" he teased. "Aren't you a little old to have a 'Boyfriend'?"

Sara smiled back at him. Relief washing over her rapidly cooling face. "Well what am I supposed to call him?" she asked in her own defence. "We're not married, or engaged and I positively *refuse* to call him my 'lover'!"

"What's wrong with Partner?" Jack enquired, still smiling, but with his eyes back on the road.

"I'm not going into business with the man, Jack!" she laughed as she settled back comfortably into her seat, finally feeling some of the tension from the last few days leave her body.

"Fine!" Jack conceded, laughing. "Your 'boyfriend' it is then!" for a few minutes, a comfortable silence fell over the pair, then out of the blue, Sara asked the one question Jack had prayed she wouldn't.

"What about you? You seeing anyone?"

The question was innocent enough, but in Jack's mind it was as loaded as the pistol hidden in the trunk of his car.

"It's, ah, complicated." He replied slowly.

"I'll take that as a 'kind of'." Sara smiled. "So what's her name?"

Jack glanced uncomfortably at his passenger before staring fixedly at the road before him. This was the one conversation he really didn't want to be having with the woman he was still legally married to.

Ever the diplomat, Sara realised his discomfort and, with a tact that sometimes seemed so alien a concept to Jack, she changed the subject.

"You know, you're welcome to come to Dad's wake." She smiled at him sincerely. "I'm sure my family would love to see you, it's been a long time..."

"Thanks." He replied, "But I think it's best if I just drop you and head off home." He looked at her for a moment. "It's difficult, you know? Too many people asking too many questions about my job, most of which I can't answer, and saying 'it's classified' over and over again is such a cliche."

"I understand." She said quickly.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and less than ten minutes later the truck ground to a spluttering halt outside Sara's home.

"I wanted to thank you for not asking questions that time at the hospital." Jack began tentatively as he turned off the ignition. "It must have been difficult for you to see Charlie like that and not ask me how come..."

"I always knew that whatever you did inside that mountain was classified work, Jack." Sara replied, a smile forming on her lips. "The thing is, although I never understood *why* my son was standing before me that day, in a way I didn't want to know." She looked at him, unshed tears threatening to fall down her pale face once again. "I was just glad to see him one more time."

Jack nodded in understanding. "Me too." He murmured quietly.

The passenger door opened with a groan and Sara stepped out onto the sidewalk. "You don't have to wait for me." She smiled, "Paul's house is only five minutes from here, and I think I could probably use the fresh air."

"If you're sure." Sara nodded in confirmation. "I really am sorry about your father." Jack said, looking into his wife's eyes. "He was a good man."

"Yes he was." She agreed, a single tear falling down her cheek. "Take care of yourself Jack."

"You too." He replied as he turned the key in the engine once again.

Sara made to shut the passenger door, but seemed to change her mind at the last minute.

"Jack?" he turned to look at her.


"Good know, with your 'complication'." She smiled at him sincerely. "You deserve some happiness, it's been so long."

He smiled sadly at the selfless woman before him. "Yes, it has." He whispered.

Nodding in farewell, Sara slammed the door closed and watched as the truck roared into life and pulled away.


*'Carry me away
I need your strength to get me through this
Dare to believe for one last time
And then I'll let the
Darkness cover me
Deny Everything
Slowly walk away to breath again
On my own.'
Darkness - Disturbed*

Jack turned off the television with a sigh. There was only so many times a person could watch the same episode of The Simpsons before even *he* started to go nuts.

He drained the last dregs from his can of beer and crushed the tin before throwing it with perfect aim into the trashcan across the room. Ever since speaking to Sara earlier that day he couldn't seem to get her words of wisdom out of his head. What she had said was right. It had been a long time since he had felt the security and happiness of being with the person he loved. Why did it have to be so complicated anyway? Oh, he knew by heart all the military rules and regulations that forbade two officers in direct chains of command being together, but he also realised that for Carter and himself at least, there was much more to it than could ever be accounted for by the Air Force.

He remembered overhearing the conversation she had had with Daniel all those years ago, when they had been looking for her ex-fiance on P3X...whatever. Daniel had asked her what she had seen in Captain Hanson and she had mentioned having a soft spot for the 'Lunatic Fringe'. Well, although Jack knew he would never have the megalomaniac tendencies that Hanson displayed so thoroughly, he also realised that his years in black ops had changed him mentally. He had been taught to fight and to kill with little or no regard for the other man, and learning things like that did things to a person. It had the ability to either make or break you. In Jonas Hanson's case it had definitely been the latter, but in his own? Well, he just couldn't be sure any more.

In the last few years he had had to make some pretty tough decisions both on and off world. These choices had, for the majority, dictated whether or not someone, somewhere, was going to die. In retrospect, he truly believed that the most difficult decision he had ever had to make was two years ago, when he chose to save the Encarans from mass slaughter by attempting to kill another race. True, all had turned out well in the end, and the Encarans were now safely ensconced on their original home planet, but the point was that he had still been prepared to sacrifice one race for another.

It wasn't so much that he had chosen the Encarans over the Gadmeer that had bothered him so much. Jack was self-confessed a pretty basic type of guy. The Encarans he *knew* were alive. He could see them, hear them and talk to them. The Gadmeer on the other hand were, for all intents and purposes, not real. The new generations had not yet been born, and although Jack was not a stupid man, he knew that the most sensible course of action was to chose the race that was already alive; already living and breathing, and making good use of the planets surface.

No, the hardest thing he'd had to do during that time was to order Samantha Carter, the woman he had so recently professed to caring about so much, to create the device that would kill. If it had merely been his own decision, and his own actions that would have ended the lives of the Gadmeer, he could have lived with himself. But the fact that he had to order someone else - *her* - to make the bomb; and the look on her face as she realised his intentions; well, it was almost soul destroying.

This was the reason that their relationship was complicated. Every day that she remained in his chain of command, she would have to follow orders. Whether she agreed with them or not. If it had been Daniel who was the scientist in the team, he could have just given the order and worried about the consequences when the job was done. But it wasn't. And unfortunately for him, Sam's opinions of him mattered so much that the thought of her being negative towards him in any way was too much to bear. This fact alone was enough for him to almost put the lives of the Encarans at even greater risk.

A great weight lifted from Jack's slumped shoulders as he once again realised the futility of over thinking situations. With a smile on his face, and for the first time in what seemed like ages, a glimmer of hope in his heart, he reached for the telephone and dialled.


*'They come, They come,
To build a wall between us,
You know that they won't win.'
Don't dream it's over - Crowded House

Sam Carter pulled up outside her Commanding Officer's house at a little past twenty-one hundred hours. The telephone call she had received from him had been confusing, and the conversation almost forced, but she eventually got the general gist of it, and this was the reason she had come over.

Pulling her coat tighter around her shoulders to ward of the evening chill she rang the bell and waited. Less than a minute later the door was opened and she was ushered inside.

Sam pulled off her coat and turned to look at the man closing the door quietly behind her. O'Neill looked tired and almost nervous about something. Tentatively she placed her hand on his shoulder turned him around to face her.

"Sir?" suddenly and without warning, she found herself being pulled into his tight embrace. The coat draped over her arm was forgotten as it fell unceremoniously to the floor as she wrapped her arms around his warm, welcoming torso and closed her eyes, succumbing to the sensation so rare.

After a long moment he pulled away and, with his arms still ensconced around her neck, he looked deep into her questioning eyes. Slowly, he moved his right hand up and framed her face with his palm, stroking along her cheekbone with his thumb.

"We need to talk." He muttered, ever hypnotised by her huge, beautiful blue eyes.

"Apparently." She agreed, smiling. Realising that neither of them had yet moved from their intimate position, she uncurled her arms from around his waist and rested her hands gently on his sides. "Are you gonna offer me a drink?" she asked.

Smiling, Jack released his willing prisoner and took a reluctant step back. "Sure. Beer okay?"

Nodding in confirmation, Sam reached down and collected her abandoned coat off the floor. After hanging it on the rack, she moved over to the sofa, kicked her shoes off and sat down, curling her sock-clad feet under her. Even after six years of working together it always amazed Jack how quickly and easily Carter became comfortable in his home. More than that, she looked like she belonged there. Not so much part of the furniture per se, but more like she *deserved* to be there.

Unsure as to where these thoughts were taking him, Jack shook his head and walked over to the sofa. He handed Sam her beer and took a long pull from his can before settling himself next to her. Two years ago Jack would never have dreamed of sitting in such close proximity to this woman. In fact, he would probably have made every effort to stay as far away from her as humanly possible. The forced confessions they had both made during the Za'tarc fiasco had erected an invisible barrier between them for a long time. This served to ensure that every time something was said that could be construed as even slightly unprofessional, realisations were made and either himself or Carter quickly quashed it before anyone else could notice anything deemed as untoward.

Concerns about the 'Team Dynamic' were at that time expressed by both General Hammond and, to a lesser extent, Doctor Frasier (though Jack supposed more so on her part due to being Sam's closest friend). But both parties were quickly shown that despite Jack and Sam's growing attractions for one another, SG-1, as it stood, was still the best team Stargate Command had to offer.

And now, two years on, they had come to accept that this attraction was never going to go away, but that they could deal with it. No longer did they have to leave the room just to avoid being in each others company, constantly bitter about what they couldn't have, but instead they accepted their fates and enjoyed every moment they had. Relishing the times they could be alone and choosing to be grateful for what they were allowed. Quiet moments, moments when they could sit like this, next to each other with Sam's legs flattened across Jack's knees, silently contemplating themselves and each other.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" Sam asked eventually.

Realising that all he had mentally groused over earlier that day was futile, and that all he had really wanted was this moment - the moment where Sam was with him, alone, in silence, just *there*, he smiled. "Nothing." He said as he rubbed her calf with the palm of his hand, "just wanted to see you."

"Okay." She smiled at him in unquestioning acceptance and raised her glass to her lips.

*'It's a new dawn,
It's a new day,
It's a new life for me,
And I'm feeling good.'
Nina Simone*

They stayed like that all night, just sitting and talking about nothing of consequence. At around midnight they replaced the beer with coffee, and whether it was the caffeine injections or just being around each other, something had compelled them both to remain.

At Oh Seven Hundred, they donned their coats and headed out to their respective vehicles. Just as they walked down the path, a grey car pulled up and Sara stepped out of the driver's side.

A momentary look of confusion clouded Sam's face and she turned to Jack. "You want me to leave you alone?" she asked.

Jack smiled and squeezed her hand briefly. "No, it's okay."

Sara stopped directly in front of the would-be couple and smiled warmly at Sam. "Hi." She said quietly.

Despite what Jack could foresee as an awkward moment, the polite gentleman in him decided it was necessary to make introductions.

"Carter, this is Sara." He indicated towards the older woman, who nodded in acknowledgement. "Sara, this is Samantha Carter."

"It's nice to meet you." Sam smiled back, realising with some measure of surprise that she felt no animosity. Despite the years that this other woman had been married to Jack, she understood quickly that what they had had was long since dead. And judging by the look in O'Neill's eyes as he stared into hers, she could tell that it was definitely she he loved now, not Sara.

"I'd better get to work, sir." Sam said, gazing back at Jack, somewhat unwilling to break the spell. "I'll see you there - Shall I inform the General you're running late?"

He nodded in affirmation and watched as she walked over to her car, unlocked the door and climbed inside, before turning his attention towards the other woman.

"She's very beautiful." Sara looked over at the younger woman as she reversed her car onto the road.

Jack couldn't help but grin back. "Yes, she is."

"I take it she's the...'complication' you were telling me about." She said as they walked into his house.

"Yeah." He replied quietly, then looked over his shoulder at the car pulling away. "But not so complicated anymore."

"I'm glad." Sara smiled up at him. "Carter?" she said as she closed the door behind her. "The one who was supposed to fix your truck? I thought she was a man."

Jack smiled quietly at a sudden memory he had long since forgotten. "Yeah, me too."


The End

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