Somewhere I Belong

By Tarra O'Neal & Flotternz

Email: Tarra_ONeal@msn.com & Flotternz@yahoo.co.nz

Status: Complete

Category: Romance, Hurt/Comfort

Pairings: Sam/Jack

Spoilers: Minor for In the Line of Duty, Small Victories, Entity, The Curse, & Sight Unseen and Paradise Lost. Major for Metamorphosis.

Season: 6

Rating: PG

Content Warnings: None.

Summary: Sam's change within Nirrti's DNA splicing machine effected her life more than just physically.

Disclaimer: Sadly we don't own SG-1, or that lovely graying, brown eyed Colonel...*sigh*! Oh woe are we!! Anyways... Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, MGM/UA, Viacom, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions and the Showtime and/or Sci Fi networks. No infringement is intended to the above parties. This is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. No trees or snowmen were hurt in the making of this story.

File Size: 103 KB

Archive: Dyiallias 2, Jackfic, SJD yes.

Authors' Note: I got this idea from a dream I had. It was so vivid and even had a plot! I just had to get it down in writing, so along with Saz it formed into a full fledged story!

Feedback: Sweet! We love it! The more we get the more we write.

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Somewhere I Belong
By Tarra O'Neal & Flotternz

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"Carter?" Jack's voiced was edged with trepidation.

"Sir." Came her weak reply.

"You made it through. You're gonna be all right." He knew he was saying it as much for himself as he was for her. Trying to ease both their fears.

"No sir, I don't think I am." He could see the pain on her face. The defeat was there too. He was not going to let her give up. They'd waited too long for it to be ended like this.

It tore at his heart to see her in pain, to know that the fate that awaited her was inevitable and painful. They'd been lucky before, they'd avoided death countless times, but he couldn't help but feel that they couldn't cheat it this time and if that was the case he didn't want her to go without knowing how he truly felt about her.

"Yes you will. Ya know why? Because you still have to go fishing with me." Jack said softly regaining her attention. Her eyes were getting dimmer, but she was hanging on his every word.

A weak smile graced her face. "I have a feeling that won't be happening, sir," she responded, her voice so quiet he had to strain to hear her. She tried stretching her legs out on the bed but everything inside her screamed in protest. A sharp indrawn breath and a soft moan were emitted from her slack lips.

Jack reacted instinctively, reaching out to grip her arms lightly, needing to soothe her with his touch. "Don't move Carter, just relax. You need to fight this, because you *will* be going fishing with me soon. As soon as we get back to Earth in fact," he told her, his voice full of determination that his heart did not feel. He moved so she could rest her legs on his lap. It was a small comfort, but it was all he could offer her at the moment.

She shook her head with all the vehemence she could muster. "With all due respect, you saw what happened to Evanov. There's nothing special about me and my physiology that's gonna stop that from happening to me," she paused, drawing in a deep, ragged, breath, "Why are you doing this, sir?" Sam asked softly, her eyes sliding shut.

"Don't call me Sir," Jack scoffed mildly.

"Then what do you want me to call you?" she asked.

"Call me Bob," he blurted, wanting nothing more than to see her smile, to make her forget the pain she was in even if it was just for a moment.

"Bob?" there was that hint of a smile again. "With all due respect, Bob doesn't really suit you, sir"

"Then what do you want to call me?"

Her smile grew slightly. "Rover."

"Rover?"

"You don't like Rover?"

Jack snorted, glancing over to where Jonas and Teal'c were seated in their cell. If they overheard this he'd never live it down, but they didn't appear to be listening. "I'd prefer it if you called me Jack."

Her smile stilled for a moment, her face going impassive. "Are you sure?" she asked uncertainly.

He reached out and brushed some stray hair out of her face. "Yes, I'm sure."

"Hmmm ... I still prefer Rover." Her eyes fluttered for a moment before remaining open. "You didn't answer my question."

"Refresh my memory."

Her eyes met his, for once completely open, her emotions visible for him to see, read and interpret for himself. "I asked you why you were doing this."

Jack let his brow furrow in confusion. "Doing what?" he asked, knowing full well what she meant. He had two reasons why he answered her question with a question, the most important of the two the need to keep her talking, to keep her conscious for the time being.

Understanding filled her face. "You know what your doing Jack, don't play the fool with me. All I want to know is why you're doing this."

Jack sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. "Because I don't want you to fall asleep."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to run the risk of having you not wake up and regret not telling you how I feel," he admitted.

"Oh," Sam muttered, her eyes filling with surprise. "I just thought you were trying to keep my mind off dying."

"You're not gonna die. I won't let you." His voice trailed off into to a whisper.

His statement seemed to surprise both of them.

Jack's hand absentmindedly fiddled with the grungy *thing* that passed as a blanket. He knew what he wanted to say he just didn't know if his brain would connect with his mouth so that it would come out right. *Start small, Jack.*

His eyes met hers once more. "You know I care about you."

She nodded.

"Well it's more than just caring. It's …" He ran his hand through his already disheveled hair in frustration. *This was so hard.*

Sam's hand moved forward slowly to grasp hold of his. "It's okay, Jack, you don't need to say anything, I know."

Jack met her eyes and smiled warmly at her attempt to ease the awkwardness of the moment. "I know that, but I want to tell you. I *have* to tell you." He squeezed her hand tighter in hers, dropping his attention from her expectant face to their entwined hands. "This is important. I don't want another moment to go by without me telling you how I feel. I don't want any more regrets than I already have. I love you Sam."

He looked back up at her in time to see a tear slide down her cheek. Reaching out, he absently brushed away the tears, his heart torn by the look of anguish on her face as she replied, "I love you too, Jack," before sobs overtook her.

He drew her to him, guiding her face into his chest as he wrapped his arms tightly around her, wanting not only to comfort her, but himself to. *Why did I have to wait so long to tell her? Why did I have to wait until it was too late?*

"I'm sorry," he whispered. His kissed the top of her head softly. "I'm sorry I never told you before."

Sam shook in his arms as a wave of internal spasms struck her. Between those and her shaking sobs he was afraid to let go of her. Afraid that if he did, she would vanish before his eyes. His hands caressed her back, calming her. She leaned back and looked up into his face, the strain becoming more apparent in his usual strong features.

"I'm sorry too," Her voice barely audible.

Jack's hand cupped her cheek, his thumb moving lightly over her soft skin. His eyes memorized every freckle, every fine laugh line, every gentle curve of her face. He came to her eyes and saw his own thoughts mirrored in the depths. He could get lost in those depths. He saw many things in those depths. Their past together. Their present. Their future? He couldn't let her die. He wouldn't. He couldn't live with himself if they didn't have a future.

He met her lips in a gentle and short kiss. Just a mere brushing of lips. An exchange of emotions. Just enough to let her know that he loved her and that if he had anything to do with it, she'd be all right.

He pulled back and saw her eyes had closed and there was a crease of pain across her forehead. His thumb brushed her cheek one more time.

"Get some rest, okay."

She nodded her head, her eyes still closed. He helped her shift into a more comfortable position, which resulted in her leaning against him, her head resting on his shoulder.

Jack's resolve grew. He was *not* going to let her die.

***

Sam sat on the infirmary bed, a penlight flashing in front of her eyes and a thermometer hanging out of her mouth. She was beyond exhausted. Having your DNA changed and being on the verge of dying and having it changed back really takes it out of you. She felt grimy all over from being in the filthy cell in Nirrti's prison. Not only had some of the dirt stuck to her, thanks to the sweat that had been pouring down her body but her clothes stuck to her in places she didn't know she had.

What she really wanted was to take a nice long hot bath in her tub at home. But first she was going to take a somewhat shortened shower in the locker room, since she didn't think she could make it home feeling as disgusting as she did.

Her head nodded once or twice before she jerked it back up. She must be more tired than she thought if she was dozing off in the middle of her post mission exam. She was relieved that Janet hadn't noticed, she didn't think she could cope spending the night in the Infirmary after the ordeal she had been through today. However someone else did notice.

Jack had taken residence on another bed several feet away after he was released from his exam. She knew why he was staying, and she was grateful that he was sticking around. After today she was certain that she didn't want to be alone, and even more certain that they weren't going to shove their feelings under the proverbial rug and try to ignore them any more.

He was poised to rise off the bed ready to come to her aid. His eyes met hers with silent questioning. She nodded her head at him, indicating that she was fine for the moment. He accepted her affirmation and settled back on the bed.

Sam clasped her hands together willing Janet to release her. As though by silent command, Janet pulled the thermometer out of her mouth and checked the reading. "You've got a slight temperature, but not enough to keep you here. You're free to go home."


Sam lifted herself off the bed wincing a little as her tired muscles protested. "Thanks Janet."

"But Sam … promise me you'll call me if you start to feel any side effects or don't feel yourself okay?" Janet pressured.

Sam didn't hear the Colonel come to stand behind her until he spoke for her. "She will, Doc. Don't worry. I won't let her neglect herself."

Janet looked between the two of them suspecting a subtle change in their relationship, but didn't say anything. She merely let a small smile lift her mouth. "Good. Now go home and get some rest."

Sam turned, and walked slowly out of the infirmary, Jack at her side. She saw his arm shoot out several times, whenever it seemed she was unsteady, but each time she would just stop and catch herself, and each time Jack came close to touching her, but didn't.

She made it all the way to the elevator without needing help, but once Jack pressed the button for the level of their destination, she collapsed against the wall. Jack was by her in an instant. His arms went around her, supporting her weight.

"Carter, are you sure you're all right?" The concern in his voice and gaze warming her like nothing else could.

"Yeah. Just tired. I wanna wash all this nastiness off me before I go home." She felt her eyes growing heavy. Strong arms drew her further into an embrace. She let her head rest on Jack's chest, drawing on his strength and the comfort that his arms offered.

They felt the elevator shift indicating that it had stopped and was about to open. They let go of the other simultaneously, not wanting prying eyes to see their moment of impropriety.

Sam stepped out of the elevator unaided. How her feet propelled her towards the locker room she'll never know. She barely remembered getting there herself. She was grateful the sign said 'Women's', as she didn't want to have to wait for her turn. She went straight to her locker and pulled some clothes out. She leaned her forehead against the cool metal of the locker thinking it felt nice against her flushed skin.

She must have become oblivious to anything else as soon as she entered the locker room, for the next thing she knew, a set of hands had come to rest on her forearms. It didn't surprise her much that Jack had followed her into the room. In fact she thought it was touching, his presence a comfort to her.

"Carter?"

"Hmm?" Was that her voice? It sounded so weak. *Since when am I weak?* She laughed at herself. *Since you found out you weren't invincible.*

"Sam?" He must not have heard her muffled reply. She could hear the worry in his voice.

She pulled up to her full height, the effort left her leaning against Jack's chest momentarily. She turned slowly in his arms, clothes still clutched loosely in her own.

"I'm okay."

He obviously didn't believe her if his scowl was anything to go by. His hands tightened slightly on her arms, silently asking her if she really was all right.

"I can do this. I'll make it quick." She softly persuaded him.

He nodded his assent and let his hands trail down her arms, leaving her feeling suddenly cold. "I'll be right here. Let me know if you need any help."

She smiled slightly. "I will." And they both knew she would.

She waited until Jack settled himself on a bench until she turned and walked into the nearest shower stall. She could hear Jack shift on the bench as she turned on the water and slowly began removing her clothing, tossing it aside and stepping into the blessed relief that the cascading water offered.

A small moan escaped her lips as the driving water loosening muscles that she hadn't realised were tense and slowly began to wash away the dirt and grime that felt like it was caked on her flesh.

Tears began to run unbidden down her cheeks as she reached for the soap and slowly began to scrub her body. Again, she'd come close to death, a little too close for comfort this time. The only measure of comfort she had was that this time she had control of her body, and the knowledge that Jack was by her side, heart and soul. She was certain that she wouldn't have made it had it not been for him.

And he loved her. It was something she'd always known, without the words ever leaving his lips, and something she had silently reciprocated in turn. But to hear those three words spoken aloud, with such tenderness and meaning, without fear of consequence and to be able to tell him the same had eased her heart in a way she had never believed possible. It was gratifying, it filled her soul, her then dying soul, with a peace that she had not known for a long time.

Only now the possibility of consequences was back and she didn't want to forget what they'd admitted. Now that it was out it couldn't be forgotten, which only opened up to her another bunch of questions for which she was too exhausted to find the answers for.

"Sam?" she heard Jack call out, the concern all too evident in his voice. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," she responded, her voice croaking, "I'm fine."

"You've been in there half an hour Carter. Don't you wanna get outta here, go home and have something to eat?" His voice was light and joking, but underneath it all she could hear his own desperation to get out of there.

Startled that she had lost track of time so easily, she shut off the shower and quickly began towelling herself dry. Her stomach gave out a little involuntary groan. "Food sounds good," she responded, "Your shout."

"Deal, lets just get you home first, okay?" Jack's voice sounded nearly as weary as she felt, and she felt more exhausted than she had when she had started her shower.

Tugging her clothes on she felt a smile tug at her lips. Home sounded so appealing, and the way that he voiced his question told her that he planned to stick around, just like he was at the moment. She didn't want to be alone, and she could tell that he didn't want to either, or perhaps he just didn't want to leave her alone. Either way she was thankful.

Stepping out of the cubicle, she leaned heavily against the wall as she watched Jack stand and turn to face her. His face lit with concern as he noticed her leaning against the wall, and he stepped closer to her, his arm reaching out slightly.

"Let's go, sir, I just want to get out of here," Sam muttered, forcing him to stop in his tracks.

He nodded, moving closer and reaching out to wrap his arm around her waist. The contact was electric, and Sam had to stop herself before she leapt away, the unexpected tenderness of his simple gesture surprising. She couldn't help but lean into him, drawing strength from him as he lead her towards the door, each step taking her closer to home.

***

It was not without a sense of regret that Jack let Sam pull out of his arms as he opened the door to the locker room. He watched her with concern as she drew herself up to her full height, squaring her shoulders as she stepped out into the corridor beyond and began walking slowly towards the elevator.

He wanted nothing more than to touch her, to reassure himself that this was real and not just a dream, but now wasn't the time nor the place. They still had boundaries to set. So he contented himself with walking closely next to her, yet slightly behind, ready to catch her should she waiver, ready to offer her support should she need it.

Her exhaustion was apparent to him in the way she dragged her feet, her pace moderate but considerably slower than normal, and in the way she leaned heavily against the wall as they waited for the elevator to descend. As the doors slid aside she sighed softly as she stepped inside. He wanted to say something, to try and ease her mind, something that might put a smile on her face for a moment, but nothing came to mind. As the doors closed he reached out and squeezed her hand slightly, and was gratified to receive a small answering squeeze in return.

They made their way up to the surface in relative silence. It was enough that they were just there in each other's presence. At the checkout point Jack flashed his ID, which prompted Sam to show hers as well. The guards waved them through and they exited the base into the cool night air. Sam's arms wound about her body and she suppressed a shiver at the unexpected chill. Jack quickly removed his jacket and wrapped it about her shoulders, getting a small smile in return.

He walked close to Sam as they made their way to their vehicles. Sam pulled her keys out of her pocket and her hand shook as she inserted one into the lock in the door. Jack watched as she tried to regain a semblance of strength, but said nothing when she failed. The keys dropped out of her hand and dropped onto the cold pavement.

A small frustrated sigh escaped Sam's lips and she ran a hand through her still damp hair. Jack quickly stepped up to her and scooped the keys up, purposefully sliding them into his pocket. "Theres no way in hell I'm letting you drive home in this condition," Jack told her.

He was expecting an argument from her, expecting her to vehemently tell him that she was fine, that she could drive home on her own. So he couldn't help but be surprised, and more than a little worried, when she nodded mutely and stepped away from her car. Slowly, he guided her with his hand on the small of her back towards his truck, forcing back the sudden urge to sweep her up in his arms and carry her.

Opening the passenger door, he helped her into the truck, making certain that she put on her seatbelt. Her actions were automatic and mechanical as she lifted her arms, allowing him to reach across her and buckle the seatbelt in. He closed the door and by the time he had made it around to the drivers side of the truck and seated himself in, her head was already nodding slightly as she fought away sleep.

Jack smiled to himself as he turned on the ignition. He couldn't help but glance over at her again, seeing her eyes closed and her breathing steady and even. "I guess sleep won," he whispered to himself. He was unable to prevent himself from reaching over and brushing her hair from her forehead. He needed to touch her still, he needed to know that she was there. With a sigh he pulled his attention away from her and pulled the truck out of the parking lot.

Jack drove along, his mind not on the present, but on those few moments back in Nirrti's prison, when he thought he'd almost lost Sam. He was such a fool to think that their luck would hold out until the war was over. It'd been six years, and no sign of letting up. It was just so frustrating to think that he was running out of time. That if deranged System Lords didn't get them something equally dangerous and evil would.

He was eminently grateful that he'd been able to express himself fully earlier. He didn't know how he could have dealt with the grief if he didn't and she'd have died. It would have been an all-consuming pain that he'd become all too familiar with in his life. But she hadn't died. Again SG-1's miraculous good luck came through and she was saved, and he never wanted to let her go ever again. He was tired of regrets, he was tired of sitting by her as she was dying believing that she was going to die without her knowing how deep his feelings for her went.

His mind came back to the present as he neared an intersection and stopped at the red light. He heard a soft click in the resolute silence of the interior of the truck. He turned his head and saw Sam edging her way across the seat towards him. As he panicked slightly the only thing he could think of was '*I thought she was asleep.*'

She eventually sat flush against him, her head leaning on his shoulder. Both his hands were gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. "Carter…what are you doing?"

She didn't answer him. Either she was still groggy from her brief nap, or she didn't feel like talking. The light turned green and Jack continued on his way to his house. A few minutes later her head nudged against his shoulder. He glanced down at her to see her bleary eyes staring back at him, naked and raw with emotion.

Suddenly his heart dropped to his stomach and his throat clamped up as he raised his arm and gathered her to him. Her arms went around his waist and her head rested on the side of his chest. He heard a soft sigh emit from her lips and decided that this was what she had wanted. And it felt so good to hold her in his arms, like this was the place that she was meant to be, snuggled up at his side. Leaning down, he brushed his lips across her forehead, and a soft, contented sigh was issued from her lips.

If this was the only contact they ever had in their twisted screwed up thing that passed as a relationship, he could die a happy man. But as it was, he wanted more. He was getting too old for this thing they did everyday. There were other younger more qualified guys that would be thrilled to gallivant across the galaxies on an every day basis. He just wanted a life again.

He hoped that this was a sign that she wanted the same. Either way, their relationship was going to be irrevocably changed now that they had confessed their feelings for each other; there was no going back on what they said now. Which meant that they could only go forward. And the only forward he wanted was Sam Carter in his life in more ways than just his 2IC.

Pulling up his drive he stopped the truck and shut off the engine. Sam stirred next to him, her eyes opening slightly and fixing on him. "We there?" she mumbled sleepily.

"Yeah," Jack responded, his voice husky and his heart pounding dully in his chest. "We're home Sam."

"Home?" she mumbled, a tiny smile forming on her exhausted face and her eyes sliding shut again.

Jack couldn't help the small smile that filled his face as he watched her snuggle into his chest again. Any thoughts that she would actually walk into his house under her own steam fled his mind, he could tell she'd gone back to sleep. He opened the door to the truck, awkwardly pulling her with him as he slid out of the vehicle. She moaned softly as he swept her up into his arms, her eyes opening and quickly closing again, before she snuggled closer into his body. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to suppress the feelings that she was evoking in him.

Awkwardly he reached back into the truck and pulled his keys out of the ignition, looping his fingers through the ring. He couldn't get over how light she felt as he carried her up the walk and fumbled around trying to put his key in the lock. *Is it possible that she's lost heaps of weight, or is it just my imagination?*

She had the habit of neglecting herself, and once he got to thinking about it, especially where he was concerned. He'd been gone an entire month, and he'd heard rumors from various base personnel, that 'Major Carter didn't take his disappearance very well' and 'Major Carter was beating herself up over not being able to find him.' And then he'd noticed Teal'c acting overly protective of her lately. Yes it was entirely possible she'd lost some weight. Weight she didn't have to lose.

He got the door open finally and stepped into the dark and chilly foyer. He was trying to decide the best venue for him to take. The sofa, the guest bedroom or his bedroom. After little deliberation he decided on his room. It did have the most comfortable bed, after all. And only the best for Sam.

He held onto her tightly with one arm as he turned down the comforter with his other. He laid her down onto the bed, and went to remove her shoes. Once he had that done he pulled the blankets over her prone form and watched as she snuggled into the center of his bed under the covers. He went around to the other side of the bed removed his own shoes and sat on the bed with his back propped against the headboard.

And then he just watched her.

***

Sam woke slowly, feeling only slightly less exhausted than she'd been earlier. She felt like she'd been asleep for hours, and yet didn't feel much better than she had when she left the base. She couldn't remember falling asleep. In fact, the last thing she remembered was hopping into the Colonel's truck and him buckling her in.

She had a vague recollection of snuggling into his side on the truck, but couldn't fathom whether it was real or a dream. One thing she did know for certain was that she was not lying in her own bed.

Her eyes popped open as the realization struck her, and for a disconcerting moment her eyes searched the room as she tried to ascertain where she was. It was the Colonel's bed, it had to be. It was confirmed in her as she rolled over and buried her face in the pillow only to be enveloped in the scent that was uniquely his.

A smile tugged at her lips and she found herself grateful rather than annoyed that he had decided to bring her back here rather than just dropping her at home and leaving. Whether she wanted to or not, she wanted company at the moment, and it was his company she craved more than anything else.

Pushing the blankets aside she slid out of the bed, wavering slightly for a moment as a wave of dizziness rolled over her. It passed quickly and she slowly crossed the floor in the darkened room, towards the light that seeped in through the semi-open door. As she stepped into the hallway the muted sound of the TV floated down to her and with it the sound of the Colonel's laughter. She smiled to herself, it was something she didn't hear often enough.

She shuffled quietly into the living room and stood for a moment at the threshold taking the opportunity to study him whilst he was oblivious to her presence. He was slouched in his armchair, engrossed in an episode of the Simpsons that was playing on his TV. He was wearing a pair of jeans and baggy flannel shirt, nursing a bottle of beer with his legs propped on the coffee table. He burst into laughter again, his whole face lighting up with the gesture. She wished he did it more often.

Clearing her throat, she stepped down into the living room as Jack leapt up to greet her, the smile still lighting his face and making her stomach do little flip-flops.

"Carter," he greeted her, his voice sounding choked. "How are you feeling?" He ran his hands through his hair, but his eyes remained fastened on hers, only breaking contact briefly as he studied her intently from head to foot before meeting them again.

Sam felt uncomfortable all of a sudden under his intense scrutiny. She shrugged, smoothing her hair self-consciously, it felt like it was sticking up all over the place. "I'm okay," she mumbled. "I feel better, but I still feel like I could sleep for a week."

Jack frowned and crossed the room to stand in front of her. "Come and sit down," he told her, guiding her towards the sofa.

She smiled shyly up at him as she sat on the sofa and tucked her legs under her. "How long was I asleep for?"

He smiled warmly down at her, turning her to jelly. "About two hours. You need more you know." Reaching past her he pulled a blanket off the back of the sofa and tucked it around her. "Are you hungry?"

Sam glanced up to meet those chocolate brown eyes, so filled with concern and caring that it stole her breath. All she could do was nod pitifully in response. This was what she'd wanted all her life - a man that would be devoted to her, to care for her when she was sick, a man who received her love as freely as he gave it.

Only, this was the one man that she couldn't have. They might have confessed their true feelings for each other, but it did nothing to change the fact that they shared the same chain of command. No matter how much she loved him, no matter how much she craved to be held in those arms, she couldn't.

And it was the bitterest disappointment she'd ever felt. Why did life have to be so unfair?

Jack's brow furrowed as he studied her, worry filling his previously cheerful features. "What is it, Sam?" he asked, pressing the palm of his hand to her forehead, checking her temperature. "Are you feeling okay?"

Sam tried to smile, suddenly feeling even more exhausted than she had when she left the SGC. "I'm fine," she tried to reassure, a reassurance that she didn't feel.

One look at his face told Sam that he wasn't buying it either. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," she replied, stretching out on the sofa and snuggling a little deeper into the blanket. He was still leaning over her, his closeness doing little to make her relax and she wondered if it showed. "I'm just still half asleep is all."

"Ah … okay then." He straightened up, so he was looming over her. "I'll go and organize some dinner then, I don't want you to move. Would you like something to drink?"

It was like he could read her mind, she was parched. "Have you got any orange juice?" To her own ears her voice sounded child-like and very unlike her.

Jack merely grinned, tugging the blanket more tightly around her. "One glass of orange juice coming up!"

As she watched him disappear into the kitchen she had the strongest feeling that he was actually enjoying looking after her, and she decided that she too was going to enjoy this for as long as she could. She couldn't even remember the last time that she'd had someone care for her when she wasn't feeling the best. And if this was the most she could hope for in her twisted relationship with her CO at the moment then she wasn't going to let the opportunity slip by.

Turning onto her side, she tugged the blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes. This was nice, even though she felt like death warmed up, this was very, very nice.

When she opened her eyes she was startled to find Jack sitting on the coffee table facing her, a goofy grin plastered on his face as he watched her. She hadn't even heard him come back into the living room.

"Did I fall asleep again?" she murmured.

*Why the hell is he staring at me? What's going on?*

Jack swallowed deeply, guilt filling his features. "Yeah, but you were only asleep for about ten minutes."

"And you were staring at me the whole time?" she asked, feeling herself growing unreasonably angry.

He flushed, swallowing again. "I was watching you sleep."

"Why?"

His lips quirked into a smile as he stood up. "Because I like watching you when you're quiet and not talking non-stop about some doohickey or theory," he threw over his shoulder as he walked back towards the kitchen.

*Nice*. Sam sat up, an angry retort ready on her tongue before the reality hit her. He was watching her sleep. Watching her. And if that goofy grin meant anything, he was enjoying it too. She didn't think she'd ever felt as flattered as she did right now.

*Wow*.

And like that her anger faded, a contented smile forming on her face. She felt like it had been forever since she last smiled, since she had actually felt like smiling. Well maybe not forever, but brushing so close to death had a strange way of wiping the smile off your face for a while.

The memories flooded back over her with breath-taking speed. The pain of standing in Nirrti's gene splicing machine, the agony that followed afterwards, after her DNA had been changed. The reality setting in that she was dying, just like they had seen Evanov die. Jack's comforting words, his admission, the casual strength that oozed from him as he carried her to the machine to be healed.

Burying her face into the cushion she wept again, the sobs wracking her body. It was all too much for her, to come so close to death yet again and to be saved at the last second yet again. It was almost like she had a flagrant disregard for her own life. How many times had she come close to dying? How many times had she died and come back? It was almost too many times to count, more times than any person should have on their conscience.

She heard his footsteps coming back down into the living room, the tiny grunt that left his lips and then she was gathered into his arms, her face guided into his chest. Her arms automatically wound around his torso and she held onto him tightly, her sobs muffled by his body. She could feel his fingers smoothing her hair, hear him whispering quiet calming words to her, just like he had back on the planet. And it was more comforting than she ever would have imagined.

Almost as quickly as the tears began, they ended. She didn't want to move, she realized as she sucked in great shuddering breaths. His fingers still combed through her hair and she let her eyes slide shut and let the feelings that he was invoking in her wash over her.

"Are you alright, Sam?"

She nodded into his chest unwilling to break the spell just yet by talking. For the moment she just wanted this one forbidden pleasure.

"Do you want to talk to me about it?"

She shook her head again. "I just want you to hold me," she muttered, her voice muffled by his chest.

He said nothing, merely tightened his grip on her. She relaxed in his arms, determined to stay like this for as long she could.

***

Jack ran his fingers through Sam's hair as her sobs slowly abated. He could only begin to guess what it was that had upset her, but his gut feeling told him that it had something to do with her close brush with death. And so, like she had asked, he just held her, stroking her hair comfortingly and trying his hardest not to think about how right it felt to have her arms wrapped around him and her head nestled in his chest.

He'd lost track of how long they had been sitting there, holding each other tightly like they didn't want to let go. Her sobs had faded long ago, and he could tell by her breathing that she was still awake. And despite it being so totally unlike her she was making no effort to move away. Not that he was complaining. In fact he could quite happily stay here for the rest of the night. He would willingly give up everything that he took for granted to stay like this with her forever.

His eyes popped open with the sudden realization that he would, that he could, do exactly that. He was ready to do that now. He was ready to do anything as long as it meant that they could be together. If anything, the events of the last day had made him aware that life was too precious not to take as it came. That included his, their, feelings for each other. Why repress those feelings when a life could be extinguished in an instant, why not instead embrace those feelings and live each moment to it's fullest?

"Sam?" he whispered quietly into her hair as he tried to shift. "We need to talk."

She nodded, stirring against his chest, almost as if she'd had the same thought as him. Her arms unwound from his waist, and pressing one gently against his chest she sat up, a look of disappointment filling her delicate features. "I know," she whispered in return, her eyes staring fixedly at her lap.

He reached out, slipping his fingers under her chin and gently raising her face to look up at him. "I can't go on like this any more, Sam."

Her eyes widened slightly in surprise. "Go on like how?"

Jack smiled warmly. Sometimes she was so naïve it was endearing and it only confirmed in him that he was about to make the most important decision of his life. Removing his fingers from under her chin he took her hand and entwined his fingers with hers. "I can't go on having to pretend that I don't care for you when I do and I sure as hell don't wanna go back to work if it means I can't be with you."

The complete lack of surprise in her expression was enough to tell him that she had been thinking exactly the same thing, but he could see the glimmer of doubt lurking there behind her eyes. "Then what else can we do? Talk to General Hammond? Do you really want to risk it?"

Jack grinned. Now that he had made the decision he felt like a massive weight had been taken off his shoulders. "I'm going to retire."

Sam moved so quickly she was almost a blur as she shot off the sofa, tearing her hand from his. For a long moment she stared down at him, slack-jawed in disbelief. "You can't."

"Yes, I can."

"No you can't."

"Yes."

"No!"

"Why?"

"Because I won't let you!" It was almost a whine. It would have been a whine if it hadn't been the hands on her hips and the flush of annoyance that lit her cheeks.

Jack snorted in amusement, secretly thinking that he had never seen her look sexier that she did right now. "It's my decision to make, baby," he told her softly.

She exhaled loudly, the argument suddenly leaving her, but she still managed to glare down at him. "But we need you."

"Sammy." He stood up, inching closer to her and taking both her hands in his. "You don't need me, you're more than capable of doing my job and I'm going to tell that to the General when I talk to him tomorrow."

Sam stared at him for a long time, slack-jawed, her shock showing on her face. "What?" she breathed.

Jack grinned and stepped even closer to her, forcing her to look up at him. "You heard me, I'm going to recommend to the General that you be the new CO of SG-1."

"You're what?" she asked again, before shaking her head and pulling her hands out of his, "Wait. No. You can't. I'm not ready to command any team. We need you Jack, you can't leave yet!"

"I can and I will, Sam. What I want more than anything else is to be with you and I'm tired of waiting for it to happen. I'm tired of regretting not doing anything about my feelings every time we brush close to death. I'm tired of returning to an empty house. I'm tired of hopping into a cold empty bed every night I want to be with you Sam, and I'm ready to give the SGC up to do it."

Sam thumped down onto the sofa, running her hands through her already ruffled hair. He could see her mind working, her eyes darting back and forth as she tried to process everything that he had just told her. Finally she looked up, meeting his eyes. "There's no changing your mind, is there?"

"Nope."

"You're sure?" She asked sneaking a peek at him.

His grin increased in size, his eyes nearly sparkling. "Yes, I'm sure ... positive in fact."

"How positive?"

Jack leaned over and placed his hand on her cheek, his thumb caressing the soft skin it met there. "This positive..."

He lowered his head and his lips met hers in a frenzy of fiery emotions. When they were both breathless with desire, and feeling the need to draw in gasps of air, he pulled back, only to be met with a 'cat-got-the-cream' grin spreading across Sam's face.

"So when are you going to take me up to this cabin of yours for some *fishing*?"

***

Sam was standing on the boat dock, fishing pole in hand. She was excited. Not only was this her first excursion with Jack as a couple, but it was also her first vacation in years. Jack didn't have to do much convincing to get her to take the time off; she'd jumped at the opportunity.

She was also glad they were past the impression stage in their relationship. Working together for six years kind of dispelled that requirement. So here she was standing at the edge of the lake dressed in her most comfortable pair of sweat pants and her favorite old t-shirt. She wasn't worried about her appearance; she certainly wasn't there to impress the fish.

She looked around the beauty that was Minnesota. Jack was right. It was the single most breathtaking sight a person could ever lay eyes on. Especially this early in the morning. The way the fog drifted above the lakes surface, like an iridescent blanket. The only sounds to fill the air were the few birds chirping from the treetops and the slight lapping of the water at the lake's edge. It was soothing. Something she hadn't experienced in years.

She turned away from the picture perfect scene wondering where Jack was. He'd given her a fishing pole and a container of live bait and sent her down the dock with the promise he'd be right behind her. She was tempted to yell out his name, but was almost sure he'd give her a lecture about "scaring the fish." She decided that if he hadn't shown up in a few minutes she would go look for him.

As her luck would have it though, he rounded the corner just as the thought entered her mind. "What took you so long?"

His head was lowered and he was concentrating on getting everything he was loaded down in his arms to the dock in one piece. "I couldn't find my lucky fishing rod. I can't go fishing without my lucky rod." He explained.

"Of course." She smiled as she helped relieve him of his cargo.

"Thanks babe."

She continued smiling at him, blushing slightly. He was totally clueless as to how he was making her feel.

Once Jack had his tackle box and the coolers stowed in the small fishing boat he turned back to her. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, one of the most endearing qualities she loved about him, and eyed her expectantly.

"So. We ready to go?"

She dropped her handbag into the small boat with a soft thud. "Yeah. Ready."

Jack eyed her suspiciously and her bag even more so. "There's not a book in there is there?"

She bestowed him with the smile she reserved for him alone. "Of course not."

"Good. There will be nothing even *remotely* imitating work while we're here." Jack lowered himself into the boat and held out his hand to assist Sam.

Sam took his hand in hers as she stepped off the dock into the slightly rocking boat. He smiled at her lovingly as she settled herself onto the slatted seat at the back of the boat. Jack took his seat on the slat opposite hers, facing her. He took the oars in his hands and began rowing them to the center of the lake.

Sam leaned her back against the edge of the boat and let the rays of sun soak into her skin. Her eyes squinted against the early morning brightness, though it didn't hinder her focusing her gaze on Jack. She watched the muscles in his toned arms work with the movement of the oars; his capable lean hands gripping the handles tightly. She discovered he enjoyed watching her when she was unaware. She took pleasure in her own pastime of observing him. She'd never get tired of it. She seemed to notice something new about him every day.

Sam enjoyed the view as they floated by. She'd never fully appreciated the beauty that nature beheld until that moment. This was quickly becoming one of her favorite places to be. Of course if she told Jack that he'd probably just say 'I told ya so'. Which wouldn't be so bad, except it would boost his ego. Maybe she would do that. She grinned as she thought about it.

Jack ceased rowing as they neared the center of the lake, the motion of the water propelling them the remaining distance. He dropped the oars along the sides of the boat and started gathering his fishing equipment around him. He handed Sam her pole and went to work on his own. He looked up when he saw Sam picking through his tackle box.

"Do you need me to bait your hook?" He asked thoughtfully.

Sam glanced up, a smile spreading quickly across her face. "No I can handle it. Thank you though."

Jack watched her intently, his own tackle forgotten. He watched her pick up various lures and bobbers, and then she picked up the Styrofoam container of bait. "Are you sure you don't need some help?"

"Is this all the bait you have?" She held up the bait container in her hand, but her head was still lowered as her other hand rifled through his tackle box once more.

"Yes. And you didn't answer my question." Jack was just a bit too intrigued by her current attitude. True she always seemed to get engrossed in whatever she set her mind to, but there was something that was bugging him. Something she wasn't telling him.

She set the items in her hands down on the boat floor in front of her. She swiped the back of her hand across her forehead, which was damp with a slight sheen of sweat. "Is it getting hotter to you?"

"I 'spose." Jack answered absentmindedly.

Sam's hand pulled the neckline away from her pale damp neck. Even after the last couple of weeks, the sight of her oblivious display of skin made his mouth go dry. He watched as her hands went to the hem of her t-shirt. In one quick motion she swept it over her head and deposited it behind her on her bag. Just as quickly she peeled the gray sweatpants off her long shapely legs, leaving her in nothing but a skimpy shimmery pink bikini. The sight left the big bad Colonel (ahem…retired!) Jack O'Neill bowled over.

Sam went back to her previous task of finding the right lure/bait to fish with. "You know Jack, you should really bring minnows. That's the best bait. Much better than night crawlers." Sam opened the foam container and pulled a wriggling slimy worm from the moist black dirt. She scrunched her face up as the worm tried to curl its pliable writhing body around her fingers.

Jack watched as his hands crept forward to take the worm and hook from her hands. She pulled them out of his reach and shot him a look of disdain. "Seriously Jack, if I can take apart and reassemble a naquadah reactor I can bait a hook."

Jack whipped his hands back, shocked, and settled them on his knees. He stared at Sam captivated and just a little annoyed. He eyed her in fascination as her lithe fingers maneuvered the squirming little creature onto the sharp end of the hook. She wrapped it around and around and when she had that done she gave the line just above the hook a slight tug, ensuring her handiwork was complete. Jack was baffled when she let go with a perfect cast nearly 12 feet out.

Sam settled back onto her seat and held the fishing pole securely in her hands, a small smile tugging at her lips. "Sam …" His voice sounded strangled to his ears. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

Sam turned to look at Jack innocence plastered on her face. "Umm, no don't think so."

"How did you know all that you knew about what to know about fishing?" Did that sound as confusing as he thought it did?

"I may know a thing or two about fishing." Sam simply stated.

"A thing or two…? Sam you did something that takes years to perfect!! I've seen grown men that have been doing this for years that still can't complete the perfect cast!" Jack's voice was increasing in pitch.

"Really Sweetheart, you shouldn't be so surprised. I did grow up surrounded by males." Sam scoffed good-naturedly.

Jack couldn't believe what he was hearing. From the impression he was getting, it sounded like Sam always knew how to fish and that only meant …

"You turned me down!"

"What?" She turned to look at him squinting as she did.

"You knew how to fish all this time and you made me think you didn't! You said it was boring and … and …" Jack seemed to be getting agitated. Sam couldn't help but think how adorable he appeared when he got worked up.

"I never said it was boring."

"You turned me down! Three times! Why?!" Yep, agitated was a good assessment.

"You want to know the real reason?" She asked and saw him nod his head erratically.

"Well … I was working on perfecting my cast."

"WHAT?!"

And with a grin that would forever be ingrained in Jack O'Neill's mind for the rest of his blissful life, Sam tugged on his sunglasses. *His* sunglasses and turned her attention back to the water. "Shhh Jack. You'll scare the fish."

*******

~Finis~
© Tarra O'Neal & Flotternz '03