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Unasked, Unanswered

By Eleri McCleod

E-mail: elerimc@lycos.com

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Solitudes, Divide and Conquer, Window of Opportunity. Probably more, but these are the major ones.

Category: Romance, Drama

Summary: A late night visit brings surprising revelations.

Season: 4

Archive: SJD, GateWorld, FanFiction.net, Jackfic, Carterfic, Heliopolis, yes, anyone else, ask please.

Status: Complete

Pairing: Sam/Jack

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime / Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. No copyright infringement is intended. No money is being made. Not to be archived without permission.

Author's Notes: First and foremost, I have to thank Car Hop for her beta duties. Every time I thought I was done, you found something else. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Second, a big round of applause to all the folks who helped me with my little "name calling" problem. You know who you are!

© May 2003, Eleri McCleod

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A gentle knock pulled Sam Carter away from the muted glow of her computer monitor. Glancing up from the screen, she sent a frown toward the door, thought process completely interrupted by the soft tap. Another quick glance, this one to her watch, told her just how long she'd been working. "You need to learn to take breaks, Carter," she instructed herself aloud, pushing her chair away from the desk. She headed for the door with one stray thought: Who could that be?

"Colonel?" Her commanding officer's face was the last one she'd expected to see at nine in the evening. It wasn't unusual for him to drop by if he knew she was on base, but never so late. "Good evening, sir. Uh, what's up?"

"Got a minute?"

"Yeah, sure." She pulled the door wide, waving him in. Jack O'Neill looked ... nervous? No, she was reading that expression all wrong. She could count on one hand the number of times she'd seen him nervous. Concerned, yes. Angry, definitely yes. Nervous... A flutter slipped into her stomach, tugging her lips out of their welcoming smile. "Colonel, what's wrong?"

"Wrong? No, nothing's wrong. Not really."

He had that broken speech thing that he used when something wasn't going the way it was supposed to. "Sir, have a seat and just spill it, whatever 'it' is." Sam took her own advice and plopped down on one of the two chairs in her in-Mountain quarters. All SGC personnel had designated living quarters within the SGC in case there wasn't enough time between missions or they just didn't feel like heading home. Or if they got confined to base, which happened way too often in her opinion. But as far as she knew, they weren't on lock-down and no teams were due back in until after the weekend. So what was Colonel O'Neill doing on the base this late on a Friday night? Once again, the suspicion ran through her that the Mountain 'was' home to the Colonel. He had a big, beautiful house up in the mountains with views on all sides and practically the only time he was there was when he was ordered away from the Mountain for one reason or another.

"Right. Spill. My guts maybe," he mumbled, dragging a hand over his face. His voice pulled her out of her thoughts, his obviously-not-meant-to-be-heard sentiment forcing her to bite her lip to keep from smiling. Damn the man. He always affected her like that.

But the urge to grin faded as he remained silent, staring past her into the wall. A subtle tension coalesced between them, uncomfortably familiar after the last week. It had been relatively quiet for the SGC, giving her a lot of time to think. Too much, in fact. Missions had gone as planned for every one of the teams and very little excitement had marked the end of their off-duty rotation. The blessed and, almost, unprecedented absence of excitement had given her too-active brain time to focus on things personal instead of professional, things she tried her best not allow out of their locked box.

The Colonel focused on her as she sat, as if he'd decided what he wanted to say, but no words followed the attention. Yes, something was definitely bothering him. Opening her mouth to ask once again if he was all right, he beat her to it. "Remember the whole Xanix thing?"

"Za'tarc?" she automatically corrected him, the fluttering turning into somersaults as that hideous day came into sharp focus in her mind. Unbidden, she could see his chocolate eyes burning into her with their intensity, could hear his voice tight with discomfort. Quickly, she reined in her memories as they tried to flood over her. She couldn't allow thoughts like those to surface. They had to see each other every day, had to work closely together. It just couldn't be allowed. The strangle hold she had on her memories opened the way for another thought as the Colonel continued to stare at her from across the room. Jack O'Neill screwed up names on purpose. For all her supposed intelligence, she'd never caught it before. She knew he remembered every detail, even the smallest, of that day. There was no way he couldn't remember something as simple as the name the Tok'ra had given the assassins. She'd always thought he just couldn't be bothered to work at getting names correct. But that small realization led to one she was ashamed of. She'd assumed, as had everyone else, that he was less intelligent for the lapses. Someone who couldn't even remember the simplest of names couldn't be someone to worry about, right? But she should have known better. He'd learned Latin, for Heaven's sake. That wasn't a language for an idiot.

Unable to meet his eyes with those thoughts flying through her head, she slowly rose to her feet again as he paced to the wall, his voice strained and quiet. "Yeah, well, you remember that thing we mentioned so we wouldn't have to mention it again?"

"Yes, sir." Oh, yes, she remembered it. Sam's heart began pumping a little harder against her ribs. She'd said those words for a reason that day, in the hopes that their easy relationship wouldn't become strained. But this last week and all the empty time surrounding them had proved her hopes to be in vain. Gradually, so gradually she hadn't noticed until the other day at lunch in the commissary, a distance had appeared between them. Sure, they'd been careful to be professional with each other over the past few months, especially with the knowledge that Teal'c and Dr. Frasier had been present during the 'unveiling.' But the emptiness of the last week had focused on the strain of keeping everything 'normal.' Now Colonel O'Neill was at his uneasy best, something she'd seen only a handful of times. One of those times being with the Tok'ra device aimed at his head, ready to go through with an experimental procedure in the hopes it would help her.

"And the time loop that Teal'c and I were stuck in?" he continued, unaware of her inner dialogue. He didn't even pause in his pacing to acknowledge her nod. Another sign that all was not well. "Well, Daniel had asked me if I'd been tempted to do something crazy because no one would remember."

"You never answered him." That day in the commissary, he'd stared at her with a tiny smile on his face. He'd looked so pleased with himself, so much the kid who'd gotten away with something that she'd wondered long and hard about what he could have done. But she'd eventually given up her musings. They weren't doing her any good and he'd never said anything more about it. Maybe she was finally about to find out why.

"No. No, I didn't."

Silence fell thickly around them. He's so serious, she noted, eyes tracing his face. What had happened in those loops? Abruptly he strode to the door, flipping the lock with a decisive click. Her mouth opened instantly to ask why he'd locked the door, but the words never cleared her throat. She stood, frozen, as he quickly moved back over to her, stopping only a foot away, close enough for her to smell his oh-so-subtle and oh-so-Jack O'Neill scent. She scanned his face, worn from years of military life and losses, and found herself unable to wish it any different. Each line made up the Jack O'Neill she cared so much about. Without them he wouldn't be the same man. She stared into the warm, chocolate eyes and didn't dare to imagine what his next words would be.

Time stretched around them as she stared up at him. Samantha Carter was tall. Taller than a lot of men she knew. Face to face with Jack now, close enough to feel the warmth of his body, she realized she'd forgotten how much taller than she he was. Unfortunately, it was just the perfect height difference, not so tall she'd have to go on tiptoe, but just enough that she'd have to stretch up to reach his lips or he'd have to bend down to meet hers. Swiftly, she slammed the door on that line of thinking. That way laid bitterness and a lot of "'what ifs."'

She had no idea how much time passed as they stared at one another, each waiting for the other to move. Then Jack brought his hands up, not fast, not slow, and cupped her face gently. Breath froze in her throat as he leaned down, mouth gently meeting hers.

His lips were so much softer than they looked. Soft, warm and sending sparks all throughout her body. It was a simple kiss, just a meeting of lips really, but it shook her, made her want more. Her hands crept up to touch his waist, unsure whether it was to pull him close or to push him away.

He leaned back slowly, their lips clinging for a moment. Sam could only stare back into his eyes, stunned. Where had that come from? Her hands were frozen on his waist, their touch light. Little tingles shivered their way down her spine as he continued to return her shocked gaze. A wry smile flitted over his face a split second before he spoke. "That's what I did, Sam."

Blinking, she struggled to get thought flowing again. But before she could piece the thread of the conversation prior to that soul-wrenchingly sweet kiss to its counterpart, he had backed away, fingertips trailing over her cheek. By the time she figured out what he'd said, Jack was standing a safe fifteen feet away.

"I know that what I just did was wrong according to the military. And I'll understand if you feel any action is necessary."

Sam could only stare at him. He was telling her he wouldn't get mad if she went to the General and filed a complaint against him. Her shock was the only explanation she could give for letting his name slip out. "Jack, I'd never do that. And how can I call something wrong when it felt so right?"

The Colonel's wry smile came back out, crinkling around his eyes. "You know, I was hoping you'd be able to figure that one out. You're so much smarter than I am."

That pulled a laugh out of her. "You're not as simple as you let on, Colonel."

"How many years have we known each other?" His sigh floated across the room to her, the smile disappearing slowly. She stared at him, surprised by the question. He knew exactly how long it had been since they'd met. She'd meant her comment as a compliment. Had he taken it another way? "You can call me Jack."

It finally hit her how she'd addressed him. She'd told herself long ago that the best way to keep her feelings from interfering with their work was to always keep it professional. Deciding to always refer to him as the Colonel or Colonel O'Neill, even in her thoughts, had allowed her to maintain some semblance of separation. She'd held to that decision too, only using his name once to give him comfort when they'd both desperately needed it. But that gentle kiss was rocking the foundations she had worked so hard to build. Still fighting to settle the tingling from his touch, she tried to shift the conversation away from names. "Why didn't you tell me you'd kissed me during the loop?"

"I wasn't going to, tell you, I mean. It didn't seem to be the right time until now. Well, now's not really a good time either, but this barely speaking to each other thing isn't going to fly any longer."

"Sir, I know it's been difficult, but won't this make it worse?"

"It couldn't have gotten much worse than where we are now, could it?"

Sam found a smile crossing over her face. Colonel O'Neill always had had the ability to get to the heart of the matter quickly. "I've missed you, sir."

His expression melted into seriousness before her eyes. He didn't return her smile, only stared at her, eyes searching her features for something she couldn't put a name to. "Jack," he said quietly. "My name is Jack."

"I know, sir," the smile faded slightly as she folded her arms across her stomach. She'd tried to avoid this, but again, Jack O'Neill had brought the conversation back to where he wanted it to be. "But I can't call you that. I have to keep you separate. Colonel O'Neill is my superior officer, my commander, and therefore unattainable. Jack is the man I care far too much for. I can't be around you everyday, can't work with you if I think of you as Jack. I'll slip and start wanting more that I can't have. Can you understand that?"

"Unfortunately, Major, far too well." A sheepish smile crept over his face. "How do you think you got to be 'Carter'?"

"I thought that was to annoy me when I first joined the team."

"Yeah, well, that was just a bonus. You're far too pretty for a scientist, you know."

The compliment and its offhand delivery left her reeling once more. Colonel O'Neill looked as if he couldn't believe he'd said that, his mouth actually gaping. "Thank you, sir. I'll take that as it was meant."

"Good idea. And, uh, I should probably go." He backed a step toward the door, suddenly seeming to be anxious to get away from her. "Have a good evening, Carter."

Sam watched him turn and stride quickly for the door. Once he was out that portal, she knew he'd never bring it up again, any of it. And she just had to know. "Where was it, Colonel?"

"I'm sorry?" His hand had been reaching for the door. She knew her question was all that pulled him halfway back around to face her.

"When you kissed me in the loop. Where was it? Like now, in my quarters?"

Jack leaned back against the door, arms crossing his chest. "No. Actually, it was in the control room."

"What? You didn't!" Sam couldn't stop her voice from rising. Colonel O'Neill had backbone all right, as if she'd ever doubted.

"Yep. I sure did. I typed up my resignation, changed into civvies, climbed up to the control room and handed General Hammond the letter."

"I can't believe you did that. What if it had been the last loop? You'd have been in a little bit of trouble then, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, but the brilliance was in its simplicity." A pleased grin covered his face as he continued. "I waited until the last minute of the loop, literally."

"Sir, sometimes you really amaze me." She couldn't keep the pride out of her voice and stopped trying. This was going to be the last time she'd get to let it out. Why shouldn't she take advantage of it?

"I know the feeling." He turned once more to go, hand pausing on the knob. Sam watched as he seemed to battle with himself. Struggling to find something else to say to keep him there, to not let this one stolen moment go, she saw the instant he decided the same thing. "You were very concerned actually. About the resignation, I mean."

"I would imagine I was a little shocked."

"Not as much as the rest of the control room."

Sam laughed, letting the sound fill her small room. "And I'll bet you made a production of it, didn't you?"

"I was only going to get one shot," he defended himself, shrugging innocently. A small, mischievous smile played around his lips, curling her stomach. "Why not make the most of it?"

"Yeah, I'll bet." Sam told her mouth to shut, to stop the words from falling out, to say good night. None of the above happened. "So what did you do? Just lay one on me?" It was morbid curiosity, that's what it was. And it was going to get her just as hurt as that cat.

"No. Actually, I dipped you."

"Get out of here!"

"I did. It was fun." A small frown pulled at the smile. "It wasn't very long, though. The loop started again right in the middle of it." Their eyes held, the distance between them melting away to nothing.

"That was rude of it, wasn't it?" She couldn't get her voice above a whisper. Hell, she could barely even keep track of the conversation with his expression so open, so laid bare before her.

She didn't know who moved first, but suddenly they were inches away from one another. His eyes traced her face, hand following, sending a shivering thrill over her skin. This one moment was all they'd be allowed and they both knew it. They'd move on as if nothing had happened, return to work on Monday and go through the Gate to P3D-113. Sam wished she knew a way to stop time, to keep his feather-light touch on her cheek for just a little longer. But time had its own agenda and she knew it, deep inside. But for this moment, he was hers. "So you dipped me, right, Jack?"

He seemed to give in at the sound of his name, sliding his arms around her back to pull her into his body. "Actually, we were already kissing by that time." Shivers ran down her back as his fingers slid up her neck and into her hair, supporting her head. The world shifted around her as he eased her over, arms secure around her.

"It's not fair that you're the only one who remembers, you know." It was a cheap trick and she knew it, but she wanted to have one warm memory to carry her through all the long days ahead. Because she wasn't quitting the SGC, she knew he wasn't, and there was no way they were breaking up SG1. If a final kiss and his friendship were all she was going to get, she'd take it.

He smiled down at her, eyes full of warmth. "You're right. It's not." Hand cradling her neck, he met her halfway, their lips meeting as if they'd been doing this same act for years. They clung to one another, the sweetness of the embrace fading to a muted desperation as they finally separated. Their breaths mingling as she held tight to him, she could feel his struggle as his forehead rested against hers. He didn't want this to end any more than she did. Slowly, he raised her back to her feet, arms slipping from her body. They stood, heads touching, arms dangling for a long moment before Jack took a careful step backwards, toward the door. Sam forced her eyes open, dredging up a smile for him when all she wanted to do was fall back into his arms. Jack nodded slightly, unable to return the expression fully before striding quickly for the door. He was only a step away when her voice stopped him once again.

"Sir?" Waiting those long seconds before he turned to face her was almost harder than waiting for the Jaffa to round the corner of that ship. Russet eyes met hers, emotion making them darker than normal. Ten feet apart with only integrity between them. "We're okay, right?"

"Yeah, Carter. We'll be okay." Finally, he returned her smile, easing the ache within her chest to a bearable level. He threw the lock and pulled open the door. "Good night, Major."

"Good night, Colonel."