Eternity in Minutes
by Layton Colt

Takes place during Window of Opportunity. One of the time loops after 'the
kiss.' Jack and Sam talk. S/J UST.
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Dedicated to Emry Wild.

Author's Notes: One of the things I didn't like about Window of Opportunity (probably the ONLY thing considering what a great episode it is) was how they make the whole kiss a joke. Even though I'm not a big fan of ship, the show has established deep feelings between the two characters--and I doubt Jack would have taken a kiss with Sam so lightly. Getting a taste of something you can't have had to have been slightly more shattering than what was shown.

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Jack stood in the doorway to her lab. Carter didn't notice him. Teal'c was in the gym, taking his frustration over the loops on an unsuspecting punching bag. Daniel was still working on the translation, even though everything he learned he would forget without one of them there to remember.

Jack knew he could be off somewhere--doing something insanely spectacular, like finally sliding down that spiral staircase in the briefing room, or playing another round of golf though the 'gate. But he was bored with it. He could do *anything* and he wasn't doing anything that meant something.

He would always remember the kiss he'd given to Carter--but it hadn't been shared, it belonged only to him and that hurt. She'd responded in the moment, kissed him back, of course, and it had been everything he had imagined. He would never forget how if felt--but it hadn't meant anything, because it had vanished with one breath, dissolved in a brilliant white flash. It hadn't been them. It had just been him--finally acting on that daydream he tried to ignore.

"Hey, Carter," he said softly.

Sam looked up from her notes. "Sir, shouldn't you be working with Daniel?"

"I'm taking another loop off," he said casually. "We've almost got it now, anyway."

Sam smiled. "I can imagine you would need a break," she said.

"You want to hang out?" he asked.

Sam smiled uncertainly. "I should be working--"

"Don't waste your time," he said dismissively. "In a couple of hours you won't remember. Not even if you tape it. Trust me--I know, I've tried."

Sam's grin broadened then. "I'll be sure not to try that, then, sir."

"It was Teal'c's idea to use a tape," Jack said, his eyes straying to look at the walls. "I told him it wouldn't work."

Sam laughed and pushed her notes off to the side. "Okay, sir. What did you want to do?"

"Talk?" he asked quietly.

"Of course. What do you want to talk about?"

"Us," he said, forcing himself to look her in the eyes. "I want to talk about us."

"Sir, we aren't supposed to have that conversation," Sam said softly.

"That's why I want to have it now. Because in a couple of minutes--it won't have happened."

"You'll remember it, though. It will have happened for you," Sam pointed out.

"You won't," he countered. "So it won't hurt you."

Sam looked away. "And it won't hurt you?"

"We've already established we care too much, Carter. I think we're already hurting."

"This won't help," Sam said.

"Ignoring it will?" he countered quickly.

"Yes," Sam nodded. "We know nothing can ever happen, sir. We can never be-- "

"Be?"

"Be like all those others are through the mirror. They aren't us," Sam said.

"No, but they aren't all that different, either. So you're in the military here--you're still Samantha Carter."

"But I'm a major first, sir. You know that. It's the same way with you."

"Actually," Jack said glibly. "I'm a Colonel first. I've already done the whole Major thing."

Sam smiled slightly and shook her head. "Exactly. You're a Colonel. I'm a Major. We're on the same base. On the same team. And we shouldn't be having this conversation."

"Maybe," he agreed. "I probably shouldn't have kissed you, either. But, Carter, none of this is real--it will be gone before tomorrow, or, I should say, gone again when we restart today."

Sam froze. "You kissed me?" she asked.

"After I retired, of course," Jack said reassuringly.

"You retired?" Sam demanded.

"Only for five minutes."

"Sir--" Carter said frustrated.

"The loops are making me crazy," Jack said. "That's my defense and I'm sticking with it."

"Then you should be working with Daniel," she reminded, flustered. "So you can end it."

"I want to be here," he said. "I need to be here."

"You can't be," she whispered.

"What do you want, Carter? From life? From me? What is it you're aiming for?"

"I don't know, sir."

"I thought maybe if I kissed you once it would be enough--but it wasn't real, Carter. And I want it to be. And so help me if you say it can't be," he added warningly. "Because I'm not talking about what's practical. I'm just telling you what I want."

"I know how you feel about clich├ęs, sir, so I won't say it," Carter said quietly.

"You don't always get what you want," Jack said tightly. "I know. But once would be nice."

Sam placed her head in her hands. "Why are you doing this? What are you expecting to change?"

"I don't know," Jack snapped. "I just need some perspective. I've never asked before because it's dangerous--and I knew it would hurt you. But this way--this way I can ask and you won't be hurt."

"I am hurt," she whispered. "This isn't easy for me either."

"No. I know that. But," he looked at his watch. "In less than five minutes things will be back as they were. I wouldn't be doing this otherwise."

"I can't give you any perspective, sir. Because I don't understand what we are myself."

Jack sighed and leaned across the counter. "I didn't think you would. But maybe we can figure it out together."

"In less than five minutes, sir?" Sam asked simply. "It takes most people a lifetime."

"We're not like most people," Jack pointed out. "And we don't have a lifetime."

"Which is exactly why there's no point to any of this."

"How can you say there's no point?" Jack demanded. "These are our lives, Carter."

"No, sir. You said yourself this isn't real. Nothing that happens now will change anything."

"It might change me," Jack countered softly.

"Sir," Sam whispered. "We have obligations to this base--we have jobs to do. And nothing, not even what we feel for each other, can be allowed to get in the way of that. There's too much at stake."

"You're right about that," Jack nodded. "But it won't be like this forever."

"And we can't be sure about anything in the future," Sam said quietly. "Don't you know how much I want to talk about this? How many times I've wanted to ask you what you're asking me now? We just . . . it just makes things so much harder than they have to be."

"Oh come on, Carter. How much harder can it get?"

"Do you really want to find out?" Sam asked quietly.

"You're always so practical, so damn scientific," Jack snapped. "For once-- just one time, a time you won't even remember, I'm asking you to just be Sam with me."

"And what if I can't . . . what if I've been Carter to you for too long?"

"You've never been Carter to me. Through the 'gate, maybe a little bit-- when I have orders and procedures to follow but you've always been Sam to *me*, no matter how I address you out loud."

Sam paused, turning to look at the countertop instead of into Jack's eyes. This wasn't real, she reminded herself. This was like a waking dream--one she knew she wouldn't remember when she woke. How was she supposed to act? Whatever she did the Colonel would remember and she would forget.

"We would be good together," Jack told her softly.

She knew it was true. They would. He made her smile, made her laugh--she kept him grounded, kept him sane. But this no consequences thing only lasted as long as the loops--and once they had solved this, the cost of them being together would again be too high a price for them to pay.

"Yes," she finally agreed. "I think we would."

"Then why do we--" Jack trailed off. She knew the rest of the question, and they both knew the answer all too well.

"We weren't alone the last time," Jack said quietly, after a moment's pause. "We kissed in front of General Hammond and everyone and I shouldn't have done that--I should have . . . I should have done this."

Jack leaned forward and pulled her to him, his lips meeting hers gently, for just a moment before he pulled back. He sighed and rested his forehead against hers, his hands resting on the back of her neck.

"You shouldn't have done that," she whispered.

"I know. But I needed too. Just this once . . ."

Sam pulled away, and walked over to the back counter. "Just this once," she repeated. "But never again, Colonel. You can't do it ever again."

He sighed, turning away with his eyes pressed closed and he nodded. "I know that too. I won't."

Sam walked to him, meeting his eyes for a moment of complete understanding before they both vanished in time.

"Anyway, I'm sorry, but that just happens to be how I feel about it. What do you think?"

Jack froze, losing his grip on the spoon and barely hearing it when it crashed into the bowl of fruit loops he really hoped to never see again.

"Jack.?" Daniel asked, a small frown marring his handsome features.

"What?"

"Are you okay?"

Sam leaned forward, concerned.

"Fine," he said.

Sam nodded and stood up. "We should get to the mission briefing then. See you guys in a few," she grinned, before heading on her way.

Daniel gave Jack one last glance before following her out.

Jack pushed the fruit loops away--and pulled himself from the bench. When he entered the hallway, Daniel and Sam were both already out of sight. The corridor was completely abandoned.

He sighed and leaned back against the stone wall. She would never remember what had happened. And he knew he could never tell her.