Title: Hand in the Cookie Jar Author: Gail R. Delaney

Rating: PG (some cursing – not too bad – some implied... uh... stuff)

Pairing: Sam/Jack

Summary: If enough people believe something about you, does it make it true?

Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate, Jack, Sam, Teal'c ... none of them. I don't make any money from writing these; don't intend to make any money. The praise and adoration is enough snort

Genre: Romance, Angst

Timeline: Probably mid-season 7

Feedback: Absolutely!

Archives: At my site, , Here. Anywhere else, just ask. I'll probably say yes... just want to know where.

Lieutenant Jessica Santana sat in the commissary, idly poking her cold mashed potatoes with her fork while everyone else at the table talked. It was mostly just chatter to pass the time, and didn't spark her interest. She let her gaze move around the mess hall, watching as BDU dressed officers ate their lunch or stood in line.

She had been at the SGC for just about a month, assigned as the lab assistant to the research assistant for Major-Doctor Samantha Carter. It was a low position in the grand scheme of things, but just being here still sent shivers of awe over Jessica's skin. It was an honor and a privilege to be part of something so amazing.

Movement at the hall door caught her eye, and she glanced over to see Major Carter enter with Colonel O'Neill. Half of SG-1. The driving force behind everything that went on in the depths of Cheyenne Mountain – or so Jessica saw it. They were amazing. Legends. Heroes. The things that Major Carter and Colonel O'Neill had accomplished, with Doctor Jackson and Teal'c, left her dumbfounded. She loved listening to the stories other airmen told – those that had been at the SGC much longer than her – about battles and situations – discoveries and alliances – all forged mostly by SG-1.

Major Carter was a lucky woman. Not only did she travel to distant planets – see things most people had never imagined – but she got to do it with three great looking men. Especially Colonel O'Neill. Granted, he was several decades Jessica's senior, but he was a hell of a sexy man.

Jessica smiled at her own thoughts.

Hey, it didn't hurt to look, right? The regulations didn't prevent glancing at the firm backside of a certain Colonel... or noticing how long his legs really were... or the nice shape of his lips.

Jessica shifted in her chair and forced herself to look away. Okay, enough of that...

Once she took her eyes off Colonel O'Neill's butt, she noticed something else. The two of them stood in line together, pushing their trays along the rails. A wide, genuine smile spread Major Carter's lips as she looked up at Colonel O'Neill. He leaned towards her and said something, adding an arch to his eyebrows as he did it. Whatever it was he said, it must have been funny, because Major Carter laughed and shook her head. Colonel O'Neill grinned, looking pleased with himself.

They reached the refrigerated cabinet that housed mostly desserts, and Colonel O'Neill opened the door. Without seeming to ask, he took a bowl of blue gelatin and set it on the Major's tray, putting a bowl of red on his own. As Jessica watched, they – in essence – loaded each other's trays. Colonel provided the Jell-O and Major Carter set a salad on her tray, a thick tuna sandwich on his. They did this all the way down the line, then turned together and headed for a table.

Jessica sat up, shifting to watch them, silently hoping they would sit within view. She hid her smile when they picked a table at a direct angle to her seat. Providing her with a completely unobstructed view. Major Carter sat first, her back to Jessica, and Colonel O'Neill took the seat opposite her.

She wished she could hear the conversation. Whatever it was they talked about, they both were enjoying the talk. Although Colonel O'Neill never really smiled... not fully... he often grinned at whatever Major Carter had to say. Every one in awhile, he would raise his eyebrows and tilt his head as he said something... usually resulting in a smile and laugh from Major Carter.

Jessica knew she was a voyeur, and should go back to her lunch, but the exchange between the Colonel and Major intrigued her. Like she was witnessing something special... intimate... and given the place and circumstance, possibly forbidden.

As they talked, Colonel O'Neill reached across the table with his fork and seemed to make a play for something on Major Carter's plate. She parried with her own fork, but he made another attempt, this time succeeding in jabbing a cherry tomato. Major Carter shook her fork at him, a substitute for a waggled finger, as he popped the confiscated food in his mouth.

Then Jessica caught the movement of Major Carter's foot under the table as she nudged Colonel O'Neill's calf. It was just a tap – kind of like when you jab someone in the arm who's been teasing you – and if she hadn't been watching them, she would have missed it. Just like everyone else in the commissary.

"Earth to Santana."

Jessica spun her head around, reluctantly ending her Major/Colonel watching, and looked to her tablemate, Lieutenant Amy Fenton. "What?"

"Where have you been the last ten minutes?"

Jessica glanced back at the two she had been watching, then leaned on the table with her elbows. "Do any of you think there's something going on between Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter?" she asked generally of everyone seated.

Several heads turned to quickly glance at the two topics of discussion.

"They can't be. It's against regulations," Lieutenant Tori Appleton said.

"Doesn't mean it isn't going on," Amy said. "It's not like the regs have never been broken." She paused, glancing around. "Besides, I've heard stuff."

Amy had been at the SGC for five years, longer than anyone else seated, and had to know more than any of them. Everyone leaned in, conspirators in base gossip.

"Like what?" Jessica asked.

"Oh, geez. Where do I begin? The stories about those two go back as far as six or seven years. There was this one time that Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter were stranded... alone... in Antarctica. I know a guy who was part of the rescue team. He told me that when the two of them were found, they were sleeping together all curled up under a blanket. Really cozy, ya know?

"Then, a few years ago, I heard a story about an SF who was outside Major Carter's lab, and he heard the Colonel ask the Major to go away with him. Alone. Just the two of them. On leave."

"Did she go?" Jessica asked, her interest piqued.

"Well, the Colonel was snatched up by the Asgard so he never went. But then they were marooned on another planet for a week right after that. So, who knows what happened."

"I've heard stuff, too." Tori said. "I heard that, a few years ago, Colonel O'Neill was forced to admit that he had feelings for her. But I guess no one ever did anything because he made it clear that nothing ever happened between them."

For the next ten minutes, Jessica listened as the more seasoned SGC personnel filled her in on a variety of stories and observations about Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter. After several minutes, she glanced back in their direction.

What she saw made her breath catch.

It was just a moment in time, but one that screamed to her curious mind. Major Carter's head was down as she worked at scooping a cube of gelatin from her bowl. It was the look on Colonel O'Neill's face... his eyes specifically ... that caught Jessica off guard. He watched the Major, his dark eyes smoldering with an intensity that nearly made Jessica's toes curl. He pressed his lips together, his gaze shifting over Major Carter's blonde hair and down to her features.

She lifted her head to speak, and the look was gone. Replaced with his usual casual expression.

"I can't believe it's true," someone at the table said, but Jessica didn't register the voice. "I mean, they both care so much about their jobs."

"Not as much as they care for each other..." Jessica said absently.

"Do you know something, Santana?"

She nodded. "Only a blind man wouldn't. You just need to know what to look for."

Someone said that their lunch hour was over, and Jessica picked up her tray. She watched surreptitiously as Colonel O'Neill did the same, shifting the contents of Major Carter's tray onto his own and carrying them both to the dumping station near the door.

She hung back from the others, curious to watch the two as long as possible. As they headed for the door, an airman seated at a table scooted back suddenly, and on reflex Colonel O'Neill grasped Major Carter's arm and pulled her back to keep her from being hit.

Jessica held her breath as Major Carter's shoulder came against his side. She glanced up at him, their gazes locking for a heartbeat longer than necessary, and he slowly lowered his hand from her arm. Major Carter smiled, and stepped away, again heading for the door.

"Oh, yeah." Jessica mumbled to herself. "If they aren't in love, I've never seen two people that are."

[][][][][][]

"Don't touch that, sir."

Jack glanced sideways at Sam, wondering how the heck she could see what he was doing with her back practically to him. He made a face, one he'd caught Charlie making when he was five and was told not to jump on the couch, and set the doohickey down.

"I saw that, sir."

"Did not-"he said quickly.

She straightened and looked at him over her shoulder, a small, slightly crooked smile on her lips. "Did..."

Jack grinned and leaned back against the table, his hands shoved in his pockets and his ankles crossed. "Making any progress?"

Sam sighed and looked back at the partially disassembled alien device. "Well, I know how to take it apart. I know not to let the blue crystal touch the orange one. Beyond that... nope, no progress."

"What are you doing tonight?"

She looked up again, making eye contact. He loved it when she did that... looked right at him. Jack learned, shortly after becoming a Colonel, that subordinates avoided looking him right in the eye. He remembered doing the same thing as he moved up the ranks. Not that he thought of Sam as a subordinate... in so many ways she was soooo far past him not even a Stargate could help him catch up. He just liked it when she looked at him.

"Probably working on this, sir."

He waved a hand. "Nah, leave it for a night. Daniel told me about this new steakhouse where the steaks are an inch think." He emphasized by holding up his hand and indicating the thickness between his fingers. "I guess it's popular, but I could call ahead..." He was about to say and make a reservation for four when the clearing of a throat at the door interrupted him.

Sam turned and Jack looked in the general direction. Standing just inside the door of her lab was a young woman, brunette with her hair pulled back in some kind of twist. Dark rimmed glasses sat on the bridge of her nose, and she wore a white lab coat over her uniform.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Major Carter. Colonel O'Neill."

"What is it, Lieutenant Santana?" Sam asked, and Jack silently filed away the name. He remembered now. She was the assistant to Sam's assistant... or something like that.

"I have the spectrometer readouts for the ore sample SG-1 brought back last week."

The lieutenant slid a glance sideways at him, quickly looking away. Jack wondered what was on her mind, but since he didn't know her – had pushed for her assignment so Sam could have some help – but didn't know her, he didn't ask.

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

The young woman turned to leave, when Sam called her back. "Lieutenant, have you met Colonel O'Neill?"

He actually caught the flash of color move into her cheeks. "No, ma'am. But I certainly know who you are, Colonel. One can't work here at the SGC and not know you, sir. You're a legend."

Jack shifted his stance, and caught Sam's smirk before she hid it by turning her head away.

"Good to meet you, Lieutenant," he said.

Lieutenant Santana nodded, and left the way she came. When the door closed, Sam raised the back of her hand to her forehead and sighed heavily, faking a swoon. "Oh, my hero. Colonel, you're just so... so... " She fluttered her eyes and collapsed at the knees, falling against him.

Instinctively, Jack caught her, wrapping his arms around her body. Sam leaned into his chest and looked up at him. "My stars, Colonel. You are such a gentleman," she drawled out, reminiscent of Scarlet O'Hara.

"Smart ass." Jack was doing his damndest not to think about the fact that Sam was, for all intents and purposes, in his arms. The fruity scent of her shampoo... or soap... or lotion... whatever... drifted up to him, and he indulged in a slow intake of it through his nostrils. He shifted his hand, his body reacting on its own free will, and felt the definition of her waist and the taper of her sides.

Sam looked up at him, her blue eyes steady as they watched each other. Jack held his breath as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth, and just for a moment, her gaze shifted to his mouth. Jack swallowed... hard... and righted her on her feet. Before she moved away, he dipped his head just enough that her hair skimmed his cheek and tickled his lips. She stepped away and ran a hand over her slightly mussed hair, and Jack caught the light flush of pink in her cheeks.

Careful, Jack-O. That tight wire is getting shaky...

"What was that you said about a steakhouse?" Sam said, her voice just slightly unsteady as she walked back to her project.

"Um... yeah... steakhouse. Tonight. Nineteen hundred. I'll pick you up before I go get Daniel and Teal'c."

Sam nodded, not looking at him again. "Sounds good, sir."

Jack nodded and stepped away from the table. "Right. I've got – paperwork – or something – I should-"

"-go do it. Yes, sir."

He nodded again and walked towards the door.

"Sir?"

Jack spun on the balls of his feet, raising his eyebrows. "Yes?"

"Don't let the Lieutenant's crush go to your head."

The sassy smirk was back, a glint of mischief in her eyes. Jack shook his head. "You're still a smartass."

"Learned from the best, sir." Sam smiled and went back to work.

[][][][][][]

Sam stopped outside the closed door of General Hammond's office and lightly rapped her knuckles against the doorjamb.

"Enter," came the General's voice from inside.

"I heard you wanted to see me, sir?" Sam said as she entered, but stopped short when she saw Jack occupying one of the two chairs across from General Hammond.

He had been sitting with his elbow on the armrest and his forehead braced against his hand. When he lifted his head to look at her, alarms went off in her head and a heavy tension squeezed her chest. Deep creased furrowed his brow, and his lips were set together... thin and straight.

Something was wrong.

Very wrong.

"Sit down, Major," General Hammond said, motioning to the empty chair beside Jack.

Sam shifted her gaze between the General and Jack as she sat down, keeping her spine straight. Had she done something? What on earth could put such grim expressions on the faces of these two men?

"Is there something wrong?"

A manila folder sat on the desk in front of the General, and his fingertips drummed on it slowly as he seemed to collect his thoughts. "Some accusations have come to light—"

"—Which are a load of crap!" Jack spat, making Sam jump.

General Hammond shot Jack a dark stare, and Jack raised a hand in silent concession.

"Accusations, sir?"

"Yes, and I wanted a chance to speak to the two of you regarding them before it all blew out of proportion. Let you either confirm or deny their validity."

"I told you, General, there's nothing to confirm."

Jack's voice was edged with annoyance... bordering on outright rage... and Sam stared at him. Trying to see in his face what it all was about. He turned to her, and for one long moment, his dark gaze held her captive. His expression softened, and his chin dipped in an almost indiscernible nod.

It's Okay. It'll be okay. I'll make sure of it.

Sam took a deep breath and turned her attention back to General Hammond. He opened the folder and looked down at the papers inside. Sam saw the corners of several photographs peek from beneath the top page, but couldn't make out what they were pictures of.

"Under the regulations clarified under Air Force Instruction 36-2909, sections 2.2, 3.3, 6 and all other applicable definitions, Colonel Jack O'Neill has been accused of instigating and maintaining an unprofessional relationship with Major Samantha Carter, an officer in his direct line of command. A relationship in which Major Samantha Carter appears to be a willing and uncoerced participant," General Hammond read from the paper.

Sam's breath froze in her chest. For seven years, it had hung over her head and suffocated her heart... The Regs The faceless, ruthless rules that forced her to deny the warm sensation that danced through her body every time Jack walked into a room... to tamp down the magnetic force that pulled her to him... the subconscious connection that always had her waking up of world closer to him than when she fell asleep... the career-destroyer that forced her to tell him nothing had to ever leave the room.

"We're both here, General. Can you tell me now who filed this... crap?"

General Hammond sighed. "I wish I could, Jack. But the original claimant's identity is being kept anonymous for fear of retribution. All I do know is that it came from somewhere here in the SGC. Several names were given as supposed witnesses to your relationship, and affidavits were taken from each of them."

"Yeah? And?"

Sam held her breath as General Hammond frowned. "And it doesn't look good. For either of you." He looked from Jack to her, and back again. "The two of you command our most elite and primary team... you know that. You are both very important to everything that goes on here. You've done exemplary jobs. If there is any truth to this, I need you to be completely honest with me. Perhaps there is something that can be done to prevent a full- blown courts martial. There are levels of discipline..."

"There is nothing to deny or confirm, General," Jack shouted, lunging forward and pointing at the folder on the desk.

"Colonel, I suggest you keep your anger under control and allow this meeting to continue." General Hammond's voice was like steel.

Jack mumbled a curse and slumped back in his chair. Sam sat still, dumbfounded... trying to process it all. She watched Jack roughly rub his hands over his face and heard his groan. General Hammond speaking her rank drew her attention back to him. His features were softer now, and she was sure it was to put her at ease.

"Major Carter, would you feel more comfortable if you and I continued this discussion in private?"

Sam blinked, processing the General's question. Then it all sank in... the wording of the complaint. His tone. She was the junior officer... and the woman... in the relationship. In the eyes of most, Jack would appear the aggressor... the instigator... pressuring her into something she didn't want. She drew in a breath, straightened her body and leaned back in the chair – hoping she projected confidence.

"No, General. I'm perfectly comfortable with Colonel O'Neill being here."

Hammond nodded. "I've heard Jack's response to this. What do you have to say?"

She indulged in one quick glance in Jack's direction, feeling his dark gaze on her, before speaking. "The allegations are false, General. There is nothing unprofessional or unbecoming going on between the Colonel and myself."

General Hammond shifted his gaze between them, then looked down at the folder full of evidence. "I was hoping we could clear the air and move on. But I can't help but suspect my two best officers are lying to me. I don't like the feeling."

"We're not lying," Jack said adamantly.

General Hammond moved aside the top page to expose the photographs beneath. With slow movements, he turned the pictures to face them and spread several across the desk. Sam leaned forward, and couldn't disguise her gasp of surprise.

Whoever was doing this had done their research. Some of the pictures went back years. The first was of Jack holding her in a close embrace, his hand cupping the back of her head. With a flash of recognition, she remembered the moment. It had been just months after SG-1 was formed, and they all believed Daniel was dead. She had undergone hypnosis, and remembered the terror that shot through her when she realized they had left Daniel behind. Then she remembered the way Jack had been there – holding her – and telling her it would be okay. And he was right.

Most of the pictures were brief glimpses of bigger events that as part of the whole meant nothing... but frozen in time seemed like so much more. The next was a freeze-frame of them facing each other, Jack's shirt open and Sam's hand inside on his bare stomach. He had just come from Hathor's sarcophagus and she was making sure the crossed incision in his abdomen was gone. But the way she looked up at him, and her hand inside his clothes... it looked like more

The next caused Sam's breath to hitch. She barely remembered the moment, but seeing it affected her all the same. Jolinar had just been attacked, and Sam was near death, when Jack rushed to her side in her cell. The photo captured him kneeling over her body, one hand stroking her hair while the other touched her cheek.. There was a picture of Sam holding his hand when an alien time capsule had him pinned against the wall.

The images went on and on... chronicling their ever-changing yet unwavering relationship through the years. Every time they seemed to stand just a fraction too close, when they forgot who and where they were to touch – even if only briefly.

Some were more damning than others. There were several images taken the day Daniel ascended. Sam had been distraught... unable to accept he was gone. And Jack had been there for her, holding her when the worst of the emotions hit her, just being close when she was able to pull it all under control.

The last photos were the most recent. Heat rushed to Sam's cheeks when she realized when they were taken. That day in her lab, after Lieutenant Santana left, and Sam had teased Jack about the woman's apparent infatuation. But the frozen moment pooled warmth in her stomach. Jack's hands were on her stomach, his large fingers splayed across her tee shirt, and his head dipped intimately towards the curve of her neck.

"For cryin' out loud..." Jack ground out through clenched teeth.

[][][][][][]

"This is a formal investigation, and thus, you are required to answer my questions to the best of your ability and with full disclosure."

[][][][][][]

"Doctor Jackson, you have worked with the Colonel and Major for seven years. In that time, have you ever witnessed events or interactions that caused you to suspect they may be involved in a relationship restricted by Air Force regulations?"

"If you mean have I seen them show concern for one another? A personal connection that implies that they are somehow human... that they are friends... yes, I have seen that. Do I believe they have done anything that would jeopardize our team, the Air Force, the World... absolutely not."

"Have you ever had any reason to believe they are involved in a clandestine relationship?"

"They have too much respect for each other to hide."

"Please answer the question, Doctor Jackson."

"Are you asking me if I've ever woken up off world, rolled over, and caught them having sex in their sleeping bags? No. Absolutely not."

[][][][][][]

"Mr. Teal'c, I am aware that you are not ... from this world... and may not be familiar with our customs. So, I will keep the questions as simple as I can."

"---------"

"Um, yes... well. Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter. You've worked with them for several years now. In that time, have you ever seen anything occur between them that indicated to you they were involved intimately?"

"---------"

"Mr. Teal'c, I would like to remind you that you have been ordered to answer my questions, and if nothing else, your silence is more damning to the Colonel and Major tan your answers. Have they asked you not to speak to me today?"

"---------"

"Mr. Teal'c..."

"O'Neill and Major Carter are honorable warriors."

"Do you understand that in our military, a personal relationship between two officers in the same line of command is a punishable offense?"

"----------"

"Mr. Teal'c, we can do this all day. And we will until I have my answers."

"It is a foolish law."

"Nonetheless, it is our law, and an attempt to protect them will only result in greater consequences for them."

"I have answered your questions. I will speak of it no further."

[][][][][][]

"Doctor Jackson, whether you agree with the regulations are not, they are there for a reason. At any time in the last seven years have you observed favoritism of any kind in regards to Colonel O'Neill's command over Major Carter? Situations where he seemed to make improper decisions in order to placate or benefit the Major?"

"No."

"Never?"

"Absolutely not."

"He has never put his own life on danger for the Major?"

"Of course he has. Just like he has for me... for Teal'c... for anyone."

"So, he has."

"Are you even listening to me?"

[][][][][][]

"Lieutenant Santana, you were overheard discussing a suspected relationship between Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter on the 6th of this month while gathered with other SGC personnel in the commissary. Is this true?"

"Yes, sir."

"You were heard stating you believed there was a relationship between the two of them. Why did you believe this to be true?"

"Nothing definite, sir. I just made an observation. I barely know them, and I was probably wrong, sir."

"Tell me, Lieutenant."

"They just seemed... I don't know how to explain it, sir."

"Try, Lieutenant."

"They seemed... familiar with each other. But, sir, they've worked with each other a long time. It could have just been—"

"I will determine the meanings of their actions, Lieutenant Santana."

"Yes, sir."

"Have you ever witnessed any interaction between them of an intimate nature?"

"No, sir."

"Have you ever heard any exchanges between them that you construed to be of a personal nature?"

"Well..."

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Once, I heard the Colonel ask the Major to go to dinner. But I interrupted them and didn't hear the entire conversation."

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

"But, sir..."

"That will be all, Lieutenant."

[][][][][][]

"I want you to understand, Major Carter, that you are the junior officer in this situation. And while that does not remove all responsibility from you, the majority of the consequences of these findings will fall on Colonel O'Neill as your CO. Do you understand this?"

"I get it, sir."

"When did Colonel O'Neill first indicate to you he wanted a sexual relationship with you?"

"Never."

"When was the first time the two of you were intimate?"

"Never."

"Major Carter, the evidence compiled against you states otherwise. Are you saying all this is wrong? That these pictures might somehow be doctored to implicate you?"

"No. I'm saying you are taking innocent moments and making them something seedy and shameful, sir."

"Would you like me to believe, Major Carter, that there is no existing relationship between yourself and Colonel O'Neill other than strictly professional as Commanding Officer and Second In Command of SG-1?"

"I consider Colonel O'Neill a friend."

"A friend. That is all?"

"Yes."

"You do realize, Major Carter, that if this proceeds to the level of Courts Martial – and you and the Colonel are found guilty of acting against AFI 36- 2909 – your discipline will be even more severe by covering the truth here today?"

"I am not lying, sir."

"Let's hope not, Major Carter."

[][][][][][]

"This is your career, Colonel. You would do well to tell me the truth."

"Go to hell."

"I may not be military, Colonel, but I am acting on behalf of the Air Force and you are expected to grant me the same respect you would a superior officer. When did your illegal relationship with Major Carter begin?"

"There is no relationship."

"How often have you pressed Major Carter into sexual favors?"

"I haven't!"

"How long before she conceded to your demands?"

"Is this the Inquisition? Or a damn witch hunt!"

"Three years ago, you admitted to inappropriately caring for Major Carter."

"Nice twist of words."

"Are you denying you said it?"

"I said I cared for her. That's all."

"Can you explain these photographs?"

"Why should I? You seem to have all the answers. Your own little version of the truth. Do you even need me here?"

"I suggest you cooperate. Did the Major approach you offering sexual favors for special consideration?"

"Don't try and put this on her."

"This, Colonel? What is this?"

"There is no this. Are you dense?"

[][][][][][]

Jack sat on the edge of the bed in his on-base quarters, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He had a bitch of a headache – the kind that pounded at the base of his skull and stretched out into his shoulders and up over the top of his head.

When he figured out who the hell the bastard was that started this whole load of crap, he was going to kill them. Ring their necks. Slowly. And watch their eyes pop out o f their heads.

The knock at the door jolted him from his revenge fantasy.

"What!" he snapped, sitting up.

The door opened, and Daniel stepped in closing the door behind him. "Hey, Jack."

Jack resumed his position, head down. "Has the prosecution rested for the night?"

"He's gone. Left the base an hour ago."

"Great," Jack mumbled.

He heard Daniel's light footsteps approach, and didn't look up as he pulled over a chair from the nearby table and sat down across from him. Not until Daniel spoke, did Jack lift his head again.

"How long until you know what's going on?"

Jack shrugged, silently acknowledging the worried look on Daniel's face. "Whenever whoever decides what they want to do... a day, week, month. I don't know."

"And until then?"

Jack rubbed his face roughly with the palms of his hands. "Until then, Carter and I are on restricted duty. On base only. Nothing off world. You and Teal'c can do what you want. Take downtime. Go with another team. Whatever."

"I have enough here to keep my busy."

He nodded. "Yeah. Okay."

Silence settled between them, and Jack leaned his elbows on his knees again, hanging his head to examine the flecked gray paint on the concrete floor. He was pissed. More angry than he could ever remember being. But it was a simmering rage, boiling and waiting for the moment to blow out the top of his head.

"Have you seen her?"

Jack shook his head. "Not since Hammond told us what was going down. I guess they didn't want us to talk – make up covers – that kind of thing." He paused and swallowed. "How is she doing?"

Daniel cleared his throat. "Not good, Jack. You know Sam. Somehow, she's managed to turn this all around and put it on herself. She's afraid this is going to cost you your career."

He snapped his head up. "My career? Daniel, my career is on the downhill slope. A few more years, and I'd be done. Why the hell is she worried about my career?"

Daniel stared at him, his eyebrows bobbing over the rim of his glasses before he answered. "It's her way of worrying about you."

Jack raked his hair with his fingers. "Damn it," he muttered. "I can't let them do this to her."

"I think it's out of your hands now, Jack. And besides, what would you do? Confess to doing something you didn't do? Take the blame? If I understand the regulations, you're both officers and both responsible for what may or may not have happened. They may put more blame on you, but she'll never go along with it. She'll never say you forced anything."

"I know..." Jack worked his hands together until the joints ached.

"Why don't you go talk to her?"

"And say what?"

When Daniel didn't say anything right away, Jack looked up and found the archaeologist staring hard at him. He pulled his lips together, as if thinking of his next words.

"Say what you've wanted to say all along? What do you have to lose?"

[][][][][][]

Sam stood at her kitchen counter, staring down at the solid red light on her answering machine. Several messages had played when she pushed the button, and she realized with a start that she hadn't heard a single one of them. She blinked and pushed the rewind button, forcing herself to focus.

There was a message from her brother, two from Janet telling her to call when she got home and they could talk, and four from Daniel. Sweet, sweet Daniel. She had seen the worry and concern on his face when she saw him in the hall at the SGC, but she was on her way to another 'interview' session and couldn't talk.

She pressed her eyes closed against the recollection of the interview process. The man sent to investigate her alleged affair with Jack had been crass and rude – pressing her for details of things that had only ever happened in her mind. If she could be courts martialed for her fantasies, she'd be guilty as charged.

Tears rolled down her cheeks, no longer pausing or giving her the moment she needed to keep them at bay. They flowed freely. No longer the sobs that made her chest ache. No longer the drowning waves that overtook her in her car driving home. Just steady, hot tears.

She wasn't even sure why she was crying anymore. Or what actually set it all off. She just knew her chest hurt, her heart hurt, and she needed Jack.

How foolish, weak and... girlie... of her! To need a man to make her feel better.

Sam sucked in a shuttered breath and covered her mouth with trembling fingers. Suddenly, her legs were jelly and no longer strong enough to hold her up and she sank down onto one of the stools beside her.

The ding of her doorbell didn't register right away. The second time it chimed, she sucked in a sharp breath and swiped her fingers over her cheeks. The third ring brought her off her stool, and she walked to the foyer on shaky legs. She opened the door on the fourth chime.

"Jack..." she said barely above a whisper before the thought to use 'sir' or 'Colonel' had a chance to form.

He dropped his hand from where it hovered over her doorbell, his dark eyes trained on her face. His gaze moved over her features, and she felt it as real as a caress. Sam sucked in a sharp breath, and felt every last bit of strength she had in reserve drain from her body.

Then she was in his embrace, his arms wrapped around her and his face pressed to the curve of her neck. Sam held on, her arms circling his shoulders as he stepped further into the house and kicked the door closed behind him. She didn't want to be such a girl, but she couldn't help the tears that wouldn't stop. Jack's hand cupped the back of her head, his other massaging her spine in a steady, soothing rhythm as he whispered against her throat.

"I'm so sorry, Jack," she cried, not caring anymore about propriety or protocol.

Jack pulled back, his palms covering her cheeks to force her to look at him. "I'm not," he said simply.

Sam blinked, bringing him into focus through the wet curtain. "What? Jack—"

His thumbs covered her lips, and she stopped. "I wouldn't change anything. Not a moment of the last seven years."

Sam raised her eyebrows, and he nodded, seeming to know her silent question. "Okay, there are a few things I'd change. But nothing – nothing – about you and me."

"You wouldn't?"

He shook his head. "No."

"You could lose your career over this."

Jack shrugged. "I don't care. If they want to take it all over something I never did. Thought about it. A lot. But never did – then let them."

Sam shifted closer to him, circling her arms around his body to feel the strength of his muscles beneath his shirt. The calloused pads of his thumbs caressed her lips, and she found herself nearly lost in his eyes. How many times in the last few years had she wished he would look at her like that?

"What do we do now?" she asked.

Jack grinned, one corner of his sculpted lips jumping up in a lopsided smile. "If I'm going to get caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I'm going to damn well eat the cookie."

His open mouth covered hers. Electricity and cold heat flashed through her body, every surge seeking the center of her being. Sam opened up to him, moaning in the back of her throat as his tongue slid along her own, completing the circuit. Her fingers curled into his tee shirt, tugging impatiently to release it from the waistband of his jeans. She needed to feel skin... heat... to know he was real and there. When her hands snaked inside, and she found the soft strength of his back, Jack hummed against her lips.

"Samantha..." he whispered against her mouth.

It had been years since she heard him use her full name, and the effect was more erotic than anything she could ever imagine. They stepped further into the room, and her back came against the foyer wall. Sandwiched between the hardness of the wall, and the hard strength of Jack O'Neill, Sam could barely think.

When his hands slipped beneath her blouse, any remaining thoughts she may have had blew up with the intensity of a Naquida bomb.

"Bedroom," he said against the skin of her throat.

Sam just nodded and pointed in the right direction. Then Jack swept her up into his arms, and carried her down the hall.

[][][][][][]

"Due to the vague and circumstantial nature of the evidence presented, combined with the lack of concrete witness testimony, it is hereby determined by this board that there is insufficient grounds to pursue any further action on the alleged unprofessional relationship between Colonel Jonathan O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter of the United States Air Force under the guidelines presented in AIF 36-209. Furthermore, it is decided that no further investigation is warranted to provoke disclosure of additional material evidence. Without irrefutable confirmation of a relationship, as defined, this case is hereby closed and it has been declared that no negative record shall be maintained of these proceedings against Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter. By declaration of Judge and General, Edward M. McCullah."

General Hammond set the single sheet of paper down on his desk, looking up with a wide smile on his face. Jack heard Sam's disciplined release of air as she tried to disguise her relief. He knew that's what it was, because he felt the same thing.

"So, this means what I think it means..." Jack said, leaning forward in his chair.

"Yes, Colonel. It does," General Hammond confirmed. "The two of you have been cleared of all suspicion. I am officially putting you both back on active duty, effective immediately."

"Yes!" Jack declared, jerking his fist down in victory.

"I have to say, I was worried there for awhile. But I kept faith in my two best officers, and am just glad this is behind us."

"Thank you, sir," Sam said, finally speaking.

General Hammond stood, and Jack and Sam followed suit. Jack had to shove his hands in his pockets to hide the impatient fisting and releasing of his fingers. He wanted to get out of the General's office... and get to someplace quiet and secluded... with no damn cameras... with Sam.

"We will resume your off world mission schedule beginning at oh-eight- hundred tomorrow morning. Dismissed."

"Thank you, sir," they said in unison.

Jack opened the office door, and followed Sam through the adjoining briefing room. Silently, they walked to the elevator, and Jack pushed the up bottom. It took forever for the hum of the approaching car to stop and for the doors to slide open. They stepped inside, and Jack thanked whoever might be listening that there was no one else already on. The doors closed, and it took all of half a second for Sam to be in his arms.

He pressed her against the wall, kissing her until neither of them could breathe and had to break for air. A wide smile spread Sam's lips as she looked up at him.

"I can't believe they let it go," she said breathlessly. Jack pressed his mouth to her throat, loving the feel of her pulse against his lips. "Suckers." His voice sent shockwaves over her skin.

His tongue flicked across that spot just below her ear, and her eyelids fluttered. Jack's hands slid down her side to her hips, pulling her hard against him.

"I can't wait to get you home tonight," he said, covering her mouth again.

"Don't you think we should be careful?"

Jack stood back, a wide grin on his face. "Well, yeah... some. But you heard them. This is it. Unless they have solid, irrefutable proof – our 'situation' is dead in the water. We just keep being who we are at work..." He kissed her, long and deep. "And we can play all we want at home."

Sam slid her arms up around his neck to whisper in his ear as the elevator shuttered to a stop. "I like the way you think, Colonel."

They moved apart as the doors opened and two airmen stepped inside. Jack and Sam shifted to the back of the elevator after returning the Airmen's salutes. As Sam leaned casually against the back wall, Jack tugged on the front of his BDU jacket, making sure it covered what the investigation committee might call 'irrefutable confirmation', and glanced at her sideways. Sam's gaze flicked from his eyes to the general area below the belt, and back up into his face. She pulled her lower lip through her teeth, a wicked grin reaching all the way to her eyes.

"Something wrong, sir?" she asked innocently.

"No, Major," he answered, and mumbled "Smart ass," under his breath, low enough that only she could hear.

"I learned from the best, sir."

Fin