Disclaimer: No rights to Stargate SG1, just permission to create a story about its characters. After the Threads episode aired, I inserted the thoughts about Jacob's death at the end of the chap. Inspiration to write the last chapter took awhile to strike. Special Thanks to Gateseeker2 for being a pal, and a fount of Stargate info. Her input was invaluable- even an offhand comment about hickies inspired, and every little detail that I wondered about, she knew. Maybe for everything else there's MasterCard, but the knowledge of who eats what color jello is priceless! Thanks also to SG1-Fanfic for emailing me and prodding me get off my arse, go out into the literary storm with a key attached to a kite and get struck, already! Hope you find this chapter worth the wait!

Untangled Threads

Awakening with a smile, Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and lay in bed listening to The Mamas and The Papas sing 'Monday, Monday'. The last few days had changed her life. She felt like pinching herself to make sure this happiness wasn't a dream. It was still hard to believe that she'd broken her engagement to Pete and…finally…she and Jack were together. Capable fingers ran through short blonde hair while she debated whether or not to hit the snooze button. The words to the song made her hand pause above the alarm clock.

'Monday, Monday...'

Groaning, Sam turned off the music and pushed herself up and off the mattress. Somehow, lying in a warm, soft bed wasn't very tempting when she'd just be thinking 'Is that song some sign from above? What's going to happen today?' In the bathroom, bluish-grey eyes widened. Slender fingers rose to touch the pink splotch on her neck. She had a hickie! Staring in disbelief, the woman thought frantically, I'm a mature, responsible adult! I didn't let boyfriends do that in high school, so why would I… The memory of Jack's lips traveling down her neck, gently sucking in a way that made her fingers tighten in his hair made her do something she hadn't done since junior high- giggle madly. The leggy woman was still smiling after her shower, when she pulled a black turtleneck over her head. Saved by the alternative uniform...

Driving to work, the morning seemed almost too beautiful to be real. The mountains soared against a sky that was almost an otherworldly blue. She couldn't keep the grin off her face. Her good mood seemed to be infectious. The guards' smiles were bright, and inside Stargate Command, everyone the Colonel saw appeared to be in the best of moods. In her office, the outbox and inbox were both empty. Impulsively, Carter pushed her chair away from her desk and gave it a spin. Getting a hold of herself, the blonde took a deep breath, turned on her computer, and began to open her email.

The morning passed swiftly. Projects were all ahead of schedule, the coffee was actually drinkable, and Jack called midmorning. She answered the phone with a smile in her voice,


"Colonel, please report to my office ASAP…"

"Yes Sir!"

Striding briskly toward the good General's office, Samantha's face glowed with anticipation. Before she could knock on Jack's door, it opened. She was waved inside. Leaning against the door, her dashing commanding officer's dark gaze rested on her turtleneck. His chiseled lips quirked,

"Interesting choice of uniform, Carter…any particular reason you're wearing it, or do you just know you look good in black?"

Taking a step forward, she pulled down the material and exposed the mark, "Trying to be discreet, O'Neill."

The roguish grin that had made her heart race for years flashed,

"Discretion is advisable outside this office, Sam…but inside…I prefer blatant."

His fingertip was tracing the love bite. She tried to keep a straight face, "Is that a direct order, sir?"

Lean features became intent,

"No. That was a request."

Joy made her slightly giddy. A quote from that movie Cassie had sent her, Pirates of the Caribbean came to mind- with a slight alteration. Smoothing back his silvery hair, she smiled, "I am inclined to acquiesce to your request." Her lips brushed his before molding over his mouth in a kiss that took her breath away. Jack's embrace was against regulation, but she didn't care. Nothing mattered right now except the way his breath broke as her lips incited his to deepen the kiss.

Sam gave herself over to the love in her heart and the passion she felt in his arms. Constrained by time and place, she couldn't touch his skin the way she wanted to, so she made do with stroking his cheek. His skin had the slightest hint of roughness, like the finest sandpaper. Carter looked forward to letting her fingers experience every texture of his body. Masculine hands tightened on her hips, pulled her against him while his tongue moved in a sensual glide that scattered every thought except the need to get closer.

She felt the earth move, and then realized the push came from behind. Someone was trying to open the door. The General hadn't locked it. Springing apart, the couple quickly finger-combed tousled hair while Jack barked,

"Who's there?"

"Teal'c…May I enter?"

Swiftly opening the door, O'Neill arched an eyebrow,

"You could've entered before if you'd bothered to knock. I was leaning against the door while…talking…to the Colonel here…and your shove almost made me go for my gun."

Impassive features belied by the trace of curiosity in his voice, the larger man replied,

"You do not appear to be carrying a weapon."

The Cheshire Cat had nothing on Jack. Viewing the other man's expression, Teal'c blinked. A slight smile curved his lips. Inclining his head regally, he stated,

"I have been sent by a certain C.I.A agent to remind you that your presence…and that of Colonel Carter…is required at the meeting that will commence in ten minutes."

The disdain dripping from the otherwise expressionless words told Sam exactly who had dared to make this dignified man her errand boy. Kerry. Refusing to comment, because that would make O'Neill smirk even more, she said, "Fine. Let's go."

The conference room was full by the time they walked in. The General moved to a place at the head of the long, polished table while the Colonel looked for an available seat. Daniel waved her over. She would've been happier to sit by her friend if the person on her other side hadn't been a woman with a forehead that only needed a few ridges to make Klingon. Ms. Johnson smiled with saccharine sweetness after she sat down,

"So glad you could make it. I was becoming concerned…"

"About what?" Sure it was rude to interrupt, but Sam wasn't going to listen to Ms. Magnolia Blossom any more than she had to, "Did you think something had…happened…to us? Were you wondering what had…detained…the General and me? How sweet..." Crease lines of confusion made Carter change her mind. Johnson would make a better Romulan. At the end of the chamber, a talking head began droning on about the Stargate budget. Inwardly, the blonde groaned. Beside her, French manicured fingers tip tapped on the table. Slanting an irritated look toward the brunette whose legs were not displayed to advantage in her short skirt, Carter gritted softly, "Do you mind?" Ms. Johnson narrowed her eyes and whispered back,

"I mind you monopolizing Jack's time when you have a fiancée…" Suddenly, the woman broke off; eyes glued to a slender, ring less hand. Kerry demanded in a fierce undertone, "Where's your engagement ring?"

She imitated Jack's Cheshire Cat smile, "I'm not engaged anymore."


Heads turned at the quiet shriek. Sam met Daniel's blue gaze. He grinned and gave her thumbs up. He inclined his head toward Jack and waggled his eyebrows. She nodded. He pumped a fist and silently mouthed,


Across the table, Teal'c nodded in solemn approbation. Overwhelmed by her friends' approval, the Colonel sat and smiled through the presentation that had formerly been an endurance challenge. Once the meeting was over, Johnson evidently felt the need for holding back was too. She stood and snarled,

"So what were you doing in the General's office, Sa-man-tha? Crying on his shoulder over your broken romance?" Ignoring the curious looks thrown by the departing staff, the brunette ranted, "I knew there was something going on at that horrible, inedible dinner party you subjected us to, but I hoped that you'd have the decency not to meddle in my and Jack's relationship."

Blonde eyebrows arched incredulously, "What relationship? Are you living in an alternate universe? Because in this one, O'Neill isn't interested in you anymore…"

Red-faced, veins in the enormous brow reminding Carter of an alien race that she couldn't remember the name of, Kerry screeched,

"Why not? Because he's interested in you? I should snatch your bleached head bald!"

Sam smirked in an uncanny, and infuriating, imitation of Jack, "Everything about me is natural, Johnson." Blue-grey eyes flickered to the other woman's chest, "Unlike you."


The Colonel never would've guessed that the prissy bimbo had it in her to attack, so she was taken off guard. Propelled back onto the conference table with sharp nails digging into her neck, Carter was trying to decide whether to head butt the harpy or punch her in the face when the turtleneck was dragged down and the maddened woman frothed,

"I knew it! You've got a hickie! You've been sleeping with the General behind my back!"

Enough was enough. A quick blow to the nose accomplished two things. Johnson backed away, lifting her claws off Carter's neck, and the sight of blood gushing was almost as satisfying as the woman's howls of pain. Teal'c swiftly applied pressure and intoned,

"I will take Ms. Johnson to the infirmary. Indeed, her proboscis will swell immensely without immediate attention."

He stood like a statue for several minutes. Finally, Kerry whimpered,

"Why aren't we going?"

Daniel stifled a chuckle and gently steered the brunette toward the door,

"Let me take you. We can have a little chat about karma. Did you know…"

Behind her, an amused voice remarked,

"Have I ever told you that you're beautiful when you're angry, Colonel?"

She grinned, "You just did." Stepping close to the man who was worth fighting for, she said, "Requesting permission to kiss the sexiest CO on the planet, sir."

His lips granted her request. She threw her arms around Jack's neck and put the F in fraternization. Birds sang, bells chimed, and…an alarm clock went off?

Staring at the ceiling, Sam ruefully thought that, for once, she wouldn't mind if a dream came true. She'd love to punch Kerry in the nose almost as much as she wanted to make out with Jack in his office. If she had a dollar for every time she'd fantasized about pressing him back against his- cleared off- desk, or a wall without pictures, or into his chair so she could straddle his lap and kiss his brains out, she'd…well, she couldn't count that high. Rising, the blonde headed to the bathroom. Drying off after her shower, she glanced at her image in the mirror and did a double-take. Holy Hanna! She really did have a hickie! Ruthlessly suppressing her reaction to a single giggle, the Air Force officer reached for a black turtleneck, smiling, Thank heavens for alternative uniforms!

The guard who checked her I.D. before she entered the tunnel that led to Stargate Command was as brisk and unsmiling as ever. That was a relief. If he'd given her a big smile and a cheerful wave…the resemblance to her dream would've been way too eerie. After she'd locked her Volvo and started toward her office, a voice halted her steps,

"Colonel Carter!"

Jay Felger was hurrying to catch up; his brown eyes alight with that gleam that made her wary. His smile made her remember the resolve not to encourage this man's admiration in any way, shape, or form. Imitating Teal'c…or Mr. Spock, she said calmly, "Yes?"

The civilian scientist tried to give her an appealing, little-boy grin. Unfortunately for him, she'd developed immunity to those kinds of smiles during her relationship with Pete. The polite inquiry on her face made his smile fade. Pouting slightly, Felger asked,

"So…er…how was your weekend?"

They were walking into the building that hid the lower levels from pesky satellite scans. Returning the guard's salute, she said in massive understatement, "Good". Remembering her manners, Sam returned, "And yours?"

Grinning widely, the scientist assured,

"It would've been better if I'd have been invited to a certain dinner party. I ran into Kerry…she asked me to call her Kerry…at the mall, of all places, and she told me how much she…and O'Neill…had enjoyed the evening…"

Stepping into the elevator and trying not to hyperventilate, Sam repeated faintly, "The mall?"

Chortling, Felger elaborated,

"Not really the mall, the electronics store across from it. I needed a new ink cartridge for my printer, and she was buying DVDs…she had interesting taste in movies…Stepford Wives, Fatal Attraction, and Without a Paddle…"

Relieved, Sam smiled when the elevator stopped at the scientist's level. Encouraged, Felger asked,

"Would you have lunch with me today?"

Thinking quickly, she shook her head with seeming regret, "Sorry, I already made plans with Daniel and Teal'c." He nodded sadly, stepped out, turned, and then grinned,

"You know, I think of you every time I'm in an elevator, now."

She jabbed the 'close doors' button. Shaking her head over the incorrigible man, the woman was grateful to reach her office without further incident. Her inbox was half full already. She got to work after making calls to Daniel and Teal'c to arrange meeting for lunch. Midmorning, the Colonel answered the phone,


"I'm meeting Hammond in an hour. I'll swing by the cafeteria and let you know how it went."

Hearing Jack's voice made her smile, even though the thought of his upcoming conversation with the Lt. General made her stomach clench. If the Oversight Committee wasn't having a budget meeting today that required Hammond's presence, the General would've been in DC Sunday night instead of visiting a lady friend in Denver and dining in the 'almost Texas-quality steakhouse' he'd recommended to Jack…that O'Neill had taken her to that very same night. Softly saying 'good luck', Sam ended the call and flashed back to last evening.

She and Jack enjoyed spending time together. The idea to drive to Denver, blend in with the crowds and just be Sam and Jack for the day had been inspired. They'd taken a walk in a park, holding hands. Eating lunch in a family owned pizza joint, she'd challenged O'Neil to a game of air hockey, and even beaten him- once. The experience of being a normal couple, doing ordinary things was extraordinarily wonderful.

They'd parked in an underground lot downtown and window shopped before they caught a movie at The Paramount Theater. Jack had convinced her to sit on the back row in the far corner so they could make out like teenagers. Afterwards, she'd laughed at seeing the seven-foot Martini glass on the façade of the restaurant next door to the theater.

Marlowe's had been highly recommended by Hammond. The dim, cozy atmosphere was romantic and the food was excellent. Over coffee, she and O'Neill had been debating whether or not to share a dessert when a woman's voice had jarred them out of their absorption with each other.

"Georgie, do you know these people?"

Sam had looked up to see General Hammond, with an attractive older woman on his arm. He was looking stone-faced at them from beside the table. Her stomach had plummeted. It was almost as bad as that time Jacob had caught her and a boyfriend making out on the front porch when she was fifteen. Face rigid, the man had replied to his companion,

"No…I don't think I do."

Jack had immediately stood, called,


Turning, Hammond had snapped,

"Lt. General to you, General…and I don't want to hear whatever it is you're thinking of saying right now. Be in the conference room at 11AM tomorrow morning." Nodding abruptly, the 'very nice, very bald man from Texas' swiftly exited the restaurant without another word…

"Sam, are you alright?"

Shaking herself out of the memory that still made her cringe, Carter looked up to see Daniel lounging in the doorway. She smiled, "Of course. Ready for lunch…?" Avoiding the speculation in his blue gaze, she stood and said, "Let's go."

In the cafeteria, Teal'c was already waiting for them at a table. She and Daniel quickly chose their lunch selections and joined him. Staring at the jiggling squares his colleagues had chosen for dessert, the brown-haired scientist remarked,

"How can you guys eat that stuff?" Frowning at the dark skinned man raising a brow in reaction to the outburst, Daniel pointed to the green jello in the dish and said, "You do know that has no nutritive value whatsoever, don't you?"

Teal'c's deadpan gaze fell on the macaroni and cheese in front of Jackson,

"Gelatin improves the quality of hair and nails. However, I am unable to fathom how one who partakes of bovine lactose products qualifies to comment on the eating habits of others. It is very like throwing stones while inhabiting a house of glass."

Sam, after taking a bite of salad, kidded, "Hey Daniel, that doesn't taste like chicken, does it?"

He chuckled,

"Like those never forgotten MRE? Nope. Just tasty bovine lactose products."

Even Teal'c smiled at the cheerful reply. Carter asked the men about their latest mission. Food was consumed while conversation flowed. The Colonel began to notice the men exchanging strange glances. Teal'c would incline his head in her direction and frown slightly while Daniel widened his eyes, an intent look on his face. The silent communication reminded her of Cassie when she was younger. The girl and a friend would each wordlessly tell the other, 'You do it- no, you do it' when they both wanted money for ice cream and neither wanted to be the one to ask. Finally, blue eyes glared at his impervious friend and then turned to the woman smiling in amusement.

"So…uh…we…I was wondering…" Clearing his throat, Daniel stated bluntly, "You're not wearing an engagement ring."

Holding up her ring less left hand, Sam's lips curved, "That's because I'm no longer engaged."

Simultaneously, one exultantly, one with quiet satisfaction, the men said,


Perhaps she should be offended by their enthusiasm, but since the Colonel felt the same way, her smile widened upon hearing Teal'c ask when 'the felicitous occurrence' had transpired,

"Sunday morning. I met Pete for brunch and gave back the ring."

Boyishly grinning, Daniel confessed,

"I'm glad to hear that. My lactose intolerant friend here and I happened to run by the mall yesterday to return a shirt and…uh…we drove by Jack's truck…and saw you…er…in it."

A blush crept up Carter's chest and heated her cheeks. The guys both looked amused over her embarrassment. She almost threw blue jello at them. Only the arrival of a rangy, silver-haired, handsome man kept her fingers away from the jiggling mass. Her eyes went immediately to the dish in General O'Neill's hands. On the phone, before he said 'Wish me luck', Jack had told her,

"If I bring blue jello to the table, get ready for a court martial. If I bring red…then you know love conquered all."

She released a pent up breath. Heart pounding, eyes misting, Sam met gleaming dark eyes and said with a wobbly smile, "I love red jello!'.

Brown eyes were loving while blue looked suspicious,

"Since when, Carter?"

"Since right now."

"Jackson does not realize that red jello has a secret meaning to you, Colonel. I myself am unaware of what the gelatin represents, although I gather it stands for something of import."

Giving a snort of amusement after hearing Teal'c's pronouncement, O'Neill looked at her, a question in his eyes. She nodded, "I told them about breaking the engagement, and…they saw us in your truck…at the mall…"

Open-mouthed, Jack said flatly,

"You're kidding." Rolling his eyes over the shaking of heads, the General closed his eyes briefly, before saying, "Is there anyone on this base who hasn't seen us together?"

"Sure, a couple of lab techs on level 18…just kidding…we're happy for you, Jack…Sam…"

Daniel's cheeky retort made the General's mouth twist ruefully.

"So was Hammond, once he took a strip off my hide for acting like a 'cowboy at his first rodeo' and 'jumping into a mission without a plan or backup'."

She was almost afraid to ask, "Do you have a plan?"

Little-boy grins didn't make her melt, but roguish ones did. Giving Sam a look that made her long for them to be alone in his office, or anywhere private, Jack nodded,


The silence stretched out while the three watched the General eat his jello with evident enjoyment. Blue-grey eyes smiled into mischievous brown that could change her mind about Little-boy grins, if Jack was the one grinning that way. Pragmatically, she realized that O'Neill would share his 'plan' when he felt the time was right. The relief she felt that they wouldn't be facing a court martial gave her a patience that Daniel didn't share.

"So…Jack…are you ever going to let us in on this plan of yours…?"

Standing, the General said before turning to leave,


"What kind of answer is that?"

Grinning at the other man's irritation, O'Neill replied,

"The only one you're getting until the meeting this afternoon."

Whistling the catchy tune she'd hummed in the elevator once upon a time, Jack sauntered off. The three left behind looked at each other. Samantha stood and told the other two, "See you at the meeting."

"Great… I was planning on developing some alien virus and giving the budget snore-a-thon a miss, but now I have to go to find out about the plan!"

Commiserating, the blonde patted Jackson on the shoulder and smiled at both men before turning away. If she concentrated hard enough on work, the minutes until the meeting might not drag so much.

That afternoon, Carter arrived early enough to ensure that she sat between Daniel and Teal'c, on the opposite side of the table from Ms. Kerry Johnson. Inadvertently, her gaze traveled from the woman's short, tight, pink two-piece suit to the forehead that hadn't been exaggerated in her dream at all. Glancing away, Sam's eyes met Teal'c's. He bent down and said in a low tone that carried a trace of amusement,

"In the war for O'Neill, your enemy is without weapons."

She had to cough to cover her inadvertent laugh. Daniel asked,

"Are you okay? Do you want me to go get you some water?"

Pressing her lips together for a moment, the Colonel took a deep breath, exhaled, and then said as levelly as possible, "Sorry. Something just…stuck in my craw…" Beside her, the man who combined 'tall, dark, and handsome' with 'strong and silent' started making quiet huffing sounds. Jackson stared,

"He's laughing his ass off!" He whispered accusingly, "Were you talking about me? Did he tell you that I've got a date with a woman I met in a LOTR chat room?" Defensively, he informed, "It's not just because she looks like Eowyn…she speaks elvish too!" The rumbling noise Teal'c was making became louder. Sam coughed until a water bottle was placed in front of her. Turning to thank whomever had made that kind gesture, the smile on her face froze when she met General Hammond's eyes. He gave her a small smile and returned to his place at the head of the conference table. Drinking the water, Carter felt the tight feeling that had gripped her every time she remembered the pained disappointment in the eyes of the man she admired finally ease.

The meeting started. Pretending to take notes, the blonde covertly watched a distinguished General cross and uncross his arms,drum his fingers on the table, and nod in all the correct places while folding a sheet of paper into an origami fish. She wondered if Jack could do the monkey riding a dragon. Cassie had complained in her last letter that the figure was one she couldn't master. After the last suit had given their spiel, Ms. Johnson chirped,

"General O'Neill, if you need further explanation, I'll be more than happy to provide any support necessary."

The urge to make that strike to the nose a reality caused Carter's hands to ball into fists. Down the table, Jack replied dryly,

"Thanks for the offer, Ms. Johnson, I'll tell my staff to contact you if they require anything." Looking around the conference room, the General stated quietly, "I will no longer be involved. I have resigned my commission in the United States Air Force."

General Hammond stood up and assured the staff that he would personally oversee the upcoming Change of Command. The transition to new leadership would be smooth and missions would proceed as planned. He made some joke about O'Neill retiring more times than a man had a right to, and warmly gave his approval to Jack's future role with the Stargate Program as a civilian. The room was quiet. Military and civilian personnel alike were shocked at the announcement none had foreseen…except one. The moment the dashing General had mentioned a 'plan' in the cafeteria, Carter had thought back to him saying,

I retired twice before I got this gig, Sam...why the hell would you think I'd hesitate to do it a third time?"

The room slowly emptied. Daniel reached over and gave her a hug that endangered her ribs. It felt great. A voice dripping saccharin coated venom simpered,

"I wondered why you weren't wearing your engagement ring, Sa-man-tha…"

Was Ms I-Wear-Pink-High-Heels implying that she and Daniel…that they were a couple? Talk about wishful thinking. Smiling at her bemused friend, Sam stood and said, "Have fun on your date with Eowyn." He grinned and left with Teal'c. The moment the men walked out the door, Johnson demanded,

"Why aren't you wearing the ring?"

Coolly, the Colonel replied, "It's none of your business, but I'm no longer engaged."

Beneath her tanning bed bronze, Kerry's face paled. Her eyes darted around to make sure no one could overhear before sneering,

"Finally woke up in those tangled sheets with the General, is that it?"

This…woman…was almost amusing…now… A corner of her mouth turned up, "Ms. Johnson, may I remind you that Air Force Regulations clearly state…"

"- the Air Force!"

The few that remained in the chamber gaped at the outburst. Sam couldn't resist,

"Sorry, the Air Force has higher standards."

Speechless, Kerry left in a manner Klingons and Romulans would decry as spineless. Whimsically, Carter thought, that woman's a disgrace to her forehead. Generals Hammond and O'Neill moved toward her. The Lt. General smiled,

"Back when he was an insubordinate Colonel, I used to think O'Neill would show up in my office saying what he said today after almost every mission. About time he got his priorities straight." Uncomfortable with the emotional nature of the conversation, Hammond nodded and said briskly, "Tomorrow night, 1900, your place, O'Neill…I'll stop by a bakery and bring dessert."

After she and Jack became the only people in the conference room, Sam moved into his arms and hugged the man tight. Wonderingly, she said, "I'd guessed, and hoped…but…are you sure resigning is really what you want?" The O'Neill charming, smart-aleck grin flashed,

"Come over for dinner tonight, and I'll tell you all about it."

Puzzled, she asked, "I thought you were having Hammond over tomorrow night?"

He winked,

"We are having Hammond, Teal'c, and Jackson over tomorrow night for a BBQ, but tonight…it's just you and me."

That sounded so good. Carter wished that she had the nerve to kiss him like she had in her dream, but knew her inhibitions were too strong to break…for now. After Jack became a civilian, watch out. Sensing her unease about displaying affection, the rogue brushed his lips across hers and smirked,

"Hold that thought. I want to take you up on it…later…"

Coming to attention and snapping off a salute, she said more earnestly than a new Airman, "Yes Sir!"

Driving home at the end of the day, every song on the radio made the Colonel smile- even the sad ones. The neighbors' kids waved to her when she passed by. The thought that in a few years, her children would be waving at neighbors while they played with her and Jack on the lawn or rode their tricycles on the driveway made tears spring to her eyes. Happy tears. They dried the instant she pulled into the drive, headed for the house, and heard behind her,


Stepping onto the porch, she turned and faced the man who stood watching her,


Detective Shanahan didn't appear to have slept, shaved or bathed since their brunch yesterday. Keeping her face impassive, Carter inwardly marveled that, but for the grace of God, she'd have married this man. She glanced briefly toward the sky. Whatever angel's watching over me…Thank you very, very much!

"I want to talk to you, Sam."

Short blonde hair shook, "There's nothing to talk about."

Face twisted in anger, Pete strode forward. He took what looked like an envelope of photographs out of his windbreaker pocket and tossed pictures, one by one, toward where she stood on the porch.

"I disagree. I want to talk about this…and this…and these…!"

Bending, she scooped up a few photographs. They were of her and Jack. In his truck, kissing. Walking in the Denver park, stopped outside a downtown store and looking in the window, laughing. Warily, Sam asked, "What's there to talk about? I gave back your ring, Peter. Why did you follow me?"

Taking a step closer, the stale smell of beer exuded from Shanahan's skin, causing her to take a step away from the stench. Surreptitiously, she began to eye every object on the porch for a makeshift weapon. Petulantly, the man began to rant,

"I followed you because I was concerned about you, Samantha. I couldn't believe you would break up with me and then go to the mall! When I saw you get into O'Neill's truck, though, everything that hadn't added up suddenly did. You're just like all the women I've ever known. Lying, cheating…"

Refusing to flinch at the names he called her or to defend herself in any way, the blonde said firmly, "I never cheated on you, but if you don't believe me, I don't care. You stalked me…again…and totally ruined whatever trace of good feelings I had for you." Ruing the fact that she'd left the cell phone in the car, Sam ordered, "Leave…and I don't ever want to see you again. If you even try to speak to me, much less stalk me, I will report you to your superiors."

Sneering while he climbed onto the porch and lurched toward her, Pete said nastily,

"How about I report you fraternizing with a senior officer, Colonel…!"

Expressionless, she countered, "Go ahead. O'Neill's resigned his commission. Those pictures won't hurt me."

Her former fiancée moved so swiftly, Sam was backed against the front door with Pete's forearm pressing her neck painfully, before she could react. Up close, the bloated, snarling face was almost unrecognizable as belonging to the man who'd once sworn to be the best husband ever.

"Nobody makes a fool of me, not even a hotshot Colonel who thinks she's superwoman." Blood shot eyes dark with rage, he promised, "I'm going to teach you a lesson."

His mouth bruised hers in a travesty of a kiss. Carter immediately stepped on his instep, and when his hold on her neck relaxed, reached down and twisted his 'Shanahan family jewels' in a way that made her attacker bend over in pain. Released from his grasp, the woman pulled his face up by one hand's grip in oily brown hair, and used the heel of her other palm to break his nose. Once he fell to the floor in agony, she calmly pulled his cell phone out of his jacket and called the police. Sparing a single glance and comment to the huddled, crying figure on the ground, she ground out, "I could've killed you, Pete...Don't make me regret sparing you."

Several cop cars pulled up in front of the house. Two policemen sprinted across the lawn. It was the pair from the diner. 'Jim' looked at his prostrate fellow officer. His lips curved. He asked her to explain the situation while his partner picked up the scattered photographs with gloved hands and put the 'evidence' into clear, sealed bags. She succinctly recounted how Pete had stalked, threatened, and finally assaulted her person. After Sam explained the actions she'd taken in self-defense, an ambulance arrived. The Paramedics quickly stabilized and transported their patient away. Calling back to the other cops, Jim relayed that he'd finish taking her statement. Almost reluctantly, the black and whites pulled away from the scene. The two that remained came in, filled out paperwork, and assured her that charges would be pressed. On the way out the door once they'd finished, Jim said casually,

"I remembered you the minute the door closed in the diner."

Her eyes widened. The shorter officer griped,

"I should learn, but no- I have to keep betting. I owe this guy a whole pie now."

She smiled faintly. How odd that after all the drama, she still kept her sense of humor, "Why?"

A grin split the tall man's face,

"I bet that you'd kick Shanahan's ass when he pulled what he did to his ex-wife on you, Colonel Carter."

What could she say to that? "Thanks"

Tipping his hat, Jim replied,

"No Ma'am. Thank you."

Sam waved the policemen on their way and headed for the shower. A civilian in a normal 9-5 job might've been shattered by what she'd experienced, but the Colonel felt like she'd completed a mission and couldn't wait to get home…to Jack. Driving up to his house felt so strange. She'd done it in her dreams, and now she was doing it in reality. Mr. Wilson looked up from his yard work and waved. She smiled and returned it. Several elementary school aged boys rode bikes past the house right after she pulled into the drive. One stopped and yelled,

"Hey lady, you got any kids that play street hockey?"

She laughed, "Not yet!"

O'Neill shouted for her to come in when she knocked. She found him in the kitchen using an electric mixer. Curious, she picked up a small, slender box and read European Chocolate Mousse mix- Dark Chocolate. Looking up after he'd spooned the dessert into bowls, Jack said wryly,

"I'd hoped to get everything done and cleared away before you came in order to impress you, Carter."

Sliding her arms around his waist, she smiled, "I'm impressed, O'Neill." He kissed her with a tenderness that made those darn tears well up again. Noticing how swollen her lips were, the General pulled back, and asked with loving concern that made her have to wipe her eyes,

"Sam, what happened?"

The whole sordid tale came tumbling out. Blinking rapidly and sniffing, she kept tears at bay. Running agitated fingers through his silver hair, Jack said,

"I was afraid that Shanahan would do something, pull something…I should've been there!"

She shook her head, "No, Jack. I needed to deal with Pete once and for all and in case you weren't paying attention- I made sure he's never going to bother me…or us…again."

His eyes were giving her the look that was her second favorite in the world. Her favorite look was love, but after that, the gaze that let her know he admired her abilities and acknowledged that she was every bit as capable as a man, and sometimes more, made her feel warm inside. Moving back into his arms, Sam closed her eyes and rested her head against O'Neill's shoulder. They stood together until the oven timer buzzed. Pulling a pan of lasagna out of the oven, the lean, rugged features creased in a boyish look of pride,

"I finally got around to using that recipe Janet gave me." Pointing to the card sitting on the counter, Jack smiled, "Take a look at the back."

Picking up the card with the recipe written in Janet's neat hand, Sam turned the sauce smudged rectangle over and stared down at the note on the back. Under the recipe instructions, their friend had penned,

Crossing my fingers that you'll make this one day for a blonde who plays a Major role in your life! J

Smoothing a finger over the writing, she swallowed around the lump in her throat and smiled shakily, "I guess our feelings weren't hidden as well as we thought they were."


He reached out and held her hand with his,

"There's something else I wanted you to see."

She followed Jack down the hall to his room. Any other man, at any other time, she would've told to go retrieve whatever it was because she wasn't falling for one of the oldest tricks in the books. This man she trusted with her heart, her life, and would gladly follow wherever he led- on this planet or any other. The bedroom was dark, masculine, and tidy as a cadet's at the Academy. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Sam's heart thudded when she saw the cigar box. She'd seen it before, but this was different. Jack was actually showing her his box of…

Memories. It was a box filled with reminders of the important things in O'Neill's life. A wedding band and pictures…of Jack in paratrooper gear…a family picture of Jack, Sara, and Charlie…cute photos of Charlie as a baby, and Charlie in Little League. Reverently touching the picture of his son in a baseball uniform, O'Neill said quietly,

"I regret not being there for Charlie…the way I wanted to be…" Meeting her sympathetic gaze, he asked, "Guess how many of my son's games I actually saw?" Seeing her shake her head, his lips curved, but it wasn't in amusement, "I can count them on one hand." His eyes were dark, serious, "This is the second reason why I don't regret resigning my commission, Sam." Looking away, and then back, Jack admitted, "I want to be there for my kids…our kids…"

Breathe…just breathe… Sam repeated, "Our kids?"

Cradling her face in his palms, O'Neill's mouth closed over hers. He whispered, "Don't you want to have children?"

She nodded, misty eyed and uncaring, "Our children…alittle girl named Grace, and at least one boy who'll look exactly like you…"

Pulled to her feet, Carter laughed when he tugged her out of the room and up to the roof. The stars glittered against the black velvet sky and several white votive candles in…mason jars…cast a soft light around the space. Beside the telescope, a table with two flutes and a bucket holding a bottle of champagne stood ready. Ruefully, O'Neill admitted,

"I'd planned on bringing you up here after dinner, but I've had enough of waiting." Reaching behind the bucket, Jack lifted a small jewelers' box and opened it to reveal a platinum and diamond ring. Sam pressed her lips together to keep from crying when he went down on one knee and said,

"Samantha, I love you. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"

He wasn't in a tux, she wasn't in a beautiful dress, and it didn't matter. He loved her, wanted to marry her, and had even resigned his commission in order to be with her, be a real father to their children. Her smile was tremulous and tender,

"I love you Jack. Yes, I'll marry you."

The ring he slid on her finger was one she vowed never to take off. O'Neill rose and kissed the tears from her eyelashes, pressed butterfly kisses across her face. When he reached her mouth, the kiss was passionate and sweet. He whispered her name and stepped back. Crouching down and pressing the play button on the portable stereo place under the table, Jack's smile was almost bashful,

"I…uh…asked the clerk at the music store what song would be good for an old guy finally getting around to popping the question and she suggested Vanessa Williams." The music began to play. Brown eyes smiled, "May I have this dance?"

Sam slid her arms around her fiancée's neck in answer. What a wonderful world it was now that she was marrying the right man, the man she loved. Smiling, they swayed together. Her mouth lifted to his, shifting to meet his lips, and tongue in a kiss that was slow, deep, and sensual. The song, Save the Best for Last, and the moment were perfect...

Minnesota in June was beautiful. The lake shimmered in the sunlight, and the sky was incredibly blue. Sam smiled. When she'd suggested having an intimate wedding in the secluded spot Jack loved more than any other, her fiancée had raised a brow and asked if she was feeling okay. After being reassured that she hadn't picked up a brain altering parasite from the backwater planet her team had visited last mission, the retired General loved the idea. A spa resort less than an hour away would keep their guests out of his hair.

Of course, George, Mark, Teal'C, and Daniel all had to sleep over the night before the wedding since the bachelor party had consisted of consuming multiple bottles of Guinness while attempting to fish. Cassie, who was staying at the cabin with them, had giggled while helping Sam push the inebriated and exuberantly friendly Dr. Jackson onto a sofa to sleep.

The college girl had teased when Daniel pulled his shirt off to get 'comfy',

"Whoa, you been workin' it, Dr. J…abs of steel…how'd you like a sweet young thing for a girlfriend?"

Grinning, the drunken scientist had replied,

"Tempting, but my Shield Maiden of Rohan arrives tomorrow and she'd go after my sword with her sword, if you take my meaning. Did you know that in Elvish, there are three words for…"

Laughing out loud at the memory, Sam turned when Cassie asked from the doorway,

"Are you having some kind of bridal jitters?"

The young woman crossed the room and looked out the window at the view of a white tent. Modern Bride had stated that outdoor weddings must prepare for all weather conditions, so they'd ended up paying a rental company a small fortune to haul one, along with serving tables, and a large round table with a dozen chairs to go in it out to the lake. Since she was only getting married once, the Colonel found a caterer willing to travel if the price was right and engaged her services. A suppressed snort from Cassie made Sam demand, "Are you laughing at my wedding cake?" They watched the workers in the distance carefully carrying it into the tent. The brunette denied,

"Of course not…I'm sure that one day it'll be the rage to have a miniature Gate on top of wedding cakes. The little bride and groom figures in camouflage really add that certain something, too."

Mock-frowning, Sam protested, "Is this the thanks I get for choosing a stylish Maid of Honor gown?" The Victorian Blue chiffon dress with an asymmetrical hemline and spaghetti straps looked lovely against Cassie's dark hair. Fingering the five-stranded moonstone and freshwater pearl bracelet Carter had given her foster-daughter and friend, she said,

"I wish mom could see you get married…you're beautiful, Sam."

Smiling her thanks, the tall blonde gazed at her reflection in the full length mirror and felt beautiful. The white net over satin strapless gown had a re-embroidered Alencon lace bodice, and full skirt. Wearing it made her feel like a bride out of a fairytale. The matching lace veil was held by a pearl comb and flowed down her back. It looked like the one her mother had worn in her wedding picture. Thinking of her mother brought Jacob to mind. The loss of her father was something that was only now beginning to heal. He'd wanted her to be happy and she was. A knock on the door sounded. Cassie rushed over. Hammond stuck his head in the door,

"There's a groom under an arch by the lake who looks like he might go fishing if you don't get out there soon."

Hugging the General, Sam returned his smile mistilyand turned to Cassie, "All set?"

Rolling her eyes, the girl protested when she picked up a basket filled with rose petals,

"Whoever heard of the Maid of Honor having to do double duty as the flower girl?"

Reaching the door, she turned and grinned,

"Hey, if you need me to play 'Here Comes The Bride' on my harmonica while I walk and throw petals, just let me know."

"No thanks, I think the string quartet will handle the music just fine."

Smiling widely, Cassie led the way out of the cabin, across the back porch, and down the steps to what O'Neill had dubbed 'The white carpet'. Music swelled. The people she cared about most in this world or any other stood waiting for her. Ahead, Cassie threw rose petals into the air with delight not seen in girls one third her age. Hugging George's arm tightly, Samantha saw Jack's gaze leave the priest and focus on where she made her way up the fabric 'aisle'. His face lit up, and an answering smile spread across her face.

Stepping away from Hammond, Sam held Jack's hands and repeated vows that would unite their lives the way they'd united their hearts. For an instant after the Father pronounced the couple man and wife, an image of the future flashed into Carter's mind. She saw twin boys and a girl who taught their parents the true meaning of grace completing the family created here today. A tear of joy trickled down her cheek. It was joined by others as Jack's lips brushed hers, even before the priest pronounced,

"You may kiss the bride."

A/N :sniff: I love happy endings:sniff, sniff:

I want to thank everyone who has (or will!) read this story for letting me share it with you and give special thanks to each reviewer. It's a lot easier to read and go on to another fic than it is to take the time to share what you liked, or what made you laugh. This writer is deeply grateful for the encouragement you gave (and hopefully will give again! lol). archangewoman: ChappaEyebrow: Cherryblossomjen: csl: froggy0319: galaxy: GateSeeker2: Holly Mariano: I lovesg1: Jennifer Carter: Keith: Kelycia: Kiwi4624: Lunar: Miran Anders: mishy-mo: Nehebkau: O'NeillRoxMyWorld: pain in the mikta: ROTCmermaid: Sci Fi Fan Gillian: SGI-Fanfic: shetlandlace: Shroedinger: You make writing fun!