Author: Gail Delaney

Genre: UST, RST, Romance, AU

Pairing: This goes without saying... but if I must... Jack/Sam

Rating: PG-13

Length: Novella

Spoilers: All minor for "Affinity", "100 Days", "Window of Opportunity", "Grace", "Chimera". More for Affinity than any other.

Timeline: Season 8, post "Affinity"

Synopsis: Jack is getting antsy as General, and decides to take a trip Off-World with SG-1. Then a natural phenomenon changes everyone's plans... big time

Archive: This will be posted (eventually) to my site , , Sam and Jack, SJfic... if you'd like to post it somewhere else, just let me know. I'm sure I'll say yes, just want to know where.

Feedback: YES!

Disclaimer: I make no money for this. Wish I did.. but oh, well. No copyright infringement intended.

Special Thanks: This is going to be a BIG ONE! Jen, you ROCK! Jen is so far beyond my Beta, it's not even funny. To be completely fair, she should be listed as co-author. She put me on track when I started to wander, she told me "Jack wouldn't say that..." when I pegged him wrong. She helped me outline, plot, and even helped with some of the scenes. Some of the truly great lines of dialogue here probably came from her... especially if it's Daniel. She writes a GREAT Daniel. Jen, I couldn't have done it without you, babe!

And so... on with the show...

"I haven't said yes."

"And yet... you haven't said no."

"What about you, sir? If things were different..."

"I wouldn't be here."

"Um, Jack. Are you okay?"

Jack looked up from the folder on his desk, to look at Daniel in the open doorway of his office. Behind Daniel, in the Briefing Room, Jack saw SG-1 assembling for their pre-mission briefing. Sam was talking to Teal'c about something, and whatever the big Jaffa said made her smile. She shook her head, and the tips of her blonde hair swirled around her neck, caressing her cheek.

"Jack! That pen is about to snap."

Jack stopped, and glanced down at the pen in his right hand. The edge of his desk blotter was heavily dotted with blue ink, an obvious indicator of his tapping. He grimaced at the big glob of ink at the end of the pen and tossed it in the waste basket beside him. Daniel still stood in the doorway, hands in the pockets of his BDU's, when Jack looked back. The expectant 'I'm-gonna-stand-here-until-you-spill-it' expression on his face had his eyebrows arched well above the rim of his glasses.


"Something on your mind, Jack?"

It took all the discipline he had learned since being recruited to Special Ops not to look out the window. To her. Jack just arched his eyebrows and tried to look non-committed. "On my mind? Nope. Ready for that pre-mission briefing?"

He stood out of his ergonomic, real leather, 'general's' chair and brushed past Daniel into the Briefing Room, ignoring the mumbled "Ja-ack" as he went by.

"Good morning, Kids. What exciting news do I need to hear before I send you off into the Wild Blue Yonder?" He rubbed his palms together before flopping into the chair at the end of the table. "P9X-4EV, right?"

Teal'c leaned back in his chair as Sam swiveled to face Jack, and Daniel sat down. "Yes, sir," Sam began, and Jack almost smiled at the way she folded her hands across her stomach and crossed her legs as she reclined. "This is our fifth visit to the planet. And thus far, it has been fairly uneventful. The inhabitants are somewhat rustic. No electricity, but some basic tools such as well pumps and metallurgy. Their leaders are more than willing to discuss the SGC setting up a base outside their town to mine the Naquida veins we found on our first visit."

"In exchange for what? The usual? Gate addresses?"

Sam shook her head. "No, sir."

Jack cocked his head. "Really..."

"They aren't an ambitious people, Jack," Daniel said, flipping open the folder in front of him. "They seem very content to live as they are. Although they were surprised to see us, they weren't all that surprised to hear that we came from another planet. I think they've chosen this simpler way of living consciously. They are willing to let us be there, as long as we don't try to change them. They will let us have all the Naquida we want as long as we are careful to preserve the land when we do it. They have no use for it."

"Oh. Okay. Is there something we can offer them? They haven't asked for anything? It seems a bit wrong to just... you know... take and not give."

"I was just saying the same thing, sir," Sam said, and Jack turned just enough to look into her eyes. She didn't look away. He loved it when she didn't look away. "And I would like to offer them some basic medicines on this trip, along with a list of ingredients and processes to make and develop their own. Mainly antibiotics and anesthetics."

"Sounds like a good idea."

"Thank you, sir." She smiled, and Jack had to look away. Sometimes, the smiles hurt worse than the avoidance game they'd played for so many years.

"Okay. So, we go today and finalize the deal – spit on our hands and shake on it – and then SG's 24, 25, 26 and 27 move in next week for the long haul with a planned schedule for returns to Earth."

In unison, they all stood, their chairs sliding across the hard floor.

"The three of us will be ready to leave in an hour, sir."


Sam's head bobbed and Jack felt a small sense of gratification in the fact that he could still shock her from time to time. She didn't know him so well... he pushed aside the thought.

"Four, sir?"

"Yeah." Jack tapped his fingertips on the tabletop. "I'm coming along for the ride. Need some fresh air. This place has plenty of trees, right, Colonel?"

She still looked surprised, and yet a small smile tipped one corner of her lips. "Yes, sir. Lots and lots of trees."

"Good." He turned and headed back to his office. "Because we all know how much I love trees."

"Aaaahhh, fresh air. Can't get air like this in Colorado." Jack sucked in another deep breath through his nose.

Sam looked at him through her sunglasses, and smiled. She couldn't help it. The big grin on Jack's face was enough to make anyone grin. He was in his element again. Feeling the rush of demolecularization and reconstitution... course, that wouldn't be how he saw it. To him, it was just the power of the Gate.

"Good Day, Samantha," called Aaroon Sonarnon as he walked across the field towards the base of the Gate. He was dressed, as usual, in the simple brown-tone clothing common in his community. The overall-style pants formed a placard across the front of his chest, covering a long sleeve shirt in a slightly darker hue. The shirt was slightly open at the throat, and his face was shaded by the wide-brimmed straw hat he wore. "It is good to see you again."

"Good Day, Aaroon," Sam said as she descended the steps.

"Daniel. Teal'c. It's good to see you, as well. You have brought a new visitor?"

"Yes. This is General Jack O'Neill, my commanding officer," Sam said, turning to face Jack as he approached.

"Jack. Welcome to the Calla Hills community. Come, everyone. My Beloved waits with the mid-day meal."

The four followed behind Aaroon, easily falling into the same comfortable positions. Jack and Sam side by side, with Teal'c and Daniel several paces behind. How many times had they explored worlds in this configuration? When did it become so natural? And with a heavy ache in her chest, Sam realized just how much she missed it and wondered if Jack's feelings were the same.

"Is he the... what?... chief? Leader? Head honcho?" Jack asked in a hushed voice, leaning slightly towards her as they walked.

"Sort of. They live in small communities, and the elders are looked to for guidance, but there really isn't one person who leads. There are religious leaders, and social leaders, and medical leaders. Aaroon is a kind of, um, agricultural elder. Which is why we've been mainly speaking with him. The direct result our mining would have--"

"--on the environment. I get it. But, elder? He's what... thirty-nine? Forty?"

"One-hundred and seven cycles of the season, as they call it."

Sam suppressed her chuckle as she saw the surprise wash over Jack's face. "Keep in mind, sir, that their year is slightly different than ours. Shorter. So, a cycle goes by faster for them. Roughly, nine months to our twelve."

"How old is he in Earth years, then?"

"Seventy-eight. Roughly."

"Why is it, Carter, that we never visit planets were the humans age faster than us? We always meet these lucky so-and-so's who live for, like, 3 zillion years and look like they haven't turned thirty. And us, we hit forty and everything goes to hell in a hand basket. Just once, I'd like some alien look at me and say 'Wow, for fifty-something you look great! We're usually dead by forty-five, you know'."

Sam smiled pausing for just a brief moment to take in the angles and profile of her commanding officer. As far as she was concerned, forty had done great things for Jack O'Neill. So had fifty.

"Wow, for fifty-something, you look great... sir." She didn't even try to hide her smirk as his head jerked sharply in her direction, and their stares met. Then Jack's lips tipped just slightly, but the smile went all the way to his eyes. "Thank you, Colonel."

God, how she missed this!

"Maybe we can find out their secret while we're here, sir."

"According to you, Carter, I don't need their secret." He didn't look at her this time, but the deep dimples in his cheek told her he was smiling.

They continued another click down the wide dirt road until they reached Aaroon Sonarnon's home. Three children played in the yard with a wooden wheel, each child holding a stick they used to keep the wheel in motion and from falling over. The young laughter reached them well before the house was in sight.

"Beloved," Aaroon called out as they reached the door of the two-story home. "I have brought Samantha, Daniel and Teal'c and they have brought a new visitor."

Sarai Sonarnon came into the entry room, her lovely blonde hair tied back in a queue with curls around her face, holding the hand of their youngest child, Banith, who looked to be perhaps 3 Earth years old. Sarai's other hand rested on her slightly extended abdomen. Sonarnon child number eight. When Sarai reached Aaroon, he pulled her close and pressed a long kiss to her cheek.

"It's good to see you all again, and to meet new friends." She stepped to Jack, and when he extended his hand, she held it between both of hers. "I am Sarai, Aaroon's Beloved."

Jack glanced sideways at Sam, and smiled his best diplomatic smile. "Jack. Thank you."

"Come into the house and rest while I help Sarai," Aaroon said, motioning towards a room to the right of the doorway.

The room focused on a central hearth made of fieldstone, and the floors were wide planks polished to a stunning shine. A variety of wooden children's toys littered the floor near the hearth, and a doll sat perched against the wall. In one of the chairs sat a young girl, looking about eighteen in earth years, with an open book in her lap. She looked up as they entered, and a wide smile spread her lips when she saw Daniel.

"Daniel!" she said on a breath, and color flooded her cheeks. Then she blinked and looked away. "Samantha. Teal'c. It is good to see you."

"Hello, Tella," Daniel said and sat down beside her. "I was hoping to see you when we visited today. I brought you the book I told you about."

Sam walked to a bench that sat facing the hearth, and Jack sat beside her, leaning in as he lowered himself. "Daniel's newest admirer?"

Sam chuckled and nodded. "You know Daniel. Can't stay on any one planet for too long without attracting at least one or two admirers. And as usual, he has no clue. That's Tella, Aaroon's oldest daughter. He has two sons who have already joined – um – married, and have farms of their own."

Jack turned enough to look out the window behind them, and watched the children playing. "Just how many kids does he have?"

"Eight including the one on the way."

Jack looked at her, his eyebrows arched high. "Really. Not bad for over a hundred."

"They are a very, ummm, prolific race. Although, by what I can tell, Aaroon and Sarai are more prolific than some," she said, leaning closer to him so she could speak softly without her voice carrying. "They're also a very affectionate race."

"What do you mean by affectionate?"

Sam bobbed her chin towards the open doorway beside the hearth than led to the kitchen. From their vantage point, they could see Sarai and Aaroon clearly. They stood facing each other, with Sarai's arms around him and he held her face in his hands. They were talking, and by the smiles on both their faces, Sam almost wished she knew what the topic of conversation was. Occasionally, Aaroon leaned forward and kissed her. He brought his hand down to her waist and rubbed slow circles over the soft swell of their unborn child.

Sam's cheeks were suddenly warm, and she looked away. "That's what I mean," she managed to say.

Jack cleared his throat and shifted beside her, purposefully looking away from both the couple in the kitchen, and apparently Sam as well. "Yeah. Okay."