Jack and Sam finally get the chance to explore their relationship

Just a short piece with an alternate ending for you to enjoy. The "shippy/happy" ending is a Prequel to Rendezvous. Chapter 2. the alternate ending…pure angst.

Early Winter – Chapter 1.

It was a clear, cool night and the first promise of winter filled the early morning air. A new day was waiting to be born just beyond the horizon, the kind she would normally cherish, but not today…not today. She huddled against the wall on the small deck, staring out into the dark canopy above her that was twinkling with a sprinkling of stars, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms clasped at her ankles. An occasional tear still trickled from her eyes and found freedom on her cheeks, now red and chapped from the cold and wetness. She'd been here for hours, alone, just sitting and staring into the night.

It would be light soon. In a few hours, he'd be gone and a chapter of her life would close…quite possibly forever. And she sat here, cold and hurting, searching desperately for the answers.

They'd spent eight years of their lives together, working, fighting side by side and trusting each other, wounded, lost, tortured and recovering to do it all over again. They'd laughed and quarreled, seen indescribable wonders, inconsolable terrors, laughed, cried, lived…even died together. They could talk without speaking, read the slightest flicker in the other's eyes, finish the other's sentence and in the field, anticipate the other's moves, but talk to each other…about this…thing between them…impossible.

There was so much at stake, so much to lose. She'd often wondered what it would be like between them if the military wasn't an issue. Now, they had a chance, a small window of opportunity to explore their feelings. This might be the only chance they ever had to make their relationship work, to set things right – to define their commitment to each other. And they were blowing it. Totally, undeniably, blowing it. Both of them.

It wasn't awkward to be alone with Jack. It was nice, comfortable – like wearing your favorite jeans with a new, sexy perfume. They weren't even nervous. They just touched more, kissed more and held each other close. It was great. It was like coming home in early spring or sitting beside a roaring fire. They loved each other and all was right in the world…until yesterday.

The memory of walking beside him in the park illuminated her mind, the musky smell of his cologne and the feel of his hand as he timidly reached for hers pressing her fingers against his lips in a gentle kiss. And that look in his eyes. She'd seen it a few times before in fleeting, unguarded moments but he'd always hidden it quickly, only once allowing her to study it or even be certain that it was real.

"You know I have to leave tomorrow." He had stared at her with hope and love spilling freely from those intense, dark eyes and she heard again his quiet, anxious voice. Only a few words, spoken only once but she knew it held the sum of all his emotions, his longing for her. "Come with me, Sam, marry me?"

She'd watched the hope drain away as she hesitated, changing to an all too familiar shade of sadness highlighted with regret. Her mouth opened to speak and her head shook side to side slightly, "No…"

They'd barely spoken after that. He had dropped her off at home and kissed her sweetly on the cheek, holding her hand in his once more, rubbing his thumb softly against her skin and staring down at their intertwined fingers for a long time. When he raised his eyes back to hers, he dropped her hand and the look was gone, hidden behind the mask he'd worn for so many years and she realized she'd made a horrible mistake. "Jack…"

But he didn't let her finish. "Goodbye, Sam." And just like that it was over. No lingering, no looking back or pausing, no discussion, he climbed into his truck and drove away, out of her life.

She didn't know how long she'd stood there looking after him, staring into the darkness as the truck disappeared and feeling the cold settle then take hold of her heart. The next thing she remembered, she was here, looking up at the stars, salty tears stinging her eyes, her thoughts reduced to a single word…Jack.

'Oh, God, did I really say no?' Her silence, the look in her eyes, a moment of doubt had said it all, even if she hadn't spoken, he would have known. He did know, he had read it clearly and he didn't need or want any other explanations.

'What are you doing?' The little voice inside her head yelled out clearly causing her to snap her head up and focus her eyes. 'He won't be back if you let him go like this. He won't ask again.' "I know." She spoke the words aloud, answering the thoughts in her own mind. 'You're giving up without a fight, without even trying, after all this time?'

Suddenly she was up and moving, grabbing for her keys and I.D. as she ran out the door.

She pulled her car to a stop at the base entrance and presented her I.D.

"Your business, Colonel?"

"I need to see General O'Neill. And I'm in a hurry; his plane is scheduled for takeoff in a few minutes."

The young soldier nodded his head as he scanned her I.D. and then directed her to the departure runway. She smiled at him briefly then pressed firmly on the accelerator causing the tires to squeal as she pulled away.

A few panicked minutes later she had reached her destination and pulled abruptly to a halt throwing gravel and dust flying into the air. She bolted from the car running at a full sprint towards the aircraft, her eyes searching for his tall lean figure while she tried to control her panic.

There was a group of airmen standing near the plane, milling about uselessly, but no officers and no Jack. Was she at the wrong runway? Her heart clenched in her chest as she refused to accept that possibility and she took short, ragged breaths as she slowed her pace and stopped. Her eyes searched almost frantically, hoping, praying that she'd missed him and this time she'd see him. But, no. No General. No Jack.

A bit of movement caught her eye and she turned to see a jeep pulling up to the nose of the plane and two pilots stepping out. She watched in a daze as they lifted their gear and moved away from the jeep. She should have known he'd insist on flying his own plane. She held her breath waiting for the lanky figure, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, to look towards her. He moved again and her eye caught the glint of stars on his collar, a splash of silver at his temples and a warm, inviting smile. Jack.

He wasn't looking at her, hadn't even noticed she was there; he was busily preparing to board the plane and she had to get to him before he did. Her feet were running again, eating up the tarmac in large bites as she moved as swiftly as she could towards the plane.

He turned away and her chest clenched again. 'Wait!' He didn't stop and suddenly she realized it was only her mind speaking so she yelled loudly. "General!"

He paused and half turned towards her, but still didn't see her. "General!" She was almost there - almost within reach as he turned again, pausing as he finally spotted her running towards him at full tilt.