Author: Gail R. Delaney

Genre: UST, Angst

Status: Complete

Pairing: Jack/Sam

Spoilers: "Entity", mild for "Divide and Conquer"

Timeline: Season 4, post "Divide and Conquer", and partially during "Entity"

Synopsis: Sam puts a heavy decision in Jack's hands… a decision he doesn't want.

Archive: Out of the Room, Helio, GateWorld, SJFIc, SJ17, if you want it, let me know.

Feedback: YES!

Disclaimer: I don't make any money… I just like to play.

Special thanks to: My ever diligent and ever amazing beta, Jenifer! And to my cheerleader, Tricia!

The only light in Jack's living room was the bluish glow cast from the television. Images played across the screen – an old John Wayne movie – but the sound was muted.

He didn't want the extra noise.

He rolled the bottom of his amber beer bottle on the arm of the couch, the liquid inside warm and undrinkable.

It had been one hell of a crappy day.

After a three-day battle to try and save his life, and a six hour vigil by his teammates, Major Eddie Vasquez of SG-10 had died that day due to injuries received Off World. As the CO of the lead team, Jack had spent his time with Eddie as well, and had sat with Lt. Colonel Joe Finmore as he beat himself up over a mission gone wrong.

Eddie was engaged. The wedding invitation sat on Jack's dining room table, waiting for him to RSVP. General Hammond couldn't even call his fiancé until Eddie was gone.

Jack sat forward and set the bottle on the coffee table. He scrubbed his hands over his face and tried to banish all the black thoughts in his head. So many times . . . SG-1 had come so damn close so many times to losing someone. Every time they had managed to slide under the wire and come back alive.

His chest ached as he remembered standing on the 'right' side of a force field, beating the hell out of a control panel, while Sam stood on the 'wrong' side.

With a curse, Jack shot to his feet and grabbed the bottle off the table. Maybe some time on the roof would clear his head and let him sleep.

He skipped the steps leading up from his living room, stepping right to the hall level, and headed for the dining room entry. But movement in his driveway, shadowed by settling twilight, caught his eye. Jack set the bottle down on his hall table and stepped to his door, peering out through the long window beside it.

And despite himself, his blood warmed and his heartbeat accelerated.

Sam walked up his driveway beside his truck, her arms wrapped around her body and her face cast upward to the starry sky. Jack opened his door as she started up the walk and stood with his hand on the jamb, watching her in the moonlight.

"Hey, Carter," he said.

Her head snapped up at his voice. "Hi," she said, her voice hesitant and rough. "I hope I didn't come too late."

"Nah." Jack stepped backwards as she climbed the steps and she brushed by him into the dark house. "Is there something wrong?"

His fingers itched to touch her as she moved by him, just to test the softness of her pale sweater, but he curled his fists and shut the door. He knew he had to get his act together, and the road he walked was just plain stupid, but the smell of her shampoo wafted on the air and she looked damn hot in those jeans . . .

"No," she finally answered. "I just needed to talk to you about something, sir."

"Okay. Let me turn on some lights – "

"No," she said quickly, cutting him off. Her eyes slid closed and she jerked her head. "I'm sorry . . . I'm just . . . the dark is fine."

Jack pushed his hands into his pockets and closed the space between them so they both stood at the top of the steps leading down from the entry. "Sure."

Sam hitched her chin up to look at him, and Jack saw the shine in her eyes. His gut clenched and he swallowed hard. Every instinct he had screamed to wrap her in his arms and push away the day's events. Vasquez' death had hit everyone hard. It had been painful, long and drawn out, and in the end he had slipped into a peaceful coma. But the coma didn't bring peace to anyone else.

Jack slid a hand from his pocket, and despite the voice of better judgment ordering him not to do it, he laid his palm against her cheek.

Sam drew a shaky breath and turned away, breaking the contact. "I have something I need you to sign." Her voice was rough and raw, almost lost in the space between them.

Jack dropped his hand to his side. "What is it?"

She unfolded her arms, and for the first time Jack saw the papers in her hand. The outside was the telltale blue paper lawyers loved to slap on everything. Sam held it out, her hand shaking. Reluctant to find out what she would need him for – that involved a lawyer – Jack took it and unfolded the sheets.

Living Will Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment

"Carter?"

"I can't die like that."

He looked up from the document, meeting her gaze. "You won't."

"I know. I'm making sure of it."

Jack flipped the first page back, but in the dim light he couldn't make out much of the writing. "What do you need from me?"

"I've named you my Medical Durable Power of Attorney."

Jack shook his head, his eyes still on the paper. He finally looked up, and even in the dim light, saw the set determination in her face.

"This shouldn't be me. This should be – "

"Who? Family? If something happens to me Off World, none of my family can know."

"What about Daniel"
She took a step closer to him, her gaze staying on his face. "I need someone who would understand. Who wouldn't want to live like that, and who wouldn't want to see me live like that."

"Carter . . . " His throat tightened around his voice like a fist.

She looked away, her body shuddering as she released a long breath. Sam reached for the document, her hand skimming over the back of his as her fingertips pinched the paper. "I understand, sir. I shouldn't have assumed."

Jack reached across the paper with his other hand and closed his fingers around hers. "Sam."

Her chin hitched up, her eyes meeting his instantly.

"It's not that I don't want to," he said, keeping his voice low. "I – " Jack winced and looked down at the papers.

"I don't trust anyone else to do this for me, Jack"

Jack met her gaze again, but all he saw was Vasquez lying in that damn bed. His screams, when SG-10 came in hot through the Gate, had echoed through the halls. The sound still rang in Jack's head, crawling through him.

Then he saw Sam, lying in pain and screaming for relief, no matter how hard he tried to push the image aside.

He'd be damned if he ever let her be hurt like that. The son of a bitch who tried would have to go through him first.

It wouldn't happen. He'd make sure of it . . .

Damn straight.

Jack swallowed and nodded. "Okay."

"Thank you," she said softly.

Reluctantly, Jack turned and walked into the dining room. Sam followed him as he went to the counter and pulled a pen from the cup of pens and pencils beside the phone. He flipped on the light switch, filling the room, and saw Sam drop her head and turn away as his own eyes adjusted to the light. Jack flipped through the pages, finding the signature page, and scrawled on the line under which his legal name was already typed Jonathan J. O'Neill.

He clicked the pen and dropped it back into the cup, folding the document to its original size. When he turned to face her, Sam stood with her arms crossed and her head down.

"Done," he said, holding the Living Will out to her.

Sam took it and tucked her hand, paper and all, against her side again. "Thank you. I just hope you'll never have to . . . "

Her gaze slid up and met his, and Jack took a deep breath against the pounding rush in his chest.

"Yeah. Me, too."

She walked back to the dark hall, straight to the door, and Jack followed. Sam paused with her hand on the knob and Jack stepped behind her, bracing his arm on the wall beside the door. She turned within the small space between him and the door, looking up at him.

"Good night, Sir."

Jack clenched his jaw, fighting to ignore the images in his head of pressing her back against the door and kissing her until neither of them cared about consequences or tomorrow. He nodded, just a slight tick of his head.

"Good night, Carter."

He reached around her, his wrist brushing her hip, as he turned the knob and opened the door. Cool evening air drifted in, bitter against his heated skin. Sam stepped out and took the stone walkway toward her car. She paused with her car door open, and looked back at him. Jack raised his hand and she waved before climbing in. The engine roared to life and she backed out of the driveway.

When her taillights disappeared down the street, Jack slammed the door so hard the pictures on the wall shook.

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Jack sat on his stool at the foot of Sam's bed. Everyone understood by now it was his stool. He hunched forward with his elbows on his knees, rolling a pen between his fingers, holding his emotions in a steel fist.

Doc Fraiser came in, and he knew just by her walk she felt as defeated as he did . . . the difference was he couldn't show it.

After all . . . he was Sam's Commanding Officer. He did what he had to do to save the base, right?

Fraiser stood on the other side of the monitor, glancing at it, but he knew what she would see. "Still no change."

Jack stared at Sam, lying still and pale on the bed, her body hooked to half a dozen cords, wires and tubes. His chest hurt and he felt sick, but he couldn't leave. Wouldn't ever leave. Not as long. . .

"I don't know if she ever told you this, Colonel, but Sam made a living will. No extraordinary means."

Jack drew a slow, shallow breath, not looking at the doctor. "Yeah," he said. "She told me."

"There's, uh, there's no brain activity of any kind." Her voice broke as she spoke, and like Jack, she couldn't look away from Sam. "No brain waves for either Sam or the entity. She is being kept alive entirely on life support." She paused and Jack braced himself against what he knew was coming. "I think it's time to let her go, Sir."

She was giving him the nudge, asking him to do what she knew was his responsibility. Jack heard the compassion in her voice, but it didn't do a damn thing to ease the weight sitting on his chest.

Jack couldn't breathe. He thought about that damn living will, and knew ultimately it came down to him. He had been an idiot to think he could protect her from this, that he'd never be faced with the choice.

"Just . . ." He tore his gaze away from Sam long enough to look briefly at Doc Fraiser. "Give it a minute, huh?" He could barely force the words loud enough to be heard. Jack nodded slowly, dropping his gaze again. "Yeah . . . " he said more under his breath than to her.

He needed more than a minute to find the strength to let her go.

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Sam's body shuddered as she drew her first independent breath, and everything that had been 'clenched' inside Jack for hours . . . released.

"She's back!" Doc Fraiser said, smiling widely.

Jack walked to the bed, hoping to God he looked more in control than he felt. He drew a slow, steadying breath before he dared speak. "Hey, Carter. Where ya been?"

"It's gone?" she asked, her voice rough.

"Yes, it is," General Hammond answered from behind Jack.

Her eyes shifted and she met his gaze, and in that moment Jack knew she was really and truly back. "I was shouting . . . for you to hear."

"We heard."

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"Do you need anything else, Sam?" Daniel asked, setting Sam's Diet Coke on the coffee table beside her couch.

Jack stood near her fireplace, his hands pushed into his pockets, watching as Daniel fluttered around the room like some damn mother hen. He had already gotten Sam extra pillows, a blanket for her legs, a turkey sandwich she insisted she didn't really want, and a Diet Coke.

"No, Daniel. I'm fine. Really."

"Do you want a magazine?" Daniel asked, standing straight to look down at her with his hands at his hips.

"No – "

"You kidding?" Jack interjected. "If she wants anything, she wants that book on Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei on the kitchen table." Sam's gaze slid to him, an amused grin on her lips. Jack grinned, keeping his smile carefully in check. "She likes to write notes in the margins when their theories are off base."

"It amuses me . . . " she said, deep dimples digging into her cheeks.

"No," Daniel said, pointing at her. "No work."

Sam rolled her eyes and let her head fall back on the mound of pillows behind her. Jack took the opportunity to step forward. "Daniel, why don't you get going? Carter has had enough mothering for now."

Daniel looked at him, opened his mouth to say something, then snapped it shut again. He nodded, glancing down at Sam. "Sure. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Thank you, Daniel," she said and smiled when he leaned over to kiss her cheek.

Sam watched Daniel leave over the back of the couch, and when the front door clicked shut, she turned back to Jack. He walked across the living room to her, and when he reached the side of the couch, crouched down with his knees braced against the edge so he was at eye level with her.

"Now," he said slowly. "How are you really feeling?"

"Tired," she admitted, running a hand over her short hair. "I don't think I'll have any trouble sleeping tonight."

Jack squinted slightly. "You haven't been sleeping?"

Sam shook her head. "Those infirmary beds." Her gaze fixed on his. "And I keep -- "

"Keep what?"

"It sounds stupid when I say it, but every time I drift off I – "

"You think it's going to take over again."

She smiled, but it was humorless. More like a yeah, you get it kind of grin.

"If I ordered you to cut it out, would it help?" he said, arching his eyebrows.

This time her smile was genuine and real and she rolled her eyes with a small chuckle. "Understood, Sir."

Jack looked down at the loose knit of the afghan covering her lap. He absently toyed with a bit of yarn as he spoke. "Do you remember everything?"

"Not everything. Bits and pieces." She slid her hand over his, stilling his fidgeting. Jack looked into her face. "I remember opening my eyes and you were there."

He studied her face, noting the slightly dark circles under her eyes that stood as testament to the grueling days they had just made it through. Jack swallowed and turned his hand so they were palm to palm.

"I came this close to letting Fraiser let you go," he said, his voice thick. "But I couldn't do it."

Sam chuckled. "I'm kind of glad . . ." When he didn't say anything, Sam sighed. "Is that what's been wrong?"

Jack looked up. "I didn't say anything was wrong."

"You didn't have to."

He shrugged. "You sure you still want me in charge?"

"More sure than ever."

Jack closed his eyes for a moment, drawing in and pulling back, even if just on the inside. He had to; he understood that now more than ever. "I'm losing my perspective," he said, his throat suddenly dry. If it didn't taste so damn nasty, he was tempted to take a swallow of her Diet Coke.

Sam nodded, and he saw the understanding on her face as clearly as he saw the blue of her eyes. They both knew they walked a tightrope, and he had to do something to get his focus back or he was afraid he'd screw up in the field. And screw ups got people killed.

"Jack . . ." she said softly, his name on her lips shifting around him and arousing him like no amount of dirty talk ever had.

Before he could even begin to talk himself out of it, Jack leaned forward and covered her mouth, feeding on the slight gasp that parted her lips. She opened beneath his kiss, and he slipped his tongue along hers as her fingers laced into his hair and a soft purr whispered from the back of her throat.

Jack held her face in his hands, his temples pounding and his thoughts fading as he put into this first for no other reason that I damn well want to kiss everything he wished he could say . . . wished he could do . . . wanted to have happen.

When the urge to toss the blanket aside and discover with his mouth every part of her body was almost too powerful to ignore, Jack reined it in and pulled back from the intimate contact. When he looked into her shining eyes, his gut clenched and he pressed one final, brief kiss to her lips.

"I'm sorry," he said, his mouth hovering over hers. "I shouldn't have – "

Sam laid a finger against his lips. "Don't."

"I have to go . . ."

She nodded, her fingertips tracing along the lines of his face briefly before she set them in her lap. Holding the edge of the couch for balance, Jack stood and tried not to wince at the ache the position had put in his knees and thighs. Sam grabbed his hand before he could step away and he stopped, looking down at her. She smiled and squeezed his fingers.

"Good-bye, Sir."

He nodded and attempted a smile. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

She didn't watch him go. And he didn't look back.