To Say The Words
Spoilers: None, really. Set somewhere before season 8. The good old days.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.
AN: This was my first attempt at SG fic from way back when, which I never posted. I've had a death in my family and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had two surgeries, so I'm going to finish Contact, I just haven't had the chance.

Jack cringed at the sound of his knock echoing through the halls. There was nothing wrong with what he was doing; at least, he tried to convince himself of that. He was just there to apologize. Of course, it was two in the morning and anyone walking by might find it inappropriate for him to be knocking on Sam's door at that hour. But it wasn't often that General Hammond ordered them to stay on the base to rest following a mission and Jack figured he should take advantage of the opportunity.

But he had a perfectly legitimate reason for being there then - he just didn't particularly relish the idea of having to explain it or of having anyone ask in the first place. Admittedly, his idea was the result of grasping at straws - he was hoping that by catching her half asleep she might accept his apology without giving him a hard time. It was only after he heard a loud string of curses coming from the other side of the closed door that he realized Sam might actually be grumpier when she was half asleep, if that was possible. He wanted to run away, to duck down the hall so she wouldn't know it was him, to pretend someone else would have the nerve to wake her up by pounding on her door, but she'd know it was him and get even angrier, although that was as hard to imagine as her being any grumpier.

They'd been fighting forever. At least, it felt like forever. In reality, it had probably been a few days of actually out and out snide comments at each other, as much as they could get away with in front of an audience - and they seemed to always have an audience. It had been a few weeks since things had seemed right, since they'd really been getting along.

He'd been much harder on her than he should have been and rather than letting it go, she'd fired back. Her challenge - bordering on insubordination in his opinion - had only served to spark his anger further. They were both to blame and when he was calm - meaning nowhere around her - he could admit that. He'd crossed the line earlier, though, and he needed to apologize before it was too late, before she refused to ever speak to him again.

His thoughts tripped over themselves the moment she opened the door. All the things he'd thought to say by way of apologizing flew right out of his head. He could only think of how beautiful she was; her beauty magnified a hundred-fold by mussed hair and no makeup. His eyes froze on her lips, bare of their normally forbidding lipstick. She'd never looked so thoroughly kissable. Jack had to fight to remember why, exactly, kissing her would be a bad idea. But as his eyes slowly climbed up to meet hers, he remembered she was mad as hell at him.

The barely restrained fury in her eyes taunted him - it was the same stare that promised him he had her full attention, that offered him reassurance when they were fighting against the odds, that assured him his feelings were not unrequited - yet they had taken on a new meaning, a hint of cold that told him he was losing her. Despite their long history, their friendship was more often strained than comfortable anymore. He feared they'd pushed it too long, that they'd denied it until it finally started to die.

He looked at the floor because it wasn't as furious with him. "I wanted to apologize." He dared to glance back at her eyes, letting out the breath he was holding when he saw the ice in her stare start to melt.

She stepped back from the door, allowing him entrance. "For what, sir?" Her eyes told him she wanted to forgive him, but her voice was hard and sarcastic.

He wasn't off the hook yet. He frowned as he shut the door behind him. "Cut the sir crap."

She turned away for only a moment, but that was all it took for her eyes to turn cold. She might as well have been a stranger for all the emotion he saw reflected there. "Maybe I should point out how grossly inappropriate it is for a commanding office to knock on my door and barge into my quarters in the middle of the night and then ask me not to address him as my superior." She tried to hide it, but the anger was evident in her voice. She was fighting to keep her voice steady.

He nearly smiled - anger was better than nothing. "Sam, this has to stop." Not only did he fear losing her completely, he also knew it was only a matter of time before someone noticed their heated arguments - someone like General Hammond.

"Did you come here to apologize or was that just a ploy to get me to open the door?"

He closed his eyes and bit back a sarcastic remark. "I said I wanted to apologize, didn't I?"

The challenge was clear in her eyes. "And I wanted to know what you're sorry for."

"Are you kidding? What do you think?" He was trying not to get upset, but she was purposely being difficult. He knew he should just spit out the words and leave. But he kept getting sidetracked. As much as they'd been fighting, all he could think of was grabbing her and kissing her senseless. Or at least until she forgot she was mad.

Sam stepped back, crossed her arms over her chest and glowered at him. She would have appeared much more formidable had her oversized t-shirt not slipped off one of her shoulders. "About ten things immediately spring to mind that you ought to be sorry for."

He looked down in guilt. He knew she was right. She was always right. "Maybe you should stick with the sir crap. Insults are so much more pleasant that way."

Worry flashed across her face; she feared for a moment that he was angry over her disrespect. She sighed loudly, deciding it was too dangerous to get into it again when they were still obviously pissed. The added stress of exhaustion and lack of sleep was doing nothing to ameliorate the situation. "Maybe I'll talk to you in the morning, sir."

He turned away. She was no more receptive in the middle of the night; she wouldn't even let him say he was sorry. He merely wound up looking like an ass for trying to pick a fight when she was trying to take the high road. He reached for the door, but he looked back before he turned the handle. She had turned back to her rack; her shoulders slumped in defeat. Jack's eyes fell on the exposed skin of her shoulder and slowly moved up to her neck. He wondered what she would do if he gave in to the desire and let his lips follow the same trail. He tamped down the idea once again - because she'd probably beat the crap out of him and she'd be well within her rights to do so and a broken nose would not make him feel better.

He faced the door again and spoke softly. He didn't want to see her reject his attempt at making peace. "I'm sorry for what I said earlier. About you and Daniel. It's really none of my business."

"No, it's not."

That was not the answer Jack expected. "You're not going to deny it?" He'd gone there to apologize primarily, but he'd also been gunning for Sam's assurance that she and Daniel were just friends. Ever since Sam and Jack had been fighting, Sam and Daniel had been spending a lot more time together, always talking quietly in private with their heads together. It pissed Jack off more every time he thought about it. Jack was jealous as hell. He knew he was probably blowing it out of proportion. He knew there was probably nothing going on between Daniel and Sam. The idea upset him because there was no legitimate reason for him to stop it. He wanted, needed really, to hear Sam tell him it wasn't true. He had to hear her deny it or it would drive him insane. Sam and Daniel were the two closest friends he had, but the thought of them together was sickening - not because he begrudged their happiness, but because they both knew how he felt about Sam.

But just like earlier that evening, Sam refused to give him the assurance of telling him it wasn't true. She'd ignored the reason for the discussion and it only served to incite Jack's anger. He forgot entirely about trying to smooth things over. He crossed the room to stand in front of her again.

"It's inappropriate." He leaned into her and hissed at her. His voice sounded so hateful that he nearly cringed. Sam was the only one who could make him lose his temper like that. He hated that he was letting her get to him.

Sam wasn't impressed - she knew why he was so mad and she knew he'd never hurt her. "Daniel is a civilian. There's nothing inappropriate about it."

"You work together. You're on the same team, a team that is under military jurisdiction. It's as inappropriate as it gets."

Her eyes flashed as a smirk crossed her face. "Surpassed only by this conversation."

He wanted to grab her shoulders and shake some sense into her. Didn't she know what it was doing to him? Couldn't she see that it was tearing him apart? His voice grew to a shout. "Break it off, Major!"

She smiled obviously proud of herself for riling him up. "You're out of line, Colonel."

"So are you."

They stared directly at each other for several minutes, deadlocked in a challenge. Jack tried to out last her, but her piercing stare was too much for him. He was afraid she could see right into his thoughts. He looked away.

"Does it have to be Daniel?" He was embarrassed by his pathetic behavior.

"It doesn't matter who it is. You have no right to tell me who I can or cannot see."

Jack slumped into a chair. He was never going to win the argument. She was right - again. Propping his elbows on his knees, he cradled his face in his hands. "I can't believe you're sleeping with Daniel." The shock that she hadn't denied it was wearing off and the pain was setting in. He felt like an ass for not seeing it sooner.

"What difference does it make?" Sam stared at him, watching as he tried to bury his feelings.

"Why Daniel?" Jack was already insecure when it came to Daniel. Daniel was smarter. Daniel was more interesting. Daniel was a better negotiator. Daniel outdid Jack with almost everything. Jack had always known he'd lose Sam to someone who could give her more than the occasional obtuse comment that promised nothing. But losing her to Daniel was just more than he could take.

"Why not?"

He wanted to ask her how she'd feel if it were the other way around. He wanted to know if she could imagine the pain he was in. But he was too afraid he'd make her cry. He didn't want to do that. "Do you love him?" His voice sounded alien to him. It wasn't his voice. It was the voice of a hurt, broken man. He would have been ashamed, except that it hurt too much to feel anything else.

She squatted down in front of him, trying to make him look at her. "No, I don't."

He stared at her, confusion, hurt, and anger all vying for position on his face. He couldn't believe she could be so mean to himself and Daniel, but there she was, admitting it right to his face. "Why are you doing this? Making him think he has a chance?" He was asking more for himself than for Daniel.

"I never made him think anything."

The anger won out. He needed to get away from her before he said something he couldn't take back. He stood up so fast that the chair fell behind him. He crossed the room and pulled open the door. He looked back at her. She'd lost her balance in an effort to get out of his way and caught herself with her hands. Her eyes were closed and Jack knew she was trying not to cry. He couldn't leave her, not like that. He let go of the door, letting it slam shut. Once she thought he was gone, she stopped trying. She sat sprawled on the floor, sobbing into her hands.

Jack moved slowly, quietly, as he approached her. He squatted down beside her and put his hands on her shoulders. She jumped back, so startled that she forgot to hide her tears.

"I thought you left."

He felt like shit. He'd made her cry. Hurting her hadn't made him hurt any less. He put his arms around her, pulling her into a hug. His hand found its way into her hair, cradling her head while she cried on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Sam." She didn't respond and he didn't blame her. He knew her well enough to know she hated that she was crying in front of him, even more so because she was furious at him as well. He used his grip on her hair to guide her to face him. "I'm really sorry, Sam."

She reached up to wipe at her tears, but his hands made it first, gently stroking her cheeks with his thumbs. He hated the pain that was so clear on her face. He hated knowing he'd caused it. There was still love shining in her eyes, even as the tears continued to spill out. The answering feeling he had threatened to choke him with its intensity.

He was so used to squashing down that feeling, suppressing it, claiming that it was nothing more than friendship, that it took him by surprise. It wasn't that he didn't know he loved her; it was that every once in a while, he realized how much he loved her - and that was breathtaking.

There was something else in her eyes too - something he hadn't been expecting. Loneliness. She was lonely. He searched her eyes for an explanation, but she looked away.

"You're not with Daniel, are you?"

She shook her head. "No, I never was."

"Why didn't you just tell me?" The only answer he got from her was a shrug. The fact that she let him get all worked up and make an ass out of himself would have normally made him angry, but being so close to her was, as always, entirely disarming. She was right anyway. It was none of his business.

Sam pulled away slowly. She was out of his grasp, but she remained on the floor next to him. "I'm sorry. I should have told you the truth." She wiped at her face, only drawing more attention to her red-rimmed eyes. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"What did you think would happen?" It was refreshing to be so open - acknowledging that they both knew he cared who she was dating.

"I wasn't thinking."

He didn't need to say anything. An incredulous stare told her he didn't believe that statement for one second.

"I didn't think it mattered to you anymore." She met his eyes for only a moment. "I wanted to see if you still cared." She shrugged again. "I was trying to get a rise out of you, but I didn't mean to make you mad."

He considered her words carefully. He'd been trying to apologize for overstepping his bounds when that had been her intention all along. But he couldn't blame her. There were times when he wanted to reassure himself, to make sure he still had a hold on her heart. His hand moved to her cheek, lifting her face to his.

His usually flippant tone was gone; the voice he used to speak was grave. "Rest assured, Sam, you never have to wonder. Nothing has changed. Nothing ever will." He smiled gently, hoping she wouldn't misinterpret what he said. "You will always have my attention."

He could see the joy, the relief in her eyes. She just needed to hear it every once in a while. It wasn't really much to ask. When he was married, he'd told Sara that he loved her everyday. He'd kissed her and held her and showed her how he felt every single day. He'd never said the words to Sam. He rarely had an opportunity to reach out to her and those times that he did were always in the midst of a crisis. It wasn't fair.

Jack wasn't dumb enough to think life was fair nor optimistic enough to think it ever would be. He'd long since given up on any expectation of life being particularly fair to him. But Sam was a different story. He thought life should be fair to her. She'd earned it. She'd had plenty of hard knocks; she deserved to hear those three simple words from the man she loved.

As he looked into her eyes, he realized he had a chance to help. He couldn't fix the rules; he couldn't promise her they could be together without repercussions. But he could give her something she needed, something she could hold onto. He took her face in both of his hands, marveling once again in the complete acceptance he found there. He spoke softly, yet confidently, because he wanted her to understand he truly meant it. "I love you, Samantha."

Her mouth dropped open in utter surprise. She'd never dared to imagine actually hearing him say the words. A moment later, fresh tears spilled over her cheeks. She smiled through them. He watched as she tried, without any success, to come up with some kind of response. He could practically see the wheels turning in her head. It amused him that he'd finally managed to leave her completely speechless.

His smiled faded quickly. The longer he looked into her eyes, the deeper he was caught. In all the years he'd been fighting his feelings for her, he'd never felt so powerless. He gave in. He had to.

The kiss was hard and deep and long and filled with all the passion he'd been holding in for too long. It blew away every kiss he'd ever had. He'd never kissed her just because he wanted to, just for the hell of it. The magnetic pull between them kept them locked in the kiss long after he'd intended. His emotions, the ones he normally kept so tightly restrained, got the better of him as his fingers combed through her hair. He was only aware of two things - nothing had ever felt as good as that kiss and that he wanted more. He'd already lost control of the situation; his mind readily imagining making love to her right there on the floor.

The thought gave him the strength, the reason, to pull away. Not because of the rules - to hell with the rules - but because she deserved better and he knew all he could give her would be one night. Reality seemed so far away from the unbelievable heat of that kiss, but he knew it would be wrong to give in, to use her like that, to make her think it was going to be different, to let her believe it was going to change.

Reluctantly he pulled away, dropping kisses along the way. He kissed her cheek, her forehead, the top of her head. He knew she was crying again. He knew it was his fault. He wanted to gather her into his arms again and promise her everything would be fine. But he didn't want to lie to her.

He couldn't stand any more of her tears. He cupped her cheek, wiping them away once more. "Sam-" Her eyes met his and he recognized something he'd seen for years but could never name. She absolutely trusted him. If he told her they couldn't be together, she would accept it without question. And it suddenly occurred to him that he owed them both better. They could find a way to work it out. Whatever the cost, it would be worth it. Nothing could be worse than breaking her heart.

He leaned forward and placed a quick kiss on her lips, just because he could. "We'll figure this out, Sam."

Then she smiled. Because she believed him.