Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without author's consent. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Copyright © June 2006 Maggie EatonSunshine
Jack stood motionless near the center of the newly green lawn and alternated his gaze between the fluffy clouds drifting above his head and the tower of the building in front of him. It was a beautiful spring morning. The air was crisp and sweet with the promise of a wonderful day.
His senses were on alert as he calmly observed his surroundings, every sound, every movement noted and registered but so far he had encountered only the smallest of nature's creatures. He seemed to be alone with the chirping birds and gently rustling breeze then suddenly realized that fact bordered on amazement. It was approaching 11:30 am and he was sure there must be someone else around but he had yet to see anyone. Well, anyone except Carter, that is. She'd been here for a over an hour and the light in his eyes dimmed slightly as he remembered her rushing inside, arms spilling over with a mixed assortment of bags and boxes, cursing softly as a few fell to the ground.
She was dressed casually, although he'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly what she was wearing he remembered sunglasses and a pale blue scarf. It was wrapped loosely around her hair, protecting it from just what, he wasn't sure but he couldn't remember ever seeing her in a scarf before and the image of a somewhat mysterious Sam was now burned in his mind.
He wondered exactly what she was doing as he tilted his head and glanced towards the building again. Then, he wondered what he was doing. He jammed his hands in his pockets and dropped his head against his chest briefly before lifting it upwards to the sky overhead and running his hands roughly through his hair. He glanced back to the building across the street and twisted his neck slightly squaring his shoulders as his body reflected his determination and hands fell loosely to his sides as he moved quickly towards the building.
He entered through the same door where Sam had disappeared earlier and stepped quietly into the foyer. A few minutes later he was moving along a long, softly lit corridor that seemed to be over populated with doors.
Not that he was short on time; he simply wasn't interested in opening every door and investigating every room in his search for Sam. There had to be an easier way. With no one about, it was extremely quiet and he made his way along the hall slowly, automatically cushioning his footfalls on the tiled floor and turning his senses up to maximum.
Finally he heard the soft sounds of music seeping into the hallway from one of the closed doors and paused to listen. It was Sam's "flying" music, the music that blared through her headset when she wanted to shut out the world or echoed off the walls of her lab when she had a particularly tough problem to work out. Jack listened for a moment and shook his head slightly at the implications her choice brought to mind.
His hand closed around the doorknob and he pushed it open silently, slipping inside without alerting her to his presence. Across the room, standing before a full-length mirror was Sam. He caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror as she twisted slightly, studying her appearance seriously and smoothing the satiny fabric that hung majestically from her shoulders. She was a vision. To his appreciative eye, she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen and he watched entranced as her delicate hands slid along the folds of the full skirt. For a moment he was happily content just to watch her but then his mind processed what was actually happening and he began to move towards her without even realizing it.
He stopped a few paces behind her so that his reflection appeared alongside hers in the mirror and startled blue eyes flashed up at him in surprise. Her gaze locked onto him and for a moment, neither moved or spoke.
Sam searched his reflection slowly, almost believing him to be an apparition that she had conjured up in a moment of emotional stress. Her mind was already traveling back through time to the many days they had spent together when he moved forward and spoke softly close to her ear, his eyes never leaving hers.
His eyes warmed her even through the reflection and she watched mesmerized as his lips turned up in an embracing smile. She allowed her eyes to slide along the slender lines of his body, appreciating the strength and danger barely concealed by the uniform. He seemed relaxed, totally at ease as she watched him slip his sunglasses into a chest pocket.
"You look great, Sam."
His voice was soft and sincere, tinged with just a touch of regret as he smiled down on her from the mirror.
"Thank you, Sir." The response was automatic as she continued to stare at him, thrown off-guard by his sudden appearance. "You're a bit early, Sir."
His smile disappeared and was quickly replaced by a serious, somber expression that she knew well.
"Early? Actually, I was thinking I'm terribly late."
Sam's brow wrinkled slightly and she looked down, away from his piercing eyes as she pushed back the emotional storm that threatened. The man had the most perfect timing on the job but this, this was . . . she couldn't even complete the thought as she looked up again into the emotionless mask of the general.
"So. You're really going through with this then?"
Sam stared back at him but didn't answer.
"Cause, you don't have to. It isn't too late to change your mind."
"Oh, yeah, wouldn't that be a lovely thing to do? Not to mention melodramatic."
"Well, I don't know . . . depends on how you feel about it, I suppose."
She turned to face him, the white satin swishing softly as she moved and the sound becoming pure emotion as it reached his ears, feeling like a thousand angel's wings had brushed against his soul. His chest tightened and he drew in an unsteady breath as he watched her.
"How do you feel about it, Carter?"
"I'm happy of course. I wouldn't be here otherwise."
Her eyes glanced up at his but she was unable to hold the gaze, looking away quickly to avoid the questioning look in his eyes.
Her voice was calm and confident but he noticed that her hands were trembling slightly as she scrunched the fabric of the skirt with obviously restless fingers. And she wasn't smiling.
She jerked her head up to meet his eyes again, holding him tight in her steady gaze.
"Ok? That's what you came here to say? Ok?"
"I can deal with it as long as you're happy."
"You can deal with it? Just like that, that easy?"
"I never said it would be easy, Carter."
Sam stood frozen, her heart pounding in her chest as she heard her own words spilling softly from his lips.
"Will you stay then? For the ceremony, I mean?"
Jack lifted the sunglasses back to his eyes and adjusted them for a second before he turned to face her again.
"I don't think so, Carter. I should go."
"But Sir . . ."
She let her voice trail away and watched as he cocked his head to one side in an unasked question. She couldn't see his eyes, they were hidden now behind the glasses and she suddenly felt very alone, completely shut out of his life as he turned to walk away.
"We'll still be friends, won't we, Sir?"
Jack stopped and turned, pulling his lips into a tight grimace for a moment as he studied her.
"I don't think so, Carter. Those things never seem to work out, you know? You'll have your own life with Pete."
"But Sir . . ."
She let the sentence fade away unfinished as her voice broke slightly and Jack thought he saw tears forming in her eyes. Then, seeming to find her resolve, she pressed her lips together tightly and nodded her head with the slightest of movements. She looked down at the floor and he continued to watch, his heart aching at the loss and his inability to say what he really felt for her even though he knew this was his last chance. Desperation tugged at him as he finished that thought and suddenly the words spilled out of him in an almost angry, demanding tone.
"Tell me you love him, Carter. Let me hear you say it out loud right here, right now."
"Sir, please . . ."
"Isn't that what this ceremony is all about? Announcing those feeling to the world? Just tell me now and I won't need to be there! Tell me you love him. Tell me he's the best thing that's ever happened to you; that perfect guy you'd always dreamed you find someday!" Jack paused and watched her for a moment before speaking again. "It's a smorgasbord, Carter, pick your own cliché!"
She was silent for a long moment hoping to dissipate some of his anger and the sudden tension that filled the room. But when she began to speak it was as if his anger had infected her and she found herself battling against her own emotions.
"Why are you doing this, Sir? I made a promise, I have an obligation!"
She was definitely crying now and Jack faced again the struggle against the familiar urge to take her in his arms, to comfort her and kiss away her tears. But as his mind processed her words his determination turned to steel and he pushed on, needing to finish it, needing to know the truth.
"An obligation? Is that what this is? Is that the only reason you're going through with this? Because that wouldn't be enough for me, Carter!"
She looked away again, unable to look at him even as she heard his footsteps moving away from her and towards the door. She heard a soft click as his hand closed around the door handle and feeling a sharp stab of panic, she looked up quickly as she wiped a stray tear from her cheek.
The sound of his name on her lips and the depth of emotion that filled that one word stopped him cold. She took a deep breath as he turned towards her again. He was a daunting figure as he stood there waiting and watching, his face a blank mask and his emotions shielded by the dark lenses.
"I don't love him. I don't love Pete."
Jack was frozen for a few seconds then he gave his head a slight sideways shake, unable to understand her reasoning and when he spoke, his voice was soft, almost pleading.
"Then don't do this, Sam."
"Oh, God! How can I . . .the guests will be here in a couple of hours . . .what? Do I just disappear?"
"What were you thinking of doing before I got here?"
Sam turned away, indecision tugging at her and disliking herself immensely for the hurt she would inflict on Pete by running away. The embarrassment, the rejection would be almost unbearable but she had to admit that Jack was right; she had been considering it long before he arrived.
"I don't know."
Her voice was so soft that Jack barely heard her answer as she fiddled with the fabric of the gown that draped so gloriously around her.
"How about the truth then? That usually works."
She turned startled eyes towards him and tried to read his features as his hand lifted the glasses from his face. He stared back at her for a long moment, his lips slowing turning upwards in a small smile and his eyes seeming to pull her closer.
She wasn't sure exactly which truth, or how much of it for that matter, that he was referring to.
"I still can't promise you anything, Sam but don't do this unless it's really what you want. Hold on just a little longer."
"Did you just. . .?"
Jack took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment, opening them again to stare intensely at her.
"Sam, you know I can't. Just don't . . . don't give up on me. Not yet."
"But what am I supposed to do about today? About Pete? Oh, god, it will be so cruel."
She looked down at the wedding gown and then around the room at the scattered boxes and bags, her bouquet and the bridesmaid's dresses that she'd spent hours choosing. She thought about all the preparation, all the planning and all the people that this would affect, the pain it would cause. When Jack's voice broke through her reverie, it was warm and just a bit teasing as he attempted to ease her indecision.
"Well, it's a nice day out. Nice breeze, plenty of sunshine. We could go for a walk."
She stared at him for what seemed like eternity before taking a deep breath and nodding her head in silent agreement. Jack stepped forward and pulled her into his arms, hugging her against him in a fierce, relieved embrace. He placed a few gentle kisses along her neck and then moved upwards, dropping more soft kisses along her skin and finally pressing one firmly against her temple.
She pulled away and turned in his arms, still wiping tears from her cheeks and intent on taking action before her guilt forced her to change her mind.
Jack happily obliged and watched as the dress slipped off her shoulders and into a white puddle at her feet. He handed her the jeans she'd been wearing earlier and then grasped her waist to steady her as she stepped into them. She quickly tugged on a tee shirt and shoes and then ran her fingers through her hair. When she was completely dressed again she looked up at him and smiled, a real smile, the first one he'd seen today.
"Ok, what now?"
"Need any of this stuff?"
He waved his hands around the room indicating all the items that were scattered around the room.
She reached for her cell phone and keys shoving them into a pocket while he crossed the room to the door. He opened it and turned to smile at her then extended his hand, squeezing it gently when she placed it there.
"Ok then, let's go, shall we?"
They stepped into the sunshine and crossed the warm green lawn hand in hand feeling the comfortable familiarity settle around them. When they reached the parking lot Sam looked seriously into his eyes.
Her words were little more than a whisper as she reached up and placed a soft kiss on his lips.
"You're welcome, just . . . don't make me do this again, ok?"
She chuckled and leaned her head against his chest for a moment before looking up into his smiling eyes.
Then she turned and walked away while he watched her in surprise.
"Hey! Where ya going?"
"My car. It's just over there."
"I thought we were going for a walk. Don't you have some time off?"
"Well, yes . . . but I still have a phone call to make."
He closed the gap between them and grasped her hand pulling her with him back towards the truck.
"You can call from the truck, we'll get the car later. Better call Cassie, too or she'll be worried."
They climbed into the truck and Jack started the engine while Sam dialed the cell phone and took a deep breath. She waited as the phone rang in her ears and then glanced at Jack, reaching for his hand she entwined their fingers and drew strength from the warmth of his touch. Finally, Pete answered and she turned completely towards Jack, keeping her eyes locked on him as she talked.
"Pete? I'm sorry but um, yeah, there's a problem . . . I can't . . . no, it isn't that."
She paused and when Jack glanced over he could see her lower lip trembling as she listened. The conversation seemed to go on and on. She kept her eyes on Jack and saw his jaw clench, felt his teeth grinding in response to the half-conversation.
"Whatever you want I guess. Whatever is easiest for you." There was a long pause before she spoke again. "I know. It's all my fault and I really am sorry . . ."
She closed the phone and let out a long sigh, one hand wiping away the tears. Jack looked over and extended his arm outwards towards her. She slid in next to him, wrapping one arm around his waist and resting her head on his shoulder. Sunshine danced across her hair as he drove and the warmth felt good on her skin, somehow helping to disperse the darkness that threatened her. Jack felt her shiver against him and pulled her closer.
"It'll be ok, Sam."
"He was so . . . devastated, Jack."
His voice was soft and understanding as he remembered the devastation of his own heart a short while ago.
"I just left him there to deal with everything. God! I'm a terrible person!"
Jack slowed and pulled the truck to the shoulder of the road. He didn't want her to have any doubts. It had to be her decision or he'd lose her anyway. When they'd completely stopped he turned to face her.
"Do you want to go back?"
His eyes were cold, dark pools as he stared into hers but she had the feeling that he'd do whatever she wanted without question or blame. She didn't hesitate for even a second before her head was shaking and her lips were forming the words. She didn't love Pete.
"No. God, no! I just hate what I did to him."
Jack's hand stroked the bare skin of her arm as he watched her. He understood. He almost felt sorry for Pete but not sorry enough to just let her go.
"Give it some time. You did the right thing."
"So, you're ok?"
She smiled and nodded.
"I will be."
Jack shoved the truck into gear and pulled onto the roadway again. He placed a soft kiss on her hair then returned his attention to the road and realized he was looking forward to the journey ahead, looking forward to a new beginning with Sam at his side.