AN: Ok, kids... this is the last part. It's super long, but I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

Chapter Twenty-Two

With their new, almost agreed-on purchases loaded in the truck, Carter climbed in the back to fasten the car seat in place. Jack had been the one to do it when they were leaving the house, but she'd left him the responsibility of returning the cart through the lot of unattended toddlers and speeding cars. As she was climbing out, she noticed a file folder on the floor. She wasn't one to go through things that weren't hers and certainly not her CO's things, but she was particularly curious about it. It took all of her strength not to peek at it as she put it on the dashboard. Just because she wasn't peeking didn't mean she wasn't going to ask.

Her eyes were glued to the folder, except for the moment she took to check on Jack's progress. She didn't see him and she was about to reach out and open it when the door suddenly opened. She nearly jumped out of her skin.

"Ready to go?"

Carter's attention ripped off the folder. She hoped she didn't look guilty. "That was under the seat."

He looked nervous as he glanced between the folder and Carter. "You didn't look?"

She shook her head, trying to look innocent. "What sort of person do you think I am?"

He smiled, visibly relaxing as he pulled one sheet out of the folder that obviously contained more. "It's Cheyenne's birth certificate."

Carter smiled, immediately forgetting about Jack's weird behavior. "Really?" She took it from him and looked at it. Her heart leapt unexpectedly when she saw their full names spelled out as mother and father. She felt proud when she saw Cheyenne's name spelled out. But then she looked up at him. "I thought we weren't going to do that."

He looked concerned. "Do what?"

"I thought we agreed on O'Neill."

He grinned again. "It's her middle name, Carter. I don't recall you objecting to that."

She hadn't really gotten around to thinking of a middle name. "Cheyenne Carter O'Neill."

"I'm sure you can tell Janet that I got it wrong and she'll fix it." His voice was flat, hurt, nervous. And Carter realized that it was as important to him that Cheyenne have her name as it was to her that Cheyenne have his name.

She shook her head. "It's fine. I hadn't thought about a middle name."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Jack." She smiled at him, reaching out to squeeze his hand. They weren't so good at the verbal communication. She thought about that night in the kitchen and the previous night she'd spent with her arms around him. They certainly did much better at the physical part.

The longer she spent in the truck, the more curious she got concerning what else was in that folder. She wanted to ask, but she knew Jack would tell her when he was ready and that asking before he was ready would have no effect. And she didn't want to risk making him mad again. Luckily, it didn't take long for them to get home and Carter could distract herself by going through the new things they'd bought for Cheyenne. Jack spent the rest of the afternoon playing silly games with the baby that made Carter wonder if he'd regressed mentally a few decades.

By the time they had dinner, Carter had all but forgotten about the little incident over Michael and the file folder in the truck. Jack was in his element while he was cooking, pouring beer liberally into everything he made. Carter thought it was funny, which she blamed on the fact that she'd been drinking about as much beer as Jack, which was remarkably more than he poured in the food. They both laughed their way through dinner, loosened up considerably by the alcohol. Jack put in a movie afterward and slung his arm around Carter's shoulders and Carter, without any conscious thought, wound up snuggled against his chest. She drifted off hallway through the movie and would have been quite content to stay there forever.

Jack shifted to check on Cheyenne, waking Carter in the process. He smiled as he tried to settle his arm back around her. "Sorry."

Carter was feeling too good - from the beer and the nap and the snuggling - and she was hopelessly charmed by the sight of Jack checking on her daughter. She only smiled, shifting herself more comfortably against him. "It's ok."

"Come on." He stood up, reaching out his hand for her.

The nervous butterflies were back, waking her and sobering her simultaneously. It was the same as the previous night - he was asking her to decide to join him. It still unnerved her, as sure as she was about him, about them. She did want to take it slow. She did want to discuss it before they did anything. But she knew, and he knew too, that spending so much time in close proximity was likely to result in one of them making a quick decision without the benefit of forethought. He was asking her to play with fire and he knew she wanted to. Her indecision showed on her face.

"I owe you a backrub, Carter." His voice was as intoxicating as the beer had been and more addictive.

She slipped her hand into his and let him lead the way to her bedroom. Part of her was inundated with nerves as she followed, but the rest of her trusted him completely and knew he wouldn't let them make a mistake. Their relationship was just as important to him. She lay down on her belly and waited for his hands to work their magic. She knew she was tense - he wouldn't be able to miss that.

"Take off your shirt."

She smiled to herself. She knew he figured his request would throw her, but she'd never changed out of her running clothes - she'd spent the whole day in sweatpants, a t-shirt, and, unbeknownst to Jack, a sports bra. She knew that sports bras were not what any man was expecting when a woman stripped and they were impossible for a man to remove without help. The added bonus was that Jack had, unintentionally of course, seen her in one before, so he wouldn't even get to see anything he hadn't seen before. She hid her smile as she pulled her shirt off and settled back down.


She laughed in response. "I never said I would make it easy for you."

A second later, he turned the tables on her, straddling her the way she hadn't dared do to him the previous night. His hands felt hot on the skin of her shoulders. She was nervous and the thought, the feel, of him on top of her, should only have made her more so. But his hands were amazing, stripping years of stress out of her muscles with practiced ease.

She had to clench her teeth to keep from moaning at how great it felt. Somehow he seemed to know exactly where she was tense and exactly how to get her to relax. It wasn't merely the massage that was driving her out of her mind; no, it was the feel of his hands on her, his weight pressing against her. The heat in his skin seemed to intensify until it felt like her skin was burning. She wondered if that had been the way it felt for him, if her hands scored his back with the unspoken need to touch him. She felt herself relax, despite all the thoughts running through her mind. All the tension left her without her permission, melted right out of her body by his insistent hands.

She hardly noticed when his touch changed the same way hers had, becoming feather light, just brushing her, barely making contact. But it seemed different to her somehow than her touches had been intended to feel. She'd enjoyed touching him and wanted him to enjoy it too, to feel good. Rather than a simple caress the way hers had been, his touch felt more possessive. It felt like he was staking his claim on her, branding her, with his searing hands. Every instinct in her brain told her to be mad, to resist such a display, to deny acceptance of his claim. Her brain wanted to hate that he saw her like that - that she was his property somehow. But she knew that wasn't how he saw her at all.

Just like her mind knew better than to give in to the way he was touching her, she knew he was thinking the same thing, that he shouldn't be touching her like that, that he shouldn't be touching her at all.

And just like his body continued to mark her, regardless of his higher brain function, her body gave in to him. Her skin came alive, tingling, burning, making her more desperate for him.

Thought process be damned, her body wanted his to claim her. On the intellectual level, they were still teammates, friends, coworkers. On the emotional and physical levels, the bond went much deeper. She wondered which side was going to win; she wondered which side she wanted to win. Her brain was growing weary of the constant struggle.

His weight shifted then, his hands leaving her skin entirely. She almost cried out for losing the incredible sensation. But his weight shifted forward, pressing against her back. Her eyes opened, seeing one of his hands on her left, bracing himself to keep from crushing her. Then his lips found her skin and her eyes fluttered closed as she gave herself over to the feeling. His lips brushed her shoulder first, slowly caressing their way to her neck. He kissed her cheek and her chin. She nearly screamed when she felt his mouth open against her ear, his tongue tracing it. She reached out, using all of the voluntary muscle control she could summon to bring one of her hands to his. He'd lowered himself to his elbows and she blindly searched along his arm until her hand found his. Their fingers tangled together; her tolerance of his actions spurring him on.

She was sure she would pass out when he sucked her earlobe into his mouth, flicking at it with his tongue. Trying to separate herself from the awareness of what was happening, she tried to dissect why and how he was making her go crazy. She wore earrings nearly everyday. When she was twelve she'd let a friend pierce them with a safety pin. Her ears were not the most sensitive part of her anatomy by far. And yet, with the lightest touch on that insensitive skin, he'd managed to restore every bit of tension he'd released in her and then some. She knew, in that moment, that she wasn't going to stop him. She didn't want to. She didn't think she could. She was sure she'd lose her mind if she didn't find release in his arms.

His mouth finally ceased its torment of her ear, probably unaware that he'd reduced her to a spineless, willing, desperate shell of what she had been. His lips grazed over her neck again, stopping here and there to lick at her skin. Her neck had always been particularly responsive, but her nerve endings had already been overloaded at that point and she knew she couldn't possibly be any more turned on than she already was. She wanted to flip over, reverse their positions, and tell him she'd had enough, make him finish what he'd started. She wanted to make him give in as completely as she had. But she couldn't move, couldn't speak. She could only lay there and let him seduce her.

His lips traveled down to the junction of her neck and shoulder. She knew it was the first place stress made itself known in her body. It had been where his hands had begun the torment only a few minutes earlier. She knew he'd be able to feel all that tension right back where it had been. Part of her expected that he'd reach for her again to try to relax her. Part of her expected that he'd simply continue to kiss her until he lost control the way she had.

None of her expected his mouth to open, nipping at the skin and muscle, teeth pressing down until it was no longer a nip. It had been exactly what she'd thought and, if her brain had been able to process anything besides raw need and unfathomable desire at that moment, she would have been amused to realize she'd been right. He was claiming her, instinctively, just like an animal in the wild. She'd thought he was in control, but he wasn't. His impulses had long since won the battle with his brain.

She could feel his teeth digging into her skin; not so hard to break the skin, but enough to leave a mark, enough to make clear his final comment regarding Michael and any other man she might ever look at. She couldn't clench her jaw hard enough to suppress the moan the spilled out. She'd never wanted him as much as she did right then. She'd never wanted anyone that badly. She almost whimpered when his teeth finally released her. His lips pressed back against the skin there, kissing her softly. She could feel him shaking as he lowered his forehead against her hair. She could feel his breath falling on her wet skin in short pants. She could feel his fingers quivering where her hand touched his. She hadn't even touched him. She hadn't even kissed him. She hadn't even looked at him. She'd never felt as powerful as she did then, feeling what his desire for her did to him.

And then in a flash, something changed. His hoarse, forced whisper against her hair, apologizing in a crushed, tearful voice. The freezing cold air that attacked her skin when he retreated from her. The painfully loud sound of the front door slamming behind him.

It took her several minutes before she had enough strength to sit up. She had to follow him. She had to give chase. She knew if she didn't it would be over, once and for all. She had to find him and tell him that his apology hadn't been necessary, that his touch hadn't been unwelcome, that his instincts hadn't misread her at all.

As she reached for her discarded shirt, she realized she was shaking too. Tears pricked her eyes at the knowledge that whatever they shared, it was equal. She needed him as much as he needed her. Any power she had over him was matched perfectly by the power he had over her.

She swiped at the tears in her eyes and tripped toward the front door. She didn't know how she would find him; her car had been abandoned at the base the day they'd brought Cheyenne home. She opened the door, ready to run down the street after him, without even knowing where he'd gone. But he hadn't gone far.

He was sitting on the front step with his face in his hands. His shoulders were shaking and she hated that he was crying. She didn't know what to say, so she sat down next to him, ignoring the way his body jerked away from hers. Grabbing one of his wrists, she pulled his hand from his face.

"Shh, come here." She pulled him, knowing she was no match for him in strength. Surprisingly, he didn't resist; not at all. His face burrowed into her neck, his arms wrapped around her waist. "It's ok." She held him, rubbing his back as he sobbed into her neck, mumbling more unnecessary apologies to her. "Don't, Jack. It's ok."

He pulled back all too soon, shielding his red eyes from her sight. "I'm sorry. I really am. I didn't mean to push you. I -" His fists clenched tightly. "I lost it. I'm sorry, Carter. I swear I never meant to hurt you."

It took everything in her not to laugh at his last statement. Hurt was the complete opposite of what he'd done to her and he had no idea. "You didn't hurt me." She put her hand on his leg, hoping to drive home the point. "If that was you losing control, then I'm safer with you than I've ever been with anyone."

He looked at her, too startled to remember he was trying to hide his face in embarrassment. "I didn't scare you?"

She shook her head. "No, not at all. I've seen worse." She saw his eyes darken and she knew she'd have to explain herself someday, to tell him about the one man who'd actually tried to hurt her in a drunken rage. The story ended pleasantly enough, though, at least for her, with him in the hospital and her free to find the man of her dreams. But it wasn't the night to get into all that. It was the night to settle what was between them, not in their past. "This whole thing, loving someone this much, scares me. But you don't, Jack."

"I know you, Carter. I know how you think. You want to be in control of everything. This is terrifying because you're not in control. Neither of us is." He reached out finally, wrapping his arm around her and hugging her to him. "I'm scared too."

She loved the feel of his arm around her. She loved the idea of them sitting together on the porch. She loved the thought of spending the rest of her life at his side. And she was able to open up in a way she'd never be able to manage. "I've never felt like this before, Jack."

His lips pressed against her hair. "Neither have I, Carter." He sat back, threading his fingers into her hair and turning her to face him. "There's something I have to tell you."

She was certain her heart stopped in her chest. She'd thought they were getting somewhere, but the tone of his voice told her he was about to pull the rug out from under her. "About what?"

"When I was being a jerk this morning about your friend and you snapped at me-" He stopped to take a breath and Carter had precisely enough time to panic, thinking only that he'd picked a fine time to reprimand her. "I saw the look in you eyes and it scared me. You were afraid that you'd snapped at your CO and you were waiting for me to yell at you." She looked up, wondering if he realized she was still awaiting that very thing. "But I was being an ass and you were completely right to call me on it and you shouldn't have to live in fear of setting me straight when I need it."

She had no idea what he was trying to say and therefore she had no idea what he expected her to say in response. So she just looked at him and waited.

"In the field, I was your CO. But here, like this-" He squeezed her shoulder to emphasize his point. "We're equals and if I deserve to get my head ripped off, I fully expect you to do it."

She nodded slowly, already trying to figure out how she could keep a mental line drawn between Colonel O'Neill and Jack. She knew it wouldn't be easy. And then something clicked. "Wait, you said you were my CO."

He smiled softly and nodded. "I said you we didn't need a nanny-cam either."

Her jaw dropped open. "Does this have something to do with the folder in the truck?"

"Yeah." He grinned proudly. "I retired. Again."

"Jack!" She couldn't imagine going to work without him, not seeing him on the base, not being with him all day.

"General Hammond thinks my military experience will come in handy as a consultant. The papers in the truck are the paperwork to make it all official."

"I don't know what to say." She didn't want to be happy that he'd made such a sacrifice for her, but she couldn't help being pleased that he'd done it for her and for Cheyenne, that he hadn't demanded that she make the sacrifice of her career. The fact that he was her CO was a huge part of what bothered her about their relationship. In fact, with that out of the way, she wasn't sure anything bothered her about their relationship.

"Say you'll think about marrying me now."

She smiled, thinking that her dream of sharing the O'Neill name with her daughter was a possibility after all. "Well, now that it's not criminal, I can probably consider it."

"Oh, and for the record, the General is just as certain that you could be steadily employed as a part-time consultant for the program as well, if you happen to be interested."

"I'll have to think about that one." It was good to have options, knowing that she didn't have to return to her dangerous job on the front lines and leave her baby behind. It was nice to know that she wouldn't have to sever herself completely from the job she loved too. She stood up, shivering as the cold night air starting to bother her. "What do you say we pick up where we left off?"

Jack accepted her hand as he stood up, searching her eyes for something. "Are you sure?"

She smiled as she led him back into the house. "Hey, if we can defend the planet from all numbers of countless evils, we can handle this, right?"

"Absolutely." He had to kick the door shut behind him because his arms were suddenly very full of Samantha Carter.