23

A BOX OF MEMORIES

'There are still no fish in my pond…'

Fragments in the lives of the real SG1.

By Mara-anni

A/N: This fic is based on the notion in my head that season 9 & 10 are not actually happening. That we're still in some alternate timeline and when they finally fix it, Jack will still be commander of the SGC, Sam will still be CO of SG1 and there will be no Mitchell, unless he's there to carry the drinks. I don't mind if there's a Vala. For the purposes of this particular fic Sam & Jack have found a way to be together, legally. I don't know how exactly, they just have.

Also this is my first fic, and yes I know I'm not much of a writer, but then if I was I'd be doing it for money I guess. It is a lot more interesting than real life though. So if you do review, be gentle with me - oh never mind I can take it! braces herself for the inevitable backlash

A/N 2: I am oh so obviously crap with titles!

A BOX OF MEMORIES

Sam Carter was just slipping on her shoes about to reach for her keys when she heard the car pull up outside, 'Strange' she thought 'he didn't tell me he was expecting anyone' She went to the living room window and, discreetly, peered into the driveway. There was a beaten up old Utility she didn't recognise, she kept watching as the driver opened the door and felt the presence of those she considered closer than family sliding in behind her. As the driver's face became visible to the watchers, Sam suddenly gasped, dropping her arm, which was holding the curtain up, and, with both hands pressed to her stomach as if to keep her insides in, walked quickly into the middle of the room just in front of the coach, his coach, she closed her eyes. Her companions followed her at a more sedate pace, but strategically placed themselves farther away from the front door, near the fireplace. They could understand her anxiety, but still it was a little funny. The doorbell rang. She froze for a second as if the sound of a doorbell was a rather new experience, then turned to look at her two best friends with wide eyes,

"Umm…" was all she could utter.

"Sam? Aren't you going to get that?" Daniel Jackson asked a slight smile adorning his face.

"Well umm…"

"Indeed ColonelCarter" interjected Teal'c.

She looked at him with a slight frown, Teal'c rarely smiled, but he did smirk and the look of amusement in his eyes was unmistakeable to those that new him well enough. Sam was certain that his amusement, like Daniel's, was at her expense.

The doorbell rang again.

"Why don't one of you get it?" she said almost desperately, which earned a raised eyebrow from Teal'c, he had known her a long time and he knew that normally she would not have allowed her discomfort to show so plainly. This situation must be more uncomfortable for her than he had first anticipated.

" It would be more appropriate for you to answer this summons under the circumstances ColonelCarter." He answered.

"More appropriate?"

"Yea Sam, you know, it's kinda more your house than ours because well, you know…" Daniel was having serious trouble saying it, so Teal'c decided to intervene with his usual candid honesty.

"You are O'Neill's mate ColonelCarter."

Sam stared at him a little shocked before gracing them both with a scowl. She usually appreciated and enjoyed Teal'c's honesty – she was beginning to rethink this policy.

The doorbell rang again.

'ok, I can do this. I can take on battalions of enemy aliens! I can answer the damn door! Crap, why'd he have to be running late from the mountain today, NOW!' She took a moment to glare at her friends before turning and walking confidently to the door, a confidence she definitely did not feel.

'God, what is she doing here' Sam couldn't help but wonder if this was actually a regular occurrence and she just didn't know about it – more than possible considering her man's less than confiding nature. 'Her Man' she took a second to appreciate that thought as she neared the front door, a small smile touching her lips before she remembered who was outside the door. She hoped in a way that she was a common visitor otherwise this visit could not bode well.

Sam put her hand on the doorknob, she briefly looked back at Daniel and Teal'c before she opened the door.

Daniel and Teal'c saw her eyes in that instant and all their previous amusement vanished, Sam was scared. Of what, they weren't certain, although Teal'c suspected, but that didn't matter. The fact was that not much in this universe scared Sam Carter and that had them concerned.

They were her friends, more than that really, they were all closer than family and they would be here for her.

Without word to one another both Teal'c and Daniel walked decisively to the front door and stood slightly behind and to either side of her.

Sam felt them as she always did, their support radiating from them into her, giving her courage. The butterflies in her stomach slowed considerably and she smiled a warm and friendly smile – for this woman deserved no less – and greeted her.

"Mrs O'Neill, good morning."

Sarah O'Neill stood in the doorway clearly surprised to see these three people standing in her ex-husband's house, answering his door.

They seemed familiar to her, but she couldn't quite place them yet and clearly they knew her. 'Must work with Jack' she thought. She smiled slightly, lips tightening.

"Ahh, good morning, is Jack home?"

"I'm sorry Mrs O'Neill, he's not at the moment, but he should be back any time now, in fact he's a little late, would you like to come in and wait for him?"

Sam was not going to let her personal fears interfere with how she behaved toward Sarah and was determined to make her feel as welcome as she possibly could.

Not to mention the fact that she so did not want to have to tell Jack that his ex-wife just popped by earlier and they didn't even invite her in.

In fact she didn't want to tell him anything at all. She knew it was absurd, but they had never really discussed Sarah before, it was sort of one of those off limit topics, like Charlie, something that was never brought up let alone discussed.

Sarah was a little shocked that these people were in Jack's house without him home, they must be very good friends she guessed. She didn't want to intrude and the way the two men were flanking this woman was a little disconcerting.

"Oh, Ahh, no that's ok, I don't want to interrupt anything…"

"Please Mrs O'Neill," Sam interrupted. "General O'Neill would be less then pleased with us if we let you leave without him seeing you."

Both men took note of the formal address she gave Jack, she only ever called him 'General' or 'Sir' when they were on base and/or in uniform these days.

Sam, meanwhile, just realised that she hadn't introduced herself or the others, after all it had been over nine years since they very briefly met.

"Oh, I'm sorry Mrs O'Neill" She seemed to be saying Mrs O'Neill a lot too. "You probably don't remember us, we met some years ago in the hospital. We work with the general at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex."

When Sam mentioned their previous meeting a light bulb went off in Sarah's head, she remembered them, god how could she have forgotten, she'd seen Charlie again. But then she wasn't really paying too much attention to the others around her, at that point all she saw was Charlie hand in hand with Jack.

" Oh offcourse! You're Captain, ahh, Carter?"

"Actually, it's Colonel now" Daniel injected perhaps a little defensively, Teal'c arched an eyebrow at him and Daniel had the good grace to shrug slightly with a sheepish smile.

Sam noticed the comment too but decided to ignore it though his protectiveness of her did give her a little comfort, they were on her side – not that there were any sides to take she quickly reminded herself and gave herself a mental reprimand for linking this with any kind of competition. She had never in her life contested for the affections and attentions of a man and she sure as hell was not going to start now. Even if it was Jack O'Neill, 'damn but he has a fine ass' she thought. Ahh! this was absolutely not the time to be thinking of Jack's ass!

Sam stepped back out of the doorway a little, revealing more of Daniel and Teal'c so she could continue the introductions – or reminders – but she didn't really have to.

"Oh I'm sorry, Colonel." Sam shook her head and smiled at the correction lifting a hand to assure Sarah that she didn't take any offence.

"And you're Dr Jackson right?" Sarah continued, before looking at Teal'c, "I remember seeing you too but I don't think we were introduced."

"This is Teal'c, Mrs O'Neill" Sam told her.

There was no need to hide his real name anymore, he'd used it when he'd had his own apartment – albeit briefly – after all.

"It is an honour" Came the deep rumbling voice of the Jaffa.

Sarah blinked at his formal address.

"Please come in Mrs O'Neill, the General really shouldn't be long." Sam almost pleaded, well not really, but for Sam is was as close to a plea as anyone was likely to get.

Her boys decided to back her up at this point.

"That's right." "Indeed" they said simultaneously.

Sarah's eyebrows rose at this but, now that she remembered them she felt a little reassured and agreed to stay for a short time. She stepped through the door as Sam closed it behind her and thought it rather amazing that after all these years these people and Jack were still working closely together. Jack had never been assigned to one place for more than a year or two in the entire time they were married, but then she didn't know exactly what they did, only the little that Jack had been authorised to tell her, but she knew enough to know it wasn't exactly normal. Perhaps that's why they'd been working together for what was an unusually long time in the military.

The three members of SG1 stood to the side as Sarah walked down the step into the living room, she new exactly where she was going they noted.

They followed her down, all three of them nervously standing on the edge of the step with Sam in the middle but not going any further into the living room. Well Sam looked nervous, Daniel more curious and Teal'c was, well Teal'c, the calm rock in the midst of a raging sea. Sam had always loved that about him. Daniel offered Sarah something to drink. With Sam quickly adding,

"We could get you some tea, coffee, ahh beer?" Her offer a little rushed.

"Ahh, tea thanks, white with one"

"Great!" Sam said enthusiastically, and all three members of SG1 turned and headed off to the kitchen. Once there Sam told Daniel and Teal'c to go back in to Sarah.

"It doesn't take three people to make a cup of tea you know."

Daniel was trying to think of some way of getting out of it when Teal'c saved him again.

"Perhaps we should all join O'Neill's former wife with tea. She may feel more comfortable if we do so, therefore ColonelCarter we will aide you in the brewing of not one cup of tea, but four." How could you argue with that logic Sam thought?

She smiled at him, but caught Daniel's relieved look and decided to get some payback for his earlier amusement at her predicament.

"Ok, but that still only needs two of us, Daniel you're the people person, go down and keep her company."

Daniel realised right away what she was doing, but in the interests of supporting his friend – and probably because he deserved it – he didn't argue. He did let out a sigh and muttered " great, thanks," and added before he left, "but I get coffee." Sam smiled at him apologetically and nodded.

The drinks were soon ready and Sam and Teal'c made their way to the living room each carrying two cups. They found Sarah sitting in one of Jack's armchairs and Daniel, still standing, off near the fire place, talking about the weather or something, they could see Sarah was relieved to see them.

Sam put Sarah's tea on the table next to her chair whilst Teal'c gave Daniel his coffee.

Sarah watched, fascinated, as the three of them without discussion or even so much as looking at each other immediately took up positions on the couch, Colonel Carter in the middle again with Teal'c sitting to her right and Daniel on her left.

When they were seated each cradling their cup in their hands, there was silence.

The silence extended for several minutes before Sam made what everyone in the room thought was a heroic effort at conversation and said,

"So, Mrs O'Neill, how was the drive over?" and smiled as though she were really interested in the answer.

"Oh there wasn't really any traffic so it was a pleasant drive." Sarah appreciated Sam's efforts, especially in light of the fact that she herself had no clue what to say.

"Umm, Colonel Carter, please call me Sarah."

Sam smiled, "Thanks… you can call me Sam."

After that the small talk came fairly easily to the three humans. Teal'c just listened, reflecting, not for the first time, at the Tauri's need to fill the quiet, especially in the presence of those they did not know well. Jaffa were the opposite, less inclined to speak with those they did not know. Although he'd spent enough time with his team mates to realise that this was always idle, meaningless chatter, they did not share anything of importance with those they knew not. However he still had not been able to master the skill of small talk.

It wasn't long though before even the human's small talking skills were exhausted and silence descended again.

Sarah had nearly finished her tea, and noticed that the others had barely even touched theirs, they were also all three sitting on the edge of the couch and looking decidedly uncomfortable.

At least Sam and Dr Jackson did, Teal'c was unreadable.

Just as she was about to leave the front door opened and Sam and Daniel visibly stiffened.

Their ears and other senses more attuned to their environment through their years in the field, SG1 had heard Jack's truck pull into the drive, they were also well aware that Jack most likely knew to whom the battered old utility belonged. So when they heard the door open they knew Jack would slowly, but deliberately come to the living room and they waited for their cue.

Sam could sense him coming closer. She'd been able to do it for years, feel his presence when he was metres away from her and feel the closing of that distance. She felt it to some degree with Teal'c and Daniel too, but with Jack it was a little different and much stronger, as if he was on a bungy cord attached to her and she could feel it stretch and contract – or maybe it was she who was attached to him. Looking at his former wife in that moment, she thought perhaps that was more likely. She chastised herself for that rogue thought, but couldn't help the painful twinge in her heart. Sarah had borne him a child after all, how could she compete with that, 'Ahhhh, Slap! Slap! What in the hell Carter, THIS. IS. NOT. A. COMPETION. He loves you, he does, so shut-up.' Great, she thought, she was beginning to sound like one former Colonel in her own head now 'that can not be normal can it?'

Jack O'Neill entered the living room,

"Hey Kids!" was all he could manage to get out.

He was flustered, Sarah was in his house with SG1, with Sam.

He'd always naturally tended to use humour to relieve tense or uncomfortable situations, but this time his feeble attempt fell flat on its ass, nothing else came out of his mouth as he took in the scene before him.

SG1 were all on the couch, Sam in the middle with Daniel and Teal'c flanking her, almost protectively if he didn't know better. And there was Sarah, his ex-wife, sitting in the armchair closest to the door.

As soon as those words left his mouth, SG1 simultaneously, as if one person, leaned forward, placed their still full cups onto the coffee table in front of them and rose neatly to their feet, all three turning to face Jack. Sam and Daniel with fake smiles on their faces.

"Well!" began Sam happily, too happily, clasping her hands in front of her, "Sir, we ahh…"

She called him 'sir' Jack noticed and wondered why for a second, before suddenly realising she did it for his benefit, so he could choose whether to tell Sarah about them or not, 'god!' He also noticed how nervous she seemed, Carter was rarely nervous.

"…we ahh…we were just…" She was stuck for words, Carter.

This time though it was Daniel who came to the rescue.

"we were actually just on our way out to get some umm…" actually he'd forgotten what they were on there way out for when Sarah had arrived, evidently so did Teal'c.

"donuts" he rumbled.

Sam and Daniel nodded.

Then, again as one, they turned back toward the coffee table to pick up their things – car keys, though Daniel didn't actually have his because he came with Teal'c. Jack noticed he still turned as if to pick them up 'interesting' he thought.

All three then turned back, fake smiles still in place, and began to move, the others behind Daniel in the order they were seated on the couch, as a unit, even their steps were in-sync.

Sarah watched, rather amazed at the way these people seemed to move, speak and act as one, as they each said their goodbyes to her.

"Good-bye Mrs O'Neill" from Daniel

"It was lovely to see you again Mrs O'Neill" Sam could not bring herself to call her Sarah in front of Jack.

"It was an honour" repeated Teal'c with a bow of his head.

And they left the living room, toward the front door.

Jack was not surprised at his team's (to him they would always be his team) cohesion, and, excusing himself to Sarah he walked after them to see them out. Truth be told, he was grateful that they understood him well enough to leave him alone in this.

"Sorry about this guys, raincheck?"

"Sure Jack, its ok, you need to talk to Sarah" Daniel said, but as he did so his gaze unintentionally flickered briefly to Sam, she didn't notice, but Jack did.

"Ahh, Sam?"

He didn't want to ask really, because in honesty he had to admit to himself that he didn't want her to stay, but she was his Fiancé, he should at least give her the option.

"You don't have to go" he finished.

But Sam knew him, she knew he wouldn't want anyone else here, even her – maybe especially her.

"Thanks, but we've got to go for donuts" She replied without looking up at him as she put her jacket on, wincing on the inside at the lame excuse.

Teal'c didn't say anything but he clasped him firmly on the shoulder in farewell.

Sam turned to him then, eyes meeting his. She smiled at him, a sweet, honest smile.

God how he loved to see her smiles, she had one for every occasion you could think of, he'd have to count them one day he thought.

"Are you coming back over later?" he asked in a low but steady voice.

Her smile vanished, he frowned, remembering Sarah in the other room, though they both knew she couldn't see them just outside the front door.

Jack crossed his arms in front of himself and looked toward the floor, visibly uncomfortable.

Sam stood close to him and lifted her right arm to place it on top of his crossed arms, he looked up again and there eyes locked. He saw something there, but couldn't tell what it was, 'fear? Nah! What would she be scared of?' She spoke then, still steadily holding his eyes to hers, he could not have looked away even if he had wanted to.

"Call me if you want me." Was all she said before she lowered her gaze, removed her hand and walked away.

Jack re-entered the house and closed the door.

It was a little odd to him, he couldn't work out the look in her eyes, with the words she spoke. He looked down at his arm and smiled slightly, he could still feel a light tingle of electricity, just from the memory of her touch on his arm, he could also feel the profound loss of that warmth when she removed it.

God, he would never take the slightest touch from Sam Carter for granted.

His smile faded, he took a cleansing breath and went back into the living room with Sarah.

"Well guys I'm just going to go home, so I'll see you on base tomorrow." Sam said as she began walking to her car in Jack's driveway. But she stopped and turned back to her friends when Teal'c spoke.

"ColonelCarter, DanielJackson and I were just discussing going somewhere for lunch

Would you care to join us?"

Lunch hah? 'well lets see,' Sam thought, 'I can go home by myself, wallow in misery and make myself sick with worry, or I can hang out with my best friends. Hmm, tough choice.'

"Great! Sounds good, I'll follow you."

"ColonelCarter, it would seem more reasonable for us to take one vehicle, I shall drive."

Sam was no fool, she saw right through their little scheme to try and force her to come back and see Jack after Sarah had left. But she also knew when she was beat. Teal'c's tone brooked no argument. She may technically be Teal'c's CO, but she was also his friend, besides even the great General Jack O'Neill didn't argue with Teal'c when he was determined, and she could see from his tone of voice, to his posture, to the sparkle in his eyes, Teal'c was definitely determined about this.

"Sure Teal'c, good idea." She said as she climbed into the passenger seat and Daniel got in the back.

They sat in the booth of small café, Teal'c and Daniel on one side with Sam sitting opposite Teal'c by the window, finishing off their lunch, though Sam hadn't eaten all that much. They ate in relative quiet, with Daniel speculating every so often as to the possible reasons for Sarah O'Neill's visit, no one had any answers.

"excuse me for a minute guys." Daniel said as he left for the bathroom.

Teal'c took this opportunity to question Sam about his suspicions as to the nature of her disquiet.

"Do you believe ColonelCarter, that O'Neill still harbours romantic feelings for his former wife?" He was never one to beat around the bush.

Sam nearly choked on her coffee.

She looked up at him, then lowered her eyes to the coffee cup clasped in her hands and resting on the table.

"I…I don't really know." She almost whispered.

"Then why did you not stay when O'Neill offered?" She looked up at him briefly before lowering her eyes again.

Sam was never comfortable talking about her feelings, something else she had in common with Jack she supposed, and the romantic relationship between herself and Jack was something the team had never discussed. It wasn't really necessary, they knew what was happening and Sam and Jack had an unspoken agreement to never flaunt their relationship openly in front of the others. Hence, though when they were alone they couldn't keep their hands off each other – even in the most innocent ways they had a need to constantly be in physical contact with one another – when the rest of SG1 was around they sat apart, never kissing or touching. The others appreciated it too, it kept things comfortable for everyone including Sam and Jack, just like it had always been between the four of them.

She considered her words to Teal'c carefully, grateful that she could speak to someone about her fears, her insecurities. Teal'c was always easy to talk to, he never passed judgment, just listened.

"Teal'c, Earth has this saying, I don't know if you've heard this one. Any way it goes like this, 'if you love someone, let them go. If they come back to you then they're yours, if they don't then they were never yours.'"

Sam's gaze was still fixed on her cup.

"A most wise saying."

Teal'c loved this woman, one of his greatest friends. He admired the strength of character he saw in her. She had made Sarah O'Neill welcome in the home of her betrothed, fearing all the time that she would lose him to her.

Daniel returned from the bathroom before anything more could be said, though nothing more was needed.

Teal'c's suspicions had been correct, Colonel Carter was feeling insecure in regards to O'Neill's depth of feeling toward her, Colonel Carter and insecurity didn't seem to fit in his mind, but there it was. He was certain however that her fears were for nothing and hoped that this visit from O'Neill's ex-wife would actually come prove that to her.

Daniel started when Sam's cell phone suddenly rang out. She took it out of her pocket and glanced at the caller ID before answering. It was Jack.

"Carter." She said in her Colonel voice, a defence mechanism, she was preparing herself to let him go if she had to.

"Sam?…ahh…" he trailed off.

Teal'c and Daniel could hear Jack's voice on the phone and looked at each other in concern.

"Jack? Are you ok?" Sam couldn't remember ever hearing Jack O'Neill sound so, well so…unsure.

Her own rather selfish concerns dissolved as they were replaced by an overwhelming concern for the man she loved more than life, her lover, her best friend, Jack.

"Sam?…" he repeated, "umm, never mind I…"

"It's ok Jack, I'm on my way." Sam's voice was steady and commanding, something was wrong and he'd called her.

She hung up the phone before he could talk her out of going to him and stood, Daniel and Teal'c followed suit.

"We'll drive you back Sam." Was all that was said.

Jack O'Neill stood in his empty house staring at the phone 'crap!' What in the hell had he done that for? He hadn't meant to call her, he'd been staring at the box sitting on his living room floor for a full five minutes, trying to will himself to open it, when without thinking he'd reached into his pocket, removed his cell phone and dialled her number, he was more surprised than she was when he heard her beautiful voice. And now she was on her way over, 'Crap!' he thought again as he scrubbed at his face with both his hands in a vein attempt to rein in his emotions.

Sarah had been here, but it wasn't her that had him messed up it was this box she'd left here for him to go through.

Damn it! He couldn't do this, not now, not without a seriously stiff drink or ten.

And now Sam was coming over.

What if he completely lost it in front of her? Would she still see him the same way? She would understand, he knew that, but Jack O'Neill did not do vulnerable well, he usually used anger to mask his deeper emotions and he so did not want Sam in his firing line, 'Oh for-crying-out-load! Why'd ya call her?' Jack ran a hand through his hair and sat down in the middle if the couch. The box was at his feet, but he just couldn't open it. He couldn't look at the things it held, he thought he would completely fall apart if he did.

He reached forward and picked something up off the coffee table.

This was hard enough and only the decades Jack had spent locking his feelings away in a tight box prevented him from weeping like a child.

He held the baseball mitt almost reverently before slipping his hand into the soft leather. He picked up the baseball with his other hand, repeatedly turning it in his long fingers and gently tossing it into the mitt. Sarah had brought this too.

Jack had no idea how long he'd sat there like that when he heard her footsteps on the front porch. Truth be known he had felt her long before he'd heard her, he could always feel her, but he couldn't make himself move front his current position still on the couch.

Sam didn't knock, she had a key and she was going to use it.

She didn't know why he'd called, although he seemed to regret it, and she didn't care, all she cared about was the fact that something was wrong and she'd be damned if she was going to leave him alone with it.

Sam walked determinedly to the door and opened it.

She should have realised she wouldn't need her key, Jack never locked his door.

She wasn't surprised that she knew exactly where he was though she couldn't see him, so she walked into the living room slowing her pace as she entered for what she saw troubled her.

Jack was sitting in the middle of the couch, legs spread wide apart as always, there was an unopened box by his feet, but that's not what concerned her. In his big hands he held a well cared for baseball and mitt and Sam knew immediately to whom they must belong. 'Oh my god!'

She slowly but steadily walked into the middle of the room so that she was standing directly in front of him, but she kept her distance not wanting to crowd him.

Sam toyed with the idea of leaving for a moment, thinking perhaps he'd rather be alone, after all Charlie was the other off limits topic with Jack, but then he looked up at her. It was very brief, he glanced up, not meeting her eyes and looked back down at the glove and ball, but it was enough. His face was blank, almost unreadable, he was almost as good at that as Teal'c, but Sam knew better. She knew that he only put on that mask when he was trying to hide some deeper feeling, and she also knew that here was a man who felt deeply. That's why he locked it all up, because he was afraid if he didn't he wouldn't survive it. But in that moment she also saw his eyes, his beautiful chocolate eyes, and what she saw was unutterable grief. There was no way she was leaving him now, no way!

She didn't really know what to do though, no words seemed good enough and besides their relationship was never really based on words. He never told her he loved her the way Pete had always done, but he never had to, she heard it in the little things he did for her, saw it in his eyes, felt it in his touch and god in his lips when he kissed her.

They communicated so well, even for the most mundane things, without much talk, so she decided to stay silent.

She stood still and quiet, just watching him.

Eventually he moved to sit on the edge of the couch, leaning forward to replace the ball and mitt on the coffee table. Her eyes followed his every movement. He brought his hands back, elbows resting on his knees and without looking up, he spoke for the first time.

"Sarah's moving out of Colorado." He began, his voice soft and gravely as if he hadn't used it in a while.

She loved the sound of his very masculine voice, it matched the rest of him perfectly, but she wasn't thinking about the qualities of his voice right now.

"Her Dad's sick so they're moving somewhere with nicer weather." He paused, Sam remained silent.

"She never did like it here really, too cold for her…she probably only stayed after the divorce because of…"

He left the rest unsaid, but Sam knew what he meant, Charlie was buried here, but she still didn't speak.

"But then I guess with her dad sick…" He paused again, but remained in the same position, head bowed.

"She left his room just the way it was the day it happened, never moved a thing."

In all the years they had known one another he had never talked about any of this, with anyone. Even Daniel only knew the basics, the hard, cold facts, Jack didn't talk about his past.

"She never gave me anything of his and I never asked." His voice was so quiet at the end, she barely heard him.

"What was I supposed to do with anything anyway?" His voice back to the quiet gravely one of before, but Sam noticed an edge of bitterness in it too.

"Just lock it away in some box in the attic? Or put it on the mantle so I can be reminded everyday of what I lost?"

He had photos of Charlie all over the house, but things were different, they were his things, like the baseball, which Jack would never be able to toss around the backyard with him again. It would just sit there gathering dust, useless, an echo.

Sam stayed still and silent.

Jack continued, the bitterness in his voice gone.

"I guess it was different for Sarah, she had his whole bedroom. We never talked about it…or at least I never did…I guess she just couldn't bring herself to get rid of anything that belonged to him."

Sam stood, she didn't allow any emotion to touch her face as she continued to look at him, but on the inside she had to admit she was dumbfounded. Was this Jack, her Jack. He never spoke about deeply personal things especially in regards to Sarah and Charlie, and yet here he was speaking more words in a few minutes than she'd heard him utter in nine years. In fact she was exceedingly surprised that he hadn't kicked her out of his house yet. But his posture, his whole body screamed of his profound sorrow, he looked so tired. His head was still bowed, eyes on the floor and his hands hanging loosely between his knees.

She wanted to touch him, to take his elegant, purely male hands into her smaller ones and kiss each palm long and soft.

She wanted to feel those hands on her cheeks and to kiss his pain away.

But she knew it wasn't that easy. She knew he wouldn't appreciate her touch now, not yet. He was talking, and she knew that the slightest movement or sound on her part would break the spell, he would draw back into himself and then he probably would kick her out. Somehow she knew he'd never told these things to anyone before, she felt privileged to be hearing it, and she was determined to allow him to unburden his soul of the pain he'd carried alone for so long.

Nothing would ever take that pain away she understood that, but maybe it could be eased and at the very least he didn't have to carry it alone, not while she had breath left in her body. So she stayed where she was, listened and waited.

"We never talked about it…any of it...I…just couldn't"

He closed his eyes, the last two words seemed to force their way out of his mouth against his will. He paused for some time like this, eyes squeezed shut. He opened them eventually.

"Now that she's moving, she's had to go through his room. Decide what to take what not to take. That's why she came over…she's brought some of his stuff…" His left hand moved slightly then to wave at the cardboard box next to him.

"Wants me to go through it and see if there's anything I want. Said she'd be back in a couple hours to pick up the rest."

Suddenly Sam understood, he was scared, terrified of going through Charlies old things. Jack was so used to being in control of everything including his emotions that he was afraid he'd lose that control and never regain it again.

"Should'a just told her to take it all back then and there. But…I think maybe I'll keep his baseball and mitt."

God why had he said that, Jack thought to himself, in fact why had he said any of this, maybe he was already losing it. Head still bowed, he brought his hands up to cover his face.

That was her cue.

Sam realised with certainty that now she could, should move, go to him. He was finished talking. She moved toward him, not wanting to startle him in this vulnerable state, which she'd never witnessed in him before, she kept her movements deliberate but painfully slow.

He felt the air shift in the room as she moved for the first time, felt the familiar and pleasant tingle up his spine as she neared him, but she didn't say anything, just kept slowly moving closer. He took his hands away from his face and looked up toward her but he didn't look at her lovely face or into her big eyes, and suddenly he was struck with an overwhelming fear of a different kind - that she would leave.

It confused him, this is something he would normally have preferred to do alone right?

But there it was, he wanted her here with him and she wasn't leaving, in fact now she was standing right next to him, her leg almost touching his right knee as he continued to sit on the edge of the couch.

She could see his face, now, though he still wasn't meeting her eyes. But she could see enough, she could read him like no one else could, except maybe Daniel and Teal'c. The fear was evident to her Jack-attuned senses.

She walked right up to the couch, to his right. Then, still very slowly, lowered herself onto the couch. She curled her left leg under her with her knee just touching the back of the couch and her right knee touching his so she could sit facing toward him. He turned his head to the right and looked at her then, he couldn't resist it, he looked into her eyes and what he saw there made his breath hitch. There was no recrimination, no pity, no judgment, in fact there was nothing but total and pure love in her eyes. It nearly knocked the wind out of him, her face was serene, her eyes as blue as he had ever seen them and as bright as the sun and he saw the deepest love in them.

He was lost in her eyes even as he felt her left arm lift. She laid it on his right shoulder, he felt the familiar electric charge whenever she touched him. She then slowly moved it around his back to rest on his left shoulder, never losing the contact. At the same time her right hand came up and she lay her palm against his cheek, while she silently continued to hold his gaze. She caressed him gently with her thumb and then lowered her hand to rest on his right thigh. She still said nothing.

Jack understood what she was telling him though. 'I am here with you'.

She wasn't leaving, she would go through this with him and carry him safely through the other side.

Suddenly, with pristine clarity he understood why he'd called her on the cell phone: he needed her. He didn't just want her, which he did very much, but he needed her.

He closed his eyes and lowered his head slightly, but didn't turn away from her.

Jack O'Neill had never needed anyone in his life and the thought actually scared him a little, Sam had a power over him that no one had ever had before. He'd had close relationships with people he cared a great deal for but he never really needed them, it was always others that needed him, not the other way around. Even with Sarah, the only woman he'd ever really loved before Sam, it had been that way, and he had loved her. But he didn't really need her. When he was stuck in the hell whole that was Iraq, it was thoughts of Sarah that kept him going, gave him the will to get home, not because he needed her, but because she needed him. And now Jack O'Neill needed someone, and not just any someone, he needed Samantha Carter.

He opened his eyes again and looked back into hers. His fear vanished.

She loved him.

Sam had seen him at his best and at his worst, she knew him and she loved him anyway, he didn't for the life of him understand why, but she did.

Sam squeezed his thigh, a gentle encouragement. He turned back to face the box that held some of his son's most treasured possessions. He reached toward it with his right arm, fingers extended, ready, but just as he was about to open the flaps his hand clenched into a tight fist and his arm drew back a little. With his fist still hovering over the box, Jack closed, his eyes. He couldn't do it, he would fall apart if he did.

Sam saw him pause and close his eyes, 'God! This must be so painful for him.' She thought.

Still without speaking a word Sam slowly moved her right hand from his thigh up to his right shoulder. Jack opened his eyes. His arm still suspended in mid air, Sam drew her hand down his arm to rest on the top his fist. His grip loosened, accepting her fingers between his. He looked up at her. Her eyes had never left his.

"I…can't" he whispered so very faintly, she saw the words on his lips rather than heard them.

Sam was calm, she was always calm in a crisis.

It helped, it had always helped.

She held his eyes to her own telling him without words that everything would be ok. She let go of his fist and moved her hand under his, threading her fingers between his again but this time his palm rested on the top of her hand. She was asking him to surrender to her, that she would do this with him as one if he let her. But he had surrendered his very soul to her long ago, she was a part of him, as essential as breathing. He wondered if he would ever find a way of letting her know that. Jack answered by flexing his fingers down into her palm. She turned toward the box then, leaning into him as she reached, taking his hand with hers.

Jack's eyes never left her face as she began to push aside the box flaps, he marvelled at this woman sitting before him, even as he felt through the hand still attached to her that she had finished.

She straitened, and their eyes met again as she brought his hand to rest on her knee. Then she looked away again toward the box, another silent encouragement. Jack closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath before he too turned back to the box. He felt Sam's grip on his hand and shoulder tighten a little and he realised he was holding his breath, he let it out slowly.

The first thing Jack saw was Charlie's model of the space shuttle, they had built it together.

'Oh God! My son!'

Nothing showed on Jack's face, but his grip on Sam's hand tightened as if she was his anchor. He didn't even realise it until she returned the squeeze and the thumb of her left hand began gently caressing his shoulder blade.

He could do this, Sam was his anchor, his life line. He did need her and he was glad.

He thought he'd break into pieces when he first saw that shuttle, but Sam was here and as hard as this was for him he realised that she was the glue that would keep him from falling apart.

He reversed the positions of their hands again. With her hand on top of his, he held her fingers twined with his and reached into the box for the shuttle. He brought his left hand up then, to help him, he didn't want to let go of Sam.

A small smile touched his lips as he remembered that Charlie had shared his love of astronomy, 'he would have loved Sam Carter' he thought. And then without knowing why or being able to stop himself, he started to speak again, his voice soft and deep.

"Whenever we went to the cabin, Charlie and I would lie out on a blanket at night to look at the stars, I taught him the constellations."

He spoke like this for a long time, each time he took one of his son's things out of the box, he would hold it and tell Sam a short story about Charlie, never once letting go of her hand.

Sam smiled at his stories and even chuckled at the funnier ones, but she never spoke a word.

They had finished. Jack had looked at every one of Charlie's treasured possessions the box had held, and they brought back so many memories. It was painful, but he was glad he'd done it. He remembered his son, each object evoked another time they'd had together and even though Jack would never forgive himself for Charlie's death he could remember those times with him.

Jack, still holding Sam's right hand, placed the last object carefully back into the box and closed the flaps.

He turned back to Sam then for the first time since he began his narration. He should have felt uncomfortable and embarrassed with the way he'd prattled on, he thought, but he didn't. He felt… what was it…at ease?...relieved? he didn't really know but decided in the end he didn't really give a damn.

Their eyes locked, the unconditional love he saw in them earlier was still there, 'thank god!' but he noticed that her eyes were a little too bright, the rest of her face was still calm but in her eyes were tears.

She was holding them back though, 'she's good at that.'

He turned his whole body more toward her and she brought her left hand around so it was resting on the side of his neck, her thumb just touching his jaw line. He smiled inwardly, he was so not complaining, but she did seem to have a thing for his neck… and his collar bone…and… And then for the first time since she walked in his door, Sam spoke.

"I'm so sorry Jack." There was only the slightest hitch in her voice to betray her emotions, he would never have heard it if he didn't know her voice so well.

He let go of her hand and reached up to hold her face in both of his.

Oh god! How she loved his hands. Broad palms and long dextrous fingers, slightly calloused from his years in the field. They were always so warm and they engulfed her face with a touch that was tender, yet firm, god she loved them, they were so…so, well…manly! She nearly laughed at the thought. What was there about Jack O'Neill that was not pure, Hot, totally sexy Man!

His eyes left hers and roamed like a caress all over her face before settling on her mouth. His thumb ran over her lips and her heartbeat quickened, but then it always did when ever he touched her. His gaze flicked back up to her eyes briefly before returning to her slightly open mouth and he leaned ever so slowly in toward her gently pulling her toward him too.

And he kissed her, a very long, painfully slow, but oh so pleasant kiss.

It was the way Jack spoke, actions rather than words.

The kiss was beautiful, passionate, and reverent all at the same time - 'the man is an artist' - and told her all she needed to know in a way that words never could.

He loved her completely.

God! This kiss, only Jack O'Neill could kiss her like this.

'God! I love that warm tingle I get in my stomach whenever he kisses me! I think I'm addicted to his lips, ooh! And the taste of him!' God!

She never wanted it to end, they didn't really need to breath did they?

With a last soft press of his lips to hers, he leaned back and she looked up into his dark eyes. He noticed they were no longer bright and moist, instead they seemed to glow and she smiled at him, that smile, HIS smile. He smirked back at her, dimpling his cheeks. She'd got his message.

THE END.

A/N: I didn't really want it to end here but couldn't think of anything else - stupid brain!