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JUST ONE NIGHT – by Lesleyp
Jack re read the letter of resignation that Hank had faxed to him an hour ago. Clear, concise, to the point. He'd been surprised, not only with the content, but he had expected something like this shoulda been a little more on the rambling side.
Dear General Landry
Sir, effective immediately, I request that you accept the resignation of my commission and authorize my immediate discharge from the United States Air Force.
Lt. Col. Samantha Carter
'O…k,' he drawled out in his mind, using that same confused tone inwardly that he used so often audibly.
He picked up the phone and dialed the mountain. Once connected he requested Col. Carter's lab. After ten rings he was almost ready to give up, but then she answered.
"Carter," she stated.
Simple, to the point. The same voice he heard every night in his dreams. Jack closed his eyes.
"So…." he finally opened. "Whatcha doin?"
"Sir?" she was obviously surprised.
"I'm looking at a letter of resignation," he said, coming straight to the point.
"Yes sir," she should've known General Landry would have alerted him. 'Damn,' she thought.
"So, again I ask. Whatcha doin?"
"Resigning sir," she responded nonchalantly.
"Got that. Begs the question though," he hesitated briefly, "Why?"
"A lot of reasons sir."
"Oh come on Carter, throw me a bone," he was starting to sound frustrated. "How about just give me one."
She did sound tired. No wonder, she'd been at this ten years. No, longer if you counted the time she worked on the project at the Pentagon even before they got the gate working. Before he even knew of the gate. Before he had met her. He thought back to the day he met her.
Bright eyed. Bright blue eyed. Feisty. Challenged him to an arm wrestle. He wondered if anyone had ever guessed why he'd had to sit down so quickly. Yes, he had told her, he liked women. What he didn't tell her was that he really liked her. Or at least looking at her. Liked her spunk too. Not too many men could stand up to him and she had held fast. He had been surprised at how it had turned him on. But he managed to suppress it. At least for awhile. Every now and then though, it had come rearing back through his defenses.
"This is sudden," he commented out loud to her, trying to use an even tone.
"Yes sir," was all she said.
Jack could feel his frustration rising. She wasn't making this easy. When Sam gave clipped short answers, well, it just wasn't natural. Something was really wrong. He needed to be there for her. He felt it in every nerve ending.
"Do me a favor?" he asked.
"If I can."
"Hold off. Just a couple of days. I want - need - to talk to you about this. For me to understand. I'm getting old and feeble you know. My comprehension skills aren't what they used to be," he tried to joke. "I just can't right now. Have to….be somewhere. Can you do that? For me?"
"Sure. Sir. I can hold off a couple of days. I should really get my notes together for whoever takes over," Sam agreed, although he heard the hesitancy in her tone.
"Great!" he said almost too happily. "I'll let General Landry know."
Then, "Thanks Sam."
"For what?" she asked.
He couldn't answer that. So instead he said, "I'll be in touch - soon."
"Yes sir," and she hung up.
Jack wasted no time. Every fiber of his being was telling him something was terribly wrong. He didn't want to alert Sam. Didn't want her to bolt. He sensed she would do just that if she knew he was on his way. His instincts were on high alert.
The truth of it was, they, meaning the entire planet, just could not afford to lose her. Not now. Not ever. Not especially with the Ori on their way.
Sam puttered around her small house. She had too much energy and didn't know what to do with it. She started a thorough cleaning but that was finished by 20:00. Too early to go to bed, not to mention the fact that she wasn't tired. She tried to sit and watch television, but she found herself far too restless. She decided to take a hot bath, hoping the heat would relax her into a more restful state.
However, five minutes in the tub and out she got. Toweled off, put on her night shirt and began to pace the house.
He wanted to know why. How could she tell him when she didn't even know. She dreaded his call back. She used to love her job. The excitement, the adventure, the thrill. But she was losing her zeal. She could feel it ebb away after every mission. And she didn't know why. No amount of inner analysis helped. All she could come up with was a feeling of loss. So overwhelming sometimes it almost brought her to tears.
She wondered if she was still grieving her dad, but that didn't make sense. Yes, she missed him. But not enough for these blahs that were overtaking her. Then she thought maybe it wasn't loss exactly, more like missing something. But what? As hard as she could she just couldn't pin point when these feelings started, or at least when they had started to overtake her.
A few weeks ago she'd had the time of her life. Cam's two hundredth time through the gate. What a laugh. He was so - what? Juvenile sometimes. But General O'Neill had shown up and had gone along with them. Just like old times. The cake, the balloons, the party. It had been so much fun.
And then slowly, this creeping sadness. She hadn't even noticed it at first, but by this morning it was threatening to completely overwhelm her. It's not like she really wanted to leave, but there she was, handing in her resignation. She just could not explain it.
She was brought from her pacing and reverie by a loud knock on the door.
She walked slowly to the door. Normally she would have peeked out the window. It was the cautious thing to do. But this time she just unlocked and opened it.
Jack looked at her. She was pale, and thinner than the last time he'd seen her. But damn! She looked hot in that night shirt. 'Easy boy', he warned himself, 'You're here for her, not your own libido.'
Sam shook her head in confusion. 'What the hell is he doing here?'
"Hey," he said casually.
It had been along time since she'd seen him wearing civilian clothing. Tan slacks, black t-shirt, and his leather jacket slung casually over his shoulder. It hit her all of a sudden. What she had been missing. Him. A lump formed in her throat, but outwardly she gave nothing away. Hiding it came easy. She'd had lots of practice hiding her feelings for him over the years.
"Sir," was Sam's only steady greeting.
Taken aback Jack looked past her shoulder. Had he interrupted something? Looking back to her eyes his face showed his concern.
"Well," he began, "Are you going to let me in?"
Sam shook her head as though to clear it and make sure he wasn't an illusion standing there. Finally she moved out of the way and opened the door further, allowing him entry. She didn't say a word though. She didn't know what to say.
Bringing himself to his full height, almost as though he was trying to brace himself mentally, he looked at her quizzically one more time. It hadn't been the reception he had expected. He'd imagined lots of scenarios on the plane. From happy to not so much. Some had tears, some had anger. But never had he expected this kind of – what? Indifference?
Jack stepped through the entry way and waited while she closed and locked the door behind them. Without a word she turned and led the way into the kitchen, her hips swaying tantalizingly under the night shirt, her long legs striding down the hall way, and he felt the old pangs come breaking through again. He closed his eyes momentarily and took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly before following her.
Once in the kitchen Sam turned to look at him. He was worried about her, she could tell. Yet she was unable to put his mind at ease. She had become so used to this cat and mouse thing she knew they had both been feeling over the years that she'd become almost lethargic and immune to it's effects on her.
"Can I get you something?" she offered congenially. "Coffee maybe?"
"Sure, coffee sounds great," he answered, throwing his jacket onto the arm of the loveseat in the adjoining sitting room.
He then took a seat at the breakfast bar, watching her go through the motions of making coffee. Neither of them spoke during her efforts but she felt his eyes on her back the whole time.
When finally the coffee was done, she brought two cups and set them on the breakfast nook and took a seat on the stool beside him. The tension the silence had brought could have been cut with a knife. She watched as he looked down at his coffee mug, fidgeting with it. A smile crossed her lips. She knew this man so well. She knew how this awkwardness was knawing at him.
"So," she finally spoke, trying to smile. "This is a surprise."
'Yes," he exclaimed, looking up in somewhat relief. "Well, you know how much I like surprises."
He looked at her with a grin.
"No you don't," she smiled back.
"Well- no, I don't," he winced.
"But you do," he finished with an overt wave of his hand.
She answered by looking down at her hand's, being warmed as they wrapped around her own mug. Lifting it she took a sip, hoping it would warm this coldness that had been seeping into her.
Silence fell over them again. Sitting there, drinking coffee, neither knowing what to do or say.
"Do you ever think of us…" she began, only to have him jump on the offering.
"Sure I do. All the time," he said with more flourish than he should have. "Remember that time on PX whatever it was. When Daniel and you…….."
"I didn't mean the team. I meant us," she cut him off, still looking at her hands wrapped around her cup.
"I know what you meant," he said softly, more subdued.
Sam let out a self depreciating half laugh. Of course he did, he was just avoiding it again. Just like he always did. Just like they always had.
"Look- Sam," he tried to find the words.
It wasn't easy, especially for him. Usually she would've butted in by now and wave it away, but not this time. She let it hang. One way or another they had to work through this and she wasn't going to let him off easy anymore. And he knew it. And dreaded it, yet somehow, was relieved by it.
"I tried to retire. Twice," he revealed into his coffee cup. "Had the paper work done and ready to submit."
"When?" she asked looking at his profile. Now this revelation had surprised her.
"The first time was when we were being shaken up. Before I left for Washington. The second was after the Plague. Had this great scenario all set up in my head too."
"What was it?" she couldn't keep from being curious.
"I'd retire, come swooping down to the mountain. Sweep you off your feet. Well, the first scenario I was swooping to Area 51, but you get the idea. Then there's that whole off into the sunset thing" he chuckled. "But it probably would've happened more like I retire, come hesitantly to where you were and open my mouth to have something dumb like –'So, Carter…you wanna?' come out of it."
He began to laugh and looked at her. She started to laugh too, the twinkle coming slowly back into her beautiful blue eyes. Yup, that's probably what would've happened.
"Woulda been awkward, and you know me and awkward," he was still smiling.
"Yes, I do. Just like now," she smiled back.
His face became serious as he turned in his seat to face her, she did the same. He brought his hand up and gently moved her hair from where it had fallen on her forehead.
"We can't have a sunset Sam," he said. His voice had gently cracked and his soft brown eyes studied her face. She saw the sincerity in his eyes and heard the heartfelt pain in his voice, yet she had to ask.
"Why not?" Sadly, she knew the answer before he spoke it, she just didn't want to face it.
"I waited too long," he began.
Oh boy, this was hard. He hated talking about this feelings stuff. Hadn't done it, well, since Sara really. Even then it was like, well, like now. He was a doer, not a talker, and there was nothing that could be done about this. Not now.
"What do you mean?" she gently prodded, noticing he had turned his gaze back to his hands, now clasped between his knees. She watched as his tongue flickered over his back teeth, trying to find words that weren't easy for him. But they needed to do this.
Taking in a deep breath, he began again.
"Maybe if I had quit while you were still a Captain, or even after you made Major, it mighta been ok. I don't know. Thought about making a move after that whole Shanahan thing."
He stopped and looked up at her only briefly, then turned his attention back to his hands. It was in that instant she realized how much her engagement to Pete must've hurt him. She wanted to reach out and touch him, but knew if she did he'd never finish saying what they both knew had to be said.
"But I didn't. There was too much going on for all of us, and I was afraid," he hesitated on that last word.
"You were afraid it would be a rebound thing for me. Breaking up with Pete, losing my dad, team breaking up," Sam relented and helped him with that one.
"Exactly," he breathed a sigh of relief.
"And now?" she urged.
"Even if I retire now, and we….you know," he looked up and smiled at her, his eyebrows rising ever so slightly. "Every promotion, every medal, every citation that you worked your as…so hard for, would come under question. Maybe not officially, then again maybe officially. But definitely unofficially. There'd be speculation that we had been….you know….all along. Or at least for part of it. I can't let that happen. It would eat away at me. At my soul. I care too much…for you."
He stopped and blew out a breath. "The only thing I could offer would be a secret…thing. And you're worth too much for that…to me. You deserve so much more than that. But I'm not the one who can give it to you."
His face contorted and she could tell he was struggling with emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him. He had spent most of his life locking them behind walls, and now there was a crack. Her heart broke, for him as well as herself. She did not want to see this man break. Not over this, not over her.
"But I'm the one offering to leave," she tried.
He looked at her, then gave her that 'you must be joking' grimace she loved, and had sometimes hated.
"And what?" he chided, looking into her eyes. "Be a General's….wife? Might be nice for awhile. But how long before you'd get bored. Not being in the loop or privy to the action anymore? And still knowing everyone wondered if we had been……..while working together? No Sam, you'd begin to resent me. Eventually. And that. That would kill me."
She heard the truth in it and knew he was right. She'd hate being 'the General's wife.' She had worked too hard to be The Colonel.
"What if we both left," she was pulling out all the stops now, almost desperate to find a way, not wanting to believe he was completely right. That they had both left it too long.
There was that sad smile on his face again. Taking her hands in his, holding them as a life line between them, he searched for the right words to help her accept this.
"Do you remember P4X-347?" he asked.
"Ya, sure, that's where we found the Goa'uld palace with the addictive light…." She trailed, understanding coming to her. Her head tilted as she looked at him in astonishment. How did he do that? It took her hours to explain things sometimes, and he had just managed to sum up their fate in one simple question.
He watched as he saw first understanding then acceptance dawn on her. His heart pounded with aching, wanting to undo this, but knowing he couldn't.
"You're saying we've both become so much a part of this program, neither of us could leave it completely behind. Almost like an addiction. No matter how much we feel for each other. And if we tried, we'd end up….resenting each other, or worse." Sam couldn't keep the single tear from slipping down her face. He reached up to brush it away.
"And you're right," she finally admitted to him, and to herself.
His gaze shifted back to their hands, entwined in the vastness between their stools that separated them. She looked down too. They sat there for what seemed hours, but in reality had only been minutes. The silence no longer awkward. It was all they had keeping them together, and neither wanted to break free from it.
Leader that he was, he finally managed the strength to do just that and let go of her hands. Jack rose to his feet and picked up his coffee, taking a last drink.
"So….can I tell Hank you'll be withdrawing your resignation?" he asked, now the General again.
She watched him as he regained his control, his professionalism, and she mourned for them.
"Yes," she allowed. But then followed with, "On one condition."
"Anything," and he meant it. He'd give anything to keep her in the program, where he could at least check in on her from time to time. Still somehow be a part of her life, and she his.
Sam stood and faced her superior officer, noting how he had changed from first they met. Older, yet somehow even more handsome. If that was even possible. She much preferred the grey hair.
"All these years. Wondering. Waiting. Only to have it never happen. There have been so many changes. I've been so busy that I think I forgot to move on with them. The changes I mean. And sometimes it feels like everything has moved on without me. I need….closure…Jack," she told him. "I need to know, so that I can move on…with no regrets."
"Know what?" he was genuinely confused. Hadn't he just bared his soul to her?
"One night," she stated simply.
"One night?" he asked not understanding.
"One night, you and me, us. So I don't have that regret of never having loved you. So I can move on without wondering what it could've been…." Sam couldn't finish, the lump in her throat blocking any further explanation. Yet she didn't break her glistening eyes from his.
She watched the changing emotions flicker over his features as he looked at her. Not knowing what to say or do. He began to open his mouth, but nothing came out so he closed it again. He opened it again. She was sure he was going to tell her no.
But then she found herself pressed hard against him. His lips crushing against her's. She found herself being lifted and carried to her bedroom. One night, that's all they would have. All they could have.
Their bodies cooling, he shifted and propped himself up on an elbow so he could look down at her. She'd never seen such gentleness, or love, in his deep brown eyes before. It took her breath away and she pulled him closer to her. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his neck and cried silent tears. He held her tight and soon she felt his body shake and felt the wetness of his tears on her own neck. They were joined in a shared sadness, yet both felt the harsh weight of their years of denial slipping from them. Releasing them.
He shifted again, and brought her head to rest on his chest. Softly he stroked the back of her hair until he heard her breathing change. She was asleep.
For Jack though sleep did not come. He lay in the dark, savoring every moment for hours. The feel of her against him, her breath softly on his skin. This would have to last him the rest of his life. He wasn't going to waste it with sleep.
Sometime during the night Sam shifted in her sleep and rolled away from him, curling up on her other side. Jack looked at the clock and saw that it was 04:00. He reached out and gently touched her hair one last time before quietly climbing from the bed. It was time to go.
Gathering his clothes he took them and dressed in the hallway, not wanting to wake her. He then quietly made his way to the door, opened it, and hesitated only briefly to take one look back. Then silently he left and closed the door behind him. He walked, without turning again, to his borrowed jeep from Peterson. Climbing in, he started the engine and drove away. He didn't dare hesitate again or he'd be lost.
Sam woke when she heard the click of her front door closing, and she knew. Without turning to check, she knew. He was gone. It was over. She had no regrets. Reaching to take the pillow his head had rested on only moments earlier, she brought it against her in a hug and fell contently back to sleep.
07:30 found Lt. Colonel Carter at General Landry's door, feeling somewhat embarrassed. She peeked in to see his head buried in files. Sam knocked on the door.
Upon seeing her the General broke into a wide smile. "Colonel, come in, come in," he waved.
"Morning sir. I was hoping to speak to you about my resignation," Sam started awkwardly.
"Already shredded and forgotten about Colonel," he offered. There was something in his face that Sam couldn't read.
"Jack…uh…General O'Neill was here this morning. He told me you two had spoken and, well, he said that you had agreed to…." Landry stopped, looking hopefully at her.
Hank knew that Sam had no idea how far back Jack and he went. Or how close they were. Maybe it was best that she didn't, or maybe not. He couldn't decide.
"Yes sir," Sam was a little taken aback. He came here? Hadn't he believed she'd withdraw?
"Is he still here, sir?" is what she asked out loud.
"No, he's gone. To Atlantis," Landry revealed, watching the Colonel's expression closely. He was relieved at the smile he saw tugging the corners of her mouth. It seems they had both found a way to move on after all, he thought to himself.
"I'll fill you all in later," Landry informed, still smiling.
"Well I should get back to work," Sam said as she began backing toward the door.
"One last thing Colonel," the General stopped her. He probably shouldn't offer, but couldn't help himself.
"If you ever need to talk, well, I probably know more than you think, or more than I should. I just want you know my door is always open," he offered with such gentleness.
She knew then that he knew. Probably everything. And what she had seen in his face was understanding and compassion. He was a good man.
"Thank you sir. I'll be fine," she reassured him with a bright smile.
"Yes, you will be. You both will."
THE END - Or not
Author's End Note: This story is incomplete without viewing a video created by Hope Leslie Hermnharry, specifically for this writing effort. She has my deepest gratitude. As I'm unable to link to it here, please go to the youtube website and search for video Just One Night
This story originally hosted by Hopalong on her site at Angelfire dot com back slash rebellion back slash doyoulikefanfiction (you get the idea -again unable to add a url for some reason). please visit her site for other fan fics. Author has archived this story to Helopolis as well. Trying different host sites as GW only one tried before. Sequel will be posted on Hopalong's and GW once their archive operational again.
Authors Note: Feedback please if you like, and even if you didn't. No feedback, no sequel ;-