Summary: After dancing around his feelings for years, Jack O'Neill realizes he does not have a limitless supply of days. SJ, post season 10.


Chapter 1: Is This All There Is?

Major General Jack O'Neill was tired and frustrated. He'd suffered through one of those miserably stultifying days at the Pentagon, the kind that made him wish he were back in Ba'al's torture chamber. Listening to all manner of political hacks and lying sycophants intent on convincing him to change policy in ways that would benefit their special interest lobbies, well, that was a special kind of torture for a man like Jack O'Neill. There had to be something more worthy of his attention and talents than this.

Eager to leave the confines of today's imprisonment, he made his way to the elevator and happily heard the chirp that signaled the closing of the doors and the final leg of his jailbreak. Five minutes later, his necktie tossed carelessly on the passenger seat along with his dress jacket, one of the most powerful men in the nation's capital closed his eyes tightly and exhaled. With bitter relief, he drove his late model Jeep to freedom, clearing the last checkpoint of the underground, highly guarded parking garage.

Though it was the dead of winter in Washington, D.C., the air in the Pentagon had been hot and oppressive. It was always hot and oppressive. The more stuffed shirts spewing hot air in his office on a particular day, the worse it got. So tonight, as he made his escape, the impatient, irritated, royally frustrated Head of Homeworld Security rolled down the windows, welcoming the blast of refreshing thirty-five degree air that bit at his skin. If it hadn't been for the icy mix of rain and sleet that had begun to fall, he'd have thown caution to the wind and rolled back the canvas top of the Jeep altogether.

As it was, Jack was in flat out rebellion against the supposed perks of his plum assignment. He'd ditched his driver over two weeks ago, sick to death of the man's fawning curiosity and yearning for the privacy of a solitary drive home under his own steam. Dwayne, David, Derrick, some name that began with a D., the airman treated him like an old man, someone to be fawned and fussed over. Jack O'Neill, a man who'd stolen victory from the mouth of defeat against Goa'uld and Replicator alike, would not be treated like a fragile old man, no matter how many "Yes, Sirs" were involved.

Maybe it was a mid-life crisis. Good old Daniel! When Jack first confided his growing dissatisfaction with the now hated desk job the Doctor of Archeologist had offered his diagnosis. Mid-life crisis indeed! Jack was sure it was too late for that, he was nearing fifty-five after all, but any excuse for his ennui, hell, his depression, would do right about now.

Sure enough, here he was embarking on the nearly one hour commute he looked forward to most every day. At least he usually missed rush hour. By the time he'd liberated himself these days, it was a fairly simple task to navigate his way through the tangle of Washington expressways to the narrow winding roads that would take him to his home in the hills southeast of the city. Nine times out of ten, he'd spend most of the drive reminiscing about happier times, times when he'd felt more alive, more needed, part of something that truly mattered to him. SG1, the SGC, his team, his friends … Sam, it always came back to Sam.

Stopped at a street light that dared to delay him a few more moments, Jack flipped down the visor to catch sight of the tiny two by three inch snapshot he'd fixed to the flap. The same day he'd traded in the stuffy, government issue, Town Car for the sporty all terrain Jeep, he'd made sure his favorite memory was there to keep him company. Much better than Derrick or Donovan, whatever his name was, was that precious shot of himself with Sam at the cabin, nearly two years ago now. Two years, two years too long, he thought.

Something should have changed on that trip. But it hadn't. Maybe if he hadn't brought the guys with them. If it had been just him and Sam, then maybe it would have happened. But that wasn't fair. Sam had been so vulnerable then; first she'd lost her father, then Pete. He couldn't tell her how he really felt that week. It wasn't fair. He wanted her to come to him from her strength, not from sadness and grief. He'd told himself he'd have all the time in the world, yes they'd have all the time in the world. But as usual, the world had other plans.

First there was Cassie, then the Ori and finally, the promotion and Atlantis. He'd been so proud 6 months ago when Sam was promoted to a full bird Colonel. He'd been front and center for the ceremony and had all he could do to avoid sweeping her into his arms and kissing her. But once again he remembered, she wasn't his and at the rate they were going probably never would be. So he shook her hand and congratulated her as the consummate professional soldier she was.

He was genuinely happy for Sam. And she was happy, he could tell. She was positively glowing as the promotion was announced. He could have sworn she was smiling directly at him all through the ceremony. Wishful thinking, but he could dream.

And now that's exactly what he had left, he thought morosely. Dreams, dreams of what might have been had the time ever been exactly right. Yes, he could dream. There were no laws, no regulations against that, right? Glancing at the picture from the cabin, he remembered a larger one just like it hidden in his desk at the office. Hey, it wouldn't do for curious eyes to see it; he'd slip it out when he was really missing her. And at home, yes, on the mantle, his Sam.

His Sam? Not exactly. "His Sam" was literally light years away right now. The Pegasus Galaxy to be exact. Everything was harder, she was so far away. While she was on Earth, he could call her for any and all mindless reasons, claiming the need to review a crucial report. Now, well he couldn't very well open the Stargate every time he wanted to hear her voice. It simply wouldn't do.

As the drive wore on and his train of thought continued down familiar, seemingly hopeless pathways, Jack wondered briefly if Derrick would have been a good drive time distraction after all. No, that was a bad idea. If nothing else, Jack had learned distractions were pretty useless when it came to Samantha Carter. He wondered if she ever thought of him. Little did he know that she kept the exact same cabin picture lovingly displayed for all to see in her office, far, far away.

His reverie was rudely interrupted by the hollow sound of frozen water impacting the canvas roof of the Jeep. Hail, oh great, he thought, and just as I'm hitting the hills. Jack's secretary was always nagging him to take a different way home, insisting his trip through the narrow winding roads of the foothills was treacherous, especially in the winter. If anything happened, she would never let him hear the end of it.

Oh well, we've done this before, he thought, handily engaging the four wheel drive as the roads rapidly iced up beneath him. There wasn't much traffic this time of night. Just a few more miles and he'd be home. Alone, but home.

Maybe he'd have to do something about this situation after all. He could say something to Sam. The worst she could do was say she wasn't interested. Right? No, again that wouldn't be fair to her. Her first command as a full bird Colonel, and he wanted to burden her with his need for a relationship? No, wasn't going to happen. Not now, maybe not ever.

Thinking he'd tortured himself enough for one night Jack switched on the radio, grateful for the distracting voice of a foolish radio shock jock to guide him the rest of the way home. He was tired and the roads were not in good shape. He wondered where the salt trucks were. Oh yeah, he remembered, this was D.C, not Colorado Springs. Most things just stopped in this neck of the woods when bad weather arrived.

Headlights approached from the other side of the road. The approaching vehicle was moving slowly, still distant from his position. A night for careful drivers, he supposed, especially on these roads. After all, the guardrails up here were little more than reminders of the plunge a careless driver was likely to take into the valley below. So be it, a few extra minutes, what could it hurt.

Then the approaching car was upon him. The driver was clearly struggling to keep the car on the road. By the time the oncoming vehicle reached Jack's location, it had begun to fishtail. Jack was unable to avoid it. Even the vaunted four wheel drive wouldn't hold the road this time. Swerving to avoid the oncoming vehicle and unable to control the Jeep, the force of his forward momentum catapulted him over the guardrail and into the ravine below.

His last conscious thought was of Sam.

And, in a galaxy light years away, the Commander of Atlantis station breathed his name.


A/N: Well since they're still not together on the series, thought I'd send the powers that be yet another idea. What do you think of Chapter One? Should I continue?

Please review!