Genre: Romance/Friendship

Rating: K

Characters: Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill

Disclaimer: Stargate and it's various sundries do not belong to me. I only borrow them from time to time and try to put them back the way I found them.

Author's Note: Tag to Threads - I just figured that Carter might have needed some air...and a certain someone might have followed her...

The light streamed through the air, each beam beautifully insubstantial yet holding a solid warmth that comforted and soothed her aching heart. That sweet heat, gentle and kind, caressed her skin, seeping into her flesh, wrapping itself about her veins to be carried throughout her body with every beat, infusing her with peace.

She eased her legs out from under her, pulling them up until she could rest her chin on her knees, her eyes never moving from their watchful gaze upon the Chinese dragon making its way majestically across the horizon. Briefly she wondered if it were aiming to collect the whirling amber galaxy in its claws, transporting the new cosmic life to a new place in the sky, ready to begin the careful husbandry of intelligent life. But the dragon moved on, past the swirling mass, fading into the distance just as the tales had faded from fact into mythology. She sighed as it left it her sight, a raindrop of sorrow trailing through her chest, cool and light and just barely refreshing in an odd little way.

She sighed, her breath leaving her body to join the cooling air, refusing to take any of the leaden weight at her heart. Tiny streaks of peach and amber light reached out to her, ghostly fingers softly stroking her cheek and hair in a reassuring caress. Closing her eyes, she sought to hold the ever-present comfort of the sun to her even as it faded, those gently touches trailing away from her skin. As she felt them drift away, the dappled light seeking a new direction, she opened her eyes to be almost overwhelmed by beauty.

Only now, when day gave way to night, could all these colours be brought together in harmony. Peach and pink and gold and red melded together, dancing across the clouds in an aeons old waltz born at the beginning of the universe. Her gaze took in the miles of sky before her, clouds of cream, white and grey scattered in delicate abandon, embracing the twirling shades of brightness, each one a piece of shimmering gauze draped across the cornflower blue skies.

Her eyes swept from point to point, seeking the blends, the contrasts, the areas where shapes were brought to life by the soft application of the sun's artistry. A dove winged her way towards the east, her wings and beak dusted with gold, whilst in the west a delicate cerise rosebud lifted from the grasping hand of the storm clouds. As she watched the great landscape changed again, revealing a great battle between the head of a dragon, teeth bared, and a galleon with sails billowing and a spear poised at her bow.

It did not surprise her that it was the emergence of this scene, this imagery, that would be the herald of his appearance. His soft footfall was not a warning of his approach but a gentle question asking if he were welcome, if he was invading her space, her peace. She knew he would be watching her with the same care she had been watching the show before her, so she gave her answer silently, without moving, a moment of welcome that he could feel even at a distance. He knew, as he usually did, settling himself to the floor beside, close enough to be friendly but far enough to offer her a semblance of privacy if she wanted it.

The silence had been hers alone, weighing heavily despite the beauty that had surrounded her, yet now it seemed lighter. His presence, simply knowing he was there, lifted her from the inside out, easing the pain that she had suffered with since her loss. For a moment she wanted to smile, amazed anew at how he need not say a word yet managed to make everything feel as if it could be fixed if broken, healed if hurt, lightened if a burden upon weary shoulders. For a moment it was as if they were just doing their day job, nothing different, two colleagues, two friends, two soldiers, watching another sun dip below the horizon, waiting for night to fall and bring them closer to the end of their mission. Then she remembered and suddenly nothing was bright or clear or solid.

He sat, arms resting on his knees, as he kept his gaze forwards, deliberately not offering more than his silent support, knowing she might be confused and vulnerable now. Yet he could see her face from the corner of his eye and felt his heart clench as the golden light played over her skin, lighting her with a radiance he knew she didn't feel but made her appear like an angel of serenity in the midst of a world of chaos. He wanted to tell her that everything would be all right, that the pain would fade and she would be able to remember without sorrow or tears one day. He wanted to tell her she didn't have to hide from them all, didn't have to run from them when she needed to cry. He wanted to say so much but he was not the type for words. So he let her take her time, hoping that just being there would be enough.

She could feel his anxiety, see the lines of concern upon his face. The way his hands twitched, as if he wanted to clench his fists, as if he wanted to do something and was stopping himself. She knew he would never move closer, knew that he would see it as an abuse of his position, a moment of impropriety between them that could be misconstrued. But if she were honest with herself, right now she needed the man more than she needed the officer. She needed the friend more than her superior. And she needed what he meant to her – safety, trust, faith, honour, solidarity, strength. There was more, always had been, but that could wait a little longer – it had waited for long enough, a while more wasn't going to hurt. Yet...yet...could she, should she?

He tensed only slightly when she shuffled sideways an inch or two. Then he relaxed again as she paused, a flash of insecurity crossing her expression. Seeing that internal fear, when she was usually so strong, tugged at him so hard he shifted his seat, putting his shoulder within leaning distance if she wanted to use it. For a moment he wondered if maybe he had been too forward to offer, wondered if perhaps he had read her wrongly despite the years they had known each other. Then her hair brushed his jaw, her head gently settling on the proffered shoulder, her body barely close enough to his for him to feel her warmth.

They sat, comfortable yet not. Tentatively his hand crept round to encircle her shoulders, resting lightly, giving her silent comfort. Slowly her hand came up to rest upon his chest, her fingers curling in his over shirt. Gently his grip tightened just for a second, her fingers fisting as her breath hitched. His chest aching for her he ignored everything his mind was yelling at him and tugged her closer, turning her into his body, giving her somewhere to hide from the world. She clung to him, her hands clasping to his solid form, her face pressed tight into his shoulder, her body shaking as she gave in to her grief.

He held her. He cradled her. He supported her. And she cried until she had nothing but hoarse whimpers left, her tears having scalded her face and long since run out. She didn't protest when he wrapped his arms around her. He didn't react when she snuggled closer. Neither of them cared right at this moment about anyone seeing them, trusting in mutual friends, their family, to keep them safe.

"I miss him so much."

"I know. He was a good man."

She moved, his arms dropping away automatically. But she merely shifted to rest her head on his shoulder once more.

"Thank you."

He glanced down at the golden strands.

"For what?"

"Being here."

She didn't realise it but her voice held the soft strains of her heart's call. He heard her sorrow, her heartache. He felt the pain she was in almost as if it were his own. Yet there was something else there now, a different note to always before. It called to him, latching onto his heart and tugging gently with each breath, giving his voice a rough tone that told her how he felt without him having any say.

"I'm always here."

She smiled, her heart lighter as she heard the words behind the words.

"I know."

They both sat up, he rising to offer her a hand, ignoring the heat of her fingers in his. As they moved away, she glanced back at the setting sun, nearly overtaken by the night.

"Dad would have loved watching that."

He turned, a crooked smile on his lips.

"Jacob loved a lot of things." His dark eyes softened as he sighed softly. "Come on – they'll start fretting."

She waited a moment more, hearing her father's voice once again, telling her to go for what she wanted, to be happy.

"I'm coming."

They made their way down the mountain, neither acknowledging what had been said without voice. But they both knew something had changed. They both knew that maybe, just maybe, they had a chance now to stop being General and Lt. Colonel, put aside O'Neill and Carter. Maybe, after today, they could take a risk and be just Jack and Sam.