A/N: Written for Shipsgiving at the S/J Ship Family Discussion Thread on GW. Happy Shipsgiving and hugs to all the family...love you guys!!

I Never Stopped

By mara-anni

The cool water rippled as her head breached the surface and she drew in a breath, a smile of contentment spreading over her face. Sam Carter swam toward the shore of the small lake until her feet could reach the rocky bed and then she stood, the water cascading down her shoulders.

"Are you coming in?" She called toward the grassy shore.

Jack O'Neill lay on his back in the soft grass; an arm slung over his head to shield his eyes from the summer sun, a very slight smirk touched his lips when he heard her voice echoing over the water.

"Jack!" She called out again, "You said you were coming swimming with me this time!"

She put her hands on her hips and huffed impatiently as she watched his still form, wondering if he'd fallen asleep. Dropping her arms she started wading into the shallows and out of the water.

"Jack?" She said as she gently nudged his bare foot with one of her wet ones.

She knew he wasn't asleep, after all these years she could tell when he was faking.

"Nice try, but you promised." She continued.

He continued to lie unmoving and she took a moment to admire the bare chested man laid out before her. His skin was tanned and the slight sheen of sweat glistened over the well formed muscles of his chest. A sly smile spread over her features when she moved.

He could feel her getting ever closer and wondered what she would do when her efforts at rousing him failed. He found himself absurdly amused by this little game he was playing with her. Their relationship was still new and damn if he didn't love this different side of her he was seeing. He knew it had always been there. He'd had glimpses of it in the past. But for a very long time she'd always been so careful around him, so controlled; the perfect Second IC. He knew some of it was his fault. For a few years there she had let him see more of her, they'd been getting closer with almost every day that passed. But then he'd shut her out and he figured it wasn't any wonder she shielded some of her true self from him then. So now he was going to lie here and wait to see what she did.

She stepped over him, a foot on each side of his deliciously taught abdomen. Bringing her arms up, she bent her neck so that her head tilted toward him and squeezed the water out of her hair.

The water connected with his sun heated skin and he yelped from the sudden cool contact, sitting up. "Hey!"

She stood over him, a huge grin splitting her lovely face. "I didn't wake you did I Jack?" She asked a little too sweetly.

But her victory was short-lived. Jack suddenly moved, his long arms reaching up to grab her forearms. Before she could even gasp he pulled her down on top of him, and rolled pinning her under his weight. Her laughter ringing like music in his ears.

He groaned in mock annoyance "What'd I say about the giggling?" She giggled even more like he knew she would and he was struck anew by the warm feeling that sound always elicited in his chest.

He slowly lowered his lips to hers and kissed her, caressing her lips with his own, tasting her sweet mouth, marvelling at the fact that she kissed him back with equal fervour. His hands trailed up her arms to connect with hers hands lying by her head and her grip tightened as he twined his fingers with hers.

The kiss broke, leaving her breathless and she watched him, his face inches from hers, as he rolled his lips together, tasting her on his lips. She loved the way he did that.

He gave her a light kiss, their hands still locked together. "You're mine." He said simply, his voice husky.

He watched as her smile widened while her eyes filled, two tear drops spilled onto her cheek.

"What?" Jack asked softly, suddenly confused and seriously concerned. Sam was not the type of woman to cry idly.

She tried to turn her head away; to pull her hand from his and shield her face from him. But he wouldn't allow her to hide from him. Not anymore.

"What is it?" He repeated.

"I just…for a long time…" More silent tears spilled from her eyes, rolling down her temple to disappear in her hair. "I thought..." She paused momentarily desperately searching for the words. In many ways she was no better than Jack at the 'talking' thing. She didn't know why this was all coming out now. Something about the way he had gazed at her with loving eyes and his possessive declaration had caused some of the old pain to emerge and for some reason she couldn't push it away this time. "I thought that you didn't feel anything anymore." She swallowed convulsively, repressing the urge to sob and weep.

Abruptly Jack released her hands and slipped his arms under her shoulders, engulfing her in a tight embrace. And she instantly wrapped her arms around his neck, a hand threading though his hair almost desperately.

"Sam." He murmured into her neck, his chest vibrating through hers.

"I'm sorry." She sniffed, swiping at an eye.

He raised himself up on his elbows; one hand stroked her still damp hair and forced her to look at him. He pressed his lips to the corner of her eye, kissing away the few tears that escaped.

"It's my fault." he said.

Her forehead wrinkled in confusion and he would have smiled at how adorable she was if his heart didn't feel so heavy with guilt for the pain he'd caused her.

"I wanted you to think it." He confessed. "I did it on purpose."

Her eyes widened and a fresh tear trailed over her temple.

"Why?" Her voice cracked and the question came out in a whisper.

Jack didn't know how to answer her. He dropped his head heavily, resting his forehead against her chest.

How could he explain it to her? How could he tell her he thought he was doing the right thing, what was best for her? How could he tell her that he still believed even now that she deserved better? How could he explain to her that he'd been afraid because his feelings for her were so strong? How could he tell her that the strength of his feelings for her had terrified him because he knew he wouldn't survive it if he lost her? How could he tell her that he didn't want to love her; that it had been too hard and too painful and he'd tried not to? How could he tell her that it hadn't worked, not for him? How could he tell her that he'd hoped it would work for her; that if he pulled away from her, her feelings for him might change and it would make her life easier and better? How could he tell her that it killed him a little bit everyday but he would have gladly died to make life easier for her? And how could he tell her how sorry he was now because it hadn't worked, not for him, and evidently not for her? How could he tell her how much he regretted doing that now because in the end it hadn't changed their feelings for each other, it hadn't made their working lives easier, it hadn't made him believe he could ever live without her - all it had done was hurt her. She had believed he didn't love her anymore and it had hurt her.

He raised his head to gaze into her glistening eyes.

"I'm sorry Sam." He finally managed to say. "It was a mistake." He couldn't explain it to her but he could tell her now, if he could only find the words. "I never stopped…"

She saw the regret flicker in his eyes and thought maybe she understood why he'd put that distance between them. Maybe he was trying to protect himself; maybe he was trying to protect her.

He watched her as she blinked, the tears drying up and she smiled at him, affection in her blue eyes. Maybe in some measure she knew why he'd done it. She knew everything else about him.

"I never stopped." He repeated.

"Feeling feelings?" She replied, her smile in her voice.

He smirked at her, "Feeling feelings." He confirmed.

"I never stopped either." She told him.

It didn't matter why he'd done it. Why he pulled away and shut himself off from her all those years ago. She knew that whatever the reasons, he'd done it because at that time he'd thought it the right thing to do and not because he wanted to hurt her; he would never deliberately hurt her. She knew now that he loved her and he'd loved her all along and in the end that was all that mattered.

She cupped a rough cheek in her soft hand, her thumb flicking his bottom lip. His smirk grew into the cocky grin that always did strange things to her stomach and limbs as his lips descended to hers again.

He growled against her lips when they both heard the door of Jack's Minnesota cabin opening.

"Kids are home." He mumbled, making her giggle softly under him.

"Jack? Sam?" They heard Daniel's voice a second before he rounded the corner and saw them lying together on the grass by the pond. "Ahh, guys!!! Could you do that else where?!"

"Hey Daniel. Did you bring the Ice-cream?" Sam asked, arching her neck and tilting her chin up so she could look at Daniel from her position beneath Jack. Jack couldn't tear his eyes away from the expanse of pale Sam Carter neck flesh presented so enticingly close to his lips.

"Yes" Daniel groaned, "And now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go inside and gouge out my eyes."

Jack pushed himself up taking some more of his weight off Sam, but before he rose completely he buried his face into her neck and kissed her with a deliberately load sucking noise.

"Ugh…and cut off my ears." Daniel added as he turned away and headed back inside.

"Jack!" Sam laughed and smacked him lightly on the arm. She shot him a reproachful yet amused look for his teasing of Daniel, but his grin wasn't at all remorseful.

Jack reached down to Sam as he stood, pulling her up. He watched her as she pulled on the sun skirt and thin blouse over her bikinis. He knew she wouldn't wear that particular bathing costume again while Teal'c and Daniel were with them. And something about that was indescribably satisfying.

She approached him, her happy eyes twinkling at him before she kissed him, threading both hands through his hair.

"I love you." She said simply, as though she were commenting on the weather, and pulled out of his arms before he had a chance to comprehend what she'd said. "C'mon Jack," She beckoned to him as she approached the cabin. "I told them to bring Vanilla too." And then she was gone around the corner.

He stood by his pond a little stunned. Not that she loved him, but that she just said it like that. And after everything they'd gone through. After all his efforts to distance himself from her over the years, she still loved him. He'd known for a long time now that he was in love with her in a way he'd never fathomed possible before meeting her.

But he was through worrying about it. All he knew was he was immensely grateful that he hadn't screwed up too much.

He shook himself into action, his large strides quickly taking him to the door of his cabin.

Yep he was grateful for a lot of things. That she still loved him, though he couldn't for the life of him figure out how or why. That she was his now and he was hers.

And that she knew he preferred vanilla over chocolate.

Thank God! He thought.


A/N: Hope you enjoyed it. Please review and let me know what you think - good or bad : )