Day 9.

Jack had rigged a noose from some thin rope Carter kept in her pack. He'd seen a burrow of some sort in the woods and wanted to see if he could add to their food sources. Rabbits tasted like chickens, after all, even if they were cuter. He hated the idea of killing a critter, but he was really really tired of fish. And son of a gun, but the thing had worked. He'd snagged a fat one right around dinner time.

He and Sam hadn't exchanged more than a few words all day. The tension between had built up until he could practically see it coursing around them. She hadn't slept well, he knew, because he'd been awake all night watching her. At one point she'd sighed his name.

He'd taken another walk in the woods.

This afternoon, she looked haunted.

"How do you think Siler's getting along?"

"I don't know, sir. He's Siler. Who knows how he gets through any day without killing himself?"

"Patience, Carter. You trained him well."

"We should be home by now."

He glanced over at her. She sat near the fire, stoking the coals. Once she'd realized what he was up to with the snare, she'd started building a spit. They were going to roast the rabbit—or whatever it was. She paused in her movements and he could see her hands shake slightly.

"You all right?"

"Does it matter?"

"I think it does."

She was silent for another moment before replying.

"You haven't spoken to me for days, sir. I have no idea with you think."

He walked over to her with the spitted creature and handed it to her. With efficient, careful movements, she set it in place. Only then did she glance up at him through her eyelashes.

Jack was studying her. She felt his gaze on her cheek, her hands, the curve of her shoulder. Finally, deliberately, he met her eyes. Dark brown and azure connected.

She stood, never breaking his gaze. "Does it really matter how I am?"

"You know it does."

"Do I? How?"

"We're not playing these games, Carter."

"I'm not playing games, sir."

His fingers stopped her words. "Not this time—not with the 'sir'." His fingertips grazed her cheekbone, and his thumb skimmed the corner of her mouth. "If we are going to have this conversation, you leave the 'sir' out of it."

"What conversation are we talking about?"

"The one that will allow us to keep working together once Siler figures out how to do your job and gets us home."

The noise she made might have been one of assent. It also might have been a sob.

"You are an extraordinary woman, Sam Carter. You are smart and tough and kind and kick-ass. You are so beautiful it makes my teeth ache, and I have found myself increasingly unable to look at you just as a team member." He raised her chin so that she had to look at him. "I want something—everything—more than we can have. Do you understand that?"

"Yes. Yes."

"But there's a threat to the whole galaxy out there. A threat that you and I are remarkably good at dealing with."

"I know."

"So you know why we can't—have that. It. Anything. Not now."


But his fingertips still lingered on her cheek, and she couldn't stop herself from leaning into the touch. And he couldn't stop himself from feeling just how soft her hair was where it curled beneath her ear. And somehow the space between them disappeared and he had her wrapped close to him and her arms were tight around his neck. And when he turned his face into the curve between her neck and shoulder and breathed in her essence, somehow it wasn't possible for his lips not to graze her temple, her cheek, the graceful line of her jaw. And in a fumble of hands and sighs, they stopped, nose to nose.

"I want. You."

It didn't matter who had spoken. It filled the void.

"Just once—"

His hands travelled again down her throat, over the strong curve of her shoulders, down her straight back to settle on her waist.

She exhaled brokenly as his rough cheek brushed hers. His lips hovered just above hers for what seemed like an eternity before skimming, teasing, testing.

It was the most innocent kiss of her life.

And the most profound.

And when it was over, she knew that she'd found her future and he knew that he'd found his salvation.

And both of them knew they'd have to wait.

Until the threat was gone—or lessened. Until they could sort out the particulars. For the time being, they would just stand there, locked together by an alien pond on an alien planet.

"So here we are." He said an age later.

"Here we are." They were still standing by the fire. A glance at the spitted rabbit thing told her they'd checked out long enough to burn dinner.

"What happens next?"

"We wait for Siler. But at least now we know, right? We've gotten this far. But it's as far as it can go."

"For cryin' out loud." He pulled her closer to him again, memorizing what it felt like to be just that close.

"It's as far as it can go." But she didn't let go, either. Her hands wandered up his back and curled around his shoulders.

"In the morning we'll dial the 'Gate. If we don't connect, we'll just have to crash Teal'c's little congressional dialogue."

"No more alone time."

"Too dangerous."

"I'm not sorry."

"Me neither." He smiled against the gold of her hair. Rested his chin on the top of her head. Then, bracing himself, he dropped a kiss on her crown and pulled himself away. He smiled ruefully. "Major."

She allowed herself one more touch at his temple, a light brush of her fingertips down his strong jaw, throat, and collarbone. Her hand rested briefly on his heart before dropping to her side. She breathed deeply and nodded.