A/N: Thanks everyone for the reviews and story alerts, it's greatly appreciated! Hope you will all enjoy this final chapter… for me, it was one hell of a ride! :D
"Ew," Milou's face scrunched up in disgust.
Giggling, Ilse broke the kiss off and rested her forehead on Matt's shoulder, which was – with his 6′ 3″ – the perfect height for her. "What?"
"You're kissing," she replied, loathing in her voice.
"Yes and I like it," Matt teased her, pressing another kiss on Ilse's lips. He chuckled when Milou started protesting again. "Sweetie, we haven't seen each other in two months, it's what grownups do."
"I know, but it's icky. And you're always kissing."
"Because we like each other," Ilse answered, while her hands were roaming over Matt's back. "You want breakfast, Milou?"
"Don't think I'm hungry anymore," she petulantly stated.
Letting her head fall back, Ilse rolled her eyes at her niece, the drama queen. "We'll talk again in ten years."
"Na-huh," Milou vehemently shook her head. "I don't like boys."
"Not yet," Matt smirked, pressing himself against Ilse, who was leaning against the counter. "Just wait…"
Ilse broke free of his hold and gently pushed him back to grab breakfast. "Milou, give me a hand."
"Will you stop kissing?"
"For now," she mumbled, handing the girl a carton of milk and placed the other items on the counter. Opening the dishwasher – they'd turned it on before they went to bed last night – Matt grabbed a couple of clean plates and helped them to set the table and Ilse brought the cups of juices.
"Auntie Ilse," Maddy started as she climbed on her seat. "Daddy's not here yet."
"I know, he's still asleep."
"Maybe we should wake him," Nathan suggested, a pensive expression on his face.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Matt chuckled, handing them a spoon for their cereal.
"He and Sammie have to go to the airport and Daddy never sleeps in," Milou offered, frowning.
Holding up her hand and biting back a smile, Ilse shook her head. "Don't you kids worry about that, I'm sure Daddy set the alarm. It's not even seven yet."
"But Daddy is always up before us," Maddy protested, wondering if something was wrong with her father.
Shaking his head, Matt smiled. "He needs his rest," only to receive a poke in his ribs from his own wife.
"Can I wake Sammie?" Milou asked, her spoon frozen midair. "She was up early yesterday too."
"No, no, you can't," Ilse shook her head and poured the twins some milk in their bowls. "Just eat your breakfast."
"Sammie won't mind," she tried again.
"I know, but she'll get out of bed when she wants to."
Taking a bite from her cereal, Maddy frowned. "Can't she sleep in the plane? And Daddy too."
"Maybe they don't like sleeping in the plane," Matt offered, grabbing some food for himself as he sat down next to his wife. Leaning towards her, he smirked. "At least, not as much as in bed," he whispered softly, only for her to hear.
Almost choking on her tea, Ilse coughed a few times and glared at him. He just winked at her and patted her knee, before his hand traveled higher… "Matt," she objected and swatted his hand away.
"Why," Nathan started, chewing loudly, "are Daddy and Sammie going alone?"
"No talking with your mouth full Nathan," Ilse scolded him gently.
Swallowing the last of her food, Maddy piped up. "Yes, why?"
"Because," Matt shrugged, placing his hand back on Ilse's thigh under the table. He couldn't help himself when she was sitting next to him, wearing one of his shirts. He knew she wasn't wearing anything underneath it, with the exception of one of the skimpy thongs she usually wore, which made it all the more enticing.
"Because of what?" Milou challenged him in a petulant tone, before taking a sip of her juice.
"Yes, dear," Ilse scowled at him with a small smile on her face, her hand reaching under the table to grab and still his hand, which was doing a way too good of a job of teasing her. "Do tell."
"Well," he cleared his throat as she squeezed his hand. "It's because, eh… they like each other," he explained to the children, "a lot."
Nodding, Milou recalled. "Sammie loves Daddy."
"Uh-huh," Nathan agreed with her between bites.
"He loves her too," Maddy smiled at her auntie and uncle. "Kinda like how Uncle Matt loves you," she told her Auntie Ilse.
"Oh yeah," Matt grinned as he quickly disposed of the hold his wife had on his hand and brought hers up to press a kiss on it. "They do look good together."
Stifling a yawn, Jack opened his eyes and relished the feeling of waking up with Samantha Carter in his arms. Her blonde hairs were tickling his nose, but he didn't dare move. Instead, he decided to enjoy it and breathe in her nice shampoo. Nothing had happened last night, except for some cuddling and snuggling up together – which he could admit, at least to himself, he really liked doing with her – because that was what they'd agreed on earlier that day, outside in the snow. They still didn't have a real solution considering she didn't want him to retire and her divorce hadn't gone through yet. But they hadn't been able to resist crawling in bed together…
"Good morning," Sam mumbled with her head still on his chest, as she lazily stretched out her arms, careful not to hit him.
"Ah yes, a good morning indeed," he smirked and pressed a kiss on her crown. "Sleep well?"
"Like a baby," she wasn't afraid to admit, it had been the best night – with the exception of that particular night on Atlantis perhaps – she could remember. "You?"
"Yeah," Jack responded, although he'd woken up a few times, his subconscious afraid that it would all turn out to be a dream and he had to check if she was still there. Her soft breathing and weight on his chest told him that, but he couldn't resist looking at her every time he woke up, even if the room was scarcely lit. Looking down, he noticed her smiling sleepily up at him and he felt himself smile back, before caressing her cheek with his hand.
"Hmm," she murmured, as his calloused fingers traced the contours of her face. A girl could get used to this, she thought, snuggling a bit closer and pressing a kiss on his bare chest.
"Sam," Jack weakly protested as her lips – and that was definitely a tongue – burned his skin and her hot breath was teasing his nipples. Clearing his throat, he reached down to still her hand. "Carter!"
Smirking, Sam looked up at him after his warning groan. "What?"
Her innocent tone didn't fool him and he squinted at her. "I thought we'd agreed to… you know."
"No?" She drawled out, her fingers playing with the waistband of his boxers as his hand held her wrist in place. "What do you mean, Jack?"
"Sam," he said in a tight voice as one of her nails scraped over his skin, tracing the hairs from his navel to his boxers. His body was already paying more than enough attention to her presence and actions, and he could feel his interest growing by the second… as if waking up with her in his arms wasn't hard enough already! "You might not want to do that."
Sam ducked her head to hide her growing smile for his growing discomfort and teasingly ran her tongue over his nipple, making him gasp. "What if I want to?"
"Oh no, you don't," he tried to convince her through gritted teeth and pulled her hand up, holding it in an iron grip on his chest. He thought about placing it on the covers to prevent more wandering, but considering she'd already pushed the covers down to his waist, that didn't seem like such a good idea. "Samantha," he drew her attention by using her full name in a placating tone and used his most charming smile on her. "I thought you didn't want to go any further until the, er…" He really didn't want to remind her of that weasel or the divorce, "paperwork was done?"
"So did I," she agreed, shyly smiling up at him. "I just, you know," she half shrugged with her exposed shoulder, "changed my mind."
"Oh, did you now?"
"Oh yeah," Sam beamed at him, "probably has something to do with waking up in your bed," she mumbled, before kissing his neck, "and in your arms…"
Closing his eyes, Jack tried to keep his body under control as much as possible as she was kissing her way up to his throat, only to be followed by his ear. "Sam," he hissed in a dangerous, low warning when she threw her leg over his and he felt her foot move up his calf.
"Jaaack," she teasingly responded, nibbling on his earlobe as she pressed her body flush against his.
"No seriously, Sam," he grunted, letting his head fall back on the pillow, trying to ignore her advances. "We shouldn't be doing this, not now–"
"Why not? At least this time we're not here in official capacity," she mumbled, tracing his ear with her tongue. "I'm awaiting reassignment, you're on leave and thus I'm not under your command. Right now, we're not Carter and Sir, we're simply Sam and Jack."
"Still," Jack tried to object, but he could already feel his resolve weaken under her caresses. "I want to do this right and–"
"Oh, I don't have any doubts about that," she giggled as her knee came into contact with a more sensitive part of his anatomy, "I'm sure you can do this more than right."
Scooting to the other side of the bed, Jack tried to evade her less than subtle touches and shook his head. "No, we said we'd wait and we will," he used his most commanding tone as he tried to keep his cool.
"Oh come on, Jack," Sam sat up and scooted over to him, "don't be a tease–"
"I'm the tease?"
"Yes," she threw her arms around his waist to keep him there. "In contrast to Atlantis, this," she made a vague hand gesture in the air, "isn't as much against the regs and at least this time the paperwork has actually been submitted."
"Not as much, yes," he leaned in and kissed her softly. "Still against the regs, though."
"Meh," Sam shrugged, before pulling him back in, their kiss soon turning more passionate.
Throwing a last, lingering look on his Colonel as she walked towards the bathroom, Jack rubbed his hair dry with a towel, the corners of his mouth still slightly curved upwards. God, that woman was a tease, he thought grinning as she swayed her hips the last few steps and cast a glance over her shoulder, winking at him before she went in and closed the door behind her cute, little six – only clad in blue shorts and a tank top that was hardly worth the name. He still marveled at the fact he'd been able to keep her at bay – well, kind of – when they woke up with her only wearing that little outfit and practically seducing him on the spot.
No wonder his shower had mostly consisted of cold water, Jack pondered, before throwing the wet towel over a chair. Okay, maybe kissing was still against the regs too, but it wasn't as bad as going all the way, right? Besides, they deserved a bit of leniency after all the years they'd lost. Not to mention the fact that they'd saved the world – and others – several universes and galaxies of destruction, more than once! Hell, probably more than ten times already – he should ask Teal'c, he was keeping score.
Yes, if anyone was going to take action against them, he'd inform them that they were lucky he'd kept a tight rein on his desires for so long! Okay, maybe not, but still. The woman could make him practically do anything with that smile of hers. Shaking his head at his own thoughts, Jack walked out of the room in his jeans, pulling a shirt over his head before peeking in the rooms of the kids. Padding over to Ilse's door, he took a moment as he pricked his ears and knocked loudly, making sure he wasn't interrupting anything… Oh no, he definitely didn't want to walk into something! Getting no answer, he cautiously opened the door only to reveal the same absence of people as the other rooms, with the exception of the soft breathing from his little niece in her crib.
Shrugging, Jack continued downstairs to find the kids in the living room. They were watching some cartoon he didn't know, probably because they usually were either at school and him at work or outside playing at this hour! Yeah, he and Sam had taken their time in bed and he'd only gotten up to shower when the alarm – set for 0815 for a change – had gone off, forcing him to take action. Sam had just smiled lazily at him, still trying to break his resolve no doubt and he'd darted into the bathroom, her giggles finally fading when he had turned on the faucet.
"Hey honey," Jack patted Milou's hair as she looked up at him from the couch. "What are you watching?"
"Dunno," she shrugged, not really caring. "I was waiting for you to come downstairs… can we go play outside?"
"Not dressed like that you can't," he objected, pointing at their PJs and uncombed hair. "Where's your aunt?"
"She was loading the dishwasher," Maddy offered, pulling on his hand. "Kiss Daddy."
He leaned down and pressed a kiss against her forehead, making his little girl smile. "You had breakfast already?"
"Hours ago," Milou rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Auntie Ilse and Uncle Matt said we had to wait for you before we could get dressed."
"Sammie is still asleep too, Daddy," Nathan tore his attention from the TV to look at his father. "Can we wake her up?"
Jack understood why Ilse had said that, probably afraid to leave one of the kids unsupervised… "Ah, no, Sam is taking a shower," he hastily responded, moving towards the kitchen.
"I didn't hear her," Maddy responded, a challenging look on her face.
"Me either," Nathan chimed in.
"Neither," Jack corrected him, ignoring the rest of their remarks and turning to walk into the kitchen. "For crying out loud," he protested, making a show of covering his eyes with his arm, "not in my kitchen!"
"Jack," Ilse drawled out after her giggles subsided, "we were just kissing."
"Dressed like that?" He pointed at the lack of clothes on her body as he glared at the couple.
"Unlike some we didn't have the luxury of hiding out in our rooms," she petulantly retorted.
Looking over his shoulder, Matt grinned at him. "Yes, we had to make do with the privacy of your kitchen."
"Please," Jack groaned, "just get off the counter and get dressed," he motioned with his hand towards Ilse.
"Sure thing," she smiled at him, jumping from the counter and grabbing Matt by his shirt. "You know, I would've thought a night with Sam would make you less grumpy in the morning."
"Out," he scowled at her, pointing at the door opening. "I'll watch the kids while Sam and I have breakfast."
As if on cue, Sam walked into the living room, hearing her name. "Good morning everyone," she smiled at the children, who waved at her, their attention fixed on the television. "Jack?"
"He's in the kitchen, making you breakfast," Ilse smirked at her as they came out and padded through the living room. "Hope you slept well?"
"Fine," Sam said, feeling her cheeks burn up.
"You look great," Matt smirked. "We'll be upstairs, getting dressed just yell if you need us."
"Sure," she mumbled, walking over to the kitchen. Remembering something she'd wanted to ask since the moment Ilse had approached her on the deck, Sam turned on her heels. "Why did you choose now to tell me?"
Picking up on what Sam meant, Ilse shrugged. "Jack always told me not to interfere; he said he just wanted you to be happy."
"But you did anyway, why not sooner or not at all?"
Incredulous, Ilse stared at her. "Isn't it obvious?"
"No?" Sam drawled out, uncertain about what she was referring to.
"You weren't happy anymore," she elaborated in a sympathizing tone.
Swallowing, Sam nodded; it was true but to hear someone else say – or even notice – it was a different story.
"Oh and Sam?"
"Your cell phone rang and – since I didn't want to disturb you – I answered it; it was your friend, Emma the lawyer."
"Really?" Sam questioned, surprised to hear from Emma so soon and ignoring the little jab. "What was it, nothing serious I hope?"
"Depends on how you look at it," Ilse winked at her. "She said she'd pulled a favor for you and was able to get your paperwork on the pile of one of the judges, meaning that it'll be processed before the holidays… she mentioned something about an early present."
"Wow, that's great!"
"It is," Jack agreed, placing two plates on the table, overhearing their conversation. "Bye now," he waved his stepsister and her husband off. "Sam?"
"Yeah," she watched the retreating forms of the couple, before turning to the table, her mind running light-years a second. "I wonder how long it'll take," she mentioned, joining him.
Feeling like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Jack pulled back from Sam and smiled bashfully at his oldest daughter. "Yes?"
"Are you having a baby?"
"What?" Jack exclaimed, stunned.
"What, no," Sam said at the same time, ducking her head in embarrassment. Her face was flushed, she could feel her cheeks burning at being caught making out with Jack O'Neill and wondered for a moment how she'd respond if it had actually been someone important, instead of the little girl.
"Milou, honey," Jack tried gently, "what makes you think that?"
"Dunno," she shrugged.
He silently rolled his eyes at her latest expletive and tried to urge her on by scowling at her, while entangling himself from Carter's arms. "Hm?"
"Auntie Ilse and Uncle Matt always do that," she started.
Well, he had to give the kid credit for her observational skills, he mused, glancing guiltily at Carter – Sam. He'd been thinking of her as Carter for years and while he was able to call her Sam most of the times now, his subconscious was obviously still adjusting. Even if he liked to call her Carter, simply because he was the only one who called her that. He had to bite back a grin when he realized what Matt had said when he'd 'caught' them; this kitchen really was a great place to hide from the kids – until they found him, of course.
"They say that's what grownups do when they like each other," Milou continued, "and they had a baby."
"Well, don't worry about it," Jack shrugged, "no babies here," he tried to keep his tone light and glanced at Sam.
Sam in turn, tried to give a reassuring smile, but it came out somewhat awkward, making her silently berate herself over her behavior. She needed to tell him, she knew that, but deep down she knew she was afraid of his reaction. Besides, when was she supposed to tell him? It's not like she'd had the time!Nodding to her own thoughts, Sam tried to think about the chances she'd had. It would've been ridiculous to tell him on Atlantis, considering they hadn't even made any plans yet. She could have explained it in the presidential limousine after Pete's accusations at the airport, but she'd been too shaken up at that time and Jack wasn't pushing her answers or anything. Maybe she should have told him yesterday, during their conversation in the snow… "No," she said in a slightly hoarse tone of emotions, "no baby."
"Oh," Milou replied, taking it all in. "Okay."
Perplexed at her reaction – not to mention her question – Jack simply stared at her retreating back, before turning to the woman next to him. "Well, that was awkward."
Raising a brow, Sam looked at him. "Ya think?"
"At least they know," he shrugged, brushing her bangs out of her face. "She didn't seem to have a problem with it…"
"Yeah," she nodded, "it takes away the question of how to break the news," Sam agreed. For some reason, she'd been unsure whether his children would accept her in their life, even if they seemed to like her at the moment. After all, she was just a friend to their father, or so it seemed.
"In here, Cassie," Jack replied, hearing the young woman's voice coming from the living room.
"Ah, good morning," Cassandra smiled as she looked at the two people who meant the most to her.
"Morning," he frowned at her grin.
"Sorry," Cassie said bashfully, "it's just so nice to see you two together."
"Thanks," Sam smiled at her, feeling slightly uncomfortable about it.
"Oh, Ilse said that they were done in the bathroom and that she'd fed Simone, mentioning the kids could come upstairs so that she could get them dressed."
"What are you reading?" Jack glared at Ilse, who was way too quiet this morning. He'd already packed up for his stay at the cabin – not that he needed much, he had clothes there – and was waiting for Sam to do the same. She had a bunch of things in the guestroom and had insisted on cleaning the sheets and what not, so he'd let her. Matt had decided to take the kids outside to play in the remaining snow, which had made Ilse smile for some reason and he was left with Ilse in the same room, although if the stumbling was anything to go by Sam would join them soon. Cassie was also packing, she'd be taking a flight back to Nevada this evening and Simone was in the playpen in the corner next to the piano.
"Nothing," Ilse replied sweetly.
Not buying her answer combined with the angelic smile she was giving him, Jack leaned forward. "Yeah right."
"I'm not buying that; you're way too pensively reading that and marking things for it to be nothing."
"Can't it just be work stuff?"
"It could," he agreed, "but then you would just say so."
"Maybe," she shrugged, returning her attention to the papers.
"C'mon, give," he tried in a stern tone.
"Okay," Ilse sighed, rolling her eyes and relenting. "Just some of the Air Force Instructions."
Stunned, Jack stared at her with a blank face. "Excuse me?"
"Yeah, the one about personnel, you know," she said in an innocent tone, "professional and unprofessional relationships."
"Why?" He drawled out the word, feeling he knew exactly why.
"Oh, I think I've developed a sudden interest in this sort of material," she smirked. "Especially what you often refer to as the 'frat regs'."
"Great," he groaned, hearing Sam zip up her bag in the background.
Ilse just smiled at him, knowing she had to tell him sooner or later and in this case, sooner was better considering they were waiting for a cab to bring them to the airport. "You know, the way I'm reading this," she started, "I think you should just get married."
"Oh yes, just like that," Jack retorted, sarcastically. "I never knew you were such a romantic."
"Seriously Jack, if neither of you is going to retire, resign or get transferred out of your chain of command – which is going to be tricky as I understand – this is probably the best way. Maybe the only possibility."
"How do you figure?" He glared at her, still wanting to know the answer though.
"Well, married couples are allowed to serve together, regardless of the chain of command."
"Yes, if we would have been married before we started in the same chain of command that would be a valid point," he rolled his eyes.
"Come on, Jack," Ilse leaned forward, showing him her notes. "I'll be the first to admit it would raise a few eyebrows if you two got married considering your ranks and everything, but in your case there is no unprofessional behavior in the past."
"I'm sure they'll buy that as a defense during the court martial."
"No need to be all sarcastic," she scolded.
"I wouldn't have to be if you'd be realistic, Ilse. There have been rumors for years there was something between Carter and me–"
"But there wasn't, not really," she interrupted him.
"–if we get hitched now, there most certainly would be nothing we can do for either of our careers or freedom."
"What if you could prove that nothing happened? That you two just got married without having crossed the line between professional and unprofessional conduct of behavior."
"Just got married," he reiterated, making it sound more like a question than a statement. "Yes, well, you see most people actually have a history before getting married."
"I know that," Ilse rolled her eyes at him. "But you two don't, not really. Well, with one exception perhaps – what happens on Atlantis stays on Atlantis – but you took up more leave yesterday and considering Sam is awaiting reassignment, technically you have done nothing wrong. If you have done anything at all, that is," she winked at him.
"I don't think they'd just take our word for it, you know," he sneered, still wondering about what to do himself.
"You could back up your statements–"
"Yeah, Carter backing me up and I'll back her up, that's going to work," he interrupted her. "And," he raised his hand to stop her from talking, "before you say we can use character witnesses or something, I doubt they'd believe anyone on their word." Jack concluded, crossing his arms as he leaned back, hearing Sam walk towards them carrying her bag.
"What I was going to suggest before you so rudely interrupted me," Ilse glared at him, also noticing Sam joining them, "why not use that lie detector test."
"A lie detector test?" Jack frowned at her and sighed. "Ilse, part of our training is resisting such things."
"I know that," she replied, getting annoyed with his constant interruptions. "I meant that sanex-thing you told me about, the one that nearly got you killed all those years ago. Certainly would be a good way to use it now."
"Zzzanex, with a 'z'," Jack corrected her, thinking about her suggestion.
"Actually, it's a zatarc detector, Sir- ah, Jack," Sam mumbled absentmindedly, her own mind engrossed in figuring out a solution to their little problem.
"Really? That makes more sense," Ilse nodded, "I kept associating it with deodorant or those antidepressants," she muttered. "And 'Sir'?" She smirked, "that must be interesting in–"
"Don't even go there," Jack warned her, glowering.
"Still," Ilse chuckled, "think about it… You could always offer to be tested with it if you're challenged, although you might need to put the emphasis on your work at the SGC or at least try to evade Atlantis…"
"Funny," he rolled his eyes.
Sam looked up when she heard a car pull up the driveway and peeked out the window. "Looks like our ride is here."
"Let's say goodbye and get going," Jack responded, getting up.
"Ah, here you are," Jack mumbled, taking a closer step and trapping her body between his arms and body when he leaned at the railing.
Letting her body lean against his, Sam sighed and turned her head to look at him. "This is great."
"I told ya," he murmured against her soft skin, his head resting in the crook of her neck.
"I can't believe we didn't do this years ago," she pressed a kiss against his temple, smiling as his sexy gray hair tickled her nose.
Pressing his body harder against her, Jack breathed in her scent. "Yes, well, let's not dwell," he whispered, before nuzzling her neck.
Sam chuckled and let her head fall back, giving him a better angle. "Considering all of this," she made a vague hand gesture, encompassing the two of them and the situation they were in, "maybe we shouldn't have."
Straightening, he looked at her face. "Yes?"
Gnawing her lip, Sam contemplated her next words. Did she really want to ruin this moment? They'd only just arrived after their two-hour flight and it had taken them about an hour to drive up to the cabin, including shopping for groceries. She'd been enjoying the view while Jack had been taking their stuff inside and opened the windows, to let everything vent for a moment. He'd told her it would be better this way, so they could start the fire afterwards to get everything back to a comfortable temperature. "It really is beautiful out here. I love the pond and the view."
"You're beautiful," he grinned and kissed her cheek, "and I love you. Especially when you're blushing furiously like you are now."
She'd never been good at taking compliments and his remark only made her face burn more. Smiling shyly, she ducked her head and studied the railing. Her hands moved of their own volition and covered his, once again she was amazed at the contrast and yet it felt like this was right, they fitted together somehow. "I was thinking," she started, her fingers caressing the back of his hands.
"I'd be surprised if you'd ever stop," he joked lamely, but it ensured a smile from her, which was what he was aiming for.
"And," she continued, putting emphasis on the word, "maybe there was a point to what Ilse suggested."
"What are you saying?"
"We can try to get special permission, which I think would be unfair," she made sure to let him know that.
"Why?" He drawled out, liking the idea of getting a Presidential blessing to get their relationship approved.
Sam shrugged, not sure. "I don't know, I don't want special treatment–"
"Maybe we deserve special treatment," Jack suggested, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
She grinned and shook her head. "No, we don't."
"But we saved the planet a dozen times, granted," he placed a finger on her lips to stop her from interrupting him, "you did most of the work, but still…"
Pressing a soft kiss against his finger, Sam smiled. "We were doing our job, a duty to our country, our planet–"
"The same job that has been keeping us apart," he reminded her, unsubtly.
"It should be for the entire SGC and HWS," she frowned, thinking about his proposal. "Plus the Atlantis Expedition."
"Extenuating circumstances," Jack agreed.
"Still, if it doesn't work the legal way, going through the right channels," Sam summed up, "then I want to get married."
Stunned, Jack stared at her, his mouth agape. "You do?"
"Yes," she nodded. "I want to marry you, Jack O'Neill and if the USAF won't allow us to be together, we'll just do it sooner rather than later."
"Are you sure?"
Sam beamed at him and turned in his arms. "I've never been surer in my life."
"Not even when you wanted to blow up that sun?"
She giggled and shook her head, "No."
Her giggles reverberated through his chest and he leaned closer to steal a kiss. "Good, because I want that too," he mumbled.
Snuggling up to his warm body, Sam let out a sigh of contentment. This was what she'd always pictured when her mother used to end the fairytales with a "and they lived happily ever after" – granted, it may not have been this exact situation or with this incredibly sexy man, but it was the feeling of being loved and loving someone so intently that it hurt. "Jack?"
His only reaction was the slight turning of his head towards her and she felt his arm around her waist tighten and pull her a bit closer. His eyes remained closed however, but there was a small smile playing around his lips. Lips she just had to kiss… "Jack," she tried again, before kissing him and letting her tongue trace the contours of his lips. "I love you," she whispered against his mouth and immediately felt him respond.
Opening his mouth for her, he welcomed her tongue with his and groaned when she brushed against him. "Sam," he broke the kiss and locked gazes with her blue orbs. "I love you too."
"I know," she smiled and lay back so her head could rest on his shoulder.
A comfortable silence descended upon them and Jack knew there wasn't anything in the world that could make him feel more at home. As long as he had Sam and his kids, he wouldn't even mind being stranded on some backwater planet.
He opened his eyes when she broke the silence after several minutes and was surprised to see her looking at him intently as she leaned her chin in her hand. "What?" He wondered what else there was that she'd want to tell him and mimicked her posture.
"Do you think your kids will accept me?"
Surprised, he frowned. "Of course they will, they love you already."
"It's different," Sam objected, "first I was just a friend, now they'll have to share you with me."
"Nah, you're worrying over nothing, Sam," he waved her argument away. "Besides, they already know how I feel about you and I'm pretty sure Ilse has been prepping them for this the last few days…"
She smiled when he waggled his eyebrows at her and gently swatted his shoulder. "So… they wouldn't mind us being a family?"
"I doubt Milou would've reacted the way she did if she'd minded," Jack half-shrugged. "Besides, the kids are always asking for you and they love hanging out with you."
"What about…" Sam anxiously bit her lip and furrowed her brow in concern when she looked at him. "The future?"
"What about it?"
"How do you see it?"
He brought up his hand to brush her bangs out of her face and traced the contour of her cheek. "With you and the kids by my side."
She let out a deep sigh and knew this was the moment. "Would you want more children?"
"Oh," Jack replied, rolling on his back as he dragged a hand through his hair. "I don't know, do you?"
"I asked first," Sam petulantly stated.
He chuckled at her childish response and raised an eyebrow at her. "Fine, I'll go first… I honestly don't know, Sam," he looked at her, trying to read her. "I'm not getting any younger and I don't want to be eighty when they graduate from high school, I'd like to see them get settled into a life and not be, you know, dead before their twenty-first birthday."
"I see," she mumbled as she nodded slowly.
Misinterpreting her reaction, Jack rolled back on his side and gently lifted her chin to look her in the eye. "But I know that you'd be a great parent and I can understand if you want a baby," he sighed, trying to picture it in his mind. "If it's something you really want, I understand that. You know me, I love kids," he grinned at her, "and I wouldn't mind if you'd get pregnant, but it's not something I desperately want or need. I'd be more than happy with you and the kids we do have… I mean, you know I can't refuse you anything, right?" He chuckled, shaking his head. "Hell, you convinced me to take one of those damn snakes; I sure as hell couldn't refuse you something as amazing as a baby."
Letting out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, Sam squeezed his hand. "Okay."
"Sam," he squeezed back as he tried to hold her gaze. "If you want this, just tell me."
"No, it's not that," she shook her head and let go of his hand to roll on her back.
"You don't want children?" He asked incredulous. Jack had always pictured her to have one or more kids, having seen her interact with various children throughout her career.
"I'm not sure," Sam tried, letting her arm fall over her eyes.
Clearing his throat, Jack glared at her. "Sam, you do understand that it's not just going to be you and me, right?" He asked, hesitatingly, fear gripping his heart.
"I do," she replied quickly wanting to reassure him, sitting up to look at him. "I love your kids; I wouldn't want it any other way."
"Thank God," Jack muttered under his breath, letting his head fall in relief.
"No, it's just that… You know, after Jolinar?"
"What about it?" He asked warily, still getting a sick feeling in his stomach whenever thinking about what that snake had put her through and continued to do to her, by leaving its memories and feelings behind. "Is it a physical thing or are just reluctant to share your body with someone else again?"
Surprised that he would mention such a thing, Sam cupped his cheek and caressed it with her thumb. "No, it's just that after she died, I was really messed up," she started, frowning as she cut herself off.
"I remember." It had broken his heart to see her so defeated and depressed over missing something she hadn't even wanted in the first place.
"Not just mentally, physically too."
"Go on," he urged her, turning his head to kiss the palm of her hand reassuringly.
"She left behind a protein–"
"The one that was used as a marker for Ma'chello's Goa'uld killers," he finished for her.
Sam nodded and swallowed hard, trying to get the courage to continue. "Yeah, that's not all she did…"
Hearing her voice trail off and seeing the sadness in her eyes, Jack got concerned and straightened. "Carter…"
She snorted as he reverted to their old routine with the little warning in his tone. "She screwed up my body chemistry."
"I'm not sure if I can get pregnant," Sam blew out a deep breath as she let the words tumble out of her mouth.
"Which is why you asked me if I wanted kids," Jack mumbled, nodding his head in understanding and silently chastising himself for not expecting this. There was always a catch with those damn snakes and he should have known that she'd want a child of her own! "God, I can't imagine Sam," he replied awkwardly, not sure how to react. "C'mere."
She crawled into his arms and held him tightly. "Pete and I," she felt him freeze for a moment at the mention of Pete's name, before his muscles relaxed again, "we tried and I just couldn't get pregnant," she sniffed.
"I'm sorry," Jack murmured in her ear, trying to comfort her by slowly rubbing soothing circles on her back and just holding her. "We can try if you want to," he whispered in her ear, "although I'm not sure if the world is ready for a little Carter yet." He felt her smile against his neck and kissed her hair, all the while mumbling comforting things in her ear. After a while, her breathing evened out and he knew she was slumbering. "Anything for you, Samantha Carter."
"I love you, Jack," she mumbled sleepily, hugging him even tighter. "You were the reason I broke it off with Pete, you were the one I was in love with."
"I know," he soothed her, "I know and I understand." He waited for her to fall asleep before letting himself relax. Now he understood why Sam had been behaving differently since she'd gotten back from Atlantis; first because Shanahan had been throwing accusations at her – and Jack now realized why he'd said what he'd said – then when she'd been watching the kids, especially with Simone… He breathed in deeply and willed his mind to stop thinking, because he needed the sleep. Rolling on his back, he pulled her with him and secured the blankets around them. They were together now, that was all that mattered. It had been a long and painful ride, but it was most definitely worth it if it meant he got to spend the rest of his life trying to make her happy, make her smile that gorgeous megawatt smile of hers and raise the kids together.
"I love you too, Samantha," he whispered in her ear, before finally allowing the darkness to take over.
A/N: Well, the story has finally come to an end… I want to thank everyone for the reviews, suggestions, PMs, Story/Author-alerting and adding it to their favorites, but most of all for simply sticking with the story: I know it has grown way out of proportions and took on a life of its own; I'll be the first to admit this wasn't what I had in mind when I decided to try my hand at writing. I'd imagined a (relatively) small story, 20 chapters tops and maybe a month max. Instead, it turned into 80 chapters, 4.5 months and 700 pages in Word… I know there are a lot of silent readers out there and it always makes me smile to see how many people are interested in the figments of my imagination.
To top it all off, this fic has been awarded the 2011 GateFic Award in the SG-1 Het Fic: Sam/Jack Drama category!
For those interested there's a (shorter) sequel called What Will the Future Hold: Family.