Disclaimer: Hey, I know I don't own them. Wish I did, but that's life. This fic was written with nothing but the enjoyment of other fans in mind.

The Mission

by Linda Bindner

The diner's bell tinkled as Samantha Carter entered, holding a book in one hand, and a copy of the daily paper in the other. She swished the skirt of her sundress aside, and sat in a booth. quickly spreading the paper across her table. After she had ordered a coffee to go, she soon became absorbed in her reading.

Hey, mind if I join you? asked a brave male voice coming from an even braver man.

Sam glanced up, annoyance written all over her face, showing that she had expected to be alone long enough to read her newspaper, at least. Um, actually, I do mind... Not personally, or course, but I'm on my way into work, and I only have a few minutes to read.

Work... On a Sunday morning? the man questioned.

Sam gave a tolerant smile. It's an unusual job, she attempted to explain.

No kidding! the man said with a grin. Making you work on a Sunday..!

I could be waiting for someone, Sam interrupted him to say next.

You don't look like you're waiting, the man protested.

Sam tried again. I could have a boyfriend, she suggested.

You do, the man confidently said. Me.

Sam sat still for a second as ice shivers raced up and down her skin at his simple, confident words. His self-assured statement that he was definitely her boyfriend rang in her ears, but her heart was suddenly turning over in distress.

She couldn't do this, could she? A sick feeling began settling in her stomach, churning the early breakfast that she'd had. Cold prickles raised the hairs on her arms, and she felt the coldness of dread crawl up her spine.

The agony she was feeling must have shown on her face, for the man grew immediately concerned. Sam? You okay?

I.., Sam tried to say. She took a deep breath, and tried again, I... Sam stared down at the words from the paper swimming in her vision. She looked up a second later, a tragic expression on her face.

Sam, what is it? the man went on asking. Did something happen at work? Did someone push you into the telescope? His hand went to where his police issue side arm often settled on his hip. You want me to become a hit man, and take someone out for you?

Sam smiled when he asked that question, but it was a gesture tinged with sadness. No, it's... She was going to say that it didn't have anything to do with work, but she changed her mind at the last minute. I'm sorry, Pete, she said as she closed the paper, and methodically folded it into a small, neat rectangle. I thought I could do this, but I can't, she choked.

Pete appeared confused. What do you mean 'this?'

This. She waved her hand to encompass them, the diner, the situation. This entire relationship thing, she went on to explain. I thought I was ready to move on, to forget about him... But I can't. I just can't. She stared at Pete's confused, crestfallen expression. I'm sorry, she said, then added, But it has nothing to do with you, so don't think it does. It's all me.

Pete stared at her, his bafflement growing. What does that mean? he asked.

Sam grabbed her book, and her newspaper, then stood up as he spoke. She paused long enough to peer down at the lost expression on his face. She reluctantly answered, I'm... I'm... No, she could do this... He deserved to hear it from her, if nothing else.

Finally, Sam whispered, There's someone else.

That Colonel guy? Pete instantly asked.

Sam didn't deny what he had said, but she didn't confirm it, either. Instead, Pete went on, and all she could do was blankly stare at him, and listen.

Pete linked his fingers together, then angrily thumped the table top with his right thumb. I knew there was something fishy about him from the moment I laid eyes on him. He sat back against the padded both, and sighed.

It's not like that, Sam said. She looked towards the door, then turned back to Pete. The people we work for... We're not allowed to see each other, not while we're... working together like we are.

Pete glanced up at her, not bothering to try to hide the hurt on his face. That seems dumb, he pronounced. But then, I don't know the whole story, and I suspect that I never will. He gazed at Sam as she stood restlessly beside their table. At last he said, I wish you luck, Sam... You deserve to be happy.

Sam gazed back at him for an instant. I'm happy just... She was going to say 'loving him,' but if word of her feelings ever got out, if something she'd said in an unguarded moment ever hurt him... She swallowed the rest of her statement. Then she gathered her coffee to go from the edge of the counter, and left the diner without looking back.

* * *

Sam never told Jack O'Neill about her feelings for him, though she had determined that the fact that the Pete situation had even existed illustrated that it was time to stop running from her feelings, finally face their reality, and talk. Except, that, now that she actually wanted to face her emotions for him, they never got the chance to do much more than see each other in the corridor, or in the Briefing Room, or the Control Room. They were never alone, so the possibility of them having a life-altering conversation together grew dimmer and dimmer as time went on. If the events unfolding in the universe didn't stop her, he did. By not letting her put a voice to the emotions for him that he suspected she held in her heart, and she hoped was reciprocated in his, he could protect her. But the minute they were out, and clearly known to exist, there was always the chance that someone would overhear his or her uttered confession, and tell it to the brass in charge of court-martials. Then, it would only be a matter of time before a very uncomfortable court-martial forced Sam to give up her career because of her feelings for him. And he wouldn't let her jeopardize her career like that. So he continued to deny, to pretend, to go on as before. They both did. But even he had to admit that it was getting harder and harder to cover up his genuine regard for her when he really wanted to shout through the halls of the SGC that he loved Sam Carter, and that she loved him back.

But things got crazier than ever in Jack's and Sam's daily lives. The search for the Ancient Weapon in the Lost City had come and gone, Jack had been frozen in cryogenic suspension for a month and a half, Sam had practically driven herself insane in her search for a cure for the Ancient Language that was slowly taking over his brain, but she was growing more desperate by the day. Then, she was kidnapped and tortured by replicators, he was defrosted and cured by the Asgaard, the replicators were beaten, the Goa'uld were chased out of the galaxy, the Colonel was promoted to General, the Major was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and given control of SG-1, while O'Neill was put in charge of the entire base... Life was just too busy for clandestine, secret, confessions. That is, if Jack would let those confessions happen in the first place. Which he wouldn't. So... Stalemate.

Then came the visit from the Tok'ra agent know as T'crat. Half a second after T'crat had departed through the Stargate, two hours after his precipitous arrival, Jack was striding down the hall towards the elevator that would take him to level 19, and Carter's lab. He rested against the back wall of the elevator in fidgety silence, then launched himself into the corridor the second the doors opened.

The halls were fairly clear of personnel, and Jack strode urgently to her lab. Once there, he stopped to just gaze at her through the open door.

She was bent over her newest acquisition from PCX-989, just arrived through the 'Gate with SG-12 that morning. Now, she studied it intently, occasionally muttering to herself as she stared at it, then typed something into her computer before going back to bending over it with an eye towards figuring out its purpose.

It was the posture of Sam's that Jack loved the most. She was totally oblivious to his scrutiny, intent instead on discovering the object's intention, and her face was alight in curiosity. She flicked a switch on the small box in front of her. Nothing changed. Well, that's not it, she said, then moved the switch in the other direction. Again, nothing happened. She stood back to stare at the alien object. Hmmmm.

That was when Jack chose to interrupt her. Carter, you got a minute? he asked from the doorway.

Sam jerked her head up, momentarily startled by the sound of his voice. Um... Yes, Sir, she automatically answered. What do you need?

Considering the reason for his visit, that was a totally loaded question, Jack admitted to himself. Aloud, he cleared his throat, then muttered, Uh... I prefer not to talk about it here... It's a bit of a personal mission...

Instantly, her face darkened in worry. Is something wrong? she asked.

Oh, no, it's nothing like that! Jack immediately insisted. But I need to talk to you... At last he relented with a sigh. It's about a possible mission... for you... and me... And it's top top top top secret, if you catch my meaning. I can't risk anyone overhearing anything about it. Can you... Can you come over for dinner tonight, and then we can talk?

It was the first time Jack O'Neill had ever mixed business with pleasure, Sam noted. She nervously shifted her weight onto her other foot. Uh... Sure. No problem, she answered, in spite of her nerves.

Jack drew her attention back to him as he queried, I'm not interrupting any plans, am I? I mean, you don't have plans to meet with that new... um... Jack wasn't sure how he should refer to this new boyfriend of Carter's ever since he had heard about it through the SGC gossip grapevine.

Oh, Sam said with a small smile. No, no plans... We broke up.

You did? Now this wasn't something he had heard about, yet.

Yeah, Sam confirmed. Over the weekend... Just yesterday, I guess. Sam put her hands uncomfortably in her pockets. Um... I haven't exactly told anybody about it, though.

Jack mirrored her posture, and stood before her with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his BDUs. Why not? he carefully asked.

Um.., Sam hesitated, them blurted, There wasn't time, Sir, what with this new piece from...

Why'd you do it, Carter? Jack asked before she had the chance to distract him with her technobabble. Did something happen? Now, he just sounded concerned for his friend.

Um... No, nothing happened, Sam explained. Then, she amended, Well, yeah, you could say that something...

What? Jack gently prodded. You didn't have a fight, or anything, did you? Personally, he couldn't possibly understand how someone could disagree with Carter badly enough to have a fight about it, but what did he know?

Sam stared at the floor. Well, I came to the... the conclusion... that I... I have... Why did he have to look so damned hot when he was interrogating her like this? It made her nervous.

Yeah? Jack unmercifully prodded her to go on.

Sam stared straight into his eyes, and not blinking, said, I have... feelings... for someone else, Sir, she said, and her eyes widened as she gazed meaningfully at him. So I could hardly go on seeing... that particular boyfriend... That wouldn't have been fair to him at all... Sir, she uncomfortably added.

Jack had not missed her widened eyes, nor the look she had given to him, a look that contradicted her words to some extent. She was telling him, without telling him anything specific, that she felt those feelings for him. Did that mean that since those Za'tarc tests that they had undergone so many years ago, she still harbored emotions centered only around him? Those feelings of hers hadn't disappeared under the strain of four years worth of time? Jack would have allowed himself to smile at her comment, but then remembered that the security camera was still detailing their every move, and that kind of killed any thought of any action from either of them.

He couldn't react to her words, but that didn't mean that the security camera recorded anything that they said to each other... Instead of making a movement of any kind, Jack continued to stand by the door, and to stare at her, but he let a moment of silence envelop them both before he softly asked, You... You do? almost as a friend would have asked the same question, only his voice was so soft and gentle, that no one would have mistaken it for a friend's concerned voice. But, he also looked uncomfortable as he went on, I wasn't certain... Yet, knowing this information made his suggestion that he wanted to make to her that night a bit easier to make in the first place, he acknowledged to himself. Inside his chest, his heart started to do a little dance.

Sam hurried on to say, Even if nothing comes of it, I have to at least concede those feelings... of mine, she softly ended, her voice trailing off as she spoke.

Very... Very... smart... of you, Jack said from his place by the door.

Anyway, Sam said, at last successful in her bid for a distraction. What time would you like me to drop by? she asked.

1800? Jack queried. I'll try to leave the base an hour or so before that... That should get me home in time for supper, after which, we can... talk. Though there were plenty of other things he admitted to himself that he wanted to do.

Sam smiled. All right. I'll see you then. She watched him grin at her from her doorway. Is there anything that I should bring?

Jack allowed himself to gaze at her for a moment more, some of his sense of adoration leaking into his eyes. Oh, God, he thought. Just the idea of Samantha Carter eating dinner at his house made his blood smolder.

But he couldn't afford to get carried away... Not yet. Just bring your own sweet self, Jack suggested to her. I'll take care of the rest.

Sam smiled, though the gesture trembled a bit. Well, I guess I'll see you then.

I look forward to it, Jack told her, and as he turned, he realized that, despite the reason behind the mission that was why he'd asked Carter over in the first place, he really was looking forward to her company.

In spite of being practically consumed by waves of nerves.

Jack O'Neill, he cautioned himself as he walked back to his office, get a grip. He wove through the corridor towards the elevator that would take him to the twenty-eighth level, and the way to his office, determined to convince himself his dinner with Carter was nothing but business.

* * *

From the second Jack opened his door at 1805 that evening to find Sam Carter poised on his front porch, Jack knew that he couldn't pretend any longer that this innocent supper plans were just business, not according to the way his heart started immediately thumping away against his ribs. He tried to think of a fresh, new, greeting, but all he could do was open the door wider for her to enter his house.

It was a move that Sam clearly didn't see, for she simply, and disarmingly, shrugged. Well, here I am, ready to be fed and briefed... Whatever you need.

That was quite a statement, Jack thought, given the circumstances of this mission that he was going to mention to her. He drew her inside, where she hung her coat, and followed him into the dinning room. Hamburger buns already rested on plates on the table.

I hope you don't mind burgers, Jack managed to conversationally say.

Not at all, she answered, and pulled out a chair. It's like all your cookouts, isn't it? Very relaxed.

That's what I thought, Jack told her as he collected the hamburger patties that he had already cooked on his stove. No big deal, just two friends eating hamburgers... He glanced at her over the skillet he was carrying back into the kitchen after he had set a hamburger patty on a bun for each of them. You're lucky I didn't just run to McDonald's or something.., he continued.

Sam's face split into a wide grin as she smeared ketchup and mustard on her bun, then reached for the jar of pickles sitting by the salt and pepper shakers.

Jack joined her in doctoring his burger. He had just smeared pickle relish onto his own bun, when she took a bite, chewed, swallowed, then demanded, Okay, out with it... What's going on?

Sam's blunt question made Jack choke on the first bite of his own hamburger. He had to chew before he could answer her, then. Uh... Where to start? I had a visit today from a Tok'ra that I had never met before, he explained. They probably sent a new operative because of the... rather... delicate... nature of... of this mission that he's suggesting that we take part in, Jack was finally able to blurt.

Sam stared at him, then took another bite of burger at last, chewed, and swallowed a second time before she relaxed enough to speak again. Okay.., she said, encouraging him to go on. The Tok'ra... Nothing special about that.

Jack looked at her over his own food. That's all I can tell you before you agree to hear all about this... this mission.

It was that top secret? Wow. She had never been so trusted by the Air Force before to take on such an obviously delicate mission. And it said something about how much Jack innately trusted her to offer her such a mission as well. Can I ask if it's dangerous? she inquired after a moment of thought.

Jack nodded. You can. He took another bite, then wiped away the ketchup that slid down his chin with his napkin. It's more embarrassing than dangerous, he admitted at last.

Embarrassing? she questioned.

Jack considered. Yeah, it is, a bit, he finally agreed. Don't feel like you have to say 'yes,' or anything. I would never ask you to do something you don't feel comfortable doing. Then his cheeks reddened in a blush.

Was Jack O'Neill actually blushing? Sam wondered. But she sat back to enjoy the show.

Jack went on, But, you should know that today I felt like I had no choice but to agree with their... mission... myself, and offer...

You've already agreed to go? Sam asked. This was a surprise. The Commander of the base rarely left that base he was in charge of.

I've agreed to go for now, Jack amended. Under the circumstances, and given the delicate nature of this... mission.., I could hardly live with myself if I let someone else volunteer.

But it's not... dangerous... right? Sam asked again, fear for him suddenly encasing her heart.

Jack smiled, noting the fright that shot momentarily across her eyes. But, he only said, No, it's embarrassing, like I said, but not dangerous.

Sam replaced her burger onto her plate to stare at him unencumbered. Embarrassing, but not dangerous, she repeated.

That's what I said, Jack told her. But he wouldn't meet her eyes.

She noticed. Instead of calling him on his fairly odd behavior, she asked the first question that came to her mind. How embarrassing are we talking about?

Jack considered. Quite a bit, he divulged. At any rate, it could become very embarrassing... If you don't agree...

But how can I agree if I don't know what I'm agreeing to? Sam protested.

This is personal, Carter, Jack instantly told her, looking at her now. And I don't want you to become too uncomfortable if I can help it.

She wrinkled her nose. What do you mean by 'uncomfortable?'

Do you agree? he asked instead of answering her question.

Sam sat at the table, thinking for a heart stopping moment. Jack played with his food, but didn't eat any more of it as she thought. He felt as if he were dying as each moment ticked by. At last, he prodded, Well?

Sam looked up at him. You really aren't going to tell me until I agree, are you? she asked.

Jack cleared his throat. All you need to know is that it's a matter of National Security because it's part of our treaty with the Tok'ra, much to my chagrin, and it can be as embarrassing, or not as embarrassing, as you want it to be.

She tried to peer into his eyes, noticing instead how carefully shuttered they were. It could be... embarrassing? But how? And exactly how much? How much embarrassment was Sam willing to undergo for her country? How much was she willing to undergo for Jack himself? She immediately realized that when she thought of it like that, as doing a favor for him rather than for her country, she found that she was willing to suffer rather more embarrassment.

But, on the other hand, would Jack even ask her to accept this mission in the first place if there was any danger of her suffering under acute embarrassment for a prolonged period of time due to whatever this mission entailed? Sam sat back in her chair. She wasn't sure she understood everything, yet, but she had to admit, Now you've got my curiosity going...

You have no idea, Jack quipped, and uncomfortably shifted in his chair again.

A second passed, then with a tiny smile in her face, her expression alight with a sense of challenge, Sam said, Okay, I agree.

You'll do it?

Tell me everything, she demanded, and put her hands on the table next to her plate.

The relief that shot through Jack's eyes the instant she said that she agreed was unmistakable. Oh, thank God! he said, and looked like he was ready to wilt in his seat.

Sam's forehead furrowed in inquisition. Sir?

Jack sat in his chair, his eyes closed, unmoving, for a moment. He looked like a man who had just averted something extremely distasteful. Finally, he breathed a deep breath, and opened his eyes to see Sam staring at him in bewilderment. Are you okay? she asked of him.

Suddenly, Jack smiled. I am now, he enthusiastically said, and smiled.

Sir, Sam quizzically began. What..?

Jack placed a hand over Sam's fingers spread on the table to halt her tongue.

Sam stared at his hand, noting its warmth, it's roughness, it's strength... Her mind seemed determined to be distracted by such minute details, but she was still able to note that he had never touched her like that before, so unhesitantly. His touch sent shivers of excitement up her spine.

Sam, Jack went on. Thank you... That's all I can say...

Sam shrugged again, trying her best to ignore those shivers, and appear normal before him. But I haven't done anything, yet, she protested.

Jack heaved another breath, took his hand away to rub at the bridge of his nose, then said, Okay, I'll explain... A Tok'ra named T'crat came to the SGC this morning...

You said that, Sam reminded him.

Jack stared her in the eye. He asked me if we can help save the Tok'ra... the entire race... by showing them how to... He squinched his eyes shut, then blurted. How to procreate.

Sam sat, stunned, before him. To wh... To what? she was able to squeak at last.

They know the logistics of the... the act... What boy doesn't?... But, their queen is dead, Jack told her.

Yeah? So?

And their numbers can go no where but down.., he told her.

They want to learn how to have sex? Sam asked in a rush.

Not just sex... They already know all about that. But the feelings that're behind... Then, he just looked at her, noting the moment she realized the truth; The Tok'ra had decided that it was time they learned the art of making love... And they had gone to him... And he had instantly asked for her help... Um.... Yeah... That about sums it up, Jack said.

Sam looked at the wall, aghast. She looked at him, looked at her half eaten hamburger, but only felt sick at the sight of food, so she looked at him again... They want to know how to make babies? she inquired in a much more subdued voice, ignoring what this could mean to the delicate state of affairs in their own odd relationship.

Jack's blush was back, but there was nothing he could do to stop it from blossoming across his face. Um... Yeah.

Suddenly Sam's expression turned from confused horror to anxious fear. And you... you said that you had already agreed to go with... She peered at him, all the blood draining from her face. She no longer had the luxury of pretending that she didn't care for him when she cared very much. Oh, God... What if I had said 'no?' She turned pale. You would have had to go along with this, anyway.

Jack sighed, then pushed his plate aside so that he could rest his head wearily on top of his arms crossed on the table. He heavily sighed again. No... Sam... You don't understand... Oh hell... This is so horrible.., he stuttered.

Sir? Sam beseeched. You... you agreed to this... this..?

This meat market.., Jack muttered, his voice almost lost in his arms resting on the table. Yeah. Well... sort of. Again, he sighed loudly. I had no choice at the time... It's in the treaty that we share information with the Tok'ra on our social customs and societal norms...

And this is considered..? Sam sat, and stared at the wall. But..? But..?

Jack felt queasy. God, Sam, don't you see that I had absolutely no choice in the matter? The whole thought made me utterly sick, but...

Sam blurted, But you had already decided to... She put her hand over her mouth. Now, she was the one who was feeling sick.

Jack ground his head more deeply into his arms, then completely lifted it so that he could stare at her head on. I had to! he blurted as his only explanation. He hoped that she would understand. I've never listened to the gossip on base... You know that! I have no idea who's together, and who isn't... I never had to care about that before! I thought about asking Daniel, thinking he might know... He closed his eyes in complete misery, then admitted, But I really can't expect any soldier under my command to carry out orders that I'm not also willing to carry out. He heaved another sigh. I just never expected this particular mission..!

Sam leaned forward, still appearing quite ill. I don't believe this...

I'm sorry! Jack wailed, cutting her off. There wasn't anything that I could do!

Then, Sam's quick mind raced forward despite her natural attitude towards the projected mission. But what about the Tok'ra's genetic memory? Surely...

That does go back 2000 years, Jack interrupted to admit. But unfortunately, so did their queen.

Sam still protested again, But what about hosts like my Dad, who was older when he became a host? Because of his kind of situation..?

Jack bleakly wrapped his fingers around her wrist in order to arrest her attention, and stop her from speaking further. I brought up the same thing, and T'crat explained that though Jacob did choose to become a host when he was older, most of the Tok'ra became hosts at a much younger age, in order to extend the Tok'ra as a race. They are always on the lookout for new hosts, of course, but they especially seek younger hosts for this very reason. And though Jacob does know how to... He paused, and nervously cleared his throat. But he went on, Though he knows how... everything... is supposed to work, He watched her face grow even paler as he spoke about her own father's private life like it was common knowledge. Selmak has no idea by herself, and those genetic memories don't become genetic memories that are shared until Jacob and Selmak... genetically reproduce. And in order to do that, he would...

Jack didn't finish his statement as Sam stared, letting her dawning comprehension spread across her face. You mean that the Tok'ra..?

They have no idea, really, how to go about...

She interrupted this time. Making babies, she finished for him.

Jack blushed, but nodded.

Just as quickly, Sam groaned, and covered her face. My father.., she said. Then, another problem rose to her conscience. But, how on Earth am I going to explain this to him?

I've already figured that out, Jack told her. If you agreed to this mission, then T'crat also agreed to send your father on a mission of his own, so that Jacob won't ever know...

Sam glanced up, still looking slightly pale. What... what about..? She swallowed. What about... the SGC?

Jack replied, Unofficially, which is all anyone will ever know, the Tok'ra need your help in creating a new reactor, and they require my knowledge of fighting and stealth for training the newer Tok'ra members, Jack said. We can explain the reason behind the fact that they didn't ask for Teal'c's help as well by siting the numerous occasions of hostility between the Tok'ra and the Jaffa. No one will ever know the real reason why we're going to the Tok'ra homeworld.

Sam wilted into her chair, and covered her face. God, this is embarrassing.

I told you that it could become.., Jack started to say.

But you never said that it would be so... so... humiliating! Sam objected.

Jack sighed. Suddenly, he grinned. Maybe we're looking at this from the wrong angle.

Sam let her hands fall to her sides as she considered his suggestion. But then she shook her head. I don't see what other angle we can possibly take on this.

Jack stared at her again. Sam, I think it's time that we talked, he told her.

But still, Sam kept her face covered again. We can't talk... You know that! She looked like her entire life had just ended. We can never... She heaved a huge sigh. This is so awful.

Jack scooted his chair closer to hers. Then, he leaned forward to be closer to her. Sam.., he said in a whisper. Please, look at me.

I can't, Sam told him in a low voice.

Sam... Jack wrapped a hand around her fingers, and at last she turned her face so that he could look directly at her. He squeezed her hand, and left his fingers wrapped around hers, rubbing her palm affectionately with his thumb. You have to know that I planned to do everything in my power to get someone else assigned to this mission if you didn't agree. There is nothing...

Sam shuddered. I know... But what if there wasn't anybody else who..?

I didn't want to think about that possibility, Jack told her. But if there wasn't anything that I could officially do, then I had to accept that...

Nothing is worth it, Sam said, a sense of sick finality in her tone. The country can't be worth...

It's not, Jack told her. Stop interrupting me, and I'll be able to finally tell you that I thought about resigning, if push came to shove on this.

Sam's head jerked again. You can't resign! she loudly protested.

What else do you suggest that I could do? Jack beseechingly asked. You know that I could never...

But what about what you said about... Sam stopped, and swallowed the bile in her throat that was choking her words. She tried again to speak, much calmer this time. But you said that you already planned to go ahead with this mission...

I know what I said, Jack echoed, and heaved another sigh that split through the room. But you have to see that I said that I had agreed to go at that time... He shook his head then, but refused to look at her. I could never...

Did you not mean it? Sam inquired, her voice pained now.

Jack squeezed her fingers. Sam, there was no way for me to know what you were going to agree to... At the time, I had no choice but to say that I intended to go. But, I know myself pretty well by now... I could never do what T'crat's asking...

Sam sighed, and leaned forward onto her hand supporting her forehead. After another moment of silent contemplation, she changed the subject, and quietly admitted, Jack, we're both assuming a great deal of information here. Neither of us has ever actually come right out and said anything that suggests that either of us...

Jack instantly squeezed her hand again in an attempt to help her stop talking. Sam, he hesitantly choked, filling in the silence left by her trailing words, I know that we've never actually said the words...

Jack, Sam softly interrupted him, I guess this forces us to talk about what we left in that room four years ago... We might not be looking to talk about that, but...

Suddenly, Jack stared up at her out of eyes that were delectably soft, imploring, and oh, so familiar. Did you want to leave it in the room at all? he asked, his quiet voice practically a whisper now.

She turned to stare at him. Did you? she countered.

Jack sighed once, his soft breath washing across the entire table. You know as well as I do that leaving it in that room was... was... convenient... at the time... We had careers to think of, to protect, and then... at the time, it... He shook his head in regret of those earlier actions. But I'm not so sure that it was the right thing to do.

It was the only thing we could do at the time, Sam argued.

Jack gazed at her again. Or were we merely running away from ourselves, and from each other? he asked. Did we simply take the easiest way out?

Sam peered back at him, her abject misery giving way to the natural sense of curiosity always burning inside her to hear what he was thinking. Still, she objected, But didn't we really have no choice in the matter? She quietly went on to ask, Not if we wanted to continue working together?

Jack gazed at her once more, the look in his brown eyes growing softer by the second. Was it the only choice we had? Or, again, was it the convenient choice?

Sam leaned her head forward onto her hands again, and those fingers soon covered her entire face in order to hide again from him, even if he knew more about her than she could ever conceal. When she was forced to speak, her voice came out muffled by her fingers. I don't know if we were following regulations, or if it was just a convenience for us... I don't know anything anymore!

Jack felt as if he had reached his limits on how much discomfort he could force himself to watch her go through. He pushed his chair back, then drew her up beside him in order to pull her into his arms. Don't... Please, Sam, don't... But, he couldn't force the words around his twisted tongue, and speak. Instead, he found himself kissing the top of her head, the action feeling quite natural to him as he tried his best to soothe her. Sam, I... He closed his eyes as his heart felt ready to explode with emotion. He whispered again, Sam, I love you so much that...

That's my line, she said, interrupting him. Her arms wrapped around his middle almost by themselves. I'm supposed to say...

No one's supposed to say anything, here, Jack said.

Sam had to give a chuckle at his comment. Then, we're both doomed, given the nature of this mission...

Jack kissed her on her forehead... He couldn't help himself at this point, couldn't resist any longer his desire to feel her skin under his lips, so strong a feeling, that he... Sam, I'll be honest with you... The minute I heard T'crat's suggestion, I wanted to jump for joy, and cringe in fear at the same time... I knew right away that this could be the excuse I had been waiting for for a long time... But I also didn't know how you were going to react...

Jack, she said, cutting him off to whisper. Jack... Jack...

He couldn't repel his desire to smile at her, either, when she uttered his name. What are you doing? he asked. Saying my name in hopes that all this will simply disappear, and you'll wake up tomorrow to find that it was a bad dream?

No, she told him immediately. I'm forcing myself to get used to saying your first name... Unless you want me to call you 'Sir' for all eternity...

A smile lighting his face, Jack hedged, I don't know - there is always something irresistible about you when you call me 'Sir,'...

Irresistible, Sam repeated, and he could almost hear her rolling her eyes... There was always something much more irresistible about you is what you mean...

No one had ever described him, the cranky General, as 'irresistible' before. He grinned again. Sam, this doesn't have to mean...

I'm in love with you, she blurted all of a sudden. I have been for years, and you're right in that the way I wanted to 'leave it in the room' was a good excuse to run away from my own feelings of... But she stopped to simply stare up at him. Then, she did something he never expected her to do; She raised herself up the last few inches separating then, and cautiously covered his mouth with hers, kissing him in a precipitous, and unprecedented, gesture of pure affection that would have sent the Tok'ra spinning in their unfairly superior seats.

For a split second, Jack was so surprised that he didn't respond. Then, he touched her cheeks with his fingertips, his arms slid to grip her shoulders, and then he wrapped his arms around her waist to pull her closer than ever before. Her touch was magic to him, felt soothing, and simultaneously exciting. In another second, he was kissing her back with all the love that was in him, trying to communicate years worth of utter fondness and admiration in just one show of affection.

Sam pulled back momentarily. But after only a fraction of a second had passed, not nearly long enough for Jack to gather his emotions, she had pushed him against the wall between the dining room and the kitchen, then leaned with all the seductive wiliness at her disposal against his entire front. He barely had time enough to breathe before she was kissing him again, claiming him in a way that was both erotic, and full of adoration.

Sam felt the wild beating of his heart against her shirt, mingling with her own thuds, and welcomed the tingles that shot through her entire frame in reaction. She couldn't resist the smile that curved her lips upward when they parted, and he gasped for breath while she nuzzled his neck in anything but a platonic manner. At last, still smiling contentedly, and leaning into him hard enough to keep him in place, she inquired of him, Are you all right with this?

With no warning, Jack grinned. Are you kidding? he asked. I get you handed to me on a silver platter, the Air Force actually endorses it, and it's even expected of us? He stared at her, still grinning, and squeezed her tight against him. Hell, yes! he said.

Sam pushed her hands into his chest. But what about afterwards, she questioned. Can you just go back to the way...

At that statement, Jack's resolve quivered a bit. Well, I know that I won't want to go back to the way things are now. Not after this... this mission. He swallowed hard this time, and stared directly at her. He felt her body curve into his, felt her breasts, her stomach, her hips, crushed against him. He slowly shook his head. I don't think I can do it, he whispered. That was another reason I thought about resigning. Or about developing a... a... relationship.. with you... But I don't want to push you into something you don't want, either.

Push! Sam thought. Don't be such a gentleman! Who says that this isn't something I want? Sam whispered back to him. It may be something that's been prohibited for...

Ever since we met, he interrupted to fill in, divulging something she had always suspected at the same time. Jack couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face, and somehow, his heart beat faster, even though it was already beating plenty fast enough as it was. Do you want to hear the honest truth? he whispered across he ear.

Silently, Sam nodded her head against the comforting width of his shoulder. But the smell of his shirt, and the warmth of his skin that leaked through that shirt, were starting to take their collective tolls on her inborn resistance. So she innocently moved her hips into his until he audibly groaned, then pulled her to him even tighter.

Jack moved his hands up to embrace her further up her arms. I don't want to pressure your decisions one way or the other, he still managed to breath.

Pressure me! Sam wanted to say, but instead, in a calm, modulated voice that she knew would drive him insane, drawled, Jack, just say it, please... What are you thinking?

Jack closed his eyes again. I know that I can never go back to just seeing you every day, like I have been, as a friend, so...

This may add a strain to our working relationship, Sam suggested.

Jack softly continued. It will put an end to it as we know it, he quietly predicted.

Sam lifted her head off his shoulder at his words, and in reaction, his hands tightened around her arms. Then I think it's time for the start of a new relationship between us, she suggested. You up for some Strip Poker on this Tok'ra mission? she asked.

Utterly delighted at the way she continually surprised him, he had to agree with her unanticipated proposal. I thought you'd never suggest something like that.

She warned, I'm a pretty good poker player, you know. Maybe we shouldn't test your skills just yet.

Jack's eyebrows shot up to his hair. I think my skills have been finely tuned over the years, and they've just been leading up to this point.

An invitation, Sam said with a smiling sigh. I'll never make it to the start of this mission.

Maybe some practice would be beneficial, he recommended. Are you game, Colonel?

Strip Poker? With you? For purely educational purposes? she asked. At his head nod, she kissed him again, then leaned into him with another sigh that sounded around the room. I'll kick your ass, she softly foretold.

At her prediction, Jack grinned. I certainly hope so, he said.

The End

Sequel 'Jacob's Discovery'

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