Disclaimer: Someone else has the headache of owning them, cause I sure don't. And I certainly didn't make any money off this fic. It's purely for the enjoyment of other Stargate fans.

Decision

by Linda Bindner

Oh, no, no, no... Surely this entire day wasn't happening.

Sam sank down lower into the cushions of General O'Neill's soft couch until she was almost laying on the floor. If she was really lucky, she might completely disappear, letting no one know that she had even been there that evening.

The General showed up in his living room, carrying one beer, one glass of water, and one medium-sized bucket.

Here, he said, and offered the water to her. I think that if you don't already need this, you will soon.

Slowly, Sam took the glass from his hand. She sipped the cool liquid, but it didn't do much to alter the reality of her situation. Her situation, her entire life was so awful, and so empty, that...

Okay... What kind of life did she really have? Catalog: No mother: check. No father: check. No best friend: check. No boyfriend: check. A job that had always done its best to regulate her life by telling her who she could spend it with: check.

It was this last part that she was currently trying to change, and as soon as she had finally found the courage to actually do something about the barren wasteland that her life had become, the unthinkable had happened. General O'Neill had stopped her from throwing herself at him. Worse, he had not only stopped her, but had done it in that carefully apersonal manner that he had. She'd seen him employ the exact same restraint on dozens of occasions, on plenty of people.

Only, she wasn't 'plenty of people.' She was her, Sam Carter, sans another Carter now. She knew that by groveling before the General, she had thoroughly disgusted him, and now she sat on his couch, her stomach heaving, her head pounding, her sight swimming, and she felt like she was going to lose her dinner at any moment. Her embarrassment would then be thoroughly complete.

Carter? O'Neill asked in a soft voice.

Why the heck did he have to be so caring? And so caring now? It only made things worse.

Sam?

Go away... You don't want me, anyway.., she darkly muttered. Then, she burped, but didn't throw up. At least she didn't have that to add to her humiliations.

O'Neill sat beside her on the couch. He was so close that their legs touched... Not that he would be aware of such contact, she morosely added to herself.

Sam, he said again, right into her ear, as if she had grown hard of hearing as well as suffering from a heaving stomach.

What? she irritably questioned.

He sighed, and ran a hand through his graying hair. According to the pucker that had grown between his brows, he was greatly disturbed suddenly by what he had to say. Sam, I...

But she wasn't going to let him say anything at all. Just don't, she declared. Just don't bother to say anything. Don't feel like you have to. Don't be like Daniel was this afternoon. He just wouldn't shut up.

O'Neill sighed, but continued with the conversation that she had started. You know Daniel, he said, and took a drink from the bottle of beer in his hand. Then, he set the bottle under the coffee table in front of the couch so that neither he nor she would spill its contents all over the floor. He went on, saying, Daniel gets so nervous that he doesn't know when to quit.

Kind of like me, Sam noted, then snorted. I never know when to leave well enough alone, when to just stay alone... Oh, God, was she ever drunk. This wouldn't do, wouldn't do at all. She burped again, and this time she couldn't keep the roiling contents of her stomach down.

O'Neill held the bucket up that had been her constant companion since not long after she had arrived at his house after her father's funeral. And here she was, throwing up right before the General, while he held a bucket in front of her face so that she wouldn't mess up his carpet. Charming.

How could life get any worse than this?

Take a drink of water, O'Neill instructed. She did. Now, spit it into the bucket. She did, then slid the rest of the way off the couch, banging her head painfully on the arm of the sofa as she went. Next, slide off my couch... Become a puddle on my floor.., he chanted.

God, Sir, don't! she said, but she didn't clarify what she didn't want him to do.

O'Neill pushed his coffee table back, and moved his beer bottle so that he could sit beside her on the floor.

Carter...

She began to cry. As awful as this night was turning out to be, she began to cry because of it, and she couldn't stop, and it was thoroughly humiliating, and she hated it. God!

Her response really shattered his nerves! Sam... Please... Don't... he beseached in a subdued whisper. You have to stop... Sh.., O'Neill said, trying to soothe her.

The next thing she knew, she felt the soft, inviting warmth of his heavy arms on her shoulders, his hands on her back. He was holding her, like he hadn't held her in... What had it been?... Seven?... Eight?... years. Long years. Empty years. So empty...

She breathed in the smell of his shirt. He wasn't dressed in his blues any longer, had changed into something more comfortable during the long afternoon. But she hadn't had the opportunity, had been entertaining those guests of her father's funeral at her house for so long that she hadn't had a moment alone for five minutes, not even the chance to change her clothes...

Gah, now she was clutching at him, in all her shame. She was crying into the crook of his neck, drowning the collar of his shirt with tears of regret, and of grief. The only thing was that she no longer knew which of her emotions were the strongest.

And he was rocking her, here on the carpet of his house, soothing her by running his hand constantly up and down her back, telling her not to shush, as one would expect, but to let her grief out, that he knew how painful it could be to lock those kinds of feelings away inside. Sam, you gotta let it out... Sh... Don't worry about anything... They were both quiet as Sam's sobs lessened in intensity, and finally tapered off. Then, his ramblings became about something else. He sighed once, and burst out, confessing, Sam... You gotta understand... I can't let you in... Once I do, I'll never let you out... And I have to think of your career...

It was clear that he wasn't talking about her tears anymore, or her grief. Screw my career! she harshly said. What's it ever done for me, anyway? she asked on a hiccup. I don't have anything anymore, anyway, not even you, and...

She heard a sigh of sorrow pass over her head. Oh, Sam, you'll always have me, he said, just as if he hadn't rejected her overtures not fifteen minutes earlier. Believe that. You'll always have me...

Fat lot of good that'll do me now, if you don't mind me pointing out, Sir, Sam nastily said. That damned career you keep talking about is sure to keep me from having even... She couldn't finish that thought, it was so painful in her overly sensitized, emotional state, so she started another, If you don't mind me saying so, my career can just take a flying leap over a high cliff.

Sam, please don't say that. His voice sounded so strained that it almost didn't reach her ear. You... Actually, his voice now sounded like his heart was breaking.

And that had to somehow be her fault, too. She'd hurt him, and hurt him far worse than her saying a simple 'Sorry' could fix. So, they held each other on the floor of his living room, trying their best to comfort what could never be comforted away. Trying to at least be there for the other like they hadn't been available for the other for several long months...

O'Neill rocked her. I can't... Because... Geez, Sam, I love you so much that I can't let you throw yourself away on me... You deserve so much more...

Had he just said what she thought he'd said?

Sam wiped her hand across her face, clearing it of her tears so that she could lean her head back, and stare him in the eye. Say it again, she demanded.

Don't make me... Please... I can't stop myself, even for you...

I don't want you to stop yourself, she argued. I never really did.

With a sigh that sounded wrung in heartache, he leaned his forehead against hers. Sam... You always have me, to do with as you want...

Say it. She was adamant. You have to help me, or...

I love you, Sam, he told her, his eyes shut to close out the terrible realities of their world. I've always loved you. I always will. I love you from my head down to my toes...

Isn't that a song? she suspiciously asked.

But he was going on, From my boots up to my hair, from my fingernails to my...

But she had started to cry again.

Don't cry, please, Sam... I know that it's not what you want to hear right now, and...

God, you're as bad as Daniel! she burst out. Can't you tell the difference between someone consumed by grief, and someone who's just consumed? she queried. And I'm not drunk, I know what I'm talking about!

You are sooooo drunk, O'Neill muttered, but he added a smile to his words. And you'll probably wish that none of this had ever happened...

I love you back, ya know, Sam suddenly declared before she lost her nerve to say anything. And I don't care a flying fig about my career, or getting caught, or...

O'Neill ran his hand down her cheek. But you will, he said. If I know you, it will be business as usual...

But Sam was shaking her head. Not now that Dad is gone, and can't stop me anymore... I won't be quiet! I won't be that 'good little girl' that everyone wants me to be! I won't do it anymore! Isn't thirty-nine years long enough to throw away my life on some rule that's practically invisible at best? Shouldn't I get this one small thing that I want more than anything I've ever wanted before? Shouldn't... But, her voice broke, and her breath ran out before she could finish her question.

Jack sat, and looked at her, just looked at her. She was reminded of his panic stricken face staring into hers, helpless, from the wrong side of a force field...

Except that now, there was no force field separating them, nothing in between them... No, a job should never keep a person from such a small thing as the one he or she loves, he said, Shouldn't keep... He paused. It just shouldn't. He sighed, a sad breath of air for all the long years of empty struggle, and for the hurt they had gone through, and for the way they had bowed to something beyond their control, until it had control over them. Come 'ere, he said at last.

Then his fingers very purposefully tilted her chin until his hand could wipe away her tears, until his lips could tremblingly brush against hers. His hands soothed her cheek and back as he kissed her long, and deep, and with more emotion than he had dared to show in the last decade.

When he had leaned back again, and his brown eyes were staring right into her blue gaze, he unblinkingly said, I think it's time that we petition whoever is paying attention that the Fraternization Policy needs to be changed. And it needs to be changed now.

In one simple moment, the sun cast its last rays across his living room. And she smiled so much that her heart hurt. She hauled him close again, still smiling, and said, Youbetcha!

The End


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