Disclaimer: I sure don't own them, and never did. Darn.

Desperate Confessions

by Linda Bindner

Jack stood forlornly outside Carter's front door, the rain trickling down the collar of his shirt to make him look that much more lost. He had been standing in the same place for at least the last five minutes, debating with himself whether he should say anything to her or not. His arm ached where he had been shot, but Doc Fraiser had cleared him for light duty just that morning, and he had been allowed to dispense with the sling he'd been forced to wear all week.

But Jack's health was not his main concern right this minute. He contemplated Carter's house, still undecided as to what to do, until the arrival of a young boy delivering a box of pepperoni pizza to her front step decided the situation for him. He paid for the delivery, then knocked loudly on the door; he refused to keep Carter from her supper, no matter how his nerves made his heart race in his chest.

The door opened quite suddenly, and, before he was emotionally ready for it, Jack found himself staring at Carter framed in the doorway. Her comment of, Hi, what do I owe.., died on her lips, to be replaced by a surprised exclamation of Colonel!

Carter, Jack greeted. Then, not knowing what to do next, he held out the pizza box to her. Pizza's here.

A little stunned, Carter regarded him. Um, thanks, she said, taking the box. How much do I owe you for it? she asked over her shoulder as she turned, and headed for her kitchen, where she deposited the food on the first counter she could reach.

Don't worry about it, Jack said as he followed her. Then he stopped awkwardly in her living room, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. Um... Carter, he said, and scratched at his head. He couldn't look at her, and looked at the floor, instead. Um... Can I talk to you for a minute?

Carter halted with her hand half in, half out of her plate cupboard. She turned to regard him. Um... Sure. After all, you paid for the pizza... She smiled at him a bit hesitantly. The least I can do is... Her voice trailed away as she continued to stare at him.

Jack gazed at her in the harsh kitchen light that highlighted her blonde hair. The sight made him swallow, even more nervous. This will only take a minute, I swear, and then I'll leave, he said when he could talk. He gestured towards the door with a brief wave of his hand, and ended up rubbing at his nose with the same fingers. The fact that Carter stood almost at attention beside her open cupboard, the door hanging only by its hinges, didn't help him any. She had been particularly formal towards him since that kidnapping incident earlier that week.

Um... How should he start with what he wanted to say? Jack wondered. What was best, to gently lead up to the subject on his mind, or to just blurt out his concerns, and get them over with as quickly as he could? He felt himself leaning towards the idea of blurting out his words to get rid of this feeling of trepidation inside his chest, when she suddenly smiled at him across her empty house.

Why don't you just stay for supper, Sir, if you want to talk? she offered. Her accompanying smile made her face shine as if the sun had come out behind a raincloud.

Jack instantly answered, I don't want to interrupt anything, or...

But she cut him off, It's no bother, Sir. Why don't you just take a seat? And she waved at the table.

Jack shrugged. Okay.., he answered, then crossed to the table sitting near the kitchen. I didn't mean for you to feed me, or any...

Carter grinned at him again. It's nothing, Sir. I'd be more offended if you just left without eating anything.

Well, we can't have you offended, now can we? Jack replied with a tiny amount of his normal sarcasm coloring his voice. He pulled out a chair, and sat. We both know what an offended Major is like. His tone indicated that an offended Air Force Major was something to be avoided at all costs.

Beer? she asked, her gaze now perusing the shelves of her refrigerator.

Jack heaved a sigh, thinking about his medical condition, and Doc Fraiser's wrath upon hearing that he was considering disregarding her warnings about it. I probably shouldn't consume any alcohol, but yeah, sure, what the hell...

Carter grinned again, as if she understood what was going through his mind, and the clink of bottles sounded as she shut the fridge. Plates, napkins, pizza box, and beer bottles were dutifully carried to the table, and placed on its top. As soon as they had both served themselves, and had taken that first bite of pizza, she regarded him with an openly curious gaze. Okay, what's this visit of yours really about? Then, she wrinkled her nose. This isn't about that report I did of the Adrian Conrad affair, is it? I worked on it for so long that my eyes were seeing double when I was finished!

Jack peered at her over his food. Yes, it's about the Adrian Conrad affair, and no, at the same time, it's not, he answered her.

The wrinkle remained on her forehead. What is it about, then?

Jack sighed again, then steeled his nerves as he deposited his piece of pizza on the plate in front of him. Well... He shifted in his seat, and tried again. It's not the report per se... He stopped once more.

What is it? she repeated.

Jack hesitated. Finally, he drew a deep breath, then quietly said, Okay, I'll just say what I came over here to say... She gazed at him in puzzlement, but he went on, in spite of how cute her expression made her appear to him. Um...

Colonel? she prompted.

Jack shut his eyes in resignation, and was quick to say, Please, try not to call by my rank while I'm saying this... It only makes it harder... He opened his eyes, then plunged on, I know I've never said anything about this before, and I hope I never will again... But, his steam ran out, and he found himself staring fearfully at the pizza on his plate.

Carter watched him as if she were worried that he was drunk, and might do something embarrassing. He didn't blame her for thinking in such a way; he certainly sounded drunk as he spoke again, I wanted to explain my reasons for saying what I want to say, so that you wouldn't get the wrong idea, or anything...

Carter couldn't refrain from asking, Wrong idea about what?

Jack kept going, afraid that he would lose his nerve to continue if he didn't just spit out his words. Earlier... when they took you...

Her expression instantly hardened the second he specifically mentioned her kidnapping the Saturday before, as if giving voice to the details of the horrific event made it seem more real in her mind. Yes? she guardedly inquired.

Jack shifted again in discomfort. Um... I want you to know that, even though I didn't know about your disappearance until Monday morning, I...

That's all right, she quickly said, though her brittle tone admirably conveyed her agitation, in spite of her words. I don't blame you for not realizing anything was wrong for two whole days...

Her angry voice belied her words; it was quite clear that it immensely bothered her that he hadn't somehow miraculously known of the situation earlier than anybody else. Jack winced, knowing that she was right to be angry; if it weren't for his feelings for her, and his subsequent need to pretend that he never felt anything beyond their shared professional relationship, he would have called to check up on her over the weekend. He should have called. It had simply never occurred to him that he needed to worry. She was always so capable, so independent, so dependable... Now that it was almost too late, he knew better. It never had been about the fact that he was worried about her; it had been about his concern for himself, and how those around him perceived his own actions regarding her that had always bothered him. You're perfectly right to be mad at me, he said with another wince. I was so worried that whatever I did would be noticed that I neglected to do the right thing until it was almost too late.

Carter's anger immediately cooled, according to the understanding expression that crept across her features the more he spoke.

But Jack couldn't look at her, so he missed her expression altogether. I... Um.., he stuttered some more. Another deep breath went by before he at last gave into his sense of overwhelming relief at finding her alive, and his own features softened. The moment he capitulated, the words he wanted to say started coming to him much easier. I came here to say that I'm sorry, for everything, and I want to explain so that you don't get the wrong idea about what happened afterwards, or anything.

Afterwards? she echoed, puzzled again. What happened later? That kidnapping wasn't your fault... In fact, if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't even be here, she pointed out.

She was referring to his rather dramatic interruption into two doctor's attempt to kill her. I know my timing was really good this time... Then, he stared directly into her eyes. But I've been having nightmares ever since, anyway.

Nightmares? she inquired.

Carter, Jack said, giving her the indication that he had more to say. I feel like I owe you an apology, as well as an explanation. But this is the first time all week that either you or I didn't have someone constantly watching every move we made... So I couldn't say anything before...

Her obvious confusion clearly illustrated the fact that she truly had no idea what he wanted to say.

Jack took another breath; She wasn't going to make this easy for him, that was for sure! He went on, I wanted to make sure that you know that I have never been so scared in all my life as I was the first of this week. Carter gawked at him as he went on. I've only felt that helpless once before, and feeling it again almost paralyzed me... I was so sure that it was all going to happen to me again, and I was willing to do absolutely anything to make sure that you were all right. He hung his head, and stared once again at the floor, looking chagrined. I wanted to hug you as tightly as I could when I found you, but I was so scared that if I did that, I would end up hurting you in the long run more than helping you... And by then, it was definitely not about me, or what I wanted... I was so concerned about you that I almost fell onto the floor in that hospital room when I finally found you, I was so relieved to see you... He stopped, trying hard not to let his memories of the event take control of him now. He worked his mouth back and forth, clenched his teeth, and at last was able to go on, I just wanted you to know that I acted the way I did because we were always surrounded by people, not because I had stopped... His voice faded away again, and he gave his head a shake.

Abruptly, he stood up, and put his hands in his pockets again. I'll go now.., was all he said, then he strode towards her front door.

Colonel! she said before he could quite reach it, her voice stopping his forward motion as efficiently as if she had moved to stand in front of him and block his way.

Jack came to a standstill at her cry, but didn't turn around to face her. Carter rose from her seat anyway, and didn't even pause as she came around the table, and crossed to him. She gazed at his back for a silent moment, then wrapped her arms around him, over his stomach, careful of the wound on his arm. Thank you for coming after me, she whispered into his shirt.

Jack stood for a contemplative moment, staring at her arms covering him. It was only after he forcefully reminded himself that he needed to stop being so concerned about how his actions regarding her were perceived by others that he relaxed into her embrace. He turned, able at long last to openly show the feelings he had been having for the last days. Pride for her ability to survive in a less than optimal situation was the strongest. You did good, Carter, he whispered back to her as he also embraced her. And I'm so glad that you're okay... So glad...

They stood like that while their supper grew colder and colder in the harsh kitchen light. But neither of them cared about that one whit. It was simply too good to be able embrace the other, so they did, and neither of them gave voice to the idea that they cared what anybody else thought about their behavior. They were both alive, and celebrating that fact was as natural to them as breathing. As it should be.

The End


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