Disclaimer: Don't own anything, least of all these characters, so please don't sue me if I 'borrow' them for awhile to take them for a little spin.

Hitting the Limit

by Linda Bindner

Jack pounded frantically on the front door of Carter's house, not really caring who heard him at this point. Carter? You in there? Then please open up... Or I'll have Teal'c drive out here to meet the police I intend to call, and they'll break down your door on suspicion of foul... The lock clicked suddenly, and the door opened. ... play, Jack lamely finished as a very teary, red cheeked Sam Carter greeted him on her front step.

She didn't look particularly surprised to see him, and he couldn't decide if that was a good thing, or a bad thing. In the meantime, she tearfully sobbed, Hello, Sir!

Carter.., Jack said in return. He studied her red cheeks surrounded by a face that was far too pale, marred by stray tear streaks among the too-white skin. What's the matter? You look like... Well, I bet you can imagine how you look... Not good, he announced right away.

Sam gave him an incredulous stare, as if he were a raving lunatic not to have expected that she greet him looking a mess. Well, you're leaving, she practically shouted at him, as if her reason for being such a mess had to be obvious, mindless of the noise she was creating. Which was an oddity for her, he slowly realized, as she had always been careful in the past of what she had said around him, and how she said it. She rhetorically went on, Just how did you expect me to look?

Flummoxed by her angry tone, and unexpected question, he stuttered his reply, N... Not...

But she cut into his answer, finishing for him. Or maybe I'm supposed to look like I should be thrilled? Or maybe like I just don't care? she scornfully continued. I don't think I can do the 'I don't give a damn' expression anymore, but I can try if you want me to do. She sobbed between every word.

Jack gaped at her. What I want? he incredulously asked of her. This isn't about me, or what I wan...

Sam thrust a yellow envelope under his nose, then. I got a transfer, too, to Nevada. She stared down at him from her top step, looking highly annoyed even as more tears streamed down her face. She took a deep breath to attempt to control her choking sobs. It didn't work.

He tried to stay positive under the pressure of her obvious distress about this news. Nevada, he repeated. Area 51?

R&D, she responded. Research... As if I don't do enough of that already... And I'll have to move! she accusatorily yelled, as if that part of the equation should be as evident to him as her reasons behind her sudden, foul mood.

Of course she'll have to move, he thought. Moving around all the time was a part of military life. She ought to know that, if anybody should; she had moved tons of times while growing up. She had even told stories about some of those moves so many times that he had them memorized. In fact, living in Colorado Springs while working at the SGC was probably the longest she had ever lived in one place. What's wrong with moving? he asked. I'll have to move, too.

Sam screwed up her face until her blue eyes squeezed together. But even in her apparent sorrow, she still looked beautiful to him. I know you'll have to move! she wailed. And that's part of the problem! she exclaimed. And that is..! Without warning, she grabbed onto the sleeve of his jacket, and hauled him roughly through the door, slamming it shut behind him. How much more awful can it get!? she yelled after closing them into the relative privacy of her house.

But if she kept yelling like that, she wasn't going to keep anything private for long. He was on the verge of telling her to lower her voice lest she be overheard, something he would never have expected to have to do with her when she took an unexpected, belligerent step forward.

Jack took a step back to distance himself from her hysterically crying form. (Carter, crying? When had that started?) He blinked once. Okay, he calmly, wanly said, and raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. Let's start this whole thing all over again, and maybe one... or maybe both... of us will make more sense. He blinked again, then said, Carter, you're not answering your cell phone, your email, or your regular phone. We were getting worried about you, and...

That was as far as he got when her tirade started again. She quickly disregarded his desire too begin their communication over for a second time. 'They' just plan to wipe their hands over everything I have here, and all you can say is that the gang is worried about me?

Jack was fast losing his patience with this exchange, even if it was a shared conversation with Carter. What do you mean by 'wipe..?'

Again came the highly annoyed look. This house! My lab! My friends! You! Everything! It's all gonna be gone! Wiped clean!

Jack gaped at her. But this is what living as an officer in the military is like. You know that, he protested.

She broke into a fresh stream of tears. And that is just shit, if you pardon my French, Sir!

Jack gazed at her in total bewilderment, then. Carter, what's gotten into you today? he asked. Do you have some funky alien virus that you forgot to tell me about?

Once more came the snorting sobs. You..! she huffed. You..! she tried again. Finally, she quit trying to tell him what was on her mind, and instead wailed. I have to blow my nose!

Okay, he said, trying to help her contain her emotions so that she could settle down enough to tell him what her problem was. A box of tissues is what you need, then, he told her, as if she wouldn't already be aware of that.

I know! she sobbed. There's one on the coffee table! she suddenly informed, then burst into another string of tears. I keep them there in case Daniel ever needs one!

She swiped at her tears with her hands, only spreading the moisture around her cheeks with her useless gesture. After her action, she grabbed a tissue from the box sitting on one corner of her coffee table. She blew her nose with a terrible sounding sob that tore at his heart, but he covered the emotion as best he could in order to go on with the conversation.

Carter, Jack began in a sympathetic tone of voice, though in truth barely knowing what to say. Crying women were typically out of his league of knowledge, he admitted to himself. He always seemed to say the wrong thing at times like this. And it was immediately apparent that this particular time wasn't going to be any better than most. You certainly didn't seem this upset when you transferred to the SGC from the Pentagon eight years ago, he pointed out.

Her glare gave him the quick impression that he had, indeed, said the wrong thing this time, too. She put her hands on her hips and regarded him with a disbelieving gaze. Well, excuse me, but it just so happens that I wasn't in love with my CO from the Pentagon, as you well know, and...!

Jack's heat stopped beating for an awful second. He could only interrupt her with raised brows. In a voice so hoarse, it cracked, he incredulously echoed her, In love with your CO? The suddenness of her confession, even when that confession had been a known commodity, terrified him to the extreme. Because he was so frightened, his fear manifested itself as anger. Well, excuse me for reminding you that until two weeks ago, you were an engaged woman!

That's just details, and you know it! she hollered back.

Jack balked. It was a detail that was pretty damned important if you ask me!

It was important that you didn't do anything to stop it! she noted.

How the hell was I supposed to know that I was supposed to stop it? Jack inquired. You seemed perfectly happy with him!

Of course I wasn't happy! Sam informed back. But all you could tell me the day I asked for your advice was that at the time, if things had been different, you wouldn't even be here, so it wouldn't have mattered what you did, or what I did!

Well, I shouldn't have been here! Jack informed her, still yelling. I could hardly help what my original orders had been on that first Abydos mission!

This information made Sam's anger pause for a moment. Looking totally confused now, she asked, What were your original orders, then?

Jack scowled at her. Like you don't know... Everybody in the entire SGC knows about that! Even General Hammond knew!

Sam's eyes were incredibly, impossibly wide. She shook her head. I have no idea wh...

Jack did nothing to soften the blow of his information for her, as her last words hadn't had time to register in his conscious mind before he was telling her, A suicide mission, Carter! It was only six weeks after Charlie had died, and I wanted to die right along with him!

What? Sam barked. You wanted to what? Commit what?

Suicide! he yelled in her face, his expression lost in his own ferocious frown.

Sam's sign of unease turned into one of absolute horror. Oh, my God! she exclaimed. She gave a stumbling start into the front of her sofa. They really did that to you? she asked in a quiet, dismayed voice.

No one did anything to me that I didn't do to myself! Jack bitingly told her. If it hadn't been for Daniel...

It was Sam's turn to take an involuntary step back. Daniel? she repeated. What did he have to do with it?

He saved my ass when I couldn't save it myself! he told her in no uncertain terms. If it weren't for him, I would have been dead before you and I even met!

Carter's white face turned even whiter, and she didn't have time to comment on his seemingly ridiculous statement before her throat closed so that she could barely say anything at all. She looked at him with a dismayed cast to her face, indicating that she felt more lost than any expression he had ever seen coming from her. No.., she muttered.

Jack belatedly thought that he shouldn't have told her this information, at least, not so bluntly. It was clear that she hadn't known, even if he had thought that she had known the barest sketches of that first Abydos mission, if not the details. Her reaction to his words were infinitely awful to watch. He thought for one scary moment that she was either going to get sick right there in her living room, or that she was going to faint. Carter! he called in alarm, and grabbed onto her arm. Sam!

His voice seemed to be coming from very far away to Sam, it was so fuzzy. She felt her head pound, her ears ring, her eyes sting, and the blood drain to her feet. Suicide? she thought in shock. Her knees sank out from under her, no longer supporting her weight.

Jack guided her down sideways to her couch with the hand he still had clutching her arm. God, Sam, I'm sorry, he said, his voice now as contrite as it had been angry barely a heartbeat before. Sam... Sam! he repeated again. His hands were in her hair, on her cheeks, rubbing, caressing, doing anything to encourage some color to come back into her face. Sam...! Oh, God, say something!

Slowly, the room came into focus again for Sam. It was at that moment that a glass of cooling, revitalizing water was shoved into her hand, and up to her lips. Now, drink, Jack ordered.

She knew how to follow an order, even in the worst of circumstances. She gulped at the liquid in the glass.

Slowly.., Jack cautioned. So help me, Carter, if you spit that water back in my face...

She was breathing in great gasps of air. Sor... Sorry... Sir, she said, her teeth now chattering together.

You have nothing to be sorry for, Jack told her. He wiped his hands across her cheeks again in order to remove the evidence of her previous tears. Come on, tell me, what's eating at you?

Sam looked horrified now at her recent behavior. My apologies... I should never have yelled...

Yell at me all you want, Jack said then. It's good for me to hear it every now and then... Just don't faint on me... Don't get sick, or anything... God, I would feel so awful...

Then it happened, just like that. What Carter had said earlier about being in love with her CO finally sank completely into Jack's brain with a snap. His eyes widened at the inner realization. Holy... crap, he whispered as he just stared at her. Did... Did you... Um... Did you mean that?

What was he talking about? What? she asked then. Did I mean what?

Jack seemed utterly shocked that she didn't inherently know what he was referring to. You said... He exhaled a burst of air. You said that you...

Sam cut him off as realization finally struck her. That I love you? she sadly ascertained. She closed her eyes, now showing the regret she felt. But it was regret for how little had ever come of her feelings, not that she had them in the first place. It's hardly a secret, she told him. We may have left what we said during those damned Za'tarc tests 'in the room,' but the entire SGC knows about every word we said to each other. I don't know who we thought we were fooling with all that effort we made over the years.

Jack stared at her, still too shocked to do more than goggle at her. You... You... He couldn't put his concerns into a complete sentence now if his life depended on it. He forced himself to swallow, and try again. That makes you sad, doesn't it? he was finally able to ask.

Sam's eyes filled with tears... What was it with her and all these tears? Jack wondered. What had she been doing?... Saving them all up to throw at him now? No... Not sad.., she answered, laying her fingers over his on her cheeks. At least, not about that. At last, she admitted, I'm just sad that nothing can ever come of it... Sad that we wasted so much...

Jack's eyes narrowed. Who says that nothing can come of it? That we wasted so much time?

Sam hesitated for a moment. Well, isn't that what we always thought? That the whole thing was... useless? That we should just forget about everything?

Jack scrunched up his face. I thought that's what you wanted. That's why I asked if we were both all right with 'leaving it in the room,' which you said...

Sam stared for a minute. No... I thought that's what you wanted, she told him in stunned silence. To leave it 'in the room.'

Jack stared at her.

Sam stared at him.

At last he whispered to her, No... I never... He stopped, and drew a taut breath. Finally, he whispered in a hushed voice, We were so quick to agree with each other at the time... We never really talked about it, though, did we?

Sam made a low, indecipherable noise in the back of her throat, kind of like a moan of surprised horror. She looked at him, her eyes wider yet, her white face schooled to a frozen gesture of shock as their shared idea of 'mistaken assumption' settled into her mind.

Sam stared some more.

Jack stared some more.

Oh, God, Carter whispered a groan at last. This... That... isn't what I wanted at all.

Me neither, Jack softly informed her.

I think I'm gonna be sick, Sam deadpanned back to him.

After I am first, Jack told her. And he did indeed look as if he would hurl at the barest provocation.

Jack still gazed at Sam.

Sam still gazed at Jack. It was like she couldn't look away now that she fully comprehended what she was looking at.

Do you still..? she started to ask.

Do you still..? he started to ask at the exact same time she began her question.

Of course I.., they both said at the same time.

And that engagement? he asked of her.

I wanted you to stop it right from the start, she told him, still sounding breathy and sucker punched. I waited.

Jack shrugged. I thought you were happy with him... without me... And I want you to be happy... I always did...

He was stopped when Sam literally threw herself into his arms. She squeezed at him, and clutched, and hugged until even Jack couldn't breath. But he wasn't you! she wailed in a low voice. I feel so bad to have hurt so many people, but... She hid her face in the front of his shirt. He wasn't you!

Jack squeezed, clutched, and hugged her back. But I'm here now, he said, like his comment was a promise. And I'm not leaving.

Yes, you are! she choked. You've been reassigned! she continued. That's how all this started... remember? she tearfully told him... She was going to start crying again in another second.

Jack stopped her tears before they even really got started. No, I'm not leaving, he firmly said. We may be apart... Hey, we're good at that being apart stuff, he told her. But we won't ever be any further away than a plane ride...

You'll come visit? she asked, hating the beseeching tone to her voice, but begging him anyway.

Youbetcha, he said. He kissed her, then, on her cheek, the top of her head, her fingertips... It was as if he had been kissing her for years. He knew right where to make her shiver the most.

Oh, geez, she thought, he's kissing me right between my fingers... How does he know that I love that? She pulled him even closer than before.

Jack went on, whispering in her ear, And we'll snuggle together on your porch swing once it gets dark...

She pressed her hand to caress his chest right where his heart should be. I don't have a porch swing, she whispered to him as she touched.

Jack was about to answer when a knock at her door answered for him. He smiled. You do now, he told her, and quickly, and searingly, kissed her on her lips.

As Jack crossed to the front door to let his coconspirators into the house, Sam sat on the sofa, still too shocked to move. Stunned, she heard Jack's voice as he ushered Daniel and Teal'c inside.

Thanks for picking up that swing for me, guys! he said. I owe you one.

Teal'c looked around the room, his gaze lighting on Sam's red face. He instantly said in his rumbly voice, You have been making Colonel Carter cry, O'Neill... No one makes Colonel Carter cry...

We had a fight, too, but that's beside the point, Jack conversationally told Teal'c and Daniel.

Uh.., Daniel said. He paused, noticed the red streaks trailing down Sam's cheeks, the ashen cast to Jack's frowning face, and asked, You guys all right?

Couldn't be better, Sam told him, still sounding faint and stunned, but quickly recovering to be more like her normal self.

What did you do..? Daniel asked them. Did you threaten to kill each other?

Nope, Sam said, much more calm now than she had been earlier. We plan to take it out of the room, she told them with no uncertainty in her voice.

At first, Daniel seemed too surprised to say anything. Then, he grinned a huge grin, and Teal'c almost smiled as well. Daniel whispered to himself, Thank God. With a sudden and absentminded slap onto Teal'c's heavily-muscled stomach, he slowly said, Teal'c, let's leave these guys alone for a minute or two, and go out to hang the swing... How 'bout it?

Teal'c responded with his usual tact. 'Sounds like a plan,' as O'Neill is fond of saying. He turned and followed his friend back out the front door as if he couldn't leave the room fast enough. It was a well known fact at the SGC that Teal'c liked the presence of emotions about as much as Jack did.

Where were we? Jack asked Sam the instant the door shut behind them both.

Her placidity equaling her sudden happiness, Sam swiped again at her tears to clear them off her cheeks, and said, You were about to show me how stupid we've been all these years, and what I've been missing.

Jack smiled. Oh, yeah, he said, and kissed her again in a blaze of emotion. That's the part that I love, and that can go on forever, he said against her lips.

Serious, Sam responded, It will. She kissed him again. It will.

The End


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