Disclaimer: Wish this could really happen... But, as I don't own them, and made no money off this... uh, dream..., we'll just have to keep dreaming... and writing fanfic for others to enjoy.

Takes place in eighth season, right after the ending of 'The Pete Affair.'

Under the Stars

by Linda Bindner

Jack craned his neck again so that he could have a second view of the stars in the night sky. You know, Carter, even if these constellations are alien, I'll never get tired of looking at the stars like this, at night, in the light of just a fire, and nothin' else, he softly said into the darkness surrounding them.

Sam leaned back as well, staring up at the inky blackness above. Yeah, she quietly agreed. The night sky made her feel like she and he were the only two people alive on this planet. And as PRX-659 was a totally deserted planet, her feelings weren't too far off the mark.

Jack went on, Even if I don't get to do this nearly often enough as a General, it's still... He thought for a moment, searching his mind for an appropriate comparison. Eventually, he had to give up, and lamely finished, It's just really cool.

Smiling at his choice of words, or lack of words, Sam added, It makes me think of that time Daniel ascended.

Jack questioningly peered at her through the dark. When he went all glowy? he ascertained. When she nodded, he asked, Why, for Heaven's sake?

Meeting his gaze, Sam shrugged. If there is such a thing as an ascended being, I always imagined that they would be... you know... She gestured with a wave of her hand at the surrounding sky, and glanced up one more time. Out there, she softly ended at last. Suddenly, she lowered her eyes and blushed. Stupid, I know, but I can't help it.

A slow smile crept over Jack's face. Besides being a genius, you're a romantic... Whodda thunk?

Sam's blush deepened, and her features reddened for a moment in the firelight. Sorry, she immediately said. I don't mean to get all mushy on you...

But Jack was quick to hush her. Feel free to get as mushy as you want, he invited with a grin. I just didn't know that about you, that's all, he went on to explain. You surprised me. Then he lost his smile as he thoughtfully added, Not much surprises me these days.

Silence fell on them, then, as they continued to gaze into the firelight knifing through the dark of the planet that offered nothing but naqueda. They'd found tons of the metal alloy practically lying on the planet's surface, waiting to be gathered. Even though Sam's father's funeral had only been a week and a half before, she, along with her unique expertise on naqueda, had agreed to check out this incredible reserve, to declare whether or not the assets on the planet really were as good as the original MALP readings had indicated them to be. Jack had agreed to accompany her on this easy in-and-out mission, as he so rarely got to 'stretch his legs' any longer as the commanding General of the SGC. If anybody protested his desire to do his stretching off world, he asked them to think of it as a vacation. As he had done little in the past year but work endlessly at the SGC, nobody had the temerity to argue the definition of the word 'vacation' with him.

But naqueda exploration hardly rated letting an archaeologist tag along, or a Jaffa warrior, so Daniel and Teal'c were safely, and happily, ensconced back in the SGC, going about the business of translating long dead languages, or bulking up already huge muscles, or eating until the Commissary was empty of food, or drinking yet another cup of coffee, or... Jack didn't understand how one puny archaeologist could drink as much coffee as Daniel did, or how one ex-Jaffa warrior could possibly eat as much as Teal'c did on a regular basis, but... He shook his head in fond amusement in the light of the remains of the fire.

What are you thinking about? came Sam's voice through the night.

Jack answered immediately, if a bit absently. I'm thinking about Teal'c and his awesome eating habits, not to mention Daniel, and his awesome coffee fixation.

Sam grinned. Yeah, wonder if they have any food or coffee left in the Commissary after that breakfast we all ate right before you and I left Earth.

Jack glanced up at her and smiled. The place may never be the same, he announced.

Sam laughed, the sound of her enjoyment at his thoughts tinkling over the empty landscape.

Ever since Sam had announced the end of her engagement to that cop from Denver, she had relaxed more in Jack's company again, and Jack had grown much easier in hers. The jokes they had in common, and their natural sense of banter had increased to the point it had been before Jack's promotion to General had gone through. The trip they had all spent on a team bonding excursion at his cabin in Minnesota during the weekend before had done wonders to increase the ease and friendship he and she shared. Their resulting mutual companionship made him more comfortable, as well her. It was no wonder he had chosen to join her on this particular mission.

Jack sighed, utterly content for the moment. Nope, life doesn't get much better than hearing Samantha Carter laughing at night, on a totally deserted planet, under the stars, Jack thought to himself. He smiled even wider, and moved his gaze back to the fire lest he tempt himself too much with watching her eyes twinkle becomingly in the darkness. Besides the friendship and relaxation he now experienced around her, he felt the familiar tug of what he'd thought were long dead yearnings in his heart, and he fought to bury the building sensations.

Another quiet moment went by, but the quiet was a comfortable silence. Jack sighed, still happy just to be there, sitting next to her, even if he knew that he couldn't make any romantic overtures to her. He was simply content to be with her again. After another moment went by, Sam added her sigh to his.

At last, she said in solemn voice, I was thinking...

Jack interrupted her to teasingly say, I'd be getting worried if I knew that you had decided to stop thinking. He was always truly amazed at the kind of things that went through her mind. He waited to be amazed yet again.

Sam sent him a slightly sour expression. Very funny, she said, her voice indicating that she didn't hold his last statement against him. But she went on, teasing him now. Knowing that the General of the base wonders about my thinking habits wouldn't look all that good in my final mission report, you know.

Jack responded, Aw... I can hardly help being just a bit sarcastic. Come on, he wheedled. You still love me anyway.

Jack had been joking when he made his last statement, and hadn't been thinking about his words too heavily beforehand, but now he sat very still, hardly daring to breath as the limbs of the tree he was resting against blew slightly in the breeze. He studiously ignored her as he sat by the fire, and played with a leaf on the ground.

Sam knew that he had been joking when he mentioned her loving him, but she couldn't help letting her gaze slide to his for just a second as she quietly proclaimed, Yeah, I do.

This really was an idyllic planet, but Jack wasn't paying attention to the scenery any longer. He cleared his throat, cleared it again, illustrating his nervousness so well that it was as if he had hit her over the head with it. Eventually, he asked, Are we talking about what I think we're talking about?

Sam was studying the ground under her feet. She only gave one fearful glance up at the last minute before answering, Yeah. Louder, she continued, Or, at least, I am. She looked up more closely at him then. There was fear, and determination, in her pained expression as she admitted, I guess I don't know what you're...

Jack sat up as he interrupted her a second time. Um... Do you really think it's a good thing to be talking about?

Probably not, Sam admitted with a sigh, and blinked. Another moment went by. She finally said, But I can't help it if I'm thinking about it, can I? She snorted, then. I've been thinking about it all day. She added, All year... Eight years, actually...

Um.., Jack responded. He hated that he never knew what to say when she brought up the issue of their non-relationship, even when it was alluded to in a completely peripheral way.

What was he supposed to say? What could he say? Um... Talk about setting a guy up!

Sam smiled, if a bit nervously. You don't have to feel like you need to say anything, she absolved. I know it's already difficult enough to talk about this as it is, so...

Jack tried to remember how to breath. It's good that you think that way, he replied, then went on to explain, Because I can't think of anything to say right now. He looked at his boots. I know that's kinda lame, but...

Do you ever think about the 'what ifs?' she suddenly asked.

Jack was confused. The what?

The 'what ifs,' Sam repeated herself. The possible things that could have happened four years ago after those Za'tarc tests.

Jack wriggled uncomfortably against the tree at his back. I try not to think about those tests too much at all, he blurted without considering how his comment might sound to Sam.

Oh, she said, startled at his honesty. She now brooked the subject of their feelings with a lot less assumption on her part. I never thought...

I mean, Jack amended as he slowly drew a breath of air into his tight lungs. I mean, he repeated. Finally, he had to admit, I know myself pretty well by now, Carter. He was still talking to his feet as he went on, I... I wouldn't... He sighed, squeezed his eyes shut, and just blurted, I wouldn't be able to stop myself... with thinking... just once. He peeked at her through his half-opened eyes as his heart raced in his chest. I might... think again, he told her And then I might do... And I can't. We can't, he corrected. So, I'm better off not... thinking... to begin with.

Sam sighed again into the night. Maybe you're right. Yet, she asked, But, do you ever wonder what would happen if...

No, Jack instantly answered, even though he had thought about it, and thought often. However, he was even so afraid of what she was asking him that he wouldn't let her finish her question.

Sam sighed. I was just... wondering, she said.

Jack let the quiet between them stretch almost to the breaking point before he could gather together enough courage to inquire, Wondering what, specifically? He asked again, What, exactly, are you wondering?

Sam glanced at him, her fear and hesitation showing clearly in her expression. I was... wondering... what it might be like... if we... She paused again.

If we..? Jack prompted.

Sam tried to go on, If we...

What?

She gave in then. In a frustrated voice, she blurted, If we kissed... Just once.

Jack's heart painfully skipped several beats. We've already kissed, he quickly choked back at her. In the locker room, during that plague thing. He gazed questioningly at her, but was frightened enough that his left eye kept twitching. He ignored it as best he could to ask, Or have you forgotten about that?

I could never forget about that, Sam said, a bit disgruntled now. But what I mean is, kiss without any strange contagion leading our actions, or in some dream created by some alien virus, or...

Or in a time loop, maybe, Jack filled in for her.

Sam stared at him out of suspicious eyes. Yeah, something like that, she said.

Jack seemed to consider for a moment, then he responded by lying in a nonchalant tone, Nope, can't say that I've ever wondered about that.

I don't believe you, Sam said, immediately calling him on his fabrication.

What? Jack asked, surprised that she had seen through him so easily. Usually, people had the tendency to take everything he said at face value. Bearing the rank of a General in the military had its perks, such as never having to explain himself.

But now Sam sent him a disbelieving look. Excuse me for saying this, Sir, but that's a load of blullshit.

Jack gave an undignified splutter, he was so surprised by her words. It was extremely rare for him to be called a liar, and even rarer for it to be done so... colorfully. Uh... I... Uh... Finally, he settled on one particular thing that she had said. How can you say... what you said... and still call me 'Sir'?

Sam glared again. I practice, she brazenly answered. Then she went on, But I can't believe that you've never at least wondered about what would have happened if I had... or you had...

Jack broke in on her comment. Of course I've wondered, he admitted then in an acerbic tone, irritated at being caught, and being caught by her in particular. But that's all I can ever do, 'cause I know myself, and... I could never do something just once, he told her again. Not with you... And it wouldn't be safe to do anything more than once, so... He shrugged, playing with the stick he'd grabbed from under the tree, and now held in his fingers. It's just better that I don't even go there, he said, and tried not to look at her, but looked at her anyway out of the corners of his eyes.

Sam studied him, noticing how nervous he was according to his shaking hands. He really didn't like talking about this, she knew, yet she forged on, What if it wasn't just once?

Jack gave such a jerk against his tree that he dropped the stick he'd been holding. He stared at her, astonished. Am I hearing you right? Didn't you just put a stop to something like this happening to you? he asked, speaking of her now defunct wedding plans. And now you're telling me that you actually want..?

Sam calmly regarded him. I know that's not what you might expect from someone so bent on following the rules as I am...

Hell no! Jack burst out.

Sam was confused now, and looked at him with a furrowed brow. 'Hell no,' as in there's no way that you'll even consider this, or 'Hell no,' as in you haven't taken the time to think...

Of course I've thought about it! he repeated, and sent his own glare at her. And I've thought about it, and thought, and daydreamed, and just about drove myself nuts thinking...

But you never said...

I couldn't say anything! Jack exclaimed. Your father would have killed me if he had ever heard that I...

Sam rolled her eyes, and disparagingly said, Oh, my father... You could have told him to take a flying leap into the nearest lake.

Jack's eyebrows went up. Can I quote you on that?

You bet! she firmly replied. It was none of his business, really, she darkly muttered. He'd been scaring my boyfriends off for decades, she told him.

I'm not your boyfriend, Jack was quick to scoff. I'm so not your boyfriend that you found someone else to be that kind of a friend to you. Why did he feel as if he had to remind her all the time of what she had recently chosen to give up? He added, And we could be court-martialed if I was that boyfriend you keep talking about, so...!

Sam negated, We can be court-martialed already, anyway.

I don't plan to get court-martialed at all, as a matter of fact, he told her.

Then don't get caught, she mildly suggested.

Jack gaped at her. Was she..? Are you actually saying that we..?

Sam sighed in irritation. Look, Jack, we're not magically getting any younger, here, and neither of us can keep waiting in limbo like this forever, and...

Damn! She had called him by his given name instead of her more common 'Sir!' Jack was so surprised that he almost couldn't make his mouth form the words necesssary to interrupt her. But Carter.., he protested. He had never heard her be so direct before. It unsettled him. I mean... It more than unsettled him! He ran an agitated hand through his hair. He found it much harder to be equally as truthful to her as she was being to him. What you're suggesting is... Finally, he stared straight at her to honestly say what was on his mind. But you were engaged to...

An engagement I ended, she broke in to remind him. Had to end, really, because of... She interrupted herself, then, to offer something that she knew he couldn't refuse. Are you scared? she challenged. Is that it?

Jack gazed back at her in incredulity. You bet I am! he finally exclaimed. And I bet you are, too, for all your bravado about... about... What did he call this? He gave up, and simply said, About what you're suggesting.

Yeah, she admitted at last. You're right... I'm scared. Then she sighed, and confessed, But I'm just as scared that I'll let this chance that I have slip by because I'm so afraid of what can happen that I'll follow the rules, play it safe, be what I think my father always expected me to be, she babbled.

Jack peered at her. Is that why you're even thinking about this? Because of your father?

Sam considered what he'd asked. Maybe, she reluctantly said after a long, silent minute. But I wouldn't quite say that this is in reaction to what he's always expected, either.

Good, Jack cut her off. Because I would hate to be used like that, as nothing but a support for...

Sam's head snapped up at his words. She stared at him in revulsion. Use you? I would never treat you like that! she declared. She sounded horrified, now. As if I could even think about...

Now he was really confused. But that's what you're suggesting, Jack cut off her comment to say. Aren't you?

Sam shrugged. That's probably what it sounds like to you, I guess.

He gazed at her, his puzzlement growing. That's not what you're saying here?

Sam heaved a heavy, defeated sigh. She put a hand to her forehead in sudden misery, and shook he head. Forget it. I don't know what I... She abruptly moved to get up from her place on the ground by the fire. I'm going to bed... I'll see you in the morning.

Jack put a hand out to stop her as she started to rise. That's not what I'm saying, he announced, and then pled, Geez, Carter, don't go like this...

Like how? she inquired, half standing, half sitting, and ultimately looking like an undecided idiot.

Jack pulled her back to the ground beside him, and apologized right away. I'm sorry... I didn't mean to make you angry, or...

I'm not angry.., Sam argued.

Not even a little? Jack asked, cajoling.

Sam smiled. Well, okay, she admitted. Maybe a little...

Jack grinned back. Can I call it, or what? He hadn't even realized that he was touching her until now. When he understood what he was doing, he slowly began to withdraw his hand.

I don't mind your hand, Sam instantly said to make him pause in removing his fingers' grip from around her arm. It feels kinda nice, actually, she granted.

Nice? Jack couldn't do anything but stare, unable to decide what to say to her.

You aren't hurting me, you know, she told him then, in case that was what he was thinking. You don't have to look so... terrified.

I'm not terrified, Jack immediately objected, though his heart, already racing, was now racing in double time. At least, not very, he said, more honest at last.

Sam spluttered her laughter.

Her laughter caused joy to inadvertently bubble in his heart. Almost with a will of its own, Jack's hand was compelled to inch up her arm, to her shoulder, and from there, move on to cradle her cheek. It was the smoothest thing he'd ever felt. God, your skin is so soft, he commented in an amazed whisper. How did she make it that way? Or was it just him that thought that it was the softest thing he'd ever felt?

The rest of me is just as soft, Sam daringly told him as she carefully drew closer to him until she could smell his skin.

I bet you are, Jack had to comment. Then, he amended, I mean you are... It is... Damn.., he muttered. He seemed determined to make a fool of himself tonight.

But Sam didn't look like she minded too much. She was too busy noticing how he was now flicking his eyes from her own eyes to her lips, and back again, to do or say anything more intelligent as an answer to what he'd just asked, foolish or not. She looked like she didn't expect him to say anything specific at all, and that it was all right with her.

Sam didn't care all right; She had known Jack for years, and knew that he was a man of few words. She had accepted that particular personality quirk of his years before...

You know, he felt he had to warn. You won't be hearing the right words from me, or what you might want to hear, or...

I know, she insistently whispered to him. Now, are you gonna shut up and kiss me, or what?

Slowly Jack smiled. Her decisiveness was one of the many things he loved about her. Even if it scared him to death right now. You bet I am, he declared. He wasn't quite able to completely hide his longing from her, now, not at this close of a range. I just needed a minute to... to get used to the idea.

And now you're used to it? she softly inquired, moving close enough to him to touch the side of his hand with hers. She insistently, carefully, wove her fingers through his.

Jack felt the skin of her hand, and shivered at the touch. Yeah, he breathily assured. What had he been talking about..? He was too loopy from just the feel of her skin to... Which was ridiculous... Then he remembered: Oh yeah, he had been talking about the way he was getting used to her idea... That they should... Once again, his gaze moved from her eyes to her lips. They should... He swallowed, frightened practically out of his wits, but emboldened just to be thinking about starting up a real, true relationship with her. More than anything, in that one moment in time, he wanted to feel if her lips were as soft as they looked. He wanted to kiss her... Now that she had mentioned it, the urge was almost unbearable... He hesitantly started to move closer to her...

I think that.., she said, just as his lips met hers in the scariest moment in her entire life. It was even more mind-numbing than the instant she'd realized her mother wasn't coming home anymore, but it was also a lot softer, more promising, more...

Damn, this felt good! Jack relaxed into the feel of her arms, melted into his sides, realizing for the first time that he was finally settling all those nagging fantasies he'd always indulged in about how she would feel if he held her. Now, he knew, and boy, was it a fine feeling!

The kiss wore on, growing in longing and passion as it continued, stealing into the realm of totally, heartstoppingly amazing when she ran the tip of her tongue tentatively over his lips touching hers. Holy... Jack sighed. Oh boy! he thought to himself, and responded with a primal growl as he opened his mouth to her. Sam followed her instincts to explore more of him, and she felt him shake as she moved her tongue across his lips.

She drew back, and all his longing, all his repressed passion, all the love that he'd felt for eight full years crashed into her in one adoring gaze. She whispered, Are you all right?

Jack helplessly laughed a laugh. How can I not be all right? he softly asked in a strangled whisper. You... You're... He couldn't put words to what he was feeling just then. His heart was shaking too much. So he just caressed her face, thanked whatever higher being who was granting his dreams that night, and gave her a blinding smile. Oh, I couldn't be better, he truthfully replied at last.

Sam responded by gifting him with a full smile of her own.

Her gesture turned his knees into something that felt like water. It was a good thing he was already sitting down.

I couldn't be better, either, she finally whispered, and moved her own hand in a gentle exploration of the hard planes of his face.

More than just his knees were responding to her at this point; his groin stirred to life, shouting to him so loudly that he couldn't ignore the sensations bombarding him in an insistent manner.

Sam couldn't mistake them, either. She couldn't resist saying, I won't make any side arm jokes, I promise. She quietly rubbed her cheek against his own in the most gentle caress he'd ever experienced. Just kiss me again, and I'll...

Jack leaned into her, instinctively seeking her magnetic warmth, cutting off her promise in mid sentence. Barely aware of what he was doing, he met her lips again in a dance that was as old as the stars they had been looking at earlier in the sky. He couldn't help himself... Like he'd said earlier, he didn't want to stop, didn't want to...

Jack found himself pushing into her, seeking her warmth, feeling his skin almost sear him where she touched it.

And she was touching it... everywhere. Holy Hannah, she thought. Is this the way it's supposed to feel..?

How does it feel? Jack asked her, his breath washing into her ear. He paused only long enough to make his reply before he was kissing her again.

It feels.., Sam began when he kissed her beneath her ear, in one of the few places that made her squirm, and pant, and clutch at him, and want him to rip her clothes off, even if they were off world, and really shouldn't... How had he possibly known so quickly about where that place was on her ear? She asked him, her words pained, half panting for breath as she was.

I guessed, he grunted as she craned her head back. Before, the movement had appeared innocent when she'd looked at the stars. Now, that move was far from innocent... It was more like an invitation that was driving Jack to distraction. God... Carter.., Jack grunted in an agonized whisper to her. He was delirious with her smell, her taste... He couldn't quite wrap his brain around the fact that he was kissing Sam Carter...

Then, he scraped his hand over the bare skin of her throat.

It was as if he'd branded her.

Sam jumped, but moved in closer to him, as if she wanted him to touch her, wanted to feel his fingers on her skin...

Jack let the tips of his fingers slide over her throat again.

Sam moaned. She actually moaned... and he had made her do it. He grinned a slow grin that worked its way up from the edges of his lips, and soon he was taking tiny nips at the skin along her throat with his mouth, as if he wanted to devour her. He felt like he did, as if a heat to consume her skin had started in the middle of his belly, and was moving out into all his limbs. Carter, I.., Jack started to say, but had to swallow the rest of his words as she kissed him once more.

Her lips were somehow softer this time than the last. And definitely hotter. And her kiss was harder. And...

God, he just wanted her. He wanted all of her. And he wanted her all of the time.

He'd known he couldn't touch her just once...

At least, he hoped it wasn't just once...

But he was going to give this particular time everything he had in him, and he had been storing up a lot of unspent emotion over the last eight years.

Apparently, so had she. Her fingers were leaving hot trails of fire on his skin. Her hands were shoved tantalizingly into his hair... Her legs were wrapped around his legs, and pulling him even tighter against her. Her hips were pushing into his in stark, unmistakable invitation... an invitation that he couldn't ignore. Even though he knew that he should. Even if he respected her so much that he briefly considered that he should stop right now.

But he also knew that he couldn't stop for anything. The emotion inside him was looping tighter, and hotter, and stronger... His arms shook from the strain of holding his weight off her, of trying to restrain his natural desire for her, his hunger...

Jack whispered the three words then, as if they were torn out of his throat on a groan and a growl, God, I love you, Carter, I love you so much that I'm willing to give away everything I own for you... Love me, just for one night, please...

I do, she whispered back, and arched her chest into him. Oh, God, how I do.

Then, somehow, her pants were down, and his were down, and her skin was pushing against his, and it was so hot that she burned for him. He pushed into her, so gently that it made her want to scream in frustration.

And then he was touching her, like no one had ever touched her before. So hot, so slick, so good... Jaaaack.., Sam moaned through her teeth tightly clenched against the feeling that was exploding through her, ripping in hot waves of pleasure... So searing... So...

Her mind felt like it exploded right then, the tightness inside her lighting up in shards of flashes on the edges of her vision, blurring it until she only knew it was caused by him because of the smell of his skin that was driving her utterly insane... Jack.., she whispered again, that whisper sounding more like a forced entreaty threading itself into the soft side of his neck as she hung on to him in the wildest, strongest, strangest, most exhilarating ride of her life.

Sam... God, Sam.., Jack tried to say as he cradled her, and pushed into her, and filled her when he followed into fire only seconds after her, the sweet sensation of his own desire soaking into his mind and his heart and his very soul...

One tear of complete fulfillment leaked out of each of her eyes to stain her cheeks and hair with their passing, but she didn't even notice them other than to note the joy that had caused them, when two, three, four drops of water splashed onto her cheeks, and Jack's face floated above her, reduced as he was to the content tears that slid down from his eyes to land on her skin in a sudden avalanche of suppressed emotion. Jack grinned, but tried to shake off the unmanly show of his feelings. At last, he simply dropped his head, and rubbed his face into her skin, leaving a trail of wetness behind for her to revel in. At last, he just smiled, and panted against her shoulder. Sam heaved for air at the side of his neck. When he was more coherent, Jack buried his face in the skin along her neck. He found that skin to be so soft, so delectable, so Sam...

Sam languidly kissed the skin of his own neck. Perfect, she murmured as she slowly kissed her way up his chin, and to his sweet, waiting mouth. She kissed him lovingly, longingly, like she could no longer live without him. How did I live without this for so long? she asked into his mouth. How I love you.

Sam's hands were beginning to explore under his t-shirt, and he both yearned for and was frightened by the intense longing for her that had started to shiver in every corner of his soul.

Let's do this right this time, he said.

Sam smiled. Jack smiled back. Okay, she instantly agreed, and set about removing her combat boots, more than willing to accommodate his every wish.

Now this was how making love should feel! Sam thought to herself in delight. In the next half hour, Sam did her best to fulfill Jack's every want just as she did hers.

And together, they made the stars sing quietly in the darkness of the night sky.

Sequel: Oh Brother, Wherefore Art Thou? Thou... er... Thy?... Thine?... Art Right Here.


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