About Disclaimer: I don't own them. I made no money on this story. I never make any money for my fanfiction stories, so I'm about as broke as a fanfiction writer can get... So why is it that I always end up buying more junk at Amazon.com? The things that make you go 'Hmmmm.'

The Confessions of an Obsessed Theoretical Astrophysicist

by Linda Bindner

The sun was just slipping over the horizon, reflected in the still waters of the lake, as Sam Carter settled with a contented sigh into the lawn chair situated next to General O'Neill's chair on his dock at his cabin in Minnesota. She blinked her slightly sleepy eyes, then looked around with a studied air of indifference that was hiding her sense of rabid curiosity. But she was still trying to appear as uninterested as possible. Beside her, she noticed that Jack, in turn, noticed her piercing stare that was taking in everything about their surroundings. There was the cabin, the deck, the dock, the lake, the way the cabin's smooth lawn sort of tumbled down a small hill to disappear smoothly into the waters of the lake, the canoe resting against the side of the house... It was such an idyllic scene that it was almost unreal... Except that Sam knew for a fact that it was all very real.

General O'Neill had been trying to get Sam to agree to a fishing trip with him for... For years, Sam guessed. For at least as long as she had known him, she imagined. Though the last few months while she had been engaged to Pete Shanahan had seen a dimming of that wish, she had finally agreed to join him and Sg-1 at his cabin two days after she broke the engagement, probably as a reaction to that very engagement of hers. It was her way of saying that she was sorry for possibly hurting Jack's feelings with her attempt at 'finding a normal life' that her engagement had really represented.

The thing was, she had only recently realized that she would never be 'normal,' that she actually preferred not having what everyone thought she should want. The two point five kids and the house in the suburbs, the one surrounded by a white picket fence, was an image that would never be realized by her, thank goodness. Her sense of relief at this subsequent 'dream loss' was more potent than the image of the 'dream reality' had ever been for her. That's where Pete had totally gotten her personality wrong; He had tried to give her what he thought she should want rather than taking the time to find out what she did actually want. The fact that she had pretended for him as much as for everybody else as to what she truly desired was part of the eventual problem. Poor Pete never had a chance against that true reality she wished for herself. However, the idea that she wanted something different out of life than what she was supposed to want had occurred to her as she stared at the beautiful, but generic, house that Pete had bought for her, and that he, as well as the rest of society, thought she must inherently desire.

But she really wanted nothing to do with 'normal.' She somehow realized this at the last possible moment. Had she simply asked, General O'Neill could have told her that he instinctively knew that she didn't want this image of the perfect life that Pete was trying to convince her to accept. But she never asked, and hence, almost capitulated to the worst nightmare that she could ever imagine.

But, she realized almost immediately, this rustic cabin of Jack's, located in the wilds of Minnesota, was actually where she belonged. Another contented sigh tore from her throat, and Jack glanced over at her, a smug smile on his face as he settled beside her in his own lawn chair placed sturdily on his dock leading into his lake.

Told you this was a nice place, he nonchalantly commented as he got situated with his legs stretched before him on the wooden dock. He put aside his fishing pole, as she had done and simply gazed out at the sunrise reflected in the lake water, and smiled.

Nice?! she half exclaimed, half whispered; It wouldn't do for her to wake Daniel and Teal'c with a louder exclamation, as they were still asleep in the cabin. Any sane person would have to be still asleep at this unearthly early hour in the morning. But Sam Carter knew that she wasn't the sanest person in the world, and she was seated next to the second most insane person on the planet. They had to both be lacking in sanity to be 'fishing' at such an early hour as they were.

Except that they weren't fishing. They were just staring at each other in that contented way they had that said that all was again on kilter in their world. She started speaking once more as she watched the sparkles on the lake. You can hardly classify something as breathtaking as this place of yours as simply 'nice.' That's almost an insulting understatement, she announced, her voice still hushed in the early morning stillness.

Jack glanced at her out of the corners of his eyes. He asked himself if she wasn't being a bit..? He breathed a sharp breath of air as he tried to pinpoint what his former 2IC was being. Isn't saying that it's a beautiful place a bit of an exaggeration, Carter? he asked.

Sam stared at him in turn. I don't think so, she lightly argued with him. This place must be the best kept secret in the country, if you don't mind me saying so.

Jack spluttered. No, of course, I don't mind you saying so. And thanks for the nice compliment, there. He shifted in his lawn chair so that he was facing her at a better angle. But I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised by your reaction... Only Charlie loved this place as much the first time he saw it.

Sam blushed. I didn't mean to remind you of...

Jack interrupted her. You didn't remind me of anything. Besides, he told her in a confessional tone. It doesn't hurt to be reminded of something like that anymore. It's a... nice... thing that you already like my cabin as much as you do.

It is? she asked, then shook her head, and asked again, I mean, you're sure? I don't want to...

Carter, Jack cut off her apology before she had the chance to voice her feelings on the subject. It's okay, really. He looked at her once more. It's kind of... well... pleasant... actually, he divulged. I'm glad that you like it so well.

Sam studied him for another moment. If you insist... that I should like it so well.., she doubtfully added.

I do, he said right away, and glanced at her.

Then, all right, she softly said, still studying him, looking at his features for any hint of the sadness that she expected to find, as any mention of the son he had lost inevitably caused a degree of sadness and guilt in him. She didn't see any, however, so she quickly went on, On the other hand, it is rather an unusually early hour to be dragged out of bed just to go fishing, she jokingly pointed out.

But this is the best time to fish! Jack exclaimed, defending himself and his actions.

To fish in a pond that has no fish, Sam teasingly reminded him. Riiiight!

Jack appeared wounded. Something tells me that you don't find this venture 'appropriately interesting', he lilted.

On the contrary, she objected. I find it very interesting. In fact... And she turned more towards him as well. I'm glad that we have this quiet time to talk.

Talk? He seemed mystified. What do you have that you want to talk about? he asked, then his voice turned much more concerned, yet teasing her at the same time. No talk about work, please! he said, in case that was what she wanted to discuss. He hurriedly added, This is a vacation... Work talk is prohibited!

I know, I know, Sam assured him. That's why you said that I should pack 'no computer' and 'no cell phone,' like you, she dutifully recited. I understand that. Yet, in a softer aside, added, Though I don't see how the head of the SGC can allow himself to be completely out of touch with...

Okay, okay, I have my cell phone in my pocket right now, he admitted readily enough. I happen to agree with you that there should be at least one way to contact me. But I told Walter that if he called me, it had to be that an emergency of astronomical proportions was sure to happen, such as the world exploding. If it was just the dumb 'Gate breaking down, all teams are to report to the Alpha Site until our return. Satisfied?

Sam smiled. Sounds like a sensible plan to me, she said.

Jack could hear the word 'Sir' hanging on the air between them, but she didn't say it. He suddenly realized with a start that she hadn't called him 'Sir' all morning. Of course, she hadn't called him 'Jack,' either, but he wasn't going to push his luck this early in the morning. So, what's on your mind, Carter? he inquired in a light tone. And no mention of work, remember, he warned. No doohickey problems.

Sam was still grinning at what he had said. He knew her well if he expected her to bring up 'doohickey' complaints. But she wanted to talk about something totally non work related this time. Work's not what I want to talk about... She paused, trying to draw in a fortifying breath.

What, no doohickeys? he teased.

Sam still grinned. No doohickeys, I promise, she said.

Then... What?

Sam started to squirm uncomfortably in her chair. Um...

Jack grinned at her apparent discomfort. Out with it, Carter! I so rarely get to see you this... discombobulated... Yeah, I guess that's the right word, he added. You're so discombobulated that you really have my curiosity up now. What's got you so agitated if whatever it is isn't work related?

She couldn't believe she was about to mention to him what was on her mind to mention. Actually, she couldn't believe what she had already done, but... There was no turning back, now. Determined, she hesitantly went on, I know this is a bit uncharacteristic, almost obsessive, of me, I admit, but... She sighed. Please, just listen, and be patient.

Jack's grin began to slide off his face at her serious tone. I'm all ears, he assured.

Her features lightened at his words. Um, I think I told you about the house that Pete bought for us...

His face shuttered the minute she mentioned Pete's name. I'm not sure this is the right time for me to hear.., he began. He started to rise from his chair. The mention of the name of the man Sam had promised to marry always unnerved him.

Sam put a hand on his arm to keep him in the chair next to hers on the dock. Please, you have to listen...

Jack grumbled a good deal, but resumed his seat, and waited for her to continue.

I know this isn't what you want to hear.., she excused. She hung her head, and spoke to the leg of her jeans. But, please.., she begged.

Jack had so so rarely heard Sam Carter beg for anything that her tone instantly captured his attention. All right, I'll listen, he promised. Though I can't say that I want to hear about...

So Sam went on in a hurry, lest he change his mind again. Pete showed me the house he bought without consulting me first... I hated it right away, but pretended that I liked it, since he seemed so determined that I should like it. It seemed to make him happy to think that I was happy. She softly added, Even though I wasn't.

This information piqued Jack's interest right away. He sat up a little straighter in his chair, his eyes trained directly on her now. It was clear to anybody watching him that he hadn't been expecting Sam to confess what she was currently divulging.

She went on. I... um... pretended... That's it. She snuck looks at him through her lashes. Encouraged by the rapt attention he was paying to her now, she forced herself to continue, Then, before I went to your house that day last week, we stopped at a jewelry store that was on the way back, and looked at wedding rings... And, I... um... She paused again, looking out over the lake water, as if the reflected sun gave her the courage to try to hesitantly say, I... Um...

Her tone prompted him to interrupt. You what, Carter? he gently asked.

She blushed, played her fingers across her leg, and heaved a heavy sigh. I know that it's pretty ridiculous.., she started to say. She sighed again as he patiently waited for her to go on. We... um... wandered around for awhile. I was supposed to be looking at wedding rings for... well, you know... and I was, sort of...

'Sort of?' Jack questioned, his voice still impossibly gentle, drawing her out.

Yeah, she told him. I was looking at wedding sets, and I even found one that I really liked, but...

But?

But... She looked guilty now. That set that I found wasn't for me and Pete, she admitted all in a rush. It... um... it was for me and you.

The look on his face transformed to one of surprise, followed swiftly by fondness, followed by a much more neutral expression that was meant to cover him up his regard for her. Oh?

Sam didn't blame him for covering up his feelings like he did. She shrugged. Yeah. I... um... didn't tell Pete, of course, but... The next thing I knew, I was sitting in my car, in your driveway, trying to pluck up my nerve to...

Jack sighed, sounding regretful now. And then I... and then Jacob...

Yeah, Sam said, just as regretful. I was at your house first... and then Dad died... And I didn't think about those rings until the night of the funeral...

Jack started to say, You don't have to tell me...

Sam held up a quieting hand. Just... Just listen...

Jack instantly subsided.

Sam continued, Mark and his family left for the airport in Denver the next morning... And I broke with Pete later that day, in spite of the guilt I knew I would feel...

Guilt? Jack questioned her.

Sam snuck another glance at him. Yeah... I knew that I would feel some guilt for what I felt I had to do... I mean, I could never marry him if I was still busy thinking about you in that way, but that doesn't mean I don't feel badly for...

Jack stared down at the water of his lake then, intently studying his own jeans. I have a confession to make, and now seems to be the right time to make it, he admitted.

Sam smiled, thinking that any confession General Jack O'Neill had to make was worse, according to him, than it actually was. Contrary to his own opinion, he was the most noble man she had ever known. Okay, out with it then, she teasingly prompted.

Jack appeared completely uncomfortable, but determined to go on. I... um... I... Finally, he admitted, That day that SG-1 met at Daniel's house to take care of Osiris, and we ran into... that guy friend of yours... He was just as determined not to say Pete's name as he was to tell her his news. I... um... He took anotherbreath before he could go on. After Hammond granted him clearance so that he could be treated in the Infirmary, I did a little checking on him... because I was curious... and a little ticked off to find him in a place he really had no business being anyway...

Sam felt butterflies twist suddenly through her nervous stomach in response to his grave tone. What did you find? she hazarded to inquire in an abruptly subdued voice.

Jack looked almost green by now. Um... I found... He sighed in regret at having to tell her about his discoveries. That guy must have had some high connections in the government, or something, because I found in the FBI file database that he had done a background check of you just that morning... And there were a few reports that I read mentioning a restraining order put on him by someone who claimed to be his ex-wife... Apparently, because he was stalking her... or something.

Sam gaped at him. He stalked her!? Then she paused, furiously thinking. Is that what would have eventually happened to me?

Jack looked grimly determined. Not if I could help it, he stated quietly, but the force in his tone left no doubt to his listener that he had never been more serious.

Sam gaped at him. Yet, you never told me about any of this? she incredulously asked.

Jack pursed his lips, and stared at the lake again, trying to stay as calm as the water currently was. At last, he explained, My promotion to 'General' went through soon after that, and it drove what I had found completely from my mind. He sighed, a sad sound that wrapped around them sitting on the dock. But I remembered everything about it all right after you decided to get engaged... But, by then, I... He had tried to be diplomatic and polite while he had to explain his reasoning behind his actions, and finally gave up the attempt. Look, Carter, I knew that my hands were really tied on this one. If I said anything to you about what I had uncovered, you would only get mad at me, and say that I was being malicious, and vindictive, and...

Sam looked at him, trying for the sake of propriety to hold back her natural rise in temper at what he was revealing. He had been a close friend to her for a long time, if nothing else, and she struggled to remember that. Yeah, I probably would have been darned angry, she was finally able to admit.

Jack gazed again out at the lake, letting its calm soak into his soul. And I couldn't order you to look at the governmental records yourself, as the idea of such an order, one that would have such a huge effect on the personal life of someone under my command... in addition to it being someone I considered a close friend as well... He paused before he was able to say, It would have been downright reprehensible of me. He eventually was able to go on. And then, as it was you in this particular case... I knew that I wouldn't want you to do anything just because I ordered you to do it, anyway, and... Understand? There wasn't anything that I could do to help you, even if I wanted to...

Sam grimaced then. And you had to sit there and watch me and him for almost a whole year, and not do anything. And I know perfectly well that to not do anything about something you see as needing fixing must have been really hard for you, and... She swallowed, but her mouth was so dry that there wasn't much to dislodge the lump at the back of her throat. That must have been horrible for you...

It wasn't so horrible, Jack interrupted her, not wanting her to feel any pity for him.

Still.., Sam said, a smile beginning to lift her features. You telling me about all this now does make me feel a bit less guilty, she admitted.

Less guilty? he questioned.

She definitely smiled now. Yeah.., she answered. Actually... She smiled even wider. I feel a whole lot better about all of this.

Better? Jack scowled. How?

Sam kept grinning. This whole time, she explained, I've been feeling like I hurt... the person I was engaged to... She didn't want to mention her former fiancÚ's name to him if he so obviously didn't want to hear it in the first place. I mean, it felt to me like I had used him to pretend... She grinned again. And this whole time, I was being a total idiot about... She turned to face him. Thanks! she enthusiastically exclaimed. That's the best thing anyone's ever told me!

Jack appeared surprised, according to the totally flummoxed look on his face as he stared at her. Uh... Sure, he said, as if he had done what he'd done for him instead of for her. I'm glad I could be of some help...

Sam kept smiling. Don't you see? she asked, turning back to face forward so that she could stare in contentment at the lake again. I don't have to feel so bad about the entire thing anymore!

Jack raised his eyebrows in disbelief, but he endeavored to control his first reaction of utter surprise. Um... Sure... Any time... He stared at the lake again. But, I feel like I should point out that it's not quite okay for you to feel like it's all right for him to have done what he did if it isn't all right for you to break off the relationship with him because of it. You had no reason to feel guilty in the first place.

Sam turned back to stare at him. Actually... She drew a deep breath, then continued, Well... You're right... How I felt is sort of a reaction that says it's okay to be the victim of something, but not okay to have instigated any return action of my own. She thought for a moment, and finally made a decision. I guess you can say that we both acted pretty poorly, and... and the way we treated each other kind of makes us even.

Even?

Yeah, she suggested. We were both pretty awful... We should both feel guilty... But I doubt that he feels guilty at all for what he did. So I don't have to feel guilty, either. Our bad behavior cancels each other out.

Oh. Slowly, Jack smiled too as he continued to consider things from her point of view. Yeah, he agreed.

Sam watched him then from her peripheral vision. But you wouldn't have let me marry him, not knowing everything about him the way I didn't, would you?

Jack squirmed, growing more and more uncomfortable. At last, he admitted, No, I wouldn't have let you do that, no matter what telling you would have done to me personally. I had just decided that I would wait and see what happened, but that if you were determined to go ahead and marry the guy, that I would show you what I had found in your lab on your last day of work before the wedding, no matter how it made me look.

So..? she asked.

Yeah, he uncomfortably said. There was no way that I was ever going to let you walk into something like that without knowing everything, no matter what choice you thought you had made.

Now it was her turn to be totally surprised. What he was suggesting... That's practically personal suicide, though, isn't it?

Jack heaved another sigh. Well... Yeah... I guess you could phrase it like that... There was very little chance that you wouldn't come out of that kind of a conversation without hating my guts.

And you would have done it anyway? Sam appeared impressed.

Jack just appeared even more uncomfortable. It was only because I care about you, he quietly reminded.

Sam seemed inordinately pleased to hear him say this again. You do?

Jack glanced at her, and thought about adding that he cared about her as a friend would, but when he gazed at her trusting expression, he knew that he couldn't pretend to be just her friend. That would have been as uncool as what her former fiancÚ had done. Sure I do. Didn't I say that I did?

Sam practically choked. He was talking about the Za'tarc tests they had been forced to undergo four years before. Well... Yeah... I guess you did say... But you said that you cared years ago! she finally protested.

Jack sighed. And yet... He stared at her. Nothing's really changed.

Sam was silent for a moment as she looked at him. Was he referring to his feelings for her, or their relationship as a whole? Sam preferred to think he was talking about his feelings for her, and she decided to be equally as open. She whispered, Not for me, either.

After a moment spent first in grinning like an idiot at her whispered divulgence, then in collecting himself so that he could encourage her into going on with the reason behind their original conversation, he cleared his throat, and prompted, You were in the middle of telling me what you did that day... with what'shisname... at the jewelry shop..?

Oh... yeah... Sam shook her head, then continued her story, Anyway... Fifteen minutes after he left me at my house, I was back at that jewelry shop...

Carter.., Jack tried to stop her from explaining any more to him, suddenly scared of what she might tell him, despite that he had asked her to tell him in the first place.

Sam dropped her head into her hands. I know, that isn't exactly the behavior of a sane person! she whispered in quiet distress.

Jack's hand immediately found its way to her back, where he massaged it in comforting swirls over her sweater. You don't owe me or anyone else any...

Again she interrupted him. I know I don't owe an explanation! She fiercely went on, But I want to tell you about... She let her voice trail off to nothingness.

Jack sat back again in his chair, prepared to listen to her once more. She had never used such an insistent tone of voice with him before, and he instinctively knew that he should do as she had originally asked. All right, I'm listening.

Sam blushed once more. Still talking to her hands, she said, Thanks... Um... Anyway... I couldn't help looking again at those rings... By some insanity, the next day, at work, I made sure I was alone, then went into the men's locker room, and I... um... I locked the door, broke into your locker, got out your old wedding ring, and compared it to the sizer that I had borrowed from the jewelry shop the day before. She glared at nothing for a second. I had to give the sales guy my credit card, and my personal I.D. card, just to convince him to let me borrow that sizer for a day.

Jack felt that he had to scowl at her a little for her deliberate intrusion of his privacy. That ring of his had been hidden away from sight in a cigar box for a reason... He didn't want his personal life to be known to just anybody, to become nothing but base gossip... How did you find it in the first place? he asked, though, instead of chastising her for her actions.

Remember that crystaline alien entity who impersonated you a few years ago? she asked miserably as way of an explanation.

That was more than a few years ago! he did harshly chastise this time.

She looked uncomfortable. Yeah, well, I saw him go through your stuff... Not that I saw any of it! she insistently argued. Except... that ring of yours... And I remembered... She sighed again. Anyway... I measured the size of your ring, added one size, cause I think you've gained some weight with this desk job that you have now... Not that you're not doing a great job of it!

Carter, Jack interrupted again before she could make any more comments about any weight he had supposedly gained after his promotion to General. Just... go on, he ordered.

Sam was blushing furiously by this point. She simply couldn't help herself. If you have gained any weight over the years,.. it... Her ears burned red. It looks really good on you, she blurted.

That surprised Jack. It does? He had always had it drilled into his head that, according to military standards, a thin person was automatically in better shape, and had struggled with a five to ten pound weight gain all year. But he didn't need to tell her that. Thanks... I guess, he pensively added.

Um... Anyway.., she went on, After I thought I knew what size ring to buy, I bought those rings from the jewelry store last week... Which is totally insane, I know, and so out of character for me, and.., she protested. Then, she stared at him, her face a mixed expression of agony, indecision, and hope, all wrapped around an obvious feeling of softness for him that she couldn't quite cover up. I know this is insane, but... She sat forward in her chair, then plopped back hard against its back. Hell... Will you marry me?

Such a proposal was certainly not what Jack was expecting to hear at this point in the conversation. He expected more apologizing, to be fair, more groveling... Instead, he got the most sincerely affectionate, honest proposal... not to mention, the first... he'd ever heard. Uh.., he stuttered inelegantly.

Sam dropped her head into her hands again in order to hide the expression that she knew must be showing on her face. Uh! she grunted. You don't have to answer that! Uh! Don't listen to me! I don't know what I'm saying!

Jack's hand again slipped to her back one more time before he realized that he had even made the movement. Then... You don't mean... what you just asked? he beseeched.

Sam lifted her head, though Jack continue to rub comforting circles over the sweater she had on. She stared at him in what could only be described as abject hope. It blazed out of her eyes at him. Um... No... I mean 'yes...' I mean, I was serious, though I think I'm being kinda stupid...

You're not being stupid, Jack quickly assured. But don't you want to take things a bit slower than sudden marriage? I mean, we have had feelings for each other for a long time... Or at least, I have...

Sam interrupted him to firmly say, So have I... I mean, for you... feelings for you...

Jack grinned when she said that, and his heart beat faster in his chest, but he tried not to get too carried away with his response to what she had just proclaimed. He raised his brows at her, and asked, Well?

Sam dropped her head again into her hands in embarrassment, then still spoke to her fingers as she hesitantly agreed with his argument, Maybe... You're right... I think... But this is a matter of time.., she finally said. I'm only on that military leave you gave me for a week... I thought I'd better ask now, and...

'Slow' was a nice concept, but it appeared that it was also a luxury that they weren't going to get, Jack realized in a flash of insight as to what she was arguing. And there was no way that he was going to let Sam slip away from him this time! Making a quick decision that they had several things to work out between them, but that he would rather have her safely married to him before they took the time that was necessary for those decisions, he sent her a full smile, then admitted, That proposal... That was... Jack sighed, and kept gently smiling at her as he tried again to say, That was really incredible, actually...

Sam looked at him through her fingers held over her face. It was? she blurted.

Jack let his smile grow even more. I haven't gotten many marriage proposals in my time, he admitted to her. Usually, I'm the one asking... I'm not nearly as practiced at getting them as you are.

She shook her head still buried in her hands. You don't have say anything, she said sounding defeated now, and agitated.

He cut her off again by pulling her hands down, and saying a fast, 'Yes,' in a voice of finality.

Sam looked up, jerking her head aloft to stare at him. What?

Jack shrugged, then smiled as charmingly as he could. For the first time, he didn't try to automatically stifle his emotions for her from showing in his eyes. Yeah... I mean, 'yes...' I mean, sure, youbetcha, I'll marry you, how can I be more direct than that?

You're kidding! Sam blurted out, and her forehead wrinkled in sudden disbelief.

No, I don't think I'm kidding, Jack responded to her. I mean, you did ask me, didn't you? He tilted his head as he looked at her. How did you expect me to answer?

Well... For the first time ever, Jack witnessed Sam Carter stumble over her words. Well... I... Her voice trailed helplessly into silence.

Sam, Jack said with a tender sigh. You were great on the asking part, but your accepting part needs a little work. He studied her as she blushed a deep crimson at his words. Why don't you show me these rings you bought if you have them handy...

Sam blushed again. I do, actually. I've taken to carrying them around in my pocket, you know... Just in case I might ever need them... She reached into the front right pocket of the jeans she was wearing, and carefully pulled out two wedding bands, and handed them to him.

He took them both, careful not to brush her fingers or touch her in any way, as he was at his personal danger point where she was concerned. If he inadvertently felt her skin, he wouldn't be able to deny himself further stroking said skin. So, as long as he didn't want to ravish her right there, on the dock, in broad sight of anyone happening to pass a back window of the cabin (i.e., being seen by Daniel or Teal'c), he thought prudence was the best course of action at this point.

Jack carefully scrutinized the rings he now held in his larger fingers. They were both gold, both brushed until their dulled surfaces glinted in the morning sunlight, and each encased a tiny sapphire, surrounded by a ring of diamonds on either side, thus symbolizing 'married,' while simultaneously indicating with the blue stones his and Sam's many years in the Air Force, which would also be shown by wearing their dress blues... Always blue, Jack thought in delight. It was his opinion that Sam looked good enough to eat when she wore the color blue... But that was just his opinion...

Jack flipped the rings over and over, then on a whim, tried the larger of the two on the fourth finger of his left hand. It fit perfectly, which didn't really surprise him, as Sam claimed that she had measured his ring size before she even bought these rings.

Sam chose that moment to add, I already printed out a marriage license that I found on the Internet, too, and had it notarized by Lieutenant Gates from Tech. Support... I fixed her son's motorized scooter one day when we were all on downtime, and she figured that she owed me a favor for saving her from having to endure his whining all week... I also have a marriage license... just in case... She was beginning to nervously ramble again, as he hadn't said anything yet about the rings, the license, the certificate... any of this. So, her voice trailed off again until there was nothing left of it to break the silence of the early morning around them.

But Sam need not have worried. Jack hadn't said anything because there was too big of a lump in his throat to speak around. Now, he forcefully cleared away the obstruction, but his voice came out more like a croak when he was finally able to say, You've come prepared, haven't you?

Sam gazed at him, beginning to get worried at his silence on the subject of the rings. Instead of bringing up the topic right away, though, she answered his comment, I figured I had better be as prepared as I could be, since I really only have this week if I want to... to do anything. At his questioning expression, she explained, I'm on leave from the entire military this week... I probably don't need to remind you of that, since you're the one who said that military leave was the only way that you can be sure I will totally escape my lab this week so that I can take care of all my business concerning Dad's estate... This is the one week that you won't be my direct CO in all our eight years together... And as I put in for that transfer to Groom Lake, which was accepted, and I start at R&D on the twelfth... She grunted an apologetic sound from the back of her throat. I knew that this week might be the only opportunity that I get...

Jack gazed at her, and his love for her pierced the air between them when he did so much as blink in her direction. He drew a shaky breath, and slowly exhaled, fighting to maintain control of his body as he did so.

Jack, Sam hesitantly said then. You haven't said a thing about those rings yet... Do you like them, not like them..? What?

Jack took a second to be impressed with how easy she had made the transition to saying his first name aloud. It was like she had crawled out of bed that morning, ready to begin a new habit of calling him 'Jack' instead of the 'Sir' she had used for the past several years. You called me 'Jack' just now like you've always been doing it, he commented in an offhand way. I'm impressed, he ended in a low, strained voice.

Sam reached for his hand, and he jerked back when she barely scraped his fingers curled around the two rings laying in his palm.

She was hurt by his actions... He could tell by the expression on her face. He dropped the rings in her waiting palm, then held up a warding hand while he tried to breath systematically through his nose. Sorry, he quickly said. Sorry. It's not you... Don't think that, and I love the rings... I doubt that I could have done any better if I had purposefully tried...

A smile slowly lit up Sam's face, shining in her eyes. She had no idea how the sight of it twisted through Jack's insides, turning all his internal organs to liquid. Really? Sam asked, not hiding the pleased sound in her voice as she returned the rings to her front pocket.

Jack grunted, then shifted in his chair, trying to find a more comfortable position for the enhanced state of his emotions for her that he was suddenly having to battle. Really, he repeated her for emphasis.

Sam looked much happier now. I'm glad that you do. I admit that you had me worried there when you didn't say anything, and then jerked away from me just now...

Sam, Jack choked. You don't understand... He went on in a strained voice. Unless you want me to jump you right this second, you won't do anything to me... like touch me... or anything. I think we'll both be a lot safer if you don't.

Sam instantly raised her hands into the air, as if to say that she was unarmed, but the gesture also worked very neatly as a way to keep her hands from mistakenly coming into contact with his skin. She studied Jack carefully as he sat beside her in his lawn chair, not moving, trying hard to draw steady breaths in through his nose in an attempt to regulate his breathing and stay in control of himself. Damn, Sam said to herself. Does he want me that badly? Stunned, Sam had to admit to herself that she had never been faced with this particular dilemma before now. Uh... Jack? she hesitantly questioned. Maybe I shouldn't say anything about this... I mean, it might not be any of my business...

Sam! Jack grunted. Just spit it out! he ordered, now gasping for breath.

Right, Sam said, closed her eyes, opened them, then indelicately asked, How do you plan to make it all the way into town for a wedding if you're already..? She gazed at him, her sympathy showing clear in her features. If you're already... in this condition? she asked as delicately as she could.

Jack closed his eyes, too, but that made his predicament worse, as closed eyes meant that he lost the distraction from his emotions that sight afforded him, and his emotions, and their effects, instantly doubled, if that were possible. Now wondering if he could even stand without assistance, he grimly smiled at her. I think I have a solution to that.., he groaned. Daniel...

Daniel? she repeated, not understanding. What does he have to do with any of this?

Jack laughed, the gesture still sounding strained, but stronger as he retained better control over himself. Never mind, he told her. Then he changed the subject. Why don't you go inside and use my shower, he suggested. I know that you skipped taking a shower this morning when I dragged you out here at an ungodly early hour...

I didn't mind, Sam immediately stated, but cut herself off when he held up a hand to silence her.

You want to get married now, right away, correct? he inquired. Sam vigorously nodded. Okay, Jack continued. I'll take care of everything... Just run and take a shower... Slowly! So I have a few minutes here... Jack smiled apologetically now. And I'm really sorry about this, Sam, but...

Don't be, she said as she rose from her place in her lawn chair, and prepared to head inside. I can't say that I'm particularly sorry, either, right...

Jack chuckled, but most of his attention was turned internally as he still struggled with his emotions. Go on... I have everything under control... Except me. He laughed a tiny, strangled gurgle of sound.

Jack, I didn't mean for you to...

He interrupted her speech. Just go... Please...

She took off up the dock, but stopped when she stepped onto the grass. I hate to tell you, but... I thought of the license, the certificate, the rings... But I didn't think to bring along a dress of any kind...

Good, as I don't have a suit just hanging in my closet, either, Jack told her. Jeans are fine...

Sam smiled at him. I have to say that I would never have anticipated wearing jeans to my own wedding... Her voice held amusement, now, and humor.

Go, he ordered her. I'll be waiting for you...

Sam took the opportunity to flee into the house.

Jack sat still, drawing in deep, cleansing breaths, and when he felt like he could move, he carefully stood up and made his way into the cabin.

Without knocking, Jack entered the room that had been assigned to Daniel and Teal'c for the weekend. He shook Daniel, who was still asleep in one of the twin beds. Daniel! he insistently called. Wake up!

Daniel rolled onto his back and stared bleerily at his friend. Jack? he asked. What's up? He blinked and lifted his head off the comforting pillow. Did something happen? He looked wildly around the room. Where's Sam?

Jack was immediately soothing. She's fine, she's fine... She's in my shower right now... Using it... Don't worry... He peered at the sleepy Daniel. Do you remember that day Teal'c and I were in your office, and we were all thinking of becoming an online minister? That it would be really funny to..?

Daniel squinted his eyes to look at his friend that he was certain had gone insane. Um... Isn't it a little early in the day to be thinking about that?

Daniel! Jack harshly whispered. That day we were all talking about... Well, you and Teal'c did most of the talking, if I remember right...

Um... Yeah, I remember...

Good, Jack said. Now, did you ever finish filling out that certificate thingy on that website?

Daniel squinted his eyes even narrower. Um... Yeah, I got something in the mail a few weeks later... But then Janet... um... He swallowed against the pain of this memory. Janet died that week... And I forgot to mention it...

But you're ordained, aren't you? Jack asked insistently.

Um... Yeah. Did you want me to bring along my certificate or something?

No, Jack breathed. That's not really necessary... As long as this is legal and everything.

Legal? Daniel squinted again at Jack. What's going on?

That was when Jack bit the big one, and told Daniel all about his current, self-imposed mission. Sam and I want you to marry us... Right now, he added for good measure.

Marry you! Daniel bellowed so loud in an incredulous voice that he woke Teal'c in the next bed over, and the Jaffa was almost impossible to wake now that he was taking Tretonin.

Daniel! Jack said in a low voice. Do you want her to hear you? he grunted. Yes, marry us, here, now, by the lake, at my cabin...

You're kidding. Daniel looked as closely at Jack as Jack had been earlier staring at him. You're not kidding, Daniel eventually stated. He raised himself up on his elbows, now fully awake. Jack, are you guys insane?

Jack suddenly grinned at the man in the bed. No, he answered. We're in love. Then he yanked the blankets off Daniel. Now, get up! We don't want to disappoint her... He turned to sqa next to Teal'c's bed. Teal'c! Wakey, wakey! He smiled in pure delight as Teal'c threw a pillow at him. We'll see you guys in five... And don't be late!

In the end, it took the two of them longer than five minutes to get moving. But then, it took Sam longer then five minutes to decide on what she was going to wear for the occasion, anyway. They all met up on the smoothly clipped lawn fifteen minutes later.

Okay, I'm here, she said to her friends. Daniel? Sam nervously started as she stared at him.

Jack explained to her what was going on before Daniel could say a word. A few years ago, we were all in Daniel's office, shooting the breeze, when we suddenly got it into our heads that it would be really funny if we became ordained ministers.

Daniel picked up the explanation then. We tried to get Teal'c ordained first... You have to admit that the idea of a Jaffa who can perform marriage ceremonies is rather ironic. But we found out that a person who wants to become ordained has to be a U.S. citizen...

And that kind of pointed then towards Daniel.., Jack added, jumping in.

Daniel smiled then. Yeah. You're looking at the High Priest of Dying, Ascension, and Alternate Realities of the Church of Elvis in Baton Rouge, Louisiana... Don't step on my blue suede shoes on your way back into the cabin...

Sam instantly began laughing uproariously. You're kidding!? she hooted. Why..?

Why does everyone think I'm joking when I say that? Daniel nonchalantly interrupted her, asking his mild question of Teal'c, who was dressed in slacks and a matching shirt, the nicest clothes he had brought with him, standing a little behind Jack on the lawn. He was to act as Jack's and Sam's witness as well as Jack's best man during the ceremony.

They all looked at each other, uncomfortable now. Well, Daniel went on, nervous due to Sam's initial laughter at his news. Let's get started, I guess... He picked up a book, The Evidence of Mummified Couples In Ancient Egyptian: Love Through Time, just in order to look official, and inquired, Do you have rings?

Oh. Sam patted her pocket. Damn... I left them in my other jeans...

She sprinted back in the direction of the cabin's front door, leaving the three men to stand around and try to look like they knew what they were doing. Are you sure about this, Jack? Daniel asked the second Sam was out of hearing. I mean, this is a bit of a drastic step, if you ask me...

I wasn't asking, Jack instantly shot back.

Daniel sighed with a roll of his eyes. I mean, marriage is a tiny bit permanent...

Jack shook his head. Doesn't matter. As long as you guys aren't bothered by the fact that you two are dressed better than the bride and groom are at their own wedding ceremony, then I'm okay, too, Jack quickly replied.

You don't want to wait, and do this... Daniel paused, then judiciously added, Do this the more normal way, in a church, or a courthouse... Or even in Vegas? he ascertained.

We wait, and I might explode, Jack said. Besides, I'm scared that she'll change her mind.

Teal'c commented then, ColonelCarter is not as changeable as many women are reputed to be, O'Neill. He went on to declare, She is one of the few people I have met on your planet who is what your people refer to as 'stubborn as a horse.'

That's 'mule,' Teal'c, 'stubborn as a mule.' But Jack didn't look convinced by his friend's argument, and shook his head back and forth. I'm not taking any chances here, Teal'c.

Just then Sam returned, out of breath, but holding the two rings in her hand. She gave them to Daniel as she leaned over, trying to catch her breath. There... you... go! she panted. And I grabbed... the license and... the certificate... while I was... inside.

Daniel studied both documents before handing them back to Sam, who replaced them in her back pockets. Where did you get those? he asked out of curiosity. Did you apply for them, or..?

Sam responded, No, I printed them off the Internet. At Daniel's surprised and amazed expression, went on, You can find anything on the Internet.

Next, still looking slightly dubious, Daniel studied the rings he had been handed, his interest piqued. Who picked these out? he inquired.

Me, Sam responded, now able to speak and breathe at the same time.

Daniel's eyebrows shot up to his brown hairline. Really? he asked, genuinely intrigued. I would have thought that Jack picked them out... But these are too nice, too elegant for his taste...

Jack frowned. Funny, Daniel, real funny!

Daniel grinned. Okay...

Jack asked, Didn't that church on the Internet instruct you on how to perform a marriage ceremony?

Daniel shook his head at the same time that Sam muttered, I don't believe I'm doing this... Wouldn't Dad be furious! But she wore a grin of pure delight on her face, as if she were thoroughly enjoying herself.

Daniel cleared his throat to get everybody's attention again. Okay... First SGC wedding I've ever heard of...

Jack broke in one more time to entreat, Don't say anything, okay, guys? Both Daniel and Teal'c stared at him, and Jack went on, I mean, this is completely all right... But only this week while Carter's off on military leave... Next week, it's status quo... And as we don't want to be the most discussed topic around the water cooler... He let his voice trail off, but his insinuation was clear.

It was clear to everyone but Teal'c, who took his comment literally enough to inform, There is no water cooler at the SGC that I am aware of...

Nevermind about the water cooler, Jack quickly said in a fast aside.

But Daniel nodded his head in understanding. Gotcha. Then, after he had made certain that he wasn't going to be interrupted again, he started. Okay... He turned to a previously marked page in the book he was holding. I thought I'd start off with a quote... Of myself, ironically enough...

Sam interrupted to ask, Are you reading that book to see how wrong the author is about..?

Daniel let the book fall to his side as he regarded Sam, his face alight with an expression of childlike inquisitiveness that his team mates were very familiar with. Yeah! he exclaimed. I noticed that the author spends at least half the book on...

Jack kept frowning. Kids! he sharply called. Later! Right now, we have a job to do, he reminded in a more easygoing voice than he'd used so far.

Both Daniel and Sam appeared contrite. Oh, sorry, Sam said. Sometimes I get carried away.

Jack fondly peered at her. Sam fondly grinned back at him. I know, he finally said.

Daniel pulled the book back to right before his eyes, opening it to the correct page as he went on, Okay... He paused again, and looked at them all expectantly. No more interruptions?

Daniel! Jack growled.

Daniel instantly began reading his own words. To quote... me.., he said without preamble. 'I've always thought that love can span many generations and much length of time. It's my fervent belief that nothing can come between something so invisible, yet so strong as the love between two people. I hope that's always the case, and always will be.' He lowered the book from before his eyes.

Daniel, Jack said, sounding surprised. That's quite... um... knowledgeable... of you!

Daniel rolled his eyes again. Don't act so surprised, Jack. I do think about these things from time to time, you know.

It was Teal'c who then broke in to say, I believe that O'Neill wishes to let you know that he never thought of you as such a romantic, DanielJackson.

Jack gestured at Teal'c. Yeah, what he just said.

Daniel gave an exaggerated sigh. No more interruptions?

Oh... Sorry, Jack quickly told him.

Daniel nodded his head once more. Okay... He looked like he didn't entirely know what to say. He finally settled on instructing, Join hands. Jack and Sam took hands, then they both visibly swallowed to hold back the emotions that their touch inadvertently released.

Daniel went on, Jack, do you promise to... uh... to love Sam, and honor her, and... and be with her... in sickness and health... for as long as you guys should live? he ended abruptly.

It was obvious that Daniel was making his lines up as he went along, but Jack certainly didn't mind as he answered, Yeah, sure, you bet I do.

Daniel turned next to Sam. And do you, Samantha Carter, promise to honor and love this man, in... uh... He thought of what he was supposed to say next, then remembered, ... in sickness and health, as long as...

She didn't let him finish, even though he had actually remembered the right words... sort of... before she responded, You had better believe I do!

Daniel's eyebrows went up again at the enthusiasm of her response, but he endeavored to ignore it. Okay... Um, the rings then... Hey, Teal'c, you should look at these... He held out the rings towards his friend.

Daniel! Jack barked, his remonstration sounding gruffer than he felt. He knew his friend too well, however, and warned, Don't get sidetracked.

Yeah... Right.., Daniel said. Looking like a kid performing adult rights that he didn't quite comprehend, Daniel continued to speak as he held the rings aloft in his hand. Let these rings be symbols of... of faith and love... and all things the SGC stands for...

It was Sam who gently prodded him this time. Daniel...

Daniel handed the smaller ring to Jack. Go ahead...

Jack slid the ring onto Sam's finger. Shouldn't I be saying something here? he asked Daniel.

Daniel just shrugged. Say 'With this ring I thee wed,' or something like that, he suggested.

Jack grinned when he heard Daniel's suggestion. 'With this ring I thee wed,' he dutifully recited as he slipped the ring the rest of the way onto her finger.

Sam grinned, grabbed the ring out of Daniel's waiting palm, and said, Ditto, as she did the same for Jack.

Well, Daniel said overly brightly, but still managing to sound uncomfortable the entire time. I guess this brings us to a close. Oh! The license...

At Daniel's reminder, Sam dug in her back pockets, pulled out the marriage license and certificate she had printed off, and a pen to write with. When the pages were unfolded, they all turned their backs in order to offer a more solid surface for the signatures they wrote at the appropriate places.

Once the last signature had been taken care of, Daniel went on as if he'd never been interrupted, Um... I now pronounce you guys married... Uh... Husband and wife... Uh... You may...

But Jack and Sam weren't waiting for him to announce anything. Grinning, they had tenderly rubbed cheeks for just a second before joining their lips in a hesitant kiss that turned into a deeper display of affection, that in turn changed again into...

Well, Daniel brightly commented, though he knew that only Teal'c was listening to his words at this point. I think our job here is done... Sam and Jack still weren't paying any attention to him. So Daniel went on, Think Teal'c and I will take the rental truck and drive to the airport, and... He turned to face Teal'c Come on, I don't think we're needed anymore.

Or wanted, Teal'c softly added on a wry note, and followed his friend to the vehicle parked in the cabin's driveway.

The newly joined couple were both too busy to be anything but oblivious when their friends quietly left them alone to commune with nature... and with each other.

Epilogue

Two hours later, Jack's cell phone started insistently ringing. Jack groaned, grumbled, and grouched, but reached for the jeans he had earlier discarded on the bedroom floor while he still managed to keep his other arm around a very relaxed Sam lying next to him on his bed.

O'Neill, he gruffly said into his phone once he had managed to wrest it from his jeans pocket. Then, without giving the person on the other end of the line a chance to talk, he irritably added, And Walter, so help me, the world better be coming to an end, or...

Jack was quickly interrupted. Jack, it's Daniel.

Jack furrowed his brow, though he had again settled onto the pillows next to Sam. Daniel? he questioned. What are you doing calling me? I thought you guys left hours ago... And thanks for that, by the way...

Jack, Daniel said again in order to stop his friend's tendency to ramble and mutter into the phone. We did leave. I'm at the airport right now, and me and Teal'c are waiting for the 11:00 flight...

Daniel, Jack warned. Quit being so aimless, and say something that makes sense...

Jack. Daniel's voice was grim now. We just met... Off line, he asked, What's your name again?

Kevin, came the reply of an unknown male voice.

Yeah.., Daniel said, speaking into the phone once more. We just met Kevin, who's waiting for a flight to Chicago... Anyway, he had his laptop computer out, and I was curious anyway, and... To make a long story short...

It's already a long story, Daniel, Jack wearily stated. He fell back against the pillows behind him while Sam absently rubbed his stomach with her fingers. He silently kissed her on the forehead, then played absently with those fingers currently rubbing enticing circles into the skin of his abdomen. What do you have to tell me?

You're not gonna believe this.., Daniel said. I looked up this whole marriage license thing..? I don't know what Sam printed off the Internet, but... Jack, she couldn't have gotten a Minnesota marriage license, because there's a five day waiting period for a marriage license in Minnesota.

Jack sat up straight in bed with a start. Sam's hand, as well as the sheet and blanket, fell away. What?

Um.., Daniel went on. Um... You have to come back to Colorado today... now... and apply for a marriage license at the county courthouse this afternoon... Good thing it's only Friday, and they're still open today... But you guys need to apply for a license together... And you both need to bring some form of I.D.... And also Jack, not to bring up a delicate topic, or anything, but you also might need proof of your earlier divorce, too...

What? Jack scowled into the phone. We need what?

Daniel sighed into the phone. Jack, just fly back to Colorado right now, go with Sam to the county clerk's office at the courthouse, and apply for a real marriage license, he instructed. Bring I.D., proof of your earlier divorce, just in case, twenty dollars... the license costs twenty dollars... and I'll meet you back at your house, where we can perform the ceremony again... And you don't have to worry... I'll take care of the other witness...

Jack's scowl was beginning to etch itself into his features. What do you mean, 'other witness?'

Daniel sighed a second time. Teal'c's not an American citizen... Sorry... I didn't think about that... Should have...

Sam gazed into Jack's worried face, growing more and more worried herself be the second. Jack, what's wrong? she asked.

Jack didn't have a chance to answer her question because Daniel was already going on, Oh, and Jack?

Yeah? Jack answered as he threw the covers of the bed off them both and began to get dressed as quickly as he could one handed.

Daniel went on, You owe one Kevin Saunders 120 dollars... I kind of offered him a free flight to Chicago if he would let me use his computer to double check this stuff... I'll give you his name and address when you get here... The sound of a female voice said something indistinguishable over the airport loud speaker, then. Gotta go, Jack, that's our flight... See you this afternoon. He disconnected the line as he hung up his phone.

Jack snapped his own phone closed, then gazed at it for a dumbfounded moment before he buttoned his jeans.

What is it? Sam drowsily asked. What's wrong?

Jack turned his cloudy gaze on Sam, the person he now erroneously thought of as his new wife. Did you go to a courthouse for that marriage license, by any chance?

Sam's expression was genuinely befuddled. No, she said. I told you that I got it off a website on the Internet... Which surprised me, actually, that I could just print off an official document like that, but I wasn't going to kick a gift horse in the mouth at that point, and... She stared at a half dressed Jack. Why? Did I sign something wrong, or... What?

Jack gazed at her, his hands propped grimly onto his hips. Her tousled hair lay all around her head, and there was a sheet wrinkle embedded into her right cheek. He took in the sight of her for a moment, then, all of a sudden, he started to laugh. Guess what? He didn't give her time to answer. We gotta get married again! And we gotta do it right this time by getting a real license, at a real courthouse, at the real county seat in Colorado!

Sam stared at him, totally confused now. Colorado? she echoed in bewilderment.

Jack laughed again. Yep. Now, let's get dressed, and get onto the first flight we can... I want to marry you right as soon as possible...

Sam jumped out of bed and began to dress as she hurriedly instructed, Okay, Jack, slowly... Tell me... What did Daniel say?

Jack told her as much about the situation as he knew as they traveled first to the airport, then flew to Colorado, then went straight to the courthouse once in Denver, by way of the Denver branch of his lawyer's office to grab his proof of earlier divorce, after first retrieving his truck, which was resting in the airport parking lot, then met Daniel in his back yard in Colorado Springs, and...

Whew!

Well, Daniel declared as he stood in front of Jack and Sam, who were standing next to Teal'c and Siler, the one man in the SGC who had sworn he could keep a secret, after Daniel had told him that he would know who had leaked information about the wedding in the event that information was leaked in the first place, as he already knew that the original team members wouldn't tell a soul... And if information got out about the wedding, Daniel couldn't predict exactly how Jack would react, other than to guess that 'angry' would not even begin to cover his emotional response, and, if Siler valued his life, he would... That was when Siler stopped the archaeologist from explaining any more, saying that he 'got the picture,'

Daniel went on as the sun was just beginning to set on Jack's back yard. Well, let's try this again...

The End


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