Disclaimer: I don't own them... someone else does. I'm too poor to have made any money off this story, so it must be for the enjoyment of other fans everywhere.

Secret Journey

by Linda Bindner

For Pauline

Part I

Actually, it was Sam who started things. A week and a half after the day of Anise's Za'tarc tests, she wrote the first message, stuffed the scrap of paper into an unmarked, sealed envelope, and in the dead of night, pushed it under the other mail she found still resting in Jack O'Neill's mailbox at the end of his driveway. Then she disappeared into the darkness after firmly forcing herself not to give in to her emotions and knock on his front door, like she wished to. She wanted to see him... badly... but she didn't know if she could trust herself not to somehow touch him in a romantic fashion, thus breaking the regs into tiny shards of the rules that had always governed his and her lives. That wasn't what she wanted to accomplish just yet. Depending on his assumed reply, breaking any regs was still an activity shoved safely into the future.

J.

I've tried... and tried... and tried... And tried again. And I can't stand it anymore... What do you think about at least talking? Through letters I mean? Not through the computer, which makes me save a file to print any letter I happen to write, and just anyone can look into a computer file, even one encrypted, and protected with a password. So that's not as completely safe a way as writing letters. I don't want any record of these thoughts. That's why I'm writing this in long hand. And I don't want to talk at work, where everyone can see everything we do, and if they happen to miss something, those activities are sure to be caught by those people watching the security cameras feeds in the security office. (I bet we're more aware than most of those dumb cameras.)

I plan to walk to your house later on tonight, then put this in your mailbox. I hope you don't mind me using something that's considered to be your personal (federal) property. But I wanted this to be totally secret... Anyway, what do you think?

S.

Jack was utterly stunned when he opened the unmarked envelope the next morning. All he could think about at first was that Sam had been to his house, and he had completely missed her because he'd been asleep. Darn. Sleep was a necessary evil, but it still rankled him to no end to think that he'd missed her visit to his house. He realized that this made her suggestion to write letters, but not to come in contact with the other, to fall into a whole new category of agony. The idea of walking to her house that night to leave his reply letter, but leaving the premises without seeing her, was going to be very hard.

Still, it wasn't enough of a deterrent to Jack to stop him from immediately agreeing to her proposal.

S.

Are you kidding?!????? What a great idea! I'm such a sucker when it comes to your ideas. It's our good luck that all your ideas so far have been really good ideas. And this is probably one of your best.

I promise to be a good boy at work... good for me, anyway... and totally... okay, not so totally... mostly ignore you.

By the way, I meant what I said during Anise's Zertec thingy. Just wanted to make sure you know that.

J.

Sam answered the minute she read his reply, but fell asleep on her couch while she was waiting for full dark to come so that she could deliver her letter. When she woke to the sunshine and chirping birds of the following morning, she was too annoyed with herself to thoroughly enjoy the bird music as she usually did.

She hastily wrote another note when she woke.

J.

Sorry. Fell asleep on the couch while waiting to deliver your letter. Maybe walking all the way to your house and back kind of tired me out. Maybe I need to dig out my old bicycle...

S.

Jack was more than a little disappointed when he didn't see any unmarked envelopes in his mailbox the next morning, but as he had promised, he didn't say anything to her at work, and only gave a minute widening of his eyes when he saw her in the corridor outside her lab at eleven hundred hours and thirty-five minutes in the morning. She looked tired, with dark circles under her eyes. In other words, she looked beautiful as always to him. But the rise of his eyebrows was enough of a reaction to convey that at least he was saying 'Hello' to her. However, the second he got to his office, where he was heading to do paperwork, he tore off a scrap of paper, and began writing, even though he had promised not to keep a physical rcord of their letters or their feelings while at the SGC.

S.

I know, I know... I said I would be a good boy at work. But I can't help myself. Think of this as my devilish streak rearing its ugly head and roaring so loud that I just can't ignore it. Ignoring you is hard enough... Ignoring this impulse is just too much for me. By not castrating me for writing while at work, think of it as saving me from temporary insanity. See? Good deeds really don't go unpunished!

Anyway, I saw you in the corridor just now. I widened my eyes and rose my eyebrows just a bit to say aloha. But I also was thinking that I should let you know that I care about you a lot more than just 'caring about you.' (And yeah, I know I shouldn't even think this while I'm at the SGC, but I have temporary insanity, remember?) I might have been chicken the other day... In fact, I know I was. My feelings go a lot deeper than just 'caring about you a lot more than I'm supposed to.' But, you're smart... I bet you already know that. Or, at least, you suspect.

But that's all I'll say while we're at work. (Temporary insnaity really is temporary. Huh...) I don't want to cause you any trouble in case this message is somehow found. Causing you trouble is the last thing I want to do. So sayanara for now.

J.

Then Jack shoved the note securely into his sock under his foot, replaced his combat boot over it all, leaving the note alone so that he could mail it later that night.

Sam found the message in her mailbox the next morning. The evening before, she had pulled her old bicycle out of the corner of the garage, oiled the chain, and ridden it experimentally down her road. It wasn't perfect... the chain squeaked, in spite of her oil job... but she decided that it would be better than walking the three miles to Jack's house and back. And it would be quieter than her motorcycle, which someone might hear if she rode it to his house. Plus, if she rode her bicycle, she would have a lot fewer blisters then if she walked, her other silent option.

She told him about the bike as soon as she got back into her house.

J.

Got my old old old bicycle out from the corner of the garage. I once used it when I was in college. That tells you how old it is. But it's better than walking all the way to your house in the dark, then falling asleep on my couch because I'm so tired.

And riding my motorcycle is out... someone might hear it. So the bike it is. Hope I don't fall off, or crash into a tree or something. I was a better rider in college than I am now. This tells me that my balance is going now that I'm getting old... er.

By the way, I saw the eye widening bit in the corridor. I appreciated it ('appreciated?' Hell, I loved it!). Anyway, I 'appreciated' it, and to anyone else looking, it seemed as if you had dirt in your eyes. You didn't, did you?

S.

S.

No, no dirt. Just in love with you... No biggee, right?

And wear a bike helmet, and use a bicycle light of some kind, unless of course you actually want me to have a heart attack some night while I'm lying awake in bed, and worrying about you riding your bike in the dark. But what a good idea... Bike riding is exercise that we both need, and it's better than walking. And I bet our balance improves, even though your balance is fine the way it is (despite your age)(What a laugh! No one looking at you would ever think about such a regular thing as age!)

Anyway, keep the ideas coming...

J.

Sam was floored. He was in love with her? That was the third time he had conveyed the idea that he had feelings for her, but to declare he was in love with her...

How could he be so sure of his emotions, anyway? And was she in love with him?

How could she not be in love with him? This was the first time she had ever felt this way about a specific man. Heck, even when he did something as mundane as walk into the Briefing Room, she was ready in seconds to melt at the sight of him! She completely 'appreciated' his humor, and he made her laugh so often that she had learned to force herself to use the bathroom before she was going to see him, if she knew ahead of time that she was going to be seeing him, that is.

She had also never felt so comfortable in a man's presence as she felt with him. Sure, Daniel and Teal'c were her friends, and part of her team, but neither of them sent tingles down her spine just by strolling by in the corridor. And the Colonel's overprotective streak was sweet, and made her feel safe and treasured rather than irritated, vulnerable, and fragile, as the overtures of others often made her feel. The Colonel never treated her as less than being able to accomplish anything she put her mind to. He often stood back and let her achieve even more than most said she was capable of achieving. He didn't restrict her in any way. In fact, he often bolstered her spirit when it needed a boost. But, he didn't expect to get any compliments if he did have to give her a nudge in the right direction. It was almost as if he enjoyed standing back and watching her bask in the limelight. It was a scary, yet hugely gratifying, experience.

But was this love? Was that how she felt? Did he do all that she'd already considered, plus make her tingle, tremble, melt to sludge, stir up her emotions like a whirlwind had attacked her? Did just the thought of being with him make her consider giving up her career? Did she desperately want to be with him? Was she willing to break regulations for him?

Yes.

She allowed the answer to these questions to just barely touch her mind, and then that thought still scared her half to death.

But scared or not... Why then hadn't she done something about her feelings?

Sam honestly didn't know. She was too frightened by the idea of doing anything about her feelings for the Colonel. She was so frighened, in fact, that she'd spent years perfecting the concept of taking 'the easy way out' of this entire mess and ignoring her basic thoughts. By now, four years after she'd started hiding her true thoughts from him and from everyone else in the Air Force, she was getting darned good at it. Writing these letters... being open with him for the first time in her life... was much harder than she had expected it to be.

As of now, she hadn't told him about these thoughts of hers, for she was pretty certain that he would never agree to any suggestion she ever made concerning breaking, or not breaking, the regulations. The fact that he was the first man she had ever entertained quitting the Air Force to be with scared her so much that she wanted to run screaming from her house. At the same time she felt exhilarated. It was a confusing set of emotions, and she wished she could feel as certain of herself as he sounded.

J.

Re.... feelings

HOW CAN YOU BE SO SURE OF YOUR FEELINGS????? Feelings are one thing that I'm never sure about. That Jonas thing has done nothing but reduce me to being a total idiot when it comes to knowing my own emotions.

I think I know what my own feelings are, but you know me... have to think everything to death. And waffle... And agonize... And waffle some more...

S.

He replied:

S.

You think too much, but I love that about you. I wouldn't know what to do with you if you ever stopped thinking. So keep thinking.

But don't make this so hard. Either you know, or you aren't in love. Plain and simple. And I love you, plain and simple. Even if I can't say it out loud.

J.

J.

This is getting sort of on the sticky side... Do you mind if I mention something that's probably considered taboo by most people that we know? I don't want to offend you or anything.

S.

S.

Mind? Whatever's on your mind, ask about it. I don't mind when it's you doing the asking. In fact, I'd rather that you ask than not ask, and then end up wondering about whatever it is that you want to ask about. That wondering could end up being distracting when we're on a mission, and there are times when being distracted while on a foreign planet with Jaffa trying to surround us while we're running for the Gate is not a good thing. I could never live with myself knowing that I somehow played a part in you getting hurt, or worse. So, ask away. But remember, this means that I get to ask whatever I've always wanted to, too. Turnabout is fair play.

J.

P.S. Still in love with you, and don't ever think I'm not.

Wow, Sam thought. Jack was so open with his emotions... at least, while he was writing about his emotions. It surprised her how much he talked about the way he felt about her. But then, he must be feeling safe and secure with her, or he would never have such confidence in her ability to keep his emotional outpouring a secret. Such trust made her glow, but it was also a humbling thing to experience, too.

She answered as quickly as she could, before she lost the small amount of nerve she had dredged up for her question. But she could feel her confidence growing as she wrote.

J.

I would never think that you don't have feelings for me. And I'm pretty darned sure by now that I feel the same way, though just blurting it out like that is... difficult.

Anyway, your advice to not make it so hard was good. I stopped thinking right away after I read that, and that's a good thing. I know that you told me to keep thinking, but there is such a thing as thinking too much about something, and that's what I was doing. Over analyzing. It's a habit of mine, one I started in high school not long after Mom died. You know... I'd think something to death, and look smart the entire time, but put off actually making any kind of useful decision about anything. I need to quit thinking, and start feeling. It's scarier, but a lot more fun!

Anyway, what I was wondering... (And I do love you right back. Forgot to say that, and it's good to actually KNOW, ya know? So there's no wondering there...)

Anyway... What I was wondering... You say that you're in love with me... (Very cool, by the way!) But weren't you also in love with Sara? I mean, you were married to her for all those years, I know. I don't want you to compare... That's not what I mean at all. I'm just curious... and terrified, I admit. I shouldn't feel any sort of competition between us, or anything... I hardly even know her... I know who she is, but we only briefly met that one time... But I can't help it... I do feel like we're competing.

Which is stupid, I know. But maybe I'm a stupid person then. Ya think?

Okay, crunch time (as those scientists that you hate so much like to say. I've heard that phrase used at more than one conference, I swear!) What are you thinking?

And please tell me that I haven't totally pissed you off by even asking about this in the first place.

S.

There was a long pause between letters here. Sam was reduced to biting her nails by the third day while waiting for a reply from him, and she was convinced that she had made him as angry as a bull in a China shop with her question, though she had made certain to mention that doing so had never been her intention. Every morning, before she had even made her coffee for the day, she rushed out to her mailbox to see if there was something in an unmarked envelope waiting for her. By the time an unmarked envelope finally fell from her regular mail, and into her hands on the fourth morning, she was such a bundle of nerves that she was almost ill, and for the first time considered calling in 'sick' to the SGC that day. Besides, if she were 'sick,' then she wouldn't have to face him, and as SG-1 had a mission scheduled for that day, she knew that she would be facing him all day. And she didn't think she could stand 'facing him' at all, to say nothing of all day long.

But her worries were for nothing, as was revealed the second she opened her newest letter from him and began to read.

S.

I know you... You are probably so worried by now that you've bitten a hole through your bottom lip, and chewed your fingernails down so far that you have hangnails. Stop worrying! That's an order. I just ran out of envelopes, like the moron that I often am, and last night was the first chance I had to get off base, and run by Wal-Mart to buy some. I hope that you don't think I was being too anal, but I bought ten boxes of envelopes, and two packages of loose leaf paper, so that I could make sure to have enough of both next time I want to write, and not run out of either again. I have one box of the envelopes in my office at the SGC (how conspicuous is paper and a box of envelopes, really?) and the rest in my bedroom closet at home. That way, I know I have them, and know where they are. That's pretty good, for me, at least.

And no, I don't mind you asking that question about Sara. I was beginning to wonder if you really are a saint under all those brains of yours for not feeling like you're in some kind of competition with her. It was actually rather heartening to find out that we shouldn't saint you just yet.

(And while we're talking about wondering... How do I stack up against Jonas? Or is there any competition between us? Just curious.)

Okay... Sara... It's weird to be talking about this at all. But it's been good in the end that I had a few more days to think about all this before I wrote an answer to your question. Actually, this is the third letter I've written to you, and those letters just keep getting better and better the more I think about it all. So thinking is good, even for me. But don't tell anybody that I'm thinking. I have a reputation for being dumb to uphold, ya know.

I don't blame you for feeling like there's some kind of competition going on. There's not, but I don't blame you for thinking that there is. I suppose anyone who's involved with a divorcee (God, am I really a divorcee? Ugh!... I'm not sure I like the sound of that phrase. It makes me feel old.) Anyway, no, there's no comparing going on. This just feels so... different. I know that you're looking for something more specific than that, and I wish that I could give it to you.

Um... Being more specific... I always thought I was in love with Sara. And then I met you. Then I fell in love with you. Hard. Way harder (more?) than what I felt for Sara. Not that I want to undermine what I felt for her all those years. But this is so different...

I don't know... I'm not very good with words in the first place, and even worse when I'm connecting those words to feelings. I loved Sara... once. Now, she seems like part of a previous life, or part of one of those alternate reality thingies that you and Daniel are always finding. She's then, you're now. I guess that's the only way I can say it. I loved her then, yes, but I love you now.

Does that help clear things up?

J.

Sam sat at her kitchen table, trembling from adrenaline at finding a letter to her in the first place, and feeling the caffeine from the coffee that she'd already drunk that morning course through her blood stream. While she sat, she thought... She couldn't help thinking about what he'd said... It was her nature to think.

So... It was a relief to know that she wasn't being compared to Sara every time he looked at her. She felt much calmer knowing that. Even while she understood it, she knew that needing to know such a thing at all was sort of... stupid. But she couldn't help it.

Sam nibbled on a new hangnail that had appeared on her right thumb during the night, and stopped to smile when she realized what she was doing. Jack had predicted that she would have hangnails by now, and he had predicted right. It was scary, and really neat at the same time, to have someone know so much about her habits.

So... Now that she felt soothed about the whole Sara thing... Again she thought... How did Jack stack up against Jonas? Was there even any comparison?

No, not really. Jack was so much more... Just more than Jonas ever was. Jack was more gentle, more caring, more caring while he was pretending not to care... In fact, she loved that about Jack. It was why he had so much success with kids. The way he was so... friendly... For instance, he was friendly with Cassie when he was with Cassie. That proved that. Or, it was almost like he was another person. Even Janet had remarked on it to her before. So even she had noticed that something was going on, something totally unexpected, considering who they were talking about. The gruff, cranky Colonel. The hard-as-nails Colonel. The man who didn't care about anything except where his next beer came from. That was soooo not what he was really like under his exterior. And Sam had somehow known that from the very beginning.

J.

I don't quite know what to say... I'm so, so, SO glad that you said what you said about Sara, explaining it all like that. And you were right... I caught myself biting a hangnail on my thumb as I was reading your letter, so you were right in predicting how I would react, too. God, am I that predictable? Or do you think that you just know me so well?

Was I easy to get to know, or hard? I don't think you were hard to get to know at all, but I've heard others say differently, so maybe I'm biased. I couldn't help spending almost my entire time at guard duty every night during those early missions staring at you while you were sleeping, or thinking about you when I couldn't see you, like when we slept in tents. Teal'c must think I'm an idiot for staring so much. But I got to know all your little habits really fast that way. Did you know that when you lay on your left side, you snore, but when you lay on your right, you don't? Is that some weird male thing, or does it have something to do with your throat? And do I do the same thing when I sleep? As I'm sure you stared at me as much as I stared at you.

Okay, Jonas... Now, there's a piece of my life that I wish I could carve out and throw away. Not that 'the Jonas episode' wasn't a good thing for me... in the long run. In the short run, I have to wonder now what the heck I was doing at the time. Jonas was never nice to me. Actually, he was too nice at times, followed by times when he wasn't nice at all. And I put up with that hot and cold behavior. Now that I know better, I think he was bipolar, but I didn't know better at the time. I thought that the way he acted was normal. Because Mom died when I was so young, I never really had that good 'parental relationship thing' to watch that set my standards for what a 'normal' relationship was supposed to be like. So, instead, I had no idea. Which meant that Jonas could do whatever he wanted, and I wouldn't question any of it. And that's what he did... pretty much whatever the hell he wanted... and I let him.

God, now when I think about that time and all the things he did that I let him get away with, I cringe. Was I really that stupid? How could I not know what was acceptable behavior, and what wasn't? He hit me. Sometimes more than once. And I was so dumb that I thought I deserved that. Now I know that nobody deserves that. But you must have guessed that we had a rather abusive relationship by how easily he fell into that same old pattern, and hit me again when we were at the Stargate on... (I don't remember the right planetary designation anymore... Huh, thought I would remember that one forever.) Anyway, I do remember being utterly terrified when he was trying to throw you into the Stargate, and you would hit the Iris and die... and I was just standing there like an idiot, not doing anything, and he was going to kill you and that Captain... whose name I can't remember, either. It's been a few years, after all...

How Jonas rose to the rank of Captain, I'll never know. But he could sweet-talk with the best of them, so I can only assume that he sweet-talked his way into his Captaincy, then into his team. The idea of him leading a team makes me want to throw up. But I don't blame General Hammond for naming him team leader. Hammond couldn't have known what he was really like, and I'm sure that Jonas hid his true self until... Well, you saw what his true self was really like.

There is so 'no comparison' between you and Jonas that it's almost not worth discussing the subject. But I know that I am not your first... um... What am I, do you think? Prime letter writer? But that reminds me of First Primes, and that's not a good image. I'm not your girl... This is way too secret a... thing... for that. Am I a courtee, then, do you think? Does that make you a courter? Is this a courtship? A mighty damn weird courtship, if you ask me, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't work, either. So does this letter writing... um, thing... rather defy convention?

Maybe I shouldn't even bother to try to give a label to it. Why do we as people want to give labels to things so badly? Like when it was right after that Jolinar thing, everyone was so convinced that I was a Goa'uld, but then, when Janet kept insisting to anybody who would listen to her that the 'snake' that had taken over my body had been, not a Goa'uld, but a Tok'ra, and had died besides, and that I was totally free of any mind influence, and didn't have a damned snake running around inside my head, everyone was still determined to call me a snake, though there was so much NO snake in my head... I began to carry around the MRI scan of my brain just to prove it. That part of my life still haunts Janet, I think.

Oh, and you're not a moron, or anal, for buying ten boxes of envelopes. I bought fifteen. So, if you're a moron, then we can be morons together.

S.

Jack laughed when he saw her comment about being morons together. The levity that she had ended her letter with glossed over the part where she was talking about her time spent with Jonas that came before. He felt his anger rise again at the mere mention of her being hit by Jonas just because of who she was. Jack figured that she was probably right in guessing that Jonas had a bipolar personality, but knowing such a thing was little comfort to him when he remembered that mission from many years before when Jonas Hansen had almost been able to do away with him. He kept remembering the way Jonas had almost been gleeful when he'd hit Carter, and even though she wasn't much more to him then than someone who caught and held his attention, remembering it now still made his stomach roil.

He would never understand how anyone could hit someone else, whether it be male or female. He just didn't get it...

S.

I don't quite see how Jonas could have stomached taking out his anger on someone so much that he hit that someone. It makes my blood run cold, if you want to know the truth.

J.

Sam responded to his letter the minute she opened its white envelope and was finished reading his simple commentary.

J.

I guess I got used to you writing long letters. I admit that I was a bit disappointed that yours was so short. Not that I'm criticizing or anything..!

But how can you say that you don't understand how someone can hit someone else, and in the next instance, blow an entire mother ship of Jaffa out of the skies? Just curious.

S.

S.

Okay... My letter was so short last time because I was too mad to trust myself to say anything more, and not say something stupid, and tick you off. I've learned over the years that a ticked off Carter is something to avoid if I can. Besides, I don't want to tick you off.

But how I was feeling at the time I last wrote is beside the point. I want to talk about blowing mother ships sky high, and how I can do that at the same time I don't understand people who resort to violence in their domestic lives.

Okay... Jaffa are the enemy. Someone way smarter than I am (or of higher rank) decided that they are the enemy, probably right back when Apophis came to the SGC that day five years ago, and kidnapped that Sergeant against her will. Teal'c told me not long after he had joined the team that she had died, that he was there when she died, but that he didn't kill her, even though he was the one who detained her while Apophis (that no good, evil, snot-nosed, good-for-nothin' argh...!) did his dirty deeds to her. Now, you tell me how anyone can be so... ruthless, for want of a better word... ruthless as Apophis is, and yet have someone as gentle as Teal'c for their right hand man? Does that mean that Apophis didn't know Teal'c very well? He didn't care to know him? Didn't take the time to get to know him? That Teal'c hid his true nature? That all of us at the SGC are being duped every day by Teal'c, and someday he's going to take that staff weapon of his and shoot up the Gate Room? What?

J.

J.

Someone 'smarter than you' my left foot! That's an old military excuse to pass the buck if I ever heard one! It's always someone (or a group of someones) who are of a higher rank... (You're probably right about that.) They get to decide... Well, who are they? Just a bunch of people with high ranks? The Joint Chiefs? The NID? The President? Who? Or are you saying by making that 'smarter than I am' comment that you're not responsible for your own actions? (And you're plenty smart. I know.) But was Jonas just following what 'they' told him to do when he had your butt dangling over an activated Stargate with a closed Iris on the other end? Isn't every soldier supposed to think about any order he or she is given, and decide for him or herself whether it's right or not? Isn't that the point?

But if that's the point, then why are there 'orders' at all?

This is so confusing!

S.

S.

Do you think about every order that I give, even the ones that require split second action on your part? I've seen you save Teal'c... me... Daniel... at the expense of those enemy Jaffa hundreds of times. Are you saying that it's better to watch Danny-boy bite the big one so that some nameless Jaffa who doesn't give a rat's ass about him, or about you, or Teal'c, or me, lives on to maim and kill another day?

Hey, I'm all sad that these Jaffa... people... whatever... who are often brought to populate the planets that we visit against their will, and I really hate the way they're pressed into service to the System Lords, but if one of them is shooting at Daniel or you or Teal'c, I'm gonna shoot at him, and not feel any worse about that than he probably feels about trying to shoot you guys in the first place. I'm not gonna take the time to ask him how he feels about trying to kill you first. I figure it's better him than Daniel or you or Teal'c.

And before you start railing about me not giving the Jaffa that I shoot a chance to tell their side of the story (I know, I know, they're brainwashed, and have no choice about being brainwashed), I would just like to say that those Jaffa who flew at Sha're's Abydonian village (nope, can't remember its name, or even if I ever heard its name...) Ra's Jaffa didn't first ask the Abydonians how they felt about being gunned down and killed with no mercy before those Jaffa did it. I saw them do it. Then later, those same kinds of people... Jaffa... took Sha're and Skaara away from everything they both knew to use them as hosts without asking for their consent first. I bet Daniel would have a few choice things to say on this subject, and I also bet that those few things wouldn't be so nice about Jaffa in general, Apophis's in particular, Teal'c excluded. (I know that it took a long time, and several gutwrenching conversations between Daniel and Teal'c before those two became such good friends. The fact that they did become such good friends anyway, in spite of who Teal'c used to be, still amazes me.)(Daniel's ten times more forgiving than I would ever be.)

Why don't you ask Daniel what he thinks about all this, then get back to me on any opinions that you have that you want to revise, or that you think I should revise? Then we're talkin. Until then, most Jaffa are still the faceless enemy unless proven otherwise. Teal'c took the time to do that proving to me, and in return, there's nothing I won't do for him. Until he acts otherwise, I'll trust him.

It's pretty black and white when you look at it like that, huh? Maybe I'm just a black and white kind of guy? No shades of gray. Scientists are always seeing shades of gray in everything that's really pretty clear cut. That's probably why I never got along with scientists much until I met you and Daniel. And there's days when I could chuck the both of ya for your arguments. But then, I bet there are days when you and he could chuck me and my opinions as well. That's why I go for Teal'c so well... 'Way of the warrior,' and all that.

And no, this all isn't just an excuse to avoid responsibility. I know what it's like to be responsible for something you love, then to do something stupid, and end up paying for it for the rest of your life. I know what that's like. And it ain't a pretty place to be, for anyone.

But I still say better a Jaffa than me. Or Teal'c. Or you. Or Danny. Or you. Or...

J.

J.

I'd normally say 'Oh, goodie, a debate', but I half think that you're right. That's another good example of my scientist half being at war with my soldier half. Neither ever wins that kind of an argument. The best I can hope for is that the shaky truce they've managed to achieve will continue. If it doesn't, then maybe I'll go nuts before Teal'c does, and be the one shooting up the 'Gate Room someday.

Did we just have a disagreement? Was that what it was?

S.

S.

We disagreed, and survived to tell about it. Amazing...

Are you mad? I'm not mad. I've certainly been thinking a lot more than I usually do about 'the enemy,' and who decides who 'the enemy' is. I've even been asking people around the base what they think about the subject. It's generally a solid line... The scientists think the Jaffa should be treated in a more humanitarian way all around... by everybody... and the soldiers think just the opposite. And when asked what they'd do if a hypothetical Jaffa army ever overruns the SGC, kills Hammond, and tries to take over, they all give the same answer... Better the Jaffa than them.

There are two parts of you? I never thought of it that way before. Will they both go out with me if I ask? Or do we have to leave half of you at home? Remind me again just how we're going to do that?

J.

Sam had to laugh when she read his last question. She'd heard him ask that same question so many times over the years that she could practically predict when she was going to hear it next. But she was too wrapped up in the hypothetical situation that he had posed about the Jaffa army taking over the base to fully comprehend until several days had passed what he'd been asking in his final paragraph.

Janet? Sam asked during her next post-mission physical, trying to get the doctor's attention away from the triglyceride levels she was looking at, or whatever the doctor found so fascinating on her chart.

Yeah? the doctor absently responded.

Sam swallowed nervously, but pressed on. Has the Colonel been asking about your opinion on the Jaffa?

Janet's head jerked up from her chart. Yeah... How did you know?

Well, Sam said, trying to decide how to diplomatically say what was on her mind. At last, she gave up trying to be diplomatic, and just said, He and I have been having something of a debate that...

Janet's eyes widened. So it's your fault! she exclaimed.

My fault? Sam asked, truly confused now.

You're the one with all those hypothetical situations, then! Janet said, as if her saying that much explained everything. And he said it was for a friend! She snorted, as if that gave her opinion of the 'friend' of the Colonel's.

I am his friend! Sam immediately protested.

Janet blushed, and plopped the chart that was in her hands down on the end of the bed that Sam was sitting on. And all this time, I thought he was asking for a fellow soldier! she corrected.

But Janet, I am a fellow soldier, Sam reminded her, still confused.

Janet seemed to recover some of her thought processes. Of course you are, Sam. It's just that I didn't expect him to be asking about his fellow team mate, is all, and I would have thought he'd be debating with Daniel, not you.

That comment made Sam take notice. What's that supposed to mean? The Colonel debated with Daniel? Since when?

Janet shrugged. Just that he and Daniel have had these kinds of debates before, about the soldier opinion versus the humanitarian/scientist opinion, that's all.

Sam blurted, He has? She shook her head. I mean, they have?

Sure.

How come I've never heard about this before now? Doesn't my opinion count to influence their opinions? Sam's forehead was wrinkled in bewilderment.

I don't know, Janet answered. She regarded Sam. You'd have to ask Daniel or the Colonel about that. She smiled, then retrieved her chart from the end of Sam's bed.

Sam was slightly stunned. She had never heard one word about any of this. So, was her opinion worth something, or not?

Colonel O'Neill breezed into the Infirmary at that point, distracting her by asking, How is she, Doc? Did that Jaffa do lasting damage, or is she good to go again?

Janet didn't even bother to look at him as she spoke. Sam's fine... this time. Just keep her out of trouble next time, and keep her away from those Jaffa.

O'Neill smirked, which kind of annoyed Sam, but she said nothing while surrounded by so many people the way they were. Instead, she listened to him say, Oh, I'll keep Carter away from Jaffa in the future. Don't want her to do too much damage to them, anyway.

His words surprised Sam. He usually wasn't so... complimentary of her... at least, not openly. One thing she had learned in the last four years was that people talked, no matter what, and she didn't need people to find more to talk about between the Colonel and her. So she kept her own specific compliments about him, to him, to a minimum.

Then she thought about the letters she had been writing to him over the last three months, and revised her preceding thought.

Covering her inner struggle on thoughts and ideas that were best left out of the SGC, Sam jumped down from her bed and grabbed her BDU overshirt. I'll be in my lab if anyone needs...

Colonel O'Neill cut her off. I thought you might want to come down to the Commissary with me first. I hear they're having a run on blue Jell-O...

A brief smile lit Sam's features. You just want to get another piece of cake.

O'Neill stuck his hands in his pockets. Sam thought the movement left him looking adorably awkward. Does it show? he asked in a self-deprecating manner.

Sam laughed. I suppose I could go for some blue Jell-O...

You're too thin, anyway, he remarked. I'm taking it upon myself to fatten you up a bit.

Janet piped up then. Good luck, Sir. I've been trying to do the same thing for years, but I've never managed it.

Want to come along and see how a master does it? O'Neill invited.

Janet laughed, if in a mocking way. A 'master,' indeed! she hooted. Then, she tossed her clipboard onto the bed that Sam had just vacated. Actually, yeah. This I've got to see for myself!

Sam was surprised at Janet's easy acceptance, and would have remarked on it, but the records that the doctor had so negligently tossed aside landed askew on the bed, and the mess of papers caught her attention first. She looked at them more closely. Janet! she exclaimed a minute later in even more astonishment. Under your medical records... They're games! She turned to stare at her friend. Are you wasting time playing games with the staff?

Janet appeared a tiny bit guilty as Jack laughed, and tried to hide the action with his hand. But Janet rallied a bit, and crossed her arms on her chest in an even bigger show of mock anger. Like you can talk, she accused of Sam. Everyone knows that you play games on that computer of yours in your lab!

Jack's eyebrows rose. This was an interesting piece of information that he would have to remember for later. Carter! he appreciatively exclaimed. I didn't know that about you!

Sam scowled at both of them. I only do it because it helps me think, she was sure to inform them, if just to wipe the smug smiles off their faces.

Sure you do, Janet told her in a tone that clearly indicated her disbelief.

It's a very relaxing activity, Sam then stated in her own defense.

Now Janet looked like she sort of believed Sam. I know it is.

Sam tried to think of anything more that she could say that would distract her two friends from her computer game habit. Are we going to the Commissary, or not? I guess I'm a little hungry after all.

Doctor Fraiser and the Colonel glanced at each other. Janet said, Now you can bet she's trying to distract us by talking about how hungry she is.

Nah! the Colonel exclaimed. Surely someone wouldn't be embarrassed by such a small thing as a gaming habit?

Is it a habit, do you think? Janet asked him then, as if she really were trying to help her friend. She was in pure shrink mode by now.

Playing in secret? Not telling anybody? the Colonel rhetorically asked. Oh, yeah, I'd say this is a habit!

Sam put her hands on her hips, then shrewdly regarded her companions. All right, you two! Stop discussing me like I'm not here! she ordered.

The Colonel's eyebrows rose questioningly. You'd rather join in on the discussion, too? But don't you find it weird to be talking about yourself?

Sam tossed her hands into the air in frustration. Ugh! I'm leaving! See you guys in the Commissary!

But it was her who was surprised the minute she arrived in the eating room. As she opened the door, several hundred people yelled, Happy Birthday! And as she thought about dying right there on the spot, she knew that she had been tricked into coming to the Commissary in the first place. And she had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

Damn! She would have to get back at the Colonel somehow for this! But maybe after her impromptu birthday party...

An hour later, she was trying to balance a book on Wormhole Physics from Teal'c, a bag of Hershey's Chocolate Candy Bars from the Colonel ('For those missions that just need that little bit of 'chocolate boost' he'd told her), three notebooks from Daniel ('For writing all those notes you like to take during your experiments...')(did he give her notebooks because he knew something was going on?), and a new shirt from Janet, and walk down the corridor towards her lab, all at the same time, when the Colonel jogged up beside her. He immediately offered to help her by taking some of the more awkward items from her.

Sam sent him a mock glare. I don't know... Can you lower yourself to helping a gaming nut?

The Colonel laughed even as he took the shirt and notebooks from her. Depends, he chuckled. I can if you promise to teach me how to get through level ten of 'Alligator's Revenge.'

Sam snorted. Only if you ask Daniel to do the cooking for the next five missions.

Daniel? queried the Colonel. Hey, I can bet with him any day! Besides, then we're sure to get good cooking.

Ohhhh! Sam grunted, though she smiled, too. Why is it that everybody thinks I can't cook?

Can't you? the Colonel inquired. Then he shook his head as if to clear it. I mean, you can?

Sam sent him an aggravated stare. Of course I can! she affirmed. I just don't have time to cook properly right now!

Suddenly the Colonel appeared a little nervous as he said, And speaking of timing... I suppose it's time for you to give an answer one way or the other to my question.

Sam was completely confused. What question? she asked as they drew closer to her lab.

O'Neill glanced up and down the corridor, then after finding no one close enough to them to overhear him, softly hissed, In my last letter.

Did he mean his email letters? Sam racked her brain, trying to recall any recent emails, but couldn't remember anything but his mention of the hypothetical Jaffa army scenario in one of his real letters to her. Sam was sure that wasn't what he was talking about; he would never mention those letters while at work. You asked a question? she inquired again, shifting the remaining items in her arms.

O'Neill raised his brow in an imitation of Teal'c. Well, you don't have to say either 'yes' or 'no' if you don't want to, ya know, just that...

Sam stopped in the middle of the corridor, and stared at him. He was hurt, but trying not to look hurt. I know you... What are you hiding? Another trick to get me to go to the Control Room next?

Noooooo. He looked annoyed, terrified, nervous, red, irritated, and even more irritated as the seconds ticked by. In short, Sam decided that he looked totally adorable. But he was going on, and his words attracted her wandering attention. You know the things you read every morning?

It was those letters that he was talking about! Sam hesitated, trying to read his unreadable expression, but finally gave up and just said, Yeah... This was the first time that he had ever mentioned at work the letters they were writing so often to each other when at home. I think I know what you're talking about, she softly prompted.

He stared assessingly at her. You really have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?

Sam furrowed her brow in puzzlement, then had to admit, No, I guess I don't.

O'Neill gave her a thin smile. Why don't you read your last... message... again, then tell me what you think. Oh, and Carter? They had reached her lab, and he placed the things he'd carried for her on her workbench. On his way back out of the room, he repeated an affectionate, Happy Birthday.

Sam sent him a grateful grin. Thank you, Sir! she shouted after him.

She had just enough time to make several more trips to the Commissary to carry more things to the safety of her lab, which she could lock, from the very public Commissary before she went home for the day. She figured that on her birthday, she could go home early.

Two hours later, she finished her last trip to her lab. Whew! And she thought she could go home early? Yeah, right! It was only a little earlier than she normally went home, she noted with a glance at her watch.

Sam grabbed a few of the most precious items from her birthday stash, including the candy bars from the Colonel, and closed and locked her lab door before heading to the surface. It was true that her dad hadn't been able to come to her party due to a sudden Tok'ra mission arising, but all in all, it hadn't been a bad birthday. Sam took another look at the large package of chocolate candy that she was carrying, and decided that it hadn't been a bad birthday at all.

When she arrived home for the day, the first thing she gathered was the mail that she hadn't had time to collect earlier that morning. Now, she noticed the bills that she had received, plus a white, unmarked envelope at the bottom of the stack.

Quickly she dropped everything else to the couch in her living room, opened her candy as she walked towards the kitchen... Why wait for a mission to enjoy them? she argued to herself. The chocolate bars would probably just be stale by the time she needed extra chocolate on a mission, anyway. She didn't think about the fact that chocolate didn't get stale as she grabbed a diet soda from the fridge, then ripped the wrapper off the first candy bar. She then pulled apart the envelope as she popped a piece of chocolate into her mouth. She noticed that her hands were only shaking a little bit. She blamed it on the chocolate, and read.

S.

The main part of your birthday present is out behind your house. You should go take a look...

J.

Sam's brows rose in surprise. Okaaaaay. She would just do what the letter asked, and take a quick peek out her back door...

So Sam peeked. Then she yelled, Holy..! She managed to change her exclamation at the last moment. ... Hannah! Then she felt bad for even thinking about yelling a curse word in the first place.

But cursing, or considering cursing, was understandable, for leaning against the back wall of her house was a brand new blue Schwinn mountain bike with fifteen speeds, and a hand grip braking system that was so tight, she would have to be careful not to send herself flying over the handlebars the first time she stopped for something. There was even a battery-powered light already attached to the left handlebar.

She stood with her mouth hanging open for five full minutes, speechless, capable only of staring at the gift in numbed surprise. It was by far the... coolest... thing anyone had ever bought her before, including her parents. It... It was... Wow!

Still stunned, and in awe... That bike must have been expensive!... Sam returned to inside her house, ready to reread Jack's last letter, but in truth, thinking about her new bicycle. She settled on the cushions of the couch after she had retrieved his last letter from the box she was keeping all his messages to her in at the back of the top of her bedroom closet. Still, she had to force herself to refocus her mind on his words rather than her birthday present.

Concentrating hard, looking for a question of some kind in his writing of everyone's reaction to his hypothetical Jaffa Army scenario, Sam read. She continued reading until she reached his last paragraph, when she gasped an audible breath, her eyes automatically widening.

She had found his questions. Or, specifically, she had found the question that he had been referring to earlier that day. And it did indeed require an answer of some kind from her.

He had asked her out on a date. And she had been so consumed with thinking about whether or not she had made him angry with her recent comments about soldiers taking responsibility for his or her actions, and theoretical Jaffa army scenarios, that she had completely missed his invitation.

But, could they date? What if they were seen together? Didn't a date kind of put them both at risk for reputedly breaking the Frat regs that they worked so hard at not breaking, even though they had probably already broken those regulations just by having feelings for each other, then confessing those feelings to keep themselves from becoming nothing but Tok'ra experiments?

Yet, didn't she want to date Jack?

Are you kidding yourself!? She knew and admitted to herself that she would love nothing more than to date Jack O'Neill! But he was her Commanding Officer... There were regulations against dating your CO. Those regulations could end in a court-martial for both of them, in a worst case situation. Was he serious?

This was a time more suitable for calling him up and asking him over for a discussion of the subject after giving him a swift, resounding 'yes' to his question. Letters would take too long in this situation. She needed to talk to him, hear his plans on how he wanted them to do this, because Colonel O'Neill certainly had a plan of some kind. He had a plan for everything...

Her hand most definitely shaking now, Sam dialed Jack's number of his cell phone, then listened to it ring twice before she heard his voice responding.

O'Neill, he breathlessly said. He must have run to the phone from somewhere else in his house.

Or... he was just breathless with anticipation. But Sam didn't let herself dwell on this compelling idea.

Sam didn't introduce herself so that she or he couldn't possibly get in trouble if this call was traced, which she doubted, but she wasn't taking any chances. Hi, she responded.

Hi! Jack said back much more enthusiastically. He inherently knew what she was doing by not saying 'Hi, it's Carter.' Instead, he simply asked. Did you..? He didn't want to ask her if she'd read his last letter. He stopped his voice, and modified his question. Well? he asked. Is it a go?

Cryptic to the last, Sam thought with a smile. But she replied, Yes, and Yes.

Sam could hear him smiling in his one word response. Good!

Sam began speaking before he had the chance to say anything more. But I need to speak to you to fully understand this... uh... type of mission, she ended, cringing a bit at turning something personal into something work related. But she forged on anyway, I'm curious as to how something so delicate will work. So, are you alone?

Jack didn't quite know what she was leading up to with her last inquiry, but answered, Yes, anyway, figuring that she would clear her meaning eventually.

Okay, she said, smiling herself now. As long as I'm not interrupting anything..?

Jack's voice came over the line again, and so did the sound of his accompanying smile. You are never an interruption, he said with a grin. Then he went on, But no, you're not interrupting anything important.

Well, that was something, she admitted to herself. This situation was hard enough to deal with as it was. She supposed a little concealed reassurance wasn't a bad thing right now. Come here after dark if you can, and come to the back door, so I'll know it's you, she invited. I have some questions to ask... about that mission, she ended in a small voice.

Will do, he quickly said.

Oh, and Colonel? she asked.

Yeah?

Thanks for all the birthday good wishes and presents, she nonchalantly said, trying to downplay the importance of what she was going to say next. I'm eating the chocolate now, and thank you!

It seemed that Jack knew she was referring to her new bicycle with her last comment. He responded with a sincere, You're welcome, for everything.

Smiling again, Sam said, See you later then.

Later, he promised, then hung up.

Well, that had gone well. Now all she had to do was wait until it grew dark.

* * *

This is pathetic, Sam thought happily to herself as she sat on her inside back steps, attempting again to read the article on quarks in her latest issue of an Astrophysics journal that she had filched from work. She adjusted her flashlight again, but refused to turn on any more lights than the one lamp she had burning in her living room. The light barely spilled all the way to these back steps, hence her need for a flashlight.

But she was still contemplating her current position of sitting on her back inside steps, trying to read a magazine article by flashlight. No, she amended. The situation isn't pathetic... I am pathetic. But it was a good pathetic, she decided as she once again gave a semi-nervous glance at her solid looking, and solidly locked, back door.

No one ever came to her back entrance, which was why she felt fairly safe in asking Jack to knock on the rear door of the house instead of her front door. But she was so afraid that she wouldn't hear a knock on her back door that she was currently camping on the steps that led to her back door, trying hard to concentrate enough to read the magazine article she wanted to read. But she was too jumpy, too fidgety, too nervous to read.

Sam stretched her left arm up to what little light filtered in from the living room, and noted that it was already 2030, and had been dark for a full hour. The Colonel was rather late. Don't call him that! she firmly told herself, thinking that there was something wrong about calling a man she had told that very afternoon that she would date by his title. She was just lowering her arm when she heard a knock on the door.

Sam choked a breath, tried to heave in air, then tried to force it down her suddenly tight throat. She stood, dropped her magazine, set down her flashlight, straightened her rather rumpled clothes, and threw the door open.

There he stood, looking at her in inquisition. Belying his questioning expression, he said, Hi!

Sam took a breath, then hauled him into the darkened house without ceremony, or so much as a word of greeting. She shut the door behind them, forcing them both to stand on the landing between the bottom of her back stairs and the door. Then, still silent, she threw her arms around him, not caring if anyone was watching or not.

Jack caught her, holding onto her tightly so that she didn't fall. But as she embraced him, whispering, Thank you, thank you, this is the best birthday ever! his hold became much softer, and automatically more affectionate than a simple act of keeping a friend from tripping would be.

Jack ran his hands through her hair in an adorably thoughtless caress, and though he only whispered back, Happy Birthday, she inherently knew that he was saying much more with his words combined with his actions than the words alone might have conveyed.

Just as quickly as the desire to tense up in his arms accosted her (it was so much easier to give in to habit than it was to fight the habit of the past years) the feeling disappeared. She relaxed into his arms, her head resting comfortably on his left shoulder, surrounded as she was by the personal smell that meant 'Jack' to her, and not 'the Colonel.' It was the combined scent of pine, woods, outdoors, freshness, and nature that always seemed to cling to him. It was a scent that he took for granted, and somehow she had known it would unravel her in an instant if she ever came into close contact with him, so she usually stayed far away from it, and him, when she could.

But right now was not one of those times. She couldn't stay away from it or him when his arms surrounded her like they did right now. Her first reaction was to give an impression of being offended by his closeness, to show a disapproval for such behavior, even if she had initiated it. But her second, much calmer, thought was to relax, go with the flow of the moment, and to enjoy it for all it was worth... it might not ever come again, and she wouldn't get a second chance at enjoying her feelings like this.

It seemed like the easiest, most natural thing in the entire world when she looked up to find him gazing earnestly down at her out of brown eyes that had clouded with affinity and desire. She had never experienced such a magnetic draw as the hypnotic quality of those beautiful brown eyes, and she instantly decided that it was pretty useless for her to resist any pull towards him. She wasn't certain that she wanted to resist the pull in his eyes, anyway. Instead, she wanted to fall into that chocolate brown gaze forever, to let it become her comfort, to finally stop running away from him, and from that desire in his eyes. To stand and be cherished by him instead of constantly pushing him away...

So it was almost fate that when she smiled at him, thanking him for her wonderful birthday presents, he almost teasingly rubbed her soft, velvety cheek with his. Without saying a word, but with devotion clearly lighting his features, he leaned down and kissed her lightly... playfully... pleasantly... straight on her lips. She was helpless to combat him, or the sensations in her that instantly cried out for her attention the second he touched her. She didn't want to fight him anymore, anyway.

The kiss made her gut instantly clench, swooped down until she was nothing but goo in his arms. That swirling sensation was slowly building as his and her desire forced it higher and higher. Sam was analytically aware that she was technically kissing her Commanding Officer, and should stop right this instant. But on a much more emotional level, she knew that she was thoroughly enjoying the feel of him, his touch, his gestures of love, and his own emotional ties to her too much to put a stop to what, by all accounts, should have never begun in the first place.

But there was no stopping it now. And Sam was glad about that. She didn't want to stop him, or it, or them... She felt like she had been gone a long time, but had finally found her way home again...

So she kissed him back with every ounce of affection in her. Every good impulse she felt that had ever found its way to the surface of her mind turned into every good feeling she could think of to show him the depth of her emotional draw to him. And so, the kiss was deep, slow, powerful, and reduced them both to quivering heaps in seconds.

Jack slowly drew back (she would never think of him as only 'the Colonel' again) and he just stared at her as he continued to cradle her cheeks, her head, whatever he could touch. I know that I shouldn't, and I know it may mean swift retribution for both of us, and I don't want anything to ever hurt you in any way, but... He shook his head in an endearing manner, and rested his forehead gently on hers. I can't help it, and I can't fight it... 'cause God knows I've tried. He sighed once, as if giving in to something at last, and that his act of surrender was sweet in the end.

I love you, Sam whispered into his ear, gently smiling, loving him, cherishing the sense of him, while feeling treasured the entire time. Having his arms around her was the most intense, most amazing thing she had ever experienced.

Jack closed his embrace even more, and just held on as his emotions pounded back and forth inside him. I know that we shouldn't do this, but I don't think we're exactly in charge anymore. Our feelings control us more than we control them. He tenderly smiled at her in a way that made her feel stronger yet. And I have to say that I don't mind a bit.

Instead of telling him that she wasn't bothered, either, by this manifestation of their feelings for each other, she kissed him again, hoping to show this man of action rather than words exactly how high she held him in her regard.

It was only seconds before he turned that affection in her kiss into desire that ate through them at the speed of light. Before she knew it, she felt the rough material of the secondary coats she kept on wall hooks near her back door on her cheeks as he pushed her back into the wall behind her. She ignored the feel of the coats in order to let herself get swept up in the passion he was showing for her in the simple gesture of the kiss.

Jack groaned... moaned... said something... Sam didn't know what that sound he made meant, but she was pretty certain that his hands running feverishly up and down every place he could touch on her meant that he might as well shout the fact that he wanted her, and badly.

The second he released her lips, he moved on to kissing her neck, her jaw, her ear... every bit of her. I've tried to stop feeling this way, he mumbled to her. But I can't, he said. I've loved every inch of you for so long... And I've thought about doing this for so long...

Sam passed her hand across his butt, thinking that she had admired it from afar for so many years, and that she had longed to touch exactly what she was fondling now. She panted for breath, her attempt at sucking in more air matching the sound of his.

He kissed her on her lips for a third time. It was a silent communication that was wonderful, frantic, loving, claiming all at the same time. At last he whispered, Sam, I'm so sorry... But I know myself, and I know what I want to do, and...

If you don't seduce me, I'm gonna seduce you, so shut up and kiss me some more, she said, interrupting him. Then have your wicked way with me before I have my wicked way with you.

Jack pulled back to gaze at her in loving fondness. Yes, Ma'am, he mockingly said, then in a far more serious tone of voice, added, I love you, you know.

Yep, I know, Sam whispered back. Now take me to my bedroom if you know where it is. Or else I'll take you. I want all of you. Even though I shouldn't, and I can't help it, either, and that had better not be your sidearm that I'm feeling...

Jack grinned the minute she began making sidearm jokes. Teasing about his sidearm had been something of an inside joke for them for years, and his or her offhand comments about it had never grown old with repetition. Now, he smiled, and said, If you want my sidearm, I'm sorry to disappoint you... He kissed her again, hard, passionate, a gesture full of yearning and deep emotion. Then he whispered in her ear, My sidearm isn't here, but I do have other things with me...

Sam giggled, and firmly whispered, I'll take what you have with you. Together, they stumbled up the back steps, with Sam's voice continuing in his ear, In fact, I'd be disappointed if that was your sidearm...

Clothes came off the second they reached the bedroom, and they made love in five minutes flat, taking no time to slow down, to explore each other, or to talk about the possible consequences of what they were doing. It was almost an act of desperation, to feel skin against skin, to express emotions and sensations they had both spent years longing to express. Neither of them gave a thought to the Regulations that, in effect, they had already broken without meaning to simply by loving each other.

It was almost a relief when they both crashed back to their senses together. Jack and Sam tried to catch their breaths, and clung to the other at the same time. Jack finally let his head drop onto her naked shoulder, and he kissed it, just briefly before burrowing his head into her skin. I'm sorry that I'm not feeling more sorry, Sam, he whispered to her. She couldn't help but giggle at his words of apology that weren't an apology. This is so not good for you...

Sh! she interrupted him to say. It's very good for me. So good, and I feel so good right now, and I have you to thank for it... Jack, make love to me again, and again, and again... If you don't, I might just end up jumping you in the halls of the SGC.

That would be bad, he proclaimed, then took a breath to say more. But she was kissing him once more, a slow, sensuous play of an emotion that twisted them both into mounds of useless butter in seconds.

Sam considered that it was very beneficial to be butter...

Go on to Part II


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