Disclaimer: The wormhole closed, and trapped me off world with no DHD. So I can't get back to the Tau'ri in order to be properly feted for writing this story. So in the end, I own nothing, and therefore made no money off this fic. Life is sometimes a pain in the mikta.

A/N: Takes place during 'Affinity.'

An Asgard Hour

by Linda Bindner

a.k.a.:

Thor and Sam, Conspirators at large

Freedom

Out of Time, Out of Body

Soulmates

Blink, and You'll Miss It

'Make Me Say 'No,' Please Make Me Say 'No!'... And Don't Make

Me Beg!'

Nano Technology and The SGC

The Asgard Solution

The Pain of Assistance

Time Immemorial

Sixty Minutes? Or Infinity?


Sam continued to study the top of her work table, the agony of indecision written all over her face. She was acutely aware of the man standing just opposite her, staring back at her with an equally fixed expression.

Desperate for him to say something... anything... Sam waited while the silence continued to stretch out between them. She breathed in deeply, the sound scraping through the quiet of her lab after midnight. Waiting... She was waiting...

He's not saying anything, she thought at last. He's just staring. Sam waited silently for another moment for General O'Neill to reply to the conundrum facing her, whether to accept Pete's ring, his proposal of marriage, or to respectfully decline his suggestion. Again, with bated breath, she waited.

But the General remained mute. What's he waiting for? Sam asked herself. This was it, the crossroads of her life, the time to speak up and aim that life in the direction they both wanted it to go. It was time for speech. For Honesty. For anything!

Time... That was what they needed: Time, Sam thought absently, time to slow all this down, time to regroup, time to... Wait! she desperately screamed inside her mind. A feeling of panic was starting to crawl up the back of her throat. Wait! I'm not ready to give an answer... any answer! I may be giving him the chance to say something, but Jack still won't do it... won't, or can't... God, he looks totally numb, drained, sucked dry, hopeless...

Sam stared at Jack's slightly sickened eyes as he continued to gaze at her, at the ring Pete had given her, at her again, his gaze flicking back and forth between the two of them. His eyes beseeched her not to do this, not to accept Pete's proposal, but he didn't... wouldn't... say anything to influence what she was thinking right now. She could see that he refused to make even a ripple in her decision concerning the course that her life might take from here on out. Oh, she could see in his haunted, agonized eyes that he wanted to say something to stop her from accepting the proposal of another man, but was biting his tongue to keep from interfering in something he considered to be her decision, and hers alone.

But Sam felt like she was swimming upstream while the current of her mythical river eddied and swarmed around her, as if her mind was as murky as that water she felt trapped in. Imaginary silt clouded her brain, and her thought processes had slowed down to near nonexistence. She couldn't think, felt like she was slowly drowning...

Slowly, a new idea began to take shape in her mind. Realizing that she didn't know what to do about this entire disaster because she couldn't properly weigh all the options against each other had automatically given her more options than she had previously anticipated having. If he refused to help her, then she would have to help herself.

In the blink of her eye, Sam made a decision to take the course that she hadn't considered as of yet. If it was time that she needed, time to gather the intelligence that she lacked, time to finally speak to him about what had been left so many years before 'in the room,' she had to act quickly.

With another jerk of her hand, she crossed the room, and opened the bottom drawer of her file cabinet. She reached in and pulled out a black box full of what looked suspiciously to Jack like Asgard technology. Carefully keeping her back to the security camera, so no one would ever know what she was doing, she efficiently transferred the odd device to her left hand, then grabbed a tiny piece of technology that...

Is that a Tok'ra memory recall device, Jack asked himself in confusion. Did she plan to use it on him? On her? Oh goody, Jack's next sarcastic thought bombarded his mind. Portable memories, he wryly reminded himself. How... Tok'ra!

Next she held the wand necessary to start and stop the imbedded memory device.

Sam didn't give him a closer look at either piece of technology in her hands. She quickly stuffed them both in the pockets of her BDUs. Then she walked over to Jack, who was solemnly standing, unmoving, next to her workbench. She passed him, then turned, again making certain that she was standing with her back between Jack and the security camera hanging from the rear left corner of the ceiling of her lab. Her eyes pierced straight through his brown gaze as she stared at him, willing him to read her mind.

When he still didn't say anything, either about the two devices in her pocket, or about the possible engagement that Pete had recently asked her to embark on, she broke the silence that had fallen over her lab. Sir, she steadfastly whispered, looking right into his pained eyes. She was being as sincere, and as sincerely serious, as she had ever been in her life. I need you to trust me implicitly... to do exactly as I tell you, even if this sounds completely bizarre. She took a deep breath, trying to again judge the veiled expression of perplexity in his brown eyes. I know that you're confused, but bear with me... please, she begged.

Slowly, as if he too was staring at her through cloudy, mud-filled waters, Jack whispered dazedly back to her, You know that I trust you with my life, Carter.

Sam issued a soft sigh into the early morning recycled air of the SGC. I need you to trust me like that, she again told him. Then she went on, I need you to meet me topside in half an hour, at the edge of the parking lot, between the lot and the bunker door that leads into the mountain. I'll explain everything when I know that we're completely alone... I don't want anyone to overhear what I have to say, see what I have to show you, possibly get you in trouble for this. She ended on an enigmatic sigh that whistled in the quiet air in the lab.

Jack simply gazed at her as she gave her odd requests. The only indication that he even heard what she'd said was that he furrowed his brow, crinkling it at her in question. Is there anything you want me to bring to this clandestine meeting of yours? he finally inquired.

Sam carefully considered. She knew that even coming to such a secret meeting was more than she had ever asked him to do for her before. But even as she had her first thought, she knew that she had to give him the option to fulfill his dreams as well. It was only fair. So she instantly answered, You might want to come, and to also bring anything that you've ever wished to give to me, but was too scared to even carry around...

Jack noted, That is, if we assume that I even have anything to give you in the first place.

Sam shrewdly stared at him. She probed his gaze with hers. Did he? Or didn't he? She couldn't tell just by looking into his eyes, and his expression was too carefully schooled for her to read. But she nodded. That's what I mean, she said. Please, she begged then, beseeching him with the look in her eyes. Trust me, Sir.

The moment that he spent staring at her was fraught with the kind of melting tension that stirred the air and made tingles crawl up his spine. You know I do, he said at last, still whispering his words, getting them out in strangled agony, as if he wanted to keep them close to his heart as much as tell them to her.

Sam answered, You have to know that I would never do anything that might bring you harm.

Jack immediately replied, And I would never ask you to do anything that might hurt you career.

This has nothing to do with my career, she quietly told him. This is about... She couldn't say the word 'us' while in the SGC. She couldn't even mutter the word the way it was in the middle of the night. Please, she said again.

Jack hissed a short, quiet sigh out through his teeth. There was nothing that he had ever been able to not give her, and he knew it, and he knew that she knew it. Which was probably why she was asking this of him now. If it was within his power, he would do anything for her. It wasn't exactly fair to him, and she had never taken advantage of this hidden power she had over him, but she was asking now. And that gave him an indication of how important this was to her.

So, instead of whispering his acquiescence to her idea, he gave her a brief nod, one tiny movement of his head down to his chest, then back up again, a cursory agreement to her plan. That was all. Besides the fact that he understood how much bravery it must be taking for her to even ask this of him, he gave little other indication that he accepted this situation.

That was all. Before she could ask even more of him, Jack beat a hasty retreat from her lab.

He didn't like what she was asking of him, she could tell by the stiff way that he held his shoulders as he left. He would do as she required, but he didn't exactly like it. Not yet.

The silence of her laboratory at 0100 had never before seemed so deafening to her.

* * *

Twenty-five minutes later, the black of Earth at night came into view for Jack as he exited the SGC elevator at the bunker door, then peered through the darkness surrounding him for a hint of Sam. There she was, leaning against a tree, studying the heavens as she tilted her head up to look at the sky. To anyone else, her posture would seem to be one of a scientist taking a relaxing break on a long night shift, taking time out to study the stars in the sky. But to Jack, her nonchalant attitude seemed forced, nervous, tight...

Jack approached her through the dark, and though he used every trick he had ever learned while involved with the military's covert operations groups, her 'Jack' radar spotted him the second he exited the elevator. It had always been so. He could feel her, just as she instinctively knew where he was the moment he entered the vicinity near her. Daniel called it 'the Jack/Sam super sense,' and it had often served them all well on past missions. Now, with Jack stuck on base as 'the man' in charge of the entire SGC, it had been a sense relegated to the backs of his and Sam's minds, especially with the emergence of Pete into her life.

But now, it rose to the surface with a vengeance, as if it somehow knew that it had voluntarily been buried under layers of censure and military deniability, but still existed despite their best attempts at choking it into extinction.

But no more. Sam turned her head in his direction as he made his way over to her. The moment he was near enough to see her features and movement in the dark, she brought her finger up to where he knew that her lips should be, and gave the universal sign for silence. Then she pointed in the general direction of the gate just before the bunker door, indicating the soldier who was slowly walking to and fro on this night he'd been assigned to guard duty. Jack nodded, and even though the soldier was several hundred yards away, he could still see something as foreign as moonlight reflecting off the whites of eyes, or starlight shining on Jack's uniform stars.

So they waited to move until the unsuspecting soldier turned to walk in the opposite direction from their current position. Sam suddenly grabbed Jack's uniform sleeve prior to melting with him into the cover of the surrounding bushes and their shadows. They slipped through their cover so quietly that the guard never heard or saw them leave, assuming instead that the two friends had looked at the stars, then disappeared back through the bunker door to the SGC. He didn't bother to give them a second thought.

Tight lipped and silent, Sam led Jack deeper into the surrounding forest on the mountainside. They walked in quiet contemplation for another mile, when Sam just as suddenly came to a halt near a rock leaning against a tree, on the bank of a rushing river full of water so loud, no one would ever be able to hear their voices unless they were right next to them.

Relieved to have walked so far undetected, Sam let out a sigh. We're off base here, she began by whispering. It should be safe to talk.

'Should be?' Jack echoed her low voice. Why does all this already have the sound of being something 'theoretical,' but not 'definite?'

Sam grimaced, then said with a voice full of an edge of finality, It is safe. There's not another soul around for miles, not in the middle of the night, and...

And not a single person knows where we really are, Jack finished for her, in spite of his previous statement. Then he swung his arms out in a 'What next?' gesture Okay, I'm here, he said, Just as you asked. He crossed his arms on his chest. Out with it, Colonel, he demanded. What's going on?

Instead of answering him, Sam reached up and pushed the Tok'ra memory recall device into her own temple. She grimaced at the sharp sting of pain that she felt, but ignored the minor discomfort. Just watch, she instructed him, her voice still only raised enough so that he could barely hear her. She held the small memory wand out to him. I trust you enough to shut off my memories when the one that I want you to see is at an end.

That seems to be an awful lot of faith that you're putting into a man that you haven't shared ten words with in the last month that wasn't of the professional variety, he sarcastically noted with a tiny smirk in her direction.

Sam just glared at him. Sir? she simply asked again, with a second wave of the wand in his direction.

Jack took the wand from her. I promise, he told her, though he thought that it would have been extremely interesting to take a peek at some of her other memories while he had this unique opportunity. But with his luck, he would get to look at a memory of some technical thing that he just wouldn't understand, anyway. So being ultra careful, he tilted her chin with a gentle hand, and hovered the wand over the memory device embedded on her temple. Ready? he asked.

At Sam's nod, Jack poked the wand into the appropriate slot, and quickly flicked his wrist. The next thing he knew, the memory screen came to life in the air in front of her, the memory that she wanted him to see blazing out at them as if he'd been a silent observer parked in her brain as the drama on the screen played out.

There were mostly images, a chaotic set of visions that seemed to center around what looked like...

Jack wrinkled his brow. Is that Gairwyn?

Sam nodded, and the memory paused as she answered him. She had just asked SG-1 to take a look at the chamber that we know as 'The Home of Thor,' making sure that a recent earthquake that her home planet had suffered from hadn't damaged it in any way.

Jack looked surprised. How come I didn't know anything about all this? he immediately asked, the accusation he was feeling loud in his voice.

Sam calmly replied with a quick explanation. Because SG-1 was on downtime when she originally called, and you were fishing up at your cabin the entire week. As I was home, available, and the person who was needed to do the checking anyway, General Hammond decided to have me tend to this particular mission, and not to even bother you with it. When I came back to the SGC, I wrote my report and gave it to Hammond. You never saw it, or had any reason to see it. It would just have bored you to death, anyway.

Jack scowled. Hey! he remonstrated. I don't get too bored when I read reports!

Sam rolled her eyes. You read them when you need to get some sleep; everyone knows that, she gently chided him.

Jack looked sheepish now. Okay, okay, he finally agreed. Keep talking, he ordered.

Anyway, I checked the 'Thor' device all over... Then even Sam looked embarrassed for a moment. And I kind of...

Kind of..? Jack prompted when she didn't go on. What?

Sam inhaled a breath, then confessed. The repairs didn't take as long as my report indicated that they did.

Super Sam had actually fudged a report? What was the world coming to if even Sam was messing with her reports? Oh?

Sam looked supremely uncomfortable now, but determined to go on. Um... I did it for a good cause! she eventually insisted. I asked Gairwyn if she minded if I talked to Thor for awhile on a... Sam choked. For a... personal... a personal reason, she finally admitted.

You wanted to talk to Thor? Jack questioned. His expression left no doubt as to his confusion on the matter. I'm the one who always talks to Thor. Why did you need to talk to him, but couldn't tell me about it?

I'm getting to that, Sam said after she had uneasily cleared her throat. Thor came to us in the image of the Norse god that he was impersonating.

Yeah, Jack said, nolstalgic. I remember that the Norse number sent Daniel into raptures for weeks. He shook his head. I still don't see how Thor impersonating a Norse god is any different than what the Goa'uld do, but I don't ask too many questions... he is from an advanced race, after all.

Sam once again gave her customary eye roll that told him she was simply humoring him, then went on with her explanation, Anyway, when Thor contacted us the next day to ask me what it was that I needed...

Jack broke in to incredulously ask, You and Gairwyn waited in that 'Hall of Thor' thingy... for an entire day? Sam nodded. And Hammond bought that? Again she nodded. Jack whistled, wondering if he would have bought the same excuse. He probably would have been even more thoughtless. Okay, go on, he finally invited.

So Sam 'went on.' I... um... asked Thor... She paused, and Jack could see her face grow red even in the darkness of early morning.

Yeah, he prompted. Asked him... what?

Well, Sam finally told him. Just watch, she at last instructed.

So Jack watched... and watched. But her memory was blank and dark, showing no picture on the tiny screen she had brought with her. He was just about to ask her what the problem was, when suddenly Sam flipped the memory again into the 'play' mode much as VCR tape would begin, and an image of the Norse god Thor filled the screen.

The memory was still from Sam's point of view, so it seemed as if she were looking at something that was transpiring right in front of her at that very moment. Jack shuffled his foot in some leaves as the 'god' answered her summons. I am Thor, the vision's voice rumbled. Jack always expected 'Thor' to follow that statement with 'Hear me roar,' but instead he said, Protector of...

Then the Sam of the memory cut him off. Thor, this is Major Carter of the Earth SGC. I need to ask...

The sudden appearance of Thor-the-Asgard-Supreme-Commander sitting in his typical commander's chair abruptly materialized in the dark before them. Lights that had previously not been lit in the dark 'Thor' cavern burst into life as the tiny alien greeted, Major Carter, it is always a pleasure to see you. He glanced around the empty chamber. Is not O'Neill, DanielJackson, and Teal'c also accompanying you?

'Sam' moved her feet in an uneasy display that jogged the camera of her mind. Uh... no, she said in a small voice. That's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, Thor, and this trip for Gairwyn was the only way that I could think of to see you alone.

You are alone? Thor asked with an interrogative raise of his voice.

Gairwyn floated into view as 'Sam' turned in the leader's direction, but she was taking a deferential, and silent, back seat to these strange proceedings.

Ah, Thor said in understanding. Commander Gairwyn is with you, he announced.

Commander? Jack wondered. But he didn't have time to ruminate on his newest discovery, for 'Sam' continued, Ah... Yes. Again came the nervous shuffle of her feet. Finally she simply blurted out the statement, Thor, I need help on a... personal thing.

Thor immediately argued, But one of your other Human team members, O'Neill perhaps, would be better suited to assist you with something of...

'Sam' halted him mid speech. I can't ask him, she tensely divulged. It's because of him that I need your help.

Jack raised his own eyebrows in a silent question of his own when he heard her words, but the memory didn't pause.

Thor looked alarmed as much as an Asgard could look alarmed. Has something happened to O'Neill that...

For a third time, 'Sam' interrupted. No, no, nothing like that. But.. She glanced again at the quiet Gairwyn, then asked, Can you just beam me aboard your ship, or..? That was all she managed to ask before a flash of white light suddenly filled her vision. When it cleared, the Norse Thor chamber had disappeared to be replaced by the blinking lights of a sterile Asgard vessel.

Welcome aboard, Major Carter, Thor greeted again. How may I be of assistance?

But 'Sam' first asked, Gairwyn?

Thor soothed, She has been returned to her people.

'Sam' looked relieved to hear that. Good! she enthused. I would hate to have anything happen to her. It's because of her help in this that I'm even able to talk to you now.

What is it that you need to discuss, Major Carter? Thor asked.

And that was when 'Sam' explained to Thor just what she was after. She groaned, and the memory picture showed the ceiling of the ship for an instant. This is so embarrassing, she muttered. But... The memory focused on Thor again. I'll just blurt it out, she said to herself. Thor, is it possible for you to create a reverse time dilation field that is completely portable, and small enough to only accommodate two individuals?

Thor cocked his head at her in an alarming parody of a curious human. A reverse time dilation field? he asked, his puzzlement showing in the tone of his voice.

The memory 'nodded.' I need to know that when... the Colonel... and I... are in the time dilation field... we have at least... an hour... while anyone... watching us... will be aware that nothing more than... than a blink... a nanosecond... has passed. The memory paused and studied the clearly thoughtful Asgard. I wonder if you can do that sort of thing? I mean, is it possible? And can I even ask that of you, or is that something you'll have to pass through the Asgard High Council, or..? Her voice trailed away.

That is easily managed, Major Carter, Thor said in his well-modulated tones, halting her rain of questions. In fact, we discovered a reverse dilation bubble, as you are describing, before discovering its opposite, the device that we used on the replicators. Thor's little wizened face wryly studied the Major. If you are at liberty to tell me, what will a portable reversed time dilation device be used for, Major? he asked as he crossed to the control dais of his ship and began manipulating the many buttons and dials before him. Jack didn't even try to follow all the commands.

It's... Here 'Sam' paused again. Finally, she lamely said, It's in case I eventually need it... later.

Thor studied her with his bulbous eyes, then asked, Is there some trouble that you are..?

No! 'Sam' instantly soothed.

Some trouble that O'Neill is in? was Thor's next inquiry.

No!

Thor would have wrinkled his large forehead in worry if an Asgard could wrinkle a forehead in worry. Earth? he asked. General Hammond?

No! 'Sam' insisted. It's for... She paused once more, then in an even more hushed voice, told the Asgard, It's... She sighed in defeat and said to herself, This is really hard...

Is there an obstruction blocking your throat? Thor asked in puzzlement. Would it help to take something to drink first?

With another sigh, 'Sam' knelt down and quietly said, Thor, I have to have your most sincere promise that you won't ever say a word about what I'm about to tell you to anyone, especially to Colonel O'Neill.

Thor's puzzlement spiked. As you wish, Major Carter, he said after a thoughtful moment, and in spite of his confusion. But I feel that I should tell O'Neill if this concerns him in some nefarious way.

There's nothing dangerous going on, 'Sam' assured. The Colonel just can't ever know about this. No one can know, she went on.

As you Humans say, Thor at last said in lieu of his agreement. 'Count me in'

Thank you, Thor, 'Sam' said with a relieved sigh. You're a good friend, both to Earth, and to me.

It gives me pleasure to hear that, Major, Thor responded.

Jack couldn't remain silent a second longer. Is he flirting? he demanded in astonishment.

Sh! Sam told him.

The memory of Sam told Thor, I plan to use the time dilation bubble just so that the Colonel and I can talk, if it ever comes to a time that we can discuss things.

Thor again seemed puzzled. To talk? he questioned.

Yes, 'Sam' said. And it's very important that no one hears us, or sees us, and if a chance to talk ever comes while we're at work in the SGC - it's against our military's rules for two people in the same chain of command to get too friendly... 'Sam' hesitated for a moment. And if Colonel O'Neill and I ever seem to be more than friendly... She shivered, then hesitated. Finally she said, I don't want him to get into trouble because of me, and... She sighed. I just need your help in this, Thor. I don't know who else to turn to.

If all else failed, Thor was a male... or had once been a male... and as a male, responded to the plaintive tone of agony in 'Sam's voice. Don't speak of it, Major Carter. It is my pleasure to come to your aid.

'Sam' sighed. No, Thor, you should know... She looked away, then back to Thor. The Colonel and I recently were forced to confess some... feelings... for each other, and...

Thor's eyes lit up in delight. It has always been my theory that any progeny sired by O'Neill would be the answers to many of the Asgard's cloning...

'Progeny!' Jack barked. Now wait a minute!

DNA sequences aside, the memory 'Sam' patiently said to Thor, The Colonel and I need the opportunity to talk before any 'progeny' even has the possibility of being produced, so...

Thor seemed to immediately be understanding as Jack spoke at the same time that the Asgard responded, though the memory was frozen on 'pause' as he and she spoke. I didn't know you ever thought about having my progeny, Carter.

She responded. I still might be just considering it, Sir.

Hey, what's to consider? Jack rhetorically asked, smirking again.

Sam motioned to him to turn off the memory recall device as she 'unpaused' the memory, now showing 'Sam' as she returned to Cimmeria. Jack grabbed her chin in preparation to 'flicking the off switch' on the Tok'ra memory recall device, but he stopped just before he could flick the switch with the wand. He teasingly looked into her eyes and said, You know you're never gonna hear the end of progeny jokes, right, Carter?

Just turn it off, Sam demanded. You've seen enough. She paused, then added, And none of that progeny stuff, or I swear, I'll..!

Jack flicked his wrist, but as he flicked, he asked, Or you'll what?

Sam didn't answer him. Instead, as she removed the Tok'ra memory device, the air memory screen disappeared. Then she stored the recall device in her pocket again. As she did, she sent Jack a piercing look, highlighted by the moonlight shining on the spot where they stood. Do you really understand what this reverse distortion bubble is going to let us do?

Now that Sam had... sort of... broken the ice, and mentioned... sort of... the situation of her feelings for him, and his for her, the fact that she was willing to talk about it, even in a safe place like a bubble of time that no one else could enter, amazed him. I... uh... I do, I do understand, Jack managed to get out and actually sound fairly intelligent while doing it. But...

Sam gave him a grim stare as she bent to retrieve the black, square, thoroughly Asgard device she had taken out of her lab, and that now rested on a nearby rock. Sir.., she began. She swallowed and tried again. Sir... Again her throat closed up. She looked away and took a deep, calming breath.

Which was the exact moment that Jack chose to smile in amusement. We're supposedly facing... He paused, then awkwardly waved his arm. Facing... what we're... facing... He grinned at her. And you're gonna call me 'Sir?'

But Sam didn't answer him. She was busy contemplating something off in the distance.

Jack peered in the same direction as Sam. But he didn't see anything. What? he finally had to ask. You see somethin'?

Sam shook her head. Not a thing, she replied. And that's the point, really.

Jack was confused. Again. Huh?

Sam gave a ghost of a responding grin, and said, Not a soul in sight. She sighed in something akin to satisfaction. No consequences, she continued on. Her second sigh was larger than the first, sounding through the treetops. Sixty minutes of complete freedom to say and do whatever we want. She turned to assess the expression on his face. I'm terrified, she admitted at last.

She admitted to that, too? Jack was impressed with her bravery. Or was she just being stupid? No, he decided. Sam Carter was never stupid... the current situation with Pete aside. But to hear her confess to being afraid... This was a momentous occasion.

Finally Sam shook her head, as if the doubts she was feeling were able to fly away like the ends of her hair flew in the late summer breeze. A third sigh curled around them both, and Sam bent in determination to pick up the Asgard distortion field generator.

Jack was alarmed... he wasn't ready! But then, when would he ever truly be ready for this conversation that he knew was about to happen? Being a new parent had taught him that no one is ever truly ready for anything of significance. He could either run away and quail in fear for the rest of his lonely life, or he could jump at this chance that a tiny alien from another galaxy had given him.

Scared, but equally as determined as she was, Jack took a shaky breath, and grunted. Do it.

Sam peered at him. Jack swallowed, tasting his own fear.

Sam explained, Move this rocklike thing...

Jack repeated, 'Rocklike thing?'

Sam ignored his question to keep explaining, Move it up to here... She slid the diamond shaped stone that Thor had given to her in a diagonal up from a marked starting point on the board she held in her hand. Move it here to turn the time distortion field on, and back down to here to turn the field off, if you want out earlier than an hour.

Hmm. Jack studied the board in her hands. Seems easy enough.

Ready? she asked then. You got everything that you want to take with you?

Jack still didn't feel ready. Uh... He patted his BDUs. I seem to have what I might need...

Good. Sam didn't give him a chance to prepare himself, but activated the distortion field even as he was rising to stand straight again after bending down to be sure he hadn't left anything under the rock.

A slight flash of light filtered through the nearby trees, and then... nothing.

Hey! Jack objected anyway. You might give me some warning next time!

Again Sam ignored him, probably one of the few times she did. Shh, she commanded, her head cocked to the side. Do you hear anything?

Jack listened, expecting to at least hear the rustlings of nocturnal woodland creatures. But he didn't hear a sound. Which was odd. No, he said at last. Nothing.

Sam looked down at the device. This must be working then, she remarked. We wouldn't hear anything if time had stopped for those on the outside, but not for us.

But everything seems perfectly normal, Jack protested with a shrug of his shoulders.

Sam gave an answering shrug. It is normal, she told him. In here. She indicated the small slightly yellow cast to the air around them. Out there... She shrugged again.

Time out of time, Jack stated as he looked beyond the field to the surrounding trees. He quirked an eyebrow. Sweet.

Sam got down to business immediately now that they had determined the the bubble... device... thing... was actually working. Well... But how did one start this kind of a conversation? Her nerves threatened to close her throat again. She hemmed loudly. We have thirty to sixty minutes.

Jack gave a start of surprise. I thought we had a sure thing at sixty minutes.

Sam was able to give a slight grin at his comment. Even the Asgard can't be completely precise about time, she explained to him.

Jack considered his and her new reality. Maybe we should include a clock or something, ticking off the minutes, like on TV.

Sam shut her eyes in restraint. Sir, this isn't exactly the right time to joke around.

Serious at last, Jack quickly replied, And this isn't the time to call me 'Sir,' either.

Sam gave a resigned sigh, but squared her shoulders. You're right... Jack.

He stared at her. She stared back. The silence stretched on between them to the point of becoming uncomfortable. Gotta love that Asgard technology. She didn't reply to that comment, either. At last he forced himself to ask, So... What do you want to talk about?

Sam didn't beat around the bush now that he had asked. I want you to give me a reason not to accept this... She swallowed. This... engagement... that Pete has going.

Jack felt his heart start to squeeze in his chest again, but he ignored the pain that the mention of Sam's possible future engagement caused him in order to say, But it's your decision.

Sam sighed in aggravation. Yes, she admitted at last. But... She turned fully around in a circle, too traumatized to stand in one place.

But..? he inquired.

But... Sam peered at him, trying to read his mind, which was buried under the most innocent O'Neill expression he had in his repertoire of facial looks. She sighed, her aggravation back. What do I have to do to get you to..?

But Jack cut her off. Sam, he gently said. I can't say anything. He beseeched her with his eyes to read his mind despite his efforts to block her. Don't you see? His voice had finally begun to show the strain he was feeling. His heart continued to squeeze, and again he ignored the sensation. If I say 'Don't marry that twerp,' I'll never be sure that you aren't just following an order of mine if you say 'no' to his proposal. You have to say 'no' on your own.

Just because I say 'no' doesn't mean that I have any reason for saying that 'no' in the first place, she argued with him.

Jack sighed in aggravation this time. I don't want to influence anything that you decide to do, though.

Sam squinched her eyes thoughtfully at him.

You're thinking again, he accused. Too much thinking will give you a hernia.

Then I'll avoid sitting down for a week, she rejoined. Without allowing him the time necessary for him to respond to her comment, thoughtfully went on, I know myself, though. She crossed her arms and stared at him. I won't be able to say the 'no' that I really, truly, crazily, honestly want to say if I don't have a reason for saying it in the first place. She sent him an assessing stare. Give me that reason, please.

But Jack looked too pained to give a reason for anything. Sam, you know that... that I... I would like nothing better... He gazed at her in agony. He deeply inhaled, then continued, or tried to. There would be nothing... He choked. Nothing... that I would like more than to... His voice trailed away to silence as he just stared at her, too paralyzed to go on.

Sam ignored his paralysis, as well as his agony, and beseeched him, Give me that reason, please! Or I know that I'll end up doing something we'll both end up regretting!

Jack stared at her out of brown eyes awash in sadness. He shook his head back and forth. You know that I can't do that, Sam, he said, his tone almost begging with her. You have to do what you want, not what I want.

Sam's face dissolved into her own sense of agony. Please, Jack, she whispered. I can't...

Jack whispered back to her, This has to be from you, he insisted. It may not be what I want to have happen, but whatever you decide has to be your decision. He looked steadily down on her in spite of the emotional storm even now roiling through his features. His eyes sparkled, as if he was fighting tears even as he spoke to her. You know that I can't... He sharply inhaled a second time. Then he took her hands in his, something neither of them ever did, lest it lead to touching other, more forbidden, areas. Sam, Jack choked. I know what I want you to do. I know what I want to do, but am too scared to do. It was the most honest he had ever been with her, and the prospect of being honest completely terrified him, but he figured that if he couldn't be honest now, then he really didn't deserve her, as he had always feared. This... He waved a hand at their surroundings, taking in the distortion field, them, the relationship that they were... sort of... talking about. 'This' is so big... so intense... so scary...

I'll help you if you'll help me, Sam immediately promised. Maybe then, it... Sam swallowed, looking pained, but determined to go on. Maybe then it won't... won't seem so... big, she finally managed to utter, her own tears swimming in her eyes.

Maybe, Jack echoed, sounding unconvinced. But you...

It was as if Sam could again read the thought that was currently in his mind. But if you don't do something, say something to me, give me a reason to back out of this Pete thing, she insisted, I know that I'll do something stupid, even if I don't mean to, and...

Another sharp hiss of a deep breath cut through her rambling. Jack gazed down at her, his heart thumping so loudly in his ears that he couldn't even hear her any longer. He could only hear his own voice as he pleaded, Don't... But that was as far as his broken voice could take him before he stopped it. Jack choked out another, Please don't... But again he was unable to continue. He remained silent as he helplessly gazed at her.

Sam gazed back, her anguish equally as intense. Don't what? she whispered to him through her swirling emotions. Please don't..?

Jack tried to respond to her query, Don't... but his throat again clipped off his words. Instead, he let that agony that he was feeling, and was showing on his face, to encompass both him and her as, instead of speaking, he chose to pull her to him in a hug so strong, it hurt. Embarrassingly enough, he felt the slickness of water on his cheeks. But he didn't even let that stop him now that he'd given in to the pull of his emotional heart instead of once again suppressing the forbidden feelings residing there.

'If you can't speak...' and he couldn't... 'then do the next best thing,' his grandmother had always told him. He put his hands on each side of her face, gently lifted her head away from where it had landed in his hug at his shoulder, and without saying a word, his hot lips met her surprised cool ones as he peremptorily leaned down to kiss her.

This was no chaste kiss of two friendly comrades at arms. This was no quiet and affectionate gesture of goodbye as he encouraged her into the arms of someone else. This was no soft kiss of exploration and discovery.

This was a kiss of intensity and desperation, of longing and wanting, of passion and love. The kiss was instantly and poignantly deep, searing in his desire to communicate the feelings in his heart that he couldn't vocalize.

'I love you' the kiss said to her. 'Love you too much to tell you what to do.'

'But not too much to show you.'

Sam claimed him as much as he claimed her. The second that she was no longer taken by surprise at his abrupt and forthright gesture, she was answering his affection with love of her own, clinging to him so tightly that she almost strangled him. The headiness of 'no consequences' made her act as rashly as she'd always wanted to act, but hadn't. It made her respond to Jack with the wild desire that she had bottled up and forced down for many years. Now released, she didn't hold back, but ran her hands in feverish circles on his back, clung to his neck, kissed him for all she was worth, matched his desire with responding desire. She pressed full length against him, like she had always wanted to do. She pushed her body into his, memorizing the feel of him, wanting to experience every last nuance that was 'him,' wanting all of him. She was no longer content with only having the tiny part of him that his and her work afforded her. She wanted every last particle that he could give her.

That kiss was 'magic' personified. It was electric. It was explosive. It was hot, and heavy, and wet, and so wonderful that neither could do more than remember it for years to come.

That magic first kiss began to wind down, become the artless gesture of shared emotion and love that it was, as well as a show of the passion that each carried for the other. It became almost sad, and the two clung to each other more tightly in response to it's ending. But even as the sadness pervaded the gesture, the gesture itself became hopeful as well, a hope that beat as quickly as their hearts, a surge of feeling that overwhelmed the sadness in a blink. It spread the warmth of their shared joy at finding each other at the exact moment when one was possibly embarking on the ruination of both. It expressed the emotion that neither could in more normal circumstances could hope to express.

That kiss told Sam 'Don't marry him. Tell him 'no.''

Even if Jack couldn't say the words, or tell her what to do, Sam automatically understood what the kiss was telling her, and also automatically agreed with it.

Jack and Sam parted. He didn't speak. She didn't speak, either. They each rested their foreheads against the other's as they panted, and tried to collect their soaring emotions after such a stirring gesture.

When their heaving breaths became somewhat controlled and normal, Sam reached for the Asgard time device that she had set on a nearby rock for safe keeping.

Sam didn't need any more time to make her decision now. She threw a quick glance at her watch just prior to moving the stone back to its 'off' position - amazingly enough, sixty minutes hadn't even elapsed before she had reached her decision. And she and Jack hadn't really exchanged all that many words. Sam snorted in irony as the air rippled once, a bright light seemed to engulf them, and the field rippled once as suddenly the sound of woodland creatures resumed as if they had never disappeared. Jack wouldn't look at Sam, and Sam couldn't look at Jack. But they both knew...

There would be no engagement to Pete. There would be no wedding in Sam's immediate future... at least, no wedding to Pete...

And all she'd needed for her to reach this decision was one wordless kiss...

But wow! What a kiss!

The End


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