Disclaimer: Don't own them... someone else does. I'm only playing with them for a while, and will hand them back over when I'm finished.

Portents

by Linda Bindner

Jack sat dispiritedly on an easy chair in his livingroom in his apartment in Washington D.C., and swirled the rest of the alcohol around in his glass, its amber glare sending shards of reflected light onto his shirt and the wall behind him. He had yet to take more than a swallow of the drink, but he was too busy staring at the letter he'd dropped onto his glass coffee table to think much about anything else.

The letter was two, double-sided sheets of paper filled with chatty conversation from Daniel. He'd spent the first two pages on mundane talk about the people at the SGC that both he and Jack knew, who'd gotten married, who'd had babies, who'd gotten drunk... The list was rather extensive, and it was a testament to how much Daniel was known and loved by everybody in the military base in spite of his penchant for staying in his office with his nose buried in some translation book.

Then, on the third page, Daniel had finally reached the news that Jack had been waiting for. But now that he'd read it, now that he really knew, he almost wished he'd remained ignorant. In his admittedly hazier but nicer dream world, he had plenty of time to come to some kind of a decision of his own concerning Carter. But now, he had apparently run out of that time he thought he still had.

All the time in the galaxy had run out, it seemed, and he hadn't even been aware of it...

For the news had most definitely been about Sam: Sam Carter had been honorably discharged from the Air Force approximately six weeks before, and Jack hadn't even known.

How had he not known? How had she been able to leave, just like that, and he had been completely unaware of it?

Oh, hell, who was he kidding? He'd known, but he hadn't listenend when his heart and his mind had told him. It was true that this knowledge had come to him in a dream, and it was common practice to scoff at dreams, but if he'd just been paying attention...

Jack winced as he remembered the event, now. It had been a Thursday night. He'd dreamt about... what was his name..? That guy on the planet with the race of Ancients who had built that time device, and then failed to make it work correctly, and when that archeologist... The guy with the weapon, Jack recalled... had tried to activate the device, he'd instead sent Jack and Teal'c through months of time looping that had nearly driven him insane...

But that wasn't the most important part of the dream he'd had. The significant part to remember was that the man had been trying to get back to a time before his wife had died, hadn't been able to, and the despair that Jack had felt in his dream world had transferred over to his real world. The agony grew to such an extent that Jack had startled awake at 0400 with tears on his face and a despair so heavy in his heart that he had paced his livingroom for the rest of the night instead of trying to sleep again. Later, at work, the General that Jack O'Neill had become had laughed with his coworkers about the dream, but he had secretly been almost overwhelmed by the emotion that it had caused in him for the rest of the day. He'd had to leave the premises of where he worked in the Pentagon twice just so that he wouldn't break down in front of his new friends and embarrass himself more than he already had.

But memories of that dream brought his mind back to his original problem and the reason why he was sitting on a chair in his livingroom on a Saturday afternoon, staring at a letter, a glass of hard alcohol in his hand.

Sam was gone from the Air Force, the military organization that had been the center of their lives for at least a decade, maybe longer. She had just resigned one day, and been gone the next, with no explanation to her fellow team mates, no words to Daniel or Teal'c, and she hadn't come to Washingon to visit Jack. In all that time, no one had thought to spell it out for him that she was gone, leaving no forwarding address, no phone number, no nothing. She was disappeared, AWOL, finito... Gone.

And Sam seemed to be as absent from Jack's life as she was from the Air Force. Jack didn't know how he was going to stand this kind of pain. He realized that it had been him who had first left the team that they had been a part of for seven years to become the leader of the entire SGC. Then, had come his promotion to Washington, and the Pentagon, and he had left again. But, it had always seemed to be acceptable. As long as he and Sam were part of the same military base at first, then the same basic organization, things had still been all right. Not great, he admitted to himself, but all right. He'd always had it in the back of his mind that someday he would return to Colorado Springs and ask her point blank if she still cared about him like he cared about her, but he now had his answer without even having to ask the question in the first place. She hadn't come to see him herself since leaving the Air Force, though she'd had six weeks in which to do something, so that just proved that she didn't care about him at all, didn't it?

So Jack sat on his chair, swirled the liquid in his glass, and scowled unhappily as he considered his options as to what to do, now that he knew.

He could stay in the Air Force, he suggested to himself. He could remain at his new posting... Or he could leave the military organization altogether...

And do what? he asked himself.

He could spend time at his cabin in Minnesota; he could sell that same cabin just like he'd sold his house in Colorado Springs; he could try to forget the hold Sam'd had over his life; he could accept the fact that he would love her forever, anyway; he could then try to move on with his life; he could commit the suicide he'd contemplated after Charlie's death and the divorce from Sara; or he could live with an acceptance that the remainder of his life was going to be pure hell and lose himself in the pain and agony of trying to live without the other half of his soul...

None of the options were all that appealing to him, but the hope that had always kept those options at bay was gone now, as gone as Sam was from the Air Force...

A tentative knock sounded on his front door. He waited, too bowled over by the pain in his heart to care that someone was knocking at his front door. The knock came again, however, a sharp rapping on the wood that closed off his apartment from the hallway that was just outside. He sighed, thought about ignoring this intrusion into his personal suffering time, but pushed himself out of his chair and set the glass of whiskey onto the coffee table before him. It was probably one of the guys in his football/hockey/all-around-general-sports group who wanted to watch some game on the television with him... It had happened before on a Saturday afternoon. But, this time, Jack wasn't up for watching sports or having impromptu company. He would ask the individual to come back later, when this agony wasn't so fresh.

Jack padded to his front door, his stockinged feet making swishing sounds on the carpet in the front hall. Just a minute! he called. Keep your britches on! Then, he threw open the door. Yeah?

He couldn't have been more surprised by the sight of the person greeting him than if Hathor had decided to rise from the dead and wreak havoc on him, again.

Sam Carter stood in the hallway, staring up at him with her beguiling blue eyes. Hello, Sir, she said, as if six weeks of empty time hadn't passed for both of them.

Jack stood stock still for a moment, just staring, too stunned to say much of anything. Then, he blurted, Carter! as if the time that had gone by since they last saw each other had disappeared. Then, belatedly, he remembered his manners, and stepped aside. Come in, please.

Thank you, she said, her voice half warm, half cool, totally noncommittal. She moved past him into the front hall of his apartment, then on into his livingroom.

There, she stopped, and merely looked at the room. Wow, she said, and stood still as she glanced at his television in the entertainment center in the corner, the stereo set up just below it, the books on the bookshelf set against the wall, the loveseat, the chair, the couch, all fronted by the coffee table that had proven so useful for holding pizza boxes and beer bottles during super bowl Sunday and the World Series and a plethora of sports events in between... Sam gazed at all of it, her blue eyes wide and assessing. This is sooooo... She paused. ... not you, she ended with an honest note of surprise in her voice.

Thank you! said Jack, as if he'd just been awarded a great prize for doing something special. Everyone always tells me how nice this apartment is, but none of them really tell me exactly what I think, which is that it's really awful, and generic, and...

How do you stargaze in an apartment on the fourth floor of a building in a gated community? Sam wondered aloud.

I don't, Jack admitted. And, boy, do I miss it. He scurried around, piling up the newspapers that he had left scattered across the couch and the coffee table, the book on intergalactic alien life and Area 51 that had taken over half of his loveseat, and the shoes he'd left lying in the middle of the floor. He tossed everything into a corner to be dealt with later, and asked, Um, can I get you anything to drink? Beer?

Sam turned towards him with a hesitant expression on her face. Do you have any juice? she asked. Or I'll just have water.

Huh! Jack exclaimed in faked astonishment as he moved into the kitchen to get a glass down from a cupboard for her. He paused before returning to her, bracing his hands on his counter and hanging his head as he tried to calm his wildly beating heart. He'd only just found out today that she had been discharged from the military, and already he had trouble believing that she was there, standing in his livingroom. Have you actually stopped drinking beer? he called in order to cover his actions and why it was taking him so long just to get her something to drink. What's up with that?

Jack could hear the smile in Sam's voice all the way into his kitchen as she replied, Well, actually, it's kind of a long story...

I have lots of time, Jack told her as he pulled out the container of orange juice from his refrigerator and poured her a glass that was already filled with the ice that was frosting its outside into an opaque shield of white. He carried it back to the livingroom for her.

She took the glass of juice from him and sipped the orange liquid. Well, Janet Fraiser... do you remember her?

Of course I do, Jack said in a softer voice as he recalled the petite yet powerful doctor who had secretly scared the daylights out of him until she had died one dark day on an alien planet on an ill-conceived rescue mission that had been under his command. It wasn't entirely a pleasant memory, so Jack shook it off.

Janet was always saying that I drank too much, Sam was telling him, and ever since she died, when I have a beer, I hear her voice telling me not to drink it... I finally gave up and just started drinking juice or milk or water... Lost ten pounds in three months without even trying...

Jack snuck a glance at Carter's body. I thought there was something different about you... You're too damned thin, if you ask me.

Sam grinned. Thanks for at least being honest with me... Everyone else says that I look great, but I think it's too much... I'm thinking of saying 'Screw it' to all this juice and healthy drinking, and just start guzzling soda with a million calories a can. She smiled, then eyed Jack's drink of hard liquor he'd negligently set on the coffee table. I see I'm not the only one who has given up drinking beer.

Oh, that, Jack said, then swept the glass up in his hand prior to going into the kitchen to pour out the drink. I don't normally go for the hard stuff... took one swallow, is all, then decided that I couldn't stand the taste...

Something on your mind? she asked him as he came back into the livingroom.

He paused, glad then that he had thought to scoop up Daniel's letter with the rest of the loose paper that had taken over his living space. No, he lied. Whiskey just looked more inviting in the bottle than it really was, he lamely answered her question. Then I found out how inviting it wasn't. He laughed a little self-deprecatingly, then just stood and looked at her with his hands propped on his hips. You in D.C. for a visit? he asked.

No, Sam said, shaking her head. Then she stared at the orange juice in her glass. I live here now, over in Georgetown on the far side.

O'Neill's eyebrows went up at that. You live here? he repeated. You must have been reassigned, then, he glibly said, shamelessly baiting her to see how much she intended to tell him. The unspoken question that he obviously had, but didn't ask, was 'If you live here, then why haven't you been around to visit me before this?' He continued to falsely inform her, I didn't know that you'd even left the SGC. And he hadn't, at least, not until that day. Of course, the timing of his learning about the incident of her leaving the military was a matter of semantics at this point.

Again, she nodded and took another sip of her juice, realizing nothing. Or acting like she realized nothing. I've been here for about six weeks... Doing the science job thing... Actually, she admitted then. I hate it, so I quit yesterday... All that dressing up just to cover it all up in a white lab coat... I had forgotten how uncomfortable heals can be, she told him, smiling once more.

Nothing like BDUs for comfort, that's for sure, Jack said, and sank down into his chair while she perched on the edge of the glass coffee table.

Sam smiled again, but wouldn't look at him. I admit that that was the most comfortable work outfit I've ever had to wear...

They're good to wear while you're thinking, he said. Nice and loose. Then, he added, It's a pity that my new job requires me to wear dress blues all the time. He grimaced. Or I think I'd spend my life in olive green and black t-shirts.

She stared at him, a calculating, thoughtful smile on her lips. I can't see you wearing dress blues all the time, she announced. You have too big of a... She cocked her head to the side and regarded him. To big of a disrespect for authority, I guess, to always spend time wearing an outfit that clearly shows your own authority.

Jack grunted at her. Very sharp of you... but when in Rome, you do what the Romans tell you to do.

She smiled more. For a minute there, I thought you were going to say 'Egypt' instead of 'Rome,' and that reminded me of Daniel and all his...

His forgetfulness? Jack finished for her. His... He waved his hand through the air. His... outtheredness?

Sam laughed. Yeah, something like that. She took another drink of her juice. He could be the vaguest man I ever knew, she said, and I adored him like a brother. In fact, I started to worry if he wasn't being vague and boring!

Jack laughed with her. Good old Daniel... poor guy. He stared at her. And speaking of Daniel.., he slowly, carefully said. He just sent me a letter... You resigned from the Air Force, not just got reassigned.

She tried to maintain her smile, but failed as it wobbled before disappearing altogether. That's another long story, she said in a low voice.

He shrugged, trying to stay affable when he really wanted nothing more than to hear her reasoning. I have all day...

She did grin at his statement. It might take that long, she warned, looking disparaging again.

Jack lowered his voice to match hers. Carter... go on, he prompted.

Sam sighed then, a sad sound, and the smile completely left her face. Finally, she looked up squarely at him. Well.., she began, shrugging with the sound of her voice. There was so much at the SGC that I had lost, she said. There was no Dad, no Janet, no... A catch tore it's way quietly from her throat, but she pretended that she was just clearing it as she got better control of her emotions again. He recognized the move for what it was because he had used the same trick a time or two at the base in Colorado Springs.

But she was going on, You had taken this job here in D.C., and, though, being on the team was great, it... She had to pause and lick her lips before she could go on. After you left, there was an emptiness that I wasn't prepared for, she told him. I thought about asking for reassignment, but I couldn't be sure where I'd end up. So I opted to retire, take my pension, and leave.

You really and truly retired? O'Neill ascertained.

Sam nodded.

Where was it that you wanted to go? he inquired next.

Silence greeted his question as she gathered her thoughts together. Then she looked straight at him again. I wanted to go here, she told him, To D.C.... I had lived here before, if you remember, and knew a brainiac like I am would fit right in with all the other brainiacs in the city.

It sounded like a lame excuse for an act as monumental as retiring from the Air Force and moving her entire life to a different part of the country, but Jack didn't push her. You wanted to come here? he asked. Why here? Any other reason? I mean, any city has it's residential brains who would more than likely accept you into their... cliques.., he stated, but his voice trailed off at the end.

She snuck another glance at him. Yeah, I knew that, she said, But other places didn't have... Her voice disappeared again, and she looked across the room.

He raised his eyebrows questioningly. Didn't have..? What?

She turned back to look at him once more, and sighed for the second... third..? time, the sound loud in what had become a quiet room. It didn't have you in it, Sir, she finally said. I could play as smart as I wanted, but... She glanced up at him again, then took another sip of juice.

She had come to Washington... because of him? Very little could have pleased, or surprised Jack, more. Carter.., he began to say.

Look, Sir.., she said at the same time.

"I'm not your 'Sir' anymore, Jack reminded.

What do I call you, then? Sam asked. Not Colonel... General?

Jack swung his head back and forth. Noooo... how about Sir Jack? he suggested. Then we can both be happy, he said, referring to how he had been after her for years to call him 'Jack.'

Sam smiled at his suggestion. That might go straight to your ego, though, she warned, And your ego's already big enough as it is, she added teasingly.

Jack leaned forward so that he could be a fraction closer to her, then shifted to sit beside her on the coffee table, hoping that the table would be able to bear both their weights at once.

Carter...

If I can't call you by your title anymore, you certainly can't go around calling me 'Carter,' she said.

Jack considered her request. Fair enough, he announced. Sam. The name felt strange on his tongue, and exhilerating at the same time.

She grinned into her juice. I think I like the sound of that. 'Carter' is so... military. So 'my dad.'

Jack laughed. Jacob was a General with a reputation, that's for sure. He made a great Tok'ra.

Suddenly, she regarded him. Is this what you want? she asked abruptly. General O'Neill, of the Pentagon?

Jack sighed. Yes and no. It's not a bad job at all, and I'm used to all the paperwork it entails...

But..?

He sighed again. Look, Sam, we need to...

I came to D.C. because of you, she softly admitted again, making a bold, and bald, statement of the facts.

Jack didn't say anything while his heartbeat quickened. But, he had to be careful in how he handled her recent revelation. Then why..? he began.

She finished for him. Why did it take me so long to come to see you?

He nodded, not trusting his throat to be able to make sound at the moment.

She smiled again, though it was a more self-recriminating gesture than anything else. Because... She stopped. Because...

Because..?

She gathered herself again. Because, I had to pull together my courage... I wanted to see... Her voice trailed off into silence again.

Wanted to see... what? he asked, spreading his hands wide in an interrogatory gesture, then letting his left hand fall, and it landed on her knee. The warmth just from that touch nearly sent his heart into overdrive.

Sam sat for a moment, staring at his hand, then seemed to wilt as she turned towards him. I wanted to see if 'the room' was the only place we could leave it, she admitted, then. I wanted to know if... Oh, hell, she said and ran an agitated hand through her hair.

Jack slowly smiled. I love it when your hair is a mess like that. It was always just slightly out of wack when you wore that military hat on missions off world, he told her. I could stare at it for hours. Sometimes did, if it was night and I was on watch.

Sam grinned. You stared at me while you were on watch?

Stared.., Jack revealed to her. That, and nothing else.

I stared at you when I was on watch, too, she admitted with a blush.

A silent moment passed between them as they both internalized the information they were admitting to each other. Just stared? Jack finally asked.

Sam blushed even deeper. Well, stared, and... and thought.

Thought?

Wondered.., Sam told him. Wondered how it would all turn out... Grew depressed if I was tired, hopeful when I wasn't.

Jack slowly asked, You, too?

Sam nodded.

He looked down into his lap, not knowing what to do next... Well, he knew what he wanted to do, but...

Fate intervened when the coffee table suddenly broke and tilted, spilling them both onto the floor. Sam's orange juice careened onto them in a wave of liquid that crept onto the beige carpet that was already stained from the passage of the many feet before Jack's.

Jack wanted to curse, but instead heald his peace and only stared at the growing stain of orange on his and her shirt fronts. He eventually yelled, D... arn, in a much more polite outburst than had automatically entered his mind. Then he smiled down at Sam, laughing, as she leaned into him from the awkward angle she had landed in. Well, he continued on, I suddenly feel like this is a really bad parody of that Julia Roberts movie... You know, the one where she spills orange juice all down the front of her shirt?

Um.., Sam said, transfixed by his eyes, trying to hide that fact, failing, and at last trying to answer his question, anyway. The one with the blue door.., she vaguely suggested.

Notting... something, he said.

Notting Hill, she said. That's it.

Jack regarded her, half smiling. Well, we've obviously both seen that one already. Again he stared at her features, but he continued unsurely on, I guess we know how it ends, then. He wondered if her skin was really as soft as it looked, since he was now closer to that skin of hers than he had ever dared to get before.

She tried to brush off the worst of the orange liquid stain on his shirt, and just ended up spreading the juice around. So sorry about that, Sir, and I'm so sorry about the carpet...

Sam, you don't have to be, Jack quickly said. I never liked the carpet, anyway. What a stupid thing to say! he chided himself, but added, I never liked this coffee table, either. It was just some place convenient to set things. He, too, brushed at the spreading stain on his shirt, when his hand suddenly bumped into hers doing the same thing, and he paused, his breath catching in his throat for just a moment. He had forgotten how touching her skin was like riffling through feathers. Without his prior planning, his fingers gently crept closer to hers, then wove themselves through the grip she had on his shirt. His hand wrapped up in hers as tightly as it could, and the fast heartbeat in his chest erupted into tingles of possibility that ran all over his body.

Sam looked into his eyes, hers displaying wonder, curiosity, longing, despair, warmth... Jack, she whispered, and raised a questing hand to feel his left cheek.

Jack felt his face go numb at the contact. Sam.., he choked, gazing at her expression of hesitation, but he couldn't quite stop himself as he placed a hand over the fingers exploring his cheek. His palm felt strangely cold and simultaneously sweaty as his gaze flicked back and forth between her eyes and her lips. He whispered, Sam, I...

With a sudden and an unexpectedly abrupt intensity, Sam leaned forward and kissed him.

The world stopped and melted away... Jack's heart seemed to explode... The tingles he was feeling erupted into a raging desire, and he wanted to feel more of her, all of her, and all at once, as he answered her gesture and deepened the kiss until it became everything in his mind. An explosion of emotion twisted through him as her mouth found the skin along his neck, and she took little nips at it. He was going to go insane from the erotic sensation of that move.

Jack closed his eyes, feeling, sensing, understanding more and more... He groaned and captured her lips with his again. They parted, only to scoot close together on the floor. He whispered, God, Sam, I...

Jack, she softly interrupted him. Make love to me.

I already am, he answered. The weight of the many years that he had known her and been forced to not touch her burst from the knot that had always seemed to reside in his chest to turn quickly to a blazing fire that licked from his head down to his toes. He groaned, wanting to say her name again, but finding that he wasn't able to make his dry throat work quite right.

Jack was finding out that her hair was as soft as he'd always suspected it to be. It fell over his fingers in a cascade of blonde flowers, smelling so sweet.

Her hands carved swirling designs into the skin along his lower jaw, followed closely by lips that melted any defense against her that he might have wanted to create... But who in their right mind would want to protect against the magic that she was weaving into his chest and shoulders? Tingles once again shot out from his chest in rippling waves of emotion and sensation.

You are my... Jack paused to gaze longingly into her blue eyes. Losing himself in her gaze seemed to lend weight, truth, to his words, until the truth he was uttering became everything to him. He took a deeper breath, then finished his statement. You are my everything, he whispered, and his words were not diminished by his lack of volume. The quiet of his admission gave it the sincerity he couldn't deliver with his voice. He wanted her to understand how important she had always been to him. He may have denied it for her sake, hidden it, buried it, but he could not eradicate it... He couldn't even touch it, except to acknowledge it, and tend it, and cherish it, to his dying day. He had been alone up until now... And now, he was no longer alone. There was him... and her. A perfect duet, one that sang through the cosmic void that lived in their souls, that was still incomprehensible to them...

Longing, desire, passion, the love in her heart... It was all there, so solid in her gaze, in her features, in her expression... There was a calm, and a storm, and a need, and an acceptance... There was Sam. There was Jack. There were no rules, no regulations, no expectations, no behavior policies... nothing. There was nothing in between them any longer. Nothing keeping them apart.

Sam breathed on his lips, then smiled her million watt smile. She kissed him again, a leisurely weaving of her soul to his, an indelible mixing of him and her and them...

I love you, she said, It's trite, I know, and overdone, and stupid, and wonderful, and huge, and... and... She had to pause, then. It's perfect, she added, smiled, and embraced him in a hug tight enough to communicate her desires and longings and love to him in one move. You're perfect.

Jack couldn't help but snort at her comment even as he gripped onto the back of her head, as if her were afraid that she would escape this dream that he seemed to be having of his reality. Don't tell anbody.., he warned, still whispering, scared to break through the spell that had encircled them. They won't believe you because they know better.

They may know, Sam said, then sighed a tiny sigh that washed over his ears and into his hair, and through them to his heart beating inside his chest. But so do I, she finished in a low voice that thrilled his eardrums and sent shivers coursing through his body and into the floor.

Jack felt warm from contact with her, and the strength of the warmth was creeping through him in content waves of energy. He touched her face, his fingertips barely grazing her skin in a move that said so little and so much. Stay, he entreated her. For now... Forever.

Sam nodded.

Her agreement acted like the explosion that it set off. She kissed him, deeply. She wanted to become a part of him, linked like their fingers, tangled in threads that would connect the two together with indelible deeds and actions, and...

Oh, hell, she just wanted him... Sam admitted it... Her hands had wandered under his shirt, and into his hair, and down the back of his pants, and...

Everywhere.

* * *

Two days later, a relaxed, happy, ecstatic General O'Neill mailed in his retirement papers.

Two weeks later, a super relaxed, ecstatically happy Jack O'Neill carried the letter stating that he was now retired back to his hated, generic aparment, and started packing the second he got home to Sam... when she let him.


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