I MAY LOOK LIKE A BOY...

 

A/N: This story was inspired by “Silk and chains”, third in a series by SGCbearcub on fanfiction.net.

Thanks: M.

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The day they graduated from high school they all saw their duplicates with a mix of pride and embarrassment plastered upon their faces. Of course, it was all new for Teal’c who had never gone through any sort of high school before but he was there also.

When the actual ceremony was over, the four original individuals stepped closer to their younger duplicates. Jack noticed then the rotund belly of Lt. Colonel Sam Carter, or was it O'Neill? He mused as he saw something glint on her left ring finger.

The four youngsters welcomed their counterparts with mixed feelings. Major General Jack O'Neill stepped forward with a timid smile and cleared his throat.

“I want you to know that we’re proud of you,” he started. “I err… We… Sam and I decided that you could have the cabin for the time being. Whatever you have chosen to do next, you can have the cabin for the summer.”

Jack frowned, observing the gray haired man. The latter extended his arm for Sam to join him and once she did so, he snuck his hand behind her back.

“As you can see, Sam and I won’t be going anywhere soon and, well… I know for a fact that the Air Force is not very generous with your monthly income so a vacation somewhere is out of the question most of the time…”

“Why weren’t we invited?” Jack interjected.

“Huh?”

“The wedding?” he raised his eyebrows.

“We are not married… Yet.” Sam showed her engagement ring, stealing a quick glance at the man next to her. “My pregnancy came a bit as a surprise. Once the baby is born, Jack is going to step down from his present position and we’ll get married.”

“Oh… Well… I expect an invitation for all of us, then…” Jack raised his eyebrows suggestively.

“Of course,” Sam replied smiling.

“So… Well you know where the keys are,” General O'Neill resumed, “and…” he reached into his trousers’ pocket and handled them a slightly crumpled envelope. “Here is $4000, from all of us for you to share and do whatever you want with it…”

Jack took the proffered envelope, genuinely touched by the gesture. “Thank you,” he croaked.

General O'Neill smiled warmly. “Don’t be strangers, all of you, okay?”

The four young people nodded and then they were alone as their counterparts slowly left the area.

Jack turned to his comrades grinning. “So what do you say, guys?... Minnesota?”

Daniel and Teal'c smiled, nodding. Sam sighed but accepted nevertheless.

“Oh come on, Carter, it’ll be fun, I promise! All the four of us, out in the wild…!”

“Thrilling…” she quipped.

Jack frowned as the others turned to head towards where the graduation party was to be held. Lately, he had trouble reaching Sam. At first she had been eager to make him forget about his predicament. She had been friendly and had helped him overcome the terrible guilt he felt at having all three of them with him, even though the decision had not been his. She had also helped with his studies, as well as her other comrades.
Lately though, her energy and constant good mood had taken a nosedive. Their last year in high school she had concentrated on the graduation –like she had to be concentrated on something as inane as a high school graduation!– and distanced herself from him specifically. The easy camaraderie they had established was gone and in its wake remained coldness and anguish. He had asked Daniel once if he had done something wrong but the latter had dismissed his concerns and told her that Sam was probably bothered by some girly thing. He had not been convinced at all but he had dropped the subject and decided to be as even tempered with Sam as he could. At the same time, he had joined the swim team. Doing so gave him an outlet for his frustration and a distraction from the desire to beat the crap out of Johnny Wineman.

Johnny Wineman was the geekiest geek of the known universe in Jack’s opinion and, lucky him, the guy had decided to permanently hang around him to try and build a reputation as a ‘cool’ geek (Jack O'Neill was considered the coolest guy on the block because all the girls were crazy about his spiky hair and cocky smile; as well as the fact that Jack O'Neill could tame down any overzealous male just by placating him with *that* look…) So far, Johnny Wineman had been unsuccessful. The only cool geek Jack knew had short blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and the best knee-buckling smile he had ever seen on a human being. Coincidentally, she was also the only girl he would ever be interested in; which directed his thoughts back to the puzzle at hand. Why was Carter pissed at him?

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The battered Ford van they had bought when Jack was old enough to drive made its way through the forest and reached the clearing where the cabin was set.

Jack stepped out of the vehicle and took a deep breath, the pine scented air invading his lungs. The others were unloading the van, piling their bags and food supplies on the porch but he was oblivious. How much had he missed this!

“Jack?” Daniel called, pulling him from the sensation. “You’re gonna stay here?” demanded his friend in an aggravated voice.

“I’m coming!” he said lightly, walking around the van to where they were standing on the steps. He rummaged under the wooden bench against the wall, found the key and opened the door. “Okay guys. Teal'c, you know the drill, Sam and Daniel, there’s the main room with kitchen in the corner. Two rooms on the right, Master and secondary, bathroom is in the back with shower and toilet. Once I activate the pump outside we’ll have running water, and hot water in a good six hours for the first ones, twelve for the next if you all want to take a shower. The tank needs to heat first. We have electricity, I pulled the wires from the road myself with my Dad…” he added proudly. ‘Wood stove for cooking, so I’m gonna go outside and chop wood. Carter, you can have the Master bedroom if you want.” He smiled. “Daniel, you can bunk with Teal'c, the secondary room has twin single beds…”

“And where are you going to sleep?” Sam asked.

Jack shrugged. “Living room’s fine… I’ll go set the water pump on, take your time…”

Jack left his friends to their respective tasks and went around the back of the cabin to where the General usually kept the big logs Ernest, the forest ranger, never failed to leave. Jack had helped Ernest trap poachers once and since then, the Ranger left a good stack of lumber every time he dropped by, keeping the cabin well stocked. Most of it came from fallen trees, unusable for furniture or construction. Ernest tagged them to be removed by local loggers and they all shared the wood as payment but Ernest didn’t need that much most of the time.

Jack put the first log onto the block and retrieved the axe from the shed. He also took his shirt off before setting to work.

These past couple of years had seen the transformation of his teen body into that of a young man. Not that Jack was vain or anything, but knowing where he wanted to direct his life, he had willingly imposed a strict life style on himself. Training at the swimming pool gave his lanky frame nice long muscles. Jogging every morning and playing tennis with Teal'c weekly completed his physical program. They all tried to stay in shape, or actually build one in their case, but some more than others. Daniel still favored books to gymnasiums, and Sam had a genuine aversion to public swimming pools, her first experience turned into her last after a nightmarish encounter with some unwanted germs… She had taken up kickboxing and gymnastics instead.

All this exercise had molded their bodies and Jack’s fine muscles rippled harmoniously under his skin when he attacked the first log. He liked this. He hadn’t come here in more than three years and the inane job filled him with a sense of accomplishment he hadn’t felt since.

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Jack didn’t know how many logs he had split, but he was thirsty and sweaty. He paused just as Sam rounded the corner. She stopped and stared at him.

“Enjoying the view?” he snickered, using his shirt to mop his brow and chest.

Sam rolled her eyes. “I’ve seen you several times in a Speedo, Jack…”

“True, but never as I expressed my male-provider side!” he joked.

Sam shook her head, a small smile tugging at her lips. “Too bad the water’s not warm enough for your shower…”

“I don’t need no shower, Carter, that’s what the pond is for! You brought your bathing suit I hope!”

“Well, considering you packed it for me, yes, I took it… But I doubt the temperature’s warm enough for me to bathe in there…” she grimaced.

“Aww Carter! We’re young! It’s summer time! Temperature’s great!”

“I’ll have to trust you on this,” she chuckled as the turned around and went back inside.

Jack smiled, considered the pile of wood he had already chopped, then frantically tugged at his belt before unlacing his boots and taking off his jeans, leaving him clad only in his briefs. In cheer exhilaration, he threw his clothes on the back porch before running to the pond and jumping inside the water in a big ‘splash’.

“Whoooohooooo!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

“I guess someone’s happy!” Daniel said as he stepped onto the porch.

“It’s great, Daniel! Why don’t you come in?” Jack exclaimed, splashing about in the pond.

“Ah… I’m not sure it’s a good idea right now… Not that the briefs aren’t sexy but…”

“Spoilsport!” Jack huffed as Daniel chuckled.

Sam and Teal'c stepped out behind him and looked at Jack with amusement.

“Teal'c, buddy, please grab a towel for me in the bathroom?”

“I thought that water was great, O'Neill.”

“It is, but I don’t intend to spend my night here and the sun is already setting…” he said, pointing at the low rays which now painted the top of the forest in orange.

“I’ll go,” Sam said.

“You’re right, Jack this place is great…” Daniel smiled at his friend as he stepped onto the small pier.

Jack took the towel from Sam’s hand and draped it around his shoulders smiling at him. “I’m glad you all came.”

After a quick dinner, they all retired early, the combination of the long trip and the fresh air leaving them more exhausted than they would have thought.

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Sam woke up to the sound of cutlery clinging. She took a moment to stretch and yawn before getting up from the queen size bed. She took her toiletries and padded out of the room, noticing the table ready for breakfast.
Jack had his back to her, and was busy at the stove, making pancakes. He turned upon hearing the shutting of the door and smiled.

“Hey Carter, the shower’s free for the time being if you want to have one.”

She smiled in return. “Thanks.”

“Coffee will be ready when you get out, the guys are outside, we were waiting for you but take your time.”

“I won’t be long, promise!” she chuckled as she stepped into the bathroom.

When she was done, she found the guys happily chatting around the big wooden table. She came to sit and poured herself a mug of coffee.

“Carter, the guys and I were discussing the opportunity of a hike…” Jack said.

“Oh?”

“Yes, there’s a small lake where one can actually fish and Jack wants to take us…” Daniel quipped.

“How far is it?” she asked.

“’bout four five hours tops… I was thinking we could go camping there. The scenery’s beautiful and, for Daniel, there’s an Indian sanctuary. It’s close to a reservation; people are allowed to go there as long as they comply with a few rules,” Jack replied.

“Sounds interesting,” she nodded over a mouthful of pancake.

“I’ll check if the camping gear is still in good shape, I don’t know if it’s been used, but as I recall, there were at least two tents including sleeping bags. It will be like old times!” Jack said with obvious excitement.

“We will clean up before going, O'Neill,” Teal'c shouted to his back as he exited the main room.

He turned to the others “… And we will pack the necessary food supplies. I am not certain we will have anything to sustain ourselves with if we count on O'Neill’s skills at capturing aquatic creatures…”

“Right...” Daniel acquiesced. “Power bars, instant coffee, MREs…”

Sam looked at Daniel sharply. “MREs?!” she asked, blinking disbelievingly.

“Well Teal'c got these coupons for military surplus…” Daniel said sheepishly.

“So what?! You’re *that* nostalgic?!”

“You have to admit it’s easier to prepare…” Daniel stated.

“Come on! We’re not off-world with unknown resources!” she exclaimed.

“You have never been witness to O'Neill’s ineptitude at catching fish, Samantha,” Teal'c deadpanned.

Jack was back and overheard the last sentence “Ineptitude at what?!” he asked from the entrance.

Both men turned to him.

“We errr… We…”

“They brought MREs, Jack…” Sam said accusingly.

Jack shrugged. “Well guys, your lack of confidence in my abilities should hurt me, but it doesn’t. Pack MREs if you please, I’m packing my fishing pole…”

“I’ll pack fruits, bread, and power bars, Jack,” Sam said standing up and bringing her dishes to the sink. “We can share the fish you catch…” she said pointedly, looking at Daniel and Teal'c.

“Okay guys, camping gear’s there, with two backpacks, I’ll carry one, Teal'c you’ll carry the second with whatever supplies you wanna take. Carter, put your things in mine. You think you can all be ready in half an hour?” he asked.

“More than enough,” Daniel assured.

Twenty three minutes later precisely, all four young people had gathered in front of the cabin, in hiking gear and sunglasses.

Jack locked the cabin, hiding the key where he had found it and they started on the forest path, Jack leading the way.

It was good to be together again in the wild, Jack thought. The small trip lacked the exhilaration of being on an alien soil, but he would take whatever he could get. These last three years had been all about high school and trying to do the right thing. The next would be about military training as far as he was concerned. The Air Force had been his life before he was cloned; he knew nothing else and wanted nothing else. He had an inkling Carter would try the academy path just as the original Carter had done. As for Daniel and Teal'c, Daniel would probably lead an entirely different academy life, and Teal'c, well Teal'c was better suited for the Marines in his opinion but it was yet undecided whether Teal'c would try the military path or not. The former Jaffa was also interested in opening a Dojo with Martial Arts for kids with difficult backgrounds. He wanted to teach them respect and the ‘warrior’s code.’ The idea had come to him after watching a MacGyver rerun and since he was already helping with the Martial Arts team; he had found the idea enticing.

The path they walked had not been used nor maintained in a while, Jack noticed. The marks on the trees were fading and the once clear trail was now obstructed by overgrown vegetation, rendering their progression slower than he had expected. As they came out of the forest and into a clearing, Daniel yelped.

Jack and Sam, who were walking silently together, turned around and saw Teal'c assist the young man to sit on a fallen tree trunk.

“What’s up?” Jack asked as he walked back to where Daniel and Teal'c had stopped.

“I think I sprained my ankle,” Daniel said, his face contorted by obvious pain.

“Let me see,” Sam said, kneeling before their friend and starting on his shoe laces.

“Easy!” Daniel yelped again.

Sam rolled her eyes. “I am! Now don’t be such a chicken and let me see…” She finished unlacing Daniel’s shoe, removed it and pulled off his sock. She examined the ankle, which was swelling slightly.

“Does it hurt?” she asked, feeling around the ankle.

“OUCH!!!”

“It does,” Teal'c deadpanned.

“You can’t walk too long with that,” Sam stated.

“And there goes our camping trip,” Jack whined.

“No, you go, I’ll be fine, I’ll head back to the cabin at my pace and wait for your return…” Daniel protested.

“No. I will accompany you, Daniel,” Teal'c announced. “O'Neill and Samantha can pursue their excursion.”

“We’ll all go back…”

“Do no protest, O'Neill. If need be I can carry Daniel,” Teal'c interrupted.

“I’ll be fine, Jack,” Daniel insisted. “You and Sam can go and enjoy your time. You both need it,” he concluded. “For old times sake if anything,” he said with a small smile.

Jack pondered his words for a moment and then turned to Sam. “Carter?”

“I’ll dress his ankle properly so he doesn’t worsen the damage, and then we can go, Jack. You’ll need to dress it with ice when you get back, Daniel, and keep it elevated.” She motioned for Teal'c to put his back pack down and rummaged inside to find the first aid kit, then set to work on Daniel’s injured ankle. When she was finished, she pulled his sock up and tied his shoe as tightly as she could without hurting him.

“You’re good to go, but be careful and don’t put too much pressure on it, okay?”

“Yes, Mom,” Daniel teased.

“Cells don’t work here, but they work at the cabin and the reservation, so leave me a message when you get back, okay?” Jack asked.

Teal'c nodded and they separated, each going in opposite directions.

After a couple of hours, Jack and Sam finally reached the area Jack had been talking about and Sam had to admit: it was beautiful. The lake was relatively large and she could barely distinguish a few lodges at the other end, marking the camping area.

“Wow!” she exclaimed as she paused to drink from her canteen.

Jack turned to her smiling. “’Told ya!”

“So how far’s the campsite?” she asked, pointing her chin towards the lodges.

“Oh we’re not camping by the lodges, if that’s what you’re asking. There’s a path going around the lake and although you can’t see it from here, there’s an isolated spot for tents with a small pier about halfway. We’ll camp there. Normally there shouldn’t be too many people, but if there is, then we’ll have to walk a little farther, past the lodges.”

“Okay, let’s go then!”

They walked in companionable silence up to the first place Jack had mentioned, which was blessedly deserted.

“Good! The trees, the grass, the birds… and the lake! All for us!” Jack exclaimed.

Sam chuckled. “We’re setting camp here?”

“Yes. We’ll set camp, I’ll start fishing, you can either build up the fire or go swimming, although I can guarantee there are fish in there!” he raised his eyebrows suggestively.

“Eeek! No thanks,” she said with a disgusted smirk. “I’ll build the fire… where do you plan to set the tent?”

Jack walked to a point midway between the forest and the lake. “Here’s as good as it gets I suppose.”

“Okay, I’ll go grab some dry wood…”

“Don’t go too far or you might walk some place that’s not allowed. Normally they have a stock of wood ready for campers next to the lodges…”

“It’s too far, I’ll be careful, don’t worry…” she smiled.

Jack answered with a smile of his own, then put his backpack down and retrieved their camping gear.

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Several fish were roasting on a makeshift grill over the small fire and rice was cooking in a pan. Jack was busy cleaning the last of the fish he had caught.

Sam appeared from the tent with a small bag and squatted down next to the fire where she had previously left the plates and cups. She opened the bag and extracted several apples, bread, and dry fruit.

“All set,” she announced.

Jack put the last of the fish on the grill and stirred the rice before joining her.

“I checked your cell, in the tent,” she said. “Teal'c and Daniel got back okay, Daniel’s words were: ‘it’s not so bad.’”

“I’ll tell you what he had, all right!” Jack snorted. “A fit of laziness….”

“Don’t say that,” she admonished. “When I looked at it, it *was* swelling…”

“So you say,” he teased.

She chuckled. “Dinner ready?”

“As a matter of fact, yes Ma’am, the first fish are done,” he replied, going back to their improvised barbecue and retrieving a couple of dark looking fish.

“Carbonized?” she laughed.

He looked offended. “You doubt my cooking abilities? Taste this!” he declared, putting one of the fish in her plate. “Rice?”

Sam nodded and he scooped a spoon of rice next to the fish. Then he sat down cross legged next to her and helped himself.

“This is delicious!” she approved after the first bite. “Teal'c and Daniel don’t know what they’re missing!”

Jack looked quite proud of himself. “The secret is using a few fresh pine branches at the end of the cooking… it give the fish that special taste…”

“You’re quite handy in the wild,” she said jokingly.

“After seven years in the field with me, you still doubt it?”

She smiled and then a shadow clouded her eyes “You miss it, don’t you?”

“Of course I miss it, the same way you, Daniel, and Teal'c miss it…”

“I sometimes wonder if what we did was a good thing…”

“For me it was.” He simply said. “I would have gone crazy…”

“Yeah, but sometimes it’s… hard… coping with everything…” she put her finished plate down and picked up her cup.

“I suppose…” he shrugged.

There was a pregnant pause.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you… I haven’t discussed any of this with you or the others but… The academy…” he trailed.

She smiled. “I’ll be there, don’t worry.” She saw relief on his face. ‘You doubted it?”

“Well I was not sure you were comfortable around me anymore, Sam.” He sought her eves. “You’ve been kind of distant lately…”

She evaded his look and used a stick to rearrange a few logs in the fire.

“To be entirely honest,” he resumed, “I was surprised you wanted to come with me after Daniel sprained his ankle…”

“Is that what it looks like?” she said softly.

“Sam, what’s wrong?” he asked, his hand reaching for her shoulder.

“I… It’s complicated, Jack…”

“Well…” he gestured toward the darkening sky, “nothing else to do but listening…” he tried to joke.

“Let’s finish our dinner and then we’ll talk, okay?” she pleaded.

He nodded thoughtfully. “Okay…”

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Jack rinsed the last of their dishes while Sam disposed of the makeshift grill and remnants of fish.

“No bears, wolves, or other carnivorous wildlife in the area?” she asked.

Jack chuckled. “No, besides men, nothing.”

“Just checking… I don’t want a bear to come looking for our fish bones and finding ours more interesting…”

“Throw them in the lake, they’ll be of use there…”

She did and then cleared the ‘dinner place’ before adding a few logs to the fire and resuming her seat beside it.

Jack put the dishes back in the tent and came to sit next to her. They exchanged a sheepish look then stared at the flames for some time.

“So…. Talk?” Jack ventured.

Sam sighed. “It’s…. complicated…”

“You said that, Carter, besides it can get pretty complicated every time you open your mouth,” he nudged her playfully.

She looked at him but said nothing and then, stared back at the flames.

Jack made a decision. He stood up and came to sit behind her, his legs framing hers and his chest coming into contact with her back. He encircled her waist with his arms and rested his chin on her shoulder.

She was startled at first but the first moment of surprise gone, she relaxed into his unexpected embrace.

“Talk to me, Sam…” he said gently.

She sighed. “I can’t make my peace with the fact that you’re a teenager now,” she said in a soft tone.

“Late one… Almost a man now…”

“You know what I mean…”

“No, Sam… As a matter of fact, I don’t,” he said genuinely.

She sighed. “When I decided that you needed company, I also fully intended to resolve whatever was between us, but when I saw the result… Well I was a teen and… so were you… call me a prude, but that was a bit of a cold shower… then we got caught up in our studies and we didn’t have time for that….”

“So you say,” he interrupted, nuzzling her neck.

“Jack…” she stopped him. He rested his chin on her shoulder again. “I like you, as a friend… You’re my best friend… I guess…. I can tell you things that I won’t tell Daniel or Teal'c and I know you’ll understand…”

“But?...”

“But I’m not sure I love you…” she finally admitted. She felt him straighten and felt momentarily bad at having hurt him that way. “I love Jack O'Neill, the man… But he’s not free to love… He loves her… It’s so plainly written on his face, my God she could make him dance on his pinky and he would do it and thank her…”

“It doesn’t help…” he pointed out coldly.

“I know…” she caressed his forearms and he seemed to relax a bit. “Jack… On one side I don’t know what I would do without you, but on the other side… Look at you… you’re a boy! I haven’t even ever seen you shave!”

“I do!” he protested and to prove his point, rubbed his cheek against hers. “Just not everyday,” he said softly.

Silence settled again for a while before he finally moved from his spot and came to face her. She felt slightly bereft at the loss of warmth on her back and shoulders.

“Carter… Sam…” he looked at her, holding one of her hands. “Cliché as that sounds, nothing has changed for me…”

“Jack…”

“No, I have listened to you, now listen to me… Please.”

She nodded slightly.

He reached and gently touched her face. She leaned into his touch ever so slightly and it gave him all the courage he needed. “Let me make love to you, Sam…” She looked at him sharply, but before she could continue, he added. “I may look like a boy, I’ll love you as a man…”

She was completely taken by the intensity of his eyes. Seconds that felt like hours passed, and his face slowly came close to hers. His lips gently touched hers. He pulled back a little but as she did not protest, he kissed her again, this time more demandingly.

Sam was overwhelmed by a rush of feelings she thought were buried. The touch of his lips was soft yet passionate, eliciting tingles all over her body. She stopped thinking and kissed him back, opening her mouth immediately when she felt the probe of his tongue.

Jack plunged into the sweet recesses of her mouth, caressing her tongue languidly before pulling back and meeting her eyes again, satisfied by the slightly dazzled look they bore.

Without a word, he stood up and pulled her up too, leading her to the tent…

Jack quickly disrobed down to his underwear, and proceeded to rid her of her clothes as reverently as he could. Youth and hormones made taking his time difficult but he finally managed to lie next to her, drinking in the shadowed curves of the young woman.

He brought his hand to her side, and slowly began caressing her upward, learning by touch what the lack of light prevented him to see.

Sam was mesmerized by his touch and totally under his spell, her body responding in ways she would never have imagined. Of course, she reasoned, that might also be because it was –in effect at least- a ‘first time’ for her, as well as for them.

Jack’s hand moved to cup the swell of one breast while his mouth fastened on its twin.

She squirmed under him, and proceeded to pay his body the same kind of attention he was giving hers. Her current position was limiting her movements, so she pushed him on his side and used her hands to light an ardent path on his skin.

What she was not prepared for was that it also allowed him to explore further down, and she gasped.

The sensory overload threatened to make her cry as well as the tenderness with which he caressed her body, kneading here and there as if he already knew what she liked. Suddenly, doubt seized her. ‘Oh God!’ she moaned inside. “You slept with her?” she breathed.

“Who?” he asked, otherwise busy with his hands.

“The other me…”

He stopped and looked at her. “What?!”

“How can you…” she choked. “How can you know…?”

He silenced her with a kiss. “I love you, Sam… The explanation is as simple as that.” And to prove his point, he made her cry his name.

Nobody had ever managed to bring her to that level of completion.
Far from idle, his hands and mouth resumed their attention, and again she was swept by the rising wave.

Jack didn’t want to hurt her, but truth be told, he was beginning to hurt himself. He didn’t know this body and he feared to climax too quickly. He struggled to hold back but too much was just too much.

He gently nudged her legs farther apart with his knees and settled above her but she surprised him and in one swift motion, she was suddenly poised above him.

“Let me…” she murmured. “It will be softer for both of us this way…” she said as means of an explanation. She took a deep breath and slowly bridged the last bit of space separating them.

At some point, Jack realized she had sped up, panic seized him as he totally lost control over his over sensitized body, but she immediately collapsed on his chest and he let go, tears she could not see moisturizing the corner of his eyes.

They lay, totally spent, Sam on top of him, and he was the happiest man in the world. He remembered the pinky comment Sam had made earlier and knew he’d comply happily if the young woman lying on top of him asked him the same thing. His throat was constricted by the love he felt for her. He encircled her waist tightly and she hugged him in return.

“You doubt it now?” he asked softly.

She looked up and he could see the twinkle in her eyes in the darkness. She did not say a thing but resumed hugging him.

He blindly felt for the other sleeping bag and pulled it over their bodies, slipping into sleep with a swelling heart and the most extraordinary woman on top of him.

She sighed and settled a bit more comfortably snuggling into his side.

Before drifting to sleep, Jack thought he heard her say “I love you” against the skin of his shoulder. It was not a loud declaration or anything but somehow for now that was enough for him…

THE END

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