REDIRECTION

Thanks: Ruralstar for betaing. If I dared, you'd become my beta for every story I write! Thank you, lady, you rock!

Copyright © Anakin David 2005

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"When I first met Jacob Carter his stern look and inquisitive eye scared the crap out of me," Jack O'Neill started in front of the small audience at Jacob's memorial Service outside of the SGC. "But I soon learned to respect the man and he became a dear friend," he resumed. "General Jacob Carter was a man of honor and duty and he will be remembered by his peers as such, I consider myself lucky to be among the people who knew him." He stepped down from the dais and let George Hammond speak in his turn.

As he passed by Sam and her brother, he nodded towards both siblings in sympathy. Mark Carter held his eye for a moment, acknowledging the silent condolences the gray haired man sent his way. Jack then went to stand next to Teal'c and Daniel as the ceremony proceeded.

After the last respects were paid to Jacob Carter, a small wake was held at Sam's house. The sunny day contrasted with the subdued mood of the gathering, but Dress Blues had been swapped with civvies and soon a relaxed atmosphere permeated Sam's backyard.

Jack noticed Pete Shanahan talking with Sam's brother and couldn't help but think of that moment in the observation room the day of Jacob's death. Then it had been just the two of them. The ball was in her court now. He had made sure that she knew nothing had changed and that he was ready to go down another path with her. She had seemed to acknowledge this, taking a step of her own in her turn. When he saw Pete gently kiss her cheek before taking his leave, he couldn't help feeling a pang in his heart and wondering at the same time if he had interpreted her actions correctly.

He sighed and made his way to where she was chatting with George Hammond.

The bald man smiled at him and made his excuses to Sam, needing to catch a plane back to Washington.

Sam turned to him, smiling slightly. "You're staying a while?" she asked.

He winced. "I'm not sure I should..."

"I would like you to," she said, taking his hand gently and squeezing it.

He looked at her, a bit taken aback, then nodded silently.

A brief smile stretched her mouth. "Mark just told me that he's got to leave too and Teal'c and Daniel are waiting politely for the reception to end. I just need to straighten a few things with him, but I won't be long."

"Okay... I'll-ah... I'll go grab a beer and wait for you to..."

"That would be nice, thanks," she smiled.

Jack watched her going from group to group before reaching her brother. She then gently coaxed him into a corner of the house, needing a little privacy.

He reached for a beer on the kitchen counter and opened it, sipping thoughtfully. He was not entirely sure he, much less she, needed a confrontation right now. He had to admit though, that back when they were in the in the infirmary observation room, they might have opened floodgates they would have trouble containing now. So maybe there was no time like the present to finally talk.

He sighed resignedly and took a large swallow. ‘Time to be a man, O'Neill,' he thought bitterly.

Jack was so engrossed in his musings, that he had not noticed the house was now empty. A gentle hand patted his arm making him start.

He turned instantly and met her eyes. Relaxing at once, he smiled gently. "You're okay?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, thank you… I'm glad someone close is here now, though..." she replied.

"Once again, I'm not sure I'm the best guy for the job... Pete is..."

"Pete is gone..." she interjected. "We've... I gave back the ring… He came to the Memorial service out of friendship for Mark and because he respected me enough to come," she continued. "As a matter of fact, he's applying for a transfer back to Denver."

"Ah…" he said simply, the implications of the statement finally dawning upon him.

"Coffee?" she asked, interrupting his train of thought. She walked into the kitchen while he stayed in the living room.

"It's kind of late for that but yeah…" he said, knowing he needed the caffeine boost and sitting down on the couch.

She came back a short while later, carrying a tray with two mugs, sugar and a pitcher of milk. She set it on the coffee table before sitting down next to him.

"Maybe it's time we laid everything on the table..." she started.

He nodded, silently encouraging her to go on.

"On one side, things are clearer now, but on the other side, they're scaring the heck out of me." She laughed nervously, her previous determination wavering as the seconds passed.

"You're not alone there," he said, smiling slightly and giving her the push she needed to resume.

"Dad... dad knew..."

Jack did not even ask what it was. "Wise Jacob," he smiled fondly.

"He told me to let go of the rules stopping me from finding happiness and I want to... Unfortunately, there's no simple way around those rules."

"There's not but I've been thinking about retirement..."

She snorted. "You'd be bored out of your skull in no time!"

"Not if I continue commanding the SGC in a civilian capacity..."

"You can?"

He shrugged. "Weir did... Actually, it was Kerry who suggested it..."

Sam winced, looking down. "Kerry..." she murmured.

"Hey..." he gently put his finger underneath her chin and forced her to look into his eyes. "We're no longer together."

She looked sharply at him.

A corner of his mouth rose as well as his eyebrows. "She was very observant and intelligent enough to let me go..." he sai .

She smiled briefly.

"There is no simple way to get around the rules as you put it, Sam, but I see one that would not impair your career. This could be a smooth send-off for me, and a good compromise for us, if that's what you want."

"You retiring?" she scoffed.

"Us," he simply said.

"Oh..."

"Is that what you want, Sam?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, looking firmly into his eyes.

He smiled warmly. "Then it's set..."

"You're sure the coast will be clear then? Technically you'll still be my superior," she pointed out warily.

"Yeah, but I don't get to write on your military record for promotion or medals, the Air Force still does. And to emphasize my point, there's a week downtime looming in front of us. Now that Oma's given us a little reprieve from Anubis, I was wondering if you would go up to the cabin in Minnesota with the boys and me..."

"Daniel and Teal'c are coming?"

"Daniel needs rest, I suggested he try fishing and he seemed to be intrigued. Teal'c didn't want to be stuck on base and Ishta was not available. I think he figured with Daniel coming along the experience would not be the same as last time." He shrugged. "He doesn't get ‘fishing'..."

She chuckled. "And you think I will?"

He smiled cockily. "With a good teacher, I'm sure you will, and with Teal'c and Daniel as chaperones, nothing bad will happen to you."

She grinned broadly and for once in his life, he took the time to observe her freely. Her eyes shone with a sparkle he seldom witnessed lately and he felt like a heavy burden had finally been lifted from their shoulders.

He answered with a smile of his own and gently squeezed her hand. "I'd better go," he said quietly, standing up.

A small shadow passed across her eyes but the moment he noticed it, it was gone. She nodded, stood and walked him to the door.

::::::::::::::

Jack's step was lighter than usual in the corridors of the SGC, and every Airman had noticed the joyful mood of the general. It was no secret that Pete Shanahan had left Colorado Springs, the rumor mill drew the rest of the story. Jack did not really care what the rumor mill said. He knew where he stood. Nothing actually happened between them and strangely enough, he liked that. After 8 years of repressed feelings, one would think they would jump into bed at the first opportunity. He was fairly comfortable with the way the ‘relationship' was unfolding as it was. It was actually a time to be cherished with great complicity, as they learned -albeit slowly- what the casual side of the other was. They did touch a lot though, slight touches, to reassure each other they were "there", and to confirm that it was real.

What made Jack's pace really light today was that after the discovery of a ZPM and the mysterious tape in Egypt, he was *finally* heading to Minnesota with ‘his team'. All SGC matters were in capable hands. No major crisis was looming on the horizon and all current affairs and reports were for once, sorted and up to date. Nothing would dampen his mood, nothing...

He opened the door to his office and froze...

Lieutenant General George Hammond was seated in his chair (the one he had promised to send back but never did).

"Sir, General!" he stammered.

"Jack," the bald man acknowledged calmly with a nod.

Jack opted for the dumb act. "What brings you to our always buzzing with exciting things subterranean base, general, sir?" he winced at his own awkwardness.

George Hammond stood up slowly and Jack noticed the folded piece of paper in his hand. "This," he said, waving the piece of paper.

"Sir?"

Hammond's features softened a bit. "Jack, I'm retiring..."

"What do you mean retiring, general?" Jack asked frowning.

"At the end of next month, Kayla and Tessa will be able to enjoy the company of their grand-father George on a regular basis. I'll even move my Colorado Springs possessions to my daughter's guest house for the remainder of my healthy days," he said with a contended smile.

"Wow! Sir, that's err... Big news and that's gonna bring a Hell of a change!" Jack sat on an opposite chair, clearly shocked.

Hammond chuckled and stood up. He rounded the desk and sat on the desktop, facing the younger man.

"Defeating Anubis and achieving what you did in less than a year is what I'd say will bring a Hell of a change too, son."

Jack shrugged. "It was the result of 7 years of good management, Sir."

Hammond smiled. "Maybe, maybe not... You were the one faced with the most important decisions and you chose the right ones."

Jack shrugged again.

Hammond observed him for a while, then resumed, "I came to make you an offer..."

Jack looked perplexed. "Sir?"

"We need someone we can trust at Homeworld Security, someone who has knowledge of the Stargate, someone who knows about Prometheus and the X-302, The Antarctic base, Atlantis and so on, someone who's been at it for even longer than I was."

Jack frowned. "You're thinking of me?"

Hammond nodded.

Jack pursed his lips. "I was thinking about retirement myself..."

"That's not going to happen, Jack."

"Even if I agree to lead the SGC as a civilian?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"The Pentagon needs you in the Air Force, Jack. We can't lose you, not just yet and the president has already appointed your replacement at the SGC."

"So the decision was made before I even accepted-huh? If you excuse my saying so, Sir, not much of a choice here," Jack pointed out a bit irritated. "And who's going to replace me?"

"General Hank Landry, you know him, I believe..."

"Oh..." Jack's bad temper subsided and he sighed, putting his hand on his forehead and closing his eyes. "And what if I say no?"

Hammond went back to sit on the big chair behind the desk. "SGC but no retiring, Jack: we need a military leader."

"As I said, not much of a choice..." Jack paused "General…"

"George…" the other man interrupted him.

He looked straight at his superior. "I hated paper pushing here, what makes you think I'll like it better in D.C.? Not to mention endless meetings and diplomacy."

"Homeworld Security is not exactly paper pushing. It's more about strategic planning and the like, which is - I believe - more suited to your personality. And as for endless meetings and diplomacy, you'll have Major -sorry- Lieutenant Colonel Davis to assist you."

"Davis has been promoted?" Jack asked before becoming sullen again "That's not the point, Sir..."

"Did I mention you'll travel a lot, too..." Hammond continued, "Often to Colorado... And more precisely to Colorado Springs since both Stargate Command and the X-302 fleet are here..."

"Really?"

"You don't need to give an answer now. I *know* you don't want to remain at the SGC in a military capacity anyway." Hammond chuckled.

Jack sighed. "I was about to go on a week's downtime with my team, am I allowed at least that time to let it sink in?"

Hammond smiled at the ‘my team' reference and leaned comfortably against the back of the chair. "Why do you think I'm sitting on your chair? That's my old general's fantasy and idea of a little vacation. You go and I'll keep everything in order for you.... I'll even have the chair waxed," he added with a glint in his eyes, gently stroking the armrests of said chair.

Jack rolled his eyes.

"You are dismissed, son," Hammond said, waving him out of the office.

::::::::::::::

"This is great..."

"I told you..." he replied nonchalantly, slowly reeling the line in.

"I can't believe we didn't do it years ago!"

"Yes, well... Let's not dwell..." he replied, smiling at her.

She smiled back and they continued fishing until a rather big bass leaped up and fell back into the pond with a splash.

Sam looked at him intrigued. "Didn't that tape say there were no fish in your pond?" she asked suspiciously.

Jack thought fast: as a matter of fact, he had never caught a fish. However, he had never actually checked to see if there were fish in his pond... "Close enough..." he replied casually.

His musings were interrupted by the arrival of Teal'c and Daniel along with the groceries they had bought in town that morning.

Daniel took two beers from the cooler. Teal'c carried and opened them for his friends before taking one for himself and reaching for his pole.

After a while of quiet fishing, Jack was getting a little fidgety. Strange, considering the fact that he was *finally* at his cabin with Sam... And Teal'c... And Daniel...

Well, at least there was *some* improvement! He mused

"There's a beautiful small hike we could take now..."he suggested.

"A hike?" Daniel asked.

"There's a fantastic view of the lake and the mountains in the distance, with the beautiful weather we have..."

"Jack, we're on vacation!" Daniel interrupted.

"So?" Jack asked, nonplussed.

"We ‘hike' all the time on missions!" Daniel said, aggravated.

Jack did not get it. "That's off-world, Daniel, we're in Minnesota..."

Sam chuckled at the faces their two friends made and decided to put an end to the fruitless discussion that could go on forever. "I'll go with you, I need to stretch my legs a little," she said smiling as she stood up.

"See, Daniel, Carter gets it! T', wanna come?"

"As a matter of fact O'Neill, I rather enjoy fishing this time," the big man said, relaxing more into his deck chair while pulling the line slowly.

Jack rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine! See you in an hour, and don't drink all the beer!" he said almost stomping towards the path as Sam followed him shaking her head and smiling broadly.

They took the forest path, which ran around the edge of the lake for a short distance before going up to a small hill overlooking the cabin. They walked silently until they reached the overlook. As she drew abreast of Jack, Sam's breath caught in her throat.

The sun was beginning to set in the west, casting orange tones on the light brown and snowy white of the highest peaks, as well as the top of the forest. The lake and the cabin further down were bathed in the deep green of the surrounding fir tress, contrasting with the orangey of the mountains and the deep blue of the sky.

A small smile tugging at his lips. Jack turned to face her.

She looked at him and back at the landscape. "It's beautiful!" she breathed.

"I told you..." he replied softly.

They stood admiring the view for a while, observing Daniel ensconced in his chair with his hat over his eyes, probably sleeping as Teal'c continuously threw his line and drew it back.

Sam jumped a little when she felt Jack's hand touch hers and met his gaze.

He drew her closer and pushed a few bangs from her forehead, gently nudging them behind her ear. He dropped his gaze before meeting her eyes again with a serious face. "I'm leaving the SGC, Sam," he said in a low voice, almost regretfully

.

"What?... But you said..."

"Shhh..." he said, laying a silencing finger on her lips. "Hammond's retiring and he's asked me to take over Homeworld Security. I don't have much choice in the matter My replacement, General Hank Landry. has already been assigned. I've worked with him back in Iraq, he's a fair commander. I think he's great for the SGC and probably better suited to paperwork than me." He chuckled. "Hammond said Homeworld Security would probably suit me better than sending teams out while doing paperwork in the bowels of that mountain."

"And what about...?" she left the subject hanging.

Jack smiled and caressed her cheek with the back of his finger. "Hammond also said I'd be in Colorado Springs more often than not but I'm guessing the first times will be tough," he said, raising his eyebrows in an encouraging manner.

Sam pondered the information for a moment, before throwing her arms around him. "I'll miss you!" she said, her voice muffled by his neck.

Jack hugged her tightly, one of his hands stroking her back. "You'll manage, Sam. You've been on your own this last year, and you've done great. I couldn't be prouder," he said soothingly.

"It doesn't make it any easier," she raised her head and met his eyes, her own unusually brighter.

He smiled and framed her face with his hands. "Then marry me?"

She looked at him quizzically, then a small smile crept upon her lips.

"I don't have any big diamond and this is quite out of the blue but..." he stammered.

"When?" she cut in.

"What?"

"When do you want to get married?"

"Well, I haven't.... I didn't...." he stammered more, obviously surprised at her reaction.

Sam laughed then and hugged him.

He hugged her back and rested his head on hers, breathing in the scent of her shampoo.

After a moment, she looked at him and laid a chaste kiss on his lips. "I'll choose the date and you'll choose the settings?" she asked in a soft voice.

He smiled in response "Yeahsureyabetcha!"

"Shouldn't we head down before the sun sets for good?" she asked, squeezing his fingers between her own.

He nodded, a bit dazed. Then suddenly reached out for a wild purple flower and cut it. He took her left hand and wrapped the flower around her ring finger.

She looked at him quizzically.

"Don't start with me, Carter. There's no jewelry store in the vicinity," he said huskily, before drawing her into his arms and kissing her less chastely than she had few minutes ago.

Things were getting out of hand, he realized dimly when one of her hands crept underneath his sweater. He didn't want anything like that, at least right now and right here. So he released her, panting a little and looked her in the eyes.

"What was that you were saying about heading down?"

She laughed softly and linked her hand with his before they strolled down the trail.

When they finally reached the cabin, Daniel and Teal'c were folding the deck chairs to put them under the shed for the night.

Daniel observed them approaching, frowning.

"Sam?"

"Daniel?" she replied, smiling broadly.

"You have a flower around your finger and you're holding Jack's hand..."

"Oh for crying out loud!" Jack exclaimed, rolling his eyes.

Sam smoldered a laugh until Jack frowned at her, then relaxed and looked at his friends.

"Kids, I'm leaving the SGC... I've been offered Homeworld Security. You will soon meet General Hank Landry, my replacement at the mountain."

"Wow! That was..." Daniel started.

"Most unexpected, O'Neill," Teal'c concluded.

Jack smirked.

"Yeah, I bet it was, Teal'c... Furthermore..." he squeezed Sam's hand as they both locked gazes. "Sam and I have decided to explore a new direction and we.... Ahh..." he fidgeted.

"We're engaged," Sam interrupted.

"Wow! That was... fast!" Daniel managed to articulate through a good goldfish impression.

Teal'c just smiled and bowed his head slightly.

Jack rolled his eyes again and shook his head. He was about to make a swift reply to Daniel when his cell phone buzzed.

"O'Neill?"

::::::::::::::

Jack was in Heaven and in Hell at the same time, he thought dimly as Sam's mouth moved underneath his in a feverish goodbye kiss. A discreet cough from the SF who was waiting for him brought him back to reality: a military airport 20 miles from his cabin. He had been called back to duty a couple of hours before and Daniel and Teal'c had insisted on accompanying Sam and himself. All three would sleep at the cabin overnight, then pack things up and head back to the mountain. Jack's presence was required in Washington.

An emergency of sorts had arisen, with France, Great-Britain, and China asking to be briefed well and thoroughly about Earth's apparent victory over the Goa'uld. They also wanted to discuss what new directions the defense plan would take and what options were given. That's how Brigadier General Jack O'Neill would be introduced to his new assignment.

He reluctantly pulled away from Sam's embrace, murmuring "I'll call you," before following the SF to the transport, which would take him out to the runway.

Sam watched as the heavy plane rolled down the tarmac and took off, then turned to her friends and headed back to the car.

::::::::::::::

Life in D.C. was dull, Jack thought as he threw the ball of wrapping paper from his sandwich into his office trashcan.

Sam had been on a mission off-world with her team for the last ten days and therefore unreachable. He had recently spoken to Hank Landry but the new leader of the SGC only told him that it was a diplomacy mission. Nothing overly dangerous but it would take time.

Jack sighed, looked at his watch and straightened the knot of his tie before standing up and putting his dress jacket on. One more thing he disliked about the job, meetings at Homeworld Security meant Dress Uniforms all the time.

He had called Hammond several times, asking him -whining, actually- when he found time to ‘travel'. The now retired general had all but laughed in his face, asking him to be patient and telling him that he first needed to get acquainted with the job before even thinking of ‘traveling'.

He checked his Memo: ‘StargateS?' was all that was written.

He scowled. Despite the agreement to share the Stargate with other nations and despite all the foreign people that had gone on the Atlantis mission, the SGC itself bore more American teams than foreign ones. After weeks of negotiations and fierce discussion it had been decided that another Stargate should be built and set up in another country. That way, in the eventuality that something happened to the SGC, Earth would not remain defenseless.

Combining all the knowledge they had managed to gather from the Ancients over the years and what the renewed connection to Atlantis with the ZPM from Egypt brought, they hoped they could do away with most of the lingering questions. It was a huge project with a lot of research still ahead but a very necessary one. There was no way to know what kind of new enemy would take over now that the Goa'uld threat seemed to have been eliminated. Of course, both Stargates should not activate at the same time, so this meant an excellent security system too. One heck of a challenge for those geeks! Jack thought in a bit of awe.

He sighed for the umpteenth time and exited his office to the conference room where the meeting would be held.

Lt. Colonel Davis was already waiting for him in the corridor outside of the room and both men walked silently to their seats. Jack had to admit, Davis was a great help. More than being his personal secretary, Paul Davis knew his way around diplomacy. He knew how to make people accept their views without batting an eye or raising his voice, something Jack could not manage to understand. Davis was dedicated to his job and on the contrary to what he was used to at the SGC, Jack had to deal only with the most important things, The younger officer sorted out his memos and reports before they reached his desk. Except for the interminable meetings in warm rooms and sticky clothes, Jack found he rather liked the job. His decisions were seldom subject to debate and his skills as a former field officer were helpful more often than not. He hated to admit it but Hammond had been right.

He sat down on the uncomfortable chair and opened the file in front of him, getting ready for the game to start.

A cosmopolitan team of civilian and military scientists came into the room after everybody else had sat down. They started showing blueprints of the Stargate and the results of the study that had been made of Orlin's MacGyvered dwarf gate. Jack's mind absorbed most of what was said for a couple of hours, as well -he could tell- as most diplomats/military people that were around the table.

The scientists asked for a break to meet in private and for the audience to tend to a few necessities. Then the scientists came back excitedly and Jack readied himself for the conclusion.

"In fact, we have improved our knowledge a lot since the first attempts at building a Stargate," a gray haired scientist with a thick French accent started, "With the new information brought back from Atlantis by Dr. McKay and his team, we think we can put this project back on track. We just needed a strong leadership by someone who had a sufficient knowledge of the Stargate itself and we have just found it..."

Jack leaned slightly towards Davis and murmured. "You think they got McKay back from his watery planet?" he snorted.

"... the best expert we could ever dream of," the scientist resumed, "Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, who is going to supervise our works from within, at least in the beginning!"

Jack's heart skipped a bit; ‘Hank Landry, you're one slimy son of a...' he cursed inwardly as a feminine silhouette clad in a USAF dress uniform made a graceful entrance into the room.

He leaned towards Davis again. "You knew it was her?" he murmured.

The younger man shook his head, apparently as bewildered as he was.

Jack refocused on the matter at hand as the voice of his favorite Lieutenant Colonel filled the room. He could not really pay attention to what she was saying -as usual, mesmerized by the simple fact that she was here. Then the full consequences of her -even temporary- new assignment meant dawned upon him and he felt lost.

Davis was discreetly trying to get his attention. "General?"

"Yes?" he finally answered.

"They're expecting you to say something..."

"Oh!"

He cleared his throat.

"Well, with Colonel's Carter participation to this project, I have no doubt that it will meet with success. On my end, the decision is made and I'm giving it a go, now the hardest parts will be to decide which country will welcome the second Stargate. I'll leave that aspect to the politicians, as well as all the paperwork needed for a rational use of both gates. Not to mention the financial commitments!" He smiled and stood up, effectively ending the meeting.

He failed to notice the enthusiasm the scientist team demonstrated as he rounded the table, not seeing anything but her mischievous smile. Protocol insisted that he salute her, which he did with a cocky smile. Then he took a step forward, shaking her hand with more vigor than necessary.

"You could have called!" he chastised playfully.

"And miss the expression on your face when I stepped into the room?" she teased.

"Well, I suppose it's fair game after all..." he smiled warmly.

"We go way back-huh?"

"That we do!" he agreed, beckoning her to the exit of the conference room.

They met Davis in front of his office.

"Colonel Carter, I wasn't informed of your arrival, would you like me to make arrangements for accommodation?"

Jack was about to reply when Sam did. "Everything's under control, Colonel," she said, "But thank you."

"Okay folks, I think we can all call the day off now, don't you think?" Jack said nonchalantly.

"I was going to offer Colonel Carter a drink at the Mess..." Davis started.

"Actually Paul, I'd rather unpack and relax before I bury myself in work on Monday," Sam replied.

"As you wish, Colonel, do you need a lift anywhere?"

"I'd like to catch up with the general a little and then I'm sure he will have a car ready for me," she answered with a slightly frozen smile.

"As you wish, Ma'am. Sir, if you don't require my presence anymore, I'll review the memos that will be sent to your inbox on Monday and then I'll go home."

"Cut yourself some slack, Davis. You've been working around the clock the past week, I'm relieving you of duty for the rest of the week," Jack said casually.

"Sir?" Davis looked puzzled.

"It's Friday, Davis. Go home, rest, and have a life," Jack insisted.

Davis straightened a little, then smiled thankfully and clicked his heels.

"Very well then. Sir, Ma'am," he saluted before strolling down the corridor to the elevator.

"I thought he'd never leave!" Jack mumbled, causing a light chuckle from Sam. "How are you doing?" he asked gently, indicating the security camera to Sam with a flick of his eyes.

She nodded slightly and they started towards the elevator.

"Where's your stuff?" Jack asked while they were waiting for the car.

"Well I'll have to go back to Colorado Springs to get all I need, I just packed light for this visit. An SF at the entrance is keeping my bag for me."

"So you got a place to stay?" Jack teased.

"Well, now that you mention it..." she replied, playfully.

"I have a very cozy apartment, Carter, all at the expense of the State."

"Tempting." They stepped into the elevator car, "You have a spare bedroom?"

"Ah... that would be a problem, it's a one bedroom den but I do have a comfy bed... a warm and comfy bed... And if you promise not to steal the covers I'll let you sleep next to me."

Sam smiled broadly and raised her eyebrows suggestively. "Well I'd say that's a little bold, General, but since I've got no other choice, I'll take that offer!"

Jack rolled his eyes. The elevator doors opened on the ground floor. "No other choice?" he asked, offended.

Sam laughed heartily. "Well, I can still ask Paul Davis to find me some hotel room."

They arrived at the entrance of the building.

"Carter, you'll be the death of me, you know that? Go get your stuff and we're outta here. Airman?" he called the man at the reception. "My car, please!"

"On its way, Sir."

::::::::::::::

They reached his apartment.

Jack had loosened his tie and was fumbling with his key while Sam was seemingly calmly waiting behind him.

As soon as he opened the door and gallantly let her enter first, she threw her bags down, grabbed his lapels and kissed him like there was no tomorrow.

Jack dropped his keys as his hands reached for her waist and he crushed her body against his.

Sam's hands slipped underneath his dress jacket and it slid to the floor as he fumbled with the buttons of hers.

His shirt came next. She stepped out of her shoes and reached for his belt, but he steadied her, panting heavily.

"Not like this, Sam... Bedroom," he managed to croak.

They more or less stumbled in the general direction of his room. The distance was rather short but between kissing, nipping, and disrobing each other, the route itself was quite an adventure.

They finally collapsed in a tangle of limbs on the bed. Only underwear remained on Sam but Jack's trousers were stuck at his ankles, as he had not removed his shoes. Now seated on the edge of the bed he made short work of that and soon they were sliding in between the sheets.

They stared intently at each other for a few seconds, the reality of the moment slowly sinking in before Jack leaned forward and kissed her.

Her hands rose to cup his face but much to her chagrin, he soon left her mouth. Her dismay was short lived as he trailed a path of small kisses down her jaw to her throat.

He stopped to look at her. Her eyes were closed, obviously waiting for him to proceed. Annoyed by the interruption, she glanced down with *that* look that said so much. He smiled mischievously before resuming his oral exploration of her skin.

His hands reached her torso and slid up to her breasts, cupping them tenderly. He pushed down the sheets that were impairing his arousing ministrations, His mouth gently latched onto one breast, drawing the nipple between his lips while his fingers mimicked his mouth's actions with the other one.

Sam shuddered and sighed, confirming that what he was doing was the right thing.

He smiled against her skin, kissing her sternum before sensually going south.

Sam moaned as he reached his target. "Jack!"

"Yes?" he replied in a low, sensuous voice.

"If you're planning on killing me, you're doing a pretty good job at... JACK!" she cried when his hand joined his mouth and together they brought her swiftly to a point where he could finally render her beautiful head incapable of logical thinking.

Sam shuddered and moaned, her breath not quite even. He let her try to regain her senses before looking up smugly.

"That's why you couldn't wait-huh?" he raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"Oh for crying out loud! You still find the time to be smug?!" She looked at him with disbelief.

"I believe I just was, Ma'am." He gave her a swift kiss and propped his head against his hand, matching gazes with her.

"You don't think you're finished here, do you?" she said provocatively.

He chuckled. "I think I've just given myself a head start, Carter..."

He was interrupted by one determined Sam Carter pinning him to the mattress in retaliation for his smugness. He hissed as she reached *that* spot and proceeded to do agonizingly *good* things to him.

She chuckled. "Not so smug now, are you?"

"Carter, payback's a bitch!" he said in a breath. He reversed their positions and trapped her wrists behind her head.

He contemplated her flushed chest and face, holding her firmly while she writhed to free herself.

"So not fair, General!" she laughed. Her expression turned serious as she returned his stare. "I love you, Jack," she said. A universe of tenderness hovered in blue eyes darkened by both desire and the dim light of the room.

He ravenously covered her mouth, .releasing her wrists and retaking hold of her breasts. One of his thighs slipped between her legs. She opened willingly, trying to bring him closer, trying to merge with him and suddenly engulfing him.

Not letting both their bodies register their intimate joining, he pulled back, then in again. The rhythm dictated by instinct, all coherent thoughts having left his mind when he heard her say those words.

Sam's breathing became erratic again. She bent forward suddenly, releasing a long -almost plaintive- moan, before grabbing his head to kiss him.

Jack thrust one last time, deep, before his head collided with her shoulder. He tried to draw long breaths but somehow the oxygen could not fill his lungs enough for it to reach his brain.

He slipped his arms underneath her in a close embrace and rolled onto his back.

After a long moment during which they both tried to get control of their thoughts and breathing, he felt Sam's lips curve against his chest

He caressed her hair softly and squeezed the nape of her neck a little to make her look at him.

"Same here..." he croaked.

"What?" she asked, amused.

"Same feelings," he answered.

"Want to spill it out?" she teased.

"Carter," he warned.

"Sam," she said, a shadow clouding her eyes for one second.

He sighed, then cupped her face in both his hands and kissed her lips gently.

As they pulled apart, he looked her in the eyes, "I love you, Sam," he said in a voice she had seldom heard him use. A voice she knew was the deep ‘Jack O'Neill', the voice he used when he held her in that hospital room the year before, and then in the observation room not so long ago.

She smiled lovingly and snuggled even closer to him.

They remained hugging until Jack realized he was on the verge of falling asleep. There were still a few things they needed to attend to...

"What do you say you go take a shower while I order something to eat? You can use my bathrobe, I'll take the towel."

"Mmmm, always the gentleman!" she purred missing his warmth as he got up. "I'm in the mood for Thai!"

"Thai it is then!" he said from the corridor.

She heard him on the phone as she stood up and went to the bathroom.

::::::::::::::

Jack, who had donned an old tee-shirt and sweat pants, paid the delivery boy and went to what passed for his living/dining room.

Government apartments -at least his and a few others to his knowledge- were generally meant for people who did not hold big receptions. Adjoining the single bedroom and bath, he had that big room which was divided artificially by furniture. A counter defined a small but functional kitchen.

Sam was reading a magazine, still in his robe, with her legs tucked underneath herself on the sofa.

"Food's here, Sam."

She smiled, put the magazine down and stood up.

He arranged the boxes on the counter, opened two bottles of beer and beckoned for her to sit on the counter stools.

They started eating in companionable silence, both too hungry for anything else. Jack watched her with a slight smile tugging at his lips.

Sam noticed his stare after a while and stopped eating. "What?" she asked, grinning.

"I was just wondering how much of you I know..."

"You know a lot, Jack..." she replied, resuming her eating with enthusiasm.

"It doesn't freak you out?" he asked, sincerely surprised.

She paused once more and looked at him. "Does it freak you out that I probably know as much of you, Mr. ‘I've-got-a-titanium-shield-around-my-heart'?"

He chuckled. "It freaks me that you know so much and still wanna hang out with me!"

"See? Not much difference there, I haven't got a very healthy boyfriend track-record as you might recall..." She dismissed the comment, looking in his box for extras.

He gave her the box and watched while she used the chopsticks to put the last of his noodles in her mouth. "I'm thinking Minnesota... A cool cabin in the middle of the forest, with a pond and fish..."

She took a gulp of beer, dabbed at her mouth with a tissue, and looked at him quizzically. "I know, I've been there, remember?"

"For the settings..."

She looked at him frowning.

"I know I still have to get you an engagement ring but surely you haven't..."

"May 17th..." she interrupted him.

"What?"

"The date: May 17th... Don't ask me why, I just want to marry you on May 17th, the day just popped out into my mind, it must hold some significance ..." she shrugged.

Jack smiled broadly. "Do you think we should invite the president?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively as he stood up and started gathering the remains of their meals.

She imitated him and rounded the counter, reaching for the trashcan underneath the sink.

"General Hammond too, Cassie, Daniel and Teal'c of course..." she resumed.

"Thor?"

"In that case I can't invite Mark," she said.

"He's gonna' be offended if we don't..." Jack replied, making a face.

"Well, Mark is my brother," she put her hands on her waist, staring at him defiantly.

"Are we having an argument?" he asked, his brow creased by quizzical wrinkles.

"Looks like one, yes..."

He smiled goofily and opened his arms wide.

"God, we're so domestic!" she said and laughed as she melted into his embrace.

THE END

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