TITLE: "After All"

AUTHOR: Little Red

RATING: R, for sex, violence, language

CATEGORY: Sam/Jack, angst, romance, challenge fic

SPOILERS: Jolinar gets mentioned, but this fic isn't related to anything in particular. Early season 7.

WARNINGS: Unnecessary roughness. Talk of torture. Parts of this really aren't nice.

SUMMARY: They had always managed to avoid this before.

DISCLAIMER: The dolls belong to more important people, I just play with them and make them talk.

FEEDBACK: feed me back at mylittleredgirl at gmail dot com

ARCHIVE: Please! Fire me off an email so I can visit and feel cool.

CHALLENGE: Nobody else answered my "Little Red hates poetry" challenge, so I did. The challenge was to write a fic in some way inspired by a published poetic work and include the complete text of the poem either before or after the fic, theoretically as a way to widen my poetic horizons. The poem that inspired this, despite the lack of wildlife contained herein, is Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese," written out at the end.

DEDICATION: For A.j., just because. Now here's hoping she likes this sort of thing.




So this was what it came down to.

Silence clamped around her naked body like a vise, punctuated by the sounds of someone else breathing next to her and the whirring of heat traveling through an unfamiliar house, and she thought this, this was where she had finally gone wrong.

Neither of them was sleeping, and Sam doubted either of them could. They had both dozed for a while, the body's natural response to coming down from sex like that not giving them much of a choice, but Jack had started stirring long minutes ago and she was all but playing dead.

He shifted next to her, sitting up, and she wondered if he was leaving. They were in his house, so it wasn't like he could go far. Actually leaving would be up to her; wrong or not, illegal or not, regardless of whether or not he wanted her there in the morning, he was too much of a gentleman to wake her up and kick her out.

If he believed she was still sleeping. She kept her breathing slow, belying the frantic pounding of her heart, and tried to look neutral and relaxed, but he might have been able to tell she was faking it.

He didn't get off the bed, but shifted until he was leaning over her, and she forced herself not to flinch. They weren't touching anymore, but she could follow his movements by the dips in the mattress, the subtle shifts in gravity pulling her toward him. Something warm and heavy crawled up her bare skin, soft and scratchy at once, and she willed back tears as he settled the blanket under her chin.

They had always managed to avoid this before.

She could feel him still watching her, leaning up against the headboard, and she flicked her eyes beneath her eyelids, faking dreams. If she opened her eyes they would have to deal with this, and then she would have to stay, or go.

His breathing, less regular now that he was awake, beat into her from across the bed, translating into a mantra in her head. You screwed up. This time, you really screwed up.

Seven years they had managed to keep their hands off each other, managed to trick themselves into believing that they cared for each other in a way that transcended the physical, and here they were. One mission, if you could call the hell they'd only barely crawled out of a mission, and all of that, every lofty ideal she'd ever held about duty and loyalty and true love and the right thing had come crashing down around her.

They'd been imprisoned for almost a month. He'd been tortured to within an inch of his life and she'd watched to within an inch of her sanity, and then their roles had switched. They had huddled together for warmth at night because they were too far from anything for decorum to matter, and when they'd been separated and put in isolation she had thought of him to keep from yelling out everything she'd ever known about Earth and its defenses and Jolinar and the Tok'ra if only to make them stop. When Daniel and Teal'c had finally found them, when the SGC marines had stormed their Goa'uld prison, when the Tok'ra had run them through their newly acquired sarcophagus over Colonel O'Neill's objections and they'd emerged scar-free and whole, she hadn't said anything.

They'd spent three nights on base under Janet's supervision being pumped full of vitamins and counseling and the paperwork involved in getting back to work, and they'd barely spoken to each other.

When they had gone through the stargate to P4W-683, it had been the tail end of fall, with the last stubborn leaves still clinging to the trees and only the first indications of serious frost. When they came back, it was winter, and there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground. She hadn't even put her snow tires on yet.

They had been released from the SGC and had jumped on each other with all the self-restraint of children in a candy store.

She had followed him to his house, steering within his tire tracks to keep from skidding away on the unplowed roads. They hadn't talked about it. He'd offered her a lift and a hot drink and they were having sex.

Seven years, and that was that.

Sam felt suddenly cold, and she couldn't hear his breathing anymore. She risked opening her eyes and found that he was gone. The room was brighter, too, with the early light of December dawn, and she glanced at the clock and started at how long she'd been there. She had stayed the night. Somewhere along the way, she must have fallen asleep after all.

Pulling the blanket from the bed with her in belated modesty, Sam got herself to standing and over to his bedroom window. Muscles protested all over her body, already complaining after their unusual exertion the night before, and she was reminded of how she'd been beaten for information she both did and didn't have. His truck was still in his driveway, next to her own little car, both covered with a thick sheen of new snow that was still coming down. So he was still there. It was too much to think he would do the right thing without her.

She should get dressed, at least. Thankfully she hadn't left work in her uniform the night before; putting that on now, in her commanding officer's bedroom, would have been more blatant hypocrisy than she could stomach. What she had been wearing, the blouse and slacks she'd worn in to work a month earlier that now hung off her hips and shoulders for all the weight she'd lost, had been all but ripped off. Her outfit and his had been thrown around the room in pieces in their desperate urgency to get through fucking each other before either of them could think better of it. She flinched at the thought -- it wasn't a nice word -- but then, what they'd done hardly deserved nice. After years of pretending that what they felt for each other wasn't sexual in nature, they'd both come hard and fast, screaming out primal nonsense rather than actual words or names. Images of him bleeding out on the floor of an alien interrogation chamber in her mind, she'd torn at his hair and his clothes and scratched and bit him hard enough to draw blood. He'd pounded her into the headboard until she'd broken, cried out into his skin, begged him to take her with him over the edge where she wouldn't be able to think or remember or feel anything at all.

Jack had collected her clothes for her and piled them on his dresser, next to a new toothbrush still in plastic packaging and a fresh towel.

Maybe he didn't want to face her while she still smelled like him.

Maybe he was just being kind.

Collecting the pile of cloth in her blanketed arms, she found his bathroom from memories of less inappropriate times she'd been in his house. She dropped everything on the floor, flicked the lock on the door, and bravely faced herself.

His bathroom mirror was flecked with tiny dots of toothpaste and shaving cream, she noticed, and she looked like hell. Her pale skin was red in places, from stubble rash or the wool blanket. She hadn't been crying, but it looked like she had. Her hair was a mess, but that was to be expected. Even with all the iron supplements Janet had gotten into her, she was anemic after her month on Goa'uld prison food, and bruises were darkening all over her already. Lines like fingers wrapped around her hips and upper arms, starkly visible with her complexion, and reminders of teeth and suction covered her chest and neck. She'd be in turtlenecks for a few weeks. Maybe she would wear them forever, because even after the bruises faded it seemed cruel to ask him to see every day the place where he'd marked her.

He hadn't broken the skin, but she remembered egging him on, wishing he would, hating that her body held no record of being ripped to pieces less than a month earlier. When they were coming down, collapsing together under the weight of their transgression, he'd kissed at the darkening bruises on her neck almost tenderly and held her close in what felt like apology.

Neither of them had said 'I love you.' She wasn't sure that what had happened last night had very much to do with love at all, and suspected that both of them had withheld their softer emotions on purpose. They had raged against each other's bodies like they wanted to finish what the Goa'uld had started. Frustration and anger and hatred had poured through her with an intensity that she had never felt for anyone before, but in spite of all that, when the sensations of her body distracted her, there had been moments when she remembered who she was and forgot what she was doing wrong. As hard as she'd fought against them, there were whole minutes when she'd forgotten her self-loathing long enough for her clenched jaw to relax enough to kiss him, to really kiss him, when she'd felt truly full and feminine and whole beneath his touch, when she'd held his warm body to her and shamefully prayed that he would never let her go.

For an instant, standing naked in his bathroom, she felt only one thing. She wanted him to let her stay. She wanted him to have figured out a way for this not to be wrong, to make sleeping with him anything other than the worst thing she'd ever done.

She was not going to cry.

She brushed her teeth twice, banishing all taste of him with water and spearmint. After rinsing out her mouth, she couldn't help chasing a few stray short gray hairs on his counter into the sink and down the drain. She had the sudden irrational urge to clean his house for him. Her own place was usually a disaster from so many late nights and weekends spent at work, and she didn't even want to think of the state of things growing in her kitchen after a whole month away, but somehow wiping clean his bathroom mirror and herding dust bunnies around his living room with a vacuum felt like it would be important.

Instead, she crawled into his shower and turned it as hot as it would go for as long as she could stand it.




The Colonel -- Jack, she corrected herself harshly; she could hardly hide behind his rank after clawing lines down his back she could still see a little of above his collar -- was sitting hunched over on his couch, watching the snow fall, and it looked like he had been there for a while. An afghan was bunched up at one corner of the couch and she wondered if he'd tried to sleep down here, and if he'd managed to. In front of him on a low table was a cup of coffee, almost empty.

He didn't turn around when she came down the stairs. In the field, his finely honed powers of observation made him always the first one to hear anything approaching, but she supposed it was possible he was so lost in thought he didn't know she was there. She wanted to announce herself before getting too close, but she couldn't figure out what she was supposed to call him. Calling him "Colonel" or "sir" only hours after he'd come inside her would be like a slap in the face, and his first name spoke of an intimacy she wasn't sure they really had. In the end, she settled on "Hi."

Somehow, in just one syllable, she managed to make herself sound smaller and more unsure than she'd perhaps ever sounded around him. She felt small, too, oddly exposed by her bare feet. One of her socks hadn't made it into the pile of clothes he'd retrieved for her, and she had easily decided against rummaging through his dresser for a pair of his to borrow.

He turned his head just enough to see her, but not enough to give her a clear glimpse of his expression. Her throat clenched at the possibility that perhaps she had succeeded in what she'd made herself wish for while she'd been tangled up around him the night before, and that he hated her. "Hey," he said, and waved a hand toward the kitchen. "There's... uh, coffee." His throat sounded rough and dry.

When he said nothing more, she padded into the kitchen to escape the silence, bare feet starting against the ice-cold tile. He'd left a clean mug on the counter for her so she wouldn't have to search for one. The image on the side was faded from washings and advertised a diner, somewhere in Minnesota by the address under the line-drawn picture. Wish I was at Adele's.

She wondered if he expected her to run. The snow building up on her car made a fast getaway impossible, but perhaps he would wait for her to dig herself out and pretend she'd escaped unnoticed.

That was the coward's way out, and abandoning the scene of the crime would only make their next encounter worse. They had repressed a lot in their time together, but she doubted even they could get away with denying this.

There was no way, right now, that she would trust herself off-world with him.

Armed with coffee, she shuffled back to the living room. She stopped before reaching him, unsure of where she should sit. Any other day, facing this decision, she would have sat on the armchair that Teal'c sometimes claimed whenever they were all over here for a team bonding session of one kind or another, close enough to where Jack sat on the couch to not seem as though she was avoiding him, far enough away to keep from looking like she wanted to be close to him. Any other day, she wouldn't be in this situation. She'd never before been alone in his house with him.

A wave of disgust rushed through her as her hesitation became obvious. It was time to face the music. She would have to make some big decisions in the next few minutes, and she could start it off by sitting the hell down.

Starved for proximity, she sat next to him on the couch, but almost hugged the armrest to keep a few more inches of distance. She blew into her steaming coffee and looked anywhere but at him. Incredibly, some stray bits of the pale blue polish she'd decorated her toenails with while watching some inane television show with Cassandra Fraiser on her last day off before the mission to '683 had survived the month. After a moment of contemplating that, she tucked her feet up under her. They were freezing.

She wasn't made for breaking the rules. She couldn't get away with this.

He spoke first. "I didn't want this to happen."

She forced down a mouthful of coffee while it was still too hot, trying to scald away the knot tightening in her throat. She bit down on her bottom lip and resisted the urge to cough. She could only nod a reply, and hoped it wasn't obvious that parts of her wanted to cry.

If either of them had ever allowed themselves to imagine a first night between them, it wouldn't have been like this. This wasn't who they were. He had always respected her boundaries and the boundaries laid down by the organization to which they had pledged their lives. They were supposed to wait. If it happened at all, it was supposed to be later, when it was legal, when it was right. He would have still been there in bed with her when she woke up. She wouldn't have tried to hurt him as he slammed her into the wall and hated him when his kisses started feeling too real. Love wasn't supposed to leave her feeling this empty.

The Far Side coffee mug he'd been slowly turning around in his hands stopped dead and she watched the liquid left inside shudder with the change of inertia. "I could retire," he said, slowly, like he was trying out the words. It was impossible to tell what emotion was behind them, but perhaps she was just too confused herself to listen properly. "Get a medical, even, after that."

"We both could," she replied. They had broken her collarbone in three places. That you couldn't tell anymore, even on an X-ray, felt like a mocking coincidence. She shifted on the couch so she could rub her cold feet back and forth, for the warmth of friction, in a manner she hoped wouldn't draw his attention. He had been through worse, maybe, but she never had. The pain had been like nothing she'd ever experienced, and in its absence she felt completely numb. She could feel the chill of her feet, but it felt removed, like they belonged to somebody else.

"We don't have to..." Jack sighed, and she felt her heart quail and her stomach twist against the coffee. "This doesn't have to change anything."

He was trying to do the right thing, and it felt like her last stable piece of earth was being pulled out from under her.

And he was lying. If it ended like this, if that was the only strong emotion she would be allowed to feel for him, she would end up hating him. Unresolved, their emotions made it irresponsible to serve together in the field. It hadn't been that way before. He'd sunk his teeth into the skin of her chest where the Tok'ra had healed her and she was no longer able to love him only in theory.

She could lie, too, or at least, she could keep from telling the truth. "Is that what you want?"

He didn't answer her, and she looked up to watch the play of muscles tensing along the side of his face.

Suddenly she wished she'd sat on the armchair after all. This close, she could smell him, even over the coffee. The scent of his soap and skin had long ago descended into background noise for her, since she worked so closely with him so much of the time and all but lived inside his personal space in tents off-world, but now her body knew him in a whole new way. Unaware of the magnitude of the choices on the table, of the way its actions were constrained by policies and codes they had both sworn before God and country to uphold, her body recognized him and was completely clear about what it wanted.

She started moving her feet again, less for warmth this time than for the nervous energy making her skin crawl and her pulse race.

She didn't think she could remember to try and hate it again, if there was a next time.

"I'm gonna ask Hammond for a medical leave," he said, like he'd been thinking a lot about it. He met her eyes for the first time, and she was stunned to see the same kind of overwhelming emotions, so many and so intense they almost became white noise, that she'd seen in her own in his bathroom mirror. He didn't say it out loud, perhaps worried she'd take it as an order out of habit, but his thought was clear: you should, too. "I think it's obvious neither of us are thinking as clearly after... coming back... as we said we were," he finished awkwardly.

They had both pleaded for immediate reinstatement and, with their physical wounds completely gone and with orders in place for regular counseling, General Hammond had reluctantly permitted it. Sam didn't know about Jack's sessions, they hadn't been to counseling together, but she imagined they went like hers. The questions were all leading, prying, almost willing her to break down. She fed the doctor bread crumbs, taking almost a perverse pleasure in keeping the darker bits of what had happened to herself.

"Probably a good idea." The SGC had survived without them for a month; it could last another week. It would give them both time to think. This would be clearer, later. It had to be. She couldn't always feel like this.

His eyes drifted to her wiggling feet with her smatterings of leftover toenail polish and he set down his coffee mug to pick up the afghan from the other side of the couch and bunch it over her bare skin. Wordlessly, she shifted so her back was against the armrest, ignoring the way it dug at a sore muscle she'd somehow pulled or bruised the night before, and she curled up around her bent knees to watch him pack her feet in blanket with undue seriousness.

Maybe it wasn't clarity she was longing for. She had never been so clear on this one thing in her life, and it scared her too much to accept. She had never trusted her heart, never proved to be working for her best interest, like she trusted her brain. Things had been easier when her feelings were more complicated, and duty had been the logical conclusion she'd superimposed to fill the gaps.

Long years ago, she'd convinced herself she was bigger than this, that what she wanted out of what amounted to little more than an overblown crush was nothing in the face of what the world was asking of her. If it was real, it would survive on its own untended until her life and her conscience allowed her to get back to it. If it didn't, she wasn't losing much, anyway.

In one month and one night, all of that had been turned on its head. One half of the legendary SG-1 had been captured in an ambush on a survey mission and reduced to shivering, bleeding mortals in a matter of weeks. She had turned out to be nothing but human after all. And as a screwed-up, fallible human being, robbed of her comfortable ideals by a single soul-chewing month, she couldn't help it. She wanted to be loved more than she wanted to be good.

He left his hands where they were under the guise of holding the afghan down or keeping her warm, one or the other, and she wished she knew what to say.

Having stayed up the night considering it, Jack was better prepared. "You've been due your own command for awhile now." He pinched at the woolly fabric and she watched his hands instead of his eyes. "I know you're waiting for SG-1." She wanted to open her mouth to object, to argue that she hadn't stayed with the team for this long because she wanted his job but because she loved it, but something in his voice told her that this was a speech and that any interruption would be unwelcome. "I won't be in the field for much longer, anyway. Hammond and I have been talking about a training center. We have options..." he hesitated in a way that was unusual for him. "... if that's what you want."

He didn't say it aloud, but they both knew none of these options came without grave sacrifices. Even if Jack stepped down, there was no guarantee that General Hammond would give her SG-1. She had earned her merit badges off-world, but Major was a far cry from full Colonel and she lacked long-term experience commanding her own team. Leaving the flagship unit, even to command, would mean scaling back her importance within the program and, possibly, given the value of her expertise, slowing down the acquisition and development of new defense technologies. For Jack, retiring from field duty to sit behind a desk and evaluate trainees would be like being put out to pasture and, although he was probably right that it was inevitable, he had at least a year of the front lines left in him. The way he'd borne up under torture told her that.

No matter which course of action they chose, if they were together their reason for doing so would be obvious. With that on their records, figuratively if not literally, in the modern Air Force it was more than possible that neither of them would ever be promoted again.

Not to mention the fate of the world. That had hung in the balance more than once and been pulled back only by SG-1's combined actions.

She had to say something, she realized, no matter how it came out. "I don't know." He nodded, squaring his shoulders against disappointment, and her heart screamed to give him something more to go on, something more than just a pat response. "It's a lot to think about." It was. It sounded trite, even to her, but her career had been her entire adult life. It shouldn't feel this tempting to give up. And if they made that choice, if she accepted the possibility of never making General and he gave up his last year under the gun to play with intars and schedule training exercises, should it really be that easy? It didn't feel like enough of a sacrifice for being able to be with him without guilt. It seemed impossible that this could be allowed to end well for them.

She'd broken every rule, personal and professional. She had been in love with her commanding officer, in varying degrees of deniable intensity, for at least four years. She was one of those women the collegiate feminist in her had once railed against, the ones whose pathologies about authority figures made them want to lie on their backs for any alpha male who bossed them around, but this wasn't about his rank and, to date, she'd only spread her legs for him once. She'd been all but broken in half in that Goa'uld prison, blindly yielding up secrets she'd sworn on her life to protect when deprivation and torture had made her forget herself for one or two unforgivable moments. They had both violated their long-unspoken agreement never to take this too far, but she was the one who had followed him home. She loved him, when all the cover stories were pushed aside, and, so twisted up by everything in that prison she hadn't been able to walk off and get over and scared to death that she would feel more than she could handle, she'd had the kind of brutal, hateful sex with him she'd once sworn she would never have with anyone.

They weren't worthy anymore, if they had ever been, of a happy ever after. Their affair had been wrong from the start. She deserved to be punished for all of this, didn't she? Now, especially, she didn't deserve to get what she hadn't known she always wanted.

It was wrong, but with the rest of the world blanketed by snow and out of her mind, and her body still actively aware of how he had felt inside her, she wanted only one thing.

He was staring at her, she realized uneasily, and she wondered how many of her guilty thoughts were written all over her face.

"You're beautiful," he said, like it was an apology. He wasn't supposed to think those things. She'd been as vile as she could to him in bed the night before, as far from beautiful as she could muster, so that he wouldn't be able to. Even so, he didn't look away, watching her with a kind of open wonder, like this was the first time he'd ever let himself notice.

It had been so long since she'd heard something like that from anyone, and because she'd never allowed herself to expect to hear it from him, she didn't know how to respond. She hadn't felt beautiful in a long time, not since she'd sat around painting her toes with Cassandra a month and a lifetime ago, and maybe not even before that. Her first reaction had been to say, "You are, too," because he was, and because parts of him had been even as he'd tried to hate her the night before in his bedroom, when he'd driven inside her like he wanted to break her open. Trembling in the face of that much honesty, so unfamiliar between them, she swallowed a long drink of coffee to steady her tongue.

"I don't want you to have to give anything up for me," she said, fingers itching so badly to run through his hair, to trace his jawline where it was no longer fractured from a Jaffa kick to the face, to renew the brief moment of physical connection they'd had the night before, that she balled them into fists around the fabric of her pants and the handle of her coffee mug.

He looked like he was fighting the same urge. "I will, though."

"You'll hate it," she countered immediately. "Playing training games with the recruits instead of the real thing."

He frowned, because he knew she was right. "Maybe. But I've known it was coming for awhile. And if... God, Carter, if you want this..."

God, she was weak, and undeserving, but she nodded blindly, helpless in the face of the magnitude of what she was being offered. He wanted her. With everything she was, after everything she'd done, he really still wanted her.

He touched one of her hands, gently, to reassure himself or her of their tenuous connection, and her whole body trembled at the contact. She wanted to love him slowly, to atone with open hands and gentle kisses for what she'd done to him the night before, to trace the invisible scars all over his skin with nothing but gratitude that they were both still alive.

All this had started too quickly, and she held herself back now the way she hadn't been able to the night before. "You should call the General about leave," she reminded him. Jack was still her CO; he could make a recommendation about leave for her as well without it sounding suspicious. And General Hammond knew enough about what had happened to them to know that they had been through hell.

He nodded, hand still resting awkwardly on hers. They weren't quite holding on to each other, but she relished the warmth. "Want a lift home?"

"I can't leave my car here." Could she?

"Won't be much use to you anyway 'till the storm clears up. We can stop off for groceries on the way. I need stuff, too."

At even the mention of food, her stomach, which had never gotten used to being fed only once a day while they were away, growled audibly.

He grinned at her, and the tension breaking was like a watershed. She hadn't seen him smile since before they'd left for P4W-683. "Or breakfast? Things are walking around in my fridge, but I've got some waffles in the freezer that should be safe."

She smiled too, a little, and followed him into the kitchen like it was normal for her to be there, not minding the cold tile so much this time. He found the waffles and, after blowing off a thin layer of dust from the top of the appliance, popped them in the toaster while she opened cupboards until she found the one that held plates.

"We'll figure something out," she found herself saying, a statement and a question in one. They had saved the planet before with minutes to spare. In a week of medical leave they could certainly come up with a way to sort themselves out at a cost they could both live with. She wasn't going to have to give him up.

He touched a hand to her shoulder in reassurance, and before she knew what she was doing, she wrapped herself around him. He tensed for a moment at her sudden closeness, perhaps afraid they'd try to maul each other like they had the last time they'd been chest to chest, but when nothing bad happened he relaxed and brought his arms around her back to hold her. "We'll be okay," he promised, his heartbeat soothing and remarkable in her ear.

They stayed that way until the waffles popped up.




"Tell me what they did to you."

Sam surprised herself by asking. In all her daily counseling sessions, held over the phone for the two days the blizzard had lasted and she'd been without a car, she consistently refused to talk about it. In those two snowbound days by herself, she had cleaned her entire house from top to bottom. She had needed the solitude to regroup, to see if these changes were what she really wanted or only the result of having been knocked so off balance that she would cling to whatever was nearest, no matter how unstable. She scrubbed at her home with Lysol and bleach until she was exhausted, and all that remained inside her was a feeling of unfathomable grief for all that she had lost, and hopeful wonder for all that remained.

The muscles of his chest, beneath skin still slick with drying sweat, tensed under her cheek at her question. His thumb ran over the now-fading dark patches on her neck from the week before. This was better, with her whole body spent and buzzing warmly and dozing against Jack without fear that he wanted her anywhere else, but she supposed that they had needed something less than perfect for that first time. In the end, they were both only human. "You know what they did."

She did, mostly. She'd seen it all until the last ten days or so, when their captors must have determined that solitary confinement would break them more easily than a shared torment.

She wanted to hear it from him. She found herself reaching for one of his hands to hold, an almost ridiculously innocent gesture while they were lying naked and tangled in her bedroom. The gun calluses that felt almost magical on her skin, igniting her nerves like nothing else in her life had ever done, were beautiful to look at as well. Her own hands were equally rough, and permanently burn-scarred in places from soldering mishaps and electrical shocks, but she'd never really studied them like she was doing to his now.

"Tell me," she implored.

Instead, Jack shifted beneath her, gently dragging one of his knees up the tender inside of her thigh. She shivered at the spark of pleasure it sent through her, still amazed that her body could feel anything other than pain.

He maneuvered her head up to meet his and she let him distract her with kisses, long and wonderful between breaths. He filled her with a warm want, so that she would be content to lie here with him like this, only kissing and touching and exploring and holding for hours at a time without losing interest. Her chronically overactive mind went fuzzy when he touched her, banished to chatter away quietly to itself while all of her attention was focused on him and the unlikely new ways he made her feel.

Both still sleepy and content from earlier adventures, their mouths slowly broke apart until they were only lying there, smiling faintly at each other.

Even through his smile, he was watching her intently, and she knew he hadn't forgotten what she'd said, even if he hadn't responded.

Something dark and sinister left inside her pushed against the comfort she felt in this room, and she said it aloud. "I begged them to stop."

He pulled her into his arms and she buried her nose in the hot, salty skin of his neck, focusing on sensations, unwilling to disappear back into numbness just because she remembered. She had held on as long as she could, but more than once toward the end all dignity had left her in the face of blood and cold and shattered bones. She had never thought she would break so easily.

He kissed her hair and brushed it back from her face. "So did I." They all had their moments of weakness.

That was all. She didn't want to push him, and she'd already said all she could herself for one day.

Sensing their moment of catharsis was over, Jack slipped away from her with a kiss to her forehead and fumbled around on the floor for the quilt they'd kicked aside. It was still daylight outside, the three feet of clean snow on the ground giving an added blinding glare to the brightness, but a nap was definitely in order. As he crossed her bedroom to close the room-darkening blinds, she followed his naked body with her eyes and allowed herself a possessive grin. He was hers. For a moment, she felt incredibly grateful, for his sake if she was still confused about hers, that the Tok'ra had pieced them both back together again.

Unaware of her musings, Jack crawled back into bed and she straightened the blanket over them before snuggling close. She shifted around for a comfortable way to sleep, listening to his breathing calm and slow.

Now that they were no longer fooling around to distract it, her brain began worrying her with concerns.

The next morning, they were meeting with General Hammond.

She propped herself up on one elbow and looked down at him. "... Jack?" She had been practicing all week, to both their amusements, but this was the first time saying his name felt normal.

Not quite yet asleep, he opened one eye.

"This is worth it for you, right?"

After long nights talking on the phone and in person, discussing command and careers and the decisions before them until it felt like they'd never been anything but honest with each other, they had come up with some livable ideas to present to the General. They were both giving up a lot, but she knew that she was okay with her part of the bargain. They didn't yet know each other so well that she wouldn't have to ask to know how he felt.

"Completely," he assured her, and pulled her back down next to him. Then, to tease her, "You're really hot, you know."

"And here I thought you only wanted me for my mind."

He muttered a chuckle into the skin of her shoulder before trailing a few kisses up her neck and wrapping a leg around hers to pull her even closer. "Think you can sleep now?"

He knew she'd been having nightmares. The therapist had warned her about them. She had her share of experience with nightmares, her own and Jolinar's, but that didn't make it any more pleasant to deal with. At least this time, if it happened, she wouldn't have to wake up from it alone.



He sighed in her ear, and she let him cuddle her closer than she ever thought she would be with him. After everything else, she was safe and in love, and she was with him.

It was completely worth it.

Her last conscious thought was simple, nestled in body heat. Everything would be all right.




AUTHOR'S NOTE: My muse was being all wenchy and uncooperative about my "Second Chances" WIP and then this happened. I have no idea where this came from. This was not at all the fic I had planned for this challenge and this poem. Go figure. I love fraiser_jackson forever for reading all my things first and saying "no, you don't suck!" more than any friend should ever really be asked to do. And Tammy rules and is owed much adulation and fluffy geeky fanfic for beta-ing the heck out of this thing and being really really cool.

LINER NOTES: Mid-fic inspiration provided by "B.P.D." off of OHIO by Over the Rhine. Fic of your choice to anyone who can tell me what that acronym stands for, because I've been wondering.


Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


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