Janet had required Sam to stay in the infirmary overnight for observation so that the drugs she'd been given earlier had a chance to clear her system. But the tiny doctor had ultimately confessed that she was as concerned about Sam's mental health as much as her physical. After all, it had been one of her tougher days - from thinking she was a programmed assassin to publicly declaring her feelings for her commanding officer to being forced to kill her friend and ally - Janet told her she was surprised she hadn't broken down completely.
For her part, Sam was surprised that her CO hadn't come to check on her, but she assumed he was probably trying to put some distance between them considering their earlier confessions. Still, she couldn't deny that she was disappointed. She'd told him that she thought everything could stay in the room, but she was seriously starting to doubt the wisdom of that decision. She needed him, now more than ever.
So, when Janet finally released her the following morning and she stopped by her lab to gather some things before taking off for a week of leave (thanks to Hammond), she felt a tinge of hope when she saw a piece of paper resting on her keyboard. On it, there were only two numbers, but she knew immediately whose handwriting it was, and she was fairly sure she knew what the numbers represented. An invitation.
She waited until she got home, then plugged the numbers into a GPS mapping program. Sure enough, the program pinpointed a spot in middle-of-nowhere, Minnesota. When she zoomed in she could see that the location was adjacent to a small body of water.
She checked on flights to Minneapolis, letting a smile cross her face before she rushed to her bedroom to throw a few things into a bag. If she left now, she could be there by early evening. As she packed, her mind drifted back to the first time Jack had asked her to accompany him to his cabin.
In retrospect, she was convinced the invitation was a mistake. The deer-in-the-headlights expression he'd had when she attempted to confirm that he wanted her to join him, coupled with his obvious relief after she declined, should have given him away then. At the time, though, she was too shocked and too thrilled to recognize the situation for what it was.
Yet she never forgot the look of heady desire overlaid with earnest anticipation she saw briefly cross his features after she'd followed him into the hallway, half convinced that she should change her mind. And she was quite certain he was trying to do just that before Thor unexpectedly beamed him away.
Since then, they had often played a flirtatious yet cautious game, a parody of sorts of the original chain of events. He'd tease her with feigned invitations to join him for a little fishing, sometimes pursuing her for days, all the while completely safe in the knowledge that duty and honor would consistently drive her to decline.
Except now the invitation was real. Now she had accepted.
She was already in the rental car on the road to the cabin before the magnitude of what she was doing hit her. The further she drove, the more she began to second guess her decision to come, and her thoughts returned to the moment she was forced to admit to a room full of people something she hadn't even really admitted herself.
The Tok'ra's expression remained cool, and Sam focused on her, refusing to look at the man who had just been in her position and was now staring at her intently as she sat strapped to the chair, the laser from the za'tarc detector trained on her right eye.
Anise continued her questioning. "You realized you were trapped."
"Yes," Sam replied.
"What happened next?"
"Colonel O'Neill returned and began trying to break down the force field, but nothing he did had any effect." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She'd been certain she was going to die. "I knew the timer on the C-4 was about to go off. I begged him to go."
"But he refused to leave you."
"And how did that make you feel?"
Even though she knew it was coming, the question caught her off guard. She hesitated slightly. "Frustrated, angry, sad..."
"Carter," Jack said, drawing out her name in warning, his eyes glued to the increasingly reddening display.
She thought back to the way he'd looked at her across the shimmering force field. If she were being honest, it wasn't so much his verbal refusal that convinced her that he wasn't going to leave; it was the expression on his face. Because even though he hadn't said a word, it was crystal clear to her then that he loved her - and that realization had led to whole series of emotions that were completely incongruent with the rest.
Sam looked up at Jack, and he met her gaze, his features softening with her next words. "A part of me was relieved and...and happy," she finally said quietly staring down at her hands.
Anise furrowed her brow. She clearly hadn't anticipated that response. "Happy? Why?"
Sam paused before slowly bringing her gaze up to meet Jack's once again. "Because I knew then that the Colonel felt the same way for me as I do for him."
The Tok'ra glanced at the screen and was apparently satisfied with what she saw. She inclined her head ever so slightly in Sam's direction. "You are also not a za'tarc."
Of course, she and the Colonel had agreed almost immediately that they would keep their confessions locked in that room.
And yet here she was, driving to meet him alone at his cabin, their military careers and the future of their team be damned. Her stomach clenched suddenly. What were they thinking? She shouldn't have come.
But it was too late to turn back now. She'd already turned off the main road onto a glorified dirt trail that was proving to be somewhat of a challenge for her two wheel drive sedan. The sun had set a half hour ago, and it was dark in the trees. The lights on her car came on automatically.
Just up ahead, she could see a small log house, a warm glow emanating from the windows. As she pulled up, the front door opened, and her commanding officer stepped out and leaned against the doorframe, wiping his hands on a dishtowel and looking like heaven in jeans and a flannel shirt.
He smiled at her. "Hungry?" he asked, as she got out of the car.
"Starving," she replied, and suddenly all of her fears melted away.
He took her bag, and she followed him into the cabin. The aroma of something cooking on the stovetop almost overwhelmed her. She didn't know what it was, but it smelled delicious. He brought two bowls of what she could now see was homemade chicken soup to a table already set for two. She looked up at him, surprised.
"How did you know I was coming?"
"I didn't." He gave her a half grin. "But I was hoping."
He gestured toward the table, and she sat down to a wonderful meal. "Thank you, sir."
He snapped his head up to look at her. "I have just one rule at the cabin, Sam. No rank. Okay?"
She smiled and ducked her head. "Okay, Jack," she said softly, trying out the name and finding that it sounded strange and slightly illicit coming from her lips.
They talked over dinner but carefully avoided discussing work, and especially anything dealing with za'tarcs or the Tok'ra. Instead, she told him about moving around the country with her father and he regaled her with stories about summers at the cabin when he was a boy. By the time they were done eating, he had her laughing uncontrollably.
She quieted after a minute, and he looked up at her, his eyes sparkling. "C'mere. I wanna show you something."
He extended his hand to help her up, and she took it. He didn't let go as he led her out onto the porch, then around back, toward the pond. Standing on a small dock that extended over the water, he glanced skyward and looked at her expectantly. It only took a second before she saw it.
"Oh! Is that...?"
"Uh huh," he replied. "It's unusual to see it this far south, but sometimes we get lucky."
She gazed at the night sky, in complete wonder. She knew all about how the aurora borealis was formed - highly charged electrons from the solar wind interacting with elements in the Earth's atmosphere along its magnetic fields - but nothing had prepared her for the magic of seeing it in person. As she watched the heavens dance with the blue-green lights, Jack put his arm around her waist and pulled her to him. She leaned into him and placed her head on his shoulder.
"We're in trouble, aren't we?" she whispered after awhile.
"Yeah, I think so," he replied quietly.
This wasn't supposed to happen. She wasn't the kind of woman who fell for her CO and he wasn't the sort of man who fell for his subordinate. They certainly hadn't planned it. In fact, they'd spent the better part of the last three years trying their best to resist it. But in the end, neither one of them could control their hearts. Before, they'd thought it would be dangerous to acknowledge their feelings for each other, but now, after the za'tarc fiasco, they could see that it was equally dangerous not to.
She turned in his arms, and he brought a hand to her face, letting his fingers trail along her jawline. His eyes traveled down to her lips and back up again, and then he was kissing her and she was kissing him back, and though it had started gently, it rapidly progressed to something far more heated, as the bonds of long repressed desire were suddenly loosened.
They made their way into the cabin and across the open living space, kissing and touching and shedding clothing along the way. By the time they'd reached the bedroom, they were nearly naked and completely aroused.
Jack ran his hands over Sam's bare shoulders and down her back, as her hands came to rest on his hips. He stilled his movements and put a sliver of distance between them. It had occurred to him that they were about to cross a point of no return.
He leaned his forehead against hers and tried his best to slow his breathing. "I'm all in here, Carter," he whispered, "but if you have any reservations about this, I need you to tell me now."
She shook her head. "No. No reservations. None..."
He sighed her name softly, pausing for just a moment longer before giving in to his desire for her completely.
With a few well-orchestrated movements, he divested them of what remained of their clothing. After that, they spent several minutes exploring with lips and tongues, hands and fingers.
The way he touched her was completely unexpected - soft, almost reverent. What little higher reasoning skills she had left were devoted to pondering the inherent contradictions of this man she thought she knew so well.
The same sharp tongue that had routinely lashed both friend and foe was now delicately licking her ear. The same lips that had spoken such harsh criticism of their detractors were now gently sucking the skin of her neck and breasts. And the same hands that had snapped necks and fired more rounds of ordnance than she could count were now cautiously probing the damp area between her thighs.
In every single one of her fantasies, he had taken her quick and hard. Not that she'd have complained if that had been how it had happened. There was, after all, something to be said for that method, too. But she'd had no idea that a man with such sharp edges was capable of this kind of slow and purposeful love making.
The thought made her dizzy with desire for him.
Several long minutes later, as she lay completely naked on top of his bed, his hard body pressed to hers and his long fingers trailing fire through her slick folds, she realized that she was dangerously close to losing all control.
"Jack, please," she panted, and he immediately stilled, giving her a moment to get her erratic breathing under control.
Knowing inherently what she wanted, he carefully positioned himself on top of her, nestling his hips in the cradle of her thighs and pressing against her ever so slightly, giving her one last chance to stop him before they crossed that final boundary.
Sam's heart beat wildly as overwhelming desire was tinged with the slightest hint of trepidation. Even now, she couldn't keep her mind from sorting through the various ramifications of what they were about to do, about what it could mean for them, their team, the program. But this night was about the two of them and only them, and Jack wasn't about to let a misplaced sense of guilt ruin it for her.
"Don't think," he whispered directly in her ear.
Like everything else he had done for her that night, it was exactly what she needed.
She gave one passing thought to all that happened before and what inevitably was to come, then let go, her eyes closing and her head falling backwards in ecstasy as he pushed himself deep inside her and began to move his hips in a slow and sensual rhythm.
Oh god, he was going to make this last.
Sam was the first to admit she didn't have a wealth of sexual experience. Not counting a couple of ill-advised one night stands, she'd really only had three lovers, and none of them had been particularly awe inspiring. Oh, they'd been serviceable for the most part, but they'd always moved with a single minded purpose: to get her from point A to point B by the fastest means possible.
But this! This was something completely different.
Within seconds, she was in sensory overload. Over and over, he took her right to the edge only to suddenly back off. Then he'd start all over again, taking his sweet time and hitting all of her most sensitive spots, causing ripples of pleasure to permeate her body and push her ever closer to her breaking point.
After a while, she began to lose all track of time. She only truly appreciated how long they'd been at it when she realized that the sheets were soaking, but whether from sweat or tears or other fluids, she had no idea. By then, she was shaking with the need for release. Desperately, she cried out his name.
He was either nearing his end as well or had simply decided to take pity on her, because when he struck up his rhythm this time, his movements were faster, harder. This time, he didn't let up, allowing the crescendo to build until she was quite sure she couldn't take one second more. With a cry of ecstasy, she suddenly lost herself in wave of pure pleasure that left her blissfully mindless as it rippled through her like an unending tide.
Somewhere, in that part of her consciousness that was always calibrated to him, she knew she had taken him with her.
Several minutes later - though it might have been hours, she couldn't be sure - she became of aware of her surroundings: his comforting weight resting on top of her, his uneven breath tickling her ear, his rapid heartbeat keeping time with hers as it slowed. She stirred, and he lifted himself onto his elbows. He stared down at her, and the love and satisfaction she saw in his eyes made her breath hitch.
He brushed a damp tendril of hair from her forehead. "Hey," he whispered.
"Hey," she whispered back. He began to move off of her but she grabbed his arms in an attempt to hold him in place. "Don't," she said.
He eased back down and looked at her, concerned now. "You okay?"
She smiled. "Yeah. I just...I want to stay like this for a while longer."
He returned her smile. "Okay." He leaned down and and gave her a gentle, lingering kiss, first on her lips, then her eyelids, and finally along the graceful column of her neck. She hummed appreciatively, but almost instantly the consequences of what they had just done began to sink in.
"I guess things just got complicated," she breathed.
He nuzzled her ear. "Was there a time when they weren't?"
He rolled over and pulled her to him. "Sam," he began, wrapping his arms tightly around her. "I have been in love with you for almost four years now. I should have stepped down as your CO the second I knew, but...it seemed like things were working just fine." She felt him shrug. "From my perspective, nothing has really changed. But if you feel differently..."
She raised her head quickly to look him in the eye, cutting him off. "I don't. You're right." She snuggled back into his embrace, laying her head on his chest. "I guess we've been breaking the spirit of the rules for a long time now..."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I think so. But if this makes you at all uncomfortable, we can stop it right here."
Her chest tightened. Now that she had him, she couldn't imagine letting him go. "I don't want to stop."
"Okay, then. We'll just take it slow."
She snorted. "A little late for that."
He pulled back to look at her again, a half grin plastered on his face. "Oh, I don't know. After that roll in the hay, I'm pretty much ready to move straight to the minivan and a house in the 'burbs, but if you want to wait..." She laughed out loud at the image that conjured. He gave her shoulders a squeeze and settled back into the pillows. "We can do this. We'll just have to be careful."
"You sure?" she asked, still uncertain.
"I'm sure," he replied without any uncertainty at all.
She smiled into his chest, truly happy for the first time in years.