Earned
by indie





EMAIL: indiefic@hotmail.com
DISTRIBUTION:  Ask first.
RATING: NC-17
CHARACTERS: Sam/Jack, mentions of Sam/Pete, Jack/Other
SPOILERS:  Everything through Season 8 “New Order” and a whole lot of conjecture and speculation on my part.
TIMELINE:  Several years after “New Order”
DISCLAIMER:  The Stargate SG-1 universe is property of MGM, World Gekko Corp, SciFi Channel and Double Secret productions. No copyright infringement intended.  No profit is gained from this work.

***

For the first time in a very, very long time, he doesn’t play stupid.  He doesn’t feign confusion.  He simply looks at her, shocked, but not too shocked to see her when the doctors finally release him.  He nods.

He knows she wishes she could say something angry and crass but that’s not her way.  Instead she stands there taking in the fluorescent lights, the vaguely antiseptic smell and the lovely view of downtown Colorado Springs.  She has no right to be here.  No claim exists between them, spoken or otherwise.  They both have other people warming their beds.

But after ten years, she has so. fucking. earned this.

In the elevator she hits the level for the parking garage.  He doesn’t ask.  He doesn’t want to know if she took a cab here or if she had Daniel or – god forbid, Pete – drop her off.  The elevator slowly descends and neither of them speaks and that, at least, is normal.  They’re great at maintaining silence while their worlds fall apart.  Not that his world is falling apart, not really.  Mostly he thinks that it’s about goddamn time.  He appreciates that mother nature is finally taking care of something that neither he nor the goa’uld could seem to get right.

Except that when he looks at her face, when he sees how pale she is underneath her rage, how tightly her fists are clenched together and how it looks like she hasn’t slept in the two days since she was last on-duty, he thinks that maybe there is a pretty big down side to all of this.  He’s also sure it’s all Walter’s fault, nosy little bastard.

The parking garage is largely devoid of people despite the fact that it’s the middle of the afternoon and the busy medical complex’s garage is packed with cars.  He heads for the truck, knowing there’s no way she could know where it’s parked.  When they get close enough for her to see it, he simply digs in his pocket and hands her the keys.  He doesn’t say anything and neither does she.  There is no lingering as their hands graze each other.

She climbs inside the truck and is waiting for him long before he finally situates himself in the passenger’s seat.  He winces because regardless of the fact that he’s endured torture far more physically painful than this, despite the fact that the Air Force spent a whole lot of money training him to be able to disconnect these sensations, he is not, after all, an emotionless military drone.  He’s earned this pain.  He also thinks that maybe showing her he’s weak isn’t such a bad thing; even if it hurts her.

He can hear her swallow, can hear her sharp intake of breath as she stares blindly out the windshield.  “You were just going to drive yourself home.”

It’s not a question and he wonders if she ever really asks questions because as far as he can tell, she always has all the answers.  He knows he’s pretty far gone if that doesn’t even irritate him.  “Yeah.”

“That’s really fucking stupid.”

He’s not sure which shocks him more, the omission of the ever-present sir or the curse.  Despite the fact that he knows she could eat nails for breakfast if she had to, he’s never heard her use that word.  Mostly, he just thinks it means all bets are off.

He knows that should worry him more than it does.

“Yeah,” he replies.

He watches her face pinch into a scowl, but she still won’t look at him as she turns over the ignition and then slowly backs out of the parking space.  It’s a few moments before he realizes that she didn’t adjust the mirrors or the seat and then another before he realizes it’s because she doesn’t have to.  Then there’s the weirdbutnotinabadway realization that she’s really fucking tall which segues into the knowledge that she can handle a P-90 just as well as him and she could probably take him in a knife fight and jesus Carter could be really fucking hot if he’d just let himself notice these things.  Which is exactly why he doesn’t let himself notice these things.

She pulls out into traffic, slipping on her sunglasses and he knows she’s not gripping the wheel that hard because driving makes her nervous.  Part of him wants to feel bad for upsetting her, but most of him is just a cranky old man and goddammit, he’s the one who’s dying here, not her.  Which, if he’s honest with himself, is exactly the way he wants it.  As asinine as it sounds, he can survive his death a whole lot easier than he could survive hers.  And no, he doesn’t feel guilty about that.

“Does Stephanie know?”

“No.”  And he doesn’t feel guilty about that either.  But maybe – just maybe - he feels guilty about not feeling guilty.

“You’re a real piece of work, Jack.”

It’s going from bad to worse, first with the omission of sir and the curse and now the Jack.  Not to mention she sort of spat it at him.  He really thinks that maybe he should bring it back to the General O’Neill and Colonel Carter level but he just doesn’t feel up to it.  They’re miles from the base and the amount of water under this bridge could turn Abydos into a tropical paradise.  Besides, her self-righteousness is just a cover – and a flimsy one at that.  Yeah, so he’s being a jerk about the whole Steph thing, but truth is, Carter isn’t being much better.  If she were really so damn concerned about his girlfriend, she could have just told her where he was or she could have given her a ride.  Carter didn’t do any of those things.  She came by herself.  And he knows in that moment that it wasn’t Pete that dropped her off.  He considers asking her how Teal’c likes his new car stereo but decides against it.

“So I’ve been told,” is all he says aloud.

He can almost hear her teeth grind together and that makes him perversely happy.  He realizes that though he thought he was resigned to this, apparently he’s a little pissed about it and that makes him even crankier.  He doesn’t want to be pissed about leaving her.  Not now.  Not when she’s married to someone else and he and Steph have actually talked about getting a place together.  Besides, it would still be against the regs. Happily ever after was never something they could have, not with each other and probably not with anyone else either.  He wonders at just how much of a schmuck Pete Shanahan must be to live with this state of affairs, before remembering that he does pretty much the same thing himself.  Jack knows that a lot of times it’s just easier to settle.  Mediocrity can be pretty comfortable if you don’t let yourself think about it.

He doesn’t usually think about it.  Except that he is right now.  And that is very dangerous indeed.

“What is it?” she asks.

He considers playing dense, but it would just piss her off.  Plus, he’s sick of pretending to be an idiot.  So he says, “Leukemia.”

She swallows again, blinks too quickly and he can see her lips moving the slightest bit as she runs scenarios in her head.  He doesn’t know why she bothers.  He knows she’s already run them because if she knew where he was today, then she knew why.  (Walter is so dead.)  She already knew what he was going to tell her.  But Carter needs to hear it from the source.  He knows it has something to do with her mom’s death but he doesn’t know why he knows that.  He won’t let himself linger on the matter because that is something that Daniel does.  They all have their roles to play.  Secret of any good team.  He’s the one that blows up shit.

Was the one that blew up shit ...  Fuck.  He hates thinking about himself in the past tense.  Now the only contact he gets with high powered explosives is when he signs the requisitions.

The drive is silent and that’s okay because they aren’t good at chitchat.  It would imply a level of cordiality, of affability, that has not been a part of their paradigm for a very long time.  Their relationship is a lot of things, but easy and superficial aren't counted among them.  They don’t banter. They stumble and slip and cut each other to shreds with their devotion and indifference.

“What did they do?”

“Spinal tap.”

She turns and looks at him with this expression that he’s only ever seen her give McKay before and his eyes drop to the floorboard as he tries to melt into the seat.  She calls him a few choice – and very audible – words under her breath as she turns her attention back to the road.  Maybe driving himself had been a stupid idea, but what else is new.  Besides, he doesn’t really feel that bad considering he’s dying.

She doesn’t speak to him for the rest of the trip, but eventually she pulls the truck into his driveway.  They get out and she hands him the keys.  He considers asking her how she’s getting home, but she’s Colonel Carter, team lead of SG-1, second in command of the whole damn SGC, and he thinks maybe asking her something so mundane would be an insult, so he doesn’t.  He cocks his head toward the door.  “Coming with?”

He figures it would be a wry look if he could see her eyes behind those glasses, but she follows him up the steps.  He doesn’t even ask, he just hands her a beer, opens one himself and then says, “I’m supposed to drink carbonated liquids,” to stave off her reprimand.

It doesn’t work.

“I doubt your doctor had beer in mind.”

He tilts his head and sighs dramatically.  “Yes, well, we all have disappointments in life.”  With that, he’s walking down the hall and sitting gingerly on the couch, remote in one hand, beer in the other.

Sitting down on the opposite end, she leans back against the armrest, huffing in irritation.  She tosses her sunglasses on the coffee table.  “You’re really just going to sit there and pretend everything’s fine,” she says incredulously.

His eyes are glued on the TV as he tilts the bottle and takes a long drink, choosing to take her comment at face value.  “Feel fine,” he replies.  And really, he does.  He figured that after they siphoned off a few ounces of spinal fluid that he’d be feeling a lot, well, worse.  Yeah, he feels like shit, but he’s felt like shit for a long time now and this isn’t anything he can’t handle.

She doesn’t argue with him, but she doesn’t get up to leave either, so he figures she means to play nursemaid for a while.  Steph’s in Santa Fe visiting her mother, so he doesn’t have to worry about her walking in on his not-even-a-little-bit-compromising position with Carter.  He knows Carter already knows this.  (Shooting would be too good for Walter.  Jack figures he’ll stab him to death with a number two pencil because if he wanted anyone to know about this he would have used the damn military hospital, not paid out of pocket for that upscale sawbones he’s seeing.)

He looks over at her and frowns.  “I’m starving,” he says.  “Pizza?”

It isn’t an order, but you wouldn’t know it from her reaction.  She respects his rank even if she’s pissed at him now, but that’s not why she’s already in the kitchen, dialing.  She has never been comfortable with inaction and he knows that she needs to be doing something, anything right now.  She doesn’t ask what he wants because after ten years of working together, that would be coy.  Colonel Samantha Carter is not coy.  She knows what kind of pizza he likes and she orders it.

She’s still sitting there on the couch when the pizza finally arrives.  He’s still pretending to watch hockey.  They eat in silence and he notices that she has given up pretending to be distracted by the game.  Once she's finished inhaling her pizza, she’s up and pacing around his den; she looks at pictures and the other odds and ends he has laying around.  Steph’s presence in his life and home is noticeable, but not overwhelming.  She’s a grown woman with two kids in college, her own consulting company and a condo on the other side of town.  She doesn’t seem to be too interested in marking her territory, which is just fine by him.

Carter’s still standing, looking at the picture of him, Sara and Charlie when she finally says, “What about the Asgard?”  She doesn’t even suggest the Tok’ra – and he knows it’s not because of the most recent treaty collapse.  He wouldn’t do it again, even for her and what a waste of fucking time that argument would be.  Carter’s an idealist.  She always will be an idealist.  But this life has taught her futility.

He picks up the remote and clicks off the TV.  He also turns to look at her because after ten years, she’s earned that too.  “I didn’t ask,” he replies.

“Why not?”

He shrugs.  “It’s not exactly world-in-peril stuff,” he says.  “People get cancer all the time.”

She shakes her head, glaring at him as she crosses her arms over her chest.  “You don't have to," she says flatly. Her posture is defiant. "Why are you doing this when you don't have to?”

He looks at her, trying to muster even a fraction of the righteous anger she feels over his illness.  He can’t.  Sighing deeply, he runs a hand through his hair.  “I’m tired, Carter,” he admits quietly.

His gentle confession throws her and the angry scowl is gone.  Sighing, she stands there, looking first towards his kitchen and then out at his deck.  Her hand impatiently combs through her regulation-short locks and she can’t seem to meet his gaze.  She sits down on the couch next to him, her fingers laced together in her lap.  He can tell she’s trying not to fidget.  “Sir – “

He groans.  She stops.

She takes a breath, then another.  “Jack,” she starts, her voice strained.

“Carter,” he says with an exasperated sigh.  He looks at her, half rolls his eyes.  “Don’t try to talk to me like I’m Daniel,” he says flatly.  “We’re not buddies, Carter.  We never were.”

Her head jerks back like he hit her and – dammit – that does make him feel guilty.  He wasn’t trying to be cruel, he was just being honest.  She is so many things to him, but a buddy isn’t one of them.  A buddy is someone you can grab a beer with, catch a game.  A buddy is someone who will listen to your bullshit – and buy it.  Carter is his partner and ally and enemy.  She is everything he never knew he wanted.  He can never, ever have her.  And they are not buddies.

She takes a breath that sounds suspiciously like a sniffle and sits up straighter, steeling her expression.  “I always thought ... “  She falls silent for a moment and Jack almost has to smile.  Ever the model soldier, these words terrify her, even now.  These words are dangerously close to betraying the code of honor by which she has lived her entire life.  He loves her for that, for the integrity which perversely means he can’t love her.   But there has always been a reckless edge to her too.  An edge that compels her to ride motorcycles and participate in interstellar races and to work side by side with someone who could be her undoing.

When he thinks about it, he supposes Carter isn’t the perfect soldier after all.  Maybe she’s just a coward.  Like him.  But a coward with a flawless military record and a heart that no one can touch.

She swallows thickly and the reckless edge wins.  “I always thought we meant something to each other,” she says in a quiet tone that completely belies the enormity of her words.

So not what I said,” he informs her dryly.  His bad mood isn’t improving and his back hurts, so he stands and paces around the room.  He looks out the window, but it’s dark outside and light inside and Steph’s propensity to actually clean the damn windows means that all he sees is his own reflection.  And hers.  She’s still sitting on the couch looking like he mowed over her puppy.

He lifts the beer to his lips and takes the last lukewarm swallow.  He looks down at the empty bottle dangling from his fingertips.  “You never changed your living will,” he says.

He watches her reflection shift on the couch before she says, “No.”

He half turns to face her, knowing he’s about to be a total jackass and not really caring.  Secrecy is an absolute necessity in what they do.  But damn if it isn’t a hell of a way to get out of having those uncomfortable conversations with your spouse.  He knows that from first hand experience, so he can see the disaster Carter is headed for even when she can’t.  And he’s a sick son of a bitch because that makes him childishly happy. “Why not?”

She stares at him, opens her mouth and then shuts it again.  “I – “  She falls silent.  “You’re still my commanding officer,” she says.

He nods, but his expression is wry.  “So as your commanding officer, you think that I – and not your husband – should be able to say when we pull the plug.”

She takes a deep breath.  “Pete can’t know all of the circumstances,” she informs him matter-of-factly.  She’s using her technobabble tone of voice and he knows she’s hoping that he’ll automatically tune her out and agree to whatever she says.  She doesn’t want to talk about this and he’s about to choke on the irony because why the hell is she here?  “It’s simply more efficient to give you power of attorney.”

“Sure it is,” he says.  He isn’t going for it.  He looks down at the bottle again, thinking that at the very least, he can recommend a great divorce lawyer.  “You know,” he says flatly, “I don’t worry about Pete.”

“What?”

He looks at her again.  “Pete,” he says.  “I don’t worry about him.”

Her brow pinches and he smiles mirthlessly.

“Marty,” he muses, his voice a little harder, a little more sadistic than he's ever let slip.  “I used to worry about him.  A lot.”  He shrugs.  “Pete ... not so much.”

She frowns at him because she’s finally figured out where he’s going with this.  "Martouf had a bond with Jolinar."

He shrugs.  "And with you.  More of one than Pete does."  That pisses her off and he's glad because he hates being the only one angry.

"Martouf was a friend," she qualifies tightly.  "Pete is my husband."

He merely replies, "Marty had more potential."

She's mad now, on her feet.  He turns to face her, free hand shoved in his pocket.  She opens her mouth to say something that would no doubt be scathing, but then she closes it again, frowning at him.  He knows she could tear him up one side and down the other, but he she won't do it.  Carter has never been good at feigning insult and that's what this would be.  Plus, even given her rage, it’s not her style.  "A lot of ... things happened to me between knowing Martouf and meeting Pete," is all she says.

He looks at her now, in silence.  Neither of them breaks eye contact.  Yep, he’s an ass because he's not about to hold back.  Not now.  Not when he knows that those things to which she’s alluding include za’tarc detector and a brief stint as Thera.  "Pete know about Marty?"

She shifts her weight from one foot to the other.  "No."

He lifts both eyebrows.  Really an ass.  "Jolinar?"

She crosses her arms over her chest.  "No."

"Hmm."  He marvels, for a moment, at the fact that Pete can have so much of her and at the same time, nothing at all.  This is why he doesn't worry about Pete Shanahan.

He finally looks away and slowly heads toward the kitchen, needing more beer.  She stands there for a moment, in the middle of his living room, before she turns and follows.

He has just popped the top off the bottle when her hand closes around it.  Pointedly, he looks down at her hand wrapped around his and says, "There's more beer in the fridge, Carter."

He looks up and meets her eyes, meets the shockingly undisguised anger in them.  He's been baiting her for years, but he never expected her to take it.  He swallows thickly.  Reckless, very reckless, his Colonel Carter.  "Isn't this the part where Teal'c and Daniel show up with donuts?" he quips uneasily.

"Shut up."

And then her lips are on his and her arms are around his neck and he doesn't know where the hell the damn beer went.  He was wrong earlier, so wrong.  This is why he has never worried about Pete Shanahan.

She took a hell of an initiative, he'll give her that.  But he is a guy after all.  No, more than a guy, he’s the man.  He turns her around, pinning her against the kitchen cabinets as he threads his fingers through her hair and pulls her head back to give himself better access to her mouth.  She makes this sound that's half moan, half whimper as he kisses his way along her jaw, down her neck.  Her hands tug at his shirt, pulling it out of his khakis.  Her short fingernails bite into the small of his back, pulling him closer, always closer and he doesn’t care how much it hurts.

With a frustrated growl, he pulls away from her and then he's tugging her down the hallway to his bedroom.  He flips on a lamp and urges her toward the bed. He won't let himself think about the fact that Stephanie is the one who bought the bedspread they’re laying on.  It doesn't matter anyway.  Carter has exactly as much to fear from Steph as he does from Pete and he-she-they have so fucking earned this.

Her skin is softer than he imagined, more delicate and the way she arches against him.  Jesus.  If he had any clue that she would respond like this, he would have been court-martialed years ago.

Thoughts of court martial aren’t enough to stop him.  It’s not because he doesn’t respect the regs.  He does.  He’s respected them long after he stopped respecting himself.  It’s just that it doesn’t matter.  Not anymore.  He’s dying and this is going to be a useless death.  More than a decade of throwing himself heedlessly in harm’s way in the hopes that his exit could serve some greater good and he’s reduced to this;  a slow, wasting, undignified swan song.

She whimpers and he abets her removal of his shirt before quickly divesting her of her own.  He looks down at her mussed hair, swollen lips and heaving chest.  She’s wearing only a black bra and a pair of black pants, her shoes abandoned somewhere in his living room.  She’s beautiful, truly breathtaking and he wonders how long it’s been since he allowed himself to appreciate that fact.  For so long she has been beyond objectification.  She isn’t defined by the color of her hair, the curve of her hips or even her sex.  She simply is.  Carter.  His Carter.  She is reason and knowledge and empathy and passion.  She is the logic to his instinct, the compassion to his stoicism.  A complement.  Always a complement.  Always on his six.  Always his 2IC.

She isn’t his friend.  She’s his other half.  His touchstone.  His heart.

And she is here now like never before.

His kiss is slow, gentle, and he can feel the change in her, the tenderness.  Her fingers sift softly through his hair and he groans just a little, his hand rubbing lightly down her arm.  He’s on his side, stretched out next to her, leaning over her and she shifts her body, half rolling toward him.

Everything hums and this seems so very surreal.  He can’t believe she’s really here, can’t believe these are his calloused hands skimming across her delicate flesh.  Their lips meet again and again, tongues tangling, breath mingling.  He sucks at her bottom lip and he can feel her smile, feel her hand wrap around the nape of his neck, urging him closer.  She notches her thigh against his hip, pressing closer, opening herself to him.

His hand skims down her stomach, quickly unzipping her pants and then – slower – exploring beneath the material.  She moans into his mouth, her hips jerking closer to his questing fingers.  Fuck.  He rolls her onto her back, his hand still caressing her through her panties as he latches his lips around her fabric covered nipple.

“Jack!”  Her back arches, her fingers tightening in his hair.

He feels her move and shift and then suddenly there’s no longer a bra in the way and his lips are on her vulnerable flesh and jesus fucking christ.  Her nipple tightens against his tongue and his fingers venture underneath the silky material of her panties and she’s wet, so wet.

“Fuck, Sam,” he groans, his body shuddering as his lips abandon her breast for her neck.  The position gives him better leverage to use his fingers and – jesus - his fingers have never been put to better use.  He parts her slowly and her flesh is so, so slick.  She bucks against him again, her breath rushing out between clenched teeth.  He is slow, careful and she whimpers, her arms locking around his neck.  His thumb circles her clit while his fingers venture lower, dipping inside her body.  God, her heat, her smell.  He nips along her jaw, sucks an earlobe into his mouth, all the while never faltering in the motions of his hand.

She turns her head, capturing his lips and kissing him deeply, urgently while her hips rock against his hand.  One of her hands holds his head in place, the other’s fingers bite into the bare flesh of his shoulder.  Her breathing is labored and he can tell she’s close.

She stops him, her fingers circling his wrist.  He wants to die, because she's changed her mind.  She's realized why this is just wrong, and he doesn't know what he'll do, now that they've come so close and still not crossed that line.

But she isn't stopping him.  Fighting to catch her breath, she pins him with unfocused eyes.  “No,” she breathes, her lips wet and swollen, “not without you.  I want you inside me when I come.”

He abandons all sense of sanity at that point.

Not that he had much to begin with.

He lets her roll him over onto his back and he watches with avid interest as she slips out of her pants and panties.  Painfully aroused, he sucks in a sharp breath as her hands find the fly of his pants.  Her eyes catch his and she’s no longer dazed.  She bites down on her bottom lip, her eyes dropping to watch her hands.   She’s slower, careful as she eases down the zipper and slowly works the material down his hips, khakis and boxers.

He thinks that maybe there should be some awkwardness, the two of them finally naked in his bed, but there isn’t.  He reaches for her, his fingers skimming along her ribs.  She smiles at him then, warmly, softly, maybe a little shyly and he has never – never – loved her more.

He breathes her name as he pulls her closer, his hands framing her face, guiding her lips softly to his.  Her arms are braced on either side of his chest, her knees straddling his hips.  She’s close, but god, not close enough.  His left hand threads through her hair, tightening in the soft strands so he can control her movements, maneuver her so he can deepen the kiss.  His right hand skims down her torso, finding her hip and digging urgently into the soft flesh.

She pulls back a little, blinks at him and whispers his name against his lips.  Bracing her weight on one hand, she uses the other to find his rigid flesh, stroking him lightly.  His neck arches, his eyes falling shut as her fingers skim along his sex.  She doesn’t tease.  She strokes him once, twice, then she’s guiding him into her body and holy shit, he has to open his eyes.

She looks at him as their bodies join, skin flushed, lips parted and eyes wide.  Her hands are splayed against his chest  He tugs on her shoulders, pulls her down across his body so he can taste her lips.  Bracing his feet against the bed, he uses the leverage to drive into her.  She moans, her short fingernails biting into the corded flesh of his shoulder as her tongue tangles wetly with his.

Over and over, he thrusts up into her until she finally has to move.  She pushes herself up, bracing her hands on the mattress.  She's not sitting up and not laying against him, just sort of hovering in between.  She's close enough that her nipples brush against the coarse hair of his chest and she gasps, throwing her head back as her internal muscles clench around him.  He can't prevent an answering groan as he momentarily loses pace.

She's desperate now, frantic and he can feel her straining for release.  He urges her back until she's sitting astride him and he uses his fingers to manipulate her clit in time with the rhythm of their hips.  Her head has fallen back, her closed eyes pointed toward the ceiling, but as she gets closer, she has to look at him.

He watches it build, knows it's coming.  She falls forward, pinning his hand between their bodies, her lips catching his as she cries out her release into his mouth.  He feels her ripple around him and he doesn't hold back, joining her in oblivion.

It's a long time before they're coherent again and even longer before either of them is inclined to move or speak or do anything that would cement the reality of what they just did.  But human physiology is what it is and she's isn't exactly light as a feather and he isn't exactly the most comfortable pillow, so she eventually moves, curling onto her side against him.

He groans in discomfort.  Shit, his head and back are killing him.  Without a word, she half rolls over and digs a bottle of Tylenol out of his nightstand, placing it on his chest.  He doesn’t ask how she knows it’s there, wonders if she knows about the Codeine in the medicine cabinet or the Voltarol in his desk at work.  He takes three capsules without water and tosses the bottle somewhere on the floor.

They look at each other for a long time and he reaches out to smooth back a lock of sweat-slicked hair.  Her eyes meet his for a moment and it's so vulnerable, so open that he can't breathe.  But then it's gone and she laughs mirthlessly as she rolls over onto her back before sitting up, pulling her knees up to her chest.  "Fuck," she curses, her forehead resting against her knees.

He reaches out, his hand tracing down her spine and he says, "Don't."  He doesn't like her this way, doesn't like the unCarterlike coldness that she finds so necessary to get through this.

She doesn't say anything but he can feel the slightest trembling in her body.  He knows she's trying to compose herself, trying to guard herself even as she's sitting here, naked in his bed.  Finally, she takes a deep breath and looks over her shoulder at him.  Her eyes are wet and she swipes absently at them with the back of one hand before asking thickly, "Are you okay?"

There are so many answers to that question.  He settles for, "Yeah."

She's awkward now, looking around the room, courage fading and terror mounting.  She grabs a shirt - his - and shrugs into it, needing to cover her nudity, needing to create some distance where none exists.  He doesn't share the sentiment.  He's sick of running.  He watches as she turns, sitting cross-legged facing, but not quite touching him.

More composed now, she looks at him.  Her voice is steady as she asks, "Is this a problem?"

He knows what she's asking.  She doesn't want to know what he thinks about his girlfriend, about her husband.  She isn't even asking if they're going to be written up or if they've just given the NID their secret weapon.  What she wants - needs - to know is if he's going to be around for the fallout.

He takes a breath and exhales sharply, crossing his arms behind his head.  "They want me to start chemo next week," he says.

She's impatient, agitated.  She rakes a hand roughly through her hair.  "And?"

He looks away, frowning.  "Don't know," he replies.  "I'm still thinking it over."

"Dammit, Jack," she curses, wrapping her arms around herself, biting down on her bottom lip as she blinks quickly.  She takes a deep breath and releases it in short puffs, eyes on the ceiling as she tries to stem the tears that won't stop.  She looks down at him, cheeks wet, eyes so very luminous.  "Please, Jack, if you just … "  But she trails off, looking away.  Time is short and regrets are long, so she looks at him again.  "Please," she says with such vehemence, such longing.

Please take the chemo.  Please live.  Please don't tear apart her family again.

But her plea is more than simply a request.  It's a promise too, more of one than the physicality they just shared in his bed.  Things have shifted, changed, and they may not be cowards any longer but he wonders if they’ve both gone completely insane.

He reaches out, puts a hand on her knee.  "C'mere."

He knows she's tired.  Tired of being strong and angry and scared.  She curls against his side, one of her legs thrown over his, head pillowed on his chest.  She sniffles loudly and he gently caresses her shoulder.

"Say yes, Jack," she whispers.

He buries his nose in her hair.  He's never been able to say no to her and mean it.

He still can't.

"Yes, Sam."

There are more tears now.  They're better than last time but he really just wishes he could stop making her cry.  He can’t.  And maybe, in the end, that’s okay because despite all the pain and miscommunication and anger, they’re finally here and he knows they’ve earned it.

END

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