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"I just want to go home."


Jack tensed slightly, though he maintained his casual stance, leaning against the wall. Fraiser was still busily fussing over Sam; it seemed to Jack that she'd subjected Sam to an exceptionally vigorous post-mission exam. Of course, he could understand the Doc's need to make sure for herself that Sam was herself.


"Please, Janet?" Though Sam spoke the words to Fraiser, her eyes were fixed on him. He'd barely let her out of his sight since they'd left the planet. Partly because her initial energy spurt after being 'fixed' by Nirrti's machine had been temporary, but mostly because he found he couldn't leave her. His post-mission meeting with Hammond had been extremely brief, but the General had seemed satisfied...and understanding.


"I don't know, Sam."


Jack focused once more on the two women in front of him, he could tell the Doc was wavering.


"How do we know for sure your DNA is stabilized?"


"I know, Janet. I can feel that everything is like it should be."


Her voice trembled slightly and Jack felt all his protective instincts roar back into life. He straightened up. "Doc?" He didn't say anything more, counting on Fraiser to use that great intuition she claimed to possess to read between the lines.


Fraiser's head turned towards him, and whatever she saw in his face must have satisfied her because she turned back to Sam. "All right, you can leave." Sam sat up and Jack forced himself to remain where he was while she slowly stood, even though everything in him screamed to go help her, but he couldn't if he wanted Fraiser to go against her better judgement and let Sam leave. If it was obvious to him that it took every bit of strength she possessed to stand, he knew Fraiser could see it as well. Sam walked slowly, but steadily towards him and he silently followed her.


"Colonel?" He stopped and looked back at Fraiser's concerned face, aware that Sam had also stopped at the sound of the Doc's voice. "Call me if anything happens." He nodded, neither confirming nor denying her assumption that he'd be with his major. Placing his hand protectively at the small of Sam's back, he once more urged her forward.




Jack glanced uneasily at the silent woman sitting next to him, the gentle green glow of the dashboard lights reflecting eerily on her pale, sad face. Her passive behavior now was as unexpected as her initial enthusiasm after being fixed by Nirrti's diabolical machine. Jack turned his attention back to the road, but his thoughts stayed on Sam. After leaving the infirmary, Jack had gently herded her to their locker room, staying close enough to help her if needed, yet careful to stay far enough away to not arouse the suspicion of anyone they passed.


Once inside the relative safety and privacy of their locker room, Sam had done nothing more than stand listlessly in front of her locker. When they'd left the infirmary, he'd only had a vague plan of making sure Sam got started safely to her home, since that's what she wanted. But she was once more scaring him and so he'd bundled her into her jacket and he took her to the surface. She had walked doggedly beside him past all the checkpoints and guards, but as soon as they were out of sight of the surface gates, she had sagged against him. She still felt as light and insubstantial as when he'd carried her to Nirrti's machine and he put his arm around her, bypassing her car and guiding her to his truck. He'd practically lifted her into the truck, fastening the seatbelt securely around her passive form.


They'd be reaching the turn off for her subdivision soon. Jack glanced at her again and decided to keep on going, no way was he going to just drop her off at her house and leave her there alone! He sped on past the turn and she had to have noticed, but she didn't say anything; her only reaction the subtle relaxation of her body into the seat and the unclenching of her hands, where they lay in her lap.


Quickly and efficiently covering the remaining miles to his house, Jack finally pulled the truck into the drive. His passenger continued to sit silently while he turned off the ignition and jumped out of the truck. Opening the passenger door, he reached across her to unfasten the seat belt. Her eyes opened and he found himself staring right into their deep blue depths.


"Hey," he said quietly. "We're home." He knew it wasn't quite true, they were at his home. But, her lips curved in a slight smile and when she nodded, he felt some of the tightness in his gut dissolve with her acceptance of his decision. He helped her out of the truck, and she leaned heavily against him while he shut the door. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asked, concerned now that maybe Fraiser had been right in wanting to keep her longer in the infirmary. Maybe everything wasn't quite as it should be, in spite of Sam's assurances that she was normal. Pushing the morbid thought away, Jack waited for a reply. He finally felt her head move up and down against his shoulder.


"Just tired," she whispered. "I'm just so tired."


He could hear the weariness in her voice, had seen it in her posture, and knew exactly what she meant. He was tired too. Tired of nothing ever changing and tired of watching his people die....




Sam stood in the foyer, too tired to be anything more than bemused at finding herself in the Colonel's house. He'd left her standing by the front door with a quick, "I'll be right back," as he'd gone down a dark hallway. Lights came on, she could hear movement and the distant sound of water running and then he was back by her side. He'd taken off his jacket—and his shoes and socks—she noted. She couldn't see his face clearly in the dim light of the foyer, but his hand was warm when he took her oh-so-cold one in his much larger one and she meekly followed him when he led her down the hallway.


She barely had time to take in the quiet comfort of the muted earth tones of what could only be his bedroom when she found herself in the bathroom. The running water she had heard earlier was the shower. He closed the door behind them and the room slowly filled with steam, the heat a delicious warmth on her still-chilled flesh. While the heat felt good, she knew it would only warm her on the surface...she wasn't sure what could warm the chill she felt deep in her soul. Sam stood quietly where Jack had positioned her, still bemused, watching while he stripped off his black T-shirt, unfastened his belt and tugged at the fly of his BDU's. As tired as she was, she still felt a thrill run through her at the sight of his naked chest. She started to tremble, but not just from stress or fatigue. She knew she was incredibly vulnerable right now, the mere fact of her presence in his bath room—with a half-naked him—testament to that! But, she didn't care. After everything that had happened, and not happened, she was still here...with him. And she wearily suspected that he was the only one who could chase away the chill she felt deep inside.


Sam suddenly realized he was tugging on her the sleeve of her jacket, pulling it off her unresisting body. "Sir," she murmured in confusion; longing, tiredness—and desire—warring with a belated sense of propriety as he pulled her T-shirt out of her pants, his hands warm against her waist.


"You're filthy, Carter." She obediently lifted her arms while he pulled the T-shirt over her head. "So am I for that matter." She brought her hands up to her breasts in a futile gesture of modesty when he efficiently stripped her of her bra. He ignored her though, his large hands deftly sliding to the waistband of her pants, tugging her belt free, the buttons sliding easily through the worn buttonholes.


"Sir," she tried again, her willpower melting when he looked up at her from where he knelt at her feet.


"It's okay, Sam." He smiled at her, that one that always melted her heart and then bent his head back to his task, her boots and oh-so-filthy socks joining the growing pile of discarded clothing on the floor. If she wasn't so tired, she'd be totally humiliated that her commanding officer, no—the man she loved, was handling her dirty, smelly socks. He stood then and gave her a crooked smile while he tugged her pants down her hips. She reached out and rested one hand on his shoulder when he coaxed each foot up and pulled them free of the garment. His skin was so smooth and hot and she suddenly had the urge to touch more than his shoulder! He looked at her and smiled again as he stood, this time his hands going to the waist of his pants. She let her hand fall away as he pulled them and his boxers off in one smooth movement.


She actually felt the blush start to rise from her breasts, up through her chest to her throat and face. He reached up and caressed her cheek, the touch feather light and incredibly...comforting. Just like every time he'd touched her since being captured by Nirrti. She shivered helplessly and then gasped as Jack pulled her into the shower.


Oh god, her senses were assaulted on all fronts as the hot water beat down on her. It felt so good on her aching bones and sore muscles. And his hands, oh god...his hands were everywhere. She could barely support herself and she knew this time, it wasn't solely from tiredness. Leaning heavily against him, she buried her face in his throat while his hands roamed all over her body. He held a bar of soap in one and, using his hands as a wash cloth, he proceeded to wash away all the dirt, grime and sweat from her body. His touch was firm, yet gentle, and she couldn't stop the soft whimpers that escaped from her lips as he thoroughly soaped her body. He shifted then, positioning her so that the hot water beat down on her, washing away the soap and grime. Once she was rinsed off, he pulled her back against his chest, supporting her while he washed her hair. She moaned softly, his strong fingers felt like heaven on her scalp and in her hair as he worked the shampoo through her short hair. It was over all too soon and he held her back under the water, rinsing her hair.


She wanted to protest when he gently pushed her into a corner, leaving her propped against the cool tiles while he washed himself. It had felt so good, being held by him and cared for by him. And now, she couldn't keep her eyes off of him as he ran the soap over his chest, his stomach; the firm muscles bunching and stretching as he covered his lean body with the soap. She wanted to reach out and touch him, but an incredible lethargy seemed to be filling her, brought on by fatigue and the insidious warmth seeping into her body from the hot water and steam.


"Sam." She heard his voice from a distance and opened her eyes, mildly disoriented. It was

quiet—when had he shut off the water? They were still in the shower stall, but he now had a towel wrapped low around his hips, though water still dripped from his hair. "Sam?" His voice held more urgency this time.


Oh god, he would think she was having a relapse and call Janet. She finally found her voice. "I'm okay," she murmured, watching with relief as his features relaxed. "I must have dozed off."


His smile was as gentle as his touch when he wrapped a large bath towel around her, coaxing her carefully out of the shower. She shivered a bit, this time from the now cooling air on her damp skin. What little energy reserves she had used to convince Janet to let her leave the base were now rapidly fading. She somehow managed to stay standing while he dried her and when he wrapped the towel around her and pushed her down to sit on the toilet seat, she was too exhausted to do anything but comply.


"Don't move," he told her. She nodded and he left the bathroom, only to return minutes later clad in a T-shirt and boxers. He held another T-shirt in his hands and realizing his intent, she stood up and let the towel fall, and holding her arms out and letting him dress her. The cotton was soft against her skin, the T-shirt falling to well below her hips. If she was disappointed that there was once more clothing between them, she wasn't going to say anything. At least they were together. She shivered again—and alive. Suddenly needing his touch and his strength again, Sam moaned softly and shuffled closer to him.


"Hey, it's okay," he murmured and then she felt the world tilting as he swung her up into his arms. Looping her arms around his neck, she sighed in contentment and let him carry her the few steps to his bed. The sheets were cool and the pillows soft beneath her when he laid her down. She tightened her arms around his neck when he started to pull away, her expression almost frantic as she tried to pull him down to her. Strong hands gently grasped her wrists, pulling her arms from around his neck. "I'll be right back," he told her, his hand softly brushing her still damp hair off her forehead in a tender caress. He left the room, giving her a brief backwards look and reassuring smile.


Sam forced herself to relax, trying hard not to panic at his departure. She was becoming way too needy...and it was starting to scare her. That she needed him, she had long ago acknowledged, but she had always managed to keep that need tightly under control. Evidently a near death experience was the one thing that could dissolve said control. Oh god, she thought in near despair, they had already overstepped so many spoken and unspoken boundaries that she didn't know how they could ever go back. Well, she amended that thought, she didn't know how she could ever go back. She had foolishly thought she had faced death before, however nothing that had happened before could even begin to compare with the despair and regret she had experienced while she waited to die on 367. A despair that had been compounded by the knowledge that Nirrti intended for all of them to die. No last minute reprieve, no amazing rescue by the Asgard or the Tok'ra, nothing but the bitter taste of death as a victim of Goa'uld experimentation.


She had even lost her ability to have faith in the Colonel's conviction that she would survive. She had so badly wanted to believe him, to trust him as she always did, but Ivanov's gruesome death had shaken her badly. And while she hadn't wanted to die alone, she also couldn't bear the thought of him watching her die in such a grisly fashion. She took a shuddering breath, fighting back sudden tears. They hadn't died; they had somehow cheated death—again. Their luck had to run out soon, she could calculate the probability factor if she wanted. But she didn't want to calculate the probability of their deaths. She wanted to know the probability of their lives—and their life together.


The bedroom door swinging open interrupted her brooding thoughts and Jack appeared, carrying a steaming mug of something.... He looked tired and she felt the stirrings of guilt that he was caring for her when he could use some care himself. He set the mug down on the bedside table and she scooted towards the center of the bed as he sat down next to her, pulling her into a sitting position. It was reminiscent of when they were locked in the cell and she realized she was rapidly getting addicted to his touch, his strength and his warmth.


'Here." He handed her the mug, helping her hold it. Mmmm...soup, and chicken noodle given what she could smell of it and the bits she could see floating in it. It smelled good, but she wasn't really hungry.


"I don't think..."


"Ah, doctor's orders," he interrupted. "Eat. You don’t want to get me in trouble with the Doc, do you?"


She smiled and took a cautious sip of the broth. It was good and maybe she was hungry after all.


"Here." He handed her a spoon and before she knew it, she'd eaten the contents of the mug. Jack took the empty mug out of her hands and then gave her a glass of water. "Drink." She obeyed and when she was finished, he took the empty glass and carefully stood up.


"Jack." She couldn't stop the quiet plea that had entered her voice.


"I'll be back." This time she accepted the relief that flooded through her with his words. She nodded and nestled back down under the covers and waited for his return. Scant minutes later he was back, shutting the light out and sliding into bed with her. She felt dizzy with relief as he pulled her into the cradle of his body, wrapping her in his warmth and strength. She let out a shuddering breath and relaxed into his embrace.




"Shh..." His warm breath washed over her nape, his arm tightening around her. "Go to sleep." And she did, secure that he would be there when she woke.




Sam woke slowly, feeling so warm and safe that she never wanted the feeling to end. But her bladder was calling to her most urgently. She knew where she was, she knew who she was with and instead of the usual rise of guilt that accompanied just the thought of such a situation, she felt nothing but a bone deep contentment. It just didn't matter anymore, after what had nearly happened. But, nature called and carefully extracting herself out of Jack's embrace, she stumbled to the bathroom.


She had barely gotten started when the bathroom door swung open and the overhead light flared on, temporarily blinding her. She covered her eyes, caught between needing to finish what she was doing and finding out the reason for Jack's intrusion. Rubbing her eyes, she shaded them against the light and was finally able to focus.


"You were gone." His chest was rising and falling rapidly and his eyes held a panicked look she seldom saw.


"I'm here," she whispered gently.


He let out a heavy sigh and leaned against the doorjamb, running a hand through his hopelessly tousled hair. He gave no indication that he was going to leave, so Sam finished as quickly as she could. She was vividly aware of his brooding gaze on her while she tended to herself, but he didn't move until she washed her hands. He pulled the towel out of her hands, tossing it onto the floor and then he swung her up into his arms and carried her back into the bedroom. The bedside lamp was on, casting a soft glow on the bed. He laid her back down on the bed and Sam studied his face carefully. He still looked tired; even though the clock on the bedside stand said it was 0500, which meant that she'd had almost six hours of sleep. He looked like he hadn't slept at all.


"Did you sleep?" she asked, her voice soft.


He frowned, slipping into bed next to her and propping himself up on one elbow over her. "A little, why?"


"You look so tired," she whispered. She surprised herself with her next action, even given the intimacy of their present situation. Reaching up, she delicately traced the lines on his forehead, the furrow between his brows. She brushed her fingers through his hair, stroking his nape.


"I wanted to stay awake in case..." He didn't finish the sentence, Sam knew what he meant.


She cupped his cheek. "I really am okay. Hegar healed me, I can feel that everything is the way it should be."


"God, Sam!" His voice was rough with emotion and she found herself suddenly swept into his arms, his face buried in her neck. "I'd rather die myself..." Sam wrapped her arms tightly around him, his whispered words burning into her heart.


"But we didn't." His big body shuddered and she held him tight, not sure how she could comfort him.


"Not this time," he finally muttered. He shifted then, and she let her hands drift down his arms, gazing into his face as he hovered over her. His brown eyes were deadly serious. "But how many times can we cheat fate?"


It didn't surprise her that he was having similar thoughts to her own. They'd been working together far too long, they'd been together far too long. She slid her right hand back up to his face, caressing his cheek. "It doesn't matter," she whispered tenderly. His eyes flashed with a deeply suppressed emotion that she immediately recognized and her heart started racing. "The only thing that matters is now."


His lips curved in a small smile. "Since when did you become someone who lived in 'the moment'?" The question was said with a smile, but there was a wealth of meaning in that simple question.


Sam knew what he meant. She, much more so than he, had been the one to put the brakes on anything that could be construed as a 'relationship' between them. God, not that they had ever had what could be considered a normal kind of anything. She hadn't really had any thoughts regarding her lack of a future while she had been waiting to die, her life was already filled daily with regret. It was something she had gotten used to, even embraced in a strange, sad way. But now...she'd been given this gift of continued life when death had seemed imminent and any future with Jack had been a distant dream. He deserved the truth from her, after all that had happened, it was the least she could give him.


"I love you." It wasn't the answer to the question he'd asked, but it was what was in her heart, so she said it. And in the saying, she was liberated from the self-imposed prison she'd placed on herself and her feelings. He didn't look convinced.


"And you discovered this when?" His eyes and voice were unexpectedly skeptical and she found she couldn't hold his doubt against him.


Sam looped her arms around his neck, trepidation filling her, yet driven to be totally honest with him. "When I worked non-stop for three months to get you back to Earth."


His eyebrows rose and he wordlessly mouthed, "Oh."


She smiled gently. Oh, but she loved this man so, in spite of everything that had transpired between them—or maybe because of everything, she wasn't sure anymore. All she knew was that this experience had shown her that their relationship had reached the point of either change or die, and she didn't want it to die. "It doesn't matter where or when, Jack," she murmured, pressing one hand gently against his nape, urging him closer. "This is what matters." She raised her head the few inches it took to reach his and pressed her lips against his mouth.


Oh god, the first touch of his lips was electric and she tried to draw back because the feelings were too intense, but he wouldn't let her. A low growl sounded from his throat and she was once more engulfed in his arms, his lips hot and demanding as his mouth plundered hers.




Jack wrapped his arms around Sam, settling himself over her, sliding his hair-roughened leg between her soft thighs. He pressed his mouth to hers, running his tongue along her lips until she opened her mouth to him. Sweeping his tongue deep into her mouth, he drank ravenously from her honeyed depths. She tasted so sweet and he couldn't get enough of her. He felt her hands clenching in his hair, her body soft and pliant beneath him and he groaned, easing back and pressing wet, open mouthed kisses along her jaw.


"Sam," he moaned against her throat, sliding his hand urgently down her side to her free leg. Coaxing it up around him, Jack shifted his hips until she cradled him between her slender thighs. It was all happening too fast, but Jack was helpless in the onslaught of emotion that flooded through him. She was alive—and in his bed, in his arms and his emotions were reduced down to their primal level.


One part of his mind dimly realized that she couldn't possibly be ready for him, that he needed to slow down. The part that was currently in control raced on, as he fumbled between their bodies, bunching up the T-shirt she still wore around her hips. He freed his straining erection from his boxers and nudged through her tender folds, seeking entrance. Her hands stilled in his hair and he felt her tense slightly at the first probing touch, but then she sighed his name and relaxed beneath him. Groaning harshly, Jack plunged deep, taking her completely with his first thrust. He heard her soft cry, felt her tender flesh give way to his relentless assault and knew he had to be hurting her, but he was helpless to stop.


Oh god, the sensations were incredible, she was so tight and so willing...and he never wanted this moment to end. But the lure of ultimate pleasure was too strong and tugging her legs higher around his hips, Jack started thrusting heavily. He rode her hard, encouraged by her soft touch and whispered words of encouragement. It didn't take long; he had wanted her for far too long to be able to restrain his passion. With one final thrust, Jack ground his hips against her, a rough cry torn from deep within him as he emptied himself endlessly into her soft depths.


Jack moaned, sinking deeper into the arms of the woman beneath him. Nuzzling her neck, he sighed when he felt her hands stroke gently through his sweat-dampened hair, sweeping in long, comforting caresses down his back. God, he hadn't felt this good in a very long time. Of course, he realized with latent guilt, his pleasure had been obtained at the sacrifice of his lover's. His lover who had almost died less than twenty-four hours ago. "God, Sam," he groaned, raising himself out of her arms, ignoring her attempts to prevent him from leaving her.




Her soft whimper when he withdrew from her tore into his guilt-ridden soul. Levering off her warm body, he sat up on the edge of the bed. He couldn't even look at her, lowering his head down into his hands instead. Shit, he hadn't even undressed her—or himself, just pushed their clothing aside. "God, Sam...I'm so sorry."


He felt the light, tentative touch of her hand on his back. "For what?" she asked, her voice quivering slightly. "For making love to me?"


Raising his head, he turned and looked at her, her forlorn expression compounding his guilt. "No, no," he quickly reassured her, helpless to stop his hand from reaching out to stroke through her soft blonde hair. "Never for that."


"Then don't be sorry," she murmured, her eyes losing some of their caution, their soft blue depths warming.


She was amazing and he didn't deserve her, but he sent a quick thank-you to God that he had her—and he wasn't going to let her go this time. But first...he needed to make it right for her. Trailing his hand from her hair, he stroked his thumb across her lips. "I’m sorry," he paused, giving her a crooked smile, "that I just took you with all the finesse of a teenager with his first woman."


Her lips curved into a smile, the movement a feather light caress against his thumb. "I'm sure you'll make it up to me," she whispered. And when he felt her tongue snake out and delicately licked his thumb, sudden and unexpected arousal flared hot and wild within him. He tugged gently on her lower lip with his thumb, not the least bit worried by the desire growing within him. No matter how badly he wanted Sam, he knew he'd have plenty of time to satisfy her before he'd be capable again.


Cupping her chin with his hand, he leaned down and kissed her until they were both breathless. "I'm going to do my best," he murmured, brushing her lips with light, teasing touches now. "Let me take care of you, now."


"You've been taking care of me," she protested, her voice breaking off in a soft gasp when he bit gently at her ear.


"Not the way I should," he muttered. Sitting back up, he quickly stripped off his T-shirt and boxers. Next, he grabbed the hem of her T-shirt, Sam shifting and moving with him as he tugged it off and over her head. He tossed it carelessly onto the floor with his discarded clothing and then stretched out next to her on the soft mattress. Propping himself up on his side, he simply gazed at her. She was still too pale and the dark circles under her eyes were still there, but she had lost the pallor of death that had been present from the moment Nirrti had used the machine on her.


"What's wrong?" she asked, her expressive features once more filled with concern.


He shook his head, reaching up and lightly tracing his fingers down her throat, running them idly along her collarbone. "Nothing." He smiled lazily; mesmerized by the soft color blossoming on her cheeks as his fingers traced delicate circles on her breast. Her lips parted and her chest fell and rose rapidly beneath his hand, her breath escaping in a soft cry when he finally brushed his fingers against her already taut nipple. His smile grew as he continued to tease and caress the sensitive bud.


Dropping his head to her throat, he kissed a leisurely path down her breastbone, nuzzling her soft flesh, his mouth finally seeking out a turgid bud. Plumping her breast with his hand, he fastened his lips on her nipple, sucking it deeply into his hot mouth. He suckled deeply, tugging and pulling on the tender tip, pleased by the soft sounds of pleasure his touch elicited in his lover and the way her body rose to meet his hungry mouth. Nipping lightly at the now hard bud, he ignored her small moan of protest when he released it, knowing her disappointment would soon be replaced with sighs of pleasure when he treated its twin to the same caresses.


Jack spent long moments feasting at his lover's breasts; delighted that she enjoyed the caresses as much as he enjoyed giving them. Finally leaving her breasts wet and rosy from his mouth, Jack kissed his way down her belly, planting soft kisses on her soft flesh. Sliding a gentle hand down her hip, he gently coaxed her legs apart, shifting down her body in a long, gliding caress until he knelt between her spread legs.


"Jack," she moaned, and he was surprised at the uncertainty he heard in her voice. Her hands fluttered hesitantly around his wrists, before she grasped them, stilling his movements.


"Trust me, baby. I won't hurt you." His voice was rough with emotion, he knew he'd already hurt her more than he'd ever wanted. Jack was lost in the endless blue depths of her eyes for long moments before she finally sighed and released his wrists.


"Yes," she whispered.


Relief flooded through Jack with her acceptance of his implied intent, and he urged Sam to flex her knees even more, pressing gently against her inner thighs until she relaxed her legs, allowing him complete access to her soft flesh. His hands moved almost reverently through her swollen folds, delicately probing and tracing through flesh moist from his semen and her own arousal, searching for the center of her desire. Jack's skilled fingers soon found the hidden bud and before she could change her mind, he nuzzled through her damp curls, placing soft, licking kisses on her sensitive flesh.


She tensed momentarily and whimpered his name, but she didn't stop him. Jack proceeded to apply himself diligently to the enjoyable task of bringing his lover to the climax he had cheated her of earlier. That she didn't begrudge him his earlier release, he had no doubt. He also had no doubt that she would tell him she had found pleasure in his pleasure. Which sounded nice...but didn't please him in the least.


Concentrating on his task, Jack could tell he was pleasing Sam. He could feel the fine tremble in the hand that rested on his head, he could hear her increasing arousal in her soft cries as he sucked and licked her swollen clitoris. Her hips soon started moving rhythmically against his mouth and Jack increased the intensity, sliding two long fingers carefully into her slick channel, stroking her in time with his ravenous mouth. She cried out his name suddenly and Jack wrapped his free arm around her hips, holding her in place while her orgasm crashed through her. Her cries of release soothed his soul, contentment flooding through him even as her orgasm flowed through her and into him.


When her cries finally faded into soft whimpers, and her body lay limp beneath his mouth and hands, Jack released her. She moaned, calling his name almost frantically and he crawled up her trembling body, pulling her into his arms. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck and he held her close. "It's okay, baby, it's okay," he murmured roughly, stroking her hair.


"Oh, Jack," she shuddered again, and he knew her panic was fading when he breathing started to slow and she once more relaxed in his arms. He rolled carefully to his back, bringing her with him and tucking her against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. She nestled close to him, her body a comforting weight against him. Jack stroked her hair; content to simply enjoy the peace holding her brought him.


"What about you?"


"Hmmm?" he murmured. "What about me?" She squirmed a bit against him and the hand that had been idly caressing his chest moved lower, across his firm belly, just brushing against the base of his semi-erect penis. He suddenly understood. "Oh, that."


She laughed softly, her cool hand rubbing persuasively along his slowly hardening length. "Yes, that."


Sliding his hand into her hair, he pulled her head back so he could look into her face. Her blue eyes were sparkling with satisfaction and delight. He grinned at her, feeling more lighthearted than he'd felt in years—or in the last twenty-four hours. "I know you'll find this hard to believe, Sam, but I'm not as young as I used to be." She chuckled and he smiled, tugging gently on her hair. "We're on downtime for thirty-six more hours, plenty of time."


Her eyes suddenly turned serious and she pulled out of his arms, propping herself up on one elbow over him. "And after those thirty-six hours are up? What then? I can't go back to the way it was before, Jack." Her eyes were getting that haunted look again that tore at his heart. "Not after everything that's happened."


"We change," he murmured, finally acknowledging that he didn't want to hold back his feelings any longer, that he couldn't hold them back. It was time to accept the inevitable.


"No matter what?" she asked, her eyes starting to soften and fill once more with the love he realized he couldn't live without.


"No matter what."