I will always love you.

The lights were too bright and the coral colour of the bridesmaids' gowns, chair covers, and other accessories screamed of the 1980's gaudiness. Not even my own wedding colours had looked this terrible, and it was in the 80's. Why on earth he had chosen this colour, a colour that did not compliment anything other than the mother of the groom's own gaudy ensemble was beyond me. Then again, I distinctly remember Sam insisting on a dress of her choice rather than some hand-me-down heirloom from the Shanahan family that apparently belonged to his grandmother.

Looking at Carter as she walked arm in arm with her new husband into the room just plain sucked, but I promised I would be here for her – as a friend. Only I could never be her friend. I was her boss, always had been until two hours ago. Unfortunately, even that had come too late because she was already Mrs Peter Shanahan. She was beautiful. A rare sight to be seen. It didn't matter that the surrounding colour scheme being completely wrong, because she was the only thing in the room that anyone was looking at.

I was going to Washington, finally out of her chain of command, and she was married. Her house – gone, her surname – gone, our dreams of a some day – gone. If I had attended the service, maybe I could have objected, only I couldn't because that was three hours ago, and I was still her boss and in a videoconference with General Hammond and the President about my new posting. I had not even changed out of my dress blues.

Looking at her, I was reminded that all I ever wanted was for her to be happy, and here she was wearing that smile. The one I thought she only wore for me. Maybe at some time, she did wear it for me, but no longer. Not since she came home from being stranded. That trip changed everything. Many times, I had contemplated taking that Ancient time hopping puddle jumper back to stop her from going, or to convince my past self to go with her. Something. Anything to have avoided this, except her voice rang in my head every time that it was a bad idea manipulating time, and things probably would not turn out the way I wanted. Something worse would happen. Maybe neither of us came home. Maybe she was killed, maybe the aliens took her, and I died in the cloud having no idea how to get the Prometheus out.

"Jack." Daniel tugged at my coat, "Why don't you ask her to dance?'

"It's her bridal waltz Danny. I'm not cutting in on her first dance with him." I ground out. God, I couldn't even say his name. "Besides, I'm leaving soon."

"What?! Why, your flight isn't for three days." Daniel exclaimed a little louder than I would have liked.

"I'm driving."

"Since when?"

"Oh, I don't know. Since about thirty minutes ago when I walked through that door." Truly, I had hoped that I would find the hall empty except for one or two key people telling me the whole thing had been called off, or that she had left him standing at the altar. After all, she had come to my house for some reason. Then Kerry chased her away, so they couldn't talk. Then her father died, and they didn't talk. Then world nearly ended, and still, they wouldn't talk.

"For crying out loud… ask her to dance. Talk to her now. Damn, now I sound like you. Jack. If you don't, and you leave…" He trailed off. The waltz ended and Mark took his place in Jacob's stead.

"What Danny?"

"You'll regret it, Jack." He finally finished. "You'll go to Washington never having told her."

"She knows."

"Does she? Have you actually said the words, or do you still think she is some kind of mind reader?" He urged. I looked at him for the first time that night and realised that I had never actually said those three words. I had said 'I cared more than I should', that 'I adored her', that she was 'a very important member of my team', that 'I would rather die myself than live without her', but never ever had I said, 'I love you'. "Ask her to dance, Jack." Daniel pressed as he relieved me of my beer.

"Crap! I hate it when you are right." I muttered as I turned toward the DJ ensconced in the corner of the room to request the only song that I could think would help me convey everything I had to tell her now that she could no longer be mine. The DJ merely nodded and muttered that he'd put it on next, but only because I had a 'flight to catch'.

Taking in a deep breath, I walked over to her – dancing with her brother – and reached out to tap him on the shoulder. "Mark, may I?" I asked with my commander face firmly in place as the song playing faded out. He nodded with a scowl, though I am not sure why. I had only met him once at Jacob's funeral.

"Carter. May I have this dance?" I asked, holding out my hand.

"Don't you mean Shanahan." Mark interjected. I looked at him.

"No." I responded and turned to face my partner. The woman I loved more than life itself.

She smiled, "Yes, Sir." She replied, taking my hand in hers. It was warm and smooth everywhere except those few places that callused from heavy use of the P-90. I had the same calluses.

I shook my head, "Not, Sir. Not anymore."

"Oh, since when?" She asked as one hand slipped onto my shoulder, her fingers tracing the two stars, and the other clasped mine. I smiled.

She was stunning in her strapless figure-hugging ivory dress, the deep ruby coloured vines and beading across her neckline, then traveling in a spiral down her bodice and onto the skirt which was looped around her wrist to stop her tripping over. Her high heeled shoes elevating her to within a couple of inches of my own height. Her slightly longer hair styled into a pixie cut with silver and deep red glitter hair spray and only a touch of makeup to highlight her natural beauty. Spectacular.

"Two hours…" I looked at my watch, "…and thirteen minutes ago." I replied as the song I had chosen began its instrumental introduction. "You look amazing, Sam."

"Thank you, S… Jack." She replied with the smile. My smile. It was different to the one she had worn earlier. Oh, how I had missed that smile.

If I should stay, I would only be in your way.

The words started, and I looked into her eyes.

So, I'll go but I know. I'll think of you every step of the way.

I will always love you. I will always love you.

She looked at me and I looked at her as the chorus made its entrance, the words given power by Whitney Houston's remarkable voice. I smiled sadly as we moved around the floor, ignoring everyone else, our eyes only for each other. Conversing silently as we had done for years. Telling her how much she meant to me, how much I loved her, how much I wished things were different.

You, you, my darling you. Bittersweet Memories. That is all I'm taking with me.

So goodbye, please don't cry. We both know I'm not what you. You need.

Tears sprang to her eyes "Jack?" Her breathing increased to the point that I could feel her try to hold it together. "Please don't. I do… I've always…" she swallowed, unable to finish her words as the chorus filled the room once again.

Her hand slipped from my shoulder to play in the short strands of hair at the base of my neck, sending tendrils of sensation through my whole body. The fingers of our other hands became interlocked and held close to my chest instead of held out for all to see. My hand had moved from her waist to wrap across her back, cradling her opposite shoulder blade. Holding her closer than I had ever dared, closer than I should in a room full of her new husband's family.

I hope life treats you kind. And I hope you have all you dreamed of.

And I wish to you joy and happiness.

Happiness. All I ever wanted was for her to be happy. Seeing her happy, even if it was with another man, had always been my wish for her. Her warm breath washed over my neck; a soft sniffle told me she was barely holding on.

But above all this, I wish to you love.

And there it was. I wished her love. Love and happiness, which was sadly something I had never been able to openly give her, though she had always had it in the only form I could give. Breathing in deep as the drums heralded the finality of the song, I fought to keep it all inside. I was failing. I knew by the end of this, what was left of my heart would take control. Her face tucked itself into my collar to hide the tears that I sensed more than felt. Drawing her head back, I tilted my forehead to rest on hers and looked deep into her blue tear-filled eyes.

You, darling I love you. Oh, I'll always, I'll always love you.

As the final closing words rang out to signal the end of the song with our word - Always - I drew back and kissed her forehead. "I will always love you. Goodbye Samantha." I whispered, then released her and walked away.

"Jack!" She called, reaching a hand out to snag my coat sleeve, she pulled me back. Bringing her hands up to my face, she kissed me firmly on my lips. "I love you too. Always." She whispered. Looking up, I saw Pete and his mother walk up behind her. She had him now. She didn't need me. Giving her one last sad smile, I turned and left.

"Jack." I whispered as he disappeared through the doors. I knew everyone was looking. Everyone had seen us on the floor. Everyone had seen the way we parted. I didn't care. My heart had just walked out the door with him. He loved me. Oh God, why had he never said anything. I knew why, deep down, but it didn't make it any better. My heart was breaking.

"Why is she kissing her ex?" Mrs Shanahan whispered behind me.

I spun around to face her so fast, I almost toppled on the ridiculous heels I had on. "What?! He's not my ex."

"Oh, sorry dear, I meant ex-boss. You know with your resignation and all." She clarified.

"Mum. Not here, we'll discuss this later." Pete warned in a low voice as I levelled a glare at him, if looks could kill, he'd be a dead man.

"No, we will not. What does she mean ex-boss." I demanded in front of no less than a dozen guests on the dance floor. Pete and his mother had no idea that Jack had been reassigned.

"Please, babe. Let's just dance as the newlyweds we are." Pete asked with a cheesy smile that I found I now detested.

"Don't call me babe! What does she mean Pete?" I yelled in a voice I had only ever heard from my CO once in the seven years we had served together, my finger pointing at his mother. Even Daniel jumped. Pete stared back at me as if I should know what the hell he was talking about.

"Well, you know." He motioned with his hand.

"Let's say I don't know."

"Your job, it's dangerous… and you'll have other responsibilities that need you at home." Pete measured out calmly trying to keep his volume down so that others did not hear. I was not interested in keeping the peace after his mother's little slip of the tongue. This was not what I signed up for, maternity leave – yes, but not quitting my job.

"Like." I ground out through gritted teeth, hands on my hips.

"Children, dear. You can't go gallivanting off around the world with the Air Force with children at home. They need their mother." Mrs Shanahan explained, much to her son's apparent disapproval.

"Pete. When were you going to discuss my job with me?"

"You said you wanted children." Pete replied, an honest to God look of bewilderment on his face. As if having children and keeping my job were mutually exclusive.

"Yes, but that doesn't require me to quit my job. So, I ask again, when were you going to discuss this with me?"

"I wasn't. I just thought that you'd, you know, realise things had to change and stay home." He confessed without so much as a contrite look.

"What about you? Your job is dangerous, shouldn't you quit as well." I demanded, much louder than him. Pete looked around as the guests started moving back to their tables. Our little display front and centre of the room.

He scoffed, "No, why would I?"

"Oh, so you thought you were getting what? A Stepford Wife, a homemaker, a soccer mum. If that's what you wanted, why on earth would you marry an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel?"

"Doesn't matter now, does it?" He responded, reaching for my hand. As if I was going to do anything or go anywhere with him.

Pulling my hand away from him, I yelled, "The hell it doesn't! You can't wait until the ring is on my finger to spring this shit on me Pete!" I screamed, making sure as many people heard me as possible. "That is not how marriage works!"

"Too late, babe. You said the words and you signed the dotted line. Mrs Samantha Shanahan." He replied with a smile mirrored by his mother. Was she in on this as well? Shaking my head as I tugged both rings off my finger and threw them at his feet.

"I don't think so." I replied and walked directly over to the celebrant who happened to be Daniel, because – lucky for me – Pete's priest would not remarry a divorced man on personal principle, and Daniel – who had registered as a celebrant before we met – had offered his services. "Daniel?" I asked with my hand out. He smiled and handed over the envelope containing the signed documents for me to rip into several pieces. Handing the part with my name and signature back to Daniel for him to pocket, I walked back to Pete and his mother and threw the remaining pieces at their feet. "Lodge that!"

"C'mon babe." Pete started as I turned, and jog trotted away. "Sam! Samantha!" He called, then yelled. At the door, I stopped long enough to pull the stupid shoes off my feet before heading out the door.

In the distance, I saw him walking slowly. He was nearly at his truck. "Jack!" I yelled out across the gardens. He turned; I could just see him tilt his head through the darkness. Feeling my heart rate increase, I started running toward him. He stood and waited. As I got closer, the more I could see a look of resigned acceptance on his face, hands buried deep in the pockets of his dress blues. God, I loved him. Love him. I love him. Tears started streaming down my face as I came to a stop.

"Lieutenant Colonel Shanahan." He greeted with a solemn face.

I shook my head, "No, Jack. Lieutenant Colonel Carter. Sam." I replied and held my hand up for him to see. His hands came out of his pockets, and he looked from my hand to my face slowly before smiling and opening his arms just wide enough for me to fling myself at him. Bringing my head back, I cradled his face in one hand while the other held fast to his shoulder. "I love you, Jack." I said as his lips landed on mine. His kiss told me how much he loved me, how much he wanted me, how he would do anything for me. All things I knew, and had known for years, but somehow managed to convince myself were no longer there.

"What happened?" He asked when his lips finally left mine.

I smiled, "I woke up, Jack. I ripped up the paperwork. Sorry it took me so long." I replied, my fingers arcing through his silver-grey hair. It was as soft as it looked. "Take me home?"

He smiled wide as he opened his passenger door, "Yeah, sure, youbetcha."