WARNING: This chapter contains some romantic scenes more appropriate for older readers. Please go to Chapter 9A for the 'T' rated version.

To Hell and Back Chapter 9B

She'd almost been tempted to make a phone call, but she wasn't quite au fait with the protocol of coming right out and asking the head of the SGC why a two-star general, with all the weight of the universe on his shoulders, should be concerned with granting one of his officers some extra leave, even if said head was her godfather. Was he worried about her work performance? Was he questioning her capabilities to carry out her duties like someone else not a million miles from here?

Snapping the top off the beer bottle, she ran the ice-cold glass slowly over her forehead as she stared out at the darkening sky from the top step of the deck where she'd wearily lowered herself. The stillness of the evening promised more rain to come and her tired eyes watched the scudding clouds shift across the grey sky concealing the pale crescent moon. The darkness still hovered. Waiting.

The sound of the river washing over boulders distracted her from observing the heavens and she stood slowly, walking to the edge, contemplating the swift flowing water, wishing she could somehow throw away her memories into the teeming rapids and allow her once more a freedom of thought. She was exhausted from wrestling with her ideas and simply wanted some form of release. The only option as she saw it was to get away from here, to get away from the one person who was able to turn her world upside down.

He was almost beside her before she even noticed his presence and for a fleeting moment she wondered if it was down to her fatigue or whether he'd put his black ops talents to good use. Yet even as the thought flickered through her head she was stiffening at the unexpected intrusion. She had thought he had accompanied her father to Kate's. If she'd known...

Refusing to openly acknowledge him, even though every fiber of her being now seemed acutely attuned to his nearness, she schooled her features and wore a withdrawn expression. She would play him at his own game; after all, she prided herself on being a quick learner.

Turning, she gave a curt nod that would almost have been considered insulting by its briefness. She walked by or would have if his hand hadn't shot out and grabbed her arm. Nothing painful, but she couldn't continue on her way without making a fuss. She bristled at his audacity and then gasped when she heard his vehement command.

"Just cut all the crap, Carter. You're going nowhere until we've talked. And I mean really talked!"

She tried pulling back; not wanting to be dramatic but enough to free herself. His grip merely tightened and now she looked up to see the dark, dangerous glitter in his eyes.

"Begging the Colonel's pardon, Sir, but I was under the impression that you didn't go in for-."

"Ahh, for crying out loud, cut the pissy act, Carter. You should know that's my forte. It really doesn't suit you... Jacob tells me that the general has extended your leave but that you're going tomorrow. Or should I amend that to running away?"

And then as a more repugnant idea came to mind, he gritted his teeth and drawled dryly, "Or maybe I've got it wrong and you just want to spend time with your long lost boyfriend, Granger."

Controlling the shiver that ran down her back, Sam raised her chin defiantly.

"With respect, Sir, that's bullshit!"

For a good five seconds he stood there with his jaw hanging down and for a further glorious few seconds Sam bathed in the aura of total O'Neill disbelief. But it didn't last for long and his eyes flashed fire as he raised himself to his six foot two inches.

"What did you just say?" he demanded slowly, lethally. His head was tilted as if he could view her all the better to annihilate her on the spot, or that's how it felt to her. But his mule headedness was driving her to distraction.

She pinned him with a forthright glare. "I think you heard, Colonel." Then running a hand through her short, blonde hair she demanded pointedly, "I'd like you to let go of me now if that isn't too much trouble."

She was pushing him and it was a very dangerous game to play, but as if gauging her mood and finding the situation hopeless, he released her arm.

Unfortunately, she'd grown tired of playing the patient, obliging 2IC and jerked her arm away at the exact moment she'd been released, thus the impetus of an unrestricted hold had her body swinging round sharply. The momentum of her movement carried her one step backward and as her right foot scrabbled for a firmer footing, a small rock shifted beneath her sole and she felt herself suddenly losing her balance.

Apprehension replaced irritation as she realized the danger she was in, but it was too late to do anything other than give a short startled cry and then she was dropping, her feet and legs enveloped by ice-cold water that dragged her deeper until her hips were being pulled in. She gasped with the shock of the freezing water, but the danger of the current was more to fear and just as she prepared to go right under, she felt a vice on her wrist refusing to allow the river its prey.

For a moment she hung suspended, the pain in her left wrist taking precedence over the numbing cold in her lower extremities and then the hold became two hands and she felt her body being hauled up inch by agonizing inch. And when, on firm ground, she dared to look directly into his eyes she recoiled from the terrible anger she saw there. Trembling more from the force of this emotion than from the biting cold of her sodden clothes, she backed away, dismay draining the little color from her her teeth chattering and her limbs shivering, she knew she looked a pathetic mess and shaking her head in tired resignation, she trudged past her CO, too weary to notice the pain replacing the anger in Jack's dark eyes.

'Great damage control there, O'Neill. Give yourself a f-cking pat on the head, why don't you?'

He shook his head viciously at his own clumsy handling of his 2IC. He knew better than anyone that she wasn't one to be coerced against her will, that she could stand up for herself against the most blatant of browbeating. And her tenacity was legendary in the corridors of the SGC. He should have anticipated all this, should have known she'd never give up on him, should have known she'd be willing to put up with all his crap if it would help him get back to what once had been.

The only problem was he didn't know whether that was enough.

His eyes followed her all the way into the house and when she'd disappeared inside he waited until he saw the bathroom light switch on. He rubbed a hand over his aching forehead as forbidden images of soaking jeans, shirt and underwear being peeled off a slim body played havoc with his senses and he cursed under his breath and forced his eyes and mind to safer subjects.

Kate had counselled him to stop wasting time and to get on with living. Had he allowed his emotions to dwell too long in a self-indulgent way on something which prevented him from facing what was an excruciating nerve-ending? He knew the answer to that all too well.

'Stop wasting time.' Oh, God, he was guilty, so screwed-up accountable for doing that. And wasn't he one of the first to haul anyone over the coals for that offense? But his culpability went so much further and the roiling in his gut was tantamount to a gale-force seven storm telling him in no uncertain terms that he was responsible for a dishonorable act - blaming Sam for doing something that came as naturally as breathing in oxygen.

Crap, but he had some major grovelling to do and with Kate's words still reverberating in his head he straightened his shoulders and moved to follow the only woman who meant anything in his life.

Head bowed, eyes closed, she stood under the steaming shower, one hand against the tiles supporting her exhausted body. She had shut down her brain, refusing to even attempt to make any effort in unravelling the enigmatic puzzle that was her CO. All her energy had been channelled into removing her freezing clothes and dragging her aching body under the hot water. She had nothing else left; she was exhausted both mentally and physically and it was time she accepted the inevitable. She would have to return to Cheyenne Mountain and do the unthinkable - request a transfer. It couldn't be helped, her brain refused to co-operate in the shutdown process and she groaned in abject misery.

Turning off the shower, she reached through the smoked glass door for her bathrobe, wrapping it comfortingly round her body. All she wanted to do was crawl between the sheets of her bed and hopefully fall into a dreamless sleep.

Stepping out of the bathroom she froze, closing her eyes for a second in the hope that what she was seeing was some kind of apparition. He was still there in her bedroom when she reopened them.

'I can't do this,' she protested silently, and the message was obviously received because Jack raised a hand, palm up.

"Just hear me out, Carter. Please."

He grimaced on seeing the look, fleeting though it was, pass over his 2IC's face. Yes, he deserved that. He'd taken any and every opportunity to insult her, had questioned her integrity as an officer and still she'd come back for more. But not this time. He could see it in her body language; she'd had enough and was not about to provide her CO with a further opening in which to castigate her.

"And when I say no, what then? Are you going to grab me again?"

He'd earned it many times over, he knew, but it still hurt. Swallowing down the bitter bile of self-dislike rising to the back of his throat, which had caused this reaction in Sam, he hung his head in remorse.

"Carter, I'm sorry, I-."

"No, it's me that's sorry. I'm sorry I got you to take the symbiote. I'm sorry you were hijacked by your Tok'ra partner. I'm sorry you fell into the hands of Ba'al. I'm sorry you were tortured. I'm sorry you've suffered so much and I'm especially sorry I asked Dad to bring you here. I'm up to here being sorry!" Her hand sliced up to her neck and fell away at the same time as she turned away from him. "I'm really tired now so if you'll..."

Her hand wavered as it indicated the door to leave.

Screwing shut his eyes, Jack ground the heel of his palm into his forehead as his temples began to throb. He mumbled something inaudible and her head shot up, but he deliberately avoided her eyes seeming to flinch visibly as his own gaze darted away from hers.

"What did you say?" she asked staring at him in confusion.

"I said stop wasting time, Carter."

He still refused to meet her gaze. "If this Matt guy is as good as Jacob says, then stop screwing around...I mean..." His voice trailed away and this time he did look at her, the unhappiness in his eyes for once clearly revealed competing with the embarrassment he was now feeling at his clumsy choice of words. Once again his eyes dropped to the floor. "You know what I mean."

He started to turn away. He'd said what needed saying.

She was tired, still chilled and probably suffering from shock so the fact that the man she had loved almost since the day she'd met him was now trying to push her into the arms of a happily married man didn't sit too well with her and what little patience she had was now wafer thin as resentment flared within her.

"You know what? You and Dad suit each other just fine. Give him hell why don't you, and if he feeds you a load of crap, then feel free to digest it, regurgitate it and throw it back up. But don't you dare," and now she walked towards him, eyes menacingly narrowed, "throw it back at me. I want nothing to do with it."

Almost nose to nose, her blue eyes shot arrows of disgust at him. "Matt Granger and I are friends, good friends," she emphasized this point knowing that it could be taken any way Jack chose. She paused hoping he was feeling as uncomfortable as he looked.

"His wife, Olivia, is also a good friend and I hope one day that their newborn son, Luke, will come to know me as well as them - unlike some who seem to have their heads up their asses!"

She was furious, it revealed itself in her choice of language and it resonated throughout her body and not even the blank incomprehension which was slowly being replaced by prickly understanding on her CO's face could halt the flow of her fury. She was beyond caring.

"You are the most exasperating, aggravating man I have ever had the dubious pleasure of knowing."

Feeling her heart hammering like a trapped wild beast, she shot him a look so bitter in its condemnation that Jack could only stare back aghast.

"Carter, I...I..."

He was, for once, lost for words and as her anger slowly abated, Sam realized that the only other time she had seen him look this vulnerable was when he had been in the infirmary sleeping. Her breath caught in her mouth, and eyes that had only moments ago burned with antagonism now seemed to melt and she swallowed convulsively as another, stronger emotion raced through her body. His helplessness accomplished where all else might have proved futile and yet he failed to see the remarkable change in her body language; had started to turn; to walk out of her room.

Before her courage dare desert her, she reached for his shoulder, turning him back so they were again facing each other, mere inches apart. She stared up at his eyes which were dark with something that sent a shiver rippling down her spine, yet still he remained unmoving as if carved from stone.

Realizing she'd brought this upon herself, a tantalizing glint entered her eyes as she stepped away, at the same time tugging on the tie holding her gown together over her naked body.

And finally she saw the leap of light in his eyes, the spark of desire that now could not be denied.

"Carter?" It was a low, tight growl of warning, telling her that there was little control remaining and that if this was a game or a form of punishment it had better end now before...

The look she gave him was almost defiant as she again stepped into his personal space with a suddenness that took him by surprise, reached up and pulled his face down so that her lips brushed against his. And as he tried to assimilate what was truly happening, her body pressed provocatively against his and he was lost in a kaleidoscope of sensations, each one more delicious than the previous one. But there was only so much she could do without requiring some form of tacit agreement; after all it required two to...

If he wanted her to stop wasting time, she thought smugly, then so be it.

Determinedly her hands dropped to the buckle at his waist...he didn't stop her.

He'd always known there was a smoldering fire beneath the veneer of the cool, controlled Major Sam Carter, but never had he imagined she would turn to combustion in his arms. And only later, after she'd climaxed, screaming his name to the heavens, did he thank the guardian angel of all insubordinate colonels for ensuring that one Jacob Carter, ex-general, Tok'ra and more importantly father of said naked woman lying in his arms, was nowhere to be seen in a one-mile radius of the cabin, otherwise...it didn't bear thinking about.

He watched her as she slept, one long, smooth leg thrown over his own as if confirming her possession of him even as she slumbered, her head nestled in the crook of his neck. She murmured something unintelligible and for an instant her body stiffened until he whispered her name, running a gentle hand over her back.

A wry smile touched his mouth as he compared her stillness now to the previous hours when she had quite literally dragged him to her bed. Not that he'd needed any persuasion, but she had dominated the proceedings in a way that he'd found both erotic and mind-blowing in its excitement. Not content to be the passive partner in their pairing she had stroked and suckled and nipped, orchestrating their duel movements to perfection, ensuring that a repeat performance of their sexual dexterity followed quickly on from their initial frenetic joining. And now, sated, they lay bodies entwined and Jack O'Neill dared hardly believe that it was Sam Carter in his arms, the woman who had occupied his thoughts on many a sleepless night.

And he had to admit with a wry grin that his imagination in no way could be compared to the real thing and as his eyes followed the contours of her slim hip, up her narrow ribcage to the curve of one full and succulent breast, he felt his body respond yet again and even while a little surprised at his own physical prowess he did not question it, because here and now was all that mattered. But even he couldn't kid a kidder; he couldn't kid himself. Major Sam Carter was still very much his 2IC and when he had to pay the piper at a later date then so be it. He dipped his head.

A soft groan of unadulterated delight escaped her parted lips at his ministrations and his dark eyes warmed with deep pleasure even as his lips and tongue tantalized one firm, erect nipple. Her blue eyes opened taking in the lowered silver-haired head that was paying so much attention to a highly sensitive part of her breast; Sam's arousal was racing towards the breaking point.

"You're a bad, bad man," she grinned wickedly in whispered longing, squirming as a ripple of lust flowed tsunami-like through her, building in intensity until she could no longer contain its power, and she arched demanding hips to meet Jack's needs in equally powerful intensity.

She moaned softly; the ache of intense lovemaking was far from an everyday occurrence for her and Sam shifted in her bed trying to find a position that didn't remind her of... Her eyes flew open in alarm as she wrenched her head round and came face to face with her very own, very naked CO.

Her dream, her erotic, sensual dream was no dream. And as her whirling brain attempted to digest what it was being told through the power of her eyes, she screwed them tightly shut in the feeble hope that when she reopened them a tall, silver-haired Colonel presently laid flat out in all his birthday glory would have somehow disappeared.

It wasn't to be. It was true...they had broken the regulations! But, it was more than that.

Stifling a whimper of misery, she slowly began to edge herself from the bed, desperate to remove herself from the incriminating position that she found herself glaringly in. And as her memory suddenly recalled how she'd got herself into this position, her moan intensified until she was forced to stuff part of the bed sheet into her mouth for fear the sound would waken her lover.

Lover?

Her mind struggled with the idea. It couldn't be; it simply couldn't be. After all these years of denial, how was it when he was being at his most obnoxious and insufferable, her defenses had crumbled?

It made no sense. There was no logic to it and her scientific mind recoiled from the utter chaos of her actions. How could she equate her total abandonment of a few hours earlier with how she was feeling now?

How was she... feeling...now?

It didn't make any sense until her eyes fell on a certain complex man slumbering so peacefully next to her and she felt her heartbeat increase. And even now, feeling like something that had been dragged through a hedge backwards, she acknowledged the jolting connection she had with this man.

He was part of her...

... in a way no other man had ever been or ever would be and if she hadn't known that before this night, the intensity of their recent lovemaking would have clued her in.

He had touched her soul and she knew she would never be the same.

Shaking her head, she gave herself a sharp mental kick to stop her inner wittering and in the words of a not-too-distant Colonel ordered her body to, 'get the hell out of there!'

Inch by inch she slid from her bed, eyes riveted to Jack's relaxed body in case he should stir, knowing she had only one course of action remaining.

(Chapt. 10 - conclusion - to follow)