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Let Your Demons Run

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Jack slams the door of his truck and wends his way across the parking lot, through the eclectic mix of trucks, motorcycles, and high-end sports cars. He comes here every now and then; not often, but sometimes when he wants to get away. The bar's clientele is as mismatched as the vehicles in the parking lot, odd enough to make things interesting. More importantly, it's far enough out of town that he's never once run into anyone he knows.

Not before tonight, that is.

He's barely through the door when he spots her, way down at the other end of the bar. The bright blonde head and the even brighter smile are kind of hard to miss, after all. Add in the tight jeans and the close-fitted and still-zipped leather jacket she's wearing, and there can't be that many eyes in the building that haven't noticed her.

The fact that noticing her is Jack's job and his hobby all rolled up into one? Doesn't have anything to do with it. At all. And the memory of how she'd looked in the infirmary a mere two days ago, with her face slack and her body moving to the rhythm of the ventilator and nothing more — well, that doesn't factor in either, Jack's completely sure.

He hesitates for a moment there in the entryway, trying to decide whether to make camp or bug out. Spending an evening watching Carter flirt with other guys, or whatever it is she's planning to do here, doesn't rank particularly high on Jack's to-do list. And that's without even factoring in the hours he'd spent keeping vigil over her in a hospital cot, unable to let her go. He should really be doing anything but watching her now.

Bug out it is, then.

His muscles tense as he prepares to turn and walk away, but the motion never has a chance to get started, because somehow Carter chooses that exact moment to look up and scan down the bar. Her eyes light on him, freezing him in place. She holds his gaze, thoughtful, biting at the corner of her lip, then a ghost of a smile flits across her face and her attention drifts away again.

Jack blows out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Retreat would be rude, of course, now that she's seen him. Not to mention it'd look like … well, retreat. So he slides into the closest unoccupied seat at the bar, orders a beer, and doesn't bother to pretend he's not watching her.

She leans sideways into the counter, that tight leather jacket only accentuating the assets currently being highlighted by the arch of her back. The business suit currently chatting her up seems to think so, too; he's not subtle at all, his head bobbing down and then back up so even Jack can tell what he's looking at from behind him and way across the room.

Jack suspects Business Suit wears a wedding ring most days of the week, taking it off only for special occasions like tonight. And when he does take it off, he's probably counting on the suit and the expensive shoes and the Mercedes convertible he's got to have parked outside to get him whatever and whoever he wants.

But Jack's also confident that Business Suit hasn't got a clue that Carter's losing her patience with him. Jack, on the other hand, can read it in every muscle and bone in her body, in the tilt of her head and the quirk of her eyebrow and the way she's tapping her finger lightly against the bottle of beer in her hand.

He knows all her sides, her every expression, or at least the ones she's let him see. He's learned them by heart without effort and against his own better judgment. From the Carter who still looks at the Stargate with wonder in her eyes, who forgets she's one of the smartest people in the galaxy and silently craves the approval of the people she respects and admires and loves, down to the Carter who likes fast bikes and faster spaceships and loves nothing more than serving your ass up to you on a platter if you happen to make the mistake of underestimating her.

Funny how it's that first Carter that's more apt to get them all into trouble, though.

Business Suit's still talking, but with more animation now, gesturing with his beer as he scoots in closer to Carter in a move Jack finds pathetically transparent. Carter doesn't budge, but her eyes flick back to Jack's, and as they do, that smile creeps up on her face, like she's about to blow something up just to see what happens. Jack can't hear what she says from this far away, but Business Suit rocks back, clearly startled, and Carter smirks as she sets her bottle down on the counter with an air of finality.

So, that'd be the badass speeding-bike Carter out to play tonight, then. Good to know.

Jack doesn't think she's on the prowl, not really, even if she is dressed for the occasion. It's been a shit-for week, and she's probably just looking to live a little. Jack can't say as he blames her. He'd walked in on it completely by accident, but it promises to be quite a show. And if she doesn’t mind the audience, who is he to complain?

But as she crosses the room, she shoots him a look, mostly covert from under the cover of the hair tumbling over her forehead, but still unmistakably directed at Jack alone. She gives a bare fraction of a jerk of her head in the direction she's walking before she takes over the one unoccupied pool table.

Okay, so maybe Jack's not just the audience. He's game for that. He plucks his beer off the counter and follows obediently after her.

Carter shucks off the leather jacket and drapes it over a chair behind her; the low-cut top she's wearing underneath trips Jack up for a second, and he can see the laughing response in her eyes as she chalks up her cue.

"Having a good night, there, Carter?"

"I'm working on it," she says, and he notices three things in rapid succession. First, there wasn't even a hint of a sir hovering around that remark. Second, he's pretty sure that down-up thing she did with her eyes right then was her giving him the once over. And third?

Well, third. Third, if this Carter ever showed up at work, Jack would be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Because this Carter bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the one he'd like to take home with him at night. The one he'd like to sleep with and fight with and spend long, lazy hours on the couch with every Saturday night and Sunday morning. Brains, sass, and a wicked kind of sweetness he knows wouldn't ever, ever get boring.

He leans against the pool table and wonders if giving her a once-over right back would be out of line, all things considered. She tosses the chalk in his direction, smiling like she knows exactly what he's thinking.

"Break?" she asks as he snatches it out of the air.

"Nah." He picks up the other cue and sets to work. "All yours."

She shrugs. "Suit yourself," she says, and then proceeds to bend over to take the shot, just so, giving him a view straight down her shirt that's as pointedly deliberate as it is unbelievable. It's a good thing he's so shocked, because otherwise he might have given in to the impulse to clap his hands over his eyes, or to turn and make sure Hammond hasn't snuck into the room unbeknownst to both of them. So instead he stands there and stares.

It's a decent break, or so the small part of Jack that's still paying attention to pool informs him; that little bit of his brain also makes note as she pockets a couple of stripes before missing a shot that would have been a gimme for Daniel, let alone Carter. Then she gets way too far into his personal space while he lines up his own shot on the two ball, and his last remaining rational thoughts decamp forthwith.

There's no way Carter couldn't have wiped the table with him just then if she'd wanted to, addled as he is. Her game tonight is only good, though, not quite achieving the uncanny knack for angles and transfer of momentum that she usually displays, and somehow Jack scrapes by for not just one game, but two. As soon as he sinks the eight ball in the side pocket for the second time, she turns her back on him, tossing a "thanks" over her shoulder in a way that's clearly giving him the brush off.

For a few seconds, Jack stands there and blinks after her as she smiles and starts chatting up the next guy. Then he shrugs, grabs the money they'd tossed on the table in between the first game and the second, and walks off. He reclaims his seat at the bar and settles back in to watch, rubbing at his newly-budding headache and wondering if maybe Doc didn't give Carter a thorough enough going-over after she'd had her brains scrambled so many times.

When the bartender hits him up again, Jack decides a soda would be a better bet than beer number two, considering the way the evening is going. The lingering effects of Carter-drunkenness still wear off slowly, though, and he's made it through about half the glass before he finally catches on to what should have been obvious in the first place. It's a bit of a risk, the game she's playing, a trick you can't pull off more than once in the same place, and one that most people can't pull off at all.

Carter's never been most people, though, so for her, it's easy. She plays just well enough to win, throws a game every now and then, and flashes more ass and cleavage than Jack has seen since … well, since that thoroughly embarrassing spring festival they'd been forced to sit through last month on 872. Though he's pretty sure that unlike SG-1 enduring yet one more celebration of fertility or autumn or midwinter's day, none of the guys whose wagers Carter's scoring tonight are complaining about the way they just got schooled.

In between games she flirts with a few more guys — and possibly one girl, has another beer, and picks a spat with some stranger about God only knows what while she's over by the jukebox. And it doesn't escape Jack's notice that in between taking her shots and turning guys down, she's looking his way an awful damn lot.

If this is a regular Carter coping mechanism, Jack really needs to get her schedule.

It's obvious when she's done; she runs the table on the last poor sap she plays. She smiles softly and shakes her head at the next guy who heads her way, tosses some cash on the bar, and makes for the door. She doesn't meet Jack's eye as she passes him by, but she bumps her arm against his own. The contact's a little too slow to be anything but deliberate, and that's more than enough for Jack. He pitches his own money on the counter and pushes away, following her out into the parking lot.

--

Jack squints across the lot through the dim glow of the lights and finds Carter standing by her bike, right beneath a streetlamp and only a few spots down from where he'd left his truck. If he'd been at his best, he'd have noticed that before he even walked in, and maybe he'd be at home right now instead of crossing the crumbling asphalt to meet her.

That probably would have been better for everyone concerned, but he still can't quite bring himself to want it.

She's messing with the handlebars when he reaches her, adjusting a mirror; it's a fussy gesture, especially for Carter, and it makes her look uncertain in a way that almost nothing ever does. Nothing but him, suggests some evil little voice in the back of Jack's mind, but he shuts it up before it has time to do more than squeak.

She nudges the mirror with her knuckle one more time, making a change so microscopic that it couldn't possibly be visible to the naked eye. "Hey," she says, looking up at him at last.

He arches an eyebrow at her. "So. Have fun?"

She laughs, soft and low. "Yeah. I just needed to …." She trails off and makes an exploding-bomb gesture with her fingers. "You know?"

Jack shakes his head. "Nah. I mean, it was a pretty easy week if you ask me."

"Right." She rolls her eyes. "Very easy. What with the alien trying to take over the world and everything."

"Because obviously that was the most disturbing thing that happened."

She opens her mouth to reply, but the words don't seem to come. Her brow furrows and she chews on her lip as she shakes her head instead.

"Well," Jack says, sticking his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels, "anytime you want some help swindling the hell out of the locals, just let me know. I'm all over that."

She smiles up at him. "I probably owe you half my take for the setup."

Jack shrugs. "Take me out for a drink sometime, and we'll call it even."

He hadn't meant anything by it, or at least he doesn't think he did, but her eyes widen a little anyway. She glances away, over his shoulder; then her eyes slide back to his, and the corners of her mouth twitch upwards, and in a heartbeat she shifts from surprised and a little shy to the Carter who likes to blow stuff up and see what happens.

Jack rocks a little farther back on his heels and waits to see what explodes this time.

"I could take you out for breakfast instead," she says, the words racing each other in their rush to get out of her mouth.

Jack grunts — from surprise, mostly, but also from the jolt that heads straight to someplace he tries really hard not to think about when he's around Carter. Her words are brash, brazen; the sort of risk a person might take when they've been unexpectedly possessed by a glorified computer virus and shot pretty much dead by someone they trusted. And that wasn't even taking into account the mini-vacation into the world of total sensory deprivation in a mainframe's memory bank.

Yeah. Really, really shitty week.

Deep down, Jack's sure Carter's expecting him to tell her no. To walk her come-on back with a joke. To find some way to say 'there are only about three people left on base who don't know how I feel about you, but you're too goddamn smart to have an idea this dumb' in that trademark Jack O'Neill fashion that'll make her laugh at herself and at him and will let them both escape this parking lot with their hearts and their honor intact.

Trouble is, he's pretty sure the chances of keeping his heart intact hit zero back in the SGC infirmary, listening to the drone of the respirator that was the only thing standing between Carter and the great beyond. Jack casts around in his too-vacant mind for the right thing to say and comes up with exactly nothing.

He can't find it in him laugh it off. Not this time. Not today.

"I'm sorry," she says, looking down at ground, shifting her weight from one foot to the other and kicking at the loose pebbles with her toe. Even in the dim glow of the lights overhead, he can see the flush on her face. "That was — sir, I should never have —"

Jack still can't quite locate his voice, but he interrupts her anyway, tipping her face up with his finger under her chin. She falls silent as their eyes meet. She's biting her lip, tense, and she's begging him with her gaze to tell her that they're going to be all right. That she's going to be all right. That they — him, her, all of them — are still going to be worth bothering with one day, beaten and battered and bruised as this life is leaving them.

That right there, that's the Carter gets him into the worst kind of trouble.

He should be telling her what a fantastically bad idea this is; he's determined to say it, even though the voice of the regrets he'd have had if she'd really been gone is doing a pretty decent job of drowning out his better sense right now. He's going to do it, shoot her down and send her home and tell her he'll see her bright and early Monday morning, but he takes a heartbeat longer before he follows through. Just a few seconds' indulgence. He brushes his knuckles across her cheek and toys with the hair just above her ear, trapping a few strands between his fingers.

She draws in a swift breath that sounds nothing at all like the respirator, and exactly like Carter, alive and kicking and waiting for him to make the next move.

In the instant between when her eyes close and when his lips crash into hers, he decides they were pretty much screwed the minute he walked into the bar tonight.

--

Jack's got no doubt he'll think about it later, the million ways they might not have made it from that parking lot to where they are right now. Maybe if they'd left her bike and taken his truck, instead of the other way around, so they wouldn't have been pressed up against each other as she sped down the two-lane state highway with the mountains at their back. Maybe if some entrepreneurial type hadn't built that little cluster of cookie-cutter motels back at the interstate where there used to be nothing around. Maybe if Jack hadn't had enough in his wallet to pay for the room in cash, saving them from the sheer, utter stupidity of leaving his real name — or worse, hers — in the registry. Maybe then he wouldn’t be standing here staring into her eyes while the hotel room door swings shut behind her.

There are a million maybes, a million chances they had to ditch before they made it here; but tomorrow they'll be back up against the million and one maybes that have a better chance at leaving one or the other of them dead than he's ever been willing to admit before. And Jack hasn’t got enough neurons free to work out that math when Carter's closing the distance between them looking at him like that.

Then she's got her lips on his and her arms around his neck and he's got no neurons left free at all.

He's hard as a rock the minute her still-leather-clad body's pressed up against his. It's been coming on all night, so it's not like he's surprised. But he's rocking his hips against hers and she's grinding right back into him and Jesus fuck, he hasn’t wanted a woman this bad in a very, very long time.

That jacket she's wearing deserves to be unzipped slowly, bit by bit, while he kisses every inch of gradually-revealed flesh as he eases it down. But that's not happening tonight. Instead, he pulls open the zip and pushes the coat off her shoulders and he walks her back, one two three steps until her ass bumps into the door. He traps her there with his hips and thighs while he slides his tongue between her teeth and skims his hands over her shoulders and down her sides.

"Mmmph," she says, or something like it, her hands tugging at his hair as she pushes up on tiptoes to get closer. She's everywhere already, but he needs more, so he pulls away to strip her shirt off and start easing her jeans over her hips.

She must agree with the sentiment, because their hands collide and their fingers tangle once or twice as she's helping him along.

Her bra goes flying somewhere over his head, followed by his shirt, and then he presses her back once again, hands and lips sliding along her skin. He's still clothed from the waist down, but she's completely bare, and she's every bit as soft, and strong, and blessedly, fuckably limber as he'd ever imagined in those fantasies he'd hated himself for having. And with his mouth full of her tit and his hand on her ass and hers heading south for the waistband of his pants, he thinks about doing her here, up against the door, with her leg wrapped high around his waist just like this and her back arching as he strains up into her hard and fast. But it's not enough.

With nimble fingers, she starts working at his belt and fly, taking advantage of his momentary lapse into internal debate. He grabs her wrists and pins them up against the door, and she shakes a little because she's laughing at him. He bites her on the shoulder, and on the neck, and then he leans in and whispers, "Cut it the hell out," into her ear, low and harsh. But she just laughs harder.

She is so goddamn perfect it hurts.

With a tensing of her hands, left followed by right, she tests his grip; then her foot drops back to the floor and she pushes him away in a single move with her whole strong, supple, glorious body. He cedes ground — grumbling and reluctant, but still, he gives way — and she keeps shoving, still smiling, driving him toward the mattress. But before she can push him onto it he puts his hands on her waist and swings her around, sending her down first. She's naked and sprawled out, her skin reddened from his teeth and his tongue and the stubble of the beard he hadn't bothered to shave for his day off, and when he doesn't move, she bites her lip with one eyebrow raised in a blatant challenge.

She's never straightforward, this woman, never easy. Then again, he's not, either. And she's definitely the kind of challenge that works for him. He unfastens his pants, shoves them down and off, boxers and all, and before he can climb on top of her she's on him again, hands on his hips and lips around his cock.

He weaves his hands into the strands of her hair and groans, thrusting in. She's doing obscene things with her tongue and making hungry little sounds that he can hear and feel, and his back and his thighs are tight and burning hot and getting hotter and tighter the more she licks and sucks and moans. He is way too close to finishing this right now down the back of her throat. And that is not his plan, not by a long shot, so he shoves her off and back onto the bed.

This time he's on top of her before she can try anything else.

"Fuck, woman," he says. "That can't seriously be all you want."

"That," she says with a grin, "is exactly what I want."

He's gone. She owns him, and he doesn't give a good goddamn. He drags his hands over her skin, kisses her breasts and her belly and her thighs, groans out loud at the sounds she makes and the way her hips move when he slides his fingers through her curls and into the flesh beyond. Then she's pulling at him, needy and urgent, tugging at his hair and his arms until he's looking down into her face again, watching as she bites hard on her lower lip while he settles in between her legs.

Things start to blur together after that, one thrust into the next, heat and sweat and the feel of her body tensed and wanting pressed tight against his. Her feet slide on the bed and she wiggles underneath him until she groans, "God, yes," and he's pretty sure she's got him exactly where she wants him. She's moaning and panting, her breath harsh against his ear and her voice vibrating under the skin of her neck, and when he shoves a hand under her ass it's as much because he wants to remember the way she moves as it is to press her in closer so he can fuck her that much harder, because she curves that ass and those hips in a way that is just as flawless as the rest of her.

Then she slides one leg higher up his back and twines the other leg tighter around his own and the only perfection he's thinking about is the one he's seeking inside her. He feels it when she comes, hears it in her hoarse cry against his ear, then his back and his thighs and his balls are burning and he's groaning her name and thrusting hard into her as he follows her over the edge.

--

They doze for an hour or two, lying on their sides with their legs tangled together and Jack's face resting against the back of Carter's neck, not even a sheet between their bodies and the warm, still room. He wakes to her subtle movements, to the slow change in the arch of her spine as her hips press closer into his and her hand reaches behind her to cup the back of his head. She tugs at his hair and wiggles her ass against him, and Jack grunts, his hand tightening on her waist as he kisses the nape of her neck.

"Hey there," he says, nipping at her skin and dragging his hand higher to brush the side of her breast.

She hums in answer and arches more, pulling her top leg free to hook it behind his own, leaving her thighs wide open and no question at all about what she wants. This time, though, Jack moves slower, tracing fingertips from one spot of skin to the next, over her breast and down her side, across her hip and along the outside of her leg. He draws a single finger back up the inside of her thigh, bringing his hand to rest lightly between her legs as he sucks on the skin of her shoulder. She makes a soft, impatient sound low in her throat, but he shushes her, wanting a little longer and a whole lot more of her here in his arms, warm and alive.

Warm and alive and getting annoyed with him, or at least that's how he interprets the look on her face when she flips onto her back and glares up at him.

"Sorry," he says, grinning down at her before he leans in to cover her mouth with his, sucking on her lips and tugging with his teeth before kissing her deeper. When they come up for air he's got his fingers where she'd wanted them before, stroking between her legs, long and slow. "Better?" he asks.

Her answer's not in words but in the way she bites at the corner of her lip, in the push of her hips against the drag and slide of his fingers and the slow glide of her hand over her own body, drawing her palm up her belly to cup her breast.

Holy Mary Mother of God.

He slides the tip of one finger inside and stills just to watch her. Her eyes close and she draws deep, slow breaths as she tugs at her nipple and then lets her hand drift back down her body to rest her fingers at his wrist. He shifts a little, and she groans, squirming impatiently when he stops moving again. "Are you actually trying to kill me?" she asks, her eyes blinking open.

Jack freezes completely, not even breathing for a heartbeat or three, and Carter's eyes widen as she realizes exactly what's just come out of her mouth. "I tried that a few days ago," Jack says, even though he knows he shouldn't. "Didn't quite get it right the first time, though."

She winces and pulls away a fraction of an inch, and then Jack's the one flopping over onto his back, staring up at the ceiling and pulling a hand through his hair. Talk about blowing things up for no good reason. He studies the pattern of light on the white plaster above him, lines and spots from the street lights outside leaking in through the gaps in the window drape, and he considers the night so far, or the week behind them, or even his whole damn life — a checkered history of missed chances, spectacular failures of judgment, and his own big fat mouth. It's too much to make into anything sensible, and meanwhile, he's just noticed how scratchy the bed sheets are on his skin.

The mattress shifts, dipping beside him, and he feels Carter's leg pressing in against his, her fingers grazing gently along his arm. She's still warm and still soft and apparently still welcoming, but Jack keeps staring resolutely at the ceiling and contemplating the low thread count under his butt until she leans over him, one hand sliding across his chest to latch on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," she says.

As it were her fault, any of it; the chances they take with their lives every day, or the gamble his heart's taken on her without bothering to get his approval first. Jack touches her cheek and toys with her hair and tries to force his face back into an expression that is more about want and less about need, into some look that doesn't give away every single damn thing they've both been trying to hide for so long.

He's pretty sure he's failed, though, and when she leans in to kiss him, soft and slow with her fingers splayed against his neck, he's certain. Before, they might have been able to write this off as just sex, just some validation of her being alive, but not now. Now, it's going to be way more complicated the next day.

She pulls away, but not far, staying close enough the he can feel the warm wash of her breath against his skin, the brush of her lips against the corner of his mouth.

"Sam," he says, his voice hoarse.

"I'm right here," she answers. She shifts her body to straddle him, and he runs his hands over her back to grip her hips as she slides down onto him. "Right — oh, God — here. Jack —"

"Shh." Her breath hitches as she settles herself, and he steadies her with his hands on her waist. "I know," he says, soft and low, then he cups her face between his hands and pulls her back down, kissing her again, deep and hard enough to make them both forget about their yesterdays and their tomorrows for at least a little while.

--

The streetlights are still lit when they pull back into the bar's parking lot, but the glow is dimming against the lightening gray skies of pre-dawn. Sam pulls the bike in next to Jack's truck, a few pebbles and bits of loose asphalt spraying to the side as she hits the brakes. Jack swings his leg over and hops off, stepping back out of the way as Carter follows suit. She tugs off her helmet and runs her hand through her hair in an attempt to bring it to some sort of order.

"So," she says, furrowing her brows as she looks at him, "now what?"

He doesn't answer right away, taking a minute to study her, the way her hair falls to touch the tops of her eyebrows and cover the tips of her ears, the curve of her neck and the close fit of the jacket that he'd helped her zip up in the hotel room not long ago. But he sees a lot more than that, too; the clench of her fingers around her helmet, the straight line of her back, and the way she's planted her feet like she's out in the field and waiting for the fight to start. She looks every bit as tense as she had the night before, tight and wary in a way she hadn't been when they'd dragged themselves out of bed at an hour much earlier than either of them would have preferred.

Jack forces his eyes away from her to look over her shoulder, scanning the handful of cars still remaining in the parking lot and wishing he didn't have to be the guy who needed to be back here right as dawn breaks, hoping to minimize the chance of prying eyes or awkward questions.

This was never going to be anything but a bad idea, and both of them know it.

"Well," he says, meeting her eyes again at last, "I can't come back here anymore, that's for sure."

The corners of her lips twitch up in a half-hearted smile. "Of all the gin joints in all the towns, and all that?"

He snorts. "Maybe." The easy comeback's right there in front of him, that they'll always have Paris, or some more modern backcountry Colorado version of it, anyway. She'd follow it up with a roll of her eyes and a shake of her head and as simple a parting as they have any hope of making this. Thing is, Jack figures he owes her more honesty than that right now. "More like, I'll sure as hell never be able to walk in there and not think about —"

"The way I showed you mercy and didn’t beat your ass at pool?"

"Well, there's that." She's trying to shut him down, or at least give him another out. Throwing up every warning sign she can. She's right, of course, but inexplicably, he persists. "Not where I was going, though."

She pushes a pebble with her toe, sets her feet again, and waves her hand in the air between them. "This?" she asks.

"You," he responds.

"Oh," she breathes out. Her thumb taps the helmet she's still clutching in her hand, once, twice, three times, then the tension seems to sweep out of her all at once. She sets the helmet on the bike behind her and steps up to kiss him, a light brush of her lips across his.

"Yeah." He reaches out and pulls her closer. Maybe this was never going to be anything but a bad idea, but he can't bring himself to regret it. He tightens his embrace until he can feel the pressure and release against his chest and arms each time she draws breath again. Broken asphalt under his feet, dawning day over his head, and Carter, alive and breathing and here with him, at least for a little while longer.

When he lets her go, it's slowly, pressing a kiss against her neck and one against her temple before he finally steps away. She lifts her hand to bridge the gap between them and traces her fingers down his cheek, serious at first. "Well," she says, the corners of her mouth creeping up with a hint of a smile that's close kin to the blowing-things-up grin she'd been flashing the night before, "then I think you should come here all the time."

Jack shrugs. Not a lot left that hasn't already been blown to high heaven, really. "Just tell me when," he says, "and I'm there. Anytime."

Her hand drops and she inhales sharply, looking abruptly away; after a heartbeat or two, or possibly most of a lifetime, she finally breathes out on a long, slow sigh. When she turns to face him again, the faint furrows in her forehead and the lines around her eyes have relaxed, tension replaced by something more like acceptance, by that indomitable will in the face of whatever the world chooses to throw at her that he's used to seeing from Sam Carter. She smiles, and he nods, and they both take a couple of steps back.

There's not really anything to say after that. As she mounts the bike, he gets out of the way, giving her room to run. She throws him one last, lingering look before she tugs the helmet back on, guns the engine, and pulls out of the parking lot and down the road.

Jack watches as she vanishes off into the horizon. Then, after a last glance over at the bar and up at the now-dawning sun, he climbs in his truck, and he heads for home.

.