It isn't a bad walk, as far as it goes.
Tiny fenced courtyards line the street, each one similar to and yet somehow different from the last. The hour's late; later than it should be, considering when they left General Pearson's party, but not so late that the city's sleeping, even here on a mostly-residential street. Lights glow in bedroom windows, dogs bark from behind front doors, and the taillights of a city bus at the corner ahead shine red as it stops to drop off passengers.
Normal houses, normal people, normal lives. Not a bad walk at all. Just more alien to her than any number of planets on the far-distant end of the galaxy.
They'd parked nearly six blocks away, Jack's flip "I'll take what I can get" his only answer to her questioning eyebrow. Sam suspects his choice had more to do with getting off the streets of the city he'd never feel quite at home in – and out of the car he'd never wanted to own – than with any real lack of parking spaces. She'd known better than to press the point, though, so they covered the distance from car to townhouse in the kind of silence that can only be found when you've known someone for a very long time.
That part, at least, doesn't feel so alien.
The backs of his fingers glance against hers as he walks beside her, and for a moment, Sam considers shifting that little bit closer, twining her fingers with his as if that were part of whatever code of normal applies to their own lives. But she hesitates, uncertain. And before she makes up her mind, Jack's the one shifting closer, leaning in, his hand coming to rest at her waist and tugging at her gently.
"Home," he says, his voice low in her ear. "Bed. This way." His words brush warm against her neck and his arm rests heavy along her back and she's distracted, a little dizzy from the proximity when she lets him urge her faster along the sidewalk, laughing at his impatience. Still, she doesn't think that's what causes her to trip just a few steps later.
It's not a bad stumble, but in textbook form, Jack reaches out and grabs her arm almost before she realizes she's losing her footing.
"Thanks," Sam says as she looks down to see what caused her misstep. Even in the dim glow of the streetlights, it doesn't take long to spot the problem. Leaning into Jack's supporting grip, she lifts one foot from the ground and regards her sandal through narrowed eyes. "Damn."
Jack grunts, almost a laugh. "The nearly-indestructible Colonel Carter, survives daily peril only to be felled in the end by a treasonous shoe?"
Sam hops a bit as she draws her foot up higher and grabs the tip of the heel. "Don't tell anyone. My reputation and all."
"Are you kidding? No one would believe it if I did. Or if they did, they'd just say I was bad luck."
She rolls her eyes at him and makes what she hopes is a scathing sort of sound – or at least as scathing as one can sound, standing on one foot and twisting around to stare at the other. "If you were bad luck," she says, "I'd have way worse than a broken shoe to show for it."
"Maybe," he says. "But I'm serious, Carter. The President, a side trip to Chantilly, an inhuman number of traffic jams, and now your shoe waylaying me? I'm beginning to think I'm cursed."
"You forgot the pedestrian you nearly hit on the way," Sam adds. Jack mutters something unflattering about tourists, and she laughs softly. "And you were cursed once, you know," she continues as she wiggles the loose heel. "But Daniel paid to have the curse removed."
"Really?" he asks, surprised. "And where was that in the ops manual, exactly?"
"Well, Teal'c said the locals expected it. It seemed like the thing to do." Deciding the shoe was a loss, at least for the moment, she pulls it off and dangles it from her fingers as she reaches down to remove its mate. Sighing, she shifts her feet on the rough concrete of the sidewalk, wiggling and stretching her toes to loosen the arches, humming softly at the feel of the still-warm pavement against her skin.
Jack clears his throat.
Sam looks up at him, and he cocks his head and raises an eyebrow before he gives her an entirely different once-over than the one he'd given her earlier in the evening, the corners of his lips barely tipping into a smile she'd rarely seen anyplace so public.
She flushes under the scrutiny, his eyes roving down her body sending chills running up the back of her neck, incongruous in the lingering summer heat. Incongruous, like everything about being here, with him, like this.
"What?" she asks softly when his gaze finally makes its way back to hers.
He shakes his head. "The amazing thing is you really don't do that on purpose."
Sam feels her cheeks warming further. Self-consciously, she reaches up to brush her hair off her forehead. The strands stick slightly in the light sheen that's collected on her skin in the hot, muggy air.
"I mean, you're standing there in that," he gestures vaguely at her dress, "and then you just ..." and he points down at her feet. "And did you know your toenails are pink? Very, very pink."
Bright pink, actually, like the color her ears are probably now turning, and admittedly a frivolous touch that she'd added on a whim when she ran across a bottle of polish Cassie had left behind.
Sam bites the corner of her lip. "Some things I might do on purpose," she says, with a lift of her chin and her eyebrows and a tiny little smile that isn't quite premeditated, but that she doesn't bother to suppress either.
"Ah." He moves closer, his hand coming to rest on her hip.
She sways involuntarily closer, and his fingers shift, rubbing against her back, and as he leans in she starts to feel a heat that had nothing to do with a midsummer's eve.
But then Jack's gaze leaves her face, focusing on something over her shoulder, and he nods as a figure enters her peripheral vision. Another late commuter, making his way past the repeating stoops and wrought-iron railings. She turns slightly to follow the man's progress along the street.
Situational awareness is a habit that's almost impossible to break.
Several houses down, he climbs a staircase and pauses at the door, shifting his briefcase from one hand to the other and digging in his pocket for his keys.
"Neighbor?" she asks.
"Lobbyist," Jack replies. "My favorite." His hand slides from her waist to her back, and he presses in, just enough to get her attention. When she turns to look up at him, she finds that he's not watching the square of light spilling from the now-open door down the street. Instead, he's watching her face.
Sam pulls her lip between her teeth, worrying it at bit, and smirks when his eyebrows rise.
"So," he says, nudging her knee with his own, "Where was I?"
"Doing things on purpose, I think," she answers.
And then he kisses her.
He skips the teasing and dives straight for the serious kiss, his hands roaming from her back to her shoulders and down again. She winds her fingers into his hair as one car passes by, then another, then two or three more. She loses count in the feel of his lips on hers and the breathless sensation of such public, once-forbidden caresses.
When he pulls away, it's far too soon, or maybe not soon enough. She closes her eyes and he rests his chin against her temple as she breathes slowly, in and out.
"If you keep kissing me like that here," Sam says eventually, "we're likely to end up breaking a law or ten."
Jack snorts softly as he releases her and takes a step away. "I don't mind, as long as we keep count."
"I'm pretty sure I can't do that," she replies.
He shrugs. "Or not. I'm okay with that, too." He reaches out slowly, and very deliberately, plucks the shoes from her hands, slipping them into the bag hanging from her shoulder.
She's a little surprised to realize she'd still been holding them.
"C'mon," he says, taking her hand and resuming his walk down the street, pulling her – and her bare feet – after him. "Let's go home."