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Catherine turned out to be more proud of herself than of Sam’s not-so-sneaky plan to have Jack drive her back to her house. Not because it wasn’t a good plan, but because it hadn’t actually worked.

Jack didn’t say much on the way to the mountain. The power surge that had taken out the computers and half of the power couplings had also locked the iris in place, leaving two teams stranded off-world. One of them on a hostile planet he said. Hostile. The word hung in the air. It could mean so many things: an unsafe atmosphere, angry natives, Jaffa armies. She didn’t ask for details.

By the time they pulled into the parking lot, Sam had come up with a pretty sound plan for getting the iris back online. She’d let Catherine deal with the hardware side of the problem. Catherine enjoyed figuring out how to integrate Earth-based systems with the gate. Sam preferred dealing with the completely alien technology that came back from the far corners of the galaxy. They made a good team. Most days, Sam was sure that the two of them could solve just about any problem the universe could throw at them.

Jack stopped her beside his truck before she could run off. She watched him drum his fingers against the hood. He had nice hands. Sam tried not to check her watch. There was a lot to do. Her new code was already writing itself in her head.

He looked over her shoulder, toward the main gate. The rhythm of his fingers faltered and picked back up. Sam found an error in her logic and started rethinking her code.

“I had a good time this morning,” he finally said.

She let her code simmer for a moment because now one of his nice hands was in her hair. His fingers brushed the side of her neck and his thumb caught on her ear.

“Me too,” she said.

“Good.” Jack leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. A work kiss, efficient and tidy. She liked it. “Now go fix stuff.”

 

******

The acrid smell of deep-fried electronics met them at the base of the control room stairs. They shook hands with it before heading up to survey the damage. Jack had his hand on her back when they walked in the room. It was distracting. She’d never get anything done if he kept touching her.

Catherine was elbow-deep in in the computer. She paused long enough to greet Jack and give Sam a we’ll-talk-about-this-later look. Catherine didn’t miss anything.

Colonel Hammond appeared out of nowhere and followed Jack up to the briefing room. Sam listened while he gave Jack updates on SG-3 and SG-7. SG-3 had been dialing in every two hours, waiting for the iris to open. SG-7 hadn’t checked in. Their voices faded into the background and she returned her attention back to her part of the equation.

Sam put Jack in her mental lock-box and bounced ideas off Catherine while she pulled the main power supply out of the rack. It had died an ugly death. She tossed its blackened remains on the growing pile of things that needed to be replaced. Catherine agreed that the iris functions needed to be independent of the main system code and told Sam to get started on it. Sam sat down at a console, hoping she wouldn’t have to start from scratch.

Catherine let Sam get logged in and comfortable before questioning her.

“Well?” She added another hard drive to the pile and cocked an eyebrow at Sam.

Most of the back-up drives had survived. Sam combed through them, picking out the blocks of code she wanted to keep. She was only half paying attention to Catherine. “Well, what?”

“Don’t play dumb, Sam. I’m not blind.” Catherine nodded toward the stairs.

“Can we talk about that later?” Jack was still too new and shiny. There was no way she’d be able to talk about him and work at the same time. Just thinking about him was slowing her down. She put him back in the box.

“We’ll talk over dinner after we get this thing working.”

Catherine was always that confident.

 

*****

 

Sam had the iris operational before lunch.

She was watching from the control room when SG-3 came home. Jack greeted them like long lost friends. It was strange, all the camaraderie being tossed around the gate room. Sam was sure the only thing most of the people in that room had in common was the Air Force. She’d never been part of anything like that. Of something bigger than herself and her science.

Jack waited until he was alone before turning around and giving her a thumbs up. Their own tiny celebration.

She grinned down at him like a fool until Catherine cleared her throat.

 

*****

 

It took longer to get the dialing computer and power couplings back.

She stayed to watch the MALP roll up the ramp, steady and sure on its tracked feet. The footage it sent back wasn’t promising. Clusters of surprised Jaffa stared back at them. There was no sign of SG-7. They managed an unanswered radio call before the screen went white.

The MALP wasn’t designed for long distance surveillance, and it was possible they were just holed up farther from the gate. Sam had been working on an aerial vehicle to fill in that gap, but it wasn’t ready yet.

Catherine stood up when a bunch of heavily armed Marines started assembling in the gate room. Sam didn’t have to be in the military to recognize a rescue mission. “Well, I guess we’ve done all we can,” said Catherine. She looked at her watched. “Dinner?”

It felt wrong to leave while people were missing, but Catherine was right, there was nothing else for them to do. She imagined charging through the gate, armed with nothing but a Ph.D. and a multimeter. She probably wouldn’t make it as far as the MALP had.

“Sure, dinner would be great.” Sam gathered up her things and scanned the gate room. “I should just-”

Catherine looked at her like she was an adorable five year old child whose cheeks needed to be pinched. Sam’s ears felt warm. “He’s in his office,” said Catherine.

“Oh.”

Catherine shooed her toward the stairs. “Go,” she said. “I’ll meet you on the surface.”

The briefing room was empty. Jack was sitting at his desk with his bright red handset pressed against his ear. He spotted her before she could leave and held up his index finger.

Sam studied the grain in the wood table until he came out, his face set in hard lines. He’d been wearing the same expression all day. The easy humor she’d seen earlier had been washed away by the responsibility of his job. “Hey,” he said. “I won’t be getting out of here any time soon.”

“I noticed. Still no word from SG-7?” The question was a formality. She’d been in the control room all day. If they’d checked in, she would have heard.

He made a face like he’d eaten something unpleasant. “No.” The word came out clipped and quiet.

“I’m sorry. It must be hard for you.” Sam was insulated enough from the Airmen and Marines that she didn’t know any of the missing personnel. It must have been so much worse for Jack.

He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked down at the gate room. The floor started vibrating, and she heard the first chevron lock in place. Jack winced. “Can I call you a cab or something?”

She’d forgotten that he was her ride home. Toast and coffee seemed like forever ago. He had more important things to deal with. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll catch a ride with Catherine. Go, save your people.”

His shoulders relaxed the slightest bit before he turned to go. “I’ll call you,” he said. Then he was gone, jogging down the stairs to send more people into danger. It wasn’t something she could have done.

 

*****

 

“So? How did your date go?”

Sam considered that for a moment. The date part of the date had been horrible. The Jack part of the date had been… not horrible. It had been a lot like watching a great actor trapped in a movie that couldn’t be saved.

“You were right.”

Catherine smiled; she liked to be right. “I usually am.”

That was true. It was also true that Catherine wasn’t afraid to remind people of that fact. It was something that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but Sam liked it. “And humble,” Sam pointed out.

“Humility is overrated.” She said that like she’d actually tried humility at some point in her life and found it lacking. Sometimes Sam forgot how different things must have been for Catherine.

“I really like him.” Sam picked up a limp french fry and frowned at it. She should have ordered a salad.

Catherine nodded over her club sandwich. She looked far too pleased with herself. Maybe because she had ordered a salad. “I thought you would.”

“I don’t know why.” At all. Sam had avoided him as much as possible in the beginning. “He’s kind of scary at work.”

“He needs to be.”

“I guess.” It did seem to work for him. Having that layer of separation from the people who worked for you was probably important when they might die following your orders. He was a completely different person away from the job. She wasn’t sure how Catherine had known that, and wondered if there was a story in there somewhere.

Sam yawned and pushed her plate away. Her half-eaten burger looked offended. It was a good burger. She just didn’t have the energy to finish it. She’d prod the story out of Catherine some other time.

*****

Sam was sound asleep when her phone started ringing. She answered with something she hoped sounded enough like 'hello' to get her point across.

“Hey.”

She was expecting Catherine. Nobody else called her in the middle of the night. It took her a moment to place the voice with the name.

“Jack.” She rolled onto her back and thought about opening her eyes. “Is something broken? What time is it?”

There was an embarrassed pause while she listened to him breathe. “Shit. I forgot about the time. I just wanted to let you know that we got SG-7 back.”

Right. She remembered now. He said he would call. “Oh, good.” It was good. She’d be more excited after breakfast.

“Yeah. I’m going to grab some sleep on base. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sure.” She opened one eye and then changed her mind. It was too much work.

“Goodnight, Sam.” Jack hung up before she could say anything else, and she fell asleep with the phone in her hand.

******

He stopped by her lab with good coffee the next morning. A peace offering for waking her up in the middle of the night. She picked the chocolate covered espresso bean off the lid. It was soft from the heat and she had to lick her fingers because wasting chocolate was not something she was willing to do.

Jack cleared his throat and sipped cautiously at his own cup. He glanced up at the industrial clock hanging on the wall and frowned. Jack had a pretty full schedule, and Sam wondered where he was supposed to be. She was pretty sure hanging out in her lab wasn’t a scheduled event. At least not this early in the day.

“Come to my house tonight,” he said. “I’ll make you dinner.”

Sam wasn’t expecting that and Jack kind of looked like he wasn’t either. He didn’t strike her as a spur of the moment kind of guy. “Really?”

“Really do I want you to come over, or really am I going to cook?”

Really was he inviting her over for food or was it a euphemism for something else? He was hard to read. Sam put her sample of liquid naquadah aside and gave him her full attention. It was a mistake. He wasn’t wearing a BDU top and his t-shirt sleeves were pushed up over his elbows. Sam thought she wouldn’t mind if dinner at Jack’s house didn’t actually include food.

“Both,” she said.

He leaned his hip against her workbench and stared down at her. Jack knew how to do intense. There wasn’t much Sam wouldn’t agree to when he looked at her like that. “Then, yes,” he said. “Really.”

“Okay.”

He smiled like he meant it. “Great.” Dr. Lee and one of the lab techs walked through the door. Jack took a step back but kept his eyes on her. “Six?” His voice was low, the question only for her.

“Looking forward to it,” she said.

Dr. Lee was giving her a strange look. Panic, maybe. General O’Neill was a rare sight on this level. At least during the mostly regular hours the civilians kept. He’d spent a lot of late nights in Sam’s lab while she drew simplified diagrams on her whiteboard. Sometimes she forgot how much he avoided the science crew.

Jack nodded at Dr. Lee and went off to do whatever it was he did all day.

 

******

 

Sam was already late by the time she walked out her front door. Late by her standards, which were pretty lax to begin with. Jack probably thought she wasn’t going to show up at all.

He opened the door before she had a chance to knock. Sam decided she would work on her timing. The thought of Jack pacing around his house and watching for her headlights in the driveway was more effective than all the ranting her father had ever done.

“Hey,” he said. “Did you have trouble finding the house?”

She let him take her coat. He brushed her hair back over her shoulder and Sam wanted to give him the rest of her clothes too. “A little,” she said. Mostly because she’d been driving faster than she could read street signs, trying to make up for the time she’d spent digging through her closet looking for the right thing to wear. “What are you making?”

“Lasagna.” He hung her jacket on a dining room chair and led her to the kitchen. There were enough empty pasta boxes and cheese containers hanging out on the countertops to let her know it wasn’t the frozen kind.

“Ambitious.”

“Nah. It’s just noodles, sauce, and cheese. Anyone can make lasagna.”

Sam knew for a fact that wasn’t true. “If you say so.”

“I do say so. Beer?” He grabbed two bottles without waiting for her answer.

“Sure.”

She followed him down the stairs to his living room. His furniture looked rugged and comfortable in the flickering light from the fireplace. There were a lot of military awards crowded onto the mantel. They looked impressive, but she didn’t know what any of them were. Her father would have been able to read Jack’s whole career in the secret code of brightly colored ribbons.

She was surprised to see pictures of a young boy that looked too much like Jack to be anything but his son. He seemed out of place, a lone indication of Jack’s life outside the Air Force.

“Your son?” Jack flinched enough to let her know that it was an unpleasant subject for him. A messy divorce or a custody battle that hadn’t gone his way.

“Yeah.” Jack tipped his bottle back and emptied it. Some extra courage. He ran his finger lightly around the edge of the frame. The smiling boy with the baseball cap looked like he had no idea what he’d done to make Jack look so serious. “Charlie.”

Sam was still going with the messy divorce theory. Catherine wouldn’t have tried to fix her up with Jack if he were married. At least she hoped not. “Does he live with his mother?”

“No. He died. Three years ago.”

Oh. Damn. “I’m so sorry, Jack.” Sam filtered everything she knew about him through that new piece of information. When she first met Jack, she thought he was too serious, too angry. Knowing about his son made her appreciate the fact that he was capable of anything else.

“Me too. He was...” Jack touched the picture again before turning around. “He was a great kid.” He walked up the stairs and Sam wished she could take the conversation back.

She sat on the couch and watched the fire. Jack was gone a half a beer longer than he needed to be. The oven door opened and shut. Then the refrigerator. Sam counted the ribbons above the fireplace.

“Do you want another beer?” His voice was right over her head. She looked up and Jack was leaning through the opening above the couch.

Sam looked at her bottle. “Not yet.”

He came down the stairs a moment later. The couch shifted as he sat next to her and propped his feet up on the coffee table. Sam straightened the hem of her skirt over her knees. Jack’s dead son stared at her from the wall. Maybe dinner dates were just never going to be their thing.

“Hey,” he reached over and un-straightened her skirt. “I didn’t mean to ruin the evening. I should have told you about Charlie before--” He waved his hand between them. Sam wasn’t sure what it meant.

“No. That’s-- I mean, how do you even bring something like that up?” Jack had the right idea about the beer. She finished hers and set the bottle on the table. The beer was good. Dark and hoppy. Not that cheap crap Colorado was famous for. “Besides, it’s still early. There’s plenty of evening left to ruin.”

“Good point.” He put his arm across the back of the couch, and his hand brushed her shoulder. She reached up and caught his fingers. They were warm and restless.

“Good points are my specialty,” she told him.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

She let him pull her closer, settling into his side and resting her free hand on his thigh. She traced the denim seam on the inside of his knee. Jack’s fingers tightened around hers and his breathing took on an artificially even quality. Sam dug through her file of small-talk subjects, hoping to come up with something before her hand worked its way higher.

Jack beat her to the conversation punch with some big-talk. “So,” he said. “What did your father do to make you hate the Air Force?”

Sam’s vision narrowed and she let go of Jack’s hand. She wasn’t ready to talk about that with him. “Can we talk about something else?” Her voice didn’t waver much but Jack caught it anyway. He wrapped his arm tighter around her.

“Yeah, sure.” She only heard him because she was so close. “We can talk about whatever you want.”

Sam didn’t have anything else to talk about. Thoughts of her mother had taken over her brain. “We are really bad at dating,” she said.

He turned and brushed his lips against her hair. “I think we just need more practice.”

They sat on the couch until the oven beeped and Jack went back to the kitchen. He pulled the lasagna out to cool and fetched more beer. Sam gladly accepted one even though the first had gone straight to her head. She should have eaten lunch.

 

********

 

The lasagna would have been good even if she wasn’t starving and working on a decent alcohol buzz. All their dead family members stayed in the living room and their dinner conversation turned out a lot better than the couch conversation.

They ate at the small kitchen table. He’d offered to clear the dining room table, but Sam preferred the kitchen. Jack must have too; his dining room looked like it hadn’t seen a meal in years. There was a bottle of wine on the counter that might have been opened if they’d eaten in the dining room. The kitchen table was less demanding.

“That was really good.” She leaned back in her chair and was glad she’d gone with the loose fitting skirt.

“I told you, lasagna is idiot proof.”

It must not be genius proof, Sam thought. She could fuck up a lasagna with the best of them. It was probably too early to let him know that the toast was going to be the only home-cooked meal to come out of her kitchen. “You’re not an idiot.”

He shrugged and gave her a pointed look. “Depends on the company I’m keeping.” That was fair, but Sam had talked him through concepts she’d spent years studying. Jack slid his chair away from the table and changed the subject. “I have dessert,” he said.

“Please don’t let it be chocolate. If I eat anything else I might explode.”

“Cheesecake.”

“Cheesecake can wait.”

Jack stood up and started stacking dishes in the sink. She would have helped but his sleeves were rolled up again, and the beer had turned his naked arms into the most interesting thing in the room. He looked confused when he caught her staring at him.

“Well, I’m not sure what to do with you now,” he said. Right, because he was stuck with her until the alcohol worked its way out of her system.

Sam had some pretty good ideas about what he could do with her until then. Jack’s eyebrows scrunched together and Sam tried to get her ideas off of her face. He really needed to pull his sleeves down. When had she become so shallow? Maybe a walk would help.

She stood up and pulled him away from the sink. “Let’s go for a walk.”

******

The walk did help.

The stars were out in force, and Jack’s house was just far enough outside the city to avoid the worst of the light pollution. Jack held her hand and kept her pointed in the right direction while she stared at the sky.

He tucked the hand he was holding into his jacket pocket and led her through a wooded area that bordered a small park. Leaves crinkled under their feet reminding Sam that Halloween was just around the corner. Pumpkin pie season was her favorite.

They circled the park and headed back to Jack’s house. Their pace slowed to a crawl and she wasn’t sure which of them was to blame. They stopped at the top of the driveway. Sam’s car crouched next to his truck, waiting patiently for her return. The house was a squat brown temptation, telling her to ignore the car and come back inside where it was warm.

Jack walked her to the side of the car and pulled her into his arms. Maybe the house was tempting him too. She slid her hands under his jacket and warmed her nose against his shoulder. It was getting late, and she was still running on not enough sleep. The thought made her yawn. “I guess I should go home.”

He tightened his arms around her waist and kissed the top of her head. A flock of dry leaves skittered around her ankles. She closed her eyes and listened to them scatter into the night. Jack’s voice rumbled against her forehead. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”

There was an invitation hiding inside that question, like his mental decision-making coin had landed on its edge and was waiting for her to push it over. She tapped it and was surprised when it landed car side up. “Yeah. I’m fine.”

Sam drove home on roads that had been stretched like taffy, giving her too much time to think. By the time she pulled onto her street, she wasn’t even tired anymore. It seemed unfair. The temperature had dropped while she was gone and her house was too cold. It was a fleece pajama and hot tea kind of night.

She was in the middle of filling her teapot when she realized she’d been wrong.

 

*******

 

Somebody in Jack’s neighborhood had a bit of a wind chime fetish. Sam listened to the discordant tones while she walked to his front door. Her finger hovered over the doorbell a moment. It was possible he’d gone to bed. Without her. She knocked softly instead.

She was about to leave when the door opened. Warm air swirled around her feet. Jack looked soft and worn in the hazy porch light. He’d changed into something more comfortable while she was gone. Not fleece pajamas, but close.

“Sam.” Jack managed to pack a lot of question into her name. “What’s--” He looked behind her like the answers were pulling into the driveway. “Is everything okay?”

“I was wrong,” she said. “About being able to drive. I think I need to stay.”

“Oh,” he said like that made any sense, and then again when it actually did. “Oh.”

 

****

 

Jack led her down his hall like they were an old married couple heading for their afternoon nap. Whatever nervousness she’d brought with her didn’t survive the walk. He seemed to have enough for the both of them.

“Sorry about the mess.” He shoveled laundry off his bed and kicked some shoes toward the corner of the room. “I wasn’t expecting... this.”

Sam watched him from the doorway. The light from the hall cast a long Sam-shadow over his bed. “I kind of was.”

Jack smiled at her like maybe he’d at least thought about it. He grabbed a pile of neatly folded towels and dropped them on top of the shoes. They flopped over with a dramatic flair. Sam thought maybe she should have called first. Clearly, the towels would have appreciated some warning.

Jack gave the room a final glance before walking over and taking her hands. The scar above his eye caught the light. She’d never asked how he’d gotten it. She let him pull her into the room, and he moved his hands to her face, staring into her eyes like she was the most amazing thing in the universe. Sam thought she might melt. “Are you sure about this?”

Driving all the way back to his house seemed like a pretty clear signal, but maybe the question wasn’t really for her. She stepped closer to him, and he pressed his forehead to hers. “Are you?”

“Yes,” he said. He kissed her to prove his point, and his hands used the break in the conversation to find their way under her shirt. Sam considered it a small victory when they weren’t interrupted by a phone. “Definitely, yes.” Jack fumbled with her bra for a moment before giving up. She reached behind her back with one hand and unclasped it for him, pulling it off with her shirt. Jack forgot where her face was.

“It’s just-- It’s been a while,” he admitted.

His hands on her breasts were pretty sure they remembered what to do. They trailed over her ribs and she shivered. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s like riding a bicycle.”

She slid Jack’s sweatpants down over his seasonally appropriate underwear. Day-glo jack-o-lanterns grinned at her like spending the day in Jack’s pants was the best gig ever. She wondered if he wore them to work. Frivolous underwear to balance out his work persona.

His hands paused just above her waistband, and he pulled his mouth away from her neck so he could look at her. He was wearing the wrong expression for the situation.

“What the hell kind of bicycle did you have?” He asked that like he really wanted an answer. Even the pumpkins on his boxers looked expectant.

Sam pushed him back to the bed, and he sat in her shadow. “Stop talking.”

******

The boxers didn’t last long. They were still smiling when she tossed them off the side of the bed.

Naked was a good look on Jack. He stretched out beside her, and she ran her hand down his chest. The muscles in his stomach jumped under her touch. She went lower, running her knuckles lightly down his length. He exhaled slowly for a moment and leaned his head back against the mattress. There was a deep scar on his shoulder. She kissed it and moved her hand back up, sliding her fingers around him on the way.

“Jesus. Sam.” His voice was strained and breathless, and he grabbed her hand, pushing hard against it before moving it back to his chest where it couldn’t cause any trouble. “Out of practice, remember?”

“Sorry,” she said. It was a lie. She wasn’t sorry at all.

“I think,” he said while he rolled on top of her. “That you-” His mouth worked its way down her chest and her breath hitched when his tongue circled her nipple. “Are-” He sucked at the skin just below her navel. Sam shifted her legs because she was smart enough to know where he was headed. “A liar.” It was his his last word on the subject, because his tongue found something better to do.

She thought she had a witty reply that, but lost all her words when he eased one finger inside of her. She already had a bit of a thing for his hands; this wasn’t going to help. He teased her orgasm out of her, taking her just to the edge and keeping her there long enough for her to consider sending him to join his underwear and finishing by herself.

“Jack,” she managed through her frustration. He responded by increasing the pressure of his tongue. Not by a lot, but it was enough. He held his hand flat against her stomach, keeping her still, and added a second finger. Some more words fell out of her mouth and she felt her chest flush.

Jack repositioned himself so his head was resting on her stomach. She toyed with his hair and concentrated on breathing. If this was out of practice, she might just pass out next time. She was still considering next time when he moved up to finish this time.

He slid into her with one smooth motion that was almost too fast. Almost. Sam wrapped her legs around him and held him still. He looked down at her. His eyes were shadowed and his voice was soft. “You okay?”

Sam was so far beyond okay she couldn’t see it anymore. “Yeah,” she said. She relaxed her legs and lifted her hips. Jack pushed deeper and paused like he was summoning all the self-control he could find. He didn’t find much, probably because Sam wasn’t very helpful.

She scraped her nails down his side and pulled her knees back. Jack cursed quietly into her ear and started to move faster and with less finesse. It was mean, she knew that, but it was just so damn hot to make him lose control like that. She swiveled her hips in tight circles and felt like she’d found her super-power when he cried out and collapsed on top of her.

She let him stay there for a while with his face buried in her neck. “You’re heavy,” she said when she felt the need to breathe more freely. He slid to her side and draped an arm over her chest.

The room was starting to feel cold and Sam tried to find the blankets with her feet. She came up empty. Jack used the last of his energy to crawl down the mattress and grab the comforter off the floor. He pulled it over them and curled up behind her.

“Hey,” he said into the back of her head. “I think we’re getting better at this dating thing.”

Sam agreed. It might not have much in the way of competition, but this was definitely their best date yet.