It was 0600 on a Saturday, and Jack woke to the smell of coffee. He rolled out of bed and stumbled toward the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee. He admitted to himself what he’d never admit to Daniel. The programmable coffee maker Daniel had given him as a birthday gift was worth the trouble it took to learn how to program it. Fortunately, that’s where Carter came in. He was grateful she had the patience of Job. Explaining how to set the coffee maker to come on at the right time and brew the right amount of coffee had taken a few hours. Jack smirked as he remembered that lesson. It might’ve taken longer than necessary; he was quite adept at playing dumb.
Nevertheless, it was worth it. Waking up to a fresh cup of coffee every morning was blissful – as long as he remembered to put coffee in each night. He was particularly thankful he’d done that last night. The coffee was a welcome pick–me-up this morning, since he had a bit of a hangover. Picking up his coffee cup, he walked into his living room. Who could blame him for indulging in a little Guinness after the week they had experienced at the SGC? Okay, maybe it was more than a little. Looking around the room, he saw at least six empty bottles in various areas of the room. Most of them were centered around the sofa. He had sat there watching a Simpsons marathon while downing the Guinness. The smell of stale alcohol lingered in the room, so he took his coffee and walked out onto his deck.
As he passed by the radio that he kept there, he turned it on and the soft strains of “Un bel di”, from Madame Butterfly, drifted from the speakers. Recalling the week they’d just had at the SGC, he hoped today would turn out to be “one fine day”. While the last week had not been anywhere near one of the most dangerous weeks they’d had, it had been strange to say the least.
It started when that crazy alien followed Carter through the Stargate and took up residence in her house. That was just creepy. Jack remembered how everyone, himself included, had thought Carter had lost it when no amount of investigation or surveillance had substantiated her claim that there was an intruder in her home. He recalled the look of disappointment on her face when he showed his disbelief.
With all they had endured over the past few years, who could blame any of them for “losing it”. They had thought Daniel had died twice. Teal’c had been brain washed by Apophis and he, himself, had been infected with nanites and artificially aged overnight. Talk about an STD! And Carter – she’d been possessed twice. Once by a parasitic Goa’uld who turned out to be Tok’ra and once by an alien entity.
Jack shuddered as he remembered that incident. To defend the base from that entity, he’d had to zat Carter twice, killing her. He knew he’d never forget that moment when he saw the light go out of those beautiful blue eyes. Fortunately, they had managed to save Carter along with the base. Janet had put her on life support immediately, but held out little hope for her. Jack couldn’t bring himself to pull the plug and asked the Doc to give it a moment. Luckily, they were able to determine that the entity had transferred Sam’s consciousness into the base mainframe. With some wizardry that he could not pretend to understand, they were able to shift her consciousness back into her body. That had been too close.
Jack shook his head to clear away his morbid thoughts. He tried to take another sip of coffee only to discover the cup was empty. He walked back into the kitchen for a second, or third cup, - he’d lost count. The day stretched out before him; it had been some time since SG1 had a weekend off. He wasn’t sure what to do with it. He walked back out onto the deck to stand at the railing and looked out over his yard. While it was still cold in the early mornings and late evenings, the days were beginning to warm up. Spring was definitely in the air. The grass was turning green and his lawn would soon need mowing. One of the neighborhood boys did that for him but he used Jack’s lawnmower. Ah, that’s what he could do today. He’d get the lawnmower ready for spring.
With a purpose for the day, Jack finished his coffee and made a mental list of items he would need to tune up the mower – spark plug, air filter, and oil. He’d need to change the oil after the long winter. Oh, and check the blade. It might need to be sharpened or even replaced. After determining that the blade did need replacing, Jack drove to the hardware store on the other side of town. Although several big chain stores were closer to his house, he liked to shop at locally owned stores when he could, even if it meant driving across town. He’d discovered this store years ago when he was helping Sara with some electrical work at her father’s house. The owner, Tim, had been very helpful and Jack had developed a friendly relationship with him over the years. The store wasn’t anything special –just a one story faded red brick building with the name painted on the front windows. And the name – nothing fancy - The Hardware Store. Maybe that’s why Jack liked it. It was plain and simple just like him.
As Jack stopped in front of the store, he noticed several cars and one motorcycle parked outside. Evidently, he wasn’t the only one with DIY plans for today. Before walking into the store, he took a long look at the motorcycle. It was obvious that someone took good care of it. The chrome was shiny and the black paint was gleaming. It looked built for speed.Taking a last look, he opened the door of the store and heard the familiar tinkling of a bell. Since Tim didn’t greet him as he walked in, Jack assumed he must be busy with another customer. There were quite a few people in the store today, so all the employees were busy - all two of them and that included Tim .But Jack didn’t need any assistance; he knew exactly what he needed and where all the items were located.
Tim always had a pot of coffee close to the check out station. Although Jack had had plenty of coffee this morning, he knew another cup would give him a chance to visit with Tim, who was a Rockies fan and always had something to say about their prospects each year. That was part of the fun of shopping at local establishments rather than the big chain stores. As he walked toward the checkout counter, he heard a familiar voice.
“I’ll have to come back for most of this, Tim. I didn’t realize that I’d be buying so much today. It won’t fit on my bike.”
“That’s okay, Sam. We can deliver it later this afternoon,” said Tim. “We have several deliveries going out after lunch.”
“That’ll be great. Thanks.” Jack heard Sam reply as he walked up behind her.
“Hey, Carter! Whatcha doing?”
Sam’s jaw dropped as she turned around and saw him. “Sir!”
“Hey, do you two know each other?” Tim was curious.
“Sure, Tim. Carter and I work together at the CMC.” Jack turned toward Tim and put his supplies on the counter.
“So, Sam, you’re in the Air Force too.” Tim took Jack’s supplies and started ringing them up.
Sam had yet to utter anything other than Sir.
“Are you okay, Carter?”
“Uh, Yes Sir. I’m just surprised to see you here.”
“How about this. My two best customers work together.” Tim gushed enthusiastically.
“Two best customers? You shop here often, Sir?”
“Not that often, Carter. But when I do, I make it worthwhile.” Jack laughed. “What’s all this ‘stuff’ you’re buying that you can’t get home? And, did I hear you say ‘bike’? Don’t tell me that motorcycle out there is yours?”
“Yes Sir. That’s my bike.”
“Carter, I’m almost jealous”
“Of what, Sir?”
“That bike. It’s so shiny and new. Makes mine look ancient in comparison.”
Carter’s eyes opened wide. “You have a bike too?”
Before he could answer, Tim butted it with a question. “What time do you need the delivery, Sam?”
“Oh Sorry, Tim. Anytime this afternoon will be fine.”
“Carter, I can help you get your stuff home.” Jack volunteered. “What are you doing anyway?”
“I need to rewire my circuit breaker box. After that blackout---“
“Wasn’t that blackout two nights ago something!”Tim interrupted. “Power was out over most of this area until morning.”
Jack raised one eyebrow. “You mean the little incident at your house—“
“Yes, Sir. It was caused by the power outage,” said Sam quickly. She gave a slight shake of her head, which Jack interpreted to mean that she didn’t want Tim to know her house was ground zero for the power disruption.
“Right. So you want to take me up on my offer?” Jack changed the subject.
“Offer?” Sam’s brows drew together. “Oh, you mean to help get my supplies home. Yes, that would be great – if it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all, Carter. Let me pay for my parts and I’ll help you load up. Do you want to put your bike in the back of my truck also?”
“No Sir, I’ll ride it home. Do you think you can keep up with me?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“Is that a dare, Carter?”
“No. I wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t get lost, Sir.”
Jack muttered, “I think I can find my way, Carter. Even if I should lose sight of you on the way.” He winked as he spoke those last words.
“Fine then. Let’s get loaded up.”
When they were finished loading the truck, Sam took off on her motorcycle, leaving Jack to follow in her wake. Unexpectedly, at least to Jack, he did lose sight of her in the traffic. Even so, it wasn’t a problem as he knew the way to Sam’s house very well. He hadn’t actually been there often, but he made it a point to know where each of his team members lived.
Sam was putting her bike away when Jack drove up to her house. He stepped down from his truck, shaking his head. “Carter! Who taught you to ride a motorcycle?”
“My dad did. Why?”
“I’m sure ‘Dad’ didn’t teach you to ride that fast!”
“Have a hard time keeping up? She waited a beat, and then added,“Sir", with a slight smile. The Sir was definitely late. She did seem to enjoy yanking his chain.
“It’s hard to maneuver my truck through traffic like you did that bike,” Jack complained.
“Thank you Sir,” Sam smiled brightly.
“That wasn’t a compliment,” he growled.
“Oh,” Sam’s voice was quiet as she bit her bottom lip. “Let’s get my supplies unloaded then.”
“Sure, Carter. Where do you want all this stuff?”
“Put it in the garage for now. I’ll organize it in the order I will need it,” Sam instructed.
“Of course, you will.” Jack was muttering to himself.
“I was just commenting on your organizational abilities, Carter.”
That brought another smile to her face and she replied, “Thanks, Sir.”
“Again, not necessarily a compliment.” Jack looked up just in time to see Carter frown and turn quickly away. He realized his snide comments might have been rather rude. He decided it was best not to draw attention to them by apologizing. Best for him, anyway. He wasn’t the greatest at expressing his feelings.
Jack picked up some of the electrical conduits and cleared his throat to get Carter’s attention. “Where shall I put these?”
Sam surveyed the layout of the garage and pointed to the area near some built-in shelving. “Over there on the floor should be good, sir. The cables can go beside them and the switches on the middle left shelf.”
“You really do have this planned out, Carter. Sorry I teased you about organizing everything.” That was as close to an apology he was going to make.
“That’s okay, Sir. I realize I can be a little OCD sometimes.” Sam’s voice sounded lighter.
They continued to unload his truck as Carter stacked the supplies in an order only she could understand. They worked together quietly and efficiently. They seemed to anticipate each other’s moves. He supposed this came from four years working together in the field. As he thought about all their missions, he realized that it hadn’t taken long for them to achieve such a hand-in-glove relationship. Sometimes, he realized, he took it for granted.
“That’s all of it,” Sam said, breaking into his thoughts.
“Huh- what? Oh, so it is.” Jack wasn’t aware that he’d just handed Carter the last of her supplies.
“Sir, I appreciate you helping me get all this home. I’m not sure why I took the bike today. I wasn’t thinking straight.” She sounded apologetic.
“Whoa, Carter. What’s wrong? I can’t imagine you not thinking things through.”
Sam’s shoulders slumped as she sighed. “With the events of the last few days, I just felt like I needed to clear my head and a ride seemed to be the way to do it. The trip to the hardware store was an afterthought as I was returning home. I was only going to see what all I might need. Before I knew it, I’d purchased everything.”
“Then it’s a good thing I happened along today. Right?” Jack was trying to get a smile back on her face. He lived for Carter’s smiles. He frowned slightly as he wondered where that thought came from.
“Yes Sir, your timing was impeccable. By the way, what were you doing all the way over on this side of town? Aren’t there any hardware stores closer to you?”
“Yeah, but I’ve used that hardware store for a long time. Tim has been most helpful over the years. So, that was the place to go when I decided to do some work on my lawnmower.”
“I’m sorry to be keeping you from your work today, Sir, but I do appreciate your help.”
“No problem. It was just something to do today. The grass won’t need cutting for some time. I will have plenty of time to take care of the mower.” Suddenly, Jack thought of something that would be more interesting than working on his lawnmower. “Hey, why don’t I help you today instead?”
Sam turned to look at him. “Are you sure you want to do that, Sir?”
“Why wouldn’t I want to help you, Carter?”
Sam suddenly squared her shoulders and stood tall as she addressed him. “With all due respect, Sir, you didn’t seem too eager to ‘help me’ when I reported an alien in my house.”
Jack was surprised by the hurt in Carter’s tone. “I did come by with the surveillance team and help them get set up.”
“Yes,Sir. Yet when the surveillance didn’t confirm any alien presence, you didn’t back me up. You even recommended that I see Dr. MacKenzie.” She almost spat out that name.
“No, Carter. That was General Hammond.”
Carter continued to look at him with disgust.
Jack put up his hands in a defensive posture. “Alright, I didn’t object to it. But, give me a break, Carter. No one could substantiate your claim, and with all you’ve been through in the last few years—“
“What I’ve been through!” Sam broke in with a shrill voice and a reddened face.
“Easy, Carter. What we’ve all been through.” He corrected. “It did seem as if a psych eval might be in order—“
Sam interrupted him again. “I never thought you, of all people, would support that, especially with MacKenzie.”
Jack backed up a step. “I know, Carter, I know. Not my best moment, but Hammond would have insisted anyway. And, to be honest, seeing the surveillance tape that Simmons had of you and Ollie—“
“Orlin,” Sam interjected.
“Whomever. Anyway, I thought – here we go again.”
"What do you meant by that, Sir?” Jack noticed that she made her hands into fists as she crossed her arms.
“Uh oh.” Jack thought. “I’ve done it now.” He took a deep breath and said, “Narim, Marty, and now Orlin. When I saw and heard those tapes, I was a little…”
“A little what, Sir?” Sam’s arms were still crossed but her hands were relaxed a bit.
“Jealous.” Jack admitted.
“Jealous?” Sam’s eyes opened wide.
“Yes, I saw how close you and that Orlin guy were getting. I remembered you had a date that time when Teal’c and I came over with pizza and a movie. I put two and two together and didn’t like what I came up with.”
“Jealous?” Sam repeated, letting her arms fall to her side.
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
“But, Sir, I thought we locked all that up in that room.” Sam’s voice quavered.
Jack had a hard time looking her in the eye “I did too, Carter. Maybe that lock isn’t so secure. It’s difficult keeping that door locked.”
“I agree, sir. It is hard. I have trouble with that lock also.”
Jack raised one eyebrow. He couldn’t believe where this conversation was going. Or that he was being so open. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you at first, Carter. I should’ve trusted you completely.”
“Sir, If I’m being honest, I may have reacted the same, if the positions had been reversed. In fact, you could say I did act the same. When you went undercover after Edora, my gut told me that you would never act that way, but you convinced me otherwise. I ended up believing the worst about you.”
“So not your fault, Carter. That’s exactly what I wanted you to believe. Your situation with Ollie -er - Orlin was different. You weren’t trying to make me believe you were crazy – just the opposite.
She considered that for a moment and then said, “As a trusted friend of mine would say, ‘There’s that’.” She grinned and gave him a wink.
“You’ve definitely been around me too long,” Jack nudged her with his shoulder. Then, with a little more solemnity, he asked, “So where does that leave us?”
Carter seemed to give it some thought and replied, “Sir, I believe it’s best if that door is securely locked – for now.” She ducked her head as she said those last two words.
“For now, huh?”
“Yes sir.” Carter raised her head to look him squarely in the eyes. They stood there a moment, each looking intently in the other’s eyes, as if to determine if they understood each other. Finally, she broke the spell and she said. “So, do you still want to help me with the electrical work?”
“Jack grinned and replied, “Yep, it beats working on the lawnmower any day.
“How much do you know about electrical work, Sir?”
“I’ve been known to replace a light bulb once or twice.” Jack’s grin turned into a smirk.
“There you go, playing dumb again.”
“I know not of what you speak, Carter,”
“Now you are channeling Teal’c.” Sam was laughing now. “I know you’re not as dumb as you like people to think. In fact, you could probably rewire the whole house by yourself.”
Jack had turned around to survey all the supplies Carter had purchased. “Now, don’t go exposing all my secrets. I’m here to assist you. So, tell me what do you want?” He turned back to face Sam as he finished that sentence and thought he caught her checking out his ass. Oops, maybe that was a wrong choice of words. He cleared his throat and said, “I mean what do you want me to do first?”
At that, Sam shook her head as if she had been in a trance. “Uh, for starters, Sir, let’s get these cables and conduits down to the basement.” She began picking up the aforementioned items.
“Okay, whatever you say, Carter.” Jack picked up the rest of the items and followed her out of the garage and down to the basement.
“For now,” he whispered.
“Nothing Carter. Just talking to myself.”Jack said as he started whistling the aria he had been listening to that morning. It had turned out to be One Fine Day.