Puddlejumpers are too big for the gate room.
The thought's absurd, but as she stares at the hovering ship that fills the space between gate and wall, nearly blocking the light of the open wormhole behind it, it's the only thought she can muster. The thing's so large that the mind rebels, refuses to orient.
Or maybe it's just that her own mind doesn't know which end is up right now, and hasn't since her fingers fumbled mid-keystroke when the first chevron sprang to life moments ago.
Jack had never bothered with fabricating excuses to be in the gate room whenever he wanted. Sam, on the other hand, had long ago perfected the art. After all these years, it's just a matter of course. Like the diagnostic she's currently executing, like mortal peril, like coming home at the end of the day - everything about this situation ought to be a matter of course by now.
It's not, though; but she shouldn't be so surprised by that. Shouldn't be so astonished by the feeling that gravity's deserted her, that perception and perspective suddenly require a level of effort and cognition that she's simply not capable of.
Who needs a frame of reference anyway?
Out of the corner of her eye, she watches Landry lean in to the microphone. "Welcome home, General," he says, and at his words, Sam finally drags her gaze up to the jumper's occupants.
She finds Jack's face in time to see the grin that spreads across it. "Hope you held dinner, Hank" he says, speaking to Landry but looking straight at her.
Sam turns away, punches one final key, and slips off down the stairs, chased by the sound of the wormhole snapping shut.
She tells herself she's not running away, not hiding; where else would Jack look for her when he's been cleared but in her lab? Sam Carter in her lab is, after all, one of the unchanging constants of the universe.
It's also one of the few places in the universe where she can count on regaining her perspective.
But when his shadow falls across her workbench nearly two hours later, and she looks up and sees him and her insides promptly go into free-fall, she thinks that particular universal law might have gone missing along with all the rest of them.
"Carter," he says by way of greeting, and his voice is easy, full of that old, familiar mix of teasing officiousness and long-suffering affection, as though he hadn't been the target of a tactical nuclear weapon mere hours before.
Actually, it's more as if he'd had fun having said weapon pointed at him. He probably hadn't, of course, but he'll also never admit that in this lifetime.
"So," he leans against the other side of the table. "Atlantis. Pretty this time of year."
"Are you okay?" she asks.
He blinks, and maybe he's taken aback, but she doesn't feel like fencing today. "Give or take a hand in the head or two," he says with a shrug.
"I'm pretty sure they just didn't want me to feel left out." He picks up a screwdriver from the tabletop, twists it between his fingers, then tosses it back down. "What with Dick 'Easy Pickings' Woolsey there and all."
It takes work, but she's pretty confident she holds back the cringe.
Or maybe not, because he walks slowly around the bench to stand next to her; his warmth surrounds her in the cool of the room, his fingers brush the back of her hand. "Sam." His eyes meet hers, unwavering. "I'm okay."
She'd like to find some way to prove that to herself, but if she starts touching him here, she's pretty sure she won't stop. She takes a deep breath, in and out, and then she nods once, for form.
From the look on his face, he doesn't buy her acceptance for a second.
He jerks his head toward the door. "I'm going to grab something to eat. Come if you want, or meet me topside in half an hour."
She nods once more, then watches as he turns and walks away.
They're barely in the door of her house before she has her mouth on his, her hands coasting upwards and winding in the threads of his hair, pulling him to her as though she expects him to protest. He doesn't; his own arms wrap around her waist, and the weight of them against her back is like gravity, drawing her close and anchoring her and making it impossible to break away.
As if there'd ever been any hope of that.
They fumble a bit down the hallway; Sam bangs into more corners and doorframes than she has since the first time they did this. It's not long, though, before they're naked on her sheets, and she's biting back moans as he brushes her neck and breasts with the pads of his fingers.
The thing is, getting lost in her own pleasure isn't what she's looking for right now.
She tugs at him and pulls his head down again. "Please," she says against his lips as she trails a hand down his back, slides her thigh against his. "Jack. I want you."
Sam knows she's won when she feels the tensing of his muscles at her words, when he buries his face against her neck with a groan and moves one hand to grip hard at her hip; knows it well before he finally presses forward and settles his hips between hers and buries himself deep inside her.
They rock together, slowly at first, and then faster, until she's a little breathless from the force of it, from the weight of him on top of her and the feel of him as his heavy thrusts push her back into the bed.
He's solid and real and hers, and he's alive, and it's exactly, exactly what she's needed. There's no law or equation in the universe that can describe this kind of perfection.
"Missed me a little, did you?" he asks, and if his tone's not quite flippant, isn't exactly cocky, it's close enough that if this were any other reunion between them, she'd explain to him just how much of an ass he can be - and he really can be quite an ass sometimes.
Tonight, she answers only with a slight caress of her fingertips against his skin.
The dark silence of night surrounds them; even the sound of their breathing is muted, something she feels more than she hears as Jack's chest moves beneath her. The skin of his shoulder is warm against her cheek, his hand at her waist relaxed but heavy. It should be comforting, but somehow it's not.
Maybe it's because she's so tired. Tired of the constant separation and the near misses and the galaxy's worth of burdens they're usually carrying.
More than one galaxy's worth, lately.
"All those years," she says softly into his skin, "when it was just, 'Hi, sir, I'm glad you're okay,' I don't know how we ever did that."
His arm tightens around her, and when his fingers dig into her skin a little too hard, she finds the discomfort oddly reassuring.
Several seconds pass before clears his throat and releases her. "Well," he says, "if I'd known this was on offer back then ...."
There's no longer any question of whether he intends to be flip, and she makes a sound of protest; it's meant as frustration, but it comes out sounding more like all the worry and sadness and desperate, helpless hope she'd felt while his life hung in the balance.
She slides off him, caught between irritation and embarrassment, and starts to pull away, but stops when he turns to face her.
"How do we -" She breaks off, takes a deep breath. "I don't know how to keep doing this now."
He stares at her, his expression unreadable.
"Jack," she says, and he finally responds, leaning in and cutting her off by capturing her lips. His leg slides between hers, and his hand inches up her side, and even though she knows that all of this is Jack O'Neill for I don't want to talk about this right now, she can't help her shiver of anticipation or her gasp when his fingers drift across her breast.
She hates her body a little bit for betraying her.
"Jack," she tries again.
"Shh." He kisses the corner of her mouth as his hand drops, one finger trailing down her belly.
"We're not done," she says, trying to sound commanding despite her breathlessness.
"Good." He kisses her again. "Because I'm not planning on being done with you. Ever."
She lets her eyes drift shut.
Sam wakes alone, despite the still-dark windows. It's not unusual. After a decade of alien worlds, domestic time zones, and plain old insomnia, neither of them possesses anything that resembles a normal biological clock.
She pushes herself out of bed, pulls on enough discarded clothing to be decent, and heads off down the hall. She finds Jack in the kitchen, a spoon and an open jar of peanut butter in his hands.
She can't help but laugh.
He shoves the spoon into the jar and the jar onto the counter. "What?" he asks, brandishing his empty hands.
"Nothing," she says with a smile as she crosses to stand in front of him. "Nothing at all."
He grunts something unintelligible before he reaches out and draws her against him.
"I'm sorry," she says softly.
He huffs a laugh into her hair. "Are you apologizing for the sex, Carter, or the fact that the only food you have in the house is stuff that reminds me of grade school?"
"I'm just saying that the food's not an issue for me."
She pokes a finger into his side. "You're an ass, you know."
"I missed you."
"And you missed my ass."
She chuckles into his shoulder, and his arms tighten around her.
Once, she'd thought it would get easier to bear; the pain of parting and the joy of coming together, both so intense that sometimes she can't breathe. It hasn't, of course. And celebration for her has been warped by so many years of standing there and forcing on a smile and thinking she can almost feel the Earth still spinning when she'd thought, irrationally, that it might stop.
"I'm sorry," she says slowly, "that you have to do this every day."
"I don't mind. Not as long as I keep getting rewarded for it, anyway."
She leans back to look into his face. "So you're just in it for the sex?"
"And the peanut butter, of course."
"Of course." She smiles. "Welcome home, Jack."
"It's good to be home."