She had finally 'switched off'. It had taken her a few days to rid herself of the itch that she was neglecting a to-do list the size of her arm.
Jack had let her loose in the cabin with his tool box so she could come down slowly by fixing the dodgy porch light and sink garbage disposal, checking the generator over and then the truck, and finally sleeping in late on the third morning. He didn't wake her, but did find himself checking she was actually alive a few times, especially after 1pm rang around.
She emerged around 1.30pm, tousled and groggy, a shy smile beneath his old sweatshirt and boxers. It was a sight to behold and one ingrained in his mind and his heart forever-more. "Morning, sleepyhead."
"Why didn't you wake me?"
"Didn't have anything for you to fix."
A smile tipped her lips before she padded barefoot over to him. He edged his chair away from the table, leaving his newspaper and glasses as she straddled his hips and kissed him long and lazy. His hands smoothed up her thighs, under the hem of the shorts as much as he could reach against the tension before delving beneath the sweatshirt to bed-warm, silken skin.
The kiss quickly began to grow more passionate, though still languid and teasing. "I'm trying to think of some witty quip about you going back to bed," he said, his voice hoarse and skin flushed. "But all I can think about is you and me in bed so..."
She leant down to his ear and whispered, "Jack... take me to bed."
He would have fireman's lifted her there and then if his knees would have let him and he had any blood left in his brain. They spent that third day in bed and he wished he had retired again years ago.
By day five, she had stood in front of his bookshelf and picked through until something piqued her interest. Their wasn't a mention of aliens or space (their wasn't in anything he had), no science; just a bad guy and a hell-bent cop. She was quickly engrossed and spent the afternoon on the couch, her legs curled beneath her while the rain fell, a steady stream of hot tea in her mug.
Jack was clearing out the storage, an occasional thud and cuss sounding from the far room and search through the kitchen drawers for tape and a sharpie. He would swing by the couch each time, sidle up behind her and lay his chin on her shoulder. "Where you up to?"
"He's found the knife but the girl's gone missing."
He would read a page and kiss her ear, "You want anything?"
"I'm good," she would smile at him and give him a kiss before he continued his mission.
She had finished it when he came back through. She had taken to watching the storm whip through the trees and thinking on how it all had finally happened.
He had a newly found record under his arm and flipped open the lid to the player on the side. He cued it up and turned to her with a hand outstretched.
"Really?" She practically giggled.
"On your feet, Colonel."
"Yes Sir," she laughed, pulling herself from her couch cocoon and pressing up against him as the music began. "Stevie Wonder?"
He nodded, entwining his fingers at the base of her back. She had her hands locked around his neck as they began to sway, she leant up and gave him a kiss as the words began to filter in. She didn't know the song, but oh she would now.
She shifted so she could put her head on his shoulder, dancing around the living room as the storm waged on outside.
They fought on the seventh day. Nothing too big or too irreversible, but enough for her to pull on her running shoes and spend an hour or two on the trail.
She had asked what he wanted for their future, he hadn't been too specific and basically said whatever she wanted to do. She didn't like being beholden to the major decisions of his life and he fell back on the old adage of how old he was, how he'd already done everything, how she'd be better off with someone younger.
"When will you-" she slammed a beer bottle into the recycling tub, "When will you drop that crap? Do you have that little faith in me? That I'd run off with the next thirty year old because he has no grey hair and good knees?"
"It's more than that, Carter, and you know it!"
"Tell me exactly what it's about, then."
"It's about you not dragging yourself down! Giving yourself a chance! In ten years I might be in a fucking wheelchair for all we know. My heart might give out like my Dad's did. I might not even be here in ten years and then you have to start over."
"Jack, I might not fucking be here next week! I'll be off world for a month and who the hell knows what will happen. That is a bullshit answer and you know it."
"Carter, would you just listen-"
"No, I can't listen to any more of it." And so she grabbed her shoes, tied them on the porch and ran the rocky trail. It was new for both of them, her allowance to stalk away from him like that. He watched her retreating figure trying to find words but all he eventually managed was "Aw, shit," and threw the kitchen towel into the sink.
He was about to put a lasagne in the oven when she returned. He felt sick to his stomach and had never been so happy to see her.
She toed off her shoes, circled the island before climbing up on to the kitchen counter and dragging him to her for a kiss.
She was sweaty, warm and... bleeding?
"What happened?" He turned her wrist and poked at the tear in her leggings.
"It's just a scratch. Listen, you need to know I am in this for the long haul. Wheelchairs, dodgy hearts, whatever the future has for us, I'm all in. And I need- let me finish- I need you to stop thinking I'm too good for you or you don't deserve me. Because I'm not going anywhere."
"Can I speak?" His twinkled as he smoothed his hands up her thighs, "I need you to understand you are most definitely out of my league, I don't deserve you and will possibly never understand why you want me. But I promise I will make every minute we have together worthwhile until the younger model comes along."
She faltered on her grin.
"I love you, Sam. So much it scares the crap out of me sometimes."
"I love you too." They kissed again, to seal the apologies. "How long 'til food?"
"Forty minutes or so."
"Good. I need a shower and you're coming with me."
As much as their heart rates were being elevated by certain activities, they both felt a little too sedentary so hiked and camped out the eighth night.
Jack took her further up the trail that she had ran, pointing out where a bear had given his grandpa a chase one summer, where Sara had fallen into a patch of poison ivy and he got severely chastised for laughing, where Charlie caught his first fish in the river.
They set up camp at a clearing that Jack knew. He put the tent up while she made a fire. They reheated lasagne over the flames and both remarked that it was strange to taste actual food and not chickeroni and cheese MREs.
They snuggled up when they lost the light, the stars shining above as her legs tangled with his. The fire light shone off her long hair, casting it in oranges and reds as they properly spoke.
"Do you want kids?" He asked.
"I don't know if I can have kids." Nearly twenty years on the front line of one war or another had meant a fair few injuries that may have ruined her chances. She had never really wanted to know for sure.
"If you could..."
"Yeah. But I don't think it's a deal breaker. I've spent too many years convinced it wasn't going to happen for whatever reason, so I don't think I'd be too disappointed looking back." She tightened her hold on his knee, "Do you want kids?"
He huffed out a breath, following the shape of Urser Major in the night sky, "It'd be hard for a while. It would...bring things up. But I'd love the hell out of our kid." Understatement on all accounts.
"Our kid would be so messed up," she snorted, willing the tears to go away. She tried to not imagine a child with his eyes and jawline, sarcastic humour from the crib and her thirst for knowledge. How Uncle Teal'c would hold them by their ankles like it was nothing and have them curl up in his lap asleep while he kel-no-reemed. How Vala would probably revert back to childhood too and lead them off in random games while Daniel tried to clean up after them and tell them grand stories of civilisations past. Cassie being an aunty and their best babysitter. Jack asleep in the chair with their child on his chest-
"But cute as all hell," he tightened his arm around her shoulders and kissed her hair.
"That's on you. Ah! Don't shout at me again. It is on you. You still have the career and the prospects. And the figure. I'm ready to go whenever, so that's your decision to make."
She heaved out a breath and rested her cheek on his shoulder. "Is it weird we're timelining children when we've only been together a week?"
"We've been together a lot longer than that."
By day ten, she was beginning to dread going back to work. Not that she told Jack, but she had a knot in her stomach at the thought of it. A part of her didn't think it would all work out like it had. She'd thought he would get sick of having her around, that the true Carter wouldn't match up to his twelve-year fantasy. That what she held back of herself in deference to ranks and propriety would sully his affection.
It hadn't. If anything, she thought it made them stronger. They had spoken like they had always wanted to. They had done a whole lot that they had always wanted to and, good God, the twelve years of waiting had been worth it. (That had also been a worry in the back of her head.)
But 'real life' was looming and what then? She was jumping straight into a month long trip on USSS Hammond and he'd be at the cabin alone. She'd be a thousand lightyears away. What if a month-
"You're thinking again."
"Guilty," she turned from staring out the window, tucked the pillow under her ear and smiled shyly at him.
"Nothing will change in a month."
"Everything could change in a month."
He didn't know the words to convince her that he would be waiting, that they would pick up right where they left off, that he would always love her. "Marry me."
"Wha-" he could see white all around the brilliant blue of her eyes. "Jack, that wasn't-"
"Marry me. I mean it. If you want to. We've been together for twelve years and ten days and I don't need a minute longer to know I love you."
"...What if the younger model comes along?"
"There's still fight in this old dog yet," his eyes twinkled. He turned away from her and rooted through his bedside cabinet. When he settled back, he had a ring box open in his hand. A simple white gold band held a small, round sapphire encircled with tiny diamonds. It wasn't flashy, not too over the top. It was elegant and beautiful.
"I bought this after your Dad died. He pretty much told me to stop pussyfooting around and marry you already, but you weren't ready then. I kept it with me all this time and-"
"Yes!" she laughed, holding out her hand. He slid the ring onto her finger and she cupped his face as she kissed him with everything she had.
It felt different, this ring. She had had three on her finger in her lifetime but this one didn't shoot a spike of darkness through her body. No spark of foreboding, of tampered down realities and fear.
"The Stargate? Kinda."
She laughed, possibly harder than she ever had until tears coursed down her cheeks. "I love you."
"I love you," he grinned as he settled on top of her.
They spent that day sharing a sun longer on the deck, casting lines into the pond and deciding that they didn't want a big wedding. The team, Cassie, a few other guys from the SGC and a minister. Drinks, BBQ, and a sound system. Teal'c would be best man, Cassie would be maid of honour and Vala a bridesmaid. They both agreed they didn't want Vala organising any kind of bachelorette. Maybe Danny could add an ordainship to his list of qualifications?
She wished Janet could be there. He wished Hammond could be. They both agreed.
They went for supplies the next day. Jack pulled into the long driveway, past the farming acreage with various livestock keeping a wary eye as the truck passed. They parked up near the secondary building next to the old, main house; a handmade wooden 'shop' above the door needed another lick of varnish.
Jack took her hand as they circled the truck. She felt butterflies erupt in her stomach and a giggle catch in her throat. It was one thing to hold her hand in grounds of his cabin but a whole other, definitive thing to interlock fingers when that hand bore her new engagement ring when in public, around people he knew.
Either he felt it too or just reacted to her because he squeezed her hand and brought it up to kiss. She grinned, grabbing hold of his arm with her other hand as they walked through the doorway.
"Hey Bill," Jack greeted the elderly man behind the counter with a wave.
He narrowed his eyes, "Jack, that you son?"
"The one and only." Jack lead them closer to the counter, "Bill, this here's Sam."
Bill's weather-worn face slowly grew into a grin, "Well, it's mighty good to meet you miss." He still had a height and stature that hinted back to his heyday at the farm that his son now ran.
"You too, sir," Sam smiled. Her gaze caught a handwritten poster behind him, "Jack..."
Both men followed her gaze. "Ah yes," Bill tapped the paper headlined 'Puppies!'. "Phoebe got caught before we could get her fixed. No idea what the blasted dad was. The litter was ugly little furballs but cute with it. You looking?"
Jack stared at the black and white photocopied photograph of five or six little blurs.
"You should," Sam said quietly. "Makes sense."
Jack wasn't convinced. "You got any left?"
"Do indeed. Come on back."
They followed Bill out the shop and round the main building, his gait hunched and slow but steady. He held a gate open and pointed to a chicken wired pen at the far end of a small garden where three tiny fuzzballs were lolled over eachother in slumber.
Jack heard the "oh!" gasped from Sam as one of the puppies yawned and tried to open its eyes.
They had short tan and white fur with little spots of black. A snout like a labrador but a body like a german shepherd. Maybe? There were definitely a few breeds in there. Bill began to describe the different personalities already showing on the nine-week olds. "Those two are usually up to no good together and that one was the last one out. We weren't too sure it'd make the night but it's a stubborn little thing. Any take your fancy?"
Jack reached over and pulled the smaller one out of the pen, trying to hide the smile he wanted to give it. "Hey buddy. Phoebe's the mom, you say?"
"That's right. It's the dad we don't know but I got my suspicions. Vet's checked 'em all out."
He turned the little guy around, looking him over before making any decisions. He passed the pup over to Sam and it quickly crawled up her chest to her shoulder to lick at her cheek, eliciting a squeaked laugh as she pulled him to rest in her arms. "You think?"
"You've been wanting a dog for ages, and you're retired now and I'm going to be away for long stretches..."
Jack watched as it tried to playfully nip at Sam's fingers, the telltale swell in his chest at the sight. "Yeahsure. Bill, we'll take this guy off your hands."
They were given a cardboard box for the drive but the puppy spent the journey asleep on Sam's lap. "We only went for supplies, how'd we end up with a dog?"
Sam grinned, threading her hands through the short fur. "It needs a name."
"It needs a lot of stuff," Jack groaned, heading towards the pet store in town.
"What was your last one called?"
"Doug the dog?"
"I got him from this Scottish guy I served with. He pronounced dog like 'dug'."
Sam smiled, "This guy doesn't seem like a Doug."
He glanced over at the fuzzball asleep on his back down the length of Sam's lap, it's little legs curled in the air and twitching as she stroked her fingers down it's soft belly. "Tiberius."
She barked a laugh, "No way."
"You're telling me you're going to stand in the dog park and yell Tiberius at the top of your lungs?"
"Yes. Maybe. What have you got?"
"...Samson..." he tried the name out.
"It means sun," she smoothed her fingers over a tiny paw.
"Is that wise? You have a tendency to blow those up."
"One time is not a tendency!"
"I'm just saying you can't blow up our dog."
She smirked, "Our dog."
He cast a quick glance to her as he turned onto Main Street, a warm smile across his face. Carter and a dog, it was pretty much all he was wanting for those twelve years at the SGC.
They got him a truck full of supplies and registered at the vet that afternoon; Samson Tiberius O'Neill.
"You know we're not naming any children after Star Trek characters, right?"
He scoffed, "I know that. Luke and Leia were from Star Wars not Star Trek."
He laughed, wrapping his arms around her waist. "Let's see about keeping the dog alive before we start naming any kids, eh?"
She gave him a peck on the lips in affirmation before an almighty clatter echoed around the cabin.
"Oh for cryin'- where's that dog?"
"Bedroom, I think?"
Sure enough, Samson was amongst the newly strewn laundry from the now-upturned hamper, bouncing around and tugging at a tube sock. "I forgot how toddler-like puppies were. And now he's peeing."
They spent the night on a mattress on the kitchen floor next to Samson's bed. He had started to whine when they had closed their bedroom door and turned out the light, and though they could sleep through almost anything given the chance, it didn't feel fair on the pup.
"Mornin'," Jack groaned, slinging an arm over his eyes against the light flooding in from the windows. The grumble of his voice signalled to Samson that he was awake and therefore fair game to play with, which was how Jack ended up jack-knifing into the air with a paw where he didn't like one.
Sam started giggling and dragged Samson over to her side, settling him on her chest and stroking down his back. "You okay? Everything still there?"
"Just about," he lay back down on his side, his elbow in the pillow and head on his hand. He leant down to kiss her.
"Mmm, morning," she smiled, scratching behind Samson's ear. "Do you think he'll remember me in a month?"
"I'll keep your clothes around, he'll recognise your scent." He danced his fingers near Samson's mouth and playfully escaped little teeth until two paws grabbed his hand. "And if not, he'll get to fall in love with you over again."
"I never realised what I romantic you were before."
"I have a reputation to uphold."
"Mmhmm," she smiled. "You're going to have to keep this, too." She twisted the engagement ring around her finger with her thumb. "I don't think it will mix well with engine oil and mainframe crystals."
He heaved a deep sigh.
"That isn't to say I don't want it, but I don't think it'll be practical when I'm Lt. Col. Carter," her voice changed when she recited her rank.
Samson lay his head on her chest and closed his little eyes, comfortable with Sam's ear scratches and Jack's strokes down his back. "We still have today."
She nodded, trying to shift her melancholy away. "We do. What would you like to do?"
He leant down to kiss her as his answer, his hand moving away from the puppy.
She was quiet on the drive to the airport the next day. She spent it staring out to the Minnesotan vistas as they blurred past the window. Samson was on her knee, front paws on the window ledge and watching with her.
As much as she loved her job with all her might, the past two weeks had been almost idyllic and more than she realised she needed.
She saw what normalcy could be. What everybody else in the world seemed to have but had always been elusive to her. She didn't look to each day with excitement and fear, she didn't have that voice of 'what if' whispering away at everything she did.
She was relaxed. Actually relaxed. She had read books and hiked and got a dog. She had finally had (a lot) of sex with the man she loved and could openly love him. No fears of looks or repercussions. She got engaged and wasn't filled with a dark feeling in her chest that her head was trying to rationalise.
And now she was embarking on a one month expedition across the Galaxy, manning a ship and crew and leaving it all behind. Leaving Jack behind.
She absently stroked down Samson's back and kissed his head.
Jack felt the same. He had had everything he had wanted in twelve years happening in almost blissful perfection-if you ignored the argument, the dodgy knees and the back twinges from certain positions. One month wasn't long but it would feel like a lifetime after the two weeks they had had.
"Hey," he called to her. "C'mere."
She looked to him with tear-sparkled eyes and shuffled across the bench seat, laying her head on his shoulder as he gripped onto her knee. He tried to find the right words to soothe the ache in their souls and fell short, finally settling on "I love you. Always will."
"I love you too."
He kissed her at the airport. Samson watched through the window, his head cocked to the side trying to understand what was happening.
Jack cupped her face and kissed her like he had that first time two weeks ago - with passion, promise and air of 'finally!'. She gripped his arms, kissing him back and hoping it would tide her over for four weeks.
"God, this is so hard," she muttered into his shoulder when he held her.
"If we can survive twelve years, we can survive four weeks."
"That was before I knew what it was like to kiss you," she smirked.
"Tell me about it..."
She held her left hand out and he slid the engagement ring from her finger, attaching it to dog tags he still wore around his neck. "Temporary."
She nodded, her finger suddenly feeling bare and peculiar despite only having worn the ring for a few days. She swallowed down an onslaught of tears, "Look after my boy," she tapped on the window and Samson tried to grab at her fingers, giving a little yelped bark at his failure.
"I will,” he knocked on the window and got another bark in reply. “Look after yourself."
"I will. Love you."
"Love you. Tell the guys I don't miss them.”
She scoffed, dislodging a tear to fall down her cheek. She heaved the bag onto her shoulder, “Yeahsure yeahbetcha.”