6 April 1998 – Colorado Springs, Earth, Milky Way
He’s not expecting the knock at his door.
“SG-10 came back through the Gate an hour ago,” Carter says the moment he opens the door, actually pushing past him into the room. By the time he turns around (taking care to lock, bolt, and chain the door behind them), she’s already begun pacing his living room. “There are some strings to tie up, but they’re going to have it packed up and on a truck to Groom Lake by the end of the week. And then it will just all be… gone. Over. Done. Exactly like it never happened.”
She runs her hands through her hair as if by tugging on the longer locks she might make some sense of all that’s happened. Jack can’t tell if it works, but it does certainly seem to bring her somewhat to her senses. Cheeks reddening, she turns to face him. “I’m sorry, Sir. I guess I just needed to get that off my chest. I’d have gone to Daniel but, well, we’d have just worked each other up, and the last thing anyone needs is for us to be fuelling the fire with rumors that we’re all a bunch of hotheads blowing smoke over nothing.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Jack says, his grin a little less wry than it should be. “I may not be your commanding officer after this week, but I’ll always be your friend.”
Carter starts at that, knowing rather better than Daniel or Tela’c what that means in their positions. Even her, “Thank you, Sir,” is more flustered than usual.
Taking pity, he asks, “Would you like a beer?”
He makes it to the kitchen before he lets himself beam like the idiot he feels like. What is he doing? Regardless of whatever happens after next week, there are any of a thousand reasons why Carter being here now is a bad idea, starting with their respective ranks and ending with the fact that he doesn’t trust himself to be around her without giving something away. Because it’s rapidly becoming apparent – to him, at least – that he cares for Carter a lot more than he should. A hell of a lot more, actually. It makes it hard to be around her – impossible, even – and if he were a smarter man he’d send her away. But nobody ever said Jack was a smart man.
Still, he manages to get a hold of himself before heading back into the living room, where Carter’s installed herself on the couch, arms around her legs and knees tucked almost to her chin. She looks far younger than her years, and if Jack could kick himself anymore for his inappropriate infatuation, he would.
“Here y’go, Carter.”
Taking the beer, Carter lets go of her legs, letting her feet fall to the floor. She looks herself again if rather worn around the edges. He wonders if she remembers the last time she slept for more than half-an-hour. “Thank you, Sir.”
“So,” he says, carefully selecting the chair on the opposite side of the coffee table, “any news on where they’ll send you next?”
Her nose wrinkles. “The Academy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind teaching and I’ll happily pick up a lecture or two if that’s what the professors want, but I’d rather be out there, doing something than sitting on my hands.”
She makes a noise of distinct disagreement before pointedly turning the conversation, “What about you, Sir? Where are they sending you?”
“Nowhere. I figure I was retired before they sent us back to Abydos, I might as well go back to it.”
“And, uh, will you be around, or will you be heading back up to your place in Minnesota?”
“Yeah, Carter,” he says, hearing his smile, “I’ll be around.”
“Good, Sir. That’s real good.”
Jack’s never been smart in the way Sam or Daniel are, but he knows an opening when he sees one. Maybe he’s only seeing things because he wants it so badly, but the words are on his lips almost before he’s thought them through: “Sam?” he asks, watching the way her head snaps up at his use of her first name, “I may be completely out of line here and you have full permission to slap me or report me or whatever you feel like if I’m wrong, but how would you like to get together sometime after this is all over? Just the two of us, I mean. I actually know a few recipes without beer as the main ingredient, if you want to have dinner. Or something. Feel free to say no.”
He’s almost afraid to look. He’s never been slapped by a woman and has no plans to start, but he’s certain Sam could come up with something suitably vicious if she felt so inclined and would rather not see it coming if she does. But he does and Jack’s glad he did because otherwise, he would have missed the way her confusion changes into a soft, shy smile and then something so bright that they could power the Gate for a year on it. “I think I’d like that.”
They could probably power the Gate for five years on his answering smile.