Jack O’Neill makes a lot of difficult decisions. Sometimes those decisions cost the lives of the people on the other side of the war – either a real one or a more metaphorical one he tries to make a lot more black and white than he knows it is. When he’s really lucky, his decisions don’t cost the lives of people he cares about. Other times, his decisions write checks with things more tenuous than life versus death.
It’s been a long damn several days and all he wants is his couch, a beer, and maybe a ball game. When he blinks he can still see that stunned and disappointed look on Carter’s face burned on the inside of his eyelids. Against his better judgment he corners her in one of the hallways. She’s in uniform, he’s in his civvies with his car keys in his hand.
“I’m going home.”
“That’s good, sir.”
“That was a helluva mission.”
“Yeah,” she says with a dissatisfied-sounding exhale. “It was.”
She’s got something on the sleeve of her blouse, right at her wrist. He should know; he’s staring at that spot awfully hard. It’s her skin but it’s not her face and he’s fighting himself with everything he has to keep from touching just a little bit of the small selection of exposed skin available and he realizes he’s got to get the hell out of the mountain – this mission’s screwed with his head more than it should have. It’s all just been too damn much for too damn long and he can’t quite find the right balance. It doesn’t help that he usually counts on what’s between her ears to help him find the balance and it’s not a huge leap from there to imagine he might also be able to find it between her legs.
God, he’s got to get the hell out of the mountain before he does something stupid.
“You coming for dinner tonight?”
She tilts her head a little while she looks at him. He imagines that the skin on her throat turns a little pink as she tells him she’ll come. He thinks maybe right now neither one of them should use the word come around each other because he really can’t be trusted.
He flees before he grows hard in her presence. He wonders if she feels the tension. There’s a tenuous emotional connection between them he knows she’s aware of – he’s known for certain since they were stranded on that planet, basically alone for a week because Teal’c, apparently, is a huge fan of baths or something. Probably, he’s a huge fan of leaving Sam and Jack alone together because he can’t understand why the two officers aren’t allowed to dissipate the tension in the same way Jaffa are allowed. Jack doesn’t have the wherewith to tell Teal’c that the only private, no-rules hand-to-hand he wants with Carter isn’t going to end in reaffirming the chain of command.
He’s pretty sure Teal’c knows that, anyway.
Later, once he’s had a hot shower and tumbler of something brown and oaky, she shows up with a grocery bag. When she sets it down, he rifles through it and finds a couple of really nice steaks, potatoes and haricot vert.
He looks up at her as she licks her lips and he realizes this was a very bad idea.
She seems mostly oblivious to the fact that he’s picturing pressing her up against the pantry door with his body. Their heights are so suitably matched that he dreams about crowding her into a wall and pressing his hips against her to see if she’ll make the same sound for him that she makes for chocolate. She seems not to notice that he’s barely tethered so he turns away from her before she clues in.
“Is this something you can work with?” she asks him, sweeping a hand in an arc indicating the groceries he’d unpacked and scattered across his counter.
It’s like she’s punched him in the gut as he thinks back to holding a handful of fruit between the two of them while telling her they’re shit out of luck for dinner and other things that now they both know they’re both thinking about. He wonders if she’s as clueless as she acts about how his body deals with excess ambivalence. Then she glances at his mouth, at his chest, at his groin and he doesn’t wonder anymore.
But knowing she knows takes the edge of the worst of his nervous energy and when he exhales, he finally feels like it takes. He leans against the counter across the room from her, crosses his arms over his chest and tries to be unselfconscious about his flagging erection and mostly succeeds. For her part she continues to assess him boldly which is probably why he’s able to maintain the confidence he has; if she’s not going to be embarrassed, he’s damn sure not going to be in her stead.
He studies her intently, watches how her eyes continue to bounce between his and other parts of him, then crosses the room, brushing by her so closely the fabric of their shirts drag against one another, and then he reaches into that pantry to grab a roll of tin foil. He leaves her with instructions to wash, pierce and wrap the potatoes while he goes to tend to the grill.
He takes his time and eventually she appears at his elbow with two glasses of red wine in one hand and foil-wrapped potatoes in the other. Once he’s got them situated on the grill with far more care and attention than they probably required, he leans back against his deck railing with one of the glasses of wine.
“So, I’m thinking maybe we’ve got a problem here.”
She bites her lip and then takes a swallow of wine before she answers him. “Yeah. Me too.”
He watches the wheels turn for her and doesn’t offer her anything more. Part of him wonders if she has a solution.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen, you know.”
“I know, Carter. Me either.”
“But, the stuff that gets me isn’t the same stuff that gets you.”
She’s right. She’s dealing with the emotional stuff and, right now, he’s dealing with the hormonal stuff. “Is that better?”
She huffs with some sort of relieved exasperation that makes him want to smile a little. “I honestly don’t know.” She takes a step closer to him and that makes him nervous all over again. “So what do we do now?”
I take you to bed and we get the worst of this out of our systems. Then we do it again anytime the pressure gets to be too much. It’s a helluva bad release valve but it’s got its perks. “I know this seems like the sort of thing I should decide, but you understand why it has to be you, right?”
She licks her lips again and he thinks she’s doing it on purpose. She breathes deeply and the long-sleeve t-shirt she’s wearing pulls across her chest. He can see the outline of dog tags where they press up against the swell of her right breast and the way her nipples are hard and he can’t decide if it’s the chill in the air or the heat between them. “Yeah,” she says and it takes him a moment to drag his eyes away from the dark green fabric and remember what it was he’d asked her in the first place.
The smell of charcoal hits him upside the face and then the cool breeze ruffles the hair at his temples.
“I don’t always make good choices,” she says.
He thinks she knows what she’s saying. He knows she’s the kind of woman who speeds first and pays tickets later, carries too much cash in her pocket and sometimes flirts hard with a pool cue in her hand so it’s not a huge stretch to believe she’s probably capable of breaking a few regs. But he’s not going to ask her to. And if she asks him, well, he’s man enough to question her motives while he’s taking off his pants. If it comes to it.
Except, “Yeah, Carter, you do. When it matters, you do.”
She sighs. “Yeah. I do.”
The light from the dining room barely slices onto the back porch and catches the blue in her eye. It’s been so much for so long that he doesn’t even try to talk himself out of it when the “C’mere,” makes its way from his brain through his lips.
She’s pressed up against him before either can think better of it, her feet and his like the teeth of a zipper, her thigh pressed against his groin, her breasts flattened against his chest, her hot breath against his ear. When he hardens again she shifts her hips a little from his right to his left and her thigh brushes across him in a way that would have, before this conversation, felt like the worst kind of tease and now feels like a gift.
He wraps his arms all the way around her so the fingertips of his left hand just barely press into the side of her right breast and she leans into him a little and he realizes he’s got a thigh between her legs, too. If they’re not careful, they could really… or maybe that would be just careful enough. He doesn’t know. So he shifts into her a little harder and yeah… She does make the same sound for him that she makes for chocolate and because she does, and because he can feel it from his toes to his throat, he allows himself the luxury of opening his mouth against the cords of her neck. Her pulse thrums against his tongue and she’s panting against his ear and if one or the other of them doesn’t get ahold of themselves soon, he’s going to take her right there on the deck with the smell of charcoal around them and nothing but moonlight and saliva on her skin.
Like that thought telegraphed to her through the flat of his tongue, she takes a deep and shuddering breath before pulling her upper body away from him. She meets his eye before pulling her hips away, too, and stepping back from him. She backs up several steps until she’s next to her wine glass, forgotten on the deck railing six feet away from him.
He’s old enough that spontaneous erections aren’t really a thing, so he doesn’t dress left as methodically as he once did. That means he’s got to reach down and adjust himself through his jeans and he really, really likes that she watches but doesn’t blush when he does it. He notices the way she hugs her arm around her chest and surreptitiously rubs the thin, warm skin of her inner wrist across her nipples, easing what he can only imagine must be a similar sort of ache to the one he’s just relieved.
It’s been a long time since he’s been this turned on with a woman he wasn’t taking to bed. It’s frustrating but titillating; he’d forgotten what the slow burn of the dance felt like.
She shifts her weight from one foot to the other and he can’t help but watch the way her thighs press together. It’s nice to know she’s no better off than he is but it’s also torture to know that he’s so hard and she’s so wet and they’re just going to let the tension dissolve into their bellies and, maybe if he’s lucky, she’ll let him lick her lips the way she’s been doing all night.
Eventually, the overwhelming arousal does dissipate and he’s able to finish cooking them dinner. The buttery-soft steak is more suggestive on his tongue than his keyed up libido is really equipped to deal with, but it’s good beef and she looks flushed and tousled and so very hot that he really does get to enjoy every minute. They’re even able to talk about inconsequential things and it’s more than halfway through dinner when he realizes they’re talking about themselves and not about their work.
When it’s time to go – far past time, really – she stands in his entryway with her purse and she doesn’t let him kiss her, not that he tries very hard, and he understands why.
“We’re going to figure this out. It’s only a problem if we let it be a problem.”
He thinks that’s probably his line, but he’ll let her have it. In this situation, she’s in command. “The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, right?” he offers with a rueful grin.
When she smiles at him she flashes him her teeth and he relaxes a little. The pressure’s been released, just a little – just enough – that he thinks they can get through the next day, and the one after, and the next mission and next scary/bad moment in a healthy way that doesn’t include him pressing her against the first available solid surface and taking so many decisions out of their hands. When she leaves, she’s still smiling and so is he.