Her father had died, the Goa'uld were limping away from the fight, and the replicators had vanished, turning into a silvery dust that was hell on electrical equipment but had no other homicidal tendencies. SG-1 went fishing, partly in celebration, and partly to help Sam mourn her father. It was a break, a chance to get away, and it was also a test for Sam and Jack. They had both known that if something was going to happen, it would happen soon.
After all, it had been eight years.
Either by chance or by well-crafted design on the part of Teal'c and Daniel, Sam and Jack ended up alone on the dock on a beautiful moonlit night. It wasn't, Sam thought, too close to the funeral. Jack was standing close. Sam's heart was racing, but her palms were dry. Jack reached out and drew her to him, and the absurdity of it all swept over her all at once.
She laughed. It was unforgivable, but she couldn't stop herself.
Jack's expression reflected his utter confusion for a split second, and then he laughed, too.
It was almost silly, Sam thought, this... thing. It couldn't possibly last, not in the metaphorical light of day. She tried to imagine them together, doing normal, couple-things, and failed.
She knew that Jack must be thinking the same thing, knowing he was laughing at the vision of them grocery shopping, or fighting over the best way to load the dishwasher, and it just wasn't possible.
When they finally stopped laughing, Jack held out a hand.
Sam nodded, not feeling any pang of regret. "Friends," she agreed.
And they were. It was as simple as that one word, as simple as letting themselves stop keeping count of rank, of duty, of what they had always thought lay just beyond it. Instead of a broken trust, they ended up with friendship.
Sam finally--finally--convinced Jack she wasn't joking when she said his clothes were like something out of an 80s horror movie--although he didn't get rid of them--and Jack beat her soundly at chess a few hundred times.
Ironically, they did go grocery shopping, but it wasn't absurd, or if it was, that was okay. The thing was gone, they were over it, and life could move on.
Several months after the dock, they had dinner with the team, and then drinks with members of a few other teams who wanted to reminisce. More and more people were leaving the SGC and moving on. Afterward, Sam came back to Jack's to stargaze. It would have been a cliché except they really did stargaze. Jack had an excellent telescope, and despite the alleged shows the neighbors put on, it was focused into the black more often than not.
Sam gave up jostling for position at the telescope and commandeered one of the chairs on the deck. She lounged back in a boneless sprawl, content for now to look at the sky with her own eyes while Jack made a few minute adjustments and peered into the scope now and then.
Jack glanced over his shoulder, apparently noticing she'd left the telescope. "Penny for your thoughts?"
Sam smiled. "I was thinking about how this evening was almost perfect."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Only almost?"
Sam shrugged, "Good friends, good food, and..." she looked up, "a peaceful glance at the unknown."
"Not all of it unknown," Jack pointed out.
"Not all of it," Sam agreed.
She sat up. Jack sat down next to her, his body not quite touching hers, and Sam had a truly unreasonable stab of irritation. She didn't move, though, and stamped it down.
"So," Jack nudged her shoulder, "Why was it only almost perfect?"
His tone was light and teasing, but there was something else there, too, and Sam wasn't sure what it was.
"I--" she frowned. "I don't know. Maybe I was just hedging my bets."
Jack gave her an appraising glance. "Okay," he said, apparently not wanting to push it.
Sam looked at her watch and started. It was pretty late."I better go," she said. Before she could move Jack was on his feet, helping her up. She overbalanced a bit and Jack steadied her, but they ended up too close together.
Sam's palms were immediately damp, and her heart--
But that was impossible. This thing had been put to rest months ago. It was crazy that tonight she'd react this way. She started to back away, but happened to catch Jack's eye, and stopped dead.
"Hedging my bets," Sam muttered.
Jack apparently didn't catch her words, because he licked his mouth and said, "Huh?"
Sam said, "I..." She couldn't possibly say it. It couldn't be fair to him, of course. They'd put it behind them.
She had every intention of backing away. She did, but instead she found herself stepping closer.
"Carter," Jack said, finally catching on that there was a problem. They didn't do this sort of thing. They were friends. Hard won friends.
Sam blurted out, "I want to try again." Now her whole body was in a cold sweat, instead of just her hands.
"What?" Jack said."But--I thought--friends?" he said, sounding a little panicky.
"We are," Sam said, and kissed him.
She wanted to take everything in, how his lips felt, how his hands tightened on her arms, how she felt about this, how his body leaned into hers for a split second before he pulled back.
There was a breath apart from him, but she didn't even think of opening her eyes, and then his lips met hers again, and she gasped because it was suddenly clear that this was happening, that he was with her.
Sam wound her arms over his shoulders to draw him closer, and Jack's arms slid around her waist, which was nice because she was dizzy but she didn't want to let go, either.
She wasn't keeping track of the minutes they spent like that, just kissing, finally kissing, but eventually she had to breathe. They broke apart just far enough to let air in.
Sam had one more moment of panic right then, as she met Jack's eyes, but his arms tightened around her and he was looking at her with a goofy smile she'd only seen once or twice. A rush of warmth took her by surprise as she realized that this look was for her--had always been for her. The last of her nerves left her, and she knew that this... thing was right, right now, in a way it couldn't have been any sooner.
She felt like laughing, not out of a sense of the absurd, but out of relief, rightness. "We're never going to live this down," she said.
Jack's hands tightened on her waist. "So don't care." He kissed her again, slowly this time, in a way that left no uncertainty about where tonight was going.
Sam had a thought and pulled back. "Your neighbors don't have telescopes, do they?"
Jack let out a short huff of laughter. "Doubt it," he said, "but we can go inside just in case."
Sam briefly considered saying they should stay outside, but as wonderful as the night air felt, she really wasn't an exhibitionist.
"Let's," she said, thinking this was as close to perfect as they'd get.