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Nothing Comes From Nothing

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December 20th, 2004.

It was a shit year, to put it bluntly. They had lost so many people and taken so many hits that it was painfully evident that they were still carrying the wounds. They were all tired and sore and needed time to heal and process; No one more so than Sam. She had lost her best friend, her father, her fiancé and everything that the latter had promised for her life in the space of a few months. She was feeling it; her eyes couldn’t lie to Jack, no matter how much her mouth tried.

So in that spirit, Jack decided to throw a party. Christmas was less than a week away and having signed SG1 off for vacation until the new year, a team blow-out was organised to see the year out in style; BBQ, beers and the nearest and dearest. The invite list was small: SG1, Hammond, Cassie –with a boyfriend in tow – and, peculiarly, Sara and her partner.

Jack had been at the store buying, literally, a truck-load of beer when he had nearly crashed his cart into Sara’s. Her shock melted almost immediately to the look she would give him after he returned from a rough tour, when she would be assessing him for damage. He shooed off her concern and learned she was doing well, had a boyfriend called Jeff who coached football at the college and her Dad was out of town for the holidays, so it was looking to be a quiet holiday for her. It wasn’t long before he heard the words ‘You should come!’ leave his mouth. They were both a little shocked at his exclamation but he assured her he meant it.

They weren’t the only people surprised at his invitation. He was in his kitchen coating chicken in a beer marinade when he heard a voice.

“Jack!”

“Daniel.”

“Jack! Sara’s here,” he stage-whispered.

What?” He animatedly looked over the younger man’s shoulders. ”Oh my God, she is!”

Daniel sighed, straightening his glasses and waiting for Jack to remerge into his eyeline. “Are you two…?”

“No, Daniel. That’s her boyfriend over there.”

Daniel followed the gesture, his mouth dropping in to an ‘o’ shape as he spotted an unfamiliar face speaking with Teal’c. He looked like he had just come off a football field. Or a WWE ring. “…he’s big.”

“Yes, I believe he goes by ‘Big Jeff’.”

Daniel took the proffered beer, ignoring the mischievous glint in Jack’s eyes. “You invited your ex-wife and her new boyfriend to your Christmas party?”

“I did.”

“And that doesn’t strike you as…odd?” his eyebrows rose as he brought the beer to his lips.

“Many things strike me as odd, Daniel.”

“And this isn’t one of them?”

“I forgot how much a conversation between you two could be like dodgem cars going around in circles.” The ex-wife in question stepped up behind Daniel, a smile in her voice at the nostalgia.

“He started it.”

Jack handed her another beer and gestured over her shoulder to the approaching figure. “Beer?”

“Please.”

“Daniel, Big Jeff,” Sara introduced, garnering a flash of confusion from her partner at his new name.

Daniel fiddled with his glasses before holding his hand out, “Er, hi.”

“Hey, it’s… just Jeff.”

“Yeah, I figured as much.”

Jack and Sara were stifling laughs as Jeff stroked a hand down Sara’s arm. “You okay? I’m just talking football with Murray.”

“I’m fine, go. Football-it-up,” she smiled, shooing him away.

“Teal’c knows football?” Daniel asked Jack quietly.

--

Winter was definitely upon Colorado Springs and the heat coming from the BBQ wasn’t doing much to warm him. He lifted the lid to the grill, a cloud of steam, smoke and amazing smells filtering into the frozen air. He turned some meat, basted others and shifted things around to make room for the tray that Sam was bringing out.

“Jesus, it’s cold,” she shivered, her shoulders bunching up as the frigid air hit her neck.

He beckoned her closer to the grill and under the umbrellas, taking the proffered tray from her. She rubbed at her hands and hovered them over the heat, lifting up when he needed to use the space. “Need anything else?” she asked.

“Fresh beer and a few hours’ sleep, but otherwise no.”

“Sara seems to be joining in okay,” she briefly glanced over her shoulder and through the glass doors. He didn’t usually bother decorating for Christmas, when he would volunteer to cover shifts for those with families and kids, but this year was different; he needed the time off to recoup. So he got a tree, found some decorations in the attic and bought some lights for outside. Sara was sat next to the tree, pointing out things she recognised to a rapt Cassie.

“She was always the social one.”

“Is it weird her being here?”

He stepped past her, his hand trailing across her back as he shuffled in the small space, “Yeah.”

“Too weird?”

He thought about it, the basting brush hovering over a steak. “No, I don’t think so.”

She nodded, “I’ll grab you a beer.”

Jack stepped back into the house a short while later and gave the living room a once-over – everyone seemed happy enough. Teal’c could almost be described as ‘animated’ as he still talked with Jeff – he caught the word ‘Wookiee’ so figured Jeff must also be a ‘Star Wars’ fan. Give him his due, Jeff was able to look past santa hat and even the outlandish ‘ugly sweater’ that insinuated Teal’c’s head was an Elf’s head. Daniel was talking with Hammond, an exasperated look on his face and glasses in his hand, so he was likely still trying to get an ally for a ride to Atlantis and coming up short. Sara was sat with Cassie which left…

Interesting, Jack thought, sighting Cassie’s boyfriend, Nate, looking at the photos and medals on his mantelpiece. He caught Sam’s eye as she returned from the kitchen with his drink and gestured almost imperceptibly to the young man; silently saying to her ‘Let’s have some fun’.

They appeared at his side, making the young man jump just a little. “So,” Jack began, his face solemn. “Nick.”

“Er, it’s Nate.” He swallowed, adding a “Sir,” as an afterthought.

“I’m gonna call ya Nick. So you’re dating Cassie, eh?”

“Yes, sir.” Nate’s green eyes searched behind his stony-faced interrogators for his girlfriend, finding her back to him as she chatted with Sara.

“How’s that treatin’ ya?”

“I-, er, Well? Sir?” He looked to Sam for a friendly face and found ice-blue eyes staring back at him, lips in a tight-line. No ally there.

Jack nodded, his eyes looking over the photo frames. He began to trace a finger over the dark wood in which he had encased his common-knowledge medals, “Do you know what I do for a living, Nick?”

“You’re in the Air Force, Sir.”

If it wouldn’t have broken his character, he would have laughed at how often he used the honorific. He gave Sam a run for her money. “That’s right. Do you know what I do in the Air Force?”

Nate eventually shrugged, his knuckles white around his glass of soda. “Fly planes?”

“I hurt people who hurt people.” Kinda.

The younger man swallowed.

“Do you know what she does?” He hooked a thumb to Sam. Nate shook his head, his eyes wide. “She’s a scientist, as well as an Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel. That basically means she also builds the stuff we use to hurt the people we hurt.” Kinda.

Sam gave a stoic nod.

“Hey, Murray?” Jack called. Teal’c stood slowly, somehow making himself look ten-times bigger and scarier than he could already seem to outsiders, even with the whimsical sweater and santa hat. “You know about him?”

Nate seemed to be frozen in fear.

“Should I go on, or do you get the picture?”

“I-“ Nate began, his voice breaking before he cleared his throat. “I won’t hurt Cassandra, Sir. I promise. I really like her. Sir.”

Jack clapped him on the back, maybe a little too hard, and smiled. “That’s all I wanted to hear. Enjoy the party.”

Nate scurried away in the direction of the bathroom.

Jack took a drag of his beer, bouncing a little on his toes as he smiled. “That was fun.”

Sam smirked, “What would you have said if you had to point to Daniel?”

“I had this whole thing about Archaeologists and digging holes. It would’ve sounded menacing.”

Sam laughed, shaking her head a little. “He seems like a nice kid, though.”

“College guys are rarely nice, Carter. Trust me.”

“Oh, I remember,” she fought the smirk on his lips but the twinkle in her eyes gave her away. His eyebrows rose in reply. She turned on her heel and went over to Cassie and pointing in the direction of her boyfriend.

--

Sam sat in the chair Cassie had vacated, a smile lingering. She had done a pretty decent job, so far, of being welcoming to her C.O.’s ex-wife whilst also keeping her distance. They had met a few times over the years, but generally in emotionally fraught circumstances.

Sara remembered when Sam had appeared on her doorstep in full dress blues. Jack was stranded off-world with little-to-no chance of returning, so not able to attend the divorce proceedings. It was difficult to explain the situation when the whole ‘aliens are real, not just on TV’ was a brand-new headache-inducing confusion, especially when her only contact with aliens thus far – brief contact with Teal’c notwithstanding – was one disguised as her deceased son. Sam had no idea how Jack had managed to explain that to her.

Sara had had similar visits in the past so knew what to expect, though it never made it an easier. Sam was thankful she hadn’t broken down into hysterics, no matter how understandable they may have been. Sara was struck by how quietly upset and frustrated Sam seemed about the situation.

“Did you two just scare the poor boy?” Sara asked, sipping at her beer and resting back into the cushions.

“A little. Cassie seems taken by him so we just gave him a…gentle warning.”

Sara nodded, “Ah.”

Sam laughed, looking over to the kitchen area where Jack was preparing the next round of BBQ.

“He has more scars than he used to.”

Sam looked to her before following her eye-line back to Jack. The sleeves of his tee did show the bullet wounds on his left arm occasionally, and a few scars across his forearms and hands. A lot of them she knew; could list the time, place and alien responsible, but some… some only Sara could name.

“Anything I should know about?”

She shook her head slightly, her eyes dropping to the beer label she was picking at with her nails. They all had more scars than they used to, both physical and mental. “No. He’s good.”

She looked back over to the kitchen island where Cassie seemed to be giving Jack a telling-off for scaring Nate. He soon had her laughing though and then into a gentle tug-of-war with a dish-towel, their honorary niece momentarily losing a battle of rat-tailing. Jack was laughing, pulling the teen forward and into a loose headlock she could have easily gotten herself out of had she really wanted to. Sam couldn’t help but laugh along, Cassie’s giggling was infectious and Jack was grinning up to his eyes.

“You make him happy, y’know.”

“We have a good team. Family, I guess.”

“No, you.

Sara’s words hit her like a gut-punch. Sam snapped around to look at her. “I-we-“

“I know, I know, frat regs.” Fifteen-years of marriage into the Air Force and she knew the rules and regulations almost as well as Sam did. “Despite all those infractions on his file, and I imagine there’s a few more by now, Jack wouldn’t betray the rules. He only acts out when those with higher authority try to…interpret those rules.”

Sam would have nodded and agreed if she could find her voice.

“He’s a good man, Sam. A rare man. I think you know that. He lights up around you, I remember how it looks, how it feels to be the centre of his universe. It’s like he zones in on you and you’re all that matters in the world to him. He will do anything to make you happy; he’s loving, passionate, funny, charming, gorgeous…” her eyes cast down to her bare ring finger, her thumb going to twist the long-gone band. “He’s a different person in the quiet moments, he can take your breath away. And, yes, everything you think about those hands is true.”

Sam blushed.

“What I’m saying is, don’t overthink it. If he has chosen you, you are one goddamn lucky woman, Sam. And I think it’s safe to say he has chosen you.”

Sam stood, pulling her leather jacket from the pile across the back of her chair. “I have to go.”

“Sam, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I’m-“ Sara reached out.

“No, no. I don’t feel well. I have to go.”

“Sam-“

“I have to go.” She gave a glance to Cassie and managed to lock eyes with Jack before stalking to the door and closing it behind her.

Jack stepped in the living room, “She okay?” he asked Sara.

“She said something about not feeling well,” she shrugged, hoping her face didn’t give away the truth. Her stomach was in her throat.

He trotted to the door in time to see her bike disappearing at the end of the street.

Chapter Text

She just disappeared. He had parked outside her house a few times the day after that party but everything was dark and, more telling, there was no motorbike. He kept his phone ringer on high and made a few calls to the base but she hadn’t even appeared there. The snow had really started to come down now, and he worried about her on her bike.

It wasn’t until the day after that she rang. “Hi.”

“Hi.” He waited a beat, waiting for her to continue. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Listen, I’m at a hotel… Over in Cripple Creek. Will you meet me? I’d like to talk.”

Cripple Creek was around an hour away and not necessarily a route he’d want to take with the weather taking a wintry turn. “Text me the address.”

The truck handled the falling snow and slippery roads just fine but he didn’t fancy the bike’s chances; he’d put it on the tailgate if she was coming back with him.

Her words I’d like to talk echoed around his head.

He didn’t know what to expect when he got there. There was a little snow-topped sign with an arrow for the hotel she had text him that led from the main road down a tree-lined lane to an old Gold Rush-era home, further signs pointed to a lake; a restaurant and museum on the grounds. Her bike was under an enclosure so he knew he had the right place. He parked up, pulled the zipper up on his fleece’s collar and trotted through the flittering snow to the main building.

He stamped his feet once he got through the main door, footprints of snow being left on the mat, and looked around. Checking-in desk to the right, doorway to a bar to the left. He went to the left and saw her on a far table, she was looking out of the window but he didn’t think she was seeing anything past her mind’s eye.

Her fingers absently traced the rim of a whisky tumbler that looked very watered down from long-ago-melted ice. Her jean-clad legs were crossed at the side of the table, small heels clicking against the other chair with a creamy white chunky-knit sweater – she looked elegant and beautiful, and every bit the opposite of an Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel who can blow up suns before lunch.

A waiter made his way over to him, a fake smile and scripted pleasantries all ready to go. Jack motioned his head over to Sam and slipped away.

He splayed his fingers over her shoulder, “Hey.” She didn’t flinch and had the beginning of a warm smile when she looked to him.

“Sir.”

He internally flinched at her use on his honorific. He didn’t know why; usually he barely heard it until she used his real name. They had gotten closer; she had shifted into his side at the infirmary and taken his hand. She had come to his home, randomly, before her father had taken a turn. She had pretty openly and brazenly flirted him at his house and, after everything, it felt like something had changed. He had travelled out of the city at night to meet her at the secluded hotel and she opened it up with a sir.

“Do you want a drink?” She asked.

If she was drinking, he thought, she obviously wasn’t planning on returning to Colorado Springs tonight. There was nothing to say that he wouldn’t be though. “Water.”

She nodded, signalling for the fake-waiter and ordering. “Was the drive okay?”

“A bit interesting through Mueller State Park. The truck was fine though.”

“Good. I got here before the weather got worse. Not sure I would have risked it on the bike.”

He nodded, muttering thanks when a bottle of water was placed in from of him. He waited for her to speak again, actually say what she had pulled him an hour away for. “Carter, what’s going on?”

She manoeuvred around so she was facing him and leaning her forearms against her knees, eyes glued to her fidgeting fingers. “Do you remember when I came to your house? And-and Kerry was there?”

He shuffled in his seat, the memory still brought a flash of embarrassment and anxiety at her finding Kerry there before he’d even decided whether to tell anyone about her.

“I went to tell you something. Something I…” she heaved a breath, flashing a look to him before back down to her hands. “I have wanted to tell you for a long time.”

She went quiet, prompting him to mirror her stance and say “Carter, spit it out. You’re beginning to make me nervous.”

“I love you.” She took a breath, “I have for a long time and I know that I shouldn’t, I know we promised to keep whatever it was we felt in the ‘room’, but I can’t anymore.”

“Carter…”

“No, let me-let me just say this. I don’t know how you feel, if you feel anything for me anymore, but Sara said-“

“I knew she said something to you-“

“No, no,” she laid a hand on his arm, stopping his anger rising. “What she said was right. Well, some of it, I can’t comment on the rest. She said you were a good man. The rare kind of man who is funny and charming and loving and gorgeous.” She was blushing; she just called her C.O ‘gorgeous’. “She also said…I make you happy.”

Her eyes were wide, icey-blue and sparkling with vulnerability. He could tell it was now or never, that any present or future chance of a relationship with this woman balanced on how he handled this conversation. Honesty; he chose honesty. “You do.”

She tightened her lips into a line. “And do you…?”

“I have for years.” He added, to clarify, “Loved you.”

Her posture seemed to melt slightly. “God, I wish I could kiss you right now.”

He took her hands in his, rubbing his thumbs over her skin in lieu of dramatically swiping everything off the table and taking her right then and there. “Sam…” They could declare to each other until hell froze over, it didn’t change anything.

She sighed, “I know.” Her fingers followed the scars, wrinkles and lines of his hands, “I love my job. You love your job. I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask you to leave and I know you feel the same, otherwise I think we would have been together years ago, one way or another. The SGC is bigger than both us. We can’t be selfish; we have to think of the bigger picture.”

“Not being with you has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.”

She swallowed back tears at that statement; knowing what fragments she did of his life, she knew that was one hell of a confession. “This year…” she shook her head, unable to voice how difficult it had been. “And then seeing you with Kerry? This beautiful, accessible civilian who knew about our line of work, and could openly be with you when I can’t so much as hug you or touch your hand in public unless it’s seen as favouritism or disobeying rank or-“

“A part of me honestly thinks no one would give a damn if we were together. No one in the SGC, at least.”

“I’m sure Walter has a pool going, y’know.”

“I know, I have a twenty riding on it.”

She gave a watery laugh, not quite sure what to take from that.

“I know telling you this can’t change anything about us, but I needed you to know. Pete was nothing compared to you.”

“One day.”

“Yeah?”

“One way or another.” He was looking at her so earnestly, so intensely, she swore the air between them had become heated. Her tongue snaked out to lick her lips and his eyes were immediately drawn there.

If she could decide whether to say ‘sir’ or ‘Jack’, she would have given him a warning tone.

“I should go home.”

She nodded, but neither moved to leave. She could feel a flush begin to rise; memories of her hallucinatory kiss with him coming to mind, Sara’s confirmation about his hands being good, the tether she had held herself back with for eight years quickly fraying…

He heaved a breath as if he could read her mind, “I’m going. Now.”

They both stood, straightening clothes and regaining composure. “Thank you for coming out here.”

“Of course.”

She fell into step towards the door, both checking their watches and finding more time had passed than they had realised.

“Er, I don’t think you’re going anywhere.” She reached for the handle, opening to a howling wind and almost knee-deep snow. “Shit. I’m sorry I dragged you out here.”

“Hey,” he caught her eyes. “I’m not.” Movement behind them had him looking to the checking-in desk, right as they put up a ‘no vacancies’ sign. “Oh for cryin’ out loud…”

“Excuse me,” Sam called, “You really have no rooms for the night?”

“’Fraid so, ma’am,” the man she recognised to be an owner replied.

“Shit,” Jack murmured. Could the truck make it? He’d had a few bad winters in Minnesota, he could do this. Did he put those chains back in the trunk? Maybe he could just sleep out in the truck?

“I still have a room,” Sam offered, quietly.

“Is that such a good idea?”

“Probably not, but what choice do we have? You’re not sleeping out in your truck. We’ve slept in the same room countless times, we’ll just imagine we’re…” she looked around, “in the field.”

She led the way to the stairs, climbing a flight before guiding to her room. She felt very aware of him watching her insert her keys, stood at her side and bouncing on his toes. She would swear she could smell his aftershave. Her fingers were trembling.

“I’ll take the couch,” he told her as the door swung open.

She shook her head, soon standing in front of what could only be described as a half-couch-half-chair-thing. “I don’t think that’ll work. We’ll both take the bed.”

“Carter…” he warned.

“We’re in the field, remember? We’ve done it before.”

“Not after a loaded talk about ‘us’…”

Her heart was beating so quickly she was almost feeling light-headed. “We have after a loaded secret cocktail of foreign aphrodisiacs,” she reminded him.

And she had no idea how much that nearly freakin’ killed him; She was all warm and pliant, blue sparkling eyes and an easy smile behind full pink lips.

She changed in the bathroom before he could even protest further, his mind too cloudy with repressed memories and suppressed feelings. He didn’t know what to do – wear his tee and boxers to bed? With Sam Carter? As ‘friends’? His groin twitched just at the thought of it. He was screwed. And not in the good sense.

He was scratching the back of his head when he heard the bathroom door handle rattle loudly, obviously for his benefit. He was frozen to the point when she emerged in a grey tee with the Washington Nationals emblem washed out on the front and plaid shorts. His eyes were mesmerised by her toned, pale legs that seemed to go on for miles. He’d seen them before, obviously, but-

He huffed out a breath, his hand still on the back of his neck. “Jesus…”

He watched the blush rise from her chest to her neck to her cheeks. Her head ducked as she fought a smile and crossed to the bed.

His brain was on a go-slow and basically just saying any and every curse he could think of and pleading his body to calm. He pulled off his jacket and his hands stilled on his belt buckle, very aware that even if her eyes weren’t on him, she was in the same room. He was half-hard and there was no denying it. He felt the warmth of embarrassment and arousal flood over him. Shit. He began listing gate addresses he could remember, matching planet names with their computer designations, anything to push the memory of her legs, her smile, just her from his thoughts.

Lantona: P2A-018. Unbuckle.

Tollan. P…3? 7-something. X? P3X-7763? Button.

Cimmeria: P3X…974. Zipper.

Argos : P3X-8596…oh that is not helping. His mind brought images of Kynthia to the forefront: supple skin, billowing chiffon, drug-induced euphoria. KELOWNA: P2S-4C3! LANGARA P9Y-4C3! He quickly shoved the jeans to his ankles, toed off his shoes and socks and flipped the covers back to climb in next to her.

He huffed out another breath, securing his hands under his head. They lay there, a metaphorical mile between them but, in actuality, the edges of his boxers ticking her thigh.

“This is torture.”

She agreed. God, did she agree. “Goodnight, Jack.”

--

She woke cocooned into the blankets. The room was cold and she burrowed further into the warmth before remembering she hadn’t gone to sleep alone. Her head snapped around to the other side of the bed to find it empty. Her heart was thumping as she slid a hand across the bed to the other pillow, finding it cold under touch.

He had gone? When? She had woken around three, an unfamiliar snore breaking her slumber. She had slept in the same room/tent/cave with him before, but you never slept deeply off-world. A part of you was always alert for noises and danger despite having someone on watch. She watched him for a while. His face was relaxed, mouth slightly open and hint of a pink tongue behind his lips.

It felt wrong to be watching him, especially watching him sleep as they shared a bed. He had one hand one his chest, his long fingers splayed out and she was again reminded of Sara's words: Everything you think about those hands is true. She felt tingles in her stomach as her mind tormented her with those exact thoughts - where they would go, what they would do, how they would feel.

She swallowed and shifted under the sheets, hoping to move her mind's eye onto another subject.

This was what she wanted, though. Him. Waking up to him, with him. A glint in his eye begging her to play hooky and stay right there in the bed all day. Warmth, soft solidity and silken hair under her wandering fingers. A kiss goodbye before leaving for work.

Work. Why did she have to choose?

She had fallen back to sleep with tears sliding down her cheeks.

She swung the covers off, assaulting her cosiness with a wall of frigid air. The heating must have stopped overnight. She padded to the window and pulled back the curtain, wondering if the snow had melted and he had run while he could.

The snow was still there though, looking deeper than when they had turned in for the night and currently being shovelled by a few guests, one of whom was Jack. He had his black standard-issue puffy jacket on, presumably from his truck, and his woollen hat had white flecks from the light smattering of falling snow.

They must have been working at it for a while because they had cleared a path from the hotel's door to a little way down the tree-lined road. The grounds looked like a picture postcard. She quickly dressed and grabbed her warm gear.

"Hey," she smiled, crunching through the snow to him with a bottle of water and a cup of coffee. His lips curled into one of those smile-smirks that always made her stomach flip and cheeks blush. He dug the end of his shovel into the snow and leant against the handle. "Hey yourself."

She passed him the water to quench his working thirst. "Why didn’t you wake me? I would have helped."

"You looked warm," he shrugged. He didn’t mention needing to leave the room before his self-control waned and he woke her with a kiss. He had planned to grab them both coffee but, upon heading downstairs, had found the owner trying to shovel the snow in his own. He probably wasn’t much older that Jack but didn’t have the Air Force fitness to help with the task.

Jack had grabbed his snow jacket from the truck and dug in.

"I passed one of the owners on the way out, she was trying to get an engineer out here to fix the generator."

"Doubtful with these roads."

She nodded, "I'm going to take a look at it."

He took a gulp of the coffee. "This is feeling a bit like a working holiday."

--

With the generator working, a path cleared to the main road and two very grateful owners, Sam and Jack decided to take a walk together around the grounds.

The snow crunched underfoot, crisp air colouring cheeks as they fell into step.

“Have you managed to find a cell signal?” She asked, knowing he would need to check in with the base.

“No, but the landline worked for a while. All teams are safe, no imminent world and-or galaxy destruction.”

“Oh good,” she smiled, “That’s a first.”

Her white knitted hat blended well with her blonde hair and the pastel blue piping and bobble made her eyes shine in an even lighter hue. They were both wearing their standard-issue black warm jackets that hit their knees.

“I’m trying to not have flashbacks to Antarctica…”

She smiled, “There’s quite a few differences, really. For one, you’re a lot more conscious than you were then.”

“And you’re not trying to MacGyver a pick-axe out of a ballpoint pen.”

“You didn’t see me with that generator.”

He ducked under a tree branch with a laugh. “Are you sorted for Christmas?”

“I sent some things out to San Diego for my niece and nephew, bought for Cassie and got for my secret santa; That’s pretty much all I have to buy for this year.”

He nodded solemnly. They barely ever had time to shop so they promised early on to forgo team presents. The thought of celebrating Christmas this year seemed foreign to her with so many people missing from her life. She felt like she was just going through the motions of choosing, buying and wrapping the kids’ gifts in bright, colourful paper for which she was struggling to feel the sentiment.

He could see her thinking too much, disappearing into her head until she practically jumped when he touched her arm. He motioned to a wooden bench overlooking a frozen lake, “C’mon.”

They sat and he pulled her into his side; It was a new, dangerous but welcome familiarity that they would have to curb quickly. But they were miles away from the base and from anyone who knew about their ranks, professions or the apparent inappropriateness of their actions.

“Why did the owners call you Samantha McCallister to me?”

She laughed, “I checked in under my mother’s maiden name.”

“Why?”

“I needed to not be Lieutenant-Colonel Samantha Carter of the United States Air Force if I was to be thinking about ‘us’.”

“Ah,” he nodded. He hadn’t blown her cover, though did correct them when they called her his wife.

“Can I tell you something? That you may think is weird and judge me for?”

“Definitely.”

“Remember when I was stuck on the Prometheus?” She felt him nod against her temple. “I began to hallucinate from the knock to my head. …You were there.”

“Was I naked?”

She laughed, “No. But we did… kiss…”

“Really.” He wasn’t surprised, for some reason. “How was I?”

It was lucky he couldn’t see the smirk that tilted at her lips, “Good.”

“Well, in the spirit of confessions…”

“Go on.”

“When Teal’c and I were stuck in the Groundhog loops? We kissed then too.”

“Wait,” she sat up and turned to him as much as her coat would allow. “We actually kissed? Not you and alternate-universe-me or me and hallucination-you?”

He couldn’t tell if she was pissed or not. “Yeah.”

She swallowed, “What happened?”

“Daniel said something about no repercussions for actions during the loops, how it was essentially a free reign to do whatever you wanted to do. So… I rode my bike down the halls, Teal’c and I played golf through the Stargate-“

“-what?”

He shooed away her question. “I rearranged Daniel’s alphabetical book system on one, hid all of his glasses on another and superglued him to his chair at one point. You should’ve seen his face-“

She gave a little cough, getting him back on topic.

“I was torn about whether it would be taking advantage of you. But I drafted a resignation letter for Hammond, gave it to him and kissed you.”

“In front of General Hammond?”

“The General, Walter and a few other personnel, yes.”

A part of her was weirdly mortified that it had happened in front of her colleagues, even though no one had any recollection of it other than Jack. “What-What happened?” her cheeks were flushing.

“I grabbed your face and kissed you. And I dipped you.”

“You dipped me?”

He was looking out to the pond and she would swear his chest was puffed out. “Yep.”

“And what did I do?”

“Well, at first you were asking me why the hell I was retiring and I said ‘To do this’, and,” he waved his hand as if signifying she knew that bit, “kissed and dipped you and you…well, you kissed me back.”

“How was I?”

He heaved a breath, “Good.”

It took every ounce of energy to not ask him to prove it. “I can’t believe you never told me that.”

“What was I supposed to say? ‘During one of the loops, I took advantage of my second-in-command and kissed her in front of my boss.’ How would that have played out?”

“You could’ve told me.”

“Not without show-and-tell,” he looked to her and minus-degree weather heated again. How did he just turn that on and off?

“You’re making it very hard to not kiss you again,” she said with as much voice as she could muster.

“If it wasn’t so damn cold out here, you’d know exactly how hard it is for me too,” he scratched the back of his head and looked away before pulling on his jeans.

Her fingers smoothed across his cheek and pulled him to look at her. If the air was heated before, it was positively boiling now. Her thumb toyed with his bottom lip, slid across the soft pink, dipped to the coarse hair of the dimple in his chin.

He opened his mouth to warn her away but instead found his lips pressing to hers. She wasn’t gentle in her kiss and soon found herself being matched – outmatched? – by him. He pulled her hat from her head and threaded his fingers through her hair, manoeuvring her to his tongue’s desire.

He pulled her closer, edging her closest leg to drape over his thigh as well as her coat would allow. She felt his fingers rest on her knee as she played with the strands at the nape of his neck, cursing the many layers between them but thankful for them, also.

They kissed deeply for a long while; years of passion, frustration and fantasy being worked out by lips, tongues and fingers. It was only when a zipper being pulled was heard above a quiet moan that they pulled back.

“We weren’t supposed to do that,” she whispered through reddened lips. Everything they spoke about last night, everything they fought to establish was ruined over her a momentary lack of control. Despite the arousal and euphoria coursing through her, a lead-tonne weight settled in her stomach, screaming ‘shit’.

“How was I?”

She smirked, “Good.”

He broke out into a grin, though he was questioning how and why he had been so willing and able to destroy the trust she had put into him not 24 hours ago; trust to not ruin what they have, that they both understood their real priorities. “Let’s head back.” Standing and adjusting his jeans, he handed back her hat before extending a hand to help her up.

--

“Should we talk?” He offered, curling his fingers around the cup of his wine glass, with high eyebrows. He pushed his plate further to the edge of their little table. “About before?”

Her last mouthful of pasta went down in a hard, square-feeling lump. She gulped a little at her wine. “Erm,” she spluttered, “Probably…”

“Long story short, it was good but it was bad and we shouldn’t do it again. Unless mitigating circumstances suggest we would have free-reign to do so.”

Her smile was threatening to turn to a grin at his ‘Who’s the smart one now, huh?’ expression. “Exactly.”

“Any chance of such circumstances later tonight? Maybe the whole time we’re snowed in? It’s a cliché, but…”

God, she hoped so.

Chapter Text

After dinner, Sam had one of the owners pleading with her to take another look at the generator since it was threatening to 'futz' again. Of course, she agreed with a gracious smile and descended down to the dank basement with Jack in tow.

He sat down on the toolbox, occasionally lifting up to hand over a desired tool. He actually had had the exact same generator at the cabin before getting sick of needing to constantly fix it, so knew what the issue was and could fix it in...four moves? Maybe three. He knew she needed the challenge to keep that brain of hers ticking over, though – she couldn't just switch off like he could.

He liked watching her work, too. She has a way of looking at the most mundane of things... wondrously. And if something really took her fancy, everything else became second fiddle. The true Carter came out then. The one that could openly get flustered, anxious, annoyed and not have a worry about perceptions. The one that can laugh at his stupid jokes wholeheartedly like there were no rank or ideas of impropriety.

He can also stare at her and not distract her or get shouted at; can count every eyelash, watch her chew on her lip, see her eyes glaze over in epiphany after epiphany.

"I think if I..."

That was the third time she'd started to say something before stepping over the generator and poking at something on the other side. It looked like she'd already fixed what he would have done... he had no idea what she was 'futzing' with now.

"Ya think this is where they kept all the gold?" he asked, swiping his flashlight around the room. Water damaged boxes, old bottles and empty crates lined a far wall.

"Doubtful, sir. Probably more like the bodies of drunks and thieves."

He flipped the torch to shine into her face, " Sir? "

She looked surprised, "Habit." She added, "Jack," to reaffirm.

He started to make one-handed shadow puppets in the torchlight.

"The longer we stay out here, the harder it is to remember why we're not together."

Her resolve was waning too.

--

She didn’t wake to a snore that night, but something did rouse her when it was still dark out. She snuggled further into the warmth and smoothed a hand across her stomach…to find herself interlacing fingers with Jack. His large hand was splayed over her skin just under her breast. Her breath caught and she realised with widening eyes that she had shifted into his body and he was hard against her ass.

She felt a ripple of tingles cascade down her body and pool low in her stomach. His hoarse voice whispering a cursed apology into her ear, his breath fluttering across her skin, sent another wave of arousal. “Sorry,” he began to move away.

Her hand closed tightly around his on her stomach. He stilled and she could feel him tense. She smoothed her hand up his arm, down his side and pressed lightly at the small of his back, pushing his backside into her. His breath shuddered over her ear, the slightest note of his voice carrying.

Her hand travelled down further and squeezed his buttock, again pushing his erection between her legs. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth, arching her back into him.

“Sam…” he warned.

She turned in his embrace and his heart jumped into his chest, thinking she was leaving the bed and he’d ruined everything. Her cheeks were flushed and usually bright blue eyes were darker, even more alluring, seducing him with each flutter of her eyelashes. He was frozen at the sight, at the possibility of what may be to come.

She placed her palms flat on his chest and pushed until he was on his back and she sat astride his hips. “Sam," he swallowed, assuring himself he was awake and this was happening. "You have to be sure.”

She gave him the benefit of a moment’s thought, all of their conversations about why they shouldn't be doing this whispering behind the screaming of every reason they should. As an answer, she curled her fingers around the hem of her tee and pulled it over her head. She tossed it behind her somewhere and when she looked back at him, his eyes were firmly rooted to her chest. She arched her back,her breasts moving in his eyeline; she watched as his eyes darkened immediately and his tongue slipped onto his lips as he quickly sat up and captured a nipple in his mouth.

His other hand massaged the free breast as his tongue laved at her nipple; Swirling, flicking, sucking, soothing as his teeth joined in to nip, twist, pull, bite. She was squirming on his lap, searching for purchase as his ministrations caused delicious sensations to wave through her body. He switched nipples and gave the same attention, low moans beginning to erupt from her throat, her nails scratching at his scalp.

She breathed his name, pulling his shirt over his head and moaning at the loss of contact before attaching her lips to his. The earlier passion was doubled, tripled, breathless kisses as tongues duelled and hands explored. Her nails scratched down his chest, up his back, pressing him to her as his soft chest hair moved against her breasts. He flipped them, her head landing on the pillow with a bounce and short chuckle before his lips captured hers again.

She arched against him, trapping him between her raised thighs, their groins meeting and both eliciting moans at the contact. His head fell to her shoulder as she did it again, teasing him through layers of cotton. She had to stop that if she wanted him to last. They had eight years of foreplay, how long did she think he could hold off?

He kissed her shoulder, the column of her neck, behind her ear. His hand slipped down to her breast, her stomach, her hip; keeping her as still as he could. His lips found her jaw then the centre of her chest, laved a journey down her stomach. Her skin was like silk; he always knew it would be.

He kissed below her belly button. “Jack,” she breathed. His eyes closed as the sound went straight to his erection. He sat up, readjusted himself for more comfort and hooked his fingers beneath the waistband of her shorts. She lifted up immediately so he could slide them off her long legs.

Kelowna. P2S-4C3. Holy fuck.

He kissed a path up from her knee, her voice quietly keening for him to get to his destination and be quick about it. So naturally, he went slower. He got to her bikini line, snaked a tongue in the crease of her thigh, placed a kiss in the short thatch of blonde hair, licked down the crease of her right thigh and, finally…

Kissed down to her knee. He smirked against her skin as a frustrated, almost-pleading and down-right pissed off noise came from above him.

Suddenly, Jack pulled her ankles to his sides so she shuffled down the bed, open to his view. A growl left his throat before he buried his face between her legs, her back lifting off the bed as his tongue pressed flat against her clit and swiped up. She made a noise he’d never be able to forget.

Flick, suck, press, lick, flick…

She was squirming beneath him, her breath in audible pants, her skin slick to the touch. His name was followed by a string of expletives, pleadings, moans. She sat up, guiding him by the hair from between her legs and both scrambled to pull his shorts down.

She pushed him down on his back, pulling the shorts off and away and climbing up his body. She kissed him, his tongue still tasting of her as they swirled together, her hand snaking down to touch him. Warm, solid, hard beneath her hand; she slowly twisted her hand up the length, his kisses becoming slow, lost in what she was doing to him. “Sam…”

She guided him to her opening, her free hand bracing on his chest as she straightened up, locking eyes with him. She might have smirked, maybe would've had some smart comment on her lips but she was too keyed up, too god-damn ready for this for her brain to do anything other than stare at him with dark eyes, her mouth slightly open, her nerves firing on all cylinders. Tortuously slowly, she sank down, sheathing him in her silken warmth.

His breath and heart all but stopped, his hands falling to her hips, keeping her still lest it all finish right then and there. “Jack, I have to… Jack…” her thighs clenched around him, needing to move.

His fingertips pressed into her skin, prompting her to lift up. Her eyes were closed tight, her thighs quivering as she rode him, picking up an intense pace that had groans punctuating breaths, fingers scratching at any skin they could blindly find, names being broken into multiple syllables.

She was close, so close. Jack was mesmerised, watching her get what she needed from him, with him, her nails scraping at his chest, her internal walls squeezing with quickening intensity, noises escaping her that would plague his dreams, nights, days, every waking moment for the rest of his life. He slipped his fingers down to where they were joined, sliding over her clit in messy, tight circles. She keened, her back straightening, her mouth opening, her nails leaving crescent shapes on his forearm.

He said something – he could be under torture and not be able to tell what it was – but his voice had her falling over the edge. White lights dancing before her eyes, her body curving in on itself as her muscles tightly squeezed him, noises vibrating from her chest as he continued to thrust into her, circle her clit, prolong the sensations.

She braced her arms on either side of his chest, her hair tickling under his chin as she tried to catch her breath, placing a kiss against his skin when regained her functions. She flexed her internal muscles, still filled with him, and a grunt escaped him. Now she could smirk, kiss him, tease him; she’d had her pent-up release, now time for his.

He rolled them so she was on her back, slid a hand up her thigh and nudged her ankle to rest on his back. She locked her other ankle with it, moved them so she could push at his backside, scraping her nails into his back to encourage him to move.

He grunted into her shoulder as he began to set a pace. She matched his thrusts, placed kisses in his hairline in search of his mouth. Their tongues duelled as she squeezed him in time with his movements. It didn’t take long for him to let go, to thrust deeply and finally, collapsing against her heavily.

She hugged her arms around him, welcomed his weight and she smoothed her legs along his.

He rolled off her, eventually, tucking her into his side as he covered them with the sheet as his breath was returning. He traced his fingertips down her bare back, “We weren’t supposed to do that.”

“No.”

“Are you sorry we did?”

“Only sorry we didn’t do it earlier.”

He huffed out a laugh – oh, did he agree.

“We’ll talk about it in the morning,” she said, wanting to add after we do that again.

 

Chapter Text

He was humming as he transferred the coffee cups into one hand and used the key-card to re-enter the room, cursing as he tilted too far and spilt a boiling path down his jeans leg. Tossing the card to the end table, he gave an easy smirk towards the bed, only to find it empty. After a momentary panic - had she left because of last night? - he saw her on the window seat, knees pulled up.

“Hey.”

She smiled her thanks, taking the proffered cup and wrapping both hands around it to hold it to her chest.

“You okay?” he perched opposite her, his heart in his chest.

She gestured to her phone on the bed, “Seems we got cell signal overnight. Mark sent a few pictures of the kids with Santa.”

“That’s nice…?”

“They asked Santa for their Grandpa back.”

He heaved a breath, “Oh.”

“Yeah, it just hit me a bit,” she picked at a bobble on her shorts.

He placed his hand on her knee and squeezed.

“He was rooting for you, y’know,” she had a hint of a smirk.

“Rooting?”

“For you and me.”

His eyes were in his hairline, “He told you that?”

“Not in so many words but it was inferred.”

“Your father, the decorated Major General, inferred that he approved of a regulation-breaking relationship between his beautiful Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel only daughter and her haggard, grumpy, old Commanding Officer?”

She laughed, “Apparently.”

He was dumbstruck. He thought Jacob liked him, tolerated at least, but just as a sometime-colleague. “Wow.”

“And less of the haggard and old.”

“But not the grumpy?”

“This is good coffee…” she hid her smirk behind the mug as Jack began to laugh softly at her.

"What did Janet think?"

"I never spoke to her about you."

"Really? I thought women always told each other that stuff."

"What, after we braid each other's hair and have a pillow fight?"

"Hey, don't ruin that for me!"

She laughed, "No, I think she knew, deep down, but we never discussed it. I think she would've been okay with it eventually but she wouldn't have wanted me to ruin my career over a guy..." She went quiet, part of her wondering if she had just done that.

"I think she would've taken a hammer to my bad knee if I ruined your career."

"Oh, and then some."

"The last thing I want in the world is to ruin your career, Carter. I told you, you're a national treasure. If...if we need to forget last night happened to keep that from happening, we can. I will do that. Won't be easy," he muttered a cuss, flashbacks of her skin, her eyes, those noises, "but I will."

She took a breath, the prickle of tears at her eyes. Her head hurt from trying to force herself to make a decision, at the unfairness of needing to choose, about the true reality of the situation, how right she'd had been about his hands, how Sara had told her so, how heavy his body as against hers, how her name sounded as he came; she just wanted to stay cocooned in their little fantasy a while longer. "I don't want to think about that right now. Take me back to bed."

--

Sam was asleep at his side when he heard his phone vibrate in his jacket pocket. He uncurled his arm from under her and crossed to where his coat was over the half-couch-half-chair-thing and patted down the pockets. It was a voicemail from General Hammond, which didn’t bode well.

Quickly dressing, grabbing his jacket and the key-card, he quietly closed the door behind him and went outside to return the call. The snow was thawing, he noticed, trying to gauge if the truck would be able to make it back to the Mountain quickly, if needed.

The call connected and he went through the multiple safety procedures before finally getting through to Hammond.

“Jack, Merry Christmas.”

“Is that today?”

“No, son,” Hammond laughed, “tomorrow.”

“Really?”

“You forgot?”

“Apparently so. What can I do for you?”

“Well, I have a proposition for you.”

“I like you, Sir, but-“

“-Jack-“

“Sorry. Go on.”

Hammond had a smile in his voice as he began to tell Jack he was planning to retire, effective December 31st and had recommended him for the role of Head of Homeworld Security. It would mean a move to DC and little-to-no ‘gate travel, but he couldn’t think of anyone more qualified or suited for the job. He didn’t have to give an answer right away, he could take a few days but he was hoping he'd think about it. He then said he was calling Carter next about heading up a role in Area 51, if she was interested.

“You sure you’re ready to go?”

“Kayla and Tessa are getting older and I’m not getting any younger. Best for all of us, I think.”

“We’ll miss you.”

“I’m only moving back to Colorado Springs, Jack. I’m not dying. Yet, at least.”

“No, I know, but… we’ve been at this eight years now. End of an era and all that.”

“It is. Beginning of a new one too. Merry Christmas, Jack.”

“Merry Christmas, George.” He hung up and looked up to Sam’s window where she was likely to be woken by a call any moment.

He sat at the table in the bar that they had spoken at a few nights ago, when he first came to the hotel. He ordered a whisky this time, one for Sam too.

“Hey,” she said, joining him at the table after sweeping her hand over his shoulders. “You get a call from General Hammond too?”

“Yeah. He offered me Head of…” he remembered where they were. Maybe the public bar hadn’t been the best place to wait for her. “He offered me his job.”

She nodded, “He offered me Head of R&D in Nevada.”

He sat back in his chair, heaving a sigh. Nevada was a long way away from Colorado Springs, never mind Washington DC. “What do you want?”

“You.”

Her eyes had a coquettish sparkle when he looked up at her; He had to bite down the groan. He could still see a darkness behind it, though. “Take me out of the equation.”

“Do you want to be taken out of the equation?”

“Do you want me to be taken out of the equation?”

"I am conflicted, I am not going to lie." She leaned forward, placed her hands on his knees and told him, “But not about you. I very much want you in the equation, if you want to be there. Ideally, I would like to have three of me: one in Nevada, one in Springs and one fishing with you at the cabin.” Her hands smoothed up his thighs just a little. “Having not perfected that just yet, in this reality at least, I think I would like to go to Nevada. Not that I don’t enjoy the field work but I think a change of pace might be good for me right now.”

“And if I was in DC?”

“Long weekends, vacations…Skype?”

That groan had to be bitten down again - not too well this time - as she sat back with a smirk. "So, we keep it a secret?"

"You wouldn't be my direct C.O."

"No, but I'd still be above you, just... over a bit." He gave directional hand gestures.

"I think the 'over a bit'," she copied his gesticulation, "will work in our favour.."

"I'd still outrank you."

"Not for long," her eyes twinkled with mischief. He hadn't seen that in her for a while. She seemed lighter somehow; he knew he was good in the bedroom department, but damn, he was good. He also knew that probably had little to do with it. "Would you be okay with that? The secret?"

His long fingers threaded together. "For the longest time, the Air Force gave me everything I needed in the sense of stability and order and purpose. Now, stay with me because I'm going to get sappy... That's not the most important thing for me any more."

She hoped she knew the answer, but she asked anyway, "What is?"

He leant forward and kissed her, gently but with promise for more. "You."

"I'm not sure I knew you could be sappy," she smiled against his lips.

His voice was light, "Just wait til I get romantic."

She laughed, pressing her lips to his again before sitting back in the chair. “So we’re doing this? Nevada to DC?” She thread her foot between his, their calves maintaining contact.

"DC to Nevada." He held up his glass to clink with hers.

--

They checked out later that day. The snow had thawed into a dirty, grey slush but the weather reports suggested they'd be able to make it back to Colorado Springs before the temperature dropped further again. The owners insisted Sam didn't pay for her room considering the heating and generator were working better than they had in years and so, with the help of a few guests who were also checking out, they managed to lift her bike onto his truck and get onto the road.

The winter scenery passing by her window was beautiful and for the first time in months, she felt happy. Happy, hopeful, almost at peace. The year had been shitty, but it was definitely looking up.

"You okay?" Jack asked, his eyes flicking to hers before back to the deceptively icey road.

"Yep!" she smiled. "Cassie called when you were checking the truck, she's spending Christmas at mine."

"She tells you this on Christmas Eve?"

"She was going to spend it with Nate, but I think she wants family for this one."

"Will she be there tonight?"

"No," her smile turned to a smirk. "Were you thinking of coming over?"

"I was thinking maybe I could show you my romantic side?"

"I think I might enjoy that. We have to be careful though."

"We could invite Daniel and Teal'c."

"I like Daniel and Teal'c a lot but I don't really want them there if you're showing me your romantic side..."

"Carter! I'm driving and even if I wasn't, I never want you to put those images in my head again!"

She laughed at his widened, insistent eyes.

"I meant, we could have a meal and watch a Christmassy movie like 'Die Hard', then I could stay behind to clean up, or something."

"That sounds better. And Cassie?"

"We'll cross that bridge."

"I like that it's 'we'."

He took his hand off the wheel and interlaced their fingers for as long as he could, "DC to Nevada."