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A Night Off

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She closed her front door behind her, turning the lock with a loud click that seemed to echo through the darkness of her house. She didn't bother to turn on any lights as she walked into the kitchen, finding the darkness calming. She set her bag on the table and sank into a chair, not bothering even to remove her leather jacket. She enjoyed the comfort of something other than her BDUs.

She loved the military. She loved her job. But right now, at this very moment, she wasn't so sure she loved being Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter.

It was a busy job. A dangerous job. A stressful job. And most days, she could handle it. Years of experience had taught her how to unwind, how to take a deep breath and just let it all go. But somehow, today, it had just become too much. Nothing specific had happened. Nothing big. Just one little thing after another after another ad infinitum. Maybe it was partly hormonal. That wasn't normal for her, but at this point, she was grasping at straws. She really didn't know what it was, but even the little things that normally made her laugh were getting to her.

She hadn't been home in a week. Two quick missions, a few new artifacts, and some malfunctioning equipment had kept her away, spending her nights in a tent off-world or in her quarters on base, and she spent last night in her lab, catching an accidental 90 minute nap while trying to figure out some abnormal readings from the last diagnostic of the Stargate. She ran her fingers through her hair, wrinkling her nose at the texture. To add to her frustration, after waking up in her lab, she had run to the locker room for a quick shower, only to discover she had run out of conditioner. On a normal day, just a slight annoyance. Today, it made her want to scream.

She scrubbed her hands across her face. She had been fairly horrible to her team today. That wasn't like her. She had even snapped at Daniel when he stopped in and brought her a cup of coffee. Cameron and Vala hadn't even attempted to venture in to see her, though someone, probably Teal'c, had left a piece of cake and a mug of tea next to her computer. It was a sweet gesture, but even that had annoyed her. Clearly, she was losing her mind.

All she wanted was a hot bath and ten hours of uninterrupted sleep in her own bed. She highly doubted she'd get that, fully expecting her phone to ring with some crisis before the night was over.

Fifteen minutes later, she was lowering herself into a steaming bubble bath, with a glass of wine waiting for her on the side of the tub. Given the week she had just finished, she made sure both her cell phone and her home phone were sitting on the bathmat within reach. She was not cutting this bath short for anything. Even if it meant talking to General Landry while naked... well, perhaps she wouldn't think about that.

Halfway through her glass of wine, she found herself gazing at her wrinkled toes peeking out of the bubbles and pondering doing something even more girly like painting her toenails when her phone rang. She briefly considered sinking underwater until the phone stopped ringing, but then whoever it was would just try her on her cell phone, and well, she could only hold her breath for so long. With a sigh, she reached out of the tub to pick up the phone.

"Carter," she answered, sinking back into the tub.

"Wow, Carter, you sound a little defeated there." Jack O'Neill's voice floated through the phone, making her smile. "What'd I interrupt?"

She laughed. "Nothing important."

"I tried you in your lab first. Have to say, I'm surprised to find you at home."

Sam frowned slightly. "I left a few hours ago. Was there something you needed me to work on?"

"Oh, no," he replied quickly. "I just... I heard you guys were pretty busy there this week."

She became suspicious. "Oh yeah?"

"Yep. You know. I get reports and stuff. And I read them on occasion."

"Or you talked to Daniel," she said knowingly.

"No," he replied. "Well, ok, yeah. He might have mentioned that you were having a crazy week."

She took a deep breath and vowed not to let her earlier frustrations come back. Daniel cared for her and worried about her and just wanted to help. "Oh yeah?"

"Yep," he responded, not offering more. "So you finally managed to escape?"

She took another sip from her wine before responding. "For a few hours, anyway."

Jack paused a moment before responding. "Carter, what's that splashing noise? Are you..."

"Taking a nice relaxing bubble bath? Yes."

He paused again. "That's really... that's..." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, I called because I actually do need a favor from you. Some boring bigwigs want a briefing on the new... whatever you guys have been working on. And well, you know I have no idea how it works. So I convinced Landry to let me borrow you for a few days. That is, if you're up for a trip to D.C."

"You know I'd love to. It's just that I've gotten so behind this week."

"Which is why I'm not ordering you. But come on, there have got to be some geeks there who could help you get caught up. Just bat your eyes at Felger or whatever."

"Oh yeah, like I want to leave my work to Felger. That'd be one way to cut my trip short. And bat my eyes? I do not bat my eyes."

"Or whatever," he repeated, a smile in his voice. "Besides, Carter. It's cherry blossom time here. Wouldn't you like to see some nature on this planet for once?"

"You are telling me I should relax by looking at trees?"

"Flowers," he corrected. "They just happen to grow on trees. And be all popular with the tourists. So...?"

She rolled her eyes. "All right. When's this briefing?"

"Tuesday morning."

"I'll be there sometime on Monday then."

"Sunday. The flowers, Carter. You have to see the flowers."

She laughed. "Fine. I'll be there on Sunday. You people better be putting me up in a nice hotel."

"Only the best for you, Carter. I'll see you then. Enjoy your bath."

"Good night," she said, a smile on her face as she hung up the phone. She set the phone back on the floor and sunk deeper into the slowly cooling water. Maybe she had better paint her toenails after all.