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The Slow Revelation of Self

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In the beginning there was sex. And it was good.

But then came light, and with it, morning. And it was also good, because with morning, came the smell of coffee.

Sam rolls over, expecting the bed to be empty, the sheets cool. His warm body fills the space instead. His hand is light against the bare skin of her belly, his chest solid against her back. His breath against her neck is too quick, too shallow for sleep.

"You have a timer on your coffee maker," she states, as if it were the most wondrous thing she's discovered about Jack O'Neill in the last twelve hours.

"And I had the foresight to set it last night," he tells her as his hand slides up to rest between her breasts and his body eases closer to meld with her contours.

She arches an eyebrow at him over her shoulder, catches the smirk that borders on self-congratulatory that he can still surprise her after all these years. "You did not," she retorts and laces her fingers through his against her chest. "You barely remembered to close the front door."

"So maybe I set it earlier." His thumb sweeps soft strokes across one nipple, making her stomach tense and flutter. "Maybe I anticipated wanting to linger in bed this morning."

His logic is sound. She doesn't usually pack her toothbrush when she's was getting ready for a date, either.

*

Later, when she rises, she wraps the sheet around herself. It seems both silly and sane; he's seen her before, torn and bloodied on a pile of gravel half a million light-years away. He was in the infirmary, so she's been told, when they'd cut away her clothes because her heart had stopped despite the last-ditch efforts of her one-time symbiote.

Hell, he saw her just last night, wearing nothing but moonlight, on the very bed where he still lies.

But this, Jack, with his head propped up by one arm, watching her with a lazy morning-after smile as she moves about the room in the thin morning light, this is far too intimate, too precious, too… new.

She doesn't want to somehow disappoint him, even though he'd made it clear somewhere in the space between the front step and this morning that she couldn't.

*

Jack offers her first dibs on the shower and tells her breakfast will be waiting if she promises to leave him some hot water.

She puts on the skirt because it makes her feel sexy, in spite of the cheerful flower print. She likes the way it flows, kissing the tops of her calves and suggesting a hint of something more. It's a nod to her other side, a change from the everyday solid and functional.

She wasn't thinking about impressing Jack when she'd tossed it in her bag, or rather, she'd been trying very hard not to think of him and what it meant that she was packing a change of clothes based on his invitation to meet him for dinner and a movie.

They hadn't made it to the movie and the take-out boxes are probably still sitting on the table by the front door.

"Nice," he says as he hands her a mug. She follows his gaze down to her legs and still-bare feet and blushes at the sincerity of the compliment. She can't help it. He isn't mocking some ridiculous costume she's being forced to wear for the sake of interplanetary relations, or teasing her to make her feel like she fits in with the guys.

And he's making her breakfast.

She takes the top slice of toast off the stack on the single plate. He's already slathered it with peanut butter and she remembers the argument, how the four of them had been sitting just inside the tent, trying to stay out of the rain that had drenched their cooking fire. They'd been eating soggy power bars and mooning over the dearth of bacon and eggs. She'd told him she'd even be happy with peanut butter on toast and he'd countered that he couldn't think of a more disgusting combination to pair with coffee.

She glances at the counter behind him and sees the freshly opened jar with a smear of peanut butter on the torn paper seal.

"I didn't have bacon," Jack tells her and waves his own slice of plain toast. "Or eggs, for that matter."

But he does have a brand-new jar of peanut butter.

*

He asks her if she has any plans for the day and she says no. He's got errands to run and if she wants to come along, he'll buy her lunch. He fidgets with the towel he's folding, punctuating the request with an excess of hand waves before giving up and tossing the towel back into the laundry basket, but she's relieved that she's not the only one who doesn't know how to end this date. This thing between them is too new for the assumption that she'll come and go as she pleases, treating his home as if it's an extension of her own, but this isn't a one time, let's just do this and get it out of our systems thing, either.

She hasn't really considered what she should do with her weekend; the uninterrupted time off is rare enough. Her brain had stopped processing right after Jack had stuck his head in her office and asked, "So…dinner? Maybe a movie?"

Sam hadn't even considered that it might have been a group invitation.

She also hadn't figured him to be a big-box discount-store type of guy either. She knows he prefers the weight of a Glock over a Barretta, and she's witnessed him taking the high road instead of being dragged into the dark underbelly of the NID, no matter how much he'd love to just shoot them all and be done with it, but the more mundane aspects of his life are still a mystery to her.

Though really, it shouldn't have been unexpected; even Jack O'Neill, interplanetary hero and patron saint to the Asgard, needs to stock up on toilet paper and toothpaste once in a while.

*

She loses him in Cleaning Supplies and he finds her again in the Beauty aisle reading the labels on the impossibly small and definitely over-priced bottles of nail polish. She sneaks a glance at his cart - this was no carry-basket trip for him - curious about his brand of shampoo and feeling a mix of slightly intrusive with a dash of warm pleasure that he's invited her along on such a personal errand.

"I like the darker one," he says and she feels like the proverbial deer caught in the on-rushing headlights. She'd been distracted from the bottles in her hand by the packages of socks and underwear half-hidden amongst the bags of potato chips and loaves of white bread, embarrassed that she's so easily caught off guard around him now. She's known him for years, witnessed him stripped bare in every sense of the word, seen what he's allowed to be seen, but now she stands, heat spreading from her cheeks to the tips of her ears at being caught staring at an un-opened package of Hanes Comfort-Cut briefs.

Jack wanders over to the body wash section. She puts the bottles back in their nice little spring-loaded rack. It's not like her to care whether a man would prefer her wearing Pearly Pink or Luscious Ruby on her nails; it's not on the list of ways she defines herself.

On second thought, maybe she will treat herself. Six dollars isn't much to pay so she can catch Jack sneaking a glance at her feet from time to time.

*

Lunch is late enough to be considered an early supper, but neither of them cares. It's hard to get used to a nine-to-five day when your wakeup call is a binary star rising over the horizon at three in the afternoon, local galactic time.

They opt for takeout - those little roasted chickens bought steaming up their own little bio-domes, rolls, potato salad, a bag of brownies and a nod to normalcy for dessert. It's warm enough that they eat at the small patio table on Jack's deck.

He excuses himself as she picks at the last brownie crumbs to tidy up the plates and put on the pot of coffee.

Sam recognizes the opening. He's giving her the out, the chance to make the excuse that she needs to get home, go back to the mountain, fly off to Milan, to put an end to the day and call it quits, thanks I've had a nice day let's do this again some time real soon.

The thing is, she doesn't want the excuse. She's content right where she is, and not because she's laid claim to the single Adirondack chair.

The feminist streak in her has always balked at the thought of arranged marriages, but she wonders if maybe this is what it might be like; once all the cultural misconceptions and history have been stripped away, you're left with the essence of the union - two people spending a lifetime getting to know each other.

There's so much she knows about him, so much she's seen and learned and done with and because of him.

And yet, he's still capable of surprising her by revealing new facets, both freshly cut, or worn and carefully polished.

*

Jack brings her coffee. He pulls the battered webbed lawn chair next to her and they sit and watch the fireflies dance. She doesn't feel the need to fill the silence between them and he seems to relax again now that her bag and her jacket haven't moved from where she'd tossed them by the front door when they'd come home.

He holds out his hand, fingers closed. "You don't want to forget this," he says and opens his hand with a flourish, like he's practicing the finishing movements of a sleight of hand. "It's not really my color."

She takes the small bottle of nail polish and rolls it between her fingers, remembering now that she must have left it on the edge of the bathroom sink. Without thinking, she gives it a shake and cracks the seal, then pauses when she sees his outstretched hand.

He's not asking her to make a commitment, and yet she hesitates, certain that if she hands over the bottle, her bag and jacket will still be by the door come morning. She knows that if she rests her bare feet on his lap and laughs when he smudges the edges that he'll run his palm up her calf and kiss her knee. And she suspects that when they finally make it in to the bedroom, it'll be slow and sweet and he'll take his time exploring all her curves and angles. She thinks she'll even let him keep the light on.

And she's okay with that, because maybe this time, they'll remember to lock the door and turn off the porch lights.

 

.fin