|Beyond the Stars
Author: CSIGurlie07 PM
They came from two different worlds. To find each other, they only had to look beyond the stars. A Sam/Jack AU. NOW COMPLETE!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Friendship - S. Carter & J. O'Neill - Chapters: 13 - Words: 34,361 - Reviews: 180 - Favs: 51 - Follows: 59 - Updated: 07-14-12 - Published: 06-12-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8209606
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: It's an AU. That should be clue enough. Now, just keep in mind that I've taken some liberties as to the matter of engine mechanics (as I clearly have no experience in autoshop), and we'll be good to go. As always with my new fics, first review gets their choice of update days. The story is complete, and will be updated once a week until it's entirely posted.
Jack never thought he'd be here.
When he'd put his name on the dotted line, sworn himself to defend the nation against all dangers foreign and domestic, he never would have guessed that he'd be benched with a torn ACL barely out of job training. And he certainly never could have conceived of the possibility of him riding a lawn mower all day as he waited for himself to heal.
He'd earned his injury in an awkward stage of his career—if he dare yet call it a career. The injury was severe enough that the doctors were on the fence on whether he'd ever be able to return to full duty, but the real kicker had come when he'd been told there was no place for him. He'd barely managed to complete his MOS school, but the injury had come before he'd received his transfer. He was an airman without an assignment, and he wouldn't receive one until he healed.
Which was he was now riding a John Deere on a daily basis, cutting lawn after lawn on one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. He hated it. Washington DC was hot, a far cry from the wooded coolness of a Minnesotan spring. And from his barely-passing public school experience, the prim uniforms and haughty students who went about their days like he didn't exist rubbed him the wrong way.
The kids had parents with more money and power than God, and there was no doubt the kids knew it. All day he heard snippets of conversations, of who'd been bought what, which car was totaled this week, and where the hottest parties of the month were. They were entitled, stuck up Richie Riches who wouldn't know character if it bit them in the ass.
He should have been grateful for the VA finding him this job. It was easy, paid well, and was transient enough that he would have no qualms ditching it the moment his knee healed. But between the rotten students who sneered at his blue collar tan and the nagging doubt that maybe his knee won't ever be the way it was, his thoughts remained full of misgivings.
As if the damn thing could hear Jack's dour sentiments, the mower's engine chose that moment to sputter and die. Biting his lip against a flood of curses, he turned the key once, then again when nothing happened. It was dead in the water.
He slammed a hand against the steering wheel and rose unsteadily to his feet. His knee only offered a small twinge of protest as he climbed down, which he counted as a mild blessing. There were some days where it simply refused to take his weight.
He spent ten minutes under the hood, searching for the obvious culprits. He'd filled the gas tank that morning, the spark plugs looked clear, and nothing seemed busted or loose. Battery checked out too. He was at a loss, and he used his aggravating puzzle to ignore the occasional calls that drifted his way through the thick, muggy air.
Words like "Aren't hicks supposed to know how a tractor works?" and "They really are letting their hiring standards slip around here, aren't they?" leeched into his peripheral awareness, each syllable grating on his nerves until his teeth ground together with the effort to remain focused on his task. He didn't dare make eye contact. One look at them would be enough to get him swinging, propriety be damned.
"Need some help?"
The voice came much closer than the others, almost over his shoulder, and startled him into letting the wrench slip, scraping his knuckles across the sharp edge of the carburetor.
"Goddammit!" Jack barked, tossing the wrench aside before whipping around to face the offending voice. The speaker didn't react to his violent turn, but her bodyguards sure did. They took a menacing step forward, their shaded eyes locked on him as their hands hovered over their firearms.
Jack fought the urge to roll his eyes—a twelve year old with bodyguards. It was ludicrous, despite the school's emphasis on security. The campus had its own security forces, but dozens of the students had their own guards. Sickening.
"You got a problem?" Jack took a step back though, to communicate that he wasn't a threat. He wasn't stupid. And taking that step back, he realized his tormentor was not a twelve year old. No, the speaker was much—more.
She was all leg, a touch of knobby-kneed youth lingering despite their length. A quick perusal revealed a shapeless pleated skirt and blazer—the prep school's uniform—but Jack found a pair of sharp blue eyes staring back at him from above high cheek bones, pegging him with an intense gaze. But even as his mind caught up with him, her regard grew haughty in his eyes.
"I only asked if you needed help," she returned, undaunted by his ire. The girl's voice was rich, with a dry edge that told him she was less than impressed by his reaction. "Yes or no would suffice."
Jack blinked. What? "No!"
A shrug. "Fine."
The girl turned and walked back across the quad, meeting her guardians on the pebbled causeway. She led the small procession of three away from the stranded Deere and off towards the grey stone buildings standing sentinel over the heart of the campus.
Jack watched her go, his eyes catching on the blonde braid that glinted down her back. One of the hulking shadows lifted his wrist to his mouth, no doubt reporting the all clear to whomever they had stationed in the periphery. With a muttered curse, Jack turned back to the engine, mouth twisted into a scowl.
He couldn't wait to get back on active duty.
Six hours later, he was still working on it. Beyond one false start around noon, he'd made no progress. His only remaining option would be to push the damn thing back to the shed, but there was no way in hell that was happening with his knee the way it was. Just the trek back to the shed to get a toolbox had just about killed him.
He swiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his arm, heaving a sigh as he squinted against the setting sun. Then, he turned the key, and his sigh turned to an obscenity when he was rewarded by a grinding whine from the engine bloc.
"It's the cam shaft."
Jack jerked back, whirling around at the sound of a calling voice. He lifted his hand against the sun, peering at the silhouette standing on the nearest path. He'd thought all the students had gone home. "What?"
The figure stepped closer, into the shadows, and suddenly the silhouette was a familiar sight. "You hear that grinding noise? Sounds like the pin's slipping." It was that damn girl again, all leg with gold hair. In the sunset she seemed softer, though, her dry edges unfocused to the point she was actually… kind of… hot.
She looked to be sixteen or so, her book bag heavy against her shoulder. Her goons still stood watch, resolute and intimidating in their dark jackets and shades. Jack straightened slightly, his arm resting on the popped hood of the tractor. "I didn't say I wanted your help."
The same shrug from before lifted her grey clad shoulder. "I figured just giving you the information would be easier on your masculine sensibilities than asking again." Her brow arched, lending her blue eyes a lilting smirk. "I could just fix it for you, but you'd probably take that even worse."
"You telling me that you know engines, Little Miss Prim?" Jack's voice took on a vicious bite. "Your chauffer teach you how your limo works?"
"Of course," came the smooth reply. "My silver spoon came with pistons and a gear shaft. How about you?"
Jack blinked. She'd mimicked his sharp tone with expert precision, down to the razor's edge of sarcasm. "All right then," he said finally. "Prove it."
The twinkle in her eyes told him that his dare didn't fool her in the slightest. He had no chance of getting the tractor fixed himself before dawn. He was saving face, and she knew it.
The girl stepped forward without hesitation, and Jack watched her bodyguards tense and shift in readiness, anticipating his inevitable step towards her. But Jack stayed where he was, waiting as she stuck her blonde head under the hood. She peered into the block for a few long moments, turning her head this way and that, then called for a five-eighths wrench.
When it was not forthcoming, she shifted impatiently, glaring at him with her head still awkwardly tilted between the hood and the engine.
"You didn't say please," Jack informed her, smirking.
"I'm the one helping you, you know," she returned.
Jack shrugged. "I didn't ask for the help. You supplied it out of the goodness of your heart. Doesn't mean you have to forget your manners."
Blue eyes rolled in exasperation. "May I please have the wrench?" she huffed.
Jack handed it over with a grin. Another eye roll and then she turned her attention back to the task. He didn't miss the curt thank you that drifted back up to him.
Several wrenches exchanged hands in the minutes that ticked by, pitching them amongst the growing shadows as the sun dipped lower behind the horizon. She continued her pleases and thank yous without his prompting, and slowly he relaxed. He held onto her uniform blazer when she shrugged out of it, and when one of the escorts tossed him a flashlight he held the beam steady as she continued to work.
Finally, as the stars were just peeking out through the smog, she pulled back, wiping the back of her hand across her brow—a movement not unlike the one he'd made earlier that morning. They were both sweating now, but Jack barely noticed in the growing cool breeze of the DC evening.
"Try it now," she instructed. The words weren't bossy, but rather distracted, as though her thoughts were still inside the engine compartment.
Jack obeyed without comment. His wrist turned sharply, the key firmly between his fingers. For a gut-dropping moment the engine coughed, then caught with a satisfying grumble.
Letting it idle, Jack rocked back on his heels, sliding his gaze back to his unexpected knight in shining private school uniform. "I'm impressed."
And he was. Not that a girl could know engines better than he, but that any student at this crème de la crème institution knew anything about mechanics besides how to crash their sports cars.
"I've exceeded your wildest expectations," she returned with wry smirk. "My day is now complete." She reached out, her fingers brushing his as she retrieved her blazer. "The fix is probably only temporary, but it should be enough to get it back to the groundskeeper's shed."
Jack nodded his thanks, though whether she saw the motion in the growing shadows was anyone's guess. She slung her bag over her shoulder then turned to leave.
"Wait!" She turned back, but didn't move any closer. He tossed the flashlight back to her, which she caught deftly. "Sorry about earlier."
She smiled again, and this time it was almost polite. "I'm sure I'll survive." She paused. "You're forgiven."
"My name's Jack. O'Neill. Two L's." He leaned against the Deere, getting his weight off his now aching knee. "I guess I'll see you around, huh?"
The smile grew, gleaming in the dark. "Well, Jack… O'Neill, two L's. Considering your sudden knack for breaking down in the most conspicuous quads on campus, and the fact that I'm a student here…" She shrugged. "I don't think we could avoid each other if we tried."
There was a hint of a flirt beneath the sarcasm, but before he could act on it she was moving again. A beat, and then, "Hey! What's your name?"
She stopped short, her gaze freezing dead ahead as though stunned. Jack waited, and watched as her head then turned to regard him from over her shoulder. There was a long silence as dark eyes examined him, searching for… Something. Jack wasn't sure what.
Then those lips smiled again, minutely.
"Sam," she said finally. "My name's Sam."