Author's note: this is the first time I've dabbled in fanfiction in about five years, and this story is un-beta'd, so please be gentle with me. If you are, I promise my characters won't be ;)
But in all seriousness, this is the start of what I intend to be a longer story. If you like what you read, please review and I'll see if I can't come up with more.
Rated "M" for frequent swearing and sexual content. Nothing graphic.
Burning Up Again
Washington DC. D-Day.
It's half-past midnight and she's standing on his doorstep in the pouring rain. It couldn't be more like a scene from a bad movie if it tried: her hair is wet and plastered to her forehead, and he doesn't think he's ever seen her eyes look this tired before. She's obviously driven all the way from Colorado, stopping for gas and coffee, because her clothes are rumpled and stained, and the way she's parked her car can only be described as erratic.
He raises an eyebrow, wondering if she's about to offer any explanation for her sudden appearance. When none is forthcoming, he invites her in, guides her to the couch, and shoves a double whiskey in her hands. He sits on the chair opposite her, watching her drink and shake, tears silently streaming down her face, and waits.
Eventually, after about forty-five minutes, she looks up at him. Her eyes are half-empty, half-hopeful, like she can't decide whether to be ashamed or excited. The tears have stuck firmly to her face, now, creating gleaming tracks down her cheeks, which are slightly red from exhaustion and alcohol.
"Are you going to tell me what's happening, Sam?" he can't help himself but ask. "You've been driving for what? Twenty-six hours?"
She shakes her head, a little ashamed, and laughs: "Less. I speed when I'm angry."
Don't I know it, he thinks to himself, wondering what can have gotten her this riled: "So," he asks, "business, or pleasure?"
A few moments pass in awkward silence as she ponders the right words. Eventually, she decides that honesty is the best policy, and sighs, talking to the remains of her whiskey rather than him:
"Pete knows. He kicked me out."
Chicago, Illinois. T-minus five years, two months and four days.
He wondered if he'd see her here: a conference about wormhole physics was exactly up her alley, and even though he was half expecting her to be here, it still takes his breath away.
He hasn't seen her since she resigned her commission and moved to Denver to play happy families with the cop. He honestly didn't really expect her to go through with it in the first place, but her father's death had hit her hard and she needed to cling to her 2.5 children and her white picket fence.
So, she ignored her father's advice, ignored her heart, and ignored everything sensible everyone was telling her, and she married the bastard. She upped and left, and he thought he'd vaguely heard somewhere that she was splitting her time between the Air Force Academy and the University of Colorado. It was a hell of a commute, and a hell of a life, and he couldn't imagine how she could possibly be happy. The Sam Carter he knew wasn't happy unless she was still in her lab at stupid o'clock in the morning, forgetting to eat, and definitely not capable of looking after herself, let alone another human being – unless she was in the field, in which case, you knew she would always, always, always have your back.
Until she didn't.
Until she was gone.
And yet, here she was. Dr. Samantha Shanahan, all long blonde hair and legs and bright blue eyes glittering as she took to the stage to give her presentation. His breath hitches in his throat as he sees her, looking like someone else entirely and yet exactly the same. She's wearing a skirt suit, the blouse polka-dotted with a bow, and those shoes… oh, man, those shoes.
She's never seen anything like it, let alone on his former second, and he doesn't know quite how he's supposed to sit there and listen to her theorise about things he knows she's seen firsthand without standing up and walking out… or, a rebellious part of his brain suggests, swiping her off the stage and carrying her back to his bedroom. Oh, sweet Jesus, the irony.
He makes it through the presentation, somehow, and breathes deeply as he pulls himself up to a barstool that night, his head and his heart a mess. If he'd known that he'd see her here, he'd have sent Joseph. Or Alison. Or anyone fucking else. It feels like losing her again, knowing that she's probably barely feet away, playing happy families with her husband in her pretty, girly clothes and her heels. He bets there's a baby. Or two. It's been what? Three years now, at least. Plenty of time to pop a few pretty, blonde haired geniuses out in between "theorising". Dr. Samantha Shanahan, rising star of the academic community, is most definitely not Lieutenant Colonel Sam Carter of the USAF.
He orders a beer, and then another, and pretends not to hear the people sitting next to him who are trying to engage him in conversation. He's not here to talk physics, after all. He's here to watch – to make sure that no one gets too close to the truth, and that no one really knows what's going on under Cheyenne Mountain – and the irony is that the one person who really knows and really understands is presenting and he's not sure he can bring himself to inform the president.
He's just about polishing off his second whiskey of the night, nibbling idly on bar peanuts, when she sits down next to him, seemingly without even realising it. She has to have noticed it's him. He's sitting there in his fucking dress blues with the two little stars gleaming on his shoulders, and although he will admit that he's a fair bit greyer than he was when he last saw her, he thought she'd at least have noticed.
She orders a beer, dark, and he raises his eyebrows at the barman. White picket fences and 2.5 kids she is not. Pretending to look at someone behind her, he takes a sideways glance and notices that she's changed out of the feminine attire she wore earlier. She's wearing tight jeans, combat-style boots, and leather jacket and a little t-shirt, with her hair scraped back in a ponytail. She looks, quite frankly, like every one of his fantasies from years ago has come true, and he wonders how long he can sit there without her making the connection.
The barman passes over her beer, still in the bottle, and she absent-mindedly reaches over the grab a handful of his peanuts. Their hands brush, and she glances up at him, about to apologise.
"FUCK!" she shouts.
And that's when she falls of her stool.
Leaning down to offer her a hand, he raises one eyebrow and says, "it's nice to see you again, too, Colonel."
As she pulls herself back on to the stool, he thinks he sees her flush. "I think you know I'm not a Colonel anymore, General," she mutters, taking a swig of beer and trying very hard not to catch his eye.
"Ah." He says, feigning ignorance. "My mistake. Well, then, Dr. Shanahan, it's nice to see you again."
"Mmm." She intones, thoughtfully. "What the hell are you doing here, Jack?"
"I'm here for the conference," he tells her, as though it's the obvious answer.
"Right," she nods. "I forgot that you're one of the world's leading experts on wormhole theory."
"Ah, Carter, but you forget: I have a lot more practical experience with wormholes than most people here." He catches himself, and adds "present company excepted, of course."
"Don't call me that." She's whispering, her head down, fiddling with her wedding ring as though she's a little bit ashamed.
"Carter?" he asks.
"Well then, what do I call you?"
When she doesn't respond, swigging her beer and fiddling with her rings alternately, he continues: "Because I don't think I can call you Dr. Shanahan. And I spent years trying not to call you 'Sam', so it seems a bit… odd."
"Sam's good." She says. "Most people call me Samantha these days."
"Ah. Yes. I know how much you loved that name." He clinks his bottle against hers: "well, then, Sam: here's to the good old days, and to wormhole theory."
"To wormhole theory," she echoes, the first hint of a smile crawling on to her lips. She finishes her beer and pushes the bottle towards the other side of the bar.
"Can I get you something else?" he asks. He's a little conflicted: he's spent years trying to forget this woman, trying to pretend that there really wasn't anything between them, and yet here she is – married to another man, but more intoxicating than ever. He wonders if she knows what kind of an affect she's having on him.
He glances over at her as he waits for her answer, and notices the exact same feelings flash across her face: she's regretful, remorseful, excited and confused. She's conflicted and concerned and she feels really fucking guilty about what she's about to say, but he has that look on his face – that Jack look on his face – and she knows she's completely and utterly doomed.
"Sure." She nods. "I'll have another beer."
He walks her back to her room when the hotel barman finally kicks them out at four am. He's glad to see that despite her new hair and her new name she can still drink him under the table, and he has to fight the urge to kiss her as they say goodnight.
He's walking back down the corridor feeling like he might need the coldest shower he's ever had when he hears her call his name: "Jack?"
He turns, and sees her head poking out the bedroom door. He doesn't need to respond: they've already realised that they can still have a whole conversation without words. Some things, it seems, really never change.
"Are you staying for the conference tomorrow?"
He hadn't been intending to. Tomorrow is about something else entirely – something that has no bearing on national security in the slightest, and something which sounds so hellishly complicated that he can't even remember what it's called – but something deep inside of him tells him to tell her "yes".
"Do you feel like getting dinner tomorrow?" she asks. And then, by way of explanation, she adds "it gets lonely on the conference circuit."
I'll be it does, he thinks to himself, but he nods.
"Great!" she says. "Pick me up at seven?"
At quarter to seven the next evening, he's sitting on his bed, panicking down the phone at Cassie. He couldn't think of who else to call, and he feels like he's already gotten himself in too deep. But, as Cassie keeps insisting, it's only dinner – dinner between two old friends, who might once have been something more, and who just want to catch up and talk about the good old days, when they used to save the world on a daily basis.
He eventually acquiesces, and asks her what he should be wearing. She instructs him to go for tidy, smart, but casual: "Jeans, nice shoes, a nice sweater, and for the love of God, Jack, please comb your hair. And offer to pay."
"This isn't a date, Cass!" he admonishes, but he knows she's right. He knows there's bad blood between them and he wants to do his best to make up.
Checking himself in the mirror before he leaves his room, he hops in the elevator and heads up to her floor. She's waiting for him, because he knocks and the door opens straight away.
Just for a change, she takes his breath away. She's wearing the same tight blue jeans and leather jacket as yesterday, but this time she has a sort of fancy (he can't think of any other way to describe it) pale blue top on, and black high heels. Her legs go on forever, and he has to remind himself that she's married to pull his eyes away from her legs and up to her eyes.
"Hi," she grins, and his heart does a back-flip. He hasn't felt this alive in years.
"Hi," he replies. "Did you want to go anywhere in particular?"
"Actually," she tells him, shutting her door and pulling him back towards the elevator, "I've booked a cab and a table. I come up here to the university a fair bit, so I know the area. I hope that's OK."
"Sure," he says, feeling like this night can only go badly.
Dinner is wonderful. She's booked a secluded little booth in a homey Italian place, and she knows just what to say to make his cogs whir like they haven't in years. As soon as they sit down, she's ordering a bottle of red, something Italian he's never heard of before, and when the waiter pours a glass and he takes a sip it tastes like cherries and bad behaviour.
As they eat – and drink, oh how they drink – he teases a few details about her life out of her. She is, indeed, still married to the cop, but the look on her face says she finds her life boring and her marriage more so. She's teaching at the Air Force Academy mostly, these days, with a few days a month at the university in Denver, and a few days every six months or so up at Northwestern. She's highly sought after, it turns out, and the one thing that seems like it's going well in her life is her work.
She doesn't have any kids, but she does have a dog, and another motorbike, and not too many friends. She hasn't seen Cassie in years because Cass can't stand Pete, and she misses her something rotten. She drinks a lot to distract herself, and she swears like a trouper "because it bothers him so much, but he can't explain why so he can't justify asking me not to".
She's like a hurricane in human form these days, and she is a feast for the eyes.
The conversation flows easily. They find themselves crying with laughter over Apophis and his antics. "I always thought he seemed a bit gay!" she giggles. "Big, gay Apophis!"
"Big, gay Apophis!" he guffaws. It shouldn't be funny, but it is.
Eventually, after one and a half bottles of wine, and a glass of whiskey each, they stumble into a cab and try very, very hard to resist the urge to tear each other's clothes off. Her hands trace up and down his thighs, and he can feel parts of his anatomy acting against his better judgement. She notices too, and runs her hand over his crotch, her eyebrows raised. He guesses she doesn't get a whole lot of pleasure these days.
The drive back to the hotel is long, and part of him wonders if she planned it that way. Her breath is heavy, and her hands are running all over him, and he's clinging to the seat to stop him doing something he shouldn't.
Eventually, when she realises that he's not going to make the first move, she leans over and kisses him, long and sweet. She, too, tastes of cherries and naughtiness, and it's all he can do not to scoop her up in his arms there and then and fuck her.
Breathing heavily, he turns to her, his eyes on fire: "you're married, Sam. What the hell are you doing?"
She looks at him, staring hard into his eyes, and he can see that she's weighing up the consequences of his words. After a moment that feels like a lifetime, she shrugs, unbuckles her seatbelt, and climbs on to his lap, pulling his lips to hers. She has to have him. After all these years – after so much time in a boring marriage devoid of sex and excitement – she has to.
When he wakes up in the morning, he's alone in her hotel room. There's a note on the pillow beside him that with her phone number and the ominous words "we should do this again".
R&R? And shall I write more?