A little tormented angst. What can I say? I'm in a mood.

It wouldn't take much.

Just a twitch, really. The tiniest slip of his thumb sideways. It could be accidental. Or planned, even - a shift of his hand as he stabilized her on the precarious perch she'd taken.

She was muttering. He could feel the vibrations in her body even if he couldn't make out the words. He glanced up again, his eyes following, as if by way of self-torture, the long, strong line of her back, and the fine column of her throat exposed by the gilded curls at her nape.

His finger edged towards her skin, and he practically jumped out of his own as he cursed whatever manufacturer had made the trousers she wore, which, although fully in accordance with military code, still slung low enough on the slope of her hips to allow the tail of her t-shirt to escape.

Granted, the makers of the case she was standing on could be blamed, as well. The handles on the ends of the thing didn't have pockets into which they could recede when not in use. The box hadn't been high enough sitting on its base, or on the hinged back end. Carter had needed as much height as possible to reach the ceiling panel in the alien elevator in which they'd been stuck for the past two hours. So, she'd set the case on end and clambered up it. At the sign of the first wobble, Jack had grabbed her, remaining attached to her ever since, his hands tight on her midsection, his cheek inches from nestling in the small of her back.

He'd made it a point not to center this much attention on her in recent months - not to be in such close contact, not to be so completely in tune with her. Not to be able to predict her movements from how her thighs and abs tensed. Not to be near enough to her to ask himself whether she was wearing perfume, or if it was her soap that he would be smelling through his insomnia for the next weeks.

Not to be in a position to wonder what she'd do if he were to press his lips to that patch of bare skin. To taste the smooth expanse with the tip of his tongue.

O'Neill's eyes drifted closed, his throat muscles working against the curse that rose there. Damn, but this was dangerous. Dangerous and fool hardy and indulgent to stand here, in constant contact with her - feeling the play of her muscles as she fought for balance, the inhales and exhales that widened her ribcage and expanded her abdomen just enough that it drew his attention like bugs to a porch light. And then there was that bit of flesh left bare - whether by too-loose waistbands or flimsy shirttails or shallow tucking - practically begging his thumb to edge upwards and stroke it. To see if her skin was as soft as he'd remembered. To see it if was warmed by her exertion or cooled by the chilly air in the stalled car, or still simply silky and perfect.

Her muttering paused for a moment, and she rose up on her tippy-toes, the space between the top of her pants and the end of her shirt widening further, exposing a dull rainbow of fleshy color. He grimaced a little, fighting back a twinge of guilt. He'd been there when she'd acquired that particular bruise. Oddly, it hadn't been off-world, escaping Jaffa or fighting the Goa'uld. It had happened in a hallway at the SGC. He'd been reading a mission report and she'd been fiddling with some gadget, walking towards the same point from different directions. They'd nearly collided, and in avoiding him, she'd jumped sideways, ramming her side into the handle of a door.


Because his entire existence for months, now, had been trying not to make physical contact with her. Trying to purge his thoughts of the times they'd touched, or grazed fingertips, or kissed. Trying to forget about the un-sanctioned heat that they'd generated under the ice city, and how very, very much he wanted to do it all over again.

That effort had marked them both - bruising her in the hallway, and wounding him in every other way possible. To know she'd hurt herself rather than touch him -

And now, here he was. Holding her close in an effort to help her save them both. In a colossally inane moment of self-indulgence, he breathed her in as surreptitiously as he could, allowing her essence to fill his mouth and nose. His lungs. His soul.

Who was he kidding? She'd filled that part of him long, long ago. Sam Carter had owned him ever since she'd challenged him to arm wrestle.

All it would take was a transfer. Or a reassignment. Or a retirement. He'd done it once. He could do it again. Would do it again.


If only. . .

"Sir, I think I've about got it." She shifted, bringing her perfectly shaped derriere into full contact with his chest. "Just a little more "

He groaned, the sound more growl than anything else. Wretched. Raw. Mirroring his current state in every way.

"I'm sorry it's taken so long, Sir." She moved again, turning sideways just enough to grab the ceiling panel she'd shoved aside after she'd jimmied it open. "We're lucky it's similar enough to Earth technology that I could jury-rig something."

More fiddling. A metallic scrape, and then the sounds of clamps being re-attached. "Or is it 'jerry-rig'? Is there a difference? I can never remember."

His lips pressed tightly together. He couldn't have answered if he'd wanted to.

She tipped up again on her toes, filling his vision with the swell of her hips, and he looked up towards the top of the elevator carriage, where a decorative sweep of mirrored, circular tiles undulated in a wavy line just shy of the ceiling. He tried to count them, but the feeling of her body shifting against him kept forcing him to lose count and start over.

"Okay - let's see." She made something clink up above, and then a mechanical whine filled the air. She tightened her hands on the opening in the ceiling and turned, looking down and catching the Colonel's eye. The whine turned into a grating snarl. "That doesn't sound good."

With a wild, frantic jerk, the elevator hurtled to life, swiftly moving from a sharp downward cascade to a seeming freefall. Fighting to stay upright, O'Neill found his feet slipping. He braced himself, but the bottom of the carriage trembled and lurched out from under him. Scrambling for purchase on the slick floor, his booted feet slid forward, toppling the case on which the Major stood and sending her careening downward.

Instantly, he tightened his arms as they fell, throwing himself backwards against the wall, and pressing his heels firmly into the tile beneath them. She landed hard against him - full body - straddling his right thigh, her arms around his neck and her face tucked into the curve of his neck.

The elevator car stopped as abruptly as it had started, and her body jolted downward, tight against his. Close - too close. Chest to chest, abdomen to abdomen, one of her thighs wrapped around his leg even while she'd caught the rest of her weight on her other foot. Her hands grasped at the fabric at his shoulders, fingers gripping his muscles as if he were a lifeline. Her salvation.

Heat. Quiet. Pressure. Her lips were parted, her breathing uneven. He sucked in a strangled mouthful of air, but the motion only pushed his body closer to hers and he stopped. Raising her head, she peered at him from beneath a dark fringe of lowered lashes, studying his face with an intensity he couldn't quite fathom. Her thigh tightened around his, the heel of her boot rounding - kneading - the back of his calf. Jack became aware of the fact that her shirt had become completely untucked from her trousers, now, and his hands bracketed her bare ribcage, his thumbs just a stretch below her - damn.

Damned stupid.

Her mouth trembled, and he realized that she was staring at his. Letting out a scraggly breath, he touched his tongue to his ridiculously dry lips. Her pupils widened, the blue irises around them deepening. Color flooded her cheeks and crept down her throat, the blush staining her collarbones.

"Sir." Barely a whisper, nearly a plea.

"Damn it - I - "

She sucked in a frantic breath, her hands flattening, lowering, on his chest. Slowly, her hands moved over his body in a deliberate caress that he knew with absolute certainty that she couldn't control. Her eyes returned to his mouth.


Deep in her throat, she made a sound that could have been a moan or a sob.

Squirming slightly, she disentangled her leg from his, slowly drawing her leg over his quad and finding some semblance of balance on her own two feet. He held her steady until she'd achieved her goal, and then moved his fingers, blindingly aware of the heat where his palms claimed her skin, where he re-learned the slim line of her ribs, the curve of her waist. His hands drifted downward, fingertips grazing her hips as he forced them to let go - to loosen and leave her body - to move away from her heat.

Her own hands braced against his chest and she pushed slightly away from him, shuffling backwards until the heel of her boot conked into the metal-lined corner of the toppled case.

"Careful - "

"Crap - " Her eyes flashed towards his, and then back downwards, to where her hands were tugging at her shirt tail, shoving it back into the waistband of her trousers. She whirled, locating the over-shirt she'd tossed onto her pack when the elevator had first come to its precipitous halt. Crouching, she snagged it, throwing it over her shoulders and threading her arms through the sleeves with an uncustomary lack of grace.

He watched her as she shrugged and tugged it into place, her head bending as she buttoned it up. Finally, she stood, standing still for just a moment before turning to face him.

"Sir, I'm sorry."

"It wasn't your fault, Carter." His voice held a bitterness that he couldn't manage to hide. "None of it."

"Still I - "

"Damn it, Carter." He moved towards the door, towards the panel that held the incomprehensible array of buttons. Reaching out, O'Neill skimmed his fingertips along the tops of the gleaming circles of glass, glaring at them before glancing back over at the Major. "Just don't."

"Okay." She took a hesitant, shuffling step forward. Her nod was neither obedient nor confident. "Okay, then."

Jack held her gaze longer than he should have. Dragging his attention away from her face, he perused the glass discs again before stabbing at one with his finger. He couldn't have interpreted the look she gave him if he'd wanted to, and a flash of utter clarity confirmed that he didn't want to.

He pushed another disc, and then another, and another, but the door stayed stubbornly closed. With another muttered curse, he whacked at the array with his palm, then kicked the wall at his feet.

"It's that one." She'd approached silently, stopping at his side. "The light green one in the top center."

"How do you always know these things?"

"I watched Shekell when she did it before."

"I watched her, too."

The Major looked up at him, studying him again. Unnerving him. "Not closely enough."

He angled towards her, edging closer. "Obviously."

"It was easy to miss."

"Not for you."

She reached past him, her fingers aiming for the button she'd indicated.

He hadn't meant to. He knew it would have been stupid beyond belief to touch her again. But still, his hand rose to grasp hers, to turn her just enough so that they again shared the same air. To pull her just close enough that their bodies moved against each other.

So damned stupid.

She lifted her face to his - questioning, her expression a vivid mixture of uncertainty and need. Her next inhale drew her even closer, until he could feel their heat shimmering between them, invading him.

"Son of a - " He leaned in, his large frame pressing her against the door, his hands lifting to frame her face, his right thumb sweeping possessively across the fullness of her bottom lip. Memories surged and swelled within him. He'd held her like this before, wanted her this badly so many times. Visions tumbled through his mind of locker rooms, and cold silver tables in a fake SGC. Confessions and armbands and that damned force field through which he'd watched his greatest fear become real. Jack lowered his face towards her, closing his eyes as his forehead met hers. She trembled against him, her hands settling on his forearms, her fingers tight on his wrists.

"Sir - "

Jack growled a response, then pressed his lips tightly before trying again. "Jury-rigged."


"Jury-rigged." He couldn't look at her yet, but couldn't let her go, either. "The term comes from something about rigging ships and making do with what the sailors had."

"Excuse me?"

"It has to do with resourcefulness, and quick thinking. 'Jury' was a naval term for something created out of necessity."


"Yeah." His hands caressed their way down to her throat, coming to a rest on her shoulders, one thumb tracing the arch of her collarbone. "Jerry-rigged is different. The phrase should actually be 'jerry-built'. It's British terminology for a person who builds houses purposefully using inferior materials, so that the houses are cheap and weak."

"Makes sense." She pulled her face away from his, resting her head on the door behind her.

He took a step backwards, away from her, crossing his shaking arms across his torso.

She looked crest-fallen, yet determined. "So, one indicates someone who is resourceful and the other means that the person's a cheat."

Jack nodded, his heart flailing wildly in his chest. "Carter."

"Yes, Sir?"

"Please open the damned door."

"Yes, Sir." But she simply stood there, leaning where he'd left her, looking at him. "Sir?"

"What, Carter?"

"I'm sorry. I just - " She faltered, her voice lowering to a near-whisper. "There are things I feel, you know? Things I want, sometimes. And it's hard to not want them or feel them when we're always so - "


"Close." She nodded. "So close."

He watched her for a long beat before nodding. "Yeah. Me too."

"Yeah." A tiny smile tugged at her lips, bringing out the dimple in her right cheek. It was a sad thing, that smile. Wistful. Forlorn. Honest. With a resigned sigh, she reached past him again and pressed the appropriate glass button. "Okay, then."

- - - - - - - - - OOOOOOOOO - - - - - - - - -

"Jack. Sam." Daniel saw them first. "Where have you two been? We've been looking everywhere."

O'Neill came to a stop at the base of the 'Gate steps. "Elevator broke."

Sam set her pack down next to the 'Gate platform, stepping backwards as Jack deposited the dented silver case alongside it. "I think it was some kind of actuator in the mechanism. I futzed with it a little and finally got it working enough that we are able to get out."

"Ah." Daniel squinted between the two of them, his eager eyes silently assessing. "Tough break."

"Yep." Jack nodded towards the DHD. "So, dial it up. Let's head home."

Daniel made his way towards the dialing device, taking his own sweet time finding the right symbols. "Well, between Teal'c and me, we managed to complete the negotiations. We're getting the naquadah, and they're okay with humanitarian support in exchange."

Jack's response was positive, even if it was little more than a mumble. He looked up at the alien sky, at the double moons that loomed on the horizon. Beautiful. Serene. Alien, yet familiar.

Without wanting to, he glanced back over to where Sam stood next to Teal'c. Watched as she spoke animatedly about something, her features too light, too fresh, yet still raw. Watched as she looked at the same moons he'd been perusing, and then as she turned her attention back to him.

A frission of energy passed between them, and he steeled himself against the shiver that threatened. Her brow nudged upwards, a frown teasing at the corner of her mouth. She sighed before she turned away again. Pulled her gaze from his. Turned her back.

Exhaling slowly, O'Neill looked up again. Noticed stars, for the first time, and a ring around the smaller of the two moons. There was a greenish-violet tint on the clouds, and a flock of snow-white birds billowed upwards. He'd miss this. The planets, the moons, the adventure. He'd miss it all, if he were to walk away.

Truth be told, it was the only thing keeping him from throwing in the towel. The only thing that kept him from asking for that reassignment, or demanding that transfer.

Or putting in for his retirement.

He'd done it before. He could do it again. Would do it again. For her.

It wouldn't take much. Just the promise of more. Just the opportunity to hold her. To be close.

For her, he'd do it. If she'd ask him.

It wouldn't take much at all.