The next afternoon Janet finally lets him go. Hammond drops by the infirmary as he's finished getting dressed. He pulls his sweatshirt over his head.
"General," He greets his CO with a tired smile. Jack leans back on his bed. Getting dressed took more effort than he will admit.
"Even though Dr. Frasier is releasing you, I'm putting you on medical leave for a week." Hammond informs him.
"General!" Jack protests. He had the flu, not surgery.
"Stay home, sleep late, watch tv." Hammond advises. "SG-1 has been busy lately. I need my flagship team healthy and ready to go." His genial words are laced with the steel of command and a hint of parental guilt tripping.
Jack surrenders. "Yes, sir." His shoulders slump. He gets bored at home. At least in the mountain there's stuff to do, people to bug. Maybe he'll stop by Carter's or Daniel's place with food and a movie. He cheers up at that thought.
Finally leaving the mountain he drives through town. Passing his favorite pizza joint and Thai place he keeps going. He'd never tell Frasier but his stomach is still a little tender. Instead of taking the turn to home he heads to the grocery store.
Snagging a cart he browses through the produce section. Apples, a bag of spinach, green beans, big honking potatos, a few onions, some mushrooms, and tomatos go into bags. He doubles back for bananas for his cereal. In the bakery he debates himself. Rolls or bread? He goes with bread, since it makes better steak sandwiches. He ignores the pie and cakes. The ones on base are better anyway.
Jack tosses a bunch of good steaks into the cart and grabs a chicken. He just bought a rotisserie bar for his grill and has been dying to try it out.
He makes a quick stop in the cereal aisle. He makes a face at the fruit loops. After months of eating them he hasn't recovered his appetite for them. He grabs the Cheerios. Rounding the corner into the water and soda aisle he bumps someone else's cart.
"Oh sorry," he apologizes to the woman. "Nice," he thinks to himself. He's got a thing for tall, blonde women. He dredges up a flirty smile.
The woman's head snaps up, "Sir?" Sam Carter's wide blue eyes stare at him.
Jack is momentarily startled. He recovers and his smile widens. "Hey Carter."
Sam loses her train of thought at seeing her CO smile at her. She forgets how attractive he really is.
Jack sees Sam's eyes dilate and smirks. "Stocking up, huh?" He nods at the frozen dinners in her cart.
She blushes. "Yeah. They're great when I don't want to cook. And, well…" She shrugs and looks around. Jack nods, understanding what she means. They all buy frozen dinners to have food in the house after an off-world mission. They keep for a long time and fill you up.
"Do it myself," he admits. "That's my next stop." He snags a case of ginger ale. He hears a smothered laugh as he puts it in the cart. "No tattling, Major!"
Sam laughs. "Only if you promise the same, sir."
He looks into her cart. It's got frozen dinners, two cases of ginger ale, some coffee, a bottle of milk, and tea. He chuckles. "Deal." His brow furrows. "You really should get more than frozen dinners though Carter," he admonishes. "Good sale this week on apples."
"I guess so," she grins. He has bags of them in his cart. In fact there's a lot more produce in his cart than she'd expect from a guy who claims steak, beer, pie, and pizza are the basic food groups.
"Keeping the doctor away," Sam teases him.
"Considering where I spent the last two days, yeah." He grins. "You should too."
Sam isn't sure how he managed it, but when she leaves the store she has fresh produce; including apples, the makings for soup, and an invitation to his place for chicken on the grill and a movie.
Two days later the door to the Colonel's house swings open. "Hi, sir." She catches a whiff of lemons as she enters the house.
"I'm out on the deck," he calls out to her.
Sam detours into the kitchen to drop off the beer she brought. She joins her CO out on the deck with the grill.
"Can you hold this, Carter?" He asks. On the side table is a chicken, a grill bar and what looks like a cage. He has the end of the bar in his hands.
"Sure, sir." She watches as he sets the chicken in the cage and attaches it to the bar. Working together they set the bar onto the grill. Sam sees the chicken is stuffed with herbs and lemons.
"Take a while, but it'll be amazing." The Colonel assures her.
"When are Daniel and Teal'c getting here, sir?"
Suddenly he looks abashed. "I didn't ask them."
Sam's shocked. 'I can't be here, sir." She digs in her jacket for her car keys as she heads off the deck.
Jack hustles after her. "Carter! Wait." She makes it the driveway before he catches up. "Sam." He says. "Please."
She stops. Shoving her hands into her pockets she turns. "This is wrong," she tells him. "You knew it when you asked." She glares up at him, her blue eyes dark with anger.
Jack stands there. "We really shouldn't talk about this outside." He nods to the lights in his neighbor's houses.
Sam recognizes his logic. "We shouldn't be talking about this at all," she mumbles as she goes past him.
He grimaces. He knows she's right too. But they're coming to a breaking point. He realized it in the tent. But he couldn't pull back.
"Have a seat," he invites. Jack goes through the living room to his grill. He fusses and fiddles with the heat as he checks on the chicken.
In the house, Sam has snagged one of his cold beers and is sitting in the dining room.
"So, sir what did you want to talk about?" she asks. The bite to his honorific is about as sarcastic as she can get.
"C'mon, Sam. The armbands, the za'tarc thing, rescuing Teal'c and I from the death glider, being Thera and Jonah?"
"In no particular order," she says.
Jack rolls his eyes. "Are you always this sarcastic and keep it to yourself?"
Sam allows herself a small smile and sips her beer.
He glares at her. "I'll take that as a yes." He tosses his hands in the air and disappears into the kitchen. Grumbling is heard along with the clink of glass and the hiss of a bottle cap. Jack stomps back in with another beer.
"Look Carter, we both have feelings that we would rather not talk about." He starts.
"That we can't talk about, sir." She interrupts him. "That we aren't allowed to have." Her voice rises in frustration.
"Yeah good luck on regulating feelings and morality." Jack says. Sam thinks about it and nods in agreement. "The regs still stand." She points out.
"But we aren't a normal team, either. No one at the SGC is really part of a normal operation." He takes a swig of beer. "Even a regular classified operation isn't like this." He shrugs.
"So we're going to have to figure it out for ourselves." He finishes.
"And you think beer and grilled chicken is the way to do that?" Sam asks curiously.
"It's a good a way as any to start." He smiles. "Besides after using that fire pit I have a craving for burned meat."
Sam is caught off guard at the smile and the humor. She laughs.
"That's my Carter." Jack stops. "I mean, not MY Carter, but.." he trails off. His ears are pink.
Sam sighs. "So feelings."
"We pretty much said it all with the Za'tarc machine." He scowls. "And we aren't doing a great job of leaving it in the room." He sighs at the memory.
"I'm sorry, sir." Sam apologizes. "It was my fault in the tent."
"Don't be sorry, Sam. We both felt it."
"But you didn't" she starts to say.
"AH!" he holds up a hand. "I don't want to hear it." Jack sets his beer down. "Sam, we care about each other. Hell some people would call it love." He blurts. "If we met in the grocery store or at a bar, we'd have flirted, exchanged numbers, started dating. Probably for years now." He states baldly. Sam chokes on her beer at the statement. She knows how private Jack O'Neill is. For him to flat out say he loves her and would have been with her for years is, for him, a Jumbotron proposal at the Super Bowl.
"So we slipped up a little. We let each other know how much we care when our guard was down." Jack shrugs. "I'm not sorry."
She shakes her head. "No, I'm not either."
"So what's wrong?"
"You know." She tells him. "If this comes out, any of this." Sam waves her beer bottle encompassing the two of them and the dining room, "our careers are over. No promotions, no field work."
Jack nods. He hates how unfair it is, but the truth is he knows she's right. He might not make General, but honestly he knows that's a long shot anyway for him. Carter would be stalled at Major. Working science projects in the mountain. Bouncing back and forth to Nevada to here, never leading teams. And it'd be the Air Force's loss.
"I know." He meets her eyes. The sadness in his own tears at her. "I just think we need some guidelines."
"No tent sharing for a while?" she suggests.
"For a start. Spend more time away from work." Sam grimaces. She's a little work obsessed. Jack hesitates to say this next fix, because it's the last thing he wants. "Date other people."
"Oh," she says softly.
"There are rumors, you know." For all his authority Jack O'Neill is more clued into the gossip of Cheyenne Mountain than almost anyone. "If we actually have a life beyond the team, it'd help."
"It's easy for you to say." Sam grumbles. "You can pick up someone at the grocery store." She noticed all the admiring looks from women in the store, aimed at her CO.
Jack laughs. "You didn't notice the trail of guys following you around ? And that's just the mountain, Carter." He shakes his head. "You'd have your pick."
He reaches over and grabs her hand. "I'd be first in line, if I could," Jack squeezes her hand and lets go. "Gotta check the grill." He shoves away from the table and disappears outside.
Sam busies herself in setting the table. She knows what it cost Jack O'Neill to admit how he feels about her.
Over grilled lemon chicken and potatoes they come up with some guidelines to diffuse the tension and stop the rumors. Neither is happy about the agreement. But they also know it's the only way.
"This is going to be tough, Carter." Jack admits. One idea they had was he acts more military toward her. Because the team is closer than most military units, hell the entire SGC is, military formality isn't enforced. Especially since Daniel wouldn't know how to do that anyway.
"I know, sir." In truth Sam likes being treated as one of the guys. Going back to more formal rules and interaction between the two of them will be hard. "But it's important."
He nods. He knows the NID is ramping up scrutiny. And they won't care how many times Carter saved the galaxy. If they can bust either of them for behavior unbecoming they'll do it. Kinsey is probably salivating at the opportunity to do just that.
They clear the table together. Years of missions have made them comfortable with each other and the dishes are washed and put away quickly.
"So." Carter begins.
"So." Jack echoes. "Hell with it, c'mere." O'Neill opens his arms and Sam steps into his embrace. Sam's the perfect height for him. They fit together so easily. Her head rests at his shoulder. She sighs as his arms come around her and pull her close. He closes his eyes. This embrace might have to last them for years. He needs to savor it.
"You smell so good," she whispers. She can smell woodsmoke, lemon and beer, but also a clean scent underneath it all.
"So do you." He breathes. She smells like coffee and flowers, a hint of beer and motor oil. It's intoxicating.
Sam looks up at him and smiles.
His head descends and he kisses her gently. At first. His control evaporates when Sam opens her mouth under his. He groans as her tongue touches his. His mind hazes with desire and he explores her mouth in all the ways he's dreamed about. He doesn't remember moving, but suddenly Sam is against the wall of his hall. She moans into his mouth and her hands tug on his hair as he shifts closer to her. A small thread of sanity screams at him to stop. He kisses her twice more before pulling back.
"You should go, Sam." He tells her. He's hanging on by a thread. Another few minutes and all their guidelines will be so much hot air and broken promises.
She nods. Her eyes are dark and hazy. He nearly pulls her back into his arms. She zips her coat and leaves without another word. Soon he hears her car start up. He peers out around his curtains to watch her leave. He keeps a watch on the other cars in the street to make sure no one is following Sam.
After he is satisfied the street is clear, he heads to take a cold shower.