Disclaimer: Sam, Teal'c, Jonas and Daniel belong to those fine folks in Canada, but Jack belongs to Jara Dax. Seriously. She made an icon and everything.

A/N: My take on the classic 'Sam gets drunk and embarrasses herself in front of Jack' story.

Despite the fact that she doesn't watch Stargate, this one's dedicated to my best friend Wendy as a reminder of our days at university when the beer was cheap, the food was covered in grease and it was okay to use Eddie Izzard videos as a good reason to skip classes.

Finding Lucidity

"Son of a bitch!"

Jack O'Neill always though on his feet. As a Colonel in the United States Air Force he had faced death on more occasions than he could be bothered to count. He had won numerous battles both on Earth and off world, fought countless aliens and lived to tell the tale and even survived thirty years of eating MRE's, but he had never been as stumped as he was right now.

Hands held up in a classic pose of surrender, he walked slowly towards his opponent, his eyes trained on the ground as he tried to remember that eye-contact in a hostile situation was not always a good thing. Still, every once in a while he risked a quick glance up at his foe, trying to asses the danger level and how far he felt he could push the situation to his advantage before something in his enemy snapped.

Stepping into Carter's personal space, he murmured soothing words of encouragement as he placed his hands on her arms in a loose grip and rubbed slowly, gently over her elbows and down towards her wrists.

She seemed to submit a little to his calming influence; the blaze of fury in her eyes dying down to mere embers as he led her over to his couch and persuaded her into a sitting position before disappearing into the kitchen to fetch water and a bag of frozen peas.

Settling himself down next to her, Jack clasped her damaged hand between his and placed the bag of peas over her red knuckles. "You wanna tell me what this is all about?" he asked quietly. Carter was drunk. He had come to this conclusion the moment she had shown up at his front door at one in the morning. She reeked of alcohol for one thing and, for another, she had thrown a punch at her commanding officer.

Of course, due to the amount of intoxicating liquor coursing through her system right now, the balled fist had missed its intended target by a long shot and had, in fact, connected rather loudly with the door frame.

"Whassis?" Sam asked as she reached over and grabbed her glass of water, drunkenly slopping much of the contents over the side and onto the table in the process.

"Drink it." Jack replied curtly as he tried to mop up the mess with the sleeve of his sweater. After much wobbling and a little more spillage, Sam managed to put the glass to her lips and took a hefty gulp before wrinkling her nose in disgust and turning to face her commanding officer.

"Water," she said accusingly and slammed the glass back onto the table.

"Yeah," Jack muttered as he once again anointed his poor top in the small puddle rapidly forming on the surface.

"Got any beer?" Carter asked as she batted her bloodshot eyes, trying through her drunken haze to discern which of the two O'Neills she was currently seeing was the real one.

"No."

Sam frowned. "Liar. You always have beer in the refrigerator." Her sudden movement surprised the tired Colonel as she rose to her feet and swayed momentarily before wobbling determinedly over to the kitchen.

Jack sighed in frustration as he heaved himself off of the sofa and followed her; careful to keep close behind in case she lost her balance and needed something soft to fall on.

Which is pretty much what happened.

The force of the magnetic pull on the refrigerator door appeared to be too much for the inebriated Major to handle and she fell unceremoniously back into the patiently waiting arms of her CO, who, in one swift movement, hauled her into his arms and carried her back to the sofa.

Jack thought quickly. There was no way in hell he was going out at this time of night and no cab driver would allow someone in her state into their vehicle, so the best idea would be for her to stay there for the night.

Sam was unconscious when he lifted her back off the sofa and headed towards the guest bedroom. She remained that way as he removed her boots, socks and coat (stopping briefly to admire the low cut blue top she was wearing) and pulled the cover over her supine form.

She awoke briefly when he leant down and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead, but only long enough to mutter "why did it have to be you?" before falling back into oblivion. Jack filed the question away in his mind, promising himself some answers in the morning and went to fetch his Major another pint of water.

Sam was still unconscious when he returned and he placed the glass on the bedside table. "Sweet dreams, Carter," he murmured before making his way to his own room.

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It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Sam Carter was throwing up in his bathroom.

Jack O'Neill hummed quietly to himself as he threw more pancake batter into the frying pan. He had a smile on his face; the kind of sanctimonious, self-righteous grin of someone who hadn't had a skin full the night before and was therefore feeling great whilst the other continuously felt the need to prostrate themselves in front of a toilet bowl.

It was nearly ten in the morning and so far Carter hadn't been seen. Jack figured it was either because she was too ashamed to show herself, or she couldn't yet drag herself away from the bathroom. Either way, it made Jack feel all the more smug.

Giving the pancake on last flip for luck, Jack shook the pan until the contents slid onto his plate. Then abandoning his breakfast for a moment, he poured a large mug of black coffee and went in search of the Major.

Knocking on her bedroom door, he pushed it open a crack and peered inside. Sam was nowhere to be seen, but judging by the retching sounds coming from down the hall Jack figured she hadn't made a run for it. Walking towards the bed, he scrunched his nose up at the smell of stale alcohol that permeated around the room and placed the coffee mug on the table. He then wandered over to the window and opened it, letting the cool morning air circulate and freshen the room a little.

The toilet flushed and a few moments later the bedroom door was pushed open once more and a very pale, very sickly looking Carter shuffled into the room.

"Hey." Jack murmured quietly and Sam looked up in surprise, her cheeks reddening with shame.

"Colonel." She croaked back before walking around him and heading towards the bed. "I'm sorry, sir. " She continued sheepishly. "I'll just get dressed and be out of your hair." With that she sat on the edge of the bed and bent down to try picking up her socks.

A loud moan escaped her and she suddenly moved a lot faster, rushing back towards the bathroom.

Despite the pathetic look of his major, Jack couldn't help but grin. He followed her out of the room at a much slower pace and walked into the adjoining room to run a bath.

Five minutes later she was back. "Here," Jack said as he threw a towel at her. "I've run you a bath, go get cleaned up. There's a spare toothbrush on the side of the sink and shampoo in the cupboard.

Too sick to argue, Sam just nodded minutely and walked into the room, closing the door behind her. Jack knocked on the door just as she was shedding her dirty clothes.

"Major?"

"Sir?" Came the weak reply.

"If you're not out in twenty, I'm coming to get you."

Sam sighed and chocked back a shameful tear. "Yessir." She muttered as she began to brush her teeth before climbing shakily into the soothing water.

In the fifteen minutes she was gone, Jack managed to wolf down his breakfast, drink her now cold coffee and change the sheets on the bed.

Sam was towelling herself dry when he knocked on the door again. Sam quickly wrapped the large fluffy towel around her and opened the door. Jack took a millisecond to glance approvingly at his scantily clad major before gruffly thrusting an oversized sweatshirt in her direction. "Put this on," he said and turned to go.

Sam held the item out in front of her. "Colonel?" she said uncertainly. "I can't go home in just this."

"I know." Jack replied. "You're not going home. Not yet anyway."

Sam blinked. "I'm not?"

"No. You're going back to bed for a few hours and then we're going to have a little chat."

"Oh." Well what else was she supposed to say? With a brief nod, she closed the bathroom door once again and changed into the Colonel's shirt.

When she reappeared in the bedroom it was all Jack could do not to reach out and pull her towards him. The vision before him made him catch his breath in shock. Carter looked so adorable dressed in his Simpson's sweat shirt. It was black and had a picture of Bart on a skateboard. It had been a fortieth birthday gift from Kowalski and Feretti all those years ago and he'd pretty much worn it to death. Now it had holes in the elbows and loose thread all over the hem, and was no longer in decent enough condition to wear in public.

But on Sam, it looked incredible. The bottom of the shirt covered enough of her thighs to stop it being indecent, but still she looked like she was about to pose for a GQ cover photo.

Smiling shyly, Sam shuffled past Jack and looked at the bed. "You changed the sheets." She said in surprise.

"Well I figured you didn't want to sleep on bedding that smelled like a brewery." He replied as she crawled gratefully under the covers and sank onto the soft pillows.

Jack picked up a glass of water from the table. "Drink this," he ordered and she took the proffered liquid from his hands.

"Slowly," he ordered as she began to gulp huge mouthfuls. "You'll get sick again."

That warning was enough to make her slow the pace a little and she took a few more small sips before relaxing back onto the mattress. "Thank you for this, sir," she began awkwardly. "I really am sorry…"

"Don't mention it Major." Jack replied as he tucked the blankets in around her. "We'll talk about it when you're feeling better."

Sam nodded in silent agreement and, just to show he wasn't mad at her, Jack leaned down and gently stroked a few stray hairs off her forehead, tucking them neatly behind her ear. "Sleep well," he said before walking over to the door and snapping off the light.

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It was late afternoon before Sam rose from her pit again. She had woken over an hour earlier, but was putting off the imminent conversation she was going to have with the Colonel about her behaviour the night before.

In the last hour she had gone over in her head the myriad of excuses she could use for her drunkenness, from saying she had forgotten how to get home to using the old 'sorry, don't remember a thing' ruse, but in the end she had decided that despite the rules and silent agreements, she had to tell him the truth. After all she had done last night, she at least owed him that much.

Finally her complaining bladder had become too much to bear and she hauled herself out of bed and headed back towards the bathroom, grimacing at the memory of the last time she was in that particular room.

Having relieved herself, Sam went in search of her clothes. If she was going to have 'that' conversation with her superior officer, she could at least allow herself the dignity of wearing more than just a Simpson's shirt.

Unfortunately when she got back to her room she discovered her clothes were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a large towelling dressing gown was draped over the chair by the bed and she shucked it over her shoulders, inhaling the scent that she instantly recognised as belonging to the Colonel, before making her way into the main part of the house.

Jack rose from his position on the sofa as she padded quietly into the room, his years of working in Black Op's having given him the benefit of being able to hear a pin drop at five hundred paces. "Ah, so you're awake at last," he said good-naturedly.

Sam smiled despite herself. "Yes sir. Thanks for letting me crash here."

Jack grinned back. "You feeling better?"

Sam nodded and moved to sit down on the chair opposite him, curling her legs up under her.

"Uh, about last night…" she began with a gulp.

Jack waved his hand dismissively. "Coffee first," he interrupted as he made his way towards the kitchen. "You want some food?"

Sam sighed inwardly. She knew that by acquiescing to his procrastination she was just delaying the inevitable awkward conversation, but she nodded anyway. "Please."

Following his retreating form with her eyes, she took a breath, then asked "Uh, where are my clothes?"

"In the machine," Jack replied simply. "You must have spilled something on them 'cause they stank of alcohol, so I thought I'd wash them. They'll be done soon."

"Oh," Sam replied. "Uh, okay. Thanks."

"No problem." The Colonel shrugged and dived into his refrigerator. "What would you like? I got bacon, eggs, something that may have at one time passed as Sausage…"

"Toast?" Carter asked hopefully.

After a quick hunt through his breadbin, Jack emerged triumphant. Selecting the two slices of bread that were the least stale, he placed them under the grill and turned it on. Then he threw the rest of the loaf in the trash.

Sam smiled slightly as she watched from her place in the Colonel's oversized chair. "Growing your own penicillin?" she asked innocently.

"Huh? Oh, you mean the bread." Jack nodded whilst simultaneously trying to turn the toast in the grill without burning his fingers in the process. "You know how it is. We never seem to be home often enough to worry about shelf life."

Five minutes later and after much juggling and yelping, the toast finally found its way onto a plate and, as if exacting revenge for his singed fingertips, Jack began to butter the life out of them.

Handing Carter her, now slightly mangled, breakfast-stroke-lunch-stroke-dinner Jack returned to the kitchen and poured two cups of steaming coffee from the percolator before returning to the living room and planting himself firmly on the couch.

"I never was any good at this host crap," he explained apologetically as he watched Sam warily nibble at the corner of a slice.

"You're doing fine, sir," she grinned, and to prove it, she took a huge bite and chewed her food animatedly. "Besides," she continued after washing it down with a large gulp of coffee, "I *was* kind of unexpected."

"Yeah," Jack replied as he picked up his coffee and settled back into the couch. "About that…"

Carter bowed her head in acceptance. It was time. She placed her half-eaten food on the table and took one last gulp of coffee before placing the mug next to the plate and walking over to the window.

Looking out into the Colonel's back yard she could see a rusty old metal barbecue sitting on the patio next to a new-looking brick gas barbecue and smiled to herself. He was right. In jobs like theirs, they never had time to worry about throwing things away before they went off. If you looked closely, it was easy to see that her house was in exactly the same state as the Colonels and, undoubtedly, Daniel's house as well.

Hell, she even still had her old sofa from when she first moved in, despite having bought a new one over a year ago. It was currently taking up space in her spare room but it never really occurred to her to take it to the tip. It was just there. Part of the furniture…no pun intended, and if she was honest, it would probably stay for a long time yet until she found an hour in her life to make the effort and dispose of it once and for all.

"Carter?" The sound of her CO's voice roused her from her introspection and she watched his reflection through the glass. He was still sat on the sofa, waiting patiently for an explanation as to why his second-in-command had turned up at his house in the dead of night, drunk almost to the point of unconsciousness.

Yes, it was time.

"I went out last night," she began, her voice barely a murmur. "With a couple of friends from the academy. We got talking about what we'd been doing since we graduated and I told them I was in Deep Space Radar Telemetry." Sam laughed then. A dry, sharp, humourless sound that made the hairs on Jack's arms stand on end.

"So?" he asked quietly. "It's the cover. It's what we tell everybody."

Sam spun around to face him. "I know that!" she exclaimed frustratedly." But they knew I was lying!" She turned back to look out of the window once again, watching with vague fascination as rain began to fall and droplets of water started to slide down the window. She remembered a time in her childhood when she and Mark used to have 'Rain Races' on wet days when they couldn't play outside. Each of them would pick a droplet of water on the window and they would race each other; the first to reach the bottom being the winner.

Such innocence in those times. The happy times. The times when her father was a Colonel and her mother was still alive. The times when she knew she could rely on her brother to stand up for her, to be her protector.

But who would protect her now? Sam shivered as a chill went down her spine. Sure, she was older now. A Major in the United States Air Force, no less. But every now and then - not often, you understand, but just once in a while, she needed protection.

She just never knew what from.

"They knew I was lying," she repeated, quieter now. "And the worst thing was, I knew they were lying too."

"How do you mean?" Jack asked quietly, unwilling to interrupt, but needing for her to continue and to clarify. Her pained expression and stiff body was a worry to him. Something had really gotten to her last night and he needed to know what it was. Jack hated to see her upset, as her CO, as her friend and, in his heart at least, as so much more.

Finally, Sam moved to sit back down. She sank heavily into the chair and once again curled her feet up under herself. "There were three of us there last night. Me, Sandy and Kerry. We all excelled in our particular fields at the academy and ended up working at the Pentagon together. Kerry and Sandy still work together but I haven't seen either of them since I left Washington." Picking up her mug again, Sam drained the coffee and placed the empty cup on the table.

"Even working where they do, they don't have high enough clearance to know about the Stargate programme, so when they asked me what I do now, I gave them the usual cover story. They knew I was lying," Sam muttered as she gave a sad smile. "Hell, everyone we tell it to knows that we're lying."

"Yeah, I know. But it's the job." Jack conceded, falling back on an old cliché. "Ours is not to question why…"

Carter nodded in response. "But when I asked them what they were doing now, they gave me some story about the politics behind counter-terrorism in the Middle East." Once again Sam looked accusingly over at Jack and wore the same expression she had on last night. Only this time, it was with a clear head. "I told them I had full security clearance, but still they withheld the truth."

Sam bowed her head in self-disgust. "It hurt that they didn't tell me the truth. It sounds so stupid because we spend almost every day of our lives lying to the ones we are closest to, but still I felt insulted." Sam closed her eyes at the too recent memory. "Both of them are Captains and in the end I actually ordered them to tell me."

"What happened?"

Tears began to form in the Major's eyes and she turned away from Jack's questioning gaze. "They said that I had no right to do that. They said I had no proof that I had the clearance and that if I was going to pull rank in order to manipulate my own friends, then I wasn't the person they knew anymore." She cleared her throat, willing her composure to remain. "They told me to have a good life and walked out of the bar."

Sam looked over at her CO, the tears still unshed, but her voice was wobbling dangerously. "What's happened to me, Sir?" she asked quietly. "When did I get like this?"

Jack ignored the question. Instead he sat forward and clasped his hands tightly between his knees in an effort to stop himself from reaching out to comfort her. She was his friend, but he needed to know everything before he could allow his emotions to overshadow his duty. "Tell me what you did next."

Sam walked over to the window again. Restless and anxious. "I stayed by myself in the bar and got drunk." She replied simply. "When it closed the barman called me a cab and I gave the driver your address."

"Why my address?"

"Because I wanted to see you." She whispered. "I wanted to tell you what had happened. After they left I started to think about all that I'd given up to become part of the programme. I thought about Mark and his wife and kids, I thought Dad and about Orlin and Martouf and Nareem. I thought about all the friends I'd lost and how I'd just managed to lose two more." She paused suddenly, uncertain now whether or not she should continue. She swallowed shakily and looked around to meet his gaze. "And I thought about you." She said; her voice surprisingly strong and sure.

Jack looked surprised. "You haven't lost me."

"I never had you in the first place." She replied with a sad smile. "I just wanted to tell you that…that…" No matter how hard she tried, there was no way Sam was going to be able to finish that sentence. Years of Military protocols, rules and regulations had been branded into her conscious and she found that even now, even after all SG1 had been through, she couldn't let her guard drop. Not for a moment.

But Jack knew anyway and he nodded in understanding. "But that still doesn't explain why you called me a Son of a Bitch and took a swing for me," he said, grinning at the memory.

Sam smiled despite herself and a feint rosy tinge appeared on her pale cheeks. "Can we put that down to intoxication?" she asked, her gaze dropping to her slightly swollen hand.

Jack rose from his seat and came to stand beside her at the window. "Not good enough, major." He replied solemnly.

Sam nodded and looked out of the window again. The rain was heavier now, the drops on the window moving too fast to follow; melding into each other and forming tiny puddles on the window ledge.

"Last night," she began, watching distractedly as a Squirrel rushed across the garden to find shelter in a large evergreen tree. "Last night I'd had a lot to drink, and a lot to think about." She paused, daring to glance in her CO's direction, but he too was fascinated by the antics of the Squirrel. "After five beers and a few shooters I came to the conclusion that it was all your fault."

"And how did you come to this little epiphany?"

"Alcohol-induced justification," Sam said with a smile. "You of all people must understand, sir, that everything we do these days revolves around the Stargate programme; that we can't even be honest with our own families…with the people we love."

"You knew that when you accepted the transfer Major." Jack said, perhaps a little too harshly.

"Yes, *Sir*." Carter replied formally, hurt by the sudden change in atmosphere. She looked at the Colonel for a moment. He was pissed. What the hell had she done now? "I should go," she said quietly. "This was a mistake. I'm sorry I bothered you at home Colonel. It won't happen again." She went to move towards the door, but felt a sudden weight on her arm, pulling her back.

"Carter, wait." Surprised, Sam turned again to look at the hand gripping her elbow.

"I'm sorry," Jack said firmly. "I was out of line, but I need to know what happened." He looked down at her clothes; unknowingly causing her knees to weaken and buckle slightly. "Besides, you can't go anywhere dressed like that," he continued with a cheeky grin that made her cold heart warm slightly.

Still holding on to her arm, Jack led her over to the settee and pushed her gently down beside him. Then, much to her surprise, he snaked his arm around her waist and pulled her tight up against his body. Sam tensed at first, once again hearing the military rule book opening in her mind, but soon enough she mentally slammed the book shut and relaxed into his embrace, closing her eyes in weary surrender.

"So why am I a son of a bitch?" he murmured into her hair, revelling in the smell of his shampoo and shower gel on her skin.

"You're not," she sighed as she unconsciously snuggled into his chest. "I was drunk and blaming you for the way I feel."

Jack's grip tightened. "And how do you feel?" he asked, his voice tight with unshed emotion.

Sam's heart skipped a beat. She knew what he was asking, but could she really answer such a question? Were the consequences too much?

"Last night or right now?" she countered eventually.

"Both."

Smiling into Jack's shirt, Sam closed her eyes, savouring the embrace; the feelings, the conflicting emotions coursing through her tumultuous heart. She would tell him, she knew. No matter what happened tomorrow or next week. No matter what the consequences, he deserved to know the truth.

No more barriers to hide behind, no more walls to break down. The sense of freedom and release was almost overwhelming. She took a deep breath…

…and told him.

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