Easy Way

Copyright by Blue Topaz

Spoiler: Windows of Opportunity

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are not mine. If they are, you'll know by the amount of fluff I put in it.

AN: Thanks for JayBee-Bug who beta-read this story. It meant to be a pure fluff fic, but the muse started dragging me to other direction. Still fluff though. Enjoy.

***

"Sir."

She pleads with him, begging silently with her eyes. She bites her lower lip in anxiousness and anticipation, fingers itching to make a move. But she knows better, she cannot win, not against him.

They are standing next to each other, face to face. He meets her gaze, but doesn't say a word. Instead, he raises one eyebrow. They may be inside her lab, but there's no doubt who really has the control over the situation.

"Sir, *please*."

She appeals one more time, putting more emphasis on her speech. Her right hand travels towards his carefully, hoping that he will not make her life more difficult than it already is.

Her wish doesn't come true as he steps back from her. The glint in his eyes doesn't go unnoticed. She sighs internally. She needs to distract him, and she has to do it fast. Her brain cells are working diligently, and pop an idea inside her mind. She looks past his shoulder deliberately and lets her eye wander to the entrance of her lab. She puts on a serious expression and calls out, "General."

He turns his upper body slightly to greet the new arrival, only to find no one. And then he feels someone snatch something from his hand.

"Hey," he protests as soon as he realises that she has tricked him. He stares at his now empty hand with a hurt expression on his face. "I wasn't finished with that."

She ignores him deliberately and starts fiddling with her new possession, wasting no time and thus giving him no chance to retrieve it.

"Carter, that's mine." He watches helplessly as she's tearing the object apart.

"I know, Sir. I borrowed it, remember?" She retorts automatically, her concentration completely drawn to the alien wires and panels that are hidden beneath the exterior of the object. She draws a rough sketch of the mechanism on a piece of paper.

"I haven't said 'yes' yet."

She takes a ruler and starts to add details to her drawing. Her brows are inching closer together, to indicate that she is absorbed in the task at hand.

"I know."

He stuffs his hands into his pockets and looks around her lab for something interesting to play with. There was no point arguing with her right now.

"This means you owe me a big one this time."

She uses red and blue pens to add more color to the schematic that she is working with. She is only partially aware of him now, already used to having him around when she was conducting experiments.

"Sure, put it on my tab."

This was why he liked to be around her when she was working. She had the tendency to forget her 'Major' status and just became ... her, saying things impulsively, no holding back. It was easier to get the truth out of her this way rather than using a lie detector-- granted, it would be a one-way conversation, but he would enjoy it nevertheless.

Watch this.

"Say, Carter."

"Yeah?" Distractedly she replies.

Times like these make the little boy inside of him come out to play. He walks towards her lab's door and closes it, providing him with the privacy he needed.

"Do you like me?"

"Sure I do."

He rewards her with a grin, even though she doesn't see it. She is still bending towards her desk, putting shades on several places of her drawing with the tip of her pencil. Her eyes flicker between the object and the paper.

"What do you like the most?"

"Physically, mentally or spiritually, Sir?"

He momentarily frowns at the choices that she offered. He crosses his arms in front of his chest and approaches her workbench.

"Physically."

"Your rear end."

She never ceases to amaze him. Even when preoccupied, she is still capable of choosing polite words. He pulls a stool out and sits on it, resting his arms on the table.

"What about mentally?"

"Your child-like attitude."

He blinks.

"Are you saying that I'm childish?"

"It's *child-like* Sir, not childish."

He blinks again.

And then shakes his head. It does *not* sound like an insult, so he shrugs it off.

"And spiritually?"

"You make me feel safe whenever you're around."

He smiles while watching the soft light of the lab illuminate her face, finding that her last answer had more meaning to him than the others.

She scratches the top of her head with the end of her pencil and continues, "Because you're one of the few men I know who won't take advantage of me."

An invisible arrow of guilt stabbed his heart.

And apparently she wasn't finished. "And even though you are not the most honest person that I've known, I trust you. Unconditionally."

He felt like the lowest scum in the galaxy. Here she was, believing in him completely and he uses her for his own amusement. She deserved better than this. He knew that she was only responding to his voice when she was in this condition, implying how much faith she had in him.

"I trust you too."

"I know."

He closes his eyes and contemplates whether he's going to confide in her or not, telling her some things that she deserved to know.

"That's why I have a confession to make."

"Confession?"

The lids of his eyes lift slowly. His fists clench tightly.

"Do you remember when Teal'c and I were stuck in the time-loop?"

"*We* were all stuck in it, Sir. The difference was that you and Teal'c were aware of it."

He rolls his eyes as the scientist inside her resurfaces.

"Yeah, whatever. Anyway ... I did something on the last loop."

"You figured out how to break the loop."

Duh.

"Well, I did. *We* did. That, and there's one other thing."

"You mastered Latin."

He eyes her suspiciously; was she trying to make fun of him?

"That too. But there's one other thing."

"You practiced your backswing?"

He swears under his breath. Even her subconscious mind seemed to have the penchant to frustrate him.

"No, but how did you know about that?"

"Teal'c told me."

He considers the possibility of her knowing what had happened.

"What else did he tell you?"

"Oh, the bike, the pottery lessons, the creative artwork using ketchup and mustard, the juggling, and that's just about it. I think."

"Oh."

D'oh. He still has to do it then.

"So, if it wasn't the backswing, what was it that you want to confess about?"

He mentally braces himself, this is it. Now or never.

"I kissed you."

"Why?"

He notices that she doesn't skip a beat.

"I wanted to."

"Oh."

She is still working on her project, no acknowledgement showing on her features. The lack of response on her part is bothering him more that he cares to admit, even to himself. But he knows that she's not really listening, and their entire conversation will be locked away in the back of her head somewhere.

It doesn't make him stop though.

"I still do," he whispers.

However, this is the closest thing to the truth that he can give her. He has no courage to tell her face-to-face, afraid of how it will affect their friendship. It's easier this way.

Something shiny lying on the table caught his attention; it is her magnifying glass, one of his favorite doohickies. He picks it up and fiddles with it to pass time. The only sound in her lab is the screeching of her pen and pencil against the paper.

***

She never really figured out how she developed this new ability.

The ability to multitask, to do her experiment and talk to him at the same time. It's like her brain has new software and it's automatically activated every time he's around. But then again, like any novel programming, there's always something wrong with it. And with this one, there was the fact that all the conversations she has with him will be delayed for about fifteen minutes before it reaches her brain.

Give or take a couple of minutes.

It seems that her brain is focused on the experiment, but somehow the programming was interacting with him and there's this extra 'buffer' that was especially created for storing their tête-à-tête. This 'buffer' will eventually catch up with her neuron cells.

So ... at exactly 14.35 minutes after they finished their conversation, her brain is processing the data that it has just received.

Her eyes go wide. 

HE DID WHAT?

Had it been the pencil that she was holding right now, it would have snapped into two. Instead, it is her pen that is bended by precisely 30 degrees. And her hand is hurting a little bit now too.

Stupid new ability.

She really *really* wants to see his expression when he said all those things.

A pang of sadness and regret strikes her. If only he had known about the 'buffer', she is certain that he wouldn't have said those things. He couldn't.

She puts the deformed pen down, curiously watching him out of the the corner of her eyes. He is holding a screwdriver and has one of her standard electrometers in front of him, and wires and cables are sticking out of the open panel. Apparently, he decided to be a mechanic for the day.

She bites down a grin. "What have you done to my tools, Sir?"

He looks up innocently. "I got bored."

"You got bored, so you decided to dismantle my equipment?" She gives the electrometer one last glance and then mentally adds a 'Broken Beyond Repair' note on it. "Unsupervised?"

"Why not? You did the same thing to mine." He shrugs his shoulders.

She swiftly arranges the mess in front of her and puts the lid back on. The drawing is completed and she feels that she already has all the fine points that she needs. Satisfied that she has reassembled it back to its original condition, she trusts it to his direction.

"I can put it back together. Can you do the same, Sir?" Cheerfully she asks.

His eyes narrowed, and he points the screwdriver in her direction in a threatening manner. "Don't tempt me to shrink the size of your head with this, Carter."

She wisely lets him have the last word. There's just some things that are not worth pursuing. She puts the object in front of him and clears her table of her drawing equipment, putting the ruler and colored pens inside the upper compartment in her lab.

"So, Carter. Why do you feel the need to borrow my GameBoy?" He asks curiously. She had called him earlier this morning and asked him to bring his 'GameBoy' to her lab. And before he could ask the reason why, she managed to nick it from him.

She takes a little detour to her desk and pulls a shoe box out from the drawer before going back to the workbench. "It's called Playbox, Sir. Not GameBoy."

"It's small, it has a game in it, and it's interesting. Sounds like a GameBoy to me."

She lets out a small smile. "I distinctively remember that the people at P56 7T5 called it a Playbox, Sir."

SG-1 had recently encountered a civilisation with almost the same level of technology as Earth, and to the Colonel's delight, they knew how to have fun. In a gesture of good will, the Grand Council had presented every member of SG-1 with their version of GameBoy (it was inspired by the Colonel's enthusiasm when he saw their toy). And it had thrilled the Colonel to no end, he was playing it all the time.

He waves his hand in dismissal. "Playbox, GameBoy, what's the difference. It's all a game to me."

Once again, she doesn't reply as he explains his reason.

"You haven't answered my question, Carter. Where's yours anyway?"

She opens the shoe box. "In here." She picks up little pieces of what used to be a perfectly functional Playbox.

He watches as the various shapes and sizes of the fragments come out from the box one by one. "What have you done?" The accusation in his voice is delivered in good nature and mock horror.

She refuses to meet his eyes and concentrates on identifying the parts instead. She classifies the pieces according to their material, structure and function.

"Carter?" He presses.

Using the drawing that she had just produced, she starts to connect the small fragments one by one like a jigsaw puzzle. 

He steals one of the biggest fragments from the table and moves it away from her reach. "If you want this back, *tell* me."

She glares at him, annoyed with his unfair way of getting what he wanted. "I broke it," she says through gritted teeth. She holds out her hand, palm side up, ready to welcome the return of the stolen good.

"How?" He persists.

"It experienced a free fall from the third floor." She intensifies the fierce look. With no effect.

"Your house doesn't have a fourth floor?"

He can be so vain if he wants to.

"It didn't happen at my house."

She puts her hand down and somehow, the conversation turns into a staring competition.

She is the first one to break the silence. "Sir, please. Can you give it back? I need to have it done before Ambassador Gali arrives here in about ... " she takes a look at her watch, "an hour. I don't want to offend him by saying that my commanding officer stole a part of my gift."

"Sure, blame it all on me," He grumbles but returns the fragment back to her table, letting her get on with her work.

Blackmail. Works every time.

After a second thought, she transfers all of the important bits away from him, not wanting to test her luck on losing any of the crucial material.

He gives her a funny look, as if asking her 'Don't you trust me?' On which she promptly ignores, her messages is clear, 'Not with my equipment.'

Soon, the broken Playbox began to take shape. The schematic really did help her in assembling the modern toy, she only needed to tinker with it a bit more and make a few adjustments. When she finally completes the project, she gives it a try to see if it does work. To her delight, it is functioning perfectly.

"Yes," she cries out in triumph.

"You're done?" He asks, but not taking his eyes away from his new toy. As soon as she started with her work, he started playing the Playbox. And from the look on his face, it was suffice to say that he was absorbed in the game.

"Yeah." She put her Playbox aside, wrapping it with a piece of cloth and storing it in one of her compartments.

"Good." He is still half-ignoring her, but she doesn't mind.

She pulls out her laptop and turns it on, tapping her fingers on the table while she waits for the computer to boot up.

She can do this.

She can ignore the fact that he kissed her. She can deny the knowledge that he still wants to kiss her now. She can tell herself that even though she wants the same thing, the time is not right.

This is how she has to live her life.

Isn't it?

"Sir."

There's a thin line between reality and fantasy. And she stands on it, not willing to cross it, but reluctant to step back either.

"Yeah?"

Should she or shouldn't she.

"I want it too."

Her eyes are on the laptop screen while his are on the Playbox, but they communicate flawlessly.

"I know."

And she stays on the line.

This is the closest thing to a promise that she can give him. She has no courage to change the way things are. It's easier this way.

She opens her Outlook Express and an e-mail catches her attention, she recognises the address. It's from the Pentagon, the main scientist that acts as a science liaison between the SGC and the Pentagon.  She clicks her mouse to open it. It contains several lab reports as an attachment. The only sound in her lab is the beeping noise from his Playbox and the click of her mouse.

The End.

Ehem, feedback and reviews are very much welcome and appreciated. And thank you for reading.