Title: A Safe Bet

Author: Jodi Marie

Email: ag4bk@juno.com

Status: Complete

Category: Tag Scene for Grace

Pairings: S/J

Spoilers: Grace

Season: Seven

Sequel/Series Info: None

Rating: G

Summary: How Grace led into Chimera

Disclaimer: Not. Mine. (Sigh)

Author's Note: Ick! I hate writing angst! (Glares at muse..)

Sam stretched her stiff neck and slowly opened her eyes to the softly lit room. The only sounds were the muted beeps of several pieces of machinery, most of which were currently attached to *her*.

"Hey."

She recognized the voice immediately. "Jack?"

O'Neill was seated nearby, his head supported by his hand. Both of his eyebrows went up at the sound of his name. Carter never called him that; the concussion must have been worse than he thought. "Excuse me?" He spoke but then paused. He should have let it go. It wasn't as though he really minded. It actually sounded kind of nice.

"Sorry, Sir." She forced her professionalism to reassert itself.

"Yes, well," O'Neill stood and took a step toward the bed. "A *massive* concussion will tend to disorient one." He offered her a reassuring smile, no harm done.

"How long was I out there?"

"It's all relative Carter. That whole time-space continuum thing."

For once it was Carter who balked at having to hear something scientific. She closed her eyes wearily. "Sir."

"Four days."

"I could have sworn it was weeks."

There was a short, comfortable pause before he spoke again, quickly changing the subject to something lighter. "Uh, Teal'c and Daniel say, 'Hi'. Um. They're planning a little bit of a shindig for when you're up and around. There's talk of cake."

Sam couldn't help but smile. Apparently some real planning was going into this event. "Cake?"

"My idea."

If she'd been more alert she'd have laughed at the huge grin on his face. He was obviously proud of himself. As it was she settled for just smiling back at him. "Can't wait."

He was satisfied enough, even though her smile had been a weak one, and went on. "Need anything? Magazine? Yo-Yo?"

"I'm fine."

"Yes, you are." There was that smile again; it touched her all the way down to her toes.

"Thank you, Sir."

"For what?"

She suddenly realized she'd forgotten O'Neill wasn't on the Prometheus with her. The whole conversation she'd had with him was still fresh in her mind; only it had been another 'him'. This one didn't have a clue what she was talking about. "Nothing."

He didn't seem to be overly confused by the remark and gave her another smile before leaving. "Think nothing of it. I've got plenty of that."

The simple joy she'd always felt in his presence struck her as he turned to leave and reminded her of something she'd repressed now for years. Eons even. She blushed and hunched her shoulders as she recalled her own fantasy about kissing him. *That* wasn't something she could pass off as just another hallucination. It wasn't the first time she'd allowed herself to imagine the feel of his lips on hers.

As quickly as the idea surfaced, she squashed it down. Wasn't that what the whole 'hallucination' thing was about? Her and her hang ups, one of which was centered on the man who'd just left. Maybe all the talking to herself really did have a point, but it could wait. For right now she was home, safe, and in a day or so she'd be on the Colonel's deck with a whopping big slice of cake. She snuggled down further into the pillow and let herself fall back to sleep.



Two days turned into seven before Janet was willing to release her patient. Yes, the external injury was barely noticeable, but the headaches still came, bringing with them surges of nausea, an indication that her brain was still recovering from the injury. The Doctor stubbornly refused to grant any release until a full 24 hours had gone by with no significant headache and at least one full meal being eaten- and kept down.

It was just as well, Carter had to concede, the potent medication she'd been given to ease the nausea made her so drowsy she'd missed a good portion of those seven days anyway. Now, finally though, enough was enough. Fraiser grudgingly signed the papers, and only after Sam agreed to daily check-ups for at least three or four more days.

The first two days at home she actually had some peace and quiet. Of course, she also had a babysitter. Daniel was called upon for 'sitter' duty as his work was most easily done from an alternate location. He somehow managed to remain unobtrusive by immersing himself in a detailed translation on his laptop. Except for the occasional offering of pain medication or tea, and hearing him absent-mindedly muttering to himself, she barely knew he was there.

After the third daily check back at the base, and an unauthorized stop off at her lab, Sam found herself typing away at her computer, oblivious to the fact she wasn't yet cleared for even light duty. The hair on the back of her neck prickled, and she had the distinct feeling she was being watched.

Without looking up she smiled and spoke aloud. "Can I help you, Sir?"

O'Neill was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame. He'd actually been there for a few minutes before she perceived his presence. "I wasn't aware Fraiser had cleared you yet."

"Uh, she hasn't. I'm not really working, just going over a few things."

He moved closer and stood where he could see the computer screen. "God, Carter, I can't understand a single thing on there! Sure looks like work to me."

She started to object, but when she glanced up she knew she'd been caught. His smile disarmed her. Damn, the man. The thought flicked through her mind that she really did need to get a grip on the situation between them.

He drew a set of car keys out of his pocket and spun them around his index finger. "C'mon. My turn."

"I really don't need a babysitter anymore."

"Maybe not, but the fact that you are here when you should be at home or at least elsewhere, proves that you *do* need a keeper."

"Sir?"

"Someone to make sure you follow your Doctor's orders."

"Oh, yeah, like *you* have experience in that area." She winced at the harshness of her own voice. She'd meant to say it jokingly, but it came out a bit strong.

O'Neill wasn't fazed. "Ah, but this is not me; it's you. Time to go. Do I need to make it an order?"

She lowered her eyes, somewhat miffed he'd used the one thing she wouldn't deny him: his status as her Commander. "No, Sir. Just give me a minute." She tapped a few keys to save her work and exited the program. As she waited for the computer to complete her request she noted O'Neill's attention was elsewhere for the moment, and quickly pocketed a disk from the computer drive bay. There was no reason she couldn't work on the same project at home, but she wasn't about to let *him* know that.

Her car was still on base, and she made a move straight for it once they were on the surface. Only O'Neill's long stride cut her off. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Home, Sir. You can follow me if you like."

He looked somewhat stricken. "You'll miss out on the cake."

It took a minute for that to sink in. So, the 'shindig' was on for tonight. Apparently it was to have been a surprise. "Oh, well-" She paused to consider it. "When you put it like that-"

His face brightened noticeably.

"I still want my car though. Janet said I could drive now, and I'd rather be free to head home when I'm ready instead of imposing on someone else."

"Okay, but you won't run out early, right?" When she nodded he continued. "And don't let on you knew what was up. Teal'c has this *thing* about surprises."

"No problem."



The 'bash', that's what Teal'c called it, turned out to be quite fun, though tiring. They'd managed to have her favorite take out, lemon pepper chicken, her favorite dessert that wasn't Jell-o, chocolate fudge ice cream and her favorite old movie, Casablanca. There were also nearly a hundred balloons decorating every corner of the Colonel's house, and Teal'c had boasted how he'd blown up every one by himself. That, of course, led to a comment from O'Neill. Something about 'hot air'.

Carter let herself relax, comfortable in the company of the team she'd grown so accustomed to over the past few years. In a way it felt just like it did on the ship, her 'guys' looking out for her. The memory made her sigh. She hadn't yet owned up to exactly what she'd been through during her four-day struggle to save herself and the crew of the Prometheus.

The sun was just beginning to dip low enough in the sky to make red streaks appear in the clouds overhead. The movie had been wonderful and the cake, delightful, even though Carter couldn't finish the monstrous piece she'd been served. As an after-dessert dessert, she and the Colonel were on his deck sharing a small tub of 'Ben and Jerry's' while Daniel and Teal'c were inside mulling over a game of chess.

She rolled her tongue around the ice cream in her mouth and let it melt a bit before swallowing it.

"You do that with Jell-O too."

She was unaware she was being watched- at least that closely. "Sir?"

"Not swallow right away."

She smiled and scooped up another spoonful. "I like the flavor. If I just swallow it down I'll miss it."

"Uh, huh."

She could feel his raised eyebrow so she demonstrated by taking the bite and exaggerating the movement of her tongue and jaw as she let the confection saturate her taste buds. "Mmm. Good." She swallowed it down and licked her lips.

O'Neill was mesmerized by the sheer sensuality Carter displayed and averted his eyes. "Okaaay." He quickly changed the subject. "So, you've got a full week of downtime coming, and since Fraiser's seen fit to cut you loose...plans?"

"Actually, yes." Carter let her head fall back to rest against the back of the chair. "I thought I'd go see Mark in San Diego. I know it's kind of soon to take a trip that far away, but who knows when I'll have this many days off together again. Janet said it would be okay."

He took another bite of ice cream and nodded. "You're flying out, when?"

"I thought I might take the Indian."

O'Neill's eyebrows flicked, and his head jerked in her direction. 'Indian?' he thought. Suddenly he remembered the make of her bike. 'Oh, *that* Indian!' "Is that *wise*?"

"No headaches, no nausea. The fresh air should do me good. I need to spread my wings a bit."

His eyes fell away from gazing at her and then returned to her face. She had her eyes closed, looking completely relaxed. He bit his lower lip and narrowed his eyes in thought. Something was different about his 2IC ever since the Prometheus thing; he just couldn't place what it was. There was a hint of something he could only call restlessness. He glanced away again.

As he reached over to dip his spoon in the tub for another helping of ice cream, she did the same, and their hands collided. Immediately their eyes went to each other's. Both cracked a small smile.

"You know," O'Neill began as he withdrew his hand and let her go first. "I didn't mind it when you called me 'Jack'. Just surprised, that's all."

"I know." Her hand moved back without obtaining what she'd reached for. She set the empty spoon on the table and shifted slightly in her seat, suddenly looking quite ill at ease. A clear sign something was on her mind. "Sir." He knew that was a bad sign too, especially since he'd just in effect given her permission to call him by his first name.

"I've been thinking." Another bad sign, coupled with her hands, which were now clasped in her lap. "About choices I've made and what things I've allowed to be a part of my life..." She paused long enough to take a breath. "Or not." Quickly she continued. "That's partly why I want to go away from here for a bit. I need to clear my head. Maybe make some decisions." She could not, would not look at him, even though she was sure he was staring at her. She couldn't bear to see the look she knew would be in his eyes.

"That's a good thing, right?"

His voice was so soft and uncertain sounding she almost caved. Just. "Yes. I think it will be."

They sat in silence for some time, and the sun sunk lower in the sky, lengthening the shadows it cast. Carter soon stood to her feet and motioned for O'Neill to stay put when he began to rise. "It's late. I can see myself out. See you in a week." She finally turned her head toward him. "Sir."

He sat back in the chair and nodded silently. Her hand was already on the door latch when he spoke. He had to force the words out, afraid to say anything, but more afraid to not. "You know; if you...I'll always be there for you."

Her back was to him, so he could plainly see how her shoulders tensed. She turned her head just slightly to one side, nodding a single time. When she answered, her voice was barely above a whisper. "Sounds like a safe bet to me."

She pushed the screen open and walked through, sliding it closed behind her. Her heels clicked as she went inside, and he could hear the murmured goodbyes as she took leave of the other members of the team. A minute later she appeared in the driveway and strode to her car, not looking back.

The chess game was complete, so Daniel and Teal'c said goodnight as well. As they left they talked happily with each other, not noticing their host's lack of response.

The deck was now completely in shadow, as the sun neared the completion of its journey. The ice cream pooled at the bottom of the tub, as it warmed to the ambient temperature, uneaten. And a man sat on his roof, setting up a telescope for a long night of stargazing. Alone.

~fin.