Closing Shop

By Gaeriel

Disclaimer: Not mine, but they're awfully fun to play with…

Summary: The long sleep and what happens afterwards. Based on speculation for Season 8, so BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Pairing: Sam and Jack. No, wait, come back!

For two months, Jack had slept. He has to admit, it was one of the most restful situations he'd experienced in quite awhile. Not that he'd recommend mandatory hibernation as a therapeutic technique for overcoming insomnia (the idea hits quickly; Dr. O'Neill's Amazing One-Step Program. Guaranteed to stimulate normal sleep patterns. Possible side effects include dementia and the compulsion to think with prolonged parentheses) but rendering your limbs immobile and removing all sense of the universe around you certainly has its strong points. Especially when the long, numb quiet got to be a little too much. He was a 'man of action.' UGH! Cliché's. There had been a remarkable number of those going through his head those two months, relating mostly to the concepts of 'better than the alternative' and 'choice.' Those were easy enough to excuse. He still had a lot of reanimating to do.

He'd like to say that while he'd been frozen, his dreams were colored by extraordinary and insightful things. After all, he had been (twice) possessed by possibly the most advanced alien race to ever populate the galaxy. Extraordinary things were to be expected. But for the most part, Jack dreamt about fishing, the Simpsons, and saving the world. Well, there had been that incident involving the shrimp and a little jade Buddha that sang show tunes. Besides the sheer randomness, that hadn't seemed terribly significant.

And, (this surprised him) he hadn't dreamt much about her, either. Oh sure, she had often played roles (some considerably sized and others less so) in the various 'saving the world' scenarios he'd envisioned. But as he stands in the infirmary after the last of the copious tests he'd endured following his rather unceremonious return by the Asguard, he's hit with the impression that somehow, despite the ample (suffocatingtediousboring) time he'd spent as a meat popsicle, he's forgotten something terribly important.

"Sooo…" long, awkward, open-ended nonquestions. They're good at those.

"Sooo…" He's a little disappointed. After having similar reunions with both Daniel and Teal'c, he's hoping for something a little more… climactic.

"Is my truck still in the parking lot?" He realizes the irony that exists between what he wants and what he says. But whatever.

She brightens, sensing a safe place, a safe topic that doesn't have to deal with all those things she may or may not have been wrestling with over the past 1/6 of the year.

"No. Teal'c's volunteered to drive you home."

Teal'c?

"Teal'c?"

She grins, "Some things are a little different now."

"No kidding. We still have Jell-O, right?"

Dimples appear. He thanks the god of kneecaps that his joints hold steady.

"Yes, we've still got Jell-O, sir."

"Well," he rolls back on the heels of his feet and offers up a characteristic 'Jack' hand gesture, "What are we waiting for?"

They head out of the infirmary and towards the elevator. He thinks he should want to get home more, but seven years of Carter and Daniel have really affected his psyche. This complex feels more like home to him than even his cabin does. Well, almost more so. And since when has he used words like 'psyche'? He's really going to have to strangle Daniel that next time he sees him.

"Sooo…" Dammit. "Lt. Colonel, huh?"

"Yes sir," she's proud. She should be.

They arrive the elevator and hit the button. They wait. The doors open and they walk in. It's painfully intimate, really. Nothing has changed at all and these are the moments he's always liked best. Quiet, conscious, two-word replies plus loads of sexual tension. In recent years, he's grown accustomed to remembering how much he can't have her whenever they're around each other. As careful as he's been, he can't help but get a secret thrill out of it. He'd managed to turn getting in trouble into an art form during adolescence, but after awhile, the buzz faded. It became much more fun to be in a position to get in trouble, get into a lot of trouble, and deftly avoid it. That's why he loves these moments; the uneasiness serves as a reminder of all that could potentially raze him (and her too, which is always the most important thing to remember). It's a guilty pleasure, like when she sneaks chocolate on missions even after Janet-

That wound is still fresh for him. To Jack, Janet's only been dead for a few weeks. He wonders if it feels the same for Carter, even though he's pretty sure she's been grieving for someone else up until only a handful of hours ago. One wouldn't think, to look at her. Right now, she's leaning up against the back of the elevator with her patented 'no-teeth' smile and hands clasped behind her back. A little forced, perhaps, but in no way suggestive of recent heartache. If he didn't know her so well, he'd think that maybe he was just being self-important. It's not just a matter of how he feels about her, either. He has never served with anyone whom he hasn't made it his mission to understand. Gray areas have always been uncomfortable spaces. He suddenly becomes aware that she's speaking, and has been since they got on the elevator. It's not technobabble, but he's noticed that all English words have sounded slightly foreign since he got back.

"… been a little tough adjusting to the program going public. But after our little demonstration in Antarctica-" she pauses and then offers up a rueful smile, "I guess you might have been a little out of it by that point."

Jack smirks, "Just a bit."

"The public backlash was pretty bad, but I guess it could have been a lot worse. There have been the prerequisite protests and demonstrations. There's even been a little violence," she shuts her eyes. He's going to have to ask about that later; her expression clearly states that this topic is to remain in passing. "But I think it's slowly dawning on people that the decision was made and it's too late now."

"That's all we could ever hope for," he says. He's seen the best and worst of different kinds of people from all over the world and, besides the times when the situation calls for otherwise, he can be quite the cynic.

The elevator reaches their floor and they get off. Jell-O comes next, the eating of it occasionally disrupted by bouts of sundry conversation. He asks about Pete and she's (not unexpectedly) close-lipped about him. She responded with "Fine" and proceeded to inquire whether or not he had any interesting dreams while under.

He stops, feeling guilty again. Sitting across from her in the fluorescent mess hall, he can see little things he'd missed in the elevator. There were circles under her eyes and the thin top layer of skin on her lower lip looked like it had been chewed away. Her eyes were still puffy from sleep and considering that it was early evening, he can imagine what the doctors had ordered her to do while he was ensconced in the infirmary. He's seen her like this before. He hopes she understands how much he appreciates her, even though he doesn't always tell her so. He doesn't feel he has to. He feels it's obvious.

"How 'bout we head up to Teal'c's now. I'm starting to get a little antsy."

"Antsy?" She grins and so does he. He's glad she's teasing him. They throw away empty Jell-O containers and head out.

"It's a very unpleasant thing to be, antsy is. Ranks right up there with twitchy and what you feel when standing in long lines."

"Homicidal tendencies?"

"I was thinking more along the lines of boredom," he drawls, "but yeah, sure, that works too."

On their way to Teal'c's quarters, she fills him in on what the team's been up to.

"SG-1 has been primarily relegated to a specialty squad. We get called in whenever some new artifact or piece of technology is recovered. There haven't been any recon missions at all. Not that I'm complaining," she hesitates and continues at a softer volume, "we never did get a fourth member."

She looks at him and her blue eyes communicate that they never, EVER gave him up for lost. Not that he needed to be told; he knew his people. In fact, he wasn't even thinking about that at all. Something else dawns on him at exactly the same moment. Something very new and shiny enough to clear his mind of basically everything else.

"You know, since you're acting CO for SG-1, and I still haven't been cleared for duty, at this very moment and quite possibly indefinitely, we do not fall under the same chain of command."

Sam becomes very tense. Jack realizes that this isn't the first time this notion has crossed her mind.

"I suppose so."

They're stopped in the hall not far from Teal'c's door. Jack can't do anything but stare at her as she comes up with nothing brilliant or timely to say. He's sure he loves her, but at this moment he doesn't think that it's enough. What it all comes down to is that they're two strong, deserving, and cleverly inadequate people.

He takes a deep breath, "This isn't ever going to happen, is it?"

Her eyes look watery (of course they look watery, they're BLUE), "No, I don't think so."

"Regs, they're not much of an issue right now. If you wanted, I could try…"

She looks at him meaningfully, "It's been seven years, sir."

He knows what she means. Where do you go when all you really wanted for so long was what you had, even if you suddenly get the opportunity for so much more? A song he remembers from his younger days starts playing in the back of his head. 'I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." He's become used to her occupying a certain space in his head. And discovering that she had a little more leg room up there than previously anticipated was… weird.

She smiled, albeit was a markedly humorless smile, "Think we're being a little melodramatic?"

"Much more than a little," Jack sighed heavily.

"Want to try and have this conversation tomorrow?"

Jack nodded, "Good idea. I'm just going to go home, watch all those Simpsons episodes that I'm sure someone taped for me," a suppressed smile indicated that someone had, indeed, taped said episodes, "and sleep on you- it. Sleep on it." The slip was intentional (although he had wouldn't ever let her know that) and acquired its desired effect. She grins. This epiphany exposes an entirely new kind of tension and he isn't quite sure he enjoys it as much as he had the other kind.

"See you later, Carter."

"Bye, sir."

And she was gone.

"O'Neill." Jack turns to see Teal'c standing a few feet down the corridor. Once, Jack might have been concerned with what the big Jaffa might have seen or heard. But he doesn't feel like caring right now. He's been through hell and then some and just wants to spend a little quality time with America's (or at the very least his) favorite family.

"T! I understand you're…eh… my ticket outta this place."

"That is correct, O'Neill. I have become quite proficient in my operation of automobiles."

Jack thinks that maybe by now, some of the formality in Teal'c's conversational skills would have worn off, but it hasn't. 'A place for everything and everything in its place' was a favorite expression of his mother's. He winces. At least Teal'c gets it.

"Well, let's blow this pop stand. Vamanos. Amscray. Hit the road. If I stay here any longer I think I'm going to go batty. Just want to get… home, at this point." He hesitates before saying the word 'home' out loud. Home was two months ago and hurrying the opposite way down the hall.