Title: Still There

Author: Gail R. Delaney

Genre: Fluff – Holiday - Challenge

Pairing: Jack/Sam

Rating: It's pretty clean… PG-13 to be safe.

Length: short

Spoilers: Affinity

Timeline: Season 8

Synopsis: What was Walter thinking hanging mistletoe on a military base?

Archive: , SJD Yes, SJfic, Heliopolis… if you'd like to post it somewhere else, just let me know. I'm sure I'll say yes, just want to know where.

Feedback: YES!

Disclaimer: I make no money for this. Wish I did.. but oh, well. No copyright infringement intended.

Special Note: This is in response to the Christmas challenge for stories with two components 1) stuck on base 2) a kiss.

The deafening lack of sound in Cheyenne Mountain was driving General Jack O'Neill insane. He thought that, without Harriman or Reynolds or Daniel knocking on his door every ten minutes, he could get through the mountain of paperwork stacked high in his 'in' box. But instead, he found himself agitated and restless as the silence echoed through the empty halls.

Whose bright idea was it anyway to give the majority of the Mountain's compliment two days off for Christmas?

Oh, that's right . . . yours. . . idiot.

Jack grunted and scrubbed his face with the palms of his hands. Now, he had resorted to insulting himself. He needed to find something to do before he went insane.

He shoved back from his desk and headed down the dim, still halls to the commissary. Maybe they had some decent snacks. Probably not, since you gave the KP crew the night off, too

Ah, hell. . .

Jack pushed open the Mess hall doors only to be greeted by more silence and row upon row of empty tables, their regular blue tablecloths replaced by red ones – with cutsy little fake Christmas trees as centerpieces at each. Probably Walter's idea. . . increase morale. . . or something.

He pushed one hand in his left pocket and walked to the barely stocked refrigerator case. Jack squinted as he looked through the fingerprint-smudged glass. Chicken Salad. . . Tuna Salad . . . Tuna on Rye. . .

"Good enough."

He opened the door and took out the cellophane-wrapped sandwich, along with a slice of pumpkin pie. Jack moved to nudge the door closed with his elbow, then stopped and grabbed the last slice of Dutch Apple Pie. It's just gonna go to waste otherwise . . . Yeah, tell that to the pound a half you've gained since taking on a desk job. . . Just shut up, will ya?

God, he needed a life. He needed some real conversation with someone other than himself. . .

Jack let the door slap shut, and looked around for a plastic tray to stack his near-midnight snack on. Just as he saw the tower of trays at the end of the counter, another figure at the far corner of the room caught his eye. He dumped the contents of his hands on the tray, grabbed a Gatorade from the cooler, and headed to the two-person table in the far corner of the commissary hall. As he walked, he tried very hard to ignore the giddy pleasure in his chest at the sight of Sam Carter's blonde hair.

Giddy? When the hell did giddy become a part of your vocabulary? Just SHUT UP, for cryin' out loud!

"Hey, Carter."

Sam looked up as he slid into the chair across from her, a wide smile bowing her lips and revealing her teeth. The smile reached all the way to her bright, blue eyes as she looked up at him. Something in Jack's gut jumped. Damn, he loved that smile.

"Hello, sir. I thought you were gone."

"I thought everyone was gone but me, Carter. What the hell are you doing here? You do realize it's 2330 on Christmas Eve. . . right?"

Sam shrugged and motioned towards the computer print out in front of her, and then towards the empty dish to her left. "I wanted to go over these spectrometer readings one last time from that element we brought back from P3X-025. I think there is a potential for a low-grade energy source with just some slight refinement, and I wanted to get a report to you as soon as--"

"Ah! Carter, for chrissake. It's Christmas Eve. Don't you have someplace to be? At Mark's or--" He nearly choked on the name. "Pete's?"

Her eyes shifted away from him, and her fingertips ran around the rim of her half-empty coffee cup. "Mark and his family decided to go to Vermont for the holidays. My sister-in-law's family is from there. Besides my dad, they're the only family I could spend the day with.'

The rest of the question hung between them. . . almost as obvious as a neon sign. What about Pete?

Jack waited, fidgeting with the edge of the crinkly cellophane around his sandwich. It was a morbid fascination. . . He didn't want to know anything about Pete Shanahan – couldn't stand the guy on sheer principal alone – and yet, he was curious as hell why Sam wasn't spending Christmas day with her fiancé.

He nearly shuddered. Fiance. Crap. . .

Sam sighed, tipped her chin enough to meet his gaze again. Jack just stared back, not asking for more. . . but not letting her off the hook, either. She sat back and dropped her hands into her lap.

"Pete invited me to Denver to spend the day with his family. He has a big family . . . huge family. Three brothers, two sisters, so many nephews and nieces I have no idea the actual count. Then there are aunts, uncles, cousins. . ."

"Sounds . . . fun?" Jack asked, popping up one eyebrow.

Sam smiled and gave her head a small shake. "Not really. I don't like crowds. And not knowing anyone's name . . . I told him you needed me here."

"Pulling me into your web of lies, Carter?" He didn't care. Hell, he'd gladly be Sam's excuse any time, if it meant she was here with him and not with Spud Boy… Spud Boy? Where the hell did that come from?

She focused on a small tear in the red tablecloth, but when he spoke, her chin tipped up and she looked straight at him for several moments. His heart stilled in his chest, and he wondered just what the hell Walter had been slipping into his coffee to make him so. . . sappy . . . all of a sudden. Maybe it was all the fake, plastic garland and glass ornaments hung all over the place. . . the Christmas spirit or something. Jack was the first to look away, focusing on unwrapping his sandwich.

He took out half, and offered it to Sam, raising his eyebrows in silent question. She nodded and took the offered food, biting off the corner as Jack bit into his own. They ate in silence for several minutes. After eight years, neither felt the need to fill the void. With his half was gone, Jack crumpled the cellophane and tossed it against the wall their table butted up against. He then slid the two pie plates so they were side by side and half way between him and Sam. With a smile, he offered her the extra fork he had grabbed.

"Thank you, sir," she said, taking the fork with a smile and took the first bite of pumpkin pie.

Several questions battled in Jack's head, but none of which he had any real desire to ask. If this is going to be your family, don't you think you should get to know them? Is everything going strong with Pete? Did he get pissed when you said you couldn't be there? When it came down to it, he didn't care. Sam was here, and not with Pete . . . that was the long and the short of it.

They finished sharing the pie in silence, and when the food was gone, they stood in unison and Jack picked up both his plates and hers. She gathered her report as he dumped the tray, and he walked back to her before they headed to the door.

"How much longer were you going to stay?"

Sam held the papers to her chest and shrugged. "I suppose it's safe enough to leave now. The chances of him calling 'one last time' to try and get me to go are pretty slim now."

"I could make up some vital assignment that would keep you here for the next two days . . ."

Sam looked up at him, the same smile brightening her face and sparking in her eyes. "I wouldn't be lying then, now would I?"

"Nope."

They reached the door, and Jack pushed it open to let Sam pass. He happened to glance up, and mumbled under his breath.

"Walter – for cryin' out loud . . ."

Sam stopped beside him beneath the arch of the doorframe. "What?"

Jack tipped his head upward, indicating the center point of the garland and lights that followed the metal doorjamb. "Harriman was in charge of decorations. What the hell was he thinking?"

Sam tipped her head back, and her soft chuckle told him she saw the sprig of green leaves and white berries.

"Mistletoe. . ." she said, the laugh still laced in her voice.

"On a military base."

She turned back to him, and their gazes locked. If possible, he would have sworn under threat of a Za'tarc that the blue of her eyes darkened and her cheeks and lips flushed a little pinker. Her stare shifted from the sprig of dried flora to his face – specifically to the area just above his chin.

Hot Damn!

Jack parted his lips and tilted his head a degree, looking down at her. One hand still held the door open, and before he could decide that it was a really bad idea, his other hand moved to grip her elbow, drawing her just a little closer. He leaned in half way – paused – and waited until her eyes met his again. Her lips curled in, only to be moistened a moment later by the tip of her tongue.

This was a bad idea. . . a very, very bad idea . . . wrong. . . monumentally wrong. . . wrong on so many levels. . . Didn't I tell you to shut up?

Jack closed the space and angled his lips over hers in a restrained, closed-mouth kiss. Neither moved or breathed as he let her warmth and nearness shift over him. Then she shifted closer, tilted her head and parted her lips. Jack nearly moaned when her tongue slipped past his lips, connecting with his own. She retreated, and he followed.

The erotic touch was far too quick, and over far too soon as she pulled back. Jack managed one more brief contact of mouth-to-mouth before they both withdrew. His hand still rested on her elbow, and the fingers of one of her hands curled around the open front of his BDU shirt, the tee shirt beneath wrinkled from the touch. Sam's cheeks were flushed, and her breath hitched, and Jack's own lungs burned from the forced restraint.

Sam's eyes were bright and wide as she looked up at him. She pulled her lower lip through her teeth, and Jack's blood rushed to a region of his body that hadn't seem much action in a very long time. He felt light-headed, and wondered just how much blood a man needed to keep his brain functioning, because he was pretty sure he was running low.

"It's still there, isn't it, Jack?" she finally asked, her voice a soft breath between them.

Jack shook his head slowly, and reached up to run his thumb along the corner of her lips. "It never went anywhere, Sam."

She drew in a sharp breath, and shining moisture filled her eyes. But her years of disciplined restraint kept the show of emotion at bay. Jack didn't need to see her let go to know what she felt.

"Even after all these years?"

"Even more after all these years," he clarified with a small smile, keeping his voice low – just between them even though there was virtually no one else around to hear. He thought – just for a split moment – about lying to her.

In the end, he didn't have the strength or the will-power to keep it up.

Sam nodded, curling her lips between her teeth again as she looked down. Her fingers uncurled from his shirt, but she didn't pull back, instead resting her palm against his chest. Jack sucked in a sharp breath as her hand slid up until it moved beneath the open shirt to rest over his heart. It had to be beating a mile a minute. He had, after all, just kissed Sam Carter.

Holy crap.

I just kissed Sam Carter. On base, for cryin' out loud!

She smiled, and Jack wondered just how much of his thoughts she saw in his face. Her hand slipped up further to touch the side of his neck and finally rest on his cheek. With the gentlest touch, she urged him towards her and their lips came together again for a brief, reserved kiss. Then she pulled back and stepped into the hall. Jack stayed in his spot, one hand pushed into his pocket and the other still holding the door.

"Sam. . ."

She stopped, and turned back but Jack had no idea what he wanted to say. Sam smiled, and nodded.

"I'm going to call Pete when he gets back from Denver," she said vaguely, but Jack understood. Part of him wanted to punch the air and scream 'yes!', and just as much of him wanted to question why. Why give up the chance of a good, happy life?

"The best things are worth the wait."

Jack smiled slowly, one corner of his mouth tipping up followed by the second. Just like that. In a span of thirty minutes, it all changed. Bam! Sam bit her lower lip and smiled, turning again to walk away.

"Sam. . ."

"Merry Christmas, Jack."

Hell, yeah! "You, too, Sam."

fin