Title: Learned by Heart, Kept in Mind
Disclaimer: Alas, not my characters. (But I'd happily borrow Jack O'Neill anytime.) SG-1 belongs to Gecko and MGM. Don't sue me.
Summary – Stranded on a remote alien world, Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter have to use their wits to stay alive. Their search for a way home leads them to other discoveries along the way. (Warning: SHIP AHEAD!) Technically, a prequel to "Reap What is Sown," but works as a stand-alone, too.
Spoilers: Not quite sure… maybe up to season 5? Definitely post Divide and Conquer, but before Daniel's ascension and Janet's death.
Pairings: Do you have to ask???
Category: Romance/Angst (Am I capable of anything else?) I guess some humor, too.
Rating: PG-13, at least for now.
A/N: Never fear, I'm not abandoning "The Path from Yesterday." Which, by the way, you should read if you haven't. (shameless plug!) This plot snuck up and hit me when I was watching, of all things, old Star Trek Voyager episodes. Had to get this down before it fell out of my overly-encumbered brain! Nothing like writing TWO stories at once, LOL!
Anyway, my goal with this one is to make all those die-hard Shippers squirm with that electric Sam-Jack tension. Go ahead, yell all you want. I'm determined to be a tease this time.
"Teal'c, what can you see from up there?" Colonel Jack O'Neill bent his head over the military-issued radio clipped to his vest. As his eyes darted around the wooded clearing, he seemed to absorb every detail of his surroundings like a dry sponge soaked up water.
In a moment, the radio crackled to life. "It is as we suspected, O'Neill. There seems to be an abandoned settlement in the valley below us. However, due to the rough terrain along the mountainside, I would estimate our destination to be more than a full day's walk from our current position." The Jaffa's voice conveyed no impatience or unease. He was simply stating the facts as he saw them.
It was not a feeling that Jack shared. Shaking his head unhappily, he snapped a reply back into the radio. "Damn. By the time Carter and I get there, we'll have lost most of the day." Sighing with annoyance, he made his decision instantly, a hallmark of his intense military training. "You and Daniel go ahead and make camp near the gate tonight. Carter and I will finish this study of hers and meet you there by midday tomorrow. Hopefully, that'll give us enough daylight to make a decent start toward the settlement."
Teal'c replied without hesitation. "We will make camp as soon as we find a suitable location. I wish you much luck with Major Carter's geological study."
Jack made a face. He pretty much hated scientific legwork, but General Hammond had been behind Sam's plans 100. He'd zoned-out on most of the details, but apparently the MALP had picked up some weird readings here on this mountainous planet. So, while Daniel and Teal'c had looked for further evidence of a suspected human settlement, he and Carter had gone off into the woods, looking for rocks.
He could hardly restrain his enthusiasm.
Glancing around uneasily, he closely monitored Carter's location. She had a way of becoming totally absorbed in a task, especially when science was involved. For this reason, he usually chose to supervise her on these types of expeditions. He and Teal'c were generally the babysitters for their more egg-headed teammates, watching for toothy predators and skulking bad guys while the Doctors lost themselves in their work. He supposed Teal'c could have watched Carter, leaving him to stay with Daniel, but, well…
His eyes zeroed in on his assigned teammate. Sam was currently bending over some scientific gizmo, totally engrossed in her current task and completely unaware that her nicely rounded rear-end was rather spectacularly highlighted by the late afternoon sunlight.
Yeah, he could have been with Daniel, but the view here was much better.
"Sir, could you give me a hand here?" Sam called out to him without standing up.
Jack nearly choked. Still focusing on the gentle curve of her bottom, he couldn't stop the reply that flew from his lips. "Oh yeah. I'll give you a hand." Or two. Right, smack-dab on your…
Something in his voice must have given him away, because his second-in-command jerked upright and turned to look at him oddly. "What did you say?" she asked, sounding suspicious.
Jack's face instantly transformed into its normal state of slightly-bored impatience. "I said I'd give you a hand," he said innocently.
She gazed at him for another moment. Apparently satisfied by what she saw, Sam shrugged and pointed to the instrument on the ground. "I need you–"
Oh, he thought wickedly, if only she'd stop there.
"-to stand here and tell me if this light starts blinking after I calibrate the next sensor."
"Yeah, sure." Jack said, sounding resigned.
Without looking back, Sam strode across the clearing to another piece of electronic equipment. "Just don't touch anything," she commanded as she walked away.
Once again focused on her retreating backside, Jack sighed. "Wouldn't dream of it, Major."
Well, okay, he amended silently. That was a big, fat lie. He'd definitely dream of it.
Jack mechanically chewed and swallowed the last of his oh-so-tasty MRE dinner. It had been a tediously long afternoon, complete with several mind-numbing lectures from his second-in- command about geo… seismic… something or others. Worse than that, she'd eventually wandered off behind some trees to set up the last of her instruments, thus cutting off his view of her… well, curvy parts. He supposed it was for the best. Lusting after one of his teammates was certainly not on the official mission objectives, and was really more frustrating than anything.
Sam glanced over and saw the decided lack of enthusiasm on Jack's face. "Not very satisfying, hey?"
Blinking rapidly, Jack suppressed a feeling of alarm over her words. She couldn't possibly know what he'd been thinking. Looking utterly confused, he stared at her for a moment. "Huh?"
Sam gestured to the remains of his meal. "Your MRE. Not so good tonight?"
"Oh!" Jack felt relief wash over him. "Right."
Carter's eyes flashed questioningly for a moment. What did he think I meant? Then, pushing the thought aside, she tried again to engage him in conversation. "What was it?" Seeing more incomprehension on his face, she sighed. Focus, Jack. Again, she pointed to his dinner. "The MRE. What was it tonight?"
For a moment, Jack pondered the question. "Honestly," he said, sounding rather perplexed, "I have no idea."
Sam couldn't help laughing. That was Jack, all right. She'd give up her computer for a month – no small sacrifice! – to find out what went on in that head of his, especially at moments like this. She'd been getting a weird vibe from him for most of the day. He was usually very single-minded about security when in the field. Today, however, he'd seemed distracted and preoccupied. It was impossible to know what the problem was.
Well, she thought boldly, there is one way to find out.
Taking a deep breath, she started cleaning up her own meal and spoke casually. "Is everything all right, sir?"
Jack, who had been staring off into space, still pondering the contents of his dinner, directed his chocolate-colored eyes at her. "Sure. Why wouldn't it be?" He didn't sound especially convincing to even his own ears.
Carefully avoiding eye contact, Sam shrugged. "I don't know. I just get the feeling that you weren't entirely with me today."
Oh, that was so not true. He'd definitely been with her today. He'd been entirely, thoroughly, lustfully with her, though he couldn't very well admit it. Improvising, he looked into the waning campfire. "I dunno, Carter. Must be something about this place."
Sam heard the underlying tension in his voice, but sensed that he wasn't going to talk about it. Suppressing a sigh, she risked a glance in his direction. He seemed totally engrossed in the flames that were reflecting off his rugged, handsome features. Sam immediately pulled her eyes away. Ever since their soul-searching confessions during the Zatarc testing, there had been a tension between them. Though she cherished the memory of his stark, emotional declaration, she couldn't help regretting the distance it seemed to put between them. Before, if he'd accidentally brushed up against her, she could at least pretend that the touch had only affected her. Now, however, she painfully understood that the sensual awareness in her own mind could easily be occurring in his. And, with no real way to resolve those emotions, it was something she imagined she'd just have to get used to. Pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, she instead focused on the more pressing matter at hand.
She and Jack had shared a tent on many trips like this one. While she usually bunked with Teal'c, there were occasions when she'd wind up alone with her commanding officer on some task or another. It wasn't a big deal. She might have feelings for him, but she could certainly be professional when the occasion called for it.
Glancing over at him, she tried to reassure herself of that fact. However, after one look in his direction, she couldn't help noticing the way the firelight softened the hard edges of his features, making him look less like a soldier and more like a man. As he stood and stretched, his lean, muscular body practically radiated sleek, deadly grace. Even when relaxed, he seemed coiled and ready to spring into action at the slightest provocation. It was reassuring to be in the presence of someone who could handle danger so competently.
Not only that, it was sexy as hell.
Sam bit back a groan. She should not be going there.
Once he was done stretching, Jack turned in the direction of their tent. "I'm packing it in. It's gonna be a long day tomorrow."
Sam nodded. She was about to tell him that she'd decided to sleep under the stars tonight when interrupted by the low, distant rumble of thunder. She glared accusingly at the sky. So much for that idea.
Evidently, Jack had also heard the approaching storm. Pausing mid-step, he glanced at the now-starless sky and stifled a grin. He had clearly sensed her uneasiness about their close proximity. Now, part of him was perversely glad that she couldn't avoid him tonight. Without turning back to look at her, he called out, "I'll save you a spot, Carter. Better hustle, or you're gonna get wet."
Once he'd crawled into the small, two-person tent, Sam released her sight of resignation. She'd just finish cleaning the remnants of her meal before she went to…
As if Mother Nature had heard Jack's words and sought to make them prophetic, the sky suddenly opened. Cold, wet raindrops assaulted her relentlessly, causing her to shriek in startled discomfort. Without a backwards glance, she shot across camp and gracelessly threw herself into the tent.
Jack had just barely crawled into their small shelter when he heard the telltale patter of raindrops on the canvas above him. Congratulating himself on his own good fortune, he was about to climb into bed when the door to the tent was flung open, and one very cold, very wet Carter was suddenly propelled into the cozy space. He tried to move out of her way, but his knee got tangled in his sleeping bag, and before he could reclaim his balance, she landed on top of him with an awkward, inelegant thump.
Well, this was interesting.
Her breath, ragged from her sprint across the clearing, gently rasped against the rugged contours of his face. Startled blue eyes blinked uncertainly as her brain began processing their relative positions.
And, Jack mused, what a position it was. Sam's full, sensuous mouth was close enough to his that he could feel the damp heat radiating from it. Tiny beads of water were slowly dripping from the ends of her golden hair onto his cheeks and forehead. Most fascinating, however, was the fact that her sodden but delectably pliable figure was now intimately molded to every contour of his body.
Swallowing, Jack pushed the much-too enjoyable thoughts back to their home in a dark, lonely corner of his mind. Struggling against the almost physical need to pull her closer to him, Jack couldn't quite keep the tension out of his voice when he spoke. "Carter?"
Her own heart racing faster than a prized quarter horse, Sam's eyes seemed rooted in his dark gaze. "Yes, sir?" She wasn't especially surprised to hear her voice emerge as little more than a breathy whisper.
Hearing her intense murmur, Jack couldn't keep the amusement from his eyes. Leave it to Carter to call him 'sir' at a moment like this. It should have been a bucket of cold water on the situation. Instead, he found himself feeling even less able to resist her sweet, artless charms. In an affectionate whisper, he replied without breaking their eye contact. "You're getting my sleeping bag all wet."
Suddenly looking mortified, Sam went very still. As the reality of the situation set in, she quickly regained her equilibrium and began to pull away.
Against every logical – even honorable – instinct in his soul, Jack's body seemed to act of its own accord. Before Sam had a chance to move more than an inch, his arms snaked around her torso and riveted her in place. "Funny thing is, I really don't mind."
Sam's breath hitched in her throat. As she stared helplessly into his warm, intense gaze, she felt the responsible, levelheaded part of her brain melting into a pool of moonstruck goo.
Oh, this was bad. Very, very bad.
The normal flow of time seemed to slow to a thick, syrupy trickle. Though her heart was pounding furiously, Sam felt each and every beat with distinct clarity. In this moment of near-suspended animation, a single drop of rain leisurely rolled down a damp wisp of her hair before slowly developing into a full, glistening bead. Poised just at the fringy edge of the strand, it seemed to shiver with expectation. In slow-motion, Sam watched the droplet fall free of the lock and descend through the fevered rush of her breath onto Jack's firm, sculpted, lower lip. With a delicate splash, the drop spread out and slid enticingly into the darkened corner of his mouth.
Jack, hypnotized by the look in Sam's eyes, felt the drop strike his lips and watched as her gaze darkened with a powerful, unnamed emotion. Then, with a heady mix of alarm and desire, he saw her face inch closer to his own, as if drawn by some irresistible magnetic force. When her mouth finally brushed over his, barely making contact as it followed the course of the raindrop, Jack felt as though he was having an out-of-body experience. The faint, almost imperceptible feel of her lips was slowly driving him crazy.
All at once, his final strands of tenuous control over the situation seemed to snap. Before Sam could process his intentions, she abruptly found herself being wrapped in a steel-strong embrace and rolled onto her back with an almost violent force.
In the next breath, all conscious thought was shoved from her head as his mouth ferociously seized hers in the most intensely passionate kiss she'd ever experienced. Surrendering with wild abandon to the torrent of emotions coursing through her blood, she reveled in the intense, untamed fury that was Jack O'Neill.
Then, just as his urgent hands had started tugging on the hem of her drenched t-shirt, reality reared its ugly head.
"O'Neill?" The radio that was still attached to Jack's vest crackled to life between them. As if struck by something physical, he instantly stiffened and rolled away from his fevered companion.
Trying to catch his breath, he fumbled for the 'talk' button. "Yeah?"
Evidently, his raw, tense voice was transmitted over the airwaves, because Teal'c paused a moment before responding. "Is something wrong, O'Neill?"
Jack winced and clenched his teeth. Painfully aware of Sam's statue-still form lying beside him, he desperately fought for control of his voice. "Nothing's wrong, T. You just woke me up."
The man on the other end of the radio apparently accepted the explanation. "I am sorry for disturbing you, O'Neill–"
Not half as sorry as I am, Jack thought grimly.
" –but we have just noticed something unusual from our side of the mountain. Did Major Carter get her geologic survey equipment erected today?"
Jack heard Sam choke at Teal'c's particular choice of wording. Trying not to dwell on it himself, he ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. "Yeah, T. She's got all her gizmos working. Why?"
"Because, if Daniel Jackson and I are not mistaken, the mountain appears to be venting some sort of gaseous cloud." Teal'c's voice suddenly seemed to take on a worried edge, which was very unusual for the stoic Jaffa. Jack felt the hairs on his neck rise in dread. Unfortunately, the warrior's next words did little to comfort him.
"I'm afraid, O'Neill, that we may be camped on the side of an active volcano."
To Be Continued… (Evil Grin)