Title: One is the Loneliest Number
Email: PG-13, so you read it.
Summary: Midnight cleaning and stargazing, what could me more romantic?
Classifications: I don't know what this means.
Spoilers: Set in late season 8
Archive: SJD, yes anywhere else, not yet… I'm not ready for that kind of commitment.
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me and either does the show, which is okay because I couldn't afford it anyway. But I get to play with them for free.
One is the Loneliest Number
It was a little after midnight. Despite her best attempts, she was alert and awake. There were only a few more hours to stay in her warm comfortable bed. She continued to roll around for a few more hours evading sleep. Her rationale was that her bed was more comfortable than what she was used to. Of course that wasn't the real reason. Her own lame excuse wasn't convincing her either.
Earlier that evening she was in her office, preparing for the leave ordered to her. She was to spend two weeks of catching up on the civilian world in Colorado. She was oblivious to anyone around her, shutting down all of her important experiments and notes so the assistants wouldn't mess them up. A familiar voice pierced through her barrier during the shutdown. A voice of someone who she deeply cared about.
"So you'll pick me up around 8am tomorrow morning, right?" a female voice asked.
"Yep. Make sure that you pack warm clothing. It gets really cold up there," the male voice replied.
"See you in the morning."
He walked into her office without knocking. Sam suddenly switched faces from a scowl to a sickly-sweet smile.
"Hey, Carter. I just need you to sign a few of these forms and we'll both be out of here." He glanced at her facial expression. 'What's she hiding?' he thought. He looked at her with a puzzled look. "Everything okay?"
She'd been caught. Her facial expression was overly compensated. He'd read her like a book. But she wasn't going to let him know that.
"No, just a little tired," she lied.
"Well, we deserve a break. Especially you, Carter. Let that brain of yours have a rest. I've got to go… Daniel and Teal'c are having a serious debate of the significance of the light sabers in Star Wars and whether the color of the light saber should signify rank. Very important stuff, you know."
"Going to the cabin this weekend?" she ventured.
"Yes! I found someone that actually wants to go with me. A woman from financing. Poor woman," he playfully jabbed.
Sam gave a half-sincere smile. It was hard to not feel the pain from his words.
"I hope you enjoy your weekend, Sir."
She took the paperwork from his outstretched hand and he left the room. The papers kept her attention for a few minutes. The General's voice came back to wake her from her daze.
"Finished?" he asked.
"Yes. It's on my desk." She reached for it blindly, focused on her laptop. "Here it is."
"Whatcha gonna to do during your break?"
"Well, the normal. Throw out all the moldy food in my refrigerator. Maybe I'll go dancing. I don't really know."
He smiled broadly, his imagination running wild. "It's not like you to not have a game plan. It will be good for you to go with the flow," he said, gesturing his hand back and forth.
"I'm gonna go drop this off. See you next week. Rested."
"Have a good time, Sir."
He nodded in agreement and walked down the hall humming.
She couldn't get the thought of that beautiful girl that was going with him and to her. Sam was sick with jealousy. She could only imagine what he would be doing with her. 'That could be me,' she griped. Which she knew wasn't true at all. He wouldn't dare lay a hand on her, because she would kill him. The work under that damn mountain was way too important for their suppressed emotions to get in the way. He also respected her, which helped him keep him under control. The reason wasn't just about the sex. If that had been the case, she'd jumped him years ago and gotten it out of her system. The closeness she would feel with him out in the middle of some forest in Minnesota would be just enough for her to give up the military and the SGC. She wasn't ready for that. That's why she refused all of his invitations to his paradise. She couldn't blame him for finding someone else. It didn't change the fact that she didn't like it.
Her alarm went off at 0630. She rolled out of bed and began preparing for the day. Her whole day was devoted to cleaning her nearly immaculate house. When she climbed into bed that night she fell asleep because of fatigue. The next day she had run out of ideas to keep her busy. She decided to go shopping to find a new outfit. Although the mall wasn't one of her favorite places, she decided to go there anyway. Her whole day was spent there. When she couldn't carry anymore bags she decided that she should go home. She took the packages and went inside. The false happiness from her shopping spree soon wore off. It was late afternoon, and she was exhausted. She wasn't much in the mood for cooking, so she ordered out.
Lying on the couch, she mindlessly flipped through the channels. She found a sappy romance movie and decided to indulge herself in it. Towards the end of the movie, she was bawling like a regular romance movie addict. She dried her eyes, glad that she was in the sanctuary of her home. She turned off the TV and decided to call it a night.
A sharp knock at her door awoke her from her dreamless slumber. She groaned and rolled over. The knocker was persistent. She didn't plan to get up, but she had a gnawing feeling in her stomach. Against her better judgment, she got out of bed and went to the door.
"Sir?" she asked, rubbing her eyes to make sure she wasn't hallucinating.
He looked up at her with a blank expression. She was surprised to see him standing on her doorstep at 0100. Before she could say something stupid, she invited him in. "Would you like a cup of coffee?" she asked.
He stared at her intensely, his face stern. She suddenly wished she could take back her invitation. His façade slowly melted away and a faint smile replaced the scowl on his face.
She knew that she would have to tread lightly otherwise he would disappear as quickly as he appeared. She watched him walk into her living room. His usual proud strut was replaced by slow lethargic movements. It was odd to see him like that.
"Sir, would you like something a little stronger than a coffee?" she asked.
When he turned to answer, she could see his tear stricken face. Her mind froze, but her heart knew what to do. She sat down their drinks down and pulled him gently into a hug. The waterworks began shortly after that. She cradled his head in her shoulder as she stroked his neck soothingly.
"I missed you," he choked out.
He looked into her eyes intently and she felt the heat in her cheeks rise. A grin washed across his sad face.
"Carter, I do believe that you are blushing," he said through his diminishing tears. She felt her face grow redder. Her cool composure was shattered.
The next thing she remembered was his icy cold hand cupping her warm cheek. It shot shivers up her spine. Involuntarily he pulled her closer against his body. She was crushed against his harden chest. Although the intimate contact was wonderful, her lungs were screaming for air.
"Jack, I… need…"
He dropped the embrace almost immediately. Before he could back fully away she reached for his shoulders, but he dodged them.
"I'd better leave."
"Please don't. It isn't safe for you to be driving out this late."
His voice became agitated. "I'm pretty sure I can take care of myself." he replied sarcastically.
She shifted uncomfortably. "Yes, Sir."
He sighed. "I really do appreciate the offer, but I need to be going. Unpacking."
"Sir, it's 0145. We have a week and a few days left of our vacation," she protested.
"I want to go with you."
He shook his head in disbelief. "What?"
"With all due respect, Sir, you woke me up and now I'm fully awake and alert. I will be of good use to you."
"Yes, Sir," she replied. He studied her face looking for signs of sarcasm. He found none.
"Grab a jacket. You'll need it. I'll bring you back in the morning."
She walked to the closet and pulled out a wool sweater.
"Sam, if you want to stay…"
"I'm not letting to get off that easy, Sir," she grinned.
"Whatever you say, Carter."
"But, I would like to change. Will you wait a minute?"
"Do what you need to do."
Sam retreated quickly to her bedroom. Jack stood from the couch to wander around her living room. He was immediately drawn to a framed photo. It was Sam and of himself sitting on his porch blowing bubbles with a much younger version of Cassie. He remembered that day like it was yesterday. Sam was spouting some technobabble about the formation of a bubble and Cassie was complaining.
(Flashback, insert cool flashback music here)
"Auntie Sam…," Cassie whined, "Just blow the bubbles!" she said as she chased them through the yard.
"Was I boring you with my explanation, Sir?"
"I'm sorry, what was that?" he asked playfully.
"Nothing. You just passed up another opportunity to arm wrestle with me," she said, batting her eyes.
"Bring it on, Major," he said, enunciating her rank.
Both of them found a backless abandoned park bench and put themselves into position.
"On the count of three. 1, 2,…3!" he said, pushing her arm. She was putting up one hell of a fight, and she was winning! To avoid shattering his pride, he took his other arm and pulled him on top of him with enough force to send them rolling down the hill. Both of their hands were on each other's shoulders, trying to pin the other.
"Having fun, Major?" Jack gasped out, clearly out of breath.
"Always, Sir," she replied, rolling down the hill with him.
When they reached the bottom of the hill, she was straddling him. She slammed his shoulders into the ground harder than she meant to. He looked into her eyes, slightly dazed. Their little 'game' had left a smudge of dirt on her face and her blond hair was in beautiful chaos.
"Ha!" she exclaimed. "I pinned ya! I did it!" she said, dancing around a defeated Colonel O'Neill.
He rolled his eyes at her little her 'little victory dance' and groaned loudly. She stopped immediately.
"Are you alright, Sir?" she said, bending down to help him up. He took her hand willingly. With the force of helping him up, he was able to wrap his arms around her to envelop her in a bear hug.
"Thanks," he grunted pulling away.
He looked up at her straight face. But her eyes deceived her.
"What's so funny?" he said, pouting.
"Oh, Sir! Look at ourselves!" she burst out laughing.
He decided to look at himself first. His jeans had grass stains and his hair was full of dandelion seeds. His shirt was untucked and he was muddy. He glanced over in her direction. Her white billowy skirt had mud and grass stains on it. Her hair also was covered with dandelion seeds. He couldn't help but smile.
"Sorry about your clothes," he mumbled.
"I wear them proudly, defeating a formidable warrior," she said, attempting to sound like Teal'c. They stood in a somewhat awkward silence.
"You have some grass in your hair," he said reaching over to pluck them out.
"Thanks. We'd better get back to your party. They'll probably send out the hounds to find us," she replied blushing.
Sam went directly to her closet. There wasn't time for her to coordinate outfits or wear something special. She picked out a pair of old jeans and a homemade tee shirt that said "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History". 'Comfort before beauty,' she muttered to herself. She packed an overnight bag and met him back in her living room.
"Ready to go, Sir?" she said bringing him back to reality.
"Wha-? Oh yeah. Let's go."
They both went out the door and walked to his truck. Being the gentleman that he was, he opened her door. The drive was in relevant silence beside the quiet jazz in the background. They arrived to his home quicker that she expected.
"So, uhh… welcome. The house is a bit of a wreck. Don't say that I didn't warn you," he said, opening the door.
She walked into the house, barely able to step over the camping gear. "We'd better get started."
"Okay," he said. "The food goes in the fridge. Start there."
He went outside and opened the garage. It looked like he had opened the tailgate of his truck and dumped all of his gear on the ground. Which was basically true, besides his clothing and the food. He lost himself in cleaning. Realizing that he had a guest, he decided it was time to take a quick break. He looked at his watch. 0300. When he was awake at this time, he would go and look at the stars. He walked into the house, mesmerized at the sight. Sam had taken a handkerchief and wore it in her hair like a washerwoman. The stereo was playing soft upbeat jazz in the background. She was washing dishes and slightly swaying with the music. She was completely out of character, but she seemed like she belonged here.
"You don't have to do that, Carter," he said from behind her.
"Sir!" she exclaimed, falling out of the spell. "I didn't hear you come in."
"Well, I was in Special Forces for a while," he grinned. "Let me help you. I'll dry and put away."
"You're already done with the garage?"
"Nope. It's 0300. I want to go and look at the stars. Would you like to join me?"
"Yes," she said smiling.
"I'll meet you up there. Why don't you go ahead without me?"
"I've always been taught that I shouldn't leave anyone behind Sir," she said teasing him.
"Well, just this one time, you'll have to trust me."
"Okay," she said obediently.
She went outdoors and climbed up onto his deck and looked on towards the endless diamond sky. She gasped at the beauty of their piece of earth. She sat quietly on a oversized pool chair and gazed towards the sky. Jack climbed up silently and watched her chest fall and rise. He approached Sam with his arms full of warm things.
"You forgot a sweater. Here, take one of mine."
She took it graciously. He then took a blanket and wrapped her shoulders in it.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
It didn't go unnoticed by him that she didn't call him Sir.
"Do you want me to give you a stargazing lesson or…," he trailed off.
"Okay. Well everyone generally knows where the big dipper is, so I'll start there."
She grinned and listened intently to his starbabble.
"Though I love looking at the stars with the naked eye, it's much cooler with a telescope."
"Okay," she said, following him to the telescope. She looked into the lens only to find darkness.
"It may help if I take the lens cover off," he said.
"You're probably right," she said blushing.
"Use this knob to focus in," he said taking her hand in his, leading it to the knob.
She gasped in amazement. "It's beautiful."
"I can understand why you love the stars so much. This is wonderful."
"I'm going to sit down. You go ahead and keep lookin'," he said as he retreated to the oversized chair to watch the stars silently.
"Did you ever take…," she trailed off as she glanced over at the chair. He was sleeping with a sweet smile on his face. She couldn't help but smile herself.
"Sir," she said quietly, gently shaking his shoulder.
"Wha-? I must've fallen asleep," he said shaking himself awake.
"Well, days without it make your brain override what you may consciously want."
"You can take my bed. I just changed the sheets and everything," he said yawning.
"That's okay, Sir. I can sleep on the couch."
"Don't be ridiculous Carter. Anyway, you said you haven't had a good night of sleep recently either. Now's your chance. Don't look at me like that. Unless you'd like me to take you home?
"No, Sir. I don't think either of us are in a position to drive," she yawned involuntarily.
"Then it's settled. I'll lead the way."
"Offering your bed to me. It's really kind of you."
"Yeah. Well…" he began, feeling a bit flustered. He couldn't believe he offered it to her either. Normally he wouldn't have. Maybe the lack of sleep was doing something to his brain. "Anything for you, Sam." 'D'oh! That didn't come out right!' he mentally smacked himself. Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight. She gave him a soft peck on the cheek and began the climb downward.
His mind wheeled. 'She did not just kiss me! That's not normal. She'd do it to Daniel or maybe even Teal'c. But to me? Her crotchety old superior?' He grinned like an idiot.
"Coming down, Sir?" she asked bringing him back to reality.
"Yeah," he said clearing his throat. "I just need to put the lenses back on the telescope."
"Okay. See you in a few hours."
She walked into his house and found her way into his bedroom. He had pictures of his family on the walls and pictures of his SG1 family. As she sat down, a cropped picture of Jack, Cassie and herself. Cassie was sleeping soundly in his arms. Sam sat behind him looking down Cassie tenderly. Sam picked it up for a closer look.
"She's grown up quite a bit since then," a voice said from behind her.
"Yeah. So much time has gone by since I've last seen her." She turned around to hear his response. He had his back turned to her while he changed his shirt.
"We should have a shindig sometime," he offered.'
"That'd be great."
He turned to her and smiled.
"Sir," she started.
"I was thinking and-"
"Hey," he joked, "this is our break. You should give your brain a rest."
She smiled and allowed the friendly banter. "There isn't any reason for you to sleep on the couch. We sleep together all the time off-world."
"That's different. It's okay, I really don't mind."
"Sir, you haven't had a good night sleep in a few days."
"I hog the blankets."
"I don't care."
"I have cold feet."
"I'm okay with that."
"I don't like to wear pants to bed."
Jack grinned at her last response. "If you sleep in my bed, I may involuntarily pull you close to me, trying to get enough body heat to keep us warm. Something tells me that you're a blanket hog."
"Smart survival tactics."
"Sam," he whined.
"Jack," she said in an equally matched tone. "Come on, we're wasting time that we could be sleeping."
"I don't have any more excuses."
"Then it's settled."
He began to unbutton his pants. Sam stared at him mesmerized.
"I wasn't lying when I said I had cold feet," was his response to her gaze. "Well, ladies first."
She pulled back the sheet and comforter back. To her surprise, there was a third layer. He had a velvet green blanket.
"A velvet blanket. I have one of these at home, in blue of course. I love it."
"Yeah. Charlie loved soft things. He'd rub his cheek against it and fall asleep. I've never slept soundly without it, onworld.
She climbed in bed and waited for him to follow. There was a slight depression on the bed. He adjusted himself and laid down with a sigh. She turned on her side and began to stroke his arm comfortingly. He opened one eye and looked at her.
"You're a good man, Jack," she whispered.
He reached over to turn the light out. He turned on his side to face her. Her eyes were closed and her features relaxed. He decided to close his eyes and do the same.
She awoke with a start. Jack was withering around in bed, muttering and moaning.
"Jack," she whispered in her sleep-filled daze. He didn't respond. She propped herself up on her elbows and tried again. "Jack!"
His eyes jerked open and he looked around the room for something. "Where's Charlie?" he asked loudly.
"Tell me! Where is he?" Jack shouted.
Sam bit back the tears and shakily told him. His eyes filled with shock and disbelief. A tearful sob wracked his distressed frame. More tears fell and Sam pulled him close to her chest. She cradled his head and whispered apologies to him. He sniffed and tried to clear his throat.
"It's hard sometimes, you know? He was about ten when he passed away. He'd be an adult by now. Probably off at some university. He was so smart."
"Tell me about him," she murmured.
"He loved hockey, just like his daddy. But his real passion was science. Sara had bought him one of those chemistry sets with the citric acid and baking soda. Being curious in nature, he disregarded the directions and made his own chemicals. Needless to say, we had more than one explosion in the house. He loved it."
"He sounds like you."
"He was so kindhearted. He never left anyone out of anything. He was perfect."
"It sounds like he got the best of both of you."
"Sometimes I can hear him laughing in my thoughts. Sam, he was everything to me. I lost my family. Sometimes it's too much to bear."
"I know. Look at me. I'm a middle age woman and I've never been married. Never had a child. The cross we have to bear with the Stargate program sometimes can be overwhelming. But I don't know where this program would be without you. You've added so much to this program and such life to our team. And in a sense, you've formed a family of your own with SG-1."
"What's my role again?"
"That's obvious. You're the father. Daniel is the mother figure, caring and compassionate. Teal'c is the big brother, gentle and complex but also strong and dark."
"What about you?"
"I'm the sister that bores everyone to death with technobabble."
His eyebrows rose at the use of his word. "I think you should switch roles with Daniel."
"Why is that?"
"Well, I'm not sure that Daniel would appreciate being called the mother of SG1. Anyway, your description of Daniel is fitting for you. Plus being brainy, a hardcore soldier and beautiful. It's no wonder we had such good kids. But I'm a little suspicious about Teal'c. Explain that one to me."
"Simple. The protein marker left from Jolinar messed with the skin pigment gene.
"Do you need a DNA test?"
"No, I believe you."
She laughed at the absurdity of their conversation. As their laughter died down, she reached for his hand.
"Nothing. We'd better get up and get the day started." She slipped her hand from his and started to get up. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her back down.
"I really shouldn't."
He shifted and pulled her closer to his chest. "If I retired this week, would you stay?"
"Sam, I'm not as young as I used to be. It's the last thing I'd like to admit to, but it's true. I've waited so long for something good to come along. I'm blind to the fact that I should've done it years ago."
Tears welled up in her eyes.
"I need you. I need someone to hold onto when times get rough. I need your smile. I need your warmth," he pleaded.
The expression on her face made her seem like she was miles away. He shook he gently. "Oh no you don't. I'm talking to you Sam. Don't wander away."
"Sir, I don't know what to say."
She turned the knife in his heart. He'd returned to his proper place as Sir. He nodded grimly.
"I'll take you home.
"Thank you," she whispered.
He got out of bed and pulled his jeans back on. He ran his nimble fingers through his silver hair. "I'll wait for you outside."
She nodded and watched him leave the room. He sighed and went out in the brisk morning. A thin layer of frost covered the landscape. He turned the truck on and began scraping the ice off the windows. She joined him shortly, wrapped in one of his work flannel shirts.
"Cold," he observed.
"Yes, Sir. I guess I should have asked, but…"
"Don't worry about it. Keep it."
"Sir, really. I couldn't do that.
"Sure you can. Take it home and don't give it back. Go and sit in the truck. It should be warm by now."
He continued scraping methodically. He was glad he had the answer he'd been looking for. She wasn't interested in him. Well, she might've been, but he wasn't worth giving up 'Deep Space Telemetry,' he smiled bitterly. 'I understand why she wouldn't. I'm old and battle worn. I'm not hot by any stretch of the imagination. Just a regular guy in love with a beautiful blonde genius. I think I hear a cliché. You know how I feel about those,' he told himself. He grimaced and continued to scrape.
"Sir, I left something in the house. Did you lock the front door?"
"You know me Carter. What do you think?"
She stepped out of the truck and returned to the house. The unique smell of his home overwhelmed her senses. She inhaled deeply and wandered aimlessly through the house. Her wanderings led her to his bedroom. She was drawn to a picture of Jack and his son both grinning happily. She ran her fingertips over both of their faces. Tears formed in her eyes and she didn't try to blink them back. Her heart ached for Jack and the painful reminder of his beloved son.
"Carter?' he called from the door.
She stayed silent. He went back outside and turned off the truck. He began to search for her in the house. She was on the edge of his bed holding one of his most prized possessions. The picture of him and Charlie.
"Whatcha doin'?" he mumbled.
"I envy you Jack. Even though you only had him for ten years, he must've been such a blessing. It-"
"I thought we ended this topic last night," his voice warned.
"Yes. I'm sorry I brought it up. It was selfish of me to make you relive something you've put in the past."
"A child's death isn't something you 'put in the past.' What is this about?"
The tears continued to fall and she couldn't swallow the lump in her throat. He moved next to her to sit on the bed.
"I want-" she sniffed and tried again, "children. I want a family. I'm a 39 year old woman with nothing to show for it."
"Carter…" he began.
"I've never had the swell in my belly of a child created by love. I'll never have a house filled with countless germs and in pleasant chaos. I won't even have a minivan with stale cracker crumbs and juice stains.
"Minivans aren't all they're cracked up to be," he joked.
She released a combination of a laugh and sob and looked at him with teary eyes. "I shouldn't dump my mid-life crisis on you."
"Hey, that's what friends are for," he grinned.
He cocked his head to look at her. "I know that I'm your commanding officer, but you'd think that after 8 years I'd be considered your friend."
"Of course I do," she said, giving him a half-hearted grin. "Any friendly advice?"
"Windex gets out most stains on upholstery and carpet."
"I don't love him."
His heart lept into his throat. "Sam?"
"Pete. I wanted it to work, so badly. I thought he might be the one. He accepted my involvement in the Stargate program and still wanted to be with me. But he didn't make my heart flutter or make me feel 'giddy.'"
"Is that a scientific measurement that determines love?"
"I don't know. But I know that I like the feeling."
"You've felt it before? Why haven't you acted on it?"
She gazed into his eyes and hoped that he would catch on.
'Damn, guess not,' she thought to herself. "Sir. Jack," she said taking a shaky breath. "I've had these feelings for quite a while. I couldn't act on them because… well," she stopped and looked at him for support. He reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, giving her permission to continue. "The feelings are toward a man I respect and admire so much. He's this really hot General of a top-secret military base. He has this quarky sense of humor. He also cares and takes care of all of those he commands," she said dreamily.
"Well if this 'guy'," he said in quotation marks," is everything you want, I'd say go for it. I know guys that would give limbs away to be with you."
She smiled to hide the shock she was feeling. 'He's got to be lying. He doesn't share his feelings with anyone.'
"Carter, you're off again. I know that your brain may be much more exciting than anything that I may say, but let's try to stay focused."
"What are you trying to say?"
"You're almost as bad as me," he smiled. "What I'm trying to say is, if you're talking about me being this guy you're in love with, then you've got it all wrong."
"How's that?" she asked.
"I do care about my people, but I'm not that funny. And where did you get the idea that I'm hot?" he blushed.
"I think an accurate description is in order. I'm me. Old, sarcastic and a touch crazy."
"I'll take the good with the bad. All in stride."
"I love you, you know?" he said, stroking her cheek.
"Will you spend the rest of the day with me?"
"I'll make it worth your while."
"I know you will."