Spoilers: Mention of events in Emancipation and Window of Opportunity, takes place prior to season 8
Disclaimer: It's like saving a baby someone left in the backseat of a hot car… even if it's not yours, someone still has to look out for its best interests.
Warning: (um) Fluff alert. Do I have to warn people about that? Seriously, very little plot. Just fluffaliciousness. Actually, there's angst and fluff. But really the angst is just a segue to the fluff, I swear.
AN: I've just made the command decision that AF personnel have fit reps the same as the Marines. If not, chalk another one up to the suspension of disbelief please.
Jack left the general's office with a frown. He never liked hearing that anyone under his command was dodging their responsibilities and, frankly, he expected more from Carter. He frowned harder when he realized that she was the only person in the universe, this or any other, who could bring out that condescending teacher side of him that wanted to lecture her about living up to her potential. He wanted to hate her for it, but really, he found that it was just one more of those things that she could evoke in him that no one else ever had or ever could and it just made him admire her even more.
It wasn't just about her not following the rules. It was about the underlying cause of her not following the rules. Because Jack knew, in order for Carter to even think about breaking rules, something big had to be bothering her. He really didn't like it when something bothered Carter even more than he really didn't like it when people under his command dodged their responsibilities.
He made his way to her lab quickly, determined to address the problem before he went home for the weekend. Otherwise, it was just going to plague him and he didn't want anything to interrupt his date with a six-pack and the hockey game on TV. He leaned in the doorway, watching Carter typing on her laptop. He'd never been good with computers or typing, but he knew that she was faster than most and there was something oddly hypnotic about watching her. The speed with which her fingers flew across the keyboard, decidedly faster than he could think, amazed him. He even found the repetitive clicking sounds oddly soothing. In a flash of complete insanity, he could imagine drifting off next to her in bed, that same sound lulling him to sleep. He was sure she was one of those people who fell asleep with her computer on her bed. It was just one more of those hopelessly endearing qualities he ascribed to her without any evidence that it was the case.
After a moment in his fantasy world, he shook his head, inwardly cringing that he was once again imagining something as completely inappropriate as being in bed with Carter, even if the only thing going on was typing. He cleared his throat and was rewarded with her face turning to his.
"Sir, I thought you had left for the weekend."
For a moment, he was held prisoner by her warm smile and he could do nothing besides smile back at her. He was pretty sure her smile could be used as a weapon, stunning men into willing zombies.
He cleared his throat again and willed his mind to stay focused. He only had to deal with one little problem and he knew Carter wouldn't give him shit about it. He could be on his way home in five minutes if he stopped distracting himself.
"I just left Hammond's office."
Carter's eyes left his as she ducked her head in shame. Jack was pleased, not that she was upset, but that she immediately knew what the problem was. "Yes, sir?"
"You're overdue for your fit rep, Carter."
"Just one part of it, sir."
He raised his eyebrow, a look he'd seen Teal'c use to effectively communicate every emotion known to both man and Jaffa. "Do you want to tell me why you haven't found the time, Carter?" He motioned around the lab, not needing to point out that she apparently had plenty of time at that moment.
"Not really, sir." She shifted around in her seat uncomfortably and Jack realized, possibly for the first time in their entire relationship, that she really, really wanted him to go away.
He crossed the room and sat down next to her. He'd expected her to have an excuse or to have simply forgotten. He hadn't expected such an honest answer from her. She usually told him what he wanted to hear. Short of that, she'd have a solution to what he didn't want to hear. She rarely didn't have anything to say at all.
"But you're going to tell me anyway, right?" He saw the dismay cross her face as she remembered she was talking to her CO, not her friend. He couldn't blame her; he hated to be reminded of the same thing.
"It's not a big deal, sir. I'll take care of it first thing tomorrow."
He didn't doubt the veracity of her promise to resolve it, but he knew full well that it was a much bigger deal than she let on. Not to mention that she looked positively nauseated at the thought. He reached out and covered her hand briefly with his own. "Carter, what's going on?"
She smiled bravely. "I'm a scientist, sir. We're not typically known for our prowess in gym class, sir."
Jack waved his hand dismissively. "You are as physically capable as anyone I've ever served with, Carter."
"I'm a girl, sir, in case you haven't noticed. Self-defense isn't my favorite sport."
"Oh, for crying out loud, Carter, I've seen you kick ass. You can take guys twice your size." He still fondly recalled looking on, when he'd barely known her, as she kicked the crap out of a guy in a knife fight. He'd never been prouder.
She smiled, accepting his compliment with a blush. "I'm fine defending myself in life or death circumstances, sir."
"So what's the problem?" He tried to discretely look at his watch, fearing that he was going to miss the start of the game.
She caught his glance though. "It's fine, sir. I said I'll take care of it in the morning and I will. Go watch the game, sir."
He grinned sheepishly, feeling bad for giving her the impression that he had something better to do. "Is that an order?"
She turned back to her computer, expecting him to walk away after her second assurance.
He wanted to. He knew she wasn't lying to him, that when he came to work on Monday morning everything would be resolved. But he couldn't walk away. He saw an opening, a way inside her armor, and it was more important than a hockey game that would invariably leave him shouting drunken curses at the screen. "Carter."
She looked up, surprised that he wasn't walking away. "Sir?"
"Is this a conscientious objection thing? You don't believe in defending yourself unless you're really in danger?"
She smiled, but it wasn't real and it didn't reach her eyes. "It's nothing, sir."
"If it was nothing, you would have told me to get rid of me by now."
She took a deep breath and Jack knew he was getting closer. "It's actually really embarrassing, sir, so if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not discuss it."
"It's not all the same to me, Carter. Are we going to have to have this conversation every time your dodge your fit rep?" Jack watched as she flinched before she met his eyes and lied straight to his face.
"I'm not dodging anything, sir. I forgot. Now that I've been reminded, I'll take care of it right away."
He recognized the last ditch attempt for what it was and didn't reprimand her. He'd told millions of lies in his time to get out of talking about things that he didn't want to talk about. Unfortunately, those were always the very things that he should have talked about.
He was faced with two options. He could continue to pry it out of her as a friend or he could order her to talk. Ordering her to talk greatly increased the odds that she would hold fast to her lie and shut him out completely. Prying it out of her was more likely to eventually get the truth, but he feared it would take hours.
"Trust me, Carter." He caught her startled expression and patted himself on the back. She'd been expecting him to order her to talk. "It won't leave this room."
She surprised him by doing as he asked, opening up to him without a drawn out fight. "My first fit rep after I graduated from the academy was a disaster, sir. I've been leery of them ever since."
He'd never imagined that Carter had ever been less than perfect at anything. It took him a moment to regain his footing and in that moment, he wondered what she wasn't telling him. "Did you bomb the whole thing or just the self-defense part?"
She buried her face in her hands, giving him a fair indication that she was far more embarrassed than she needed to be in front of him. "Just the self-defense. But it was bad, sir. I almost quit."
He winced. "That bad?" His hand found its way to her back, trying to soothe her. He was embarrassed when she looked up at the contact. Sometimes he wondered if his body had gotten the memo that touching her was a dangerous game to play.
"It started out really well. The guy I was fighting wasn't like Teal'c or anything. He was just an average guy. I flattened him four or five times." She met Jack's eyes and mirrored his smile at her words. "I was feeling really confident and that's something I learned you should never feel in a fight." She looked away, her eyebrows knitting together. "One minute I was walking away, the next minute I was pinned against the wall." She turned her face completely away, but Jack could still see the shudder that ran through her. "I was trying to fight, but he had my hands over my head and he was rubbing against me."
Her words made his blood run cold. That was not something that was supposed to happen in a self-defense test. He didn't like what she was alluding to. "Carter?"
"I was so scared, sir." She shook her head against the tears that threatened. "I could feel him. He wasn't joking around." She stopped for a minute, gathering her thoughts and emotions together and stuffing them back in the box. "The evaluator let him do it. He thought it would teach me a lesson."
Jack stared at her profile in horror. He couldn't belief that anyone had stood by and watched an attack like that happen. "What happened to the guy?" He was hoping for a court martial, but somehow he knew that was too much to expect.
Carter laughed a hard, bitter laugh. "One of the other guys in the gym pulled him off me. The evaluator thought the whole thing was funny and told me that I was as helpless as every other woman who thought she could make it in a man's world."
"Are you serious? Carter, that was attempted-"
Carter turned on him, her eyes flashing in anger. "No, sir, I should have been able to fight him off. I wasn't good enough."
"It wasn't your fault, Carter. Both of them should have been brought up on charges." He reached for her again, squeezing her hand. "Did you tell anyone?" He didn't really need to ask.
She shook her head. "I was so embarrassed that I couldn't tell anyone. I signed up for extra training." She smiled at him, trying to reassure him that she was ok. "I've passed every other evaluation since, sir. I just dread them."
"Do you remember their names?"
He couldn't be sure that she was telling the truth. "I could probably find it in your record, at least the evaluator."
She grinned at him, all upset gone from her eyes. "You can't kill them, sir."
He sighed exasperatedly. "I could make it look like an accident."
She laughed at his joke. "I'm sure you could, sir. Thanks for the offer." She closed her laptop and stood up, gathering her things together. "I feel better having told someone, actually. Thank you for listening. Have a good weekend."
He grabbed her wrist and inclined his head toward the door. "Come on."
"Sir?" She looked confused.
"You can kick my ass and then you'll feel better about tomorrow."
He saw the twinkle in her eyes for a just a moment before she shook her head. "That's all right, sir. I'll be fine."
He knew it was a bad idea, but he was enthralled with it. He had no doubts that she could flatten him. She knew his weaknesses. And he knew hers - she couldn't resist a challenge. "What? Don't you think you can take me?"
She grinned, trying to get out of it. "You do have a sordid military past, sir."
He laughed, thinking of the special ops that mostly involved him staying in cramped, painful positions for hours on end where his only thought was about why he'd had that extra cup of coffee. "Come on, Carter. Unless you're afraid."
She shook her head. Then she held his eyes as she answered. "I could never be afraid of you, sir." She followed him without another argument.
Their match went pretty much the way Jack expected. He spent most of the time flat on his back with the wind knocked out of him. In the beginning, he'd actually held back, not wanting to hurt her or scare her or make her think she couldn't beat him. As it became increasingly clear that she'd used that horrible event in her past to strengthen her fighting skills, he stopped holding back and was proud, no matter how embarrassing it would have been had anyone else been there, that Carter was skilled enough to beat him in a fight.
The last time she took him down, he landed hard on his knee. He flopped onto his back, still seeing stars. "Damn, Carter, I think you busted my knee again."
She knelt down beside him in a second, trying to evaluate his knee for any real damage. "I think you'll live, sir." She settled crossed-legged beside him. "Thank you, sir, this was fun."
He laughed, despite the pain. He'd wanted to beat up several of his COs over the years and he could only imagine how much fun it would have been had he been given the opportunity. Of course, he wasn't sure that he'd have dared taking them down as many times as Carter had. He hadn't gotten the upper hand once, even though he was clearly the stronger of the two. He was starting to think he needed a refresher course.
"You know, Carter, I'm having trouble finding a weak spot to exploit."
She grinned proudly. "I told you I'd be ok, sir. I've never been in another situation like that in all these years." Her smile faltered a bit and he saw it.
That was the weak spot. That was her fear. It was the only thing that could shake her confidence. He wanted to make sure that no one ever shook her confidence again.
He moved quickly, ignoring the protest in his battered body. She was caught completely off-guard as he rolled over, pulling her under him as he went. His hands grabbed hers, immobilizing them at her sides. He wasn't trying to scare her; he only wanted her to learn that she could still fight her way out of being pinned down.
He felt her body tense under his as she realized what was happening. He readied himself for the blow, for the quick jerk of her knee that would cause him agonizing pain. He was willing to endure it to help her past her fear.
But he felt her relax a moment later. Her whole body was limp under him. She wasn't struggling to get her arms free. She was scared.
He leaned toward her, pressing his face against hers as he whispered in her ear. "It's me, Carter. You're safe."
He wasn't expecting her to respond. He figured from the way she'd turned her face away from his that she was crying.
"I know, sir." Her voice sounded normal, strong as ever, not tearful.
Her words rolled around in his head as he tried, and failed, to make sense of them. He wasn't sure what tactic she was using, but going completely limp wasn't going to win her any points in a fit rep. "Then why aren't you fighting me?"
She turned to face him, her normally light eyes dark. "I don't really want to, sir."
As if her words weren't shocking enough, she shifted her hips the slightest bit, rendering his body completely at her mercy.
He was at a loss for anything else to do, so he kissed her. She was perfectly willing; she'd told him as much. His hands abandoned their hold on her wrists, moving to her face as he deepened the kiss.
It only took a second for his body to relax. He couldn't think of anything but how wonderful she tasted and how happy he was that he'd insisted she go to the gym with him.
And then he was flat on his back once again with his wrists pinned under Carter's knees as she knelt over him. The excruciating pain of her weight on his wrists brought him back to himself.
"Shit, Carter, that hurts."
She laughed, pride shining in her eyes. "Cry uncle."
Oh, he was mad. He was pissed. He'd never been taken advantage of like that. He wanted to kill her. But he'd have to get out from under her to do that, and with the way she'd positioned herself, he didn't stand a chance. "Get off me!"
She laughed at his frustration. "Not until you cry uncle, sir."
"Carter!" His hands were going numb, but he was too mad to give up. He tried to wiggle his hands free, but small as she was, her weight had his hands trapped.
"I'm perfectly capable of defending myself, sir."
"I see that, Carter. Now let me up!" He was mortified. And he knew the longer he stayed like that, the greater the chance that someone would catch him having been beaten by a girl, even if the girl was Samantha Carter.
"Are your hands numb yet, sir?" Her sweet smile was driving him out of his mind.
"You'd better hope they are or else I'll strangle you with them!" He tried to tell himself that the fact she had him pinned helplessly to the floor and was gloating about it should not be turning him on, but apparently his body had other ideas. He couldn't remember a time when he'd ever wanted her more.
"Give up yet, sir?"
"Fine, yes. I give. Uncle."
She giggled as she leaned back, her weight finally leaving his wrists. "You're the one who challenged me, sir."
He rubbed his wrists, hoping the feeling would come back. "Which I assure you, I'll never do again." He shook his hands, feeling absolutely nothing in them at all. "You're so driving me home if I can't drive, Carter."
She giggled again. "I certainly won't leave you here all pathetic and helpless, sir."
"I think you did permanent damage." He knew he shouldn't pout at her, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.
"Maybe to your ego." She shifted then, drawing his attention to the fact that, while she'd freed his hands, she was still straddling him.
He dropped his hands to his side, making sure they were out of her reach, and looked up at her. "Carter?"
Her eyes were still dark and her lips were still smiling. He couldn't help but recall those precious moments when she'd let him kiss her. He hated that she'd known how he would react and had used it against him. He looked away, even more embarrassed at his feelings for her than as his defeat. He realized she'd gotten over him somehow.
But then he felt her move suddenly, her hair tickling his face as she nuzzled his neck. He closed his eyes, bracing himself against the onslaught of emotions. "You won, Carter, you proved your point. Stop."
She lifted her head slightly and her lips brushed his ear as she spoke. "You really think I would have tried that with anyone else, Jack?"
He turned back to glare at her with his most disapproving stare. "I am seriously questioning your morals at this point, Carter. You're mean. Cruel."
"Are you sorry you kissed me?" Her smirk proved that she already knew the answer - that he wasn't sorry at all.
He looked away. "Heartless." He couldn't think about how much it hurt that she'd manipulated him like that.
"Oh, come on. Did you really think I was going to pass up a perfectly valid opportunity to kiss you?" Her words shocked him once again and his eyes flew to hers. "I just wanted to know what it was like." She didn't sound so confident anymore. She sounded scared.
"Did you think it was going to be any different the second time?" The moment the words left his lips, he realized his mistake. She had no recollection of their first real kiss, the one he'd planned during the time loop. His eyes widened as hers narrowed.
"That's what you were grinning about, isn't it?"
He smirked back at her. "Oh, come on. Did you really think I was going to pass up a perfectly valid opportunity to kiss you? I just wanted to know what it was like."
She smiled and shifted off him, climbing to her feet. "Ok, then we're even."
Jack unhappily stood up next to her. For all his protesting, he'd rather enjoyed it when she was sitting on him. "Fine, we're even. Get Daniel to help you with your next fit rep." He started toward the door.
Carter giggled, falling in step beside him. "Now that wouldn't be any fun at all."
"But you might feel bad beating him up." He tried not to be shocked when her hand slid into his, but it was a losing battle.
"Do you still need me to drive you home?"
The feeling was returning to his hands, leaving him with the painful sensation of pins and needles. "I think you already took me for a ride today, Carter."
She stopped walking, their joined hands causing him to stop as well. "Are you angry, sir?"
He lifted up their hands, demonstrating their entwined fingers. "Not really."
She smiled. "Want some company for the game?"
"I won't have to wrestle you for control of the remote, will I?"
"Not if we work something out in advance." She winked at him.
He wasn't used to the playful, flirtatious side of her, but he liked it. He pulled quickly down the hall and into the elevator, making a mental note that he was going to have to find and destroy the surveillance tape from the gym and the hallway first thing on Monday morning. Luckily, there were no cameras in the elevator.
He pressed her against the wall and leaning in, teasingly close to her mouth. "Just what sort of something are you thinking of?"
She kissed him soundly on the mouth. "I'm sure you can think of something."
He was pretty sure he was going to wind up not watching the hockey game after all. But with Carter in his arms, he didn't really care all that much.