Chapter 1: Reunions
A few hours later
Still wearing his dress uniform, Jack exited the cab with a pizza in one hand and his briefcase in the other. As his eyes looked up and scanned the exterior of the high-rise apartment building, he wondered why in the world Carter would want to live in the center of Pentagon City. Sure... it was within walking distance of work and every single shop you could ever think of, but it was also extremely crowded and noisy. It just didn't seem like Carter's style. At least not the Carter he knew.
Since Sam had just moved into her apartment that very day, and Jack had been unable to get off work to help out, he had decided to surprise her with dinner...and hopefully more. He stopped off to get pizza from a local Italian place that he had recently discovered, hoping that Carter had some beers on hand to accompany the food. After the miserable day he had endured, he was so looking forward to spending a relaxing evening with her. It seemed whenever he was in Sam's presence all worries and cares evaporated. It was as if she had the power to magically erase everything bad or upsetting in his life with just one smile.
He entered the apartment building only to find an elegantly decorated foyer, complete with gilt mirrors, marble floors, fresh flower arrangements, and a crystal chandelier. It was the type of place where people who dined on fois gras and filet mignon lived, not those who preferred to indulge in pepperoni pizza and beer.
At the back of the room stood two sets of elevators. Jack crossed the lobby towards them and awkwardly hit the 'up' button with one of his free fingers. He only had to wait seconds for the doors to open with a small ding. As he was riding up to the 12th floor, he again contemplated how different this living arrangement was from Carter's house in Colorado Springs.
Her house in Colorado was comfortable...cozy even. It was a place you could just hang out in. It had a nice yard and a pretty park across the street where you could often see families out walking together and children playing ball.
This place was...formal...cold...uptight. At least that's what Jack thought. But Carter obviously liked it. She had told him earlier that this was the same apartment building she had lived in before when she worked at the Pentagon before being transferred to Cheyenne Mountain. She also had informed him that a lot of people who had worked with her before still lived here. So, obviously she liked the idea of being in familiar surroundings and living near old friends - even if that meant living in a building like this.
The elevator stopped at the 12th floor and Jack got out and strolled down the hall towards Carter's new apartment. He was a bit anxious as he shifted his briefcase and pizza into one hand and lifted his other to knock on her door. They had not seen each other in over two weeks and the anticipation was nearly killing him. In fact he had found it increasingly difficult to concentrate during his meetings throughout the day with images of Sam interrupting his thoughts at the most inopportune moments.
To his surprise, no one answered the door when he knocked. He waited for a few moments before trying again. Realizing only now that she hadn't been expecting him to drop by, he suddenly worried that she might have decided to go out to dinner and he had missed her.
A few seconds later, Jack breathed a sigh of relief when the door slowly opened. But much to Jack's shock and dismay, Sam Carter was not the person standing before him. Instead a thirty-something, dark-haired man with clear green eyes stood before him wearing a pair of torn up jeans and a t-shirt. Jack was all the more surprised because he knew the man standing before him very well. It was Major Jason Webber - the same Major Webber who had taken the day off.
"General O'Neill?" Webber's eyes widened in surprise as he greeted his commanding officer.
"Webber?" O'Neill continued to take in his aide's casual appearance. The younger man was holding an open beer in his left hand. He had obviously settled in for a relaxing evening, most likely expecting to spend it in front of the TV watching whatever sports event that was on tonight.
Jack quickly realized his mistake and apologized in embarrassment, "Sorry, Webber, I must have the wrong apartment."
He was just about to turn around and leave, when he heard a familiar female voice coming from inside the apartment.
"Hey, Hot Shot! The bathroom's all yours," the voice called out.
At the sound of her voice, Jack's head immediately snapped back around and he glared at Webber suspiciously. He pushed past the younger officer into the apartment only to find a woman, dressed only in a terry bathrobe, vigorously drying her hair with a towel. As she pulled the towel down away from her face and looked up, her blue eyes widened in surprise as she beheld the man standing before her. The same look of shock and disbelief was mirrored in Jack's own countenance.
"Hey Sam...looks like you've got company," Webber pointed out the obvious. "I had no idea you and General O'Neill were such good friends," he added, trying to diffuse an increasingly awkward situation.
Jack warily looked back and forth between Webber and Sam, his brown eyes glittering with barely concealed anger and jealousy. He was trying his best to hide his emotions behind a mask of stony indifference and he was doing so unsuccessfully.
"General O'Neill...Sir? What are you doing here?" Sam uttered awkwardly, her eyes nervously flitting towards Webber who was absorbing the scene before him with keen interest, a hint of a smile dawning on his face.
Jack was growing more irritated by the moment and Sam's formal address only served to annoy him more. She had not called him 'sir' in over a month - ever since they had started dating - and her use of the term at this moment was like a slap in the face. He quickly realized from the way she was looking at Webber that she was trying to conceal the truth about their relationship from her other guest.
The question was why. Jack could think of only one reason for her wanting to do so and the evidence presented was growing clearer to him by the moment. To all appearances, Webber and Sam had been engaged in something before he had arrived. In his growing jealousy, Jack irrationally began to suspect that Sam didn't want Webber to know that she had until recently been sleeping with his boss for a very good reason. But he was in no mood to have a big scene at present, especially in front of his aide.
"I just stopped by to say hello and bring you some dinner...as a housewarming gift," Jack gruffly announced, trying to salvage his dignity in the face of a very embarrassing situation. It wasn't every day that you dropped by to see your girlfriend and found her with another man. "I thought you might be too tired and busy to fix anything. Guess I was right," he added, hastily handing the pizza to Sam.
"I…thank you, sir," she stuttered. She took his offering, but continued to stand there staring at him catatonically. From his expression, Sam could tell he was not happy. In fact, she could clearly see the hurt and anger radiating in his hard eyes. But for once in her life, she was frozen…she had no idea what to do.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Jack spoke again, "Look...I can see you're busy, so I'll just take off and leave you two to enjoy your evening. I'll stop by for a chat on Monday at work, Colonel Carter."
He turned quickly and abruptly exited the apartment, not waiting for any explanations or apologies. Sam, meanwhile, just stood there holding the pizza, looking like her whole world had just come crashing down around her. She looked at her remaining companion helplessly, her mouth opening and closing in complete astonishment at what had just transpired in her apartment.
Jason Webber, who had remained silent during the whole episode, immediately noted Sam's reaction and shook his head in a combination of amusement and incomprehension. The second he had seen the way the General and Sam had looked at each other, he immediately understood that something was definitely going on between the two…and it was definitely more than just friendship. He liked General O'Neill and had immense respect for the man. He was one of the best COs Jason had ever had, even if the older man's odd sense of humor was an acquired taste. And he could think of no better man for his friend than Jack O'Neill.
Jason had patiently observed Sam's messy love life over the years. She had always been completely hopeless when it came to romantic relationships and it pained him to see that yet another one was most likely going down the drain. And she was just standing there and letting it happen.
"What the hell are you waiting for, Sam?" he asked reproachfully. "Go after him! Don't let him just leave like that."
Sam looked at her friend with wide eyes, quickly realizing that her secret was now completely and totally out of the bag. A sheepish grin tugged at the corners of her mouth as she digested his advice. Within days she knew everyone within the Homeworld Security Office, if not the entire Pentagon, would know about her relationship with Jack. Even though she had hoped to keep it a secret for at least a little while longer, somehow it didn't bother her as much as she had thought it would.
With one determined nod, she pushed the pizza box into Jason's awaiting arms and ran as fast as she could down the hall after Jack. She turned the corner, just in time to see Jack enter the elevator. She ran faster, desperately trying to reach him before the door closed. Sliding to a halt in front of the elevator doors, she grunted in frustration as they abruptly shut in front of her. Too late…she was too late.
'Time for Plan B,' she thought to herself as she ran to a nearby stairwell. Nimbly rushing down the concrete stairs, she began desperately chanting to herself, 'Please let the elevators go slow tonight. Please let me get to him in time. Please let him listen.'
Sam reached the ground floor in record time and flew into the lobby. Once again, she was just in time to see Jack's retreating form as he was leaving the building. He was always one step ahead of her.
"General!" she yelled out, urgently trying to get his attention. Jack did not stop, nor turn, even though she was certain that he had heard her.
Sam took a couple of deep breaths to regain her composure before once again rushing after him. She shot out of the revolving door at the front of the building, looking both ways down the sidewalk. A few feet away, she spied Jack's dark figure commandeering a taxi.
He was just stepping into the backseat when she yelled out, "Jack!"
The sound of his first name coming from Samantha Carter's mouth immediately got his attention. Jack backed out of the cab and turned to face his former second-in-command who was slowly walking towards him down the sidewalk.
Sam approached him hesitantly, almost afraid that she would scare him off and he would decide to turn and bolt. As she got closer, she saw with painful clarity the look of hurt and betrayal on his face.
"Jack..." she cooed softly, trying her best not to scare him off. Once she was close enough, Sam wrapped her fingers firmly around his wrists. "Don't you dare leave me like this."
Jack shook his head sorrowfully. "How do you expect me to react, Carter? I decide to surprise you on your first night in town and instead I find out that you've been playing house all day with my aide!"
He let out a frustrated moan as an unmistakable sadness filled his eyes.
"How long has it been going on anyway?" he asked.
Sam looked up at him, completely confused. "What?"
"You and Webber, of course. I didn't realize you two were so close. Hell, I didn't realize that you two even knew each other."
A knowing smile crept across her face. Jack was jealous. Not once in all the time they had known each other had Jack ever betrayed the slightest bit of jealousy over her - even when she had been engaged to Pete. She immediately chastised herself for being somewhat pleased at his reaction, but she couldn't help it. It was nice to know that he cared so much…that she elicited such a response from him. At the same time, she was frustrated and a little angry at the fact that Jack had just assumed something was going on between her and Jason… as if there could ever be anyone else for her but the man standing right in front of her.
"Jack...I've known Jason for years. We flew together in the Gulf and then we later worked together at the Pentagon. He lives a few floors up from me."
"Hence your decision to move into this monstrosity of an apartment building..."
"Jack..." she interrupted him in an admonishing tone. "Jason is just a friend, that's all he has ever been. He just helped me move in all of my stuff today. We had just finished about a half-an-hour before you arrived."
Sam paused slightly before continuing, still seeing the disbelief in Jack's eyes. "I called you at your office earlier to see if you wanted to meet me for dinner and you never called me back. I just figured you were too busy, so…I thought it would be nice to take Jason out instead as a thank you. We had just finished unpacking the boxes and we both wanted to clean up a bit before heading out to the restaurant. I swear, Jack... nothing is going on between us. Jason's like a little brother to me."
Jack took a moment to digest this information. Sam had not released her grip on his wrists. Instead she began gently rubbing her thumbs in circles over his skin, attempting to reassure him with her caressing touch.
"Why didn't you just tell me that before…a few minutes ago in your apartment?" he asked. "The way you were acting, it looked as if you were trying to hide something from me."
"I was trying hide something, Jack. But not from you… from Jason. You've never worked at the Pentagon before. The gossip around that place is vicious and spreads like wildfire. I just didn't want anyone to know about us just yet. I wanted to get settled into my new job before I had every officer and enlisted person in the building whispering behind my back about how I slept my way up through the ranks."
"Webber doesn't seem to be the type to gossip, Carter," Jack replied disbelievingly.
Sam chuckled lightly at his naiveté. It amazed her that after two months at the Pentagon, Jack still had no clue as to how insidious the grapevine was there…or how much his aide liked to talk.
"Then you don't know Jason very well. He's a really sweet guy and one of the best friends a person could have, but he gets carried away sometimes. He would never imply to anyone that I got where I am on anything other than my own merits. But he will tell anyone who will listen about us being a couple. He just can't help himself. For instance, I already know all about Staff Sergeant Marcy Bedford and the major crush she has on you."
"She does not have a crush on me!" Jack denied, although he suspected it might be true.
Sam smiled teasingly. "According to Jason, she does. And you can bet money that come Monday morning everyone in your office and at R+D will know all about you and me."
"I think you're overacting just a little, Carter."
Sam merely shrugged, knowing that her point would be made soon enough. "Please, Jack. Just come back upstairs. I'll kick Jason out and we can catch up while enjoying that pizza you brought. Just the two of us," she coaxed.
Sam sighed in relief as Jack nodded in acquiescence, and the cloud of darkness that had adorned his face for the past few minutes lifted. A slight flush spread over his face as he realized how much he had overreacted and let his jealousy get the best of him. His embarrassed expression was quickly replaced by a quiet smile as he leaned down to place a chaste kiss on Sam's mouth.
"Sam?" he asked, breaking away from their brief kiss.
"You do realize that you are standing outside, on one of the busiest streets in Arlington I might add, in just a bathrobe?"
Sam looked down at herself in complete mortification and embarrassment. "Oh God! Why didn't you tell me? I'm not even wearing shoes!"
"Well, my dear, I think I just did. I also think it's time that I get you back inside."
He reached back into the cab to get his briefcase. Looping his free arm around her waist, they sauntered back inside the apartment building, side by side.
"Jack?" she asked as he held the door open for her.
"About what you said about my apartment building... is it really that bad?"
Jack plastered on an apologetic smirk as he ushered her forward towards the elevators. "I plead the fifth!"
The next morning
Sam awoke in a pool of sunlight that streamed in from her balcony windows. She lazily stretched her arms above her head, deciding it was finally time to get up. She had not slept so well in... well at least two weeks. Not since she had been in Jack's bed at the cabin...with him right there next to her.
She and Jack had returned to her apartment the previous evening only to find Jason, a couple of beers, and a third of their pizza gone. In its place, was a brief note: 'Decided to take off. Thank the General for the pizza for me. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Have Fun! Jason.'
And they quickly decided to follow Jason's sage advice – they did have fun. As they finished off the rest of the pizza and beer, Sam recounted her adventure-filled trip from Colorado to DC in a U-haul van and Jack complained about the never-ending list of meetings he had been to that week.
In the end, they had huddled together on the couch and popped an old movie into Sam's DVD Player that Jack had ever so adeptly hooked up for her.
"You know, I could have done that," Sam noted as the opening titles came on.
"Sure...probably better than me," Jack conceded. "Being the mechanical genius you are, you could also have figured out how to get better picture quality and more channels."
"Why did you insist on doing it then?"
Jack shrugged. "It's a guy thing. It's a boyfriend's responsibility to hook up his girlfriend's electronic stuff, isn't it? Besides...it made me feel useful after today."
She looked at him uncertainly. "What about today?"
"You know...not being able to help you move in. And then there's the whole getting jealous over Webber thing."
Sam sighed and reached out to give his hand a gentle squeeze. "Jack...I understand about today. You are a very, very important and busy guy. But if you feel really bad about it, you can make it up to me," she added in a low voice.
"Oh really?" Jack's eyebrows shot up. "How?"
"Like this..." Her lips collided with his, as she pushed him back onto the couch and stretched herself over him.
After that, they had quickly decided to abandon the movie and had continued their own, very different form of entertainment in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, Jack had to get up early the next morning to return to his house to get ready for work. Although it was Saturday, he still had paperwork to finish before Monday when he would once again be inundated with meetings all week. And hence, Sam awoke alone.
She quickly got out of bed and went into the kitchen to start her day, knowing she still had a lot of unpacking and tidying up to do before she started work on Monday. As she spied a plate filled with blueberry muffins on the counter, she smiled to herself at Jack's thoughtfulness.
Some guys brought you candy and some brought flowers. Leave it to Jack to bring food. That was the man she loved…always thinking with his stomach. Right next to the muffins was a note from Jack saying that he would be by later to take her out to dinner. At that moment, she was certain that moving to Washington was the best decision she had ever made.
Getting a life was so much better than she could have possibly ever imagined.