Title: Blue Jays and Ponderosa Pine

Author: Ayiana

Fandom: Stargate SG-1

Pairing: Sam/Jack

Wordcount: 1,255

Spoilers: None

Rating: Suitable for everyone

A/N: Written for the SchmoopAge challenge community on Live Journal for the prompt: A smear of dirt across one cheek

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She's on her knees, digging in the dirt and cursing the mission that kept them off-world long enough for her yard to assert its independence. She hates weeds. And she hates gardening. And really, she should think about hiring somebody to do this for her, but somehow she's just never gotten around to it.

Wrapping her hand around a particularly stubborn vine, she gives it a yank. Nothing happens. In fact, she'd almost swear the damn thing is laughing at her. She growls and reaches for the shovel. Astrophysicists do not allow themselves to be defeated by weeds.

"Problems, Carter?"

His voice startles her. She drops the shovel and spins, already calculating defensive strategies. Then recognition dawns and she relaxes.

"Sir! What are you doing here?" He's supposed to be in Washington, not standing there in his dress uniform while she brushes sweat out of her eyes and wonders if she looks as grubby as she feels.

A smile twitches at the corner of his mouth. "Nice to see you, too."

Embarrassment washes over her. She isn't ordinarily so rude. "I just meant..."

"Relax, Carter. I'm in town for a meeting and thought I'd stop by to check on my bike."

"Oh!" Of course that was it. Only... "You mean my bike, don't you, sir?"

"Just because you bought it doesn't mean I can't keep an eye on it, does it? In fact," he regards her, one eyebrow raised. "I'd be willing to bet you've already made an upgrade or two."

She feels her face flush and turns away to collect her garden tools. "It's in the garage. Just let me put these away."

He crouches beside her, gathers up a handful of seed packets, flips through them. "I had no idea you had such a green thumb."

"I don't." But the seed packets call her a liar, and she sighs. "They're from an old high school friend. She swears gardening is easy."

"And yet..." He glances pointedly at her barren backyard.

Shrugging her shoulders, she takes the packets away from him and tucks them into the gardening tote. "Apparently my thumb is the wrong shade of green."

His eyes twinkle as he picks up the filled container. "Good to know you're human after all."

"Excuse me?" The comment puzzles her.

"I think this is the first time you've ever admitted that there's something you can't do."

"That's not true! There are lots of things I can't do!"

He's watching her, eyes still amused, hair sparkling silver in the sun. "Name one"

But her mind chooses that moment to go blank, and while she fumbles for an answer he walks off, leaving her staring after him. She has to move quickly to catch up to him, and by the time she does, they're entering the garage.

He looks at her, eyebrow raised. "Where do you want this stuff?"

"Just set it on the workbench."

The inside of the garage is dim and cool, the air layered with the smells of laundry soap, motor oil, and gasoline. Jack sets the tools down and moves across to the bikes. They're covered with tarps, even in here, and he gives her a glance of approval.

"Nice to see you're taking good care of her."

She doesn't answer. Instead, she reaches for the corner of a tarp and peels it back, revealing his old bike. "There. See? She's fine."

The bike gleams with reflected sunlight from the open door, and Jack comes over to rest his hand on the soft leather seat. He glances at the dials. The fuel gauge reads full, and he tilts his head in her direction. "Want to go for a ride?"

"Now?" She eyes his uniform with its sparkling medals and bright ribbons.

He sees the look and jerks his head toward the street. "Got a change of clothes in the car."

"In that case... You bet."

Twenty minutes later, they're on the road, and Sam leads him up into the mountains. Once they're out of traffic and away from town, she glances over at him, grins behind her helmet, and guns the throttle. She can't see his face, but he nods, and that's enough for her.

They race then, wind and scenery rushing past in a blur. Up and up, back and forth on the switchbacks, until they reach her favorite overlook. She pulls in, inches ahead of him, and slows to a stop. Laughing, she lowers the kickstand and removes her helmet. Beside her, Jack does the same, and he's grinning even as he shakes his head.

"You're a maniac."

She pockets her keys, tosses her head, and crosses to a nearby picnic table. "Too fast for you?" She's feeling impish, and free, and full of life, as a breeze ruffles her hair and a blue jay scolds them from a nearby tree.

Shaking his head, he tucks his helmet under his arm and walks over to her. She sits on the table, uses the bench as a foot rest, and looks out over the mountains. The view from here never fails to remind her of just how small and insignificant she is in the grand scheme of things. Odd how the mountains can make her feel that way when intergalactic space travel never really has. But maybe it's because these mountains, here, on her own planet, seem somehow more real to her than any of the hundreds of mountain ranges she's seen in her travels.

It's a warm day, and Sam unzips her jacket, slides it off her arms, and drops it on the table. Then she leans back on her palms and turns her face up to the sun. Beside her, Jack rests his hip against the table and unzips his own jacket. Butter soft leather brushes against her arm.

"It's a beautiful day," she murmurs. "I'm glad you came."

"Yeah," he says. "Me, too."

Something in his voice makes her turn her head, and at the look in his eyes she swallows. Hard.

But she doesn't say anything, and neither does he. And then he's leaning toward her, and her mind freeze-frames the moment, stores it safely away in the drawer in her mind labeled blue-jays and ponderosa pine.

His lips are soft on hers, and he tastes of the sun and the wind and something subtle that she can only define as Essence of Jack.

The kiss lasts a long time, and when he finally pulls away enough to look into her eyes, she wonders how her hand got tangled in the back of his shirt. He's watching her, and suddenly he grins, lifts his hand to cup her jaw, and brushes his thumb across her cheek. Then he pulls away, shows her the smudge of dirt.

"Looks," he says, "as though you brought the garden with you."

Mortified, she drops her chin and scrubs at her cheek with the back of her hand. But he stops her, his fingers twining with hers and bringing them down, away from her face. She blinks. Looks up. Meets the smile in his eyes.

He shakes his head. "Relax," he says. "It suits you. Besides. I've seen you look worse."

It's a reminder she could've lived without, and she snorts. "Yes. Well. At least it isn't green and slimy and crawling with alien bugs."

The comment makes him wince. "Can we not talk about that?"

She laughs, leans into him, and watches the sun set over the mountains. "So," she says. "Coming back next week?"

His fingers tighten around hers. "Oh, yeah."