For those of you reading Torment of Tantalus, I apologize for being momentarily sidetracked by this little project. However, you can rest assured that this is a one-shot fic and more Torment is already in the process of being written!
I picked the inspiration for this fic from a "prompt amnesty" post at the SJFanfic10 Livejournal community. (And I really HAD to write this. I mean, c'mon… S/J ship and a fundamental principle of quantum physics? Can you say "red flag?" I am, after all, not only a shipper and fanfic author, but a physics teacher to boot!) Anyway, hope you enjoy the results!
Title: Jack vs. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle
Disclaimer: Not mine. Borrowed for purely selfish reasons. (Though, really, MGM would have been much better off giving ME the rights to SG-1, in light of SciFi's recent betrayal!!)
Classifications: Sam/Jack fluff/humor/romance
Season/Spoilers: S7, post-Grace, pre-Pete – my new favorite fanfic timeframe. (Some references to the events up to that point, nothing terribly revealing.)
Summary: Jack discovers that the best things in the universe are unpredictable. (BTW, this is the shortest fanfic I've ever written!)
Weak blue light outlined the contours of Sam's face as she concentrated on her laptop's screen with single-minded intensity. The familiar, dull ache in her neck and shoulders vaguely reminded her that she'd been sitting in this position for far too long. Still, she knew she was close to a breakthrough. Just a few more minutes…
"Carter! What the hell are you still doing here?"
The sound of her CO's familiar, gruff voice startled Sam from her near-hypnotic focus on her laptop. Jerking upright, she blinked owlishly as her eyes struggled to take in the image of his silhouette in her doorway. "Sorry, sir," she mumbled. "Just trying to wrap this up."
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, like I've never heard that line from you before." Spearing her with an unflinching stare, he took three steps into her lab and stopped, crossing his arms in a rather intimidating gesture. "You need to get out of here. Now." When she opened her mouth to object, he cut her off immediately. "Eh! You heard me! Doc Frasier made it pretty clear that you need to take it easy for a while. Can't have you overtaxing that valuable brain of yours – not after you almost scrambled it last month." A shadow flickered over his features as he mentioned her nearly-disastrous trip aboard the Prometheus. "Whatever it is you're working on, it can wait until tomorrow. Besides, we're all meeting at Sullivan's tonight – or did you forget?"
Sam swallowed a wince at his words. She hadn't forgotten that Janet and the rest of SG-1 would be meeting for drinks this evening. She'd just been hoping to avoid the outing. Ever since her return from deep space, she'd been having a hard time relating to her dearest friends. Her concussion-induced hallucinations of them had been just a little too revealing for her comfort. Especially the vivid conversation… and other, less verbal interactions… she'd had with the man now standing in front of her. "No, I didn't forget. I just really wanted to finish this before leaving. I'm at a pretty critical point right now."
Jack looked unmoved. "Well, then you'll be at a pretty critical point when you come back tomorrow." His tone left no room for argument. Then, eyeing her laptop and the odd contraption it was attached to, his face registered mild curiosity. "Whatcha' working on, anyway?"
Sam directed her attention to her lab bench, instantly absorbed by the complex instrumentation resting there. "This is part of a naquadah generator. I was hoping to couple it with a device we've been developing at Area 51 to amplify energy output. The problem I'm having is that the diffraction pattern formed by the stream of alpha particles as it passes through the crystal isn't effectively stimulating the receptor screen. It's taking too long to form a readily identifiable pattern, which means I can't localize the concentrated areas of output efficiently. I somehow need to change the frequency of the radiation wave without overloading the reactor."
Jack blinked. Why had he imagined he'd get a short, understandable answer from her?
Seeing the utterly blank look on her CO's face, Sam smiled slightly and decided to try again. In truth, she knew he didn't really care what she was working on, but if it kept her from that bar for a few more minutes, she was more than willing to explain it anyhow. "The problem is that quantum particles – the tiniest parts of matter – don't behave predictably." She pushed away from her computer and looked at her CO intently. "Think about a golf ball in flight."
Suddenly, Jack's eyes flickered with interest. "I like golf," he said, tentatively willing to hear her out.
Sam suppressed an amused grin at his words. "Then you know that if you hit a golf ball with the same force in the same direction through the same atmospheric conditions, it'll always land in the same place."
Jack's smile was wry. "Assuming you're good enough to actually do that, sure."
She chuckled. "Well, at any rate, if you knew the ball's momentum and location, you could accurately predict where it was going to land, right?" Seeing his nod of understanding, she continued. "Quantum particles don't work that way. There's a mathematical equation in quantum physics called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It says that the more accurately you know a particle's momentum, the less accurately you can predict its position, and vice-versa. This leads to some very unusual behavior. For example, scientists can predict the probable location of a moving electron, but this is just a statistical guess. In reality, the electron could be where you predicted – or, it could be on the other side of the universe." She paused, looking for an analogy which would help her explain the idea. "If golf balls behaved like quantum particles, every time you hit one, you'd have no idea where it was going to land. You might know that there was a 70-percent chance it'd land on the fairway, a 28-percent chance it'd land on the rough, a 1.5-percent chance it'd land in the parking lot, a .49999-percent chance it'd land in somewhere in the continental US, and a .00001-percent chance it'd end up in China. But, no matter how you hit the ball, it would have the same statistical probability of ending up in China every time. Even the most perfect shot could land the ball somewhere in the next state."
Jack tilted his head. "That'd make for more interesting televised golf matches."
She laughed. "True. Of course, it would also lead to some very frustrated golfers." Then, shrugging, she gestured to the machines on her table. "Which is why I'm so stumped right now. I'm essentially trying to predict the motion of something unpredictable." She sighed. "It's like trying to forecast human behavior. You might have some idea what a person is going to do, but the more specific your predictions, the more likely you are to be wrong. For example, if you wanted to guess the location of a random person at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, you'd probably figure he'd be at work. And maybe he is. But the more specific you get, the less accurate you're likely to be. You might guess he's at his desk. But what if he's in the bathroom? Or at the copy machine? Or what if it's his week off? Maybe he really is in China." She sighed. "It's practically impossible to be right every time."
Gazing at the cluttered lab bench, Jack appeared thoughtful. "Oh, I don't know about that," he said with a faint smile. "I knew exactly where to find you." His eyes sparkled. "I guess that makes you more of a golf ball than an electron."
Sam opened her mouth to argue, when she slowly closed it again. It was hard to deny. She was insipidly predictable. Shrugging, she conceded the point. "Probably. Which might be why I'm having such a hard time with the alpha particles."
Jack waved a hand dismissively. "Relax, Carter. You'll figure it out." Then, with a stern cast to his features, he pointed toward the door. "But not until tomorrow. Right now, you're going home to change so you can meet the rest of us at Sullivan's in an hour." His tone was uncompromising.
Sam sighed. There was no point in arguing with him. Snapping the cover of her laptop shut, she looked at him darkly. "Happy now?"
He grinned. "When you're sitting behind the bar with a cold brew in your hand, then I'll be happy." Gesturing to the door he bowed his head slightly. "After you."
Throwing up her hands in defeat, Sam stood and stalked out the door. So much for a quiet night in her lab.
Standing in front of her bedroom mirror, Sam sighed. Her tailored blouse and linen pants were classy and fashionable, but hardly eye-catching. In fact, her entire appearance – from hair, to makeup, to shoes – was, well, bland.
And there it was. She felt supremely, profoundly dissatisfied with her life. Not because she lacked for challenges, or because she wasn't surrounded by fascinating people – because, heaven knew, both of those she had in excess. No, Sam's discontent existed solely because she'd stopped pushing herself. Somehow, in the course of doing the most stimulating and capricious job in the universe, she herself had become dull and unimaginative.
This was at the crux of her discomfort around her friends. After all, if the hallucinations of those closest to her were able to diagnose her shortcomings, wasn't it possible that the actual people did, also? That thought created a dark knot of queasiness in her gut. She hated appearing dull and boring to herself. The thought of looking that way to the people she admired most was almost unbearable.
Softly, a tiny voice in the back of her head mocked her.
"I guess that makes you more of a golf ball than an electron."
Sam winced in spite of herself. Her CO was right. She was ridiculously predictable.
Every day, she got up, went to work, did her best to solve the mysteries of the universe, politely bowed to the will of the Air Force, and then went home. Alone.
In light of her little hallucinated heart-to-heart with herself, she could no longer deny what her subconscious was trying to tell her. She'd deprived herself of the chance for a satisfying personal life repeatedly over the last seven years. Not because she didn't know what she wanted – a searing (if imaginary) kiss had more than confirmed that instinct. Sighing, Sam finally allowed herself to acknowledge the truth. She was lonely and dissatisfied, not because she felt some higher call to duty and honor, but because she was too afraid to find out what might happen if she broke the rules.
She was as boring and banal as the Newtonian physics which governed the macroscopic world around her.
It was then, staring dispassionately into her bedroom mirror, when something truly unpredictable happened to Sam. Perhaps it had been the conversations she'd had with her imaginary friends and family aboard Prometheus, or maybe it was the one she'd had earlier today with her CO, but – in either event – something triggered a wild, uncontrollable instinct deep in her gut.
Who said she had to be a golf ball?
Straightening her shoulders, Sam determinedly began unbuttoning her blouse. Her plan might mean she'd be a little late for drinks tonight, but heck…
Better late than never.
Leaning up against the bar, Jack took a swig of his beer and squelched down a pang of annoyance. If Carter didn't show up tonight, he'd kick her sorry ass from here to the next galaxy.
Sighing, he tried to ignore the sense of uneasiness he'd had around her lately. Ever since her return from Prometheus, he'd gotten the feeling that she wasn't quite herself. Maybe it was the muzzy, dreamy way she'd murmured his name upon awakening in the infirmary. He couldn't quite contain the feelings which still erupted in his gut anytime he replayed her unguarded, "Jack?" in his head – which he seemed to do over and over on a regular basis. For years, he'd lived with the harsh reality that she wasn't meant for him – not because he wasn't willing to take on the entire Air Force over it. Because, hell, he'd do that in a heartbeat. Carter, on the other hand, was a whole different story altogether. He'd never met someone who was so bound by the rules, even when the rules sucked. There didn't seem to be much point in relaying his deep feelings for her when he knew it was only going to lead her to a personal and professional crisis.
Still, something had shifted in her lately. He'd hoped it was just residual exhaustion from her injuries, but tonight, his gut had told him otherwise. The weary, vulnerable look in her blue eyes had been undeniable. And she had not wanted to join them here tonight; of that he was certain. He thought he'd made the unofficial order to show up pretty clear, but maybe she was planning on ducking out anyway.
As if echoing his thoughts, Janet looked impatiently at her watch. "Where's Sam?" Flicking a glance at Jack, a smirk danced over her lovely features. "You didn't scare her off, did you?"
Jack's dark mood was not improved by her teasing. "How the hell could I scare her off?"
Janet opened her mouth to reply, when she was cut off by Daniel's strangled gasp.
"Holy…" Choking on a sip of beer, Daniel's exclamation ended in something unintelligible and in another language. Still, the utter astonishment on his face left little doubt as to the meaning of his words.
Jack glanced at the archaeologist, curious as to what had caused his reaction. Following Daniel's gaze to the bar's entrance, it took him a moment to see what was so remarkable.
When it hit him, though… Lord, did it hit him.
Standing two steps inside the smoky confines of the tavern was a vision in red silk and denim. Careless blond hair, which looked as though it had recently been tousled by strenuous activity, highlighted a flawless peaches-and-cream complexion. Bare shoulders in the same gorgeous skin tone were delicately graced by the tiny spaghetti straps which held a flirty silk tank top in place over a set of full, generous breasts. A pair of worn, hip-hugging jeans lovingly caressed a nicely rounded bottom and impossibly long legs, leaving a pale strip of flesh around a tiny waist exposed to the viewing pleasure of her audience. And, most mesmerizing of all was a soft, pert mouth painted the exact cherry-red of her blouse. She was, undeniably, a goddess.
She was also, undeniably… Carter.
"Good lord, Jack, what did you do to Sam?" Janet's breathless laugh spoke volumes about her own amazement at her friend's transformation.
Pulling his eyes away from the perfection walking toward them, Jack's felt a sense of alarm envelop him. "Me? What makes you think I had anything to do with this?"
Biting her lip at the sheer panic in his gaze, Janet still couldn't stop a smile from tugging at the corners of her mouth. "You were the last one to see her! What the hell did you say to her?"
Jack's face was blank for a moment. Then, frowning slightly, he seemed to make a connection. "I may have called her a golf ball."
Teal'c's eyebrows pulled together. "I am not familiar with that expression."
Daniel, too, was looking at Jack strangely. "Don't feel bad, Teal'c. Neither am I."
Opening his mouth to explain his earlier conversation with Sam, Jack suddenly seemed to realize that doing so would entail his giving a lesson in quantum physics. Snapping it shut again, he waved a hand. "Never mind. You had to be there." Then, seeing the woman in question rapidly approaching their location, he glared menacingly at his colleagues. The message was clear: Don't mess with me. Or her. But, especially, don't mess with her.
As Sam finally made her way to the bar, she met her friends with a warm, if somewhat nervous smile. "Hi," she said, sounding a bit breathless. "Sorry I'm late."
Daniel apparently was unable to pretend everything was business-as-usual. "Sam, you know I love you like a sister, but I've just gotta say this…" His eyes swept over her from head to toe and back up again. "You look hot. I mean, really hot."
Sam's cheeks flushed a delicate pink. Shrugging somewhat self-consciously, she tried to downplay her appearance. "Cassie got me these jeans for Christmas, but I haven't really been out anyplace I felt I could wear them until tonight."
Janet grinned. "I should have known my daughter had something to do with this." Then, seeing uncertainty flash in her friend's eyes, she reached over and squeezed her hand. "She knew better than to buy a pair for me. My hips would explode out of pants like that."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Don't be ridiculous."
Chuckling, Janet shook her head. "At any rate, I think you'd better stand really close to me tonight. If I'm lucky, maybe some poor schmuck who's afraid to talk to you will try hitting on your boring-looking friend instead."
"Janet!" Sam scolded the other woman. "Stop it!"
Without meaning to, Teal'c turned the conversation from Janet's self-depreciative sarcasm to something more gentile. "Your appearance is remarkably lovely this evening, Major Carter." He bowed slightly as he issued the compliment.
Sam smiled. "Thanks, Teal'c."
Jack heard the flattering comments from everyone else in their little company and knew it was his turn to issue one. His tongue, however, seemed to be stuck to the roof of his mouth. And, even if his voice had been cooperating, he had no idea what he could possibly say to sum up his feelings about her transformation. From a distance, she had been stunning. Up close, she was a danger to his sanity.
Against his will, his eyes kept skimming over the tempting excess of bare skin at her shoulders and waist. From time to time, especially when she laughed, her top shifted just enough to give an enticing view of her belly-button. At this distance, he could see that the only bra she wore was whatever flimsy undergarment had been built into the top. Wrenching his eyes away from that particular area of her body, Jack tried reminding himself of the stack of sexual harassment regs he was probably breaking by ogling her so publicly. However, his eyes didn't seem to be obeying his will anymore than his voice had been. She was utterly magnetic, and he couldn't seem to stop staring at her.
Standing at the bar, Sam could feel his gaze slide over her like a caress. Finally, unwilling to pretend he wasn't there, she squared her shoulders and met him eye-to-eye. Or tried to. It took a moment for his dark gaze to skim back up her torso to her face. When it did, he seemed utterly taken aback to find her looking directly at him.
A moment of supercharged tension passed. "Glad to see you made it," he finally rasped, not surprised to hear the whiskey-rough quality in his voice.
She smiled uncertainly. "I didn't mean to be late," she explained softly, "but it took me a little longer than usual to get ready tonight."
His response was automatic. "It shows." Then, hearing his words aloud, his eyes widened. "I meant that in a good way," he hastened to explain. "Not that you don't always look nice, but—"
She let him off the hook with a grin. "Don't worry. I get it."
He relaxed marginally. "So how 'bout a beer?" he asked, trying to achieve some level of normalcy in their conversation.
Sam shrugged. "Sure. Whatever's on tap." Lord knew, a few drinks might help her feel more sure of herself.
As Jack flagged down the bartender, Janet tugged gently on Sam's elbow. "I was just about to feed the jukebox when you came in. Wanna help me pick out some music?"
Sam knew a 'time for girl talk' cue when she saw one. Figuring she might as well get the inevitable questions out of the way as soon as possible, she nodded. Still, she didn't want to lose the little nerve she'd managed to muster toward her CO. Heaven knew, if she came back from her little tryst with Janet to find someone else parked beside him, she'd never manage to work up enough courage to do what she'd come here tonight to do.
Swallowing, she took a deep breath and turned to Jack. "Save me a seat," she said breathlessly, hoping her directive didn't sound too forward. Still, she wanted him to know she planned on drinking the beer he was ordering for her. As his eyes met hers, a flicker of surprise – and something more dark and primal – passed through their coffee-brown depths. He nodded wordlessly, indicating he'd do as she asked.
Moments later, Janet had led Sam to the far corner of the tavern where the jukebox stood. As she pulled out several bills from her purse, she spoke with a casualness that belied the intense curiosity rolling off of her in waves. "So, decided on a makeover tonight?"
Amused by her friend's attempt at subtlety, Sam shrugged. "Just tired of being boring and predictable."
Janet grinned. "Well, you certainly aren't that anymore." She chuckled. "I thought Jack was going to swallow his tongue when he saw you."
Despite her resolutions for the evening, Sam felt another flush creep up her neck. "Is that a good thing?"
Janet's eyes jerked up from the jukebox to meet the naked uncertainty in her friend's gaze. "Hell, yes, it's a good thing." She examined the other woman thoughtfully. "Have you finally decided to go after what you want?"
Exhaling sharply, Sam pondered the question for a moment. No point in being circumspect, she supposed. Nodding once, she felt her cheeks redden even further.
For her part, Janet had honestly been expecting the standard, "No, the frat regs won't allow it… Don't go there… Not interested…" lines of bull that Sam usually spouted when confronted with her feelings for her CO. While it was plain as daylight to anyone with two eyes that the two were totally stuck on each other, they'd done such a thorough job of deflecting attention from their feelings that everyone wondered if they'd actually given up on ever having a relationship. Seeing Sam standing before her, openly admitting that she was going to make a play for her forbidden flame, made Janet's jaw drop in utter shock. "Are you serious?" Then, once again taking in Sam's skimpy wardrobe choices and come-hither hair and makeup, she chuckled and answered her own question. "Never mind. I can see you're very serious." Then, gently, she broached what was, perhaps, a forbidden subject. "Can I ask why the change of heart?"
Sam sighed, once again confronted with the utterly predictable persona she'd taken on over the last seven years. Even Janet – her best friend and confidant – was floored that she was breaking away from her standard operating procedures. "I don't know, Jan. I think I'm just tired of running away from what I'm scared of." She shrugged. "I had a chance to really look at my life when I was trapped alone on Prometheus. And, once I was back here, I think I began to realize I'm tired of being a chicken."
Janet smiled faintly. "Well, hon, you sure look mighty brave tonight." Then, her smile widened into a grin. "Just be gentle with him, Sam. I assure you, he has no idea what you're intending to do. If you're not careful, you're going to give him heart attack."
Sam returned Janet's grin. "Don't worry, I won't kill him." Her smile turned a little naughty. "I've got a few plans for him first."
Janet laughed and finished punching her selections into the record machine. Just as she began to return to the rest of the gang, Sam stopped her with a hand on her arm. Looking into her friend's eyes, she was surprised to see a heavy dose of uncertainty there. "What's the matter, sweetie?" Janet asked, concerned at Sam's obvious discomfort.
Sam swallowed, trying to work up the courage to vocalize her fears. "Janet, you don't think he's going to…" she trailed off, trying to find the right words.
Janet's brow furrowed. "He's going to what?"
Sam sighed. "Turn me down?"
For a moment, the other woman's face was utterly blank. Then, in spite of her best efforts to remain gentle and supportive, Janet found herself sputtering with laughter. "Oh, lord, Sam," she gasped, "I think it's more likely that this bar will be overrun by tap-dancing, g-string-clad Asgard strippers."
As Janet's words painted an undeniably ridiculous picture in her head, Sam found herself laughing as well. Then, looking at her friend, she smiled gratefully. "Thanks," she said. "I needed to hear that." Straightening her spine, she turned back to the bar and geared up to return to their colleagues.
This time, it was Janet who stopped their return. "Wait. I should ask… Are you, um, prepared?"
Sam blinked at her for a moment. Then, as the personal nature of the question sank in, Sam felt her face return to its earlier shade of beet-red. "Janet!" she hissed.
Shrugging apologetically, Janet didn't back down. "I'm sorry, but I had to ask. After all, your transformation was pretty sudden, so maybe you didn't think about protection. And it would really suck if you found yourself at a particularly critical moment without any–"
"Yes." Sam's forceful reply cut her off mid-sentence. "I'm covered," she assured her friend in a low hiss. "Sometimes, Janet, I think you take the whole doctor thing just a little too far." She shook her head, hoping that her face was slowly returning to a more normal hue.
Janet just grinned. "Probably. But, at least now I can watch this all unfold with no nagging concerns."
Sam rolled her eyes. "Glad I could be your entertainment for the evening."
The pretty doctor wiggled her eyebrows. "No matter how entertaining my evening is, I'm sure it won't begin to compare to yours."
Sam sighed with amused resignation and then started walking back to the bar.
It was time to start seducing her CO.
Carefully positioning the pint glass on the bar next to his own drink, Jack flicked a somewhat-disbelieving look at the empty barstool beside him.
Sam Carter had actually asked – no, ordered – him to save her a seat. Next to him.
Swallowing, he tried shoving all speculation about her actions from his head. Just because she was showing the world her unpredictable side, didn't mean she had any designs on him. He should definitely not be getting his hopes up.
"Well, Jack, I think you might as well throw in the towel now." Daniel's teasing voice intruded on his thoughts in a rather unwelcome manner.
"What the hell are you babbling about, Spacemonkey?" Jack's decided lack of enthusiasm for the conversation was quite evident in his tone.
Daniel was not deterred. "I really never thought I'd see this day," he replied with deceptive mildness.
Jack glared at him. "Again I ask, what the hell are you talking about?"
The archaeologist's smile was supremely knowing. "Our little Sam has finally decided she's gotten tired of waiting for you to get off your ass and do something about the two of you." His eyes sparkled. "Seems to me, she's taking matters into her own hands."
Jack looked at the other man, totally dumbfounded. "You're full of crap," he replied in a clipped tone.
Daniel just shook his head. "Not this time," he said certainly.
Sighing, Jack finally revealed the truth of the matter as he saw it. "Daniel," he explained, "when I was in Carter's lab earlier, I may have implied that she was predictable." He took a deep breath and released it slowly. "I'm sure that this transformation is just her way of proving me wrong."
Inclining his head, Daniel listened to the other man's explanation thoughtfully. "You may be right about that," he said slowly, "but I still think I'm right, too." Daniel's blue eyes gleamed with conviction. "I may not know much about women, but I saw the way she looked at you, Jack. If she's out to show you her less-predictable side, you might be surprised at how far she's aiming to take it."
Jack opened his mouth to deny the claim, but was cut off by an unexpected voice on his other side.
"I agree with Daniel Jackson." Teal'c's tone was quietly decisive. "I have seen the same look in the eyes of women on Chulak before they secure a claim upon their mate."
Jack threw up his hands. "Oh, fercryin'outloud!" he exclaimed. "You've all gone off the deep end. Carter is not trying to flirt with me."
Daniel surprised both his colleagues by nodding in agreement. "You're right," he said, "she's not trying to flirt with you." Gazing at the jukebox where Janet and Sam were engaged in conversation, he once again took in Sam's smoking-hot appearance. "She's trying to seduce you," he finished mildly.
Suddenly, Jack found himself choking on the sip of lager he'd just swallowed. Seduce him? Daniel thought Carter was trying to seduce him?
Glancing at the woman in question, he felt as though he'd just been hit by an extremely large truck. If Daniel was right, he was in big trouble. Very big trouble.
As if reading his thoughts, Sam seemed to wrap up her conversation with Janet and started walking back to the bar. Immediately, her eyes caught his flabbergasted gaze. Her decisive, blue stare tangled with the raw adrenaline shining in his dark eyes, and a small, mysterious smile graced her lovely features. As she strode toward him, something akin to quiet determination was evident in her stance.
Though Jack was still not convinced of Daniel's assessment of the situation, he definitely had to admit that his second-in-command had something going on in that gorgeous head of hers – something which, to all appearances, seemed to involve him.
Before he had a chance to process that thought more fully, she was sliding gracefully into the seat beside him. Smiling, she picked up the pint glass and held it aloft. "Thanks," she said, taking a sip of the beer.
Jack watched as her glossy, red lips pressed against the rim of the glass, leaving a perfect impression of their full softness on its edge. Swallowing, he prayed his heated thoughts didn't reflect too obviously in his gaze. "Carter?" he said, sounding a little raspy even to his own ears.
Putting the glass down, she looked at him with her impossibly wide, blue eyes. "What?" The deep timbre of his voice sent a small shiver down her spine.
His lips quirked into his trademark half-smile. "I'm sorry if I called you a golf ball earlier today," he said quietly. "Trust me, tonight you're 100-percent electron."
Sam smiled, looking down at the bar. "Thanks," she said somewhat awkwardly. Then, looking back up at him, she met his eyes in a clear gesture of resolve. "I think I'm tired of always playing it safe," she murmured.
Looking into her electrifying gaze, Jack felt as though someone had just yanked his barstool out from under him. Before he had a chance to reply, however, he noticed Janet tugging a somewhat reluctant Daniel out to the crowded, postage-stamp-sized dance floor. A moderately upbeat song was playing. He contemplated asking Sam to dance for about a thousandth of a second, before discarding the idea as a very, very bad one. There was no way he'd be able to behave himself with her body that close to his.
Since Teal'c was standing behind him, Jack had no way of seeing the long-suffering look of disbelief painted on the Jaffa's face. Shaking his head, the warrior decided to take matters into his own hands. "Major Carter?" he asked, stepping closer to her.
The deep voice startled Sam. Looking up, she was surprised to see Teal'c standing beside her, extending a hand in her direction. "Yes?"
His nearly-black eyes crinkled at the corners as he politely inclined his head with a smile. "Would you like to dance with me?"
Sam's smile was brilliant. "Actually, I really would." She'd seen the idea cross Jack's face a few seconds earlier, and had felt disappointment well in her belly as he'd clearly decided against it. Somewhat rebelliously, she took a few deep swallows of her beer before allowing Teal'c to help her from her stool and lead her to the dance floor.
Now sitting by himself, Jack wondered for a moment what had just happened. He didn't really think Teal'c was making a move on Sam, but was somewhat befuddled by his friend's actions. Why on earth would he lead her away from him, especially after agreeing with Daniel's predictions earlier?
Did Teal'c disapprove of anything happening between he and Sam?
Looking out at the dance floor, he was immediately struck by the pointed look the Jaffa was sending him. Suddenly, the other man's intentions hit him like a brick. Teal'c was trying to prod him into action.
All at once, Jack decided that this was the most ridiculous situation he'd ever been in. He was a grown man and the most senior-ranking officer in the entire group, and yet they were all treating him like a wayward child. Feeling irritation burn in his chest, he reached for his beer, finished the last few swallows determinedly, and then slammed the bottle down on the bar. Rising from his seat, he decided he was taking control of this situation.
He was not a puppy, to be led and trained by a group of overbearing, if well-meaning friends.
If they wanted to see action from him, then – heaven help him – action they'd get.
As the song drew to a close, Sam laughed breathlessly. "Thanks, Teal'c" she said with a smile. "You really know how to cut a rug." Then, seeing the look of confusion on his dark features, she chuckled. It was hard to remember how many colloquialisms Teal'c was still unfamiliar with. "That means you're a good dancer."
Hearing her explanation, the large warrior smiled with pleasure. "Thank you, Major Carter. I have been taking lessons on the weekends."
Sam bit her lip to keep from laughing at the admission. Sometimes, she envied Teal'c's complete lack of self-consciousness. He pretty much acted however he wanted, and rarely worried how he appeared to others. It was an attitude she'd do well to imitate.
With the end of the song, couples on the dance floor began shuffling about, changing partners and regrouping for the next set. As Sam turned around to make her way back to the bar, she suddenly found her path blocked by a very familiar, very solid masculine chest. Swallowing, her eyes slowly made their way upward until they met the intense stare of one very determined-looking Jack O'Neill.
As the opening notes of a tender ballad began to play, Sam felt her heart skip into overdrive. Wordlessly, he held one hand out to her in a mute invitation that was as compelling as it was irresistible.
Stepping into his embrace, Sam felt the rest of the world fade into oblivion. Somewhere in her mind, she knew she was standing in a crowded bar with at least three very attentive audience members gauging her every move. However, none of that seemed to matter even remotely as Jack's strong arms tugged her intimately against his chest. Clearly, he'd given up maintaining a professional distance for this dance. Sam felt her breath hitch in her throat as the warm, solid length of his body settled familiarly against her soft curves.
The sound of his heart beating so close to her ear was hypnotic. Closing her eyes, she buried her face in the crook of his neck and inhaled deeply, overcome by the familiar scent of his aftershave, as well as something darker and more uniquely him. As her lungs swelled to encompass the breath, her breasts pushed intimately against the wall of his chest. And, suddenly, Sam became aware of an answering swell in another portion of his body.
Cradling her fiercely in his arms, Jack wasn't sure if he was in paradise or in hell. The smooth curve of her neck stretched endlessly before his heated gaze; a view he'd never imagined he'd be privileged enough to take in. The tiny hitch in her breathing told him she knew exactly what was happening between them, and was clearly more than willing to allow it. Closing his eyes momentarily, he forced rational thought back into his head for a moment. What on earth was going to happen when the song ended? Much as he'd be content to stand here with her forever, he knew there would be consequences to this little dance. This was, after all, not just some hot blond in his arms.
It was Carter.
Before he'd had a chance to formulate any sort of plan, the final, poignant notes of the song began to fade into the distance. Reluctantly pulling away, he looked down into her soft, blue eyes, trying to gauge her reaction.
What he saw there utterly floored him. Total, unmitigated passion shone from her gaze in a swell of naked yearning that left him feeling like he'd had the wind knocked out of him. "I'm going home now," she rasped quietly.
Jack blinked, trying to digest her words. "Already? But you just got here." He'd have sworn she was done running away.
She smiled faintly. "I've got something important to do," she said in a soft murmur. "Something that I should have done a long time ago." Her eyes slowly slid down to the curve of his mouth. "Something that I can't do here."
Understanding hit him like a boot to the head. She was running, all right – but it was clear she expected him to give chase.
Before he had a chance to formulate a coherent reply, she was gone, leaving him standing alone on the dance floor. Dimly, he caught her rushed goodbye to Janet back at the bar. Then, with one last red-hot look in his direction, she swept out of the tavern as dramatically as she'd swept in.
Finally remembering how to operate his legs, Jack slowly made his way back to the bar. His three friends stood there, all grinning like idiots. Shaking his head, he couldn't stop himself from rolling his eyes. "All right, you can all stop gaping at me now."
Janet laughed melodically and turned to Daniel. "I give him fifteen seconds before he's out that door," she said knowingly.
The archaeologist shook his head. "Ten."
Teal'c cleared his throat. "Five."
No one was especially surprised when Teal'c won.
Pulling her motorcycle into the driveway of her modest suburban home, Sam dropped the kickstand and swung out of her seat. She'd hoped that the breakneck pace of her ride home would push some of the heart-pounding uncertainty from her chest, but all it had done was raise her pulse and blood pressure even more.
Jack had gotten her message loud and clear. Of that, she was certain. The heated-yet-dumbstruck look on his face had broadcast his obvious understanding of her proposition. And, as much as she'd had the courage to blatantly throw herself at him, she hadn't had the guts to wait in the tavern parking lot to see if he'd take what she was offering. Instead, she'd driven like a bat out of hell to her house, knowing that he'd find her here if he was inclined to do so.
Swallowing, Sam calculated how far behind her he might be… if he was even coming at all. On her bike, she'd been able to speed through a few yellow lights that he'd never be able to make in his truck. And, maybe he wasn't going to follow right away. Maybe he was going to pace his leaving so that no one at the bar would be suspicious of his intended destination.
Oh, who the hell was she kidding?
If Daniel, Janet, and Teal'c had been watching – which, of course they had been – then they'd know exactly what had just transpired. And subtlety had never really been Jack's thing, anyway.
Which left her wondering, was he coming or –
The deep rumble of his truck's V8 answered her silent question before she'd even got done asking it.
Sam watched in breathless anticipation as the shiny black pickup pulled to a stop in front of her house. Swallowing nervously, she stood rooted to her spot in the driveway, watching as the driver's door opened and a familiar, silver-haired figure emerged.
His approach was deliberate and unhurried. As pale moonlight caressed his rugged features, Sam caught the heated intensity in his dark eyes.
"Thought I might find you here," he said quietly.
Sam inhaled somewhat shakily. "I did say I was going home," she replied.
He smiled. "No, I meant in your driveway." His hand unexpectedly reached out, snaking its way behind the small of her back. With one gentle tug, he brought her flush against his chest.
Suddenly, Sam felt like a girl who'd gone to the pet store for a kitten and come home with a mountain lion by mistake. Lord almighty, was she in over her head.
And, damn, did it feel delicious.
Staring into his eyes, Sam felt her heart hammering in her chest uncontrollably. "I wasn't sure if you were following," she admitted breathlessly.
He leaned forward, bringing one hand up to softly cradle her cheek. "You should know by now, Sam," he said in a low rumble, "I'd follow you anywhere."
The stark truth in his words caught her totally off-guard. His statement wasn't an idle cliché. He really had followed her anywhere – to hell and back, as a matter of fact. All at once, she was reminded of exactly whose arms she was standing in. "Jack?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah?" His forehead was now leaning tenderly against hers.
"I'm sorry I was a golf ball for so many years," she whispered thickly.
He smiled in spite of the intensity of her words. "Carter," he replied quietly, "I think you're forgetting how much I like golf." Then, without further ado, he swooped in and captured her shiny red lips with all the longing he'd been repressing since the day he'd met her.
As their mouths melded in a dance as old as the heavens, a shooting star streaked overhead, blazing a path through the night sky with fevered intensity.
It was a portent of many good things to come.