Title: The Embers Burn On
Season: 9 or 10? You pick.
Categories: Established relationship. Light angst. Light fluff. But not flangst because that is altogether different.
Summary: Love in a time of war is never going to be easy. Sam and Jack steal a little time together when she visits Washington on behalf of the SGC.
When Sam's conversation with General Pearson's chief aide was interrupted by a fresh-faced, eager staffer from Senator Morrison's office – and she wondered what he'd done to rate an invitation – she took advantage of the opportunity and fled. Cautiously, she negotiated a path through the crowd, avoiding several potential sinkholes, including Richard Woolsey, one of the members of the visiting Russian science delegation, and – oh, boy – Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Thompson, with whom she'd had a disastrous couple of dates several lifetimes ago when they were both newly-commissioned. Eventually, she reached the door leading to the deck and made her escape, out onto the wood surface and down the steps into the Pearsons' backyard.
She'd gone several steps before she spied it; a small bench, invisible from the house, sitting next to a tiny, well-manicured artificial pond. Sighing with relief, she made her way over and collapsed onto the seat, tipping her head up to stare at the few stars that were visible at night in suburban Virginia.
Even away from the party, muted sounds reached her ears; with no real intent, Sam found herself isolating and classifying each one: a dog barking in the yard next door; cars passing on the street in front of the house; an airplane flying overhead on the way in or out of town. She'd long since reached the point where the nighttime silence found on most other worlds seemed more normal to her than the constant buzz in even a quiet residential neighborhood on Earth, but still, the sounds made her a little nostalgic for a long-ago time when a hot summer evening meant family and friends and, more often than not, the hums or hisses or roars of a nearby air base.
Unrealistic and unattainable, the vague recollection nevertheless charmed her with its simplicity, even or perhaps especially when colored by dozens of universal truths she couldn't have known at the time. For the first time in more weeks than she cared to count, Sam allowed herself a moment of leisure; sliding down a little on the seat, head coming to rest on the wood behind her, she let her mind roam through memories of backyard barbeques and her father's downtime and people like the Pearsons who wandered in and out of her family's life.
This, she mused, was a far more therapeutic way to spend what little time she had away from the SGC than the making nice she'd had to engage in since she arrived in town this morning. But she knew it couldn't last; eventually, the soft click of the house door broke her reverie, and she felt the tension flooding back as the intruder clattered noisily down the stairs.
At the sound of Jack's voice, Sam relaxed slightly, listening for a moment as he moved toward her. She was about to call out in response when he spoke again, louder this time.
"All right, Carter, where are you? I'm not going to wander around this over-dressed excuse for a backyard looking for whatever rock you've hidden yourself under."
"Just keep walking," she called out in response, a little dismayed to hear his thread of impatience echoed in her own voice.
"There's not exactly anywhere –" he broke off, coming to an abrupt stop when he rounded the end of the row of shrubbery concealing her hideaway. "Ah."
"Hey, yourself." As he stepped forward to stand at the end of the bench, his gaze swept from her head to her feet and back again. In another man, Sam would have interpreted it as a come-on, or at best an involuntary response; but Jack closed his eyes, just for a second, and blew out a breath, and she knew it was something closer to an old commander's habit, checking for blood or missing limbs before letting the conversation go any further. For some reason his instinctive worry grated tonight.
"I was beginning to think you'd decided not to show." That, she thought, had not come out right at all.
"Yes, about that," he said with a grimace, kicking at a patch of gravel. "Sorry I'm late."
He'd shifted slightly, into a little patch of light, and now she could see that his hair stood on end, as though he'd been worrying at it. "Trouble?"
"Not the interesting kind. Just," and he waved over his shoulder, "you know, White House."
"Downtown's that way," she said without thought, pointing in the opposite direction. He raised an eyebrow, and she winced. "Sorry. Force of habit."
"Yeah." Jack bent and picked up one of the pebbles at his feet, tossing it into the little pond; her gaze followed it, watching the ripples. "I missed your thing this afternoon," he said after several seconds' silence.
"It was a technical briefing," she said, looking to him in surprise. "I didn't expect you to be there."
"I wanted to be there."
"Jack, don't – I don't care." Holding out a hand, she beckoned him closer. He moved around behind her and took her hand, allowing her to draw him down until their lips touched in a brief caress that felt familiar without ever quite managing to seem normal.
It was like this for them; a little too long apart, a few too many of the cares of the universe on their shoulders, and it took some time to forget to feel guilty for stealing a moment or two for themselves, to remember how to be comfortable again. The adjustment never failed to be a little bit painful.
"It's good to see you," she said softly when they pulled apart. Jack stared at her without speaking, and Sam waited, studying him, noting the tense muscles around his jaw and the slight furrow of his forehead.
Then his expression eased, and he pulled his hand free from hers, lifting it to trace a line along the side of her face with his knuckle, following a path from temple to cheek to jaw, eventually stopping when his finger rested under her chin. He tipped her head up and kissed her again, then released her and leaned on folded arms against the top rail of the bench.
"So, how'd it go?"
"The briefing?" When he grunted an affirmative, she continued. "It would have been fine, except the engineer from the Swiss delegation kept asking these incredibly pointless questions." Sam hesitated, staring down at her hands. "Some of these people, it's like they don't understand why we're doing this."
"They don't." Jack's harsh tone surprised her, but his fingers brushed the nape of her neck, and she understood the rebuke was meant for someone else. "I mean, they literally have no idea where you were yesterday, or who shot at you, or …. But even if they did, they don't want to understand."
She made a half-hearted sound of agreement and tried not to contemplate what it meant to be one of the bare handful of people in this town who could grasp what they really faced.
"Don't think about it too much. It'll make you crazy." He snorted. "That, or homicidal."
"I don't know how you do this every day."
Jack didn't answer right away; when he did speak, his tone was lighter, if a little forced. "I think now might be a really good time to change the subject," he said, tugging on her hair. "This party, for example. Not taking part in the festivities? Don't believe in love anymore?"
Sam played along, though she rolled her eyes since she knew he couldn't see. "Oh, please. This isn't an anniversary party."
"Funny, because I'm sure that's what it said on the card."
"No, it's a social networking nightmare. Half the program's here. Unfortunately, it's the really annoying half." They were, in fact, the words she'd been thinking earlier as she navigated from person to person, but she failed to recapture the feeling of exasperation that went along with them, perhaps because of the fingers now running slowly up her neck and into her hair.
"Carter, to Hugh and Karen Pearson, that's what a party looks like, anniversary or otherwise. An elite gathering. A demonstration of power." Jack's lips lightly brushed the skin behind Sam's ear as he spoke, and she shivered. "Of course," he continued, dropping his hands to her shoulders and squeezing lightly, "sometimes, it's an act of charity. That's why I'm here, you know."
The absurdity of the statement brought the smile she was certain he'd been aiming for. "No, I'm pretty sure that falls into the 'demonstration of power' category. I, on the other hand …"
"Hmm." He slipped one finger under the strap of her dress, following its line over her shoulder, then partway down the front of her chest and back up; Sam closed her eyes, losing herself a little in the building heat, reveling in the sensation of his roughened fingertip pulling lightly at her skin. "Pretty sure you qualify for 'elite gathering'."
"No, that would be 'daughter of my old buddy Jacob Carter'," she said, working hard to keep her voice steady.
At the feel of Jack's near-silent laugh against her neck, she dropped her head to the side without thought; his laugh turned abruptly into a groan, and he brought his mouth to the skin now exposed to him, tracing a path from her shoulder to her ear with his lips.
"I could be wrong, but I'm betting you didn't come out here to hide because no one was talking to you. Your Washington, D.C. social status aside, however, what do you say we exchange this particular party for our own elite gathering? I'm thinking someplace a lot less crowded."
Sam took a deep breath, reminding herself that she was, in fact, a high-ranking officer in the United States Air Force and could, in time of need, exercise a little self-control – though given the ache that was rapidly spreading from her breasts to her back and belly, that might prove more difficult than usual. She slid to the side, away from the light, teasing kisses now brushing her neck, and turned to face him. "Jack, you've been here for what, five minutes? Don't you have to … mingle, or something?"
He straightened, walking around the bench to stand in front of her. "At what point was it, exactly," he said, crossing his arms as he looked down at her, "that you thought I turned into a politician? I'm just curious."
"There is a certain amount of that required for your job."
His face took on a pinched expression. "What, do you want to stay?"
Sam shrugged. "Not particularly."
"Good." Bending over, he placed his hands on the back of the bench on either side of her, eyes now level with hers. "Then let me try this again. It's been ten days since I saw you, Carter, and that was a two-hour briefing at the SGC. And the good-bye kiss you gave me then," he said, gesturing in the direction of his mouth, "was … superficial at best. And more than a little unsatisfying. I haven't had you in my bed, or your bed, or anybody's bed in nearly a month. Can we please, for the love of every deity we haven't killed off yet, go someplace where I can get that damn dress off you and my hands on you instead?"
She laughed, leaning forward to rest her forehead on his shoulder. "Very romantic. How can I possibly say no to that?"
"Romantic?" Jack snorted. "Should I go tell the assembled dignitaries that the esteemed Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, expert marksman, genius scientist, and destroyer of any number of despotic regimes, is getting soft and needs more romance in her life? Maybe they'll let you paint roses on the Odyssey."
She pulled away. "Funny."
"Wrong thing to say?" he asked, cocking his head.
With a sigh, he sat beside her. "Amazing though it may be, romantic is in my repertoire."
"Of course it is." Sam closed her eyes.
"Depends on what you want, though. I mean, any guy can tell you that you're beautiful. And funny. And smart. And that you definitely don't look fat in that dress."
She laughed softly, but stopped when she felt Jack's fingers touch the corner of her mouth.
"I miss that. When you're gone. That laugh exactly." His voice was low and held a strange sort of tension. Sam's eyes opened and met his, and his forehead furrowed just for a second before his fingers slid upwards to stroke her eyebrow. "And that look. The one you get when you haven't quite worked something out." His hand stilled for a moment, then dropped away, coming to rest lightly on hers. "And – God, Sam, if you had any idea …" he trailed off, shaking his head and exhaling heavily.
"I stand corrected." Sam took his hand in hers, rubbing at one of his knuckles with her thumb. "So, it's interesting. I'm pretty sure I saw a side gate when I came outside."
"Yes. That's definitely interesting." Jack made a show of craning his body, looking towards the house.
"And I think," she continued, resolutely ignoring his antics, "we might be able to escape through it without anyone noticing."
"See, I knew you'd see it my way eventually," he said with a smirk, standing and pulling her up after him.
Sam shook her head and turned to lead him away; when he didn't move, she looked back in question. With a gentle tug on her hand, he drew her to him and into his arms. He held her tightly, and she relaxed into the embrace, listening to the rhythmic sound of his breathing in her ear.
Before long, Jack broke the silence between them. "For the record," he said softly, "I think the Odyssey would look good in roses."
Sam coughed as she tried to smother her laughter. With an effort, she freed herself from his hold and fixed him with the best approximation of a glare she could muster. "Can we go now?"
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Well, what are you waiting for?" He gestured grandly. "Lead on, Carter. Lead on."
Today I borrow titles from Norah Jones lyrics (see The Long Day is Over). Thanks to spacegypsy1 and binkii822 for beta duty. Any mistakes are because I changed stuff when they weren't looking.