The playing card spun through the air - Frisbee-perfect - headed straight towards its target … and hit the side of the ice bucket with a dull thump. As it landed amidst its fallen comrades scattered on the thin carpet, Jack threw the next card from the stack in his hand.

This hadn't, of course, been how he'd planned on spending his evening. He had actually intended to get ahead on some paperwork, not wanting to have to touch it for the next few days, but that had proved a very bad idea. The problem was - and he should have seen this coming - every single report, every single requisition, every single thing in the department of Home World Security reminded him of her. Even the ones - and there were a few - that didn't actually have her name on them somewhere. Each and every report contained something she had at some time tried to explain to him, triggering the memory of her next to him, eyes bright and voice rushed with excitement as he tried desperately to stay focused on what she was saying instead of losing himself completely in her energy. And she was always so close he could have reached out and touched her if he'd dared - though he rarely did. But at least she'd been there, with him, and not stuck in another galaxy millions of light years away.

Yet even as he had that thought, he knew it was a lie because as much as he missed her, he knew what they had now was infinitely better. He could no longer imagine his life without her being his. Not his Carter of the past, but his Sam of the present, who had become so much a part of himself that nothing even seemed real to him anymore until he had shared it with her - or written to her about it - or, at least, planned to write to her about it. Only then could he imagine how she would eventually respond, and even that imagined response became a part of his attitude and his actions. In fact, though they didn't realize it, half-a-dozen or so Washington politicians and bureaucrats - including, ironically, Woolsey himself - probably owed their lives to Sam for Jack's not having shot them years ago.

He was certain it worked the other way, too. After the last year, Jack felt he knew the Atlantis personnel as well as if he'd lived among them himself, and he liked to think his advice and input had been at least a little helpful in the successful outcome of her command. Though, come to think of it, Jack was fairly certain he'd gotten the better part of the deal. He wasn't sure how useful his help, like his steady reminders to Sam that she couldn't court-martial Shepherd because Jack had dibs on him, had really been. He'd gained some of Sam's patience and organization, but as far as he could tell, she'd just gotten better punch lines.

Still, none of this helped him now. Not when it had been ninety-eight days and some-odd hours since he had last seen her, and that had only been a few quick rendezvous at the SGC they'd managed to sneak into an otherwise tight meeting schedule. Now, with relief so near, physical need was quickly replacing all other considerations, and every memory of her - no matter how mundane - led inevitably to other memories: standing next to him in her lab became lying in his arms; fingers dancing over the keyboard ruffled through his hair, pulling his head down to her lips as their uniforms melted ….

Paperwork had been a bad idea. How he'd managed to get through eight years when he was having trouble getting through the evening was beyond him. Maybe he really did deserve all those medals. Or, more likely, memory was stronger than imagination and knowledge more complete than mere fantasy. Which, all things considered, was probably a very good thing.

So, abandoning paperwork, Jack had tried watching TV, then reading a book, but the empty space next to him on the suite's sofa had proved too big for either activity. He'd considered playing his PSP, but that contained actual video files of Sam - not a good idea. Which was how he'd ended up perched on his desk atop a pile of paperwork tossing playing cards at an ice bucket, trying not to think about much of anything beyond getting the next card in. Or at least, trying not to think of anything important - anything even remotely related to Samantha Carter. Like the recent sunny weather DC had been having. Atlantis had been getting a lot of rain lately. Or the latest episode of the Simpsons. She'd refused to admit where his Simpson DVDs had gone when she'd left for Atlantis. Or the leftover take-out he'd had for dinner last night. He went to throw out the two-day left-overs so she wouldn't remind him about his cholesterol. Or the cold cereal he'd had for breakfast that morning. And when exactly had Fruit Loops started showing up on the Atlantis requisitions?

Definitely not perfect, but it was as close as he was likely to get.

Besides, she couldn't be that much longer. It was already 19:21, and he couldn't imagine she'd be later than 20:30, so he didn't have that much longer to wait. Of course, Jack knew who was waiting for Sam at the SGC and what he was going to tell her, so he also knew his overcharged libido would likely be waiting a good while longer anyway.

As it happened, he didn't have to wait quite that long (16 minutes and 33 seconds, but who was counting?) Footsteps in the hall, a rattle at the door, and she stepped into the hotel room, dropping her bags on the floor as the door shut behind her.

He'd had something really cool and clever to say at this moment. "Hi. You're here," he said. That wasn't it, but her eyes were so much bluer than he ever remembered, her smile brighter, and her hair, in his memory always still short and controlled, spilled across her shoulders in loose curls. And she was there. Filling the room, and his senses, with her presence. He thought he was doing rather well, considering.

Her smile broadened in response to his as she nodded, "Yup. Got your note." She held up the keycard in her hand. "And the key." Clearly, they were both brilliant. As if reading his mind, she bit her lip to suppress a giggle as she added, "You probably figured that out though, huh?"

He nodded. "Yup." He slipped off the edge of the desk, sending papers sliding after him unnoticed onto the floor. Jack had barely spread his arms before she was in them, pressed tightly against his chest. Her scent - the exact combination of soap and sweat and perfume he hadn't even known he'd missed until that very moment - swept over him, bringing a wave of associated emotions and sensations so strong they threatened to undo him.

Summoning the very last ounce of his control, he managed to push her away enough to look down into her face and ask, "You okay? With Woolsey and Atlantis and….. Everything?"

He read the answer, before she could speak, in her unguarded features: the firm set of her jaw, the fire in her eyes. "Yeah, I'm okay. I mean, at first I was, of course, shocked. But… Jack, I know I did a damn good job out there… probably better than the IOA wanted. I'm not going to let the decision of a bunch of idiots in Washington ruin that for me."

What he thought was, 'That's my girl.' And, apparently, that's also what he said, though it certainly wasn't what he'd intended to say.

"Oh… really?" she asked, cocking one eyebrow as she looked up at him.

"Uh-huh," he replied. In for a penny… "But," he added, as if as an after-thought, "That means I'm also 'your fella,' which isn't really a fair trade, but there ya go."

He laughed, because he didn't really believe that anymore - not completely - and she laughed with him. "I'll take it."

"You sure? Because…."

But reaching up behind his neck, Sam brought his mouth down to hers, and further words, if he'd remembered them, were impossible. Jack's last thought - before all rational thought became impossible - was that, as wonderful as dreams and memories might be, the reality of holding and touching and loving was always incomparably better.