Author's notes:

Thanks to all who asked for a sequel to One Year. While this is not exactly a sequel – since I don't know how you could write one that relates to a timeline that now hasn't happened, but...anyway, I think it fills the criteria from one reviewer, "...make them happy." So, I did.


- - - -

Approaching Normal


Jack rang the doorbell, listening to the chimes echo and fade as he turned to lean on against the pillar that framed the steps. The quiet sounds of Carter's neighborhood were soothing...relaxing. Faint sounds of laughing kids floated on the evening breeze, chased by the distant sound of a barking dog. All normal sounds. Comforting sounds. Sounds that meant that at this moment–at least–all was right with the world.

The creak of the door opening behind him drew his attention from the rapidly fading evening to the woman emerging from inside. Turning to say hello, Jack's breath caught in his throat, his heart stuttering to a stop with it. She was a vision.

Sam cocked her head, a soft smile playing across her lips as Jack froze before her. The subtle tip of her head caused her cascading curls to shift and slide along the creamy skin of her shoulders.

Jack's eyes helplessly followed those curls on their journey. Carter. His Carter. He'd seen her in just about every state imaginable: crawling from a tent on a planet thousands of light years away; exhausted after eluding a super-soldier; buttoned and polished in Class A's; but this. This Carter, this...Sam...stole his breath. As she'd stolen his heart.

Sam waited patiently as Jack's gaze traveled her body from head to toe and back again. While she waited, she indulged in a little sight-seeing of her own. Damn, but the man cleans up well! She waited for his gaze to find hers again.

"Jack, we should–"

"Wait." Jack held up a finger to stop her. "Just..."

He took a slow step forward and reached up, his knuckles brushing gently down her cheek. Sam closed her eyes and leaned into his caress.

"Can I just..." Jack slid his hand down and around her neck, gently pulling her forward. He leaned, inhaling the scent that was uniquely Carter to him. That sweet essence mixed with something new, something...better. Slowly he drew her forward, his other hand joining the first on her skin and easing her jaw up slightly. He felt her breath hitch as he moved into her space. The first brush of her lips on his sent a jolt through him that rocked him to his soul. If he was breathless before, now he felt faint.

Sam was overwhelmed with emotion. The tenderness...the his touch, in that first kiss undid her. Their first kiss not influenced by alien infection, in an alternate reality, and who knew what other circumstances. She'd imagined a first kiss between them for years but never pictured it happening here, on her front porch. At the beginning of their first, official date. She heard a soft moan and wasn't sure if it came from him or from her. It didn't matter, it came from them.

A moment. An eternity. Their gentle exploration lasted a lifetime and was over too soon.

Jack slowly eased back, a gentle smile playing across his lips. "Sorry, I know that's supposed to come at the end of the evening, but..."

"But?" Sam's smile mirrored his own. She pulled the door closed behind her and gently took his hand in hers.

Jack shook his head and led her down the steps, her hand warm in his as he helped her into the cab of his truck.

"But?" Sam prompted again. She laid her hand on his arm, preventing him from stepping back and closing the door.

"Ten years, Carter. Ten years." He paused and looked away, gathering himself. "I just couldn't wait any longer. Or, more accurately, I couldn't wait for it to happen the way it should, normally."

"Jack, nothing we've ever done could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered normal. Why should this?"

"You're okay with that?"

Sam tugged Jack closer. He had asked her exactly that question six years ago, giving her the option to bring a formal complaint after he'd admitted to caring for her 'more than he should.' As the junior officer she was well within her rights to ask for censure, to charge him with unprofessional behavior. Saying 'yes' to that question so long ago had said so many things. That she felt as he did, that she hoped that someday they could move their relationship beyond that room and into the realm of possibility. She raised her hand to caress his jaw and watched his impossibly long eyelashes flutter down as he closed his eyes. She leaned in, kissing him softly, her tongue brushing lightly across his lips. Sam smiled at his small gasp of surprise.

"Jack...I've loved you for so long I don't think I can remember a time when I didn't. Am I 'okay' with the idea of having our relationship change? Hell yes. And however it happens is how it should be, for us. Normal or otherwise."

He leaned back against the open door of the truck, lost in her blue eyes. She was right, 'normal' didn't apply to them. Never had, never would. Thank God. He quirked a small grin at her as he slid aside and closed the door. Let other people have 'normal,' he had Carter and she loved him. Life didn't get better than that.