A/N: For AstraPerAspera. Thanks for being you.
And for the shippers of the Sam and Jack Ship Family Discussion Thread, where this snapshot was shared. And all S/J shippers everywhere.
"Hi kids. You're late." Jack greeted as he entered the ready room.
A chorus of "Jack. O'Neill. General O'Neill." Greeted him.
He waved a hand at Mitchell who had straightened slightly in his presence, as a gesture of ease and closed the door behind him before swaggering the rest of the way into the room. "Daniel? T? You guys ready? Where's Carter?"
"Here!" She called as she rounded the corner and dumped an armful of strange looking fabrics onto the floor.
"Whoa! What happened to you?!" Jack's surprised eyes twinkled with devilish humour as his lips turned upward.
Sam, who was hopping on the spot trying to simultaneously slip on a shoe with one hand and stow the rest of her gear in her locker with the other, froze mid-hop and looked over at him. His cheeky grin was growing with every step he took toward her, dimpling his cheeks. She couldn't help looking down at herself wondering what it was that had him so amused. Though by the glint in his eye she figured she wouldn't have to wait long.
He reached a hand up and gripped a lock of her hair between 2 long fingers, flicking it gently before letting it drop back to her shoulder. "What's with the hair?" Her chin tipped up in realisation. In her rush to get ready she'd completely forgotten.
"Oh!" She exclaimed, her eyes widening. "P3Y 731." She finished putting her shoe on and ran a hand through her hair self-consciously. She had to admit to herself that she'd been afraid he would hate it when she'd agreed to have it done. Then again, she was also afraid he wouldn't.
His eyebrows drew down in a frown. "Blending in with the natives Carter?"
"Something like that, sir" She replied attaching the 2 bracelets Cassie had given her last Christmas to her wrists. She reached further into her locker, opening a very special wooden box she always kept there as Jack continued.
"You know, there really should be memos about this stuff. I'm gonna have to take this up with Hank and Walter. Carter hair tampering. That should be sent to my office, priority one."
It was a good thing he was so adorable when he was teasing her. All in all, it made the experience not all that unpleasant. And the fact that he cut a rather dashing figure in that charcoal shirt and white pants didn't do any harm either. She felt her own answering grin tug at her lips. Damn the man!
"Ahem. Hate to interrupt but shouldn't we be going?" Daniel said, reminding them there were actually other people in the room…on the planet. And that they were indeed running late.
"This is very much like the graduation ceremony we attended upon the completion of CassandraFrasier's Secondary education." Teal'c observed.
"Yes that's right Teal'c." Daniel said excitedly. "See, the tradition…"
Sam heard Jack groan in his seat next to her and smiled up at him. He met her gaze, his own mirth reflected in his smiling eyes. And she buried her face in his shoulder with a giggle when he rolled his eyes.
But soon the ceremony began. Sam watched Cassie stride toward the podium in her formal gown and cap to accept her Diploma. She felt Jack's hand squeeze hers, their fingers still knotted together, and realised she was holding her breath.
She let it out in a whisper. "We made it Jack."
She felt Jack's eyes shift to her momentarily and knew she wouldn't have to elaborate, he always understood. "Yeah, we did." He whispered in reply.
She found herself gripping Jack's arm with her other hand, struggling for control over the lump that had formed in her throat, as she watched Cassie return to her seat.
So many things could have gone wrong.
So many things did.
And so many times she herself had thought she might not make it to see this.
But here she was. Here they were. Together. All four of them.
Jack placed a warm palm over the hand on his arm, still squeezing her other hand in his. "Our little girl's all grown up Sam." He murmured softly to her, his eyes still on Cassie.
Sam felt a familiar warmth spread through her that only Jack O'Neill could ever induce, and the lump dissolved. She allowed herself the rare public luxury of resting her head on his shoulder with a small smile. Her smile growing when she felt his lips brush the top her head.
As Cassie's legal guardian, Sam had obviously decided the first hug was hers. As she released the young woman, Cassie exclaimed. "What's with the hair?!"
Sam shot a reproachful glare at Jack for his obvious influence on her, but she couldn't hide her amusement from him. "What?" He said, all innocence as he swept Cassie into his fatherly embrace "Good work kiddo."
Cassie hugged each of her surrogate fathers in turn, before insisting on photos with each one of them.
There were several mock walls at the graduation to serve as back drops for those who wanted more formal photos of the event and Cassie led them to one she'd obviously picked out earlier if the way she made straight for it was any indication.
Jack himself was not of the formal photograph ilk. In fact, he didn't much like getting his photo taken at the best of times, but if it had to be done he preferred relaxed, happy snaps. Something that captured a real moment with friends or family, not a contrived, 'say cheese' manufactured moment. But this was Cassie's day and if she wanted him to stand in front of a wall with her then so be it.
He had his turn first so he could get it over with and watched the others getting their photos with her. Sam had hers last, and Jack found himself thinking that maybe the wall thing wasn't such a bad idea after all. Sam seemed to almost glow with a radiance all her own against the plain back drop Cassie had chosen. He hadn't been able to stop staring at her; she looked so…well…different! Then again, he often found himself unable to stop staring at her over the years anyway. It was just…strange seeing her like this.
She grinned at him when the photo was done and he realised he'd been busted. He was about to say something, he was sure of it, when her blouse slipped as she sauntered toward him, exposing her left shoulder. After that he could hardly be expected to form coherent speech. His fingers itched with the urge to run them over the smooth skin there.
With some effort he managed to pull his gaze away from her creamy shoulder and met her dancing eyes. The woman knew exactly what she did to him!
"Jack?" Ooops…Cassie was saying something. He really should be concentrating on her. It was her graduation for cryin' out loud! But Sam had been gone for two whole days, and she was very…distracting. He was only human! He shook his head at himself. They'd had to spend months at a time away from each other until relatively recently.
"What was that Cassie?" He asked. Not bothering to hide the fact that he hadn't been listening.
"I said, I'd like to get a photo of you and Sam together there too." She repeated with a roll of her eyes. Yep…that was all Janet. If he had a nickel for every time she'd looked at him like that.
"Maybe not, Cass." Sam replied, with an 'its okay, I'll get you out of this' look to Jack. He wasn't surprised. In fact, that's what surprised him; that he was no longer surprised at how well she knew him. He was pretty sure he'd never mentioned his aversion to cameras.
"Oh please guys?" Cassie pleaded. "I love your hair like this Sam, it makes your eyes stand out even more and it would look amazing with this set." Jack gazed back into Sam's eyes rather startled. Huh, what do ya know? The kid was right.
"Cass…" Sam began again but Jack cut her off.
"Sure Cassie, why not. If that's what you want, then snap away." He said taking in the shocked look on Sam's face and grinning at her. "C'mon Sam." He took her hand and led her back to the set.
"Jack, I know you hate this." She said as they came to a stop in front of the wall, facing each other. Jack planted his hands on her hips, his hands were suddenly very happy with him. "It's good of you to do it for Cassie."
"Well you know me." He began, stroking the long strands of her hair out of her face and watching the way it curled at the ends where is dropped on her shoulder, different but the same. "It's just the kind of self sacrificing guy I am." He leaned in so he could speak low. "Besides, this way I get to touch you for a while."
"Okay, ready?" Cassie called out.
They shifted. Jack turned her and pressed himself to her back, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder. It was too bad it wasn't the other, nice naked shoulder. But he wasn't complaining. He was holding her, that's what mattered. He felt her arms and hands come to rest on top of his as though to keep them there, and no words could ever describe how much he loved when she did that.
Her hair was in his face a little and he had to admit he found it really weird to have all this brunette in his periphery. He used his cheek and nose to push it back and out of his face before settling his chin back on her shoulder. He felt her small, sweet smile as her cheek expanded and touched his.
Cassie began her count down from three.
Jack frowned. The problem with this position was that he couldn't look at her face and see her blue eyes framed in this new and exotic style. He preferred blondes, always had, and God knows he'd loved Sam's blonde locks forever. He'd gotten so used to it over the years that seeing Sam as a brunette was…bizarre. And he just couldn't stop looking. He couldn't help it. He tilted his head a little and shifted his eyes to the right to try and get another look at her, to see those even bluer eyes.
A/N: Hope you liked it! Please review.