Title: You're My Destination
Summary: Jack tries to work out the possibility that Carter's been cloned and replaced without anyone realizing it.Jack takes a little trip to Nevada. (Season Nine, 'Ties That Bind')
Rating: Older teens
Categorization: Drama, Sam/Jack, dare I say, Fluff?
A/N: Yeah, yeah. Number five in the DC Series.
You're My Destination
Jack pushes open his front door, drops his keys on a table in the middle of his entryway, and glares down at the boxes strewn across the first floor of his new place. There's nothing quite like coming off a long day of dealing with idiots, only to come home to a disaster zone.
Pulling at his collar, he shrugs out of his jacket and pulls off his tie, dropping them both over the back of the sofa blocking access to the stairs.
He knows he should probably spend the evening unpacking.
Instead, his hand reaches for his cell, reminding him there are easily half a dozen other things he'd rather do than unpack. Hitting speed dial, he heads into the kitchen as it rings.
"This is Carter," she says, and he can tell she's distracted by some work problem by the way she answers her phone.
"Hey, it's me," he says, tucking the phone under his chin and grabbing a beer from the fridge, the one thing he bothered to put where it belongs. He has his priorities, after all.
"Hi," she says, a bit brighter now, giving him hope that he'll actually be able to wrest her attention away from whatever project is on her mind. "How goes the unpacking?"
Jack pokes one of the closest boxes with his foot. "Exactly how eccentric would it be to not bother and just live out of boxes?"
"Fairly high, I'd think."
"Damn." He swears he didn't have quite this much stuff before he moved out here. Maybe there is some kind of breach in space-time in his storage unit that aliens have been using as a trash dump. It makes sense.
"I suppose there are worse things to be than eccentric," Carter says, probably trying to be diplomatic.
"Oh, yeah? Like what?" Jack asks, flipping a bottle cap in the general direction of an open box. It banks off the back wall and lands squarely inside. Score.
"Well," she says. "You could always be whatever the hell Kinsey was."
Jack snorts. "Speaking of smarmy politicians…."
"Daniel and Teal'c were in town this morning. They brought Mitchell and the leather princess with them."
"Uh-oh." Just another great thing about Carter, she's quick on the uptake.
"Oh, you have no idea."
"How bad are we talking?" she asks.
"Let's just say she came all the way to D.C. to inform the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee that he obviously has….what's the best way to put it? An inferiority complex, because of his obsession with big ships."
Sam gasps. "She didn't."
"Like I could make that up."
"I take it that didn't go over particularly well."
"Understatement of the century, Carter. We'll be lucky to get enough money to keep the SGC in toilet paper."
"Oh, God," she says. "And Daniel's head didn't spontaneously explode?"
"Surprisingly enough, no. Though I have rarely seen him quite that infuriated before. He could barely complete a sentence."
"Yeah, it was pretty impressive," he says, smiling as he thinks of it.
"Jack," Carter says, drawing his name out, managing to sound both amused and disapproving at the same time.
"Why does it sound like you're actually a little happy that this woman is making Daniel's, not to mention Landry's, life miserable?"
She's too perceptive for her own good, as usual. "Does it?" he asks.
She laughs, not derailed by his pathetic attempt at innocence. "Oh, Jack. Your dedication to your friends' happiness is inspiring."
"I try," he says, feeling pleased as he only can when she uses that particular tone of fond exasperation.
"It must be a huge relief to you that Vala is there to make sure Daniel doesn't get too complacent."
"Like the situation doesn't amuse you just as much."
She doesn't bother to deny it. "At least I have the decency to pretend it doesn't."
"Yes, Carter. You are a saint among mere mortals." Jack grins into the phone, settling back into the recliner sitting in the middle of his dining room. There's a moment of comfortable silence, during which Jack can almost hear Carter analyzing something.
"This is nice," she eventually comments, and he's relieved it's not her project that's distracting her.
"Yeah," Jack agrees. It's hard not to be aware of just how well this conversation is going. It's almost…effortless. It's about time something is. "Hey, Carter?"
"I'd really like to come see you."
She's silent for a bit, no doubt thrown by the abrupt change in topic, but Jack still holds his breath.
"That would be great," she eventually says and for once he can easily imagine the smile on her face.
"Good," he says with real relief. "Can you squeeze me in the weekend after next?"
"A whole weekend?" she says, her tone back to being playful. "As in a series of consecutive days?"
"I know. A crazy idea. But is it my fault Jenkins set me up with appointments at the SGC on Thursday and at Area 51 on Monday?"
"What an incredible coincidence," she says.
Maybe he shouldn't need pretense for the trip, but it's hard enough to get a day to himself around here with the Ori crisis and IOA mutiny taking place. Not only are the quarterly site visits required, but they also provide him with a valid opportunity to escape the capital.
"So," he says. "Does that work for you?"
"Yeah," she says. "I guess I can find some time for you."
"That's gracious of you, Carter."
"I'm a saint among mere mortals, remember?"
"How could I forget," he says. "I guess that means you don't want a blow by blow account of that meeting this morning then."
There's a brief moment of silence as Carter obviously rethinks her position. "I never said I wasn't a petty saint," she says.
Jack laughs. "If you say so."
"Now tell me, exactly what shade was Daniel's face?"
Jack spends his Thursday sitting in the briefing room and walking the familiar halls of the SGC. He's surprised by the wave of nostalgia he feels, right up until the first time the red lights flash and people begin running around trying to avert impending disaster.
There are some things about this place he just doesn't miss—imminent death and long meetings being two of them.
On top of that, his Friday morning departure gets pushed back to Friday afternoon after the base goes into lockdown for five hours while the half-dozen rodent-like things that escaped through the gate with SG-9 as they outran a wildfire on P7Y-912 can be rounded up.
Sitting in Daniel's office, Jack sees two of the things sprint by the open door, three marines close on their trail.
He turns to Daniel. "This kind of stuff just never happens in Washington," he says almost mournfully.
Daniel smiles, but doesn't look up from his computer. "Shouldn't you be, I don't know, supervising?"
"Sure, because I have some sort of expertise in alien hamsters," Jack says.
"I thought you were supposed to be 'inspecting the troops'."
Jack waves his hand. "You know I'd just make everyone nervous."
Mitchell jogs by then, poking his head in the room, a maneuver complicated by his need to snap to attention when he sees Jack. "General," he says.
Jack slides Daniel a look that says 'See what I'm talking about?' and Daniel just shakes his head. Normally Jack would tell Mitchell to be at ease--again, but he's feeling a bit perverse now, or maybe just bored. "I'd like an update on the situation, Colonel," Jack says.
Mitchell, if possible, straightens even further. "Yes, sir. Three of the…things have been rounded up and caged. Six separate teams are currently in pursuit of the other four."
"Okay," Jack says, folding his arms behind his head and leaning back in his chair. "Just make sure they don't get wet. And don't feed them after midnight!"
"Jack," Daniel intercedes, probably trying to protect Mitchell, but Jack can see the colonel's lips twist at the obscure pop culture reference. Yup, just as Jack has always suspected: Mitchell has a lot of potential.
There's a loud crash and some raised voices in the distance. "I should probably…," Mitchell says, pointing down the hallway.
Jack dismisses him with a wave. "Have fun!"
The grin Mitchell tosses back over his shoulder as he disappears back into the hall tells Jack he probably will.
Jack's a little envious of that too.
They are left in peace for a while, but Jack is beginning to worry that this latest SGC fiasco is going to derail his hard won weekend plans. He frowns at his watch, tapping his finger on the faceplate. There is no way he is going to let that happen, even if he has to break out of this place and climb the twenty-eight levels to freedom.
"Hey," Daniel says, also glancing up at the clock. "Once the quarantine is lifted, how about we get some dinner?"
"Oh, dinner!" Vala says, appearing miraculously in the doorway. Jack wonders how long she's been hovering outside waiting for the perfect opening. "I'd love to!"
Daniel closes his eyes. Jack suspects he's mentally counting to ten.
"Unless this is a romantic boy's night out," Vala continues, stepping into the room and hopping up on the edge of the table with a wink. "I wouldn't want to intrude."
Jack isn't quite sure what to say to that, but Daniel's face is beginning to turn that special shade of puce. Carter would definitely want him to take a picture, and he would, if he were actually smart enough to have brought a camera along. He eyes the video camera on Daniel's desk.
"Shouldn't you be out helping or something?" Daniel says, turning the pages in his journal with jerky motions.
Vala twists, leaning back over Daniel as if trying to read a page. "Sorry, darling. I don't do rodents."
Daniel doesn't look up, but his jaw is clenched and Jack's pretty sure that has something to do with the close proximity of Vala's leather bustier to his face.
Carter is going to kill him for not documenting this. He risks reaching for the camera, knowing that Carter is far scarier than anything Daniel could do to him. Daniel chooses that moment to push to his feet though, walking away from Vala, turning his back on her as if she's not there.
"So, Jack," Daniel says, leaning against the table next to him. "Dinner? I'm pretty sure Teal'c is going to be around as well."
Jack leans slightly around Daniel to look at Vala. She doesn't seem too put out by Daniel's apparent hope that ignoring her will actually make her disappear.
"As nice as that sounds," Jack says, "I actually still have to get to Area 51. More meetings."
Daniel crosses his arms over his chest. "Today?"
Think, O'Neill, think. "Uh, yeah."
"What about this weekend? Our next mission isn't scheduled until Tuesday."
Crap. He'd really hoped to avoid this conversation entirely. Stupid gremlins. He'd already be safely on his way to Nevada if not for them. "More meetings on Monday, too."
"Oh," Daniel says, but he's beginning to look a little suspicious. "That's weird, isn't it?"
"Not really," Jack says as casually as he can muster, his eyes darting to Vala. She's got the beginnings of a wicked smile on her face, and Jack starts to panic. "I thought I'd relax a bit, maybe do a little sightseeing."
Yeah, because sightseeing is the number one most common activity in the middle of top-secret Nowhere, Nevada. Idiot.
Luckily Daniel isn't really paying attention anymore, because he's turned to follow Jack's gaze just in time to see Vala swipe something from the table and head for the door.
"Vala!" Daniel calls out after her, swearing under his breath. Distracted, he glances once between Jack and the door, before resignedly following after her. "We'll have to get together some other time then," he carelessly says to Jack. "Have a good trip."
Vala really is wonderfully useful, Jack thinks fondly as Daniel disappears after her. He should see about getting her a raise. Or, you know, an actual salary of some sort. 'Keep Daniel busy when convenient to his superiors' could be at the top of her list of duties.
Hours later, Jack will get a call from Daniel.
Grabbing a transport out of Peterson seemed like a good idea at the time, but as Jack steps out onto the tarmac in Groom Lake, he's forced to reconsider the wisdom of it.
Jack's attempt to be as incognito as possible is failing miserably as usual. He has this inexplicable need to never walk around the SGC in his dress blues, like maybe the everyday BDUs might convince people to stop falling all over themselves around him. In Washington there isn't point in even trying, but in the Mountain, at least the majority of the people remember him from before the stars.
In Groom Lake, it's even less successful, his casual dress not saving him from being immediately set upon by the base commander as he steps off the plane, an aide whisking off his bag to quarters they have prepared for him.
General John Rawlings is not the sort to fawn, but he also knows far too well where his post's project funding and continued latitude comes from. Unfortunately, Rawlings doesn't know Jack all that well, because he seems to think an impromptu meeting to update him on current projects is a surprise treat rather than indeterminable torture.
Jack tries not to hold it against the guy though, mainly because he spends the first fifteen minutes singing Carter's praises. Jack figures anyone smart enough to realize how lucky he is to have Carter under his command can't be all that bad.
Jack's been stuck in Rawlings' office for the longest thirty minutes of his life when a knock on the door interrupts them.
"Come," Rawlings calls out.
The door opens to reveal Carter, who manages to look believably surprised to find Jack there. Jack makes his expression as neutral as possible, but damn does he just want to pop up out of his chair and show her exactly how much he's missed her.
"Generals," she says with a polite nod at each of them. "I didn't mean to interrupt. I can come back later."
She starts to withdraw, but Rawlings is already waving her in. "Colonel, it's no problem. What do you need?"
She flashes a smile at him, one Jack knows means she's up to something. It's the one that usually has him scrambling for minimum safe distance. Rawlings clearly hasn't worked that out yet though, as he doesn't seem to remotely fear for his life.
"I wanted to drop off the latest report on the F-305 hyperdrive simulations," Carter says, handing Rawlings a folder. "There are some very promising results, sir."
Now Jack knows Rawlings is off his rocker, because the guy's eyes don't glaze over as Carter starts to go into detail. A lot of detail, even for her. Instead, Rawlings is leaning forward, asking a few pointed, very technical questions.
Jack doesn't bother to hide his pained expression.
Rawlings catches sight of it, smiling apologetically. "Sorry, Jack. I'll just have Colonel Carter come back later."
Jack pushes to his feet. "No, no need. It's obviously something important. At least I assume, as I have no idea what you two are talking about."
Out of the corner of his vision, he can see Carter roll her eyes, but she doesn't call his bluff in front of Rawlings. Smart woman.
"Thanks for the update, John," Jack says, reaching out and shaking the general's hand. "We can save the rest of it for the meeting on Monday." With that, he beats a hasty retreat before Rawlings can try to rope him into drinks, or dinner, or something equally horrible.
Next time he comes out here, he's going to fly commercial, waste of time or not. Getting the back of his seat kicked for five hours might just be easier on his sanity in the long run.
He doesn't go far, simply loitering as unobtrusively as possible right around the corner.
Less than fifteen minutes later, Carter walks by.
"General," she says with a pleasant smile as he falls in step next to her.
"Carter," Jack says with a nod. "You have my eternal gratitude."
"I don't know what you're talking about, sir," she says, trying to look like she hadn't just saved him from that God-awful meeting.
"Of course you don't," Jack says.
They walk sedately down a few more hallways, stopping every once and a while for Carter to answer questions and sign forms and generally look important. Jack just amuses himself watching her. Is it weird that seeing her in blue BDUs again can make him so happy?
"So," Carter says when they reach a relatively unpopulated stretch of hallway. "Ready to get out of here?"
"You can't be done already," he says, glancing at his watch. It isn't even four o'clock.
"Yes, I am," she says, pausing a moment to drop off the files in her hand on someone's desk. A few paces further down the hall, she leans into him, her voice lowering. "Do you really think I'm taking the risk of some emergency popping up and dragging you out of here before we can make our escape?"
He tries not to look smug and fails miserably. "Wow," he says, his hand casually brushing against the small of her back as he holds a door open for her. "I'm honored."
She slides him a look. "You should be."
There's something different about her today that he can't put his finger on. It's throwing him off-kilter, but he kind of likes it. Maybe he's just sick that way. "So what exactly does one do around here when they leave work early?"
"Oh, I don't know," she says, coming to a stop by the locker rooms. "Wanna go for a ride?"
Jack coughs. Carter's face is completely serious, but he can't help but think she fully intends the double meaning.
Before he manages to find his voice, she pats him on the arm. "I'm just going to go change," she says. "I'll meet you out front in fifteen?"
Jack nods, but she's already disappeared into the locker room.
By the time he tracks down his quarters, changes into his civvies, and determines where 'out front' actually is, his brain is admittedly still a little preoccupied.
Jack spins around to find Carter standing behind him with two helmets and-.
Oh. Dear. God.
She's wearing leather. Head-to-foot, black leather.
"Geez, Carter," Jack manages, hoping he hasn't actually groaned audibly. "Warn a guy before you jump out at him like that."
She smiles, glancing down at herself with an innocent expression that has all his alarms ringing. "Sorry," she says.
She doesn't sound remotely sorry.
He is in so much trouble.
Following her out into the parking lot, Jack tries to work out the possibility that she's been cloned and replaced without anyone realizing it.
She gets on her Indian, looking back at him when he hesitates. "You coming?"
He nods, climbing on behind her, shifting until he is comfortably settled against her, his hands sliding along her leather-clad torso.
This might just be her best idea ever.
They take a sedate pace out of the parking lot, pausing at the gate to sign out, the soldier on duty apparently familiar enough with seeing Carter on her bike that she doesn't even bat an eye.
"Have a good evening," the guard says with a wave.
Carter waves back.
"Hang on," she says, snapping her visor down.
Like he needs the excuse.
In no time at all they are streaking along a small, deserted highway, the desert opening out around them until civilization is just a distant memory. It's not too hard to pretend, out here, that they are the only two people left.
Lying low and speeding flat out across the asphalt is the closest he's gotten to actually flying in months. (Those transport boats don't count.) It's a bit like old times, hanging on by the skin of his teeth, putting all his faith in Carter's abilities. He trusts her to push right to the limit, but not over, so he can just zone out to the feel of the wind whipping by, the hum of the machine beneath them.
He thinks he might be able to actually feel the stifling layers that have been building up on him since his move to Washington peeling away with each mile she puts between them and the base.
It's nice to be able to breathe again.
Much too soon, as far as he's concerned, she pulls over. "You want a turn?" she asks as the dust settles around them.
"Really?" He knows how possessive she is of her bike.
She smiles. "Yeah."
It's possible she knows just how much he needs this.
It's tempting, his hands almost itching to take control. But right now there's a greater itch taking precedence. One he doesn't have to ignore anymore, thank God.
"Nah," he says, his hands sliding from her waist down to her hips, inching forward over her thighs. "I'm pretty happy where I am."
She blinks back at him, her hands tightening on the handlebar.
The look she gives him before snapping her visor down and turning the bike back in the opposite direction is one he's never seen before. He's sure of that, because if he had, he probably never would have been able to function around her in a professional manner. It's burned into his mind (hell, his whole body) for the remainder of the ride, and he blames that for the firmer grip he has on her, for letting his hands slide until his thumbs brush up against the underside of her breasts.
She leans on the throttle.
Jack doesn't spare much attention for the small suburban community that builds up around them, or the cozy house Sam aims for, pulling into a waiting garage.
The garage door hasn't even closed completely before she kicks down the stand and pulls her helmet off in one fluid motion. Jack discards his own and has just gotten his feet on the ground when she flips around in the seat. He's grabbing her, pulling her closer as her lips descend on his.
Jack's imagined her like this, completely unrestrained, a lot more over the years than he probably should have. But nothing, nothing prepares him for the feeling of her pressing flush against him, the way any semblance of control falls to the wayside as she meets his own raw need with equal intensity.
There is no way they are dancing around this anymore.
Jack bites back a groan when she shifts against him, feeling his own restraint stretching to the breaking point. Hell, who is he kidding? He's been halfway there since the moment she walked up to him in those damn leathers.
He throttles back just long enough to growl, "Inside, Carter."
Somehow they manage to get off the bike and up to the door without letting go of each other. Pressing her back against it, Jack reaches for the zipper of her jacket, easing it down to expose the tight, black tank top she has on underneath.
"Jesus," he says, muffling the word against her skin as he works his way down her neck and across her chest, hands pulling the jacket down and off her arms as he goes.
He suspects he could remain here forever, acquainting himself with every square inch of Carter's skin, but then she's opened the door, both of them stumbling inside, her hands already working on divesting him of his own jacket.
She shoves him back through the house, steering him in generally the right direction as they bump into walls and trip over things in their haste, in their absolute refusal to stop touching each other even for a moment. By some miracle they do eventually make it into her bedroom, leaving a chaotic trail of clothing and debris in their wake.
It only occurs to Jack much, much later that she orchestrated the entire thing. That she blatantly set out to seduce him. The banter, the leather, the motorcycle ride, all carefully calculated to drive him completely insane.
Or maybe just make him really, really happy.
When he calls her on it, she doesn't bother to look embarrassed. She just leans over him, fingers trailing down his chest, and unabashedly confesses, "It's possible I've imagined this scenario a few times over the years."
Then she gives him that look again.
God, Jack thinks, she really is perfect.