Title: Cooking Lessons
Season/Episode: SG-1, Season 9-ish
Summary: Perhaps it would be best to limit herself to today's mistakes. For example, getting out of bed this morning. That definitely made the list.
Genre: Fairly fluffy.
A/N: For lilpheonix5. Prompt: cooking lessons. Special thanks to binkii822 and a-loquita for beta reading.
Sam looked from the hole in the ground in front of her to the small pile of earth at her side, then up at the barely-risen sun. She shook her head. Somewhere along the way she'd made a serious error in judgment.
Generally speaking, Sam made it a point not to repeat her mistakes. And in this case, she thought, tossing a shovelful of dirt to the side, her initial mistake had been – what, exactly?
Meeting Jack O'Neill in the first place certainly hadn't been something she'd had any say in, so that didn't qualify.
Letting him get under her skin? No. Nobody she knew had managed to avoid that. And a certain degree of attachment had been a natural consequence of the time they'd all spent together as a team. Absolutely nothing she could have done to prevent that.
Now, falling in love … well, that might count, except that she'd spent the last several years trying not to do exactly that. So that wasn't so much an error in judgment as it was a failure to execute. Not exactly the same thing, surely?
With a sigh that turned rapidly into a yawn, Sam shoved the spade back into the ground, loosening another patch of dirt and lifting it out of the hole. Perhaps it would be best to limit herself to today's mistakes. For example, getting out of bed this morning. That definitely made the list.
She pitched the clump of soil in the same direction as the last one. In the silence that followed the thump of earth landing on earth, she heard a soft noise, and she paused in her digging. Listening carefully, head tilted to the side, she identified it as Jack's footsteps, the sound traveling ahead of him as he approached her position from the cabin.
Straightening, Sam let the blade of the shovel come to rest next to her. "I don't suppose you're ever going to explain why I'm digging this hole?" she asked without turning to look in his direction.
Jack passed her without speaking; when he was on the other side of the mound of dirt she'd removed from the ground, he set down a large black object and moved on to the dying fire, using a long stick to stir the embers.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me," she said.
"Nope," he said, continuing to poke at the coals.
Sam stuck her shovel in the ground, eyeing the cast-iron pot now resting in front of her. On second thought, she decided, the moment she woke up was probably when she actually lost control of the day. Unlike that pot, which she'd clearly lost control of weeks ago.
She'd first seen it in Jack's attic in Colorado Springs, one weekend when he'd returned from Washington for a visit. They'd spent that Saturday afternoon going through the belongings that hadn't been moved to his new place in D.C., sorting them into piles that Sam had helpfully labeled storage, return to neighbors, and toss out.
During the course of the day, she'd considered re-labeling the last pile products of Jack's deranged mind; but this thing between the two of them, while sweet and satisfying and more intense than Sam had ever dared hope, was still new and occasionally fragile.
Besides, with that label, everything in the house would probably have ended up in the same pile.
By early evening, they'd worked their way up to the top of the house, and Sam remembered feeling a glimmer of hope that they might be able to spend tomorrow doing something that didn't involve cardboard boxes and objects last seen in the 1970s. As soon as she'd stuck her head through the opening at the top of the pull-down stairs, though, she'd resigned herself to an entire weekend covered in a perpetual layer of dust.
She'd looked up at Jack, who'd gone up into the attic ahead of her. "For a guy who's spent most of his career away from home, you've got an awful lot packed away up here."
"Never was good at getting rid of stuff. Neither was Sara. We usually ended up just hauling a load of old boxes from place to place whenever we moved." His head had turned slowly as he surveyed the space, then his gaze had dropped to hers, his expression part challenge and part plea. "Some of this crap might still be hers. Don't think she went through a lot of this before she gave it to me."
"Well," she'd said, climbing onto the decking beside him and giving him a small smile. "Let's get started."
Sam had sat down to work without further remark, leaning over the closest of the boxes. Jack had remained silent behind her for a long moment; then she'd felt his hand come to rest on her back. He'd dropped a kiss on the nape of her neck and muttered what might have been a thank you into her hair, and she'd hummed something in reply, a response to his words but also to the chills the touch of his lips had sent skating along the skin of her neck and shoulders. When he'd moved away, she'd stared down at the contents of the carton in front of her for several seconds before shaking her head and returning to work.
As she recalled, they'd worked for over an hour before the pot in question had turned up at the bottom of a large steamer trunk, hidden underneath a box of very old photos and several rather nice quilts. She'd called Jack over to look at the pictures, but he'd fixated instead on the Dutch oven she hadn't yet removed from the chest.
"Huh. Haven't thought about that in ages."
"Looks like it's seen better days," she'd said, following his gaze. In point of fact, it had looked a bit like a refugee from a wagon train that had gone very, very wrong.
He'd dropped down to join her where she sat next to the trunk, his brow furrowed in thought. "Probably hasn't been used in decades."
Reaching into the trunk, Sam had brushed the disused pot's lid with a tentative fingertip. "It probably hasn't been used since some guy named Cooky retired from working the chuckwagon on the cattle drive."
"It's been camping a few times since then," Jack had said with a wry chuckle. "But you're not far off base."
"You want to get rid of it, then?"
"Jack, this thing looks like Cooky should have given it a decent burial at the last campsite."
She'd spoken without thought; Sam still remembered quite vividly the eyebrow he'd arched in response to her quip. At the time she hadn't been able to decide if his reaction had indicated his surprise, or something closer to a dare.
His response hadn't given her much of a clue. "Uh-uh. Not gonna happen." He'd paused, looking to the side and peering under the rafters as though there were some solution to be found there. After a moment, he'd clapped his hands together and turned back to face her. "I'll ship it up to the cabin. They'll hold it for me at the post office."
She'd lifted the pot out of the trunk, finding that she had to set her shoulders and arms against its non-negligible weight. "It'll cost you a fortune to ship this," Sam said once she'd set it on the decking between them. "If it's that important, can't you just buy a new one the next time you're up there?"
"Are you kidding?" He'd reached over and grabbed the handle, tugging on it until the whole thing slid a few inches closer to him. "You don't replace one of these babies, Carter. We're talking about American cultural heritage here."
"So buy an old one the next time you're up there."
"But I want this one," he'd said, patting it. "It belonged to my granddad."
At which point she'd shut up, partly because there really wasn't any arguing with that, and partly because he'd leaned across the pot to brush a cobweb from her hair. The touch of his hands made her shiver like always, and shivering had led to other things, eventually prompting them to abandon the musty attic for Sam's much less musty house and bed.
Honestly, she'd forgotten the stupid pot about five seconds into the first kiss that evening. Clearly, he hadn't, since it was now sitting in front of her in all its squat, three-legged, spindly-handled and considerably-cleaner-than-she'd-last-seen-it glory. Fortunate for her that she'd decided only to count today's mistakes.
Regardless, she should have expected something like this when he'd dragged her out of bed this morning and begged for her help, all boyish charm and enthusiasm. But it was very difficult to resist when he'd kissed her softly on the lips, whispering in her ear that he'd make it worth her while later as he ran his fingers lightly up and down her arms. Mistake number – well, maybe counting them wasn't such a good idea after all.
She'd still been half-asleep, and apparently disturbingly besotted, and God but that thing he had done with his mouth right where her neck met her collarbone felt good; so she'd thrown on jeans and a sweatshirt and let him lead her out into the chill morning air, where he'd left her with a shovel, a few vague instructions, and a kiss on the forehead, saying he'd be back in a few minutes.
And that, she thought, was exactly the sort of bad judgment that landed her here, digging a hole in the ground while her nose and ears turned red in the cold wind. Really, whoever invented Minnesota could have made it just a little warmer.
Sam drove the blade of the shovel into the ground so that it stuck straight up like a pole. "Jack, this is neither a campout nor a cattle drive. There's a perfectly good stove inside, and a number of perfectly good restaurants a half hour or so down the road. Why exactly do we need to cook in a pit in the ground?"
He continued to stir the remnants of the fire, which she now understood were meant to go in the ground with the pot, rather than to keep the unpaid labor warm. "Need's got nothing to do with it." He turned to face her. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
"It's possible," she said, "that I accidentally left it at work."
Actually, Sam thought her sense of adventure was pretty much where it always had been. After all, she'd been adventurous enough to embark on a romantic relationship with him, which probably required a greater spirit of recklessness than anything she'd ever done. She knew better than to say that aloud, though.
On the other hand, after eight years and some change, it might be time to learn how to say those things once in a while.
Jack had already moved on. "These are important skills, you know. Very useful in the event of apocalypse."
"First of all, I could be wrong, but if the world ends, I'm fairly certain I'll be busy elsewhere."
"Well, not if it ends today, you won't."
"And second," she continued, ignoring his wisecrack, "it's not as though I'm not equipped to survive in that sort of situation."
"You forget I've seen you try to clean and cook an animal."
One time. It was one time, and she'd been injured. They'd all been injured, in fact. "We ate, didn't we? I didn't hear Teal'c and Daniel complaining."
"They were just being nice. Carter, Bill Lee's better at that stuff than you are. It's one of like three things in the universe you're actually bad at."
Sam seriously doubted Bill Lee could kill an intoxicated field mouse, let alone make it into dinner, but she played along anyway. "Well then, if the world ends today, that part's your job." She paused for a moment to consider. "And while you're at it, you can dig the holes and haul the twenty-pound pot while we walk back to Colorado."
"Hey, if the world ends today, I'm staying here, away from the crazy people."
She raised an eyebrow.
"Right. I cook, dig the holes, and carry the pot. And you'll be …?"
Folding her arms, she rested them on top of the handle of the shovel still standing in front of her. "I'll be supervising."
"Supervising?" Now he was the one with the raised eyebrow.
Possibly supervising hadn't been the best word to use when speaking to one's commanding-officer-turned-significant-other. Too late now, though. "Definitely," she said with a grin.
He tossed the stick he'd been holding to the ground and moved toward her. "You are so not going to be the one supervising. Even if we ignore the obvious questions of rank," he said, folding his own arms across his chest, "I am definitely the chef de cuisine in this kitchen. You are at best a mere chef de partie. Really, more like my kitchen assistant."
She blinked. Okay. On the subject of words, those were definitely not the sort one expected to hear from Jack O'Neill.
"What?" he asked. "I dated one once."
"A kitchen assistant?"
"A chef," he said with a slight roll of his eyes. "And God, could she cook." He paused, looking over her shoulder at some point off in the distance. "She made a thing with lamb that was just …" The sound of satisfaction he made couldn't exactly be described, but it definitely wasn't making her happy. "And this dessert – I forget the name, but I think it had bananas in it. Unbelievable."
Unbelievable was the word, all right. That was it. They were never coming here again. Jack on vacation was a very, very bad thing.
"She worked at that Cuban restaurant over on –" He broke off when his gaze dropped to her face, cocking his head to the side, studying her increasingly cross expression. "Problem, Carter?"
"No." No problem with hearing stories about ex-girlfriends. While digging a hole in the ground. And freezing her ears off. "No, not at all."
He smirked, smug. Far too smug. In fact, she decided, he definitely needed to be made less smug.
"I think I know the place you mean," she said. "I've might have been there too. With –"
"You know what? I don't remember where it was. At all," he said, backpedalling.
"Really? Fancy that."
"Totally forgotten it," he cut in, holding up his hands. "Completely. And so have you."
She snorted. "Actually, I didn't even know there was a Cuban restaurant in Colorado Springs."
"Sneaky." He took hold of the handle of the shovel she was still leaning on and pulled gently, forcing her to move closer to him.
"Yes, you are," she said, trying to ignore the slightly elevated heartrate and urge to touch him that now seemed to be a persistent side effect of his proximity.
Jack tugged again on the shovel; when Sam reached down and batted his hand away, he huffed a laugh. "Anyway, she talked a lot. Non-stop, to be honest. Hard to avoid learning something."
"And you learned how to run a kitchen in a restaurant?"
"I did." He seemed quite pleased about it.
"So," Sam said, biting the inside of her cheek to suppress a smile, "if I were to ask you how to build a naquadah reactor, you'd remember everything I've ever told you?"
"Oh, no." He pointed a finger at her. "Nope. Absolutely no pop quizzes on material that pre-dates our first kiss."
"That still gives me years to work with, you know. Since our first kiss was just a couple of months after we met."
"Hmm." Jack laid the tip of his finger in the middle of her forehead, then slid it sideways, pushing her hair to the side and brushing the longer strands back behind her ear. "Think you're funny?"
"Yep," Sam said with a half-smile; then she shivered as his hand continued its journey, the rough pad of his fingertip drawing a line under her ear and down the line of her jaw, his skin just barely touching hers.
"Pretty sure you know which kiss I meant, genius." He tilted her face up slightly with the finger now resting under her chin.
"Maybe you need to remind me." That wasn't what she'd meant to say, was it? Certainly not in that breathy sort of voice that he'd probably take as an invitation to –
"I've never had to remind you of anything, Carter," he said, leaning in closer, stopping when their noses bumped.
"Maybe not, Jack. But remind me of this."
"Whatever you say."
Her breath hitched when his lips briefly brushed against hers as he spoke the last word; then her eyes drifted shut as his arms slid around her and he closed the last remaining distance between them, his warm mouth moving slowly on her slightly cooler skin.
Sam thought this might be better than anything else about their newfound freedom, standing in Jack's embrace, exchanging unhurried but deeply intimate caresses. This simple experience somehow always left her feeling dazed and dizzy and more than a little bit amazed.
But it was impossible to think in this position, and she was sure there had been something she was thinking about. She drew back slightly; he chased after her for one more kiss, then let her go.
Instead of pulling completely away, Sam paused with her face still a bare few inches from his; she relaxed against him, enjoying the feel of Jack's hand cupping her jaw, his fingers stroking the back of her neck, and his breath rushing against her cheek and the corner of her mouth. After a long moment, he let his arms fall away. "That better?"
"I think so." She opened her eyes and took a step back to see him. He stared back at her. At least this time he had the decency to look as stunned as she felt.
Jack opened his mouth to speak again, then seemed to change his mind – or possibly couldn't remember what he had planned to say. Sam hoped it was the latter, since she still had no idea what they'd been talking about.
Eventually, he turned away, looking down at the ground. "This looks …" His voice sounded hoarse, and he trailed off, clearing his throat. "Looks about done."
Sam couldn't immediately fathom what he meant; then she dropped her gaze to follow his. "Oh," she said. Right. She'd been digging a hole, and she wasn't happy. "Amazing, that."
Jack leaned over to pick up the shovel, and Sam paused to consider how it could have ended up on the ground. Hadn't she just been holding it?
It really was a good thing Washington, D.C. was so far away from anywhere she was expected to work. She couldn't be held responsible for the stupid things she might say or do if Jack O'Neill were to remain within kissing distance.
When Jack extended the handle of the shovel to her, she took it, then watched silently as he turned and moved back over to the fire. For several seconds, he stood still, staring down at the coals; then he executed an about-face and strode back to her.
"Yeah, I need that," he said, pulling the shovel back out of her hands and walking away again.
Apparently he couldn't be held responsible either. And that, she thought, could prove to be an important observation. Maybe there was some law of conservation she could invoke – if he made more mistakes, then she could make fewer. Sam laughed softly at the notion.
When he'd finished packing the pot and the coals from the fire into the pit, Jack tossed the shovel to the side and clapped his hands together. "Ready to head back?"
"There's coffee inside," he offered.
"Are you sure?" She tilted her head, smiling slightly as he came to stand in front of her. "We don't need to go barter for the beans? Grind them with rocks and throw the coffee pot in the pit, too?"
"I'm not that dumb."
"And yet, I'm out here cooking dinner before I've even had that coffee."
He smirked. "I might not have planned that as well as I could have."
"Are you at least going to tell me what we're having for dinner?"
Right. Of course not.
"Come on, Carter. You like surprises." He took her hand, swinging it slightly from side to side.
"You like me. I'm very surprising." He kissed the corner of her mouth.
Sam pulled back to look at him. "That's not going to work forever, you know," she said, putting on the sort of expression she'd often found useful for keeping civilian scientists in line. "That kissing thing."
"All the more reason to use it to my advantage now."
"Is that what you're doing?"
She shook her head, then put her free hand on his cheek and pulled his face down to hers, ignoring the girlish fluttering in her stomach and the not-so-girlish response in other parts of her body as she pressed herself against him and proceeded to torment him with her lips and teeth and tongue. When she slid one hand down to his hip, pulling him more snugly against her, he let loose a low groan, and she answered him quite deliberately with a soft sound from the back of her throat. His arms tightened around her shoulders, and she smiled against his mouth.
Then, still smiling, she pulled her lips from his and began to disentangle herself from his arms.
Jack spoke before she'd even managed to free herself. "Can we go inside now? Please?"
"Tell me something first," she said, pushing his hands away when he sought to pull her back to him.
"Anything," he said, with an edge of desperation to his voice.
"That stuff you just put in the ground takes quite a while to cook, right?"
"So we won't be eating it for a very long time."
"We have the whole day. Hours and hours of free time. During which we can do whatever we want." He ran a hand down her back and past her waist, his fingers stroking her lightly through her clothing.
"So what you're saying is," she said, reaching down and pulling his questing hand back up to her shoulder, "you think you can have dessert first."
"You dragged me out of bed at dawn on the first day I've had off in three weeks. I'm sweaty and tired – and again, can I point out that's my first day off in three weeks?"
He was cringing a little now.
"I'm going to take a nice, hot shower. Assuming I don't have to boil the water myself, that is."
"Apropos of nothing, there are days when I really miss 'yes, sir' and 'no, sir'."
"And then I'm going back to sleep."
"Ah," he said, clearly disappointed.
She pressed one more swift kiss to his lips. "Enjoy all of that free time," she said as she freed herself from his arms and headed back to the cabin, deliberately adding a subtle sway to her hips as she walked. It was a good thing he couldn't see the blush rising on her face. She could only imagine the look of dismay on his.
For a few brief seconds, Sam considered letting him stew … well, with the stew, while she cleaned up, but eventually she decided to put him out of his misery. Turning her head, she called out to him over her shoulder, "You're just going to have to trust me when I say you need a shower, too, Jack. Now."
There was a pause, and then she heard him mutter, "Oh, yeah," as the sound of his hurried footsteps followed after her.
Maybe, just maybe, mistakes weren't so bad after all. At least as long as he kept making them, too.