"Time Distortion Bubbles"
By: a. loquita
Warnings/Spoilers: None
A/N: Thanks to mrspollifax for her beta work.

Time distortion bubbles? Fields?

Whatever Carter called them, they were on his mind. Not because the plan in front of Jack involved any of those (this time). But because Jack always felt that it took some sort of fancy equipment and science to create one of those bubbles. He never believed that two people alone in a room together had such power to make everything else stop. To make time and space exist only in the breath between them.

"General?" Mitchell's voice interrupted his thoughts, and Jack looked up. The tone also conveyed about a half-dozen things that he didn't want to analyze. Concern was one of them, and Jack wasn't sure if the concern was the friendly sort or because Mitchell thought an old man couldn't pull this last one off. It wasn't like Jack hadn't saved the world about 15 times before. Or was it 16? Teal'c would know, but he wasn't here, he was on the Odyssey right now.

"It's what we do, Mitchell." They were up against an enemy that appeared suddenly and was more badass than Ba'al on his worse day; it was time to stop planning and to start doing something. Anything. "Time to go."

Everyone in the briefing room stood when Jack stood. His momentary glance at Daniel told the archeologist that the foolish idea better work, or Jack was going to… The threat didn't need to be finished because Daniel nodded.

"Alright," Jack said. "Everyone's dismissed, and Mitchell, you've got a F-16 to catch."

"Yes, sir." Mitchell paused. "Good luck to you, too, sir."

Once again, Mitchell and others would be providing cover while Jack worked the chair in Antarctica. That is, if the other ZPM they needed arrived from Atlantis in time, Teal'c and Odyssey in tow.

"Deja vu all over again," Jack's quipped. It hung in the air as they were dismissed, and everyone departed the room.

Everyone but Carter.

"Landry's office," Jack said without looking at her.

She followed him. He remembered a time before in this very office, back when it belonged to Hammond, and she was going on and on about things moving at the speed of light and how it slowed down time. None of it made any sense to him, even when she suggested imagining the apple was a train and the orange was a clock.

Later, much later, he read an Army report about jumping out of planes. Military men, trained and fearless, still estimated their drop times more than a third longer than the actual seconds it took to parachute to the ground. Tricks of the human mind in crisis, the report ultimately concluded. He wondered if that was what Sam had been trying to teach him all along.

"Look, Carter…" It wasn't that he didn't have plenty to say to her. It was that he had no idea what was going through her mind. Well, this time more than usual.

"About last night," she said, looking down at her hands. "I just…"

He didn't like where this was going already. "Carter?"

"I'm not going to apologize. It wasn't a mistake."

"It wasn't?" Oops. He'd meant that to come out more like he was in agreement, rather than as a question. It hadn't been a mistake, OK, a least not a big one; he was, after all, only two days away. He guessed it was more like an End Of The World Booty Call. Not that either of them would likely say that out loud.

Sam sounded incredulous. "Two days before you're about to retire, and this happens?" He decided to assume she means the attack by evil aliens and not the sex.

After a moment, she added, "Is the Universe really out to get us?"

Jack couldn't help it; the thought was kind of humorous, but her theory did have some wacked-out logic to it. Speed of light was one thing, being right up next to a black hole was another. These buggers also had funny effects on time and made the sense of doom drag out longer.

Finally, he posed the obvious, "Is that why?"

"No," she was quick to respond. "Well, not entirely."

"OK."

"It's just…" She took a tentative step closer. "It seemed like once again you're forced to deal with…" She glanced down again. He noticed her fingers twisting around the sleeve of her jacket. It was the only sign of Sam, in the otherwise Colonel-Carter-uniform she was presenting.

"What?" he prompted.

"For once you deserved something good to come from all this."

Jack's eyebrows rose. "So that was my… reward?"

Sam seemed to grimace at where this analogy was taking her. "I guess."

"Can I ask?" This time he was the one to move closer; now they were only a foot or so apart. "I mean, let's just say that somehow the Odyssey does get here in time, and Mitchell, et al. get the fire power into the skies to keep the pesky Angry-Rhinoceros-Aliens away from the ice over the chair, and somehow I remember enough Ancient to get the darn thing to work, and you and Vala do whatever that thing is you're going to do with the jamming technology, and viola," he clapped his hands together, "Daniel's insane plan works and we win."

"Angry-Rhinoceros-Aliens?" Though the more she thought about it, they did kind of look like Rhinos.

"So not the point right now, Carter."

"Let's say all that happens," she agreed.

"Is this reward like winning the Lotto?" He could tell from her expression that she wasn't quite getting his question. "I can choose to have it in a one-time lump sum, or I get it slowly doled out over the next 20 years."

A small smile appeared, the kind that said she was both pleased with herself and trying not to blush. Now she finally touched him, put her hand on his cheek even if she was a little hesitant in the gesture. "You get to choose."

"Ah." He thought for a moment. Long enough that Carter started to chuckle under her breath, knowing that he was teasing her. "Two days, Carter. It's not like you to break rules."

"Close enough."

His hands went to her waist. No one was in the briefing room, but there was glass, and they could be discovered at any moment by someone passing by. He was still two days from retirement, that is, if the Earth were still here two days from now. And as much as he wanted to kiss her, hell, replay everything that had happened last night— she had to get going and so did he. There was a world to save again.

"You gotta go," he said.

But this time, for the first time, there was a kiss waiting for him after it was all over.

Sam closed her eyes for a moment; when she opened them again, she stepped back. "Yeah. You too."

The time dilation bubble around them popped, and suddenly everything was moving again. She was leaving, and he had a helicopter to catch, and Daniel was at his side going over the plan one more time. It was the Universe surrounding them getting its one last shining moment of glory, making them all jump out of planes one final time.

After that, he planned to live in a bubble for the next 20 years.