Title: When the Stars Come Home
Episode/Season: End of season 8 or later.
Summary: It's a familiar feeling, but so distant, unpracticed, like a memory.
A/N: Thanks to ziparumpazoo for beta reading!
Sam leans forward, the wood railing rough against her hands as she looks upward at the sky. The moon above is little more than a crescent, but for some reason, the stars seem brighter to her here than they have anywhere else on Earth.
The wind and the occasional hoot of an owl are the only sounds that break the surrounding silence until she hears the scuff of footsteps slowly crossing the deck behind her.
"We've seen better," Jack says, voice warm in the chilly evening air.
She turns slightly, glancing over her shoulder in his direction.
"The stars, I mean." He steps forward to lean against the rail beside her.
She looks away, back up at the sky. Maybe it's not his voice that's warm; maybe that's the whispering of her body when she hears him, when she feels him beside her.
Here at her side, where he's been all these years.
He clears his throat before he speaks again, elaborating on his earlier thought. "Brighter," he says. "Prettier ..." She sees the motion in her peripheral vision when he waves upward. "Better," he finishes awkwardly.
It's a familiar feeling, but so distant, unpracticed, like a memory. A reminiscence of campfires and adrenaline and laughter in the face of life and death and everything in between. Of stolen glances that never should have been.
If it feels like memory, then maybe it needs to be taken out and relived; refreshed, dwelled upon, and cherished, so that it won't ever be forgotten.
His hand lands on the railing. She can feel it there next to hers, their fingers almost but not quite brushing. And now it's not just whispers making her feel warm; it's more like her whole body calling out to him.
It takes several seconds' worth of measured breaths before she can speak without adding her voice to the chorus. "I don't think so," she says at last.
She shifts closer, shakes her head, and neither one of them is looking at the stars anymore. "I like what we've got here."
She's not sure what she sees flashing across his eyes – hope, need, that desperate possessiveness burned on both of their souls years ago. Love, her heart says, whisper-quiet, and as she traces the rough stubble on his jaw, as she feels his hand slide across her back, she lets the warmth of the word spread through her.
Warmth turns to heat, touch by precious, wondering touch, long minutes of slow kissing on a starlit porch leading inexorably to longer, slower caresses in the darkness of his bedroom.
His hands in her hair. Her lips at the hollow of his throat. The rough brush of his leg against the skin of her inner thigh.
In the daylight, she remembers, the room looked simple, even spartan; but in the deep, rich black of night, with the hard planes of his back beneath her hands and her own gasps filling her ears, it seems lavish. Exotic, but intimate; a secret, hidden place she never thought they'd find. And while they move together amidst the quilts and pillows and not-quite-threadbare sheets, she feels like time might almost forget them here, as if each kiss, each embrace could stretch out until nothing is left but this moment, here and now.
As if she could freeze time and feel those words he's breathing against her neck forever.
They're the sort of words that are meant to be felt, not heard; whispers of desire, of worship and devotion, soft murmurs of sound that ripple across her skin and merge with the fiery flood of passion and him inside of her.
But then he pulls back, as if to meet her eyes, even though the only light is the starlight framed dimly in the window behind him.
She curls a hand behind his neck and whispers his name; a question.
"Stay," he says, his voice laced with a faded remnant of command, but mostly hot and aching with need.
She draws him back down into a kiss before she breathes her almost-silent yes against his skin.
The countertop is cold beneath her fingertips, the room lit only by the night lamp over the stove. Sam lingers by the window as the coffee brews, watching as the black night shifts slowly to blue in the thin, pale light of dawn. The coming of morning, bringing with it hope and possibility and an unrelenting brightness that dissolves dreams like mist, good and bad alike.
She fills her cup and leaves behind the odd shadows of the half-lit kitchen, making her way across the deck to the railing where she'd stood the night before. The hazy burn of red and orange at the horizon is slowly overtaking the few stars that remain, and she counts them as they disappear, one by one, until she's left with a blazing sunrise and the memory of his hands, his lips, his body on hers. The sound of his voice whispering secrets in her ear.
Some words can only be said under cover of darkness. Is it because of the starkness of the shadows they cast, or simply the flaws that can't be seen until they stand in the bright light of day? What feels like a lifetime of wandering amongst the stars, and she still can't answer the question.
"You all right?"
She turns, surprised; even in the silence, she hadn't heard him coming. He pauses, cocks his head, and she leans into the railing behind her and watches doubt chase hesitation across his features.
She wonders what her face is saying to him.
This one moment is insignificant, surely, in an infinite cosmos where they've seen proof of the existence of an uncountable number of dim, distant futures. Insignificant, unimportant, not even a flash in the sky. But for them, for her, it's everything.
The seconds seem to spin out forever.
Then his expression shifts, the fleeting uncertainty replaced by a softness around his eyes that is anything but regret, by a smile pulling at the corner of his mouth that is nothing like the harsh reality of the morning after the night before.
And God, the way she feels about him could never be confused with a memory.
He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, then points at the cup in her hand. "I know," he says, his voice an accusation, his grin a shameless contradiction. "You hate the coffee."
It's ridiculous that his stupid, awkward, space-filling joke should make her feel warmer than the rising sun.
"Maybe I do," she responds, lifting her chin. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing." He takes the few remaining steps, closing the distance between them.
"Nope." He touches her cheek, the tips of his fingers barely grazing her skin, and she shivers. "Because I like what I've got."
She smiles. This morning, the future she's got is looking bright.