Author's notes: This was written as a Shipmas 2009 present for Shel from the GateWorld Sam/Jack Appreciation List (formerly the "Family"). Because I'm smack in the middle of writing the Season 3, we'll say this takes place then. Extra special cookies to Leiasky for the beta (and for telling me I am eeeevil - LOL). Happy Shipmas Shel!
As always, feedback is encouraged, saved and always answered. Remember, as it says in my profile, you really have to leave some sort of email between the "( )" for me to be able to respond.
Enjoy, and Merry Christmas.
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Cookies . . . and Compromises
"Wow, Sam, something smells fantastic."
Sam looked up to see Daniel shrugging off his jacket as he entered her kitchen, his eyes moving unerringly to the racks of cookies cooling on the table. Without a second thought she flicked at towel at him, her aim as deadly accurate with the kitchen cloth as it was with her P-90.
"Hands off, Daniel. These are for Cass's class." She glanced past him, surprised that he'd arrived alone. "Where's Teal'c? I thought he was coming with you?"
"No, he had something he needed to do and said he'd have a driver drop him off later." Sucking on his sore finger, Daniel glanced around the surprisingly neat kitchen. "Sam?" Daniel waited for her to turn around. "Why are you baking cookies for Cassie's class?"
Sam flipped the towel onto her shoulder and reached for the mitts to take the next batch out of the oven. Elbowing Daniel aside she carefully set the hot cookie tray down on the empty caddy on the table. "Janet's at that conference."
"Ah." Daniel rubbed his hands together, looking around for her assistant. "And, um . . . where's Cass?"
"Band practice. The Colonel is picking her up, they should be back any time now." Opening the tall cabinet to the left of the sink, Sam began pulling out decorating materials. "C'mon, Daniel. Give me a hand. We can start on the decorations and Cass can finish them."
The two worked together in silence as they decorated, each adding their own unique perspective to the Christmas cookies. Two hours later Sam bit back a smile as she noticed Daniel's ongoing theme; each cookie had a unique symbol on it. Looking closely she was sure she spotted the occasional glyph, too. Nothing that could give away their program, but unique enough to require a second look. She was no better, really. Anyone with any sort of scientific knowledge would spot her own cookie embellishments. In fact, she wondered if any of her team would–
Startled by the sudden presence of her CO behind her, a grinning Cassie tucked against his side, Sam jumped, smearing the icing she'd been so carefully laying onto her last cookie. "Sir?"
"Are you writing . . . equations . . . on those?" He bent closer then turned to give her a semi-outraged glare. "Is that . . . pi on that cookie?"
Beside him, Cassie smothered a giggle and Sam shot the girl a mockingly fierce look. Traitor.
"Um, well . . . I sort of ran out of ideas, and you guys were so late . . ."
"Didja leave any for us to do?"
Sam looked from his brown-eyed gaze to Cassie's, realizing her mistake instantly. "Oh, no. Sorry. We sort of got caught up, and–"
The Colonel waved her off, wrapping an arm around Cassie's shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Carter. Cass and I will make our own cookies next week . . . and you can't help!" He tugged the girl's braid and pulled her toward the back door. "C'mon, Cass. Fresh snow, decent back yard . . . this calls for a snow fort."
Sam watched them both go, feeling as if she'd let them down.
"Guess we should have stopped, eh?" Daniel's voice was apologetic.
"Yeah." Sam stood, realizing she was stiff from sitting so long. "Let's join them outside. Maybe we can let them kick our butts in a snowball fight to make up for it."
"Let them?" Daniel chuckled as he joined her, shaking his head and clearly anticipating disaster.
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Sunset found Sam and Daniel sprawled on the back steps of Sam's small house, laughing and gasping for breath, jackets unzipped to cool them from the heat of exertion. It had been a rousing battle, the outcome less than certain for both sides, until the Colonel, offering incentives that couldn't be spoken of in front of a teenager, had lured Daniel to his side. The three had then surrounded and soundly defeated Sam, who'd fought to the last of her strength before finally succumbing to the greater force. Cassie's last flying tackle had finally taken her down, burying both of them in the soft drifts banked against the back wall of the house. Sam's roof sloped low on this side, almost to the ground level, and it made for a perfect Teal'c-high snowdrift-catching spot every winter. Daniel and the Colonel dug both women out and all four had staggered to the porch. Sam looked around, the Colonel and Cass had disappeared a moment ago and she was just beginning to wonder what they were up to when the back door opened and Teal'c, a tray carefully balanced in his arms, stepped outside.
"Major Carter, I thought perhaps you would enjoy–"
A wild shout startled the three of them and Sam turned in time to see a small parka-clad body, perched atop a short toboggan, hurtle down the long, low, sloping line of her roof. She barely had time to dive out of the way as the now-airborne craft clipped Teal'c's shoulder, sending him flying and deflecting the sled's course slightly. Both sled and girl tumbled into the drifts along the back of the house, as a barrage of . . . oh no . . . cookies rained down upon them, followed by the brown cascade of hot chocolate, flung from the upended cups.
"Cassie!" Sam launched herself from the porch, struggling through the thigh-high drifts in her yard. "Are you okay?" The girl's wild laughter was Sam's only indicator of her location and wellbeing, and she and Daniel hurriedly began digging through the snow to find her.
"I'm great! Can I do it again?" Cassie popped up out of the drift, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks pink with cold and laughter. She glanced past Sam, looking for . . . "Uh, oh."
Sam spun around to find her CO, a sheepish expression on his face, peeking over the roof of her house. "Colonel!"
"Ah . . . sorry, Carter. I think my aim was off."
"Ya think?" Daniel's irritation was clear as he and Teal'c began gathering up the now destroyed cookies, shaking off the rapidly freezing remnants of hot chocolate. None looked salvageable.
"Oh, no! My cookies!" Cass turned to face Sam. "I'm really sorry, Sam. We'll make some–"
"Oh, you bet you will." Sam pulled Cassie to her in a hug and, helping the girl over the larger drifts, shouted up at her Colonel. "Colonel? I think you guys are gonna get your chance to decorate your own cookies sooner than you think!"
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Sam watched O'Neill yawn and rub his eyes as he got out of his truck and made his way across the parking lot. She waited until he drew even with her car, then matched her stride to his as they walked toward the large, circular entrance into the mountain. He looked as tired as she felt, she realized. Despite her grumbling about it being all the Colonel's fault, Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c had helped with "great cookie do-over," as Cassie had dubbed it. By the time they'd finished adding wings and icing to the last angel, Cass had been sound asleep, her head on the kitchen table, Daniel out cold on the couch. Sam had given up about three-thirty, shooing Cassie to bed and pointing the Colonel toward the spare room. Only Teal'c had remained awake in the end, meticulously placing each brightly colored sprinkle in place.
"Hey Carter." He nodded toward the box she was carrying. "When does Cass need those at school?"
"Actually, not 'til tomorrow." She grinned at him. "I figured, just in case something came up . . . you know."
"I do." He yawned again. "It's a good thing you started the cookie project a day or two early, Carter."
"Yes, Sir. Just want to be prepared." Sam carefully tucked the box under her arm as they entered the compound. Realizing she couldn't successfully juggle her laptop, her cover, and the box of cookies, she set the box down to sign in, absently greeting the security team on duty. As she straightened, alarms sounded along the corridor, startling her and the guards. She and the Colonel slapped their hands to their pockets as both of their phones rang and the large, heavy doors behind them began their ponderous swing inward, enclosing them all within. Without a backward glance, the two officers raced toward the elevators that would take them deep into the mountain, the box of cookies in their unmarked box forgotten in the excitement.
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A little over fourteen hours later Sam slumped forward, her arms on the table in front of her. She let her head drop down slowly until it was resting on her forearms. God, she was tired. Nearly seven hours spent in and under the dialing computers trying to get the iris to release in time to receive frantic teams under fire. She'd finally found the problem, tracing a small code back to a saboteur. The Colonel and Teal'c were dealing with him. More hours spent reimaging the mainframe and the auxiliary systems, then backing up to the offsites had drained what little energy she had left. Sam groaned as she remembered she still had to finish her report to Hammond. Hopefully the Colonel would have briefed the man already; she certainly didn't feel that she had even enough energy to find the elevator, let alone stand and brief anyone.
First the long night, after a busy day yesterday. Baking cookies, playing in the snow, baking more cookies . . . Sam froze. Cookies? Where the hell were the cookies? She sat up, her heart racing. Oh no! The last time she remembered having them was . . . where? Dammit!
"Carter?" O'Neill's voice was soft, apologetic. She looked up to find him standing in the doorway to her lab, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable.
Sam jumped off the stool, suddenly certain she remembered where she'd left the box. Before she could move past him, O'Neill grabbed her arm. "Carter!"
"Sir! I left–"
Another voice interrupted her. Sam turned to find a young woman standing before her. "Major Carter, ma'am?"
Impatiently Sam nodded.
"Um, Master Sergeant Shelbie, ma'am." She glanced nervously between Sam and the Colonel. "I, ah, well, ma'am, you see, it's like this." She cleared her throat again.
O'Neill, his hand still on Sam's arm, gave her a quick squeeze. He pulled her back into her lab and pushed her onto her stool. "Carter, I regret to inform you that your cookies . . ."
Sam shook her head. Oh, this can't be good, she thought.
The young MP stepped forward, her eyes fixed on the wall behind Sam's head. She squared her shoulders and began her obviously rehearsed recitation. "Ma'am. At 1322 today one of my men noticed an unmarked box positioned before the first checkpoint. He notified me and I, upon confirmation of the box being of unknown origin, did authorize the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit to respond."
Helplessly, Sam looked from the Master Sergeant to O'Neill and back again. "Expl–" She swallowed, her blue eyes growing wide. "The . . . bomb squad?" She asked incredulously. "For my . . ."
Squaring her shoulders, Shelbie continued. "Yes, ma'am. The EOD canines–"
"That'd be the dogs, Carter." O'Neill supplied helpfully.
Sam nodded faintly, her eyes fixed on the MP, indicating she should continue.
"They alerted to the box, indicating–"
" . . . a positive 'find'." Sam finished for her. She shook her head in disbelief, her eyes going again to her CO whom she could see was barely holding back his laughter. She rested her elbow on the table and dropped her head into her hand, massaging away a growing headache, unable to believe what she was hearing.
Shelbie barely blinked as she finished her report. Her shoulders straightened almost imperceptibly as she continued, her voice crisp. "Full precautions were taken, ma'am, and the . . . threat . . . was eliminated."
Sam's hand dropped to the table with a thump and she addressed the MP. "You . . . you . . . blew up my . . . cookies?"
Firmly, her eyes still fixed on a distant point, Shelbie nodded. "Yes, Major. I take full responsibility."
O'Neill snorted behind the young MP and Carter couldn't help it. She burst out laughing. "I don't believe this! They weren't that bad! Oh for–" Noticing the MP's discomfort, Sam waved her dismissal, shaking her head ruefully. "You were perfectly correct, Sergeant. I just . . . it's . . ." She threw up her hands and gave herself up to the absurdity of the moment, laughing along with her CO and the now relieved MP.
O'Neill waved the MP out and she quickly made her exit, obviously happy to be dismissed. "C'mon, Carter. Let's go bug the mess Chief for some cookies for Cass. No sense in making you whip up a third–"
"Hmm?" O'Neill paused, looking at her. "I'm not the math wiz around here, but I'm pretty sure I can count to three."
Sam sighed, slumping back down on her stool. "Cassie made a batch before the one killed by the toboggan. She left for band practice, I got distracted, and they were more like . . . well . . . hockey pucks than cookies." She glanced at her watch and grimaced. "Besides, Sergeant Kennealy isn't on anymore and the kitchen's closed."
The Colonel bent over the opposite side of the table, matching Sam's pose, forearms supporting his weight, his eyes on hers. He gave her a soft, encouraging smile. Not really a smile, more of the little lip-twitch he so often favored her with. The one that felt to her like a real, full-blown smile.
Sliding her own hands forward, Sam stopped just short of touching his fingers, though she longed to. It was late. Really late. Late enough that there was no traffic in the hall beyond her office, very few staff up and around, save for the control room crew. And the ever-present security staff manning the camera room. Sam inched back just slightly. She ignored O'Neill's slight eyebrow raise and sighed.
"I'm off, Sir."
"You're going home?" O'Neill checked his watch. "Carter, it's 2230. And it's snowing. Stay on base."
Sam glanced over her shoulder at him as she shrugged into her jacket. "Can't, Sir. Cassie's at my place, remember?" She frowned then, realizing she'd completely forgotten about the girl. She spun toward him, her fingers fumbling with the other sleeve of her jacket, her moves suddenly frantic. "Oh, God. Cassie. How could I have–"
"Carter. Stop." O'Neill reached out and pulled Sam toward him. He slid an arm around her shoulders, smoothly reaching for her dangling jacket sleeve and using the motion to tug her close. "Sam. Hammond had Lieutenant Roberts head over to your place at 1600. Cassie's fine. I'll bet Roberts had her fed and her homework proofed in under two hours."
Sam allowed herself to be stopped. She glanced up and realized her Colonel had pulled her into the one part of the room not covered by the cameras. She relaxed a little more. "God, I'm so . . . bad. I mean, how awful is it to forget a little kid?"
"Carter, Cassie is not a little kid. She's nearly fourteen."
O'Neill sighed, then made a show of tugging her jacket closed and zipping it up. His hand brushed the underside of her chin as he finished the action. He turned his fingers and used them to lift her chin slightly. "Sam, cut yourself some slack. We had a little bit of a crises going on here, if you recall."
She closed her eyes, trying not to react to the feel of his fingers on her face. Trying not to wonder what they'd feel like on other parts of her.
Trying not to want that.
To want him.
"I'd make such a bad mother," she muttered. "I mean, they . . ." She snorted. "Sir, they blew up my cookies because they thought they were a threat to the base! I can't even manage to remember an almost-teenager for a day. How badly would I mess up a long-term thing?" She shook her head, partly to shake off her own thoughts and partly to dislodge his fingers. She was finding it too hard to think when he was touching her.
"That's nuts, Carter." O'Neill stood back, jamming his hands in his pockets. "Today was a nutty day. An exception. You made cookies, they flew. You made 'em again and they . . . well . . . they blew." He gave her a small smile and rocked back on his heels. "Hammond took care of Cassie. If he hadn't, one of us would have. We do that. We're a family. We take care of . . . each other."
Sam gave him a long, searching look, willing to let him to convince her. His brown eyes held her gaze, their amber flecks warming her, calming her. She nodded, slowly, thoughtfully. "Okay. But," she held up her hand. "I'm still going home. Roberts didn't sign on for this and," she sighed slightly, "I still have cookies to make."
O'Neill quirked another smile at her and stepped aside, waving her forward. "Lead on, Major. I am at your service."
"Free manual labor, Carter. Never pass that up."
"But, Colonel, it's–"
"Ah!" O'Neill held up a finger, stopping her. He glanced up toward the camera and carefully lowered his hand, brushing her arm as it dropped to his side. "Sam, I told you . . . we take care of our own."
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"It's a good thing you had the urge to help, Sir. I'd have never made it home in this snow."
"Yeah." O'Neill's voice was distracted as he concentrated on the road. They'd had to make a quick stop at the store for supplies, and were now navigating their way down her slippery street. Sam balanced the bag on her lap, smiling as she considered the rolls of pre-made cookie dough inside.
Sam was surprised when O'Neill passed the baking aisle to head for the back of the store. He made a beeline for the milk and dairy section, grabbing six tubes of the Nestlé Tollhouse premixed cookie dough and tossing them into the cart.
"But . . . that's cheating!" Sam had been slightly scandalized. "I said I'd make Christmas cookies!"
"And you did. Twice." O'Neill paused. "Three times, actually."
"I know, so–"
"Carter." O'Neill pulled her aside, out of the main traffic of the surprisingly busy–for that time of night–grocery store. "Look. Sometimes you have to know when to compromise. You can't always make it 'just so,' you know?"
"But . . ." Sam looked around helplessly, then back at him, her blue eyes filling with moisture. "I guess I don't always know how to do that. I just wanted . . . I wanted it to be . . ." She blinked and looked away, embarrassed by the unexpected rush of emotion.
"Oh. No, please, Carter. No tears. I can't . . . it kills me when you cry." O'Neill sounded desperate.
Sam sniffed slightly and wiped her eyes. "Sorry, Sir. I . . . I'm just tired, I guess." She stepped closer to him to allow an elderly woman and her overladen cart to pass.
"If you want to do the whole deal, Carter, we can. Homemade dough, super-sweet icing, the works." O'Neill began pulling her toward the baking aisle but stopped when she tugged on his arm.
"No, Sir. It's okay." She gestured toward their cart. "This is good. Let's go ho– I mean, let's go."
It was just after midnight when they arrived at Sam's, sending a grateful, if tired, Cami Roberts home in her 4x4. The Colonel had offered to drive the Lieutenant, citing the increasing snow piling up on the roads, but the young woman had been confident in her ability to make it home safely. She'd promised, and had followed through on it, to call his cell when she was safely home.
They kept most of the lights off as they worked, only the light over the sink and the small lamp on the counter were lit. Sam couldn't face the full glare of the overheads at this hour, so she'd simply not turned them on. A part of her fancifully believed that if she did fully illuminate the kitchen, Colonel O'Neill would disappear. She tried not to think about how it felt, to be here with him, both in stockinged feet, the room warm from the heat of the oven, the air rich with the aroma of baking cookies. She could, if she concentrated, pick up his unique scent, too. It snuck up on her when she passed him, or he, her, each of them intent on their own tasks, the tantalizing, tingling awareness of . . . him. She tried not to focus too much on that scent, that flavor of him, in the air.
As she slid the last batch of pre-made dough into the oven, Sam blew out a long breath and straightened slowly, her hands going to her back to ease the ache there. Shrugging her shoulders in the overlarge sweatshirt she'd donned, she groaned at the tightness across her shoulders. "Ohh. Yup. Too old to be crawling under computer banks all day, Samantha," she muttered under her breath.
O'Neill's soft voice startled her, his breath warm on her neck. Sam turned to find him standing close, closer than she'd expected. Dressed similarly to her, in sweats, socks, and a sweatshirt, she hadn't heard him approach. "'Oh please,' what, Sir?"
O'Neill looked down at her, close enough to her that she could feel the heat of his body. "If you're too old, Carter, what does that make me?"
"Um, old–er?" She gave him a shy grin as she emphasized the second half of the word, aware of the intimacy of the moment. Equally aware of the danger.
It was late.
It was dark.
The kitchen smelled homey . . . loved.
The air was rich with the mixture of him, of her, and of the delicious tension that flowed between them. The sizzling current that so often sparked unexpectedly, thrilling her, making her feel more alive.
The Colonel reached up and tugged at a stray curl of blonde hair. "Ha. Funny." He glanced past her to the oven. "That the last batch?"
Sam yawned and stretched again, raising her arms up and over her head, listening to her back and shoulders crack with the movement. "Yup." She glanced at him. "I mean, yes, Sir." She rolled her head back and forth on her neck, trying to loosen up the muscles.
O'Neill put action to words and slowly turned her to face away from him. He pushed her into a nearby chair and then, slowly, almost hesitantly began to knead her taught shoulder muscles.
"Ooooh." The heat of the room made her drowsy, just as the feel of his hands on her made her hyper-aware of everything. The dissonance was strangely thrilling. The ability for coherent thought escaped Sam as his fingers worked their magic on her neck and shoulders. "Oh. Wow. You have about fifty years to stop that. Sir."
O'Neill bent low, his voice rougher than she was used to hearing. "Lose the 'Sir,' would you? It's," he paused, "close to three in the morning."
Sam, her head dropped so low her chin was almost on her chest, mumbled, "I didn't know it was a time-based thing . . . Sir."
"It's not, Carter. But . . ." O'Neill kept up his light massage, but his tone was anything but light as he continued, "Can we call it a compromise?"
"Look. Sometimes you have to know when to compromise. You can't always make it 'just so,' you know?" His earlier words echoed in her head, and Sam slid forward slightly, out of his reach. She looked over her shoulder at him, already missing the feel of his hands on her, but needing to see his face. "Like I said before, I . . . I'm not sure if I know how, Colonel."
"To . . . to not make things 'just so.' To compromise. When it's not," she shrugged, "mission-critical." She looked away for a moment into the darkest corners of the room, then returned her gaze to his. The kitchen was silent as they studied each other, Sam half-turned in her chair and looking up into O'Neill's eyes, darkened in the dim light of the kitchen. She waited for him to say something, anything. To give her a hint of what she should do, or say, next.
Finally, a small smile stole across his lips and he said, "You just have to let someone know you want to try . . . Samantha."
For the rest of her life Sam Carter would be able to feel, to hear, to smell, and to describe everything in that room at that moment. The way the amber light of the countertop lamp fell across the counter and over the stacks of cooling cookies to spill onto the floor. The rich, chocolatey smell of baking, the warmth of the room. The slight rattle of the windows as the wind-driven snow blew against the panes, the erratic tattoo a perfect counterpoint to the stillness within. And most of all, the warmth and love she saw in the eyes of the man standing behind her.
Slowly rising to her feet, Sam turned to face him. Not the Colonel, but to face . . . Jack. She stepped closer, her stockinged feet brushing the legs of her chair as she nudged it aside. She wiped suddenly damp palms against the legs of her sweatpants, forcing herself to breathe normally. "I want . . . I want to try," she whispered. She tilted her face up to meet his gaze, opening herself to him for the first time. No shields, not barriers. Just . . . her. As she faced him fully, she suddenly wondered if she had misinterpreted what he'd been saying. What he'd meant. Maybe she was reading too much into his request for her to call him by name? Maybe he'd meant only–
"You're over-thinking." O'Neill's words were the barest whisper in the warm room. He took a step forward into her space, narrowing the gap between them. He paused and she, sensing that he needed absolute permission, nodded faintly, her eyes never leaving his.
Slowly, so slowly that it made her ache, he closed the last few inches that separated them, still not touching her. She watched as he angled his head slightly and bent forward, his lips coming closer to hers. With a soft, welcoming sigh, Sam's eyes slipped closed. She felt the barest brush of his breath across her face, anticipated the feel of his lips against hers–
The buzzing of the oven's timer was jarring and Sam flinched in surprise. Instead of the smooth meeting of lips she'd so long anticipated, they both jumped, smashing against one another. Jack's arms came around her to steady her, and himself, and then they both began to chuckle. His laughter had an almost desperate edge to it and Sam felt the same way. She ducked her forehead onto his chest, breathing in the heady scent of him, trying to catch her breath. Trying to still the frantic beating of her heart. The timer's buzzing stopped and she felt him shift. Sam looked up into his eyes and saw her own disappointment and chagrin mirrored there. She felt his subtle shift away, her body already missing his heat.
No. Oh no. Not this time, she thought. She'd had enough of awkward interruptions and almost-moments. Taking a deep breath she asked him, her voice low, rough with unspoken need. "Going somewhere?" She whispered her question, her eyes intent on his.
"Cookies. Oven." His normally warm eyes alight with a fire that caught her heart, Jack's words were abrupt, his tone rough. Apparently his thoughts were as fragmented as hers.
Sam shook her head and, daring, reached up to nip his lips with her own. "Let 'em burn . . . Jack. I can always make more."
Afterword: Lest I receive chastising email about the roof-sledding, let me just say that I grew up in Wisconsin (in an age when we were able to play outside in unstructured, unsupervised freedom). We spent many an hour front/back/side-flipping into snowdrifts that were as high as regular roof height. My neighbors had a low-sloped roof that was a DREAMLAND for sledding down (when his folks weren't home). Talk about aerodynamics! At least I didn't have Cassie hurtle into the street as we did.
Nor did I have her relive my experience: after about three hours of flipping and diving into the snow I executed an Olympic-quality swan dive and forward flip to land on my back. Onto the now hard-packed snow. The wind was knocked clean out of me and I lay there for a long moment, frantically trying to suck in air. The boys yelled for me to move so they could dive too, and I could only gasp out, "Don't . . . jump. Packed . . . snow." We still tell that story, and we still laugh about it.
Ah, good times.