"I could have you court-martialed for this, you know."
She looked up to see him standing in the doorway of her lab. He was silhouetted against the brighter hallway beyond and it took just a heart-beat before she knew it was really him. He'd shed his SGC clothes for khakis and a long-sleeved tee, which had thrown his shadowed shape further out of context and it was only when he finally stepped away from the backlighting and into the room that she could see it was indeed him.
"Sir?" The response came mostly out of habit. At the moment she wasn't sure what else to call him. Her own name—her given name—spoken in his voice a mere three days ago still reverberated in her ears, in spite of any number of "Carter"s since. But she couldn't quite manage anything more than "sir" in response. Not yet, anyway.
"I believe I ordered you to go home," he scolded, eyeing his watch. "At least two hours ago, by my reckoning. Yet…here you are." He gestured broadly at her with both hands. "That's disobeying a direct order, Carter. Very serious offense."
She stood up and switched off her computer. "Sorry, Sir. I wanted to take one more look at the data from the diagnostic on the self-destruct to see if I could figure out why…."
He cut her off. "Carter…." But instead of his voice carrying the sharp, exasperated reprimand it had for so many months, his tone was almost…solicitous. She glanced at him and found a bemused look on his face, a slight twist of a smile playing at the corner of his lips. She couldn't help it. She smiled too.
"Sorry." She managed to clamp down on the "Sir" before it could leave her mouth.
"Well…at least you half obeyed my order," he indicated her own civilian clothes.
"I…yeah. I mean…I was on my way out…but I guess I got a little distracted," she admitted, which was the truth. Just not the whole truth. Because the whole truth involved a house that was suddenly too empty and the looming dread of the sound of Taps being carried off on a summer breeze and the desperate desire to not think about these or a hundred other things that had rushed in to fill the void now that they'd somehow managed to save the planet yet again.
And he really didn't need to know that going over the data had simply been a diversion to kill time until he had extricated himself from his own mountain of paperwork.
Although from the way he was watching her, she couldn't help but wonder if he didn't already suspect.
"Yes. Well. I'm pretty sure all of that will still be there in the morning. And it's not like we didn't exactly earn our pay today. So…come on. Outta here. Go home." He jerked his thumb toward the door.
She closed her computer and switched off the lamp.
"Is that where you're headed, Sir? Home?" She tried to make it sound like a casual question. It was anything but.
"That was the general idea. Unless you had something else in mind?"
There is was. Squarely in her court. And a tiny voice that still, perhaps, wasn't quite sure, nudged her to say no.
She ignored it.
"I haven't had dinner yet…," she offered by way of a reply. He stepped aside to let her walk past him and she thought she caught a slight whiff of aftershave. Now that they were in the brightly lit hallway she could see that he'd recently showered. And shaved as well. A bit unusual for him, especially given the late hour.
"That would make two of us." He reached around behind her to switch off the lights in her lab and for just a moment she had the crazy thought that he was going to put his arm around her shoulder. But although he brushed her lightly across the back, quite by accident, she was sure, his arm dropped down to his side as they started down the hall. She chastised herself for even having the thought. Even if…. But no…not here. Not at the SGC.
"So…what do you feel like?"
He was looking at her expectantly, and she found she'd stopped dead in her tracks, her thoughts careening under the unexpected question until it dawned on her he was still talking about dinner. She felt the heat creeping up her neck and hoped she didn't looked as flustered as she felt. The voice that was telling her to just beg-off and head home gained some purchase momentarily. But only momentarily.
She managed a weak smile. "Sorry, Si…sorry," she stammered, catching up to him. "Just a stray thought…." Hopefully he'd attribute it to her usual preoccupation with work and let it go.
If his indulgent look was any indicator, she'd pulled it off. "Yes. Well. Dangerous things, those stray thoughts." Then again, maybe not. There was something in tone of his voice that made her glance over at him and she could have sworn there was a certain smugness tugging at his lips. Perhaps she was more transparent than she thought.
"So…whaddaya think…steak? Italian?" he continued as they headed toward the elevator. "Oh…wait…." He raised his arm and studied his watch. "You know…by the time we get there…even just to O'Malley's…we're gonna be too late. I'm pretty sure they roll up the sidewalks at 11 around here."
Disappointment dropped like a stone in the pit of her stomach. She tried pushing it aside.
"That's okay, Sir. How about a raincheck, then?"
She cringed even as she said it. Of all the hokey things to say….
"Nonsense, Carter." He pushed the elevator button and turned toward her, that smug grin now spread across his face. "Where there's a will, there's a way. Or in this case…a pizza. We'll pick one up on the way. Two, if you're really hungry. We can eat at my place."
The door slid back and he reached out, holding it open. The knot in her stomach that had been disappointment moments before now fluttered into a knot of a completely different kind and then, just as suddenly, vanished. He was watching her…waiting, and she realized it wasn't just for her to step into the elevator.
It was for her to step into his life.
Gone was the smug look. Gone was the humor. He was waiting for her answer with the same un-masked look she'd seen in his eyes the day her father had died. The day she had known, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he still loved her.
And that she loved him.
And it became equally clear that this little dance they had just done as they'd walked down the hallway had been simply that…one last dance, just to be sure.
Because there was no mistaking what he was asking. Just as there was no mistaking what was plainly written on the man's face. And if she'd had any doubt, whatsoever, that she'd mistaken friendship for something more, the unspoken question he was asking, his hand on the elevator door, more than answered it.
They might have stood there a minute…or maybe it was an hour. She wasn't sure. What she did know was that, in the end, they understood each other completely, without ever having spoken a single word. And when she stepped over the threshold and into the elevator she felt, finally, his hand come to rest on the small of her back, and it remained there all the way up to the top.
They never did get the pizza. Not that she cared. Even now, food was the farthest thing from her mind as she lay there, watching Jack sleep. Moonlight seeped in through the half-turned blinds and in its dappled beams she studied his face, committing every curve and dimple and scar to memory. Beneath her hand which, even in sleep he still held tightly clasped against his heart, she felt the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest and the faint thrumming of his pulse against her skin. All the empirical evidence of her senses—even down to breathing in the scent that was quintessentially Jack—validated that this was, in fact, real and not one of the dreams that had troubled her sleep on and off over so many years.
Not that she'd doubted. Not really. There were too many pleasant sensations lingering in too many places for it not to have been real. Her dreams had never been that good.
Still. It was a long way to come from the last time she'd been here, running away from a house and a man and a non-existent dog that had made her question everything she thought she knew about her life at that particular moment. It made last week seem like a lifetime ago.
And in a way, it was. She really wasn't the same person she'd been then. She'd known that when she stepped into that elevator at the SGC. There was no going back. She didn't want to go back. She only wanted to go forward, wherever that took her.
Wherever that took them.
They'd already talked about it. Wrapped in Jack's arms in the dark, feeling his warm breath against her neck, they'd sorted through the logistics in low, half-whispered tones. And when they'd settled on a plan, he'd cracked some half-dirty joke right next to her ear which had sent her into a fit of giggling until his lips had found hers and taken her breath away.
And now she was content to simply lay there and watch him sleep, his face at peace in a way she hadn't seen it for months…maybe years. Maybe ever, now that she thought of it. Not like this, anyway. Not this…serene.
As she watched, his lips slowly curved into a smile and even though his eyes did not open, she knew he was awake.
"Mmmm." The sound rumbled low, deep in his throat. "I could get used to this."
"Get used to what?" As if she didn't already have a pretty good idea.
One eye opened briefly, then closed again, but the smile remained. "Waking up and finding you here."
Sam shifted her head to his shoulder and the arm that wasn't still holding her hand pulled her against him, his fingers absently playing across her bare back. Her train of thought seeped away with each brush of his hand. "Good," she managed at last. Just barely. "'Cause I'm not going anywhere."
He freed her hand and, reaching over, tilted her chin so he could look into her eyes. It might have been a trick of the moonlight, but his seemed to have an unusual amount of moisture in them. And there was that look again. The one that had held her gaze for so long at the elevator door.
"No." His voice was quiet but sure. "You're not." And with a smile that danced up into his eyes, his lips found hers and neither of them spoke again for quite some time.