A/N: This . . . just came to me. I save and answer all reviews left with respondable links. Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read and review.

Fluffy. Yup. Indeed.

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Afternoon Etude

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Sam bent and carefully laid her cello in its velvet-lined case. She loosened the tension on the bow and set it in the clip mounted inside of the lid. With a final swipe of the cloth to brush away the last of the rosin, she closed the case with a satisfied smile.

She stood and stretched, then gently shook out her hands. Lifting her left, she peered closely at the fingertips, noting with a satisfied smile that they weren't as red as last time. I'm finally getting calluses, she thought. Shifting the music stand to its corner, she flipped back through the tunes she'd through which she'd progressed, amazed as always by the progress she'd made so far.

It's almost like muscle-memory, she thought. The fingerings and bowing were coming more and more easily, with less actual thought required. That allowed her to transition from just playing the notes to making music. For the first time she'd felt it…felt the flow of the music from her hands to the instrument.

She stretched again and stepped into the hallway, wondering where Jack was. As she descended the steps into the living room, she spotted his socked feet, crossed at the ankles and propped up on the coffee table. Rounding the corner, she began, "So, what'd you think?"

No response. Not even a flicker of acknowledgement that she was there. His attention was wholly on the PSP in his hands and Sam had to smile as his feet twitched occasionally, in time to whatever action his hands were performing on the small unit.

"Jack?"

Nothing.

Sam blew out a sigh and stepped forward, dropping down beside him on the couch. Jack's loud shout of surprise startled them both, and Sam automatically threw up her hands defensively when he whipped around to face her.

"FOR CRYIN'–! CARTER! WARN A GUY, WHY DON'T'CHA!"

Sam frowned and opened her mouth to answer, then snapped her jaw shut. Eyes narrowed, she reached over, framing his face with her hands. Her fingers worked their way through the soft hair on the sides of his heads and then down to his ears.

Earplugs.

Mercilessly she tugged them out and Jack yelped again, clapping his hands to his ears.

"Hey!"

"Earplugs? Really?"

At least he had the good grace to look sheepish. Gathering her hands in his, Jack tugged her closer. "Yeah." He shrugged. "Sorry."

Still glaring, Sam tried to free her hands. When he resisted her attempts, she huffed out a breath and leaned away. He responded by following her motion with his body, pressing her back against the couch. She shook her head and turned her cheek as he leaned in. "You're not going to get around me this way, you know."

"What way?" His breath was warm on her cheek.

"That way," she insisted, but could feel her resolve fading. She was, as she had been for more than ten years, helpless to resist when he was this close. Close enough that she could smell him.

"Saaaam," he drew out her name as he maneuvered her completely back against the soft cushions of the couch. With each wiggle he moved them both until she was stretched out beneath him, her hands still captured by his.

Sam studied him, enjoying the moment. The late afternoon sun was pouring through the large windows, painting the room in gold and amber. Jack's eyes, so close to hers, were lit by the reflected light bouncing off of the walls, the gold flecks within that had fascinated her for so long danced with humor and love.

"Do you always wear earplugs when I practice?"

She felt his shrug move through them both and shifted again to slide his hips into a more comfortable position.

"Nope, Just today . . . I wanted to try the new game Cass sent."

"Ah." She wiggled again, finally pulling her hands free. As she did so, he slid sideways until most of his weight was on the cushions, and he was wedged between her body and the back of the couch. He inched lower until his head rested against her shoulder and Sam's hand fell automatically to his head and neck, her fingers caressing his cheek and ear, then sliding through his silken grey hair. The other fell to rest on his arm, her fingers sliding along the warm skin.

"Mad?" His voice was muffled as he sighed and snaked a hand around her waist, holding her close.

"No." Sam shook her head and turned slightly to press a kiss to his forehead. "This is nice. A switch." Normally it was she who was lying atop his chest, his hands in her hair.

"Yeah." He sighed again, his breath blowing across her chest and sliding between the buttons of her shirt, warming her skin. "Nice."

"Mmh."

Long, silent moments passed and Sam's eyes drifted closed. She was comfortable, she held in her arms the man she'd loved for so long, and they were happy. As she was drifting to sleep his voice was soft in her ear.

"Sam?"

"Mmh?"

"That game came in the mail only about five minutes before you stopped playing." Jack placed a gentle kiss to her neck, the stubble of his afternoon shadow scraping softly against her skin. "I love listening to you play."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

Sam tightened her hold on him and lifted one leg to wrap around his. They lay together, legs entangled, his arms around her waist and hers around his. As the afternoon faded to early evening, she felt his breathing even out and let hers slow to match. As she drifted off she mused that while she practiced alone, together they made beautiful music.

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End

Afterword: An étude (a French word meaning study), is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. That so describes Sam/Jack to me.