Title: Last Watch Before Dawn
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Season/Episode: Post-series, SGU-era
Spoilers: Only about what Sam's up to post-SGA
Summary: It takes time, her first night back; time to remember she's not sleeping in the tiny bunk in her quarters on the Hammond, that she's here, she's with him.
A/N: Thanks to ziparumpazoo for cheerleading and beta-reading!
The dragons of bureaucracy take even longer to slay than usual that day, rearing their ugly, ill-proportioned heads every time Jack starts to believe he might win free, coming back over and over until he's pretty sure he won't. Ever. So it feels like hallelujah, that instant when his feet hit the clean white pavement on the hallowed other side of the Pentagon's imposing doors, but it's long past the Friday afternoon escape he'd planned. And by the time he's navigated the city streets and crossed the magical finish-line-in-his-head at the threshold of his front door, he's late enough that he's stuck undressing in the dark.
It's not the first time, and sadly, he's sure it won't be the last.
He hangs his uniform with the precision born of a near-lifetime's worth of habit, the folds no less straight for the lack of light to see them by; then he crosses from closet to bed, navigating the dark-shadowed masses of furniture by memory rather than sight. Somewhere in the rough vicinity of the clothes hamper, he yanks his undershirt over his head and dumps it on the floor. He pauses once again to pull on the sweats he'd left in a crumpled pile on the desk chair that morning.
He's about three steps from the bed when his foot hits something solid and unexpected, and he's almost surprised to discover that his reflexes are still quick enough to save him from a headlong tumble onto the mattress. With a grunt of annoyance, Jack shoves the offending object out of the way – Carter's duffle, open, not yet unpacked, and sitting like a complaint there in the middle of the floor. He's guessing she arrived late, too, and he might have a word or three with her in the morning about this new strategy of laying booby traps around the room for unsuspecting and very tired generals. But for now … well, Jack's been waiting all day for right now.
Slowly, he eases down onto the mattress behind her, the soft creak of springs and bedframe mingling with his long, low sigh as he slides closer and tugs the blanket over to cover his legs.
She stirs, shifts slightly, but she doesn't wake.
Propped on his elbow, he traces her with his eyes, the curves and angles of her body oddly shadowed, barely visible in the dim light of almost-midnight, but familiar nonetheless. His fingers follow the path of his gaze, tips brushing feather-light over still-damp blonde hair, drawing soft lines down the bared skin of her shoulder and arm before coming to rest at her waist.
She's still pulled in together, lying neat and compact on her side, and as he settles in against her, his lips brushing the nape of her neck, she manages to hold herself a little bit separate, taut and ready and completely independent even in sleep. It takes time, her first night back; time to remember she's not sleeping in the tiny bunk in her quarters on the Hammond, that she's here, she's with him. Though Jack's not certain she sleeps when she's on the ship anyway, any more than he does when she's gone.
He toys with the hem of the light shirt she's wearing, twisting it slightly before he traces the edge of it around to her belly. When he slides his hand up under the fabric, fingers splayed against her warm skin, the soft sound she makes is a few parts less waiting-for-battle-stations, a few more of home-in-bed. He kisses the curve of her shoulder, and the edge of her jaw, and the spot just behind her ear before he breathes, "Hey, Sam," into her hair.
She mumbles something, pulling away, but he shushes her and tugs gently until, at last, she relaxes against him.
He closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.
It's still dark when he wakes to her touch, flat palm drawing a smooth arc across his chest. She hums, and he groans as she curls her hand under his arm and tugs on his shoulder, pulling him down against her and wrapping her arms tight around his back.
She's soft, and she's strong, and she's lost the shirt and panties so now she's gloriously bare everywhere; he's not even fully awake yet, but he's shifting and sliding to bring as much of him in contact with as much of her as possible. Inside his head, his internal clock is muttering something about 2:00 am, and his body's grumbling about the appalling lack of sleep he's been demanding it function on lately, but he firmly orders them both to shut up, because he doesn't give a damn. Her mouth is hot and wet where she's kissing him, her teeth tugging gently at the skin of his neck, and his once-protesting body is playing along just fine now, thank you, when his traitorous legs get tangled in the blankets instead of getting tangled with hers.
He swears softly.
It's a low, warm sound, a tease and a challenge and a welcome all in one. He lifts himself on his elbows over her, one hand drifting not-particularly-idly across her breast, and he smiles at the gasping little catch in her laugh when his thumb strokes her already-taut nipple.
"Jack," she says, and her tone's like the laugh that the word followed; a little bit of the officer who's grown into her command, but mostly the woman who should have stopped putting up with his shit years ago, but for some reason, never did.
"I'm stuck," he explains, plaintively.
"So?" She kisses his jaw, sweet, light brushes of her lips just so, carefully calculated to drive him insane.
He grunts something unintelligible and turns to meet her lips with his own, kissing her hard and long, enough to let her know he's onto her tactics. "Stuck, Carter," he repeats as he pulls away.
He can feel her smile against his throat. "Logistical problem," she says. "Who cares?" And then she sets to work.
Thank god Carter's never been bothered by something as petty as an issue of logistics, because in about five seconds he certainly doesn't care anymore; he's still tangled up from the knees down, but her hands are pushing his pants down his thighs and running back up to cup his ass, and he's got one hand gripping her hip and one sliding over her jaw and into her hair as he kisses her mouth and cheek and neck. Then she shifts, her leg dragging hot need along his, and he's pressing his forehead tight against her shoulder as he sinks inside.
He's hard, he's so hard and ready, and he sucks in a breath, deep and quick, at the slick press of her heat all around him. She smells like his shampoo and her lotion, familiar but heady in combination, drawing him in even farther until she's the only thing he can feel. And he moves in her, slow thrusts and full, again and again, love fueling lust until he's groaning his self-control aloud and she's there, she's right there, breathing against his ear in pants and gasps that he needs like he needs the air in his own lungs. Her hands clutch, pulling the skin at his shoulders, his sides, his hips, and her back arches her breasts up to his chest, tight, seeking him to answer that deep, desperate ache. She's moving and breathing and she's coming against him, and Jesus, there's Sam fucking everywhere.
"God, yes," she whispers.
Jack turns over and pries one eye open. The time's just past 4:00 am, or so the red numbers glowing on the clock inform him. Damn thing's got no mercy, and no regard for the fact that he's been juggling crises political and extraterrestrial for more days than he cares to count. 4:06 am and, apparently, Jack's turn not to sleep.
He's not sure what woke him this time; street noise, or his creaking old townhouse, or maybe a latent memory of something important he forgot to do today.
Probably that last, because it's been one of those days. Only one of those days would have kept him working late on a night when Carter's due in from the Hammond. Whether it's month-long cruises to Pegasus, or trading off Earth-orbit sentry as she is now - three weeks on, one week off - Sam coming home, and coming home to him, still feels like Christmas morning. Not the kind with toy trains riding around trees or oranges stuffed into stockings, of course, but a grown-up, definitely-not-for-young-eyes Christmas morning, and altogether not something Jack likes to miss.
Like sleep. Sleep's another thing Jack altogether prefers not to miss. Especially not when he's got his face mashed into his favorite pillow and Carter's old down comforter pulled across him and the woman herself happily sharing it with him.
Stupid time for insomnia.
He raises his face up from the pillow, rubbing at the corners of his eyes and trying not to groan too loudly. Next to him, Sam's curled toward his side of the bed, her hand tucked under his pillow and her hair tumbled across her face. She's out cold. Literally cold, he suspects, because she's still stark naked, and while he's not complaining about the shoulders and neck and soft, full breasts peeking out from under the covers, it's January, and Jack's never liked to pay much for heat. Especially not when there's the opportunity to warm things up the old-fashioned way, so to speak.
She's deep enough asleep now that there won't be any of that for a while, though; no matter how agitated her nights, Carter's always slept hard those last couple of hours before morning. That, he learned long before he knew about the ticklish spot behind her knee or the way she solved her trickiest technical problems in between getting out of bed in the morning and finishing her first cup of coffee. Too many long missions and overnight watches not to know that.
With careful fingers, he lifts the hair from her face and brushes it back behind her ear. At least he can be pretty sure tomorrow isn't a day he'll be authorizing battle plans that send her flying bravely off into the face of danger. Tonight, that particular sick twist of fear and duty's not the thing that woke him up.
He learned that feeling long ago, too, and far too well.
Still restless, Jack rubs the soft end of a lock of her hair between his fingertips, just for the contact, for the connection. He's knows he's getting old, because he's thinking about how much he'd like to wake her, not to repeat their earlier performance, but just to hear her voice, to see the light in her eyes when she talks and to feel the warmth of her hand in his.
Old, or at least sentimental, here in this tiny space he allows himself latitude to be.
Dropping his head back down to the pillow at last, he pulls the blanket up across her shoulder and closes his eyes. Somewhere inside him, rusty and unfamiliar, there's still that trained, hardened operative who could drop off whenever the chance to rest arose. He just has to flush the ornery bastard out of hiding.
But before he falls asleep, he slips his hand under his pillow and threads his fingers through hers.
It's not the sun behind the curtains that wakes him, though it ought to have been; the thin, winter morning light's still dim, but the room's grown bright enough that he knows he's slept decadently late. Or, more accurately, they've slept decadently late. Jack's head turns, and he narrows his eyes at the lump of covers next to him, glaring at the fingers poking out from the edge of the blanket.
He's cold. Really, really cold. And that's what roused him, which isn't surprising considering he's lying here with nothing but his boxers between him and the January morning air. Some things, it seems, never change.
He rolls from his back to his side, not caring that the dipping and creaking of the mattress are sure to wake her - if she's asleep, that is. Watching the subtle movement of the blankets up and down, he counts her breaths, measuring the rhythm and the space between, his suspicion growing; then he sees the tiny, telltale twitch of her fingertips, and he knows. She's faking, and underneath that pile of bedding she ought not to have all to herself, she's probably laughing at him.
He reaches out and yanks at the covers, leaving her almost completely exposed.
"Thief," he says.
"Cold," she answers. Then she's tugging at the blankets, and he bats at her hands a few times, but she's already sneaking her leg back in. She slides it across him, her knee on his, and it's distracting, and she's cheating, but if it means more of her and him skin-to-skin he so doesn't care. At all. He never has.
She slips closer, edges under, and that, he thinks, is a much better start to his morning.
"You, colonel, are a blanket stealer," he says as she tucks herself up against him. "Stealer of Blankets. That should be your evil genius name."
He can feel her low, surprised laugh everywhere she's touching him, and damn, he's missed that. "I need an evil genius name?" she asks, her fingers playing across his chest.
"Cassie sent me mine in an email," he says with a shrug. Then his brow furrows. "Or maybe that was super-villain?"
She's still laughing, her smiling lips pressing in a little against his shoulder. "Not much of a super-villain if you can't stand a little cold."
"It's January, Carter."
"This is Washington, D.C., Jack. It's not like it's Minnesota." She pauses, and her leg shifts, winding more tightly around his. "Though I like it there, too."
He sighs and pulls her closer, resting in the low, sweet burn of her skin on his, in anticipation of a weekend spent in the slow, inevitable twining of their lives from two back into one. They'll make breakfast, and she'll sneak the bacon off his plate after she swears she doesn't want any. She'll start talking, then she'll break off mid-sentence and start tapping at the side of her coffee mug until she wanders off from the table in search of pens and paper. He'll steal the scraps she's scribbling on, complaining that she's ignoring him, and she'll retaliate by giving him a lecture on hyperspace navigational precision while he's trying to read the news, leaving him gritting his teeth until he can't take it anymore and he barks at her and she laughs.
Later, when she starts to get that far-away, number-crunching squint around her eyes again, he'll kiss the back of her neck and rest his hands in the curve of her waist and she won't get anything else done until morning. And they'll both groan in frustration at the call one or the other of them is sure to get the next day – because after all, there are always more of those damn dragons to slay, even on an otherwise-lazy Sunday afternoon.
He treasures every last second of time, saves it up for when they're apart; the joyful ache of the way their habits rub against each other, that precious friction of knowing he's not all alone in this world.
Sam brushes her fingers across his chest before she pulls away to look at him, and Jack realizes he's been silent far too long. He clears his throat. "You'd never survive the real Minnesota, Little Miss 'I live in a gigantic climate-controlled bathtub.'"
"That's Colonel climate-controlled bathtub to you," she says, poking a finger at his chest. "And I don't live there, Jack," she continues, her voice softening. "Not really."
He props himself up on his elbow, wanting to see her better. "No. No, you don't." And thank god for that.
Maybe he'll never admit it, but he's grateful for the clutter that's stowed in drawers even when she's not here, doesn't really mind when the neat boxes of hair pins and the few little bottles of makeup cover the back of the bathroom counter. He might even like the way it makes the place look just a little more lived in. For the sake of form, though, he'll complain about it the entire time she's home. And once or twice, he'll hide the hair doodads and the makeup, because she's beautiful when she's all done up, but he loves it best when she looks like she belongs here.
Though he's got some pretty fond memories of a few occasions when he'd let her hair down kiss by kiss, one pin at a time.
She's teasing the back of his calf with her toes now, smiling up at him, and he knows there's heat in his eyes as he looks down at her. Because he loves the fast, needy times, loves the way she turns to him in those deep, sleepless hours of night, but this time will be different. This time will be slow, and thorough, and in the bright light of day.
Then she presses her lips together, biting back a yawn.
Jack huffs a laugh and shoves her still-wandering foot away from his leg. "Go back to sleep," he says, but she shakes her head, pulling the covers back up over both of them as she nudges at his chest and shoulder until he's on his back and she's sliding on top of him as he runs his fingers through her sleep-tangled hair.
"Later," she says.
And he's not going to argue with that. Later sounds very, very good to him.