Carter stared at the stubby straw in her hand, appalled. She'd cut the straws herself. She hadn't set out to icheat/i, certainly, but had thought that she'd at least be able to interpret her own work in a way that would lead to victory. Daniel was the best to go talk to the Colonel. Daniel was supposed to have the short straw and yet... there it was in her very own palm.

"That's that, then," Daniel said, not even bothering to hide his relief. Teal'c nodded once, also pleased.

"I'm... I don't think... I'm really not the right one to..." she stammered but Daniel just crossed his arms and Teal'c tilted his head and she could do nothing but scowl. "You cowards."

"This was your idea, Sam," Daniel pointed out.

"But Teal'c, you're his best friend!" she argued.

"I do not think my relationship with Colonel O'Neill is stronger than the bond you share," he said.

"Wait, really?" she asked. Sometimes it felt like SG-1 was the Jack and Teal'c show and she and Daniel were just the supporting cast.

"Really," Teal'c said.

"You're his 2IC," Daniel said. Daniel almost never used military slang and she knew he was just trying to make her feel a sense of duty about the whole errand.

"Fine," she said. "Fine, okay. I'll go."

She turned to walk toward the elevator.

"Oh and Sam?" Daniel called. She looked back at him. "I want to say this in a way that won't offend you."

"Just spit it out," she said.

"Wear something pretty?" he said. She rolled her eyes and mashed her finger into the elevator call button, willing it to come quickly before she had to kill someone.

oooo

It wasn't Daniel's suggestion that made her go home first. Lately there had been stretches where she wouldn't come home for days. She needed to clear her mailbox, sweep the newspapers from in front of her door. Shower with the body wash and pink razor she didn't dare leave anywhere near the base.

And it certainly wasn't Daniel that made her pull the skirt and white blouse from her closet. The blouse had buttons that looked like little pearls and the skirt swung just around her knees. It had tiny blue flowers. Her father had always liked that skirt on her, had always managed to pay her a compliment whenever he saw his daughter wearing it. She shrugged on her denim jacket and put on some sandals. It was nice to be out of boots.

Jack didn't live all that far, which was always unsettling. Even when they had the weekend off, or whatever, and all went their separate ways, Sam never thought about how close they all still were to each other. But she got to his place in under fifteen minutes because there was no traffic and she didn't hit any red lights. She walked slowly up the walk, hesitating. She could always turn back. Jack was a grown man, if he wanted to quit the SGC in a moronic, offensive rage, who was she to stop him?

But the idea of going to work day in and day out without him by her side was... not ideal.

She rang the doorbell and smoothed the fabric of her blouse against her stomach.

Jack opened the door holding a beer.

"I have to say, I expected Daniel," he said, taking a swig from the bottle.

"Sorry to disappoint you," she said. He looked her up and down, taking in her appearance in the most unsubtle way.

"You didn't," he said. She raised her eyebrows.

"You going to ask me in?" she asked.

"Wasn't planning on it," he said.

"I thought we could talk," she tried. "Colonel, I just want..."

"I'm retired now," he snapped. "So I guess it's just Jack."

"Okay... Jack, then," she said. "I'd like to understand your reasons for leaving a little better."

"That's Carter for you," he said, a mocking lilt to his voice. "Always trying to understand things a little better, even when it does absolutely no good."

That stung, she couldn't pretend it didn't. She had to fight the urge to run, to get back in her car and drive to where he couldn't see her so she could press her forehead against her steering wheel and regain her footing, but running away wouldn't help him.

"May I have a beer?" she asked.

"Why not," he said. He didn't invite her in, but when he headed for the kitchen, she entered anyway and shut the door behind her. She heard the refrigerator open and close and the hiss as he removed the cap from the beer. He handed it to her and she sat down. He sat across from her.

"Colonel..."

"Jack."

"Jack," she said. "If you were so upset, why didn't you say anything before now?"

"I don't want to talk about this," he said. "You can stay. You can drink your beer. We can talk about the Broncos or the upcoming election or where you've been hiding that delicious little outfit all my life, but my mind is made up so just drop it."

She looked down at her skirt and resisted the urge to touch it.

"I'm really more of a Chargers fan, myself, sir," she said. He sighed.

"You're a Major now," he said. "Don't piss it all away out of some misplaced sense of loyalty to me."

"Piss it away?" she said. "Misplaced? What the hell is wrong with you? I thought we were friends, but I don't even like the person sitting across from me."

"Good," he said. "Nothing to like."

"People don't just change overnight," she said. "I've seen you be a good man. I've seen you risk life and limb to save perfect strangers. What about Cassandra? You love her. How many times have you come back to help me? Carried me through the gate? How many?"

"Maybe I was lying," he said. "Did you ever think of that?"

"I think you're lying now," she said. "Jack I... when I first met you I thought there was no way we could ever work together because all you did was crack jokes and cross lines and I'd never seen anyone work the way you did but now..." She couldn't stop herself, her trembling voice or the moisture gathering in her lower lids. "I don't even want to go to work without you, I don't."

She sniffed and lowered her head so he couldn't see the tears. When she did look at him, he looked pained.

"Carter, don't make this harder."

"You're making it hard!" she accused. "Not only are you refusing to be my CO, you won't even be my friend."

He got up and walked over to her, stood right in front of her. He lowered his head so his mouth was right by her ear.

"Sam," he said. "Please don't." He sounded anguished.

"You never even liked me," she said. "Did you?"

He didn't respond.

"All that time, all those hours and hours. Antarctica. Cassie. The alternate realities. Everything we've gone through. I thought you and I... I mean, I thought maybe some day but it was always a lie, wasn't it?" she asked.

"No," he said.

"I'll never forgive you for this, you know," she said, lifting her hand to wipe her face. He caught her wrist and held it there.

"Samantha," he said.

"No," she said, trying to jerk her hand free. "I have to go." But he wouldn't free her. Instead, he lowered his head quickly and kissed her. She jumped in surprise, raised her hands to push him away but found that she didn't want to.

And ioh/i. How long had she thought of this moment, how many times had she imagined it? Suddenly her anger shifted into something else, something just as powerful. Jack O'Neill was kissing her and he wasn't her CO any longer and there was no reason, no reason at all that she shouldn't kiss him back.

oooo

Instead of taking her to the bedroom, he took her to the bathroom. At first, she hadn't noticed because they'd been fumbling their way down a dark hallway and his fingers had already freed every button of her blouse. His hands on her skin had been like magic, leaving trails of heat wherever they traveled. He closed the door and pressed her against it, nipping at her neck with his teeth.

When she opened her eyes and saw the mirror, the shower, the toilet, she stopped him.

"What?"

"Do you trust me?" he whispered. She nodded, of course. Even after this last week, she trusted him completely. "Take off your clothes."

"Jack," she said, but then realized that had he taken her to the bedroom, she wouldn't have questioned removing her clothing. "Okay."

He was stripping too, which was strangely comforting. When he got down to his briefs, which were tented (she was pleased to see), he turned on the shower. Carter shrugged off her jacked and blouse and unzipped her skirt with shaky hands. It was easy enough to step out of her shoes and the puddle of the skirt at the same time. She felt extremely vulnerable in only her white panties and white, lacy bra even though they'd all seen each other in the infirmary and locker room. But this was different... this was intimate and intentional. Jack looked up as the room started to fill with warm steam.

"Nice," he said. "But all the way."

"You first," she said, even though it sounded childish. As soon as he started to push his briefs down, she did the the same, letting her panties fall and reaching around to unclasp her bra. With a deep breath, she let that go, too. He didn't comment, only held back the shower curtain in an invitation for her to step in first.

Maybe this was just a weird Jack fetish. The shower. She'd had sex in a shower before, but generally it was not the ifirst/i time. It was usually a morning after sort of activity. Still, the water was warm and as soon as it hit her, she relaxed ever so slightly. Jack stepped in and immediately she pressed herself against him, winding her arms around his neck and demanding that he kiss her again. He readily complied, spending several moments exploring the curve of her hips and breasts with his hands. The cool tile felt nice against her back and the spray hit both of them.

It was only when she reached for the erection pressed between them that he gasped and pushed her hand away.

"Wait, wait," he said, though it seemed to pain him to do so.

"What?" she asked, impatient and delirious with arousal.

"I need to... this is the safest place in the house right now. It's been bugged," he whispered. She could hardly hear him over the spray of the water so she could imagine how hard it would be for anyone else listening in. But if his house had been bugged then...

She shook her head.

"I don't understand."

"General Hammond didn't want me to tell you, any of SG-1, about his suspicions," Jack said.

"About you and me?" she asked. Her brain was swimming. All she really wanted was for him to keep kissing her, to lift her against that ledge and push her knees apart but no... she had to find her focus. She stepped back from him a little and crossed her arms.

"No. There's been reports about a rogue SG group stealing alien technology and Hammond suspects that it's Maybourne running the operation. Hammond thought that if I got booted out of SG-1, then who ever was running the operation might approach me," Jack said.

She started to feel sick.

"So this is... you're not really... you're still my CO," she managed. "We can't..."

"Sam, Sam, hey," he said putting his hands on her shoulders. "Wait. I'm sorry, I had to fool the bugs, but this isn't something I would screw around with."

"Colonel," she said, shaking her head. "I have to go now."

"Wait," he hissed. "No."

"I won't break your cover," she promised. "It's relieving, actually, knowing you'll be back."

"This isn't about cover," he said. He slid his hands down her arms and tugged so she had to step back to him. He lowered his head to kiss her again but she turned her head so all he got was cheek. "Carter."

"I can't do this knowing you'll be back. I can't do this knowing I can't have it again," she said. "I'm sorry, sir."

"Jack," he corrected. "Carter, I..."

"Don't say it," she blurted. "Please just don't."

"Right now I'm not your CO," he said anyway. "Right now I'm no one."

"That's not fair," she murmured.

"And there's a pretty good chance that all this backfires and I won't come back," he said. He pushed the wet hair away from her forehead and she couldn't help but lean into the touch a little. She would regret this probably. All of her romantic entanglements thus far had ended in regret, so why not this one? Jack wasn't even her type really. In fact, her type had always been more like Daniel - the brainy, quiet, bookish type, but Daniel ended up like a brother and Jack was like walking sex for some reason. Half the time she wanted to slap him but the rest of the time she just wanted to push him down on the nearest horizontal surface and make him be quiet.

And now she was here with him, naked, and he was begging her to give him a chance because this time, like every time, it could be their last.

There wasn't a lot of time. They'd been in the shower for over ten minutes already and whoever was listening would start to get suspicious. That or they'd lose the hot water. Either way, she kissed him with a renewed sense of urgency. He seemed to understand the rush and did just want she wanted - lifted her enough so that she could find purchase on the small ledge the shower offered. She heard something clunk and fall - a bar of soap, maybe, but Jack didn't seem to care and neither did she.

"This isn't how I wanted this to be," he managed as her knees fell apart and he moved between them.

"Just shut up for a while, please," she said. "Sir."

She hissed a little as he entered. For all the showering and kissing they'd done, this part was still a little rushed. But after a moment, the pain was gone and instead she felt pleasure, hot stabs of it that seemed to go from her belly all the way up to behind her eyes. It had been a long time. How many dates could she go on where she could avoid talking about her job? And anyhow, when she was in bed late at night, it wasn't dating she thought about, it was this. It was Colonel Jack O'Neill, it was the noises he was making, the hitch in his throat and the low, rumbled curse word that slipped out as she clenched around him, urging him to move faster.

It took a moment to notice, but the water went from hot to warm to cool. Soon, it would be cold.

"Shut it off," she said.

"But they'll be able to hear everything we say," he responded.

"I think they know what we're doing," Sam pointed out. They were long done talking about his mission. He slapped blindly at the wall until he hit the knob and the water stopped. Suddenly things seemed very quiet.

"Uh, Carter?" he said, resting his forehead against hers. "You think we could move this party to the bedroom? My knees are killing me."

"I think that'd be fine," she said.

oooo

They'd gotten the sheets all wet. Everything was damp around her. Even his hair was still wet, she could feel it against her neck, spiky yet soft. She was chilled but his hand was warm on the small of her back.

"You have to go," he said, so quietly she couldn't even hear the words. She could only read his lips. She nodded.

"We can't do this again?" she mouthed back. He held her gaze for a moment and then shook his head. Of course they couldn't. What answer was she expecting? So she put on her clothes, ran her fingers through her damp hair, and let herself out the front door, working hard to keep the expression off of her face for whoever might be watching. And as soon as she started to pull away from the curb, a dark sedan parked right where her car had been.

oooo

Going on like normal was surprisingly easy, actually. Okay, maybe not ieasy/i but generally they were so distracted with work and whatever disaster they were trying to avert that there simply wasn't time to pine.

Knowing that her feelings were reciprocated also helped. The Colonel was her boss, but one day he wouldn't be. And when that day came, they'd have all the time in the world to spend with one another. And in the mean time, no one had to know anything. Which is how it would have gone if she and Jack hadn't been declared Za'tarcs.

Janet wouldn't even look at her. Sam had been humiliated enough that she'd had to declare her feelings into a machine, that she'd had to ask Jack to do the same, but to do so with Janet and several other people watching had just been twisting the knife. And now, Janet was somehow doing a full medical check-up on her without making eye contact.

"Janet, come on," Sam said.

"You're perfectly healthy, Major Carter," Janet said. "You may go."

"Will you at least talk to me about this? I'm the one who got embarrassed, why are you mad?" Sam asked.

"Because you lied to me," Janet said, putting her hands to her hips. "When Colonel O'Neill got trapped on Edora, you were frantic and I asked you if there was a problem and you said no."

"There was no problem," Sam said. That had been back when Sam had only hoped, and anyway, she hadn't lied. There still was no problem. Life would go on, the SGC would go on as it always had.

"I thought you might confide in me but apparently not," Janet said.

Sam sighed. "We're doing the best we can."

"Failing a lie detector isn't your best, nor is it not a problem," Janet said.

"The Colonel can pass a lie detector," Sam defended. "This was not the same thing and you know it."

"You're missing the point," Janet said.

"We haven't broken any rules," Sam said, her eyes flickering down as she said this. Janet frowned, her dark eyes searching Sam. Sam immediately regretted saying that, knew that she'd worded it peculiarly, that she'd been too specific in her phrasing. She should have said that they'd done nothing wrong, that there was nothing to worry about.

"Fine," Janet said. "I patch you and Colonel O'Neill up all the time, more than Daniel and Teal'c, though not by much. I just don't want to lose you both one day because one of you decided you couldn't live without the other."

And hadn't that been exactly what had happened? Sam fought the sting that preceded tears. She took a deep breath and met Janet's eyes.

"We are doing the best we can in a very dangerous, important situation. There's no rule book for interplanetary travel," Sam said. "We are doing the best we can."

"I know," Janet said. "No one thinks otherwise."

"Can I go?" Sam asked. Janet nodded.

Jack was in the gear up room. He was sitting on the bench, his vest in front of him, taking inventory. Things got lost often, so at least every few weeks, they had to restock all their standard supplies.

"Hey," he said, glancing up at her. "Doc Frasier give you the okay?"

"Yeah," she said. "You?"

"Yep," he said. "Tok'ra gone?"

"Yeah," Sam said, walking tentatively into the room and perching on the end of the bench. She faced him, straddling the blond wood. His vest was between them. "Our next scheduled mission isn't for 72 hours."

"Sweet," he said. There was a beat while he inspected the corner of an antibiotic field dressing to see if the seal had been breached, but then he shoved it back into the pocket, apparently deeming it safe. "Carter, I know we agreed to leave it in the room and everything..."

"Sir," she said, shaking her head. "We really shouldn't even..."

"I just have to know how you knew," he said.

"Oh," she said. "I don't know, I guess I just realized when I was waking up. I mean, I sat it like I'd sit a polygraph, didn't you?"

"Yeah," he agreed, staring steadily at her.

"But it could detect even subconscious lies and I realized that any lie would set the thing off, even if it..." She stopped, reevaluating her words. "There's only one thing I lie about all the time. Every day, even to myself."

"Oh," he said, looking back down at the vest. "Me too."

"Yeah," she said. "Well. Anyway, I think I'm going to go home, actually."

"Yeah?" he asked. "I'll go up with you."

"You're doing you're thing here, you don't have to," she said, but he grabbed the vest in one armful and shoved the whole thing unceremoniously into his closet.

"Ready," he said. She smirked.

They didn't say anything while she grabbed her bag from the lab and said nothing for the long elevator ride to the surface. If he was standing closer to her than he'd stand to Daniel or Teal'c, well, elevators were small. And if he touched the small of her back lightly as they negotiated the long hallway toward the exit and then held the door open for while they walked into the sunlight, then he was just being a gentleman.

His big truck was parked near her car and he passed it, keeping in step with her until she reached her vehicle.

"This is me," she said unnecessarily.

"Yep," he said. "You know, this is probably the last nice weather of the year we've got going here. I was thinking of throwing a few steaks on the grill tonight. You want to come over?"

She had to fight down the urge to say yes, had to suck the inside of her cheek in so her mouth would stay closed. She hadn't been to his house since... she couldn't go back there.

"Sir," she said softly. "We've got to keep it in the room."

"You're right," he said. "God, Carter, you're... you're so, totally right." He pulled is sunglasses from his pocket and put them on. "Have a good evening, Major."

"You too, sir," she said. She watched him walk back to his truck for a moment. He surprised her when he stopped suddenly and spun back around.

"What if I invited Teal'c and Daniel?" he called. She didn't do anything, didn't say yes or no. She was deciding if she could face his place even with the rest of the team there but then he held up his hand before she could decide. "Never mind."

She got into her car and held on to the steering wheel tightly for a few moments, hoping something solid beneath her hands would help dissipate the floating, helpless feeling in her chest.

oooo

It took about ten loops for Carter to start to have the idea, but once she did, she seemed to have it every time. It wasn't always in the same way or the same place but almost always around the same time she'd find wherever he was and say, "Sir, do you have a minute?"

And he would say, "For you, Carter, I've got five."

And she would smile and quirk her eyebrows slightly in a way that was just on this side of suggestive.

The first time she explained it, he'd been confused. Carter always had to explain things twice to him - dumb it down a little. It took a few minutes for him to realize that, essentially, she was saying the same thing that had occurred to Daniel.

"What happens to you in this loop almost isn't real," Carter was saying. "Your actions don't have consequences."

"I see," he said.

"So, really," she was saying. "You could do anything."

"Uh huh," he agreed. She reached out and ran her fingers lightly over his stomach.

"With anyone."

"Oh," he said. "iOh/i."

"Yeah," she agreed. When had she gotten so close? She was right up against him, looking at him with those big eyes and leaning her face up slowly and slightly. All he had to do, really, was just tilt his head down to meet hers and that'd be it.

"Hey, hold on a second," he said, stepping back. There was a flash of hurt in her eyes. "We've been... you're the one that told me to leave it and we have."

"But it doesn't matter here, sir, we won't remember," she said.

"You won't," he corrected. "But I will."

"Which is lucky for you," she said.

"Carter, I can't just take advantage of you like that," he said.

"But it was my idea," she argued.

"No fair if I remember and you don't," he said. "And my house is one thing, but this is the SGC and the rules still apply here, Major."

"Yes sir," she said. He'd humiliated her, he knew, but she'd forget that too.

Still, the next loop came and she stuck her head into Daniel's office, a sly look on her face.

"Colonel, can I borrow you for a minute?"

"Major, you can borrow me for five," he said.

She found him in the gym, in the embarkation room, in the cafeteria, in his quarters.

"Sir, I was thinking..."

"There are always consequences, Sam," he said tiredly, not bothering to look up from the magazine he was halfheartedly flipping through. He'd read it all before.

"How did..." But she stopped, stepped in, and closed the door softly behind her. "How many times have we had this conversation?"

"More than once," he admitted.

"How many times have I asked how many times?"

"A few," he said.

"And you always tell me no?" she asked, walking up to the bed.

"Yes," he said.

"And then what do I do?" she asked, sitting softly on the edge, next to him.

"Um," he said, finally tossing the magazine aside. "Get pissed off, I think."

"Because of you flatly rejecting me?" she asked uncomfortably.

"Yeah, something like that," he said. "Look, you and I both know that... there's no part of you I would ever want to reject in any way, but there are rules."

"Is it safe to assume that I've yet to argue my way out of this situation?" she asked.

"Surprisingly, yes," he said.

"Hmm," she said, tucking her hands into her lap.

"Hmm? What hmm? What does that mean?" he asked.

"I'm just thinking," she said.

"About?"

"If I were Samantha Carter," she said with a mischievous smile. "And I knew my Plan A didn't work, and probably my Plan B, what would I try next?"

"Something that ends up in both of us being slapped with a court marshal, I suspect," he said.

"You're probably right," she said. "But don't you even want to know what my Plan C is?"

"A little," he admitted. Her small hand reached out and settled high on his thigh. "Um..."

"Plan C is to simply take what I want, I suppose." Her voice was soft and she used the hand on his leg to push her body forward, pressing her mouth to his.

He was only human. Weeks of fending her off at this point had run his reserves dry and he was only a man. His arms snaked around her and he pulled her into his lap. She made a squealing noise at the sudden upset but realized it was more comfortable and settled in, winding her arms around his neck and opening her mouth under his.

"When we talk about this later," he said, breaking the kiss. "Try to remember that I did the best I could."

"That's all you and I ever do," she whispered. He wound his finger into her hair and pulled so their mouths met again.

oooo

It took her a while to ask about it. The roads to the base had been almost impassable for days and they'd all been cooped up in the mountain whenever they weren't off world. When they finally got the okay to go home, he offered her a ride.

"There's no way your car is getting to your house," he said. "My truck might."

"Yes, sir," she said.

"And if we can't get there, we can at least get to my place but if I don't get out of this mountain I'm going to shoot someone and you have that look in your eye too, so get in the damn truck!"

"Okay, okay," she said. "Why are you yelling? I already agreed."

"I'm just... going a little nuts here, sorry," he muttered, pulling the passenger door open for her. She took his offered hand and climbed into the truck. He closed the door and walked around the front to his own door. At least the base had sheltered parking so he didn't have to spend 30 minutes digging his truck out. They idled for a little while, while the engine warmed and he futzed around with the radio.

It was a slow drive and they could both see right away that attempting to get through town was going to be futile.

"The roads might be clearer once you hit downtown," Sam offered hopefully.

"Do you have food there? Supplies?" he asked. She couldn't remember the last time she went to a grocery store, let alone what she bought.

"Do you?" she asked.

"I know I at least have stuff in the freezer," he said. "In the morning we'll see where we are, okay?"

"I don't seem to have a choice," she said. Her tone was simply factual; she strained to see out her window. He decided not to let the comment sting.

His driveway needed some serious shoveling and he groaned when he saw it. The best he could do was park on the street where a plow had at least once been, if not recently. He killed the engine and hopped out. They had to trudge through the snow to his door. Already, heavy flakes were beginning to fall again.

"One day, when I retire for good, I'm moving somewhere tropical," he muttered, trying to pull his keys out of his pocket with his gloves on. She stood carefully behind him. She didn't really have anything with her but her purse. All her clothes at the base had been either dirty or uniforms. She hadn't even thought to swipe a toothbrush. Oh well - too late now.

Jack pushed opened the door and let her walk in first. She stomped her feet on the mat before going in. There was a few awkward moments of shedding layers and shoes and leaving everything in a heap by the door.

"I'm going to turn on the heat and start a fire and then do some shoveling," he said.

"Do you want some help, sir?" she asked.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Maybe you could inventory the food and coffee situation?"

"Sure," she said.

He was still kneeling in front of the fireplace, coaxing the flames to life when she came back in and sat on the couch.

"I'm just going to ask," she said. He glanced over his shoulder briefly and then back to the fire.

"Ask what?"

"You were reliving that day, that loop for months," she said. "With almost no consequences to your actions."

Jack stilled, leaning back on his heels, as if he'd been waiting for this for some time.

"So you continued to point out," he said. She blinked at this, her eyebrows shooting up for a moment and he could almost hear her gears grinding.

"Sir, did you and I... did we..."

"Yes," he said. "I won't lie to you, Carter."

"More than once?" she asked softly.

"A lot more than once." He turned around and sat dejectedly on the ground, his back to the small, but growing fire. "I said no, you know."

"It was my idea," she stated. "Every time?"

"Well, it's not as if I never thought about it... but you always... yeah, initiated it. I told you it wouldn't be fair because you'd have no memory and you said..."

"I know what I said," she said, smiling softly. "Well, I mean, I can guess. I'm not angry."

"If you were, I'd understand," he said.

"A little jealous, maybe," she said. "I have one memory. You have dozens."

"I am sorry," he said. "You know how persuasive you can be, but that doesn't excuse my giving in... repeatedly."

"Your fire looks good. You sure you don't want help shoveling?" she asked, trying to get back to normal.

"One shovel," he shrugged. "Make yourself at home, Carter."

"Yes, sir," she said.

When he came back in, there was a fresh pot of coffee and some chicken thawing in the sink. Carter was curled up on the sofa with the throw blanket around her, asleep. It was one of the side affects of both spending a lot of time in an underground base and on alien planets. Things like timezones, day and night, regular sleeping patterns became things of the past. At this point, if an SG team was tired, they slept no matter what time. It was only early afternoon, but the snow had left everyone even more bedraggled than normal and he wouldn't begrudge her a little catnap. At least the house had warmed up.

He stood in the kitchen, his hip against the counter, and drank a mug of coffee to help him warm up. Deciding she might be out for a while longer, he decided to shower. When he came back out, her eyes were still closed but she'd turned on the television low. It was the news, recapping the weather and the young woman was saying that another storm was riding the tail of the last one, that the snow would be heavy all night and into the next day. He believed her - already the pictures was getting fuzzy and he could hear the wind howling as the darkness settled in.

He fixed another cup of coffee and then carried it out and set it on the coffee table in front of her. Her eyes fluttered open and she sat up, taking the blanket with her and reached for the mug.

"Thank you," she said. He sat next to her.

"I'm going to call the base, check in. Maybe make sure Daniel got home okay," Jack said and she nodded. "You want to shower?"

There was a flicker of something on her face, at least one part panic, but then the slow flush that spread across her cheeks was also telling. He realized that she hadn't been back here since she'd come to try to talk him into coming back to the SGC and that the shower, specifically, might give her pause.

During the loop, he and Sam had talked about his shower often, again and again, but this Sam didn't have those memories.

"I just meant..."

"I know," she said quickly. "And I do."

"I know you didn't have a lot of time to... plan for this and we might be stuck here for a while, so you can use anything you want. My closet is your closet."

"Thank you, sir," she said.

oooo

She pulled a towel from the linen closet. It was one of those huge ones, a towel big enough to use for a beach trip, but this was lush and blue and seemed like a luxury that Jack wouldn't even consider. Maybe it had been Sara who'd bought the towel.

In the bathroom, she turned on the shower and let the room heat up a bit before stripping. She snagged his razor from the edge of the sink. She knew he really had meant it, the offer to make herself at home. It was such a man's shower, she thought, stepping inside. It wasn't filthy, but it certainly wasn't up to her standards of gleaming white cleanliness. There was a bottle of two-in-one shampoo and conditioner and a bar of soap. Not even a washcloth.

She lathered up quickly, knowing he'd just showered. She had an intimate knowledge of just how long his hot water could last and she didn't want to linger in the shower anyway. She felt a jolt of deep loathing, not for Jack, but for herself. For telling both Jack and herself that it would be okay that he could remember making love to her over and over again and she wouldn't. That Sam, loop Sam, had put instant gratification over the long term stability of her relationship with her CO and it had been selfish and not very smart. Still, Sam knew that if she had the option to touch Jack like that right now, knowing she'd remember nothing in the morning, she'd do it. In a heartbeat.

He needed to change his razor blade. She had to navigate it over the skin of her legs carefully to avoid nicks. The base showers were so cramped she almost never bothered to shave there but it had been days and she already felt out of place, her nerves jangled and tender, so she needed to at least feel human if only in small ways.

She shut the shower off, leaving the razor on the ledge.

When she opened the door, towel wrapped securely around her, she could hear Jack still on the phone. From his tone, he was speaking with Daniel, so she braved the short distance of the hallway from the bathroom to his bedroom.

She didn't look at the bed. Instead, she started pulling open drawers until she found a pair of sweatpants and a white t-shirt and then she darted back to the bathroom. Her bra was fine, but she didn't bother to put her panties back on, instead shoving them into Jack's hamper. Nothing he hadn't seen before. The sweat pants actually fit well, and the shirt, while broad in the shoulder, fit better than any of his button downs would have. She hung the towel and then went back into his bedroom, intent on socks, but he was in there now, replacing the phone to it's cradle on the nightstand.

"Oh," she said. "Sorry."

"No, it's fine," he said, glancing at her in a way he thought was subtle but was not. It made her cross her arms, not low over her belly, but higher, her thumbs tucked against her breasts. "What do you need?"

"Socks," she said. He tugged a drawer open and tossed her a balled up pair, thick and wool. She murmured her thanks and then, is a fit of boldness, walked to the edge of the bed and sat down to pull them on her feet. He stared.

"Your toes are purple," he said. "That's new."

She'd painted them only a couple nights ago, bored, trapped on level 15 because Jack had ordered her out of the lab. iFor crying out loud/i. The color had been Janet's, or Cassie's probably, but they'd sat in her room and took turns, saying nothing, feeling trapped. Sometimes she had to remind herself that she was a woman as well as a solider. That one never came before the other.

"Yeah," she said. "Silly."

"Strangely..." He cleared his throat. "Strangely appealing."

She smiled at him and covered the other foot in his sock, which seemed to snap him out of it. He blinked a few times.

"I put the chicken in the oven," he said, now, like the past forty-five seconds hadn't happened.

"I can start on the rest, if you'd like, sir," she said and they walked out to the kitchen, their feet making no noise at all with the wool of the socks against the carpet.

oooo

The guest room was what she considered to be Teal'c's room and she found she didn't want to sleep there. There's wasn't much - a bed and a dresser covered with half-burnt candles - and Teal'c didn't stay at Jack's as much as he did at the beginning, but it just felt odd. So she pulled the quilt from the bed and dragged it to the couch so she could sleep by the fire.

It was oddly easy to make herself at home. She heard Jack get up twice to use the bathroom before he gave up on sleep. He walked down the hall and she heard the guest room door creak open softly. That was interesting. And then, "Carter?"

"In here, sir," she said. He wasn't sure how he knew he wouldn't wake her. He came into the living room and eyed her nest warily.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Nothing," she murmured. "It's snowing."

"Again or still?"

"Still," she said. "Can't sleep?" He shook his head. None of them were very used to being home or being in homes. Dark rooms, indoor plumbing, so many changes of warm, dry clothes. There was far more to do here than on any given night on a planet but all he could think about doing was walking around his living room in a circle holding a gun while she caught a few hours of sleep. How rare it was that they were together and both able to sleep. Finally he sat next to her, right on top of her nest of blankets and he could feel her toes just under him through the bedding. She wiggled them and smiled. "I am sorry you had to take me in."

"I'm not," he said. She quirked an eyebrow. "I like the company."

"Me too."

He needed something to do, something to keep his hands busy so they didn't get into trouble. She had kept the fire stoked, the kitchen was clean, their cold weather gear hung neatly, their boots lined against the wall.

"Maybe I'll do another round of shoveling," he said.

"It's three in the morning." Her toes wiggled again.

"Right," he said. "I could give that a few hours, I guess."

"Sir," she said. She used her toes beneath him for leverage, raising them and then scooting toward him on her backside. With her knees bent, she was right there, right next to him. "What do you think the absolute worst case scenario is?"

"The Goa'ulds get a foothold on Earth and we all die," he said.

"Well, no, I actually meant about you and me," she said, scrunching her nose slightly in a way that made his whole neck get hot.

"Oh," he said. He cleared his throat. "Ah, well, Carter, I think worst case is we get caught. Not by Hammond, but by... probably the NID or some ass in the Pentagon. My career could survive a hit better than yours, so you'd probably have to resign and come back on as a consultant. But of course, I'd be so furious that I'd retire and then we'd both be gone which affects Daniel and Teal'c now. You'd have to work in a lab and watch all your creations or discoveries or whatever be handled by someone else and it'd just... that would kill you, Carter. And you'd be so upset about your career that any attempt to make a go at us would be fueled by anger and resentment. So worst case scenario is we go through all that, lose everything, and I still don't get to wake up with you every day."

"Jesus, Jack," she said. He'd shocked her enough that she hadn't even realized she'd used his name instead of his rank or 'sir'.

"You are way too important to SG-1, to the SGC, to the government, and to the survival of our race and planet for us to jeopardize anything because I can't stop thinking about kissing you," he said. At this, her face crumpled a bit with longing and agony and all the things he was currently feeling. Her knees were resting against his side, warm and sharp.

"It's just," she said now, tucking her hair behind her ears, not that it did any good. It was so short, but the action seemed unconscious and habitual. "Sometimes I don't think about it at all, you know. Especially off-world, or in the lab, or when we're idoing/i something, but there are times when I swear, I can't breathe through it anymore. I see you and I just... I think I'll go crazy if I can't touch you."

"I know," he said. "I know exactly how you feel."

"I don't know how long we can wait," she murmured, resting her chin on her knees and looking up at him. Jack would wait forever, he knew it, but it wasn't fair to tell her this.

"You shouldn't wait," he said. "You should find some brainiac and have babies and provide your amazing genetics for future generations. You should be happy."

She blinked at him.

"Even if I did that," she said. "You and I would know that it wasn't... real."

"It could be real," he argued. His hand, traitorous appendage that it was, lifted to her hair and pushed the short spikes of blond away from her forehead. She leaned into it, let her eyes briefly shut. He swore he felt her skin grow warmer under the pads of his fingers.

"Maybe." She conceded with her words, but not her tone. He took his hand away and she let out a shaky breath.

"I'm going to go back to bed," Jack said. "Night, Carter."

"Goodnight, Sir," she said.

He didn't think he'd ever be able to sleep with her under the roof, but he dropped off about an hour later anyhow.

oooo

He woke up to the scrape of a shovel on concrete. He started coffee and then went to the window to watch her work. She was only about halfway down the walk. He could hardly see the truck - only the huge white lump where he'd left it in the driveway after he'd shoveled the first time. He pulled on his coat and boots and opened the door. It took her a moment to notice him but she flashed him a quick smile, a good sign after their night. He picked up the bucket of salt from the porch and started laying some where she had already cleared.

"I walked to the end of the block," she called. "The plow has been by."

He just kept tossing salt.

"If we can get the truck uncovered, you could at least get me back to the base," she said.

"I thought the whole point of coming here was to get off the base," he said. She just shrugged, a movement he could barely make out through her layers of clothing. And it was cold, too cold for him to be wearing sweatpants and no hat. "If we can get to the base, we can get to your house. You could pack a bag, at least."

"Okay," she agreed.

"Come in and have some coffee," he said, his voice a little like an order.

"Yes, sir," she said, before she could help herself. He nudged her shoulder a little when she passed by and took the shovel she offered so he could prop it by the door. He was tired, the kind of tired that would take several sleeps to unfurl, but the coffee would help.

He managed to get dressed properly and they both ate a little, though there was no milk for cereal so they ate power bars and split a dry bagel.

He had her sit in the truck while he did the majority of the digging. She turned on the engine and blasted the heat, flicking the wipers on every once in a while. Finally, he pulled open the door and she slid across the seat to the passenger side so he could drive. He was freezing and tore off his gloves so he could press his fingers against the vent spewing hot air.

She watched this, tsk-ing softly. She had wanted to help more. He looked at her, one of his ball caps pulled down over her head and he wanted nothing more than to slide his cold fingers under her shirt and warm them up with her skin. He was desperately in love with her, his love so searing that it was causing him physical pain and he remembered her saying that she couldn't breathe through it and he felt that, a heavy, pressing weight on his chest.

"Colonel?" she asked, her mouth twitching in concern.

"We have to get you home," he said, willing himself to grip the wheel and put the car into reverse. "I'm about to lose the battle, here, Carter."

She said nothing, which was wise.

oooo

Janet sat quietly on a stool in Sam's lab and watched Sam type. Janet seemed bored, her chin resting in her hand. Things were still slightly precarious between the two women but Sam was content to let it lie.

"So," Janet said, drumming her nails on the counter. "You missed your day with Cassie."

"Snow," Sam murmured, squinting at the screen. She was getting tired and the figures were all starting to blend. "I'll make it up to her."

"She called your house but you never answered," Janet said. Sam sighed and slowly lowered the screen closed.

"How did you know?"

"Daniel," Janet said. "Colonel O'Neill called him and when I expressed worry when I couldn't get a hold of you, he said you were with the Colonel."

"Just one night," she said and then colored slightly. "Til the storm broke. I slept on the couch."

"I wasn't asking..."

"Yes you were," Sam snapped and then rubbed her face.

"I was," Janet said. "You're right. I'm just worried about you. You don't even seem happy most the time."

"I'm not unhappy," she said. "Things are just difficult right now and I'm working through it."

"Can I help?" Janet asked.

"Nah," Sam said. "I think I'm just going to get some coffee and get some more work done."

"Well don't work too hard," Janet said. When she left Sam decided to go to the cafeteria to see if the coffee they had there was any better than the day old burnt stuff currently stinking up her lab.

Jack was there, sitting with Teal'c, pushing food around his plate.

"Major Carter," Teal'c said. "Join us."

Sam had been avoiding Jack a little since last week but she sat with them now, abandoning coffee. She slipped into the chair next to Teal'c.

"It's late," she said, when no one said anything else.

"I decided to just stay on base," Jack said.

"Me too," she agreed. Teal'c almost always stayed on base and said nothing. "Where's Daniel?"

"Sleeping," Teal'c said. "He is scheduled to go off world with SG-9 in five hours."

"Man," Jack said, rubbing his face. "Wish I could sleep."

"I came for coffee myself," Sam said, but she'd lost her steam and slumped lower in the chair. Under the table, the toe of her boot nudged Jack's and neither pulled away. They all sat in a sullen silence.

"Poker?" Jack said, finally. Sam smiled but shook her head.

"I have so much work," Sam said.

"I, too, must retire, O'Neill," Teal'c said and stood.

"Night," Sam murmured. When Sam made a move to stand, Jack's boot toe covered hers, keeping her in place.

"You trying to ditch me, Carter?" he asked.

"No, sir," she said. "You're welcome to come watch me work if you'd like." This was the sort of thing that caused him to flee, but he shrugged one shoulder.

"Okay."

"What?" she blurted, surprised.

"Nothing else to do. We're grounded until Daniel is done with SG-9," he said.

"You could go home," she said. "Relax. Go up to the cabin."

"Eh, the weather's crap," Jack said. "At least the base is warm and dry and, you know."

"What?"

"You're here," he said. She smiled.

"Come on," she said. She fixed two cups of coffee and handed him one and they went back to her lab.

"Carter," Jack said, picking something up from the counter and peering at it with a perplexed expression. He set it down again. "You want to knock off work for a while?"

"And do what, sir?" she asked.

"I don't know. Get a burger and beer? See a movie? Take a walk? Leave here?" He sounded bored and exasperated, lonely and moody. She understood.

"Sir, with all due respect, I think you just asked me out on a date," she said.

"No I didn't!" he exclaimed and then after a moment, "Well, maybe, but I just... getting a beer with your best friend is a normal activity that people do."

"As much as I would love to say yes to both interpretations," she said softly. "I think we need to watch our six with this."

The slang, the soft voice, the way she tucked her hands into her lap.

"What happened?" he demanded.

"Dr. Frasier has been sniffing around a little. Daniel told her that I was with you during the storm and she seemed concerned," Sam said.

"That's just base gossip and if it's base gossip, then Hammond knows and he hasn't said a thing to me," Jack said, unconcerned.

"Speculation is different for me," she said. "I'm your subordinate and a woman. It packs a meaner punch."

"Okay," he said, raising his hands in defeat. "No beer. No burgers. I'll go."

"Don't leave," she sighed. "I mean, I want you to stay here, with me, but can't you get your gameboy or something so you're at least partially entertained?"

He pulled the gameboy from his pocket a little guiltily. "Dead batteries." She took it.

"Well I can fix that," she said, already popping the back off and prying out the dead double As. What she stuck in to replace them were not batteries but the thing powered up, beeping and clinging enthusiastically.

"What'd you do?"

"It should last you the next year or so," she grinned, handing it back to him. "Don't say I never gave you anything."

"Sweet," he said and hopped up on the counter to play.

She felt his hand on the back of her neck a few hours later. He'd left to take a call and she'd dozed off, her face pressed into her crossed arms. He was here now.

"Hey," he said. "Up and at 'em, Carter."

"What time is it?" she asked, lifting her head slowly to avoid twinging her neck. It hurt anyway and his fingers, still on her skin, rubbed softly. It's a little like heaven and a little like the other place, too.

"Daniel's about to gate. Want to go see him off?"

"Yeah," she said. She stretched a little, shed her lab coat and shut down her computer. She needed a shower, a meal, some real sleep. "Let's go."

oooo

"Major Carter." She was in General Hammond's office and the way he looked at her made her feel like she'd been caught sneaking in late, broken curfew, her neck hot with shame. "It is not my policy to involve myself in the personal lives of my staff, however..." He paused here. Where was Jack? Why was she facing this humiliating dressing down alone. "Even rumors have a way of damaging a base this small."

"Yes, sir," she said, staring at a spot just over his head. What could she do?

"Look, Major," Hammond said, sighing. "I know it's difficult but there is a greater mission to consider."

"With all due respect, General, I've done nothing wrong," she said, meeting his eyes.

"I know that," he said. "I'd just like to keep it that way."

"Me too, sir," she said. Hammond looked like he wanted to say more but then he simply dismissed her.

She refused to speak to Janet for three days.

oooo

Jack O'Neill had saved Sam's life plenty of times. It was a favor she returned often enough as simply a matter of course and she didn't bother to keep track of who was in the lead. But when Jack burst into that abandoned hospital, it was like he was saving her for the first time.

Maybe it was the jeans and jacket instead of BDUs. Maybe it was because she was being held hostage in her own backyard, but this crisis felt personal. Still, simply seeing his face didn't mean she was free.

It wasn't until they were in his truck headed back to the SGC that she started to shake a little. At first, she didn't notice either but then, it was as if her emotions caught up with the rest of her body and then she just couldn't stop trembling. It was ridiculous - Jack was the one with a bullet hole in his arm, patched up by the medics until Janet could fix him up right. He shouldn't even be the one driving, but of course, he'd flapped and squawked until he'd gotten his way - his own truck with Sam at his side.

Still, she shook.

"Hang in there, Carter," Jack said. "We're almost there."

She tried to say 'fine, sir' but found her teeth were chattering so severely that she couldn't get the words out. "Cold," she managed instead.

"Yeah, you're going into shock," he said. "Doc Frasier is gonna fix you right up, just hang on."

When she couldn't seem to control her spasming, he finally reached over and unbuckled her belt.

"Come on, scoot over. I can at least try to keep you warm."

As soon as she pressed her face into his neck, she began to cry.

Janet sedated her when they got back to the base and then spent over an hour on his arm but she still hadn't woken up.

"Colonel," Hammond said walking into the infirmary, relief evident on his face when quickly changed to worry when he saw Janet hovering over Sam. "A word?"

"Yes, sir," he murmured. They moved into a corner, dark and next to an empty bed. He was still a little groggy with pain and he moved stiffly, but the shot had been through and through and would feel better in the morning. The bruise of where the bullet hit his vest actually hurt more and Hammond watched him move sympathetically. Across the room, Sam slept heavily, her heart monitor beeping a long and steady rhythm. Janet had hooked her up to it when the mild sedative didn't stop Sam's panic attack. Janet had pushed more drugs, stronger drugs into Sam's arm and she'd finally passed out. They'd all stood there and listened to the heart rate slow.

"Jack, I'm going to remove you and Major Carter from active duty," Hammond said. Jack stared at him, blinking for a moment.

"What?"

"Pending authorization from your physician and me, you're relieved of your command and Major Carter is as well." Hammond looked at him hard, willing him to understand but it couldn't be that easy, right?

"General..."

"Take her home, Jack," Hammond said now. "And, in a little while, when she's feeling better, I'll reinstate you as officers in the United States Air Force. You can't work with that arm anyway."

Jesus. Jack wanted to reach out and kiss Hammond, a big wet one right on his shiny bald head. Hammond couldn't give them permission, hell, the man could barely give them a vacation, but he could do this. He could look the other way. He could create a small crack in the rules, just large enough for two people to temporarily slip through.

"Yes, sir," Jack said.

"Call Dr. Frasier when you both feel ready to pass your psych evaluations," Hammond said. "But feel ready no later than next week, got it?"

"Got it," Jack said. "But, uh, that clock doesn't start til she wakes up, right?"

Hammond just huffed and walked away.

oooo

"I don't understand," Sam said. Jack was shoving his clothes and hers into a duffel bag together, like the base was under an evacuation order, except for it was a Thursday night and everything was quiet. Janet had just let both of them go and Jack had all but grabbed her and shoved her out of the infirmary.

"You and I are leaving this base," he said. "Right now."

"But..."

"Carter," he snapped, shoving the bag at her. Her arms both worked fine and his was feeling achy and hot. "Trust me and just do what I say. Let's go."

In the truck, she still seemed a little depressed, slightly sluggish in her movement. When they were on the road, the base far enough behind them that he could no longer see it in the mirror, he explained what the General had done for them.

"Were you even going to ask me?" she said, finally. Dr. Frasier had told him she might be angry and that she might take the anger out on him even if he wasn't the person that she was really mad at.

"Whatever happens, we get the time off," he said patiently. "And if you want, I'll take you home and leave you alone. But I was hoping that you'd just trust me." He paused to glance at her. "Do you trust me?"

"Of course," she answered immediately and he thought that was a good sign.

"Will you come with me now?" he asked. She shifted in her seat slightly, looked at him with her big eyes. She had dark circles and was more pale than he preferred. She had her hands tucked into the long sleeves of her coat.

"Yes," she said simply.

"Okay," he said. "Good. Then here we go."

He stopped at her house and his, but they didn't linger and worked together to pack up the truck. It wasn't a short drive, but he wanted to push through and do it all in one go. After ten hours, she made him pull over to the side of the road so they could switch. His arm was throbbing and his fingers a little swollen and he was grateful to slide over and sleep for a few hours with his head pressed against the glass. She woke him when they crossed the Minnesota state line and they switched back. She slept a little, too.

The cabin was cold and dark and it had been way too long since he'd been here last.

She said nothing, simply drinking in everything quietly. This was the place he'd been asking to take her for years, this was Jack's place - a place that had everything to do with the O'Neill family name and nothing to do with the SGC.

"I love it," she said, finally.

"You haven't even been inside," he argued, but was pleased.

The cabin was small. Jack liked to think the long, overstuffed couch made up for a lack of guestroom and he slept on the couch more often than the bed when he was here alone anyway. There were cots in the garage from when he was a kid and going to the cabin was more about camping out, hiking, and nature than sitting on a dock all day doing nothing, but he simply dumped all their stuff in the bedroom and let her have the bathroom first.

He wasn't sure when she realized that he was going to crash on the couch, but he saw it in her face, the choice she was making. It was a hefty price, but she didn't seem to care as she squared her shoulders and said, "Jack, come to bed."

He squared his shoulders right back. "Okay."

He thought it might be like sleeping next to her off world. It didn't happen a lot because being alone in a tent with Carter was a particular agony he tried hard to avoid, but when it happened, they tended to say nothing and sleep too lightly for any real rest or comfort.

He gave her the option. Once in bed next to her, he stayed on his back, one arm under his head and stared into the dark ceiling. It was Sam who rolled over, who tucked herself against him, who nuzzled her cold nose into his neck. Sam who scrunched up his t-shirt in her fist, who threw one of her legs over his, who exhaled hotly into his ear.

"Jesus," he groaned. "Carter."

"If you don't touch me I think I'll go nuts," she said.

Ironically, he'd heard the line before. One of the later loops when he'd already lost count, when she'd found him stretched out in one of the nicer VIP rooms, hiding from Teal'c, from Hammond, from anyone who might make him try to accomplish something. He took a lot of loops off. She thrown open the door, jumped him, and said the same, exact thing.

It didn't make it any less hot this time.

oooo

Jack woke up early, he always did at the lake. Carter was still asleep, curled up like a cat. He could feel more of her than he could see. It was all skin against skin but he could see only a the top of her head and one foot poking off the edge of the mattress.

He wondered if there was an alternate reality with a stronger Jack O'Neill somewhere. He'd met the lucky ones - the ones where Carter hadn't joined the Air Force so they were free to screw as much and as often as they wanted but there had to be a universe out there where the Jack didn't give in. Where Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter simply worked side by side instead of constantly looking for ways to break the rules that wouldn't bite them in the ass.

Sure, by the letter of the law, he wasn't her CO but that would change by the end of the week and they'd have to continue on. Just because they'd bent the rules didn't undo the damage. Somewhere there was a Jack that could resist her, wasn't there?

Though, a Jack O'Neill who could resist a Samantha Carter would hardly be recognizable.

"What's wrong?"

Her voice startled him. He hadn't felt her wake up. He reached out and pulled the blanket away from her face. Her eyes were still closed.

"What?" he asked.

"You tensed up," she said, rolling over and looking up at him with dreamy, sleep-filled eyes.

"I was just thinking," he said. "It's early. You can still sleep."

She made a small humming noise low in her throat and stretched her fingers out across his belly. There were a few moments of silence before she huffed.

"You're still doing it."

"Am not."

She sat up now, holding the blanket across her bare chest and looking at him with concern and consternation.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Do you think there are other Jacks who are better at being Jack than I am?" he asked. She stared at him, blinked, shook her head like she was dislodging cobwebs.

"You mean in other realities? Or like, you think Jack Nicholson is a superior Jack?" she asked only slightly teasing.

"You think you're being cute," he said.

"A little."

"I just wonder if in other realities, I get it better."

"From what we seen, in other realities you die," she said. "We all die. I think by simply living we're doing pretty well."

"I guess," he said. "I'm going to make breakfast."

"Wait," she said. "Do you think we made a bad choice? Coming here and..."

"Tearing each other's clothes off and fucking like it was going out of style?" he offered. Her blush was immediate and deep and he almost felt bad about causing it except for it made her so attractive to him.

"One way of phrasing it," she murmured.

"I will always make the choice to be with you," he said. "I just worry that I'm being too greedy and it's gonna hurt us one day."

"I think..." she said. "That I would like some coffee."

She stood, let the blankets fall away to reveal her long and gorgeous body before bending over to pick up his t-shirt and slip it on.

"Are you leaving because you don't want to talk about it?" he asked, watching her pick up her underwear and then drop them again, deciding against putting them on.

"I'm leaving because I want some coffee," she said. "And if you think I haven't already lived through this thought process, you're wrong."

"I'm wrong?" he asked.

"I want you. I can't have you. I take you anyway. That's where we are, sir, and we can say we aren't breaking the rules because we're on forced leave or because I don't remember, but here we are."

"Christ, I know!"

"So I just don't see why thinking about how maybe we shouldn't have changes anything." She put her hands on the hips and the action makes his shirt ride up just enough that he can see everything.

He threw up his hands in the air, a universal signal for not having a clue.

"I'm tired of always doing the right thing," she said softly. "Don't I deserve at least one week of sheer recklessness?"

"Yeah," he said. "But you know this is going to make it worse later on."

"I know." She didn't care. She just, at the moment, could not care about the future when the present was so enticing. "Come on. Coffee. Breakfast. Fishing."

On the dock, she held her mug and he had a line in the water but he didn't pay it any mind. She sat sideways in her chair, her legs hanging over the arm rest, her feet in his lap. He used his fingers to run lightly over the top of her foot, and she hummed every so often in pleasure. They'd been outside for almost an hour now and neither had any plans of moving.

Inside the cabin, a phone began to ring.

"I thought you said no cell phones," she murmured.

"It's the land line."

"Don't answer it," she said, pressing her feet a little deeper into his lap so he wouldn't move. Not that he was exactly jumping up.

"What if it's Hammond?" he asked. "What if the world is ending?"

"Then let it end," she said. "If I have one more day on this planet, this is exactly how I want to spend it."

"Fair enough," he agreed.

Later, when he checked the message, it was a sales rep wanting to know about his long distance service.

oooo

He found her in the gear up room. Sam tended to take about ten extra minutes to gear up, something he'd always brushed aside as lady business and didn't question. Make-up or bras or something he didn't have to deal with. Now, she was shrugging into her coat, though none of the gear she had out looked suspicious.

They had been reinstated for about nine hours.

"Did you need something, Colonel?" she asked, her face open and sweet. God. He had to stop thinking like that.

"P3X-474," he said. "Twenty-five minutes."

"Yes, sir," she said. "I'll be ready."

"I'll be ready too," he said pointedly. "It's time we got back to work."

"Yes, sir," she said. "I agree."

She was almost done and he started to undress to change and she cleared her throat. Oh, right. Maybe that's why she tended to get done before any of the guys came through gear up. As much as he shouldn't look at her, maybe she didn't want to be tormented with him.

"Right." He met her eyes and her gaze was soft, understanding, a little pained. "Can I have the room, Major?"

"Yes, sir," she said. "See you at the gate."

She met Daniel in the doorway and she stood aside to let him pass.

"Hey, Sam," he said.

"Hey, Daniel," she replied and disappeared down the hallway. When Jack looked at Daniel, he had an odd expression.

"What?" Jack asked.

"Did you guys just fight or something?" he asked.

"No."

"There's a weird tension in here," Daniel said, scrunching his nose a little and wiping his hand on his pants like the tension might have gotten on him somehow.

"We're fine," Jack said, maybe just a little too pointedly.

"Okie dokie," Daniel said, reaching for his vest. "If you say so."

"I do."

"Maybe it will just take a bit to get things back to normal. Dr. Frasier said that Sam spent her week off with her brother in San Diego. They don't always get along well, right?" Daniel said.

Jack had to suppress a smile. Sometimes it was hard to tell what Janet felt about any given situation, but it was nice to know that for this, she was on their side. Finally.

"Not always, no," Jack said.

"What you'd do?" Daniel asked. "How's the arm?"

"Arm's fine. Nothing a little fishing couldn't fix right up," he said.

"Hmm," Daniel said. "Well if you want to talk about anything?"

"I most emphatically do not," Jack grumbled, shrugging into his vest. He left Daniel to go to the gate, but Hammond was waiting for him, looking a little shifty for someone of his rank and accolades.

"Sir?" Jack asked. "I thought we had a go."

"You do," Hammond said. "I just wanted to make sure you and Major Carter were both truly ready to return to SG-1."

"Born ready, sir," Jack said. Hammond held his gaze a little too long, saying nothing. "What?"

"Nothing," he said. "Your go is on."

"Sir, if you're afraid you made a bad call... don't worry. We got this," he said, shifting his gun into his other hand. "We know what we signed up for."

"Of course," Hammond said, nodding. He looked like he wanted to say one more thing like 'hang in there' or 'this isn't forever' or 'who could blame you' but Hammond simply turned around and headed for stairs.

In the gate room, Sam and Teal'c waited, speaking softly. When she looked over her shoulder at him, his heart twinged. He'd have to work on that, to relearn how to look at her without seeing the other image superimposed on top - the one of her sleeping in his bed, sunning on his dock, the one of her skin flushed and bright as she moved above him.

Daniel came in a moment later and they all stood at the base of the ramp as the chevrons started to lock. When the event horizon formed, he stepped ahead of them by half a step.

"Come on kids," he said and walked through the gate without looking back.