It's the wrong time
She's pulling me through
It's a small crime
And I've got no excuse
- Damien Rice, 9 Crimes
He shows up on her front door holding a mini-cooler. Jonas and Teal'c stand behind him. Teal'c wears a knit cap pulled low over his brow - autumn had arrived suddenly last week and she can't seem to keep on top of the leaves covering her small patch of lawn. Jonas just looks happy to be off base and thrilled to peer around both the Colonel and her to get a glimpse at inside her house.
"Hey guys," she says slowly.
"Hey Carter," Jack says. He lifts the cooler up slightly. "Dinner?"
"What... uh, well, what are you doing here?" she asks, confused.
"Well, you know, Jonas was getting kind of antsy and I bought steaks so," Jack says. "You gonna invite us in or is this a bad time?"
"No, it's fine," she says and steps aside. "Come on in guys. I was just working so sorry if it's kind of a mess." Her laptop and several files are spread across the dining room table and she clears up the mess while Jack sets the cooler down in her kitchen. Jonas is inspecting the pictures on her refrigerator like they're a recipe for turning water into wine.
"Who are all these people?" he asks. Pictures of her niece and nephew, Cassie's last school picture, a post-card from a friend she doesn't talk to anymore.
"Um, you know, I don't really have much in the house," she says now, ignoring him. "Maybe I should go on a beer run?"
"Send Teal'c," Jack says, already digging into the pocket of his leather jacket for the keys to his truck.
"Teal'c? In your truck?" she repeats dumbly. Teal'c gives her a look of consternation.
"Daniel taught him to drive, remember?" Jack says. "But he's been practicing on my truck. He's good."
"I am proficient," Teal'c says.
Sam peers into the cooler and sees the steaks and four potatoes.
"All right," she sighs. "I suggest getting a vegetable as well." Jack scrunches his face up at this but wisely says nothing.
"Can I go too?" asks Jonas, still delighted at the prospect of doing something new, like visiting a grocery store or idling at a stoplight.
"Please do," Jack says. Carter takes cash from her purse and hands it to Teal'c and then they leave. She can hear the truck roar to life, see the lights flash through the living room window as they pull out of the driveway.
"Meat and potatoes and nothing," she says, shaking her head. "Your heart is going to give before your knees, you know."
"Yeah, yeah," Jack says. "Anyway. Thanks for... it was just me and Teal'c and then Jonas was so pathetic and then it didn't feel right without you, too."
"Why didn't you just call?" she asks. They'd caught her in worn jeans and an academy t-shirt. She was still barefoot. Certainly not expecting company. She is overjoyed she'd still been wearing a bra when the doorbell rang.
"I didn't want you to say no," he says. It's almost sweet, in a Jack sort of way.
She helps him navigate her kitchen, pulls out the things he'll need to make the steaks. She tears off foil and wraps the potatoes, turns on the oven around him while he starts on the steaks. It's weirdly domestic and she knows if she feels the weirdness, then he does too, but neither mentions it. It's so odd how cooking dinner together can feel strange after spending hours of her life in various prison cells with someone. She can't even remember how many times she's had to pee in front of him, or strip down to skivvies, or press her hand to his gaping wound, but it's this, brushing her arm against his as she reaches for the salt, that gives her pause.
Finally, Teal'c and Jonas return. They have a case of Sam Adams and a bag salad to show for their absence.
"All you have to do is open the bag," Jonas says proudly, handing it to her. "Isn't that great?"
"Modern science is a wonder," she says, taking the bag. "Why don't you guys go watch TV? We've got this under control."
Behind her, Jack nods once. She doesn't see it, but she can feel his movement, even a slight one and can tell by the way Teal'c looks just over her shoulder. She gives them each a beer and they move into the living room. She can hear the television come on and the constant drone of Jonas narrating whatever is going through his brain. She opens a beer and hands it to Jack and then makes room for the rest in the refrigerator. It isn't hard - she's bad at keeping fresh food in the house.
"Don't make me drink alone," he murmurs, so she opens one for herself, too. She doesn't often drink but the beer is bitter and cold against her throat in a pleasant way. The smell of cooking meat fills the kitchen and Jack prods the steaks with a spatula on her griddle. Her house feels warm and lived in and suddenly she's extremely glad she's not alone and that they showed up, even unannounced.
"This is nice," she says. He smirks at her.
"Yeah, we're not so bad."
She sets the table. Jonas appears, empty bottle in his hand. She points him to the recycling bin and then he hangs around, watching her set the table. He asks about her flatware, the pattern on her napkins. She shows him her mother's wedding china and silver - beautiful, delicate dishes that she's never, ever used. Jonas touches them lightly before Sam closes the cabinet. Her everyday dishes are white with a pale yellow ring. Jonas likes these as well.
"Okay," Jack calls. "Soups on. Which is good because your conversation was slowly killing me."
In the other room, Teal'c shuts off the televison. Sam, in a final fit of domesticity, finds a candle and puts it in the middle of the table. Once she lights it, everyone sits down.
Jack serves everyone, always the CO or, in this case, the patriarch. Sam accepts her plate gratefully and throughout the whole meal, remains pretty quiet, basking in the normalcy.
It's not that Teal'c and Jonas have a curfew or anything, they are not children, but Teal'c needs a certain amount of Kel'no'reem every night in order to stay healthy so when it's time to go, Jack hands him the keys for a second time.
"Take Jonas back to the mountain," Jack says. "I'm going to help Carter clean up."
"I can take the Colonel home," Sam says quickly. "I'll see you guys tomorrow."
This way, his truck isn't parked in front of her house. She smiles at him when the sound of the engine fades away.
"Did this go just as you'd planned?" she asks.
"Pretty much," he says. "Do you mind?"
"No," she says.
"It's just, we've had a hard couple of weeks," he says. "I know we have and I thought maybe a night of steaks with friends would be good."
"It was good," she says.
She gives him a new beer and sends him into the living room whiles she cleans up the kitchen herself. After all, he'd cooked so it seems only fair. When the dishwasher is running, she sits next to him on the couch.
"All done?" he asks.
"Good girl," he says, draping his arm over her shoulder. She snuggles in next to him, her head on his shoulder. He's wearing a sweater, in deference to the cold weather, and it's nice to see him in the brown instead of khaki or green or blue.
They don't do this often. In fact, she can't remember the last night he's spent in her bed. On base, at work, they don't even kiss. Occasionally, in the heat of a moment, he might touch her fingers but this sort of night is extremely rare. They aren't dating. They're just friends who, once in a great while, have sex. Just colleagues that give in to certain biological urges when stress levels get particularly high. Just a man and a woman who try and not do the things that men and women do until they can't anymore.
Jonas and Teal'c will never say a word about leaving him here. Even Jonas who is new understands what it means to be on a team. At least he didn't waggle his eyebrows when they were leaving, like Daniel would have done.
"I miss Daniel," she says, because it's what she's feeling. He drops a kiss on the top of her head.
She likes that about Jack. He doesn't hedge around the hurt that mentioning Daniel still brings up. He just agrees and presses on.
"Will you spend the night?" she asks.
"I thought you'd never ask."
She takes time turning off the lights, double checking that the oven is off, adjusting the thermostat for the dip in temperature expected tonight. He ambles down the hall into the bathroom. He doesn't spend a lot of time here, but he knows he's welcome to make himself at home. While he's in there, she pads back to the bedroom to change.
She doesn't bother with lingerie. Even if she were that kind of woman, Jack isn't that kind of man. It doesn't matter what she has on, he just wants to get it off as quickly as possible. She takes off her jeans and tosses them in the hamper. She takes off her bra but leaves on the t-shirt.
She's setting the alarm when he comes in. They'll have to get up early in order for them to have enough time for her to take him home and then get them to the base. She sets it for 5:00 am.
"Your legs just keep going, Carter, you know that?" he asks, leaning against the door frame.
"So I've been told," she says. He takes a tentative step into the room and then, even though they are alone in the house, closes the door behind him.
"Really," he says, openly staring now. "They're a sight to behold."
"While I appreciate your admiration," she says, a little coyly. "I wish you'd come over here."
And because this is such a rare opportunity, they take their time. He allows her to lift the sweater and t-shirt over his head, run her hands down his chest. His chest hair is graying and coarse and when her finger nails snag over his nipples, he gasps. She presses her mouth to his neck and feels for his pulse. When she finds it, she presses her tongue there.
The first time they'd done this, it had been less about sex and more about proving that they were alive. There were only so many times one could approach death without needing proof that life was still worth living and for some reason, this had been their way. He'd looked at her and she'd just known. She gone home with him that night and the moment they'd stepped through his front door, they'd torn into each other. Then they'd promised that they'd never do it again, it had been a fluke, a lapse of judgement. Come Monday, things would go back to normal and life would go on.
They don't lie to each other anymore, they simply ration their encounters.
Her fingers work open the fly of his jeans while his hands slide up her t-shirt and rest lightly on her ribs. She's breathing a little faster now. His skin is tan in the yellow light of the lamp and the only sound in the room is their inhaling, exhaling, and the wet sound of kisses. She gets the button open and lowers the zipper. When she reaches in to grasp him, he lets out a strangled moan.
He is so handsome that her chest feels tight when she looks at the expression of pure pleasure on his face. She moves her hand back and forth a few times and his knees start to give. She navigates him back to the bed and helps him lie back without letting him go.
"This is gonna be over way too soon," he warns, so she releases him and eases his jeans and boxers down his hips and off, instead. She has to pause to remove his shoes, but once that's done, he's naked. So much warm skin. When she straddles him, she pulls her own shirt off. His hands slide up her torso and cup her breasts.
"We have all night, you know," she says.
She knows he means when they drag into work exhausted but pretending like they aren't
"Coffee," she says. "Lots of it."
It's just that they're so good all the time. It's been years, years of this and this is maybe the eighth time this has happened. His thumb brushes over her nipple which tightens in response. Her breath hitches and she lowers her head so she can kiss him, so her breasts press against his chest. She wants to touch him everywhere at once. She's like a power cell and she needs to absorb as much of him as she can because it's going to have to last her a very long time.
She arches her back when his hands slide down to her thighs, his thumbs sweeping arcs where her thighs meet her hips. He breaks the kiss and she moves so he can take her nipple into his mouth. His tongue is hot and she feels every taste bud as he swipes it against her.
She feels like she's on a sinking ship. Both of them are and the moment they resign themselves to death, one of them freaks out and they end up here. This is just them bailing water. This is just them trying to survive for a little more time.
He manages to flip her over and while he's pulling her underwear off, he asks, "What are you thinking about?"
"A ship taking on water," she says honestly. He studies her intensely for a moment, his hands still, and then finishes disposing of the panties.
"And how sometimes," she says," It feels like we have Dixie Cups instead of buckets."
"Sometimes," he agrees. But for as smart as Sam is, it's Jack who is the real pragmatist, who is better at accepting any situation at face value. Sam is the one who has the crazy ideas, who bends time and space to get them out of impossible situations.
Jack's fingers find her wet and the noise she makes when he slides the first finger into her puts an end to any philosophical conversations. They almost drowned two weeks ago. Sam had thought, this is it? Years of people shooting at my back and I'm going to die because no one can figure out how to open a door? She'd watched Jack take his last breath of air before the water hit the ceiling, and then he'd looked at her underwater, his eyes open against the stinging, salty cold of the deep ocean. He pulled her to him. While she hadn't been happy about either of them dying, she'd been relieved that she'd gotten to be with Jack at the very end.
He kisses the skin between her breasts, above her navel, the inside of each of her thighs.
"Jack," she pleads, her voice so needy that it's embarrassing, but not enough for her to stop him. Instead, she puts her hand on his head and pushes, thinking faster, thinking if you don't touch me, I'll die. He parts her folds and eases his tongue against her. A lap, a nudge, and then a slow lick ending with him tonguing her clit and there's that noise again, almost like a howl, and it's coming from her.
When the water had left the compartment, she was certain she'd never be warm again. There hadn't been much to do but try to get home, and they'd dried off eventually, but she'd had lines of salt on her black shirt and they'd both shivered, their finger tips blue. Her hair had dried slicked away from her face and she'd had to push it back over and over again.
She thinks what's happening now is because of that night on the ship, cold and wet. Her father had been there and Jack likes to play dumb, but he isn't stupid enough to touch her with Jacob around. No, he'd waited long enough that she'd thought he'd never come and then brought steaks and now is tonguing her, one, no, two fingers curling inside of her.
She is close now. He finds that spot inside her with his finger and presses and that's it, she's coming hard, her back arched up off the bed and her thighs clamped around his head, her voice hoarse.
When she kisses him, he tastes like her and she loves it.
He takes the time to pull back the blankets so they actually get into the bed. The first time, she'd reached over and killed the lamp, but she knows now that he likes to see her and that he doesn't want to waste time fumbling around in the dark. When he rolls on top of her, she spreads her legs without much thought.
"Ready?" he asks. She nods. She is ready.
He sets a slow and steady pace. There's a large part of her that wants to flip him and ride him into oblivion, but she knows that this will be better, this will last longer, that later, when she's alone, it's memories like this that will sustain her. The memory of his tongue in her mouth, of how hard he is inside of her.
He's panting a little and there's sweat on his back now; she feels it as her hands glide across the wide expanse of skin.
Lately, she's been having these nightmares where she wakes up gasping for breath, her neck arching off the pillow like she's trying to stay above rising water. She hasn't told anyone about these nightmares, not even Janet, but she suspects if anyone will understand, it's Jack. Even right now, he's looking at her like a drowning man, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Yes," she whispers, both encouraging him and because she can agree with his expression. "Please, yes."
This seems to spur him on considerably, especially when she leans up and catches his earlobe in her teeth. He grunts, hitches her legs up higher over his hips and increases his pace. It's a sweet, deep ache. She doesn't think she'll come again just from penetration, no matter how delicious the heat coiling in her belly feels, but it comes over her suddenly. "Oh," she gasps. "J-Jack."
She feels him let go, tense and growling and then boneless on her. He breathes hard, her name on every exhale. Carter, Carter, Carter.
Later, she manages to switch the lamp off and the darkness is a cocoon. They stay tangled - she's practically lying on top of him but he doesn't care.
"I've been having these dreams," Jack says now that she can't see his face while he is talking. The darkness makes him feel safer, too, as long as she's there. "About drowning."
"Me too, sir," she says. It slips out, the sir, but it's something she does out of habit. If this ever becomes more permanent, they'll have to figure out a way to just be Jack and Sam but for now, it's too dangerous to let the lines blur anymore. "Every night."
"Every night," he confirms. It's odd. Of things they've endured, several minutes of almost drowning doesn't really rate that high on the scale of traumatizing events. When Janet had asked her, she'd said they'd gotten trapped in an area that had flooded and that the water had been cold, but she hadn't elaborated. Hadn't explained how her lips had touched the ceiling in her last desperate attempt at breathing, how once they were submerged, there wasn't much to do but hang onto one another. Janet hadn't even made them talk to a counselor.
Even when she does talk to counselors, she never tells the real truth.
"I was scared," she says.
"I know." He buries his nose in her hair for a moment. "Can you sleep now?" She doesn't want to try. She doesn't want to waste the few hours she has with him in unconsciousness.
"Maybe," she whispers.
They doze a little. Every time she dozes off, though, he wakes her with warm hands or light kisses. Every time he dozes off, she nuzzles into his neck, says his name and he comes to again and tightens his hold on her. Eventually, after some time has passed, he makes love to her again, sliding into her in the darkness while his fingers web with hers.
When the alarm sounds, he's the one to lean over and press the snooze button. She doesn't want to let go. As soon as they leave this house, it's back to the Major and the Colonel. They won't talk about it, not even if they find themselves alone in a room which they try not to do. It will just be over. And it doesn't do to wish for terrible things to happen in order to give them an excuse to be together.
"Shower?" he mumbles.
"Go ahead," she says. He runs a hand up her bare back.
"Come with me," he says. She should say no. Last night was last night, but it's morning now and in a couple hours, when they're walking through the gate, she needs to be thinking about the mission and not what Jack looks like rubbing her shampoo into his head. He senses her hesitation. "I'll be good."
She nods and follows him into the bathroom. He starts the shower. She brushes her teeth while he pees and when he steps into the shower, she takes her turn on the toilet. He's already warm and soapy when she steps in. They don't say anything. He steps aside to give her the spray and then, even though it makes her feel like a child, she allows him to rub shampoo into her hair. She closes her eyes against the suds. He helps her back under the spray and kisses her through the hot water.
At his house, she makes coffee while he changes is clothes and shaves. She has to dig around in his mug cupboard to find two travel mugs and dig more to find lids that fit. He buys cheap coffee - already ground in a big can and it's not good going down, but it's hot and she feels a little more awake after she gets some of it in her stomach.
"I'll drive," he offers. At first, she bristles, but then she realizes that she's really tired and he can see it and he's trying to offer her a kindness.
"Sure," she says and then as she is handing over the keys, she corrects herself. "Yes, sir."
He pulls her car into the empty space next to his own truck which looks fine, if parked a little crookedly. He kills the engine and they sit in the car for a moment, listening to the engine click.
"No nightmares," he says. Neither of them had woken up in fear, that is true.
"There wasn't a whole lot of sleeping," she points out.
"Well." He scratches his head a little, trying not to look too smug. "You know that you could... call me, or something. If you wake up, I mean, and are afraid."
"Thank you, sir," she says and then adds, "You could too."
"As soon as this car door opens," he says.
"I understand the rules, sir," she says quickly.
"It's just... we make these mistakes so we don't make others," he says. Jack doesn't spend a lot of time offering her rationalizations or explaining his choices because he doesn't have to - he's the CO and she follows him like a good soldier. So the fact that he's doing it now makes her want to shut up and listen. "I worry about you out in the field, I worry about me worrying about you but when we do this it's so we don't to something else that's even crazier that's going to get us killed."
"I'd rather be fired than killed," she offers when it feels like he's waiting for her to say something.
"Me too," he says. She puts her hand on the car door handle. "Carter, it's not always going to be this way."
"I know that," she says.
"Teal'c says we've saved the world eight times," he says. She tilts her head.
"Give or take."
"At the very least, they owe us one," he says. "Owe us each other."
"The very, very least," she snorts and then they grin at each other. His hand hovers in the air for a moment like he's going to reach out and touch her but then it drops.
"Okay, you ready?" he asks. She tries not to think about the way he asked her that last night right before he thrust into her. She presses her lips together and nods. He opens his door and she opens hers and they step out into the crisp, cold air. He tosses her the keys over the top of the car and she catches them easily, presses the button on the fob to lock it, and tucks them into the pocket of her coat.
She has an overwhelming urge to tell him that she loves him because she does, so much, especially in this moment as they walk across the parking lot to the base, but she doesn't give into the urge. They'll be time enough for that later on down the road, she tells herself. And if she dies before then, if she gives her life for her country like she has sworn that she would do, then she selfishly hopes that he's there with her when it happens. She doesn't want him to die too, but she wants him beside her.
They step into the elevator together and he pushes the button that makes them sink deep into the earth.
"You wanna get breakfast, Major?" he asks.
"Sure," she says, just as easily, leaning against the back of the elevator car. "I'll go get Teal'c and Jonas and meet you there." Because they're on base and if the team is all present and accounted for, why not sit around a small table and eat powdered eggs? Often when they eat together as a team, there will be SG-9 at another table, SG-4 across the room. Sometimes people cross the divide, but mostly they don't.
"Okay," he says. "See you there." When the doors open, he steps out and she pushes a new button for a different floor.
When she finds Jonas in his office - in Daniel's office, she can't help thinking still - he looks up from a book and grins at her.
"I really like that truck," he says.
"Good morning to you too," she says.
"Good morning," he hurries. "Do you think Colonel O'Neill would give me lessons in his truck?"
"No," she says, because she doesn't. His face falls only for a fraction of a second before a new idea forms.
"Will you teach me to drive in your car, then? I mean, it's smaller, but maybe if I knew how to operate a motor vehicle, he'd be more inclined to let me use his."
"No way," she says, grinning. "Nobody drives my car but me."
It's such an easy lie. She doesn't even think about them anymore, the little lies that she says where Jack is concerned. They don't even make her blink.
"Fine," Jonas says in a voice that is only slightly sulky.
"We're gonna eat breakfast together, come on," she says.
Teal'c and Jack are already there when they arrive. Teal'c has enough food on his tray to feed her for three days, but they're all used to it. Janet's sitting alone at another table reading some journal and they wave to one another, but Janet doesn't come over and she doesn't expect Sam to break away from SG-1 to sit with her either.
Sam sits across from Jack with her tray and murmurs a good morning to Teal'c.
"Jell-o is not a breakfast food, Carter," Jack says.
"Then why do they have it out at breakfast?" she asks, digging her spoon into the blue mound. Jack looks stymied for a moment.
"Because you asked them too," Jonas says.
Sam blinks at him, surprised.
"What?" Jack asks.
"Didn't you, Major Carter? Ask them to because you pull so many all nighters? I read it somewhere. In Dr. Jackson's journal, maybe," he says. Sam scowls at Jonas while Jack looks at her through narrow eyes.
"Then why do they have it out at breakfast?" he says in a high, mocking voice. "I can't believe you."
"You'll pay for this later," Sam says to Jonas. Jonas just looks bewildered in a way that no one buys.
Above them, the sirens of an incoming traveler sound and they all jump up, breakfast forgotten. The day is starting, has started all ready and there's no more waiting for things to go back to normal. Jack breaks right for the gate room and she goes left to get to the control room.
It will be a long time before they have another night together. Months probably, maybe a year. But, as she watches the iris close, she thinks about his words. About how they make one mistake to save themselves another. Even though everyone in the gate room is dressed the same, she can always tell which one is Jack and her eyes follow him now.
"It's SG-11, sir," Walter says.
"Open the iris," the General orders. Sam leans into the mic and pushes the button.
"Stand down," she says. "Medical team to the gate room." SG-11 aren't scheduled back for another day. At the sound of her voice, Jack turns and looks up into the window right at her. She doesn't hold his gaze though. Because this is time to be normal. Instead, she turns her back on the gate room to see what she can do to help.
And when SG-11 is all patched up and the base is put back on normal operations, she returns to the cafeteria to get her jell-o and her toast and she eats them alone in her lab, just like she would on any other day.