Their arguing was beginning to grate on her nerves. If she were being honest with herself, everything felt a little grating, but at the moment it was Jack and Daniel specifically. They just kept picking at one another, bickering about the stupidest, most inane subjects. Currently, Jack was accusing Daniel of purposefully getting them all addicted so that Jack would have to miss hockey playoffs. Loren stood close to the wall in the gate chamber and watched with anxious eyes and she just couldn't take another moment, so she left.
It was a pleasure palace after all, and for the time they'd spent there, they hadn't really looked at much past the gate room, the light room, and the rocky shoreline. This was day one of their three week exile and Sam's first mission was to find somewhere more comfortable to sleep than her sleeping bag on the marble floors. Loren's room, they'd figured out, was not actually a bedroom. He'd long ago dragged a mattress into a space closer to the light - ostensibly to keep an eye on his parents - and had simply never left when he found himself alone. But that mattress had to have come from somewhere.
The halls twisted and turned and it took a while for her muddled brain to recognize a pattern. The palace had wings with the Stargate and the light room at the center. In the north wing, she found the kitchens and several formal dining rooms. She made a mental note to mention the kitchen to Jack. If she could get the equipment to work, Hammond could send fresh food instead of MREs. In the east wing, there was a library and cozy rooms filled with long wooden tables and overstuffed chairs. Daniel had mentioned the library early on, before the rest of SG1 had ever come to the planet, but the books were all in Goa'uld and weren't in great condition from hundreds of years of neglect and salty, damp air. The whole wing smelled a little of mildew and she back tracked fairly quickly, deciding that this was Daniel's wing to explore.
It was the south wing that opened up onto the beach and had a large, screened in patio filled with lounging furniture and big overhead fans that spun lazily when she pushed a panel on the wall. It made it seem like the beach was not always cold and gloomy, that they had arrived on the planet off-season. She'd ask Loren if it ever got warm, though she doubted that, with his past, he spent much time by the water.
In the west wing, she found bedrooms. An entire, long hallway with room after room of extravagantly large beds with canopies of heavy drapery and arched windows, the glass stained in bright jewel tones that reminded her, probably not coincidentally, of the light. She wandered into a random room and looked around. There was also a bathroom with a huge tub, she was pleased to note. She activated the faucet and after a few minutes of sputtering, brown water, it ran clear and warm. She perched on the edge of the bed and gave it a little bounce. The mattress wasn't going to be the problem, it was the musty linens that would need to be cleaned. But even her sleeping bag on a stripped mattress would be a godsend at this point. She wondered if her nagging headache would ever fade.
"Carter, come in." Jack's voice on her radio sounded testy at best. She sighed and rubbed her temple.
"Carter here," she replied.
"Where are you?"
"In the west wing, sir. I'm on my way back now. See you in a few."
She slid off the mattress and looked around the room one last time. At least when she found them, she'd come baring good news. That had to stop their arguing, right?
Outside, the wind howled. It wasn't the worst storm Sam had encountered, but she already felt right on the edge and each time it thundered, she clenched her teeth a little tighter.
"Are the storms common?" she asked Loren. They were pulling the sheets off one of the mattresses. Rain was pelting the window and she had to raise her voice a little to be heard.
"Sometimes," he said, shrugging. "Other times, it's warm and dry."
He'd been alone for a long time, she knew, and for as smart as he appeared to be, other things had fallen by the wayside, like his ability to perceive time, his social skills, and even his language seemed painfully underdeveloped for someone his age. He was skittish around her especially, not quite meeting her eyes ever. She wondered if it was because she was a woman and he was a 14-year-old boy. She offered him a grim smile. Frankly, she probably knew as much about 14-year-old boys as he did about women, but when she'd announced that she was going to go make the bedrooms livable, Jack had cocked his head in Loren's direction and she'd asked for his assistance. Maybe Jack was tired of babysitting already or maybe he just thought Loren could use the interaction. Either way, here they were.
But this was the last room, and they gathered up the stripped linens and dumped them in the hall with the others. She suspected there would be some sort of laundry room somewhere, probably in the north wing, far away from the bedrooms and the swankier south side by the sea. Maybe in the morning, she'd try to see what she could do but for now, they rolled out the sleeping bags in three of the rooms.
"You sure you don't want to stay closer to us?" she asked again but he shook his head.
"I like my room," he said. "It's... mine."
"I understand," she said. "But you know where we'll be if you need anything." She felt kind of silly saying it seeing how he'd been taking care of himself alone for years, but he seemed grateful and relieved anyway.
"Yeah," he agreed.
"I bet it's time for dinner," she said. His eyes lit up. It was a minor miracle the boy simply hadn't starved to death. He'd done well rationing out his meager supplies and finding edible things that grew near the palace - he'd mentioned fruit though right now all the trees were little more than gnarled branches - but he was visibly underfed and weak. He lacked fresh food, proper nutrients. Hell, he liked the MREs and that was never a good sign. "Go on ahead and tell them I'll be right there. I'm going to make sure the windows are all secure."
He nodded and she heard his footsteps fade down the hall. She'd chosen the rooms closest to the center of the compound, not wanting to be away from the light's power source, but two of the rooms were a little farther down the hall than the first one because some of the windows had cracked. She could hear the wind and feel the cold seeping in. She closed the doors to the rooms with the breeches and after a moments hesitation, stuffed the crack at the bottom of the gilded doors with the soiled sheets. Satisfied, she headed back toward the room with the Stargate.
Jack and Daniel were sitting on opposite sides of the room, both eating sullenly. They were on the hard floor, their backs against marble columns. Loren sat near Jack, his attention torn between his meal and watching Jack.
"Loren said not to wait," Jack said, glancing up when she walked in. He tossed her a MRE and she caught it easily and glanced at it. Turkey. He knew she preferred that one.
"Thank you, sir," she said and went to sit next to Daniel. Daniel was looking a little more morose and in need of company.
"You pissed at me too?" he asked, stabbing at the remains of his dinner with his fork.
"No," she said carefully. She bought herself a few moments opening her dinner. "You didn't know, Daniel. I know you'd never intentionally hurt us."
"Yeah, well, maybe you could tell that to Jack."
"He knows," she snapped and then made herself stop and take a breath. "This is going to get worse before it gets better, you know, so you two had better pace yourselves." Daniel didn't respond, only brooded harder. "I found areas to sleep."
"Sleep... sounds good," Daniel said, looking up at her. "Thanks, Sam."
She pointed a direction. "Turn left and then it's the first door on your right. I set up your sleeping bag already. In the morning we can maybe try to make everything more comfortable."
Daniel stood up, touched her shoulder lightly. "Goodnight."
"Night," she said. She watched him ball up his dinner trash and then walk over to Jack and Loren, offering to take their trash too. She ducked her head, pretending that she hadn't watched Daniel make the gesture, hadn't watched Jack hesitate before handing his trash over with a curt nod.
It wasn't that late, even though it was well after dark on the planet. Her watch was still set to MST and it was only the early evening back at the SGC. But they were all tired, all carrying the weight of a three week forced leave even if the Colonel tried to make it seem like a vacation instead of a stint in rehab. When Jack came over and sat next to her on the ground, she said nothing, only scraped the last bit of gravy up with her spoon and ate it. She had a feeling that the more she turned the device down, the more she'd lose her appetite. Already her good nature was taking a severe beating.
"In the morning," Jack said finally, "you could give me the ten cent tour."
He grimaced and twisted his hat around in his hands before putting it on backwards, a tuft of silver hair sticking out through the hole.
"In the morning," he tried again. "I'm gonna be less of an ass."
"Yes, sir," she said, this time with a small smile.
"I'll try, at least." She accepted this amendment. "With you."
"Daniel needs you to try with him too, you know," she said. "He doesn't get you like I do."
"You get me, Carter?" Jack asked, an eyebrow rising.
"Your sense of humor, I meant," she said.
"Do you want me to show you the sleeping quarters?" she asked.
"Nah," he said, getting to his feet. "Turns out I'm an explorer. I'm pretty good at finding stuff."
She tucked her chin to her chest and smiled.
Carter woke before the rest of them, just as the sun was rising. She thought that it would be easier on everyone if she took the light down a notch while they were sleeping. Easier for them. Maybe not so much for her, but the guys were clearly taking it harder, so it was a sacrifice she was more than willing to make. Daniel's door was still firmly shut, but Jack's was open just a crack. She had the room between them, the empty one left for her by the Colonel. When they all crowded into one tent off-world, this was always the arrangement if Teal'c was on watch. Daniel and Jack pressed against the cold, often damp walls of the tent and her wedged between, trying not to touch them. Daniel slept like the dead, so if she accidentally elbowed him in the night, it never made much of a difference, but she and Jack were military and off-world, they didn't sleep as much as doze and if she rolled over and nudged him accidentally, she always felt him tense up and then release a breath, long and slow.
Now, she backtracked a little to peer through the gap in his door and make sure he was all right. She saw him, his sleeping bag bunched around his waist like he'd been tossing and turning all night. He had one arm thrown over his eyes. She hadn't slept well either, her headache still dull and thudding, her dinner sitting heavy in her stomach. She'd spent more time in the bathroom than the bed. For all their sakes, she hoped the ancient Goa'uld plumbing could handle three weeks of addicts coming down off their high.
She made her way quietly toward the light room and gave herself a moment to sigh and look around. This was no vacation. This was just the beginning of a long and rocky road. She still blushed with shame at the memory of walking by the shore and telling off the Colonel, barking that she wouldn't uphold the command structure if they were to be stuck here indefinitely. She didn't really believe that, she respected Jack and would never do anything to compromise their working relationship. She'd just felt so unreasonable and had lashed out.
She sat down in front of the pedestal and moved the cover down to access the control panel. It was an easy interface - she hadn't even had to crack any security codes. All she had to do was turn a knob. Janet had warned her that it would be tempting to hurry the process along but that she shouldn't. And it was true, it was tempting. Turning it one notch hardly seemed like anything, the knob had barely even moved, but she heeded Janet's advice, at least for this first day. Maybe in a little while, they'd all find their sea legs and she could figure out a way around this exile.
She'd hoped that she'd feel nothing, but it wasn't the case. The dull headache that had been her constant companion turned sharp and she felt like spitting, like hitting something, like finding something beautiful to destroy. She shook her head, trying to dislodge the pain and the uncharacteristic feelings, trying to shake the urge to put that knob right back where it belonged.
She hadn't heard Jack come in behind her, but seeing him made her feel minutely better, seeing that he was squinting and clenching his teeth just as she was. She felt a stab of regret that she'd wanted to spare them and that Daniel was still currently passed out somewhere, dreaming through this uncomfortable transition.
Jack offered a hand and she took it and let him heft her to her feet.
"Please tell me you found the Goa'uld coffee maker," he said, only maybe sort of joking.
"I'll build one," she muttered and felt soothed when he smirked a little.
"I know you would," he said, his voice low and scratchy.
For the moment, they simply made coffee in the gate room with their gear. They sat on the floor, him with his back to the wall facing the gate and her next to him, her legs crossed, holding her mug close to her chest.
"When did you wake up?" she asked.
"About three minutes before you came to check on me," he answered, unembarrassed. She blushed, dipped her head. "It's fine."
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Daniel too." But if he had heard her check on him, he'd certainly heard her not check on Daniel so she wasn't sure what made her say that. He didn't point out the discrepancy, which she appreciated.
"I suspected you were coming out here to futz with that damn machine," he said. She sipped her coffee and he watched her. "Carter-"
Loren appeared, roused by voices and the smell of coffee. He rubbed his face - this was clearly much earlier than he was used to rising and he looked groggy but content, smiling at both of them in that shy, awkward way. Jack handed him a mug of coffee and he sipped it once and made a face. He didn't try it again but held it and sat on the other side of Jack.
"I think we should sort our supplies," Sam said now, her mug empty. "Move the food to the kitchens, at least."
"I'm not sure it matters where exactly we eat the MREs, Carter," he replied.
"Well, no," she said, pressing down the urge to snap something at him. "But if I can fix the appliances, we could cook actual food."
"Oh," he said. "Yeah, okay. Loren, you want to help us move cartons?" It was heavy, tedious work, but it was as if Jack had asked him if he wanted to go to Disneyland.
"Sure!" Loren said.
Sam helped them move cartons until the effort made her so dizzy that she dropped one and braced the wall for support and then Jack ordered her into the kitchen to tinker with the machines so she didn't "crack her damn skull open." She wanted to argue, but she did feel light-headed and left the grunt work behind. It wasn't like Jack or Daniel were going to get those appliances functioning after all.
Daniel found her an hour later, her hands covered in dust and grime.
"There's breakfast, if you want it," he said.
"Did you eat any?" Sam asked without looking at him.
"I'm... working up to it," Daniel admitted. "But in my defense, I don't want to eat the MREs when I don't think I'll just throw them up so..."
"Nice to know I'm not alone," Sam said. Daniel sat on the floor next to her.
"How's it going anyway?" he asked. "Is any of it salvageable?"
"It all is," she said. "I just... it's something for me to do, so I'm not in any rush."
"Sam Carter, are you hiding?" he asked. She dipped her head, reached deeper into what she was fairly certain was the back of the oven, and tried not to blush.
"I just don't want to say anything else I'll regret."
"Have you said something already?" Daniel asked, his brow furrowing.
"It was nothing."
"When? To Jack?"
"Daniel, I don't want to talk about it," she said and he did look a little surprised at her sharpness, but of course, Daniel never knew when to stop so he barreled on.
"He's not mad at you or anything. In fact, you seem to be the only face he can stand at the moment. Even Loren has been giving him a wider berth." Daniel grinned. "Jack and a teenage boy is a match made in heaven, don't you think?"
"Don't give him a hard time about Loren," Sam said, her tone light but her words careful. She'd scolded Jack about being kind to Daniel, but Daniel tended to be just as guilty and needed the same lecture.
"Jack can take it, but can't dish it out, is that how it is?"
"Use your brain, Daniel," Sam said and then stopped, took a breath, shook her head at her own harsh words. "Sorry. It's just that... don't you see?"
Daniel was watching her carefully and gave a slight shake of his head. He really didn't see.
"If Charlie were still alive, he'd be about Loren's age by now," Sam said. Daniel was quiet for a long time and then rubbed his face.
"I am a jackass."
"No," Sam said, easing out her hands and carelessly wiping them on her pants. "I don't even know if the Colonel has consciously thought about it but it just seems cruel to... to..."
"You're right, of course," Daniel said. She shrugged and stood up and he followed suit. She touched a few buttons and after a few seconds and some suspicious clicking noises, they felt a wave of heat at their knees where the door to the appliance was open. "Thank God you're here," Daniel said now. "I wish you didn't have to do this with us, but thank God anyway."
"I get it," she said, nudging him.
Jack's voice from down the hall.
"Here, sir," she called back. Jack appeared a few moments later and stood in the doorway, looking at both of them, taking in the working oven, Sam's filthy hands and uniform, Daniel leaning too casually against a counter.
"Come on, you two need to eat something."
"Yes, sir," Sam said. Daniel looked like he wanted to argue for a minute but then just shut his mouth and nodded and walked past Jack down the hall.
"You get that thing to work, Carter?" Jack asked as she rinsed her hands in the big, deep sink. He sounded vaguely proud.
"I think so," she said. "Using it correctly might be trial and error."
"Always is," he said.
On their fifth day, she woke up to find a note taped to the inside of her bedroom door. Daniel still slept with his door tightly shut but she and Jack always left their doors open a crack. The note was written on a piece of cardboard, scrap paper basically, and taped to her door with medical tape.
It's the weekend. Sleep in, for cryin' out loud.
She blinked at the note a few times. It was still early because she always got up early to make the modification to the light. The knob to turn down their doses was segregated in increments of five and today they were hitting the first marker. She didn't know what that meant, but she hoped it meant easier, not harder. She stared at the note for a moment and sighed. She could at least change the setting and then go back to bed. Extra sleep did sound nice. She hadn't even realized what day it was, but after thinking about it for a moment, she realized it was Saturday back on Earth. She'd planned to work on her bike today, had even written it into her calendar. Oh well.
She pushed open the door and jumped when Jack was leaning against the wall across from her door.
"What did I say?"
"How long have you been there?" she asked.
"I know you," he said softly. And then, "You seem like you could use the rest, Carter."
"I will rest," she said. "But I don't think upsetting our schedule with the light will do us any favors."
"Fine," he said. "But then we're going back to bed. Our bed! Beds! Separate beds in, in different rooms..."
She snorted and then slapped a hand over her mouth.
"Christ, you know what I mean," he muttered.
"I know," she allowed, still grinning.
"It's morning, you know how I get." But he gave her one of those looks, that look that seemed to say more than any words ever could. She hadn't really seen that look since... well, since Jonah. They'd both been being extra careful. After all, those memory stamps had changed a lot between them and that had been a near miss. A very near miss.
"Yeah," she said now. "I do know."
They worked silently in the light room. Neither wanted to wake Loren. The kid was fine, but they were a team and certainly not used to hanging out with a 14-year-old boy, especially one so desperate and starved for attention. They'd all come to the unspoken agreement to take turns with him and this was Daniel's day so they worked quietly. Well, Sam worked quietly and Jack leaned against the wall like he had nothing to do, but she knew he was watching the door.
Her hand trembled a bit as it hovered just above the knob. She wasn't sure if it was a symptom of the weening or if she was just nervous about this next notch. It was probably an irrational reaction - the longer line was probably just to make it easier to keep track of the dosage and would feel no different than any other day. Still, she found herself hesitating.
She heard Jack's boots against the floor, shifting his weight impatiently, probably wondering what was taking her so long. She quit stalling and turned the knob.
They both paused and looked at each other. Finally, he shrugged and shook his head. She put the cover back on and stood, followed him out into the main room. Instead of heading back toward the bedrooms, though, he headed south toward the exit. She wasn't sure what he was up to, but she followed him without question just the same.
Outside was still covered with a thick fog so early. To her the water, the sky, and the sand all looked the same dreary gray.
"Fancy a walk?" he asked.
"What happened to sleeping?"
"We have time for that still," he promised. "I just thought the fresh air might do us some good."
"We shouldn't move too far away," she said. "Probably even less distance since we've been turning it down."
"Carter," he sighed. "It's not a science experiment, it's just a walk."
They walked in a loop, down to the water and then back toward the building. It was cold and she was glad to have her jacket, but they walked closely and the weather didn't really bother her. At first, they didn't say much. This walk was his idea and so she held her tongue and waited for him to open up. And, eventually, he spoke.
"You haven't been sleeping well," he said. It was pointless to pretend she didn't know what he was talking about.
"Neither have you," she said. She heard him tossing and turning, heard the water in his bathroom come on, heard the distant, haunting sounds of what could only be dreams. If she heard him, and she did, then he heard her.
"I haven't been sleeping well for a while," he said. "Since P3R-118."
She stopped. They were at the water again and it was really time to head back but still, she dug in her heels.
"Colonel," she said. "If we talk about this right now, we're going to undo a lot of hard fought denial and repression."
His mouth twitched, but he didn't quite smile.
"You're probably right," he said. "When you first said we'd be here for three weeks I thought while I was detoxing from the light, I could try to get Jonah out of my system too."
"How's that going?" she asked.
"It took me a couple days to realize that it's not Jonah I need to get rid of," he said, tucking his hands into his pockets. "It's Thera."
She crossed her arms tightly against her chest. "Is it working?"
He opened his mouth, most likely to say something glib but then seemed to change his mind and simply shook his head.
"I don't know what to do, sir," she admitted softly.
"I don't either," he said. "Maybe there's nothing to do."
"I like to think things will get easier when we get home. I mean, we were doing okay before, right? Maybe it's just this waiting around that's making everything seem impossible," she theorized.
"Yeah," he sighed. "Waiting is pretty stupid."
"Really stupid," she grinned.
"Let's go back inside," he said now, forcing his voice back to normal. "Coffee and breakfast. Hammond said he'd send the fresh food through today."
"I hope there are bananas," she said. "I miss bananas."
They headed back toward the building.
It took her a while to notice the change and then a couple hours more to be able to describe it. Before, they'd all felt sick. Thudding headaches, gastrointestinal issues, night sweats, all things she associated as symptoms of withdrawal. Now, though, she felt... well, different. Certainly not like herself. She still felt on edge but instead of feeling nauseous and lethargic, she felt strangely energized, her skin crawling with nervous tension. Every sound made her jump, she couldn't sit still, and she felt warm, like she was running a fever. When she looked at her self in the mirror, her skin was flushed and pink.
And, she'd gotten her appetite back. So it wasn't surprising to find Daniel, Loren, and Jack in the kitchen when she made her way there. They were all standing around the box full of fruit. The box wasn't labeled but she was certain of what would be inside it because it was exactly what she'd come for.
Jack bit into an apple and glanced up at her coming in. He didn't hesitate, just reached into the box and tossed her a banana. She caught it with a smile.
"Janet said our bodies would probably be craving certain nutrients," Daniel said around a mouth full of orange slice.
"If there were Cheetos, I'd be eating those too," Jack admitted. Loren was quiet, sitting on a stool and eating green grapes one at a time.
"Pace yourself," she warned him. For a kid who rarely got fresh food, a tummy full of fruit would only lead to a long night in the bathroom. But it was nice to stand around and eat their fill. Their moods seemed to improve and soon, the food was cleared away and Jack pulled a deck of cards from his pocket.
"After all," he said, pulling the cards out of their cardboard box and shuffling them. "It is the weekend."
It was late when they finally all went to bed. Loren had practically fallen asleep in the middle of the game and Jack had stopped to walk him back to his bedroom. But poker with three wasn't quite as fun and Daniel had mentioned being tired and they'd all headed back to their sleeping quarters.
"I can't believe how tired I am," Daniel said, smothering a yawn.
"Neither can I," Jack said. "All you do is sleep."
"We all sleep," Daniel said confusedly. "Janet told us that the more sleep we got the better."
"Well you don't have to make it look so easy, Daniel," Sam said.
"You haven't been sleeping well?" he asked. Sam never slept deeply off-world and neither did Jack. Daniel, however, could sleep like a log on a moments notice. Sam shook her head and glanced at Jack who just shrugged. "Huh. Seems odd you two would have different symptoms than I would."
"I don't think your ability to sleep through a naquadah explosion is a symptom," Jack said. "I think it's just you."
"Still," Daniel said, yawning again. "You should probably tell Janet."
"Yeah, yeah, tell the Doc, got it," Jack said waving it off. They stopped in front of Daniel's room and he went in, waving goodnight to them. "I can't believe he's so tired. I feel like I could run five miles."
"Strange, I feel all twitchy too," Sam admitted. "This is the first time I haven't felt lethargic since we started the weening process."
"All these rooms and you never found a gym?" he asked. They stopped in front of Sam's open door. She knew the interior of her room would look pretty much like his - sleeping bag, her pack, and little else.
"No," Sam said. "I'm sure all the kinky sex was more than enough exercise."
She wasn't sure why she said it but it had popped out without much thought. Jack's face went slack for a moment and then he seemed to snap out of it and stared at her with shock and more than a little reverent awe.
"I just... wow, Carter."
"I mean," she said, hurrying to make it better. "There were several rooms with all sorts of swings and restraints and hooks in the ceilings and mirrors and it seemed the logical conclusion to draw and oh God, I'm still talking, aren't I?"
"Don't stop on my account," he said.
"It doesn't matter, sir, I never found a gym." She looked at her boots.
"You're blushing," he said quietly.
"Don't be embarrassed. It's a pleasure palace not a library." Still, she wouldn't meet his eye. He stuck a finger under her chin and tilted her head up so she'd look at him. "Carter, it's all right."
"I'm just... not myself," she said.
"None of us are," he said. His finger was still touching her chin and she leaned into the touch a little. Not enough to scare him off but enough so they both knew she'd done it. He exhaled and his eyes dropped to look at her mouth. "You feel twitchy, you say?" His voice was low now. They shouldn't be doing this in the hallway where Daniel could walk out - they shouldn't be doing it at all.
"Yeah," she said. "Feels like there's something under my skin."
"Feels like trouble," he murmured. Oh God, he was going to kiss her and she was going to let it happen. It would be easier, she thought, if she didn't already know what his kisses felt like. She could almost smell the grease and oil on his skin, feel the damp steam and heat of the air around them. How many nights in that place had ended with her curled against him on his narrow cot, his tongue in her mouth, his fingers curling into her hip?
Jack did kiss her, but his lips brushed her cheek and then he pulled away. Her eyes snapped open and she was pretty sure his guilty expression matched her own.
"Night, Sam," he said and turned abruptly, not looking back, disappearing into his room. Another close call, then.
She undressed with trembling hands and pulled on her sweat pants and tank top to sleep in. Despite the temperature remaining relatively cool, she always woke up too warm. Maybe it was the sleeping bag, maybe it was her body's constantly shifting chemistry, but she was getting used to waking up sweaty and uncomfortable. She decided that sleep would be the best cure for everything at the moment so moved to the wall to shut off the lights with the control panel. She'd closed the door to change but now she opened it again. After a moment, she decided to open it all the way instead of just a crack. She told herself it was so her room wouldn't feel so stuffy at night. She told herself it was so if something happened, she'd be able to hear it. She told herself it wasn't an invitation.
Sam had been dreaming, but she hadn't woken herself up. She blinked into the darkness for a few moments, feeling foggy and confused. It wasn't raining and she couldn't hear wind. She propped herself up on her elbows and listened hard.
There, the noise again, like a low moan. She was out of bed in a moment. She knew that voice. It was Daniel and it would have to be pretty loud for it to penetrate his closed door and reach her from all the way down the hall. Her bare feet slapped against the marble floor and out her door.
It was Jack, right at her heels. She wasn't surprised he was awake but it was startling to have him appear at her side like that. He snagged her bare elbow with his hand and pulled, urging her down the hallway at a trot. They stopped in front of the closed door. She wondered if they should knock but then they heard his voice again.
"No, no please!"
"Nightmare," Sam said and Jack opened the door. Daniel was in his bed, his bag twisted around him and he was fighting it, his brow sweaty and the room smelling sour, like he'd been sick recently. Stupid, eating all that fruit. She saw the mess of vomit on the floor by the bed and wrinkled her nose. She'd figured her symptoms would be the same as everyone else but here was evidence that Daniel was taking things harder. She went to the bathroom and grabbed a towel off the rack while Jack went around to the other side of the bed.
"Daniel," he said, touching Daniel's shoulder. "Come on, Danny, wake up."
Sam dropped the towel over the mess on the floor and crawled onto the bed on Daniel's other side. Daniel looked pale and was glistening with sweat. She pressed her hand to his forehead. He felt warm, but not burning which was at least a good sign. He seemed to still at her touch.
"Daniel," she said. "You're okay. You're dreaming."
She glanced at Jack. His face was tight with concern. They all dealt with nightmares from time to time, it was simply part of leading a dangerous lifestyle. She'd woken up off-world more than once to concerned faces hovering above her and she'd seen Jack sit up in his sleeping bag, breathing hard, at least twice, but nightmares from Daniel were rare. Jack seemed to take her cue and crawled onto the bed so they were both leaning over him. Jack put his hand on Daniel's bare chest and gave him a hard shake.
"Come on, buddy, wake up," Jack said. Slowly, Daniel seemed to come out of it and then his eyes fluttered open and he looked at both of them, confused and frightened.
"Jack?" he asked.
"Yeah," Jack said. "You're okay."
Daniel shot up, his arms flying around Jack, and held on tightly. Jack's face looked surprised for a moment, but then he hugged Daniel back. "It's okay, it wasn't real."
"It felt real," Daniel said, his words muffled. "I couldn't save you."
Sam bit her lip, oddly moved by Daniel's emotional display. It was sweet and sad and she completely understood how it felt to wake up from something awful and realize that it wasn't true. The relief could be overwhelming. Jack pat his back a few times and then Daniel seemed to realize just who he was hugging and let go. Those guys of hers pretended to barely tolerate one another but it was all an act.
She reached out and touched his shoulder.
"Sam," he said. "Did I wake you guys? I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it," she said. "We just want you to be okay."
"I'm okay," he said.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Jack pressed but Daniel shook his head. "Well maybe you should try to sleep more?"
"Will you..." Daniel bit off the end of the sentence and shook his head. "Never mind."
But Sam knew.
"We can stay," she said and then looked at the towel on the floor. "Actually, we can't stay because it's gross in here. Come on, my room is clean."
"What is that?" Daniel asked.
"You were sick," Jack said, a higher note of worry in his voice now. Daniel shook his head. He didn't remember.
"You guys go," Sam said. "I'm going to go try and call Janet."
"No," Daniel said. "I feel okay now. We can just tell her in the morning, can't we?"
"Daniel..." Jack said.
"We'd wake Loren," Daniel said and so they both conceded.
They moved down the hall into Sam's room. The bed was huge, they all were. Daniel climbed on without preamble, right into the middle. It was rare that they wound up three to a tent and even more rare that it was the three of them and not some variation that included Teal'c, but occasionally it happened and when it did, Sam was always in the middle. Now they both hesitated but Sam shrugged and took the side that would leave Jack closest to the door. This was an unusual situation to start with but all three of them understood that taking care of their team member would always trump any sense of propriety.
"I miss Teal'c," Daniel said.
"He'd fit on this bed," Jack said, his arms under his head. There was one pillow and Daniel and Sam were sharing it. Sam turned and tucked herself against Daniel's warm side. He was still shirtless, but she didn't mind. The human contact was making her feel better, too.
"If you have to boot again, please do it on Colonel O'Neill," Sam murmured. Daniel laughed and Jack swatted toward her but didn't really try to make contact.
"Go to sleep," Jack said instead, and miraculously, they all did.
It was day nine and they were all still sleeping in Sam's room. No one said anything about it the night after Daniel's nightmare, but when Daniel had hesitated at her doorway, she'd waved him in and then he'd yelled "Jack!" and then Jack had come in too, his pillow tucked under his arm and then they just hadn't gone back. The last couple nights had been like the last, with Daniel between them, a constant squirming heat machine who snored but regardless, they all seemed to be sleeping better. This morning, Sam had woken with Jack's hand brushing the top of her head, his arm extended past Daniel. When she'd woken up, she'd felt his fingers toying with a lock of her hair. She'd feigned sleep until he'd gotten up to use the bathroom.
"Faker," Daniel had hissed. She'd kicked him in the shin.
Now it was night again. They'd spent the day sending blood samples through for Janet and waiting for the results. Sam had gotten to talk to Janet through the MALP for a few moments. Janet had asked how she felt and she'd replied, "Antsy."
"Well," Janet's disembodied voice had said. "Your hormones are going crazy, Sam, so I believe it. Even more so than Dr. Jackson or Colonel O'Neill."
"Great," she'd replied. "No wonder I feel like crying half the time."
"What about the other half?" Janet had asked, but she knew that she wasn't just talking to her friend, she was talking to the entire control room.
"I'm fine," she'd replied curtly.
"In the next shipment, I'm sending through a box of supplies just for you," Janet had said. "But let me know if you need anything else."
The box had been sealed up tight and had Major Samantha Carter written on a piece of masking tape in large block letters - Janet's handwriting.
"Whatcha got there?" Jack had asked but she'd held the small box close to her chest.
"It's from Janet."
"Girl stuff?" Jack had asked, stepping back a little. Sam wasn't sure what was in there, but she'd nodded.
She looked into the box now, momentarily alone in her bedroom. The boys would show up sooner rather than later, so she took a quick inventory. A box of tampons for which she was grateful. She always kept two or three in her pack but in a few days she'd need more than just a couple. Janet had stuck in a bottle of Midol - ha ha - and a few chocolate bars, her latest scientific journals which meant Janet had been going to her house to gather the mail and check on the place. And then, down near the bottom, a box of condoms. A rather large box. There was a note tucked in the bottom, too, and she read it quickly.
I wasn't kidding about those hormone levels. Please be careful but if you can't be careful, be safe. Your shot is due to be renewed next week. I'll do it when you come home. Stay strong.
She read it twice more for good measure.
She hadn't told Janet that they'd all been sleeping in the same room, in the same bed, and now the fact that they had made her feel a little guilty. It also brought into stark clarity the low level buzzing feeling she'd been tolerating for the last few days. It did smack a little of sexual frustration and waking up with two men in her bed was only making that worse.
Still, she wasn't a teenage girl, she could control herself perfectly well and would continue to do so. Kicking the guys out of her bed would only raise questions and Daniel seemed to need them so much lately. No, she'd be fine. Janet was just being cautious because that was her nature. She shoved everything back into the box and pushed it against the wall with her foot.
Just in time, too, because Daniel shuffled in with his glasses askew from rubbing his eyes beneath him.
"Jack's teaching Loren how to making fishing lures," Daniel said. "He said he'd be in a little later."
She'd left the magazines on the bed and opened one, feeling a rush at something new to do and learn - even if a lot of the science in the journals tended to be wrong.
"Is that what Janet sent you?" he asked. She nodded. "Just magazines in that box?"
"And tampons," she said, knowing it would be enough to detour him from asking questions.
"Got it," Daniel said. "Though I can't help but notice we didn't receive care packages."
"The Colonel got his tackle box!" she said, lowering the magazine.
"He asked for it," Daniel said.
"You don't think I asked for tampons?" she huffed.
"It's not that, it's just you and Janet are friends so I find it hard to believe that she'd go to all that trouble to hide tampons and New Science from the rest of us."
Okay, well, the talk of tampons would have been enough to shut the conversation down for Jack but she'd forgotten how Daniel could be like a dog with a bone.
"Fine," Sam huffed. "There may or may not be a Snickers bar in there too but if you eat that, in three days you'll wish you hadn't."
"Three days?" Daniel asked swallowing.
"Three days," she confirmed.
"Man, I gotta start keeping track of these things," Daniel teased. "For our own safety."
"Shut up, Daniel," she said, tossing the magazine to the floor. "Can we just sleep?"
"Please," he said and shut the lights off.
Sam roused briefly when Jack came in. She heard him brush his teeth in her bathroom - slowly but surely all Jack and Daniel's personal items were making their way into her room - and then she heard him pause at the foot of the bed. It was true, she was pretty much dead in the center with Daniel closest the door. They'd left a space for Jack but they both must have shifted in the night. Her options were to move to make room for Jack in the middle or to stay put. She didn't want him to know she was awake, so she just didn't move, her face pressed against Daniel's shoulder. Jack didn't hesitate for long. He just carefully got into the bed on her other side and tucked his hands under his head.
But she could tell he was restless because he rolled over and then moved again. While Daniel could sleep through anything, Jack knew she slept just as deeply as he did, so there was no point in pretending anymore. She rolled away from Daniel and faced him.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Loren," he said, apparently dropping pretenses as well. "I just... worry about him."
"You spent a lot of time with him today," she said softly. "That's good."
"He doesn't understand what's happening," Jack said. She wasn't sure if she meant in general, with being rescued so to speak, or with the withdrawal process but she didn't ask.
"So you'll help," she said.
"I'll try," Jack said. He looked at her. "Thanks, Carter."
"You're welcome." She shifted closer to him and he lifted his arm so she could tuck herself against him. She took a deep breath and he smelled minty, like toothpaste, and familiar, like Jack, like Jonah. She bent one knee and rested it over his leg. "Are we doing something stupid right now?"
"Just go to sleep," he said. It was as good as a yes. Beside them, Daniel snored softly.
But she didn't sleep, not really. She drifted and dozed, listening to Jack's deep breathing, pushing her nose into the skin of his neck, feeling his arm tighten around her. She was definitely doing something stupid. They were so close, they could have fit on a single, narrow cot. She didn't think Jack slept all that well either.
Eventually, the room started to gradually lighten. She was on her side and Jack was tucked against her back, his knees bent into her legs, his hand against her stomach. His mouth was relaxed, but pressed against her shoulder and she could feel his hot breath on her skin. Without thinking about, she squirmed enough so that his arm moved, rolled over, and pressed her mouth against his.
It was a moment of weakness. They happened. More and more often, apparently, but it was what it was. They'd been pressed together all night, all warm skin and careful touching and she just... couldn't help herself. He woke up immediately and realized quickly what was happening, because his mouth opened beneath hers and his arms pulled her against him tightly. Their tongues touched again and again and she sucked his into her mouth at the same moment she pressed her hips against his and he groaned.
It was the noise that made her pull back, hesitate, and they both stilled waiting to see if Daniel would wake up. He didn't.
"Shit," Jack said.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Sorry, sir, sorry, sorry."
"Shh," he hissed, the sibilant noise of the word louder than any other sound they'd made so far. He pressed his fingers against her mouth and she forced herself not to kiss them. He didn't have to say anything else, just cock his head slightly and roll out of the bed. She followed him into the hallway, barefoot and tousled and still breathing hard.
"What the hell was that? he whispered when they'd moved down a few doors.
"I'm sorry," she said again.
"Carter," he sighed. "I'm sorry, too."
"It's my fault," she said, pressing her back against the wall, letting the marble suck some of the heat away from her. "Janet told me my hormones were all over the place."
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, sounding for a moment more like her CO than anything else. She just shook her head. "Carter, if we're all like that, we have to stop sharing a bed."
"Just me," she said, her voice sounding shaky to her own ears. "I'm worse."
"Oh," he said. "Still though."
"Janet," Sam said. "She sent me that box?"
"I know," Jack said.
"She put condoms in there," Sam said, pressing the heel of her hand to her forehead. She still felt dizzy and hot and horny as hell. "In case I couldn't be strong."
"Christ," Jack said. "Okay, well, fuck."
She had to laugh, had to wrap her arms around herself to keep her hands to her self. "It gets a little worse every day, sir."
"Why haven't you been telling me this stuff, Sam?" he demanded. She bit her lip, shook her head again. She hadn't realized how bad it had gotten, hadn't been able to put her finger on it until Janet had spelled it out for her. Denial was becoming second nature to her. He sighed. "Okay. Here's what we're going to do. You sleep alone from now on, got it?"
"Is a big boy," Jack said. "I'll make sure he's okay. You need to... have some space away. From us. From... me."
"Yeah," she said.
"And if during the day you... feel like this, just leave. Just isolate yourself, okay?" he said.
"Yes sir," she said. They stood for a few beats looking at each other and then his face seemed to soften.
"Carter," he said. "I know."
She nodded and forced herself to walk into his abandoned room and shut the door tightly behind her. She didn't go near the bed. She sat with her back against the door all night, whispered formulas and calculations and every gate address she could remember to herself to keep her mind occupied.
The day before her period was to start, she didn't even bother to come out of the bedroom. There was a definitely correlation, and she at least hoped that once her monthly cycle was complete, these feelings would pass. She hadn't been near the light pedestal since the night she'd kissed Jack which meant someone else was making the modifications. She didn't care. She couldn't go out there and face that room of men. She couldn't. She could barely stand her own company.
Jack's voice through the radio. She grabbed hers and pressed the button.
"Yes, sir," she said, forcing herself to at least pretend to sound fine.
"Doc Frasier is calling through the MALP. She says turn to emergency station two so you two can talk. We, ah, won't listen."
"Got it," she said and changed the station. "Janet?"
"You knew this was going to happen to me," Sam hissed. So much for normal. "That's why you sent that box!"
"I suspected. Daniel has been doing some research in the library and on some of the wall writings and it just appears that this process affects women a little differently." Janet did sound apologetic. "Sam, listen. I need more of your blood to test. Colonel O'Neill is going to take the sample. I've also authorized his use of a sedative for you. You just say the word and we'll let you sleep through the worst of it."
"This is just like the Goa'uld," Sam said. Keeping women as slaves, addicted to the light, and then if they tried to escape it either killed them or turned them into willing whores.
"I'm sorry, sweetie." This was more Janet, less Doctor Frasier. "The Colonel says you've been really strong."
She did not want to talk about that, not with Janet, and not over a MALP.
"When?" she asked.
"As soon as you're ready, go to the gate room," Janet ordered.
When Sam arrived, Daniel and Loren were no where to be found. Jack was waiting, all buttoned up in full BDUs like a good soldier. The wormhole was still active and cast everything in milky blue light. Just the sight of him made the low heat in her gut flare to life again and she braced the wall for support as she walked.
"Carter," Jack said, and then into his radio, "She's here."
"We're going to disengage. We'll expect your call in 20 minutes," came Hammond's voice and then the wormhole was disengaged. They were alone.
"We need three vials of your blood," Jack said, a little apologetically. She wished Daniel was taking the samples, hell, she wished Loren was. Jack had the most experience as a field medic, the most training, so she understood, but still, it was hard enough to look in his general direction at the moment.
"I can do it myself if you just leave the supplies," she said.
"You're shaking life a leaf," Jack said. "Come on, sit down."
There was a chair; a tray with a syringe and empty vials sitting on a crate next to it.
"Daniel?" she asked. "Loren?"
"Loren is discovering the wonders of my Gameboy," Jack said, keeping his tone light. "Daniel still doesn't feel well. He's been sleeping a lot."
She glanced up at his face, concerned.
"What does Janet say?" she asked, looking back down. She worked her sleeve up her arm, trying not to touch or brush her own sensitized skin.
"Not sure," Jack said. "I took some of his blood too but being sleepy isn't the worst side effect ever."
"And you?" she asked. Jack pulled on some latex gloves.
"I'm fine, Major."
"Sir," she said. "It seems unlikely we're fighting off unusual symptoms and you aren't."
He didn't say anything, simply took her arm carefully to wrap the tourniquet around it. The moment he touched her, she shuddered and clenched her teeth.
"Sorry," he murmured, pulling it tight. The pinch of pain helped distract her and she exhaled roughly.
"This is humiliating," she said.
"Don't worry," Jack said, uncapping the syringe. "I told Daniel and Loren that you were feeling overly aggressive not..." He trailed off.
"Horny?" she asked. Daniel would know it was a lie but she appreciated the gesture. He cleared his throat.
"Yeah. Okay, you ready?" He held up the needle. She nodded once. It wasn't the mostly painless blood drawing, but he did a fine job and it was over soon enough. He pulled the needle out and handed her a piece of gauze. She pressed it into the bend of her arm.
"What about you?" she asked.
"I can do my own."
"So there is something wrong with you," she said.
"It turns out I'm going through a little withdrawal," he snapped. She looked at him, intent on arguing some more but when she actually allowed herself to look, she saw how haggard he appeared. He had deep, dark circles beneath his eyes, he hadn't bothered to shave in a few days, and he just looked exhausted.
"Have you been sleeping?" she asked. "At all?"
"Doc sent through some sleeping pills for the both of us, but I'm not drugging myself up to get a little shut eye while you and Daniel are so out of it," he said. She stood up, tossed the gauze aside and rolled her shirt sleeve down.
"I can keep watch, Sir," she said.
"You can barely look at me."
"You can barely stand," she shot back, taking a step toward him.
"Hammond recalled Teal'c from Chulak to come keep an eye on us," Jack admitted. "And the Doc said that if we don't start to improve, we're going to have to turn the light back up and come down a little slower."
"No," she said, taking another step. "We'd be here for another week or two."
"At least," he said.
"And Loren?" she asked. Jack's back hit the wall. She was close enough that she could reach out and touch him.
"He's doing okay. You know kids. They can bounce back from anything," he said. They were face to face now. "Carter, what are you doing?"
She hadn't meant to get so close, hadn't realized how she'd forced him back but she just wanted to touch him, to feel his rough stubble under her hands. She reached up, let her fingers trace his jaw, felt the muscles there ripple as he swallowed.
"I felt like I haven't seen you in days," she murmured.
"Isolation, Major," he said. "Time for you to go back."
"Have you still been sleeping with Daniel?" she asked softly. He hesitated and then nodded and a whole new wave of arousal overtook her. "It's been so lonely."
"Carter," he said, but what he was going to say was lost when she kissed him. He didn't fight back. In fact, he nipped at her lips, tilted his head for a better angle and she melted against him. This is what she'd been wanting so badly, what her body had been crying out for so desperately. And while she'd noticed Daniel and to some extent, even Loren, she'd only really wanted Jack. Jack O'Neill, her CO, Jonah, who kept her warm at night.
She felt a sharp sting in her arm and pulled away to look dazedly at what had caused it. It was a syringe and when she looked up at Jack, he looked apologetic.
"The sedative?" she asked.
"Sorry," he said and then helped her crumple to the ground.
She woke up alone in her room. It took her a few moments to remember what had happened. Blood samples, kissing, and then Jack had drugged her.
But she felt better. Less crazed at least, and when she kicked off her sleeping bag, she knew why. The blood had soaked through her pants and into the mattress a little.
"Great," she sighed. As if the past few days hadn't been humiliating enough, now she'd have to scrub her own blood out of a Goa'uld mattress. She was never doing drugs again.
She stripped out of her sticky, messy clothes and dumped all of them in the sink to be dealt with later. First things first meant a bath and then maybe some food and then, perhaps, facing the guys. At least she felt better. There would be no need to call Teal'c and the Colonel could get some sleep.
Clean and dressed, she poked her head out of her room. It seemed late; it was dark and, if everyone else was down for the night, she could poke around and see what she'd missed.
She jumped. She hadn't seen Jack sitting in the dark against the opposite wall.
"I'm hungry," she said. "I feel better, sir."
"Really?" he asked.
"Yeah," she replied. "Not great. A little, uh, wrung out but I no longer feel the need to... um..."
"I get it," he said. "Good."
"I'm really sorry about my behavior, sir," she said.
"I'm really sorry I had to drug you," he said. She sat down next to him.
"Well," she said. "I seemed to have made it through the worst of it."
"I had to turn her back up, Major," Jack said. "Three notches seemed to even us all out."
"Yeah. But Daniel woke up, I got some sleep, and you seem better so. I think we were just... rushing it. We're going to try turning it down every other day instead."
The floor was making her butt cold and she felt crampy and achy but it was nice to be with him after avoiding him.
"Carter," he said.
"You and I have got to stop kissing, okay?"
"I know, sir."
"Seriously, this time," he said. "I know that things have been... because of the memory stamp and being here and shit happens but sometimes I feel like it's just you and me and when it's just you and me it isn't okay."
"I agree, sir," she said.
"We can want to kiss," he said. "But we can't actually do it."
"Understood," she said. "It's my fault. You don't kiss me. I keep kissing you."
"I've been participating."
"I'm weak," she whispered.
"No, you aren't," he said. "You're strong, Carter."
"Thank you, sir," she said. But she didn't feel strong.
They would have been leaving today, had things worked out according to plan. Three weeks in this gilded and ornate hell hole, but instead they had another ten days. She tried not to be bitter but she was so bored. And if she was bored, she knew the Colonel had to be going stir crazy. Mostly, Daniel holed himself up in the library, but even he seemed to be growing weary of reading the ancient Goa'uld dialect.
"There is a surprising amount of erotica," Daniel had confided to her. She'd scrunched up her nose, not at the idea of erotica but at the thought of what it might take to get a Goa'uld going. "Yeah," Daniel had said to her expression. "You really don't want to know."
Sam searched out Daniel now, finding him on the porch. It was raining steadily, had been for hours, and the porch wasn't warm but Daniel just sat looking out at the water, doing nothing.
"Want some company?" Sam asked.
"Sure," he said, so she sat next to him, close enough to touch. May as well get some body heat out of it and, after their slumber party phase, this was nothing.
"You doing okay?" she asked.
"Actually, I was sitting out here worrying about you," Daniel said. He turned to look at her. "You seem depressed."
"Do I?" she asked. Was she? "I think just a little frustrated. We've been here for so long. Everyone at the SGC is living their lives and working and we're just sitting here... rotting."
"It is frustrating," he said. "Jack keeps pretending it's like some great rest we get to have but he's not fooling anyone."
"No," she said. "But I understand his need to set an example."
"You two have been avoiding each other," Daniel said.
"Thanks," he grinned. "What happened?"
"Want to talk about it?"
"No," she said.
"Sam," he said. "You might feel better."
"Or worse," she reasoned. "Besides, didn't anyone ever tell you ignorance is bliss?"
"No one," he said. "Not ever."
"Well now I have," she said.
"Please drop it," Sam said. "Please, Daniel."
"Okay," he said. "But I think we need to do something fun or we're all going to go nuts."
"I don't know how to have fun," she admitted. "And neither do you."
So they asked Jack.
Once they pushed the big dining room table against the wall and onto its side, and Siler sent the gear through, it was actually a good place for hockey. Sam hadn't been on roller skates in years and hadn't ever roller bladed but, besides Jack, she seemed the most suited for the sport. Daniel was hopeless and Loren as awkward as any teenager, so Jack and Sam were on separate teams. She took on Daniel for the sake of everyone and Loren had wanted to be on Jack's team. The puck was just a hard, plastic ball but the hockey sticks were real and they set some empty boxes on their sides to serve as goals.
Mostly, Daniel fell down. Sam spent as much time guarding the goal as hauling Daniel back to his feet.
"Why is this fun?" Daniel asked.
"One cannot sleep their whole life away, Daniel," Jack called in a taunting sort of way. Sam simply propped him up in front of the goal and told him that if he had to fall, he should do it on top of the ball before it got into the goal.
"Funny, it's Sam talking but it sounds like Jack," he muttered.
Ultimately, it became about Jack and Sam hitting the ball back and forth. When they grew tired of that, they called a truce and Daniel tore the skates off his feet with surprising speed.
"I'm going to go make some dinner," Daniel announced looking at Loren. "Want to learn how to boil pasta?"
"Yeah!" Loren said enthusiastically and sincerely.
"That never gets old," Daniel grinned. "Come on."
Sam felt strangely tall on the roller blades and made a few easy laps of the room. She and Jack picked up the game again, just smacking the ball back and forth, circling closer and closer until they were the middle of the room, right in front of one another. She hadn't even meant to do it but sometimes with Jack it was just like gravity, some invisible force keeping them together while the planet spun and spun. She reached out her hand to steady herself and it landed on his shoulder. She'd never been good at stopping on wheels.
"You want to race down the hall?" Jack asked. He asked it like he was asking if she was done with the sports section or if she wanted to see what they were serving for lunch in the commissary.
"Really?" she asked. He nodded. "I'll win."
"That's what you think," he said. "I grew up on the ice."
"I don't see any ice around here, sir," she said. "Looks like you're SOL."
"Oh, now you're gonna get it," he said, gliding easily toward the hallway. She followed him and they pushed and shoved their way toward the far end. "Ready? Set? Go!"
He took off like a shot but she didn't give him a chance to gain a lead. He was more graceful on the skates but she was younger and weighed less and passed him easily. Then she remembered that she didn't really know how to stop. She could either straighten up and upset her own balance and risk smashing her head into the wall or the floor or she could stop herself at the end of the hallway which was not a wall but a large glass window that offered a stunning view of the rocky shoreline below.
"Carter," Jack said, hot on her heels. He must have realized the same thing too. "Hang on."
He grabbed the back of her jacket and she felt herself swing around. Jack hit the wall, she hit Jack, and they tumbled into a heap onto the floor.
"Okay, well, you didn't quite think that through, did you, Major?" he said. His elbow was in her ribs and their legs were all tangled.
"Nope," she admitted. "Ouch."
"You okay?" he asked, scrambling off of her. The pressure subsided a little with the majority of his weight off of her but when she tried to move, she couldn't hide the groan.
"I think I bruised a rib," she admitted.
"Stay there, I'll get Daniel," he said.
"Don't go," she said. "I'm fine, I just need to catch my breath for a moment."
And anyway, Loren appeared looking concerned.
"I heard a noise," he explained.
"That was just Carter's dignity smashing into bits," Jack said, jokingly.
"What?" asked Loren.
"I fell," Carter said. "Sir, I think I can get up but not with the wheels."
"I gotcha," he said, and moved to her feet, unlacing the skates deftly and easing them off of her feet. "Loren, buddy, why don't you go ask Daniel for an ice pack?" Loren nodded and hurried off.
"I'm all right, sir," she said. His fingers were still wrapped around her sock covered ankle and he gave it a squeeze at her words.
"I elbowed you pretty hard," he said.
"You saved me from a much worse fate," she countered.
"Why did you say yes to a race?"
"Why did you ask for one?" she shot back. Then, belatedly, tacked on a "sir."
"I would have won," he grumbled and she raised her eyes in disbelief.
"Only because I would have been dead," she scoffed.
"A win on a technicality is still a win," he argued and she laughed but the laugh turned into a gasp and she held her side. "Come on."
He helped her up, holding tightly to her arm long after she was well on her own two feet.
"I'm okay," she said.
"Let me see," he replied. She glanced up at his face. "The bruise."
"I don't think..."
"Major," he snapped. She dipped her head, chastised, and unzipped her jacket. He helped her remove it and then she carefully untucked her shirt.
"I can't lift my arm," she said. He nodded, his face carefully expressionless, and he reached for the hem of her shirt. When his fingers brushed the skin of her sides, she tensed and then her breath hitched with the pain. They'd been being so careful and suddenly, here she was, all in a tizzy because he was barely touching her. He remained impassive, lifting the fabric until he could see just the bottom of her bra and stopped.
The bruise was still new, fresh and just starting to color. In the morning, it would feel better and look much worse.
"Yep," was all he said.
"Uh, guys?" Daniel asked, appearing through one of the doorways. He was holding a towel carefully, probably filled with ice.
"I bruised Carter's ribs," Jack said but he didn't turn to look at Daniel. Instead, he lifted his hand and touched the sore spot lightly, just barely. She closed her eyes.
"Ice," she whispered.
Daniel, for his part, seemed to realize the same thing, because he came forward and stood next to Jack.
"Ouch. What were you guys doing?" he asked.
"We fell on the skates," Sam said.
"Both of you? You two skated circles around me all evening and you just... fell?" he asked skeptically.
"I suck at stopping," Sam said. "The Colonel had to... it doesn't matter."
Jack took the ice and held it gently to her exposed skin. Exposed was certainly the right word to describe what she felt. Jack was still holding her shirt up with his free hand and her whole midriff was exposed. She knew the curve of her bra could be seen too, just a bit of elastic and the under wire, but still, both men were studying her intently as if they were expecting something to change.
"Guys, I'm fine," she murmured, stepping back. Jack stepped forward automatically to keep the ice against her and Daniel stood still, his eyes darting back and forth between his teammates. "Sir."
Jack looked at her, looked at his hand, and looked at Daniel.
"Here," he said, thrusting the ice into her hand while letting her shirt fall. "You should go lie down or something."
"I'm fine," she said again. "Let's just eat dinner."
"Dinner!" Daniel said. "Crap. I gotta..." And he headed back toward the kitchen.
"I'm sorry, did I say that yet?" Jack asked, closing the gap again.
"I don't think so," she said with a small smile. The ice in her hand was cold and her fingers were starting to feel it. She wanted to drop it or shift it to her other hand or actually put it against her aching side, but she couldn't seem to move. "Are you hurt? I didn't even think to ask."
"I'm fine," he said.
"You hit the wall pretty hard. And the floor," she pointed out. He shook his head.
"I'm okay." He was still in his skates and was towering over her in a way he didn't usually. He really was graceful on them. She'd almost forgotten he'd been wearing them by how easily he moved, helped her up, distanced him self and then came back up to her. Their strange, unique tension started to rise again and she knew this feeling way too well. It generally preceded them doing something stupid and against the rules. Like kissing. But there was to be no more of that.
"We can't," she said.
"We're not," he said. He was close enough to kiss her but instead he dipped his head and touched his forehead to hers. His hand settled on her hip and they stood there, close but not breaking the rule. She, slowly, lifted her free hand and set it on his hip. He breathed out and it sounded kind of relieved. She let the ice fall to the floor and then their second hands joined the first. She closed her eyes so she wouldn't be further tempted.
His head moved and then their noses were touching too. He nuzzled her nose with his, letting the tips bump and then sliding it side to side. She knew what he was doing, he was kissing her without kissing, going through the motions of the action without letting their lips touch.
It was agony. It was worse than just giving in. She felt her fingers clench at his sides, the material of his shirt wrinkling in her grip. She felt light headed and dangerous. She felt like she was still trapped in that bedroom pacing and sweaty, talking herself into staying put over and over again.
Jack rubbed his cheek against hers and she felt the light sting of stubble on her skin. One of her hands, traitorous appendage that it was, snaked up his back and onto his neck, her nails scratching at his hairline. He was past due for a cut. Her touch made him squirm, his hips arching toward her.
She let out a broken cry. "I can't, I can't, enough," she said, wrenching herself free. "Too much."
Or not enough, her brain supplied.
Sam was in the light room, sitting on the floor, tucked into a dark corner. She'd been studying the interfacing, not that she expected to learn anything new. She'd abandoned the study of the device in their second week when it had become clear that there was no easy out, no way to bypass their detox. They would simply have to endure it. The only saving grace of these extra ten days was that slowing down had seemed to do the trick. They still felt off, but the extreme symptoms of before had all but disappeared.
"Eight more days," Sam whispered to herself. "192 hours." She glanced at her watch. "No, only 187 now."
"You know, talking to yourself is never a good sign." Daniel was poking his head around the light fixture. Not hearing him come in wasn't a good sign, either.
"Just... giving myself a pep talk," she admitted.
"It's late, Sam," he said. "Jack and Loren went to bed."
"You did too," she pointed out. He shrugged. He was in his pajamas. He had bare feet. She was still in her full uniform, boots and all.
"Maybe I've finally caught up on my sleep," he said. "How are your ribs?"
"Fine," she said. They were. The bruise was still mottled, but mostly it only hurt if she turned at an awkward angle too quickly or tried to lift something heavy. He sat next to her, tucking himself into a small ball, mirroring her pose.
"This is my fault," he said. She rolled her eyes.
"You know we don't blame you for the light," she said.
"Not that," he said. "You and Jack."
"Nothing is wrong with me or the Colonel," she said.
"Sam," he said. "I should have never... us all in the same bed was a really bad idea and I was selfish to ask for it."
"Daniel, you needed us," she said. "And we've been back to our own rooms for over a week."
"And for over a week, things have been uncomfortable," Daniel said. "That's my fault."
"It doesn't matter," she said. "You would have done the same for us."
"I feel guilty because I miss you guys," he said. "At night."
"I miss you too," she said, resting her chin on her knees.
She shot him a look.
"Loren said... that he saw you and Jack together the other day," Daniel said carefully.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"The day you had your fall," Daniel said. She didn't look at him.
"He came when he heard me fall," she said.
"No," Daniel said. "I'm taking this with a grain of salt because I could write volumes on what that kid doesn't know about social interaction, but he said he saw you guys touching."
"Daniel, you were there, you know what happened. I fell, he helped me with the ice," Sam said. She was starting to feel nervous. Had Loren come back for them? What had he seen? What had it looked like to an outsider who had no context?
"He said your faces touched. If you and Jack..."
"We weren't kissing," she said. At least this she could be absolutely certain of. And maybe blurting that out was more of a confirmation than anything else but he had to know the truth. They hadn't kissed that time, they absolutely hadn't.
"Okay," he said. "Sam, Janet asked me to keep an eye on you two. I told her I wouldn't spy on you and I'm not, I wouldn't, but when she asked me that, I thought she was being paranoid, you know."
"She is," Sam said but even she didn't really buy it.
"Good," Daniel said. "That's all I wanted to know, then."
"Daniel," Sam said. "It's just been hard since 118. For the Colonel and maybe for me, too."
"Okay," Daniel said.
"I mean, when we didn't know each other, you weren't really... it wasn't until a lot later that we all started to remember and you started talking to us but Jonah and I... the Colonel and I were friends the whole time," she said. She shouldn't be saying any of this but it felt good to talk about it out loud. She stared at him hard, willing him to understand.
"How close of friends?" Daniel asked.
"Pretty close," she said. "If we hadn't have... I mean, any longer and we would have been... Daniel." She bit her lip. "Daniel, this was the worst possible thing to happen to us right now. Making us be here, together, constantly."
"Oh, Sam," Daniel said, draping his arm over her shoulders. She pushed her face against her knees and forced herself not to cry. "Again, I say, this was my fault."
"No," was her muffled response.
"Well I certainly didn't help," he said and she looked at him again, a wry, tiny smile on her face.
"No," she agreed. "You didn't."
"That's all I wanted," he said. "For you to admit my guilt."
"What did you say to Loren?" she asked.
"I lectured him on the complexity of the human condition until he was so bored he'll never mention it again," Daniel said.
"Thanks," she said.
"Come to bed, Sam." He stood and pulled her up. "You can stay with me, if you want."
"Are you sure?" she asked. He nodded.
"Unless you have secret memory stamp feelings for me, too," he teased. She smiled but said nothing. It was better, then, that Daniel thought her feelings were a direct cause of the memory stamp.
"I'm sure I'll do nothing untoward," she said dryly.
But that night, she woke up to find Jack at the foot of the bed, Daniel snoring beside her. She'd sensed him and it had pulled her right back into consciousness. He'd probably come in to check on Daniel and had found them both. She sat up and met his eyes. He quirked an eyebrow, visible in the low light from the full moon outside. She nodded her head at Daniel and he nodded back, understanding that this had been Daniel's idea. She touched the place beside her on the mattress, but he shook his head no. Probably for the best.
She could see, though, that he was thinking something through. His forehead wrinkled slightly and his eyes darted from the bed back to her, and when he extended his arm in an invitation, he wasn't quite looking at her. And when she grabbed the hand and followed him out of Daniel's room, she wasn't quite looking at him either.
They held hands all the way down the hall to her room. He closed the door behind them. She sat on the bed first, letting go of him to ease herself down onto her back. He climbed over her, tucking himself against her, his hand wrapped possessively around her waist, his nose in her hair. She curled into him, one of her knees worming between his legs.
"I've been thinking," he said. "Alien drug is a pretty good excuse."
She had to laugh, her mouth on his neck.
"We've been going about this all wrong," he said.
"Jack," she said quietly. "Are we about to do something stupid?"
"Oh yeah," he said, his hand snaking up her back beneath her shirt. With a flick of his wrist, her bra was unclasped. "Real stupid."
She gasped. His hand wormed around front and underneath the loosened her bra to cup her breast. Again, she fleetingly stopped to think that resisting this would have been so much easier if she didn't already know how good it felt when he touched her. If she didn't know to anticipate his fingers tweaking her nipple, his lips on her jaw. If she didn't know how he smelled, how restlessly he moved against her in these first moments of togetherness.
Oh God, though, this was Jack and not Jonah. This was Jack O'Neill, this was the Colonel. That thought alone should have been enough to stop her cold. Instead, she arched into his hand and forced his mouth to hers.
No kissing should have been easy. They didn't kiss all time, but the moment their lips connected she felt a hot wave of relief. If it had been three weeks, as promised, they might have made it. In fact, they did make it but with the extra time, with turning the light back up, they had faltered.
"You still with me?" Jack asked, his mouth moving down against the pale skin of her stomach.
"Yeah," she said. "Jack, promise me you won't stop."
"Never," he breathed, his mouth right where her skin met the top of her pants. "I never want to stop touching you."
Good, she thought. She wanted him to feel just as out of control as she felt. She wanted to know that even if there came a moment when they realized with a sharp clarity that they really, really shouldn't be doing this, he would have a promise to fall back on. She wanted to see it through because she was a Carter and she always finished what she started.
She felt dizzy. Jack was sweating; she could feel his t-shirt growing damp with it. He was all too willing to oblige when she pulled the shirt up and over his head. He seemed to touch her everywhere at once. His hand on her breast, another eased her pants down past her hips, his lips on her mouth, her neck, her collarbone. When she arched her back, his hands slid beneath her and held her close. She watched the muscles of his back flex and gleam as he moved above her. Her breathing was ragged and loud.
She was starting to feel helpless, just lying there and letting him have his fill. She decided if she was to feel this crazed, he needed to keep pace so she slipped her slender wrist into the waist of his pants and grasped him firmly. He bit back a growl and she felt his teeth on her earlobe in response. Touching him and doing so boldly seemed to be the proverbial straw because in only moments they were both devoid of all remaining clothing and she felt his knuckles brushing between her legs.
She spread wide open for him, tilted her pelvis in encouragement. Knuckles extended into fingers and she found herself sobbing into him, desperately racing toward release. She wasn't usually this keyed up, this obliging, to any partner, to come apart so readily, but four years and three weeks of foreplay seemed more than enough to grease the wheels.
"Come on," Jack whispered, urging her over the edge. "Come for me, Sam."
So she did.
He pet her, eased her back into herself before shifting over her, cradling himself against her hips, pressing hot and hard into her belly. She kissed him, teeth and tongues. He had a wild look in his eyes and she grabbed his face and forced him to look at her.
"Still with me?" she asked with a smile.
"By a thread," he said.
"The box that Janet sent," Sam said. "Jack, we need the protection."
"On it." He rolled off her and stumbled through the dark toward the box. She admired him, suppressing a grin as he stumbled and cursed. She'd seen Jack in varying forms of nudity over the last few years between off-world missions and the infirmary but never the full Monty and she enjoyed the view now. Jack was not a young man but he was still in incredible shape. "You checkin' out my ass, Carter?" he murmured as he bent over to rummage through the box.
"Yes, sir," she said. He chuckled and then straightened up. He had the condoms in his hands. She watched him tear open the box and liberate one of the foil squares. She thought he might pause and ask her once more if she was really certain but he didn't. He simply put on the condom without hesitation and climbed back onto the bed. She didn't even wait for him to ask. "I'm ready," she told him.
"You want to know a secret?" he asked, weaving his hands into her hair. She nodded. "I was ready the moment I saw you."
"Romance, O'Neill style," she said, smiling. But he didn't smirk back and she realized he was being serious. "Really?"
"You were… so young and so, so beautiful that I knew immediately that I was very, very screwed," he said.
"You didn't even know me," she argued.
"No I didn't," he said. "But the better I got to know you, the better I get to know you, Carter, the more screwed I get. Ain't that a kicker?"
She kissed him, reached down between them, and guided him inside of her. He moved slowly, inch by agonizing inch until he was buried to the hilt.
"Oh God," she breathed. "Oh God, Jack?"
"Yeah," he groaned.
"I wanted you, too. When I saw you, I wanted you, too." She gasped as he pulled back out.
"That's my girl," he whispered and thrust back in with a crooked grin.
The morning of the last day. Though, Sam thought, yesterday had really been the last day. All that was left for today was sending the rest of their supplies through and then walking through themselves. She'd turned the light completely off very early this morning and they'd all been fine. She felt fine, really. Physically.
Daniel hadn't said anything about waking up alone and hadn't said anything since. Maybe he didn't know that Jack and Sam had been sharing a room for the last few days, but Daniel wasn't an idiot and the fact that he wasn't talking to her didn't mean he hadn't mentioned it to Jack or to Janet or that he would keep quiet. And if Daniel had said something to Jack, Jack hadn't told her about it. In fact, she and Jack hadn't really talked about anything. It should be worrying except for she felt like talking might break the spell of spending the night with him wrapped around her, his lips all over her body. So much for not kissing.
And anytime he started to look like he was about to say something, she'd just say "Alien drug" and he'd shut up. And each time she'd been about to mention that maybe this enormous mistake they'd made had been a terrible idea, he'd say, "Carter, alien drug" and she'd just drop it.
There was no more alien drug. The moment they stepped through that gate, they were going to have to deal with things. Serious things.
She tried not to think about her dad, her service record, the fact that she could be court-marshaled, that she hadn't even really cared as she and Jack potentially threw everything out the window. It wasn't just her career, it was his too, it was Daniel and Teal'c, it was all of the SGC, it was the safety of the entire planet. All were at risk because she had been weak and he had too and unfortunately, their moments of weakness had overlapped several times now.
She was in her bedroom, shoving the last of her things into her pack. She picked up the box of condoms Janet had sent. The box was open and the contents incomplete. Janet would ask for the box back and then she would know. She would tell General Hammond and that would be that.
What had they done?
Jack's voice through her radio. He was wondering what was taking her so long.
"On my way, sir," she said into the radio.
But she couldn't ruin their careers, wouldn't be responsible for his ending on a sour note, for hers ending at all. She opened the window and threw the box out. She'd tell Janet she forgot them. She closed the window, put on her pack, and didn't look back.
At the gate, everyone was waiting.
"Dial us up, Daniel," Jack said. Daniel did, pushing in the address for home. Loren stood close to Jack, leaning into him more when the gate activated. Sam entered their iris code and waited for the confirmation. It beeped and she nodded at Daniel.
"All set," Daniel said.
"Let's go home," Jack said. Daniel went first and then Sam. Right before she stepped through, she looked at Jack. He was looking at Loren, maybe purposefully, so she just stepped through.
"I just want to go home, Janet," Sam said.
"I know," Janet said. "But I'm not clearing you without 24 hours observation and MacKenzie needs to clear you as well so you may as well get comfortable."
"Fine," Sam said.
"Stop fighting it, Carter," Jack said. "It only makes her enjoy torturing us more."
She, Daniel, Jack, and Loren were all in a row of infirmary beds. Janet was focusing on her right now, so there was a privacy partition up between her and the others but everyone could hear just fine.
"Just making up for lost time, Colonel," Janet called back. She winked at Sam but Sam wasn't in the mood. Janet's amused expression faltered. "Sam," she said, her voice particularly low. "Do you want to go into my office to talk?"
"No," Sam said.
"All right," Janet said. "Maybe later?"
"How is Loren?" Sam said, ignoring the question. Janet sighed and launched into telling Sam about the search to find him a family. Sam knew if she could keep Janet talking on other subjects, Janet would let Sam's own mental state drop. Twenty-four hours wasn't a long time, Sam decided, leaning back against her pillow. And then she could go home. A night in her own bed would do her a world of good. A night alone.
None of SG-1 slept through the night. Teal'c had come in after Janet had gone home and none of the nurses had the heart to kick him out so mostly they told him about their time stuck in the pleasure palace. Jack spoke lightly, telling funny stories about eating fruit and Daniel falling down on his skates. No one said anything about the bickering, the cabin fever, Sam's bout of isolation but Teal'c seemed to know they were leaving plenty out. Sam wasn't saying much at all, letting Jack run the show.
"And you, Major Carter," Teal'c said during a lull in the conversation. "How did you endure your time away?"
All eyes turned to Sam, even Jack's. She glanced at him and then back at Teal'c.
"I missed you," she said. "And my lab. I really missed my lab."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "Doctor Frasier and I took turns maintaining your places of residence. She was in charge of caring for plant life. I gathered your mail."
Sam smiled at him.
"Thanks, Teal'c," she said. He leaned forward.
"Major Carter, I wonder if you will teach me to ride your motorcycle?" Teal'c asked. "I noticed it in your garage and it seems an intriguing model."
"Whoa, motorcycle?" Daniel asked. "Since when do you have a motorcycle?"
"Hobby," Sam said.
"You didn't know Carter was a badass?" Jack asked.
"I knew!" Daniel said, despite her grinning. "I was apparently unclear on the level of badassery she'd accomplished…"
"I'll give you lessons, Teal'c," Sam promised. "In the spring when the weather clears up."
Teal'c nodded his thanks.
Eventually, Sam drifted off. She woke a few hours later to see that both Daniel and Loren were asleep and that Teal'c sat next to Jack's bedside and then men were speaking softly. She wondered if Jack was confessing their sins to Teal'c – if he'd even have to confess or if Teal'c would know simply by looking at Jack. It was both an upside and a downside, how close the members of SG1 had become over the last several years. They could communicate so efficiently that often they didn't need words but it also made secrets awfully hard to keep.
She watched them for several minutes before Jack glanced at her and noticed that she was awake. He didn't react but Teal'c still turned to see her. She offered them a sleepy smile to show she wasn't spying or eavesdropping. She couldn't really hear them anyway. Jack winked at her.
"You should rest, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "You too, Major Carter. Doctor Frasier will be back on base within the hour."
"I won't tell her you were here all night if you won't tell her we didn't sleep much," Jack said.
"Agreed," Teal'c said.
When he was gone, Jack got out of his infirmary bed and came over to her.
"Hey," he said.
"Sir," she responded. "Did you tell Teal'c?"
"No," he said. "You going to tell Frasier?"
"Not on purpose," she said. "Janet has a way of…"
"Yeah," Jack said. "Well. You know. Alien drug."
"Alien drug," she said. "I'm hopeful it won't come to that."
"Me too," Jack said. "What should we do about Daniel?"
"You think he knows?" she asked. Jack shot her a look, one he rarely gave her, one that translated to 'use your brain, Carter.' "Okay, yeah, he knows. But it's Daniel, he's not going to sell us out."
"No," Jack said, almost fondly. "He won't."
"Sir," she said. "Are we okay?"
"I think maybe we should get through Frasier, get through MacKenzie, get home and then have ourselves a conversation," he said. "You up for that?"
"Am I up for it?" she scoffed. "I try to have conversations with you all the time. Are you up for it is the real question, sir."
"What?" he asked. "What about the whole… I saw you and I knew thing? That was… that was Grade A material."
"It was pretty good," she said. "I'm up for it, though."
"Good," he said. "I'll swing by then. Soon."
"Soon," she nodded. "Okay."
What did soon even mean? Carter was pacing a hole in her living room rug, waiting for soon to arrive. She'd been home for six hours already and she was certain that Jack had left before her. She'd seen his signature on the sign-out sheet.
She'd filled the time by swinging by the grocery store (she'd left a note for him on her front door, just in case) and then cleaning out the disgusting mess that had grown in her refrigerator in her absence. Apparently her friendship with Janet didn't extend to inside her appliances. After the kitchen, she did the bathroom, the rugs, hell, she'd even washed the windows and now she waited. She just waited for him to show up and tell her they couldn't do anything anymore. Maybe not even be teammates anymore.
Suddenly she dreaded his appearance. Jack's arrival could only bring bad news and heartbreak.
The doorbell rang.
"Of course," she muttered.
Jack stood on her porch, his hands in his coat pockets.
"I took a cab," he said.
"How very clandestine," she said. "Would you like to come in, sir?"
"Drop the sir, please," he said. She nodded and stepped aside, closed the door behind him. "I was going to come earlier but… did you look in your fridge?"
"Yeah," she said. "It was gross."
"Totally," he said.
"I understand why you were stalling," she said. "I understand what happens from this point."
"Well I'm glad you do because I have no freaking clue," he said. This was surprising and her face must have reflected it because he ran his hand over his face. "Please say you have some kind of alcohol in this house. Even rubbing alcohol."
"Sure," she said. "Sit down."
She came back from the kitchen with two beers, Guinness, and handed him one before sitting next to him on the couch.
"You buy these for me?" he asked. She nodded. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," she said. She carefully bit back the sir but only because he'd asked her. He still flinched like he heard it. She watched him take a long drink.
"Carter," he said. "You're the smart one. You need to figure out what we're supposed to do here."
"Me?" she asked. "Well, I mean, the rules tell us exactly what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to stop. We're supposed to not have started in the first place."
"Let's assume that going back in time isn't going to an option for now," he said.
"Jack," she said quietly, resisting the urge to reach out and touch him, to slide onto his lap and fuse their mouths together. "If it had been the one time, even I might have bought the alien drug excuse but we just kept doing…" She trailed off.
"It?" he supplied. She flushed.
"We were so good," he said leaning back into the cushions. "For so long."
"And then we weren't," she said.
"I don't know," he said. "I thought we were pretty good together."
It was a stupid joke, not even a particularly clever word play, but his dark eyes and low voice just shot straight into her gut and she found herself shifting closer to him, their legs touching. He lifted his arm and gave her room to tuck herself against him. She pressed her ear to his collar, her hand fingering a button on his shirt.
"Okay," she said, her words slightly muffled. "We either stop or we don't."
"Or I ask for a transfer," she said. His chin rested on the top of her head and she felt his jaw working – he didn't like that idea. "Or we stay on SG-1."
"And tell the rules to go fuck themselves," Jack said.
"I can't lie," she whispered. "I couldn't…"
"I know," he sighed. "It'd eat you up and you'd just end up hating me."
She couldn't imagine a time when she'd ever hate him but she also didn't want to ever put herself in a position to get to that point.
"So we stop," she said.
"So we stop," he agreed. "For now."
She started to pull away but he held tightly. "Sir?"
"In the morning," he said. "Just stay here for now, okay?"
"Okay," she said, settling back into him. "You think one day we'll get to have a chance?"
"I do," he said. "We just have to be patient."
"We have to be good," she said. "I mean, better."
"You make me want to be better," he told her. She took a deep breath, committing the moment to memory. He smelled faintly of beer, of the leather of his coat, of the familiar thing that made him Jack. "Of course," he said, a playful tone, "you never know what you might find on another planet."
"How do you mean?" she asked, letting her eyes slipped closed.
"This time it was an alien drug. Next time, could be an alien mind control device. Alien spiked punch, perhaps?" She opened one eye and looked up at him, his mischievous expression making her heart beat a little faster. She should scold him but… she could scold tomorrow.
"Alien forced marriage?" she offered, her lips curling into the same daring smiling.
"Oh yeah, we haven't had one of those in a while," he said, his thumb rubbing lazing circles onto her arm. "We're due for a good forced marriage."
"Maybe next time you could volunteer to do the honors instead of making Teal'c do it," she said, snuggling back down into him and letting her eyes close again.
"You can count on it," he promised. "Though in my defense, my knees weren't going to get you around that sacred tree once, let alone nine times."
"Pfft, you didn't even try," she teased. He kissed the top of her head, her forehead, her temple. They were quiet, resting but not sleeping and he seemed content to stay that way until she sighed.
"What are you thinking?" he asked.
"I'm trying to figure out a way to stop the sun from rising," she said, her voice small.
"If anyone could…" he said. She made a small noise, a whimper, and he held her a little closer. "We're gonna be fine, Carter."
"Easy as that?" she asked.
"I didn't say it would be easy," he said. "When has anything ever been easy for us?"
"Jack," she said. "I…"
"Don't," he said. "Carter, don't. Save it for when I can do something about it."
She closed her mouth and nodded. She relaxed against him once more, feeling his heart beat through his chest, his pulse points, the soft tapping of his thumb against her delicate wrist bone. She shut her eyes and wished, just this once, for a long and endless night.