Tucking the two, novel-sized black plastic cases under her arm, Sam Carter slammed the door of her Grand Cherokee closed, listening as the door made a solid connection. Swinging her remote entry fob into her hand, she triggered the "lock" button and watched as the fog lights blinked twice. They were followed by a "click" from the electronic locks. Satisfied, she turned on her heel and headed up the walk to Colonel O'Neill's front door. She then rang the doorbell.
As she stood on his doorstep, Sam looked down at the toes of her shoes. They were her lounge-about shoes, the shoes she never allowed to see the light of day, save those infrequent times where she was free to lay on the sofa and read all day. Made of canvas, they were brown and dingy, despite having just been washed. The toes were worn thin as they frayed around the edges; at the crease, the sole threatened to separate from the bottom of the shoe.
She blinked. They reminded her starkly of the tattered clothing she had worn on P3R-118.
Then she could smell it: the scent of sweat and grimy bodies, unwashed after days of hard labor; she could almost feel the grit on her own skin and in her teeth. Mingled in the air, she could detect the faint odor of moist earth, fused with the nauseating scent of burning fuel. She could even feel the unnatural heat given off by the high-pressure steam, even though the Colorado air around her was a cool sixty degrees.
//But that was a week ago, Carter,// she scolded herself. Shaking her head, she glanced up at the as yet unopened door. She forced herself to draw in the clean air around her, flipping her wrist to glance at her watch. Where the hell was O'Neill anyway, she wondered with a sigh.
Colonel Jack O'Neill allowed his thick, dark blue towel to fall to the tiled bathroom floor as he paused just to the side of a full bathtub. Raising his left foot, he very carefully lowered it into the warm bath, allowing it to be engulfed by the gentle tickle of fluffy white bubbles. He then repeated procedure with his right foot and stood in the two feet of water. Hesitantly, he lowered himself down, grasping the sides of the tub for support.
//Damn, Jack,// he thought as the bubbles surrounded his midsection. He winced as he finally touched bottom. //Could you get it much hotter? Maybe I should have tossed in a few carrots...// Leaning back against the porcelain-coated steel, he chuckled. "Wabbit stew," he commented aloud. He sighed. It really was time for a vacation.
Closing his eyes, O'Neill allowed the warm water to gently heat the achy, tired muscles in his back, his thighs and calves. Idly he wondered why, as people age, they forsake the comfort of a hot bath for the speed of a hot shower; there really was nothing better than a hot bath after a demanding op. He had dreamt of this moment for days after debriefing about P3R-118, waiting until good ol' Doc Frasier gave the team a clean bill of physical health. The emotional and mental scarring, she said, would take longer to heal.
His mind flickered briefly to an image of Sam Carter. The image flashed, replaced by another, her ruddy face shaded orange in the dim lighting of a nearby fire. The flames danced in her blue eyes as she regarded him, her affection apparent. Next, he felt the cool pressure of cement behind him, the warmth of a body next to him; he felt weight drop to his shoulder. Carter was seated on the dusty floor beside him, her head resting against his shoulder as they contemplated their options. His mind then flashed to the debriefing, where she had avoided eye contact throughout the entire meeting. //A hell of a lot longer than you think, Doc...//
The silence-shattering chime of the doorbell snapped him from his peaceful reverie.
"Aw, hell," he muttered. Grabbing the sides of the tub, he paused. //No,// he thought. If it's really important, they'll come back. He sighed and returned to his reclined position amongst the hot water and scented bubbles... while trying to push the images of Sam Carter a little further back in his mind.
Sam frowned, glancing at her watch. It was well after 11 PM now, and O'Neill had promised he would be home... if she needed to talk. She glanced to her movies. Not that she needed to talk, she thought, but that she dreaded being alone. She needed to sit in the warm company of her best friend and lose herself in the escapist world of a good movie. Pursing her lips, she tried the knob; she found it unlocked. //Maybe he's out back...// Sam eased the door open and slipped quietly into the house.
"Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit..."
As she gently closed the door, Sam turned and stopped. She recognized the tired, gravelly tones as they carried through the empty house. Jack? //Singing?// Surely not. "Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit..." the voice continued warbling.
//That's *definitely* Jack.// Sam arched a brow and slowly made her way down the darkened corridor to the bathroom. The bathroom door stood open, bright light spilling out onto the tan carpeting. She carefully leaned toward the doorframe, just out of sight. "Sir?" she asked aloud.
In the tub, Jack blinked and sat up. "Sam?"
"Are you decent, sir?" Carter replied.
"Uhm, yeah. I mean -- " But before he could correct himself, Sam ducked into the bathroom, keys in her right hand, two movies tucked under her left arm. "...no," he finished, his lips pursing. He looked up at his 2IC. Her cheeks were now a flaming red, and her eyes showed her embarrassment.
"I -- I'm so sorry, sir," she stammered. Blinking, she suddenly shook her head and whirled around on her heel, turning her back to him. "I rang the bell, but I didn't get an answer..."
"Don't worry about it, Carter," O'Neill replied, interrupting her in mid-apology. "I was being too lazy to answer my own door. Serves me right." He chuckled. "You *can* turn around, you know." With a smile, he grabbed his can of shaving cream from the side of the tub and began applying it to his week's worth of stubble.
Sam turned, her cheeks still lightly rosy. "Sorry, sir," she said again. Her eyes drifted to the mounds of white fluffiness which floated atop the warm bathwater. She chuckled. "Never saw you as the bubble bath type, sir."
Jack tossed her a sidelong glare. He reached next for the small, hand-held mirror which rested on a shelf inside the shower stall; next to it was a new razor, still capped. Removing the cap, he leant forward, careful to maintain protected by the cover of bubbles. "There's probably a lot of things you don't know about me, Carter," he quipped.
Carter watched as he tilted his chin, his dark eyes remaining on the reflection in the small mirror. A slightly unsteady hand brought the razor to his neck. He sighed, dropping both hands into the water beside him. "Like, I can't shave one-handed," he mumbled.
"Here." Sam shook her head and placed both her keys and the videos on the counter beside the standard, oval sink. She then crossed to the side of the tub, reaching out her hand. As Jack placed the dripping razor into her palm, it never occurred to either that she could simply hold the mirror.
Standing, Sam put the razor in her left hand, slipping her right arm out of the denim jacket she wore; switching hands, she repeated the steps for her left arm. Tossing the jacket next to the puddle of dark blue towel on the floor, she then resumed her seat on the edge of the tub. "Now, tilt your head that way."
O'Neill did as he was told, tilting the top of his head slightly away from Carter. This gave her better access to the stubble beneath his ear and below the jaw hinge. He tensed slightly as the blade came to rest against his skin. He relaxed considerably, however, as the blade glided smoothly over the stubble, cutting it well with one swipe. "Where'd you learn to do this, Carter?" he asked at length.
"My father broke his arm one summer after my mother died," Sam replied with a rueful smile. She swished the lather-coated blade in the water, rinsing off the hair and shaving cream. "He had command inspection three days later, so, unable to shave with only one hand, he 'recruited' assistance."
"So Dad broke his arm, huh?"
"Yeah." Sam narrowed her eyes as she intently worked her way through the thick stubble.
"It's kind of silly really, sir..."
"Seriously, Sam. How?"
Carter cleared her throat, pausing. O'Neill turned and looked at her. "Roller skating," she answered.
"*Roller skating*?" Jack echoed. "You're kidding, right?"
"No, sir, I'm not." A chuckle emerged from her as she tilted O'Neill's head back in the right direction, bringing the razor back into contact with the growth. "My cousin, Tabitha, was having a birthday party and, because her father was on deployment, my father was slated to fill in. The bad part was, this was a skating party -- complete with roller rink and bad pizza.
"Dad got out there and was doing pretty well... until one of the kids zipped past him backwards. He got spooked and fell, landing on his left arm. The x-rays said he broke it in two places. Kept him on light duty for almost a year because of physical therapy and recovery."
"D'oh!" Jack exclaimed. The mental image of Jacob Carter on roller skates was definitely an amusing one. "Guess there is something to be said for havin' a snake after all..."
Sam shook her head with a chuckle, once again adjusting the tilt of O'Neill's chin. She poked at the jawbone with her index finger. "Look up."
"Yes, ma'am." Tossing off a sloppy salute, Jack complied, staring upward at the floral-patterned plaster ceiling. Delicately, felt the blade touch the skin just above his adam's apple, then slowly glide upward, following the gentle curve of his neck. A shiver ran through his body and his eyes closed. She stopped.
Opening his eyes, Jack looked to Sam. She remained on the edge of the tub, but her hands sat in her lap, idly tracing the handle of the razor with her index finger. In her mind, she remembered brief moments between "Thera" and "Jonah" -- a gentle touch, a nudge, surreptitious glances, and stolen kisses. Those were the moments that never made the mission report, the moments they both remembered but were too frightened of what they could mean.
Slowly, Sam raised her blue eyes to meet his. There it was, all spelled out, in no uncertain terms: She couldn't stop herself from remembering. "We can't take it back, sir... and, it appears, neither one of us can forget about it..."
O'Neill pursed his lips, continuing to hold Sam's eyes with his own willful gaze. "Only one thing left to do, then."
"And that is?"
"Jack..." Carter gave a frustrated sigh, unable to break away from the gaze of her commanding officer. How many times had she told herself she was not going to be here, like this? How many times had she told herself they could manage to be professional, to fight against the attraction between them? //There's your problem, Sammie,// an inner voice said, it's not just attraction, and you know it.// Slowly, she licked her lips, hesitantly leaning down. His lips met hers half way, tender in their pressure and warm in their promise. For Jack, the kiss was as sweet as he remembered from the monotonous time loops; for Sam, it was at once an admission, a failure, and a triumph. While she had finally confronted the depth of her feelings for Jack O'Neill, she had failed to let her brilliant mind win over her unruly heart. Yet, despite this, she truly had won the battle... she would have him by her side. And that, she knew, neither would take lightly.
Instinctively, Jack sensed her inner struggle. He could feel the slight tremble in her lips as tears threatened her closed blue eyes. Surely she knew this wasn't just about lust, sex, desire; it was about love, affection, and caring -- worth sacrificing for, worth taking a risk for. His brow furrowed. Gently, he parted her lips with his own, deepening the kiss. He had to make sure she *knew.*
And then she responded in kind.
After a moment, Jack pulled tentatively back, searching her eyes out once again with his own. His dark eyes asked a silent question. Sam gave a rueful smile and a nod of her head. "I'm fine," she said quietly. She chuckled as she wiped at his half-shaven face. She missed the mischievous gleam that sparked suddenly in his eyes.
With the reflexes of a cat, O'Neill's arms shot out of the water, grabbing Carter around the waist. He pulled toward him and she screamed, laughing. He looked down at her as he cradled her in his arms, both of them still laughing; water rippled over the edges of the tub, splattering to the floor. "I think we're gonna need a bigger tub." He kissed her quickly on the lips.
"I think you're right." She quickly returned the kiss, returning his grin. "And I think I'm going to need dry clothes."