What the Hell had just happened?
She was too stunned to react, and found herself actually enjoying her current position.
Her *very* compromising current position.
Her compromising her-head-on-his-lap-and-his-hand-on-her-head position.
She didn't dare to move or say anything, afraid that it would break the spell. Oh man, she really had it bad. Well, her mood contributed to her decision, too.
"Comfortable?" he suddenly asked. His hand was ... it couldn't be ... seriously, it couldn't be ...
Oh. My. Word.
Her eyes went as wide as they could. Fortunately, their sitting (he was sitting, she was half-sprawled on him) arrangement didn't allow him to see it.
He was *petting* her.
Like she was a pet ... or a little girl ... or a hysterical woman. Whichever. It didn't change the fact that she found it a little bit disturbing. And soothing. Definitely soothing.
Seriously, what was wrong with her?
Just when she thought that she had him all figured out, he always managed to do something surprising. And sweet. And cute.
"Uhm ... not that I don't appreciate this, Sir, but ..." She was staring at her TV screen the whole time.
"But what?" he asked. The petting stopped. But not entirely. Now, he was stroking the white column of her neck. Gently. Sensually.
Oh yes, she had it *really* bad.
Shivering involuntarily from the sensation, she closed her eyes and swallowed a content sigh.
"Why ... all this?" she made a vague gesture with her free hand in the general direction of her coffee-table, where a box of pizza and six-pack of cold beer rested. He had brought it to her house.
She was mildly shocked to find him on her doorstep earlier, but his company was always welcomed. They exchanged pleasantries, went to her living room. He put the food and beverages on the table, she sat next to him, he placed a pillow on his lap, she raised her eyebrow and voila, with all his skill (and minimum handling - how the Hell did he do it?), her head soon hit the pillow and her feet rested on the other end of the sofa.
Damn, he was *smooth*.
"This is comfort food, Carter." She could hear the amusement in his voice and the smile on his lips.
She chuckled at that. "And what have I done to deserve this?"
"Can't I just do something nice for you for once?" He refused to tell her the truth, not that it mattered anyway. "Without any ulterior motive?" he teased her.
She knew exactly why he was there. She had just ended her relationship with Pete. Things just didn't work out between the two of them.
She touched his knee and squeezed it. "Thanks."
The hand moved to her upper arm. He leaned forward to reach for a bottle of beer, effectively trapping her head between the pillow on his lap and his chest, overwhelming her with his warmth. However, she didn't feel trapped, on the contrary, she felt safe and protected.
Weird. But not completely impossible.
She was a strong and smart woman. Independent and intelligent. She didn't need a man to defend her, and she hated it when they played protector and just assumed that she was weak. She liked doing things on her own, writing her own fate with her own hand. However, he knew her like no one else did. Well, that was not completely true. Daniel, Janet and Teal'c knew her like he did, but that was beside the point.
The *point* was that she trusted him to protect her. Because even she realized that she could not make it alone, that she needed her friends and family. He protected her not because he thought she was weak. He protected her because he knew that she needed it. That was why she didn't mind.
He leaned back and she missed his body heat already. It was nice to know that he was near.
"How am I supposed to eat and drink while I'm lying like this?" she complained, but not whole-heartedly.
"Improvise." He took a swing of his drink. "You're good at that."
She muttered, "Sure. Improvise. How hard could that be?"
They hung out too much. That sarcasm had his name written all over it.
The TV screen suddenly lit up with bright colors. Apparently, he took the remote control while he was reaching for the beer as well. She should have seen that coming. She had more channels than he did and he knew it all too well. Much to her surprise, he did not hesitate and went straight to one of the sports channels showing a hockey match.
Needless to say, she was peeved. Honestly, what on Earth was he thinking?
"Is this your sole reason to come by my place?" To watch *hockey*?
"Well, I thought you needed company. And while I do that, I might kill two birds with one stone."
He could be so infuriating sometimes.
But she welcomed it. She didn't want his pity and he had given her none. This was normal (as normal as it could be with her head on his lap - she still couldn't get over that fact), and she appreciated it. She pursed her lips together and bit back a retort. She'd plan her retribution later on for that remark, but not now.
"Can we watch something else?" It didn't stop her from being difficult though. "This is my TV after all."
"No." The reply was automatic.
She sighed. "Alright. I didn't want to do this, but you forced my hand. I watched the news earlier and the score will be hmph --"
The hand on her mouth muffled the unwanted information. He had amazingly quick reflexes.
"Carter, that's not nice," he chastised her.
She pulled away the hand that covered her mouth. "I don't do nice."
"Fine." He relented. "What do you want to watch then?"
He groaned. That was easily translated as a 'no'.
"The Science channel?" she tried again.
"Sci-fi?" Sometimes, the temptation to tease him was too much to resist. "They're usually showing reruns of Wormhole X-treme at these hours."
"Carter ..." he warned.
Grinning, she acknowledged that victory was on her side. "SoapNet?"
For her, it was a must to put icing on the cake.
With that, the TV screen went blank. He grunted in disgust. "Never pegged you as someone who doesn't play fair, Major."
"Never pegged you as a sore loser, Sir." She was on the brink of losing her composure. There was just something about him that always made her laugh.
"Sure, kick a man while he's down, why don't you."
She took a deep breath and counted to five. She would not laugh. If he was ever down (on the floor or on any surface at all), kicking was the last thing she would have done to him. The idea of him being vulnerable was hilarious.
She. Would. Not. Laugh.
On his lap.
"Oh yeah, and kick his puppies too while you're at it."
Tears started to form in her eyes. Her stomach was starting to hurt from all the giggling. She was hysterical.
"Please," she pleaded between breaths. "Don't." Her dictionary was reduced to one-syllable words. Dabbing the wetness in her eyes with her sleeves, she tried to control her emotions. It took her more than five minutes to pull herself together.
When her breathing slowed and the pain in her stomach subsided, a smile played upon her lips. She knew exactly what had happened. "Thanks, Sir."
'For everything' was not a good enough answer. Being with him had always made her forget about anything else.
"Just for being here."
"Think nothing of it," he paused. "But if you allow me to watch that match, I'll be the one that's grateful."
That set her off again. For the second time, she was a helpless giggling bundle who cried in his lap.
"It wasn't even funny," she observed after she stopped hyperventilating. "I don't know why I'm laughing."
"Yes," she confessed. "Maybe --" she stopped because she honestly didn't know what to say.
"You don't have to tell me anything," he said a few moments after the abrupt end of her speech.
She knew that he hated a heart-to-heart talking, because he often found himself in an awkward situation and didn't have the right words to say. And yet, here he was, willingly putting himself in an uncomfortable situation for her. That gave her courage.
"I don't love him," she blurted out. "I like him. A lot. But like is not love, is it?"
"Look, Carter, if you don't want to talk about it, I understand."
She turned on her back so that she could see him. "No. I want to. I want you to understand."
There was something in his eyes that broke her heart. He whispered, "Understand what?"
Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and released it in the same manner. And when she finally opened her eyelids, determination was on her face.
"I tried. To move on. To find happiness." Both of her hands were clasped together, twisting and fidgeting to mask her nerves. "But then I realized that I've been looking in the wrong places. Do I really have to move on? If yes, where from? I love my life the way it is. There *are* things that I want, things that I'm not allowed to have. But that's life, isn't it?"
"Sam ..." the name on his lips sounded like a caress to her. She had been waiting for so long to hear that. He touched her cheek with the palm of his hand and she shuddered in ecstasy.
This was worth the price that she was going to pay.
"Please, let me finish first." Before she lost the courage and didn't let him know. "I am happy. Maybe my work is a little bit time-consuming and dangerous, but that's how I like it. If I don't make any sacrifices in life, I won't go anywhere, will I?"
"That's the general idea." He shrugged his shoulders.
"So, if I decided to sacrifice the present, take my chances and do the best that I can, there's nothing wrong with that, is there?"
"I suppose not."
"I ..." she hesitated for a mere second. "I *want* to wait for the right time to come. I am willing to wait for a chance, no matter how slim. I used to think of *it* as a safe bet, a way for me to prevent any heartache. But it's not a safe bet, far from it in fact. Because it can hurt me more than any man ever could."
"Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
He wasn't the fool that he had led everyone to think he was. He knew what 'it' was. Or rather, who 'it' was.
"Yes. When I was with Pete, I was looking for happiness, but what I got was contentment. That's why I ended it. Because this is not just about me and I don't want to hurt him in the long run. We won't work, no matter how much I might try. I *have* my happiness ... I just can't have it right now." She made sure that they maintained eye-contact throughout the confession, to let him know how serious she was.
"Don't let it hold you back. It might not be worth it."
She knew what he was thinking. He thought he wasn't good enough for her, that he didn't deserve the happiness that she would give him. But she had to disagree with him. He had done wonderful things for her. He had even broken his own principles for her, taking a Tok'ra symbiote just because she didn't want him to die. Granted, there were other circumstantial factors that affected his decision, but she thought no less of it.
She rose from the sofa and sat next to him. "It will," she stated firmly. Her blue eyes challenged his to contradict her. "I know in my heart it will."
They stared at each other for a long time. The close proximity of their bodies contributed to the tension that filled the air. She had made her move, now it was his turn.
"Come here," he finally said, offering his strong arms to embrace her.
Like a moth drawn to flame, she went freely. Her arms wrapped around his neck, holding him as close as possible, her head buried in the crook of his neck. His hands roamed along her back, moving in random patterns.
She couldn't help but inhale his unique scent. She could hear their heartbeats in perfect harmony. He touched her deeper than anyone ever had, caressing places that she didn't know existed until she met him.
This is happiness, her hazy mind told her.
And she didn't mind waiting to have it.
* The End *