Of Big Lunches and First Impressions
A little insert for "Children of the Gods" inspired by a recent SG-1 rewatch on the Sam/Jack Ship Appreciation Thread on GW. I figured their had to be some reason that Jack knew Sam had had a big lunch before going through the Stargate the first time, and this is what came out! Enjoy! –Jess
Jack checked his watch for the third time in as many minutes.
Two hours until ship out.
The hum of adrenaline ran through his veins, and he realized just how long the last year had been.
Living hour to hour, trying not to think about what he'd lost and failing miserably, it had been a slow, numb existence, made only more numb by the Guinness constantly stocked in the fridge. Jack would be deluding himself if he said he wasn't excited to step through the Stargate again. This was the first time he'd felt alive in months.
An hour and fifty-seven minutes.
He had nothing to do, no way to occupy himself, so he settled for pacing the drab corridors under Cheyenne Mountain. Eventually, he ended up in the mess hall, which looked similar to the last time he was here. It was pretty empty, but considering the number of airmen that were stationed under a mountain in Colorado, that wasn't really a surprise.
Looking around, he noticed Kawalsky and Ferretti and a few others playing a loud game of cards at one of the tables. He was about to join them when he noticed a solitary figure sitting on the far edge of the mess.
It was Captain Carter, who'd changed into the camo fatigues like the rest of the base. Her tray was piled high with what passed as food here, and she was shoveling a forkful of spaghetti into her mouth like she hadn't eaten in days.
Jack smirked and shook his head. He remembered the way he felt after his first experience with 'gate travel. The know-it-all Captain Doctor would get a rude awakening when she stepped through the wormhole. But maybe a healthy dose of humiliation would be just what she needed to get the stick out of her butt.
He continued over to the table with the card game, but a guilty twinge in his gut made him reconsider.
First impressions: Sam – not Samantha – Carter was a wide-eyed, overly-enthusiastic, pain-in-the-ass who was used to being the smartest person in the room, but even Jack couldn't deny that her record was impressive. Besides, by the sound of it, they wouldn't have even gone to Abydos the first time if it weren't for her. He had her to thank for the adrenaline pumping through him now. She didn't deserve humiliation on her first trip through the device she made operational.
Jack sighed grudgingly before striding over to the small table and taking the empty seat opposite the Captain. She looked up in surprise and in that moment, Jack grabbed her tray and slid it over to his side.
"You might wanna save some food for the rest of us, Captain," he said with a mischievous grin.
She pursed her lips, and pulled the tray back towards her. "I haven't eaten all day, sir. My plane was delayed coming in from Arlington. "
He reached over to snatch a grape and popped it into his mouth. Her expression was a mixture of annoyance and disbelief that he was actually stealing food off her tray.
"Which explains why you were fashionably late this morning." He chewed around the fruit.
"Yes, sir. Sorry about that."
She was choosing to ignore the grape situation. Instead, she spun her fork in the pasta until she had a baseball sized mass and stuck it in her mouth. She reached up to wipe a spot of sauce from her lips.
"Don't be." Jack waved her off, before pinioning her with a teasing look. "Unless you were the reason the plane was late."
Captain Carter gave a little smile and shook her head. Jack was glad to know she could take a joke. You know, when she wasn't lecturing him in front of his men, she really was very … Jack cleared his throat and moved passed whatever thought that was going to be.
"As it was, it was an … impressive display." He gave a lazy grin. "I've never had a sex ed lecture during a briefing before."
She had the decency to look embarrassed. She ducked her head in that demure way she'd done in the briefing before looking up again. "Look, I apologize if I came across as disrespectful, sir. That really wasn't my intention. But when you've been a woman in the Air Force as long as I have, you realize that sometimes you have shock people to get them to look at you differently."
"Well, congratulations, Captain," he answered. "It's an effective strategy. Do you challenge all of your commanding officers to arm-wrestle?"
She shrugged. "When I have to."
"When is that?' he asked, genuinely curious.
She bit her lip in hesitation before continuing. "When it seems my work isn't being taken seriously."
A flush of embarrassment rushed through Jack's face. Okay, so he hadn't been the most welcoming after Captain Carter's sudden appearance. He'd been taken off-guard and more than a little annoyed that General Hammond had placed her on his team without discussion. All he'd been able to see was that she was another scientist he was supposed to schlep around. Still, Jack conceded that he'd jumped to a few conclusions and said things he probably shouldn't have.
"Well, you've made your point, Captain Doctor," he said good-naturedly, hoping that it served an apology.
The Captain gave a terse nod and shoveled some mixed vegetables into her mouth. When she sat back in her seat, she seemed more relaxed than before, and Jack was struck by how young she looked. He'd taken a quick look at her file an hour before, so he knew that she wasn't a green cadet, but her bright eyes still held a youthful idealism. It was a bit like the naïveté that he'd seen in Daniel Jackson. Hopeful. Willing to see the best in the world.
A part of Jack worried that was a dangerous mindset to bring through the 'gate, but a part of him envied her too. He'd lost that outlook decades ago.
"Was there something that you wanted, sir?" Captain Carter took a liberal bite of a strawberry pastry, and Jack remembered his real purpose in coming over here.
"No, nothing," he said, innocently. He leaned over the table. "I was just looking to give you some friendly advice."
He picked up an empty saltshaker and spun it in his fingers. "Yeah, since you're new to this whole 'gate travel thing, you might wanna know that there are a few side effects to watch out for: nausea, dizziness, vomiting, feeling like you've been stuck in a washing machine for two hours, i.e. all things that don't really mix well with a full stomach."
He grabbed another grape off her plate and rolled it around in his fingers before popping it in his mouth. He wasn't hungry, and he knew he shouldn't eat so soon before going through the Stargate, but after all, he was her new CO. He was duty-bound to let her know what to expect, and if he had to steal her food to do so, then so be it.
"Are you sure you're not just telling me this so you can eat more of my food, sir?" Jack appreciated that she felt comfortable enough to banter with him already.
He placed his hand over his chest melodramatically. "Captain, I'm hurt. Do you really think I'd come over here for personal gain?"
She gave a little eyebrow raise that clearly conveyed her answer. He actually was a little hurt she thought that about him.
"Well, Captain. I've tried to get you to see reason and that's all I can do." He spread his hands in acceptance and leaned back in the chair, balancing precariously on its back legs. "It's your lunch. If you wanna wear that pasta down your front, I guess that's your choice."
The Captain seemed to consider that for a second. She bit her lip as she pushed the spaghetti around her plate, but her hunger won out, and she took another bite.
"Colonel, I know what to expect. Didn't you hear what I said to…" She reached for the name.
"Kawalsky," he said automatically. "Major."
"Yes, Major Kawalsky."
"You know, I did hear what you said, Captain." He leaned forward, looking at her more seriously than before. "And I know you think you know what to expect. You're sure you've pulled enough G's in the centrifuge to handle this, and you can articulate all of the little sciencey processes that will occur when you step through the 'gate. But now you've got to stop being a scientist. Theoretical knowledge isn't the same as practical experience. "
She stared at him fixedly. He leaned back again, knowing she was hearing him.
"You've got to believe me that the Stargate doesn't feel at all like the G's you pull in the centrifuge, or in an F-16 for that matter. Traveling through that thing feels like you're being stretched and compressed simultaneously. It's like freefalling through that blizzard Ferretti was talking about, but that blizzard is shredding you into tinier and tinier pieces until there's nothing left."
Jack set the saltshaker down on the table and spun it on its side. "And even once you're back in one piece and that thing spits you out on the other side, your brain is still spinning like a top inside your head. So you might wanna listen to your old new CO; you don't wanna do that after an all-you-can-eat buffet."
After a moment, Captain Carter stared down at her meal, now contemplating it like it was a snake about to attack. A few seconds later, she picked up her napkin, wiped her mouth, set it on her plate, and pushed the tray away, clearly indicating she was finished. She gave him a little smile that showed she understood what he was saying.
Jack nodded in recognition, and stood to leave. "I'll see you in…" he looked at his watch, "one hour and forty-two minutes, Captain."
As he pushed his chair in, Carter's voice stopped him. There was an undisguised intensity to her words. "Sir, Dr. Jackson was … is a scientist, yes? An archaeologist?"
"From your report, it seems that Dr. Jackson was responsible for saving your life as well as the lives of your men."
"Yes," he conceded. "He did."
"Then you might say that he made a significant contribution to the team?"
"You might," Jack said evenly.
She held his gaze directly. "All I ask is that I'm allowed the same opportunity, sir."
Her blue eyes were wide, and Jack was struck again by how young she was. But behind the idealism he could see an enthusiastic dedication, a desire to prove herself, and Jack was surprised to find that he didn't doubt her. Not one bit.
"You've got it, Captain. See that you don't let me down," he said before turning toward the mess hall doors. "You can start by getting through the 'gate without losing that big lunch of yours."