The base was quiet – no sirens, no gate alerts, no running feet. Most of the lights were off or on low, it helped everyone keep some kind of feeling of what was day and night. She felt like maybe she should have gone home already, but there was that gnawing feeling. Sometimes it felt like the SGC was more home than her home was – she spent more time there than anywhere else after all.
Also Colonel O'Neill was still in the infirmary.
And she wasn't quite ready to leave him any further than a two minute walk away, afraid that she was going to wake up tomorrow and find out that finding him had all been a dream.
'Thanks for covering, Major.'
She looked around to see Walter appearing with a tray of food, halfway through a sip of coffee. She lowered her coffee cup and smiled at him as he took his seat next to her.
'Not a problem. How come you got stuck with the night shift?'
'I volunteered,' Walter responded. 'Nowhere near as much action in the middle of the night and sometimes it's nice to have a quiet day in the office.'
Sam laughed. 'Yeah, I can understand that!'
'Why are you still here?'
Ah, the dreaded question. She forced a smile.
'I'm about to head off, just wanted to skip rush hour traffic,' she lied.
He bought it.
After a few more pointless sentences were exchanged she stood up. 'Well I'm going to head home. Enjoy your night shift.'
That wasn't where she headed though. Instead she wandered to the mess hall. There was still some leftover food in one corner, but they were mostly packing up.
'Nothing left for an injured man?'
The voice came from behind her and she felt comforted, he was actually there. Turning around she couldn't hide the huge smile on her face.
'Sir! Janet let you out of the infirmary?'
He shrugged, a sly smile on his lips. 'Dr Fraiser may have gone home early – '
She gave him a judgemental look.
'She did tell me I could go home tonight if I wanted,' he defended himself. 'Although she recommended I stay here.'
He took a few steps forward to inspect the food.
'Do you have anything other than day old sushi?'
The chef ignored him. He turned back to Sam. She smiled. 24 hours earlier she had been sitting in the locker room, bawling her eyes out, thinking she was never going to see him again. Now he was here, standing right in front of her like nothing had ever happened.
'The service around here,' he commented, smiling.
They stood there, smiling at each other, for perhaps a moment too long before she looked at the ground.
'Sir, do you want to go and grab dinner in town somewhere?'
'Sure. Have you got anywhere in mind?'
He didn't even hesitate.
That pleased her, although she didn't want to admit it.
'In fact, I do.'
The restaurant was nice – small, quiet, a fire in the corner, a band playing in the next room. Slightly romantic, but not too romantic. That wasn't what she wanted. Actually she didn't know what she wanted. She knew she wanted to be as close to him as possible right then, but she also knew she couldn't be as close as she wanted.
Jack held up his empty beer glass. She glanced at her watch.
'Carter, we're off-duty for the next week, remember?'
'Yes, sir, but I do have a lot of – '
She looked back up at him and caught his gaze. It was there. That thing she hadn't seen for the last few years, the thing she had almost thought had disappeared completely.
'Sam, stay a bit longer,' he said quietly.
'Okay. Then yes, I'd love more beer,' she almost whispered her response.
He stood up and grabbed her glass, touching her shoulder lightly as he did so. She closed her eyes and savoured the second before it was over. Then it was gone. Part of her panicked – even though she knew that he would be back in a minute, she had spent the last month slowly losing hope that she would ever see him again.
Turning around she watched him standing at the bar, tapping his finger on the bar top, waiting while the bartender poured his drink. It was like nothing had ever happened. To anyone else in this bar they just seemed like two normal people, having dinner, maybe even being out on a date. They didn't know that they were Air Force, that she had spent the last month trying to locate him while he was lost on an alien planet.
Sometimes she wished she didn't know that either.
He turned and smiled at her, faltering for a moment when he noticed her watching. The bartender interrupted him and gave him his beers and he walked back over to her.
'Whatcha looking at?' he asked as he placed the beer down in front of her.
For a moment she didn't respond, weighing up her options. Had she had enough beers for honesty?
Yeah. Yeah she had.
'I thought I was never going to see you again,' she said quietly, as though maybe if she didn't say it too loudly, the military couldn't judge her for it.
'Yeah,' he said, suddenly serious. 'I thought that too. Particularly when Maybourne had that P-90 aimed right at me.'
They both fell silent again and after a moment he reached forward, placing his hand on top of hers. Her instinct was to pull it away – what if someone saw them? What if they were dobbed in to General Hammond and her job was taken away from her? What if she was never allowed near the Stargate again because of one stupid little –
'Don't sir me,' he responded.
Then he took a deep breath. She remained silent, but could still feel her body tensed up.
'What if – ' he paused again. 'What if for one night we just pretend that there's no SGC or SG1 and we just get really drunk and play Mario Kart?'
She laughed. His ability to stay serious never lasted longer than a few minutes. It was still dangerous, still unknown territory, but maybe it was worth it. Just for one night.
As he begun to slip his hand away, she hooked her fingers into his and looked him in the eye.
'Okay,' she whispered.
'I'll get the check.'
They had constructed something vaguely resembling a cushion fort on the ground and were both leaning against the sofa on the floor, an empty bottle of whisky between them and an old N64 set up in front of them.
'Carter, I sure hope you don't drink drive, you're not very good at it.'
She gritted her teeth as she fell off the edge for the tenth time in a row. 'You distracted me! There's no way I would have fallen off if you hadn't just made fun of my driving.'
He laughed and dropped the remote as he crossed the finish line. She determinedly finished her run around the Rainbow Road as he placed and arm behind on the couch and watched.
'You have the most adorable concentration face,' he said.
'Your sarcasm is not appreciated.'
'You're going to come last anyway, the Nintendo beat you, nine times.'
She passed the finish line – in last place – and picked up the nearest cushion, throwing it at his head. He laughed and threw it aside and then suddenly before she knew what was happening, his lips were on hers.
She pulled back.
'Sir – '
'What did I say about using that word?'
She could see the hurt in his eyes. They were both extremely drunk, but they couldn't have this, no matter how much they wanted it, no matter who they were pretending to be in that moment.
'I'm sorry,' he whispered, turning back to face the screen.
She watched him for a moment.
She wanted this so much.
She had wanted this every minute of every day for six years, since their first mission. Not just the part where they could make out and rip each other's clothes off (although she definitely wanted that too).
The sitting on the ground, playing Mario Kart and drinking whisky.
Being normal together.
She reached out and pulled his face back around to face her.
'I missed you,' she said quietly, letting her hand drop, clinging to the top of his shirt. 'Teal'c caught me crying in the locker room – '
'He told me,' he cut her off.
And then his hand was on her arm, tracing across her skin lightly, a touch that felt so forbidden, yet so completely right.
'That bastard promised me he wouldn't tell anyone,' she joked.
He didn't laugh, although he did smile slightly. He was thinking, watching his finger tracing up and down her skin.
They both fell silent for a moment, her grip on his shirt collar tightening as the feeling of his fingers tracing up and down her arm got harder and harder to bear.
She could hear his breath shallowing and felt hers doing the same.
'After Sarah I never thought I would fall for anyone again,' he eyes were still focused on her arm. 'It just never occurred to me that I could. I thought I was broken.'
She didn't know what to say, suddenly even her own heartbeat sounded too loud in her ears.
There was a long pause before he spoke again.
'But I think I was wrong,' he was speaking so quietly but in that moment he met her gaze and he really didn't need to say another word. 'I know we can't be together, but I want to pretend, tonight, because I thought I was never going to see you again and I can't do that again without knowing what it would've been like.'
'I'm okay with pretending for tonight,' it took all her willpower not to include a 'sir' on the end of her sentence.
His lips were against hers in a second, not softly like they had been a moment before hand, but hungry, full of need and want. His hand gripped her arm tightly, and her hand found its way around his neck, trying to pull him closer, like that was possible.
It only took her a second to find his buttons with her other hand and begin to undo them.
She had always imagined them at least making it to the bedroom, but it looked like the journey into the next room was going to be too far.
His hands found the bottom of her t-shirt and pulled it up, over her head. And then suddenly he was on top of her, his shirt also gone, his kissing slowing down, becoming less fervent.
She wanted to tell him she loved him, right then, that he was the only person she had ever loved and ever wanted to love and that she wanted to be with him forever. He hesitated, as though he felt it.
'Are you okay?' he asked, lightly pushing his hand through her hair.
They looked into each other's eyes for a moment before she pulled his lips back down to meet hers.
'Very much so,' she whispered as she kissed him again.
Waking up the next morning she knew it had actually happened and she wasn't sure what that meant. Somehow they had eventually made it to his bed – maybe on their third round – although he was nowhere to be seen.
Sitting up she looked around, taking it all in.
This could be her life.
Except it couldn't.
She grabbed looked around for her clothes but couldn't see any, instead grabbing one of his t-shirts and slipping it on. She walked out to the living area. It was a mess – her bra slung over the back of the couch, her jeans over near the television, a pile of cushions all over the place.
As she did so the smell of food hit her nose.
She grabbed her jeans and pulled them on quickly.
Wandering into the kitchen she found him standing over a frying pan, cooking up bacon. His hair was standing up in all directions, as she was sure hers was, but there was a smile on his face as he hummed to himself.
He looked over at her and she almost faulted at the look he gave her.
He loved her.
In the exact same way that she loved him, in that stupid, sappy, wanting to spend their lives together way. The impractical way.
Suddenly her logical side got the better of her and she felt her smile fade.
'Grey hair and bottles of whisky don't go well together, I need some greasy fat to get me through the day,' he responded.
Someone had to bring it up.
'Sir – '
It was all she needed to say.
The slump in his shoulders was visible, and suddenly his concentration was focused solely on the pan of bacon.
'Damnit, Carter,' he said after a moment, dropping the spatula on the kitchen counter and turning to face her. 'You couldn't have just pretended for another hour or so?'
'How long do you think we can go on pretending?'
'I don't know, how about six years or so? Isn't that how long we've been pretending that there's nothing between us?'
That stung. That stung because it was the truth. She could feel her chest tightening in a panic, the realisation of what they had just done suddenly overcoming any feelings of happiness that she had been having up until that moment.
'I should go,' she whispered.
He was pleading. She hesitated and looked up at him. He walked over to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. She didn't pull away from his touch, she didn't need to anymore.
'Don't leave. I love you,' he spoke softly, but firmly. 'I want this.'
She felt the tears fighting the back of her eyes, trying to get out, but she couldn't let him see that. She wanted this too, but the planet needed him, needed them both.
'No, sir,' she stepped back. 'You love your job.'
He didn't say another word, didn't try to fight for her as she gathered her things. He just watched, his shoulders slumped and his smile gone.
He held the door open for her as she left.
'I'll see you next week,' she said hurriedly.
He didn't say anything else. She had hurt him, she knew that. But this was for the best, this was how things had to be.
She pulled out of his driveway in a hurry and parked the car on the side of the road, letting the tears flow freely.