Title: Biting the Bullet
Pairing: Sam/Jack, with one rather inconvenient case of Sam/Rodney
Warnings: Did I mention the fluff?
Summary: Five times Jack O'Neill asked Samantha Carter out, and one time he didn't have to.
Notes: All but one of these are set in various canon AUs. (God, I love this show.) Specific episodes referenced are 'There But For the Grace of God', 'Point of View', 'The Changeling', 'Moebius' parts I and II, and 'The Road Not Taken'.
i. that time in the alternate universe where Daniel wasn't part of the program and Sam and Jack were totally engaged (before the Goa'uld invaded and everyone died)
He was in her lab. Again. It was getting to be a habit, she couldn't help but notice.
True, he was commander of the SGA, and she was head of his science department. Then again, Janet Fraiser was head of medical, and she'd never said anything about the General hanging around the infirmary. In fact, he seemed to actively avoid the place.
"Doctor Carter," he greeted her.
She pushed the magnifying goggles she was wearing up to sit on her forehead. "General. What can I do for you?"
He didn't answer immediately, looking around the room first before focusing back on her. "You know it's Saturday, right?"
Yes, she knew it was Saturday. That was why she was here in jeans and a ponytail, instead of the more professional attire she went with during the week.
"You're here," she pointed out.
He waved it off with a flick of his hand. "I'm always here."
She raised an eyebrow, waiting, but nothing more was forthcoming. "Okay," she said, glancing at him sideways before turning back to the workbench.
It was not even close to being the strangest exchange they'd ever had.
In fact, this was downright normal for them - or, well, for him, anyway.
Another few moments passed before he broke the silence. "So."
"So I've been thinking."
"Hmm," she made a non-committal sound, hiding a smile as she focused on the delicate task of manipulating minute wires together with a pair of extra-fine needle-nose pliers.
"So I've been thinking -"
"Here, hold these, will you?" she passed off the pliers and reached for the soldering iron.
He turned the pliers over in his hands absently. "I've been thinking dinner."
"Dinner?" It took a second before it registered. "Dinner. You mean... with you."
"I think that was implied."
"No, I just -" she paused, straightening from her hunched-over position. "I wasn't expecting that."
"Well, okay, I mean..." He looked away, then back. "Really?"
Okay, so it was a lie.
She'd sort of been expecting something, especially since his divorce papers had come through a few weeks ago - at least according to Charlie they had.
He was obviously a little rusty, the General, and she was appreciating the effort. That didn't mean she was going to make things easy on him.
"General. It's not that I don't find you attractive -"
The smirk was instantaneous. "You find me attractive?"
She pursed her lips, exasperated. "You just asked me out. I assume you wouldn't have done that if you thought I found you repulsive."
"Well, not repulsive. There has been some... you know."
"If we absolutely have to call it that."
"Oh, I think we do."
"Okay, there's been some flirting. So?"
She pressed her lips together, thinking. "It's just that it could be awkward. We work together."
"You're my boss."
"You don't think people would get the wrong idea?"
"Sam, everyone around here worships the ground you walk on."
She snorted, and turned back to her project.
"And as for me - it's not like anyone would blame me." He waited till she glanced over before elaborating. "You're hot."
She was smiling as she picked up the soldering iron again.
"And you do find me attractive," he reminded her.
"Oh, you're not going to let that go, are you?"
"I think not."
She sighed, leaning over and pulling the goggles back down over her eyes. "Okay," she said. "I'll have dinner with you."
"Hey, seriously?" She couldn't see, but she was pretty certain he was bouncing on his feet. "You will? Sweet."
"Of course I will," she said, muttering an "idiot" under her breath that he may or may not have heard.
"You know those things make you look like Mr Magoo, right?"
Okay, so he'd definitely heard the 'idiot', then.
"No problem. How 'bout tonight?"
"Dinner, Doctor Carter. Jeez."
"Oh, sure. Okay. Uh, where?"
"I was thinking Cellini's. You like that place, right?"
"Wow, I think I mentioned that to Catherine once. Months ago." She frowned down at her work, then pushed the goggles back up and looked at him incredulously. "Have you been grilling people about me?"
"So, Cellini's? I'll pick you up, say around eight?"
Her eyes narrowed at that exceptionally smooth change in topic. "I'll meet you there."
"Fine. But I'm paying the bill."
"Fine. I'll get it next time."
"Next time." The smirk was back. "Sweet."
ii. that time in Ancient Egypt
"Jack," she said, squinting up at him. Only a few hours since dawn and the sun was already high and bright. It was the constant glare as much as the heat that bothered her, she'd found, and she wasn't even close to being used to it. "Hi. I'm, uh, practicing grinding this... grain stuff. According to Mehnit, my technique could use a little work."
He had squatted down in front of her and she could see him better, now.
"Mehnit, huh?" he said.
"I think Daniel might have cleaned it up a little in the translation." She pounded some more. The village matriarch really didn't seem to like her much.
"Looks like fun."
She held out the heavy stone... thing. "Oh, it really is. You should try it."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Right." Then blinked. "Anyway. I was thinking I'm gonna take a walk. "
"Yeah, you know. Just," he floated his hands off into the figurative distance, "walk. Somewhere else. That's not here."
"In the desert? You could get lost."
"Hey," he looked affronted, "I can navigate in the desert. I'm actually really good at that kind of thing. Proficient, if you will."
"It's really hot," she countered.
"It's hot here."
"Ah!" he cut her off abruptly. She stared at him a little wide-eyed. "I was just wondering," he continued, "if you wanted to come with me."
"Wow," she said. "You make it sound like you're asking me out on a date."
He screwed up his face, tilted his head back and forth, and finally shrugged. "Well it's not like there's a Red Lobster anywhere around here..."
"I'd love to!" she blurted out.
Really, she reflected, the only good thing about her severe case of sunburn was that at least all the blushing wasn't so noticeable.
A short time later they had left the bounds of the small settlement. She already had sand in her boots.
"You know," she said, trying to shake her foot and walk at the same time, "I already had sex with you. You really don't have to go to any extra effort on my account."
"So... not much of a romantic -?"
"Actually, romantic gestures tend to make me nervous." He looked at her sideways as she went on talking. "High school, for instance. The only time I ever got asked out - this boy, Brian, he brought me a flower in the cafeteria, in front of, well, the whole school. I think he was going to ask me to Prom, only, he must have been really nervous -"
"- Because he threw up on me."
"And then I fell over. Anyway," she panted, "my love life kind of went downhill from there."
The sweat was making her eyes sting. She wiped at them with the sleeve of her robe.
"So," he said, "basically, you're telling me that in order to have any hope of impressing you, I have to beat vomit. Pretty tall order."
"I don't know," she said, slipping her hand into his, "I think you're doing okay."
She chanced a small smile up at him, then stared furiously at her feet as they continued to trudge along.
Sure, he'd seen her naked, but somehow this was worse.
"And I mean, especially once we get to the oasis," she added in an attempt to fill the slightly awkward silence.
"Well, there's got to be an oasis. Or a river or something. Where you're taking me? I mean, no one would just walk out into the desert for no reason." She snorted out a laugh.
"Oh," he said. "Right." With his free hand - because they were still holding hands, sweaty palms and all - he dug in his robes and pulled out his compass. "Sure, that oasis." He looked at the compass, frowned, gave it a shake, and then returned it to its place. "Get there any time now."
They continued walking.
"Really. Any time."
She squinted up at the sun, and immediately regretted it. Nope, still not used to the glare.
She'd kill for a pair of Ray-Bans.
"Proficient?" she said.
"At many things," he replied.
She squeezed his hand. They walked on.
It was her best date ever.
iii. that time they were all firemen
Ever since the surgery, it seemed like T was much more inclined to speak his mind.
On all kinds of topics.
Now, 'pathetic' was a little harsh, Jack thought, and he opened his mouth to protest - then thought better of it. "That obvious?"
"Oh, were you aiming for subtle? Chief, you've been staring at her since she walked in the door."
"I have not!" He began fiddling with the neck of his beer bottle. "I think I may have blinked a time or two."
"So at least you're maintaining some dignity, huh?"
At this point, he felt that dignity didn't really come into it. He was way, way beyond dignity.
He sighed. "You think Sam would ever -"
"Sam?" T screwed up his face in disbelief. "Hell no. She's way too good for you."
"That's what I'm thinking!"
"But listen, you just gotta go for it. Put yourself out of your misery. Make a move."
"And if I do that?"
"Oh, she'll turn you down flat. Without a doubt."
He stared at his large friend, who was looking way too amused by the entire exchange. "Thank you, T. Great talk. You're a pal. A true friend. A -"
Damn it. The first time he'd taken his eyes off her - and hey, that didn't come off as creepy in the least - she'd launched a sneak attack.
Almost like she'd been waiting for him to be distracted.
Sam took a seat with casual ease, setting a beer of her own down in front of her. "So what are we talking about?"
"Sports," Jack said. She raised an eyebrow. "That whole... 'sport' thing."
"Didn't feel like narrowing it down at all?"
"We're keeping our options open."
"Oh, it is."
At that point, T may have groaned in disgust and buried his face in his hands.
Frankly, Jack was too busy having a perfectly respectable conversation with Sam to notice.
T surfaced in order to shake his head. "Man, just do it already. Please, you'll be doing us all a favour."
Sam looked between the two of them. "What?"
Jack ignored her. "Really?" he asked T.
"Yeah, really." T got to his feet, holding up his hands. "Driving us all nuts," he enunciated clearly.
Then he was gone, and Jack was left trying to avoid Sam's eye.
She waited all of three seconds before flipping a damp coaster at him. "Chief, you know how I hate being left out of the loop," she warned.
He took a breath. And winced. Man, he was so bad at this sort of thing. "Say, Captain," he began - and cut himself off right there. Titles probably weren't going to help matters. "Sam. Hey, listen -" god help him - "do you maybe, possibly, wanna -"
"Sure," she broke in with a shrug. "Why not."
He stopped, mouth hanging open. "I didn't even ask you anything."
"So ask." Her eyes met his, confident and assertive and he realised he really had no idea what he was getting himself into.
He kind of couldn't wait to find out.
And it was, he reflected, a lot easier doing this when he knew she wasn't just going to laugh her ass off. Especially considering how fantastic the ass in question was.
"Carter," he said, a stupid grin forming on his face, "do you want to go out with me sometime?"
Her head tilting to one side, she pretended to consider the offer. At least, he assumed she was just pretending - until she tossed the last of her beer back and climbed to her feet.
"I'll think about it," she said, patting his shoulder as she passed.
He might have strained something as his head whipped around to watch her go.
It really was a fantastic ass.
Luckily, he wasn't so focused on it that he missed her pausing when she reached the door to go outside. Or the way she caught his eye over her shoulder before tilting her head in an oh-so-subtle gesture he took to mean 'get your butt over here, Chief'.
His butt had rarely moved so fast.
iv. that time Sam was otherwise engaged (literally)
"Coffee?" he said. He had decided to start small. After all, he didn't really know her that well. It was just - she was so hot. Sure, she was a few ranks below him, but they weren't going to be working that closely together, and besides. That's where the whole 'start small' thing came in handy. "We could go get some," he went on after a moment passed and she didn't respond. He waited another beat. "Together." More silence. "You like pie? There might be pie."
That's right, he thought, sweeten the deal.
"Oh," she said, finally. "Colonel, I'd be happy to, but... just as colleagues. Or friends. I'm seeing someone - engaged, actually. Doctor Rodney McKay, do you know him? He's not attached to the program, so you probably don't."
He hadn't seen a ring. He would have noticed a ring. Really. He'd checked.
Noticing his eyes tracking her left hand, she held it up sheepishly. "Sorry, I don't wear my ring on duty - not since that time I spilled acid on my hand and the metal fused to my skin. See the scar?"
"Oh, I see it, Captain."
Now he wasn't too busy looking for a sign of prior attachment, he did.
"Still want to get that coffee, Sir?"
On further reflection, it occurred to him that he really should have known better than to ask out a scientist.
"Maybe some other time."
"Yes, Sir." She looked to the door of the briefing room, for the first time betraying that she might be finding this as painfully awkward as he was.
That did it, he thought as she made her excuses and escaped, the next time a hot blonde offered to arm wrestle him within two minutes of their first meeting, he was so going to quit while he was ahead.
v. that time in the alternate universe where Kawalsky was alive and Sam and Jack were married (before the Goa'uld invaded and almost everyone died)
At no point did she recall ever agreeing to go on a date with Jack O'Neill.
Which was strange, considering how she suddenly found herself, one Friday night, alone with just him, a couple of beers, and a basket of crispy potato skins.
"I thought you said the guys were coming."
"I did say that, didn't I."
"To be fair, when I said that, I was under the impression that they would be. Here. The guys... would be."
He was avoiding her eyes - guilt, she decided. It was why she was so not buying this 'I was set up, too' routine.
"Kawalsky was here!" he pointed out.
Kawalsky, it had to be noted, had been there for exactly five minutes before remembering an errand he urgently needed to take care of.
"Shame he couldn't stay long," Jack finished.
"A real shame," she echoed.
And it really was. Because she liked Kawalsky. She got along with him well, and the same went for the other members of SG-1 - not to mention any number of other people from the base she might have expected to encounter there at the bar upon being casually invited to stop by for a drink with 'the guys'.
Colonel Jack O'Neill, on the other hand? He hated scientists. He saw no use for civilians in general, and he didn't bother trying to conceal it.
He was kind of a jerk.
And no, she'd never bothered trying to conceal that she thought so.
"So this is fun, huh?" he came out with next, the awkwardness of the situation obviously getting to him.
She didn't particularly feel like humouring him, being too busy remembering how he'd laughed, months ago, when she had said she should have been included on the original mission to Abydos.
Not that she was holding a grudge, or anything.
"Look," he leaned across the table, one hand outstretched, "I honestly didn't know about this. Why don't we just get out of here - let me give you a ride home? Or," he quickly counter-offered when her eyes tracked suspiciously to his, "I could call you a cab."
Her eyes moved back across the room, and she stopped in the middle of sipping her beer. "Ooh, table's free."
She jumped up, eager to get there before anyone else moved in. He scrambled to follow, looking confused until she pushed the cue stick in his hand.
"Wanna break?" she said.
"You want to play pool?" was his response.
A little slow on the uptake, she noted, adding it to his list of faults.
"That's okay," she said. "I'll break."
Some time later, he was blinking down at the table in - shock? Dismay? Abject humiliation?
A little of each, she decided.
"Now this," she said, "is fun."
He looked up at her. "Best of five?"
"I just beat you three times in a row."
"Best of seven?"
She laughed, and he smiled in return. And he really wasn't supposed to be smiling in the face of his crushing defeat, but she was enjoying herself too much to mind.
The second beer she'd just polished off was helping there.
"One more game," he said. "I was just warming up."
"A little slow out of the gate, Colonel."
"Apparently. But the three times you just thoroughly kicked my ass?" He dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "I'm about to bring my A-game here."
It was a much closer game this time, not because he improved in any way, but more because she kept getting distracted by stupid things. Like the way he put his hand on her back when manoeuvring around her at the table. And the way he watched when she bent over to line up a shot.
She found herself wishing she'd gone home to change first, instead of showing up at the bar in sensible shoes and a rumpled blouse that may or may not have been sporting grease stains from spending half the day on her back under a MALP.
On top of that, she had to keep reminding herself that she really didn't like him, this wasn't a date, and she was only there through duplicitous means anyway.
Which didn't help much, but the point was she tried.
"Maybe we could do this again, sometime," he said, almost in a mumble as if he wasn't really sure he wanted her to hear it. Quickly, he leaned over and set up - and then missed - what would be his final shot if she had anything to do with it.
"You mean you'd like me to spend time with you, intentionally? Rather than using your buddies in a pathetic ruse to get me here alone?"
He shrugged. "Pretty much." She sank the five-ball. "I was thinking maybe a movie." The eight-ball went down. She reached for her glass. "Or hey, bowling. I'm great at bowling."
She kissed him by the cue rack, drawing him in till her back hit the wall. She was buzzed, less from the alcohol than from the thrill of winning, and at least partially from the weight of his gaze as she did it.
His hands, bunching in her hair, the knee he pressed between her legs - these things certainly helped the cause.
So he was a jerk.
At least he was an entertaining jerk, and good looking, and knew when to stop babbling and kiss a girl back.
Resting her head back against the wall, they broke apart, but didn't go far. He stayed leaning into her, playing with a piece of her hair.
He had beer breath, she noted, but then, so did she.
"Bowling?" she said.
"I rock at bowling."
She was so going to kick his ass.
"It's a date," she said, and kissed him again.
vi. that time there were fish in Jack's pond
He had come awake in an instant, and in the light still burning in the kitchen, before the door closed, he caught a brief impression of the intruder: tall, long bare limbs, and maybe, and he was just guessing here, but he was thinking pink shortie pyjamas.
Just one of many reasons why he really hoped it wasn't Daniel who had just crawled into bed beside him.
"You were right, Sir."
Her voice was low in the dark, and right next to his ear.
Clutching at the covers over his chest, he squinted at her. The only illumination being moonlight through the half-open blinds, he couldn't get a good look at her face.
But he stared, anyway.
"You were right. I should have taken this room." She shifted around. "This bed is a lot more comfortable."
"Couldn't sleep?" he guessed, starting to recover some composure.
It was a work in progress.
"Not a wink."
"Big ones. That mattress is terrible."
"I told you."
"You did. Plus, there were the mosquitos."
"Giant mosquitos," she confirmed. "Lots of them."
"Odd. The window has a screen -"
"I think there's a hole in it."
"Odd. Nay, odder."
"And you did offer me this room."
"So, you want to switch now?"
The fact that her hand was now resting on his stomach, matched with the sudden deafening silence, suggested he may have just asked a really dumb question.
Still, with the 'work in progress' thing.
She cleared her throat. "Anyway, I already woke Daniel up off the couch and told him to take my bed."
"With the lumps and the giant mosquitos."
"Maybe they weren't that big."
"The lumps? Or the - hey, where does Daniel think you're sleeping now?"
Another silence, possibly even more vociferous than the last, heralded the arrival of dumb question number two.
"Daniel's a smart guy," he supplied.
"Daniel is, yes."
"To clarify - Daniel's in your room with the crappy mattress."
"Teal'c's in the other spare room."
"You're in here with me."
"I would have bunked in with Teal'c, but he's such a blanket-hog."
"I know, ever since he started the sleeping thing - what's with that?"
She snickered softly, head rolling towards his shoulder on the pillow. He realised he could smell her hair.
And then he realised that was because he was in bed with Carter.
"I thought we were taking it slow," he hissed, overcompensating for his first inclination, which was to speak very loudly. Excitedly. Maybe even joyfully.
"We were." The covers lifted and fell with her shrug. "We are."
At some point, he noted, her hand had started moving, brushing his stomach almost absently. It would have been soothing, except for the part where it so was not.
"Of course," she went on, "maybe after eight years of moving at a near glacial pace towards this point - including several major steps backwards along the way - maybe going slow would be the last thing anyone would want, in our position. Maybe if something didn't happen, finally, after waiting all that time, any reasonable person would be about to snap and kill someone."
All the while she was talking, the light trailing of fingertips back and forth, back and forth...
He wasn't one for exaggeration - hated hyperbole - but it was truly the worst torture he'd ever experienced.
"Not," she added, "that going slow is completely without merit."
Her hand drifted to a stop.
"Slow can be good," he said, his voice not sounding the least bit strangled.
"Yeah," she agreed.
A few sloooow beats of contemplative silence dragged past.
"So, screw it?" he suggested.
She moved and suddenly a lot more of her than just her hand was touching him. "I think you're starting to get the idea," she said. Huffed, and added, "Finally."
The important thing - or so he liked the think, as his hands made their way up under her top - was that he got there in the end.
And hey, turned out he was right about the shortie pyjamas, too.