Jack had kissed Carter three times in the last week, but this kiss; this kiss was definitely his favourite so far. In fact, it could actually be his favourite kiss ever.
They’d planned to meet up, all four of them, and have one last team night before they dispersed for their new positions. She’d turned up early, strolled into his house like it was the most natural thing in the world for her to do, walked right up to him and planted a firm kiss on him before even saying a word.
They weren’t so much kissing as...well, he’d say making out if it didn’t make him sound about fifteen, which was kind of how old he felt right now. She’d kept on kissing him, turning them around and nudging him to sit on the couch, before straddling his lap and carrying on with the easy, unhurried kisses.
Things got a little more interesting when their hands began to wander.
Daniel breathed a sigh of relief when he finally pulled up to Jack’s house and could shut off the engine and kill the stereo. Teal’c’s taste in music was becoming ever more bizarre and the latest racket had given Daniel a headache. He’d thought about insisting on a “driver picks the music” rule, but it was Teal’c’s last week on Earth and he figured he could let him enjoy it while he could. Even if the entire trip from the mountain had made him want to bash his head against the steering wheel.
He handed Teal’c the box of donuts and the pile of DVDs Teal’c had picked from Blockbusters; he’d tried to suit everyone’s tastes since it was possibly the last time they’d be doing this, for a while at least, and had ended up taking a whole stack of movies, reasoning that a vote at Jack’s place could decide for them. He grabbed the beer himself, locked the doors and made his way up the path.
When he reached Jack’s front door, he was about to knock, but decided instead to just try the door. Jack was always moaning at him about knocking; the door was never locked if Jack was home and he’d told them over and over that it was always open for them.
When he found himself at the top of the steps in Jack's living room, his jaw dropping at the sight of the two highly trained USAF officers lip-locked on Jack’s couch, not even aware that he and Teal’c had walked in the front door, he thought Jack might change that rule. When Sam’s fingers began to unbutton Jack’s shirt, Daniel cleared his throat loudly, grinning when the two of them whipped their heads round to stare at him.
Jack groaned and wanted the couch to swallow him up. This was not how he’d envisioned Daniel and Teal’c finding out that he and Carter were...dating? Or whatever they were doing, since there hadn’t been any actual dates yet.
“Hi guys,” Carter said quietly, and that flush in her cheeks was really quite adorable. Whether it was embarrassment or something else entirely, Jack didn’t know, and he didn’t really care. She made to move off his lap, but he grabbed her hips firmly with his hands and held her in place.
“Don’t...” he said, his voice a little higher pitched than it should be, and at her curious look it was his turn to blush. He spoke more quietly. “Don’t move just yet,” he said, his eyes briefly flicking downwards, and he hoped it was explanation enough. He watched her eyes widen, her pupils darken and he heard Daniel snort a laugh from the steps.
“We’ll give you a minute,” he said, barely holding back the laughter. “Come on Teal’c, we’ll make coffee.”
When they finally left the room, Jack dropped his head back onto the back of the couch and groaned loudly. The groan turned into a small, unmanly yelp when Carter sneakily shifted her hips right up to his groin and rubbed the source of his embarrassment.
“Carter!” he growled, and heard her giggle. When he lifted his head, he found a wicked smirk on her face.
“I’m flattered, General,” she said, then moved her hips again and dropped her voice to a much lower register. “Shame we can’t put it to good use,” she purred.
“We can’t?” Jack asked, smirking right back at her. She rolled her eyes, kissed him quickly on the lips and then stood up.
“I think Daniel and Teal’c have seen enough, don’t you?”
Cassie hadn’t been back here in almost three months and she took a moment outside of the house to centre her focus and prepare herself for seeing Sam again. They spoke on the ‘phone almost weekly, but the calls were getting shorter, and long silences stretched out between the small talk. She could feel herself increasingly pulling away from Sam week after week, deliberately putting distance between herself and her makeshift family. She knew Sam had been hurt when she’d chosen a college on the opposite side of the country, but her independence had suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world. Jack had understood, and Cassie had a sneaking feeling that he’d had a lot to do with Sam’s acceptance of her choices.
As hard as Sam had tried, this had never been home to her, but she knew she would always be welcome here. It had seemed like the perfect solution to an impending deadline and a roommate hell-bent on partying as much as humanly possible.
She made her way through the neat garden and up the path, letting herself into the house. Sam’s car wasn’t in the driveway and the house was still, quiet, just as peaceful as she’d hoped it would be. She spent a few minutes just reacquainting herself with the place; noticing a couple of new bits of furniture, the fresh flowers on the dining table, and when she opened the fridge, hoping to find something tasty to snack on, she found it surprisingly well stocked. Eyeing the remainder of a sticky-looking chocolate cake for later, she left the kitchen and made her way down the hallway and to her room. She’d had a room at Sam’s house since she arrived on Earth and it was quite touching that Sam still kept it for her and never changed a thing in there without asking first.
Halfway down the hall, she heard the bathroom door creak open and out stepped a wet Jack O’Neill, wearing a towel wrapped around his waist, and nothing else. They both froze, their faces locked into shocked expressions, and Cassie heard a small squeak from the back of her throat. She slowly backed down the hall, trying to get her head around the concept of Jack practically naked in Sam’s house.
“Cass...” he started, but faltered, clearly not knowing where to start with an explanation.
She shook her head minutely, mumbled an apology under her breath and left the house quickly, desperately needing air and space.
Jack stood in the hallway, peripherally aware that he was dripping water on the wooden floor, and swore loudly. He hurried into the bedroom and picked up the ‘phone. Sam answered on the second ring.
“You didn’t tell Cassie yet?” he barked, more harshly than he’d intended.
“Oh damn,” he heard Sam say, “Is she there?”
“Not anymore,” he answered, “I bumped into her in the hallway in just a towel. She freaked and got out of here as fast as she could.”
Sam sighed. “I’ll be back in ten minutes,” she said, and hung up.
Cassie ended up at Daniel’s. She’d only been here twice since he’d moved in, but she liked his house and he had always been the person she’d turned to if Jack was the source of a problem. As she stood on his doorstep, waiting for him to answer, she shifted impatiently from foot to foot, trying to work out why she’d panicked and just how she’d ended up here.
When he answered, she heard voices from behind him, but he smiled widely and pulled her into a hug. “Cassie,” he said, squeezing her tight and then pulling back.
“I’m sorry, is this a bad time?” she said, gesturing inside the house.
“Of course not, come in.” He stepped aside and waved her into the hallway, closing the door behind her. He led her into the living room where Teal’c, Colonel Mitchell and a woman Cassie didn’t recognise were noisily battling it out on a Playstation. Well, Mitchell and the woman were being noisy; Teal’c sat serenely on the couch, concentrating intently and by the looks of things, totally kicking their asses.
She hovered in the doorway for a moment, suddenly very uncomfortable about bringing up the topic that had brought her here.
“Is there something wrong?” Daniel asked, his eyes fixing on her restless hands for a moment.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. It wasn’t entirely a lie; things weren’t wrong, just...weird. “Can I talk to you alone?” she asked quietly. He frowned, but nodded and followed her into the kitchen. “I went to Sam’s,” she said.
Daniel nodded patiently, obviously aware that there was much more to the story.
“Jack was there,” she explained, “And he was...naked.”
She giggled when Daniel’s eyebrows shot upwards. “Naked?” he repeated.
“Well, not entirely,” she corrected, trying to smother the laughter, “But he was only wearing a towel. I freaked out a little and ended up here.”
Daniel nodded in understanding. “Does it bother you? Them being together?” he asked.
She thought about it for a moment and shook her head slowly. She wasn’t blind; she’d seen how they were together, had seen their relationship grow and develop over the years. Even as a child she’d picked up on the difference in the friendships between the four teammates, and when she was older, she’d found it increasingly frustrating to watch them dance around each other, try and settle for other people and fail. This had to be a good thing; she just hadn’t expected to be confronted with it like this!
“No,” she answered finally.
“You just weren’t expecting naked Jack in your house,” Daniel offered, and she laughed again, trying to ignore the way ‘your house’ sounded so wrong. “You want to stay for a while?” he asked, “Vala’s dying to meet you.”
It was late by the time she got back to Sam’s. Wary of possibly waking Jack and Sam, she crept into the house and was surprised to find them still up in the living room, apparently waiting for her. Sam was sitting on the couch with Jack sprawled out beside her, his head in her lap, and her fingers were running through the white hair methodically. Cassie took a moment just to watch them and realised she’d never seen either of them so content.
When she stepped further into the room, Jack sat up, seeming to take a lot of effort to peel himself away from Sam, and her hand slipped down onto the couch. As she sat down on the chair across the room, they both looked at her warmly, a look that was far too reminiscent of the pitying expressions that crossed people’s faces when they heard about her mother. How had she turned this into such a big deal? A wave of guilt washed over her.
“Cass...” Sam started, but Cassie waved her hand and stopped her from continuing, shaking her head.
“Please don’t,” she said, “I’m sorry I freaked out. I guess I was just... shocked.”
“I’ll try not to take that personally,” Jack joked, mockingly puffing his chest out. Cassie smiled brightly, thankful for Jack’s effort at lightening the mood. It wasn’t one of his best jokes, but seeing Sam echo her own smile, and her hand lightly brush Jack’s on the couch cushion made her realise she really was happy for them.
Jack sighed quietly and checked his watch for the third time in ten minutes. He had to fight very hard to keep his fingers from drumming on the table, and instead picked up his pen and doodled on the pad of paper in front of him, tipping it towards him so that nobody else could see it. Hopefully the president and the generals of varying ranks around him would think he was taking notes.
He was only half listening to the voices droning on around him. Since he’d been in Washington, he’d actually gotten used to the endless, boring meetings and had perfected the skill of listening just enough not to embarrass himself if they suddenly asked him a question, and being able to let his mind wander a little to more interesting topics. However, today, he was struggling to listen at all. His favourite “more interesting topic” was currently waiting for him at his apartment and would be here for an entire weekend.
Since she’d rejoined SG1, it was rare for him and Sam to get any prolonged time together. It was frustrating as hell and they always tried to make the absolute most of every minute. He let his mind wander to the plans he had for the weekend; plans that involved not leaving his apartment until Monday morning.
He only realised the briefing had ended when he felt a nudge from his left side and turned to find an amused General Hammond smiling at him. Clearing his throat and trying to look like he hadn’t just been caught daydreaming, he gathered up the reports and papers from the table and stood.
“Jack!” the president called across the room and a pit of dread settled in Jack’s stomach. That was the ‘I need you to do something for me’ Jack.
“Yes sir?” Jack replied as Henry Hayes approached.
“We need to go over those projections for the SGC and the 303 program,” he said, clapping Jack on the back.
“Now sir?” Jack asked, mentally wincing at the insubordinate tone of his own voice. He fought hard not to look at his watch again.
The president raised his eyebrows. “Do you have something more important to do?” he asked, a slight hint of irritation edging his voice.
Biting his tongue to stop himself telling his Commander in Chief exactly what else he had to do, and how it was much more important than their plans for building more spaceships, Jack shook his head. “No sir,” he answered.
Jack heard someone clear their throat behind him. “Actually sir, there are still a few things in that report I’m not happy with yet,” General Hammond said, “I’d rather the report was complete before we present it to you.”
Jack could’ve kissed the man, but he settled for a grateful smile instead.
“Is there a problem George?” Hayes asked, sounding concerned.
“Nothing major,” Hammond answered, “We just need to dot a few i’s, cross a few t’s. If you could let us have the weekend sir, it’ll be ready first thing Monday.”
“Alright,” Hayes conceded, “Monday.” He walked out of the almost empty room, and Jack turned to Hammond.
Hammond waved his hand. “You owe me one,” he said with a smile, “Enjoy your weekend Jack.”
“Thank you sir,” Jack replied emphatically, feeling a swell of affection for the older man.
Just as he reached the door, he heard Hammond speak again and turned around.
“Jack?” he said, his eyes glinting with amusement, “Give my regards to Colonel Carter.”
Christmas Eve drinks at O’Malley’s had become an SGC tradition way back in the first year. Nobody seemed to know how it had started, and back then there had only been a fraction of the teams there were now. So many people had been lost or moved on, but there were still a few that Griff remembered from that first year. It had started off as just the officers, but over the years the invite had been wordlessly extended to all the SGC personnel.
The place became noisier and more crowded as the night wore on; a few of the people with families to get home to left early, with the exception of Dave Dixon who seemed to be trying to drink his own body weight in beer before heading home to his brood.
“Isn’t Christmas morning harder with a hangover?” Griff asked him, but Dave shook his head.
“It’s gonna be a headache either way, I might as well have a good reason for it,” Dixon answered, tipping his bottle and tapping it onto Griff’s before draining it and heading back to the bar.
“How does his wife put up with that?” Reynolds asked from across the table, but Griff just shrugged his shoulders.
His eyes wandered around the bar, picking out familiar faces and then were drawn in the direction of a shouted greeting as Jack O’Neill entered the bar and was embraced by a tipsy archaeologist.
Griff could only remember two occasions when Jack had missed this event. Once because he’d been barred from the place, and the second in the year Dr. Jackson was missing. Jack peeled Dr. Jackson off him and gave him a gentle shove onto a bar stool, accepting a beer as it was pushed into his hand. He took a long drag, and then smiled as his eyes scanned the room. When they connected with Griff’s, he raised his bottle and Griff threw him back a sloppy salute.
Retirement suited Jack; he looked like a man who’d had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders, more relaxed and content than Griff had ever seen him, and lord knew the man deserved it.
He turned back to Reynolds. “I should probably get going soon,” he said.
“Ah yes,” Reynolds beamed at him, “The twins’ first Christmas.” Griff couldn’t help the soft smile. He hadn’t expected to become a grandparent quite so young, but his son and his daughter-in-law to be had handled parenthood better than he could ever have expected at their age. However, two babies in the family at once had been a hell of an adjustment.
“Yeah,” he sighed, but still smiling, “Just when we thought we’d be enjoying nice quiet Christmases...”
They were interrupted by a riot of wolf-whistles and cheers from the corner of the bar, and when they turned, Griff laughed aloud at the sight of Jack kissing his former second-in-command under a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling.
“Holy crap,” he heard Reynolds exclaim from behind him. “I guess he’s really making the most of being retired,” he said and Griff turned to him with a grin.
“I guess so.”
Jack hung back a little, giving Sam a moment of privacy as she laid flowers on Jacob’s grave. She whispered something, but he was too far away to hear, and those words weren’t for his ears anyway. When she straightened and wiped at her eyes, he stepped closer and cautiously placed an arm around her shoulder. Things could go two ways when they came here; she’d either brush him off and need to be by herself for a while, or she’d welcome his support, leaning on him as she had on the day of Jacob’s funeral. Thankfully, this seemed to be one of the good visits, and her finger’s slipped into his, pulling his arm tighter around her shoulder.
“I can’t believe it’s been five years already,” she said quietly.
“I know,” he answered, nuzzling his nose into her hair.
“Do you think he knows?” she asked, and her thumb brushed across his hand. The echo of watching him moments from death in almost the same position might have been accidental, but he thought not. Carter didn’t do “accidental”.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t come back to haunt me,” he answered and she playfully elbowed him in the ribs.
“Jack!” she admonished, “I’m serious. Do you think he’d be happy...about us?”
He turned her towards him and dropped a kiss on her forehead. “Are you happy Sam?” he asked.
She nodded and gave him a soft smile, and he brushed a lingering tear away from her cheek with his thumb.
“Then yes, he’d be happy.”