It was the 2-Buck-Chuck that warned him. Jack had been watching Sam Carter shop for the better part of a year, occasionally purchasing some indulgence she'd lingered over and managing, one way or another, to share it with her. He'd brought the truffles to a party for one of the nurses who'd been promoted.
No one had thought it unusual that Jack O'Neill would spend $45 on a co-worker, considering his reputation for being an ass with the medical staff. Jack had been taken hostage by microbes from another world the week before and had been skewered by the little bastards. Although they'd healed him before skipping off to occupy an uninhabited world, Jack had been confined to the Infirmary for the better part of a week, under observation. He'd gone stir-crazy and had been less than strictly cordial to the staff, including the nurse who was promoted. At the festivities, Carter had scarfed three of the high calorie morsels, Jack noted with huge satisfaction. He'd popped one into his mouth and had to agree, they were sinful.
Another time he'd arrived at Teal'c's sci-fi DVD night bearing a large carton of the chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream that Carter favored. She'd had her share as well as his. Jack was definitely a vanilla bean sort of guy, but watching Sam clean every dab of chocolate out of her bowl had been sensational - triggering his fixation with the taste of chocolate. Not any old chocolate - deep, dark chocolate on the spoon that slipped between Sam Carter's lips.
Jack told himself it was just a silly fantasy, infatuation, but he continued to watch Sam shopping one Wednesday a month - when their mission schedule didn't screw things up. He told himself it was innocent. Fun. It didn't matter and nobody got hurt.
Jack told himself that until the evening Sam bought the 2-Buck-Chuck. Then, he realized, that he cared ... a lot. Maybe a bit too much.
Carter had been evaluated after her 'involvement' with Jolinar. The white-coats had deemed her fit for duty and Jack had concurred. She had been through a rough time.
'Hell, who hasn't?' Jack reasoned.
No, she'd shown her mettle and came through it like the professional warrior she claimed to be. Jack felt proud of his subordinate. For all her female qualities, Sam Carter was as tough as any man Jack had commanded. Truth be told, maybe tougher. Still, Jack knew from experience that alcohol, drugs, and other things could serve as a crutch when the work became too much. He knew and he wondered about that 2-Buck-Chuck.
If he hadn't been watching her - If he hadn't observed Carter under overwhelmingly normal circumstances for months, Jack wouldn't have thought twice about her buying wine. Personally, he still knocked back a six-pack a week, even though it meant he had to bike and run to keep his weight down. Sam, however, didn't.
Jack had watched his 2IC - at parties, off world, shopping when she didn't think anyone cared what she ate or drank. Near as Jack could figure, Carter didn't drink, except on rare occasions and then only one. So, seeing her grab six bottles of 2-Buck-Chuck from the shelf in Trader Joe’s set off alarm bells.
Worse, she didn't linger over the junk food. She pushed her little cart directly past the chocolate aisle and on to the produce section where she bought carrots, broccoli, apples, and oranges. Then she checked out.
Jack watched her go, wondering what had possessed her to drop twelve bucks on cheap wine. He drove home, still wondering. Went to bed wondering and, about 2 am, gave up on sleep, and just stared at the ceiling, turning the question over and over until the alarm rang at 5:30 am.
Jack arrived at the SGC on time, if grumpy from lack of sleep. He cut a bee-line for the cafeteria, needing coffee ... lots and lots of coffee. The cafeteria, located just two turns past Carter's office, presented a good excuse to delve into the question that had cost him a night's sleep. Jack slowed and then stopped outside her office. He could hear the tapping of a keyboard. Sounded like the Captain was in, bright and bushy as always.
"Carter?" Jack said as he leaned around the doorway.
Her head snapped up and she stared at him, her eyes round and very blue.
"Sir!" she blurted. "You startled me."
"Sorry," Jack said, stepping through the door with his hands jammed into his pockets. "I need coffee... lots and lots of coffee. Wanna join me?"
Carter's eyes clouded for a moment. Jack felt the air crackle with something he hadn't felt since courting Sara.
She hesitated so he pressed the issue.
"It's just coffee, Captain," he said. The use of her rank added a dose of decorum, he felt. "A little pie?" he urged, grinning. Her eyes gave her away before she said the words.
Sam hit 'save', hopped off the stool she favored, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.
As he walked, however, Jack noticed that his heart was beating faster and he felt inexplicably nervous.
'What is this?' he wondered.
He'd always thought of the woman who walked beside him as beautiful ... and too smart for him, not to mention the regs that denied any chance of a personal relationship. But as he worked with Carter, he'd come to admire her and the distraction of her beauty had faded ... to his relief. She was a Captain, a resource and a helluva valuable member of the SGC. He was proud to have her under his command.
Jack shot a look at Sam. She seemed fine, if a little uncomfortable.
"Nothing's wrong, Carter," he blurted.
"Sir?" she replied, turning her big blue eyes up at him.
"I said, is anything wrong?" Jack changed the wording.
Sam blushed, chose a bowl of blue Jell-O from the chow line and murmured, "Is it that obvious?"
Jack snagged two pieces of pie - pumpkin and pecan - and balanced them on his coffee cup, "Not to everyone. I know you, Captain."
He led the way to a table in the far back corner of the cafeteria, away from others, and settled with his back to the wall. Sam took the other chair, as if by instinct choosing a location that would cover her back.
Jack waited a moment, sipped his coffee and took a bite of pecan pie.
After he swallowed and took another deep sip of coffee, he said, "I'm a bit concerned. What's goin' on?"
Sam blushed and Jack felt his color rush to his face.
"I ..." she began, but stopped. Jack could feel her mortification, so he put down his cup, lifted her chin and stared directly into her blue eyes.
"I need to know," he said. "I can help."
"You can't, Sir," Sam stammered. "Of all people ... not you."
"Why?" Jack pressed, suddenly concerned that he'd screwed up somehow as her commander. "If it's something ..."
"No, Sir." Carter interrupted. "It's me ... and Jolinar. Ever since I've had these ... this ... Oh God, Sir. This is so ..."
"What?" Jack whispered, leaning close and grasping Sam's tightly clenched fist under the table. "Tell me."
"I'm ... lonesome."
Jack could see the pink of her cheeks turn rosy red. Her lips quivered until she trapped the lower between her white teeth.
"I've been there, Captain," he heard himself say. "It's ... a professional liability."
Sam nodded and mumbled, "Sorry to have bothered ..."
But Jack cut her off and gripped her fist tighter, leaning forward until their lips nearly touched, "I'll call you," he said. "Tonight. You're not alone ... not on my team, Captain. You got that?"
"Yes, Sir," Sam whispered, her breath tickling Jack's face.
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Drama, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Romance|
|Warnings:||Adult Themes, Language, Sexual Situations|
|Summary:||Between Universal disasters and world-destroying threats, the little things in life go on|