Title: The dating game.
Word count: A lot more than I expected.
Thanks to holdouttrout for the beta and mrspollifax for the idea.
First part here.
Catherine turned out to be more proud of herself than of Sam’s not-so-sneaky plan to have Jack drive her back to her house. Not because it wasn’t a good plan, but because it hadn’t actually worked.
Jack didn’t say much on the way to the mountain. The power surge that had taken out the computers and half of the power couplings had also locked the iris in place, leaving two teams stranded off-world. One of them on a hostile planet he said. Hostile. The word hung in the air. It could mean so many things: an unsafe atmosphere, angry natives, Jaffa armies. She didn’t ask for details.
By the time they pulled into the parking lot, Sam had come up with a pretty sound plan for getting the iris back online. She’d let Catherine deal with the hardware side of the problem. Catherine enjoyed figuring out how to integrate Earth-based systems with the gate. Sam preferred dealing with the completely alien technology that came back from the far corners of the galaxy. They made a good team. Most days, Sam was sure that the two of them could solve just about any problem the universe could throw at them.
Jack stopped her beside his truck before she could run off. She watched him drum his fingers against the hood. He had nice hands. Sam tried not to check her watch. There was a lot to do. Her new code was already writing itself in her head.
He looked over her shoulder, toward the main gate. The rhythm of his fingers faltered and picked back up. Sam found an error in her logic and started rethinking her code.
“I had a good time this morning,” he finally said.
She let her code simmer for a moment because now one of his nice hands was in her hair. His fingers brushed the side of her neck and his thumb caught on her ear.
“Me too,” she said.
“Good.” Jack leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. A work kiss, efficient and tidy. She liked it. “Now go fix stuff.”
The acrid smell of deep-fried electronics met them at the base of the control room stairs. They shook hands with it before heading up to survey the damage. Jack had his hand on her back when they walked in the room. It was distracting. She’d never get anything done if he kept touching her.
Catherine was elbow-deep in in the computer. She paused long enough to greet Jack and give Sam a we’ll-talk-about-this-later look. Catherine didn’t miss anything.
Colonel Hammond appeared out of nowhere and followed Jack up to the briefing room. Sam listened while he gave Jack updates on SG-3 and SG-7. SG-3 had been dialing in every two hours, waiting for the iris to open. SG-7 hadn’t checked in. Their voices faded into the background and she returned her attention back to her part of the equation.
Sam put Jack in her mental lock-box and bounced ideas off Catherine while she pulled the main power supply out of the rack. It had died an ugly death. She tossed its blackened remains on the growing pile of things that needed to be replaced. Catherine agreed that the iris functions needed to be independent of the main system code and told Sam to get started on it. Sam sat down at a console, hoping she wouldn’t have to start from scratch.
Catherine let Sam get logged in and comfortable before questioning her.
“Well?” She added another hard drive to the pile and cocked an eyebrow at Sam.
Most of the back-up drives had survived. Sam combed through them, picking out the blocks of code she wanted to keep. She was only half paying attention to Catherine. “Well, what?”
“Don’t play dumb, Sam. I’m not blind.” Catherine nodded toward the stairs.
“Can we talk about that later?” Jack was still too new and shiny. There was no way she’d be able to talk about him and work at the same time. Just thinking about him was slowing her down. She put him back in the box.
“We’ll talk over dinner after we get this thing working.”
Catherine was always that confident.
Sam had the iris operational before lunch.
She was watching from the control room when SG-3 came home. Jack greeted them like long lost friends. It was strange, all the camaraderie being tossed around the gate room. Sam was sure the only thing most of the people in that room had in common was the Air Force. She’d never been part of anything like that. Of something bigger than herself and her science.
Jack waited until he was alone before turning around and giving her a thumbs up. Their own tiny celebration.
She grinned down at him like a fool until Catherine cleared her throat.
It took longer to get the dialing computer and power couplings back.
She stayed to watch the MALP roll up the ramp, steady and sure on its tracked feet. The footage it sent back wasn’t promising. Clusters of surprised Jaffa stared back at them. There was no sign of SG-7. They managed an unanswered radio call before the screen went white.
The MALP wasn’t designed for long distance surveillance and it was possible they were just holed up farther from the gate. Sam had been working on an aerial vehicle to fill in that gap but it wasn’t ready yet.
Catherine stood up when a bunch of heavily armed Marines started assembling in the gate room. Sam didn’t have to be in the military to recognize a rescue mission. “Well, I guess we’ve done all we can,” said Catherine. She looked at her watched. “Dinner?”
It felt wrong to leave while people were missing but Catherine was right, there was nothing else for them to do. She imagined charging through the gate, armed with nothing but a Ph.D. and a multimeter. She probably wouldn’t make it as far as the MALP had.
“Sure, dinner would be great.” Sam gathered up her things and scanned the gate room. “I should just-”
Catherine looked at her like she was an adorable five year old child whose cheeks needed to be pinched. Sam’s ears felt warm. “He’s in his office,” said Catherine.
Catherine shooed her toward the stairs. “Go,” she said. “I’ll meet you on the surface.”
The briefing room was empty. Jack was sitting at his desk with his bright red handset pressed against his ear. He spotted her before she could leave and held up his index finger.
Sam studied the grain in the wood table until he came out, his face set in hard lines. He’d been wearing the same expression all day. The easy humor she’d seen earlier had been washed away by the responsibility of his job. “Hey,” he said. “I won’t be getting out of here any time soon.”
“I noticed. Still no word from SG-7?” The question was a formality. She’d been in the control room all day. If they’d checked in, she would have heard.
He made a face like he’d eaten something unpleasant. “No.” The word came out clipped and quiet.
“I’m sorry. It must be hard for you.” Sam was insulated enough from the Airmen and Marines that she didn’t know any of the missing personnel. It must have been so much worse for Jack.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked down at the gate room. The floor started vibrating and she heard the first chevron lock in place. Jack winced. “Can I call you a cab or something?”
She’d forgotten that he was her ride home. Toast and coffee seemed like forever ago. He had more important things to deal with. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll catch a ride with Catherine. Go, save your people.”
His shoulders relaxed the slightest bit before he turned to go. “I’ll call you,” he said. Then he was gone, jogging down the stairs to send more people into danger. It wasn’t something she could have done.
“So? How did your date go?”
Sam considered that for a moment. The date part of the date had been horrible. The Jack part of the date had been… not horrible. It had been a lot like watching a great actor trapped in a movie that couldn’t be saved.
“You were right.”
Catherine smiled; she liked to be right. “I usually am.”
That was true. It was also true that Catherine wasn’t afraid to remind people of that fact. It was something that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but Sam liked it. “And humble,” Sam pointed out.
“Humility is overrated.” She said that like she’d actually tried humility at some point in her life and found it lacking. Sometimes Sam forgot how different things must have been for Catherine.
“I really like him.” Sam picked up a limp french fry and frowned at it. She should have ordered a salad.
Catherine nodded over her club sandwich. She looked far too pleased with herself. Maybe because she had ordered a salad. “I thought you would.”
“I don’t know why.” At all. Sam had avoided him as much as possible in the beginning. “He’s kind of scary at work.”
“He needs to be.”
“I guess.” It did seem to work for him. Having that layer of separation from the people who worked for you was probably important when they might die following your orders. He was a completely different person away from the job. She wasn’t sure how Catherine had known that, and wondered if there was a story in there somewhere.
Sam yawned and pushed her plate away. Her half-eaten burger looked offended. It was a good burger. She just didn’t have the energy to finish it. She’d prod the story out of Catherine some other time.
Sam was sound asleep when her phone started ringing. She answered with something she hoped sounded enough like hello to get her point across.
She was expecting Catherine. Nobody else called her in the middle of the night. It took her a moment to place the voice with the name.
“Jack.” She rolled onto her back and thought about opening her eyes. “Is something broken? What time is it?”
There was an embarrassed pause while she listened to him breathe. “Shit. I forgot about the time. I just wanted to let you know that we got SG-7 back.”
Right. She remembered now. He said he would call. “Oh, good.” It was good. She’d be more excited after breakfast.
“Yeah. I’m going to grab some sleep on base. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sure.” She opened one eye and then changed her mind. It was too much work.
“Goodnight, Sam.” Jack hung up before she could say anything else and she fell asleep with the phone in her hand.
He stopped by her lab with good coffee the next morning. A peace offering for waking her up in the middle of the night. She picked the chocolate covered espresso bean off the lid. It was soft from the heat and she had to lick her fingers because wasting chocolate was not something she was willing to do.
Jack cleared his throat and sipped cautiously at his own cup. He glanced up at the industrial clock hanging on the wall and frowned. Jack had a pretty full schedule and Sam wondered where he was supposed to be. She was pretty sure hanging out in her lab wasn’t a scheduled event. At least not this early in the day.
“Come to my house tonight,” he said. “I’ll make you dinner.”
Sam wasn’t expecting that and Jack kind of looked like he wasn’t either. He didn’t strike her as a spur of the moment kind of guy. “Really?”
“Really do I want you to come over, or really am I going to cook?”
Really was he inviting her over for food or was it a euphemism for something else? He was hard to read. Sam put her sample of liquid naquadah aside and gave him her full attention. It was a mistake. He wasn’t wearing a BDU top and his t-shirt sleeves were pushed up over his elbows. Sam thought she wouldn’t mind if dinner at Jack’s house didn’t actually include food.
“Both,” she said.
He leaned his hip against her workbench and stared down at her. Jack knew how to do intense. There wasn’t much Sam wouldn’t agree to when he looked at her like that. “Then, yes,” he said. “Really.”
He smiled like he meant it. “Great.” Dr. Lee and one of the lab techs walked through the door. Jack took a step back but kept his eyes on her. “Six?” His voice was low, the question only for her.
“Looking forward to it,” she said.
Dr. Lee was giving her a strange look. Panic, maybe. General O’Neill was a rare sight on this level. At least during the mostly regular hours the civilians kept. He’d spent a lot of late nights in Sam’s lab while she drew simplified diagrams on her whiteboard. Sometimes she forgot how much he avoided the science crew.
Jack nodded at Dr. Lee and went off to do whatever it was he did all day.