[Moments of Adoration]



"Rules of Engagement" by splash_the_cat


[notes]: Stargate SG-1. Sam/Jack. PG. Humor. 2424 words. 5/31/03.
[summary]: This is so not how Jack imagined his retirement...

This is what happens after re-reading a *lot* of Jojo's fic in one evening. As such, I'm dedicating it to her. Thanks, as always, to Cal and Michelle.

O'Neill: "Alright, wait a minute. Let me...let me get something straight. Engaged?"
Carter: "It is theoretically possible."
O'Neill: "It's against regulations."
Carter: "I'm talking physics, sir."

...............................



This was not, Jack mused sourly, how he'd imagined his retirement. No, his excruciatingly detailed little fantasies of cabin, lake, fishing and Carter certainly hadn't included rain, mud, alien planets and Lieutenant Gibson, who was at the moment shivering in the downpour as he dialed the Gate.

Nope. Nowhere near what he'd imagined.

The worst part was that Jack had no one to blame but himself (not that he didn't have a very long list of other people he was planning to blame anyway). He could have said no when Hammond asked him to "just take a look at the preparations for the Beta site, since you did such a great job with the Alpha site. We'll contract you in as a consultant. Just a couple of days, Jack. I'd consider it a personal favor."

He'd certainly learned his lesson. No more goddamned personal favors.

Two days had turned into a week, which had turned into three weeks, which found him here, three months later, soaking wet and sore and tired and just wanting to go home, find Carter and...

And what? Jack hadn't even seen her for those three months, let alone spoken with her. Every time he'd managed to make it back to Earth, she was off- world with SG-1. He was starting to think there was some sort of damned galactic conspiracy to keep him from getting near her.

He was going to be really pissed if his carefully crafted plan to seduce Samantha Carter bottomed out before he'd even had a chance to implement it.

Jack had put an enormous -- and probably even embarrassing -- amount of thought into his plan to secure her affections; Carter already harbored some pretty unprofessional feelings for him - she'd even whispered one or two in his ear at his retirement party, leaving him both giddy and very, very frustrated - but Jack wasn't taking any chances. Not with this. Not with Carter.

"Colonel?" A drowned-looking Gibson pointed at the now-active Gate. Fumbling for the GDO, Jack punched in the iris code.

"Gibson," Jack said as he waited for the confirmation, "if anyone asks me to help them with anything once we get back, do me a favor?"

"Uh, sure, sir." Receiving the all clear, Jack trudged up the steps toward the Gate, Gibson right behind him. "What's the favor?"

"Shoot them."

******

On the other side, Teal'c and Daniel were waiting at the bottom of the ramp. Just Teal'c and Daniel. Ignoring a swell of disappointment, Jack gave them a heartfelt, if brusque hello before not-quite- demanding, "Where's Carter?"

Silence. He saw Teal'c and Daniel exchange a look. Then Teal'c took a very unsubtle step backwards. Daniel shot Teal'c a peeved glare before saying, "Uh, Jack, she's... not here."

"That's obvious." For a moment any number of worst-case scenarios flashed through his mind, but while Daniel looked nervous, neither he nor Teal'c looked like they had that kind of bad news. "So where is she? Her lab?" Jack shucked his sodden pack and tossed it to the nearest SF as he made a beeline for the door.

"Well... no."

Oh hell. Daniel was using his "You're not going to like this, Jack" voice. Jack slowly pivoted. "Daniel..."

Daniel took a breath and blurted, "ShewenttohelptheTok'ra."

Oh, for Christ's... "She WHAT?"

"They called yesterday," Daniel all but squeaked. Clearing his throat, he managed a normal tone. "Apparently there was ah, a problem with the new naquadria reactor, and they needed Sam's help."

Jack threw his hands up. "Well isn't that just peachy keen? Whatever happened to 'You kids shouldn't play with the big boys' toys' crap they're always going on about?"

"Uh, Jack, Sam did design the reactor..."

Digging his thumbs into his temples, Jack started counting to ten. At five he growled, "When is she coming back?" A rivulet of water from his soaked cap began to work its way down the back of his neck.

"She said it would only take a couple of days..."

"Yeah, well I've heard that before." Jack yanked off his cap and wrung the water out of it. It wasn't a galactic conspiracy, he decided. The damned universe was out to get him.

Apparently deciding that abandoning Daniel on the field of battle wasn't a very honorable thing to do, Teal'c added, "Colonel Carter asked us to tell you- "

"Whoa." Did he just... "Did you just... Colonel Carter?!"

This time it was Daniel who retreated, slowly stepping back and sliding over behind Teal'c. "Her promotion to Lieutenant Colonel came through two weeks ago." He gave a tiny apologetic shrug. "Uh, didn't they tell you?"

"Do I look like they told me?"

That was it. The absolute last fucking straw.

Muttering some things that made Daniel's eyes go wide, and Teal'c's eyebrow practically climb over the dome of his head, Jack marched toward the Gate room door. He gestured impatiently at the SF stationed there, but before the kid could swipe his card, the door slid open.

Standing on the other side was Jacob Carter.

Jack stopped. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Good to see you too, Jack." Jacob clapped him on the shoulder, and then made a face as he shook the water off his hand. "How's the Beta site?"

"Wet."

"I can see that." Jacob wasn't quite smiling. "So Jack, headed to Minnesota?"

In that moment, inspiration struck. Yes. This was good. This could work. Smiling for the first time in days, Jack poked Jacob in the chest. "Nope. Going with you."

Jacob blinked. "You... are?"

"They said," and Jack jerked a thumb over his shoulder to where Teal'c and Daniel were lurking, "Carter was with the Tok'ra, right?"

"She is. She needed some things from her lab, and I volunteered to come get them." Jacob's forehead creased in a slight frown. "Why?"

This was so not a conversation he wanted to have with Jacob. "I, well, I need to talk to her."

"About?"

Shit... Uh... "Reactors! I need to ask her something about the Beta site's reactors. Very important. Urgent even." The lie finished smoothly, and while Jacob's frown deepened, he seemed to buy the story.

"Well, maybe you should, I don't know, dry off first?"

"I'm fine. Let's go." If he left the room, Jacob might just leave without him, and then God only knew when he'd see Carter again. Ignoring the confused look Jacob exchanged with Daniel and Teal'c (and the nagging feeling he was, just maybe, being a teensy bit irrational about the whole thing), Jack shoved his still-wet cap back onto his head and walked to the foot of the ramp as the Gate began to spin.

The universe had a damned big surprise coming if it thought it could screw with Jack O'Neill.

******

Okay, so maybe changing into dry clothes wouldn't have been such a bad idea.

"Sure you're okay, Jack?"

"Just fine, Jacob." Jack managed to keep his teeth from chattering. "Thanks, by the way, for mentioning it's winter here."

Jacob just smiled as they continued on through the blue crystal tunnels. "So. What's so important about the reactors that you had to see Sam right now?"

"It's... very technical."

"And the Beta site sent you to ask about it?"

"Funny, Jake. Really."

There were more tunnels. More walking. More smiling. Then Jacob said, "She missed you, you know."

"Who?" Good. That sounded casual. Unconcerned. Nonchalant, even. Not at all like he wanted to throw a triumphant fist in the air and yell "Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

"Sam."

Jack shrugged. "Well, you spend practically every day with someone for eight years, and you sort of get... accustomed to having them around."

"Mmmhmm." It was a suitably non-committal response that spoke volumes.

About what, Jack had no idea. Okay, some idea. But he didn't like to think about what Jacob thought about him and...

Suddenly Jacob shoved the tool case into his hands. "Around the corner, first door on the left. I'll catch up after I check in."

******

A pair of BDU clad legs stuck out from under what Jack assumed was the naquadria reactor casing. Hearing a few muffled curses, he grinned and shooed the Tok'ra assistant away as the curses grow in volume and inventiveness. "You learn those from your dad, or you been spending time with SG-3?"

"Colonel!" Sam slid out from under the reactor, surprise evident in her eyes as she stared up at him. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I was in the neighborhood..." Reaching down, Jack grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet, resisting (barely) the urge to just yank her into his arms. Instead he let her go and shoved his hands in his pockets. "How've you been, Carter?"

"Fine, sir." She was staring at him, and a very pleasant shiver shot down his spine. "You're wet, sir."

"Yeah, well, it rained. A lot." Jack returned her appraising look. God, it was good just to see her again. Tousled hair, wide eyes, and that smile... "So. Colonel Carter, huh?"

Her cheeks flushed, and she grinned. "That still sounds so weird."

"But well-deserved. Congrats, Carter."

"Thank you, sir." She ducked her head. "I was hoping to be able to tell you myself, but..."

"S'okay, Carter. It's the thought that counts." And considering some of the thoughts he'd been having... He realized suddenly she was still looking down, eyes roaming restlessly over the reactor. An awkward silence fell.

Shit. This was so not in the plan. Okay, regroup and retreat to familiar territory. "What's wrong with your toy?"

"Oh, the naquadria injector system, which was..." And she was off, four and five syllable words -- of which he understood far more than he'd ever admit -- tripping off of her tongue. God, he'd missed this. Missed her mile-a-minute explanations, the way she emphasized her words with those gorgeous hands, the way her mouth...

She stopped mid-explanation. "I'm glad you're back."

"Really?" Jeez, could he sound more pathetically hopeful?

Sam nodded, still staring at the smooth metal of the reactor casing. "It felt... strange, you know? I mean I knew you were okay, and that was good, but it just didn't feel right, that you weren't there." Finally she looked up. "You spend so much time with someone, and you get..."

Thankyouthankyouthankyou! "Accustomed," Jack finished, and her face lit up.

"Exactly!"

The timing was perfect. The plan was perfect. She was perfect. "Look, Carter..."

And then Jacob walked in.

Crap.

"Hey Dad." Sam hugged him, and Jack squashed a ridiculous tinge of jealousy. He refused to be jealous of Jacob.

"Hey Sam. Jack. Any warmer?"

Of course, he might be okay with resentful. "Much. Thanks. Get all checked in?"

"Yeah." Jacob turned to his daughter. "Sam, Garshaw wants the reactor moved to our other base. Think you can finish up the repairs there?"

Sam looked between Jack and her father. "Uh, sure. When do you want to do this?"

Jacob's gaze slid back to Jack. "Now."

Now? She was leaving? "No." Damn it!

"Jack?"

He'd been this close! "No!"

Jacob was staring and Sam was frowning.

"Sir? You okay?" And then she reached up, brushing his damp hair off his forehead. Oh God, she was standing there, watching him, touching him...

He'd had a plan. A great plan. Her fingertips were now brushing down the side of his face.

Screw the plan.

Jack grabbed her by the shoulders. "Marry me, Carter."

And then there was silence. A deep resounding silence shattered seconds later. "WHAT?!"

It was Jacob. Sam just stared at Jack, wide-eyed, mouth making a perfect little "O". "Sir?"

"Ah!" He shook a finger under her nose. "No more 'sirs' or 'colonels' or any combination thereof! It's Jack. J. A. C. K." He punctuated each letter, finger stabbing at the air. "It's one syllable, Carter. You use bigger words than that describing what you had for lunch."

"Jaacckk...."

Crap. Wrong Carter. Sam was still staring, though her initial look of shock had faded to something that looked suspiciously like amusement. Jacob on the other hand looked about ready to break something. Like Jack's neck. It had been such a nice plan.

Holding up his hands, Jack took a slow step back as Jacob took one forward. "Uh, Jacob, look. It's not like..."

As Jack's life flashed before his eyes, Jacob twitched once mid-stride and stopped. "Jacob apologizes for his reaction, Colonel."

Selmak. Thank God. "Is he..."

"Going to leave you and Samantha to discuss this situation in private? Yes." The Tok'ra smiled, nodded, and left. Jack swore he heard chortling.

Well, at least someone thought this was funny.

"Ahem."

Okay, two people. Slowly, Jack forced himself to meet that wide blue gaze and shrugged. "Really, I had a plan..."

"A plan?"

"Sure. You know, dinner, fishing, maybe a movie."

Sam delicately bit her lower lip. "So you... you came all the way out here to ask me out on a date?"

It didn't bother him in the least that she was trying not to laugh at him. It felt... right. Normal. Perfect. "Pretty much."

And then she was in his arms. Yeah. Perfect. Burying his face in her neck, breathing in the scent of her, he chuckled. "So, on a scale of one to ten," he murmured in her ear, "just how big a fool did I just make of myself?"

"The scale only goes to ten?"

Jack groaned, though mostly because of the way her breath on his skin was making his insides twist wonderfully. "Thanks, Carter."

"You're welcome... Jack."

Holy... he felt that all the way down in the pit of his stomach. Resisting the urge to ask her to say his name again, he hugged her tighter. "Hey, uh, sorry about all that."

Jack felt her hands slide under his jacket. "You're sorry you proposed to me?"

"Yeah... I mean, no, but..." He pulled back a bit. "You're not helping."

Sam grinned. "I know."

He kissed her.

Several long, breathless minutes later, when he started to think straight again, something occurred to him. "You never answered, you know."

"Ask me again. Later. Much later." But she was smiling, and oh, her hands were under his shirt now.

"Carter?" He really, really wanted to go home and get out of his wet clothes.

"Hmm?"

And, hey, she was kind of damp now too, so it would make sense to get her out of her clothes... "It isn't going to end up like all my fishing invitations, is it?"

"No, Jack."

Yeah, one hell of a plan.


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