TITLE: Staying On

AUTHOR: Little Red

RATING: PG

CATEGORY: pants!verse Sam/Jack

SPOILERS: "Paradise Lost" "Abyss" "Smoke & Mirrors"

SUMMARY: She doesn't deserve to feel this way. post-ep for "Paradise Lost."

***

And suddenly, in his cold, stale kitchen, grocery bags piled at her feet and him whistling into the freezer at her side like nothing had happened, it caught up with her and she couldn't stop it.

She had no right to feel these things, shouldn't have spent most of the month holed up in the SGC because she was afraid to go home to his sweater on her couch, his spare razor in her bathroom, his favourite breakfast cereal in the cupboard, that she didn't deserve to have missed him so badly it felt like a part of her body was gone.

Suddenly, it didn't matter that they weren't -- couldn't be -- lovers, weren't even dating, weren't together in any sense of the word except immediately, physically, as he dropped a frozen pizza box on the counter and pulled her into his arms before she had even really realized she was crying.

He smelled so good, and so warm and so real and so there.

"It's over now," he was saying, soft, soothing, hand in her hair. His cheek was rough against hers and she felt like she had finally hit sand after almost five weeks of treading water. "You did it. You got me. It's over."

"I can't do this anymore," she gasped, and even she wasn't sure if the words were for all that they were doing, their comfortable equilibrium of feelings and company and patience and silly rules invented to soften the blow of the real, important regulations they were already breaking, or what they weren't. She had convinced herself, somehow, that as long as she never stayed in his guest room more than one night in a row they would be okay, that as long as they didn't kiss every time they were alone and stayed half-dressed and didn't really have sex that this wasn't real and couldn't hurt her.

Her fingers dug stiffly into the muscles of his back, as afraid of hanging on as she was of letting go.

First Ba'al, and then the threat of a lifelong prison sentence, and this...

Tighter. "I know."

"This isn't..." her horrifying realization, made two weeks earlier at four in the morning when she would have done almost anything just to hear him breathing down the hall through two open doors, died on her lips, too big to voice. Friends didn't feel like this.

"I know." He kissed her wet cheeks so gently it hurt.

She thought about saying the words, the three words they never said except in jest, knowing that saying it now would change things, would force open doors they might never get closed again.

She found other words to say. It meant the same. "I missed you."

He smiled at her, warm, understanding, and his hands slipped down her arms and held fast to hers like he'd been treading water, too.

The important question. "Are you going to be okay?"

She could already feel her heart rate slowing to a sustainable pace, her back relaxing, her breathing becoming easier, like physical contact was what she had been missing. She was okay. She could get used to this.

The rules had changed before.

"Just... don't make me go home for a few days."

He let one hand go to brush through her hair, grown a bit too long and wild in the month he'd been away, and agreed.

"So... you think frozen pizza for dinner?" He glanced around at the selection of mostly unhealthy staples they'd picked up on the way home. "Or should we call for delivery? I've been dreaming about pepperoni for a month."

She laughed, a little forced, but it felt good. She wondered how many rules she could get away with changing at once, if his guest room would feel too far from him after a month of separation, if it would be all right to sleep with him, next to him, so long as the clothes stayed on.

"Delivery," she decided, and not just because it meant that he wouldn't have to let go of her hand right away. "I have cash in my purse."

He pulled her into a hug again before making the call, dropping a chaste kiss against her neck as he nuzzled her hair and shamlessly breathed her in. "Thanks for coming to my rescue."

She smiled. She could berate herself later for how long it had taken. "Anytime." He was home. Sorting out the complications -- the new rules, the dangerous thoughts and feelings she'd struggled with in his absence, her worryingly unprofessional behaviour -- could come later, too. For now he was here, and that was all that mattered.

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