TITLE: Home Economics

AUTHOR: Little Red

RATING: PG-13

CATEGORY: Sam/Jack. Future. Established relationship. No plot. *Fluff.*

SPOILERS: None.

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I just borrow them and make them play house.

SUMMARY: Sam takes issue with something in Jack's house.

DEDICATION: This isn't dedication so much as blame. It's all Tammy's fault. "Sam and Jack would even be cute and shippy making toast!" *mutters* (But she beta'd and comma-whacked so she has appropriately atoned.)

*****

He would never have imagined that the biggest problem Sam Carter would have with his house would be his toaster.

Jack had sort of figured that any complaints she would have about spending the night -- something she was doing more and more often, lately -- would have to do with him. Or, at least, have more to do with other rooms in his former bachelor's abode than his kitchen.

He snored, sometimes. (He'd woken up too many mornings during his marriage to find Sara asleep in the guest room to deny it.) Sam had spent seven years bunking next to Daniel "The Lawnmower" Jackson off-world and was used to it. Plus, she was a science geek and made off with a handful of industrial-strength earplugs from the SGC labs.

His bed, although roomy for one, wasn't built for two people. Sam didn't notice, though, because she slept practically on top of him. For someone as fiercely independent by day as she was, at least professionally, she required a great deal of cuddling after hours -- the closer, the better. Upon returning from midnight trips to the bathroom he would sometimes find that she had, in her sleep, shifted all the way over to the edge on his side of the bed searching for his missing body heat.

The built-in corner shelf in his shower had no room for such girlie things as conditioner, so she had imported some sort of plastic shelving contraption that hung off the shower nozzle. She had fretted for a while, rather adorably, that she was making too big a move on his house too quickly, that keeping hair products and fruity-scented shaving gel in his bathroom was too forward, but in all truth, he loved it. She was making tentative steps toward moving in, toward permanence, and the more clothes she unpacked into his dresser and books and shoes she left lying around his living room like it was her home, too, the more relaxed he felt. He had spent seven years observing the way she fastidiously packed up her science toys before departing alien planets and knew that she wouldn't be able to bolt on him now without disassembling her plastic shower shelf first.

As far as the kitchen went, he'd expected her to take issue with the fridge, maybe, or at least want to collect samples of some of the stuff hiding in jars in the back for analysis, but the only thing she complained about was the toaster.

"It's too slow," she explained when he asked her one morning why she was making threatening faces at it.

He supposed it was a bit slower than hers, if he thought about it, but it wasn't like it took half an hour for toast. Figuring she was in some sort of mood, and that he'd do best to back off before she turned her wrath from the toaster onto a living, moving target, he'd ignored her comment and busied himself making coffee.

He'd noticed, however, that she got rather consistently edgy while waiting for her toast to pop up, routinely peeking into the appliance to make sure that it was on at all, and asking him in annoyance if it always took this long for toast.

Personally, he'd always found his toaster to be fairly inoffensive. It had been purchased sometime in the early eighties, when he and Sara were first setting up "house" in a third-floor apartment with poorly insulated windows and plumbing that rattled so loudly the dog spent nearly all her time hiding under the bed. Upon their separation, Sara had kept all the appliances that went with the kitchen in their new house and he'd taken the boxes of things she had kept in the garage as emergency backups. He'd upgraded from the Model T microwave -- he figured that if he was going to use a microwave as his primary means of cooking, it probably shouldn't be older than the latest batch of SGC recruits -- but the toaster was sturdy and had never given him any trouble at all. Until now.

"Just... do something else for a minute," he advised her as she paced around, waiting for her pop-tart. It wasn't exactly the most nutritious breakfast on the planet, but he counted himself lucky when she remembered to eat anything at all and, really, he wasn't sure they'd been together long enough for him to make worried noises about her nutritional intake. That, and the thing about glass houses and throwing stones. They were his pop-tarts, after all. "Drink some juice or something."

She shot him a glare. "You don't have any juice."

"Yes, I do. It's just frozen."

Sam opened the freezer and examined a half-empty concentrate container with poorly masked distaste. "We don't have time to mix it," she complained.

He really shouldn't egg her on, but it was almost impossible not to. "You just said you had all this extra time while you're waiting for the toaster."

"Just-" she whirled back toward him, eyes narrowing, daring him to crack a smirk. They exchanged looks for a moment, hers something comically between flustered and threatening, his calmly amused, until she finally slammed the freezer door and stalked out of the kitchen with an "aaargh! I'm going to look for my ID. Tell me when it's ready."

He tried not to, but he had to grin at her departing back. It probably wasn't healthy that he found her fussy moods so endearing, even first thing in the morning, but he couldn't help it. Under the mountain or on other planets, she was the very model of a morning person, as bright and cheery and ready for action at 0600 as any human being could possibly have the right to be. He liked her out of uniform, liked the Sam Carter who left her clothes on the floor at night and misplaced her ID, who took hour-long hot showers that outlasted his water heater and whined about bad hair days, who, sometimes, came home from a self-inflicted 32-hour shift so exhausted that she cried for no reason before falling asleep.

It had taken quite a while, even after their professional concerns were resolved and they began to explore this strange new world of getting to know each other apart from all of that, for her to let down her guard. Her quirks embarrassed her and seemed to worry her greatly, like she genuinely believed that he had cared about a fantasy Samantha for so many years while working alongside the careful, respectful Major Carter that he would give up on her the second she failed to live up to perfection. He hoped she didn't still worry about that, but it was hard to tell. He was only marginally better at understanding her now than he was when the majority of their conversations had involved the phrase theoretically possible.

She, at least, had known what she was getting into; he had never made any pretense of being anything other than a cranky, undisciplined old man with a juvenile sense of humor.

Sam's breakfast pastry popped up with a ding! and she returned to retrieve it, ID card in hand.

"It was in the hamper," she explained with a wave of her ID card, though he really could only assume that was what she was saying since her mouth was full of pop-tart. He grinned again. They were doing laundry together now.

Sam swallowed and offered a shyly apologetic smile for her mood. He scooped a few spoons full of frozen orange juice concentrate into a glass, stirred it with water and offered it to her as a truce. She finished her breakfast in record time.

"Ready to go?" he asked, plucking up the pair of key rings off the dining room table and handing hers over. The carpooling thing seemed like a good idea in principle, since they were both going to and from the same place, but one or the other of them almost always ended up staying late, and Daniel, who lived in the other direction and whose genuine happiness about his friends' newfound romance had only given him so much tolerance, had recently put an absolute moratorium on the Dr. Jackson Late Night Taxi Service.

"Almost." She reached up to smooth his hair down with her fingers and pecked him on the lips. He caught her around the waist and pulled her closer until she opened her icing-flavored mouth. He kissed her until she hummed -- fortunately, and this blew his mind, he now knew her well enough to accomplish this without making them late to work -- and then pulled his mouth away with a pop of suction. Might as well give her something to think about as she puttered away with her naquadah reactors all day, he thought smugly as he caught her checking her watch, probably (hopefully) checking if they really had to leave that very minute to make it on time. He considered it a down payment on that night.

Jack licked a few loose pop-tart crumbs from his lips. "Will I see you tonight?" She was at his place six nights a week, lately, but it was always good to check that this wasn't day number seven and that she wasn't planning to go back to her house and her superior toaster after work.

"Definitely," she promised. "I should be done early."

"I've got a phone meeting 'till 1800, so let yourself in," he advised her, glad that her cranky mood had safely passed (he might like fussy Carter a whole lot, but it was definitely something best appreciated in small doses), and he figured his toaster woes were over for the day.

Until he came back home.

*****

He spent the day wrestling all sorts of bureaucratic nightmares and racking up yet more reasons for his long list of why being too old for field duty sucks. It was fishing season in Minnesota, he couldn't help thinking as he spent five hours staring at the annoying accountant whose name he could never quite remember. That had been the plan. Fishing, and fresh air, and maybe a dog.

And then came Carter, and the promise of regular sex with Carter if he stayed in town. Not to mention the very complex and rational arguments she had given him while wearing nothing but a bathing suit in his backyard jacuzzi. (Janet Fraiser, bless her, had made up for any and all unnecessary medical procedures she had spitefully performed on him over the years by insisting he purchase a hot tub to help the stiffness in his knee.)

While basically covering the same territory as the generic You Can Still Contribute speech, Carter-in-a-bathing-suit had an additional, very valid point:

He would never be okay with someone else sending his team into dangerous situations.

And so here he was, one most-embarrassing-request-ever to the President of the United States later, circulating memos and fielding requisitions and attending more briefings than God. (Actually, even more humiliating than having to ask permission from possibly the most powerful man on the planet to date an officer under your command was the response that, by the less-than-official intelligence President Hayes had received upon ascending to office, Jack and now-Lieutenant-Colonel Carter had been "most likely" involved in an illicit affair for coming up on four years.) Whoever said that flying a desk was cushier than getting shot at, and by "whoever" he meant "Jack O'Neill circa any year prior to 2004", had clearly never heard the words fiscal summary.

He finally lucked out when his scheduled phone conference with the Pentagon ended early, and was more than ready to burn rubber out of the Cheyenne Mountain parking garage. He wasn't entirely sure that Major Davis hadn't invented another appointment just to get away from the cloud of budgetary annoyance Jack was projecting through the telephone lines, but he wasn't going to worry himself too much about the reason so long as he got to go home and collect on the promise of that kiss that morning. After all, he figured, as he checked the sign-out sheet before leaving to make sure Sam hadn't forgotten about going home early, it was at least partly her fault that he was still employed.

Teal'c had played a rather underhanded card of his own to lure Jack back into the SGC, reporting that he was "unsure" whether he could come to respect any other leader who might replace General Hammond sufficiently to remain in service of the Tau'ri, but Jack was less enthusiastic about the possibility of seeing Teal'c in a white satin negligee.

So Jack returned home, expecting to find Carter busy on her laptop in his living room ("home early" meant nothing with regards to actually stopping working, he'd learned; you could take the girl out of the lab, but you couldn't take the freakily-naquadah-obsessed-workaholic out of the girl), fully prepared to sweep her away from her work, ravish her wildly on the nearest flat surface, and then receive a large outpouring of sympathy for his miserable day. Sam, at least, acknowledged her complicity in his bureaucratic misery and was fairly good about making sympathetic cooing noises whenever called upon to do so.

Instead, he found his toaster in pieces on the dining room table and Sam hovering over the mess wearing her very important piece of alien technology please don't touch it, sir face.

"... Carter?" He had a bad feeling that there wasn't going to be a rational explanation for this, at least not one that he was going to understand and appreciate, but he held out hope.

Sam looked up at him, surprised, then at the clock, then down at the disassembled appliance in front of her, and then back up at him. And pretended nothing was out of the ordinary. "You're back early."

"Thing ended early. What are you doing?"

She glanced down at the array of pieces on the table and the screwdriver in her hand as though surprised to see them there, like the toaster had taken itself apart without her assistance. Ever the innocent. "I'm fixing it."

"Fixing. Did you break it?"

"I'm making it toast faster."

"Oh." He paused a moment, ran a hand through his hair, and watched as she bent her head over one of the pieces, stuck it with a pair of pliers and did... something. He figured the dining room table was off-limits for sex if it was covered with toaster parts, but he was okay with amending his plan so that the nearest flat surface became the nearest flat surface with nothing sharp on it. "Wanna take a break?"

She didn't even look up. Sam finished whatever she was doing with the pliers before she spoke. "Sorry about the mess. I was hoping to be done before you came home. I hope you don't mind that I..." she waved over the table to encompass the damage she had wrought in the name of increased breakfast speed.

Three months ago she had been worried that leaving a hairbrush at his place was overstepping her bounds as maybe-possibly-his-girlfriend, encroaching too much on his personal space, and now the woman was overclocking his toaster. He reminded himself that this was a good thing. "No, it's fine. Uh... how long do you think this is gonna take?"

"I've already taken it apart and put it back together twice," she reported, blowing a chunk of blonde bangs out of her eyes as she stabbed a piece of metal with her screwdriver. "I haven't got it yet, but it shouldn't be too long."

He shifted from foot to foot. Last-ditch attempt. "I could buy another toaster."

That got her attention, and she shot him a look. A what do you take me for? look. A weren't you paying attention while I wrestled all those alien computers to the ground with my bare hands under time constraint? look. He was sunk.

He hung around for a few minutes anyway. The inside of his toaster wasn't nearly as exciting as he would have hoped. He picked up what looked like part of the element and she snatched it away absently before he could bend it in a way that would render it unusable.

While at one time watching Carter work had been as close to sex with her as he could possibly get, and as such was a remarkably pleasurable activity, he had since actually had sex with her. It wasn't that she wasn't still adorable as she played with her gadgets, making faces and muttering to herself and occasionally grinning excessively for no reason that he could determine, and he still enjoyed taking his breaks on-base in her lab... but this time they were at home. Less than fifteen yards away from the soft, comfortable bed he sometimes now caught himself thinking of as theirs. They really could be having sex, and observing her in her natural science-y habitat was a poor, and frustrating, substitute.

"I'm going to watch TV," he announced.

"Okay, sir," she replied. Except on-base, where decorum often required her to, she only called him sir when she wasn't paying attention. She probably didn't even realize that she wasn't in her lab. So much for an early evening at home.

His day just kept getting better.

*****

Baseball was an infuriating sport, he decided. The Rockies sucked. The Cubs sucked. The White Sox sucked. Even the Twins sucked. Every sports team from anywhere he had ever even thought about living was losing, there was absolutely nothing else on TV, and his girlfriend was timing the toaster with a stopwatch.

His toaster, once only a mild daily annoyance in Sam Carter's life, appeared to have become, in the last five hours, her personal nemesis. She hadn't even come up for food because she'd spent the evening nibbling toast from her failed attempts at supercharging the appliance. His wonderful plans for an evening of fun and nakedness had completely gone to seed.

"Dammit!" she cursed in the dining room, drowning out the sounds of the Rockies getting their butts soundly kicked.

"Still no luck?" Even the announcers were beginning to sound depressed, so he flicked off the TV and went to investigate. Maybe she would run out of bread to test with. He could always hope.

She looked astonished as much as frustrated. "It's actually taking 36 seconds longer now!"

He had to admit he was pretty surprised as well. He never would have expected Sam "Never Met A Piece Of Alien Technology I Couldn't Make My Bitch" Carter to be defeated by a household appliance, and one from her own planet, no less. He figured she would have the thing capable of space flight by now. Oh, well. "Are you done, then?"

"I have to at least get it back the way it was." She yanked out the plug and pried the plastic casing back off with a determined huff. She jerked her hand back with a yelp when she touched a part that was still hot, and spoke through fingers in her mouth. "It shouldn't take that long."

"Oh, no. Nononono." He pulled her singed hand out of her mouth and examined it. It looked all right, but still. She was wounding herself now. And it was late. And he was bored. What the heck had he done with his time before Carter? "You've had your fun with the toaster. We're calling it a night."

"I can fix it!"

"Carter."

She looked up, appearing thoroughly confused as to why he was annoyed with her.

"It toasts, right?"

She blinked. "Yes, but-"

He raised a hand. "Ah! Good enough."

"But-"

He pointed toward the stairs leading to the basement. "I'll shut off the electricity," he threatened.

She glared at him, glared at the toaster, and relented. "Okay." Half a smirk. "I guess I got a little carried away." At least she realized when she was being ridiculous.

"Good." He handed her the casing, and she stuck it back in place. He snatched the toaster away and returned it to the kitchen before she changed her mind about stopping.

"I still could've fixed it," she muttered from behind him.

He turned to look at her and narrowed his eyes. "If I catch you sneaking out here in the middle of the night to take it apart again-"

"I won't!" Her eyes were wide and far too innocent for her to not have been already planning that.

Staring. Staring.

Her gaze broke away and slid past him to the offending appliance.

"It's a toaster, Carter."

"I know."

"You could just start eating cereal, or something."

Her shoulders sagged as she accepted her temporary defeat. "What do you want to do now?" She checked her watch. "How did it get to be eleven?"

He deliberated internally for a moment, but no, the mood for tearing her clothes off, knees be damned, right there on the floor, had well and truly been spoiled. "I'm going to bed." Tomorrow. Tomorrow would suck less.

*****

Tomorrow did not suck less.

Tomorrow consisted of a morning full of especially long briefings, an afternoon of breaking pencil tips on the budget with the accountant whose name he really ought to learn after all the time they'd spent together that week, and three SG-teams, including SG-1, getting delayed off-world for nearly three hours by what turned out to be nothing more than an overheated something or other in the mainframe of their dialing computer. Because SG-1 was off carrying the metaphorical flag to the monthly SGC check-in with the Land of Light, he had to deal with a whole boatload of technology geeks trying to fix the problem without his personal technology geek there to translate for him.

Worst of all for the general progression of his day, Carter was in a bad mood.

A real bad mood, too. Not the entertaining kind.

Apparently, she was taking the extra 36 seconds added onto her pop-tart toasting time personally, as if the appliance was mocking her. As a rule, Carter stood nothing worse than being mocked. The delay had somehow snowballed enough to make her ten minutes late to their morning briefing, and by the time he met up with her for lunch before her scheduled 1300 departure, something critically polysyllabic had broken in her lab, her computer had eaten her latest three mission reports, and the cafeteria was serving goulash. Ordinarily, she was actually one of the few people on base who could stand the institutional goulash, but today she hated it and he had enough of an instinct for self-preservation to know that this was not the time to remind her of her customary likes and dislikes.

The dark cloud that apparently followed her all the way to P3X-797 -- he actually had to remember planetary designations now -- was doomy enough that both Daniel and Teal'c approached him after returning to Earth to ask, in their own respective ways, if everything was all right at home.

Daniel and Teal'c might like him a whole lot, but he was under absolutely no illusions -- if he ever did wrong by Sam Carter, former brothers-in-arms or otherwise, those two would band together and kill him.

"Everything's fine," Jack answered, waving a hand as if to somehow explain her mood without actually saying she's just crazy aloud. Daniel would probably take her side. He was crazy, too.

She hadn't managed to shake it off by the time he finally escaped the fiscal clutches of his overdue budget report at 2230. At this point, he didn't care if he'd just agreed to serve nothing but goulash and jell-o in the cafeteria until the end of time so long as it was done. He went down to Sam's lab, fully intending to fetch her and whisk her off to late night diner food, possibly followed by renting a movie stupid enough to put this whole unfortunate day out of his mind and break her out of her funk enough to get some of the sympathy and the sex that he had missed out on the night before. Instead, in between angry keystrokes, she informed him that this was day number seven and that he should go back to his place without her.

"You're going home?" This was so officially not part of the plan. "Please tell me this isn't about the toaster."

"It's not about the toaster." She banged a few more computer keys and then reconsidered. "It started with the toaster. But my plants need watering, and I have a lot of work still to finish up here, and it's been a really long day, and I really just want to go to bed, and..." She took a breath and offered him what passed as a weary smile, even though she was still glaring. "I'm not going to be a lot of fun to be around. It's probably better if I just go home."

Her bad mood was back to endearing, and suddenly, in spite of his own crappy day, he couldn't think of anything he wanted to do more than rub her feet until she fell asleep. "Not a good enough reason," he declared.

"Jack..."

"I'll water your plants on my way home."

"My house isn't exactly on your way." Sam was shaking her head, but that didn't sound like an outright dismissal of his idea.

"If I water your plants and pick up take-out while you finish up here, will you come over?" She didn't even have to do anything; he was whipping himself.

The beginnings of a real smile. "You know I'm just going to fall asleep."

"I know." He really did, and having her there, even cranky and tired and with legs tightly shut, still seemed like a better deal than spending the night alone.

He had it bad.

Not that that was news, but sometimes he was less obvious about it than others.

He knew he'd won when she asked, "Chinese?"

He waved at her phone. "You dial, I'll drive. And you'd better be home before it gets cold."

She didn't argue, but she made no promises, either, only gave a noncommittal nod. She reached for his hand before he could take off on his errands. "Thanks. For this."

She looked genuinely grateful, and he wondered again about her lingering insecurities, if she might ever have seriously thought that her neurotic appliance repair or subsequent sulk might be the imperfect straw that broke his interest in her and would keep him from wanting her in his bed every night. He really would have say something about that to her at some point.

For now, he only said, "Things will be better tomorrow."

Her eyes narrowed playfully. He wanted to take the credit for her getting over most of her mood, but really, it wasn't in her nature to remain unpleasant for long. "When did you become an optimist?"

Oh, it had nothing to do with optimism, and everything to do with his new, improved plan for the evening.

He was a man on a mission.

*****

Sam arrived home well after the Chinese food had gotten cold and staggered into bed without even going into the kitchen long enough to see his surprise.

It took a lot of willpower not to shake her and demand that she go look, but she was pretty much already asleep the second her head settled against his chest and, after much deliberation, he decided that would be mean.

He actually forgot about it completely until he was already out of the shower the next morning and being lured to the kitchen by the smell of his automatic-timer coffee maker. It had been a retirement-turned-promotion gift from Daniel, and definitely made up for at least half of the annoying things that man had done while Jack had been in command of SG-1.

Sam stood frozen in front of the counter, cold pop-tarts balanced precariously in her fingers, making confused faces at the newest addition to his kitchen.

She turned to him. "You stole my toaster?" Her lips quirked slightly towards amused. That was a good sign.

"Relocated," he corrected. The stainless steel appliance that fit in so well with her shiny, modern kitchen didn't exactly go with his collection of functional, mostly plastic counter accessories, but it looked all right. "It's still yours. It's just... here."

Definitely amused. "What about when I go home?"

Jack was hoping that, sooner rather than later, she wouldn't be going back to her place all that often anymore. That would definitely be a lot to spring on her first thing in the morning, though, especially after burglarizing her home under the guise of watering her poor, neglected plants. He should probably convince her to import a few of those, too, because a good handful of them looked pretty close to death. "You can take it back and forth with you," he told her seriously. "I've still got the other one."

She didn't say anything. Her smile was shy and beautiful, definitely one of his favorites.

He took her pop-tarts and stuck them in the newly stolen toaster. "See?" he said, pushing down the lever with a flourish. "No more toaster issues."

Nothing happened.

"You have to plug it in," she suggested helpfully.

He did, and before he was properly on-balance again, she had him backed against the counter with her tongue in his mouth.

Oh, wow. Had he known that one borrowed kitchen appliance would result in this, he thought absently as she did something incredible with her lips and suction that fogged all actual reason from his brain, he would have turned to a life of crime years ago. How had he survived all those years without a Sam Carter in his house every morning?

They were usually better at not actually mauling each other before work -- a few embarrassing mornings early in their relationship when they were both conspicuously late to the same meeting let them know that it was borderline impossible for them to have sex for breakfast and then make it to the base on time -- but if she kept doing that, he might really have to re-think their current policy. Maybe he could start scheduling briefings for later in the day. Shouldn't he have that sort of power now?

He tugged her hips closer and kissed her back, shamelessly pleased when her balance faltered, and she had just started doing that thing with her tongue when the toaster popped up.

She broke away, eyes pleasantly dazed, and frowned.

Damn, her toaster really was faster than his.

She made a face. "Sorry about that," she said, disentangling her limbs from his and looking thoroughly contrite for having all but jumped him in the kitchen when they only had ten minutes to get out of the house and on the road. "Tonight?"

"We could call in sick."

"We can not call in sick." She offered him one of the pop-tarts as a consolation prize. She chewed thoughtfully for a moment, holding a hand under the pastry to catch crumbs as she studied the new layout of his counter. "I think it looks good there."

"Not mad at me for stealing it?"

"Relocating, and no." She reached out to wipe an errant bit of icing from his chin, her thumbnail delicately scratching the sensitive, just-shaved skin as she lingered a bit longer than necessary. "Although I can sort of see the appeal of having to wait longer for toast. If... appropriately distracted." She was doing her absolute best to look serious and seductive at the same time, and ended up looking a bit like she had something in her eye.

Still hot, though, but it was hard for her to get out of that one. Three weeks ago she'd shown up in the 'gate-room covered in eighteen kinds of alien mud and he'd still had thoughts about getting her alone on the briefing room table.

Definitely had it bad.

He finished his coffee and breakfast and headed for the door. She handed him his keys.

"You coming back here tonight?" If she wasn't going to follow through on attacking his lips in the kitchen, he was going to have to start preparing himself for the disappointment immediately. Given the way his week was going, he wouldn't be surprised.

"I pretty much have to, don't I?" She was grinning. "I don't have a toaster at home anymore."

When he kissed her, she was still smiling, and tasted sweet.

Oh, yeah.

It was already a good day.

*end!*

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