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Stitch Marker

by Christi

Post-The Serpent's Lair

Somehow, even the three hour long debrief didn’t quite manage to kill the high of literally saving the world. Which explained why, even after the entirely too thorough medical exam and the intense grilling process, SG-1 had found themselves standing at the elevator bay, still too wound up to return to their own, decidedly humdrum home lives.

“So…” Jack ended up saying awkwardly. “Anyone up for a drink?”

He was immediately glad he made the suggestion: the way Sam’s eyes lit up led him to believe that he wasn’t the only one dreading the gradual slip back to business as usual. “There’s a place not far from base,” she offered, still a bit hesitant despite her own eagerness.

Jack had heard of it too. “Right. O’something.”

“O’Malley’s,” Daniel supplied. “They’re supposed to have a great steak.”

“Steak is a most appealing meal choice,” was Teal’c’s contribution to the conversation. So, decision made, they headed off to enjoy some steak, some beer, and each other.

It was clear when they walked in that O’Malley’s had been the perfect choice. The sports bar atmosphere was jovial and fitting to their high spirits, the food smelled fantastic, the music was classic rock and roll, and several pool tables featured prominently in the décor.

Eyeing a free table as they took off their coats and got situated in a nice, out-of-the-way booth, Jack finally said, “How about it, Carter? You play?”

She shrugged. “Not as often as I’d like.”

Well, there was an invitation if he had ever heard one. “Feel like a game?”

Because she was more polite than he ever remembered to be, she glanced at Daniel and Teal’c. “Do you guys mind?”

Daniel waved her away. “Go for it. I’ve never understood the appeal, myself.”

Somehow, Jack wasn’t surprised. After all, pool required skills like basic hand-to-eye coordination – skills that Daniel tended to lack. “T?” Jack asked, just be sure.

Teal’c simply nodded – why Jack expected anything else by now, he never knew. Still, it was enough of an acknowledgement that he felt okay turning back to the now grinning Captain. “After you then, Carter,” he said, bowing slightly.

They fell into an easy routine of preparation, Carter examining cues while Jack racked the balls. By the time the table was ready, so was Sam, handing him a perfectly chalked cue. “Thanks,” he acknowledged. “Wanna break?”

“You sure, sir?” she asked.

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I’m sure. Why not? Relax, Carter. Go with the flow.”

With a smile, she bent over the table, lining up her shot. “I wasn’t trying to be difficult – I was just giving you a chance to change your mind.”

When her break easily landed two solid balls, Jack realized that he may have ‘relaxed’ himself right into a pool table humiliation. Appearing on his left, Daniel offered him a beer. “Need this?”

As Carter sank a ridiculously difficult shot into the side pocket, Jack grabbed the mug. “Hell yes.”

Teal’c, now flanking his right side, watched with interest. “Captain Carter, you seem to be most adept at this game.”

Not even bothering to pause, she glanced up at them, gloating more than a little – not that she wasn’t perfectly entitled. “Thank you, Teal’c. I could teach you, if you like.”

“Perhaps,” Teal’c allowed.

Great. So there were soon to be TWO members of his team who could kick his ass at pool. “I’m going to need more beer,” he muttered.

The remark caused a short shift in Sam’s focus from the green felt. “Oh, come on, sir. Don’t be a sore loser. Just relax. Go with the flow.”

Hearing his own words being used to needle him, Jack actually found himself laughing. “You always so cheeky outside of the mountain, Captain?”

He regretted saying it almost instantly, because she almost seemed chastened. “Sorry, sir. It’s just…we just saved the world. I’m a bit…well, I’ll tone it down.”

“Don’t bother on my account," he assured her. "I certainly wasn’t complaining.” In fact, it was sort of nice to see a less…professional Carter. She was young and eager and so very military sometimes that it clashed with his naturally rebellious streak.

That being said, however, she was still proving to be the best second-in-command he had ever had. She knew when to speak up and when to do as she was told, she managed to get her point across as clearly as possible, and when she wasn’t spouting incomprehensible scientific jargon, she could be a lot of fun.

Not to mention the other thing. The thing where, as military as she was, she had still followed him into what quite clearly should have been their untimely and likely painful deaths. Daniel and Teal’c were different. Somehow the fall of the Goa’uld was, in many ways, their only goal. But Sam…she had other, grander plans, and defying orders to go through that gate had placed every single one of them in jeopardy. Optimistically speaking, the best they could have expected was to be court marshaled for defying direct orders.

She had known that, and even with as much as the Air Force obviously meant to her, she had followed him into what they had assumed was going to be complete and total ruin.

Somehow, that made the fact that she was currently kicking his ass infinitely more bearable.

As she sunk the eight ball, he took a long drag from his mug. "Carter, I think that makes it official – you’re a pool shark."

"No, sir. The term shark implies intent. I can't help it if most men are idiots who assume that blondes come to bars to look pretty. Present company excluded, of course."

“Of course,” he replied, smiling at her in spite of himself. “Hey, Carter?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Have I ever told you that I am really, really glad you’re on our side?”

Her grin was bright and immediate. “As you should be, sir.”

And she was funny on top of everything else. It figured. Shaking his head, he handed his cue to Teal’c. “Here, T. Have Carter show you the basics while I go buy us another round.”

“Very well, O’Neill.”

As he made his way through the crowd, he could hear Sam start off with, “Okay, Teal’c, it’s really just basic math….”

“Geometry,” Daniel chimed in.

“I am unfamiliar with ‘geometry’, Daniel Jackson.”

Walking a little quicker, Jack pushed his way through the crowd. After all, he had people to get back to. People who, if he wasn’t back soon, would have pool completely stripped of all its inherent coolness in favor of angles and physics.

What would they do without him?

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