In the Wrong Story
Summary: Sam and Jack and Daniel, after the end of the world. Warning for implied rodent sex, sadly melted candy, and one intentional misspelling. Oh, also UST of various kinds.
Notes: Thanks very much to Pouncer, Vickita, Otter, Brighid, Salieri, Tingler, and Tripoli for all volunteering to hold my hand through the very scary First Beta Experience Ever. This is for Vonnie, who got me into this mess in the first place.
Disclaimer: No, of course they're not mine.
"We missed you," Carter says. Two years and the world gone to hell, and she sounds like maybe he went up to Minnesota for a week or had a bad bout of the flu.
Of course, Jack does realize that he's possibly not the first guy who should complain about people who keep stiff upper lips. He just didn't expect it from Carter.
They're a couple of miles down the road - and damn, couldn't she have brought a truck with decent shocks? - before she says to the windshield, "You should know that Daniel and I are..." She grimaces, a quick facial flinch that he recognizes from his own face in the mirror, and he hurries to let her off the hook. After all, he's missed her, too.
"Screwing like bunnies?" he offers.
Okay, maybe not that far off the hook.
A moment passes, two, and then Carter says, "Well, sir, I've never actually seen rabbits having sex."
"Ah." He shifts uncomfortably on the seat, trying for a spot with better padding. "Good. That's good," he says, and thinks he means it.
"Why? Is rabbit sex particularly disturbing?"
He's not sure how to reply to that, but she turns for a moment and hits him with that sunlit smile of hers and, well, if she's making fun of him then everything must be all right.
Jack wants to head straight eastward, but Carter nixes that idea. "I was going full out all the way here, so I didn't really have the time to track down someone tied into the National Traffic System and send a message back on the radio. If I don't take the chance to use the same guy you did Daniel's going to be a little upset." She rolls her shoulders, grimacing. "You know, more upset."
"He's pissed off you got to come and he didn't?" Jack asks, maneuvering the truck around a long-abandoned semi. Sagebrush crunches under the tires; he feels briefly guilty, then reminds himself that the sagebrush is winning.
"Sort of. When we got your message he wasn't well enough to travel - I'm sure he's fine now," she adds in response to his raised eyebrow. "He wanted me to wait so we could go together, but it would've been weeks before I'd have felt comfortable, and having to go over the Rockies... I wanted to go as early as I could. He said I should at least take someone else from town, but even if I could've come up with someone who could be spared and who I trusted... I mean, just because the message used your name, that didn't mean it was really you. Could've been a setup." She trails off and leans her head back against the seat, eyes closed. "So I left."
"Left? Without telling him?"
"Well, I left a note."
She makes air-quotes with her fingers, eyes still closed. "Dear Daniel, I've taken the truck and the Beretta and gone to Utah to pick up the Colonel. I promise I'll be careful and hope to see you again sometime in August. If I get back and hear you gave Dr. Langevin any trouble, I'll kick your ass. Love, Sam. P.S.: Christina has your birthday present. Sorry I'm going to miss it."
There's a brief, awed silence, which is finally broken by Jack saying, "He's going to shoot you, you know."
Carter laughs. "My plan is to keep you with me at all times for about a week until he cools down. I don't think he'd kill me in front of you. Make a lot of very snippy remarks, yes." She's quiet for a moment. "Hey, remember when we all thought Daniel was kind of a pacifist?"
"No," Jack says, "not really."
They spend more than three weeks on the road, between detours and some appallingly bad road maintenance and the inconveniences involved in gassing up after world's end.
To be fair, they're also driving across Texas, and that took forever even in the good old days.
At the edge of Austin - or what was Austin, once upon a time - they pull into an abandoned Shell station. This part of the country was hit hard anyway, and they're close enough to the city that any survivors stay away for fear of contamination. Carter assures him the toxin's long since gone, though, and the place is nearly untouched. The doors leading to the mini-mart are locked, with a sun-yellowed piece of paper taped to the inside of one saying closed for "QUARENTINE".
Misspellings used to bug the crap out of Jack, back in the day. Actually, he admits to himself, they still do. So does that weird quotation mark emphasis thing. But when he breaks the glass he goes through the other door, because somehow the thought of damaging that sign feels like disturbing a grave.
Mice found their way in where people didn't, but there's a lot they couldn't get to or had no interest in. (Jack notes that, judging by the vitamin display, there were some very healthy rodents running around Austin for a while there.) He expects it'll take them a while to sort through it all and decide what's worth taking, and Carter knows her needs better than he does, so once he's surveyed the place he heads outside to find her.
"In here, Jack," she calls, and when he comes through the door she lifts one hand in greeting without looking up. "Can you believe it? Emergency generator, still fueled. I think I'll be able to get the pumps going, which should make things easier."
"Yeah, if only I still had my credit cards that'd do us some good," Jack says, bouncing just enough to let her know he's kidding.
"I still carry my Visa, actually. Not that it's ever done me any good, but it can't hurt." Jack hears a grunt, a couple of smacks - ah, the all-purpose repair trick - and then the deep thrum of the motor. Carter pops up, wiping her hands on her shorts, and looks down at the generator a little skeptically. "Gas first, I think. I'm not sure how long that's going to last."
Once they've filled the truck and the gas cans in the back, Carter shuts the generator down, but when it takes them until evening to pack everything they've scavenged from the store she goes and turns it back on. They sit side-by-side on the curb outside the broken front door, eating half-melted Snickers bars Jack found boxed up behind the counter and watching a soft twilight give way to the harsh fluorescent glow of the lights from the store behind them and the pump canopy ahead.
"Next time we do this," Jack says, "I'm going to have to insist that either we do it sometime that's not the middle of summer or you bring a truck that has a working air conditioner."
"Well, at least it was a dry heat in Arizona. And no, before you say it, Louisiana was not my idea." He watches her suck chocolate off her fingers, heedless of grime. "For one thing, the bugs are awful. But we've never had anyone find us who we didn't want to."
"I'll try not to take that personally."
"Minnesota has bugs and sub-zero winters. No thank you. Besides, we didn't know how it was going to go, then. Anywhere attached to SGC personnel..." She trails off, leaning back on her elbows. "Thought about it, though," she admits, and he's a little ashamed of how much that warms him.
"Not like I got up there either. Hell of a weekend to decide to take off for a vacation. 'Gosh, could you just push the apocalypse back a bit? I'm out of town this Saturday.'"
That gets a real laugh out of her, and a light nudge, knee-to-knee. "You sound like Daniel. 'Couldn't they have destroyed the world during normal business hours?'"
"Well, it is rude," Jack says, and heads for the truck, leaving Carter to turn out the lights.
On August twelfth, they stop for the night a few miles southeast of Alexandria. "Another week, maybe," Carter says as she pulls the truck to the side of the road.
"Hey," Jack says, "let's take it to the other side of the road. Better view northeast - the Perseids should be peaking tonight. And it's not like there's any light pollution, right?"
He feels awkward about it, even now - like it's just a little geeky to remember meteor shower timing - but Carter lights up, which makes it all worth it. "Is it that time already? Absolutely we should get a better view." So when they lay down their sleeping bags, they settle in facing Perseus where they can rest their backs against an old Cadillac that's been cleared off the road..
Jack watched them the year before, too, but this year's show is much, much better. He lets himself make one wish, which he regrets almost instantly, since "let Daniel be well enough to be incredibly pissed off" does have a certain downside.
He dreams of Laira that night - in the beginning, anyway - and if Carter heard him she doesn't say anything in the morning.
The humidity really is something else, but at least the porch is screened, if tiny. Daniel and Carter scored an actual house, maybe forty years old and off toward the edge of the - community, Jack thinks. He's not sure it should qualify as a town, though he gives them points for the armory.
If they were off world, he'd call it a village, but he can't quite bring himself to use that word to describe something located in his own country.
The couch is old and mildewed, but it's a big step up from the truck, and between that and the moonshine Jack's rapidly moving from "relaxed" to "unconscious." Which means he isn't quick enough to cover his cup before Daniel refills it, and hell, it'd be rude to say no, wouldn't it?
"Once," Carter says, and are she and Daniel still having this argument? He must've tuned out. "One incident, and I didn't even have to fire the Beretta, just show it."
"But what if you had had to fire it? You had no backup, you know it's not safe to travel alone - don't even try to pretend it was a good idea."
She leans over, talking past Jack to Daniel on his other side and ticking off points on her fingers. "One: It worked out fine. Two: I was not going to drag just anyone across the country into something that could very well have been a trap. Three: You had malaria, Daniel. You're just lucky we're still able to treat it."
"I didn't have malaria, Sam. I was recovering from it. C'mon, Jack, back me up here. It wasn't smart to drive that far alone back when you could call AAA, much less now."
Jack knocks his drink straight back - Daniel hasn't lost his touch. The stuff tastes like Nyquil - and speaks through a pleasant haze, not quite able to bring himself to care one way or the other but able to guess which pathway will end the argument sooner. "Nah. I'm on Carter's side. Worked out fine. Besides, we'd never all have fit in the cab."
"Exactly," Carter says, leaning across and snatching the bottle from between Daniel's knees. Jack doesn't move, but he can feel her weight across his thighs long after she's straightened and taken a swig out of the bottle. "You think I'm going to shut myself up in a non-air-conditioned truck in the middle of summer for weeks on end with two sweaty men and no deodorant?"
"Things you wouldn't expect Samantha Carter to get pissy about after the world ends, number three hundred and twelve." When Jack opens his eyes he can see Daniel's watching her with an expression that reminds Jack of their first trip to Abydos. "Lack of deodorant."
"It's not my fault if you never noticed my love of personal care products," Carter says as she passes the bottle back across. "I mean, come on. I used to put on makeup to go off world, for God's sake."
"Teal'c should be here," Jack says into the darkness, though he's not sure anyone else is awake to hear him.
"He's out there," Daniel says drowsily, waving a hand toward the garden and the river beyond. "Went out through the gate when it was obvious there was nothing more to be done here. They're all out there somewhere, you know, everyone who was in the Mountain, doing..." Daniel shrugs. "Something. Good things. And Teal'c's hanging out with Bra'tac, and Rya'c, and telling stories about those crazy Tau'ri."
"You actually know any of that for a fact?" Jack asks, because in his experience Daniel's right more often than not, and he'd like very much to believe him this time.
"No, of course not," Daniel replies. "Sam would've told you if we did. Nice story, though, isn't it?"
The pattern repeats itself several times before Jack wakes - the tip of a fingernail tracing around each of his fingers, walking the line between ticklish and tender. He opens his eyes, and although the candles have long since burned out, he can see Carter's face in the light of a sinking three-quarters moon. She's watching her finger move on his hand like she used to look at the guts of a naquadah reactor, and she doesn't notice him watching her now any more than she did then - not until he turns up his hand and clasps her fingers lightly, acutely aware of Daniel's arm lying limp against his on the other side.
"You're drunk," he whispers.
"Mmm. Soon I'll be hungover. This is better." She squeezes his hand, caressing the back with her thumb, and slips her other hand between his legs.
He flinches, still a lot tipsier than he'd like. "Whoa! Hey!" he says, still whispering but now grasping for long-neglected tones of command. "Look, it's not - stop it." He grabs the second hand, stills it, and upon a moment's thought, moves it up onto the much-less-sensitive top of his leg. "You're going to be embarrassed tomorrow, and I won't --"
"It's okay," she says, and she's leaning in cheek-to-cheek now, "Daniel's okay," kisses on his eyebrow, his temple, and it's distracting enough that his first thought when another hand enters the tangle between him and Carter is that she concealed that extra arm really well. So it's almost a relief when Jack realizes that it's Daniel's arm reaching across his knees and Daniel's chin propped on his shoulder, because in that case, he's fairly sure he's dreaming. Not one of his more common dreams, but not, he has to admit, unheard of, either.
"You aren't seriously going to molest Jack on the porch, are you?" Daniel asks, and okay, much as Jack's interested in Carter's answer to that question he's not willing to put up with her elbow in his stomach to hear it. He twists, she wobbles, and if she'd let go they might have recovered, but as it is the two of them end up in an undignified heap on the floor. Carter's giggling, and Daniel's eyebrows are up to his hairline, and Jack's starting to feel just a little put out, not to mention alarmingly awake.
"Yeah," Daniel says cheerfully, "that's pretty much how Sam sprained her wrist right after we moved in." Carter's got her head propped on Daniel's right foot, and she's smiling up at him, though Jack doubts Daniel can see that. Daniel reaches down, face disappearing into shadow, and Jack starts as his friend's hand strokes down the side of his face before coming to rest at the juncture of neck and shoulder. "We should go inside. Sam!" He lifts his foot a little, prodding. "Inside. That means you have to stand up."
"Daniel," Jack says, before realizing he has absolutely no clue what the next word in the sentence is going to be. Carter's framed in the doorway for a moment, then gone, and he's left sitting on the floor of a porch in Louisiana with Daniel's hand sweaty against his neck and the alcohol on Daniel's breath settling into his mouth. He sits there for a moment more before he realizes that the rest of the sentence is "did you hear the world ended?"
"That's the rumor."
And oh, hell, if you're going over the edge anyway, you might as well jump. Jack tilts his head, rubs his cheek across Daniel's hand, then grabs hold of his arm and lets Daniel pull him to his feet. The moon's almost gone behind the trees, and damned if he's going to survive Armageddon and then break his neck tripping over a chair just because he couldn't find his footing quickly enough.
"The thing is," Daniel says as he draws Jack into the house, "we missed you."
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