Disclaimer: same 'ol, same 'ol, no money, don't own them, yadda, yadda, yadda... you know the rest.

Holding

by Linda Bindner

Major Samantha Carter dispiritedly stared across her lab. Even her new naqueda reactor couldn't keep her interest for long on this strange day. For some unknown reason, on this morning, everything was royally ticking her off... She considered the idea that she may have contracted a strange, unheard-of alien virus. She was worried enough by this thought that she had spent a good hour being poked in the butt by Janet's needles, but nothing had come of her blood test results; she was as normal as normal could get for the SGC. It was just that she was in a totally pissy mood, and didn't know why...

Sam sighed loudly, the sound soaking through the room and into the corridor, loud enough to carry to the approaching form of Colonel Jack O'Neill as he walked down that hallway, intent on... Well, okay, intent on bugging her, he admitted to himself. He had already spent the last hour bugging Daniel in an attempt to avoid Major Carter for as long as he possibly could, but Daniel had thrown Jack out of his office just a few minutes before, saying that he would never get any work done unless Jack left. Not wanting (exactly) to be a distraction, Jack had finally ambled his way down to Carter's lab in order to see what she was up to.

Except that Carter was... if that sigh was any indication... Carter was less than a happy camper.

Jack peeked around the doorjamb and into her lab. Hey, Carter..? You in here? He called his questions. Is it safe to come in, yet? Or are you gonna boil me in oil and have me for dinner?

Sam Carter smiled in spite of her dark mood. No, sighs notwithstanding, I don't plan to boil you in oil; it's safe to come in, Sir, she called back.

Jack crept into the lab, looking around for whatever had caused such a sad sounding sigh. He expected to see that something had flown into a million pieces, at the very least. But everything seemed to be alright to him... He glanced around again. Okay, I'm in... Mind telling me what's wrong, then?

Sam sighed once more; she just couldn't help herself. I have no idea what's wrong today! she exclaimed. I just came in this morning, and so far, everything that could go wrong today, has gone wrong today!

Ah, Jack said in complete understanding. One of those mornings.

It makes no sense! Sam yelled with a shrug of her shoulders. I even went to see Janet in the Infirmary, thinking that something was wrong with me. But she says that I check out just fine - It makes no sense! she repeated, looking lost as she helplessly gazed at him. If I didn't know better, I'd say this is... She stopped her voice just in time before she said that her dismal mood was caused by PMS. But I know better.

However, not saying what had caused her mood was not good enough for a certain Colonel. It's not... what, Carter? Come on, you can tell me... I was once a married man, you know.

Well, Carter hesitantly began. I hate to use this as an excuse, because I think it's waaaaaay overused, and not true in my case, anyway, but I was going to say that if I didn't know better, I'd say that this is a really bad case of PMS.

But that's not the case? O'Neill asked, thinking that it was quite weird to be standing calmly in a science lab, discussing the menstrual cycle with his 2IC! It seemed odd, but he had never thought of Carter as having anything to do with a menstrual cycle before, even though that was ridiculous, as she was a woman, and he well knew that all women had to deal with such a biological thing as a monthly menstrual cycle. There was no getting away from it, barring pregnancy. He knew that. He'd been married to one of those biological things called a woman for ten years, after all!

No, Carter assured him, strangely just as calm as O'Neill was being while discussing such a personal issue with her team leader, even though that personal issue under discussion was her monthly cycle, of all things. It didn't seem strange at all to be debating such a thing with him. Instead, it seemed oddly... natural. Which was weird... Oh! I'm just in the worst mood that I could possibly be in, that's all, she eventually informed him.

Maybe you need a break, like a trip to the Commissary for a cup of coffee to help you calm down? suggested O'Neill.

Sam sighed for a third time. That's if I don't rip my coffee cup to shreds first, she admitted ruefully. And it's too early for lunch. I'm not hungry, anyway.

Jack nodded knowingly. Then, what you need is a good hug, he announced.

Sam stared at him in dubious scrutiny. A good hug? she asked, her hands propped in suspicion on her hips.

O'Neill shrugged one shoulder. Yeah. He noticed Sam's expression of skepticism, then. Okay, he admitted, and shrugged his other shoulder. Then he stuffed his hands in his pockets. I know it sounds stupid, but you should never underestimate the power of a good hug... And I know what you're thinking! he exclaimed then.

Sam regarded him in rolled-eyed antipathy. Okay, what am I thinking? she asked, as if her behavior had been forced by the fact that she'd even made such an appeal.

Jack sauntered over to the other side of the lab table and stared at her. This is not just a ploy of mine to get a damsel in distress... or in a very bad mood... into my oh-so-charming arms.

Sam couldn't help it; she actually did roll her eyes this time. Oh, of course it isn't, she sarcastically said.

Jack pretended that she had wounded him by placing his hand over his heart. Would I lie to you?'

Sam seriously regarded him.

Don't answer that, O'Neill commanded in an effort to save himself the agony that he was courting; she looked as if she might hit him at any moment.

Finally, she sighed, in derision, this time, and peered at him. A hug? she asked dubiously.

Jack nodded. Yeah, he replied. You know, holding? One human being holding his friend in an effort to comfort her on a day when she's pissed at the entire world?

Now Sam was really doubtful! Holding? she asked, her hands still propped up on her hips.

Jack shrugged both shoulders this time. Yeah... What's wrong with that? he asked. I only want to help. Then, he regarded her as she continued to stare at him. What? he asked. Last I looked, helping a friend in trouble wasn't against any regulations, or anything. He'd had to guess that breaking regs was what had been on her mind; she had been thinking of the fraternization regulations, and he didn't blame her, considering the secret feelings they harbored for each other, kept hidden even in the direst of circumstances.

He'd guessed right. Helping? she inquired, as if to make sure. That's all this is?

Now, Jack was irritated. Look, if you'd feel better, I could ask Teal'c to come down here and give you a hug, but I'm here right now, and by the time he got to your lab, half an hour can go by, and by then you can very easily have destroyed half your lab, and anyway, a hug from a Jaffa is...

Sam actually giggled at the idea of something that promised to be as nice as a hug coming from a Jaffa... Teal'c could be a gentle man, Sam knew... but in a fierce way! Somehow, I don't think that's quite the effect I'm looking for, she said.

Well, there you are, then, O'Neill told her, and shrugged once more. It's me, or Teal'c.

What? No Daniel? Sam teasingly inquired.

Jack shook his head. Daniel said that if I bothered him again for any reason, he might have to throw an ancient artifact at my head. I figured that means he and his office are off limits. He stared right at her. But you can brave his domain, if you want to.

Sam shook at just the thought of having something thrown at her head. With her luck, she would catch the thrown object in midflight and throw it back at Daniel! No, that's okay... I'll take your word for it, she said.

Logically, that leaves me, or Teal'c, Jack said. And if I were you, I'd be wary of Teal'c. He lowered his voice and pretended to confide to her in a stage whisper. You know that weekend we went fishing?

Yeah, I remember.

Jack leaned even more over her lab table. He told me that he bites!

That statement actually made Sam burst out laughing. He does not! she defended.

Yeah, Jack protested.

Sam kept laughing. I'll never look at Teal'c in quite the same way ever again! she said.

Jack laughed along with her. Well, he said, trying to get them back on topic. Either me, or Teal'c...

I think I'll skip Teal'c, if you don't mind... I don't want to be bitten right now! Carter mock exclaimed.

O'Neill shrugged another time. That leaves just me...

And your oh-so-charming arms, Sam finished for him.

Did I mention that I went to school for this? Jack asked.

That comment made Sam laugh anew. No, you kind of left out that little point.

It's true, Jack protested again. It saved my marriage in my black ops days... before the divorce, that is, he confessed. But, she knew all about his history; he wasn't divulging any new information to her. He rallied his light mood, then, as a way to stave off her natural need for wanting to ask what could only be a case of third degree questions following a comment like his. That should tell you how much I really do know...

Sam regarded him again. Is this in the team manual, Sir? she inquired.

If it isn't, it should be, Jack instantly deadpanned back.

Sam laughed once more. There should be a class on this holding business, right?

Only if holding is used as a way of keeping up morale, he told her.

Well, forgive me if I say so, Sir, Carter said, but my morale really stinks today.

You wanna throw things across the room? O'Neill guessed.

Oh, yeah! Sam said. In a big way! In fact, that naqueda reactor is lucky that it's not in pieces right now from being creamed against the far wall!

Boy, you've got it bad when you want to throw naqueda reactors, Jack declared. Then he wrinkled his brow. Can you even lift a naqueda reactor?

A giggle flew out of her mouth. We can find out, she threatened.

My way's a lot cheaper than throwing a million dollar...

Billion dollar.., she corrected him.

Jack's eyebrows went up. Billion dollar? he asked in a shaky voice.

She nodded, then repeated, Billion dollar.

Jack went on, pointing out, ... than throwing a billion dollar piece of equipment against the far wall. Then, he held out his arms to her standing across the table from him.

Still suspicious, she stared at his open-armed gesture.

Just a hug, Jack insisted. You look like you could use one today.

Still just as monumentally guarded, Carter stared at him. This doesn't mean anything.., she started to insist.

Jack looked irritated that she would think it meant anything at all. It's just a morale booster, he said. I would hardly be considered a good Colonel and team leader if I didn't suggest it, he defended again.

Sam still considered. She hesitated, went forward a step, then hesitated again.

Will you get over her before you break something, for crying out loud! O'Neill ranted. Geez, I haven't got the plague or anything! Then he amended, At least, not the last time Janet checked for it.

The casual mention of her best friend finally convinced Sam. Okay, but just for a few minutes... and as long as you haven't got the plague or anything...

Then Sam was in his embrace, right in front of the security camera, in front of anybody who wanted to peer through the open lab door... Sam Carter, in Jack O'Neill's arms...

Actually, it was quite nice to be held like this...

Actually, it was more than quite nice... Relaxing, even!

You're right, Sam said after a few silent seconds. I feel better already.

Jack grinned into her hair, and ran his hand down her back. God, it felt good to have her in his arms like this, even if it was only as a morale booster! I'd like to say 'I told you so,' but...

... but then I might have to whack you upside the head, Sam mock threatened.

And that would not feel very good, Jack emphatically commented, and minutely tightened his arms.

Sam squeezed hers across his back in response to his tightening. No, she said, That would probably not be in your best interest.

So, you keep your arms where they are.., Jack told her.

And I promise not to hit you in the head, she said as she couldn't quite stop herself from burrowing her own head just a little deeper into his chest. Jack was right; this did feel good! She sighed once more, but this time it was a sigh of contentment. She closed her eyes and just held on.

Above her, where she couldn't see, Jack smiled, then lay his cheek on the top of her head. I'm glad I could help, he whispered, for her ears only. And he sighed, too.

The End.


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