I never meant to feel this way about Sam Carter.
If I could go back in time and change things, alter the past three years so that this undue caring never took place... if I could use that damn Tok'ra lie detector or my own willpower to make it different, I would, I would in a second. Not because I'm a cold-hearted, loveless bastard, but because first and foremost I'm Carter's commanding officer, and I'm not supposed to have these feelings for her any more than I'm supposed to have feelings for Teal'c and Danny. Just because she's an attractive, intelligent, engaging woman doesn't make it right.
I don't get butterflies in my stomach when she walks into the room. My palms don't sweat. When I'm talking to her, I'm no more inarticulate than usual. In fact, when I'm with Carter, I don't feel that anything's wrong. Which is EXACTLY what's wrong. Warning bells should have gone off at some point. They never did.
Never have I had a distinct picture of 'the perfect girl'. Blonde or brunette, blue-eyed or brown, brilliant or na´ve. I've had long-term relationships and I've had flings with all kinds. After Sara left, I even gave up on finding MY perfect girl, the type that would complement and understand me, the type that would answer my dreams without asking what they were, the type that I would implicitly trust and would gladly lay down my life for. It frightens me to no end that I've found all that in a fellow USAF officer.
If this is finding true love, maybe being alone isn't so bad after all.
Carter isn't quite herself lately, but I'd like to think that had more to do with Martouf's death than anything she found out from me. Even though I've tried, even though I've considered my far-distant feelings for Sara and others in my past, I can't begin to understand what she's going through now. All I can do is stand around and look useless and feel helpless, and wish... that I had been at the right angle to shoot that Gou'ald weapon off his hand, or his hand off his arm, if need be. That I had taken the longer route from the lab to obtain a Zat. That I had been able to do something, anything, to make that killing shot myself. Not because I hated Martouf, not because I'm a cold-hearted, vicious brute, but because it was a shot Carter shouldn't have had to make.
The fact that she made it anyway says a lot about her character. Maybe it says a lot about why I feel this way for her. I'm not all that sure about my motives, to tell the truth. Even after my three-day forced downtime - which was, as far as I'm concerned, Hammond's apology for believing that Tok'ra broad and her 'experimental' technology - I haven't had many grand epiphanies. That worries me too.
This is just too easy.
I never meant to feel this way about her... honestly. It's not something I want, this feeling that I have to tiptoe around her now that she knows, and I know, and I know she knows... and the circle of knowing that extends all the way up through Doc Frasier and Teal'c... and Hammond, more than likely. I don't LIKE being like this: unsure, uncertain, not intending to exclude her but not wanting to appear that I'm actively seeking her out. I'm the ranking officer; in a hypothetical world where we gave in to our feelings, I would get the harsher punishment... but she has so much more to lose than I do. I don't want to put her in the position of the hounded female. I don't want her to have to be unsure and uncertain around ME.
But she is. And I hate it. I hate that things had to change.
I find Daniel in the lounge - a room I had expected to be empty - and... what the hell is he doing? Not sprawled across the armchair reading, like usual. Not watching a documentary or historical fiction or Xena on the television. No: the book is on the table, the TV screen is dark, and he's sitting on the floor in front of the chair, legs out in front of him, playing with my impossibly tangled, twisted yo-yo.
"I was looking for that, you know."
"You were not," he mutters, deeply engrossed in the small chunk of plastic and string.
I hesitate in the doorway, not sure where to go from here. My room is too stuffy, my office is too cluttered and reminds me too much of the paperwork I SHOULD be doing. I thought I'd come here, have a little peace and quiet, zone out in front of Nascar or something equally manly, and get Sam out of my head. But it seems a little... rude to back out into the hallway and close the door on Daniel, so I take a few hesitant steps into the room. "Hiding from Anise?"
He glances up at me. The room is dim, and the sliver of light from the always-bright hallway flashes off his lenses. "Hiding from Freya?" he taunts.
"Course not," I declare, having deeper reasons than that but also determined to show that I wasn't afraid of a little old snakehead. After another moment of pause, I close the door and step further into the room, not totally sure of what I'd doing, but at least more certain than I was when I was spilling out my guts in front of Carter and God and everyone two weeks ago. "She's talking to Carter... about Martouf. I guess they got some of the test results back. Pretty conclusive stuff. Science stuff. We'll hear about it later, I'm sure."
Daniel yanks fiercely on the string, and I wince. The toy had originally been a gift for Janet to give Cassie, but five minutes into solitary confinement and I'd been damned bored. "Aha. So you're hiding from SAM."
I don't like the way he says that... I really don't. I feel the cool metal of the door suddenly against my back, and realize I'd taken an automatic step back at that statement. Embarrassed, I prove my valor to myself by walking clear across the room and sitting in one of the straight-backed chairs to the left of the recliner. "Don't have any reason to hide from the Major, thank you very much."
Daniel lets out an exasperated noise - I think it's a snort, but it could be one of those incomprehensible Danny-sounds that are a foreign language all their own - and turns around, looking over his shoulder and the chair's armrest at me. He's incredulous. "'Major'? What, Jack, are you going to start calling her by her social security number next? Blood type? How about just 'Doctor'? Know how much you love doctors."
He turns back around with a self-satisfied grunt, still as transfixed by the yo-yo as I had ever been. I'm left feeling slightly ridiculous, and more than a little awkward. "How'm I supposed to react?" I blurt out before I can think better of it, plunging ahead only when he doesn't look back at me again. "You've never been in this situation, Daniel, okay? So don't make fun of me trying to cope with it unless you've got something a little more helpful to contribute."
His words are loud and perfectly distinguishable in the dead air, even though his voice is directed into his lap. "Are you asking my opinion?" He doesn't seem surprised by that, or smug, just... serene... unruffled... and that just pisses me off even more.
"Yeah," I announce, stomping one booted foot hard onto the floor as punctuation. "WWDD... What Would Danny Do? Because we all know your great track record with women." Inwardly, I cringe again. Hadn't meant to go that far.
But Saint Daniel is unperturbed. "At least I've been happy," he says mildly. "Not for a long time, I know, but I found my love and I... I stuck with her. I was there... with her."
Any moment now, the guy's voice is going to break, and then I'm going to be out the door before I can stop myself. To save us both, I interrupt. "Can't compare Carter with Sha're. Totally different circumstances... different people. I'm not you, Daniel." I pause - he chuckles - I continue, still feeling slavishly cold-hearted . "And we've got the military to think of. Not to mention the current... situation. I can't do what you did. I can't drop everything to be with her. I'm not even sure she wants that."
"I don't think Sam knows what she wants," Daniel tosses over his shoulder, his voice full of resignation. "I don't think you know, either. But the solution isn't in calling her 'Major' and treating her like one of the boys, Jack. She's gonna resent that. We'd all resent that."
"Then what the hell am I supposed to do?" I snap, realizing on some strange level that I'm literally crying out for help here; it's why I stayed even when I saw my private sanctuary wasn't so private. I needed help, not to hide from Freya, not to spend time shooting the breeze, but to deal with everything that had happened. "Things can't stay the way there are."
"Why not?" He's not disagreeing, he's just leading me on, and that infuriates me.
"Because they can't!"
"Come on, Jack. Teal'c told me what you said... what she said. So you care about each other, so what? If it's not enough to make you 'drop everything', then it shouldn't be so hard to cover it up, should it? It's just a matter of willpower. Everything can be the same again, right?"
"No," I answer coldly, knowing where he's going with this but incensed all the same. "Because I don't want things to be the same."
He doesn't say a word, but beyond the armrest I can see his head bobbing rhythmically.
"When I see her," I croak, "I don't freak out. I don't panic. I don't see anyone different than I always have. I just think about how it's not just me any more. I'm not just this one guy... lusting after this one woman without any... without any hope or... reciprocation. Now I know how she feels and it's awful, because... we both want something that we can't have; we just like torturing ourselves like this. So she pushes me away and I push her away because I don't know what it'll look like or what we'll do if I don't, and it ends up being... a mess. It's a mess."
"Yeah," is the somber agreement.
"I want to kiss her," I stammer, watching carefully for some kind of shocked reaction from Daniel but seeing none. "I just want one second to kiss her and... and just have it be us. And not have to worry about who's watching or how it's going to end up. No consequences. God, Daniel, do you have any idea of how scary that is? And I don't want it. I don't want it, but I can't help it. I'm just left dangling out there -" - like that stupid yo-yo, I jeer - " - with no earthy idea of what I'm doing."
Well. That was surprisingly... cathartic. I'm not any less tense then I was when I walked into the room a few moments ago, I'm no less confused about what to think or feel or how to act around Carter, but at least now I feel less detached from the rest of humanity. There's a guilty pleasure with the knowledge that Daniel's now involved in my catastrophe, whether or not he really wanted to be. Hell, maybe he wasn't hiding out from Anise... maybe he was in here trying to escape from me and my emotional dysfunction... but it doesn't matter. He's a part of it now, and a tiny part in the back of my mind realized that I WANTED him to be. I wanted his opinion, I wanted his guidance and counsel, and I was tired of being alone in this. I wanted help, and even if I didn't get that, even if he's paying more attention to a child's toy than to my own personal misery, at least I got to... to vent. And it felt good.
I look up, back towards the recliner, but something's blocking my view.
That something is Daniel.
"You're right," he says. "It can't be the same anymore. And I know this doesn't make you feel any better, but... it scares me, too. You guys have always been there, you've been... constants. And now that's changing and I don't know what's going to happen... how we're all going to deal with it. But," he mollifies, "I do know that... if you guys want us, we're going to be here for you. All of us. Don't make yourself the martyr here. Don't let Sam do it either."
With that, he extends his hand, not to shake mine or anything silly like that... but to give me something. The yo-yo, its string wound up inside it and dangling in a perfect loop out the crevice.
Daniel smirks. "You've got to start taking better care of your toys, Jack," he tells me, and I realize that the entire time he was sitting there with his back to me, he was unwinding and untangling the string that I had mangled during my incarceration.
"Thanks," is all I can think to say, and that's okay, because it's all I really NEED to say.
Daniel shrugs, and nods, and then turns and leaves me alone with my thoughts.
No. Not alone. Never alone.
* * * * *
"And all you really need Is everything you could never be And so you'd give it all For a miracle" - Vertical Horizon
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