Understandings and Misunderstandings Part 5: Feelings We Feel
Prologue: 3 months after the night at Jack's house
If he died now he'd die a happy man. To be honest, he'd rather not die any time soon, not when things were looking up for the first time in quite a while. He hadn't felt like this for a long time; it was incredible. Sam provoked feelings in him that he didn't know existed. He had kept them buried too deep for too long. Or maybe he had never felt quite like this before. He didn't want to think that, but did anyway.
He couldn't compare Sam with Sara. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. He and Sam worked together. They saw each other virtually every day. They'd seen things of each other, and shared so much, that no one else except other members of the SGC could relate to, empathise with, or understand. Only a few people in the country even knew about what they did and Sam and he were free to talk about work. He and Sara never had been. It was inevitably very different, if only for that reason. His and Sam's relationship was… unusual.
They had never even kissed on the mouth. Sure, they'd pecked at each other's cheeks, Jack had kissed Sam's hair, her hands. They'd touched fondly, hugged occasionally, like two close friends. That’s how they behaved, like two close friends. They figured that’s what they were, for now. By no means were they lovers, but only because they had never consummated the relationship, never known physical intimacy with each other. An outside observer, watching them on their own together might think that they were a long-time married couple. A couple who had been physically intimate, often, earlier in their relationship but who now valued companionship above everything.
It had been going on like that for a little while. They'd seen each other a fair number of time times outside of work; dinner, movies, walks. Sometimes alone, sometimes with the guys. If Daniel and Teal'c noticed anything different between them, they knew better than to comment. They surely must have noticed. At work they were businesslike, but friendly. They hoped their relationship looked like it had in the days when they were good friends, before they'd drifted apart. No, they weren't lovers. Although they knew in their hearts that it was a delusion, they kidded themselves that, technically speaking, they weren't breaching the regs.
Jack felt uncertain about the whole thing with Sam. Usually he was decisive, could weigh up the pros and cons rapidly to reach his conclusion. That was his job, right? But this? Flouting the regs this way was not his style. Breaching them altogether to have an affair with her would be a violation of his principles. He loved Sam, he knew that; had known it for a long time if truth be told. He was torn between honour and desire. He couldn't stop himself, despite all of that.
What had he expected when he waited at her house that night? He couldn't honestly say. His jealousy, and sense that he was loosing someone very dear to him, had blinded his usual relatively sound judgement. He was spiralling out of control and he didn't much like that. It was the one thing that soured his life right now.
Sure, he had never been a stickler for the regs; he'd bent them, interpreted them loosely, had even broken them. Not for his own selfish reasons though. Okay there had been the armband debacle, the O'Malley's thing, but he was under an alien influence, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then there was that time…better not to even think about that incident. So his breaches of regs, the ones that really counted, they were the life and death times, the saving the planet times. His and Sam's relationship most certainly was not life and death, although it might have saved his scrawny butt.
He'd considered resigning many times. It would be the honourable thing to do. Resign, get on with a life with Sam; if she wanted that. For crying out loud, at least then he could make love with her without adding to his burden of guilt. Once, when he'd broached it with her, he'd been surprised at her reaction. She didn't want him to give up something he loved so much, that he was so good at. She said the SGC needed him, the team needed him. There were too many consequences.
Jack thought she was right about that. It would be hard to give that up, a huge sacrifice. Even so, he pondered whether he was still up to the job. Apart from his dwindling physical fitness, he was concerned that he couldn't make the right decisions anymore; worried that he would put the lives of others at risk because of his feelings for Sam. Increasingly he realised the sense, and reality, of those pesky regs.
The rest of the team, the job and the SGC aside, one of the worst things about resigning would be not being able to work with Sam anymore. He'd get to spend a lot less time with her. She'd find it difficult to talk to him about her missions. It would be insufferable to have to wait for her return, knowing that this time might be THE one; the one she wasn't coming back from. Not being there for her if that happened, how could he live with that?
On the other hand, he didn't want any son of a bitch thinking that she used the casting couch either. It would be an insult to her intelligence, her ability, her integrity; everything. Nor could he bear that people might think he had harassed her in any way, just to get her into bed. That would sully the relationship, make it seem dirty. For crying out loud, they hadn't even slept together yet. Then again, no one knew what was going on between them, but he couldn't be sure it would stay that way. It struck fear into his heart that someone might find out and think such things. Particularly about her. Screw what they might think about him.
He was one confused Colonel O'Neill.
Although he would never have guessed, things were due to change.
Sam had been stuck in the lab all day wishing she had the day off, along with Jack. As usual, it was her own fault, she needn't have been there, but the experiment she was doing on particle accelerators was just too damned fascinating. Deciding to pop in to see him in on her way home, she pulled up outside his house and ran lightly to his door. Crazy, she realised, but she'd missed him. She was used to him popping into her lab to distract her. It could be pretty annoying at times, but the absence had made her yearn for it.
When he answered he didn’t look too happy to see her and she shuddered, already regretting her impulsiveness. He looked sullen, almost grunting a greeting. On the table in his living room stood a bottle of whiskey, more than half empty. Sam could tell by his demeanour that he’d been drinking it and she wondered how much. Was it just this, or was there another finished bottle in the garbage? Jack could take a lot of liquor, and he seemed a little off-balance, so she guessed he’d had quite a few. It puzzled her; she hadn’t seen him drink like this, figured he probably only did it when he was alone and depressed. Well he had been alone until she arrived to disturb his obviously wonderful day off. Was he depressed?
"Jack, what’s wrong?" She ventured, softly.
"Nothing! I’m fine." He snapped back, his tone denying his words. No, he wasn’t fine; he wasn’t in the least fine. Was it anger and hurt that she heard there? Jack could be so damned infuriating and Sam wasn’t in the mood for his games. She’d been working hard all day and was tired. It was OK for him; he’d just been sat at home all day, probably doing nothing better with himself than drinking. Instead of feeling sympathetic, which she might have normally, she was mad at him. Damned inconsiderate ass! So her tone met his.
"Fine. You don't wanna talk. I don’t wanna listen. Screw you Jack O’Neill. I can’t handle one of your tantrums right now!"
Jack held up a hand as if to stop her.
"Tantrums? Goddammit Sam, can’t you even allow me to be in a bad mood?"
"Drunk, more like. You've been drinking all day when I've been working. Then you decide it would be a good thing to just be downright rude to me? So much for popping in after work to say hi."
"Hey! It's not like that, honest." Jack was starting to get defensive.
"Well either speak to me civilly or not at all, OK?"
"Ok… I get it!" It was an angry and frustrated tone but, after a long pause he continued, more subdued. "Sara called around today."
Sam stiffened at the mention of her name. She had always felt uncomfortable about Sara; the very fact of her She had been a big thing in Jack’s life and he had loved her for a long time. She secretly feared that he still did. He’d been happy with her, until Charlie had died. If he hadn’t, they would probably still be together.
She felt a pang of jealousy and tried to hide it. She didn't have any right to feel that way. She and Jack weren't even lovers. Nonetheless, she felt the jealousy threatening to overwhelm her. She tried to kid herself that maybe she could have borne anyone but Sara; this was arrant nonsense, but Sara was her worst nightmare. She knew how Jack had felt about her.
Trying to sound casual Sam said "Oh?"
Jack looked pained, pouring himself another drink, not even offering Sam anything. She cringed at that. Then he came straight out with it, much too forthright for Jack about something so personal.
"She’s getting re-married."
Sam’s eyes widened. So he was hurt and annoyed that his ex was getting re-married? Her stomach lurched. She’d been right, he was still in love with her. Oh, god! Had all this between them meant nothing then? It was hard to believe that.
"I’ve been sitting here getting maudlin, regretting…"
Her jealousy and uncertainty rose quickly to the surface and she flared up. Only Jack O’Neill would have the downright audacity, the sheer arrogance to sit there and tell her that he regrets breaking up with his ex. OK, so she wasn't exactly his current lover or anything like that, but she had thought they were something special; that the relationship was going somewhere. So she lost it. Son of a bitch! How dare he?
"You really are a total bastard, you know that? I can't believe what an egotistical piece of shit you are, Jack O'Neill! You have no thought for anybody's feelings but your own. If you wanted to let me down, tell me you were still in love with Sara, then you could have at least been a bit more subtle and gentle about it." And she was out of the door before he could do anything but gape in shock and dismay.
"Sam! Sam… it's not like that, please! For crying out loud!" He cried after her, too late. She was gone and he couldn't believe she had moved so quickly. His own uncoordinated state made him struggle to reach the door, only to see her driving off already. What? Had she grown wings? Or maybe he had lead weights on his feet, or was just too slow these days. Going back into the house as quickly as he could move himself, he phoned her mobile, frantic to speak to her. Should have guessed that she wouldn't pick up. He left a message. Crap!
Jack had been surprised when Sarah called. He thought she was also surprised to reach him so quickly. She'd probably expected his answering machine, then days waiting for him to return the call. Same old, same old. She's wanted to see him so he invited her round there and then.
It had been a little uncomfortable between them when she arrived, the conversation stilted and about trivial stuff. She had taken a while to get around to the purpose of her visit, as if she dreaded Jack's reaction. He'd been stunned, not knowing what to think or feel about it. Trying to hide his reaction, he'd been polite, saying how happy he was for her, wishing her luck, and giving her a goodbye hug. He wasn't expecting an invite to her wedding any time soon.
Immediately after she left, he got out the whiskey bottle and knocked a few back while he mouldered over the turn of events. He was surprised that his first reaction was a surge of jealousy; it had been a very long time ago. Obviously, he needed to work out how he felt about it.
Sam, he loved Sam. He knew that with certainty. But that didn't mean that he didn't care about Sara. They'd been together for a long time. After everything between them he figured that you didn't stop caring just because a person was no longer part of your life. Sara would always be important to him. He couldn't just snip those years out of his experience of life like you might cut out a cancerous growth. He grimaced at that analogy which was not really appropriate; made it sound like it was something he would rather cut out and that wasn't true. About some small parts of it, true maybe, but most of the time his marriage had been pretty happy.
He sat drinking all afternoon, thinking about Sara, Charlie, their lives, and Charlie's death. The latter part of their marriage had made for a sorry story but there had been some very good times indeed. He reflected on those with longing and regret. He recalled when they had first met and fallen in love. Before he met her he'd been a bit of a bastard with women, though; had never had a shortage of supply in that area. He didn't stay with any of them for very long, generally dumping them unceremoniously. Sara? She'd been different, had totally bowled him over from the get go. Without her, he would have been a different man; she had changed him for the better.
He remembered when Charlie was born, how happy and delighted they had both been; the expression of love on her face when she looked at this tiny thing that was theirs; his stupid jealousy for the love between mother and son; and his own total adoration. Good times.
This all came back to Jack in a flash after Sam had gone. Sure he regretted lots of stuff about Sara; that he had pushed her away, been so cold and distant, when she needed him most. He wished he'd been more… approachable. Yeah, he regretted that she'd gone when he got back from Abydos; signing the divorce papers had sickened him and made him feel dejected and totally alone. He had deserved that, though.
She'd always supported him through thick and thin, even when he came back from Iraq a total basket case. She had probably saved him from himself then. Yet he could not help her when Charlie died. How could he? He had died himself for a long while; he could only deal with it in his own way.
So he guessed he did still love Sara in a way, but not in the way Sam obviously thought. He needed to see Sam, to talk to her, explain. He had never really spoken to her about any of that and maybe it was time he did. He couldn't loose Sam, couldn't bear that now.
He grabbed his jacket then realised that he probably shouldn't drive in this state. Then he tried her mobile again, to no avail. After leaving another message, he called a cab.
Sam drove a few minutes from Jack's place, then recognised she wasn't capable, so pulled the car over. Her eyes brimmed with tears, although she wasn't crying. So angry and hurt was she that she couldn't think straight or even breathe properly. She wanted to throw up. God, had she lost Jack just like that? Was it so simple?
Things had been good; great actually. They had been getting closer and she was actually feeling that this thing between them could work. They'd made that agreement a few months ago; to be friends, test the waters, and not risk it all to leap into the unknown. Recently, she'd been thinking she should negotiate some additional clauses.
Now it looked like that wasn't going to happen and she bitterly regretted never having made love with Jack. Although, perversely, she was also glad because it was less embarrassing that way. She'd see Hammond in the morning about a transfer; away from the SGC, SG1, him. Things had gone too far and they could never work together now. How could she ever trust him again, look him in the eyes, take his orders?
Had it all been wrong from the start, as she'd feared? She'd been right when she said she didn't know him. The Jack she thought she knew would never have done this to her, would never have even started it knowing that he still loved his ex-wife. Maybe he hadn't realised until it came upon him suddenly when Sara told him her news. Jack was good at burying stuff.
She remembered what he'd said about Sara when they'd been stuck in that damned ice-cave all those years ago, and how he had spoken of her. It had been very obvious then. She laughed in a resentful manner, recalling that it was in that frigid place that she'd started to realise that she had some feelings for Jack that she shouldn't. It had only been a minor awakening, but it had been there.
When she'd seen them together during that crystal entity incident, Jack had radiated his feelings for Sara. Sam recalled her slight twinge of jealousy over that. All of it was a long time ago. She didn't even think that Jack had seen Sara for years. Although who was she to know for sure? Jack O'Neill was a dark horse; harbouring hidden feelings for his wife for years seemed like something he might do. As this entered her head, she could no longer withhold the flow of tears and she drooped forward onto the steering wheel, crying freely, shoulders shaking as the sobbing wracked her whole body.
Jack slumped in the back of the cab, willing the driver to go faster; he desperately needed to get to Sam's. How could Sam even think that? Why did she? Was it because he had said he'd been sitting there regretting stuff? He hadn't intended it like she imagined. She hadn't even given him the chance to finish his sentence. Even if she had, he probably would have screwed it up; he was good at that. Had she so little faith in him then? In their relationship, too? He had to admit it was pretty strange. Two adults who'd been seeing each other for 3 months, lusting for one and other the whole time, but who hadn't even had sex. Madness. Go figure! Why did things always have to be so complicated as far and he and Sam were concerned?
No matter what happened tonight, her lack of faith in them did not fill him with any optimism for their future. Maybe it had always been a non-starter; a stupid fancy they both shared, but that really was just a fancy.
Then he wondered whether Sam had always believed he still loved Sara. Had she no faith in herself either? In her own ability to make him love her? He tried the mobile again, feeling that he must have left her at least 20 messages by now; well, maybe not that many, but a few. Please, talk to me Sam, talk to me. Don't do this to us. His plea went unheeded as he got the messaging service again.
He was leaving another message when it happened. A truck coming out of a crossroads failed to break and smashed heavily into the cab. It slammed into the passenger side, and Jack's world went black around him.