Understandings & Misunderstandings Part 7
The Power of Healing
Jack awoke to a world of pain. Crap! His mind felt fuzzy and he was trying to remember what had happened to him this time. As he emerged from his unconscious state, the memories started to hit his brain. He groaned, recalling a cab ride, a truck, loud bangs, clashing of metal, crunching of the cab; of him. Ouch! He was still here in one piece, right? He was… wasn’t he? Gingerly, he opened his eyes a little. He could see a little through his blurry vision and it looked like he might all be there. My god it hurt. Crap!
He wondered where he was; probably the Memorial Hospital. Unless hell had changed a lot since his last visit. Oh good, a different set of four walls to the infirmary; a refreshing change. If only he didn’t hurt so much. God damn!
Groaning again he looked for a button to summon assistance. A nice shot of morphine would go down real nice right about now; a whole lot of shots of it. Please… Jesus! Having found what he hoped was the right button and pressed it, his mind started to shift to a higher gear, his memory of events coming back far too quickly. Sam! The heartache that came unbidden with her name just added to his list of woes. As if he wasn’t in enough pain already. Where the hell was everybody?
A nurse appeared from nowhere.
"Colonel O’Neill. Welcome back to the land of the living. Its good to see you awake at last."
Jack tried to open his mouth to speak but only managed a grunt; it felt like sandpaper and glue had been mixed together in there.
"Don’t try talking, Colonel." She reached over to check some equipment. "Are you in pain?" She smiled.
Dumb question, Jack thought, of course I’m in frigging pain. I’ve had an auto accident, go figure! Instead of attempting to say anything, he nodded as emphatically as he could, given that his headache was the size of Wrigley Field. He felt like he’d been zapped with a Goa’uld ribbon device. Stupidly, he imagined saying that to the doctor when he asked what the pain felt like, and laughed to himself. Trust him to still see the absurd when he felt like crap.
The nurse pressed something near Jack's hand and, almost immediately, he started to feel a little better. She explained to Jack how the Patient Controlled Analgesia pump worked; that he could press it himself and it would provide a pre-set dose of morphine; that it would beep very loudly should it run out. He looked concerned, so she explained that he couldn't overdose or become addicted because it was a controlled dosage and it wouldn't allow him to do that.
Jack figured he’d be pressing that pump a lot. Oh boy, that was good. Morphine; there was nothing to beat it. Almost instant pain relief at his fingertips. Nice! Oh yeah… He'd have to requisition one of those for the SGC infirmary. Hands off, strictly for the use of Colonel Jack O'Neill! He sighed, closing his eyes again, sleep beckoning him with her seductive finger.
SG-1’s relief at hearing the Colonel had come round, was palpable. The doctor assured them that Jack had passed the worst. There was no reason to believe that he couldn’t fully recover his health, although it might be a long slow road to that recovery. They still needed to fix his badly busted leg; he might need weeks or even months of physiotherapy, lots of rest and recuperation time. Full recovery, however, now seemed a likely outcome.
Sam felt a weight lift. He would live; it answered her prayers. She hoped that the doctor was right about Jack’s prognosis. He might get extremely pissed and bored with a long recovery process, but he may not have to give up the SGC and the work that he loved so much. That would mean a lot to him.
When they were eventually told they could see a, conscious, O’Neill, Sam was edgy. Butterflies merrily flew around her stomach, and her heart fluttered nervously. Teal’c took her arm, squeezing gently, and steadfastly supporting her. She nodded her head in gratitude, smiling wanly up at him. He was such a comfort, a true friend. He didn’t need to say anything, his physical presence and demeanour said it all for him.
Jack was worried in a way that only he could be. Thoughts of Sam, her reaction to the Sara thing, haunted him, and he desperately needed to see her. He hoped she would come, wanting some assurance that she might be open to reconciliation. Fondly fingering the well worn picture he had of her in his wallet, he turned as the door opened and hastily hid it under the covers. She was here, with the rest of the team, but here nonetheless. His heart skipped a beat.
"Hey Kids." He greeted them, weakly, a small smile on his lips. He was genuinely happy to see all of them; his kids, his team, his friends. He cared about each of them, and knew that they cared about him too. Even Sam cared, despite recent events. Pray to god she cared! They were his family, more important than anyone else in his life now that he had no real family of his own.
As they talked, he noticed Sam’s reticence. Daniel did most of the talking, about how worried they been, catching him up with any SGC news, yadda, yadda, yadda. Teal’c was stoically silent, as always, but would occasionally look towards O’Neill and nod, a small smile on his face. With that small gesture, Jack felt the warmth radiate from the big guy, and found it soothing. Sam was withdrawn, holding back from the chattering. It crushed him more effectively than the truck had. Sam, say something other than ‘Colonel’ or ‘sir’, please. Jack’s silent plea went unanswered and his heart was heavy with dread.
Eventually, Daniel suggested that they go get coffee and come back later, leaving Jack to rest for a short while. When he asked whether Jack would like something, he quipped,
"T-bone steak, fries, onion rings and a bottle of Bud, please Daniel."
Even Sam smiled slightly at that and Jack felt some hope well up inside of him. She declined the suggestion of coffee, and Daniel and Teal’c beat a hasty, tactical retreat, leaving her alone with Jack for the first time. Jack felt his heart race a little. It must mean something that she stayed here. Please god that it means something good, he could do with that right about now. Under the covers, one hand caressed the picture that hid there.
Sam could see both physical and mental anguish etched on Jack’s handsome features. He gestured towards the chair next to his bed.
"Why don’t you sit down Major?"
Immediately he could have slapped himself. Major? What the hell kind of thing was that to say right now? He noticed her wince at the words and softly said, "Sam, please sit down."
He tried to raise a smile but suddenly his body was wracked with pain again and he shuddered and groaned, reaching to press the morphine button. "Ow, shit!" He cursed. Sam leaned over, the concern showing in her big blue eyes.
"Jack?" She reached her hand out towards him and he grabbed it, holding tight while the pain subsided. Taking deep breaths to steady himself, he said,
"It’s ok Sam. It’s going. I'm alright."
He still held her hand, determined not to be the first to let go. When she didn’t withdraw either, his tension eased a little more; maybe it was just the morphine. Sam reached up and brushed his face with her hand, as she had done when he had still been unconscious.
"I’ve been so worried, Jack. I’m so sorry. This is my fault. I was stupid; jealous You were with Sara for a long time. I… I… " She tailed off, her words hopelessly inadequate to express her feelings.
"S’ok, Sam. It’s not your fault. Don’t think like that." He sounded groggy, the morphine affecting his speech, and making him sleepy. "Sam? 'Bout Sara. It's not what you thought. You know that, right? You're what's important; you and me." His words were slurred, barely intelligible, but Sam heard and squeezed his hand.
"I know Jack. Everything's alright. We'll be alright. We don’t need to talk about this now. Sleep Jack, you need some sleep. I’ll go join the others."
"Don’t go Sam. Please stay." His voice was diminishing to less than a whisper.
So she stayed, holding his hand, while he slept again. As she tried to re-arrange his bed covers, a little later, she found her photograph clasped in his hand. Her heartbeat quickened a notch and she smiled. It warmed, moved and excited her. He had been looking at it; holding it as a comfort, like her with his dog tags.
She would never tell him she knew; Jack would be embarrassed that he'd been caught out at being so sensitive. She would probably never tell him about the dog tags either; he need never know what had happened to them. At one point she leaned over to kiss his forehead, whispering in his ear, "I love you Jack O'Neill." Jack, of course, didn't hear her.
When Daniel and Teal'c returned, Sam hastily withdrew her hand from Jack's; she was still reluctant to show her true feelings in front of them, despite that, in reality, they already knew them. Sam almost instinctively returned to Major Carter mode when other people were around. It was important to maintain that fiction; she would need to do so when they got back to normality - if things ever did.
Jack woke again, immediately pressing his pump, and it beeped very loudly once he had done so. It was out of 'gas'. The insistent beeping sent his friends into a panic, wondering what had gone wrong with Jack now. Jack's head felt it was about to explode with the noise of the depleted pump and he grimaced, despite the final dose of morphine working its way around his bloodstream.
When the nurse arrived she was apologetic, explaining about the pump, calming down his friends. Apparently, they were currently out of re-fills for the pump and she was desperately trying to get some more. She turned it off at the control panel, which stopped the loud beeping and caused temporary relief of Jack's head, if nothing else. The dose in his body was insufficient to take away all of his pain. The nurse said she'd find a doctor who might be able to prescribe a temporary relief until the re-fills showed up.
Jack's whole body started to feel as if it were on fire. His friends were shocked by his reaction to the obvious pain he was feeling; Jack was normally so good at pretending, covering up that kind of stuff. It was alarming that he was not doing so now and indicated the depths of pain he much be suffering. Sam's heart broke a little more to watch him.
"Sam." Jack barely whispered, beckoning her to him. She was at his side immediately and he reached to take her hand, grasping it tightly so that she thought he might break it. Nothing of that showed on her face, just her heartfelt sympathy and understanding. Nor did she show her turmoil at his open display of need for her in front of their team mates.
Screw the regs, screw everything, she thought as he squeezed forcefully. Right now it wasn't important; only Jack mattered, what he needed and wanted. She hated to see him in pain but that he was so willing to show their mutual affection to their friends warmed her. Her feelings about the whole thing were a contradiction she would live with for now.
So she sat for a while comforting and soothing Jack; reaching to smooth his pained expression by softly caressing his face. Daniel and Teal'c stood by, slightly embarrassed, but inwardly pleased, that Jack could find some comfort in Sam's presence. Both wondered what impact all this would have on their friendship, the team, the SGC in the future; but none of that mattered for right now. Getting Jack well, fit again, that was what mattered. Both secretly hoped that this boded well for Jack and Sam' own futures; their want and desire for each other was so plainly evident, more than it had ever been.
A little later the nurse returned, this time to administer pain meds via a needle in Jack's arm. His tight grip on Sam's hand started to ease and he smiled weakly at her. It only took moments for them both to pull themselves together and become Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Sam Carter again.
After that, Sam had found it hard, wanting to spend every minute in the hospital with him, never seeming to get any time alone. Admittedly, it got a little better, when, after a few days, he was transferred from ICU to the step down unit; then again, in some respects, after they moved him to the Air Force Academy hospital.
However, SG-1 couldn't be kept out of the rotation forever. She was made temporary leader of the team; at least they all hoped it was temporary. Her visits were less frequent; sporadic. She would tell him about missions; the latest news at the SGC. They never talked about anything personal, unless it related to Jack's treatment. It frustrated her that she was unable to act as anything more than his second in command towards him; she was almost the perfect model of that after the open display of their feelings on that first day she had seen him.
Sam hoped that no one, besides Daniel and Teal'c, noticed anything different in her feelings for Jack; a step change. She was certain that her feelings and concerns must be written very clearly in her face; that it was obvious they were so much more than they should be, given their ranks.
Each time she visited she tried to touch him, surreptitiously. It was her way of showing that she was there for him and cared much more deeply than she was able to show right now. He knew. He would sneak private smiles at her as much as possible, squeeze her hand if he got the opportunity, so she could see that he knew. She still carried his dog tags, not quite able to bear to part with them, and touched them fondly when she missed him most.
Once they were certain Jack had stabilised, they had taken him into surgery again to repair his leg. His near fatal internal injuries were healing faster than his leg would; as if his legs weren't bad enough with the state his knees were in. He needed a rod and pins to hold his leg together and had joked that the leg would be better than ever now he was part bionic man.
The effects of the damage weren't permanent, but would be debilitating for a good while. He was going to need a long convalescence, a lot of physiotherapy. Jack was a stubborn son of a bitch, though, and would likely cut his recovery time in half just by sheer force of will.
Some of the other after effects were a major concern to her. He seemed more withdrawn than normal. Maybe it was the pain meds, but she believed he was suffering from depression; maybe some form of post traumatic stress. It wasn't unusual with auto accident victims. Sometimes you could hardly get them near a car for ages afterwards. They would have depressive bouts, and then seem all right for a while.
Jack had been through a lot worse, and had always appeared to be fine. Sam suspected that he hid, all too well, the full psychological impact of his past and he would try to do it with this too. She hoped that he wouldn't totally crack up one day under the strain of it all. Sam was fully aware that a lot of bad stuff had happened to him over the years, even if not privy to the details. It couldn't fail to affect him; the guy was only human.
They kept reassuring him that he would be physically okay and, assuming his physiotherapy went well, there was no reason to think he couldn't return to active duty. Sam supposed that Jack didn't wholly believe it; that he was scared this meant the end of the SGC for him. The worry of all this, plus the pain meds, was having a negative effect on him. She could sense it, no matter how hard he tried to put on a brave face. If only she could talk to him about it all, if he would let her; but she never seemed to get the opportunity to raise any of it. She just wished that he could go home where they might have that chance.
Sam was right about him; he was worried and depressed. Jack believed that if only he could go home he'd be fine. He was always fine. He'd managed to get over a lot worse than this. Doubts about his future ability to lead SG-1, however, plagued him. By all accounts, Sam was doing a great job; they didn't need him anymore. Perhaps he just ought to retire again and let her get on with it; leave before he was humiliatingly pushed out.
He alluded to retirement a couple of times when Hammond came to see him. George would have none of it; wouldn't even listen. Jack thought, can no one hear me screaming? Sam might be able to, but they never got the chance to discuss it. He wasn't really sure he wanted to talk about it anyway. Besides, she was so concerned that she that she would give something away that would jeopardise their careers, that she behaved like the perfect 2IC, rather than his close friend. It bugged him, but he didn't say anything to her about it.
The one moment of respite was when he discovered that he would not have to move, yet again, to a rehab hospital. They had the facilities right there at the Air Force Academy. The rehab hospital was a fair distance away and would have entailed even less frequent visits from his friends. It was bad enough already,
and he was bored rigid. The inactivity was driving him nuts.
He kicked up a stink about being kept in the hospital, it had been long weeks of almost sheer boredom. There were only so many books one can read, TV one can watch, games of chess and cards one can play. The only interesting break in his day was the physiotherapy; unless he had visitors, or George sent him SGC reports to look through. It really came to something when he found reports a riveting read.
He wanted to go home. He may still be bored there but, at least it would be home. He would be alright; he was a big boy now and could look after himself. Truth was, he couldn't walk very well without assistance, couldn't stand for too long. He would need help and support for a lot of activities that one usually took for granted. He'd be walking with a cane for a good while, too, once he got out. Maybe it would make him look distinguished. He could hope. He secretly suspected that it would just make him look old and that added to his gloom.
Although they tried to persuade him that he should convalesce somewhere with professional care, he was adamant about going home. He whinged, groaned and griped about it, insisting he could manage, until they agreed a compromise. He knew his whining would come in handy one day.
He would be discharged only on the basis that someone stay in the house with him for a while; at first a professional nurse then, maybe, a friend, depending on his progress. He'd have to be taken to rehab for a few hours virtually every day; they might be able to send someone to the house once he had got through the worst of it. He had no hope of going back to work for quite a while. That did nothing to brighten his day but the idea of going home did. Home is where the heart is, there's just no place like it. If only he had a pair of red shoes whose heels he could click together, and just be there. Where the hell was that yellow brick road when you needed it most?
Sam noticed that he perked up considerably as a result of this news. She managed to wangle that an old nurse friend of hers, Betsy Monroe, should live in at Jack's for as long as needed. Betsy was between jobs and it was a perfect fill-in until she got married and moved over to California to get a new job and be with her husband. She even persuaded Jack that this was a good idea, despite his initial reluctance. He loathed the fact that he needed someone around like that but was pragmatic enough to know that he wasn't going anywhere unless he agreed.
Of course, Sam had a secret agenda. Betsy was an old friend; she could probably cajole her into letting her and Jack have some time just for them. She liked to believe that this was what brought Jack around to the whole thing; had seen the expression on his face when the penny dropped that Betsy's presence might allow him more freedom.
Sam also arranged to re-organise the furniture in Jack's house to ensure maximum mobility; fewer obstacles, less need to move around quite as much. Jack was less than happy with the interference, even from Sam, but knew he had to be practical and didn't want to hurt her feelings.
It was sweet that she was trying so hard. She couldn't know what he dreaded. He didn't tell her and, probably, never would. The accident had returned the nightmares to Jack with a vengeance. He didn't want anyone to know that; to question his sanity or probe his past for the cause. It was bad enough that the nurses at the hospital knew; they interpreted it as post traumatic stress from the auto-accident and treated it that way. He could live with that; bullshit his way around it. Jack could bullshit with the best of them.
He was concerned that Betsy was a friend of Sam's; that Sam might somehow find out because of that. He still lived with the fear that Sam would hate his darker nature and that the nightmares would lead her to discover it. He was slightly reassured when he met Betsy. Sam brought her to the hospital so that he could decide if they would get along sufficiently for it to work. She had left them alone for a long chat.
Jack had worked the O'Neill magic on Betsy, captivating her; he could be charming if required. Through this, he tactfully discovered that Betsy was hot on the privacy of her patients. She didn't tittle tattle; would only talk to the doctor whose care he was under. That was a relief. Jack decided that he liked Betsy. The guy who was going to marry her was probably very lucky.
Sam just wanted her Jack back; everything back to normal. Not that there was anything in the least bit normal about the two of them and their relationship. It was time to change that a little; if Jack was willing, when he was better.
Frankly, at the moment she was none too sure about their relationship. Jack's mood swings served to confuse her. As merely his 2IC it might have been different; but she was so much more than that, and her level of sensitivity to his disposition had enhanced considerably. She so needed to see him alone, to be with him, just the two of them. She had missed that a lot, missed him.
So, Sam managed to get Jack alone for a couple of hours or more every so often; she saw him more often than that, but with other company - Daniel, Hammond, Teal'c, Lou Ferretti, amongst others. She was kept busy by work.
When the rest of the world was shut out for a while, they hugged, chattered inanely, sat in companionable silence, sometimes holding hands. They were happy to be together again, at last. They might watch hockey, play chess on the patio on a beautiful day, or listen to music.
Jack refused to be drawn into any conversations about his feelings and Sam decided she shouldn't push it yet. He was guarded and steadfastly refused to let that guard down, deftly managing to find some way of circumventing her. She might have to tackle it head on sometime but… later. She could sense there was something wrong; something brewing inside of him. For now she'd try to content herself with what he was willing to give.
A few weeks had passed like this and Jack was improving daily. Then Betsy called Sam one morning to say that her fiancée had an emergency and needed her to go to California for a few days. There were still things that Jack found difficult to manage on his own, but Betsy didn't believe he needed a professional nurse all the time anymore. She thought that Sam or one of Jack's friends might be able to keep an eye on him.
After some thought, Sam decided that maybe she could look after Jack. It would give her more chance to find out what was wrong, and what she could do to help him. She wondered what Jack would think and considered asking Daniel if he could do it. Jack might prefer that; may not want her intrusion. Then she thought, screw it, and arranged a few days leave; it happened to be good timing SGC wise. By the time Jack found out about it there was something of a fait accompli about the whole thing.
Crap! Under other circumstances Jack would have been thrilled to have Sam there with him. God, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, didn't he? The chance to spend a few days with her should feel heaven sent. However, as he still hadn't got the nightmares under control, and was feeling pretty down and vulnerable, he was uncertain about her staying there. He didn't want to expose himself to her, drive her away. Maybe now was the time he found out whether she thought she could spend the rest of her life with him. He wasn't sure he was ready. What would he do if she discovered that she couldn't?
Before she left, Betsy did a hand over to Sam, warning her to be prepared for anything. Her deference to Jack's own desire for privacy stopped her saying more. Sam didn't probe too hard; she'd find out soon enough. She felt ready for Jack, warts and all; whatever it was, whatever he needed, she'd be there. Sam needed this; needed to prove something to him, and to herself.
Then they were alone. Despite his misgivings, Sam's presence there warmed Jack. It was nice. He went to rehab for a few hours in the morning, picked up from the door. Sam took that opportunity to clean the place a little bit, then have a long soak in a hot bubble bath.
When he came back they didn't do anything special, just relished each other's company. Daniel popped over for a while in the early evening but didn't stay long. He begged another engagement but actually thought that leaving Jack and Sam alone might be good for both of them. Sam had been a little frazzled of late and he was beginning to worry that Jack might have burned out at last. Maybe they could do something for each other.
Sam slept in the spare room, leaving their doors open so that she could hear him if he called, if he needed her. Well past midnight, she was wakened by his screaming. She rushed to his bedroom then stood hesitantly in the doorway, assessing him, his situation, nervous of intruding on something so private.
He had woken up and was sitting up in bed with his head in his hands, shoulders shaking as he sobbed with whatever nightmare had invaded his sleep. My God, Jack crying? She was stunned and her heart went out to him for whatever it was that had caused this.
"Jack?" She whispered softly.
"Go away Sam. Please. Get outta here!" He pleaded with her.
Jack didn't want her to see him like this, wanted no one to. Sam knew that. He didn't want to be seen to lose control. If she was truthful, it probably embarrassed her almost as much as it did him. She, too, was someone who hid behind shutters a lot of the time. Jack was a master of it. She knew he wished that she wasn't in the house when this happened. Nevertheless, she didn't want to leave him alone.
"I can't Jack. You can't ask that of me."
"Sam…please! Goddammit!" He cried through his sobs. Jack was trying to get himself back under control, but failing miserably. He wanted her to go; he wanted her to stay; he didn't know what he wanted.
Sam followed her instinct and ignored his pleas, moving over to the bed and reaching out her hand to touch him gently. To her surprise, instead of pushing her away, he took the hand in his and squeezed. She bit her lip and winced, he held it so tightly; even tighter than that day in the hospital, if that were possible. So she got on the bed and held him close, comforting him as the sobs wracked his body. It was a Jack O'Neill that she had never seen and had never thought to see. His crying, the vulnerability, both appalled and intrigued her in equal measure.
After a long time, Jack quieted but stayed clinging to her desperately. She told him that she was there for him, would always be there for him, rocking him soothingly, his head resting on her chest. The T-shirt she wore for bed was damp with his tears. He needed her. Failing him was not an option. It felt good that he needed her there at that moment. It told her so much.
Eventually she thought him asleep. She wasn't sure she should stay there and tried to extricate herself from him. But he held on to her.
"Please don't go Sam." He said, "Stay with me." So vulnerable, so exposed.
Knowing that he would normally pretend this side of him didn't exist, she marvelled that he was showing it to her, albeit that it had been reluctantly. Generally he kept himself locked up tight, protecting himself, not wanting to display any weakness. Now, he was letting her share a part of something dark from his past, something dreadful that haunted him. He trusted her that much? It was a revelation and she was humbled by it. He'd probably be self-conscious about it in the morning, she knew that. Right now? He was hers, really hers. Even if only for this moment in time. It was all that mattered. Let tomorrow bring whatever it would.
She didn't care that she knew nothing of what had troubled and shaken him so badly. If he wanted to, he would tell her. When he was ready, if he was ever ready. She doubted that he ever would be, but it was more than enough that he was sharing this much. She curled up close to him and, for the second time, they woke in each others arms.
The next morning, neither of them mentioned the events of the previous night. Sam didn't want Jack to think she was pushing it, being too intrusive. As she had predicted, Jack was embarrassed by his open display of such raw emotion. He looked worn-down. With her help, he managed to get to the kitchen for breakfast. As she made the coffee he watched her move around the room, contemplating the turbulent turn of events. He didn't know how to feel about it, react to it, or to her.
Very few people had ever seen him like that. Sure, he'd woken up from nightmares plenty of times on missions, in the infirmary. Somehow he had always managed to keep these worst times, these awful soul bearing times, to himself. In the privacy of his own home, when no one was there, he could handle it, calm himself, bury it, internalise it, and convince himself that he was alright.
He couldn't recall the last time this had happened, crying in front of someone else like that. Not even when Charlie had died; especially not when Charlie had died. He had been in such a black place then; he'd had to bottle it up, hide it, control it, otherwise he would have been lost forever. He'd so nearly lost it anyway. If it hadn't been for the mission to Abydos, Daniel, Skaara, he felt he might have finally slipped over that precipice. He had been surprised to find that life could go on, after all. And what a life he had led since then. A whole new one was just waiting for him.
He had to admit that it had felt good to be comforted, held closely, caressed, and reassured. However, he hated her seeing him like that; vulnerable, wretched, defenceless. For starters he was her CO; with a stark clarity he understood more than ever why the regulations made sense. How could she maintain her respect for him as the leader of her team when she had seen him so exposed, so helpless? She must think him a weak, pathetic old man. A man like him couldn't afford to show such frailty, such imperfection. Then there was them, their very private relationship. He couldn't bear to contemplate the impact this might have on them, on her.
Swallowing hard, he spoke. "Aren't you going to say anything? Sam…I… Say something, for crying out loud!" A plea; he knew his voice was harsh and cracked, he sounded pitiable. Oh God he didn't want her pity, anything but that, please. A silent prayer. "You must think…"
At his first words, she had stopped what she was doing. Now she turned to look at him, wondering what he was thinking about as he began to speak. His face was pinched and pale; he looked so pained, so powerless. Deliberately choosing a slightly belligerent tone, knowing he could not bear her pity, she responded.
"What is it Jack? Worried you've spoiled that O'Neill "way of the warrior" image? Afraid I'll think you weak? That I'll lose my respect for you because you're just a man after all? Only a human being with human flaws and emotions? Scared I'll run and hide at the first hint of trouble?" From the expression on his face she knew she had expressed almost exactly what he was thinking. He was both relieved and terrified that she saw through him so easily.
"You think I pity you? You are so totally wrong, Jack. Sure I'm sorry….saddened by it. Because I hate that your life, the things that have happened in it, have caused you such… pain. Hate that you should have feelings like that inside of you. You deserve better than that…earned the right to more than that. But if you think I haven't guessed… something…that there is some…. darkness inside you…then…then you don't know me very well. Give me some credit." The words stopped flowing and she looked at him mutely, a little hurt that he thought she could react in the way he anticipated.
"I didn't mean… Its just…" When he couldn't continue, choked back his words, she went over to him, crouching down in front of him and taking his hands in hers.
"I know Jack. We’ll deal with it." Tears threatened to engulf her and she raised her head up to him, cupping his face in her hands and kissing him on the mouth for the first time since all this had started between them. Not a passionate kiss, just a brief and transient thing, but she needed to demonstrate that she loved him, including his imperfections; she couldn't say the words, not out loud, not yet.
When she drew back, and had taken his hands in hers again, he found some courage, although he stumbled over his words. "Some of the things I think and feel, some of the things I've done… They can be pretty scary, Sam. It can be a bleak and depressing place in here" Removing a hand from hers, he gestured to his heart, to his head. "You don't deserve any of that crap. You're worth more than that, more than I can give you."
"You aren't getting rid of me that easily, flyboy." Trying to ease the tension, she smiled up at him. She had started calling him flyboy sometimes, as a pet name. He liked it. It was something uniquely Jack and Sam, rather than the Colonel and his Major. "I'd still follow you through the gates of hell if you asked me to. And not blindly either, Jack. Don't ever think that."
He laughed at that, ruffling her hair, and quipped. "Haven't we been there and done that already? I've got the T-shirt somewhere." It brought another smile to her face and it warmed his battered heart. She kissed his remaining hand, letting go of her grip to take him in her arms, kissing his hair, his face, and his neck. As if he were embarrassed by it, needed to stop it before it went too far, he said, "Hey, where's that coffee, woman?" And, laughing softly at his joking tone, she let go of him to continue making it, breaking the moment. He was pulling himself together.
Initially, things that day seemed to carry on in a normal fashion. Sam determined that she was never going to mention last night again. She knew Jack didn’t like to talk about himself in that way. She would not embarrass him further by saying anything else about it. But later he started to tell her. Tell her about some of his nightmares and fears.
He started with Charlie, and inextricably linked, Sara. He hoped she didn’t mind him talking about the other single most important woman in his life - outside of his mother, of course. The subject matter scared him a little, given events prior to the accident, but Sam was willing to listen and he needed to talk. He hoped it would help her to realise that his reaction to Sara's news in no way affected his feelings for Sam.
For her part, Sam wanted to share whatever Jack was willing to share. She needed to demonstrate her unwavering support and love for him. He needed her to show it, she realised.
So he told her about his hopes, his dreams, and his feelings. How it had all shattered and fallen apart in the most horrible way that one could ever imagine. The blackness thereafter. How he had struggled with life and so nearly lost the fight.
He told her a little about Iraq; his imprisonment and fight for life. Some of the things he had done to keep alive were nasty, and despicable. He kept expecting Sam to walk out on him part way though telling her about it. She merely listened, sometimes looking horrified that he should have done such things; that he had been forced to do them. She didn't seem to judge his actions; only offer her continued support.
Thoughts of getting home to Sara had kept him from going totally insane during that awful time. He thought he had gone a little crazy for a while. When he had got home to her it had been difficult; his recovery and adjustment. It had been very hard on Sara but she had stood by him, despite his depression, his rages, and his wild mood swings. It had meant everything to him that she had been there.
He talked for a long time, for Jack O'Neill at least. It was hard for him. He was nervous, shy, faltering over his words. She had never heard him say so much at once. She thought he would never stop, almost hoped he never would. He was more frank and open than she had ever believed would be possible, more eloquent then she had ever imagined, despite his stumbling words.
While he talked he held her, caressed her softly, her face, her hair, her back. His voice was strained, rough, slightly choked. He was trying so hard to speak without falling to pieces again in front of her.
A few times, she could see that he was struggling more than ever to find the words to say something to her. She tried to tell him that he didn't need to, that he'd done enough. That she had never expected this much from him, didn't need so much of him. And he would shrug helplessly admitting there were many things he couldn't bring himself to speak of, and probably never would speak of, to anyone…ever. Pain, terror, despair, death - what had been done to him; what he had done to others. Things he would never forgive himself for and couldn't even hope that others would forgive. He couldn't bring himself to believe that she would even understand, never mind forgive.
What he feared revealing most of all was how he could feel about killing people; the thrill it could give him, the excitement and pleasure he could derive from it. That he could be so relentless, heartless, cold and calculating. There was blood on his hands, and it wasn't always acquired legally. However, he was proud he excelled at it, at least he was good at something, though he could never bear to tell her and see his own self-revulsion reflected in her eyes. Some things would stay buried deep; thus, his nightmares would return. He knew that with a certainty.
Sometimes he looked at her, wondering what she felt about his revelations, and he would see she accepted. It was what made him what he was, the leader he was, the man he was. She would never want to change him. He marvelled at that and it pleased him deeply. She wanted what he was, or at least that part of him he was willing to reveal, not something that he could never be, a fantasy.
When he drew to a close he was exhausted, it had taken all his energy, all his will to get through it. He couldn't quite believe that he'd done it. What was normally so unnatural to him had seemed the right thing to do. He'd got through it, without cracking a joke, without a single inappropriate remark, without his usual camouflage. And he felt better for it. Better that she had seen some of this side of him, better that some things were out in the open between them. If she could love him now, after this… It was more than he could have wished for or imagined.
Somehow she knew he wanted to do this before they took a final leap in their relationship. He needed reassurance that she could handle it, that his dark thoughts wouldn't drive her away from him. Equally, she understood that there was so much left unspoken, so much still inside him to haunt his nightmares.
She knew that he was dangerous; had always known that. That was one of the exhilarating things about Jack O’Neill; one of the many attractions. What he told her had just confirmed her thoughts. It had sickened her that he had been forced to stoop to such lengths, and that he might be again. Undoubtedly there was more; worse. It was part of Jack, what made him the man he was; the menace lurking inside of him. She had once told Daniel that she had a thing about men from the lunatic fringe. You’d got that right with Jack. But he was nothing like Jonas Hanson. Nothing at all.
Sam understood that some things would always remain hidden, had to remain hidden. No one could reveal everything about themselves. We all have secrets. What he spoke of might not even be the spectre that had engulfed him the night before. But what he told her was enough, so much more than enough. It was overwhelming, liberating. For him, for both of them.
She just held him, whispered "I'm so sorry Jack" softly into his ear. She didn't have to say anything else, it wasn't required of her. Inside she felt honoured that he could be like this, that he trusted her that much. She was moved to the very core of her being and felt her love for him transform into something deeper. She hadn't thought that was even possible, she loved him such a great deal already.
After a while, she tried to explain her own feelings, what had made her react so badly when she had misunderstood his feelings for Sara that night. Her jealousy, her fears about his feelings for Sara. He held her and told her that he understood, kissing her softly falling tears away as she spoke.
"I nearly lost you Jack. I came so close to throwing it all away, and I nearly lost you." She managed to say between her quiet sobs.
He just held her close, willingly providing the support she needed, like she had with him, and whispered,
"I'm here, Sam. I'm here."
Jack felt that some of the lesions on his soul might have healed a little. With Sam's support maybe he had a fighting chance against some of his demons. She hadn't run or hidden from him; she had accepted and comforted. That, alone, relieved some of his burden.
Her confession had confirmed his own thoughts of how she felt and healed him just a little more. Although she didn't say it, he started to believe that she really might love him; that they were committed to each other now. No turning back; this was forever.
He pondered his luck, having found Sam. Something so wonderful, so unmerited. Something that was his, to cherish, to keep with him forever. Lucky guy. Lucky, lucky guy.
That night he asked her to stay with him again. Initially, they still took their contact no further than before. He just slept soundly in her arms with no nightmares and no restless stirrings. He felt more content than he had for a very long while. However, he knew that the nightmares stilled lurked deep inside, biding their time to come out to haunt him again in his future.
She woke at some point during the night and he wasn't there. She found him in the garden staring up at the stars. That he had got there without her help made her sigh inwardly. He shouldn’t have done it yet; typically stubborn Jack. She was about to berate him when he turned, caught hold of her and pulled her towards him, kissing her with a passion that he had once thought he could never feel again. She gasped at the feelings it stirred in her, trembling in his arms, responding to him with a fervour.
With her help, they went back into the house, to his bedroom. As they stood there, neither of them spoke. Neither of them wanted to disappoint the other after so much waiting. They took from each other the few clothes that they wore, stripping themselves bear. Naked bodies and emotions. Naked passion and desire. They made love for the first time, initially nervous and tentative, then urgent and frantic.
It turned into a totally selfish act for each of them. It was rough, raw, awkward, and over far too quickly. It had been a long time for them both. Although they found release, the act of it was far from perfect. In the end, it didn't necessarily surprise them that it should be so. Both were so longing for the other, so desperately seeking gratification and solace. However, they had plenty of time to make up for it.
Later, they explored each other greedily, finding the true depths of their feeling, of their passion. It was an amazing experience for both of them, nothing like either had experienced previously. New heights of arousal, of release. Loving; tender; selfless. Fervent; heated; shattering. All shyness and nerves having been dissipated by that first time, they were more uninhibited. Able to wholly express themselves, able to be adventurous and innovative. They had time to get to know each other's bodies, what stirred them most, pleasured them, what brought them to ecstasy, allowed them to hold back, what teased them, brought them over the edge.
He had hardly expected it to be like this. Sam was so wound up like a ball of string sometimes that, when he could bring himself to imagine it at all, he had thought that this would translate itself into the bedroom. He had fondly thought that he might be her teacher, coaxing her to open herself to him. He couldn't have been more wrong. She was wanton, imaginative, loving, aggressive, gentle. She was everything: so different; so wonderful; so much more than any fantasy he could ever have had.
She was equally surprised. She had always thought him a sensual kind of guy, found him sexy, thought he would be good in bed. This was so much more than anything she could have anticipated. She had imagined him as aggressive, rough, a little selfish, not giving much of himself. But he was so affectionate, tender, giving; so wanting to please her; so wanting to fulfil her needs, wishes and desires over his. Sam wondered how good this could get, once Jack was totally fit.
The few days they had left together passed like this. They were making up for lost time. She was pretty sure the Doc would be pissed with her if it was known how she had exhausted him so thoroughly, and then enticed him into more. He was supposed to be convalescing, for crying out loud. She giggled inwardly at her use of his expression, pondering how she had picked up some of his bad habits over the years.
Sure, their days were punctuated by visits and Jack's PT, but for the most part they were alone. Jack was making a lot of progress, very quickly. She knew that that he was nearly recovered. It would be a while before he was fit for active duty but he wouldn't need help anymore; wouldn't need her help. It was close to that time when they would continue with their normal lives; even before that, she would have to leave him. She felt a deep sense of loss although it had not yet happened. She wanted to stay here forever. Sadly, that wasn't an option right now.
Jack also dreaded her going. They spoke nothing of it, avoided talking about it. The idea of being alone again appalled him, but they had to get some kind of normalcy back into their lives; before he went back to work, back to being her CO. He didn't know how he was going to deal with that, but he would. He always did. He hoped that she could too.
On their final night together they didn't say much. They didn’t make love, just lay in each other's arms relishing the contact. A bond had developed between them. An unbreakable bond that would keep them in thrall to each other forever.
Once she'd left, he felt bereft and knew she would be feeling it too. They separately mourned their loss of each other, the loss of their ability to spend that sort of time together. It was a beginning rather than an end, but it still felt like an end. As they sat in their own houses they felt lonelier, emptier, than ever before.