samandjack.net

Story Notes: Sequel to Understandings and Misunderstandings Part 9: Bridge Building

Thanks again to my wonderful beta Bonnie for all her help, suggestions and amendments. Any remaining errors are my own. And thanks to Thalassa whose artwork adorns most of this series on my site. An intriguing work by her graces this particular fic at:

http://www.ficwithfins.com/su%20fics/Ship/Series/Understandings/um10_cover.htm

Email: su_freund@ficwithfins.com

Website: http://www.ficwithfins.com/

Copyright 2004 Su Freund


Understandings and Misunderstandings Part 10
Moments of Departure

Stealth, that was the key word. They came in quietly, hidden by the cloaking device, not having dared to risk the gate, which might alert their targets to the possibility of attack. Landing a good way from the camp, they made their way through the undergrowth. Not even Daniel breathed a word or made a sound. Stealth.

Sam had been missing for a few weeks, captured by renegade Jaffa. Her friends, her father, her lover, had all been worried sick. Now they believed they'd located her and would do nothing to endanger her further.

Jack blamed himself for her capture and was praying she was still alive. He thought he might have trouble persuading Hammond to let him lead this mission and was surprised when the General asked him to. His previous mission had been a disaster, leading to Sam's capture, and he wasn't sure Hammond would have enough faith in him and his judgement. The General knew that Jack was hurting badly and lacking objectivity. Jack agreed but was desperate to get Sam back; he had to be there. Hammond knew that too.

Jacob and SG-1 were not alone; Hammond had sent SG-3 as back up. He couldn't expect any objectivity from SG-1 or her father; probably not from SG-3 either. He made the judgement call to send O'Neill as he realised it would destroy him utterly if he wasn't there. If anyone could pull this off it was O'Neill, skewed judgement or not.

If it all went wrong Hammond would probably be hung out to dry but, frankly, he didn't care. The buck stopped with him and he would live with the consequences good or bad. He very much hoped they were good. He loved Sam like a daughter, although he knew he shouldn't. He figured he couldn't be impartial either.

Intelligence told them that the camp was on lower ground. That should allow them to effectively scan the place, find the holes in the Jaffa defences, and come up with a plan. Jack wondered what made these people so stupid. Was it years of blindly following the lead of false gods? Teal'c wasn't that dumb. Maybe this was why they were deserters. Not only were they cowards, but idiots. The camp was in a poor defensive situation. Hadn't these guys ever watched the movies? Jack took comfort in that; they would have left themselves vulnerable in other ways too.

Teal'c was taking point and suddenly stopped, raising his arm with a signal. He had paled.

"O'Neill."

He stared at something hidden in the greenery. O'Neill followed Teal'c's eyes and made a sound that was indescribable. A grunt, a cry, a gasp? It was all three. Blonde hair was visible from the undergrowth. It was a body, poorly hidden. Oh God, don’t let it be her, he prayed. Jacob was silent but grasped Jack's arm in dismay. They all stood quietly just staring, none of them daring to make a move because they were too scared of what they might find.

Jack crouched down to uncover her.

"Jack!" Daniel exclaimed, thinking that almost anyone other than Jack should do this; fearful of Jack's reaction if it was Sam.

"I got it!" Jack bit back angrily. If it was her he had to face it.

It wasn't her. The relief was palpable. Whoever the poor soul had been, she'd been dead for a few days. Jack's head spun with thoughts, which were cut short by a call from Jacob.

"Jack!"

He had found some more remains nearby. Nice! These guys didn't even bury their dead. They uncovered a few bodies, in various states of decomposition. It seemed that they might all be women. None were Sam. The group felt collectively nauseous, disgusted with what they saw and fearful for Sam's well being. She was in danger; they had to get to her before she became another victim.

"These Jaffa are not worthy of that name." Spat Teal'c, "we must dispose of these women on a funeral pyre." Jack nodded but patted his friend on the arm.

"If we can, Teal'c. Right now we have other priorities. Let's tend to the living first, huh? Find Sam." Teal'c bowed his acknowledgement, knowing O'Neill was right.

Moving on, they shortly reached the small hill which overlooked the camp and hit the ground, crawling on their bellies so they could not be seen. Jack peered through his binoculars.

"Piece of cake." He quipped after a couple of minutes.

***************

He turned out to be more or less right.

The Jaffa were sloppy and the friends had the advantage of surprise. At nightfall they would make a move, until then they would watch and wait. Jack watched the camp anxiously, seeing no sign of Sam. A couple of other women roamed around doing chores under the cruel and watchful gaze of the Jaffa. Occasionally he saw one of them beaten, pushed or otherwise mistreated and it took all his willpower to stay put. Where was Sam?

When the women eventually went to rest that night they entered the same makeshift tent. There! That's where she would be. Why hadn't she been out here with the others? Jack didn't want to think about that too hard. Soon they would know.

Later he and Jacob approached the tent warily. The Jaffa had so many gaps in their defences that Jack lost count. Most of the guards on watch had fallen asleep. Mediocre and slapdash. It annoyed Jack to recall that these Jaffa had got the better of him. Teal'c and a couple of SG-3 crept around planting as many explosives of various kinds as they could without being spotted. Daniel and the others waited on the hill, watching and ready to signal if there was a problem.

The women were asleep and Jack and Jacob woke them, hands on mouth to silence them. Having satisfied the women that they were here to help, Jack spied another figure under covers. It must be her, please be her.

It was her. She was badly beaten, covered in bruises and lacerations, but alive. It broke his heart to see her like this, but she was alive! Jacob stared down at his daughter and mourned her sorry state alongside Jack.

"We have to get her through the gate." He whispered. "The Tel'tac might take too long."

"I know." He crouched down beside her and stroked her hair, fondly. "Sam."

She opened her eyes, one of which was swollen and black and blue. Jack wanted to knock whoever did this senseless. He softly stroked her face but she shied away, obviously scared. It was not something he was used to seeing in Sam and it hurt and terrified him. What had these bastards done to her? He moved his hand away quickly, as if he had been burned.

"Sam, it's me, Jack." He said gently, in a tone he hoped was comforting.

"Jack?"

"I'm here. We're gonna take you home."

"I knew you'd find me."

"Thank your father, and the Tok'ra."

Sam peered behind Jack. "Dad?"

"Sweetheart." Jacob smiled encouragingly but inside he was raging at what had been done to his daughter, sickened by her apparently extensive injuries. "Can you walk?"

"I… I don't know. I think so. Limp maybe." Her responding smile was weak. Jack took her hand and she flinched. "Please don't!" He nodded and stood, thinking very little about it; she was in pain but a determined and independent woman. She wanted to do this alone, if she could. He longed to hold her in his arms, but it could wait.

Sam eased herself up, wincing, while Jack and her father watched in agony on her behalf. Jack handed her his Baretta and, despite her obvious pain, Sam was all business.

"Ok, what's the plan?"

"Oh, you know me and plans Sam…" Jack smiled at her and she laughed softly.

They heard a bird call in the distance. Jack grinned.

"There's the signal. We're on. Come on."

"We aren't leaving them behind are we?" She indicated the other women, her tone horrified.

"Of course not." At that moment, Teal'c's head appeared. He acknowledged Sam with a bow and a broad smile.

"I am most happy to see you MajorCarter." He was shocked by her appearance but did not show it.

"Good to see you too Teal'c." She returned the smile but it was more of a grimace. Smiling hurt like hell.

"May I be of assistance?"

"Watch our six Teal'c" O'Neill ordered. "Jacob, you go first with these women, Sam and I will come up the rear with Teal'c. And be quite."

"Jack, I'm a General in the US Air Force and you are telling me to be quiet? Grandmothers and egg sucking comes to mind."

"Sure, sorry. We don't want to get spotted too soon."

"I know that."

"Ok, then fine. Go."

Jacob's group crept out of the tent, then Jack and Sam followed, with Teal'c coming up the rear. So far they had remained unnoticed but Jack didn't think that even these lackadaisical bastards would let them get clean away without seeing something.

He was right. They had got halfway across the compound when he heard shouting. A guard had seen them and the others were stirring. The whole camp would be awake and after them soon.

"Run!" he shouted. "Get to the others as soon as possible and take cover if necessary!"

The scene became a confusion of staff blasts and automatic fire. As soon as the rescuers and rescued were clear the whole camp exploded. Teal'c and the others had done well in laying their charges, scattering C4 and Claymores throughout. The camp was nearly obliterated in the first onslaught and this gave Jack a great deal of satisfaction. He hoped they'd killed the bastards who had hurt Sam.

She was managing to keep up with him, but only barely.

"Teal'c," he called "carry her if it becomes necessary, ok?" The Jaffa indicated his consent but Sam looked horrified.

"I'll be ok, I'll make it." She insisted.

Jack had no option but to ignore her as he concentrated on firing at their pursuers. Many had been killed or injured in the explosion, but there were quite a few remaining and they were attacking as ferociously as possible. We'll see about that! Jack thought, stopping and turning back.

"Go!" he shouted at Sam and Teal'c and fired at the on-comers, managing to kill or maim quite a few. Good, he thought, with pride in his work. Lobbing a grenade or two for good measure, he turned to follow the others.

Another wave of explosions hit as they reached the top of the hill. Claymores strategically placed to cover their backsides. Very few of the Jaffa were now left to stop their retreat. Jack sent SG-3 ahead to secure the gate, if possible. They'd checked the gate's defences earlier and found them to be equally lacking. He hoped it would be a pretty clear run from here on in, but took nothing for granted. These guys had caught him off guard before and he was determined they would do no such thing this time.

O'Neill, Jacob and SG-1s progress to the gate was slowed by a faltering Sam. Jack considered insisting that Teal'c carry her, but knew from Sam's earlier reaction that she would be pissed. So he allowed her to slow them, fairly confident that they would make their escape safely.

When they reached the gate SG-3 had taken it easily. As they dialled home a handful of Jaffa from the camp caught up with them. They too were disposed of in short order.

"Serves you right for crossing SG-1!" Jack spat at them in delight.

The wormhole opened and the group started to go though. Teal'c was hesitant.

"T?" queried O'Neill.

"Those dead women deserve a better end O'Neill" Oy! "I wish to stay behind and dispose of them properly. I will return in the Tel'tac. We surely do not wish to lose the Tel'tac, O'Neill?" Jack looked at Jacob to gauge his thoughts.

"It's a valuable piece of equipment Jack." He shrugged. "It's your call."

"We could come back for it." Jack replied. Teal'c crossed his arms, determinedly. "I can't leave you here alone Teal'c."

"You and GeneralCarter must return quickly for MajorCarter's sake, O'Neill." She had already gone through the gate with Daniel and SG-3; only the three of them were left. "I will be fine."

Reluctantly, Jack agreed, hoping he would not live to regret it. He and Jacob disappeared through the wormhole, leaving Teal'c behind.

****************

Despite how she looked, Sam's injuries turned out to be relatively minor. She'd been lucky with the eye as a couple of centimetres could have given her some more permanent damage. Jack hated to think about it. She was exhausted, malnourished and dehydrated. The bruising, lacerations and more minor cuts covered her extensively. On the whole, her physical prognosis was good.

However, Sam was clearly depressed. Withdrawn and prone to being tearful, or rages, she was reluctant to talk about her experiences in the Jaffa camp. She would cringe when touched, even by Jack or her father. They gave up trying to give her that kind of solace unless she instigated it, but both spent as much time with her as possible, sitting at her bedside in the infirmary while the staff got her well enough to go home.

Sometimes she would seem quite normal; would smile, take Jack's hand and caress it subtly and gently. Those moments gave Jack hope that her depression was lifting. Then suddenly she would turn on him, her moods seemingly shifting with the winds.

Jack was frustrated that he was unable to communicate his feelings to Sam. He was bad enough at that kind of thing already without the restrictions of being in the base infirmary, and those that she imposed on him. When she was in one of her more receptive moods he asked,

"Is this how you felt when I was in hospital?"

"What? You mean helpless? Afraid? Pissed? Frustrated?"

"Um, something like that." His smile looked forced.

"Pretty much."

Poor Sam. He'd put her through a lot and now she seemed to be repaying that. He had been so happy to find her alive, bring her back, but his anguish had only diminished slightly on their return. He tried to brush her cheek and she flinched away from him, causing him considerable pain and increasing his frustration and anxiety still further. Her mood had swung again. How much of this was he supposed to take? He was desperate to know why she was behaving like this, but could get nothing from her that helped him. He had tried talking to the Doc but with no luck. Doctor, patient confidentiality, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Recalling how he'd felt after his imprisonment in Iraq, he suspected she was suffering from some kind of post traumatic stress; hardly surprising. Sara had saved him then, despite himself, and he would do the same for Sam. He imagined that these feelings she had might be somewhat similar to his, and hoped her PTSD symptoms were relatively mild rather than acute. Mild symptoms might be bad enough to handle. It concerned him that these moods could drag on for years before she got the courage to tackle it effectively.

He wasn't sure he was the right one to help her, though; after all he still got symptoms himself and was hardly a good example of facing it head on. However, he would try. His experience and knowledge of PTSD told him he should try not to take her reactions personally, which was easier said than done, and he pondered raising the issue with the Doc so that she would be forced to go for counselling. That he hated that option so much himself did not endear him to the idea, but he knew it might have to happen anyway. The Doc was not entirely unaware of her mental state and might not even allow her to come back to duty at the SGC unless something was resolved.

The one thing that Sam seemed happy about was his reconciliation with Jacob. She had asked Jack about it, curious as to how it had come about, and he had muttered something about 'coming together in the face of adversity' without going into detail. She did manage to speak to her father, though, who was more forthcoming. Jacob was eager to make up for lost time, get close to his daughter again. He knew he had little time before he would be recalled to duty by the Tok'ra and regretted that duty would once again come between them. However, it had always been so; Sam was used to it.

Jack and the others had to work, of course, so Jacob got to spend a lot of time with her. Sometimes she would be pleased that he was there and talk with him happily, but often she would be depressed or angry and would greet him with derision and rejection.

It worried Jacob that he might have to leave too soon. He now knew that he was leaving her in capable hands with Jack, but Sam wasn't exactly welcoming to him all the time either. Jack hadn't seen Sam like this since Jolinar had sacrificed herself to save her and it nagged at him a great deal. So both men continued to fret, trying not to show their pain to her. They needed to give her time.

**********************

Meanwhile Jack tried once more to make a clean breast of it with Hammond. After the debrief he had plucked up his courage and gingerly knocked on his door.

"Come." Hammond indicated Jack to enter. "I'll be with you in a moment Colonel."

He continued to finish something he was writing, thinking that he knew why Jack was here and unsure whether he wanted to face it, or the consequences. So he gave himself a little time to think - as if he hadn't frequently thought about this moment ever since their last conversation about it, when he had ordered O'Neill not to tell him anything.

"What can I do for you son?" Hammond asked, looking up to face him at last. O'Neill stood rigidly to attention. "At ease Colonel." Jack only marginally relaxed. "Sit down Jack."

"I'd rather stand if it's all the same to you Sir."

"Well it isn't all the same to me. Sit." Jack reluctantly obeyed. Hammond indicated for him to speak.

"Sir," O'Neill was obviously uncomfortable. "We said we'd talk once we'd rescued Carter…" he tailed off.

"I'm not sure I'm any more ready for that conversation now then I was then Colonel." They were both silent for a while, then Jack broke it.

"General, I think it's time I retired."

"I don't want to lose you Jack."

"I… there's something that has become more important to me than this job Sir."

"Saving the universe, you mean Jack?" He elicited a smile from his subordinate. "There is only one thing I can think of that is more important than that." Hammond looked at O'Neill meaningfully.

"Then that must be it, Sir."

They were both pussy footing around, avoiding speaking of Jack and Sam's relationship directly. Jack became serious again.

"I've acted dishonorably Sir."

"I won't disagree with that Jack. Despite that you are still one of the most honourable men I have had the pleasure of serving with."

"Thank you Sir." Jack felt genuinely flattered that those words came from Hammond's mouth. He had a lot of respect for the General, despite his own sometimes recalcitrant ways.

"You would be a hard man to replace Jack." Hammond said. Jack felt another swell of pride.

"Colonels are coming out of the woodwork in the USAF Sir." He replied modestly.

"Not Colonels like you, son." Jack's responding smile was boyish, shy and self effacing.

"Sir." He looked down at his hands, which fidgeted and displayed his discomfort.

"You could give me time to think about it, once Major Carter is ready to come back to work?"

"I suspect you have already been thinking about it Sir." Jack looked up at Hammond once more.

"A great deal, Jack. Unfortunately I haven't thought of a solution yet."

"There aren't very many of those in this situation General."

"No." Hammond agreed.

"Sir, I do not want to bring you any… repercussions."

"I know. You might have thought of that earlier Colonel." Jack sighed, knowing that was true. "After Major Carter has recovered Jack. Agreed?"

"Um… yes Sir."

Jack tone spoke of his uncertainty. It put off the evil day but he wasn't sure that was the right thing. He figured that, if it was what Hammond wanted, he was willing to go along with it for now.

Later on he and Jacob discussed it. After the conversation in the Officer's Club at Peterson the pair had become fairly tight, closer than they had ever been. Although they were loathed to leave Sam in the infirmary, she had been very insistent that they leave her alone and take a break. Actually she had told them that she wanted a break; was fed up with both of them fussing over her.

Jack's reluctance to leave the base was not totally focussed on Sam. He was more than relieved when Teal'c appeared back on the scene, alive and well, having completed his private mission. He had returned the Tel'tac to the Tok'ra and arrived through the gate, cutting his journey time considerably. It was then Jack agreed to leave.

Jack and Jacob were sipping Budweiser in Jack's living room.

"George is an astute man. He'll think of something."

"Or I'll retire."

"Jack…!"

"You said you wanted me to!"

"Well… can't a guy change his mind?" They both smiled and sat in companionable silence for a while.

"Sam's gonna be alright isn't she Jacob?" Jack was pretty upset at her rejections of him.

"Give her time, Jack. She'll come around. She loves you doesn't she?" Jacob replied, and Jack snorted.

"I don't know anymore." Jacob said nothing and Jack continued. "I just want her to be her old self. To be well, and happy. If it turns out that it won't happen with me in her life then…" He shrugged but Jacob knew Jack's heart would be broken if that happened.

"If she won't discuss it we can't force her."

"I could order her to tell me."

"But you won't."

Jack shook his head, agreeing with Jacob. As her CO he might have, but his relationship with her meant he did not want to force the issue. Not yet anyway. This was just one of the many conundrums of his relationship with a subordinate. It couldn't go on like this, Jack thought. He would have to insist to Hammond that he left. Sam still had a career to look forward to while his was almost over anyway. It was the right and sensible thing to do.

"George might though." Added Jacob and Jack nodded.

They were unaware that Hammond already had forced the issue with Sam. He had not liked what he heard and was not telling either Jack or her father about it any time soon. He had given his word that he would only do so if a command decision depended on it. Sam would be sent for counselling as a result of that conversation, but Jack didn't find out about that until much later.

*********************

Jacob had been recalled and briefly flirted with the idea of telling the Tok'ra to go to hell. Knowing that Sam would go home soon made him want to stay for longer. However, he wondered whether he needed to leave Jack and Sam alone to work things out, and chuckled to himself about how much his attitude towards them as a couple had changed. So he left, promising Sam he would return as soon as he could.

A couple of days later Sam was deemed fit to go home. Jack was alone with her in the infirmary.

"I'll stay with you, make sure you're ok." He stated.

"I'd rather you didn't Jack." Her reply hurt. He wanted to be alone with her more than anything.

"You shouldn't be left alone." He persisted.

"Then find someone else to baby sit!" That really stung. Sam's tone was vicious and reminded him of her vitriol on the night that had started this whole thing.

"I… who else Sam. Who else but me?"

Sam's face scrunched up to quell the tears she wanted to shed and Jack made a move to embrace her. She stopped him, holding out her arms to ward him off. She seemed resolute that he keep his distance. It scared him. What had changed? What had happened that affected her feelings for him this way? He was struggling to maintain control and equally determined to not let her push him away. No way was he giving up on her now. They argued. Jack hated arguing with her, but was even more stubborn than she was.

"At least let me drive you home?" He said eventually and she agreed to that. Once there he was ready to start the argument all over again. For now he let it appear he had given up.

They sat in his truck in silence, although after a long while she spoke.

"What's my T-shirt doing in your truck Jack?"

He looked embarrassed and did not take his eyes from the road ahead. He had forgotten it was there and wondered if it still smelled of her, recalling his absent minded actions while she was still missing.

"I… I'm not sure… I…" Come clean, Jack, he told himself. Maybe it will do something to help turn her around. He was desperate and would try almost anything. "I found it in my bedroom when you were missing. It smelled of you." He turned to look at her and shrugged helplessly. "It felt good to have something of yours, something that reminded me."

She smiled and his heart lifted. Patience is a virtue, Jack, he thought. Practice it, you need to.

He stopped to pick up well needed groceries and deliberately bought enough for two. Sam made no objections. When they arrived at her house he parked the truck and got her bags, walking her to the door, steeling himself for the argument. She surprised him by inviting him in for a coffee. He insisted on making it while she rested in the living room, and put away the groceries while he did so.

Returning to her, he crouched to pass her the coffee, putting his down on the table. She put her mug down next to his and withdrew her hands to her lap and placed a hand over hers. She smiled and did nothing to displace his hand, which delighted him, so he sat down, not daring to remove it. She put her head on his shoulder and they stayed unmoving and silent while their coffee got cold.

Jack was getting a cramp in one leg, and beginning to think he needed to shift. He did not want to spoil this moment with her so decided to stay in this position all day if necessary. So what if he couldn't walk properly for a week; this was worth it. A moment later she spoke.

"Coffee's cold Jack."

"Is that a hint?" She looked up at him and nodded, a glimmer of a smile on her lips.

Reluctantly he stood up and his cramped leg buckled.

"Ow!" he yelped, "I've got cramp." He said by way of explanation.

Sam responded by kneeling on the floor to massage his leg. This pleased Jack immeasurably and he started to feel even more positive and upbeat about them. When he told her it was better she ordered him to make the coffee and their jesting banter seemed almost normal. She was stretched out on the couch when he came back and she sat up to let him in and then lay her head on his lap. He risked draping his arm over her and rubbing comfortingly at her stomach. She responded with a satisfied sigh.

"You can stay, Jack, in the spare room." She offered and he nodded feeling vaguely triumphant, although would rather have stayed in her bed. This was a compromise and better than nothing. She was no longer almost totally rejecting him and this appeased him.

Sam seemed slightly dazed, dreamy and withdrawn for the rest of the day, but she did not turn on him or snap at him and that was enough for now. He hoped to make her reveal her feelings little by little, knowing that a confrontation might not be the best way forward. Back Sam in a corner and she fought back big style.

In the middle of the night he heard her softly weeping and went to her room to comfort her. However, she was adamant that he leave her alone and when he tried to ignore her pleas and sat in her bed she slapped him hard around the face.

"I said go away and leave me alone Jack! What part of no don't you understand?" She shouted.

The slap hurt his feelings more than him and he bit back tears of his own, uncertain how to react. In the end he decided to give in and went back to the spare bedroom, lying awake and listening for the sounds of her, fretting about her vehemence. Once more he realised he was going to have to be patient. Eventually she would talk to him and he would know why she was acting like this. However, he was only partially confident that this would be so.

The next morning she did not refer to it and seemed comfortable with him around. He went to his place to pick up some clothes and toiletries, hoping she would let him in when he returned. Her moods were unpredictable. Much to his relief, she did not object to his presence and the day went fairly well overall, although she would allow no physical contact. He rang the SGC to alert them to call him on his mobile if he was needed, rather than his home phone, obviously not telling them he was staying with Sam.

Reluctantly, he returned to duty the following day, hating to leave her there alone and arranging for a couple of people to drop in 'casually' during the day. In a few days he was due off world, which might end up as an overnighter, and he worried about what would be best for Sam. He had to learn to trust her alone, he knew that, but was worried what one of her mood swings might make her do, fearful she might harm herself in some way in a fit of depression. He knew what that was like; had been there and done that more than once.

Having decided to trust her, he went off world with a heavy heart. The mission was supposed to be an easy one, check out the planet, take soil samples and the usual, and it did indeed turn out that way. The ruins spied by the UAV were far enough away to entail a stop over. Lt Barclay made up the four, replacing Sam as scientist - as if anyone could ever replace Sam.

Teal'c was on watch as the others slept, but Jack couldn't sleep. He got up and sat by Teal'c's side. They silently enjoyed each other's company until Jack spoke.

"I'm worried about Sam." He stated, surprising Teal'c with his candour.

"Is she no better O'Neill?" He asked.

"She's… moody, unpredictable."

"Does she need to seek help O'Neill?

"Perhaps. You know Sam." He shrugged.

"Then you should seize the initiative."

"You think?"

"Indeed."

"I'm frightened she'd hate me for it." Teal'c grasped his friend's shoulder.

"MajorCarter could not hate you O'Neill."

"I wish I could be so sure of that T, old friend."

"I am certain of it."

"Then you have more faith and confidence than I do buddy."

"Had you not planned a vacation with her in a few weeks, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.

Jack wondered how he knew that as he had never said anything. Teal'c was always full of surprises, seeming to know everything about everyone on the base. He never said anything unless moved to for good reason.

"How do you know that?" He could not resist the question.

"Do I not know everything my friend?" Teal'c smiled and Jack could not help but respond with a grin.

"Indeed you do, my friend, indeed you do." They were silent for a while then Teal'c spoke again.

"Perhaps you should await your return from Minnesota before acting."

How in hell had he known that he and Sam were planning a trip to his cabin? They had planned it a long time ago. It was to be their first time there together, her first visit. Fishing, lots of it. He smiled at what had become a euphemism for something else.

"Good plan, Teal'c."

They hardly spoke for the rest of Teal'c's watch, which was followed by Jack's own. Teal'c made no effort to move away when it came to Jack's turn, and Jack was reassured by his presence, not needing any further words to be exchanged.

Jack ruminated about the planned vacation. They had never been away together for any longer than a weekend and the cabin trip was supposed to be for close on two weeks. Before Sam had been taken he had so been looking forward to it; they both had. Now it was a major concern. Should they still go? Would it be good for them? More to the point, would it be good for Sam?

Jack decided they probably should go anyway; the break together might be just the thing to bring them back together. He longed for that badly, often feeling dejected and disconsolate that she was frequently so distant as she continued to push him away.

They had argued a lot while he'd stayed at her house and she had tried to throw him out on a number of occasions, even threatening to get the locks changed. When he returned each night he feared she would have carried through with that threat. Although he could easily break in, he hated to contemplate her reaction if he did. She might even overreact sufficiently to call the police. That would be extremely embarrassing and call too much attention to his presence at her house. There would be no way to avoid the consequences back at the SGC and it didn't bear thinking about. So he trod carefully, on edge most of the time because of it. God he could use the break, but the cabin might not be the break he had hoped for.

He pondered Teal'c's words about taking the initiative with Sam. He truly did not believe she would thank him for it and Teal'c's reassurances made him feel no differently. He decided to put off doing anything until after their vacation, suspecting that soon things would be taken out of his hands. Unbeknown to him, they already had been. Hammond had taken action and was demanding she see a counsellor.

When he got back he went to Sam's as soon as possible. Once more she tried persuading him to leave. This time it was a reasoned plea and they discussed it like the two adults that they were, instead of screaming and shouting at each other.

"Jack, I have to cope on my own. Last night proved that once and for all. I was fine. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me."

She had been far from fine the previous night but was damned if she would tell him that. She needed the time on her own, to think without his presence. In the end he agreed to leave her overnight as long as he could call round each day after work. He hated to do it but hoped it might be the best thing for them. It depressed him, though. If they couldn't live in the same house together what hope was there for their future?

The time planned for their vacation was fast approaching and he still pondered what to do. A couple of weeks of unrelieved Jack and Sam togetherness may not be a wise move. When he raised it she was non committal but in his head he still planned that they should go.

His dream had been to make love to Sam in that place that was so magical and special to him. He fantasised about it frequently, but they hadn't had sex since the rescue and he couldn't see that changing any time soon.

Jack knew that making love, or not doing so, was not the be all and end all but nevertheless it perturbed him. It wasn't even the sex he missed, but her presence, waking up with her beside him in the morning, the cuddling, caressing, and kissing. For crying out loud, they had never even progressed that far! Her rejections wounded him deeply but he had remembered similar feelings after Iraq. How Sara must have suffered; he empathised. Besides, he was far too much of a gentleman to push it too far. He would never try to force such a thing, it was unthinkable.

Sam had been a long time off work and this worried him. He was relieved to discover that she had been called in for a psychological assessment. Hammond, thank the Lord, had arranged it with someone other than MacKenzie; she liked him no better than Jack did. Sam refused to talk about it, her subsequent appointments or her failure to return to the SGC, and Jack did not press.

Instead he concentrated on the vacation ahead of them, organising every thing that was possible to do in advance. It seemed there was a hop due from Peterson to Minneapolis / St Paul that fit in very well with the timing and, assuming it would go ahead, he planned accordingly.

Leading up to the vacation, he had continued to remind her, discussing things they should take, what perishables they would need before they arrived. Sometimes she was quite open and animated, but all too often she was listless and dismissive, not wanting to discuss it. He despaired but plodded on regardless. It helped to have something to plan for.

The day before the scheduled hop he realised that she had packed nothing.

"Sam what do you want to take with you? Shall I help you to pack?" He asked. He had wandered into her bedroom and was peering in the wardrobe.

"Take where? For what?" He stiffened at her response. Crap!

"My cabin, Sam, where else?"

"Oh. Is that soon?"

"Tomorrow. The hop is tomorrow." He forced a smile but it turned to a frown when she snapped at him.

"I don't want to go there Jack. I don’t want to go anywhere with you!" Her attitude took his breath away.

"We've had it planned for months."

"So what? I'm not coming with you."

"Sam…!" She could hear the despair in his voice and felt inclined to twist the knife in still further.

"Do you really think I have any desire to spend two weeks alone with you in the middle of nowhere?"

Jack recoiled, saying nothing but leaving the room to recover his composure. He stormed to the kitchen before he totally lost it, helping himself to a beer from the refrigerator and breathing deeply to calm himself. It didn't work. This could not be happening. Noooooo! Finally, it was too much and he returned to confront her, unable to stand back any longer.

"What the hell is with you? If you didn't want to go why didn't you say so before?"

"I've changed my mind about going. Two weeks stuck in the country? Fishing? Let's face it, it's not really me is it?" Jack knew that wasn't true.

"Sam you were looking forward to going. We both were. Please don't do this." This rejection nearly made him lose control. He was hurt, angry and upset, needed to get it out of his system, but wanted to maintain control. "Please don’t tell me that you can't bare to spend two weeks with me." She knew he was hurting but, once again, her mood made her turn the knife.

"I can't think of anything more boring. It’s a waste of time." Boring? A waste of time? He felt like she had slapped him again. What was happening?

"What have I done wrong Sam? Or are you just taking it out on me because I've let you get away with it? Tell me what's wrong, dammit! We haven't had sex in what seems like an age, and you won't even let me touch you most of the time! Why have you changed your mind about this, about us?"

"I don’t want you to touch me most of the time Jack! I don't want to have sex with you!" Jack's heart sank at these words; he was definitely going to lose it anytime now. "I never asked you to be here Jack. I've kept hinting that you should leave me alone but you just don't get it do you? I'm not taking anything out on you. You forced to behave like this to get rid of you!" It was the final straw for Jack.

"You want rid of me? Fine, you're rid of me!" He raged back at her, stamping out of the room once more, towards the front door this time. His heart was pounding and felt ripped in two, but he was way more angry than conciliatory. Sam followed him like a malevolent presence.

"Good!" She shouted, "I'm better off without you in my life."

"You're saying this is it then? The end?"

"Too damned right I am."

"Fine." Screw it; he couldn't take any more of this.

Once he was in his truck he realised he was shaking like a leaf. What have I done?

Sam sat in her living room and burst into tears. She went off to find his dog tags and held them once more, as she had when she'd thought him dying in hospital. What have I done?

The following day, Jack boarded the flight to Minneapolis / St. Paul, alone.



End Notes: TBC

You must login (register) to review.