Understandings and Misunderstandings Part 11: Double Exposure
Jack sat on his dock feeling lonely and depressed. He had promised himself that he would not give up on Sam, but he had. He'd done nothing much but think about that and their situation since he'd arrived two days ago. Why had Sam been so vile to him? What had he done wrong? He prayed that this was sometime temporary, something he could reverse when he returned to Colorado Springs. Sam had become integral to his life. First she was MIA and now this. How much heartache could he take?
It hadn't taken him long to open up the cabin, make it habitable once more. He could stand a bit of dust but needed to do the vital chores like prime the water pump, get the generator working and bring in wood for the stove and fire. He always ensured the woodshed was well stocked before he left again. Being Jack O'Neill, he also made certain that all the non perishable essentials he kept at the cabin were replenished. He liked to prepare for any eventuality. On his last visit, he had made a note of things that were running low and picked those up on the way there.
He did not feel inclined to do too much when he arrived after the two and a half hour flight and three hour drive. A ten mile hike would be less exhausting. What was it about travelling that was so tiring? So, those chores completed, he sat on his dock watching the sun go down over Lake Rose. It was a beautiful sunset and he wished Sam was there to share it.
Over the last couple of days he'd spent a lot of time just sitting on the dock. It reminded him of his childhood, the visits with his grandmother and grandfather which he loved so much. He would sit out there with his grandfather and a fishing rod learning a lot about the relaxing and the cleansing properties of the act of fishing.
It was a lie that he never caught anything; a joke he allowed to continue with his team. He didn’t much care whether he caught anything; indeed he was not really sure that he liked to kill for pure sport. He did enough killing in his line of work. It was no way to relax in his off hours.
Fish were not the point of fishing. He guessed some people might think that a little Zen like, but it worked for him. His granddaddy would also provide him with nuggets of wisdom while they sat there, and these held him in very good stead many times in his life. He figured he learned a lot more sitting there than school ever taught him.
Tomorrow he planned to hike to Charlie's Place. He always thought of the waterfall that way; it had been their secret place when they came here. It took about three hours or so to walk there but was worth every minute. He pondered whether he would have taken Sam with him had she come. He wanted to, even though it had been kept as Charlie' secret place for all these years. He wanted to introduce her to Charlie. It was time. He had intended this act to give her something more of himself.
Sadly it seemed that this was not to be. He had to admit to some nagging doubts about taking her. It belonged to him and Charlie. Maybe it was for the best. No, he shuddered at the thought, it was definitely not for the best that she wasn't here with him.
He'd go alone, as usual, and probably just get himself more depressed. He didn't mind the depression, in fact welcomed it, wanting to feel as depressed as possible. Somehow it seemed fitting to wallow in his misery and self pity. Charlie's Place would be perfect.
After that he would go back to Colorado early and try to reconcile with Sam; hope she wasn’t totally intractable. He realised her behaviour might be Post Traumatic Stress driven and still held the hope that her cruel words were in her head but not in her heart. The long and the short of it was that they had broken up, and he could not leave it there. Sam was too important to him. But Charlie first. He needed that. He'd tell Charlie all about it; everything. Sometimes he'd sit for a long time talking to Charlie.
Time for food, he thought, padding back into the cabin’s kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and took out a beer. Appetiser? Aperitif? Now what to have for the main course? He wasn't even sure he was hungry but was damned if he was going to make himself ill by not eating.
Jack was hurting badly and confused about both his feelings, and hers, so he vacillated. Anger, pain, sorrow, regret, followed by more anger, pain, sorrow and regret; this is what his last two days had comprised.
One minute he would think that being here alone and leaving her behind was the best thing after all. It would give them both breathing room to think. He'd just got her back, and now he'd lost her again; maybe he'd win her heart once more when he returned. A moment later he'd be so angry that he didn't want to see her anymore. He didn't deserve to be treated like that and he wouldn't put up with it. She couldn't love him if she deliberately hurt him so badly. Confusion reigned supreme.
When Jack tried to step back from it, which was hard, he knew that the sorrow and regret dominated his soul. He would beg and plead with her to have him back, if necessary. It saddened him even more that he was so pathetic he would forgive almost anything. Was he that desperate for her love? He wasn't sure he could deal with the loneliness, the emptiness, he'd felt before Sam. Jack hoped that talking to Charlie about it would help him, just like it had in the past.
He checked his portable CD player and was happy with the disc already inside. Mozart, cool! He switched it on and heaved a satisfied sigh as the music started. Turning up the volume very loud, one of the advantages of having no close neighbours, he prepared a couple of sandwiches. Then he took them, the beer and the CD player, back out to the dock and sat admiring the view and contemplating his life, feet dangling in the cool, still waters below. The music's volume was turned so high that he didn't hear her arrive.
It had taken Sam ages to find the right place, having called on various neighbours en route. Neighbours was a term to be interpreted loosely. These folks all lived a fair way from Jack's place.
Sam had been fretting about the confrontation with Jack. She'd told him to leave her alone, was vehement about it. She'd even told him they were finished. She hoped he realised she didn't mean that but knew Jack too well. He lacked faith in himself and struggled to believe that she could truly love him.
He'd been right, she had been taking it out on him. They say you always take things out on the ones you love. They were right too, whoever they were. He didn't deserve to be treated like that; none of this was his fault. It had taken her a while to come around to it but she decided she had to go and see him in Minnesota. A telephone call wasn't good enough; this needed to be face to face. Besides, this had been intended as their vacation.
Teal'c had provided her with directions, up to a point, but she's needed to improvise. There were lots of winding dirt tracks in the area that looked like they might lead to Jack's cabin. She'd tried a few along the way, hence her meetings with his neighbours. They had all seemed impressed that he was getting a female visitor. She wondered what the grapevine around here was like and guessed it was probably very efficient. They normally were in small communities.
Jack had been right about the country around here. It was truly beautiful. She was looking forward to seeing the cabin at last, although fearful of facing Jack and what she now needed to tell him.
As Jack had locked the gate leading up towards the cabin, Sam had to leave the rental car and walk. She could hear familiar music playing and tried to dredge up the memory of it, but her mind was too full of others thoughts.
When she rounded the bend and saw it she gasped. It was picturesque, perfect. The cabin itself was made of wood, had a nice long porch with a swing and some chairs. A large picture window overlooked the lake. The lake, and the countryside around the cabin, was stunning. It appeared to be an idyllic setting for relaxing.
She saw him sitting on the dock, his feet dangling over the side, back to her, and watched for a short while. Almost paralysed with fear, she wondered whether she was ready to tell him what she needed to. Thoughts of his possible reaction terrified her. She had to face it so forced herself to put one foot in front of the other.
Jack was caught up in the music; Mozart's Requiem Mass. It was a great piece, although Jack preferred the C minor Mass, and even some of his C Majors. However, it was sad and beautifully crafted. The last great work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, completed by someone else after his untimely demise. Of course the so called mystery surrounding the commission of this work, and Mozart's death while composing it, made it more romantic and gave it a status that might be more than it deserved, especially when compared with his other church works. However, almost everything composed by Mozart was pure genius.
He suddenly sensed her presence. Sam? She's here? He turned to confirm his gut feeling and, when he saw her, stood and switched the CD player down so it was barely audible. Well this was something wholly unexpected.
"Sam." He uttered it almost under his breath. After all these years the sight of her could still make his heart race. Sam could see the pain in his eyes and posture from where she stood.
"Jack." She moved closer, noticing he hadn't shaved for the couple of days he'd been here; the stubble suited him.
Jack said nothing; didn’t know what to say or what was expected. He felt awkward, had never imagined this would happen. Sam knew that an apology wasn't nearly good enough. She had practised what she might say but this was reality, not fiction.
"Got another one of those?" She asked, pointing to his beer, and an image of Daniel suddenly came to his mind. Daniel at his door in Colorado Springs a few years back when Jack had pretended to go dark side on them all and was forced into 'retirement'. Hurriedly, he shifted his focus entirely back to her, not wanting to remember the pain from back then; he had enough of that to contend with right now.
She was attempting to ease the tension. Neither of them moved and simply stared at each other silently. Jack was the one who broke the spell by shifting uncomfortably and staring down at his feet.
All the while his mind was frantically racing about how he should behave, what he should say, and what she wanted and would say. Sam had noticed the confusion amongst the pain. She wasn't sure that what she would tell him was going to help any.
"You found the place." He was dismayed at the inanity of their words so far, needing more from Sam.
"I got a bit lost. I think all your neighbours know you've got a female visitor. I went to all the wrong places first. I hope you don't mind them knowing. It's bound to get around."
Mind? He'd be proud to have that sort of gossip spread about him and Sam; she was a very attractive woman. These days folks around these parts had him pegged as a loner, and possibly a bit of a grouch too. He wasn't exactly a social butterfly when he came to Minnesota. Some gossip might improve his reputation no end.
"Um… I'll get you that beer. Stay here."
"I'd love to see the cabin." Sam ventured.
"No! Not now. Later."
He was emphatic. For some reason Jack didn’t want her inside his cabin until they had resolved something. This was his sanctuary and he would brook no invasion. He had to know why she was here first. Did her appearance mean she hadn't intended for them to break up? Yes, probably. Should he be so quick to forgive? Possibly not but he probably would. Should he give her a hard time before being so magnanimous? The jury was out on that one; it depended on what she said and did now.
While she waited Sam sat down on the dock dangling her legs as he had. She wondered why he didn't want her in the cabin. When he returned he passed her the beer but remained standing. She recognised his defensive posture. Who could blame him? After a few moments of silence he spoke.
"Are you gonna tell me what's wrong Sam? Or have you come all this way for something else?" She stood up to look him in the eye.
"I don't want to lose you." Her soft voice lulled him.
"Well you got one heck of a way of showing it." It was not uttered with any vehemence, just a simply stated, heart felt fact.
"I know." She paused, confessing at last, "I'm sorry. I'm afraid."
"Of me?" He was startled and perturbed. "I would never hurt you Sam. Surely you know that." She could see the shock, fear and pain in his expression.
"Not like you think." Jack said nothing, waiting for her to continue. "I'm pregnant." She hadn't wanted to blurt it out like that but what other way was there to tell him?
"What? I…" He was stunned. He was going to be a father? A smile lit his face. "But that's great Sam." The smile turned to a frown when he saw her expression.
"No it isn't." That hurt. "Jack, its not yours" Jack recoiled at that implication, which twisted a knife even further into his gut, feeling tears pricking at the back of his eyes. Oh God! He thought. She'd been unfaithful to him, something he could never imagine himself being. Who? When? Cool it Jack, hide it, and bury it. His confusion heightened.
"Oh. I see. I…" He started coldly.
"No Jack, it's not like that. Not what you think…" She hesitated.
"Exactly how is it then?" His tone was scornful.
"I haven't been having an affair."
"Oh, so it's the Immaculate Conception?" He could not help the sarcasm and bitterness. He wanted to smash something, beat his head against a wall. His eyes turned icy and Sam shuddered. When he did that he could be pretty scary. He'd put the shutters up, sealed himself off from his feelings.
"Jack please…! It's not… Goddammit, I…" Small droplets of water threatened to brim at her eyelashes, "I was raped Jack, when I was captured by the Jaffa…" she tailed off, unable to continue.
Immediately she saw the shutters open up again. He'd reconnected. Not wanting him to see her fighting the tears she turned from him to face the lake.
Jack took a few of steps and wrapped his arms around her from behind. She stiffened, but he persisted and she didn't push him away. He could feel her shaking in his arms.
"Sam. My poor Sam." He whispered. "You didn't tell me. Why didn’t you say anything?"
He was hoping to hell that this was what their recent estrangement from each other was all about. If it was this, not him, maybe he could fix it. He so much wanted to fix it. He recalled it hadn't been the first time he had felt like this as far as she was concerned. Raped? Pregnant? How did he fix that? He felt helpless and that frustrated him.
Normally he maintained control, and he liked that. Sometimes he scared himself when he lost it, and this relationship had spun him out of control many times. Would their lives forever be this constant battle? Just as everything seemed so right, something would go disastrously wrong. Their whole relationship seemed to be a series of understandings and misunderstandings.
"I don’t know." She paused. "Shame and self loathing, maybe. I couldn't fight them off Jack, I was too weak and helpless…. " She started to sob. "I hate myself for that."
"You blame yourself? God, Sam… this isn't your fault." He rocked her gently. "Please don't do this to yourself."
"I feel dirty and sullied. How can you bear to touch me?" Her voice was small and weaker than Jack had ever heard it. He hated seeing Sam like this; someone who was normally so strong.
A dry sob came unbidden in reaction to her devastation and sense of failure and he choked it back, not knowing what to do or say to make it better. Jack had no experience of this sort of thing; wasn’t exactly well known for his tact, diplomacy, or counselling skills. He was scared he screwed it all up and made things worse. There was only one thing he could say.
"I love you Sam. I love you so much. Tell me what you want me to do. Anything you want Sam. You know I'd do anything for you, don't you? God, I need to fix this; I can’t bear what this is doing to us. Help me to help you." He petered out, unable to say more.
Sitting down with her on the dockside, he held her close, caressing her hair softly. It made her happy that Jack was so supportive but she was aware that she still had things to tell him and she finally plucked up the courage. This confession was what she feared most.
"This isn’t the first time Jack."
She could not bring herself to look at him, scared of his reaction. Men could be strange about these things, thinking it was all the woman's fault; that she asked for it. As if a woman would want something like that to happen. She was scared that Jack might believe that and hated herself for thinking he might.
"That you’ve been raped?" Sam nodded and Jack was horrified. "Do you want to tell me?" She nodded again, but didn’t speak for quite a while.
"I'll get over it this time. I did before."
He doubted that. Jack knew damned well that this wasn't the sort of thing that a woman ever truly recovered from. Sam guessed from his tone that he doubted her and she couldn't argue that point. What she wanted to tell him now was evidence of her lie. She wasn't sure why she needed to tell him this, which was ancient history, but was reluctant to speak of her more recent assault; she just did. She nuzzled into his neck and he could feel her quiet sobbing. He just continued to hold and caress her gently, trying to reassure her that he was there come what may.
"I’ve never told you about my relationship with Jonas Hanson." She started, once she had regained some composure. Jack had been dreading this after Jacob had implied Jack might be too like Jonas, worried what implications it might have for them. The bastard had raped her?
"Jonas was controlling. He liked everything his own way. He wanted to possess me, not love me; he just thought it was love. I was dumb enough to think so too. I've learned differently, Jack. It's something you taught me." She smiled up at him, but her eyes still held sorrow and pain. "Dad was scared you'd be like him, but you aren't. I think he's caught onto that now. You treat me with respect. Jonas never respected me or my opinion. My self esteem wasn't very rock solid." I guess it still isn't, she thought, without voicing it. "I didn't believe I deserved his respect so I never expected him to give it. Sometimes it's looking back that makes you see things in their proper light, you know?" She paused for a long time and Jack wondered if she really wanted to talk about it.
"Sam, if you don't want to talk about this I'll understand. Really I will." He kissed her hair and squeezed her gently.
"I know, Jack. I do wanna talk about it. I haven't talked about it in years; hardly spoke of it back when it happened. I just… I don’t know what you will think. I…"
"Hey… shh. Sam, I love you. Nothing you could say to me is going to change that; you have to know it. And if you don’t know it then you have to believe me when I tell you that now."
She knew he loved her, even though he didn't tell her much. He hadn't needed to. Almost everything he did when they were together shouted it loud and clear to her. It wasn't his love but his respect that she was scared of losing. Nevertheless, she continued, but not without some trepidation.
"He always held my hand in public but never in private, as if it was to show everyone else that he owned me. It wasn't an indication of his feelings for me."
Jack knew he wasn't guilty of doing that. They were constantly touching, holding hands, and each other. It was a very hands on, tactile, relationship; or had been until her abduction. He figured he could hold her hand all night, never saying a word, and it would still make him happy. He'd never seen himself as anyone special, but she had a knack of making him feel that way. It was a gift.
Their problem was almost the reverse; the inability to display their feelings and relationship in public. It was one of the hateful things about having this relationship behind people's backs. It was limiting, and it cheapened their love. He couldn't allow it to continue like that. They had to be in a position to be a normal couple. Only he could make it so. He had to resign; it was the only way out of this mess.
"We hadn't been getting along. I was starting to rebel against his control. He didn't like that. Losing control over other people was not an option with him." Jack had seen the evidence of that with his own eyes. "One night he was insistent that we attend a party. I didn't want to go. Instead of giving way, as normal, I stood my ground. It infuriated him." Her voice cracked a little as she recounted it and she broke off.
"Sam, you don't have to finish this. You don't need to say anything." Jack assured her. She squeezed his hand, grateful for his support.
"I need to tell you." He nodded and she composed herself to continue. He felt sick inside for her.
"I was taking off the glad rags, changing into something more casual, and he grabbed me and pulled me onto the bed. He was brutish and violent and wouldn't take no for an answer. I don't think you need me to fill in the blanks. I couldn't fight him off, Jack. I couldn't. I should have been able to. I should have tried harder. I was torn between fear, disgust and my love for him."
Why is it that women blame themselves when this happens to them? He asked himself. Jack did not prescribe to the theory that no meant yes, that someone asked for it. He would never force himself on a woman. He had doubts and delved deep into himself to confirm it. He had done some bad things in his time, things he could probably never tell anyone about, but assaulting or raping a woman? No! Never!
Murder was worse though, wasn't it? Thou shalt not kill? He had done a lot of that, too much, and sometimes in distasteful and dubious circumstances. It was not possible to excuse all his actions by saying he was merely following orders. One had to take responsibility for ones own actions, not act like an automaton in the face of doubt. One had to stand up and be counted. Too much happened in this universe because people didn't do that.
He was no moral compass for anything; could not hold himself up to be a judge and jury. Holding a mirror up to himself and looking closely, he found himself wanting. He was capable of anything and that was not a comforting thought.
He fervently hoped that Sam didn’t doubt him as much as he doubted himself. The closest he had come to forcing Sam to do anything was when he had persisted in staying at her place despite her protests. He wondered whether she considered that a violation. He had never intended it to be that way but could see how it might be perceived like it. It began to eat at him and he wanted to ask but knew this wasn't the time. All this raged through his head in seconds and he was about to speak, angry with himself, when she continued.
"Dad never knew the half of it. He never knew about that."
It was a relief that, if Jacob didn't know, then his doubts about Jack could not be based on believing him capable of such an act. Jacob had probably thought Jack might be dominating, like Jonas, never giving her the real love she wanted and deserved, or a sharing and mutually supportive relationship.
"What did you do?" A small laugh escaped from her mouth.
"Trained in the next level of self defence and hand to hand combat." Right on Sam, kick ass!
"Did he try to force you again?" Jack hoped she'd thumped him good and proper although he was not shocked or surprised by her next words.
"No, he never had to. Jack, I hated myself for being fooled by him, for allowing him to take control. Not just the rape, the relationship. Even after the rape I carried on as if nothing had happened. Stayed with him, let him have sex whenever he wanted it. It took a long time for me to have the courage to get rid of him. I still thought I deserved it."
She looked into Jack's eyes, wanting to gauge his feelings, not understanding why he might want to be with this weak and pathetic woman she had just described. She saw nothing but love and sorrow there so decided to continue.
"It's weird, you know? I feel more about what happened back then than I do about what happened recently. I can allow myself to believe that I was 'injured' in the line of duty. But what happened brought back my past to haunt me with a vengeance. Am I some kind of freak?"
"Please Jack, just let me talk." She felt a deep need to tell him almost everything, desperately wanting him to understand but scared it would irrevocably change them, and his view of her. How could it not?
"He thought he was better than me... had a God given right…" She paused, taking a deep breath and clearly nervous of speaking. Jack wondered why but did not interrupt her. "I sometimes wonder how I managed to get myself out of that rut. I hated myself for staying, keep allowing him to dominate me, hated the idea of leaving. I think my self respect bottomed, a spiral into self destruction, so I don't really know what shred of dignity I used to claw my way out, but there must have been some there somewhere I guess. I know I got myself out of it kicking and screaming all the way - against myself, not him. It wasn't easy. It would have been far easier to stay, accept his actions as love and viciously decline into something even worse. See what he turned into. Thank God I escaped the worst of it. How could I have ever loved him, Jack? How can I ever forgive myself for that?"
She started to sob against Jack's shoulder and he had to suppress an urge to join in with her tears. It hurt like hell to see her like this. It was so unlike her and he hated to see her pain and confusion, although he was grateful that she wanted to tell him. She had said she was over it. That was clearly untrue and he realised that she knew it too. She still hated herself for Jonas. For letting him control her, rape her, and then staying with him even after that; for loving him. She still couldn't respect herself quite as much as she should. He knew she would probably always feel like that and he wanted to cry for her.
Jack thought if he had known even a small part of this he would never have let her near Hanson on P3X-513, never have let her on the mission at all. He would have had the guy out of the SGC pronto, if he was lucky and made it out alive! This had hurt Sam intensely and fundamentally, probably irreparably. Things like that did. He wished he could kill Jonas Hanson; that he wasn't already dead by someone else's hand.
Jack had to admit he was surprised and perplexed by her confession. Sam had always seemed such a strong person and her strength and stature had grown over the years he had known her. It was hard for him to perceive her as this different person she told him about; that she had been so lacking in self respect and courage in her past. She could have taken control of her situation and yet chose not to. It gave him pause for thought. Was Sam the woman he'd always thought her to be? He could not imagine what circumstances had made her sink that low.
It occurred to him that this was one of the things that scared Sam, that he would think less of her, lose his respect for her. Once again he had to dig deep within himself to ponder that. Introspection had never been his strong point but he seemed to be getting a lot of practice lately.
He'd known Sam a long time but never like that. He had never suspected that such a thing might lurk under the surface, that she might have this lack of self regard that was still a kernel in the middle of her heart.
None of us are what we appear, he thought; most of us hide so much in the murky depths of our souls. Did she think he would judge and condemn her? Who was he to do that? He had already decided he was not worthy to play that particular role. Had his respect for her diminished? He hoped to God he was not that shallow. Eventually he spoke.
"Sam you can't hate yourself forever for loving the wrong man."
She was surprised at his accurate perception of her feelings. Why the surprise? Jack was an intelligent guy; she should never underestimate him.
"Eventually I got the courage to dump him. He kept pestering me but was suddenly and mysteriously posted a long way away. I always wondered if Dad had something to do with that. It wouldn't surprise me but I never asked. It was a relief."
"You must have been horrified when he turned up at the SGC."
"You could say that."
"You never reported him?"
"Jack. Get real. This is the Air Force. I valued my career too much."
"Things have changed Sam."
"Yeah, sure." She didn't sound convinced and he was not going to try changing her mind. She knew better than he did what it was to be a woman in the Air Force. Who was he to know for sure?
"It's not right to blame yourself." He felt her stiffen slightly, obviously unwilling to accept or acknowledge this. "You get kicked in the teeth and you think it's your fault? That it's right? Well it isn't Sam, that's all I'm saying."
She said nothing. Jack knew that this would impact on the rest of their lives and regretted that. He had dreamed about them being happy and it seemed so unlikely now. Rape, pregnancy, her past. It was a lot to absorb and hadn't really sunk in.
No wonder Sam had shunned him. The touch of a man must have been like a nightmare. As for sex, the whole idea probably made her feel sick. He shuddered at the possible implications for them. Pregnant too?
"I'm not like him Sam, Jonas Hanson. I hope you genuinely mean it when you say you think that."
"I know it Jack. I'm certain of it."
She had never trusted any person in her life as much as she trusted this man who held her so tenderly. Believing her, he gently squeezed her in response and she took his hand. It seemed a long time since they had been so close, both physically and mentally.
"I don't know what to do about the baby, Jack. You have to help me decide."
"Sam, something like that… it's your choice. It's your life we are talking here."
"I think the man I want to spend the rest of my life with deserves a say in our fate, Jack. This will affect you too."
Jack gulped. The rest of her life? It was what he wanted but it surprised him to hear her say it. He felt blessed. She wanted to spend her life with him. He could ask for nothing more. This might not be the best time to vocalise that kind of commitment. Sam was feeling raw and vulnerable and he was still reeling from the shock of her revelations.
He had never wanted to think too hard about her getting raped while she was captive. It had always been a possibility and he was surprised it had never happened to one of them before now. Anger boiled up within. It wasn't directed at Sam, but towards her aggressor. Or was it aggressors? That seemed more likely. Hadn't she said that she couldn't fight 'them' off? Oh God, poor Sam.
He had to ensure that she never thought him angry with her even for one second. So he bottled it up; she needed to be reassured, not unsettled and upset. He wished he'd made sure that all of those bastard Jaffa were dead when they'd rescued her. He wished a lot of things. It was his fault she had been taken. It was another thing he would never be able to forgive himself for. He fought his feelings. This was not about him it was about her. He should concentrate on her.
"Do you want to tell me what happened on the planet?" He whispered it softly, not sure he should ask.
"I… I don't know. It was… horrible."
"It's alright Sam. Whenever you want to, if you ever want to. No pressure, ok?" Another gentle squeeze.
How could she fail to love this man? She thought. All her fears over his reaction had been unfounded. She had known and served with him for all these years and he could still surprise her on a fundamental level. She should have known and felt terrible for doubting him. After all this time together and she didn't really know him? It was an alarming train of thought. Maybe she could blame the trauma and hormones but she wondered how much her fears, doubts and behaviour were rooted in that past she had just described.
His muscular arms were comforting and she felt safe enclosed within them. Absently she stroked his forearm. She found his forearms sensual, masculine and strong and loved the feel of them wrapped around her protectively. Jack sighed at her touch. It was good to be connected with her again. How long would it last this time? He was wary of another mood swing.
"Jack, it's so beautiful here." She changed the subject. Maybe one day she could say something about her more recent experience, but not right now. There had been more than one Jaffa, more than one occasion. They had watched, malicious and malignant. She didn't want to tell him about any of that. Not yet, maybe never.
Jack had to confront her about the other problem, however much she might not want it. He sat in silence for a long time, simply holding her, before he spoke.
"What do you want to do about the baby Sam?"
"I don't know. The Doc recommended a termination. It's an alien's child, after all. No one knows what would happen."
"Jaffa aren't that different to us."
That was probably true, Jack thought. There was that whole immune system thing, after all. Teal'c might know. It can't be the first time this had happened. Jack couldn't envisage asking him any time soon. Hey old buddy, old pal, what do you get when you cross a Jaffa with a human? It sounded like a sick joke. Besides, he would say nothing to anyone unless Sam wanted him to. She needed to trust him, and he very much wanted that.
"I'm not sure what I think about a termination, Jack."
"You want to keep the baby?"
"I don't know."
"I'll support you; whatever you want; whatever you choose."
"That's no help."
"Oh! Isn't it?" Surely she wanted his support? He sounded disappointed and perplexed. Sam picked up on his feelings immediately and turned her face to his.
"I mean to help me make up my mind Jack." Pausing, she looked at him. "You'd help me raise another man's child?" She sounded doubtful.
In all truth, Jack wasn't sure how he really felt about that. Raising a baby born of hatred and rape held no appeal whatever. On the other hand, it wasn't the baby's fault and maybe he could even learn to love it as his own. He dreamed of having a child or two with Sam, but he had wanted them to be his.
Jack had been raised a Catholic. He was very badly lapsed nowadays but wasn't entirely sure he liked the idea of a termination. He pondered this contradiction because he did not wholly subscribe to the Catholic view of abortion and thought he believed in the right to choose. It was a fine theory when applied to someone else's life but what about his own?
This pregnancy was not something that had been chosen or planned. It had been forced on Sam in the most violent and humiliating way possible. Not only that but if there was the slightest risk to Sam that a Jaffa fathered baby could be detrimental to her physical wellbeing, he was not prepared to let her risk herself. He knew only too well what it felt like to lose her and wasn't about to let it happen again if he had any say in it. If it was his own child he would feel the same way. He could never choose a baby over her, no matter how much he wanted it. In this case he wasn't even certain that he wanted it. Although full of misgivings, he voiced none of them.
"This is all such a shock Sam I don’t know what to think. I want you to be happy and if that makes you happy then I guess I would."
Sam wasn't sure she wanted to raise this child, with or without Jack, but it pleased her that he would be so unerringly loyal. It was a surprise that he didn't seem to judge her. He thought more highly of her than she did of herself. She imagined a different outcome to this conversation if the pregnancy was the result of deliberate infidelity.
As she thought further she corrected herself, believing that Jack would have supported her even then. For the first time she truly began to comprehend his depth of feeling for her. He would sacrifice anything, do anything. She hadn't realised that his love was so totally unconditional and was awed by it. Sam was ashamed she could have behaved like such a bitch in the face of this man's love and devotion.
"I have an appointment to see someone about the pregnancy when I get back."
"Then there's still time to think about it. No pressure, right?"
She smiled a response and Jack was tempted to kiss those curving lips but didn't dare. He wanted her to feel safe with him; that he would never force anything physical between them. She had to be ready, and make the choice. She was allowing him to hold her in comfort and that was a first step towards getting their lives back together. It was good enough for now. She would send him a sign when she was ready; he would know.
So he would do nothing to make her think that the physicality of their relationship was paramount. They'd still be together when they were beyond the sex, right? Although he could hardly even imagine that such a time would come. Nevertheless, he could live without it as he had for many years before they finally got together. There were more important things than that. Many more.
He was right, there was still time to think about it. Knowing that the pressure was off for now helped her relax. They sat in silence again, his arms still enfolding her, and watched the sunset. He had claimed that the sunsets over the lake were awesome and she agreed, thinking she had never seen one so beautiful. Watching it with him was soothing, and maybe his presence enhanced its beauty.
"Do you want something to eat?" He asked out of the blue as it darkened. So like him to mention food when he was feeling slightly overwhelmed or uncomfortable. She shook her head and sensed his trepidation once more when he continued. "Are you staying long Sam?"
"Until we have to go back. If that's alright with you. This is our vacation. We've planned it for months."
He smiled and kissed her forehead. She seemed alright with that. He was happy she was staying. Maybe this would turn out well after all.
"Let me show you round the cabin." He stood and took her hand, leading her into his beloved sanctuary.
It was dark inside and Jack went round lighting it. Sam looked around with interest. To the right of the hallway was the living room, with the picture window along one side and large fieldstone fireplace dominating the adjacent wall. The fireplace also had a couple of bread ovens. Quaint. She'd bet they never got used. The décor and furniture was all very Jack. As she moved further into the room she saw the breakfast bar, which separated this cosy living space from the kitchen. She hadn't seen an old ice box like that in years, although she noticed that he also had a relatively modern refrigerator.
He started to explain how things worked; the stove, and the water pump in case it was required. She was curious as to what lay beyond his back door so he opened it to show her the shed outside where he kept the wood pile for the stove and fire, and the power generator, without which most of the things inside the house wouldn't function. As they were there he explained how to work the generator, but thought someone with Sam's technical expertise probably wouldn't have a problem figuring it out for herself.
Jack always kept supplies for potential emergencies, so he showed her where candles, batteries and the like were stored, just to be on the safe side. One never knew when an emergency might occur in these parts, and it paid to be prepared.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing to a screened off area. He took her to look. "A hot tub? Wow!"
Jack had hoped to get in there with her while they were here. He fantasised them making love, although wasn't sure it was practical. They could certainly get up to some pretty decent foreplay. Maybe next time, he thought. It seemed there would be one. She had a life planned for them. He was walking on clouds, despite the horror of her disclosures.
Taking her back inside he led her to the den at the other side of the living room. It was a mess but she said nothing about that, just 'Nice!' and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. He'd seen her do that a hundred times when she was slightly impatient or humouring him.
Leading her up the stairs he showed her the bathroom and bedrooms. Taking her into the master bedroom he said,
"You sleep in here. I'll take a spare room." He took for granted that she would not want to sleep in the same bed as him. Sam was relieved, and grateful for his patience and understanding. Jack O'Neill was one hell of a guy. You might never guess that Colonel O'Neill was like this unless he let you take a peek inside.
She insisted that she have the spare room so he could continue to sleep in his own bed. They argued the toss and he finally gave way to her. It wasn't worth wasting energy on the argument. The spare room would be perfectly comfortable.
"Where's the car Sam?"
"Other side of your gate."
"I'll fetch your luggage."
He went downstairs and dug out a flashlight. By now it was dark and he would hardly be able to see one foot in front of the other without one. Jack wondered whether anyone would notice if he purloined a pair of those night goggles from the SGC. A pair of those out here would be really cool. Two pairs; one for Sam.
Sam had only brought a very small bag. She packed light. He hoped she had enough stuff with her, and that it was practical for the middle of nowhere. God Jack stop fretting, he thought, the woman is a Major in the USAF, of course she knows how to pack.
In the end he made some food and insisted that she eat something. To his surprise, she obeyed. They listened to music for the rest of the night until going to bed.
Sam hadn't been sleeping that well. If she was tired enough she would fall asleep but almost inevitably woke up after a couple of hours and found it hard to go back again. This time she did not wake of her own volition. With a start she realised that Jack was calling out and rushed to his room, standing in his doorway, much as she had on that previous occasion after his auto accident. He was having nightmares again. Had she brought this on him? Sitting in his bed she shook him gently.
He woke up wild eyed and then saw it was her. He was sweating and trembling so she pulled herself further onto his bed and held him in comfort.
"It's ok Jack, its ok."
"Shouldn't you be the one with nightmares?" He asked, in that flippant tone that told her he was defensive again.
"I do Jack, believe me, I do."
As they held each other consolingly Jack worried. Did they need each other too much? He thought that the best relationship was one in which your love exceeded your need for each other. Unsure where he had heard it, perhaps one of the pearls of wisdom passed on by his grandfather, he believed it to be true.
He didn't want their relationship to be like that, choosing not to believe they were co-dependent. They had known each other, been friends and colleagues, for a long time. Over those few years they had shared more than most people would share in a whole lifetime. As a result, their relationship was very different to most people's. This was not co-dependency, it was intense and abiding friendship and love. It was nothing like he had ever encountered, even with his ex-wife, and he had thought about it a lot.
He couldn't bring himself to tell her about his nightmare. It was not rooted in his past but in his present and future; Sam and their relationship. The memory of it was jumbled, as it always was with a sleeping memory, but he remembered enough and it had struck fear into his heart. It had been about the death of their intimacy and love. Her embrace helped it to fade from his reality and placated him.
When she pulled away he felt deflated but was surprised when she crawled into bed and wrapped him in her arms once more. They fell asleep like that and both of them slept easily for the rest of the night, not thinking about what tomorrow might bring. When he awoke next morning she was gone.