Jack stared out of his office window nibbling on his long slender fingers and deep in thought. He cut a dashing figure in his uniform but he would never believe it. Not for the first time he wondered why he'd agreed to take a job that required him to wear the darned thing every day. He hated wearing it and missed being able to relax a little in his BDUs. Running a finger round his shirt collar, he longed to remove the tie. It was strangling him, metaphorically speaking, and he loosened it a notch as if that would help, but it wasn't that the tie was too tight. He was. Jack was wound up tighter than a ball of string.
Okay, so he was in a bad mood and had been for a couple of weeks or so. People had started to duck round corners when they saw him in the corridor or cringed when he walked into a room. Sure, that's an exaggeration, but everyone knew he was in a mood. They could feel it, even if he didn't show it. Outwardly he was calm and coldly polite. That was the problem. He appeared to need a sense of humor transplant and people noticed that he rarely smiled anymore. A lot of them even knew why, or believed they did. Of course none of them really knew the mystery that was General Jack O'Neill.
Those pesky nightmares had come back again. No one but Jack knew about them. He recognised they were a part of his life forever, after all he'd seen hell quite a few times in his life, so why wouldn't they be? Normally he could deal with them, keep them locked down, maintain control. When he was happy and relaxed they taunted him less frequently and would merely drop in for a visit from time to time, and he understood why that might be so, but right now he was neither happy nor relaxed.
If truth be told, he was stressed, restless and pretty damned miserable, so they were back again. There were moments in his life when they seemed to wreak vengeance for all those times he'd kept them at bay, and this was obviously one of those moments. He knew they'd go again, eventually, and life would become relatively normal once more, or he certainly hoped so, although he sometimes wondered what normal really was. How did someone like him become normal, live normally, act normally?
Jack was pretty sure he wouldn't go running off to a shrink any time soon to talk about his nightmares, so he'd just get on with life, his own kind of normality. He'd just fight back as always - in his own way, his own time, with his own brand of both introspection and denial.
He began to pace. A pile of paperwork sat in his tray and idly he stopped, flipping open the top file, sighing deeply and slamming it shut again. Staring at the photograph of Sam on his desk, he sighed, picking that up to look at it closely and putting it back down again. She looked so beautiful in that photograph. It was special. He picked up the file and paced again, slamming it into the palm of his hand.
"Crap!" he swore softly. He'd cut himself, no big deal but paper cuts hurt and he was already feeling stressed enough without that. "Moron!" he berated himself under his breath.
'Jack O'Neill, you're a fool. You can't go on like this. For crying out loud, you have to do something,' he thought.
"Sanders!" he shouted and a young Lieutenant came into the room.
"General O'Neill, Sir!"
"Arrange transport. I'm going to Colorado. The SGC."
"Don't just stand there gawping, Sanders, get to it."
"Yes, sir, but are they expecting you?"
"No. And don't call. I want it to be a surprise."
"A surprise sir?"
"Gotta keep 'em on their toes Sanders."
Sanders went off to make arrangements and Jack sat down, calling his CO. Satisfied with the result of their brief conversation, his mind drifted back to Sam again: Mrs Samantha O'Neill. Jack sighed wistfully at the thought, eyeing the other picture on his desk, the happy couple on their wedding day.
Flashback to a few months before the present:
After his proposal they didn't waste any time and, a month later, married in a small chapel in Colorado Springs, with a few close friends to bear witness. General George Hammond (retired) proudly bore Sam down the aisle, his arm linked with hers. Sam thought she couldn't have found a better man to give her away, although she deeply regretted that her father had not lived to do it.
Her father had wanted this to happen. After Sam agreed to marry him, Jack finally revealed the contents of his deathbed conversation with Jacob and she was thrilled her father would have approved of the match. He had hinted at it, but back then she'd been determined to marry Pete, despite herself and maybe to spite Jack. She chose to ignore those hints, pretending she had no idea what he meant.
Sam would never forget her own conversation with her father and it came to mind as she walked that seemingly long walk down the aisle of the small chapel. She sat by his deathbed, his hand in hers, trying to take advantage of the short time they had left.
"I just wanna know you're gonna be happy," he said.
"I am," she replied, emphatically.
"Don't let rules stand in your way."
That was a surprise, but she refused to hear what he was telling her, merely looking puzzled.
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
"You joined the Air Force because of me."
"I love my job."
"Mmm." He looked dubious and reached out to stroke her cheek. When she recalled the moment she could almost feel his hand there. "You can still have everything you want."
"I do, dad," she responded and her father looked frustrated that she didn't, or refused to, understand what he was talking about. Sam took hold of his hand again reassuringly. She didn't want her dad worrying about her while he lay dying. She wanted him to die peacefully, not thinking about his little girl's future. "Really," she added for emphasis.
It was so obvious that dad had not taken to Pete. He tried to assure her he liked him, but she knew better. It was something else she shrugged off, pretending to believe his assurances.
That was another moment she recalled with stunning clarity, walking into the room with Pete and introducing him to her father.
"Pete Shanahan, Jacob Carter. Dad, this is Pete," she said.
Her father had been expecting it but Pete hadn't. Clearly he was stunned.
"Dad!" Pete exclaimed and Sam cringed inside, as did her father it seemed.
"Not quite yet," Jacob responded, "you have to actually marry my daughter before you can call me that."
The first thought that crossed her mind was that her father didn't seem to mind when the General called him "dad", but she pushed it away, just as she pushed everything else away, and refused to admit or accept it.
After that, the meeting seemed to go downhill quickly. Pete had become almost incoherent with nerves and then said something pretty stupid about her father carrying 'one of those things' inside of him. It was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and required a lot of effort from her to get them to loosen up a little.
Later, in the commissary, she broached the subject with her father, who had been very quiet since Pete left.
"It's been two hours since Pete left. You haven't said a word," she said.
"I did so."
"He seems nice?" She quoted back at him. The words had damned her fiancé with faint praise.
"I believe that's three words."
It briefly occurred to Sam that it was the kind of comment she would have expected from her CO, and how similar the two most important men in her life were in so many ways. Then she rebuked herself, knowing that Pete should be more important than either of them.
"I'm gonna marry him," she replied, almost defiantly.
"I know. I just met him. What do you want me to say? I know how happy he makes you. That's all that matters to me," her father responded.
"OK," she said, accepting it because that was what she wanted to do.
Jack's later conversation with her father demonstrated where his respect, allegiance, and hopes, lay. Now she was pleased that was so and, although no one could replace her father in her heart, she was proud that George Hammond was able and willing to give her into the waiting arms of the man she loved. It seemed fitting.
She had come so close to marrying the wrong man and ruining her life, and Jack's. It was a disturbing thought and she wasn't going to let such thoughts spoil one of the biggest and most wonderful days of her life. It wasn't Pete Shannahan waiting for her at the alter, it was Jack O'Neill, and he looked adorably handsome and shy as he waited for George to give her away to become his wife. Pushing all thought of Pete to the back of her mind as she drew closer to Jack, Sam tried to calm herself and look around the chapel so she could take in the details of this biggest of occasions.
Daniel was Jack's best man, and it pleased her that these two men she adored so much waited at the end of the aisle as they approached. Sam could see Teal'c's big smile as he watched their approach from near the front of the chapel, meeting her eyes and bowing his head in tribute. Sam's acknowledging grin made his smile broaden all the more. Her maid of honor, Cassie, joined him as they reached the end of what seemed to Sam an extremely long walk, and he turned to greet her, meeting grin with grin.
The young woman that Cassie had become beamed joyfully, very happy to be witnessing the moment she had dreamed of for so many years. When Sam told her that she was marrying Jack and asked her to be maid of honor she'd been so delighted that the whole of Colorado Springs must have heard her yelping with pleasure. She had always seen this future for Sam and Jack, wishing it to come true, and believed her mother would have been equally as thrilled. The only thing that blighted this occasion was that her mother had not lived to see it.
Sam looked radiantly happy, and beautiful, and Jack's eyes reflected that joy as he watched her, nervous but elated. He took her hand and she felt the electricity pass between them and gasped, smiling up at him to meet his lopsided grin and dancing eyes. When it came to the part where they were declared husband and wife and kissed, she felt it was a kiss like no other that had passed between them.
She sensed Jack felt similarly and believed his love was expressed more clearly in his face and eyes than ever before. They were joined at last. They had always been joined and always would be. This ceremony merely confirmed it to the world at large, and cemented what lay deep in their hearts.
As she drew near with George, Jack's heart skipped a few beats, and hammered rapidly with excitement and joy. She looked so beautiful and was way too good for him, yet they were about to become husband and wife, like a long held dream come true; a shot at a new life and family that he had never believed possible.
They were about to become one. He was still disbelieving that this could happen and part of him waited for the other shoe to fall, holding his breath, almost sure that someone would raise an objection to their union and nix the whole thing. That never happened.
Husband and wife kissed and it was a kiss he would always remember. It made him feel wanted, needed and loved, confirming the rightness of what they did, their feelings, hopes and dreams. Everything they had been through together, and separately, for the last few years was worth it for this one moment, this one kiss.
"Mrs O'Neill," he whispered with a smile, fingers softly brushing her cheek.
"Mr O'Neill," she whispered back at him, her eyes glistening with the moisture of emotion. "I love you Jack." Her husband smiled.
"I sure hope so. I love you too, Sam, so very much. More than I can ever tell you."
After that, they had been surrounded by the good wishes of friends and only once they left the reception were they finally able to be alone together.
They spent that first night in the luxury honeymoon suite of a local hotel. Jack carried her over the threshold, laying her on the bed and kissing her with all the passion that was smouldering inside, which she returned in kind. They stripped each other naked and made love for the first time as husband and wife, barely cognisant of their surroundings.
Afterwards they noticed the details of the suite: the champagne on ice, now melting, the flowers, the chocolates.
"Nice fruit basket," quipped Jack raising a large smile from Sam at that private team joke.
Later they took advantage of the Jacuzzi, sipping champagne and feeding each other the chocolates as they luxuriated in the bubbling warm mass of water. They were exhilarated but exhausted and, when Sam dozed for a while, Jack simply smiled and watched her, admiring her body, her beauty and her peaceful expression.
She woke and found his eyes on hers, kissing him softly, and he rose, helping her out of the Jacuzzi, drying them both off with towels and leading her back to their giant-sized honeymoon bed. They made love for the second time as husband and wife, and then fell asleep in each others arms, safe, comfortable and happy.
Next morning they breakfasted on the balcony, overlooking the magnificent mountains of Colorado, and delighted in each other's company. Then they set off for their honeymoon. Jack had made lots of suggestions about where they might go; Mexico, Hawaii and many other sun drenched and relaxing locations both near and far. Sam, on the other hand, suggested the most simple of locations; Jack's cabin in Minnesota. So that was where they went, arriving later that day after their long journey.
Jack had called ahead, asking an old friend the favour of preparing the cabin for them, and getting in some supplies, so it would be ready for their arrival. When they got there, the lights were blazing and welcomed them to Jack's beloved home, now theirs. Jack laughed because the cabin was strewn with bunting and a huge banner proclaiming "Congratulations Mr and Mrs O'Neill." That warmed their hearts, as if they needed warming.
Once again he carried her over the threshold, kissing her when they reached the other side.
"Welcome home, Mrs O'Neill," he declared happily.
They ate simply that night, but it felt like splendid luxury. The whole honeymoon was simple and yet splendid. They were alone, they were married, they were happy, they were one. At last. Ten days later they faced their return to Washington, neither wanting to go back and deal with reality.
Flashback to a couple of months before the present:
On his way to the airport, Jack's mind roamed to a different point in their relationship, a couple of months or so before. They'd been together as a couple for a year and he'd screwed up their "anniversary". He realised Sam must have been a little pissed. No wonder their marriage had hit some problems so early on; he probably didn't give her anything like what she really wanted. She probably expected so much more and he didn't give it. She must be disappointed in him.
No doubt she had wanted romance with just the two of them, but Jack arranged for Daniel and Teal'c to come to Washington that weekend without even thinking about it. It wasn't until he picked them up at the airport that he remembered. Daniel prompted the memory.
"You know Jack, it was a year ago that we were in Minnesota." Daniel said, "So it's been a while since we spent any social time together."
"A year? Crap!" he exclaimed. 'Our anniversary. A year since we broke the spell and got together. Why didn't Sam say anything?' he thought, 'she probably expected me to remember, wanted me to. Damn!'
"You forgot?" Daniel asked with a raised brow.
"Umm. yeah, kind of."
"Yeah. Women notice that kind of thing."
"You gonna be in trouble?"
"Wanna stop somewhere and get something for Sam?"
"I should, shouldn't I?"
"Wanna turn around and take us back to the airport?"
"No! We've been looking forward to this."
"You two should probably be alone."
"You're only here for a couple of days, we have lots of time to be alone."
"Not on your 'anniversary', Jack."
"Bad timing, huh?"
"Isn't it always?" Jack laughed, but inside was wondering what Sam was thinking.
On the way back they stopped at a mall and Jack hunted for a present, opting fora sapphire belly button ring, and earrings, which matched her engagement ring. Daniel had thought it a bit extravagant, but who was he to judge?
Sam was delighted to see their friends, saying nothing about the anniversary, but alone in their bedroom later, Jack gave her the present.
"Happy anniversary, Sam," he whispered as he pulled her into his arms.
"Jack!" She grinned and kissed him.
"I should never have invited Daniel and Teal'c this weekend of all weekends. We should have celebrated this alone. I'm sorry. I'm such a fool. Not very romantic." He felt he'd let her down badly even if she hadn't mentioned it.
"I thought you'd forgotten."
"I nearly did. How could I? Jeez!"
"Jack, it's okay."
"Is it? Not really, but I guess you're stuck with a numbskull. Go figure. You knew you were marrying one." She laughed at that and gave him a squeeze.
"You aren't a numbskull, Jack. Inconsiderate and thoughtless sometimes, maybe, but numbskull? Far from that."
"I'm sorry I'm thoughtless and inconsiderate sometimes, Sam. Hey, I'm a man. What more do you expect?"
"Worse than just a man, you're Jack O'Neill." She rolled her eyes, but smiled, and he kissed her.
"I love you Mrs O'Neill."
"I love you too Mr O'Neill."
They sat on the bed and he gave her the present. She seemed suitably thrilled and impressed. Then she gave him his. It was a photograph of her in a beautiful, though simple, silver frame. Clearly the photograph had been taken in a studio and was especially posed. She looked amazing. Hot, fantastic. It was something very special.
He wondered whether he had the nerve to keep it on his desk at work. It didn't really show anything but a lot of cleavage, but it sure was titillating. If he kept it on his desk, the whole world would get an eyeful of Sam looking hot and steamy, and he probably wouldn't ever manage to get any work done with her staring up at him with those big blue eyes, looking so incredibly sexy. Perhaps he should keep it on the nightstand.
"You-you look stunning, Sam."
"Glad you think so, flyboy."
He grinned, nibbling her ear and, as he pulled away, she handed him a small album. In it were more photographs. Obviously she'd had a professional session. He browsed through the small collection, eyes widening.
"Th-they. Wow! These are amazing. Thanks Sam," He kissed her, "I couldn't ask for anything better, apart from you. Hey, you aren't wearing a bra."
"That's the point. Don't be such a prude."
"Prude? Me? Never! I was just thinking about the photographer."
"He didn't see anything more than that. Cross my heart."
"I bet he wanted to. God, you look so hot. I wanna eat you all up." He started to caress her, gently, and undo her clothing. "Right now," he whispered, his lips brushing the skin on her chest, and then her neck.
"That's okay. You're allowed. We're married," she replied with amusement.
"Daniel and Teal'c."
"We'll try to keep it quiet, Jack. I promise I won't scream."
He stripped her, removing her earrings and belly button ring, replacing them with the ones he'd bought for her, and then made love to her, slowly and sensuously. Her husband drove her crazy with desire, taking so long over his lovemaking that Sam didn't know how she kept the noise level down, or stop herself from screaming ecstatically, but she did. Afterwards, they lay in each other's arms, their caressing and hugging filled with love.
"That was pretty fantastic Jack," she whispered.
"Ummmm." He kissed her neck.
"You are just so good at that."
"I aim to please."
"Well, believe me, your aim is true, my love."
"You're pretty hot yourself, Mrs O'Neill." Sam kissed the end of his nose in response and smiled, "What would you say if I kept one of these photos on my desk at work?"
She considered him for a while before she replied.
"Ummm. You want half the Pentagon to get an eyeful?"
"Okay, some are a bit more. revealing than others. You look sexy in all of them, but they don't really show anything. I wouldn't take in anything too revealing or raunchy, honest. But, you think I'm not proud of my wife? That I don't want to show her off? There are, however, limits. Some of these no one's ever gonna see except you and I."
"As I intended. But I don't mind if you take one of them in, as long as you pick carefully. Once upon a time maybe I would have minded, but not now. You are right, they don't really show anything that wouldn't be seen if you had one of me in a bikini, actually a lot less, and I wouldn't object to that, so what the hell? They are pretty flattering."
"Flattering? You are the most beautiful woman on this planet, in the whole universe actually, and who would know that better than me?" He smiled at her blush, kissing her hot, pink tinged cheek, "It wouldn't hurt for those pentagon stuffed shirts to realise they have a sex goddess in their midst." Sam's blush deepened at the compliment, "With one of these on my desk, I'll be the envy of all the guys, if I'm not already, which I probably am. After all, I only happen to be the luckiest guy on Earth. Married to brains and beauty, who is also a great lay, by the way." His grin turned to a frown and he said, "Honey, I'm so sorry I didn't make our anniversary more romantic; just the two of us."
"Oh, you made it pretty special, Jack. Very special indeed."
He sighed with contentment and they snuggled close together, shortly falling into a long and dream filled sleep, but it wouldn't be long before they had to face a reality that Jack had been dreading. Looking back he wondered what she had really felt about that weekend. Had she been disappointed?
Flashback to a few weeks before the present:
Reality. There it was staring Sam in the face. They'd only been married a few months and she'd come home early to think. Jack returned some hours later to find her sitting in the dark.
"Sam, honey, what is it?" he asked as he saw her sitting in the shadows, immediately going to her side, kissing her cheek and placing an arm round her in comfort. Clearly something was bothering his wife. She didn't answer immediately, but clung to him as if her life depended on it.
"They asked if I wanted to stay on the project for another few months. We haven't made as much progress as they would have liked," she admitted eventually.
Jack took a deep breath, trying to discern her thoughts. It was a moment he had been dreading and had refused to face.
"And?" he asked.
"I don't know what to do."
"What do you want to do, Sam?"
"I want to be with my husband."
"But?" he pressed. She was silent. "But you want to go back to the SGC." There, he'd said it; a little coldly, Sam thought, or was she imagining that?
Jack had always known that she wasn't happy in her work at the Pentagon although she never told him in so many words. She missed the SGC, her friends, the action, the unknown. Washington was intended as a temporary arrangement and they had both known that the crunch would arrive soon. It was way too soon for Jack's liking.
"I miss it," she said.
"So what do I do?"
"It's not my decision, Sam."
"But you're my husband."
"That doesn't give me any right to own your life and career, though, does it?"
"Doesn't it?" she asked, expecting a different reaction.
"No. You have to do what's right for you, honey."
"The Pentagon doesn't feel right, Jack."
"I know you haven't been happy at work. I know you only stayed here to please me and be with me. I know that can't go on forever."
"You never said anything."
"Neither did you. I kept expecting you to, but you never did."
"I love you, Jack."
"I know that too, but we both know that sometimes other things are more important than that. It's not true that love conquers all. We lived with that for a long time."
"Things changed. We're together now, we're married."
"If you go back, that doesn't negate our marriage, or anything else."
"But if I go back, we won't be together anymore."
"Not as much, no, not unless I come back too."
"There is no going back for you, unless you retire. It isn't time for that."
"No? Maybe it is."
"No! You can't."
"You think my country still needs me? There are lots of Generals who could do my job."
"There isn't anyone who could do it as well as you do, Jack, or who has your kind of experience."
"You know it's true." She responded, and Jack sighed, rubbing his hands through his short grey hair, saying nothing. "We've only been married for a few months." Sam continued.
"But we've been together for over a year, Sam. That's a lot more than I ever imagined we'd get. We're both military. It happens."
"How can you be so calm about it?" she asked.
"Calm? I'm the master of calm," she saw his smile in the darkness, "I want my wife to be happy. I don't want this marriage destroyed because we made the wrong choices."
"You are encouraging me to go? Do you want me to?"
"What I want has nothing to do with it. If you go I'm going to miss you and it'll be hell here without you. None of that makes it the wrong thing to do."
He was so trying to be the voice of reason, even though his stomach was churning at the thought of losing her. Letting her go might be the only way to keep her.
"What would that separation do to our marriage?" she asked.
"I don't know. Neither of us has a crystal ball."
"Holy Hannah, I just wish you'd be a bit more unreasonable!"
"You want me to argue you should stay? I can't do that. I can't try forcing you to make a choice that I know will make you unhappy. What will it do to our marriage if you stay?"
They were caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. Sam both loved and hated him at that moment. He was forcing her to make the choice, and she had known deep down that he would, loving him for letting her be her own woman and not trying to force her hand; loving his reasonableness and reason.
However, she also longed for him to say he loved her and wanted her to stay, that he needed her there with him, that she couldn't desert him, that he wanted her love. He should fight to keep her, and she hated that he didn't do that.
Jack was upset at the thought of her leaving him behind in Washington. How would he deal with those weeks apart? Was this their marriage, or truly only her work that was pulling them apart? Was there more than just her career, her love of the SGC at stake here?
It worried him. He thought she'd been a little distant lately, and moody; oh man, was she moody! Was some of it him? If she went would they fall apart? And what if she stayed, or he moved back to the Springs? Would it make them closer or destroy them? Was she growing restless? He had always wondered if that might happen.
What was it they said about familiarity breeding contempt? It was cliché, he realised, but no less untrue because of that. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Ack! His mind was full of questions but he had no answers. It was disturbing. She said she loved him, but. What the heck did she see in him anyway? Crap! He couldn't win in this situation. Heads you lose, tails you lose.
"Make love to me Jack," she asked and then, "No, not love. Have sex with me, screw me: hard, rough, forceful. Take me!"
He looked into her eyes and saw her plea. It bothered him that she wanted that kind of sex with him right now. He needed her to love him and be loving, but she wanted brute force, without the love. Suppressing his own feelings, he obeyed, giving her what she wanted, virtually ripping her clothes off and forcing himself on her while she fought him until surrendering and letting him have what she wanted him to take.
They had played sex games before, but it seemed to him that this was not a game. Nevertheless, he played it perfectly, giving her what she wanted, brutal, base and basic. She played no part other than opposing him and eventually letting him rip it from her, and they hurt each other, both mentally and physically with that act, while also gaining perverse pleasure from it. It gave them sexual gratification, but left them both unsatisfied and uneasy.
She forced a distance between them that he never wanted and he wondered if that was the only way she could make the decision to leave him behind. That night they did not sleep in each other's arms, or spoon together like they normally did, but lay back to back, awake for a long time and thinking their own secret thoughts.
Little over a week later, having made a fine job of managing upwards and influencing her CO, Sam returned to the SGC and Jack stayed in Washington. They were both busy at work, and their time together was short. An atmosphere built up between them. It was so different to the way they had been over the last few months. They didn't really part on the best of terms; a terse kiss, a mumbled goodbye.
The night before she left he tried to make love to her, but she rejected him, claiming she was too tired, and when they parted it seemed like they were truly alone once again.
It broke Jack's heart as he wondered if their marriage could survive. They had only been married a few months, but it felt like something had changed forever, that he had lost 'his Sam', and he didn't know how to make it right again, or win her back.
He thought they were special, and Sam often seemed to agree, but on that journey to Colorado, Jack wondered how she really felt deep down. Looking back, he knew they'd had some great times together, but also that he could be distracted, distant, and forgetful of some of the things that were important to her. The anniversary was just one example. There were others. Maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe he gave her less than she needed.
Had she really known what she was getting herself into when they married? He wasn't an easy man to live with, or to know, he realised that. He found it difficult to give of himself, but thought he'd done a pretty good job of that with Sam, for him, and certainly better he could have been, or ever had been with anyone else in his life, including Sara. He tried, but maybe not enough.
Jack believed he was connected with Sam in a way that he'd never been connected before, but had no clue how she felt about that. Maybe he was deluding himself. They had shared so much over the years, but he'd also needed to keep a lot hidden from his team mates, from everyone. That was Jack O'Neill. He couldn't change something so fundamental so easily. With Sam, once they got together, things had been different, but maybe they weren't different enough.
He imagined Sam thinking him cold and forbidding. A wife shouldn't feel that about her husband. It bothered him that he wasn't sure how she felt about both his natural, and acquired, reticence. She probably didn't even realise how much he had opened up to her in a way that had never happened with anyone before. How could she know that?
Since she'd left Washington their contact had comprised a couple of brusque and unrevealing phone calls. He couldn't handle it. He was right that Washington was hell without her, but he wasn't sure it would be that much better with her and couldn't fathom what was happening, or why.
When he got to the mountain, Sam and Daniel were at the Alpha Site and he was kind of relieved. It gave him a chance to get the business out of the way before he saw her. He'd arranged to tag on a couple of days vacation while he was there and checked with Hank Landry that Sam could too; if she wanted to. He really hoped she wanted to.
The incoming traveler alert sounded and he made his way quickly to the control room, knowing that she was due back. As she exited the wormhole he watched through the glass, noticing she looked tired. She glanced up, saw him and looked surprised, but smiled, which pleased him because he wasn't sure she would, so he went down to the gate room.
Immediately, Daniel spotted the distance between them. Instead of hugging or even touching, as he might have expected, they stood regarding each other with some wariness. He had suspected something might be wrong because, since her return, Sam hadn't been behaving like herself. He'd pressed her about it but she wouldn't talk.
He greeted Jack like the missed friend that he was, trying to ignore the atmosphere, and they made their way up to the control room and towards the briefing room to report to General Landry. Jack talked cheerily to Daniel as if Sam wasn't even there and it worried the archaeologist. While Sam went to make the report, Daniel dropped out, taking Jack away to ask what was going on.
"I wish I knew," Jack replied to his questions.
"Did you and Sam have an argument about her coming back here?" Daniel probed.
"No. I didn't try to stop her, Daniel. I knew this was what she wanted. But she-she." Jack pressed his fingers into his temples as if he had a headache, "she pushed me away." He declared, finally. "Before she left, she seemed different. We've hardly talked for, well, actually two or three weeks, but it seems like years."
Jack was not one to confide that much of his private life to his friends, but he needed a friend right now and missed Daniel. Teal'c wasn't around as he was off doing something with the Jaffa leadership. These two men were the only ones Jack was likely to confide in, on those rare occasions he confided at all, so he felt lucky that Daniel was around.
"Maybe you should have tried to stop her," Daniel said. "maybe that's what she wanted you to do."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"It doesn't? Well, women don't sometimes Jack. You know as well as I do what a mass of contradictions they can be. Can't we all? Maybe she thinks that if you really loved and wanted her you would have tried harder."
Jack had never even considered this and it gave him pause for thought.
"Maybe, but talk to her about it, Jack. Don't let it stew."
"That's why I came. I can't stand this anymore. We are growing apart and we've only been married a few months. I love her. I don't want to lose her."
"And she loves you."
"I used to believe that but now I'm not so sure. Maybe we should never have got married. Maybe she's regretting that. Committing to me. that's one hell of a leap. We'd only been together a few months before we tied the knot. Maybe we rushed into it too quickly. God knows, I'm not good enough for her, I've always known that."
"Stop that, Jack. It's nonsense." Daniel interrupted. "She's been committed to you for years, and you know it."
"The fantasy and the reality are not the same thing, Daniel."
"You think you expected too much of each other?"
"Maybe. It was always a possibility, wasn't it? Dammit, Daniel all those years. it scares the hell out of me. Perhaps the real ordinary everyday us aren't up to it."
"Oh, Jack, I find that hard to believe. You're great together. Always were."
"You aren't living it."
"No, but I've been working with Sam since she got back and know that, deep down, she's miserable."
"She is?" Jack looked vaguely hopeful, and then crestfallen again, "But do you know what that means?"
"No. She hasn't talked to me, if that's what you're getting at."
"Crap! I hoped. Crap! I don't know what to do."
"You mean you turned up without a plan?"
"You need to tell her what you're feeling, Jack."
"You make it sound simple. I've never been that good at the expressing feelings thing."
"Then I suggest you try to get good at it."
Sam chose that moment to make an appearance and Daniel left them alone.
"How are you?" Jack asked his wife.
"Great, I'm great."
They were walking towards her lab and he stopped, grasping her shoulders and turning her to face him.
"No you aren't, or we aren't. Sam, what's going on with us? Why is everything falling apart?"
"It isn't," she shrugged him off and continued walking.
"Oh? Could have fooled me." They entered the lab and he closed the door. "I've got a few days off. I-I hoped, well Hank says you can have some time while I'm here."
"You asked my CO whether I could take some leave? How dare you do that!"
"For crying out loud, Sam, we need some time. Don't."
"Don't what? Resent you trying to run my life."
"Don't accuse me of doing that. I have never done that." Jack was stung by the accusation, hurting inside and not knowing how to deal with her. He didn't understand what was wrong.
"I've only just got back here. I can't take time right now," she said coldly.
"So you don't want to talk? You don't want to try to fix whatever is wrong with us?"
She didn't respond but started fiddling with things on her desk, switching on her computer, ignoring his presence.
"You're my wife, dammit, don't I deserve a little respect?"
"We'll talk later. Just not right now."
"Sam, please. Come home with me now. Please."
"I need to type up my report." She refused to meet his eyes.
"Screw you!" he cried in despair, "I dropped some stuff off at the house before I came here." Sam had been living at his house, their house now. "I'll go pick it up and get the next flight back to Washington. Maybe I'll see you around sometime, Mrs O'Neill." His voice was vitriolic and Sam cringed.
Jack stalked out angrily, upset and confused and, after he left, Sam placed her head in her hands and cried.