"So, Carter, for the fifth time of asking, do you wanna go fishing?"
A hopeful look in the eyes gives the lie to the throwaway tone of the voice. Once again come the answer he's expecting, but dreading.
"Thanks, but no thanks, Sir."
A laugh in the voice, but a coolness in the blue eyes. She turns and walks away, before he jokingly pleads once more. He stands there for a moment, feeling unutterably alone, then turns to leave again.
Then he turns back. Things have changed. He has to find out how. He has courage. He's faced worse things than a suddenly cool friend (almost lover) before. Can't remember what they are right now, but still...
"Faint heart never won fair lady." he mutters, walking down the hall.
Every time he does this, there's a small dark corner of his mind that worries there's another man, another lover, keeping her away from him. Every time he turns the corner into her domain, he expects to see someone else there, with her, sharing the warmth that once was directed towards him. He never used to think like this. Not until Martouf died in her arms, and he realized he was not the only man she'd ever cared for, ever loved. He used to be arrogant enough to believe that the only barrier between them both was himself. If he lowered the barrier, she'd come running.
He lowered it. She stayed where she was.
He turns the corner, to see his only rival is the naquada generator.
'For now.' he thinks.
He watches a moment, as she bends over the generator, muttering to herself, smiling as she discovers something new.
"Carter!" he calls. She looks up, smiles quickly, then turns back to her work.
"So, this is what keeps you away from the crappies and midges." he says lightheartedly, silently adding, 'and away from me'.
"Sir, I do enjoy this." she says, smiling, but not looking directly at him.
"Your father told me you used to enjoy fishing with him." he says seriously, his heart in his mouth, as he starts to say what he promised himself he'd never say. "So it must just be my company you object to."
She freezes still, as if she senses the tension in the question.
"It's not that, Sir. I just...grew out of fishing."
She lies badly.
"Then we don't fish." he continues, seriously, his eyes intensely dark, "Let's just go away, Sam. Just you and I."
"No." she answers quickly.
"Regulations..." she stammers.
"Screw regulations!" he shouts, making her jump. He steps forward, but she moves round to the other side of the naquada generator, out of his reach. "Hammond doesn't care what we do, as long as we don't risk lives! For cryin' out loud, Sam, there's been something between us for ages, and if he's any kind of General, he already knows! This has nothing to do with regulations." he says, his voice softening. "It's just us. Come away with me, Sam."
She looks up now, directly into his eyes, a clear, unflinching gaze.
"No." she says again, firmly.
"Tell me why." he insists.
"I don't love you." she says, and beneath him, the floor sways, and his world spins, as it collapses around him. "I thought I did, once. But it was just a crush. Nothing more. I grew out of it."
"I don't believe you." he says, trying to salvage something from a world he thought he knew.
"Believe it." she says calmly, bending to her work.
"I love you." he says, calmly, almost to himself.
"I can't help that." she says, although her voice shakes a little.
"Carter, you used to...you said..." he stammers, and she still doesn't look up from his work. "I would have died for you, and I know you nearly did too.....Dammit Carter, I'm trying to talk to you, what is so fascinating about that damn machine that you can't leave it to listen to me!"
"I can control it!" she yells, looking up finally, and the anger in he eyes is so clear and strong, he steps back a little. "I know how it works, and why. If something goes wrong, I can fix it. If it breaks, I can get another. It will never make me sit up every night for three months, crying and desperate with loneliness. It will never hide secrets from me. It will never make me suddenly aware that my life is important to someone else's, and I have to take good care of it now. It will never hurt me, intentionally or unintentionally, and it will never make me become a person I don't recognize."
He stands there, trying to sort through the jumble of angry statements she just threw at him, looking for a lifeline.
"You're never going to forgive me for Laira, are you?" he asks, sadly.
"Laira, Kynthia, Hathor, Anise, they're all just incidentals. I did have a few lovers of my own in the past few years." she says calmly. His mind races back, to Narim, Martouf. Did she...? Did they...? "What I can't forgive, Sir," and she stresses the impersonal title, "is the person you almost made me become."
He shakes his head, his hands apart, and like always, he has no need to speak for her to understand perfectly.
"I'm a soldier, and a scientist. I'm cool, and calm, and I can cope under pressure. I watch my friends die, and I survive. I go into battle, and I save lives, it doesn't matter whose. But you, you changed all that. Suddenly I care too much. I panic when you leave you my sight. You get left behind, and I almost have a breakdown. I watch for you constantly, try to get you out of danger, try to protect you, above all else."
"I do too...."
"And it's wrong! I can't control myself, and most of all, I can't control you! And it'll end up just like last time, with Jonas. All we'll see is each other, and I'll lose all control of myself, and destroy myself, and..." she said, quickly, tears in her voice.
"You think I'm that bad?" he asked, disbelievingly.
"Yes." she said, ignoring the look of betrayal on his face. "I think you're capable of putting lives at risk to save me, especially yours. You've already nearly died to save me, just me, and I'm not worth that kind of sacrifice. Things have gone too far, and we have to stop. I'm stopping it now. I don't love you. It was a false situation, created by being with you in moments of great danger..."
"And because I love you." he finished quietly. "And I do still love you. And I know that's it's not a false feeling."
"I'm sorry." she said.
"Yeah. Whatever." he said, turning, and leaving. She stood there, tears pouring down her face, repeating over and over,
"I did the right thing. I don't want you trying to die for me again."
She turned back to her generator, and ruthlessly repressed the little voice inside that said 'if he dies tomorrow, you'll die too.'