Convolutions Chapter 5. Impressions
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Sam was still sitting at the table drinking coffee when Jack came into the kitchen. He was barefoot and wearing sweats, his hair tousled more than usual. Sam looked up at him and thought how handsome he was, how adorable, but she didn't say those words, she just watched as he poured a cup of coffee.
"Hungry?" She finally asked.
"Yeah, a bit."
"How about an omelet?"
"Sure, that'd be great." He sat down at the table as she stood up to start his breakfast. "Sam, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
"It's ok, Jack. Don't worry about it. It's my fault anyway. Eat your breakfast and we'll talk. Ok?"
Sam sat the plate in front of him and then took her chair across the table from him.
"Well, Jack if we're going to talk about this calmly, maybe we need some rules. I won't yell if you don't yell. And I'll try to be as honest as I can. Ok?"
"Oh, and no throwing things either, especially not dishes."
He smiled at her warmly, reflecting the teasing twinkle back into her eyes. "Do we have any that aren't broken?" He grinned mischievously but then agreed. "Ok."
"None of this is your fault, Jack. It's me. I just can't seem to deal with all that's happened. I guess I've put things off and they finally just got to be too much. But none of it's your fault."
"Just listen, Jack, please."
"No, Sam, I'm part of this. I won't just sit here and do nothing." His voice was low and soft, but insistent.
Sam nodded. He was right, but it wasn't going to make it easier.
"It's not just one thing. I can't just say 'this is wrong' and fix it. It seems like everything is wrong or almost everything. I guess things just haven't turned out the way I expected. It's all a lot more difficult than I thought it would be."
"Well for one, you're in Washington and I'm here. We never see each other. Most of the time it doesn't even feel like we are married. We've haven't even lived together in this house! I suppose I have an idea of what marriage should be like and this...just isn't it. I miss you, Jack. It's almost the same as you being my CO. I can't find a logical solution..."
"And your brain won't let go. It's like a festering wound."
She looked up into his smoky eyes, surprised at his attentiveness and understanding.
"Yeah, I guess. Everyday I go into the SGC and listen to this snickering in the hallways or whispering in the mess about "Carter and O'Neill", about being the "General's girl" or that the "General must be enjoying that piece of ass!" Or sometimes, it's just the opposite! 'I must be such a bitch that the only way you can live with me is to stay in Washington! Or how you've got such a great life, free to have all the other flavors plus me on the weekends!' It never stops! And the next thing you know some smart ass Lieutenant is remarking about how women are too emotional for command, especially married women! That "their minds are always somewhere else," not on the mission! Even Cam makes little snide remarks and he's my CO! And then I find out there's a pool! A goddamn pool, Jack, on if and when I'll get pregnant! It just goes on and on! Landry doesn't seem to respect me, not to mention that Mitchell is leading SG1 even though he has no experience and I'm expected to just follow any idiotic decisions he makes! I'm the official repairman for the SGC! Just tag along, fix the gate and keep my mouth shut!"
Jack laid his fork on his plate and took a sip of coffee, gathering calm, adjusting his response and then looked back at her, seemingly unaffected by her ranting.
"When did all this happen, Sam? Why haven't you said anything before now?" 'Good' he thought. 'The calm, efficient commander, not the bad ass lunatic commando.'
"Because...you're in Washington, Jack!"
"No shouting, Sam. Remember? And I call you every night."
"I'm sorry. I know; I'm just so frustrated!" She fisted her hands above her head and started pacing across the room.
"I can see that. We can fix some of this...or you can."
"You're an officer, Sam, you've earned that respect and you're entitled to it. Don't let them get away with it, if you hear that bullshit call them on it! God! You always have in the past, why not now?"
"I'm beginning to think that was your influence, Jack and I never had that respect to begin with. Maybe it was always you and I was just sharing in it."
"I don't believe that, Carter!" Jack didn't like the sound of that reasoning; he didn't like it at all. "You've always been a strong command, your tactics are dead on and you're smarter than anyone else out there! You're just...nervous or something."
"I don't know!"
"You see? It could be any of those things. Maybe I am emotional, maybe my hormones are going crazy but then again, maybe I just don't have the abilities I thought I had. And if I fail, it's because I'm a woman, too emotional for the job; if I don't it's because I married a general! I can't win this game and there's no way out of it."
"Sam, I haven't said anything! And certainly nothing like that! You've let them shake your confidence...that's all!"
Sam was very quiet for a few minutes, when she looked up at him again she was calm and she locked onto his concerned gaze.
"What if they're right, Jack?"
"What?" 'She's confusing me on purpose now', he thought, as he stared back at her, totally lost. She was calm and controlled, her eyes laced with steely determination as he spoke again. "No."
"It's possible, Jack. I have to find out."
"How? How are you going to find that out?"
He asked the question and almost immediately knew the answer, squeezing his eyes shut against the heartbreak that washed over him. She was smart, she had tricked him, led him to her own conclusion and it was too late to go back now.
"By leaving me."
When she didn't answer, he finally looked up at her, dreading what he would see in her eyes.
"It's only temporary, Jack, like Washington. And we can still see each other...."
He cut her off. His anger was flaring again and despite the dominating calm in his voice, he was close to losing control.
"So let me get this straight, Sam. Being my wife is having a detrimental affect on your career, making you unable to perform your duty as an officer and commander but being my girlfriend and lover won't?"
She pressed her lips together, unsure of how to answer. "Not if we keep it quiet. I know it sounds crazy, Jack, but..."
"Sounds crazy? Sounds crazy? It doesn't just sound crazy, Sam; it is crazy! Shouldn't our being together make us both stronger? And sneaking around to see my own wife?" He shook his head and continued. "I thought that was part of the reason we got married, so that we didn't have to do that! I've never asked you to give up your career and I never will. It's part of you. I understand that!"
"I know, Jack." Her voice was low and controlled. She realized she wasn't going to be able to make him understand and a regretful resignation slipped into her voice. "I'm sorry, I guess I'm not explaining this very well."
"No, I guess not."
"You have to let me do this, Jack."
He searched her eyes hoping to find the love and happiness he'd grown accustomed to seeing there but finding only an unsettling determination laced with sadness.
"Are you positive that I have to do that? Because my gut says it's wrong. We aren't competing against each other, Sam we're a team. And there's no shame in that. We can and we should do this together."
He rubbed a hand across his forehead, trying to drive away the nagging headache that was getting worse by the minute.
"Jack, please, trust me enough to do this. I need to know for sure and then I can make a decision."
Her eyes were pleading, silently begging him for a chance. She watched him. She needed to do this, but she didn't want to lose Jack either. There was no easy solution. He wasn't moving, he was completely still and that worried her, Jack was never still.
"I thought you'd already made that decision. I guess I was wrong."
He stood up and walked out of the room, leaving her behind to watch as he slipped on his jacket and walked out the front door.
Jack sat in the car for a few minutes, his heart pounding in his chest until finally he started it up and drove away. He wandered around town for an hour thinking over their conversation. His head hurt and he was nauseous but somewhere deep inside, he knew it wasn't the concussion. She was blaming him for everything in one breath and saying it wasn't his fault in the next. She didn't want to be his wife, but it was ok to be his lover. No wonder his head hurt. Jack was starting to wish he'd fallen in love with someone else, someone less smart, less challenging but then...she wouldn't be Sam.
He drove to O'Malley's and drank steadily for two hours. It didn't even seem to touch the pain. He'd come to Colorado intent on fighting for her. All he had to do now was figure out how. His mind worked on the problem as he sipped on another beer but he wasn't getting anywhere. He was still angry and suddenly his world wasn't such a happy place anymore. He'd taken emergency leave to come home and spend time with her, straighten things out and now he was sitting in a bar alone, getting bombed. And where was Sam? Probably at the base by now, working on some super project that only she could understand and dodging the rumors that were tearing his world apart.
Another hour of drinking and numerous scenarios and Jack still had no solution. Finally abandoning his search in favor of oblivion, he was alternating between chuckling at his beer and slipping into a mood so dark that he would be invisible in the night.
"Thomas! How are you?" Jack looked up and tried to smile, he started to stand but Thomas waived his hand, indicating for him to stay where he was.
"Everything ok, Jack?"
"Joe says you've been here for hours. Where's that pretty blond that was with you last time? Carter, was that her name?"
"Yeah. I married her."
"You did? Well, congratulations Jack! That's terrific!"
"Thanks. I thought so, too but...."
"Ah!" Thomas smiled knowingly. "Woman trouble, huh, that explains it! Have a fight?"
"Well, what are you doing here? Get you sorry carcass up and go after her! She's in love with you, Jack, unless this old Irishman has suddenly gone blind and crazy!"
"Yeah, maybe I should do that." Jack started to stand and staggered slightly as he started to walk.
"Whoa! Whoa! Wait a second, Jack. Let me get you a cab, I don't think you should be driving."
"I'm ok, Thomas!"
"Sorry, Jack, can't let you do it. I'd never forgive myself. Have a seat."
Jack knew he was right; he shouldn't drive, so he slid back into the booth. A few minutes later there was a pot of coffee on the table and Thomas poured the first cup.
"Drink up, my friend, I'll be back."
Jack was just finishing his third cup of coffee when he felt her fingers on his shoulder. He caught them and pulled them to his lips without looking up. He didn't need to look up to know that it was Sam.
"That's going to get you in trouble someday, Jack."
"Not a chance, baby." He grinned up at her as he tugged her into the booth beside him and raised his hand to get the waitress' attention. "I'd know you anywhere."
"Right!" She laughed and his smile brightened. "How'd you know I was here?"
"I heard you."
"What? How? I didn't even say..."
She turned to look at him and he was grinning. As she held his gaze realization dawned on her. Her footsteps. He'd heard her footsteps.
Jack smiled broader as he saw her expression change and knew that she understood.
"You do it, too, Sam."
"No, I can't, Jack..."
"You can, you just...don't. Not when you're...home, but in the field you always knew where the rest of us were. You listened. You recognized each one of us but when you're here you...turn it off or something. I don't."
Sam stared at him for a moment. "Never?"
"Hardly ever. It's an old habit, kept me alive on more than one occasion."
"Yeah, I know."
"So have you."
"Kept me alive...more than once. I've been thinking about all the times you took command and dragged me half-dead back to the gate. You've fought enemies most folks haven't even dreamed of...and you're good at it, Sam. I can't believe someone or something has convinced you you're not."
"I told you it was hard to explain."
"Maybe it's just an excuse."
She brought her eyes up to meet his and held them locked in her gaze as she slowly shook her head.
"I don't understand. What do you mean?"
"Maybe, it really isn't all those other things. Maybe it's me...us. Maybe we rushed all of this and you're feeling...I don't know...trapped."
"That's not it, Jack. It's not about you."
"But the solution is?"
Her eyes grew wide as she stared at him. She should have known he'd take the blame, maybe she had and that's why she hadn't wanted him to come home.
"I love you, Jack and I know that you love me. I'm counting on it, in fact. I just need to find the answers on my own this time - I need you to trust me, please."
"I trust you, Sam. I just don't agree with your solution. I think you're wrong this time...as hard as that may be for you to accept." He paused, watching her consider his words. "What's up with Mitchell?"
"He's a loose cannon. Rash decisions, smart mouth, loud and sometimes obnoxious. He's taking too many chances with all of us."
"Remind you of anyone?" Jack chuckled as he spun his beer in his hand.
"No. It isn't the same at all. It feels out of control, Jack and there are still some really bad guys out there. I don't feel safe anymore."
"Did you ever?"
"When you were..." She paused mid-sentence as she reminded herself of her own weakness. She had felt safe with Jack on SG1, but everything had changed when he was promoted. "It's just all different now. And Cam is inexperienced, he scares me."
"So, it's all professional concern then, nothing else?"
Sam looked into his eyes, her own moving rapidly back and forth as they searched his features.
"I'm not even going to answer that, Jack!"
He held her locked with his eyes a moment longer before he looked down, "Ok, then, I should do some checking, talk to Hank...."
"No! Jack, you promised."
"Yes, I did but if he's putting the teams in unnecessary danger I have an obligation to check it out and not just for your sake, although that's more than enough..."
"I can handle it, Jack. Don't do anything; let me try to work it out first. I shouldn't even be talking to you about this!"
"I guess that depends on who you're talking to, Sam, your husband or General O'Neill."
She looked up into his intense brown eyes. His stare was calm but penetrating, he was watching her too closely and he knew her too well.
"I guess I'm having a little trouble separating the two."
"Yeah, I noticed. Look..." His cell phone buzzed in his pocket and Sam saw a small grimace flash across his face as he automatically reached for it. "O'Neill."
Sam's mind drifted away as Jack talked on the phone, she was only catching a word now and then, but it didn't matter. She already knew the reason for the call. Jack's demeanor told her it was someone higher up and she'd listened just long enough to determine that they needed him back in Washington.
"Yes, Sir. I understand..." Sam looked up at him and he tried to smile. "Yes, Sir, I'll do that. Thank you." He snapped the phone shut and looked back at her, his face was calm but there was a new coldness in his eyes.
She waited for him to say something more but his lips were pressed tightly together and the coldness in his eyes had spread over his face.
"You sure, Jack?"
"Just business, Sam, don't worry about it."
'Right,' she thought. 'I'm married to the head of Homeworld Security. Crisis is the standard mode of operation.' There was no point in pressing him for an answer; she knew he wouldn't, couldn't tell her.
"So when do you leave?"
"I don't know, yet, a few days maybe...or a few hours. They'll call again if things change."
"Let's go home, Jack. You aren't solving anything here."
"No. The car's outside."
"We can get it later or Daniel and Teal'c will help get it home."
"Uh, no, I might need it before morning. I'll just stay a while longer, you go ahead." He was pouring another cup of coffee and avoiding her eyes, his mind was obviously far away. "I don't want to keep you away from whatever..."
"Maybe I'll stay, too."
"You don't have to do that. I'm fine."
"I know. I'm really sorry, Jack. I've done such a bad job of this, I wish I could make you understand..."
He didn't even look up so she stopped talking and they sat there side by side, shoulders touching but worlds apart.
Jack's mood didn't improve even though they stayed and ordered dinner. They ate in almost total silence with just a sprinkling of casual conversation. He wasn't even really hungry but he knew she must be and that he'd need the energy if they called him back during the night. So he ate. And tried to smile. When he ran out of excuses to stay, he paid the check and they left, each in their own cars, driving towards home.
He took his time, driving slowly, carefully, dragging out the time it took to get there. 'God!' He thought, 'I never thought I'd see the day I dreaded going home with Sam.' He shook his head and kept driving, watching the lights of her car pulling further and further away and as they disappeared, he realized he wasn't going to stop her - he had to let her go.
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