Learning to Live With It Part 12
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).
Title: Learning to Live With It Part 12
Author: Su Freund
Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure, Romance
Content Level: Age 13+
Content Warnings: Minor use of mild language
Pairings: Jack & Sam
Spoilers: Abyss and general S9 spoilers
Summary: The five friends celebrate their success, but Jack has a lot of explaining to do and is uneasy about the future
Sequel/Series Info: Sequel to Learning to Live With It Part 11
Copyright (c) 2006 Su Freund
Art Credit: Thanks to Fulinn28 for making the book cover that illustrates this fic on my site from a lovely photo of RDA (sigh!) that seemed appropriate for the story. You can see it here: http://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto12.html
Author's Note: Many thanks to Bonnie for the helpful comments and corrections she made when beta reading this fic. Any remaining mistakes are entirely my own.
Learning to Live With It Part 12
In Jack's opinion their celebrations were way too short-lived. Back at his house the group settled down to a lively and amusing evening with plenty of pizza and far too much alcohol. Jack realised that there would be a lot to face in the morning and relished the idea of taking a crack at interrogating Connelly, but was not looking forward to the potential fall-out from their recent adventure.
Having reached an unspoken agreement to leave the subject alone for a while to allow some time for fun, Daniel, Jon and Sam finally started clamouring for an account of Jack and Teal'c's exploits the previous night and the explanations started. The discovery of symbiotes was a shock to them all.
"We'll know more soon enough, I guess, but your super soldier description might be even more apt than we suspected, Sam," Jack said, "Maybe they were trying to replicate something along the lines of Anubis's drones. Connelly said they were working on the control problem, didn't he?"
"You think the symbiotes were blank canvasses like Anubis used?" Daniel asked.
"How the hell should I know?" Jack retorted, "All snakes look alike to me." Daniel responded with a wry smile.
"But where did they get their snakes?" Jon asked. "You don't exactly find them in your local zoo."
"That's a damned good question, Jon," Jack agreed. "I figure there has to be a big bad Goa'uld out there pulling the strings, and I have my suspicions about whose snakey arrogant butt might be behind this thing."
"Ba'al?" Sam queried.
"Well wouldn't it be just like that son of a bitch to want to pull that off right under my nose and with our own resources? He'd do it especially to spite me. Some of these snakeheads just won't take the hint and die. It's damned annoying."
Wincing at the memory of his captivity in Ba'al's fortress, Jon regarded Jack seriously, imagining how pissed he must be to suspect his nemesis was still up to mischief. Bile rose in his throat as he recalled the torture he'd suffered at Ba'al's sadistic hands and he shuddered internally at the thought of waking up in that sarcophagus once again, only to have to face more agony and anguish. That captivity had scarred him in ways that no one would ever know and Jon wondered what other antics Ba'al had been up to since then.
"Bocca been a pain in the mikta, Jack?" he asked, trying to sound light-hearted.
"You could say that, yes," he replied, a shadow passing over his face, and he got up and walked out into his yard without another word.
The friends exchanged glances and Sam started to get up to follow him but Jon placed a gently restraining hand on her arm and whispered.
"Don't. I'm sorry Sam but you aren't the right person right now."
"Oh!" she exclaimed softly, "I guess not." She looked perturbed by that fact.
"Should we leave him alone?" Daniel asked, eyeing Jon, as he would know better than anyone.
"No, I'll go," Jon offered, figuring that Daniel probably had no memory of his role in those awful events and Jack might not welcome his intervention. Thoughts of Ba'al had clearly disturbed his older self and he perfectly understood why.
Jack was staring up at the stars and Jon stood next to him in silence for a while before he spoke.
"So the old bastard's still around, huh? That must be galling," he said.
"Are you okay, Jack?"
"I will be, as usual. You?"
"It stirs up some pretty bad memories."
Jon realised that Jack probably wouldn't want to talk about all of that so, in an effort to bring him back to the moment said, "I thought we were meant to be celebrating our success."
"It felt really good for a while, to be out there doing something again."
"Pissed off with flying a desk?"
"What do you think? But at least I can still do some good."
"Still taking care of everyone at the SGC?"
"Something like that. You must miss it, Jon."
"Sure I do. My life's real different now. The last few days, since we found out Sam's still alive, they've been good for me too."
"You've missed quite a lot."
"Yeah and I so hate that."
"You would. Look, Jon, I'll come back in soon and be my normal sparkling and sarcastically witty self. You don't have to keep me company."
"Maybe it's me that needs the company. Thought of that?"
"There you go then. I have those memories, Jack. I know I've missed a lot but it doesn't make those any the less real."
"I guess," Jack responded suddenly feeling more sympathetic and turning his face towards Jon's for the first time. Having his younger self stood there right in front of him was disconcerting, like looking in a mirror and seeing a younger and fitter him. It served to remind him of everything he'd lost, including that youth, so made him feel way too old.
Despite that, he could relate to the boy more than many because Jon was him and had lived a lot of bad times for someone who should be enjoying their youth. That must be very disturbing for the youngster. How did he manage his life with that young body and a much older mind? It didn't bear thinking about.
"I'm sorry Jon," Jack said, "I know this must be hard for you."
"Ya think?" Jon said with a grin and both men chuckled.
"How do you do it?" Jack asked and Jon knew exactly what he was referring to.
"I don't know. I just do it because I have to. You know how that goes."
A slightly bitter laugh escaped Jack's mouth. He knew how that went only too well. He'd done and survived a lot, because he'd had to. You lived because you had to. What else was there? Death? You're kidding, right? Jack had gone through many bleak and seemingly hopeless times and, apart from when Charlie had died, and with the other exception of his captivity and torture by Ba'al, he had fought for life with every breath because he didn't want it to be the last.
He remembered his grandpa saying 'you're a long time dead, son', and he'd been absolutely right. You only got one shot and you had to make it count. The thought made Jack ponder some of his regrets and whether he could still make up for them. But some of what he regretted was outside of his control. He couldn't make her love or want him. Damn it! He so didn't want to think about that, but she was sitting right there in his living room. How could he avoid thinking?
A silence had descended between them while both men continued deep in thought, until Jon decided to broach another subject he knew Jack wouldn't be pleased about, but he had to do it. Jon was young enough in body to live a whole new lifetime, so had hopes that his time for love would come one day, but Jack might not get too many more chances and deserved some joy in his later life. It was about time after all the years of pain and emptiness. Her feelings for Jack ignited a joyous spark within Jon because he now understood that Sam genuinely loved him and always had. Jon was Jack so that meant a great deal.
None of those other men had truly touched her heart compared to that. Pete and Ed were an irrelevance. If only Sam could make Jack understand that, they might have a chance and Jack might get that shot at happiness and life he longed for deep down. That is if he'd stop being a stubborn son of a bitch and open his dumb ass Irish eyes.
"Are you going to do anything about Sam?" Jon dared to ask.
"Like what?" Jack snapped back, perturbed because she had been so much in his thoughts when Jon spoke.
"You know what."
"No! That time has passed. I so don't want to talk about it."
"Of course you don't, Jack. I just thought..."
"Don't think. You know it messes with your head."
"It doesn't take much to mess with our heads. I figure Sam is messing up yours big time."
"That's over, Jon. I have to move on."
"But you can't, can you?" Jack didn't reply so Jon pressed on. "I don't think it's over."
"What would you know?"
"More than you think." Jon wasn't about to reveal the conversation that he'd had with Sam while they were alone because it had been private and would be unfair to her to do otherwise, but that fact didn't have to stop him from trying to help.
"Oh? Well I sure as hell don't want to talk about that any more than I do about that old bastard Ba'al."
"Have you ever considered that talking might get you somewhere? Not talking surely won't. Withdrawing behind that O'Neill mask will get you nothing."
"It's your mask too."
"I might have lived your life, Jack, but things are different now."
"Jeez, you're insufferable sometimes, you know that?"
"Of course I know that. It's the O'Neill way; I can't change now. Maybe you have to, but it's too late for me."
"That's where you're wrong."
Jack didn't respond and the two men stood silently side by side once more, both deep in their own thoughts. It was Jack who finally broke that silence.
"It didn't take her long to find someone else, did it?"
"You mean Ed James? He never meant much to her," Jon answered dismissively.
"What makes you say that? She slept with him, didn't she? At least the guy got to more than first base with her."
"Oh, so this is where you're coming from. I take it you never got that far." Jack's failure to respond was Jon's answer to that question. "That's one hell of a kicker, then, eh? What would you do if she came begging for you to take her back?"
"That isn't going to happen," Jack said, throwing Jon a dark look. He wasn't entirely sure how he would react if that ever happened, but knew that he would have to protect his heart from more pain.
"Just suppose it did," Jon persisted, as stubborn as the original O'Neill.
"I wouldn't do anything." Jack responded, wondering whether that was true. If that happened... it wasn't going to, so thinking about it was pointless.
"Then you're a bigger fool than even I imagined," Jon retorted, causing Jack to wonder about it even more.
Jon wished he could bang the couple's heads together and hope that they stuck. Sheesh, the last few days had been hard work on the emotions, but he had learned a lot, particularly by observing himself. He could make things different for the Jack O'Neill within him and the notion left him feeling cheerfully optimistic.
While this conversation was taking place, back inside the house, the three members of SG-1 were discussing Jack.
"The idea of Ba'al hanging around haunting us can't sit that well with him, can it?" Daniel said.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed while Sam remained silently contemplating everything that Ba'al had put him through and she figured they didn't even know the half of it. Jack wasn't entirely forthcoming about that sort of thing and his reports left out a lot detail.
Not long after those awful events Sam had got drunk with Janet, who had been somewhat more indiscreet than normal and revealed some things that Jack had kept entirely to himself. Afterwards, Janet had sworn her to secrecy, mortified by her lack of self-control, and they had never drank that much alcohol together again, didn't have much of a chance to, she recalled sadly, but Sam knew a lot more than she was supposed to.
Because of the sarcophagus, Jack had returned to them physically healed, but Janet had discovered much more than he'd confessed to anyone else either verbally or on paper. Sam wondered how Jack lived with the nightmares that the experience must provoke, and thoughts of Ba'al's involvement in this conspiracy must have raised those awful spectres again. Her inclination was to comfort him, something he clearly wouldn't welcome, and that deeply distressed her.
She wondered what Jon was saying to Jack outside, confident that he wouldn't reveal the thoughts that she'd laid bare to him the previous night when they were alone, but concerned nevertheless. Jon had revived her hope and she prayed he wasn't wrong.
The younger man seemed to want her to push it with Jack and she figured it was partly because he knew his older self could have the one thing that would forever be unattainable to him - her. Jon would have his chances in the years to come and Sam took some small comfort from that on his behalf. And, oddly, she didn't want to let him down, so she would go for it as he suggested. She merely needed to find the courage, which wasn't going to be easy.
Already, she was concocting plans in her head about what she might say to Jack, when she made that chance to say them, and if he'd let her. That certainly wasn't a given. If she turned up on his doorstep, he was just as likely to shut the door in her face as he was to let her in. Probably more likely.
"Penny for them, Sam?" Daniel asked, interrupting her thoughts.
"Sorry guys, I was on another planet there for a while."
"Oh? Which one? Planet O'Neill?"
Sam blushed deep to the roots of her hair at Daniel's question, uncertain how to respond, so she said nothing.
"Sam, are you okay?" he enquired.
"Sure, of course. We got the bad guys, I haven't got imminent death hanging over my head and I can go home at last. What else is there?"
"You know what else."
"If you mean the General then I really don't want to talk about that right now."
"Okay, but if you ever do you know I'm here for you, right?"
"Yes, Daniel, I know. I know that goes for both of you. I love you guys, you know that?" she grinned.
"I do believe that the feeling is mutual, Colonel Carter," Teal'c inserted with a wisp of a smile.
"Sometimes I wish you'd call me Sam, Teal'c."
"I am not certain that it would be appropriate."
"I guess whatever makes you comfortable."
"I would be more comfortable if you and O'Neill became friends again."
Sam was taken aback by those words from Teal'c. "I-I... we are. I'm here aren't I?"
"That is not what I referred to as you know extremely well, Colonel Carter."
This was the last thing she'd expected from Teal'c of all people. "Teal'c I... crap!" she exclaimed and got up, "I need the bathroom," she said and walked out.
"Nice one, T, now we've lost both of them."
"I did not mean to upset Colonel Carter, Daniel Jackson."
"I know old friend. I think emotions might be running a little high right now."
"We require a plan."
"You do not think we should intercede with our friends?"
"I want to, but-but I'm not sure how to."
"O'Neill feels much for Colonel Carter. This I have observed."
"Have you tried talking to him about it?" Daniel asked wondering if Teal'c might have more success than he'd ever had.
"Indeed, but he does not wish to do so, although I did elicit a small confession."
"He would not be pleased at any intervention but this does not mean that we should not intervene."
"He might be grateful in the long run. So might Sam. It wouldn't be easy. Jack's a tough nut to crack."
"Perhaps only Colonel Carter herself can crack it."
"I suspect that's true. He would never believe anyone but her about how she so obviously feels about him and I'm not even sure he'll believe her. He's still hurting too bad, Teal'c, and he's too damned stubborn and proud for his own good."
"I concur. I merely wish..."
"That they could both be happy?"
"Yeah, they both deserve to be. I just hope they can be happy together. What if they can't?"
"Then they both risk their hearts. Is that price too high for the chance to be happy, my friend? You think we do nothing?"
"I don't know. I've been thinking about it, Teal'c, and I'm not sure there is anything we can do except talk to them. Neither of them seems to want to do that."
"Perhaps Jon O'Neill is having more success."
"Well, he knows Jack better than anyone, I guess. This must be a little strange for him. Jon must still have those feelings for Sam too or, at least, the remembrance of them. That seems likely, doesn't it?"
"But he has a different perspective now so might have more chance of getting through. They probably aren't even talking about that."
Sam chose that moment to return and before she sat down kissed both her friends on the forehead. The men smiled.
"Sorry guys, I just had to..."
"Powder your nose?" Daniel joked and Sam grinned.
"Something like that, yeah."
"Sorry if we upset you, Sam."
"I'm fine, really I am. I think we ought to persuade the O'Neill boys to come back inside. This celebration's going down the drain without them."
"I'll poke my nose out," Daniel offered, somewhat bravely under the circumstances, Sam thought. One never knew really how an O'Neill would react to being disturbed.
As it happened, Daniel didn't have to interrupt them because Jack and Jon reappeared. Jack's grin belied his tumultuous emotions, but they were there to celebrate and that's exactly what he planned for them to do.
"Okay, kids," he said as he entered, "no more talk of beasties and goulies. Let's get drunk! All except for you, of course, T. I guess you'll just have to get drunk on the atmosphere."
Later on, a slightly drunken Daniel managed to corner Jon alone in the kitchen and took the opportunity to be blunt.
"Jon, have you talked to Jack about Sam?"
"And Sam about Jack?"
"Ack! I suppose this means you're saying nothing."
"You betchya. What do you expect?"
"I guess I expect you to act like an O'Neill, go figure! But there's no harm in asking."
"I've learned to live with disappointment as far as Jack is concerned."
"I didn't mean anything by it. I was just saying. Jack's my friend and I want him to be happy. We've been through so much together."
"Don't I know it? As have we Daniel. I remember too. You've been a royal pain in the ass," Daniel winced at those words, "but also a good friend. Jack admires you more than he'll ever admit."
"He does?" Daniel replied, slightly stunned by that confession.
"He's more fragile than he likes to show anyone. Don't let him cut you out again. He needs you. He might not confess to his feelings much but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel 'em. I'm just sayin'..." Jon shrugged.
"He's a pain in the butt too, but I love the guy. I've missed him."
"Daniel, you're drunk. Make coffee."
"Oh yeah, that's what I came in for," Daniel recalled and, seeing that Jon was about to leave the room, added, "Jon... thanks."
"Jon..." he started but the young man had already left the room and Daniel ended up saying to thin air, "If you ever want to drop by... I guess you wouldn't."
Those words from Jon left a contented smile on Daniel's face, which was still plastered there when he re-joined the others. Flopping down onto an armchair, he spilt a little coffee over himself but was almost totally oblivious of that fact and it wasn't long before his eyes closed and he'd drifted off, the alcohol finally getting the better of him. Jack got up and took the coffee from his hands, placing it on the table.
"Uh, oh... at least he looks like he's having sweet dreams," he said observing the smile that still lit his friend's comatose face, "I think we ought to get him to bed. Give me a hand, Teal'c?"
It turned out that all his friends stayed over that night, scattered through the house like the rest of the detritus they'd left behind. After he'd gone to bed, Jack remained awake contemplating his return to Washington and what he would do about that group of people he'd grown so close to over the years. He was going to miss them and wasn't sure he could shut himself away anymore like he had done for the past few months. That gave him a lot to think about.
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