Learning to Live With It Part 1
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 1
Author: Su Freund
Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure
Content Level: Age 13+
Content Warnings: Major Character Death
Pairings: Jack & Sam
Spoilers: General S9 spoilers
Summary: Months after an acrimonious and heartbreaking split with Sam, Jack is surprised when she calls asking for his help.
Sequel/Series Info: None
Copyright (c) 2005 Su Freund
Art Credit: Many thanks to grooni for permission to use her truly wonderful and sexy photo manipulation of Jack for the book cover, which you really should go and drool at http://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto.html
Her original artwork can be found in the Various Creator's Art Gallery on the site.
Author's Note: Thanks to Bonnie for beta reading this fic and for her every helpful suggestions.
Learning to Live With It Part 1
Jack got quite a surprise, actually more of a shock, when she called him out of the blue asking for help. He hadn't seen her in months, let alone spoken to her. Managing to avoid her had been quite a neat trick to pull but he'd made excuses and visited the SGC or Area 51 only when he knew she wasn't there.
A while after she split up with Pete, Jack and Sam had dated a few times, until the day she had declared it would never work and dumped him. Jack had died a little that day, promising to stay friends when she asked even while knowing that it wouldn't be possible. He couldn't do it. He still loved her even if it was unrequited. Sam had been intelligent enough to realise her own error but, to him, it was never an error. He'd been happy, but she had crushed him and he hadn't even seen it coming. Heartbroken, he still hadn't recovered and believed it would take a long, long time.
The prize had been within his grasp and he'd screwed it up. Jack knew he should have guessed it would happen, but he hadn't, and was totally unprepared. Now she was asking for his help and, despite the heartache, he couldn't refuse. He couldn't ignore her tone of voice; it spoke of fear. She was scared of something and that scared the hell out of Jack O'Neill.
He well remembered his promise that he would always be there for her and Jack kept his promises, no matter what. The pain in the pit of his stomach would not stop him from doing the right and honorable thing.
A little anxiously he made his way towards the parking lot where he'd agreed to meet her. As she had asked, he'd told no one. The closer he got the more his anxiety grew. Jack realised that part of it was simply because he was meeting her again after all these months, while he also found the nature of their meeting fundamentally disturbing. It was so Deep Throat - a parking lot, for crying out loud! Something was very, very wrong.
As he drew into the lot, his gut curled up, neck itching as it frequently did when he was on high alert for danger. Way, way wrong. Definitely something rotten in the state of Denmark, as the Bard would say.
Sam had more or less told him that she believed someone was trying to kill her. Clearly there was something really important going on that he didn't know about. He was a little pissed that there was something major happening about which he was unaware. Nothing major should happen at the SGC or Area 51 that escaped General Jack O'Neill's attention.
Had he taken his eye off the ball because of his feelings for Sam? That notion worried him because he had never let her get in the way of his job before and now was so not the time to start. Had he been neglecting his duties for all these months or was this a recent lapse? He hoped he'd find out once they had spoken. Although he was dreading their encounter, he needed to know.
Idly he wondered whether she had called him as Jack or as General O'Neill. It made a difference to him, to how he reacted and how he felt. He wanted to believe that it was Jack she needed because if it was, it gave him a slight thrill that she had called him to come to her aid. It meant she still trusted him and, at least in that respect, had kept the faith. Otherwise, it might mean nothing personal at all.
As he waited he was alert to every movement, every shadow. He didn't like surprises, not when there were lives at risk. He got out of the car, taking his Baretta out of the glove compartment and sticking it into the back of his pants. Be prepared.
Jack had tried not thinking about her, or their short-lived relationship, if you could call it that, but this had proved close to impossible. Nearly everything he did reminded him of her, and he seemed to see her everywhere. Just how many women were there with short blonde hair and a similar figure? It was a question he'd asked many times, and cursed to himself when he looked closer and the woman was nothing like Sam. Of course not; there was only one Samantha Carter. She was unique and they'd broken the mould after they created her.
He had to settle for trying to desensitise himself and, although that was almost impossible too, sometimes it worked. Her call, however, made him ruminate about what had happened.
When he found out she'd called off her wedding to Pete he had raised an internal cheer, but worried it had everything to do with her father's death and nothing to do with her feelings for either Pete or him. One night a few weeks later, he bumped into her getting into the elevator to go topside and in a moment of madness asked if she wanted to go for a drink, pleasantly surprised that she accepted.
It had been a slightly awkward evening, filled with some long silences, but not so bad, and when they left he took a chance and kissed her. She seemed okay with that, so he asked her out on a proper date. They had barely been getting started when she pulled the plug.
Looking back he wondered if he'd moved too fast, after Jacob's death, after Pete, even simply by kissing her that night, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. He kept looking for a reason for their failure; a fruitless search.
He had never known her reasons for their break up because she hadn't explained them to him. A simple "we can't do this anymore" had been it, more or less. Those simple words had sent him into turmoil, and triggered a deep and abiding pain. He had been too stunned to question it and she hadn't offered to answer his unspoken question: why?
After that it had become way too difficult and painful to see her, or even talk. He just tried to forget and get on with his life, neither of which he had managed to do. Perhaps he was saddened more by the fact that he felt he'd never really known her than the break up itself. He tried not to examine his feelings too closely, bundling them up into a box that he hid in the deepest recesses of the cellar in his mind.
Of course, the box would not behave as he wished, its contents spilling out on way too many occasions for his liking, but he seemed unable to keep it all locked up tight like he had so many other things. Many times he had cursed himself for his weakness, feeling pretty pathetic, which only made him feel all the worse. In the end he was unable to distinguish one feeling from another or keep his thoughts coherent.
Only at work could he play the game of being General Jack O'Neill, so he threw himself into work with a vengeance. Hateful though some of his duties were, he tried to savour each and every one of them, concentrating his mind on the here and now rather than the things that had or might have been. To some extent this ploy worked, but when he was alone at night he was vulnerable to the dark chasm in his soul.
So he decided to throw himself into a social whirl with other Armed Forces personnel. That way he was safe; he could think of it as an extension of his work. There were various clubs to join and social gatherings, and it seemed he made new friends. People were slightly puzzled that he was apparently strictly hands off with the women folk, despite many pretty obvious offers. He laughed, joked and flirted outrageously, but nothing ever came of it. It was never questioned too closely, just the subject of chit-chat and gossip every now and then.
For all intents and purposes it appeared to onlookers that Jack O'Neill was leading a perfectly normal, healthy life and was a life and soul of the party kind of guy. Nothing could have been further from the truth, but he played the game well and fooled them all. The only person he couldn't fool was himself, and if he had maintained contact with his close friends, he wouldn't have fooled them either. This was one of the reasons he didn't. The people he mixed with didn't know Jack O'Neill any better and he preferred it that way. His secrets were safe.
As her old Volvo pulled into the parking lot he stopped slouching and stood up straight and proud. That he was dreading this moment so badly did not mean that he couldn't behave like a professional. He swallowed his fear, so not wanting to make an ass of himself. She probably thought he was ass enough already. This was important and he was a General in the US Air force, dammit, so he could do it.
Steeling himself to be businesslike, he buried his personal feelings, but knew that this meeting would only serve to make his heart grow increasing bitter, and the pain would sharpen. He would have to go through the whole trying to get over her thing again. That had been way too hard the last time he saw her and it hadn't worked. He wasn't over her and he probably never would be, but her absence from his life helped.
Once he saw her, heard her voice, he would be lost: fallen overboard and struggling to find a lifejacket. Why now? Why couldn't she have left him alone? If she was contacting him for help after everything that happened she must be desperate. That was all the more reason to be concerned.
Starting to walk towards the car, he saw her blonde mop of hair and drew a breath. Her hand reached to do something, probably merely switch off the engine, and it happened. He was knocked off his feet by a huge explosion.
"Carter!" he screamed.
The car was a bright fireball, and there was no way in hell he would get near it: there was no way she could have survived the inferno; no way he could save her. Jack was helpless.
Stunned, he watched in silence for a long while, trying hard to suppress the tears welling up in his eyes. Eventually he pulled himself together for long enough to call 911, the Pentagon and the SGC.
Dead, she was dead! My god! He could hardly believe this had happened. Although he should probably hate her, he loved her - truly, madly and deeply - and now he had lost her forever. The notion of a world without Sam in it caused a searing pain, a gaping hole, such a blackness that he might never see light again. He crouched on the floor feeling sick and almost numb with shock and grief, waiting for someone to arrive and pull him out of the bleak desolation in his heart and soul.
Then, determinedly, he slowly scrunched it up into a little ball, drawing it into himself. It would come back to haunt him, this he knew, but for now he forced himself into full General Jack O'Neill mode, schooling his features into a well practiced lack of expression. Only someone who knew Jack would guess how he was feeling. She would have guessed.
Now he had to find out why? Who had done this? Who had taken her away from this world forever, and made it such a dark and forbidding place? This was no accident, he was pretty sure of that. The whole thing stank of a bomb. On the phone, she had told him someone was trying to kill her. It seemed they had succeeded. Jack would avenge her; he made himself that promise and would be implacable while keeping it.
After that everything passed by with Jack in an increasingly withdrawn haze. The paramedics dealt with his relatively minor injuries, simple cuts and abrasions from the blast. They said he was lucky he hadn't been closer to it. They didn't have to tell him that, although he wasn't sure that luck had anything to do with it and almost wished he had been caught up in the full blast.
If he could find her killers, avenge her, then he could let go at last; he wouldn't care about anything very much anymore. It was this thought that maintained his ability to function, otherwise he might have shut down almost altogether.
The whole rigmarole with police and authorities took a long time and all the while he was bleeding inside from the pain inflicted by her death and finding it increasingly hard to keep his composure. Shock was well and truly setting in.
At some point he couldn't remember, Daniel and Teal'c appeared. Both men were plainly upset, but Daniel figured that what they were feeling was enhanced within Jack tenfold. He knew his old friend, that he still had deep feelings for the woman he had so obviously grown to admire and love increasingly deeply over those many years they worked together.
Daniel never had been able to figure out why the pair had parted. Neither of them ever talked about that. It was taboo. He had tried to talk about it to both of them at various points after their break up, but they declined. Jack withdrew altogether, virtually eschewing his friendship with both Daniel and Teal'c and becoming almost 100% business in any dealings with them.
Although Daniel realised that, for Jack, that contact was probably too painful in the circumstances, the knowledge did nothing to stop the pain he felt at the loss of the man who had seemed like a lifelong friend. He knew that Teal'c felt similarly. These two men, at least, had managed to talk about it and it had served to bind them even closer together.
By the time Jack had finished with all the questions, he felt almost totally numb and Daniel and Teal'c bundled him in a car and took him home. Jack had never sold the house in Colorado Springs. It represented the best and the worst of his life and he could afford to keep it along with his apartment in Washington, so he did.
He realised this was almost entirely sentimental and had surprised himself with that. He'd moved around a lot over the years; it came with the job. However, when he picked up the pen to sign the papers on the sale he'd been unable to bring himself to do it. It caused an almighty stink but he didn't care, leaving his lawyers to cope with the flak. He barely used the place and cursed himself as a fool, but still had been able to bring himself to part with it.
Knowing that this meant he had never been able to let go of the SGC did not make him feel any better about it. In fact, it made him feel a good deal worse. His posting in Washington sometimes felt like a nightmare from which he would awaken at any moment; not so much the job, although that too sometimes, but the place, the politics, the back stabbing, the negotiation, and the bureaucracy. There was a long list of negatives but he had nothing else in his life so made the best of it, not yet ready to give up and become a lonely bitter old man, to withdraw from life altogether. He would never feel at home in DC. Colorado Springs, Minnesota, these were his homes, the places that held his heart.
Sometimes he rented the place out for a few weeks to people in the forces who temporarily needed somewhere to stay in the area. One of his staff volunteered to sort that kind of thing out for him, and he was grateful. Jack suspected that the not entirely unattractive Lt. Barbara Moore had an ulterior motive and, if it wasn't for the regs, he'd be in trouble. The regs kept her away from him, and for once he was grateful to them.
He simply wasn't interested, not in her, not in anyone. His heart and soul were still red raw from his failure with Sam. And now? Sam was gone forever and his heart was even more red, raw - and broken - than it ever had been.
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