Learning to Live With It Part 10
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 10
Author: Su Freund
Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure, Romance
Content Level: Age 13+
Content Warnings: Minor use of mild language
Pairings: Jack & Sam
Spoilers: Affinity, Threads, General S9 spoilers
Summary: Left to their own devices in his house, Sam and Jon talk about Jack
Sequel/Series Info: Sequel to Learning to Live With It Part 9
Copyright (c) 2006 Su Freund
Art Credit: The lovely book cover that illustrates this fic on my site was created by Fulinn28 from one of my favourite promo shots of Sam, so many thanks to her for that. I so love this pic and had to use it somewhere! If you want to see it, go to this URL: https://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto10.html
Author's Note: Many thanks to Bonnie for beta reading this fic and pointing out some of the problems with consistency in my narrative. It just proves that one takes things for granted when writing a fic. The fact that you understand it doesn't mean other people will!! Any remaining mistakes, of course, are entirely down to me.
Learning to Live With It Part 10
"So you figure that Ed James guy thinks you trust him?" Jon asked Sam once they were alone at Jack's and settled down.
"I think so. He thinks he'll catch me flat footed when quite the reverse is true."
"Was it a steamy affair?" he asked curiously, thinking that he could get away with asking what Jack probably wouldn't have the nerve to ask.
"What?" she retorted, surprised by that question.
"You and this Ed James guy."
"Hey, just curious."
"We went on a few dates, that's all!" she said emphatically.
"And nothing. That's it."
In Sam's opinion, a little white lie would do no harm. What she said was true, but there had been a bit more to it than mere dating. Jon took her words to mean that she'd never had sex with the man and was undecided whether to reveal that little morsel to Jack.
"Why did you split?"
"He was fun, I liked him, but..."
"But?" when she didn't respond, he pressed, "it wouldn't have anything to do with you and Jack, would it?"
"Of course not!" she denied vehemently, a little too vehemently, Jon thought.
"So what happened with you and Jack, Sam?"
"I'm not sure I want to talk about that, particularly with you of all people."
"I'm not Jack."
"As good as."
"You never broke my heart, Sam. Nothing ever happened between us. I'm not Jack anymore. Things have changed."
"Nothing happened between us? Sure, not like you mean, but plenty happened."
"Too much history? Was that the problem with Jack? Colonel Jack, General Jack ex-CO Jack. Is that it?" Sam eyed him, surprised by his insight.
"Something like that." She sighed deeply wondering whether she should take this younger version of Jack into her confidence. How would he react to what she said? Would it provide an insight into how Jack might respond?
"I wasn't ready for Jack," she continued. "If I had realised that before we started dating, I would never have let anything happen between us right then. I would have waited. But I longed so much for us to give it a shot that I didn't realise I wasn't ready until it was too late. I never wanted to hurt him, Jon, but I had no choice. The timing sucked."
"Didn't it always?" he smiled.
"Now he'll never forgive me, or understand."
"Maybe you underestimate him."
"You think? I doubt it. You of all people know Jack. I-I think he's still in love with me Jon, and I know I'm still in love with him."
Jon sighed and stared at her silently for a while, wondering whether she would reveal more detail of how she had felt back then.
"You might have some trouble convincing Jack that you love him. He's still hurting bad, and trying hard to suppress and hide from his feelings, as always," he said eventually. 'Don't I know what that's like?' he added, but only in thought. 'Who would know better than me?'
"I know it won't be easy, if it's even possible. I don't know what to do. He can be so stubborn and unforgiving."
"He's helping you now, isn't he?"
"He would never refuse me that, no matter what. That doesn't mean that he will ever risk his heart with me again."
"No. I guess you're right on both counts. I'm not going to push it, Sam, but if you want to talk about it, try me."
"That's a pretty un-Jack like thing to say."
"Is it? Maybe. Yeah, we're both pretty crap at that kind of stuff, although I have learned a bit as Jon, ya know, and I don't have the history that you shared after I was cloned."
"Things must have been hard for you over the last couple of years or so," she replied.
"Don't turn this around to try talking about me."
"Yeah? Well I guess I'm more interested in finding Jack the peace and happiness he so wanted with you. I'm certainly never going to get it, am I?"
They stared at each other for a while with mutual understanding. Sam could understand why Jon didn't want to talk about himself. It must be way too hard. He'd lost everything and everyone he had ever known, including hope of any kind of life with her.
"Is that what he wanted? Peace and happiness with me?" She asked, having reached the silent agreement not to press Jon about his own thoughts and feelings.
"It's what he yearned for, yes. He never thought he would get it, but it didn't stop the dream."
"Don't, please. Forget I was ever him."
"That isn't easy."
"No I guess it's not."
They both sat in silent contemplation for a while, each wondering what the other was thinking.
"I yearned for that too," Sam said, eventually.
"Peace and happiness with Jack?"
"Yeah. It seemed like an impossible dream. Then when it became possible I screwed it up."
"Because you tried too soon?"
"Yes, I think so. Neither of us could get past the CO / subordinate thing. It was never as comfortable as I wanted. I couldn't deal with it. It was too soon after my father's death, and after Pete.
"Your father's death? Jacob died?" Jon was stunned by that revelation, "I'm so sorry Sam. I always liked him, although I know that sometimes it might not have seemed that way."
"He always liked y-Jack too."
Jon sadly thought about Jacob's death for a while and then turned to her curiously.
"He was my fianc."
"W-what? You got engaged?" His eyes widened with surprise at that. She'd got engaged to another man despite her feelings for Jack? That was crazily dumb.
"We were planning the wedding and everything."
"I bet that made Jack a real happy camper," he commented sarcastically.
"He never told me what he thought, not really."
"He didn't try to fight for you?"
"No. How could he? He was my CO. I wanted him to though. If he had said..." she tailed off thoughtfully.
"If Jack had said something you wouldn't have done it?"
"I guess. When I showed him the ring after Pete asked me, he-he didn't react the way I wanted."
"Declare undying love for you, you mean? Beg you not to do it? Did you really expect Jack to do that?"
"I-I hoped for... something."
"So you were going to marry this Pete guy because Jack wasn't available, or not making himself available? Some basis for a marriage, Sam."
"I know. But I did love Pete, in my own way, and was happy too, I thought. I yearned for normality and it seemed like I was going to get it. I took a while to realise that it was all wrong."
"On so many levels, for crying out loud!" Sam looked at Jon sharply when he said that, sounding just like Jack. "No wonder Jack is pissed. You could date this guy and not date him? That kinda rubs salt into the wound, Sam."
"I never thought of it like that."
"No, why would you? Take it from me, it's one of the things he's thinking. It just makes things worse."
"Well, it's something to bear in mind when you try talking to him, Sam. You are going to try talking to him aren't you?"
"Yes, once this is all over, yes. Think I can persuade him to try again?"
"I don't know, but leave it a few days before you try. Let him think about it for a while; think about you."
"Okay. I'll take any advice you can offer. I need it."
"Not an easy man to get through to and don't I know it?" he grinned. "So what changed your mind about this guy you were engaged to? Jack?"
"Pete; his name was Pete. Um, not deliberately Jack. It was a combination of things, really; Jack, my father and Pete himself."
Jon said nothing, simply arching an eyebrow Jack style and waiting for her to continue if she wanted to. She did.
"Dad obviously thought Pete was wrong for me and had expected me to try with Jack. It got me thinking. He said I could have everything I wanted, implying that I shouldn't settle for second best; regs be damned. He was right."
"Your dad was routing for you and Jack?"
"I think so."
"Cool!" Jon grinned, pleased with that disclosure, and Sam giggled. "And?" he prompted.
"Pete, well he was just way too much. He put a down payment on a house and was talking about getting a dog and... I realised that it wasn't what I wanted. Not with him. It kind of hit me out of the blue. He was taking over my life. It's my life! It made me start thinking that it probably wouldn't work. That was one of my problems with Jack. I was too used to taking his orders, I needed to learn to be my own person without him, Jon. Does that make sense?"
"Umm... kind of."
"Do you think Jack would understand it?"
"Maybe, or maybe I'm too different now to know anymore."
"But you are so like Jack that it, well, it's pretty damned strange."
"Am I? Is it?" he shrugged, "I'm not sure I can do anything about that. Sorry."
"I guess it must be kind of weird for you too, sitting here having this conversation with me."
"It has a hint of weirdness, yeah," he smiled, the same lopsided smile that Jack wore, the same deep dark brown eyes looking into hers. Hastily, she looked away. "So what did Jack do to contribute to all this thinkin'?" Jon asked, trying to get them past those uncomfortable thoughts and on to some other ones. He was determined to focus on Sam and Jack.
"H-he met someone else."
"He did? Who? What was she like?"
"She was very beautiful, very unlike me. Beautiful long red hair and-and..."
"Nice! Good for Jack!"
"That really shocked me. I'd lost him. He'd given up on me."
"Can you blame him? You were making plans to marry another guy. Go figure!"
"And then dad died. Jack was so... so Jack. He was there for me. He said he'd always be there for me. He never had to say anything else, just be there. It was enough, and way more than I deserved."
"Touching," Jon commented with a hint of sarcasm. Sam peered at him through narrowed eyes.
"Yes it was actually."
"So you dumped Pete?"
"He never stood a chance, not when stacked up against Jack."
"So Jack asked you out? I'm surprised he finally did it."
"Sure. He always was a yellow belly about stuff like that."
"Jeez, Sam, how well do you really know Jack? You think that cocky guy is like that through and through? You know better than that."
"He certainly hides his depths well."
"You betchya. You should have seen how long it took him to pluck up courage to ask Sara out. And then when he asked her to marry him? Oh man!"
"I always thought he had a way with women."
"Did you? Well he does, when he doesn't care so much, but when he cares... well, that's different. I bet he was crapping himself when he asked."
"He made it sound casual. A drink after work one day."
"Yeah, that sounds like him."
Sam was surprised by Jon's revelation. Jack had seemed far from nervous when he asked, in fact he'd come over as confident, as if he knew what he was doing, and this was one of the things that had scared her. She was far from confident, and hadn't a clue what she was doing. Perhaps if he had shown how he really felt things would have been different between them.
She knew that Jack wasn't as brash as he pretended and that the front hid the things he wanted it to. Having worked with him for all those years she hadn't failed to notice that Jack was not always what he seemed. They had been too close for her to miss the real Jack showing a little beneath that often-steely surface. On that occasion, however, she had been completely taken in by his act. What a fool! She should have guessed it, but she hadn't. It gave her even more to think about.
"What do you think Jon? Any hope for me?" she asked.
"I don't know. I sure hope so because hope for you is hope for him."
"You think he's given up hope?"
"And faith and charity."
"Don't pity him, for crying out loud. You know how much he'd hate that?"
"Don't let him turn you down, Sam. Go for it. Try, and keep trying. Love him, and show him you do. It's what he wants more than anything. Not sure he knows it, or fully accepts it, but it is. I know it."
"How do I show him?"
"You'll think of a way. Grind him down until he surrenders to you."
"Jack surrender? Seems unlikely."
"He will. It might take some time, but he will. Just tell him the truth, tell him how you feel and how you felt. And keep telling him."
"If he'll let me."
"He'll be conflicted about that, Sam. Make that work for you."
"You know, I can't believe I'm sitting here having this conversation with you."
"With Jack's clone? If you closed your eyes could you think I was him?"
He coughed uncomfortably and got up.
"Wanna beer? Coffee?" he said to deflect from his own conflicted feelings. Sam understood what he was trying to do and played along.
"Beer, Jon, thanks. Getting a bit late for coffee."
He returned with two beers from Jack's refrigerator and Sam asked him about high school, and college, his friends and hobbies. They avoided the subject of his past, and hers, or any talk of the future.
"Before I go to bed I think I'll go clear up in the kitchen," Sam said. "The guys left a mess."
"You don't have to do it."
"Jack's not here to do it himself."
"Do you clean up all his messes?"
"I wish I could."
He watched her walk away and could hear her rattling things around in the kitchen. Following her, he stood in the doorway watching for a while. She could feel his eyes on her but pretended she didn't.
"Can I help?" he offered after a while.
"Nearly done. Dammit is there a knack to this dishwasher? I can't get it working."
"For crying out loud, he still never got a new one? I'll show you."
As Jon brushed against Sam to bend over the washer, she grasped his hand, forcing him to turn and face her, and then she kissed him. At first he was so shocked he failed to react, but then he reached a hand up to hold her head, and wrapped one arm around her, pulling her close. The kiss was long and sensual and when they finally pulled apart they stared into each other's eyes for a long moment before Jon tore his gaze away.
"You shouldn't have done that," he said. "I'm not him, not anymore, and I'm way too young for you. Y-you... Christ, why did you do that?"
"I'm sorry. I-I..."
"That was... that was so unfair, Sam."
"I'm so sorry, Jon."
"I think I'd better go to bed." He walked to the door and turned. "My advice? Never, ever tell Jack that you did that. Never." Then he was gone.
Sam cursed her stupidity. Now she had hurt Jon, just as she'd hurt Jack. In that moment, when she kissed him, she had wanted him because he was Jack. The problem was, he wasn't Jack, and she had caused him pain because he knew it and knew why she had done it.
Returning to the living room and sitting on the couch, pulling her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms around her legs, Sam wept silently. Meanwhile, Jon stalked angrily around the bedroom, cursing under his breath. He should never have let her do that. It was his fault. Sam was feeling vulnerable. Jon was as good as Jack at finding ways to blame himself.
Deciding to make peace before he kept himself awake all night with guilt and worry, Jon returned to the living room and found Sam sobbing.
"Sam?" he said quietly, "Sam, don't do that, please don't do that." He crouched in front of her, "C'mere," he said, and just like Jack O'Neill would have, took her into his arms and held her close. Later, he made her go to bed and tucked her in, watching until he knew she was asleep. Again, just like Jack would do, and had done the previous night, Jon bent to kiss her head and smooth her hair before leaving the room, going to bed, and falling into a restless slumber.
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