Title: Schism
Author: A.j. (Aj2245@yahoo.com)
Rating: R (Language, mature situations.)
Spoiler: All about 2010.
Category: Angst, AU, episode addition (prequel).
Disclaimer: All characters are property of MGM and Gekko Entertainment. I don't own them, nor am I making money off of copyrighted characters. (Ain't mine, ain't makin' money.)
Summary: In 2010, Jack and Sam haven't spoken for several years. Why?

Thank you's: Jojo, Suz, Michelle, HC, and Melly. Y'all *rock* for putting up with my massive insecurity complex and making suggestions that pretty much saved this story. Any mistakes they missed are entirely my fault. Also, for the Gang in Dominofic. You put up with my Stargate obsession because you like me. That means a lot, guys.

Notes: This was a story that's both been building a long time and came completely out of nowhere. I'd been listening to the BlueJello crowd discussing favorite episode, and 2010 came up several times because of all the amazing angst, and the idea of unhappily ever after. This, of course, touched off several debates on how Sam and Jack got so bitter and far away from each other. This story is an attempt to portray that why.

by A.j.

"I know the pieces fit because, I watched them fall away,
Mildewed and smoldering. Fundamental differing.
Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers souls in motion,
Disintegrating as it goes testing our communication."


Wednesday, September 10, 2003:

It was very likely that she shouldn't be here.

Okay, there was no reason - any more - that she wasn't allowed to be here. Or do what she was seriously thinking of doing. But it still felt really weird.

From behind the wheel of her aircar, Sam eyed the house in front of her and tried not to panic. This was fine. This was okay. She was allowed to show up and inquire about his health, and why he was moving, and why he' d run away from his retirement party, and why he'd been such a bastard for the last year and a half.

Right. No reason to be worried at all.

Sam was overwhelmed by an urge to bang her head on the steering wheel. She was about to let her head drop onto the molded plastic when a sharp bark to her left alerted her to an older woman walking by, a tiny white fluff ball attached to her wrist by a short leash. Sam smiled weakly at the frowning woman before pulling her ignition chip out and tucking it into her purse.

Self-flagellation was all well and good, but probably not the best idea to do it in public, outside your former commanding officer's home.

Sam moved across the street, glancing both ways for oncoming vehicles. Moving towards the side walkway, she pointedly ignored the 'For Sale' sign in the front yard - it had to be a joke - and continued around the house to the back door. Even during the infrequent get-togethers the Colonel had hosted, she'd never seen anyone walk through the large oak front door. Her own front door was only used when she needed to retrieve mail, or receive a package.

When she actually thought about it, they really had a scary amount in common. Well, that wasn't strictly true. Sure, they both enjoyed pizza, beer nuts, and in-depth conversations on how "Futurama" was actually a sly commentary on the slow re-classification of the modern world, but despite eight years of shared history, she still had no idea what was going on in his head. She sure as hell wouldn't have spent the last two years trying to alienate everyone she'd held dear. Shaking her head, she bypassed the garbage cans next to the garage - all of which were jammed to overflowing - and marched up the patio stairs, the heels of her flats clicking against the treated wood.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and out here in the relatively peaceful suburbs even the minor hustle and bustle of downtown Colorado Springs couldn't be heard. Her own home was only a few miles away, and even at night she could hear cars. Ever since the first time he'd invited everyone over for an informal movie night, she'd envied him this property. The trees and yard were amazing, and the house was large, but functional. Not too much for one person at all.

Sam rang the doorbell, pushing it just a bit harder then necessary due to shaking fingers. Inside, she could here a faint ding-dong, letting her know that it was actually working. The last time she'd been here - God, how long ago was *that*? - it hadn't, and she'd been forced to make Teal'c boost her through an open bathroom window. It had been funny later, after Colonel O'Neill had been comfortably installed in the infirmary. By then, he'd been recovering nicely from the nano-machines that had knocked him flat, making the breaking and entering necessary in the first place. At the time, he'd found the fact that she'd landed face-first in a pile of dirty laundry absolutely hysterical.

Damn, she missed that. Thinking about it now, it had actually been years since she'd heard him do it. Laugh. At or with her. This was just depressing. But wasn't that why she was here? To fix things? She leaned on the bell again.

This time, muffled cursing and a "Holdonnaminute, GEEZ!" greeted the dinging. Quick footsteps thudded across the flooring inside. In no time at all, the door was thrown open and she was confronted with one hundred and eighty-some pounds of sleepy, retired Colonel.

"Hey... Carter." He blinked a bit, fist frozen where it had risen to rub at his eyes. In the worn gray t-shirt and sweatpants, cowlick reaching for the sky, he looked all the world like a four-year-old just up from a nap. It was adorable. It was sexy as hell. She swallowed hard and played with the strap of her bag. "Why are you here at," he glanced at his watch, "eight on a Wednesday?"

Sam rubbed her ear and tried not to blush. "Um. Well, I heard a nasty rumor that you were packing up and leaving town. Wanted to dispel that myth myself."

"Sorry to disappoint." He gestured vaguely behind him. In the distance she could see stacks of packed and half-packed boxes stacked close to walls. Those same walls were bare of ornamentation; she could see a decent sized pile of pictures and paintings stacked just behind him and to the left. "Most of this is getting shipped out next week. You're lucky you caught me."

"You're moving? Honestly?" She blinked at him, doing a rather good impression of a goldfish. When Janet had mentioned seeing his house in the latest real estate notice, she'd been sure it was a mistake. "Since when?"

"Since last month. Had a few offers- look. Come on inside." He stepped away from the door and gestured her forward. Shock, sadness, anger, more shock, and fear propelled her forward and down the hall towards the dining room. Or what was left anyway. More boxes were set in the corners of the room, and the only clear furniture was the dining set. No, she hadn't been here all that often, but she'd never seen this house look so... bare.

Despite his constant teasing of Daniel's pack-rat habits - razing that had grown more pointed and less good humored in recent months - the Colonel was a fair collector himself. Inlaid bookshelves lined the hall, and their empty state hit something in Sam. He was leaving. Really leaving.

"Hey, I'm gonna make some tea, you want?" Steering her rather neatly into a conveniently placed dining room chair, he bustled off to the kitchen. She started nodding before she remembered that he couldn't see her because of how the kitchen connected.

"Um, yeah." She took a little pride that her voice was only a little shaky. He was leaving? Okay, yes, he was technically retired from the United States Air Force. Had been since two months ago, but leaving? Distantly, she heard him begin to ramble something about how moving companies were Earth's true evil nemesis and was non-dairy creamer okay because he knew she liked milk, but that wasn't happening unless she wanted food poisoning. At any other time, she might have leaned back and grinned stupidly.


He was LEAVING. As in, not going to be around anymore. Not in this house.

A brightly painted ceramic mug appeared under her nose. The steam rising out of it made her blink, and her hands closed automatically around the smooth surface. She glanced up, into his bemused face.

"You okay, there, Carter? You're looking... a tad off."

"A bit shocked, yeah. I had no idea you were moving. It's odd to think of you as not around anymore."

He dropped into the chair opposite her and flashed her a quick, unconvincing smile. "Well, retirement generally means moving onwards and upwards, etcetera. I guess I'm just holding up my end of the bargain."

"I missed you at your retirement party." It had been a sad affair, all things considered. Under different circumstances, it should have been packed with friends and admiring colleagues. Colonel Jack O'Neill had been a well-respected man who'd been places and done things others only dreamed about. By all rights his retirement should have been a celebratory, if bittersweet goodbye. Instead, she'd left feeling depressed and not a little angry. People had milled around, bored and almost thankful of his departure. Admittedly, his views and actions over the past three years hadn't won him any friends, but still.

Sam wanted to apologize for it. For not catching him before he'd left. She'd been caught up in a meeting with Joe and missed her transport. By the time she'd made it to the SGC cafeteria, he'd been gone.

She hated him just a little for that. She wanted to scream at him for leaving before she had the chance to say goodbye to that part of his life. Of hers too. Well, scream at him, then rip his clothing off. Instead, she just studied her tea and waited.

"Yeah, I didn't stay long. It was more a formality anyway. Everybody there just wanted me gone." She heard him shift, probably toying with his own mug. "I left a bit after you got there. Your date looked nice."

Oh, hell.

"He's a friend."


More uneasy shuffling. She didn't look up. They never talked about these things. When It, or anything at all relating to It was mentioned - even in passing - they both generally tended to clam up and use words like 'Sir' and 'Carter' more than was strictly necessary. Now they could and it still felt like she should run from the house and go apologize to General Hammond.

"Yeah. I've been working with him a lot since being transferred over to the diplomatic rotation." After I couldn't stand you being such an ass anymore, she didn't say. "Ambassador Joe Faxon. Nice guy. Really shiny shoes."

He barked a chuckle, but like everything else that had happened since she'd knocked on his front door, it seemed forced, and wrong somehow. Like he was doing it, *all* of it, just to placate some expectation of hers. "Never had much use for the spit and polish, myself."

"No, sir, you didn't."

"Jack." Her hands stilled on the painted ceramic. "I'm retired, Sam. Call me Jack."

She looked up then. Eyeing him intently. He meant it. "Yeah. Okay. Jack."

He smiled a bit then. It startled her. Had it been that long since he'd *smiled* at her? How had that happened? She took a quick sip of her tea; the water finally cooled enough to allow it. Randomly, her eyes were attracted to his sock-clad feet.

"So. Keeping busy? I bet you've got lots to do." She felt his eyes on her face. She'd always been able to do that; know when he was watching her. "Anything you can tell a retired Colonel?"

"Oh, nothing outside the usual." His socks were green. The left one was worn at the end a bit, the darning loose. She could just barely make out the skin of his small toe. "Talking, more talking, and some talking just for good measure."

She wanted to stop talking about her job and play with his toes. Was that wrong?

"Sounds... fun." To be fair, he did try to sound enthusiastic. Except for that part where he didn't. Yeah, she'd missed him. "Well, you know... Could you please stop staring at my socks?" Her eyes jerked level with his and her cheeks felt suddenly very hot. He was grinning at her. Just a bit. And for the first time in too long, she saw that smile in his eyes.

"Um... sorry about that."

"Feet becoming a fetish here, Carter?"



She tilted her head just a bit, considering. "Call me Sam. If I'm calling you Jack, you have to call me Sam."

He smiled again - a bit easier this time - and sipped his tea. "Explain the foot fetish, *Sam*."


"You have a hole in your sock."

"I do?" He grinned.

"Yes. By the toe."

"Ah. That all then?"

"Um, yes." Wow, she was going to need more tea if this kept up. "So, yes. Talking. I talk a lot."

"Well, you were always a bit quick with the explanations."

"Yeah, but now people actually pay attention." Sam leaned back in her chair, attempting to mirror his carefree lounge. She winked at him, trying to preserve the lightness. It had been so long since they'd chatted like this. Internally she winced, recalling their last 'conversation'. It had ended with him stomping off and glaring at everyone and everything and her signing transfer papers. Yeah, this was a lot better. "Although, they sure don't appreciate a good fruit metaphor like certain other people I know."

"Well, you were pretty damn adorable with that apple."

She grinned stupidly into her tea as she blew on it. "Yeah, it's not bad. I do miss the fieldwork though. There's just nothing like walking for days and sleeping on rocks to make you appreciate your own mattress."

"Or getting rained on four days straight."

"Sand storms."


"Daniel snoring."

"Teal'c's coffee."

Yeah, there was the stupid grinning at each other. They stayed like that for a few moments, just smiling and letting whatever this was be for now. But like all things, it came to an end.

"So. Everything's good then? Keeping busy?" He still seemed relaxed, so she nodded and sipped from her cup.

"Um, yeah. Everything's going great. They're moving the Stargate out of Cheyenne Mountain next week. But you knew that." Everyone knew that. The papers had been going on and on and *on* about it for weeks. Hell, she'd had to start ducking photographers recently, and something told her she wasn't being entirely successful. Well, that and seeing her face plastered all over "The World News" under a story tag reading 'Beautiful Major Having Love Child of Alien'. She'd only laughed after checking to make sure they didn't have any of the right aliens.

"Has anyone set up any watchdog committees yet?" he asked casually. His tone was light and curious, although the look he flashed her was anything but.

Her stomach sank and she set her tea down with an audible clunk. He just *had* to... "Not that I'm allowed to comment, but NO, Jack. For the fiftieth time, no."

"Good to know my leaving has produced none of the results they agreed to."

She blinked. What? "What? Results? You had stipulations with your retirement?"

"Several. All of them having to do with your buddies."

"They're not-!" Sam groaned and glared at the man across from her. "You have been an ass about this from the beginning. Are you hugely surprised that your 'demands' aren't being carried out? Jesus, Jack! You know they pretty much forced you out of the Air Force because you were wandering around tilting at windmills. The Aschen are our allies!"

"Maybe. I just think that we're just going to end up regretting this if we don't approach this situation with a little more caution. THAT is what I've been saying, and why I agreed to the terms of my retirement." He shoved the mug towards the center of the table and ran a hand through his hair in frustration before bouncing out of his chair. The cowlick flattened itself out and then popped up, going in even more directions than before.

"Jack... I'm sick of having this discussion with you. The Aschen are not out to get us! You're just freaking out because you think this is too easy."

"You trust *them* more than you trust me." His tone was pure enraged disbelief. "You honestly believe them over *everything* we ever shared. Everything."

"No, dammit, Jack!" She was standing then. In his face, nearly as angry as he was. When this had become so personal, she wasn't sure, but it was and god, this hurt. The hands clenching her dress started to shake. "I trust you more than nearly anyone else on this damn planet. If you think differently, then *you* are the one with the problem."

"It sure as hell doesn't sound that way to me, *Major*." He stepped closer, towering over her by just that much. Very deliberately - God he could be intimidating - he stared down. "What I see is someone who I trusted and cared about ignoring what I have to say because she doesn't want to face the truth that the 'saviors' of the human race might not be as altruistic as they seem."

"Where is your proof-"

"I don't NEED proof!"


They were screaming now. Nearly nose to nose.

"Don't you swear at me, Major..."

"Excuse me *Colonel*," she jabbed her index finger into his chest. "Excuse me if I want to stop the running and the killing and the dying. Excuse me if I see this as an opportunity to live my life in some way other than blowing things up on a weekly basis. Or wanting to find someone and start a family. I'm sorry that I want this whole thing, a thing you started I might add, over and done with so that I can give my children a world where they can look at the sky in wonder, and not fear."

Angrily, she wiped a hand across her face, smearing the tears that had started, and turned away from him to look out across his back yard. It was sunny and warm, with one hundred percent chance of showers at 9pm that evening; the Aschen's climate control mechanism having been put into flawless effect two months before.

"You never said anything before." He sounded far away, physically and emotionally, and she jerked at the coldness. Coldness that had only started to creep in towards her the last year or so. She'd been the last. Hammond, then Daniel, then Teal'c, then her. And she had no idea how to make it right.

"I never said anything because I *couldn't* say anything. What was I going to do, sob on you in the locker room one afternoon?" She looked back over her shoulder trying to break the tension somewhat with a half smile. It didn't work.

"You could have said you wanted a family. You never did."

She chuckled. A dry, pained thing that started in her toes. "And my interest in Cassie is solely because I like her baking experiments."

He looked down, away from her, tracing the grain of the wood floor with his eyes. "Is that why you came here? Now that I'm retired," he bit the words off hard. He was still shouting at her, just not out loud. "Now that I'm retired, you want to start something?"

"I don't know, Jack." Mimicking his posture, she wrapped her arms around herself, but didn't turn to completely face him again. God, even mid argument, he could read her like a book. "Maybe. Maybe I just wanted to check on you. To have this out because I... I miss you."

"So that's what we're doing? Having this out?"

"Stop attacking me, Jack!" She did turn around then. "Why are you so sure that the Aschen are bad guys? You were one of the first to welcome an alliance with them."

"Because something that is so good generally isn't."

"But what if it *is*?"

"And what if it's not, Sam? What if it isn't? What if we find out ten, twenty years down the road that the Aschen are just as bad, if not worse, than the Goa'uld? What then?" Jack ran a quick hand through his hair, unconsciously spiking it as he got deeper into the topic. "What if we're just quietly lining ourselves up for the slaughter? Where is the goddamn paranoia that we Tau'ri are so good at?"

Sam blinked. What if he was right? She'd never really thought of it like that. Despite the hours of listening to him rant and snark and glare, she'd never actually thought of it this way. And seeing him here, like this, she could tell he believed this so much. She could see it in every line of his body. A bone-deep distrust of the entire concept of Aschen assistance. She'd only seen him act this way once before - deep underground inside the Tok'ra base, waiting to find out about another alliance.

And then it clicked. Everything locked into sickening place.

Her hands were shaking again.

"You don't trust them because you can't believe that any alien would do us a good turn." She couldn't manage to keep the edge of disgust out of her voice. "Just like the Tok'ra. You don't trust them because you're so *sure* they'll want something from us other than friendship."

He rocked back slightly on his heels, as though struck. "I... I can't believe you just said that. That is stupid, Sam. So beyond dumb, there is no way that just came out of your mouth. You think after four years of trusting my ass to Teal'c I'm going to let something like xenophobia affect my judgment?"

"Yes, Jack! Yes, I do! And it confuses the hell out of me, because the Aschen are fighting on our side, just like Teal'c. They're saving thousands of lives. Making our world better-"

"By making it theirs." His eyes were deadly. Intent and almost black in the back-lighting.

"By helping us fix what's broken." She ran her own hand through her hair before folding them back over her chest. "Even you have to admit something good has come from this. People are being fed. Problems are being mediated rather than fought over."

He glanced away again. She blinked at this. Neither of them were the type to back down, and rule number four in all command training was to never let someone get the upper hand during a fight by looking away. Still, she wasn't sure she had the upper hand.

"Good is coming from them being here," he admitted grudgingly. "I've never said that wasn't true. I'm just saying that trusting them so implicitly is a bad idea."

"Maybe you're right." She looked away then, taking a long hard breath. She'd never fought like this with him before.

They'd had arguments, yes. Sometimes - generally when both Teal'c and Daniel were far away or locked in a conversation - they even had a few good knock-down-drag-out whispered discussions. But never this. His rank, and her belief in him and his decisions precluded anything at all like this.

She was starting to realize that had been a very good thing.

"Yeah, maybe I am." He sighed then, long and deep, like he was emptying the contents of his lungs completely. Letting everything go. "And it really *sucks* that no one - not you, not Hammond, not Daniel - is even seriously considering that possibility."

Maybe we're scared, she didn't say. Maybe we're scared you're right, but what would we do then? We know how much they can do. More so than the Goa'uld. Maybe we're not like you, Jack. Maybe we'd rather shake hands than hit them with sticks.

But she didn't say that. She didn't know how.

"I don't know what to say to that." She was tired then. Desperately so. Sam moved back to the table and artlessly collapsed into her chair.

"Then you know why I'm leaving." He sighed again, recrossing his arms. "I can't play happy smiles on this, Sam. And if I stay, they're going to keep asking me to join in and get with the program. But I'm not willing to jeopardize this for everyone in case I am just a paranoid bastard who's determined to look a gift horse in the mouth."

"But where-"

"Minnesota." He smiled again. Still shuttered, but less tense. "Hell, you know I've been threatening to move up there for years anyway. Seemed like an opportune time."

He moved back to his chair and rested his hands on the back. Her gaze was drawn to them. She'd always loved his hands. The fingers were long, tapering gracefully into clean nails. They were strong hands. Good ones. She didn't want them to go away.

"I guess." She looked down at her own. They were the same as they'd been three years ago. Smooth skin and short nails. Okay, now she definitely needed something to distract herself. This visit was not going as planned and she really didn't want to end up shouting at him again. "I heard from my dad the other day. He says hello."

He chuckled wryly, and she heard the creak of wood indicating he'd settled back into his chair. "Yeah? How is Jake anyway?"

"Not bad. Didn't really have time for an in-depth conversation. He was just stopping by to drop some things off from the Grand Council." She picked up her now-cold mug and played with it, running the smooth, garishly painted cup that pronounced that the owner was the BEST COACH EVER.

"And the snake?"

Something little in her broke. He'd always called the Tok'ra that. Not to their faces, usually, but always. In the months since they'd stopped working together on a regular basis, she'd forgotten that little habit. Pushed it to the back of her mind, not to be analyzed or pondered over. But there it was, and she was tired of it. Tired of the justification and the pushing and the dealing with is disgust.

"Please stop calling her that." Her voice was sharper than she'd meant it to be, and she winced before she'd even finished speaking.

There was a pause before he answered, pregnant with tension. Dammit. Sam dropped her elbow on the table and leaned against her hand, waiting for it. She didn't have to wait long.

"Sam. Despite your opinion on the matter, Selmak is physically a snake."

"And we're all aware of that, Jack. You don't have to keep reminding us every time you talk about her."

"That's not why I do it and you know that."

"No, Jack," she stared at him, tired and wanting to let it all go, but knowing she couldn't. "You do it because despite everything they've done to help us, you don't trust them, and I'm tired of defending them to you."

He stood then. An angry jerking movement accompanied by the screech of wood on tile. The look on his face was thunderous.

"And I'm sick of hearing you defend them to me, Sam. I get that your dad chose to do this. I understand his decision, but I don't agree with it. Hell, despite everything, it nearly got him killed!"

"But he lived longer than he would have!" Her chest was tight. Roiling with words and emotion that never seemed to go away anymore.

"At what cost? We were tortured on Sokar's planet. Would you have spared him that even if it had meant he died?"

"That is not fair." Sam met his eyes finally, anger snapping in the back of her brain. "Don't you ever try and force me to rethink that choice. What's done is done, and it's over. The Tok'ra-"

"Are useless. They sent us to that planet on a suicide mission."

"We saved a lot of people!"

"You were tortured!"

"The Tok'ra gave us information-"

"Which they had no plans on sharing! The only reason we learned a damn thing on that planet was because we got hauled in to save the goddamn day." He paused and ran a hand through his hair, and took a deep breath. When he continued, his voice was lower, obviously restrained. "I know we saved your dad. I'm not complaining about that. But you can't tell me we didn't get screwed. I got shot, and you got a quick walk down nightmare lane-"

"But those memories are there anyway, Jack. They're a part of me. Yes, Martouf asked for me to access those, but it was to save my dad and hundreds of people. Jolinar-"

He shifted then. Just a slight movement, but she'd seen it hundreds of times before. When someone was bringing up something distasteful. "Oh, yes. Jolinar."

Warning bells jangled loudly in her mind, but did nothing to stop her tongue. "Dammit, Jack. Yes, Jolinar. YES, the woman who lived in my head and died to save my life! God, you always get this way whenever anyone even mentions her name!"

"I am not talking about this with you."

"Why the hell not? Every other Tok'ra seems to be on the chopping block? Why not her? Why not the one who's saved our lives, even after her death!"

"Fine. Let us do mention Jolinar, then." He stepped away from the window, facing her head on. "The Jolinar who, when everything first went down, was the - and I'm quoting YOU - 'worst experience of your entire life'. For all intents and purposes, Jolinar raped you. Stripped you of choice, and ability to act, but when everything was neatly 'explained', you backtracked and you backtracked hard. Suddenly, Jolinar wasn't the worst thing that ever happened to you, it was the best."

"That's not-"

"And whenever Marty or Selmak or Anise said jump, you were the first to ask how high. Do you see why I'm not dancing around in your little appreciation society? You rationalized an attack, Sam. For the sake of universal friendship, you rationalized *rape*. No, I don't trust the Tok'ra. They jacked us more times than I care to count, and they broke you in a way that made me lose just that much respect for you."

Her heart was slamming into her throat, her eyes losing focus. He had Not. Just. Said. That. "What?"

"You did everything but lie back down every single time they came waltzing through that gate. They took *everything* from you. Your innocence. Your father. The first time I admitted that I really do care about you like that. Then, even before all of that is gone, they take your anger. And there's Jolinar herself. I don't give a shit whether or not she saved your life. She put you in that position in the first place. It was damn little atonement in the long run, dying like that."

"FUCK YOU, Jack!" She was roaring. Since when had she been able to roar? He caught the hand that swung out towards his face, but just barely. "Don't you dare tell me what I do and do not feel. Despite what you think you know, you are not, nor have you ever been inside my head."

She was on a roll now. Fury, the equal of which she hadn't known in years sang hot and hard in her blood. Never mind that he was saying things her subconscious had been whispering at her for so long. He had no right. Angrily, she advanced on him, forcing him to back up towards the doorway until his back was pressed flat against the dark molding.

Oh, yes. You've gone too far, Jack O'Neill.

"Do NOT presume to make judgments on situations you don't understand. Jolinar was in a position of life or death. She chose life. It's the same decision you would make in her position. And don't you fucking lie to me and tell me that's not true."

"That's where you're wrong, Sam." He was quiet, staring at her, eyes hardening. He looks like breaking, she thought, before her anger and everything else dropped. "I would never do that to someone. Ever."

She backed away, leaving him leaning against the doorway, frozen in so many more ways than one. "What..."

"Sam. I'm going to say this once, and the only reason I'm saying it at all is because you, apparently, need it spelled out. There is one thing, one smudgy line left in the sand that was my moral ground. One I will not ever cross. Not for anyone, and definitely not myself. I will never take power away from someone like that." His face was dead serious, arms locked around his chest. "I've been in that position before, and I'm telling you straight out that it was worse than death. And if you'd let yourself actually remember what your experience with Jolinar was like, rather than what it was like for her, you'll understand that."

"That. Is not fair." She was shaking all over now, and the tears were coming pretty much constant. He had no right... he... She hurt. Emotionally, physically, psychologically... he... "This isn't about the Tok'ra at all."

Jack blinked a little then. The terrible focus shifting that much. In the split second before he shut himself down again, she saw naked pain in his eyes. And even when he looked away, she saw his hands shake, just a bit before he crossed his arms.

"Neither is what you're asking me. You want me to go against *everything* inside me that's screaming this is a bad idea." Jack shook his head, voice rough. She could see white around where his hands gripped his biceps, blood pulling away from the pressure. "And worst of all, you won't even consider the idea that I'm right. You know me Sam. At least, I thought you did. Why do you believe them over me?"

He looked so... angry over there. The early morning shadows cloaking him, drawing him towards the walls. He was staring at her with such... She didn't want to believe it was pity or hurt. She couldn't take that. Not from him. More tears welled in her eyes and brimmed over her cheeks as she turned back towards the yard.

"Because it's too big." Her voice was thready and broken. Unsure of itself in her throat. She could see herself in the reflection of the glass. Hair a mess, eyes puffy. Behind her and indistinct, he was a shadow. "Because they can save our world."

"And I can't."

She shook her head, voice trapped behind tears and emotion she had no idea how to sort through.

It was several minutes before she managed to speak, and when she did, her voice was low and rough, shutting out everything he'd said before... Just focus on this. Just on the Aschen. "You're not going to change your mind, are you." A statement rather than a question. Not just the Aschen.

"No. It's wrong, Sam." His voice tightened then. And for an instant, she almost turned around again. Tried to fight for that *something* that had brought her here today. But then he continued, controlled and locked as she'd ever heard him. "And if you can't take that on faith from me, I have nothing left to give you."

The sob surprised her, despite the tears running freely down her face. This hurt so much. "And what about my judgment, Jack? Does my opinion, do my thoughts mean so little to you? Why can't you take a chance on this? On *me*?"

Sam ran her fingers down the sun-warmed glass, watching his misty reflection. For a moment she saw Jack waver. Could barely make out his arm reaching towards her. Hope flooded her mind, making her hands shake. God, please... She needed... The arm dropped back and he was rigid as he'd ever been.

"Because it's wrong."

She nodded and dropped her hand away from the window, only to rest it on the frame. Her limbs were heavy and felt as though she was moving through a very deep pool of water. Not looking back - she couldn't look back - she grabbed her purse from the floor and walked towards the door. She only stumbled twice.