Hold Your Tongue (There's Too Much to Say)
Author: Karen T
Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me.
Classification: A pinch of UST, a sprinkle of angst, a dash of humor, and a lot of post-ep/missing scene stuff. Oh, and Sam/Jack.
Spoilers: Everything up through "Threads" in S8.
Notes: This was written for the S/J Ficathon and followed the parameters established by Michelle (UST, set anywhere between S6-S8, and stays close to canon). Thanks to Julie for the glorious beta and patient hand-holding.
She believes it might be a conversation they've been trying to have for years, or at least since Freya's disastrous za'tarc detection procedure.
After eight years working together, three promotions and symbiote implantations between them, one ascended (then decended) co-worker, too many planets visited to be counted (297, but she denies keeping a mental tally whenever he asks), and innumerable adventures that have left them bruised, battered, and still the luckiest people alive, they continue to dance around The Conversation like the dutiful soldiers they are.
She hates to admit it, but they've become much too good at their jobs.
Hammond returns the colonel to active duty two weeks after his escape from Ba'al. When Janet informs her of this, Sam doesn't rush immediately to his office.
She waits ten minutes before doing that.
"Need something, Carter?"
"Yes, I ..." She hesitates, unable to decide what she should say. I'm sorry? It'll get better? Nothing sounds right, so she holds out a folder. "MALP findings for P2J-337. We'll be covering it in tomorrow's briefing."
"Fine. Leave it here. I'll look it over."
I'm good at listening.
She should say that.
But she won't. She can't.
"No. Thank you, sir."
Sam's not surprised when Colonel O'Neill barges into her lab.
"What is this?" he asks, shoving several sheets of paper at her. She can tell he's pissed; she doesn't particularly care.
"My report," she says dully.
"Yes, I know, but-- You didn't say it was my idea that you deceive Fifth."
"I chose to deceive him."
"And I ordered you to. God, Carter, what--"
He stops himself and she wonders what he wanted to say.
"Change it," he orders. Then, more softly, "Carter, if you--"
"I'll email you the revised version, sir."
She's so tired of his words.
'I'm glad you're back' feels inadequate to Sam. How many times can the colonel disappear offworld and leave her scrounging for impossible solutions? How often can her sanity be tried before she finally breaks?
She wants to say never again, but she knows she won't. Instead she attends his welcome back party. She watches him laugh at jokes about Maybourne. She waits her turn to speak to him privately.
And when it is her turn, she smiles brightly, touches his arm, and says, "I'm glad you're back, sir."
Then she moves aside and wishes she had better words to say.
Sam drew the shortest straw, but she doesn't mind.
"Sorry about dropping by like this," she begins when the colonel opens his door, "but ..."
"You were in the neighborhood?"
She smiles, chagrined. "Something like that."
"Well, it's a small world."
"I'm fine, Carter."
He's not. She can tell from the slouch of his back and his deadened tone. But more than that, she just knows.
"Sir, I ..." He shoots her a wide-eyed, cautionary look that speaks volumes. "Think mini you will ever hit on Cassie?"
He blanches. "Jesus, Carter. Low blow."
Laughing, she thinks, Now he'll be fine.
He's sitting beside her bed when she wakes, staring at his hands.
"Sir? You don't have to be here. I'm okay."
Grinning, Colonel O'Neill leans toward her. "I know. Just making sure you're not playing hooky on us."
"Frasier says that super soldier did a real number on you. She's impressed by your concussion, you overachiever."
Despite the aches, Sam manages a small laugh, just for him. "Can't help it, sir."
He must sense her pain because his eyes register concern, but his voice remains light. "You Academy people."
She merely smiles in response. She's glad he's here.
Fifteen minutes after excusing herself, Sam finds she's unable to go about the mundane task of brewing Cassie some tea. She's boiled the water and has set out a mug and tea bag, but can manage no more.
She's sitting at the table, numb with grief, when Janet's kitchen door swings open. There are footsteps, and water sloshing into a container. Then a mug is pushed into her hands and Sam looks up to see Colonel O'Neill.
"Sir, I--" Her cheeks burn from embarrassment.
"I know." He smiles gently. "You'll get the next cup, Carter. I know you will."
In the SGC, everyone has their tells. And almost everyone knows that General O'Neill likes to do paperwork when upset.
So when Sam passes his office after the president's visit and sees him slogging through stacks of files, she doesn't hesitate to knock.
"Late night, sir?"
"Eh." He waves at the papers. "Lotsa stuff."
"Wanna talk about it?"
He frowns. "Go home, Carter. It's been a long three days. For everyone."
There was a time when she would've argued and struggled with what she should say. But now she just gestures at the paperwork and asks, "How can I help?"
Being a Carter means Sam is well-versed in how verbose silence can be. But while she always understands her father's silences, she's clueless with General O'Neill's.
Standing behind him in the commissary, she gathers her nerve. They haven't spoken in two days. "Sir, have I--"
"Ready to stop blaming yourself for what RepliCarter did?"
She blinks, thrown by his ability to mind-read. "Wait, you're not--"
"Mad at you? No. Well, kinda. A little."
"But your silent treatment--"
"Was mainly because you needed to think I was."
"How did you--"
"Let it go, Carter."
Reluctantly, she does.
Sam supposes she should be overjoyed by how she organized a seamless memorial service for an urn filled with the ashes of five logs and several sheets of newspaper. But she's tired. And hungry.
And that's how she finds herself alone in her kitchen, officially eating and unofficially hiding from her brother and his kids. Absently munching on some tortilla chips, she leans her hip against the island and sighs. She's so very tired.
"Want some company?"
Blocking the doorway is General O'Neill, his posture telling her he's more than willing to retreat if her response is negative. But she waves him in.
"You okay, Carter?"
"Been better," she admits with a shrug.
"You pulled off a nice service."
She smiles at the compliment, albeit wistfully. "It was important for Mark and the kids to say good-bye to Dad."
"Now Mark just needs to keep his nosy eyes out of the urn."
Her grouse makes the general chuckle, and soon his arm is draped over her shoulders. "Don't worry. Daniel and Teal'c will keep Mark in line."
"Thank god you all came." Her brain tells her to stop there, but something -- her exhaustion? her hunger? how she can't shake the feeling that more change lies ahead? -- propels her to turn towards the general and ask the one question that's been plaguing her for years. "Do you ever get the feeling we're always having this one conversation but never really having it at the same time?"
He glances at her and quirks an eyebrow, surprise evident in his eyes. "I don't know," he eventually says, amused. "Maybe."
Sam's heart quickens and she stuffs another chip in her mouth to keep herself busy.
"Or maybe we already have, or just don't need to. Does it matter, Carter?"
With the general's face so close to hers and the familiar weight of his arm offering her comfort, she has to admit it really doesn't. So she shakes her head and grins when her fingers brush against his as they reach into the chip bag at the same time.