Title: Broken Words
Summary: They were words he never meant to say. And now everything is broken between them.
Classifications: Drama, Aaaaaangst, S/J
Disclaimer The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-1, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Author's Note: Here's a little stream of consciousness angsty ficlet inspired by a one second clip that kept haunting me while I slept. What can I say, I was feeling melodramatic. :) Special thanks to Montage.
This day had been surreal from the beginning. SG-1 had been geared up and ready for another mission, just like any other day, when the gate sprang into life. The last thing any of them had expected was for SG-1's IDC to be sent through the incoming wormhole. Especially given that they were all standing right there at the base of the ramp.
Looking back, Jack couldn't quite decide if it was naïve of them to just open the iris up and wait for whatever craziness was coming to descend on them. But certainly none of them had expected the small metal ball that had rolled merrily down the ramp. Or the unbearable flash of light and sound that had followed.
Jack had groggily regained consciousness some time later to find himself leaning against the gate room wall with his hands securely tied behind his back. Daniel was still unconscious next to him and Jack could see Sam on the other side of the room, her eyes already actively cataloging the situation.
Their eyes met and she shrugged, telling him she had no idea what was up. Jack gamely tugged at his restraints but they were very tightly done. Teal'c could probably break them, though, and Jack scanned the room for his last teammate. Any hopes on that front were smashed when he found Teal'c handcuffed to the gate ramp. Even Teal'c couldn't bust through steel.
It was abundantly clear, though, that whoever had done this knew their stuff.
Jack nudged Daniel, hoping to wake him. They needed as many eyes as possible. He groaned into wakefulness just as the Stargate once again exploded into action.
"What now?" Jack griped lowly to himself.
The iris remained tightly closed, but distantly through the control room speakers Jack could hear the team leader of SG-8 requesting backup. Apparently the ancient temple they had been studying held a device they had accidentally activated. It was now leaking radiation, threatening the local villages. They had been unable to turn it off and were requesting technical backup.
Jack glanced at Sam and she was already sitting up as much as her bound hands were letting her, knowing that she had the best shot to help them. He could see frustration flash over her face at their bizarre predicament. Who the hell had done this?
But none of them had been prepared for what happened next.
"Acknowledged, SG-8. I will send immediate backup. You and your men begin evacuation of the villagers."
They heard SG-8 sign off and the wormhole died out only to begin spinning again right away.
The orders weren't unexpected; it was more the voice that caused the four members of SG-1 to look at each other in utter confusion.
It had sounded exactly like Jack O'Neill.
"Did that just…" Jack said rather inarticulately.
"Sound exactly like you?" Daniel finished for him.
"Indeed," Teal'c offered. He leaned his head back and looked up into the control room. "He also looks a great deal like O'Neill."
"What?" Jack asked loudly. "But I'm right here!"
The blast door to their left slowly slid open, revealing a single figure. "I wouldn't try too hard to wrap your brain around it, O'Neill, you'll just end up hurting yourself," the man observed wryly.
He really was a carbon copy of Jack. Just a little older perhaps, a bit more careworn.
Daniel looked surprisingly unfazed by this new development. Though Jack knew that they had all seen weirder things.
"Quantum mirror?" Daniel asked.
"Nope," the other Jack gamely answered.
"No, thank god."
The man laughed. "No, Daniel, not a robot."
This last guess came from Sam.
The man didn't look away from Daniel. "She's got you beat, Danny-boy," he replied quietly, without any of his previous humor.
"Okay," Jack snapped, his patience wearing thin. "Enough with the twenty questions. Why the hell do you have us tied up? SG-8 needs help in case you haven't noticed."
"Don't worry; they're going to get it. Just not from you guys," the other Jack said placidly.
"I don't understand-," Daniel started.
"You don't need to," the man said, cutting Daniel off mid-sentence. "Just be thankful that you don't need to."
The other Jack O'Neill then turned his back on all of them and moved towards the gate.
He was midway up the ramp when he paused suddenly, shifting uncertainly from foot to foot. Then, for the first time, he turned and looked at Sam. Jack hadn't even realized until this moment how studiously the man had avoided even glancing in her direction. But now his eyes had clashed abruptly with hers.
Sam looked distinctly unsettled by his sudden attention and Jack could tell she was resisting the urge to glance over at him in askance. But this other man wasn't Jack, and he had no idea what this might be about.
It didn't stop Jack from surreptitiously tugging at his restraints with renewed interest. For some bizarre reason, he didn't want him anywhere near her.
The other man slowly closed the distance between himself and Sam and eventually he was kneeling closely by her side, his body almost touching hers. Sam looked away, her eyes latched onto the ground and Jack could see her jaw working against discomfort and nervousness at his proximity.
The other man watched her for a moment, and Jack couldn't even be sure what his expression meant. Then the man leaned into Sam and whispered into her ear, his breath soft against her neck.
Jack saw enough of her expression to catch the way her mouth popped open on an unsteady breath of surprise at his first words. The man continued to talk and Sam's breath grew erratic, her body ever so slightly swaying towards the man whispering in her ear. She closed her eyes tightly.
The man seemed appeased eventually, because he leaned back away from her and touched her shoulder oh so tentatively just for the merest second, but it was enough for Jack's skin to crawl. What the hell had he said to her? And where did he get off touching her like that?
The other man, seemingly unaware of Jack's scrutiny, pushed back to his feet and made his way once more towards the wormhole. Jack chanced a glance at Sam. She lifted her head and he was floored to see her eyes bright with moisture and one single tear trailing down her cheek.
He could only pry his eyes away from her when his doppelganger called his name from the top of the ramp. Jack looked up and the man tossed a small object towards him before stepping through the wormhole.
A shiny pocket knife slid to a stop right by Jack's knee.
By the time he managed to free himself, Sam had composed herself, the device had been deactivated and the other Jack O'Neill had died getting it done.
Jack was pretty sure that was how he had intended it from the beginning.
The debrief was a weird one, especially for SG-8, who kept looking at Jack like he was a ghost. Which maybe he was, because there was a body in the morgue that was him in some ways. Or rather some time.
Sam was unusually quiet and he wasn't the only one to notice.
At the end of the meeting she was the first out of her seat. Daniel stalled her by the door for a moment, undoubtedly offering to talk, but she shrugged him off and escaped by herself down the long grey halls.
Jack just sat in his chair for nearly twenty minutes before he realized that there was no way to avoid this. He just had to know what he'd said to her. Dangerous or not.
He didn't even bother with her lab or the commissary. He knew where she'd be.
"What did he say to you?" Jack asked the solitary figure standing in a small clearing on the side of the mountain.
Sam was startled by the question, slightly jumping at the unexpected voice. She really must have been too much in her own head if she hadn't even been aware of his approach.
"I'm sorry, sir?" Sam asked, one had still pressed to her chest in surprise.
"Drop the sir," Jack said gruffly.
Sam's eyes widened momentarily, before narrowing with what he thought might be anger or fear.
"I need to know what he said," Jack reiterated. He needed to know what the hell could have put that look on her face.
"The timeline…," Sam hedged.
"Forget the timeline; he's already completely fudged with it, hasn't he? And I think you know why."
Jack was surprised to see Sam's fingers trembling, even as she tried to hide it. Before Jack could think about it, he reached out and grabbed her hands, shocked by the iciness of them. "Jesus," Jack swore harshly. "Is it crazy to be angry with yourself?" he thought out loud. Because he was. He was pissed at that later him for whatever it was he had done to fluster her this much.
"He's not you," Sam said forcefully, her eyes coming up abruptly to meet his.
"Pretty close," Jack observed softly, a little taken aback by her sudden intensity. Her hands now had a death grip on his, though he doubted she was even aware of it. She was shaking her head, denying any similarity.
"Why not?" Jack dared to ask softly.
"Because he's dead," Sam choked out, dropping her head once more. And you are not, and you'd better stay that way or I'll kill you myself. Jack could almost hear her thinking it. But there was something else, Jack was sure of it. Something that was making her fingers tremble. And he was pretty sure this had something to do with those whispered words.
"And you would never…," Sam whispered softly, her voice trailing off.
"Never say those things to you?" Jack supplied.
Sam's head jerked back up and he could see her face closing off once more. As if just becoming aware of it, she also tugged insistently at her fingers, trying to free them from his grip. He imagined all of her fine-tuned alarms were going off, telling her to run away from this situation as fast as she could. But if Jack could ignore his for a few minutes she could too.
He held on even tighter to her hands, refusing to let her escape. "Tell me," he demanded earnestly.
"Is that an order?" Sam asked roughly, giving up on prying her fingers free.
Jack abruptly let go of her and stepped back. "No…of course not."
Sam stumbled at his unexpected retreat and he was sure she would flee, but instead she stared at her empty hands as if she didn't quite know what to do with them anymore. Eventually she tucked them under her arms, hugging herself across her chest, and turned away from him.
"He apologized," she said softly after long moments.
I'm sorry, Carter.
"For what?" Jack asked gently.
Sam cleared her throat. "For not… For not saving me the first time."
I couldn't stop it. I'm sorry I wasn't good enough to save you that first time. God, having to watch that… I'm so sorry.
Jack felt as if his chest was filling with lead, making breathing impossible. "You…died? Today? Saving SG-8?" Jack asked in a strangled voice.
Sam just shrugged, as if the point was immaterial.
And suddenly Jack was sure that he was the same person as that other future man, because he knew exactly what had happened. "He…I….we came back to save you," Jack said in understanding.
"No," Sam denied lowly.
But Jack knew he did. And he also had a pretty good idea of what he might have said in that circumstance.
I just…couldn't do it without you. I need you too damn much.
"Carter…," Jack said softly, moving a couple steps towards her.
Sam whirled around, her finger pointing accusingly towards him. "He's not you. Because we promised. You promised!"
Jack steadily moved closer to Sam. "Promised what?" he asked, one of his hands closing softly on her shoulder, unthinkingly mimicking the gesture of the other man.
I love you, Carter.
She stared at the intruding hand. "You promised…," she said weakly.
"Not to love you?" Jack finished for her.
Sam's head snapped up to look at him, her eyes stricken, and only now did he really understand that look she'd had on her face earlier.
Jack dropped his hand from her shoulder and increased the distance between them.
She had almost died today. She was supposed to have died today.
"I never promised that," Jack said hoarsely.
He couldn't quite understand why she looked like he had struck her.
"I'm sorry," he said in response to the betrayal and anger mixing uneasily on her face.
And he was sorry, because as he watched her walk away he could feel something between them breaking. Something that could never be fixed.
He just couldn't be sure what it was.
He'd sent her in there.
He'd done it a thousand times before. Sent her into danger because she was the one who got things done. She was the one who could pull miracles out of nowhere, time and time again.
She's broken now. In his arms, sweat made her skin slippery as he mindlessly pushed back her hair over and over again, willing blue eyes to open just once more.
It was never meant to end like this.
Daniel sat a few feet away, his face lowered, one hand latched onto her still ankle, feeling the heat abandon her flesh.
Jack couldn't breathe.
There was no more air left in the world.
Not on this one or any other.
Someone was pounding at his door.
Jack glanced at the clock, blearily registering how insanely late it was, before he reluctantly rolled out of bed.
Sam stood in the moonlight a few steps from his front door, fingers twisted in oversized sweats. "We can't just forget this, can we?" she asked as soon as he opened the door.
Part of him wanted to lie to her. To tell her he could make that empty promise if she needed to hear it. That he really wasn't that other man. That he would never do anything so drastic.
Anything to erase the betrayal he had seen on her face. To give them back their walls and delusions.
Just one more thing to ignore.
But he knew, standing there, that the delusions were the broken things now, shattered beyond repair.
"No," he said honestly.
But betrayal didn't contort her face as he expected; she simply nodded as if he had just confirmed what she had already suspected. "I'm sorry I got so upset earlier. I don't know why I got so mad."
"It's okay," Jack assured her. "I understand."
"I just can't stop thinking about him," she confessed. "Or you…I guess." She shook her head in confusion. Where did one Jack end and the other begin?
"Yeah," he said, "I know what you mean."
He could still remember her pale face as she watched the body being brought home through the Stargate. And in some time, place, reality that had been her body on that stretcher.
In a strange way, they had both died today.
And yet, here they were, mourning the person who stood alive, easily within reach.
"Can I just say, for the record, that I hate time travel?" Jack groused.
She smiled softly before gamely saying, "Hey, this was all you this time. No one else to blame."
"Yeah," Jack acknowledged. "Though I don't know how the hell I could have done that without you."
I just…couldn't do it without you. I need you too damn much.
Sam's smile faltered, just for a moment. "I just wish…I had gotten the chance to thank him. To tell him…."
"Knowing you are alive was more than enough for him," Jack said with certainty.
Sam eyed him strangely. "I don't suppose I could get you to promise never to do something so stupid ever again."
I love you, Carter.
Jack surprised them both by reaching out and gently touching her face, feeling the smooth, warm skin that was untouched by radiation or sacrifice.
"Not a chance."
His hand burned as if it was melting from the inside. He ignored the pain, though, and the way his body seemed to be coming apart at the seams.
He spared a moment to acknowledge that this is how she must have felt.
But not anymore. He could feel time melting away now too. And he could imagine that maybe none of it ever really happened.
When he thought of her now, instead of clammy, cold flesh he could only remember the softness of her breath and the warmth of her shoulder curving gently against his palm.
He tried to imagine what it would be like to kiss her in the moonlight.
One last breath and it's as if he never existed.
Just the way he planned.