Sam knocked tentatively on the heavy wooden door of Jack's house. She hadn't been by to see him in days. She hadn't even known that he had been released from the infirmary and allowed to go home until this morning. As soon as she had learned of this, she knew she had to go to him. It was finally time to face the music.
After a minute or two, the door slowly opened to reveal one groggy looking Colonel dressed in sweatpants and a gray t-shirt. He had obviously been sleeping and Sam immediately felt guilty for waking him up.
"Carter? What brings you by on such a lovely day?" he asked sarcastically, his eyes squinting in the bright sunlight.
"Sorry to bother you, sir. I…I came by to see how you were doing," she stuttered.
"'Sir,' huh?" Jack questioned her choice of wording before adding, "Would you like to come in, Sam?"
Sam looked at him nervously. "Actually…I was wondering if you might like to come with me… for a walk."
"A walk?" Jack eyed her suspiciously, knowing there must be an ulterior motive to her invitation.
Sam smiled tensely, "Sure…the sun is shining, the temperature is nice, and there's a pretty little park near here."
"Yes…there is." He stared carefully at her for a moment, seeing the lines of tension etching her face and the sadness in her eyes. It was then that he realized the real reason why she was there on his doorstep. She was there to break up with him and she wanted to do so on neutral territory. He didn't know whether to be relieved or not that she was the one to take the initiative. He only knew that he was feeling the beginnings of a deep pain growing inside himself that he had not felt in a very long time…the agony of loss. "Hang on a minute. I just need to get my shoes on."
Jack returned a couple of minutes later with his sneakers on and a sweatshirt pulled on over his t-shirt. He closed the door behind him and followed Sam down the steps and towards the park at the end of the road.
Once they got there, they continued walking towards the baseball diamond at the other end of the park. They came to a stop at the bleachers and Sam quietly took a seat and motioned for Jack to sit down beside her.
It was an odd and very uncomfortable situation to say the least. This was the very spot he often visited when he came to this park. And it was the very park he had visited in his dream – the one where Sam had been happily occupied with her possible future daughter and husband. Jack thought it somewhat ironic that she would choose this park for the discussion he had known was coming for the past week and a half. The only thing he hadn't predicted was that it would be her doing the breaking up part.
"You know how I feel about you, Jack..." Sam began softly.
"But...?" he countered.
"I think it's best if we end things."
Jack nodded solemnly, a hint of displeasure in his eyes. "Perhaps you're right. But do you mind if I ask, why now?"
Sam sighed dolefully. "I don't want to go into deep explanations. I have my reasons. Let's just say I had a lot of time to think while you were gone. Can we just leave it at that?"
"And you just decided that you didn't want to be with me anymore?"
Jack stared straight ahead, afraid if he looked in her eyes that he might break down and make a fool of himself. He still had his pride, after all, and he was not going to beg. Besides…he had already made up his mind that letting her go was the best possible course of action. He just never realized how hard it was going to be. His heart told him to hold on to her…to convince her not to leave him, while his head was clearly and rationally telling him that he needed to let her go.
"No..." Sam answered his question after a brief pause, shaking her head in denial. "That's not it. What we're doing... it's risky... it's against the rules."
"I thought you didn't care about the rules?" he challenged. "Or at least that's what you said when we first got together."
"Maybe I've changed my mind?" she queried.
"Bullshit!" Sam's eyes widened at his abrupt and vocal response. Jack then continued, "There's something else going on here. Obviously, it's something you don't want to tell me. Maybe you're right. Maybe it is a good idea to stop seeing each other outside of work, but you can at least be honest with me…"
Sam squirmed a bit, not really wanting to get into any real, substantial conversation about the issue.
"I just think things would be a lot less complicated if we called it quits and went back to the way things were before," she explained, trying to keep her voice level and steady. It wouldn't serve her purpose to cry now. She had to remain strong and convince him that this was for the best. "Look...we tried and it was great while it lasted. But, it just won't work anymore. You were right. We can't live our lives in limbo forever, constantly afraid of getting caught. I don't like hiding how I feel. I don't like keeping secrets."
"Didn't bother you before..." Jack pointed out ruefully.
Her frustration was building. She had known this was going to be difficult. Jack was nothing if not stubborn.
"Well, that was then. I can't do it anymore," she reasoned.
Jack was silent for what seemed like an eternity. He bowed his head, hiding his face from her penetrating gaze, and then he gave her his answer. In an almost defeated tone, he simply replied, "Okay."
"'Okay'? Is that all?" His answer surprised her and she found herself becoming almost sad that he had given in so easily.
"What do you want me to say, Sam? I'm tired. I don't want to argue with you about it. If it's what you want...then fine," he muttered bitterly. "I don't want you to have do anything you don't want to do. You're probably right anyways. We'd both be better off... less stress at least."
"So..." she uttered quietly.
"Were both all right with calling it off?" she asked sadly.
"I guess we'll have to be." His answer was final and almost matter-of-fact, his tone devoid of all emotion.
"I meant everything I ever told you. Just because we're not together anymore... it doesn't mean I love you any less…or that I will ever stop loving you."
And with that, she turned and walked away without looking back. Jack just sat there, staring blankly out over the empty ball field.
In a way he was almost relieved that Sam had initiated the breakup. He had been sitting in his house all morning, trying to work up the will to call her up and ask for a meeting. He had been practicing what he was going to say to her - how he was going to let her down easy - over and over again in his head. She had saved him from the agony of having to say the words that would end their relationship…she had saved him from having to break her heart. Instead, he was the one left sitting alone in an empty park, feeling the pain of his own heart breaking in two.
TBC in "I Can Let Go Now" – Part Four of the "In Need" Series.
AN: Yes, there will be a happy ending...someday. It just might take a long time. ; )