WORDS WITHHELD

By

Mara-anni

A/N: This is set around two weeks after the team gets back from Jack's cabin in season 8, so definitely pre season 9.

A/N2: There are some spoilers for season 4's 'Entity' & season 8's 'Threads.' I was just thinking about how Sam would have felt about the whole Jack killing her thing and this is what came out.

Brigadier General Jack O'Neill's hated paperwork, no hate wasn't really the right word, loath would be more accurate and yet that seemed to be all he was doing lately – paperwork. Oy! And there seemed, strangely enough, to be a lot of paperwork to go through when one has just won a major war against two groups of interstellar bad guys. That's right, SG-1 had saved the asses of the entire galaxy this time and managed to practically annihilate the Goa'uld. And then to top it all off, their old friend Anubis seems to be history. But apparently a quick phone call to the President to let him know that Earth and the galaxy were cool was not good enough, hence the paperwork. When did this become his life? Oh that's right when he thought it was a brilliant idea to become 'The Man.' Being 'The Man' was totally over-rated he decided. Jack removed his eyes from the report he was currently reading, or at least pretending to read to glance at his watch. Hah! Almost 1300, he could make a break for it at 1300, claiming lunch and swing by Carter's lab on the way to the commissary. He knew she would've forgotten to eat – again – and it was a good CO's duty to make sure his 2IC was not going unfed. Yea right O'Neill you just keep telling yourself that.

There was a knock and O'Neill looked up to see Sergeant Walter Harriman standing politely in his open doorway.

"Walter?" Jack said, afraid the man was going to dump another truck load of files on his desk.

"Sir, Captain Richards has arrived sir."

"Ahh, good" Jack was so relieved, "Send him in Walter and page Colonel Carter." Richards was some new Air Force science geek that was starting today. He figured as a fellow science geek it was only fitting for his Second to figure out what to do with him.

"Yes sir." Walter left then and soon a very young, fresh faced lad replaced him at the general's door. The Captain knocked, and when the general lifted his head from the dreaded paperwork to look at him he straightened to full attention and brought his hand up in salute.

"Sir Captain Anthony Richards reporting for duty sir." He all but shouted.

Jack winced imperceptibly. He remained in his seat behind the desk for a while studying the new guy and letting him remain in his saluting position. The kid looked like he was going to have a coronary any second. Christ they made them young these days, he thought to himself. Finally he stood, returned the captain's salute – allowing the poor captain to complete his salute and lower his arm.

"At ease Captain before you strain something." Jack said and walked out into the briefing room motioning for the man to follow.

Sure enough, just as Jack reached the briefing table, Colonel Samantha Carter came bounding up the stairs, she smiled at him when they looked at each other and he returned it. They seemed to be doing that a lot more now, ever since their trip to his cabin a couple of weeks ago and Jack loved it. A Sam Carter smile was enough to brighten anyone's day even when they were buried under a mountain of evil Manilla folders.

"Sir!" She said, brightly.

"Carter?" Jack returned, stamping down on his rather inappropriate urge to grin at her. And do other things, Ahem! Do not go there O'Neill, that way lays madness! "Captain Richards has arrived." Jack introduced, turning slightly and waving to the man behind him.

Richards quickly stepped forward and lifted his arm in salute once again.

"Colonel Carter," he said excitedly, completing the salute once the colonel had returned hers, but staying at attention. "It's such an honour to meet you ma'am, and you of course sir."

The man was going to burst a blood vessel at any moment Jack thought.

"Carter?" Jack said, raising his eyebrows and tilting his head slightly.

He didn't need to finish his thoughts, in fact most of the communication that went on between them was done without words. Sam knew exactly what he would say, what he wanted. She smirked at him. Yesss! Sounded in Jack's head.

"Yes, sir." Sam said, looking over at captain Richards, she continued. "You'll report to Dr Felger in the science labs at 1330 captain…"

"Ma'am," The grinning, overly eager USAF geek rudely interrupted his superior officer and, true to his nerd status, failed to notice the General's disapproving frown. "May I just say that I have read a number of SG-1's mission reports, those that I have access to of course, and I just know that working here is going to be amazing!" He didn't even stop to take a breath as he continued, "Ma'am is it true that you were taken over by an alien computer entity? That you shared you're body with it? And then had your own entire consciousness downloaded into the base's computer."

"Yes Richards," Sam confirmed with an indulgent smile. He was so very excited and sometimes that was refreshing, he was so damn young, she thought. "But that was four years ago now."

She glanced at the General, expecting to find some amusement on his features but instead she found he had his impassive mask firmly in place. To anyone else Jack O'Neill would have seemed indifferent to the conversation if not even a little bored, but Sam knew him better than anyone else. He only wore that mask when he was trying to hide some deeper emotion. It baffled her, what was bothering him exactly, the captain couldn't have pissed him off that much and if he had General O'Neill's face would have been anything but impassive. She wanted to look into his eyes, she knew she could work out what he was feeling that way, but she couldn't risk it, it was…inappropriate…damn it. Captain Richards barrelled on oblivious.

"Yes ma'am, but the fact that it happened, that it was even possible is incredible. I mean how could you have survived?"

The colonel stiffened, it was almost imperceptible, but Sam saw it.

"Captain…" Sam tried to end it, but Richards was too excited.

"But then you did die didn't you ma'am? General O'Neill fired at you twice with that Jaffa weapon." Finally he stopped and looked over at the General

At these words General O'Neill's face had darkened, no longer impassive, fury burned in his eyes as he drilled them into the captain, and Richard's face drained of all colour. Panic plain on the younger man's face and he didn't dare move or even breathe, he was certain the General could easily break his neck in a split second if he wanted too, and he looked like he wanted too. The young scientist had never been so terrified in all his life.

Sam was all too aware now of the General's mood. As she looked into his eyes she understood that Richards was right to fear for his life. Jack was a good kind man, but he was also a skilled and experienced killer, a side of him that was deeply buried only surfacing very rarely and usually only when there was a serious threat to one of his own. But it was surfacing now. She could tell that Jack was hanging on to his self-control, which was considerable, by a thread. But Sam knew something else about Jack O'Neill - he would never lose it and harm those he cared for, never. So Sam did what to anyone, apart from Daniel and Teal'c, would have been suicide. She knew better. He was a frightening man at times, but Sam wasn't frightened by him at all.

Sam quickly took the two strides and resolutely placed herself between the two men, facing the General and looking directly into his burning eyes. Jack's intense gaze immediately shifted to hers and his eyes softened in an instant, his facial features shifted and for a fraction of a second Sam saw total devastation pass over his face before he settled back into his impassive mask. Only then did Sam turn to address Richards without leaving her place directly in front of the General.

"Captain," Sam said in her best commanding tone, "You are to report to Dr Felger in the science department. Go down stairs into the control room. Sergeant Harriman will have someone show you there. Dismissed." She turned back to the General before she'd finished the last word. Captain Richards straightened, saluted and bolted from the room.

When the captain had gone Jack finally lowered his gaze, unable to hold Sam's eyes anymore. He was ashamed of himself for nearly losing it like that. He hadn't been that angry at anyone for a very long time. God! He'd thought he'd dealt with it, with shooting Sam twice with a Zat, with killing her. She wasn't dead, she didn't die. Here she was very much alive and standing so close to him that he could smell her shampoo. He didn't kill her, but he did, he did. When he pulled the trigger of the Zat the second time he thought, no he knew it would kill her, and he'd done it. Teal'c and Daniel tried to make him feel better about it, saying that he did what he thought was necessary to protect the base, but that didn't change the fact that he had killed Samantha Carter, the woman he loved, the woman for whom he would rather die himself than lose, and he killed her. If she hadn't come back he probably would have died. He'd never spoken of it to her. He didn't know if she had any memory of it, but he knew she would have read the reports, she knew what he did. It was remarkable to him that she ever even spoke to him or looked him in the face ever again. Not only did she do that, but she continued to place all her trust in him over all the years. But he had never had the guts to say anything, not even to apologise. What was he supposed to say anyway, Jack thought bitterly, 'Sorry I killed ya Carter, no hard feelings?' So he said nothing. Carter had never acted any differently toward him because of it and as it was never mentioned again, he was able to bury it along with a whole slew of other unthinkables. That is until now. Damn, he nearly flew off the handle just because some poor kid thought it was incredible and the thing is, it was incredible. He shot her twice and yet here she is. He set his face, clenched his jaw and allowed his eyes to find her again. She looked concerned; he imagined she would be angry.

Sam held her place opposite him, standing so close she could feel the warmth of his body. Her fingers twitched. God! Why had he lost it like that? She knew though, they'd never spoken of it. She remembered the whole thing but she'd never held it against him, actually she admired him even more for it, but she'd never told him. Yet more words withheld. They were able to communicate without the need for words most of the time, but, Sam decided, some things had to be said, should have been said long ago. She still couldn't speak three certain words to him, but she sure as hell could speak these. So when Jack finally looked at her she began.

"Sir," her voice quiet and gentle, "about what happened…"

"Don't worry about it Carter, I, ah, had a moment is all. The kid was bugging me." He turned abruptly away from her and headed for his office.

"Sir!"

"Colonel I have a lot of work to do and so do you, I suggest we get back to it." Jack said a little roughly and continued to try to escape into the sanctuary of his office. But Sam was having none of it. She couldn't allow him to continue feeling guilty for this, she should have said something years ago but didn't have the courage, she intended to say what she had to say this time, even if it got her busted back to airman. But then she realised she had to do this as a friend, not as a work colleague or CO and 2IC, because he was hurting over this and whatever else they were, they were also best friends. She caught up to him and did the unthinkable, she touched him. In fact she grabbed a tight hold of his upper arm – his rather firm, very nicely shaped upper arm she couldn't help but notice – and used a word she never used.

"Jack!" She spoke his name softly, almost pleadingly. It worked, it got his attention and she found herself holding her breath as he turned, waiting for the reprimand. It never came.

He looked at her then, and she held her eyes to his.

"This is about what happened when the entity downloaded my consciousness isn't it?"

He dropped his eyes.

"Carter, it was a long time ago…"

She abruptly realised she still had her hand on him and quickly dropped it.

"It wasn't your fault." She left the 'sir' off, she wouldn't call him Jack again, but she wouldn't include the 'sir' in this conversation either. Jack was not unaware of it.

"What wasn't Carter," He became angry then and raised his voice, a defence mechanism, she knew, it wouldn't work this time. "The fact that I stood there and killed you. That I deliberately and knowingly zatted you twice?" He was breathing heavily, his chest heaving with the built up anger and guilt.

But Sam knew his ways, he always yelled like that when he was frustrated, felt something was out of his control or was angry at himself and taking it out on the poor unfortunate who happened to be there. Sam was unaffected by now.

"You did the right thing."

"I…what the hell would you know about it?"

Now it was Sam's turn to get angry.

"What the hell would I know? Well since I'm the one who was nearly killed, I think I'm the damn expert." She noticed his flinch and continued calmly again. "I remember the whole thing. Actually, it's kind of weird. By the time you Zatted me I was already in the computer system. I saw you and, well, myself through the security cameras."

"Really?" Jack clarified, his voice now a quiet rumble. He looked devastated.

"Carter. Damn it Carter!" There was that raised voice again. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration "I killed you and I don't expect you to forgive me, I can't forgive me." He paused, opened his mouth like he wanted to say something more but closed it and promptly turned away.

"I don't forgive you." Sam saw the muscles in his neck tense at these words. "Because there is nothing to forgive. You did the right thing, the only thing. And I know Teal'c and Daniel probably said that to you already but it's true. I was never angry at you for it, I never held it against you, I never, never trusted you any less for it. In fact, if anything I trusted you more."

He turned back around to face her then, his face showing his shock and confusion at her confession. She went on; she had to make him understand.

"After the Zay'tarc thing I was, well scared, nervous, I was afraid that maybe, I don't know that it would end up affecting our working relationship, that maybe your objectivity as my Commanding Officer would be compromised. I was sure that wouldn't be the case but there was this part of me that was afraid it would and I knew that I couldn't stay on SG-1 if I thought that was actually happening. When this thing with the entity happened and then you shot me and I saw you shoot me, well if anything I was relieved. I knew without doubt then that you would never let your personal issues interfere with the commission if your duties."

Jack winced at the last part, he didn't think that was something necessarily to be proud of, but it seemed Sam disagreed. He couldn't believe what she was saying, they never spoke like this, never let feelings show let alone talked about them and they never ever mentioned the word Zay'tarc ever. And yet here she was doing all these things at once. He was standing very close to her now he realised. Somewhere along the line while she was talking he must have moved closer to her. He could smell her shampoo again and somewhere in the back of his mind, barely registered, he had the thought papaya or mandarin?

"The thing is," Sam went on, "I was never upset or disappointed in you because actually – and I know this is going to sound a little corny – but…" She heard him draw a sharp breath and she saw defeat and sorrow in his eyes.

"Sam. I killed you." He stated his voice just above a whisper.

Her hands twitched again and her right hand raised of its own volition, God! She so much wanted to touch him, hold him and comfort him but she wasn't allowed. She managed to stop just short of contact and Jack noticed the sadness in her eyes as she slowly lowered her arm back down to her side. He felt a pang in his gut.

"I was really proud of you." He looked a little shocked at this. "It reminded me of why you're such a great leader, of why I admire you so much, of why I trust you, I was relieved, I never really doubted you, but there was that fear. The rules exist for a good reason." The last sentence came out in a whisper as they both knew to which rules Sam was referring – Fraternisation rules. "I know I can trust you to do what's right no matter what, and that…helps."

Jack was completely dumbstruck, he had no clue what to say, so he just stood there, looking into her blue eyes, allowing her words to sink-in. Sam noticed his features relax, his brown eyes fixed to hers as he absorbed what she was trying to tell him.

"I know it couldn't have been easy to do it, I know you didn't want to do it and God knows I don't know if I…I just want you to understand that, if anything, my respect and admiration for you as an officer became even greater at that moment." Sam was the one to break the eye contact then as she lowered her eyes to his chest. It was becoming too hard for her, to painful, but she'd done what she was determined to do.

"Anyway," she finished, in what was probably the quietest and most vulnerable voice Jack had ever heard come from her and it broke his heart, he had to bunch his hands into tight fists to keep from reaching out for her. "I just wanted you to know that. I should have told you a long time ago."

Without making eye contact again, Sam abruptly turned and left the briefing room. Jack stood rooted to the spot for a few more seconds before slowly making his way back to his desk.

Sam walked hurriedly down the corridors of the SGC, but that wasn't unusual for her, her face was calm – Jack O'Neill did not hold the patent on masks that hide inner feelings. She was heading instinctually for her lab, but was forced to admit to herself that that wasn't a good idea, she couldn't hold it. She needed to find somewhere where there were no cameras, so she headed for her next safe haven, SG-1's private locker/ready room. She closed the door behind herself, fairly certain that none of the team would be coming here any time soon and no-one else would dare to, she was safe from prying eyes. She couldn't contain her feelings anymore and finally let go, allowing her to tears to stream unchecked down her face. She didn't make a sound for fear of passing airmen because USAF Colonels did not cry. She didn't do this often. In fact the only time she'd ever cried over him was when he was lost with that ass Maybourne and even then she was upset because she'd thought they might not be able to find him this time and she blamed herself for what happened. She had never, never cried because she couldn't have him. She could usually contain her feelings for the General without them spilling over like this, but she was just so tired with the whole situation. Her father's loss was still fresh in her heart, and she remembered the feel of the General's arm around her shoulders as he comforted her, and how nice it was just sitting together on the small dock at the edge of his pond. But nothing had changed, she could never have him as anything more than a friend. And she was so damned tired. Suddenly the speakers came to life.

"Colonel Carter to the control room, Colonel Carter to the control room."

Crap she thought what now?

She stood and went to the sink, she looked awful, she washed her face hoping that would hide any evidence that she'd been crying and blew her nose. With an ease that comes with years of practice she schooled her features, straightened her spine and headed quickly for the control room. One of the great things about her work was that it always gave her something interesting to focus on. So she could lock away her personal issues, concentrating instead on whatever problem it was she had to solve this time.

As she entered the control room she saw both sergeants Siler and Harriman fussing over the computer systems.

"Sergeants, what's the problem?"

"Ma'am," they both chorused, but Sergeant Harriman continued. "We seem to be having some sort of problem with the diagnostic equipment ma'am."

"So you need to diagnose that which is supposed to diagnose?" Jack quipped, he had just come down the stairs and heard what Walter had said to Carter.

Sam looked up at him and smiled at his bad joke. But it was a tight smile, it didn't reach her eyes this time, didn't make her face light up and her eyes twinkle. And then as he came closer Jack noticed the slightly pink nose and the red-rimmed eyes. His chest constricted painfully until he almost couldn't breathe, Oh God! Carter had been crying.

"Don't worry sir," She said, "I'm sure it's just a minor problem."

With that she was all business, handing out orders to various technicians as she sat at one of the terminals and began typing furiously.

Jack watched her for a moment; she would have this thing solved in no time. She always came through with the goods. And what would have taken the technicians days to solve without her – if they got there at all – would only ever take Carter a few hours. The light from the computer monitor in front of her gave her skin a blue glow and her hair was almost lit up in a bluish flame. She was so damn beautiful – and she didn't even have a clue, and damn it he would give anything just to be able to tell her.

He left her to it. Brigadier General O'Neill had paperwork to finish and Colonel Carter had to keep the Stargate working.

The End

A/N: Please review, pretty please with sugar on top, or even better, chocolate cake spread over Jack's…umm…ahem…carry on.