Content Level: General Audiences

Content Warnings: None other than Angst

Status: Complete

Author's Note: Response to SJFic Word of the Week, August 25, 2007 Challenge word "damage." As always, any and all mistakes are my own. I hope you enjoy the story.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without author's consent. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2007 Maggie Eaton

The Key

Sam watched as he opened the box, carefully noting each small movement of his features, the sudden motionless of normally fidgeting hands and the deep cold that seeped into his eyes, smothering the warmth that usually resided there.

There was a long moment of stillness shrouded in complete silence as he stared into the box in his hand. She couldn't quite read the emotions she could see him struggling against but she could definitely see the struggle. To someone less familiar with Jack O'Neill, he would appear calm; merely examining the object in his hand but she knew him better than most and his reaction, though not an absolute interpretation, was still readily apparent.

…"And yet, you haven't said no."

The tension was broken by the box lid snapping shut in his fingers as his eyes raised, slightly accusing and laced with a tiny touch of sadness, to meet hers.

"What about you?" She asked. "…if things had been different."

He stared back at her considering her question for what seemed an eternity, weighing the possibilities and choosing his words carefully.

"I wouldn't be here." He spoke softly, the words carrying no emphasis but falling softly from his lips as a simple statement and leaving her to determine their meaning.

Her mind was devoid of words but she felt the hot sting of tears as she quickly looked away from his stare and focused on the table beneath her hands. Still looking down, she nodded, signaling that she understood when actually her confusion had increased a thousand fold. She knew he was watching her and found herself wishing that he would speak again; give her the slightest glimmer of hope before she arrived at her final decision.

But there was only silence.

That silence sealed their fate as surely as any spoken word and her heart sank a bit as she realized she had left this too long. Somehow they had crossed the invisible line that marked the point of no return and all her choices, save one, had vanished into oblivion.

And then he was gone.

She turned off the desk lamp and stood to leave, pushing away the sadness that threatened to overwhelm her. This had been her last effort; her last chance to see into his soul, her last chance to see if the damage could be repaired; if they could be whole and sound again.

As she remembered his words she knew it was time to move on. Whatever might have been, would never be. Questions would remain unanswered, love untried. Their relationship would halt at friendship, slowly changing to casual acquaintance and finally vanishing altogether as they drifted apart, choosing to follow different stars.

She picked up the ring and slid it inside the pocket of her uniform. When she reached the door she paused and turned around, looking back at her latest memory of Jack. A single tear trailed down her cheek as she stood suddenly awash in memories of another day; the day she had chosen to suppress their desires, ignore their feelings and lock away their dreams.

She had locked that door but she had never meant to lose the key.

The End

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