A/N: Thanks to AstraPerAspera for her inspiration and encouragement.
My Lover's Gone
She was gazing at him with soft blue eyes. It was dark, he couldn't tell where she was; he couldn't see anything but her. But that was okay, he didn't want to anyway because really there wasn't anything but her, there never was, not to him.
She smiled at him, a small upturn of her lips; it was her sad smile; it didn't touch her eyes that were shining just a little more than they should. He felt his chest ache in that way it did whenever she was hurting.
Her lips parted, "Jack." She breathed. He knew what she was saying without her saying it just by the way she said his name. They rarely actually said those three little words…he wasn't sure why accept that they somehow didn't seem like enough. They just weren't good enough or deep enough to describe how they felt for each other. Instead their names, spoken in such a way, revealed everything. It was why he'd stopped calling her by her first name all those years ago in the first place, and why he hadn't let her say his. But now it was different. Now he was allowed to hear it, he was allowed to know. Now he wanted to hear it every chance he got; now he wanted to whisper her name in her ear every minute of every day.
He felt himself smile back at her as his name left her lips and wondered idly what she was doing here when last he knew she was a galaxy away. But he didn't really care about that either.
"Sam?" He replied, why was she still sad?
And suddenly there was a blinding flash, so bright and fast that it enveloped her in an instant.
Jack's eyes snapped opened. His chest hurt and he struggled to take a breath. Finally managing to fill his lungs he let it out shakily, but the pain in his chest remained.
And he knew.
He rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling, brightening as the sun rose, and not really seeing it. He could still see her saddened features before she was gone in a flash. He didn't know how long he lay there hardly blinking, but the phone by his bedside made him finally stir.
He didn't answer it. He knew who it was; he knew what they were going to tell him. There was a time that he would have scoffed at the idea. But not now. Not when it came to her. Because there was a time he didn't believe that any such connection could exist between two people as the one he felt with her.
He got up and pulled on whatever clothes he had dumped on the floor the night before. He was supposed to be on leave. To 'cool off' they had told him, apparently he was stressed. It was a polite way of saying if he didn't stop being so vocal about his ongoing requests for military support of Pegasus they were gonna kick his ass to the curb. It was a way to get rid of him for a short time without the upheaval that would surely come if they relieved him of his post officially.
He grabbed his keys and went out to the car…her car. Yesterday's briefing with the IOA and Joint Chiefs had been the last straw. God damn shit for brains bureaucrats every last one of 'em. They had no clue what was out there. And worse, they didn't give a crap what happened to millions of innocent people, hell they didn't give a crap what happened to their own people out there in Pegasus waging a war alone and hopelessly outnumbered. All they gave a crap about was their hip pocket and their precious city that had so many more toys they had yet to pilfer out of it.
He was walking the halls toward his office before he even knew it. Not even noticing the wide eyed stares he was getting because of his unusually casual attire. They'd given her a half finished ship some six months ago. He'd been rather vocal about what he thought of that idea too. But they wouldn't listen. They didn't listen then and they didn't listen yesterday when he'd insisted that if they weren't going to involve themselves in Pegasus then they should withdraw completely, abandon the city and bring what was left of their people home. The argument had gotten heated and the four star army General Hickson had threatened to have him forcibly removed if he didn't calm down. That was when they suggested he take some time off.
He'd stalked out, slamming the door behind him; a plan already formulating in his mind. He would go to her. He would have the Odyssey beam him directly to Colorado before anyone knew about his little vacation time and head to Atlantis. He'd stayed in Washington as long as he could to try and help her, but it was a dead end. They all had their heads too far up their own asses to see straight and he'd be damned if he would waste anymore time behind a desk. He belonged out there anyway, fighting, by her side.
But now here he was…staring into the wide, frightened eyes of his secretary. He swept past her and into the briefing room.
Woolsey was among them now, the snivelling coward. Jack almost snarled at him. They stared at him, momentarily taken aback by the fury in his eyes while he stared back at them. It was General Dickson who spoke.
"Have you been briefed Jack?" He asked simply.
Jack's rage filled gaze shifted from Woolsey to him. "No." He replied. His voice was hoarse.
"Mr Woolsey?" The General waved his hand indicating Woolsey should explain.
"Oh, of course." Woolsey cleared his throat nervously. "At about eight forty this morning the SGC received an audio message from Atlantis General O'Neill." He passed the file folder to him tentatively, taking a quick step back.
Jack read…his back straight, his face showing no emotion whatsoever. He read it again before his eyes raised to take in the faces of those he held personally responsible…fixing on Woolsey.
He felt the blood rush through his limbs as the world narrowed and suddenly he leapt. He had Woolsey on the ground before anyone knew what was happening. "You useless piece of crap!" He snarled as he drew his arm back, his hand fisted and ready.
It took four burly men to get him off Woolsey before he could land the punch. Jack shook them off, breathing hard. His eyes still fixed murderously on Woolsey. The man didn't know how lucky he was…Jack wasn't about to smack him in the face and break his nose…he was about to crush his throat in one massive and fatal blow.
The words of some of the senior officers started to drift into his consciousness. They were looking at him with sympathy, telling him he needed to calm down, take some time, they understood what he was going through.
Understood? They didn't understand…they couldn't…none of them. They couldn't possibly fathom what he'd just lost. The fight went out of him. It was too late. He should have killed the son of a bitch ages ago, when it still mattered. Now it didn't matter.
Jack turned away from them and left without another word.
It was raining. It wasn't raining the last time.
The last time he'd driven this road she was seated in the passenger seat next to him. And she'd told him about her first road trip as a child, when her mother was still alive and they did things together that families did. What else? What other stories did she never get the chance to tell him? Would he never get the chance to hear?
The trees flew by his window. The rain pelted down heavily making it hard to see even with the windscreen wipers on full. He pushed his foot down harder on the ignition.
The tyres crunched as he drove over the loose stones and parked the car in front of the cabin. It was a sound he usually relished. Familiar and comforting because it meant he had reached his destination; his refuge, the one place on Earth he loved above all others. He didn't hear it this time.
He went inside. She had taken the ship, she had finished it. He had no doubts that she would, after all if it wasn't for her Earth wouldn't even have any ships. And how did they repay her? By letting her have a half finished one. They'd said it was her choice to go up against Michael in defence of these worlds; she was under no orders to do so. He remembered the determined look in her eyes when the situation had first developed. He'd known she wouldn't abandon her people. He'd known she would never be able to sit idly by, safe and comfortable in Atlantis, while whole worlds were being annihilated. It was against her nature to do that when she knew she could help them given a chance. He didn't like it. But he hadn't said anything because he knew in her situation he would have done the same. She was more like him than he'd liked sometimes. But he was so damn proud of her.
It was getting dark and the temperature had dropped but he didn't start a fire in the fire place. He only switched on one lamp. The one by the living room chair that was her favourite seat during her first trip here. He sat in the chair and stared at the dark, cold hearth…some ashes still remained from the last time they were here. He had tried to ask her to appoint someone else to command the Phoenix, but she had argued that there was no one else experienced and qualified enough. She was right, so he'd let it go.
The sun rose. It was high in the sky; the rain well and truly dried up before he raised his eyes from the fireplace and glanced out of a window. He rose from the chair and stepped outside.
The backyard was just as they'd left it. The sun beat down on his back covered only in a thin black t-shirt, but he didn't feel the warmth of it. He didn't notice the sparks it made as it shone over the rippling water of the pond. He moved toward the small dock by the pond where they'd fished together. The chairs weren't there now…they would never be there again he knew.
He didn't want to fish anymore.
He stepped onto the wooden planks. She used to sit on the edge of the deck sometimes and dangle her bare feet in the water, making little splashes as she swung her legs. Sometimes he would join her. Sitting behind her with his legs hanging either side of her, his arms wound around her and his nose buried in her neck. They'd hardly speak a word. Just sit there together while the sun set or watch the little insects dart about over the water. He stepped off the dock and made his way back toward the cabin.
The door to their bedroom was open, the bed slightly ruffled because they hadn't wanted to waste their short time together changing sheets when they'd just have to do it again the next time they were here. He lay on top of the bed covers. Somewhere in his mind a faint nagging spoke to him of food and water. But he wasn't hungry or thirsty. He rolled onto his side and his gaze landed on the pillow on her side of the bed. It was pushed up against his own because he couldn't have her in his bed without holding her. It had surprised him. He wasn't a cuddler. Or at least he'd never been before. He'd always wanted his space when he slept. Didn't like to be touched; to hold or be held. And then there was Sam. He'd reached for her their very first night together - right here in this bed - and she'd slid willingly over to him, curling herself into his side with her head resting on his chest and her hair tickling his nose. His arms wrapped around her securely and he'd held every night they were together since. If she moved, he moved with her even in his sleep and kept her in his embrace until they woke up still tangled together. He couldn't remember if he'd ever told her that he never used to be a cuddler. He grabbed her pillow and held it to his chest, pressing his nose into it. There hadn't been enough nights together, not nearly enough. He closed his eyes as he inhaled…maybe he could still smell her, enjoy her scent one more time. But it had been too long since they were last here so he opened his eyes and stared at the empty bed.
As he lay there he was vaguely aware that at some point it had gotten dark but now the sun was filtering through the drapes and right into his eyes making him blink. He released her pillow and sat up, dragging a hand trough his hair and over his pallid face, the growth on his cheeks and chin scratching his palm.
He went outside again. The outdoors had been his favourite part of the cabin, but now he didn't notice the luscious trees or the eagle soaring in the sky. He gazed instead at the soft grass under his booted feet. It was a smallish patch right by the pond. He was sure it had been greener once. She used to like to lie on her back in the soft grass, basking in the warmth of the late spring sunshine as she read a book. He lay with her, his head resting comfortably on her stomach, playing on his game-boy as she read. She'd told him once that he'd taught her how to relax…how to do absolutely nothing and enjoy it. Had he ever told her all the things she'd taught him?
He lay down in his usual place only this time there was no soft belly to cushion his head. He stared unblinking at the sky but he still didn't see the eagle or hear its shrill cry echoing off the mountains.
The sun dropped beneath the horizon. One by one the stars winked into life until they lit up the sky. He didn't pick out the constellations he knew so well. He didn't direct his gaze toward Pegasus as the Earth turned and the stars moved across the sky. He didn't shiver as the temperature dropped before the sun rose again to dry up the dew that had formed on the grass around him. He didn't shield his eyes from the sun as it reached its zenith. He didn't notice the falling star streak across the dark, twinkling sky.
All he could see was the sad smile on her beautiful face. All he could hear was her voice breathing his name. All he could feel was the hard ground under his head where she should be, his arms empty and his chest hollow.
As the moon gave way to the grey of the morning Jack O'Neill opened his mouth and whispered the first word he'd uttered in days.
"Sam…" His eyes fluttered and slowly closed. His chest heaved with a strangled breath and deflated.
And he was still.