Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or settings of Stargate SG-1. I'm just a peaceful explorer stepping into their universe.

The following is set in Season 4 as an addition to the episode "Divide and Conquer."


Love Divided; Not Conquered

Because I care about her...a lot more than I'm supposed to. The words still echoed through Jack O'Neill's mind as he sat alone in the dark room. It was the closest he'd ever come to acknowledging how he felt about Carter, and it was more than he'd ever thought he would hear himself admit aloud. The fact that she shared those feelings only made things more difficult. Sir, none of this has to leave this room.

"Yeah right," he muttered under his breath. The moment he'd seen her cradling Martouf's dead body, Jack had known that his feelings wouldn't remain in that room no matter how valiantly he tried to bar the door. The sadness in her eyes had tugged at him, urging him to do something – anything to make the situation better. The fact that the 'gate room was filled with the secret service, the Tok'ra, and what amounted to half the SGC personnel had held him in check. And so he'd stood there, silently cursing their presence while wanting nothing more than to cross the few feet between them – it had felt more like a chasm – and hold her. Oh yeah, keeping the lid on this particular Pandora's Box was going to be just peachy.

He could do it; the job demanded it, and he'd done worse things for his country. He could push aside his personal feelings for Carter. He could banish them to the far reaches of his mind where he buried the sentiments that he wasn't ready to face. He'd done it countless times before, and this would be no different. Duty required it, but not tonight. Before he clamped down the top of Panda-bear's Box, Jack had a personal assignment to complete. And so he sat in the dark, waiting…

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Samantha Carter had nearly run out of the Cheyenne Mountain complex once her shift had ended. Daniel had been busy with the President and the Supreme High Counselor of the Tok'ra, while Teal'c had been assisting Freya in readying Martouf's body for transport back to Vorash. Sam wasn't certain where the Colonel had disappeared to, but she hadn't taken the time to analyze his probable whereabouts. She had needed an escape, and so she'd taken the opportunity to leave the moment it presented itself.

Sam was headed home, away from the SGC and away from the sympathetic gazes of her co-workers. A majority of the base's personnel knew of her connection to Martouf, though none of them could fully comprehend her loss. Sam wasn't even sure she understood it herself. She'd lost friends before, but in addition to his friendship, the memories of Jolinar's feelings for Martouf overwhelmed her. It was as if she were actually mourning for the loss of a friend while another part of her mind mourned the loss of a love she'd never felt yet still remembered.

The weight of her grief was only intensified by the knowledge that the one person she wanted to look to for comfort was beyond her reach. Because I care about her... those simple words had spoken volumes. He'd cared enough to go through with the procedure, knowing that it would most likely kill him. If it happens he thinks Anise can use what she would learn to save you, Daniel's words echoed through her mind as she turned onto the road that led to her subdivision.

Because I care about her... a lot more than I'm supposed to. The Air Force demanded that they keep a cool line of professionalism between them, but Sam hadn't cared about regulations when she'd seen Colonel O'Neill marching down the hall to die for her. She'd have gladly tossed them to the wind in the embarkation room as well. Holding Martouf's lifeless body in her arms, she'd wanted nothing more than to seek comfort from her CO after she'd calmly told him she would have no problem leaving her feelings in the isolation room where they'd been tested.

"Let me know how that works out for you?" she murmured to herself, managing a decent impersonation of the Colonel's sarcasm as her vehicle turned onto her block. Sam pulled into her parking space and stared out the window at her dark house. She'd sought refuge from the SGC, but now that she stared at her home, an overwhelming sense of loneliness assailed her. With a sigh, she got out and headed for the front door. Her chaotic emotions were doing a number on her nerves. She could feel the tears starting to surface, and she found herself sniffling to hold them back as she fumbled with her keys. Taking a deep breath, Sam paused to push down the lump in her throat before fitting the key to the lock and opening her door. Once inside, she locked the door once more and moved across the dark living room, opting for the soft glow of her table lamp instead of the bright ceiling light that would seem harsh to her already watery eyes. She bent down to turn on the lamp and then froze as its light permeated the room, illuminating the figure on her couch. "Colonel!"

"Major." The titles hung between them like a barrier, a steady reminder of protocol. She wanted to ask what he was doing in her living room, but his gaze told her all she needed to know. He was doing a damage assessment, making sure the pressures of the day hadn't taken too much of a toll. Normally, Sam would have assured the Colonel that she was fine, but she couldn't force the words past her lips while held by his searching look. For several heartbeats, they remained in silence before Colonel O'Neill reached his hand out to her.

"Sam." He spoke her name in a tone so soft it sounded like a caress. "C'mere." In that moment, all thought of protocol flew out the door. Sam took his hand and let him pull her down into his embrace. The moment his arms wrapped around her, she felt an emotional liberation. Curled up against the Colonel, she was finally free to let go of the torrent that she'd held in check all evening.

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Jack hadn't said a word as Carter poured out her hurt and grief in a stream of tears that'd soaked the front of his shirt. He'd never been great when it came to these kinds of discussions; that was Daniel's area of expertise. But O'Neill found that he needn't have worried about what to say. Once the storm of emotion had passed, Carter drifted off to sleep in his arms. For a while, he sat holding her, enjoying the way she seemed to fit perfectly into his embrace. But, as the minutes ticked by, Jack realized that he couldn't stay there forever – no matter how much a part of him might like to – and he definitely could not stay there until morning. If anything, he needed to find that lid to Panda-bear's Box and jam it back in place.

Reluctantly, he lifted Carter into his arms and stood. He'd familiarized himself with the house's layout when he'd first come through the back door, and so finding his way to her room was not a problem. Once there, he gently lowered her down onto the bed and turned to go before his gaze fell on her feet. No one deserved the torment of sleeping in a real bed while wearing regulation boots. Moving to the foot of the bed, he quickly removed them while suppressing a grin as he imagined the look he would have gotten from Teal'c had the Jaffa caught him undoing Carter's boots. Jack retrieved a lap blanket that was draped over the back of what appeared to be a reading chair and decided not to entertain the thought of what Daniel would say were he to find his friend tenderly putting the Major to bed. Neither one of them could know, though he suspected they knew enough already.

Making one more visual sweep to ensure that Carter was comfortable, Jack quietly left the room and retreated to the living room. There he turned off the lamp, once more plunging the room into darkness, before heading back to the door through which he'd first entered her house. Tomorrow, they would go back to work, saving the world from the Goa'uld. Personal feelings couldn't get in the way of standing orders; not when the standing orders were vital to the planet's survival. So, with a determination born of necessity, Jack clamped down on his feelings for Carter and shoved them back into the far reaches of his mind as he disappeared into the night; a silent shadow passing in the dark.

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THE END

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