The Still Point
Sam lasts months and months longer than she expects. Almost a whole year. She's not even sure what the final push was, whether it was yet one more person looking at her in shock out of the corner of their eye or something as stupid and cliché as the sound of the incessant rain thunking hollowly against her single windowpane.
It rains a hell of a lot in her new fake life.
She really hopes that isn't what finally drove her here. He would have found it far too mundane. They were supposed to be above mundane.
They were supposed to be a lot of things.
And one day, when Sam inevitably became known as a dead hero, it was at least supposed to be for something she'd actually done, not the actions of a woman who'd grasped her dreams only to crash and burn.
She wonders if her father is proud.
But then her mind wanders towards her mother and she refuses to go there. Even Sam recognizes the necessity of limiting curiosity in the name of self-preservation.
Shaking her head, she crosses her arms and focuses back on the forbidden scene in front of her. Through branches of overgrown oleander, Sam watches a young man wash his car in a driveway across the street. There's some unintelligible music blaring out of the open garage and she wonders if this is the guy's first car, the way he polishes it so reverently, not missing the tiniest spot.
His hair is too long, continually falling into his eyes.
She's smiling without realizing it, the gesture foreign, but nice. She has no reason to, but she likes him. Likes the look of him. He feels right, somehow.
She's not sure if that makes things better, or just more painful.
But then Sam's sucking in a breath, pressing further back into the bush as her heart squeezes painfully. Daring to peek again, she sees the other figure coming down the front walk.
She knew he would be here. She knew that and still isn't ready for it.
But hadn't this been the whole point of this little trip? So much for not letting curiosity bite her in the ass.
She watches him scoop up a newspaper from the curb, stopping to say something to his son, the kid rolling his eyes. They're both grinning.
Sam stumbles a bit as she turns away, having seen more than enough.
Maybe she just needed to see this, as much as it tears her apart. She can't feel bad for either of them when she's looking at that, because in many, many ways she knows this reality is better for him.
He's better off never having known her.
"You shouldn't be here."
She doesn't jump at the sound of his voice and she has to wonder if she always intended to get caught. Maybe that was the real point of this trip.
"I know," she says, not looking at him. She practically has each heinous word of her non-disclosure agreement memorized.
Do not contact anyone. Do not work. Do not live in any way the might actually have consequence.
Do not make any sudden or meaningful movements.
And she hasn't. Not until today. She's been the pinnacle of stillness.
She barely exists.
"Do I need to make a call?" He's using the gruff, mistrustful voice he reserved for politicians and Tok'ra.
She sighs, forcing herself to remember that this man thinks she's a crackpot, and hell, who blames him? He just found her stalking him at his house. Not to mention that's she supposed to be dead.
But so is he.
"No," she says, finally turning to look at him, and it's just as much of a punch to the gut as she feared. He looks good. Unburdened. Lighter than hers ever could have been. "I'm not trying to cause trouble."
She hates that she sounds breathless. Shaky.
His anger notches down at her tone, now looking at her with pity that makes her skin crawl. "Look, Ma'am—."
She cuts him off, reaching up to touch his face, and to his credit, he doesn't flinch at the unexpected contact, just stands there and lets her slide her fingers across his cheek, touch his hair.
"Please don't call me that," she says.
She can see the moment the connection finally clicks into place for him and she almost smiles at the beat of panic on his face. Apparently unexpected emotional displays make him uncomfortable in any timeline.
Reaching up, he pulls her hand from his face, patting the back of it in a placating way that makes her want to wince. "As flattering as this is…," he says, trying to make a joke out of it.
It's so classically him, but it feels like a slap to the face. He's still staring at her like she's a stranger. She jerks her hand out of his grasp, and he grimaces, probably realizing his misstep.
Sobering, he levels a serious gaze on her. "That was never me."
Her anger evaporates, leaving nothing behind but hollow burning in her chest.
"I know," she says, hugging her arms across herself. "I'm sorry."
He shakes his head. "You three lost a lot. I get that. But…you have to let this go."
It's not just Jack they're asking her to forget though. It's everything that has ever defined her. She thinks with the rest of it, or hell, maybe if they'd left her even one tiny part, she might have been able to survive this. But she has no career, no purpose, no Daniel, no Cam.
"It's not that easy," she says.
He nods, shoving his hands in his pockets and, God, she wants to touch him again. "You can't come back here again," he says.
He's giving her a pass, this time. He won't report her. If that's meant as leniency, he's misjudged. For her, the status quo is prison enough.
"I understand," she says, as good as giving her word.
"Okay," he says, giving her an awkward sort of nod in farewell before turning his back on her.
She knows this is it. She won't see him again.
"Jack," she says, stopping him before he can cross the street.
He pauses, looking warily back over his shoulder at her.
She takes a deep breath. "It probably doesn't mean much, but I'm happy for you," she says, a small smile on her lips. "This is a good life."
He's surprised by her words, something shifting in his expression, but she has to turn and walk away. It doesn't matter how familiar he feels. He's not.
He stands on the driveway next to his son as she gets in her car and drives away.
Three weeks later, she's in a parking lot when an al'kesh dips low into the sky, buzzing right over the rooftops, releasing in her a rush of something like relief.
She knows, watching it, that time's run out on this endless limbo they want her to call a life. This world will need her, whether they know it or not. Need all three of them.
She thinks briefly of Jack's perfect life as she reaches into her pocket for her phone. Maybe she can't ever be anything to him. Maybe she doesn't have the right to change things back to what they were.
But at the very least, she can safeguard this for him. For both of them.
She hears the line connect and, mercifully, there's no more time for thought.
She's back in motion.