Jack sat very still, almost numb, as he scanned the letter once again. He could hardly believe that after eight years, Samantha Carter would no longer be in his life. He had gotten so used to having her around every day. Now he wouldn't get to see her smile, hear her voice, watch her work in her lab or see her face light up when she deciphered some alien technology.
He lay the letter down beside him and put his elbows on his knees as he ran his hand over his face to keep from crying and tried to catch his breath.
He ran into the bedroom to get his cell phone where he had left it on the dresser. He wanted to call Sam but stopped himself and put the phone in his pocket.
Wandering back into the kitchen, he stopped for a drink of water, then sat back down on the sofa, trying to think. Did she really want to leave? Should he go to her house and try to talk her into staying or just leave her alone?
He knew he loved her but was she right? Had they left it too long? Would they just be hanging on to something that was no longer there? Had they just taken each other for granted and felt that they would somehow always be in each other's life?
She said she had talked with Daniel and Teal'c. What had she told them? Did they know if she wanted him to come after her?
He got the phone from his pocket and punched Daniel's number. He began to pace as he waited for him to answer.
Jack realized he couldn't speak when he heard his voice.
"Hello" Daniel repeated.
"Daniel . . . I . . . can you . . ."
"Jack? Are you okay?"
"No" was the only word he could manage to say as tears started down his cheeks.
"Hang on, Jack. I'll get Teal'c. We'll be right there."
He closed the phone and went out on the deck. Looking up at the twinkling stars, he stuck his hands in his pockets as he tried not to cry.
He thought over all the events that Sam had mentioned in her letter. The one that stood out most was the zatarc test. She was right, they should have discussed their feelings for each other then but they had not, and he realized what a huge mistake they both had made in not doing so. Tears moistened his eyes as he quickly ran his fingers over his eyes.
He went back inside and just as he closed the door he heard knocking. He started toward the door but Daniel didn't wait for him to answer and came on in. Daniel and Teal'c came down the steps and Daniel wrapped his arms around him.
Daniel held on tightly to his friend. "I'm sorry, Jack."
Jack tried not to cry but the tears came anyway.
They stood there for several moments, no one saying a word.
Feeling embarrassed by his tears, Jack pulled away from Daniel and quickly wiped his face.
Teal'c sat down in a chair as Jack sat down on the end of the sofa, Daniel sat at the other and noticed a letter on the cushion between them.
Daniel and Teal'c waited patiently for Jack to say something.
Jack clasped his hands together and stared at the floor. "She's leaving and she isn't coming back."
"We know" Daniel said softly. "She told us bye this afternoon at the SGC."
Jack glared at Daniel. "You knew she was going to do this? Why didn't you tell me?"
"We didn't know she wanted to leave until you were already in Washington. We were as shocked as you are. Teal'c and I thought Sam would always be at the SGC, she loved her job. But after she gave us her reasons, we do understand why she wants to leave."
"What reasons did she give you?"
"The reason being that she's in love with you, but she thinks it's too late, that you will never have your chance to be together. You're now the commander of the base and she just got promoted so if she stayed, she'd still be in your direct chain of command. She's afraid that's the way it will always be and she's tired of waiting for something that is probably never going to happen."
"You sure she's not getting back together with Shanahan?"
Daniel shook his head. "No. That's definitely over, Jack. She probably wants a break from all men right now."
Tears came to Jack's eyes again. "Do you think I should go after her?"
"I do not think that would be a wise course to follow, O'Neill" Teal'c answered. "She is very determined to make a new life for herself."
Jack stood up and looked out the window into the darkness. "She said she's going to NASA. When has she even had time to interview with NASA?"
Daniel set up on the edge of the sofa. "Do you remember those days she asked to take off right after we came back from your cabin? When she said she had something personal to take care of and you told her she could have the time off? That's when she had the interview in Houston."
"I thought she just needed more time to adjust to the broken engagement and Jacob's death. Are you sure you didn't know then?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"No, Jack. As I said, we didn't know about any of this. She had already accepted the job by the time she told us. She caught us completely by surprise. I'm sorry this has happened. I know you're upset and you want to talk to her but please don't. She asked us not to urge you to go after her. She has lived with these feelings for you for a long time and it really upsets her to think that after eight years nothing is ever going to change."
Jack sat back down. "I want her to be happy but am I just supposed to let her go?"
Daniel put his hand on Jack's shoulder. "Teal'c and I respect her wishes and we think you should too. If she changes her mind and decides not to leave or if she does and wants to come back, it has to be her decision."
Jack ran his hand across his face. "Do you know when she's leaving?"
"Tuesday morning. She's renting an apartment in Houston and she has arranged for movers to take everything."
"Do you think we let it go too long?"
Daniel dropped his head to his chest for a moment before looking back at Jack. He had never seen Jack look so frightened. "Yes, I do. I think your best chance to have been together was right after the zatarc test. To be honest about it, Teal'c and I were surprised that one of you didn't resign from the Air Force then."
Jack ran his hand through his hair. "We should have. One of us should have."
Teal'c spoke. "You need time to process this, O'Neill, but please, for Colonel Carter's sake and yours, do not contact her."
"Do you want us to stay here tonight?" Daniel asked.
Jack shook his head. "No, I want to be alone."
"Okay, we'll go" Daniel said as he and Teal'c stood up. "Call me if you need to talk or if you need us we'll come back. Right, Teal'c?"
Teal'c put his hand on Jack's shoulder. "Indeed."
Jack watched them go up the steps and out the door.
Daniel and Teal'c got into the car. Daniel sat there for a moment staring at Jack's house, then turned to Teal'c.
"I haven't seen Jack this distraught since Charlie died. Was it right for us to discourage him from going after Sam? They'll be miserable without each other. I know Sam thinks it's too late, but is it? Should we go talk to her again?"
Teal'c turned his head to look at Daniel. "I think it would be wise to heed Colonel Carter's words. It has to be her decision should she decide to talk with O'Neill."
"I guess you're right" Daniel said sadly as he started the car and drove away.
Back inside the house, Jack picked up the letter and wandered into the bedroom. He turned on the lamp, got undressed and lay down on the bed. After reading the letter again, he put it on the nightstand and stared at the ceiling as a tear slid down the side of his face. Turning off the lamp, he pulled a pillow to him and hugged it as he began to cry.
Memories flooded his mind of when they had first met; when he slowly realized that he was falling in love with Sam; the respect for her that had grown the longer they knew each other; when she had broken his heart by showing him an engagement ring and when his heart had soared when he learned that Sam had broken that engagement.
He thought back to just recently when he finally convinced her to go to his cabin. Sam sat on his dock wearing a sun dress as she swung her bare feet above the water with her hands propped behind her as she enjoyed the sunshine on her face. She had never looked more beautiful, feminine and relaxed as she had then and that image of her would be imprinted forever on his mind.
He had lay awake most of the night thinking about Sam's letter, too upset to sleep. The last time he had looked at the clock it had read 3:30. He rolled over and stared at the clock again which now read 7:05. He had slept just a few hours. He wondered if life was even worth getting out of bed for.
He was glad he didn't have to go back to the base today, Colonel Reynolds was in charge until Monday morning.
Finally getting up, he had just finished getting dressed when his cell phone rang. It was Daniel.
"Jack, just wanted to see if you want to get some breakfast. You probably haven't eaten since yesterday, have you?"
"No, I haven't."
"I'll be by in about twenty minutes."
"I'll meet you out front."
Daniel drove up in Jack's driveway to see him sitting on the front steps and as Jack came walking toward him, he could see how pale he was and guessed he had slept very little. Jack got into the car.
"No, I'm not okay, Daniel, but what am I supposed to do?"
Daniel backed up the car and headed to the road. "I wish . . ."
Daniel sighed. "I don't know . . . I just wish this whole situation had turned out differently."
Jack stared straight ahead. "So do I."
After they finished eating breakfast, they sat talking over coffee.
"You want to go talk to her, don't you?"
Jack took a sip of coffee, then set down the mug. "Part of me does . . . but part of me . . . no, I won't. I love her, Daniel, I really do and my life will be empty without her . . . but . . . if this is what she wants . . ." Jack choked back the tears as he turned his head to look out the window.
Daniel gave Jack time to gather his thoughts.
Jack swallowed the lump in his throat. "I love her enough to let her go. If she comes back on her own, then fine, and if she doesn't, well, it won't be the first time I've had to deal with someone leaving that I love. At least this time, it isn't someone I was married to."
"But this hurts just as much doesn't it?"
Jack stared at the table. "More."
After breakfast, Daniel took Jack back to his house and stopped in his driveway.
"Want me to stick around?" Daniel offered.
Jack shook his head. "No. I'd rather be by myself right now."
Daniel looked at his friend for a several moments, wondering if it would be better for Jack to have some company.
"Are you sure? I don't mind staying."
Jack tried to smile. "I'll be okay. Thanks for breakfast. I'll see you tomorrow."
Daniel watched as Jack went inside his house and closed the door before driving away.
Jack wandered out to the deck and sat down in a chair. He looked at the spot where Sam had stood not long ago. She had been so nervous when she had come here to tell him her feelings, but stood frozen when Kerry had interrupted their conversation. He could still picture Sam as she closed her eyes and realized why Kerry was there.
Kerry had realized his feelings for Sam and he knew it was for the best when she broke off their relationship, a relationship that had barely begun.
He knew that if Kerry had not been at his house that day, he and Sam would have had that conversation he had waited so long to have with her.
When they were at his cabin, he wanted to talk to Sam then, but she was still mourning her father and the broken engagement. He wanted to give her time to adjust to both of those events before starting a romantic relationship with him. Not until he read her letter, did he know that she had been waiting for him to talk to her the whole time they were there. Now it was too late. They would never have their chance.
He put his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands together as tears started down his cheeks. He let the tears come, knowing this would be one of the few times he would allow himself this emotional release. The pain was overwhelming. After a few minutes, he took deep breaths and choked back the sobs as he wiped his face.
It was all he could do to not get into his truck and go see her, but after having talked with Daniel and Teal'c, he knew it was best that he leave her alone.
"If this is what you really want, Sam, I'll let you go" he whispered.
Jack dreaded going back to work, knowing he would be reminded of Sam everywhere he went on the base, but maybe keeping busy would help.
He arrived to find Siler and Walter whispering outside his office.
Walter and Siler jumped at the sound of his voice and stood up straight.
"Sir" both men said together.
"Something I can do for you?"
"Is it true, sir?" Walter asked.
"Is what true?"
Siler took a step toward Jack. "Is it true that Colonel Carter left the SGC?"
Jack walked between them as he entered his office and the two men followed. "Yes, it's true" he answered as he sat down at his desk.
Walter's eyes grew large. "But why, sir?"
"She had her reasons, Walter, reasons that I am not at liberty to discuss."
"You can't tell us anything?" Siler asked.
"No. Now I think we should get to work."
Siler and Walter looked at each other, then at Jack.
"I'll miss her" Walter said.
Siler shook his head. "Won't be the same place without her."
They turned and left his office and Jack watched as they went down the stairs. He sighed deeply, stood up and closed the door.
After repeating himself to so many people when asked about Sam, he finally sent an e-mail to everyone on the base, explaining that she had accepted a new position with NASA in Houston.
His phone rang just as he picked up a memo from the stack of papers on his desk.
"Tell me this is some kind of joke."
"Oh. No joke, sir. How did you find out?"
"I arrived at work this morning to find a courier waiting for me to sign for a confidential envelope. When I opened it, I could hardly believe my eyes. Sam sent me a copy of her resignation with a note to tell me she's going to Houston. What happened?"
"When I got back to my house Saturday evening, I found her resignation and a letter she had written to me. She had her reasons for wanting to leave, sir."
"She was that unhappy?"
"Well . . . yes, sir."
There was a long pause.
"Jack . . . son . . . let's talk off the record and don't worry about what we're saying. I'm on a secure phone and I know the phone you're talking on is secure, so let's not beat around the bush."
"She left because of her relationship, or lack thereof, with you. Correct?"
Jack closed his eyes. "Yes, sir."
"Then go after her, Jack!"
"I can't, sir."
"She thinks it's too late for us."
Moments passed in silence.
"You know, it was Jacob's wish that you two be together."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "It was?"
"Yes, it was. He always knew how you and Sam felt about each other and so do I."
Jack rubbed his forehead. "I can't help that, George. I admit that I love her, I have for a very long time. But she explained a lot of things in her letter, some of them private, and as I said, I'm going to do as she asked and not contact her. I don't like it, but I respect her wishes."
"Do you want me to talk to her? I know a few people at NASA in Houston. I could use one of them as an excuse to visit and make a point of seeing her while I'm there."
"No sir, please don't. She has made up her mind. I want her to be happy so just let it go."
"Okay, if this is what you want."
"It isn't what I want, George, it's what she wants."
"I'm sorry. I know this must be very upsetting to you."
Tears came to Jack's eyes as he tightly grasped the pen in his hand. "You don't know how much, George, but I won't do anything to change the situation. It's up to her whether or not she ever comes back."
"Okay, Jack. I'll talk with you later."
It was early Tuesday morning as Jack sat in his truck, parked down the street from Sam's house, far enough away that he hoped she wouldn't notice. He had to see her one last time.
He watched as the moving men loaded furniture onto a truck, but so far he hadn't seen Sam come out of her house . . . until now.
His heart jumped to his throat.
She was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt as she handed a box to one of the men inside the truck.
Sam went back inside and came out carrying another box and put it in the back seat of her car. She returned to the house, came out carrying two suitcases and put those in the trunk.
She went inside the house again as two men jumped from the back of the truck and closed the doors. Sam and another man came out of the house. He handed Sam a clipboard to sign something, then she gave it back to him. The three men got into the truck and drove away.
Sam closed the front door and went down the steps, then turned to look back. She stood very still for several moments. She walked to her car, got in and stared out the window. Jack watched as she began to cry.
Jack tightly gripped the steering wheel. It was all he could do not to jump from his truck, run to her and beg her not to go. Tears filled his eyes as he tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He watched as she wiped her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She fastened her seatbelt, started the car and drove away.
With his heart breaking, he stared at her car until it went around a corner and out of sight. He wanted to go after her but he remembered what she said in her letter: "I can't face you any more, Jack, it hurts too much." In a few moments, he wiped his eyes and sat there thinking about what might have been.
After several minutes of trying to compose himself, he started his truck and went in the opposite direction that Sam had gone, knowing that he would have to live the rest of his life . . . without her.
A/N: Someone on this website suggested I write a story where Jack and Sam do not get together. I am a HUGE shipper so this was hard to write and not give them a happy ending, but as we all know, relationships do not always work out the way we want them to. Sam will not be coming back and Jack will not go after her. Thanks for reading.