A Promise Is A Promise
Category: Romance/Missing Scene/Angst
Summary: Jacob leaves a parting gift for his daughter.
Disclaimer: SG-1 and its characters are not my property. I have written this story for the enjoyment of Stargate SG-1 fans all over the world. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary gain is expected.
"Carter?" Jack called, interrupting Sam's undoubtedly gloomy reverie and making her jump a little.
"Sir!" she responded as if coming out of a dream, which Jack was sure was more like a nightmare.
One moment Sam had been picking flowers for her wedding and the next she was by her father's bedside, hearing him admit that he was dying along with his symbiote. Now here she was, watching her dad slowly slip away while she helplessly watched through the observation window, which afforded her a front row seat to his private agony.
"Thank you for coming, Sir," she said, tiredly standing up and coming to stand before Jack. He immediately took in her grief-ravaged features. Her father was asleep and she had obviously been waiting for him to wake up, silently watching and crying her eyeballs out.
"Something I can do, Carter?" Jack asked, eager to alleviate her burden in any way he could. He wanted to reach out and wipe her wet cheeks, engulf her in his arms and hold her tightly, but he didn't make a move. She nodded as she wiped her eyes and sniffed, saving the rest of her tears for later, when she could be alone. She did not look straight at him, but kept glancing either at his chest or his shoulder, clearly uncomfortable, and his heart broke for her a little more.
He felt awkward about what Sam had just found out about him, and he didn't really know how she really felt about it. Finding out he had a secret lover must have been a shock, even if she didn't love him anymore. But the fact that she had come to him, attempting to discuss her second thoughts about her wedding, made him suspect — and hope — that she wasn't completely over her feelings for him even if she was about to marry someone else, therefore his unease in facing her now. He felt guilty about Kerry, even if he shouldn't.
"Dad has given a go ahead to the Tok'ra to come and pay their respects," Sam informed him, now completely in control despite the nasal sound of her voice, the red-rimmed eyes and the dripping nose.
"I'll let Walter know," Jack immediately responded, but he knew that this wasn't the reason she had called for him. She could have instructed Walter to send the message to the Tok'ra herself, so he just stood there, waiting for the rest.
"He also asked to speak to you… in private," she hesitatingly said. She sounded discomfited, making Jack wonder whether she knew what her father wanted to discuss with him. "I think he wants to say goodbye," she suggested with a trembling lower lip. "He is very fond of you," she smiled affectionately, meeting his eyes briefly.
"I care for your dad quite a bit, too, Carter," Jack sadly admitted. He was truly going to miss the guy, and he had even learned to like the Tok'ra inside him. Selmak had been a breath of fresh air considering he was a snake.
"I know," she softly replied, nodding shyly. Her simple admission provoked a flare of tenderness that he was hard-pressed to ignore, which encouraged Jack to finally bite the bullet.
"Listen, Carter," he awkwardly began, "About yesterday at my place…"
"It's none of my business, Sir. And I really apologize for intruding," she interrupted, lowering her gaze to the floor.
"No need to apologize. You're welcome anytime, you know that," he sincerely expressed. "What I meant to say was…"
"Please, Sir," she finally looked at him with pleading eyes and Jack could clearly see the sorrow reflected there, making him wonder whether it was all due to her father's imminent passing or if he had unintentionally added to it. His soul ached to believe that her pain was due in part to still having some tender feelings for her old CO. "You don't need to explain. As a matter of fact… I'd rather you didn't," she begged.
"Okay," he almost whispered. He really didn't want to upset her more than she already was. There would be time for explanations later.
Sam looked at the floor again as if gathering up her courage, then she bravely looked at him with a warm smile. "I'm glad you're not alone," she surprisingly said.
"I always worried about you. I guess I should have known better," she explained, but Jack didn't know whether she was being reproachful or sincere. The pain in her voice made it difficult to tell. "I'm just really sorry that I intruded and ruined…"
"Carter, stop," he ordered in a firm voice, which made her pause. "It's over."
"What?" Sam blinked, looking confused.
"Kerry dumped me this morning. It's over, and it really wasn't… serious or anything," he determinedly elaborated. He wanted her to understand. He didn't want her to believe for even a second that his affections could have possibly been given to anyone else, even if she had moved on without him.
"Oh!" she said, clearly taken aback but sounding relieved. "I'm… sorry," she uncertainly added.
"Are you?" he challenged, making her wince and look away, which made him realize he was being an insensitive ass. "Listen, forget about that. What's important now is your dad."
"Yeah," she nodded in agreement, gazing at a stirring Jacob through the glass window. "He's waking up again. You should talk to him. He keeps drifting off after a few minutes, and I don't know how much longer…"
Sam tried to smile at him again, but failed miserably. Then, taking a deep breath, she said, "Thank you for coming right away. I'll wait in my lab until you're done."
"All right," Jack nodded, then stepped aside to let her exit the room before him.
Watching her walk away, her head down and her shoulders stooped with sadness, he again wanted to go to her and take her in his arms, but Jack resolutely turned toward the next door and entered Jacob's private room instead.
"Hey, Jacob," he greeted the older man, who promptly turned toward him and attempted to smile.
"Jack," he hoarsely said. "Glad you could make it."
"Wild horses, Dad," he lightly bantered as he took a stool and sat next to the former General.
"Where's Sam?" the father asked.
"She's waiting in her lab. I'll call her when we're done. She said you wanted privacy."
"I do. I wanted to make sure she wasn't anywhere close… listening to us," the older man explained, attempting to sit up as he looked at the window facing his bed, but then grimaced with pain.
"Don't move, take it easy. Just talk to me, Jacob," Jack encouraged, now really curious.
"It's about Sam," the older man began, making Jack raise his eyebrows in surprise.
"What about her?" he asked Carter's father.
"She's making a mistake, Jack. She's marrying the wrong guy. You know that, right?" Jacob asked, coming right to the point.
"Jacob, it really isn't my place…"
"Cut the bull, Jack," the man interrupted irritably. "I don't have time for this. I may not have the heart to yell at her and order her to open her eyes, but I'm counting on you to do something about it."
"What…? What do you want me to do? I can't tell your daughter what to do with her personal life," Jack started to argue.
"Yes, you can. Just tell her how you feel!" he demanded.
"Don't let her do it, Jack. She'll be miserable without you, and I can't stand the thought of my little girl being unhappy because she couldn't set aside the rules that bind her. You need to do something about it!"
Jack closed his eyes, unable to contradict the older man. He wanted more than anything to be able to tell Sam how he felt, but she had chosen a path that led her away from him, and he had respected her decision. He had done the impossible to remain quiet as he painfully watched her steadily move on without him.
"She loves you…" Jacob started to insist, but a fit of painful coughing interrupted him.
Reaching for a glass of water from the nearby table, Jack put the straw to the sick man's lips for him to drink, the words reverberating loudly in his head. 'She loves you… She loves you… She loves you.' His heart suddenly felt lighter and he almost smiled. Maybe he hadn't been hoping in vain.
Jacob swallowed some of the liquid and leaned back down on his pillow. "Please… tell me you're going to take care of her. Promise me that you'll make my little girl happy. She needs you, Jack."
"Jacob, since when have you felt this way?" the General asked, still rather flabbergasted by the older man's request but far from upset.
"Since Netu," Jacob admitted.
To Jack's incredulous look, Jacob nodded. "I knew from before that… I knew about your feelings for each other, but it was then that I realized that you truly, truly loved her. That's when I realized that you would die for her, that you'd never hurt her, and that you belonged together," Jacob confessed.
Jack was floored, and the only word that he could utter was, "Wow." He then shook his head at the older man. "And yet… you never said anything," he said, still incredulous but happy.
"What could I have said? Not that she would have listened, but do you think I could have advised her to break the rules and pursue a relationship with you? I thought she'd eventually get to that, when we won our war, when she transferred somewhere else, when you retired, when…" he paused, taking a deep breath. "I thought we had more time."
"I hear you," Jack agreed. He had also deluded himself into believing that he had more time… until Sam had started humming. The shock and torment of that day's revelation still managed to bring renewed agony to his soul. Another man had brought music to her heart, and Jack had had to admit that he had never seen Carter act so carefree and happy, so he had forced himself to swallow his pain, take a hold of his feelings and let her go.
Now, however, he replayed his earlier phone conversation with General Hammond and thought about his options. Kerry, bless her generous heart, had been of the opinion that he should fight for Sam and retire if necessary, but Hammond had unexpectedly given him another alternative, one he was sure everyone could live with. It would mean living away from Sam and the rest of the team, but it also meant that he could finally be more to her than just her CO. And, if her unexpected visit to his place the day before meant what he hoped it meant, then maybe she was reconsidering her commitment to Shanahan and Jack still had a chance.
Jacob was still talking, sounding more and more disturbed. "But she's about to marry that cop, a man that can't possibly deserve her. She's so determined to have a normal life, someone she can go home to, that she's settling! Don't let her, Jack!" Jacob insisted, now getting outright agitated.
"Jacob, calm down," Jack urged, putting a hand on the man's shoulder and patting him a little despite his own concerns. What if Sam was just getting cold feet? What if she truly would be happier with an uncomplicated, younger man like Shanahan? What if she didn't want to give Jack a second chance after realizing that he had had an affair with another woman? What if a long distance relationship scared her into rejecting him? "I… I wish I could promise you, but…"
"No," Jake adamantly shook his head. "No buts. Do it. Tell her you love her. Break the rules, leave the Air Force, do whatever it takes… but don't let her go, Jack. You'll both be very sorry later."
Jack stared at Carter's dad for a long moment, assimilating the man's words and realizing that his approval and encouragement did make a heck of a difference. And he was right. He knew that he would always be sorry for letting Sam go. Talking to Sam and asking her to reconsider her promise to Shanahan somehow didn't seem so selfish anymore. He had to at least try. Heck! Maybe he wouldn't ask at all. Maybe he would just tell her!
"I promise," he heard himself say. "I promise, Jacob," he reassured the man, who immediately smiled and nodded in gratefulness, a relieved sigh escaping his parted lips.
"Thank you, Jack. You're going to be very happy, believe me. She's… she's a wonderful kid," the dying man softly said, his eyes tearing up with emotion.
"You don't have to tell me that. I know just how wonderful she is. That's why it's hard for me to believe that you're letting her settle for someone like me," Jack honestly responded, which made Jacob's smile wider.
"You're the best man for her, Jack. I have no doubt of that. No one will love her and take care of her better than you… and she'll never love another man the way she loves you," he replied with complete conviction.
"Jeez, Jake! I've got to say that you've really surprised me here!" Jack chuckled, shaking his head at the smiling older man.
"I'm glad I still can surprise someone. It's been pretty boring living with a know-it-all in your head," he grinned.
"Well… Selmak has an unfair advantage," Jack agreed.
"Get her back, Jack," Jake earnestly prompted, becoming serious again.
"I'll try, Jacob," Jack honestly promised, but still wondered whether he really could convince Sam to change her mind about her wedding. Jacob could be wrong. "But… how can you be so sure that she… loves me… and not Shanahan?"
Jacob sighed, rolling his eyes. "I met the guy. I saw them together. She's fond of him, and he seems like a nice enough man, but… he'll never measure up, Jack. She just doesn't look at him the way she looks you. Trust me. If she marries him, she'll be disillusioned in a matter of months and she'll end up divorcing him."
Jack nodded, considering the man's words. Then he suggested, "Maybe she should go through that to be sure of what she really wants."
"No, Jack! A divorce would be devastating for her! She would see it as an unforgivable failure! Don't let her do it! You promised, and a promise is a promise!" Jake started to get riled up again.
"Okay, okay!" Jack smiled, reaching for the man's shoulder and gripping it tightly. "Don't worry. I'll order her to marry me. I won't let her marry Shanahan."
"If you do, I'll haunt you!" Jacob threatened, half serious.
"Now you know I won't do it!" Jack replied, his eyes wide with mock dread.
Jacob chuckled lightly, then he said, "Now go get my little girl for me. She's a much prettier sight than you."
"You're just biased," Jack jokingly protested, but he got up and prepared to leave. At the door, he turned to look at his dying father-in-law. "Hey, Jacob…"
"Don't mention it," Jake smiled. "And… thank you, too."
Jack was really going to miss the guy.
Silent tears escaped Sam's eyes as the medical personnel carefully lifted her father's body to take it away to the morgue. She stood ramrod straight in a corner of the room with her CO standing fast beside her. She had refused to move, and he had refused to leave her.
Jacob had requested to be cremated immediately, and nothing but ashes would remain of him and his symbiote. The Tok'Ra had heartedly agreed, and they were all gone now, to Sam's great relief.
The two young airmen kindly murmured words of condolences as they left the room with Jacob's body, Sam's eyes trailing the gurney until it was out of sight. She would never see her father again, she suddenly realized, and once she was alone with Jack in the room, she completely broke down.
She felt warm, welcoming arms wrap around her and gently turn her around, then pull her to lean against her CO's firm chest. She freely wept on his jacket, giving release to her grief and thankful beyond measure for his solid presence in her life.
Her General just held her tightly, his lips on her forehead and his fingers buried in her hair, stroking her gently as she cried. Neither of them cared if someone came in and saw them. Only the two of them existed at the moment, and she needed his support too badly to give what others might say a single thought.
After interminable minutes, her sobbing gradually subsided and her shaking stopped, but she remained cuddled up in General O'Neill's welcoming arms, her eyes closed and her hands on his chest. She hadn't felt so at peace for a long, long time. Her father was gone, Daniel was missing, and Teal'c had not returned from Dakara, but she was in her CO's comforting arms.
He didn't attempt to release her. He just stood there, wordlessly holding her, and she suddenly realized that he was kissing her very gently, his lips making light contact with her hair. The soft caress was not accidental, and it continued its tentative path to her forehead, where it paused, his warm lips eliciting a shiver of pleasure from deep within her.
Lifting her head off his chest and looking up at him with inquisitive, watery eyes, she held his gentle gaze for long moments, then blissfully closed her eyes as he unwaveringly dropped a sweet kiss on each of her swollen eyelids.
"Jack," she raggedly whispered, thoroughly entranced with his gentle caresses and deeply moved with his tenderness. Her heart was melting, and thrilled anticipation mixed with utter surrender.
"It's okay, Sam. You're gonna be okay," he softly assured her.
Sam, in fact, was feeling very okay at that moment. She had come to accept her father's passing even before he had exhaled his last breath, and she had actually felt grateful for the years she'd had with him. The loneliness she had expected to feel once he was gone had just not materialized, and now she realized why.
Jack was with her. His presence had offered her the strength she needed, and now his loving caresses offered her the soothing peace her grieving soul required.
"I still love you, Carter. I've always loved you, and I'm still here for you. I'm not going anywhere," he whispered against her temple, making her smile even as more tears ran down her cheeks.
"Am I dreaming?" she whispered, her heart bursting with love for him. An elated, liberating feeling of serenity and relief was taking over her heartache.
"Nope. You're not dreaming, and I'm for once being serious here. You're gonna have to talk to Shanahan, and I'll even be with you if you need me there, but I'm not letting you go. I'm not letting you marry him. Instead, we're finally going fishing, no arguments," he informed her in an almost defiant tone.
Sam's arms dropped from Jack's chest and wrapped around his torso, tightening her embrace as she buried her face against his neck. "Promise?" she brokenly asked, not quite daring to believe but bursting with ecstatic hope.
"I promise," he softly whispered, his lips tracing kisses down her face. "And you know… a promise is a promise."
Sam nodded, a now brilliant smile taking over her previously sad features. She had no more doubts, no more fears. She would be okay. They were going fishing, and everything would be all right. She finally had Jack.