Those Four Little Words
Sam got out of her car, balancing two bags from the market in town. The smell of charcoal and charred meat filled the air. As she walked around the cabin to the the side deck, she saw Jack, bottle of beer in hand, peering over the fire. He looked up and smiled at her.
She walked into the cabin, and put the two bags on the counter. Suddenly she became light headed, and she closed her eyes so that the feeling would pass. Instantly, she was back to the day when she had finally worked up the courage to to tell him how she felt. Then just as fast, she was in her lab at the SGC, Jack had just closed that black velvet ring box and place it on the table between them. Her entire being was reaching out, wanting answers, needing answers from him... but answers were just something that he was unable to give. She opened her eyes and she was back in the kitchen. She shook her head to rid herself of the hurt that had just entered her soul and made it ache like it had that day.
"I wouldn't be here."
Those words bounced around in her head. Those four little words little that pushed her away without really knowing what they meant. She banished the thought, and went out onto the deck to just be with Jack. At that second she needed to feel his arms around her.
It was way too early for Jack to be awake on a Sunday morning, but here he was, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. Sam's side of their bed was empty. She had been in a strange state lately, a combination of aloofness and being clingy. He had absolutely no idea what was bothering her. The few times that he would bring it up, she would just smile and deny it. Whatever it was, he just wished that she would let him help her.
He got up and went to look for her. He wasn't surprised to see her sitting on the end of their dock. She had one leg bent, knee in her chest, her chin resting there. Her other leg was hanging down, toes breaking the surface of the water. Sam was so motionless that if he didn't know any better, he would think that she was sleeping. There was something about the way she was sitting there, so static, that worried him. Not saying that Sam couldn't keep her hands to herself when she needed too, but this was something else, this was... wrong.
Jack started towards her and as if by some sort of sixth sense, Sam turned her head toward him. Her eyes were closed, and she rested her cheek where her chin had been. He had seen that pained look on her face several times in the last few weeks. He stopped, unsure if he should try and comfort her, if he should be there. But he did know Sam, and she wanted to be alone, even if her words wouldn't tell him, her eyes would.
"You know I can't be held responsible if a... oh to hell with it." Jack said in a way of a greeting. When she opened her eyes to look at him, he gave her a weak smile. The corners of her mouth pulled up before the melancholiness of the last few weeks consumed her again.
Sam stretched out the leg that she had been curled into, and turned so both of her legs were now hanging off of the edge of the dock. She moved to one side making room for Jack to join her. She had her hands planted on either side of her body and watched as her toes made ripples in the water. His hand found its way to hers, and he tentatively placed it on top. She didn't pull her hand away like she had in the recent past. They sat there just watching the scenery, not saying a word. Every so often he would give her hand a slight squeeze to let her know that he was not getting lost in his thoughts.
"You don't have to sit here and keep me company." She turned to look at him. "Really. I know you had things you wanted to do today."
Jack opened his mouth to say something witty, but the look on her face stopped him. "You've had it rough lately. I get that." He answered, squeezing her hand again, giving her a reassuring smile.
She shifted and instinctively Jack's arm went around her shoulder, pulling her into him. She reached up, took his hand in hers, her thumb brushing the back of his hand. It was a mirror image of the two of them from years before... all of those years ago when he held her as she watched her father die. All those years ago when he whispered the one word that would change it all.
She touched her toes to the cool water again, and watched the ripples that she made expand across the tranquil water. "I need to ask you something." Sam's voice was so quiet that he almost missed it.
She had tried to forget it. She told herself over and over again that it didn't matter anymore. He was holding her right now for cryin' out loud! Why was she clinging onto it? What did it matter what was said? Why should she care about what was uttered a lifetime ago?
"Anything." The warmth and softness of Jack's voice enveloped her.
They weren't doing anything that they hadn't done several times after they had returned from a trip on Earth, Jack had gone into town to buy some groceries, and Sam set out to unpack. She was just unprepared for what she found. Not that hadn't seen them before, not that she expected him to get rid of them. They were part of him, part of what made Jack... well Jack. She just never expected to see them laying there in his sock drawer.
She picked one up, and ran her finger over the photo of the young boy dressed in a baseball uniform standing next to a woman smiling. A sad smile crept across Sam's face. Suddenly, a cold sweat broke out across the back of her neck, and her stomach started to turn. She felt like an interloper, a peeping tom. She put the framed photo of Sarah and Charlie back into the drawer and shut it.
"I wouldn't be here."
"I don't know..." Sam's voice fell away. "Never mind, I don't want to know."
He took his free hand and ever so gently turned her face towards his. Slowly, his lips brushed hers. "Ask." He breathed, ever so happy that she was finally letting him in. She tried to pull back, but he wouldn't let her go.
"C'on Sam. What is it?" Concern deepened the lines around his eyes.
This was one of the rare times when Sam would let go and let herself daydream what it would be like if they hadn't decided to "keep it in the room". Would she still be exploring new places through the Stargate or would she be at home raising their babies? Would Jack have retired, and they explored what could have been? They could stop being so damn careful about what they were saying, how it was said. She could look at him without the guilt that accompanied those feelings. Jack would actually be alone in the same room with her for longer than a minute...
She shook the thoughts from her head, and took a sip of her coffee. A smile that didn't reach her eyes crossing her face as Jack walked into the briefing room.
She had to say it. She had to ask him. If she didn't the voices of doubt would continue to creep upon her... when she was in the shower... when she was reading... when she closed her eyes to sleep next to him... that is why she cared. That is why it mattered.
"When... Why..." Sam stopped and slowly licked her lips. She had kicked open the door and now she couldn't turn back. "What did you mean when you said that you 'wouldn't be here'?" She spit the words out and instantly regretted it. She felt her body stiffen, but he made no attempt to pull away.
"Sam..." his voice was still a whisper but the softness had been replaced by hurt.
What did she need him to say?
In the distance, Jack would have bet his life that he heard a little boy laugh. He knew then that he had his answer. Images of a different time, a different Jack O'Neill, flooded his mind. Anguish that he hadn't felt in years filled him. He slowly and very deliberately started to stroke Sam's hair. She wanted answers, and no matter how painfully uncomfortable the conversation was going to be, he was going to tell her the truth. He was going to answer all of her questions... even the ones she had never dreamed of asking.
"Sarah forgave me. I could just never forgive myself."