TITLE: Frightening Illusion

AUTHOR: Lara_SGC aka Lara

E-MAIL: Lara_

SEASON/SEQUEL: End season 4

SUMMARY: Sam's there when Jack brakes down.

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp, Double Secret Productions and Showtime. I created this story for my pleasure and for the pleasure of others.

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"How many times do I have to tell ya that you can't walk around without a hath, Teal'c." I groan while following Teal'c inside my house.

"What happened?" Came the oh-so familiar voice. I turn to look at my 2IC and give her a blanc face. "When Teal'c ever gets the idea to check out what a brothel is…feel free to shoot him."

Suddenly being reminded that I'm still angry with her, I shake my head and rub my face. God, I'm tired. Giving Teal'c a stern look of disapproval, I continue to walk towards my kitchen. Beer.

Beer's good. Let's concentrate on that. Hopefully it'll calm me down. I can hear Daniel explaining my reaction to Teal'c and Carter's apologizing to him for my behavior.

Damn. I should be doing that, not her. I slam the fridge door shut fueled by my frustration and walk to the kitchen window. It's a beautiful day but it doesn't have the right effect on me. I take a deep breath and lean against my window, feeling the sun warm the base of my neck.

Why do I do this? What's wrong with me? I can't help it. It's who I am. I sigh again and open my bottle of beer, its top falling to the floor with a soft tick. I hear the instant ticking of woman's high heels but I don't turn around. I know who it was.

"Ever heard of a litterbin, Sir?"

I groan, letting her know I didn't appreciate the comment. A sudden rage builds up inside me, almost choking me. I feel trapped. I want to get out. Away from this.

Away from Carter. Damn it! I place the bottle on the table with a loud thud as I see Carter startle. Tough for her. I gritted my teeth, swallowing the last of my beer.

I felt like this ever since I saw Carter kissing with the new Colonel. I just happen to bump into them. Saw them, turned around and just marched out. I can still hear Carter calling my name but I had ignored her, slamming my door shut. When I saw her next she asked me if I was okay. I almost laughed at that. Just said I was angry with myself. She had asked why but I didn't answer. Still haven't. I could care less at the moment. I should be happy for her but I just can't help but feel miserable.

She nears me now, her eyes following my every movement. "You still angry?"

I snort. "It doesn't matter, Carter."

I look at her, a pained expression on her face as she opened her mouth. "You do know that it was just me getting back at Janet."

This got a frown from me. "Excuse me?"

"When you walked in. The whole me kissing the new Colonel…just a joke."

Damn. She knew me too well. Knew exactly what was bothering me but she didn't know everything. It ran deeper than that. Choking me. I'm just so angry.

"Hey," she says softly, "you okay?"

I can't look her in the eyes and I know she's worried about me. She has been the last few days and that's why she and the gang are with me. I think she's afraid I'm having a severe depression…again.

I grab my beer bottle and look intently at it. The sun reflects on the glass. It reminds me of how I had almost lost Carter again. Five days ago, a tribe had captured her. We couldn't find her. I wouldn't give up but we had to go back. But then I saw something glister in the woods. It had been Carter. Cuffed with a cloth in her mouth. The sun had reflected on the pendant I had given her a week ago and so saved her life. She wouldn't be standing here if not for the pendant. Dumb luck? Or fate?

I can hear the ticking of her heals nearing me. A hand touches my shoulder. Her touch sends a shiver down my spine, electrifies me and I know she felt it because she removes her hand as if she burned them.

Finally looking at her for the first time, I'm greeted by two worrying blue eyes. "Yes and no." I say.

She frowns at me and I notice how she flicks her gaze from my eyes to my lips and back. "What?"

I smile at her. It's a sad smile but it's all I can give her. The heart shaped pendant hangs loosely around her neck and my eyes are drawn to it. I've been such an asshole these last couple of days and she stills wears my gift. I softly sigh. "Yes, I do know what a litterbin is and no I'm not okay."

She nods slowly, understanding or at least trying. She just can't. But I'm honest, it's rare I talk about feelings but I can't lie to her. Neither would she.

Suddenly I realize that I can't hear Teal'c nor Daniel and I switch my gaze from the pendant to the living room in search for two eavesdropping team mates. There was no sign of them and when I return my gaze at Carter, she'd clasped the pendant in her hand.

I take in a shaky breath. No, I'm not okay. I feel like crap. Nodding my head in the direction of the living room, I ask: "So, Teal'c convinced Daniel to visit the girl's of pleasure?"

Carter gives me a small smile. "They thought it'd better to leave and let me talk to you."

I bite my lip at her honesty, step away and place my bottle on the table but I miss-calculate. The bottle hits the ground and scatters in thousand pieces all over the place and I stop breathing. I can't move, engulfed by a memory I had long forgotten or wished to have forgotten. "No."

Carter turns to me and gives me a small smile." It's just a bottle, Sir. I'll get a brush."

In the corner of my eyes I see her kneel down and pick up the big pieces of glass. She looks up at me when she notices that I don't even move to help her. "Sir?"

No. I can't believe it. It couldn't have happened that way. I spin around, trying to steady myself by grabbing the table. My breathing quickens and my body starts shaking. I need to get out, away from this doomed house. I loosen my grip on the wooden table and start running out of the kitchen. I can hear the clatter of glass on the ground when Carter sprints after me.

"Sir, wait!"

I keep running. Out of the living room through the backdoor, over the garden, jumping over the low fence into the open fields behind my house. I keep running until I reach the forest. I stop for a moment, having yet another flashback. Instead of resting, I sprint off again and run deeper in the forest. Left, right, right again. I look down at my legs, going faster and faster.

The trees flash by me and I struggle to keep me upright. I want to stop but it was like my legs didn't want to. They just keep running taking me on and off paths that I have never seen before. It's like my instinct's drawing me to a certain direction. A destination maybe. I run, breath, jump, run, breath, jump.

Stop.

I just stand there, trying to catch my breath and as I look right next to me, a horrible flashback returns. I fall to the ground, first my knees, sending a tearing pain to my ankles and then my hands with such a force that it hurts my elbows and shoulders.

I can hear Carter's heavy footsteps behind me. She stops and then the whole forest goes quiet. Carter's heavy panting is the only thing I can hear. On knees and hands I crouch over to a thick trunk and rest my back against it, wincing at the pain in my sides.

Carter quietly walks over and kneels in front of me. I hear her taking a shaky breath and through my eyelashes I notice that her body is shaking. "Sir."

I notice how she doesn't make it sound like a question. She knows better than anyone that I don't like talking and will only do so when I feel ready. But I don't think I can at the moment. I don't think I want to.

We're both sitting quietly, listening to each other's breathing. I listen to her raspy, unsteady breathing which was the only reminder that she was still there. At this moment I wish she wasn't. I always wanted to have her with me, near me, touching me but I never thought that there would be a moment I didn't want to have her near me. That moment is now. The anger I felt earlier had disappeared in a deep angsty sorrow and a feeling between hate and deep sadness.

I hear Carter's cloths ruffle. When I peer through my eyelashes, I see her moving closer to me barely inches away from me. This is the first time I notice she has tears in her eyes. I know I'm the one causing her beautiful eyes to fill up with water of sorrow. I squeeze my eyes shut when I feel tears coming up and no matter how hard I try, I can't prevent a lone tear from traveling down my cheek, landing right on Sam's hand.

Sam.

When did I start using that name? When did she become Sam instead of Carter? Why won't she go away? Why am I sitting here? Why did the memories resurface? The questions drive me crazy and I have no answers for them.

I watch as Sam touches my tear with one of her fingers, I can hear a sob coming from her and she reaches up to her own face, letting a tear roll on a finger and reaches down again to mingle her tear with mine. Letting out another sob she starts crying and I can't describe what I feel but I can feel an aching pain in my chest and stomach. No, Sam. Don't cry.

"Please. Talk to me." Her voice breaks.

Oh, I can't Sam. I can't. Another tear coming from my closed eyes escapes and drips on her already wet hand and mingles with her tear.

"I can't help you if you don't talk to me."

I'm sorry, Sam but I can't. I can't tell you about the struggle going inside me. I can't tell you how I feel but I can't tell you to go away either. My mind goes blank as I hear her cry openly. Her sobs shaking her body, her tears dropping one by one as she cries. It hurt me even more because this woman in front of me is not the Major Carter I know.

It was the first time in five years I have seen her cry so openly...with me. That's why she is Sam now and not Carter. But who am I? I am not Colonel O'Neill. She's Sam and I am Jack.

Sam and Jack.

It is so easy to say but hard to express. As much as I love her, I know I can't act on it but I will always love her and I know she loves me but it's not the regulations that stand between us. It's Carter and O'Neill that stand between us. The O'Neill that won't show his love because he's afraid to lose her. And a Carter who won't show her love because she's afraid. She had told me once that she was afraid to express love. She didn't add my name but it bugged me. Why is she afraid to love me?

"Please." Her voice hoarse.

That word went right through me. Never had someone moved me like that. Never had someone cried with me when I felt pain...never had I loved someone so deeply.

Her hand reaches out to touch me but instead she let's it linger in the air. Her hand trembles like an uncontrolled leaf moved by the wind. She's crouching even closer and her knees are touching mine.

"Help me. I don't know what to do." She reaches out and I can feel her ice cold hand on my forehead. It lingers there and slowly oh so softly she wipes my tears away. Carefully she clears them at the corners of my eyes and then she rethreads her hand but I can see how much it shakes.

"Sam. Why shaking?" I whisper. I don't know if she heard me but it was all I could get out.

She starts talking, barely a whisper, her voice breaking. "I'm shaking because... of the cold that engulfs my heart." I can see how she wraps her arms around herself. I don't know if it's because of the cold or to comfort her or both.

"You not Major Carter."

I know I wasn't making sense but I also knew she would understand me. She always had and when no one could they asked her. When I'm depressed, General Hammond sends her because he knows she's the only one whom I'll listen to. Because she's the only who loves me in a way no other human can and Hammond is pretty much aware of that. And therefore it doesn't surprise me when she answers my babbling.

"No…and you're not Colonel O'Neill. That's why I don't know what to do. As much as you're probably not used to see me cry I'm not used to see you so fragile. I'm not used to feel my heart so torn."

For the first time I look up at her, blinking until my vision is less blurry but I don't know what to say.

"Talk to me. Confide in me. I don't want to lose you."

She loves me and I love her. It's so simple now. Because I am Jack and she is Sam. By telling me that, she had just told me that regulations weren't what scared her. She was scared to love me because she was scared to lose me. I try to tell her: "I don't want you to lose me."

It was a lot of confessing we did but we both knew neither would act on it. We had taken a step further but it was just a start.

Sam reaches over and grabs my hand, tugging on it to get me up as I do. I rub my face with my free hand and watch as she takes something out of my hair with her other hand. When she finishes, I look down at our hands. We're holding each other loosely and this is yet another step.

"As much as I'm afraid to...." I stop because I would be telling more than I want. I entwine my fingers with hers and smile as she softly gives my hand a squeeze.

"I know what you mean. Great minds think alike." She gives me a smile that brightens her tearstained face and I know I'm smiling too.

As much as this is an in-joke I know she also meant it as a compliment. My smile fades, as I'm afraid that when we reach my house she would leave...and after all this I don't want her to. I don't want her in my bed right now, not at all, I just want to have someone that I love so deeply, in my house. Filling that doomed house with love. Filling my doomed heart with love.

"Sam...err...don't get this the wrong way but do you want to stay with me this evening?"

She gives me a quick smile and then grows serious again. "As long as you promise to confide in me and tell me what scared you so much so I can help you."

I nod; understanding what she's offering. "I promise." I look down at our entwined hands again and look up at her. She nods her silent agreement and I lead her back to my house, trying to remember which way I went to get here. This holding hands; it feels strange, little uncomfortable but so good. It feels right.

"Sit down, I'll go get us some beer and clean up the kitchen floor. Now that you have a woman in the house, I say you take advantage of it."

I smile at her little comment, knowing she was teasing me. Of course I knew she was a feminist and knows that it would get a smile from me. "That's nice."

I watch her when she turns around and gives me a frown. "Having a woman in the house?"

I can't help but wonder how she could see me trough like that. Even I could get away with those comments with Sara but I should know I couldn't fool Sam.

"No, the cleaning up part." I lie.

She raises an eyebrow and gives me a yeah-right-whatever-you-say-look. I watch as she shakes her head and continues to the kitchen. After I hear some clattering and the fridge door going open and shut, I can see her entering the living room with two bottles of beer in her hand.

She places herself next to me in the two-seat couch and turns to me handing me the open bottle of beer. "So."

I take the beer with a small smile of gratitude, take a sip and rest the bottle on the little table in front of me. Looking from her eyes to my now very interesting hands, I let a sigh escape my mouth.

"Look, Sam. I know this is gonna be pretty personal and I can't guarantee what will happen after this but I want you to know that you can ask me any question how personal it may sound. Questions that you never dared to ask, I'll give you a fair answer."

I look from my hands to her face and up to her eyes. I continue as she gives me a firm nod and I note that she doesn't smile which means that she was taking this very serious. That was good.

"I only want you to be honest with me and forget that I'm your commanding officer and that we're in the military. I can't order you to call me Jack but you would do me a favor by doing so, okay?"

She nods and places her knees against her chest and rests her chin on them not losing my eye contact. "Okay, Jack. I'll promise you that I'll be honest with and about my feelings and reactions."

Without being too obvious I look from her eyes to the pendant and I'm surprised it survived all the things we've been through the last couple of days, if not what she's been through. Again I see her clasp it with her hand. "Why do you do that?"

She closes her eyes but a small smile forms on her lips and when she opened them again, tears were surfacing. "When you gave it to me…I thought it was the sweetest gift I ever received. I never take it off. When I was taken on P4X 745, I had nothing but this to keep me going. It reminded me of all the times you and I've been through…good and bad. It helped me survive and in the end, it made you find me." She reaches back, takes the necklace off and places it softly in my hand.

"It gave me strength and I hope it will give you the strength to tell me what's going in your troubled mind."

I look down at my hand, the pendant feels so warm. Noticing a scratch on the red amaranth stone hanging from the silver necklace, I wince as it reminds me yet again of the scar that is on and burned into my heart. I close my hand over it and return my gaze to her eyes; trying to read the emotions that are surfacing in those deep blue eyes.

"Sam, I'm sorry if I'm gonna make it hard for you by doing this but I want to know what happened to your mom."

She closes her eyes and nods. Her hands shake. I want to reach out to stop them from trembling and to comfort her but I know neither she nor I am used to give each other that level of comfort.

"What do you want to know?" Her voice is soft, calm, oozing warmth but there is pain. A wound not yet healed completely.

"What you felt when you heard she was gone and how you coped with it."

Somehow she seemed relieved but I don't know why.

"It felt like my heart was breaking, I choked up. Build walls around my heart to protect myself. You know better than anyone I have a hard time dealing with feelings. Expressing them."

I listen very carefully, drawn into her story. My whole being just for her and nothing else. In the back of his mind he noted the 'better than anyone'.

"I felt empty, angry…I felt lost. I was angry with dad, Mark and I was angry at the world. I was angry with God for taking my mom away before I could tell her I loved her. I loved her so much, she was my strength, my best friend…guess it wasn't meant to be."

Her voice breaks. I'm asking a lot of her but I need to. I need to know. I reach out and softly touch her shoulder, as gentle as I can be. I squeeze gently not knowing what else to do. My thumb softly strokes her collarbone and when she nods, I retreat my hand letting it fall in my lap. "Were you angry at your mother?"

She frowns and looks down at her hands, giving my question some thoughts. "It may be hard to believe but at that time, yeah maybe I was. She left me behind. But that was temporary, only love and admiration remained. I guess I'm afraid to love someone because I'm scared to lose them again."

I reach out to catch the single tear rolling down her cheek, my finger touching her soft skin and I see her shiver. She closes her eyes but opens them when I place my hand back into my lap. I see her frown again. "I thought we were here to talk about you. What makes you so interested in my feelings about what happened to mom?"

I swallow the lump I feel in my throat and lean back against the couch. My arms touching hers as I draw strength from her body heat. I stare at the bottle on the table. "I lost my mom too."

Closing my eyes, I feel a small hand; covering mine.

"I'm sorry. I never knew that. What did she look like?"

It was her way to get me talking. Tears threaded to come again. "She was tall, beautiful with long curly brown hair and hazel eyes. People said I looked like her. It made her proud."

Sam gently traces small circles on my hand. "And I guess she had the same humor as you have?"

I shake my hand. "She never laughed, never smiled and back then I never knew why. My dad was a pain in the butt, he drank a lot but I never figured that to be the problem. She was a strong woman; never let herself be intimidated by someone. Then again I don't remember a lot of my childhood. Up until today."

"You were afraid. You ran…what did you see?" Sam's voice was soft, gentle.

"Something I had forgotten. When the bottle crashed on the ground…that sound. It made me remember. I think I was about twelve, I'm standing in the living room. Dad walks in, whiskey bottle in hand, starts screaming at my mom and he slaps her across the face. She falls to ground and starts crying as Dad goes upstairs."

I carefully take a deep breath, trying to control my anger and my tears. "Her face is so red, his hand marked in her cheek. It made me so mad. I went to her and hugged her and told her I would protect her but she told me, she said…."

I look away from Sam, a shaky breath escaping my mouth. She squeezes my hand and it gives me the strength to go on.

"She said: 'you can't protect me, I can't even protect myself, it's an illusion we create, a freighting illusion. Don't do something you know you can't do."

I shake my head still not believing the images forming in my head. "My dad came striding into the living room. Mom stood, her head high and walked towards the kitchen but my dad followed. I saw fear in my mother's eyes. Fear and something else. I saw him push her hard and she fell against the table, knocking her head. There was so much blood. God."

I stop unable to control my fight with my tears. I cry. I did it before with Sam. There was no shame.

"The bottle in my dad's hand crashed to the floor…the sound hurt my ears, chilling me to the core. I wanted to protect her but I couldn't. If only I had push-" A sob stops my words. I couldn't anymore. All the fight was drained out of my body. Out of my soul.

Sam removes her hand, gently brushes my tears away and rests her head on my shoulder now blindly brushing my tears away. The gesture was amazing.

"Don't blame yourself, Jack. There was nothing you could have done. She was right you know. You couldn't protect her. It is a frightening illusion. People can't protect themselves from feeling pain, from crying, from being hurt, from…falling in love."

The tears had stopped falling and it was only because of Sam. Her eyes are closed and her eyelashes wet with tears. "Sam?"

Her hand moves from my tear stained cheek to my hand again. We entwine our fingers. "It's okay."

I don't know if she's talking about our hands, about the situation or my earlier question but when I hear those words coming from her I strongly believe in them. We fall into a small comfortable silence until her angelic voice fills the room. "Do you think that the Stargate program saved your life? Made it more worth living?"

It sure did. I squeeze her hand, my thumb caressing her hand. "I was going on a suicide mission and frankly I didn't care. I didn't care if they threw in the bomb after me, killing me with everything else. I was lost."

"But I was there with you."

"And you just answered your second question."

Silence was her answer and I felt her think. I didn't know what to say until I hear her ask: "Why?".

My heart answered her: "Because I care about you…a lot more than I'm supposed to."

I hear a content sigh. Her eyes meet mine, those beautiful blue eyes. "And I want to spend time with you…a lot more than I'm supposed to."

She gives me a megawatt smile and I smile back. I feel her snuggle up to me and I feel small butterflies in my stomach. I carefully place my arm around her shoulders and her arm goes around my chest and within seconds she was sitting on my lap hugging me to her as my arms formed a protective circle around her delicate frame.

We stayed like that for minutes and they turned into an hour until I felt her head getting heavier and her steady breathing told me she had fallen asleep.

I squeeze her to me, kissing the top of her head, resting my cheek on top of her hair.

We can't protect ourselves from falling in love like Sam had said. I know I can't protect her but I know I won't stop trying and I won't stop loving her. As my love will always protect her heart, hers will always protect mine.

Thanks for reading!