"The one guy I should have been able to save, was the one guy I couldn't. I wasn't objective; I put my team at risk. I don't belong here." Sam said ominously and walked away. The team let him go, stayed back as he left to give him the space he needed. While he was showering they finished debriefing, all got up and prepared to go home. The only problem was that when they went into the Men's locker room to change they found Sam's locker empty, all his stuff packed up into a bag.
Jules sat on a bench in the women's locker room, barely able to keep her tears in check. She was sad for the poor guy but she knew that he had chosen to die in that Arena. She could barely keep her tears in check for Sam. The man who had been her best friend before (or perhaps as) they fell in love, the man who had loved her unreservedly, the man she had loved just as deeply, and the man whose heart she had broken. He had taken her breaking up with him badly, very badly in fact. But it had been the right thing to do, it had made sense. Didn't it? Sam was many things but for a former Special Forces soldier he couldn't keep a secret very well. Half the SRU had probably figured out that they were dating. That was why she broke up with him. Wasn't it? She couldn't put her career at risk for a guy, not even Sam. Or should she? Was Sam worth transferring to another team? Or was she worth it to him? She wasn't even sure anymore all she knew was she clearly was as bad at keeping a secret as Sam was. Leah had probably figured out why they were still slightly awkward around each other by now. That didn't matter anymore either.
Sam hadn't bothered with appearances when she'd been shot, why was she trying to keep them up now? He was in pain; she knew that better than anyone on the team. Today had reopened Pandora's Box of nightmares from his past. She was sure he was reliving the moments of his sniper mission, picking through his memory to try and see when he had blown his friend apart. She was sure he was reliving the moment when he learned another friend of his had shot himself. She was sure he was reliving many more painful memories; no doubt among them was when she had broken up with him. She hadn't meant to hurt him the way she did. But why couldn't she just move on? Why does it always keep coming back to that one night? "Why do I suddenly feel that I made a terrible mistake that night" came the final ominous thought, as she realized it was true. She could bury her feelings beneath logic and rationalizations but Sam so obviously in pain was enough to cut through it all. She still loved him, and he needed her right now. But even so she had been right, neither of them wanted to transfer to another team, they had no chance of having a relationship in secret, but they were still in love. Or was he? She knew she still loved him but did he ever want to see her again? He had said he didn't belong here but he couldn't be serious about that could he? He wouldn't actually leave?
A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts, but before she could find her voice again Leah called "decent, come in."She was surprised to see Ed open the door, and more surprised to see the entire rest of the team behind him. Again before she could speak Leah said "what's wrong guys?" That earned her a glare or two, honestly had she not been paying attention? Despite her best efforts Leah still didn't fit in very well with the team.
Greg chose to ignore her little verbal snafu, mostly because he thought she had just used an expression without thinking about it first, and to be honest their faces were appropriately grim. "Sam packed up his locker. I think he plans on leaving and going back to the military."
That got Jules on her feet and found her voice for her just fine. "What?" she asked with slightly more than appropriate anger. In response to the looks on their faces she calmed down a little, at least externally, before saying "What makes you say that?" She tried to maintain an air of teammate appropriate concern, which was probably pointless, but then again there was less and less of the team left. After Lou died and Leah's poor attempt to replace him the idea of losing another teammate didn't appeal to anybody.
"Because he's hurt. Because for all that we've tried to teach him Sam is a soldier. He's not trained to deal with it he's trained to push it down and ignore it until the mission is over. Here he'd just have to think about it, and relive all the pain he's ever experienced because he's not going to go to us for help there. We haven't seen the things he's seen, or done the things he's done. To him, now we're all outsiders. He doesn't think any of us can understand him, and he's probably right. Most of all because of what he said in the debrief, that he went back to the last place things made sense. The military is safe to him; he does what he's told, follows orders and fits in. He can use that training to survive and try to move on. He's gone through a lot of pain here, and today has brought back all the pain he's felt from the military and at the SRU all at once. SO he'll retreat back to where he is safe, back to where his training applies, to where everything makes sense." Greg spoke in a controlled monotone as he detailed the list of reasons why Sam would return to the military. All accept one. After everything else he can't deal with his confused emotions and pain about everything else in the same room as her. He probably was just as confused and hurt by Jules and his emotions towards her as everything else, and he can't deal with them both. Not anymore.
"But Sarge they can't take him back, not like this! He'll get himself killed out there! He is not in any mindset to be sent into a warzone!" She almost yelled, trying to contain her own range of confused emotions. She hated herself at that particular moment. She hated herself for breaking up with Sam, for breaking his heart. She hated herself for loving him back so much. She hated herself for not being there when he needed her. She blamed herself for just about everything that had ever gone wrong at that particular moment.
"He's not a regular soldier Jules, Sam was Special Forces. He can hide that from them, and they won't look hard enough to see it. Either Sam's skills or his father will ensure he ends up back in. The military can't afford to turn away Special Forces without an obvious reason. And we all know Sam can hide his pain very well." Ed supplied as calmly as he could manage.
"Okay so what? What do we do?" Jules asked almost desperately, hoping that the team had a plan. She couldn't let Sam go off and get himself killed. She couldn't take it, because she knew she'd be responsible. She would have killed him as effectively as pulling the trigger herself.
"We just need to be there for him Jules. Show our support, show him that we can understand, or put him in touch with some people who will." At that remark Greg and Ed shared a look that told Jules that they had a plan. That was good enough for her. After the whole Eagle 2 incident Sam had known she needed him. Well know Sam needed her and she had no intention of failing him. The team spoke very little as they put Sam's locker back together. There was very little to say. While they did that she left to go talk to Sam. He was out of the Shower by now and had had more than enough time to get dressed so he was probably just sitting there thinking. "Unless he's not thinking. You hurt him Jules. And he went in there with all his gear. Concrete walls tend to muffle gunshots." She thought to herself, a thought she shut down immediately. It was too painful to imagine. As she walked away she shared a look with Greg. He indicated the side of the room so they could talk privately.
"Jules you ok? I know this is probably hard on you, even after all this time it can't be easy to see Sam in so much pain can it?" he said quietly with a knowing look on his face, and she decided to not hold back.
"No boss it isn't. I can't take it Sarge. I can't just let him sit there all alone until he comes out I need to talk to him. Privately." She probably just abandoned her career with that sentence but she didn't care in the least. Not now. She had made it clear what she needed to talk to Sam about. She had put enough emphasis on privately that a mouse would have understood, and Greg parker, with all his negotiations training understood what she needed to do. He understood what she was going to do.
He should have stopped her right there. He should have said no, and hoped for the best. But he knew his team, and he knew that Jules Callaghan and Sam Braddock were still very much in love with each other. HE knew that it was his responsibility to keep them separate, that this was a danger to the team on anything they did. But he also knew that Sam was going down the same path Darin Covacks went. And that it would end in a different country under different circumstances but with the same result. And if Jules felt responsible for breaking Sam's heart and sending him to his death he knew she'd follow. He stood there for a moment. After Jules had been shot, Sam had been obviously emotional but he had kept it together. He had done his job. Who were the rules kidding with emotional distance anyway? Spike had almost gotten himself killed for Lou. He was certain that they would all do anything for each other, and the rest of the team would step in when they went too far. So he decided to ignore regulations. He decided to ignore the rules and all the potential dangers to go with what he felt was best. He said nothing further but looked Jules directly in the eye, and nodded his head once. From the look on her face she had expected to have to fight more, but she nodded in return once she realized what he had just given her permission to do. As she walked away to go find Sam, Sergeant Greg Parker walked back to his team, who all equally understood what he had just done. And not a single one of them disapproved. They saw that Sam and Jules needed each other, and ignoring that would do nothing to help anyone. They understood that Sam and Jules judgment would be no more impaired than Spike's was after Lou stepped onto that landmine. They all knew they could intervene if necessary just as they had then.
Eventually Jules found Sam, fully dressed but just sitting there on the floor, staring off into space. She guessed that he had showered and got dressed on autopilot. "Hey" she said simply, trying to get a response from him. When he didn't react she moved further into the room and said "Sam? You ok?"
"Wonderful." He replied sarcastically, but he still wouldn't look at her.
She walked in and sat down beside him. Many things needed to be worked out alone in silence. Many problems didn't need to be shared and just needed some time to work through. However this was not one of those problems, and Sam would not work through it on his own. The fact that he was sitting on a floor was evidence of that. She hesitated for a moment and then she took his hand, and tried to get him to look at her. When he finally did she realized that he was crying slightly. Not much but in barely perceptible amounts. She tried to pull in closer but he pushed her away and backed up.
"What is it Jules? What do you want? Can't you just leave me alone?" he said now getting angry.
Jules didn't fall into that trap; she remained calm as she replied "No Sam. I can't leave you alone. Not like this. What did you think you were just going to leave? Leave us all behind like we were nothing? One mistake and suddenly Sam's endless confidence disappears?"
"I can't do this job Jules. I do not belong here. I tried to connect with this guy and look what happened. I got him killed and I put you all at risk. "He said with his anger deflated into guilt and self-loathing.
"No Sam. No. That is not true and you know it isn't. You can do this. You can do anything Sam. "She decided to change tack as she clearly wasn't getting anywhere. "Why are you really leaving Sam? Do you honestly think you can't do this job or are you just too afraid that you can? Is that it? You're afraid that if you learn to connect with people like this then all your control, all that pain you're trying to keep locked away will come spilling out?" The look he gave her at that told her she was getting somewhere. "Sam you are not a monster. That guy's death was not your fault. Neither was your buddy mark's."
"I did put my team at risk Jules. I cannot do this anymore." The anymore was a clear sign she could get through, but a lifetime of Special Forces wetwork combined with a broken heart is not easy to break through. She knew that she needed to get through to him quickly, as a flashback to when they had told her about an SRU veteran's attempted suicide in the office nearly broke her concentration.
"Sam! I need you to snap out of it. You can't do this Sam! You can't just check out on us like this. You don't get to pack it up and leave when things get tough! You can't leave like this. I know Sam, I know you are feeling a lifetime's worth of guilt, and pain right now but I know that you cannot just try to suppress that. You can get through it all here. We can get through it all together." He still just sat there, however he was no longer blankly reliving the worst moments of his life he was listening to her. "Sam there are people here that need you. We all need you here. Even me Sam. Especially me. I can't watch you do this to yourself Sam. Please. Please, I've already lost a teammate, I can't lose you too." She almost broke down and started to cry herself but she kept going because she had to. Because Sam still needed her. She suspected he always would. A lifetime of killing people you don't know, for reasons you don't know does one of two things, it hardens you so you don't care anymore, or you start to care too much to take it, and end up destroying yourself without help. Jules had no intention of sitting back as Sam destroyed himself. She pulled in closer to Sam, as he finally looked at her on his own. She continued "Sam I … I don't know what I would do if something happened to you. I know I hurt you. I'm so sorry. I've had a lot of time to think about that night Sam. I was afraid and worried, and I thought that you could bring down a lifetime of work to get where I am. But I never realized until today that none of that matters anymore. I Was wrong that night. I need you. I love you Sam." She decided that she had said enough, she had gotten through to Sam and shown him that he still belonged here, that he still had someone to live for. She had said everything she could think of to show him that he was needed here, and to apologize. So she chose that moment to pull in very close to him and kiss him. After a moment of lingering self-doubt Sam kissed her back. They held that kiss for a long passionate moment, enough to fully convince each other that any doubts were wrong, and that this time they would never abandon each other. After they broke apart she helped pull Sam up from the floor, and asked him "So do you still think you don't belong here?"
"No Jules I get it. Your right, I need you, and I belong here now."
"Great, because the whole team knows now and they seemed to agree, so long as we can be discreet no one outside the family needs to know." She watched his face light up for a moment at the prospect of a relationship with Jules without having to give up his team. "Come on Sam you should explain that you don't plan to abandon us." She let Ed have his own private moment with Sam as she rejoined the team in waiting for Sam.