Slowly opening his eyes, Jack found Daniel watching him. "Hey," the archaeologist said tentatively, sitting up straighter on the stool.
Jack grunted in reply, pushing himself up on the bed, not exactly into a sitting position, but enough that he wasn't lying down. Daniel looked around the room then smiled kindly, which sort of made Jack want to punch him. He didn't.
"Janet says you're looking at knee surgery number four."
Frowning, Jack nodded. "Totally thrashed," he said. "Guess Jacob didn't fix that."
"Well," Daniel commented, "I guess you'll just have to settle for consciousness and the ability to breathe on your own."
Running a hand over his beard roughened face, Jack shrugged. "Yeah."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Daniel pursed his lips together as his brow furrowed in concentration. "Sam is … " He trailed off, taking a deep breath. "Having a difficult time right now," he finished.
Jack looked at the wall, at the room's reflection in the observation windows, at anything to avoid having to look at Daniel. "Fraiser won't let me out of the room," he finally said gruffly. "There's not a whole lot I can do from here."
Daniel nodded, his faux cheer fading. "I suppose Sam's probably not likely to make it down here on her own," he admitted.
Jack looked at him rather incredulously. "Ya think?"
The walk had been unbelievably arduous, but despite his wishes, the physical exertion hadn't killed him. Dammit. Oh well, maybe Fraiser would wise up soon and realize he flew the coop. Surely she'd race up here and beat him to death. God, this was sad. He was standing in the hallway wishing Fraiser would do him physical harm so he didn't have to do this.
Doing this meant opening the door. Doing this meant talking to his 2IC.
Jack sighed, leaning back against the wall as he screwed his eyes shut. He had to do it. There was no way around that. He had to talk to her. But fuck if he had a clue what he was going to say. He figured sorry would be more than a little trite considering the situation. He remembered how upset she was that one time he broke some gadget she found on P4X-somethingsomethingsomething. How mad was she going to be now that he'd torpedoed not only her career, but her entire life?
Screw it. No time like the present.
Her head snapped up and she looked at him with such terror that for a moment he seriously thought she was going to make a break for it. Not that he would have blamed her, not in the least. If there were any justice in the world, she'd put a bullet in his skull. But he could see when it happened, when the primal part of her consciousness was forced aside by the rational, logical Major Carter.
"Sir," she said tightly, forcing a watery smile that was several light years from genuine. He watched as she unconsciously rubbed her sweating palms against the coarse BDU fabric that covered her thighs. "Dr. Fraiser is going to have a fit when she finds out you're out of the infirmary."
He winced, slowly stepping inside the lab. He felt like an idiot, dressed like a refugee from the infirmary – which, technically he was. Self-consciously, he pulled the door part way shut, enough to discourage someone from walking in and hopefully muffle the conversation, but not enough to make her feel like she was trapped. Okay, more trapped.
"Please," he said gently, all the weariness and guilt and horror echoing in his voice. "Please can we ditch the sir for this conversation."
She flushed, her gaze dropping blindly to her laptop screen as she slowly hunched in on herself, all of her forced bravado fading into nothing. He had never seen her look so small and in that moment, he knew Satish was right. You didn't need to kill someone to destroy them. Fuck.
She took a deep breath and then another, her head bowed toward the countertop. "I'm glad you're okay," she said in a whisper.
He could see the unshed tears shimmering in her eyes and fought the sickening urge to laugh. "I really wish that was true," he said quietly.
Looking up at him, her expression was filled with such raw, visceral pain that he instantly, thoroughly, regretted his careless words. Fuck. Was he trying to come off as a petulant, self-centered prick? Dammit.
She blinked, unable to stop the tear that streamed down her cheek. "I – " she started and then stopped. "It's not – " A breath, then another. She shook her head, endless tears tracking unchecked down her cheeks. "It's not a lie," she said softly. "Regardless of – " She looked away again, this time wrapping her arms around herself like she was afraid of literally, physically falling apart. "It's not a lie."
He wished so badly that he could go to her, that he could offer her comfort, but he knew that neither of them were anywhere near ready for the horror of physical contact.
He was silent, ignoring the pain in his body, the throbbing in his head. He gave Carter the time she needed, the time to compose herself. Tears were wiped on the BDU sleeve and she coughed to clear her throat. He ventured farther into the room, gingerly taking a seat at one of the lab stools. "Jacob came to see me," he said.
She looked at him for a telling moment and then her eyes flitted away again. She nodded, obviously understanding the gist, if not the play by play, of the conversation he'd had with her father. "I don't know how much to – " She stopped again, this time biting down on her lip as she furiously fought with her own emotions for control. "I haven't told them … everything."
He fiddled with a paperclip on the countertop. "You should," he said, wincing when he realized it sounded like censure. "I just mean that they need to know. Fraiser and Hammond at least. All of it. They need to know. I can tell them if you can't," he offered, thinking that facing the certain, crushing shame of admitting what had transpired was the least of the penance he should have to pay.
She was staring down at her laptop again, obviously not seeing it. "SG-1 is gone, isn't it?" she asked quietly. She looked up, her eyes huge and so, so lost. "Even if I wasn't … SG-1 would still be gone, wouldn't it?"
He wanted so badly to lie to her, to pretend they were nothing more than CO and 2IC and this was just another one of the things they could endure. But it wasn't. And both of them knew that.
Jack figured it was a pretty shaky prospect that either of them would be re-instated at all, never mind re-instated to active duty out of the SGC. The two of them being sent out together on the SGC's flagship team … no way. That was never, ever going to happen. He doubted they would ever be assigned to the same direct chain of command again, provided they were assigned at all. Hammond had probably already filled out all of his retirement paperwork and at least a transfer, if not a discharge, for Carter. He would bet everything he had that George was calling in every favor he could trying to get her a position on some civilian think-tank.
"It's gone," he confirmed.
He watched her lips purse together. He feared she might truly crumble under the weight of her depression.
Reaching out, he stopped just short of touching her hand. "But we're not gone."
He made it down the hall and around the corner before his legs buckled on him. Luckily Daniel was the one that found him and helped him back to the infirmary. He could deal with Daniel seeing his weakness. Hell, half the SGC could see it if necessary. But not Carter. Not now. He knew that as metaphorically screwed as he was at the moment, she was in a much, much darker place. He couldn't afford to be weak in front of her. She was a phenomenal soldier and in times of weakness, she tended to fall back on her military training. She'd take her lead from him. How he dealt with this situation would impact how she dealt with it.
Had his physical condition been any more precarious, the look Fraiser gave him just might have killed him on the spot. As it was, he attempted a sheepish expression to appease her. She didn't buy it. He was fairly sure getting an IV shouldn't have been quite that painful.
"Apparently you're feeling better," Daniel said pointedly as soon as Fraiser had stormed back to her office. He was leaning against an empty bed, arms crossed over his chest with that look on his face. Jack hated that look.
Frowning, Jack said, "I needed some air."
"We're 28 levels below ground. The air in the hallway outside Sam's lab is so much fresher than the air in here," Daniel needled, eyebrows slightly raised.
Jack sighed, lifting his not-recently-stabbed hand to cover his eyes. "Dammit, Daniel, not now," he snapped.
Daniel seemed to deflate a little, relenting. For a plane-of-existence skipping, galaxy exploring, gun toting archaeologist, he sounded very young when he said, "You were gone for a long time, Jack. Both of you. And now even though you're back, you're not back."
Lowering his hand, Jack looked at Daniel and considered saying something along the lines of you mean like you earlier this year?, only he didn't. Daniel meant well, he really did. He was hurting. They were all hurting. "I'm working on it," he said seriously.
The briefing wasn't exactly a briefing. At least it wasn't one of the usual post-mission paper trails. No doubt out of consideration for Carter, Hammond had the entire incident declared off limits to everyone save Fraiser, Jacob and the involved parties. Daniel and Teal'c really weren't happy about that, but Jack knew that Hammond expected him and Carter to tell them in their own time, in their own way. Sometimes he really thought Hammond had too much faith in them.
So, the briefing was actually a meeting in Hammond's office with Fraiser and Jacob. The three of them exchanged bits of information until they were fairly certain they had the whole picture. Jack and Carter weren't invited, mostly – Jack figured – because no one wanted to find out what would happen when you stuck the two of them together in a room. He hadn't told anyone he already spoke with her. Apparently she hadn't divulged that information either. Most shocking of all was that Daniel actually kept his mouth shut. That was a really telling sign that all of this had affected not just him and Carter, but all of SG-1.
Jesus, this sucked. Once again, Jack glanced toward the infirmary door. Fraiser caught him staring again and he quickly looked away, turning his attention back to the Mad magazine he was pretending to read.
"She's not here," the doctor offered. "I released her last night. She went home."
"Home?" he asked, frowning.
Fraiser nodded. "Since it was a goa'uld infestation that caused your condition and not a contagion, there was no reason to keep her confined to base. She's on indefinite medical leave and I sent her home to rest."
"Ah," he said, hoping his disappointment wasn't as clear to Fraiser's ears as it was to his own. From the pitying look on her face, he knew it was. Carter hadn't told him she was leaving. Hell, he hadn't even seen her since that horribly awkward conversation in her lab four days ago. He was doing a bang up job of supporting her. Dammit.
Fraiser ventured closer. The infirmary was pretty deserted, but the botanist from SG-16 was asleep several beds down. "She's going to have to come back tomorrow," she said quietly. "She needs to make some final decisions about things."
Jack looked at her for a moment and then nodded. In other words, if he had anything he needed to say on the subject, he best say it soon. Jack knew that Jacob hadn't spelled out the fact that it was his child that Carter was carrying, but then again, he probably hadn't needed to. Fraiser was a smart cookie. Replaying Sam's reactions over in her mind, Fraiser must have quickly came to the right conclusion about what happened.
Adjusting the stethoscope around her neck, Fraiser said in her usual speaking voice, "Colonel, you aren't in any immediate danger. I don't see any reason why – with appropriate supervision – you couldn't leave base for a few hours."
He smiled wryly. "Thanks, doc."
Teal'c didn't even raise an eyebrow, which, in itself, spoke volumes. He could always be counted upon for, if not words, then at the very least a pithy expression. Jack received none. Teal'c merely bowed to his request for assistance.
"Of course, O'Neill," he said.
The ride was quiet, as Teal'c was mercifully sparing him the experience of his new sound system. Halfway down the mountain, Jack finally cracked. "How is she?"
Teal'c glanced in the rearview mirror, but did not look at Jack. "MajorCarter survives," he said solemnly.
Frowning, Jack asked, "She talk to you about things?"
Finally glancing over, Teal'c shook his head. "She did not," he replied. "MajorCarter has spoken very little to anyone."
"But you have a pretty good idea what happened," Jack said carefully, knowing full well how thin the ice was upon which he was treading.
"I saw the extent of the physical damage inflicted upon her body." His voice was low and oddly hoarse.
"She fought like hell," Jack said quietly.
Teal'c didn't help him up to the door, but he did get out of the SUV and stand by the curb, watching. Jack hated this. He felt like a bug under a microscope. He wasn't good with touchy feely conversations under ideal circumstances and this particular situation was about as far from ideal as he could get without the help of an Asgard ship.
He still felt like hell, but even he knew that the shuffling of his feet had more to do with dread than physical pain. But even with all of his stalling, all too soon, he stood on Carter's porch. He adjusted his jacket, cleared his throat and finally knocked, followed quickly by a wince.
He realized as soon as the door was open that he should have suspected. Not that it particularly helped him at the moment. He shifted his weight nervously. "Hey, Jacob," he said awkwardly.
The older man simply looked at him, expression calm. Jack wondered how much of that was Selmack's doing. Jacob was a smart guy and he wasn't a sadist, but still, he had to have limits. Yeah, Jack knew that Jacob liked him, but surely this really couldn't be this civil. Of course, Jack wasn't exactly in a hurry for things to get ugly either. Besides, what could he possibly say to make this okay for Jacob? Hey, Jake, sorry I let some snakehead hijack my body and use it to beat your baby girl to hell and then knock her up. It didn't exactly roll off the tongue.
Yeah, so maybe this civil thing wasn't so bad.
Jacob spared him the horror of having to speak again by cocking his head to the side. "Sam's in the living room," he said, pulling the door wide so Jack could enter.
Jack walked into the hall and turned in time to see Jacob grabbing his jacket. At Jack's raised eyebrow, Jacob smiled tightly. "I forgot a few things on base," he said. "I figure Teal'c could give me a quick ride back to grab them."
"Ah," Jack said, nodding. In his mind, he thought that a two star general should be able to come up with a better cover story. He'd bet dollars to donuts that Jacob and Teal'c were going to drive around the block and park for the next hour. His irritation was slightly mollified by the fact that he knew it wouldn't be a pleasant wait for either of them.
Jack waited until Jacob shut the door, then waited until Jacob got into Teal'c's SUV, then waited some more until they finally drove out of his line of sight. He took a deep breath and bounced nervously on the balls of his feet. Fuck.
Steeling his resolve, he strode down the hall and across the kitchen to the living room. Or as much as he could stride with his knees.
Carter had obviously heard his exchange with her father. She was sitting on the couch wrapped in a blanket, staring blankly at C-SPAN. The late afternoon sunlight cut through the windows, bathing her in its rays. She looked like hell, but it was still a huge improvement over how bad of shape she had been in. He remembered every punch, every stab, every kick.
His stomach roiled and he reflexively tightened his fists.
He released a stale breath and opened his eyes to look at her. Jack. Yeah, well, he was the one who had asked her to drop the sir crap. Still, hearing his name on her lips was strange. He didn't want it to be strange. He wanted it to seem normal, natural.
But it didn't.
All he could think was that the whole time they were together in Satish's lair that she had never called him anything. Not a single sir. Not one Jack. No Colonel to be found. Even in the midst of some of the most heinous torture that snakehead could devise, when she had cried out, it had been wordless, formless screams. Maybe she'd known that eventually they were going to have to deal with this.
Jesus, this whole thing made his head want to explode.
"I, uh," he fumbled. "So, yeah … Got a minute?"
She almost smiled and it was shocking how much that almost imperceptible quirking of her lips made his insides jump. He couldn't really remember what life was like two months ago. Sure, he could remember the details, but he couldn't feel them. He couldn't remember what it was like to look at her and see nothing but possibility.
He knew, in a very detached way, that in the darkest corners of his mind that he'd hoped that maybe, one day there could possibly be a them. Him and Carter. Jack and Sam.
But now all that was just … gone.
When he looked at her he saw nothing but his own failure, his own hand in destroying one of the most phenomenal human beings he'd ever known. He saw his own weakness, his own inability to fight that fucking snake. Every time he closed his eyes he heard her cries, he felt her skin tear beneath his fingers, he heard the most heinous words pouring from his own lips.
The expression on her face told him that his own expression was betraying far too much. Swallowing thickly, he forced himself to smile.
"Have a seat," she said, motioning him not beside her on the couch, but to the chair on the opposite side of the coffee table.
With a tight nod, he sank down into the chair, once again looking at her. Even beat to hell and looking like death warmed over, she was still a damn attractive woman. He hated himself for being able to think that even as he could remember how her blood smelled as he spilled it.
His lips parted and then closed again. He couldn't remember his mouth ever being this dry. He shook his head. This conversation wasn't going to get any easier and small talk wasn't going to work. Taking a deep breath, he dove in. "I saw the report," he said quietly. "Fraiser is urging you to opt for a medical abortion."
She bit down on her bottom lip and looked at him. He figured that she knew that's why he was here. Slowly, she nodded. "How do you feel about that?" she asked calmly, obviously having prepared for some variation on this scenario. He realized without shock that he wouldn't have expected any less.
He scoffed and shrugged, looking away. "What do I? I mean …" He trailed off, floundering. "It's not my decision."
She watched him carefully for several heartbeats. "Isn't it?" she pressed, not letting him off the hook. "In effect, if not intention, this is your child."
He took a deep breath and released it slowly. His child. Wow. Leaning forward, he braced his elbows against his knees, hands clasped together tightly. He looked up at her and then smiled wryly. "Even I'm not enough of an ass to think that we would have equal roles in this."
She didn't respond.
He paused, considering his words. "This is your body, Sam, and your choice. I'd feel that way regardless, but especially considering how this … happened " He trailed off. "This isn't like we got drunk and did something stupid," he said forcefully. Further words seemed to be strangled by his frustration and he fell silent.
"I would never blame you," he swore vehemently. "Never. Whatever choice you make, I will support you completely."
The watery smile was back and though she wasn't crying, her eyes were very shiny. "That's not what I asked you," she said patiently. "I asked you how you feel about it."
He shrugged, looking down at his hands. "I honestly don't know," he admitted. His child. Somehow in all the thinking he'd done, he'd never really gotten around to that little detail. "I loved Charlie. I miss him like hell. You and me … I mean we … I hoped one day …" He stopped, taking a long, fortifying breath. He laughed mirthlessly and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "This situation is so far beyond fucked."
She smiled an equally humorless expression. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was the point."
He frowned, cocking his head to the side as he looked at her. "Do you really think this is what that son of a bitch intended?" he asked seriously.
She shrugged. "I doubt it," she conceded. "It's just an unplanned bonus. It's not just you and me he ripped apart. He did this to us. And to the life that we created."
He sat there for a long time, twiddling his thumbs together. "Jacob mentioned that you were reading through that Asgard stuff," he finally said.
She shifted, sitting up straighter, pulling the blanket tighter. "I know it seems … clinical," she admitted softly. "I just … I have to look at this from every angle."
His hackles were up as he said, "Carter, screw the Asgard." His choice of words hit him and he winced, but nonetheless, plunged forward. "I don't give a damn about their missing link. I sure as hell don't expect you to fix their Xerox problem."
Her smile was surprisingly gentle. "That's not it," she clarified. "I was actually researching it from the perspective of utilizing Ancient technology, of maybe having someone who could access their repository of knowledge without it being a death sentence."
Confusion was etched on his features. "It's a tool to you?" he asked incredulously.
She flushed hotly, her gaze immediately dropping to her hands. "No," she said in a tiny, contrite voice. "I just … I told you I have to look at it from all perspectives. This is about you and me, yes, but it's also bigger than that."
He didn't know how to react to that, but he let it go. He didn't even know what the hell he was thinking, he was in no position to criticize her. Maybe this had to be bigger than them right now, in order for them to be able to deal with it at all.
"Do you uh … Do you have any idea what you're going to tell Fraiser?" he asked, promptly wincing. Fuck. He hated that. He hated euphemisms almost as much as he hated clichés. Tell Fraiser. Hell of a way to ask her if she was going to kill their child, the child she didn't want, the child he forced on her through rape.
Her eyes were fixed on something on the coffee table as she nodded. "I'm keeping it," she said. There was no hesitation in her voice, no submissiveness. She wasn't asking him for his permission or his blessing or even his agreement. She was telling him.
He was shocked to realize he was relieved. But the relief was quickly overwhelmed by the bone chilling fear. How the fuck were they going to do this?
"I don't expect anything from you," she said, still unable to look at him.
Finally, her eyes met his. "This wasn't your choice anymore than it was mine," she said.
He didn't have a response to that, mostly because he really hadn't considered that angle.
"So," she continued, "I don't expect you to play daddy or anything. Unless you want to," she quickly amended. "I'd never keep your child from you."
He frowned at her, having no idea what he could possibly say. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Carter," he started, "I, uh, need some time to wrap my head around all of this."
She nodded, but it was pretty obvious from her expression that she was hurt. Fuck.
He stood up, shaking his head, knowing full well that if he stayed he was just going to screw things up worse. "I'm gonna go," he said, motioning to the door. "You know, before Fraiser sets the hounds out after me."
She nodded tightly. He made only a few steps before he stopped and turned back to look at her. "I meant what I said earlier. I will always be there for you, no matter what. Believe me."
Her breath caught in her throat and tears glittered in her eyes. She nodded again.
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