She left the base before the debriefing started, knowing there would be consequences but unable to work up the energy to care. She was too angry to stay and talk rationally, hurting too much to explain why sheíd done what sheíd done.
Her house was still dark, just as she remembered, only now there were signs of it having been disturbed by the dozens of SFís who had swarmed around outside. The front door was the only door that hadnít been kicked in but shutting it was a futile attempt at evoking a sense of security as she knew the backdoor to her house was still open, the cold breeze travelling down the hallway to where she stood winding itself around her.
Her home had been ransacked, or at least it looked it. In their haste to find Orlin, chairs had been knocked over and the furniture in general was in a state of disarray. Numbly, feeling violated, Major Samantha Carter only just managed to make it to her couch before her legs gave out on her.
Her eyes wandered unseeingly through the darkness of the living room, her body drained of all itís energy, too tired to even turn on a light. The shadows were, in a way, strangely comforting. The gloom matched the way she was feeling; the shadows concealed the raw pain in her eyes and the anger in her face.
They hadnít trusted her, no one had. No one but Orlin. Her own team, General Hammond.. They hadnít believed her, and it hurt. The very people she depended on and would trust with her life.. hadnít trusted her when she needed them to. Instead, sheíd been sent for a psyche evaluation, as they questioned her sanity, leading her to question her trust in them.
Something gleamed in the beam of the streetlight that stubbornly sneaked through the blinds of the living room window. A single tear ran down her cheek as she reached out and lifted the emerald, the precious stone feeling heavier than usual in her palm.
It had been a gift, one given as a sign of affection. Now it served as a painful reminder of someone lost.
"Another person to add to the list," Sam muttered sourly, running her forefinger over the smooth surface of the stone as she stared into its flawless depths.
Too many people had been lost. Too many people who got close to her had died. First her mother, then friends and colleagues in the Gulf, then Jonas, her father had almost died as had her team mates on more than one occasion, Shaíre, then Martouf.. and now Orlin. She didnít know if Orlin was truly dead in the permanent sense of the word but she knew, whether he had died or ascended, she knew that she would never see him again. His goodbye had felt so.. final.
The hand on her arm startled her so much she jumped, loosing her grip on the stone as it fell from her hand and bounced across the floor until it rested in a hiding place concealed by the night. With eyes that had trouble focusing, Sam looked up. Her lips settled into a tight, thin white line as she lowered her gaze again.
"Sam?" His tone was gentle, understanding, concerned. It was a question in disguise, making sure she was okay, asking if she would pull through this one as she usually did.
It annoyed the Hell out of her. "Iím fine, *Sir*." She answered coldly, briskly. Keeping her eyes averted as tried to contain the anger welling up inside her. "Just fine."
"Then why donít I believe you?" Still using the soft voice, Jackís hand left her shoulder as he felt it tense. He sighed inwardly, debating the wisdom of his decision to come here and ignore General Hammondís advice at giving her some time. He walked over to the chair opposite the couch and sat down, keeping his eyes on her at all times, looking for any signs of.. of something. "It might help to talk about it."
"You want to talk?" Her voice was emotionless, flat. She looked up and met his eyes and it was all he could do not to gasp at the pain and anger he saw there, a considerable amount of it aimed at him. "Fine, Sir." She leaned forward a little, as though steeling herself for an outburst. "Lets talk. Why donít we start with why you didnít believe me? Why you didnít trust me to tell me I was being watched?"
"Why donít you tell me how I can trust you knowing youíd lie to me and keep silent when you knew someone was spying on me?" She continued relentlessly, her eyes flashing as she got to her feet and glared at him.
"Carter.." Again, Jack tried to interrupt her and again, Sam ignored him.
"Or why donít we decide how weíre going to justify this one? This death? Lets think of some reason to sweep it all under the carpet and pretend it never happened."
"Major Carter!" Getting to his own feet, Jack had to bite the inside of his mouth to keep his own anger in check, anger spawned from frustration at being ignored and at being unable to refute more than one of her claims. "Are you done yet?"
"Yes, Sir." Sam stood with her back ramrod straight, almost standing at attention. Her voice was icy when she next spoke. "Weíre done here, Colonel OíNeill, Sir, so why donít you leave?"
ĎWeíre done here.í For some reason, Jack got the feeling she was speaking about more than just her outburst, and that thought chilled him to the bone. He took a step closer to her, reaching out to her with a hand and pained when she flinched. "Sam.. I wanted to believe you." She snorted at that but it was his turn to ignore her as he took a step closer. "And I wanted to tell you, you have to know that."
"How can I?" Sam asked quietly, her voice soft as she stared at a shadow on the wall just over his shoulder. "How can I know that when I donít trust you?"
Heíd been expecting that response, dreading it even. Regardless, he took another step closer, stopping when they were only a foot apart. "What do I have to do to make it up to you?" Desperation bubbled beneath the surface of the words. "What do I have to do to earn your trust again?"
Slowly, Sam raised her eyes to his. "Tell me the truth," she answered simply. "Tell me why you didnít believe me and why you let them watch me without me knowing. Tell me why you risked losing my trust."
Sighing heavily, Jack hesitantly reached out and took her hand, the physical contact unusual and a little awkward as he led her back to the couch, letting go of her hand as they sat down at opposite ends. "I wanted to believe you, Carter," he repeated, "we all did. But we were worried you were feeling the effects of everything youíve been through. Itís only a matter of time before you crash and burn.. No one can work as hard as you do and go through as many things as you have and come out on top of it all. When you passed out.. We.. I was scared that was the beginning of the end and that you were going to end up leaving us."
Sam opened her mouth to respond but one look from Jack silenced her.
"I donít know how you do it," he admitted honestly. "How you can go through so many things and stay with the program thatís cost you so much.." He took a deep breath and looked at her with such sincerity in his eyes she felt a lump build up in her throat. "I agreed with Hammond sending you for the psyche evaluation because I needed to know you were no more crazy than the rest of us. Which youíre not, by the way," he added with a brief grin. "In case youíre wondering." Taking another deep breath, he looked away. "I couldnít tell you about the cameraís because I was ordered not to. If I had told you more than I did, I would probably have been up on charges. It seems Colonel Simmons has quite a lot of friends in high places." He gazed earnestly into her still-pained blue eyes. "I *really* wanted to tell you, Sam. I probably should ha--"
"No." Sam shook her head. "You did the right thing, I guess. You couldnít have told me without them finding out and if they found out, youíd be in trouble." Her shoulders slumped as she looked dejectedly into the space in front of her, pulling her legs up and holding them close to her chest. "Thereís no need for us both to be brought up on charges."
"You wonít be," he assured her hurriedly, leaning back against the couch and twisting so he could study her without getting a crick in his neck. "Hammond said heíd take care of it. Heís still pretty furious about them investigating you without telling him and I think heís got the President on his side about that. You wonít be brought up on charges. Besides, you were just following orders."
"Yeah, sure. Following orders," she echoed glumly.
A small silence enveloped them. Jack fidgeted uncomfortably as he watched Sam stare into space and seemingly forget he was there. "Are you okay?"
"I will be," she answered immediately without blinking. "I always am."
"Well. I should be going." He made no move to get to his feet. "Or I could hang out for a while.."
Sam reacted to that. She moved her head to look at him, the startled expression giving way to a weak, shy smile. "I think Iíd like that."
Another, more comfortable silence fell over them as they stayed sitting. Jack stretched his legs out in front of him as Sam shifted until hers were curled up beside her and she was nestled against the arm of the couch. His eyes were just sliding closed when she spoke up, her voice small and sad in the night.
"My credit card bill is going to be huge."
Out of all the things heíd been expecting her to say, that wasnít one of them. Jack opened his eyes fully and looked at her, only to find she was staring back at him, her head propped up by her hand. Smiling supportively, he reached out and put a tentative hand on her ankle. "Iíll talk to Hammond about it. I think youíll get out of it if we use the alien influence excuse."
She nodded and swallowed the lump in her throat. Jack waited, rubbing her calf unthinkingly, knowing there was more she had to get off her chest before she could sleep. "He really.. Orlin really cared for me, you know." She told him softly, her voice almost breaking. "At the end, he said Iíd given him another chance." A sole tear worked its way down her cheek and Jack tracked its progress with his eyes in the dim streetlight. "He said.. He said it was the only way he could save me.. and then he was gone."
"He sounds like a good guy," Jack said eventually, swallowing the lump in his own throat as he stared into her eyes and wondered just how close Sam had got to the alien.
"He was," Sam smiled watery. "He didnít deserve to die, Jack." Her voice wavered as more tears followed the first. "He didnít deserve it."
Without hesitation, Jack shifted and tugged on her hand, making her move until she was in his arms. He had no words of comfort, nothing he could say would ease her pain and guilt, and so he just held her close, rocking her soothingly as he would a child. His own pain and guilt threatened his resolve as he tightened his grip on her, closing his eyes as the occasional sniffle escaped her.
In the world outside, dawn slowly arrived as the first glimpses of sunlight burst across the sky. As another day started, another wound began to heal.
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