“Sir, please, I can help.” She tries again, slowly chasing him through labyrinth of SGC backup systems where he’s ‘not hiding’.
He turns on her, joining the main boiler to block a path she almost reconsiders going down. Her skin reddens at the fire radiating off of both of them. “Then help.” he spits, waving to their heated surroundings.
Her mouth opens to start again, but “Kid, one day you’re going to learn that you can’t fix everything in the universe. And that’s going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you.”
Concern bites down on anger, visions of his acid-burned clothes flashing superimposed on their predicament. “Sir—” Still, she's upset. What the hell do you know about the worst day of my life? ...Too much, actually, not that he cares.
“Major, I’m glad.” He huffs, facetious. “I’m glad!” “I’m glad you don’t know what I’m talking about. That you could never understand what it’s like to be killed a thousand times. To have your testicles electrocuted in an Iraqi hell pit. I’m glad. But with all due respect to your perfection, Doctor, screw you.”
Sam grits down, vision starting to swirl. “Colonel O—” She tries again, but can’t divine if the effort is to help him or set his punk ass straight.
Either way, he’d had enough. “YOU DON’T KNOW! Shut up and turn the f—”
“I don’t know?!” “What do you know about having your entire mind raided by a stalker robot?!! About waking up screaming nightmares from the worst memories of lives that aren’t even yours?! Of watching bodies explode around you as you feel your own heart bubble?!” He’d frozen, but she doesn’t care.
“What do you know about being imprisoned by the people you’d die for? Watching you turn away as someone else wraps around your spinal cord? Everyone you care about thinking you’re insane? What do you know about your body erupting in an energy—feeling yourself actually kill someone with emotion?”
“No! No, Sir!” she pants, gaining just enough oxygen to yell back, “Care or don't, but whadoyou know about getting gang raped and whipped ten minutes before you have to pick that lock and save your whole damn team?! About almost marrying a man that’d as soon kill you as control you? About remembering a thousand years of a losing war, drowning in another person’s emotions?!” Her body backs against the steel wall before its temperature finally sinks through her over-heated perception, making her jump.
She stumbles, and her mind blurs from its broken frenzy and back to a wounded reality.
Jack watches her breathe, stunned into…he can’t process everything in that. Shit going, asshole. The one person that’s never— his inner critic curses at him.
“Sir, I—” She starts softly, panting back light tears.
Ohh, no-you-don’t. “Don’t.”
“Sir—” She starts again, wet but composed, echoing her earlier appeal.
“Don’t.” I swear to God, Major, you apologize for me for that, I’m going to kick one of our asses, and it’s not going to be the nice one.
“Sir…God, please forgive me.”
Sam shudders. She raises her head but closes her eyes at him. “Commander, Colonel, Sir, I’m so sorry. I…” She exhales sharply again, lost.
“Carter…" Biggest. Jerk. Ever. To her. "Carter." To the one person you can't be good enough to. "You don’t have to apologize to me because you don’t need my forgiveness.” How did she not see that? How had his hands gotten on her shoulders?
She stays straight, locked into her posture, but no look he gives her manages to open her eyes. “I can’t believe I just…”
His jaw clinches, scrambling for words to push out of it. “Sam, I’m an ass. I…You know that.” Are you seriously going to write yourself off of this right now? “Not that…That was way too far. I’m sorry, Carter, please.” Please, Sam. He means it like he's not suppose to.
You can't be anything to her.
Carter leans further away in his grip, staring behind him blankly. The look in her eyes would haunt him worse than most of this memories he’d just wanted to throw at her. You did that to her, Jack. You did that to Her.
Sealed. Forlorn. A look that said she might never try opening again.
You'll never be anything for Her. Clearly he's way too damn stupid. She's better off that way.
“May I be dismissed, Colonel?” Her voice is soft; not in a kind way. Undemanding. Basically submissive.
He closes his eyes, feeling the failure shake his arms. Come back, Sam.
“..." Call her 'Sam'. "Sam, I…I wouldn’t stop you. But” he tilts his head and lets a rare trace of his sadness trickle into view. At least he can give her that. “I need your help.” He smiles weakly, slinking down against the concrete wall and looking up at her. He's still not sure he wants the help, but he's got the truth to for her anyway.
Carter blinks blankly at the spot his head just left.
Jack worries his brow and finds himself wishing up at her. She won’t sit down for you. His jaw clinches again at the inner voice. She’s going to leave, and you’re going to lose this. You’re going to throw it away. This thing he sometimes imagines he’s got.
This thing he'd do anything to keep.
This thing she's probably better off without.
“Sam…” He stops. She’s never going to let a guy like him help a woman like her. Who would? He wouldn’t. He wouldn't let himself near her if he wasn't such a selfish bastard.
You’re going to ruin her, Jack. She’s perfect, and you’re going to hurt her. She is hurt, damnit. You’ve failed her. You failed her, and you’re going to drive everything you love about her away from anything she’ll ever consider giving you.
His heart catches. “If you want to, I know you can do this. If you still want to.” God, please, Sam, just sit down.
You're too exposed. You're not acting her superi--
She looks at him, and then back up at the place he’d been. No matter what he mutely begs to her, his heart refuses to beat. “I’m not perfect.” She tries, finally.
He blinks. She means something by that. What does she mean by that? Damnit, man, think. “…I…you’re…I mean, you’re really close.” He studies her, hoping that’s the right answer. “The closest.” He can’t tell. It’s gotta be right, right? He nods onto it, “…really, really c—”
“I-know-I-wasn’t-there.” She expels in a rush. Something’s broken, and that’s what came out. Why is that what came out? His brow furrows and he suddenly feels the wetness in his eyes. Why are you so damn bad at this? “I-know-it’s-my-fault. I-know. I know.”
The tearful exhale sends his heart from zero to 160 before he can even look at what ‘fault’ means.
“But other than that, I’ve been there. I’ve been almost everywhere with you. I’d follow you anywhere, Sir. I really would.” She’s trying to convince him, and he can’t figure out why.
“You…I know. Of course I know that, Carter.” Yes, that was good. That was good, right?
“That hasn’t been perfect for me.” Her tone is indeed corrective in a way, but not to someone she faults for it. Fault me, Sam. “I haven’t been perfect.”
Jack’s inner voice smacks his forehead. D’oh. That? He digs back, trying to remember how he’d said it. Hanson hurt her. A body explodes beside them. Whipped? Fifth. She was talking about Fifth, you asshole, and you just—GAH! Stupid bastard. Flecks of bodily water hit him where her dying breath hadn’t soaked his cheek. Another disintegration.
He snaps back. She’s looking three inches around him on all sides, desperation tamped by dejection. You should probably do that thing with the words now, genius. He heaves himself to his feet and opts for directness.
“You’re the best I’ve ever had, Carter. The best I’ve ever seen. I could never ask for anything more. I could’ve never asked for anything like this. This whole year.” He corrects, “Longer.” His mouth closes to study her better. She’s full professional again, absorbing the words of wisdom from her CO.
Also, in retrospect, that was completely not direct at all. “All that crap I said is…crap.”
She swallows. Is that really all you’ve got? You better wish she finds someone more eloquent than you to hold her at night. His eyes pinch on the thought, but the truth of it can’t help but burn.
“I know you understand, Sam. I know you’ve faced it, some more than me.” He sees she’s found her voice. She wants to cut him off, but her professionalism stops her. “I was angry. You have every right to be mad at me, Carter.”
“I’m not angry, Colonel.”
“You should be.” Damnit, Sam, hit me.
“I just…I really have tried. I’ve been there, even when I knew it’d be worse than for you guys. I didn’t mean to yell about it, Sir.”
They were finally talking now. He shakes his head. “You should’ve. We’re in a bad place right now, Carter. Both of us. I’m glad you did.” His inner critic finally stills, for once. “Look. I know I’m definitely the one on the wrong side of this, but if you want, call it even? I could really use you right now.” GAH! “I could really use your friendship, Major.” Better. Jeez. “And I think it’s mutual.” He studies her, and she nods, tears firmly choked in her throat. “Com‘ere.” Hold me, and please know what I mean.
The union happens subliminally. She knows. Right? Jack leans against the wall, relieved at her weight. Just this once. He lets it ground him from his nightmares and tries not to miss it before it's gone.
God, why does she have to fit so well?
He lets his head turn into her neck as her breath steadies on his chest. So well. Are you listening up there, because this really should be the last straw for me…