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Cut Strings

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Nobody blames them.

Not exactly.

But I’m pretty sure that Janet doesn’t look at him the same way anymore.

Mind you, Sam was one of her best friends. Samantha, while genetically the same person, is a completely different personality to our Sam.

Just the way Samantha’s husband Jack was a different personality to our Jack.

I don’t blame them.

Not exactly.

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the two of them don’t really want each other. They want the person that the other represents to them. And that’s where the mess begins.

A prurient part of me wonders if Samantha feels it more than Jack. After all, she and her Jack were already lovers, married for a year when she came through the mirror.

Jack…well, if he claims to have never looked at Sam that way, then every Tok’ra and his symbiote knows he’s lying. He and Sam might never have been lovers, but there were certainly connections between them. In the void left by her death, he’s trying to connect with Samantha.

Samantha is not Sam.

It’s in the pure science of her as she studies technologies the way I study my ‘rocks’. She doesn’t look at things with a military eye the way Sam did. She doesn’t see things the way Jack sees them – the way he expects Samantha to see them. He’s still equating her with Sam.

Just as she’s still equating him with her husband.

One day last week, Jack sat down next to her for lunch. She took one look at the plate, then said incredulously, “But you don’t like…” Then she stopped, flushed, and looked away.

Jack ate in uncomfortable silence. Samantha filled the gap with a dissertation on something she was working on. Again, something Sam wouldn’t have done. Sam would never have made the comment in the first place. Her CO’s likes and dislikes in food were none of her business, although she would have known them as well as Teal’c or I. And she wouldn’t have ‘covered over’ her mistake. She would have apologised with stiff formality.

It’s painful to watch them. They want so hard for the other to be the person they lost, and they want to be the lost person to the other – but they also want to be themselves and loved for it.

They shouldn’t have, but they did. So now they’ll have to deal with losing each other all over again. Either that, or pretend for the rest of their lives together. And neither of them – in any incarnation – will endure being second best. It’s all or nothing.

I guess it’s going to be nothing.

Samantha handed in her resignation today. Kawalsky’s was beside hers within minutes.

And Jack just stared at his hands as the General told us the news.

Teal’c and I – well, we didn’t show it, but we were relieved.

We’ve discussed this many nights when Jack was out with Samantha.

It’s not that we don’t like Samantha, but she’s too much like Sam and not enough like her – for us to really get along with her. We saw that immediately.

Jack took longer.

Too long.

I don’t know where they’ll go in the end. Samantha – like Sam – is too brilliant to be hidden under some rock. Her choice of military or political employment is limited, simply because she can’t work anywhere that Sam did without fielding difficult questions about her uncanny likeness to a Major Sam Carter. Then, too, there’s Kawalsky, who’s only ever known a soldier’s life and would be lost in the civilian world.

Truthfully? I don’t want to know where they’ll go.

I don’t really care.

She’s a woman grieving for her husband, and Jack was a man grieving for a woman he cared about more deeply than he let himself…

Nobody blames them for what happened.

I don’t blame them for what happened.

Yeah, right.

Chapter Text

I find him where I expected. In Sam’s lab.

Grieving again.

They left this morning, with only a few people to say goodbye. Most people managed polite, but nobody could really manage friendly. It was a bad judgement call from the powers that be. We should have helped them out the way the other reality helped us out, and then sent them back. Called the Asgard out to help them or something with that device Jack made when the Ancients took him over, I don’t know.

Something.

Just not this.

When Sam died, Jack withdrew from us.

We were grieving just as much as him, and he shut us out. It would have been a week or so, but he would have come back to us – to his friends.

Then she stepped through the mirror.

And the world skewed around her.

Do you think I’m jealous? Yes. Yes, I’m jealous of Dr. Samantha O’Neill. She took my best friend at a time when I needed him. She took him and made him dependant on her presence, and let herself become dependant on him.

Perhaps it was because Sam was dead that she never realised how strong the bond was between us all. The SG-1 she knew, led by her own husband, while still a good team, didn’t have the closeness of our team. They were friends, but they weren’t family the way we are.

The way we were.

He looks up from his place at the desk as I come in. “They’re gone.”

“I know.”

“She told me I never really loved her.”

“You didn’t,” I tell him. I don’t tell him the rider to the statement, I think he already knows it.

Still, even after she’s dead, and he’s slept with a woman who bears her genes and her name, he can’t admit it. Maybe not even to himself.

The silence grows and I look away from his eyes around the dusty shelves of Sam’s lab.

It’s still Sam’s lab. Not Samantha’s. The other woman worked here sometimes, but she preferred another lab to do her in-depth thinking – a lab that was hers in the other reality. And I think she felt the ghost of her dead counterpart too strongly in here.

Then, too, there’s a picture of us, SG-1, framed on the wall. Better times.

Four travellers to far-off planets, grinning into the lens of Jack’s camera, arms around each other. Sam and I are in the middle, Teal’c and Jack flanking us. I have an arm slung around Sam’s waist – she made a joke about my proximity and I played along by squeezing her closer while she laughed. Teal’c’s arm is over her shoulder, as hers is across mine, and Jack’s arm vanishes behind me, probably resting on Sam’s back.

I take the picture down from the wall and brush the dust off it. My finger lingers over Sam’s laughing face. That face lies still and cold and rotting in the ground of the cemetery, and for a moment it hurts so bad, I can’t breathe.

“I wonder what she thinks of me…” The question is low; so low I can barely hear it.

My bottled-up pain makes me vicious. “Probably the same thing that Samantha’s Jack thinks of Samantha,” I say, callously. “If he and Sam aren’t snuggled up together in some heavenly Acapulco.”

He glares at me. “Thanks for making it easier, Danny.”

“Just returning the favour, Jack.”

The glare intensifies, “What the hell does that mean?”

I’m intending to say something light and dismissive. This isn’t the time to bring up old wounds.

They rise to the surface anyway.

“It hurt us, too, when she died.” I try not to choke on the words. I fail. Two months haven’t made the truth any easier to say.

Teal’c couldn’t get me out of this hurt and frustration. His tranquillity forced me to store it up within my soul. He could feel the anger beneath my calm, but he couldn’t break it out from me.

Sam would have drawn such anger from me like pus from an infected wound, but at no danger to herself. However, Sam’s dead. She’s dead and we’ll never hear her voice again, or watch her smile, or wonder at her intellect, or receive the gentleness of her compassion.

Only Jack could produce this fury blistering like fire within me. Only Jack would be target enough for me to let loose on him.

“I…I know…”

The bitterness bursts out of me, a torrent of words which will only drive wedges deeper between us but which I can’t hold back. “You don’t know, Jack! You don’t know anything! You have no idea! We lost Sam, just the same as you! But nothing was as important as your pain, was it? Nothing mattered so much as the knowledge she was dead and you never saw her until she was gone!”

Anger steels and hardens his voice: “That’s not fair, Daniel!”

“Isn’t it? Is it any less fair that Teal’c and I have had to deal with losing Sam on our own?” My lip curls. “We’re SG-1. ‘The closest team on the base’. But when we need each other most, you don’t give a damn about your team-mates. God, Jack! Don’t you think Teal’c and I loved her too?” I choke on the words, but not because I’m ashamed to say them, but because there’s so much emotion in them. “We needed you there, Jack, and you were too busy fucking Doctor Samantha O’Neill!”

He’s gone white as a sheet.

I’m scarlet to his white. Red and furious with anger and pain and pent-up bitterness that’s been stored in my soul since Sam died.

“You don’t know…” The words are wrung from him, but I don’t care. I’m too angry to listen.

“What? I don’t know what you’ve suffered? I don’t know what it’s been like? Well, you’re right. I don’t know what it’s been like sleeping with a woman who I want to be someone else entirely!”

“It wasn’t like that, Daniel…”

“I don’t care what it was like, Jack! I care about the fact I lost two of my closest friends in a fortnight! I lost one friend when she died in my arms, and I lost another when he went to find solace in another woman’s arms!”

“I didn’t…”

“You did! You tried to make her into Sam and she tried to make you into her husband and both of you failed and now it just hurts more!” I’m the one with the power now, the one with the weapon he can’t fight – his own grief and sorrow and guilt and shame over Sam and Samantha.

God, it feels good.

Intoxicating.

Just letting loose everything that’s been twisting me since Sam died is cathartic. The rage which shrouded my eyes when I first realised Jack was spending his nights with Samantha has torn.

“Daniel…”

Oh no, Jack. You’re not getting by me this time. You can’t smooth this over with a plea and a smile. Not this time.

I thrust the picture into his hands. “Go on, have a look at the people you deserted.” I point at the big Jaffa. “Teal’c’s been withdrawing steadily into himself since Sam died. When you began spending all your downtime with Samantha, he decided that you rejected him because of his failure to protect Sam. He doesn’t walk with honour anymore because he failed her, and he feels he failed you too. And you haven’t done a damn thing to persuade him otherwise!” He’s staring at the picture with blind eyes, “He doesn’t rely on your good opinion, Jack, but he trusts it more than he trusts mine, or Janet’s, or Hammond’s. We can tell him all we like that it’s not his fault, but until the words come from you, he’s going to lash himself with his guilt!”

“Danny…”

“See this woman?” I ask, stabbing my finger at the laughing Sam. “She was our team-mate for over two years. She covered our butts more times than I can count, including the day she died. And within two weeks, her commanding officer was sleeping in the bed of her genetic twin.”

“Daniel…”

“See this guy?” My thumb rests next to Jack’s face on the picture glass. “When I first met him, I thought him the biggest military asshole. Then I got to know him. I got to like him. Rough around the edges, but a likeable guy. Honourable. Took care of his people. Made stupid jokes to hide his emotions. For a couple of years, he was the best friend I had. I lost him when she died.”

He doesn’t have anything to say to that. The picture falls from his hands to the desk with a solid thud and he looks up at me.

“You deserted us, Jack. When your team needed you, you deserted them.” I pick the picture up from the desk. “Great command style, Colonel O’Neill.”

I can’t stay here, not with him, not with the acid bitterness I have inside me. The man sitting at the table revolts me right now and I’m not going to spend another moment in his presence! I yank at the door, but a voice, rusty with anguish and pain, stops me. “Daniel…”

“Yes?”

He looks down at his hands, “I missed you guys.”

He thinks that will make it all better? Well it won’t! Not this time, Jack!

Still…

“We missed you too, Jack.”

And I yank the door closed after me.


  •  

In my office, book-lined, musty with paper, I shut the door. The picture is clutched in my arms and I let it slip to the table as I close my eyes and let the guilt take me.

Oh God.

Oh, God.

I can’t believe I just said what I did.

He’ll never forgive me.

I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive myself.

Jack’s been through so much in his life. So many things I’ve never had to contemplate. Wars and missions, the paranoia of Black Ops, four months in an Iraqi prison camp, his son’s death, his estrangement from his wife, and all the times he feels he’s personally failed General Hammond, SG-1, and himself. Including Sam’s death.

And I’ve just added to the burden he carries around for the sake of letting off steam.

How do I know I wouldn’t have done the same?  If our positions were reversed, and Sam had died, and a week later Samantha came through the mirror; how do I know I wouldn’t have clung to her like a drowning man?

I’m a selfish bastard.

My friends look back at me from the picture frame: Jack, Sam, Teal’c.

Better times.

When Sam died, the strings between us were severed. Guilt and anguish will do that. They’ll shear through your ability to relate to the people around you and cut you off from the ones you love.

I don’t know if we can get those connections back. Not after her death and Samantha’s arrival.

Not after what I said to Jack in there.

Time passes. I don’t know how much and I don’t care. It’s just me, sitting here in my office, staring at a picture of me and my friends.

Better days.

My door opens without the entry-request knock. Only one person ever came in without asking. Only one person ever will. I look up and meet Jack’s eyes.

He shuts the door behind him and leans against it, but he doesn’t say anything.

That he’s here at all means there’s nowhere else he can turn except his own soul – and he can’t cope with that right now.

The bond between us was severed both ways; by his relationship with Samantha and my outburst in Sam’s office. If we’re ever going to be friends again – and I’m not afraid to admit I need him all the more now Sam’s gone – something has to cross the chasm between us.

It’s up to me to reach out to him after I cast him aside.

“I shouldn’t have…”

“I shouldn’t have…”

We speak simultaneously, then fall silent. Fleeting amusement flashes in our eyes replaced by shared grief and pain and the ghost of the woman we lost.

“I loved her, too, Jack.” Not the way he did, but…love, nevertheless.

“I know, Danny.”