Cover by XFchemist
beta by Sam-Jack Always
CHAPTER 1 - Threads
Jack casts a line while Sam watches. She’d been fishing before with her dad and the activity is both calming and nostalgic. It’s only been a week since she’s buried him, only twelve days since she stood over his bed in the infirmary and watched him take his last breath.
Jack casts his line again.
Sam thinks it’s a little shitty that this is her first time to the infamous cabin. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be there, she does, but her imagination had always conjured up more daring, more inappropriate scenarios for her introduction to the cabin. A team trip after her dad’s sudden death wasn’t one of them.
“Thank you for everything this week, Sir,” she says as she angles her own fishing rod. “The help with the funeral arrangements, everything,” she holds her fishing pole and thinks about how he’d stood by her through the long line of mourners that made their way to her after the funeral, thinks about how he held her in the hallway after Jacob had died, thinks about his smell and the comfort of his touch.
“Don't mention it, Carter,” he answers her, and she thinks he’s really at peace here, really himself. He’s sitting back on the rickety chair, holding his fishing pole with one hand and nursing a beer with the other. She likes this look, likes him relaxed like this, feels like this is a man she could spend a lot more time with.
The pond water laps against the underside of the dock and they can hear birds in the sky. For just a moment, their situation is idyllic, perfect.
If only the side door of his house hadn’t revealed that there was another woman in his life.
“I'm surprised Miss Johnson isn’t joining us this weekend. Really, Sir, you should have brought her. It's your vacation, I really don't—”
“I know it's none of my business, Sir,” and she really doesn’t know why she brought it up. Oh, yes, she does. She’s a sucker for punishment, and her inner demons want details.
He’s not taking the bait and it’s just proof to Sam that he really is smarter than he lets on.
“So… how long?” she keeps trying.
“How long what?” He steadies his beer and casts the line again, but she sees him grind his teeth.
Sam shakes her head and looks down. He’s being evasive as ever but it’s like she started it and wants to finish. She’s still emotional and raw from the funeral, so she’s okay with being pointed and annoying.
“Is it serious?”
“Carter!” He turns and they stare at each other. “We aren’t… uh, seeing each other anymore.”
Sam's eyes widen and she looks around. Jack puts his beer down on the dock.
“Oh.” She wants to say more but she has a fluttering feeling in her belly that she just can’t quite control.
“Yeah.” He remembers the conversation with Kerry in his office, remembers the awkward day Sam showed up at his backyard at exactly the wrong minute. He thinks about Kerry in his bed, thinks about how he’d pictured Sam when he made love to the woman and how much of a dick that makes him. He sighs and Sam thinks his sigh is indicative of heartbreak.
“I'm sorry,” she says, looking out at the pond.
“No, really, Jack. I'm sorry. I want you to be happy.”
He looks at her and she looks right back.
“Carter, that’s my line,” he says sincerely, and she nods. He looks away, starts winding up his line, readying himself to check his bait and cast his line again. He sees her biting her bottom lip and feels her pulling back, internalizing and shutting down. He doesn’t want that, not today.
“Are you going to tell me what you came to my house to say?” He watches her and sees the way she tilts her head from side to side, weighing her choices. “You said you were having second thoughts about the wedding.” He’s an idiot for asking because he knows, knows what it was she came to say.
He casts the line again and she decides to recast hers too. She starts winding up her line, slowly, meticulously. There’s nothing she does that isn’t measured and controlled.
“You wanna talk about it?”
She shrugs her shoulder and lays it all out as she casts her line into the pond. “I told Pete… I told him I wanted to call off the wedding.”
Jack doesn’t say anything, but his eyebrows rise and he looks her way. He never expected this from her lips. She looks over and her look on him is steady.
“Yeah,” she admits that she’s a little surprised herself.
She sighs and runs her left hand down her face. When she looks up at him, he’s still staring at her, waiting for an answer, and her penetrating stare gives him the answer that he seeks. Her answer is him, has always been.
“Wow,” he says again, and she shifts uncomfortably. “Why?” He’s beginning to sound like a broken record.
She feels a tug at her line, winds it up a bit, realizes it was a tug at her heart instead. “Maybe it was my dad, maybe it was seeing you with Kerry. I don’t know. I just did.”
There's a long, heavy silence. The water continues to lap underneath them as the wind picks up. Jack’s still trying to process that Sam has just told him something to do with the damn room they lock feelings in when Sam speaks again.
“Why did you break up with Kerry?” Sam asks. She really wants to know, and she doesn’t think she’ll be able to reproduce the closeness and honesty they’re sharing right now, not later on, not once the guys get back from the store.
He swallows hard and she can tell he’s finding the right way to be evasive, again.
“No, really,” she pushes.
“I didn't,” he says and she just stares at him oddly. He looks back at the pond and clarifies, “she broke up with me.”
The water ripples as their bobbles wade up and down.
“What an idiot.”
Jack coughs on his beer, almost choking. “Carter?”
“Not you. Her! She had you and she dumped you?”
“Hey! I did not get dumped! I'm too old to get dumped.”
Carter shakes her head, clearly agitated.
“Bitch,” she mutters under her breath.
Jack grins a bit, then he looks around his pond and wonders if Thor’s just replaced the real Carter with another version. “Look, I know you're grieving your dad and everything… and it’s endearing that you’re trying to, I don’t know? Protect me? But name-calling the General's girlfriend? Really?”
She rolls her eyes. She’s being unprofessional; she feels like she’s finally being herself. “Why did she do it?”
She looks at him and her eyebrows lift.
“She said I had issues.”
Jack looks down at his beer but then looks straight at Sam, his look saying what his lips can’t.
Sam’s eyes grow rounder. “Seriously?” She looks down and sighs, closes her eyes. “We're so screwed up.”
“Yeah… tell me about it.”
“For what it's worth. I'm sorry about it. I'm sorry it didn’t work out for you.”
“Thank you, Carter.”
They mill the conversation around in their own minds for about a minute, until Jack asks, “What about Pete?”
Sam blows out a noisy breath and rests her head against the back of her chair. “We're still talking. He thinks I'm just emotional because of dad and work and everything. I don’t really know what to think, Sir.”
She watches the blue sky and tries to organize her scrambling thoughts. Jack notices her posture, can see how internally lost she is amid her sea of actual losses. He feels for her deeply, wants to bind her wounds and make her well but he also knows that she’s the driver of her own fate.
“Tell me, Carter, do you even know what you want?”
“What I want?” she looks his way again and her voice lacks any enthusiasm or confidence in their conversation. She wants to be talking about anything but this.
“Maybe it’s time you figured it out.”
She looks out into the pond and agrees with him for once. She rubs a hand against the front of her shirt. He sees her and at first he doesn’t get what she’s doing, but then he decides that she’s soothing her heart, in any physical way she can.
“Thank you for bringing me here, Sir. It’s so peaceful. I can’t believe we didn’t do this years ago.”
“Yes, well, let's not dwell.”
Their lures bobble in the water and her heart clenches in her chest.