He locks his door here. Consistently. She notes pausing at the door. It’s one of the changes in Jack, she feels is bittersweet. Uncertainty and anxiety flooded her system with adrenaline. She closed her eyes, remembered the feel of his bare feet pressed to her, then took a deep breath and braced herself as she unlocked the apartment door. She carried in the take-out dinner and a six pack of beer, with her laptop and overnight bags slung over her shoulders. Jack jumped up and freed her of everything before the door could fully shut behind her, he put the food on the counter and her bags on the floor. He took her off guard when he kissed her, wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. They both just stood there grieving the loss of their colleagues and friends.
It had only been 10 days since they had seen one another this time, but it felt longer. Much longer. They had parted trying to avoid a fight, then she had been taken and tortured again, and he had to deal with the bombing and now the funerals. A gulf of experiences divided them.
She was not the only one living a very complicated life lately. His schedule was packed with intelligence briefings, briefing the President, as well as funerals. Hers... dinner with another man last night and that seemed so long ago. How was she going to find a way to balance all of this?
"You alright?" he asked when he finally pulled back and saw her face.
"Just a headache." She noticed the hockey game muted on the television.
"Thanks for picking up dinner. You know I would have picked you up if I knew you were coming in tonight?" He looked back at the tv, then back at her. "I thought you weren't coming until tomorrow."
"Didn’t Julienne tell you? I had a meeting here earlier today. I came by your office."
"No, I was out most of the day. So, a meeting?"
"Yeah." She walked to the cabinet and grabbed a couple Tylenol.
He followed her, "NID. Anything you'd like to share?"
She looked up and saw the curious look in his eyes, she should not have mentioned the meeting. “Not yet.” She was quiet and didn’t know where to go from there. Though it was so much of their life; secrecy between them always made things tense. They both stood there uncomfortably. "Does it always have to be like this?" She asked, massaging her temple.
"Well you know how much I like make-up sex." He joked and ran his hand through his hair. He looked as exhausted as she felt. "We always adjust, Sam. It just takes time." He reminded her, squeezing her shoulder. “Grieving the loss of friends doesn’t help either.”
"True. Go ahead and sit down, I'll pull dinner together." She wanted to be left alone, if he did not even realize he had not talked to her for the past 5 days.
"You have a headache, let me do it." He squeezed her shoulders a few times to try and relieve the tension of her headache as he turned her toward the living room.
But stubbornly she held her ground and they both pulled out the silverware and some napkins and each got a beer, then went to the living room and sat down to eat together.
She kept looking up to the game.
"Let me turn that off." He leaned forward to grab the remote.
"No," she grabbed his hand and took the remote from him and turned the volume up just a little, "I... I really don't feel well. Believe it or not, I'd prefer if you just kept doing what you were doing before I got here." She preferred him distracted right now.
He eyed her suspiciously. They had hardly seen each other this year, he bailed on their trip through the mountains with Ian and now she wanted him to watch a hockey game. "Going with not believing it." He leaned back, watching her intensely now and not the game. He thought back over the week and remembered the missed calls from earlier this week that he had forgotten to return them and when was the last time he talked to her, “Shit, I did it again. Didn’t I?” He had the where-with-all to look ashamed. “I’m such an ass.” He shook his head.
She wanted to reassure him, but she was both too hurt and relieved. He had made it easier for her to lean towards Nickolay this week and that made her sad.
“I forgot my appointments with my therapist and barber too.”
When he lumped her in with “missed appointments” he actually pissed her off and she raised her eyebrows. “Excuse me?”
“Not that you are just a – shit, shit, shit.” He sighed and looked at her apologetically.
Then she let out a small laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“Your wedding vows.”
He smiled regretfully, “I warned you it was necessary. I am sorry ‘being an ass’ was so on point, though. I have missed you.”
He updated her about the funeral services schedule. Julienne had already copied her on the schedule, so she did not need the update, but she let him continue. She finished eating, but could not stomach the beer so she handed it off to him.
“Come here,” he invited her to lean up against him, hoping to make up for his negligence.
“I’m just going to go to bed.”
She cuddled up against him as he wrapped his arm around her and kissed her head. “I don’t deserve you, Samantha Carter.” She almost cried at that moment, but instead she quickly fell deep asleep. The sound of the phone jarred her awake after the game. The news was on now.
"It's alright. It's mine. Go back to sleep." He informed her and answered it. “Yeah, patch him through.” She could tell it was about the Destiny. She tried to fall back asleep, but the call became tense and went on for a while, it sounded like Col Young had ticked him off again.
She stood to go to the bedroom and he shrugged a silent apology to her. She went to pull her dress blues out of the closet to make sure she had everything she needed for the morning. But he had already hung them on the closet door, ready for the next day, right next to his. He had not forgotten her. His thoughtfulness of making sure her uniform was ready was overwhelming.
"Oh, Jack." She sighed, touching the skirt of the uniform. It was getting more and more difficult and she did not know how she was going to push him farther away and how he was going to take it if she did find a way to tell him. Vala was right. It would be worse if she didn't... probably. Or maybe their marriage was already over, but he had been making an effort with the therapist. Standing there looking at the uniforms, she knew it was not too late and she needed to find a way.
She let the tears fall safely camouflaged in the shower and then got ready for bed. This was harder than she expected. Jack had really been trying even when she thought he had completely forgotten about her. She appreciated it, but part of her wished he would get called into the office and leave her there alone again. Let her get even more mad at him. As she climbed into bed she realized her phone was still in the living room. She started to get up, but then decided to leave it. If anyone needed her they knew how to find her. She was exhausted. She was afraid she would just lay there alone with her thoughts, regrets, pain, and the images locked into her brain with the psychological terrorism, but…
Jack heard her mumble frantically. He rolled over and watched her for signs of distress. He gingerly placed his hand on her arm.
“Colonel!” She repeated.
“Carter.” He replied calmly, trying to reassure her.
“Sir!” She screamed more loudly and frantically.
“Carter!” He responded again, but this time more firm as he raised himself up on a bent arm.
She jumped startled.
“Colonel?” She asked, surprised.
“Sam?” He replied this time, hoping she was awake and gaining her bearings.
“Yeah, bad dream.”
She nodded and rolled away from him.
He wrapped his arm around her, pulled her tight against him and kissed her shoulder. “Want to talk about it?”
“No.” She shook her head.
She felt his body tense, waiting to see her reaction: acceptance or rejection. She sighed into the embrace and tried to hold onto his hand, mostly to prevent him from touching the skin under her shirt and discovering the new wound. He relaxed behind her, she felt worse. They laid there quietly for a long while. Neither slept. Both acutely aware of their shared insomnia.
Being so close behind her, she felt his body respond to hers and then he kissed her neck. He pulled his hand from hers and ran his fingertips up and down her arms, then rested his hand on her hip, his thumb dipped under the edge of the pajama pants and rubbed his thumb over her hip bone.
And, then he was completely still.
Her heart beat frantically. She worried what he might say or do next. The scar he attributed to just one of the instances in which she had saved his life. He teased her that the scar always kept him humble, and it meant she always had his back. It was gone. Erased from her body.
His thumb swiped over the area once more and then he rolled onto his back. His breathing was erratic and he shifted a couple of times. She had not said anything and neither did he. Then he was back, behind her and snaked his hand up around her and covered hers. She sighed into the trust of his return.
-.-. --- -- .--. .-. --- -- .. ... . -..
It was the third time through before he grabbed her fingers and stilled them.
She had not known if he had realized what she had done or if she was just annoying him, except that he stopped her just before she could start tapping out the word a fourth time. She couldn't even remember a conscious plan on how to communicate this to him. It was not part of her plan, only that somehow, she needed him to know. She was scared that they were not as in sync as they had been in the field; that they had lost that unspoken understanding and unconditional trust. She was scared of how he would react.
They had started pushing one another away even before she had made her decision to follow through with this assignment, but she couldn't keep him in the dark any longer. This was not what he thought it was about and things were about to get worse.
He squeezed her tighter, not just her hand... but pulled her closer, holding on to her. His brain tried to deny what was happening. What had just happened?! He moved his hand up under her shirt in search of answers, he explored new territories he had already mapped to his subconscious. Her left hip: smooth, her ribs: smooth, her shoulder: smooth, all of the marks he had catalogued from their battles and all of the times they had saved each other… erased. Defense mechanisms tried to deny the only reason she should have this level of reconstruction. His subconscious had been nagging over the past months. She took his hand and placed it on a familiar injury, the one that took their son. Only this was not mostly healed scar with a skin graph, this one was more recent. It was impossible.
He moved his hand up to her face and felt her wet cheeks, then kissed her shoulder. His thumb tried to wipe away the silent tears, but there were too many. He pulled her even closer and wrapped the blankets up around them tighter, his own tears wet the shirt on her back.
The only thing holding him back from jumping up and yelling, ‘What the hell?’ … was her acute silence and the word she chose to use to explain. In morse code in the darkness of their bedroom, under the covers, behind his hand. 'COMPROMISED' such a heavy word. So much implication and so many questions.
Then there was a second word. ..- -. -.. . .-. -.-. --- ...- . .-. ‘Undercover’.
Their homes had always been safe places, away from the dangers they faced
While they had faced many dangers in their work, he had always considered their homes safe. They had discussed a lot here and in Colorado and Minnesota. Now as he thoroughly analyzed their recent past through a new lens… he realized work conversations had been more limited; phone conversations had been more brief. He was so distracted by the damn bombing and Destiny and their grief. He had justified it because she had been working more in the labs and administratively, than the field. But she asked fewer questions of him. And, he had just dismissed it all as part of the growing apart they both knew was happening because she could not forgive him. It had been the easiest thing for him to believe. His failure. Never, for her to be compromised. Not Sam.
Then he started with the Morse code: .. -- -- .. -. . -. - and she responded -. --- ‘No’ before he made it through ‘imminent threat’.
Truly, she could not be certain that there was no immediate threat. Of course, there was, or she would not be doing this, in this way, but she just could not think of it that way right now. Not here.
-. .. -.. ‘NID’ He asked next. She confirmed.
... .- .-. -.-. --- .--. .... .- --. ..- … ‘ Sarcophagus ’ He needed to know for certain. She confirmed.
He buried his face in the back of her neck and was quiet. She could feel his pulse under her hand. She had felt the tension increase in his body once again. She knew he understood. He had felt her tears and only held her tighter. What had she expected? She gasped a bit through the tears and bit her lip. She had been so quiet, but now that she knew that he knew... his inevitable disappointment in her was too much to bear.
He never let go… in his grasp she eventually did sleep; he however, did not.