Summary: Sam lends support as Jack struggles with the aftermath of his time with Ba'al.
Word Count: 1156
Prompt: Kanan and Jolinar, both important parts of Jack and Sam, but not really mentioned now. Angst, hand-devices, Ba'al, a special place to Jack that isn't the cabin.
Thanks to rolleson, aurora_novarum, and mysticalweather for the beta work. Thanks to tricabyrne1978 for looking it over and anr for running the sjficathon
Disclaimer: Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and all of its characters, titles, names, and back-story are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, SciFi Channel, and Showtime/Viacom. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be printed anywhere without the sole permission of the author. Realize this is for entertainment purposes only; no financial gain or profit has been gained from this fiction. This story is not meant to be an infringement on the rights of the above-mentioned establishments
He knew she'd eventually find him here.
Jack kept silent as he stared ahead into the park despite hearing Carter's footfalls on the broken cement trail that led to the bleachers. The upkeep on the ball field just wasn't what it used to be: busted lights, patchy grass, and rusted fences showcased the worn and faded kids' park. Yet, he could still hear the faint echo of the one-time cheers that had once filled the stands.
They stung just like all the other memories.
From the corner of his eye, he saw her stop and stand just a few feet away from him. He could tell she was uneasy, waiting for him to greet her or make some kind of move, but he kept quiet, listening to the flies buzz over the puddles left on the field from last night's rain.
"Sir?" she finally called.
He kept staring ahead, but paused to pick up a nearby stone.
"Does the concept of privacy mean anything to you?" Jack asked, tossing the stone onto the muddy field.
He caught her wince.
Carter stepped closer and eased herself by his side, causing Jack to immediately tense. While he appreciated her coming out to see him, the last thing he needed was for her presence to complicate things.
"Janet told me that you had been discharged."
"I thought you might like some company."
Jack fought the urge to scoff. Company was the last thing he wanted. While he'd been imprisoned by Ba'al, all he'd begged for was companionship. Help. Anything. Now that he was free all he wanted was to be alone.
He scanned the ground for another rock, still refusing to look at Carter. He knew why she was here. He wasn't sure how she knew he'd be here, but leave it to Carter to figure it out. Either she or Daniel—
He coughed and swallowed down a painful lump.
"The Tok'ra are offering any kind of assistance necessary to help you recover," Carter said.
"They've helped me enough, thanks," he muttered.
"Think of the benefits," she said, going on like they were having a perfectly normal conversation. "When I was host to Jolinar, we didn't have any of these resources. They're willing to interview you to see if you have retained any of Kanan's memories. They're also willing to run some tests to see if you acquired any naquadah in your blood stream." From the corner of his eye, he thought he saw her face brighten. "I could even show you how to use the hand device or—"
"Carter!" He finally turned to her, keeping his voice firm while trying to avoid the expectations in her eyes. "Can we not talk about this?"
"Okay," she said, drawing out the word as she rubbed her hands against her thighs. She held her breath for a moment and he could just see the computer in her head just ticking away. "Do kids still play here?" she finally asked.
"Let's not talk about that either."
She squirmed on the bleacher seat. "Sorry," she said with a sheepish grin. "I'm not the best at this."
Jack sighed and looked at the ground. He knew what she was trying to do. He was grateful for it, but his capture wasn't something he could talk about openly. He didn't even want to be reminded of it, whether through Carter's innocent babbling or through the images that kept assaulting his mind. Rumors had already started circulating about his torture, about the sarcophagus and his state of mind, about everything. Hell, he still had the nightmares and the occasional hallucinations that haunted him during those restless periods between waking and sleep. But he couldn't talk about it. He couldn't talk about what he'd seen or what he'd felt. He couldn't talk about Daniel. They'd all think he was crazy.
She'd think he was crazy. And at this point, Jack wasn't even so sure he wasn't insane.
He saw Carter start to squirm again. "Sir, if only I hadn't suggested—"
"Not your fault," he reminded her. They both damn well knew that it had been his decision in the end to accept that snake. "Never mind," he said, rubbing his face. "Why don't you just get back to the base?"
She quieted, leading Jack to tilt his head to check on her. Not surprisingly, he saw the pain sinking into the corners of her mouth, deep with the self-guilt she'd perfected. But to her credit, she didn't back down, the frown fighting to straighten.
"When I was taken as a host I felt powerless, too," she said quietly.
Jack glanced up at the field. In the late afternoon, the field always attracted gnats. He remembered how he and the other parents would get eaten alive as they watched the kids play. But then, no one cared. They wore their welts like medals; he could still remember the sting and the itch as he ran through them, pushing his way through the field to celebrate Charlie's first homerun.
Today would be no different. He saw the flies continue to increase in number, hovering over the swollen clumps of grass only to eventually make their way to the stands. Occasionally, one or two would lose its rhythm and dip, landing in the gritty mud. Jack watched silently as one struggled to break free.
"I felt trapped," Carter continued, bringing him back from his memories. "I felt like I was in a fog. I know it's confusing."
"I don't remember anything," he mumbled. "I don't care."
He didn't care. He didn't give a damn for the Tok'ra. As far as he was concerned, they'd been doing just fine without them. All that talk about sharing meant squat. Kanan had used him. That snake had thrown him to the wolves. Kanan hadn't given a damn about anyone but himself, just like Jolinar hadn't cared for Carter.
He ignored the tiny voice in his head that reminded him Carter wouldn't be here right now if Jolinar hadn't saved her.
"Sometimes I couldn't tell what was me and what was Jolinar," she continued. "All the images, the thoughts, the memories."
Jack rubbed at his face again "Carter—"
"But it's different this time," she said quickly.
Carter paused, reached over, and grabbed his hand. "I didn't have someone who could understand."
And something about those words, the way she said them, and the softness to her touch helped ease that ache inside. He might never know if Daniel had really come to save him or not. He might never know what Kanan really wanted. He might never know how things could have been different. Jack didn't want to know. But at least this was a step in the right direction.
Without another word, Jack squeezed her hand and watched as the fly broke from the mud and pushed its way up toward the sky.