Sam felt her hand gently brushed against something soft. Stirring, she gradually opened her eyes to blinding white light. She gave an involuntary gasp as the sudden lumination struck her.
"What the-?" She suddenly realised that she was back at the SGC, in the infirmary. Myriads of wires and tubes were hooked up to her arms, and something was jammed down her throat. She tried to sit up, but found that she didn't have the energy to do more than make her body twitch.
And then she saw him.
She saw the battle-hardened, always alert Jack O'Neill - fast asleep, his head resting on the side of her bed. His ruffled grey hair was sprayed in all directions, suggesting he had been having fitful dreams. She reached out to smooth his hair back as a young medical technician entered into the makeshift ICU.
"Major Carter!" She exclaimed, making Jack almost jump out of seat and slide onto the floor. He quickly picked himself back up again, and gazed at Sam as if she were a figment of his imagination.
"Sam?" He whispered softly. He must have seen the puzzled expression on her face as she took in everything all at once - she was in the infirmary, obviously had been injured, and Jack had stayed with her.
Jack had stayed with her, and he had been worried.
All thought was wiped from her mind as he suddenly rushed towards her, almost choking her in his desperate gratitude. "Oh my God Sam, you're awake. Baby you're awake ..."
"Yeshmph" She tried to speak but found it difficult nestled so tightly against his chest. She hugged him back, not knowing exactly why he was so grateful that she was awake ... and then she remembered.
That falling tree ... branch, or whatever ... It had come straight for her, and she couldn't remember anything after that.
"Jack." She managed to gasp aloud, and at long last Jack released her from his tight embrace. He gazed longingly at her, his hazel eyes the most intense she had ever seen them, while trailing one finger down the contour of her face. What the hell was going on?
She could see fleeting indecision on his face, but then he didn't have the opportunity to answer her as Janet came in hot on the heels of the young medical technician. Janet too seemed to have a kind of beaming relief on her face.
"Sam!" Again Sam found herself almost asphyxiating from another tight embrace from Janet.
"Janet, what's going on?"
Janet was evidently more prepared to face her questions and promptly told her, in unmistakable tones of worry, that she had been in a coma. She began to check her vitals.
"What?" She looked to Jack, and Janet, and then back again. "For how long?"
Janet ignored Jack as he almost clung to Sam's hand. "A couple of days. You had us all worried." Janet looked pointedly at Jack.
"God." Sam found the news hard to digest. One look at Jack and she knew how serious the injury had been.
A curious silence descended as each person became lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly Sam could hear a shuffling footsteps, and into the infirmary came General Hammond, Daniel and Teal'c.
The General came in and gave her a warm, friendly hug. Daniel hurried forward and with the same kind of desperate relief as Jack and Janet; he practically hurled himself into her arms and whispered, "Don't you ever do that to me again Sam. You're the only family I have."
Tears involuntarily welled in her eyes as even Teal'c lost his customary reserve long enough to give her a profound hug.
She looked up at the group standing next to her bed and it struck her - how important she was to these people, and how important these people were to her. She tried to picture herself in their shoes and understood the trauma they had been going through the past few days for her. But somehow, despite the injury and worry, she was glad - glad that she had found a kind of surrogate family that she could always depend upon.
She smiled, crinkling up her blue eyes as she spoke. "Glad to know you guys missed me."
Daniel looked to Jack, who suddenly became very interested in his shoes. "Oh ... I think you'll never really know how much." He smiled at her, a smile of relief and feeling. "We're just glad you're okay Sam."
For Sam the rest of the time was spent catching up on what had happened since her injury. Jack and Daniel took turns in relaying how they had gotten off P2C267 with a whole battalion of jaffas hot on their heels; Teal'c's only comment was that she was extremely heavy, to which she gave a friendly punch on the arm.
At long last Janet herded them out of the infirmary for the ostensible reason that Sam needed some rest, although she didn't really feel all that tired. Jack remained behind after a hurried conversation with Janet.
He sat back down in the seat he had vacated when she woke up. Sam could now sense that there was something wrong, something he wasn't telling her by the look in his eyes. His eyes darted back and forth nervously as if anxious about telling her about something particularly unpleasant.
"Jack?" She asked him quietly. "What's wrong?"
He sighed a sigh of heavy resignation. "I've retired."
"What?" He had to restrain her as she tried to leap out of the bed. "What? Why?" she cried indignantly.
"Listen to me Sam, it's all for the best." She gave him an almost hostile look as he told her about his behaviour when she had been in the coma. How a representative from the Appropriations Committee had seen him behave in that bizarre and irrational manner when she had been brought back hurt, how he had refused to leave her side ... tiny little small things that spoke volumes about his feelings for his second-in-command that had been difficult to ignore.
Sam could hardly believe it ... This wasn't what they had planned for! If only she hadn't gotten herself hurt, this never would have happened. It was all her fault.
"I'm sorry Sam."
"I let you down. If only I hadn't been so obvious, so ... I should've been more guarded, more ... I don't know ... It's just ..." he cleared his throat, preparing to utter those words that would bind him to her forever. "I love you Sam. I ... realised that I can't afford to lose you. Not now. Not ever."
"Oh Jack ..." Sam felt herself crying in response to Jack's speech. It was the most honest, most wonderful thing she had heard from anyone. It was so beautiful ... and so right that it was spoken by this man, this wonderful man she had come to know through the years. Sam realised that this was really who she had been born for. *This* was fate. Colonel Jack O'Neill was the one for her, and if there had been any doubt before, they were all washed away the second he spoke three tiny words.
"I love you Sam."
She smiled, her heart as light as a feather. "I love you too Jack."
Daniel peered over his glasses at Sam, who was busy tugging her equipment off her tired, soaked body. They had just come back from the second water logged planet in as many missions, and the team was definitely feeling the strain. Daniel now knew what annoyed Jack so much about planets with trees. He prayed to God that they never go to another planet that had so much rain that they practically needed to swim towards the 'gate to get back home. He sighed. There weren't even enough interesting artefacts on P3N 729 to get excited about.
"God." Sam's voice became slightly muffled as she practically prised her pack from her back. "If I see another water planet, so help me ..."
"Yeah I know what you mean." Daniel sat down, unwilling to move himself to the locker room. He eyed Sam sharply. "You didn't wear that thing around your neck, did you? It might cut your throat in your sleep."
Sam self-consciously fingered the diamond ring she wore around her neck. "What? It's okay ... I'm not taking a chance with this." She continued fingering the precious stone. "Jack would kill me if I lost it."
Daniel grinned. "Oh right." He paused as Sam began tugging off her boots. "I helped him pick it out you know."
"Really?" Sam was genuinely surprised. "When-?"
She was cut off by a young airman as he entered the room. "Major Carter, General Hammond would like to start the debriefing as soon as SG-1 is ready."
"Thanks Connolly." Sam smiled at the young man, causing him to blush a rosy red.
"I can't believe Hammond wants to see us so soon." Captain Will O'Connor practically collapsed onto the bench. "There's no way I'm going to move from here, so you'll just have to go without me Major."
"Yeah right, O'Connor." Sam threw a sweat-soaked towel toward her prostrate team mate. "Get yourself cleaned up. I expect to see you at the debriefing no more than five minutes after I arrive. That's an order." She smiled at the young Captain as she headed for the locker room.
"Yes Ma'am." He muttered, and Daniel couldn't help laughing at him. O'Connor was so young and enthusiastic, he was like the child Daniel was when he had first discovered the Stargate.
"Come on, you heard what Sam said. Get moving." With that Daniel hauled himself off the bench, dragging his equipment behind him.
O'Connor was barely seated when General Hammond began the debriefing. True to his commander's order, he had arrived five minutes later than the Major, who was sitting opposite him. She frowned slightly at his dishevelled appearance, but O'Connor noticed that the corners of her mouth were slightly upturned. He breathed a sigh of relief to himself.
"Okay people. Before I begin the debriefing, I'd like to introduce you to your new civilian specialist."
Sam sat bolt upright, alarmed at the news. "Sir? *Our* new specialist? With all due respect Sir, we've just got our team sorted out after Jack ... the Colonel left. We don't have room for another person on the team."
Daniel agreed. "General, SG-1's always been a four person team. I realise that with Jack gone things might be different, but ... we don't really need another person on the team."
"Dr. Jackson," General Hammond countered. "SG-1 is the only team currently with less than six members. The policy with team composition was determined a long time ago. We held off on SG-1 because you people seemed to work so well together. But ... it's time for change. And this specialist's appointment is not a matter for discussion."
Sam looked towards O'Connor and Teal'c, a look of resignation on her face. "Where's he transferring from?"
"*He* is transferring from Colorado Springs ..." Sam whirled around in disbelief at the sound of his voice. How could this be? ...
The General was grinning from ear to ear, a look of profound satisfaction on his round face. "Colonel O'Neill was good enough to come out of retirement to help us out around here."
"Please, call me Jack." Jack grinned smugly at the stunned expressions on their faces. It had been hell trying to keep his appointment secret from Sam. "I'm going to be ..." he looked over to General Hammond, " ... your civilian tactical consultant. So, if you have any questions, just come to me and I'll ... consult."
"Jack, why didn't you tell me?" Sam was well and truly floored.
"I wanted to see that look on your face." He pointed at her as she blushed. "Yeah, that one."
"Okay people. We've still got a debriefing to go through you know. And Jack - you can sit in on this one."
"Thank you Sir." Jack hopped into one of the vacant chairs near Sam, and gave her one of his cheekiest boyish grins.
Sam shook her head in disbelief. A civilian Jack under her command would take some getting used to, although ... it wasn't as if she wasn't already used to ordering him around at home. It would take some getting used to, but all in all, it would be a really good arrangement.
She grinned evilly. Yes, there could be some *very* interesting things she could get him to do ...
I just wanted to thank everyone that took the time to write a review or to provide feedback to me personally. It really motivated me, and I was glad that there were other people out there who enjoyed reading what I had written. Thanks!
(c) Vivian Ngan January 2001
The author would like to thank you for your continued support. Your review has been posted.