Author: Jen Gafeller
Email: Angst; Sam/Jack UST; Hurt/Comfort; A/U (Alternate Ending); Epilogue/Missing Scene: Desperate Measures; Sam Whumping
Content Warnings: Sam/Jack UST
Season/Sequel: Season 5
Spoilers: Desperate Measures and anything that came before that. One little one for Entity.
Summary: What if Colonel O'Neill and Maybourne had been just a few seconds slower in reaching Sam during Desperate Measures?
Archive: Anywhere, just let me know where it is.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime / Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. Not to be archived without permission. Feedback and constructive criticism welcome through e-mailing me at the above address. I'm poor and don't have much but my muse, so please don't sue me. )
Author's Notes: Ok, for the purposes of this story, Daniel, Teal'c, O'Neill, Maybourne and Doctor Fraiser are all in Seattle to find Sam. This picks up once Maybourne, Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c begin searching the hospital for her. This is my first attempt at Stargate fan fiction, and since I'm relatively new to Stargate fandom, I'm sure I've gotten details wrong somewhere along the line. If you see something I've obviously goofed, please drop me a note and let me know. Feedback would be appreciated – I can't improve if I don't hear from you all!
Dedication: To my daughter, who left this world long before she deserved. You are my inspiration and my guardian angel, my Cora Beth.
They moved methodically down the hallway, searching each room in turn. Jack was certain Carter was somewhere in this hospital, he just didn't know where.
Too long….this is taking too damn long.
Jack was aware of Maybourne just behind him and to his left and he turned slightly toward the agent motioning him to stay behind as he approached the next door in the corridor. Maybourne nodded once and raised his weapon as Jack threw open the door and boldly stepped inside, his own 9 mm automatic pistol leveled at the center of the room. What he saw chilled him to the bone and his heart rate doubled in his chest. Carter lay on a rolling gurney clad only in green hospital scrubs; two men stood over her, one holding her shoulders and arms the other pulling a now empty syringe from her arm.
"Back off! Back off now!" Jack roared. Startled by the sudden and unexpected outburst, the two doctors froze, uncertain of their next move. Jack didn't hesitate and charged the men at Sam's bedside, lowering his shoulder and sending them both sprawling. Maybourne was at his side instantly, leveling his weapon on the two men who now lay stunned on the floor.
Jack spared them only a moment's glance before turning his attention to his 2IC. Carter was pulling herself up to a sitting position, her eyes open wide in shock and something that Jack had rarely seen in her, fear.
"Carter? Hey, you ok?"
"He…he injected me with something. I'm not sure what. The vial is there on the tray, sir."
Jack spun, turning his attention to the medical implements he had not previously had time to notice. Searching through the hard metal tray, he spotted an innocuous looking vial at one edge. Snatching it up, he turned it to read the small white label. Pavulon. The name didn't mean a thing to him, but where snakeheads were involved, it couldn't be good and these men had a feel of finality about them. When Daniel and Teal'c had first arrived in Seattle, Jack had questioned Hammond's decision to send Doc Fraiser along. But seeing Carter with a syringe hanging out of her arm he was sure that the General had made the right call. The one person he trusted implicitly when it came to health and well being of his team was just a short call away.
Reaching for his radio, Jack keyed the mic. "Daniel, we've found Carter, but we need the Doc up here right now. Do you read?"
The reply was nearly immediate. "Jack, I read you. Where are you?"
"Second floor, southwest corner. Tell the Doc they injected her with something. The label says Pavulon."
There was a momentary pause before Daniel's voice returned. "Jack, Janet says to keep her conscious if you can. We're on our way."
"Yeah, roger that. Just hurry, will ya?" Jack replied before turning his attention back to Carter, who was now looking decidedly paler than she had when he had first burst into the room. Her eyes had begun to glaze over and her breathing had become noticeably more labored. Stepping into her line of sight, Jack searched for a way to keep her focused, keep her with him for just a couple of minutes until the Doc could get to them.
"Carter? Carter, stay with me here, ok? I need to know where Conrad is. Do you know where he is?"
Sam could feel the effects of the drug within a few moments after being injected. She didn't know what it was any more than O'Neill had, but she knew that in the time it took for the Colonel to call Daniel on the radio it had become increasingly difficult to remain sitting or keep her head up. What the hell... She thought frantically. She could hear the Colonel's voice, but it seemed so impossibly far away and no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't make sense of everything he was saying. He was asking her something. Something important.
What? Stay with you, sir? Where else would I be?
"Sir? Uh…I'm not…." Her attention began to wander as the drug took hold and she was dimly aware that she was beginning to slide down the railing of the bed, her muscles no longer able to hold her upright. She could feel a hand on her shoulder and one under her head, gently lowering her to lay flat on the gurney. Those same hands were then covering her own, easing her wrists from the handcuffs that had kept her prisoner and laying her arms gently over her stomach. Forcing herself to focus on the face hovering above her, Sam opened her mouth to speak but could only force out a strangled gasp.
Jack hadn't expected whatever they had given Carter to take hold so fast and was startled when she had suddenly begun to slump over. This was so not his area of expertise. Give him a good fire fight any day of the week over this helpless feeling in the face of a medical crisis. His heart began to hammer in his chest and he realized he didn't have the first clue what to do here. Where the hell is Fraiser anyway? Grabbing for his radio, he keyed the mic.
"Daniel, where the hell are you? We need the Doc up here now!" He knew he sounded panicked. Hell, he was panicked. He was a man of action, ill equipped to just sit here while his 2IC struggled for every breath, unable to do anything but watch. He began to fidget, running his hands through his hair nervously, needing to do something with them. The pale cast to Carter's face had become a sickly gray, panic creeping into her wide blue eyes that quite frankly scared Jack more than facing a platoon of armed Jaffa.
Sam knew she was in trouble now. What had begun as a terrifying weakness that left her nearly unable to move had now progressed to the point where she was barely able to draw a decent breath. The harder she tried to pull enough oxygen into her lungs, the more difficult it became. Panic began to set in when she realized that no matter what she did, she wasn't going to be able to breathe soon. Gasping, she feebly attempted to reach out for the lifeline she had clung to in times of crisis for the last five years.
Sam's hand weakly rose to reach out for him and Jack instinctively took it, not concerned with anything other than keeping her focused and awake. "Carter. Carter just stay with me here. You're going to be fine. The Doc is on her way, so you just have to hang on for a couple of minutes."
Sam clung to that voice, the voice that had seen her through so much; so many trials and battles. She trusted that voice, trusted the man behind it. If he said it was going to be ok, it would. She marshaled what little strength she had left and forced herself to focus on the Colonel. Focus on his face, his voice.
"Sir…" Sam gasped, her voice sounding fragile even to her own ears. "Can…can't breathe…" She could feel her vision beginning to tunnel and the vague sense of terror beat down on her with a vengeance. She began to gasp for air, hyperventilating in a desperate attempt to simply draw in the next breath.
"Carter, you need to calm down, ok? Just try to relax." Jack attempted to project a calm, controlled air, but hardly felt calm as he watched Sam struggling against the drugs that were taking her down.
A gaping black hole had opened up beneath her and Sam could feel herself slowly sinking into its depths. Still that voice was there, calling her back; beckoning to her to draw back from the edge. But the decision was no longer hers to make. Her eye lids were becoming too heavy to lift as her consciousness began to slip away from her.
It hadn't been much more than a couple of minutes since Carter had been injected but Jack knew that he was out of time. Desperation forced him to move; to do something, anything. He used his free hand to grasp Carter's chin, forcing her head toward him.
"Sam! Come on Sam, don't do this. The Doc's almost here."
The use of her first name shocked Sam into prying open her eyes. Gasping, she put all of her strength into speaking.
"I…I can't….breathe….please….Jack…" The effort was finally too much and the last remnants of conscious thought fled as Sam's head lolled to one side, her eyes losing their focus, her breath rattling weakly in her chest. Her chest rose slowly and then fell, not rising again.
Jack had seen enough death in his black ops career to know what it looked like when he saw it. Sam was dying right before his eyes, her last breath rattling deep in her chest. He had heard that terrible sound and knew it for what it was. There was no way in hell it was going to go down like this. Not one of his team. Sure as hell not Sam. Desperation drove him and he released her chin and hand to grasp her shoulders, shaking her harshly.
"Sam! Sam!" he shouted, shaking her harder. "Major Carter, breathe! That's an order!" It wasn't working. He had known it wouldn't. But he damn well had to do something!
Reaching for his radio he keyed the mic. "Daniel get the Doc up here now! We're outta time!"
He had no more than released the mic button when the doors burst inward, Daniel and Doctor Fraiser stumbling to a halt at what lay before them. Maybourne, his weapon trained on two men huddled on the floor. Sam, lying pale and much too still on the gurney in the middle of the room. Jack standing over Sam shaking her, ordering her to breathe. Janet moved first, her training kicking in as she set down the equipment she carried and quickly moved to assess Sam's condition.
"Colonel? Colonel, I need you to step back, sir." Janet ordered, nearly shoving Jack aside to better reach her patient. That's what Sam had to be. Not her friend, not her confidant, not the person who had given her a daughter. She was a patient; and one who was slipping away as she watched. ABC's Janet, ABC's. Focus...focus. Get it done. Deal with it later. Janet worked with as much speed as she was able, running through the basics of dealing with a trauma. Airway. Her airway was clear. Breathing, negative. No spontaneous breathing. Circulation, minimal. Heart rate declining rapidly, pulse low and thready beneath Janet's fingertips. Damn. Pavulon...ok, paralyzing agent. Gotta get her breathing.
Glancing rapidly around the room, Janet knew she needed help. Sam was crashing fast; too much was going wrong too quickly. One look at O'Neill's face and she knew the Colonel was in no position to help her. "Daniel, I need you."
Daniel had been standing, still rooted to the spot when he heard Janet calling for him. "Me? Are you sure? Maybe I can go get someone…"
"Now Daniel! We don't have much time!" Janet interrupted, her hands moving automatically to tilt Sam's head back to open up her airway, readying her for the tube she would need to breathe for her until her body was able to once again.
The archaeologist was spurred into action by the emotion in the Doctor's voice. He hadn't heard Janet sound that scared since the computer borne entity had invaded Sam's body, nearly killing her in the process.
"Daniel, I need you to open the red bag. Along the right side, pull out a long curved metal tool, kinda looks like a shoe horn. Right next to it should be a long tube in a plastic cover, pull that out too."
Daniel moved automatically, following Janet's instructions without question, trying not to think about what it was they were about to do. He was dimly aware of Jack, who had taken another step back and out of the way, but had never taken his eyes off the scene playing out in front of them. Daniel risked just a moment to look at him, and was shocked at the look on the man's face. Pale and drawn, Daniel didn't think Jack had ever looked older, more haggard. For just a brief instant, Daniel was afraid he might collapse under the weight of what was happening. But that look of fragility was only a flicker and as he watched Daniel saw Jack visibly pull himself together; standing up straighter, armoring himself with his military bearing.
Janet had moved to stand just above Sam's head, positioning a free hand just under her chin to put enough pressure on her head to open her airway completely. Daniel handed over the laryngoscope and watched as Janet slid it into Sam's mouth before freeing her hand from Sam's chin, beckoning for the endotracheal tube. Slipping it into her hand, Daniel took an involuntary step backwards, watching in horrified fascination as Janet expertly threaded it down Sam's throat.
"I'm in. Daniel, there should be an ambu bag in there, pull it out." Janet ordered, never looking up from her patient, but simply held out her hand and grasped the bag as it was placed in it. Attaching it quickly to the tube that now protruded from Sam's mouth, she began squeezing it several times in rapid succession. "Ok Daniel, I need you to take over here. Just squeeze this bag every 2 to 3 seconds."
When Daniel didn't immediately step up beside her, Janet broke her gaze away from Sam to give him a pointed stare. "Daniel! Stay with me here! I still need you, ok? I need you to help Sam." Daniel returned her gaze, nodding mutely. Placing his hands on the bag and tube as Janet had, Daniel began rhythmically squeezing and releasing it Squeeze...1..2..3.. squeeze..1..2..3 ..C'mon Sam, breathe..1..2..3.. he chanted silently, keeping time with the compressions on the bag.
Janet had removed her stethoscope from around her neck and bent to listen intently to Sam's lungs, first the right side, then the left. Ok, ok...breath sounds…good breath sounds, ok. She then moved on to her pulse. Slow, too damn slow...come on Sam…come on. As she listened, the beats became more steady and even. They were still slower than she would have liked, but at this point she had to take what she could get. It wasn't until she knew that Sam was as stable as she was going to get that she turned her attention to the others in the room.
Jack had watched the tableau unfold before him with a mixture of shock and awe. He had seen the Doc work before; he had even seen her perform much the same procedure on Sam before. But this time had shaken him to the core. This time they weren't battling relentless Jaffa; they weren't fighting for their lives on some backwater planet; they weren't risking their lives to save the world. This time it had happened here, on Earth. The one place they were supposed to be safe. Their one refuge; now proven to be just as dangerous as the rest of the galaxy. One wealthy, connected and desperate man had dared to attack his team. It wasn't that he had attacked Sam. No, that couldn't be it. That couldn't be what had left him shaking and sick standing in some boarded up hospital hundreds of miles from the SGC watching her slip away from him. He'd feel the same if it had been any of them, right?
Lie to yourself some other time, O'Neill. He chastised himself.
"Colonel? Colonel O'Neill?" Janet's voice broke in his thoughts and Jack consciously pulled his eyes up to meet the Doc's. "Colonel, I need you to call down to the street. The paramedics we called should be here by now. We need them to meet us downstairs."
A course of action, something to do. Yeah, ok. Yeah, he could do that. Nodding once, he pulled his forgotten radio out of his pocket and keyed the mic. "This is O'Neill, we need the paramedics to meet us at the southwest doors, we're on our way down."
Pausing momentarily, Jack keyed the mic again. "Teal'c? You read me?"
"I am here, O'Neill."
"What's your location?"
"I am in what appears to be a laboratory. There is an empty symbiote tank here and a human female. Her neck has been broken. She is dead."
Damn. Son of a bitch. "Ok, Teal'c. Sweep the building. Get the cops outside to help. I want that Goa'uld, T. Understand me?" Jack's voice had taken on a hard edge; a quality he knew would not be lost on the perceptive Jaffa.
Janet had begun to prepare Sam for the trip downstairs. Pulling a roll of white tape from the bag she had brought up with her, she worked around Daniel to tape the tube to Sam's face, holding it firmly in place. She then ensured that both railings were up and locked before releasing the brakes on the gurney's wheels and pulling it into motion.
"Just keep squeezing Daniel. You're doing fine, ok?" Janet said reassuringly, guiding them toward the doorway. Daniel could only nod in response, not trusting his voice. Jack had moved to pick up the discarded medical equipment and sling it over his shoulder before taking up position to push the gurney as Doctor Fraiser guided it toward the door.
Almost as an afterthought, Jack glanced back over his shoulder at Maybourne who was still standing holding his weapon on the two men on the floor. "You'll be here when the cops get up to this floor, right?"
Maybourne slowly smiled. "Of course, Jack. I'll be here."
Jack was hardly reassured. And somehow, he just couldn't find the strength to care.
The trip to the University of Washington Medical Center was a blur for SG-1. There hadn't been room in the ambulance for more than Doc Fraiser, so Jack and Daniel had been forced to hitch a ride with one of the local police. They had arrived at the Emergency Room in a flurry of lights, sirens, and chaos. The emergency room staff had little use for or patience with an edgy Air Force Colonel and had banished Jack and Daniel to the waiting room with assurances that they would be summoned if anything changed.
That had been two hours ago. In that time, Teal'c had joined them, frustrated that his search of the hospital had turned up nothing. Equally frustrated that by the time he reached the room where Maybourne had supposedly been holding two of Adrian Conrad's doctors, the rogue NID agent was nowhere to be found. Using the hand cuffs left on the floor where Sam's bed had been, Maybourne had secured his prisoners and simply slipped past the local authorities who had been charged with securing the area.
Jack had taken the time to report back to General Hammond, notifying him of Carter's condition, and that the Goa'uld and Maybourne had gotten past them and the local police force. Dropped the ball? Oh yeah, the ball had definitely been dropped. The General had been unusually quiet during his report on Carter's condition, what little he knew. In the end, Hammond had ordered him and his team to get some rest and once Sam was able, to return to Cheyenne Mountain. Jack knew well the General could have ordered the remaining members of SG-1 back to the mountain without Sam, and was grateful he had been spared the argument that would have followed that order.
Now that his official duties had been completed, Jack had little to do but sit and wait. Damn, how he hated waiting. Why couldn't I be more like Teal'c huh? I mean, lookit him. Completely calm and collected. I don't think he's twitched in the last half hour. Jack had fiddled with just about everything not nailed down and now was seriously considering looking for a gift shop to find a yo-yo to play with. Anything to keep himself from thinking about what must be going on down the corridor. Anything to take his mind off what he had seen in that dingy, deserted hospital. Anything to keep away this feeling that the world was about to fall out from under his feet, again. Just when he thought he couldn't stand another moment's waiting, Doctor Fraiser emerged looking tired and strained.
Jack was the first to notice her standing in the doorway, her hands jammed deep in her pockets. His head snapped up fully, "Doc?" Such a simple question, laced with some not so simple emotions. Jack felt the tight band that had bound his chest for the last several hours now constricting him to the point where he could barely breathe as he waited for Doctor Fraiser to deliver her news. Upon hearing Jack speak, both Daniel and Teal'c's heads swiveled in her direction.
Janet took a deep breath to respond. "It was close. The drug they gave her is generally used to paralyze a patient for surgery. Given a high enough dose, the autonomic functions of the body like breathing are also paralyzed, which is what happened to Sam. They gave her enough to paralyze her lungs and cause her to go into pulmonary failure. That's the bad news." Janet paused a moment, gauging the reactions on the faces arrayed before her.
"The good news is that the effects of this drug are temporary and reversible. We've already administered drugs to counteract its effects and she's starting to breathe on her own again. We'll keep her sedated and on the ventilator for a while to let her body recover from the shock, but I've arranged for transport back to Cheyenne Mountain tonight. I'd feel better if we were in a more secure facility with people who are…better versed with the more unusual aspects of Sam's medical history."
It took a moment for the words to filter down to him, and still Jack wasn't sure he had heard right. "You mean, she's going to be ok?" He whispered, hoping against hope he had gotten it right.
"Yes, sir. She's going to be sore and worn out for a while after this, but she's going to be fine."
Jack was so overwhelmed with relief that he was momentarily dizzy with it, the band across his chest finally beginning to loosen. "Good. That's good." He murmured, suppressing the desire to whoop aloud.
Daniel was on his feet, a grin splitting his face from ear to ear. He had been so sure he had moved too slowly; that his hesitation had cost Sam dearly. "Thank God. Can we see her?"
"They're prepping her to be taken by ambulance to the airport now. You'll have the whole flight back to Cheyenne to see her."
Disappointed, Daniel's face fell slightly. "Ah…ok. Sure."
"Believe me, Daniel, she's going to be fine. Thanks to you. Thanks to all of you." Janet assured, making eye contact with each of them. "I'll see you all on board. There should be a car waiting just outside the Emergency Room, ready to take you to the airport." Janet smiled at them then, turning on her heel to head back down the corridor.
The sincerity in his voice stopped her in her tracks, and for a moment Janet wasn't sure she would be able to respond without betraying her own feelings. This had been far too close a call, for all of them. Turning back to make eye contact, she replied. "Of course, sir, you're welcome."
The ride to the airport passed in near silence. It had taken a while before Sam and Doc Fraiser were ready to make the trip, but now that they were following behind the Air Force staff car O'Neill finally felt himself truly begin to relax. The sooner they were onboard the jet and on their way back to Colorado, the better he'd feel. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to see another Starbucks in the same light again after this trip.
Even Daniel had begun to relax, dropping into a light doze as the car rumbled its way through downtown Seattle. How long had it been since any of them had truly slept? Hours? Days? Jack wasn't sure anymore. Ever since arriving at the SGC Monday morning and realizing that Carter was not only late to their customary morning briefing but hadn't signed in that day at all, Jack felt as though he hadn't had more than an hours sleep. Two days before they had even realized she was gone. Two days, in which time nearly anything could have happened. Hell, for all they knew by the time they realized she was gone, she could have already been dead. Jack wondered if he could implement some sort of check in procedure for the weekends and down time. It might irritate the team, but he'd sure as hell sleep better at night.
General Hammond had arranged for a private jet, usually at the disposal of the Joint Chiefs, to meet them at the airport on a more secure portion of the ramp. Local airport security met them at the main entrance and escorted them directly to the tarmac, allowing them to avoid any unnecessary stops along the way and ensuring them a smooth transition onto the aircraft.
They pulled up alongside the Lear Jet, its doors standing open to receive them. Dropping his hand to the archaeologist's shoulder, Jack gently shook Daniel, rousing him from his all too brief nap.
"Wakey, wakey Daniel. Time to go home."
"Oh, oh, right." Daniel mumbled sleepily, pushing his glasses up on his nose and reaching over to push open the car door. The late afternoon sunlight fell across the tail of the plane and he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the glare before turning to board and find his seat, looking forward to some sleep before landing in Colorado Springs.
Jack watched as the ambulance carrying Sam and Janet pulled up to the aft section of the aircraft, its rear doors open and waiting. It never paid to be too careful, and so the military had ordered their smaller jets with rear doors capable of opening wide enough to admit several stretchers should it become necessary to press them into service as medical transports. Right now he was just grateful that they were all headed back to the SGC. Battered and bruised, but alive the team was still, remarkably intact. How many more times were they going to beat the odds? Something had to give, and he could only hope that when it did, the price wouldn't be paid in lives.
Janet was the first to emerge from the rear of the ambulance, followed closely by two paramedics who gently pulled the stretcher and its attached monitors and equipment out and carried it between them the few steps toward the aircraft, loading it into the aircraft carefully, securing Sam for the long flight home. Janet spotted Jack watching intently and strode up to meet him.
"Colonel, you doing ok sir?" Expecting the standard SG-1 answer, Janet was not disappointed.
"I'm fine, Doc. How's Carter doing?"
"She's still sedated sir. We'll keep her that way until we get back to the infirmary at the SGC. They have an excellent medical center here, but I'll still feel better attempting to wake her we get back to the mountain."
"Right. I won't be sorry to put this place behind me myself, Doc."
"Colonel, you did the best you could here. You saved her life, ya know."
Jack shook his head sadly. "No, Doc, you did that. All I did was get there two minutes too late." Jack turned without a backward glance and began to climb the short steps leading up to the passenger compartment, intending to stake out a good seat for the return trip. And if that so happened to be a seat as close to Carter as possible, all the better. He had to keep up the tradition, after all. Whenever one of them landed themselves in the infirmary, it was an unspoken rule that one member of the team would be close by until the danger had passed. He wasn't about to break a tried and true practice now.
The paramedics had set up a small mobile emergency room at the rear of the aircraft, complete with all the blinking and beeping monitors they had become accustomed to in the SGC infirmary. Jack took his seat and bent to fasten the belt across his lap, unsurprised to see Daniel and Teal'c both choosing seats nearby. Even during his years in black ops, during the long months spent in the field behind enemy lines in Iraq, Jack had never known the kind of team unity he now enjoyed with SG-1. The bond he felt with his team was stronger than any friendship he had ever known, and he wondered not for the first time if there weren't a good description for what they truly did mean to each other. Friends, to be sure, but family didn't truly cover it either.
You're thinking too much again, old boy. You're going to give yourself a headache. He groused to himself. Sighing slightly, he leaned back and tried to make himself comfortable for take off. Jack settled back into his seat, tightening his seatbelt and squirming until he could rest his head against the back of the seat. Within minutes the doors were closed and secured and the engines were powering up, coaxing the air craft into a slow taxi. Before long they were airborne and Jack was back to waiting again, with little to occupy his thoughts past his second in command, lying just a few feet from him, the beeps and telltale whooshes of the ventilator and monitors the only sounds he could hear above the engines.
Jack squirmed again, trying to find a position comfortable enough to allow him some well deserved rest, but sleep proved to be more elusive than usual and he found his gaze continually drawn to the rear of the cabin. Doc. Fraiser had yet to leave Carter's side; hell she looked at least as tired as he felt, if not more so. He forcefully pulled his gaze away from them and tried once again to settle into sleep. After several minutes it finally became clear to him that he wasn't going to be able to sleep until they were safely back inside the mountain. Well, no reason why Fraiser shouldn't get some rest. God knows she won't get much sleep once we get back. His decision made, Jack swiftly unbuckled his seatbelt and made his way to Fraiser's side.
Janet looked up at his arrival, dark circles ringing her eyes, making her look even more fatigued. She pulled up a small smile for the Colonel as he moved to take the seat next to her.
"Colonel, you really should be getting some rest. Not much to do until we arrive in Colorado."
"Yeah well, never could sleep on planes, Doc. You know how it is."
Janet nodded slightly, an understanding smile on her face. "Yes, sir. I do."
Jack tried not to look too uncomfortable, shifting a bit in his seat he faced slightly away from Janet as he spoke. "So, Doc. Why don't you go ahead and get some rest yourself, huh? I can't sleep anyway. I'll stay here."
"I'm fine, sir. Really."
"Doc, you know, I've delivered that line enough times to know it when I hear it. Go on. We'll be fine. It's not like I don't know where to find you if I need you, right?"
Janet sighed reluctantly, unwilling to admit it that the Colonel was right, she did need some rest. Once they got back to the SGC it would likely be several hours before she was able to get any sleep. "If you're sure, sir."
"I'm sure. Go on." Jack said quietly, nodding in the direction of the open seats toward the front of the cabin.
Janet nodded and stood slowly, making her way to the nearest open seat, settling herself in for what little rest she would be able to get before the landed at Peterson AFB.
Jack watched her for a moment before turning his attention to the figure on the bed in front of him. Reluctantly, he allowed himself to take it all in, feeling the weight of his guilt settle squarely on his shoulders. The weight of command he had become used to over the years; the weight of his failures he bore less easily. One of his team had been missing for days before anyone realized what was happening and it had taken more than two additional days from that moment of discovery before they even knew where to look. He was convinced it was just sheer luck that they had found her at all. One of these days, Jack, you're not going to get so lucky. And one of your team is going to end up paying for it. Sam nearly paid for it this time. You were so sure Earth was safe. So sure…
Jack allowed his gaze to drift up to Sam's face. She looked relaxed, as if in sleep, her features lacking the tenseness they usually held. She lacked that spark that he had come to recognize as her ever active mind, constantly working, constantly turning; now quiet. He hated seeing her like this. Tethered to machines and monitors. Machines breathing for her. Machines watching over her. It wasn't the first time he had seen her like this, and it certainly hadn't gotten any easier. His gaze fell on the ventilator tubes and he winced in reaction. He knew that they were only there as a precaution, but they still gave him chills.
Glancing to the forward part of the cabin, Jack noted that the others were all sleeping or, as in Teal'c's case, meditating and realized if he was going to apologize, now would be the time. Wouldn't do to allow everyone to see him admitting to his weakness and failures. He was still the Colonel after all; still in command; still in control. At least outwardly. But he needed to get this off his chest and thought if he could at least say the words aloud, even if she couldn't hear them, it would help.
Leaning forward in his seat, he drew closer to Sam. "Carter?" Jack whispered. "Sam, I…" Damn, this was going to be harder than he thought. "Sam, I'm sorry, ok? I shouldn't have let my guard down. I should've realized that we're targets, even here at home." Jack paused, unsure how to continue. Putting his feelings into words was never something that came easily. Especially when those feelings ran deep, making him uncomfortable when he got close to them. He certainly wouldn't be doing this if he thought for a minute she could hear him. It just wasn't his style. But unseen and unheard like this; that he could do. Sort of.
He opened his mouth to say more, but suddenly the words were no longer there. He knew what he felt, he just didn't know if he could say it out loud. And it wasn't as though he didn't know what Sam would say in response to his brief but heartfelt speech. Don't worry about it, sir. I'm fine, sir. You got there in time. Yeah, right. Whatever. Besides, regret wasn't all he was feeling. But he certainly wasn't ready to admit anything more. Maybe he'd never be ready, but that conversation definitely wasn't going to be one sided. At the very least, if that conversation ever happened at all, it would happen with her awake.
Not really knowing what else to do, and pulling on what little experience he had, Jack opted for the direct approach. Reaching out, he laid his hand on Sam's, curling his fingers around her smaller ones; surprised that even in sleep he could feel the strength in them. That strength that had constantly impressed him in its tenacity. Now he was relying on that strength that had seen her this far to sustain her one more time.
He rarely indulged himself in such outward displays, and certainly when he did it wasn't for very long. But he couldn't bring himself to break the connection with Sam just yet. They would be landing soon, and that tangible connection with her would be broken then; but for now he could allow himself this.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, holding Sam's hand, but all too soon he could feel the aircraft's engines power down preparing for the descent into Colorado and the waiting arms of the SGC infirmary staff. Releasing his grip, he slowly sat back in his seat as Doc. Fraiser resumed her post next to her patient.
"Get any sleep, Colonel?"
"I'm fine, Doc. Really."
Janet nodded slightly. There wasn't much she could do here, but once back inside Cheyenne Mountain, hopefully she'd be able to convince them all to get some well deserved rest. She methodically checked Sam's condition, preparing her for the trip from the airstrip at Peterson to the mountain. The ambulance she had arranged for before they left Seattle should already be there waiting for them. She had been able to doze lightly during the break the Colonel had offered her, but she wouldn't be able to truly rest until she was convinced that Sam was out of the woods, safely tucked away in the confines of her own infirmary, surrounded by her own well trusted staff.
The flight seemed to pass far too quickly and Daniel was surprised to find himself being gently shaken awake by Teal'c as they taxied toward the secure ramp at Peterson Air Force Base. Coming more fully awake, he risked a glance to the rear of the cabin, unsurprised to see Jack and Janet at Sam's side. Turning his attention back to his Jaffa teammate, he raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Did either of them sleep?"
Teal'c raised his own brow in response. "I took the opportunity to Kel-no-reem during our journey here, but to my knowledge neither O'Neill nor Doctor Fraiser slept during the flight."
"Yeah, I didn't think they would."
The trip from Peterson to Cheyenne Mountain passed uneventfully and as they emerged from the elevators of the SGC, General Hammond along with a medical team was there to greet them. Jack, Teal'c and Daniel stepped aside as soon as the doors opened to allow Janet and the medical team to extract Sam and move her toward the infirmary.
Janet slowed down slightly as she passed Hammond. "General, with your permission."
"Of course, Doctor. I'll expect your report once you have Major Carter settled in the infirmary."
"Yes, sir." Janet replied as she picked up her pace down the hallway in pursuit of her patient.
"General." O'Neill began. "SG-1, all present and accounted for, sir."
"Colonel, well done. All of you. I know you all want to get some rest, but I'd like to get this debrief out of the way as soon as possible. This incident has pointed out some serious deficiencies in our security measures and I'd like to deal with those sooner rather than later. We'll debrief in one hour."
"Yes, sir." Jack replied automatically, watching the medical team until they rounded the corner and disappeared from sight before moving back toward the elevator to head down to the locker rooms and his quarters. The last thing he wanted to do was debrief, but he also acknowledged that he had the same reservations as the General about their off base security. Sam was in good hands with Doc Fraiser and her team and besides he knew she wasn't going to allow him back in the infirmary until he had at least tried to get some rest. His perception of Fraiser as a "Napoleonic power monger" hadn't diminished in the slightest during her tenure with the SGC, least of all where her friends were concerned.
Daniel and Teal'c were just as reluctant as Jack, but neither argued and simply followed Jack back into the elevator. Daniel threw a worried glance over his shoulder at Jack. That was simply too easy. Jack rarely succumbed so willingly to debriefings, especially when one of them was in the infirmary.
"Jack, you ok?" Daniel asked hesitantly, unsure if he should be asking at all. Unsure of the answer he would receive.
"Yeah, sure Danny. Just peachy."
From the look on his face, Daniel knew that Jack wasn't doing as well as he let on, but decided to let the matter drop for now. They all needed to just get through this meeting and then sleep; maybe things would look better afterwards.
"Well, if you're sure…"
"Yeah, I'm sure. See ya both at the debrief." Jack replied as the doors slid smoothly open. He ducked through the doors and headed purposefully down the corridor, seeking the solace his quarters would allow. There would be time enough in the upcoming days to deal with what had happened and what it had nearly cost them. He just needed to hang onto his façade of control for another couple of hours.
Jack had at least attempted to sleep and had even been able to doze for an hour or two before heading off to the infirmary. The debriefing had lasted a bit longer than he had expected but he did feel as though they had made some progress on improving their off hours security procedures. The General had been as agitated as Jack had ever seen him, knowing that this had happened and that there seemed to be little other than additional check in procedures that they could do to prevent it from happening again.
Toward the end of the briefing, Janet had arrived to give her own report. It had been difficult enough to live through the events she described. It was harder still to hear them all laid out again. He had to hand it to her, 'Ol Doc Fraiser sure could put a lid on her own feelings when giving a report. That was something he had always admired about her. That ability she had to keep herself detached. It was something he had worked hard to develop in himself and he knew what it had cost him personally; what it surely cost the Doc as well.
When Jack entered the infirmary, he headed straight for Fraiser's office and rapped sharply on her door, was somewhat relieved to find her absent. At least it appeared that she had taken her own advice and had gone to get some rest. He moved further into the infirmary, walking automatically toward the rear of the room. The nursing staff had jokingly dubbed the last four beds at the very back of the infirmary the "SG-1 Wing".
Sam lay on the furthest bed. The ventilator had apparently been removed sometime during the night, and for that fact alone Jack was grateful. She was still connected to several monitors that were blinking and beeping softly in the background. The sight of them had become so familiar now that Jack barely noticed them as he drew nearer. A member of the nursing staff was at Sam's bedside, jotting down readings from the various monitors into her chart. She glanced up at the Colonel's arrival and gave him a small nod.
"Colonel. Doctor Fraiser said SG-1 would probably be by this morning and that I was to brief you on her condition. She's resting comfortably. We've taken her off the sedatives, so she should be waking soon."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
"You're welcome, sir. I was just about to wake the Doctor. If you'll excuse me, sir."
Jack nodded slightly in the Lieutenant's direction before turning his attention to Sam. She did look better than she had the night before. Color had begun to return to her cheeks, banishing the pallor that had characterized her face during the long trip home from Seattle. He pulled up a nearby chair and settled himself into it, preparing to wait as long as necessary. Not only did SG-1 tradition dictate that no one spend time in the infirmary alone, if they could help it, but tradition also dictated that no way would one of the awake alone. He had stayed away last night, knowing that had he not gone to get some rest, the Doc would likely have had him sedated. And he hated that groggy just-woke-from-an-all-night bender feeling after succumbing to one of Fraiser's sedatives.
Scooting the chair closer, he propped his feet up on the bottom railing of the bed and made himself as comfortable as possible. He had only been there for a few minutes when a low moan drew his attention to Sam's face. When he had first taken up his seat, she had been resting peacefully, her features relaxed in sleep. Now, however, her brow was tensed as though in pain and he pulled down his feet to lean closer.
"Carter?" Jack asked quietly. When she didn't react to him he leaned forward slightly. "Hey, Carter, come on, wake up now."
Her response wasn't quite what he had hoped for and rather than quieting down Sam began to move fitfully under the blankets. Her head thrashing to the side as low moans were pulled from her throat. Jack couldn't be sure if she was in pain, or just caught in the throws of a drug induced nightmare. He stood, turning to call for the nurse but didn't see anyone readily nearby. Before he could utter a sound or take a step away to find someone, Sam's hands shot up toward her face as though to ward off a blow.
"No!" The strangled gasp startled him in its intensity and Jack took a step back in shock before he recovered and moved closer again. Sam's agitation had escalated to the point where Jack was concerned that she would pull out the IV's with her thrashings.
"Sam. Hey, take it easy." Jack soothed, but his words were having little effect; he wasn't even sure she could hear him.
Unsure of what else to do, Jack reached out and laid a hand on Sam's arm, hoping to calm her somewhat. "Hey, it's ok. You're safe now."
Her reaction was nearly immediate and he wasn't sure if it was his words or his touch, but Sam quieted down, her arms ceasing their motions and slowly dropping to her sides. Jack allowed her arm to slide through his until her hand was grasped loosely within his own. Her breathing had become ragged in her struggles, but was now beginning to slow as she calmed once again.
"That's it, Carter, that's it. Just take it easy." Jack continued, not allowing his hand to break its contact with hers.
Confusion. Pain. There had been pain. She couldn't breathe. She fought back against the sweeping lethargy that she was sure would stop her from breathing again. Not much in her experience had scared Sam as badly as the burning sensation she had felt as the drugs had entered her body; as her lungs had begun to shut down and she hadn't been able to draw in a decent lungful of air. But this was different somehow. The painful burning was gone, replaced by a soreness that was nowhere near as frightening as before. The lethargy that she felt now was also different, and she could finally, finally breathe easily. Someone was nearby, holding her hand. She drew strength from that touch, from the soothing voice she could just barely make out and she forced herself to slowly pry open her eyes.
As the world slowly came into focus, Sam recognized the familiar gray concrete walls of the SGC infirmary. It took a moment before she was able to move her head and as she weakly rotated her vision, a familiar face swam into her sight. She remembered thinking later that she should have been at least a bit surprised to find the Colonel holding her hand, but at that moment, she was too tired and too relieved to be alive to take much notice.
"Hey Carter. Nice of you to join us."
Sam attempted a smile that ended up coming across as more of a grimace and Jack grimaced slightly in response.
"Are you in pain? Should I get the Doc?"
Sam shook her head slightly. "No, sir. I'm fine." She replied croakily. She had wanted to sound confident, in control, sure of herself. Instead she had ended up sounding tired and weak. And she hated showing any sort of weakness, especially in front of the Colonel.
Sam was spared having to answer the Colonel when Janet materialized at the opposite side of her bed, a wide, relieved smile on her face. Caught by surprise, Jack didn't have a chance to worry about how it looked to be standing in the infirmary holding his 2IC's hand. He paused for a moment, his instinct to let go of Sam's hand and pull back warring with the knowledge that he had been able to calm her with his touch just a few moments ago. In the end, he decided he didn't care how it looked. For once he was going to give in to his instincts and remain right where he was.
"Sam. How're you feeling?"
"Janet." Sam smiled up at her slightly. "I'm fine. A bit sore, but fine, really."
"Well, you certainly look better this morning. We're going to run a few more tests and keep you here under observation for just a couple of days."
Sam opened her mouth to protest but to her surprise it was the Colonel who cut her off.
"Now Carter, listen to the Doc. I'm sure she'll have you out of here and back home as soon as she can, right Doc?"
Janet could count on one hand the number of times the Colonel had actually agreed with her on much of anything, especially when it involved members of his team spending time in the infirmary. To say she was surprised was putting it mildly. But not one to pass up help when she was able to get it, Janet took advantage of the Colonel's assistance.
"Sam, I promise, just a couple of days. As long as your test results come back clear we'll have you home in no time."
Sam nodded reluctantly. It seemed that she was more than outnumbered this time, she was also outranked and she honestly didn't have the energy to argue.
Janet patted her shoulder comfortingly. "Well, I'll leave you to get some rest. I'll be back to run those tests in a while. And I'll send someone with a tray for you. Try to eat something, ok? Food right now will do you a world of good."
"I will, thanks. For everything."
Janet smiled before heading off toward her office. She hadn't missed the fact that the Colonel hadn't released his protective grasp on Sam's hand and that surprised her as much as his agreement with her. Perhaps more so. As an Air Force officer, Janet understood the need for the regulations, but as a woman and more importantly Sam's friend, she was glad that the Colonel was able to offer her at least some form of support. No matter how short lived.
It wasn't until Janet had left that Sam realized the warm, strong hand holding hers hadn't been imagined. She wasn't sure if the Colonel even realized he still had a hold of her and she was loathe to call his attention to it. Right now she needed that contact; she needed to know that she was here and safe. She needed that reassurance that this was genuine after the surreal time she had spent in Adrian Conrad's custody. She had spent so much time under the effects of the sedatives they had given her that after a time she wasn't sure what was real and what was imagined. They had kept her isolated for many hours at a time with no contact human of any sort. No one spoke to her and only touched her to draw blood or inject her with God knew what.
Lying in the infirmary with the Colonel holding her hand, she felt safe and calm for the first time in days. Sam hardly dared to move lest that contact be withdrawn, but she did risk a glance up and into the Colonel's face and what she saw truly shocked her. Concern reflected back from those warm brown depths of his eyes, but under that, barely concealed, was a current of fear. Of what she had no idea, but the Colonel, who never outwardly displayed anything of what he was feeling, was truly afraid of something.
Sam attempted to cover her surprise but was only partially successful and she realized that the Colonel must have read her reaction.
"So…" Jack began, but stumbled to a halt.
"Ya know, you really don't have to work this hard to get a few days off, Carter. All you gotta do is ask. I'll sign your leave papers myself."
Sam smiled at his attempt at levity, his answering smile reflected back to her. "Yes, sir. I'll remember that next time."
"Yeah, well. There better not be a 'next time'." Jack answered his smile no longer reaching his eyes.
"I mean it, Carter. You gave us quite a scare. Let's not repeat that, ok?" Jack replied, his face now totally serious.
Now Sam was well and truly amazed. Not only did the Colonel look afraid, he had actually admitted it. She knew him well enough to know that he had to be monumentally uncomfortable at the moment and rather than draw attention to his discomfort, she opted simply to adopt his serious tone.
"Yes, sir. Believe me, this experience is not something that I ever want to repeat."
Jack nodded once, seemingly satisfied for the moment. He'd spent enough time at the hands of those who would use him for torture or information to know what it was she was going through. This wasn't something she would be able to just 'get over' easily. It was going to take time and he intended to give her whatever support he was able, to hell with the regulations. No one else on base knew what this was like in the way that he did. No one knew the helpless feeling that went with being a prisoner, no longer in control of what was done to you; injected with drugs and left alone. Completely and utterly alone.
It wasn't something he openly shared and he hadn't been kidding when he had admitted to Daniel a year ago that he had done the drugged out strapped in bed thing once before. He had recovered from that experience largely on his own and he'd be damned if Carter was going to have to do the same. But for now she needed to physically recover, and that would simply take time.
"So, I should probably go, let you get some rest like the good Doc says." Jack began, smiling again. "Besides, if I hang around here too long the she'll probably try to jab me with a six foot needle just for good measure."
Sam smiled at the image and nodded briefly. "Yes, sir. She just might at that."
Jack squeezed her hand briefly then let go, not overtly acknowledging the action, but not denying it either. "I'll stop back in to see ya later. And maybe, if you're lucky, I'll bring some blue jell-o with me."
"Yes, sir. I'd like that." Sam replied, her hand feeling cold where he had held it but her heart warm with his sentiments. "And sir?"
"Thank you. For coming to get me."
"No one gets left behind, Sam. You know that. Not out there and not here at home either." Jack replied sincerely. "If you need anything, you know where to find me."
"Yes, sir. I do." Sam said, the fear and loneliness she had felt over the last several days finally beginning to fade under the light of his friendship, offered without reservation. It would take time to work through what had happened to her. But she knew that she wouldn't have to do it alone.