Title:Sacrifice of Duty
Summery: After the events of Entity, Jack is cold and distant. On a mission, Sam and Jack get separated from Daniel and Teal'c and Sam is severally injured. Jack struggles to keep Sam alive and she realizes why he's been pushing her away. SJ
Genre: Romance, Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure
Content Warning: Some blood, that's about it.
Spoiler: Entity, Divide and Conquer, Solitudes, Shades of Gray, Upgrades, In the Line of Duty, Point of View
Author's Note: This a one-shot I wrote after watching Entity for the...fourth time? I don't remember. I started it with the scene at the very end after once again being struck by the infirmary scene in Entity when Jack goes "Just give it a minute, huh?" after Janet tells him they have to turn off life support. It's so sad!Entity's one of my favorite episodes. I love Jack hurt/comfort! This is my attempt at a little Sam-focused hurt/comfort, but of course Jack had to come along. This is my first A-to-A story, where I take the characters for a spin, but nothing serious changes and everyone is back where they should be for the next episode. It's also the first story I finished that is in the first-person. I tried something a little different and put it entirely in the present tense. Wierd, I know. Enjoy!
I noticed the change almost immediately. Our first mission after I was possessed by the entity, he was…cold, for lack of a better word. There was something missing which I hadn't quite realized was there until it was gone. I haven't seen him smile since I woke up in the infirmary and he told me the entity was gone. The way he looks at me is different—cold, detached, professional. His brown eyes are dark and the sparkle is gone. The exchanged glances that express so much without words and that keep me going in the knowledge that he still cares about me a lot more than we're supposed to are nonexistent. His sarcasm is still there, but humorless. No jokes sent my direction. Even the way he says my rank is different. He used to say "Major" teasingly; insincere in the pulling of his rank. Now he is serious. He uses my surname in the same way. It used to be like a nickname or like friends use my first name.
I glance over at Colonel Jack O'Neill—my commanding officer and the object of my current thoughts. He catches my look and regards me with an impassive expression.
"Something you needed, Major?" By his tone, he could have been talking to anyone under his command as opposed to someone he has risked his life alongside of, become good friends with, and even confessed "unprofessional" feelings for.
"No, sir," I return. I fix my eyes firmly on the soil sample I'm taking. I can feel his gaze on me and it sends an involuntary shiver up my spine. Even the camaraderie the colonel usually shares with the entire team doesn't seem to apply to me anymore.
It hurts more than I thought it would. I never imagined I'd lose his friendship. I suddenly feel lost, like I've lost a limb or a piece of my heart. What has caused this sudden rift between us? I want to cry at his tone. It reminds me too much of the last time that I had heard it.
"Well Sir, with respect, you aren't exactly acting like yourself," I told him.
"No, Carter. I haven't been acting like myself since I met you. Now I'm acting like myself," he said harshly and left, leaving me standing alone in the corridor—a deep ache in my heart at his words.
We—Daniel and Teal'c, the other two members of SG-1, and I—found out later that it was all an act, but his tone still brought a shudder. Now this tone holds the same coldness.
Daniel is coming toward us across the clearing. Thank goodness! I think, noticing that the colonel's gaze left me a long time ago. I'm finished taking samples and can only hope Daniel won't want to stay longer.
Daniel Jackson adjusts his glasses as he approaches the colonel. "Jack!" the doctor of archaeology exclaims and my heart sinks like a stone. Daniel is too excited to be ready to leave.
"What?" Colonel O'Neill replies harshly and I wonder if maybe it's not just me that he's withdrawn from. "No, Daniel," the colonel says without waiting for an answer to his question. He clearly knows what the linguist is going to ask just by looking at him.
Daniel blinks. "I haven't even…" He looks bemused.
"Yes, but you were going to. Go ahead. Try and deny it," Colonel says satirically.
No, such luck, Sam, I think dejectedly to myself. The banter between the two men is still here.
"But, Jack, this could be the greatest archaeological find since the Stargate," Daniel argues enthusiastically.
"That's what you said on P3X…our last mission," Colonel replies, smug until he can't remember the planet's designation.
"P3X-384," I supply automatically.
The colonel throws me a sharp look, as if he forgot that I was here—he obviously isn't happy that I am here. It hurts. He turns back to Daniel. "How long will it take?" he asks and I get the feeling seeing me somehow disconcerted him enough to forget what he was saying. That's ridiculous though, especially after the way he's been acting toward me.
Daniel looks surprised, but doesn't risk losing this opportunity. "Another day, maybe two."
Please say no, Colonel, I think desperately in my CO's direction. I just want to go home and get as far away from the colonel as possible. Maybe then I can come up with an answer to why he's acting this way.
The colonel's entire body seems tense and I realize it has been that way since I offered him the designation of that planet. "Okay, fine, get Teal'c and we'll set up camp."
Again Daniel blinks but doesn't take his chances, heading off to find the Jaffa as Colonel O'Neill ordered. I frown. Why the heck does he seem so distracted? Jack O'Neill agreeing to stay on a planet where he's already bored to death without putting up more of a fight is unheard of.
I can't help but sigh audibly and the colonel shoots me another look. "Something wrong, Major Carter?" he asks with that same tone.
"No, Sir. I'll check the perimeter," I reply, hoping he won't grill me further.
"Carter?" I can hear Colonel O'Neill ask. His voice is slightly muffled like I'm hearing it from far away. "She's conscious," he says to someone behind him.
I try to say something, but I realize I can't control my body. My hand lifts of it's own accord and makes an odd imitation of the sloppy salute the colonel had thrown at the security camera earlier. I begin to panic as I remember that this is how it felt when Jolinar was in control. Oh, no, I've been possessed by a Goa'uld! I think frantically.
The colonel's talking again; just hearing his voice calms me for a second. Jack will take care of everything. "Can you talk?" he asks.
Heck, no! I think, remembering why. Doesn't he realize I've been taken over by a Goa'uld? I'm not restrained at all, so maybe he doesn't. I try to force my mind forward—try to fight the Goa'uld—but despite the fact that I don't feel anything fighting back, I can't take control again.
Janet's saying something that goes right over my head in my present state and Jack replies, "Just concentrate on getting it out of her, will ya?" Maybe he does know. I'm so confused.
I sit up suddenly, startled awake by something. Blinking, I look around and am relieved to find that I'm in my tent and in complete control of my body. As my dream floods back, I hug my knees to my chest.
I watch as Colonel O'Neill enters the room. A wave of relief rushes over me on seeing him, he doesn't look worried.
"O'Neill," a distorted, computerized voice says as the entity uses my hands to work the voice synthesizer that Janet set up.
"That's right," the colonel replies. He turns to an SF and says, "Go get the Doc." Then he looks at me and asks, "And you are?"
"I am within. You are O'Neill," the entity says. It's grasp on English leaves something to be desired, but I've got other things on my mind.
"Yeah, we've established that."
"This one has memory of you," the entity tells him.
This one? I think, annoyed.
"The one you're talking about is a person. Her name is Major Samantha Carter," Jack replies harshly.
Thanks, sir, I think in the colonel's direction gratefully.
"Then I am Major," the entity says.
Oh, no, you're not! Get the heck out of my head! I think angrily, wondering if it can hear me.
"No. No, you're not," Jack counters sternly.
I didn't notice her arrive, but Janet is here. "We understand that you have taken control of Major Carter, but you're not her," Janet says.
I realize that my dream and the flashback I just had are suppressed memories of when I was possessed by the entity. More memories come to mind.
"I have observed. You value the life of this one," the entity says as it tries to plea for its life.
"Yes, we do," the colonel answers.
"This one is important."
"She is," Jack confirms.
Somehow the colonel's vehement denial that the entity was "Major" and affirmation that I was important had warmed my heart and quelled some of my fear. Remembering it made his current behavior even more bizarre.
"We'll send dozens of them, one after another. I don't care what it does," the colonel says darkly.
"No," the entity says.
"Leave her, now." Jack's tone turns deadly.
"You've read my file, think again."
"I must preserve," the entity insists, some how making the voice synthesizer sound desperate.
"Leave her," Jack says again.
"I must preserve."
"If you want to preserve your world, leave Major Carter right now."
I remember the look in the colonel's eyes as he realized he was going to have to Zat me a second time—the turmoil of his decision and fear for my life.
I hear footsteps outside my tent. I grab my P-90 and climb out. The colonel is just coming around the left side of my tent; his P-90 trained out toward the woods. "On your six, Colonel," I whisper to warn him that I'm there.
He jumps slightly and turns toward me out of reflex before my words register. Continuing his search of the perimeter, he whispers, "Thought I heard something."
I follow him and we check the immediate area around the camp. I hear something that sounds a bit like heavy boots hitting the leafy ground. The colonel exchanges a glance with me and I nod, confirming that I heard it too. He's shifted into combat mode, leaving behind whatever issues had made him so cold to me before. We creep through the trees toward the sound. As we get closer, we hear the sound again and this time there's no mistaking it. A Jaffa patrol. The colonel reaches for his radio.
"Daniel, Teal'c, come in," he whispers. After a short pause, he repeats, "Daniel, Teal'c, this is O'Neill. Come in."
"Proceed, O'Neill," comes Teal'c's short response. I can hear their conversation in my earpiece.
"Jack?" Daniel murmurs sleepily.
"We've located a Jaffa patrol. Carter and I are going to check it out. Pack up and if you haven't heard from us in fifteen minutes head back to the 'gate."
"Understood, O'Neill," Teal'c acknowledges.
"Be careful, Jack," Daniel warns, not sounding as if he likes the situation.
"O'Neill, out," the colonel finishes.
Turning to me, he confirms with one glance that I'll follow him and starts to belly crawl through the brush. After a few seconds, he stops and I move up to lay on my stomach next to him. There's a bush in front of us, which hides us from view—as well as trees and ferns—but with out better camouflage we could be spotted easily if the Jaffa decide to look around too closely.
The Jaffa pass in front of us, a little too close for comfort, and the colonel and I both hold our breath. I count eight of them. They're gone without incident and I exhale as quietly as possible in case there are more near by.
"Headed toward the Stargate," Colonel O'Neill whispers.
The colonel gets on his radio again. "Teal'c, come in."
"I hear you, O'Neill," the Jaffa responds immediately.
"The Jaffa are headed for the Stargate. Grab the gear and find a cover position by the 'gate. Carter and I will do the same."
"O'Neill out." The colonel turns to me. "Come on, Carter."
He stands up and I follow the colonel through the trees, his practiced movement is testimony of his Special Forces training as he progresses soundlessly through the underbrush. We're about halfway to the Stargate, when a noise causes both of us to stop short, bringing our weapons up. The colonel exchanges a quick glance with me. We don't hear the sound again so, after a few more minutes just to be sure, the colonel starts forward again.
A Jaffa horn sounds in the distance from the direction of the Stargate and I know Daniel and Teal'c have been spotted.
"What's that?" the colonel asks rhetorically.
"Daniel and Teal'c," is my worried response.
The colonel glances at the woods behind me and I hear the sound of marching Jaffa again. "Us!" the colonel corrects as a staff weapon blast hits a tree to my right. He grabs my arm and starts running. We tear through the trees, hoping to lose the Jaffa in the forest.
The colonel releases my arm to let me have more maneuverability. Together we angle right, instinctively knowing what the other is thinking. After four years of working like this together, we've learned to read each other. I'm ahead of the colonel now, but I can feel him right behind me. I haven't heard a staff weapon in a while and can only hope we've lost them. There's a particularly large patch of ferns ahead and I plow right through them—
I'm falling. I let out an instinctive scream, fueled by the sudden pain in my sides. I hit the ground, the pain increases tenfold, and I black out.
The pain is the first thing I feel when I come to. I gasp and let out a groan. My breathing is jagged and the ground beneath me is hard and cold.
"Carter!" the colonel exclaims, the relief in his voice palpable. His voice is gruff and weak and I wonder if he is injured, too. "You're awake."
I try to reply, but my voice cracks. I try again. "Colonel," I manage.
"Don't try to talk and don't move either. You're in a bad way, Major." The colonel's haggard face appears above me. He's got several cuts and bruises that I can see. His brown eyes are filled with worry—the coldness gone—and that alone comforts me. I notice, though, that there's something else, simmering just behind his eyes—something tormenting him.
"Daniel and Teal'c?" I ask, despite his warning.
"I couldn't get them on the radio. Hopefully, when we didn't show up they went through the Stargate and will be back with reinforcements."
He glances up at the ceiling. "Some sort of trap. I don't know if it was Jaffa or natives who set it. You reached the middle of the hole before the 'roof'"—he made quotes with his fingers—"collapsed. So there was nothing between you and the ground. You're lucky you didn't hit your head too hard. My vest got caught and I had to leave it behind. Managed not to break anything on the way down, but I knocked my head enough to lose consciousness," he explains. "I think your right arm is broken. Your right leg definitely is."
"Hurts," I agree, rather incoherently. "Set it?"
"No, not yet. I've only just woke up myself." I'm glad he understands what I meant.
"Dang," I mutter and the colonel laughs.
"This is ironic. Talk about role reversal," he comments with a crooked smile. I'd really enjoy it if not for the excruciating pain. I remember how much pain I put him through setting his leg when we were stuck in Antarctica and hope he's better at it then I am. His smile fades as he gets serious. "Alright, Carter, this is going to hurt like the dickens and worse, but I'll try and make it as fast as possible," he says, blunt as usual.
I nod weakly.
"I'll start with the leg," the colonel informs me, as if I care at the moment. He sounds nervous and I give him a desperate look. "Just think of it as payback for Antarctica," he says wryly and I laugh.
Oh, gosh, that hurts! "Colonel!" I gasp out loud. "Don't make me laugh."
"What did I tell you about giggling?" he mock warns.
This only makes me laugh harder which hurts even more and I can't breathe. I remember lying with my head on the colonel's chest trying to keep him warm and hurting him as I giggled at his weak, muttered joke. As soon as I get my breath back, he grabs a hold of my leg. I've never felt such pain and I scream. I can see him bite his lip as his strong hands force my leg back into its proper position. Tears are pouring down my cheeks and I'm sobbing uncontrollable. I'd be embarrassed, but it hurts too much. Colonel O'Neill didn't scream, but he has more training in enduring pain, I rationalize.
The colonel is muttering soothing words, but I don't understand them. "It's worse then I thought, Carter. You have multiple fractures and I had to set them all." I caught that one and it explains my reaction compared to the colonel's lack of one even more.
I'm having trouble breathing and the irony of this situation goes up another level as I realize I must have broken ribs. "Ribs," I gasp.
A worried look crosses the colonel's face. "Alright, Carter," he says, reassuringly and starts to cut up his jacket with his knife. Teal'c and Daniel have the survival gear and subsequently all the medical supplies except small personal first aid kits we have in our vests, I realize distantly. The colonel takes his makeshift bandages and puts them in a pile near my head along with a roll of bandages from one of my vest pockets. He gently takes me into his arms, sitting down behind me so I can lean against his chest. Moving hurts and I cry out in pain.
"Sorry! Sorry," he apologizes. He lets me rest for a minute. His chest is firm against my back and I take comfort in the momentary stability and his strong arms holding me gently. I could stay this way forever, but he starts to take off my vest and jacket. The process is slow and painful.
"So," he starts, trying to distract me. "You didn't answer me before"—I can feel him wince as he's reminded that I didn't answer because I was too busy screaming. I hadn't even heard him the first time. "Is this your first broken leg? I know you've had arms and stuff…" he trails off as his sentence stops making sense.
"No, sir," I reply, between shallow breaths.
The colonel inhales sharply. "Carter…"
"Sir?" I ask, fearful of what else might be wrong.
"What the heck did you hit on the way down?" he asks.
I'm confused. What does he mean? I feel him gingerly touch my side and fiery pain flares up. I try and pull his hand away, but my right arm is broken and there's more pain. I gasp again, leaning heavily against his chest.
"I'm sorry, Sam! Sorry!" He's apologizing again. The colonel holds me firmly against his chest as we wait for the pain to subside. His nose brushes my hair as I lean my head back against his shoulder. It reminds me of the way he held me against a pillar in Hathor's base to keep us from being found by the Goa'uld's Jaffa when the memory device in my temple had gone off. "The trap was made from these spiky things and you must have scraped them on the way down," the colonel guesses.
I look down at my sides, the colonel loosening his grip. My black T-shirt is torn and blood soaked. There are about five different gashes in each side. My leg still hurts and the colonel hasn't splinted it yet. My ribs hurt, my arm hurts, and my sides hurt and are bleeding.
"This keeps getting better and better," the colonel murmurs. He's apparently thinking along the same lines as I am. "At least you don't have a concussion."
I can't answer. The colonel pulls disinfectant out of a pocket of my vest, which must have been lying near by.
"I'm going to have to lay you back down, Sam. Hold on," the colonel warns, using my first name. He eases me to the ground, arousing another round of pain. "Okay…" he says, uncertainly once I'm lying on my back, again. "I'm gonna have to..." the colonel trails off. He hesitantly removes my belt and pulls my T-shirt from where it was tucked into my pants carefully over the wounds on my sides to cover just the top half of my chest, for modesty's sake, so that he can get at my wounds.
He inhales sharply again, wincing. I lift my head and look at my stomach and lower chest, which are bruised and purple.
"Man, Carter," the colonel says, shaking his head. He takes the disinfectant and applies it to the gashes on my sides. It stings and I bite my lip to stop from crying out. When he's finished cleaning my wounds, he takes an army green packet out of another vest pocket, opens it, and presses the ready-made dressing against the gash on my left side, leaving the two pieces of material that are supposed to tie it on hanging loose. He takes another dressing and puts it on my other side.
The colonel looks perplexed for a minute. "Guess I'll have to…Could you…? Uh…let's hope it sticks…"he says. "Upsy-daisy!" He lifts me back into my previous position leaning against his chest. The dressings stay—held by the blood they've already soaked up as he'd hoped.
He lets me rest again and then starts to wrap the bandages around my lower chest. After using up the bandages from my vest, he starts to use the strips he'd cut from his jacket. "At least now I've got an excuse for a new jacket," he says.
I smile wanly at his sarcasm. He somehow always knows how to make me laugh. He gives me a tight smile in satisfaction. When he's finished, we sit spooned against each other for another couple of minutes. I'm breathing easier. "I've got to get that leg in a splint," he says quietly.
I take a deep breath and nod. The colonel helps me sit against the wall. It takes him a good ten minutes to find something to use as a splint. He shows me a "spiky thing" as he called it. It's a wooden pole about a half an inch thick and broken on each end.
"They just don't make 'em like they used to," he comments. He collects a couple of the poles and cuts some rope. He starts to apply the splint and it hurts almost as bad as when he set my leg. "You ever been fishing?" he asks. trying to distract me.
"When was that?"
"I went with my—Ahh!" I cut off, crying out in pain. "My dad."
"Tell me about it," he urges.
I grit my teeth for a few minutes before trying to talk. If the colonel could tell me about his parachuting accident then I can tell him about my fishing trip. "I was…ten. Dad took me to—Ahh! To a lake near…Pikes Peak. Beautiful."
"Did you catch anything?"
"Yeah. My Dad was…so proud. Colonel!" I cry out, begging him to stop.
"Hold on, Sam. Almost done," he reassures me, using my first name again. Despite the pain, I can see that turmoil stirring in his eyes. "So, if you like fishing so much, Carter, how come you never come with me?"
Why the heck does he have to bring this up now? I don't answer, clamping my eyes shut.
"There ya go. Good as new," the colonel says. I open my eyes and look down at my leg. It's wrapped in poles. "I know you're gonna hate me for this, Carter, but I've got to set your arm."
I wince in anticipation.
"This'll be quick," the colonel assures me. As the pain shoots through my arm, I find my good hand clutching his thigh. I can't hold back the tears that pour down my cheeks. The pain is finally too much for me and I welcome the painless dark as I fall unconscious.
I groan as I slowly regain consciousness for the second time today. Everything aches. My breathing is shallow. My arm is splinted with poles like my leg. It's dark except for a warm glow coming from a fire a few feet away. The colonel's sitting beside it, residing over what I assume are MREs heating up. He doesn't realize I'm awake. He drops his head in his hand and sits like that for a few minutes. I can just imagine him berating himself for what has happened.
"Not your fault," I mutter.
He looks up sharply. "Carter. You're awake," he repeats his earlier statement.
"Not your fault," I say again. I'm not going to let him blame himself, if I can help it. I close my eyes against the pain and fatigue that's overwhelming me.
"How are you feeling?" the colonel asks, still ignoring my statement. He gets up and stands over me.
"Sir…" I say in exasperation.
He sighs. He lowers himself to sit down beside me, arms resting on his knees. "It was my call, Carter. You wouldn't be in this mess if not for me," he tells me gruffly, the ground between his feet apparently very interesting. Before I can answer, he looks at me—fear and concern in his eyes. "You were coughing up blood earlier," he says quietly. "I think you might be bleeding internally."
The colonel laughs mirthlessly. "This is just like Antarctica."
"'Least there's no snow," I gasp, trying and failing at a little levity.
The colonel nods. "I'll get you out of here, Major. I promise." His brown eyes are stirring with guilt.
We sit in grim silence for a few minutes. I trust Colonel O'Neill with my life and if anyone can get us out of here it's the colonel, but things don't look—or feel—good. In Antarctica, the colonel was the one with internal bleeding and I tried my best to get him out of there. Watching him suffer in the freezing cold, surrounded by ice and snow, I began to realize how much he meant to me. I wonder if the colonel has had any similar revelations.
"I tried to climb out earlier," the colonel says breaking the silence. "Walls are too steep." He looks at me. "Ya hungry?"
"Can't eat." My stomach feels like it's been crushed under a two-ton weight.
"You've got to, Carter," he says, voice full of concern. "Come on, I made macaroni and cheese," Colonel adds in a singsong voice.
I shake my head. "No, Sir."
The colonel crosses to the fire and pours some of the less than appetizing food into a tin cup. He brings it over and holds it out to me. "Come on, Major, suck it up. Eat. That's an order."
I don't even bother with a "yes, sir." I just take the cup from him and follow orders. It tastes like cardboard and the only edible thing it resembles in flavor is chicken, a fact that Daniel is wont to point out. I choke most of it down before I start to cough. Through the flaring pain, I feel the colonel take my cup and put his arms around me. He leans me over enough that when I cough up blood it lands on the ground instead of my BDU's. I'm exhausted and lean against him heavily as he lays me back against the wall. He wipes blood off my chin with one of the jacket strips he hadn't used on my ribs. He then gives me a drink of water.
"Easy, Sam," he says gently, his deep voice soothing. After a few minutes as the pain fades and my mind clears enough to allow any thinking at all, I'm amazed at the difference in his voice. It went from cold, harsh, professionalism to worried, heartfelt, concern in a matter of hours. "Why don't you try and sleep?" the colonel suggests.
"Can't sitting up," I groan. I've given up on actually talking.
"C'mere," Jack says, despite the fact that he knows perfectly well I'm not actually going to do any moving. I'm so tired I've somehow started to think of him as "Jack." He sits down on my right and gently pulls me towards him. He lays me down in his lap, one arm cradling my head. This position is much more comfortable than the hard wall. Safe and warm in Jack's arms, I try to slow my pounding heart and breathe regularly, but my chest is throbbing and my lungs feel like they're about to burst. Every breath comes out as a gasp.
"Shh…" Jack soothes. He strokes my hair with his free hand. "Breathe, Sam. I know we'd all be better off if we didn't have to, but it is necessary."
If I had enough air, I would laugh, but I'm barely getting enough to survive. I grip his T- shirt tightly.
"Easy, Sam. I'm here," he whispers. "Just relax. I'm here. Relax…"
I listen to his soothing words and my breathing eases as I take comfort in his presence. He continues to stroke my hair with his long fingers and I think I might be able to fall asleep. My eyes droop and I start to drift off. Jack's hand shifts to caress my cheek. I lean into his touch, too tired to think about what I'm doing. I sigh contentedly, still holding on to a handful of his shirt. Before I finally drift off to sleep, I feel Jack lean in and kiss me gently on the forehead.
"I'll get you out of here, Sam. I promise," Jack repeats, his voice softer and more full of emotion than the first time. "Just hang in there."
The next time I wake up, I'm still in Jack's arms. My head is now resting against his chest and I can feel it rise and fall as he breathes. I don't want to move. The pain has receded to a dull ache and I know that if I move it will come back as strong as ever.
Jack's asleep. His eyes are closed and his head is resting against the wall behind him. Both of his arms are holding me securely. I'm getting worse. I can tell. My chest is tight and I can tell something in there isn't right. I don't know how long I've been sleeping, but I feel like I could sleep for another day. I don't want to think about the implications of my injuries—not now, wrapped up in Jack's arms. He'll keep me safe. I'm safe in his arms. That's all I can think about.
Jack might have felt my eyes on him, I don't know, but he stirs and wakes up. He looks down at me with his burnt caramel eyes. "Hey, Carter. How ya doin'?" he asks softly.
"Good, Sir." I'm not lying. Relatively speaking, I'm doing good. I'm warm and comfortable in the arms of the man I care so much for I could probably call it love if I wasn't to afraid to admit it to myself. I'm not in a lot of pain compared to the excruciating torture I went through when Jack was setting my arm and leg. So, yeah, sir, I'm good.
Jack doesn't look like he believes me. "Comfy?" he asks after a minute. He's smirking. Probably trying to hide the awkwardness of the situation by pretending he thinks it's funny. Jack's like that.
I probably shouldn't say what I'm thinking—something along the lines of "Heck, yeah!" or a damsel-in-distress's sigh of "yesss…" I nod instead.
"Can you sit up?"
I shake my head. I don't think I can. Jack looks worried.
"Alright," he says. "We'll just stay like this until you're up to sitting a little, okay?"
I don't answer, but squeeze my eyes shut and settle my head back against his chest. The pain is returning, my moment of comfort the proverbial "calm before the storm." I don't know how much longer I can stand it.
I don't think I will ever feel up to sitting. I think I'm dying. In Antarctica, I asked Jack if he would have any regrets. He said he would regret dying. Me? I'm going to regret not telling him how I feel. I'm going to regret never knowing what I did to drive him away. I look up at Jack. He is staring out at the patch of sky at the top of the hole we're trapped in, his expression blank. I can't die, that's unacceptable. If I do, Jack will blame himself as he always does. Whether I'm dying or not, there is something I need to know.
"Colonel?" I ask weakly.
"Yeah?" He glances down at me.
"Why?" I only hope he'll understand what I mean because I don't have enough strength to try and explain what I'm asking.
"What?" A confused look crosses Jack's features—the one that I've always tried to deny is incredibly cute. I'd bite my lip if I weren't already doing it out of pain. "Why what?" he clarifies his question.
Crud, I think, knowing I'm going to have to explain it to him now. I suddenly realize I don't know how. How do you explain to someone that you miss him, though he hasn't gone anywhere? How do you explain that your day isn't complete without at least a quirked lip from him, if not a full-blown smile? I haven't a clue. With all my ability to solve puzzles and figure out complicated equations, I can't even begin to understand how I feel—let alone tell Jack.
Maybe he sees some of my feelings in my eyes or maybe he's known all along and was simply buying time using his confused act. I don't know, but before he looks away I catch a haunted look in his caramel eyes.
"Ya hungry?" he asks, still avoiding my gaze.
I squeeze my eyes shut again in exasperation. He's dodging my question. I bury my face into his chest. "Please, Jack," I whisper through the pain.
He inhales sharply in response to my use of his first name. Never in the almost four years since we met have I called him Jack of my own accord. Jolinar made me call him that once to try and induce him into setting her free. I called him Jack when I was pretending to be his wife when he was dying in Antarctica. My alternate reality counterpart called him Jack, because to her he was her husband. But I've never called him Jack, not really.
"Sam…" he murmurs desperately. I'm breaking through his walls. He doesn't want to talk about this.
My breath has been coming in shallower and shallower gasps for a while now. I take a shuddering gulp of air that only leaves me more short of breath. Jack's eyes widen in fear. "Sam?" he asks.
I grip his T-shirt again. My breath is coming in heavy, struggling gasps. "Jack!" I cry his name, but I can barely form the word.
"It's alright, Sam. Just breath."
I shake my head. I can't. I can't breath. I'm dying. I can't breath. I'm dying. The words repeat over and over. The constant mantra pounding like my heart.
"Relax, Sam. Come on, please, breath," Jack begs, stroking my hair and trying to ease my discomfort. Don't you understand, I think desperately, I can't, Jack. I'm dying. Tears are starting to pour down my cheeks.
"Oh, gosh. No, Sam! Breath! Come on," Jack demands. He pulls me closer, tucking his head against my neck. His voice lowers to a whisper. "Please, Sam. They're coming. Just hold on."
"Can't," I manage to gasp out with what feel like my last breath.
Jack lifts his head and looks at me with the same fear and desperation that darkened his eyes when I was trapped on Apophis's ship. He wouldn't leave me then. I know he won't leave me now and I don't want to leave him. "Sam, don't do this to me," he begs. "I can't watch you die again. I can't kill you again."
I'm confused. Maybe it's my oxygen-deprived brain, but Jack isn't making any sense. "Kill?" I ask. I must have managed to actually form the word because Jack answers.
"I've already killed you once to save the planet. I won't let you die because of me again," Jack cries frantically. "That was the single, most terrible moment of my life."
I'm crying harder. I'll regret hurting Jack more than anything else; I don't want him to suffer.
"Not—Your—Fault—" I gasp out, each word drawing me closer to my death. "Did—Your—Duty—"
"Not this time," Jack says grimly, looking years older than he did a few moments ago.
My vision is beginning to darken as spots dance before my eyes. I'm fading. I feel a drop of water fall onto my neck. I look up into Jack's heartbroken brown eyes and see two wet trails marking the paths of tears down his face. He shed tears for me. I have never seen Jack O'Neill cry. He's crying for me. I cling tightly to the man who is still fighting for my life, though he is helpless against this enemy that is stealing my breath.
"No, Sam, please. I can't lose you."
I'm sorry, Jack, I whisper to him in my head. It was an honor serving with you.
If I have to die, this is how I want to do it. Here in the arms of the man I love. I only hope that Jack will be rescued and will some day find the happiness he deserves. I suck in my last breath and exhale it as his name.
This time when I regain consciousness there is no pain. Am I dead? I think for a second and my eyes struggle to adjust to the bright light above me. If I'm dead, heaven looks like the infirmary. Though I suppose to Jack, the infirmary would be hell.
"Hey," Jack's voice comes from my left. I turn my head to look at him. He is sitting on a stool next to my bed. Maybe it is heaven.
"Hey," I murmur. "What happened?"
"Daniel and Teal'c showed up with some medics and managed to…get you breathing again," Jack says, his voice heavy with emotions. "We brought you back to the SGC and…here you are."I shut my eyes for a few seconds and Jack gets concerned. "You all right?" he asks.
"Yes…Sir," I say hesitantly.
Jack's brown eyes are sad at the use of the title. "Sir…" he says, subdued. I'm reminded of the moment we shared after our memories were stamped and we thought that we were someone else. Then too I went back to calling him "Colonel" and "Sir" and he accepted it sadly.
"Did you need anything?" the colonel asks.
"No, thank you, Sir."
"Okay. I guess I let you get some rest then," he says awkwardly, reaching for the curtain surrounding my bed.
"Colonel," I say, causing him to turn back to me. "It wasn't your fault."
He drops his gaze. "I told you, Carter, it was my call."
"You did your duty, Sir," I tell him, grateful that I have the chance to tell him coherently.
"Duty," he practically growls. "I'd be the richest man alive if I had a buck every time I lost something for the sake of duty. Cliché as that would be." His brown eyes flick to me and I remember his words.
"I've already killed you once to save the planet. I won't let you die because of me again. That was the single, most terrible moment of my life…No, Sam, please. I can't lose you."
"I know what it feels like," I say softly and he looks at me, confused for a second. "I had to shoot Martouf," I explain.
Jack shakes his head. "I'm sorry about that, Carter, but it's not the same," he says with uncharacteristic openness.
"It felt like I was losing the man I loved. That's what it would have been like for Jolinar."
Jack gaze is averted once more, but he nods. "Get some rest, Carter," he says softly, his brown eyes once more meeting my blue. There is something indefinable there that warms my heart. He turns and leaves me alone, feeling the lack of his presence like the removal of a warm blanket.
Jack returns the next day, grinning and bearing blue Jell-O™, my favorite. I smile brightly at him. "Hey, Carter. How ya feeling?" he asks cheerfully.
"Good, Sir," I return.
"I come bearing colored gelatin and a reprieve from boredom," the colonel says, imitating Teal'c as he sets the Jell-O on the tray beside my bed.
I grin at him. "Thank you, Sir."
He helps me sit up a little, arranging the pillows. "No sweat, Carter. What are CO's for if not entertainment?"
I suppress a giggle at that one. Jack settles in the chair by my bed as I dig into my treat. He smiles tenderly at me, the expression just the barest upward curve of his thin lips, and I blush under his intense gaze.
Dr. Janet Fraiser draws his attention away from me as she approaches my bed. I think she was standing nearby for the past few minutes, but I didn't notice until now. "I'm afraid Sam's due for her medication, Colonel," she says with a smile in greeting. "And she needs her rest. You can visit later."
"'Kay, Doc." Jack stands. He looks at me. "I'm glad you're okay," he says seriously.
I nod and Jack smiles briefly before he leaves the infirmary.
"I see things are back to normal between you and Colonel O'Neill," Janet says after joining me in watching Jack leave. She sits down in his chair.
"What do you mean?" I ask warily.
"There was tension," the petite doctor explains knowingly. "And things seemed strained. It's gone now. What changed?" she asks.
"We talked," I answer her simply. "About what happened with the entity, about what happened with Martouf…I hadn't realized how hard it was for him."
"He had to kill you, Sam. That's not something you get over quickly."
"I know that, believe me, I do. But I was all right."
"That's true, but how would you react? You can't know. It's a once in eternity thing to have to kill someone you care about and then have them live. And for the colonel having it be you…" she trails off, leaving me to finish her sentence in my mind.
I try to deny it. "He would react the same if it had been Daniel or Teal'c," I tell her.Janet knows what I feel for Colonel O'Neill—she was there for the Zatarc testing—but he's still my CO and I have to keep it in that room.
Janet shakes her head. "You didn't see him sitting at your bedside, Sam, after he shot you with that zat. I've never seen him look so lost. When I told him that we should take you off life support, he said, 'just give it a minute' as if he expected you to wake up any second. He couldn't bare the thought that you were gone. He really does care about you, Sam."
I'm shaken by her words and shut my eyes. I need to put it all back in that room we decided to keep it in. He's still my commanding officer and none of this changes that. But the colonel and I are okay. We're both alive and safe. We're friends again and the smiles and looks are back.
"I know, Janet," I murmur as I drift off to sleep.
Before I lose consciousness, I hear my friend say, "Don't let him go, Sam, he's lost without you."