He sat in the quiet infirmary room, content just watching her sleep. Her face was nearly translucent beneath her tousled blonde hair, and Jack fought the urge to reach out and brush back the stray strands which had fallen across her forehead. The need to touch her, to feel her warm and alive beneath his hand was nearly impossible to resist, but the doctor assured him that her sleep was finally natural. So he sat and waited, the gentle rise and fall of her chest and each whisper of breath through softly parted lips promising him that she would wake and be alright.

Eventually, Carters stirred in the bed, her eyes opened and she scanned the room, clearly disoriented. "Hi," he said, drawing her attention to himself.

"Jack?" Then, recollecting herself, she smiled slightly. "Sorry, sir."

He smiled in response, allowing all his relief at her recovery and the pure joy of simply being with her to show on his face. "We're alone, here, Samantha, you don't have to 'sir' me." He gestured around the empty room to emphasize his point.

"Old habits. Sorry… Jack."

He felt his smile grow to match hers. "That's better." He moved to sit down beside her on the bed and took her hand in his own. Lifting it to his lips, he gently kissed her knuckles in a gesture of respect as ancient as the human race. Murmuring past their linked fingers, he asked, "How are you doing, Sam?"

"Tired, still, but other than that, pretty good." Remembering still more, she asked, "What about Daniel? And Teal'c and Mitchell? They were up at the cave…"

"They're fine. Like you, they just need to sleep now. In fact," he added, knowing she wouldn't easily go back to sleep without more information, "Teal'c and Mitchell found a little friend that seems to be the key – along with your research, of course – to saving your collective asses. Doctor Lam could probably tell you more; it's all geek to me."

Jack's intentional verbal slip got the intended response. Carter giggled, and he couldn't help but join her. After the stress of the last three days, it was good to finally be able to laugh. For awhile there, he hadn't been sure he would ever smile again.

It had been three days since Hank Landry had called him at the Pentagon and Jack had developed a sudden urgent need to be personally briefed on the status of the SGC. In the days since then, he had waited, alone in the darkened briefing room, counting the seconds until the retrieval team had stepped back through the 'gate carrying SG-1, unsure whether they could ever be safely awakened from their induced comas and unable to bear thinking about what he would do if that were the case.

Later, he had waited in the corner of Carter's infirmary room, anonymous in his environmental suit, watching the medical personnel work, knowing she was receiving the best care this planet had to offer. His relief had been immeasurable when Doctor Lam and her team had found the 'cure,' and he had finally been able to be with her directly, to touch her and to talk to her free from the constraining suit.

Now, looking at her lying next to him in the bed, alive and laughing and whole, being with him and being his, all the fear and anxiety of the last few days became nothing more than the ghosts of memories. Jack knew he wouldn't trade his life for anything.

Not even cake ;-).