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 exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without author's consent. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2007 Maggie Eaton

Summary: Episode Tag for Season 6, Episode: Abyss. Jack has returned from Ba'al's captivity and Carter is relieved but feeling guilty about her part in his experience.

Author's Note : May 4, 2007. Response to SJFic Word of the Week Challenge word "apology". As always, any and all mistakes are my own. I hope you enjoy the story.

Silent Comfort

Sam slipped into the infirmary as quietly as possible; boots barely touching the floor, she crept across the room until finally she stood beside the bed, staring down at Jack O'Neill's slightly troubled features. Guilt welling to the surface, she sucked in a deep breath and stood motionless for a moment before sitting quietly in the single chair.

Her eyes traveled silently over his still form. He was asleep.

'At least, I think he's asleep.' Her mind whispered.

Exhausted and tortured, it was still difficult to be certain; even in the worst of times she knew that he could easily fool her, his training and experience turning on automatically, like a silent alarm.

Along with the promise of healing and long life, the sarcophagus created a horrific addiction that inflicted suffering long after freedom had been attained and she knew that battle was just beginning. Her eyes paused on his chest, grateful for the gentle rhythm of life that fluttered against the icy white sheets and she momentarily noted that the lack of color made him look pale and fragile. Hesitatingly she reached out and allowed her fingers to rest atop his forearm; her touch no heavier than the trail of a passing butterfly as she unconsciously sought the comfort that only touch could bring, the comfort of reality, of finally knowing with unquestionable certainty that he was alive and safe.

Her senses registered the heat and slight dampness of his skin, the tangled sheets and his unnatural stillness; all silent reminders of his internal battle. Ba'al's image flashed across her mind's eye and she cringed as possible scenarios flooded her mind. The Goa'uld's cruelty was infamous and she knew Ba'al would have spared no means to obtain the information he desired. Even fueled with such vast knowledge of their enemy, it was still conjecture, still simple, horrible imagination with the actual horrors known only to Jack O'Neill.

Slowly the scenarios faded, leaving behind the fresh feelings of her betrayal and a deep sadness for her part in his suffering. When she looked up again he was staring back at her with undefined concern written in his eyes.

"What is it?" He whispered the simple question, his voice strained and soft from sleep even in the stillness of the infirmary.

"Oh!" She startled slightly at his words then hurried to answer. "I didn't mean to wake you…I just wanted to see if you were ok."

He didn't answer but his eyes continued to search hers, trying to see beneath the façade that resided there. He lifted one hand across his chest to gently touch her fingers and turned slightly towards her waiting for her to speak. When she didn't he frowned slightly and sighed aloud.

"Carter, I'm ok."

She nodded her head and fought against the threatening tears.

"Yes, Sir. It's just…"

"Just nothing…" He said. "It's over. That's all that matters."

"Is it?"

"Yes."

"I just can't…I never imagined something like this would happen when I suggested…"

"No one could have. It's ok…really."

"It isn't…but somehow an apology doesn't seem enough."

She was shaking her head energetically, a perfect portrait of guilt spread across her features.

Jack felt her sorrow, understood her regret but he didn't blame her. How could he? It was his decision and even though it had been that similar look in her eyes, that pain and the threat of deeper sadness that led him to agree to the Tok'ra blending, it wasn't her responsibility. He hadn't wanted to agree and yet, he hadn't wanted to die. He also didn't want to subject her to the pain he saw blossoming in her eyes and that unguarded glimpse of devotion had swayed his decision. If they were to ever have a chance to be together, he had to live and to live…he had to take the Tok'ra willingly. There was no other choice and in the end, it had worked. He was still alive. Now all he had to do was convince her of that and even on his best day, the words would be difficult. In his exhausted state, they were nearly impossible but he had to try.

"Sam…" His whispered voice brought her eyes to his again and he tried to smile, "it was a little song and dance…that's all. And it's over. Don't dwell."

She stared at him through tear-filled eyes as he smiled weakly up at her.

"Hey, I was ok. And I wasn't alone…besides, I knew you'd think of something and if I hadn't done this…I wouldn't be here now. So, unless you're sorry that I'm alive…"

"What?" She practically shrieked the word. "No, God, no!"

"Good." He smiled and that simple expression seemed to warm her heart as his fingers closed around hers. "You look tired. Go get some sleep."

She leaned closer and pressed a long, simple kiss against his forehead.

"It's good to have you back, Sir."

"It's good to be back…and thank you."

She smiled down at him, amazed at the fact that he was comforting her when he had been the one to suffer such torture and pain. It wouldn't be easy to set aside her guilt over his ordeal but he was right, he was here and here was good. She would never forget that he had made his decision because of her and as a consequence, had suffered terribly at Ba'al's hand. Nor would she ever forget that she had been the reason he was there, the catalyst for his suffering. She couldn't put that aside lightly but she could thank whatever gods existed that he was strong enough to fight his way out and return home.

She squeezed his hand and drank in his warm smile allowing it to flow over her like a gentle breeze.

"I'll stay until you fall asleep." She whispered.

"And then you'll sleep?"

"I will." She promised quietly then returned his smile as he nodded once and closed his eyes, his fingers still holding onto hers in silent comfort.

The End