A/N: Here it is, the final chapter of Return From Grace!!! Seriously people, I mean it this time: P Be warned that there is a bit in this chapter that's slightly SJ, but no more than was implied in the episode. What SJ there is falls in line with how the rest of S7 and S8 played out, so it's not over the top fluff. Anywho, on with the show and I hope you all enjoy this chapter! Thanks for your endless patience with me, your reviews, and the time you've taken to read this story!
Stalking through the corridor, Teal'c hot on her heels, Janet's steely glare cleared a path through the other personnel in the hallway more effectively than the presence of a four star general would have. The glare, perfected by years of staring down stubborn patients, was just seconds away from being turned on a certain archeaologist whom, in Janet's expert opinion, should have known better than to aid and abet a fugitive from her infirmary.
Janet and Teal'c had been just about to leave Teal'c's quarters to meet up with Jack and Daniel when the phone had rung. In hushed tones, so as to keep any of the infirmary staff from overhearing, Jack had quickly explained that he had found Sam asleep in Daniel's quarters, safe and sound. Even over the phone, she could tell that he had gotten a kick out of telling her that Daniel was the one responsible for breaking Sam out. At the moment, Janet wasn't sure who she should be more angry with: Daniel for disregarding her medical concerns about Sam, or Jack for setting the bad example that his teammates had apparently taken to following.
Entering the infirmary, Janet's eyes immediately landed on her two potential targets. Seeing the resigned look on Daniel's face made the decision for her; he'd known all along that he would get in trouble for staging this little jail break, but he'd done it anyway.
"You," she stated firmly, pointing at Daniel for emphasis, "My office. Now."
A pleading look at Jack told Daniel that he was on his own with this one. The smug grin on the other man's face promised no help, only a great deal of teasing about this whole mess for a long time to come. Getting to his feet, Daniel spared a glance at Sam, tucked back into an infirmary bed, fast asleep, and nodded to Teal'c, acknowledging his presence. Resigning himself to his fate, Daniel allowed Janet to march him into her office. The resounding door slam confirmed what he'd feared all along: Janet was pissed and wanted no witnesses.
"Of all the stupid, half-baked, downright insane things I have seen you people do, this is by far at the top of the list!" Janet hollered, making Daniel jump. "I'd ask what the hell you were thinking, but it's obvious that you weren't thinking at all, which is why I have spent the last few hours searching the base for one of my patients!"
"Janet…" Daniel interrupted quickly when she paused for breath.
"Don't you 'Janet' me!" she barked.
Daniel snapped his mouth shut and braced himself for what would probably be a very long lecture. Keeping his face as neutral as possible, Daniel settled himself in for the long haul, all the while thinking just how right he'd been in thinking that he would be in trouble.
Back out in the infirmary, Jack couldn't help but wince as the sound of the door slamming shut shattered the peace of the infirmary. Glancing at his second-in-command, Jack rolled his eyes, advising "You can stop playing possum now Carter, they're going to be in there for a while."
On the bed, one blue eye peeked open for a split second, quickly scanning the room to make sure that Janet was nowhere in sight. Finding that the coast was clear, it opened again, this time along with its partner, squinting slightly under the fluorescent lighting of the infirmary.
"How did you know I wasn't really sleeping?" she asked, disappointed that she hadn't managed to fool him.
"Oh please, you wake up at the first hint of noise or movement," Jack retorted. "No way you'd sleep through being picked up, carried through the base and then put down again, never mind Frasier's snarling and slamming around."
"Indeed, Major Carter," Teal'c intoned, amused yet again by the exploits of his Tau'ri teammates. "It is surprising that Daniel Jackson and Doctor Frasier believed you to still be asleep, knowing you as they do."
"How long have you been awake?" Jack asked, shifting on his stool and bringing a foot up to rest on the bottom rail of her bed.
"I heard you say that I was in bed with Daniel," Sam replied, smirking when Teal'c, having gained a significantly greater understanding of colloquial English than he usually let on, rose an eyebrow.
"How many times did you say it?"
"How did you sound the last time?"
"The first time," Sam concluded, attempting to sit up in bed.
"I do not believe that would be wise, Major Carter," Teal'c warned, his concerns justified when pain suddenly etched itself across his friend's features, a surprised gasp escaping her lips.
"I'll get a nurse to give you something," Jack declared, jumping to his feet and moving quickly to the far end of the infirmary, ignoring the evil eye he was receiving from most of the infirmary staff.
"I am pleased to see you have been safely returned to Doctor Frasier's care," Teal'c said warmly, taking advantag of his brief time alone with Sam. "The last several days have been most trying."
"I'm sorry I worried you," Sam apologized, reaching out for his hand.
Wrapping his fingers securely around her much smaller hand, Teal'c returned the quick squeeze she offered with a gentle squeeze of his own.
"I know you don't have any idea what I'm talking about," Sam began, trying to focus on the conversation and not on the pain throbbing in her head. "But you saved my life on the Prometheus, and I want to thank you, even if you don't know what I'm thanking you for."
Rather than questioning her, Teal'c opted to simply bow his head in acceptance of her gratitude. Even if he had wanted to inquire, the sound of approaching footsteps would have silenced him. With one last squeeze, he released her hand and turned to face Jack.
"Here you go," Jack announced, tipping two painkillers into Sam's waiting hand and passing her a glass of water to chase them down with. "The nurses all still think I'm the one who broke you out of here, you know. They're pissed at me, but happy to help you. How is that fair?"
Sharing a knowing look with Sam, Teal'c stated simply, "It would seem your reputation speaks for itself, O'Neill." Bowing his head to his two friends, Teal'c took his leave of the infirmary.
"Anything could have happened! What would you have done then Doctor Jackson? Or did you it slip your mind that you're a PhD and not an MD?" the angry voice of Janet Frasier suddenly filled the infirmary, causing both Jack and Sam to wince in sympathy for Daniel. Apparently his beratement at the hands of the diminutive doctor was far from over.
"I'm sorry we worried you, sir," Sam said quietly as Janet's voice faded again. "It was my idea and I should be the one getting yelled at, not Daniel."
"Look Carter," Jack sighed, taking a seat on his stool again. "Yes, you should know better, no one will argue with that. But Daniel was the one who should have been thinking clearly last night, and you never would have made it out of here without his help."
"I asked him because I knew he wouldn't be able to say 'no' to me," she confessed, feeling bad that she had manipulated Daniel. Wanting to look anywhere but at Jack, Sam began picking dejectedly at the blanket that covered her.
"Did last night help?" Jack asked softly. He could practically see the guilt eating away at her and wanted to do his part to ease it.
At his question, Sam looked up sharply. She'd been awake long enough to know that Daniel hadn't had the opportunity to tell Jack what had happened last night, so how could he possibly know?
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist, Carter. None of us would have been able to say 'no' to you, but you asked Daniel, so you clearly wanted to talk about something that was bothering you. Yesterday you were out of sorts, today you're more like yourself. Something happened last night," Jack reasoned, reminding Sam yet again that he was a lot more perceptive than he liked people to believe.
"It helped," she confirmed, meeting his eye.
"And you're okay," Jack stated, cocking his head to one side and examining her for evidence to the contrary.
"And I'm okay," she assured, smiling at his obvious concern for her.
"Then I'm not angry, and once you let Frasier finish making an example out of Daniel, she won't be either."
"Thanks for being here sir," Sam murmured, relieved that he was being so understanding about her latest stunt.
"For you Carter, I'll always be here," he replied flippantly, but something flashed in his eyes for the briefest of moments that told Sam he meant the words with a sincerity that belied his light tone.
In the silence that followed, Sam felt as though she could almost hear the echo of "his" words on the Prometheus. Something in her chest tightened, not because she doubted his promise, but because she realized that "he" had been right – for so many years she had been fixated on the possibility of one day being with Jack, dismissing the possibility of being in a relationship with anyone else on the grounds that their relationship wouldn't withstand it. In thinking this way, she had been selling Jack short, belittling how important her friendship was to him.
"I know you will," she whispered, surprised to find her voice thick with emotion and her vision clouded with tears.
"Hey," he said, concern lacing his words. "It's okay," he soothed, moving from the stool to sit on the side of her bed.
Nodding her head, Sam closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to try and regain her composure, It was bad enough that she'd cried all over Daniel last night; she couldn't believe she was actually at risk of doing the same think to Jack just hours later. To her surprise, a warm hand suddenly slipped under her back. Her eyes snapped open at the same moment a second hand came to rest on the back of her head. Shooting a questioning look at Jack, she allowed his hands to ease her up off the bed and into a sitting position.
"C'mere," Jack murmured, pulling her into a tight hug. "It's okay," he repeated.
"You know that bit about me being more like myself today?" Sam sniffled, resting her head against his shoulder.
"Maybe it was a bit premature," Jack conceded, giving her a tight squeeze. "Don't worry about it, you've had a rough couple of days."
Sam knew she should feel embarrassed about crying all over her CO in the middle of the infirmary, where anyone could walk in and see, but right at the moment she couldn't bring herself to care. She felt like she was saying goodbye to the man holding her, as though once they let go, she would be giving him up to try and find happiness with another man. In no rush to bring about an end to this part of her relationship with Jack, she was content to remain in his arms for as long as he would allow. All too soon, however, he was pulling back from her, trying to get a look at her face so that he could gage how she was faring.
"Better?" he asked, seeing that her eyes, though still rimmed with red, were no longer filled with tears.
Nodding carefully so as to avoid further aggravating the pain in her head, Sam couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the wave of disappointment that washed over her as Jack pulled out of her arms and eased her back down onto the bed.
Suddenly uncomfortable with the last few minutes, Jack stood and began looking casually around the room, searching for an excuse to escape before things became awkward. Like any man, Jack hated it when a woman cried, but he always felt most uncomfortable once the tears had subsided. Never sure whether he should go back to discussing the topic that had made her cry in the first place, Jack usually stayed for the tears and then beat as quick a retreat as possible. Sam was no stranger to this habit of his, for although she hadn't often cried in front of him, the handful of times she had done so had all ended the same way.
"You don't have to stay, sir. I know you've got things to do," Sam offered, giving him an out.
"You sure you'll be okay alone?" he asked, grateful that she understood.
"I'll be fine," she assured, smiling gently.
"Okay, Jack decided. "I'll go get some paperwork done, but I'll be back tonight and I expect you to be in that bed, snug as a bug in a rug," he joked warningly.
"Yes sir," she replied, grinning.
As he turned to leave, Sam expected to feel a lot of things, still unable to shake the sense that she was saying goodbye to the man she'd been holding out for all this time. What she didn't expect was to feel happy; ever since last night's conversation with Daniel, Sam had feared that "Jack" had said the things she had wanted him to and not what the real Jack would say. Her conversation with the real Jack, however, had proved that her hallucination had been right: Jack would always be there for her, no matter what. Disappointed in herself, Sam realized just how short she had been selling their friendship for the last few years. She'd become so caught up in thoughts of the relationship she wasn't supposed to have with Jack that she had neglected the friendship they were allowed.
Squirming to get comfortable, Sam resolved to work on strengthening their friendship as best she could.
"If you ever, ever pull a stunt like this again, so help me I will take every opportunity I get to inflict as much pain as I possibly can on you!" Janet ranted, pacing back and forth behind her desk.
"What are you going to do, use even bigger needles?" Daniel muttered under his breath, hoping that this would be over soon. Janet seemed to be running out of steam, leading Daniel to believe that his wish might soon be granted.
"As a matter of fact, yes," Janet replied, an evil glint in her eye.
That made Daniel sit up straight and pay very close attention. "You mean they actually make bigger needles?" he asked incredulously.
"Oh yes, Daniel, much, much bigger," she retorted gleefully, a grin breaking out on her face.
"Have I mentioned how sorry I am for making you worry?" he tried hopefully, making a bid to get back on her good side.
"Are you almost done yelling at me yet?"
"That depends, how long have I been yelling?"
Consulting his watch, Daniel gave her a rough estimate: "Forty-five minutes, give or take."
"How many times have I threatened you with bodily harm?" Janet asked seriously, enjoying seeing Daniel so desperate to end her lecture.
Running through a mental list, Daniel tallied up the threats, then double-checked his count, knowing that he had the power to end the lecture with his answer. "Twenty. Nineteen if we only count one of the times you threatened to find medical justification to remove all of my toenails."
"Are you going to tell everyone who asks what happened in this room?" Janet questioned, knowing that the base grapevine would spread the word about what happens to those who stage a jailbreak from the infirmary and jeopardize the health of one of her patients.
"Do I have to?" Daniel whined, dreading the thought of confessing to the marines that he'd been cowed by a 5'0 tall girl. At Janet's quirked eyebrow, he heaved a sigh. "Fine, I'll tell everyone who asks. I'll even tell people who don't ask," he added, hoping to seal the deal.
"Then I'd say we're done here," Janet said, flashing Daniel a big smile. "Don't you have work to be doing?"
Rolling his eyes, Daniel stood up and left the office as quickly as he could with his dignity still in tact. Making a beeline for the door, Daniel spared a glance at the bed he'd left Sam in, pleased to see she was sill sleeping peacefully. Relieved to be done with Janet's lecture, Daniel decided to head for his office and try to get some translating done.
If I can just think of a way to avoid Jack for the next little while, Daniel thought to himself. Just until something happens to make him forget how much power the women on this base have over me!