Sorry about the wait...I've been fighting one of about a million viruses going around at school and haven't had the energy to write. The hazards of being an elementary school teacher! Ah well...here it is...the conclusion of my first short fic! (I can't believe I kept it to 4 chapters!)

Thanks so much for your reviews and words of support and encouragement. I truly do appreciate them! I tried not to get shippy, but of course, wasn't entirely successful! Hope you enjoy it. And Ari...it's extra long...just for you:)


Chapter 4

Even in the absence of natural sunlight, the infirmary seemed to slowly come awake with the dawning of a new day. Patients stirred in their beds; nurses shuffled about, checking on their charges and bringing breakfast trays; and one very tired doctor made her way across the linoleum floor to the foursome resting in one corner of her infirmary.

Sam was still unconscious, but the monitors surrounding her continued to give off reassuring readings. Daniel, although no longer unconscious, was in a state of deep, healing sleep. Jack too was sleeping, although if any one would have looked closely, they would have noticed one eye opening slightly as Janet crossed the floor. Teal'c was a silent sentinel, watching over his friends with quiet purpose.

The large man gave Janet a small bow as she quietly crossed his path to check on first Daniel, then Sam. When she was finished, she turned to look at him. "You've been sitting there an awfully long time, Teal'c. Maybe you should get up and walk around for a bit…stretch your legs, so to speak."

Teal'c gave her a slight smile. "I assure you, I am not suffering any discomfort, Dr. Frasier."

She gave him a measured look. "Can I at least have one of my nurses bring you something to eat, Teal'c?" she asked quietly. "It won't be much, but I'm sure you're feeling hungry about now."

"A small amount of sustenance would be greatly appreciated, Dr. Frasier," Teal'c replied just as softly and with an almost imperceptible nod of his head.

From the cot at the end of the beds came an amused snort. "Since when have you ever eaten a small anything, T?"

Teal'c looked over at Jack, a slight scowl on his face. Jack removed the arm that had been lying across his eyes and turned his head, smiling slightly at Teal'c. "Aside from a small buffet table, that is?"

The scowl darkened. "I do not find your humor amusing, O'Neill."

Jack just grinned wider, then sat up. He groaned as he stretched out his back. "Think you need to put in a requisition for some new beds, Doc. You're going to end up with more patients than you can handle if you keep on using these things."

"Which is why I don't offer them very often, Colonel," she replied with a frown. She looked between Jack and Teal'c. "Maybe the two of you should take a break and go to the commissary. Sam won't be awake for a while yet."

Jack's smile faded as he looked toward Sam. "Still? She's been out for over 12 hours, now."

"She did have a major operation, Colonel," she needlessly reminded her. When Jack shot her a dark look, Janet added a reassuring, "She's going to be fine, Sir."

Just then, Daniel's groggy voice drew their attention. "If you're heading to the commissary, how about bringing me a cup of coffee? Man…could I use a good cup of coffee," he groaned miserably as he rubbed a hand over his aching head.

Janet turned and frowned at him. "Decaf only, Daniel. You're in no shape to be filling your body with caffeine."

Daniel groaned louder. "Decaf? Then why bother?"

Jack chuckled as he walked over to Daniel's side. "It's either decaf, or a nice cup of tea, Danny."

Daniel shot him a baleful look as he tried to sit up. Janet and Teal'c moved forward to assist him. "Decaf," was all he said, but his tone of distaste said it all.

Jack smiled and squeezed his friend's arm. "One cup of decaf, coming right up." He turned to look back at Sam. His eyes caught Janet's. "You're sure she won't wake up?" The hesitation in his voice spoke of his uncertainty about leaving right now.

Janet shook her head. "Not for a while yet. Besides, I need to change her dressings and I'm sure Sam wouldn't want all of you hanging around while I do that. I'll decrease her pain meds slightly when I'm done. That should help her come around. Give me about an hour, OK?" Jack and Teal'c nodded their heads in agreement, then turned and left the infirmary.

"Uh, what about me, Janet? I don't really want to watch you change Sam's dressing either," Daniel stated with a grimace.

Janet smiled over at him while she began to prepare a tray of items she would need for Sam. "You, Dr. Jackson, need to get cleaned up. You have a choice. You can either have Nurse Johnstone assist you to the showers, or you can have your very own private sponge bath. Right behind that curtain." She pointed to a curtained off area several yards away.

Daniel blanched at the thought of a nurse giving him a sponge bath. "I'll take the shower," he quickly replied.

Janet smiled. "I thought you might." She nodded to a dark haired woman who made her way over to them. "Sally, I'd like you remove the gauze from Dr. Jackson's head, then help him to the showers. Make sure he sits on the shower chair," she stared pointedly at the younger man. "If he refuses, he gets a sponge bath."

Sally Johnstone smiled. "Yes, ma'am." Then she led a very complacent archaeologist to a nearby wheelchair and wheeled him to the shower room.

Grinning, Janet turned back to Sam. "Yeah. I know that was kind of mean. But I couldn't help myself," she told the unconscious woman. "Now, let get your dressings changed and see about waking you up. You have three very anxious men waiting to see you, my friend."

-----

Sam felt as if she was swimming through thick, black mud. Her arms and legs felt like dead weights and her side ached as if it had been punctured by a harpoon and then set on fire. A hum of background noises blended in with the roaring sound of her own heartbeat, causing an increase in confusion about where she was. Amidst the din roaring in her ears, she could hear faint voices above her and Sam willed herself to reach toward those voices.

It seemed to take forever, but finally, the thick mud changed to a feeling of water – still slow but not as heavy. As the voices grew louder, she struggled to sense where they were coming from. Her eyes were heavy, though… too heavy to open. She wished someone would grab her hands and pull her to the surface. She just couldn't do this on her own. Then she heard the voice that she knew could pull her up and out of the mire she seemed to be stuck in. "Come on, Carter. Open your eyes. You can do it."

Jack had returned from a much needed break away from the infirmary. Although he was loath to admit it, the act of constantly being alert to any changes in Carter's condition had stretched his nerves taut. He had been able to relax over breakfast and, even though his mind was still on his 2 IC, he and Teal'c had both appreciated the comfort of a familiar routine.

They had returned to the infirmary within the hour, bearing decaf and a croissant for a slightly disgruntled, but much cleaner Daniel. Jack had smirked at the sight of Daniel's wet hair. "Ah crap. I missed the sponge bath?"

Daniel's face had flushed slightly. "Jack!" He looked around the room, hoping no one had overheard. "For your information, I took a shower. By myself!" he added with force when Jack's mouth opened.

"You look rejuvenated, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c interrupted, hoping to forestall another round of bantering. He looked over at Sam with a slight frown. "Major Carter's condition appears changed."

Jack demeanor quickly changed from teasing to serious. "What's wrong?"

Janet walked over to them. "Nothing's wrong, Sir. She's starting to come out of unconsciousness. Let's keep our voices down, shall we?" She gave the two men who had been jesting quite loudly a pointed look.

They both nodded and Jack made his way to the side of Sam's bed, making sure that he didn't block Daniel's view. He gazed down at the pale face and noticed her eyelashes fluttering and her face grimacing every now and again. "Come on, Carter. Open your eyes. You can do it."

The lashes fluttered a bit faster, then opened halfway before closing against the seemingly bright lights. Janet turned off the lights over Sam's bed and spoke quietly. "It's all right Sam. Open your eyes, honey."

Once again, Sam forced her heavy lids open, this time blinking several times before finally leaving them open. Her gaze focused first on Janet, who was smiling gently down at her. "It's good to see you again, Sam. You've been out for a while." Janet reached across the bed and adjusted the IV monitor. "I'm decreasing your pain meds just a bit. It will help you feel less groggy. Let me know if you need more, though, OK?"

Sam nodded slightly. She wanted to speak, but couldn't get the words past her swollen throat. Although she was breathing on her own, she had been intubated for her surgery and her throat was tight and sore.

Janet smiled in reassurance and ran a comforting hand over her friend's forehead. "I know your throat is sore," she said, almost as if reading Sam's mind. "I'll get you some water. But don't try and talk just yet, OK?" She looked up at the three men – two of whom were on their feet next to Sam's bed. "I know you probably have a lot of questions, too, but those can wait. You've got three friends who been waiting for you to wake up." Janet smiled again, then stepped back from the bed to give Jack, Teal'c, and Daniel a chance to see her. She walked away to get the much needed glass of ice water.

Jack took Janet's place. Hands on the guard rail, he leaned in slightly and smiled down at her. The relief he felt at her awakening was apparent in his eyes. "Hey Carter. About time you joined us. If you wanted a day off, all you had to do was ask, ya know?"

Sam blinked at him, her mind slowly clearing of the fog that seemed to be surrounding her. She let her eyes rove over his face, taking in the weary look and the scrapes and bruises. Sam frowned, trying to recall what had happened. Her attention was diverted to the end of the bed, where Teal'c spoke quietly.

"It is good to see you awake, Major Carter. I was deeply aggrieved when I learned of your injury. I regret that I was unable to prevent this occurrence."

Sam registered the look of sincere regret on his face. Sounds and images began to assail her memory. Looking from Jack to Teal'c, her eyes widened in fear. "Daniel?" she croaked, her voice hoarse with dryness.

"I'm fine, Sam," came the voice of her friend from the bed next to her. Sam slowly turned her head until her gaze came to rest on Daniel. She took in the fresh gauze wrapping around his head and frowned. Daniel smiled with a mixture of reassurance and a bit of embarrassment. "Never thought I'd be taken out by a chunk of rock."

Slowly and tentatively, Sam smiled and reached her hand across the space that divided the beds. Daniel leaned across and met her more than half way. "You had us worried, Sam," he said earnestly as he squeezed her hand.

Sam nodded. "You too," she croaked.

"You know Daniel, Carter. Nothing's going to keep him down for long. Got a head as hard as a rock. Literally, now, I'm guessing," Jack smirked.

Daniel looked over at his friend and rolled his eyes, but he grinned widely, ruining the moment of mock disgust. A sense of lightness…of rightness…had come over the group. Over Jack especially, and Daniel for one was glad to see the return of his more than slightly sarcastic friend.

Janet returned with the water. She handed the glass to Jack as she raised the bed a bit, then handed Sam the glass. Sam took slow sips of the soothing water, closing her eyes briefly as the cool water eased the ache in her throat.

"Better?" Janet asked when Sam had handed the glass back to her.

"Much," she replied through a still crackly voice.

Janet smiled, then looked at the three men. "Ten more minutes, gentlemen, then Sam needs to lie back down and rest."

"Don't feel up to going dancing, Carter?" Jack teased.

Sam smiled back. "Not quite yet, Sir." Janet shook her head at their inane conversation and left them.

Looking around the infirmary, Sam caught sight of several other filled beds. Her eyes came back to Jack's. "SG-7?" Her brows were furrowed with concern.

Jack waved a hand. "All present and accounted for, Carter. Hawkins took a staff blast to the leg, but nothing near as serious as what you've got." He frowned as he looked down at her side, imagining the wound underneath her covers.

Sam ducked her head, her pale face flushing suddenly. "I'm sorry, Sir," she whispered. "I…should have been…more aware…I never saw them…"

Jack stopped her words by covering her hand with his. "Hey. It's not your fault, Carter. No one's to blame. I didn't see them until it was too late, either. Sometimes…well, sometimes, we don't always all escape unscathed." He frowned as he looked down at her hand. "I'm just glad you're going to be OK. You and Daniel both," he added, looking over at Daniel.

There was a long moment of quiet as each of them reflected on what had nearly happened. They had all returned. Not unscathed, as Jack had pointed out, but they had returned and their two injured members would be back in action before too long. Sam and Jack shared a look before he sighed and regretfully pulled his hand from hers. Sam pulled her hands back to rest lightly in her lap.

"So." Sam looked up at Jack, waiting. "You're going to be out of commission for a while. Got some doohickeys to keep you busy?"

Sam smiled. "Always."

"Yeah," he laughed. "I figured."

Sam looked between Jack and Teal'c. "Are you…going back? To the planet?"

"Nah," Jack waved his hand. "There's nothing for us there." He held up his hand to ward off Daniel's protests. "Yeah, yeah. I know, Danny. Ancient ruins to explore. Yadda, yadda. But not enough to engage in another little spat with Janus and company."

"General Hammond does not believe P5X-991 holds information worthy of a return visit, Major Carter," Teal'c elaborated. "It is not worth the potential risk. In addition, I do not believe Janus to be a major threat to us at this time. His contingent of Jaffa has been sharply reduced. I believe he will retreat for quite some time until he is once again able to rebuild his army."

"Oh joy!" Jack stated with biting sarcasm.

Janet took that moment to return. "OK gentlemen. Time for my patients to get some rest. I think you would both benefit from showers and some rest of your own. In your own beds," she added pointedly toward Jack.

Jack smiled and held up his hands in supplication. "OK, Doc. OK. We're going. I know when I've worn out my welcome." The teasing light left his eyes as he looked at his two injured friends. A look of gratitude and affection took its place. "You two kids rest up. We need you back, ya hear?"

Sam and Daniel shared a smile before replying, "Yes, Sir." "Sure thing, Jack."

-----

Over twenty-four hours had passed since Jack had begun his bedside vigil. The infirmary was once again quiet; its patients having been settled in long ago. The cot at the end of Sam's bed was gone, as was the patient in the bed next to her. Daniel had been discharged to his own quarters in the late afternoon. Sam had felt slightly depressed when he had left, for she knew she wouldn't be released for another few days, at the earliest. But she'd been heartened when Daniel had promised to visit her in the morning…and bring her laptop with him!

She'd spent most of the day sleeping and, every time she had awakened, Sam had found one of her team mates near her bedside. Their presence, although unnecessary now that she was out of the woods, had never the less warmed her heart and helped her sleep easier. They were gone now, all sleeping or resting in their quarters. Sam had assured them that she would be fine, and Janet had insisted that Sam be undisturbed for the night.

Now, in the stillness of the late evening, Sam lay awake, shifting every now and again as she tried to get comfortable. "Side bothering you, Carter?"

Startled, Sam looked up. "Sir! What are you doing here?" She looked up at the clock above her, noting the time at 2230.

Jack shrugged his shoulders and came to stand next to her. "Paperwork's all caught up; Daniel's sleeping; T's kel'noreeming. Just thought I'd sneak past the sheriff and check on ya before I hit the sack."

Sam laughed at his reference to Janet, then held her side at the ache that movement caused. "I'm fine, Sir."

He cocked his head at her. "And yet, you're still awake. And squirming to boot. Need me to call Janet?"

Sam quickly shook her head. "No thanks. I'd like to wean off the meds, not increase them." She grimaced as she felt another tug at her side. "But I think that might be a while yet."

He nodded absently as he stared down at her. Seeing her laying there, color back in her face and a light in her eyes that had been absent for too long, he couldn't help but compare it to her state just 24 hours ago. "Sir?" Her soft, concerned voice brought him back.

He gave her a quick smile. "Sorry Carter. Must have drifted off for a minute there."

"Maybe you should go to bed, Sir. It's been a long day for you, too." Her voice still held that edge of concern.

He waved it away. "It a minute." He looked down at her for a long moment, knowing what he wanted to say, but also knowing that he couldn't. He looked away for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Finally, he reached for something that was safe to say, but would still convey his thoughts. "Ya know…when you and Danny went down…well," he looked back at her. "I really don't want to have to go through that again, Carter. It's just…not fun."

She nodded in understanding, knowing what he meant. "I know, Sir. It isn't fun for any of us. But we made it through OK."

" 'Lived to fight another day', and all that crap, huh?" he asked with a sarcastic twist to his lips.

She smiled. "Exactly."

He snorted in wry amusement. "It really wasn't exactly our finest hour, was it Carter?"

Sam tilted her head in confusion. "What do you mean, Sir?"

He raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "What do I mean? Let's see," He ticked off on his fingers. "Never did make it to the ruins, ambushed by dozens of Jaffa, three men down, and nary hide nor hair of the latest Goa'uld menace. I'd say this mission was a complete and utter failure."

She studied him for a long moment before she slowly smiled. "I don't know Sir. I'd say it was pretty successful, myself."

"Successful?" His look was filled with incredulity. "Maybe I'd better have Janet check those meds you're on." She laughed softly…a sound that filled him with pleasure. "So?" he asked after a moment. "You gonna share with me how this mission was successful?" His fingers made quotation marks in the air around the word successful.

Her eyes sparkled up at him, but underneath he could see the sincerity in their blue depths. She looked up at him for a long moment before quietly stating, "Sometimes, the most successful missions are the ones where we all come home alive, Sir."

He looked at her…feeling the truth of her words…and slowly, Jack smiled. "You're right, Carter. You're absolutely right."

THE END