A/N: Here we are, at the final chapter… Yay!! A huge 'thank you' to everyone who has stuck with me throughout this story (which is officially the longest thing I've ever written), and especially to those of you who took the time to review. Your patience, encouragement and constructive criticism are all greatly appreciated. And now, on with the show. Enjoy! : )
What A Tangled Web We Weave…
"Oh, come on!" Jack exclaimed in frustration, throwing out his arms and almost toppling out of his seat in the process. "Are you blind?"
On his left, Sam and Daniel traded exasperated looks, rolling their eyes in unison at their commanding officer's antics. Keeping a wary eye on the older man's flailing limbs, Daniel leaned over and whispered in Sam's ear, "If we ignore him, will he just go away?"
"Is it common for visually impaired individuals to officiate at professional sporting events?" Teal'c asked seriously from his spot on Sam's other side. He glanced at the TV with newfound interest, considering how such an occurrence might impact the outcome of otherwise uninteresting matches.
"Sometimes it seems that way," Jack replied, sulking. "That was not icing," he insisted, gesturing at the screen with his beer bottle for added emphasis. He looked to his teammates for support, but it was painfully obvious that none was forthcoming.
"Sorry, sir," Sam replied, sounding distinctly unapologetic as she shifted awkwardly, trying to pull the worn quilt further up her body without sending anyone tumbling off the bed. "I was coughing; my eyes were closed."
"I was… watching Sam cough," Daniel offered lamely, shifting his weight to the right so she could pull the edge of the quilt out from under him. His poor excuse earned him a playful poke in the ribs from Jack. "Ow!"
"I was not paying attention," Teal'c chimed in regally, head held high as he regarded the TV with disdain. "I have no interest in ice hockey."
"Fine," Jack sighed, giving up. Twisting around on the bed, he swung his legs over the edge and got to his feet before setting his beer on the bedside table. "Guess it's time to pick another movie, kids."
"It is Major Carter's turn to choose," Teal'c stated in a tone that left no room for argument. He arched an eyebrow at her pointedly, silently reminding her of the promise she'd made before being released from the infirmary.
"Indiana Jones," Sam replied, keeping her word. "All of them, but we have to start at the beginning." Her voice cracked slightly as she spoke, prompting Teal'c to pass her the glass of orange juice off the bedside table with a small, satisfied smile.
"No way," Daniel protested even as Jack gleefully reached for the appropriate case. "Do you know how completely and utterly wrong everything in those movies is?"
"No, but I'm sure you'll enlighten us," Jack replied, sharing an amused look with Sam. He didn't wait for his teammates to reach a consensus before slipping the first disc in the machine. Even though Daniel had yet to concede defeat, Jack knew with absolute certainty that they would be watching hours upon hours of Indiana Jones this afternoon. Any minute, now Carter would unleash the full force of her big blue eyes on the team's resident archaeologist and he would cave in. It was just a matter of time, really.
"Come on, Daniel. Teal'c's never seen them before and he's really been looking forward to watching them." Sam wheedled. Tilting her head back, she gave him a pleading look right on schedule, leaving Jack to bite back a grin while Teal'c looked on in mild amusement. "Please?" she asked hopefully, all wide eyed and innocent, as if she didn't know exactly how to get her way where Daniel was concerned.
"Fine," the bespectacled man grudgingly agreed, folding his arms across his chest in a full-fledged pout. "But I get to talk through the movies," he negotiated.
"That's par for the course," Jack smirked, cuing up the first movie and getting it started. He turned back to the others crowded together on the bed as the theme music started, just in time to see Daniel cringe and shudder violently. Jack couldn't help but wonder if all archaeologists had such visceral reactions to good ol' Indy.
Even though very little was actually happening on the screen at the moment, Teal'c was completely captivated, excitement written plain on his face. Daniel had been ready to protest some more, entertaining himself by bantering with Jack through most of the movies, but upon seeing how happy Teal'c was, he snapped his mouth shut and settled down to suffer in silence.
Before Jack could reclaim his place on the bed, the alarm on his watch started chirping over and over again, demanding their attention. As one, the men of SG-1 sprang into action: Teal'c got to his feet and left the room to retrieve the thermometer from the bathroom; Jack reached for the bottle of cough medicine and readied a spoon with the thick red syrup; and Daniel twisted the cap off the bottle of amoxicillin, tapping two tablets into his palm. Sam, meanwhile, was left to sigh in exasperation; there had been way too much effort put into coordinating their roles.
"Open," Jack ordered as he leaned forward carefully, his left hand under the spoon to prevent any spills.
"Sir, I can do this myself," Sam protested even as she sat up and leaned towards him. They'd had this debate several times now and though she didn't expect it to do her any good, she continued to raise the same argument each and every time his watch started beeping.
"I know that," he retorted, just as he had done the last few times she'd brought it up. "Now, open," he repeated, fixing her with a stern look.
Heaving another sigh, Sam opened her mouth and moved forward to take the medicine. She made a show of swallowing the thick syrup, gulping it down dramatically. Despite the glare Sam directed at him, Jack unconcernedly loaded the spoon again and repeated the process. Satisfied that Sam had taken the full dose, he replaced the cap on the bottle of cherry-scented goop and left to get a clean spoon from the kitchen, stopping only to pause the movie. As soon as she'd taken the cough medicine, Daniel held his hand out expectantly, ready to carry out his assigned task.
"Here you go," Daniel dropped the tablets into her waiting hand. Leaning over her, he twisted awkwardly to reach her juice and handed it to her.
"You know, I can do this stuff myself," Sam repeated. Tipping the pills into her mouth, she took a swallow of juice to help wash them down. Sparing him another act of contortion, she set her own glass back on the bedside table; after all, she was closer to it than he was and it wasn't like her arms were broken.
"We know," Daniel assured, watching her lie back against the pillows before smoothing the covers over her. "But we're all a little rattled by what happened and if we'd been here with you like we should have been, the NID never would have gotten their hands on you."
"That's not true," Sam said firmly, eyes begging him to hear the truth in her words and absolve himself of guilt. "It wasn't your fault; I wish you'd all stop blaming yourselves."
"We can't," Daniel murmured, reaching out a hand and running his fingers through her short hair.
"Perhaps in time we will be able to forgive ourselves," Teal'c added quietly from the doorway. "But that day has not yet arrived."
Entering the room, he popped the thermometer in Sam's mouth and reclaimed his place beside her on the bed, waiting patiently for the device to beep its results. For his part, Daniel continued running his fingers through her hair. He wasn't sure if he was trying to soothe her or himself, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't really matter; he was just happy to have her back in one piece.
"I'm fine," Sam reasoned around the thermometer. "There's nothing to forgive." Pressing her shoulder into Teal'c's thigh, the gentle thrum from his symbiote raced through her naquadah-sensitive body, the familiar sensation reassuring the two of them that she was really home.
"Only because we got lucky," Jack said quietly from the doorway, rejoining the rest of his team. "A member of the NID had a change of heart; that's practically unheard of."
With those words, the three men turned their full attention on her. Since being rescued, she'd been uncharacteristically quiet whenever Pearson had been mentioned and though they had all taken turns offering her an ear to bend, she'd insisted that nothing was bothering her. They all knew she was lying, but they also knew that sometimes, the only way to deal with the things they experienced was to lie to themselves; there was always the hope that if they claimed to be 'fine' often enough, it would become the truth. Moreover, none of them tended to be very forthcoming with their feelings and although they hated her silence, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c could hardly fault Sam for dealing with her feelings the same way they did.
"I know," Sam finally conceded, her voice little more than a murmur. She shifted uncomfortably under the weight of her teammates' gazes, eyes cast downward to avoid having to meet theirs.
"So," Jack clapped his hands enthusiastically, taking pity on her and changing the subject. "Are we ready to start Daniel's favorite movie?"
Sam and Teal'c shared an amused look as Daniel – predictably – groaned. Jack just grinned, never happier than when he was getting his favorite archaeologist all riled up.
Just a moment later, however, the movie was forgotten for the second time in less than five minutes. The thermometer chirped brightly, announcing that it was ready to pass judgment on Sam's current condition. She happily pulled the offending object from her mouth and handed it to Teal'c, who nodded approvingly before dutifully recording her temperature. Without a word, he got to his feet again and took the thermometer back to the bathroom to be rinsed.
"Shove over, Danny," Jack demanded, approaching the bed as if preparing to do battle.
"Why?" Daniel practically pouted, reluctant to give up his hard-won seat beside Sam.
As much as their hovering was beginning to wear on Sam's nerves, she couldn't help but giggle at the expressions on her friends' faces. Not for the first time, there was a full-fledged argument brewing over who got to sit beside her and, juvenile as it was, she had no inclination to put a stop to it. After all, a girl had to get her kicks where she could and since Sam wasn't supposed to stray very far from her bed these days, quality entertainment was hard to come by.
"You and Teal'c have been the bread for the Carter Sandwich all afternoon," Jack said petulantly, just shy of whining. When Sam and Daniel both looked at him in confusion, he shrugged and insisted, "That means it's my turn to sit next to her."
"Take Teal'c's spot," Daniel advised helpfully, refusing to budge.
Jack's eyebrows shot up his forehead, silently asking if the younger man had lost his mind. Teal'c had staked out the left side of the bed as his territory within ten minutes of arriving at Sam's house two days ago. With the exception of soup and juice runs, the odd bathroom break and periodic thermometer retrieval missions, he'd yet to leave his spot. Their Jaffa teammate hadn't said anything, but Jack strongly suspected that attempting to take his seat would result in being unceremoniously dumped on the floor as soon as Teal'c returned.
After several seconds of pointed staring, Daniel finally capitulated with a long, drawn out sigh.
"Fine, but I get to… 'be the bread for the Carter Sandwich' after dinner," he grumbled. Sliding over, he claimed Jack's previous seat, leaving space for the older man between Sam and himself.
"You guys are so weird," Sam informed them all matter of factly, including Teal'c in the statement as he returned and took up his position at her side once more.
"You love us," Daniel stated confidently, grinning at her before Jack slithered into place and blocked their view of one another.
"And you wouldn't change a thing," Jack agreed, settling a hand on her forehead and stroking his thumb soothingly over her still a touch too warm skin.
"Most of the time," Teal'c whispered just loud enough for her to hear in the heartbeat before Daniel reluctantly started the movie back up.
With a grin, Sam shifted her gaze to the man on her left and winked conspiratorially. They were all right, really. Sam knew without a doubt that she could always count on her teammates to come through for her, no matter how impossible it seemed at the time. And even though they drove her up one wall and down the other some days, she really wouldn't change a thing… Most of the time.
She adored them all, even on days like this when they were squishing her in her own bed, taking over her TV and periodically force-feeding her samplings from the wide variety of homemade soups Mrs. Smithson kept delivering every few hours. It was slowly driving her crazy, but it also made her feel safe and loved. She knew it was just their way of showing how much they cared about her, so she put up with the hovering. Yes, she complained about it, but she only did it because she knew that no matter how much she protested, they would never stop. When it came right down to it, she was grateful they were too damn stubborn to take her bluster about taking care of herself seriously, even if they did go a bit overboard occasionally. These were her guys and she took the good with the bad; changing even one teensy thing about any one of them would change all of them, and never in a million years would she want to do that...
… Changing the circumstances of a situation, however, was an entirely different story. Take, for example, today, with the whole drinking all her beer and not letting her have even one sip thing. That she would be willing to change in a heartbeat.
A/N: Hooray for ooey gooey teamy goodness! And now I need to go write a short, fluffy one shot completely devoid of cliffhangers. Seriously. : )