"You're ok," Jack muttered, absently rubbing his hand on Sam's shoulder. "You're gonna be ok." She didn't say anything and he sighed, allowing himself a second to close his eyes and try to take his own words to heart. She was going to be ok. They'd made it in time.
Just barely, the evil little voice in the back of his mind reminded him. And he had to agree with it. Barely.
Very, very, barely.
Images began to flash behind his eyelids and he opened his eyes, not yet ready to relive them. Yes, they were SG-1. Yes, they often took 'close call' to a whole new level, but the pragmatist in him still knew that, eventually, Murphy got tired of you beating him at his own game and would throw you the curve ball to end all curve balls.
And they'd been about half a second from having a front row seat to the curve ball of a lifetime.
The weight against his side increased and Jack looked down, not surprised to see Sam's hand lying limply in her lap. "T," he said, raising his voice just a bit as he shook her gently.
"O'Neill?" Teal'c appeared at his side.
"She passed out," Jack reported, not surprised. Given all that she'd been through in the past several hours, and the fact that she'd wanted to 'rest', he pretty much figured that her time among the conscious wasn't going to be very long.
Teal'c knelt down, frowning as he examined. "She has lost a lot of blood."
"Yeah," Jack said, reaching for his radio. "O'Neill to Reynolds."
"Reynolds here," came the response in a few seconds.
"Yeah, we got Carter, but she needs medical attention," Jack said, watching as Teal'c pulled his first aid kit out and wrapped a sterile bandage around Sam's leg.
"I can send a team your way, sir," Reynolds said. "How bad is she?"
"Not too bad," Jack said, refusing to look Teal'c in the eyes. True, her leg was bad, but not life threatening, at least presuming she actually got some sort of medical treatment in the near future. And the gash on her face, while ugly, didn't present too much more of a risk than a scar.
It was what he couldn't see that worried him. According to Jacob, she'd been with him when the selfdestruct had blown. Which meant that the same blast wave that had knocked over hundred year old trees, had also knocked her around. Jack knew all too well that for all the benefits of adrenaline, it also had one horrible side effect, masking the true nature of an injury until it was too late. "We're also gonna need a second recovery team," Jack said, pushing his concerns aside. There was nothing he could do about it if Sam was hurt other than what he was doing, getting her home and into the capable hands of Doc. "We've got one of Anubis' dead goons here. The egg heads back at the mountain might like to get their hands on it."
"Yes, sir. I'll send a second team. It might be a while though. We found a few more survivors."
"Not a problem," Jack said. "It's right by the UAV, you can use that as a beacon. Teal'c and I are going to start back with Carter. We'll meet the team halfway."
Jack released his radio, looking up at Teal'c, who had just finished his task. "Can you carry her?" Teal'c nodded, stowing the first aid kit, then reaching out, gathered Sam in his arms and slowly stood up. Jack scrambled to his feet, reaching out to grab Teal'c's weapon, struggling a bit to carry it, the modified TER and his own rifle. He bit back an ironic laugh. At the moment, he had more arms than he had, well arms.
Together, they made their way back towards where the base used to be, Jack occasionally checking the compass on his watch. They walked silently forward, Jack's eyes scanning the trees. As far as they knew, there was only one of those things after Carter, but it never hurt to be too careful.
Seeing movement, he paused, raising the TER, only lowering it when he recognized the familiar green of standard issue SGC fatigues. "Colonel," he called out softly.
Reynolds tensed for a second, his rifle also coming up to bear, before he too relaxed, stepping aside as he waved the medics forward. They walked towards Teal'c, finding an even spot on the trail to set down their stretcher. Teal'c laid Sam on it, stepping back to allow them to work. "How many more did you find?" Jack asked the colonel, watching as the men worked on his friend, augmenting Teal'c's bandage with a sturdier pressure bandage and starting an IV.
"Ten," he reported. "And if they're right, we're not going to find any more. There was a full fledged fire fight in the camp when the selfdestruct went off. A lot of them never got out." Jack nodded, the report pretty much what he'd expected. Given the force of the blast, all they were likely to find would be body parts now, and not even much of those. "The general's going to send another UAV, this time rigged for infrared. He's also working on some cadaver dogs. His hopes are to recover all the bodies we can and abandon this planet within twenty-four hours. If we decide to use this gate on another base, we'll send Prometheus after it later."
"The Beta Site?"
"It's locked down. No one is allowed to leave without going through the SGC first. I think the general plans to abandon it too, just to be safe."
Jack nodded. "We'll get Carter back to the gate, then we'll help you search," he said.
"We found signs of at least one other person on the run. More may have took to the hills and might not know that it's safe to come out," Jack said.
"Sir? We're ready," the medic said, looking to Jack and Reynolds. Reynolds nodded and they stood up, each grabbing an end of the stretcher. They started back towards the stargate, pausing every few hundred yards to spell each other on the stretcher.
Surprisingly, it only took them an hour to get back to the camp. It looked different than when they'd left it that morning. Now, instead of desolation and death, the camp was a hive of activity, medical personnel and search crews hurrying back and forth. Some were searching through the rubble, the sobering line of black bags attesting to their grisly success, and the flatness of some of those bags mute testament to the severity of the attack.
"Where's Fraiser?" Reynolds asked one of the searchers.
"She went back to the SGC, sir," he said, glancing over at the stretcher. "She didn't think we'd find anymore…umm, that her services would be needed," he finished, looking at Jack.
"Grab the casualties," Jack ordered, not taking offense at the man's presumption. Hell, he couldn't blame him, not if the man has been spending the past eight hours using baggies to gather the 'organic matter' from the rubble. "We'll send them back with Carter."
"Yes, sir," he answered.
Fifteen minutes later, the wormhole snapped shut, the last of the dead along with the last survivor, safely on their way to the SGC. Jack stood there for a moment, staring at the newly propped up gate, its shadow stretching across the clearing. "O'Neill," Teal'c said. "There are few healers that possess the same level of skill as Doctor Fraiser."
"Yeah," Jack said, his thoughts still back in the clearing, the sight of her dashing for cover, unarmed and helpless. He sighed, squaring his shoulders. "We got about three more hours of light left. That's enough for a quick look around."
"You plan to spend the night here?"
Jack looked at the devastation surrounding them and shook his head. "I have no idea. It might be too creepy. We might go home. We'll need to get the UAV's from the SGC in the morning anyway."
Teal'c nodded and they informed Reynolds of their plans and set off, fading into the trees.
A flash of movement caught his eye and Jacob glanced up, waving Jack to come closer. "How is she?" he asked, keeping his voice low.
"Bumps and bruises, few stitches," Jacob listed, studying the man. His clothes were filthy, smeared with dirt and blood. He could smell and see the sweat. It was obvious that the man had come straight from the gateroom to the infirmary. "The doctor says she'll be fine."
"That's good," Jack said.
Jacob nodded. "What's the count?"
"Fifty plus. We're going to go back with infrared in the morning but…"
"I'm sorry, Jack," Jacob said sincerely. He knew exactly what it felt like to lose men, or women. He'd been there himself more than once, gathering the dog tags, writing the letters, cleaning out the lockers.
"Yeah. She did good," he said, changing the subject.
"We found them about five miles from the base. That thing shot down the UAV, somehow she rigged the missile, tried to take it out. That's how we found them."
"She was always good at that. I think she watched too much Macguyver growing up," Jacob said, his eyes drifting back to Sam. She was resting peacefully in the bed, her eyes closed and her breathing deep and even. They'd washed her, removing the worst of the dirt and blood. Unfortunately, it only served to accentuate her pallor and made her look incredibly frail to him.
"The good news is, it worked," Jack said.
"The weapon. It works."
"Yeah. Now all we need is a few dozen more."
Jacob slowly shook his head. "I don't know, Jack. I think you're gonna be making them on your own," he said seriously.
"What do you mean?"
"I haven't told George yet but, things are not happy in Tok'ra town. I have a funny feeling the alliance is…not in good shape."
"What do you mean?" Jack asked sharply.
Jacob sighed. "Evidentially, being the 'oldest and wisest among us' doesn't count for much anymore. Members of the council are doing things behind my back. Running their own ops, keeping secrets from each other. They don't like full disclosure, don't like dealing with the Tau'ri. I think I'm gonna need to be scarce here for a while. Go back, see if I can mend some fences," he said, making the decision, and hating that he had to make it.
He didn't want to go. Didn't want to leave her, not now. Not after spending the past twelve hours not even knowing if she was alive.
He wanted to stay here, hang around until she went home. He wanted to spend some time with her, catch up on things, and maybe even enjoy spoiling her a bit.
'We could, you know,' Selmac said. 'We do not have to go back.'
'Yes, we do.'
'Sel, if I leave, chances are the Tok'ra will sever all ties with Earth. We need the intelligence.'
"When do you leave?" Jack asked, unknowingly interrupting the internal conversation.
"I'll know for sure what Dalek's plans are tomorrow when we talk to George. I want to wait at least until Sam wakes up." He looked up at Jack. "I snuck out before dawn a few too many times over the years. I do it now—"
"She'll kill you," Jack interrupted. "Trust me, you do not want her pissed at you."
Jacob chuckled. "That's an understatement."
Jack stood there for a second. "Look, I gotta get some sleep. We're shipping out at dawn. Hammond get you a room?"
Jacob nodded. "Yeah."
"Don't be afraid to use it," he said. "They'll call you if anything changes."
"I know," Jacob said. "I just aah, I'm gonna stay a while longer."
Jack nodded. "If I don't see you before you go, you watch your back out there," Jack said seriously. "And don't forget you're always welcome here."
"Thanks, Jack," Jacob said sincerely. "Sam—"
"We'll take care of her," Jack said.
Jack didn't say anything, just patted Jacob on the shoulder and turned on his heel, leaving the infirmary. Jacob watched him go, then turned his attention back to Sam. Sleep could wait, right now he planned to spend every minute he could with Sam, whether she was awake or not.
"Brought you something," Daniel said, casting a furtive glance across the infirmary before reaching down, pulling out two thick paperback books. "These came in the mail yesterday," he explained.
"I was wondering when that would arrive," Sam said, reaching out to take the journals from him. "Doctor McClaren is supposed to have an article in this one. I want to see how he explains his proofs on his McClarium," she said, smiling a bit. "Especially since most of his evidence is classified."
"Oh, I'm sure he found a way," Daniel said drolly as she flipped through the pages. "You may not want to let Janet see that," he warned, well versed in the doctor's 'you're here to rest not work' philosophy.
Sam waved her hand negligently. "She's going to let me go home in the morning anyway," she dismissed.
"Really?" Daniel asked. "That soon?"
"There's really nothing wrong with me," she said.
"Bumps and bruises, yes. And some stitches. Nothing life threatening."
"Plus a blood transfusion, and some IV antibiotics and two hours in surgery to fix that hole in your leg," he corrected, refraining from telling her just how horrible she'd looked and how scared he'd been four days ago when he'd run down to the gateroom and seen her carried home, the only color on her face the dirt and blood from the gash. That even Janet had been worried until she'd run some tests and found out that Sam's prolonged unconsciousness was more a result of being exhausted than any real injury.
He also didn't tell her that Selmac was the only thing that had kept Jacob calm or that her father had held a vigil at her bedside until she'd woken up. There was no need to add guilt to injury by reminding her of Jacob's departure. He'd been visibly worried, a worry Daniel knew that many people shared. Only the fact that Jack and Teal'c hadn't followed her eased his own worries a bit. If she'd been critically injured, Daniel knew that they would have come back with her instead of making one last search for survivors.
"Which is why I have the next two weeks off," she said, rolling her eyes and making a face at him.
Daniel sighed, recognizing the mood. This was another thing that Sam had in common with Jack, the near obsessive desire to ignore the fact that they were hurt, or did hurt, and brush it under the rug. "Any plans?" he asked, steering the subject to what he hoped were safer waters.
"Sleep?" she shrugged.
"Daniel, I'm just going to go home and veg out. Maybe read a couple of these journals. As you so eloquently pointed out, the hole in my leg isn't going to let me do too much more than that."
"Will you mind a visitor?" he asked.
He shrugged. "There's not much going on around here. I thought I might rent a movie or something, stop by," he suggested.
"I thought you were spending your time with Sarah?" she asked. "Helping her get reacclimated to Earth."
"I am, but, I can still—"
"It's ok," she interrupted. "Right now, spending some nice, quiet time alone sounds great," she said, the tone of her voice setting off alarm bells in the back of his brain.
He studied her, looking beyond the obvious injuries for the first time, recognizing the tightness in her smile, the slight edge to her voice. "Ok," he agreed, striving to sound non-chalant. "I'll wait until next week or so." He got up, looking at his watch. "And I have got a meeting in fifteen minutes, so I'll catch up with you later."
"Later," she said, her relief at his departure unmistakable.
He walked from the room, waiting until he was out into the hall so slow his pace. Three O'clock. Jack should be up in the commissary right about now. As he turned the corner and headed that way, he sincerely hoped that they'd made pie this morning. Pie always put Jack in a good mood. And right now, Daniel needed his friend to be in a good mood. Because he sure wasn't going to be after they talked.
"I hear someone's going home," Jack said, striding into the infirmary. Sam was seated on the edge of her bed, dressed in her civilian clothes, her bag sitting on the bedside table.
"Hey," she said looking up. "Is something wrong?"
"Here you go," Janet said, walking into the room. "One pair of crutches, slightly used." She held the items out to Sam. "And I want them even more slightly used when I get them back."
"Yes, mom," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Don't worry, Doc. She'll use them if I have to tie her hands to them," Jack said.
"Excuse me?" Sam asked indignantly.
"She ready to go?" Jack asked, deliberately ignoring Sam.
"Yes, sir," Janet said, holding out a small paper bag. "Here's her meds and some dressings for her leg. You need to change it once a day or if it gets wet. There should be enough there for a week but call me if you need more or if you see any signs of infection."
"Hello? Remember me?" Sam asked, grabbing the crutches from Janet and standing up.
"You can shower," she instructed. "But don't take a bath for a few days. There's some ointment in there for the cut on your face as well."
Jack took the paper bag and then reached out and snagged Sam's bag off the table. "Did you need anything from your lab?" he asked.
"As a matter of fact, yes, I do," she said, her tone slightly argumentative.
"Well then, let's go," he said cheerily, stepping aside and making a sweeping gesture with his arm. She lurched past him, expertly making her way across the room. He followed, sighing silently to himself.
Daniel warned that she'd be difficult, not that he really needed to. In a lot of ways, Sam was a lot like him, far more inclined to go off and sulk in the corner to lick her wounds on her own. And usually, Jack was willing to respect that. Just…just not this time. This time he felt the need to do more.
He followed her to her lab, trying to stay out of her way as she dug in various drawers, pulling out files and piling them on the table. He watched her for a few seconds, then reached into her closet, grabbing a satchel. He followed her, taking the files from her as she picked them up, shoving them into the bag. He reached for her laptop before she could get it, ignoring her slight huff. "Anything else?" he asked after he'd cleaned off the table.
"No," she said.
He slung the bag over his shoulder. "Then, let's go."
She gave him a sharp look, then sighed, limping from the room. He followed her through the halls, reaching around her when they got to the elevators to use his key card. They made their way to the surface and he pulled his keys out of his pocket. "Before you ask, Daniel and I got your car home yesterday," he said, leading the way to his truck.
"Thanks," she said as he unlocked the door.
"We figured you wouldn't want it parked here for the next two weeks." She awkwardly climbed up into the truck, using a handle above the door to nearly pull herself up. He took the crutches from her and laid them in the bed. He handed her the satchel then shut the door, making his way around to the driver's side.
He climbed in, putting the key into the ignition then reaching for his seat belt. "Do you need to hit the grocery?"
He rolled down his window, putting his truck into gear. "I can hit the grocery store on the way to your place if you need it."
"Yeah, I guess so," she said. "I really don't remember what I have at home," she admitted.
"Grocery store it is," he said cheerfully, reaching out to turn up the radio a bit. Mellow classic rock filled the cab as he drove down the narrow road leading to the highway.
Sam paused at her gate, struggling a bit to grab the mail while still keeping control of her crutches. Ignoring Jack's offer of help, she shoved the few envelopes into her pocket and continued up the walk, taking no small measure of satisfaction when she heard the gate swing shut behind her.
She navigated the steps and stopped in front of the door, digging for her keys. Shoving them in the lock, she pushed open the door and walked in, tossing the keys on the hall table. She could hear him behind her, struggling a bit with the plastic sacks. The groceries were all his idea, as was half of what they'd bought, so he could just figure out how to get them in and put them away, she reasoned, making her way to her living room.
She sank down on the sofa, closing her eyes briefly at the sensation of finally being able to sit down. Their little side trip to the grocery store had been tougher than she'd thought and her arms and shoulders ached from the unaccustomed pressure from the crutches.
Right now, she desperately wanted a long hot bath. And that was the one thing she couldn't have, not for a few more days, the need to guard her leg injury from infection overriding her personal desires.
If she couldn't take a bath, she'd do the next best thing, take some drugs and crawl into bed. "Whoa," she heard Jack say from the kitchen. "Carter, when was the last time you were home?" he asked, walking into the livingroom, a half gallon of milk held at arm's length. "This stuff is solid."
She frowned, trying to remember when she'd been to the store last. "What day is it?" she finally asked.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You need a keeper," he muttered, turning back towards the kitchen.
His teasing words rankled and she felt her ire rise. "Don't worry about it," she said, pushing herself up from the sofa and reaching for her crutches. "Just put the perishables away and I'll take care of the rest later," she instructed, making her way into the kitchen. He had the refrigerator open and was pulling out various things, checking the dates on some and simply discarding others. "Sir."
He ignored her, examining a take out container, gingerly opening the Styrofoam before making a face and shutting it hastily. "Doc know you're growing your own penicillin?"
"You're one to talk," she said, grabbing the container from him. "I'm stuck here for the next two weeks. There's no need for you to do this, I will have plenty of time later."
"But if I do it now, then you won't have to later," he shot back, taking the container from her. "Why don't you go sit down and relax and I'll take care of this."
His kind words annoyed her and set her teeth on edge. "Despite recent evidence to the contrary, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself," she said tightly.
"Thank you for the ride. That was very nice of you. I'm rather tired right now and I'm sure you have better things to be doing so, just lock the door on your way out, please," she said, turning as best that she could on her crutches and hurrying back towards her bedroom.
Once there, she sat down on the edge of the bed, her hands shaking slightly as she bent over, trying to reach the laces on her shoes. The shoestring knotted and she pulled at it, her movements getting more and more frantic as the material refused to give and instead knotted worse. She was so intent upon her task that the pair of hands impinging into her vision caught her by surprise.
One of his hands gently pushed hers away, then joined his other hand in quickly unknotting the laces. He slid her shoes off then stood up, returning in just a second with a glass of water. "You're probably due for more of these," he said, holding out the pain pills that Janet had given her.
She stared at them for a second then took them, gulping down the water to wash them down. She set the empty glass down on the bedside table. "Thanks," she muttered, not looking up.
"Do you want under the covers or do you just want to lie on top?" he asked, his voice low and even.
She didn't reply, instead scooted back onto the bed, gingerly lying down, taking care to keep pressure off her left leg. She heard him step away then a heavy weight settled over her as he returned with a spare blanket she kept in the corner. She closed her eyes, deliberately rolling over so that she could turn her back to him, finding it so much easier to deal with then potentially seeing the look on his face at the moment.
She heard him stand there for a few more minutes before he quietly turned on his heel, slipping from the room. She opened her eyes, staring out the window, the sheer curtains masking all but the sunlight. She was still staring when the pull of the pills slowly closed her eyes and led her into a deep sleep.
The TV show faded to black and a commercial came on and Jack sighed, stretching in the armchair. Glancing at his watch, he got up, stretching again. He made his way down the hall, deliberately doing what he could to lighten his steps.
Not wanting to leave her alone, after he'd finished putting away the groceries, he'd made himself at home, setting up shop in her living room and making full use of her digital cable. Careful to keep the volume low, he'd spent most of the afternoon channel surfing, one ear attuned down the hall, just in case she'd needed something.
He reached her door and silently pushed it open, the light from the hall spilling across the room in a revealing beam. She was lying just as she'd been the last time he'd checked, curled up on her right side, her back to the door. The window by her bed was open now, the soft night breeze gently billowing the curtains and bringing in with it the quiet sounds of a neighborhood asleep. She must have woken up at some time and opened it, he figured.
Almost against his will, he stepped into her room, the need to make sure that she was ok overriding his normal sense of decorum. He got closer, only intending to make sure that she was all right. He stopped when he got close enough to see that she wasn't asleep but was lying there, staring out the window. "Sam?" he asked, frowning when the moonlight illuminated the faint glisten of tears on her face. "Are you ok?"
"I should be dead," she whispered.
"What do you mean?"
"It was…" She broke off, closing her eyes and shuddering slightly. "It was going to kill me."
He sighed softly, reaching out to lay his hand on her shoulder. "It didn't," he said.
She rolled to her back, shaking her head. "You don't understand. After I shot it with the missile, I thought it was dead. I knew someone would come and I just…It climbed out of the dirt like some…like something out of a horror movie or something." She met his gaze. "It was going to shoot me and…all I could do was just sit there," she said, her voice catching a bit.
He sighed and reached down, gently pulling her up and into his arms. "It's ok," he said. "It's ok." He rubbed one hand across her back in a soothing motion.
"It's not ok," she whispered in his ear, her arms going around his chest and clasping him tightly. "I should have known better."
"Hindsight is 20/20. Besides, being ground zero at a missile strike is usually a good indicator of being dead."
"The only thing I could think of was regrets," she said, relaxing a bit in his arms.
"What kind of regrets?" he asked lightly, ignoring the odd feeling that fluttered in his stomach. She shook her head slightly. "Come on, you can't drop a bomb like that and just let it lay," he said, hoping to cheer her out of her present mood.
"Yes you can," she muttered.
"Do you want me to order you to tell me?" he asked, no where near serious.
She loosened her arms, pulling back slightly. He relaxed his hold and looked down at her. "All I could think of was that I wanted to do one thing before I die," she said softly.
"And what is that?" he asked, his voice shaking a bit.
She leaned in, her lips parting. Stunned, he didn't respond, simply staring into her eyes as his hands slid down, coming to rest lightly at her waist. She pulled away, a horrified expression crossing her face. "Oh god," she gasped as her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes grew wide.
"I'm sorry. I'm…oh god, umm…It must be the drugs. I…" She tried to scoot away on the bed, the blanket hampering her efforts. "I'm so sorry that I…I understand if you want to report this. I aah, I can just—"
"Sam. Stop," he said, giving her a little shake. "It's ok."
She shook her head. "No, it's not. I…That was so inappropriate—"
"You regretted not kissing me?" he asked, ignoring her babbling. She fell silent, her eyes sliding away from his to settle firmly on the far wall. "Sam?"
"Like I said, the drugs—"
"It's been hours. You don't have any drugs left in your system, not enough to matter anyway," he said.
"Sam," he interrupted.
She closed her eyes, her shoulders slumping. "I regretted never…never opening that door," she said softly, looking up to meet his gaze.
"And I think I'm tired of cake and lunch and might want to try my hand at some fishing."
He stared at her, easily translating the double meanings in her simple words. "Why don't we discuss this in the morning," he finally said.
Her face fell and she dropped her eyes, her hands nervously pulling at the blanket. "Discuss what?" she muttered, turning away from him.
"Hey," he said, reaching out and grabbing her arm, pulling around to face him. "It's not because I don't want to. Because, believe me, I want nothing more than to see how well you can handle a rod and reel…but I want to make sure that you're doing this for the right reason," he said seriously. He reached out and touched her cheek, his fingers feather light. "If we do this, there's no turning back."
"I know," she said softly.
"I don't want to screw this up," he said sincerely. "And I would rather have you as a friend forever, than something more that doesn't last." She looked at him for a few seconds, then nodded, accepting his words. "Now, why don't you go back to sleep," he said softly, getting up from the bed.
"Why don't you stay?" she said, reaching out to grab his hand.
"The sofa's too short." She scooted over, lifting the blanket. "And there's plenty of room." He sat there for a second, then kicked off his shoes, moving to lie beside her. She rolled over to her right side and he spooned in behind her, his left hand automatically going to lie across her stomach. He stopped short, then felt her hand grasp his, pulling it across her.
He heard her sigh and felt her relax, her weight settling slightly back towards him. He stared out the window as she slept, feeling complete with the presence of another person in his life…and deathly afraid that it just might be too good to last.