It shouldn't surprise Jack the he knows Carter's living room in the dark as well as he does. He can navigate her whole house without turning on a light. If he's ever questioned about it, he'd lie and say it was the mark of a good field officer. He wouldn't reveal how many times he has been here in the dark.
He often roams her house at night. It's not that he wants to. It's that he often can't sleep. He's as comfortable here as he is in his own home. But once she's asleep, his mind wanders. And since none of them sleep well anymore he doesn't want to wake her when she's got the covers tucked up under her chin and her mouth slightly open and relaxed. So he wanders.
Some nights he reads. He discovered early on that Carter has interesting taste in books. It wasn't all science journals and text books as people always assume. One night he found Little House in the Big Woods tucked on the top shelf between Contact and a battered edition of Fundamentals of Integral Calculus. He'd taken down the dog eared copy for a better look. The book hadn't been a staple in the O'Neill household, but he'd seen the tv show. The book was old and when he opened the cover the front page came unglued and fell to the floor. As he was about to slip the page back under the cover he saw where she'd written her name in the rough scrawl of a child just learning to print their abc's. He'd tried to imagine a young Samantha curled up in bed, listening to her mother read her a bedtime story. By the time the sun had started to peek over the horizon, Jack had figured Pa Ingals would have fit in well on Edora.
Other nights he just sits in the dark. He's never in the mood for television or the computer. He comes to Carter's to get away from things. This is where he comes to hide. This is where they're safe. If Carter could figure out a way to put up a cloak around her house, Jack would probably never leave.
Tonight he just wants to sit.
No, that's not entirely right. Tonight he wants to be able to drift off to sleep with Carter spooned against him. But sleep won't come easy tonight, if it comes at all. Besides, Carter's too restless, even with the T3's.
There are a couple of bottles in various stages of consumption in the cupboard beside the fridge, but Jack doesn't want a drink tonight. He probably wouldn't stop at one and he doesn't want her to find him slouched in the easy chair, having worked himself into a bitter stew. Tea might be ok though. He cheats and fills the cup from the hot tap on the water cooler. He doesn't want to disturb her by pulling out the kettle.
He moves the grate and pokes at the last few embers in the fireplace until he's got a reasonable glow. He figures it could use another log, but settles for a couple of pieces of kindling instead. If he's lucky, there still might be some sleep for him tonight. He drops into the easy chair and watches the flames lick at the dry wood.
He's pretty sure Carter knows that sometimes he doesn't sleep. When he first started coming over, he'd grab the blanket from the spare bedroom since she always keeps the thermostat set low at night. Lately though, there's always been a quilt folded over the back of the chair. He pulls it around his shoulders because even though the fire is going again, he still feels a chill.
God it had been a close one yesterday. A misunderstanding. That's how it usually starts. A fight broke out. He hadn't been there but Daniel had come to find him, speaking so fast that all he heard was 'knife', 'Sam's hurt', 'medic'. Before Daniel had gotten to item three on his list, Jack had been in motion.
This was exactly why you don't sleep with someone in your command. That's what they say, anyhow. Jack figures that's bullshit. It didn't feel any different when he wasn't spending almost every night in her bed. Only now he sees the scars up close.
He wasn't with her when Teal'c helped her through the gate because he'd had to assure the village leader that they wouldn't 'rain down the fires of retribution' for what amounted the stupidity of to two drunks in a bar fight. Carter had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He wasn't with her when they rolled her into surgery because he'd been updating the diplomatic team that was being sent to smooth over the ruffled feathers. He didn't even know how badly she'd been wounded.
He wasn't with her when she came to in recovery because he'd been briefing Hammond. And though he wanted to bolt the moment he was dismissed, he'd managed what he thought was a respectable trot up to the infirmary.
But he is there when she's getting undressed for bed. The gauze is bulky and the fabric tape is pulling at her bruised skin. Jack watches from the bathroom doorway as she gingerly picks at the edges of the tape. He sits down on the closed toilet lid and pulls her towards him.
She's standing in the harsh light of the bathroom fixture in her bra and an old pair of sweats low on her hips, looking both beaten and beautiful at the same time. She rests a hand on his shoulder as he gently pulls off the tape and peels away the gauze. It's ugly, but not nearly bad as he'd come to imagine.
The angry slash from navel to the top of her hip bone makes him suck in a breath. It's right at eye level and he doesn't want her to see him look away. He doesn't know which doctor had been on duty when they brought her in, but he silently thanks them for their handiwork. The sutures are small and neat, and the incision looks clean. The band-aide is still on her wrist from the course of intravenous antibiotics. As if she can read his thoughts, she pulls that bandage off herself and balls it up.
The urge to kiss the wound is overwhelming. He licks his lips and this time does look away. This isn't a scraped knee he can make better with a smile and a promise of ice cream. She turns and leans into him and his head is resting against her good side. He closes his eyes and feels her comb her fingers through his hair. She understands that it's hard to look at. Jack touches his lips to her good hip instead. He's not sure he has the words to reassure her anyhow. This probably won't be the last time he'll see her cut up.
He tapes her back up with the good tape she keeps under the sink and helps her get settled in bed. He wasn't there when she was bleeding on some alien soil. The bandage is right where he likes to rest his hand when he falls asleep. He brushes a strand of hair back from her brow with it instead. It's still damp from when he helped her wash it earlier. She wanted to get the smell of the infirmary out. When he's sure she's asleep, Jack slips out of bed.
Maybe he does fall asleep after all. He doesn't remember doing it. He knows he didn't sleep much the night before. Carter had spent the night in the infirmary and he's spent the night at home. You can only run on adrenaline for so long before it catches up to you. He's glad he was here when it did.
He's about to get up to dump the untouched cup of tea when he feels her soft touch on his shoulder. He turns his head so he can kiss her wrist.
"You coming back to bed tonight?" So she knows his secret after all.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there yesterday," he tells the dark. He won't be able to lie still if he doesn't.
She's quiet for a moment. He hears the scuffle of her bare feet as she turns back towards the bedroom. "Doesn't matter. You're here now."