A/N: This came about from a discussion on the GW Family thread about the great hug Sam and Jack shared in Heroes. Somebody, I don't remember who, asked us to think of other times they might have shared that kind of hug. This is my response. I'm beginning to think this is the beginning of yet another series. Hmmm. As always, I save, savor, and answer all reviews left with an email and/or reply option.
Set at the end of In the Line of Duty.
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Jack O'Neill's slowed his normally brisk stride as he approached the infirmary. He paused just outside of the open door, listening carefully to the sounds of the staff moving around inside. The telltale clickity-clackety of Doc Fraiser's tiny shoes gave her position away and he waited for her to pass the doorway and head into her office before he stepped inside.
Nodding the nurses and staff he'd come to know well over the last two years, O'Neill carefully made his way to the curtained-off bed at the far end of the hospital wing. As he neared it, he waved off one nurse who moved to intercept him. Giving her a firm headshake, he gestured toward Carter's bed and then, for good measure, pointed to his collar, where the subdued embroidered eagle of his rank insignia could clearly be seen. She frowned, glancing over her shoulder at Fraiser's office, then looked back at him. Finally she gave a soft sigh and handed over the small paper cup she'd been carrying.
O'Neill took it from her, noting the two white capsules inside. He nodded again to the nurse, letting her know he'd take care of it. He waited for her to turn and leave, her white shoes allowing her to move soundlessly across the floor. Jack glanced down at the small paper cup again, then stepped forward and eased open the curtain surrounding his Second. His silent exchange with the nurse had worked to his benefit, she didn't seem aware of his presence. Jack allowed himself a moment of self-indulgent pleasure as he looked at her, drinking in the sight of Samantha Carter, alive and breathing once again.
Sam sat perched on the edge of the hospital, her long legs dangling down and her sneakered feet barely brushing the floor. Her arms hung at her sides and her hand lay limp in her lap, unmoving. Sam's face mirrored her posture, her expression bleak as she continued to deal with the pain and loss following Jolinar's death inside of her own body.
Jack shuddered slightly as he thought of it. The idea of sharing so...much...and so unwillingly.... He hated that the snake, Tok'ra, he though bitterly. That the Tok'ra had been able to easily infiltrate them and that of all people it had taken over his...his...Second. His Captain. His...Sam. No, Jack, not your Sam. Everybody's Sam. Nothing about her can ever be strictly yours. Jack closed his eyes for a moment, unprepared for the wave of longing that followed that thought.
Sam's voice was barely above a whisper, but it still startled him. He looked up to see her regarding him, a faintly confused expression on her face. Jack offered her a small smile and stepped all the way into the cubicle, letting the curtain fall closed behind him.
"I, ah..." Jack thrust forward the paper cup containing her pills. "These are for you."
She automatically reached out to take the cup from him, her puzzled expression increasing. "I...thank you, Colonel. Daniel brought me flowers." She set the cup next to the small vase of daisies on the stand next to her.
"No, Carter." Jack moved forward again, retrieving the cup of pill with one hand and lifting the small plastic cup of water with the other. "Nurse...oh, I don't know...Ratchet? These are from her."
For the first time in days Sam smiled fleetingly. "I know Sir, I was just..." Sam sighed and accepted both medication and water from him, making quick work of both.
Jack set both empty containers aside and sat in the chair adjacent to the bed. "Carter... Sam. I...ah hell." Running a frustrated hand through his hair, Jack struggled to find the words he wanted to say. Before he could continue, though, Sam interrupted.
"I...thank you, Colonel."
Sam shifted uncomfortably on the bed, the fingers of one hand playing with the fraying edge of the worn hospital blanket. She surreptitiously glanced around to make sure nobody was nearby, then whispered, "For being here for me." Her wide blue eyes were still shadowed with a pain that tugged at his heart.
Jack sat back in the chair, surprised. He didn't think she'd known he was there. That he'd been here, in this chair, every night since she'd been...since Jolinar. He'd come each night after the eleven pm shift change and stayed until just before Fraiser had come on duty at seven each morning, just watching her sleep.
Watching her breathe.
For the first time in years, Jack had had cause to be grateful for his Black Ops experience; slipping into the semi-dark room without the staff being aware was a cakewalk. With Sam on monitors the nursing staff had no need to constantly monitor her, so she–and subsequently he–had been left undisturbed for hours. Jack told himself repeatedly that he would do the same for any member of his team, but deep down he knew better. He knew that he wouldn't sleep in his own quarters, and certainly not at home, while she was here, battling her demons.
Once or twice each night she had whimpered in her sleep and prompting him to ease forward to place a soothing hand on her hand or her arm. Just that simple touch seemed to have grounded her and she would quickly slide into a deeper, more restful sleep. Jack had been certain that Carter was unaware of his visits, he'd hoped so. Commanding officer's did not set up camp at wounded team member's bedsides every night. For two weeks. Especially when that wounded team member was not in mortal danger. Not as a rule. However, something about SG1 in general–and Samantha Carter specifically–defied the rules. Some of them. And Jack was beginning to hate the rules that couldn't be defied. Finally, he sighed and gently cleared his throat and nodded. "I...I'm just really glad you're okay, Carter."
"I don't know if I am, Sir." Sam ducked her head and covered her face with her hands.
Sam's broken confession was accompanied by a soft sniffle and Jack simply couldn't take it. Rules or no rules, he had to...needed to...comfort her. Grateful for the curtain that blocked her bed from the intrusive but necessary security cameras, he rose and stepped to the edge of the bed. "C'mere." Gently easing her hands from her face, Jack pulled Sam off of the bed, trapping her between him and it. He released her hands only to wrap his arms around her, tucking her head into his shoulder. He slid one hand up into her hair, holding her firmly while the other slid down to her waist, pulling her snugly against him.
It was a measure of Sam's distress and unhappiness that she, without question or hesitation, melted into his embrace with a soft sob. Her arms slid under his open BDU overshirt, her hands tightly clutched the T-shirt underneath. It was that spasmodic clenching and unclenching that did it for Jack. In that moment, whatever he might have told himself and whatever justification he might have offered if questioned, he lost his heart.
He bent his head and buried his face in her neck, breathing deeply the warm, slightly sweet scent that was Samantha Carter as he choked back his own tears. Jack tightened his hold as all of the fear and anger he'd felt when he had realized what she had been taken by, and what she had become rose to the surface. Add to that how powerless he was to save her and Jack, for the first time, acknowledged what he would have lost had Sam not been saved. He began rocking them both, an unconscious move to comfort coming as naturally as it had when he'd held his crying son years before.
Eventually her sobs eased and she began to slowly extricate herself from his embrace. Jack reluctantly let her go, knowing that he needed to. Professional relationship aside, he sensed that Sam was returning to herself. She'd needed to cry and he had been available. He had been there for her. Just as he would continue to be. He was her CO, and it was his job. Just as it was his job to never let her see what he felt. Never let her know how lost he would have been if... Jack quirked a small smile at her as he stepped back, trailing his hands down her arms to steady her as she climbed back onto the bed.
"Better," he asked?
Sam looked up at him, her blue eyes still swimming, but her gaze steadier, stronger than it had been. She kept her eyes on his face, her expression open and guileless, every emotion there for him to read. "Yes, Sir. Thank you. Again."
"Glad I could be there for you, Carter." Jack looked away, struggling to put some space between them. "Guess it was time. Might have been Daniel, or–"
"Sir." This time it was Sam who reached out, her hand warm on his shoulder, her fingers gently brushing his neck. "I wouldn't have...I couldn't have.... I needed it to be you." She sighed as her hand slipped away, her fingers tracing the shape of the embroidered eagle on his collar. She gave him a last open and emotion-laden look before dropping her hand to her lap.
Jack held her gaze, leaving his feelings on the surface for her to read, and when she nodded he knew. He might have decided he didn't want her to see, but that hadn't stopped her from seeing anyway. From knowing. They exchanged slightly rueful smiles as each acknowledged what had been shared and what now had to be put aside.
The telltale clicking sound of Fraiser's heels approaching warned them both that their moment of solitude was coming to an end. Jack rose and brushed his hand down Sam's arm once more before stepping back. "I'm glad, Sam." She glanced up and he added quickly, just before the curtain was swept back. "I'm glad it was me."
He nodded to Fraiser as she entered the small space, clipboard in hand. The Doc's attention was on her notes so she barely acknowledged Jack's leaving and probably didn't hear Sam's soft voice as he strode away.