A/N: For AstraPerAspera, who said, in a conversation unrelated to the topic of this fic, and I quote, "You can't have too many by-her-bedside fics IMHO". Likely to become the first in a series, but that's really up to the plot stenos.
He hesitated in the doorway, unsure if he should proceed inside. He didn't want to disturb her; he was sure she needed space and time to heal. But as he looked into the room, he saw she was sitting up in the bed. And though she looked impossibly small and frail sitting there in her hospital gown, such a change from the bold and confidant captain she normally was, at least Cassandra's visit had done that much - Sam no longer lay curled up in the fetal position, unresponsive to anything and anyone, the light in her eyes dulled nearly beyond recognition.
That had scared him almost as much as looking into those eyes and knowing it was someone else staring back.
Almost. But not quite.
He had to go in, had to see for himself that she was really okay now. She was his responsibility… He was her commander, after all, and maybe even almost a friend. It was just something he had to do.
Jack stepped forward to Sam's bedside. She looked up at his approach. "Hi, Sir."
"Hey, Sam." He tried to smile, but the darkness under her eyes and the paleness of her skin sent a new wave of worry coursing through him. As a distraction, he held up the bowl in his hands, "Brought you something."
"What is it?" she asked. Her tone was flat, lacking any real curiosity.
Reaching behind him, Jack slid a chair forward across the floor. He sat down in it next to her and presented his offering.
She took it, and glanced inside, "Jello?" she asked. The slight smile on her lips barely touched her eyes, but at least it was something.
He smiled. "Blue," he said proudly. "I've noticed it's your favorite…?"
Her smile grew wider, the lines about her eyes softening. "Thank you," she replied softly.
He shrugged. "No big deal." Although, for the actual real smile finally back on her face, small though it was, he'd have brought her a million bowls of jello. "Anything else I can get you?"
She bit her lip, suppressing a giggle - an actual giggle - and pointed into her bowl with one finger. His heart soared. "Uhm… A spoon?"
"D'oh." Smiling sheepishly, he reached into the front chest pocket of his flight suit and pulled out the spoon he'd tucked in there. He presented it to her with a flourish. "Sorry…"
"Thank you. " Sam took the offered spoon and dug into her jello.
He watched her eat for a minute, her eyes still sparkling with amusement at his antics, a slight smile playing across her lips.
Jack felt better than he had in weeks.
He'd lost people under his command before. But never like he almost had with Sam, having to stand and face someone who looked like her - who was her - yet at the same time really wasn't. And the thought of losing Sam, who had more life and energy and sheer brilliance than anyone else he'd ever known, of not having her on his team and at his side, watching his six or vice versa, scared him more than he cared to contemplate.
Sam - and the rest of SG-1- were his responsibility now. He'd just have to take this as a wake-up call and be more careful. Because Jack wasn't going to lose her. Lose any of them. Not again.
She had finished her jello and was reaching to set the bowl down on the nearby table, which was a bit too far to comfortably reach. Jack intercepted it wordlessly, taking it from her hand and setting it down for her.
Sam opened her mouth to speak, probably to thank him again, but a yawn snuck out instead. "Sorry, Sir. Guess I'm more tired than I thought."
He stood and smiled down at her. "It's okay, I've got million things I need to be doing right now, anyway." He gestured with his thumb towards the door. "I should be going. And you need to sleep."
She smiled, and this time it lit her whole face, "Yes, Sir." Jack turned to leave, but Sam grabbed his forearm before he could step away from the bed. Her touch was warm, heating his skin even through the sleeve of his uniform, and, though her grip was gentle, a request not an order, he couldn't have moved if he'd wanted to. "And, Colonel?"
"Thank you, again…." She must have noticed his confusion, because she quickly added, gesturing towards the empty bowl with her free hand, "For the jello…."
"You're more than welcome," he replied. She dropped her hand from his arm, and he tried not to miss the sudden loss of warmth. "Now… Sleep well, Carter."
"Yes, Sir." She was already obeying his 'order', snuggling down into the thin infirmary blanket, getting comfortable for sleep. There was nothing else he could do. Turning, he left the room.