He stood alone in the darkened conference room, watching through the glass. In the room below, red HAZMAT-suited figures stepped out from the shimmering surface of the activated 'gate. They moved carefully down the metal ramp, quarantine stretchers suspended between them.
He tried not to think about how similar those pods were to coffins. Or how much the medics holding them looked like pall bearers.
Or how close she was to the real thing.
A voice at his elbow broke through his thoughts before he could go too far down that path. "She'll be okay." He turned to find Hank Landry standing next to him; he hadn't even noticed his approach. "They all will be," the other man continued. "We've got enough equipment here to keep them alive until Caroline and her team can figure out a cure."
"I know. I'm not…"
Hank snorted gently and shook his head. "You might be able to fool some people, Jack, but I've known you for a very long time."
"Then you'll know…." he began, but Hank cut him off again.
"I've had a HAZMAT suit sent to your quarters. She'll be in Isolation Room Two."
He sat in the quiet infirmary room, watching over her as she slept. She seemed so fragile, her face nearly translucent beneath her tousled blonde hair. The need to touch her, to feel her warm and alive beneath his hand was impossible to resist, but then, he no longer had to. Not simply because she was finally really his, though he still occasionally had to fight the urge to pull back as though every caress remained forbidden. The instinct was especially powerful here, back at the SGC where his defenses had always remained strongest and hardest to maintain.
More importantly, though, the scientists had finally found a cure; he had been permitted to take off his protective suit. The hours of waiting anonymously in the corner while the doctor and her team had worked, uncertain if Sam would ever wake up, were finally over. The doc had assured him that her sleep was finally natural.
Jack reached out to brush back a few of the stray strands which had fallen across her forehead. He rested his hand on her shoulder. Her warmth beneath his hand, the gentle rise and fall of her chest, and each breath whispered through softly parted lips promised she would awake and be all right.
Eventually, after what seemed an eternity of waiting, Sam stirred in the bed; her eyes opened and she scanned the room, clearly disoriented. "Hi," he said, drawing her attention.
Her eyes found him in the semi-dark. "Hi," she echoed, a faint smile tracking across her features as she focused on him. Then she added, as if by afterthought, "Sir."
He smiled in response, allowing all his relief at her recovery to show on his face. "We're alone, here… Sam." He gestured around the empty room to emphasize his point.
"Old habits. Sorry, Jack." Her smile grew.
Suddenly the room wasn't quite so dark.
She really was okay.
He felt his smile grow to match hers. "That's better." He moved to sit down beside her on the bed and took her hand in his own. Lifting it to his lips, he gently kissed her knuckles in a gesture of respect as ancient as the human race. Murmuring past their linked fingers, he asked, "How do you feel?"
"Tired, still, but other than that, pretty good." Remembering still more, she asked, "What about Daniel? And Teal'c and Cam? They were up at the cave…"
"They're fine. Like you, they just need to sleep now. In fact," he added, knowing she wouldn't easily go back to sleep without more information, "Teal'c and Mitchell found a little friend that seems to be the key – along with your research, of course – to saving your collective asses. Doctor Lam could probably tell you more; it's all geek to me."
Jack's intentional verbal slip got the intended response. She giggled.
It was the best sound he'd heard in days; it made everything else worthwhile.
Her laughter was interrupted by a very large yawn.
"See?" he said. 'Sleep."
She grinned sheepishly. "Yes, sir." Her eyes drifted shut as if of their own accord. But she didn't release his hand.
Within minutes, her breathing had returned to the gentle rhythms of sleep.
Jack remained where he sat, watching as she slept.
Sam really was okay; all the fear and anxiety of the last few days were now nothing more than the ghosts of memories.
He'd always hated hospitals and infirmaries. Nothing would ever change that. But right at that moment, Sam's hand clasping his even in sleep, he couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
She drifted awake, thoughts coming slowly through the lingering haze of sleep. Her head felt stuffed with cotton, her limbs heavy after so long in bed.
And she wasn't alone.
He lay stretched against her side despite the narrowness of the infirmary bed, one arm sprawled across her shoulders, their legs in a tangle. Holding onto her even in sleep.
She shifted, curling closer into his embrace and his arm tightened around her.
The musky scent of him filled her senses.
She was home.