Disclaimer: All publicly recognized characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corporation, and Double Secret Productions. This is a work of fanfiction for the express enjoyment of other fans, and no money was made with this work. Any previously unrecognized characters or mistakes that occur in this story are the fault of the author, and do not intend to infringe on the copyrights belonging to anyone.
Note: This story takes place somewhere between seasons seven and eight. I haven't seen more seasons than that, so I have no idea what may happen versus what may not happen. The events in the story are based on the occurrences that have already transpired. In future seasons, things may change, but I don't know about all those changes yet, even though viewers who have kept up with the show on television may know and be able to tell me plenty. Sorry if you notice mistakes that, in effect, can't be helped.
Jack O'Neill sauntered slowly down the gray hallway, his
combat boots scuffing across the serviceable linoleum floor. The
janitor... what was his name? Oh, yeah, Charlie, Jack reminded
himself... came towards him down the hallway. The man passed
Carter's lab, smiled, and said,
Aloha, Colonel, as he swung
around Jack in the narrow hallway. Jack grinned back, called a
Aloha, yourself, and made way for the man carrying a
tool box with a symbol of a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a
honking big wrench on it. Jack saw the box and its symbols out
of the corners of his eyes, raised his eyebrows in question at
the illustrations, but refrained from making his customary
sarcastic comment. He was in too good of a mood to be sardonic;
he was on his way to see Carter doing some experiment or other,
and he was perfectly content with the way the day was turning
out. Things couldn't be better.
Then, just as soon as Charlie... how could he have possibly
forgotten a name like that?... had slipped by him in the hall and
Jack had moved away from the cinder-block wall again, he suddenly
slowed at the sensation of tingles moving up his left arm. The
tingles stopped at his shoulder, and he'd just had the time to
make a puzzled expression when a thunderhead of pain erupted
across his upper chest.
Jesus... he whispered, half in awe and
half in fear of the abruptness and magnitude of such an ache. He
tried to grip the wall, tried to remain on his feet, but sweat
broke out under the black t-shirt he'd been issued along with his
BDUs. The fluorescent lights in the corridor swam in his vision
as a second wave of pain attacked him.
What is this, some kind of new weapon that the Goa'uld have developed and secretly doled out among the enemies of the Taur'i, or what? he asked himself. The thought floated like a fogbound wraith through his mind, then he found himself resisting darkness as a third searingly hot wave of fire tried to eat out his insides. The fury of pain was in his blood, now. He just couldn't keep his feet... Hell, he couldn't even remain conscious as the pain started to rip down his arm again. His last coherent thought was that he would have to put off that visit he meant to pay to Carter, and the thought made him sad. But a strong vise of pain made him not care so much as he keeled over and felt the coolness of the linoleum floor biting into his right cheek. Then, even that sensation was gone as the idea that Carter would understand entered his mind. It was the last complete thought he had as he slipped into the dark feathers of unconsciousness.
* * *
Sam Carter looked up from her computer for just a moment; there seemed to be some sort of commotion erupting in the corridor. But she was too close to forming a new hypothesis about the energy device SG-9 had brought back from PRX-138 to pay much attention to what was going on in the hallway. The device and it's tiny marker, little more than a gray box, however, didn't quite grab her entire focus now, and she couldn't stop herself from standing up to try to see what was going on. She decided to try to be some help, but on second thought, opted to remain near her lab. It was just as well, she thought to herself; she would probably just be in the way, anyhow. She settled more firmly in her seat again, and glanced at the clock, noting that it was nearly time for the Colonel to arrive for his daily visit, and briefly wondered where he was. She could use a break, she realized when the data on her screen suddenly swam in front of her eyes.
She blinked to clear her head, and in that amount of time, another group of people ran by the doorway of her lab. They all wore the white coats of medical personnel, and again she wondered what was going on. She had risen to take a peek out her door when two more people pushed a gurney through the crowd of interested onlookers without ceremony or apology, then disappeared from her view.
Sam sighed, a bit sadly, and wandered over to the door. In times like these, true medical emergencies, Sam missed Janet the most. She longed suddenly to see her friend running down the white and gray hallway, with an attitude that was all professional business as she insinuated her way into the center of the crowd. She had been so small that a group of onlookers had often swallowed her up. It had always been a misjudgment of her robust personality, as she had been in charge of the entire SGC infirmary. At least, she had been in charge until that blast from the staff weapon of a hidden Jaffa had cut her life short and turned what had been a bad mission into a nightmare.
The nightmare quality of the bad rescue mission was still filling Sam's mind as she finally reached the door and stepped into the corridor. But she could see nothing as a crowd of the typically milling, useless people successfully interrupted her field of vision from whatever was happening. She had a stray thought that she hoped the Colonel was late, for once in his life, as she stared at that crowd in the corridor. If he were late, he wouldn't have to deal with being held up, she thought with a grimace. The Colonel wasn't the type of person who took interruption particularly well.
But, it was strange that he was so late in meeting her, even though they had never set a specific time for these little rendezvous' of theirs... A shiver of doubt abruptly shot up her spine...
Hey, what happened, what's going on? she asked of the
people gathered around her lab, her natural curiosity barely
evident in her well-modulated voice.
An anonymous airman answered her; he was so much taller than
she was that he could see over the heads of the crowd.
fainted, he said noncommittally.
I don't know who, yet...
Then, he noticed Sam's worry as evidenced by her features, and
smiled, trying to set an atmosphere of ease.
But you know how
these doctors are... hyper over a fingernail... It's probably
Sam felt an unbidden chill travel up her spine despite the
man's assurances, a sensation she hadn't felt since her mom had
Can you see who it is? she choked, suddenly barely able
The airman craned his neck to one side and tried to spy into
the center of the activity.
Nnnnooo... he answered, then put
up his hand in an unconscious gesture.
Wait, I can see him
now... they're lifting him onto the gurney... Oh, God. He
actually gave a start as he kept craning his neck at odd angles.
What? asked Sam, alarmed now.
What is it?
It's Colonel O'Neill, he breathlessly responded. Then his
own brow furrowed in question.
Did he contract some strange
virus that makes you faint while he was off world or something?
He's as white as a ghost.
But Sam wasn't listening any longer as she abruptly needed the extra support of the doorjamb to hold up her shaking form. She jumped aside as white-coated men and women rushed a gurney by her lab on its way further down the hall to the infirmary. Sam watched helplessly as her gaze lingered on the unmistakable gray hair belonging to Jack O'Neill as he whizzed by. The anonymous airman was correct; the colonel was white as a new sheet still in its package from Wal-Mart.
* * *
Sam stared at the phone hanging on the wall before her as if it were a lethal device that she would do better to stay far away from. The soft, familiar sounds of the infirmary continued on behind her, yet even the constant beep of a heart monitor didn't calm her nerves much... she couldn't put off the phone call any longer. She didn't have a choice, really; the rest of SG-1 deserved to know what was going on as much as she did. So, she brushed the stray tears off her cheeks, cleared her voice of the last vestiges of a tremor, and punched the buttons of the phone almost as if she were angry instead of terrified. That was good; she would rather be angry any day over feeling this... this... helplessness.
Hello, chorused a slightly distracted voice over the line.
It was Daniel, probably staring intently at some ancient
language or other... Sam couldn't help it - she started crying
the moment he said anything. At last, she managed to remain calm
long enough to say,
Daniel? It's me.
Sam? Daniel sounded almost relieved to hear her voice.
Hey, did you see what happened today? I watched the whole thing
from inside my office... They say someone fainted or something.
Have you heard anything?
Uh... Sam paused, unsure of what to say. Which was
unacceptable; she always knew what to say. She was known as the
personification of cool while in a crisis. It's how she had
risen to the rank of 'major' in peacetime. She was so calm under
pressure that she had been dubbed 'Ice Queen' as a joke one
boring day at the SGC.
Now, she felt far from icy or collected or queen material. She felt small. Small, and used up.
Sam? Daniel questioningly prompted again.
Sam sniffled into the receiver. Then she broke down once
more and started crying right there over the phone line. God,
this was embarrassing.
No, she whispered in a thin voice
clogged with tears.
No, I'm not all right. She took a deep
breath, hoping it would help, but it didn't.
Daniel, I wish I
had better things to tell you, that a visitor hit his head on a
door or something, but the truth is the Colonel had a heart
attack today, a bad one.
Silence greeted her announcement for a minute, and she heard
Daniel's labored breathing over the line. Then, he seemed to
recover himself and protested,
But, Jack's in such good shape!
I know, I know, but Dr. Corlin says that
didn't make any difference! That it must be cholesterol or
family history, or something along those lines!
Next came Daniel's gentle query,
Is... is he..?
Sam jumped in to spare him from saying it.
No, not dead,
but unconscious. She gave a despairing look at the phone for a
moment, then hung onto it so hard that she almost tore it off the
Look, there's too much to say over the phone. Can you
come down here? I mean, do you have time?
Do I have..? Daniel began to repeat, then he caught his
Give me five minutes. I'll get Teal'c. You in the
Stay there. Don't move. And don't... don't do
That last statement stunned some of Sam's sadness away. He
was talking about the hidden feelings that she had always
harbored for the Colonel. Though, her emotions obviously
weren't so hidden as she had often thought if Daniel was warning
her against giving in to them.
Daniel, what do you take me for?
Of course I won't do anything rash!
I know, Daniel answered, calm.
But you're not sounding
so sad anymore, so it was worth it. See you in five. Then the
dial tone went dead.
Sam stared at the colored plastic instrument in her hand, then slowly hung up the headset, sighed, shook her head, and retraced her steps back to the stool she had pulled over beside Jack's bed.
He was so white! The constant beeping of the heart monitor told her that he was alive, but he hadn't moved or even blinked once since he'd fallen in the corridor outside her lab. An oxygen tube hung from a chord on the I.V. rack, in case it was needed in a hurry, and a needle that pierced the back of his hand was giving off the slow drip of the antibiotics that had been the only thing that had kept her company for the last half hour or so. God, she didn't even know what time it was! She was glad, then, for the first time, that she had tossed aside the papers concerning the Colonel's will and had given in to an urge for company and had called Daniel. Briefly, she wondered if General Hammond knew what had happened to Jack, but she no longer had the energy to care overly much. She figured that if he didn't know yet, he soon would, and bent to retrieve the papers.
She was just straightening again on the stool when General
Hammond himself strode through the infirmary door.
Carter, he said in a soft voice. Then he swung his glance down
How is he?
Sam tried valiantly not to cry in front of her commanding
He's... She had to take another deep breath and try
He's unconscious, but alive, for now. The medical teams
reached him in time.
General Hammond's shrewd eyes swerved towards her.
Sam took another deep breath. She had to stop this crying,
or who knew what the general might think!
But... Dr. Corlin
can't promise anything at this point, Sir. He... he says that
the Colonel might not wake up at all.
Ever, Sam dutifully repeated.
If it comes to that, we
can keep him alive on a feeding tube for several years... but,
Colonel O'Neill would have hated that, Sir.
Hammond sighed, and his gaze swung back to O'Neill. He was
silent for a moment, then he said,
Let's assume that he'll wake
up and be just fine...
Sam had to interrupt again.
Dr. Corlin says that even if
he wakes up, he'll never be quite the same again... that one
never is after a heart attack this big.
Silence greeted her again, then Hammond very carefully
You're talking about being part of SG-1, aren't you?
Bleakly, Sam nodded.
I don't see how we can stay together
after this, Sir, she admitted.
Have you said anything to Daniel and Teal'c about your
Not yet, Sir. There was a forbidding note in the
General's voice that Sam couldn't help but respond to.
Well, don't say anything, yet, requested Hammond.
some time to think over everything you've said before I can reach
any decisions regarding SG-1 or Colonel O'Neill... or anything!
He looked at her in slight despair, the most emotion he would
allow himself to display.
Consider SG-1 on stand-down for now.
I don't want any of you going anywhere off-world.
Of course not, Sir. Sam didn't quite understand how
talking things over with Daniel and Teal'c could possibly matter
at this point, but she said,
I won't say anything to Daniel and
Teal'c about SG-1 until you've thought about this some more,
Thank you, Major. And at that statement, Hammond left the
infirmary after taking one last look at an unresponsive Colonel
O'Neill. He passed by Daniel and Teal'c as they entered the
infirmary, and he nodded, but didn't say anything more.
Sam, Daniel called from the door.
How is he? then,
before she even had the chance to answer, asked,
How are you?
Sam hadn't had time to consider that issue as of yet.
I'm... I'm... How was she?
I'm doing alright, she finally
Better than Colonel O'Neill.
The Colonel still hadn't stirred, but he was breathing, according to the gentle rise and fall of his chest beneath the medical issue sheet and blankets on his bed. Sam was beginning to automatically check his vitals.
Daniel shook his head.
How did this happen..?
Sam shrugged, fighting back tears again. In a small voice,
It just did.
Teal'c then broke the silence he had maintained upon
entering the room.
All the many advances in technology that
we've found... and nothing changes his condition.
Sam hesitated, thinking of the promise she'd made to Hammond
only a moment before.
And his condition isn't good.
Daniel eyed Sam dubiously.
And that's supposed to mean..?
He lifted his brows in question.
Sam breathed deeply again.
I promised that I wouldn't say
more... for now, she emphasized.
Daniel's brows rose the rest of the way until they reached
You can't tell us anything about our own team
Sam's face crumbled in on itself.
I don't know anything
more, honest! she blurted.
He's been like this since it
happened at 09:30 this morning! What more is there to say?
MajorCarter, Teal'c broke in, the calm of his voice acting
like a blanket to the argument that Sam and Daniel very nearly
found themselves falling into.
Do not despair; this, too, has a
solution that will resolve itself in time.
Tears again leaked out of Sam's eyes.
Thanks, Teal'c. I
needed a reminder of that.
Daniel sighed loudly, his hands in his pockets.
too, he muttered.
Sam mimicked Daniel by putting her own hands in her pockets.
If you want to know the truth, I'm scared to death, she
There was silence again. The solitude was broken only by the indistinct murmurs of the medical personnel as they discussed cases with each other, the drip of Jack's I.V., and the constant and reassuringly steady beep of his heart monitor.
Finally, Sam ran a hand through her short hair.
I was going to get some coffee from the commissary; you guys want
to come along?
Daniel spoke first.
I don't think I need coffee right now,
but thanks. I suppose someone should stay here all the time, to
be with Jack in case he wakes up, or... He chose not to finish
his statement. Nervously, he cleared his throat.
in here for hours, Sam - I'll take the first watch. You two go
Relief flooded through Sam, then she instantly felt guilty
for wanting to leave the infirmary so badly. It wasn't that she
had unpleasant memories associated with the infirmary, or that
she desired to get far away from a medical problem involving
someone who meant something to her personally, but she had been
involved in the procedure to bring the Colonel to this point for
several hours, and she needed a break. But, she had refused to
leave Jack's side when a break had been offered to her in the
past. She moved to leave the bedside with Teal'c and said,
do realize that we're the closest things he has to living
relatives, now. If anything happens...
I'll page you right away, Daniel ended for her.
I mean, anything at all...
Daniel took his hands out of his pockets and laid them in
exasperation on the back of a chair.
Will you two get going?
Teal'c gently but firmly laid a hand on Sam's arm.
There's no hurry, Daniel called after the two as they
headed for the door.
I've got things covered here.
Sam didn't answer, but promised,
We'll bring something back
Daniel nodded, then Sam and Teal'c were gone.
* * *
The coffee break was taken, the donuts were bought, lunch
was ignored, and by 13:00, Sam found herself back on her perch
beside Colonel O'Neill's bed. She'd just had time to let out a
deep, sad sigh, when General Hammond strode into the infirmary
It's good that you're here, Major; I needed to see you,
Me, Sir? Sam asked with a sense of foreboding in her
The General came to a halt beside her sitting next to the
Colonel's bed. He began speaking slowly.
As the military
spokesperson of SG-1, as of now, you should definitely hear what
I have to say. He glanced around the infirmary in a cursory
Where are Daniel and Teal'c? I would expect them to be
here as well.
Sam gave a small smile at what he had chosen not so say.
They left me to 'hover' and went down to the commissary for
Hammond nodded, then looked towards Colonel O'Neill.
Sam had to swallow.
Not yet, Sir, she whispered.
Hammond nodded once more.
I guess that's good news and bad
news, isn't it, Major?
Sam straightened on her stool, now wishing she had pulled
over a chair, anything that might support her aching back.
hasn't... hasn't died, if that's what you mean, she forced
herself to say.
He's still breathing.
Just like an echo of their conversation that morning, the
As requested, Sam finished off her information.
last spoke to you, Dr. Corlin told me that if the Colonel doesn't
wake up by tomorrow night, the chances of his ever waking up
start to grow smaller every day after that. She smiled that
bleak smile again.
Not to frighten you, or anything, but I
think we should try to be realistic here.
Hammond seemed to be only slightly surprised by her news.
Yet, he replied,
Well, it seems that taking some time to think
about all this was the right decision to make. There was a
drawn out silence then as Hammond stared at Sam and Sam stared
Eventually, it was too much for Sam to take.
What is it,
Sir? What can you tell me?
Hammond continued to shrewdly stare at her.
You might not
like what I'm going to say.
Sam instantly retorted,
Forgive me for saying so, Sir, but
that's never stopped you before.
The General smiled a bit at her comment.
Now, you sound
like Colonel O'Neill. But what you say is true, and I've had to
tell you a great many unpleasant things over the years.
Are you saying that SG-1 is on leave for the next few
months while Colonel O'Neill recuperates? Sam asked. Then she
sorrowfully glanced at the man in the bed.
That is, if he ever
Suddenly, General Hammond placed a hand on Sam's arm, and it
was then that she knew that what Hammond had to tell her was more
serious than a forced leave of absence from the SGC.
Major, Hammond began in a quiet, sympathetic voice,
have to remember that I'm in charge of this entire base, and
can't let my personal feelings for any of the personnel influence
my decisions in any way.
A chill passed through Sam's entire frame, but all she
allowed herself to ask was,
What is it?
Hammond bluntly stated,
I'm going to consider that it's
best for all involved if Colonel O'Neill retires again from the
Air Force. SG-1 will be assigned a new commanding officer,
Sam wasn't ready for this news, and she vehemently
No, I'm sure that isn't necessary, Sir! A few
months of leave would be...
I'm sorry, Major, but that's my final decision, Hammond
I have to consider both the Colonel's general
health as well as his future ability to lead SG-1, and frankly,
I'm not sure he'll want to be in any leadership position after
this, not if it puts the well-being of his team at risk. And
after talking with Dr. Corlin...
Sam gaped at him.
You spoke to Corlin?
Hammond nodded again.
I conferenced with him this morning,
and he concurs with my decision. I'm sorry, Major, but even if
Colonel O'Neill wakes up to be as spry as he was the day he was
born, he still won't be in good enough physical condition to lead
A second later, Sam felt she had to shake her head back and
forth and pleadingly whisper,
Please don't do this to him.
But Hammond appeared sympathetically determined.
I hate to insist on this, but I have to think of the team as a
unit, not just its individual members.
Understanding, but not happy about that General's decision,
Sam was forced to nod.
I can see where you're coming from,
Sir, she admitted, sounding like she felt as if she were the
dirt on the floor.
Suddenly, Hammond leaned in close. In a lowered voice, he
I have to say this now, as I may not get another
Sir? Sam asked in puzzlement.
Now, without Daniel and Teal'c around to overhear... He
paused, acting as if he were gathering together his courage to
Which was strange in and of itself, Sam admitted. What could General Hammond possibly have to be afraid of?
I can't say this officially, Hammond began in a tone of
voice that was barely above a whisper. There was no way that
anyone not seated directly in front of him could possibly hear.
Only Sam was seated close enough to him.
court-martial just suggesting this... General Hammond leaned in
close again, ostensibly peering at O'Neill, but speaking to
I know about... you and the Colonel... Everybody knows
Sam reared back when she heard his statement.
indicated... she began in an indignant voice.
I know! Hammond made sure to impress.
Keep your voice
down! He continued to stare at O'Neill.
You didn't hear it
from me, but this may be the only chance you get! he hissed.
Don't disappoint me and let it pass you by again. He
straightened a little.
Let something good come out of this
mess. With that statement, and without even looking at her, he
strode from the room, appearing as professional as he had when he
had come into the infirmary.
* * *
It was three o'clock in the morning when Sam woke up to the sound of the phone ringing. The instrument sat on her bedside table, kept close at hand because she didn't want to stumble through the dark to the receiver that had been on the wall near the door every time her presence was unexpectedly requested in the 'Gate room. This time, however, it was Daniel calling from the phone in the infirmary.
Daniel was blunt and brusk.
Get down here; Jack's awake.
Relief washed through Sam as she sat up in her bed. Oh, thank God, she thought, then grabbed the shirt and the BDUs she had been wearing yesterday, the first clothes that came to hand.
She took the time to dress and brush a comb through her short hair, but that was the only things she did before rushing out her door and to the elevators that would take her down two levels to the infirmary.
Sam entered the medical bay through a door only half open. The room was darkened, as was always preferred at night, but that was the only concession that had been made to keep the room's personnel in touch with the what was happening in the outside world. People wearing white medical coats streamed around the beds, checking this machine or that machine connected to the few patients contained in the facility. It was Jack's bed that most of the bustle was confined to, but by the time Sam crossed the room, the people had discreetly disappeared, and Sam wondered not for the first time, if she had been able to hide her feelings as well as she thought she had in the past. Did everybody know of her connection to the Colonel, not just General Hammond?
Sam made a slight grimace that turned to a smile of welcome as she neared Jack's bed and saw him focusing on her for the first time in a what had been a very anxious day.
Colonel! she exclaimed, not really having to fake her
relief this one time.
It's so good to see you awake! How do
Jack sighed, then raised a hand to scrub across his eyes.
Like a troop carrier ran over me. Filled to capacity and at top
Yep, Daniel intoned then,
the same old Jack... sarcastic
as ever. At least the heart attack didn't affect that.
Sam swung her arm in his direction, as if to club him for saying anything, but it was too late.
Heart attack? Jack inquired in a quizzical manner.
that what it was?
Daniel nodded along with Sam. The reason for Jack's severe condition in the infirmary had been mentioned now, and Sam didn't see the point of keeping any more information from him.
A bad one. We thought we were going to lose you for
Jack gazed at her for a moment full of shock, then dredged
up the energy to make a face of disbelief and say,
would never be that lucky; I wouldn't let you.
Sam knew his 'you' meant the general public, not just her,
but it was nice to pretend that he had meant just her, anyway.
We have a lot to tell you, was what she said instead of giving
voice to her thoughts.
Like what? Jack asked.
Like how long Hammond is going to
keep us on stand-down now while I get out of this... He glanced
at the bed he was confined to by blankets and sheets tucked
securely under the mattress.
... this... this contraption. He
struggled with his arms against the blankets, but was too tired
or weak to move them more than an inch.
Sam was more than a bit discomfited by his apparent lack of
strength, but she tried to distract him by saying,
something like that, Sir.
Jack looked shrewdly at her.
Okay, I can tell by the look
on your face; you have more to tell me than something about
stand-down. Get it over with, Carter, he ordered.
Daniel looked uncomfortable for a second.
Why don't I run
and tell Teal'c about you waking up? He's in his room.
Why didn't you call him when you called me? Sam wanted to
Daniel squirmed in his chair like a ten-year-old kid.
didn't want to disturb him, Daniel said at last.
middle of the night. It was obvious that either he was lying or
there was something that he didn't want to say.
Oh, and it was okay to disturb Carter's sleep? Jack asked.
But Daniel was already out the door and in the corridor.
Jack turned back to Sam.
You got something you want to
tell me? he entreated.
Or can I go back to sleep? I'm kind of
tired... which is odd, he noted.
I've been asleep for... how
long? he asked Sam.
She sat in the chair that Daniel had vacated, wise enough
now about hospital vigils to know that she wanted something to
sit in that offered support for her back.
morning, she told him as nonchalantly as she could.
Jack's eyebrows raised to his hair, symbolizing his
An entire day? he asked in disbelief.
'Cause I can
tell it's night now, with the lights down so low in here. He
looked around at the fluorescent lights recessed into the
God, I hate the infirmary. It's so... cold, he
muttered. Back to Sam.
It's bad news, I can tell by the way
you're holding your mouth.
I'm not holding my mouth any special way,
she announced, but asked herself how she was looking just then.
Yes, you are, Jack contradicted.
Now, tell me.
Sam drew in a deep breath for comfort and leaned slightly
You ready? she asked in a quiet voice.
Jack's brows raised again.
That bad? he inquired.
Depends on how you look at it.
Uh-oh. What happened? We go to war or something?
Sam gathered herself together, then blurted,
doesn't think you'll have the strength necessary to lead SG-1 any
There was silence after this announcement. Then Jack asked,
He plans to replace me? he questioned.
Sam readied herself for the vocal explosion that was about
to occur in the infirmary.
He retired you, with Dr. Corlin's
approval. The paperwork went through yesterday.
Again Jack's brows shot up.
Retired me? He gaped at her.
For one little heart attack?
It wasn't a little one, Sir, Sam negated.
It was the
kind that's life-changing.
Jack settled once more back onto his bed.
that's for sure, he grumbled. A silent moment passed, then he
Retired. The way he said it, anybody listening would
think that the General had ordered his execution.
Maybe he has, Sam thought morosely. She straightened on her
chair. The plastic let out a whoosh of air as she moved around.
I'm sorry, Colonel, Sam muttered ineffectually.
You're sorry? Jack asked sardonically.
Sorry? What have
you got to be sorry about? he asked.
I get booted out of the
military and you get to go on with your life like nothing
happened. I'll languish at home while you get to have all the
fun with another Commanding Officer... What do you have to be
sorry about? he bit off at her.
Sam was a bit taken aback by the anger he was displaying to
I didn't mean that... she began to say.
Jack interrupted her. He sighed, and said,
that, Carter, that was hardly fair. It's... He sighed again, a
sad sound that filled the air near his bed.
It's just a lot to
take in, he said.
Sam knew him well enough to know that she wasn't going to
get a bigger apology than that one. Bluntly, she suddenly
changed the subject.
Do you want to rest? she asked then.
Because I'll leave you alone if you want. I guess you have a
lot to think about.
Jack sighed one more time.
I do want to rest, he said in
a low voice.
The 'but' arrested Sam in her bid for departure from the
infirmary. She stopped what she was doing and turned to look at
Yes? Do you need something before I go?
Jack looked a bit uncomfortable. Finally, he said,
I'm not your Commanding Officer any more...
You'll always be that, Sir, Sam said, trying to comfort
him in the one way she was allowed to by regulations.
Thank you, I guess, Jack intoned. He glanced at her.
Can you... do you think..?
Yes? she prompted.
Stay? he hastily inquired. Then he blinked and added,
Stay here, I mean, so I'm not left so alone?
The request was unlike Jack, who was always so strong, but
his appeal touched Sam and made her heartstrings quiver for a
Sure, she said, then placed her BDU coat, which she
had grabbed, back on the rear of her chair and sat down.
Jack closed his eyes, but had a look on his face that said he was thinking more than sleeping. His finger touched hers resting on the edge of the blanket. It was rather ridiculous how comforting such a tiny amount of contact between them was in this dark of night.
* * *
A week of dubious calm followed Jack's awakening as he regained enough strength to get back to his normal home life. Then, the moment Dr. Corlin tried to give his patient some medical instructions that he should have been happy to receive, but wasn't, the infirmary saw more noise than it had all decade.
What? Jack barked in incredulity the second the advice
left Corlin's mouth.
No more alcohol. Corlin leaned into the bed as if he was
going to impart some secret.
That means no more beer.
I know what it means! Jack exclaimed in irritation.
you're joking, right?
Dr. Corlin shook his head. The light gleamed dully off his
I'm serious, he said.
I'm also serious when I say
no salt for a month, then a low-sodium diet for life. That, plus
the blood-pressure medication I prescribed, should lower that
high blood-pressure that you have, bringing it right down. He
looked at Jack as his patient scowled at him.
Unless you want
to have another heart attack?
Jack glared again.
Now you're just being stupid, he
declared without preamble.
Of course I don't.
Good, Corlin nodded. He was a man who liked to be in
control of his conversations, at least.
All those things, plus
retirement, should keep you out of this infirmary long enough for
you to make it home. He shook his head again.
I just wish you
weren't going to an empty house, he said, clearly disturbed by
Jack rolled his eyes, even as he tightened his hold on the edge of his bed just a little bit in an attempt to keep his balance. No one would have noticed, except for the physician, but he was looking at his charts rather than at Jack. Only Sam, seated on the next bed over, saw his machinations. She chose not comment.
But Jack went on. After the roll of his eyes, he said,
Well, I can't help that the house will be empty. His voice was
sarcastic again, but there was a hint of helplessness under it,
as if he would change the 'empty' part of the situation if he
Again, Dr. Corlin continued his perusal of the pages before him, completely unaware of Jack's attitude. Only Sam heard the tiny amount of desperation behind the words. It gave her a boost in thinking that she had come to the right decision of her own.
You're trying to kill me, right? Jack asked then, cutting
into Sam's thoughts.
You work for the Goa'uld on the sly or
Corlin smiled at that question.
As many times as you've
been through the 'Gate, I don't wonder that you ask that. Then
he shook his head.
But no, I don't work for the Goa'uld,
Colonel. And if you don't follow the advice that I'm giving you
now, I can't speak for what might happen to you.
Suddenly, Jack sent Corlin a beseeching look.
beer? he asked in a begging tone.
Or caffeine, Corlin said.
What? Jack screeched.
No more coffee?
Well, cut back if you're really addicted, Corlin amended.
What am I supposed to drink? Jack asked in a voice
dripping with sarcasm.
Water? he answered himself.
That would be a good idea, Corlin told him. He put his
hand on his hip after he'd handed Jack a piece of paper with his
prescription scribbled on it.
Now, get out of here, and I don't
want to see you in here again. Then, he added,
I mean, not the base.
It was well known that in order for Jack to get back on the
base again once he was off, he would need a visitor's pass and a
lot of pull from high places.
Oh, thank you so much, he said,
Sam chose that moment to intervene.
Thank you, Dr. Corlin,
but I think it would be a good time to leave us while you can
still walk away.
Good idea, Corlin acknowledged.
I'm gone. Call if you
need to; I wrote the number on your script. Then, he was gone,
disappearing into the office that had been Janet's until only a
few months before.
Sam gave a rather sad sigh that was full of memories, but
had her features arranged in a smile when she faced Jack.
Ready? she brightly asked.
To go to my house for the secret retirement party that's
been planned for half a week? Jack asked.
Sam stared at him with a quirk to her lips; her expression
now was not quite a smile, and not quite anything else, either.
It was the look a parent gave a child who was being naughty, but
going about it in a humorous way, and the parent was valiantly
trying not to laugh.
How did you find out about that party?
Sam asked accusatorily as she grabbed her casual jacket from the
bottom of the bed she was sitting on.
That was supposed to be a
Oh, it is, to everybody else, Jack assured, then grinned.
Come on, Carter, everyone's been whispering about it for an
entire week. You know how nothing is a secret around here.
They had reached the door to the infirmary and passed through it and on into the corridor outside. They started to make their way to the elevators that would take them to the surface, and the garage where Sam's vehicle was parked.
That's not all that's a secret, if you want to know the
truth, Sam divulged as they continued to walk slowly down the
hall, the fastest pace that Jack could handle.
What do you mean? Jack asked, then he nodded in
Oh, you mean Daniel and Teal'c... aren't they
meeting us at my house?
Sam looked a tad guilty now.
They're in charge of getting
the cake, she admitted.
Jack lifted his head as if it were obvious that they would
Oh, there you go, he said, as if it would have
been clear to anybody.
I knew this setup smelled like they were
part of it.
Sam slowed even further.
Uh, Colonel, I feel as if I
should warn you that there might be more names than just yours on
Jack slowed, too, so that he could stay beside her.
do you mean? Is someone else retiring? he asked.
I have to
say that I'm not the kind of person who shares a party very
graciously - good thing I'm not twins, he commented.
A few quiet seconds went by before Sam had gathered enough
courage to say,
Well, yeah, someone else is retiring, as a
matter of fact.
Poor sap, Jack said right away.
Come on, tell me, who is
the Joe gonna be this time? I mean, I am sharing my house party
with him, after all - you should at least tell me who he is.
Or her, Sam said.
Jack raised his brows; there weren't too many females in the
military, and when one left, it was as big a deal as when a new
one became a member.
All right, who is she or he? he inquired
in an inquiring tone of voice.
Sam answered immediately, too scared to say nothing, and
even more afraid to remain quiet.
Jack came to a standstill in the middle of the hallway. Men
and women military personnel walked around the couple stopped in
the middle of the corridor as if they weren't there. He gaped at
You're retiring?! he demanded to know.
Sam looked up and down the hallway in a rather nervous
Well, it seemed like the right time, she excused.
Jack stared at her in incredulity.
Are you insane? he
asked with a small sense of wonder.
I might be, Sam admitted.
Then what are you doing? Jack asked.
You have your whole
career ahead of you! A brilliant career, at that! With a
scientific mind like yours, you can go as far as you want! How
can you just quit like that?
Sam let the arm that she had lifted in a halting gesture
fall back to her side, and she sighed.
It's not like I'm giving
Oh, yes you are! Jack insisted passionately.
you have trouble with the idea that I won't be your CO anymore,
Actually, Sam said, looking at her watch.
being my CO about... two hours ago.
Jack swatted her arm back down.
Will you cut that out?!
A gifted officer like you can never..!
That was it. Sam got mad when he called her and her life
If I'm so damned special, then why am I so alone?
Sam yelled, no longer caring who heard them in the narrow
Why is it acceptable for you to retire...
I have to retire! Jack roared.
Don't I? Sam retaliated with an equally loud voice.
stay in the Air Force, then I can look forward to many more years
of crunching numbers, filing data, inventing a zillion things,
listening to Daniel ramble about a language that has been dead
for thousands of years, and know that none of it will be done for
you or on your orders! Do you know how that makes me feel? she
Awful! When I'll know that you're at home, all
comfortable and retired, completely out of my reach because I
won't even so much as see you anymore...
So, this is about not wanting a new Commander? Jack asked
No! Sam negated.
This is about the fact that I won't see
you anymore or that your door won't be a few doors down from
mine, or that you won't be in the 'Gate room or General Hammond's
office! I won't be there with you, but instead I'll be perfectly
alone here surrounded by personnel who don't need me or...
Of course they need you! You're so smart...
And you're not?! Sam questioned. Then she put her fingers
to her head, as if she could hold back some unwanted event with
Do you know how miserable I would be to know that
you're not here? I can just as easily do the same damned thing
in the private sector as I do here, and so can you! The
difference is that we could still be doing it together! And that
makes all the difference in the world... Don't you get it? She
searched his face for dawning understanding.
I'll still be with
you if I retire, too. I won't be so alone anymore. She ended
her tirade in a softer voice, and stared up at him, almost
begging him for his agreement, his comprehension to her plans for
the future, for them. She willed him to understand her words, to
read her mind if he could, and above all, she refused to give in
to any feelings of embarrassment that she had opened up so
emotionally for the first time in... Had she ever behaved this
Jack stared at her, confused, chastised, astonished, and
So you retired in order to be with me? Jack
reiterated as his confusion only grew.
Suddenly and just as uncharacteristically, Sam burst into
tears, letting the water fall from her eyes in an unchecked rain
of liquid. This whole situation was going from bad to worse.
You idiot! she half yelled, half sobbed, and she stamped her
foot in frustration. Usually, she showed way too much control to
do something as juvenile as stamp her foot, but she was beyond
control right now.
I love you, and if you think I'm going to
let you leave just like that, just because you have to retire...
What? Jack gaped like a fish out of water.
did you say?
I called you an idiot, Sam told him, covering her mouth
with the fingers that she had pushed against her forehead only
No, not that! Jack exclaimed in irritation, cutting
through the air between them like a scythe.
After that! You
I love you, Sam repeated firmly.
And if you think I'm
just going to stand back like a... she floundered, searching her
mind for a proper comparison.
... like a... She couldn't
think of one, so she just continued,
... and just let you go
like... Her voice broke off.
Jack closed the distance between them, appearing as menacing
as a convalescening man could. He grabbed her upper arms in a
grip that was softer than she had expected, given his intense
expression, then it slid into obvious relief.
God, Sam, do you
have any idea how long I've waited to hear you say that? Then,
he gently pulled on her shoulders.
And you wait until we're in
the SGC hallway to say it? he asked in mock incredulity. In a
far more affectionate tone, he ordered,
Come here. He sighed.
You crazy girl... he fondly murmured against her hair.
you, too, only... the regulations...
I know! Sam sobbed into his BDU jacket.
I was in the
same mess... But not anymore... That's why I chose to retire,
Jack's grip on her tightened. It wasn't necessarily a clasp
of a romantic nature, but one more desperate as he continued with
the course of action he had chosen.
Oh, thank you, Sam, thank
you! he whispered, his eyes squeezed shut tight to hold what
could be seen as an evil world at bay.
God... he swore, then
couldn't go on as emotion welled up to overpower even his
You don't have to explain anything, Sir, I just...
Drop the 'Sir,' Sam. I'm not your 'Sir' or anybody's 'Sir'
now, thank goodness. He paused before he continued, savoring
what he was about to say. His whisper was pleading and
beseeching, and frantic... Not at all like the commanding Jack
O'Neill of the past.
I just want to love you and worship you
like you deserve...
Sam's low voice cut into his comment,
I'm not a Goa'uld,
Jack. Please don't worship me like I'm a god or something...
You are a god to me, Jack corrected.
All shiny and
perfect and magnificent... His lips connected gently with her
head, burying themselves in her blond hair.
marvelous... he said, and tenderly kissed her forehead.
and so intelligent... Here, he kissed her nose.
exactly what I've spent years looking for... He touched his
lips to hers, just tracing their outline before breaking apart
from her and rubbing her cheek with his hand.
I adore you! he
claimed, then embraced her again, hard, as if he might lose her
if he let go.
Sam buried herself in his arms, filled her nose with his smell that hadn't been eradicated completely by his time spent in the infirmary. She clung to him as if the Stargate was going to yank him away from her unless she kept him grounded and at her side.
Suddenly, Walter, of the 'Gate room tech crew, walked by
them as they hugged in the corridor on level twenty-eight.
about time, he commented, eyeing them. He mumbled more under
his breath about the SGC not being a TV show, where things always
worked out in the end, and for not taking things for granted,
and... Then he turned, and called down the corridor,
that cake that's supposed to be a secret... tell Daniel or Teal'c
to save a piece for me!
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