Disclaimer: Wish they were mine, but they're not.

Watch Your Six

by Linda Bindner

General O'Neill was standing in his living room on Friday morning, stuffing his mouth full of the Rice Krispies that Carter had bought for him last week, and avidly (and a bit embarrassedly) watching the Weather Channel to see if it was going to snow later that day. He'd heard through word of mouth that the predicted rain would turn to sleet, and that would then turn to snow by that afternoon, and he wanted to check the updated forecast to see if it might be prudent of him to close down the SGC after 1100 am, just to be on the safe side. There wouldn't be much 'saving of the planet' if a hundred or so people were busy being stranded on the roads leading into Cheyenne Mountain due to a freak snowstorm in September.

Jack gave a grimace as the thought that now that he was Commander of the base, it was up to him to make the judgement call about the weather, which was difficult to predict even on the calmest of days. It would be just his luck to close the SGC for fear of a raging snowstorm, only to have the sun come out at 1030 hours, costing the American public plenty of money to keep the facility running on just a skeleton staff, and making him look like an idiot in the bargain.

On the other hand, he didn't want to needlessly endanger his people by subjecting them to an unprecedented snowstorm. Either way, he was apt to lose. But he'd found early on in his tenure as Commander of the base that the more information he had in cases like this one, the better off he was. And so he was watching the Weather Channel and trying unsuccessfully not to compare himself to what thought of as 'the overeager Jonas Quinn,' who had loved watching the Weather Channel so much that his feelings had escalated to ridiculous highs.

Jack listened to the drone of the announcer's voices doing her best to make something as boring as the weather seem dramatic and entertaining, eating his Krispie breakfast ('your diet needs more variety,' Carter had declared last Monday in the Commissary, and had then purchased the box of the cereal that O'Neill was currently trying), and wondering if Jonas had secretly been deaf to watch such sensationalism with the avidness that he had.

The ringing of his cell phone injected some normalness into the spiel the announcers were attempting to weave.

Absently, one eye still on the TV where a map of the region was currently displayed, Jack pulled the phone from his pocket and said, O,Neill, into the receiver.

He was not prepared for the yell of sever panic that came over the line. Jack! It's Sam! I'm in trouble! No police! Her breath heaved into the open phone, and the voice died out for a second, then the unmistakable sound of gunfire drifted in staccato bursts over the phone. The dull thudding impact of a shot landing on flesh carried to Jack's ear, and he distinctly heard Carter give a yelp, then scream, Crap!

Jack's heart thundered in his throat as, suddenly frantic, he called, Carter! Sam! Are you all right? Where are you?

To his infinite gratification, she answered immediately. I'm right outside your back deck! Unlock your door - two hostiles at 10:00 and 12:00! Then before he had the chance to even think about moving to unlock his back glass encased deck door, there came the dreaded sound of a second shot finding its mark as it impacted flesh. Then Sam gave the strangled scream, No time to unlock! Take cover!

Instantly heeding Carter's words, Jack dropped down behind an easy chair decorating the floor of his living room, cereal bowl and all. Jack felt the leather of the chair conceal his head just in time as something big and solid slammed into the windowed door leading out to his side deck that in turn led to his backyard. Glass exploded everwhere. Jack heard one loud grunt, then another call of Crap! then a thud as the solid object hit his floor with a sickening crunch of splintered glass shards, metal door frame, and a collapsing body. Sam slid wildly across his living room floor. Two bullets instantly zinged into the room behind her, and would have found their target, but by then Carter was already a tumble of scrambled limbs on his hardwood floor, and they missed their mark by a handswidth to embed in his far living room wall, just above his sofa. A cell phone skittered incongrously through the glass debris to come to a rest at the base of his coffee table.

Sam! Jack yelled, not even realizing what he was calling her. He peered through the cloud of dust that had sprouted in her wake, and saw nothing but an unmoving form on his floor. Sam had fallen swiftly into a state of unconsciousness. When she didn't immediately answer his call, he began to panic that she had somehow died after her vault through his closed door. He made sure to stay low as he crawled towards her through the glass littering his floor, the shards cutting into his palms as he made his trembling way to her side. His heart nearly jumping out of his chest, Jack reached a shaking finger to her neck as he quickly felt for a pulse.

Please, please, please.., he whispered, his heart in his throat as his probing finger first found nothing but slippery blood, then found a dull beating at the side of her neck.

Thank God! Jack breathed in agitated relief. He wasn't used to even thinking much about an earthly god, or whether or not such a god existed, but he was too wrung out by the crisis he currently found in his living room to care overly much about semantics just then. His attention turned immediately to her obvious wounds once ascertaining that she was alive. After a quick, perfunctory perusal of her body, Jack noted that Carter had been shot once in her left arm, just below her shoulder, and another shot had grazed across her right upper back, the bullet having missed the center of her shoulder blade by a sliver's width. The wound, though it was shallow, was still pouring a flood of maroon collared blood onto her face, her sweatshirt, his hands, his pants...

Jack's next thought was to Carter's unknown assailants, and his gaze swiveled to the gaping hole the she had left in his door when she dove through it to attain the relative safety of his living room. He reached to his back and pulled out the concealed pistol that he always carried there in a hidden holster, flipped off the safety, cocked the weapon, and belly crawled to his door. He peaked out, but saw nothing amiss. However, he had a hard time forgetting the bullet holes that now decorated his far wall. With a flick of his wrist, he threw the draping curtain that hung in front of his deck windows across the door, electing to cut off the cold air pouring through the new opening as well as any vigilante's sight into the house. The curtain-across-the-window scenario was rather more viable right at the moment than Jack possibly pursuing hostiles alone and without backup.

Once the curtain was closed, and sight into the house was cut off, Jack shoved his pistol back into its holster with a shaking hand after flipping the safety back on. He returned to Sam's side, staying low as he crawled across his own floor, intent now on trying to stop her bleeding. All the while that he crawled, he did his best to cram his right fingers into his front trouser pocket again, withdrawing his own cell phone. Trembling like a leaf, eyes glued to the unconscious and bloody form of Colonel Carter lying in an oddly sedate pile on his floor, Jack called the number at the top of his speed dial list: The SGC.

Two rings later, the calm voice of Siler answered the ringing phone. Sergeant Siler, he announced.

Siler! This is General O'Neill, Jack barked. Give me Walter, now!

A second later, Sergeant Harriman, came over the line like a calming of choppy waters on an otherwise windy day. What can I do..?

Walter! Jack interrupted. I'm at home, and Carter just crashed through my back door! I need a squad of SFs, medical personnel, Daniel, Teal'c here on the double! Like, yesterday!

Yes Sir! came Walter's crisp bark as he grabbed the receiver of the internal phone hanging on the wall next to the outer phone. His page of, Dr Jackson, Teal'c to the Infirmary! was a vague blur over Jack's own phone, then Walter was back to his connection with Jack as he informed, I'll call Sfs! Transferring you now to the Infirmary.

There was a click, a buzz, then one ring, and a woman's voice came over the line, Dr. Brightman, how..?

Again Jack cut her off to frantically yell, Doc, it's the General! Colonel Carter just tumbled through my closed back deck door and is now lying on my floor, uncosciousness! She has one gunshot wound near the top of her left arm, and another that grazed her back near her upper right shoulder. As Jack spoke, he grabbed a towel he'd left on his coffee table the night before and pressed it to the hole in her back spurting blood down the front of her sweatshirt. To her other wound he pressed his outer BDU shirt, which he had quickly stripped from his body. Pulse is faint, but there. Lots of blood from the back wound, a smaller amount from her arm. Request your immediate presence and that of your medical team at my house!

Yes Sir! came the second crisp voice that he had heard that morning, and Jack knew that Dr. Brightman, though she hadn't been long at the SGC, would come quickly and bring the appropriate treatment for Carter when she came. She barked, In the meantime, try to stop the bleeding if you can. We'll be there shortly!

Just before she hung up, Jack heard Daniel's voice confusedly asking, What..?

Well, Daniel, at least, was in the Infirmary. Jack had no doubt that his friend would soon feel as panicked as he was feeling.

Only slightly mollified by the doctor's promise, Jack's heart still racing away in his chest, he did his best to ignore the feeling of franticness beating insistently at his breast. He firmly centered his attention on Sam.

He distractedly brushed away chunks of glass and nearby pieces of the metal door frame so that he could reach her side more easily. For the first time, Jack noted the sweats that she wore, and the tennis shoes adorning her feet, indicating that she had been out for a morning run when she had been assaulted by at least two unknown assailants who had obviously caught her by surprise as she'd jogged around her neighborhood.

So what was she doing jogging near his house? Had she begun her jog in the area near her house, then after the assailents attacked, run to Jack's house looking for assistance from him instead of calling the local police, who would give her help that would inevitably lead to awkward questions about the SGC? Jack felt his amazement wash over him again as he considered how far it was between his house and hers that she must have run, eluding capture the entire time. She had to have run two or more miles through a jumble of cars, houses, people, children waiting for the school bus... all the time keeping one step ahead of her assailants.

Now Jack stared at the bloody, white form lying before him, and he did his best not to give in to the waves of panic that were washing over him so that he could do what Carter needed to have done for her in the next few minutes. There would be plenty of time for him to fall apart later. Still, there was the barest hint of terror to his movements as he bent over Carter's inert form, pressing his tensed fingers to both her back and to the hole in her arm that still seeped blood around the edges of the shirt he pressed to her arm wound no matter now he arranged the material. Luckily she had slid across his floor on her front, leaving her back exposed, so reaching her wounds was relatively easy now, even if stopping her bleeding was proving to be a challenge that qualified it as less than simple.

Come on, Sam! Stay with me! Jack hissed into the quiet air of early morning. To his positive delight, she moaned and tried to move her left arm, but he held it down so that it wouldn't bleed worse than it already was. The moaning thrash was the only sound or movement she made as she again slipped back into whatever place she had found for her personal refuge.

Staying so low made Jack's movements awkward and clumsy, but he was doubly glad that he was taking the added precautions when three more wild shots zipped through the curtain he had pulled across his door to bury themselves beside the other bullet holes in the wall just above his sofa. Jack whipped his gun out of its holster once more, removed the safety, then pumped four blind shots through the curtain and into the area near his deck and towards his back yard. He didn't want to take the chance of possibly hitting his neighbors if this had turned into a hostage situation, but the temptation to scare the assailants was too much for him. Still, he kept the shots that he fired out his door aimed low, hoping to either hit his deck out his back door, or hit the ground in the general direction that Carter had claimed her attackers were hiding before she had vaulted through that door of his.

Suddenly, there was no sound coming from his back yard. The silence that followed his shots was as scary as the gunfire had been. Sam's head lolled to one side, though she made no sound, and didn't wake. Jack dropped his gun to again press as desperately as he could on Sam's arm, gasping for breath as he muttered, Hang on, Sam, that's an order, you hear me? The eerie silence from his yard wrapped its oily tentacles around him as he crouched on the floor beside Carter after firing blindly through his curtain.

Bullet holes in the drape allowed a small amount of light to filter in through the closed curtain, but a strange, ghostly twilight had descended over the room, and Jack considered that the cloud cover and impending threat of snowfall lent itself to the gray-green glow that permeated everything.

Jack pressed on Sam's wounded back and arm for what seemed like hours, but he knew must have been only minutes. At long last, he heard the screech of tires on his driveway. He again thought Thank God! as the Sfs and medical team arrived.

Jack couldn't leave Carter's side to unlock his front door, so the soldiers merely shot out the lock on the door and pushed their way into the room. Where the house had been enshrounded in a quiet so heavy that it felt foreign only seconds before, now his house was a hive of chaotic activity as streams of people entered his home and looked around wildly before seeing him beside Carter's ravaged form on his living room floor.

The medical team was all business as Dr. Brightman entered the house, carrying a stereotypical medical bag with her. The image she struck, backlit the way she was in his door, would have caused him to laugh at any other time. But the look of concentration on her face belied the pose she had unknowingly taken. She paused for only a second as she got her bearings in the strange location, then hurried down the steps from his front hall to his living room, followed closely by Daniel. They both crouched as they ran to his and Carter's position in the room.

Status! Dr. Brightman barked as she slithered to a stop beside Sam and began pulling things from her bag with no further comments.

Back still bleeding, Jack dutifully managed to say. Arm wound under control. Haven't been able to check pulse since I spoke to you on the phone. But she's been more or less unresponsive for the last few minutes.

Jack was then shoved unceremoniously aside by more members of the medical team, and he bowed to their greater knowledge in situations like this. He crawled back several feet until he ran into the edge of his coffee table to sprall in an undignified shaking heap on his floor.

Sir? questioned one of the SFs holding a rifle firmly strapped to his chest. Can you tell us what heppened here?

Jack did his best to focus his brain enough to tell them what had happened. He said, There are two assailants with guns, probably behind the neighbor's house, that way. He pointed. They must have been chasing Carter when she was on her morning run. She goes out for a run whenever she can when she's on-world, he reminded them in a shaky voice, then added, But this is the first time she's ever met trouble on her morning jog that I know of. They must have chased her all the way over here, which I think was when they hit her in her arm, then a second later hit her again in her back. That was right when she dove through my closed back door. She landed just as you see her now... The whole thing scared the crap out of me.

Sir! the SF then blurted. We'll guard your front door, set up a perimeter around your house, and search for the assailants that you mentioned. The soldier's voice was grim as he spoke.

Jack could only nod his agreement. The SF barked orders at his fellow soldiers before Jack even had the chance to gather himself together enough to speak. The group of BDU clad men and women dodged around him and left much more quietly than they had come in.

Jack then turned his attention to the doctor. He managed to croak a question, Doc? How's she..?

Brightman interrupted his inquiry to tersely report, Lacerations to the front of both legs and both arms, probably from her impact with your glass door. Her left arm is broken besides having that bullet wound near her left shoulder. The bleeding is stopped for now... good work, General... She needs exploratory surgery on the back wound, though. I want to make certian the bullet left her body before it hit any other vital organs. Her pulse is weak and erratic, but it's there. BP is 70 over 50, pulse 54.

With a heave, the medics lifted Carter to deposit her on one of those emargency boards that he had seen on prior television shows, though he couldn't make his scrambled brain recal the proper word for the conveyence just then. The team swiftly carried her out his front door to the waiting military truck outside his house.

In seconds, the room was clear of all but Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, and an SF guard at each of the destroyed doors as the rest of the people under Jack's command went about ignoring him so that they could focus on the jobs that needed to be done. He had never been so grateful that he was surrounded by the brightest and the best as he slumped back tiredly against the coffee table behind him. He dropped his head wearily into his trembling hands.

But Daniel didn't let him rest for long. The archaeologist yanked on Jack's hands, and peered into his face. Jack? he gently and quietly asked, his tone contradicting the urgency of his actions. Can you tell us more detail about what happened? he asked. Do you know..?

Jack felt the panic clawing at his throat, and he made a mighty effort to stamp it down again, but he knew that he only had moments left before he fell completely apart. He couldn't help but draw parallels beteween this incident with Sam and his years old tragedy concerning Charlie. But all he could think now was God... not Carter, too! with a sick feeling bubbling up inside him.

Jack grabbed onto Daniel's shirt front, leaving two perfect red stains with his still bloody fingers as he pulled the younger man close. No idea... what's going on... Daniel! he brokenly hissed. Never heard Carter... so scared... not on missions... Nothing! No hint... who was after her... Only she needed help... and now! Jack heaved in breath as he recalled the sound of her desperate voice over the phone as she yelled at him to cover himself right before crashing through his door. He began to immediately hyperventilate at just the thought of her unexpected entrance into his previously calm morning.

Daniel pulled Jack's hands away from his shirtfront only to encase them in his own hands, unmindful of the stickiness of the stains on his fingers. Okay, okay, Jack, you've got to calm down, breath deep, you're gonna be no help to Sam if you fall apart.

Jack heard Daniel, and tried to take his advice, slowing his breathing. He succeeded after a moment. That's right, came Daniel's soothing voice again as Jack forced air into his aching lungs and attempted to control the shivers that had seemed to take up residence in his limbs. Calm... calm... Then his brow furrowed. Jack, I've never seen you lose it like this, not even on our worst missions when the Goa'uld captured and tortured us. Are you sure there's nothing that you're leaving out?

Jack gasped again as he shook his head. Just... so... surprised, he managed to say. Seeing Carter... He gestured at his bloodstained floor, trying to get his idea across to his friend without saying anything. And it's... it's... He couldn't quite repress the shudder that ran through him. Just like Charlie... So much blood...

Daniel then turned and said something to someone standing beside him that Jack hadn't even seen before now. But Jack was too consumed by the memory of so much blood once again pouring out of someone he cared deeply for to take much notice of that third person even now. He shivered, he shook, and then he felt the weight of a warming blanket thrown over his shoulders, then another, both pulled tight under his chin as he tried to regulate his breathing so that it resembled something more normal.

Good... Breath, Jack, just breath, Daniel quietly ordered, and Jack was infinitely glad that his friend was with him just then. Daniel was the only person who had seen him all those many years ago when he had been so depressed by his son's death that he had been suicidal. The threat of exactly the same thing happening to him again had made Jack flirt with the edges of shock before he even realized what was happening.

Jack clutched at his blankets, staring straight ahead and blinking only when he needed to. The logical, military part of his brain knew what was happening to him, and around him, but the panicked part of his brain could only center on the fact that it had been Carter's warm blood oozing between his fingers. It was his worst nightmare come true. He dropped his head into his hands again and squeezed his eyes shut against the images that were accosting his mind, images of an emaciated Carter staring unseeingly up at him as he tried desperately to keep her alive long enough for the medical team to arrive.

Here, Jack, drink this, Daniel said, interupting Jack's imaginings. The linguist handed Jack a glass full of a liquid that, when he automatically drank the contents down, burned his throat enough to break him out of the comforting trance he'd fallen into.

Jack gasped, choked, and coughed. He spluttered, What is this stuff?

Daniel very sedately told him, It's straight Vodka, and it may taste terrible, but it got the first true reaction out of you that we've seen since we got here, so it was worth a little pain as it went down. He turned back to the man beside him. Pour another glass for him, Teal'c, please.

Is that all that's necessary in this situation, DanielJackson? Jack heard the Jaffa ask. Is there nothing else that you require from the kitchen?

Daniel replied, I think that's all he'll need, Teal'c, but thanks.

Jack was aware that Teal'c left. He began to feel more like himself as Daniel forced him to drink the second glass of the vile liquid that the Jaffa retrieved from his kitchen.

The shaking seemed to have halted, too. Jack sighed and leaned back into the edge of the table behind him, resting his forehead on the glass he still held in his hand.

Daniel peered into his face. All right now, Jack? he asked. Do you think you can get up and wash your hands?

Jack stared at his red-stained hands, and apologized to his friend. Sorry about leaving you all gooped up. Didn't realize... His voice trailed off as he tried to speak some more. At last, he just requested, Give me a few, guys. Let me catch my breath...

Daniel sat quietly beside the heaving Jack, and Teal'c stood back, surveying his first team leader's ruined patio door as Jack recovered. Finally, with a last shudder, Jack felt more like his usually collected self. He said, I think I'm all right now, guys, you can stop hovering like I'm a basket waiting to unravel.

Daniel sat back, then rose, and pulled Jack along with him. Why don't you take another shower, change clothes, then meet me and Teal'c in a few minutes in the kitchen? We'll start some coffee for you.

But... Carter... Jack stubbornly said as Daniel ushered him in the direction of his bathroom and shower. He had a burning need to see how Carter was fairing after the events of the morning, but Daniel tried to get him into his bathroom again.

She'll be in surgery, Daniel reported. I heard Dr. Brightman say something about... He didn't finish his sentence, but said, Arriving at the SGC, covered in blood, won't do anyone any good, Jack. Sam's in good hands, and when she's awake again, she can tell us what happened. His calm voice was like a soothing salve to the festering injuries of the morning. You go and take a shower, change clothes, brush your hair, and we'll see about your door. Now go... It's all gonna be fine, Jack, promise.

When had Daniel become so good in a crisis? Jack vaguely wondered as he stumbled down his hall.

Jack felt himself relax a little under the warm spray of water moments later. The shower, he admitted to himself, was helping to further restore his equilibrium. However, as he dressed, Jack just decided that Daniel didn't ever need to know about it!

Meanwhile, his thoughts were never very far from Sam, even when he was making his decisions about Daniel and his surprising ability for being soothing in a crisis situation. Still, Jack couldn't help but bend his mind to trying to figure out who could have sent those two assailants after Sam. He immediately thought of the Trust, the NID, and the replicators, and he decided to contact General Hammond the moment he arrived on base to ask if the military man had heard of any movements on the parts of the rogue agents of Earth.

Still Jack felt dissatisfied with his decisions. He felt like there must be something more that he could do! Frustrated, Jack continued thinking about the diverting topic of the mysterious identities of Sam's attackers. He tried not to take note of the situation, but he couldn't help acknowledging that he had not heard one word of concern about Sam's whereabouts from the fianc‚... What was his name? Paul? Page? Something that began with the letter 'P?' Jack wasn't entirely sure, but was fairly certin that he didn't want to be sure, either.

As he dried himself off prior to pulling on a clean pair of BDUs, he forced himself to acknowledge that not a lot of time had gone by for a boyfriend... fiance‚... to begin worrying about her vanishment. Yet, the fact that Sam had even had her cell phone on her at the time of her run indicated that there was someone waiting for her to call with something like her wherabouts, didn't it?

And who was it logical that she would call?

Him, Jack?

Oh, he wished!

No, it made much more sense that she had her cell with her in order to check in with... Pell? Parr?

Whatever his name was... The fiance‚ was probably so worried by now that he must be blowing a gasket.

Jack's thinking whim now backed by logical... sort of... thinking through the situation, he reached for his own phone and dialed the SGC.

Walter answered his call. Sergeant Harriman.

Walter, it's the General...

No word yet on how Colonel Carter is fairing in her surgery, Sir, Walter interrupted to say.

Jack smiled at the way his personal aid was trying to judge what he was calling to inquire about. Walter wasn't too far off, either, Jack admitted to himself. Was he becomming that predictable? If so, then he was going to have to curb his future inquiries about Carter, or talk centering on them was sure to begin circulating again, and that was one thing Carter didn't need to be dealing with! Uh, thanks, but that's not why I called, Jack said into the phone.

Walter sounded surprised and a bit embarrassed as he apologized and asked, Did you need me to do something, Sir?

I was wondering if... How did he ask about someone whose name he couldn't even remember? If Carter's... other half... had called in yet to check on her? Yeah, that would work.

Uh... And Jack could hear the sound of paper being shuffled. I didn't talk to him, and he didn't appear to phone while I took a break for breakfast fifteen minutes ago. I can ask around if you'd like me to?

The entire base personell talking about who had called to check up on Carter? That was the last thing Jack needed! No, that's perfectly okay, Walter. I was just curious. If he does call while I'm gone, give him my cell number, and I'll take care of giving him the 'heads up' on Carter's progress. There. that sounded magnanimous enough of him to quell any talk that might get started over this, but not too magninimous of him at the same time...

Oh..! This situation was quickly becoming mired in the stickiness of his worry over becoming nothing but too much base gossip! Jack curtailed his need to protect Carter and himself. Me, Teal'c, and Dr. Jackson will be in about an hour from now, at the very latest.

Very good, General, came Walter's businesslike reply.

O'Neill out. Jack hung up the phone, then pulled on his pants.

Okay... So... 'Peel,' or whatever his name was hadn't called to check up on why Carter had been gone so long. Jack just didn't get it. If it had been him waiting on the other side of the phone, he would have been going nuts by now with worry.

Which begged the question... Just what was the other half doing if he wasn't worried enough about Sam to blow that imaginary gasket of his?

* * *

You've got to call her 'Carter,' not 'Sam!' Jack was thinking to himself a half hour later as he walked briskly down the corridor of the SGC beside Daniel. Teal'c had decided to remain at Jack's house to oversee the replacement of his two doors as well as the cleaning of his living room of all traces of the glass and blood that still covered the floor. Both Daniel and Jack had foregone sharing any coffee with the Jaffa, and were now bent on seeing if Sam was out of surgery yet and in the recovery room prior to being moved to the Infirmary. They shared such a determined gate that no one bothered either of them, even the General, which was a minor miracle, according to Jack.

The minute they entered the Infirmary and glanced at every bed in the room, they could see that Colonel Carter was not among the Infirmary patients. Daniel stopped the first nurse to cross their path and asked, Is Colonel Carter out of surgery yet?

The nurse shook her head. It's exploratory surgery at this point, to make certain that all the bleeding has stopped, and that there are no internal injuries that so far have gone unreported, she informed the three men. I'm sure that Dr. Brightman will be able to give you more details when she's out of surgery.

Disappointed, but realizing that no news was good news, the two men allowed the nurse to depart. They both sighed as one. Daniel looked like he was settled to stay in the chair he plopped down in. Jack turned, shoved his hands in his pockets, tried hard not to let his natural disappointment show on his face, and inquired of Daniel, You intend to wait here?

Daniel nodded. I'm not moving until I see Sam.

Jack could understand that sentiment, at least, even if he couldn't indulge it. He gave a nod of his head, but only quietly noted, That could make things interesting when you have to use the bathroom. Daniel sent him an irritated expression that involved a lot of eye rolling, so Jack hurried on to say, I wish I could stick around here with you, but the work of a General never stops. He pushed his hands deeper into his pockets, thinking that his leaving wouldn't do the gossip that was sure to circulate the base about him and Carter any harm either. In fact, he hoped that his decision to leave would stop any gossip before it got started. It was probably a useless hope, but he hoped nonetheless. He went on hoping as he headed out the door, Guess I'll see you around then, huh? he said to Daniel. Hey, make sure you tell me what's going on the minute she's out of surgery. He felt reluctant to leave, as if he were skipping out on Carter when she needed him the most. Trying not to feel like too much of a heel, he added, And let me know when it's my turn to sit with her. I want my turn like always, ya know.

Daniel replied, You betcha, Jack. He gave a small grin to accompany his comment, but it was a grim gesture.

Jack had to think hard about his words before he found the joke imbedded in his comment. But all he said was, I'm serious. The minute you hear anything...

Daniel almost smiled again.

Jack said one more thing. Thanks for trying to lighten the situation, Daniel.

Daniel gave a wry grin this time, then called after him, You're sure you're feeling all right, Jack?

Jack had to turn one final time to reply, No, I'm not sure, but I'm doing better. Thanks for asking, Daniel. See you later.

Daniel waved good-bye as Jack disappeared into the outer corridor.

Jack made his way to his office, and even managed to get there with having to stop only three times to answer questions about what had transpired that morning. He couldn't believe it was only 0800 hours. So much had already happened!

He'd gone to his office to finally get some peace and quiet, but the instant ringing of his phone ended any silence he might try to enjoy. His thoughts were too traumatized anyway, as he couldn't get his mind off Carter and the way she had come smashing into his living room through the glass deck door.

He still felt shaken as he answered his black phone, but did his best to keep the emotional fear that he was still feeling from showing in his voice. A minute later he was glad that he had made such an effort. O'Neill, he flatly said into his phone.

General? came the question over the line.

The fiance‚'s voice.

Jack almost gave an audible groan, but managed to stop the sound just before it issued from his mouth. He certainly didn't want to talk to... 'Pell?'... Not 'Paco'... That was too Spanish... He just couldn't remember! Or he didn't want to remember the man's name. Jack tried to sound cheerier than he felt when he said, Yes, this is General O'Neill. What can I do for you?

The voice on the other end was a tad hesitant as he said, This is Pete Shanahan, Sam's...

So help him, Jack did not want to hear how that man was connected to Carter, a state he already knew about! Not this morning. Accepting that now he had no excuse not to know the man's name, he hastily interrupted Pete before he could say anything more. I know who you are... Mr. Shanahan, he ground out. How can I help you?

Well. And Pete's voice was now more hesitant than it had been before. The sound made Jack oddly satisfied. Uh, Sam's not answering either her home phone or her cell. I was wondering if you can tell me if she's on some secret mission or something? And that's why I can't reach her.

Raw anger abruptly coursed through Jack when he heard Pete's words. The emotion didn't make any sense to him, and in retrospect, he realized that his reaction was a holdover to his state of shock that morning, but he wasn't thinking about that just at the moment. He simply acted, and thought later. You're just thinking about this now? he asked in a harsh voice. I would think that checking up on her would occur to you a little sooner. What kind of fianc‚ are you, anyway?

His words and severe tone seemed to come as a surprise to Pete. His shrug came through his voice loud and clear as he said, Uh... I didn't want to interfere with her work...

Still feeling the anger burn inside him, Jack interrupted again, She's fine, no thanks to you!

Finally Pete began reacting to the anger in O'Neill's voice. What do you mean by that? he exclaimed.

Jack quickly explained, She was practically gunned down hours ago, had to jump through my door, for cryin' out loud, just to get away from whoever was chasing her, and she's in surgery right now, and you just now start to get a bit worried? Where the heck have you been all morning? Jack barked heedlessly into his receiver. The first time that Carter needs...

She was shot at?!? Pete blurted.

She was shot! Jack all but yelled. Twice! He partly knew that he needed to lower his voice, that he was doing Carter no favors by speaking so loudly, but he couldn't stop himself now that he'd started. My question is where the heck are you?

Pete firmly said, I'm at my parents' house in California! Sam knows where..!

What are you doing in California? Jack all but roared. He had no idea why he was so angry, but it was like he was no longer in control of himself as he continued, I would think..!

Pete's incensed reply came to him in clipped tones. This vacation of mine has been planned for two months, and...

Two months! Jack screeched. Well, that's convenient! he scoffed. The minute that you're gone, Carter gets...

I had nothing to do with this! Pete declared. Do you think that I could somehow...

I don't know what to think! Jack stated back to him. All I know is that Carter came barreling through...

Is she going to be all right? Pete asked then, the worry that he was clearly feeling at last creeping into his voice. Is she..?

She's still in surgery! Jack hollered, though he had no idea why he was hollering that information.

Can I see her? Pete quickly asked. Is there..?

What do you think this is, a damn hotel? Jack asked in a yell. Of course you can't just come strolling into a secure installation that... no matter what your clearance is!

And that was when Pete lost his hold on his own temper. He venomously interrupted, You took her there on purpose! Just to keep me away from...

It was Jack who was incensed now. I got her the help that I thought she needed as quickly as I could! My main priority wasn't making sure that she went to somewhere that isn't top secret! Your visit rights...

I'm not going to discuss anything more with you until I get to talk to Sam!

Well, get in line, buddy! Jack yelled just as Daniel and a medical team rushed into the office through the door leading into the corridor. It was excellent timing, as that was exactly when Jack's vision suddenly tunneled down to a single point and his breathing became raspy as his heart thundered in his chest. He began to quickly hyperventilate again, and he dropped the phone receiver into Daniel's waiting hand as he fell into his leather desk chair, afraid that he would be unable to resist the lure of such strong emotions, and faint dead away. That would be humiliating! He was barely aware of the medical team swarming around him, and could hardly speak around the tightness accosting his jaw. He fought off the call of unconsciousness with a ferocity that even he didn't know he possessed.

Daniel did his best to stay out of everyone's way and speak into the receiver at the same time. Hello? This is Dr. Daniel Jackson. I'm sorry to say that General O'Neill is unavailable right at the moment due to a severe... He didn't know quite what to say about Jack's sudden condition, as he didn't yet know what that condition was. Did this attack of Jack's somehow harken back to the shock episode that he had undergone just that morning? Was this some kind of a delayed reaction to his earlier medical condition? A severe medical trauma, he decided on saying at long last. It was the best he could do without knowing more about what was ailing Jack. He'll call you back when he's more himself.

Daniel started to hang up the phone, but was arrested by the sound of his name in tones that he recognized. Dr. Jackson? Pete said in a voice that was as loud as he could produce at the moment.

Pete! Daniel exclaimed, somewhat surprised at the presence of the voice that he instantly recognized. But it stood to reason that Sam's fianc‚ would call at a time like this. Where are you?

A definite growl followed Daniel's question. I'm in California visiting my parents, and called to check in with Sam, tell her I got here okay and all. But I've been told that she... something about a shooting and jumping through a window? And that I'm now told that I can't talk to her! His voice held a definite growl in it when he demanded, Tell me what's going on or...

Daniel interupted his tirade, Um... Pete, I hate to be the bearer of bad news...

Go ahead, be the bearer, Jack muttered from his position on the leather chair as a doctor who was Brightman's second peered into his eyes with a pen light. Jack hated bright lights shone into his eyes, and cursed the doctor under his breath as he gave his head a slight shake.

Tell me what's going on! Pete again demanded without bothering to even try to sound polite anymore.

Daniel did his best to placate both Jack and Pete as he informed, Pete, Jack said this morning that while Sam was out for her morning jog, she was attacked by two unknown gunmen, shot twice, once in her left arm, once in her upper back on the right side, then crashed through Jack's deck window/door to get away from them. She's been unconscious ever since, and is in surgery right now, though her prognosis is...

Daniel glanced at Dr. Karmichael still squatting next to Jack in his chair, who took time from administering to Jack to tell Daniel, It's assumed that she's critical right now, but surgery will tell us more.

Daniel repeated Sam's prognosis to Pete, then went on, And after the medical team arrived at Jack's house to deal with Sam, he pretty much suffered a shock attack, and I'm thinking that this deal that he's under right now is somehow connected with his recent medical problem. He would never have yelled at you the way he did if he'd been more himself. In fact, it's what clued us in that something was very wrong with him just now, and...

Pete cut Daniel off this time to snidely allege, I can't say that I care too much about what's up with General O'Neill. I only want to see Sam as soon as I can. Should I fly back from California and stay with her?

Daniel was a bit taken aback by Pete's rather unfeeling attitude towards Jack's affliction of the moment. He expected the other man to be more understanding, to be honest, but he managed to continue, No, it makes sense to stay put for now. Sam's still in surgery, and there's no telling when she'll be out of surgery and awake enough for visitors. You might fly back to Colorado just to sit here with nothing to do for days on end. We can call you when anything new transpires.

Jack very plainly muttered, Wouldn't care what makes sense if I was in his place. I'd come anyway. Wild horses... He lapsed into silence then as more technicians bent his arm to take his pulse and blood pressure a second time, and Dr. Karmichael entreated him to focus on him and not Daniel, if he could.

Daniel distinctly heard Karmichael ask in a loud voice, General, do you know where you are?

SGC, Jack slowly muttered as another person did her best to take his temperature with an ear thermometer.

What day is it? Karmichael asked next.

Jack sighed, then sounding tired, muttered, Monday.

Karmichael sent a telling glance to one of his nurses, then asked, And how do you feel, General?

Jack was able to answer that question with a bit more force to his voice. Pissed! Then his forehead wrinkled as he more thoughtfully continued, Wish I knew why, though.

Daniel was able to bring his attention back to his phone call as he divulged, It seems that Jack has some kind of behavioral problem going on right now. I wouldn't take what he said earlier with too much of...

Pete interrupted once more, Being yelled at and raked over the coals is not my idea of a good time, Dr. Jackson! Like I said, I'm only concerned for Sam, but to be treated in such a way is...

Again Daniel was surprised by the amount of bitterness in Pete's voice. I assure you that the General isn't himself right now. Something's wrong with...

Once more came an interruption. I think this just proves that General O'Neill has never liked me very much, and just couldn't wait for an excuse to tell me so!

Daniel was astonished. You think that Jack said what he said on purpose? I bet that it's not...

This kind of treatment won't go unreported, that's for sure! Pete said, incensed. I've gotten very little respect from...

Daniel was even more amazed. Pete, you've gotta know that's not true! We all want Sam to be happy, and as long as she...

This has nothing to do with Sam, Dr. Jackson. This is between me and the General. I think it's about time that I do something to...

Jack can't be held accountable for anything he said earlier to you! Daniel huffed, just as incensed as Pete. Do you think this is a trial or something? he rhetorically demanded. Jack was just worried to death about a previous team member who crashed into his house at Ough dark thirty this morning, and suffered shock because of it! I don't...

Pete again cut him off to announce, I'll talk to you later, Dr. Jackson, when I've had time to decide what I'm gonna do about all this. Don't give General O'Neill the opportunity to try to sweet talk his way out of this one, either. He has a way about him that...

He would never do something like that, and you know it! Daniel hollered, finally losing his control of his own temper. You know what, Jack did an incredible job of holding back with you just now! If it weren't for being worried about him, I'd stick around and tell you a thing or two of my own that... And that was when Pete hung up on him without warning.

Daniel looked at the reciever that was still in his hands, and muttered, Jerk, before replacing it on Jack's desk. The medical team was just trying to convince General O'Niell to cooperate with them and lie back on the nice medical gurney they had brought with them when Daniel's phone call unceremoniously ended. He was able to watch Jack stubbornley and irrationally refuse their help, and Daniel found himself instantly interceding with Jack on the medical team's behalf, trying to cajole him into a more agreeable stance. He even used the threat that he wouldn't want Sam to hear about how Jack was acting right now, to which Jack tried to beligerantly stand right in Daniel's face and tell him to 'Bring it on, Spacemonkey,' at which time Daniel lost the thin hold he had regained on his temper and uncharacteristically slugged Jack in the eye. Jack dropped like a stone with the help of the sedative that Dr. Karmichael had managed to slip into Jack's arm while the military man was busy fighting with Daniel.

A few seconds later, the confrontation ended, as did the problem. The entire scene as Jack flew back from Daniel's punch to land in an unconscious heap on the medical gurney was slightly surreal to Daniel, who had wanted to slug Jack for years, but hadn't. Karmichael barely had time to get his arm out of the way before Jack was down for the count, assisted by the medicine he'd slipped the General, and the team wasted no time in pushing the gurney and Jack towards the Infirmary.

A solicitious Dr. Karmichael used the excuse to cursorily look over Daniel's aching hand now that Jack had been dealt with in order to thank the young archaeologist for his assistance with the General. You're probably the only person on base right now who could handle him the way he needed to be handled - thank you.

Daniel tried to brush off the other man's gratitude. Actually, Jack's been asking for that for years. He remembered every time that Jack had mercilessly teased him, and even though he didn't hold a grudge against the older man, he had secretly enjoyed getting even with him just now. I'm glad that I could help you at the same time that I had the chance to get a little revenge on everything's he's said to me over the years! Daniel gave a wry chuckle as he bent his fingers for the doctor, flexing his knuckles when asked. If you tell me what's going on with Jack right now, we'll just call this all even and forget that anything happened.

Karmichael smiled. You really are as simple a man as your reputation paints you, he remarked, mild now. I can't say for sure, of course, not until we run more tests, but knowing about his morning shock episode helps me to guess that the General is suffering from an emotional state of shock that's related to his medical condition of a few hours ago. His aggressive attitude is another hint that something like extreme fear, or hearing disturbing news, may have had something to do with his reaction.

Daniel furrowed his brow. So you're saying that Jack couldn't help the way he reacted just now?

Karmichael shrugged. It's kind of like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he told Daniel. It may even turn into a case of PTSD later on,

God, I hope not, Daniel muttered.

Combativeness is a common reaction to an event like this morning's. It's not every day that a colleague comes vaulting through your door the way that Colonel Carter did in the General's house. Karmichael gave a nervous laugh. He must have been stunned and horrified when it happened.

You have no idea, Daniel emphatically added to the doctor's asessment of the situation.

Especially if the General truly does care for what befalls Colonel Carter, Karmichael said, going on. I can only imagine how terrified he is right now. That emotion manifested itself as yelling at... He paused, then gestured towards the General's desk. Whoever that was on the phone just now...

Daniel rolled his eye. That was Sam's fianc‚, Pete Shanahan. It's true that Jack has never exactly appreciated the man, and now I have to agree with his assessment of Detective Shanahan.

Karmichael shrugged again. I don't want to get involved in inter-team politics, Dr. Jackson. So he changed the subject. You're hand doesn't appear to be broken, only sprained. Apply some ice to it if you're in pain. Try not to overuse it for a few days, and it should be perfectly fine.

Daniel gave another wry grin. How am I going to write my translations if I can't use my hand? Karmichael gave one final shrug, and Daniel muttered, I should have hit Jack with my left hand...

The doctor laughed this time, then led the way out of Jack's office and to the Infirmary.

* * *

And that was when Sergeant Harriman called the Infirmary with a medical emergency to Jack's office, Daniel was telling a still bleary-eyed Sam several hours later in the Infirmary. He was seated next to her bed, sitting and reading a book on the translation of the Egyptian language when Sam had finally awakened from her ordeal. She'd already been out of surgery when he and Dr. Karmichael had returned to the Infirmary, but hadn't woken until much later. She was still lying on her stomach, in fact, giving her wounds a chance to heal without the added pressure of lying on them.

Daniel went on with his explanation of the day's many events. Sergeant Harriman told us what was going on with Jack, - that Jack was yelling strangely personal things for a man who was in his right mind. A med team ran to his office, and I tagged along, thinking that I could help. It turned out that it was a good thing that I went along, because Jack was talking to Pete at the time...

Sam's features immediately soured at the mention of her fianc‚. The tiny cuts that Jack's windowed door had caused her cheeks earlier that day creased with her expression.

Daniel was surprised again by the face Sam made. You don't seem too excited by the phone call from Pete, he carefully remarked, not wanting to antagonise her with his observation, but curious about that observation at the same time. I would think that a call from my fianc‚ would...

He's not my fianc‚ anymore, Sam softly interrupted him, her voice as careful and detached as Daniel's had been.

This surprised Daniel. What? he said with a start. I thought...

Sam sighed, which cut him off a second time in as many minutes. We're trying the 'apart' thing for awhile. Sam shrugged her shoulders, then winced as the skin around both bullet wounds pulled with the gesture. He was getting just too... She sighed one more time, then regarded her friend more completely. Daniel, is it possible to smother someone you care about?

Daniel thought about her words. Do you mean physically smother?

Sam shook her head, then winced again when it pulled at her recent stitches. No, I mean to emotionally... She sighed one more time, then slowly reached up to rub dispiritedly at her forehead... or at least the part of her forehead that she could still reach. Daniel, I don't know what to do. Tell me what do to.

I can't do that, Daniel instantly said in an apologetic voice. But I can tell you what he said on the phone to me today, or rather, how he said what he said.

Sam stared at him. Why, what did he say? she asked in a quiet voice full of suspicion, as if she could basically predict what Daniel was going to tell her already, but asked him anyway.

Daniel pursed his lips in a pensive pose for a moment, then gently told her, Sam, if he's been talking to you the way he talked to me today, I'd send him packing to the farthest reaches of Antarctica.

Sam grimaced. That bad, huh? Daniel didn't answer her, so she went on, Well, I could guess that this would eventually happen.

Daniel grimaced this time. I kind of called him a jerk when he hung up on me.

Them's fighten' words coming from you, she told him in a resigned, offhand manner.

Daniel gave her a wan smile, then thoughtfully continued, He must have said the same types of things to Jack when we heard Jack yelling over the phone.

Pete talked to Jack? She shook her head, then corrected, The General?

Daniel nodded and went on, Jack had just finished when the medical team ran into his office. He gave a roll of his eyes. Jack was yelling loud enough to wake the dead.

Sam considered what Daniel had told her. That's not like Jack... the General.

Come on, Sam, Daniel siad with a resigned sigh. You crashed through the guy's door. I think that qualifies as a good reason to call him by his first name.

Sam was silent for a minute, thinking, then shyly confessed, Um... She gave a hesitant glance toward the bed where Jack was still sleeping off the effects of the sedative that Dr. Karmichael had given to him. Or, at least, his eyes were closed. She guessed that he was still sleeping, and that he wasn't unconscious or in a coma, and that she and Daniel needed to worry. Her gaze almost as quickly flicked back to her friend. She sent an embarrassed look down at the sheets under her, and her face suddenly bloomed a fiery red as her blush covered her features. Um, she softly began. That's not... not the only time I've said... She blushed again, but forged on. Recently said Jack's first name.

What? Daniel asked, confused by her words. What are you..? What was she referring to that would make her blush so deeply, as if she were just sooooo embarrassed? Then it hit him... Sex - she was talking about... Daniel's eyes widened when understanding fully dawned on him. He leaned forward, wholly scandalized now, but looking as if he was also enjoying that sense of scandal that he was feeling. Sam! I...

Sh! Sam cautioned. She threw another furtive glance over at the bed next to hers, and peered at Jack. Do you want to wake him? she hissed.

Daniel immediately lowered his voice, but the shocked expression remained on his face. Sam! No wonder Pete sounded pissed when I talked to him! He sounded as if he had discovered something profound, and profoundly amusing.

Daniel! It's not like I could help it! Sam harshly whispered back to him. I wasn't exactly aware of what I was doing at the time!

But... uh... that's not exactly a good time to be calling one guy the name of another guy, is it, Sam? Daniel forced himself to relax, but his gaze returned to study Sam. What did Pete do about all this? he finally asked.

Sam said, He decided to run away and visit his parents for a few days.

Daniel balked. Sergeant Harriman heard Jack distinctely yell that Pete had been planning this vacation of his for two months. Was that not the truth?

Sam groaned. It's an 'exaggeration,' she said in polite circumspection. That sounds like something Pete would do.

Daniel wondered, Pete was ly... exaggerating? It was a thought that made Daniel cautiously inquire, Are you really sure that this is the right guy for you? He rubbed his hand across the front cover of his book and wouldn't meet her gaze as he went on vocalising something that had been on his mind for ages. I mean, here you are, calling him another man's name when... And now you're telling me he's lying to Jack. Then his forehead wrinkled in thought. Actually, it makes more sense that Pete doesn't seem to like Jack, now that I know more of the situation.

Did Pete say as much? Sam asked, again as if she already knew the answer.

Daniel nodded. He accused Jack of disrespecting him...

Sam groaned again. And don't tell me, she requested in a tone that clearly told Daniel to tell her anyway. He threatened to 'do something about it.'

Daniel looked surprised. How do you know that? Then his forehead wrinkled in further thought. You weren't even in Jack's office, or could be listening in on what we were saying to each other on another line. You were still in surgery then! Daniel looked at Sam with narrowed eyes. What aren't you telling me about this scenario? he suddenly inquired. Has the whole 'I'll do something' happened before?

Sam gave a resigned sigh into the sheets. Sort of, she meekly intoned.

Daniel raised his brows. 'Sort of?'

Sam considered the ramifications of telling him the intimate details about her relationship with Pete. 'Sort of...' as in 'every other day.'

Daniel's brows rose even further, making him look like a surprised chicken that had just been told it was going to dinner that evening. And you've..? he prodded.

Sam grimaced again. Maybe I shouldn't say what I said that I'd do.

That stunned Daniel again. Sam!

Looking affronted, Sam yelled a whisper of, What?! trying to defend her actions.

You.., Daniel began to say, then was cut off by the tinny voice on the SGC PA system.

Dr. Jackson, to the Briefing Room.

Daniel gave an aggravated sigh. That's me... gotta go. He rested his book on the table next to Sam's bed and rose from the chair he'd been sitting in. He made to leave the Infirmary, but just before leaving, pointed a finger at Sam. I want to hear the rest of this story, so this isn't over yet, Sam. He turned to leave again, and peered over his shoulder at her. I'll be back!

I'm overjoyed at the prospect of more questions and confessions, Sam dryly stated at the departing figure of her friend. But by that time, Daniel had disappeared into the corridor outside the Infirmary. Sam sighed, then settled into her pillow more firmly. She shut her eyes and focused on the steady beeps that she heard throughout the room. Concentrating on the annoying sound kept her from thinking about the pain from her wounds so much. The longer she could stand the pain, the longer she could go without the sedative that Dr. Brightman had threatened her with earlier, and the longer she could keep her head clear. She would need a clear head if she was going to converse more with Daniel, she knew, so she did her best to ignore the pain in her back.

A new voice interrupted her concentration on the beeping sounds. Carter? You awake?

That voice was familiar. Oh, God... It's the General! He was awake? Her eyes snapped open to see that, yes, it was definitely General O'Neill who now stood right beside her Infirmary bed. The sole of his shoe squeaked as he took another step closer to her bed, and she realized that he had replaced the boots the Infirmary staff had confiscated from him earlier. He looked like he felt as normal as he ever did.

If he felt normal, then perhaps he had been equally as alert as normal, too, just a few minutes ago. She suspected that he'd overheard quite a bit of the previous conversation between her and Daniel. Sam drew in a shuddering breath. How long have you been awake? she asked.

Jack's features grew red as he sent her a pained expression. Awhile.

Oh, God, then he'd heard..! You heard us, didn't you? she half asked, half accused, horrified enough to speak quietly.

Jack reddened again, then nodded one cautious nod. But his smile broke through his reddness to blaze at her. I heard... enough... Sam.

Sam! Sam gave a soft groan. Then...

Jack interrupted her. Is what you said true? That you and... He could never remember that name! You and...

Pete, she helpfully supplied.

Yeah, him, Jack whispered. You guys are... split?

Sam felt her face go crimson again. It was beyond weird to be talking about such a personal matter to her CO! She didn't think of the fact that she had discussed that and more with her other friend, Daniel, just moments before. She gave a semi-nod against the pillow. Um... Yeah.

Jack's brows shot a tad higher. Not engaged?

Not engaged, Sam echoed him, then added, For now.

Jack was silent for a moment as he thought about her comment. Jack's nose wrinkled in distress to be asking what he was about to ask. And you... during..? He just couldn't finish his question!

Buat it didn't matter, for Sam instinctively knew what he was referrign to with his bumbling speech. Her face burned a deep crimson shade, and she couldn't look him in his eyes, but she nodded. Ummm.., she began to say.

Jack mercifully cut her off. Then there's not a chance for you two to..? He gave an uncomfortable cough that was meant to clear his throat. Actually, Sam recognized it for the stall tactic it was. To get back... together?

Sam wondered why it was an important point to the General, but he did overhear her confess that she had screamed his name at intimate moments just now, so she figured that she should be prepared for anything. Actually, I plan to end it for good when he comes back, she divulged. Pete thinks he has a chance at changing my mind, but...

Again Jack cut her off. You know that I... Jack sighed, then seemed to force himself to say more, even if that made him feel awkward. I'd never do anything to... Again he stopped, looking as clumsy as she'd ever seen him look. In fact, the expression on his face made him appear ten years younger, stripped of his usual defenses. Sam found the entire effect positively adorable.

Yes? she asked, avoiding how she felt so as to not encourage him with her tone and facial expression since she couldn't move her arms very much.

Jack winced in a determined way, and announced, I would never do anything to hurt you or your career...

His voice trailed away for a second time, so Sam again prodded him. What?

Jack took a deep breath, glanced quickly around the room, taking in the fact that they were alone in their little corner of the Infirmary, ignored by the staff, forgotten by everyone. Then he whispered, Sam... Since you're free and all... and before you're not free again... Will you marry me?

That was not a question that she had ever expected! Not in the SGC! Not ever, if she were honest!

Slowly Sam raised herself up a fraction on her arms, but was halted by more pain. Her eyes widened, her heart started racing, her heart monitor beeping like crazy, causing the nearest of the Infirmary staff to cross quickly towards her bed...

Sam's face lit up for just a second before she remembered. Then her facial features fell so fast it was almost comical, in a tragic way. I'm sorry... I... can't, she choked in a strained voice. Not y...

Jack was shoved back by the overeager Infirmary nurse who had one eye trained to Sam's heart monitor and one eye trained on Sam herself. Are you in pain, Colonel Carter? she asked, oblivious to what the General had just asked her patient.

Sam looked desperately at Jack, who had already closed his face from showing anything but his typical military mask. Yet it was clear that he was in extreme emotional pain just in the tense way he was standing against the wall. Seemingly unfazed, he turned and walked away as more nurses and doctors rushed to Sam's side.

Jack! Sam yelled, anguish now coloring her voice as she pushed at the white uniforms that occluded her vision of what he was doing. Let me exp..! But he was gone.

No! Sam dove her face into her pillow, wanting to beat it senseless in the sudden rush of anger and fear and longing and heartache that she was experiencing; Jack was thinking that she had rejected him - she just knew it! Crap! she yelled into the linen of her pillow, crying now without even trying to cover up her sobs.

Colonel, you have to calm down, one of the nurses said.

Another asked, What could the General possibly have said that upset her so?

Sam turned her head, and through her tears saw the nurse who had first spoken shrug her shoulders as if to say 'I don't know,' then reached for a syringe beside her to administer a drug straight into Sam's IV line trailing from her hand.

No! Sam yelled desperately. No drugs! Please!

The nurse huffed a breath. This is just a pain killer, Colonel Carter, it will only put you to...

Sam swiped at her face with her hand. I don't need drugs! she yelled to be heard over the sudden noise and confusion surrounding her bed. She desperately grabbed at the front of the nurse's tunic. I need a phone! she ordered. Now! Or... She was thinking about how Jack had been suicidal after Charlie died, and was considering how close to further thoughts of death Jack might be at this moment if he thought something as dire as her final rejection of him was at hand. She hadn't understood before now how her feelings toawards him encompassed such a large part of his psyche. And she knew that there was a gun concealed under the seat of his truck, a weapon that he always carried with him in case of trouble with his enemies while on Earth, so suicide wasn't as impossible a thing for him as she might like it to be. She didn't think he would use that gun for... But she did know that he had suffered depression before, and might be prone to it again, and... Phone! she urgently gurgled. I need to call the front gate! It's a matter of life and death! She knew that she sounded dramatic to the medical staff around her, but now wasn't the time to worry about being overdramatic.

The nurse stared at her, unblinking, a blank look in her eyes.

Please! Sam added to her plea, growing more agitated by the minute. I promise...

She didn't have to say what she promised to do, for another nurse abruptly plunked a phone down an her bedside table. Make it quick, Dr. Brightman ordered Sam as she ushered her people away from the Colonel to give her some privacy.

Still crying a bit, Sam swiped again at her cheeks, then grabbed the receiver and dialed the guards to inquire, Has General O'Neill signed out yet?

The man seemed to take forever to answer, but finally said, Yes, Ma'am, just five minutes ago.

Transfer me to the main gate! The desperation in Sam's voice was unmistakeable.

The guard didn't even bother to reply. Sam simply heard a click, then the ringing of another phone in her ear. Her heart was pounding so louldy that she was personally amazed that she could hear anything at all.

Then someone answered the ringing phone. Sergeant Tilet, can I..?

Sam didn't let the man finish his greeting. This is Colonel Carter! Don't let General O'Neill leave the base!

There was a pause on the other end of the line, then Sergeant Tilet said, I was just about to clear him in another moment. Is there something wrong?

Sam was so agitated, she couldn't see at this point. He has a concealed weapon under his front seat! Just don't let him leave with a weapon! Thoughts of suicide attempts were again coloring her mind. They were so vivid now that she could see little more than the color red behind her closed eyelids. Her heart continued to pound in her ear so that it was difficult to hear what was goingd on over the phone.

It turned out to be hard, but not impossible to hear. There was another pause, and a muffled sound of talking as the Sergeant covered the handpiece to convey her orders to his fellow guards when she clearly heard Jack's voice over the line.

What? he barked.

There was more murmuring, then a very aggravated voice holler, Give me that! Before she knew it, Sam was talking to the man she was trying to detain.

Carter! Jack growled into the phone, his voice low and dangerous. You better have a damn good reason for this! I ain't stickig around for you to... There was no doubt about it: he was pissed.

Yet, Sam's heart gave an annoying leap even as she interrupted his tirade. You have to stay so that I can explain..!

Jack cut her off. You're damn right you'll explain! he huffed. This has got to be one of the most embarrassing..!

I'm sorry, Jack! Sam was crying again, her sobs sounding loud over the line, even when she tried to stifle the noise. But I don't want you you to...

Jack's voice was now more even as he took in her crying, but his personal irritation level remained the same. You're still in the Infirmary?

Sam gave a small grin, even in the face of his obvious anger. I can't go anywhere else right now.

Then don't move, Jack ordered in clipped tones. I'll be down in a minute when you will tell me everything that's going on!

Yes, Sir, Sam said as relief flooded through her body. Her smile was much more genuine. I'll see you soon. Her heart now thudded in an early sense of Thank God! Sam hung up the phone, then looked around her bed, but the medical staff was not in ear shot again. She hastily brushed at the water trails on her cheeks, then buried her head in her pillow. ThankGodthankGod! repeated like a mantra through her mind.

The soothing sound of those words and her subsequant relief ended the second that Jack entered the Infirmary. She didn't even have to look up when he came through the door. She felt the energy blazing off him as his angry eyes shot sparks at the staff members who approached him. Heedless of the way his glowering caused the medical staff members to shrink out of his way, he stormed over to Sam's bed, and yanked the green curtains around her corner of the Infirmary. His glare didn't decrease as he tried to calm himself by placing his hands flat on the cooling sheets of her bed. Quietly he ground through clenched teeth, Make it good!

Sam shut her eyes with a sigh. He's still alive! were the words that inappropriately shot through her mind. She swallowed, then stared at his furious face with a beseeching look on hers. She held one finger to her lips to indicate the need for absolute silence in what she was about to tell him.

But Jack was far from silent. Colonel! he warned. You..!

Sam surprised him into quiet when she raised herself up as far as her stitches would allow her to go, until she practically touched his ear with her lips. She placed her hand over those lips to keep him from blurting anything out, then whispered so softly that it was almost as if she didn't say anything at all, I'm undercover, Sir. That's why I couldn't say 'yes' when you asked me to marry you just now, even if I want to.

Jack reared back, an astonished expression now peppering his features. What? he barked in spite of her quieting hand.

Sam pressed harder on his lips, not taking the time to realize what part of him she was touching. She put one finger to her own lips again to indicate this second need for silence, then looked around for something to write on. Her eyes lit as her gaze landed on the notebook that Daniel had been doing translations in. She grabbed the red notebook and flipped to a clean page where she began writing her explanation of recent events.

* * *


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