Disclaimer: I own nothing except the house I live in. And even that is out on mortgage.


by Linda Bindner

Sam rolled onto her side on the couch in her living room, and groaned again. The next time I see Siler, I'm going to kill him... as soon as I can lift a gun, she muttered quietly to herself. It didn't make any difference if she was being facetious in her statement or not. It sure felt to her like she should be allowed to take retribution on somebody for this... this... this darned illness... that she was currently suffering from.

Another wave of stomach cramps assailed her, and she gritted her teeth against the pain, wrapping her hands on her stomach. The warmth from her own touch did little to actually alleviate any discomfort, but Sam found some a tiny amount of consolation from the sensation of warmth generated by her fingers. At any rate, she kept her hands immobile as she heard a knock on her front door. Come in! she yelled as loudly as she could, but even that wasn't particularly loud.

The doorknob rattled, then she heard Janet yell, I can't; it's locked!

Sam groaned again. This meant that she would somehow have to find the energy to rise, and move to the door so she could unlock it for her friend. Instead of energy, her stomach rumbled ominously, a sure sign that she was about to lose her dinner from the night before... again.

But before she had the chance to swing her legs down to the floor, and head for the bathroom, she heard someone mutter something to Janet, and a key slid her dead-bolt aside. She had just risen from the couch, prepared to run for the bathroom, when Janet and Colonel O'Neill entered her front hall.

Sam looked at them, vaguely noted their identities, but that was all she had time for as her stomach rumbled once more. She wisely listened to its warning, waved halfheartedly at her two visitors, then ran down the hall towards the bathroom. She didn't have time to close the door, or even to turn on the light, before she was on her knees on the toilet rug, throwing up the contents still in her stomach with more animation than she had shown for twelve hours.

Then Sam felt a cool hand smoothing her hair back from her face, and a delightfully cold washcloth on her forehead. Janet's calm, welcome, voice filled her ears when she could quiet the rushing sound she was hearing long enough for Janet's words to sink into her tired brain.

It's okay... We're here. Just let it all out, Janet soothingly said.

Sam grimaced at her. Like I have choice? She grabbed the washcloth, and held it against her cheeks. Oh, that coolness felt good!

No, Janet was saying, but Sam had a hard time registering her comment as 'that feeling' assailed her yet again. She turned her head just in time to send the Chinese noodles from her supper of Vegetable Lo Mein into the toilet. Charming, she thought in sardonic disgust.

When she was finished losing her supper for the umpteenth time in the last few hours (how could there possibly be anything left in her stomach?), she heaved in a breath of air, and turned back to Janet. Okay, I think I'm done... for now.

Geez, Carter, a new voice proclaimed, Can we just aim you at some Jaffa, then stand back and watch the fun, or what?

Great, Sam groaned to herself. The Colonel, come to watch me puke my guts out. Can this day possibly get any worse?

Apparently, it could. Sam had barely fallen back onto the cushions of the couch in the living room when Janet knelt beside her, feeling her forehead with the back of her hand, then sticking a thermometer in her mouth. A few silent moments passed before the doctor again removed it so that she could read it. You have a fever, announced the doctor. Stomach cramps?

Oh, yeah, Sam answered. Big time.

How many times have you run for the bathroom? Janet next inquired.

Geez, Sam thought. Did the doctor have to know her entire medical history while she was here? I thought you wanted to help, Sam accused back, her voice sounding as peeved as she felt. I'm gonna kill Siler. She rested her head on the back of the couch, and just breathed. Tomorrow.

Both Janet and the Colonel chuckled at her promise. Well, you'll have to get in line, then, Janet told her. Whatever he brought on base that his kid had is on the rampage. I've got ten people in the Infirmary already, and when you called in sick today, we got a bit worried that you had the same symptoms. What you need is a bed, an I.V., and some soup.

God! Sam groaned. No soup, please! I couldn't keep it down even if I wanted to, and I'm not sure I do!

Colonel O'Neill spoke then. What's wrong, Carter? Soup not your cup of tea? He smirked at the joke he'd just made, but Sam was in too much pain to enjoy his humor.

No, Sam seriously stated. If I actually want soup, then I know I'm sick, she told them.

Is that your first clue? asked the Colonel as he handed her a tissue from the box resting on the coffee table fronting the couch.

Sam took the tissue, and wiped around her mouth with it. Then, she looked belligerently at Janet. I'm not going in to the Infirmary, she said. You might as well just shoot me now.

But Janet wasn't so easily waylaid. You're going in if I say you're going in. I'm your doctor, and I...

Give her a break, Doc, the Colonel piped up, then. She just lost her kitchen sink, I think. She needs some peace and quiet more than she needs the Infirmary.

Janet half turned to face him. Yes, and she'll get the quiet that she needs in the Infirmary!

Colonel O'Neill barked a laugh. With all those well-meaning nurses you have running around in there, waking her up every five minutes so they can take more of her blood? he asked. Forgive me for saying this, Doc, but your... uh... 'attention to detail' sort of precludes rest, he said. No offense.

Just doing our jobs, Janet argued.

Yeah, you're doing your jobs with enthusiasm, O'Neill agreed, and frowned.

Janet turned back to look at Sam. Have you eaten anything today? she asked.

Sam shook her head. I've had nothing since I ate the Chinese takeout I got last night. I haven't dared eat anything since then.

The hand was placed once more on her forehead. Well, you have a low grade fever, so I'm not surprised you're losing your latest meal.

I think I've lost about twenty or thirty meals, Sam groused in a low voice, but her comment made Janet laugh anyhow, though Sam had meant to be serious, not funny.

I really think you should go into the base, anyway, in spite of what my favorite patient says. Janet glanced at O'Neill.

His eyebrow went up. I'm your favorite patient? he asked in some surprise, but clearly pleased at the distinction.

Janet smiled, then belied what she had claimed by shaking her head back and forth.

Oh, you're saying I have a reputation for crankiness, and that's made me famous, that's what you're saying, O'Neill guessed.

I didn't say anything, Janet negated then.

You didn't have to, O'Neill groused. That look you just gave to me said it all.

Janet sighed. What I'm saying is that you've become something of a celebrity to those on my Nursing staff, she wryly explained. And I'm not saying that it's good notoriety that you have.

Sam would have grinned if she'd had the energy. Instead, she placed her hands on her stomach again. Oh, blessed warmth! Take your argument outside... All the noise is making me dizzy.

You're dizzy? Janet asked, unable to contain her interest.

Janet! Sam then yelled... sort of. Get out of here, and go back to your patients. I'll live. You can both go back to base.

Janet looked at her in reluctance. You know I can't do that, Sam.

Can't, or won't? Sam asked then, no longer caring if she sounded polite or not.

Janet threw up her hands into the air. You're impossible! she stated.

Thank you, Sam sassed. The Colonel taught me everything I know.

She saw O'Neill grin. Thanks! he extorted, sounding pleased again. That's quite a compliment!

Janet grimaced. It's not exactly something I would be proud of, she retorted back.

Then it's a good thing I'm not you, O'Neill said.

Janet again returned her attention to Sam. Really, though, Sam, it's for your own good that I take you in.

Before Sam could object once more to Janet's medical zeal, O'Neill interrupted by suggesting, I have an idea; what do you have to say to me staying here with Carter? He glanced at Sam, then went on, I'll make sure she gets her liquids, her food... whatever...

Janet peered at Sam in indecision. I don't know, Colonel... she hesitantly said.

Just think of how often you'll have to clean up the floor and my bed if you drag me in, Sam said then. I've been losing my supper every half hour for six hours straight, she commented.

Whoa! O'Neill said. That's a vived image!

Sorry, Sam replied, not sounding contrite at all, though. The truth hurts.

Yeah, but does it have to hurt that much? the Colonel sarcastically asked.

Sam just groaned, and rested her head on the arm of her couch. Wow, was she ever tired! So tired, she said. You take me in, and it'll kill me, she predicted to Janet.

Janet unhappily sighed. Then, she at last gave in. All right. But I want you to come to the Infirmary the first thing after setting foot on base again, she ordered.

Does that mean I get to stay home for now? The hopeful note in Sam's voice was unmistakable. The idea of putting on a coat, and walking outside to Janet's car was really more then she could withstand at the moment.

Janet's gusty sigh sounded again. As long as the Colonel stays...

Sure, O'Neill interrupted.

I'd say that I love you for staying, but I think I have to throw up again. Sam would have been embarrassed by her admission if she wasn't launching herself in the direction of the bathroom once more.

And on that happy note, I think I'll be going, now, Janet said.

Vivid sounds assailed them from the bathroom, but Sam couldn't stop to yell to her friend that she would see her later. Janet swung up, turned to O'Neill, ordered, Call me before the end of the day, tell me how she's doing. And get some water in her if you can! And some soup! And some...

Yes, yes, yes, I promise, O'Neill said. I get the picture, Florence Nightingale. Now, just go, while the getting's good. I'll call Hammond, and tell him where I am.

I doubt you'll be going anywhere, Janet predicted, then. For a stomach virus like this, you unfortunately have to let it run it's course. There's nothing I can really do for her anyway. Janet headed for the door.

O'Neill grabbed her coat off the hooks by the door, and helped her put it on. What was all that 'gotta take her in' stuff then?

Suddenly, Janet gave a wicked smile. Just giving Sam a hard time, she said.

O'Neill whistled low in appreciation. That's the last time I'll ever underestimate you again.

Do so at your own peril, the doctor said with a grin.

I'll keep that in mind the next time you threaten to use the extra long needles on me, O'Neill told her as he held open the door for her. I'll take you and them more seriously.

She hefted her medical bag in one hand, and Sam's file in the other. Who says I'm just gonna threaten? Janet asked.

Get outta here! the Colonel brusquely ordered in a humorous growl. Before I throw you out!

Janet grinned again. See you tomorrow. Then she was gone.

O'Neill sighed, thanking his lucky stars that he had managed to distract the overly zealous doctor until she had actually gone through the door. Peace, he appreciatively said before turning back towards the bathroom.

Sam knelt in the dark in front of the sink after brushing her teeth. She was just to tired to stand any longer. Her eyes were closed, and her head was resting on her arms. The Colonel ran cold water on a cloth again, then pressed it to the back of her neck.

Sam reached up to catch the cloth, but she caught his fingers as well as wet material. They would have had an interesting moment if she'd been more coherent about what was going on. As it was, she simply took the washcloth, and rubbed it across her entire face. Oh, God, thank you! she enthused. That's just what I needed! How did you know, Janet?

She was playing dumb... of that, O'Neill was fairly certain. But she was sick, so he went along with her ruse. It's not Janet, he said. It's me. Janet's gone, so it's safe for the natives to come out once again.

Sam gave a small grin. Thanks, anyway. It's just what'll make me feel better, she said on a whisper of air.

O'Neill helped her to stand. You know, you kneeling like that reminds me of all that 'kneel before your God,' crap we get every now and then. Let's get you standing before I start seeing snakes in every corner of the room.

Can't have that, Sam quipped. But, her hand went to her forehead as they stopped in the doorway.

Dizzy? asked the Colonel.

Sam held her breath, and nodded. How about if we stay here until the room stops tilting all over the place?

The Colonel put one supportive hand on her arm encased in the baggy sweatshirt she was wearing. He tried hard not to think about who that arm belonged to. Works for me, he nonchalantly said. I've got nothing better to do than stand around here all day... But even he knew that jokes would not be enough to distract him this time from whom he had his hands around. He let his voice trail off as they stood quietly for several minutes. I'll never tell Janet, promise. The truth was, he would never tell anybody how his heart fluttered at even this light touch! It was almost embarrassing how she could affect him, he thought to himself.

Sam smiled, then, even if her eyes were closed. Thanks! she said.

You know, Doc admitted that she can't do anything for your symptoms, O'Neill told Sam, then, voicing the first thing that came into his head. She was just riling you up with all that stuff about forcing you to go into the Infirmary.

I'll get her... after I get Siler, Sam vowed.

Good to see you haven't lost your sense of humor, Major, O'Neill noted.

I was being serious, Sam protested.

O'Neill laughed. That's the spirit. Get the doctor, I always say. They stood for another minute, then O'Neill inquired, Ready to try this again?

Sam opened her eyes. The steady bathroom met her gaze this time. Yeah, I'm all right now. Let's go.

They made it back to the living room sofa in time for Sam to fall onto her back on its cushions. The Colonel left her lying down, resting her head on the arm of the couch, and disappeared into her kitchen for a minute. Sam vaguely heard the sound of her dryer buzzing in the background, and remembered that she had yet to do her laundry. But she had been rather preoccupied lately, she reminded herself.

The Colonel returned, carrying a hand towel, which he gently spread out over Sam's stomach.

The towel was warm against her skin. Oh..! Sam breathed in reverence. Is that ever what I need! she enthused.

Thought so, O'Neill said. Earlier, I saw you putting your hands on your stomach, and figured that heat helped to ease the cramps you're having. He then let a blanket billow around her form on the couch. Why don't you just lie back, and try to get some sleep?

But Sam resisted by putting her arm onto the back of the couch, and trying to lever herself up. Such movement was difficult in her weakened state. I can't... I still have laundry that I need to do, and...

Relax, said O'Neill. I hope you don't mind, but I noticed the clothes basket on the floor in front of your washing machine closet... I put in a load for you. Now, go to sleep... I'll take care of everything.

Sam sighed, then lay back on the couch. Maybe she would close her eyes for just a few minutes. She snuggled under the blanket spread on top of her. Mmmm. Feels good, she noted. And thanks for doing the laundry.

No problem, O'Neill whispered. You just go to sleep...

Sam was silent for a moment, and she heard the Colonel sit in one of the chairs in her living room. From the kitchen came the far away whir of the washer as her clothes spun clean. Finally, she said with closed eyes, My laptop's in my bedroom if you're bored... There are games on it.

Hey, thanks. Sam could hear the brighter note in his voice the second he spoke. That might come in handy later... How do I find them?

Go to 'My Computer,' click on the file marked 'Games,' then on what you want to play. I've got all sorts of things in there.

O'Neill laughed lightly. Sam Carter... Computer Game Connoisseur. Who knew?

Sam grinned from her place on the couch. Not exactly.., she said. They're for you, not for me.

For me? O'Neill sounded surprised.

I knew they'd come in handy some day... Sam's voice trailed off, and a minute later, her heavy, even breathing told him that she had fallen asleep.

O'Neill heaved a deep sigh of gratitude that she had fallen asleep at last, then he reached into his coat pocket to pull out his cell phone. He flipped it open, and dialed.

General? O'Neill softly inquired. Yeah, I'm at Carter's, and I'm not going anywhere... She's pretty damned sick... No mission today? Right. We'd end up carrying Carter through the 'Gate at this point. For all that, SG-1 might as well be put on downtime until we all get passed this virus thing that's going around the base. We don't want one of us to contract this on some alien planet while facing an army of Jaffa... No, that would not be good. Then, O'Neill listened as Hammond said something into the phone. Teal'c's there? Hey, can I talk to him for a minute? Thanks... O'Neill paused for a second, then said, Hey, Teal'c! Can you do something for me? Can you grab Daniel, and have him drive to the grocery store for Carter? Yeah, she's out of just about everything. You writing this down? Okay, she needs 'Tylenol,' 'laundry detergent,' dishwasher detergent,' 'soup,' 'bread,' 'butter,' and 'cinnamon.' Tell him to get whatever else he wants, too. Oh, and some candy bars... No, those are for me! Then can you run them over to her place this afternoon? I think she's about out of the Tylenol that's on her counter, and she needs some to take for her fever. Hey, I appreciate it. See you in a while. He flipped the cell phone closed, removed his coat, then sat for a minute to just stare at Sam as she peacefully slept on her couch.

She is so pretty, he thought. And the best part about her was that she had no idea of the effect she had on the men in the entire base, and him in particular. She just spent most days going about her business, oblivious to the effect she had on everyone stationed in the SGC.

It surprised the hell out of him when she turned over onto her back, and said, I'm not as oblivious as you think.

She was faking being asleep! O'Neill smiled at her artifice, then she really was sound asleep, no longer faking, leaving him to wonder at what he had been thinking about.

But O'Neill couldn't ask her for her opinion about the subject of what effect she had on the men of the base if he didn't want to wake her, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. So, he just sat for a few moments, watching her sleep, aware of every breath she took, and wanting more than anything to smooth down her hair that the blanket had mussed when she turned over. Finally, he rose, intending to search her room for her computer, but instead found himself pausing beside her couch. Oh, this was not good, but he couldn't help himself. His heart hammered in his throat as he very slowly reached out a hand, and brushed back a strand of her hair that had fallen on her forehead.

That strand must have been more annoying than he thought, because Sam grinned at the way he had moved it, then leaned into his touch on her head. She smiled again, just a little bit, and O'Neill froze where he was standing beside her couch. She sighed once, sounding content for the first time since he had arrived, and her hand clutched at his on her cheek.

O'Neill stood, unmoving, half bent over, for as long as he could handle the unmoving position. At last, the crick in his back forced him to either kneel down beside her, or leave completely. He chose to kneel on the floor so that he was at more of a level with her face. He knew his knees would protest his new situation if he remained in it for very long, but at least his back wasn't in intense pain any longer.

His breath practically frozen in his chest, the Colonel very slowly, very carefully brushed her cheek with the back of his index finger. He was more than glad that there was nobody else present to witness the softening of his features as he let his feelings show on his face. If she had been more fully awake, he would never have allowed the love he was feeling to leak through his eyes like this, or his affection to curve his mouth into a smile. But she wasn't completely awake, and no one would ever know the way he felt for his second in command.

Sam let loose one last sigh, and snuggled up to his hand just a bit more until his fingers were trapped under her cheek. She had turned onto her side again, and latched onto his hand like it was her one anchor to the only reality she had ever known.

O'Neill studied here face for a moment, then reached out his other hand again, and touched her briefly on the shoulder. He gingerly shook her, always conscious of what the swaying motion could do to her stomach. Carter! he whispered into her ear. She didn't wake, or even stir. A little more frantic, now, O'Neill whispered again, Carter!

Though he was actively trying to wake her now, he was still surprised when he heard her answering whisper, There's no one else here, no security cameras to record our every move, no one to bother with wondering what they think of what and how we say what we say... And I'm sooooo tired... Maybe that's why I just don't care anymore when it's only the two of us...

Carter.., O'Neill whispered again, his heart still pounding in his chest. But whether it was pounding fear or exhilaration through his veins, he wasn't sure. What are you saying, here? he asked. That you..?

We're not breaking any regulations by thinking what we think, she interrupted, her eyes still closed. Or, at least, no more regulations than we're already breaking, she added as an afterthought.

What are you saying, then? he repeated, his voice still so low as to be a whisper in her ear. His breath barely moved her hair, even as he leaned in close.

Sam smiled, in spite of another wave of cramps that assailed her. She tensed against the inevitable pain she was feeling, then relaxed as the knots ebbed away. I'm saying... She paused, and her forehead wrinkled. Actually, I don't quite know what I'm saying. She smiled into the side of the pillow she had laid at the end of the couch. All I know is that I feel really rotten right now, and you're making me feel a lot better. And you want to take that away because of what somebody else says that you're supposed to, or not supposed to, feel? Sam sighed again, then appeared distressed at the image of what she had just suggested. I really wish you wouldn't.

O'Neill wasn't entirely sure if she meant that she wished he wouldn't feel like he was doing something wrong just because of his feelings for her, or if she simply didn't want him to remove his hand so soon. He wasn't sure he cared any more, either, as the finger of his other hand once again gently stroked across her cheek.

Sam sighed once more at his touch, then slipped a hand outside the top of her blanket to curl around his fingers. She pulled his hand close to her cheek, sighed one last time, then fell into such a deep sleep that O'Neill had to wonder if she was even aware of his touch any longer.

He sat on the cold hardwood floor by the couch while she slept. He tried to ward off his softer feelings for her, but they swept over him now in waves of sensation that threatened to overwhelm him in thirty seconds flat. He smiled at her, squeezed her fingers with his, not expecting a reaction from such a sleepy person. Thus, he was surprised, and overjoyed, when she squeezed his fingers back. But she didn't say anything to him, only snuggled even deeper into the couch cushions, taking his hand that was cradling her cheek with her.

Braver now, O'Neill soothingly ran his hand again over her forehead, letting his fingers linger on the feel of her soft skin under his rougher touch, though she seemed not to mind his coarse hand. Sam grinned in her sleep, rubbed his hand, sighed, and continued to sleep.

The Colonel kept staring at her face, unable to pull himself away from her side, trapped by his own perceptions of her, which he buried so often, and by the fact that she had imprisoned his hand under her warm cheek. He couldn't help but revel in the feel of her, or in the sight of her face so close to his. He sighed once in contentment, a breath of air that he heaved into the now quiet room, and as he looked, he couldn't quite restrain himself from wondering what it would feel like to kiss that smooth skin of hers.

Get a grip! O'Neill told himself in a scornful, self-remonstrating tone. There's no way that you're ever going to find out what it's like to kiss her skin, so just get over it!

But even as he yelled at himself, the dryer suddenly buzzed, waking Carter from her first sound sleep in hours. Her eyes blinked heavily open, and she lazily regarded him with her own sigh of contentment. Did life get any better than waking up to see him first thing? It didn't occur to her that only a little while before she had been wondering if life could get any worse than it already was, but since she and he had been alone, things couldn't have been better.

You know, Carter, he whispered to her, It's going to be even harder to act normally around you after this.

I know, she answered. I'm still so sick that I can't care much about what's going to happen next. I only have just enough energy to worry about the here and now.

Here and now? he asked, echoing her. Here and now, I have to admit that I want to kiss your forehead, then rub it a little.

Sam smiled when she heard that. Really? she asked, her tone a hare brighter. Don't let me stop you... Go right ahead.

The Colonel looked at her, a bit taken aback by her suggestion. Had she really just given him permission to be more intimate than he had ever been with her? She had always acted like such an upstanding, restrained soldier before that he was quite astonished to hear her suggest that something else was appropriate now.

Still smiling, though, in spite of his thoughts that were contrary to her words, O'Neill bent over even further, and rested his cheek against the skin of her forehead for just a minute. He heard her issue another contented sigh, and when he pulled back, it was to find her smiling with her eyes closed in reverence of the illicit sensation.

More, she whispered, her voice barely audible. I sure don't mind.

You're sick, Carter, Jack protested. Anything would feel good about now.

The cold washcloth doesn't hold a candle to your cheek, Sam told him. And I know that I'm sick... I have the stomach cramps from Hell to prove it.

It's Netu, not Hell, Jack said, and grinned.

His comment made Sam grin in response. Netu, then, she corrected herself. All I know is that your touch feels damned good right now.

It does? Jack softly inquired.

Sam nodded as much as she could with the blanket catching her neck. You do, she insisted. I mean, it does.

Jack smiled. He couldn't help feeling delighted at what she was saying. Since you're sick.., Jack said, purposefully letting his voice trail off at the end of his statement. He grinned down at her again, even though her eyes were closed, and she had little chance of seeing him. He gently brushed her light colored bangs aside again from her forehead, noting that her hair was soft on his rough touch, just like he had always expected it would be...

Then, his cheek was once again rubbing at her forehead. He heard a rustle of blanket, and a moment later, her fingers were twining themselves into the graying hair at the base of his neck. The feel of her fingers felt ridiculously good, and made him courageous enough to slightly turn his head, and just barely brush his lips over her hot skin...

Sam had a fever, there was no doubt about that. The minute his lips came in contact with her skin, he was thinking words like 'fire,' and 'heat.' The warmth he was feeling radiating from her encouraged him to kiss her a tiny bit more firmly, as if kissing her would somehow cure her. He could feel her soft hair on her hairline under his lips, but mostly, he felt the totally delicious thrill course up his spine at her touch. He gingerly rubbed his hand against here cheek, and the fact that she had leaned into his touch encouraged him even more. He kissed down her reddened nose, then moved onto her cheek as she smiled at his touch.

That's the first good thing I've felt all day, Sam said on another sigh. She smiled, then turned her head towards his even more, as if the move was the most natural thing in the world.

That instant, Jack found himself staring into the blue depths of her eyes, the resolve firm in her gaze as she looked back at him.

Sam, you're sick, Jack pointed out to her. I can only worry that I'm taking advantage of you in this condition...

She interrupted him. Then, by all means, take advantage of me, she said.

Is that an order? he joked.

Will it help if it is?

I outrank you, he pointed out. You can hardly give me an order that I have to follow.

Then you better give it, she suggested.

An order like that goes against regulations, he said then. I can't give an order that goes against regulations, and expect it to be followed.

Sam grinned. I'm sick, she said. My judgment is impaired.

But mine's not, he sadly argued.

You're getting sick just being around me, Sam said then. Neither one of us can be held accountable for our actions.

That would never hold up during a court-martial, he said.

Sam sighed, and a hint of exasperation coated her features. Regulations... Court-martials... Very compelling arguments, for sure, but hardly encouraging thoughts at the moment.

Sam.., he started to say, regret coloring his voice.

She interrupted him again. So, you have a choice, she said. She had to pause as another wave of stomach cramps assailed her. She grunted against the pain, then forced herself to relax. His hand, which automatically moved to soothingly cover her blanket-enshrouded stomach, felt warm and inviting, even through the material covering her. Oh, that feels good, she told him. So good...

Sam.., he started to say again, this time his voice coated even heavier in remorse.

There is no time here, you know, she cut him off. There's no Air Force, no regs, no Commanding Officers, no subordinate officers, no nothing.

But how can we go back to the way it was before after this? Jack asked her. I know that I can't. Can you?

Who says that I want to? Sam asked him.

That question shocked the hell out of him. You don't want to? he asked. But it was you who thought 'leaving it in the room' was the right thing to do, he protested.

Sam wriggled on the couch, as if his comment made her uncomfortable, both physically as well as mentally. I did, she agreed. But, now that I've had years to consider my options, she told him, I tend to think that I was a big idiot at the time. I'm really rather surprised that you didn't at least try to talk me out of keeping everything in that Za'tarc room.

Jack was astonished again. But that's what you wanted, he blurted in a whisper. His breath washed over her lying on the couch.

Sam sighed. At first, yes, she agreed with him. Now, I'm not so sure at all, she divulged. Keeping it conveniently 'in the room' allowed me to once again run away from things, she told him. I'm good at running away from things. I think I've run away from every relationship I've ever had, she confessed.

Jack started to protest, You have not...

Have too, Sam said. There's Tom Willis, then Chad Stump... You don't know about them. They're from high school and college, she told him. Then, she groaned. Oh, God, then came that whole Jonas thing...

You can hardly be blamed for that, Jack said.

I sent his ring back through the mail with a note, and left for the Pentagon before he got it! Sam said then. That's running away in my book, she said then. Narim came from another planet entirely... Another good excuse to stay far away from him...

I didn't know that you wanted to have anything to do with Narim, he said.

I didn't, she told him. But the fact that he came from a billion miles away helped convince me that I could convince him that even being in contact with each other was a rotten idea from the beginning. She shifted again, kissed his palm in an artless gesture of affection that was over practically before it began, then went on as if nothing untoward had just happened. Then, there was Martouf... He conveniently belonged to Jolinar...

Martouf? Jack repeated in slight incredulity. But you had to kill him in the end...

Yeah, Sam said, then lifted her eyebrows under his fingers that had rubbed her skin back and forth since she had begun talking. Convenient, wasn't it? she asked. I thought so.

But you were so upset about him... Jack wondered if he had misinterpreted her behavior at the time she had been forced by circumstances to kill the Tok'ra.

Oh, I was upset, she insisted. Or, Jolinar was. It was really hard at the time to separate my feelings from hers. Actually... And don't tell anybody this, she said as an aside. It'll make me look so coldhearted...

Not a word will ever pass my lips, he promised.

She smiled, affection clear in her gesture. I know, she said. If there's anybody I can trust, you're the one.

Jack was pleased to hear that she could allow herself to trust him so much. Thanks, he sincerely said. It's good to hear that, I admit.

Sam's smile continued to warm. I've always trusted you, she simply stated.

You don't trust Daniel and Teal'c? he asked, a bit concerned now. They could hardly be a team if she wasn't able to trust them. But still, it felt good thinking that she trusted him just a touch more than the others.

Actually, I trust them with my life, she said then as if she could tell what he was thinking just by reading the expression on his face.

He breathed a sigh in relief, both that she trusted Daniel and Teal'c, and that she trusted him just a bit more than she trusted them.

No worries, Colonel, she said, and squeezed his fingers.

It was strange how she kept guessing his thoughts by correctly interpreting his what passed over his features.

I'm not reading your mind, Sam protested. It just made sense that you would be a little worried about me trusting them, or trusting you, especially after what I just said, she negated then. But, I do trust you just a little bit more than anyone else, she went on. It's not exactly a secret that I feel this way, she argued. I've felt the same way for years. It must be obvious to both Daniel and Teal'c by now, and they would talk about us on missions, I assume.

Do you think they do? Jack asked then. Talk about us, I mean.

Sam snorted. What's to talk about? she rhetorically inquired. We've never done anything that...

And we should probably keep it that way, Jack said, interrupting her this time.

She turned her gaze on his face. Is that what you want? she asked.

What I want? Jack echoed. What did he want? he asked himself then. To be honest, I try not to let myself think about what I've always wanted...

Well, I'm asking you to, Sam said. What is it that you want to have happen?

Jack decisively and immediately answered, I want it to be a perfect world, where it's okay to... He paused once more, finding the actual voicing of his most buried, hidden desires to be difficult.

Sam sighed. Why did you stop? she asked. I'll never know if you don't tell me.

All right, Jack said. I want you, and all the baggage that comes with having you.

Sam smiled at him, then, and despite her being sick, the smile shone out of her eyes. I have to say, that makes me feel damned good, she admitted. I want to have... something... with you, too, she shyly said then. Only, it's really hard...

Yeah, the regulations.., he voiced.

But Sam shook her head. No, that's not what I was thinking.

It's not? Jack was surprised again. Then, what is it?

Sam blushed. I don't exactly have a good record when it comes to all this relationship stuff, she admitted to him. I might hurt you sometime down the road...

You would never do that! Jack protested.

I might not mean to, Sam told him. But there's always that possibility, and I don't want to hurt you for anything...

That's admirable, Jack noted as he kept slowly rubbing his hand across the hot skin of her forehead. But that's a chance you'll always have to take. Then he corrected himself, That we'll both have to take.

The regs are just one more convenient excuse, I suppose, Sam said then. If I'm as honest as you are... She had to stop as more stomach cramps assailed her. She unconsciously tightened her grip on Jack's fingers, and his hand stilled on her forehead until she loosened her grasp, knowing subconsciously what she was experiencing.

You should sleep, he suggested.

I should, she agreed. But this conversation is far more interesting. I can sleep at any time. But I get you so rarely... She smiled. It probably comes as no surprise to you that I love you, she stated in a nonchalant manner. If I had a penny for every time I've dreamt about you in the past, I'd be rich by now.

Jack stared at her, indecision running rampant across his features. Sam! he exclaimed in an agony of indecisiveness. God, I want to say the exact same thing so often! You have no idea!

What stops you? she asked.

The fact that we're in the Commissary, or the Infirmary, surrounded by other people who can scream 'court-martial' at the time is what's usually the problem.

What if we keep things away from work? Sam inquired then.

Jack considered that option. Honestly, I've often wondered about that.

It would be hard, she said then. But we don't know if we can do it unless we try. What we have right now is basically the same thing, just without any of the fun...

Jack had to laugh when she said that. True, he agreed.

Sam shifted again until she was lying completely on her side, facing him. Damn, you're hot, she said.

I'm not the sick one, yet.., Jack started to respond.

Sam smiled. Not 'hot' as in fever hot, but 'hot' as in damned handsome... cute... really good looking...

Jack grinned, delighted that she would think so. You know that people think that about you, too, he said, leading her to his thoughts. And that I think...

Actually, Sam said, shaking her head. No, I don't. Nobody ever tells me... Then sent him a forgiving smile. Not even you...

Jack didn't need any more encouragement. He leaned forward and whispered, You're one really cute scientist...

Sam couldn't help but giggle, and the movement caused the muscles in her stomach to hurt. Oh, that's not good! she said, though she grinned the entire time. Laughing makes my stomach hurt! she explained.

Jack grinned at her anyway, but stopped his gentle laughter. Hot... Cute... Sexy... Did I mention sexy?

Sam nodded, also smiling at him. How can anyone be sexy in BDUs? she sardonically asked.

Jack shrugged. I have no idea, but you pull it off quite well. Ask anybody...

I don't care about anybody, she said then. I only care about what you think.

If I had a penny for every time I've thought about you in the past, Jack said, echoing what she had said earlier. ... in BDUs or not... I would be rich by now, he finished.

Her fingers moved in lazy circles through his hair. She whispered, You better kiss me now, or I'll have to purposefully misread my compass on our next mission...

That sounds like something I would do, Jack appreciatively said, and grinned. He obligingly leaned forward, caressed her cheek while she caressed the back of his neck. Then, in one simple, smooth motion, she pulled him the rest of the way to her, until their mouths touched in the most soothing motion that either had delivered that afternoon.

That was the moment that someone knocked on the door.

The sound cracking through the silent house made Jack jump, as if he were being caught doing something wrong. But it was with a grin that he turned his head back to face Sam. Keep that thought.., he ordered, and climbed to his feet.

Nothing could make me lose it, Sam promised with a smile of her own.

Jack jogged to the door, schooled his expression, hoped that his face wasn't too flushed with his feelings for Carter to be natural, then pulled the door open to see Daniel and Teal'c on Carter's front doorstep, each loaded down with grocery bags.

Hey! Daniel said in greeting. We brought everything, I think.

I should say you did! Jack replied, eyeing the plethora of bags. He was less irritated at their interruption than he would have thought that he would be. Come on in! he invited, and moved aside to make room for them in the entryway.

Daniel stepped into the house. Where's the sickie? he asked in a loud voice meant to penetrate the entire house.

I'm right here, Sam said from the couch. And I was trying to sleep, but you've kind of ruined that idea for me.

Sorry about that, Daniel said, not exactly sounding contrite. He hefted the bags in his arms. Where do you want this stuff?

Kitchen, Sam ordered. Just set it on the counter. I'll get it later...

Like hell you will, Jack affably said. We'll put it all away for you... Just supervise from the couch.

Well, this is different, Sam remarked. Three men in the kitchen while the woman sits in the living room, and tells them what to do. Sam turned on the couch so that she faced the kitchen. Okay... Soup in the cupboard by the stove... Bread on the counter... Cinnamon in with the other spices... Tylenol PM in the bathroom...

And we got soap, Daniel called.

Bathroom cupboard, Sam called back. Is that for me, or for the Colonel? she asked Teal'c as he set three candy bars on the countertop.

O'Neill, Teal'c told her. He faced his leader. He is brave, as he will probably be getting this disease next.

Sam grimaced at the thought of throwing up chocolate. It's his stomach, she direly predicted.

Thank you, Jack said as he pulled more stuff from the bags sitting on her counter. At least we agree on that. And he grabbed a candy bar, ripped open the outer covering, and took a big bite. Damn, that's good! he said after he had swallowed.

Don't gloat, Sam sourly called back. That smells better than you know, damn you.

Jack didn't react to her humor more than to take another big bite. Mmmm, that's good, he said with a satisfied smile.

Oh, shut up, Sam said, Ugh! she grunted again, as more cramps hit her. She burrowed her forehead into the arm of the sofa, and grimaced as she held on until the cramping came to an end.

Jack instantly inquired, You need your towel heated up again?

Sam nodded. It's not very hot anymore, she said, and handed the towel to him. He then threw it in the dryer. You have chocolate in the corner of your mouth, she said then.

Jack smirked. I did that on purpose. But he cleaned his mouth off with one of her napkins.

That's got it, Sam told him.

Daniel smacked Jack on his arm when he had returned from the bathroom. Serves you right, he said. For eating in front of the afflicted one.

But, boy, was that good! Jack enthused.

Sam only rolled her eyes. I'll get him back when he has this.., she threatened.

Bring your own chocolate, was all Jack said.

Sam laughed, then frowned, and held her aching stomach.

Jack cautioned then, No jokes, guys. Don't make her laugh...

Jokes seem to be your pervue, O'Neill, Teal'c noted.

I'll try not to be so amusing, then, Jack said. Can I help it if I'm funnier than hell? he asked.

A matter of opinion, Daniel said.

Sam laughed again.

Jack couldn't keep back his grin, but then, they were all grinning at Sam.

Hey, catch, Daniel said as he threw a box of cold medicine her way. We put everything away, but we're not very good at putting everything in the right place, so you might find the TV remote in the refrigerator, or something just as wrong. He and Teal'c headed for the outside door. We'll see you later, Sam, Jack...

See you when we see you, Jack called as they left then. He turned to Sam. What did they bring you? he asked.

Tylenol PM in a box, Sam responded. To help me sleep... if I can ever get the box open...

Here, let me try, Jack suggested, his hand outstretched to take the box of medicine from her.

Your fingers are too big, Sam said. You won't get it open either.

Jack cocked his head to the side, and in a very deadpan tone, said, Then we'll hit it with a sledgehammer.

Sam giggled.

Damn, I'm not supposed to make you laugh.., Jack said, remembering too little too late.

Sam tossed him the box of medicine. In one swift move, he pulled it open. She gaped at him, an expression that was ruined when she scrunched up her face as more cramps hit her.

Jack pulled out the bottle of pills inside the box, tore off the plastic safety cover, and shook out three pills.

I think I'm only supposed to take two, Sam objected.

This is an emergency, Jack said. And it's only Tylenol.

I thought it was Tylenol PM, Sam corrected.

Daniel put that in the bathroom, Jack explained.

Damn, Sam said with furrowed eyebrows. Now I'm hallucinating.

Jack got a glass of water, pulled the towel out of the dryer, then crossed to her. Now, be a good patient, and take all your medicine.

Sam smiled. I'm not going to laugh, I'm not going to laugh, she chanted. She took all three pills at once, and washed it all down with a slug of water.

Careful, Jack said then. You don't want to throw up water.

Janet will be so proud of you for getting me to take some water, Sam said then of her recent drink.

That's right, drink plenty of liquids, Jack said. The doctor will like you soooooo much better than if you don't. Plus, he added, It's my job to make sure you're getting your liquids. Now, lie down on the couch again, he ordered.

Sam eyed him. I thought you would never ask, she flippantly said.

Jack glared at her in good nature as she lay down again, then he spread the towel out over her stomach. You must be feeling better; you're making jokes...

I'd feel even better if we picked up where we left off, Sam suggestively said.

Jack grinned. Patience, he advised. Give me a minute.

I'll give you longer than that if you ask, she suggestively breathed.

Jack groaned. I've created a monster.

Sam grinned. Can I be your monster?

Jack couldn't withstand her smile any longer. His heart doing dances inside his chest, he grinned. Any time, he said, and pulled her close on the couch. With no segue into the action, he slid her up next to him, smiled in supreme contentment, smiled even more, and kissed her as deeply as he had ever dreamed of.

Sam tasted... Damned good, he decided! Damned good! Good enough to make his heart spin, and tumble through his chest. Good enough to make his toes curl. Good enough to make him want to taste the rest of her, too.

Sam answered his gesture, and the kiss was just leading to hands caressing enticingly under shirts when the phone rang.

Jack pulled back, still grinning. That's Doc Fraiser, or I'll eat my shorts.

Sam grimaced. Eat your shorts all you want, but please don't talk about eating.

Jack laughed, then climbed off the couch with grrrreeeaaattt reluctance. Be right back. He kissed her one last time, and crossed the few steps to the ringing phone sitting on a table at the end of the couch.

Bring it back here, and sit with me, Sam commanded.

Jack grinned back at her. Wild horses couldn't keep me away.

I thought the proper phrase was 'domesticated equines?' Sam asked.

Only on missions, Jack whispered to her, then sat down beside her again, phone in hand. He picked up the receiver from the phone cradled in his lap. Carter residence... Hey, Doc, how ya doin'? he said in one long breath before he even finished chanting his greeting. He paused as Fraiser (he'd just known it had to be the Doc calling) said something into the phone on her end. Jack smiled. Janet said something else. Jack placed a hand on Sam's forehead as a consequence, and Sam pulled it down to place a kiss on his palm. Jack shivered at the contact, and had to clear his throat to continue his conversation. Sam smiled at his reaction to her. Carter still has a slight fever. He paused. No, it's been about two hours since the last time in the bathroom... Sam blushed; she hated having her medical history discussed so freely. Dinner... Toast, soup... Will do, Doc, Jack said. And water, lots of water. You can count on me... Suddenly, Jack scowled. No, I am not paying more attention to the game on TV than to my job here. He listened to Janet again. Then, he smiled again. You can ask her yourself.

Jack handed the phone receiver to Sam. She took it, held it far from her ear and mouth, yelled, I'm fine for a contagious person who's talking on the phone! Now, go away!

Jack grinned again as he took the offered handset back. See, she's fine. Will be as right as rain as soon as she eats some food, and gets some sleep. He paused. Okay, gotcha. See ya tomorrow. He hung up the receiver, and set the phone at the end of the couch on the floor. Doc says 'Hi.'

Sam gave him no window of opportunity to rise from the sofa, and head for the kitchen to make something to eat for him and her. She kissed him fast, hard, and very deliciously. Jack was taken enough be surprise that his emotions wove through him, making him melt at just her touch. He was goo in seconds. He could feel her fingers in his hair, on his neck, on his shirt... His heart was a racing sledgehammer in his chest...

A minute after she had drawn back to stare into his eyes, she nonchalantly said, Now you can try to get me to eat something. I'll see if I can keep it down.

Jack grinned, his smile so soft that it rivaled velvet, and so affectionate that it made her want to kiss him again. She did.

Jack sighed, utterly content. He could really get used to this! He sighed once more, then rested his forehead against hers. Thank God for stomach cramps.

That's only because you don't have them, she replied.

Sam released him, and Jack forced himself to head out to the kitchen, where he cycled the laundry again, then prepared some cinnamon toast for her, and put it on a plate, which he then carried back to her. Try it. Doc thinks it's time.

Sam reached for the food, but looked him in his eye and said, Time for other things, too.

Jack followed the plate she held in her hand. What's gotten into you lately? he asked. Where's my 2IC?

She's finally wised up, Sam answered. Mind? she inquired.

Keep kissing me like that, Jack answered with a grin. and I won't mind anything ever again.

Sam smirked. I'll remind you of that the next time the General assigns us to write reports. She took a cautious a bite of the toast, chewed, and swallowed. They waited a few moments, but nothing happened. Her stomach didn't even rumble. It's lookin' good. She took another bite.

Here, let me take half. Jack tore the toast into two parts, then proceeded to devour it.

Practicing for when you get this disease a la Siler, or do you just like toast?

I'm hungry, Jack explained around the food in his mouth. I can't watch you eat, and not eat myself.

Suddenly, Sam's face wrinkled in thought. Did you put chocolate in this? she asked suspiciously.

Jack grinned. Then, in a completely deadpan voice, answered, I tried, but the toaster kept melting my candy bars.

Sam smiled. Don't make me laugh, she warned.

Jack placed his hand on her stomach muscles. I wouldn't dream of it.

Yes, you would, Sam stated instead.

Jack shrugged. Okay, I would, but you have such a beautiful smile, and sound so cool when you laugh.

She flirted, A remark like that needs a reward.

Was Sam Carter flirting with him? Jack asked himself. He didn't have time to ruminate too deeply on the subject, as she kissed him wholeheartedly.

But she paused about two seconds into the gesture. Just when the kiss was moving into deeper territory, and getting interesting, her eyes widened in shock. She unceremoniously pushed him back onto the coffee table, and ran for the bathroom.

Jack would have been slightly hurt at her abrupt behavior, but the sounds of a person with a stomach strongly rebelling against the food she'd just put in it reached his ears, and he sighed before following in her footsteps. Too soon, he said to himself as he wandered down the hall.

Another cool washcloth on her neck soothed her just enough for Carter to smile wanly into her arms crossed on top of the toilet. Jack didn't think he'd ever seen his second in command in such an unprofessional position before. He pulled her up after a minute or two had passed. Come on, he said in a quiet voice that wasn't meant to frighten her by loudly announcing his presence. Bed.

Come with me, and keep my stomach warm, she said as they stumbled to her bedroom further down the hall.

Now Jack knew that Carter was more than sick, as she was requesting far more dangerous activities to him than just making out on her couch. Is that wise? he asked.

I just know that I'm tired, and cold, and you're so warm.., she stated.

Yeah, but can I behave? Jack asked.

Would you do anything with the sick lump of dough that I've become? Sam inquired. I trust you.

But I'm not sure if I should trust myself, Jack pointed out in a harsh voice.

Sam grinned. I have enough trust for both of us. And I promise to take full advantage of you when you get this...

Jack smiled. Well, in that case... He pulled the covers on her bed up to her chin, tucked it lovingly around her side, then removed his combat boots, and, fully dressed, joined her under the covers.

My God, you're my own personal space heater, Sam announced.

Jack smiled. Then let me warm you up...

Sam threw her arm across him as he spooned up beside her. Please do, she said.

In the next moment, they were both asleep as the darkness at the end of the day crept over the room.

* * *

Jack woke surprisingly clearheaded the next morning. He stared at Sam's head tucked under his arm as the sun slowly crested the horizon and snuck through the cracks in the shade pulled on her bedroom window.

He smiled as she nuzzled her nose into his chest. Even with his t-shirt on and acting as a barrier between them, he could feel her contentment all the way to his toes. It made him feel just as gratified. Actually, it made him desperately want to kiss her. So, with no word or warning of any kind, he leaned in closer to her and kissed her forehead first, then her nose, and when he was certain that she was awake, her hot and ready lips in a sense of abandoned glory of long suppressed emotions let loose. He kissed her so deeply that it was barely even noticeable that she had worked her hands under his black t-shirt in seconds.

Things were progressing quickly to the stage where he wanted more than anything for the both of them to remove the encumbrance of clothing, so that he could feel her hot skin on his, when a strangely familiar tightening sensation began to accost his face, one that had nothing to do with Sam, or kissing her to oblivion. In the next instant, he was jumping away from her, out of her bed, and running for her bathroom so fast that his movement was akin to Jaffa being hot on his ass.

As the sound of retching reached her from her bathroom, Sam sighed once to show her resignation, her regret, and then her resigned acceptance of the new state of affairs. It was rapidly looking like she was going to take another sick day, but this time it was to tale care of her Colonel rather than letting him take care of his Major.

Sam then gave a wicked smile; she ought to get a promotion for this!

The End

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