RATING: Suitable for all
SPOILERS: Divide and Conquer
CLASSIFICATIONS: S/J Angst, romance.
SUMMARY: After a mission goes wrong, Jack remains by Sam's bedside.
ARCHIVE: SJD yes, Heliopolis, anyone else please ask.
DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 is a registered trademark of MGM, Gekko and Double Secret Productions. No copyright infringement intended.
"Well, would you look at that." The comment slipped from Jack O'Neill's lips with his usual sarcasm as he waved his hand to the view before them. "Trees! We never see trees."
Moving down the ramp and into the middle of a wide grassy clearing, Daniel and Teal'c ignored the remark, used to this somewhat flippant side of the Colonel. Only his second-in-command, Major Sam Carter, showed any sign of amusement, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.
As the stargate closed behind them, O'Neill and Carter swiftly moved down stone steps to join the others, taking in their surroundings with a professional eye. The stargate stood in the centre of a gentle rise, affording them a spectacular view of the surrounding area. But all that could be seen were tall, lush green trees, creating a forest that stretched as far as the eye could see. However, it didn't seem to be as densely packed as some of the many others they had seen. The clearing itself was fairly large, the grass soft under their feet. The stargate was the only object in the entire area.
"It looks as though this area was specifically cleared so the stargate could be built," Daniel observed, speaking as much to himself as his team-mates, wandering around, looking for even the smallest sign that a civilisation could have or did exist here.
"So, any suggestions on which way to go?" Jack asked. SG-1 looked in all directions, but every way appeared much the same as any other. At the blank looks his team sent him, Jack shrugged, adjusted the hold on his gun, and set off directly ahead and into the forest.
Sam moved to walk beside him, leaving Daniel and Teal'c to bring up the rear. They spoke quietly among themselves, Daniel explaining to Teal'c what he hoped to find on the planet while Sam listened to Jack's comments, finding it harder and harder to fight the urge to do nothing more than grin. But even then, they continued to concentrate on what lay around them, silently glad that for once they didn't have to fight their way through the trees.
Even though the branches drooped heavily under the weight of the mass of leaves, they didn't begin growth until at least half way up the trunk. And plenty of daylight reached the forest floor, the trees dispersed widely enough to allow SG-1 to travel by natural light. Even the terrain didn't seem as littered with heavy obstacles as it usually was. All in all, much simpler than what they were used to.
They carefully made their way forward, and found they had soon covered a fair distance in a very short time. But the further they travelled, the quieter the forest became, and soon the calm that permeated the area settled over them as well. No wind stirred the branches of the trees rustling the large leaves, no cry of an animal in the distance. Nothing.
"It's uh... very quiet," Jack finally commented. All his training and instincts told him that it was unnaturally so, that the stillness that surrounded them was not to be ignored.
"Yeah, I thought that as well," Sam replied, looking around, a little more alert now than before.
"It is a little unusual," Daniel began, "but there really could be a simple explana..." He stopped abruptly in the middle of his sentence when Jack raised his hand in a request for silence.
Everyone stood rooted to the spot, barely daring to breath, straining their ears for the slightest hint of sound. Eventually Sam broke the silence. "I can hear something."
The others turned and looked at her as Teal'c nodded in agreement.
"Major Carter is correct. Something is approaching."
By this time everyone could hear it, whatever it was. It began as a faint hum, far in the distance, gradually building to a small roar; like the constant rumble of thunder. But within minutes it had risen a few more decibels, much too close for comfort.
"O'Neill!" Teal'c half shouted. The others quickly turned towards Teal'c, immediately following his gaze till they saw what he was looking at. Their eyes opened wide at the sight before them.
"My God," Sam whispered.
Just visible through the trees and distance, a very large group of animals were running together in complete synchronisation. Each animal ranged in colour from light browns to black and was nearly twice the size of an average Earth horse. But their size was in no way indicative of their speed. Instead of rambling along as one might expect, they possessed the speed of an animal a fifth its size and body weight.
The team unconsciously moved forward as one, grouping together in a subconscious act of protection. Dazed, they watched the surreal scene before them until Jack's pained call to Daniel roused them.
"Ow, Daniel, get off my foot."
The interruption momentarily diverted their attention from the scene before them.
"It's like a herd of... of..." Daniel finally shrugged, at a loss for words.
"A herd? Why a herd, why not... oh a flock?" The others looked at Jack, who simply raised his eyebrows in question.
Sam, Jack and Teal'c looked back to Daniel hearing the sudden concern lacing his voice. He was tentatively backing away from them, his eyes locked on some point beyond their shoulders.
Spinning round, they soon saw what had spooked Daniel.
As easily and gracefully as a flock of birds in the sky, the stampeding animals had changed direction, and were now headed directly for SG-1.
Acting immediately, Jack yelled, "Let's get outta here. Now!" No more prompting needed, SG-1 swiftly turned on their heals and began a desperate run towards the stargate. The fallen twigs and branches they had so easily sidestepped on their way into the forest soon became an unavoidable obstacle. They tripped and stumbled, fighting to keep their balance in their retreat, while struggling to keep as much distance between themselves and what was rushing at them from behind.
All of a sudden, it felt as if they had travelled a lot further than they had thought, but when the clearing finally came into view, SG-1 found one last spurt of energy. They had to increase the gap between themselves and the herd of... whatever so they would have time to dial up and wait for the wormhole to stabilise. But a sudden cry from behind stopped them dead, and they turned with great unease to see what was wrong.
They saw Sam, or at least a part of her; only the top half of her body was now visible; her thighs down completely submerged by a thick, dark mud. She was frantically calling for them, her voice only just audible over the deafening noise.
"Quick sand," Daniel stuttered, voicing everyone's thoughts.
"Sir?" Sam called, the panic clearly evident. She was sinking fast.
Running back towards her, Jack called over his shoulder. "Daniel, Teal'c, go and dial up."
Reaching Sam, he dropped his gun to the ground before throwing himself to the floor along with it, dangerously close to the edge of the quick sand. As his hands reached out and lapsed onto Sam's, he yelled again. "Dial up now. That's an order."
Daniel and Teal'c only hesitated for a moment before running back towards the stargate. They trusted Jack to get her out, and if he succeeded and the stargate wasn't ready when they reached it, it was doubtful any of them would leave the planet alive.
Ignoring the thunderous noise that was closer than ever, Jack fastened his fingers tighter around Sam's wrists. He saw her wince as his grip intensified, but he couldn't afford to slacken his hold in the slightest. But she was still sinking, even though she had remained completely still, her training and common sense reminding her that struggling against its pull would only make her sink faster.
Fear and anxiety written across his face, his heart pounding in his chest, Jack shouted, "Damn it, Carter. Stop sinking, that's an order." He thought for a moment about telling her to lose the pack, the weight from that alone would be pulling her in faster, but he knew letting go of her wrists now would be a mistake.
As he tried to find some leverage with his feet, he quickly looked over his shoulder at the ever-nearing danger before turning back to Sam.
"Come on, Sam, stay with me." The look on her face sent a wave of fierce emotion racing through his body, and with a look of sheer determination and a strength he didn't know he possessed, he dug his knees into the ground and pulled.
He could feel the skin being scraped from his leg with each pull, but the pain barely registered. All he allowed himself to focus on was Sam and getting her out of there. They would worry about the rest later.
At last he felt himself begin to make some headway. He could feel the quick sand loosening its hold on her, and could see as more and more of her mud caked clothes came into view.
"I'm nearly there, sir," she panted, releasing her grasp of his wrists and wrapping her arms around his neck as he wrapped his around her waist.
"That's it, that's it, come on." Finally, with one last heave, he pulled Sam free, grabbing onto any part of her body he could reach to bring her the rest of the way.
Collapsing in a heap on the ground, they only had enough strength left to lift their head and watch in horror at the animals that were almost upon them. Without thought, Jack rolled Sam under him, covering her with his body, desperately trying to protect her from what was now only seconds away.
But as each second passed and nothing happened, Jack tentatively raised his head for what he felt sure would be the last time. But he had to take a double look before he allowed himself to believe what he saw. The herd had once again changed direction, and were now headed away from their prone bodies.
Not wanting to chance their movement drawing attention to them again, Jack stayed where he was, keeping Sam pinned securely beneath him. He watched in awe at the spectacle occurring such a short distance before him, unable to believe their lucky escape.
Finally, the last gone, he looked down at Sam to make sure she was okay.
"Can you make it back to the stargate?" he asked worriedly.
"Yes," she nodded, looking a little stunned but otherwise uninjured.
Rolling off her, he jumped to his feet and held out his hands to help Sam up. She reached up, and soon she was standing beside him, quickly checking her pack and gun were all still there.
Jack lifted his own gun from where he had thrown it to the ground earlier and with one final glance, they started back for the stargate at a jog.
Just as they left the cover of the trees and entered the clearing, the last chevron locked. Standing by the DHD, they waited for the wormhole to stabilise, as Daniel and Teal'c acknowledged their safe return.
"What happened back there? I thought that herd was headed straight for..."
"I'll explain later," Jack interrupted. His attention was still directed towards Sam, she was much too quiet for his liking. Her almost non-existent acknowledgment of Daniel and Teal'c's concern was not like her, and she had suddenly grown unusually pale.
But with the stargate finally ready he said, "Let's go," and SG-1 stepped through the gate and back to the safety of Earth.
As SG-1 emerged from the stargate on the other side, General Hammond stood waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp.
"What happened, Colonel? We didn't expect you back for another four hours." The shocked looks of SG-1 didn't go unnoticed by him though, and he knew something had gone terribly wrong.
Moving down the ramp, Jack removed his cap from his head, running a hand through sweat-soaked hair. As he reached the bottom, he opened his mouth to begin to explain, but was almost immediately distracted by the sight of Sam's body dropping to the floor of the gateroom.
As the others rushed to her side, Jack was already on his knees, leaning over her motionless body. He had known something was not right.
"We need a medical team in here now," he yelled, his fear growing with each passing second.
Within minutes, the medical team ran into the room, headed by Janet Frasier. Instantly, she began calling out one question after the other, Jack trying to explain as succinctly as possible what had transpired on the planet.
As Sam's lifeless body was lifted onto a gurney, then stretchered out the room, Jack vaguely heard the General say something about cancelling the debriefing until there was news about Sam.
Silently, he followed them out.
Several hours later, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c stood in the sickbay, only a few metres away from the bed on which Sam lay. Janet had just finished treating her, and was beginning to explain to them what she had found.
"There were incredibly high amounts of toxic chemicals in Sam's body, some of them extremely poisonous. From what you told me, Colonel," she said facing Jack, "they must have entered her system when she fell into the quick sand."
"She didn't go under though, Doc," Jack repeated, for what felt like the millionth time.
"It doesn't matter. She probably swallowed some when she first fell in; or it could be that the chemicals were absorbed by the skin on contact. Having never seen these toxins before, I couldn't say for definite."
The group stood quietly watching Sam.
"Will she be okay?" Jack asked. The question on everyone's lips.
Letting out a sigh, Janet began. "She's not completely out of the woods yet, but she should be okay. I'll need to keep a close eye on her."
"It's amazing," she continued, "I'm surprised she made it back on her own will at all. The toxins entered her body so quickly, and acted even quicker, that she must have used every shred of strength she had left."
Having told them everything she could, Janet nodded to SG-1, signalling that they should leave Sam to rest. With one last glance at Sam, they followed Janet out, ignoring the fact that Jack remained behind.
He waited until he was alone with her before slowly moving to her bedside. She looked even paler than she had earlier, something Jack thought should have been entirely impossible. And her wrists; he couldn't help but notice the deep, purple bruises that covered both her wrists. He felt a deep pang of guilt for that, but if he hadn't held on for dear life, she would most likely not be lying here right now.
'Holding on for dear life.' That was what he had been doing; and not just her life, but his as well.
Taking the chair that was by her bed, Jack pulled it in line with Sam's face, moving it as close to the bed as possible. Hesitating for only a few moments, he took her left hand in his, linking her fingers through his own, his thumb tracing gentle patterns on her smooth skin.
Looking over his shoulder, he double-checked there was no one else in the room. Reassured that they were indeed alone, he reached out with his right hand, and tenderly pushed aside a lock of blond hair that had fallen across her forehead.
He knew he shouldn't be sitting like this with his second-in-command, but only SG-1 and Janet would be likely to appear in this room. And he was sure they already knew how he felt, particularly Janet and Teal'c.
Seconds passed, then minutes, until finally Jack had no idea of how long he had been sitting by Sam's side. He began to feel his eyes growing heavy, but he fought the urge to close them, not wanting Janet to appear and tell him to go back to his quarters for rest. The day had been difficult on him as well. Their short hike through the woods, his gruelling struggle to set Sam free, their jog back to the stargate, and his overwhelming fear and concern for her safety. It was all finally taking its toll on him. So soon, without even realising it, his eyes drifted closed as his head dropped beside Sam's, and he fell into an exhausted sleep.
With a start, Jack sat up, immediately awake and alert. Without even having to think about it, he knew exactly where he was.
"Hey, take it easy." Turning to the foot of the bed, he noticed Janet checking what he assumed to be Sam's medical chart.
"How is she?" Jack asked, conspicuously trying to remove one hand from Sam's and the other from its position across her waist.
"Much better. The IV drip has successfully cleared out most of the toxins from her body. She should be conscious within a few more hours."
Jack's face broke into a smile at the news, relieved now that he knew Sam was going to be okay.
He looked up at Janet as she moved around to the side of the bed opposite him and began speaking. "And now that you know she's going to be okay, you should go and get some rest."
Jack shook his head. "Nah, it's okay. I've waited this long, I'll wait till she comes round." He tried to sound non-plussed, but he could tell from her expression she wasn't buying it.
She was about to try again, but the determined look on Jack's face changed her mind.
"Okay," she sighed, "When she wakes try and get her to drink as much as possible. That should flush the last of the toxins from her body."
Jack simply nodded. "By the way, Doc, what time is it?"
"Almost midnight," Janet replied, before quietly leaving him alone again, ignoring the yawn he was desperately trying to cover.
Jack listened for the door to click shut behind her before scrutinising Sam's appearance. He noticed with relief that the paleness that had coloured her face earlier had been replaced with a much more humane colour.
He rubbed his eyes, then brushed his hands through his hair, trying to bring some semblance of order to it. Finally realising the futility of it, he let it fall where it may and began talking to Sam. He knew she wouldn't hear him, but there was something he had been wanting to say to her for some time now, and he knew he wouldn't have the courage to say it to her once she was awake.
"You know, Sam," he began, jumping slightly, startled at hearing his own voice in the stillness of the room. "There's uh... there's been something I've wanted to say for a while now. And I guess now is as good a time as any."
He stopped there, hesitating, unsure how to go on and then snorted at himself. 'God, if he couldn't say this to her when she was unconscious, what hope did he have when she was awake?'
Clearing his throat, he took a deep breath, and began again. "Do you remember a few weeks ago, during all that za'tark business? Well of course you do, it's not the sort of thing you forget." He frowned, the words not coming out as he had hoped.
Pausing, he linked his hand with hers, the contact comforting him, and looked down at her as she slept.
"What I mean is, do you remember what we said after we'd been retested?" Lifting his other hand he rubbed his thumb across her forehead. All sarcasm, all irreverence was gone from his voice when he carried on. "After you had been retested, and you got out the chair, do you remember what you said to me? 'None of this has to leave this room.' Do you remember that?"
"I do," he continued quietly. "I remember wanting to say, 'Is that what you really want?' I remember wanting to pull you into my arms and hold you, to try and forget, again, how close I was to losing you."
Suddenly he chuckled to himself. "Oh yeah, I may have wanted to say that but you know me." He shrugged and leaned in closer, his voice almost a whisper. "Do you know I was actually relieved? Even though we had to admit our feelings so publicly, I was relieved. Finally, it was out in the open, finally you knew that I cared for you. Really cared," he stressed.
Jack sighed again, shifting in his seat, tightening his hold of her hand. "Well d'you know something, Sam? I don't want to keep it in the room. I want it out, waaay out, and if I could, I'd let everyone know about it."
He took a steadying breath, that last part had come out in a rush, but he was finally saying what he truly felt. "We've been able to work together for years without our feelings interfering with our work, or putting anyone in danger. We've admitted our feelings are far deeper than that of colleagues or friends, and still we've stayed professional. Damn it, Sam," he said fiercely, "I want to work beside you in SG-1, just like we've always done. But I want more. I want to go home with you at the end of the day; I want to make love to you before holding you close beside me as we fall asleep. I want you in every part of my life. I want... I want you."
Exhausted after his fiery outburst, Jack's head dropped to the bed, both hands cradling Sam's between his own. His lips fleetingly brushed over her knuckles, before raining tender kisses across the bruised skin. He felt a momentary rush of relief, but it disappeared just as quickly when he realised that she wouldn't remember any of this. That everything would go back to the way it was when she woke up.
Closing his eyes, he drew in a shuddering breath, allowing himself to succumb once more to sleep. Floating on the verge of unconsciousness, he felt his body relax, sinking deeper and deeper into oblivion. But just as he was on the edge, he felt something pulling him back, urging him to open his eyes again.
At first he fought it, believing it to be his imagination. But it continued, and unable to resist any longer, Jack slowly opened his eyes trying to determine what had caught his attention. There was nothing at first, until a slight pressure on his left hand drew his attention to Sam.
Her eyes were still closed, but her expression had changed. It was no longer blank like someone in a deep sleep, but rather, showed a small smile that Jack couldn't help but notice. Again, he felt the pressure on his hand, and looking down, he saw that not only was he holding Sam's hand, but she had tightened the hold, and was now holding his as well.
Instantly awake, all thoughts of sleep long gone, Jack leaned closer to Sam's face. "Sam?" he whispered. "Sam, are you awake?"
At first there was no response and Jack began to think he had imagined it all. But eventually her eyes began to open, slowly at first, obviously the dull illumination of the room still too strong for her. Jack called on her, gently bringing her back to consciousness, encouraging her to come all the way.
"Colonel?" Her voice was raspy and barely above a whisper, but she was finally awake.
"Yeah, Carter, it's me." He frowned at his use of her second name, but her sudden return to the living had startled and surprised him.
Sam tried to speak, but her voice caught, and Jack immediately turned for a glass of water that lay by the side of her bed.
"Here, drink this." He half stood over her body, holding the glass out to her. But clearly she was still groggy, so Jack reached behind her, supporting her back as he lifted her forward. He held the glass for her as she eagerly drank from it.
"Thank you, Sir," she said, sounding a little better, relaxing back into the pillows.
Jack put the glass down, and reached for her hand again, not even aware that he had done it.
Jack watched her frown as she asked, "What happened?"
"Your dip in the quick sand took a turn for the worse," he began. "You just got back through the stargate before you collapsed. Janet said the sand was full of poisonous toxins, they've had you out for a while."
Sam nodded in understanding, everything beginning to come back to her.
"What about you? Surely you must have come in contact with it." The question took Jack by surprise, he hadn't even thought about that.
"Oh me? I'm fine. You know how thick skinned I am." Just as the words left his mouth, it dawned on him that that wasn't the first time he had referred to how well she knew him. And he realised she did know him, probably better than he knew himself.
"Have you been here long?" Sam asked.
"Well, uh... I've been here a while." A silence settled over them, both understanding the reasons for him really being there.
"Well, I better leave and let you get some more sleep." Just as he moved to stand, Sam fastened her fingers tighter around his, preventing him from moving any further.
"Wait." Jack settled back down on his seat, his heart beginning to thump so hard he was sure Sam could hear it.
"Did you really mean what you just said?" Honestly confused, Jack thought back to what he had just said.
"Did I really mean I better leave? Yes, I..." but was cut off as her fingers touched his lips. Understanding dawned instantly. Leaving the chair, he settled on the side of her bed, their hands still entwined.
Jack didn't hesitate. "Yes, I meant every word. I don't want it to 'stay in the room', Sam. Unless of course... that is unless you want..." Again he was cut off. Sam's hand had snaked around the back of his neck and was enough of a distraction to make him completely forget what he had been about to say.
Jack was helpless to resist the gentle tug from Sam's hand that was bringing him closer and closer to her. He watched as Sam's eyes slid shut before closing his own, and lowered his lips to brush across hers in a tender kiss.
Still aware that Sam hadn't fully recovered, Jack fought to keep the kiss gentle, desperately trying to ignore the fact that her lips were pressing harder against his own, that they were tracing his lips and nibbling soft kisses along his mouth. But just as he thought he had won, the sensation of her tongue against his mouth made him crumble and he finally allowed her tongue entrance as he hungrily deepened the kiss until he heard her moan against him.
The sound was almost too much for him. Never had he dreamt that at the end of this day would he be kissing Major Samantha Carter, or that she would be returning that kiss so enthusiastically.
More out of need than want, they gradually began to ease out of the kiss, taking in air with long deep gulps. Not wanting to break contact just yet, Jack trailed soft kisses from Sam's ear, down her jaw line, smiling against her skin when he heard her alternate between sighs and moans.
"I take it you don't want to keep it in the room anymore?" Jack whispered in her ear.
"I never did." Jack shivered when he heard the words, and didn't resist when Sam placed her hands on each side of his face moving him so they could look directly into the other's eyes. He searched them, wanting to believe what he saw in them was real and not some figment of his imagination.
"I love you, Jack."
His eyes closed at the sound of his name on her lips. Not Colonel, not sir... Jack.
"Oh God, Sam, I love you too. We'll work something out, I promise."
Jack watched the smile that spread across Sam's face, that simple action pleasing him more than he could have imagined.
"Now, you really better get some more rest or Janet will hang, draw and quarter me and then send me through the stargate in tiny little pieces."
"Mmm, we wouldn't want that. I have plans for you for later."
Not trusting himself after that comment, Jack leaned down and kissed her again. It was languorous and slow, but barely concealed the deep passion that was sizzling beneath the surface.
"Well, Major, that suggestion that you rest? It's now an order."
Leaving the bed, he made himself comfortable in the chair he had occupied for the past several hours, and settled down, quite happy to pass the rest of the night watching Sam sleep.
They would make it work; he knew they would.
Copyright © Diane 2001
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