Jackfic Fiction Archive Story

 

What Fate Decrees (Revised)

by Jackie ONeill Nut

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).


PART ONE

The vortex whooshed out from the stone ring, lighting up the darkness, casting the shadows out from the immediate area. Four people emerged from the light and walked down the steps, the vortex folded into itself and darkness reigned once more.

Lights shone across the blackness and with eerie flashes, glimpses of statues, armour and cobwebs became seen. A particularly hideous face loomed out beneath one of the beams, making the torch holder jump and exclaim. "Ack, the welcoming committee!"

The beams of light cast along the huge stonewall illuminated large lanterns hanging here and there.

"Seeing as we're here we might as well make it more homely." A lighter flickered and the lantern burst into life. "They don't make `em like they used to," commented Jack O'Neill as he moved along the wall to light two more.

The group moved on as the light spread to show other exits in a very large room. On the opposite wall from the Stargate were several stone steps about ten feet across. They appeared to lead nowhere except up to a blank wall. At the bottom of the steps and to the right ran another low wall.

Teal'c stepped forward and leaned over to look behind low barrier. "O'Neill," he called.

Jack walked over to stand besides Teal'c. He saw a pit that appeared to go down about ten or twelve feet. At the bottom, dimly seen in the flickering light were the skeletal remains of humanoids.

"They all appear to have suffered the same fate," offered Teal'c.

"Ya think!" commented O'Neill as he leaned over to view what seemed to a large number of dusty remains, all of which seemed to have a large shaft of metal partially buried into their chest cavities or thereabouts.

"Way to go! I don't think," added O'Neill, looking hastily around to see if a projectile could be launched through any apertures. Relaxing slightly as he found nothing to warrant further investigation around the pit, he turned to his team and upon seeing Daniel already involved in blowing dust from a plinth to read what appeared to be heavy engraving, he gave his orders.

"Major, you and Teal'c take a look through one of those," he nodded at the exits "don't split up and don't touch - I'll stay with Daniel while he looks at his rocks."

"Artefacts," called a dusty Daniel.

Jack waved a hand his way "Whatever. And keep an eye out for any hidden traps. We don't want to end up like these poor devils." He grimaced at the pit. "Report back every fifteen minutes."

"We will, Colonel. We'll stay in touch," responded Carter, before turning to lead Teal'c towards the nearest passage.

* * *

Carter kept her MP5 at the ready whilst training her flashlight as far forward as possible down the dark musty cobweb riddled passageway. As several layers of cobwebs amassed on her head and shoulders she had a sudden thought "Teal'c, do you think the webs are normal spiders' sized?"

Teal'c raised an eyebrow at her "Normal? Major Carter, what do you consider normal size?"

"Oh, not to worry Teal'c," replied Carter, not too sure if the Jaffa was trying to wind her up. She quickly moved forward, scanning above as well as in front as she walked. It wasn't that she was scared of spiders - it was just that the webs seemed awfully big...

* * *

Back in the gate room Daniel started to mutter to himself, obviously getting excited as he moved on to another plinth to continue reading.

"Anything yet Daniel?" asked O'Neill, now bored with the room. He leaned over the pit once again, peering down at the remains, his neck prickling a warning.

Daniel's voice had him straightening again to look towards the other man, "Oh Jack, yes. It seems once a very large kingdom reigned here until, well. . . "There was a pause, then he continued. `Actually, I'm not too sure how recently it fell. It seems visitors were welcomed here by the king himself; err, here in the throne room."

"Throne room?" echoed Jack "They could sure use an interior designer or something. Maybe it was a poor kingdom."

"Actually," began Daniel "it tells of great riches that the kingdom had and of the struggles to maintain their wealth against invaders from the ring."

"Yeah, I think there's some invader remains in that pit," snorted Jack.

Daniel moved further down to yet another plinth and began to dust it off. "Ah ha! I think I've found the magic word - abracadabra," he exclaimed and with a flourish, pressed a raised bar on the plinth "and behold!"

Jack swung round with alarm; gun at the ready to face the wall along the top of the steps as a shuddering rumble began. The wall began to rise up slowly.

"Daniel, what the!" he exclaimed as dust and cobwebs welled up and a larger gap appeared at the top of the steps. The air was now thick with dust, but the gleam of torch light reflecting off bright objects drew their attention immediately.

"Gold," coughed Daniel as a large altar appeared, shields, swords and huge platters glinting brilliantly.

"Whoa!" gasped Jack from his vantage point at the bottom of the steps.

Daniel bounded forward, passed Jack and up the steps, his eyes gleaming like a child at Christmas.

"Daniel. Don't touch." Jack warned out of habit as he started to slowly follow, looking around cautiously.

"Jack, this is incredible. This must have been untouched for hundreds of years."

"Still, don't touch."

Daniel turned to face a huge glittering throne, the cloth covering it still resplendent in glorious vivid colours. Although the archaeologist took it in it's beauty, his attention was firmly upon some symbols that had become visible with the light source. Totally unable to control his feet, he began walking towards the newest find.

Jack's internal danger alarm rang out loudly, and without taking the time to think he launched himself at Daniel calling a warning even as he moved. A whoosh of air signalled the launch of *something* from behind the throne as Jack barely managed to fling his own body between the throne and Daniel.

He felt the *something* hit with a thump, the force strong enough to propel both men backwards and down into the pit.

* * *

When Daniel came around, he was disorientated, his glasses were gone and he realised with a sigh that a cut was bleeding profusely on his forehead. Trying to move, or at least to signal the others for help, he soon realised that he was pinned down by a heavy weight. It was a testament to his injury that it took him as long as it did to realise that the weight holding him down, was in fact his friend.

"Jack," he called and tried to shake him.

"Jack, wake up." he huffed, attempting to ease himself from beneath the large frame. The light was dim in the pit and having lost his glasses somewhere on his journey down. He moved a leg, feeling something hard beneath it, and it was only the sound of crunching glass mingling with the crunching of old bones that told him the location of his now useless glasses. Feeling slightly sick he continued to ease himself away from Jack.

A low groan emitted from the prone Colonel as Daniel tried again to free himself. "Sorry, Jack."

Knowing that he had to at least free an arm to reach his radio, Daniel attempted to move again.

"Come on Jack, I could do with a little help here," he complained, grunting with the effort. Eventually, he got himself free and struggled to sit upright as a wave of dizziness flooded through him. 'Radio?' he thought and reached for it, thankful to find it seemingly intact.

"Sam, Teal'c, come in." Letting go of the button he waited for a response, and was rewarded as a crackle of static accompanied Sam's voice.

"Daniel? Is everything ok? We heard rumbling, there's a lot of rising dust."

"Sam... I... um, we need your help." Another wave of dizziness stopped him and he put his head down for a moment.

"Stay where you are, we'll be right with you," called Sam, obviously having heard enough.

Daniel grimaced at her words, he certainly wasn't going anywhere He moved forward, leaning over to touch Jack, who he realised, still hadn't moved. "Jack," he called as he moved his hands down his jacket front to brush at himself. It wasn't until he did this that Daniel suddenly realised his hand had become wet - wet and sticky!

A wave of nausea hit him at the realisation that it was blood - a lot of blood. Taking a deep breath he let go of a cough as he realised there was far too much for it to be his blood. He scrambled forward on his knees to lean over Jack and started to feel his way gently along the inert figure. His vision blurred, not just from the loss of his glasses, but with the head injury and he had to rely on touch. He felt slowly up Jack's legs and past his waist to his backpack, finding nothing until his hand suddenly hit something hard. To his horror Daniel realised it was a metal shaft, about two feet of which was sticking out from Jack's pack. Startled, he sat back with a jerk. At the movement a groan came from his friend.

"Take it easy Jack. I'm sorry, don't move please," Daniel begged as he quickly swallowed the bile that was rising in his throat at his discovery and the realisation that the lance, or spear must have gone right through the other man's backpack and body to produce the blood on himself as he'd lay under Jack.

As gently as he could he put a hand under Jack's chest and felt around his chest. Just at the beginning of Jack's rib cage he felt what he had dreaded - metal and blood - a lot of blood!

At the intrusion Jack moaned softly, his breathing gasping. He began to twist about weakly as if trying to get up.

"Jack, don't move, you've got to stay still," called Daniel urgently, alarmed in case the movement made the injuries worse.

Daniel felt around his own shoulders to remove his backpack before he realised that he'd already taken it off. "Shit!" he called as a picture of it, sitting near the first plinth he'd examined, came to him. Jack was always complaining that Daniel dumped his pack just anywhere, and it seemed he had been proven correct.

Daniel looked around the pit in the dim light, finding the walls smooth and too high for him to climb alone.

"Sam, Teal'c, where are you?" he called into the radio.

"Right here, above you," Sam's voice came from above his head as a beam of light from a flashlight hit him in the face.

"Where's the Colonel?" she called down.

"Here, he's hurt Sam, badly."

* * *

Sam moved the flashlight around and the beam hit a prone figure, ghoulishly falling on a large lance extruding from the Colonel's backpack. She couldn't hold back her cry of shock at the sight.

Daniel's pale face could be seen just on the edge of the light, staring up. "It's bad Sam, it's gone right through. My pack is up there somewhere, near the first plinth. The first aid kit is in the front pocket."

Sam quickly assessed the situation as Teal'c moved to retrieve the pack. Seeing no obvious danger, she lowered herself down the walls before dropping lightly to the floor of the pit. She gestured to Teal'c to throw the pack down and caught it, quickly pulling the medical supplies from it.

"Teal'c, wait up there," she ordered as she knelt down, the beam from Teal'c's flashlight joining hers on the Colonel.

"Colonel, can you hear me?" called Sam, as she gently felt under his body, lightly examining his chest by touch. A low moan was her only response. Sam could feel blood seeping through and a hard point of protruding metal.

"God, this must have hit hard if it went through his pack first as well!" she exclaimed.

"The force of it took us both over the edge into the pit. We were.... he wasn't.... he must have known... he must have seen this coming, he wouldn't have been able to get here in time if he hadn't ... oh God, oh shit." Sam looked up to find Daniel's face becoming even paler as he obviously realised exactly what had happened. "He shouted a warning just before, oh ...no I must have triggered something when I got too close to the throne."

Sam took a handful of dressings. "Daniel, I'm going to need help turning him, we've got to stop this bleeding."

"Do not move him," shouted Teal'c urgently.

"We have to. He's bleeding badly," responded Sam, already aghast at how much blood was pooling around the Colonel.

"Look around Major Carter, look at the spears," urged Teal'c and he panned his flashlight about the pit, stopping it near them on a heap of bones.

At first Sam only saw the shaft of metal and then her eyes widened in horror "Damn!" she gasped as she realised what Teal'c had seen.

She scrabbled through the bones and picked up a spear. It was only about three feet in length, the metal still sound and free from rust, although stained with old dull blood marks, but about a foot from the point a large collar of blade-like spikes rose outwards.

"Oh God," she choked at the same time as Daniel gave a moan of dismay.

"We do not know if these blades are inside O'Neill and if you move him..." Teal'c's words remained unfinished as Daniel stumbled to his feet away from Jack, retching suddenly.

Heaving, he clasped his head, leaning against the pit walls to steady himself.

"Teal'c," called Sam "you need to go back to the SGC and get Janet. Take this." She stood and passed the spear up to him carefully. "Tell her what you can, but get help back here fast."

Without a word the Jaffa took the spear and disappeared from sight. Seconds later they heard the gate activate.

For a moment the enormity of the Colonel's injury had Sam frozen, before, with a mental shake, she stirred into action. She bundled together the field dressings and as gently as she could, inserted them between the wound and the floor to try and stem the flow of blood.

Daniel straightened himself, wiping at his mouth and came over to where she crouched over the Colonel. "I'm sorry Sam," he whispered.

"Are you okay?" She stood up and moved closer, reaching out towards his head. "Daniel, you're bleeding." As she did so, she saw how bloody her hands were. Daniel flinched and she grimaced at him in sympathy, turning to her pack to use the wet scrubs to clean off what she could.

"I'm fine Sam, it's nothing. You know it should be me lying there. He told me not to touch - again!" Daniel spat the words out, his distress clear.

* * *

Voices. Voices in the blackness, faint but there. Jack tried to open his eyes but they didn't want to respond. Everything felt heavy. Pain seeped in, burning and agonising pain. To just draw breath hurt, hurt so badly. He tried to speak "Daanl" was the hoarse whisper that came from his parched throat. He wanted to move, to get off his chest, away from the pressure on his lungs. The will to try to escape from the pain forced life into his limbs and with a sudden motion from his arms, he fought to right himself.

"Jack! No! Don't ..."

"Colonel, don't move."

The pressure hands exerted on his tired limbs held him still and once again he tried to open his eyes. A blurred image of his 2IC wavered in front of him.

"Can't breathe, need... need" was his cracked cry, the words breathless and needing great effort.

* * *

Sam leaned close to the stricken man. "Colonel, you're hurt. You took a spear through the back, and it's gone right through. You need to hold still, we can't move you. Teal'c's gone for help, to get Janet. He won't be long." Gently she started to touch his face as she spoke, trying to reassure him.

"Hurts." His voice was low, barely above a whisper.

His admission, without any sarcastic remark, frightened her badly. "Please, sir, just don't move," she begged him softly. Taking her canteen, she moistened a clean dressing and tried to gently wet his lips and then dabbed the cloth over his face.

"I can't give you anything for the pain, sir, but it won't be long before Janet arrives."

Although it wasn't warm, beads of perspiration bathed the Colonel's forehead and started to trickle down the planes of his face, along the strong line of his jaw. His eyelids were fighting to remain open, but it was a fight he was destined to lose as he groaned in pain. The eyelids slammed down in response.

"God, come on .... Please," whispered Sam, almost to herself.

Taking a fresh handful of dressings she added them to the blood soaked ones already there. She almost sobbed when she saw how much blood was pooling, and another moan of pain escaped from the Colonel.

The sound of the gate being activated brought Daniel to attention again.

"Thank God," he uttered, standing. There was a bustle of activity above them and moments later the diminutive Doctor Fraiser appeared, being gently lowered by Teal'c. She was closely followed by members of her staff carrying the cacophony of medical supplies she might need.

"We need more light," she called. Her people began to set up lights around them, run by portable generators, and soon the bottom of the pit was brightly illuminated.

Sam moved back to let the Doctor in closer, telling her quickly what she knew. Even as she spoke Janet was down and checking the Colonel.

* * *

"Colonel, can you hear me?" O'Neill's eyes flickered open and struggled to focus on Janet's face. "Let's get an IV in, get some blood and fluids going," she called to one of her staff.

"Sir, do you know where you are?" His eyes looked to her, but he didn't answer. "Colonel, I'm going to give you something for the pain, but I need you to stay awake. Stay with me sir," she called urgently to him. His pallor and his erratic, rattled breathing gave an indication of how bad he was, the low blood pressure and unsteady pulse telling her the story well enough to know he was in a great deal of trouble. Janet quickly inserted the IV needles into the Colonel's hand and set up a fluid and blood transfusions before injecting him with the promised painkiller.

"This'll help, Colonel." She saw his eyelids closing and called out to him, "Stay with me, sir," before turning to the people around her. "We need to turn him to his side; I can't do anything like this."

Sam and Daniel exchange glances. "You saw the spear Teal'c had? How it works?" began Sam.

"I had a quick look Sam, but if I don't stop this bleeding it won't matter, I can't pump blood into him fast enough to replace what he's losing now, never mind what he's lost already."

Turning back to O'Neill, she touched him gently on his cheek and his eyes opened again. She knew he was aware of what was going on but said it anyway. "Sir, we're going to turn you onto your side. We'll go easy but it's going to hurt."

Janet and her staff began to sort out the IV lines and equipment and positioned themselves around O'Neill.

"We'll put a body board under now; it'll save time when we come to move him." Her staff worked to follow her orders.

Quickly and efficiently they got ready to lift her patient. "On three. One, two, three, lift," ordered Janet and together they lifted and rolled the Colonel into a recovery position. Janet couldn't help the sharp intake of breath she gave at the Colonel's cry of pain at the movement. "Sorry Sir, hold on."

"It's okay," he slurred, "breathe better." His words came low and gasping.

"We can't remove his pack, but I need to get in at the front. Try and support the pack from underneath so it can't move as much." and again her staff work quickly to follow Janet's instructions. As soon as the Colonel's pack was supported, she began to cut the lace fastening on the side of the vest to pull it forward and away from him, giving her access to cut his jacket and shirt open. Her eyes kept monitoring the Colonel's face noticing with an internal smile that, as usual, he was watching everything she did. Even though he was obviously having trouble focussing, but he was trying to see as much as possible.

Most people look away or focus elsewhere, but the Colonel always watched. Knowing he was watching, she tried to school her features so as to not reveal how bad the injury was, but as she revealed the wound in all its glory, she couldn't help the distress that shook her and knew it must have showed on her face. `God he must be in terrible pain' kept running through her mind as she worked to try and stem the flow of blood from the raw wound.

"We need to get him back to the SGC. I've no way of knowing how much internal damage has been done. I've stopped the bleeding for the moment but ..."

It was Teal'c who spoke, his normal calm features frowning mightily, "If the blades have opened it would be dangerous, but if the blades are inactive inside O'Neill and are activated when he is moved he will surely die."

"The collar may not be that far in."

"Indeed, Daniel Jackson, that may be so."

"Hey." A low voice intruded, weak but clear "Can you guys argue later?" Those few words left the Colonel badly out of breath and his chest heaved to draw oxygen in.

Janet bent to him and put an oxygen mask in place "Keep it on sir, you need it."

Janet saw Sam's face pale as she looked down, and she blinked rapidly clearly trying to keep away threatening tears. Janet's gaze meet the other woman's and Sam visibly pulled herself together, a look of determination on her face as the major replaced the woman.

Daniel replied to the Colonel, his light tone and the smile on his face a contrast to the frown of worry that had been there the last time Janet had looked. "Hey Jack, do you mind butting out while we make a decision." He moved around to kneel down in front of the injured man. "After all it's only your body."

Jack tried to return the smile but failed, his features distorted into tight lines of pain.

Looking down at the Colonel's prone form, the doctor knew that she had to find out just how much of a threat the collar of the weapon posed.

"Sir, I'm going to have to get into the pack to see if I can feel that collar."

"Negative, Doc," he growled through the painkillers, "too dangerous... you need those fingers..."

Janet looked at Sam and Daniel "I need to know," she stated simply.

"I'll do it," offered Daniel; "like Jack said you need your fingers. You can always sew mine back on," he joked and moved around to start to undo the pack, working very slowly and gently. "Jack now is the time to tell me if there's any mice traps, dirty washing, or anything incriminating in your pack, cause I'm going to have to empty it down, its packed so god-damn tight."

A noise came from Jack beneath the mask and Daniel took that as the go ahead, slowly starting to remove the first layer from the pack, handing them to Sam who knelt beside him.

Janet moved closer to Jack's head and began to gently mop at his face with a cold dressing. "How's the pain?" she asked.

"Bad," he admitted, which frightened her, for O'Neill to admit to anything `bad' would be in anybody else's books `excruciating' so she quickly gave him another injection into the IV line.

"Hold on Colonel, won't be too long now." She continued to mop his face, trying to not let her eyes stray to where Daniel was working, carefully taking items from the pack, the danger from the blades clear in her mind.

* * *

"Jesus, Jack, you know how to pack it tight," Daniel exclaimed. "I wondered why your pack is always so heavy." He reached in again to withdraw yet more items, the concentration on his face giving no indication of how nervous and sick he really felt. `Please let the blades be here, please God,' he prayed inside his head.

There was utter silence in the pit, except for the noise of Daniel's movements and the coarse breathing of the injured man.

Daniel was almost to where the spear pierced through the pack when he felt something he couldn't recognise. It didn't want to move. As his fingers tugged at it gently he felt a shudder of pain from Jack and realised whatever it was, was pinned by the spear. Jack's hands and jaw clenched convulsively, and Daniel gave Janet a quick look, receiving a nod to go on as she continued to mop Jack's face and monitor the readings.

* * *

The pain seemed to be a constant pressure - granted there were bouts of severe waves, just to break up the monotony of general hell. It was getting harder to stay conscious and Jack's vision blurred constantly. Another wave of nausea hit and he tried to swallow it back. `It'll pass, it'll pass, focus, gotta focus, come on you can do it, box it down' he told himself. He pushed past the pain, holding on once more. More pressure on the spear and the pain increased. He reached out blindly with his hand and made contact with Janet's smaller ones and held them tightly.

* * *

Both of Janet's small hands were enveloped in one of Jack's and she had to bite down a retort of pain as his grip increased its pressure.

"Come on, Jack, hold on," she urged in the voice of a friend now, more than a doctor.

* * *

Daniel froze for a moment sensing how much he'd hurt Jack. Resuming his `feeling' after taking a breath, he proceeded to prod at the object. As his fingers moved up he found what he'd been searching for.

"The blades are open in here," he sighed with relief. "They're pinned into something, I ..." puzzlement formed in a frown on his features as he continued to feel around the object. "Jack, what on earth have you got in here? Its hard, padded I guess."

Jack's eyes closed for a moment and as Daniel watched he saw a flicker of emotion on his features, but when he opened his eyes it was gone.

"It's a glove," he managed to whisper.

"A glove?" echoed Daniel. He thought for a second or two. "A glove - a baseball glove?" he asked. Jack just managed a nod.

`A baseball glove, what on earth does Jack have a baseball glove in his pack for?' Daniel thought to himself, and then the light dawned, he'd seen Jack with a glove recently. Charlie's glove?

No one else asked and Daniel didn't explain further. He knew how much Jack valued his privacy and knew he'd rather people assume he was nuts than explain anything to anyone.

* * *

"Right, can we now get that thing outta me?" whispered Jack.

"I don't think it's a good idea to move you with this in you, especially through the Stargate," responded Janet.

"Sweet, pull it, plug it, let's go," he answered weakly.

"I wish it were that simple," said Janet, shaking her head.

"I can remove it, Doctor Fraiser," said Teal'c.

"Thanks T, you pull, Doc plugs, we go." The words came out quickly before the Colonel lost his breath again.

"We need a way to keep you level getting you out of this pit," said Janet, side stepping the issue of removal.

"We can sort that, Janet," said Sam. "Daniel, you wait here. Teal'c and I will go get some help and report to the General." With one last look at her Colonel, she almost ran to the wall of the pit, quickly accepting a helping hand to climb up, her eagerness to leave showing. Janet knew her friend would be anxious to bring help back to the stricken man, but that she also was finding the sight of his suffering hard to cope with.

As soon as Sam was out of sight Janet turned her attention back to Jack. "Any other instructions, Doctor O'Neill?" she asked lightly.

"Yeah, hurry, hockey finals tomorrow." His voice was barely a whisper now, his breathing getting much worse.

"One more complaint Colonel, and I'll have all the TV's removed" As Janet moved closer to his face, his colour seemed to drain even whiter and around his mouth and nose a feint blue tinge appeared to spread.

She instantly became more alert and put her stethoscope to his chest. "Colonel, take a breath for me, as best you can."

* * *

Jack did his best to comply with the Doc's orders, but a shudder of pain racked through his body and a sharp metallic coppery taste filled his mouth making him heave and gasp. He felt himself struggling for breath.

* * *

A slow trickle of blood appeared from the Colonel's mouth and nose and what Janet had been dreading, happened.

She galvanised her staff into action and a large needle and tubing were passed to her. "Colonel, I need to get a drain in, just hold on. I know it's going to hurt, just hold on."

Working quickly, she found her target and inserted the long needle through his ribs and into the punctured lung. His body shuddered and a low cry of pain was forced from his lips. The needle was finally in position and Janet removed the air, watching as his lung finally began to drain of blood.

The staff meanwhile began to cut the pack off the Colonel's back, revealing the glove embedded tightly against his back.

Daniel paled even further whilst this was going on and Janet found herself wishing that Sam would hurry. She wondered what Sam was bringing back that could take so long.

* * *

After filling Teal'c in on what they needed, Sam reported to the General.

"How long before you bring him home, Major?" he asked in a quiet voice.

"I'm not sure sir, but Doctor Fraiser seems anxious to get him back. He's only just holding on." Her voice went quieter as she spoke and the General put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Colonel O'Neill's a fighter Major, he'll make it."

She nodded at the General, unable to form a reply. Just then Teal'c entered the gate room with two volunteers all carrying assorted poles, bags and planks. Sam stiffened slightly.

Obviously seeing her need to be gone the General dismissed her, "Go bring him home, Major."

"Yes, sir" was the only response Sam trusted herself to say as she hurried down the steps, entering the gate room just as the gate activated.

* * *

PART TWO

Leaving the wormhole, they stepped once more into the room. The two volunteers looked shaky and a little green, but there was no time to offer advice on minimising wormhole sickness. Teal'c straight away set to work alongside them to erect a platform and steps so as to get the injured man up with the least fuss.

Sam was over the lip of the pit and down the side within seconds. She touched Daniel lightly on the arm in a mute request to be brought up to speed on the Colonel's condition. Daniel's recount served to diminish any colour that was left on her face, leaving her emotions plain for all to see.

Janet looked up at Sam. "He lost consciousness a few minutes ago. We need to act now."

"Teal'c," Daniel called over to the Jaffa, warning him of the need for haste. The Jaffa gave the men their last instructions before jumping down to standing besides Daniel.

"Are you going to move him like this?" asked Daniel.

Janet nodded. "It's his only chance. We can't take out the spear. If we tried to use a `torch' it would cook his insides. There's no other way, it's too risky to attempt to remove it here, even though the spikes aren't inside him." She turned to the Jaffa. "Teal'c, I need you to support the spear, hold it steady."

Teal'c immediately stepped forward "I will do my best for O'Neill, whatever it takes Doctor Fraiser."

"I know you will Teal'c, but it won't be pleasant, especially for the Colonel. Try and find a comfortable position - what you think best," replied Janet.

Teal'c knelt down facing the Colonel's back, ready to take a hold on the spear.

Janet and her staff hurried to get the dressings they would need and renewed the blood and fluids ready to move as quickly as possible.

"Sam, you come up top here where he can see you if he comes around, Daniel too" Janet nodded at her staff to take up position around their patient, before checking the Colonel's vitals once more. She shook her head and Sam knew the doctor had confirmed that it wasn't safe to give him a full anaesthetic.

The large Jaffa gently grasped the spear firmly to hold it steady, looking as calm as he always did, whilst Janet worked to pack the wound more.

Sam turned her attention to the Colonel's face, and as Teal'c began to support the spear on the Doctor's instruction, she saw his eyes flicker open, his face a mask of agony.

"He's awake," she frantically called to Janet.

"I know, I can't give him anything more yet, he's way past the safe levels already," answered the Doctor. "Talk to him - anything. Keep him going."

Sam couldn't help the sob that escaped her as she looked down to his face, his eyes wide open and distressed.

* * *

The pain was excruciating and no blackness welcomed him. Eyes, bright blue eyes captured his and he held onto them, grasping them with his vision like a drowning man would grasp a lifeline. `Beautiful eyes.' he realised yet again for what must be the thousandth time `She has such beautiful eyes.'

"Not long now Colonel, hold on, not long now. We'll get you back and get you in a nice warm infirmary," she called to him, still keeping eye contact with him.

"So blue," he murmured.

"What?" Carter looked confused, mouthing the question to someone nearby.

`Must have spoken out loud?' The buzzing in his head increased, a wave of blinding pain coursed through him, and the blackness claimed him once more.

* * *

Janet checked the Colonel's vitals. "He's in v-fib!"

A nurse handed her a prepared syringe of epinephrine, which she injected into the heart, and the Colonel was rolled as far as was possible with the spear still there, onto his back as the immediate area was cleared.

The Doctor stripped the Colonel's remaining clothing free from his chest and was handed the paddles from the portable defibrillator.

"Give me 200," she called "Clear" and with a whine and then a thump the electricity zapped the Colonel. His body convulsed briefly and Janet listened for a beat. "No response, give me 300 - Clear" and once more the Colonel's body convulsed. This time as Janet listened, she found what she needed. "Erratic pulse, poor respiration; we need to move now people."

Teal'c immediately positioned himself to support the spear again while the medical team moved with precision. The Colonel was quickly lifted and within a few minutes they were up the scaffolding and over the wall, Janet practically hanging on to Jack's arm, feeling his pulse as they moved.

Sam and Daniel weren't far behind and Sam rushed over to the DHD. She had dialled and sent the signal by the time the stretcher reached them. The two members of SG1 hung back slightly, keeping out of the way of the medical team, knowing that every second counted. As soon as the stretcher was through the wormhole, they stepped into the vortex, but by the time their feet hit the ramp in the gate room the medical staff had already gone.

Tears streamed down Sam's face and Daniel's eyes were misty, the blurring not just from the lack of glasses.

"I hope the Doc remembers that it's not just a glove to Jack," whispered Daniel.

"Was it Charlie's glove? Oh, God, do you think we can get it fixed?" moaned Sam. She sniffed and scrubbed at her eyes angrily with her sleeve, the events of the day finally catching up with her.

Teal'c regarded his friends gravely. "I will try. I will give it my best endeavour. The glove has indeed saved O'Neill's life."

Daniel just nodded at Teal'c, too emotional to respond.

Making their way down to the infirmary, they found the General already there. He was pacing anxiously but stopped as he saw them.

"Everyone else okay?" he asked "Doctor Jackson, you need to see the nurse," he pointed to the cut on Daniel's forehead.

Daniel shook his head. "I'm fine."

"Now Doctor Jackson, if you don't mind. Colonel O'Neill isn't going anywhere yet a while," he added speaking softly.

Daniel nodded and entered the infirmary where a waiting nurse led him to a curtained cubicle to tend to his head. Voices drifted around and he strained hard to listen for anything to indicate how Jack was.

"Is he ok?" he asked the nurse when he couldn't help himself any longer.

"Doctor Fraiser will speak to you when she is able, but he was alive when they took him into the OR," she replied, her expression sympathetic.

Not content, but unable to do anything, Daniel sat on the bed and allowed the nurse to tend to his injury. Fifteen minutes and a few stitches later, Daniel rejoined his friends outside the infirmary where three faces turned expectantly to him. Teal'c was holding his spare set of glasses out to him.

"Thanks Teal'c. No news?" he asked.

"No, we were hoping you ...." Sam's words trailed off..

"He's still alive, that much I do know," offered Daniel.

General Hammond pushed himself up from the chair he'd been given. "I'll have to return to my office. SG1's debriefing can wait until we know more about the Colonel's condition. Major Carter, please see I'm paged as soon as there is any word." At Sam's nod, the General left and the others settled down to wait.

* * *

A long set of hours later a tired looking Doctor Fraiser emerged from the OR, just as General Hammond joined them.

The General looked at the Doctor inquiringly. "Doctor?"

"We've got him stabilised, sir, and we've successfully removed the spear. There doesn't appear to be any major organ damage, but he's got four very badly broken ribs, one of which had punctured a lung. Also he's had major blood loss and is very weak."

"Can we see him?" asked Sam.

Janet shook her head. "Not yet. He's still well out of it for now, and we're constantly monitoring him. I suggest you all get showered, have a meal and get some sleep. I promise you if there's any change I'll let you know." As soon as she finished speaking she turned back into the infirmary, not even waiting for Hammond's permission.

"You heard the Doctor SG1, clean up, eat and sleep, that's an order. We'll debrief tomorrow," said the General before taking his leave of them.

"I shall perform kel-no-reem and return," said Teal'c.

Sam nodded. "Shower, food and sleep it is then, or at least try."

Yeah, me too" sighed Daniel.

Sam took herself off to the showers almost in a trance. Her body's autopilot kicked in and took her mindlessly through the motions of undressing and showering. As she sat down with the towel wrapped around her, the sight of her bloodied bdu's snapped her out of the fog she was in and the tears she'd been fighting to hold inside finally made their bid for freedom.

She wasn't sure how long she sat there clutching her towel around herself, shivering lightly as the chill from the air and the cold within her seeped throughout her body. She wiped her eyes with the towel in a bid to stem the flow, but it didn't help much.

She'd seen casualties before, but the image of her CO lying there, hurt so badly and in so much pain, cut to her core.

Finally, still shivering, she forced herself to dress and made her way to her quarters where she reluctantly lay down; biding her time until she thought Janet might let her in to see the Colonel.

Less than four hours later however, Sam and Daniel had had all the rest they could take and joined Teal'c outside the infirmary.

* * *

Unsurprisingly for the doctor, a nurse informed her that the rest of SG1 had returned way sooner than she would have liked, but just about as soon as she had expected them. Leaving the Colonel for a moment, she joined them in the corridor.

"Guess you need to see him," she uttered to no one in particular and with a sweep of her hand she admitted them into the room.

Several monitors surrounded the bed, emitting beeps intermittently punching the air, and an assortment of tubes and wires joined them to the unconscious Colonel. Jack's white face almost rivalled the whiteness of the hospital linen. It was the stillness of the man that was the most shocking. He was utterly and completely still.

"We had to intubate to stabilise him. It'll be some hours before we know much more."

Daniel swallowed hard. "Can we stay a little while?"

"Sure, you can even talk to him if you want. It may help him to know where he is and that he's safe."

Teal'c handed a chair to Sam and another to Daniel. Absently they nodded their thanks and sat side by side, with Teal'c taking up `guard' position at the foot of the bed.

"Hey Jack, we're all here, just waiting for you to get your butt out of bed," called Daniel softly. He leaned over and grasped one of Jack's hands, giving it a light squeeze as if willing for some response. Janet frowned at the sight, knowing that the Colonel would not wake for several hours, but she said nothing, quietly leaving to return to the ever-present paperwork in her office.

* * *

The day passed. Teal'c became the coffee boy, not understanding the Tauri's love of the beverage, but if it gave his friends some comfort, then he would provide it.

Janet entered on yet another check. "You all need to rest. He'll be unconscious for a long while. He'll need you when he's awake you know."

Teal'c inclined his head to Sam and Daniel "I have no need to rest some time yet. I shall wait for O'Neill to waken and come for you when he does." His voice was gentle and reassuring.

"We can take it in turns," said Sam protested.

"Fine, does anyone mind if I go first?" asked Daniel.

Teal'c and Sam both shook their heads and Sam rose, her reluctance to leave obvious. Janet gave her friend's arm a reassuring squeeze and led her out of the room, Teal'c close on the two women's heels.

Left alone with Jack, Daniel once more leaned in and grasped his friend's hand as though it were a lifeline.

"Well Jack, I didn't listen to you again," he began softly; all his guilt and anxiety came to the surface once more. "I'm so sorry. You've taken another fall for me. This time will be the last Jack, I promise. What I need is for you to wake up and yell at me or something and then I know you're going to be alright. I won't leave I promise until I know you're going to be okay." His eyesight became distinctly misty; his vision blurred with unshed tears. "I won't leave until ... but I won't put you through this again, too many times you've laid your life on the line for me." Not knowing what else to add to someone who couldn't possibly hear him, his voice subsided.

"Hey Daniel, you okay?" He started at the sound of a soft voice from the direction of the doorway.

"Uh Janet, sorry" Daniel quickly rubbed at his eyes beneath his glasses, "Sorry. I was just lost in thought."

Janet bustled in checking drips, tubes and changing some of the fluids.

"Respiration is picking up, pulse a lot stronger," she commented out loud for Daniel's benefit.

He looked at her hopefully. "Janet, will he be okay, really I mean?"

Janet looked at Daniel, frowning slightly before sitting in the spare chair beside him. "It's hard to be precise, Daniel, with injuries like this, but the Colonel has pulled through much worse. We've not yet lost a battle. He's strong and has plenty of will, and is as stubborn as hell. A lot of people wouldn't have made it out of that pit, let alone been conscious through it, so don't count him out yet."

"I won't, it's just, it's, I mean ...I hope I haven't killed him this time."

"Daniel, it was an accident. It could have been any one of you."

"No. Jack told me not to touch. He's told me the same thing a thousand times. That spear would have hit me if he hadn't put himself between me and it. I didn't listen, yet again." By this time Daniel was standing, all his fears and guilt written on his face. He clutched at his own arms, hugging himself. "Jack almost died - could die, because of me. He's going through this because of me."

Janet stood up, reaching out to guide him away from the bed. "Daniel, the Colonel did what he had to do. It's what he's paid to do, to serve and protect. Don't belittle his life Daniel. The Colonel always puts his team first, or anyone other than himself. He'd never think, he'd just act."

Daniel looked up at the Doctor and answered, his tone angry. "Well maybe he should think." He stopped, surprised at his own words. He thought for moment, then spoke again, this time quietly. "No that's wrong, he shouldn't have to wander around after idiots like me, picking me up, shielding me like he's a bodyguard or something."

"Daniel, that's his job, he doesn't want it any other way, believe me. He's one of life's protectors and he gets the job done."

"No matter what the price?"

"Not where one of his team is concerned."

"Perhaps the price is too high this time."

"Not for the Colonel. No matter the pain, he'd do it again, believe me."

"I know he'd do it again, that's the problem... I'm going to hand in my resignation," Daniel sniffed, removing his glasses. He rubbed at his eyes - he could almost hear Jack saying, "Don't rub Daniel, blink."

He felt Janet's hand on his arm and looked down into her anxious eyes. "Don't do anything yet Daniel. Please let's get him on the mend then talk it over," she pleaded.

Daniel nodded, reluctantly. "I won't do anything yet. I do need to speak to him. I owe him that."

"Good, now, first things first, the Colonel" She lead him back Jack's side, and Daniel sat once more, taking his friend's hand again.

A few hours later Sam arrived to take her turn at the vigil. Daniel took in the tired look on her face, and knew she had had very little rest. She looked at the quiet man in the bed beside them for a few moments, before speaking.

"Teal'c got the glove free from the blades. He's trying to find someone to repair it."

"Does he need help?" offered Daniel.

"Nope, I did offer, but he said he was okay and knows a saddler or words to that effect."

Daniel nodded. "A saddler?" His eyebrows went up.

"Yes," said Sam, her lips turned up in a small smile. "Apparently our Colonel introduced him to horses and a ranch owner not too far away."

Daniel couldn't help an answering smile. "Oh, sometimes I do wonder what he's learning from Jack."

"Apart from hockey and God knows what?" Sam grimaced, before grinning.

Daniel nodded, returning her grin. "They do spend a lot of downtime together. I should check it out someday" `Yeah after I've left,' he added, mentally kicking himself.

"Get some rest Daniel."

Daniel stood, his muscles tight from sitting for so long. Sam gave him a quick hug, and had already settled into the chair he had vacated before he had left the room. He hesitated for a second at the doorway, before dragging himself away, knowing he had to get some sleep.

* * *

Voices again. The blackness drew away slightly, but the pain unfortunately didn't. It clawed at him, gnawing away inside. `Focus, Jack, got to try and take a look around.'

Jack's eyes opened slowly, but then he was overwhelmed by a choking sensation and he found himself struggling to breathe.

* * *

"Janet!" exclaimed Sam, seeing the flicker of brown.

The Doctor responded quickly, leaning over her charge. She saw how he was starting to fight the ventilator and made the decision to remove it. "Okay, Colonel, take it easy, I've got you intubated. You know the drill - steady now, blow on the count of three." A whole lot easier than it went in, the endotracheal tube was removed from the Colonel's throat and a cannula was swiftly placed on his nose.

His grip on Sam's hand tightened and his gaze fixed on her. His deep velvet eyes seem to burn into Sam's. She held his gaze, blue eyes suspiciously moist once again.

Janet gave Jack a few sips of water to help to moisten his dry throat.

"Hey, Colonel," said Sam softly.

His eyes held puzzlement. "What happened?" he whispered hoarsely.

Janet bent in closer, trying to get the Colonel to focus on her. "How much do you remember, sir? Do you know where you are?"

A blank look crossed the Colonel's features for a moment, as he unwillingly altered the direction of his gaze, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Yeah infirmary, everything's hazy, PX whatever .... eyes," he murmured, leaving Sam and Janet to exchange puzzled looks.

"In short, you were on PX3403-7 and you and Daniel ended up in a pit full of bones with a spear through you," provided the good Doctor.

"Daniel okay?"

Sam nodded. "He's fine."

"Good," the Colonel whispered as Sam saw the battle to keep his eyes from closing was one he was going to lose.

"I've upped the pain meds for now. He'll probably sleep a while," offered Janet, once more monitoring his vitals.

Feeling slightly better now that she'd spoken to Colonel O'Neill and that he was off the ventilator, Sam allowed a small smile to touch her lips as she lowered her head back to its previous resting position.

She must have dozed off, because she stirred, feeling slightly disoriented, and as if she was being watched. She immediately raised her head, only to meet a gaze of chocolate brown, which seemed quite used to a steady perusal of her features.

"Hey," she murmured, suddenly nervous for a reason she couldn't quite pinpoint, but unable to bring herself to look away. She licked at her dry lips.

* * *

Jack stared into the Major's eyes, unable to tear his gaze away. `I wish you wouldn't do that, Carter. They do things to me, those eyes. Damn, they're so...' Startling himself with his thoughts he began to cough, slightly at first, but it quickly became a choking cough as he tried to bite back the cry of pain that came from him.

Janet appeared quickly at his side and adjusted the IV, once more injecting more painkillers into him. "Easy Colonel, take it easy." She braced his shoulders as he coughed in the hope of preventing further damage to his wounds.

"...Amazing..." he slurred as he held his focus on his 2IC for as long as he could, before sinking once more into a drugged slumber.

* * *

"Pain med talk?" Sam blushed, well aware of her Colonel's implication.

"Yeah, probably," agreed Janet, whilst her face was giving Sam an `I don't think so' look.

Luckily, Sam was saved from further interrogation as Teal'c and Daniel both entered the small room. "Hey guys, you just missed the Colonel. He came around for a little." She felt much better than she had earlier, knowing that her CO had been conscious and aware of his surroundings.

"But he's okay?" asked Daniel.

"He's certainly showing improvement, although he's in a lot of pain," replied Janet.

Teal'c inclined his head towards the Doctor as he acknowledged her words. "I have found someone to undertake the repair of the glove. It will not be exactly as before, but I believe it will be acceptable."

"Good. That glove saved his life. Whatever it meant to him before, it's so much more than that to us all now," replied Sam, knowingly.

* * *

PART THREE

The days passed slowly. One of the team always remained at Jack's side; but he was only awake for very short periods, his energies used up with healing rather than talking.

One morning Daniel was sitting quietly reading, taking his turn at watching his friend. He looked up as Janet entered the room. She checked the Colonel, making sure that he was asleep before she spoke.

"You okay, Daniel? Have you thought any more about resigning?"

He put the book down on the bed, and frowned up at her. "I've thought of nothing else."

"And?"

"And until Jack's on his feet I'm going to be here for him."

"Good."

"Nothing good about it, it's the least I owe him."

Janet didn't like the defeated tone in Daniel's voice. She tried once more to reason with him. "You don't owe the Colonel anything but your continued friendship. Have you spoken to Sam about this?"

"No, she's been too upset about Jack. I don't want to add any more problems to the load she already has to cope with." He paused before continuing. "And you're wrong. I do owe him an awful lot."

"He wouldn't want you to repay him like that, and he'd be angry if he knew that's what you thought."

"I owe Jack a lot," Daniel repeated, the emotion evident on his face. "I owe him my life countless times over and one day the price will be his life. Hopefully not this time, but the law of averages is bound to catch up - he's not invincible. It's funny you know, sometimes I think he is, so when he gets hurts it's a shock, I suppose. It really hits hard, and I don't want him throwing his life away on me."

Janet eyed Daniel steadily. She could see the guilt within him and there was only one person who could lift it, but that wasn't going to happen soon - the Colonel was a good healer, but not that good.

"I don't think the Colonel - no in fact, I know he doesn't think of you like that, a burden to risk his life on. You still won't do anything until you talk to him, will you?"

Daniel nodded reluctantly. "No, I won't. I promise."

Satisfied for the time being, but still worried, Janet left Daniel to his vigil.

* * *

It was much later that Jack started to stir once more, trying to focus his bleary eyes.

Daniel leaned forward "Hey Jack," he called softly.

`Voices again, no a voice,' he corrected himself as he struggled, fighting to control his eyes. He finally managed to wrench them open, finding a pair of blue eyes staring down into his, not Sam's though.

"Daniel," he muttered wearily.

"In the flesh," responded the other man, his voice light and quiet.

Jack tried a slight movement, but it released a wave of burning pain. The heart rate monitor beeped faster and faster until a low alarm sounded. Janet was beside him in seconds.

"Lie still, sir. I've got you." She held his shoulder and one of his hands while she continued to monitor the readings.

* * *

Daniel watched in horror as Jack's face became impossibly white, his eyes closed, and his face contorted with pain.

"Take it slowly Colonel, nice and easy." Janet was holding Jack's hand tightly. She spoke without turning, her gaze fixed on the monitors. "I can't give him anything stronger for the pain. His blood pressure is dropping rapidly."

Daniel sat watching helplessly. His friend was barely moving, but the pain he was suffering was clear.

A sudden spasm tore through Jack's body; and the monitors began to shrill alarms.

"He's crashing," called Janet urgently, pressing the emergency button. "Code Blue,"

Jack's body convulsed and then stilled. The heart monitor flat-lined, emitting an obscene tone that Daniel knew he would hear in his nightmares.

The next events unfolded too fast for Daniel to properly take them in. The medical staff entered the room and someone quickly pulled Daniel away from the bed. Clenching his fists tightly he backed away to near the door, his back against the wall. He stood there, muttering prayers as he watched.

"Prepare to shock, we're losing him," ordered Janet. The epinephrine and then the lidocaine had failed. "Clear," she called and applied the paddles to the Colonel's chest. The shock hit and his body jerked in response. The nurse checked his stats and then shook her head. "Clear," called Janet again and shocked the body with a higher charge.

"Come on Colonel, damn you," shouted Janet as she once more hit the paddles.

"Sinus tachycardia," called one of the staff.

A blip appeared on the monitor, followed slowly by more blips.

Janet gave a sigh of relief. "Thank God there are some orders you do follow Colonel."

Daniel stood, stunned, unable to move. He registered a presence at his side and realised Sam was standing next to him, He immediately grabbed her into a hug. "Oh Sam, we nearly lost him again."

"What?" stuttered Sam, looking over to where the staff were gathered around Jack. "Is he...?"

Janet turned away from the bed.. "Back in the land of the living, at the moment. You need to wait outside for now." She gestured towards the door and Daniel knew there was no point arguing. He gently guided Sam out as a nurse closed the door behind them.

* * *

Sam found herself out in the corridor yet again, barely noticing as Teal'c hurried to join them. She wasn't sure how much more she could take in right now. She cast a tearful look at Daniel, whose shocked pale face must surely have reflected her own. Teal'c stood with them, his face drawn into a frown, unusual for the Jaffa.

Sam couldn't stop the sob that tore from her throat and Daniel turned to her quickly. He grabbed her to him in a fierce hug and wept on her shoulder as she did the same to him.

"God Sam, we can't .... We just can't lose him, please God," he moaned.

"Hush Daniel, it'll be okay. He'll be ...." A sob choked her words off. Not able to speak further, they just held on to each other. Eventually they calmed enough to mop at their faces, but stood close, holding hands.

After what seemed like an eternity Janet appeared in the corridor, looking tired, her features grim. Taking in Janet's face, Sam clasped Daniel's hand harder, waiting for bad news.

"He's still alive," the Doctor stated quickly, seeing their expressions "but he's very weak and in a critical condition."

"Can we ...?" Sam motioned with her hand towards the closed door.

Janet nodded. "Only for a moment." She led them in. The curtains were closed around the bed and it looked like Jack was wired up to half the mountain with even more machines than before.

Sam flinched at the sight and Daniel grabbed her hand to comfort her.

"He's having trouble breathing at the moment, so we've had to intubate him again," Janet said softly. "Five minutes, then you all go and rest." She tapped her watch before leaving them.

"Oh God, Daniel," Sam muttered desolately. At her words Daniel grasped her hand tighter.

"He'll pull through," he said obviously trying to comfort her.

Sam nodded in agreement. `He's got to,' she added to herself. She moved forward and gently picked the Colonel's hand up, holding it with both of hers, cradling it as though she could give him life from her strength.

Janet, true to her word ejected them after five minutes. Once outside in the corridor the tears Sam had been holding in came thick and fast and Daniel held her tightly, his own eyes blurred with tears. Teal'c stood to one side, his expression blank.

"O'Neill will recover," he said softly, and to their surprise, walked away quickly.

As Sam's crying subsided Daniel let her go. He handed her one of his ever-present tissues and she tried to repair her wet and red face.

"Thanks Daniel, I'm sorry I ..."

"Ssssh, it's okay, really. I know Sam, I know. Do you want to talk?"

"No, not yet. Are you okay?"

He smiled a little and nodded. "Yeah. Let's get some rest. We need to be here when he wakes."

They made their way to their separate quarters. Sam threw herself onto her bed and the tears flowed once more. Eventually she cried herself into a restless sleep.

* * *

Daniel lay back on his bed, but the only images that came to him were of Jack lying there suffering in the pit, the blood, blood everywhere, on his clothes, on his hands. Unable to stand it anymore he sat up with a jerk. He knew he'd find no rest, so, not sure what else to do, he went in search of Teal'c.

* * *

Teal'c was sitting on the floor of his quarters, the candles lit, feeling once more at peace having just performed the meditation of kel-no-reem. A soft tapping at the door broke into his thoughts.

"Come in Daniel Jackson," he called without hesitation. Only Daniel Jackson would knock in such a manner and not enter. Major Carter always gave three short raps before calling out to him.

"Err, hi Teal'c. Sorry, am I disturbing you?"

"You are not."

"Oh." Daniel paused, clearly at a loss for words.

"Do you wish to talk?" enquired Teal'c, gesturing for the other man to sit on the floor with him.

Daniel Jackson sat down, mirroring Teal'c position with his own unconsciously. He stuttered slightly "I'm not sure actually."

"You are troubled? O'Neill will mend. He is strong."

"Oh God, Teal'c, I wish I had your confidence," the other man moaned.

"Do you not believe in O'Neill?" questioned the Jaffa with the raise of an eyebrow.

"Believe in him?" Daniel Jackson echoed. The question appeared to confuse him.

"Yes believe. O'Neill's hold to life is very strong, Daniel Jackson. He will not give up."

The younger man nodded. "I believe that Jack doesn't want to die, but hey who does? Oh - that was a Jack remark wasn't it?"

"No, Daniel Jackson, I did not say that he does not want to die - I said that his hold to life is strong. There is a difference."

The other man frowned slightly, as if thinking. After a few seconds he spoke again. "Yes, I suppose there is. When I first met Jack, he was suicidal. He couldn't kill himself outright though, he needed an excuse to die and the military tried to use that to their advantage. He chose to live instead, so perhaps Jack is destined for a long life. All I know is I don't want him dying for me."

"O'Neill has a purpose for his life."

"Yeah," Daniel laughed bitterly "Getting shot full of holes instead of idiots like me."

Teal'c just managed to prevent his frustration at the other man's words from showing. "Daniel Jackson, you are not an idiot. O'Neill would gladly lay down his life for you, also for Major Carter and even myself. That is O'Neill, but mostly he chooses to protect by fighting, which of course is the better option."

"I don't want Jack to die for me."

Teal'c spoke firmly. "O'Neill is not dead, but you mourn him as though he is. He will continue to fight for you and others like you."

"Others like me," muttered Daniel Jackson "That's what I mean, Teal'c - others like me who put people like Jack in danger."

"Forgive me, I did not mean that. I meant the people he cares for. It may be his task in life, but it is done willingly. It is also his life. Who are you to take that choice away from him?"

Teal'c watched as Daniel Jackson appeared to digest his words for a moment before replying. "I don't like seeing people hurt on my account."

"If the situation was reversed would you have behaved differently?"

"No," stated the other man firmly.

"Then why do you expect differently of O'Neill?"

* * *

Daniel didn't know what he expected when he had decided to speak to his team mate, a few platitudes, and words of comfort perhaps. What he had received instead was far more valuable. He re-evaluated his own arguments, and realised the Jaffa was right.

"Put like that Teal'c, yes why? I don't know!" He shook his head sadly as he reached a decision. He sat up straighter and gave Teal'c a small smile. "Thanks, you've been a great help. I'll leave you in peace." He got up stiffly and made his way back to his quarters, where he lay down and had the first proper sleep since the accident.

Sometime later a voice and an insistent shake on his shoulder awoke him.

"Hey, Daniel."

"Uh, Sam, what? Jack?" he mumbled sleepily grabbing for his glasses.

"No change yet, but Janet says, providing we eat first, we can visit. Come on. Let's go."

They made their way to the commissary with Daniel protesting along the way he wasn't hungry.

"We have to have something or else Janet won't let us in."

Several people stopped them and asked after the Colonel, which Daniel left to Sam to answer. In the queue Daniel tried to avoid picking up any food, merely collecting a large coffee, but Sam, obviously mindful of Janet's orders, placed a sandwich on his tray while adding a similar one to her own.

They were both munching half-heartedly at the food, when Janet appeared at their table "I'm glad to see you're taking my advice."

"I thought they were orders actually," grimaced Sam.

Janet sat down with her coffee and a sandwich. Before Daniel could open his mouth to ask the obvious question, she was already speaking.

"There's some improvement. He's steadier and maintaining his own. Teal'c's with him now, so don't rush." She rubbed tiredly at her brow.

"When did you last sleep?" asked Daniel.

Janet frowned. "Don't worry about me. As soon as I've eaten this and checked the Colonel once more, I'm going to get some sleep."

The conversation petered out as they ate and finished their coffees, before Daniel and Sam followed the Doctor to the infirmary.

"He's definitely improving," Janet confirmed as she finished checking Jack's vitals. "Now I'm going to crash, buzz if you need me." and with that she left them, giving the last minute instructions to the duty nurse before going to her office to sleep on the sofa there.

Daniel and Sam chatted quietly together, trying to include Jack in the general conversation. Daniel was sure that he could hear them, and knew Sam felt the same.

* * *

`Voices again, more than one for sure this time.' The voices were pulling at him from the inky blackness. `Oh crap! Pain! Perhaps the darkness was better?' So once more Jack returned to the darkness.

* * *

Several hours after she and Daniel had returned to the infirmary Sam was finally left alone with her Commanding Officer.

"Hey Colonel, you've got to get better, you know. I don't know what I'd do without you."

Her voice was soft, but it carried to the only other person who could hear - Janet. She didn't mean to listen, but the anguish in Sam's voice made her ears prick up. She came quietly around the curtain and placed a hand on Sam's shoulder. Janet was well aware of her friend's feelings for her CO, perhaps better than Sam herself.

"Hey Sam, you feel like a chat?" she asked softly.

Sam shook her head, blinking back the tears threatening to fall. "I keep thinking what if...what if he doesn't make it... what will... Oh Janet" She couldn't finish for the tears and Janet quickly hugged her friend.

* * *

`Voices again, God-damn voices.' He tried desperately to open his eyes, a dim blurred vision appeared, still voices, couldn't make out the words though, blinking, trying to clear his vision. 'Crap, can't move, can't speak, choking' - something in his throat!

* * *

Janet turned her head, letting go of Sam and moving closer to the bed. Wondering what had attracted her friend's attention Sam looked towards the Colonel and saw his eyes were blinking.

Janet quickly leaned over her patient. "Colonel, can you hear me?" She took his hand, and Sam watched as he blinked several times before his eyes finally focussed. Janet spoke again. "Colonel, do you know where you are?" She smiled and Sam realized the Colonel had squeezed her friend's hand slightly to let her know he understood. "Colonel, I'm going to remove the tube, on three sir, blow."

The removal of the tube was accomplished quickly, and Janet raised the Colonel's head to give him sips of water to relieve the dryness the tube always left behind.

Sam stood looking at him. His eyes drifted to her face and once again fixed on her eyes as if mesmerized. Gradually, after several long seconds, his eyes closed.

"He's sleeping now," said Janet, checking his vitals again.

Sam let go a breath she wasn't even aware she was holding and sat down quickly.

Janet disappeared for a minute or two and came back bearing two mugs of steaming coffee. She handed one to Sam before sitting next to her. Sam sipped her coffee, looking down at the sleeping Colonel.

"Oh Sam, you've got it bad," Janet exclaimed softly.

"Huh?" asked Sam, lifting her face to Janet in surprise.

"Don't act the innocent with me Samantha Carter," chuckled Janet.

"Oh Janet, sssh," said Sam looking around quickly, but seeing no one she relaxed slightly. "Am I that obvious?"

"No, not really, just to someone who knows you well. Goodness you're as bad as each other."

"Each other? I don't think the Colonel feels the same as I do."

Janet grinned. "You're kidding? Is love blind or what?"

Sam blushed slightly. "Really Janet I don't think he thinks of me as other than a friend and his 2IC."

* * *

Janet looked closely at Sam and realised she thought she spoke the truth. This was the perfect opportunity to tell her friend a few home truths. "Oh Sam, you watch each other constantly. You even seem to pick up each others thoughts without speaking sometimes. I've seen the way you look at him, and I've seen the way he looks at you. Neither of you do it obviously, only when you think it's safe. Honey, I think you've both got it bad." `Just that I think the Colonel isn't fully aware of it yet,' she added to herself.

Sam's face changed as she looked down at her Commanding Officer. Janet sighed at the `dippy' expression her friend wore. She squeezed her shoulder gently, and left her to her vigil.

* * *

Sam became lost in her thoughts, and sat, free to gaze down at Colonel O'Neill without censure for once. She was dimly aware of Janet taking her empty mug and leaving, but her thoughts were with the Colonel, ... with Jack. Seeing him lying there, pale and vulnerable, tugged at her heart. She leaned over, gently stroking her fingers through his greying hair. It was much softer than she imagined and her fingers strayed to his face. Asleep it was erased of the stress lines he normally wore and he looked so much younger.

He stirred slightly beneath her touch. A frown appeared and the slight movement his body made showed him to be in pain. Unsure whether to call for Janet or not, she stilled her movement, just keeping one hand clasped in hers. His eyes opened and Sam found herself yet again fastened to his dark chocolate eyes, eyes that appeared to lead to his soul.

* * *

`Beautiful eyes,' he thought `I could drown in those eyes. But she's your 2IC,' his conscience dictated, `What a 2IC though, okay not proper thoughts Jack, don't go there, be quiet,' he told his conscience `Way past it now Jack.'

He sighed deeply and gave Sam's hand a gently squeeze. "So Carter, how's things?" the words sounded hoarse and over forced to his ears, but it pulled them both back.

Sam's gaze flickered at the words, breaking the trance. "Oh just fine sir, you've given us all quite a scare though you know."

Still holding hands, neither of them seemed to want to break the contact and destroy the warmth and good feelings that it generated.

"Scare myself at times," Jack admitted hoarsely.

"I know the feeling well, sir," said Sam, looking down as she spoke and then up again and their eyes locked once more.

"Good to see you're awake, Colonel," called a voice from the foot of the bed.

Sam gave a start. She pulled her hand away from Jack's and stuffed them both in her trousers pockets. Turning to the voice she stood straighter "General," she acknowledged.

"At ease, Major" General Hammond moved around the bed and Sam stepped back to accommodate him. "Glad to see you're looking better than you were, Colonel."

"You mean I've looked worse than this?" said Jack with a slight smile, his voice still low and throaty.

"Yes son, I can say you've looked worse."

"I'll let Daniel and Teal'c know you're awake. Sir?" Sam asked the General's permission to leave.

"Carry on Major," he acknowledged as he sat down in the chair she had vacated. "Well son, another fine mess you've got yourself into. I've had the reports. Yours can wait a while." He held up his hand to discourage Jack from speaking. "I know you've saved Doctor Jackson's life in all probability, again I might add, but could you just not do it for once without getting yourself practically killed in the process?" His words were said softly, letting Jack know he wasn't censuring his actions.

"I'll give it a go next time," said Jack quietly, his eyes started to close once more, the effort of talking too much.

* * *

Hammond saw Jack's eyes closing and stood up, clasping his officer's shoulder gently. "Get some rest. You did well son." He quietly left the Colonel to sleep.

The General shook his head ruefully as he moved down the corridors to his office. "One of these days son, you're not going to survive," he muttered to himself as he climbed the stairs to his office. Once there he settled himself down in his chair. "The Doc's going to need more file space than me if SG1 carry on like this," he said sadly, trying to deal with the paperwork the last mission had generated.

* * *

Jack awoke some hours later to find a tousled brown-haired head on the bed near him. Daniel was fast asleep; his head over his arm on the bed, his body just about perched on the chair. Jack didn't have the heart to wake him so he lay quietly watching him. The pain was uncomfortable, but bearable, his head relatively clear.

Daniel stirred and mumbled, turning his head to give Jack a clear look at his bruised forehead and the butterfly stitches. Jack watched as Daniel opened his eyes, blinking a few times before latching onto his own. Stretching and yawning the other man sat up.

"Oh God Jack, I'm sorry I must have dozed off."

"It's okay," Jack whispered. "You okay?" He waved his right hand a little to indicate his friend's forehead, shocked at how much effort the small movement took.

Daniel put up a hand up to his head, plainly having forgotten about the stitches. Then realising what Jack meant he spoke. "Oh yes, goodness that's nothing, thanks to you."

"I did that?" asked Jack puzzled, feeling somewhat guilty but unable to remember anything about the incident.

"No, err yes, what I mean is you saved my life. I came off lightly with this."

Jack was uncomfortable with Daniel's words. "I probably had nothing better to do at the time," he said trying to dismiss Daniel's thanks.

"Oh Jack, no really, I mean thank you. So, how are you feeling? Want me to get Janet?"

Jack gave a slight shake of his head, which he instantly regretted as the room swam sickeningly. "Nah, I'm not too bad. I've felt worse."

Daniel looked like he was about to say something, but thought better of it, offering Jack some water instead, which he gratefully accepted, welcoming the cool liquid in his dry throat.

He took a few small sips before summoning up the energy to speak again. "Ah, that feels good. But if you're feeling guilty a beer would go down better."

"I'll never be able to smuggle that past Janet," grinned Daniel.

"Smuggle what?" asked a voice from the doorway.

"Damn, ears like a bat," Jack murmured.

"Colonel, I heard that too." said Janet, frowning as she approached the bed.

Jack groaned. "Damn," his eyes giving her a silent apology.

* * *

Janet gazed down at her patient, getting the full `puppy dog eyes look' `Oh Sam,' she thought to herself `I know how you feel about those eyes. They could just melt you down, or worse, damn you to hell if he wished.' Breaking her gaze she cast a look at Daniel. "Smuggling isn't allowed and if I catch anyone bringing a certain Colonel anything not cleared by me, there'll be trouble."

Daniel blushed at Janet's words. Colonel O'Neill looked from one to the other, smiling, and Janet wondered what he was thinking. He had a speculative look on his face, the sort she knew she had when she watched Sam and the Colonel together... No, surely not! She quickly looked away, avoiding his gaze. As soon as she did so the Colonel spoke in his best pleading voice.

"Trying to spoil our fun, Doc? Have a heart."

"You're not here to have fun Colonel, in case you've forgotten." But Janet laughed as she spoke, she could never be angry at him for long, especially if it was a contrite O'Neill fixing her with his eyes.

"No ma'am," said Jack with a grin and tried to give a salute, which couldn't quite reach, but got the message across.

"Now, how's the pain?"

"Not too bad."

"Right" Janet adjusted the IV, knowing a `not too bad' from the Colonel was way beyond comfortable. If he ever admitted past five or six on a scale she was worried - very.

The extra meds began to take effect and once more her patient succumbed to sleep.

As soon as she was sure Colonel O'Neill was asleep, Janet invited Daniel into her office. "How are you feeling? You're looking much better," she asked.

Daniel smiled a little. "I feel a lot better actually. I'm still deciding about leaving, but I accept that Jack doesn't, isn't, well you know what I mean."

Janet nodded.

"Teal'c actually helped me, he doesn't say a lot but what he does say does make sense. I can understand why Jack hangs out with him so much. Teal'c is a very reassuring person to have around - not that I think Jack needs reassuring," he added, frowning to see if his words made sense.

"Why wouldn't the Colonel need reassuring, at least sometimes?"

Daniel gave her a look "Jack? He's the most confident person I know. Why would he want reassurance from anyone? He's so self-contained."

Janet sighed and picked a pen up from her desk, twisting it in her hands as she spoke. She had her own opinion on the way Colonel O'Neill handled things, and they obviously didn't match Daniel's. "Daniel, as much as he appears that way, it doesn't mean he is. Anything that he is unsure of or makes him unsure he files it away, deals with it the `O'Neill' way. He boxes everything down, hides all his emotions and that isn't always healthy. He's done that a lot. He's had to in his line of work, the things he's not only done, but also survived over the years, but to keep doing it that way isn't living. You need feelings to live. His only feelings come from you guys, all his past is in shutdown - so to speak."

Daniel sat silently, and Janet wondered if he completely disagreed with her interpretation of the Colonel. Then he spoke. "Yeah, I guess, that's Jack alright."

"You and Sam and Teal'c are his family and he relies on you and he lives for you all, though he'd never admit it."

Daniel shifted uncomfortably. "He's my family too," he said quietly. "The thing is I've never been really sure how Jack feels about me. Sometimes I feel I'm a nuisance to him - holding him back, him getting hurt to protect me, in the way with two left feet, almost dressing me at times, reminding me to eat. He's there to pick me up when I fall...." his voice broke.

Janet placed a hand on his shoulder looking him in the face. "Then Daniel, my guess is you're describing a big brother and that is what big brothers do and probably how little brothers feel."

"But.."

"Daniel, you know the Colonel well enough, does he do this for others? How does he react to strangers? Or let me put it another way, can you honestly say the Colonel suffers fools gladly?"

Daniel shook his head with a rueful grin. "God forbid. I've seen Jack flay someone with his tongue, or that look he gives ... it's enough to stop a runaway ...." he stopped, smiling sheepishly "and I'm an idiot," he stated "too busy feeling guilty for having a big brother to enjoy it."

Janet laughed at his expression of enlightenment.

"Thank Janet, from now on I'll try enjoying his help and friendship instead of questioning it" and with that he scooped her into his arms and gave her a huge kiss.

Taken by surprise Janet didn't know what to say.

"Oops sorry," Daniel grinned at her.

She couldn't be angry with him, but she blushed slightly.

"That doesn't mean I'm happy for him to get beaten about for me though," Daniel added.

"I didn't think that for an instant. Now scoot, I've got work to do."

Daniel laughed, and left. Janet watched him walk out, smiling to herself. She could already see the difference in him. His head was up and he wasn't hunching over or hugging himself. `Thank goodness,' she thought, not only for Daniel but also for Jack - they both needed each other.

* * *

The days passed slowly for Jack. It was several days since the operation and he was sitting up in bed complaining. Janet again wondered at how well the Colonel healed.

"You are not - I repeat, not yet fit to go home," she told him yet again. "You're still not eating properly," she added as she eyed the tray barely touched in front of him.

"They call this food? The MRE's are better," spouted the irate Colonel. He was bored out of his mind and had clearly been spoiling for a fight, but hadn't found anyone willing to fight with amongst the medical staff, all of whom cast their eyes down and scurried away from his temper.

But, old Doc Fraiser, not so much of the old though, thank you, wasn't afraid of the grumpy Colonel. "Colonel O'Neill, if you persist in harassing my staff it will not get you out any quicker, it will get you on report with the General. When you are able to walk unaided and I'm satisfied you can help yourself and are eating properly, I'll think about letting you go home." She paused for breath and seeing he was about to open his mouth, put a hand up. "Tomorrow we'll get you up for a while and you can sit in a chair."

"A chair?" he echoed incredulously.

Janet didn't bother to respond to that, she raised her eyes to heaven and did an about turn to leave.

She stopped abruptly, almost bumping into Daniel. He put a hand out to steady her, and she felt a shiver run through her at his touch. Trying to cover her reaction she resorted to a quick laugh. "Oh, the cavalry. Will you please distract him before I personally murder him." They both grinned at her, not even bothering to ask what the matter was. They both knew well what their CO, a bored CO, was capable of.

"Hey Colonel, you upsetting the nice Doctor?" quipped Sam as they approached his bed.

"Getting my own back for all those damn needles," groused O'Neill.

"I heard that," Janet called from the doorway.

"Damn bat ears," he retorted.

"I heard that too!" she replied, and left the room, smiling to herself.

* * *

"Damn, expect more needles later." Jack grimaced as he heard the Doc's reply, only half joking.

"Pretty big ones, I'd say," snickered Daniel. "You done with that?" He motioned towards the food tray.

"Ack, even MRE's taste better," groused Jack, pushing the tray towards Daniel, who began to dig in hungrily.

Jack stared at him in amazement. "You forget to eat today or something?" he queried. Daniel just grinned, making himself more comfortable on the bed as he ate. Sam sat down in the chair.

"I take it you're bored, sir?" asked Sam, grinning at him.

Jack nodded. "Completely. Even the nurses won't put up a fight."

At Sam and Daniel's suddenly amused expressions he realised the innuendo. "Uh uh, I mean..."

"We know what you mean, Jack. I think," grinned Daniel.

Jack pulled a face. "Can't even have paperwork yet."

"Good grief sir, you must be bored." Jack couldn't help smiling at her comment - the entire base was fully aware of his views on paperwork.

"Take it easy Jack. I mean you haven't been out of bed yet." Daniel sounded concerned. Jack wondered what Daniel thought he was going to do with the reports he needed to read - get a paper cut or something.

He glanced quickly at the door before speaking. "Officially, no."

"You'd better not let Janet catch you," said Sam, smiling.

"God forbid," responded Jack with feeling.

He tried sitting up more, but his movements must have betrayed how weak and sore he really was, and in not just a little pain. He held his arm clasped across his ribs protectively. His friends, who both dived to rearrange his pillows, can't have missed the action if the looks they exchanged were anything to go by. Daniel gave into Sam with a wave of his hand and he sat back down on the bed none too gently, causing Jack to wince with the unexpected pain from the jarring to his body the sudden movement caused.

"Oh Jack, I'm sorry. I forgot," apologised Daniel quickly.

"It's okay, Daniel, I'll get you back," Jack ground out, trying to calm his breathing. It took a few minutes for him to relax and his for breathing to return to normal.

* * *

Sam sat down, suddenly aware that she was hovering uselessly. She desperately wanted to comfort the Colonel as he held himself stiffly, his breathing harsh and filled with pain. She felt so useless. They sat quietly for a few minutes, waiting until he recovered.

Eventually Sam saw the Colonel relax a little, as he slumped back into the pillows. Taking a couple of shallow breaths he finally spoke. "Well kids, anything exciting to report?"

Just a mineral survey with SG3," said Daniel.

"Well, that's so not exciting," responded the Colonel dryly. "Glad to hear I'm not missing out on anything."

Daniel shook his head.

"You're very quiet Carter," her CO commented.

Sam shot him a look "Oh, you know me sir, just thinking about something."

"What? Your latest do-hickey, build a thing-a-me?" He smiled at her.

She replied somewhat more sharply than she intended. "Something like that. I won't bore you with the details, sir."

The smile left the Colonel's face. "Something I said?" he asked, frowning.

Sam shook her head, aware that she'd hurt his feelings. She immediately felt contrite, but she wasn't able to say what was really on her mind. "Sir, if you don't mind, I'll go to my lab, and leave you and Daniel to talk." She stood and left quickly, giving neither man chance to change her mind.

* * *

Jack's face showed the sadness he felt as he watched Sam's retreating figure, then a flicker of longing crossed his features before being rearranged into blankness.

Daniel watched his friend's face sadly. `God Jack, why on Earth can't you just admit how much you care for her,' he thought.

"Do you need to work as well?" asked Jack, his disappointment at Sam's departure still carried in his voice.

"No I'm pretty much up to date. Yes, believe it or not, things have been so quiet here with us pretty much on stand down, I'm actually looking at old stuff again."

"Daniel, it's always old stuff," quipped Jack.

Daniel smiled "Fancy a game of chess?" he asked.

Jack accepted and the rest of the day wore on in a pleasant manner. It was getting towards late afternoon when Daniel noticed how tired Jack looked - how he struggled to keep going. He gave a loud yawn, "Gosh I'm whacked, let's save the chess for later."

"Bored with winning?" said Jack dryly. He leaned his head back heavily, his eyes battling to remain open, just like a child not wanting to sleep. "I'm too old for this," he murmured.

Daniel looked at Jack, seeing that his eyes were now closed. He had been surprised to hear Jack say that. The seriousness of his friend's injuries once again shot a dart of fear through Daniel. "Get some sleep, Jack," he murmured, moving the chessboard. "I'll see you later."

Jack didn't acknowledge Daniel. He had succumbed to a restless sleep.

Daniel slipped quietly out of the room and, making a decision, turned towards Janet's office. He gave a tap on the slightly open door.

"Hi Daniel, come in," she called to him, waving her hand for him to enter.

He closed the door softly behind him and leaned against it.

"Hope I'm not disturbing you?"

She shook her head. "For the man who can distract a bored Colonel for the afternoon - anything!"

"Actually, it was Jack I wanted to see you about. How's he doing? Really I mean."

"Well," began Janet "You know it's been a serious injury, with quite a bit of damage, including his lung and ribs, but he's doing quite well, all things considered. It's a marvel he's alive actually."

Daniel looked straight at her. "Will he recover fully - I mean be fit for duty?"

Janet hesitated slightly. "Well certainly for light duty. If it was anyone else that would be the case, especially at the Colonel's age, but as you know, he won't settle for anything less than fully active. Putting it bluntly though Daniel, he's going to have a battle on his hands. Hell, not many would have survived this far, never mind be out of bed so soon."

Daniel realised the implications of Janet's words and tried not to look guilty - after all it wasn't him that was disobeying doctor's orders. She gave a tight smile and continued. "Yes, I know all about his little excursions. I keep a close eye on him, don't you worry. I know most of his tricks by now, and then some. You should have seen the effort it cost him just to stand, but he made it. I know he thinks he's pulling the wool over my eyes, but I don't mind. If I think he'll get hurt I'll put a stop on it. The biggest problem is boredom, and then depression; they're his worst enemies if I don't get him out of here quick enough. The Colonel doesn't like time on his hands to think."

Daniel nodded in agreement.

"It'll be a few days yet and then he still won't be able to manage on his own. He'll need an awful lot of help."

"As long as SG1 is on stand down he'll not be short of help," said Daniel confidently.

"Thanks Daniel, he'll need you, that's for sure He doesn't like the infirmary and the sooner I can get him home the better for him, as well as for my sanity and nursing staff."

"Thanks Janet, just let us know when you want us. I can stay with Jack, no problem."

Daniel left Janet to get on with her work, seeking out Sam and Teal'c and letting them know some of what Janet had said, especially about the help Jack would need.

"I shall be there for O'Neill when required," responded Teal'c. "I have taken steps to get the glove repaired."

"Great work. Say, do you think Jack will want that spear thing as a souvenir? It would make a good talking piece wouldn't it?" joked Daniel.

Sam shuddered. "Oh God, I couldn't look at that thing again," she said with feeling.

"I have not disposed of it. I have cleaned it up in case O'Neill should require it, but should he not then you may have it Daniel Jackson." The Jaffa's face was perfectly straight as he said the words, and both Sam and Daniel gave him a look - was he joking?

"Okaaaay," said Daniel slowly, trying to refocus. "Uh, Teal'c, that was a joke? Wasn't it ....?"

The Jaffa gave the archaeologist a deadpan expression and Daniel began to look to Sam for help, but Sam shrugged helplessly at him, offering no support whatsoever.

The thought of the spear had each of them remembering what Jack had gone through, and a sudden silence fell over them.

* * *

PART FOUR

It was four more days before Jack built up to a level where Janet finally felt able to give into his demands.

"Right Colonel, yes you can go home, but I will be over regularly to check you for the first week. You can come in after that if you are fit enough. Rest is the key word Colonel, and take your medication and you can't stay on your own." Janet paused for breath.

"Okay, okay!" cried Jack raising his hands in submission "I'll be a good boy."

Janet laughed at his panicked expression. "You make damn sure you are - sir!" she added as an after thought. "Now who's sitting you?"

"Sitting?" he cried "Sitting? I'm not a child I don't need a sitter."

"Sir, I told you, you can't stay alone."

"I'll baby-sit," said a voice from the door.

"Daniel, I'll forgive you that wisecrack if you take me home," begged Jack. "Save me from this woman."

Janet gave him a glare.

"Yikes, see Daniel, I need your help. A deadly look from the enemy is enough to strike fear in the stoutest of hearts."

Daniel laughed. "What on earth have you been reading, Jack, or did you hit your head?"

"No, but if he carries on I'll put him out," threatened Janet "I'll just get your meds." She hurried from the room, knowing just how anxious the Colonel was to get out of the infirmary.

* * *

Daniel inwardly smiled at the sight of Jack sitting on the side of the bed dressed, looking like a child being kept in after school.

"Been waiting long?" enquired Daniel.

"Yeah, Doc's been giving out her do's and don'ts." Jack's posture slumped slightly and he cradled his ribs with his left arm.

"You okay?" asked Daniel.

"Yeah, just peachy, as soon as I get the hell outta here," his friend replied with feeling.

As Janet returned Daniel noticed Jack sat up straighter, taking a breath and trying to look like there was nothing wrong with him at all.

Janet handed her patient a large, bulky bag containing several items. "Here are your meds. Keep taking the painkillers as well, you need them. In fact don't miss any or you'll be straight back in here."

Jack eyed the bag with distaste. "Yes ma'am, can I go now?"

Janet laughed at his expression "Just as soon as the nurse gets here with your chariot - ah, speak of the devil." There was the sound of wheels on cement and a nurse entered with a wheelchair.

"I'll push," volunteered Daniel.

"Oh come on Doc!" protested the Colonel.

"You get, one - wheeled out or, two - you stay in," said Janet, her expression fierce with determination.

"What's three, Doc?"

"No three, Colonel."

"Sure there is, comes after two."

Janet folded her arms and started tapping the toe of her left foot.

"Okay," Jack conceded.

`That was too easy,' thought Daniel, an opinion obviously echoed by Janet Daniel realised when he heard her next words.

"I'll come up with you to make sure."

Jack's face was a picture.

`Yep, he was going to skip the chair out of sight of the infirmary,' thought Daniel, smiling.

"In fact Colonel, I'll come with you to your truck. I could do with some air and I can help carry your things and bring the chair back." The Doctor was clearly used to her favourite patient's antics.

Jack glowered at the smiling Doctor. "Okay, round to you Doc," he acknowledged as he got off the bed slowly. He shook his head ruefully, then glared at Daniel, who was trying to conceal a smirk and shot him an - `I'll get you later look'. Grumbling to himself he got into the chair.

Daniel noticed his awkward movements, `Not as good as you let on Jack,' he thought as he removed the brakes and swung the chair around to go.

The journey up to the surface took longer than they thought as people passing stopped to acknowledge the Colonel, wishing him well, which Daniel could tell Jack hated every moment of. By the time they reached his truck he was already looking tired and worn.

Daniel wasn't the only one that noticed the toll the journey to the surface was taking on Jack as his pallor grew more pronounced. "You doing okay, sir?" Janet asked quietly as she grabbed his wrist and checked his pulse. She caught Daniel's eye and nodded reassuringly and Daniel let himself relax a little.

Jack just nodded in reply to her query. The fact that not a sarcastic remark or look came her way spoke volumes to Janet and Daniel. They left the complex and headed through the parking lot to Jack's truck. Daniel helped Jack into it and put the things he'd amassed in the infirmary in the back.

"Don't worry Janet, I'll stay with him. Teal'c and Sam are coming over later tonight."

Janet nodded, still looking slightly worried. "Straight to bed I think. Don't let him move around too much for a few days. I'll be over tonight as well."

Daniel carefully manoeuvred Jack's truck out of the car park and passed through security and down the winding mountain road. He expected Jack to make some comment on his driving, but the twenty minute journey passed in silence, with Jack falling asleep less than halfway down the mountain.

As they pulled up on the driveway Jack woke from his doze. "Home sweet home," he murmured.

Daniel decided to get Jack in first and then come back to empty the truck, knowing full well Jack wouldn't wait to be helped. Jack made a slow entrance into the house and gave a cursory glance around before going to the couch and lowering himself down slowly into the soft cushions, giving a sigh of contentment.

Seeing that Jack was okay, Daniel headed back outside and unloaded the truck, then went to the kitchen to put the coffee on. By the time he returned the man was fast asleep, so Daniel grabbed a light blanket from the hall closet and covered him. He then headed for the kitchen, mindful of Janet's orders.

A short time later, Daniel bore a tray loaded with eggs, toast and coffee into the lounge room. Jack stirred, peering at him groggily, as he placed it on the coffee table.

"Wakey, wakey - lunchtime," called Daniel cheerfully to him.

Daniel helped his friend to sit, carefully placing a cushion at his back and ignoring Jack's disgruntled muttering. Once Jack was settled he handed him the tray and waited.

Jack sipped at the coffee, then pulled a face. "It's decaff."

Daniel smiled and ignored him, going back to the kitchen and returning with his own tray. He began tucking in hungrily. Between mouthfuls he mumbled to the other man. "Eat up. Janet said you don't eat you go back in."

Jack gave him a black look and picked up his fork, moving the food around on the plate and picking at the odd mouthful.

Daniel watched Jack with concern. He had noticed how much weight the older man had lost since the accident and he hadn't had much spare flesh to start with. Finishing his own meal, he took his tray through to the kitchen and came back.

"Okay, so my cooking isn't up to your usual standard," he joked, seeing how little Jack had eaten as he picked up the tray.

Jack didn't even smile. "Sorry, I'm not hungry. Think I'll go to bed. You don't have to stay you know."

"Well, if you're going to bed, I'll use the time to pick up some more things from my apartment, providing you promise not to get out of bed while I'm gone." Daniel replied, adding firmly, "And I am staying."

Jack just nodded, obviously far too weary to press the point. He got up with some difficulty, slowly seeking out support from the furniture. Daniel was unsure whether to help him; he knew Jack hated fuss and attention, so he decided just to stay close in case he needed assistance.

Slowly they made their way up to Jack's bedroom. He sank down on the bed with a thankful sigh and Daniel bent down, slipped Jack's shoes off and pulled the sheet over him. He didn't protest and within moments he was fast asleep.

Daniel got a tumbler from the en-suite bathroom and filled it with water and after he popped downstairs to abstract the necessary medication, he placed them on the nightstand with the water in case Jack awoke. Then he closed the blinds and crept from the room.

Quietly locking Jack's front door behind him, he headed over to his apartment to pack a few things. He guessed he'd be at Jack's a while. Before he left he made a call.

"Hi Sam, just letting you know I've got Jack home in one piece."

"How's he doing?"

"Well, so far he's slept, woken up, eaten and is sleeping again. I've just popped home to get a few things while he's in bed."

"He's not complaining?"

"Nope, I guess it'll be a while before he's up to that. Anyway, what time should I expect you and Teal'c?"

"Is about eight okay?"

"Great, see you then. I'll order pizza. It might tempt Jack into eating."

Daniel ended the call, checked to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything and left. He arrived back at Jack's to find him still sleeping. Having nothing better to do he busied himself in the kitchen making some salads and snacks for later. Seeing the house warranted no further tidying, he made fresh coffee and took some up to see if he could tempt Jack awake and get him to take his medication.

Jack was restless, trying to turn in his sleep, with a light sweat covering his face. He was twisting and murmuring against something in his dreams. Daniel opened the blinds, letting in some of the late afternoon light and sat down on the bed, placing a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Hey Jack," he said softly. He wasn't sure if Jack was reliving the accident or if he was remembering something further back. God knew there were enough bad events in this man's life to give anyone nightmares. Jack responded slowly, his eyes blinking open, trying to focus on Daniel, and it seemed to take a moment or two before recognition lit his face.

"Oh, hi Daniel, sorry. I seem to sleep a lot lately. What time is it?"

"Fivish, I think. Do you know you don't have any clocks anywhere? Where's your alarm clock?"

Jack tapped the side of his head. "Here, and I have my watch for backup. When I'm at home I go by my time."

"Oh, eat when hungry etc," said Daniel as he offered the mug of coffee he'd brought with him, which was accepted gratefully.

"I need a shower," said Jack, grimacing as he wiped his sweaty face with the back of his hand.

"Do you need any help?"

Jack shook his head. "Nope, I'll manage fine."

Daniel waited while Jack slowly sat before passing him the tablets, which the other man surprisingly took without complaint. Taking the empty mugs, Daniel decided to give his friend some privacy and wait downstairs.

"Call if you need me. Sam and Teal'c will be over later."

"Great."

"I'll order some pizza if you let me have the number."

"Speed dial three," called Jack as Daniel left the bedroom.

* * *

Jack slowly moved to sit on the side of the bed. He managed to get his shirt unbuttoned and with a little difficulty, off. His right arm still hurt to move and when he did it pulled on the wounds painfully. He sat in just his sweat pants, suddenly realising how much he was still bandaged.

"Oh crap," he muttered "Looks like just a good wash then."

He had been dying for a shower. He got up slowly and painfully and made the short journey to his bathroom. Eventually, still very wet, but much refreshed he made his way back to his room to get some fresh clothes. Absolutely worn out, and in even worse pain than before from just the effort of washing, he sat down on the bed in just his boxers and looked at the mess he'd created in his search for loose fitting clothing. He shook his head dejectedly.

"Hey you okay?" Daniel's head appeared around the bedroom door. "I was getting a bit worried." He came into the room and walked towards Jack. "You're not looking too good."

"Yeah, I'm okay. Just taking it easy," breathed Jack. He was trying hard not to show the pain his exertions had caused.

Daniel gestured at Jack's heavily bandaged torso. "Um, you didn't shower with all those on did you?"

"Nope, had to settle for a wash," Jack puffed.

Daniel took the towel from him and began to dry his shoulders. "You're a bit soggy. Janet will be over later, you better let her change them." Seeing Jack hadn't resisted his help so far he helped him to dress. "Socks?" he enquired.

Jack shook his head "Nah, too much trouble. I can't reach my feet at all. Forget the shoes as well, it's much easier barefoot."

Daniel nodded in agreement and began to straighten up the room, putting the worn clothing in a heap for the laundry. He began shutting the drawers and tidying the other clothing Jack had pulled out in his search.

Jack hesitated, reluctant to ask for help, but knowing he had to. "Daniel, I'm sorry, but do you think you could mop the bathroom floor? It got a bit wet."

"Sure no problem," Daniel called, going in to the bathroom. There was a pause, then he laughed. "A bit wet! How about a swimming pool?"

As Daniel mopped up the water, Jack gradually recovered his breath and the pain subsided to a more comfortable level.

* * *

Coming back into the room Daniel was struck by his friend's appearance. Dressed in baggy bottoms and an oversized hockey shirt he looked thinner than ever. His face was pale with dark circles underneath his eyes. It showed what he'd been through the last couple of weeks and what he was still suffering. Following behind him, Daniel watched as he made his way slowly down the stairs and sank down on the couch.

"I've cleaned the swimming pool out. It's a good job I'm here you know otherwise you'd have drowned in a week," said Daniel cheerfully. Jack gave him a grin, the first one all day Daniel realised. He brought two tumblers of fresh juice from the kitchen, handing one to Jack.

"No beer yet?" quipped Jack as he accepted it.

"What, with those meds? You'd be floating high!" laughed Daniel.

Jack nodded sheepishly. "Done that a few times," he admitted.

"Not on my watch," Daniel responded firmly.

"Okay, I'll go with that for now."

"Sam and Teal'c said about eight. I ordered the pizza for eight-thirtyish."

"Yeah, that's good." Jack yawned widely and reclined further down into the cushions. Soon he started to doze once more, the medication taking effect.

Daniel covered him up and sat down to flick the TV on. Catching sight of a historical documentary on one of the channels, he settled to watch. A huge battle was being recreated and the commentary droned on explaining the scene. Some of the gory content made Daniel wince. Even knowing it was a re-enactment didn't make the violence any less real to him.

Jack stirred in his sleep and a moan escaped him. A film of perspiration covered his face as he began to twist and fight. Daniel quickly moved to his side, worried that the movements would aggravate the injuries further. As he reached out to hold Jack still, Jack's arm suddenly flew out, connecting viciously with Daniel across the chest.

"No, you bastards," Jack began screaming and cried out more. At first Daniel couldn't understand what he was saying, but then he suddenly realised Jack was shouting in Arabic. He moved closer again, but was unable to avoid another blow as Jack's arm connected with even more force than before, sending the surprised archaeologist flying over the coffee table to land in a heap on the floor.

"Idiot!" He cursed himself for approaching Jack that way. Realising the battle scene was blaring away in the background, he reached out for the remote and turned it off As soon as he did so Jack seemed to settle down a little. Daniel moved closer to him, but stayed out of range, calling to him softly.

"Jack, Jack, it's me Daniel."

Jack's eyes flickered slowly on Daniel's face, looking unfocussed and glazed.

`No instant recognition,' thought Daniel as he moved a little closer. He could see Jack struggling to surface. "Hey Jack, you're home, you're safe." He spoke softly, trying to keep his tome as reassuring as possible.

"Daniel?" Jack's eyes seemed to finally focus on him.

"Yeah, Jack it's me," he grinned, relieved that Jack was back in the present.

Still sweating, Jack closed his eyes again, clearly trying to calm his breathing down. He sucked in a shuddering breath, and winced as he let it go quickly, his hand shooting protectively to his ribs. Daniel watched in alarm as Jack's face paled dramatically.

A knocking at the door brought Daniel out of the slight daze he had been in and he shot to answer it. Upon seeing Janet standing there he practically dragged her in, her doctor's bag almost as welcome a sight as she was.

"Oh boy, am I glad you're here. Jack's in an awful lot of pain, quick!" He almost ran over to the couch, Janet close behind him.

Janet frowned as she took in Jack's appearance. "What on earth have you been up to Colonel?" she asked as she opened her bag, getting her stethoscope out. She didn't wait for an answer as she lifted Jack's shirt and placed the instrument on his chest. Daniel was shocked to see blood seeping through the bandages, but Janet ignored it and continued to listen to Jack's breathing, then checked his BP and pulse.

"What happened?" she asked Daniel grimly.

Jack's eyes opened at the annoyed tone in the Doctor's voice. "Not Daniel's fault," he panted.

Janet didn't comment, instead she looked at Daniel, waiting for an explanation.

Daniel tried to make light of it "Um, Jack had a bit of a nightmare."

"Oh!" Daniel knew Janet didn't need any further explanation. That told her all she needed to know. She had first hand knowledge of the Colonel's `nightmares'. She'd witnessed a flashback in the infirmary and knew that it could be quite distressing to say the least.

"Take it easy Colonel. This will help with the pain" Janet gave him an injection. "I need to check the wound, it's bleeding." She gently removed the bandages with scissors and then the dressings.

Daniel stood quietly watching, not having seen the wound since the pit, and then not very clearly. It seemed huge and livid, and very raw looking. Jack's stomach and chest still looked very badly bruised. Daniel felt slightly sick at the sight. God alone knew how much pain he'd been in.

"The bleeding's almost stopped. There isn't much, but you've torn a stitch. Did you fall?" Janet asked as she applied a little pressure to the area, making Jack wince and grey a little.

Daniel's hand involuntarily moved across his chest to rub the spot where Jack had hit him. Janet looked away from Jack at the motion.

"You two weren't fighting?" she asked, her tone angry.

"It was an accident Janet. I forgot the first rule of O'Neill waking up - staying beyond arms length," said Daniel sheepishly.

"I hit you?" groaned Jack "Crap, I'm sorry Daniel."

"It's okay. Like I said, it was an accident. You were still um, dreaming."

"Your stats are still a little high," Janet commented, noting them down as she spoke.

"No, I'm not going back in," stated Jack firmly, before she could say anything else.

"I wasn't going to suggest it, you're better off here. If you can stop beating Daniel up that is," quipped Janet smiling at him.

Jack grinned back at her. "I'll try, but that's gonna be the hardest part Doc."

"Good, now let's get you sat up while I check the back wound and then we'll get you bandaged again." She helped him to sit up and whipped off his shirt without fuss.

"Hey you're getting better at undressing me without scissors," joked Jack "Can't you pass it on to your staff. Soon as I get fatigues comfy your staff cut em up."

Daniel laughed at Janet's indignant face.

"Perhaps if you avoided getting injured we wouldn't have to Colonel."

"Touch" said Jack with a grin.

Deftly Janet checked the injury on his back and then replaced the moist saline soaked gauze on the wounds, before applying dry dressings, front and back. She worked quickly and even Daniel was aware that the pressure on his ribs was making itself felt and his friend couldn't hold back the occasional grunt of pain. She started the pressure bandages for his ribs, only to pause when Jack uttered a choked cough.

"Humph, Doc a guy gotta breathe," he moaned through clenched teeth.

Janet continued to bandage when he'd got his breath. "Those ribs need the support Colonel, they were pretty bad breaks, and they'll take a long while to just begin to knit." She finished and helped him re-dress and then eased him back down, supporting him with more cushions until she was satisfied he was as comfortable as he was going to get.

"Are you in a rush to get home? Sam and Teal'c are coming over and I've got plenty of pizza on the way," asked Daniel, feeling highly relieved now that Jack was settled down.

Janet smiled and nodded. "That'd be great. Cassie's at a sleepover. That's if you're not sick of the sight of me?" she asked looking directly at Jack.

"You're very welcome, honestly, provided there are no more needles tonight," he replied, giving her a charming grin, his eyes dark and welcoming.

Janet sat down with a grin, and Daniel smiled as she was obviously taken in by the O'Neill charm. She bent and began to re-pack her bag, putting it neatly to one side.

Daniel had been busy tidying up the coffee table, picking up the things that had been knocked to the floor.

"Good job it wasn't glass," he commented as he finished.

Jack looked at him with a guilty expression. "Did I hit you that hard?"

"Well, I barely touched it as I sailed over it," laughed Daniel, trying to keep it light. He didn't want Jack feeling guilty over that as well.

"Are you hurt?" said Janet, reaching for her bag again. "I'm sorry. I should have checked you out."

"It's nothing," Daniel smiled, "Just a bit of a bruise I expect, and my ego shattered."

"Ego?" asked Janet "Never heard of that part of a body." Her tone matched Daniel's - light and joking, as they both strove keep Jack from thinking about what had happened.

"Yeah, an injured man with one hand - or should I say one arm, who I might add was asleep at the time, sends me flying. Would you advertise it?"

Jack nodded with a grin. "Sure Daniel, just don't go admitting it to a jar-head."

"What is it with you and the Marines?" asked Janet "I'm quite partial to them," she added, with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Janet Fraiser, you can't admit that," said Jack in an outraged tone. "They should give you time with Mackenzie and throw away the key!"

"Sorry I spoke." she laughed.

Daniel looked up from where he knelt on the floor, picking up the last of the chess pieces from the carpet. He was about to make a comment when there was a knock on the door. He put the pieces in a heap on the board and got up to answer it.

* * *

Teal'c stepped aside for Sam to enter first as Daniel opened the Colonel's door. She walked in quickly, anxious to see how her CO was faring, but stopped short when she saw Janet.

"Is everything okay?" she asked, concerned, her gaze moving to the Colonel as she spoke.

"Fine, Carter. The Doc's on a social visit at the moment," the Colonel replied before anyone else could say anything.

"Yeah, I get a share of the pizza tonight," quipped Janet.

"You can have the anchovies then," said Sam. She realised there was something not being said, but she held her tongue for now.

Janet grimaced. "Yuk, no chance."

"Now then ladies, no fighting over the wee fishies," said Jack.

Teal'c took a seat. "O'Neill, is that what anchovies are?" he asked.

Jack nodded and accepted the drink Daniel handed him from the tray he carried in. Daniel finished handing out the drinks to the others and Sam picked up an orange juice gratefully, suddenly thirsty. She took a long swallow as Daniel flopped down with a tired sigh.

"Is he wearing you out?" she asked, giving her friend a sympathetic smile as she sat down on the floor cross-legged, her back against the armchair facing Jack.

"Nope, not yet," joked Jack before Daniel could reply.

Everyone laughed except Teal'c, who raised just one brow. Daniel smiled at Jack's comment and didn't argue.

Sam sat studying the Colonel as they chatted. She thought he still looked very ill, not yet looking remotely like himself. She noticed that he sat nursing his drink; letting the chatter just flow around him, seemingly lost in thought.

"Well it is so nice to see you all together and not in the infirmary for once," said Janet cheerfully.

Sam pulled her gaze from the Colonel, startled at the comment and found both Janet and Daniel watching her. She looked down, suddenly uncomfortable.

A knock sounded at the door and with a shout of "Pizza!" Sam bounded up, glad of the distraction.

"There's some bills in the drawer in the hall," called Colonel O'Neill.

Sam pulled the door open and handed the delivery boy the necessary cash, along with a generous tip, seeing the Colonel was paying. She balanced the boxes, shutting the door with a foot and made her way to the lounge. Daniel had meanwhile brought salad, snacks and plates through from the kitchen ready for the pizza.

Sam spread the boxes out on the table and opened one, grabbing a slice of her favourite quickly. She flopped down again in her previous seat on the floor and took a huge bite. The cheese pulled off in strings and stuck to her chin as she chewed, eating with great relish.

* * *

Jack's gaze lowered to Carter and he smiled as he saw her enjoyment of the meal. He watched as, between mouthfuls, she licked at her lips and fingers, relishing every morsel. `What I wouldn't give to be that pizza at the moment,' he groaned inwardly, mesmerised by her eating.

* * *

Daniel felt Janet's foot nudge his, almost making him spill the drink he was just sipping. He looked over at her inquiringly, only to have her give a quick nod towards Jack and Sam.

"That'll get his blood pressure up," she mused out loud.

"What?" asked Daniel, picking up a slice of pizza.

She nodded towards Jack again with a smirk.

"Oh, jeez," Daniel managed, finally seeing the look his friend was casting towards Sam.

Janet's answering giggle must have roused Jack from his thoughts because he looked up, puzzled. Daniel concealed a smile as he offered him a slice.

Sam finished her first slice and reached for another. Jack visibly tore his gaze away from her and concentrated on his own slice, which he picked at half-heartedly. The others ate with a good appetite, but Daniel noticed Jack's attempt at eating was poor, especially in light of the fact it was one of his favourite foods.

"I enjoyed my fish pizza O'Neill," stated Teal'c, who had demolished a full one plus another half.

Daniel laughed and he and Janet both blurted out together "Anchovy pizza."

"But you said earlier that anchovies were fish," said a puzzled Jaffa.

Daniel laughed again and tried to explain it, but without much success.

"Just like we say steak instead of, well cow," said Sam, taking up the explanation, also laughing.

Teal'c thought for a second and then spoke. "I understand, but I fail to see why the Tauri did not say what they mean."

The evening wore on pleasantly, as chattering and laughter filled the room. Jack was however, very quiet and slowly his eyes closed, despite his best efforts to remain awake.

Sam, who had been watching him fight the drowsiness, spoke up. "I guess we need to call it a night" she nodded to indicate the sleeping Colonel.

"Yeah it's been a long day," yawned Daniel.

"I spoke to the man who has the glove today. He is confident he will be able to match the leather, but it will take time," said Teal'c quietly, keeping his voice low.

"Glove?" asked Janet.

Daniel explained how Teal'c had taken the baseball glove to be repaired.

"Oh right. The Colonel mentioned it once when he first stirred and I sort of evaded it. I assumed it was pretty much beyond repair, I'm afraid."

"I was wondering about the glove. I mean, I've never known the Colonel to break regulations like that, not to mention the risk of losing it, seeing how often we've had to abandon our equipment in the past," said Sam quietly.

Daniel hesitated before speaking. "I err, I think he only got it recently."

The others looked at him expectantly.

"Just before we left on that mission, he ... well, he got a package from Sara."

"So you think maybe that was the first time he took it off world with him?" asked Sam with a strange look on her face.

Daniel nodded. "I only really made the connection a couple of days ago when I fetched some things from his locker. I found the box and a letter. I remember just before we left I must have disturbed him going into the locker room. I think he had hold of it then, but I didn't really think about it properly. He was a bit distant, sort of annoyed and pushed it into his pack when I disturbed him."

"Wow!" exclaimed Janet, shaking her head in amazement. "Do you realise how many coincidences added up that literally saved his life?"

"Talk about fated," mused Daniel.

* * *

Sam shivered, as she felt as though a ghost had walked through her. `For the package to be sent in the first place, the timing of the delivery, whatever caused Colonel O'Neill to put it in his pack ... Someone up there was surely looking after the Colonel ... they must be!'

She felt her eyes getting moist and she gave herself a mental shake. She ran a hand through her hair trying to dispel the prickles from her scalp.

The silence that had fallen was broken by a huge sigh from Daniel as he rose to start clearing up. The noise from the plates and silverware disturbed Jack. He stirred restlessly and tried to sit up, still half asleep. The movement caused him pain and he clutched at his chest, sinking back down with a moan.

* * *

Janet was over in a shot "Take it slow, Colonel," she murmured, kneeling down in front of him.

Blearily he opened his eyes "Doc?" She nodded at him. "Thought I'd escaped the infirmary," he muttered.

Laughing, Janet gave the Colonel's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "You did sir. You're home, but you can't escape your doctor."

Janet waited as he struggled to come around more. "That injection I gave you earlier was quite strong. I'm surprised you stayed awake as long as you did," she admitted. "Come on, I'll give you a hand to get upstairs while Daniel says goodbye to everyone."

Sam was hovering to one side, looking unsure of herself, as if she didn't quite know what to do to help. She reached a hand out, and suddenly pulled it back. "I'll just give Daniel a hand to clear before we go. Goodnight, sir," she said, before turning in the direction of the kitchen.

Jack seemed to suddenly remember the others were there, and spoke to Sam's retreating back. "'Uh, sorry I fell asleep, `night," he murmured. Janet helped him to his feet and walked beside him, holding one arm to steady him as he made a slow journey towards his bedroom.

It took a little while to get Jack to his room, but eventually Janet got him to his bed. She quickly stripped him down to just his boxers and gently lowered him down. He was asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow. She covered him with the blankets and turned off the light, but left the door ajar and made her way back to the lounge room.

The others had got everything ship-shape by the time she joined them. "I think he'll sleep the night out," she advised them.

"We better be going then. I'll drop Teal'c off," said Sam as she grabbed her things together.

Daniel walked everyone to the door. Janet paused to speak to him as they watched Sam and Teal'c get into Sam's' car.

"Keep him quiet, and make sure he does little as possible for now. I'll be back tomorrow."

Daniel gave her a smile "I'll do my best, but you know Jack."

Janet nodded, knowing he was right. Colonel O'Neill never played the part of an invalid well.

* * *

Daylight filtered into Jack's room, waking him. His body clock had been set for years to wake early and today was no different. Lying stiff from sleeping in the same position all night, he gently stretched himself as he listened to the birds' chorus outside his window. Hearing nothing else stirring, he realised Daniel must still be sleeping so he quietly and very carefully dressed himself in the same bottoms Janet had discarded the previous evening. Not bothering to wear anything else, he slowly made his way downstairs. He grabbed some juice from the kitchen and walked stiffly to the deck overlooking the garden and woods behind his house. There, he sat quietly sipping the juice as the sun rose higher, piercing through the early morning chill and promising a nice day. He gave a contented sigh - he never lost the wonder of seeing the sun rise and set.

A yawn announced the presence of Daniel as he poked his head out of the doors to the house. "God, Jack, it's still the middle of the night." He rubbed his hands over his arms and then did a `double-take' at Jack's apparel, or lack of it, almost making the man laugh.

"What are you doing? Janet'll kill me!"

"Relax Daniel, it's a beautiful morning. I couldn't stay in bed any longer."

"You could have called me," groused Daniel "I'll put the coffee on." He disappeared for a few minutes then reappeared, handed Jack a jacket to put on and disappeared again.

Jack left the jacket hanging loosely around his shoulders as he sat contemplating the morning.

A little while later Daniel came out dressed, bearing two mugs of coffee. Jack gratefully accepted the one his friend held out and the two men sat quietly, each lost in their own thoughts as the sun climbed higher. Eventually Daniel stirred himself.

"Hungry?" he asked.

Jack shook his head.

"You've got to eat. You barely touched anything yesterday."

"Don't fuss. I'll let you know when I'm hungry."

"Okay, I'll let you off breakfast, but you will eat lunch or I'll report you to Janet," threatened Daniel as he went into the house. He returned a few minutes later with a tray bearing water and Jack's tablets along with fresh coffee and a toasted sandwich for himself.

"Mmm good," murmured Daniel between mouthfuls.

Jack sat lost in thought, gazing into the woods and mountains.

* * *

Daniel drank in the last mouthfuls of his coffee with satisfaction, and finally replete, sat back to enjoy the sun. "Penny for them?" he asked, seeing the other man's unfocussed gaze.

Jack turned his head slowly to look at him, his eyes questioning Daniel.

"I said, penny for them?" repeated Daniel.

"Not worth that much," replied Jack quietly.

Daniel gave him a sharp look, remembering Janet's warning about depression.

"Sure I'd give you a penny - if you've got change," he joked.

Jack gave a small grin, but it was more of a reflex than a genuine show of pleasure. "It's a funny world or worlds," he began softly.

"Sure is," agreed Daniel.

"I'm thinking of retiring," blurted Jack suddenly.

For a moment Daniel was shocked speechless, then he collected his thoughts and answered. "What? Come on, you've been there and done that. More than once I might add."

"Yeah, I know, but this time I don't think I've much choice. I don't think they'll pass me for active duty this time."

"And you don't know they won't."

Jack frowned, looking down at his hands as he turned his mug around, the cold liquid swirling within it. "Look, putting it bluntly, I'm already on borrowed time. My files are marked for six monthly medical assessments while I'm on active duty. I've screwed with the regs for a long time and they were bound to catch me up sooner or later. I don't want to fly a desk and gather dust."

Daniel gave Jack a look; it was quite a speech for the man. "What, you don't fancy a nice cosy job - promotion perhaps? A pay rise?" he joked.

"Promotion!" scorned Jack, finally looking up. "Do me a favour! I've upset too many people, pissed-off the top brass once too often. I'll go to my grave a Colonel, if they don't court martial me first that is. I just don't want to die of boredom doing it."

Daniel tried to reason with his friend. "But if you retire, you'd die of boredom."

"Daniel, there's a lot of call out there for people with my talents if you know where to look. I just wouldn't be on the Air Force payroll, that's all."

Daniel's mind started to boggle with fleeting thoughts of jungle warfare, black ops and God alone knew what else. "Jack, you've just got to give it time yet. It's a bad injury, but it'll heal. You'll get fit," he pleaded.

At Daniel's tone Jack looked at him thoughtfully. "Okay," he said quietly, if somewhat reluctantly. "I promise I won't do anything yet. I'll give it a bit longer."

Daniel knew that at the moment that was the best he could hope for. He hoped it was just the depression and pain talking, so he decided to keep off the subject, turning the conversation to other matters.

* * *

The day passed quietly. Daniel even persuaded Jack to eat some lunch. Evening soon arrived and Jack was having a sleep on the couch when Sam and Janet arrived together. Daniel put his finger to his lips to keep them quiet and led them outside, past the sleeping Colonel.

"Is he okay?" asked Janet, puzzled by Daniel's action.

"Fine, I think. I just wanted a quiet word really," he hesitated a little.

"Do you want me to go?" asked Sam.

"No, no, its erm, look have a seat," he waved them towards the chairs on the patio and sat himself. "Jack's thinking of retiring," he blurted, not knowing how else to start.

"What?" cried Sam, caught by surprise.

"Well, thinking is the key word here. He's agreed to not do anything about it yet, but you know Jack."

"If he makes his mind up we'll never budge him," responded Sam, nodding and looking worried.

"Janet, I'm pretty sure it's because he thinks they won't pass him for active duty and he wants to beat them to the punch, so to speak," Daniel continued.

Janet looked down, suddenly not able to meet his gaze.

* * *

"Janet?" asked Sam and the doctor knew her friend had seen her discomfort at the direction in which the conversation was heading.

Janet wasn't sure how to answer; she licked her lips and pushed her hands deeper into her pockets. "You know I can't say much, but there is a strong possibility that he is right you know." She looked up to face them both and found them staring at her in alarm. Sam's face was a picture of horror; she clearly hadn't expected anything like this.

"You know men of the Colonel's age are usually behind a desk, well even younger than him really. He's only escaped it so far because of the uniqueness of the SGC and of course because he's been passing the medicals, which I hasten to add, the powers that be have asked for more frequently and are making tougher."

"But that's not fair!" cried Daniel.

Janet frowned at him and shook her head. "Daniel, you know how tough it is out there, how many people we lose. It's not a case of being fair. How long do you think the Colonel would last, or his team, if he were unfit?"

Daniel had the grace to look ashamed. "I'm sorry Janet, but Jack's no slouch in fitness."

"You don't have to tell me that. He could still run rings around men ten years younger, but the powers that be won't take another serious injury lightly. He's already been flagged for a complete medical assessment before returning to light duty."

"Before you pass him fit for light duty?" asked Sam incredulously, "Why?"

Janet flinched slightly, realising she'd already said too much, but it was too late to back out now.

"They're questioning the injury being so severe and his putting a civilian at risk. They're questioning his reactions."

"They're what?" exploded Daniel "For God's sake, haven't they read the report ..."

"Sssh, keep it down," hushed Janet, looking towards the house.

Daniel took a deep breath to calm himself. "Jack got injured because I didn't listen. I broke a direct order. In fact I don't know how he got to me so quickly. I wouldn't call his reflexes slow, anything but slow - they've saved my life too many times."

"Janet, Colonel O'Neill's fast. You know he's beaten me to things time and time again. He doesn't hesitate or think if there's danger - he goes for it," added Sam.

Janet heard the sincerity in their voices and saw it on their faces, but she had to make her point. She put a hand up to stop them, and spoke firmly. "Look, I'm not the one needing convincing. I know how capable an officer he is, but the point is they'll decide on his fitness at the time of the medical."

"Have they set a date?" asked Sam, her face reflecting the worry they all felt.

Janet nodded "Eight weeks."

"Eight? Just eight weeks?" Daniel gasped. "How the hell do they expect him to be fit in .... Oh." Daniel tailed off as the penny dropped. "Does Jack know?"

Janet nodded again, not trusting herself to speak.

"But won't they do a reassessment later?" asked Sam.

Janet shrugged "I think the system is being worked to someone's advantage other than the SGC's or Colonel O'Neill."

"They don't want the Colonel to resume active duty, do they?" asked Sam in a whisper.

Janet saw Daniel's face fall as Sam's words sunk in. "There's no way he'll pass a medical in eight weeks, is there?"

Janet shook her head sadly. "Hell, someone half his age would need longer."

"Does the General know?" asked Sam.

"Yes, in fact I spoke to him today. He's still making enquiries and pulling markers in to try and get it delayed."

"Is there anything we can do?" offered Daniel.

"Keep the Colonel going. If he gives up and retires we can't even make an appeal, can we?" said Janet as brightly as she could. "Now if you don't mind, I'll go wake sleeping beauty and check him out."

Janet entered the house, picking her bag up on the way from the doorway, knowing her friends needed a few minutes to absorb the information she had just given them.

* * *

"Sam, we can't let them do this."

Sam looked at Daniel, trying hard not to show how affected she was by Janet's revelations. "You heard Janet - we've got to keep him from retiring."

"For what though? So they throw him a desk? He won't do that Sam, you know that!"

"We could start him on a mile run in the morning," Sam choked out, trying to smile through the tears that began to fall.

Daniel didn't answer her; he just gathered her into his arms and hugged her tightly.

* * *

Well, you're definitely looking better today," Janet said as she put her equipment away. "Pain okay?"

Jack nodded.

"Good, keep taking the painkillers regularly."

Jack nodded again.

"You going to talk to me today or not?" demanded Janet.

Startled, Jack looked straight into her face. "Sorry, my brain's busy. It can't do too many things at once you know," he said softly.

Janet could hear the despondency in his voice, and her heart ached for him. "Oh, Colonel, don't you go giving up on me now."

"Not giving up on you Doc. It looks like you'll have to give up on me you know," he said, his words so quiet Janet had to lean closer to hear.

"Look I know what you're thinking, but give us and yourself a chance."

"Us?" echoed Jack "Us? Who else knows? Daniel, Carter?"

Janet just nodded, knowing the Colonel wasn't happy with the news.

"Oh great, that's just great!"

"I'm sorry Colonel, but Daniel was really upset when you spoke of retirement and it just sort of came out. I know I shouldn't have but, as your friend, I couldn't ...."

"It's okay Doc, I understand. I guess I shouldn't have said anything to Daniel," sighed Jack.

"I'll go get them," said Janet, anxious to cheer him up somehow. She hurried to the patio, finding her two friends still sitting there. Sam was scrubbing at her face with a tissue that Janet assumed Daniel must have given her, knowing he had a ready supply because of his allergies.

"The Colonel's awake, and I think he needs to see some friendly faces," Janet said from the doorway, beckoning them to come in.

"Are you okay?" Daniel asked Sam. She gave him a nod and a quick smile.

"Parade ready," joked Daniel and gestured Sam to go in first. "Age before beauty," he smirked.

"The dirt behind the picture," she responded smiling a little more broadly this time and skipped into the house quickly before he could retaliate.

"The what?" puzzled Daniel, coming into the house, "Where on earth did you get that? Oh, don't tell me, Jack!" he groaned.

"Sam, give me a hand with some drinks," called Janet as she headed for the kitchen, seeing her friend shrug at Daniel before following her.

* * *

"Hey, have a good sleep?" Daniel asked Jack as he flopped down on the chair opposite the other man. Jack was propped up with his feet on the sofa, a mass of cushions behind him that Daniel assumed had been provided by Janet.

"Not bad," replied Jack, looking down at the light blanket covering his lower half. Daniel followed his gaze and saw that his thumbs were twiddling around each other uneasily. His chest was still bare, except for the extensive bandages newly replaced by Janet.

Janet came in with two drinks, handing one to Daniel and sitting in the other chair. She was followed by Sam, who handed Jack his drink as she sat down on the end of the sofa near Jack's feet. There was silence as they sipped their drinks, each deep in thought.

As the silence drew out Janet took a breath. "Right everyone," she stated and almost lost her nerve as three people gazed at her intently, waiting for her next words.

She self-consciously straightened herself and took the plunge. "Right, no tip-toeing here. The Colonel knows we all know the score."

Once again Jack found the blanket fascinating as Daniel and Sam both turned to look at him. "Great," he murmured, "Now we can plan a retirement celebration." He grimaced as he spoke. He looked up to see their faces silently berating him. "Well, what's the point in dragging it out? Hell, in special ops, you don't usually even live this long."

"Jack, since when did you give up so easily?" asked Daniel.

"Damn it Daniel, just what do you expect from me? There's no way I'll get through a medical so soon. Those bastards have it cut and dried this time. I can't win this one."

"Bullshit - sir!" fired Sam. "You tell us to never give up out there, never leave anyone behind you say - well it's time you took your own medicine."

Janet and Daniel looked at each other, but kept quiet.

"Out there Carter, I can win. The Goa'uld don't have rule books - you survive the best you can. You can buck the system, or a half-assed plan can succeed - sometimes just a lucky break or you're dead, you know that." Jack's voice was raised, his body tense, his breathing starting to struggle with the effort.

"It's not luck that's kept us alive," interrupted Daniel. "Okay, I'll admit luck helps, but it's you who's been keeping us alive Jack. You've kept us together,"

"Yeah, well tell that to some nameless bastards I can't fight!" Jack's voice cracked and he started to cough. He turned slightly, trying to get up and failed, then hunched over cradling his chest as the coughs racked his body.

Janet was by him in a second. "Take it easy - we're not the enemy," she murmured to him.

Daniel got a glass of water from the kitchen and gave it to Janet. Jack's breathing was rasping nosily and what little colour he'd had drained from his face.

* * *

"Shallow breaths, slow and easy," comforted Janet.

Sam scooted up the sofa closer, watching in alarm `God why did I start him arguing,' she thought as she saw the Colonel fighting to control his breathing, every breath agony with his ribs.

Gradually his breathing calmed down and some colour came back into his face. After a few minutes he managed to sip some of the water.

"I'm sorry Colonel," apologised Sam.

"For what? Shouting at an idiot? Anyway don't be sorry ... Christ! ... See I can't even have a shouting match ... I'd be no good shouting orders out there, would I?" Jack's voice was a little hoarse, the long sentence causing him to pant slightly.

"Another couple of weeks or so and you'll be at your usual volume," said Janet, dryly.

"Are you implying that I'm loud, Doctor?" Jack gave her his best haughty stare.

"Sam's right you know - you can't give up," said Daniel before Janet could respond to Jack's heckling, knowing full well it was the man's way of changing the subject.

"I know," said Jack with a deep sigh, well as deep as he could, given the injury to his ribs. "But I think I've fucked with the system once too often, but hey, what the hell - retire now - retire later, I'll give the sons of bitches a fight!"

Sam clasped at Jack's arm, and he looked at her in surprise. "We're with you all the way sir."

Jack stared at her face and deep into her eyes. "I've no doubt of that Major," he said softly. "Thanks."

Sam broke the contact. Sitting so close to him, touching him - it all combined to make her feel a little awkward, and now she felt foolish at having lost herself in his dark eyes.

Jack cleared his throat and looked away, as if little embarrassed himself. "Doc, when can I start physical therapy?"

Janet pulled a face "Wish I knew that was coming," she moaned, stalling. "Really sir, you know you shouldn't be ..."

Jack cut in "Doc, come on - you know I've only got one shot at this. I need to give it my best," he pleaded.

"Well, unofficially of course, I could start you off slowly and I mean slow." She gave him a pointed look "Oh, for goodness sake, Colonel, you shouldn't even thinking about it for at least another month."

"Doc, as a friend you can show me what I need to do. The ribs won't be a problem in eight weeks - well, much of one anyway," he pleaded, with his best puppy dog look.

* * *

Janet was hopping from one foot to the other in her mind. As Colonel O'Neill's doctor it was screaming too soon! As his friend it was saying, help him go for it. "Well ..." she began, trying to ignore his pleading eyes.

"Thanks Doc," he jumped in quickly. "Now I'll be a good boy, take my meds and go to bed." He yawned. Daniel got up to help him, but the Colonel waved him back. "I'm going alone. It'll take longer, that's all. You entertain our guests here." He managed to get up, slow and stiff, but he made it. He steadied himself for a moment, before making his way towards the stairs, using the furniture as a prop as he moved as Janet couldn't help but watch anxiously, just itching to help him but knowing he wouldn't appreciate the gesture.

* * *

"Goodnight kids, see you tomorrow," Jack called over his shoulder, before reaching the stairs. They called their goodnights to him as they watched him moving. He was glad when he rounded the corner to the stairs and he grabbed the handrail pausing for a moment, thankfully out of sight from his team.

He gave an inward groan `Now why did I buy something with stairs?' he chided himself `Come on, suck it up O'Neill and get going or they'll find you here when they're going home.' He made a slow but steady climb and once in his bedroom lay down gratefully, feeling slightly sick and giddy. `What the hell am I doing?' he asked himself `You're going down fighting - that's what. No, not down,' he corrected himself `Fighting!' No-one could say Jack O'Neill didn't have guts - but boy was he going to need them.

* * *

PART FIVE

The next few days passed slowly, with Jack moving around more and more doing simple exercises, but no one who saw him missed the pain and stress he was putting himself through.

Towards the end of the second week he'd begun to make his way out of the house, taking one of his team with him, on the start of many long walks.

It was the middle of the third week when Janet arrived earlier than usual. Sam and Teal'c were already there and Jack was taking a break from a slow jog around the garden. He was perched on the support of the decking, taking deep breaths, and although he was sweating lightly he wasn't showing any great discomfort.

"Hey guys," called Janet, letting herself in the side gate and coming around through the garden to them - a garden that was looking even better than usual. She supposed Jack was using gardening as an exercise and hoped he wasn't overdoing it.

"I've got some good news for a change," she told them as she flopped down on a chair.

Four pairs of eyes looked to her, waiting for her to speak. "Iced tea would be good," she smirked.

"Quit stalling," growled Jack.

"Yes sir," she laughed, as Sam poured her drink.

"Okay mmm, this is good." She sipped at the juice and then surrendered to the pained looks she was getting. "Oh right, well General Hammond has advised me that the medical has been postponed."

Jack gave her a sharp look, but waited for the rest.

"He's managed to call in some favours. You've got three months, Colonel, and I'll have clearance to give you light duties before then as well." Janet beamed at him.

Jack didn't say anything for a moment. Sam and Daniel were smiling happily, even Teal'c looked pleased.

"Uh you okay sir?" asked Janet, alarmed at his lack of response.

"Sure, yeah, sorry - I was just thinking about the cost of those markers to the General," he replied quietly.

"I know he had to fight hard to get the decision changed, but," and she waited till Jack looked at her "he obviously thinks you're worth it. You can do this," she added.

Nodding, he got up, his face expressionless. "I'll go see Hammond tomorrow. I'm just going to wash up. Won't be long" and went inside.

Janet frowned after the retreating figure. "Well, that went down like a lead balloon. I really thought he'd be pleased."

"I think he is Janet, but I think it came as a shock as well. You know Jack - he's so used to fighting his own battles and everyone else's that I think he finds it strange that people want to fight for him."

Sam nodded in agreement with Daniel. "But at least now he's got a fair chance." She looked at Janet as if afraid to ask her next question. "He stands a chance of passing this one, doesn't he?"

Janet laughed, smiling, "At the rate he's going I would have given some decent odds at the first one medical review, but yes, I really can't see him failing this one."

"Then it is indeed good news you bring Doctor Fraiser," said Teal'c.

Sam stood, putting her glass on the table. "I'll go see if Jack's okay."

"Jack?" mouthed Janet to Daniel who shrugged.

"Slips out now and then," he whispered back as Sam left them.

* * *

Sam climbed the stairs and tapped lightly at Jack's bedroom door "You decent, Colonel?" she called.

"Sort of," came the response.

A puzzled Sam opened the door and peered in cautiously to find Jack sitting on his bed half dressed, trying to dry off his bandages. He was mopping at them with a towel, or at least trying to.

"Got a little carried away there sir?"

Jack looked up at her with a forlorn expression. "Doc'll get mad. I still haven't mastered washing around them."

Taking pity on him, Sam crossed the room and took the towel, wiping it across his back.

Swallowing hard, Jack opened his mouth to stop her, but as she patted gently, he gave in to the sensations she was arousing in him and closed his mouth.

Sam knelt on the bed behind him and began to dry his shoulders. She wasn't aware of the effect she was having on Jack - she was too busy battling with the effect on herself.

`Way to go Sam, you idiot!' she cursed herself `You've probably well and truly embarrassed him, but, oh it's so good to touch him, even through a towel.'

* * *

Jack began to relax under her gentle touch. As Sam placed her free hand on his bare shoulder he felt the heat from her searing his skin. He knew he should have stopped her, but the touch was so good! `Crap, call a halt - she's your 2IC for heaven's sake.'

Sam moved, shifting to his side and bringing the towel around to his chest to continue patting the bandages dry. As she twisted around Jack turned his head to her and their eyes met, their faces only inches apart. Sam's eyes locked on to his as she froze and she seemed to stop breathing. They moved closer, both drawn helplessly together as their lips touched, the longing and the heat enveloping them.

* * *

The towel fell from Sam's hands as she grasped Jack's shoulders to deepen the kiss. Jack turned his body towards hers, his hands moving to run along her back and they fell together onto the bed. Sam wound her fingers through the hair at the back of his head, clutching him in an effort to get even closer. No sensible thought entered her head, and the blinding haze of passion that erupted between them bonded them together. Sam could feel the heat as bare flesh touched - she could feel his arousal against her thighs and only the need for oxygen made her pull her mouth away from his.

* * *

"God Sam," Jack moaned hoarsely, his breath gasping as the pain from his ribs penetrated the fog in his mind. His heart was pounding like never before, but the pain from his ribs made his mind take a step back and suddenly the realisation of what he'd done hit. "God Sam, I'm so sorry," he muttered wretchedly as he broke all bodily contact from her with an extreme effort on his part.

* * *

Sam felt bereft at the lack of his body on hers and then as realisation hit, she felt heat suffusing her face. She lowered her head, not speaking, so embarrassed by her actions.

`Way to go Sam, jump your CO the first chance you get. Dreams not enough?' she taunted herself. Feeling mortified, she berated herself. `You idiot, you've just pulled your CO down on the bed and clutched him like some sex crazed hooker.' She jumped up quickly.

* * *

Mistakenly taking Sam's acute embarrassment to be a result of his actions, Jack reproved himself `Christ, Jack, grabbing your 2IC and rolling on the bed - yeah good move Jack, she'll think you're a sex starved sad old pervert.'

He groaned outwardly, his misery etched on his face, but Sam wasn't looking, she was too busy creeping towards the door.

"Sir, I'm really sorry ..." she began.

His head snapped up at the formality, `Gee, rub it in why don't ya.' he thought. He saw how red she was and how she was backing away from him with a wary expression on her face. He felt an absolute louse. "Carter, I really am sorry."

Sam gave him a strange look, as if puzzled.

"I err ... oh crap!" Jack threw his hands up angrily, trying to right himself on the bed, but flinched hard at the sudden pain the movement inflicted. Sam flew back to the bed trying to help him.

"Take it easy sir .... that better?" She helped him into a sitting position, noticing how wet his bandages still were.

"Fine Carter," he said shortly, still angry with himself.

"Look I'll get Janet. She can change those bandages - they're soaking" and before he could stop her, she hurried out.

* * *

Sam paused at the top of the stairs trying to compose herself. She looked down to find Janet standing at the foot of the flight staring up at her.

"I was just coming up to see if everything's okay."

"He's fine, but the bandages have taken a drowning." Sam managed to sound normal while she descended the short distance to where her friend waited.

Janet reached out to touch the other woman on the shoulder. "Sam, are you okay? You look upset. You two haven't been fighting, have you?"

Sam looked at Janet awkwardly, not knowing what to say. `How can I tell her that I flung my CO on his bed and kissed him and now he's angry?' Although a friend, Janet was still an Air Force officer, so Sam opted for a quick shake of her head and averted her eyes. "I'll go get some drinks while you sort him out."

* * *

Janet sighed and picked up her medical bag to take upstairs. She couldn't help but wonder what had upset Sam so much, and promised herself that if the Colonel was the cause she'd make sure those bandages were tight.

She didn't stop to knock and went straight into the bedroom, to find the Colonel sitting on the edge of the bed looking flushed and tousled, but also clearly in discomfort. His hands were splayed around his ribs and he was breathing shallowly through gritted teeth. Janet walked straight up to him and almost threw her bag onto the bed beside her patient, causing him to jerk in surprise.

Jack wouldn't look her in the face. `They have been fighting' thought Janet as she watched him flush more at her glare. `Fighting or - no don't go there' she stopped herself and checked his bandages.

"Honestly sir, I think you'd get them less wet in a shower," she complained as she fished in her bag for her scissors and cut the bandages from him.

"Lie down while I check," she ordered and Jack slowly complied, wincing as he went flat. Janet felt around his ribs, noticing how bad the bruising still was considering the length of time since the injury, although in parts it was a distinct yellow. Stripping the dressing from the exit wound she checked it as well. "It seems to be healing normally. Is it still painful?" she asked.

"Uh, a little." confessed Jack.

Janet sighed, knowing full well what a little was from the Colonel's point of view.

"Don't go overdoing it. Those ribs are only just starting to knit. That spear did a lot of damage - it took chunks out of your bones you know."

"Put like that how can I argue," the Colonel answered dryly, obviously recovering some of his humour.

Janet laughed and then thinking 'now or never', continued, "Sam didn't look very happy just now."

"Sam?" He looked up quickly as a slight flush rose on his face. "What did Carter say?"

"She didn't say much really. Did you two have a fight or something?"

"Not exactly," he hedged.

Janet was now intrigued and didn't want to let it drop. "Not exactly what?" she asked.

"Sorry, not exactly ma'am," he mocked, purposely twisted her words.

"Sorry Colonel," she gave him a glare. "Sit up while I do your back, sir." She carried on with the formality, a little annoyed, but reminding herself that he was still a senior officer.

The Colonel managed to get up without much help from her and sat on the edge of the bed while she checked the entry wound the spear had caused on his back. She placed a fresh dressing on both entry and exit wounds. "Another couple of weeks and I think we can leave the heavy bandages off," she commented as she began to re-bandage him.

The Colonel sucked in a sharp breath as Janet pulled on the bandages. "Come on, Doc - I didn't hit her," he protested, "I think you're bending my ribs the wrong way."

"Oh sorry," squeaked Janet, a little alarmed that she'd got carried away. "I didn't mean to get them so tight." She adjusted the bandages. "There, is that better?"

Jack nodded, trying to catch his breath.

"I know you didn't hit her, sir, but there's more than one way to hurt someone you know," said Janet as she finished off the bandages.

"Oh yeah, I know." Colonel O'Neill's voice was low and hesitant. "Look, I'm sorry, but you'll just have to talk to Carter. Maybe she'll tell you, but you have to know I really didn't mean to upset her. I didn't mean for ..." He trailed off, looking down at his hands.

"Sorry... I.." and Janet trailed off herself, seeing he was hurting just as much as Sam was. "Anyway," she said more brightly, changing tack. "What about the good news? Have you taken it in yet?"

"Yeah, sorry Doc, and thanks." His eyes met hers and he was smiling, but the smile didn't reach his eyes - they were dark with hurt.

"What say we all go out and celebrate? A meal perhaps?" she suggested.

He nodded slightly, looking down again. "Do me a favour and ask Carter first before you announce it. She may not feel like ... she may not be comfortable with me ... it."

"Okay, I'll do that. I'll see you downstairs." Janet finished putting the last of her equipment away and binned the old bandages before leaving the room.

* * *

Jack sat still for a few minutes, trying to understand what had happened, but ended up being none the wiser. With a sigh he forced himself up and slowly found an outsized football shirt, which he managed to get into before heading down.

* * *

Janet found Sam in the kitchen.

"Hey, I didn't pour till you were done," said Sam grabbing the coffee pot and a mug.

"I suggested we should go out and celebrate the good news with a meal, perhaps tonight," said Janet casually, watching Sam's face.

"Oh" Sam's face showed no emotion. "Does the Colonel feel up to it?" she asked, grabbing the cloth and wiping the clean counter yet again.

"He said to ask you first." Janet took a sip of her drink, still watching her friend closely. "Any reason we shouldn't go?"

"No ...." Sam hesitated slightly "That would be nice. We haven't been out since before, well since way before the accident," she replied.

* * *

Sam held her emotions in check, but inside her mind was in turmoil with the implications of what had happened - or almost happened - in the Colonel's bedroom. She knew if she said no to going out Janet would be at her until she found out what the problem was.

"Great, I'll go tell the guys." Janet hurried away, and Sam relaxed in relief, leaning against the counter top. She heard voices and realised Colonel O'Neill had come downstairs - she would have to face him.

By the time Sam joined the others in the lounge the Colonel was sitting in his usual position on the sofa and Janet was arranging the time and place for the meal.

"Right, it's settled then, O'Malley's for eight." finalised Janet "You bring the Colonel," she nodded at Daniel "and I'll pick up Sam and Teal'c. Lord!" she exclaimed catching sight of her watch "I've got to run and pick Cassie up."

Sam stood too. "I'd better get going as well. I need to clean up and change. Can I drop you off, Teal'c?" she offered.

Teal'c acknowledged her with an incline of his head. "That would be most agreeable Major Carter."

* * *

After everyone had left Jack began to fidget - a sure sign he was getting restless. "Fancy a walk Daniel?"

"Oh," groaned Daniel "not far please, I've had more exercise this week than on any mission - I'll be fitter than you soon!"

"In your dreams Dannyboy," laughed Jack.

"Please don't call me that!"

"Does it annoy you?" asked Jack, trying to look innocent.

"Yes!"

"Right! Sorry Dannyboy - oops!"

Laughing, Daniel shook his head, glad to see some humour return to his friend.

They left the house and took a track through the woods at the back.

"Did you ever try getting Teal'c to go for names?"

"What?" asked Daniel.

"I mean, trying to get Teal'c to call me Jack and you just Daniel."

"Err once," confessed Daniel.

"And?"

"He asked when had I become a `just' and that he couldn't call you Jack because of respect to you as a warrior, so I gave up."

"Me too."

"You tried?"

"Several times."

"Oh."

"Well it's not a problem out in the field or on base, but you should see the funny looks you get out and about," grinned Jack at some of the memories.

"Yeah I can imagine. I'm ashamed to say though that I don't go out much with Teal'c. I know you guys hang out."

Jack smiled at Daniel "Well maybe you'd be a better influence," and the smile turned to a smirk "Mind you, Teal'c himself isn't a good influence."

Daniel caught the smirk "Like?"

"Well, have you ever been to a jello wrestling match?"

"No Jack, I can honestly say I haven't had that ... erm, experience, please don't tell me you dragged Teal'c there?"

"No Daniel, hand on heart, Teal'c dragged me, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it- until we got thrown out that is." Jack's face lit with a leer.

Daniel raised both his eyebrows to a height that Teal'c would have been proud of.

"Yeah, Teal'c decided he'd like a go and we got bounced out, it took ages to get him out of the ring and then trying to get rid of that stuff, it got everywhere." Jack was laughing at the memory.

Daniel laughed with him "I guess I should start seeing to the formal education side then?"

"Yeah, but leave out funfairs, zoo's, theme parks and the local museums."

"Museums?" echoed Daniel "You took Teal'c to a museum?" His eyebrows went up again in disbelief.

"Don't look so surprised, I do try and give him a well rounded Earth experience you know." Jack looked slightly offended.

"Sorry," apologised Daniel "Just never figured you to be a museum person."

"I am most definitely not, but I thought I'd give it a go for Teal'c."

"What happened?"

"I only left him a few minutes, I swear, and when I found him he was surrounded by school children and he was kind of telling stories of Chulak and Goa'ulds."

"You're kidding!"

Jack shook his head, frowning at the memory. "Nope, then the teachers tried breaking it up. Said we had no right filling their heads with science fiction and such rubbish, and the kids wanted more, so an almighty argument broke out and we got thrown out."

Daniel laughed.

"You can laugh, but I tell you, I've never been bounced out of so many places before. It's getting less frequent though, I think Teal'c's learning."

Daniel was still laughing heartily; he had to wipe his eyes behind his glasses for the tears that were threatening to run. "Oh God, that's funny, the great Colonel O'Neill, saviour of the planet getting bounced out of shops and museums!"

"Bounced out and barred!" Jack growled, which made Daniel laugh more. "So if you take Teal'c out, make sure he's not been there before and be prepared to die a few deaths."

Daniel hadn't noticed how far they'd walked till they hit the rise beyond the woods. They stood on the ridge looking out to behold a beautiful view, the valleys and mountains stretching majestically before them.

"It's so nice here," said Daniel, taking a deep breath of the clean air.

"Yeah, it's what sold the house to me." Jack was panting slightly.

Daniel picked up on the strain in his voice and turned to regard his friend closely. Jack was rubbing his chest as if trying to ease an ache, but he stopped as soon as he saw Daniel's eyes were on him. His face was still pale, his eyes etched with dark circles, and his face was drawn. He was still too thin, even though his appetite was improving he still had a lot of weight to regain. But, and it was a big but, his eyes had the spark of life Daniel was used to. They showed that Jack O'Neill was still fighting.

"Come on, we'd better get back or the women will beat us there," said Daniel and as they turned he gave Jack's shoulder a quick squeeze. The gesture wasn't shrugged off and they both turned to make their way back to the house.

* * *

A couple of hours later, Jack and Daniel were seated in a booth at the restaurant waiting for the others to arrive.

Both men had dressed smartly, but casually, and Jack couldn't understand why Daniel had taken an age to get ready and had left Jack waiting impatiently. "Gee Daniel, you took longer than a woman, I swear."

Daniel pulled a face at him "I thought I was being quite quick, anyway you cheated - you haven't got socks on."

"There's no way I can yet," Jack grimaced. He still found bending a very awkward task.

They were now sipping their drinks. Daniel was driving and opted for orange juice and Jack, despite a frown from Daniel, ordered beer.

Jack was quite convinced Sam would chicken out, but just in case she didn't he needed a drink. It was half relief and half trepidation that crossed his face when he saw the others entering the restaurant.

He watched as the three familiar figures spotted them and came over. Janet was leading, wearing a short dress that emphasised her tiny figure nicely. She greeted them with a smile and dived onto the seat next to Daniel, leaving Sam no choice but to get in next to Jack.

Jack's breath caught as he saw Sam hesitate slightly before sliding around on to the seat beside him. She looked very nice, in a casual blue dress showing a little leg, which he got a good look at as she moved closer. She had to move closer still as Teal'c fitted his bulk onto the remaining seat and Jack had to stop himself inching closer to Daniel.

"Cosy here," commented Janet, snuggling a little nearer to Daniel, who blushed slightly. "Sir, is that a beer?"

"First one," said Jack, taking a long swig, moving the bottle away from Janet's reach and catching the waitress's eye at the same time. She took their drinks order and left them some menus to browse.

"What's everyone having? I'm starving," said Janet, eagerly perusing the choices.

"Steak," everyone chorused.

"You can't eat here and not have steak. They're the best," said Sam, laughing. To Jack she seemed more relaxed than she had been when she first sat down.

"Will they not permit us to eat anything else?" asked Teal'c, raising a brow in Sam's direction.

Sam laughed with the others as she explained the figure of speech to him. Jack took the opportunity to study her profile as she spoke to Teal'c; her laughter music in his ears, wishing the smile she gave Teal'c was his. A smile from Sam made his day; it was the reason behind his corny jokes, anything that would draw a smile from her. Without meaning to, he let go a sigh as his thoughts turned to how he'd blown her trust and her friendship today. He supposed he'd get off lightly if she didn't report him.

* * *

Sam heard the Colonel's sigh. She turned her face to him with a frown, thinking that he was displeased by her joking with Teal'c.

Teal'c's voice disturbed her thoughts. "Then Major Carter, I shall have steak," he announced, giving her a look of understanding.

Sam turned back to Teal'c with a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. `I shouldn't have come,' she thought.

She realised that both Daniel and Janet were watching her, and she became increasingly uncomfortable. She would have gotten up and made a run for it, but Colonel O'Neill's gaze seemed to pin her to her seat.

Daniel cleared his throat, the sound loud in the silence, and spoke with a forced cheerfulness. "Hey, Jack actually beat me getting dressed tonight."

"Daniel, a woman would have beaten you getting ready," replied the Colonel dryly, finally turning his attention away from Sam.

That set off cries of `male chauvinism' from Sam and Janet.

"That's not fair, you didn't put socks on," whined Daniel, clearly not realising just how funny it sounded.

"Considering I can't get near my feet yet if I'd had to, or even had laces, you'd still be waiting on me," laughed Jack. His hand quickly caught across his chest as he laughed, and he grimaced as if in pain. "Ouch, no more funnies please Daniel." Sam couldn't help giggling, and he smiled over at her. "No giggling Major, please," he said, bringing up the old joke between them.

Sam smirked, trying to stifle her giggling. She began to feel a little better - more at ease.

"What?" asked Sam, catching Janet giving them a questioning look.

"Explain - that went over my head," the doctor demanded.

Sam looked over at the Colonel. "Do you want to explain, sir?" she asked.

* * *

Jack shook his head. "Private joke," he growled, swigging his beer. There was absolutely no way was he going to explain about the `side-arm' incident!

He watched as the Doc and Daniel exchanged puzzled looks. Daniel shrugged his shoulders. "Don't ask me, I don't know either."

Sam was openly smiling now, looking even more relaxed and Jack lapped it up. "Now be careful sir, you're leaving yourself open to friendly black-mail," she joked, her smile becoming wider, reaching her eyes.

* * *

Drawing a deep breath, the Colonel took a lazy swig from his second bottle and smiled back at Sam - a lopsided smile that split his face and lit his eyes. She barely swallowed back a gasp of amazement at the sight, as she couldn't help but gaze into the dark depths that seem to smoulder and then burn and made her shudder delightedly inside. A delicious shiver ran through her. Trying to cover her emotions, she grabbed for her drink and gulped almost all of it down.

"Earth to O'Neill," called Daniel, and Sam realized it wasn't for the first time. "Are we ready to order?"

Jack turned slightly, looking a little embarrassed. "Yeah, sorry," he said to the waitress standing patiently at the table. "Steak, medium with the works, baked potato."

The waitress took a note of his order with a beaming smile and then turned to Sam.

"Same, but with fries." She grinned to cover her own embarrassment.

After the waitress left Sam excused herself and headed to the restroom, followed by Janet.

Her friend turned to her, staring at her quizzically as soon as they were inside the door. "You okay, Sam?" she asked, "You look flushed."

"Just a little warm, that's all," Sam replied as she checked her make-up and applied fresh lipstick.

"Yeah, I know what you mean - it's kinda cosy snuggled up with Daniel," grinned Janet.

"You two get on so well, I think you should go for it." Sam grabbed at the chance to turn the spotlight from herself.

Janet sighed. "I wish."

"Are you joking? Daniel more than likes you."

"No kidding?"

"No kidding, Scout's honour," Sam smiled.

"You were never a scout," snorted Janet.

"Okay, so they wouldn't let me in."

Janet looked thoughtful "He's cute."

"He sure is. He's like a brother to me, but I see why women like him."

"Women?" Janet commented, her eyes narrowing.

"Not like that," said Sam, nudging her friend. "I don't mean he's a womaniser, just the opposite, but he does seem to attract attention, if you know what I mean."

"Sure do, half my nurses fight over him, the other half, over the Colonel - and I can see what they fight about there," sighed Janet.

"Colonel O'Neill?"

"Yes, Colonel Jack O'Neill, you lucky girl. It's not fair you get to be side by side with the best two hunks on the base."

Sam shrugged, trying to appear casual. "I don't see what they get worked up about."

Janet snorted "Ha! Don't give me that. Jack's eyes are to die for. They've stopped my heart a time or two, I'll tell you, and a mean body with it, nice butt and all," she nudged Sam with a smirk.

Sam gaped at her friend "You're a doctor!"

"Uh yeah, and I get to see the best bits as well as the injuries, you know. A girl can dream."

Sam's mouth gaped open and Janet doubled up with laughter at the sight.

"For goodness sake Janet, get a grip," hissed Sam feeling herself going red again.

"Oh my - your face!" Janet pealed with laughter "You should hear the base gossip. The female staff all wish you weren't around so the great O'Neill would be a free man."

Sam looked at her friend incredulously. "He is free." she insisted indignantly.

"He's like a lovesick puppy," said Janet, sobering slightly. "I've seen him freeze people with a look, including me a time or two, but when he thinks no-ones looking he watches you, and I can tell you they aren't pure thoughts he's thinking."

"Janet, hush up. You'll get us both into trouble, and you're so wrong, whenever we're in the same room all we do is argue."

Janet stilled. "Oh Sam, honestly I'm not going to say anything else except this - it's a short life and to live without loving, well I know it's a clich, but what we're doing isn't exactly living life to the full, is it?"

"Janet, I like the Colonel a lot, but I respect him as my CO a whole lot more."

"Oh come on - I know you like and respect him. We all do - well mostly all anyway, you know he's got enemies, some big ones - but you have to admit your feelings."

Sam shook her head "I love being on SG1. They're my family and I won't screw that up."

Janet grabbed her purse. "Nobody's asking you to do that, but," and she lowered her voice as they left the restroom "you're not telling me you wouldn't like to screw him."

Sam gaped at Janet, blushing wildly. "Janet, really! I don't know where you'd get such a crude notion from. I'm shocked."

"Yeah honey, and I'm Santa Claus," grinned Janet as she broke away, walking quickly to their table and leaving Sam standing there staring like an idiot.

A passing young man gave her a look and a wink "Fancy a drink, babe?"

Pulling herself together she gave a brisk but polite refusal and hurried back to the others.

Thankfully she wasn't seated long before the food arrived and Sam concentrated determinedly on her meal while trying to ignore any looks from Janet.

The evening wore on pleasantly, but Sam noticed Jack hadn't managed to eat with his usual good appetite. He was still too thin, she noted. An echo of her conversation with Janet came forward, but she pushed it firmly to the back of her mind and concentrated on the others instead.

The party broke up soon after they finished eating, and they called it a night. Janet, Sam and Teal'c bade Daniel and Jack goodbye outside the restaurant as they split up to walk to their vehicles.

* * *

Jack stood a little while longer, just watching Sam as she made her way down the block with the others, the slight sway of her hips reeking havoc on him. It was bad enough when she was in fatigues, but in a dress it was devastating.

"We going home or what?" asked Daniel, watching him, clicking his fingers in front of Jack's face for attention. He hadn't missed where the man's gaze was directed.

"Uh sorry Daniel, I was miles away." Jack wrenched his eyes away from Sam's disappearing back and turned his attention to Daniel.

Daniel yawned. "Come, let's get home. I'm bushed."

"Sure," agreed Jack. Stuffing his hands into his trouser pockets, he turned and walked with Daniel to his car.

"You're quiet," commented Daniel, after around thirty minutes of driving.

"I thought you were tired?"

Daniel laughed. "Thought I'd gone deaf."

"Ho, now you're a comedian." retorted Jack "I was just thinking."

"I thought I'd heard a strange noise."

"Ha, you're so not funny, Daniel."

"Never said I was."

"Good, you'd better believe it."

"Sam?" asked Daniel, changing tact suddenly.

Jack almost jumped. "Sam what?"

"You said you were thinking. Was it about Sam?"

"Should it be?"

"Well, you do enough looking at her. I thought you might be thinking of her as well."

Jack gave him a glare "Do not."

"Do."

"Do not."

"Do so."

"No way, your sooo wrong Danny-boy."

"Now I know I'm right."

"How so?"

"When you say that, I know you're lying to me."

"Am not."

"Are so. Shut up Jack. Don't be an idiot. You can admit your feelings to me. I am your friend."

"Okay, I didn't want to tell you this, but I like you."

"ASS," glared Daniel "Not to me. Sam. You know feelings?"

"Feelings?"

"Yes, f-e-e-l-i-n-g-s!" cried Daniel, spelling it out.

"You don't know anything about my feelings," said Jack, suddenly no longer joking.

Daniel snorted, going back to concentrating on the road.

"God, Jack. You get that goofy grin on your face when you look at Sam, and you're always watching her."

"Christ Daniel, you make me sound like a dirty old man."

"No Jack, that's not what I mean. I mean it's obvious you have feelings for her."

"I like Carter a lot - she's a good 2IC, in fact one of the best." defended Jack, thankful they were pulling into his drive.

"If you say so, but I don't believe you."

Jack turned to face Daniel, glaring at the younger man in the dim light. "You believe what you like Daniel, but don't go adding up two and two and getting five instead of four. People could get hurt."

"The regs you mean?"

"Yeah the regs, and that would be if there's any truth in it. Carter and I are not having a relationship."

"I didn't say you were."

"Did."

"Didn't."

"Did."

"Jack I didn't, but I do say you should be."

Jack glared at Daniel and then got out, slamming the car door hard. He heard Daniel scrambling out after him and the beep as he activated the car alarm. He caught up with Jack as he entered the house.

Jack decided to cut the conversation short before his friend could start it up again. "Just leave it Daniel."

"Why?"

"Cause I said so."

"Come on Jack, that isn't a reason."

"It is unless you want me to make you shut up," growled Jack "See you in the morning." and he made his way upstairs, leaving Daniel to lock up.

* * *

Daniel went around turning off the lights, shaking his head. "You haven't won Jack, there's always tomorrow," he murmured, as he too made his way to bed.

* * *

PART SIX

Jack woke early, in fact as soon as the first rays of light hit his window, quietly dressed and went downstairs. He completed his warm-up exercises on his deck, watching the early mist still clinging to the garden.

Warm up complete, he headed out, savouring the feeling of being alone for the first time in weeks. He began a slow jog through the woods, keeping to the most even trails, but the further he ventured, the quicker his pace seemed to go and soon he was striding out at a leisurely run.

He made it to the ridge before he had to stop. "Slob," he berated himself, between gasps for breath, holding his ribs to support them as they twanged unmercifully. A grin flashed across his features as he remembered his first run as an enlisted man - a four mile jog that left him feeling like he was dying and determined never again to be bawled out for being so unfit. He'd only quit smoking after Charlie's death, but he'd always kept himself as fit as he could, which helped him to survive in special forces; maintaining a level of fitness that belied his age - until now that was.

Starting to feel old and sorry for himself, he stumbled to sit down, memories of earlier years going through his mind. His marriage to Sara, which despite the many problems that his job enforced, was good - good that was, until the death of their son. Charlie's death seemed to begin the downward spiral in his life and it ended his marriage as well.

It had seemed to be the end of his life too, until a call from General West of the SGC altered everything. From his first meeting with the geeky Doctor Jackson, to the adventure on Abydos, life seemed to become more upbeat, more bearable. Although his high hopes of saving his marriage were dashed after he returned to Earth, a recall under Hammond's command gave him yet another chance at life, so he was pulled out of retirement again. Dragged from a flat morose existence he'd hardly looked back since.

His mind went to the first meeting with Carter. Another scientist fostered on him, but he could feel the spark, the attraction that was there even then. Love had crept up on him slowly, growing from sexual attraction to something special and deep. Over time he'd learned to respect her for her mind and the fine officer she was, but he still yearned for her as a woman.

Standing stiffly, trying to stretch his aching body carefully, Jack watched the sun climbing higher and as its rays warmed him, he felt a little better inside - not quite as old, but still weary and still yearning for something he couldn't have. He turned sadly and made his way back home, steadily but at a much slower pace than before.

* * *

When Daniel eventually emerged from bed, yawning and stumbling downstairs, he found a wide-awake Colonel preparing breakfast.

"I'm supposed to be looking after you," he mumbled apologetically.

"You can clear up if it makes you feel any better," grinned Jack.

"Uh thanks," groaned Daniel and sat down to fresh coffee, sipping at it gratefully while Jack cooked.

After a good breakfast and two more coffees, Daniel felt ready to face the day. He noticed Jack had managed to eat almost everything on his plate as well.

"Will you run me into the SGC? I want to have a talk with Hammond," asked Jack. He'd groused about still not being allowed to drive, but Janet had insisted.

"Yeah no sweat," agreed Daniel, watching as Jack got up to go make himself presentable, still moving a little stiffly.

* * *

Once inside the SGC the two men split up. Daniel went to his lab and Jack to Hammond's office. He stood outside and straightened himself mentally as well as physically before tapping on the door.

* * *

"Enter," called Hammond, looking up from the paperwork on his desk. He smiled, feeling genuine pleasure at the sight of his 2IC, getting up to greet him.

"Jack," he greeted him warmly with a shake of the hand "Sit down. I'm glad you've dropped in."

"Thanks." Jack sat, his stiffness not un-noticed by the General.

"You're certainly looking a lot better," said Hammond, ignoring the lines and dark circles and how thin the man looked.

"Hard not to from what I was," joked Jack. "Even corpses look better away from the infirmary."

The General laughed. "The Doctor has kept me well up-to-date. I take it you've heard the good news?"

"That's why I'm here." Jack looked down at his hands, looking a little uncomfortable, and the General waited patiently until, after a few seconds he continued. "I'd like to say thank you, sir."

Hammond winced. He sensed a `but' was coming.

"I know it couldn't have been easy to do what you did. Are you sure it's worth the cost?" Jack had looked back up to face the General as he spoke.

"Son, I know you know the score, so I'm not going to play around. It wasn't easy but, you are worth it."

Jack held still, his eyes centred on the General's face.

"I'm glad you think so, sir. I know I've given you a rough ride at times," he said awkwardly, smiling a little.

Hammond laughed. "However, there is a condition."

The smile vanished from Jack's face immediately, and George knew he was wondering what was coming. "You don't want the gate cleaned with a toothbrush, do you?" he asked quickly, making the George smile again.

He shook his head. "No, not yet, son. The condition is that you'd better damn well pass."

Jack laughed. "I can assure you, I have every intention of passing. I just hope they haven't changed the test too drastically."

"I've been assured that it won't deviate from standard, but you will be assessed for the fitness level of a younger man." George felt the need to apologise, even though it hadn't been his decision. "I'm sorry, Colonel."

"Just so long as they don't expect me to perform like I'm in my twenties, no problem," Jack's tone was light.

Hammond nodded in acknowledgement. It was hardly an unexpected move on the part of the Air Force. Field officers were usually put behind a desk earlier much earlier than the Colonel had gotten away with.

"I'm not expecting any problems," stated Hammond firmly.

The two men passed what remained of the morning sociably. George tried keeping firmly away from involving Jack in work, but it helped to bounce ideas off his 2IC. Another view point was certainly handy at times, and Jack's ideas although frequently unorthodox, usually worked out okay.

It was getting on for lunchtime when Jack glanced at his watch and pulled a face. "Sorry, General, I had no idea time could fly so quick. I've held you up for long enough. I'll pop in to see the Doc before I leave." He got up stiffly, George noticing his discomfort but wisely keeping quiet. "Thanks, sir, and I mean that." Jack held his hand out, and George shook it willingly.

"Anytime Jack. Now, don't go overdoing it. I expect you to keep me apprised of your progress, not just leave it to Doctor Fraiser to keep me updated. And remember - we need you back, but in one piece."

Jack opened the door and turned "You're a good man General," he said quietly as he shut the door.

"As are you Jack," replied the General to the closed door. He stood silently for a moment in thought before sitting down to return to his paperwork.

* * *

Janet greeted Jack with an enthusiastic smile. "It's good to see you, sir, although I didn't expect to see you today.

"Yeah, I just came in to talk to General Hammond."

"Is everything okay?" Jack nodded in reply, but winced at her next words. "Well, now you're here I'm going to take advantage of you" The Doc glared at his smirk "You're going to get a good going over." She smiled as the smirk left his face.

"Be gentle," he begged, resigning himself to her thorough care.

The morning had passed on to afternoon before Janet finished her examinations. As she re-bandaged Colonel O'Neill's ribs she commented on his weight.

"You'll need to step up your eating; Colonel. You need more carbohydrates - a lot more if you're going to regain your weight. You're under target by ten pounds and as you increase exercise you'll burn more off."

"I'm trying you know," complained Jack "Hell, I was even thinking of eating lunch till you kidnapped me to torture me."

The Doc glanced at her watch. "Wow, I'm sorry. I didn't realise how late it was."

"No worries. What say we collect Daniel and Carter and head down to the cafeteria?"

"Good idea, I bet they've not eaten yet. I'm just going to finish up on your x-rays and I'll meet you there."

* * *

Jack finished dressing and made his way to Carter's lab. Standing in the open doorway he paused. She had her back to him, bending over something on the bench, and totally immersed in whatever it was. He stood hesitating, wondering whether to disturb her or not, but some sixth sense must have prickled her because she half turned to him, surprise evident in her face when she saw who it was.

"Hey, good to see you," he began lamely.

"You too sir," she said softly, rubbing her neck.

"Have you eaten yet?" he asked and saw her hesitate "The Doc's going to meet us in the cafeteria. I'm just going to get Daniel."

Sam looked at her watch. "Sure, I'd no idea it was that late, thanks."

They made their way to Daniel's office, finding him immersed in a book.

"Feeding time." called Jack.

"About time, I'm starving." Daniel glanced down at his watch "Where have you been?"

"Doc got me," explained Jack.

"How did it go with the General?"

"Fine, hunky-dory, no problemo," Jack replied offhandedly, making it clear he wasn't going to expand on his answer Daniel shrugged and carefully marked where he was in the book, put it on the desk and stood. They didn't speak, walking in companionable silence to the elevator.

The cafeteria was crowded with personnel already eating their lunch. Jack and the others joined the small queue at the counter where he heaped a plate high with pasta and sauce, a glass of milk and a slice of pecan pie.

Carter looked askance at his tray "Hungry?" she asked, smiling slightly while glancing at her own salad and jello.

Jack shook his head. "No really, but I'm following doctor's orders. I'm not saying I'll eat it all, but I've got to get at least ten pounds on by the medical," he replied as they made their way to a table.

"Lucky you. I wish I could get to eat like that, just looking at your tray's put an inch on my hips," sighed Sam.

Before he could stop himself Jack's eyes had lowered to study Sam's shapely hips.

She twisted her head around, catching where his gaze had fallen. "Hey." she protested.

"Sorry." He overtook her quickly and set his tray down on the table. "An inch or two wouldn't hurt," he whispered to her. Daniel sat down besides Jack, leaving Sam to take the seat opposite him. She hesitated for a second as if she was about to say something in answer, before picking up her coffee. Jack carefully concealed a smile.

Janet joined them a few minutes later with a coffee and a sandwich. "Glad to see you following orders for a change, Colonel," she commented as she sat down next to Sam.

"For a change?" echoed Jack, trying to look insulted. "I'm hurt, Doc."

Janet laughed and turned her attention to her meal.

The others had no trouble finishing their food, but Jack was beginning to flag half way through the pasta.

Janet took a sip of coffee, looking up at him under the rim of her cup, and Jack could see the speculative gleam in her eyes. "Your x-rays are fine by the way. Your ribs are knitting nicely - just don't overdo it, and keep the pressure off them."

"What can I put them through that your bandaging doesn't?" joked Jack.

He gave up on the pasta, pushing his plate away and ignoring Janet's stare. Even the pie had lost its appeal and he sipped at the milk instead.

"Can I bring Cassie over at the weekend? She's dying to see you."

"Sure, that'd be great. I've missed her."

"What about a BBQ?" asked Daniel.

"Good idea, you volunteering?"

"Err, no, I think your place is better. My balcony is a little on the small side," grinned Daniel. "But I can help," he added hopefully.

Sam smiled. "Great, we can all pitch in."

Jack knew when to give up. "Okay, I surrender. BBQ Saturday it is then."

* * *

Saturday afternoon came quickly. Daniel and Jack had done what they could to prepare for the BBQ and were now waiting for the others to arrive. They were quietly basking with a beer in the warm sunshine. Daniel found himself relaxing as he listened to the sounds bird song with the soft background noise of classical music. He looked over at his friend to find Jack's eyes were almost closing.

`I hope we've not overdone it,' thought Daniel, watching Jack. `Still can't get over him liking classical music,' he mused.

The side gate swung open to admit Sam and Teal'c, both carrying bags. "I need the freezer, brought dessert," Sam called as soon as she entered.

"Knock yourself out," grinned Jack, sitting up.

Daniel stood as he heard the gate bang a second time. This time Janet and her adopted daughter entered.

"Jack!" squealed Cassie, launching at him, a mass of hair, lanky legs and freckles. Jack had just managed to put his beer down and stand when Cassie careered into him, leaping up for her usual bear hug. Jack didn't give anything away to her when her legs contracted on his ribs, but Daniel saw the pain flash across Jack's face before he could stop it.

"Cassie!" shouted Janet quickly, alarmed at how Cassie had flung herself on Jack.

Frowning Cassie let herself slide down. "Gosh I'm sorry Jack - really I forgot. Did I hurt you?"

"No, honey," Jack answered "You're barely half grown." He backed up, and Daniel saw a look of pain cross his face, quickly disguised as the girl turned to face him again. Jack held her hand and sat down, inviting her to sit on his knee. She sedately climbed up and twisted towards his chest, hugging his neck lovingly.

Daniel grinned at the sight of the lanky gray haired Colonel happily sitting the `not so little' girl on his knee. `If only those recruits he terrified could see him now,' he mused. Jack never had a problem with kids, just grown-ups. Then he remembered his duty as co-host and stood.

"I'll get drinks."

* * *

Janet sat down in the chair Daniel vacated, soaking up the sun. "Oh this is nice," she sighed.

"Mom's tired," complained Cassie.

"She works too hard," said Jack.

"Mom's always tired."

"Then I guess she always works too much. She can't take her own prescriptions."

Janet opened one eye and glared at him. "I didn't prescribe myself anything."

"You should, you're always telling us for to not work too hard. You should take your own advice."

"Well, if SG1 behaved themselves more I might have more time," snorted Janet.

"Touch." Jack laughed lightly, "But you've no excuse at the moment. SG1 are on stand down."

"Might I remind you that you still need me, Colonel," she pouted jokingly at him.

"I can get my checks done by you, but I don't need to see you every day. You could still take leave," Jack informed her, choosing to ignore her pout.

* * *

Sam pushed the door open, carefully balancing the drinks as she did so. The Colonel was sitting with Cassie on his knee, looking relaxed and happy and smiling at Janet, who was smiling back at him.

`Whoa, happy families? Surely Janet wasn't making a play for Jack? Was she? Was she!?'

She cast her mind back to Janet's teasing words about how good looking the Colonel was and a fleeting thought crossed her mind at how often in the past the doctor had commented on what a good catch he was.

`Huh! Am I jealous? Damn right I am! Janet has no right making eyes at my ...him.'

Janet had confessed once she'd love to get married again, to the right man of course. Was Colonel O'Neill the right man? Sam had to agree - he certainly was a good catch.

Sam's eyes narrowed slightly as the thoughts continued to churn in her head. She moved forward to the table, putting down the tray of drinks she'd helped Daniel to prepare.

"You okay Sam?"

"Yes, fine Janet." She helped herself to her drink and sat down.

`Jack isn't mine and he never will be. Why shouldn't Janet be happy?' She felt ashamed of her earlier uncharitable thoughts. `If Jack doesn't want me, then he should find happiness with someone else.'

* * *

Jack leaned over to take a drink from the tray Carter had carried out, but sat back as Daniel and Teal'c both appeared, carrying various utensils and plates. He took the hint and managed to pry Cassie away for long enough to light the grill.

"I hope you're all hungry. Daniel shops like a woman." he commented dryly, waiting for the grill to heat and the bait to be taken.

He grinned as his plan succeeded and the bait thrown to the women started the expected argument. Daniel looked so indignant that Jack had to laugh.

Cassie looked from one female adult to the other, obvious puzzled. "Why are you arguing? You do shop like women - you are women."

Jack laughed again at Cassie's comment. "I'm not disputing that," he said dryly "It's just that Daniel shops like one as well."

"Jack's idea of shopping," interjected an indignant Daniel, "is to throw in the meat and the beer."

Jack grinned. "Well, what else do you need?"

Checking the temperature, he announced the grill ready to cook and went in to fetch the steaks he'd had marinating. Daniel and Sam followed him in, bringing out the salad and various other side dishes. Cassie began to get the table ready with the plates and cutlery, but she soon tired of helping and dragged Teal'c off to shoot hoops at the side of the house.

Jack was soon back at the grill, pushing the steaks around idly while half listening to his team mates conversation. He had noticed Janet watching him and wasn't surprised when she stood up and came over to join him.

"I hope Cassie didn't do any more damage to those ribs," she commented.

He shook his head. "Nah, they're just sore, that's all." He looked over at the girl, watching as she ran to retrieve the ball. "She's certainly growing up quickly."

"Tell me about it," Janet laughed. "She's learned to be a typical Earth girl way too fast."

"It won't be long before she'll be fighting off the boys. She's going to break some hearts." He broke off to concentrate on turning the steaks.

* * *

`Just like the heart you're breaking, Colonel.' thought Janet `Only you don't even know it.'

"I've got my bag in the car so I'll give you a check up today." She kept her voice low and leaned closer to speak, looking up at him.

"Sure, later," he responded.

* * *

Sam hesitated for a moment in the doorway before continuing. The sight of the Colonel and Janet standing so closely together, taken with the Colonel's quietly spoken 'later', caused jealously to rise up inside her.

"Sam," called out Cassie "Come help me beat Teal'c."

"Coming," she called, placing the platter of bread rolls down. She hurried over to join Cassie and Teal'c in their game, glad of the excuse to escape from the uncomfortable situation.

It wasn't too long before the Colonel was calling out that it was time to eat. They looked over to see him putting burgers and dogs on the grill, and a large dish filled with steak already waiting.

Sam caught Cassie's eye and they raced over together, followed by a more sedate Teal'c. Just before the girl reached the others, Sam caught up with her and grabbed her, tickling her under the arms. Cassie pulled forward trying to escape Sam's grip, giggling.

* * *

Jack turned to look as Carter and Cassie tussled with each other, laughing. He stood, almost transfixed as he watched Sam tickling the happy girl. The mock battle ended as suddenly as it had begun with Cassie making a break for the table.

Cassie reached him, staring up into his gaze. "Jack, are you hungry?" she asked, looking puzzled.

Jack was finally pulled from his thoughts by the peels of laughter that erupted from Daniel and Janet at Cassie's remark.

"Yeah, but not for food," smirked Daniel.

Jack shot them both an annoyed look as he carried the plate of cooked steaks to the table for everyone to help themselves.

Daniel and Janet kept bursting into laughter as they caught each other's eyes, earning them odd looks not just from Jack, but from the others as well.

"Mom, you're not drunk are you?" asked Cassie worriedly as her mother giggled again.

Janet coughed, almost choking on her food at the question and Daniel gave her a thump on the back, trying to be helpful. Janet's expression caused Sam to start giggling as well, at which Cassie sighed with disgust.

Jack stretched and leaned back in his chair, food forgotten as he watched Sam laughing, strangely feeling jealous that the laughter wasn't for him. He closed his eyes and tried to think of other things and soon, along with the help of the beer he'd drunk and the warm sun, he drifted off.

* * *

Sam stopped giggling as she saw Jack lean back with his eyes closed, a feeling of longing to touch him rising strongly. His face was relaxed, the lines of stress easing, and his boyish looks gave her a warm tingling inside. She found her breathing getting harder. `Whoa, stop girl, he's not interested, at least in me,' she chided herself. Frowning she thought about what she was missing. `I could make him interested - why should Janet get all the fun?'

Call it the devil in her, but she ignored the others. Cassie was teaching Teal'c how to build a huge burger and Sam homed in on the dish of salted nuts on the table. Sure that Jack was asleep, she grabbed a handful and mischievously began to throw them one at a time at the sleeping Colonel.

The first one missed altogether, the second bounced off his shoulder, the third found its target inside the collar of his shirt, and a few more rolled into his shirt down his chest. He stirred restlessly, batting with one arm a little as though to scare off an insect.

Sam stifled a giggle and managed to get several more nuts down the Colonel's shirt before he woke up with a start, rubbing at his chest. Looking puzzled, he stared down at the top of his chest and stood, shaking at his shirt. The rest of the nuts had found their target - they'd rolled down inside to gather at his waist. Frowning now, he pulled his shirt from his trousers and the nuts fell out to scatter on the floor.

Sam couldn't contain herself any longer and burst into laughter. Jack realised what she'd done, and pounced on the dish of nuts, grabbing a large handful. As soon as he did so Sam squealed in mock horror and shot to her feet, running onto the lawn. Undaunted Jack followed her with a speed that belied his injuries and cornered Sam at the bottom of the garden. His speed had taken her by surprise and laughing, she twisted, darting to go around him. Jack followed and dove at her. He came down on her legs with a half roll, shielding his chest as he went, and before she knew what had happened she was flat on her back, held down by the Colonel sitting across her hips. Her hands were pinned at her head with just one of his. He held her gently, but firmly.

Her eyes widened when he showed her the handful of nuts he still held.

"You wouldn't dare," she teased, laughing.

"Never dare me, Sam," he grinned and started to trickle nuts down her shirt, his hand almost touching her. She started to struggle and almost twisted to use her legs, then remembered his injury.

"Not fair," she pouted.

"I don't care," he grinned, making the most of his advantage, knowing full well that if he weren't injured he'd be struggling with a wild cat, giving him a run for his money. Still holding a few nuts he straightened up and flipped one into his mouth while lazily grinning at her, dropping the odd one down on her.

Cassie made a move as if to join them, but Janet drew her onto her knee. "Grownups playtime honey," she laughed.

Sam, if truth were told, was enjoying the experience, the close contact playing havoc with her senses. `Good job he doesn't know what this is doing to me,' she thought, completely unaware of that Jack was thinking the same thing.

The nuts soon ran out, much to Sam's disappointment.

"You surrender?" Jack drawled and when she didn't respond he let go of her wrists.

Seeing her chance, Sam twisted, throwing him off balance enough for her to wriggle out from under him, but she only managed to get to her knees before she was grabbed and tickled. Giggling and wriggling up against him she tried half-heartedly to get away, but he ended up kneeling behind her, both his arms wrapped around her, holding her close. She could feel his breath on her neck and still giggling, she twisted around.

* * *

Jack had let Sam go, knowing he couldn't keep sitting on her for too long without her noticing what effect it was having on him. Now, finding himself holding her tightly to his chest, her scent and softness stilled him, filling his senses with the desperate urge to kiss her...

* * *

Much though Janet was enjoying the sight of Jack and Sam's antics, she could see where they were leading. She didn't want Cassie's active mind being given any ideas; so she reluctantly decided to call a halt to the fun before it went too far.

"Hey, are you two going to finish up? We're waiting for dessert!"

* * *

The sound of Janet's voice put a sudden halt to any further moves on Jack's part and cursing softly, he pulled himself away. He thought Sam's neck was more inviting than any dessert he could think of.

* * *

Sam lost the giggling urge as soon as she felt Jack move back. `Damn Janet,' she moaned to herself. She got up slowly but the giggling returned as nuts fell from her shirt onto the grass.

"I'm all salty now," she complained, pulling at her shirt and giving Jack an eyeful of cleavage in the process, something he obviously noticed.

`I'll get you interested Jack O'Neill. You're not so tough,' she promised herself.

Jack tore his eyes away from the swell of her breasts and seemed to hurry his pace back to the decking. Sam smiled inwardly as she followed and sat down next to him.

* * *

`She's actually flirting with him,' thought Janet, wondering what on Earth had brought about her friend's change of heart.

"Anyone want dessert yet?" asked Cassie hopefully.

"I didn't manage my main course," grinned the Colonel, waving a hand at his still half full plate.

"I'll fix dessert," offered Sam, getting up.

"I'll help." Jack grinned wolfishly and made to rise but Janet pushed him down again.

"You stay put. We want it today," she laughed. With a smile and a mouthed 'spoil- sport', Jack settled back and Janet followed Sam into the house.

A few minutes later produced a pair of laughing women carrying huge bowls piled high with meringues and ice cream topped with fruit and lashings of cream.

Daniel looked up and stretched lazily. Even Teal'c seemed to be very relaxed in the warm sunshine.

The Colonel laughed as Janet held a bowl out to him. "Are you trying to kill me, Doc?"

"A little bit of what you fancy," quoted Janet as she sat down, digging her spoon into her own dessert.

"How many inches is this Carter?" the Colonel asked.

"Oh, not too many. I can work this dessert off," Sam grinned back and lovingly took a large spoonful of ice cream.

Janet watched Colonel O'Neill while the Colonel watched Sam, his eyes not leaving her face as she savoured every spoonful with a wicked smile, licking at her spoon in what seemed to Janet to be a very suggestive manner. Janet turned her attention to her own dessert when the Colonel reacted to Sam's actions by quickly looking down. She gave a little inward smirk, imagining what effect Sam was having on him.

Janet found herself leaning closer to Daniel as she ate, exchanging contented sighs at each delicious mouthful. Even Teal'c was enjoying the dessert, saying that it wasn't something he was familiar with on his home world, but that the concoction was very pleasing.

It didn't take very long at all before Cassie decided she wanted more cream and quietly went to the kitchen to fetch it. She returned with the can and sprayed her bowl with a mountain of the stuff, much to Janet's dismay.

"Goodness Cassie, you'll be sick," she groaned.

Daniel grinned and reached for the cream, shaking it casually, "Anyone for more?" he asked, smiling.

Janet started to shake her head when she noticed the mischievous expression on his face. "No Daniel," she warned, waving her hand at him just as he let fly with a jet of cream.

Sam laughed hysterically at the picture before her, which turned into a shriek as Daniel aimed and fired at her too. Cassie, wanting to get in on the fun, let fly with a spoonful of her ice cream, which hit Sam on the neck and slid down her shirt. She looked around, as if she wasn't sure where it came. Her gaze fell on the laughing Colonel and Janet saw Sam's grin grow wider as she parted with some of her own precious ice cream, hitting him on the arm with a large blob.

Cassie, enjoying herself hugely, launched several more rounds at everyone. When she ran out of ammo, she scampered into the kitchen and came back with the tub of ice cream along with another can of cream.

Teal'c watched the free for all with something akin to dismay, backing off the deck out of the way of the flying food.

Seeing Cassie had more ammo, Jack grabbed the can of cream off her and began to launch a fresh attack. Sam grabbed the ice cream off Cassie and began to aim handfuls at Jack in retaliation. He was helpless as blobs began to slide off his neck and down his shirt.

* * *

Cassie was having a wonderful time. The adults had moved over to the lawn while carrying on with the food fight, but Cassie had had all her ammo snatched. She looked around for anything else she could use. She spied the garden hose and grabbing it she turned it on, aiming the stream at the others.

She laughed as the cold water made the adults shout in surprise.

"Cassie!" screamed a soaked Janet. She advanced on her daughter angrily and Cassie, seeing her position was about to be overrun, dropped the hose and dived off to hide behind a bemused Teal'c.

She had just had time to reach the relative safety of Teal'c large form and turn when Daniel began to fall, his legs sliding out from under him on the slippery grass. He grabbed at the nearest object to stop himself, but it unfortunately was Cassie's mom. Janet shrieked loudly and started to fall as well. Janet reached out with her other hand and grabbed a handful of Jack's shirt, trying to stop herself, but the three of them went down like a stack of cards.

* * *

Sam was trying to get to the hose to turn it off but only managed a few steps before she got tangled up with her friend's legs. She went down hard, knowing it was going to hurt when she hit the ground. Instead of the hard impact she expected she landed on something soft - Jack, who was already winded and flat on his back, where Janet had pulled him down.

Sam heard the crack as she landed and the cry of pain from the Colonel made her feel sick. She rolled quickly to get to her knees, freeing him of her weight. "Oh god, Jack I'm sorry," she cried.

Daniel and Janet were still heaped together laughing, unaware of the accident. Sam knelt beside Jack, not sure what to do except call for help.

"Janet!"

The doctor in Janet acted immediately and she was on the other side of the Colonel in seconds. Teal'c turned the hose off at the tap and came forward to help.

Jack was lying flat on his back with his eyes squeezed tight shut. His arm was across his chest and he was struggling to catch his breath. He bit hard on his lower lip, looking like he was trying to keep himself from vomiting.

"I fell on him," whispered Sam, really upset. "I heard something crack," she added.

"Cassie, fetch my bag out of the car," ordered Janet as she started to undo Jack's shirt. Cassie was back in a moment with the doctor's bag. Janet pulled scissors out and deftly began to cut the bandages.

"Take it easy, shallow breaths. Sam, support his head," she ordered and Sam moved around to put Jack's head onto her knees, stroking his hair in an attempt at comfort.

Sam frowned as the bandages were removed and she saw the injuries for the first time. There was still a mass of yellow bruising on Jack's chest. The wound where the spear had come through still looked raw and very vivid. She tried not thinking about how bad it still was and how much agony it must have caused him.

* * *

Cassie was kneeling beside Janet and she gasped at the sight of the ugly wound, tears springing to her eyes.

When Cassie gasped, Janet realised the girl was beside her and tried to get her away. "Cassie, go help tidy up," she urged, but Cassie just shook her head, crying. Janet was busy with the Colonel and was pleased when Daniel came over and scooped her daughter up into his arms. He moved away a little before sitting down on a dry patch of grass, his arm around the sobbing girl's shoulders.

"This is going to hurt sir." Janet announced as she began to feel her patient's ribs.

"No shit," he groaned and then bit back a cry as Janet found the injured area.

"Breath as deeply as you can for me," she requested, supporting the area with her hand as he did his best to follow her orders. "I think you've cracked two, but I'll need to x-ray you to make sure." She filled a syringe. "Just a little. It'll help," she added as she saw his grimace.

Sam looked aghast at the news. "God, I'm so sorry Colonel. I didn't mean to ..." She stalled, her voice wobbling slightly.

Jack gave her a sickly grin. "It's funny really, but we can't report how it happened you know. It wouldn't look good jumped by my 2IC," he joked.

Janet laughed but Sam only looked more miserable.

Cassie had stopped crying and was hiccoughing, trying to speak. "I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to hurt Jack."

"Sssh, its okay," soothed Daniel "It was an accident."

"Mm...mmmy fault." The sobs began again "I didn't mean to."

Jack asked Teal'c to help Jack up, which he did so carefully, and soon the Colonel was standing, swaying slightly and still breathless. "I need to get you to the infirmary," said Janet, watching him carefully.

"Looking like this?" Jack gestured at his clothes, drawing her attention to the state of them. He was trying hard to keep the pain from showing and Janet knew that.

Janet sighed. "Good point - there's enough gossip about as it is."

"Look, Daniel's got clothes here and Teal'c's okay. What say you and Carter and Cassie go clean up at home then Cassie can wait here while I go with you to the SGC."

Janet was doubtful - she knew Jack was in a lot of pain and she wanted to make sure there was no other damage.

"Colonel's orders," added Jack for good measure.

"I suppose ..." She gave in. "But I'm going to tape those ribs first."

The Colonel shook his head emphatically. "No way. I'm going to take the chance to have a proper shower. I'll be careful, I promise."

Despite Janet's protest, Jack was adamant, so they helped him back to the house and while Daniel helped Jack to the shower, Teal'c began to tidy up. Janet could feel the chill of her damp clothes and, after a few last minute instructions, left with Sam and Cassie to go home and get changed.

* * *

Jack stripped and stepped carefully into the shower. "God that is sooo good - just to get those damn bandages off," he called out.

"You're supposed to heal first though, not break more," Daniel shouted back as he threw all the soiled clothes into the laundry basket.

"I know, how unlucky can a guy get? I was enjoying it until the ribs broke."

"Enjoying the fight?" queried Daniel.

"Nope, getting jumped by Carter," replied Jack quietly.

"What?" shouted Daniel, not quite catching the words over the noise of the water.

Jack chose not to repeat it and, turning the shower off, he asked for a towel. "Your turn," he announced as he made his way slowly into his bedroom.

Daniel grabbed a towel for himself and hurried into the bathroom. "Thanks. I'll be as fast as I can. Don't try and do anything you shouldn't until I'm out."

"So when you're out of the shower I can do stuff I shouldn't?"

Daniel laughed as he shut the door. "Oh, very funny."

The women were back surprisingly quickly. "Hey, must be a record," joked Jack. He was starting to feel a little better as the medication began to take effect.

"Be thankful you're injured, Colonel," said Janet in a mock threatening tone. She began to delve into her medical bag.

Cassie moved slowly toward Jack "I'm really sorry," she mumbled tearfully.

Jack looked down to her face, seeing the red eyes and damp cheeks and gathered her into his arms, giving her a gentle hug. "Aw honey, it wasn't your fault."

Cassie threw her arms around his neck and began to cry even harder. Jack was a little uncomfortable with the tears, but held her gently.

"No Cassie, honestly, it wasn't your fault. It was that dessert." She looked up at him in surprise and he continued. "If Carter hadn't eaten it and then fallen on me weighing so much, I'd have been okay."

Cassie laughed. "But Sam's not fat."

"She certainly isn't, but that dessert tipped the balance," said Jack with a smile, not even risking a look at his 2IC.

"Well, I'll just have to make sure she doesn't land on you again," said Cassie, making Jack smile even more. "At least not straight after eating," she added.

Jack laughed, forgetting his ribs and clutched a hand to his chest at the pain.

Cassie had stopped sobbing and was now smiling happily. "Oh yes, she'll have to wait till you're better."

At the girl's words, Jack laughed harder, his shoulders shaking with the effort to hold still.

Janet smirked over at them. "Cassie, I think you should let me tape his ribs before he does any further damage."

Jack nodded, grinning as he caught sight of Daniel sitting on the sofa, helpless with laughter. Cassie gave him another hug and let him go. Jack risked a look at his 2IC, and found her standing, arms folded, casting looks at him that would have killed him on the spot if he'd been any nearer.

"Oops." He started to laugh again, but it was quickly cut off as Janet began to tape his ribs. "Jeez, go easy Doc. You'll break more." He groaned as she tugged even harder.

"There - that'll hold you until later," she said, before turning to Teal'c. "Would you like to come back to the base with us now?" she asked.

Teal'c inclined his head. "That would be most agreeable."

Janet helped Jack put a shirt on. The drive back to the SGC didn't take long, but Jack felt every bump and pothole in the road. By the time they reached the infirmary he was glad of Teal'c's steadying hand.

"Was this afternoon a food fight?" Teal'c asked Jack as they sat in Janet's office waiting for the x-rays.

Jack grinned. "Food fight? Yeah, guess it was."

"The Major said she would explain it sometime, but she did say that it was fun O'Neill. She did not mention that anyone would get hurt."

"Well, Teal'c, normally they are fun. I was just unlucky."

"Indeed."

They stopped talking as Janet brought the x-rays through. She put them up on the viewer to check them and Teal'c stared at them, fascinated. Jack just sighed as he waited for the Doc's confirmation of what he saw. It wasn't long in coming.

"Well, Colonel, two ribs broken. In the same spot unfortunately as they were knitting."

Jack sighed again, more deeply this time, and then grimaced as the pain hit him. Janet filled a syringe and before he could object she'd done the deed.

"That'll help. Hopefully they'll be okay for the medical, but you're going to have to take it easy. You'll need to rest and give them a chance to heal."

"Yeah, I figured I'd have to quit running for a while." He cringed as he realised what he'd let slip.

"Running!" shouted Janet, making him jump and then wince with the pain. "Colonel O'Neill, are you telling me that you've been running?"

Jack looked down for something to fiddle with "Erm, well...," he hedged, hearing her heel tapping with impatience.

"I'm waiting Colonel." Her carefully controlled voice made him look up.

"Well ... not running exactly," he stalled.

"What exactly?"

"Err... a paced jog?" His face begged her to believe the lie, as he gave her his best little boy look.

Janet's lips twitched, but she caught the smile before it could properly show. "Colonel, you shouldn't be even doing half of what you're doing - what I know about that is." She paused for a second, wondering if that made sense. "You know about the extended deadline - is there a need to push so hard?"

Jack nodded, any humour he may have felt draining from his body. "I've got to push, Doc. You know as well as I do they're going to make me sweat. Even without the accident they're hard to please lately, and I won't give them the satisfaction of getting rid of me that way. If I buy it out there doing my job that's okay, but I won't let them fail me Janet. I'm not going to give in to them." Jack heaved for breath, the long speech taking its toll.

Jack looked down self-consciously at the completion of his speech. He wasn't normally one to discuss his private affairs with anyone - even his friends. He'd always driven himself hard, but now circumstances were making it such that he needed to drive harder still.

Janet smiled. "You won't fail, I promise you. I know what you're capable of. But you need to rest these breaks for a week or so and then start again slowly. You'll get there, but definitely no jogging."

"I wish I had your faith, Doc."

"You need to show yourself the same faith you have in your team, O'Neill," said Teal'c quietly.

Janet sighed. "Amen to that."

Jack gave the Jaffa a `look' but didn't speak. He didn't have any answer.

* * *

Jack settled back in the car, happy to just relax and let Janet concentrate on her driving. It wasn't long before they were pulling up outside his house.

As soon as they opened the door Cassie ran over, but stopped short of throwing herself at him.

"Are you okay now?" she asked.

"Yep, your mom sorted me out."

"I wish," muttered Janet under her breath. Jack gave her an indignant glare.

"Where's Sam and Daniel?" Janet asked, looking around.

"They're getting food. We had it ready for when you got back."

"And here it is," Daniel announced, carrying a tray of sandwiches in from the kitchen with Sam following close behind holding a coffee pot. "We thought you probably wouldn't have eaten."

Jack sank down onto the sofa with a groan, with a little effort managing to get his legs up. "Ah, I'm glad to be back," he sighed.

Daniel handed him a coffee which he accepted gratefully, but he shook his head at the offer of a sandwich.

Janet sat in the chair opposite, kicking her shoes off as soon as she was able. She took a mouthful of the coffee thankfully and sighed. "I needed this."

There was silence for a few minutes, finally broken by Daniel clearing his throat. "Well, is anyone going to tell us?"

Jack raised an eyebrow, but continued to sip his coffee without answering.

"Well?" demanded Daniel, as Sam found something interesting to gaze at in her own coffee cup.

"Two ribs gone," sighed Janet.

Daniel winced. "Ouch," he said, with feeling.

There was another pause in the conversation before Cassie spoke. "Where've they gone?"

"Yeah mom, where've they gone?" echoed Jack.

Janet's look told him `where I'll send you in a minute' and Sam sniggered.

As Janet explained to Cassie about the expression, the girl's face began clouding over again. "Oh Sam, now you mustn't go jumping on Jack yet 'til he's better," she informed her solemnly.

Jack almost choked on his coffee, making him wince and clutch his ribs. Sam's face turned a lovely shade of pink.

"I'll remember that Cassie," she said in an even tone.

Jack saw that Janet and Daniel were both smirking like crazy and couldn't resist saying something. "Remember Sam, just until I'm better," he chuckled.

Sam turned a darker shade of pink, but she couldn't hide a smile. Her smile widened into a grin and Jack's stomach flipped at the sight.

Afternoon turned to evening as they sat chatting, having put on a suitable video for Cassie. Jack was half watching as the girl flicked through her favourite scenes on the old Laurel and Hardy comedies he collected. He smiled as Cassie giggled, bringing back memories of sitting with Charlie doing the same with him. The pain of Charlie's death stayed at bay for a while, while he searched his memory for the good times.

Sam was lying back on the other end of the sofa casting glances his way. He smiled back at her, feeling tired and wondering whether to call it a day, but loath to break up the happy evening and loath to part from her company. The decision was soon taken from him when Cassie, unable to stay awake any longer, fell asleep on the floor at his feet.

Janet smiled down at her sleeping daughter. "Time we left, sir."

Jack stood and without thinking bent to pick the girl up, but was halted by Janet placing a hand gently on his sleeve. "No lifting," she said softly.

Realising what he'd been going to do he grinned at her apologetically. Daniel seeing the problem, stood. "I'll help," he said and scooped Cassie up as gently as he could, but given the lack of parental practice he was somewhat clumsy, and Cassie woke up demanding to be set down.

"Sorry," apologised Daniel.

"Don't worry, I'd have needed to wake her when we got home anyway," said Janet. Cassie yawned and stretched, still half asleep. "Say your goodnights honey," the doctor added.

* * *

Sam watched as Cassie gave Daniel a hug and then went over to her while Janet gathered up her daughter's belongings. The girl climbed onto Sam's knee, hugging her tightly. "It was fun today wasn't it, except for Jack getting hurt?" she whispered.

"Yeah it was," Sam whispered back conspiratorially.

"Jack likes you, a lot," whispered Cassie and Sam blushed, but before she could respond, Cassie carried on "He gets unhappy, but I know you could make him happy all the time. He wants children you know," she added seriously.

Sam was taken aback at Cassie's statement. She wasn't sure how to answer her, but Cassie didn't seem to expect an answer, and she turned to her mother.

"Mom, can I sleep over?" she pleaded.

"Not tonight, dear," said Janet, whilst trying to stifle a yawn.

"Aw, please." Cassie whined, looking at Jack with large eyes. He looked at Janet questioningly. Sam knew he could never refuse a child, but had learned over the years not to cross the mother.

Janet looked at Cassie and then at Jack. She couldn't decide who looked the most appealing at that moment.

"I give in," she sighed.

Cassie smiled gleefully. "Goody, thank you." She dived back on Sam. "Sam you can sleep with me," she announced, hugging her again.

"Oh, I'm not staying," answered Sam quickly.

"Please. We could go out tomorrow for breakfast before we go to the park," pleaded Cassie.

"Looks like tomorrow's planned," said Jack dryly.

Janet laughed. "Do you mind?"

He shook his head. "Glad to," he added sincerely.

"Well, that gives me space to get some overdue things tackled tomorrow. Just don't go over doing it, Colonel."

"Actually, if Cassie and Sam are going to baby-sit, I could do with playing catch up myself," put in Daniel. "Janet, could you drop me off at home?" He snatched up his coat from the hall, and was almost out the door before either Sam or Jack could react.

"What?" began Jack, suddenly looking awkward. Sam saw the glances that Janet and Daniel exchanged, and glared at them.

"Good idea, Daniel, no problem," said Janet cheerfully, totally ignoring the daggers Sam was sending them.

"Sam, Cassie, make sure he's a good boy," she said and cheekily patted the lanky Colonel on his shoulder before opening the door. Daniel and Janet almost flew out the door in their hurry to depart and before either of the others could object, they were gone.

* * *

"Whew," breathed Daniel as he put on his seatbelt. "Did you see the look on Jack's face?"

"Yeah, like a rabbit caught in the trap," laughed Janet.

"Oh, I don't think killing him is what Sam's got in mind," smirked Daniel.

Janet snickered. "Nope, but she'd better keep off those ribs."

* * *

PART SEVEN

It wasn't long after Janet and Daniel left before Cassie announced she was tired and would like to go to bed. She dragged Sam off to help her, after saying a `huggy' goodnight to Jack.

Jack sank down on the sofa and dry swallowed a couple of the painkillers Janet had left him. He laid his head down for a moment and must have fallen into a light doze, because it seemed no time at all before Sam was sitting beside him.

"She had no night things, so I got one of your t-shirts for her. She said she's done that before."

Jack nodded. "No problem."

"I've taken one for myself," added Sam. "Fancy a beer?" she asked getting up.

"That'd be great," Jack replied, forgetting the injections and the couple of tablets he'd taken a little while ago.

Sam was soon back with the beer and handed a bottle to Jack. Jack picked up the TV remote and started to flick between channels.

"God," Sam groaned, "That's such a `man' thing."

Jack was puzzled for a moment, then realised what she was talking about. "Oh sorry, I forgot you were here."

Sam put on a wounded expression, pretending to be hurt. "Gee thanks."

Jack smiled at her. "Sorry, I meant it's a habit."

"Okay, so where are we going for breakfast?"

"You're that hungry?" asked Jack with an even wider smile.

Sam laughed, like music to his ears. "Nope, I just wondered that's all."

"Cassie will pick. She usually picks somewhere good."

"Does she sleep over here a lot? I wondered how she knew where everything was."

Jack nodded. "Yeah, quite often. She's learning to be a real Earth woman you know."

Sam threw him a questioning look while taking a swallow of her beer.

"Real nosy," explained Jack. "Ooff," he complained as Sam threw a cushion at his head ... careful to avoid his ribs.

* * *

Sam's stomach flipped as Jack gave her a boyish smile. "I'll tell Cassie," he threatened. Her heart raced as she looked at him. Trying to cover her feelings she made as if to throw another cushion, but then hugged it instead, laughing.

A few more beers were downed and Sam, not a heavy drinker, was quite merry and relaxed. Normally so few beers wouldn't have affected Jack, but on top of the injections, tablets and very little food, the alcohol was creeping up on him fast.

Sam was laid back, totally relaxed, her feet on the coffee table. She still hugged the cushion with one arm, beer in the other hand. The evening wore on pleasantly with a lazy, slightly drunken conversation, Jack making her laugh with a few stories she gladly listened to. It wasn't often he would open up like this.

Where Jack lay he was facing her side - if he'd had stretched out fully he could have put his legs over hers, but he kept them drawn up. He stretched out to place the empty bottle on to the coffee table, but misjudged the distance and it rolled across the carpet.

"Whoops," he mumbled and making an ungraceful grab at it, he lurched sideways, starting to fall.

Sam seeing Jack falling, shot to assist him. She tried her best to stop him, but couldn't quite make it, and ended with Jack on his back and Sam on him.

"Your ribs!" she cried, pushing herself up quickly and taking her weight off of him, finding her face was only inches from his.

"I'm okay," he whispered. His voice sounded hoarse, as if he was having trouble breathing.

Sam stayed still, her eyes locked onto his, her heart hammering away painfully. Then she shifted closer until their lips were touching, hesitantly at first, but soon kissing with a fierce hunger.

Deftly Jack rolled Sam so she was by his side without breaking the kiss; instead he deepened it, tasting her thoroughly, his hands stroking her flesh, leaving a burning sensuous trail over her body, lighting the flames of desire within her.

Her hands were doing the same to Jack, winding her fingers through his hair, and holding him to her greedily. They were almost at the point of no return when Jack pulled away, looking deeply into her eyes.

"Are you sure Sam?" he asked, giving her the chance to stop this.

"Yes Jack, yes," said Sam sincerely, never surer of anything in her life till now.

* * *

They lay together afterwards, cuddling closely. Sam sighed a contented sigh. Jack looked down into her face; a face still flushed with love, finding the colour of her eyes had darkened with the intensity of her feelings.

* * *

Sam looked up at Jack, and once more became lost in the emotion in his eyes. The love she saw took her by surprise and raised the longing for him again. Drunk with each other, they made their way upstairs to Jack's bedroom.

* * *

The morning light filtered through the blinds on to the bed. Jack had awoken early, as was his custom, to find Sam entwined with him and he lay still, not wanting to break the spell. How he'd longed for this, never daring to believe that she'd return his love, never until now. Content to just lie holding her, he smiled as she sighed in her sleep and snuggled in closer to him.

Her body stirred his yet again, and very gently, he started a trail of kisses from her face to her neck. Her eyes flickered open.

She smiled gently up at him. "I thought I was dreaming. I'm so glad it's real" She held him harder as if afraid he would disappear, as he continued the task of waking her fully.

* * *

They lay together afterwards, just relishing being together, until eventually Jack caught sight of the clock on his bedside table and made a face. "Loath as I am to move, Cassie will be clamouring for breakfast shortly."

Sam snuggled in, yawning "Mm, I wouldn't mind something good to eat."

Jack looked down at her, the urge to do something else was strong, but he was also very aware of Cassie's presence in the house. Untangling himself with great reluctance, he eased out of bed, stretching cautiously.

* * *

Sam watched Jack from beneath her lashes. Feeling rather like the cat that had the cream, she felt like purring as she gazed over his body. The bandages hid most of his chest and back, but what she could see she appreciated greatly.

Jack pulled on a pair of bottoms, his movements slow and a little awkward.

"You okay?" she asked with concern.

"Yeah fine, just a little sore," he admitted.

"I hope we didn't do any more damage to your ribs last night."

Jack gave her a smouldering smile. "Nope, I was really careful. I couldn't have explained away any damage to the Doc."

Sam laughed and sat up, holding the sheet modestly and running a hand absently over the damaged area. "Are you sure you're okay? I forgot about them."

"Really, I'm fine. Just wait until I'm better and then I'll show you the difference," he grinned.

Sam felt herself blush slightly. "I can't wait."

"Well you'll have to, and if you don't get your pretty little butt into the main bathroom Cassie will find you here."

Sam pulled a face. "Okay, okay I'm going," and as Jack went to wash in the en-suite she gathered up her clothes, what she could find anyway, and hurried to the main bathroom. When she finished showering she went downstairs to grab the rest of her clothes and finish dressing.

By the time she was ready Jack was sitting on the deck sipping coffee, another mug beside him on the table, waiting for her. She sat down and stretched out to take it, sipping from it gratefully. The sun was peering at them over the ridge bringing with it the promise of another beautiful day.

It wasn't long before Cassie joined them, happily making the plans for the day.

"Breakfast first," reminded Jack.

Cassie nodded. "Yep, you need feeding up, mom said."

Jack stood. "Right, let's head out and eat."

The morning passed happily, and after a good breakfast, they headed to the outskirts of town in Jack's truck to Cassie's favourite park. Sam had the pleasure of driving and found she like the huge truck.

* * *

When they arrived at the part, Jack was happy to grab a nearby bench to rest, while Cassie and Sam clambered around on the assault course style equipment. Being free to watch Sam without having to guard himself was so good.

Sam and Cassie were laughing and trying to race each other across the monkey bars. Feeling thirsty he walked across to the ice cream vendor and got a couple of sodas.

Cassie jumped off the bars and raced across to him. Giving him a quick hug, she grabbed a quick drink before running back to Sam.

"It's so nice to see a father out with his daughter," said a voice next to him.

Half turning, Jack acknowledged the woman in the process of sitting down beside him, whose son was heading over to play on the equipment. Jack didn't bother to correct her; he was quite used to the assumption and kind of liked it.

"Cathy," said the woman, holding out her hand.

Feeling it would be churlish to refuse, Jack shook it. "Jack," he said gruffly and turned his attention back to watching Sam, only half listening to the woman's continued conversation.

* * *

Sam was sitting at the top of the climbing frame catching her breath when she noticed the woman sitting beside Jack.

"Uh Cassie, who's that?" She flicked her head towards the two.

Cassie just shrugged. "No idea," she said casually. "The single moms always make a move on Jack," and she smiled. "But he doesn't bother with them," she added quickly, seeing Sam frown. "He's usually on here with me anyway."

"Oh," replied Sam, feeling a little self-conscious about quizzing Cassie. She began to climb down.

"Race you to Jack," called Cassie, and they both jumped from the bars and ran over, laughing.

Having fun?" enquired Jack, smiling at them as he handed Sam the unopened soda. Sam nodded and took a drink, eyeing the woman. She returned Sam's gaze with a polite smile.

`Hands off he's mine,' thought Sam, giving the woman a glare and chalked an imaginary point up as the woman turned away.

They didn't stay at the park for much longer and ended up at a mall for a late lunch so Cassie could browse through the toyshops. Sam thought she would be hard put to tell who enjoyed it the most, Cassie or Jack.

Jack had treated Cassie to the latest game with a promise to beat her as when they played it together. Cassie hugged Jack happily. Their laughter brought a lump to Sam's throat. She thought how good he was with children and what a marvellous father he must have been to Charlie.

They went to Janet's together to drop Cassie off, who pleaded that Jack start the game with her. Sam collapsed laughing on Janet's sofa, gratefully accepting a coffee. As soon as Jack and Cassie were out of sight, Janet pounced.

"So, how's things?" she asked, trying to look casual.

"Fine. Cassie's really enjoyed herself."

"I wasn't asking about Cassie. She always has a good time when she's with the Colonel, she adores him and he spoils her rotten."

"I'm fine," said Sam equally casually, trying to keep the smile off her face.

Changing tact slightly, Janet announced, "Ask me how my evening went?"

Sam looked at her quickly. "Evening?" she queried, "You left with Daniel and - oh did you ... and?"

"We had a lovely evening actually, but nothing happened," Janet announced, smiling.

Sam blushed slightly, thinking how she'd thought Janet was after Jack. She was mentally kicking herself for the uncharitable thoughts she'd had about her friend.

"Sorry Janet, only yesterday I was thinking you were after someone else."

Janet gave her a shrewd look "Jack," she stated.

Sam nodded.

"Well it goaded you into being a jealous woman and doing something about it at last," said Janet.

A quick angry thought flashed through Sam's head and Janet picked up on her expression. "No, before you even go there, he didn't know a thing. If I draped myself on him he'd run a mile - not that I wouldn't mind draping on him." Janet smiled wistfully. "You know he's only got eyes for you."

Sam blushed and her eyes dropped to the mug she was nursing, knowing Janet was watching her.

"Did you two have a nice evening?" Janet emphasised the `nice'.

Sam blushed even more. "Very nice," she said, looking up. "Extremely nice," she amended.

Janet sat up straighter. "Did you two erm...?"

"Make love?" finished Sam for her, and smiled lazily, stretching.

Janet jumped up, punching the air. "Yes!" she cried. "About time." Then she stopped and gave Sam a Hard stare. "I hope you watched those ribs."

"I was really nice to his ribs," smirked Sam.

Janet leaned in conspiratorially. "Was it good?"

Sam didn't answer; she just gave her a beaming, cat got the cream, smile.

Janet took that to be an affirmative and then parted with her own news. "I'm out tonight, well not so much out. I've invited Daniel over for dinner."

Jack came in then and must have heard the mention of his team mate. "Daniel's coming over for dinner?" he asked.

Janet nodded, smiling.

"Well, seeing as Doc's pinched my sitter, it looks like you're it again Sam." He grinned wickedly, sending a shiver down her back, then leaned over to Janet, smirking. "You can keep him till tomorrow, no problem."

Jack grinned as Janet went quite pink.

Sam laughed, it wasn't often Janet blushed and it also wasn't often that Jack got one over on the doctor.

"In fact Doc, I'll order him to stay," Jack continued, then he thought about it. "On second thoughts, Daniel never does what he's told so I'd better tell him to be in by eleven - that'll fix it," he laughed.

Sam stood, trying to hold back the laughter. "Well, if I'm not going to be home for another night I need some clothes. We'll have to stop by my apartment."

They made a quick farewell to Janet and Cassie. As she got back behind the wheel of Jack's truck Sam couldn't help smiling at the thought of spending more time with Jack.

* * *

Jack followed Sam into her apartment, wandering about while Sam went into the bedroom. What was happening behind the bedroom door was of more interest than the books on her bookshelf, however, and it wasn't long before he was pushing the door open. He found her just buttoning up her shirt. Clasping his arms around her, he began to nuzzle her neck, inhaling her scent as he began to undress her.

"Hey, I've just put that on," complained Sam softly, but without much conviction.

Jack continued to kiss her neck, his lips moving gradually lower and Sam gave up on any attempt at protest.

Much later they eventually left the apartment, stopping off for groceries on the way back to Jack's to appease the appetite they'd worked up.

* * *

The phone was ringing as they walked into the door of Jack's house, and he hurried to answer it. It was Daniel, calling to let Jack know where he would be and `umming and arring' throughout the conversation.

"No problem, Daniel. I've got my sitter and she's much better looking than you."

Daniel pretended to be hurt. "Gee thanks."

"You're welcome Danny-boy. Were you planning on coming back here tonight?"

"Err, umm," spluttered Daniel.

"It's okay, you don't need to, in fact I bet Janet would just love the company. Cassie's at her friend's tonight."

"Oh," said Daniel. There was a pause, and Jack smiled into the phone, imagining what was going through his friend's mind. He was about to say something when Daniel finally spoke. "About time," he blurted out.

"Excuse me?"

"About time you and Sam, I mean..."

"Thanks Daniel, I get your drift. See you tomorrow - late."

Sam came out of the kitchen just as Jack was finishing the call, and looked at him inquiringly.

"Just Daniel letting me know, or rather trying to not let me know, where he's going to be tonight."

Sam gave a soft laugh as they moved over to sit on the sofa together. "Trust Daniel. It's not as if he's got to worry about the regulations ..." she began and her face clouded over just saying the word.

Jack sighed and pulled her closer, hugging her tenderly.

* * *

"I'm glad Sam and Jack have stopped dancing around," sighed Daniel. "Sorry, I mean..." He was sitting next to Janet, having just finished dinner. They had moved to the living room, taking their coffee with them.

Janet sighed. "I know what you mean. It's a shame it's taken so long, but..."

"Yeah, I know."

"Do you think it's just been the regulations keeping them apart?"

Daniel laughed. "With Jack I would have said no. He doesn't really give a damn for himself, but when it comes to Sam he's very protective of her and her career."

Janet raised a brow.

"Don't get me wrong, he's protective of us all. I know he'd lay his life down for any of us, but with Sam he values her career as well. She's worked so hard to get where she is."

"So, what do you think has changed things?"

Daniel thought for a moment before answering. "I'm not sure. I know Sam thought we'd lost him for good - hell, we all did - perhaps the accident, the threatened retirement? We both know they've had feelings for each other for quite a while, but I don't think that they each believed it was returned until now. I've seen Jack make grown men quake in their boots with a look or a word, he's even done it to me a time or two, but with Sam he's different. He's soft on kids, but with Sam he's mush."

Janet laughed. "Yeah, I've born the brunt of his Colonel mode. He used to put the fear of God in me, 'til I got to know him better, but I've seen him when he's needed, and I've seen him with Cassie."

"Oh, he can still shake people. I've seen that temper of his, but I've never seen him lose it with a child, no matter what, or with Sam. They've had their share of sparks flying though."

"Sam won't be walked on, but I hope this relationship doesn't become an issue in the field."

"Not in our team. Never has been, no matter what. Sam always backs up Jack's orders. She may not always like them, but she follows them. I think that comes from respect as well."

"Well, we women know when to toe the line," joked Janet. "Anyway, are we going to spend all night discussing them? Or can we find something else to do?" She smiled at him and leaned closer.

Daniel looked down at her. "Well ... actually" and leaned across and kissed her.

* * *

Sam and Jack finally made it into the bedroom, tired after their rather busy day. Sam yawned and snuggled in, holding Jack tightly, smiling at the feeling of his arms around her. She pressed herself closer to him and felt him flinch, making her sit up quickly.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot your ribs again," she said apologetically.

Jack gave her a cheeky smile. "Well you'd better make it up to them then," he invited.

Sam needed no other excuse, and began to rain gentle kisses over him - kisses that got longer and more searching, and then the nibbling began, moving up around his throat and neck. It wasn't long before he reversed their position, turning Sam on to her back and leaning over her.

"You're a witch," he growled into her neck as he bit gently.

"You're insatiable," she breathed as her head spun with the sensations he was arousing.

"Only for you," he murmured, "only for you."

* * *

It was much later in the night when Jack awoke to find Sam curled against him, her head on his shoulder. Every so often she murmured in her sleep and nuzzled closer. He lay savouring the moment, the closeness, but his ribs were clamouring painfully for attention. He reached out to the nightstand and then realised his medication was still downstairs. He sighed and reluctantly peeled himself carefully from Sam, not wanting to wake her. Putting on a pair of bottoms, he made his way stiffly down the stairs.

Slightly breathless with the pain, he walked to the kitchen and grabbed his meds and a glass of water before sinking into the sofa with a sigh. He swallowed his tablets and lay back to rest a little, waiting for the meds to kick in before he began his journey back up the stairs.

Thoughts he didn't really want to think came to him, especially the turn of events in his relationship with Sam. He felt sad in a way - not sure how things could ever go their way given the regulations.

`I can't give her up now. No way do I want to go back to that.' was the priority in his head, but then doubts began to form. `What if this is all Sam wanted - a fling to get me out of her system? Maybe she wouldn't want to continue.' The thought made him feel slightly sick and he tried to banish the doubts, sending them to the box he kept deep in his mind. Eventually, the meds did their job and he fell asleep.

* * *

The gray light of dawn woke Sam, and she turned, feeling the empty space next to her on the bed. She checked the bathroom first and then crept downstairs to find Jack asleep on the sofa. Spotting the water and the tablets, she realised why he'd come down. Mentally, she kicked herself. She should be looking after him better.

"Damn, Daniel wouldn't have forgotten the meds," she swore quietly.

"Daniel wouldn't have had the distraction," said a soft voice and she turned to find a pair of brown eyes watching her.

She grinned back at him. "That's no excuse. I'm just no good as a nurse."

"Oh, I don't know. You're pretty good with your hands."

"Should I get a nurse's uniform?" she teased, laughing as she sat beside him, stroking his hair.

Jack shook his head. "Nah, doesn't do a thing for me, seen too many hospitals - big turn off," he replied, stretching cautiously.

Sam sat looking down at him. Her fingers moved of their own accord to stroke his face.

"God, Sam, you're beautiful," he uttered thickly, putting a hand gently up to her chin. He stared deeply into her eyes, holding her gaze for a few minutes before he seemed to pull himself together.

"Sam, I think we need to talk," he said, his reluctance plain.

Sam felt as if her heart had stopped beating.

* * *

Jack frowned as a look he couldn't identify flashed across Sam's face. Was it hurt?

"What's wrong?" he asked, concerned.

"Is this where you say, "It's been nice, major but...?" she asked quietly.

Jack shook his head. "No - no, nothing like that. I just want to get an idea of what you want. Where do we go from here?" Sam's face clouded and her eyes seemed to shimmer brightly. "Sam, I don't want you to get hurt. I know I can't give you up. I don't want to turn the clock back, I couldn't, but we both know the regulations." He fought not to touch her - he was determined to let her decide what she wanted and he would stand by it, if it killed him. He waited, becoming more worried as she didn't speak.

It seemed like an eternity before Sam finally broke the silence. "I don't regret this, not one bit, but I do know I can't give up my career."

"I would never ask that of you Sam, never." Jack said firmly, meaning every word.

"Nor would I of you," she replied in return.

"Do you want to go back to how we were?" he asked, fearing the answer.

She shook her head fiercely, and he saw unshed tears shimmering in her eyes before she lowered them.

"Sam, look at me, please," he begged "I love you and I want to be with you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you." At his words, the tears finally escaped. "I may not be passed fit for active duty," he continued, "and if I am it won't be for too long."

She raised her head, pleading with him. "Please, don't go there Jack. You will pass and we'll still have a team. I don't want to lose SG-1." The tears were falling freely now as she wept.

"SG-1 can exist without me. You could get command."

"No, I want us to be together. Without you it wouldn't be a team. You keep us together Jack, with you I feel safe. I know we can make it back with you."

Jack lifted her face, gently wiping the tears away with his fingertips. "And us? What about us?"

"Why can't we have both? It won't be forever will it? It would drive me crazy not to touch you again, not to sleep with you, feel you," she sobbed.

"Me too," he whispered. "But there will come a time when you'll be out there without me."

"Then it will happen, but for now why can't we have both? Don't we deserve it? We give so much up for this planet, why can't we keep our love going?" she demanded, fixing him with her eyes.

"Carry on as we are now? Sneak around, keep it secret?"

Sam laughed a little "We keep so many secrets, why not another one?"

"Can we do that?"

She nodded. "We've got to and I want you badly enough to try. We can have a private life."

Jack couldn't have agreed more with the wanting part and he pulled Sam towards him, gathering her up into his arms and holding her as though he would never let go.

* * *

The weeks flew past all too quickly for Sam. She worked on her projects during the day at her lab and came home to Jack each evening. She only went on a few short missions, a day or two at most, but she found she missed Jack badly when they were apart.

She had thought about the glove frequently. They'd discussed several times the idea of giving it back to Jack, but deep down Sam was worried about the heartache it would surely cause him.

It had taken a long time for the repairer to get a suitable match for the leather, but it was finally ready and the glove sat in her lab drawer, waiting ....

Sam had taken it out of its wrapping a few times and gazed at it as though looking for answers. The events that had put the glove in the position to save Jack's life that day still astounded her. Sometimes she made herself dizzy with the variables her scientific mind conjured up.

The glove had become important to her as well, for the way it had saved his life, and she knew that it needed to be with Jack. Just how to do it without too much upset was the problem, and she knew at heart there was no answer to that question - the longer she left it, she knew the worse it would be.

* * *

Teal'c used the opportunity of Jack's convalescence to visit his family and Daniel was kept busy bringing his department up-to-date, and with new objects brought back by the other SG teams.

The relationship between Daniel and Janet blossomed slowly. They often came over to spend time with Sam and Jack and none of them felt shy any longer about showing their feelings in front of the others. The regulations were never mentioned.

Jack had stepped up his training and was officially doing physiotherapy at the hospital. He was doing well, but he was bored and it showed.

One evening they were sitting around chatting and Daniel made a remark about how he wished sometimes the artefacts would come to him, instead of him having to traipse across the galaxy at times.

Jack took a long pull at the beer he was drinking, frowning. Sam caught his expression and wondered if he was about to lose his temper. He'd been tetchy for a few days, impatient and very, very bored. To her relief Jack seemed to let Daniel's comment go, but after a few minutes he got up and left without a word.

Daniel stopped in mid conversation. "Was it something I said?" he enquired, puzzled.

"Probably your comment about not being keen to go off world," admitted Sam.

Daniel's face fell. "Oh, I wasn't thinking."

"It's okay, really. He's been a bit... well... a bit irritable for a few days. He's bored stiff. He hates not being out there and it's driving him crazy."

"I could push for him to resume light duties earlier," offered Janet.

"Will he pass?" ashed Daniel in a worried tone.

"If he doesn't I must be pretty unfit myself, because he's wearing me out," grinned Sam.

Daniel and Janet collapsed laughing. "Shame the medical doesn't hinge on sex!"

shrieked Janet causing Sam to blush bright red.

Sam started to laugh with them. "Janet, you're awful - but seriously, he's outpacing me when we're out running."

Janet sobered. "He shouldn't be running yet," she scolded.

"Oops, don't let on I told you. It's keeping him occupied a little. Please don't stop him."

Janet frowned, but then nodded her agreement. "Okay, I'll reserve judgment until I see him as a doctor. How about I ask him to come in for a check up tomorrow?"

"That would be great. Thanks, Janet." Sam gestured towards the kitchen. "Help yourself to drinks while I go coax Jack down."

Sam left them and went to where she knew Jack would be, up on his deck with his telescope.

"Hey," she called softly, coming up behind him and hugging him. "Are you coming down?"

Jack turned his face to hers. "Sorry, I just .... Sorry I ran out," he whispered, nuzzling her neck. Sam brought her head around more and silenced him with a kiss, which deepened until they were both breathing hard.

"We'd better go down," she gasped, remembering their company.

"You go, I won't be a moment."

Sam looked at him questioningly.

"I can't go down like this," he glanced down at his obvious arousal.

Sam laughed wickedly and started descending the ladder. "We can sort that out later," she smirked as she disappeared.

Sam was still giggling to herself when she rejoined the others. "He'll be down in a minute," she said and then giggled at her choice of words.

Daniel and Janet just looked at each other. "Care to share what's funny?" asked Daniel.

Sam laughed more. "Sorry," she gasped, trying to stop.

By the time Jack came into the room she had calmed down a little, but was still sniggering softly to herself. Jack sat down in the chair behind Sam's position on the floor. Leaning forward he placed his hands on her shoulders, giving her a gentle massage with his fingers. That seemed to promote another fit of giggles and Jack gave her a mock glare.

"No giggling Major," he chastised, which set Sam off laughing again.

Daniel recognised the phrase. "What is it with that?" he demanded.

Jack flushed slightly and laughed, while Sam was helpless with laughter.

"Every time you say it, it starts Sam off," said Daniel, exasperated.

Sam managed to sit up straighter. "Well Daniel, you remember when we were...." she began, but Jack put his hand over her mouth quickly to stop her talking.

"Don't you dare, Samantha Carter," he laughed as she squirmed. Suddenly he jumped up holding his hand. "Ouch! You witch." he frowned, shaking his fingers.

Sam leapt up away from him, laughing.

Janet and Daniel were grinning at their antics and Daniel couldn't resist tickling Janet. "I bet Sam's told you," he laughed, tickling harder, but Janet could only shake her head in denial.

Jack stood, waiting to see which way Sam would run. With a sudden movement she jumped across the sofa and ran around the other chair. Jack neatly moved in, cutting off her chance of escape.

Sam saw her escape route was blocked, so she launched herself up and over the chair, only to be grabbed in a bear hug by Jack when she was in mid air. Shrieking, she struggled and was plonked unceremoniously on the carpet on her rear end with a thump as Jack dived down, sitting astride her with his knees holding her shoulders down.

"Give up." he demanded.

Still giggling, Sam shook her head. She could see Daniel and Janet coming up behind Jack, to take an arm each and dragged him off her.

"Cheat," he cried as Sam dived on him after he was tossed to the floor by the others. Very mindful of his chest, she straddled him on his hips. A wicked gleam lit his eyes. "Sam, I think you'd better shift," he warned.

Sam laughed and with an evil smile she ground herself against him.

"Below the belt Major," he growled, but she leaned over to shut him up with a kiss.

They were both breathing hard now and barely aware of Daniel and Janet who had stopped fighting to watch. Janet gave a sigh and a gulp as she saw the expressions on their faces.

"Daniel," she whispered, "Let's go, they'll never notice." and quietly they grabbed their coats and left.

The banging of the door brought Sam and Jack back to the real world.

"Thank God," groaned Jack.

"We'll have to apologise tomorrow," giggled Sam.

"Maybe, but if they hadn't gone I would have had to have you sit there all night."

Sam frowned then cracked up laughing as she realised his predicament.

"You're a witch Samantha," he grinned and pulled her down and rolled expertly to be on top "Now it's your turn to suffer," he smirked and began to make love to her slowly, very slowly, driving her wild with desire.

* * *

PART EIGHT

At first light Jack was up and dressed. He was free from bandages and the bruising had almost gone completely, only the scars really stood out from the numerous old injuries he had.

He knew the sight of the wound upset Sam, as each time she saw it she became pale and looked away. He'd questioned her about her reaction and she said it was a reminder of just how close she had come to losing him.

Jack left her sleeping and quietly made his way out of the house. He warmed up then left his property, starting with a gentle pace and gradually stretching more, building up speed as the trail progressed.

He felt good. The early morning light and the bird songs soothed him and he felt glad to be alive. He ran further than usual until he eventually topped the second ridge and took deep breaths, which he admitted ruefully he needed. He was sweating and breathing heavily, but he'd made it. Before the accident he could have run much further without stopping, but he was getting there, albeit a little more slowly than he would have liked.

He carried on stretching and shaking his long limbs to keep them warm, whilst he admired the view, but soon a low growl from his stomach broke the spell Mother Nature had cast, and he made his way back home. He found it harder going back and by the time he reached home he was panting hard and dripping with sweat. Checking to make sure Sam was still asleep, he dived into the shower quickly and got cleaned up.

He had breakfast on the go and was quite recovered by the time Sam appeared, yawning sleepily.

"Hey." She hugged him "What time did you get up?"

"Oh, a while ago," he shrugged "Coffee's ready." He poured her a mug, which she sipped gratefully. "And breakfast is ready when you are."

Sam always appreciated it when Jack cooked. She had trouble not burning toast, but Jack could actually cook, much to her surprise.

"What time do you need to be at the base?" he asked, dishing up and sitting down with her.

"Around nine. There's nothing special on, in fact I could easily have some leave if you fancy doing something?" she said suddenly.

"Good grief woman, is there no pleasing you?" he joked.

Sam slapped his arm playfully "Not sex you idiot."

"Oh" Jack managed to look quite disappointed and Sam laughed. She gave him a hug and he was just getting interested, breakfast forgotten, when the phone rang.

"Damn," growled Jack "don't move." He strode over and picked up the phone. "O'Neill," he almost shouted, "Oh Doc, hi, everything okay?" He waited for her response. "Good. Sorry about last night." He turned and stuck his tongue out at Sam while Janet spoke. "Yeah fine, well, about nine then?"

For some reason that he couldn't work out, Sam smiled at his words. He replaced the phone and resumed his previous position.

"Now where were we?" He ran his hands over Sam's back.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Mmm," said Jack, forgetting the phone call.

"What did Janet want?"

"Oh, yeah, I need to go in. She's going to assess me for light duties."

"Oh Jack, that's great."

"Mmm, but did you put her up to it?" he murmured, nuzzling her neck.

"No, I just said how well you were doing and I said you were bored. You know Janet - if you're not fit, she won't pass you."

"`Expect so," he murmured, thoroughly distracted by what he was doing.

"Shall we ride in together? We could do lunch," she invited and then quickly continued, "Oh, don't let on about running."

Jack stopped nuzzling her. "What? What've you said?"

Sam looked a bit embarrassed. "I err, kinda said that I had a time keeping up with you"

He frowned. "Did you now?" Then he concealed a smile as a suitable punishment for her indiscretion came to mind. "Well, it seems that you're definitely out of condition Major, so we'll have to do something about that. You can keep me company on every morning run." He let his smile show at her panicked expression.

Sam shook her head. "Oh, you shouldn't really be running Jack." She looked like a rabbit caught in a trap. Jack grinned broadly as she continued. "I'll tell Janet."

"Too late remember?" He grabbed her and turned her to face the window. "See that second ridge?"

Sam squinted. "I see the one we've run to," she said hopefully.

He pointed. "Nah, further up and to the left."

Sam squinted harder. "You got to be kidding," she protested, pulling back a little.

"Nope, that's a date tomorrow bright and early."

Sam groaned and flopped against his chest, lazily rubbing her back against him.

"That's not fair," she moaned, "Anyway, there's no way you can go that far."

"I went there this morning and back. I had to stop at the ridge for a while, but I made it, so it should be a breeze for you."

"What? God, you shouldn't be doing that. Janet will be so mad."

"Janet will never know unless you tell." He pushed his groin against her, enjoying the feeling.

"Jack, please don't go so hard - running I mean," she clarified, as he withdrew his body from hers slightly. "Janet will be mad if you bust something again."

"Janet doesn't have to face that board in a few weeks," he replied sombrely.

She turned to face him. "Surely it's not going to be that bad?"

"Put it this way - you wouldn't want to do it. Trust me, it makes some of our missions look like cake walks, and that damned MO they've got makes Doc look sweet when she's having a bad day. I've got to face the COS board after as well."

"Oh," responded Sam "That's why you're pushing so hard."

Jack nodded. "They intend to push me to the limit and fail me. They made me sweat last time and I wasn't carrying any injuries then, except this damn knee."

Sam hugged him tightly. "Just give it your best Jack. We'll train together. I can't have my old man outrunning me, can I?" She grinned and kissed him. He returned the kiss deeply, but she pulled back smirking. "Pity sex isn't on the agenda - you'd pass with flying colours even with broken ribs."

"Flatterer," he groaned.

Sam twined her fingers through his hair, kissing him again. "Yep, definitely a pass," she murmured. His stamina never ceased to amaze her, and their lovemaking had surpassed her wildest dreams.

* * *

Janet was beginning to think the Colonel wasn't coming in when he hurried into the infirmary thirty minutes late and looking rather flushed. She waited for an explanation, but receiving nothing but a slightly embarrassed grin, decided she really didn't want to know what had held him up. She turned to the instruments beside her, picking up the biggest needle in her repertoire and grinning as she heard him give a muttered groan.

Janet gave Jack a thorough medical and asked endless questions, performed endless tests and took blood and x-rays. The morning flew for her, but it obviously drove Jack to distraction.

She could see how much he was wound up. "Look I'm sorry Colonel, but I am no way going to give anyone on that board any doubts about your health. The tougher and more thorough I am now, the less they can find fault with."

Jack looked at her - his brown eyes seemed huge and dark. "I know Doc, I'm sorry; you know me and sick bays."

"Yes, I know, and I understand the pressure you're under." She grasped his shoulder lightly "I'm on your side Colonel."

Jack nodded, looking a little embarrassed by her words. He twiddled his long fingers together then looked up, giving her a lopsided grin. "Does that mean you can pass me then?" he asked hopefully.

Janet laughed "Yes, I can pass you officially for light duty. Unofficially I would probably class you fit for active in another couple of weeks or so but that's out of my hands."

Jack gave her a huge grin and jumped off the bed. To Janet's surprise he grabbed her by the waist and swung her around.

"Colonel O'Neill," she shouted, trying her best not to laugh.

"Sorry." He put her down, grinning from ear to ear. "You've made my day Doc."

"Jack, I did say light duties," she reiterated.

"I know, I know, but if they had their way I wouldn't even be doing that." He paused as if unsure whether to continue. "Janet, seriously, before you put your signature on that paper for me, do you realise that it blots your copy book with them?"

Janet looked him straight in the face and pulling the pen from her top pocket with a flourish, signed the certificate. "I know, General Hammond warned me when we first started the protest. I can honestly say I don't give a damn, Colonel." She spoke in a determined tone, meaning every word.

The Colonel looked straight into her eyes for a moment, before gently pulling her to him and giving her a hug. "Thanks Janet, it means a lot." Then he stepped back quickly, looking embarrassed again.

"Seriously Colonel, I know you're pushing the training and I can tell how much you've come along, so if you keep going you'll beat them. Let's go see General Hammond - I know he's waiting."

Together they saw the General, who was delighted with the news, shaking Jack's hand. "Report for duty at 1100 hours tomorrow Colonel. I'm sure there'll be plenty of paperwork to keep you busy."

Jack grimaced at his words. "Yes Sir, paperwork, can't wait Sir."

Hammond and Janet both laughed, knowing how much Colonel O'Neill hated all the necessary paperwork the SGC generated. The General nodded in agreement. "I know son, believe me, I know."

* * *

Sam and Daniel waited nervously in Sam's lab for any word from Jack. Sam had been so worried for him she couldn't concentrate on her work at all and when Daniel had called in to see if there was any news, she'd asked him to stay, saying that they may as well worry together.

Daniel seemed amazed at how nervous Sam was. "Jack'll be fine," he kept saying confidently, as if trying to convince himself. They both knew what this meant to Jack, and God help them if he failed.

Jack's face as he walked in told them all they needed to know and it took all of Sam's will power to stop from flinging herself on him.

"Good news I take it?" grinned Daniel at the smile on his friend's face. He grabbed Jack's hand and was pulled into a quick hug.

"Hey, space-monkey." Sam grinned as Jack gave Daniel and affectionate tap on the face.

Releasing Daniel, he turned to Sam. "Major," he drawled.

"Colonel, congratulations," she beamed at him.

`Boy, this was hard,' she thought as they gazed at each other.

"Daniel, how about you and Janet joining us for a celebration tonight - meal out, my treat?" asked Jack, dragging his gaze away from Sam.

Daniel nodded enthusiastically. "Great, I'll go tell Janet now," he smiled and hurried off, leaving them alone.

"How about playing hooky with me, snookums?" drawled Jack to Sam.

"Youbetcha," returned Sam with a wide smile and only stopping for a moment to grab her purse and jacket, she made her way to the door. She turned around to find Jack standing there, hands deep into his pockets, grinning like a mad man. "You coming fly-boy?" she teased and gave him a wiggle of her hips before continuing out the door.

"Yesureyoubetcha" he drawled and followed her quickly.

* * *

Jack stopped the truck and made a dash into a local deli, coming back with a brown carry bag, which he dumped on the back seat before driving on towards the outskirts of town.

"Where are we going?" Sam asked eventually, seeing the city disappear behind them.

"Surprise," he said, but refused to say more despite her questions.

They headed out through the hills and up the winding roads. Sam kept trying to guess their destination, but drew constant blanks. After a few miles Jack pulled the truck off the road onto a dirt track and eventually, after a rough ride, they came to a halt in a clearing.

He got out stretching himself before grabbing the grocery bag and a rug from the back. He reached out to take Sam by the hand, leading her through the clearing.

"Are we there yet?" asked Sam, wondering where on earth they were heading.

"Youbetcha - well almost," he promised, smiling. After a little while Sam could hear the sound of water and suddenly the trees gave way to a hillside with rolling grass with a large stream tumbling its way down a narrow, rocky bed. The view was breathtaking.

"Oh Jack, this is absolutely beautiful." She breathed the clean air in deeply. Looking around, she could see nothing but hills and trees for miles. "We're not trespassing are we?" she asked suspiciously as he flung the rug down on a flat spot and motioned her to sit.

"Nope," he answered, saying nothing more as he sat beside her, holding her as she snuggled into his shoulder.

"I can't believe this is free land, and so close to the city as well," she murmured looking out at the view.

"Oh, it's got an owner alright."

"And the owner doesn't mind visitors? Someone's not going to pop out with a shot gun are they?" she grinned.

Jack grinned back. "Now why would I point a shotgun at you?"

Sam digested his words. "You own this?" she asked incredulously.

"Yeah, quite a long time ago I had the idea of a cabin here, nearer than Minnesota. I never got around to building it once I became involved with the SGC, but I like to come out and just sit here sometimes."

"I'm not surprised - it's breathtaking." She hugged him. "Thanks for bringing me."

"My pleasure." Jack pulled the brown bag closer. "Hungry?" he asked.

"Starving," answered Sam and dived into the bag to see what goodies he'd bought.

After a leisurely lunch they lay back, soaking up the warm sunshine, both of them savouring the moment.

"This is what makes it worthwhile Sam."

Sam glanced over at Jack, but found he had his eyes closed.

"All that fighting, the hell we go through, it's all for this - home, our lump of dirt." He rose, looking at her. "And for you," he added, softly.

Jack's words brought a lump to her throat and she tenderly reached out to stroke his face. "Do you think the owner would mind being ravished on this land?" She grinned wickedly at him.

"Not at all - it's actually the forfeit," Jack replied, leaning down to kiss her. Once their lips met they were oblivious of the world around them.

* * *

Sam was leaning into Jack, curled against his side as he drove home. She'd fallen asleep not long after the start of their journey and Jack couldn't resist looking down to her, thinking for what must be the millionth time, how lucky he was to have her.

* * *

Jack paced the living room looking at his watch yet again, wondering how long it took a woman to get ready. He had dressed already - black silk shirt with black trousers and jacket and he was impatiently waiting for Sam. "For cryin' out loud woman," he shouted from the bottom of the stairs. "I did say we're going out tonight."

"Yes, you did," was the reply as Sam stepped into view on the landing.

Jack stood still, looking up at her, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open at the sight. Sam was standing there hesitantly, looking a little nervous.

"Wow," he gasped eventually.

She smiled "Wow - as in good?"

"Wow as in great." he declared as he went up towards her, holding out his hand to bring her down. "God Sam, you are so beautiful," he whispered hoarsely.

Sam, never good with compliments, blushed at his open admiration.

"Haven't you ever seen a woman dressed up before?" she teased in a light tone.

"Woman, yes. Sam, no." Jack declared.

* * *

Sam couldn't help giggling a little at Jack's words. "Do you mind not ogling me?" She turned to him as she spoke, thinking how handsome he looked. God, she have was having a hard time keeping her hands off him. "Have I told you you're pretty good yourself?" she teased, stroking his face.

Jack shook his head. "Nope. I still wonder what you see in an old soldier like me," he said, hugging her to him. She heard him take a deep breath and knew he was inhaling her scent. He began a slow assault on her neck with his lips.

She moaned softly. "Jack, don't or we'll never meet them."

"Don't tempt me," he groaned in return. With an obvious reluctance, he let go of her and stood back. Sam gave her makeup a final check in the hall mirror and then turned to wipe her lipstick off his face before they left.

They found a parking space for the truck just a little way from the restaurant they'd chosen to meet Daniel and Janet at, and once inside they were shown to the table Jack had booked. It was a discreet little booth at the back of the room, lit with the soft glow of candles. Jack settled Sam down and then seated himself. Sam fumed silently when the waitress very obviously eyed Jack up while taking their drinks order. The woman ignored her and gave Jack a beaming smile as she left.

Sam had a look around, never having been to this particular restaurant before. "Cosy, nice," she remarked.

"Yep, and the food's great too," said Jack, looking at his watch. "I never thought we'd beat them here." He stopped, nodding towards the entrance."Oh, here they are now."

The waitress led Daniel and Janet to their table, taking their drinks order as Janet slid into the seat opposite Sam and Daniel sat opposite Jack. The drinks came quickly and, after giving them menus, the waitress left, but not before giving Jack another beaming smile.

Sam glared at the waitress, earning a laughing comment from Daniel. He pointed with the breadstick he'd begun to munch, waving at Sam gleefully. "Gosh Sam, your eyes are green tonight," he smirked.

"They're blue," commented Jack, puzzled. Janet almost choked on her drink as she realised what Daniel meant.

Sam glared at Daniel, but he only grinned more broadly. "I don't think Sam likes our favourite waitress Jack," he commented.

"Oh, do you come here often?" asked Janet.

Daniel waggled his brows at her.

"You've just pinched Daniel's best chat up line," grinned Jack.

"Thanks, I'll remember that when you want to borrow it," laughed Daniel, still waving his breadstick.

"You going to eat that or shoot someone with it?" asked Jack dryly, watching the bread stick's movement.

"Should I shoot the waitress for you Sam?" He paused and looked at Jack. "What's her name again?"

"Lindsay," supplied Jack helpfully, giving Daniel a puzzled look as if wondering where the conversation was leading.

At Jack's mention of the name Sam flashed him a `so you remember her name' look and Janet burst out laughing. Sam glared at her, but it just made Janet laugh even more.

"It can't be the alcohol," muttered Jack, causing everyone else at the table to laugh this time, even Sam not being able to help herself.

`Stop being jealous,' Sam told herself. `He's not even aware she fancies him. Don't spoil the night' She gave Jack's thigh a squeeze and was rewarded with a smile that made her heart jump and then beat faster.

* * *

The rest of the evening passed without mishap. The food was good, the drink flowed and the company was great. Jack was driving and had only a couple, but he wasn't shy on plying the others with more. By the end of the evening Daniel and Janet were both quite drunk.

"I hope neither of you were thinking of driving," Jack commented.

Daniel blinked at him, thinking for a moment before answering. "We came in Janet's car."

"She's worse than you," said Jack, as Janet giggled at something Sam said. "I'll drive you both home. Or do you want to go on somewhere else first?"

Janet and Daniel both giggled at his words and he raised his brows at them. "I give up. Fancy an early night, Sam?" he asked. Sam was at that only slightly drunk stage and was clearly feeling good. She almost purred at his words.

Jack grinned and hurried to settle up the check. Soon they were headed out to his truck.

"Okay kids, whose house?"

Daniel gaped at him drunkenly "Eh?" he slurred.

"Twenty-three languages and I get an `eh'," commented Jack dryly. "Where's your car?"

"At Janet's."

"Right, to Janet's then, and in the morning you can take Janet to pick up hers," decided Jack.

Sam snuggled into Jack closely, stroking his thigh, her hands tormenting him as he pulled out of the parking lot.

"Sam," he groaned.

"Yes?" she asked, smiling wickedly as she tilted her head up to him.

"You wait," he groaned. "Payback is a bitch."

When they reached Janet's house, the other couple stumbled out of the truck together. "You coming in for coffee?" asked Janet.

"No thanks, there's something I need to do," replied Jack, hearing Sam snigger at his words.

He couldn't drive home quickly enough. As soon as he pulled up at his house, Sam was out of the truck and racing to the door, laughing. He caught up with her and grabbed her up, swinging her by the waist with one arm as he opened the door. Shutting it behind them with his foot he swung her up into his arms once more and headed straight up the stairs.

Reaching the bedroom flung her to the bed and leaned over her, kissing her deeply. He broke off the kiss as he began to undress her slowly, touching and teasing, using his mouth and his hands to torment her until she was begging for mercy.

"Pay back's a bitch," he groaned.

Sam moaned in return. "You just wait Jack O'Neill."

"Oh I have Sam. I've waited so long for you." He lowered his head, nibbling at her neck before moving down her body slowly and lovingly. "So long, so long," he groaned.

* * *

Sam woke to feel the bed covers being pulled away and, groaning, she squinted at the light flooding into the room.

"Morning sunshine." Jack's gleeful voice reverberated through her skull.

"Oh God, need sleep," she muttered and rolled over to pull the pillow over her head.

"Not a hope in hell Sam. Up. Coffee's on, painkillers are awaiting you."

"Coffee?" she gasped hopefully, and sat up groggily, her eyes more closed than open.

Jack threw some clothes at her. "See you downstairs."

Sam squinted down to find her jogging sweats and groaned loudly. Half tempted to just snuggle back under the covers she groaned again, knowing full well that Jack wouldn't let her.

She managed to make it to the kitchen and sank down at the table with a soft grunt of distress. Coffee, water and two aspirin appeared in a trice.

"Oh, my head," she moaned, swallowing the tablets.

Jack smiled at her cheerfully. "Nothing a run won't cure."

"Nothing a good sleep won't cure," she growled in response.

Jack laughed and sat down at the table, his coffee in his hand. "Drink the water as well, it'll help."

"Ugh," she shuddered, but downed the water before grabbing her coffee to sip at it. They sat quietly for a few minutes until Jack finished his coffee. He stood behind Sam, kneading her neck and shoulders. The feeling he was creating within her body were making her forget her hangover as her senses began to make music beneath his touch. She stood and turned into him, rubbing herself against him, and linking her hands behind his neck she pulled him down in a passionate kiss.

He bent down, kissing back passionately before lifting his head.. "Nice try Sam. Are you ready for our run now?"

"God, you're a hard man Jack O'Neill," she complained.

He pushed himself against her thighs. "Youbetcha, but that will have to wait" He spun her playfully and slapped her bottom. "Come on, let's warm up."

Sam grinned at him. "I'm already warm, but I don't mind getting warmer."

To her regret, Jack ignored her, only smiling as he started stretching. She sighed and joined him. A short while later they were jogging out of his garden and into the hills.

They took it slow at first, but gradually built up speed to a good pace and soon were passing the first ridge. Sam noticed that Jack fell back and let her take the lead. She glanced back to find him watching her, grinning.

"Okay?" he asked her.

"Yeah, not too bad considering," she acknowledged, realising how good it felt to be out in the early morning sunshine with Jack beside her - beside? Make that behind - she realised. "Hey, I hope you're watching the track," she called.

"Amongst other things," he responded.

By the time they were drawing close to the second ridge Sam had fallen slightly behind and it took all her will to keep going. She stumbled up the last of the incline to where Jack was waiting and sat down heavily on a rock, gasping as she tried to even out her breathing.

Jack was breathing heavily too and sweating furiously, but still had the breath to talk. "You okay?" he asked with concern.

Sam nodded. "Wiped," she admitted.

"We'll take five before we head back."

"God, Jack," she groaned and hauled herself up to stand besides him, leaning into his shoulder. She rubbed her sweating face on his vest and looked out at the view.

Within a few minutes their breathing had returned to normal as they look out over the trees.. Jack shivered slightly. "We'd better get back before we cool off too much," he said reluctantly.

Sam nodded. "I hope this doesn't count as over doing it," she said, turning to him "or Janet will shout."

"Doc knows the score - if I pass it'll be worth it."

"When, Jack when," she stated firmly. "Come on race you back." She darted off quickly. As he started to overtake her, she grabbed his T-shirt to stall him and his clothing barely made it back to the house. They stumbled in laughing and showered together. It was much, much later before they managed to eat breakfast.

* * *

Jack arrived at the SGC in a very happy frame of mind. He settled down in his office to start on the mass of paperwork that had accumulated in his absence, for once glad to be filling in forms and writing reports. He set to with a will and, despite numerous interruptions from colleagues who were delighted to see him back, he began to make headway.

He even missed lunch, carrying on working through the afternoon.

* * *

It was early evening before Sam gently tapped on Jack's door, puzzled as to why she'd not seen him before now. It was far too late to be working for so long on his first day back. Getting no response she opened the door and she caught sight of a tousled head slumped over the desk sound asleep. His head was resting on his arms, which were buried in the midst of a mass of papers, his pen still in his hand.

A noise behind Sam made her turn, finding Daniel approaching. She quickly put her fingers to her lips to shush him before pulling him in quickly, closing the door behind them.

Daniel smothered a laugh at the sight in front of him. "Sleeping beauty," he whispered.

Grinning, Sam moved behind the desk "Shame to wake him," she whispered back.

Daniel's eyes lit up behind his glasses. "It's the perfect time to pay him back for all of the early morning wake up calls he gives me."

Sam tried to smother a giggle as Daniel went up to the desk. He bent down, close to Jack's ear and let fly in his best parade ground imitation. "AH-TEN-SHUN!" he shouted.

Jack's eyes didn't open - his body went into autopilot and he shot upright, his chair shooting away and falling over. His hand was halfway to a salute, still holding the pen, when his eyes opened and focussed on a hysterically laughing Daniel. The papers on the desk had gone into a shuffle and several had floated off the desk.

Sam collapsed with laughter against the wall, tears streaming. She was bent double trying to hide her face, but her shoulders and her body gave no doubt as to her amusement.

* * *

If Daniel had ever wished he had a camera in his hand, it was at that moment. Jack's face was an absolute picture.

"Good reactions," he snickered in delight, although he noticed Jack didn't finish the salute.

"Jeez... you nearly gave me a heart attack!" exclaimed Jack, taking a deep breath and throwing down the pen. "You just wait, Dr. Jackson. And don't think your part in this hasn't been noticed Major Carter," he growled, looking over his shoulder at the still helpless Sam.

He sat down and tried to sort the papers into some kind of order. "Damn paperwork," he grumbled, "been breeding."

Daniel, still grinning from ear to ear, bent down to retrieve the ones that had fallen to the floor. "Does seem a lot," he remarked, eyeing the pile on the desk and the in-tray.

Sam was making a valiant effort to straighten her face. "We wondered where you'd got to. It's after seven you know. I didn't think paperwork could hold your attention for that long. Say ... you haven't slept all day have you?"

"Gimme a break, wouldya," complained Jack.. "I didn't realise it was that late. I did get through all that." He indicated the huge pile stacked neatly on the far cabinet.

"Did you get a crack on the head?" asked Daniel, looking incredulously at the completed work.

Sam giggled as Daniel continued. "Nobody will believe that Jack O'Neill did all that in one day."

"Me neither," said Jack with a frown, as he stood. "Let's head home."

They walked together to the parking lot. As Sam and Jack said a cheerful goodbye to him, Daniel thought how great it was to see Jack looking almost back to his old self.

* * *

Jack tossed Sam the keys as they reached his truck. "I think you'd better drive. I'm still seeing pages of typeface," he quipped.

Sam caught the keys eagerly and opened the truck. Jack didn't relinquish his keys lightly and Sam loved driving the machine. She gunned the powerful engine and at the roar her face lit up. Grinning, she swung the large vehicle around and off through the base gates. Jack settled back in his seat, his eyes gradually drifting shut as he fell into a light sleep. Sam looked across at him, a feeling of happiness washing over her.

She left him to sleep until they pulled onto the drive. She leaned over to stroke his face tenderly as she turned off the ignition. "Honey," she called softly to wake him. He blinked and stretched, looking around in surprise.

"Home already?" He climbed down out of the truck and unlocked the front door, holding it open for Sam to enter first.

Sam took Jack's jacket, telling him to go straight into the living room. She put both their jackets into the hall closet, bending and picking up the package she'd hidden there the day before.

`Now or never,' she chided herself. She'd put it off for too long, finally realising that no time was a good time. She'd vowed she'd do it today, no matter what.

Sam walked quietly into the living room, finding that Jack had collapsed on the sofa. His head was back and he was almost asleep again. She sat down beside him with such a heartfelt sigh that he opened his eyes and turned to look at her questioningly.

* * *

Jack was worried. Sam was standing there chewing at her bottom lip, a sure sign that she was troubled.

"Sam?" he asked, sitting up in concern.

She took a deep breath and held a bulky package out towards him. His eyes dropped to inspect what she was holding, puzzled as to what it was.

"I know you probably thought you'd never see this again, but we all felt that it was important you should get it back. We had it fixed, well Teal'c did and ....." Sam was rambling nervously and her eyes showed her distress.

Without further words she put the package onto his lap.

Jack's eyes dropped to the package. With a sudden start he realised what it was and flicked a nervous glance to Sam.

"Char ..." His voice cracked. He cleared his throat nervously and tried again. "Charlie's glove" His voice was a husky whisper.

He glanced up to find Sam's eyes on him, glistening with unshed tears, and quickly looked back down. He picked up the package, and with shaking hands, began to unwrap it slowly.

The wrapping fell to the floor unheeded. Jack sat holding the glove. He took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down as the memories surged through him.

He'd never thought he'd see the glove again.

* * *

PART NINE

Turning the glove around, Jack fingered the leather gently, his mind lost deep in thought.

When he had first read Sara's letter he was angry that she was giving it to him. It seemed as if she was trying to push the memories of their son's death at him, but as he'd calmed down, he realised that wasn't her intention. He'd always purposely avoided anything in his life that reminded him of his son and Sara had repeatedly chided him, telling him he needed to remember the good times and not just Charlie's death - that he needed good memories and had to let his guilt go. Jack had stubbornly refused to do that. He'd never felt he should let go of the guilt, never felt he deserved to.

That day in the locker room he'd only just opened the package and was staring at the glove, trying not to think, trying to blank out the hurt, when Daniel had come in talking about the mission. Jack couldn't face the many questions he knew Daniel would have, and he'd hurriedly stuffed the glove in his pack to hide it. He'd resumed packing and let Daniel ramble on as he forced his mind to focus on the present and the upcoming mission.

* * *

Sam stood nervously waiting for Jack to say something more, but when he remained silent she gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze and left the room.

She had intended to give him a few moments alone while she splashed her face and calmed herself down, but once she reached the bathroom, she couldn't help herself from sobbing helplessly as she frantically tried to wash the tears away. She could only guess at the memories the glove would dredge up. She knew Charlie's death was never far from Jack's heart.

It took her much longer than she anticipated to hide the evidence of her tears, but she made sure nothing showed before she left the bathroom. She wanted so badly to be strong for Jack's sake.

Coming back to the living room, she found him still hunched over on the sofa cradling the glove. The light was fading quickly, but Sam didn't move to turn a lamp on, leaving the room only lit by the soft glow of the setting sun. She realised Jack must have heard her return. He wiped at his eyes, keeping his head down. She sat down close to him, putting a hesitant hand out to his shoulder.

"Jack?" she said softly.

Jack drew a shaky breath before sitting up straighter and turning to face her. Sam's determination to be strong broke at the sight of the absolute desolation in his eyes and the damn burst. She drew a huge sobbing breath and found herself drawn into a tight bear hug. Despite her own tears, she became aware of the shaking from Jack's body as the barricade he'd erected many years ago finally broke. He clasped her fiercely to him.

Sam wasn't sure how long they sat there, just holding each other. She felt herself becoming calmer and realised Jack's shaking had stilled too. She lifted her head and pulled back a little to try and look at him.

Her heart contracted painfully as she looked deep into his dark eyes.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered "I know it must hurt so much."

Jack stared intensely into her eyes as he brought a hand up to gently trace the side of her face. Wordlessly he pulled her to her feet and together they made their way upstairs where Jack buried himself in the comfort of her body.

* * *

It was the early hours of the morning when Sam awoke to find Jack tossing restlessly. He felt hot and was muttering in his sleep. She tried hugging and stroking him, but the nightmare seemed to be getting worse and he started to cry out. Suddenly he sat up, flinging her away from him. Startled, she lost her balance and fell from the bed, hitting the floor in an undignified heap.

Sam quickly put the bedside lamp on and its soft light bathed the room. Jack was still sitting, his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms wrapped around them hugging them tightly. His eyes were open, but he wasn't seeing anything - at least anything in the here and now. His face and body were covered in a film of perspiration and his eyes looked almost black, unblinking in the soft light. Sam's heart went out to him. She wasn't frightened of him, but what did terrify her was the look on his face. She had never seen Jack look as helpless and vulnerable as he did at that moment - and scared - she'd never seen him look frightened in all the years she'd known him and it shook her to the very core.

She was unsure what to do to help. She called his name and tried talking to him softly. She knew better than to touch him at this stage, but it seemed an age before he began to calm down. Gradually his breathing began to even out and his eyes began to focus until his gaze fixed on Sam's concerned face. Shakily, he rubbed his face with his hands and gave a groan.

"Sam, you okay?" he asked raggedly. "I didn't hurt you did I?" He looked terrible, as if he'd had no sleep at all.

"No, I'm fine. Was it a dream?" She moved closer to him, touching him gently.

He nodded and ran a hand through his hair, not meeting her eyes.

"Want to talk?" offered Sam hopefully.

Jack shook his head and lay down. Sam turned off the light and moved close to be enveloped in his arms. She lay wide-awake for a long time, listening to his breathing, knowing he was awake too.

Slowly she drifted off to sleep.

* * *

After a run Jack and Sam ate a hurried breakfast before reporting for duty. On the drive in Jack was quiet, certainly not his usual self.

When lunchtime came, Sam didn't go looking for Jack - he had told her on the way in that he had a meeting scheduled, so she took the opportunity to meet up with Janet.

"Hey, how are you?" asked Janet brightly.

"Fine, fancy lunch?"

"Great, give me five and we're out of here." It wasn't long before they made their way to the mess.

"You're awfully quiet," said Janet when they'd nearly finished eating. "You look tired."

"A bit," admitted Sam.

Janet smirked. "I'd have thought that all that paperwork would have tired Jack out."

Sam shook her head and, smiling, told her about him falling asleep at his desk the day before.

"I wondered why he hadn't been in for aspirin. Paperwork usually gives him a headache," laughed Janet. "In fact, he's usually prowling about, looking for any distraction. I'm surprised I haven't seen him."

"Yeah, don't I know it. He usually takes turns annoying me and Daniel 'til he breaks something I'm working on, then he grabs Teal'c."

Sam was only half concentrating on the conversation as she tried to think of a way to broach the subject of Jack's nightmare. She wasn't aware of the distress that showed on her face.

Janet put a hand on her shoulder, concerned. "Honey, is something the matter?"

Feeling tired and a bit emotional Sam could only nod.

"Let's go to my office, we can have a coffee."

Janet poured two coffees from the never empty pot and gently sat Sam down on the chair before perching on the desk near her. "Come on, what's troubling you?"

"Oh, Janet, you'll probably think this is really stupid."

Janet looked at her friend with concern. "If it's upset you like this, it can't be stupid," she said evenly.

"Well, last night," Sam took a breath. "I gave Jack the glove."

"I guess he was pretty upset?"

Sam nodded. "He was ... well, very .... anyway we eventually went to bed ... and Jack woke up, he ... oh," she sighed.

"He had a nightmare," finished Janet for her.

Sam looked at her in surprise.

"I know all about his ... well, you could call them nightmares," said Janet. Sam frowned at her words, and Janet hurried on. "I should have warned you, it can be a bit alarming."

"I've seen him have bad dreams before, off world, but this was ... I don't think it was about Charlie ..."

"It's not always nightmares you know, he has suffered from bad flash-backs."

"So he's actually reliving something from his past?"

Janet nodded "I know you don't know an awful lot of Jack's history. I can't fill you in, heck even General Hammond doesn't know all of it, it's so classified, but I can tell you that occasionally something will kick him and it flares up. Usually if he's out of it, hurt or drugged he will react quite violently, but you know that - you know not to touch him when he's out of it, don't you?"

Sam nodded. "So ... last night .... you think the glove could have sparked it ....?"

"Possibly, and his first day back, paperwork, mission reports. He probably had to get the last mission written up...who can say. You are okay aren't you, you didn't get hurt?"

"Jack wouldn't hurt me."

"Not intentionally he wouldn't, but when he's not aware you've got to be careful around him. He doesn't react to the present, it's the past playing out again."

Sam thought about how Jack must feel when he woke from one of these - be they flash-backs or nightmares. She swallowed, unable to speak.

Janet put a hand out and rested it on her arm. "I'm sorry; I hope I've not frightened you."

Sam nodded. "I was frightened Janet, but not for myself, for Jack. To see him suffering in that state - that frightened me. God you should have seen his face." A tear trickled down her cheek and she wiped at it angrily. "I couldn't help but wonder what those bastards did to him to put that fear there. There's so much I don't know about him." The tears fell more freely as she spoke.

"I have a fair idea from his medical files, but I can't tell you much, you know that. He went through four months of hell imprisoned in Iraq, and he's been captured and tortured more than once since. You know about some. God, even just SG-1 missions are enough to give anyone nightmares."

"How do I help him?"

"By being there for him as you are. There are no guarantees in this life, but if you love him you'll accept the rest."

"I do love him, so much so that at times it's frightening, and I do know I want him no matter what."

"Maybe he'll talk about it to you."

Sam smiled sadly at that. "He never opens up to anyone. Daniel said he thinks that's one of the reasons Jack's marriage to Sara failed."

"Yeah his way of dealing with things is to shut it away, but the trouble is it comes out to bite you on the ass now and again." Janet returned Sam's smile.

Sam grabbed some tissues off the desk and blew her nose. "Thanks, I feel a lot better being able to talk to someone about this. I know he probably won't talk to me, but at least I can understand when it happens, and be there for him."

Janet laughed. "And don't forget the no touch rule."

"Spoil sport," teased Sam.

"Thata girl Sam. Take good care of him, he's worth it."

"Oh yes, very worth it."

Sam went back to her lab and put in a couple more hours of work before she went in search of Jack. She found him back in his office, paperwork scattered across the desk.

He looked up at the soft knocking and gave Sam welcoming smile as she entered. "Thank goodness. I was going stir crazy."

"Are you anywhere near ready for home? I feel like an early night," she asked, softly.

His face lit up. "Well, that's an offer I can't refuse," he said, needing no second bidding as he gathered up his jacket and locked the door behind them.

"How did today go?" she asked as they made their way up top.

"Except for boring meetings and yet more paperwork, just peachy," he grumbled. "How about you?"

"Fine, guess I'm a bit tired though."

* * *

Sam's words reawakened the feelings of worry and guilt Jack had woken with and he stopped talking. The memories of the night had come back to him during the day. He knew he'd had a dozy of a flashback and knew they were not a pretty sight. He wondered how Sam was really taking it.

They crossed the compound to Jack's truck and the journey home was made in relative silence. All his thoughts kept criss-crossing as he worried how Sam felt about him and his past. His past was ugly for the most part. A lot of it still turned his stomach if he thought about it. He knew his way of dealing with things was hard on others. It was what had driven him and Sara apart after the death of Charlie - those tears he couldn't shed with her, the feelings he couldn't express. He didn't want to push Sam away like that, but he was also frightened that if she knew everything, she wouldn't want him. It was so hard to even think of the terrors in his life; to talk about them was something even worse.

* * *

Sam kept glancing at Jack, wondering what was going through his mind. Wisely she kept quiet, but couldn't resist giving his arm a loving squeeze as he drove. Jack gave her an absent smile before turning his gaze back to the road.

* * *

They reached home and by mutual consent collapsed onto the sofa just holding each other, not speaking. They lay down full length, Jack spooned into Sam, clutching her close and relishing the comfort the contact gave him. He kept going over and over in his mind what he had been thinking on the way home. The worry that his inability to discuss his problems might drive Sam away finally drove him to break the silence.

"I'm sorry about last night," he whispered.

"You've nothing to be sorry about. We all get bad dreams Jack. You've seen me through enough of them."

"I wish it were only a bad dream. I know what I put you through last night." He spoke softly, holding her tightly. "I should have warned you before we ... well, they've happened before and they'll keep on happening."

"Shush, it's okay," said Sam, turning to him and putting a hand to his face.

"No it's not. I thumped poor Daniel the first week I got out of the infirmary, knocked him over the coffee table." Jack paused to watch the effect his words had on her.

Sam just smiled. "Good job it's not a glass table."

"Point is, it can get ... violent. The nursing staff ...."

She interrupted him before he could go on. "It's okay. I really do understand. You can't help what you dream, what you see, it doesn't make me love you any less." She ran her fingers over his cheek, tracing a line down to his lips with a light touch. "I know you'd never hurt me on purpose."

Jack needed to say more, needed to make her understand. "I'd sooner kill myself than hurt you, but I can't control the flashbacks. They're so real, it's like I never left Iraq. Sara went through hell for months and months after I got home. It got so bad I was frightened of going to bed for days on end - I'd stay downstairs away from her."

Sam listened without saying anything, just stroking him, her hands soft against his skin.

As he spoke his eyes blurred as he remembered - fresh pain seemed to be gathering inside him. "I went for the Doc once in the infirmary when I was drugged up. I could so easily have killed her."

"She's never spoken of it."

"She said not to worry, that she understood, but I still feel like hell about it. I could have ..." He broke off.

"But you didn't."

"Only by sheer luck. That I didn't know what I was doing wouldn't help bring someone back to life, would it?" His voice was ragged now, almost a whisper. "Those bastards put me through hell, gave me scars, but it's up here" he tapped his forehead "that won't heal. Sometimes just a word or an action brings it flooding back. When I'm awake I can deal with it, push it back where it belongs, but sometime I can't and it happens all over again. I've never really told anyone all of what they did; even the shrinks never got the full story. I gave them enough to clear me, get me back to active, but that's all."

"Sometimes what we imagine can be way worse than the truth."

Jack shook his head. "I doubt it. Even before it happened I'd heard stories about what they did. Hell, I'd even got POW's out and saw some of it, but to live that hell day after day...you can never imagine the horrors, never ....." He moved until his face was almost buried into her neck. "Sam, what I went through is beyond me to describe to anyone." He couldn't help shuddering and felt Sam hug him tighter. "The physical hurt stopped, but what they did to my head never went away. It's always there waiting." He stopped speaking, his breath coming in distraught gasps.

Sam still said nothing, she just held him tightly, stroking his hair, just quietly listening. It was exactly what he needed and he finally let the words he had kept hidden for so long come out.

"It wasn't just the physical stuff - the ways they tortured us, the beatings, burnings, electric shocks - it's what they did with their mind games."

Jack's voice was hoarse with emotion, but he made himself continue. "I watched so many die. They enjoyed it. They watched for anything they could torment you with, frighten you with. Even children weren't safe. They put..." His voice broke and he took a breath to steady himself. "They put a boy, no more than fourteen or fifteen, in front of me. Every question I didn't answer, they hit him. In the end I gave them stuff to stop it, old information, anything to try and put a stop to it ...." Jack stopped speaking and raised his head to look at Sam. "You know what they did ... they blew his head off. Laughing, they just blew him away."

Sam's eyes widened in horror and a sob came from her throat.

Jack was watching her reaction closely. "They laughed, Sam. I screamed. Christ, I didn't think I had a scream left in me, but they made me scream when they did that." Tears began to slowly make their way down his cheeks, but he barely felt them. "They untied me to clean up. I had to put his body into a bag and mop up the blood." He took a deep breath, and focused once more on Sam's face. "Christ, there was so much blood. Then they took me out to bury him - no grave, just whatever I could dig with my hands. No name, Sam. I never knew his name. I couldn't even say a prayer for him. I wanted to kill them for it, I was so angry, what they did to me ... and all the others ... I still see his face. I can still see the terror in his eyes as they beat him. I still see the blood. It's all over me and then it mingles with Charlie's blood and I see Charlie like that." His voice broke completely and his head went down as he pushed his face into her neck, the tears flowing freely and his body shaking violently.

Sam was crying now too. "Oh Jack, I'm so sorry. You didn't kill that boy, - you didn't. They did it. You're not responsible for their evil." She shivered as she held him to her.

Jack lifted his face. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. I don't want to hurt you."

"Don't be sorry for me. I'm crying for you, what they did to you, not for me. I'm okay. It's okay to be sad and hurt for someone you love, isn't it?" she demanded tearfully.

Jack's hand lifted to wipe at Sam's wet face. He searched her eyes - for what? Reassurance? Love? Then he realised he'd found what he was looking for, because Sam's eyes gave him the comfort he craved and he found the blood in his memories fading more than it had ever done in the past.

They lay together, holding each other tightly for a long time, each giving and receiving comfort from the other and with it the strength to find peace.

Eventually they went to bed and Jack knew that for that night at least, he wouldn't be seeing that boy's face in his dreams. Distant memories of Charlie, good memories he'd stowed away but had never allowed himself to dwell on, came to him as he lay with Sam and, for the first time in many, many years, he was looking to the future with a lighter heart.

* * *

They woke together in the first light of dawn. Sam cautiously inspected Jack's face, unsure how he was feeling after the emotions of the previous night but, as he moved above her to kiss her, she saw his eyes were clear and untroubled. His face seemed less worn, with fewer lines. There was to be a sense of peace about him that had been lacking before, and as he began to slowly make love to her, she revelled in his touch.

* * *

The day came for Jack to report to Washington for his medical and the board interviews. Sam had wanted to go with him and was beside herself at his refusal. She spent the day trying to work, but eventually gave up and went in search of Daniel, finding him in his office. Janet joined them before long and it was only a few minutes after she arrived that Teal'c appeared in the doorway.

"Is there any news?" he asked.

Sam shook her head. "It's still too early." She couldn't help looking at her watch for what must have been the hundredth time in the last few minutes.

"He won't even be halfway through the medical yet," said Janet. "Then there'll be the assessment and then the ..." She broke off and gave Daniel's arm a quick squeeze.

"I wish he'd let me go with him," sighed Sam, yet again.

"Yeah, I'd love to have seen their faces if he took his 2IC with him," grinned Daniel.

"I could have waited somewhere for him."

"And you'd still be worrying yourself sick, but on your own," Daniel pointed out.

"How was he this morning?" asked Janet.

They had all spent the previous evening together, wishing Jack luck, but Sam was the only one who'd seen him since. She'd waved him off on his flight early that morning.

Sam grinned at Janet's question. "Nervous as a new recruit."

"I've never seen Jack nervous like that," smirked Daniel. "I wish I'd been there with a camera."

"He'd have eaten you alive. When a full bird Colonel who's seen more action than half the SGC put together gets nervous, you watch out," said Janet quite seriously.

Sam nodded in agreement. "He was getting a little tetchy."

Janet's eyebrows went up questioningly.

"Okay, a lot then," admitted Sam. "Well, I'm certainly a lot fitter than I was, but I'm almost ashamed to say Jack could outrun me when he was recovering."

Daniel smiled. "Thanks for getting me off the hook with that by the way."

"O'Neill has spent much time in the gymnasium and on the assault course. I can see no reason why they should fail him. He is fully recovered," said Teal'c.

"They're doing it to get back at him and the SGC, using his age as well as his injury as an excuse," explained Daniel.

"Age is of no concern on Chulak. It is the warrior's ability to perform his duties that is important. I see no reason to show such concern of O'Neill." Teal'c folded his arms across his massive chest. "I find the Tauri can be foolish in such affairs."

"You'll get no disagreement from anyone here," said a voice from the doorway.

Janet turned and started to rise, followed quickly by Sam when she saw who the visitor was. "General Hammond."

The General waved them down. "At ease," he said, coming into the room. "I wondered where you'd all be. It didn't take long to track you down though."

Hammond sat on the chair nearest to him. "I'm through staring at my paperwork. I thought I'd come and see how the worry club was doing."

The others smiled at his words; they knew how much he valued Jack as not only his 2IC but as a friend.

"Bet Colonel O'Neill's been real crunchy this week," smirked the General. "I could barely get two words off him yesterday." He seemed to direct his comment at Sam.

Sam nodded to him, unthinking.

"I'm expecting good news though. The Colonel's been looking the picture of health lately and he's been in really good humour too. You'd never guess how much he has been through these last few months, would you?"

The General stood. "Well, I'm off to a meeting, but I'll be back by 1500 at the latest." He gave them a smile, directing a special one at Sam, and departed.

Sam stared after him anxiously. "Janet, I'd swear he knows."

"How can he?" asked Daniel.

"He kept looking at me when he spoke."

"Guilty conscience," scoffed Daniel.

"Gee, thanks."

"Well," put in Janet "You'd have to be blind not to have noticed the difference in Jack since, well since you and he..."

"And in you too Sam," chimed in Daniel.

"I don't see that much of the General," said Sam thoughtfully.

"No, but he knows Jack well and sees him daily. He can't have failed to have noticed how happy he looks - he's been nice to people as well," said Daniel.

"Jack's not nasty," defended Sam.

"Oh, he can be, as you well know, but I didn't mean that, I meant he's ... Well, he acts like he's in love."

"Yes, I know a few hearts that have been broken on base because of that," said Janet.

Sam frowned. "Now you're being silly."

"Nope, I've had confessions from two of my nurses and they are convinced he's found his true love and they don't stand a chance," said Janet, laughing slightly.

"Oh, he's definitely spoken for," grinned Sam.

Even Teal'c nodded in agreement as Daniel commented. "He sure is."

They eventually made their way to the mess, where they picked at some lunch before separating to get back to work. Sam made a big effort to immerse herself in her experiments and partially succeeded. It was quite a surprise when the phone rang and a glance at her watch told her it was almost five. It was the General's aide asking her to call on the General in his office.

She tidied herself up and made her way there, somewhat nervously, knocked and waited for his permission to enter. She came to attention before him and he nodded and gestured for her to sit.

"I thought I'd let you know the news first, Major. You can fill the others in."

Hammond paused. Sam knew her worry was reflected in her face, but the General smiled and continued. "My 2IC is fully reinstated for active duty and as we speak is boarding his plane for home."

Sam beamed at the General as the news sank in. "Thank God," she breathed, greatly relieved.

General Hammond's eyes seem to twinkle at her. "The Colonel only had time for one quick call before he had to get to the airport, so he sends his apologies for not calling directly. He said to be sure and tell Sam." Sam's jaw dropped slightly as she took in the General's words. "I'm not blind, Sam. I have seen the changes in Jack, and they're good changes. It's about time he got some happiness and I'll say the same to you as I said to him. Keep it quiet, keep it off base and if I see any trouble in SG-1 as a result I'll kick his ass to Washington myself." He paused for effect. "Now go and put the others out of their misery."

Sam was quite stunned, and failed to show the proper decorum as she left the General's office. She got as far as the door before she turned. "Thank you, sir," she said sincerely as she shut the door behind her.

* * *

Sam called her friends to her lab, anxious to give them the good news of Jack's return to active duty.

"First of all, as you've probably gathered by my face, Jack...I mean the Colonel, has been fully reinstated for active duty. Secondly," she continued, her voice cutting across their pleased comments, "the General is unofficially aware of our relationship, and providing it is kept quiet and off the base and," she looked to Daniel and Teal'c, "it doesn't affect SG-1, it looks like no more will be said. So we need you guys to help us with this - keep us sane."

"Of course we'll help." Daniel turned to their other team mate, "Won't we, Teal'c."

"Indeed," Teal'c answered, with a rare smile.

"Are we celebrating tonight?" asked Daniel.

"I think Sam and Jack will want to be on their own tonight," said Janet, nudging him.

"Jack'll be worn out with all the tests and the traveling," grinned Sam "We can celebrate tomorrow."

* * *

Sam checked what time Jack's plane would be landing and left the Mountain. As she stood waiting at the airport, searching the crowds for him, she suddenly felt very nervous of seeing him. The nagging doubt that it was Jack's inactiveness that had allowed him to turn to her for comfort, loomed large.

Suddenly she saw him coming towards her, tall and handsome in full dress uniform, causing her heart to flutter and her stomach to churn.

She pushed down her doubts and flew towards him to be swung up in his arms, his pack flung to the floor without a care. He hugged her tightly, deeply inhaling her scent.

"Congratulations." Her voice wobbled as she spoke and she unsuccessfully tried to hold back the tears. As they began to flow she buried her head into his shoulder.

Jack set her down. "You okay Sam?" he asked in a puzzled tone, "Why the tears?"

"Because I'm happy," she sniffed, embarrassed.

He hugged her to him tightly and then pulled back, searching her face anxiously. "Come on let's get out of here, home!"

They were both quiet on the journey back to Jack's house. As soon as he got inside Jack made his way to the sofa, tossing his bag carelessly to the floor as he dragged his jacket off and loosened his tie. He unbuttoned the collar of his shirt and sank down with a heartfelt sigh.

Sam made two coffees and brought them in. As she handed him one she thought how exhausted he looked. "Tired?" she asked out loud.

"Beat," he admitted, nursing his coffee. "It's been one hell of a day."

Sam heard the weariness in his voice. "Are you okay?" she asked with concern.

"Yeah, but I'll tell you, I'd sooner have taken on some Goa'uld today. At least they're open in wanting to destroy you."

"That bad?" she asked, concerned at both his comment and the tone he had used.

* * *

Jack only nodded in reply. He put down his coffee and moved closer to Sam. He'd missed her terribly all day and only the thought of holding her in his arms had kept him going.

"Those bastards. You should have seen the MO - a jumped up little Hitler. Christ, what I'd give to see that lot face half a dozen Jaffa," he ground out.

Sam smiled. "You beat them though. You're reinstated as active."

"Yep, Jack O'Neill lives to fight another day. The board had their heads so far up their asses, they couldn't see the light of day. They were still trying to knock me down until a certain person intervened."

Sam looked at him expectantly.

"Thor was apparently monitoring the proceedings and he butted in at just the right moment, I can tell you. They'd brought me back in to have another go at me and I was getting ready to tell them what I thought of them when he spoke up."

"So they weren't playing fair?"

"Nope, they had me on the fitness course twice, straight after the cardio stuff. Hell, I was wiped. I can still see their faces when they read the MO's report. They couldn't believe I'd passed, so they brought up everything from eons ago, and my refusal to talk to the shrinks. I tell you, I thought it was all over until Thor spoke. It was a good job he butted in when he did. I was getting ready to tell them exactly what they could do with their frigging board, would have been court-martialled so fast ...."

Sam frowned. "I'm really glad he intervened then." She leaned closer and kissed him. "Still tired?"

Jack nodded.

Sam pouted, looking disappointed. "Oh, I suppose I can wait."

"Wait for what?" he asked.

Sam kissed him again, running her hand across his thigh.

"Oh, I'm not too tired for that," he said as she broke off the kiss. He returned it with an urgency to which they both surrendered.

* * *

It was much later, as they lay together savouring the feel of each other; that Sam remembered what she still had to tell Jack.

"Oh, by the way, General Hammond gave me a little lecture today."

"Oh?"

"Is that all you can say? Oh?"

Jack looked a little sheepish. "I'm sorry, I was going to warn you. He caught me on the hop, so to speak, and to be honest, what with everything else, it sort of slipped my mind."

"Okay, I'll believe you." She nuzzled closer. "Was he mad with you?"

"No, not mad. It was strictly off the record, but he made it clear it was my ass on the line at the first sign of trouble."

"So we'd better behave then."

"Yep. Are you okay with everything, Sam?" he asked, sitting up a little and turning to her.

* * *

Sam looked gravely back at Jack. "What do you want me to say? Of course I'm not happy sneaking around like this."

"Neither am I," sighed Jack "But given the alternative ..."

Sam continued to look him in the eyes, wondering if this was his opening to break it off. "Would you rather ..."

"Oh no...." said Jack earnestly, gazing at her. "I want you in my life day and night. I want you with me for eternity."

Sam lay still, not knowing what to say to that admission.

"Please say something," begged Jack, beginning to look anxious, and Sam realised he couldn't know what she was thinking. She hurried to speak - to reassure him.

"Oh Jack, I feel the same. I can't give you up. I want you and I need you."

"But is it enough?"

"For now, yes, yes is it. I want to be a part of your life too."

"Even knowing that this is all I can offer for now?"

"It's enough. Having your love is enough. We both need each other, but we also need to be out there doing what we're doing."

"So you're willing to go on and take what we can for now?"

"Yes Jack, I am. I love you." Sam's eyes never left his while they spoke.

"I love you." He spoke quietly, from deep within his heart, and Sam knew the words were meant as much as her own had been.

* * *

Within days SG-1 were back together and ready for their first mission. As the Gate's vortex opened, Jack stood there watching, the sight never failing to stir him. He gave his team the final once over and made eye contact with Sam, smiling.

"SG-1 you have a go," called the General.

Jack acknowledged the order with a wave and a quick salute.

"Okay kids, let's go see the wizard," he ordered cheerfully.

Jack proudly led his team up the ramp and into the Stargate with a smile playing across his handsome features.

The rest of his unit smiled at each other. Sam shook her head, grinning, and they followed him into the wormhole.

THE END

Whew - you made it this far? Thank you for reading.