Convolutions Chapter 16. Reflections
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).
Chapter 16. Reflections
Jack stepped off the elevator and headed for his office then he realized it wasn't his office anymore. He stood in the hallway for a moment and then continued. He needed to brief Landry anyway, might as well do it now.
He visited with Hank Landry for a short while, exchanging all the normal pleasantries and questions on Sam's condition then he addressed the Kassem mission. He didn't give Hank any more detail than absolutely necessary, bending the truth more than once when he told him how he'd come by this new information and expressing his desire that the SGC monitor this area of the world. Jack wasn't at all sure that he'd eliminated the threat, even if that contradicted what he'd told the President. He wanted to send a team to investigate; the problem was he didn't know where to send them just yet.
Landry assured him they'd have a team ready whenever the intel was available and after advising Jack that his VIP quarters were ready the two generals went about their separate tasks.
Jack stopped by the infirmary to check on Sam and then made his way to his quarters. He opened the laptop that Hank had provided then sat down to check messages and work on his report.
He could see that Alan Baker seemed to have everything under control as he scanned the latest flash messages and memos. This was as calm as it was likely to get and Jack relaxed a bit as he noted that random attacks and bombings were now almost nonexistent. He sent Alan a short message on one of the alerts that had popped up and then settled in to write his mission report.
Ninety long minutes later he was finished and the report was on its way to the President's desk along with his request to remain at Cheyenne Mountain until further notice. A few minutes later Jack had taken a quick shower and was crawling into bed.
He lay awake and staring at the ceiling for several minutes thinking about Sam and the events of the past few weeks until finally his exhaustion overpowered him and he fell into a deep sleep.
Five hours later Jack jerked awake to the touch of a hand on his shoulder and a firm but polite voice calling, "General?"
"What? What is it?"
"Dr. Summers is requesting your presence in the infirmary, Sir."
Now he was totally awake. His body already moving to free itself of the sheets and blankets that covered him.
"What's going on? Is Sam all right?"
"I'm not sure, Sir. They just called from the infirmary. Anything I can help with, Sir?"
"Get the elevator, I'll be right there!"
The airman moved out the door and Jack was half dressed before he closed it. If not for the boots he'd have been only a step behind him. Tugging hastily at the last tie he grabbed his jacket and headed at a jog for the elevator.
He stepped out on the level where the infirmary was housed and stopped immediately, the airman accompanying him also stopped and stared down the hallway. Sam was yelling. Not screaming, yelling. Carter, his Carter, was exercising her command persona in all her outraged, frustrated, glory (did I mention the yelling?) arguing and barking out orders in a way that was reminiscent of another SGC colonel. Jack turned to look at the airman for a split second before he started running towards the doorway and disappeared inside.
"Dammit, I don't care if it's the middle of the night! We are not just leaving him there! Do you understand that? I am fine! Now let go of me! Airman, get Teal'c and Daniel in here!"
"Colonel, please! You must calm down. You aren't well enough to leave and I assure you that General O'Neill is fine."
"You don't even know his proper rank for God's sake and you expect me to believe you? Now, let go, Doctor! I have work to do!"
"Airman! I am ordering you . . ."
Her voice died on the air as Jack appeared in the doorway. He caught hold of the door jam, swinging himself inside and stopped just short of the bed, staring wide-eyed at the scene in front of him. Dr. Summers and two rather large male orderlies were physically restraining her, having a hard time of it too, as she attempted to break free.
"Hey, Carter. What's going on?"
His eyes were moving rapidly between Sam and Dr. Summers as he tried to decide exactly what was happening. The men had already loosened their hold on her as she stopped struggling and was now motionless, her gaze fixed on Jack. He stood still for a moment waiting for her to respond and could see the confusion beginning to set in. He moved closer and motioned for the orderlies to step aside but they waited for the confirmation from Dr. Summers before backing off. Then the three of them moved away slowly and allowed Jack to move beside Sam.
"Sir . . . I thought . . ."
"What?" He smiled as reassuringly as possible, forcing his concerns into the background for her sake.
"That you were . . . I thought you were trapped in Antarctica!"
"I was. Thor got me out."
He reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly, her hand came up automatically to touch his.
"Yeah, Carter. I'm fine. You ok?"
"Um . . . yeah. I guess."
"Still want to see Daniel and Teal'c. I'll get them if you want."
"No . . . it's ok, Sir."
Jack looked at Dr. Summers and cocked his head slightly in silent question. She indicated for the orderlies to leave and after a moment, turned and followed leaving them alone.
Jack's tone was soft and comforting as he spoke to her.
"Are you really ok, Sam?"
"I'm . . . a bit confused, Sir. I can't . . . I was . . ."
". . .worried about me and wanted to help? I know, Sam. It's all over now and I'm fine. You did everything humanly possible."
Sam pressed her lips together silently, her forehead still wrinkled in thought and a worried expression in her eyes. Then she looked down, shook her head and looked up again, a small smile spreading across her tired features.
Jack chuckled warmly at the surprise in her voice.
"Yeah. Go figure!" He squeezed her shoulder again and then rubbed his hand up and down the bare skin of her arm. She was a bit surprised but didn't pull away when his hand slipped around hers. "Why don't you try to get some sleep?"
He was smiling but she could see the concern in his eyes. Everything seemed just a tad out of place to her, wrong . . . somehow. He started to move away but she held onto his hand tugging slightly and causing him to turn back towards her.
"Sir? Why are you still here?"
"I was sleeping, Carter. In my quarters."
"Could you stay for a while? Just a little while . . . ?"
An unfamiliar vulnerability was apparent in her eyes and Jack didn't stand a chance against it. All of his protective genes kicked in. If she was worried enough to ask for his help, he certainly wasn't going to refuse.
"Sure, if you want." He let go of her hand and pulled a chair closer to her bedside then he tucked the covers around her tapping her nose lightly with his finger before he sat down. "But you have to promise that you'll try to sleep. You need the rest. Ok?"
She nodded her head and smiled at him, a touch of the normal glimmer returning to her eyes. The depth of feeling in them seemed to expand as Jack reached out for her hand again, closing it protectively in his own.
"In the morning, Sam. There'll be plenty of time for questions later. Sleep now."
She didn't answer just snuggled down a bit deeper under the covers, pulled his hand close against her and closed her eyes.
He held onto her hand, stroking it lightly and a few minutes later her breathing leveled out and her body relaxed into sleep. Jack watched her for a long time, studying her face as he traced slow, lazy circles on the back of her hand. She was pale and hot from the fever that still plagued her but at least she was still alive. As long as she was alive there was a chance and Jack O'Neill wasn't known to give up easily.
He was searching his unique knowledge, methodically replaying every memory, trying to recall any advanced technology or even a random medicine man they'd encountered in their years of travel through the Stargate, anyone that might help her. He even tried to tap into the ancient knowledge that had, on more than one occasion, controlled his brain. He had healed Bra'tac easily when he'd possessed that knowledge but try as he might, he couldn't tap into that connection.
Sam started to move about in her sleep, trying to adjust her body and he could see stray emotions tugging at her features. She was squinting her eyes and biting on her bottom lip just the way she did when she was trying to solve some inexplicable galactic puzzle. He watched until she was still again and not wanting to disturb her rest, began to slip his hand out of hers, pulling away slowly from her now relaxed grasp. Just as his fingers brushed lightly against hers she grabbed onto him, holding his hand with much more strength that he would've expected.
Her voice was little more than a whisper but clearly indicative of something very close to desperation. He quickly closed his fingers around hers eclipsing her small hand in his own.
"I'm here, Sam."
There was a moment of silence in which he thought she'd drifted back into sleep but then a mumbled plea escaped her tender lips.
". . . don't let go."
He watched her for a moment and then moved closer pressing his face against her cheek and running slightly trembling fingers through her hair. As his lips pressed a soft kiss against her cheek, he whispered.
It was barely 0600 when Daniel walked into the infirmary, stopping short as he looked up at Sam's bed. She was sleeping and for the first time since she'd been here, she seemed to be peaceful, actually resting. Jack was still beside her. The bed had been lowered and he leaned over it from the chair, his head resting comfortably against Sam. One of his arms was draped casually across her body and the other was holding on to her hand. Daniel smiled hoping that their relaxed, almost intimate postures meant that Sam was better and that somehow Jack had worked his particular brand of magic on her.
For a few minutes he just stood there watching them sleep. She was lying on her side and it looked as if she'd curled herself around him. From where he stood, it was difficult to tell who was comforting whom. It wasn't often he'd observed them like this. When they'd been on missions Jack was so keyed to the slightest abnormality that he would often awake if you watched him for more than a few seconds and once his and Sam's relationship had finally begun to blossom they had kept it very private, always maintaining their professionalism while on base.
Daniel became aware of quiet footsteps approaching and turned quickly, lifting a single finger to his lips. The nurse looked back at him in surprise and then nodded as he started towards her.
"Sorry, I didn't want to wake them. Has he been here all night?"
"Colonel Carter became distressed during the night and Dr. Summers sent for the general. He's been here since then. I was just about to wake him so that the doctor wouldn't be upset that he's still here. She seemed concerned that General O'Neill also needed to rest."
"Ah! Well, he seems to be resting but if you insist, why don't you let me? He . . . um, sometimes . . . well, it's probably better if you just . . . let me."
He smiled charmingly and the nurse returned his smile as she nodded her head in agreement.
Daniel turned and started back across the room to where Jack and Sam were sleeping. It seemed such a waste to wake him. The medical staff just didn't understand that Jack's quality of sleep was probably a hundred times better here, in a chair beside Sam, than it would be in his quarters. Daniel approached Jack cautiously and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. In a voice only slightly above a whisper, he spoke.
Then he waited. When there was no immediate response he spoke again softly.
"Your watch, Jack."
Jack didn't move but his muscles tensed a bit and Daniel's practiced eye took note realizing that he was now awake.
"Um, no. Sorry, Jack, it's ok. The nurses want you to go and get some rest."
Jack slowly lifted his arm moving it away from Sam and then carefully untangled his hand from hers. His dark eyes studied Sam's face and a small smile involuntarily tugged at his lips as he ran a gentle hand across her hair before sitting back in the chair.
"I'm fine, Daniel."
Jack shook his head slowly as he stood and gently guided Daniel away from the bed.
"I don't want to leave just yet. Where's the doc?"
"Not here, yet."
"Then get the nurse, her fever's up again."
"Jack, you were asleep. How can you know that?"
Jack tilted his head in that 'do as I say or I'll kick you ass' look and Daniel raised a hand to stop his response.
"Ok, ok, I'm going."
Dr. Summers arrived before Daniel returned and after a quick check went to make changes to Sam's medication. Once the medication had been administered Dr. Summers requested a word with Jack in her office. He agreed only after Daniel assured him that he would stay with Sam.
"General, I think it's time we told Colonel Carter who you are."
"She already knows who I am, Doc."
"No, Sir. I mean . . . I think it's time you tell her that you're her husband. I think Sam needs to know the truth and I know that it will be less stressful for you."
"I don't know. Won't that upset her? I mean, for cryin' out loud she asked me to call her boyfriend!"
"That's just a result of the infection, General. You have to realize that her memories are still there. . . well, at least I think most of them are. They are however, jumbled in such a way that she can't interpret them correctly. Some are very vivid and completely intact while others are just bits and pieces. A word or phrase may be clearly remembered but the situation in which it occurred is totally lost. She may even think that she's remembering a dream. It's a pretty scary thing when you can't identify reality."
Jack was completely silent as Karen Summers watched him. She knew it must be very difficult for him to be so concerned about Sam and have her ask for another man's comfort. She didn't believe that Sam actually wanted that to happen, now all she had to do was convince the general. She sat calmly waiting but he didn't appear to have anything to say.
"Sir, I really think it's for the best. If surgery is necessary I will need your permission."
Jack looked up and Karen saw something near terror flash across his features. He stood up immediately and began to pace in the small room.
"Sam would want to make her own decision."
"I understand that, Sir but she may not be able to do that right now."
"No, I don't think it's a good idea. Not yet anyway. She doesn't remember, Doc and if there's one thing I know about Sam it's that she has a stubborn streak a mile wide. If she can't remember for herself she won't believe me."
"She trusts you, General. Daniel tells me he's looking for Pete Shanahan. Surely you're not thinking of bringing him here?"
Jack looked down at the floor, rubbing a hand across his face as his footsteps suddenly stopped and he made a mental note to beat the crap out of Daniel.
"Yeah, if that's what she wants."
Karen could hear the sadness in his voice and it upset her more than she expected.
"Sir, with all due respect, I don't think that's a good idea. Sam's memories seem to be different each time she awakens . . . sometimes even without sleep, they seem to change as the fever increases or any crisis occurs. There's no pattern, no filing system. She's being subjected to random memories that are totally disjointed and popping into her mind with no control whatsoever. And what about Shanahan? How is he supposed to respond to this? You can't tell him what happened to her. Is he even aware that the two of you are married? No, Sir. I don't think it's a good idea. As a matter of fact I think it's a very bad idea for all concerned." Karen took a deep breath half expecting Jack to come down on her like a ton of bricks but he remained quiet, almost motionless. "I know that you are trying to do what's best for her, Sir but you are the only constant element. It's not Pete that Sam is clinging to, Sir, it's you."
"You sure of that, Doc?"
"Well, yes. Aren't you?"
"We weren't getting on so well before this happened."
"Oh, I see. I'm sorry to hear that, General but it's good that you've resolved it."
"That's just it, Doc. We haven't."
"Then all the more reason to tell her. I know this charade of playing her CO is wearing thin on you. Just think about it, Sir. I'll be happy to help in any way that I can."
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets, mumbled his thanks and quickly left the room. In a matter of minutes he was standing at the foot of Sam's bed staring into her peaceful face. Daniel was sitting quietly in the chair beside her. When Jack continued to stand at the foot of the bed, Daniel rose to join him.
"Everything ok, Jack?"
Jack shrugged his shoulders and never took his eyes off Sam.
"So, what did the doctor say? Is there any change?"
"She wants me to tell her."
"Tell her? Tell her what?"
"That we're married."
"Oh." There was a long pause before Daniel spoke again. "When are you going to tell her?"
"Who said I was?"
"I'm not sure she wants to hear that, Daniel. Or that she'll believe it."
"She does. And she will."
Daniel's voice was filled with confidence and Jack believed his sincerity but that wouldn't make the task any easier. As usual, the timing was crappy and her asking for Pete hadn't helped. His stomach twisted into knots at the thought of the man. He'd almost lost her once. Those had been black days. Days of pretending that he was happy she'd found someone, of avoiding her in the hallways and trying to convince himself that he didn't care. He'd thought those days were gone forever but if she couldn't remember . . . or didn't want to remember. He winched internally and then slammed a steel door shut against those thoughts as he looked up into Daniel's concerned face.
"Look, Daniel I need to check on some things, can you stay with her?"
"Uh, sure, Jack. You should get some food, too. I'll call if anything changes."
"Thanks. I won't be too long."
"Sam? Hey! How ya doing?"
"Hey. Uh, I'm uh . . . I'm . . . I'm not sure."
"It's ok, Sam. You're in the infirmary."
"What. . . what happened?"
Daniel put his book aside and began to patiently repeat the story for her. He included all the details, the rescue mission, their approach to the village, how she was wounded and the trip home. Then he continued with fewer details of the infection and how it was affecting her memory. He smiled and tried his best to assure her that everything was going to be ok; it would just take some time.
She tried to smile when he'd finished but he could see the confusion as she tried to put the pieces together in her own mind. As her stress intensified he tried to distract her with small talk relating humorous bits of gossip and the day-to-day happenings she had missed. She was eating a light lunch when she stopped suddenly and asked how long she'd been back from the Prometheus mission. And the next question was about Jacob.
Daniel stopped reading abruptly at the mention of Jacob's name and after a momentary wrinkling of his brow, calmly filled in the blanks with appropriate information. He told her that Jacob had been to see her after she returned to the SGC but that he had been called away on another mission. True but not . . . everything. She seemed to accept it but there also seemed to be signs of worry in her eyes as she stopped eating and lay back against her pillows staring blankly at the walls around her.
Jack was on autopilot, moving through the familiar hallways without thought or even a glance at the people he encountered along the way. He went directly to his quarters and closing the door behind him allowed his conversation with Dr. Summers to replay in his mind. Then he moved calmly across the room and opened his duffel. He reached deep into the bag and pulled out a small box, opening it as soon as his hand was free of the bag. He held it there for a long time staring at the gold band that rested inside. Then he slid down into a chair and worried it between his slender fingers. As his mind wandered slowly through the recent past the ring moved constantly in his agile hands, twisting and rolling as his fingers tinkered with it endlessly. Then suddenly, he stopped and purposely laid it on the table moving quietly to his laptop.
It was almost four hours before he'd finished his work and as he stood he stretched his long frame, trying to ease the kinks from sitting for so long. He didn't usually remain still this long but since being assigned to the Pentagon he had grown accustomed to staying behind his desk for long hours. He glanced at his watch and started towards the door. He was just about to step into the hallway when he stopped and turned, moving back to the desk. He released a deep sigh and closed the laptop then reached down and picked up the ring, sliding it easily onto his finger. Scooping up the laptop with one hand he headed back to the infirmary to check on Sam.
Jack remained at her side for the next twenty-four hours leaving only as necessary to eat or make phone calls while Daniel or Teal'c filled in. He was sitting on the foot of her bed, the laptop resting on the tray table, checking his messages and typing in replies. He was smiling slightly as he thought of how unusual this scene was for them. Usually it was Sam on the computer while he thought of ways to distract her and pull her attention away from her work.
Yeah, things had changed. His life had changed. He had no choice but to embrace the computer world that he had avoided for so long. The information that he required was there, the updates, messages, troop movements and orders could be at his fingertips with the touch of a key. He shook his head slightly and was glad that at least now he had an aide to handle most of the paperwork, usually adding only his signature for approval.
Sam was quietly watching him and he occasionally turned a smile in her direction, the warmth in his eyes wrapping around her like a comforting embrace as their eyes locked and held a momentary connection. She felt safe with Jack close by and not for the first time, she wondered why he was here. It seemed to her that he'd been here almost every time she was awake and even though SG-1 had always watched over each other . . . this seemed different somehow.
Teal'c and Daniel had also been by to visit her a short time ago but no one had mentioned Pete. She assumed that due to security he wouldn't be allowed to visit her and thought maybe the Colonel was trying to make up for that by keeping her company. He worked hard to maintain his grumpy Colonel routine but she knew he'd do almost anything for his team. She sighed audibly and watched as he turned towards her.
She shook her head and tried to brighten her smile hoping it would relieve the obvious concern in his eyes.
"Want me to go?"
She thought a hug would be nice but their military relationship nixed that so she just shook her head and pouted slightly.
"Get some sleep then.
He let one hand slide from the keyboard and gently squeezed her foot. She allowed a small smile and wondered if he'd always touched her like this; if that look in his eyes had always been there. He was massaging her foot now and the pleasant, relaxing sensations were spreading slowly up her legs and across her body. She kept her eyes on him even as her lids grew heavy, her mind questioning the stars on his collar for only a moment before she slipped into the quiet darkness of sleep.
An hour or so later she had awakened again and pushed aside the covers complaining about the overly warm temperature in the room. The nurses insisted that it was the result of her fever and administered more medication through the I.V. tube. Her bare feet were now resting comfortably against Jack's thigh as he typed away at the laptop.
She thought it must be a new game that kept him staring at the screen so diligently and didn't realize that she'd begun to rub her foot slowly along his thigh.
Jack, however, had noticed. He looked up as the foot suddenly stilled. The look on her face provoked a confused smirk on his as he watched silently and waited for her to speak.
"Are you going after Daniel?"
Jack stared at her wondering how to answer. It was a guess each time as to what her mind was piecing together and he'd found himself drawn into several traumatic past events without warning. He'd also noticed that he was repeating answers several times, just as Daniel had.
He had a fifty-fifty chance of being wrong but decided that he would normally answer yes to that question, so he did.
"You'll be all right?"
Something was nagging at Jack as he cautiously answered her question. He didn't know where this conversation was heading or why he needed to go after Daniel. The only thing that came to mind was when Daniel had been kidnapped in Honduras and he'd gone after him while she was assigned a mission to Anubis' super soldier base with Jacob and Teal'c. So, holding her gaze locked with his own, he waited patiently for her to reply.
"I'll be fine, Sir."
He nodded and closed the laptop, preparing to leave the room if that's what she expected but when he looked back at her she was staring at him intently, a strange dreamy look brewing in her eyes.
"What about you, Sir?"
He cocked his head and waited.
"If things had been different . . .?"
Jack stared back into her deep, blue eyes as the conversation came back to him. He had known something was going on with her and made up an excuse to drop by her lab. For whatever reason, this had been the time she'd chosen to show him the engagement ring from Pete. Then their conversation had turned to the choices made in their personal lives and she had asked that same question. He remembered exactly what he'd said.
His mind was working overtime as he stared at her silently. Had his answer pushed her into Pete's arms? Had this conversation been the deciding factor in her decision to marry Pete? His heart was racing as he stood motionless in front of her penetrating stare and all he could think was 'don't screw this up, Jack.'
Was she asking him if there was a chance for them? The conversation was the same but things were different then and he'd had no right to stop her from trying to find the happiness she deserved. He knew he couldn't just stand by and let her walk away again. Even though he knew they were only having this conversation because of her illness and even if she confessed her undying love for Pete, he didn't want to let her go. Not this time. And then he remembered her words as she held onto his hand and slowly fell into a troubled sleep. She had asked him not to let go.
She was beginning to smile as she watched him, waiting impatiently for his answer and he knew he was running out of time. He should answer her. He just needed to find the right words.
His eyes seemed to darken with unspoken emotions as he continued to gaze into her eyes and when he finally spoke his voice was soft but confident.
"If things had been different, Carter, I wouldn't have waited so long."
As he paused she tipped her chin upward slightly and leaned in towards him as she waited for him to finish his thoughts.
"I would have taken you dancing and sent you dozens of roses. I would have taken you on long vacations to tropical beaches and romantic weekends in the mountains. And if I'd even dreamed you'd say yes, I would have asked you to marry me a whole lot sooner."
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