Story Notes: Spoilers: Solitudes and The Broca Divide (briefly)
Based right after `Solitudes', First Season, after Jack and Sam are rescued.


Copyright (c) 2003 Jenny Standridge

Solitudes: Rescued

Jack came to in the mountain. Unable to move, his leg supported high in front of him in traction, he found it difficult to breathe. His first thought, `Oh no, Carter found a way to splint my ribs.' Gingerly, he ran his fingers over the tight bandages around his torso and his brain began to fight its way past the fog of too many hours sleep and the painkillers that were being administered through the IV attached to his arm. "Doc?" His voice hoarse from days of disuse. The last thing he really remembered was listening to Carter's ramblings as she attempted to climb out of the cavern they had been stuck in. Carter? His cries became more insistent, "Doc? Dammit, Fraiser, what kind of doctor are you anyway, get over here!" Dr. Fraiser's smiling face hovered above his head.

"Well, you're obviously feeling better. You at least sound like your old self." Although she smiled brightly, he could see the exhaustion in her face. He wondered how long she had been hovering over him.

"Carter? She climbed out of the cave. Did she make it?" He closed his eyes tightly, terrified of the answer. Visions of Carter frozen to death in a snow bank on some foreign world came to him immediately, forcing him to open his eyes again.

After years of medical work, Fraiser could recognize panic, even when it wasn't evident in his voice. "Shh, Colonel, everything's fine. You're safe, you're both safe. Sam's in the next bed." With difficulty, O'Neill strained to focus his eyes on the bed next to him. Breath began to come easier and the visions faded. There was Sam. Deathly pale and sound asleep. He knew he wouldn't fully believe the doctor until he could hear Sam's endless chatter again. He didn't care about what. He clued in on the doctor's voice talking quietly next to him as she checked his pulse and studied the machines around him.

"…hypothermia when we found her, but alive."

Jack interrupted, "Sorry, what? I zoned out for a minute."

Fraiser smiled and pulled up a stool. "When we found you, you were both unconscious. She had given you all of the blankets and was lying next to you, probably in an attempt to combine body heat. She came too, apparently, for a short while as the rescue team was carrying her out, spouting off your ailments to the general. But hours of lying on the ice finally took its toll. Your first stop was McMurdo, the Antarctica base. You were there for several days while you were stabilized and Sam warmed up. She woke for a short time there, but once the doctors told her that you were both safe she fell into a deep sleep. Not surprising really. She was suffering from exhaustion, malnourishment, and hypothermia. Her vitals are good, so I'm certain she'll wake-up when she wants to."

Jack lied back but his eyes remained focused on Carter. He stamped down the urge to wake her up, just for his own peace of mind. He watched her until his own exhaustion took over and he fell into a deep sleep once again.

A scream snapped him out of his sleep. When he opened his eyes, the lights had been dimmed considerably, so he could only guess that it was night. Sleep left him immediately when he looked over and saw that it was Carter screaming, tears flowing down her cheeks. "Carter! Hey, Sam! Son of a, where are those damn doctors? Hey, someone get in here!" And then he registered the running footsteps down a hallway of the silo. "Captain, wake up."

Frustrated, Jack struggled to move so that he could get to Carter but couldn't. The combination of Fraiser's strapping job on his ribs and his broken leg, he was fairly well immobile. "Dammit!" He swore loudly and smashed his fist into the bed.

"Captain Carter, it's okay, you're safe," the nurse's soothing voice gradually calmed Carter back into a deep sleep. She smiled at the colonel, "Sorry, sir, I had just stepped out of the room for some coffee when I heard her."

O'Neill studied Carter's now calmed, sleeping face. "Has she been doing that a lot?"

"I'm afraid so, sir. We're able to calm her down fairly quickly but I do wish she would wake up so she could talk about it."

The rest of the night and day passed interspersed with visits from Daniel, Teal'c and, of course, General Hammond and long stretches of sleep. Once again, in the early morning hours Jack's sleep was disrupted by screams coming from Carter's bed. He heard footsteps running down the hall. Fed up with his inability to help, he tore the IV out of the shunt in his arm, gritted his teeth as he swung his leg up and free of the traction that held it and pushed himself up. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he bit back yet another curse.

"Col. O'Neill, what are you doing? You shouldn't be moving yet!" The nurse reprimanded when she ran into the room.

"Bull!" Swinging his legs over the side of the bed he lowered himself onto the stool left there from Daniel's visit. The wheels moved smoothly as he pushed himself across the short gap to Carter's bed. By this time, her screams had begun to lessen thanks to the nurse's calming voice.

"Carter? Sam, wake up. Come on, now, enough of this. Wake up, we'll talk about it, and it'll all go away." She didn't seem any calmer, so he forced himself to soften his voice. "It's okay, Sam. We're safe now." He rested his hand on her arm. It worked like magic. Her panicked yells ceased and she fell back into a deep sleep. He leaned heavily against the wall ignoring the throbbing pain in his side and leg. His eyes drifted closed.

"Colonel, let me help you back into bed." The nurse walked around the bed, intent on getting her charge back into his bed and his leg elevated.

He shook his head stubbornly. "I'm sick of that bed. Just let me sit up for awhile. Go get yourself some coffee, I'll tell you when I'm ready to lie down again."

Recognizing his stubborn streak, well known around the base, the nurse backed off. " Fine. Fifteen minutes and then you're back in bed, no arguments."

Jack grinned slightly and nodded in agreement. Inwardly, he knew he should lie down again but he hated feeling useless. Hated the inability to help Carter the way she had helped him in that cave. He remembered what Fraiser had told him. Carter had given him all of the blankets. That means she hadn't even taken any with her when she had attempted to climb out of the cave. And why had she come back? Dozens of questions whirled around in his head. Closing his eyes again, he worked to block out the pain as he sat and held Carter's hand, offering what little comfort he could as she thrashed through her dreams. All of the times they had camped out together on various missions, he had never known her to have nightmares. Their close brush with death must have been harder on her than he thought.

Later, after the nurse had helped him back into bed and, thankfully, rehooked up his IV, he felt his eyes drift closed. He remembered the last time they had slept side by side. He didn't remember it happening, but apparently he had passed out. How had Carter managed to drag him across the cave? She looks so fragile right now, but he knew she was strong. Apparently, she's a lot stronger than she looks normally. Amidst his dreams of fishing, sitting out on the small pier in front of his cabin, he heard his name being called. In his dream, his leg no longer broken, he stood up and walked up the pier toward the house as the voice became more insistent. Unable to find anyone in the house, he got fed up and his temper took over. "WHAT?" he yelled.

"Colonel? Wake up," the nurse called, shaking his shoulder gently so as to not jar his ribs.

He opened his eyes, looking at the nurse bent over him. "What are you doing here?" he asked, confused.

"She's awake, sir." Enough said, Jack's head whirled around as he angrily punched the pillow down that blocked his view. Sure enough, there was Carter, moving her hand. Her bed had been cranked up slightly so she could drink the water held for her by another nurse.

"Now, there's a sight for sore eyes," he greeted her with a grin.

Samantha looked at him startled. "You're awake!"

The nurses fussed around her. Jack grinned. "I've been awake for a couple of days. It's you who's been such a couch potato, Captain." He was amazed at how much better he felt now that she was awake. It always bothered him when a member of his team was injured or sick in anyway. If it was him, big deal, he'd been hurt plenty of times before, but anyone else… He tried to push back the extra concern that had sprung forward when it was Samantha lying so weak in that hospital bed. It was different from the concern he usually felt for his team members. It leaned toward emotions that he shouldn't be feeling toward her. He mentally pushed aside the self-analysis and concentrated on talking to Sam.

The nurses vacated the area, one to call for Dr. Fraiser, the other to retrieve some hot soup. "How are you feeling, sir?" Carter asked weakly, amazed he could seem so cheerful.

He shrugged off his extensive injuries. "I'm fine. Doc Fraiser fixed me up real good. It's you we've been worried about." He considered asking her about the nightmares but decided against it. He'd wait until she was stronger. "You know, if you wanted to get a little time off work after we were rescued there had to be an easier way. I mean getting hypothermia is a little drastic just to get extra shut-eye, isn't it?" He teased her gently, glad to see the smile spread across her pale face.

"Well, you know, if you make a big enough of a scene by scaring the pants off everyone, it increases your chances of a medal," Sam smiled weakly. She leaned heavily against the pillows behind her, amazed at how tired she felt even after sleeping for so long. However, the guilt she felt for not making the gate work and getting them home, getting the colonel proper medical attention didn't subside. She had been convinced that he was dead. Her dreams over the last several days had been filled with horrible visions. Funerals, walking up to Sara O'Neill's front door to give her the news, their frozen bodies left undiscovered forever in that cave. Tears threatened just at the thought of it.

O'Neill spent the next while filling her in. How they had in fact been on Earth for the entire ordeal. How she had helped in their rescue by trying to dial home. Everything. The only parts he watered down was the real extent of his own injuries, how close they truly had come to death, Sam by hypothermia, he because of internal injuries, and her nightmares that made her scream so loudly. His story was interrupted by visits from the rest of their team, General Hammond, and frequent visits by Doc Fraiser. In then end, his voice didn't begin to trail off until late in the evening. It was only when they were dozing off to sleep that he remembered that he had neglected to ask why she had come back to the cave.

The now familiar sounds of nighttime surrounded him when he heard Sam's voice. "I'm glad you're alive, sir." She knew it sounded silly, but it was an honest sentiment.

Jack's deep laugh floated across to her bed. "I'm really glad I'm alive, too." Carter giggled a little, just like that night in the cave. "I'm glad you're alive, too, Samantha." In his exhaustion, he failed to realize that was one of the few times he had called her by her full name. They drifted off to sleep, warm, safe and at last, on the road to healing.

It wasn't until the early morning hours when once again, Jack was jolted awake by Samantha's yelling. The nurse was there in an instant. She quickly had Carter calmed down, but Jack could tell that it wasn't an easy sleep. An idea dawned on him and he motioned the nurse to his bed. "Can you push my bed closer to Captain Carter's? I was thinking that if I'm closer to her I could help calm her down so you don't have to run in from another room and risk breaking your neck. Maybe this way we'll all get some sleep." He made that last comment only to erase any ideas the nurse might have. Surprisingly, there were no questions. It took a little work, but finally, his bed was close enough to hers. Sliding his arm through the bars on the side of the bed, he rested his hand on her arm and felt her trembling cease quickly. He sighed and laid his head back. "Good night, Sam," he whispered.

"Good night, Jack," she whispered in her sleep.

Sam woke early the next morning, ravenous. She struggled to push herself up, stopping only when the nurse ran in to crank up the head of her bed. Something's different. She looked around the room and her eyes fell on Col. O'Neill's sleeping form. Somehow his bed had been moved next to hers, his hand was even resting on her bed. She looked at the nurse questioningly.

She explained easily, "The night nurse told me. Apparently you had another nightmare last night. The colonel asked that his bed be pushed closer to yours so he could help calm you down. I just think he's anxious to feel useful. I have a feeling he's going to make a very cantankerous patient after awhile." The nurse left the room and came back with some toast and hot tea. At Carter's protestations, she only smiled and gave the generic response, "Doctor's orders." And left the room.

Sam nibbled at the dry toast and sipped at the hot tea, unaware that her gaze kept wandering down to O'Neill. She had questions to ask. Mainly, about these nightmares the nurse had mentioned. Had they been happening long? She had no memory of them at all. But then again, all that seemed to be on her mind lately was this overwhelming guilt that she couldn't seem to shake off. But O'Neill's low groan took her mind off it again.

"Hi," she said, smiling down at him, enjoying the confused look on his face. And then the dawning of memory.

"Morning." He struggled to push himself up and gave up, impatiently waiting for the nurse to come crank up the bed for him. "It certainly looks like you're feeling better this morning."

"Yes, except that I'm starving and all that Janet will let me have is tea and toast." She handed him a piece.

He grimaced at it. "Oh, for crying out loud, this is ridiculous. Fraiser, dammit, someone get in here. We're hungry!" He yelled, flinching only once at the sharp pains that raged through his body from the direction of his ribs. Carter could only laugh at the typical O'Neill reaction.

Dr. Fraiser walked in, smiling, "Hi, so you're both awake. How are you feeling?"

"We're hungry and this toast and tea crap isn't doing us a bit of good. Where are the bacon and eggs?" O'Neill demanded, knowing full well the thickness of Fraiser's hide when it came to him.

"Down in the kitchen available to everyone who hasn't been as malnourished and as sick as you two. For now, tea and toast is all I'm allowing you to have. This evening we'll try some soup, okay?" Her placating voice didn't work.

"Oh, come on! We were malnourished so, hey, to help we're going to continue starving you for a few days. What the hell is that?" Jack grinned at her, in some things, he knew Janet Fraiser to be as stubborn as he on, and he had a strong feeling that this would be one of them.

"Sorry, but I refuse to sit here and watch the two of you throw up because you overdid it on food. Broth tonight, we'll try something a bit heavier tomorrow. Now if there isn't anything else…?" With a grin, she left them alone.

Jack stopped his moaning and cursing, long enough to steal another piece of Carter's toast and a drink of her tea. He made a face and lied back again.

Sam fiddled with the napkins on the tray in front of her. "Um, Colonel, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," he rested an arm on the railing between them and looked up at her serious face.

"How did you know that I was having a nightmare last night?" She met his eyes square on and saw the flinch he tried to hide.

"I, uh, I've been meaning to talk to you about that." He rubbed his face, amazed at the gruffness on his normally clean-shaven face. "You were screaming in your sleep, you've done it the last couple of nights that I'm aware of and apparently longer. I got tired of the nurse having to run in here all of the time, so I asked her to move me closer so that I could calm you down instead of letting you yell." He looked almost embarrassed at his admission.

"I was screaming?" Now it was Carter's turn to look embarrassed. "Did I say anything?" O'Neill shook his head slowly.

He took a deep breath. Damn, it hurt when he did that. He swallowed the pain once again and looked over at the woman he had been working so closely with for the past year. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," she answered quickly, too quickly. Then she tried to cover it up, "I don't even remember them really, just flashes of images. Thanks, though."

The weeks flashed by. Eventually, Carter was allowed to get up and return to some semblance of routine, even though she wouldn't be doing any gate travel for a while. She still had various projects going on, books she was reading, studies she was completing. But she made sure to make time to visit O'Neill for long stretches everyday. After all, they had an ongoing poker game going on. They had started it when they had finally started feeling better and both were beginning to feel antsy about being laid up for so long.

Grabbing her list, she wandered into visit O'Neill, hearing him before seeing him. "For Crying Out Loud, Fraiser, let me get up! I can walk just fine!" When Carter stepped into the room, she noticed that no one answered his cries, and she buried a grin, he must really be driving everyone crazy.

"Hey, Colonel, what are you doing, torturing the medical staff?" She teased when she stopped next to his bed. His leg was finally out of traction, but Janet had refused to let him walk on it yet. It must have been a worse break than she had thought.

"Sam, please, do something about this. I've been staring at these four walls for weeks now and I'm going stir crazy. And no one will do anything about it!" He yelled this last part at the empty doorway to the next room. Sam laughed at him.

"You know I can't, Colonel." She pulled up a stool and grabbed the deck of cards off the tray in front of him. Without comment she shuffled quickly and started to deal the cards. "Ante up."

Jack sighed and picked up his cards, studying them carefully, glancing up to see Carter's reaction. She was able to hold a surprisingly good poker face, until she won a hand, then she couldn't help laughing at him. He scanned his list, "Okay, I bet… Daniel's library. It would be so much fun to see him without his books to consult."

Sam grinned at the thought while she studied her own list, "I'll bet," she looked at her cards again, "Teal'c's staff weapon."

Their game began, cards hit the table and the ante grew. Boredom had led to their inventive betting system. They made a list of the most ridiculous items they could think of, like Dr. Fraiser's hypodermic collection when they were both tired of getting shots, the general's car, even the Stargate itself was on the list. They put each thing on it's own piece of paper and started to draw lots until the entire pile was divided between the two of them. Their imaginative thinking made for interesting poker and it helped divert O'Neill from pestering the medical staff.

It wasn't until Carter bet the general's car that he began to get nervous. Finally, he called. He had to see what she had. "Full house." He displayed his cards proudly, he just might win back his cabin that he had lost to her last week.

"Straight flush!" Carter grinned collecting the cards she updated her list. She had won back her computer.

"So," Jack asked, taking the cards from her hands and shuffling them, "how are you doing?"

"Fine. Keeping busy. I'm anxious to get back to the gate truthfully." She picked up her cards and studied them closely. Yikes! She thought to herself.

"Good, anymore nightmares?" He asked bluntly, keeping his eyes averted to his own cards.

She shook her head, perusing her list. "Nope. But then again, there isn't anyone in the position to tell me, either." She added the keys to Jack's SUV to the table.

"You know, Sam, I'm here if you want to talk. It's just that, well, you haven't seemed like yourself since we got back."

Carter tried to smile, but failed miserably. "I know, I don't know what's up," she lied.

"Have you talked to Fraiser about it?" he probed lightly.

She shook her head. "Don't worry about me, sir, I'll be fine."

Jack let the subject drop. He didn't believe her. She knew full well what was going on inside that busy head of hers but for some reason she just wasn't ready to talk about it yet. They continued playing poker for another hour, stopping only when he had won back his favorite hockey stick. He decided that he would win back his cabin next time.

A week later, Fraiser finally let him start to walk around with the help of crutches. The first night that he graduated to a cane he went for a walk around the silo, anything to get away from his bed. It was around three o'clock in the morning. He found it easier to walk then, less hustle and bustle around the base. He didn't have to worry about getting in anyone's way. Hobbling slowly down one hall, he ran into Carter. He saw her face before she knew he was there and was surprised to see how sad she looked. Depressed even. Pretending he hadn't seen her, he plastered a smile on his face. "Hey Carter, what are you doing up at this late hour?"

Her head snapped up. "Colonel. Wow! I knew Janet had let you start walking around, but I had no idea you were this motivated. Better watch it, the general will have you back to work tomorrow," she forced a grin.

He snorted. "I wish! I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. Every time Fraiser turns her back I'm out of there. I've never made a good patient."

This time her smile was real, "So I noticed. You've been driving the medical personnel up the walls. You know, you really should be nicer to the people who are in charge of your pain medications. It might cause one of them to make a mistake."

Jack grinned, the joker in him coming out, "Yeah, but it's so much fun. One of these days, I'm going to get old Doc Fraiser so riled up she'll throw something, just you wait and see."

Samantha grinned at the visual. "Janet's my friend, but I think even I would like to see that one. But knowing you're luck, whatever she'd throw would be aimed right at your head."

"Yeah well, we'll see." A yawn overtook him and he was thankful that the twinges of pain from his ribs weren't as sharp as they used to be. "I think I'm going to go to bed. See you tomorrow for our poker game?" He called out as he slowly made his way down the hall past her.

"Definitely." The smile faded from Sam's face and she went to bed, once again dreaming solely of trying to get the DHD working so that she could get the colonel home but for some reason, she couldn't remember how it worked. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't recall the memories of what anything did on the interior of the device. The dream always ended the same with her lying down next to the colonel on the cold icy floor, prepared to die. Giving into her exhaustion.

She sat bolt upright in bed, the scream dying on her lips. Sweat pouring off her face, mingling with the tears that streamed down her cheeks. Shaking, she reached over and grabbed the glass of water on the purely functional nightstand next to her bunk. Gulping the water thirstily, she struggled to regain control over her thoughts. She couldn't shake the ideas that raced through her head. The idea of Jack, Col. O'Neill, dying all because she couldn't get the gate to work. Every dream led to the same conclusion. She failed. Lying back on the bunk she pulled the blankets tighter around her and willed herself back to sleep.

It was late the next morning when Jack made his way up to General Hammond's office. Knocking on the door, he hoped he was in. He really didn't know if he could handle another go at those stairs he was stupid enough to take.

"Come in." The general's voice boomed from the other side of the door. He looked up and smiled when he saw his guest. "Colonel, I'm happy to see you. The doctor told me that you had been becoming more mobile as of late. It's good to see. I was beginning to think you had taken root to that bed."

"Yeah, well, it wasn't by choice believe me. If it was up to me, I would have been back to work weeks ago." O'Neill sat heavily in the chair, leaning his cane against the desk. "Sir, I came with a request."

"Go ahead. I'll see if I can accommodate you." The general's friendly smile beamed across the large desk.

"I'm worried about Carter. She seems depressed. She hasn't been herself since we got back."

The general nodded. "I noticed it myself, son. I've tried to get her to talk, but she just keeps telling me that she's fine."

"Yeah, that's what she keeps telling me, too. What I am thinking is taking her away, away from the base, maybe up to my cabin for a few days. Maybe I can get her to open up and talk to me. I hate to see her like this."

The general nodded slowly as he considered the idea. "Well, I won't be sending your team out until the doctor gives you the go ahead, so, yes. I think it's a great idea. Maybe a few days of fishing and relaxation will get her out of this depression." He grinned at the unorthodox airman in front of him, "So do you want to break the news to her or shall I?" It was well known all over the base that Jack O'Neill has been trying to get members of his team out to his cabin with him. But normally he can't get Jackson away from his books, Carter away from her experiments and Teal'c, well, it was always a threat to National Security, whenever he left the base.

"I'll tell her, okay if we leave today?" He asked as he started to push himself out of the chair.

"Yes. But, son, are you sure you'll be okay?" It still amazed him how this man rebounded from the severest of injuries.

"Yep, I've already checked with Fraiser. She's going to give me some pills, so as long as Carter does the driving, I should be just fine. Secretly, I think she's happy to be rid of me."

The general laughed, he had heard the stories of O'Neill's behavior in the last weeks. "I can't imagine why!"

Jack pushed himself to his feet and standing at attention he saluted the general. "Permission to kidnap Captain Carter, sir?"

General Hammond shook his head, unable to hide his smile. He saluted in reply. "Granted."

With a laugh and a wave, Jack left in search of Carter. He was exhausted when at last he found her in her lab. He collapsed onto a stool and leaned heavily against the table she was working at. "I have good news. We're out of here. Doc's finally cutting me loose from the hospital and I really want to get out of here. Why don't you pack up some things from your bunk and give me a lift? You can just dump me off and go home and rest for the next four days."

Carter considered the suggestion for a minute and nodded. "That sounds like a great idea. Give me twenty minutes?"

He nodded, "It'll take me that long to get to the main elevator, so sure."

He settled into Sam's car and pushed the seat all the way back to make room for his leg. It was still in the cast, and covered in insults that people only felt safe in spewing when he was incapacitated. "I'm going to a friend's house, is that okay?"

Carter nodded as she headed down the highway leading away from the mountain. Caught up in her own thoughts, she didn't become suspicious until they had been driving for more than an hour and a half. "Where does this friend live?"

"Just a little bit further. Didn't I tell you that it would take a while to get there? Sorry, it must be all of the medications the doc has me on." An hour later she stopped the car at a gas station and turned off the engine. "Okay, just where are you leading me?"

The jig was up. Jack smiled at her. "I knew you wouldn't come if I just came out and asked so…"

Carter scanned her memory. Where would he have asked her to go that she would have so assuredly said no? And the answer dawned. "Your cabin."

He couldn't hide his grin as he nodded.

She gaped at him. "That's twelve and a half hours away sir!"

"Technically only ten now," he pointed out logically.

Carter got out of the car and slammed the door behind her. O'Neill watched her as she stormed into the gas station. Twenty minutes later she marched back to the car and all but threw some food at him. Holding back the desire to pour the bottle of water she had bought him over his head.

"Thanks, Carter. I," he was cut off by a slamming door. He sat back and munched on chips while he watched her pump the gas, wash the windshield and even check the oil. She was a model of efficiency. And somehow he knew she was currently plotting a very efficient way to kill him.

Then they were on the road again, still in the direction of Minnesota he noted. Jack ate quietly while Carter steamed silently next to him.

Another couple of hours later Sam finally looked at him and broke her vow of silence. "Take your painkillers."

Jack opened his eyes and stared at her in shock. He had been mentally beating pack the dull pains in his side and leg when she had spoken. "How did you know?" he asked, pulling the dreaded bottle out of his pocket. He hated taking pills, hated the drugged, lack of control feeling they gave him.

"We spent two weeks together side by side in the med unit. Not to mention three days in that cave. You clench you left hand until you can see nothing but white knuckles when you're in pain and you're being too stubborn to ask for anything."

Outwardly, Jack grumble, but inwardly he was floored. He didn't think even Fraiser had noticed that one. He took the pills and sat back to wait for them to take effect.

"Out of curiosity, sir, not that I'm not enjoying your company or anything, but wouldn't you normally hitch a ride on a military transport or something to get to your cabin?"

He didn't open his eyes when he answered her question. "Yeah, but, I didn't think `Hey, Carter, ever seen the inside of a plane before' would have been a very effective ploy."

"And you knew, given your current condition, that I'd be far less likely to kick you out of the car and make you hitchhike the rest of the way." Carter couldn't hide the unbidden smile at the tempting thought.

"Yeah, well, I was kind of counting on that small detail, too."

"Just one more question and then I'll let you get some rest. Why did you tell me you were going to a friend's house?" She watched his rugged face out of the corner of one eye.

O'Neill held up a finger, "Ah, but that part is true. I haven't won my cabin back yet."

Carter's grin broadened as she continued driving into the falling darkness.

It was pitch dark when she eased the car to a stop in front of the log cabin. Jack struggled to pull his cane out from behind his seat along with Carter's duffle. "Come on in." Unfolding his long form gingerly out of the car, he hefted her bag over one shoulder, ignoring the sudden pain up his side at the movement and led the way up the path to the front door. Dropping his cane against the door, he pulled the key out of his pocket, and unlocked the cabin. Pushing the door open, he stepped back to let Carter go in ahead of him as he flicked on the lights.

Sam looked around the room, amazed, as always, whenever she got a peek into her commanding officer's private life. She had been to his house many times with the rest of the team but the cabin was different. And with just the two of them it was far more intimate.

A telescope sat in one corner, an older version of the one he had on the roof of his home. A stone fireplace surrounded by crammed bookshelves filled the far wall. Comfortable wooden furniture placed strategically throughout. And of course, fishing poles next to the door. A cozy kitchen and dining area filled the other half of the main room. Nature pictures covered the walls as she was led down a short hallway. He stopped at a room and tossed her bag on the bed.

"This one is yours. Mine is down the hall." He gestured toward the closed door at the end of the hallway. "It's late. I'll give you the grand tour tomorrow after we run into town to pick up whatever you'll need and some fresh food. Okay?"

Carter could only nod as a yawn overtook her. She leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms. "Can I ask why you went to so much trouble, sir?"

"Drop the `sir', Sam, we're off-duty. And as for why, I'm worried about you and so is everyone else. You seem depressed, you aren't sleeping well, and you won't talk to any of us. So, I thought I'd give you a place to sort through whatever it is you won't talk about where you aren't on display before the entire base."

Samantha was touched. She knew she wasn't acting like herself but she hadn't expected anyone to go to this much trouble because of it. Least of all the colonel. A small sigh left her as she finally gave in. "Thank you, s- Colonel."

Fed up with trying to get her to relax and lose the titles, he just shrugged a shoulder. "No problem. Good night." He turned and walked slowly toward his room.

"Good night."

As if on cue, Jack woke hours later to the sounds of Sam's cries through his closed door. Pushing himself out of bed and grabbing his cane, he walked as fast as he could toward her room. All while fighting his way through the painkillers Fraiser had prescribed.

He stopped at her door and only after taking a deep breath and sending up a quick prayer that Carter didn't sleep naked he let himself into her room.

"Carter! Wake up!" he called, sitting on the edge of the bed next to her thrashing body. Tears coursed down her face, this one must have been a doozy. "Samantha, it's me, Jack. Wake up!" He shook her arm roughly, not wanting to hurt her but he couldn't stand seeing her like this.

At last, she snapped out of the nightmare and her eyes flew open. It took her a minute to orient herself. Her gaze fell on him. "Colonel? What's wrong? Are you okay?" She pushed herself up until she was resting on her elbow.

"I was just going to ask you the same thing. You had another nightmare." He looked down and saw that he was holding her hand tightly. He let it go.

Sam collapsed back to her pillow. "I'm sorry. I – I didn't know." Her gaze fell on him. He wore only sweats. The strange intimacy of his sitting on the edge of her bed in the middle of the night caught her off guard. For some reason, the time she had gotten the disease of the Touched came to mind. She had always told him that she didn't remember anything, but she did. She remembered walking into the men's locker room and slamming his locker shut. She remembered kissing him, forcing him down to the bench under her. The weight of him when he rolled her off the bench onto the floor. Occasionally, she thought she could recall his dropping a kiss on her neck just before he pulled her to her feet and fireman carried her to the medical ward, but she was never sure if that was real or, dare she admit it, fantasy. She shook the memories away.

Jack watched his team member stare at the ceiling. "Why won't you talk to me? It might make these nightmares go away," he said softly.

Sam started to open her mouth then closed it again. She just shook her head and rolled away from him. "I can't, yet. Maybe later, but not right now."

He nodded knowingly. He sat and watched her, wishing he could make her talk to him but knew that forcing her wouldn't do any good either. He reached out to touch her shoulder but he stopped, his hand hovering just above her arm. Clenching his hand into a tight fist he pulled back and stood, closing the door behind him.

After their short trip into town for supplies, Jack walked Sam around the cabin. The view from the huge deck was fantastic in the mid-morning sun. A huge lake stretched out in front of them, the far side nothing but trees interspersed with only a couple of other cabins. A rowboat bobbed in the water, moored to the small pier that jutted into the water in front of the cabin. "It's beautiful," Carter commented, struggling to take it all in.

"Yep," O'Neill said proudly as if he personally had anything to do with it. "Now do you see why I'm constantly inviting you guys to come with me?"

Carter could only nod in reply. Secretly regretting that she hadn't accepted one of his invitations sooner.

After an early lunch they passed their time quietly. They went fishing but didn't catch anything. They sat on the deck, reading, side by side. Evening found them munching on pretzels and playing chess on the living room floor. Jack found it more comfortable sitting on the floor so he could simply stick his leg out in front of him. But it became a comedy of errors anytime he needed to get up and go to the bathroom or the very bottom of his foot got itchy. Samantha felt her depression begin to ebb at last.

However, in the early morning hours, Jack once again found himself going into Sam's room to wake her from her latest nightmare. This time, he pulled up a chair and sat, waiting quietly as she fought for control. "Sam, tell me what's going on inside that head of yours. Please. It will make you feel better, believe me." He remembered the anger and self- blame he had suffered years before when his son had accidentally shot himself. He had refused to talk to his wife about it and in the end she had left him. All because he had refused to open his mouth. He didn't want that for Samantha.

A deep sigh escaped her as she studied the ceiling above her. Wiping the tears away with the back of her hand, she finally began to speak. "I can't get it out of my head. We almost died because I couldn't get that stupid gate to work. I know now that it wasn't my fault, but I can't fully convince myself of that. I worked so hard, but I couldn't do it. I failed." She wiped the fresh tears away, resting her arm on her forehead, unable to meet the colonel's eyes.

Jack nodded and moved so that he was once again sitting on the edge of the bed. He took her free hand in his and felt her grip it, holding on for dear life. "I know how you feel, because I feel exactly the same way. Lying on the floor of that cave. Useless, unable to help you do anything. Listening to you curse at that damned machine because you couldn't get it to work and I couldn't do a thing."

Sam squeezed his hand again, more gently this time. "How do you handle it? I mean, I'm a wreck and I can't even tell that you've been through anything."

Jack shrugged his shoulder. "I just do, I guess. I concentrate on the fact that we did survive, that we were rescued. And you were a part of that. If you hadn't kept trying to make the DHD work and trying to dial home, they never would have found us. Remember that." He looked down at their joined hands, noticing for the first time how his thumb caressed her hand. It felt, all too comfortable, he forced himself to stop. Finally, he asked the question that had been bothering him. "Why did you come back to the cave?"

Sam took a steadying breath. "When I reached the surface there was nothing but snow and ice. I," she paused, swallowing the tears that threatened. A hard ball stayed in her throat. "I knew then that I was going to die. That we were going to die. I didn't want either of us to go through that alone so I went back inside. I had never truly come face to face with my own death before. It's one thing to face the possibility of sudden death during a mission. It's completely different to end up just sitting and waiting to die." She paused again, letting the tears fall this time. "Every time I fall asleep it's different. I see us dead on the floor of that cave. Undiscovered. I see your funeral after I'm rescued somehow. Going to see Sara to apologize, to try to explain. It's one horrible scene after another. I think what makes me scream is how close we came to them coming true."

Silence fell over them as they sat, hand in hand, while Jack waited for Carter's tears to finally subside. At last, she spoke, her voice so low he had to strain to hear it. "Thank you, Jack."

Instead of replying, he pulled her up next to him and hugged her tightly. His hand resting against the back of her head, soothing her as he would a child. But then, something changed. Suddenly, he was completely aware of her body pressed against his. That they were sitting on a bed, together, in the middle of nowhere, alone. In the cave it was different. Sleeping together had been a necessity of survival. But now… he pulled back from the embrace. "We'll talk more in the morning?" he asked, releasing her, his voice gruff.

She could only nod as she watched him hobble out the door. She had sensed the change as well. One instant they were friends comforting each other. The next, she was acutely aware of the feel of his hand in her hair, how his arms were wrapped so gently around her. Lying back on the bed, her mind was a mess of emotions. Feelings that she shouldn't be having for a superior officer.

Sam woke early the next morning, half tempted to suggest they leave in order to avoid the possibility of any complications. Yet, she was unwilling to give up the peace that had finally enveloped her. She knew she wasn't ready to leave yet. But she was concerned about the feelings building within her, feelings that she had been ignoring for months. And a cabin in the middle of nowhere was no place to confront such realizations.

Stepping into the kitchen, the view from the window took her breath away. It was a bright sunny day and the lake looked so welcoming. On a whim, she changed into shorts and a t-shirt. Leaving a note on the counter, she slipped out the door.

The water was brisk, but refreshing. She swam a few lengths along the shore, finally stopping at the end of the pier out of breath. She realized then that it was going to take more than a few days at the cabin to get her strength back. Climbing out of the lake on shaky legs, she wrapped the towel around her shoulders tightly and walked up to the house, shivering. Jack met her at the door.

"Are you crazy? It's freezing in that lake at this time of day and, in case you've forgotten, you're still recovering from a serious bout with hypothermia." He continued lecturing as he pulled her into the house and into his arms, rubbing her arms and back briskly with the towel. Bad idea, he thought as temptation presented itself yet again. He released her. "Go on. Get a hot shower. I'll dig up a sweater for you."

All but chasing her into the bathroom, Jack went into his room and dug out a thick sweatshirt he hadn't worn since last winter and a thick pair of knitted socks. "City women," he muttered, dropping the clothes on her bed as he passed.

Going into the kitchen, he started water heating for coffee and attempted to work on breakfast. He had a good mess going trying to mix pancake batter with one hand when Sam padded into the room. He couldn't help but smile. She had to roll up the sleeves and bunch the socks around her ankles to keep them on. She looked beautiful. His breath caught in his throat. Where had that come from?

"Need a hand? She asked, grinning at the disaster he had created.

Frustrated, he waved at the bowl. "Yes, please. I can at least make coffee and set the table." Sam took over cooking detail as he hobbled around the kitchen. Everything seemed to take three times as long these days. He counted the days until his cast was removed.

Gradually, they fell into an easy rhythm moving around each other in the small kitchen. Until he needed to get napkins from the drawer in front of her. Without a second thought, he placed his hand on her hip, his fingers found soft skin when they accidentally slipped under the edge of the bulky sweater. Easing her to the side while she continued to flip pancakes, he grabbed the napkins and eased her back. Removing his hand from her side had to be the hardest task he had ever faced. By the time he reached the table he was well into a full-blown heart attack. It was such a simple thing, but ever since their hug last night touching Sam seemed to cause his heart to stop and his mind to forget.

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes as he set the table to see if she had noticed it, too, but her head was turned away form him.

Finally finished with the table, he mixed Sam's coffee exactly as he knew she liked it and set it on the counter next to her. Sharing stories over a couple hundred cups of coffee a person learns these things. He sank happily into a chair at the table. With a lack of anything else to do, he sipped his coffee and watched Carter make their meal.

Samantha knew he was watching her. She could feel his eyes on her as she poured the batter for their pancakes. Cooking was not second nature for her, and knowing that O'Neill was watching her every move made her feel even clumsier. Suddenly, she was aware of everything. The subtle, woodsy aftershave he wore. The way his shirt stretched across his shoulders. The aura of heat that radiated toward her every time he passed by. The shock that had flown through her at his brief, unexpected, touch. Her heart racing, she willed the food to cook faster.

"It looks like you're feeling better today. You look happier." He allowed himself the luxury of studying her profile and for the first time noticed the way her short blonde hair framed her face. He had become increasingly more aware of the one female member of his team for months now, but had stamped it down at every turn. The military frowned on relationships between officers of different ranks. But it struck him more and more that she was one of the few women he could talk to about his day and their excursions thanks to the highly classified level of the work they did. Maybe that's all he was feeling, the intimacy of being able to share such secrets with each other. The irony of his being attracted, on any level, to a scientist was not lost on him.

"I do feel a lot better. Thanks for listening to me last night. I guess you were right. I did just need to talk because I didn't have anymore nightmares for the rest of the night." Probably due to exhaustion, she told herself. After O'Neill had left her room so quickly, she had laid awake for hours until finally she was unable to keep her eyes open any longer.

Jack looked very pleased with himself. "I love it when people say I'm right."

Their day passed much the same as the one before. Reading, board games, a little fishing (once again, they caught nothing), and lots of relaxing. Late that night they pulled their weary bodies off the sofas and padded down the hallway. Sam stopped at her door, fully aware of O'Neill standing right behind her. She turned slowly. "Good night," she whispered when she looked up at him.

"Good night," he replied though neither of them moved. A brief moment of reason flashed in his head and almost made him pause. Almost. "Oh, for crying out loud," he said softly, frustration dripped from every word. Acting, finally, on the desires that had been building for months, he let go of his cane and in one swift motion pulled Sam into his arms and lowered his lips to hers. His hands fisted in his sweatshirt that she still wore, holding her tight against him. She met him willingly. Her arms automatically wrapped around his neck as she met him kiss for kiss.

Neither of them could say how long they stayed like that but regrettably, reason returned – albeit slowly – until in they end they stood, their foreheads touching, eyes closed. Desire raged through Jack's body as he fought temptation. Finally, he forced himself to let her go, grabbed his cane that had fallen against the door and walked silently down the hallway, closing his door behind him.

Samantha lay in bed still recovering from what had just transpired. It was a big no -no in their professional lives, yet it had felt so natural. So right. She had been fighting back the attraction that had been growing in her for her CO for months. Secretly, she had always wondered what would ever happen if the colonel ever let his guard down. Wondered if he was dealing with the same disregard of regulations. Occasionally she had managed to convince herself that what she felt was merely admiration of a superior officer. But then when she saw him torturing the general with his borderline insubordinate behavior or witnessed him fighting tooth and nail amidst battle to make sure everyone under his command made it home and her heart wavered.

Somewhere deep within her, she wondered if either of them would ever lower their guard again. Eventually, exhaustion took over and the parade of thoughts through her mind ceased and soon she was in a deep dream-filled slumber, nightmare free for the first time in weeks.

Jack was restless. He was furious with himself for acting on such basic hormones and yet, he knew he would never have forgiven himself for not acting. A fitful sleep finally came over him but all of his dreams were filled with Sam. More precisely, with kissing Sam. They had kissed before, but she had been afflicted with the virus of the Touched. And then he had pummeled Daniel in a jealous rage over her. It wasn't the first time that he wondered if the virus hadn't merely reduced them to a more primeval state of mind, but had knocked down the walls they had put up to prevent just such a connection from happening. Hours later, Jack found himself walking down the hall toward Sam's room more out of habit than anything else. It was the first night she hadn't woken him with her nightmare driven screams. Opening the door quietly, he looked into her room. She lay sound asleep, hugging her pillow. She looked peaceful. Closing the door again, he stood in the hallway, leaning heavily against the wall. Surely, she had to be feeling something. How could she be sleeping so peacefully while he was down the hall working his way into a panic attack? Wide awake, he hobbled into the living room and stretched out on the sofa, staring at the ceiling.

He was still on the couch when Sam walked out of her room yawning broadly. "You're up already?" She asked, hoping she sounded lighthearted. As if it was every night she was kissed so thoroughly by Jack O'Neill before going to bed. In reality, she had no idea how she should act. He lay stretched out on the couch, still in his sweats.

"I've been up for hours." He continued to stare at the ceiling.

Concern washed over her, "Are you okay? Does your leg hurt? Do you need your pills?" She crossed the room quickly, studying his face for signs of pain. "Or did I wake you up again?" She couldn't remember any nightmares.

He smiled at her concern and struggled upright. Running his fingers through his hair so that it now stood on end, he worked at forming words. "No pain. And no, no nightmares. I think we may have conquered that problem and started a whole new set."

Sam sat next to him. "Oh, that." "Yeah, that." His hands itched to reach out for her again, to see if the sparks that flew from their one brief moment of passion was merely a fluke or something real. Not that they could do anything about it and continue working together. Her shoulder brushed his as they sat next to each other.

Jack finally spoke, staring at the floor, "You know I value you as a team member and as a friend," he couldn't stop the grin, "Apparently, as more than a friend."

Sam nodded silently, "I don't want us to lose what we have together already. But won't it be kind of awkward now?" Samantha toyed with a crease on her jeans until Jack reached over and took her hand in his. That had been her one worry. That the comfortable friendship they shared would become uncomfortable, overly polite meetings.

He sat watching their hands, their fingers slightly interlaced. No, he was pretty sure last night wasn't a fluke. Not with the sparks that flew even now. He shook his head. "No. Not if we don't let it. Not if we leave what happened here at the cabin and not allow it to happen again." He couldn't believe what he was saying. "I feel horrible even suggesting it."

Sam nodded as a single tear rolled down her cheek. "I know. I feel just as bad for agreeing. I don't want to risk our friendship, our team for what could end up being only a fling. A temporary relationship that would prevent us from continuing to work together." She swallowed and wiped away the tear with the back of her free hand. Even as she said it, she knew she was probably wrong.

They leaned back against the sofa. Resting her head against his shoulder she sighed. "It's pathetic, isn't it? To push a relationship aside for the sake of friendship and a job."

He nodded, holding her close. "This is one of those times when I really hate the air force's regulations." They stayed like that for a long time, unable to speak. Knowing that if either of them said another word, it would be `Forget everything and to hell with their careers.' But they also knew that it would be something they would both end up regretting. So instead they chose friendship over romance. Hours passed as they comforted each other over the relationship they denied themselves. Later, Jack left to sit on the dock alone as he tried to sort out his thoughts. Sam picked up the mystery novel she had been reading and attempted to concentrate on it. Frustrated, she gave up and tossed the book aside, instead choosing to sit on the deck, prop up her feet and stare at the view with unseeing eyes.

But they always returned to each other. Jack said nothing when he joined her on the deck. Sam left his side only once, handing him a soda with a shy grin as she opened the can of beer in her hand. "Sorry, you're taking painkillers." They fell into easy conversation, Sam pretending not to notice Jack sneaking sips of her beer.

That night, they bid each other good night quickly and went unwillingly to their own beds.

The next morning, Sam dropped her duffle bag into the backseat of her car and walked into the cabin for one last look around. Part of her hated to leave, mostly because the cabin now held a part of their lives that they would most likely never again acknowledge. Her mind was rapidly running through the list of ways they could make a relationship work without it affecting anything else when she felt Jack behind her.

"Do you have everything?" he asked quietly, gripping his hand into a fist to keep from touching her. Sam only nodded, now more than ever not wanting to leave the solitude of the cabin retreat.


This time Samantha initiated the kiss. Her hands reached for him as his arms stole around her waist. The passion they had agreed to ignore rose quickly between them. She ran her fingers through his hair, memorizing the feel of it. Every sensation that passed through her became a cherished memory in her heart. Their bodies melded together as the kiss deepened. Every muscle in Jack's body was at war with itself. Half of him wanted to scoop her into his arms and carry her to the bedroom. The other half told him to grab her hand and run like hell out of the cabin and toward sanity. Reluctantly, their final kiss ended. O'Neill held her tightly against him. "We have to go, before…"

Sam nodded, her cheek rubbing against his chest. Turning, they walked out of the cabin hand in hand locking the door behind them. The drive back to the mountain was a long one as Sam's thoughts warred. She wanted to turn the car around and take them back to the cabin, yet she knew she couldn't.

As she eased the car into her parking space, Samantha Carter looked over at Jack O'Neill. They shared a small smile before they got out of the car and walked into the elevator. Just as the elevator doors begin to close, O'Neill looked at Carter. "Sam, why don't you call me Jack when we're off-duty."

Sam grinned, "Yes, sir."

"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack muttered as the doors hissed shut and they were whisked away.

~~~The End~~~

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