Story Notes: SPOILERS: Set S7, but no real spoilers

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Happy Birthday, Tricia!

Right at this very moment, Jack couldn't give a good goddamnfuck who saw them. He really didn't care. He knew that he should. After all, he had spent seven years dancing a fine line and keeping a tight reel on his emotions, but now?

Enough was enough.

Carter shifted a little in her sleep, which was handy, because his arm was starting go numb. He wriggled his left leg and inwardly cursed the small stab of pain that shot up his thigh.

He still didn't care.

He was half-sitting, half-perched on one of the infirmary beds with his back inclined against the pillows. Carter was resting her back against his front, her head supported on his chest, breathing in a regular rhythm. Jack's right hand was entwined with hers, fingers interlocked, as they had never been before. His left arm was curled gently around her shoulder and somehow he had maneuvered his hand so that it was resting - holding - Carter's head.

He shifted his butt, trying to get some blood moving. Yeah, he should probably get down, but while Carter was sleeping, there was not a chance in hell. He craned his head forward slightly. Yup. She was still asleep. Good. She needed it. He tightened his hold a little, feeling the bones in her stick-like arm. He released his grip. Despite his own discomfort, he felt good being here; this felt right.

Carter and him. Sam and Jack.

Although, it very nearly wasn't right. They thought she was dead. They thought they all were. Even if Carter and the kids hadn't been killed in the initial attack, the-powers-that-be thought that there was no way that one adult and twenty-two children all would have survived nearly four weeks without food or water.

They thought wrong. Well, they didn't know Carter. Not like *he* knew her.

Jack was the first to admit the evacuation of a small group of humans from an isolated planet had been a disaster of catastrophic proportions. Some demented Goa'uld was attacking the planet, seemingly without warning and without purpose. No surprise there. The planet was 'Asgard Protected' which obviously wasn't worth the paper it wasn't written on, because they were no-where to be seen.

Carter and the kids were supposed to be rescued in the first wave, but the planet busters had cut up the landscape like some damned meteorite hit. They ended up trapped behind several hundred feet of misplaced rocks and rubble with no supplies and no way of contacting the outside. Oh, the SGC located Carter's homing signal - thank God for McKay's ingenuity - but they couldn't raise Carter on the radio.

Nothing, nada, nichts, zilch, zip.

However, echo sounding had identified a large hole in the rocks. Neat room size. Big enough. So Jack and the lads got out the shovels and anything else the SGC could get their hands on after the bastard Goa'uld had lost interest. And they dug. For three weeks and four-and-a-half days, they dug.

When the SG teams finally broke through they were surrounded by the kids, starving and dehydrated, but *alive*. Carter had used her meager supplies, her training and that goddamn brilliant brain of hers to keep *all* of them alive. Licking drops of water from the rocks and eating the cruddy earth debris wasn't enough, though. Some of the kids were pretty sick and were evac'd ASAP. But the kids were A1 compared to Carter.

She was lying to the back of the 'cave', barely conscious when Jack got there. Disguising his shock at her appearance and picking up Sam's withered hand, he tried to rouse her. She opened her eyes and smiled. She smiled *right at* him. At *him*. Her skin was like darkened leather, most of her hair had fallen out and it seemed as though she had too many teeth in her mouth. However, right then, he didn't care *what* she looked like, so long as he could get her safely back home.

Of course, she hadn't eaten or drunk anything, giving up her rations for the children. No surprise there, either. *That* was Sam Carter all right. Then, Jack noticed the cuts. Numerous cuts, lengthways down her arms. One of the older kids explained, his earnest young face white and sad. 'The lady had done this with her knife and made the younger ones drink from the cuts.'

Sweet Jesus. She had made them drink her blood to keep them alive. This woman was incredible.

Jack once more shifted his butt on the bed to make himself comfy, and risked holding her a little tighter. She was still cold, although much warmer than when they found her. Fraiser wasn't gonna take her through the 'gate at first, but it was obvious Sam didn't have long. They risked it, but the medics sprang to panic stations earth side when her heart stopped beating on the 'gate ramp. Fraiser got Sam back no problem, yet only gave her a 50-50 chance of surviving the night.

Well, here Sam was, four days later, still alive and staying that way. Jack wasn't kidding himself that her road to recovery would be easy - she was skin and bone. Not eating or drinking could do that to a person. She couldn't walk, saying anything more than 'yes' or 'no' wore her out, and she spent most the time asleep. Fraiser said recovery would take six months, so Jack gave her six weeks. Six weeks to get Sam back on her feet and back to normal. Well, not quite as normal as they were - some things were going to change. He looked down at their joined hands. She hadn't let go of his hand the whole time on the planet even though she lacked the strength to talk. On the planet, he returned the touch with gentle pressure, expecting to be kicked out of the way by Doc Fraiser and the medics, but they had simply worked around him. Sam had continued to hold his hand on the way back to the 'gate, Jack only relinquishing the contact when Fraiser got her zap paddles out.

To Jack, it had felt like a release, a catharsis of sorts. She was barely alive, but she wanted a connection with him. He needed it as much as her. Their hands had stayed together since, give or take a pee-break and a briefing or two when she was asleep. Jack leaned forward, avoiding the dangling Hickman line. She was still asleep, so he should probably go and grab something to eat.

Ah, to hell; the mess chef would do takeout again and he could eat one-handed.

A noise outside of the privacy curtain made him look up. Janet Fraiser poked her auburn head through the gap and smiled. He grinned back only for the smile to die on his lips when he saw a civvy-suited George Hammond following the doc through the screen.

Crap. Talk about compromising positions in front of the boss. Jack had his second-in-command lying on top of him, forgodssake! Hammond beamed a genial smile and nodded at the sleeping Sam. He then held up two pink woolly socks.

Two. Pink. Woolly. Socks.

Gently, Janet unfolded the bottom part of Sam's bed to uncover her feet. Between them, the General and the Doc carefully sock-clad Sam's tootsies and tucked the blankets back. Hammond moved around to the side of the bed. He looked at their clasped hands. And smiled. Huh? He *smiled*. No thunderbolts or even barely controlled Texan rage?

General George leaned closer…{crap, crap, crappity crap}…and kissed Sam on the forehead. He nodded briefly at Jack and followed Fraiser back through the curtain.

So. He was ignoring their touch? Accepting it? Advocating it? Jack's hands caressed Sam's leathery skin through his fingers. They had earned this. They had lived - and died - for a single purpose for seven years. They had put aside their private lives, their needs, and their feelings for the-powers-that-be and for-the-powers-that-be-beyond. They deserved this unpretentious touch of companionship and outward declaration of simple love.

Yeah. The 'L' word.

He knew that now, and was able to admit to himself. He was sure Sam felt the same way; he had seen it in her eyes when she had smiled at him in the cave. When she was better, he was *so* inviting her to go fishing and she was *so* gonna say yes. They would sit on his deck, talk, drink beer and fish all day and night. Then, they would talk about that 'L' word.

As for TPTB, well, they would cross that bridge when they came to it. After everything that had happened, a line had to be drawn.

Enough was enough.

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