Soup and Squalor
by nanda (email@example.com)
Either retirement was making him soft, or he was still groggy from the fever, because he didn't even hear her come home. He just heard somebody moving around in the bathroom.
Jack cracked open one eye and saw the outline of light around the door, which was ajar by a few inches. "Sam?"
Her blond head peeked around the edge. "Hey. Sorry, I didn't want to wake you." The head disappeared and he heard water running.
He rolled onto his back and rubbed his eyes. He waited until the water stopped to say, "No, I'm glad you're here." Was he ever. He'd been feeling way too sorry for himself when she wasn't around to bring him saltines and ginger ale. Ugh. He hated being sick. "You were gone a long time," he said.
"Yeah. Did somebody call you? I didn't think to ask."
"George." Though all he'd said was that the mission was taking longer than expected and that Jack "shouldn't be overly concerned." Which had made him think that perhaps "somewhat concerned" might not be a bad idea. But frankly he'd been too miserable to worry very much.
"You know," she said around what sounded like a mouthful of toothpaste, "It's really sad that I have to have my boss call my boyfriend with updates."
Well, that was ... kind of true. "Your boyfriend appreciates it, though."
He heard a half-hearted chuckle. Then the door opened and as she looked towards the bed, her eyes settled on the (empty, thank god) bowl he'd left on the nightstand. "Jack? Have you been sick?"
"Oh yeah. Very. If the lights were on you'd see the mess. Actually .. you might not want to sleep in here." He had finally managed to change the sheets today, because the squalor was starting to gross even him out, and he was pretty sure he'd brushed his teeth, but beyond that ... ick.
She knelt on the edge of the bed and felt his forehead with the backs of her fingers. (Did women learn that move in childhood, or was it inborn? Who knew?) "Feels like the fever's gone down."
"Uh. I think so. Don't have a thermometer to check."
"Yes, you do. It's in the medicine cabinet in the hall bathroom."
"I do? It is?"
"Yes. It moved in with me."
"Must be hidden behind the three dozen hair products, then."
She gave him an ironic smile but just said, "Probably. Anyway, if the fever's broken I don't think you're contagious anymore."
Oh. Huh. He hadn't even thought of that. "Actually I meant -- I probably don't smell so great, Carter."
"I'll live," she said, and he was sure she rolled her eyes though he couldn't really see it. "Want me to get anything before I come to bed? I'm sorry I wasn't here. It sucks to be sick alone."
"Nah. I'm fine. It did kind of suck, though."
"You're a big baby," she said fondly.
"Yes. Come to bed if you're coming. I'm sleepy."
"Baby," she said again, as she walked back to turn off the bathroom light. Then in the near-dark she walked to the dresser to get her pajamas. He tried to watch her change in the shadows, but he couldn't quite keep his eyes open. Most of the nausea was gone, but he still felt like he'd been flattened by a bulldozer on top of staying awake for two weeks in a row.
A couple seconds later she climbed into bed and he settled on his side to pull her close. "Mmm," he said. "Missed you." Hey, his defenses were down. He was allowed a little sap.
"You managed to eat anything?" she asked.
"I'll make you some soup tomorrow."
Huh. There was something weird in her voice ... maybe he was imagining it. His brain was too fuzzy to figure it out right now. "You'll pour it into a bowl and put it in the microwave, you mean," he said.
She was quiet for a minute and he started to drift off. But then she said, "I'm sorry I didn't know you were sick. I hate that I can't even call you when I'm away."
Okay, now he was wide awake, and absolutely sure that the something in her voice was real. "Sam? What's up?"
"Even if we lived on different sides of the continent we'd be able to talk to each other."
"Sam. What happened?"
She sniffed. "Don't suppose you want to fool around?"
"Um. No." He moved his hand under her top so he could rub her ribs a little. "Come on. Spill."
Her deep breath pushed her back into his chest. "It was bad, Jack. We lost people. A lot of people. Three of ours and I don't know how many locals."
"Shit. I'm so sorry. Who was it?"
"Two from SG-3, and Townsend."
"Oh, God, Sam. I'm sorry." He hadn't known Townsend that well, but he knew Sam did -- she was the other woman being groomed for command at the SGC.
He heard her sniff again and squeezed her tighter. "Thought this was supposed to be a diplomatic mission?"
"It was. The negotiations were taking too long and one side got impatient." Her breath hitched and she made a sound he recognised, barely, as a repressed sob. Wow. He tried to remember when he'd known her to cry over work. There really hadn't been that many times. Her father's cancer, Cassie, Antarctica, yeah, but those had all been really personal.
But then, command was different, and he knew it.
He kept rubbing her belly while she cried. Four months of living together hadn't quite taught him how to deal with a crying Sam.
"Oh, God, Jack," she said.
"Shhh. It's okay."
"God, look at me. You're sick and I'm slobbering all over you."
Right, like he'd mind. Actually, though he might never dare tell her this, it was kind of nice to play big strong Mr. Comforting once in a while. Not often, of course. Just sometimes.
"Do you hear me complaining?" he asked, and she tried to laugh. "It's okay, Sam. You feel it more when you're in command. I know."
"I don't want to feel it more. God, you never fell apart when a mission went wrong."
Now that was just dumb. She'd seen him lose it plenty of times, though his way had been more about anger and less about tears. "Maybe I did and I just didn't want you to see it," he tried to joke.
She snorted, and ended up coughing for a minute. "Yeah, right."
"We're different people, Sam."
Her hips wiggled against his groin. "Yeah. I noticed."
He stroked her hair and felt her move, jerkily, to brush the tears away. "So," he asked, "Negotiations are over?"
"Effectively, yes. 'Too dangerous to risk further loss of life on the part of the U.S. military.'" He recognised an official quote when he heard one.
"We can't always fix their problems for them."
"I know. But we wouldn't have gotten into this job if we didn't *want* to fix them all."
Mostly cried out now, but still sounding stuffy, she rolled over to face him and stretched an arm across his waist.
"Jack, how many teams had you commanded before the Abydos mission? Long-term, I mean. Six?"
Uh-oh. That sounded suspicious. "Uh ... seven, I think. Yeah. Seven." He narrowed his eyes at her but that made him dizzy, so he had to stop. "Why?"
She snuffled a little. "It's just sometimes I think I should have started with something easier. It's no secret that I could have had another team earlier if I -- "
He could half see her smiling. "I couldn't have had another team?"
"You know that's not what I meant. And you *know* that there is nobody on this planet better qualified to command SG-1. Come on, Sam. You're just having a bad day and feeling sorry for yourself."
"I'm not allowed to have a bad day?"
"Of course you are. But I'm allowed to tell you when you're being ridiculous."
Her face scrunched up as if she might cry again. "You sure you don't want to fool around?" she asked.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but yes, I'm sure. And I love you, too."
Her hand found his hair and massaged his scalp and at the moment, that felt way better than sex would.
She was right. He really was a big baby.
"Jack, Teal'c's injured. It's not life-threatening, but you know how he gets."
"Weakness makes him surly?"
She snickered. "Yes. When I can spring him from the infirmary, would you mind if I brought him here?"
"Of course I wouldn't mind." He wanted to say, *It's your house now, too, remember?*, but the last time he had said that she had given him A Look. "You sure you want to play nurse to both of us, though? We're talking a lot of soup here."
"I'll just think of it as a test of my leadership skills."
"Rest of your team okay? Daniel? Satterfield?" He really couldn't get used to calling the kid Emily. Didn't fit.
"Yeah. Thank God."
"Yeah. You have to work tomorrow?"
"No. Downtime for a week."
"Which means you'll take, what, twelve hours off?"
"Actually, I think I might take the week. Aside from going to see Teal'c." She leaned in to kiss him and said a bit shyly, which was pretty silly considering, "It'll be kind of nice having somebody to take care of. And I don't mean Teal'c."
"I know what you mean," he said, patting her behind. "Raincheck on the fooling around?"
She snuggled closer and he felt sleep inching close again ... until she raised her head. "Um, Jack?"
"Just how long have you been sick?"
He grinned. "Hey, I warned you I was ripe. *You* didn't want to leave."
"I'm not going anywhere. But in the morning I think I'll draw you a bath.
"Yes, please," he said happily, and fell asleep to the sound of her laugh.