Written for: vickysg1
Author’s notes: Written for the sjficathon using the prompt: ‘Sam and Jack spend some time with Sam’s family.’ I took a little bit of creative license with the prompt but I hope my lovely recipient still enjoys the result. Kudos to wanderingsmith for the lightening fast beta :)
“Jack, I thought when one retired, you actually left the workplace.” General Landry regarded Jack O’Neill with a dry look. The man had barely been retired a week and already here he was, leaning against his doorframe looking like he’d never left.
“That lovely daughter of yours called to remind me I was late for my annual physical,” Jack gave the general an ‘innocent’ look, “Could've sworn I’d already had that taken care of this year.”
Given the colourful medical history of the frontline teams, it was a requirement for all personnel, both past and present, to report to the SGC for an annual physical. In particular, such former command members as the leader of SG1, who had twice been snaked, aged beyond his years, and tasted many a local ‘harmless’ beverage, were kept under a closer eye than most.
“Carolyn’s the organized type, Jack,” Hank pointed out, “I’m sure she’s right on the ball with these things.”
“Perhaps,” Jack stepped forward into the office and took the empty chair in front of his old desk, “Thought I’d drop by and say hello before I reported to the infirmary.”
Hank raised his eyebrows, “Consider the greeting noted.”
Jack mimed offence, “Do you want me out of your office and in the clutches of the medical personnel, Hank?”
“Unscheduled Offworld Activation.” Hank was cut off from responding by the alarms sudden blaring and both men were on their feet and headed to the control room within seconds.
“How many teams off-world?” Jack didn’t sound like he’d missed a beat since leaving command of the base.
“Nine, including,” Hank frowned at Jack, “SG1 and Colonel Carter.”
“She mentioned she was heading on a mission with the old gang,” Jack murmured, almost to himself. Since returning from commanding Atlantis, Sam had been partially overseeing the outfitting of her next command; the ship The General Hammond. But she still accompanied the team off-world on occasion, Jack suspected she missed the missions as much as he did - minus the shooting bad guys and constant leafy trees.
“Coming in hot,” Cameron’s voice piped through the speakers at the same time as SG1’s code was received. The iris was opened and those in the control room watched the room below with mounting anxiety, waiting for the team to rush through the gate, triumphant and whole.
Daniel came through first, shattering the hope in the air as he screamed, “Medic, we need a medical team.”
Hank’s stomach dropped as soon as he saw Teal’c’s hulking figure step through the wormhole, a pale, limp figure in his arms. Landry turned to look at Jack and saw the other man’s face had drained of colour at the sight below.
It was Sam.
Sam knew she was in the infirmary without having to open her eyes. The distinct antiseptic tang in the air, the rough feel of constantly washed sheets and the quiet forced hush of tension, worry and frustration pressed in on her.
She was lying on a bed. That much she knew. She had vague memories of a blurred green landscape, strong, gentle arms holding her close as loud shouts and bursts of gunfire rioted around her. She couldn’t seem to feel much past the coarseness of the sheets beneath her skin. There was no pain or agony, just the persistent sensation that something was wrong. Very wrong.
“Carter?” His voice broke through the haze of confused thoughts tumbling through her mind and she cracked her eyes open to find Jack’s face hovering closely over her own.
“Hi.” Her mouth was dry and she licked her already cracked lips in discomfort, “What-”
“Hit a bit of trouble off-world,” Jack seemed to instinctively know the questions she needed answers to. He should know, he had been in her position a number of times, “Everyone’s fine, you’re the only one that took a knock.”
Sam nodded tiredly, keeping her eyes focused on Jack. His gentle fingers smoothed the loose strands of her hair away from her face in a soft motion. But from the forced calmness in his gaze and the tension in his jaw, she knew he was keeping something from her.
“Where-” The dryness in her throat caught her off guard and she coughed harshly. The world spun as her body hunched over, pain flaring up from her abdomen and agony licking its way through her body like fire. Her toes curled and her hands clenched into fists and she cried out at the sudden onslaught of feeling.
“Where the hell is Lam?” She heard the urgency and panic in Jack’s voice as he called out to someone behind him before he turned back to her, his face anguished, “It’s okay Carter, it’s okay.” One of his hands closed over one of her clenched fists and pried her fingers loose so she could grip onto him.
“God.” Her back arched from the pain. It felt as if her blood was burning through her veins and it was worsening with every passing second.
“Stay with me Sam,” Jack bent close and whispered the words in her ear as she struggled to hold onto reality, all the while thinking that it would probably be easier if she just gave into the welcoming blackness, “Lam’s going to give you something for the pain. Not long now.”
His eyes darted from focusing on her face to something on the other side of the bed that Sam could only assume was the doctor. Coldness rushed through her left arm and then she knew she wasn’t going to be conscious much longer. She kept her eyes locked on Jack as the darkness rushed closer with each gasping breath.
Then both the pain and the image of his face, creased in worry, dissolved into the merciful blackness.
“I’m sorry sir,” Carolyn Lam frowned as she adjusted the dosage of medication running through Colonel Carter’s IV line, “The poison must be counteracting the sedatives and pain killers at a faster rate than we calculated.”
General O’Neill’s face was tight as he nodded, his eyes still fixed on the now-silent figure lying pale and limp on the bed. Sam’s face was turned towards him slightly and Carolyn could see that one of Sam’s hands was still being gripped tightly by the general's.
“What did the test results show?” It was Daniel's voice that broke the silence and he stepped forward from his position leaning against the wall. Teal’c waited by the foot of the bed, an unmoving presence throughout the night. Only Cameron was absent, debriefing Landry on the botched mission.
“Whatever poison the natives used in their dart is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” Carolyn started softly, there was no easy way to break this to them, but it had to be done now, before it was too late, “It’s attacking her internal organs. The bimolecular structure is resistant to-”
“Bottom line doc,” the general interrupted her gruffly.
“Uh, yes sir,” Carolyn shifted to face him squarely, noting he still held Colonel Carter’s hand tightly, “Her organs are failing. Unless we can figure out an antidote, her system will shut down.”
Silence met her words and Carolyn let them absorb the grim news before continuing, “Her kidneys are at the highest risk at the moment. Her left kidney is at barely 12% efficiency. Her right kidney is picking up the slack, but it's only a matter of time before is damaged by the poison.”
Carolyn didn’t need to tell them what would happen after that.
“What’s the plan?” Daniel asked. Carolyn flicked her eyes to the strangely still archaeologist, his arms were wrapped around his chest tightly and deep creases marred his face, “What do we do?”
“We’re working 'round the clock on an antidote,” Carolyn had some good news on this front for the three worried men, “We're close to developing a drug to nullify the effects in her system. And I’m about to start her on dialysis, it should help filter some of the toxins from her system and ease the load on her kidneys.”
O’Neill was nodding, but his jaw was clenched tightly and Carolyn knew her words weren‘t much of a comfort to him. She let out a long breath, “My concern is that even if we find an antidote, Colonel Carter’s kidneys may not be recoverable. If her right one fails,” she paused, “She will need a transplant.”
Jack’s eyes flicked to hers briefly at her final sentence and the question passed his lips barely seconds after she stopped speaking, “Can any of us donate?”
Carolyn shook her head, “I’ve started preliminary checks for matches on the SGC, database but none of you are the same blood type.”
“And that rules us out completely?” Daniel asked.
“No,” Carolyn shook her head, “It’s possible you're still a tissue match, but there is much less a chance of success if you don’t share basic blood type, and given how sick she already is, a partial match is likely not going to be good enough.”
“What are the odds of finding a match for her?” Jack asked quietly.
“From the SGC,” Carolyn was realistic, “Slim. The best match would be a family member, a sibling.”
Mark swore loudly to himself when his cell phone rang for the sixth time that morning. It wasn’t even 9:15 and already it looked like the day was going to be a mess from start to finish.
“Karyn I’m just getting in my car now,” Mark threw his briefcase into the front seat, “I’ll be there in twenty minutes, make sure Del Gardo has his coffee, put him in the conference room and stall him till I get there.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone, and then Mark heard the sound of a man clearing his voice awkwardly.
“Is this Mark Carter?” The voice sounded familiar but Mark couldn’t place it.
“You're not Karyn.” Mark said bluntly, he should have known it wasn’t his assistant when he didn’t hear her usual bright greeting.
“No,” the man said, “It’s Jack. O’Neill. I’m Car- I mean Sam’s…” he trailed off and Mark remembered the grey-haired general who had stuck so close to Sam at their dad’s funeral It wasn’t until weeks later that he finally learned the truth behind Sam’s broken engagement and the other man in her life. She seemed happy now, although he’d seen her only a handful of times over the last couple of years, and never with O’Neill, but Mark got a general feeling of contentment from Sam, instead of the restlessness from before.
“Oh uh, Jack, hi,” Mark stumbled over the greeting before realisation of exactly why his sister’s partner would be calling him hit him, “Is it Sam? Is she okay?”
“She’s been injured,” O’Neill sounded grim and Mark felt a cold feeling spread down his spine, something in the mans voice sounded so desolate, so lost, “She’s alive, but we need your help.”
“My help?” Mark frowned, “I don’t know what I can do but I’ll do anything you need me to.”
“Good,” Jack said bluntly, “A car will be around to your home shortly. Pack a bag, everything will be explained on the plane to Colorado.”
“Uh-” Mark raised his eyebrows, a car? Plane?
“Daniel Jackson and Murray will be meeting you,” Jack continued before Mark could gather his thoughts, “They’’ll sort everything out.”
Mark watched blankly as a black sedan pulled into his driveway. He stepped out of the car in time to see two figures unfold themselves from the sedan and recognised the men from his father’s service; both were friends of Sam's. He only remembered their faces distantly, “I think your friends just arrived.”
“I’ll leave you to it, then,” O’Neill paused, “Mark. Thanks.”
“I haven’t done anything,” Mark was thoroughly confused but the image of his sister was sharp and clear, “Sam. Can you tell Sam…”
“Of course,” Jack waited for Mark to speak.
A million thoughts rushed through his mind of his little sister. The only real flesh and blood family, aside from his children, that he had, now that their dad was gone. Their relationship was hardly what you would call close, downright cold and distant in past years, but she was still his sister and always would be.
“Tell her I’m coming.”
The level of security at Cheyenne Mountain was like nothing Mark had seen before in his life. The highest of technological equipment was used to scan his entrance, and there seemed to be an armed guard at every corner. He was ushered through various checkpoints by Daniel and Murray, and he was given a tag to denote his visitor status as he handed in the security clearance paperwork he’d been given on the plane.
It was all a little surreal to be told his sister worked for a top secret scientific project that required a presidential order of secrecy for him to just be able to visit the infirmary. Daniel and Murray had given him the bare bones of the work that was conducted here, deep space something or other, but Mark had been around the military half his life and he knew it was just a cover story for something bigger. He doubted this much security would be given to a damn telescope.
Daniel led him to the infirmary and Mark observed the passerbys in the corridor giving him speculative looks, all the while looking at Daniel and Murray with respect that was puzzling. Murray looked to be military, but Doctor Jackson, or Daniel as he had insisted Mark call him, was a civilian archaeologist, and that just didn’t add up with what he was seeing in the mountain. Soldiers, scientists and archaeologists? Some kind of high tech project which was a cross between Indiana Jones and Apollo 13 perhaps.
But that didn’t explain how his sister had ended up sick enough to require a kidney transplant.
“Mark, this is Doctor Carolyn Lam,” Daniel introduced a petite brunette woman who walked up to them. She had a professional smile on her face and a needle in her hand, “She can explain a few things to you, then I’ll take you to see Sam.”
Daniel left him alone as Doctor Lam showed him to a bed in the infirmary.
“Thanks for coming in so quickly,” Carolyn secured a tourniquet around his upper arm, “I take it the need for Colonel Carter to receive a transplant has been explained to you?”
“I wouldn’t say explained,” Mark said dryly. He had more questions than he'd gotten answers, “But I understand she’s sick and needs a kidney.”
“May need a kidney,” Carolyn nodded, “I’m just going to draw some blood if that’s alright, to see if you’re a match.”
“You mean she might not need a transplant?” Mark asked hopefully.
“We are working on,” the doctor paused and seemed to mentally edit whatever she was going to say, “It might not reach that point, but we decided it was best to be prepared if her right kidney fails.”
“Okay,” Mark felt the sting of the needle as it entered his arm. A moment later he watched as the doctor filled three vials with his blood, withdrew the needle and pressed a ball of cotton to his skin. He held it in place while she taped it down and watched as she labelled the vials, “Sam must be pretty important for you to fly me from San Diego on only a what if scenario.”
Doctor Lam gave him a look that Mark couldn’t interpret, “She’s a valuable member of this command.”
“Yeah,” Mark grimaced, “Of the command.” Typical military, only caring about what she could offer the government and not caring about her as a person. It was still the same after all these years and he had no idea how Sam could stand it.
“A lot of people here care about your sister,” the doctor seemed to pick up on some of his thoughts, “She’s an amazing person.”
Mark nodded, “She is.”
“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want,” the doctor gave him a speculative look, “Donating a kidney is a serious decision.”
Mark knew that it wasn’t a decision. Not really. She was his sister, and they may not have been close, but he knew without a doubt that if their situations were reversed Sam would give her kidney without hesitation.
“She’s my sister.” That said it all really.
Jack kept his fingers loosely circled around Sam’s wrist as he kept vigil by her bedside. Teal’c had dropped his gameboy by and Daniel had delivered a stack of books, but they lay ignored on the table. He couldn’t imagine losing himself in anything while Sam lay unconscious and so very sick. She was kept sedated, her every movement monitored by the various wires and tubes that connected her to the multitude of machines that were keeping her alive.
Jack didn’t see the machines. All he saw was Sam. Lying so still, so pale and lifeless. He didn’t know how many times he'd had to sit in the infirmary watching her suffer, and it never got easier.
“O’Neill,” Teal’c’s voice interrupted his vigil, “Mark Carter is here.”
Jack turned away from Sam for the first time in two days to see a tall, ashy-blond haired man with dark blue eyes standing next to Teal’c’s bulk. Mark’s eyes were fixed on his sister in the bed, absorbing every little detail he could see.
“Mark,” Jack stood up, one hand still resting against Sam.
“Uh,” the man seemed to shake himself from the image of the woman on the bed and he blinked distractedly, “Jack, right?”
“Yeah,” Jack motioned to the chair on the opposite side of the bed, “Take a seat, Mark.”
“Thanks,” Mark sat on the hard stool and reached out a hesitant hand to touch Sam’s arm lightly, “Is she unconscious or…”
“Sedated,” Jack answered smoothly, “The doc thinks it’s best she’s not awake at this point.”
Mark nodded, looking even more worried, “I see.”
“I’ll uh, give you a minute with your sister,” Jack reluctantly let go of Sam and left them alone.
He stayed in the corridor outside Sam’s room for ten minutes before he slipped back inside and to his own stool by her bed. He tried not to look at the reddened eyes of the man sitting on the other side of Sam’s bed, nor the tremor of his hands.
“I’ve never seen her so sick,” Mark blurted out, “As a kid she never got sick.”
Jack gave Mark a small smile, “She’s had a fair few tumbles and stays in the infirmary the last few years.” He lifted a hand to his grey hair, “I partly blame her for turning my hair grey.”
Mark shrugged, “I, uh, haven’t seen much of her since our teens really.”
Jack looked awkward as he nodded, “Carter- uh, Sam, mentioned you guys had drifted apart.”
“Yeah,” Mark grimaced, “We uh, Carters can hold grudges I guess.”
“Mark, it’s Sam. I know you don’t want to talk to me but this is important. Please can you just call me back.”
Jack didn’t mean to eavesdrop. He had been hoping to escape from Hammond’s evil eye about his late mission reports and hide out for awhile in Carter’s lab when he’d overhead her phonecall. He hadn’t meant to say anything. He knew how much Carter valued her privacy, especially given the high levels of testosterone around the base, but she’d sounded so sad. He’d never heard her sound so defeated. It was highly unCarterlike and it sent Jack’s alarm bells ringing.
He rounded the doorway to her lab, “Everything okay in the land of science, Carter?”
He immediately regretted his jovial greeting when he was struck by the image of the captain hurriedly wiping tears from her face. She spun her back towards him and an awkward silence spread throughout the room until finally she spoke.
“I’m sorry sir,” her voice was shaky, “You caught me at a bad time.”
“Carter,” Jack dropped the jovial act, “What’s going on?”
He hadn’t expected an honest answer. Whatever was going on was likely personal and Carter kept her personal business off base and away from work. Although Jack suspected she didn’t really have much of a private life to keep secret anyway; none of them did.
“My Dad has cancer,” Carter was still turned away from him when the words blurted out, “He’s dying and my brother won’t even answer his damn phone. He doesn’t give a damn what’s happening to Dad, and I just…” Her voice broke off and her hands covered her face. She muffled, “Please sir, it’s fine, you can go.”
He ignored the plea for his dismissal and instead stepped closer and put a hesitant hand on her shoulder, “That’s some news you kept to yourself, Carter,” he murmured.
“I…” She took his words the wrong way, “I won’t let it affect my work sir. I mean-” She breathed in deeply, “Today is just… It won’t happen again.” Her back went rigid under his comforting hand and Jack mentally smacked himself.
“I didn’t mean because of work, Carter,” Jack said gently, “I meant because it’s a lot to handle.”
Sam sniffed, “Oh.”
Jack rubbed his hand comfortingly over her shoulder, “Anything you need, we’ve got your back Carter.”
“Thank you sir.” Her voice was steadier.
“Your brother,” Jack didn’t know much about the Carter home life. He knew she was a military brat from her file and her mother had died when she was young, but Carter rarely offered up information on that part of her life; not that he could blame her, he didn’t exactly share his family history either, “He’s probably just busy or-”
“It’s not because he’s busy,” Sam shook her head, and Jack could detect a hint of controlled anger in her tone, “My dad and Mark have been at odds since my mom died. I just thought that with the cancer they would…”
“Men can be idiots sometimes,” Jack shrugged, “I should know.”
Sam turned to face him and he dropped his hand awkwardly from her shoulder, “Thank you sir.” She gave him a small smile, it didn’t reach her eyes but he could see she meant her words.
“Don’t mention it Carter,” Jack pointed to the door, “Do you want to go get some pie?”
“Things are better now though,” Mark said, filling the silence that had befallen the room, “Since Dad recovered from his cancer we’ve been a lot closer. Just, I guess we both missed a lot of years of each others' lives.”
“I guess you three had a lot to catch up on,” Jack said.
“Yeah,” Mark thought back to the week Sam and Jacob had spent with them in San Diego all those years earlier, “Dad was a different person. It’s hard to describe but, he used to be so damn closed off and cold, then suddenly it seemed like he was, not a different person, but I guess, more open almost.”
“I guess surviving cancer might change your perspective,” Jack said.
“Yeah,” Mark nodded, “Sam was different too.”
“How so?” Jack’s eyes shot to Mark.
“She was more sure of herself,” Mark said, “She’s always been confident, but she seemed to have really found her niche with whatever work it is she does.”
“Carter loves her job,” Jack looked fondly down at Sam, “She’s damn good at it too. She tell you she made full Colonel?”
“No,” Mark was surprised, “She didn’t mention it last time we spoke.”
“Yeah,” Jack said softly, “She’s going places.”
Mark thought back to that visit from Sam and Jacob to San Diego all those years earlier. Sam had been different in other ways too. There was something behind her eyes that was hard to explain, like she’d experienced something that had changed her. At times she had seemed edgy and tense and at other times her gaze had drifted into the distance. She seemed normal on the outside for the most part, but Mark knew there was something beneath the surface that Sam couldn’t share.
Mark hated early morning meetings. It meant he had to get up at 4am just to ensure he got into his office in time to prep and be ready for the 8am session. It was exhausting and he mentally made a note to tell Karyn not to schedule any more early presentations unless absolutely necessary.
“I’m sorry for calling so early,” A quiet voice interrupted his early morning breakfast in the kitchen. He winced. He hadn’t meant to wake up Sam, she was sleeping in the den whilst she and their Dad had visited. A surprise. But what turned out to be a welcome one.
“I needed to ask you something.”
It sounded like she was on the phone. Mark frowned, who could she be calling at this hour in the morning?
“I can’t stop thinking about it.” her voice sounded anguished. The person on the other end of the phone took over the conversation and Sam was silent for a long moment. Mark’s imagination ran wild, she couldn’t stop thinking about what? Was this about some guy? Or a work thing? Mark would put money on the work idea; Sam was as much married to the job as he was to his wife.
“It’s just,” she stuttered, “I wanted to, I need, I have to ask….”
Mark could just make out the small tinny words spoken by the person on the other line, “Just spit it out Carter.”
“Don’t make me use it again.” Mark didn’t like the sound of that, “I just can’t.”
The person on the other end of the phone spoke and for a long time the room was silent as Sam listened. He listened to her sigh quietly and then finally she whispered, “Thank you sir.” She sounded more solid than her earlier desperation, “I appreciate everything you and General Hammond have done to keep this under wraps.”
Mark glanced up at the clock. He needed to finish getting dressed. It wasn’t right to keep listening into this conversation. He had a vague idea it must be work related, it sounded like she was talking to a superior, but at the same time there was a personal undertone and depth her voice that didn’t quite mesh with the work theory. He wasn’t comfortable being a voyeur into his sister's life, she’d only just let him back in and she into his. He didn’t want to screw it up and waste any more time than they already had.
Mark headed back up the stairs quietly, trying not to alert his sister to his presence. When he left twenty minutes later, he peeked his head into the den to find Sam fast asleep on the pull out, her hand curled around her cell phone.
“So how long have you and Sam been together?” Mark watched the steady drips of the IV fluid in the line, it was easier to watch than the stillness of his sister in the bed, “She hasn’t talked about it much.”
“Couple of years now,” Jack’s voice sounded wistful, “We uh, were in the same chain of command for eight years.”
“Frat regs,” Mark knew vaguely about the regulations that prevented relationships from developing, “You guys didn’t do anything for eight years?”
Jack looked up sharply, “Carter’s career’s important. To both of us.”
“Obviously but,” Mark thought of his wife, “I don’t think I could have waited that long to be with Ella.”
Jack shrugged, “It wasn’t easy, we both had other partners, but,” he brushed the strands of hair off her forehead, “I always knew it would end up this way.”
Mark was impressed at his dedication. He had thought that perhaps Sam had someone else in her life. She had been so reluctant to let Pete get close, but he’d always assumed it had just been related to work.
“Sam c’mon, you’d be doing me a favour,” Mark cajoled lightly over the phone, “He’s a really great guy.”
“I’m sure he is Mark,” Sam’s voice was reluctant, “But I’m just not looking for a boyfriend right now.”
“Right now?” Mark scoffed, “Sam you're not exactly an 18 year old with your whole life ahead of you.”
Sam’s voice was surprisingly cold when she answered, “Not everyone gets to have the white picket fence with the perfect kids Mark.”
“No,” Mark said quietly, “Not everyone does get it. But what matters is, do you want it?”
Sam was silent for a moment, when she answered she sounded almost confused, “I don’t know.”
“There's no harm in just meeting him is there?” Mark asked.
He heard her sigh.
“Okay,” She gave in, “Give him my number and tell him to call when he gets into the city.”
“Thanks Sam,” Mark smiled in relief, “You won’t regret it.”
“We’ll see,” Sam said dryly.
Mark just grinned to himself. It might not be a white picket fence, but it was a start. He wanted Sam to be happy. She had her work and career; perhaps now she could finally have a family too.
“I made a big mistake introducing her to Pete,” Mark admitted quietly, “I should have stayed out but,” he shrugged, “I wanted to see her happy.”
Jack gave him a guarded look, “It wasn’t a mistake.” It took a lot of effort for him to admit that, “He did make her happy, for a while.”
It had been good for her to be with Pete. As painful as it had been to see her with another man, Jack knew Sam had grown within herself during that time. He couldn’t begrudge her a warm body and company to come home to. Their job was hard enough, doing it alone was tough and he was willing to concede for a time. He hadn’t expected it to go as far as it did, but it didn’t matter anymore. He had gotten the girl in the end.
Mark nodded, “Maybe.”
“It just wasn’t meant to last,” Jack said firmly, “Not marriage, not when she had…”
“… Had you waiting for her.” Mark finished with a shrug.
Jack smirked, “I can be a patient guy.” he paused, “When I want to be.”
“I didn’t even realise the reason why she left him until the funeral,” Mark said, “I thought maybe it was just cold feet. But then I saw you two together and I realised I wasn’t going to be able to talk her into taking him back.”
Mark slipped quietly down the hallway to Sam’s bedroom, intending to say a quick goodbye and leave her in peace. She was meeting them at the airport tomorrow afternoon. With the funeral and wake over, Sam’s house was finally empty of people and Mark knew it was time to give her some space. It had been a long, tiring day, a long week, really, and they both needed some time and quiet to sort out their grief.
He paused outside her bedroom at the sound of her upset voice. The door was slightly ajar and he could see Sam sitting on the end of her bed, hunched over, her arms covering her face. Her back was trembling and her voice was slightly muffled through her hands.
“I’m so sorry.”
She just kept repeating those words and Mark frowned when he realised there was another figure in the room. He recognised the older gentleman as General Jack O’Neill, a work colleague of both Sam and his father. He’d been a steady presence beside Sam during the whole day, had barely left her side. Mark was a little puzzled at their closeness given their working relationship.
“Stop it Carter,” O’Neill’s voice was gentle as he sat down on the bed next to her and rested a hand on her back, “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”
“Sam,” Jack rubbed a soothing hand down her back, “Now isn’t the right time-”
“When is it going to be the right time?” Sam’s head whipped up and Mark could read pure anger in her face and voice, “It’s always another goddamned room. Sir.” The last word was said with disdain.
Jack shook his head, appearing not to be bothered by her outburst, “I meant with your dad Sam.” He sighed, “And with the whole Shanahan thing. You might think you’re okay, but you need time.”
Sam put a hand against his cheek, “I just want…” her voice trailed off into a whisper.
Jack turned slightly to press a kiss to her hand, “Not long Sam.” He pulled her close, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Mark watched his sister fall apart in Jack’s arms. She didn’t sob, but he could see the force of her grief in the tenseness of her shoulders and the white knuckled grip she had of the general’s shirt. Tears for her father, for Pete and for something else, Mark suspected, but it wasn’t his place and he’d already intruded too far tonight. Mark stepped back from the door and went back down to the living room. Sam was in good hands.
“I haven’t seen much of Sam since Dad passed,” Mark said casually, “Not that I expect daily phone calls or anything, but sometimes it goes months without a call.”
“Our jobs are difficult,” Jack said cautiously, “Keeps us from real life sometimes, but it’s an unfortunate casualty of our work.”
Mark grimaced, “I’m all too familiar with the sacrifices the military requires.”
Jack shook his head and said firmly, “This job... It’s everything to her, without her…” he sighed and shifted focus, “She does it for you and your family. You have no idea the amazing things she does on a daily basis.”
Mark regarded him silently for a long moment as they both pondered the heavy words. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Doctor Lam rushed into the room, a small dish in her hands. Mark stepped off the stool and out of her way as she made a beeline towards Sam’s I.V line.
“Excuse me gentlemen,” her voice was brisk, “We’ve developed the antidote.”
She pushed a syringe full of clear liquid slowly through the IV port in Sam’s line.
“Will it work?” Jack asked quietly as Mark stood back, confused at the unfolding events.
Carolyn paused as she finished administering the drug and gave Jack a heavy look, “I have every reason to believe it will.” she said, “But only time will tell. If this works, we will hopefully have caught it before her right kidney is damaged permanently.”
She left them as quickly as she had come and Mark took his seat back down next to Sam’s bed. He watched Jack as the other man looked intently at Sam, his eyes searching for any sign that she was getting better, no matter how small. Mark shifted closer, his own eyes searching, but for something else entirely.
“Do you think you make her happy?”
The night air was chilly, but the warm, no, not warm, smoking hot and completely gorgeous, body of the woman snuggled up next to him kept him from feeling the cold. Jack lay outside his beloved cabin on a soft, well-worn blanket, with Sam in his arms. A cold beer rested by his side and his belly was full of his favourite meal, steak and potatoes cooked on his grill to perfection. He couldn’t imagine a more perfect first year anniversary.
Sam shifted so she was leaning over him on one elbow, half resting on his chest. Her hair brushed against his cheek and she smiled softly down at him, “Happy anniversary.”
Jack gave her his trademark long and lazy smile, “You had a good time today?”
“Mmmhmmm,” Sam moaned when Jack threaded his fingers through her hair and massaged lightly, “I did.”
“Anniversary’s not over yet,” Jack murmured, his voice low and suggestive.
Sam slung one of her legs over his waist and deftly moved so she was straddling him, bent over him slightly, with her hands resting on his shoulders, “I guess we still have some time left in the day.”
Jack slid his hand up the back of her light top, “Better not waste it then.”
Sam giggled and leant in close to kiss him, “Yes sir.”
Jack seemed to be lost in a forgotten memory, a barely noticeable smile gracing his lips, and he regarded Mark with a look he couldn’t quite decipher but, at the same time that settled the question he had asked. He didn’t know how he knew, but something just felt right, content about the two of them together. Any lingering doubts that he had about his sister and her partner dissolved away. Mark nodded to Jack, satisfied, but slightly confused.
“Jack?” Sam’s croaky voice interrupted and both men looked down in shock as Sam swallowed thickly, “What’s …Mark?” Her eyes had shifted in confusion to her brother.
“Everything’s fine Sam,” Jack reassured her, he held her gaze and Mark watched in quiet awe as Sam seemed to take his words as truth and she relaxed back into the bed.
Mark stepped back as Doctor Lam entered the room and asked the two men to leave so she could do a quick examination. Mark left the room quickly, but Jack grumbled for a bit until Sam told him softly to go. He met Mark outside the room and the two men shared a satisfied look.
“You know, with me retired and Carter recouping, we’re going to have a lot of spare time,” Jack said casually.
Mark looked up from where he rested against the cold concrete wall, “Oh?”
“Yeah,” Jack scuffed his boot on the floor, “Might make a trip to San Diego, spend some time at the zoo.”
Mark grinned, “I look forward to it.”
“Jack I can get out of the car by myself you know,” Sam said irritably as Jack not only opened the passenger door but also leaned forward to slip an arm around her waist and help her up.
“Think of it as an excuse for me to get my hands on you,” Jack said with a sly grin.
Sam was not fooled, “Uh huh.”
Sam looked up at the familiar sight of her brother, taking two steps at a time to reach her and Jack where they stood by their rental car.
“Mark hi,” Sam accepted his gentle hug with a smile.
“Your flight go okay?” Mark asked, he turned to Jack with a warm smile, “Jack, hi.”
The two men shook hands as Sam looked on a slightly puzzled expression on her face at the familiarity between the two men. Mark had returned to San Diego and his family not long after her right kidney had been given the all clear. The days he’d been around she’d spent most of them in a drugged sleep or was too drowsy to really carry much of a conversation. So when Jack had mentioned a trip to San Diego while she was on medical leave, she’d happily agreed.
“Delayed and turbulent,” Jack grinned, “Just the way flying commercial should be.”
“Ella and the kids at home?” Sam asked as they began walking up the path to the house.
“Kids?” Mark huffed, “They’re teenagers now Sam. Ella should be back from work any minute now and the ‘kids’ should be somewhere in the house. I hope.”
Mark ushered them into the house and Sam pulled Jack aside for a moment while Mark fussed over making coffee.
“You and Mark seem very familiar with each other,” She asked softly, one eyebrow raised.
“We got caught up while you were sleeping the dream of the drugged,” Jack shrugged, “What’s a guy to do?”
Sam laughed and pressed a brief kiss to his lips, “Indeed.”