Chapter 17

After leaving the hospital, O'Neill drove to the Garden of the Gods and pulled into the parking lot. Getting out, he started walking, no destination in mind.

"How could she be missing for over two weeks without anyone noticing her being gone?" he thought to himself. "I was so wrapped up in my fishing that I didn't try to reach her once." He had thought of her alright, hand reaching for his cellphone repeatedly, but not letting himself call. Didn't want to make it seem like he had missed her. "Gotta keep up those regs," he muttered to himself. He cursed the regs, the Air Force and himself for allowing this to happen. Coming to a decision after several hours of self examination, he returned to his truck and started the trek back to the hospital.

"I will not lose her now. She has to know how I feel about her. If she doesn't feel the same way, then so be it. I will at least have told her." But God, he hoped she felt the same way...

General Hammond stepped out of the elevator and saw part of SG-1 sitting in the waiting room. He walked over to them and sat.

"Where's Colonel O'Neill?" he asked Daniel.

"He left in his truck," Daniel replied. Before anything else could be said, O'Neill appeared beside them.

"Any news?" He asked, eyebrows raised.

"Well, Major Carter is sleeping," the General replied. "But I do have some information on Thomason. His wife, Karen, died of cancer this last summer. He is an MD that gave up his practice to take care of her. She was ill for several years before she died. They were very devoted to each other and his friends think that her death pushed him over the edge. He moved her to the cabin towards the end and wouldn't let anyone help take care of her. After her death, he quit talking with friend and family. He became a recluse, only going out for food when he had to. The police have been up there and searched the cabin. They found indications that he has had Major Carter there the entire time she has been missing. He evidently was getting ready to leave with her. They found luggage scattered around. If you hadn't found her when you did, heaven knows where he would have taken her. They also found several different types of pain meds. They are bringing them here. Dr. Frazier says she has been drugged for quite a while, so she will need to see them. He keeps insisting that Major Carter is his wife, Karen. The police psychiatrist thinks he's lost touch with reality, that he was trying to make her into Karen. He's going to be put away for evaluation before any type of criminal charges are filed."

Before a word could be spoken, a commotion sounded from down the hall. Raised voices could be heard coming from Sam's room. O'Neill was in motion before anyone could stop him. Flinging open the door, he saw Janet trying to restrain Sam, who was screaming. Janet was speaking.

"Sam, it's me, Janet. You've got to calm down. This is not good for you."

Sam only struggled harder.

"Jackson. Where is he? I need to see him. Why are you keeping him away from me. He's my husband!" Sam cried, tears rolling down her face as she strained. Janet looked at O'Neill.

"We need to calm her down, sir." Janet grunted as she fought to keep Sam from hurting herself.

O'Neill was at her side in an instant. He grabbed her flailing arms and held her to his chest. She froze for a long moment before starting to struggle anew.

"Sam, its me O'Neill. You're safe. No one can hurt you now."

At first, she didn't seem to hear. Her body shook as she tried to free herself. He continued to whisper in her ear. Slowly, the fight seemed to leave her. She became still. He released her and tipped her chin up so that she could look into his eyes. Realization dawned as he saw her finally recognize him.

"Jack..." Her voice quavered. "Is it really you?"

"Yeah," he mumbled, emotion getting in the way of speech. He pulled her into his chest again and held her tight. Her arms wound around him in return. She held onto him as a lifeline as tears pour down her face.

"It's me," was all he could say as his eyes filled with tears. " It's me and I won't let you go again." He held her until her tears lessened and her breathing settled. She was exhausted he knew. He continued to hold her until she had drifted off to sleep, then he gently lowered to the bed. "I won't leave you again. I promise."

Janet stood nearby watching the exchange between the two. She had shepherded the General and the rest of the team out when O'Neill had taken over comforting Sam. She knew the both were oblivious to her being there, but she couldn't leave, not with Sam so volatile. She knew that each had feelings for the other that were well hidden even from themselves, not to mention taboo according to the regs. But right now, they needed each other. Sam needed O'Neill so she could remember who she was. O'Neill needed Sam to remain whole. As Sam settled into sleep and O'Neill placed her back on the bed, she slipped out.

The General and rest of SG1 were waiting outside the door. She smiled at them as she stepped into the hallway.

"Sam's back," she said tiredly. "She recognized Colonel O'Neill." Janet failed to mention that she had called him Jack, and that the two had shared a non-regulation embrace. She could keep their secret.

"I think the Colonel should stay here with her in case she wakes up. She's bound to have nightmare, what with all the drugs he was using on her. He seems to be able to calm her. I wasn't able to do anything, but just by him speaking to her, she settled down."

"Agreed," General Hammond nodded. "Tell Colonel O'Neill I to keep me informed of how she is progressing. SG1, you are on downtime until Major Carter has recovered enough to tell us what happened." With that, the General left.

Janet turned to Teal'c and Daniel. "Go and get some rest. She's going to be ok. It's just going to take some time." She moved back down the hallway and looked into Sam's room.

O'Neill had pulled a chair up beside Sam's bed and had fallen asleep with his head lying next to her. Janet smiled, and left them alone.

O'Neill was awakened by a movement beside him. At first, he was disoriented, not knowing where he was. Then suddenly, it all came back. He jerked up and looked at Sam only to see her blue eyes looking back at him.

"Hi," she smiled sleepily.

"Hi, yourself," he replied with his own smile. "You really had me...us scared, you know."

She frowned. "I don't remember much. What happened?"

"Well, you went for a ride and ended up 'married' to a nut," O'Neill said with a grin.

"Excuse me? How long was I out?"

"Almost 3 weeks," he answered, more serious. "When we couldn't find you when down time was over, we didn't know where to look. We found your bike was gone, but had no idea where you could be. Thank goodness for your $5.00 tip to the gas station guy, or we might not have found you. Although I think he was lusting after your Indian, too."

She closed her eyes and her brow wrinkled as she tried to remember. "I stopped for a drink and gas. That kid told me about a great ride, so I decided to try it." She paused, deep in thought. Suddenly her eyes sprang open. "An elk. I tried to dodge an elk and took a trip down the hillside. That's all I can remember. Except for images... and pain" Here eyes grew wide. "I remember a man. A man with gray hair. He was always there, talking to me, taking care of me." She stopped for a moment. "He called me Karen?"

O'Neill took her hand and told her as much of the story as he knew. Sam's expression was somber during the recitation.

"That poor man," she said softly when Jack finished.

"That poor man!" O'Neill exploded. "That poor man was planning on taking you God knows where. If we hadn't found you when we did, you would forever be 'married' and would be Karen Thomason. He kept you drugged and was trying to turn you into someone else."

"But he loved her... he thought he loved me. The loss he must have felt when she died. Waking up each morning knowing you can't be with one you want..." She stopped, blushing at what she had been about to say. This conversation was getting way out of line!

O'Neill noticed her blush and squeezed her hand. "I do understand what he was feeling." Taking a deep breath, he continued. "I didn't know what I would do if we had never found you. Sam, I want you to know how I feel about you. I couldn't bear the thought of not seeing you again. Of not telling you how I felt..."

She reached out and put her finger on his lips. "I know."

They looked into each other's eyes with a knowing smile.

The End