RATING: K+
CATEGORY: Action/Adventure
SUMMARY:On one of their first adventures through the gate, Sam has to prove to herself and her team that she can operate competently when things get rough.
SPOILERS: Maybe some for the very beginning of season one.
WARNINGS: Sam, Daniel, and Jack whumping… Some language.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to my beta readers.
DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

Under Fire
by Strix varia
 


“Dammit, Captain, focus!” The Colonel’s angry voice finally broke through into Sam’s consciousness.

“Sir?” she asked in confusion. She was on her knees in front of an alien control panel, several of the brightly colored crystals pulsing with light almost to the same rhythm of her pounding headache. The only reason she was upright, she realized, was because Teal’c was holding her up by one shoulder, while the Colonel tightly gripped the other. Pain lanced through her chest with every breath. Her knee hurt, her hand hurt, her head hurt. Her whole body hurt. What the hell happened? She looked up into the Colonel’s face, hoping for an explanation. His eyes were hard, unyielding.

“Get us the hell out of here, Captain. We’re running out of air.”

“Air?” Her dazed mind struggled to remember, and she looked around, confused, her eyes finally landing on Daniel sitting nearby. His face was pale, his arm, leg and shoulder bandaged. Corpses of several three-foot tall reptiles littered the floor, bleeding from bullet holes.

The shocking site of the lizards’ mangled bodies jolted her memories free. Reptiles attacking… sharp teeth snapping… they’d taken refuge in the small, pyramid-shaped, hilltop structure they’d come to investigate. From the picture sent back by the MALP, Daniel had thought it might be a temple, but as soon as they’d entered, Sam had suspected differently. They were standing in a control room of some kind, with panels and screens arranged carefully around the interior.

Teal’c had been the one to hit the panel beside the door, closing it with a hiss as she and the Colonel shot the reptiles that had followed them inside, trying to pull Daniel down for the kill.

“This is not a temple, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c had stated as the archeologist sank to the floor holding his wounds. “This is a spaceship, a small goa’uld vessel of extremely ancient design.”

“I don’t give a damn what it is,” the Colonel had said, “as long as it keeps those freaking lizards off our asses. Trust SG-1 to get sent to Jurassic Park instead of the goddamn marines. We’ve got to figure out a better way to do recon than just snapping a couple pictures from the goddamn MALP.” He looked at Sam. “Sounds like a project for you, Carter. Figure out some way to detect the dinos before we step through the gate to get eaten.”

Sam had smiled then, it was unusual for the Colonel to be in such a foul mood, but he’d twisted his knee badly in the jungle while running for shelter, and Daniel had been bitten while trying to help him up. She and Teal’c had done their best to keep the reptiles at bay, but there had been too many of the things hunting in the pack.

The Colonel had looked around the ship. “Well, boys and girls, this is what we came to look at. Technology is your realm, Captain, so take a look around while I bandage up our archeologist.”

The Colonel’s voice interrupted her reverie. “Captain?” he asked, bringing her back to the present with a shake of her shoulder.

“Sir?”

His frown intensified. “Air… remember, we’re trapped in a goddamn airtight Goa’uld temple, and we’re running out of air.”

She remembered. Fascinated by the ship’s technology, she’d come across what she thought must have been the life-support control panel, as dead as all the other consoles on the ship. It occurred to her with a little alarm that a spaceship would be airtight when sealed shut, a fact that didn’t bode well if life-support functions were not operating correctly.

The Colonel had cursed creatively when she’d informed him of her suspicions, and he’d ordered Teal’c to crack the outside door. When Teal’c had failed, the Colonel had ordered her to make it work.

She still knew virtually nothing about Goa’uld technology, but she supposed even it had to obey the laws of physics, so perhaps she could figure something out. She had hoped Teal’c might be able to help her, but she’d been surprised to learn that the warrior quite possibly knew even less about the inner workings of the ship than she did. She supposed the Goa’uld didn’t want to share the secrets of their technology with their Jaffa for fear of appearing less than god-like (or perhaps giving them too much knowledge), but she would have thought that someone with the rank of First Prime would have picked up something useful along the way.

Apparently not. But at least he could translate the writing for her.

She remembered she’d been trying to trace the power cables to the control panel by the door when her memories of what had happened next ended rather abruptly. Hadn’t she been fiddling with the wiring to the crystals in front of her? She reached towards the cover to the panel below the crystals only to have the Colonel grab her wrist and pull her hand away sharply.

“Ah-ah,” he said sternly. “Been there, done that already,” he said. He turned her hand over. “You were shocked. Try something else.”

She stared at the burns on her hand and fingers dumbly. They looked bad… second, possibly third degree. No wonder her hand hurt. She flexed her fingers, wincing at the sharp pain.

“I connected the two cables you were working on,” the Colonel said. “It got the crystals to light up. But the outside door still won’t open. What do we have to do next, Captain?”

Sam felt like she was swimming in molasses. She tried to remember when she’d felt like this before… Then it came to her…during pilot training… oxygen deprivation scenarios… She stared at the pulsing crystals, desperately trying to think.

“I tried switching crystals around,” the Colonel said handing her the pair of needle-nose pliers from her toolkit. “Nadda.”

“Open the other control panels,” she finally said. “Try to find crystals similar to the ones burned out.” Hopefully that would keep the Colonel busy enough that he wouldn’t notice what she was about to do. She didn’t tell him that she didn’t think that the crystals had anything to do with the door controls. The door controls were apparently wired directly to the power source that the Colonel had connected to the now pulsing crystal interface.

“Right,” the Colonel said, standing up. “Teal’c, let’s get to it.”

As soon as the Colonel’s back was turned, Sam opened up the panel beneath the crystals. Sure enough, two of the power cables she’s been messing with had been spliced together, but the third wire… the wire that actually needed to be connected was still lying loose at the bottom of panel. At least there was power to the crystals, indicating that the power source was still viable. The crystals obviously served as power regulators of some sort, either as capacitors or amplifiers of some kind, but the cable feeding the power to the doors by-passed the crystal interface completely. It was spliced to the other two by an alien version of a wire nut that had apparently degenerated over time, finally disintegrating after Teal’c had activated the door one last time.

Sam glanced at the Colonel guiltily. His movements were slow and awkward, more than could be explained by his injured knee, and she realized that if she didn’t do something quickly, they would all be dead sooner rather than later. Vaguely remembering being shocked the first time she’d tried this, she used the pliers instead of her hand to try to grab the disconnected wire. Her hand-eye coordination was suffering from the lack of oxygen, and she missed on her first two attempts. Sweat dripped into her eyes. She took a deep breath and almost cried out as her ribs protested with white-hot pain. Fortunately, the pain seemed to clear her head momentarily, and she grabbed the wire with the pliers. As she touched the exposed end to the splice, sparks flew.

“Now, Teal’c!” she said, ignoring the urge to pull away as the sparks singed her exposed hand and arms. “Try the door now!”

The big man was at the door control panel in two strides, reaching for the controls. He pulled his hand back as if shocked, but the door slid open with a welcome hiss.

Not so welcome was the army of hungry knee-high lizards that darted through the open door.

****

“Look out!” Daniel shouted, scrambling to his feet.

Sam dropped the pliers and spun on her knees, grabbing for her MP-5. Staff blasts scorched the air as Teal’c opened fire.

Unfortunately, the lizards moved fast, and Sam was directly in their line of sight. The first reached her as her hand clamped around her weapon, sharp teeth sinking into her arm. With her free hand she punched it in the snout, sending it flying towards Daniel who promptly dropkicked it into the on-coming rush of its companions. Somewhere behind her, the Colonel shouted at Daniel to get out of his line of fire.

A staff blast exploded inches in front of her taking out two more lizards and allowing her enough time to whip her weapon into position. As she opened fire on the incoming reptilian tide, she didn’t stop to think what would have happened if she had decided to lean forward as Teal’c shot, trusting that the Jaffa must have been able to read her body language well enough to know that she wouldn’t have. Either that, or he’d decided she would rather die of a staff blast than get torn to shreds by a swarm of hungry lizards with razor sharp teeth.

She’d have to remember to thank him later.

With a sense of semi-numb satisfaction, she proceeded to mow down the lizards pouring through the open door. Later, she knew, she’d be horrified by the sheer gore of it all… the flying blood, the shrieks of pain, the mangled bodies twitching in death. Now, she was just glad to be able to defend herself from an enemy that would show her no mercy, that would kill her without contemplation, eat her without remorse.

She emptied two magazines into the doorway, and it came as a physical shock when her bullets finally ran out after the second.

The silence was deafening.

Nothing moved.

She swallowed, watching the blood pool on the floor in front of her from a pile of eviscerated bodies.

“Well, Captain, I’d say you killed those lizards three or four times over,” the Colonel eventually said somewhere behind her.

The lizards were all dead. There were twenty or thirty of them, she calculated. Maybe as many as forty. She’d wasted ammo. A lot of ammo. “S-sorry, sir,” she stammered. With a shaking hand, she popped the empty magazine and tried to remember where her other replacements were. Pocket? Pack? Oh god, why couldn’t she think? Good thing they were all dead.

“And Daniel,” the Colonel said, “When I say get out of the line of fire, you don’t do some kind of goddamn dance across the floor in front of me. Drop where you are or throw yourself behind cover - like the nearest control console – so I don’t have to worry about shooting you in the back!”

“Sorry, Jack,” Daniel said directly behind her, “I was trying to get into position to give Sam some support.”

“She was doing just fine on her own!”

“But…”

“No buts! When I say drop, you drop!”

“You didn’t say ‘drop,’ Jack. You said…”

“I don’t give a damn! From now on you’ll know what I mean and do as I say!”

Sam was still trying to find another spare magazine, only dimly aware of the heated argument taking place behind her.

“And you, Carter,” the Colonel said, starting in on her.

Uh-oh. “Yes, sir?”

“What the hell do you think you were doing?”

“Shooting lizards, sir?” Oh god, she didn’t mean to sound flippant. She’d just answered, but it sounded flippant.

“Before that, Captain!”

For the life of her, Sam had no idea what he was talking about.

“Did I or did I not give you a direct order not to open that goddamn control panel?” the Colonel roared.

Oh god. She was very glad that she didn’t have to look him in the face. “Yes, sir, you did, sir. But it was the only way, sir…”

She heard him hopping towards her.

“Don’t you dare ever disobey my direct command again, Captain, or I’ll bust you down to airman so fast it’ll make your head spin. Do you understand?”

She heard the fury in his voice. He was seriously pissed at her. “Yes, sir!” she said, vowing to do her best to never disobey him again. Not if she wanted to keep going through the Stargate. Not if she wanted to stay on his team. Finally, her groping fingers found the pocket with the rest of her spare magazines. “Sorry, sir!” She pulled one out and loaded it, hoping he wouldn’t notice how badly she was still shaking. Adrenaline. It had to be the adrenaline.

“Right,” he said, sounding somewhat mollified.

“O’Neill,” Teal’c said. “There do not appear to be any more reptiles in the immediate vicinity. Now would be a good time to make our escape.”

“This is a defensible position, Teal’c, and we’ve got three injured. Do you think you can make it back to the gate safely by yourself to get reinforcements?”

“Assuming I do not run into another band of reptiles of this nature, O’Neill. However, I do not think it would be wise to divide our forces at this time, or to stay here. The smell of blood will most surely attract other predators and scavengers to this location. There may be far more dangerous animals on this planet than these creatures, and it is doubtful that I would be able to return with reinforcements before nightfall.”

The Colonel considered the Jaffa’s advice for a moment. Finally, he nodded. “Right. Okay, campers, I’ve already gone through a couple of magazines, and so has Carter. God only knows what will come around at night, and I don’t like the idea of splitting up the team. Looks like the best option is to head back to the gate, ASAP, as a group.”

Hands grabbed her jacket collar and pulled her to her feet. She swayed as the ground tilted beneath her, but a strong arm held her steady.

“Hang in there, Sam,” Daniel’s voice said in her ear, and she realized that the archeologist was holding her up with his bandaged arms.

“I’m okay,” she said, finding her feet. Sort of. God, she’d thought the fresh air would help, but she still felt like she’d just been run over by a truck. Like maybe a cement mixer. Or a Greyhound bus.

Daniel relaxed his grip, and she felt her knees buckle.

Daniel grunted in pain as he tried to catch her, but Sam slid through his grip. She tried to stay upright as her knees slammed to the floor but she pitched forward anyway, ribs screaming in protest… too much momentum…an equation flew through her mind calculating the angle and degree of force… hands and arms tangled in her MP-5. In a distant sort of way she wondered if she looked as stupid as she felt sprawling face-first on the floor in front of her teammates and CO… drunk, drugged, sick, oxygen deprived, something… but definitely not her normal self, and dammit, why was she so dizzy now? It would be ever so nice if the floor would just stop spinning.

“Carter?” Colonel O’Neill asked, now beside her.

Oh god, she prayed. Just please don’t let me throw up on his boots. Somehow she made it to her hands and knees before the smell of blood overcame what little control she had over her stomach. She missed his boots by inches but her MP-5 was not so lucky, getting a lovely shower of regurgitated oatmeal and orange juice from her breakfast in the commissary that morning. She couldn’t contain a quiet moan, partly from humiliation (what must Colonel O’Neill think of his female 2IC puking her guts out a minute after combat…?) and partly from the agony of vomiting with what she was now starting to suspect were bruised or busted ribs. And how the hell had she managed to hurt her ribs in all this?

“Ah yuck,” the Colonel swore, half hopping, half stepping back out of the line of fire. “The boys in the armory are going to looove that…”

“Sorry, sir,” Sam gasped. “I don’t know what’s come over me…” She struggled to stand, but failed miserably as another round of nausea threatened to overwhelm her. Finally Teal’c’s strong hands pulled her back to her feet. She felt like a rag-doll in his grasp, and she clung to him while he held her steady for a moment.

Sam was acutely aware that her three teammates were staring at her as she desperately tried to find her balance. She was still shaking like a leaf, but she didn’t want them to think it was from fear or cowardice.

Finally, she was able to stand without Teal’c’s assistance. She met her CO’s eyes. “I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “It’s my ribs…I think… I don’t know, but it feels like I may have cracked one or something…” Even to her own ears, it sounded like a feeble excuse for her weakness.

“Can you breathe?” the Colonel asked, his face betraying no emotion.

“Yes, sir,” she nodded, wilting under his piercing gaze. She looked away, willing the tears out of her eyes. She would not cry in front of her commanding officer. She would not cry in front of her team.

“Are you coughing up blood?”

“No, sir,” she said.

“Then you’re just going to have buck up, Captain. Daniel’s hurt, my leg is busted, and we don’t have time to sit around waiting for Hammond to send a rescue party. That leaves you to cover our six.”

“Jack,” Daniel started to protest.

The Colonel turned on him. “I don’t want to hear it, Daniel,” he snapped. “She’s going to carry her own weight back to the gate, and she’s going to guard our butts while she does it, aren’t you Captain?”

Sam swallowed, feeling like a green cadet in front of a hostile drill sergeant. “Yes, sir.” He was in pain, too, she reminded herself. She had to pull herself together.

She felt Teal’c’s eyes on her, measuring her. She thought the former First Prime probably doubted her ability to carry through. She’d often wondered what he thought of having to serve with a woman on his team. It wasn’t like there appeared to be any female Jaffa warriors. That he hadn’t openly questioned her presence on the team was probably something of a marvel. Although, after her performance today, perhaps that would change.

She nodded again, gripping her weapon tighter, realizing that she wanted to prove herself to Teal’c as much as to her commanding officer. Colonel O’Neill was military. She understood what he expected of her. But Teal’c… Teal’c was intimidating to her in a way that no military officer would ever be, given that her father was a general. Teal’c was enigmatic, a true warrior, the epitome of strength and self-control in the face of danger. If she could prove herself to Teal’c… well, that would be a real accomplishment. “I’ve got our sixes, sir,” she said, trying to sound more confident than she really felt.

“Right,” the Colonel nodded. “Let’s move out.”

****

It was a little over a mile back to the Stargate as a crow flew. Unfortunately, an almost impenetrable tangle of forest along the banks of a swift moving river between the gate and the ship had forced them to take a considerably round-about route to their destination. Add to that a slightly heavier gravity than earth’s and a sweltering, humid atmosphere, and Sam knew the trip back was not going to be fun. She tried to focus on the one consolation that it would at least be mostly downhill.

It was an awkward procession that set out. The Colonel had one arm slung over Teal’c’s shoulder for support. Daniel limped directly behind them, looking hardly more stable than the Colonel on his own wounded leg. Judging by the bright scarlet stains on the bandage wrapped around the archeologist’s thigh, he was still bleeding. Sam wondered how much more blood Daniel could lose before he finally passed out. Surely she’d read that statistic somewhere, but nothing came to mind. A pint? Two pints? Three pints? She thought about asking Daniel, but he might not appreciate the reminder that he was bleeding. Hopefully, not to death. Poor Daniel. He looked awful.

God, usually she could remember statistics like that. Pints, quarts, liters, gallons? She wasn’t even sure if she could do simple conversions at the moment.

Belatedly realizing that she was already falling behind, Sam stumbled after them, concentrating hard on just staying upright. For some reason her left knee burned, and she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she’d ever hurt so badly in so many places… felt so sick and weak. She just hoped Teal’c would hear any lizards before she did, because she knew she still wasn’t operating on full cylinders. At this point, she was more of a liability to the team than an asset, and she knew it. She should be able to help Daniel, but she could barely help herself.

Briefly she wondered if the Colonel would ask Hammond to transfer her off the team as soon as they got back. She thought she’d done well during their first couple of missions, but she’d screwed up royally this time. And she had deliberately disobeyed the Colonel’s order not to open the panel.

Their pace slowed as soon as they reached the trees, halfway down the hill. Teal’c had managed to find a winding, narrow trail leading up from the riverbed, but the terrain was still difficult to traverse with many fallen trees and tangled underbrush. It was particularly hard for Teal’c and the Colonel trying to move side-by-side. She almost ran into Daniel’s back as he stopped to allow Teal’c to help the Colonel maneuver over a huge fallen tree trunk.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been a minor obstacle…in fact, it had been easy going over it with a swarm of angry lizards chasing them… but Sam now stared at it in exhausted dread.

Daniel must have seen it in her face. “Are you sure you’re okay, Sam?” he asked, glancing at her worriedly.

She nodded, wondering how on earth he could be thinking about her welfare when he was so badly hurt himself.

“What about your arm?” he asked, pointing.

Blood was trickling down her hand from the bite on her arm. “It’s nothing,” she said. Compared to his wounds, it was the truth. Punctured muscles, not torn. No stitches needed. Not even a couple of milliliters of blood lost, she guessed. Not close to a fluid ounce. Infection possible, but nothing to worry about on the trip home. At least not yet.

Daniel’s shoulder had looked like raw meat. It was bandaged now, but like his leg, the blood was seeping through the dressing.

“How about you?” she asked. She looked at him closely. His glasses were fogging over from the heat and humidity. How was he still standing?

“I’ll manage,” he smiled. “Even though I was, ah, glad to cut down on our pack size after those first missions, I think we need to keep, um, real first aid supplies in our packs from now on. You know, real trauma dressings… Gauze and a couple sterile bandages aren’t always going to cut it.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, watching as the Colonel slid over the other side of the tree, cursing the whole way. “It’s not like we can call for medics when we need them out here. I’ll ask the Colonel if I can speak to the new CMO… what’s his name?” Sam couldn’t recall any of the details in the memo about the new CMO, but knew that General Hammond would select somebody highly qualified.

“Fraiser, I think. And I’m pretty sure she’s a woman.” He waved his hands to indicate short height, about the height of the fallen tree trunk in front of them. “I saw her being shown around by Hammond yesterday. At least, I think that’s who it was.”

“That was the CMO?” Sam had seen her, too, actually exchanging a brief “hello” in the hallway outside the women’s restroom, but she’d assumed the woman was a new scientist based on the lab coat she’d been wearing. She grinned. Having another female officer on base would be nice. That would make five total, their very own estrogen section. “Right. I’ll talk to Fraiser about it when we get back. Maybe she can come up with a happy medium… not too heavy or bulky, but with enough serious supplies to get someone back to the gate.”

“Pain meds, too,” the Colonel growled from the other side of the tree. “Air splints and hot packs.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam said.

“And while we’re at it, let’s ask about a masseuse. A masseuse would be nice to have along next time we get thrown in prison, don’t you think?”

Sam glanced at Daniel, unsure if the Colonel was trying to be funny, or if he was torpedoing the whole idea of talking to the CMO.

Daniel rolled his eyes. “A masseuse would be great, Jack, but I don’t think General Hammond would go for it, do you?”

“No, I don’t suppose so,” the Colonel said with a shrug, and Sam realized that this was just another example of her CO’s strange sense of humor. Maybe someday she’d actually learn to recognize it.

****

Daniel moved toward the tree trunk to go over next, but Teal’c stepped in front of him.

“Allow me to assist you, Daniel Jackson,” the big man said, kneeling on hands and knees in front of the fallen tree. “You may use my back as a step.”

Daniel looked startled by the offer. “Um, Teal’c, that’s not…” He trailed off, eyes straying briefly to Sam before returning to Teal’c’s prone form. He blinked behind his glasses. “I mean…uh, thank you.”

Sam tried to give Daniel a helping hand as he climbed up on Teal’c’s back. “No, no, I’m good,” he said, shrugging off her assistance. He stepped quickly on top of the trunk, poised himself, then jumped off the other side, landing gingerly on his good leg.

Sam stared at him, wondering if she should take it personally that he would accept Teal’c’s help, but not hers. Daniel had always seemed to accept her as an equal in the past, and he’d never questioned her competence. She didn’t get the impression that he had a sexist bone in his body, and she had sort of felt like they’d bonded in their geekdom…

“I can lift you, if you prefer, Captain Carter,” Teal’c said, interrupting her thoughts.

“What? Oh, god, no, Teal’c, I can… I mean, I’m fine!” she said, quickly following Daniel’s example by stepping up on Teal’c’s back. Unfortunately, the effort caused another bout of dizziness, and she almost lost her balance as the contents of his pack shifted slightly under her weight. Somehow her boots found the top of the tree trunk, and then she was hopping down on the other side before she toppled over. The pain of landing sent stars flying in her line of vision and an agonized grunt from her mouth before she could clamp it down. She doubled over hugging her ribs as tears made an embarrassing escape, and Daniel held her steady with a hand on her shoulder.

“Dammit, Carter!” the Colonel said. “I told you not to jump!”

He had? She looked at him, confused. He looked angry again. She felt her stomach churn, and it was hard to get a breath when it hurt so bad. “Sorry, sir,” she somehow managed to gasp, trying to straighten up.

The Colonel glanced away as Teal’c effortlessly vaulted the tree. When his eyes met hers again, his face softened slightly. “You have to focus, Captain. I can’t have you drifting off in hostile territory.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam said. “I mean, no, sir,” she corrected. “I mean… I have to focus, sir, but I can’t drift off.” That was right, wasn’t it?

He frowned at her response, and his eyes drilled into hers. “Are you good to go?” he finally asked.

“Yes, sir,” she nodded, vowing to keep focusing. She grabbed her weapon. “I’m good, sir.”

She could see the doubt in his eyes, but he nodded. “Let’s get moving, then,” he said.

Focus became her mantra as they continued down the narrow path. Eventually she realized that she was focusing on telling herself to focus at the exclusion of all else. So she shifted her attention to Teal’c’s broad back leading them through the thick forest. There were dirty boot prints on his pack. Daniel must have big feet. His prints were much bigger than hers. Funny that, seeing as the archeologist was only a few inches taller. Or maybe she just had small feet. And the tread patterns were slightly different. She wondered if that was a function of size, brand, age, or style of the boots, and if it might make a difference in the traction. There were equations to be made there, she thought, about friction and surface contact and angles of force, but she let them slide from her mind. She was supposed to be concentrating. Focusing. On something other than math.

Teal’c. Former First Prime of Apophis. Kneeling in the leaf litter of the forest floor to make it easier for her and Daniel to climb over a fallen tree. Wasn’t that a bit akin to a four star general going down on all fours to help the troops? It was the type of team-first tactic taught and practiced by all US combat units, but it just didn’t fit with the title of “First Prime.” Yet Teal’c had done it without prompting from Colonel O’Neill, without request from her or Daniel. Which just proved that Teal’c truly was a team player despite his history as a commander of armies, and despite being an exceptional warrior in a warrior culture that probably emphasized individual prowess. How amazing was that? How lucky was the SGC that he had joined their cause? He had a nice butt, too.

Sam wiped the sweat out of her eyes with her sleeve. God, she was really out of it. Not that Teal’c didn’t have a nice butt, but it really wasn’t very professional of her to be paying attention to it. Dammit, she was supposed to be watching their sixes. She shook her head. Just not those sixes. Crap, crap, crap, the Colonel was so going to kick her off the team.

A loud rustling to her left snapped Sam’s attention to the surrounding forest. “Movement at my nine o’clock,” she warned the others quietly, even as Teal’c disengaged from the Colonel to bring his staff weapon into position. Sam felt the sweat running down her back between her shoulder blades as they waited, scanning the dense ferns and surrounding undergrowth for any signs of movement.

After a tense minute or two, Daniel shifted uncomfortably. “So, do we just, um, stand here forever?” he finally asked. “Seeing as I’m, uh, still bleeding and all…”

A loud squawk erupted to their left, and a rust-colored, birdlike creature with a bald head flew out of the undergrowth into the vines and branches above.

“Daniel!” the Colonel hissed.

“Did you see that?” the archeologist asked excitedly, pointing up at the trees where the creature disappeared.

“You just gave away our position, Daniel,” the Colonel said crossly.

“I did?” Daniel said, looking surprised. “I thought Sam already did that with her warning.”

The Colonel took off his helmet and wiped his forehead. “If that had been a Jaffa, he would have blasted you the second you spoke.”

“Um, Jack, if that had been a Jaffa, I think he would have blasted us before we knew he was there.”

The Colonel made a fist, his face screwed up in frustration.

“O’Neill is correct, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said before the Colonel could explode. “You should not have spoken at a time when we were attempting to assess a possible threat to us.”

Daniel blinked. “Oh, okay, um… I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. He looked at Sam. “Did that look like an archaeopteryx to you, Sam?”

“This is not a bird watching expedition, Daniel,” the Colonel said before she could answer.

“Finding a living archaeopteryx would be an exciting scientific discovery, Jack,” Daniel said.

Jack groaned. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about scientific discoveries at the moment. Our goal is to get back to the gate; preferably before one or more of us gets eaten by mini T-Rexes.”

Daniel nodded reluctantly, still searching the tree canopy for the creature.

Sam was glad that Daniel’s scientific enthusiasm apparently enabled him to tune out his injuries and pain. She had no doubt that he would go tramping off the trail in search of the archaeopteryx (or whatever it was) if the Colonel had allowed it. She touched his uninjured shoulder with her left hand. “I saw it, too, Daniel. We’ll put it in the mission report. Who knows, maybe they’ll authorize another mission to check out the abandoned ship. I’d love the chance to look at the technology in more detail.”

Daniel smiled at her gratefully. “Maybe so. I know a paleontologist who would sell her soul for a chance to examine a real archaeopteryx,” he said, starting to limp after Teal’c and the Colonel who were already moving off through the forest.

“Of course, it may not even be related to the archaeopteryx on earth,” Sam said, following. “It might just be a case of convergent evolution.”

“True, but even that would be fascinating, don’t you think?”

“Of course,” she agreed. “It’s interesting that…”

“Keep your heads up, kids,” the Colonel interrupted tersely. “Something might be scavenging the bodies we killed on the way up.”

Sam kicked herself. She’d gotten distracted again. This wasn’t a stroll through some park back on earth. They were on a different planet. They had no idea what to expect. Anything could go wrong, and they were a million light-years from help. God, they were crazy to be doing this. They could be eaten by man-eating monsters at any second. Heck, for all they knew, the trees themselves might be carnivorous. She looked at the trees suspiciously.

They looked like… trees.

For some reason, this struck her as being somewhat amusing. She fought the urge to giggle hysterically, suddenly feeling lightheaded. Then her foot caught on a root, and she bit her tongue; and she was falling. She didn’t remember hitting the ground.

****

She woke to the sound of MP-5 fire and the taste of blood in her mouth. Her eyes flew open, heart pounding, to see the backs of her team as they stood above her, firing into the surrounding forest. Looking through their legs, she saw the furtive shapes of more lizards darting through the ferns.

Without a thought, she sat up, searching frantically for her MP-5. It was lying next to one of Daniel’s boots, and she grabbed it quickly.

The Colonel was standing near where her head had been, with Teal’c and Daniel on either side of her. Kneeling, she filled the space between Teal’c and Daniel and opened fire in that direction. As if in a dream, she mowed down ferns and lizards alike, aiming at anything that moved.

****

“Carter. Sam.”

Someone was patting her cheek.

Her tongue hurt as she tried to moisten parched lips.

“C’mon, Carter.”

“Shall I make my way back to the Stargate to get help, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked.

“No, hold on; I think she’s coming around,” the Colonel said.

Sam pried her eyes open.

“That’s it, Captain,” the Colonel said. He was sitting beside her, legs outstretched. His left knee was visibly swollen.

She blinked up at him. “What happened?” she murmured.

“You tell me. One minute you’re doing a favorable impression of GI Jane, the next you were face-first in the dirt,” the Colonel said.

“Sorry, sir…” She couldn’t even think of a reasonable explanation for passing out, much less an acceptable excuse.

He smiled wryly. “It’s been a hell of a mission, Captain.” He slipped an arm beneath her shoulders and helped her into a sitting position. He raised a canteen to her lips. “Small sips.”

She choked as the water spilled into her mouth, and she tried to take the canteen in her own hands but they were shaking too hard to hold it steady.

“Easy,” the Colonel said, pulling it away gently. “Just give yourself a second.”

She nodded, trying to dispel the fog that seemed to have her in its grasp. “Lizards?”

“Dead or gone. Makes you wonder what they eat when there aren’t people around.”

“They’re obviously cooperative hunters,” Daniel said, and Sam saw that he was sitting on a fallen log beside the trail. He looked sweaty, exhausted, and pale. “Given their large numbers, it might indicate that their normal prey is either extremely big or exceptionally dangerous.”

“Or both,” Teal’c said ominously.

“Yeah… I wasn’t going to mention that,” Daniel said.

“So, what you’re saying is… there might be some really… big…bad-ass dinos around?” the Colonel asked.

Daniel nodded.

“This just keeps getting better and better,” the Colonel said, rubbing his chin. He looked at Sam. “How are the ribs?”

In truth, they still hurt, but they felt… She looked down and realized that her vest and BDU jacket were gone, and her t-shirt had been pulled out of her pants. She could feel bandages under the soft fabric. Someone had wrapped her ribs. “Better, sir,” she said, blushing, wondering just how much of her they’d seen in the process. The bite on her arm and the burn on her hand had been wrapped as well - in what appeared to be torn bits of her jacket. How long had she been unconscious?

“Wrapping’s not too tight?”

“No, sir,” she said. “Thank you.”

He handed her the canteen again, and this time she was able to hold it steady. She drank her fill, and then handed it back to him.

“Can you continue to the gate, Captain, or should I send Teal’c back for reinforcements?”

Sam wasn’t about to be the reason they stopped in a poorly defensible position on a dangerous planet. “I can make it, sir.”

He gave her a look that clearly said ‘you’d better not be lying to me, Captain,’ but he nodded.

Sam took a deep breath and scrambled to her feet before any of them could help her. She felt a little dizzy, but still a bit more steady than she had before passing out. She found her utility vest and MP-5, but her pack was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s my pack?” she asked as Teal’c pulled the Colonel to his feet.

“Back in the temple,” the Colonel said.

Sam paled. Oh god. She’d left her pack behind and hadn’t even realized it. She’d lost Air Force property. There’d be a million forms to fill out and a possible reprimand right there…

“Don’t panic,” the Colonel said with a wave of his hand. “I would’ve had you leave it behind, anyway.”

“But…” She gestured helplessly back toward the ship.

“Leave it, Carter,” he said. “You should drop yours, too, Daniel. We’ve still got a ways to go, and I don’t want anything slowing us down.”

Daniel looked like he was about to protest, then changed his mind. “Thank you, Jack,” he said, pulling the straps from his shoulders with a grimace. “I’d swear somebody has been adding rocks to it as we’ve gone along.”

“It’s the gravity,” Sam said, checking to make sure her MP-5 was in working order. “Our muscles have to work harder than they would on Earth, and that will probably seem to amplify as we get more tired.” Or lose more blood, she thought silently, although Daniel’s wounds seemed to have finally stopped bleeding.

“Right,” the Colonel said. “Let’s get this show on the road again.”

****

Sam’s legs were still feeling a little rubbery as they continued downhill towards the river. Their progress was slow but steady. The surrounding forest was virtually silent - not even any insects buzzing - probably, she reflected, because the weapons fire from their most recent battle had frightened everything away. At least, she hoped so. She only had one magazine left, and Daniel looked like he was starting to struggle. She moved a little closer to the archeologist, positioning herself to be able to help him in case he started to stumble.

When they came to another fallen tree trunk, Teal’c assisted again by allowing them to use his back as a step. This time, Daniel didn’t pretend to protest, and when Sam’s turn came, she sat down on top of the trunk to slide down the side instead of jump.

Unfortunately, by the time they started seeing and hearing indications of the river ahead of them through the tangled vines and trees, she was starting to feel sick again, and she seemed to be having trouble catching her breath. Her heart was pounding. She wondered if it was the gravity, or maybe a bizarre reaction to the oxygen deprivation they’d suffered on the ship. She thought about asking the others if they were experiencing the same thing, but decided she didn’t want to hear the answer if it was “no.” If she was honest with herself, it was more than a little frightening.

It came as a bit of a shock to acknowledge that she was scared. She didn’t understand what was happening to her, and her whole body hurt… the situation didn’t make sense, and she wasn’t in control… not of anything it seemed… not even her own body…

“Sam?” A hand on her shoulder made her jump, and she looked up into Daniel’s concerned face. “Are you okay?” he asked.

She looked around dazedly, realizing she had no idea of what had happened the past several minutes. Teal’c and the Colonel were far ahead. She swallowed, fighting sudden tears and the urge to confess everything to Daniel, confess how scared she was by the pain and confusion. But that would make her appear weak, perhaps even a coward. She shook her head. “Yeah.”

Daniel frowned. “Sam?”

“I’m fine,” she insisted. She just had to concentrate. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. One step closer to the Stargate. One step closer to home. One step closer to her bed. One step closer to Schrödinger purring beside her as she drifted off to sleep.

They continued on, side by side now, and some part of her was distantly aware that Daniel’s arm had somehow slipped around her shoulders, and his quiet voice occasionally spoke in her ear though she didn’t understand the words. His close presence was a steadying influence, and she tried to match her breathing to his.

At some point she came to realize that they had stopped walking.

“I don’t think she can make it by herself, Jack,” Daniel was saying. He sounded tired.

A hand waved in front of her face. “Carter?”

Sam blinked, belated focusing on the blurry face of her commanding officer.

“You with us, Carter?”

“Sir?”

“What’s the speed of sound at sea level?”

Sam tried to remember. “I…” She frowned. She should know that…

“Captain?” the Colonel asked impatiently.

“I can carry her across, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.

Carry her? She looked around, surprised to see they had reached the top of the steep bank of the river. A fallen tree stretched across the current to the narrow beach on the other side. Though moss covered and branchy, the tree had been a safer route of passage than trying to swim the muddy river.

“As I recall, it barely held your weight the first time,” the Colonel said.

“I did not intend to use the tree,” the Jaffa said.

“What? Swim? I don’t think so!” the Colonel said. “God only knows what kind of Jaffa-eating… things… live in there.”

“Alligators,” Daniel said, pointing downriver. “Or maybe crocodiles… Hard to tell… You can only see the eyes…”

“I intended that to be a rhetorical question, Daniel,” the Colonel said.

“It wasn’t really a question, Jack,” Daniel said. “And I thought since we were discussing options you’d want to know…”

Sam took as deep a breath as she could, trying to slow her racing heart. She was NOT going to be carried across the river like a useless sack of potatoes. “Seven-hundred and sixty one,” she said.

They looked at her.

“Seven-hundred and sixty one miles per hour,” she clarified. “The speed of sound at sea level. On earth, at least.” She smiled in relief. “I can make it across on my own, sir,” she said, fairly certain she was speaking the truth. At least, if he let her go now, while she was feeling somewhat lucid…

“Look, Carter, I don’t know if I can trust you. You’re hurt, and you’ve been zoning in and out on us since…” He made a face and waved in the general direction of the ship. “I can’t risk you passing out half way across the river. We’ll come up with something… Where the hell is the rest of our rope?”

“Sam’s pack,” Daniel said. “Or was that supposed to be a rhetorical question?”

Sam winced as the Colonel cussed. It was one thing after another. They didn’t even have enough rope to do a safety line across because she’d left her pack behind. No wonder he didn’t trust her. Sam fought a wave of despair at that thought. He doubted her, doubted her abilities. Doubted her truthfulness. He’d asked her to carry her own weight back to the gate… ordered her to, in fact, and she was failing miserably. But much though she just wanted to curl up in a tiny ball and blissfully pass out, she knew she could cross the damn river if he’d just let her. “I can carry my own weight, sir,” she said with a touch of desperation. “Just… let me go now...”

His eyes narrowed. He was short on options, and she knew it. Finally he jerked his head towards the river and the fallen tree. “Go.” He grabbed her arm as she walked past. “Don’t make me haul your ass out of that river, Captain.”

She nodded, too breathless to speak. Crap, crap, crap. She could do this. She had to do this. Teal’c was not going to have to swim across alligator infested waters with her sorry corpse in tow.

A little more than two thirds of the way across, she started to feel faint again. She stopped, clutching at the flimsy support of a narrow, dead branch. She would not pass out, she thought angrily, fighting it with every fiber of her being. She would not pass out.

“Move it, Captain!” the Colonel shouted at her from the bank. “Get your sorry butt across the damn river before I come kick it in person!”

Responding instinctively to his command, Sam moved. Determined not to fall into the murky water swirling below, she maneuvered her way across the rest of the tree, stepping down onto the beach even as her vision began to gray.

She didn’t dare to look back at her CO. She knew she needed to secure this side of the river, so she staggered to the sloping river bank and collapsed in a position to scan the forest, weapon ready. After doing a quick survey, she saw nothing to cause any concern. Relieved, she closed her eyes… for just a second, she promised herself… just a second…

****

“…all over the place, Jack,” Daniel was saying.

“That can be one of the aftereffects of the device,” Teal’c said.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” the Colonel snapped.

“I believe I did, O’Neill,” the Jaffa said calmly. “However, as you recall, I did not have sufficient information to predict if she was likely to be affected in any specific way.”

“Dammit, Teal’c…”

Aftereffects? What device? Were they talking about her?

Sam opened her eyes. She was on her back on the bank, staring up at a patch of dreary sky beyond the tree canopy beside the river.

“Carter?”

Tree canopy, river, securing the scene… “Sir!” she said, trying to sit up, remembering what she was supposed to be doing. “Oh, God,” she groaned in pain and dizziness from the abrupt change in position. Blinking back tears, her gaze drifted to two dead crocodiles - or animals that looked vaguely like crocodiles - on the edge of the beach. They each had multiple staff wounds on their backs. “Oh God,” she breathed, heart sinking with the realization that she had failed spectacularly once again. She was supposed to secure the area, not become croc bait by passing out. “I’m so sorry, sir… I was…” She trailed off, appalled by the magnitude of her failure.

The Colonel followed her gaze and frowned.

Sam fought another round of nausea, starting to shake again. Daniel was kneeling next to her, holding her wrist. She pulled her hand away so she could hug herself in a futile effort to stop shivering.

Had he been taking her pulse?

“How are you feeling, Sam?” Daniel asked.

“I…” She shook her head, overwhelmed by emotion. Being eaten by lizards might have been a more pleasant alternative. Quicker, certainly, and less humiliating than this slow disintegration of what used to be her life and a promising career.

The Colonel handed her a canteen. “Drink,” he said.

She did as ordered, unable to meet his eyes.

“Hard to protect yourself when you’re passed, out,” the Colonel said.

“Yes, sir,” she whispered.

“You’re not passing out on purpose, are you, Captain?”

“No, sir!”

“Then don’t worry about the crocs. Teal’c had you covered,” the Colonel said.

Surprised by his calm tone of voice, she looked up at him.

He smiled wryly. “You’re hurt, Carter. It’s okay. It’s….” he waved his hand, searching for the right word, “…shock. I’ve seen it before, and you’re going to be fine. We’ll get you home.”

Sam blinked, trying to process an abrupt shift in perception - from being certain that her CO would be furious with her for failing to keep the area secure, to the realization that he was actually trying to comfort and reassure her, make her feel safe…

Of course, this made a certain amount of sense since she was no doubt visibly upset, and having a hysterical and nearly incapacitated Captain on his hands was not going to make things any easier getting back to the gate. It didn’t actually mean he meant a word of it. Except the getting home part. Of that, she had no doubt. The Colonel had a Special Ops background, and Special Ops didn’t leave their people behind…

“Carter?” the Colonel said, his voice tinged with exasperation.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

He stared at her as if trying to read her mind. Finally, he sighed. “What’s Avocado’s Law?”

Sam frowned. “You mean Avogadro’s Law?”

“Whatever. Just tell me what it is.”

“Equal volumes of gases at the same temperature and pressure contain the same number of molecules regardless of their chemical nature and physical properties.”

“Well, apparently you’re doing fine for the moment,” the Colonel said, taking back his canteen. He nodded at Teal’c.

The Jaffa grabbed her hand and helped her to her feet, holding her shoulders until he was certain she was going to stay up.

“Thanks, Teal’c,” she said, grateful for the big man’s assistance.

The Colonel looked at Sam. “Let us know before you pass out again if you can, Captain.”

“Yes, sir,” she said.

****

If possible they were moving even more slowly now. Teal’c, Daniel, and the Colonel had shed their jackets in the heat, and sweat was pouring off of them. Her own feet felt like lead. She struggled on for several more minutes before she finally realized she was fighting a losing battle. She knew they were nearing the Stargate, but she could literally feel her body starting to shut down. Her vision started to narrow, darkness pushing in at the edges. Horrified as she was to slow them down once more, stopping to take a break would be better than fainting dead away. She forced the words out, hoping that the Colonel would not be upset with her. “Sir,” she gasped stumbling to a halt. “Please… I’m sorry… I… I need a break.”

He looked at her, face impassive. She couldn’t interpret his expression, but thought she detected disappointment. She looked down at her feet, ashamed. She hated being the weak link. She hated it more than anything.

“Right,” the Colonel said. “Take five. Teal’c, keep watch.”

The Jaffa nodded, priming his staff weapon as Daniel collapsed gratefully to the ground.

Sam followed more carefully. She propped her feet up on a rock as she lay back against the cool dirt of the jungle floor, hoping there weren’t too many bugs in the vicinity.

“Sam?” Daniel asked softly.

She swallowed back bile. “I’m okay,” she said, not opening her eyes. “Just… tired.”

“Me too. I needed the break. Thanks.”

She glanced at him, saw that his face was drawn with pain, and his hair was sticking out at odd angles. Another stab of sympathy shot through her, and her respect for the archeologist went up ten-fold. Daniel was tough. Tougher than she’d given him credit for. And he hadn’t complained a bit about the heat, pain, gravity, or the Colonel’s foul mood. He hadn’t complained that she kept slowing them down, prolonging their stay on this horrible planet. Prolonging his own pain…

“Everyone stay hydrated,” the Colonel said, reminding them to drink.

Daniel took a long drink from his canteen, and then handed it to her.

She took a couple of sips before handing it back to him. “I’m sorry I’m slowing us down, Daniel,” she said quietly.

Daniel looked surprised. “What? God, no, Sam, no… don’t be. I’m just so glad…” He blinked at her from behind water-beaded lenses. “You’re doing great. Jack is just being an ass.”

“An ass with two perfectly good ears,” the Colonel said from his spot a few feet away.

Daniel gave an exaggerated grimace, and Sam grinned in sympathy. No wonder the Colonel sometimes called them “kids.” Impulsively, she reached for Daniel’s hand and gave it a squeeze, mouthing a silent “thank you.”

He returned the squeeze with a soft smile. “Did you know that a Jackass’s hearing is 50 times more efficient than human’s?” he asked. “In fact in some areas they’re trained to be guard animals, protecting the local herds from predators…”

Jackass? Sam suppressed a snort of laughter. Even half-dead from blood loss, Daniel was brilliant.

“Are you making fun of O’Neill, Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked.

Sam choked back another laugh as Daniel squirmed.

“Um… no, of course not, Teal’c,” Daniel said. “I was just continuing with the, uh, natural flow of the conversation.”

“Oh please,” the Colonel said.

“As First Prime of Apophis, I would not tolerate such behavior from my subordinates,” Teal’c said.

“Uh, yeah,” the Colonel said slowly, apparently unsure where the Jaffa was going with this. He glanced at Daniel, and then looked curiously at Teal’c, cocking his head to one side. “What exactly did you do to subordinates who… acted like this?”

“Shall I demonstrate?” Teal’c offered, reaching for his knife and turning towards Daniel.

“No, no …!” the Colonel said quickly as Daniel’s eyes doubled in size. “That’s quite all right.”

Teal’c nodded once, turning his back to them again, but not before Sam saw what looked suspiciously like a twinkle in his eye as his gaze met hers briefly. Teal’c…teasing? Did their stoic Jaffa actually have a sense of humor?

She lay there contemplating that possibility for several moments before gradually becoming aware of something odd. Beneath her shoulder blades, she could feel the ground shake. She focused on the sensation, wondering if it was an earthquake. No, it reoccurred… at regular intervals. An image jumped to mind - from the movie, Jurassic Park, of a vibrating puddle of water heralding the approach of T-Rex.

“Uh, guys?” she said, sitting up in alarm.

“Carter?” the Colonel asked, immediately on alert.

“Something’s coming,” she said quietly.

“Something?”

“Something big, bad-ass, or both,” she clarified, standing up without assistance.

“Captain Carter is correct,” Teal’c said. “Something large is approaching from the direction of the river. I suggest a tactical retreat to the Chappa’ai.”

The Colonel didn’t argue. “Let’s go! We’re not too far from the… oof!” he said as Teal’c threw him over his shoulder and took off. “…gate…”

Sam and Daniel exchanged a look, and then broke into a trot after Teal’c.

Despite carrying the full weight of the Colonel, Teal’c moved quickly, and after only a few meters Sam was hard pressed to keep up. Only the increasing volume of branches snapping behind them as something very big moved through the forest kept her forging ahead at a steady pace, Daniel close by her side.

She was literally gasping for breath when they finally burst onto the rocky plain where the Stargate stood about half a mile away. Never had Sam been so glad to see something in her life. She continued pushing forward, eyes locked on the DHD.

They were close enough for her to read the symbols on the DHD when Daniel slowed down, turning to look behind them. “Hey guys, look,” he said stopping.

Sam stumbled to a halt, following the direction he was pointing. Moving from the forest was a large creature. It looked vaguely like a cross between a giant elephant and a triceratops, with two tusks, a horn on its head, and a short trunk. It was a startling shade of blue. And it did not appear to be interested in them in the least, veering off across the plain at an angle that would take it far away from the gate.

“Thank God,” Sam gasped when she realized it wasn’t actually chasing them. Her chest felt like it was on fire.

She was turning back towards the gate when the shoulder-high boulder to their right seemed to unfold itself. Unsure as to what she was seeing, she brought her weapon up as the rock appeared to pounce upon the unsuspecting Teal’c and Colonel, sending them both flying.

She opened fire as snapping jaws descended towards Teal’c’s neck. Bullets ricocheted off a stone-like shell as two black eyes whipped around to fix her in their predatory glare. Her finger froze on the trigger as the thing snarled, revealing a mouth full of curved teeth. It looked like the armadillo from hell. And it was gathering itself to attack her.

She didn’t think, just aimed and fired. The first bullet missed its target; the second, third, and fourth buried into the creature’s eyes in an explosion of blood and brains. She blinked as it fell, collapsing on Teal’c and the Colonel.

Daniel looked at her, eyes wide.

“Oh, no,” she whispered, feeling the telltale signs of lightheadedness. Daniel caught her as she fainted.

****

Three heads were leaning over her when she opened her eyes again.

“Hello,” the Colonel smiled.

“It is good you are awake,” Teal’c said.

“Jack was about to have me dial home and call for medics,” Daniel said.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Rock monster,” the Colonel said. “Nice shooting, by the way.”

“It’s not rock,” Daniel said. “It has some sort of external armored plates… probably leather covered bone. But an extremely effective camouflage…”

“She just woke up, Daniel, I doubt she really cares,” the Colonel interrupted him. He looked at her. “Do you care, Carter?”

“Uh… yes, sir. Sorry, sir,” she said, struggling to sit up.

“Scientists,” the Colonel rolled his eyes, but she was fairly certain he was only teasing. “You remember what happened, now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You feel up to going home?”

She nodded. “Definitely, sir!”

Teal’c lips curled upwards minutely at the enthusiasm in her voice. “Let me help you up, Captain Carter,” he said.

She smiled, taking his hand.

“Dial us home, Daniel,” the Colonel said.

****

The gate spat her out, senses returning in a confused jumble… frozen skin, gray concrete, the Colonel calling out for medics…her feet stumbled… why the hell did they slope the ramp downwards, anyway?… It was like being dropped, blind, on a hillside… head spinning, and then the shiny metal of the ramp was rushing up to meet her. Pain exploded as she hit, but she didn’t lose consciousness… dammit… She lay there gasping, vaguely aware that she was drooling through the cold grating of the ramp as it vibrated from booted feet rushing towards her.

“I’m okay,” she said as hands touched her back, unsure if they were SFs or medical staff or maybe her own team. “Just give me a second.” She didn’t want to be carried off the ramp no matter how much she hurt… didn’t want the SFs to think the woman on the team was weak when the others had more obvious injuries.

Now if only she could get her limbs to move…

“She is not okay,” the Colonel growled somewhere nearby. “She’s got separated ribs and burns and bites and god knows what else…”

Sam wanted to protest, but trying to push herself up onto her hands and knees was requiring all of her concentration, particularly since the idiots around her were holding her down.

“Relax, Captain,” a feminine voice said in her ear. “I’m Dr. Fraiser, and I’m here to help you.”

“I can walk,” Sam said into the ramp. She didn’t sound too convincing even to her own ears.

“I believe you,” Fraiser said. “But I’m ordering you to let us take care of you, all right?”

An order? Okay, she could deal with that. Fraiser was the CMO. Surely no one would hold it against her for lying there if she’d been ordered to, right? She sighed in relief.

“Just relax, Captain,” Fraiser repeated.

“Yes, m’am,” Sam managed to whisper before passing out.

*****
“Okay, Marcy, I want the following tests: CBC, electrolyte panel, creatine level, and urinalysis. Keep her on the Ringers; I want her fully hydrated.” The voice droned on. Hands touched her, needles pricked her skin. Cool tubing touched her cheeks, and something was inserted into her nose. She tried to turn her head away but the tubing moved with her.
“She’s coming to,” a man said.

Bright lights blinded Sam when she finally managed to open her eyes so she squeezed them closed again quickly.

“Captain Carter?” Sam’s mind sluggishly identified the voice as belonging to Dr. Fraiser.

She groaned as someone touched the sore spot on her knee with something cold. Scissors… they were cutting off her pants.

“We’ve got a burn here,” the man said.

“That must be the point of ground,” Fraiser said. “She must have been kneeling when the initial shock happened. Captain Carter, do you understand me?”

“Yeah,” Sam answered thickly, noticing with growing alarm that the scissors kept going past her knee and up her thigh, and another pair had started in on her shirt. “Whoa, hey!” she protested, trying to bat away whoever was wielding the scissors at her bra straps.

A small but strong hand caught her wrist, and she opened her eyes to find Dr. Fraiser frowning down at her. “We have to remove your clothes in order to assess your injuries, Captain,” the CMO said gently. She smiled slightly, releasing Sam’s wrist. “Trust me, you don’t have anything the nurses and I haven’t seen a hundred times before.”

Sam felt horribly exposed nevertheless, and clung to the remnants of her shirt still covering her chest. She felt cold, confused and hurt. “I can undress myself,” she said, shivering in the chill air.

Fraiser smiled again, sympathy tingeing her eyes. “I know you can, Captain, but pulling off a shirt with separated ribs is not something you want to do if you can avoid it.” She broke eye contact with Sam, glancing at the nurse who had been cutting off Sam’s pants. “Tony, get Captain Carter a warm blanket, would you please?” She set aside her scissors and picked up a small vial and syringe from a nearby cart.

Sam swallowed as the doctor injected something into her IV, and she took a moment to look around, hoping to see her teammates. Unfortunately, she was in a room with which she was unfamiliar. It was filled with several pieces of bulky medical equipment, but she was alone with Fraiser and two nurses. “Daniel…? Colonel O’Neill…?”

“Your teammates are just fine. Dr. Jackson is getting an IV and some stitches, and Dr. Warner is examining Colonel O’Neill’s knee. We’re just going to get a couple of X-rays here, and then you’ll be moved back to the infirmary with them. Can you tell me where you hurt, Captain?”

Sam thought it might be easier to tell her where it didn’t hurt, but she knew the doctor only wanted to know about serious injuries. “Ribs, right hand, the bite on my right arm, and my left knee. And I have a headache.”

“Did you hit your head at any time?”

“No. Not that I remember…” Sam amended.

“Muscle aches?”

Sam grimaced. “All over.”

“I’m not surprised,” Fraiser smiled gently. “It’s not unusual to have severe muscle contractions. Any numbness or tingling?”

“No,” Sam said, fighting a sudden wave of sleepiness. “Not anymore…”

Tony returned with the warm blanket, and Dr. Fraiser covered her with it, tucking it in gently. Sam relaxed as the heat soaked into her body, deciding that she liked the bedside manner of the new CMO very, very much.

“Sweet dreams, Captain,” the doctor said softly as Sam drifted off. “You were very lucky. We’ll take good care of you.”

*****

Colonel O’Neill was sitting beside her bed when she regained consciousness again.

He smiled as she blinked at him sleepily. “Morning, Carter,” he finally said.

“Sir…?” Hadn’t it been late afternoon when they’d come back through the gate? She looked around, wondering if Daniel was nearby.

The Colonel saw what she was doing. “Daniel’s fine. Fraiser sent him home about an hour ago. He told me to tell you ‘hi.’”

“Thanks,” she said. “I’m glad he’s okay. I was worried about him on the planet.”

The Colonel snorted. “Yeah, me too. How are you feeling?”

“Fine, sir,” she answered automatically. And actually, after a moment’s consideration, she decided that despite a slight headache, a dull ache to her ribs, and the discomfort of what could only be a catheter, she really did feel remarkably better than she had when she’d taken the header down the Gateroom ramp. Which made her somewhat surprised to note that she was still hooked up to a heart monitor and IV.

He snorted knowingly. “Right. She’s got you on the good drugs. Well, no forced marches today, anyway,” he said. “No nasty little lizards nibbling at your heels. In fact, Doc Fraiser says you get to spend the whole day in bed. And tomorrow, too. And possibly the day after that.”

Sam swallowed, not sure how to interpret his tone. Mortified, she wondered if he was subtly reprimanding her for slowing them down on the planet. Unfortunately, she didn’t know if she should apologize to him for it, or just leave it, trusting him to come out and address it directly if he wanted. He didn’t look particularly upset with her. In fact, he looked almost… embarrassed.

“Listen, Carter,” he said awkwardly. “I’m sorry I pushed you so hard on the planet. It was a tough call, a bad situation.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, thinking that an apology from her CO sounded promising for her continued participation on SG-1.

“We had to get out of the temple…back to the gate.”

“It was a ship, sir,” she corrected automatically, regretting it when he made a face.

“Temple, ship, whatever the hell it was. We were low on ammo, three of us were injured, and we had no idea when help might arrive. I didn’t want to split up the team on a dangerous planet. Shit, I’ve seen Jurassic Park. I just wanted to get us the hell back home.”

“Yes, sir,” she agreed.

He sighed, fiddling with his crutches. “You’re a good soldier, Carter. I knew you’d be motivated by the threat of failure. I rode you hard because I thought it was the best way to keep you going, and we needed you functioning for all of us to get out of there alive.”

Sam stared at him. Good soldier… motivated by the threat of failure. She wondered if those words were entered on her psych profile somewhere, and the Colonel had read them. Certainly, it had worked. She groaned inwardly, realization dawning. God, he had played her like a first-year cadet…

Of course, that’s what good leaders did. They knew how to motivate their people, to get them to perform to the best of their abilities under pressure. The Colonel had known she would do her best… give her utmost… to avoid failing in his eyes, and he’d used that knowledge to get her home safely. Ultimately it had succeeded, but she couldn’t help but wish that she’d done a better job of living up to his expectations in the first place.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said slowly.

“About what?” he asked, clearly confused.

“I disobeyed your order, sir, and I slowed us down on the planet. You shouldn’t have had to ride me hard, sir. I should have performed at a level that didn’t require you to…”

“Ah ah!” he said, interrupting her, shaking his head in disbelief. “For crying out loud, Carter, if you hadn’t disobeyed my order we’d probably be dead now, and I am NOT criticizing your performance. In fact, I’m the one who is trying to apologize here, so just…” He waved his hand distractedly, “Shut up.”

Sam tried to decide if she should respond to the order with a “yes, sir,” or if that would violate the command itself.

“Right,” the Colonel said after a moment of silence. “I should get on with it. Anyway, Fraiser read me the riot act. Told me everything that could have gone wrong by pushing you and Daniel. I made a bad judgment call, and even though it turned out okay, I am sorry for putting you at risk.” He took a deep breath. “I’m also sorry about separating your ribs.”

Now it was her turn to look confused.

“Do you remember how they got hurt?” he asked.

Sam felt the heat rising in her cheeks, embarrassed to admit that she didn’t. Finally, she shook her head.

“No, you wouldn’t,” he said slowly, a pained expression now on his face. “You were trying to get us out of the temple – ship - when you were electrocuted.” He stopped, briefly breaking eye contact before continuing. “It was bad, Carter. I did CPR on you for… forever… before Daniel had the brilliant idea to see if there was some sort of med-kit still on board with a defibrillator or something. Of course, Teal’c had no idea what Daniel was babbling about, but he finally got the idea that we were looking for something to shock you with. He found an old Goa’uld torture device somewhere on board. He said such devices shocked the victim but were no longer used by the Goa’uld because they had an unfortunate habit of killing the person being interrogated. As well as other… unpleasant, lingering side effects… But we figured it wasn’t going to make anything any worse, so we hit you with that a couple of times trying to get your ticker started again. Fraiser tells me it was probably a million to one shot that it actually worked.” He flashed a smile. “Personally, I find it rather amusing - and ironic - that we successfully tortured you to life.”

Oh my God, Sam thought, in shock. No wonder she felt like hell.

“Fraiser says your heart rhythm was unstable most of the night…something about veetech arrhythmias and …” he gestured at the heart monitor irritably, “…other stuff I don’t pretend to understand. She didn’t know if it was caused by the torture device or the initial electrocution or a combination of both. That’s probably why you kept passing out, incidentally… that and shock, of course…and the gravity and temporary oxygen deprivation apparently didn’t make it any easier on your heart… but everything seems to have settled down, now. She can’t find any evidence of any other aftereffects, so you’ll need to tell her if anything seems off. Blindness, numbness, paralysis, severe headache, swelling hands or feet… that sort of thing. I’m sure she’ll give you the whole lecture when she gets back in here.”

When Sam didn’t respond, the Colonel stood up, balancing on one leg until he got his crutches under him. “Anyway… you did good, Captain,” he continued with a cryptic smile on his face. “I’ve put a letter of commendation in your file for getting us out of that… ship… under extreme circumstances. And defending us against mini T-Rex and rock monster on the way home. You did pretty damn fine work for someone who’d just died. Even Teal’c was impressed.” The Colonel grinned down at her for a moment, clearly enjoying her surprise. Finally he frowned. “You took it literally, didn’t you?”

She frowned. Had he been teasing her about what had happened?

“Shut up,” he said. “I told you to shut up, and you took it as an order.” He shook his head. “Carter, you’re gonna have to learn to lighten up a bit. Relax. I’m only a hardass when it comes to the safety of my people and the success of the mission. You’re doing a great job. Have faith in yourself.” He turned to leave, making his way across the infirmary with soft clicks from his crutches. Before he pushed through the doors he turned to her again. “Permission to speak, Captain.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said a little breathlessly, hoping he knew what she meant. Thank you for not being angry with me. Thank you for telling me what happened. Thank you for giving me a commendation. Thank you for saving my life. She owed him so much.

Apparently, she owed him everything.

“You betcha,” he said with an understanding smile, and then he was gone, leaving her staring after him in bemusement.

Sam couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face.

“You’re looking cheerful,” Dr. Fraiser smiled, entering the room, clipboard in hand. “How are you feeling?”

“Great,” Sam said happily. “Wonderful. Spectacular, in fact.”

“That’s….good,” Fraiser said with a curious smile. “Most of my patients aren’t usually so… enthusiastic… after 24 hours like you’ve had.”

Sam grinned. “See, that’s just it. No one on Earth has ever had 24 hours like I just had. I was on another world… a million light years from Earth… with the best commander the U.S. Air Force has to offer… and a brilliant archeologist… and an alien… a warrior who used to command entire armies… And they’re my team… My team! We found a spaceship… and fought dinosaurs… and saw animals unlike anything on Earth… And they saved my life, and I saved their lives, and… it’s… it’s incredible! Can you believe it?”

The doctor chuckled. “I suppose I hadn’t looked at it that way. I guess I don’t have to worry about you being afraid to come under fire again, then, when you’re released for duty?”

Sam shook her head. “I can’t wait to go back out. I can’t wait to find out what we’ll find next.” It was true. The entire universe was out there, and SG-1 was the right team to tackle anything it had to offer.

end

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