An Army of Me
Sam left this morning.
No… it's not what you're thinking. She didn't leave *me*, it was just work.
But therein lies the problem.
If I didn't know for a fact just how much she loves her work, her team, the Stargate… I would ask her… no, I would get down on my knees and *beg* her to quit. I would plead with her to find a nice, quiet teaching job at the community college or something.
I hate knowing she's not even on earth. I hate knowing that there's the possibility that she won't come home one day.
It kills me to even think about it.
It would rip me apart if it ever happened, God forbid.
I don't even want to get out of bed. I'm so depressed just considering the many horrible possibilities.
"Mom! I'm leaving!" I hear Cassie shout from the bottom of the stairs.
"Have a good day! Love you!" I sit up and make myself yell back down to her, then promptly fall back onto my pillow. I will never take for granted the fact that she gets herself up and ready every morning.
I groan and stretch and pull Sam's pillow over to me, cuddling it and breathing her in. She woke me up before she left, I think. But I'm a heavy sleeper and can never tell if her goodbye kisses are real or dreamed. But then, Sam is Sam, and that thought alone lets me *know* that she hated getting up, leaving the bed, getting dressed, and leaving this house, leaving me. She kissed me goodbye, alright.
That makes me smile. And I sigh and open my eyes, and think about how much closer to her I'll feel when I get to the base.
* * * * * *
I would kill for a window.
Don't get me wrong. I love my job, the people I work with, even my little cubby of an office. It's mine, and it's like a second home to me. But… well, I would *kill* for a window. It's so easy to loose track of time, down here… to either watch it slip by with inexplicable speed, or to pray for it to just get moving a little bit faster. Clocks can be a little deceiving sometimes.
This seems to be turning into one of those days that crawls along interminably. Isn't that always the way when you're waiting for something? I've been trying to keep busy, but for once, the infirmary is empty and I've relegated myself to examining various specimens of one bodily fluid or another, test results, cell counts, the list goes on. And on. And on. Busy work.
It's not working.
I hate microscopes. And paperwork. And taxes. And…
Well, aren't I just the little ray of sunshine, today? I really wish Sam would get home, already.
There's suddenly a knock on my door, and I look up startled. One of the very last people I expected to see is standing at the threshold. I thought I heard the klaxons a while ago…
"Colonel. You're back. I'm sorry, I didn't realize… No one called me," I say, trying to put my paperwork in order. I expect him to say something, but he just stands there, clad in damp and muddy BDU's, looking at me… like something's on the tip of his tongue. Oh, no…
"Oh, no…" I breathe. He lowers his head and shakes it a bit. I take a deep breath. "Colonel…"
"Come on," he interrupts. I just sit there motionless, not quite sure what to do.
"Come on, we ship out in five minutes." Colonel O'Neill gives me a meaningful look and waves
me to stand. I comply and follow him out of the office. God, what's happened…
"Colonel… please…" I say. I can't believe that's my voice. "What's going on?"
We're in the corridor, now, and he's a good few steps ahead of me. He stops abruptly and turns back to face me. I stop, too.
"I hear you've been spending some time in the gym," he says, then continues walking again. Much slower, this time, so that me and my short little legs can keep up.
"Carter says you kicked her ass last week."
"Well, I wouldn't quite put it that way… Colonel, with all due respect, are you getting to a point?"
"You've been spending some time on the range, too."
"Colonel, *please* would you tell me what's going on!" I nearly shout. He stops and lightly grabs my shoulder, trying to calm me down, no doubt.
"The *point*, Doctor, is whether or not you can hold your own off world. I want you on this mission, but if you have *any* doubts…"
"Colonel, I can't tell you anything if you don't tell me anything," I reply, straight-faced and serious. He sees it. We're walking again.
"Carter and Teal'c were scouting a ridge a couple miles from the gate. There was a cloudburst… and a landslide. We couldn't find them before the storm got too bad."
"So they're still back there." I ask. He hesitates and takes a deep breath. It had to have been so hard for him to leave…
"Was there any contact? The radios…"
"Nope." Colonel O'Neill shoves his hands deep into his pockets.
We enter the elevator in silence. The Colonel takes his right hand out of his pocket just long enough to hit the button for level 28, then stuffs it back down. "Look, Janet…" He begins softly. If he was any other man, someone I respected any less, I would have been angry, irate… I would have balled up my fist and pummeled him to within an inch of his life for leaving my Sam behind. If I didn't know how much he cares about her and Daniel, Teal'c, and me, even… I would have shouted and screamed and made him feel guilty for it.
Instead, I just nod my head and accept his apology for what I know it is.
"There really wasn't anything we could do… we couldn't see, the ground was unstable…" he goes on. I put my hand on his arm and smile. He's trying to convince himself more than he is me, I think.
He knows about us. The whole team does, although, they're about the only ones. Sam insisted that we tell them right off the bat, and I agreed. They're her family… and mine, now, and they deserved to know. To tell the truth, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It makes me feel better to know that they're all watching out for her for me. That they, at least, know how I would grieve if anything happened to her. They'd be the *only* ones to know *why*.
"It's okay," I whisper. I didn't realize I was so close to tears. "We'll find them."
"Yes, we will. Glad you'll be with us."
"Wouldn't miss it," I reply as the doors open. We step through and make our way to the locker room.
* * * * * *
The Colonel doesn't bother changing his clothes, citing the fact that they'd be wet again within a few seconds of being back on PJS-181, so he graciously points me in the direction of Sam's locker, as if I didn't know where it was, and tells me to grab a spare set of BDU's before closing the door behind him. Granted, they'd be way too big for me, but it's nothing a few rolled cuffs can't fix.
And they smell like her, even though they're clean, not yet worn. They've been folded up in her locker and her locker smells like her, and now I smell like her…
God, I want her home *now*.
Dressing in record time and quickly braiding my hair, I leave the locker room to find the Colonel leaning against the wall of the corridor, resting his eyes.
"Colonel," I say softly. He slowly opens his eyes and nods.
We walk briskly and silently to the gateroom, stopping only for a moment at the armory to get me an MP-5 and sidearm, and when we arrive, I see that we're a little late to the party. Daniel, Ferretti, and the General are already assembled at the bottom of the Gate. The wormhole is already open.
"The MALP shows that the rain has let up quite a bit, Sir," Sergeant Davis informs us through the microphone. Hammond nods in his direction then turns to the Colonel, Ferretti, Daniel, and I.
"There's not exactly time for a formal briefing here, and I know you're all anxious to get back and retrieve Teal'c and Major Carter. Be careful, people. Good luck," he says, his posture perfectly erect, as usual, and his hands bunched up into fists. I get the feeling that this is one of those missions he wishes he was going on, too. He hates waiting at home as much as I do.
As a group, the four of us, having yet to speak a word to each other, move up the ramp, followed by the FRED, laden with supplies, medical and otherwise. I hadn't even noticed until now that Ferretti's wearing the huge remote for the rover. Daniel goes through first, followed by O'Neill. Ferretti is waiting to direct the FRED through, but I stop abruptly and he swears as he nearly drives the robot into my butt. I just thought of something…
"Sir!" I turn around quickly and address the General.
"Doctor, is there a problem?"
"I… I didn't have a chance to call home…"
Hammond smiles at that and nods. He understands, and I relax.
"I'll see to it that Cassandra is informed of the situation, Doctor. Don't worry."
"Thank you, Sir. I appreciate it."
"Um… Doctor?" Louis asks. I turn back toward the Gate.
"I know, I'm going…" I reply, and step though the Gate. I don't know how Sam does this all the time…
* * * * * *
I step out of the wormhole on the other side, freezing and shaking, thanking the powers that be that I barely ever have to do this. It's raining. Hard. If this is the rain 'letting up', I'd hate to have been here earlier.
And Sam and Teal'c are out there somewhere. Soaked to the bone, cold, hurt, maybe dying. Oh,
"Which way?" I ask, trying to get things moving along. I have energy to burn, right now… adrenaline concentrating and penetrating every part of my body, practically dripping from my fingertips along with the rainwater. I want to run to her, teleport myself to wherever she is and hold her and make her warm and whisper sweet nothings in her ear to lull her to sleep. God, I wanna cry…
"Over this way," Daniel replies, pointing at the horizon to our right. A ridge, just like the Colonel described. Daniel starts walking and Ferretti and I follow. The Colonel lags behind a couple of steps, and I can hear him speaking into his radio, trying to raise them again. My heart pounds as he keeps trying, and it just thumps harder and harder as he gets nothing but static in return. He swears under his breath, and I second the motion.
"How long, exactly, has it been since your last contact with them?" I ask, trying to focus. Much as I'd like to wish it was the case, I'm not here to be a frightened, worried, and fretting significant other, I'm here as a doctor. To do my job.
"Four hours," the Colonel replies, putting his radio away and catching up to walk next to me.
"We need to find them. Soon. Much more time passes, and we'll be dealing with serious exposure issues along with whatever injuries occurred during the initial landslide."
"No kidding," the Colonel huffs. Before I can think about it, I'm throwing him a dirty look and I think he actually cowers. "Sorry," he mumbles, and lowers his eyes.
"'S okay," I reply softly. "I mean it, though, Colonel." He doesn't say anything, but trudges ahead toward Daniel.
"Shit. Colonel? This… thing isn't gonna cut it out here. Suggest we shoulder what we can, and leave FRED here for the time being," Ferretti says over the sound of the rain, struggling with FRED's remote control unit. The rover is having difficulty navigating through the thick shin-deep mud covering the ground. The bipedal members of the group are having a hard enough time walking with any speed, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that we could make better time without it.
"Fine. Doc, grab what you need, and we'll split it up between us," the Colonel responds. We do as he says, me picking out pieces of vital equipment and distributing them among the three men with me.
* * * * * *
Thirty minutes later, we're cresting the ridge. I'm soaked to the bone, I've squished and slurped my way through a field of shin-deep mud with a pack on that weighs as much as I do, and… And there is *nothing* here. No sign of them, no tracks, no discarded equipment, no… bodies… nothing at all, except mud and water streaming through and over it, puddling at the bottom of the mucky basin. Lot's of water, more and more flowing into the pool by the second…
"Oh my God," I whisper, momentarily stunned by the idea of Sam and Teal'c being down there… drowning, buried alive… I wriggle hastily out of my pack and slide down the steep hill, pin wheeling my arms in a desperate attempt to remain vertical. Within seconds, I'm hearing Daniel, the Colonel, and Ferretti all shouting and slipping after me, and then I'm underwater. It didn't look quite this deep from the top.
I'm not even thinking anymore. Instead of doing the sensible thing and pushing back up to the surface to breathe and regroup, I pump the water, breast-stroking, trying to go a little deeper. I don't open my eyes… the water's too dark to see anything anyway. I wave my hands out in front of me as I swim along the bottom, probing and reaching, hoping for- and against- finding anything.
My lungs start to burn, starved for air, and I give up for the moment, and start reaching for the surface, but I can't open my eyes… it's taking too long… I should be there by now… I start to panic, and try to resist the urge to breathe in a mouthful of water for a few more seconds, then I feel strong fingers curling around the fabric of the back of my jacket. And I'm surfacing, being pulled up by my collar, and other than taking a deep, staggered breath, all I can think of is…
"Do you see anything? Did anybody find anything? Colonel, Daniel… look! We have to…" I stutter, only to be interrupted mid-thought by a firm shake.
"Doc! Stop it!" the Colonel shouts, but I pull away, diving under the water again. I rake my fingers through the mud at the bottom and snag something. I can tell without looking what it is. I quickly wrap the chain around my wrist and continue searching, only to feel a strong tug at the heel of my left boot. Before I can do anything about it, my hands are yanked away from the mud and I'm being pulled back to the surface against my will. I found one thing, there has to be more.
My head breaks the surface, and my formerly free-floating wisps of loose hair cling to my face and obscure my vision. I struggle against the arms wrapping around my waist, pinning my arms to my sides, and kick out.
"Doc, for crying out loud, give it up!" The Colonel's speech is labored and I freeze, his unspoken words suddenly becoming achingly apparent to me.
*If they were trapped down there, it's too late now.*
God, it's too late now. It's too late. It's too late. If they were down there, it's too late. Too late. I was too late.
"NOOO!" I scream, and I try to pull away again. "We have to keep trying. They're somewhere else, they've got to be somewhere else! We'll look somewhere else! Colonel! Let go! Let me go!"
God, I'm sobbing.
"Janet! Janet, stop." Daniel, this time. He's helping the Colonel keep me in line, now. His voice is remarkably soft and soothing, hard to believe I can hear him over the sound of my splashing and the rain, which has lightened considerably. "Would you just look for a second…" he says, grabbing my wrist. My wrist.
Daniel is standing nearly up to his neck in water. He pulls my wrist up so I can look at the silver plates he's holding between his fingers. The Colonel's arms are still tightly circled around my waist and infinite seconds later, sighing loudly, Daniel holds one of them up to my face. I squint through waterlogged eyes.
The dog tags belong to Major Samantha Carter.
"Oh, God," the Colonel groans behind me, as he realizes just what that means. A few feet to our right, Louis pops his head up out of the water. I'm surprised that I still have the presence of mind to look over in his direction.
"Colonel," he gasps as he starts flapping his arms and trudging through the water. He's holding a muddy, almost unrecognizable shaft in his hand. *Almost* unrecognizable. It's a GDO.
I can't escape it. They were here. Were. Past tense. If they were here long enough for Sam to loose her tags, to loose a GDO, they were here long enough to drown. I can't feel my legs. I can't feel my head or my hands. And it's not because of the numbing cold of the water.
They're dead. Teal'c and Sam are dead. Sam is dead.
I go limp in Colonel O'Neill's arms and whimper quietly, my tears mingling with the raindrops streaming down my face. We're moving, turning, and heading back toward the slope of the ridge, and the Colonel is pulling me up through the mud, swearing like a sailor as he does. Daniel and Ferretti climb up next to us, and we all flop down in the mud, not really caring that our entire bodies are being covered with the sticky substance.
"Uh… Colonel…" Louis says reluctantly. Between sniffles, I can see him looking around warily.
O'Neill swears again.
"Shit, Lou. What the hell is it, now?"
"We've got company, Sir."
I look up, and sure enough, a group of shifty looking natives is surrounding us. Ten or fifteen nearly naked men bearing remarkably advanced looking weapons. No spears or bows for these guys.
Daniel sighs, and stands up slowly, pulling his glasses off his face. They're covered with water anyway. The rest of us remain perfectly still.
"Hello…" he says, his voice strong and controlled, despite what I know he's feeling right now. Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet. He's just not used to the idea of them being… not here anymore. "I'm Daniel Jackson, and this is…"
One of the natives tightens his grip on his weapon and levels it with Daniel's chest. He does something with his hands and the weapon fires, shooting intertwining arcs of bright yellow and green energy, and Daniel goes down in a fit of convulsions. His body curls in on itself as he slinks and splashes into the water.
The Colonel jerks in response, but thinks better of any action. The native who shot Daniel nods his head at some of his cohorts and one of them moves down the slope to pull Daniel's motionless body out of the water. Another discharges his weapon, shooting Ferretti. O'Neill tightens his grip on my shoulder. He's uncharacteristically silent.
The head native nods again, and time slows down, allowing me to see all of the colors subtly wrapped within the green and yellow of the energy beam. It's a dancing rainbow, waltzing toward me. I reflexively try to move, but the time warp in my head isn't kind enough to extend to include the rest of my body, and it hits, sucking the air from my lungs and the clarity from my mind.
** ** ** **
Daniel and the Colonel are sitting over in a corner talking quietly. Well, Daniel's talking, O'Neill is just sitting there. Ferretti's in the opposite corner from them, his knees pulled up to his chest, his forehead resting on them. I'm lying right where I was dropped. I haven't moved. I can't bring myself to move. I've just been lying here on my back staring at the designs in the ceiling.
"I'm worried about her," I hear Daniel whisper quietly. The Colonel doesn't say anything. "She hasn't moved in hours," Daniel continues.
"Yeah, well… she's got a lot on her mind," O'Neill finally speaks up.
"You know, Jack… maybe the same thing happened to them. They might still be around here somewhere, alive… If these guys found us, they might have found Teal'c and Sam, too."
"Just keep those positive thoughts coming, Daniel."
We're in a small room. A box, more accurately. The walls are smooth, like marble or granite, and the only seams are the edges of a small, rectangular door. Sans knob, of course.
There are no windows. No PJS-181. No night or day. No weather. No time.
I could lift my arm and look at my watch, but clocks are so deceiving. It's not worth the trouble.
// "Sam? Honey, we've been here for hours. What time is it?" I'd asked, last Sunday at the mall. I was having a little trouble getting Sam out of Radio Shack. She mumbled something incoherent.
"What?" I asked.
"Two hairs past a freckle," she said absently, but a little louder so I could hear. She was barely paying attention to me, rather she was absorbed in her exploration of a wall of packaged wiring. She was looking for some specific… "Y" thingy… that was supposed to connect one kind of speaker to another kind of receiver… or something.
"Two hairs past…" I mumbled, completely lost. Without looking up, Sam lifted her left wrist for me.
"No watch, babe," she said, and I just stood there for a minute, mouth hanging open, before I got the joke. //
"Two hairs past a freckle," I say, starting to giggle. Ha. Two hairs… who needs a watch…
"Uh… Doc…" I hear the Colonel say.
"Janet…" Daniel says.
"Je-sus…" Louis pops his head up from his corner.
And then the door decides to put in its two cents by sliding outward. It doesn't swing, it just… goes away, leaving a gaping black hole where it used to be. Jack, Daniel, and Louis all stand up, and I sit up too, though it's primarily a reflex action.
Six of the native men, now fully clothed, duck and enter the room. Daniel pulls me to my feet. We all remain silent, remembering what happened the last time Daniel tried to open communications. They're not carrying weapons, this time. But then, neither are we.
"You will come," the tallest one says gruffly. Behind me, I can feel the Colonel tense and Daniel puts his hand lightly to my elbow.
"And why should we do that?" the Colonel asks, taking a few confident steps forward. The tall one blinks, then nods his head, and before I can comprehend what's going on, Ferretti is falling to the ground with a bloody nose and Daniel's head is smacking against the wall closest to him, courtesy of two lightning fast alien goons. Apparently, these guys don't really *need* weapons to get their way.
The Colonel huffs, but suppresses the urge to see to one of his fallen men. In fact, he tugs at my arm when I automatically move to check on Louis, stopping me in my tracks. He gently shakes his head 'no' when I look up at him, questioning. I glance over at Daniel first, then Louis, and see that they're both slowly standing, more stunned than seriously injured. But the point was made.
"Where?" O'Neill asks quietly, dejectedly. Ferretti and Daniel both shoot him looks. The Tall One smiles with a look of such satisfied glee that I want to throw up at the sight of it. By their responses, I think the others feel the same way. The Tall One gestures toward the door with that universal 'after you' pose, and one by one, we follow.
Outside our box, the world doesn't change much. The same stone makes up a long, narrow hallway. There's only room enough for us to walk single file, at the bequest of one of the natives. He leads us at a quick pace through the corridors, and I loose all sense of direction as we go. I have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Daniel is right in front of me, the Colonel right behind me, and Ferretti behind him. The entire group is silent as we walk for what seems like an eternity. I zone out and miss the fact that Daniel has stopped. If the Colonel hadn't grabbed my shoulder and stopped me, I probably would have kept walking right through him.
The guy leading us turns to his left and another door seems to open spontaneously. He ducks and enters the dark-looking room. Daniel moves to follow, but another one of our new friends stops him with an arm across his chest. He shakes his head, then points to me. This does not look good.
"Not you… You."
Daniel looks back at me, his jaw dropping slightly. He doesn't know what to do. "Jack?" he asks.
"I don't think so, buddy. We stay together." The Tall One actually laughs at the Colonel. Something that doesn't happen often. People just don't laugh at Jack O'Neill. The Colonel raises his eyebrows at Daniel and Daniel nods ever so slightly. Daniel gives some kind of sideways smile to Ferretti, then smiles at me. I'm suddenly feeling a little out of the loop.
In the next couple of seconds, any questions I'd had about the little moment of silent communication among the group are answered. Daniel swings around and hits the guy who opened the door with an impressive right hook, and Ferretti butts his head back into the guard right behind him. The Colonel goes straight for the face of the Tall One. Feeling a little left out, I help myself to the guard nearest me… haven't been spending all that time in the gym with… Sam… for nothing.
For a split second, in true life-flashing-before-your-eyes form, I see Sam, smiling, laughing, happy at home, in bed… then a vision of her on this god-forsaken planet, drowning in a mucky, dark pool of muddy water so very far away from home, from the people who love her. I can see her and Teal'c fighting for survival… then I see them lying motionless, not knowing what was happening… unconscious, unaware of their impending doom. I have rarely felt so enraged in my life.
I shout something that I don't even understand myself and heartily knee the guy next to me in the groin. Hugely satisfying. He doubles over in pain and I follow up with a fist to his nose. If the situation weren't so dire, I really think I'd be smiling at the feel of cartilage being mangled. So much for the Hippocratic oath.
I move to strike my opponent again, expecting to get a piece of his cheekbone, but he anticipates my move, and catches my fist. He moves fast and pulls my arm around behind my back, hard. I scream at the pain of my arm practically being pulled out of its socket, and the mayhem around me dies down. My team startles at the sound of my voice, and my eyes tear as my captor swings me around and throws me through the still open door.
In the hall, I can hear Daniel call my name. As I scramble to my feet, I see him briefly through the door and run toward it, only to have it rematerialize in my face, sealing me in and my friends out.
"No! Goddamnit, no!" I slam into the door, pounding on it, screaming for someone to let me out of this dark little box, but I doubt anyone can hear me. It was loud during the fight in the hall, and the second the door closed, my world went silent.
So, these guys are good at making quality insulation. Should hire them to do my weather stripping.
I kick at the general vicinity of the door again. It's almost pitch black in here, though, so I can't even tell if I'm in the ballpark with my… toe-breaking… rather painful gesture of futility. Great. Just frickin' fantastic.
I step away from the door a few paces, my eyes starting to adjust to the darkness. This room appears to be about the same size as the last one and just as… Spartan. I spin around slowly, familiarizing myself with the space, but within minutes, the last several hours seem to catch up with me.
I fold. I slink to the ground slowly and crawl over to the corner on the wall with the door. I curl myself up into a tight ball, suddenly feeling incredibly cold. Longing for the warmth of my bed, wishing the mud and rain hadn't washed the Sam-smell out of her fatigues that I'm wearing.
I wonder where the guys are right now? Did they stick them all in solitary as well? Hmph. Maybe this is just one of those misogynistic cultures that seem so numerous. How many times has Sam regaled me with stories about her sitting in a tent or house somewhere alone or with a group of demure women while the guys were out partying?
Odd, how the guys having fun at a big males-only bash while I'm sitting here all by myself, is the best case scenario, so far as I can figure. I don't really want to start thinking of the worst case.
Instead, I think about home.
I think about Cassie coming home from school to find an Airman waiting for her on the porch.
Or maybe, the General would go himself. He would be sitting on the front steps in his dress jacket, playing with his hat, head down with his elbows on his knees. She'd surprise him as she walks up the sidewalk, her jangling keys waking him from whatever he'd been thinking about.
"General Hammond? What are you doing here?" she'd ask. And he'd look up, his face sad.
"Cassandra…" he'd say, standing up. Cassie's a smart girl, and she'd know that something's wrong. She'd nod her head and let them both into the house. He'd ask her to sit down. Her hands are shaking.
"Cassie, I'm so sorry to have to tell you this…"
He'd quietly tell her from the sofa, or a chair at the kitchen table, about how SG-1 had come home incomplete. That Sam was missing, but they thought she was okay. That Teal'c was with her, but they couldn't find them. So he sent SG-1 back, sent me with them to find her and Teal'c, to save them.
He'd tell her about how we never came home. How they couldn't find us. That all they'd found was the FRED, abandoned a hundred yards from the Gate. MIA, he'd call us. He'd say that didn't mean they gave up searching, but Cassie wouldn't take that. She'd push her chair away from the table, startling them both with the noise, and then she'd run up the stairs to cry and throw her tantrum of grief alone. She might even crawl into my bed, our bed… like I so wish I could do now.
The thought of Cassandra being alone chokes me up, breaks my heart, and I don't even try to stop the tears from rolling down my face. They're hot, and warm me up. Comfort me with their realness. I imagine Sam calling my name, melting into my arms at home. I try and touch her in my mind, try to caress her face, weave my fingers between hers, kiss her, roll her tongue around in my mouth gently, tasting her, smelling her.
But she's already fading, and all of the sudden, I'm mourning. She's gone, slipping away from me as though I was witnessing her death as it happened, and I sob quietly and pitifully, crying over the memories that are already disappearing, no matter how hard I try to hold them close.
If she's not going to be there, I don't think I even want to go home. If it wasn't for Cassie, I don't think I'd even try.
"Goddamn fucking son of a bitch!" I scream at the top of my lungs. Soundproof can be a good thing. "What the hell next?" I plead softly with the darkness. "What the hell next?"
And as if mocking me with the ridiculousness of it's timing, I can hear the door swoosh softly open.
I rise immediately to my feet, my thoughts forgotten and replaced by an inexplicable need to run. Right now, I feel as though I'm capable of doing *anything* to get out, to get the guys, and get *home* to my little girl. I take a quick, deep breath as someone ducks his hooded head and enters my dark little room. The door swooshes shut.
I silently move over toward him. He's looking around, but his eyes haven't adjusted yet, and I know I have the advantage. I clasp my hands in front of me and creep up on him, raising my arms above my head.
I breathe and he hears me, begins to turn, and I make my move, striking down at the base of his neck in classic James T. Kirk fighting form. My strike connects and he grunts loudly and with an unusually high pitch. He slumps to the ground, but doesn't stay put, as I'd hoped. Instead, I sense a motion below me and realize too late, that he's lashing out with a low roundhouse kick to my knees.
My legs buckle with the impact and I go down, falling hard on my back. I struggle to catch my breath that had been forced out of my lungs as I try to roll over and away from him. I stifle a scream as I feel fingers scrabbling at my feet, fighting to find purchase on my heel as I kick out against them.
A hand curls around my right ankle, and I can't remember ever being quite this afraid. "HELP!" I scream, as another hand grabs at the front of my collar, and in the silence immediately following my yell, I hear it echo, and I hear a sharp intake of breath.
The image of a face begins to develop out of the darkness in front of me. Hovering over me. Fair skin, blue eyes, and the occasional short strand of blonde hair poking out from underneath the hood. Oh, God.
"Janet," the face whispers, a statement, not a question, in a voice that can say so much with a single, simple word. I freeze and grunt out a small sob. Neither of us moves at first. We just kind of stare at each other for a moment. I'm not quite sure if it's real or not, to tell the truth. "God, Janet…" she says softly. God, she's actually got tears in her eyes. "I can't believe you're here."
"Me?" I whisper. "Sam, we thought… baby, I thought you were dead." My voice is barely audible, even to my own ears. But Sam is so close to me now that I know she could hear the smallest breath. I finally move, pull my arm away from my side and gently push the hood away from her face to touch her cheek. She leans down and presses her lips to mine with such urgency that I want to weep.
I deepen the kiss, wrapping my arms around her neck and shoulders, then we slowly part and she sits up, pulling me with her. We clutch at each other as she cradles me, moving to lean up against the wall. I snuggle up against her and she finds my hand, gripping it tightly, and I revel in her feel. In her smell. The slightest remnants of Noxzema and coconut, and I can't help but smile.
She tightens her grip on me and gently kisses my neck, sighing. For a fleeting instant, I wish we could just sit here in the dark together for the rest of our lives.
"Teal'c?" I ask, the sound of my voice reverberating softly around the room… a chorus of little Janets filling the space and making me feel just a bit less isolated.
"He's who I was looking for, actually," Sam sighs. I turn my head to look at her as she speaks. Her eyes lock onto mine, seriously. Despite the fact that she's holding me in a beautiful, loving, comforting embrace, the woman's all business.
"They separated us," she continues. "There was a mudslide… and not the yummy mocha kind." She smiles at me. She's trying to lighten the mood… what an angel. I smile back.
"Anyway, it was raining so hard… it was too slick and we were kinda… stuck in a big ditch and then… well, a bunch of half-naked guys with some interesting weapons surrounded us and then I woke up in a room a lot like this one."
"How'd you get out?" I ask. Her eyes wander away from mine and she's got this odd little smile on her face. Hmmm… "Sam?" I ask in a mock warning tone. "What did you do?"
"Ah… took advantage of my enemy's weaknesses…" she says with a sly grin, and suddenly I'm flashing back to an interesting little scene in a holding cell reminiscent of a 'women behind bars movie.'
"How do you think I got these snazzy duds?" she quips, and bad, icky thoughts that I don't like thinking rush to my brain. I'm pretty sure they flash across my face, too, because Sam quickly starts shaking her head and hugs me tighter.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Janet. I knocked the guy out." My sigh of relief is positively palpable.
"So what now?" I ask. She's silent as she thinks for a moment.
"Who was with you?"
"Well, Colonel O'Neill and Daniel, obviously, and Major Ferretti. We've got to find them, and Teal'c. But how?" I reply, scooting away so I could face her without further strain to my neck. I turn in time to see her produce something from a fold in her robe. I question her with my eyes.
"Came with the outfit," she answers. "Kinda like a… universal garage door opener. A skeleton key."
"Which is how you got in here."
"Right. And…" she stands up and ventures out in the vicinity of the door as best she can in the darkness. I rise to join her. "Hopefully…" she mutters. I can't see her so well, anymore, but I can hear her fiddling with the object in her hand. "How we get out," she finishes triumphantly, as the door slides quietly away.
"Bingo." Sam grins at me and I step over to squeeze her hand. She nods her head in the direction of the hall. A 'let's go' gesture, and I take the hint. I let go of her hand and follow her into the much brighter corridor. Hoping things keep looking up.
"So…" I whisper, as we hug the walls of the narrow hall, traveling slowly around what seems to be a very large complex. "Got a radio?"
"How long are your fingernails? Can they do any damage?"
Sam turns to look at me as we approach a junction in the corridors, grinning. "Sorry, clipped 'em yesterday."
"So… sounds like we're in *stunning* shape, darling. What exactly was the plan?"
"What, you expect me to do *everything*?"
"You should take it as a compliment. I have the utmost faith in you."
"Why?" I ask innocently. Sam throws me a panicked look before slapping her hand hard over my mouth. Someone's coming. Ah. Makes sense to shut up, then. A few feet ahead of us, there's an intersection of corridors, and within seconds, I can clearly hear the footsteps and muffled voices of a small group of people. God, please don't let them turn, please don't let them turn…
I look up at Sam, whose face is tight with concentration. She feels me looking at her and I shoot her a puzzled look. I can't imagine what could possibly have her attention so absorbed. It's not fear on her face, it's… a confident knowledge. As the group in the adjacent corridor gets louder and closer, Sam mouths the word 'Teal'c.' I nod, trusting her instincts. She said she'd been looking for him when she found her. She must have been trying to hone in on Junior to get into his general vicinity, so it would follow that he was nearby.
Sure enough, when the little group walks by, we see Teal'c flanked by four of the natives. He very smoothly sneaks a peak at us, somehow knowing and acknowledging that we're there, then turns his head back to face front. Their footsteps move steadily away, and I finally breathe again and peel myself away from the wall we'd been clinging to for its rather low security value.
Beside me, I hear Sam draw in a quick breath and I look up at her. Her eyes are narrowed and focused and I smile, knowing she's finally got a plan. Without speaking, she grabs my wrist and leans out to look down the corridor Teal'c's group was traveling down and starts to follow, both of us pretty much sliding along the wall, drifting into every alcove and perpendicular corridor to hide.
* * * * * *
This complex seems to go on forever. Granted, that's probably just an idea I've planted into my own head… the psychological response to the physical exhaustion I'm beginning to experience. But it's not like I can just plop down and rest. God knows I've thought about it, though. I mean, how easy would it be to just sit myself down and wait for someone to throw me back into one of those nice dark little cells where I can at least get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep?
God, stop *whining*, Janet. You don't see Sam complaining, do you?
With that thought, I look up at Sam's face just in time to see her try to hide a rather spectacular yawn. She looks down at me and does kind of a double-take when she sees me watching her.
"Sorry," she whispers with a grin. I smile back.
We're fine. This is fine. Everything's going to be fine.
Sam peeks around the corner and tugs lightly at my wrist again, signaling an all-clear. Every time we duck out of sight of Teal's little entourage, we end up trailing them a little further back. It's slow going, but as long as we don't lose him altogether, everything should be fine.
"We just need to know where he's ending up, then we can find him again, if we have to," Sam says quietly. I nod and look back down at the toes of my boots, reminding myself to tread softly with every step. We're not so far behind that a couple of loud footfalls will go unnoticed.
I glance up again, to check out exactly where we are in relation to the people we're following and a shiver runs involuntarily down my spine. There's something wrong, but I can't quite put my finger on it. My feet want to stop until I've figured out what it is, but, sensing my hesitance, Sam pulls on my wrist and shoots me a puzzled look. I gasp as I suddenly realize what it is and grab her shoulder, pulling her with me into an adjacent hall.
"One's missing," I whisper to her hurriedly. Her eyes widen and she cranes her neck out to see for herself. She visibly deflates as the implications of a missing guard sink in.
"Crap," she sighs, flattening herself back out against the wall. She shuts her eyes and wrinkles her brow, bringing her hands up and massaging her temples with her fingers.
"Sam…" I whisper, putting a hand on her shoulder. She opens her eyes and runs a hand through her hair. She shrugs my hand away.
"Come on. We can't stay here," Sam says sharply, surprising me a bit with her tone.
"Where are we gonna go?" I counter, trying to sound in-control. My first instinct is to be uncomfortable with the woman I'm talking to right now. Her mannerisms, her distance and focus are unnerving… so contrary to the Sam that comes home with me.
"We backtrack. Either they know we're following them and that missing guard went to get reinforcements, or it's just coincidence. Frankly, I don't want to wait around to find out. We stay out of sight, for now. Try to get our hands on some weapons."
"Then what?" I ask, before I can stop myself. Stupid question…
"Then what? What do you mean, 'then what?' I'm doing the best I can here, Janet," Sam snaps.
Yup… stupid question.
"Sorry," I whisper. Her face softens only slightly and she opens her mouth as if to speak, but changes her mind. Instead, she just gives me a tiny little smile. I understand, though. We don't exactly have time for this right now.
Sam looks out into the main corridor once again to make sure the coast is clear, then freezes and backs up, lightly touching my arm. I back up slowly in response, and her touches become more frantic, panicked… She pushes me back hard then reaches into a pocket and pulls out the door opener, shoving it into my hand. Without looking back, she says, "Run." Sam pushes at me again with her fingertips, and I run.
** ** ** **
Don't look back, Janet. Don't look back… You won't do anybody any good if you get yourself captured, too. Don't look back…
I'm running full-out, but as quietly as I can. The corridor I'm in is darker than the others, but my eyes adjust quickly, and a darker spot to my side catches my eye. I skid to a near stop and turn into the room, but it turns out to be another hallway. I don't stop running, but just keep going, almost in a panic. I don't want to stop. My only thought is to get as far away as I can. To not get caught.
If anything, Sam would shoot me herself if *that* happened.
I finally twist my head to look behind me as I turn a corner, thinking I heard voices and footsteps behind me, but I don't see anything, and turn my head back to front just in time to run right into a wall.
"Ow… shit…" I hiss as I slide down to the floor, blinking hard and trying to stop the ringing in my ears. "Owww…" Boy, how much more graceful could I get?
The lights come on and I'm blinded by the sudden white brightness. The light seems to be coming from everywhere, emanating from nowhere in particular, but reflecting off the smooth white stone walls. I squint my eyes shut and crawl along the floor, feeling for an opening or seam along the wall. I touch what feels like a uniform crack and fumble for the remote Sam gave me, hoping for luck as I hear faint mumblings from the way I came.
Sure enough, the next time I feel for the crack, my fingers touch nothing but open air. I slit my eyes open just a bit, just so I don't bump into any other really hard things, then scurry into the room I just opened. The door slides shut behind me and I scoot around to lean against the wall right next to the door, holding my breath. I feel deaf, unable to hear if there are footsteps just outside… If I made a mistake by locking myself into another cell, just waiting to be found.
I exhale slowly, trying to calm down. Hyperventilating was going to help no one fast. I sit against the wall-thank goodness this room is a lot dimmer than the hall-and start looking around.
Hmm… wall… wall… olive drab jacket with SG-1 patch… wall… half naked guy sprawled in a corner…
No freaking way. Of all the dumb luck in the world…
They guy Sam must have knocked out for his clothes begins to stir, moaning softly. I stand up fast, ignoring the inordinate amount of blood rushing into my head and through my ears, eyes, temples… ow… What to do, what to do…
I end up just standing there. He groans again, and starts to get up on all fours, squinting against the pain in his head. I can see a huge red lump forming at the base of his skull. He hasn't seen me yet.
I hug the wall with my back, slowly and silently inching toward the door, fingering the controls to open it. It slides open quietly, but the small bit of noise it makes is enough to draw my new friend's attention. I ignore him for the moment, as he doesn't really seem up to making a scene just yet, and poke my head around the corner of the door frame. The voices are closer…
I shut my eyes trying to think. Trying to choose the lesser of two evils.
My eyes snap open as I hear my friend start moving around faster. He jumps to his feet and starts running unsteadily for the open door. Which would require, of course, running right past me. I pull the remote up to my face and frantically play with the buttons… close the damn door… just close it! Yes! It slides shut just before he gets there. I can't help but smile… but that quickly fades as my friend grunts and turns his attention toward me.
All his attention.
He rushes me and I drop the remote, instinctively falling back. He's not as big as most of the other guys I've seen here, but he's a lot bigger than me. And faster, too. He takes a swing at me, and I duck and roll out of the way and scamper over to another corner. He stops and watches me for a moment, then looks down at the floor where I dropped the door opener. He grins at me, then leans down to pick it up.
Stupid, Janet! Dumb, dumb, dumb! I take a deep breath, then run toward him, tackling him to the ground with all my weight, which really isn't much. My attack barely fazes him, and I find myself hanging on around his neck as he stands back up, holding the remote in one hand and trying to unclasp my hands with the other. He swings around, biting my fingers at the same time, flinging me out against the wall. I get up as fast as I can and run at him again. Have to get that remote away from him… But he leans into my attack and throws me deftly over his shoulder, out the now open door, and against the opposite wall of the corridor, knocking the wind out of me.
I gasp for breath as he stalks out of the room and pulls me up by my lapels. He lifts me up and pushes me against the wall, slamming the back of my head into it a few times, just for fun. He looks back into the cell behind him and sees Sam's jacket lying on the floor, then examines mine, an odd, knowing smirk crossing his face as he notes the similarities. He pounds me into the wall again and I grunt painfully, not yet having enough air in my lungs to cough.
I claw at his arm with my fingernails, but he barely even notices as his hands migrate toward my neck, choking me with bruising strength.
"Where is that wench?" he demands through gritted teeth, as though he expects me to be able to answer. I stop trying to scratch his arms, but just try to hang on instead, trying to alleviate the growing pressure on my neck as he lifts me off my feet. My heels scrabble at the wall behind me, trying to find some purchase, but failing. He lifts higher and I kick out with my right foot, scoring a shot to his groin. He drops me as he doubles over.
From my prone position on the floor, I see the discarded remote between his feet and make a grab for it before he starts feeling better. I crawl frantically a few yards before finally getting to my feet, running aimlessly as I hear him start to follow. I turn a corner and head back into the main corridor, completely exposing myself before I remember why I was hiding in the first place.
Sure enough, the search party I feared was following me, is there in the corridor. Facing the opposite direction. I gasp, momentarily frozen, as though if I don't move, they won't see me. I pivot and run away from the backs of the five searching men, not really caring anymore whether they hear me. Frankly, I'm more interested in waking up from this nightmare. It's like one of those horrible dreams where you run and run, but never get anywhere.
They do hear me, and start shooting, though I don't dare look back. I can only hope that they're bad shots when it comes to moving targets. I try to weave a little bit, to throw off their aim, but I only end up stumbling, falling hard on my hands and knees just as a shot from one of those energy weapons buzzes over the top of my head. I stay low, leaning down even as I get to my feet, trying to run while staying as small as I possibly can.
I hit a t-junction and reach a hand out to the wall to steady myself as I turn gracelessly toward the left fork and my arm gets caught for a second by one of the energy bursts. It hurts! Dammit, that hurts! I stumble again, and almost fall, as I cradle my numb left arm close to my chest. At least it wasn't a bullet.
They're shouting at me to stop, and I almost do. It would be so easy, wouldn't it? To just stop, turn around, and put my hands in the air. To surrender. I don't stop, though. I don't even take the time to try and open another door, to hide… they're so close behind me, still firing. I turn one more corner and take a deep breath, then look up.
I stop dead in my tracks.
"Stand down, Major."
I just stand there, staring blankly at Colonel O'Neill, panting and cradling my arm. We just stare at each other for a moment, the Colonel's eyes boring into mine, ordering me without even needing words, just to stay still. To let the men who were chasing me catch up and surround me, prodding me with the barrels of their weapons. To stop fighting, so that the man behind O'Neill, holding a knife to Sam's throat, wouldn't see fit to flick his wrist and end her life.
"Oh, you have *got* to be kidding me!" I yell, still trying to catch my breath. The Colonel's jaw drops, and I can feel my little group of trigger-happy guards tense behind me. I look over at Sam and actually roll my eyes. I'm sure she's thinking I've just cracked. Hell, I feel like I have.
I turn around slowly, putting my right hand out in a gesture of surrender, letting my left drop limply to my side. Ah, I notice my little friend from Sam's cell has managed to catch up. Good for him.
"Janet…" I hear Sam say behind me, as I face a bunch of muzzles pointed at me. The faces behind them just seem mildly amused.
"Okay, look," I say, trying to ignore all those guns and the fact that my left arm is starting to come back to life, entering the very painful pins-and-needles stage and bringing tears to my eyes. I sniff them back. "Just don't shoot, okay? I don't know what was so awful that we did to piss you guys off, but we're sorry, okay? We're sorry, we'll never come back here and bother you again.
We just want to go home."
They don't move. Don't say a word for a moment… they just stand there. Not that I'm at all surprised. God, this is just ridiculous.
"This is just ridiculous," I sigh, as my little friend lifts his chin with a jerky motion, gesturing me to turn back around. I slowly spin back around to face Sam and the Colonel, pleased to see that Sam's charming young cutlery fan has brought the knife away from her neck. Someone pushes me from behind and I stumble closer to Sam as we're all urged to start walking.
The hall is narrow, and Sam and I are practically shoulder to shoulder. Well, shoulder to forehead in our case. I look up at her, trying to gauge what she's thinking, but I come up short, puzzled by the way she's just kinda sucking at her lower lip and shaking her head in disgust. I don't get it…
"This is all your fault, you know," she says quietly, with an ugly, disdainful tone to her voice. My eyes dart up to meet hers and she turns her head ever so slightly to look at me. I give her a hurt look. Why is she doing this?
"You just *had* to go and kick my ass at the gym last week… I wouldn't have told the Colonel that you could handle yourself, and you wouldn't even be here," she says… almost wistfully. She looks over at me again, but smirks almost imperceptibly. Only someone who knows her *really* well would know that look. That 'I know something you don't know' look. And the way she darts her eyes back so quickly, drawing my attention to the… loosely held weapons of the gentlemen prodding us along.
I laugh. God help me, I start to laugh. Sam faces forward again, that smirk still on her face. The Colonel throws a very puzzled glance back at us, but is forced almost immediately to face forward again.
I just keep laughing, quietly chuckling to myself and shaking my own head, just as Sam had done. "You bitch…" I sigh, starting to laugh a little bit louder. Shit, I *must* be losing it…
"*Excuse* me?" Sam whips her head around and digs her fingers into the shoulder of my jacket before anyone can react.
"You heard me!" I shout. "How *dare* you blame me for this! You're the one who had to go and get yourself lost! If it wasn't for you, I'd still be home in my nice cozy office!" I reach over with my good arm and push her arm away from me none-too-lightly. The group has stopped by now… dead in our tracks in the middle of the hallway.
"Stop! Stop this at once, or we will fire!" Somebody shouts. We ignore him. What guy on any world can resist the draw of two chicks fighting?
"Why you little…!" Sam raises her eyebrows just a bit and pulls her right arm back for a classic right hook. I see it coming and duck out of the way, dropping to my knees. I catch her hand in mid air and twist it around behind her back as I stand up. She yells in agony as I yank a little harder on it, then pulls her foot up to kick out my knee.
I know this. I knew she was going to do that… I turn into it, and her heel catches the inside of my knee, the brunt of the kick being absorbed by my calf muscles. I fall, dragging her down with me. We separate on the way down, and our flailing arms just manage to catch the barrels of two of the natives' weapons. I grip mine for dear life and tug it hard out of the guy's hands. He falls after it, landing half on top of me, as I push the weapon away from him.
I see the Colonel stop it with his foot and step on it. Effectively keeping it out of unwanted hands. He moves fast, using the inattention of his own guard against him. He knocks him to the ground with a combination of hits that I didn't even know existed, then stoops down to pick the weapon up from under his foot, pointing it at the man on top of me.
I grunt, trying to breath from under the extra weight of the body I'm struggling with. He shimmies over me, scrabbling for his gun, only to be stopped midway by the business end being shoved into his face by O'Neill. The bad guy's face is right over mine, and I can feel his left hand moving across his side, reaching for a piece of glinting metal at his belt. I move my hand to intercept, but he grabs it with his other arm, pinning it over my head. The Colonel doesn't see it. Sam does. Her eyes dart up to the Colonel's.
"Knife," she breathes, paralyzed. "Knife!" She says louder. The Colonel blinks as he sees it.
"Shoot 'im!" I yell, as I feel the tip of the blade pierce my upper thigh. I scream. The Colonel fires the energy weapon at him, and he seizes. So do I.
Through a haze of… it's like fire, burning all over me… I feel a weight being lifted off of me. I can hear the Colonel fire again and again, making short work of the other bad guys as Sam pushes and tugs at the motionless body. I try to remember to breath. Try to do it without moving at all. Moving is bad. Moving hurts. A lot. And then it doesn't. It just… falls asleep like my arm had before. Probably because I had only caught a bit of the blast through my own personal human shield.
I look at my right hand. It tingles a little bit. I think really, really hard at it, and surprisingly enough, I'm able to lift it. I just can't feel it. It's just numb… I suppose that's a good thing. I smile as Sam and the Colonel come over to me and clear my thought.
"Nice shootin' there, Tex," I croak. Sam positively beams. The Colonel shrugs.
"No problem, Doc," he answers and reaches a hand down to help me up. I look at my right hand and concentrate really, really hard again and my wrist lifts up, followed by my elbow, my arm moving in uncoordinated jerks as my fingers just kinda flop around lifelessly. Sam frowns and grabs my hand in mid air.
"Janet, are you okay?" she asks.
"Ah…" I answer. The Colonel leans down and joins us on the floor. They each grab an arm and help me sit up.
"Carter… *stupid* question," he says. Sam glares at him then looks down at my thigh, assessing the damage. "Great to see ya, by the way," he continues. Sam smiles as she rips a piece of her robe away to use as a bandage.
"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, Sir. Teal'c's fine, too. In case you were wondering."
"Ah, yeah… met up with him, already."
"You did?" She asks.
"Ow! Ow… dammit, Sam!" I shout, as she tightens the strip of fabric around my leg, pre-empting anything the Colonel was going to say.
"What? What? It's not that tight, Janet… what?" Sam's eyes are wide and panicked as she watches my face distort and my eyes well up with tears.
"ARGH! No… ow… ahhhshit! Pins and needles… *bad*…" I open my mouth to scream again, the pain becoming too much to handle, but the Colonel's hand clamps firmly over my mouth.
"All *over*?!" Sam rasps loudly, looking me over from top to bottom. I nod, my face growing hot as tears stream freely down my face and over the Colonel's fingers. "God…" she sighs, taking my hand in both of hers and rubbing it between them. My fingers *finally* get warm after a few seconds, the one almost comfortable part of my body.
Sam leans in closer to me, grabbing my other hand in hers, rubbing briskly and whispering to me. "Breathe, Janet. Just breathe… just a couple minutes. It won't last much longer, just breathe. Wiggle your fingers for me, babe. That's it… just a couple minutes, you'll be good as new…"
She stares into my eyes and her face is blurry. She looks like she's in as much pain as I am… I can't look… I glance up at the Colonel. Sam doesn't notice the grimace on his face… doesn't notice him bite down on his bottom lip and wince as I clamp my teeth down on the loose skin of his middle finger. She rubs my arms, my shoulders, my legs, massaging the life back into me. But it takes so long.
Finally, I loosen my jaw and the Colonel pulls his hand away, flexing his fingers and flapping it around to blow the pain and teeth marks away. Out of the corner of my eye, I see one of the bad guys wiggle his fingers on the floor. I start to get up, wincing as waves of tingles move up and down my body, but it's not so bad anymore.
"Better?" Sam asks quietly. I just nod and let her take some of my weight, allowing her to wrap her arm around my shoulder and under my opposite arm to support me. I rest my head on her shoulder. I feel perfectly safe already, seeing the weapon in her free hand and two being held by the Colonel. Yup… perfectly safe, if not yet a hundred percent.
* * * * * *
The three of us weave our way through the halls some more, but even with more company, the journey feels as endless as it did when I was alone. I must say, though… having the guns is a distinct improvement.
Moving helps… As I start to feel better and better, I drift further away from Sam and ask the Colonel for one of his weapons. I grip it, ignoring the muted tingles in my fingers and toes as we follow O'Neill through the halls. How he has any idea where we're going, is beyond me, but eventually, he stops at a door.
"This it?" Sam asks. Colonel O'Neill starts looking it over. He pounds on it a couple of times and a few seconds later, we hear a few faint pounds from inside.
"Yup. Now how do we open this stupid thing?" he mumbles, running his fingers along the seams between the walls and the door. I shove my weapon under my arm and pull the remote out of my jacket pocket, press the now familiar button, and the Colonel jumps back in surprise as the door disappears. He swings around and gives me the evil eye. Not as good as mine, of course, but quite effective. I hold up the remote and he tilts his head.
"A little *warning* next time, huh, Doc?" he quips before turning his full attention to the people in the cell. First out is Daniel, looking only a little frayed around the edges. Then Ferretti, looking no worse for wear, except for his nose, which is *definitely* going to need a little work when we get home. Teal'c is dapper as ever, ducking his head to fit through the door and out into the hallway with the rest of us. So nice that our hosts were dumb enough to put everybody in one place. Very convenient.
I hand Teal'c my weapon and he bows his head slightly in acceptance. As far as I'm concerned, my work here is done. Time to just sit back, relax, and let the guys take things from here. Sam looks down at me as I sigh, a little contented smile touching my lips. She smiles back, knowing exactly what I'm thinking.
"So, anybody know where the exit is?" Asks the Colonel as we move out, the group filling the rather cramped space of the hall. We walk past a darkened perpendicular corridor, but Teal'c, taking up the rear, stops as he passes. The Colonel turns around as Teal'c reaches a burly arm into the darkness and pulls someone out into the light.
What do you know… it's our friend from Sam's cell, squeezed into Sam's jacket for modesty's sake, considering that Sam is currently wearing *his* clothes. The coward must have scurried away before when Sam and I were 'fighting.' He glares at Sam and I as Teal'c pushes him against the wall.
"I believe *this* may be of assistance, O'Neill."
"Well *done*, Teal'c. Buddy… remind me to give you a raise…"
* * * * * *
It's still raining as we make our way back to the surface of PJS-181.
After gleaning the information we needed from our friend down in the tunnels, which included a not so subtle threat by Sam to kick his ass again, we found the flight of steep stairs leading up.
The sun is rising, its light glinting off the raindrops and not at all muted by the heavy rain clouds overhead. Amazing.
We can see the Stargate from the vestibule at the top of the stairs. It's not as far away as I thought it would be… something finally going right on this stupid planet. We're all quiet as we start trudging through the mud toward home, Sam and I lagging behind a bit, her hand covertly finding mine as we walk. Ahead of us, the guys quietly converse while trying to keep an eye out for any hostiles following us... but, as the Colonel had offhandedly mentioned, we have like, two weapons among us.
"So Daniel," says the Colonel. "Ever figure out who these folks were and what they wanted?"
"Well, you were there when I did the whole 'we come in peace' thing. That's about as far as I got."
"So, I guess we file this one under 'the world may never know'?"
So eloquent, that linguist of ours.
Eventually, we pass the FRED: "For cryin' out loud, Ferretti, just leave the damn thing… worthless anyway…"
And as the guys make their way up to the DHD, Daniel miraculously producing his GDO from inside his jacket earning a "Hallelujah! Danny, you never cease to amaze me," I tighten my grip on Sam's hand, silently asking her to slow down the pace. She looks down at me, at our clasped hands, and smiles, shortening her steps to a leisurely stroll.
"Hey, Sam?" I ask softly, glancing warily over at the guys, who are utterly absorbed in navigating the last few feet to the DHD.
"When you just… happened… to mention to the Colonel that I, ah… how'd he put it… 'kicked your ass last week,' I guess you forgot to mention the part where you were still getting over the flu at the time?" Sam just smiles and shrugs.
"How was I supposed to know he was gonna drag you out here to rescue us?"
"Yeah, speaking of which," I continue, grinning. "You know I love you more than life itself… but I guess you'd resent me if I asked you to just… I don't know… stick to lab work for a while?
Maybe take a teaching job at the academy?"
"Yup. Probably," she smiles back, weaving her fingers tightly between mine and squeezing. Like I had to ask…
"In that case," I say, as the Stargate comes to life. I lift her hand to my lips and kiss those gorgeous fingers of hers, then stare purposefully into her eyes. "I'll be there to rescue you every time," I finish, grinning brightly. She laughs and shakes her head.
"And I'd never doubt it."