Title: The Trials of Friendship

Author: ShooteM

Email: ag4bk@juno.com

Rating: PG

Summary: Why does Thor like Jack so much? How did they get to be friends?

Category: Action/Adventure

Spoilers: Anything to do with the Asgard, set early in the series, after T5R, before FG.

Archive: Fanfiction.net, Samandjack.net, Jackfic.com, Helio.

Disclaimer: Stargate/SG-1 and the characters thereof are the property of MGM/UA, Gekko, and Double secret Productions. This was written for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands.

A/N: Huge thanks to beta Michelle, not only for fixing the grammar but helping make the whole thing work!
The Trials of Friendship

O'Neill slammed the door of his truck and headed to the entrance of the underground complex swinging his briefcase and whistling as he went. It was a nice summer day but he knew he wouldn't get to enjoy it from his office many hundreds of feet down. After passing two checkpoints he entered the first elevator and pressed the button for the lowest floor. It would only take him part way to his destination and sometimes it seemed to take far too long.

After the next checkpoint he entered another elevator and pressed the number for the officers living quarters. He needed to pick up some files he'd left there before reporting to the briefing at 0900 hours. He checked his watch, and read 0815; he even had time for a nice leisurely breakfast.

He was the only one on the elevator and just as the doors closed he sensed the light in the enclosed space go up a notch, then suddenly the room was full of light and he was taken. His briefcase dropped to the floor then fell on its side with a thud.

His next sight was the interior of a spacecraft. The walls were curved into high ceilings, sparse of decoration except for brightly lit control panels and windows to the outside revealing the darkness of space punctuated by pinpoints of light. He recognized the structure as Asgard and stood with his hands in his pockets wondering what the hell he was doing there.

In a few moments he was joined by the diminutive gray alien he knew as Thor. "Colonel O'Neill, It is good to see you again."

"Yeah, you too. You want to tell me what I'm doing here?" He tried to mask his impatience feebly.

"Certainly. Please sit." Thor motioned to a low chair. O'Neill felt he was sitting in a child's seat, but obliged. He motioned out the viewing portal, "I don't see a familiar blue planet out there. Am I missing something?"

"We are not in orbit around your planet, O'Neill. We are in fact not in your solar system at this time."

O'Neill could not help but feel uncomfortable at the thought that he was very, very far from home and back up if needed.

"The Asgard high council have been discussing the progress of your race and it has been determined that perhaps greater study is indicated. We have been quite impressed with your actions of late."

"Well, gee, thanks. So can I go home now?"

"We would like to request your help in a situation we are endeavoring to solve. It will require your entire team to accomplish and we will provide intelligence if you agree to accept the mission."

O'Neill looked at the alien through narrowed eyes. "If I agree? You want to give me some details here?"

"I am unable to provide any information at this time except that I will provide whatever assistance I can."

"You want me to agree to go without knowing anything about the mission? Are you nuts?" O'Neill rolled his eyes to the ceiling trying to think of a more diplomatic way to voice his opinion. "How wise do you think I'd be if I agreed to terms like that?"

"Very. It would be impressive."

O'Neill was taken aback. "It would be?" He put on the most skeptical face he could muster. "Impressive?" His thought processes went into full speed. He paced a few steps to the other side of the room and back again. "Thor, you know the specifics of this mission don't you? But for some reason I have to agree to go on your word alone."

He couldn't fathom why, but looking at Thor he felt an odd sense of trust. "Okay, if you'll watch our six, we'll do it." He gave a shrug as he finished speaking.

If Thor could have smiled he would have, this human was performing beyond all of their expectations. "Preparations will be made and I will conduct a briefing with you and your team in two week's time. Colonel O'Neill, thank you."

---------------------------------------------

O'Neill was returned to the elevator which was at a dead stop between floors. He could hear voices and machinery noises coming from the other side of the door. The doors were forced open and a technician stuck his head in. "Sir? Colonel O'Neill? Sir, I'm sorry it took so long, we weren't even sure anyone was stuck in here. Can I help you up, Sir?"

As O'Neill accepted the young man's arm he thought how coincidental it was that Thor just happened to abduct him while the elevator was malfunctioning. Not. It was an obvious set up. Thor was being more secretive than normal, but why?

O'Neill went to his office and prepared for the morning's briefing, and as his stomach growled, noted that he no longer had time for breakfast. He gathered his folders and headed for the briefing room. He'd get through the briefing and then discuss his recent conversation with the General.

When he arrived in the room he was surprised to see Jacob Carter was there, standing over an obviously distraught daughter. His eyes were beyond stern, looking like he had invented the term 'if looks could kill.'
Hammond's expression was no less severe. The other members of his team were absent, and from the looks of things, it was intended to be just the four of them.

"General, what's going on?" He only acknowledged Jacob's presence with a glance.

Hammond looked miserable as he motioned to his office. "Why don't we take this to a more private location?"

In Hammond's office, Jacob held his daughter as if he was protecting her very life, all the while glaring at Jack. Carter was alternately sobbing and trying to hold back more tears and pointedly avoiding looking at her CO. O'Neill did not sit but stood shifting from one foot to the other in agitation.

"General, I demand to know what has happened!"

"Colonel O'Neill, you likely already know what has happened. However I'll give you the benefit of a doubt." O'Neill looked back at him with exasperation. This was making no sense.

"Colonel, some information has come to light which affects the operation of this Command and will certainly have extreme consequences for a long time to come. At least your team will suffer for it."

O'Neill was exasperated. What could possibly happen overnight to hurt his team? How could he not be aware of it?

Hammond continued, "I do not usually delve into past classified missions, but Jacob and Major Carter here have been given clearance due to their involvement. Several years before you went to Abydos you were involved in a covert mission here on American soil. You were ordered to set up an 'accident' to remove a politically subversive diplomat since the man could not be touched by 'ordinary' means. Your team set up a car bomb that did not go off as scheduled and the vehicle was allowed to move into a high traffic area. Do you recall it?"

O'Neill knit his brow. Of course he recalled it. He remembered every mission in great detail. This one had been one of the worst, from his first days in Special Forces. It was a partially botched job and although the objective was met the price had been high. He nodded slowly to his CO.

"The bomb did go off, and when it did it created a six car pile up, did it not? There was a secondary accident caused by someone trying to avoid the first one. Most everyone sustained only minor injuries, but two innocent Americans died. One of them was a certain Mrs. Jacob Carter."

The words hit O'Neill like a sledgehammer. He had been responsible for the death of Sam's mother. He closed his eyes and felt a chill run down his spine. Carter began to sob loudly as she buried her face in her father's shoulder.

O'Neill made a move toward her, "Sam, I'm so sor-"

Jacob turned to him with flashing eyes and Selmac ordered him sternly, "Leave now."

He looked to Hammond for something, anything that would rectify this awful situation but found no help. "Colonel, we will be discussing this in greater detail, but not now; dismissed."

He resisted leaving, but at another glare from Selmac relented. If there were low points to his life this would undoubtedly count near the bottom. He went to his quarters, slammed the door then pounded a fist into the wall so hard it nearly cracked his knuckles. Then he hit it again. His hand bruised this time. He slid to the floor with his back up against the wall, hands covering his face. It was over, his past had finally caught up with him and instead of destroying him alone, it destroyed his team. Teal'c may be able to understand having done some terrible things under the rule of Apophis, Daniel would not. And Sam, Sam would probably hate him for the rest of her life. Maybe never look at him again. That may be a plus, he thought, he didn't think he could stand for her to look at him anyway. He smacked his head against the concrete, not caring what it would do to his skull.

Hadn't Carter's mother died when she was just a kid? Apparently he'd got the timing wrong on that. He just sat, not allowing himself to think too hard. He would accept whatever repercussions were in store for him.

There was a tap at his door, which he chose to ignore, but the door opened anyway. General Hammond quietly stepped in.

"Colonel, I want you to take a few days off to work this out. We've all got a few skeletons in our closets, maybe some more than others. The file was closed on that mission a long time ago." He turned to go. "And if you're considering retirement again, let me just say I'd rather not lose you over this. You might consider your skills are still needed in an administrative and strategic capacity. For what it's worth, Colonel, I'm sorry."

O'Neill had not looked at the man the whole time he was in the room and still stared ahead with unseeing eyes. He blinked and on sheer autopilot, gathered his things, threw on his jacket and headed for home.
Several days later, Jacob had returned to the Tok'ra, and Sam had returned to the base, seeking comfort by losing herself in her work. Daniel stopped by her lab and was surprised to see her there. He stepped in and helped himself to a chair beside her. She ignored him for a few minutes, then relented, "Hi, Daniel."

"Sam."

"So, can I help you with something?"

"I thought I might help you, actually."

She frowned. Here it came, Daniel's 'you need to talk about it if you're ever going to get over it' speech. "Daniel, I'm fine and I'm busy right now."

"Anyone can see you're not 'fine.' You can talk now or later but it will only be harder if you wait." He looked at her with those big innocent eyes that she knew were far from innocent anymore, but the effect was the same. She shook her head. Okay, she'd throw him a bone, anything to get rid of him.

"I'm still in shock about the news if you really want to know. I just can't believe something like this could happen here in the United States. Covert missions and assassinations, hell, what else has our 'oh so clean and tidy' government been up to? And I thought the NID was bad!"

"It's a lot to take in, I guess when it's so close to home."

"You guess! That was my mother who died! My whole life changed after that, thank God Mark was there or I'd have never made it."

"So, you're angry." Daniel was baiting her and she knew it.

"Of course I'm angry. But I've cried over it again and now I need to go on, again. Dad's taking it a lot harder than I am you know. He can't believe the Air force didn't grant him enough clearance to know the truth back then when it happened. And then there's the Colonel."

That was the opening Daniel had been waiting for. "So, how do you feel about Jack now?"

"Daniel, he wasn't to blame, not really. He was a guy following orders. It was an accident, a terrible, wasteful, horrific accident." She stifled a sob then went on, "But it's rare for missions to go like they're supposed to, as you are well aware."

"You really don't hold it against him?"

"No." She rolled her eyes to the ceiling, "Yes. Maybe. I don't know." Daniel was silent giving her time to decide to speak when she was ready. She suddenly was blinking back tears again. "When I look at him, all I see is my mother's face in that casket." She stiffened in sudden anger. "Why did he have to go get involved in the Special Forces anyway, and what were they doing going after someone where innocent people could get hurt?"

She stood and began to pace the floor with agitation, her fists clenching.

"You know that Jack is taking this pretty hard too."

She glared at her teammate. "He'll be okay, he'll just stick it back in the box with all his other Special Ops stuff. He'll feel guilty about it for a while, but he'll get over it." She nearly spat out the words.

"You don't know him as well as I thought you did. I went to see him, Sam. He's a mess. Pretty much staying drunk all the time. I talked to Ferretti about it; he says Jack hasn't been that low since Charlie died. You know the only thing that even got him out of the house back then was being offered a suicide mission."

"He wouldn't commit suicide."

"No, not overtly. But you think he takes chances now when we're off world? Just wait and see, I mean if we are still a team which we may not be, remember I've seen what the man is like with a death wish."

"What do you mean, we may not be a team?" Suddenly her voice softened. She hadn't thought very far into the future ramifications for the team. She sat back in her chair.

"C'mon, Sam. You think Hammond is gonna let you two work together with something like this between you? Actually I wouldn't be half surprised if Jack didn't come back."

Sam sat back in her chair, thoughtful, letting her mind get control over her emotions again. She hadn't considered Hammond would break up the team over this. Yeah, it was awful, but it wasn't like Jack had gone off on his own and blown up a car. He was following orders, which likely came from very high up, and he wasn't the CO of the team, either.

"He'll come back, we need him, the SGC needs him."

"He won't if he thinks it would be better for you."

Their blue eyes met with intensity. "For me?" She suddenly felt exposed. Leave it to Daniel to drag things to the surface when everyone else is trying so hard to bury them. She looked down to her hands in her lap.

Satisfied he'd gotten what he came for Daniel leaned forward in his chair and took her hands. "Why don't you go talk to him? He needs you to, though I doubt he'll admit it."

She sighed with resignation, she would go, even if it was the last thing she wanted to do.

---------------------------------------------

She pulled into O'Neill's driveway and turned off the ignition. Even though it was only afternoon the drapes were drawn closed she noticed. His truck was in the driveway so she knew he was home. She walked up to the door and knocked lightly, still not sure if she should really be there. After a minute there was still no answer, on a whim she tried the knob and found the door was not locked. She stepped into the dark entryway carefully. Something crunched under her foot and she looked down to see the remnants of a broken beer bottle, the contents having made a dark stain on the wall where it impacted.

She took another step and gently closed the door behind her. There were two more empty yet unbroken bottles a little further in, one was larger, not beer, whiskey. Another few steps and she was in the den. The room was dark but she noticed the fireplace and several more bottles which had been thrown at the stone facade, some broken, some not, one smashed to pieces.

On the couch was her CO, his clothing rumpled, asleep, sitting with his feet on the floor, reclining back with his head forward on his chest. In his lap was a 9mm Berretta having slid out of his hand to rest on the cushion between his legs. 'Crap' she scolded herself, Daniel was right. She stepped over and gingerly reached to remove the gun from his possession.

In a split second he was on her. He grabbed and spun her around, shoving her to the floor face down with her arms behind her back. As she went down her face caught the edge of the coffee table and she cried out as her lip split. She felt the nose of the gun at her neck at the same time as she heard the safety being switched off. She gasped in fear as his weight leaned onto her back.

She struggled to take in a breath then choked out, "Colonel! O'Neill! It's me, Carter! It's Carter!"

She felt him ease off just a hair. "Carter would never come here." She felt the barrel move along the side of her neck and lift her hair slightly. "Carter." He spoke her name with a sudden softness and lifted the Berretta away clicking the safety back in place. He rolled over and came to rest on his back beside her, the gun lying across his chest. He seemed to be unconscious again. She inched away from him carefully, now knowing that an unconscious and drunk O'Neill was still very dangerous given his instincts and Special Forces training.

She eased up to her feet slowly still shaking from the encounter and crept into the hall bathroom. Wincing, she dabbed a wet tissue at the broken skin of her lip, it was already starting to bruise and swell. She fished her cell phone out of her pocket and made a quick decision on whom to call.

"Daniel?"

"Sam? I thought you were going to Jack's place?"

"Yeah, I did. Listen it's a disaster here, I don't think I can handle him alone. Can you come out? Maybe bring Teal'c too?"

"Aw, he's just drunk. Get him to drink some coffee."

"Daniel!" She whispered harshly, "I'm talking to you here with a spit lip. Believe me when I say it's bad."

"He hit you! I can't believe that!"

"He didn't really hit me, he just shoved me into the coffee table, sort of." She winced as she dabbed the spot again. "I was trying to take his gun away from him. I thought he was asleep."

"Sam!" His voice was panic-stricken. "I thought you knew better than to ever touch Jack's gun without his permission. You know the guy never really sleeps unless he's sedated in the infirmary. What was he doing with a gun anyway? Don't answer that. We'll be there in twenty minutes, stay out of his way until we get there, okay?"

"Oh, yeah, Daniel, I learned my lesson."

---------------------------------------------

Both Daniel and Teal'c frowned as they walked into the dark house. The smell of beer and sweat had gotten much stronger since Daniel had been there a few days ago. He and Teal'c stopped just short of the man on the floor. Carter was sitting on the bottom step leading up to the bedrooms holding a piece of ice wrapped in a washcloth to her lip. She half-heartedly smiled and motioned in the direction of the sleeping Colonel, still flat on his back gun in hand. Daniel nodded to Teal'c to be ready to grab O'Neill then he slowly reached for the gun. Just as his hand touched the weapon the Colonel sprang to life. The alcohol had slowed his reflexes though and he was no match for Teal'c. Daniel tossed the gun to Carter and turned only to be whacked in the face by a swing of O'Neill's foot. Luckily he wasn't wearing boots or the younger man would have been knocked unconscious.

Teal'c continued to struggle to hold O'Neill and realized his charge was about to get free. "Daniel Jackson, I require your assistance!"

"What!" Daniel was still reeling from the blow. O'Neill suddenly had one arm free and was turning to take a swing at the big Jaffa. Teal'c had had enough of this and prepared a counter to O'Neill's swing. He blocked and suddenly let go allowing O'Neill to totter slightly off balance as he turned all the way around to face him. Teal'c was ready with his left fist and shot it into the Colonel's jaw knocking him completely off his feet. He fell to the floor with a thud, unconscious again, this time out cold.

The three of them stood over the man, shaking their heads. This was not going to be simple or painless for any of them. It was decided that Sam would do what she could to straighten up the house and Daniel and Teal'c would tend to the Colonel.

The first course of action was to dump him unceremoniously into the shower fully clothed and turn on the cold water full blast. He awoke angry and swinging but now Teal'c had an iron grip on his wrists, effectively restraining him. Between the two of them and the Colonel's exhaustion, they got him stripped down and started to scrub on him.

He came around enough to make eye contact with Daniel and insist he could bathe himself. They left him to finish with the bathroom door open and Teal'c blocking it with arms crossed. Daniel picked out some appropriate comfortable clothing items and laid them out on the bed.

O'Neill had switched the water to hot and steam was soon pouring out of the small room, the wisps churning around Teal'c, still standing in the doorway. Daniel sat on the bed and mused how it made Teal'c look like a genie coming out of a bottle. With a smile he rose and indicated he would be out helping Sam while Jack continued to clean up.

After a few minutes the water stopped and O'Neill appeared at the doorway with a towel wrapped around his hips. Teal'c moved aside to let him stalk into the bedroom. Seeing the clothes, he jerked off the towel and tossed it back to the bathroom floor then sat on the side of the bed and proceeded to dress. Teal'c smirked and turned halfway to one side allowing him minimal privacy.

A disheveled O'Neill walked to the den, frequently reaching out to the wall for support. He found the room in moderately better shape. No bottles or broken glass, the furniture and cushions straightened and the smell of coffee in the air made it appear almost normal, save for the stains on the carpet and wall. He made his way to the couch, fighting to keep his balance and wincing at the afternoon light streaming in a window. Carter had opened the drapes and window to let the house air out a bit and a cool breeze flowed in.

O'Neill did his best to ignore the entourage and only grumbled a thanks when a steaming hot cup of coffee was placed in his hands. Presently he decided they were all going to just sit there and stare at him until he spoke so he obliged. "What the hell are you doing in my house?"

Carter thought it was up to her to begin, as she had been the one to call in the cavalry. "Sir, we were concerned about you and wanted to see how you were doing."

"Okay, you've seen. Now go away."

Daniel spoke out, "Jack, I don't mean to be insensitive to your little pity party here but don't you want to know what we think?" O'Neill shot him a glare.

"I've got a pretty good idea of what all of you *think*, Daniel, and I don't want to go over it right now. Hammond has made it clear that I'll be removed from off world activities. He all but offered me a desk job."

He was met with three shocked faces. Even Teal'c, grim as he usually was, had his eyes open wide enough to reveal the whites. Daniel jumped up, "He can't do that! We're the best team he's got!"

"He's the boss and he can and will do what he sees fit. SG-1 will go on. Carter, you'll probably get command, you're due anyway."

Teal'c stepped forward, "Colonel O'Neill I do not believe SG-1 would continue at its present level of effectiveness if you were reassigned. It would be a tactical error."

O'Neill was pointedly avoiding Carter and she remembered the reason she came here in the first place. To let him know they needed him, she needed him, and that she could live with his complicity in her mother's death. Teal'c and Daniel had already made their cases and it was obvious she had not yet spoken. She watched O'Neill drain the coffee and Daniel take the cup to get more.

When Daniel returned from the kitchen she met him at the doorway and took the cup from Daniel's hand. She whispered a request for him and Teal'c to give her a little time alone with O'Neill.

She waited for them to exit and then came to sit on the coffee table directly in front of O'Neill, her knees between his. She set the coffee aside and leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, looking at him. He avoided looking back at her and even with her proximity was trying hard to find something else on which to concentrate. His hands were folded in his lap, one thumb rubbing over a knuckle nervously.

She gently reached out and touched his hands causing him to pull back and draw in a quick breath. "Colonel." She frowned at the unwanted formality of the title. "You know this has been really difficult for me; I came here to talk to you about it. I don't hold you personally responsible. It was an accident, I know that."

He still wouldn't look at her. He finally spoke in a soft voice, "How can you let it go? I ruined your family, changed your life forever. You've talked about how it was, growing up, I don't expect you to forgive me."

"It's not that I don't forgive you, and yeah, I was angry with you, blamed you. Hell I wanted to blame the entire USAF."

He shut his eyes, the lines on his face more pronounced with sadness. "Blame me if you want. I was there. I deserve it."

She lowered her head to try and look at his face, "Sir, don't you get it? I know you were there. I can accept that." She caught herself holding back a sob. "But it doesn't really change things. I've known about your past for a long time, granted I never thought I would have been personally affected by it, but sometimes bad things happen. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it was an accident. I don't care which, not now."

She continued, "I see how hard you try do the right thing. We've been through some rough times, but when it's all said and done, I trust you. I always will. I talked to Hammond, too. He's not trying to push a desk job on you, he's trying to get you to stay with the program. Stay. And I don't mean hiding behind a desk."

He still would not look up and started to make another objection but she stifled him by reaching forward intending to place a finger on his mouth. He saw it coming and leaned back to avoid the touch. He stared at the finger for a moment then raised his eyes to meet hers. She took the opportunity to continue, "For just one minute, believe me. I forgive you."

He stared at her, she was forgiving him, just like Sara had forgiven him for what happened to Charlie. Now, just like then, he knew could never forgive himself. "No."

Carter shook her head. What would it take to get through to him? She had a sudden flare of anger, how dare he refuse her forgiveness? She lowered her head, "Son of a bitch."

"What?"

"You pompous bastard! Who the Hell do you think you are?" Well that certainly wasn't the same response Sara had given him. He blinked at her.

His docile manner made her even more angry, "You ass! " She stood to her feet and took a step away then spun around and swung. The palm of her hand impacted his already sore jaw as she slapped him with everything she had. His head jerked with the impact and when he recovered from it he winced and rubbed his face but would not look at her.

"And now you're just gonna let me do that? That's a court-marshalable offense, Colonel!" She stood over him, looking down as he slowly raised his eyes to hers.

"Not gonna happen, Major."

"Why? Because there are mitigating circumstances? Because you *forgive* me?" Her voice was still harsh and acerbic.

He dropped his hands to his lap and shrugged slightly, "Yeah."

She sat back down in front of him as before, now trying to calm herself and slow her breathing. She licked her lips that had gone dry. "Don't you think I'm intelligent enough to get past the circumstances?" His eyebrows flicked as he considered that she thought he was questioning her intelligence. Before he could speak she raised her hand to his face and lightly touched his cheek. "I forgive you, too."

The earnestness in her eyes was overwhelming. As he held her gaze taking in a look he had seen only a few times before, it melted him a bit on the inside. He closed his eyes again, considering her words. Maybe he was trying to do the wrong thing all this time, trying to forgive himself, when what he needed to do was accept forgiveness from someone else. The idea struck a chord in his head, maybe that's what really went wrong between he and Sara. He took a deep breath and blew it out, "Okay." She forgave him. It would be enough, for both of them. He leaned forward just enough to let their heads touch lightly, "Thanks, Sam."

"Does that mean you'll come back?"

"Just try to get rid of me."

She smiled as he leaned back putting a little distance between them. They were both looking down at their hands where hers had come to rest over his. He pulled his hands apart and tuned them over to clasp hers and squeeze lightly.


------------------------------------------------
Finally getting to sit down with Hammond and discuss the contact he'd had with Thor, O'Neill was anxious to get on with the mission. What his team needed right now was some quality off world bonding and interacting with each other again. The sooner the better.

They were not disappointed when Thor contacted the SGC as promised and outlined a mission to one of the Asgard 'protected' worlds. . They had intelligence suggesting the presence of Jaffa and possibly a Goa'uld. He had no idea how they were able to get through the planet's defenses or if the people had been harmed. Despite having a level of technology near that of Earth, Thor was opposed to making contact with these people just yet, that was why he approached O'Neill with his request.

Hammond agreed to the mission and gave SG-1 a go for 1800 hours that evening.

------------------------------------------------

Instead of going by gate, this time SG-1 was transported aboard Thor's ship for their journey to the planet Lethew. One of the reasons for the Asgard's interest was that there was no functioning Stargate on the planet. So how had the Jaffa gotten there? They had found no ships in orbit and the planet was too far out for a small craft to have made the journey.

SG-1 was transported to a location just outside one of the large villages and after a mile and a half hike entered the outskirts of the town. They were amazed to see that although the buildings seemed to be rustic, it was likely only for the aesthetic appearance as there were small indications of advanced technology everywhere. The rooftops were dotted with solar panels and the windows were large and tinted dark to keep out the sun. At one home they saw a small dome-shaped device operating on it's own, moving slowly along the border of a garden, leaving a perfectly manicured edge in its wake. Most of the buildings had plain metallic looking doors at the entrances with a distinct lack of handles, knobs or any obvious way to open them. Carter pointed out they all had a rectangular plate about six by eight inches set off to one side, about three feet off the ground. She thought the black glass and size looked like the palm scanners back on earth, perhaps a locking or opening device? They walked on and after attracting some attention and Daniel making some initial greetings, they were invited to meet one of the village elders at a large community building.

Their leader was a gray haired man, about O'Neill's age. He was stockily built and wore the Norse clothing and accoutrements they had expected to see with the Asgard's influence. O'Neill stepped forward to greet the man.

"Howdy, there. We are peaceful travelers, from Earth."

Daniel added quietly, "Midgard. We're here as representatives of Thor, to greet you."

The elder raised his eyebrows. "You come in the name of Thor and from the home of the first men? You are welcome here then my brethren. I am Brokk, eldest here."

O'Neill nodded, "I'm Colonel O'Neill, that's Major Carter, Daniel Jackson and Teal'c."

Brokk steeled his eyes at the Jaffa. "You command him?"

"Yes, I do. Is there a problem?"

The man looked a bit shaken, "We have met his kind before, and it did not go well."

"O-kay. We'll see that it goes well today. Teal'c here is also a friend of Thor." He clapped Teal'c on the shoulder in a show of friendship.

"This is most amazing. Please come." He motioned for them to join him at a large table set off to one side and called for a young man to bring them something to drink. After everyone was seated and more comfortable Brokk turned to Daniel. "You bring greetings from Thor? What does he say?"

Daniel set down his cup, "Actually he sent us here to see if your people have had any problems lately. Any unusual occurrences."

"Thor is indeed wise. We have had a terrible event a few weeks ago, but we believe we have successfully dealt with it."

O'Neill swallowed a sip of the smooth ale, "And that would be?"

"A flying wing of great size crashed a short distance from here carrying fierce warriors with emblems on their foreheads similar to that." He pointed to Teal'c's head. "It took our greatest warriors to best them and our losses were many, but we did beat them. At least at first that is what we thought. We salvaged what we could from their ship, as much of it was technology we felt we could adapt to our own. We had no way of knowing they were carrying a horrible plague with them."

Brokk lifted his cup and took a sip before continuing, " They had with them a cache of vicious white snakes which killed several of my people before we even realized what was happening. They entered their bodies here, at the base of the neck and caused extreme pain."

Carter and O'Neill exchanged knowing glances, "Ah, that would be the Goa'uld."

O'Neill motioned to Carter and she proceeded to give Brokk a shortened but concise version of who and what the Goa'uld were. He sat in amazement. Up until now they were seen only as non-sentient creatures, acting on instinct to survive. He had no idea what would have happened if this 'blending' Carter spoke of had been successful. They had truly been fortunate that no one had survived. As Carter finished, O'Neill asked, "So where are these Goa'uld now?"

"Sealed in a cave far from here."

O'Neill had been looking around the room at the evidences of their technology and asked, "Why didn't you just kill them? You've got the ability, right?"

"We tried, but the last two soldiers took the crate to the cave, we assumed to protect it. They were killed not long after and then the snakes started attacking anyone who was nearby. We considered destroying the cave but the rock is very hard there and we could not be assured of the destruction of the creatures. The crate they were already in seemed to confine them well enough as long as no one got too close so we sealed the entrance shut for all time."

"You do not believe it would be possible for even one to escape?" Teal'c questioned.

"I was sure at the time, but now knowing these beasts are intelligent, I don't know. The cave is set with traps, but these are more to keep anyone from entering and setting them free. They must surely be dead by now, shut up in the dark with no food."

"The Goa'uld larva are quite capable of sustaining themselves for long periods of time while awaiting a suitable host. These Goa'uld appear to be infants, they would not be able to complete a blending successfully. I do not believe they would leave their chamber unless a suitable environment was available."

Carter regarded him, "More "More Jaffa."

Teal'c nodded silently.

O'Neill stood and walked slowly over to a window overlooking the mountainside, "So, Brokk, We'd like to get a better look at this cave, can you take us there?"

"The season has turned cold, this is not a good time to go up into the mountains."

"Maybe not, but we'd like to see it."

Brokk was displeased but still wanted to be friendly with these people who knew of Thor so he offered, "I can show you where it is but you understand I cannot make the journey myself. I am not a young man." He shrugged a bit sheepishly knowing that O'Neill was probably of the same age and added, "I have not ever been to the place myself, men from other cities and towns took part in confining the beasts."

Brokk led them to a large room similar to a library, with a great number of books as well as many cubicles with control panels and viewscreens. Their version of computers no doubt. Carter had been itching to get her hands on some of their technology and her eyes now grew wide with anticipation. Brokk stopped at one of the larger cubicles and after a few moments at the console, brought up a detailed map on the viewscreen. He pointed to an area saying, "Here is the crash site and here, is the cave, it is well marked with a warning."

Carter looked closely at the image, "Sir, this is like a GPS on earth, but I don't think it uses satellites to triangulate position. Amazing."

Brokk looked at her with his brows knit, "Why would we use satellites, you mean orbiting platforms, correct?"

"Yes exactly. You would use them to triangulate a position on the planet surface. You see, having several satellites in orbit at strategic positions around the globe would give known points of reference. You could send a signal to and from these satellites from any location on the planet and know your exact location within a grid of lines and degrees. You've got something like that here but it doesn't rely on satellite signals, does it?"

"That system would be deficient in a great many ways, first the expense and time involved in placing enough satellites in orbit to accomplish the task, then maintaining them. Who would use such an archaic system?"

Carter's eyebrows jumped, "Uh, that's what we do, back on earth. So, how do you provide for static points of reference?"

"We use the planet's core readings. Signals are directed downward and bounced off different layers of the rock below. It is a much more stable database than the uncertainty of space above, surely you see this?"

"Yeah, but how do you get a signal to penetrate the rock enough to make it workable?"

O'Neill was trying to be patient but he had come to the end of his proverbial rope. He held his hands up to his ears mockingly to keep out the onslaught of techno babble. "Carter! Does it work and can we get there? That's all we need to know!"

She shrugged a bit, "Yes, Sir, and yes, Sir."

"Fine. Now would be a good time." He forced a weak smile toward Brokk.

The information was transferred to a small handheld device with a screen much like a palm-sized computer, which Brokk handed to Carter. "It is a long distance, how will you travel there? It would take many days to walk that far."

"We have our ways. Kids, time to go." O'Neill motioned to the door.

Daniel quickly bid Brokk thanks for his hospitality accepted best wishes for the trip ahead. Once out of sight of the village Carter signaled Thor and they were transported back aboard the ship.

--------------------------------------

"What did you learn, O'Neill?"

"You were right, there are Goa'ulds on the planet, but it seems your people down there managed to contain them, for now, anyway."

"They must be eliminated immediately."

Carter handed over the pad with the location and watched Thor study it. "These coordinates are to a location deep within the mountain. Unfortunately our transportation device cannot penetrate the dense rock here."

"You can get in and out of Cheyenne Mountain without any trouble, why not here?" O'Neill asked with a bit of irritation.

"The SGC complex is underground but not far and under igneous rock strata. There is no comparison."

"Okay, okay." O'Neill said with a shake of his head, "I kind of figured we'd be the ones going in after them anyway. The 'mission'."

"As accepted by you." Thor turned back the pad reviewing the information on the screen, "You will be transported to the entrance location. I will be able to remove the external barrier but once underground you must rely on your own resources."

O'Neill just shrugged. "Everybody clear on that?"

As the team assembled their equipment and prepared to be sent to the surface once again, Thor discussed the destruction of the Goa'uld with Carter. He gave her a small device capable of making any moderately sized enclosed area into a cryogenic chamber.

She turned it over in her hands, eyeing the controls. "And this will kill the Goa'ulds?"

"Yes, after the field is established it will take only a few minutes to eradicate them. You must leave the device in place after using it as it will self destruct in less than a day, removing all trace of the Goa'uld presence here."

O'Neill stood by watching, glad Thor did not go into the technical specifics of the device. "So once it's set, we need to be heading out."

Thor nodded. He then handed O'Neill some additional lighting devices. The Colonel turned one over in his hand and pointed to the light affixed to his P-90, "We've got our own flashlights you know."

Thor eyed the flashlight and blinked. "I do not believe that will be sufficient O'Neill. This device will not maintain power for the required length of time."

Carter moved closer and asked, "How much time do you think we'll need?"

"It depends on how quickly you travel, of course." Thor was being evasive again and O'Neill decided it was better to just take the offered assistance and get on with it. He passed one to each of his team and they were soon on the surface eyeing the sealed cave entrance.

Thor had set them down a hundred feet or so away from it so he could remove the cover without injuring them but it was large and they could see it clearly. The opening was oval shaped nearly fifteen feet high and ten feet at its widest point. The cover itself was of a dull gray metal and the vegetation was beginning to grow in around the edge with tall grasses at the base and some long vines hanging from above.

They watched as Thor's energy beam made the metal plate disappear in a flash of light then moved in.

--------------------------------------------

The passageway was large enough for them not to feel cramped but was not very level and they had to pick their way among the rocks. The ground was also definitely going down, a revelation that O'Neill snorted at realizing their exit would be all uphill.

Eventually the group came to a long narrow hallway of sorts and stopped to rest and consider the path. Teal'c noticed a metallic gray panel with an inscription. "Daniel Jackson, there is writing here."

Daniel stepped over to the small panel and blew the dust off before running his fingers over the raised lettering. "It's an old dialect, maybe Norwegian or something." He mumbled to himself as he tried to find familiar symbols in his memory.

O'Neill shook his head as Daniel's fingers touched the plate, "Danny, be careful what you touch down here. Didn't our friend say there were traps? You don't want to set one off, do you?"

"Ah, no actually I think this is instructions for how to get past a trap."

"So, what's it say?"

"It's kind of cryptic, but it reads: 'Victory to the quick.' I know it doesn't make much sense."

"Sounds like we may need to be ready to hurry. Maybe it's just a warning to not stay in here too long, after all we've gone pretty deep and the air supply is limited." Carter offered.

O'Neill knew she was right, about the air, anyway. He had already felt himself breathing a bit harder than he should with the stale air. "Okay then, let's take the hint and get moving. Teal'c take point." He let the Jaffa by and waited for Carter and Daniel to pass before he followed them through the narrow corridor. He felt the hair rise on the back of his neck as his instincts suddenly kicked in. They had gone barely halfway to the end and he froze, listening. Teal'c had also stopped and stood with his head tilted to one side listening too.

O'Neill's eyes moved up the wall to the rocky overhead where he could hear a slight scraping noise, something moving there. Suddenly the ceiling was coming down on them. Hundreds of long pointed metallic spikes were emanating from it as it lowered onto them quickly. O'Neill yelled, "Run!"

Carter and Daniel were now aware of the spikes as the sound had now increased to a roar and fell in behind Teal'c who took off at a dead run. As they came to the end of the hall Teal'c made it out standing but Carter and Daniel
were having to crouch as they ran. O'Neill was having a bit of trouble keeping his lanky frame low enough and as he came to the end, decided to dive for the exit. Teal'c was waiting just beyond the last spike to grab his shoulder and pull him the rest of the way out. As he helped him to his feet O'Neill clasped his upper arm and nodded a breathless thanks.

Carter gazed back into the passage from where they'd come and saw that the spikes were now driven into the floor, the ceiling having completely collapsed. She suddenly jumped back when the whole ceiling began moving again, this time back up to its original position overhead in the darkness, the spikes completely concealed. "Well, at least we know what we're in for when we leave." She sighed.

After a few minutes of recovery and securing their gear the group was again winding through the stone passageway, ever downward. They walked around a corner and came face to face with a solid wall. The passage just seemed to end.

"Did we take a wrong turn somewhere?" O'Neill complained.

Teal'c looked back the way they had come and then to the wall now blocking their way, "I do not believe so, Colonel O'Neill. There were no intersecting corridors of any significance."

Carter ran her hands over the rough stone before her, "So where do we go from here?" She turned to Daniel who was peering closely at something in the rock. "Daniel?"

"I, uh, think I found another panel." At the same time O'Neill was gingerly stepping around an area of the floor with some kind of debris eyeing it thoughtfully.

Daniel continued. "It's another inscription. It reads something like 'rise above crushing.' That's it."

"Crushing? I don't like the sound of that." Carter sounded dubious.

O'Neill cringed as he realized the identity of the debris. Crushed was right. Two humans, or more specifically Jaffa, had been completely flattened. Not a single bone missed. He breathed deeply and decided not to pass his observation on to the others.

He wasn't yet fully recovered from his earlier dash to safety sighed and rubbed his face. "Alright, since I am not up for being folded, spindled or mutilated at this time, I suggest we either figure out where we're supposed to go from here or we're going back. Screw the mission. Five minutes to look around then..."

He never got to finish his sentence as a familiar low grating noise was heard all around them. O'Neill winced, "I hate it when that happens."

The group stood perfectly still awaiting whatever it was that was about to befall them.

Teal'c noticed it first. "O'Neill, this wall seems to be moving." He reached forward and rested his hand on the slowly advancing rock wall.

At the same time Carter was reaching out for the wall behind them and said "Oh, oh. This one is too."

O'Neill spun back to the passageway from where they had emerged only minutes before to find it now sealed and impenetrable. He punched the wall with his fist and cursed as his hand was jarred with pain. He turned back to Daniel and raised his eyebrows. "Anytime, Daniel."

"What? What do you expect me to do?" He held out his hands with exasperation.

O'Neill waved a hand at him in a silent apology then turned to size up the wall now several inches closer to him.
He looked all the way up and could see no top to the wall, 'must be far up' he thought then realized the only way out of their current predicament was up. "Look for footholds, climb up, now!" He shouted. "There, Daniel! Right there! Get moving!" He shoved the younger man over to the wall and pointed upwards.

Teal'c and Carter had already grasped the Colonel's assessment and were finding their own hand and footholds to climb the rock face. In no time they were all well on their way to the top. It was a bit disconcerting climbing a moving wall, but there were numerous places to hold on or plant their feet, as if the wall had been carved to suit just that intention.

Teal'c was first to the top and reached down to pull Daniel to safety. The Colonel and Major were side-by-side climbing and as O'Neill was closer to Teal'c he was assisted first over the edge. Both O'Neill and Teal'c turned and reached for Carter just as she yelped in pain. Her boot had slipped but before she even began to fall two strong arms were dragging her upward. The walls were within inches of each other now and she grimaced as she felt her boot being compressed from the front and back at the same time. "Wait! My foot! I'm caught!"

O'Neill spat a curse and let Teal'c take her weight as he dove to his chest reaching as far past the edge as he could. His hand found her boot and he used his fist to pound the heel sideways so she could turn her foot and pull free. It gave and Teal'c pulled her up with one mighty lurch. O'Neill was still lying on his stomach and just managed to get his arm up out of the way as the two rock walls closed in. Another moment and a blast of air and dust blew up into his face and he squinted and jerked his head away as the rocks came together with a resounding clash.

He relaxed heavily on the solid rock beneath him, "Shit. Carter, you alright?"

The realization that her legs had almost been crushed beyond repair struck and she looked into her CO's eyes with a truly heart-felt thank you. He had risked himself again without hesitation to save her, just like a hundred times before. "Yeah, thanks guys." She uttered breathlessly.

They all rested uneasily for a short while and gathered their strength. O'Neill shone his light up and across the walls. "You know, now that we're completely sealed up in here, you'd think the air would be more stale. I think we're getting a little flow from somewhere."

Carter took a few deep breaths and replied, "You're right, Sir. The air is definitely more fresh than before." She shone her light down the only passageway from the small room.

As they got up and prepared to leave Daniel noticed Carter leaning heavily on the wall and trying not to put weight on her left foot. "Sam? You're hurt."

"I just twisted my ankle a little, believe me it's better than the alternative. I'm not complaining."

With a little insistence from her CO she allowed Daniel to remove her boot and get a look at the already swollen foot. Luckily there were no lacerations and the bones appeared to be intact so Daniel just wrapped it securely and tucked an instant ice pack into the dressing. Teal'c tied the now unused boot to his pack.

They resumed their journey more slowly than before allowing Carter to lean on Daniel for while then traded off for O'Neill.

Teal'c had been on point and stopped in his tracks again alerting the group to danger ahead. He pointed to the wide low hallway in front of them and to the mostly decomposed body at the halfway point. The man was leaning up against one wall, his decimated right arm raised with the hand resting on a panel with a dark crystal in the center.

Daniel quickly found another panel with writing since he now knew what to look for and began reading it aloud. "It says 'the quick die by'-" He continued muttering to himself, running his fingers over the plate.

O'Neill had let Carter down to the floor and now joined Daniel at the wall, "Daniel? And? What else?"

"Well, I don't know. Part of the panel has been damaged, I 'm not sure what it says."

"Great, just great. Ideas? Anyone?"

Teal'c had been looking over the passage with a critical eye looking for any sign of the trap. The walls here were smooth and polished with numerous small vent holes of some kind the whole length of it. "Colonel O'Neill, I do not believe we will be able to determine the nature of this trap unless we continue through it."

"You think we've been activating them by our presence?" Teal'c nodded his agreement.

"Okay, let's be careful here, Teal'c, you go through first. Everybody stay sharp."

Teal'c obediently stepped forward to his fate and moved slowly down the hall, swinging his staff weapon side to side in anticipation of a threat. He moved more quickly as nothing happened and was soon at the side of the dead man. He paused to look closely at the panel on the wall. "This man appears to have activated or deactivated a device before his death."

"Keep moving, Daniel, go on through. Do not touch anything." O'Neill emphasized the word 'not' as he sternly warned the archaeologist with a wagging finger.

Daniel stepped into the hall following the Jaffa's footsteps to the midpoint and gingerly stepped around the body. He peered at the panel and adjusted his glasses on his nose. "I don't see markings of any kind here. This device could be anything, Jack." He shrugged and continued to the end of the hall where the walls turned once again to the rough rock of the natural cave.

When he was all the way through, O'Neill offered his hand to his 2IC. "Looks like I'm your crutch, Carter." He helped her to stand and wrapped his arm around her waist and bent forward slightly so she could grip his neck with one arm. "Ready? Here we go."

Before they could take the first step a low grating rumble was heard from the passageway behind them. O'Neill froze then turned slightly to look over his shoulder. He couldn't see anything happening in the darkness but the floor was shaking from the vibration of whatever it was. O'Neill turned back just in time to see the hand and arm of the corpse fall from the panel and the crystal to glow red. The entire hall lit up with a pale blue light, the red tones of the crystal standing out in stark contrast.

O'Neill spoke up in a sing-song voice, "Oh, Indy, Doctor Jones? Any ideas here?" A comment on the absurd situations his team seemed to get into at the hands of one errant archaeologist. He and his 2IC stood motionless holding on to one another awaiting an answer.

"No, not really." He was wishing so much that he had stayed back and studied the panel more. He could almost make out the last part of the inscription and was now trying hard to visualize it in his mind. Remembering the first part of the inscription he added, "But whatever you do, I wouldn't do it quickly."

"Fine, Carter, let's go. Just take it real slow."

"Yes, Sir. Got it."

They took one tentative step into the blue light and were met with a barrage of something akin to staff weapon fire emanating from the vents in the walls. O'Neill jerked back out of the light and fell to the ground dragging Carter with him. She landed beside him and let out a cry as her ankle landed sharply on the hard stone.

O'Neill got up to his knees and began to pull Carter up as he suddenly noticed a new threat. The wall behind them had closed off the exit and was now advancing. Soon it would force them into the light and the promised 'death by fire' trap.

He rolled his eyes to the ceiling and yelped, "You have *got* to be kidding me!"

Teal'c and Daniel could see from their vantage point that the wall was indeed moving toward their teammates. "O'Neill!" Teal'c called out, prepared to re-enter the hall to save his friends.

"No, Teal'c! Stay where you are! C'mon Carter we've got to try again, slower this time." He pulled her up to stand beside him and make another attempt.

Daniel suddenly stood and shouted, "No, Jack! Wait! It wasn't 'quick', it was 'unskilled, unsure'. The way to get through has been the opposite response. "

"What the hell does that mean? We don't have a lot of time!"

"I don't know!" Daniel threw his arms around wildly searching for an answer, then his eyes fell to the floor and he noticed the center was painted with a softly glowing fluorescent stripe straight down the middle. It sparkled silver under the hazy blue light. "Wait! I do know! You've got to walk on the stripe, straight down the middle of the room."

"Daniel, that doesn't make any sense!"

Carter was still hanging onto his neck and touched his chest with her hand. "Sir, we've seen something like this before. I mean Daniel and I. When we went to the Hall of Thor's Might we had to cross a chasm walking on a six inch wide beam, it was a test."

"Oh for cryin' out loud. You mean this set up is Asgard technology?"

"Could be, Sir. I'm just saying it's similar."