Disclaimer: The characters and…stuff…from Stargate SG1 belong to them, not me.

A/N: This one's a little different from my usual style, folks. It's long, but not a novella, a bit gory and very angsty. Of course, it's still Sam and Jack centric, but not in the least bit humorous. Would love to know how the time-jumping works out for you.

Recommend you get yourselves settled in for the long haul with a nice cup of tea and a packet of chocolate digestives.

Many, *many* thanks to Dietcokechic for Beta Reading this one for me. It was a lengthy process and words can not express my gratitude. My first-born is yours.

The Arms of Orion

Every morning it's the same; the body not quite ready to fully regain consciousness but aware of the futility of further sleep. There's always a few seconds when he's not quite awake, but no longer asleep and in those scarce moments it is easy to convince his foggy mind that he's back at the SGC. His countless wounds are being professionally, yet tenderly treated by Doctor Fraiser and Daniel, Carter and Teal'c are all impatiently waiting at his bedside willing him to wake up. But then he awakens to find himself still in this hell hole of a prison.

And then the pain comes.

Dull at first, almost far away. As if it is fighting its way through his sleep-addled mind, forcing its unwelcome way to the surface of his consciousness. But it soon intensifies, a sharp constant stabbing pain coursing through his broken body. A pain that never stops, never weakens.

He always cries out when the pain comes. Quietly, in the hopes that no one will hear. He still has some pride left, after all. His forced back tears no longer a surprising reaction for a man such as he, but instead a familiar sound that, in some sick way, helps him to cope with life – or piteous existence as it has so recently become.

The pain is always piercing; finding its way straight to his soul. An all encompassing explanation and confirmation of the agony that he now suffers. His muted cries are a sound that never fails to make the Jaffa on the other side of the bars wince in barely hidden pity and the Goa'uld who holds him prisoner smile coldly in glee.

Two days. That's all it's been. Two measly days that used to fly by like the wind, but now stick around for so long that each hour, each moment that passes feels like an eternity. Two days since Teal'c and Daniel managed to escape this eternity of torture and pain, Two days since he last saw Carter as she was dragged away screaming his name.

Death would be a welcome release right now. But he knows he has to live. Sheer determination to find Carter and get her home is the only thing that keeps him strong. All he wants is for this to end. No more pain, no more tears and no more tortured memories of her agonized voice choked in pain and barely concealed fear as they shock her again and again. She was dragged away by her hair and to this day he can't figure out how the Jaffa had managed to get a secure grip on her short blond locks.

He knows full well that these thoughts are abnormal, that he should be concentrating on finding and fighting his way to the surface, back to the Stargate, but the fight in him dissipated into nothing two days after he arrived, to be replaced by resignation, exhaustion and fear. But he has every right to be tired. To be afraid. To be accepting.

To be what he has become.


"Daniel! Dial the gate!" Colonel O'Neill's clipped voice had Doctor Jackson jumping immediately into action as he saw the rest of his team hurtling across the sand towards him. From the corner of his eyes he caught a glimpse of a Jaffa warrior firing a staff weapon and began quickly and efficiently depressing the 'glyphs on the DHD with practiced authority.

Slapping his hand down on the red circular crystal in the centre of the orb, he watched and waited impatiently as the corresponding symbols on the 'gate lit up and the shimmering event horizon sprang into view. Daniel ran quickly up the steps to the circle of energy and turned to watch as Teal'c, Jack and Sam raced past the Archaeologist's scattered books and tools laying only a few metres from the DHD.

In his rush to get to the Stargate Teal'c tripped over a raised tree root and Sam immediately crouched behind the DHD, laying down cover fire as Jack grabbed the Alien's arm and hauled him onto his feet, watching the larger man as he limped quickly towards the stairs, using his staff weapon as a crutch.

"Daniel, Teal'c. Get out of here!" Jack hollered over the noise of the return fire from the approaching Jaffa, His voice left little room for argument. "Carter, let's go!"

Sam crouched as low as she could and ran the last few feet towards the foot of the stairs as Daniel and Teal'c disappeared through the Event Horizon. Her trained eyes were everywhere at once watching for incoming fire from the attackers who seemed to be closing in on them from all directions. She reached the gate without incident; Jack was not as lucky.

He hit the ground with a thud as searing pain from the blast of a nearby staff weapon assaulted his senses. From what he could tell the focus of the blast had hit his left arm at shoulder level, the intense heat having cauterized the wound so no blood appeared on his jacket. The burn created an almost perfect circle through his clothing and into his arm.

For a long moment the Colonel froze in absolute stillness as the shock and pain of the attack rendered him breathless. The pressure of the attack forced him to his knees; his right hand tightly grasping his wounded arm, P-90 hanging uselessly at his waist.

"Colonel!" Carter shouted as she watched him collapse to the ground. Her frantic yell had the desired effect; he immediately stood up as she left the relative safety of the DHD and ran towards him, oblivious to the weapons fire surrounding her. She reached her CO just as he was using his good arm to push himself up from the ground. She grabbed his jacket by the collar, yanking him unceremoniously to his feet.

"I'm okay!" He called to her over the din of the rapidly approaching Jaffa. His eyes widened in shock as five or six of the warriors appeared only a couple of hundred feet behind them, quickly closing in on their position. He looked to the left, then to the right. More Jaffa had taken cover behind the thin spread of trees either side of the Stargate. How the hell did they make it there so fast? He looked quickly at his 2IC. "Let's get out of here!"

She looked swiftly around them as the Colonel pulled himself together. The 'gate was only a couple of hundred feet away, but the Jaffa were closing in on them too fast. For a moment she was convinced they would never make it before they were overpowered, but she swiftly blocked the thought from her mind. They *would* make it. They *had* to make it.

Using each other as a support, Colonel and Major ran quickly towards the Stargate; both convinced that the next shot fired was going to hit either one. Jack swore as he heard the familiar sound of ring transporters, then again as a voice rang out amongst the chaos.

A voice strangely familiar but implacable in the madness. A voice that would haunt them both for the rest of their lives.


There is a noise outside of his cell now. Muted voices, then receding footsteps. 'They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace…" He allows himself a small smile as he remembers through the pain the poem his Irish-born mother taught him when he was young. 'Christopher-Robin went down with Alice.'

He smiles at a distant memory and winces as his barely healing mouth splits open once more. He licks his dry, cracked lips and tastes the Iron flavouring of the blood on his mouth.

A scraping noise forces him to open his eyes and he watches in scarcely veiled fear as the new Jaffa guard opens the door of his cage. What this time?

Expecting the torture and humiliation he had become used to over the past forty-eight hours he was surprised to find…

To find food.

A tin bowl half filled with dirty grey slop is thrown in front of him, some of its contents spilling out onto the hard stone floor as the dish wobbles around precariously before settling in an upright position. The second bowl, filled with muddy water, is placed more carefully in an opposite corner of the room. Pride had at first stopped him from accepting any sustenance, but after only twenty four hours he had succumbed to his overwhelming thirst and drunk greedily from the bowl.

Moving awkwardly, and cradling his broken right arm to his body, he crawls forward on his good hand and knees, too exhausted to stand. He edges closer to the water. The chain attached to his left arm painfully pulls his hand back as he is forced to lean forward and lap at the water like a domesticated animal.

The Jaffa observing from the other side of the bars smiles satisfactorily to himself as he watches the proud Colonel prostrate himself without ceremony for the sake of some water. He quietly opens the doors once more allowing himself re-entry into the cage and approaches the prisoner with a look of scornful contempt.

The Colonel is so busy quenching his burning thirst that he doesn't notice the warrior approach. And it is only when the bowl is kicked out from under him, spilling the sweet aqua onto the stone floor that his attention is redirected. Automatically, his damaged arm shoots out; ready to fight the guard as the hard, parched ground greedily soaks up the liquid.

The Jaffa grabs the chain around the Colonel's arm and with all his strength, yanks it backwards causing Jack him to bite back and agonised cry as the dulling pain from the staff wound is revitalised and his arm is pulled from the socket with a loud Pop.

Sweet oblivion beckons to him as he lies spread-eagled on the ground, the pain in his body too much to endure. And as unconsciousness washes over him he swears he can hear her voice calling his name.

His last thought is one of bitterness as darkness covers him, warming him against the chill of the underground prison. They did it, he realises as a solitary, unbidden tear runs freely down his cheek.

The bastards finally broke him.


"Stop now or I will kill you both."

The deep, tinny voice was enough to shock them both into stopping and they turned to face its owner. The sight that greeted them was not pleasant and both Jack and Sam immediately raised their weapons, ready to fight to fight once more.

At least twenty warriors were on the ground, all pointing their Staff Weapons at the pair. And in the centre of it all, surrounded by at least another half dozen Jaffa stood a Goa'uld.

"Colonel O'Neill." The Goa'uld nodded disdainfully at Jack. "Major Carter."

Refusing to look unnerved by the unfair odds against the pair, Jack eyed the Goa'uld with contempt and fell back on good old fashioned sarcasm. "I'm sorry. Have we met?"

A strange, almost unreal sound emitted from the alien's mouth, something not unlike laughter. "I forgot. You have not seen me since I acquired my new host."

Sam understood instantly and a chill ran down her spine as she remembered the words he had once said, coldly vowing revenge for his father's death.


Jack finally caught up. "Ah, crap."


General Hammond was the first to speak. "What happened to Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter?"

"They were right behind us!" Daniel exclaimed. "There were Jaffa everywhere. We have to go back!"

"Dial P4C-936." Hammond yelled at the Sergeant as he walked briskly out of the gate room and up the stairs into the control room, Daniel and Teal'c close on his heels. "Send a MALP through!"

The 'gate whirred into life once again and the claxons blared relentlessly as all hands rushed to their posts.

"Chevron Six engaged." The Sergeant announced as the MALP trundled in. "Chevron Seven…will not lock."

Daniel Jackson visibly crumpled as the announcement was made and Teal'c's eyes closed momentarily in frustration.

Hammond, ever professional in his undertakings, nodded stoically. "Keep trying until you get a lock." He ordered before turning on his heel and heading out the door. "Doctor Jackson, Teal'c, get to the Infirmary. Debrief in thirty minutes."

"I will remain." Teal'c replied, his voice straining to contain his fear for his team mates. Hammond calmly turned to face him. "You were limping when you came through the 'gate. I want Doctor Fraiser to check you out before anyone attempts a rescue."

The Jaffa stood silently for a moment, contemplating his next course of action before bowing resignedly and marching quickly in the direction of the Infirmary, realising immediately that the quicker he complied with his Superior's orders, the quicker they could go back for O'Neill and Major Carter.

Daniel rushed to catch up with him. "What do you think happened?" he asked, not bothering to hide the desperation and fear so evident in his voice.

"I am unsure."

"But they were right behind us!"

"I am aware of that Daniel Jackson." Teal'c replied agitatedly before quickening his pace, practically forcing the archaeologist into a run to keep up with him.


She had given up on a quick rescue as soon as she realised where she was. Her scientific, practical mind had forced her to understand and accept that fact that wherever she was, it was far underground and the only people who could hear her calls for help were the very men keeping her here.

How long had she been down here now? Two days? Three? She had tried to keep track, but they had taken her watch from her when they removed her weapons and there were no windows. The only way she could keep any kind of track was by the change of guards posted outside of her cell. She figured that, going by Teal'c, all Jaffa had to have at least four hours a day for Kel-No-Reem, and the longest any of them remained outside her 'door' was six hours. Going by that she calculated in her head that it was probably daytime on earth; possibly morning.

Of course, she couldn't be certain. Sometimes, especially after Klorel had tortured her into unconsciousness, she woke up not knowing how long she had been out for. She had tried to memorise the faces of the guards assigned to her, trying to ascertain if they were day or night wardens. But through the pain, hunger and exhaustion the faces all seem to blend into each other and they really do all begin to look the same.

She wants to sleep now more than anything, but knows she is at her most vulnerable when she sleeps and she refuses to be vulnerable right now. With sheer determination she dips the sleeve of her tee shirt into the water bowl and wipes it over her stinging, dry eyes.

The water is warm and unfortunately does not help. In fact, instead of feeling refreshed she just feels more tired and finds her eyes closing despite her best efforts.

Her door rattles and all of a sudden she is more awake than before. She scurries over to hide in the shadows at the corner of her cage, pulling against the chain on her arm, willing it to give her more leeway as a heavy-set Jaffa warrior enters and walks determinedly towards her.

"Please…" she whispers quietly to herself before raising her head and staring unwaveringly at her captor. She wants her voice to be strong, determined. She wants to show the bastards that they won't break her. But her throat is cracked and dry and her voice no louder than a rasp. "I want to sleep." She says defiantly. "He's already questioned me and I still won't tell him anything. Go back to your *God* and tell him I want to see the Colonel."

The guard takes a step towards her and she automatically tries to push herself further against the wall, tensing her body in preparation for whatever beating she will receive for her insolence.

The man stops when he is a foot away from her and holds out his hands in passivity. "I will not harm you Major Carter." He murmurs quietly before looking surreptitiously around.

"I was sent by Master Braytac. My name is Rony'ac. I am free Jaffa."


One of the Jaffa dialled another 'gate's coordinates as Klorel continued to talk. He explained to them with amusement and more than just a little contempt that his loyal Jaffa had managed to secure him a new host even before he had left Tollana. Sam was only half-listening to Klorel's crowing as she watched the Stargate from the corner of her eye. She memorised the glyphs that were illuminating and watched as the Event Horizon appeared in the centre.

Klorel nodded to the guards surrounding the pair and walked regally through the Stargate. The prisoners were then frogmarched up the steps and unceremoniously pushed through the gate.

All hell broke lose as soon as they reached the other side. O'Neill had nodded quickly at the Major as they stepped through the Event Horizon and grabbed the nearest Zat gun as soon as they reached the other side. Carter went to do the same and between them they managed to kill seven Jaffa and stun another five before the stacked odds overwhelmed them and they were taken down.

In their attempt to escape Sam suffered bruises and a sprained wrist. But Jack had his arm stomped on by a particularly large warrior and it snapped at the elbow. The pain was so intense that it caused him to cry out suddenly. Shooting pains coursed through his arm and he viciously fought the urge to throw up.

Jack was unceremoniously hauled to his feet and together they marched, side by side down a long corridor which, from the damp smell, seemed to be deep underground.

But underground where? Looking around her Sam figured that the tunnels must have been built a long time ago. The Gangrene growing in and around the few bricks still visible under the muddy coating suggested perhaps they were under water. The Stargate and DHD did not look as if they had been transported down here; both were planted deep into the ground. The whole complex must be surrounded by water. She realised, her heart sinking as the seriousness of their situation just got a lot worse.

Suddenly the tunnel separated into two and the Jaffa began to split up. Carter caught the Colonel's eye. They knew what was about to happen and Jack stared at her, desperately trying to convey to her the message to just let them be separated and not to fight.

Apparently it didn't translate as he had hoped.

Sam put up a good fight before they dragged her away down one of the tunnels. She even managed to break free of their grasp for a moment and rush over to his side, placing a trembling hand on his cheek before someone grabbed her by the hair and pulled her off him.

"Carter!!" he roared helplessly as he watched her being taken away.


"My Symbiote will heal the damage." Teal'c bit out impatiently as Doctor Janet Fraiser fussed around him.

"That's as maybe, but I still want to ascertain for myself exactly what the damage is." She replied patiently, understanding the Jaffa's feeling of urgency to get back to the planet and retrieve his team mates.

Had Teal'c been one to show his frustration he would probably have begun shouting by now, but as it was he merely nodded slightly and allowed her to continue with her job. "I want an X-Ray of this ankle." She ordered the nurse standing next to her before pointing to the gash on his forehead. "And clean that wound, it's going to need stitches if the Symbiote can't fix it."

"Yes Doctor." The nurse turned on her heel and walked quickly away.

Janet turned back to regard Teal'c and Daniel, who, having been cleared at his physical, was now hovering restlessly beside the bed. "What happened out there?" she asked quietly.

"I don't know." Daniel replied. "The Jaffa were shooting at us and Jack ordered Teal'c and me to go through the gate whilst he and Sam lay down cover fire." He paused before continuing quietly. "I swear they were right behinds us!" he barely whispered.

"It's not your fault Daniel." Janet said soothingly, the anguish clearly evident on his face.

"Doctor Fraiser is correct." Agreed Teal'c, nodding slowly. "The blame is not yours to carry." He paused for a moment, his normally majestic and proud head bowed low in guilt and sorrow.

"It is mine."


He's being roughly shaken back to consciousness by someone and it's not, he drowsily decides, a pleasant experience.

But then he's there. And for that precious moment he can almost smell the sterilization fluids and he knows he's back in the infirmary. He smiles slightly, knowing that when he opens his eyes his team will be standing over him, concerned, yet relieved to see him awake.

The ache in his arm has dulled slightly and it is enough to convince him that Doc Fraiser has given him something for the pain. He can hear Carter urgently whispering his name, willing him to open his eyes.



Something's wrong. Why is Carter whispering?

Another voice pushes its way through the thick fog of semi-consciousness, a male voice; deep and resonate like Teal'c – only it's not Teal'c.

"We must depart."

Depart? He tries in desperation to block out this second voice, wanting only to concentrate on the lighter tones of his 2IC. Hearing her speak is a comfort to his tired mind. The knowledge that she is still alive; still okay.

From deep beneath the pain and exhaustion that has found its way into his broken body, comes an unexpected bubble of sheer gratitude and joy. She is right there before him, not a dream but really there. Bizarrely, he wants to laugh, but the situation is too desperate. For now it is enough for him to know that she was strong enough to hold on. That they didn't break her either.

She's getting insistent now, demanding even. He can hear her desperate hisses, telling him he has to wake up. They have to escape.

Escape. The single word that is more than enough to force his eyes open and stare blurrily into the darkness.

He tries to speak. "Escape?" It's quiet. Barely a murmur even, but she understands anyway and he knows she is smiling slightly, relieved that he is at last awake.

"Yes sir. We have to leave. *Now*."

His eyes finally begin to focus and the blurry edges sharpen. She's kneeling in front of him, her hand pulling lightly on his shoulder, terrified of hurting him further, but desperate to make him stand. She looks like hell.

"...look like hell." He tries, and she's smiling again. "Thank you sir, so do you."

There's someone else in the room. A Jaffa. He's standing at the door to the cage, looking out for any expected but highly unwanted visitors. Carter follows his line of vision and looks over her shoulder. "It's alright sir. Braytac sent him. He's a rebel Jaffa."

He nods in understanding and tries to sit up but as soon as he elevates his head the world starts to spin. With a groan he lowers his himself back onto the ground and closes his eyes as nausea washes over him.

"Sir, please…" Her voice is more urgent now and he opens his eyes once more. He can see the panic in her eyes and barely concealed fear dusted into the dirty black lines on her pale, thin face. He knows she has to get out now, leave before they realise she's missing. But he also knows she won't make it with him slowing her down.

He closes his eyes once again, but this time in defeat. "Leave." He mutters, fighting unconsciousness once more. Hold on. He tells himself, just a little longer.

She misunderstands him. On purpose? "Yes sir. We need to leave. Now."

Sighing in frustration he tries again, this time with more conviction. "Carter. Go."

Realisation dawns and if at all possible, she pales a little more. "No Sir." She replies just as vehemently. "I'm not leaving without you."

He knew she would say that and, despite the urgency of the situation, he allows himself a small smile. We never leave our people behind. Still, Air Force credo's notwithstanding, his resolve has not changed.

"Order…" he tries.

"So court-martial me." She hisses in response before standing and facing the bulky Jaffa at the door. "Can you give me a hand?"

For a man his size, the Rebel Warrior is light and graceful on his feet. Before Jack even knows what's going on he finds himself being lifted up and into the big mans arms. The Jaffa throws him over his shoulder in a kind of fireman's lift and he almost yells out in pain as his broken arm comes into hard contact with the other man's shoulder.

Nausea makes a momentary reappearance and he forces it back beneath the surface as slowly they walk towards the exit; Carter taking point and the Jaffa carrying him bringing up the rear.

From his position he couldn't see Carter even if his eyes were open, but from years of experience he knows she's carefully on the lookout for any guards heading their way. Does she even have a weapon? He wonders as his heavy head bumps lightly against the Jaffa's shoulder blades.

Then there are noises. Noises and calling and weapons firing from all directions.

And he is on the floor. Dumped there like a sack of Potatoes, destined to just watch helplessly through heavy lids and unimaginable pain as Carter and the other guy are left to fight for his life and theirs.


It takes her a moment to register and process the new information. "Free Jaffa?" she murmurs more to herself than to him. "How did Braytac know where to find us?"

It seems Rony'ac doesn't like to waste time on idle chatter. "All will be explained later." He whispers urgently. "We must leave now, before the others return."

"Wait. I just have to get something." She runs over to one corner of the room, crouches down and retrieves a small device from a hole in the wall.

Returning to stand by the Jaffa, she then silently takes the proffered Zat gun and wordlessly follows him out of the door. Should I really trust him? She wonders to herself as they quietly sneak down the maze of corridors, but the query is academic. Either she puts her trust - and subsequently her life in the hands of this complete stranger, or she spends the rest of her short days locked up in Klorel's dungeon.

The last two days have given her plenty of time to asses the situation, and after less than twenty-four hours she determined without a doubt, that there was no possible escape. Not without some serious help.

She had tried, of course, and her experimentation had most often been rewarded with electric shocks from their weapons, or worse, a meeting with Klorel himself. Once, just a couple of hours into her incarceration, she had managed to render the guard that bought her 'food' unconscious by using nothing more than her hand to hand combat skills and the element of surprise.

Of course, they had caught her after less than a minute, and she was immediately brought before Klorel who used his ribbon device on her for so long that she passed out.

The most ridiculous thing was that the whole time she was kneeling before him; his arm outstretched and a beam of pure agonizing pain emitting from the device cradled in his palm; all she could think of was what she would do to him if she managed to get her hands on a few of his weapons - how much she would have loved to see the look on his Jaffa's faces when they saw that the Goa'uld weren't the only ones who could use the hand devices. Maybe then they would realise that Klorel was no more a God than they were.

And maybe, just maybe their loyalties would waver.

Ever the military mind. But then, she supposed, that was what she had been trained for after all.

"Do you know where the Colonel is?" She whispers urgently to the Jaffa as they move stealthily along yet another corridor. "I will take you to him." He replies quietly. "But we must move quickly." She nods in response and they are on the move once again, ducking into the shadows, hiding around corners, trying to become invisible.

The Jaffa easily rids them of the two guards posted outside the Colonel's cell, and she watches with urgency as he enters the code into the buttons on the wall. The door slides open with a smooth, quiet rumble and she quickly steps inside.

Her heart catches in her throat as she sees him lying on the floor in the centre of the room. Forcing herself to assess the situation with professional accuracy, she secures the immediate area, leaving the Jaffa posted at the door as she rushes over to check on her CO.

His breathing is slow and raspy, but he's alive. She sighs in relief and continues to check for other injuries. His arm is definitely broken, and apparently starting to heal where it lies – which will mean it will have to be rebroken again if they get back to Earth.

*When* they get back to Earth.

His other arm has been dislocated at the shoulder and Sam realises that to be extremely painful. She winces at the thought of what he must have been through to get like this. She believes that none of her suffering these last two days could equal his.

The Jaffa glances at her impatiently. "We must go now." He says quietly before turning his attention back to the corridor outside. She nods quickly, shaking herself out of her silent reverie and moves to try and wake the Colonel.


Jack was thrown unceremoniously into his cell.

He landed with a painful thump, only just managing to turn his body in time to allow the majority of the impact to hit his back. Even so, the pain that shot through both arms was intense and for a moment he had to concentrate on not passing out - not that the option didn't have its appeal.

After taking a moment or two to gather his equilibrium he slowly sat up and assessed the situation. Looking around, he noticed with some disdain that his cell was much like the rest of this underground maze; damp, dirty and enclosed. The roof was low enough that when standing up, his palm lay flat against the ceiling and there were no windows.

Immediately he depressed the button on his radio. "Carter, come in." There was a static crackle, but no voice could be heard from the other end. He tried again. "Carter, do you read?" Praying that she could at least hear him, he continued to speak. "Carter, if you can hear me, hide your GDO. Whatever you do, don't let them get it."

Again; nothing. He bit out a curse before turning his attention back to his surroundings.

There appeared to be no ventilation system and fleetingly he wondered how they managed to get oxygen down there, but his thoughts were interrupted by the metal door to his cell sliding open and a man who appeared to be Klorel's first prime appearing at the entrance.

"Jaffa, Kree!" All of a sudden two more Jaffa appeared behind the first prime and made their way menacingly towards the Colonel. He stepped back involuntarily as one of the guards trained his staff weapon to chest level and the other quickly divested Jack of his radio, watch and jacket.

"Hey!" He cried out, his bravado hiding his nerves. "If you wanted to borrow my wardrobe, you could'a just asked!"

His sarcasm was rewarded with a fierce blow to the stomach by the blunt end of the staff weapon, and he doubled over, badly winded. "Fine, take it." He choked out. "It's moth-eaten anyway. But could ya bring me a new one? It's a little chilly in here."

This time the Jaffa swung the weapon over his head, and it came down with a large crack onto the back of the Colonel's neck.

And that's when everything went black.


"What do you mean it was your fault?" Daniel asked incredulously.

"Had I been watching my footing I would not have stumbled and we would have all made it back to the Stargate before the Jaffa could reach us." Teal'c replied quietly. "And O'Neill and Major Carter would not be in this situation. The blame lies with me."

"Don't be ridiculous!" The Archaeologist exclaimed hotly. "I saw what happened. They were right behind us!"

Teal'c looked at his team mate for a moment before returning his gaze to the floor. "Had I not lost my footing," he repeated slowly, "We would not have been delayed in our escape. O'Neill and Major Carter stopped to help me. It was a foolish mistake; one that an experienced Jaffa should not make. I have endangered the lives of two friends because of an error in judgement."

"Teal'c, you can't blame yourself for what happened." Janet said quietly. "There is no way you could have known it would turn out like this."

The Jaffa regarded her for a moment. "You were not present Doctor Fraiser." He replied quickly. "You were not witness to the event."

"Maybe not." She agreed. "But I know you Teal'c and I know that every time you all go through that Stargate you take risks." She placed a soothing hand on the man's arm. "I also know that the Colonel would never blame you for what happened out there."

Teal'c nodded mutely and rose to his feet, ready to leave. "We must meet with General Hammond." He said trying to end the conversation, and made his way to the door.

"Teal'c?" he turned to regard the petite doctor once more.

"If you spend all your time thinking about whether or not you're to blame, then we'll never get them back." She watched as his eyes once again studied the floor, and hoped that her change in tactic was working. "Concentrate on bringing them home. We can decide where the fault lies later."

Teal'c bowed gracefully and walked out the door. Daniel smiled slightly at the doctor, grateful to her for trying to make his friend see sense, then silently followed him towards the briefing room.

Just as the pair reached the elevator, the klaxons started to wail.


The door opened with a quiet whirr and Sam was roughly shoved inside. The room grew dimmer as the door closed behind her, blocking out the dull light from the torches that burned in the hallways. She studied her surroundings for a moment, trying to ascertain if there was anything within the room that could aid her escape.

Naturally, her cell was bare.

Her trained eyes did, however, notice tiny pinhead sized holes in one of the walls; thousands of them, each pushing through small constant gushes of air. If the tunnels really were underwater, she thought to herself, then where's all this oxygen coming from?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a crackling coming from her radio. She quickly pressed the transmit button. "Colonel?"

The reply was more static, but she tried again. "Sir? This is Carter, please respond."

More crackling, then the radio jumped to life and the Colonel's disembodied voice broke through. "…your GDO…don't…get it."

Relief washed over her as she heard his familiar voice. At least she knew his was still alive. She tried to reach him one last time. "Sir, do you read me?" Once more there was nothing but static. She sighed in defeat and released the button. She then yanked the GDO off her arm and scanned the room, looking for a suitable hiding place.

Over in the left hand corner there was a small hole in the bottom of the wall. Walking quickly over to the side of the room, she bent down and managed to shove the device deep inside before moving back to the centre just as the door slid open once more.

Two Jaffa guards entered the room and silently, but purposefully marched towards her. Determined to hide the fear in her heart, she stood her ground as they reached her. One stood back a little, pointing his staff weapon lazily in her general direction while the other quickly searched her and removed her radio, watch and jacket.

Wordlessly, Sam allowed him to complete his task. But as he turned his back to walk away, she kicked his feet out from under him. He landed with a heavy thud just as she made a grab for the second guard's weapon.

She nearly made it, but the Jaffa was just a little faster. With calm yet swift movement, he swung his weapon in a low arc and it made painful contact with the back of her thighs, forcing her onto her knees. The floored Jaffa then reared up and gave her an almighty whack across the face with the back of his armoured hand, causing her to fall sideways.

Her cheekbone immediately numbed and she could feel blood dripping down the side of her face. Defiantly she raised her head once more and stared insolently at her captors as they made their silent retreat.

It was only when the door closed behind them that Sam allowed her head to bow in frustration. Reaching over, she tore a strip of material off the long arm of her black shirt and held it to her bleeding face. Tenderly she touched the wound. Her cheekbone was almost certainly chipped and the warrior's metal armour had made deep gash just below her left eye. Wincing in pain she crawled back over to the corner of the room where she had hidden her GDO and propped herself up against the wall. Tiredness washed over her and she allowed her head to fall back against the dirty brick wall and her eyes to close.

She stayed like that until the Jaffa returned and took her to see Klorel.


"This way." Rony'ac mutters as he steps over the bodies of the five dead Jaffa and stoops to once again retrieve the unconscious Colonel.

"Are we heading back to the Stargate?" Sam asks as she trains her Zat gun around the corner before walking quickly down yet another corridor.

"No. The Chapa'ai is too heavily guarded. We must get to the ring transporters. I have a Teltac waiting on the surface."

"I thought we were under water." She exclaims, surprise evident in her voice.

The Jaffa nods. "Indeed. The surface has been poisoned by radiation. These tunnels were formed many years ago by the inhabitants of this planet - long before my time or yours. But the surface air is relatively harmless if you breathe it in for only short amounts of time."

She thinks back to the last two days in her cell, and the source of the oxygen coming through the holes. "How do you know?" she asks warily.

"I have been working undercover in the service of Klorel for many seasons." He replies quickly. "When we first discovered this planet we knew immediately that the air was polluted. You could smell it in the atmosphere around you. Klorel sent a number of humans awaiting implantation onto the surface to survive alone. He wanted to know if this would be a worthy planet to introduce a colony of slaves. I was assigned to check on them every day to see if they were still alive." He quietens for a moment, head bowed in regret. "They lasted only three days. Their deaths seemed violent and painful."

"Then why does he still use the planet? If there's nothing of any value worth taking here and the air above is polluted…"

"When we flew over it, Klorel's ship did a scan of the planets surface. There is an abundance of Naquada buried under the mountains to the east of the forest and he wants to harvest it."

Conversation stops for a moment as the trio are forced to duck into an adjacent corridor whilst a small group of Jaffa march past. When they are alone again Sam does a quick sweep of the surrounding area before Rony'ac takes lead once more and they continue on towards the ring room.

"So why doesn't he just send in the slaves?" she asks as they pass by another set of what she assumes are prison cells.

"As yet he does not have enough slaves to waste." The Jaffa replies. "Anyone sent to the surface will die quickly and he cannot afford to keep replacing workers. As yet his army is neither powerful nor large enough to be expendable." He pauses once again, listening attentively to footsteps in the distance. When he is satisfied that they are safe, he continues both walking and talking. "Rest assured that if he is allowed to expand his forces at the rate he has done so far, he will soon be powerful enough to challenge any of the system lords and, if successful, merge their armies into his own. If that happens, he will have no qualms in sending thousands of innocent people to their deaths. "

Two more corridors, one Jaffa patrol and a now semi-conscious Colonel later and they arrive at the doors to the ring room. Rony'ac gently lowers Jack (who is insisting he can now stand) to the floor and tells them to hide around the corner. "I shall secure the Transporter room, and then I will return for you. Please remain hidden until then."

Sam nods and, supporting her CO around his waist, they move to a dark corner of the corridor. She watches in nervous anxiety as Rony'ac straightens his shoulders, presses the combination that opens the door and walks in.

"What's going on?" Jack whispers, his breath hot against her ear, causing her to shiver involuntarily.

"Rony'ac's getting rid of the Jaffa in the ring room sir." She replies, just as quietly. "How are you feeling?"

Jack groans in response. "Exactly the same as I did after my first day playing peewee Hockey."

She stifles a giggle, inwardly glad to be finding solace in his dry humour. The moment is short lived however as they both tense up, pressing themselves further into the shadows as two guards exit the Transporter room and march straight past them.

As soon as they disappear around the corner Rony'ac leaves the room and comes to stand before them once again. "We are safe to leave now." He mutters as together he and Sam support the Colonel through the doorway and into the circle on the floor.

"If anything happens, you must head directly for the tree line west of where the rings will transport us. The Teltac is there, hidden behind the bushes."

Rony'ac activates the rings and all at once they are on the surface, blinded by Sunlight.

And surrounded by Jaffa.


He had no idea how long he had been out for, but judging by the many faceted bruises dotted along his broken arm, he figured it must have been at least a few hours. The tender tissue surrounding the now obvious break had turned several dark shades of purple and blue.

With great care and attention to his various ailments, Jack hoisted himself into a sitting position and rested his back up against the wall. As loathed as he was to admit it – even to himself, he was actually pretty frightened. Memories of Ba'al and his chamber of horrors kept springing into his mind and for a fleeting moment he decided that Jonas should be counting his lucky stars he was no longer assigned to SG1. After all, it was bad enough that he and Carter were stuck in this little underwater prison, but Jonas was more of a klutz than Daniel - if that was possible – and had he been with them, he would have been bound to have gotten himself captured too.

Jack winced slightly as a fresh wave of pain shot through him. Gently he prodded the back of his neck where that Neanderthal Jaffa had clubbed him. It was extremely tender to the touch and in all likelihood bruised to hell, but at least his neck wasn't broken.

His cell slid open and he winced at the light that penetrated through the crack in the door. A bowl filled with something akin to the gruel they had been given in Hadante prison all those years ago was thrown unceremoniously into the room, slopping dirty grey mush onto the dusty ground. Another bowl, this time half filled with water was then placed, with just a little more care, onto the floor.

Klorel's first prime again appeared before him. "You will eat." He ordered.

Jack stared straight back at him. "Why? What do you care?"

The first prime sneered at him, his thin smile not quite reaching his eyes. "You will need your strength to face your God."

"Ah." Jack nodded in understanding. "Well in that case…" Without warning he kicked out with his foot, making sharp contact with the bowl and sent it flying across the floor. It landed face down on the Jaffa's right boot.

"Nice!" he congratulated himself as the guard regarded his now slimy boot with mild interest.

Looking back Jack realised it probably wasn't such a great idea; although, for a fleeting moment he thought he'd get away with it.

Of course, he didn't; and it was another two hours before he could move again.


"Offworld activation!"

Knowing that General Hammond would be in the observation room waiting to see who was coming through the Stargate, Daniel and Teal'c headed straight there.

They arrived just in time to hear the General give the order to open the iris. "Who is it?" Daniel asked, keeping his proverbial fingers crossed in the hopes that it was his elusive team mates.

"Braytac." Hammond replied as he headed towards the gate room, the Jaffa and archaeologist in tow.

They made it into position at the base of the ramp just as the elderly warrior stepped through the event horizon, flanked by two of Chulak's rebel Jaffa. Teal'c was the first to step forward. Grasping his mentor's arm, he bowed respectfully. "Takmatay Braytac." He smiled happily at the sight of his old teacher. It was good to see him well.

"Teal'c; old friend." came the response, the smile on Braytac's face mirroring his old pupil's reaction before turning to the general. "Hammond of Texas." He bowed as the general stepped forward.

"What can we do for you Master Braytac?"

"It is in fact, what we can do for you." Braytac turned and placed a protective hand on his travelling companion's shoulder. "This is Rony'ac." He announced as the Jaffa in question nodded his head. "He has been working as one of our spies, in the service of Klorel."


"I thought you were dead." Jack said, gazing incredulously at Klorel. "But then, given your family history, I guess that was too much to expect."

The Goa'uld regarded him for a moment, a humourless smile on his face. "You will pay for your insolence, Tauri." He spat out venomously "Just as you will pay for which you did to my father."

"That poor excuse for a Snakehead?" Totally got what was coming to him if you ask me." Jack received a hard jab in the stomach from one of Klorel's flanking guards. "Of course you *didn't* really ask me, did you?" Jack said panting slightly and bent at the waist. He carefully straightened up and regarded his captor. "Look, just tell me what you want." He said, growing impatient. "I tell you to 'Bite me', you rough me up a little, then we can all be home in time for The Simpsons."

Klorel did not appreciate Jack's sense of humour. He did, however enjoy watching him grit his teeth in pain. An electric charge from the Jaffa's shock device lit up the Colonel's face in excruciating, Technicolor pain.

"So I take it Simpson's aren't really your thing." Jack managed to gasp as the acute pain slowly receded to a dull ache. His entire body throbbed through the force of the ribbon device and he fervently hoped that Carter managed to skip this part of the tour.

"Take him away." Klorel's guards roughly hauled a surprised Jack back to his feet.

"What, that's it?" he asked incredulously. "No more questions or gloating? No more cliched boasting?"

The Goa'uld ignored his facetious remarks. "Rest assured we will meet again before this day is over." He replied softly. Then with a knowing smile he looked directly into the Colonel's eyes as he spoke to his Jaffa, uttering the words that made Jack's blood run cold.

"Bring me Major Carter."

He felt the ground drop from underneath him as Klorel addressed him once again. "Know this. Whatever pain you will suffer at my hands, it is nothing compared to what will become of Major Carter."

The Colonel's eyes blazed with renewed fury. "If you hurt her," he said, his voice dangerously low, "I *will* kill you."

Klorel laughed. "Even if you could find a way to escape your guards you cannot kill me." He said as his eyes lit up like torches. "I am a God!"

Finally the Colonel snapped. With renewed vigour, he began struggling against the tight grip of the two Jaffa who held him. Agonising pain tore through his broken arm and damaged shoulder as he twisted and turned; desperate to escape their tight grip - desperate in his attempt to find Carter and get the hell out of there.

His attempts at escape proved futile and he was overcome with excruciating pain, when the agony became too much to bear his body sank into unconscious oblivion.


Rony'ac's briefing was enlightening to say the least. He explained quickly and efficiently how Klorel had managed to capture the two missing members of SG1. With detached calmness, he told the humans of Klorel's plan to torture both officers until one of them submitted and explained how to breach the Iris covering the Tauri Stargate. He explained to his astounded audience how both Jack and Sam were being held in tunnels that had since been submerged in water, and how the planet's surface was now uninhabitable due to dangerous levels of pollution.

"Master Braytac has explained to me about the device that is required to open the barrier covering your Chapa'ai. I do not believe such an item was discovered when your officers were searched and their weapons were taken." Hammond relaxed noticeably and Daniel released the breath he wasn't aware he had been holding. Although the GGO itself wasn't enough to open the iris, all present were very much aware that under torture, Jack and Sam might eventually be forced to tell of the iris codes. Both were aware that their codes would have been changed with their capture so giving that information wouldn't necessarily endanger the SGC. Besides, without the GDO, there was no way to submit the code.

"How did you manage to get away without being spotted?" The General asked.

"When we arrived on the planet where your colleagues have been imprisoned, the one called O'Neill took the opportunity to try and escape. He and the female…"

"Sam" Daniel breathed.

"Major Samantha Carter." General Hammond filled in. The Jaffa warrior nodded. "Both killed many Jaffa guards. I lay down on the ground and feigned death alongside the wounded until the patrol had moved on."

"He returned to Chulak and informed me as soon as he could." Braytac interjected.

Teal'c sat forward in his chair. "Do you believe you could lead us to where they are being held?" he asked quietly.

Rony'ac shook his head. "It is too dangerous. Many of Klorel's Jaffa once served his father, Apophis. They would recognise you in an instant and kill you on sight." He paused for a moment, as if considering viable alternatives. "I could return." He said slowly. "The attempted escape caused much commotion and I do not believe anyone noticed I was wounded. I could infiltrate once more and free them myself."

"You are indeed a brave warrior." Braytac murmured, pride showing in his eyes. "But the mission is too dangerous for you to attempt alone."

Finally Daniel spoke up. "How would you escape? I assume the Stargate is guarded and what if they are hurt? You can't get them out by yourself."

There was a pregnant pause as every person at that table racked his brains for a solution. "We could wait on the surface." Daniel said finally.

Everyone turned to look at him, waiting for him to explain. "If Rony'ac can get them as far as a Transporter room, we could ring them aboard a Teltac and fly to the nearest planet with a gate."

"Do you truly believe this can be achieved?" Teal'c asked Rony'ac as he relaxed back into his chair, a wave of relief washing over him as he once again felt useful.

"Indeed." Came a familiar reply. "I know the tunnels very well and am quite certain of their whereabouts within the cell structures. If I can neutralise the guards at each door I will be able to free them and aid in their escape."

Hammond was sold on the idea straight away, but knew that as it was a Jaffa who was putting his life at risk, the decision ultimately lay with Braytac.

"You have a go." Hammond said enthusiastically before the old warrior had even finished nodding his head. "Bring them home, people."


"Your commander is dead." Merciless, cold and calculating; this was the first comment to come out of Klorel's mouth as Major Carter was dragged to her knees before him.

Sam's heart sank as she looked back up at the Goa'uld. "Why?" she asked, unable to stop the tremor in her voice, yet pointedly refusing to show her emotions to this…this, creature.

"He would not give me the information I require." He replied simply. "And the same will happen to you unless you cooperate and tell me all I wish to know."

She regarded him for a moment. His preferences in hosts had changed somewhat since he was removed from Skaara. His new host was older, more refined looking – as if he had come from a planet more advanced than Abydos.

"Where'd you find the new body?" she asked, stalling for time.

Klorel smiled indulgently. "A place I believe you know quite well." He replied. "My new host was once a member of the Tollan Curia."

The revelation shook Sam right down to the soles of her feet. Unable to stop herself Sam whispered, "Then Tollana…"

The Goa'uld seemed to enjoy her horror and dismissed her grief with a sweep of his hand. "Tollana has been destroyed." He replied casually. "Many of its population were taken as slaves. I was fortunate enough to be given this body as a gift from Anubis." He paused for a moment and regarded his Jaffa, watching with pleasure as each man respectfully lowered their gaze. "From one God to another."

Cold dread coursed through Sam as she realised the ramifications of what Klorel was saying. With the Tollans as their prisoners, any Symbiote who chose a Tollan as a host would now have knowledge of their technologies…including their weapons.

She stared defiantly back at Klorel. "What do you want from me?" she asked pointedly, although she already knew the answer.

"Tell me how to penetrate the barrier protecting your Chapa'ai." Klorel replied simply. "If you do not, I will kill you."

Sam thought for a moment, her focus on the man before her. The only members of Tollana who knew the Tollan code to open the Iris were missing, and until today, presumed dead. Their code was locked out the minute SG1 returned after the last Goa'uld attack on their planet. SG1's own codes would have been locked out too by now. The fact of the matter was she no longer knew any codes to open the Iris.

This, she told him. There was no point in lying on this fact as knowing the truth wouldn't help him anyway.

"It is true." He agreed as he took a menacing step towards her. "The Tollan Narim was most forthcoming when he was caught cowering like an infant in his home. He just needed a little," Klorel slowly wet his lips and smiled menacingly at Sam. "Persuasion."

"Torture you mean." Sam spat out angrily.

"Call it what you will. The weakling finally gave up his code and showed us how to use the device…" Klorel turned his back on his prisoner for a moment. "Many Jaffa died stepping through the portal. But," he continued turning back around and gesturing to his guards to lift her to her feet, "I am sure there are other ways of penetrating the barrier. You will tell me them, or you will die."

"There is no other way." Sam said through gritted teeth.

"You lie." He replied with assured confidence. "Perhaps some persuasion is in order." With that, he raised his hand and for the first time Sam caught sight of a ribbon device held securely in his palm. If only I could get my hands on it, she thought desperately. Just for a moment.

A blinding beam of light shot out from the circular stone as Klorel aimed it at her temple. "Tell me how to get to your world." He murmured as the Major fell onto her knees; her eyes closed and lips snarling in pain.

As quickly as the light appeared, it ceased as Klorel took a step back to get a closer look at his prisoner. "Tell me your codes." He insisted with scarcely contained impatience.

Despite the agony of the pounding blood in her head, Sam opened her eyes and stared stonily at the man before her. "No."

This time the pain forced its way through her entire head as one of the Jaffa guards pressed an electric shock straight into the back of her neck. She cried out in agony as her legs gave way and she collapsed heavily to the floor.

"Tell me the codes." Klorel said again stepping closer to his weakening prisoner.

Her voice was feeble now. The pain that flowed through her tired body might be weakening her spirit, but not her resolve. "Go to hell." She whispered rebelliously.

Again, electricity shot out straight into her neck. She closed her eyes, fighting to stay silent, to stay strong. But still, she cried out again.

Eventually the pain dulled enough for her to open her eyes slightly. Sam blinked groggily willing her vision to refocus. Klorel was standing away from her now, frustration evident on his face. "Take her away." He muttered to his guards. "Bring me O'Neill again."

Through the fog and mist of pain that threatened to take over her body, Sam barely heard what the Goa'uld had said. It wasn't until she was thrown back into her cell and propped up against the wall that she realised the truths Klorel had let slip.

The Colonel was still alive.

That thought alone was enough to strengthen her resolve. The would-be God could do what he liked to her now. He could torture her all he wanted, for she would tell him nothing. The Colonel was alive and that knowledge was all she needed to get her through whatever atrocities lay in the hours and days ahead.

And despite it all, through the pain and the dread and the fear of things to come – Sam Carter smiled.


It takes a moment for Sam to register what's going on, but Rony'ac is already shooting. She drags the Colonel behind the nearest rock for some basic cover and begins firing her Zat at the Jaffa attacking them.

Rony'ac manages to kill four guards before he himself is shot and lies bleeding on the ground close to their position. Sam swears violently. There are still five Jaffa firing at her and although she knows she can take out some of them, there's no way in hell she could kill them all before they overpower her.

Jack says something, but she cannot hear him over the noises of staff weapon and Zat fire. She leans in closer, still shooting for all her worth.

"Give me the Zat." He murmurs and she glances at him uncertainly.

"Get his staff weapon." He insists, "I'll cover you."

There are many things that Sam doubts in her life, but her CO's loyalty and fierce protectiveness of his team is not one of them. She knows that whatever happens, he will continue to fire until he is dead; if necessary, risking his life to save hers. He grasps her arm as she continues to fire, using her body as a crutch until he can lean securely against the solid rock. She hands over the gun and he continues to fire, barely missing a beat in the exchange.

"Go." He says quickly and she takes a deep breath before running with all her might the short distance to where Rony'ac's prone body now lies.

Weapons fire comes at her from all directions but the Colonel is holding his own against the now four remaining Jaffa. Without stopping, she grabs the staff weapon and makes for another large boulder laying approximately fifty yards from where her CO is shooting.

A sudden, unexpected pain jolts through her calf and she becomes aware of blood trickling down into her dirty black boots. She knows she has been hit but still she keeps on running.

Together, and as they team they were made to be, they take out the final two Jaffa before she runs back over to him. "We have to go." She says quickly. "They were waiting for us. There'll be more here soon."

He nods quickly and once again uses her arm to help him to his feet. He rests against the rock again as she moves over to where Rony'ac is and checks his pulse. He is dead.

Without stopping to mourn - there will be time for that when they are safe - she returns to Jack's side and together they hurry off to where they can only pray the ship will be waiting.


The second time Jack was bought before Klorel proved to be less painful than the first. His realisation that the Goa'uld had little or no intention of killing him gave the Colonel a strange sense of certain power over his enemy.

A power that he intended to utilise to its fullest extent.

It was all he had now, a thread of hope against the bleakness that seemed so oppressive. Sometime during the hours he had lain in his cell, floating somewhere between consciousness and sleep, the thought had occurred to him that perhaps, if the host retains something of the symbiote, then maybe something of a past host may remain inside the Goa'uld.

If this was the case (and Jack certainly hoped it was), then maybe a part of Skaara would still be inside Klorel's conscious mind. After all, he was almost entirely convinced that Skaara was the reason Klorel delayed all those years ago when SG1 went to destroy Apophis' ship; he was also pretty sure that that was the reason Klorel hadn't killed him last time he had the pleasure of his company.

That's not to say that the snake wasn't all evil, and Jack new for a fact that he had never been any good at figuring out a man's psyche – let alone a Goa'ulds', but for arguments and even more so for hopes sake, he truly wanted to believe that Klorel's memories of Skaara's attachment to Jack and, in fact, all of SG1, had maybe rubbed off a little.

Of course, the other way of looking at it was that Klorel was undoubtedly pissed at them all for being forcefully removed by the Tollan, and would therefore be more than willing to destroy Skaara and SG1 alike.

But that didn't really bear thinking about.

Still, whether or not his theory was at all founded (and he knew he really was clutching at straws here.), he knew with certainty, that there had to be a reason why Klorel hadn't killed them both already.

At least, he assumed they were both still okay. They had kept him alive, so it was only fair to suppose that they had kept Carter alive as well. The alternative was something he refused to consider.

He'd just managed to slide his way to the corner of his cell and prop himself up against the wall when the guards arrived again. Unceremoniously, they hauled him to his feet and dragged him by his severely damaged arms into Klorel's chamber.

This time there were no questions. Just a quick announcement that Major Carter was dead, followed by a sound beating from the two Jaffa escorting him that left Jack with four broken ribs numerous superficial wounds.

He was returned to his cell shortly after having his retina detached and was chained to the wall like a wild animal. They left him alone for less than an hour before the cell doors opened again and a bowl of food was thrown at his feet.

Ignoring the pitiful excuse for food, Jack concentrated on using the last vestiges of his energy to crawl towards the bowl of water on the other side of the room and began lapping greedily at it like a dehydrated dog.

He never saw the Jaffa approach.

He never saw the boot that kicked the bowl out from under him or the hand that grabbed the chain, pulling him backwards and dislocating his arm as he reached out in defence.

He felt it though; in every inch of his broken body.


"Something troubles you, old friend." Braytac's words shook Teal'c out of his silent reverie and he looked up, not quite meeting his questioning gaze.

"I am well." He informed his mentor quickly. "I am merely concerned for O'Neill and Major Carter."

The older man laughed humourlessly. "You lie poorly, Teal'c." he responded. "I have known you too long."

Teal'c regarded Braytac for a moment, his guilt and self-disgust at his simple error still weighing heavily on his mind. Teal'c feared the disappointment and contempt Braytac would show him once he knew the truth.

Inhaling deeply, he explained to his friend what had transpired. When he was finished he closed his eyes and waited for his reprimand.

It never came.

Instead, when he turned to look at Braytac once more, he saw the older man simply staring out of the Teltac window deep in thought. Eventually he spoke, his words slow and quiet.

"You believe yourself to be at fault for their capture?" he asked.

Teal'c bowed his head in shame. "Had I not made such an error in judgement, we would have reached the Stargate before they were caught."

"And yet they *were* caught." The older man pointed out, piercing Teal'c with his confident gaze.

The response was quiet, yet full of sorrow and a deep sense of remorse. "They were."

After several long moments of silence Braytac spoke again in an attempt to bring some measure of comfort to his friend.

"In my hundred and forty years I have made many judgements that have cost dearly." He began. "When I was First Prime to Apophis I caused the suffering and death of countless innocent people and yet in all that time only once did I feel that my actions would not benefit a higher purpose."

Teal'c looked at Braytac warily. "I do not understand."

"No." he agreed with a short nod, "But you will." There was a pregnant pause, during which time Teal'c studied the man who stood proudly beside him. This man was like a father to him; who cared for him after the death of his own father at the hands of Kronos; who trained him and taught him to be the very best he could be.

This man who, for the first time in Teal'c's long memory, finally looked old.

Braytac moved over and sat down heavily on a box in at the back of the ship, indicating for Teal'c to join him. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, he began to tell his story.


She awoke to a piercing pain coursing through her head and immediately began to take stock of the damage her interlude with Klorel had caused.

Her wrist was still in agony from the beating she received when they had first arrived and she had tried to escape; her ribs were bruised, but the damage was purely superficial and her head felt like it was about to explode – a small reminder of the unbearable pain a Goa'uld ribbon device can cause.

But still she had hope as she knew the Colonel was still alive. But in what state? A hundred variations of 'worst case scenarios' filled her mind as she tried to picture her CO in her head. She knew full well that he was cocky and sarcastic and even he understood that his mouth, despite having gotten them out of some bad situations, had also got him into trouble more often than not. But bravado didn't work on everyone and she had realised almost immediately upon meeting with Klorel that he would see straight through O'Neill's disguise.

Sam propped herself up against the wall once again, hiding the hole containing the GDO with her body. Reaching over to her water bowl, she winced as she pulled it towards her, dipping her sleeve until it is soaked through, then dabbing at her eyes.

The water was warm and the material dusty, her eyes stung even more and it became more and more difficult to fend off sleep.

She blinked a few times to try and clear some of the grit and dirt out of her sore eyes, but the door to her cell rattled a warning that someone was approaching and she forced herself to her feet, surprised to find herself chained up like cattle as she tried to push herself further and further into the shadows of the walls around her.

Her eyes gave away nothing of her fears as she stared stonily at the Jaffa approaching.

"I want to sleep." Her voice wavered only slightly as she glared at the large man before her. "He's already questioned me and I still won't tell him anything."

No matter what happened, she knew she would never give in; would never allow herself to be broken by the Goa'uld.

"Go back to your *God* and tell him I want to see the Colonel."


They're running now. Ducking behind boulders and trees as often as they can to avoid detection, hoping and praying that the ship is really where Rony'ac said it would be.

Their movements are forced, with Sam holding onto her superior officer as tightly as possible, trying to keep him upright. Every now and then she spares him a concerned glance, agony apparent on his pale, drawn face.

But still he runs.

For a fleeting moment pride rushes to the surface of Sam's emotions. Despite the urgency of the situation and the overwhelming urge to simply stay alive, her heart takes a moment to once again recognise this man as a soldier, a warrior - the best she has ever met.

He cries out in surprise and pain as he trips over a rock, but he refuses to let it slow them down. Instead he keeps going. The military man inside him knows it would be easier if she simply left him behind and went on alone; she would have more chance of making it out alive, but in spite of this he also realises that she would never agree to that plan.

Just as he would have dismissed it had their roles been reversed.

The pain is almost too much to bear…almost, but not quite. He looks around himself, the smell of freedom and release strong in his nostrils, their determination to escape an adrenaline high like no other. He can feel his blood pumping through his body; his heart beating hard and fast. It makes him remember the reasons he joined up in the first place.


The power to have control over crazy situations, the power to outrun your enemies, the power to control yourself and your emotions. He feels it now, coursing through his tired body, running through his charged veins. Power. It's a drug the likes of which no other could ever come close.

But just like the others, it comes with a price.

The cost, the hidden charges they neglected to mention to this tired old Colonel when he was but a fresh-faced boy with dreams of travel and status are high and can often seem unattainable, but still he stays.

More often than not, he thinks the price is his life. But he has been proved wrong every time; surviving against all odds on countless occasions. For a long time he thought the price had instead been the life of his son and as such, he had blamed the Air Force; convincing himself that had he not been Military, he would never have had a gun in his house. But he knows that is a lie too. The gun was his, it was a personal firearm and he would have bought it regardless.

His marriage then? Again, the destruction of his life with Sara was merely a by-product of Charlie's death, and subsequently his own damned fault.

So what price does he pay for the pride he covets so much?

She's running right next to him.


Jack was back in the infirmary. He could smell the chlorine that covered the floors and he could hear muted voices by his bed. He tried to open his eyes, but the effort proved too much and instead he simply relaxed back and tried to discern the sounds coming from all around the room.

The clink of metal on metal, the sound of heeled shoes tap-tapping on the hard floor, the beeping of a heart monitor. The voices…he could only discern two - one male and one female.

Slowly, the voices became clearer, but as they did the rest of the noises seemed to fade away into nothingness. He didn't care. He didn't care because the female voice - the one that seemed closer than the males…it was Carter.

He concentrated harder, trying in earnest to clear his foggy brain so he could understand what she was saying. She sounded frightened and he wanted more that anything to open his eyes, to speak and tell her he was okay, but his eyelids were heavy and his mouth was dry.

Finally he could make out a snippet of her urgent whispering. She was telling him to wake up, that they have to go. But go where? As far as he was concerned this was the perfect place for him right now. The ache in his arm was dull but a lot more bearable that the piercing pain from a few hours ago, but even he knew that the infirmary was the best place for him right now.

Still, she seemed adamant and her whispering was becoming more determined. But why was she whispering? Jack smiled in his mind. Perhaps she had snuck in without the Doc knowing. Maybe she wasn't supposed to be there.

At last he managed to gain the strength and willpower to open his eyes a little. The prospects of a little light-hearted teasing about her overprotective nature too good an opportunity to miss.

The gentle cajoling was over and had been replaced by fervent shaking. Jack quickly decided that teasing was no longer the way to go. In fact, as soon as the fuzziness in front of his face cleared to definable features and he found his voice, he was most definitely going to give her a piece of his mind. No matter how cute she may look in BDU's.

After a moment of rapid blinking, the room stopped spinning and the wavy lines came into sharp focus. That was when the Infirmary disappeared and Jack O'Neill was left staring dejectedly at his prison walls.

He looked over at his 2IC who was currently standing talking to a Jaffa warrior over by the door. He tried to talk; to let her know he had regain consciousness, but just as she turned her attention to his prone body, the lure of the infirmary called to him once again. The last thing he heard as darkness covered him was the Jaffa telling them they must go now. Timing being everything, Sam turned her attentions to Jack just as he slipped back into oblivion.


"As you well know," Braytac began. "Being first prime to Apophis dictates that you must be prepared to follow all of his orders, no matter what the consequences." Teal'c nodded in confirmation, but remained silent in order for his old friend to continue uninterrupted.

"What you were not aware of was that one of the Jaffa who held the position of first prime before me, was by brother Toln'ac." This news surprised Teal'c as he had been previously unaware that Braytac had any siblings, however before the older man could continue the story, they were interrupted by the arrival of Rony'ac.

"We are approaching the planet." The new arrival announced as the ship began its slow descent towards the surface. "When we land I must attempt the rescue alone. Many of Klorel's Jaffa were once in the service of Apophis. If either of you are recognised we shall all be killed and your sacrifice will be for nothing.

Teal'c bowed his head slightly. "We shall remain here until you return and use cover fire if necessary." Rony'ac nodded and went into the rear of the ship to prepare himself whilst Teal'c took over Daniel's position at the controls.

The landing was smooth and uneventful, and once ready the three Jaffa murmured words of encouragement and respect before Rony'ac made his way onto the surface of the planet.

"Now I may finish my story." Braytac said as he, Daniel and Teal'c settled in for the long haul.

"Story?" the archaeologist asked.

Braytac smiled wisely at the young man. "You Tauri seem to have come to the conclusion that as Jaffa we are well trained in the art of perfection. And for the most part, it is a true assessment." He paused, breathing deeply before continuing. "But there are occasions, even for older Jaffa such as myself, where mistakes are made and the need to complete what we have begun outweighs and eventually consumes all else. It as at those moments where we become as vulnerable as a new born child."

Staring resolutely at the floor of the ship, Braytac told his story.

"My brother was older than me by nearly thirty years. When he was first prime of Apophis I envied him greatly, but also looked up to and admired him as only a younger brother could.

"One morning, when I, myself had been working for Apophis for a number of years my brother took me on a mission to a planet that Ra had abandoned some fifty years previously. Our orders were to search the planet for Naquadah deposits and possible hosts for the Goa'uld. Apophis knew there had been Naquadah on the planet previously, but was unsure as to why it had been abandoned by Ra. It was our job to find out.

"We had been on the planet's surface for some days when Toln'ac came across a young boy wandering through the wastelands. He was obviously lost, but it was apparent that a child so young must have a family fairly nearby, so the Jaffa were split into four groups and we searched the surrounding area.

"I was young and eager to please, so when myself and the Jaffa teamed with me found the village the boy had come from, I informed my brother of our discovery and walked towards the people without waiting for orders.

"By the time Toln'ac arrived I was already a prisoner of these people. They were much like the Nox you have told me about Teal'c, they appeared technologically inferior, but unlike the pacifists you claim the Nox to be, they were in fact great warriors.

"As is the job of a Jaffa, my brother and the other men began firing their staff weapons, but the villagers had placed a force field around the area and it became apparent very quickly that this was one battle we would never win. Instead Toln'ac offered to exchange his life for mine. He told the leader that the First Prime of Apophis was much more valuable than a mere Jaffa warrior, and that Apophis would pay dearly to have such an asset returned.

"After a time, the leaders agreed to an exchange, but as the force field was lowered to release me and take Toln'ac in my place the Jaffa began firing again. This time the villagers produced hand-held weapons of their own and began firing back. I made it to safety behind a tree, but my brother was killed in the fight."

Braytac stopped talking for a moment and turned to regard his friend. "So you see, Teal'c." he said slowly, carefully studying the expression on the shocked Jaffa's face, "My only brother died due to my pride. Three years later I was given the role of first prime and I swore I would never make the same mistake again. Every move I have made since has been carefully calculated, but still we end up in situations where things can and will go wrong. Had you not lost your footing, there is nothing to say that O'Neill and Major Carter would have made it to the Stargate before capture, but it is important that you understand you did your very best."

Braytac rose to prepare the ship for the arrival of the humans, but before he went, he left the astounded Jaffa with one last thought. "By all means, calculate your course of action and chose wisely, Teal'c. But if you insist on pre-judging every action you make from now on, then you are no longer fit to be a warrior.

It is better that you risk errors by moving on instinct and intellect alone, thereby placing yourself and those around you at possible risk, than to weigh up the options of every step you take on the battlefield, and subsequently endangering lives wantonly."

Daniel tried to catch his friend's eye once Braytac had disappeared to the rear of the vessel, he wondered what was going through Teal'c's mind having heard that story, but as ever, Teal'c remained at his post, stoically staring through the windows of the Teltac and into the distance.

Eventually Daniel tried conversation. "Braytac is a very wise man." He said quietly.

Still there was a long pause, but eventually the archaeologist got the answer he had been searching for.


It was quiet, and his voice was slightly broken up, but it was there.

Daniel smiled.


She spies the ship before he does. It's a half-mile ahead of them and partially hidden behind some brush-cover, but visible if you know where to look.

Feeling like an Olympic runner hitting the home stretch she pulls the Colonel onwards some more and points frantically in the direction of the Teltac. "There Sir! Come on!"

Something whizzes past her ear and embeds itself in a tree; staff fire. Refusing to look back she continues on determinedly. Her body might be tired, hungry and hurting, but her resolve was sure.

It is her turn to stumble over an unseen tree root, but the Colonel is there to haul her back to her feet. "Gotta keep going Carter." He insists urgently, teeth gritted against his obvious pain. At his words a new surge of adrenaline storms through her blood and she gets a second wind.

There's a Jaffa approaching from the South and Jack shoots his Zat without stopping to aim. Luck is on his side and the warrior falls to the floor stunned. Another appears in his place but Sam has not had time to learn the best hold on a staff weapon and she fumbles and drops it. Cursing loudly she stops to retrieve the weapon but the Colonel has other ideas. "Forget that Carter! Leave it!"

Those words….*his* words. She recognises them from somewhere, but there is little time to analyse and she stores the fragmented sentence in the back of her mind, ready to access another time.

He shoots his weapon again and floors the second Jaffa but suddenly there are shots all around them. They have no choice but to take cover.

Ducking behind the nearest tree Sam can see they are less than five hundred yards from the ship. Less than five hundred yards from relative safety. She can only hope that they make it before they are caught. The Colonel, too tired to aim, has handed over their only weapon and she fires it at regular intervals, hitting Jaffa here and there, but she is tired and her precision is off. More warriors are appearing from nowhere and her heart sinks as she realises the futility of the situation.

But still she fires. She fires for his safety and her own, and will continue to do so until she is dead.

Refusing to give up, but needing something to take his mind off the noise all around him - for which there is nothing he can do to help, Jack tries to stay awake by reviewing in his mind the protocol behind an engine start up on a Teltac. Now Rony'ac is dead they will need to fly the ship alone and it has been some time since he was at the helm of this particular type of vessel.

He glances under hooded eyes at Carter, watching her every move with so much more than a military interest. She is so strong, so brave. She fights as well, if not better than the men he has served with, and yet her heart will always be feminine. She is compassionate and loving. He need only look at the way she is with Cassandra to know her maternal instinct has not been numbed by the countless times she has seen death and wanton destruction. Her heart is pure and her mind an enigma.

"Sir, I can't hold them off!" her frantic yell brings his attentions back to the present and he forces sleep away once more. His mind works overtime, trying desperately to think of a way to get them out of this. It is *his* job after all. He is the superior officer, he is supposed to be the leader.

But he has no idea what to do.


Working as a team, Braytac and Teal'c grab their own staff weapons and run outside the ship as soon as the first staff blast hit the tree.

Daniel attempted to follow, but Braytac placed a stilling hand on his shoulder. "Remain here." He ordered the anxious archaeologist, "Start the engine as soon as we have your team mates."

Realising that this was the most sensible course of action Daniel moved quickly over to the console, fingers hovering over the appropriate buttons.

Teal'c was outside first and quickly surveyed the area. As soon as Braytac joined him he pointed wordlessly over to where the two men could just about make out the silhouettes of their two colleagues, hidden behind a large oak tree. Their backs were to the sun, perhaps an intentional ploy to blind their attackers slightly - and it seemed to be effective. Weapons fire lit up the skies around them, but none seemed to be making contact with the targets.

The Jaffa hunting them were all squinting slightly against the strong sunlight and SG-1 worked this to their advantage. Teal'c moved slightly to the left and was able to gain a much clearer picture of the situation. O'Neill was leaning heavily against the tree, his fist clenched tightly on one of Carter's sleeves for balance, holding tightly to Carter's sleeve as if it was the only thing keeping him upright. It was obvious from the paleness of his face and the crimson stains smattering his dirty uniform that his injuries were serious.

Teal'c moved his attentions to Major Carter and he swelled with pride as he recognized the sure movements of a formidable warrior - one he was glad was on his side. Pushing his untimely emotions aside, Teal'c reassessed her with military detachment. There appeared to be only one weapon between them, a Zatnik'tel, and it was in Major Carter's possession. She was using it well and had already neutralised seven Jaffa, but more were appearing all around her. He could see by the way she stood leaning on the tree and the blood on her leg that she was also in need of medical attention - though not as desperately as O'Neill.

Teal'c watched as Major Carter bent sideways slightly to say something to O'Neill, but her eyes and her aim never left the enemy. A great warrior indeed. With surefooted movement he edged closer to their positions, knowing that timing was everything. If he began to fire at the Jaffa attacking too soon, then he would not be able to assure the safety of his two friends

Braytac moved to the right and placed himself between two trees well hidden behind some bushes. Teal'c on the left, did likewise and looked over to his mentor for affirmation.

On Braytac's muted order, they began to fire.


Suddenly she realises she's not alone. The staff blasts are firing all around her and she continues to return fire in earnest, but even she knows that she's not the one doing all of the killing.

Behind her Sam can hear the tell-tale sound of a staff weapon readying for discharge. Before she has even finished turning around, the warrior falls heavily to the ground. A smoking staff blast visible on his back.

That's when she sees Teal'c and her knees nearly give out in exhausted jubilation..

Almost, but not quite.

With renewed vigour she hauls her CO to his feet and begins to drag him backwards towards the ship, continuing to fire randomly, but knowing that Teal'c is there to cover them.

Finally they are at Teal'c side.

"Can you make it the final distance by yourself Major Carter?" Teal'c asks as he fires rapidly at the approaching Jaffa warriors. He cannot spare the time to help his fellow team mate and hopes she is aware of his dilemma.

"We'll be fine Teal'c." Sam says stoically dragging the nearly unconscious Colonel behind her as she slowly makes her way up the ramp.

"Daniel Jackson is waiting inside. Braytac and I will provide cover until you are safely aboard."

The weapons continue to fire all around them as she pulls her CO along, a light show displayed specifically for their benefit. Finally she reached the doors of the Teltac and pushes the code to open them.

"We're inside Daniel!" She shouts shoving both herself and the Colonel against a sidewall a few meters inside the relative safety of the ship. With one final glance to make certain there was enough space left for Teal'c and Braytac, Sam finally allows herself to collapse to the cool metal floor.

The Colonel is completely unconscious beside her, and Sam aches to join in him in pain-free oblivion. But she refuses to let sleep overtake her, instead watching the door with the eyes of a hawk until Teal'c and Braytac are inside.

She does not have to wait long. Soon the two Jaffa can be heard backing up the ramp themselves, continuing to fire their weapons as they back themselves into the cargo bay of the ship. Teal'c slams his hand against a side panel and with a welcoming 'swoosh' the doors close behind them as Daniel quickly takes them off the planet.

With the acceleration of the ship comes the realization that she is safe; they had made it. With a quiet sigh Sam gives in to the all-consuming darkness and allows herself to finally rest.


Every morning it's the same; the body not quite ready to fully regain consciousness but aware of the futility of further sleep. There's always a few seconds when he's not quite awake, but no longer asleep and in those scarce moments it is easy to convince his foggy mind that he's back at the SGC. His countless wounds are being professionally, yet tenderly treated by Doctor Fraiser and Daniel, Carter and Teal'c are all impatiently waiting at his bedside willing him to wake up.

Every morning it was the same; only this time, it's real.

Jack opens his eyes slowly, wincing as the overbearing bright lights invade his sensitive pupils, but fully prepared for the onslaught of Doctor Fraiser and her dreaded penlight.

There seems to be a gaggle of people standing at the foot of his bed, and his fuzzy vision can just about make out the basic forms of General Hammond, Daniel, Teal'c and the Doc.

Where's Carter?

Panic floods through his system and the rush is enough to force his mouth into croaky action. "Carter?"

Astounded, the members of the little meeting all turn to look at him before Doctor

Fraiser steps forward, penlight in hand.

"How are you feeling?" she asks as she tortures his poor irises.

"Thirsty." He replies swiftly, wincing in objection. "Where's Carter?"

"I'm right here sir." Comes a sleepy voice from his left. He turns his head too look at her but the movement is too quick and what feels like a thousand needles invade his brain. His actions do not go unnoticed by his doctor and he tries it again, only slower this time. He needs to see his 2IC. He needs to know she is ok and safe. Then he'll allow his exhausted body to sleep once again. But the Doc blocks his view as she stands directly in his line of sight.

All is soon forgiven and forgotten as she waves a beaker of water in front of his nose and his lips automatically close around the straw. Jack draws deeply from the cool aqua until the Doctor has to forcibly remove the tube from the vice-like grip of his lips.

"Not too much." She warns. "It'll make you sick."

The General breaks away from Daniel and Teal'c to come and stand by his pillow. "It's good to have you back, son." He says honestly.

"Yeah." Daniel interjects. "We thought we'd lost you. Again."

Jack tries for a cheeky smile but his lips are cracked and sore.

Janet moves away to the foot of his bed and picks up the chart to check his vitals, finally leaving Jack with a clear view of Carter.

"Hey." He says softly.

"Hi Sir." She replies, a huge grin covering her entire face. Jack smiles weakly in response. Her left cheekbone is bruised and her lips are cracked and look sore, but to him, she's never looked more beautiful in her life.

"You look like hell!" he mutters cheekily. "So what did you get?"

"Not much." She replies, her smile only fading slightly. "Tissue and muscle damage from the staff blast, fifteen stitches in my leg, bruises, exhaustion, concussion. Oh and photosensitive eyes. You?"

"No idea." He replies honestly before turning to look at Janet. "Doc?"

"You're a little worse off, I'm afraid." She says. Her face is impassive, but he can tell from the look in her eyes that it must have been close. "In order of seriousness Colonel, concussion, dislocated shoulder, severely sprained wrist, contusions and bruising to your back and torso, photosensitivity and, " She looked up from her chart and gave her patient a small smile, "a very attractive scar from where we removed your spleen."

"Huh." Came Jack's response. "That all? I was going for the hat trick."

The attempt at humour produces a small grin on Janet's face before she resorts back to professionalism once more. "I have to admit we were worried for a while there."

"How long was I out?"

Daniel replies to this one. "Three days."

"So what's the date?"

The archaeologist's brows furrow in confusion. "August Twenty-third. Why?"

"Huh." He says again, completely ignoring his question. Instead, he turns back to Janet. "So when can I get out of here?"

Janet's stern response elicits a dramatic groan from the Colonel and Sam can't help but smile. "What's the rush?" she asks cheekily. "You don't like my company?"

"It's not that!" he says quickly. Too quickly and he has to check himself. "It's just that you're supposed to be able to see Orion's belt at its brightest tonight and I was kinda looking forward to it." Janet's commanding tones interrupt their conversation and all visitors are ordered to leave so the pair can rest.

"Well, Goodnight." Hammond says to them both as he goes to leave. "We'll debrief as soon as you're both back on your feet."

"Night, sir." They reply simultaneously and watch as he walks out of the door.

Daniel and Teal'c move to follow, but Jack stops them before they disappear. "Hey guys, can you do me a favour?"

Daniel looks worried, remembering the last time Jack asked him for a favour when he was holed up in the Infirmary. That little jaunt had Janet glaring at him for a month.

Still…"Sure…" he says slowly, not entirely convinced that agreeing would be a good thing.

"Ask Siler to set up a digital recording of Orion's belt tonight? I really don't want to miss it."

"I shall make the request O'Neill." Teal'c replies, before bowing respectfully and going in search of the sergeant.

Daniel remains behind talking quietly to Janet and less than a half hour later Teal'c returns with Siler. Doctor Fraiser, after much persuasion and promises of giving blood grudgingly agrees to have an Overhead Projector set up and a real-time visual of Orion's belt projected against the wall opposite.

"We'll have to take it away if there's an emergency." She informs the Colonel before returning to her duties, mentally kicking herself for being such a pushover. At least having the projector set up here meant that Jack wouldn't attempt to go topside. As if he could actually do that in his condition…

"We should let you rest." Daniel says as he and Teal'c move towards the door.

"Wait." Jack calls after them and they stop moving, turning once again to face the invalids.

"I just wanted to thank you…" Jack begins awkwardly. He never was any good at this sort of thing.

Carter, being Carter comes to his rescue once again. "Yeah, thanks for coming back for us. We really appreciate it."

"You are most welcome." Teal'c says quietly, bowing his head in humble acceptance.

"Yeah, no problem." Daniel shrugs nonchalantly. "I figure I probably owe you guys my life ten times over by now.

"I'd say more like twenty." Jack replies poker-faced. He is rewarded with a withering look from the archaeologist that makes the whole embarrassing gratitude moment completely worthwhile.

Daniel and Teal'c leave the two officers to get some well-deserved rest and Jack finally takes a moment to stare wistfully and with unending gratitude at his 2IC as she closes her eyes in exhaustion. It had been hard for her to truly rest while her commanding officer was still unconscious and his physical well-being was questionable.

Jack too, is weary and in need of rest, but after a moment of staring peacefully at Orion's belt, the need to see Carter's blue eyes open outweighs his need for sleep.

"Carter?" he whispers.

Her eyes remain closed, but she manages to force out a murmured "Sir?"

When he doesn't respond curiosity gets the better of her and she opens her eyes. He is staring right at her and for once she really doesn't mind.

They both turn to look at Orion's belt and in front of them the projected image of the constellation of stars shines reassuringly. Jack realises that surely Carter must have some astrophysical anecdote to tell him about the star systems, or gas giants or…something.

Eventually the waiting proves too much to bear. "So?" he asks quietly.

"So? She mimics in response.

"Don't you have something to say?" he indicates his head slightly towards the image before them.

"Yes sir." She replies and Jack smugly prepares himself for science overload.

But, as ever, she surprises him. "It's beautiful."

He stares at her in shock and she slowly turns her aching head to look back at him. They stay like that for some time, both staring unwaveringly into the eyes of the other. Both terrified at the thought of what could have happened, but at the same time eternally grateful to the powers that be that they have lived to see another day.

Fatigue eventually proves to be too much and Jack is the first to break eye contact as his eyelids droop against his will. "Goodnight Carter." He whispers as he closes his eyes.

"Night Sir." She responds and manages to spare one last glance at Orion's belt before allowing blissful sleep to claim her.

One day, she thinks as she drifts off into welcome darkness, one day they will have all the time in the world.

But for tonight, she's happy to sleep in the arms of Orion.

The End.


Footnote: Wow, you made it! Cool.

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