The Cheyenne Mountain Witch Project
Summary: Blair Witch, Stargate crossover/parody. SG-1 gets lost in the woods.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just enjoy messing with their heads from time to time.
Spoilers: minor from the beginning of season 6, but none for specific eps
The Cheyenne Mountain Witch Project
"MALP telemetry indicates that this planet has some great fishing," Jack noted cheerfully as they looked around the forest clearing.
The Stargate, standing sentinel on the far end of the clearing, was the only sign of civilization save what might or might not have been the collapsed remains of a stone house, tumbling into a deep river.
"Should we check it out?" Sam asked, nodding towards the structure.
"Maybe on the way back. Our primary objective is to go fishing," Jack reminded her firmly. He smiled faintly at their pained looks. Being a ranking officer definitely had its privileges. "Who has the map?"
"Here, Jack." Daniel sighed and held up a palm-pilot with all of the telemetry and topographical scans on it. "The river feeds directly into your lake, but the terrain's pretty nasty. There's an alternate route I marked off."
Jack nodded, glanced at the screen, and wordlessly set off into the wilderness.
"I can't believe the General gave us a whole week off," Sam said, following. She reached into her pack and pulled out a camcorder, turning it on and resting it on her shoulder.
"I can't believe that he decided to give us a week of vacation off-planet," Daniel grumbled. "This is unpaid recon, I hope you guys know that."
"Shut up, space-monkey," Jack advised, rolling his eyes. "I'm sure we can find some nice rocks for you to play with. That should make you happy..."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.
"Hey!" Daniel protested.
"Guys, it's our vacation. Try to have fun," Sam suggested, shaking her head. "Honestly..."
"Sure, Sam." Jack rolled his eyes again. "What's with the camera, anyway?"
"General Hammond suggested that I get some off-world footage for the archives," she explained, pulling out another camera and tossing it to Teal'c.
"Oh." Jack shrugged. "Why not?"
"Unpaid recon, I told you, Jack," Daniel said, shaking his head. Sneezing, he reached into his pocket and found a bottle of Benadryl.
"Oh, for God's sake," Jack muttered. "Why won't you just let Janet give you the allergy shots?" he demanded.
"The pills work just fine!"
"Would you two shut up?" Sam suggested. "We're supposed to be having fun, children."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "We benefit nothing through discord."
"Thank you," Sam said, nodding. "Honestly," she added in an undertone. "Men..."
"Hey! I heard that," Jack snapped.
Sam shook her head, ignoring him. "Daniel, which way are we headed?"
"Uh..." He glanced down at the screen. "That way, I think."
"You think?" Jack asked, turning to face him. "Give me that!" he snapped, grabbing it from Daniel.
"Hey!" the archaeologist protested, grabbing for it. "Give me that!"
"Oh, shut up," Jack suggested, shaking his head and staring down at the screen. "That way," he ordered, pointing. Starting off in that direction, he handed it back to Daniel over his shoulder.
"That's the wrong way!" Daniel protested. "Jack!"
"Doctor Jackson, I am certain that Colonel O'Neill is capable of ascertaining our direction," Teal'c contributed.
"Yeah, Daniel. Just relax," Sam suggested, following Jack. After taking a few minutes of footage of Jack's backside, she turned around and started walking backwards, recording Daniel. "The General says that we're supposed to record our thoughts and impressions," she informed him.
"Unpaid recon," he muttered, shaking his head. "Turn that thing off, Sam."
"Come on, Daniel. Stop being a spoil-sport," Jack ordered. "Look, even Teal'c is having fun." He paused, glancing at the Jaffa was dutifully recording images of the local flora and fauna. "At least, I think he is. Try to get into the spirit of the trip," he suggested. "Live a little."
Daniel sighed and shook his head. "The things I do for my CO..." With a final, pained look, he forced a smile for Sam's camera. "Uh... what should I say?" he asked after a moment.
Sam smiled and shook her head. "Well, the General said thoughts and feelings. What are you feeling right now?" she asked.
"Congested," he answered, pulling out a handkerchief and blowing his nose. "No, I take that back. Very congested."
Sam chuckled and shook her head. "Okay, okay... We'll do it later. Teal'c?"
"Yes, Major Carter?" Teal'c asked, turning to face her.
"Indeed. This planet has tremendous biodiversity and few natural hazards. It is most restful."
"They're filming each other now?" Daniel murmured to Jack, frowning slightly.
Jack shrugged faintly. "Eh, they're just having fun." Pausing, he lowered his voice further and leaned closer to Daniel. "Is it just me or was Carter getting footage of my ass earlier?"
Daniel grinned and nodded. "Sure looked that way from where I was standing," he answered as Sam and Teal'c continued their discussion of the local ecosystem. He shook his head. "And you call me an egghead."
"Daniel, you are an egghead," Jack answered, grinning. "There're more like... geeks."
"Hey!" Sam protested, spinning to face him. "I am not a geek!" she informed him indignantly, shoving the camera back at Teal'c and closing on Jack, hands on her hips. Glaring at the startled-looking Colonel, she informed him flatly, "I am a nerd." Laughing and shaking her head, she went to retrieve her camcorder from Teal'c.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed mildly.
"You know, sir, if you're going to insult the people under your command, you could at least get the insults right," Sam told him. "Egghead," she said, pointing at Daniel. "Nerd," she continued, pointing to herself. "Brute," she added with a grin at Teal'c. Glancing pointedly at Jack, she concluded, "Smart-ass."
"Ah..." Jack murmured, nodding faintly and blinking. "Thanks for clearing that up, Carter."
"My pleasure, sir." Bending on the pretext of checking her camera, she added in a low voice, "Smart-ass..."
"I heard that," Jack informed her.
"That was the point," she replied, grinning. "Daniel, which way?"
"Well, since we've been going the wrong way for the last hour, I'd have to say back the way we came from."
"We were not going the wrong way!" Jack snapped. "Damn it, Daniel, I was using maps to get my people through jungles and past guerilla strongholds while you were still in diapers. I think I can read a CPS..."
"GPS, sir," Sam corrected him quietly.
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Fine. That way!" he said, jabbing his finger in a direction that would eventually start looping them back in what he was sure was the right direction.
"Okay, then. Move out!" Jack ordered.
"This looks like a good place to camp," Jack announced as they entered a clearing. "We'll be losing daylight soon and we don't want to be stuck without a site once it's dark."
"There is wisdom in your selection, O'Neill," Teal'c agreed, inclining his head respectfully. "There is a fresh stream within a few minutes walk of this place, much fallen wood with which to make a fire, and the ground is flat and relatively clear."
"That would be why I picked it," he said, dropping his pack. "Okay, people, the sooner we get camp set up, the sooner we can chill out and enjoy the sunset."
"Sounds good," Sam said. "I'll get the water."
"Great. Daniel, Teal'c, firewood. I'll clear the site and start getting the tents up. Stay within earshot!" he added as the others started off. Even on uninhabited planets, that was always wise in case of accident or animal attack.
Sam returned first with the water, depositing it on one end of the clearing and moving to help Jack finish putting up the tents. One or the other of them would let out the occasional shout to which the others would respond, allowing them to keep their bearings.
"Better than walkie-talkies," Jack declared, assembling a ring of stones in the center of the clearing.
"Someone's enjoying himself," Sam answered, sifting through the groundcover Jack had cleared away for tinder.
"What's not to enjoy?" Jack asked, shaking his head faintly as she moved to set up one of the camcorders. "No one's tried to kill us yet and that alone makes this better than most of our off-world trips."
"Guess you could have something there," Daniel agreed, returning with an armload of wood. "Teal'c?"
"Do you require assistance, Daniel Jackson?" the Jaffa's voice called in answer.
"No. Back in camp now."
"I, too, shall return to our campsite shortly."
"Great." He nodding and deposited his wood near the stones, sitting down and rolling his neck. "Well, we didn't make very good speed, but it's definitely a nice change from the running firefights we're usually by this point in an off-world--" He paused abruptly. "Sam, you didn't record that, did you?"
"General Hammond said to get footage."
"How the hell are we supposed to unwind with that thing running?" Daniel groaned, glancing to Jack for support.
"Hey, don't look at me." The Colonel shrugged helplessly. "Besides, I'm sure the General's going to have it edited before it goes into the archives." Glancing sideways at Sam, he added, "After all, we wouldn't want anything too inappropriate on there?"
"Such as?" she asked innocently.
"Twenty minutes of my smart-ass?" he suggested, drawing a guffaw from Daniel.
Sam flushed and started to deny the charge, then shrugged and crouched next to the fire, sparking the tinder. "Oh, that'll end up in some film-archive somewhere, I'm sure..."
"Like the 'film-archive' your living room?"
Sam did not answer, bending over the fire she was building instead.
"Hey, who brought the marshmallows?" Daniel asked abruptly, noticing the bags sitting near the fire for the first time.
"My study of your culture has indicated that they are an appropriate delicacy for such occasions," Teal'c explained simply, returning to the campsite with his own armload of wood. He crouched next to Sam, helping her to stoke the fire.
She grinned up at him. "What else did your studies indicate you should pack?"
"Well, as Colonel O'Neill had already procured the beer," he began, drawing barks of laughter from Daniel and Sam. He paused, regarding the two quizzically. When the two had composed themselves, he continued. "It fell to me only to bring also the chocolate and graham crackers."
"S'mores, Teal'c?" Sam asked, grinning widely at him.
"Hey, nothing like s'mores and beer," Jack pointed out, fishing around in his pack and pulling out several longnecks, distributing them along with MREs.
"I don't suppose anyone thought to bring any real food?" Daniel asked.
"No," Jack answered. "I was expecting we'd be having fresh fish for supper. If someone hadn't gotten us a few hours behind-time, we would have, too..."
"Hey, it's not my fault the topographic map was wrong!" Daniel protested.
"Guys," Sam interrupted in a warning tone. "Camera's running."
"S'mores and beer are nice," Daniel said quickly, shooting an anxious grin at the camera and making a mental note to make sure it had an accident overnight.
They ate their MREs in comfortable silence, relaxing and enjoying the sunset and the utter lack of the kind of life-and-death responsibilities that usually burdened them. Afterwards, Teal'c, true to his word, produced enough chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows to have fed s'mores to the entire base. After he lost his first several marshmallows in the fire, Sam took pity on him and showed him how to do it properly. Jack was laying nearby on his back, stargazing. Nearby, Daniel riffled his pack for the coffee he had brought.
"Maybe we should save that for tomorrow?" Sam suggested.
"Oh, I brought plenty," Daniel assured her. "Can't imagine going a week without coffee..."
"Can't imagine putting up with you without coffee for a week," Jack chuckled, shaking his head.
"Cute." Daniel rolled his eyes and scooped some coffee into a small kettle.
"Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to record our reflections and impressions," Teal'c suggested.
"Great idea," Sam said, grabbing the second camera. "Colonel?" she asked, zooming in on him across the fire.
He sighed, but sat up and smiled cynically at the camera.
"Well?" Sam asked when he did not start talking. "What do you think of this place?"
"I think I'd like to retire here. If I can ever find that lake."
Sam chuckled and nodded at the characteristically sarcastic answer. "That's good. What's your favorite thing about P3X201?"
"Other than the fact that there's no one shooting at us?" He smiled and pointed straight up. "Get a shot of that sky, Carter." As she obediently tilted the camera up to catch the night sky, he said, "You don't get skies that clear on earth. Hell, you could probably see your house from here."
"It is most doubtful, O'Neill," Teal'c contradicted him. "This planet is several million miles from Earth. Even with the most high-powered of microscopes--"
"I think it was a figure of speech, Teal'c," Sam interrupted, chuckling.
"Your turn, T," Jack said, pointing towards him.
"It is quite serene."
After a moment's silence, Jack asked, "That's it?"
"Serenity is sufficient in itself to recommend a planet, O'Neill," the Jaffa answered simply. "Major Carter, do you require a more complete answer?"
"Only if you feel like giving one."
"It also possesses an uncommonly diverse and homeostatic ecosystem," he added after a moment's thought.
"Well, I think that's all we're going to get out of him tonight," Jack said, shrugging. "Daniel?"
"Make Sam go."
Sam sighed and handed the camera to Daniel. "Fine. I absolutely love it here," she announced. "Everything about the place merits further study. The multiple suns and moons almost certainly have incredibly variable effects on seasonal shifts over a course of several of its years. And Colonel O'Neill already pointed out how unnaturally clear the atmosphere was. And there's a conspicuous lack of the sorts of large predators that are usually necessary to keep an ecosystem in balance."
"And that's enough of that," Jack announced abruptly, snatching the camera away from Daniel before Sam could get into her over-eager scientist mode. "Now, go," he ordered, turning the camera on Daniel.
Daniel sighed softly. "It's quiet here. I like the quiet." His head snapped abruptly to the left. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Jack asked, frowning and wondering if Daniel was just attempting to get out of saying anything else on camera.
At a sound suspiciously similar to that of a human stepping on a dry twig, he instinctively reached for his side-arm, rising. Sam and Teal'c were both on their feet, Teal'c hurrying to retrieve his staff-weapon as Sam retrieved her P-90 from its resting place near the water-pails.
"There's no intelligent life here," Sam whispered, but it did not stop her from shifting constantly, never keeping her back to one place for long as she scanned the forest with her eyes.
"We sure about that?" Jack asked.
"All reports indicate that there is no intelligent life," Teal'c agreed. "Or any creature large enough to produce so much sound as it moves through such light brush."
"Maybe... maybe we just imagined it?" Daniel asked hopefully, pulling his handgun from his pack.
"All four of us?" Jack scoffed, shaking his head. "Obviously the reports have some gaps in them..."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed quietly.
"Hey! Is anyone out there?" Daniel called.
"Daniel!" Jack hissed in protest, but only silence answered the archaeologist. "Now they know exactly where we are!"
"We're peaceful explorers!" Daniel continued, ignoring him. For good measure, he repeated the concept in Unas.
"That may not have been wise, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c announced quietly. "If there is someone or something out there which means us harm, you have indeed, as Colonel O'Neill stated, aided it in locating our campsite."
"Yeah, well, the fire probably did an even better job," Daniel snapped.
Jack sighed and nodded, aware that Daniel was right. As advisable or inadvisable as calling out had been, the fire was a dead giveaway as to their presence.
"Give it five minutes," Jack directed. "If we don't hear anything else, try to make contact again. If it sounds like they're getting closer, we'll play it by ear."
"Sir, even if there is intelligent or large animal life here, it may not be hostile," Sam pointed out quietly. "It could as easily be some kind of nocturnal grazer or a small, scared group of humans or aliens who doesn't want to be found."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed, joining the low conference. "Fugitives from the Gua'old, perhaps."
"They may just be curious," Daniel agreed. "Or keeping an eye on us to make sure we don't get too close to their main settlement."
"It's possible," Jack conceded, but he did not like the fact that their Intel on this planet was, apparently, flawed. "But we're not taking any chances, either. We take watches tonight and head back to the Gate at first light." Glancing down at his watch, he added, "Daniel, why don't you give them another shout-out."
"Hello? Is anyone out there? We mean you no harm! We are peaceful explorers! Do you understand me?"
After waiting for a few moments, he tried again, first in Unas and then in several of the earth languages they most commonly encountered off-world before repeating it again in English. This time, it was unmistakable. Twigs snapped rapidly and someone in the darkness giggled shrilly. SG-1 immediately took up a defensive formation, standing back to back with each other, scanning the dark forest warily. More twigs snapped and then there was silence.
"Carter, are either of those cameras equipped for infrared or night-vision?" Jack asked after several uncomfortable minutes.
"Yes, sir. The General wanted some night-time footage as well."
"Great. Do what you have to do."
"Yes, sir," she said, scuttling across the campsite to retrieve the camera on the perimeter.
She immediately carried it back to the fire, not wanting to linger in the shadows so close to the tree-line with an unknown person or people out there. Her three team-mates stood in a loose circle around her as she worked, their backs to her. Each faced the forest with their weapons held at the ready, warily scanning the darkness for sound or movement. Sam jumped and nearly dropped the camera she was working on when she heard a rapid, muffled rapping noise in the darkness.
"What the hell?" Jack asked, staring around and trying to figure out where the sound was coming from.
"It was from that direction, O'Neill," Teal'c announced, pointing. As soon as he did, that same shrill giggle sounded from almost the exactly opposite direction.
"How many of them are there?" Daniel demanded in a harsh whisper.
"At least two too many," Jack answered.
Abruptly, the woods were full in all directions with the sounds that were undeniably those of people running. Multiple whispered conversations punctuated those sounds.
"Okay, way more than two too many," Jack amended, his head whipping around. "Carter, what's the status on that camera?"
"Almost done, sir."
"Well, hurry up!" he snapped.
"You want to try refitting this thing in the dark?" Sam demanded, brandishing it at him.
"It is imperative to remain calm," Teal'c told them firmly. "To panic is to allow your enemy the upper hand."
"We still don't know that they're enemies," Daniel pointed out, but his voice was tinged with the beginnings of hysteria as he whipped his head around wildly, trying to fix on a single source of noise.
"This behavior is clearly in an attempt to intimidate us," Teal'c retorted. "They may attempt to strike in the night when one or more of us is asleep, or they may attempt to divide us that they may more readily overcome us."
"Well, that is not going to happen!" Jack said firmly. "We watch two by two tonight and tomorrow we hightail it back to the Gate. And we do not get out of sight of each other."
"Sir?" Carter said quietly.
"Just a minute, Carter. Daniel, look over that map, find us the quickest way back to the Gate. This was mostly downhill, so the trip back is probably going to be mostly uphill unless you can find an alternate route. We'll leave some of our supplies behind if that's what it takes to get there by dark."
"Sir!" Carter repeated more firmly.
"What?" he snapped.
"You really need to look at this..." she whispered, swallowing hard and handing him the camera. She jerked her head towards the forest.
Jack raised the camera to his eye and scanned the forest. "Shit," he whispered, handing it to Teal'c. "There have to be at least twenty of them out there."
"Humanoid?" Daniel asked. "Unas?"
"Human," Teal'c announced after a moment, handing him the camera. "And I count at least fifty distinct individuals. They appear to have established a perimeter..."
"Maybe if we break," Daniel suggested.
"In the dark over rugged terrain?" Jack demanded, shaking his head. "I don't think so, Daniel. We might as well let them kill us as run uphill through the woods in the dark."
"Is this starting to remind anyone else of that movie about the kids in the woods?" Sam asked quietly.
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"Okay, people, we just need to stay calm," Jack announced firmly. "Teal'c, drag one of the tents close to the fire. You need a shot, right?"
"I do," he admitted apologetically.
"Okay. Then Carter and I can take the first watch. You and Daniel get the second. Sleep with your weapons."
"Okay, Jack. Shout if there's trouble."
"If I did that, I'd have had to start shouting about half an hour ago, Daniel. Get some rest."
"Yeah," he agreed with a sigh as Teal'c dragged the tent closer to the ring of firelight. "That should be a breeze..."
"O'Neill? O'Neill, you must wake now!" Teal'c's insistent voice filtered into the sleeping man's conscious.
"Go 'way," Jack muttered, batting his hand at the Jaffa shaking his shoulder. "It's not morning yet."
"Daniel Jackson is no longer in the campsite."
Jack snapped into a sitting position. Carter was next to him, still asleep and cradling her P-90 against her chest like a lover. He gave her a rough shake, hissing her name, and she snapped into a sitting position as well, nearly braining him with the butt of the rifle before she realized it was him. She muttered an apology as they crawled out of the tent.
"Where the hell did he go?" Jack demanded.
"I am uncertain," Teal'c admitted, bowing his head. "The fire was beginning to give off insufficient light..."
"You sent him out for firewood?" Jack demanded incredulously.
"Indeed not." Teal'c shook his head faintly. "I told him to stay near the fire while I searched the perimeter of the campsite for wood. When I had returned, he was no longer there."
"Damn it!" Jack snarled. "Carter, flashlights?"
"Yes, sir." She quickly retrieved three and they began scanning the ground near the campfire for clues. "Sir!" she exclaimed, holding up a pair of glasses.
Despite the fact that the frame was bent and the lenses smashed, they were undeniably Daniel's. And there was blood smeared on one lens.
Jack closed his eyes and counted to ten before taking a deep breath and turning to face Teal'c. "How long were you gone?" he demanded in a tight voice.
"For not more than three minutes."
"And you stayed in the clearing?" Jack continued quietly.
"Then how the hell did you not hear the struggle?" Jack shrieked. His words were met with more laughter and whispering from the forest. "And you can just shut up as well!" he added.
When they did not, he grabbed Carter's P-90 and fired a barrage into the forest, stalking the length of the entire clearing and firing in every direction until the he became aware that the weapon was dry-firing in his hands.
"Sir!" Carter protested, grabbing the gun from him. "That was our only clip!"
"What?" Jack demanded. "You only brought one clip? What were you thinking?"
"The General said it was all we'd need!" she shouted back. "It would have been, too, if you hadn't decided to play Rambo and just start shooting at random until we were completely out!"
"Silence!!!" Teal'c voice bellowed, stopping them both in mid-rant. They turned to stare at the normally-quiet Jaffa with wide eyes. "We avail nothing through these arguments," he informed them. "The enemy has succeeded in weakening us. For this I bear the blame. If you must give recriminations, you should lay them where they are due."
Jack inhaled deeply, shaking his head. "No, Teal'c. No. It's no one's fault. We can not fall apart like this or we are going to end up like those kids in that movie. We've been in worse situations. We don't know that Daniel's... gone..."
"Well, he's sure as hell not getting very far in the dark under his own power without these," Sam pointed out, holding up the glasses.
"This may be so," Teal'c agreed. "However, we presently have more pressing concerns."
"Such as?" Jack asked, not sure he wanted an answer to that question.
"Daniel Jackson's gun and the map are also missing."
"The map?" Sam whispered. "The map?"
"The map," Teal'c confirmed quietly. "Which will make returning to the Stargate before night falls again a virtual impossibility."
"Great!" Jack snapped, throwing his hands in the air. "Just great!"
"I think this might be a good time to agree that no one sleeps until we do get back," Sam suggested. "Daniel..." She paused and cleared her throat. "Uh, Daniel brought a lot of coffee with him. We can use that to stay awake."
"For a couple of days at least," Jack agreed, sighing. "We're just going to have to retrace our steps the best we can back to the Gate. Once we're back at the SGC, we can organize a rescue-party for Daniel."
"Maybe... maybe we shouldn't have a fire if we need to camp again," Sam suggested. "It must have led them right to us..."
"You could have something there," Jack agreed, nodding faintly. "Sun's almost up. We should start out soon."
"Yes, sir." Sam nodded and absently began packing. Her hands fell on one of the cameras. "Has this damned thing been on the whole time?" she asked, her eyes widening.
"Can you play back the footage?"
"Yeah, let me just..." She paused, holding the eyepiece to her face and fiddling with the controls. "Damn. Something kicked the camera out of the way right after Teal'c got up for more fire-wood. Next thing on it is me picking it up." Shaking her head, she reached to turn it off.
"Don't," Jack said quietly, shaking his head. "Hammond wants off-world footage so some oversight committee can see what it's like to be off-world? Well, this is what it's like, damn it. You keep that camera on," he ordered, picking up the other. "Move out."
"O'Neill," Teal'c called, redirecting his attention. Shouldering the camera, he walked to the tree-line where the Jaffa was standing. "There are no bodies," Teal'c pointed out.
"That isn't possible. They were everywhere and I emptied a clip around the perimeter. There'd have to be at least one body!"
"Perhaps they removed their dead?"
"In the last five minutes?" Jack asked dubiously.
"Without a trace of blood anywhere," Sam added quietly. "What are they?"
"They did appear human," Teal'c said. "I begin now to doubt this."
"Okay, let's just... go," Jack said, gesturing for them to move out. "Stay close," he added.
"Are you sure this is the right way, sir?" Sam asked as they ate their supper, walking as they munched on the contents of the MREs.
"No, but I'm not sure it isn't, either."
"We have not heard any further noises," Teal'c noted. "Perhaps they are satisfied that we are retreating."
"I doubt it," Jack said, shaking his head. "We didn't hear anything until it was full dark last night."
"We'll need to stop for the night soon," Sam whispered.
"We go as far as we can, Major."
"Yes, sir. Can we at least turn off the cameras?"
"That's a negative. Keep them on."
"Do we have to, sir?"
"Damn it, Carter, if Daniel really is dead, he died for this damned footage!" Jack snapped.
"Yes, sir." Sam bowed her head and trudged on.
Camp that night was cold and uncomfortable for all three of them as they huddled in the dark with their backs to the same great tree, watching and waiting. In spite of the strong coffee they had all consumed several pints of, Sam felt herself drifting away. The day had been spent in a forced march over rugged terrain without a single stop. She shook her head to rouse herself and heard a soft snore from Jack on her right. Looking to her left, she saw that Teal'c, too, had dozed off, caffeine not affecting him as strongly as it did humans.
Her head shot up. That voice drifting out of the darkness was so familiar, but it could not possibly belong to the person she thought it belonged to. Could it?
"Daniel?" she called.
"Sam! Help me!"
"Daniel!" she repeated, jumping to her feet. The motion woke both Jack and Teal'c, who looked up at her in uncomprehending surprise. "Daniel's out there! I heard him!"
"You dozed off, Carter," Jack corrected her, catching her hand and tugging. "Get back here."
"Sam!" This time the voice sounded pained and it was followed by a scream.
"Daniel!" she shouted, taking off at a run in the direction of his voice.
"Carter!" Jack bellowed, jumping to his feet and racing after her, Teal'c close on his heels. "Carter!"
"O'Neill! Carter! Do not become separated!" the Jaffa shouted, racing after them and mentally cursing human impulsiveness. They had promised not to become separated, not to leave each other's sight. Now they were doing just that and running through the woods in the dark, an inadvisable activity under the best of circumstances. The knowledge that running in the dark was dangerous did not slow him down.
The tree-root sticking across his path did, snagging his foot and throwing him to the ground. His staff-weapon flew from his hands and he was aware of shadowy forms closing on him.
Sam stopped in her tracks at the sound of Teal'c screaming behind her. His knees declining to cooperate in the operation, Jack was unable to pull up so quickly and finally caught up with the object of his pursuit, colliding with her and sending them tumbling. They hit the ground with enough force to knock the wind out of both, and suddenly found themselves rolling down an embankment. Sam flew free of Jack as she tried to break their progress and slithered the rest of the way down on her back. From the sound of it, Jack had a much less pleasant descent. Both landed in a waist-deep river.
They found each other by groping in the darkness and, ignoring protocol, they clung to each other as they caught their breaths, as much for support as comfort.
"Why the hell'd you run off like that?" Jack panted. "We were supposed to stay together!"
"I heard Daniel! He was calling for help! He was in pain, sir..."
"Okay, just calm down. Are you sure?"
She nodded frantically. "At first I thought I was just dreaming, but then I knew I was awake and his screams got louder."
"Teal'c screamed, too..."
"I know. I heard; that's why I stopped. What do we do?"
"I lost my gun in the fall, Carter. We fell a long way and this is a deep river. It could be anywhere."
"So we're unarmed, it's just the two of us, and we're being chased by something that bullets don't stop anyway?"
"That's about the size of it." Jack sighed deeply. "We head back to the Gate, get together a rescue-party..."
"But how do we find it?" Sam whispered, shaking her head.
"This is a pretty deep river and there was only one of those in the region. It's the one that fed into that God damned lake I was so eager to drop a hook in..." He shook his head. "It's also the one that runs past the Gate. So we just walk against the current and it'll take us right to the Gate."
She nodded weakly.
"Hang tight, Carter," Jack said, squeezing her shoulder. "We're almost home."
"Yes, sir," she answered dully, too cold and tired to think of much more to say as they trudged against the heavy current for what felt like hours.
"Oh, good, the second moon's rising," Jack said, pointing skyward. "That'll make it easier to see our way."
"Make it easier for them to see us, too," Sam sighed.
"You always such an optimist, Carter? I thought cynicism was my job..."
"I think right now there's enough to go around, sir."
"You could have something there," he agreed, nodding weakly.
They waded on in silence for some time more, until the trees on the bank became more scarce and the Stargate came into view. Relieved, they hauled themselves onto the shore and lay in a clump of bushes panting and staring at the sky until the silvery-blue glow from the moons was replaced by the pure, yellow light of the first sun.
Jack sighed and slid to his knees, peering at the Stargate. "Looks like there's no one around. Let's go."
She nodded and rose, following him at a jog. Unarmed, neither of them wanted to stay in the clearing any longer than necessary. Jack stood by Sam, his back to hers as she started to dial earth's address. Scanning the tree-line, he became aware of several figures emerging.
"Carter, get down!" he ordered, hauling her under the dialing device.
"Sir?" she asked, crouching under the scant cover the artifact offered and waiting for his orders as more and more figures melted out of the woods.
"No," Jack whispered, and it sounded more like a prayer. "I didn't get her this far..."
Sam's eyes widened slightly at the murmured words, probably not words meant for her ears at all. Not that she disagreed with the sentiment at all; they had come too far for something to go wrong now. Her head shot up as Jack let out a muffled curse and climbed out from under the device.
"Sir!" she protested, grabbing at his ankle. Until she saw an unmistakable, portly figure among the others. "General?"
Jack cursed under his breath again, helping Sam to her feet. "If you'll please excuse me for one minute, Carter. Lucy has some 'splainin' to do," he told her, marching to meet the General as Teal'c joined him.
"Here, Major," a young man in BDUs said, draping a blanket around the damp woman. "There's coffee and hot soup in the mess if you're still cold."
"Mess?" she repeated, bewildered and wondering if this was the part where she woke up.
"The mess tent," a new voice provided cheerfully.
"Holy Hannah!" she yelped, startled. "Jonas!"
He grinned and shrugged admission of the fact.
"What are you... what's going on?" she demanded.
He shrugged again, his smile widening. "Well, SG-4 was on-planet and someone mentioned that the General was looking for some ideas and..."
Jonas shrugged again, wincing as he heard Jack shout, "What do you mean 'training exercise'?"
"This... all this was..." Sam stared at him with wide eyes. "This was your idea, Jonas?"
"Well, I may have made a few suggestions, but it was the General's idea. Daniel and I came up with the specifics."
"Daniel?" Sam repeated.
"Well, we needed an inside man to get you lost." Jonas shrugged. "We put blanks in all your guns so no one would get hurt. The Blair Witch tie-in my idea, because the General had mentioned that he did want footage of the exercise for training purposes, but--"
"Daniel!" Jack's voice bellowed.
"He's not dead," Sam realized, her eyes widening.
Jonas shook his head. "No, of course he's not dead..."
"Ah, well, then, I think you'd better make yourself scarce and then point me to the mess tent so I can keep him that way."
"It's in that copse of trees over there. See you later, Sam," Jonas told her, nodding at her wisdom in wanting to keep him out of Jack's sight for a few days. As she jogged off towards the tent to rescue the archaeologist from the Colonel's wrath, he cheerfully added, "Happy Halloween, Sam!"
THE END -- & Happy Halloween
Author's Note: No archaeologists were harmed in the making of this fic, and Jonas reports that he had never chased camcorder-wielding people through the woods before while pretending to be a demonic force. He says it was "pretty cool".