Title: Circle's End

Rating: R (Violence)

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Spoilers: 48 Hours, The First Commandment

Series Order: (1) Full Circle, (2) Circles of the Mind, (3) Splitting the Circle, (4) Empty Circles, (5) Circle of Lies, (6) Circles Revealed, (7) Circle's Arc

Summary: Sam and McKay consider their relationship, and as Debbie puts her escape plan into action, someone gets hurt - will she make it off world?

Disclaimer: All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Details: Jack/Other, Sam/Other Romance, Sam/Jack UST, Angst, Drama, Future Season.

MCKAY WARNING: If you don't like him, you really really really won't like this chapter. I mean, seriously! P.S. 'Heroes' never happened in my universe.

Author Notes: 8th in the 'Circles' Series. Please send feedback to

Archive: Gateworld,

-------- indicates flashbacks

Circle's End

Copyright © Ruth, 2004

Dedication: For you, sweet Sarah, missing you more each day.

"Colonel, you have been briefed of tomorrow's incident?"

"Yes, senator."

"Exactly why are you going off world?" Kinsey asked, confused, "There are plenty of places in the United States that we could hide you in."

"I still want to be a part of the programme," she explained, "If I go through the gate and take a GDO, I can go to a Beta site or even just a distant planet and mingle with the locals for a few years. Then, when everything's calmed down, I could try and get my job back."

Kinsey snorted.

"You'll be waiting a long time for that, Colonel. The only reason you got to SGC was because of me and our mutual friend in the NID."

"Kinsey, don't flatter yourself. Your job required the intelligence of a biscuit."

"1200 hours," Kinsey snapped, "Be in the gate room or as close to it as possible - I'd hate for them to close the blast doors on you and halt your escape."

"Goodbye, Senator," Debbie said curtly, and put down the telephone.

"So, what? You just absolved him of sin and let him become your best friend again?" McKay asked in disbelief, "Have the last two years made no impression on you?"

"I have not absolved him of sin and no, he is not my best friend!" Sam replied, "I just felt the need to clear the air."

"He treated you like crap!" McKay said, "He doesn't deserve it!"

"That may be so," Sam continued, "But if we have to work together it helps to be able to speak!"

"You don't work with him," McKay said angrily, "You work with me!"

"I know!" Sam said, "But on the occasion that I meet him around the base I don't want to be having to ignore him. McKay, he's…he's been through it. He just wants to help."

"I want to help!" McKay cried, "Dammit, Sam, I want to help you, but you won't let me in! You trust that man more than you trust me, even though he put you through hell!"

Sam sat down heavily. She had no idea that it meant so much to him.

"McKay…" She began.

"Just stop," he said quietly, "I understand. I was there when you needed help but you don't need it any more. I'll see if I can get a flight back to Russia."

"I didn't say that!" Sam shouted, her temper flaring, "Dammit, McKay, stop feeling so sorry for yourself! I don't want you to go back to Russia, I want you to stay here!"

His arms folded across his chest as he stood by the door, waiting. Her voice softened.

"Yes, you were there for me when I needed help, and yes, I am trying to build bridges with the colonel - but that doesn't mean that I don't need you any more. You think I am just going to forget what has happened? Just like that? Well I won't. I still need you around."

McKay's head lowered and he looked at the floor. Was that a flush of embarrassment in his face? She'd have to remember that for blackmailing purposes later.

"My leg is still busted," she explained, "So you have to do all the running around. And although you are sometimes a total pain in the rear, I enjoy working with you. You're an intelligent man, and when people get to know you, they realise that you're not quite such an asshole as they think."

"Why, thank you," he said sarcastically.

"No problem," Sam replied, "C'mere."

They shared a brief hug, though McKay privately wished that it could have been longer.

"Sorry I went all teenage-girl on you there," he apologised.

"It's alright," Sam smiled, "I think I'm growing used to your mood swings."

"Hey!" He protested, "I so do NOT have mood swings!"

"Sure you do," Sam smirked, "That was one hell of a swing a minute ago."

"Listen," he said seriously, sitting down in a chair opposite her, "I know I'm a pain in the butt sometimes, but…"

Sam arched an eyebrow at him. He found this slightly creepy; she'd obviously been taking lessons from Teal'c.

"Would you like to go out somewhere this evening? I don't know, dinner or a drink or something?"

Was McKay asking her on a date?? He was looking embarrassed again, and it was so cruel to keep him waiting but Sam couldn't think straight. She had hated him, he still behaved like an asshole, but…she could do with a night out.

"Sure," she said, "If you don't mind hanging out with a cripple," she waved her crutch at him.

"We'll just go somewhere where nobody will recognise us," he reassured her.

"How about some coffee?" Sam asked, "I'd get it myself, but.."

"Sure," McKay said, getting up, "But just one thing. Tonight? Wear something little and black."

And then, before she could find anything to throw at him, he was gone.

Debbie raised her hand and knocked sharply on the door. A familiar voice called her inside, one that she was very sad to have to leave behind.

"Oh. It's you," Jack replied, "What do you want?"

"Can't I just come and talk to my favourite Colonel?" She smiled.

"No," he snapped, "We're both under investigation at the moment, we shouldn't be seen together. You know how people talk."

"It doesn't matter," Debbie said airily, "They won't charge us with anything. We're safe."

Jack's eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"What have you done?"

"I haven't done anything!" Debbie said, defensively, "I just don't think they can persecute us for something we haven't done!"

"What exactly haven't we done?" Jack snapped, "For crying out loud, Colonel Welling, you were my 2IC and we had a relationship. I've known the rules on that for ages!"

"We didn't do anything wrong," she pouted, "We were just two people in love."

"It wasn't love," Jack said, "Now get out of my office."

"Don't you want to hear what I have to tell you?" She asked.

"As a matter of fact, no! I don't!" Jack replied angrily, gathering up his folders and storming out of the room.

Debbie sighed, and took a look at her fingernails. Too bad she'd had them done recently - it wasn't as if she would be able to find any beauty parlours off world.

Still, he'd made his position perfectly clear. She had been willing, oh so willing, to take him with her. They could have shared the plan together, escaped off world and started a whole new life - but no. She had to stop him.

Her mouth set in a grim line. Oh, she had tried to get rid of her. Teasing, bullying even - that had nearly seen her off. Then General Hammond had assigned her to another mission, so she'd had another go. Still, she remained, stuck to Jack like a limpet.

"Stupid scientist," she muttered to herself.

When she and Jack were rescued from Ba'al, she finally thought she'd done it. No more Sam Carter. Jack would forget about her and the two of them could finally start a life together. But no, she just wouldn't let go. Clinging onto a last shred of life she'd fought her way back, limping into the court only to beat her yet again.

Well, she decided, it wasn't going to happen again. By the time Debbie was off world, Samantha Carter would be a distant memory.

"Janet Fraiser."

"Hey, Janet!"

"Sam! What is this? You're actually at home? Listening to my advice? I think I should come over and give you a check-up!"

"Actually Jan I do need you to come over, but not for a check-up."

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing! I'm just…well, I may be going out tonight and I…"

"You have a date?" Janet smirked, twisting the phone cord between her fingers.

"Well, it's not exactly a date," Sam mumbled, annoyed at the pleasure she knew Janet would be deriving from this.

"Well? Who is it?"

"I don't want to tell you over the phone," Sam said, still quite flustered, "Can you come over?"

"Sure, Sam, but…Oh My God. You're not? With him? Are you serious?"

"I'll see you later," Sam said, and hurriedly put down the phone.

"Mom? Yeah, I…yes, of course I clean my teeth every morning. What?…Yes, mom, I…dammit, I'm trying to talk to you for a moment!"

(Loud blathering on other end of the line)

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry, I won't use that word again. No…no, mom, they didn't teach me to speak that way in Russia. No…what? Look, I have something important to tell you."

(Slightly quieter blathering on other end of the line)

"I have a date."

(Silence)

"Mom? I need some advice, that's all. Yes, she is an American. What? What do you mean? No, I'm not…Oh, jeez, could you just put dad on?"

(Quiet grumbling)

"Dad! Hey, dad. Yeah…what? No, look, I really don't need one of those lectures right now! Really! Ok, hey…listen to me? Somebody? Dad, I haven't done this for years! I mean, what should I wear?…Oh very funny. Right, be that way. Putting the phone down now. Bye!"

"Agh!" McKay groaned in exasperation, putting his head in his hands. Now he remembered why he didn't ring his parents very often.

He went upstairs and opened his wardrobe. Hm…This was going to need some work. He had shirts for work, trousers for work, ties for work…but nothing, it seemed, for his social life.

"Crap," he moaned.

Later that evening, Sam arrived at the restaurant. She stopped her car and sat still for a moment. This was not the first time in the past few hours that she had wondered what the hell she was doing. This was McKay, after all.

Who was she kidding? She'd almost died last month, hell, worse than that. She only had one chance at life, she sombrely reminded herself, and she had better make the most of it. With that decision made, she opened the door and struggled out of the car.

McKay, she knew, would be fairly disappointed in her attire. Short and black wasn't really on her list at the moment, as it didn't go particularly well with a busted leg and numerous scars and bruises. A brief smile passed over her face as she wondered what he would be wearing. At work, all she'd ever seen was scruffy, brown and cream pants and shirts that made him look as if he had wandered off of the streets.

As she wandered into the restaurant, she couldn't help but smile. McKay was sitting there, in a suit that must have been a size too big for him, with a bow tie that was on a skew and a very nervous expression. He caught her gaze, realised she was smirking, and immediately assumed his sarcastic best.

"Jake the peg, nice of you to turn up," he grinned, bowing slightly as he offered her a chair.

"It's quite handy for hitting people over the head with, so cut the crap, McKay," she said, in a low voice so as not to offend the other people in the restaurant.

"I like it when you get mad," he said.

She swatted him with a menu.

"You know…" he said, "I actually was quite nervous about doing this."

Sam looked up at him in surprise.

"You? I didn't think you had an emotional program!"

"I was being serious," he shot back, "Do you think it was easy, someone like me asking someone like you out to dinner?"

"I…guess I hadn't really thought about it," Sam admitted, "What do you mean, someone like me? I'm not the queen!"

"No, but, I wouldn't mind betting that you were popular at school, you know? Prom queen, cheerleader, and all that?" He said, fumbling with a napkin.

He expected a smile, some reminiscing, but not the laugh that erupted from her, startling an elderly couple behind them.

"Prom queen?" She giggled, holding her side as she tried to calm down, "Are you nuts, McKay? I was a geek! I spent my time getting shoved into lockers by cheerleaders, not hanging around with them!"

"Really?" He asked, "I thought it was just me!"

"Oh, no, I saw many the inside of a locker," Sam said thoughtfully, "What I wouldn't give to see what some of them have done with their lives now."

"Not as much as you have," McKay said seriously, "In fact, I don't think there's many people in this world who can claim to have done as much with their lives as you."

Sam flushed slightly at the compliment. "You haven't done so bad yourself, McKay. After all, you are the world's foremost expert on the Stargate!"

He grinned a little.

"God, I was a pompous ass, wasn't I?"

"What's with the past tense?" She retorted.

"Hey!" He protested, "I think I've been improving in my behaviour lately."

Sam shook her head.

"Stop trying, McKay. I've just managed to get used to the way you are, don't go and change and make me have to go through it again."

At that point their food arrived, so the trade in insults stopped for a while.

At home, Debbie put the last of her things into her kit bag, and reached for a rectangular box to her left. She opened it, and took out the handgun that was nestled within it. Checking that it was loaded, she set it back down again, a pleased smile spreading over her face in the darkness of the room.

Everything was prepared for her grand finale. And it wasn't just she that would be departing tomorrow.

"I never really thanked you, McKay." Sam said, as the waiter cleared away their plates.

"Oh, did I mention you're paying?" He grinned.

"I meant about what happened on Ba'al's ship. I really do appreciate what you did. It could have ended very differently…"

He felt bad when he saw a familiar shadow pass over her face, and reached across the table to lay his hand on hers.

"But it didn't," he finished, "C'mon, I didn't bring you out this evening to make you sad! We're supposed to be having fun, though I know my presence here somewhat limits that, and the fact that you didn't wear something small, black and sexy…"

Her face broke into a smile.

"Well, you might want to try finding a wardrobe that covers the multiple array of bruises I currently own," Sam said, "As well as some shoes that can be worn whilst I have to use this." She indicated the crutch that was leant against the table.

"Fair point," he said, "But how are we supposed to run out of the restaurant without paying?"

"I'm sorry," she apologised, "Of all the things I thought you'd plan, I didn't foresee that."

Later, the two of them were walking along the edge of a river that ran parallel to the freeway. Night had fallen by that point, and Sam couldn't help but feel a bit nervous. It was only at night, and in the darkness, when the worst memories came back to her. She shivered.

"Hey," McKay said gently, "Are you cold?"

"Hmm," she said, "I just…well, the dark. It…brings everything back."

"Oh, Sam, sorry, I didn't think…" McKay said, kicking himself.

"It's not your fault," she reassured him, "You can't prepare for everything, can you?"

He slipped out of his jacket and put it over her shoulders, receiving a smile for his troubles.

"Well," he grumbled, "It fits you better than it does me!"

She chuckled as she looked out over the river, momentarily transfixed by its smoothness, the way it moved so calmly and quietly.

"Careful, McKay, you're starting to look like a gentleman," she warned.

She would have liked to pretend otherwise, but she was quite enjoying the feel of his hand on hers. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt that kind of warmth, especially towards another person…a man. There was still a small part of her brain that was trying to get her to turn away, but she pushed it aside.

"You're beautiful tonight," he said suddenly.

"As opposed to the rest of the time?" she asked, an eyebrow raised.

"No, it's just that normally I can't say those kind of things…at work, I mean."

"It's nobody else's business," she said, turning to face him, "Our lives are our own, and we can do with them whatever the hell we like."

"It's really changed your outlook on life, hasn't it?" He asked.

Sam nodded. "It just made me realise how I worry about all the little, stupid things. Nothing that really matters. Just the little things that annoyed me in everyday life. The things that nobody can do anything about, but everybody complains about anyway. I've spent too many years of my life taking it for granted. I'm not going to do that any more."

Out of nowhere, she felt his lips brush her cheek in a tender kiss. She turned her face towards his and their lips met. His thumb brushed gently against her collarbone, sending an unfamiliar kind of heat through her veins.

Eventually they broke apart, but it was clear that neither regretted what they had just done.

"Wow," he said, after a long moment.

"Indeed," she replied with a smirk.

"I can't believe we just did that," he said breathlessly.

"Want to do it again?" She asked.

"Yes, ma'am."

The next morning, Debbie seemed a lot brighter than usual. This, in itself, surprised a lot of people. Ever since the embarrassment over the court-martial she'd been walking around with a rain cloud over her head, but this morning she was decidedly…cheerful.

Jack instantly knew that something was up.

"You look disgustingly happy this morning," he commented, as she breezed past him.

"Why, thank you," she said. "Don't be so suspicious, Jack, it's just that some of us can get rid of our grudges, rather than hold onto them. You might want to tell Sam that."

Jack sneezed suddenly, causing Graham Simmons (who had appeared from nowhere) to jump out of his skin.

"Oh, sorry, Debbie, it's just that I'm allergic to bullshit," he said, deadpan. "Whatever it is you're planning, I don't want any part of it."

"Me?" Debbie asked, the picture of innocence, "I'm not planning anything!"

Just as Jack had passed the unusually happy Debbie, he turned a corner and almost walked straight into an equally unusually happy McKay, who was beaming from ear to ear.

"What the hell are you so pleased about?" Jack snapped, in disbelief.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" he laughed, and walked off.

Janet, who came along the corridor at that very moment, looked at Jack, bewildered.

"Was that just…?"

"It was," Jack agreed.

"And then…?"

"It was," Jack nodded.

"Well, whatever it is they're on, I want some!" She said.

At 11:30, Debbie was feeling decidedly more fidgety. She had just half an hour left to complete her plan before she got off world, and was quite giddy with excitement. The handgun was safely concealed in her jacket, and McKay was just about to leave Sam's lab. Everything had gone according to plan.

She watched with a degree of amusement as the aforementioned doctor left the lab, still beaming. She would have given a large amount of money to know what he was so pleased about, but it would have to wait. She waited until he was out of earshot, and crept closer to the door. Sam was humming quietly to herself, working at her laptop.

A smile of realisation spread across Debbie's face. Surely they weren't? Together? Ew…how gross but at the same time how interesting…Jack would just do his nut…she made a mental note to tell him before she went through the gate. By now, her inside men would have disabled the security system so she wouldn't be spotted. Safe in this knowledge, she quietly opened the door and went inside.

Sam felt herself smile as the door opened quietly. He was back already?

"That had better be some good coffee you got there, McKay," she warned.

"Ah, the famous last words," Debbie's dry voice said, as Sam turned around in her chair only to meet the business end of a handgun, with a silencer screwed atop it.

"After all the ingenious ways you tried to kill me, you're just going to do it with a gun?" Sam asked quietly, trying to stop the trembling in her legs.

"Works as well as any other way," Debbie shrugged.

"Then why haven't you done it yet?" Sam continued, "Pulled the trigger? It's silenced, so you could have done it before I even turned around. What stopped you?"

"I just wanted you to know that I know about you and your little scientist," she smiled, "Quite a revolting pair you make, I must say."

"Do you think I'm scared of you?" Sam asked. "Is that why you've done this?"

"You are scared of me," Debbie sneered, "You always have been, since that day in the locker room!"

"Not any more," Sam smiled sadly. "I'm not afraid of you, and what's more - I'm not even afraid of dying any more. In fact, I spent the last few weeks of my life willing it to happen."

Debbie paused for a moment, angry. She had no idea that Carter was going to react this way.

The moment was all that Sam needed. A burst of adrenaline saw her knock the gun clean out of Debbie's hand and across the floor. With a cry of rage, Debbie backhanded Sam across the face and sent her spinning after the gun.

"Stupid little bitch!" she spat, "For someone who doesn't care about dying, you're sure putting up a good fight!"

She grabbed hold of the gun again and pointed it at Sam. It was then that they heard the door open. Sam held her breath as Debbie spun around, weapon still in hand.

"What the?"

"I'm sorry, Jack," Debbie said, and fired.

Sam leapt, with great difficulty, up from the floor and threw herself at Debbie. By this time the commotion of breaking equipment had attracted outside attention, and Debbie dropped the gun and made a run for it. Sam, cursing at the pain shooting down her side, crawled over to where her CO had fallen and gasped.

The bullet had caught him in the shoulder, and the wound was bleeding profusely. Fortunately, the chaos had alerted several nearby airmen and before she knew what was happening, Janet was at her side.

"What happened?" she asked breathlessly.

"Debbie," Sam ground out through her teeth.

She stood up and hobbled over to her desk, grimacing at the pain shooting down her side. Probably just a pulled muscle, but it hurt like hell. She spied her crutch on the floor just a few feet away and grabbed it, steadying herself with it as she moved quickly out of the door and down the corridor.

"Colonel?" Janet asked, gently patting his cheek with her hand, "Colonel, I need you to stay awake!"

He muttered something under his breath and his eyes began to flutter closed.

"Dammit," Janet cursed, "Get him to the infirmary now!"

She turned around to talk to Sam, only to find that she was no longer there. Considering she was suffering with one of her legs, she could move damn fast. Her thoughts then turned back to her patient, and Sam slipped from her mind.

"Shut down the gate!" Sam yelled, as she made her way into the briefing room where Hammond was sat, along with the Joint Chiefs.

"Excuse me, Major?" Hammond asked, and all the eyes in the room focussed on her.

Sam hoped she wasn't blushing, and stumbled on:

"Colonel O'Neill has been shot, sir, and the assailant may be trying to escape off world."

"Shot?" Hammond asked, "By who?"

Sam didn't have to say anything before realisation dawned in the general's eyes.

"Oh, hell!" He cursed, getting up immediately, without apologising to the chiefs, "Major, with me."

When they got to the gate room, however, there was no sign of Colonel Welling.

"Major, please explain," Hammond said, a hint of irritation in his voice.

"I…she must be hiding somewhere, sir…" Sam said, looking down at the floor.

"Very well, I'll organise teams to start sweeping the base," he said, "But you need to get that hand seen to, Major, you're bleeding."

With that, he swept out of the room.

"It's not my blood," Sam said quietly, but he did not hear her. Her blood ran cold at the thought that Debbie was still somewhere on base, hiding, waiting…

It could so easily have been her that took that bullet, but it seemed that Jack had spared her that. Ironically, he had returned her favour. She rubbed her eyes wearily and made her way slowly to the infirmary. The security teams rushed past her to begin searching the base, but it didn't phase her.

She just wanted this to be over, hoping that it was just some terrible dream and that soon she would wake up and things would be back to normal again.

She'd been thinking that a lot lately. Wallowing in self - pity was not something she would usually have done, but at the moment she had the energy for nothing else.

McKay returned to Sam's lab to be met with the sight of a pool of blood, with lieutenants standing around, gossiping about what had happened. His first thought was of Sam.

"What happened here?" he asked, hurriedly.

"Seems as if Colonel Welling shot Colonel O'Neill," one of them said casually, as if he was discussing a television programme.

"Why would she do that?" McKay wondered out loud.

"Beats me," another man shrugged, "I thought they were sleeping together."

"Exactly," the first lieutenant smirked, and the men laughed.

McKay quietly made his exit and made his way towards the infirmary. When he got there, he saw Sam standing at the end of a bed, her arms folded, crutch leant against the wall.

"Hey," he said quietly.

She smiled weakly at him, turning back to face the Colonel.

"Where's Debbie?" McKay said.

"Still missing," Sam said, looking down at the sheets. "I don't understand how we could have lost her on the base…"

"It's not your problem any more," McKay said. Noticing her increased pallor, he put his hand on her arm. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," she said, "I just want to be safe in the knowledge that she's locked up somewhere. I won't be able to relax until I know for sure."

"Well, we have the only active gate on Earth, so she can't have gone very far. Not if she wants to get off world."

"What if she doesn't want to go off world anymore?" Sam asked, "What if she's gone somewhere else?"

"What reason has she got?" McKay reassured her, "She's not got Jack, she has no friends, she doesn't have anywhere to live, no source of income. It makes sense for her to try and get off world because she's got…"

"Nothing to lose," Sam finished, nodding. "You're right, McKay."

"Of course I am," he grinned, "I am the most intelligent man in the universe."

"Jerk," she smiled, elbowing him.

"Come on," he said, "The colonel's not going to be conscious for a while yet, and you look like you need to sit down."

The two of them left the infirmary, Sam rather reluctantly, and made for the relative tranquillity of the commissary. Their lab was still swamped with gossipers and investigators, so they didn't want to be heading back that way for a while yet. As Sam sat down, McKay noticed her wince and hold her side.

"What's wrong with your side?" he asked, slightly annoyed that she hadn't mentioned it before.

"Nothing," she lied, "I just got…shoved."

"By who?" McKay demanded, "Debbie?"

"Yeah, by Debbie," Sam said, sensing the irritation in his voice, "But it's nothing, stop fussing."

"What was Debbie doing with you?" He asked, "I thought she was after Jack."

Sam closed her eyes for a fleeting moment, knowing that she wasn't going to be able to keep the truth from him. She didn't want him worrying unnecessarily, especially not in the middle of the commissary.

"She was after me, not Jack," she admitted, not able to meet McKay's eyes, "She had a gun, she was going to…well, you know what she was going to do, and Jack walked in, and she just…fired."

"She was going to kill you?" McKay asked, in a hushed whisper, "Jeez, Sam! That's not 'nothing'! If Jack hadn't walked in you would be-"

"Dead! I know," she snapped, "And yes, I probably should see Janet but to be honest, the pain I am feeling now is nothing compared to what I was feeling a few weeks ago."

An awkward silence fell over the couple in the aftermath of their argument.

"I'm going for a walk," McKay announced, getting up from the table and leaving the commissary.

Sam left just after he had done, and made her way towards the gate room. Once there, she stared at the silver ring for what seemed like an eternity. It was beautiful, but at the same time it brought so much to Earth and its people that was dangerous, that was dark. It was like Pandora's box. In the years she had worked at the SGC it had brought her so much joy, but so much pain as well. Her eye fell on a group of marines who were about to move out on a mission, and she went through to the control room to stand with Sergeant Davis.

As he was initiating the dialling sequence, Sam leant back against the wall and watched the gate turning. Like a clock, she mused. As they reached chevron 6, however, it became evident that something was going on below them. Cautiously, Sam bent her head to look closer at the glass.

Out of nowhere, chevron seven was locked and chaos erupted on the gate room floor. A fifth figure shot out of the side door and up the ramp, startling the marines who had been ready to move out. She knew in a flash who it was. The marines were already running through the gate after Debbie, and Sam yelled to the sergeant to keep the gate open.

Throwing her crutch away with a grunt of annoyance, she was surprised to find how easily her legs carried her through the gate and out the other side. Sure, Hammond and numerous other people would have her butt for this when she got back through, but if Debbie was going down, Sam damn well wanted to be there when it happened.

Her initial plan had been to hit the ground running. What actually transpired was that she stumbled through the gate and hit the ground in a roll, landing on her back with a curse. One of the marines, ordered to wait behind and guard the gate, rushed to her aid.

"Major, what are you doing here?" he asked.

"I thought maybe you could use some help," she said, "And I could sure use the kicking-her-ass part. Do you have anything to cuff her with?"

"I can't allow you to do this, major," he warned, "We're taking care of it, and we don't need a vigilante cripple running around with weapons!"

"On the contrary, I think that's exactly what you need, because this vigilante cripple probably has a better idea of her whereabouts than you. Give me the cuffs, Captain!"

Sam didn't really know what had come over her. Shouting at a junior officer, pulling rank? She better had find Debbie after all this, to justify her actions. With her newly-acquired zat gun, she set off in the opposite direction to the marines. Knowing Debbie, she would have worked out where the marines would search first, and gone somewhere totally different. This didn't really help much, but it was the best she had to go on. Limping slightly, she made her way East towards a group of caves in the side of a hill. It was as good a place as any to start.

Debbie ran. She was amazed that she'd managed such a head start, but then these were marines that she was being pursued by, and she wasn't particularly in awe of their intellect. As they headed for where people usually ran, Debbie made her way towards the most treacherous, difficult climb where nobody in their right mind would have dreamed of running…except her. She knew it was only a matter of time before Hammond sent reinforcements, and then she would be in trouble. More men would be able to cover more ground, leaving her with fewer places to hide.

She wondered briefly about Jack. She'd shot him in the shoulder, so it wouldn't have been fatal. She was greatly annoyed that she hadn't been able to get rid of Sam, but that challenge remained to be attempted another day, she supposed. As she continued running, her foot caught on a large rock and she fell forwards, her hands out in front of her body to break her fall. As she hit the ground she heard a crack, and grimaced. It wasn't her fall that had been broken, after all. With a hiss of pain she rolled over, clutching her wrist.

Deciding that lying on the ground wasn't the best idea, she looked around and saw a group of caves in the hill just a couple of miles away. No, too obvious. Still, she could head in that direction and see what turned up. Blocking the pain in her wrist from her mind, she continued running, at a slower pace. This whole operation had been far too messy. The plan had failed, and she had only just escaped. If she could just keep it together, she had a slim chance of actually getting away with it.

As they neared the hill, both women began to tire, though neither were aware of just how close they were to meeting each other. Their paths had crossed many times before this one, and now it was time for their score to be settled, once and for all.

Debbie was the first to give up. She slumped to the ground behind a large shrub and cursed at the pain in her ankle, as well as the building heat of the day. She held her weapon close to her chest and took a few deep breaths, trying to take stock of the situation. It was then that she heard footsteps behind her, and her whole body tensed.

Surely nobody could have found her this fast? She'd made sure that the marines had gone in the complete opposite direction to her, and even they couldn't move that fast!!

Her assailant was tiring. The footsteps were uneven and slowing down. She could hear the breathing of the person who was, by now, just a few centimetres away from her. Her hand moved around the gun, and her finger lay coolly against the trigger, as if pulling it was the most natural thing in the world.

The figure moved closer, and, finally catching sight of her, tried to raise the alarm. Debbie took aim and fired, and the body fell to the ground.

The marines heard the shot, and immediately sprinted towards its origin. They were a fair distance away, and by the time they arrived at the scene, Debbie was long gone. They fell to the side of their injured comrade and began to help. Fortunately, the shot wound was not fatal.

Sam heard the shot, and suddenly the ache in her leg began to peter away. Debbie was very close by, so close she could almost smell her! Now was not the time to give up. She felt vaguely dizzy, but wasn't sure what the cause was. She continued to put one foot in front of the other, waiting. If Debbie had shot someone, she would be on the run, and hopefully, she would run right into Sam.

A large tree stood very conveniently to her right, and she took shelter behind it. The sun was beating down now, being the middle of the day, and Sam had been having second, third and even fourth thoughts about what the hell she was doing here. The shade offered a brief respite and a chance for her to relax. Well, maybe relax wasn't the right word…

Approaching footsteps had Sam instantly on her guard. She turned around very slowly, still hidden by the tree, and watched as Debbie began to come towards her. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she got closer, and closer, and closer…

She passed the tree and Sam took her chance. Jumping out from behind it, her gun at the ready, she snapped off the safety.

"Hold it right there."

For a brief moment Debbie was surprised, but it soon faded. She was still armed, after all, so they were at a stalemate. She could handle this stupid Carter woman.

"What are you going to do, Carter?" She asked smoothly, "Kill me? Go ahead!"

Sam stayed rooted to the spot. Oh God, it was just like the time with Jonas, all over again. Nearly ten years had passed but the same feeling of terror passed over her when she realised that yes, she had the power, but she was unable to use it.

"Oh dear," Debbie laughed, "Can't do it, can we? No, you never did have the guts to-"

A shot rang out, and Debbie fell to the ground.

Later…

"Sam! Sam, what the hell did you think you were doing?" McKay exploded, "I've been going out of my mind here wondering what has happened to you, and…"

"I'm fine, McKay. You should know why I did it - she needed to be brought to justice!"

"Yes, she did, but your leg is busted, you've just come back from the worst mission of your life, you can't just go running through the gate as you please, you could have…"

"I did," Sam finished, sitting back in her chair and closing her eyes, "I already had this lecture from Hammond, the Joint Chiefs, Colonel O'Neill and whoever the hell else wanted a go!"

"I don't care," he said, his voice softening, "I want you to hear it from me too. You mean a lot to me, Sam, you really do, and I don't want to see you busting yourself up again just because there was a chance for you to bring her back!"

"There was a chance!" She argued, "I brought her back, didn't I?"

"If Colonel Edwards hadn't been there," McKay said, "She could have killed you. Is that not right?"

Flashback…

A shot rang out, and Debbie fell to the ground.

Sam looked past her, dumbstruck, as Colonel Edwards lowered his gun to shoot at her again.

"Stop!" She shouted, dropping to the floor beside Debbie.

"But…Major," he protested.

Sam leant over Debbie and watched the expression on her face change, as she pulled the gun out of her hand.

"You think I'm going to let him kill you?" She asked, quietly, "After everything you've done to me? Well, you're wrong."

Debbie gasped a little as the shot in her side began to bleed more profusely.

"I'm not even going to do it myself," Sam continued.

"What…are you going…to…do?" Debbie sneered.

Sam smiled down at Debbie, and reached behind her back. She pulled out a strip of black plastic that was painfully familiar, and leant down to whisper in her ear:

"I'm taking you back to Earth, where I hope to God that you will spend the rest of your pathetic, miserable life rotting in a jail cell!"

Then, she bound her wrists with the plastic and stood up, watching as Debbie was taken away.

Back at SGC…

"She could have done,", Sam admitted, "But she didn't."

McKay sighed and sat down opposite her.

"You need to start taking better care of yourself," he said, "I know this sounds wet, but you don't have to rush around, being superwoman all of the time," He brushed a lock of hair behind her ear, "Let somebody else have a go."

She smiled, tiredly.

"Superwoman could do with a bath and her own bed," she agreed.

"C'mon, I'll take you," he offered. "Would you be needing any help with that bath? Or the bed?"

She giggled and swatted at his hand before it could go any further, wrapping her fingers around his.

"Maybe we could go hang somewhere?" He said.

"Sure," Sam smiled brightly, "You can hang, and I'll kick the stool out from under you!"

With that, she was off down the corridor. It took him a couple of seconds to compute what she had just said, and then he growled.

"Hey! You'll regret that!" He warned, and chased after her.

The End

Author's Note: Well, first of all a BIG, BIG apology for the delay in this chapter, but many things have got in the way of not just this story, but life in general, and I have only been able to concentrate on it in the last few weeks. I understand that some of this sounds unbelievable, but I hope you enjoyed it. Please send feedback to Do you want an epilogue? All thoughts are greatly appreciated.