Disclaimer: Not mine. Set: Season 8, prior to Zero Hour, but post-New Order.
Rating: PG. Category: Action/Adventure. A little fluffy angst. Some vague Sam/Jack and Sam/Pete leanings.
Notes: Used a sevens challenge to get myself started, and went from there. Didn't quite hit everything. 'A pearl necklace, a bloody knife, underwater.' But I'm not perfect. Title is entirely stolen from Anthony Trollope (damnit, now I want to watch that thing again)

The Way We Live Now by Ana Lyssie Cotton

Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter had long ago decided to have a sunny disposition. After all, more flies were attracted with honey was something her now-dead grandmother used to tell her when she was all of five. She was beginning to regret always seeming to be the happy little Pollyanna.

Maybe it was the murky river water she was drowning in.

She hadn't liked this the last time it had happened, either. Of course, last time she hadn't been alone, there had been some hope her father would get that stupid door open, and she and the Colonel would live. And, of course, she had been on Earth.

General. Colonel O'Neill was a General, now.

And she was thinking in stupid trivialities while there was water over her head and no way of escape.

Of course, if he were still a Colonel, this wouldn't be happening. Or if it was, it would be his fault. And she wouldn't have to blame herself for getting herself killed.

Real strong logic there, Sam, she told herself acidly.

Breathing was becoming an issue.

River water. Ugh. She was drowning in it, and this was ALL Daniel's fault.

Right. Daniel. That worked, she decided as her eyesight dimmed and she finally found everything going black. And murky.

There was mud. Great. And she'd just had this uniform laundered, too.


Not long before.

"They think I'm a what?" Okay. There were walls of stone and mortar and a cage-like door on one end. But it was the same as just about any other prison cell Colonel Sam Carter had been stuck in with SG-1.

"A witch." Daniel (Dr. Daniel Jackson, resident archeologist supreme and current thorn in her side. And bringer of gods knew how much trouble) sighed. "I think this is another one of Sokar's planets. Perhaps they decided that when he stopped demanding tribute someone was at fault. Which, y'know, someone was."

"And they've decided it's me?"

"You fit some prophecy, apparently. Something about one born in every generation." He pressed his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose. "The archaic Latin gives me a headache. It's worse than the Ancient's. Or Jack, on speed."

Sokar. Great. Just when she thought she couldn't dislike the dead bastard more. Of course, he'd never actually tortured her, he'd tortured Jolinar. But the memories of it were almost as bad. "Well, I didn't kill him."

"Yes, I know that--" He held up a hand to stop her, "And yes I told them that. Or, I think I did."

"Wait." Now Sam was getting the headache. "You told them I didn't kill him, right?"


But he didn't look certain. Great. "So, why do they still think I'm a witch?"

"Well, there's this prophecy. Into every generation is born one woman who is beautiful and fair with blue eyes--apparently--and she is a witch. Or has congress with demons." Daniel frowned again. "I still think my translation is off, but it's an ancient Latin text with pieces missing. And they don't really help much." He looked irritated that there was a language he wasn't the master of.

"That's all fabulous to know, Daniel." She snapped. "That still doesn't mean they're not going to kill me."

"No." He sighed. "They're going to test you, first."

Test. She remembered the last time a member of SG-1 had been tested as a witch. "Damnit. I can't survive being drowned, Daniel."

"Or burned. Yes, I know. I'm hoping they'll do the drowning first."

Gaping at him, Sam realized that, for once, she had no clue what to say to Daniel Jackson. In retrospect, she should have told him he was insane and screamed the house down until they let them out.

"Anyway, Sam, why don't you try unlocking the cell door?"

"I did that while you were chattering at them. No luck." The bits of straw kept breaking and the piece of wood was the wrong size. These people were more efficient than most. They'd even taken her boot knife. She was very irritated. Milo had been a gift from her father the day she graduated the academy. Damnit. She should have fired her weapon as soon as they were surrounded, not let Daniel talk her into a parlay. Dr. Daniel Jackson was many things. She was beginning to suspect sadist should be added to the list.

"Pity. Teal'c?"

"I do not believe there is any easy escape from this cell, Daniel Jackson." The tall black man replied. He was sitting in the corner looking relaxed.

Sam knew the relaxation was a lie. He was simply waiting to act. Waiting for her or waiting for an opportunity. Either way, she felt almost useless. "Any clue when my death is going to occur?"


"Great." About two hours, then, if her watch and mental calculations were right. She kicked at the dirt floor, then dropped onto the other stone bench. "Any ideas?"

"Uh. Don't die?"

"Beautiful, Daniel. I'll remember to come haunt you."

"Gee, thanks, Sam."

Before she could answer him, one of the guards appeared and unlocked the grate. He pointed at Sam, gesturing. She looked at Daniel.

"Uh, I think he wants you."

"Gosh, and me without any birth control." The sarcasm made the archeologist roll his eyes. She stood with a sigh. "So, you were wrong about the timing."

"Maybe they're eager to kill you?"

"Thanks, Daniel, I feel all warm and fuzzy." Okay. Wow. Apparently, the Colonel-turned-General had been a REALLY bad influence on her. She was being snarkier than even he had been in a long time. She paused when she got to the cell door and glanced back. "Hey. Don't wait up for me."

"Colonel Carter." Teal'c stood and half-bowed. "It has been an honor serving with you."

"Thank you." She tossed them both a smile, and then turned and sighed. "Lead on, jailor."

"Wait!" Daniel suddenly began speaking rapidly in their language, gesturing wildly.

The guard listened, then shook his head.

Daniel spoke some more.

Trying not to appear impatient (one should never be impatient for one's death, after all), Sam nevertheless felt her nerves twitching. WHAT was Daniel up to?

Finally, the guard gave a grudging nod.

"Great. Teal'c, c'mon."

Several more guards appeared and fell into step around them. Quick assessment told her it would be pointless to try escaping. For one thing, they were in the middle of the town. For another, the guards were all armed with muskets and one or two had pistols. They'd probably get out into the square and find themselves shot. "What'd you say?"

"I asked if we might watch the witch burn."

She winced. "Gee, thanks."

"Well, they're going to drown you first, so it should be less painful."

"That makes me feel SO much better."

One of the guards snapped something.

"Right. We need to be--" The butt of one of the muskets impacted with Daniel's side. He winced.

Sam felt a little sympathy, but didn't say anything more. Instead she concentrated on orienting herself when they exited the town square. The stargate was somewhere to their left, she decided, vaguely remembering the trip in. Plus she could almost sense it, the low buzz of naquadah tingling at the base of her spine.

After a few minutes of walking through the normal forest that these sorts of planets had, they halted at the side of a river. It was a wide expanse of slow-moving water that reminded her of the Mississippi. Or maybe the Amazon. There was no way in hell she would survive getting thrown in there. There was a tree-trunk sticking out into it. Just wide enough to hold a few people, it bobbed occasionally. Sam decided that could not be a good thing.

The high priest was set up at the bank making passes with his little walking staff. When he saw her, he gestured and said something in a loud commanding voice. She had to give him a good grade, really. All A's. The voice was nice and rich and made men jump to obey it.

And it didn't grate on one like the last time she'd faced a human tinpot dictator--or the time before. Or the time before the time before. Or -- Jonas Hanson had... whined.

Daniel and Teal'c were seperated from her, and she found her hands being bound behind her back while the priest intoned something, his voice rolling out across the river which was adding its own swishing counterpoint to the proceedings.

She might have laughed at them if it weren't so serious.

There was a sudden silence, and one of the priest's underlings trotted towards her. The guard at her back slammed something into the backs of her knees and her legs buckled. Without her hands to catch her, she landed ungracefully and painfully on the dirt. The young acolyte paused before her, declaimed something and then wrapped a long strand of pearls around her throat. Once, twice, three times. Then he gave a nod of satisfaction and stepped back, making another declaration.

A polite shout rang up from the assembled.

"Daniel, WHAT are they saying?"

"Well, Sam, they--"

The blow came faster than she'd thought it would. She'd hoped that since she was dying anyway, they'd let them speak. But the butt of the rifle took Daniel in the jaw, spinning him around with a sickening crack. Teal'c caught him.

"Shit." She struggled to her feet, ignoring the guards grabbing her elbows. "Teal'c?"

"He is alive."


Another rifle butt impacted with the back of her knees and she went down, this time cursing softly.

Ropes were slipped around her ankles and she found her legs bound up to the knee. It did wonders for her stability, and when they dragged her back to her feet she almost toppled over.

The priest apparently reached his crescendo, then, because the guards hoisted her up and onto the log. "Uh, look, guys," she said, suddenly struggling. "This is all really nice, but I really don't need a bath, and--"

Hands firmly grasped her and swung her out over the water. She probably made a beautiful arc, she decided. Then she hit the river. And it was cold. And. Damn. Really deep. Really really deep.


"Damnit Sam! Don't die on me! Jack would never let me live it down! Or forgive me!" With each shouted word, fists pounded into her breastbone.

That hurt. So did her arms, which didn't make sense, because something said she was laying on her arms. And that had to be wrong. "Daniel." She croaked. He apparently didn't hear her, because he continued banging on her chest in a misguided attempt to get the water out of her lungs. "DANIEL!"

He heard that. "Sam?"

"Stop hitting me, damnit."

Everything ached with cold. And her legs--she couldn't move them. Muzzily, she wondered if she was supposed to be able to move her hands and arms, too. "Daniel?"

Something scraped along her boots. "You are nearly free of your bonds, Colonel Carter."

Ah. Teal'c. Tied up? Bonds. Right. River. She'd been thrown in. "Did I pass the test?"

"Not exactly."

Relief at not being drowned changed to exaperation. "What do you mean, 'not exactly'?"

"Well, they've apparently decided that since you drowned so quickly, there might be a possibility they're wrong. But you are also breathing again..." His voice trailed off.

There were men nearby jabbering in ancient Latin. Her head began to throb more. "Daniel?"

"Hang on, there's something happening." And he disappeared in the direction of the voices.

Sitting, up she groaned. "Teal'c?" Her hair flopped into her eyes and she reached up--or tried to reach up. Her hands were still tied behind her back.

The jaffa moved behind her and she felt him slicing the ropes carefully with a knife. It must have been given him. Or maybe he'd simply had it hidden. It was possible. Teal'c was kind of scarily good at hiding things, after all. "They appear to be letting us go."

Oh, that made sense. Not. "Why?"

Daniel came back then, his expression inscrutable. "They're letting us go. I think."

"You think?"

Three guards appeared with their equipment and it was dropped next to them. Eyeing them, eyeing the priest, Sam scrambled to her feet with Teal'c's help. "Don't bother putting it back on. We just need to get out of here. Now."

"Yes. I think. It's hard to tell. There might have been something about hunted chosen."

Oh, that sounded great. "Daniel?"


"Shut up and run."


It was a good thing both she and Teal'c could sense the gate. In the last hour they'd had to double-back and backtrack a lot. Mainly because even though they'd been let go, these people were keeping them hemmed in in a very specific area. And away from the gate. Finally, though, they worked their way around to it from the other side.

Checking the clearing, she glanced at Teal'c. He nodded once and then slipped off. They needed to know what was out there, and he was the best at checking on that. She was grateful that they'd worked scenarios like this out with SG-1 before. Granted, she hadn't been in charge then. But there was precedent. He knew what was expected. She knew she could rely on him.

Focusing on that and not on her still-damp clothing or her throbbing wrists or the fact that she'd swallowed too much river water, Colonel Sam Carter waited for the gate to be clear. They were going home, even if she had to manually dial the damn thing. And the DHD appeared to be perfectly fine. Sitting there all peaceful and placid in the setting sun.

It was a lie, she knew. Grumbling under her breath she shifted her pack, adjusting it so it didn't cramp her shoulders quite so badly.

And she didn't want to think about her knees. They were protesting the earlier abuse and the cold water and the running. And the hiding. And the crouching. And the--ok. She'd stop thinking about them. Grimacing, she glanced at Daniel.

He seemed to be listening, head tilted to the side, eyes distant.

If she hadn't wanted absolute silence, she might have asked him what he was thinking.

A movement came from her right, and she turned, pistol up. Teal'c had his arms out, careful not to startle her.

Relaxing only slightly, she raised her eyebrows.

"They are interspersed at random intervals around the clearing," he said, his voice almost non-existant. Which was odd since he was so, well, large. But she had heard him speak like this with the Col-General, back when HE was in charge.

So she nodded. "We're going to need a distraction."

"Uh, Sam?" Daniel wasn't quite as good at keeping his voice silent, but he was nearly there.

She looked at him.

"I think... I think you're still scheduled to die at sunset."

Sunset. And the sun was... setting. Damn. "I don't plan to keep that appointment." Pulling a handful of small smoke bombs from her vest pocket, she handed them to Teal'c. "Get to the other side of the clearing. Use them." She pulled off her pack and began shoving things from it in her pocket. C4, cordite, detonators, extra grenades, two clips and every knife she'd had. Milo finally went back into her boot-sheath. The MREs, extra clothing, camping gear and her favorite soil sample kit she was going to have to leave behind. She also finally yanked the strand of pearls off and dropped it on the ground. "Daniel. When the charges go off, wait five seconds then get out there and dial the gate. Send the IDC and get the heck out of Dodge."

"Hrm. Sam?"

"What?" She knew she sounded impatient, but Teal'c had already disappeared to do his task. She really needed to get on with hers.

"You've been hanging around Jack too long."

She blinked. "Right. Just do as your told, Daniel."

"Yes, Sam." He replied meekly. Although he didn't look meek. He looked amused.

Later. They'd have time for this conversation later.

Once several feet from Daniel, she began laying her charges. The timing wouldn't have to be entirely accurate, but it would be nice if they went in a staggered order. The light steadily grew dimmer as she made her way as silently as possible, stopping to set charges every so often. The cordite she kept until last then wrapped around a tree trunk. Patting it, she whispered softly. "Sorry about this. But I don't plan on dying anytime soon."

Lighting the fuse, she turned and walked into the forest, angling in an arc away from the charges and around to where Teal'c was.

The first charge went off ten seconds later with a loud crack. And then all hell broke loose. The cordite on the tree did a better job than she'd expected and even from where she was she could hear the mighty near-oak give a despairing creak and collapse into the underlying forest. Men suddenly boiled out of cover, running towards the sounds, away from the gate. Two crossed her path and she simply slammed her P-90 into them, breaking one nose and possibly a jaw. But they were unconscious and not about to take her back to be burned at the stake.

Which made her happy.

Three more explosions shattered the dusk and then up ahead she heard the tell-tale sound of the gate snapping open, the whoosh as the event horizon materialized. GO, Daniel, she thought. Knowing he was probably still there, hovering, waiting for her and Teal'c.

She sped up, running through the smoky haze Teal'c had created. The sound of a staff weapon went off nearby.

Hindsight being what it was, she should have expected they'd have to defend the gate. Oh well.

Nobody's perfect, she consoled herself as she reached the edge of the clearing.

Sam had her P-90 up and firing as she exited the tree-line, aiming to the right as much as she could as she dashed across the open space.

Daniel was standing behind Teal'c, using his pistol to good effect to pick off the guards appearing behind her.


He nodded, shot another one, and then turned and ran up the steps and disappeared. Teal'c fired twice more, and then she was next to him. As one they stepped backwards up the stairs, firing as they went. They fell through the gate together.

The ramp felt, as always, like hitting concrete. "CLOSE THE IRIS!"

General O'Neill was standing at the base of the ramp, watching them impassively. "Welcome back, SG-1. I trust everything went well, Colonel."

Dragging herself to her feet, she shot him a look. "Oh, yes sir. Fabulous scenery. They should build a vacation place there and charge people to book it. Make up some of the SGC's budget."

"Sarcasm, Colonel?"

"Never, sir."

"Uh-huh. Took a swim, did we?"

Her hair and clothes did have that just-swimmed-in look still. "Yes, sir. I thought my health needed it."

Daniel made a choking noise.

"Debriefing in two hours, Colonel. Go get checked out by the infirmary."

She saluted. Carefully. Her right arm was on fire, and she figured it was at least a graze if not worse.


Sam had been right about it being a graze. Dr. Brightman took one look at it, clucked, and made her shed her vest, flak jacket and t-shirt before treating the three-inch wound. It wasn't deep, but it was shallow and there was dirt in it. And probably river water, since she'd still been damp. Ignoring the Doctor's lecture on septicemia, she concentrated on making sure the rest of her was okay. The new Chief Medical Officer of the SGC still insisted on taking every sample she possibly good.

There was a running argument about whether she'd even BE leaving the infirmary.

Sam used every trick in her book and then moved on to the Colonel's. "Doc, it's just a scratch, I'll be fine! Promise."

Finally, Dr. Brightman relented. But only after extracting a promise from her that she'd rest and eat and then rest some more. And no driving home that night.

An hour later, feeling like she'd barely escaped with her life, Sam staggered into the women's locker room and stopped in front of her locker. One of the nurses had handed her a button-down shirt to wear for the short walk.

It took her two tries to remember her combination and get the locker open. Maybe she was a little tired and worn out from almost drowning (Daniel had let that one spill, the traitor). Reaching in and grabbing her shower bag and making sure her change of BDUs was hanging in there, she set the bag on the bench and began getting ready for her shower.

Nope. Not too tired. And she had thirty minutes to get clean and make it up to the briefing room.

So it didn't matter how tired she was.

Leaning over, she untied her boots. For a moment when she stood back up, the world spun. Closing her eyes, she concentrated. She was a damn Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. She was not going to faint, fall over from exhaustion, or puke up breakfast.

Her stomach grumbled.

Breakfast had been a long time ago.

Once the roaring in her ears faded, she straightened and began divesting herself of her clothing. The pants and socks and underwear and bra all went back in her locker. She'd deal with the river and sweat-soaked mess later. The loaned shirt went onto the bench.

Her boots she left sitting out. Hopefully they'd be dryer by the time she was done. She wrinkled her nose. She hated putting damp boots on.

Almost more than she hated wet socks.

Ten minutes later she'd scrubbed her skin pink and washed her hair twice (getting soap in her eyes the second time), and was now simply leaning against the warm tile letting the water wash over her.

She'd admitted to herself that yes, she was tired. She'd been up too late the last several nights and had barely slept before the mission. And then they'd been captured and she'd been almost drowned, and shot at and... She was probably allowed to feel just a little exhausted.

With a soft groan for what would soon be aching and abused muscles, she stepped away from the wall and twisted off the taps.

Silence except for the occasional dripping of the shower head three stalls down.

Moving with care, she padded back to her locker, stopping to grab a towel and dry herself down on the way. Her hair she simply wrapped in another one. Soon enough she'd have to comb it. And it would probably be snarled and tangled and irritated from the river water. She hated river water.

So did her hair.

When she punched her locker, the noise startled her, made her jump. Then she simply stared at the metal box, her hand throbbing. She wasn't cracking up, she wasn't fainting, she wasn't--ok. She was. She half-fell onto the bench, dropping her head into her hands. She had nearly died, nearly drowned, hadn't even had time for much of her life to pass before her eyes before it had all gone dark and cold.

But she wasn't dead. She was here and alive and, well, as safe as she could be.

Pushing her back into the lockers, she sighed and thudded her head against them. Her hand was still throbbing and the tears were not just from shampoo in her eyes.

Lock it down, Sam. The phrase drifted through her head. For just a moment she wanted to kick and yell and scream that this wasn't fair. She wasn't supposed to be the one in charge, the one who risked their lives. The one who had to hope and pray that they worked like a well-oiled team.

Which, well, they had.

And she was really damn proud of that. And once she got past the whole almost dying part and shut that door in her head she would remember that they hadn't died on her, that they had in fact come through with barely a scratch.

So she could lead them and not kill them.

She had all of her Air Force training and seven years of watching Jack O'Neill. She could do this.

Hell, she had done this.

A slight smile crossed her lips and she reached up and wiped her eyes. Then she dragged herself to her feet and got dressed. There was a de-briefing to attend. It would be strange to be the one in charge, so to speak. But it would also be refreshing.

"Sam?" Daniel's voice came from the vicinity of the door.

"I'm nearly done, Daniel."

"Okay." There was the sound of a hesitant cough, then he said, "Are you all right?"

"Yes, Daniel. I'm fine."

"Good, good. I just..."

"Are you all right, Daniel?" She finished tying her still-damp boots and closed her door, sliding the lock into place.


She stepped to the door and opened it, tilting her head to one side. "You sure?"

He blinked at her, then nodded. "Yeah. I think I am. It's just strange without Jack."

"So it is." She half-smiled. "I believe we have a briefing to go to."

"Yes, mom."



Fighting the urge to shift in her seat like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar, Sam responded to the question her commanding officer was asking. "It... didn't go as planned. Sir."

"Somehow, Colonel, I didn't think it had."

Okay. Sarcasm was his forte, she had to give him that. And it wasn't his fault it made her feel melancholy that he hadn't been out there, dealing with it along with the rest of them. "Well, sir, apparently... Daniel?"

"Right. From what I can tell, there's an annual sacrifice made to ensure the village is safe from Sokar."

"Isn't he dead?" The General asked. "I seem to recall lots of sand, blistering heat, some blood. And a very large exploding moon."

"Well, yes. But these people either don't know it, or believe that he will one day come back--they weren't real clear on that."

"Why not?"

"It could have had something to do with the nearly indecipherable dialect they were speaking. It was a derivative of archaic Latin. Probably with some goa'uld influence. We had a hard enough time understanding that we needed to be quiet much less why they were going to throw Sam in a river." Daniel paused to take another breath, and then stopped completely.

"So, Carter was the sacrifice du jour this year?"

He almost sounded... jovial. "Apparently, sir, I was the 'chosen one'."

"Yeah. It had something to do with her eyes and hair. And probably that we arrived at the perfect time for their little ceremony of doom." Daniel added. Wow. Daniel was also snarky in his old age. Or maybe he was just as tired as she was.

"So. No treaties for their naquadah mining rights?"

Ah, yes. The original intention of the mission. She looked down at her notepad and fought back a sigh. "No, sir."

"Well, that's all right. You're alive, Teal'c's alive, Daniel's... still alive."

"Yes, sir." She looked up at him. "Was there anything else, sir?"

"No. I think that about covers it. You didn't catch any names, did you?"

"We were a little busy running for our lives, Jack."

Her life. She had a feeling Daniel and Teal'c would have been allowed to leave without her. If they'd just... left without her. It was a comforting feeling to know they hadn't. "I'm afraid we had to leave some supplies behind. And I used up the C4 and cordite I'd packed."

"Well, take twice the amount next time." Next time. She met his eyes, reading for just a moment the emotions he was holding in check. Concern, worry, pride, frustration, jealousy, and something she was pretty certain she didn't want to acknowledge. Then he half-smiled. "Sounds like it was a normal first mission for SG-1."

Something that might have been happiness touched her. He wasn't grounding her, he wasn't doubting her... She could do this. She could be in charge. "Yes, sir."

"And, Carter?"


"Have Daniel drive you home tonight. Doc says you injured your arm."

Oh. "Right. Ok."

"Gee, thanks, Jack. What am I, chauffeur to the stars?"


The two eyed each other a moment, the animosity crackling then dissipating into exasperation.

"It's all right. I was going to stay on base tonight, anyway."

"Now, Carter--"

"If it is feasible, I shall drive Colonel Carter home." Teal'c interrupted. "I wish to 'see the sights' for a few hours."

"Thank you, Teal'c. I'd like that."

"Good." The General clapped his hands. "That's settled. De-briefing over." He stood. "I'm thinking--"

"General!" Sergeant Walter Harriman skidded into the room. "There's been a break-down in communication, the--"

"Let me guess." The General interupted him. "We're out of oatmeal?"

"No, sir. The shipment of frozen pizza for next week's pizza surprise has been lost."

"Ah. Such... important affairs of state call me away." Moving towards the door, the General sounded tired.

"Sir?" Sam called.


"When did you want the report?"

"The... report. Um."

Harriman piped up. "Two days from now, Colonel. And SG-1 is officially on downtime for 24 hours."

"Right." Jack said, waving his hand. "That's exactly... right."

"Thank you, sir. Sergeant."

"Ma'am." Tipping his head to them, the short sergeant bustled away, General Jack O'Neill in tow.


"Hrm?" She glanced sideways at Daniel, noting the bemused expression on his face.

"I think I give Jack a week of this."

"Oh, come on. It can't be that bad. Can it?"

The look he gave her said it all.

"Okay. So it can."

"Colonel Carter."

She looked at Teal'c and suddenly felt the exhaustion of the last two weeks hit her. "Yeah. I'm ready. Let me just stop at my lab and make sure everything's--"

"Uh, Sam?"

"Hrm?" She paused at the door.

"You shut everything off because we were going off world." Daniel said, his eyes amused. "Go home. You look like hell."



"Colonel Carter." Teal'c's voice was gentle, rousing her from a dazed sleep.

She blinked in the darkness and slowly realized they were outside her house. "Oh. We're home." A yawn escaped her. "I'm sorry, Teal'c. I didn't mean to fall asleep on you."

An inclination of his head was his only answer for a moment, then he said, "I believe it would be better for you to sleep before our next mission, Colonel Carter." His lips twitched. "Then you would not... find yourself so exhausted at the end of the day."

"Yeah." She shot him a self-deprecating grin. "I've heard that."

"Good night."

Opening the door, Sam climbed out into the cool night air. "Thanks for the ride, Teal'c."

He waited until she had the door open and turned around to wave at him before he drove off. It was a nice thing, to think that there were people out there who cared about her enough to watch over her. Ruefully, she knew that eight years ago she would have resented it. But she'd grown a lot since then. She understood the power of having people care for you.

Even if you didn't want them to.

With a sigh she locked the door and wandered into the living room, throwing her bag onto the sofa. For a moment she considered turning on the tv and watching something mindless and boring. But her bed was calling her.

The light was blinking on her answering machine and she considered ignoring it before finally reaching out and pressing play. Two messages from anonymous numbers, one pollster who wanted to know her opinions and would call her back at a later date, and one message from Pete. "Hey. I know you're not, uh, there. Just wanted to let you know I missed you. Um. Talk to you soon, bye."

Aw. Kind of sweet. In that sort of sappy way she wasn't quite used to, yet.

But she was tired, she remembered. Right. She needed to sleep. Yep.

The phone rang.



"You're supposed to be in bed."

"Well, sir, I thought I'd stand here in my kitchen and stare at moldy cheese for a while."

"Could make you high, Carter."

"Yes, sir."

"Do I have to order you, Colonel?"

She arched an eyebrow and wandered towards her bedroom, wondering if she could simply fall asleep in her clothes. "Is there a reason for you to, sir?"

"Well, no."

Leaning over she untied her boots with one hand, glad she hadn't tied them tightly earlier. "And what about you, General?"

"What about me?"

"When's the last time you slept?"

"SG-2's briefing this afternoon."

A snicker escaped her, "Poor Griff."

"He understood."

"I'm sure he did, sir." A soft sigh escaped her as she sat on the edge of her bed.


"Hrm?" She tucked the phone under one ear and began undoing her pants. She could sleep in her underwear, but the pants were gonna go. And the shirt. And the bra.

"In bed yet?"

She rolled her eyes. "Nearly there. How about you?"

"I am being virtuous, unlike a certain Colonel I could name, and sleeping on base. SG-12 is overdue by half an hour."

"Oh. Hang on sir, I need to put the phone down." Suiting actions to words, she set it on the bed and pulled her shirt off, then unhooked her bra and flung it across the room. Oh, god, that felt good.

"Carter? You there? Carter?"

The voice was tinny and distant. Oh. Right. The phone. "I'm still here, sir." She paused to yawn.

"Oh. Good. In bed yet?"

"Almost under the covers."

"Good. Same here."

There was a rustling sound that she assumed was his covers. Her own were making similar noises as she crawled beneath them, suddenly exhausted and sore and so ready for sleep it wasn't even funny. "Sir?" Heh. She almost had no voice left.



"Night, Carter."

For a moment, she hung onto the phone, listening to him breath. Listening to her own heart beat. "Sir?"

"I missed being out there."

"Me, too." Her eyes were nearly closed, but she could feel one last word working its way through her brain. "Jack." Oh. Not quite what she'd thought of saying. But it worked. She was too tired to care. And she'd probably forget this in the morning.

"Go to sleep, Carter."

Sam shifted and pulled the phone away enough so that she could eye the buttons. She poked end.