The Price of Edora

"How was your trip, Colonel?" Jack used the microphone to address Sam as she led SG-1 back through the gate.

"We sorted out the problems with the reactors and Daniel got a chance to explore."

"Sounds like an interesting debrief. You know the routine, shower, get medical clearance, and meet me upstairs in an hour."

"Yes, sir." Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c took off their gear and went to the infirmary. They had twenty minutes left to shower and change before they were due in the briefing room. Daniel was the last one to enter the room but he made it on time.

"So what was going on Colonel?" Jack turned his chair so he could focus on Sam.

"Garan was right to call us as when he did. Both generators were running hot and he followed the protocol we taught him and shut them both down. It's the cold season on Edora now so they were getting very uncomfortable. It took a couple days to discover they had found a vein that contained a high percentage of a naquada isotope."

"An isotope?"

"Yes, sir. It was just different enough that it was causing the reactors to function outside of the normal range. If they had been left like that for too long the reactors would have overloaded. It could have resulted in an explosion."

"Bad news on a planet with as much naquada as Edora."

"Yes, sir. We devised a way for them to check the naquada before they use it in the future. It's a fairly labor intensive process but I brought back some of the isotope in the hopes our guys can find a faster easier way to separate the isotope from standard naquada."

"Nice work, Colonel." Jack turned in his seat so he could look at Daniel. "What did you find, Daniel?"

"Evidence that Ba'al might have been the goa'uld that originally brought the Edorans through the gate."

"Ba'al?"

"Yeah."

"Any idea why he's left them alone?"

"I have a theory."

"Gonna share?"

"I think it's because he doesn't think they survived the meteor shower that occurred three hundred years ago. I found some writings and tools from before that shower that indicated Ba'al used the planet to mine naquada."

"It wouldn't surprise me if he knew about the isotope and abandoned his mining efforts." Jack turned his head to register Sam's comment. He nodded and turned back to Daniel.

"It's possible. All I know is Ba'al hasn't returned in over 300 years."

"Well, let's hope taking over Anubis' territory keeps him so occupied he doesn't get any funny ideas about Edora. Did you tell them what you learned?"

"Not exactly." Jack's eyebrows rose.

"Not exactly?"

"It was my call, sir." Jack turned back towards Sam. "They don't really know what's happening out there and scaring them wouldn't have made them feel better, nor really prepare them for an invasion. It just seemed like scaring them without being able to tell them what they could do to protect themselves was counterproductive."

"I think that's a fair assessment, assuming they know to call us if anything unusual happens."

"I can assure you we emphasized that point, sir."

"I think since we were able to zoom in and restore their heat they will be more then happy to call again if they need us." Jack turned back to watch Daniel.

"Good enough. Anything you want to add, Teal'c?" Teal'c shook his head. "Get me a complete report by the end of the week then take the weekend off. I'll be cooking out on Saturday. Be there around six if you want hot steaks."

"Can I bring anything, sir?"

"Nah, just yourself." They all nodded at Jack as they stood and filed out of the room.

The next morning Jack found Daniel, Sam and Teal'c enjoying breakfast in the commissary. He took his cup of coffee over and said good morning. While he waited for Daniel to swallow his French toast so he could respond, a nervous lieutenant creep up beside him.

"Ma'am?" Sam looked up at the lieutenant.

"Yes, lieutenant?"

"Dr. Michaels has requested your presence in the infirmary when you finish your breakfast."

"Please tell him I'll be there shortly."

"Yes, ma'am." They exchanged salutes. The scared lieutenant looked briefly at the General and scurried off.

"I believe being in your presence scared him, O'Neill."

"Ah, the joys of being the man." He smirked as he walked off towards his office and a day of annoying bureaucracy. Sam made her way to the infirmary after wishing Daniel and Teal'c a good morning. They agreed to meet again for dinner before going home.

"Good morning Dr. Michaels. I was told you wanted to see me this morning."

"Yes, Colonel. Thank-you for coming so quickly. I needed to get another tube of blood."

"Sure, was there a problem with my blood work yesterday?" Sam sat on a gurney and pulled up her sleeve.

"I got some unusual results and I want to double check them with a fresh sample of blood."

"Is it anything I should worry about?" Sam held the gauze on her arm while Dr. Michaels got a bandage.

"Not yet. I should have these new results in a few hours. I'll call you if they look strange."

"Alright." Sam made her way out of the infirmary but a nugget of worry had settled in her stomach. Sam was wrapped up in writing her report and the hours flew by quickly. When her lab phone rang, she was surprised to see it was already the middle of the afternoon. Although it wasn't unusual for Sam to skip full meals, she usually needed to grab a snack or something. She hadn't eaten or gone to the bathroom since this morning. She smiled at the thought of getting so much done with so few interruptions as she picked up the phone.

"Colonel Carter."

"Hi, Colonel. This is Dr. Michaels. I have your blood work back and I'd like to speak with you. Do you have time now?"

"Sure. I'll come down."

"Thank-you." Sam felt the other shoe drop as she hung up the phone. She closed down her computer and shut her door as she went to the infirmary. She bumped into Daniel in the elevator.

"Hey, Sam. I was just on my way to show Jack some of the parchments from Edora. Where are you headed?"

"The infirmary."

"Are you alright?" Sam's brow creased and she looked at Daniel. The seriousness on her face scared him.

"I don't know. Apparently my blood work has come back odd and Dr. Michaels wants to discuss it with me."

"Would you like me to come along?" Sam smiled as the door opened.

"I'll be fine, but thanks."

"Find me when you get done. I'll be worrying about you until you tell me otherwise."

"Yes, Mom. I'll see you for dinner, if not before."

"Before would be better." Daniel's words were cut off as the elevator door closed. Sam went straight to Dr. Michael's office. She was glad he wasn't in Janet's old office. It would have been more difficult to pay attention to him if her friends memories had been surrounding her.

"You called?" Dr. Micheals stood as Sam entered his office.

"Please, have a seat Colonel." Sam sat in the chair across from his desk. There were numerous piles of folders but she could see him through a clear path he kept between the stacks. "I ran the blood tests again and I'm afraid the results were even worse then last night."

"What exactly's wrong?"

"Your bilirubin, BUN, and creatinin levels are all too high. What's worse is they noticeably increased between last night and this morning."

"What does that mean?"

"I suspect you may be in the early stages of liver and kidney failure. Based on how the values changed in only 14 hours I also fear the situation is quickly progressing."

"What can you do?"

"First I'd like to schedule a liver and kidney biopsy. That would help me to determine the extent of the damage and hopefully even let me pinpoint what's causing the damage."

"When?"

"How long has it been since you last ate?"

"I had half a bagel with peanut butter and coffee at 0630."

"Nothing since then?"

"No."

"Then I suggest we schedule the procedure for tonight."

"So soon?"

"I wish I could honestly say you have time to get over the shock before proceeding but the results changed more then I would have expected in a short amount of time. I also went back and looked at your pre-mission medical reports. There was no indication of a problem at that point. It's unusual for this to develop so quickly. The sooner I know why this is happening the better chance I have of stopping it."

"Then tonight it is."

"Don't eat or drink anything until after the surgery. Meet me back here at 1800." Sam stood and nodded. Her head was buzzing. Dr. Michaels didn't give her any false hopes on which to hang her hat.

"Do you think it's something alien?"

"I don't want to dismiss anything at this point." Sam was smart enough to know she couldn't make it long without a functional liver, let alone kidneys. Sam went straight to Daniel's office. She walked in without knocking and sat down on a stool beside his desk.

"Sam?" Daniel was up and standing in front of her before she settled on the stool. "What's wrong?"

"I'm having a liver and kidney biopsy tonight."

"What?"

"Apparently my kidneys and liver aren't working properly and they're quickly failing. Dr. Michaels needs to do a biopsy to figure out what's happening." Daniel wrapped her in a hug.

"I'll come with you."

"Thank-you." Her voice was muffled because her face was pressed against his chest. She wasn't crying but Daniel knew she was scared, something Sam Carter didn't like to feel.

"Do you want me to see if Jack can contact your Dad?"

"Let's wait for the test results before we get all excited. It could turn out to be nothing."

"Ok." Daniel rubbed her back and gently rocked her.

"I need to close up a few things in my lab and get everything settled before I can take a couple days off." Sam leaned up and let her arms drop from around Daniel.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Meet me in the infirmary around 1800?"

"With bells on." Sam stood and gave Daniel a quick hug.

"Thanks." Daniel watched her leave before he picked up the phone. She might want to kill him later but he knew she needed everyone's support.

-

Sam wasn't surprised to see Jack and Teal'c waiting outside the infirmary with Daniel when she came down. They all looked so serious it made her more nervous.

"You guys look like you're at a funeral. It's not that bad ya' know." Her attempt to be lighthearted didn't really lift their moods.

"Let me be in charge of the jokes, Carter."

"Yes, sir." Jack patted her shoulder, Teal'c squeezed her hand, and Daniel gave her a hug.

"We'll be here when you're done." Daniel smiled at her as she closed the door to the infirmary. Daniel and Jack paced while Teal'c stood absolutely still.

"How does he do that?"

"Do what Jack?"

"Just stand there without moving."

"Young Jaffa must prove their fortitude by standing for hours in the sun without moving."

"We do that in basic training."

"But your world only has one sun."

"Ah." A little more then half an hour after Sam had entered the infirmary a nurse came out and told the guys she was ready for visitors. Daniel went to her right side and took a hold of her hand. Teal'c was to her left and Jack stood at the end of bed.

"That didn't take long. How bad was it?"

"I've been through worse, sir." Sam grinned. The doctor walked up beside Jack.

"She did well, sir. I've called in a pathologist to review the tissue samples. We should have at least preliminary results by morning."

"When can she leave?" Daniel faced the doctor as he spoke but he kept his hand around Sam's hand.

"There is some risk of internal bleeding or organ loss after these procedures. Normally we'd let a patient go home after a few hours of observation but since the Colonel is single and her condition is rapidly changing I'd feel better if she stayed the night in the infirmary."

"What does being single have to do with anything?" Sam could tell Daniel was hot as his voice increased in pitch and he squeezed her hand a little tighter. The doctor took a small step back and his eyes got wider.

"Daniel, he just means I shouldn't be on my own tonight. Don't worry, I don't mind staying." She smiled a tight smile for Daniel.

"You know we'd be happy to stay with you." Daniel swung his arm out to indicate Jack and Teal'c also.

"Indeed."

"Absolutely."

"Thanks guys, but I don't really feel like going through the trouble of leaving just to have to come back in the morning." They all nodded.

"You gentlemen may stay for a few more minutes then Colonel Carter needs to rest." The doctor backed off, glad Sam had smoothed everything over with her team. He didn't want to be on their bad sides! The nurses had told him horror stories about the occasions when the whole team stayed in the infirmary.

"Is there anything we can get you Carter?"

"I think I'm good sir. I'm usually nice to the staff when I'm in here so they're happy to bring me things."

"Don't rub it in." Jack smirked at her.

"I will return in the morning Colonel Carter." Teal'c nodded.

"Me too." Daniel leaned down and gave her a kiss on her forehead. Sam shook her head and grinned.

"You're getting sentimental Daniel."

"Sorry, I guess it bothers me to see you sick."

"I'll be back on duty and yelling at you in no time."

"You never yell, Sam. I guess that's why it's been so much quieter in the field lately." Daniel grinned, waiting for Jack's reaction.

"Hey, was that directed at any one I know?" Jack looked at Daniel's back as they walked out.

"I believe it was directed at you O'Neill." Her back was killing her, but the comedic routine walking out the door still made her smile.

Sam didn't sleep well. Her back hurt and the mattress was thin and hard. She finally got comfortable on her side and the nurse came in to check her iv. She spent a restless night wondering about her test results. It was almost three in the morning before she realized she hadn't called Pete since her return from Edora. A couple extra days without contact wouldn't bother him, he was use to her odd and unpredictable schedule.

The look on the doctor's face betrayed his lack of good news. His shuffle gave away the fact that he had gotten less sleep then Sam. He sat on the stool beside her bed as she sat up.

"I'm afraid the biopsies confirmed what I feared. Your kidneys and liver are beginning to fail. There are immune complexes in both."

"Do you know what caused this?"

"The immune complexes indicate your body is attacking something. When your immune cells attach to this something they create a complex so large they are trapped in your liver and kidney passages. The blockage of the passages means you can't filter your blood properly."

"Do you have any idea what is being attacked?"

"No, but we're working on it. I should have a better idea later today."

"Is there any treatment?" Daniel walked in and heard Sam's question.

"Not until I know why this is happening. If necessary you can begin dialysis."

"How long until that is necessary?"

"A week. Maybe ten days. This is progressing very quickly."

"I understand. Can I get back to work today?"

"I'm restricting you from gate travel and I encourage you to get some rest. I'll contact you as soon as I know more." Sam thanked the doctor again and went over to Daniel.

"That sounds bad, Sam"

"I agree, but we always find miracles around here. I bet he finds some alien cure before dinner." Sam smiled even though she didn't believe a word she'd just uttered. She could tell by Daniel's face that he wasn't buying her false enthusiasm. Daniel walked Sam to her lab and sat with her until Teal'c arrived with breakfast. Daniel met Jack as he got to his office

"It sounds serious, Jack"

"You mean Sam?"

"Of course I mean Sam!"

"Don't jump down my throat, Daniel. We happen to work at a top-secret front line defense post where we're expected to protect Earth on a daily basis. It is possible that there was some other serious issue."

"Touché." Daniel plopped down in the chair across from Jack's desk. "This sucks. She doesn't deserve this."

"Indeed." Daniel looked up, afraid he would see Jack was joking but instead he saw pain and anguish on Jack's face. Jack hadn't realized he was channeling Teal'c.

The doctor called a briefing for 1800. He and Sam had already discussed the data he had collected. She suggested he tell the General and SG-1 at the same time and give them a chance to ask questions. It also gave her a chance to make some phone calls.

"Thank-you for coming this afternoon. Colonel Carter suggested this was the best way to present our findings about her current medical condition." The general nodded and indicated the doctor should proceed. "Colonel Carter is in the initial stages of both liver and kidney failure." Although this wasn't new news for anyone at the table, all of the men turned and looked towards Sam.

"These conditions are progressing rapidly and I have a limited understanding about the factors causing this to happen." The doctor hit a switch and a picture appeared on the screen behind him. There were lots of colorful strings all wrapped together into a ball.

"We have identified several components that make up part of the complex being trapped by Colonel Carter's liver and kidneys. The red components are immune cells. The green pieces are naquada. The yellow string is a protein found only in Colonel Carter and others who have had a symbiote die within them. The white pieces are unknowns at this time. We think the white pieces are responsible for linking all these components together creating the organ blocking complex."

"How are you planning to identify them?" Jack didn't like the blank look he was getting from the doctor.

"We have several researchers working on it, sir. We're also trying to contact the Asgard and Tok'ra." Jack wanted more but as he glanced around the table, he could see they had given him everything they had at their disposal.

"Keep at it. Dismissed." Jack's tone of voice indicated the pent-up tension he was holding inside his chest. Sam followed him to his office.

"May I speak with you, sir?"

"Of course, Carter. Please have a seat." Jack motioned her to sit as he walked behind his desk and pulled his chair out. She sat uneasily on the edge of her chair as he leaned back in his comfortable leather chair.

"I would like to request a week off, sir."

"I thought you'd want to be working with the researchers on this thing that's infected you."

"I have a little over a week before I'll have to begin dialysis. Once that starts, I'll be tied to Colorado Springs. I have a few things I need to do out of town before that happens. The doctor promises even if this is communicable, which the data indicates it's not, that only other ex-hosts would be at risk. Please let me go, sir." She was begging him to let her go even though he believed she was her own best chance at survival.

"I've never been able to say no to you Carter."

"That's not how I remember it sir." Her eyes twinkled and he smiled.

"Enjoy your break but be sure you keep your phone with you and charged, just in case one of our allies shows up with a cure." He tried to not let his smile falter. She nodded her head even as her eyes clouded.

"Yes, sir." She stood and moved towards the door. "Thank-you, sir."

"You're welcome, Carter. Call me if you need anything. I mean it!" She smiled and waved as she left his office.

----

"Sir?" The sergeant dreaded interrupting General O'Neill as he walked by. The General had been in a lousy mood for days and Walter didn't want to be at the end of another tirade.

"Yes, sergeant?"

"A Mr. Shanahan has called several times today, sir. You've been in meetings all day and I promised to give you the messages each time he called. He's on hold again on line three. He says it's about Colonel Carter, Sir."

"I'll take it in my office." Jack sat down and breathed deeply before he picked up the phone.

"This is General O'Neill. May I help you?"

"I sure as hell hope so. What's happened to Sam?"

"I'm afraid you'll have to give me a bit more to work with Mr. Shanahan."

"She showed up this morning, gave back my ring, and said she never wanted to see me again. Has she been possessed by something from another..."

"You are not on a secure line Mr. Shanahan." Jack didn't feel bad about interrupting Pete. The whining was grating n his nerves. "I have not recently discussed your relationship with Colonel Carter so I'm afraid I can not begin to speculate what has caused her to make this decision. There's only one person who can answer your questions."

"And she isn't answering. Give me something to work with here! How in the hell could you understand how it feels to have her rip out your heart?" There was a pause. "Unless...does this have something to do with you?"

"Of course not."

"You answered that fast enough. Sounds like you've been practicing that answer. I'll fight for her. I don't give up easily."

"The only person you'd have to fight would be Colonel Carter. She's an intelligent woman who makes good decisions when she puts her mind to it. Good night Mr. Shanahan." Jack hung up the phone without waiting to hear Pete's response. Anger rose in his throat as he contemplated Pete's accusation. Sam was way to smart to pass up a sure thing for him! It was that dumb cops own fault if he let her slip through his fingers.

No one heard from Sam for the remainder of the week. Neither the Asgard nor the Tok'ra called. Jack, Daniel, and the entire medical research team were getting frustrated. Jack called down to the lab every day and every day he was told they hadn't made any progress at identifying the unknown substance binding the complex together. Teal'c was the only one who still seemed calm but Daniel and Jack knew he was just as worried.

----

"Colonel Carter reporting as ordered, sir." Jack looked up. His heart soared at the sound of her voice but it sank when he saw her. Her skin was yellowing and she had lost a great deal of weigh in the week she had been gone. There were large patches of black under each eye, indicating her extreme fatigue.

"How was your time off, Colonel?"

"I accomplished what I needed, sir."

"Mr. Shanahan called several times while you were gone."

"I'm sorry if he bothered you sir. He found me at my brothers and we spoke. I doubt he will be calling here again."

"I'm glad you worked things out."

"Things are settled sir."

"The Tok'ra contacted us two days ago and the Asgard arrived yesterday. So far they haven't made much progress, but having you here might help."

"Because of my stupid ideas or because they need a guinea pig?" Jack heard the fear amid the sarcasm.

"Probably both. It's good to have you back. You should head down to the infirmary and let them begin poking and prodding right away."

"Yes, sir, and thank-you, sir."

"Thanks for what?"

"For giving me the time I needed to visit Cassie and my brother as well as for handling Pete so well." Sam turned and left his office doorway before he had a chance to respond. His heart shrank and his hands trembled as he watched her leave.

After a long day of paper pushing and meetings galore, Jack headed down to the infirmary to see if progress had been made today. It was oddly quiet. Every other day during the week, the labs around the infirmary had been bustling with activity. Today no one seemed to be around. There was a whirring coming from the far corner so Jack headed in that direction.

He passed several empty beds, a sign that meant the off world teams weren't running into many Jaffa patrols lately. In the far corner, he saw Sam sitting in chair he didn't remember. Beside her was the machine responsible for the whirring. Sam's eyes were closed. Jack quietly picked up a chair and moved it close to her chair. He sat and watched her.

"There isn't much to do while I sit here and I got too tired to read." Jack looked into her eyes as they opened.

"What's this?"

"A dialysis machine." Jack's mouth opened and his eyes widened.

"So soon?"

"Apparently I was pretty bad off by the time I got down here this afternoon."

"I thought I told you come to come straight down here this morning?"

"I had a few things I needed to finish first." Jacks brow creased and he stared at her.

"That doesn't sound like you."

"Ok, I didn't want to know how bad off I was. I was trying to avoid the truth. Daniel found me and dragged me down here." Sam looked down at her hands. She began to fiddle with the tube coming out of her body and going to the whirring machine.

"I'll have to thank Danny later." He grinned but she didn't look up. "How about I take you home after this and get you some dinner."

"That would be just what the doctor ordered." They both looked up and saw the doctor walking towards them.

"I can take care of myself."

"I beg to differ. After your episode this afternoon you need someone to drive you home and it won't hurt to have someone make sure you eat a balanced dinner."

"I'm not hungry." The doctor bent down so he could look up at her face.

"I know but you still need to eat, at least a little. Go for meat and vegetables, nothing wrong with some protein and vitamins. Avoid salt, caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods."

"Is that all?" No one missed the sarcasm dripping from Sam's tone.

"No, you need more sleep."

"I'll have plenty of time to sleep later." Jack and the doctor locked eyes. They both knew what she meant and neither liked it.

"What did you mean by her episode this afternoon?" Jack looked back and forth between the doctor and Sam.

"The Tok'ra attempted to use a healing device on Colonel Carter."

"And?"

"Her heart rate became erratic and she temporarily stopped breathing."

"I'm fine now." Sam's wore a disturbed grimace on her face. She didn't like being discussed as if she wasn't present.

"I'm disconnecting you. It'll take us a few minutes to get you cleaned up and cleared to leave."

"I'll still be here when you're done." Jack nodded at the doctor. Sam closed her eyes and laid her head back on the headrest of the chair. Sam didn't move as they prepared her to leave. Jack watched and worried about the darkness he saw on her face.

Jack stopped on the way home and picked up Parmesan chicken with zucchini and salad on the side. He got diet caffeine free soda for her and regular caffeine free soda for him. He could be as good as she could as far as the caffeine was concerned but he couldn't stand the taste of that diet stuff. She didn't wait for his help when they got to her house. She left the door open so he could bring in the dinner.

She picked at her serving but she ate enough to satisfy him. After dinner, she sat on the sofa and flicked through the channels. He stood in the kitchen watching her. She was as far away as she'd ever been in the years they had known each other. Galaxies apart felt closer then being a few feet from her when he knew she was slipping away from him.

Sam came to work each day but she wasn't able to stay as long as she had before she got sick. The Tokra and Asgard were working with the SGC science officers. Sam tried to help but she tired easily and wasn't able to keep up with the work being done by the other scientists.

Sam invited Jack, Daniel and Teal'c over for a Saturday night of movies and fried chicken. She also wanted help cleaning out her garage so the guys said they'd make a day of it. They were all looking forward to spending the day together.

Jack arrived early on Saturday surprised to find Sam already in the garage.

"Hi, sir."

"Carter, whatcha' doin'?"

"Cleaning, sir."

"How can I help?" By the time Daniel and Teal'c arrived, Sam and Jack had already made seven piles. None of the guys understood the piles so Sam soon became the manager, telling the guys into which pile each item belonged. It took them four hours to finish making the piles and putting back the things that were going to remain in Sam's garage. Daniel went out to pick up burgers for lunch while Jack and Teal'c packaged six of the seven piles into boxes and placed the seventh pile into the trash.

After lunch Sam lay down to take a nap, not only had she worked hard all morning but her pain pills made her tired. The guys lounged and watched television for an hour but then they felt like they wanted to do more to help. Jack found cleaning supplies in the kitchen and Teal'c found cleaning supplies in the bathroom. Daniel wasn't sure where to begin. He didn't want to do anything loud like vacuum but he didn't want to get in Jack or Teal'c's way either. Daniel decided he could dust. He found rags and cleaning spray in the hall closet.

All three men had been busy scrubbing and cleaning for over half an hour. Daniel had finished the living room and Sam's office. He opened the door to her den. Inside he found boxes. Unlike the boxes in the garage, these boxes were labeled. He walked between the boxes looking in them and reading the writing on the sides. There were boxes for him, Teal'c, Jack, Cassie, her brother and his family, and the Goodwill. Suddenly the six piles left in the garage made sense.

"Jack?" Daniel was in the kitchen entrance watching Jack wipe the counters.

"Yes, Daniel."

"Can you come look at something?" Jack turned around and looked at Daniel. He was about to make one of his usual sarcastic comments but the stressed look on Daniel's face stopped his retort.

"Ok." Jack followed Daniel to the den. Daniel didn't say anything. He opened the door and motioned Jack to go into the den. Jack stepped in and began walking between the boxes. Jack ran his hands over the names written on the sides of the boxes. He got to one of the boxes labeled with his name and looked inside. He saw a framed picture of her with the team with an envelope on the top. The envelope had Jack written on it. Not General O'Neill but Jack. His heart clenched and he took his hand out of the box.

"Skip this room." Jack turned to look at Daniel.

"That's it. Just skip this room."

"Yes, Daniel. That's it." Jack walked past Daniel and closed the door behind him.

"Don't you understand Jack? She's giving up. She's packing to die." Daniel reached out and grabbed Jack's arm, stopping Jack's hasty retreat.

"I understand what she's doing." Jack turned around and looked at Daniel. "We can't give up on her. Trust me when I tell you not to mention this. She needs to handle this her own way." Jack went back to the kitchen and put the cleaning supplies back under the sink. He poured himself a drink and leaned against the counter. Teal'c and Daniel both came in to the kitchen to get a glass of lemonade.

"Don't you two mess up my clean kitchen."

"O'Neill, I believe this kitchen still belongs to Colonel Carter."

"I know that Teal'c, I just meant..." Jack saw the slight smirk on Teal'c's face and stopped his needless explanation. All three men moved back to the living room as Sam opened her bedroom door.

"Wow it looks and smells great in here. Have you guys been busy while I was asleep?" Jack smiled. Daniel gave Sam a half smile half grimace and Teal'c nodded once.

"If it would please you Colonel Carter I can now sanitize your master bath since you are awake."

"I don't want to put you out Teal'c."

"I was not intending to leave until after dinner."

"I know you're teasing me. I'd appreciate having the bathroom cleaned up. I don't think I have any pantyhose hanging in the shower or anything." Sam smiled at Teal'c as he stood and made his way to get the cleaning supplies. Jack smirked and shook his head as Teal'c carried a bucket of solutions and rags towards Sam's bedroom.

"I'll be danged but I think he likes it. I never saw Teal'c as the domestic type."

"You seemed content enough cleaning the kitchen." Jack glared at Daniel and Sam giggled.

Daniel volunteered to go out and pick up the chicken and sides. If he hadn't volunteered Jack would have forced him out. He'd been sulking since he found those damn boxes and Jack was working hard to keep the evenings conversation light and upbeat. The three men were so hungry that they ate in near silence. Sam picked at her food and moved it around her plate, trying to make it look like she had eaten.

"The Tok'ra reported your father was due back soon. They expect him to come and visit in a few days."

"Yeah, I heard before I left yesterday." Sam smiled at Teal'c as it got quiet again.

"How about a game?" Everyone turned to Jack.

"A game, sir?"

"Sure. Something like pictionary or charades." Daniel snorted and stood up to take his empty plate to the kitchen.

"Daniel, what's wrong?" Sam's brow creased as she watching him slinking off towards her kitchen. He had been unusually quiet all evening.

"Daniel's just PMSing. Ignore him."

"Ignoring things is always your answer, isn't it Jack."

"Daniel, I told you to drop it." Teal'c looked confused and Sam sat up straighter.

"What's going on?" Sam looked back and forth between Jack and Daniel.

"Nothing." Jack made it sound like a command.

"That's not how it sounds, sir." Sam locked eyes with Daniel and was surprised to see his pain. He was angry with her. "Are you mad at me Daniel?"

"Carter, we don't need to go into this!" Jack ran his hand through his hair.

"I think Daniel has something he needs to say and I want to hear it." Sam kept her eyes locked on Daniel. They'd always managed to be honest with each other and she didn't want to lose that now.

"You've given up on getting better." Daniel put his plate in the sink and turned back towards Sam.

"No I haven't. Our best scientists, the Tok'ra, and the Asgard are all working on this. They'll get it."

"I went into your den." Sam's eyes widened. "You had us pack our own boxes this morning. You had us catalog what we would get from you when you die!" Sam looked down at her hands and slumped back against the arm of sofa.

"Preparing for the worst isn't the same as giving up. When I give up you'll know it." Sam's voice was firm but quiet. Daniel slammed his fists against the counter.

"You're lying to yourself. The Sam Carter I know would never give in to this disease. She's strong. She'd fight." Jack saw the tear fall off the end of Sam's nose.

"That's enough Daniel!"

"You're right. I'll see ya' on Monday." Daniel grabbed his coat and marched out the door.

"I will keep him company." Teal'c stood and bent low towards Sam's ear. "I know you are a great warrior and you must prepare for every big battle. You will still be victorious. I will explain this to Daniel Jackson." Teal'c kissed her head and followed Daniel. Jack sat on the floor counting the tears that dripped off her nose. After he had counted fifteen he grabbed a box of Kleenex and handed them to her.

"He doesn't understand, Sam."

"I know." Jack moved up onto the sofa and pulled her into his arms. They sat there holding each other for about ten minutes.

"Can I ask you a question now that we're alone?"

"Of course, sir."

"Why have you been hiding every other pain pill in your pocket?" Sam's head flew up and she pushed back.

"You saw that?"

"Yeah."

"I don't feel like I need the full dose I've been prescribed."

"Then you'd just be skipping the doses. You've been going through all the steps of taking your meds but purposefully pocketing them half of the time. Are they your insurance policy?"

"Do you really know me that well?" Sam leaned back against the sofa.

"It's the pot calling the kettle black."

"Sir?" She looked at him and he hung his head.

"I tried the same stunt a long time ago."

"Oh." Sam didn't ask whether it was after Iraq or Charlie. She was sure he wouldn't want to answer either way.

"Is this a plan you're think about instigating soon?"

"No, sir." Jack scooted her closer and put his arm back around her. "I want a reserve in case."

"In case of what?"

"I refuse to die by withering away in a bed tucked in a far corner of the infirmary."

"I can understand that." Sam looked into his eyes and knew he really did understand. She rested her head against his shoulder.

"I'll only do it if I know there's no hope of recovery. I just don't want everyone to remember me as an invalid."

"That could never happen."

"Bull!" Sam raised her head again. Fresh tears filled her eyes. "Daniel already sees me as weak. If he had to visit me in the infirmary while I'm tied up to that damn machine everyday he'd quickly forget the Sam Carter that led missions and kicked Goa'uld ass."

"Then we won't let him visit you there. Same thing goes for Cassie. Teal'c and I will always see you as the sun blowing up warrior you are, so we'll be the ones who help you out." Sam smiled a small bit and nodded.

"I can't force Daniel out. He's too important to me."

"I know. We'll just make sure he has plenty of time to visit you here or in your lab."

"He won't be put off like that. You know how stubborn he can be."

"Alright, fine. I'll talk to him and see if I can get him to see reason. We'll still make lots of opportunities for him and Cassie to see you outside the mountain, being yourself."

"Agreed." Sam relaxed back into his arms. "Thanks for understanding."

"It's what friends are for, right?" He felt Sam nod her head yes against his chest. He held her until she was drowsy. He convinced her to get ready for bed while he finished cleaning up. Once she was safely tucked in bed he let himself out and locked the door. His worry settled heavy in his gut as he drove home.

Jack came over late Sunday morning to take Sam to the base for her dialysis. He went to his office and tackled a stack of paperwork while the machine whizzed. After she was done, he took her out for a light dinner and returned her home. She was exhausted so he let himself out again.

On Monday, the Asgard's requested a meeting. The briefing room was soon packed with four SGC scientists, a couple of doctors, two Tok'ra, three Asgards, SG-1, and Jack.

"I assume you've called us together because you have news?" The Asgard named Nomi stepped forward as Jack spoke.

"I have been selected to inform you that we have identified the protein causing the elements in Colonel Carter's body to clump and disrupt her normal organ functioning."

"So what is it?"

"The protein is created by a virus. We found viral particles in Colonel Carter's blood. I am sure if we checked her brain stem we would find the particles there are also."

"Why my brain stem?" Sam watched Nomi closely.

"It's presence in your brain stem would explain your reaction to the healing device. It is also where the virus is designed to reside."

"How do you know that?" Jack wasn't sure he could read Asgard body language but he thought he saw Nomi and the two little 'guys' behind her fidget.

"Because this virus was designed by the Asgard centuries ago." The room silenced as this news sunk in.

"You designed a virus to attack Carter centuries ago?" Jack's brow was creased and his eyes narrowed. He spoke slowly and quietly but there was an edge to his voice. He was both confused and on the edge of flying into a tirade.

"No. We designed a virus that was supposed to disable the Goa'uld. The virus failed to eliminate them and our research into this method of warfare ended. We are not sure how Colonel Carter came into contact with this virus nor have we determined how the virus has been changed."

"Changed?" Sam was pale but trying hard to remain part of the conversation. Her head was spinning as Nomi talked.

"The virus present in your blood is a descendent of the virus we created long ago. We are not sure if the changes in the virus are natural or if it was engineered. We will continue our research on this front."

"Did you have a cure?"

"No, General. We never felt there was a need to develop a cure or vaccine since this virus was targeted to only Goa'ulds and our intention was to eliminate the Goa'uld."

"Is there any way to determine how Sam was infected?" Daniel directed his question to Nomi.

"I can not yet tell you how she was infected but we have determined she was infected 19 Earth days ago." Sam and Daniel looked at each other and spoke at the same time.

"Edora."

"Nineteen days would have been when you fixed the reactor."

"What happened after you fixed the reactor?" Jack looked back and forth between Sam and Daniel.

"There was a party that night. The next day we went out to the caves and helped Daniel finish his research. We spent two days camping at the caves before we packed up, did a final check on the reactors, and came home." Daniel and Teal'c nodded in agreement with Sam's concise summary of events.

"Then you scientists keep working here trying to figure out a cure while Daniel, Teal'c, and I go to Edora." There were murmurs around the table but everyone seemed to be in agreement. Jack dismissed everyone except SG-1.

"Daniel, Teal'c, I want you ready to go in two hours."

"Sir."

"Carter?"

"You need to take a scientist, sir."

"What?"

"You need to take one of the SGC scientists. They'll be able to help you identify possible contagion carriers."

"Fine. Pick one you trust and tell them to be ready. Dismissed." SG-1 left Jack sitting in the briefing room. His face was drawn and tense.

----

Sam watched as Jack, Daniel, Teal'c and Captain Mitchell went through the gate to Edora. General Hammond was enroute back to the SGC. The Tok'ra had called to say her Dad would be there the next day. All Sam could do was go down to the infirmary and wait while that machine she'd grown to hate gave her another day to fight.

Jack took the lead into the small Edora village. There hadn't been any discussion on the way from the gate. The tension between the team members was high and Captain Mitchell felt very out of place.

"Jack!" Garan was obviously pleased to see him and Jack tried to smile. "Have you returned so soon because you have a better way to identify the strange naquada?"

"No Garan. There's another problem." Garan read the men's faces and knew something serious had happened.

"Please come to my house and tell us what has happened." Garan led the men to the edge of the village. The hut Garan led them to was not the one Jack expected.

"You moved?"

"Yes, I now have my own home with my wife and our son."

"Congratulations."

"Thanks. Please come in and sit. Can I get you something to drink?"

"No, we don't really have time." As Jack was sitting, he saw Laira come out from the back room carrying a small child. He had a beautiful lock of yellow hair and a big grin on his face. He kicked his feet and demanded to get down to see the new comers. Laira let him down and stared at Jack.

"You have returned."

"Yes." Jack stood and offered her his seat. She sat beside him but left him enough room to sit again.

"Sir, if it's alright I'd like to begin taking samples at the caves."

"That makes sense, Captain. Teal'c, please accompany the captain as he collects his samples." Teal'c nodded and they left, providing more breathing room for the remaining occupants.

"My mother was watching Jackie while I was in the field and my wife was visiting her sister."

"It's good to see you again, Laira."

"You also, Jack." She still stared at him, as if seeing a ghost. He could feel her fear but he didn't understand it.

"Why has Colonel Carter not accompanied you today?" Garan sat across from Jack and held his busy toddler. The boy picked up an empty cup and began banging it on the table and laughing.

"Because she's sick, very sick. Our scientists believe she became infected here." Garan tightened his hold on his son. Daniel saw his reaction and jumped in.

"You and your family have nothing to fear. The illness that is hurting Sam can only affect her." Garan's hold on his son lessened.

"How does an illness only hurt one person?" As Garan spoke, Laira looked away.

"Sam is very...unique." Laira stood and moved towards the back room. She turned back towards Jack.

"Tell her we wish her a speedy recovery. Fair day, Jack." Jack's eyes narrowed as Laira stepped out of the room.

"What can we do to help you as Colonel Carter has helped us?"

"While Captain Mitchell is doing some tests in the caves and we are going to ask some questions around here."

"Such as?"

"Well according to Sam's report the night after the reactors were fixed there was a party."

"It was a great celebration. We were very happy to have heat again." Garan smiled.

"Where was the party held?"

"It was at Jonziahs. He has the largest barn so he ends up hosting many socials."

"According to Carter's report she left the party early. Where did she go?"

"She returned here."

"Was there any one else here when she arrived?"

"No. When we came back a couple of hours later she was already asleep on the cot in the kitchen. We left her alone until the morning."

"What did she do in the morning?"

"We washed and ate. Then Teal'c came for her and they returned to the caves. She returned two days later with Teal'c, Daniel, and Michiel, the boy who had accompanied Daniel."

"Ok, well we'll poke around a bit and get out of your hair as soon as possible." Garan son was pitching a fit to get down and play so he let his guests leave. He watched them walking towards the river.

That night all four men met back by the river and pitched camp. The villagers had offered them shelter, as usual, but Jack had refused. He wanted a chance to talk in private.

"So what did you find in the caves?" They were all eating MRE's and drinking coffee.

"Nothing remarkable. Initial tests don't indicate any of the Asgard virus but I have samples to take back to base in the morning." Jack nodded his head.

"According to Garan Sam left the party alone came back to his house and went to sleep. The next morning she left for the caves."

"I beg to differ but Colonel Carter was not alone after the party." Jack's head popped up and he stared at Teal'c.

"Explain."

"I saw Colonel Carter leave. Once I was able to extract myself from the locals I proceeded to follow her to Garans home. I wanted to verify our plans for the morning. When I arrived, I found Colonel Carter on her cot and Laira was sitting beside her. Laira explained Colonel Carter had not felt well so she had helped her to bed. I watched Colonel Carter and saw she was deeply asleep so I left several minutes after Laira."

"Then I think I need to speak to Laira in the morning before we leave." Jack took the first watch. His head was spinning and he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep. Laira had been acting strange since she saw him. He had chalked it up to her once upon a time relationship attempt with him, but now he wondered if there was more.

The men broke camp as soon as it was light. Jack was anxious to get back to the SGC and he still needed to speak with Laira. He knew she rose with the sun so the men headed to her house as soon as they finished their coffee.

Laira was surprised to see the men at her doorstep, but she bid them welcome and offered them drinks. They declined.

"Laira, tell us what happened the night the reactors were repaired." Jack fixed her with a serious stare.

"We had a party."

"Colonel Carter left the party early. So did you. What happened?" Laira eyes flicked to Teal'c and then back to Jack.

"Colonel Carter drank too much and was feeling ill. I helped her back to Garan's and got her settled. She was asleep by the time Teal'c found us."

"That's a lie Laira. There's no way Sam drank while she was on duty." Jack scowled.

"So you believe her over me even though she isn't here to speak." Laira looked wounded.

"Yes." Jack reached out and grabbed her arm. His grip tightened and Laira winced. "Tell us the truth. Now!" Laira flinched again when he yelled. She was afraid of the fire in his eyes.

"She is only one person. We are many. You would have made the same choice." Tears came to her eyes. Jack tightened his grip.

"What are you saying?" Daniel put his hand on Jack's arm. Jack's grip lessened slightly as Laira sniffed.

"A man named Ba'al has taken my granddaughter Shawla. He said if I gave Sam a drug then he would return Shawla." Laira's face fell and her sobbing grew louder.

"Why didn't you just tell us?"

"She is only one person!"

"It helped that it was her didn't it?"

"I do not understand what you mean." Jack grabbed both of her shoulders and squared her body to his.

"Sure you don't. Where did Ba'al take your granddaughter?"

"I do not know." Laira tried to pull back but Jack held tight to her shoulders.

"Did he come by ship or stargate?"

"Stargate." Her struggle lessened as she came to terms with the reality that she wouldn't get free until Jack agreed to release her.

"Who was there when he left?"

"Garan and I followed."

"What symbols did they use?" Daniel stuck a notebook out towards Laira. Jack released his hold on her as he forced her to sit at the table.

"Write. And don't you dare lie." His words sounded like snarls. Laira knew he wouldn't hesitate to do what was necessary to learn what he wanted, and it scared her, even more then the look on Teal'c's face. Laira wrote the symbols and handed the notebook to Jack.

"Do you have any of the drug left?" Daniel watched Laira cringe. Laira pulled a syringe from her apron pocket and handed it to Jack.

"This is what he gave me to use." Jack rolled the syringe between his fingers before he put it in one of the pockets on his vest.

"Did he give you an antidote?" The confused look on her face prompted Daniel to explain further. "Did he give you any drug you could use against this one if someone became accidentally infected?"

"No, he said Colonel Carter was the only person this drug would affect." Jack's shoulders straightened and he glared at Laira. Daniel's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open slightly.

"We'll be back." Jack turned away from Laira and moved towards the door. Daniel followed. Teal'c and Captain Mitchell had already made it out the door.

"Please return her to us." Jack let his head dip as Laira begged him.

"We'll do our best." The men left Laira sitting at the table crying. Daniel caught up with Jack as they walked back to the gate.

"What did you mean when you asked Laira if it was easier to do this since Sam was the target?"

"I don't want to discuss it." Daniel reached out and touched Jack's arm. Jack paused.

"So you'd rather me ask when we get back to the SGC? I'm not letting this one go." Jack looked at Daniel. He could see his friend was serious so he caved.

"I came back here to visit about two months after I got back. I had to make peace with Laira and really end it. She accused me of going back to be with Carter. I explained the rules and why we couldn't be together but she never bought it." Daniel let go and began walking again.

"I guess she saw what the rest of us have been seeing for years." Daniel expected some sort of protest and was surprised by Jack's response.

"Yeah, I guess so." The gate was active and Captain Mitchell was stepping through as they arrived at the DHD.

While they had been on Edora Jacob had arrived. He had visited with Sam, which convinced him things were as bad as he had been told. Her color was just plain wrong and she didn't have any energy. Sam had agreed to spend the night in the infirmary, since her friends were off world. It also gave the infirmary staff a chance to run a few detailed and time intensive tests.

Jacob helped Sam to the briefing room when a call went out over the intercom. He watched Jack's face as he helped his daughter into a chair. Sam had told him how Jack had been caring for her. Jacob suspected Jack's true motivation. His heart went out to Jack. He remembered the pain of losing his wife. She had left quickly and he hated to think how hard it would have been to watch her waste away.

"Thank you all for getting here so quickly." Jack look around at the SGC scientists, Tok'ra, and Asgard who packed the briefing room, requiring many to remain standing.

"While on Edora we learned that Ba'al convinced one of the locals to inject Colonel Carter with the contents of this syringe." Jack laid the syringe on the table.

"So this really was designed for me. I'm being assassinated?" Sam's brow creased as she finished her sentence. Her father reached out to stroke her arm.

"That appears to be the case." Teal'c was stoic in his response. The humans in the room, as well as the majority of the aliens, had been temporarily stunned into silence. They hadn't ever considered this could be a deliberate attempt on Sam's life. They had been assuming it was either an accident or a bizarre natural exposure to an agent that resembled the one created by the Asgard centuries ago.

"Why?" Tears formed in Sam's eyes and she hated herself for being so weak. She pushed her jaw out, a trick she had learned early in life to stop unwanted tears.

"I can only guess that Ba'al has decided Earth will not be able to stand against him as well without you as it has with you." Teal'c walked over to Sam's chair and laid his hand on her shoulder as he looked into her eyes. "I believe he is right."

"Which is why I want the scientists to take this syringe and figure out how to stop this thing. Ba'al didn't leave any type of antidote behind since he claimed it would only harm Colonel Carter. Figure it out yesterday." Jack took back control of the meeting. The scientists took the cue to leave and filed out of the room. This left SG-1, Jack, Jacob, one Asgard, and one Tok'ra sitting around the table.

"Daniel, I want you to use the symbols Laira provided to make a list of possible planets where Ba'al may be hiding. Don't take her word on the order of the symbols. Cross reference all the possibilities in the computer and check with the Asgard and Tok'ra to determine which are most likely to be Ba'als hiding spot. The rest of you need to sleep, eat, and get ready to go after Ba'al."

"Go after Ba'al? That does not seem wise, General." Jack looked at the Tok'ra, a Michael-something.

"He's our best chance at find a cure and we will go after it."

"Sir, you shouldn't risk so many just to save one person. It may also be a trap." Sam's words echoed Laira comments and it made Jack uncomfortable.

"He's doing this for some reason and we need to know what it is. Daniel, do it as fast as you can." Jack stood and watched as everyone except Sam and Jacob left the room.

"I'm sorry you had to hear it this way, Sam. I wanted to get the scientists started as soon as possible." Sam nodded her head as Jack sat down beside her. He reached out and turned her face towards him. The tears were back in his eyes.

"I've always known something like this was a possibility each time we went through the gate. It just feels different then I expected."

"It is different. You're the specific target not just the person wearing the uniform that represents the enemy." Sam leaned forward and placed her head on Jack's shoulder. Jack wrapped his arms around her as she let a few of her tears fall. Jacob stepped back and left the room. He could be gracious enough to let them have the time they needed.

Jack gave Sam and Jacob a ride to her house. Jacob went out to get some fresh supplies, letting Jack and Sam have time together.

"You're going aren't you, sir?"

"Yeah." Jack sat beside Sam on the sofa. She rested her head on his shoulder. His arm snaked around her and pulled her closer.

"Your place is in the SGC."

"So's yours." Her head drooped towards his collarbone, a sign of her defeat.

"Don't leave me." He stiffened at her request. He never expected her to voice her desire, even though he knew she wouldn't want him to go.

"I'll be back before you know it, with a cure." Her head slowly nodded. She had given up too quickly. That worried Jack. They sat there until Jack heard the front door opening. He got up to help Jacob with the groceries. The two men worked in the kitchen while Sam tried to get comfortable on the sofa.

"I'm coming along Jack."

"You can't Jacob. Somebody has to stay her to help Sam."

"Someone other then me. I'm going with you. I have just as much right to be out there as you."

"I know that but somebody has to be here for Sam. She can't get to the SGC for her treatments and she doesn't want to stay in the infirmary."

"I have an idea." Jacob looked over at Sam, who had fallen asleep on the sofa. "I'll take care of everything and see you back at the mountain in the morning." Jack looked over at Sam and nodded. He let himself out. He sat in his truck staring at her house. His knuckles grew white as he gripped the steering wheel. He didn't want to leave her, deny her what could have been her last wish, but he had to be out there making sure he found a way to save her. He pulled out of the drive and headed back to the mountain. What little sleep he got tonight could happen there, as he made sure he was ready to face Ba'al.
----

"I'm afraid she isn't going to be happy to see you."

"You didn't tell her you called?" Jacob looked at his son and winced.

"Afraid not. You know how she is when she needs help. She never would've agreed."

"Is it really as bad as it sounds?"

"She's dying son. I'm going on this mission to try and find a cure."

"A cure?"

"It's not communicable, don't worry. She has to be taken to Cheyenne Mountain every morning for treatments. I will try and get you a pass, but you might have to just drop her off and pick her up."

"What kind of life has she built here if she doesn't have any friends willing to give her a ride?"

"That's not it, son. She either doesn't want them to see her as dependant or they're joining me to look for a cure."

"How long will you be gone?"

"I don't know. Here's the number for the doctor at Cheyenne. That's the only medical facility where she can be seen. It's important that you only contact them if something goes wrong."

"I got it Dad."

"Good, because I'm already late. I'll take her car. Bring her to the mountain when she wakes up. I'll try and get you inside." Jacob grabbed a bagel and went out the door. Mark turned around and cleaned up the crumbs on the counter. He took his bags to the spare room and freshened up in the bathroom. It had been a long drive and he was tired. He heard a moan from Sam's room. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for her anger.

"Morning, sis." Mark smiled at her. She blinked, several times in quick succession. Her forehead creased and her nose crinkled.

"Mark?"

"Absolutely! It's your brother, also known as your chauffeur, who has come for some serious brother-sister bonding." Mark smiled his biggest and best this isn't my fault so don't blame me smile.

"Dad called you, huh?"

"Yeah." Mark sat down on the edge of the bed. Her color was bad and he didn't think fast enough to cover the concerned look that crossed his face.

"Is he still here?"

"Are you going to yell at him?"

"If he's still here." Sam sat up but she faltered and Mark put an arm behind her back.

"He left a little while ago to go get ready for some mission where he is bringing back a magic cure for you." Sam nodded slowly moving further forward and off Mark's arm. It was her way of saying she could do this by herself.

"Then we had best get going so I can catch him before he leaves." Mark stood and offered her a hand. She declined. She slowly made her way to her bathroom. "I'll meet you in the living room in a few minutes." Mark took his cue and left the room. He was glad her wrath was not focused on him.

The drive to the mountain was quiet. Sam occasionally told him to make turns that led him through back streets and probably saved him five minutes. The guard at the entrance let them pass. She held his arm as they walked to the entrance. They were both surprised when the guard presented Mark with a visitors pass.

"I guess Dad has ensnared the General into his web." Mark grinned; still content to not be the one with whom she was angry. They made their way down in two separate elevators. Mark was surprised the facility ran so deep and required so much security. They'd been told they were expected in the infirmary. Sam silently led the way and Mark followed.

"Good morning, Colonel." A nurse brightly smiled at Sam. Sam returned the favor with a scowl.

"Is my father here?"

"No ma'am, I believe he's in the briefing room." Sam glanced at her brother. She knew he couldn't go there but she wanted to face them all. Sam nodded and moved to the phone. Her foot was tapping as she punched a few numbers.

"General Jacob Carter, please." Sam's foot kept tapping. "Please tell General Carter and General O'Neill that Colonel Carter has requested their presence in the infirmary." Sam put the phone down and turned back to the nurse.

"Is there a room where my brother can wait while I get my treatment?"

"I don't mind waiting with you, Sam."

"I can bring in a television and some cards if you like." The nurse smiled.

"Fine." Sam sat down in huff in her usual chair, waiting to be plugged up to the dialysis machine. The nurse brought in another chair for Mark and retreated while a second nurse hooked Sam to the machine. Mark tried not to stare but his frequent glances began to annoy Sam.

"I know you've got questions. Go ahead and ask them."

"What's all this about?" Mark waved his arm toward the dialysis machine.

"My kidneys and liver are shutting down. This thing is now responsible for cleaning my blood."

"Dad said it was serious but I guess I just didn't get it." Sam's face paled and she swallowed.

"It's not good."

"But Dad and some of your friends are leaving to find a cure?"

"That's what they hope."

"Is that what you hope?" Mark looked at her, concerned and worried.

"Of course it's what I hope. I want to live." There were tears in her eyes.

"But you don't think it's going to happen, do you?" Sam turned to look at him as the door opened. Daniel walked in first, probably unaware that Jack and Jacob were expecting her to be in a bad mood. Jack followed Daniel and Jacob brought up the rear. They were all in their gear, minus the artillery. Sam knew that meant they were leaving soon.

"Morning, Sam!" Daniel false enthusiasm made her cringe. It was a sure sign he didn't think this mission was going to be a success.

"Daniel, General, Dad." The last word was said with a bit of venom in her voice.

"Hey, honey. How are ya' son?" Mark nodded but he knew better then to open his mouth.

"Dad, you could have spoken to me about this first."

"I knew you wouldn't want your brother to feel obligated to come. I also knew your Carter stubborn streak meant you would try to go it alone using cabs to get to the mountain. The fact is your brother has tons of vacation and sick leave and he's happy to be here. This is a time for family."

"So you're leaving? Seems just like old times." She knew that one hurt him. Part of her hating hitting him so far below the belt but she was angry that he had done this behind her back. Mark reached out and touched her arm.

"I wanted to be here as soon as Dad called. I would have come, even if he wasn't leaving. It used to be just us a lot when we were growing up. We'll eat lots of bad junk and lie to about eating all our vegetables. It'll be fun." Mark smiled at her.

"Actually Sam has a very restricted diet." All of the men and Sam looked at Daniel.

"I'll eat whatever I damn well please!" All of the men internally jumped at the harsh sound of her angry voice. "You're just lucky Mark and I've been getting on so well the last few years. If you'd picked an annoying baby sitter I might've come after you myself." Jack, Jacob, and Daniel grinned. They were pleased with her obvious show of enthusiasm. Mark frowned, he didn't buy it.

"Son, I gotta go soon. Let's talk for a few minutes before I go." Jacob leaned over and gave Sam a kiss on her forehead. "I'll be back as soon as possible." Sam nodded. Jacob and Mark walked out into the hall.

"Teal'c is getting the last of our things together. He told me to wish you well and said he'd see you soon. Same goes for me. Take care of yourself." Daniel bent down and hugged Sam, carefully avoiding the tubes.

"Same goes to you. I expect you back here in one piece." Sam released her hold on him as he stood. He squeezed her fingers and let go. He left with one glance back at Jack who was moving Mark's chair so he could better look at her while he sat.

"Carter..."

"I know, sir. I'll be here when you get back."

"Promise?"

"Yes, sir." His hand came up and cupped her face. His fingers curled behind her ear, into her hair, as his thumb traced her cheekbone. Their eyes locked, sending messages only meant for them. The weight of her head felt heavy in his hand, a symbol of the weight on his heart. It was up to him to save her life.

"See ya' soon." Jack stood and slowly removed his hand. He saw the tears forming in her eyes and turned before his presence embarrassed her. He stopped as he pushed the door open and looked back at her. She was looking down at the tubes coming up the leg of the chair, the tubes carrying her blood, her life.

Mark and Sam got along fine while the guys were gone. They ate too much ice cream but avoided alcohol products and salty foods. Cassie came over for a few visits and Mark made sure Sam seemed as fit as possible whenever she was around. Mark turned out to be very helpful and understanding, except when he asked about Pete. He thought Pete deserved the truth. Sam agreed but she knew Mark didn't realize the truth was she left Pete because she loved another not just to spare him from watching her die. They only debated it twice before Mark dropped. He didn't want to spoil the time they had left. He knew she was getting weaker by the day. He stopped asking the doctor how much longer because the answer was never what he wanted to hear.

The guys had been gone for five days when Sam woke to voices in the house. The voices belonged to two men. From the bedroom, she couldn't make out who was there. Her heart soared, believing it had to be her team back from Ba'al's. In her enthusiasm, she struggled out of bed and fell. She hit her head on the night table. The men heard the thump and rushed to her room. Mark ran to the phone and called the base.

----

It certainly hadn't been easy to get in or out of Ba'al's grip. Jack and Teal'c allowed themselves to be captured by an undercover Tok'ra agent posing a minor Goa'uld in service to Ba'al. Daniel and Jacob flew in and orbited the planet. They kept the ship cloaked.

It only took two days for Ba'al's ship to arrive. He took orbit around the planet and ringed down to meet his newest prisoners. He was overly eager to "question" O'Neill again. On the third day of their captivity, the Tok'ra agent released Teal'c while Jack was being tortured.

Ba'al was alone with Jack. Teal'c and the now exposed Tok'ra easily took out the Jaffa guards in front of the door. They entered the room but Ba'al didn't turn around. He felt overly confident in his own ship.

When Ba'al realized no one had spoken he turned to see who had entered the room. He tried to raise an alarm but Teal'c was faster, slamming Ba'al's hand down into the console. The Tok'ra released O'Neill who slid to the floor. She went over and helped him up while Teal'c held Ba'al. O'Neill went over and poured the acid on Ba'al's hand.

"That's only the beginning unless you tell us what we want to hear." Teal'c took Ba'al to the magnetic web. The Tok'ra powered it as Teal'c stepped away. Teal'c went to the door and dragged the stunned Jaffa into the room. He bound and gagged them. The Tok'ra secured the door while Jack watched Ba'al.

"So how's it feel when the shoe's on the other foot?"

"If you are asking me if I like it here then I can honestly say no, although I do not fear you."

"And why's that?" Jack released a knife. It landed squarely in Ba'al's chest.

"Because your human code does not allow you to kill those who can not fight."

"Normally that would be true." Jack released a second knife. It pierced Ba'al's shoulder. "But we do allow execution for murder. You're a murderer. I can execute you."

"Your conscience will prevent it."

"You're wrong. Ever heard of an eye for an eye?"

"So my life in exchange for what?" Jack released a fresh bottle of acid in large drops. He watched the burns spread across Ba'al's legs.

"Colonel Carter's life."

"So the little farm lady did it? I didn't think she really had it in her." Ba'al smiled. Jack dumped the whole bottle of acid towards Ba'al's groin. As it made contact Ba'al groaned, the first sign of the pain which Jack was inflicting.

"Do you have her grandchild?"

"I have no use for a child? I sold it." Jack grimaced. He turned to the Tok'ra.

"Get in that computer and find out what he did with the girl." She nodded and got to work, knowing if others saw her hacking they would know something was going on in here.

"Do you have a cure?"

"How sick is she?" Jack picked up another knife.

"Do you have a cure?"

"No." Jack released the knife. Ba'al grimaced as it pierced his lung.

"I found the planet where the girl is located."

"Look for any information on a virus targeted to Colonel Carter." Jack looked back at Ba'al. "Why her?"

"Do not tell me you have not seen the pattern. You would have all been destroyed by now if it had not been for her. She is far smarter then any of you. Without her you will be easy to concur."

"O'Neill." Teal'c was looking over the shoulder of the Tok'ra. "He never designed a cure. There is nothing here to help us."

"No, Damnit! There has to be something!" Jack turned and walked up to Ba'al. "Tell me how to save her!" Jack began hitting Ba'al. Ba'al never responded. He blacked out before Teal'c pulled Jack back.

"We must go if we are going to reach the rings. Our presence has been detected while we were using the computer." Jack didn't care but Teal'c kept pulling. "We must save the child and get back to Colonel Carter." That got Jack's attention. After zatting Ba'al twice he followed Teal'c. They ringed out to the ship where Jacob and Daniel were waiting.

Jack threw off his equipment and stormed to the back of the small ship as Jacob avoided enemy fire and entered hyperspace. Daniel tried to follow but Teal'c stopped him.

"There was no cure for Colonel Carter. Laira's granddaughter is at these coordinates. We need to get to the child before she is moved." Jacob let Selmack take over and direct the ship. It only took a few hours to get to the planet. Word had already been sent about Ba'al's death. The confusion over the loss of their lord made it easier to find the girl. Jack never asked permission he simply carried her off and went back to the ship. Daniel briefly tried to explain they were returning the girl to her home but Jack was leaving so quickly Daniel had no choice but follow.

They went straight to Edora. Garan was overjoyed to see his daughter. Laira tried to hug Jack but he pushed her back. It took immense will power to not hit her.

"I did it for my granddaughter. You must understand that? You would have done the same."

"No, I would have asked for help. I would've trusted us." Jack left her gaping behind him. She ran after him, begging him to understand. "We'll be locking Edora from our dialing computer. Don't call us for help."

"Jack!" Daniel ran over to Jack as Laira began to cry. "You can't do that. They need us, more now then ever."

"Please do not condemn my people for my actions."

"Then tell me the real reason you did it." Jack's voice was barely a whisper and he leaned close to her ear.

"I thought you might return if she wasn't there." Laira cried loudly and buried her face in her hands.

"Instead you've made sure I'll never return."

"What about my people?"

"I'll think about it." Jack stepped up to the DHD and dialed home. He stepped through without turning around. Daniel and Teal'c quickly followed. Jacob glanced up before he stepped through to Earth to watch as his fellow Tok'ra flew off to tell the council what had happened and return the borrowed ship.

Major Davis was in the control room looking down as the men stepped through. Jack took off his armaments and headed towards the door. Daniel, Teal'c, and Jacob walked down the ramp.

"Any luck?" Major Davis watched Jack walk out of the room without speaking. Jacob raced after him.

"We got the girl back but there was no cure for Sam." Daniel handed over his weapons and followed the path Jack and Jacob had taken to the infirmary. Teal'c nodded and followed.

There was very little said in the infirmary while the men were getting checked out. Daniel told the doctor about the absence of a cure. Jacob and Teal'c were the first ones finished. Daniel wasn't far behind. The doctor left Jack for last so he wouldn't be able to rush out of there without his former teammates. As she was getting a tube Jack's blood, a nurse brought her the phone.

"It's a Mr. Shanahan, Ma'am. He says it's an emergency." As the doctor took the phone all four men raced out of the infirmary. Jack was in his truck and racing out of the parking lot before Daniel, Teal'c, or Jacob could catch him. Jacob and Teal'c got in Sam's car while Daniel took his own car. By the time those three arrived Jack was letting himself through the front door.

"Sam!" Jack moved past Mark as Jacob, Daniel, and Teal'c entered the house. Pete stepped out of the bedroom.

"This way." Jack's face got redder at the sight of Pete. Jack pushed past Pete into the bedroom. Sam was lying on the bed with a red stained rag on her head.

"What's he doing here?" Jacob looked to Mark for an explanation.

"They needed to talk."

"Did Sam agree to that?"

"She didn't have a chance. Pete and I were out here talking when she fell." Daniel and Teal'c moved past Jacob and Mark. They looked into the bedroom and saw Jack sitting on the edge of the bed holding Sam's hand. Daniel guided Pete out to the living room.

"We'll talk about this later." Jacob walked into the bedroom. He moved over to stand behind Jack.

"How is she?" Jacob stared at Sam.

"She hasn't responded." Jack squeezed her hand as he spoke.

"Daniel Jackson called the base. The doctor is on the way."

"Thanks, T." Jack and Jacob watched Sam and waited.

The doctor arrived and shooed everyone out of the room. She used smelling salts and woke Sam. The doctor diagnosed Sam with a concussion. She arranged for Sam to be transported back to the infirmary. Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c followed. Jacob stayed behind to talk to Mark and Pete.

"I know you boys weren't trying to hurt Sam but she made her decision and this isn't the right time to try and change her mind. Give her space Pete."

"You mean enough space to die? I think I have the right to say good-bye."

"I agree and I'll speak to her. Can you stay in town for a few days?" Pete looked at Mark.

"I have a couple friends in town. I'll go to their place. Sam knows the number." Jacob nodded.

"Come on son. Let's get to the infirmary." Jacob locked up as Pete and Mark got into separate cars. Jack was sitting with Sam when Jacob and Mark arrived.

"How's my girl?"

"Just a little headache Dad. Sorry I scared you." She reached out to Jacob and he held her hand.

"I'm sorry about Pete." Sam looked at her brother and winced.

"What about Pete?"

"He wanted to talk to you so I invited him over to the house."

"That must be the voices I heard. I assumed it was the guys back from their mission. I got up and that's all I remember."

"Doc figures you fell and hit your head on the bed side table." Sam gave a small nod of her head but quickly stopped. Her headache was pounding.

"You'd think I'd be use to concussions by now." Jack and Jacob grinned. Mark looked confused. "So what did you find?" Jack looked at Jacob and back to Sam. "Nothing, huh." Sam's face fell.

"We did return the child to her family." Sam smiled at her father.

"Good. I'm glad you all made it back without any injuries."

The doctor scooted the men out of the curtained area while she hooked up the dialysis machine. All five men took turns sitting with Sam and waking her up often. After dinner, the doctor felt Sam was ready to return home for the night. She also agreed to let Sam not come in for dialysis over the weekend if she checked out all right tomorrow.

Jacob and Mark took Sam home while Jack hid in his office. Daniel and Teal'c tried several times to get him out but he locked the door and dived into the mound of papers covering his desk.

The next morning Jacob found Jack asleep at his desk.

"You look like hell, Jack."

"I smell like it too."

"I wasn't gonna mention it." Jacob sat down across from Jack.

"Sam wants to have everyone over tomorrow. I hoped you might barbeque."

"Sam has a lousy grill. Let's just order in."

"Alright. Jack, don't give up on her." Jack shook his head.

"Shouldn't you be giving her this speech?"

"She's accepted she's going to die and she wants to make peace with everyone first. Don't push her away."

"It's too hard to watch her."

"It'll be too hard to remember you weren't there when she needed you. Trust me." Jacob got up and walked out of Jack's office. Jack sat there and stared at his desk. He put his pen back in the drawer and went to the shower.

----

"I hear we're having a party tomorrow." Sam smiled as Jack pulled up a chair.

"Dad and Mark are out getting supplies." Jack reached out for her hand.

"How ya feeling?"

"Fine."

"That bad huh." Sam nodded and grinned. Jack brought out a pack of cards. "Strip poker?" Sam laughed. It was a wonderful sound and Jack smiled.

"Maybe next time flyboy. It's too hard to get my sleeves over these darn tubes." Jacob and Mark returned in time to take Sam home. Jack went home to get a full night's sleep.

----

Jack was the first one at Sam's the next day. He helped Jacob make tea and lemonade while Mark cleaned up the living room. Sam slept in late.

Daniel brought Cassie around ten and Teal'c showed up about fifteen minutes later. They were all sitting in the living room when the doorbell rang. Mark answered the door. He returned with Pete following him. Jack stood but Sam grabbed his hand.

"I invited him." Jack sat back down beside Sam and took a sip from his glass of lemonade. He put his arm around her shoulders as Pete sat on the floor across the room. Major Davis, Felger, and a few science lab technicians rounded out the lunch crowd.

Lunch was a loud affair full of laughs. People began excusing themselves around two, as Sam began to yawn. Jack walked Major Davis to the door and Pete took the opportunity to sit beside Sam.

"Thanks for being so good about this Pete."

"You didn't leave me just because you were sick did you?"

"No."

"You loved him the whole time didn't you?" Sam looked out the window behind Pete's head. Jack walked back into the room and heard Pete. Jack wanted to stop him from hurting Sam but Jacob put his hand on Jack's arm. Jack looked at Jacob and Jacob shook his head. Jack took the advice and waited.

"Yeah. I really thought I could get over it and have a full life with you." There were tears in her eyes.

"I'm glad you can admit it to yourself."

"Fat lot of good it's done me." Sam grimaced and tried to smile. Pete leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

"Thanks for the great memories." Pete stood as Sam wiped away a tear. Pete looked at Jack, nodded, and walked past Jacob towards the door. He left without saying good-bye to Mark. Jack walked over to Sam.

"Help me up." Jack put out his arm and Sam levered herself up. "I just need to go to the bathroom." Jack watched her walk out of the room.

"How about a game of trivial pursuit." Jack looked over at Cassie. Daniel consented immediately.

"I will agree as long as I am on Daniel Jackson's team."

"Are you saying Daniel's gonna win this?" Teal'c smirked at Jack.

"Indeed."

"In that case it's Jacob, Sam, Mark, and I against you, Cassie, and Daniel. You guys get the board out. I'll find out if Sam's feeling up to it." Jack walked through her bedroom and into her bath. She was sitting on the closed toilet fully clothed with a glass of water in her hand.

"The gang wants to play trivial pursuit but if you're not up to it Jacob and I can beat Daniel without you." Jack watched her closely as he spoke. Her other hand was closed tight. "Whatcha doin?" Sam looked up.

"It's time." Jack's heart clenched and he found it hard to breath. He felt the tears welling behind his eyes and his throat burned. Sam's eyes were dry as she looked at the few pills she had left in her hand. "I'll just fall asleep."

"Yeah." Jack bent down and put his hand on her leg. His eyes locked with hers.

"There's no better time then while I'm surrounded by my friends and family." He reached out and brushed her hair away from her cheek.

"I love you."

"I know."

"You did?" Jacks eyes widened slightly.

"Yeah."

"Oh."

"I knew because I love you too." Jack's tears fell as Sam confessed her love. "I guess it's a little late now, huh?"

"It's never too late." Jack leaned towards Sam. Sam understood and leaned in towards him. They kissed. It was a soft kiss, saying everything they had denied to others and themselves for years.

"The boards ready! Are you guys coming back soon?" Cassie yelled down the hall.

"We'll be there in a minute." Jack watched Sam take the last few pills. He kissed her cheek one more time and stood. He put his hands out to her. She pulled herself up and moved over to the sink. She dumped out the rest of the water and sat the glass down. As Jack led her through the bedroom, she stopped and pulled on his arm.

"I have one more favor to ask."

"Anything." Sam took a couple steps over to her bedside table. She opened the top drawer and pulled out a box. She opened it. There was a small glow as she reached inside. She closed the box and the hum quieted.

"Please give this to Thor, whenever you're ready."

"Thor?"

"Yeah, I can't exactly bequeath it to him in my will."

"Right." Jack's face fell and he put the small box in his pocket. "Removing alien technology from the mountain? I'm surprised." Sam gave him a cocky half grin.

"I figured there wasn't much anyone could do to me." Jack nodded and looked somber. "One more thing." Sam looked up into his eyes. She placed her hand on his cheek. "Hold me while I fall asleep."

"It'd be my honor." Jack kissed her cheek and her hand fell from his face.

"Come on guys!"

"Coming Cassie." Jack smiled as Sam answered. They reclaimed their spots on the sofa. Jack put his arm around Sam who snuggled close.

It wasn't long before Sam's yawns got close together and her eyes would flutter shut between questions. After half an hour, even loud cheers and jovial name calling no longer roused Sam. Jack kept one arm wrapped around Sam. Her head was on his shoulder and he felt her last breath against his neck. He never moved. He had stopped answering questions as he counted the space between her breaths. He stopped counting at 200. The game last over two hours. Daniel's team won. Cassie gave quite a squeal when Daniel answered the last question correctly.

"Sam must really be tired to have slept through that squeek." Daniel smiled at Cassie.

"It wasn't a squeek!"

"What would you call it?"

"I don't know but it wasn't a squeek. I don't squeek." Cassie put her hands on her hips and glared at Daniel.

"She's been asleep on your arm a long time Jack. Would you like some help moving her or taking her to bed?" Jack looked at Mark. He looked around the room from Mark to Cassie, Daniel, and Teal'c. Cassie and Daniel were still smiling. Jack knew as his eyes made it to Jacob that Sam had chosen correctly. This was the right way for her to leave.

"She's not asleep." Everyone's eyes turned to Jack and the smiles disappeared.

"Jack?" Daniel looked stricken.

"She passed away about forty minutes ago." Daniel eyes went wide. Mark began to silently cry.

"That's why she wanted to do this wasn't it?" Jacob stared at Jack.

"I don't know if this was her original plan but she knew she didn't want to die in a hospital. I guess having us all here made it easier for her." Cassie dived into Daniel's arms. They both cried together. Jacob moved over to the sofa and kissed Sam's head.

"I'll call the mountain." Jacob left the room. Daniel helped the sobbing Cassie into the guest room. Teal'c put away the game and Mark sat in a chair staring at Sam and crying. Sam was taken back to the SGC. Her death certificate certified she died of kidney and liver failure.

Daniel wandered around the SGC like a lost puppy. Jack made all the arrangements for her funeral at Arlington and memorial service in the SGC. Teal'c cared for Daniel and Cassie. Jacob took care of Mark and his family.

The Tok'ra, Asguard, Nox, and many other alien representatives came to the SGC to pay their respects to Sam. They talked about her novel approaches to problems and how nothing would be the same without her. They called her man's savior. Jack told the crowd that Sam not only saved planets and their inhabitanats but she also saved people. Jack made sure not to look at Jennifer Hailey, who was struggling to keep it together. After the service Jack gave Thor the box.

"Are you sure about this O'Neill?"

"Sam asked me to give it to you."

"Then I accept." Thor nodded before he winked out of Jack's office. Jack was tired but he still had two more days left before he could collapse and hide from the world.

Pete came to Washington to say farewell. The President and most of the Joint Chiefs came to her funeral. Many people who only knew her as an officer spoke of her skills and accomplishments. Jack talked about her spirit and love of life. Daniel talked about her friendship. Cassie remembered her as a mentor and savior. Teal'c told them of her strength of heart and character.

Jack went up to the cabin for a week. Daniel took Cassie to the beach. Teal'c went to visit Ry'ac. Jacob went home with Mark. After a week, the four men met back on base. Jacob went back to the Tok'ra. Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c began to move through their daily routines, rarely speaking of her because the pain was still too raw.

TBC?