Title: "The Bone Collector"
Email: Bunny + original owner: Rae
Summary: A mission off-world goes horribly wrong with catastrophic results for Sam.
Rating: PG-13 for (mild) language
Spoilers: Eps through to season five. No season six spoilers.
Category: S/J romance (ust), angst, there's a story in there, too!
Disclaimer: If they were mine, they wouldn't have the pesky military rule to contend with. No one is paying me, and I have no money. So na na na na.
Author's note: This fic was adopted through recycle-the-fic. The original owner and plot bunny was Rae, and thanks to her for such a kick-ass idea! Also great thanks to her for allowing me to tweak so much it hurt... you're a gem!
Author's Note: This is the longest fic I have ever written IN MY LIFE. I was starting to think it would never end... then along came Starprops! Thanks, hon, you are DA beta! x There isn't enough space here to thank you properly...
Going to a new world was always exciting, Samantha Carter mused, you never knew exactly what you would find at the other end of the wormhole. Sometimes, the worlds were uninhabited and all that was to be found was minerals or dust. Sometimes, however, they lucked out and found a world where the inhabitants were both technologically advanced and willing to share their knowledge. Admittedly, this was a rarity, but when it did happen the feeling was amazing.
P3X-567 was one of those worlds. Its address had originated from the cartouche at Abydos, but the Goa'uld had not visited it for millennia. The people were friendly, productive and shared much of their culture with ancient Mayans. They called themselves Yilah, which Daniel told them meant "they visited" in the Mayan language. SG-1 had been on the planet for three hours, and had made great in roads to a diplomatic relationship. Daniel was happily scribbling in his notebook, examining the structures beside the 'gate. Colonel O'Neill had wandered off; poking at the local plant life and looking bored out of his skull. Teal'c, as ever, was maintaining a dignified silence as small children clustered around him and tried to touch his staff weapon. Sam was discussing the intricacies of 'gate travel and the physics involved with Xaman, a young scientist. He was nodding excitedly, offering his own opinions and point of view to the discussions.
Studying the Mayan hieroglyphics, Daniel turned to his host.
"This tells the story of your arrival on this planet?" He asked.
"Yes," Chik'in nodded, "this tells of our history. We no longer write in this manner, but we had kept detailed libraries of the ancient ways and beliefs. I am one of the few people on this planet who can both write and read the ancient language." Her small black eyes twinkled; she was clearly caught up in the excitement of finding someone who shared her interests.
"On Earth, we call this language Mayan. There are still some remaining Mayan relics, but nothing on this scale. What do these mean?" He asked, gesturing to a separate set of 'glyphs that looked to be 'gate addresses.
"They are the worlds that we know to be inhabited and that we can travel to. However, we only have five such addresses that we can visit. Until your probe came through the 'gate, as you call it, we had thought they were the only worlds that we could travel to."
"I'm sure that once our civilisations become friends, we can share addresses with you. It could open up the galaxy for you."
"I believe our two cultures could learn much from each other, Daniel Jackson. Our Mak'ina would be delighted to meet you."
"Mak'ina?" Daniel furrowed his brow as he tried to remember the meaning of the word, "That means Great Sun, yes? Your king?"
Chik'in nodded again, a grin splitting her face.
"You think he would like to meet us?"
"Oh, yes. He would have met you today, but his son has just been born, and he is preparing for the u chok ch'ah. Already the ch'am has began," she paused, seeming to remember something, "but of course you do not need to know of our rituals. Our Mak'ina would like to meet you tomorrow.
"I would like that."
"I must leave you now, Daniel Jackson. I must consult with my Mak'ina. I would very much like for us to become u way."
"That means friends, right?"
"You are correct." The giant grin brightened her face again as she turned to leave, her shiny dark hair blown by the wind.
Daniel turned back to the hieroglyphics, sketching a few and writing his musings on their meanings underneath. There was so much to be learned from this place, he reflected, poking his tongue out as he drew a particularly difficult glyph. He vaguely heard the sound of the 'gate being activated and turned his head round, noting it was an incoming wormhole. Hoping it was someone friendly and not a threat, he discreetly walked behind the ceremonial pillar, peeking out from behind it. The wormhole engaged with its customary loud whoosh, and a lone figure stepped through the event horizon. Daniel squinted harder, trying to make out what the figure was carrying in his hand. It looked like a large, clear box, and there was something nestling inside it. As the figure drew nearer, Daniel could make out that it was male, and whatever he carried was being handled with great delicacy. Daniel held his breath as the man passed within a hair's breadth of his hiding place. Taking a quick look, Daniel was shocked to realise the item in the box looked like a human heart. He blinked, screwing his eyes up and looking again, unable to believe what he had seen. The man carrying the box looked around quickly, clutching the box to his chest before ducking in to one of the buildings surrounding the pillars.
Daniel slowly let out his breath, unaware he had been holding it. He tried to make sense of what he had seen; telling himself it must have been an animal heart, not a human one. But why would the man have had to be so careful with it if it was an animal heart? It reminded Daniel of nothing so much as an organ ready for transplant. Gathering up his tools and equipment, he headed back to tell the others what he had seen.
Sam, Jack and Teal'c had all gathered in the city's main hall and were clustered around a table filled with alien technology. Sam was holding a long metal rod, looking at it critically while talking to the man standing beside her.
"You're telling me that this rod alone is capable of withstanding the weight of this building?" She sounded excited yet sceptical, bending the rod between her hands.
"Yes, Major Carter, that's what I am saying. The metal itself is an alloy of naquadah and various other indigenous materials. We have found it to be both strong and supple."
Daniel walked to where they were standing, trying to look nonchalant.
"Guys?" He ventured; smiling at the Yilah clustered around SG-1.
"Yeah?" Jack raised his head from his contemplation of the table and raised an eyebrow enquiringly.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Is there something wrong, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked, hands clasped behind his back.
"No! No, nothing wrong. Just wanted to, um, show you some interesting glyphs."
"Interesting 'glyphs?" Jack asked, "Isn't that kinda a contradiction in terms?"
"Not at all! These are very interesting ones. Very... exciting." He finished, lamely, unable to think of anything else to say.
"Count me out. You can give me a full report when we get back to base. I know how you like to do that."
Daniel sighed, rubbing his forehead and scowling. He turned to Sam, who was still deep in discussion with the Yilah standing next to her.
"Sam? Can I please talk to you for a minute?"
Sam turned to him with an irritated expression on her face, ready to tell him no. One look at his face silenced her and she turned back to the Yilah.
"Would you excuse me for a moment, please? I need to discuss something with my colleague."
Sam followed Daniel out of the building, noting the way he glanced all around him before turning to her to speak.
"I just saw a Yilah return through the 'gate carrying something that looked like a human heart in a box of ice." It came out all in a rush.
"You just saw what?" Carter asked, looking sceptical.
"A Yilah. Carrying a human heart. Through the 'gate."
"A human heart." Sam repeated, eyebrows shooting in to her hairline.
"Maybe it wasn't a human heart. But that's what it looked like."
"Daniel, it was probably someone carrying their lunch back through the 'gate. It was probably a cow heart. While the idea of eating a bovine heart disgusts me too, it's no reason to get all crazy. Probably wants to fry it with some onions."
"If that were the case, why would he have had it on ice? Wouldn't he just have packed it in a bag or something? And why would he use the ''gate to get his lunch? There must be cows around this planet somewhere."
"Would it make you any happier if I went and asked Xaman?"
Sam sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She nodded, rolling her eyes, "I'm going to sound like such an idiot."
She turned on her heel and walked towards the university building where Xaman would be. He had the same sort of work ethic that she did, often working right through the night to finish a project. They had hit it off straight away, and Sam knew that they would become firm friends given time. The young man had the same enthusiasm and commitment as she did, and she hoped they would get a chance to work together.
She found him bent over his desk, scalpel in hand as he cut in to what looked like a large cabbage.
"Xaman?" She asked quietly, walking over to him.
"Sam!" He looked up, smiling as he put down the scalpel and covered the cabbage with a cloth.
"What are you working on?"
"It's a new kind of plant matter our scientists have been working on. It appears to have unlimited growth potential."
"Wow, that sounds amazing. The practical applications of such a plant..." Sam realised she was getting sidetracked and stopped.
"I actually came here to ask you something kind of silly."
"I don't think you're capable of being silly." Xaman replied his tone flirtatious. Sam gulped, not wanting to deal with an overzealous admirer. Ignoring the comment, she smiled again before ploughing on.
"Daniel seems to think he saw a man coming through the 'gate carrying a human heart," she grinned, waiting for him to tell her how ridiculous it was and offer an explanation. Instead, his face turned pale and he gave a forced grin.
"Oh, that is silly! A human heart! I have no idea what that could be." His face was devoid of all expression, his tone one of forced joviality.
Sam smiled uncomfortably, getting the now familiar feeling that something wasn't right. She thanked Xaman and turned away quickly, not wanting to appear alarmed, but feeling the urge to run. As she left the building, she reached for her radio and flicked it on, bringing it to her mouth and talking in a hushed whisper.
Back in the town hall, Jack was trying hard to stave off boredom as he was told in intricate detail how each of the technologies before him worked. This was really Carter's territory, he reflected, his brain just couldn't handle the detail. She had rushed off with Daniel, leaving him to deal with it himself. Teal'c was looking just as bored as he was. Nodding at the small Yilah woman in front of him, he thanked God when his radio crackled to life at his hip. He made his excuses and walked to a secluded corner as Carter's voice came through the radio.
"Colonel O'Neill, this is Major Carter. I've just come back from talking to Xaman and I think that there's something not quite right here. I'm heading back to the 'gate, I'll meet you there in... "
There was a loud hissing noise and a thump before the radio went dead.
"Major Carter?" Jack barked in to his radio, listening for a reply but hearing nothing. A chill settled over him and he shouted to Teal'c to follow him, running out of the hall and in to Daniel.
"Daniel, where did Carter go?"
"She went to talk to Xaman, I think he was in the university.. Jack, wait!" Jack had started sprinting in the direction of the university buildings, hoping he wasn't too late. Behind him, Teal'c loped along with his easy, ground eating stride, Daniel huffing behind him. There was no sign of Sam outside the building, no sign of a struggle. Jack burst in to the building and stopped in front of a startled Xaman.
"Where the Hell is she?" He yelled straight in to Xaman's face.
"To whom are you referring?" Xaman asked, smoothing down the front of his tunic.
"Major Carter! I know she was here speaking to you, and now she's disappeared. I'm going to ask you again, where is she?"
"Samantha was here, yes. She left some minutes ago. She had been talking about how much she loved this planet and that she wished she could stay. Perhaps she has decided to act on that impulse." Xaman turned away, only to be stopped by Jack grabbing him by the shoulder and wrenching him back around.
"I don't believe that for one minute. What the Hell have you done to her?" He hissed, hands biting cruelly in to Xaman's shoulder.
"Jack... " Daniel began, stepping forward.
"Unless you've found Sam in the last five minutes, Daniel, I don't want to hear it." Jack replied, keeping his eyes fixed on Xaman's face.
"Jack, we're not accomplishing anything here. We need to speak to the Mak'ina. You can't just go around beating up members of an alien civilisation, however much they would seem to deserve it," he finished in an undertone.
"Daniel Jackson is right, O'Neill. We will accomplish nothing by this method."
Jack tightened his grip, before releasing it slowly. Xaman backed away, massaging his shoulder joint.
"I assure you, Colonel O'Neill, I have no idea where Samantha is. As I have already told you, she had been speaking of staying on this planet, but did not know how to broach the subject with you."
"There is no way Sam would ever consider staying on this planet." Jack said it with quiet conviction.
"With respect, Colonel O'Neill, you only work together. How would you know how Samantha was feeling?"
"I know Sam. I know there's no way she would just up and leave without saying anything."
"When Sam left me, she had been going to speak to you about something I had seen. Did she?" Daniel asked, cutting in with a warning look at Jack.
"She did, and I informed her that it was a ceremonial matter. It was most definitely not a human heart, but that of a Xebu, a native mammal." Xaman's eyes did not meet Daniel's.
"Then why did she radio me as she left, telling me that there was something wrong?" Jack asked, fighting to keep his composure and not give in to the overwhelming urge to grab Xaman by the throat and shake him. Every second he spent talking to the Yilah, he could almost swear he could feel Sam getting further away. It was like a physical ache.
"I do not know. Perhaps she felt the need to lie to you about her intentions."
Jack ground his teeth, looking back at Daniel.
"We're not getting anywhere. I want you to go back through the 'gate and tell General Hammond what's happened here. Tell him I need a search team here within the hour."
He turned back to Xaman, the look in his eye making the younger man drop his gaze to the floor.
"We will find her, Xaman. And you'd better pray she's all right when we do." His voice was as soft as a caress, but the steel in his tone belied the pitch.
"Maybe I should take you to our Mak'ina. He should be able to set your mind at rest." Xaman looked pale, fidgeting with the buttons on his tunic.
"I think that would be a good idea." Jack replied, gesturing for him to lead the way.
An hour later, Daniel returned through the 'gate with the promised search team. He made straight for the Mak'ina's palace, where he found Jack in the middle of a heated argument.
"There is no way Sam would just leave like that!" He yelled, face turning more and more angry. On a dais in front of him sat a tall, grey haired man, dressed in a large headpiece and flowing robes. He was listening gravely to what Jack was saying, but Daniel noted that he also looked impatient.
"I sympathise with your situation, but I can assure you that my people have nothing to do with Major Carter's disappearance. Perhaps it is as Xaman suggested, and she merely decided to stay with us here."
"And I'm telling you that there is no way that could happen!" Jack shouted back, rubbing his forehead in frustration. He turned round as Daniel coughed to announce his presence.
"Jack, the search team is here."
Jack nodded and turned back to the Mak'ina.
"With your permission, we'd like to conduct a search of the area surrounding the university. Just in case anything did happen to Major Carter."
The Mak'ina nodded, settling back in to his throne and looking bored again. The great ceremonial headdress, which at first glance seemed brilliant, seemed to take on a more gilded air the more Daniel looked at it. Almost as though it was getting more tarnished by the second.
Jack quickly organised the search team to search in grid patterns, overseeing the first team himself. Daniel joined him, removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Jack, I've been thinking. What if Sam isn't on this world any longer? What if they've taken her through the ''gate?"
"I don't want to hear that, Daniel. That could mean she could be anywhere in the galaxy."
"No, actually, it doesn't. When I was examining the pillars, Chik'in told me that there were only five worlds the Yilah knew about. If they have taken Sam through the 'gate, they would have to have taken her to one of those five worlds."
"Then get dialling, Daniel. We're going 'gate hopping." Jack smiled grimly, radioing to the search parties to tell them of the plan. When they reached the DHD, however, a bevy of Yilah barred the way.
"We are under instruction from our Mak'ina to only allow you access to your home world." The closest Yilah informed them, hand resting on his weapon.
"Oh, you are? And why would that be? Scared we'll find something?" Jack felt the need for diplomacy had ended.
"We of the Yilah have nothing to hide. The Mak'ina merely feels that the worlds which we visit would be too perilous for you."
"Yeah, I'm sure that your Mac Daddy feels nothing but concern for us. Well, you've no need to worry, we're just reporting back to base." Jack nodded to Daniel, who dialled up Earth's address. The Yilah took a few paces back as the wormhole engaged. Punching his code onto the keypad at his forearm, Jack stepped through.
"Colonel O'Neill? Have you found her?" General Hammond met them on the other side, a look of concern on his face.
"No, sir. Daniel thinks she may have been taken to another world, but the Yilah are stopping us from accessing them through their 'gate. We'll need to use this one."
"Jack, we'll have to reconfigure them. They won't work using the same glyphs from here." Daniel pointed out.
General Hammond turned to the scientists milling about the Embarkation room. "Get to it," he ordered.
Jack was once again left with a feeling of hopelessness as he waited for the calculations to be completed. Usually, Sam would be overseeing such a project, holing herself up in her lab, barely remembering to eat. More often than not, he would take a break from his reports and snag a sandwich from the Mess for her, dropping it off with warnings that she had better remember and eat. She was always glad to see him (and the sandwich) but her eyes always darted back to her notebooks and computer while she was talking to him, reminding him that she really, truly loved her work and couldn't wait to get back to it. He would pick something up, trying to figure out what it was before she gently took it from him and told him what it did. In all honesty, he didn't really care; he just wanted to hear her getting technical. It was so cute.
"Jack? They've managed to figure out the right combination of glyphs. Ready to go?" Daniel broke in to his reverie.
"Ready," Jack confirmed, heading back to the Embarkation Room.
The first two worlds heralded nothing, the peoples on the other side telling them that the Yilah hadn't visited in over a week. Jack was frustrated, not knowing what to do for the best. If Sam was still on P3X-567, they were wasting time by trying Daniel's idea. Every time they dialled through to a new world, Sam could be getting taken further and further away. By the same token, if she had been taken to another world, they would be wasting time checking P3X-567. It was a Catch-22 situation.
The third world was completely different from the other two. The statues beside the 'gate had fallen down and turned to rubble and there were no signs of civilisation. The path leading from the 'gate looked well travelled, and was the only thing that looked as though it was maintained. Jack, Daniel and Teal'c walked along it cautiously, all keeping their weapons ready to hand. After ten minutes, they reached a rude village, which seemed to consist entirely of mud huts. A face peeked out from a window, hurriedly withdrawn amidst much shrieking and noise. SG-1 paused, and Jack turned to Daniel with a questioning look on his face.
"I have no idea," Daniel said, looking perplexed.
"They appear to be afraid, O'Neill," Teal'c reported, looking around him with interest.
"What do you think's gotten them so spooked?"
"Did you miss the whole "I have no idea" thing?" Daniel asked, raising his eyebrows.
Jack pulled a face, marching towards the nearest hut and knocking on a wall.
"Hello? We're looking for a friend of ours? Anyone home?"
A face appeared at the door, looking at him shyly. It belonged to a young girl dressed in rags. She was clutching a little doll, which she offered to Jack.
"Thanks, honey, but that's not what I'm here for." He said softly, hunkering down on his haunches to smile at the little girl. She drew her doll back to her chest, looking at him again.
"You look the same as the other woman. The hurt one."
Jack drew in a sharp breath, glancing behind him to check that Daniel and Teal'c had heard the little girl. They both nodded their confirmation at him.
"A woman? Looking like me?" He asked quietly, not wanting to startle the little girl.
"The same clothes. Funny clothes," she giggled to herself. From inside the hut, they heard a commotion as a woman appeared at the door, looking apprehensive.
"You are not Yilah?" She asked, eyes wide.
"We're not Yilah," Jack confirmed, "we're just here looking for a friend of ours. Samantha Carter. She's dressed in the same clothes as we are, with dark blonde, short hair. Have you seen her?"
The woman nodded, looking relieved.
"We have seen her, but she is unwell. She has ochiy bah, and will not last long."
"That ocky thing, what does that mean? It's something bad?" Jack asked Daniel.
"Uh, ochiy bah means something like "entered the road". Basically, I think it means she's close to death."
"Where is she?" Jack asked urgently, feeling a knot of tension the size of a tennis ball seize his shoulders.
The woman gestured to Jack to follow; stepping out of her hut and hurrying to another hut indistinguishable from the others around her. Stepping inside, she gestured to SG-1 to follow. They followed her in, Jack wrinkling up his nose as he smelled a foul stench clogging up the air. Inside, a few candles flickered, illuminating a figure collapsed on to a narrow bed. Daniel approached it slowly, feeling bile begin to rise in his throat as he took in the details of the scene.
The figure on the bed was Sam. She was laid face down; her shirt rucked up her back to reveal two ragged wounds. The wounds themselves had been sown up inexpertly and pus was oozing from between the stitches. It was from here the smell was emanating. Daniel clutched his hand to his mouth and fled from the hut, only just making it outside before he lost both his dignity and his lunch in a nearby shrub. Jack knelt down beside the bed and gently grabbed Sam's wrist, registering the fact that her pulse was weak and thready. She stirred, eyelids flickering as she fought to regain consciousness. Jack gently pushed her dirty hair out of her eyes and felt tears stinging at his own. Dashing them away impatiently, he stood up and turned to Teal'c.
"We need to get her out of here as soon as possible. See if our friends here have anything that we can carry her back on."
Teal'c nodded, ducking his head to leave the hut.
Jack stood motionless, regarding Sam's inert figure. She was breathing shallowly, each breath seeming to catch as it came up against the wall of pain at her back. Even to Jack's inexperienced eye, it looked bad. She didn't even look as though she should be alive at all. During his time in the Gulf, Jack had seen soldiers fighting on even when their bodies had given up the fight. Seen them look down with incredulous eyes at mortal wounds, brains unable to process the information that the body couldn't handle the damage. Sometimes, the only thing that kept a body going was will power alone. Sometimes, will power wasn't enough.
Daniel appeared at the entrance, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. He looked at Jack, compassion in his eyes as he saw the hopelessness on his face.
"How bad is she?" He asked softly, walking to the bed, focusing on anything but the woman on it.
"I don't know if she'll survive this. I don't even know what's been done to her. She looks like she's lost a lot of blood, and her pulse is barely there. We need to get her out of here as soon as Teal'c rustles up some transport."
"You sure it's a good idea to move her?"
"What else can we do?" The hopeless look was back on Jack's face as he stared at the motionless back of his second in command; "We can't leave her here. At least back at the base we have some sophisticated equipment. What do they have here, leeches?"
Through the fog of her unconsciousness, Sam Carter knew a moment of terror as she became aware of male voices around her. For a second, her brain insisted that it was her attackers returned for her and that she should try to wake up, try to run, to stop them from doing whatever it was they were going to do. She fought hard to regain the waking world but her struggles didn't even register as so much as a facial tic. As she made sense of what was happening around her, she relaxed as she realised that the voice she was hearing was beloved, and that it was somehow right that he was here. She wasn't aware of who it was, wasn't even really aware of who she was, but it soothed her and allowed her to give in to the overwhelming pain and exhaustion her body was fighting to repel. Surely if he was here, things were good in her world and she could stop fighting, allow him to carry on the fight on her behalf.
Jack jerked his head up from his contemplation as he heard Teal'c return. For a second, he had almost imagined that Sam had relaxed slightly, that some of the tension had left her face and she was breathing slightly more steadily. He glanced at what Teal'c was carrying and smiled; a makeshift stretcher, two stout poles with a sheet strung between them.
"They had many such items, O'Neill. It would appear that this situation is not uncommon on this world." Teal'c proffered the stretcher.
Jack barely heard him as he rolled the stretcher flat on to the floor.
"Teal'c, give me a hand to get her on to this thing."
Both men gently lifted Sam on to the stretcher, grimacing as she gave a soft moan of pain.
"Let's move." Jack said tersely, taking position at the head of the stretcher. Teal'c grasped the end and they both stood up slowly, trying not to jolt it too much.
The ten minute walk back to the 'gate was accomplished in near total silence. All three men seemed to feel every bump in the road, every jolt that shook Sam's body. Each one of them was wondering if it was the best thing to move her, but all three knew that they had no choice. The time taken for one of them to travel back to the SGC, appraise Dr Fraiser of the situation and then travel back could mean the difference between Sam living to see her next birthday and dying on an alien planet.
The look on Dr Frasier's face said it all as she assessed the situation. She barked orders to her nurses as she hooked Sam on to a drip and began to examine the wounds on her back. Jack stood silently beside the hospital bed, chewing his lower lip.
"How bad is she?"
Dr Frasier spared him a glance as she carefully snipped the stitches at Sam's back.
"She's in hypovolemic shock. Whatever has been done to her has resulted in massive blood loss."
"What has been done to her?"
"I have no idea. This wound is infected, so as well as the blood loss her body is trying to fight the infection. I have her on intravenous fluids and antibiotics, but until I know exactly what caused these wounds, that's all I can do."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Colonel, the best thing you can do at the moment is pace the corridors with the rest of SG-1. I would suggest getting some rest, but somehow I don't think you would do that. I'll tell you just as soon as I know anything."
Jack nodded, knowing she was right but hating to leave Sam's bedside. Reaching down and squeezing her hand, he sighed and walked out of the infirmary. He didn't notice airmen scurrying to get out of his way as he strode down the corridor.
"How is she?" Daniel asked.
"She's in some sort of shock. The Doc is trying to stabilise her, but she's flying blind."
Jack had never been good at waiting. What he really wanted to do was go and kick the living shit out of any Yilah he could find. It may not help Sam, but it would sure make him fell a hell of a lot better.
The next half an hour was spent in tense silence. General Hammond appeared once every ten minutes, asking for progress reports and getting increasingly agitated when none were forthcoming. Eventually, Dr Frasier appeared from the infirmary, face grave. Jack's heart, which had done a back flip when the door opened, abruptly plummeted to the pit of his stomach.
"It's not good news, I'm afraid," she said, softly, "her kidneys have been removed."
Whoah. Nothing had prepared him for that.
"Removed? Bottom line it for me, Doctor. What's going to happen to her?" The General had turned white.
"Well, Sir, the kidneys are the organs responsible for filtering the blood, essentially. Up to 75 of the renal tissue can be lost and the body will still adapt. However, Sam has lost both of her kidneys. Her body can't cope with the loss and all her body's waste is being allowed to return to her bloodstream."
"So what will happen to her?"
"Without treatment, her heart will be unable to take the strain. She'll die, Sir."
"Can you treat it?" Jack asked, quietly, staring at his boots. He knew that if he gave in to the temptation to shout and punch something, it would never stop. He would make his way back to that planet and kill every living thing there, and anyone that got in his way on this one. His own rage terrified him.
"I've already started dialysis. However, it's really only a short term solution. What she really needs is a kidney transplant."
"Doc, you said a body can survive with only 25 of their kidney tissue. Does that mean a person can survive with only one kidney?" Jack brought his gaze up from his boots, staring at the Doctor intently.
"Yes, but the kidney would need to be an exact tissue match. The best donor would be immediate family."
"Jacob?" Jack asked, turning to General Hammond. He nodded and ordered an airman to send a message to the Tok'ra. He turned back to Jack.
"Now that her condition is stable, I suggest we hold a debriefing. We'll meet in half an hour."
Jack nodded curtly, turning back to Dr Frasier, "Can I see her?"
"Yes, but she's still unconscious."
If possible, Sam looked even worse than she had before. She was still face down, the wounds on her back neatly sewn up with a surgical shunt protruding from the bandages. Her hair was plastered to her forehead with sweat and her skin was clammy to the touch.
"What are the chances of someone unrelated making a good donor?" He asked, not looking up from his contemplation of Sam's unconscious face.
"Not as good, but the kidney could still be viable." Janet replied, compassion on her face.
"Could you test me?"
"I could. But, Jack, if your kidney was a match, and you donated, it could have serious repercussions. The recovery time alone..."
"Well, I could do with the down time." He joked weakly, eyes still glued to the figure on the bed in front of him.
"You need to think about this, Jack. It can't just be a spur of the moment thing." Daniel and Teal'c had joined them, Daniel's face worried as he spoke.
"If the choice comes down to Sam's life and my career, there's no competition. Would you hesitate, if it was Sha're?" He turned to Daniel, willing him to understand. Daniel looked as though he would like to say more, but Teal'c laid his hand on his shoulder and bowed his head deeply to Jack.
"I understand, O'Neill."
Jack nodded back to Teal'c, relieved to have his support. He turned back to Dr Frasier.
"What do you need from me?"
"I'll have to get a sample of your tissue. It should only take fifteen minutes."
"You can do it now?"
A nod from the doctor.
"Good, I only have half an hour before the debrief."
"First of all, I have to tell you that Jacob is on his way here. He was on assignment when my message reached him and it'll be a couple of days before he can get here. He's been fully appraised of the situation.
'Secondly, We have broken off diplomatic relations with the Yilah and recalled the search team. The Yilah couldn't give us a satisfactory explanation as to what happened to Major Carter and why." General Hammond shuffled the papers in front of him and cleared his throat.
"And we're going to leave it at that?" Jack asked incredulously.
"Son, we have been ordered by the President himself to let this one go. He said he sympathises with what we're going through, but engaging in a full scale war with the Yilah could be severely detrimental to this country."
"With respect, General, I don't think we can let this one go. Not only did the Yilah do this to one of our own, which is reason enough for kicking their butts, it looks as though they're using other worlds as all you can eat buffets."
"I don't think they eat the organs, Jack.." Daniel interjected, frowning.
"Daniel? Does it matter what they're doing with the organs?"
"Well, no, not really. The ancient Mayans used to ritually blood-let after the birth of an heir to the throne. Yesterday, Chik'in told me that the Mak'ina's wife had just given birth to his first son - she also said that he was preparing for the u chok ch'ah and that the ch'am had begun. I didn't take much notice at the time, I was too caught up in translating the hieroglyphs. I translated the phrases an hour ago."
"And?" General Hammond demanded. Daniel could be annoyingly long winded at times.
"Well, roughly translated, what she was saying was that he was going to "scatter sacred drops" and that they had already began to let blood. I'm sure you all grasp the relevance of that." He peered at the three bemused faces in front of him. Well, two bemused faces. Teal'c looked exactly the same as he always did.
"I believe what Daniel Jackson is saying is that the Yilah have adhered to some of the beliefs of the ancient Mayans, and that what was done to Major Carter was a form of ritual." Teal'c cocked his head to one side and looked questioningly at Daniel.
"Well, yes, that's what I'm saying. The Mayan people, however, used to use their own blood in their rituals. The Yilah seem to have progressed to using the organs of other people in theirs. The birth of an heir to the throne is an important event, and one which calls for a lot of blood to be shed."
"You're telling me that Sam had the kidneys ripped out of her because some old king had a son? What's wrong with buying a silver rattle from Tiffany's?" Jack looked perplexed, and more than a little angry. In fact, he looked furious.
Daniel shrugged, "they obviously go in for the grander gesture."
"Reasons aside, we can't let this go on. General, I recommend returning through the 'gate to the planet we found Sam on and telling them to bury their Stargate. I would then like to lead a team through to the Yilah home world and play football with their heads."
"Affirmative to your first suggestion, but you know I can't agree to the second."
"Sir, we've disobeyed orders before. This is Sam, General Hammond. How can we just act like it never happened?"
"The matter is out of our hands, Jack. I can guarantee you that any attempt to gain retribution will result in the closure of this facility. The current administration will not risk a full scale war with a technologically superior race." He raised a warning eyebrow as Jack opened his mouth to speak, "The matter is closed, Colonel O'Neill. Dismissed."
Jack bit back the angry retort and left the table. He was grabbed by Daniel as he made his way out of the room.
"Jack? You got a minute?"
"Sure, Daniel. Shoot."
"I wanted to apologise."
"Apologise? What for? I mean, inflicting the mullet haircut on us for two years was kinda cruel, but you don't need to apologise for it."
Daniel automatically lifted a hand to his hair before shaking his head impatiently. "Not for my haircut, Jack. For getting Sam in to this mess."
"Last time I checked, it was the Yilah that cut her kidneys out."
"But if I hadn't insisted she go check it out... I mean, I thought something was going on, yet I let her go confront Xaman on her own. This is all my fault." Daniel looked guilt ridden, desperate for Jack to say something.
"Daniel, this isn't your fault. None of us had any idea what the Yilah were up to, none of us could have foreseen this. We have Sam back and she's going to be fine."
The tannoy above them blared in to life, "General Hammond and SG-1 to the infirmary. General Hammond and Sg-1 to the infirmary."
Daniel and Jack exchanged terrified glances before they both sprinted towards the infirmary. General Hammond had just beat them to it, and was out of breath. Doctor Frasier hustled them both towards her office.
"Sam isn't doing well on the dialysis. Basically, she has another couple of hours. Whatever they did to her on the planet has really made a mess of her system and it's all I can do to maintain the status quo."
Jack turned to Hammond, "How long did you say it would be before Jacob can get here?"
Hammond shook his head, "Too long. It'll be another day at least. Can you keep her stable for that long?" The last question was directed to the doctor.
"No. We need to get her a replacement kidney as soon as possible or risk irreversible organ damage, even death."
General Hammond bowed his head, unable to think of any other way to help Sam.
"Did you get a chance to run those tests?" Jack asked, quietly.
"The results won't be back in for half an hour. Jack, the chances of you being a match are slim."
"What other option do we have? You just told me that if she doesn't receive a donor kidney within the next couple of hours she might die. As soon as you get those results, come get me. I'll be by Sam's bed, and before you say anything, there is no power on this Earth that will move me from there." He raised an eyebrow at both Dr Frasier and General Hammond, daring them to object. Neither one did. Nodding, he walked slowly back to Sam's bedside, praying that they really were the perfect match he had always imagined them to be.
At first glance, Sam seemed to be sleeping. She had been turned on to her side, a large bolster keeping her from rolling on to her back. Her face was smooth and unlined, there was no hint of the pain that had marred her features when they had first found her. Someone had cleaned her face and brushed her hair, she looked as though she could wake up at any minute and demand to know why she was lying in a hospital bed. She looked ready to give Dr Frasier a hard time for keeping her away from her tests and experiments. Only the steady beeping of the heart monitor and the bag of blood and fluids hooked up to her drip told otherwise.
"Hey, Carter," he whispered, taking a seat next to her bed, "how you doing? I have to tell you, this isn't your best look. I mean, you might have done something with your hair." He reached out and gently tweaked a stray strand back in to place. Settling back in to his chair, he laid his hand on top of hers and found himself praying to any god that might be listening, praying that Sam would pull through this and they could go back to the way they had been. Strange, he had often found himself wishing that things could be different, that they could be free to be together. That they had met each other under different circumstances, like the alternate reality versions of themselves. He'd often thought about that, thought about how in so many different realities they had ended up together. Surely that should tell them something? Now, though, he would give anything just to be able to carry on denying their love for each other. He would rather have half a relationship than have no Sam at all. Closing his eyes, he succumbed to the exhaustion that had been trying to claim him all night.
Whilst Jack gave in, Sam was fighting to wake up. For the longest time, all she had been aware of was pain. Her whole body screamed at her that something was wrong, but her brain was unable to do anything about it. She had slowly became aware of voices, her mind struggling to comprehend what they meant through the fog of pain and terror. The meds that Janet had given her frustrated her attempts to fight her way back to consciousness, but they weren't enough to give her the blessed oblivion that her mind screamed out for. Terror gripped her, as real as the agony that ripped through her body. She was aware of Jack by her side, was aware of the nurses milling around her, but her body would not obey her commands. She settled back in to her limbo, trying her best to dampen down her fear and rationalise what was happening to her. The confusion caused by pain and medication did not help her attempts and she was left frustrated. The only lifeline she had was the sound of Jack's softly voiced comments, and she clung to those like a lighthouse, a means to find her way back through the sea of her anguish.
Jack was awoken by Dr Frasier shaking his arm. He rubbed his eyes, staring at her, confused.
"Jack? Jack, you have to wake up. The results are finished."
The words filtered through Jack's sleep fogged brain, instantly jerking him awake. He rubbed his eyes, sitting upright in the chair. Janet motioned to him to follow her, and he did, marching to her office.
"You have a one haplotype match and a crossmatch. The transplant is viable." Janet turned towards him as she delivered her news.
"When do we start?"
"Colonel, I don't know if you fully grasp the risks involved in this procedure... "
"Doc, I know. Look, I'm Sam's only hope. If it were you, would you hesitate to do the same?"
Dr Frasier shook her head, smiling sadly. Jack tried for a smile, knowing it came out more like a grimace.
"Jacob'll be here in a day. He can help us both with the recovery. You just do your thing."
"General Hammond has already organised to have the pre-eminent transplant surgeon here within ten minutes. You'll need to get changed into a hospital gown."
"Oh, great. I've been told they really bring out the colour of my eyes."
"I'm so glad you've maintained your sense of humour." Dr Frasier smiled, walking away. Jack watched her go.
"What else do I have?" He asked softly, starting to follow.
Inside Sam's mind, a scream tried to find its way out.
Twenty minutes later, General Hammond, Daniel and Teal'c watched as the procedure was begun. Jack was wheeled in first and the doctor began the slow and laborious process of removing a healthy kidney. The operation took an hour to complete, then Sam was brought in. Her operation took five times as long, involving as it did the complete transplantation of an organ in to her body. She was pumped full of immune suppressing drugs, all the better to help her body accept the tissue. By the end of the gruelling ten hour operation, Jack had came round and was enquiring after her.
"The transplant went well," Dr Frasier reported, eyes happy but tired, "but she's not out of the woods yet. We had to reduce the amount of immunosuppressents we gave her to allow her body to combat the infection she contracted when her kidneys were removed, which means she has a higher likelihood of rejection. We're hoping Jacob will be able to accelerate the healing process for you both."
"I think that would be a good idea," Jack winced as the full force of the pain hit him. Even with pain medication, it was indescribable. He hated to think what it had been like for Sam to have essentially the same procedure carried out on her without the meds.
"You should get some rest, Colonel. You've just been through a major operation."
"Doc, is there any chance you could put Sam in here with me?" He made the request quickly, closing his eyes as soon as he'd finished. He heard her inrush of breath, before it was let go in a sigh.
"I don't see any reason why not. It would certainly make things easier for Jacob."
Jack said nothing, but was unable to keep a smile from spreading across his face.
"Now, are you going to get some sleep or do I need to sedate you?" Janet said it with a smile on her face, but Jack was under no illusions that it was not a joke. He obediently closed his eyes again and tuned his mind to nothing. Amazingly, it worked, and within five minutes he had fallen asleep, his dreams fractured with images of Sam.
He came awake slowly, mind groggy with pain and sleep. His mind began to make sense of what was happening around him, and above the beeping of equipment he was able to make out the voice of Jacob Carter. Turning his head to the side, he saw Jacob sat at Sam's bedside, tears pouring down his face as he held her hand. Jack cleared his throat painfully, Jacob twisted in his seat and smiled as he realised Jack had awoken.
"I've been told you gave Sam a kidney. What's wrong with flowers, or have I been away from Earth too long?"
"Hey, this way I didn't have to fork out any money."
Jacob's face turned serious, "Jack, what you did... it was above and beyond the call of duty. No one would have expected you to do it."
"If she had died... there would have been no reason for me to go on." This was said quietly, eyes closed.
"You love her, don't you?"
"More than I ever thought was possible."
"You've never told her?"
"Not in so many words," Jack replied, growing uncomfortable with the way the conversation was headed.
"And now? You'll tell her?"
"Jacob, she just came through a major operation, I think the last thing she needs is an admission of love from her CO."
Jacob bowed his head, raising it again with the flash of his eyes which heralded Selmac's arrival.
"I think that Jacob is trying to tell you to, as he would put it, pull your finger out your ass. I have lived for many human lifetimes, Colonel O'Neill, and the thing that I remember most from each of my hosts is regret. Regret that they did not live their lives as well as they might have done, regret that they didn't tell the people in their lives the way they felt about them when they had the chance. Sam has been brought back literally from the brink of death. Don't waste this second chance." He bowed his head again, his features taking on Jacob's facial expressions.
"Well, Selmac may be long winded, but he's right. Sam would want to know, Jack."
"I'll keep that in mind. Now, you happen to have one of those Goa'uld medical doohickies on you?" He asked, adroitly changing the subject. A raised eyebrow from Jacob told him that the subject change had been noted, but he let it go.
"I have a hand device with me. You ready to start?"
"No, but I guess we should."
Jacob smiled, reaching in to the pouch at his hip and withdrawing the device. Telling Jack to lie still, he ran it over his body, concentrating on the area where his kidney had been removed. Almost immediately, Jack felt the warming sensation spreading through his body, the pain beginning to lessen. It really was amazing what the Tok'ra could do.
"Feeling better?" Jacob queried, stepping back and replacing the device.
"Much. Now go help your daughter. I think she could use it."
Jacob took his position beside Sam's bed, again raising the device and releasing the energy. Sam shifted uncomfortably, but the look of tension on her face began to slowly disappear. Jacob reached forward and felt her forehead, smiling as he realised she was no longer feverish.
"Well, she's asleep now as opposed to unconscious. She should wake up normally."
"You going to hang around?" Jack levered himself up on to his elbow, looking at Jacob enquiringly.
"Well, the Tok'ra High Council told me I could take a few days, so I don't see why not. At least until she wakes up, anyway."
As if on cue, Sam shifted in her bed and her eyelids fluttered open. She looked around, disoriented, trying to moisten her lips with her tongue. Her gaze settled on her father and she looked puzzled.
"Dad?" She croaked, words barely recognisable. Jacob filled a glass of water from the jug beside her bed and carefully trickled some between her lips.
"Take it easy, Sam, you've just had some major surgery." He carefully settled the glass back on to her bedside cabinet and took her hand.
"Surgery? Wha... surgery? What happened?" She struggled to sit up, but her arms were unable to support her weight and she gave up.
"We were hoping you could tell us that, Major." Jack piped up, giving her a small wave from his bed.
"Ja.. Sir? You've had surgery too?" Sam's brow creased as she tried to make sense of this fact. She had some vague memories of lying in a hospital bed and hearing voices around her, but she dismissed them as delusions of a feverish mind.
"I'll just go tell Dr Frasier and the General that you're awake. I'm sure they've got some questions for you." Jacob stood up, glancing at Jack, "And I hope that you'll give some thought to what we talked about." He ruffled Sam's hair affectionately before walking out.
"What happened to you, Sir?" Sam turned her head to look at him.
"Oh, you know. Kidney shortages, stuff like that."
"Kidney shortages?" Sam closed her eyes, too drained to take anything in.
Dr Frasier bustled in through the door, clutching a clipboard. She smiled at Sam, looking both relieved and happy.
"How are you feeling?" She efficiently slipped a blood pressure cuff around Sam's arm, pumping it up and glancing at her watch.
"Groggy, actually. I don't remember much of what happened..."
"That'll come. It could just be an after effect of the Tok'ra device, your mind isn't quite ready to be awake yet. Give it a couple of days, then we'll start to worry! She removed the cuff, putting on her stethoscope and listening intently to Sam's heart, "Well, everything seems to be fine. Your blood pressure is slightly low, but the blood loss you experienced accounts for that. Take it easy, Major, and that's an order. Complete bed rest for the next few days." She turned her attention to Jack, going through the same necessary checks, and pronouncing him fit and well.
"Do I have to do the whole bed rest thing, too?" Jack griped.
"Colonel, you will stay in that bed for the next few days even if I have to strap you in there myself. Now, there are three very anxious people out there waiting to see you, just as soon as I've told them you're ready. Can I send them in?"
Jack glanced at Sam and she nodded, so he nodded in turn to the Doctor. On cue, Teal'c, Daniel and General Hammond's faces appeared at the window, Daniel's partly obscured behind an enormous bunch of flowers.
"How are you feeling?" Daniel asked, walking in and brandishing the flowers.
"Aw, Daniel, you shouldn't have." Jack tried his best to look demure and gratified at the same time.
"Then it's just as well that I didn't, isn't it?" Daniel took a vase from Sam's bedside cabinet and rammed the flowers in, "How you holding up, Sam?"
"Tired, actually. Thanks for the flowers."
"Well, we all chipped in. I'm afraid they didn't have a great choice, it was lilies or a socket wrench."
"It is good to see you awake, Major Carter. We were most concerned." Teal'c bowed deeply and gave a half smile.
"It's good to be awake, I think. How long was I out for? What actually happened to me?" Sam was fighting hard against the urge to close her eyes and drift back to sleep.
"We found you a day ago on a planet visited by the Yilah. Your kidneys had been removed and you were unconscious, you've since had both dialysis and a kidney transplant." General Hammond's face was grave as he delivered the news.
"Remo...?" Sam screwed her eyes shut as fractured memories began to pierce her consciousness.
"I think that's quite enough excitement for today." Dr Frasier looked sternly at the visitors and they all meekly trooped from the room, "Sam, is something coming back to you?"
"I... remember pain. Lots of pain. Oh, God, Janet, it hurt so much. I screamed and screamed, but no one heard me, no one came... " Sam turned her face in to her pillow as her eyes filled with tears.
Jack watched helplessly as Dr Frasier talked soothingly to Sam as she wept. He experimentally swung his legs out of the bed and tried to lever himself to his feet, alarmed at how shaky they were after so short a period of time. Clutching his hospital gown behind him to protect his modesty, he slowly made his way to Sam's bed and perched on the end of it, ignoring Dr Frasier's annoyed exclamation to get back to bed.
"I'm sorry it took us so long to find you, Sam. They'd taken you off world and it took us an hour to get the address right from this end. If only I'd been the one to listen to Daniel, if I'd gone... "
"It wasn't your fault, Sir." Sam sniffed as she tried to get her emotions under control.
"Do you remember exactly what happened, now?" Jack made to hold her hand but thought better of it and settled for drumming his fingers on the cover.
"I remember going to talk to Xaman about what Daniel had seen, and thinking he was acting a little off, as though there really was something to hide. I left the building and radioed you to tell you I was heading back and would meet you at the 'gate. The next thing I knew, I felt something hit me in the back of the neck and I passed out. When I came to, I could feel this searing agony in my back. I could hear voices, and I think one of them was Xaman. They were saying that they would have to hide me, that they would have to make you all think I had left of my own accord. All the time this was going on, I could feel them sawing away at my back, I could feel them pulling something out of me. I couldn't move, I couldn't do anything. I think they'd tried to anaesthetise me, but obviously whatever changes their bodies have went through since they left Earth has changed their physiology to the point that their anaesthetics don't work on us anymore." Sam took a deep breath, reaching for her glass of water, voice hoarse.
Jack nodded encouragingly at her, torn between wanting to know exactly what had happened and shoving his fingers in his ears to shut out the story.
"I think the pain made me pass out again, because the next thing I remember is being carried through the 'gate. That's when I started screaming. They must have given me another shot, because the next I knew I couldn't move again. The next thing I remember is waking up in this bed." Sam paused as she again remembered the odd feeling of lying in the SGC with Jack sitting beside her. She shook her head impatiently to clear the images.
"Well, Daniel seems to think that the Yilah took your kidneys for some sort of ritual linked to the birth of some kid. It looks as though they were using that second planet as a harvesting ground for organs."
Sam looked as though something had just occurred to her, "Sir, did you say that the reason you were here was a kidney shortage?"
Jack looked at his feet and pulled a face, "Yeah, that's what I said."
"This kidney shortage - it wouldn't have had anything to do with my predicament, would it?" Sam was staring at him intently, all attention focused on his face.
"It might have done."
"Sir, did you donate your kidney to me?"
"In a manner of speaking..." Jack began.
"In a manner of speaking? Sir, you either did or you didn't."
"Then I guess I did." He looked up at her face.
"Oh. Uh, thanks, I guess." Sam knew that the words were inadequate, but she was having a hard time processing the information she had just heard.
"I would say 'any time', but I think I only have one left, so it's a one off deal. You should get some rest."
Sam nodded, settling back in to her pillows with a sigh. Jack carefully levered himself off her bed and accepted Janet's proffered arm to help him back to his. As soon as he had settled back down, he lifted the edge of his gown and looked at the neat row of stitches in his side, the only evidence of what had been done.
"Think I'll be left with a scar?" He asked Janet, fingering the stitches thoughtfully.
"If you insist on playing with the stitches you could open up the wound. And yes, you probably will be left with a scar. It won't be big, but.. " she tailed off.
"At least Sam didn't have to bandage me up this time. Now, that would have killed me."
Janet smiled, the whole base had been regaled with the story of how Sam had tried to reset Jack's broken leg with minimal success.
"Well, if you don't start behaving I may just have to let Sam loose on you. Do I have your promise that you're going to rest up now?"
Jack threw a mock salute at her, wincing slightly as the motion pulled at his stitches. Janet rolled her eyes and walked from the infirmary, muttering something about stubborn air force officers who didn't know when to quit. Jack found that he had no problem following her orders as his eyes began to close of their own volition.
Another week of enforced bed rest saw both Jack and Sam back to near enough total fitness. Sam suffered from flashbacks, pain and terror rising again and again to imprison her. She didn't tell anyone about them, tucking them back in to the corner of her mind, almost succeeding in convincing herself that they hadn't happened. After Jolinar and the alien entity had captured her mind and her body, she had managed to cope with the aftermath, but they paled in to insignificance when compared with the debilitating effects of the butchery of her body. Both she and Jack had to attend daily medical check ups, and physically things were almost back to normal. Any time Sam tried to bring up what Jack had done for her, however, the Colonel found a dozen excuses to be elsewhere. Sam was beginning to find it more than a little frustrating and was beginning to consider shooting him in the leg to get him to stay in one place. She told Daniel as much as they sat eating in the Mess.
"Shooting him in the leg? You don't think that's a little... extreme?"
"You might be right. What about settling for whacking him with Teal'c's staff weapon?"
"It's really that bad?"
"Every time I try to speak to him about what he did, he avoids the issue. I mean, the man gave up a kidney for me, that's not some spur of the moment decision with no repercussions!"
"I don't think it was a complicated issue for Jack."
"Complicated or not, I would like to talk to him. To thank him properly, at least. He won't even let me do that much."
"Do you want me to try to talk to him for you?"
"Somehow, I don't think he would be any more susceptible to a talk from you. The next time we both have to report to Janet's office, I may just seize my chance and lock him in there with me."
"That may work better than shooting him. When are you next due for a check up?"
"Today at noon." Sam glanced at her watch and noted that she still had half an hour to kill.
"So if the doors mysteriously manage to lock on their own, due to no fault of your own..."
"You'll know to keep everyone out of the Infirmary until I can fix the locks. No sense in anyone else getting caught up in a potentially dangerous situation." Sam looked innocent, prodding her pasta with a fork.
"Gotcha." Daniel's face took on as innocent an expression as Sam's as he took a drink of his coffee.
"Y'know, I think I might give up on this pasta and try to get some work done before I'm subjected to another round of blood tests and various proddings. You mind?"
Daniel shook his head in response, waving in the direction of the door with his coffee cup and making "go, go" noises. Needing no more confirmation, Sam left him and wandered back to her lab. She did have things to work on, but what she really wanted to do was figure out exactly what she would say to Colonel Jack O'Neill when she managed to get two minutes alone with him.
The half an hour passed all too quickly as Sam tried out line after line in her head, none of them quite seeming to encapsulate exactly what she wanted to say. Knowing how embarrassed her CO got when anything remotely private was brought up, she didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable by a gushing display of emotion. Squaring up her shoulders, she marched in to Janet's office, noting that the woman herself was absent. Jack, however, was seated in his customary place on the edge of the examination bed.
"Carter," he greeted her, eyes sliding towards the door, looking for an escape route.
"Sir," she returned, walking over to Janet's desk and extracting the key she knew was kept there. Aware of Jack's eyes tracking her as she marched to the door, she slid the key in with one fluid motion and locked it.
"Carter? What ya doin'?" Jack sounded slightly nervous.
"Sir, since I had my operation we've only talked when there are other people around. Whenever I try to get you alone, you run away, so I'm taking matters in to my own hands. We're not leaving this room until I say what I need to say to you." She raised an eyebrow challengingly, daring him to object. He stared at her, mouth slightly ajar.
"Sir, I've thought of a million different ways to say how grateful I am for what you did for me. I mean, you gave up a part of yourself for me. If you hadn't I would have died..."
"Carter, you don't need to say this..."
"Yes, I do. What you did for me was something I would have no right to expect. I'll never forget what you did for me, Sir."
"It was nothing, really." Jack looked uncomfortable.
"How can you say that?"
"If I had to do the same thing again, I would. In a heartbeat." Jack brought his head up to stare straight in to her eyes, and the emotions that she read there made her catch her breath.
"Who would have guessed we'd be a perfect match?" she joked, trying to inject some normalcy back in to the situation. Jack merely gave half a smile, saying nothing. Realising what she had just said, Sam blushed and winced. Behind her, Janet's face appeared at the window and she rattled the doorknob, looking enquiringly at Sam. Sam quickly unlocked the door.
"Sam? Is there a problem?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope, no problem. Everything's just fine."
"Well, good." Janet didn't look entirely convinced, but wisely decided to keep her thoughts to herself. "You'll both be glad to hear that your latest blood tests have all come back normal. You're both fighting fit, thanks in no small part to the Tok'ra hand device. Normally, I would expect you both to spend some months recovering from such serious operations, but at this rate I would expect you both to be back to perfect physical health in four weeks."
"Great!" Jack jumped down from the bed and made to walk out the door.
"Not so fast, Colonel. You notice I said perfect physical health. Emotionally, you could both have some issues you need to work through, and as such I've advised General Hammond to put you both on leave with orders to be evaluated by a psychologist."
"For cryin' out loud, Doc, you really think that's necessary?" Jack huffed.
"Colonel, it's normal medical practice after organ donation or transplant. The act of giving up a part of oneself, or receiving a part of another person, can have far reaching psychological repercussions. We should really have given you a psych evaluation before you donated, but there wasn't enough time." Janet looked slightly shamefaced.
"Did General Hammond agree to this?" Sam asked, quietly. A part of her was relieved, wanting to get the mess in her head sorted out, but the soldier half of her insisted that psychological weakness was the most shameful thing of all.
"He did. You both have appointments with a military psychologist the day after tomorrow. Until then, I suggest you both get home and grab some rest. I don't want to see either of you at the base until Friday." Janet shot them both a "don't dare argue" look and settled back in to her chair. Sam and Jack exchanged looks before saying their goodbyes and leaving her office.
"Are you going to head to your cabin?" Sam asked.
"Not really worth it for two days. I might afterwards, providing the evaluation goes okay. You?"
"I don't really have anything to do, considering we've been effectively forbidden from returning to the SGC for a couple of days."
"You should have taken up knitting like I told you."
Sam rolled her eyes, "If that's your best suggestion, I think I'll pass. I guess I could catch a movie. You could come with, if you're stuck for something to do." She avoided his gaze, taking an intense interest in the walls.
"No sci-fi, though, right?"
"No sci-fi," Sam agreed, nodding. "I think they might be showing an old Monty Python film in town." She didn't tell him that she knew the exact times of all the movies across town, that she had been unable to sleep since the incident and that she had probably seen most films at least twice.
"Sounds good. You want me to pick you up?"
"Uh, sure. Around seven?"
"It's a date. Well, not an actual date, obviously. Because that would be wrong."
"I'll see you at seven, Sir." Sam butted in, shaking her head and grinning to herself as she walked away from him. Rounding the corner, her mirth turned to panic as she realised she was going to the movies with Colonel Jack O'Neill. Alone. No Teal'c, no Daniel... what had possessed her? Making her way to the locker room to get changed back in to her civilian clothes, she chewed on her bottom lip and thought frantically about what she was going to wear. What did one wear to go to the movies with a man who had just given you one of his kidneys? Sam wasn't sure she owned an outfit that said "thanks for the organ. Much appreciated" whilst also hinting at a cleavage. Banishing the thought of a cleavage enhancing dress from her mind, she resolutely opened her locker door and withdrew a pair of faded Levi's and a white shirt. Drawing them on quickly, she just as quickly exited the locker room, exited the SGC and entered her car.
At six thirty, she was no closer to choosing an outfit. A life in the military hadn't given her much practice at putting together just the right ensemble. Arrayed on her bed were all the clothes she owned, which looked nothing short of pitiful. She slipped on a pair of loose fitting black trousers, choosing a sleeveless plum coloured top to go with it. Looking at herself critically in the mirror, she sighed at what she saw. She looked... okay. Distinctly average. There were days when she knew she looked great, days when she felt that she could have every man on the planet sitting up and begging for attention, but today just was not one of those days. Conceding defeat, she decided to stick with the outfit and move on to make up. Not normally one for wearing much, she nevertheless took pains to ensure it was flawless. A light slick of lip gloss, a touch of mascara and some subtle eye shadow and she was ready for anything.
The buzz of the doorbell at precisely 6.56pm proved otherwise. She was most definitely not ready for Jack O'Neill wearing scruffy jeans and bearing flowers.
"Are those for me?" She asked, stupidly.
"No, they're for the girl at the concession office. I think she's cute." He waved them vaguely under her nose, and she took them from his hand, "of course they're for you, Carter. I realised that I hadn't gotten you anything when you were ill, and the others all chipped in for flowers, so..."
"Not that I'm ungrateful, but it really wasn't necessary. You gave me a kidney." A quick flash of remembered pain hit Sam, she forced it back down mercilessly.
"Yeah, but you wouldn't believe how hard those things are to giftwrap."
Sam smiled, sniffing appreciatively at the flowers and moving through to the kitchen to root for a vase. Finding one, she filled it with water and put the flowers in, sniffing them again before putting them on her kitchen table.
"You know, this apartment is so tidy. How do you manage to keep it like this?" Jack asked, strolling round the room and peering at the contents of her shelves.
"By virtue of never actually being here."
"Saves on the housekeeping bills." He looked closely at the family photos.
"You ready to go?" Sam asked, grabbing a denim jacket and shrugging in to it.
"Sure." he replied, following her out of the door.
It only took ten minutes to make it to the movies, the traffic being fairly light on a Wednesday night. Jack very politely held open the door of the car for her, then the door of the movies. Sam, normally one to scoff at male chivalry, felt oddly touched by the show of his concern. She did, however, insist on paying for her own ticket and popcorn.
The film itself, "The Life of Brian" was just as funny as she had remembered it. It had her in fits the whole way through, and she had slumped helplessly against Jack's shoulder more than once. She was still wiping tears from her eyes as they walked back to the car and Jack was looking at her in bemusement.
"I don't think I've ever seen you laugh so hard."
"Well, Monty Python has that effect on me. I think it's the songs that get me most of all. I actually have a CD with the most popular ones on it."
"You do?" Jack looked even more bemused.
"Yep." Sam confirmed, settling in to her seat and smiling at him.
"Carter, you never cease to amaze me." Jack buckled himself up and started the engine, pulling away from the kerb.
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"I mean it! You constantly surprise me. I think I finally have you figured out and then I find out you have a Monty Python CD."
"I like to keep you on your toes." Sam said glibly, smirking at him.
"So, what are your plans for tomorrow?" Jack asked, abruptly changing the subject.
"I hadn't really thought about it. I do need to catch up on some serious Emailing, though. My friends are starting to think I've fallen off the face of the Earth."
"Well, they would be half right."
"It's tough, not being able to tell anyone what I really do. I mean, I'm so excited about my work, but I have to spin the "deep space radar telemetry" spiel to everyone who asks. Then they think I'm mad for sounding so enthusiastic about my job."
"So what do you talk about?"
"Not a whole lot," Sam said, face colouring slightly. Jack noted her embarrassment with interest.
"C'mon, you must talk about something."
"We talk about their lives and that's it. Really." Sam looked uncomfortable.
"Oh, look, we're back. That didn't seem to take long, did it? I'll just jump out here. No need to move, really." Sam was aware she was babbling and leapt from the car before she could make an even bigger idiot of herself. She waved vaguely at Jack and only half heard his goodbye as she fled to the house. What had made her bring up the whole friend Emailing thing? She could hardly tell Jack that what she tended to talk about with her old school friends was him. She had regaled them with stories of how great he was and how much she wanted to strip him naked and do ungodly things to him. It was one of the few things about her real life she could actually tell them without breaching national security. She sighed as she stripped off her clothes and removed her make up. It really was hopeless thinking about things that could never be. Clambering in to bed, she folded herself up in to her blankets and drifted slowly off to sleep. Her dreams were nightmarish, slivers of memory sliding in to disturb her sleep and causing her to wake sweating more than once through the night. She curled up in to a foetal ball and hugged her arms around her body, trying desperately to cover over the bad memories with memories of the good time she had had that night with Jack.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, the promise of a great summer in the air. All things considered, it was a wonderful day to be on Earth. Sam found it was easier to forget what had happened in the daylight, when things were brighter and sharper. She sat in her small garden, reading the newspaper and sipping a cold soda. As much as she constantly felt the need to be busy, it was sometimes nice to have time to do nothing. She felt guilty at actually sitting about idly, but it wasn't really as though she had much say in the matter. As was par for the course, her thoughts slowly drifted to Jack. Without thinking, her hand drifted to her back as she traced the small scars there with a finger. Her eyes darkened with remembered pain before lightening to their normal cornflower blue as the image of her CO leapt unbidden in to her mind. He drove her crazy a lot of the time, but she honestly couldn't imagine her life without him in it. The look in his eyes after she had spoken to him about what he had done for her...
The shrill ringing of her telephone sliced through her daydream. Leaping from her seat, she reached the phone just in time to hear her machine click on. She listened impatiently to her own voice asking the caller to leave a message, knowing it was futile to attempt to pick up. Her machine had developed a glitch which meant that once the answering machine was turned on it was impossible to turn it off.
"Carter? It's Jack O'Neill. I guess you must be busy catching up on those Emails, huh? Well, I was just calling to see how you were getting on with your Dr Frasier-enforced exile. No need to call me back, I guess I'll see you tomorrow. Bye."
The machine clicked off again as Jack hung up. Sam cursed under her breath. Her hand hovered over the phone as she dithered over whether to call him back. Would it look to keen, especially after he had just told her not to call him back? She snatched up the receiver and dialled the first three digits of his home number before slamming the handset back on to the base. Taking a step back, she shook her head at her own childishness and walked back to the garden, resolutely putting all thoughts of Colonel Jack O'Neill to the back of her mind.
The day went past in a happy haze of book reading and soda drinking, and before Sam knew it she was waking up on Friday morning to the shrill buzzing of her alarm clock. Normally bright and breezy in the morning, Sam thumped the alarm clock and groaned as she swung her legs out of bed. She was in no mood to be analysed.
Her humour had not improved as she walked in to the SGC. She stalked through the corridors to Dr Frasier's office, wondering if Jack had arrived or if he was running late. Bearing in mind what they were about to go through, she wouldn't blame him if he chose to be tardy.
When she walked through Dr Frasier's door after a brief knock, however, it was to find Jack already seated in front of Janet's desk. He looked as ill at ease as she felt, obviously not relishing the thought of what lay ahead.
"Carter." He greeted her, gaze running quickly over her form.
"Sir," she returned, taking a seat next to him. She glanced at the tall, elegant woman standing beside Dr Frasier and looked questioningly at the latter.
"Sam, this is Leanne Davis. She's a military approved clinical psychologist."
"Hello," Sam offered, taking in the immaculate way she was dressed and the elegant chignon her hair was bound back in.
"Pleased to meet you, Major Carter. I will be seeing yourself and Colonel O'Neill today, albeit separately. We have a lot to get through, shall we begin? I will be seeing Colonel O'Neill first, I will return for you when I am ready." she didn't wait for confirmation, instead walking from the room. Jack raised an eyebrow at Sam and walked quickly after her.
Sam spent a boring two hours in Janet's office. Teal'c and Daniel dropped in to see her, but they were both involved in projects on base and couldn't spare her much time. She felt isolated from her own team, and hated the feeling. Janet would not allow her to do any work at all until she had been declared psychologically fit, and as such she was left with nothing to do. Glancing idly through a magazine on Janet's desk, she became absorbed in an article entitled "Have You Found Your Ideal Match?"
This was how Jack found her as he returned to Janet's office. Glancing over her shoulder, he smirked as he read the title of the article out loud.
"Well, Carter, we both already know I'm your perfect match."
"Sir?" Sam questioned incredulously.
"Y'know, in an internal organ sense. You ever need a lung, I'm your guy."
"How did your review go?" Sam asked, pointedly changing the subject.
"I'm perfectly sane, you'll be surprised to hear. Leanne told me to send you along."
"Leanne?" Sam questioned, surprised at the informality.
"She insisted, and you know me, I can never refuse a lady."
Sam snorted, shaking her head. Replacing the magazine on Janet's desk, she reluctantly headed off towards the psychologist's temporary office, following Jack's directions. She found the psychologist in question sitting cross legged on a large leather chair.
"Major Carter," she greeted, raising her head as Sam entered the room.
"Please, call me Sam."
"And you can call me Leanne," she replied, a brief smile lighting her features and making her seem less severe. Glancing down at the bulky file on her knee, she opened it and looked back at Sam. "Why don't we begin with how you came to need an organ transplant?"
Sam took a deep breath and told the story, fighting to keep her voice steady. It was the first time she had spoken about it since that day in the infirmary, and giving voice to her experience made the sensations rush back, seemingly sharper than when they had happened. A jagged flash of memory punctured her subconscious, allowing a vivid picture to bloom there, unbidden. She recalled seeing a face, slightly out of focus, and a subtle smell of patchouli oil. Shaking her head, she refocused on Leanne and gave a weak smile.
"You mentioned that you had started to form a working relationship with Xaman. How did what happened make you feel?" Leanne asked, gently.
"I felt... betrayed. I'd only known him for a while, but I felt we shared the same work ethic, I thought that we would become friends. The shock that he could do that to me..."
"I take it that you are not the kind of person who trusts very easily? I see that you lost your mother at a young age."
"That's right. I do find it hard to trust people, I need to get to know them very well before that can happen."
"The fact that you started to trust Xaman, only to have him betray that trust, it must have been very disturbing for you."
"It was. I mean, what happened to me was bad enough, but to know it was essentially carried out at the hands of someone I knew, someone I liked..." Sam tailed off.
"How did you feel when you found out that you'd lost your kidneys, and received Colonel O'Neill's?"
"It was a shock, to put it mildly. To find out that I had a part of me removed, and that I now own a part of someone else, it was terrifying. I felt violated, abused, dirty almost."
"Yes, that someone had done that to me without my knowledge or consent. It made me feel as though I wasn't in control of my own life, and it scares me to think that something like that could happen at any time. I mean, I know the risks I take, being in the air force, and I accept those risks as a part of the life I have chosen to live. But this was different. This is the first time in my career that I have genuinely questioned my decision to be in the air force."
"Do you want to leave?"
Sam shook her head, searching for words, "No, I don't, but I can't help thinking that I let myself and my team down."
"Sam, what happened to you could have happened to anyone. It's certainly not your fault."
"In my head, I know that. In my heart..." she tailed off.
"How have you been sleeping?"
Sam hesitated, looking down at her feet.
"You don't really need to answer that, I can see for myself." Leanne let her gaze linger on the black circles under Sam's eyes, standing out starkly against her pale face.
"I've been having some trouble sleeping."
"Sam, I'm going to make a suggestion to you, and I want to tell me if you would be comfortable with it." Leanne glanced at Sam for confirmation, and she nodded her head.
"I think that returning to the planet that you were found could help you in your recovery. Being so far away from where it happened, I feel you have effectively isolated yourself emotionally from the act itself. Being back on Earth, with nothing tangible to remind you of what happened other than the physical scars, you have managed to shut away your emotions. We've made some headway here today, but you really need to confront what happened to you and find a way to get through it. Being a soldier, you need something real to fight, something real to identify with."
"Go back?" Sam felt a pricking along her spine, and shrugged her shoulders in an attempt to rid herself of the sensation.
"I think it would help with your rehabilitation."
"But I can't go back. They buried their Stargate."
"No, actually, they didn't. SG-3 tried to convince them, but according to General Hammond they were unsuccessful. They were unwilling to bury their 'gate, believing that the Yilah will punish them if they do."
Sam felt as though the air had been sucked out of her lungs. "Why wasn't I told this earlier?"
"Dr Frasier believed it may impair your healing if you were to find out. I disagree, but what's done is done."
"So I can go back?"
"If you agree, I will recommend it to General Hammond."
Sam nodded her head, not trusting herself to speak in case she heard a weakness in her voice. The thought of returning to the planet where she was found; it felt strange. Not scary, exactly, but definitely strange. She stood up as Leanne did, and followed her mutely from the room. Making her own way back to Janet's office, she mulled over the events in the psychologist's room and shook her head. She didn't feel ready to deal with it.
The time for dealing with it came a week later, when General Hammond reluctantly okayed the off world excursion. He decided to send SG-1 as a unit, along with Leanne herself. He reasoned that the strength of her team may help Sam to regain some of her own.
Sam took a deep breath before she stepped through the event horizon, the only time she had felt the need to do so since her very first trip through. SG-1 and Leanne stood quietly at her back, each of them understanding her reasons without her having to give voice to them. For once, Jack was wisecrack-free, choosing instead to gaze at the back of Sam's head and will supportive thoughts to her. He saw her perceptibly straighten her shoulders as she took that first step forward, and let go of the breath he hadn't been aware he was holding.
Sam closed her eyes briefly as she stepped through on to the other planet. She felt rather than heard the rest of her team follow her through, and was glad for their supportive presence at her back. She turned to them, keeping a tight grip on her weapon.
"You'll have to show me where to go, I wasn't exactly aware of my surroundings the last time I was here."
Jack nodded, face unreadable. He walked briskly up the dirt track, noting any differences with an experience borne of practice. Nothing seemed different, it was still in the same state of disrepair. Glancing behind him, he registered that everyone was present and correct before carrying on walking.
Sam watched him with a heavy feeling in her chest. He seemed strange, tight lipped and unwilling to look at her. For a man who gave up a kidney, he had a real problem communicating. Beside her, Leanne was looking around her with one eyebrow raised.
"It doesn't seem all that different to Earth," she remarked.
"For any ecosystem to support life there has to be some form of plant life to create oxygen and provide food. They invariably take the form of green, leafy plants or trees, hence the similarities." Sam switched to scientist mode, happy for the distraction.
"Major, I don't need a botany lesson. How are you feeling?"
Sam pulled a face, unhappy at being caught out. "I don't feel anything. I don't remember this planet at all, it's not triggering anything."
"That may change once we reach the house you were found in."
Sam privately found that notion unlikely, but kept her thoughts to herself. How could poking around the place she was found aid her recovery? She'd thought that setting foot on the planet may have broken the flood gates and triggered whatever it was she was supposed to feel, but it hadn't happened. Rounding a bend, they came within sight of the village and the breath caught in her throat as a flash of memory assaulted her senses.
Pain. Fear. A sickening smell of decay overlaid with that same faint scent of patchouli oil. The sensation of being carried, being jolted and hearing male voices arguing overhead. The dizzying rush of emotion caught Sam unawares and she swayed where she stood, giving voice to a soft moan.
"Sam?" Jack was by her side before anyone else registered that anything was wrong. She put her hand out to steady herself and grabbed his arm for support, strangely glad to feel the solid weight of his arm beneath her hand, something real to offset against the memories.
"I'm okay, Sir, I just had some sort of flashback, I think..."
"That's perfectly normal. Are you all right to continue?" Leanne touched her hand questioningly.
"This is normal?" Jack exploded, "You mean this is going to happen more than once?"
"Colonel, I assure you, this is perfectly safe."
"If I got a dollar every time I heard that line..." Jack griped, but he moved away and allowed Sam to continue towards the village.
Sam felt weak with the aftermath from the memory flash, a sick feeling building in the pit of her stomach. She made her way unerringly towards the hut where she had been found, hardly knowing how she knew the way. As though she viewed things from a great height, she catalogued the rough, mud walls of the huts, the scattered clumps of straw, the few flowers peeping their glorious heads through clumps of grass. She noted the few villagers who peered through crude windows as they passed, noted the fearful looks on mud-stained faces, noted the palpable feeling of tension in the air. Was that feeling always here, she wondered, detached, or did it only manifest itself when visitors arrived through the 'gate? She looked on dispassionately as a small child scurried across her path, hearing a mother scream for it to return. The feeling of complete separation from her surroundings intensified as she neared the hut, all sounds seeming to fade to the background. For the moment, all she could see, all she could hear, all she could be was concentrated on the sloping walls in front of her. As though in a dream, she watched her own hand reach forward and touch the walls of the hut, a finger stroking down the side. A great shudder tore through her as all feeling seemed to return to her body in a rush, sound and smell coming crashing back through in to her consciousness. Abruptly, she snatched her hand away and stumbled backwards, almost colliding with Teal'c.
"Are you well, Major Carter?"
"This is where you found me?" Sam was amazed at how calm her voice sounded. She didn't really need Teal'c's affirmation.
"It is." Teal'c confirmed.
"Then I guess we should go in." She squared her shoulders, feeling Jack position himself at her side.
"Are you sure you're up to this?" He asked quietly.
"I have to do this." The tone of her voice left no room for argument, and she took a step forward, ducking her head as she entered the hut. An erroneous thought clouded her mind as she stepped through; if she was forced to duck, how had Teal'c managed to fit in? He must have bent almost double.
She glanced around once she was in. She braced herself for the pain, but nothing happened. Disappointed, she walked further in to the room, scuffing at the floor with her boot. The room itself was small, containing a small bed and nothing else. There was only one small window, which barely let in enough light to illuminate a small circle in front of it. The rest of the room was deep in shadow. Sam rolled her shoulders uncomfortably, feeling she was being watched. She also had the feeling that there was a Goa'uld symbiote nearby... glancing around, she saw that Teal'c had followed her in shook her head ruefully. She was just being over sensitive.
"Anything?" Leanne followed her in and was watching her face closely.
"No." Sam walked over to the bed and looked down at it, trying to remember what had happened there.
"Take some time. It may come back to you."
"I... think I should do this alone."
"You're sure?" Daniel had also followed them in and was leaning against the entrance, watching them.
"It's something I need to do."
Daniel glanced at Leanne, who nodded in reply. They both stepped back outside the hut.
Consciously relaxing her muscles, Sam unclipped her flashlight and flicked it on. She played the beam over the bed, not seeing anything remarkable. Her shoulder blades itched, intensifying the sensation of being watched. Her body's naquadah radar was still going crazy, yet Teal'c was outside with the others... Whirling round, Sam inhaled a scent of patchouli oil, and froze.
In front of her stood the man from her flashbacks. His 'zat gun was trained on her, and he was smiling with little humour.
"You!" Sam gasped, fumbling for her own 'zat.
"That would not be wise, Major Carter." His voice contained the odd resonance which indicated a Goa'uld host. Sam knew a second of stunned incomprehension before the familiar whine of the 'zat and the accompanying flash rendered her unconscious.
Standing outside the hut, Jack, Teal'c, Daniel and Leanne were blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding inside. The local people were slowly beginning to exit their own huts and approach them, slowly at first and then more confidently as they realised that they meant no harm. The woman that SG-1 had first encountered approached them fearlessly, greeting them with a big smile and beckoning them towards her own home.
"We have to wait for our friend," Daniel explained to her, returning her smile. The smile on her face froze, and she looked questioningly at the other villagers clustered around SG-1.
"You allowed the other woman to enter that hut?" She seemed enraged, and turned back to Daniel, "One of the Yilah was waiting in that hut, for you to return..."
Before she finished, Jack had pushed his way through the crowd and back in to the hut, growling in frustration as he noted that Sam wasn't there.
"Where did they take her?" He screamed in to the ashen face of the village woman.
"The Yilah who was waiting... he was different from the others. His eyes glow... I do not know where he would have taken her."
Jack swore colourfully and at length.
"Right, we'll split up and look for her. Maintain radio contact at all times. Go!"
It couldn't have been more than fifteen minutes since they left Sam in the hut, but all traces of her seemed to be gone. There were a set of footprints leading from the window of the hut, but they vanished into the undergrowth surrounding the village. Teal'c managed to track them back to the Stargate.
"It would appear that Major Carter has been taken through the Stargate, O'Neill."
Jack swore again, throwing his radio to the ground in frustration.
"Daniel, return to the SGC and apprise General Hammond of the situation. Tell him a Goa'uld has taken Carter and we have no idea where."
Daniel nodded, sensing that Jack wasn't in the mood to get involved in a conversation. He dialled Earth's address and walked through to give General Hammond the bad news.
Sam came around slowly, grimacing as the now-familiar ache that followed being hit by a 'zat gun engulfed her senses. Giving her body five minutes to fight off the after effects, she tried to sit up and failed. Her wrists and ankles were manacled to the hard table she was lying on. Raising her head an inch, she looked around at her surroundings.
She was in what appeared to be a laboratory. The stations that surrounded her were filled with vials of different coloured liquids, and there were many of what Sam recognised to be Goa'uld devices. The room was painted a bleak, stark white, and the only colour came from the vials and the dark grey of the devices. Sam began to panic in earnest, fighting against her bonds, cutting her wrists and ankles in the process. Hearing a soft, mechanical sound, she tried to tilt her head back to see behind her, succeeding only in bashing her head on the table. Her Goa'uld detector began to buzz, giving her an idea of who was standing behind her even before she spoke.
"Major Samantha Carter. You have a most interesting physiology, I would not have guessed."
Sam frantically twisted her head around, trying to find out who was talking. A hand waved in front of her face, followed by the face of Nirrti staring down at her. Sam recoiled instinctively, trying to bring up her hand to push her away.
"Not pleased to see me? I am pleased to see you."
Sam brought herself under control and glared back at the Goa'uld.
"What do you want, Nirrti? I won't tell you anything."
"I do not wish to know the petty secrets of the Tau'ri. What you can offer me is infinitely more rare, and you do not have to speak one word to give it to me."
"I don't think you can achieve a sense of style through osmosis."
"Did you know that your physiology was changed subtly after your blending with the Tok'ra Jolinar? You retain some naquadah in your system and it has changed you." Nirrti turned to her work stations and picked up a long, two pronged rod.
"You can't take me as a host, Nirrti, if that's what you're thinking."
"Take you as a host? No, that is not my intention. I spent decades analysing samples from the Yilah home world, furthering my genetic research. I never found anything out of the ordinary, nothing that advanced my search for the perfect host. Until my servant brought me a tissue sample from you. With the things I can learn from your body, I could make the perfect human host."
"You're behind the Yilah organ harvests?"
"Oh no, I merely took advantage of an existing situation. Now, let us begin." Her eyes blazed as the symbiote prepared itself for the work ahead. Approaching Sam, she extended the rod. Sam watched it approach, helpless as she struggled against her bonds. The memory of Cassandra lying in a hospital bed enduring a fit lept in to Sam's mind. She had been a by-product of Nirrti's experiments. What would Nirrti do to her?
"My Lady Nirrti, you are needed in the second experimentation room." A Jaffa appeared at the lab door, bowing his head respectfully to his false god. Nirrti replaced the rod on the table and inclined her head mockingly to Sam.
"I will return."
Sam kept a dignified silence as she watched Nirrti walk from the room. As soon as the Goa'uld went from sight, Sam renewed her struggle against her bonds. By twisting her left wrist to its full extension, she could just manage to press her finger against the release switch. Wriggling it experimentally, she tried to apply pressure to it, but couldn't quite get enough leverage. Hearing the metallic sound again, she quickly returned her wrist to its normal position and prepared herself for whatever was coming.
Nirrti wasted no time goading Sam again, instead she began immediately collecting tissue samples and DNA. The long metal rod she had first picked up proved to be some sort of device for bending her ribs just enough to allow Nirrti access to her internal organs. Sam heard herself scream again and again, willing unconsciousness to claim her, but being thwarted. The pain was indescribable, a million times worse than having her kidneys removed. This time, there would be no Jack to save her, no way for her to escape the pain unless she managed it under her own power. Nirrti kept her awake and conscious by simultaneously hacking in to her and healing the wounds with a hand device. Sam felt her strenght being depleted with every breath she drew, every moment that passed. Nirrti created five holes on her torso, healing the skin over the top but leaving the internal damage. After half an hour, she stopped, seemingly satisfied for the moment.
"I will return tomorrow to begin the dissection. Then we will find out how you enjoy being at my mercy. I assure you, I will show none."
It was all Sam could do to keep her eyes open, keep glaring at Nirrti until she left the room. She tried to force her uncooperative body to obey her, tried to flex her wrist to allow her to press the release switch. Feeling tears begin to form in her eyes as she rubbed her wrists raw, she bit her bottom lip and told herself sternly to keep trying. She was appalled at how weak she felt, mentally as well as physically. Surely she was stronger than this? She slumped back against the table, exhausted. Surely it wouldn't hurt to allow herself an hour to rest? As soon as she closed her eyes, however, she was confronted with yet another image of Cassandra. She had a dinner date with the teenager, a promised outing after the horrors of her brush with death. If she gave up, if she rested for even a moment, she might never leave this place. She knew how easy it would be to give in to the temptation and self doubt that plagued her. Raising her head again, she flexed her wrist, managing once more to reach one digit to the release switch. Pushing as hard as she could, she was rewarded with a click and a lessening of pressure as the bonds gave way. Stretching around, she undid the right side, before sitting up and quickly undoing her ankle bonds. Massaging the feeling back in to them, she gave herself two minutes to rest before swinging her body down from the table and stumbling to one of Nirrti's stations. Agony ripped through her with each shambling step, and she could hear her own breathing, harsh sounding even to her own ears. Picking up the sharpest implement she could find, she walked quickly to the door, taking a deep breath before opening it. The Jaffa stationed outside turned around in surprise, allowing Sam precious moments to grab his arm and plunge the device in to his jugular vein. As he slumped to the floor, she removed his staff weapon from his lifeless fingers and glanced around her, checking to see that no one had noticed the commotion. The corridor curved around to her right, the room she had been stationed in situated at the end of a corridor. Setting off at a crouched run, she kept close to the walls and made herself as quiet as possible. Those few frenzied moments of exertion left her shaky, and she felt blackness rise up to claim her as she slumped in to a thankfully empty room.
"You've lost my daughter again?" Jacob was icy calm, but Jack could not mistake the anger emenating from the Tok'ra as anything else. Jacob had just arrived through the 'gate in response to the message they'd sent. He was standing in front of Jack in the 'gate room, hands folded in front of his body. Jack himself was flanked by Daniel, Teal'c and General Hammond.
"She was captured on the same planet we found her the first time. We thought it was safe to leave her alone in the hut..."
Jacob lowered his head, raising it again to the accompaniment of the flashing eyes which heralded the arrival of Selmac.
"Forgive Jacob, he is feeling understandably upset that this situation could have been allowed to happen. We did not come here to assign blame, however, we came to share knowledge. One of our agents has informed us that Sam is a prisoner of the Goa'uld Nirrti."
"Nirrti?" Jack felt dread rise from the soles of his feet to engulf his whole body.
"You're telling us that butcher has Sam? I knew the decision to let her go would bite us in the ass..." Daniel shook his head in disbelief.
"Is there any intel on what Nirrti plans to do with Major Carter?" General Hammond stepped in, ever the consummate commander.
"Our agent was unable to ascertain that. He is only in the lower echelons of Nirrti's group."
"Would your agent be able to rescue Major Carter?" Teal'c enquired.
"No. Any attempt to do so would result in his capture and death. He is not in a strong enough position to warrant being near any prisoner."
"So we're on our own here?" Jack asked, quietly.
"Not quite. I will help in any way I can. I have the address for the planet Nirrti is holding Sam on, what say we mount a little rescue mission?" The voice this time was Jacob's own, and it was accompanied by his unique smile.
"General?" Jack turned to Hammond, seeking his approval.
"You have a go."
Sam came round slowly, unaware of where she was. Her memory dripfed her information, starting with pain. The wounds at her side may have looked healed, but her body was telling her otherwise. How easy it would be to give in, how easy it would be to give up and let death and pain claim her once and for all. No more fighting, no more agony, no more...
An image of Jack bloomed in her mind, giving her the impetus to get to her feet and move towards the door. She couldn't give in, she had far too much to do. She glanced round the door, amazed to see that there were no Jaffa in the corridor. She moved along it slowly. Reaching a fork in the corridor, she peered round the corner, trying to decide which way to go. Hearing the distinctive marching sound of approaching Jaffa, she ducked behind an ornamental pillar and held her breath as they marched past. Letting it go slowly, she left the safety of the pillar and made her way quickly down the left hand side of the corridor, keeping her ears tuned for the sound of Jaffa. Making it to the end of the corridor without incident, she reached a massive door. Searching for a handle or some means of opening it, she pressed a raised symbol and stepped back against the wall as the door opened. When nothing came through the door to meet her, she cautiously walked through it, noting with relief that she seemed to be near the exit, judging by the few glyphs that she recognised from Daniel's eager instruction. Rounding yet another corner, she came face to face with two startled Jaffa. Reacting quickly, she rolled across the floor, firing the staff weapon from a crouched position. Both Jaffa went down quickly, but the noise they made surely meant that more would soon be on the way. Deciding speed was more important than keeping quiet, Sam sped along the corridor, reaching the outer door just as she heard a bellow of "kree!" behind her, and staff weapon blasts hit the walls on either side of her head. Shooting off a few blasts of her own, she ducked through the half open door, her body shrieking in protest.
Taking quick stock of her situation, Sam raced to a nearby copse of woodland. Once she reached its relative safety, she looked back towards Nirrti's compound. Jaffa were racing through the open door, but none seemed to be heading her way. Thanking whatever god was smiling down on her, she forged her way further in to the woodland, looking for signs of a path or habitation, anything that could lead her to the Stargate. Coming upon a sandy track, she kept to the undergrowth to its sides, keeping a watchful eye out for Jaffa.
Her luck seemed to be holding; it only took her ten minutes to come within sight of the 'gate. The DHD was lightly guarded, four Jaffa at the most. Fighting back a wave of dizziness, Sam swayed slightly, getting a tighter grip on the staff weapon. Shaking her head to clear the cobwebs, she lowered herself on to her stomach and took careful aim at one of the Jaffa. Discharging the staff weapon, she quickly retargeted and hit the second Jaffa, feeling deadly calm. The remaining two Jaffa took cover behind a small rocky outcrop, returning her fire. Cursing, Sam waited until one raised his head before discharging her staff weapon again. The last Jaffa returned fire and Sam cursed as she realised there was no way to hit him from where she lay. Lowering her head to the ground, she screamed in frustration. To get so close to her goal, only to be stopped at the last hurdle, it was too much. For there to be only one Jaffa between her and safety. She sobbed softly, unable to think of a way out of her predicament. Hearing the unmistakable sounds of the 'gate being activated, she cautiously raised her head, thinking that it was probably yet more Jaffa come to aid in the search. The wormhole engaged with its familiar whoosh, and a small object rolled through. The Jaffa crouched behind the boulder risked rolling over to grab it, whereupon it exploded with a loud bang. Sam recoiled, bringing her staff weapon up to confront this new threat.
Jack O'Neill stepped through the 'gate, followed by SG-1 and her father. Sam blinked in disbelief, feeling relief wash over her in a wave. She managed to make it to her feet, leaning heavily on the staff weapon.
"Sam?" Jack called to her incredulously, shading his eyes with his hand.
"Sir. That was a very dramatic entrance," she croaked, feeling her knees beginning to buckle. Jack ran forward, managing to catch her before she hit the floor.
"Sam! Sam, are you okay?"
"I hurt like hell, but I'm fine, I think, just a little bit wobbly." She clung to him like a fainting heroine, noting with appreciation the firmness of his body beneath her fingertips. She mentally shook her head, telling herself to stop behaving as though she was in the middle of a second rate romantic movie.
"Sam, honey, we have to get you back to the SGC. Can you walk?" Jacob took her arm, helping Jack walk her towards the 'gate.
"Uh, Jack, we have company," Daniel gestured back towards the path, where a dozen armoured Jaffa were approaching.
"Teal'c! Get dialling!"
Teal'c quickly moved in to action, dialling Earth's address as Daniel laid down some covering fire. As quickly as they could, SG-1 moved forward as a unit, clustered protectively around Sam. They made it through the 'gate just as the first wave of Jaffa came within firing range. Sam straightened herself, moving away from the others.
"I have to do this on my own," she said simply, squaring her shoulders. Jacob nodded in understanding, moving away from the 'gate to allow her access. Sam glanced around herself and walked forward, making it through the 'gate and back to Earth before her legs collapsed underneath her. Jack followed immediately after her, bellowing for a medic as he knelt down beside her.
"I made it," she whispered, a small smile on her face. Jack nodded, smiling at her as the iris closed behind them.
"Get her on to a stretcher and in to the infirmary," Janet had arrived and was taking charge of the situation. Sam felt herself being lifted gently on to a stretcher before being borne towards the infirmary. She closed her eyes, allowing herself to at last succumb to the exhaustion that clamoured to claim her mind.
Sam slept for 36 hours as her body slowly healed itself. Nirrti hadn't had a chance to do any serious damage, but after the trauma of her organ transplant her body took longer than usual to return to normal. During that time, Sam's sleep was nightmare free. The demons which plagued her sleeping mind seemed to have been banished by her self-sufficiency in escaping from Nirrti. She reported as much to Leanne, who didn't seem surprised.
"You've exorcised your demons, Sam. You've given yourself a sense of closure, taken back your strength. You've proved to yourself once and for all that you are more than capable of taking care of yourself. I wouldn't expect the nightmares to disappear altogether, though, no one heals that quickly."
"Thanks, Leanne, you've been a great help."
Leanne smiled, before turning to leave. She met Jack at the door, and Sam couldn't miss the look they shared. She felt jealousy rise like bile in her throat, and fought it back. What was it to her if Jack chose to have a relationship with Leanne? She should be happy for him. No matter how many times she told herself that, however, she couldn't make herself feel it.
"Hey, Carter. How ya doing?" He kept his hands behind his back, smiling down at her.
"Great. Getting to like these hospital beds. Lot more comfy than they look."
"Ah, so that's your plan. Get yourself hospitalised as often as possible to partake of the comfortable hospital beds. I'm on to you, Carter." He brought his hands round, revealing a carrer bag which bulged suspiciously.
"This is the finest selection of Monty Python tapes the local video store had to offer. I figured you could use some cheering up."
"You remembered I liked Monty Python?" Sam asked, surprised.
"Why so shocked? I do occasionally pay attention, you know."
"Hmm, you just do a really good job of hiding it."
"Hey, I have a reputation to protect!" Jack laid the bag down on Sam's bedside table, leaning down to plant a kiss on her cheek. Sam blushed a deep, fiery red, unable to think of anything to say.
"Don't tell me I've finally found a way to make you speechless! Jack teased gently, taking a seat beside her bed and looking smug.
"Just put on the tape."
Jack complied eagerly, settling down and trying to make himself comfortable.
"So, what you planning to do once you're evicted from the comfy bed?" he asked.
"Hadn't really thought of anything..."
"The fishing invitation still stands," he looked at her with an odd expression in his eyes.
Sam was saved from replying as the door opened to admit Daniel, Teal'c and Janet.
"Jack mentioned he was bringing some films in for you..." Daniel explained, brandishing a giant tub of popcorn.
"And I told them it was okay for you to eat some popcorn..." Janet continued.
"I merely wished to see you and to wish you well." Teal'c finished, hands clasped behind his back.
"I also brought someone to see you," Janet informed her, ducking her head back out the door to beckon someone forward. The door opened wider to reveal a smiling Cassandra.
"Cassie!" Sam exclaimed, opening her arms to welcome Cassandra into a welcoming hug.
"So, what are we watching?" Cassie asked, settling herself down on the bed beside Sam.
"Oh. Don't think I've seen that before."
Sam looked around as her friends made themselves comfortable, passing round the popcorn. She smiled to herself as she settled back, reflecting that there were worse places to be than surrounded by the people who cared about her. If it wasn't for them, she may have given up on Nirrti's planet.
"I'm really proud of you, Sam, I just wanted you to know that. You are very brave." Cassie whispered to her, passing her the giant tub of popcorn.
"That goes double for me," Jack leant in to whisper, his breath tickling her cheek, "and don't think you're getting off giving me an answer about the fishing trip."
"I did not believe it was socially acceptable to talk during a movie," Teal'c complained, shooting them both a hard look. Sam and Jack shared a conspiratorial look before settling back down to watch the film. Sam's mind drifted off as her friends erupted in to laughter around her. At that moment, she knew that she would be all right and that the nightmares would never plague her again.
She had finally reclaimed her strength.