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A/N: Rush-posted without betaing. In response to Lyssie's "Ingergalactic Hussies Need Fic, Too" challenge.


Balance

Sam Carter wonders how many times she's found herself in a situation like this – her back against the wall, out-numbered, out-flanked, everything but out-smarted. And that's where the enemy always goes wrong. They underestimate the Tauri; they underestimate her.

Yes, Sam knows she's just been lucky sometimes. But more often than not, her wits are what save her. That's what makes her special. There are a lot of geniuses locked in government laboratories. How many are there out in the field? How many people have the delicate skill to calibrate a naquadah generator to the precise electrical output necessary to integrate with sensitive alien technology, yet have the stomach and brute force necessary for hand-to-hand, life-or-death combat? She knows exactly how many. One.

She is her own secret weapon and her own private joke. Sam enjoys wearing a mild-mannered demeanor. She smiles, and defers, and sometimes even makes a point to let her vulnerabilities show. It's good that people underestimate her, even her own people. They have confidence in her. When she goes for the bold move, develops an audacious plan, they're more willing to stand behind it if it came from good old reliable Sam.

That's part of the reason she and O'Neill work well together. They work the same angle, play the same game. He works at his slow-witted persona, while she works at her humble genius facade. Both are subterfuge, a calculated image to keep a step ahead of everyone when you trust and rely on no one but yourself.

And why should you? When it comes down to it, you really only have yourself to rely on. Sam learned that lesson early in life, even before she lost her mother. Jacob Carter not being there to pick up his wife the day she died was just one disappointment in a long string of letdowns. She's not bitter, but she sees the way that circumstances can deter even those with the best of intentions from being there when you need them the most. She knows her team will be there for her if they can, but 'can' is the operative word.

It's okay, though. If Samantha Carter had to choose one person in the world to rely on, she'd be it. She has more confidence, more belief in herself than she could possibly place in anyone else. Sometimes, she wonders if she's a little grandiose, but deep down, she knows. She walks the edge because she's able. She has the skill, she has the balance. She has the unique ability to walk the line between powerful and power-mad, between brilliance and madness.

It is a thin line. She's toed the edge a few times. She can still rouse the feeling that ran through her the first time she used the Goa'uld hand-device. She can still feel the tingling rush, and it serves as a reminder. A single step could carry her too far.

Sam tries to keep the focus on why she's doing this. It's true that the personal challenge is a big part of the appeal. Where, she wonders, can a woman like her be challenged Earth-bound? She could go for combat duty, but that's no challenge for her mind. She could have her pick of any research project on Earth, but she'd go stir crazy before long and wind up putting some poor hapless scientist in traction. No, intergalactic explorer is the only result on her job aptitude test. But that's not the reason she does this.

The thing that reins her in, that keeps her from slipping into megalomania or – well, frankly – a life of interplanetary thrill-seeking (she can see herself as a bounty hunter or a space pirate), is patriotism. She is patriotic towards the planet Earth. Sam has visited a lot of planets, and for all that she's seen, she still believes that the people of her home planet are worth the risk her life. She still prefers their way of life, for all its problems. She loves the rampant individualism that pervades her culture. She loves the stubbornness, the craziness, the sheer strange diversity of people and ideals. The complexity of Earth culture is like one gigantic, elaborate living organism, the extraordinary secrets of which are yet to be understood. Simpler cultures are nice to visit, but for this Dorothy, there's no place like home.

That is the reason why she must out-smart the enemy this time, too. Not that the yokels on PX5-437 could take on Earth if they tried, but because she has to be there to save it the next time. So she waits, knowing without glancing at her watch that in two more minutes, the timer will go off, the soldiers will scatter, and she'll make her way back to the rendezvous point just in time to meet up with Teal'c and Daniel. Sam presses the bandage on her wounded thigh and wipes the sweat and dirt from her brow. Planning and preparation done, she readies herself for action.