Author's note: Apologies to all of you who weren't expecting the Sam/Janet angle inchapter two… I thought I'd covered it in my original Author's note, but I guess I should have put it in the Warnings, instead. My mistake. It wasn't my intention toshockanyone or give them the heebeegeebies, so I am very sorry about that.
Pain, throbbing and persistent, finally woke her. Janet's touch on her wrist was light, distinguishable only by its warmth. After a moment, Sam realized why. Janet was asleep, her soft snores barely audible.
For a while Sam did nothing but concentrate on breathing, trying to ignore the pain and the cold. She heard noises from the direction of her feet, voices and hammering. They sounded close, but not near enough to free her. She wished Thor would come and beam her out of there. She wished her dad was there to give her a hug. She tried to shift her legs, but the terrible weight pinning them in place remained. She opened her eyes, but the alien blue concrete danced sickeningly before her eyes. She closed them again quickly, unable to stifle the moan that escaped her lips. She felt so nauseous and weak… completely, utterly helpless.
Janet's radio crackled to life. "Doc?" the Colonel's voice said. "I think she may be coming around."
She felt Janet's hand jump. "Sam?"
Sam tried to answer, managed only another soft groan. She felt so sick, so cold. Spinning, spinning, galaxies and comets… black holes sucking the life from billions of burning stars…
She woke screaming in pain as her left ankle was torn in half. In reaction she tried to sit up, hitting her forehead on something hard as fire shot through her shoulder and chest. The ground tilted and spun beneath her.
"Shit! She's waking up!"
"Back off, back off!"
"Her heart rate is spiking!"
Excited voices shouted around her as unconsciousness claimed her again.
The voices had been talking to her for a while, she realized.
"Sam, wake up." Janet.
"Carter, we need you." The Colonel.
"Major Carter, can you feel this?"
She struggled to focus on something, anything. Someone touched her left foot, sending lances of pain from her toes to her hip. With a muffled cry, she reflexively kicked out with her right foot, bare toes connecting painfully with something soft, yet solid.
"Oooofff! Whoa, Major Carter, don't kick! I'm trying to help you!"
"The patient is alive and kicking," the Colonel announced smugly.
"Sam? Sam, calm down, honey," Janet said at the same time. "Joe's a friend. He's just trying to help you."
"Joe?" Sam gasped, trying to make sense of her situation.
"That's me," the strange voice said, as someone patted her right leg. "I was just trying to assess the circulation in your feet… I guess I don't need to ask you if you can feel them all right, huh?"
"Hurts…" Sam tried to explain, still confused.
"You left ankle is broken, Sam," Janet said. "You got lucky, though…the steel shank in your boot prevented your foot from being completely crushed."
Memories started to click into place. Earthquake… trapped… Janet… Joe… USAR team trying to rescue her. Her legs were free, now though… she could move them. The relief at that freedom almost made her dizzy.
"Sorry, Joe," she said, hoping she hadn't kicked him too hard.
"That's all right, Major," Joe said. "Just don't try to kick me with your left foot, okay? You'll mess up Peter's splint job."
"Okay," she smiled.
"Sam, I know you're in pain, but I had to back off the sedatives so we could talk to you," Janet said. "Do you know where you are?"
"Earthquake, rubble… you're trying to get me out."
"That's right," Janet said.
"About that, Carter," the Colonel said slowly. "I'm afraid that Plan B has fallen through. We haven't heard back from any of our allies yet, so we're moving on to Plan C."
Something in his voice told her she wasn't going to like Plan C. "Plan C, sir?"
"Yeah. That's the plan where you get to save yourself."
"Sir?" she asked, hoping that she didn't sound as dismayed as she felt.
"Forgive the expression, Major, but we're sort of caught between a rock and a hard place," Joe said. "Major Fraiser can't reach you from where she is, and while me and my men have access to your legs and feet, we don't have enough room to reach your upper torso. Now, since all of our assessments indicate that it's not likely you have a spinal injury, if we could just shift you a few inches into the void to your right we could probably pull you free. But…"
"But I'm impaled in place," Sam finished for him.
"Yeah. Unfortunately we can't lift the block off you. Even if we could without bringing the rest of the building down, when the rebar came out, you'd most likely bleed to death before the doc there could save you."
Sam was silent. What was he saying? That they couldn't rescue her after all?
"We want you to cut through the rebar," Janet said. "This alien metal…apparently it's pretty resistant to bending, but it can be cut. I'm going to give you a Dremel tool equipped with a jigsaw blade. It's small enough that you should be able to use it in the space you've got. You cut through the bar, and then Joe and his men will pull you free."
Oh god, Sam thought. It was a beautifully simplistic plan, she had to give them that. She was almost surprised she hadn't thought of it herself. Of course, the one problem with it was that she didn't know if she could actually do it.
"Sam?" Janet asked.
"Breathe, Sam," Daniel's voice brushed her consciousness like a caress. "Don't hold your breath."
"Oh god, Daniel," she finally whispered. It would be so much easier to just give up. No more pain, no more effort…
"You're at a crossroads, Sam," Daniel agreed sadly. "You can close your eyes now, and… well… um, die… Or you can try to free yourself… to live another day. But Sam, you can do this."
"It's going to hurt," she whispered, dreading it.
"I know," Daniel said.
"I'm sorry, Sam," Janet said at the same time. "I can give you painkillers, but I'll only be able to take the edge off without knocking you out."
"You can do this, Major Carter," Teal'c said after a moment of silence.
"Yeah Sam," Jonas agreed.
"It's your own ass on the line, this time, Carter, but I know you can do it," the Colonel said.
She swallowed hard, searching for some source of strength in her exhausted body.
"You promised me, Sam," Janet said quietly.
There it was. The promise of a life shared with Cassie and Janet…of a life filled with love and companionship…yes, that was worth fighting for. So she had to save her own ass. What else was new? So cold… her mind drifted to Antarctica… no, she'd failed there… Figure this out, Sam. She'd saved the earth… how many times? She could do this.
She took a breath, shuddering at the pain. No, don't breathe deep. Figure this out. Figure that out. Fix this. Fix that. Save the world. Save yourself. She could work a Dremel tool. Better than trying to do it with a hacksaw, right? Piece of cake. Nobody could help her now, but that was nothing new. As Nike would say, just do it.
Just do it.
"Just give me the damn saw," she finally said, holding her hand open.
Janet removed the pulse oximeter from her finger then pressed the tool into her palm. Sam maneuvered her arm back through the opening, not caring if her IV line got twisted or the video camera shifted. She didn't really want her team to see this, anyway.
Her hand was shaking so badly that she had trouble holding the tool while she tried to find the on-off switch, but eventually she managed to turn the thing on, the drum of the motor sounding loud and dangerous in the confined space. Desperately trying to hold her hand steady - and fighting the urge to close her eyes - she finally pressed the saw against the metal bar impaling her.
The force of the saw teeth catching the metal sent the handle flying from her weakened grasp, the tool landing on her chest. She cried out as the blade sank into the exposed skin at the base of her neck, sending a shower of blood spraying over the blue concrete. She grabbed the handle quickly, resting her fist against her chest, the blade still whirring centimeters from her body.
"Jesus, Carter, are you okay?" the Colonel asked.
Sam didn't answer, closing her eyes, not wanting to know if the liquid she felt running down her face was blood or tears or some mixture of both.
"Sorry, stupid question," he said a moment later.
"Major Carter," Teal'c's voice spoke to her, calm and rational. "You must focus all of your concentration upon your grip. You must hold the tool as if it were a great weight."
She knew that already, of course, but hearing it helped her center her mind. She took several shallow breaths, swallowed, tightened her grip upon the dremel tool, and tried again, keeping her hand braced against her chest to ease the shaking. This time the tool bit into the metal, but the vibration was carried into her body, and she pulled back with a gasp of pain.
For a minute she did nothing but try to control her breathing, desperately fighting the urge to burst into tears of frustration and fear.
"C'mon, Major, it's not going to get any easier five minutes from now," the Colonel said in his best drill sergeant tone.
Sam felt an irrational surge of anger. Dammit. Just do it. Just do it.
"You can do this, Sam," Jonas said.
"They believe in you, Sam," Daniel said.
"I love you, Sam." Janet's voice drifted to her from the right, soft, almost inaudible.
Janet. Do it for Janet. With a groan Sam screwed up her last bit of courage and forced the saw blade to the metal with all her strength. She cried out as the pain ripped through her shoulder and chest, but she refused to let go. Hot slivers of metal flew, their sharp sting barely noticeable, but steadily marking her progress. She felt the metal bar heat from the friction, melting the plastic remains of her radio casing and burning her flesh, but it wasn't until her voice began to give out that she realized she was still screaming. Her vision began to fade with her voice, darkness pushing at the edges, folding her world into a worm-hole-like tunnel, but still she held on, driving the saw forward.
She couldn't fail Janet.
She couldn't fail Cassie.
She couldn't fail her team.
Galaxies swam in her vision, and she could no longer tell if her eyes were open or closed. All that mattered was her grip on the tool, the push of her hand and arm against the source of resistance. She gripped with everything she had, pushed with every last ounce she had to give.
"You are doing well, Major Carter," Teal'c's voice said, buoying her efforts.
"You're almost there, Sam," Daniel said. "Just a little more!"
She held onto their voices like a lifeline.
"Come on, Sam," the Colonel said.
"You can do it!" Jonas said.
"Keep going, Sam!" Daniel said, his voice loud as the others faded.
She was starting to lose all sensation in her hand when it suddenly flew forward, all resistance gone. Her knuckles slammed into concrete, and the saw fell from her grip. Pain stabbed through her left hip, but she couldn't move.
Voices came to her through a haze of pain.
"Yes!" That was the Colonel, her mind identified distantly… so proud of her. "I told you she could do it, Joe!"
"Way to go, Sam!" That was Jonas, no doubt smiling.
"I'm giving her morphine," Janet said, always thinking of her comfort. Blessed, blessed Janet.
"You did it, Sam," Daniel whispered, his voice warm and golden against the blackness in her mind.
"You must turn off the saw, now, Major Carter." There was Teal'c, ever practical.
Her family. Her friends. Her team. Somehow she rallied enough to push the saw off of her hip to the left, away from her.
"Saw is clear!" someone said.
"I'm disconnecting her O2 and IV lines," Janet said. "Get her the hell out of there, Joe! I'll meet you outside."
More than two pairs of hands shifted her legs and thighs to the right, and she knew it was going to hurt like hell when they finally moved her body off her broken arm. "I love you guys," she whispered.
"We love you, too, Sam," Daniel smiled before the morphine took her away.
Awareness returned in confusing bits and pieces. A brilliant moon against a black sky, looking far too bright, far too close, the light playing off the face of the men walking beside her, behind her…. carrying her stokes litter. She was wrapped tightly in blankets, felt almost warm for the first time in… forever. She knew her team would be nearby, hovering, even if she couldn't see them. The man squeezing the bag-valve unit over her face looked down and saw her eyes open. He smiled.
"Hey, Major, you're not supposed to be awake."
"Damn. I was afraid of this," Janet's voice said. "She's very resistant to sedatives." Janet's face appeared in her field of vision. "Hey there," she smiled gently.
Sam's heart leapt, and she tried to answer, but couldn't, gagging on the feeling of something in her mouth and throat.
Janet saw her confusion. "Don't try to speak Sam. We've got an endotracheal tube in your mouth. We're on our way back to the gate. Keep hanging in there, okay? We're almost home."
Home. Sam closed her eyes, picturing Janet's smiling face lit brightly by the silver moonlight. She knew she would be all right in Janet's good care. Better than all right. Better than ten-thousand suns. Inwardly, she smiled. She was going home.