Led By Grace
Summary: This story takes place in season 7, some months after Death Knell. A mission to uncover the secrets of an ancient temple goes awry. Separated from her teammates and injured, Sam encounters a familiar figure. Is she once again just a hallucination?This is an attempt to more fully delve into the character of Grace and what she might mean to Sam. There will be some Sam/Jack moments but nothing too shippy this time...more in keeping with what we saw in season 7. There is also mention of Pete, but he doesn't make an actual appearance. I've listed this fic under action/adventure but I consider it more adventure than action. There will also be some humor, angst, mystery...my standard stuff! Hope you enjoy - let me know what you think!
Chapter 1 – Insects and Insecurities
Colonel Jack O'Neill swatted his hand in irritation at the insect that buzzed persistently around his head. His feelings of annoyance rose considerably as the rather large bug avoided his flailing hand and flew closer to his face. Muttering a curse, Jack whipped his hat off, stopped in his tracks, and flailed angrily at the flying insect. "Who in the hell decided we should come to this bug infested planet?" he shouted, all the while flapping his hat rather uselessly at the insect.
Major Samantha Carter, trying to hold in a grin, replied, "General Hammond did, Sir. He was rather intrigued by the UAV surveys we got back, as were we all. If you recall…"
"I recall just fine, thank you very much Carter," Jack cut her off shortly. He ceased his swatting, placed his hat rather abruptly on his head, and resumed their trek toward the ruins that lay at least another 8 clicks to the north. They had been traveling for 2 hours in the hot, humid weather that seemed to pervade this particular planet. While P7J-413 didn't have quite the allotment of trees that always caused the colonel to issue a sarcastic comment or two, it did contain numerous boggy marshes, which seemed to be overpopulated by buzzing, flying critters of all shapes and sizes. Jack shuddered slightly…he didn't want to think about them anymore, yet could hardly avoid it as yet another alien species dove toward his head.
"Carter! Didn't we pack any insect repellant?" he stopped his forward progress once again and turned to glare at his 2IC. His eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he took in the rest of his team, who all stood watching him with rather amused expressions on their faces. "Why is it these damned things aren't buzzing around the three of you?" he asked, not waiting for Sam to answer his first question, instead fruitlessly swatting once again.
"I believe your ceaseless movements are attracting them, O'Neill," Teal'c intoned dryly. "Or perhaps it is the new cologne Cassandra purchased for your most recent birthday," he added helpfully.
Daniel snorted at that comment, glad for once not to be on the receiving end of one of Cassie's rather embarrassing gifts. Jack had been more than a little mortified when Cassie had given him a bottle of the newest male cologne, designed to attract women 'like flies', or so their ad stated. Jack shot Daniel a glaring look before returning his gaze to Sam. "Well Carter? Insect repellant?"
Sam shook herself slightly as she too remembered Cassie's gift. Offering him an apologetic smile, she reached into her pack. "I did advise you to use some as soon as we left the platform, sir," she reminded him. "Daniel, Teal'c and I liberally applied the repellant. I'm sure that's why they aren't bothering us." As she handed him the repellant, she gave him a thoughtful look. "Though, Teal'c might be onto something with that cologne theory of his, Sir" she added somewhat cheekily.
Jack narrowed his eyes at her, somewhat taken aback at her teasing. He thought perhaps he was beginning to wear off on her. Deciding to ignore her comment for the moment, Jack stepped away from them and sprayed himself quite profusely, muttering rather loudly, "These things are the worst insects I have even seen."
"On the contrary, O'Neill," Teal'c stated rather imperiously. "Do you not remember the large insect on BP6-3Q1 that stung me several years ago?"
Jack winced in remembrance. "Yeah T. I guess those things were much worse."
"Indeed," came the short reply, accompanied by a narrowing of eyes, as if Teal'c couldn't believe that Jack could ever have forgotten that particular incident.
Jack tossed the repellant back to Sam. "Well, at least you have to agree that these things are worse than the tiny little mosquitoes up at my cabin; which you made a rather huge issue out of, big guy."
Teal'c straightened his shoulders and looked past Jack. "The mosquitoes at your lake were most annoying, O'Neill. They persisted in trying to suck the very essence out of my body. These appear to be rather harmless in comparison."
Sam and Daniel both turned their heads away, trying to control the laughter that threatened to burst forth. They were not completely successful as Daniel let a snort of laughter out, which did not go unnoticed by their intrepid leader. But, rather than prolong this rather inane discussion and possibly provoke his large, Jaffa friend, Jack decided to return to the business at hand.
He cleared his throat, "Yes, well. I believe if we want to make it to these ruins before nightfall, we'd better get a move on it. I do recall from the briefing that the days are relatively short on this planet." He shot a look at Carter, daring her to contradict him. When she said nothing, just looked at him expectantly, he continued. "Teal'c, you take point for a while; I'll cover our six. Daniel, Carter – no more lollygagging; let's shake a leg."
"Uh Jack, you were the one who needed to stop. Not us," Daniel reminded him pointedly. Sam, noticing the tightening of Jack's jaw, prodded Daniel forward with a hand between his shoulder blades, mumbling quietly to him, "Not now." Sometimes, Daniel didn't know when to give it a rest, and this was definitely one of those times. Hot weather, argumentative archeologists, and annoying insects were just not conducive to make one Jack O'Neill a happy camper.
The four members of SG-1 were dripping with sweat, their breathing heavy as they crested the top of a large hill and paused at the top. They had been walking almost non-stop for the last 4 hours and were ready to drop from exhaustion. Jack had been intent on reaching the ruins before nightfall. The UAV had indicated the ruins would lie in a valley a good distance from the gate, and so Jack had pushed the group harder than he might have, considering the weather and the amount of daylight they had. He'd also been rather keen on leaving the swamps and insects far behind! While their preliminary scans had indicated no signs of hostiles, or human life forms in general, one could never be too certain. Jack wanted to have their perimeter staked out and camp set up long before darkness fell.
Though he had pushed hard, he had watched Sam carefully for any signs that he might be pushing too hard. It had only been a few months since her fight for survival at the Alpha site and, while she had been cleared for active duty, Jack had the feeling his 2IC wasn't quite up to par as of yet. But Major Carter, being the stalwart soldier that she was, didn't offer up a complaint at the pace, nor did she show any signs of fatigue. Until now.
From her vantage point on top of the hill, Sam took a careful look around, surveying the area for danger, before sliding against the trunk of a rather impressive looking tree, muttering a grateful, "Thank God!" before pulling her canteen to her lips and taking a long drink. She subtly stretched and flexed her sore left leg, trying to ease some of its stiffness away.
While Jack and Teal'c did a more thorough survey of the area, Daniel sat down beside Sam, offering a quiet, "You OK?" When she nodded in the affirmative, despite the grimace that had just crossed her face, he frowned at her in concern and then took a long drink from his own canteen. Daniel let his gaze wander from his friend to the scene below, a mix of worry for Sam and curiosity in his surroundings on his face.
The hill they were currently residing on gently sloped down into a valley below. To the left, a small lake glittered as the sun began its slow descent. To the right, a copse of trees clustered around the top of a steep ravine. And directly in the center of the small valley, a temple, rather small for such a structure, stood in the waning light. One side was bleached white from the sun, the other dark in appearance. Four tall columns graced the front of the structure, standing as sentinels for the many years the temple had stood in this valley.
"Greek?" Sam asked questioningly as she too looked down at the temple.
"Not sure," Daniel said, frowning in thought. "It could be Roman, or any number of cultures really. I won't know until we get down there and take a closer look."
"Well, that's no going to happen until tomorrow kids," Jack stated as he came up to where they were sitting. "We need to head down and make camp before the sun sets. You two ready?" Though he asked both of them, his eyes rested on Sam, waiting for her answer.
Sam replaced her canteen and looked up at her commanding officer. "Ready, sir." She was somewhat startled when he offered her a hand up but after a momentary pause, took it and let him help her to her feet. Slightly embarrassed at the attention, she muttered a quiet, "Thank you, Sir," before brushing of her pants and readying herself for the climb down.
Jack purposefully directed his next comment to include Daniel and Teal'c. "Ok, kids. Down we go. We'll set up camp near the lake. Hopefully it contains drinkable water. Maybe even some fish!" he added cheerfully.
Sam and Daniel rolled their eyes at each other as they walked past him and began the descent down the hill. Daniel made sure to stay close to Sam; wanting to offer his assistance should she require it.
Once they were on flat ground again, Jack led the way to where he thought the most suitable place to camp would be. He dropped his pack in the middle of a large, grassy area, about 30 yards from the lake. The temple was about 150 yards from their site and appeared larger to him now that they were down in the valley. Chuckling at the thought of what Sam would say were he to voice that particular comment, he turned instead to give everyone their tasks in setting up camp.
Jack frowned as he noticed Sam's slight limp as she walked across the clearing and set her pack down next to his. He knew she was hurting and was a bit frustrated that she hadn't said anything. Even after seven years together, Sam Carter felt she had to prove her worth and strength to her teammates. Sighing quietly, Jack addressed his team.
"Danny, T, I need you to set up the tents. I'll get a fire going and some food cooking. Carter, I want you to check the lake and let me know if the water's drinkable." Daniel and Teal'c got right to their tasks, but Sam stood and looked at Jack in puzzlement. Normally, he didn't have her check the water until after camp had been set up; it wasn't a task that required much physical effort, or much time.
Jack, noticing that she hadn't moved, came over to stand by her. "Carter? Is there a problem?"
Sam frowned. "Are you sure you want me to check the lake right now, Sir? Shouldn't I help Daniel and Teal'c with the tents? Or maybe start setting up my equipment?"
"No. I want you to run your tests on the water, before it gets dark." His tone indicated he didn't want an argument. He knew she had probably figured out why he set her that particular task for right now, but didn't want to waste time discussing it. He was right – she had figured it out.
Narrowing her eyes, Sam said, "With all due respect, Sir, I am more than capable of helping set up camp. I don't need to be coddled," she stated, a hint of anger in her voice.
"I know that Major," Jack replied in an even tone. "But I also know that your leg is hurting you right now. AH!" he held up a hand as she made to interrupt him. "You've only recently been cleared for duty and I pushed us pretty hard today. God knows how long we'll be here, and digging around in that temple to boot. I want you rested and at 100 percent tomorrow, do I make myself clear?"
Though she still wanted to argue her point, she knew that tone of voice and so acquiesced to his command. "Yes, sir," she mumbled as she turned to collect the equipment she would need and made her way down to the lake.
God, she was stubborn, Jack thought to himself as he watched her walk away. A good quality for a 2IC… most of the time, he thought with a smile as he turned away to complete his own tasks.
After a quick meal of MRE's, some discussion about tomorrow's plan to explore the ruins, and the assigning of night watches, Sam made her way tiredly to the tent she would share with Teal'c. Though she didn't like being singled out for special considerations at any time, she had to admit to herself that she was rather glad Jack had given her the last watch. She was looking forward to 6 uninterrupted hours of sleep after the long trek they had made today. Taking off her jacket and boots, Sam quickly downed some pain medication for her throbbing leg and climbed into her sleeping bag. As she burrowed deeper into its warmth, she heard the wind begin to pick up in the trees across the valley. Drifting off, she thought she heard the voice of a child singing, the soft voice carried away in the wind.
Sitting alone by the fire, Jack raised his head and looked beyond the temple toward the trees. He frowned and cocked his head, trying to make out the sound he heard. It almost sounded like a child, he thought, before shaking his head and making a noise of disgust at himself. Maybe he shouldn't have taken first watch; he was obviously more tired than he thought!