Hatred – dark, angry hatred runs through me as the Jaffa who is inflicting so much pain on me laughs. Humiliation and anger are at war with the hatred, each trying to surface and find a way to get revenge against those who are trying to kill me slowly, but surely. The whip slices through my skin once again and I can't help but groan as my whole body arches away from the agony.
This is the second beating in as many days and I know I'm not going to last much longer. The Goa'uld who has ordered this beating, and who happens to be sitting back watching the show, is determined to learn the identity of the System Lord who has sent us here. It seems Lord Stupid can't get it through his thick skull that we are fighting against the Goa'uld, not for them. Of course, it really isn't in our best interest to tell him we are his enemies, but I've been known to do much crazier things in my lifetime.
So here I am, chained to a freaking post, with my back exposed to the elements and to the force of the whip held by a bulky Jaffa who must work out six hours a day. Man, that guy can be brutal. The lash bites into my skin again and my head jerks back as my body arches into the post.
He is taking his sweet old time in shredding the skin off my back, probably to prolong the agony. I stand tensely though, knowing he's going to hit me again. It's the same old story with torturers. Make the victim hurt as much as possible for as long as possible and they will eventually talk. I've been through this enough times during my career as a soldier to know the rules. It doesn't mean I have to like the game; I just end up playing it with these losers every so often.
I feel my body tense up when I hear the swish of the whip as it is swung toward my back again. I can't see what's going on, so I have to rely on my hearing to let me know when to grind my teeth to keep from yelling. I wouldn't want to give them the satisfaction of knowing I'm in pain. God, who am I kidding? That shit hurts!
The Goa'uld is speaking to me again, I realize, and I try to understand what he is saying through the ringing in my ears. If they would just stop with the blows, I could concentrate so much better. "Answer me!" he demands.
"What?" I ask. Somewhere in the back of my mind I am silently hoping he'll realize that I can't concentrate on what he's saying through the pain. Fat chance in hell of that happening.
"Who sent you?" the Goa'uld snarls at me. "Which one of my enemies sent you here to spy on me?"
I open my mouth to tell him yet one more time that we came in peace, but I am not fast enough. The Jaffa slams the whip into my back again, causing me to forget what it was I was going to say. "You will answer your God!" I hear him say through the haze of my pain.
I am losing focus, I can tell, and I make a conscious effort to bring myself back to the here and now. "We came here to explore," I say wearily, knowing he's not going to believe it this time either.
Pain washes over me once more as the Jaffa hits me again with as much force as he could put into it. If they would just stop with the beating, I could think. "Stop!" I hear myself saying. "Just stop it."
They did. I stand there tensely, waiting for the next lash to hit, but nothing happens. The room is silent and I find myself really getting worried. What kind of trick is this? They are going to make me wait and wonder when the next blow will be. Damn it! I hate these mind games.
The silence in the room is deafening. I can't turn to see what is happening as my arms are wrapped around the pole, with chains binding my hands together. But, this is definitely a lull and I take advantage of this opportunity to wrap my hands around the chains in an effort to find something to hold onto when the beating starts up again. And they will start up again, of that I have no doubt.
"Bring me the woman," the Goa'uld suddenly demands. My heart stops at those words. I know he is referring to Carter and I am just a little worried about what is in store for her. Will they use her as a weapon to try to get me to talk?
"Yes my Lord," a Jaffa replies. I can only hope it's the one who is brandishing the whip, but I know deep down they are not finished with me yet. Sure enough, I hear a scuffle followed by a soft gasp just before the whip breaks open another welt on my back. This one takes me by surprise and I can't stop the muffled yell that escapes from me.
I refuse to let my guard down again, so I tense back up, listening with all my might for any clues as to what they are going to do next. Carter is brought over to stand next to me so that I can see her face, and I am almost undone by her expression. Her eyes are wide as she stares at me, hiding nothing of what she is thinking and feeling and I realize that she is going to be my strength. I nod at her, hoping she realizes that I have decided that I won't let her down.
The Jaffa hits with me the whip again, forcing me into the pole, but this time I don't make a sound. I look over at Carter, wondering what this is all about. Why just have her stand there to watch my suffering? Did they think I would talk because she is there?
"Who sent you here?" the Goa'uld asks. I hear the frustration in his voice and I know that the Goa'uld's frustration is going to be my undoing, but I don't answer him. Instead, I stare into the blue eyes of my second in command as I lean my head up against the pole. I see the faith that she has in me, despite the many mistakes I have made as the leader of SG-1. I see pride shining in her eyes as I go through another day of beatings, while hanging onto my obstinate belief that I am above these jerks, as well as my refusal to give in. But it's the look in her eyes that goes way beyond the regulations set up by the U.S. military bigwigs that has captured my soul. She stares into my eyes with a look filled with naked longing and I am determined to live, if only to make her happy.
The brunt of the whip forces me into the pole again and I close my eyes against the dizziness that is starting to affect my thinking. "My Lord wants an answer," the Jaffa growls, flicking the lash against my back. "The woman will be next," he promises.
"No," I respond, alarmed by the very thought. I realize, too late, that I may have given them some ammunition, so I make an effort to set them straight. "I normally travel alone, but I came across the woman and her companions while visiting a different planet. They've only just joined up with me."
This statement sounds hollow, even to my ears, so I am not surprised when the Jaffa hits me with the whip again. I am fading fast and this scares me, as I am afraid that if I pass out, they will start in on Carter. I am back to trying to think my way out of this, but I am still having a hard time concentrating on anything but the pain. Think O'Neill, think!
The lash opens another cut on my back and I hear myself cry out in pain. It's apparent that I can only concentrate on one thing at a time, and I decide to forego concentrating on not screaming so that I can concentrate on finding a way out of there. I refuse to let Carter down.
I begin to panic as Carter is dragged from my sight. I don't see her, but I hear her struggling with her captors and I am terrified that they are going to follow through with their threat. "Hey!" I call out weakly, hoping to bring their attention back to me, "If you slime balls are done, why don't you come and release me?"
"It's the woman's turn," the brutal Jaffa informs me. No, I scream inwardly as I struggle to get out of the binds. But I am unable to get out of the chains and the brief struggle for freedom weakens me further. I lean my head up against the pole as I hear the sound of the whip swishing through the air just before I hear Carter scream as the lash hits her skin. I struggle once more to try to free myself, but end up closing my eyes in defeat as the sound of Carter's pain filters through my mind.
"Who sent you here?" the Goa'uld demands furiously.
I am so tired of hearing that question, but I try to answer him one more time. "I don't answer to any God. I am a Tau'ri sent here to explore this world for possible…"
"Tau'ri?" the Goa'uld interrupts me. The whip is no longer tearing the skin off of anyone's back, so I am now hopeful that my words were the right ones. "Your people are trying to eliminate the Goa'uld, are they not?"
Wonderful. Now I've done it. I try to think of something to say that would keep Carter and I both alive, but after two days of beatings, I am not at my best. Christ, when am I ever at my best? Think, O'Neill.
The whip makes an awful noise when it lands on Carter's back, but the sound that follows it is even worse. They are not going to stop, I realize until we are both dead. I can't give them what they want, even if I wanted to. I try to hang onto the thought that Carter knows this, which should make it easier for me to deal with. But I hear her sobs and that is something that will never be easy to live with.
"My Lord," a new voice rings out and I embrace this interruption with relief. It may only be a slight interruption, but maybe I can come up with something while the Goa'uld handles whatever it is the Jaffa has come to tell him.
"The chappa'ai has been activated," the Jaffa says and I can only hope it is the cavalry coming to get my ass out of this predicament. "Eight men have arrived, all dressed as the prisoners are dressed."
"Deal with them," the Goa'uld demands.
"Yes my Lord," the Jaffa replies, just before I am forced into the pole by another blow from the whip. I close my eyes to ward off another dizzy spell, but I know that I am fighting a losing battle as my vision dims slightly. It's just a matter of time now.
"The Tau'ri are a meaningless race," the Goa'uld feels it is his duty to tell me. "You hide behind a shield in your Stargate, while pretending you are fighting a war that you have no chance of ever winning. Worthless," he spits out.
I take a few precious moments to think through my words, knowing that I need to say the right thing to stay alive long enough to welcome the cavalry. The Jaffa with the whip doesn't seem to care that I need those moments to think, because he puts a great deal of force into the lash that cuts into my back, causing me to lose my train of thought. On the heels of my yell, I hear Carter cry out in pain and I am determined that once I am free, any Jaffa in the vicinity carrying a whip will be dead before I leave this place.
I lean my head up against the pole in an effort to find even a tiny bit of strength to survive this, to stay awake long enough to follow through on my decision to kill those bastards. I am failing in this though, as the dizziness takes over once again and I feel myself passing out just as the lash bites into the skin on my back one last time.
I'm sorry, Carter.
I waken to find myself on my stomach, lying in a pool of something vile smelling and all I can do is groan. I try to push myself up off of the floor, but the pain is too great. My back is on fire and even the simple act of trying to move my arm makes me want to scream out in agony. But if I don't move, the smell is going to force me to empty the contents of my stomach onto an already dirty floor.
"Jack?" I hear Daniel, but as of right this minute, I don't think I am up to looking for him.
"God," I groan, gathering the strength to try to move one more time. I'm going to make it if it's the last thing I do, which of course, is a highly possible result.
"You okay over there?" Daniel asks.
"Yeah," I mutter, not even caring if he heard me. "Where's Carter?"
"Here sir," she says in a voice that is music to my ears. She doesn't sound too much the worse for wear.
"The cavalry?" I ask, hoping that I am on the verge of being rescued from the pool of what I have determined to be my own vomit.
"What?" Daniel asks, as I close my eyes and grit my teeth before putting my muscles to work in moving away from that awful smell. The fire racing across the raw nerves in my back almost cause me to black out again, but I can't let that happen. I am still alive and I intend to keep it that way.
It takes me four times longer than normal to push myself up and to crawl away from the mess on the floor, but I do it and end up on my stomach next to the bars of the cell I am being held in. I lay there in agony, as I try to catch my breath and am surprised when I feel a hand on my arm. I open my eyes to see that it's Teal'c who has come to comfort me through the bars and I try to smile at him to let him know I'm okay.
He doesn't believe me though, but then again who would? I know that I am a mess, my back was shredded to pieces just yesterday, and the Jaffa's determination to strip the rest of the skin off my back today had to make things worse. "The cavalry?" I ask again, remembering the news the Jaffa had brought to the Goa'uld.
"Wrong century, O'Neill," Teal'c responds. I am a mass of agony, but I still have to move to really look at my friend's face. Was he serious?
The puzzled look on Teal'c's face tells me he is trying to figure out what I am trying to say, but I don't bother trying to explain it to him. It's not worth the effort.
"We've not seen nor heard from anyone from the SGC since you and I were brought back here," Carter responded.
"Damn," I mutter. Now I get to worry about them, as well. "How are you doing, Carter?" I have to ask.
"I am much better than you are, sir," she responds quietly. "They didn't get a chance to finish what they started after you had passed out. Whoever came through the Gate really gave them a run for their money and the Jaffa beating us were needed to help in the fight. So they brought us here while they took care of the intruders."
"So now we need to get out of here to help them help us," I add, as I lay there on the floor. The pain in my back has lessened to a smoldering fire versus the blazing agony of a few minutes before, but I know that I am only fooling myself if I think I'll be able to just get up and walk out of here.
"Yes sir," Carter responds wearily. Something about her response sets off alarm signals in my mind causing me to take a deep breath, grit my teeth and reach my arm out to grab onto one of the bars of the cell so that I can try to pull myself up to a standing position. 'Try' is the operative word here, as I struggle to keep from passing out.
"O'Neill." Teal'c's normally calm voice is laced with concern, but if I am to get us out of here, I have to get myself up off the floor. Besides, the smell I woke up to has followed me over here and I realize that it's because I was lying in that stuff and it is now in my hair and still on my face. Water would be good right about now.
"Teal'c?" I call out to the fading image of my friend. I can't pass out now, so I grab onto his arms as he reaches out to help me up. It takes a few moments for me to get up on my feet, and several more to actually get my bearings, as I wait for the room to stop spinning. The fire in my back has taken agony to a whole new level and all I can do is hang onto Teal'c, as I lean my head up against the bars while I wait for some relief.
"I am here, O'Neill," Teal'c informs me. I can only nod my head to acknowledge his remark and even that causes more fire to race across my back.
"We need to get out of here," I say when I am finally able to speak. "What are we facing?"
"There seems to be only one Jaffa guarding us at the moment," Teal'c says, as he waits patiently for me to find the strength and the courage to let go of his arms. "I believe that we should be able to get past him if we can escape from these cells."
"Any ideas on how to get out of here?" Daniel asks. The room is no longer spinning and I gingerly bring my head up to look around my surroundings so that I can find my other teammates. We are being held in a holding area that consists of four cells situated in a box-like pattern. Daniel is in the cell next to Teal'c's and his face reflects his concern for me as he watches me cling to Teal'c's arms.
It's Carter that I am really worried about, though, so I release my grip on one of Teal'c's arms to grab onto a bar of the cell, then do the same with my other hand. This gives me a little leeway in terms of leaning against the bars and I take advantage of this opportunity to rest against them. The coolness of the bars against my bare arms reminds me that I need to find my shirt, or at least my jacket before I leave this place.
"Perhaps a distraction would work to our advantage," Teal'c responds to Daniel's question, as I muster up more strength to finally turn my head to look at Carter. She is in the cell that is next to both mine and Daniel's and I am heartened to see her standing there without having to hang onto anything like I am doing. This means she couldn't have been hurt too badly.
"You look good," I say, then realize that maybe that wasn't such a great way to put it.
I find that I am glad I said it anyway when Carter smiles at me. I'd say anything to get her to smile at me like that. "Thank you sir," she responds. Her smile dims when she says, "I'll be okay," which is her way of telling me that she knew what I was trying to say. "All I need to do is get out of here."
"We will," I tell her, as I continue to watch her. Her face is pale and there is some blood on the side of her shirt, but she is standing on her own and this is very encouraging.
"If the Jaffa continue to follow in the routine they have set up, someone will bring us food soon," Teal'c says to bring everyone back to the problem at hand. "Perhaps we can entice the guard to enter one of the cells, enabling us to overpower him."
"As much as I hate to admit this Teal'c," I respond, trying to push the agony away long enough for me to focus on our little dilemma, "I just don't think I am up to enticing anyone, let alone overpowering him."
"Perhaps Major Carter?" Teal'c replies with a glance at the blond major.
"Now wait a minute," Carter says indignantly. "I don't think I like where this is going."
"I think you would be the best choice, Sam." This is from Daniel, who wisely backs up from the bars. "You could unbutton your shirt to show some…"
"You could do it just as well, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c says, innocently. It's apparent that he is thinking in terms of something entirely different than what Carter, Daniel and I are thinking.
"Say what?" Daniel says incredulously. "You can't possibly think …," he stops then, as he reflects on Teal'c's words. "Just what are you referring to?"
"You could lure the Jaffa into the cell by pretending you are sick, then grab his weapon when he comes in to see what the problem is," Teal'c answers, still not aware that he had insulted both his teammates.
"Oh," Daniel and Carter both say at the same time. Carter is so cute when she is embarrassed and I can't keep the grin from my face as I watch her face redden slightly.
"Do you think it will work if I lie down next to these bars and pretend that I am dead?" I ask Teal'c. "You can grab him when he comes to find out if it's true or not."
"The Jaffa may not consider coming in to check on a dead body," Teal'c responds thoughtfully. "I will tell him that you are dying and that since you are the only one who has the answers his God seeks; it would be in his best interest to make sure you live. Will you be able to ensure his cooperation in getting as close to the bars as possible?"
"Yes," I tell him, although I am not as confident as I sound. The room is spinning around again and I close my eyes once again to battle the feeling of passing out. "Help out here, will you Teal'c?" I ask, and Teal'c comes to my rescue once again, only this time to help me lie back down. My hand slips from his arm and the agony of torn and ragged muscles being forced into an unnatural position causes me to fall into what I can only describe as blissful darkness.
"Colonel O'Neill." Teal'c's voice wakes me up, bringing me back into a world full of agony and burning pain. I try to respond, but the throbbing in my back seems to take my breath away, and I just lie there wishing I was dead. "O'Neill," he says urgently.
"I'm here," I grit out between clenched teeth. They must have turned up the heat in this place, because I am now dealing with the uncomfortable feeling of boiling in my own sweat, along with the nausea from the smell that still lingers in my nostrils and the ever constant pain in my back. Life royally sucks!
"Someone is coming," Teal'c informs me in a near whisper. "Do you still want to be the lure?"
"Lure?" I have to ask, as I add a fuzzy headed feeling to my ever-growing list of complaints.
"Just act like you are dying and be ready when the Jaffa enters your cell," Daniel whispers harshly. I wonder if it's worth telling him that I don't have to act.
"Kree!" the Jaffa who had been heading our way shouts, as he nears our cells.
"My friend is dying," Daniel tells the Jaffa when he gets the chance. "He needs medical attention."
The Jaffa doesn't respond, and I wish that I could move to see what it is he is doing. I make the effort anyway, then immediately groan as the pain threatens to cause me to black out again.
"He is dying," Teal'c says in that firm, calm voice that prompted many a lowly Jaffa to trembling during his First Prime days. "Would your God be happy if the only one with the information he seeks is dead?" There was no response from the Jaffa and I add another groan for good measure. "He is feverish and will be dead before morning if he is not treated," Teal'c insists gravely.
"Shol'vah!" the Jaffa snarls. "Why should I believe you?"
"See for yourself," Teal'c responds evenly. "It will not be me that your God punishes if you let this man die."
These words apparently get through to the Jaffa, because the door to my cell opens and I wait until I see my captor's boots before deciding on my next course of action. I close my eyes at that point, hoping that the Jaffa will think I am too weak to do anything serious. Unfortunately, I am, but I make a valiant effort at staying awake long enough to give Teal'c the upper hand.
I can't help the groan that escapes my throat when the Jaffa nudges me with his boot, but I continue to lie still as I wait for my opportunity to help destroy this bastard. The Jaffa then reaches down to touch my face, probably to determine if I am indeed feverish. The time to act is now and I move my hand only far enough to grab his wrist. The pain this simple movement brings about causes me to cry out, but I refuse to loosen my grasp. The Jaffa has other ideas though, and he yanks hard to force me to release him, which pushes me over the edge and I slip into oblivion knowing that I've failed my team.
The sounds of gunfire bring me back to the world of the living, or maybe I am in Hell. I can't be sure at this point because I am still in constant agony. Something is definitely happening though, and I open my eyes to see if I can find out what's going on. Big mistake. The world is still spinning and moving at a fast pace, and the urge to puke is replaced by reality as my stomach gets rid of its contents. Apparently I was being dragged, as I now find myself flat on my face in the dirt and vomit and I am once again wishing that I had never made the trip to this God forsaken planet.
"Jack!" Daniel yells in my ear. "You okay?" I can't respond even if I wanted to, which I don't. "Roger, what the hell's the matter with you, dropping him like that?" Daniel continues yelling, though it is at someone else for once.
"He was throwing up all over me," Roger yells back. His voice sounds louder as he ducks down on his knees to avoid getting shot at. "He even managed to get some on my boots."
"If you don't help me get him to the Gate, your boots are going to be splattered with your own blood," Daniel promises vehemently. To say that this statement surprises me is an understatement in itself. Daniel was actually threatening somebody with bodily harm? I am hallucinating, there is no other explanation, but then I don't even care anymore when Daniel and Roger each grab an arm and pull me up to continue dragging me off to the Gate. The pain in my back is excruciating, while the sounds of a mighty battle being fought all around me grow dim as I am dragged back into unconsciousness.
My next conscious thought revolves around the sounds and smells of the infirmary. Oh God, yes! We actually made it back. And to top it all off, I think I am actually going to live. The pain I was experiencing while being held a prisoner has dulled, although I just know that this is a drug-induced euphoria. I don't care at this moment. I just want to dwell in this relief for as long as I can.
I finally pry my eyes open to see if my suspicions are correct, but I don't get past the vision of Carter sitting in a chair next to my bed with her laptop computer propped on her knees. I have to smile when I see her – Carter wouldn't know relaxation if it came up and bit her on the nose. "Workaholic," I try to say, but what comes out is a totally different story.
Carter nearly drops her computer when she hears my voice, then hurries to park it on the bed next to mine, so that she can give me her full attention. "How are you feeling sir?" she asks, as she smiles down at me. She then sits back down on the chair when she realizes how difficult it is for me to look up at her, as I am lying on my stomach and it is too painful to twist my body so that I can look into her eyes.
"Alive," I respond, glad that she'd sat back down, then gratefully take a sip of the water she offers me. "Although I think the jury is still out on that verdict."
"Dr. Fraiser says you're going to make it," she tells me, as she puts the cup back on the table near the bed. "You had us worried for a while there."
"Sorry," I mumble, while I try to focus on my second in command, then a more pressing thought takes over. "Teal'c and Daniel?"
"They're both fine," Carter responds with a small smile. "We barely made it out, but we were able to meet up with SG-3 and 5 and got back home in one piece." Her smile faltered, then hurried on to amend, "Well…, almost one piece."
I don't respond as I lay there staring at her. The smile on her face brightens as she stares back, and I am astounded to see the faith still there in her eyes. She still believes in me even after I'd failed her time and again during that last mission.
"Don't do that," I order her, closing my eyes to avoid seeing the loyalty shining in hers.
"Sir?" I hear the confusion in her voice, but I can't let go of my guilt of not being able to come through for her and the rest of the team. I keep my eyes closed instead, hoping she will think I had gone back to sleep, all the while berating myself for failing my friends.
"Colonel O'Neill," she says, as she puts her hand on my arm. "I wanted to thank you for what you did back there on that planet. I know you were in so much pain." she stopped then, seemingly to gather the courage to speak her mind. "You gave me back the strength to keep moving and it made me even more determined to face those guys with as much dignity as I could muster." She stops once again, as I open my eyes in surprise, then rushes on to finish her speech. "Thank you, sir."
It's my turn to be totally confused. She was thanking me? "Um… Carter? What did I do?"
The smile was back and I admit that I just love looking at that smile. "There you were chained to a pole with blood all over the place, and you still oozed confidence," she said, her expression now showing acute embarrassment. "You gave me some of that confidence and I held on to it while they were beating me, while you were passed out in your cell, even when you grabbed that Jaffa's arm and helped Teal'c grab onto that guy's neck through the bars." I am completely dumbfounded by her whole speech and all I can do is stare at her. "I've learned a lot from you over the past several years, sir," she continues. "And I hope to learn more in the years to come."
She's finished saying what she wanted to say, but I still can't respond. Here I am, hating myself for not being strong enough to keep my team safe, and she sits there and thanks me. Times like this makes me wonder why I even bother to try and figure out a woman's mind. Maybe that's the problem. She is also a soldier, and if there is one thing I know, it's soldiers. Maybe I should try to look past those beautiful blue eyes to see the soldier staring out at me.
"Sir?" she asks tentatively, her face turning an even brighter shade of red.
"You are one of the best damn soldiers I have ever had the pleasure of serving with," I tell her, hoping to ease some of her embarrassment. "You already had that confidence in you, you just didn't know it. Never forget that, Major."
"Yes sir," she responds with a small smile. We end up staring at each other for a few moments, while I spend those moments wishing things were different. I can't risk either of our careers to tell her how I really feel, not to mention the fact that she may not feel the same way for me. So I end up here in this bed, starting to feel the after effects of the beatings I had endured on that planet, as the pain medications wear off, wishing I could make things right for both of us.
"Why don't you get some sleep," Carter suggests. "I'll be here if you need anything, okay?"
She really doesn't have to tell me twice. I nod at her and close my eyes once again. Sleep comes soon enough, but not before I raise my head up one last time so that I can tell her, "Thanks Carter."
"For what?" she asks.
"For believing in me," I respond sleepily. "Thanks."