Well, here it is… hope this answers all those questions about what was wrong with Sam. Thanks for making it to the end!
If possible they were moving even more slowly now. Teal'c, Daniel, and the Colonel had shed their jackets in the heat, and sweat was pouring off of them. Her own feet felt like lead. She struggled on for several more minutes before she finally realized she was fighting a losing battle. She knew they were nearing the Stargate, but she could literally feel her body starting to shut down. Her vision started to narrow, darkness pushing in at the edges. Horrified as she was to slow them down once more, stopping to take a break would be better than fainting dead away. She forced the words out, hoping that the Colonel would not be upset with her. "Sir," she gasped stumbling to a halt. "Please… I'm sorry… I… I need a break."
He looked at her, face impassive. She couldn't interpret his expression, but thought she detected disappointment. She looked down at her feet, ashamed. She hated being the weak link. She hated it more than anything.
"Right," the Colonel said. "Take five. Teal'c, keep watch."
The Jaffa nodded, priming his staff weapon as Daniel collapsed gratefully to the ground.
Sam followed more carefully. She propped her feet up on a rock as she lay back against the cool dirt of the jungle floor, hoping there weren't too many bugs in the vicinity.
"Sam?" Daniel asked softly.
She swallowed back bile. "I'm okay," she said, not opening her eyes. "Just… tired."
"Me too. I needed the break. Thanks."
She glanced at him, saw that his face was drawn with pain, and his hair was sticking out at odd angles. Another stab of sympathy shot through her, and her respect for the archeologist went up ten-fold. Daniel was tough. Tougher than she'd given him credit for. And he hadn't complained a bit about the heat, pain, gravity, or the Colonel's foul mood. He hadn't complained that she kept slowing them down, prolonging their stay on this horrible planet. Prolonging his own pain…
"Everyone stay hydrated," the Colonel said, reminding them to drink.
Daniel took a long drink from his canteen, and then handed it to her.
She took a couple of sips before handing it back to him. "I'm sorry I'm slowing us down, Daniel," she said quietly.
Daniel looked surprised. "What? God, no, Sam, no… don't be. I'm just so glad…" He blinked at her from behind water-beaded lenses. "You're doing great. Jack is just being an ass."
"An ass with two perfectly good ears," the Colonel said from his spot a few feet away.
Daniel gave an exaggerated grimace, and Sam grinned in sympathy. No wonder the Colonel sometimes called them "kids." Impulsively, she reached for Daniel's hand and gave it a squeeze, mouthing a silent "thank you."
He returned the squeeze with a soft smile. "Did you know that a Jackass's hearing is 50 times more efficient than human's?" he asked. "In fact in some areas they're trained to be guard animals, protecting the local herds from predators…"
Jackass? Sam suppressed a snort of laughter. Even half-dead from blood loss, Daniel was brilliant.
"Are you making fun of O'Neill, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
Sam choked back another laugh as Daniel squirmed.
"Um… no, of course not, Teal'c," Daniel said. "I was just continuing with the, uh, natural flow of the conversation."
"Oh please," the Colonel said.
"As First Prime of Apophis, I would not tolerate such behavior from my subordinates," Teal'c said.
"Uh, yeah," the Colonel said slowly, apparently unsure where the Jaffa was going with this. He glanced at Daniel, and then looked curiously at Teal'c, cocking his head to one side. "What exactly did you do to subordinates who… acted like this?"
"Shall I demonstrate?" Teal'c offered, reaching for his knife and turning towards Daniel.
"No, no …!" the Colonel said quickly as Daniel's eyes doubled in size. "That's quite all right."
Teal'c nodded once, turning his back to them again, but not before Sam saw what looked suspiciously like a twinkle in his eye as his gaze met hers briefly. Teal'c…teasing? Did their stoic Jaffa actually have a sense of humor?
She lay there contemplating that possibility for several moments before gradually becoming aware of something odd. Beneath her shoulder blades, she could feel the ground shake. She focused on the sensation, wondering if it was an earthquake. No, it reoccurred… at regular intervals. An image jumped to mind - from the movie, Jurassic Park, of a vibrating puddle of water heralding the approach of T-Rex.
"Uh, guys?" she said, sitting up in alarm.
"Carter?" the Colonel asked, immediately on alert.
"Something's coming," she said quietly.
"Something big, bad-ass, or both," she clarified, standing up without assistance.
"Captain Carter is correct," Teal'c said. "Something large is approaching from the direction of the river. I suggest a tactical retreat to the Chappa'ai."
The Colonel didn't argue. "Let's go! We're not too far from the… oof!" he said as Teal'c threw him over his shoulder and took off. "…gate…"
Sam and Daniel exchanged a look, and then broke into a trot after Teal'c.
Despite carrying the full weight of the Colonel, Teal'c moved quickly, and after only a few meters Sam was hard pressed to keep up. Only the increasing volume of branches snapping behind them as something very big moved through the forest kept her forging ahead at a steady pace, Daniel close by her side.
She was literally gasping for breath when they finally burst onto the rocky plain where the Stargate stood about half a mile away. Never had Sam been so glad to see something in her life. She continued pushing forward, eyes locked on the DHD.
They were close enough for her to read the symbols on the DHD when Daniel slowed down, turning to look behind them. "Hey guys, look," he said stopping.
Sam stumbled to a halt, following the direction he was pointing. Moving from the forest was a large creature. It looked vaguely like a cross between a giant elephant and a triceratops, with two tusks, a horn on its head, and a short trunk. It was a startling shade of blue. And it did not appear to be interested in them in the least, veering off across the plain at an angle that would take it far away from the gate.
"Thank God," Sam gasped when she realized it wasn't actually chasing them. Her chest felt like it was on fire.
She was turning back towards the gate when the shoulder-high boulder to their right seemed to unfold itself. Unsure as to what she was seeing, she brought her weapon up as the rock appeared to pounce upon the unsuspecting Teal'c and Colonel, sending them both flying.
She opened fire as snapping jaws descended towards Teal'c's neck. Bullets ricocheted off a stone-like shell as two black eyes whipped around to fix her in their predatory glare. Her finger froze on the trigger as the thing snarled, revealing a mouth full of curved teeth. It looked like the armadillo from hell. And it was gathering itself to attack her.
She didn't think, just aimed and fired. The first bullet missed its target; the second, third, and fourth buried into the creature's eyes in an explosion of blood and brains. She blinked as it fell, collapsing on Teal'c and the Colonel.
Daniel looked at her, eyes wide.
"Oh, no," she whispered, feeling the telltale signs of lightheadedness. Daniel caught her as she fainted.
Three heads were leaning over her when she opened her eyes again.
"Hello," the Colonel smiled.
"It is good you are awake," Teal'c said.
"Jack was about to have me dial home and call for medics," Daniel said.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Rock monster," the Colonel said. "Nice shooting, by the way."
"It's not rock," Daniel said. "It has some sort of external armored plates… probably leather covered bone. But an extremely effective camouflage…"
"She just woke up, Daniel, I doubt she really cares," the Colonel interrupted him. He looked at her. "Do you care, Carter?"
"Uh… yes, sir. Sorry, sir," she said, struggling to sit up.
"Scientists," the Colonel rolled his eyes, but she was fairly certain he was only teasing. "You remember what happened, now?"
"You feel up to going home?"
She nodded. "Definitely, sir!"
Teal'c lips curled upwards minutely at the enthusiasm in her voice. "Let me help you up, Captain Carter," he said.
She smiled, taking his hand.
"Dial us home, Daniel," the Colonel said.
The gate spat her out, senses returning in a confused jumble… frozen skin, gray concrete, the Colonel calling out for medics…her feet stumbled… why the hell did they slope the ramp downwards, anyway… it was like being dropped, blind, on a hillside… head spinning, and then the shiny metal of the ramp was rushing up to meet her. Pain exploded as she hit, but she didn't lose consciousness… dammit… She lay there gasping, vaguely aware that she was drooling through the cold grating of the ramp as it vibrated from booted feet rushing towards her.
"I'm okay," she said as hands touched her back, unsure if they were SFs or medical staff or maybe her own team. "Just give me a second." She didn't want to be carried off the ramp no matter how much she hurt… didn't want the SFs to think the woman on the team was weak when the others had more obvious injuries.
Now if only she could get her limbs to move…
"She is not okay," the Colonel growled somewhere nearby. "She's got separated ribs and burns and bites and god knows what else…"
Sam wanted to protest, but trying to push herself up onto her hands and knees was requiring all of her concentration, particularly since the idiots around her were holding her down.
"Relax, Captain," a feminine voice said in her ear. "I'm Dr. Fraiser, and I'm here to help you."
"I can walk," Sam said into the ramp. She didn't sound too convincing even to her own ears.
"I believe you," Fraiser said. "But I'm ordering you to let us take care of you, all right?"
An order? Okay, she could deal with that. Fraiser was the CMO. Surely no one would hold it against her for lying there if she'd been ordered to, right? She sighed in relief.
"Just relax, Captain," Fraiser repeated.
"Yes, m'am," Sam managed to whisper before passing out.
"Okay, Marcy, I want the following tests: CBC, electrolyte panel, creatine level, and urinalysis. Keep her on the Ringers; I want her fully hydrated." The voice droned on. Hands touched her, needles pricked her skin. Cool tubing touched her cheeks, and something was inserted into her nose. She tried to turn her head away but the tubes moved with her.
"She's coming to," a man said.
Bright lights blinded Sam when she finally managed to open her eyes so she squeezed them closed again quickly.
"Captain Carter?" Sam's mind sluggishly identified the voice as belonging to Dr. Fraiser.
She groaned as someone touched the sore spot on her knee with something cold. Scissors… they were cutting off her pants.
"We've got a burn here," the man said.
"That must be the point of ground," Fraiser said. "She must have been kneeling when the initial shock happened. Captain Carter, do you understand me?"
"Yeah," Sam answered thickly, noticing with growing alarm that the scissors kept going past her knee and up her thigh, and another pair had started in on her shirt. "Whoa, hey!" she protested, trying to bat away whoever was wielding the scissors at her bra straps.
A small but strong hand caught her wrist, and she opened her eyes to find Dr. Fraiser frowning down at her. "We have to remove your clothes in order to assess your injuries, Captain," the CMO said gently. She smiled slightly, releasing Sam's wrist. "Trust me, you don't have anything the nurses and I haven't seen a hundred times before."
Sam felt horribly exposed nevertheless, and clung to the remnants of her shirt still covering her chest. She felt cold, confused and hurt. "I can undress myself," she said, shivering in the chill air.
Fraiser smiled again, sympathy tingeing her eyes. "I know you can, Captain, but pulling off a shirt with separated ribs is not something you want to do if you can avoid it." She broke eye contact with Sam, glancing at the nurse who had been cutting off Sam's pants. "Tony, get Captain Carter a warm blanket, would you please?" She set aside her scissors and picked up a small vial and syringe from a nearby cart.
Sam swallowed as the doctor injected something into her IV, and she took a moment to look around, hoping to see her teammates. Unfortunately, she was in a room with which she was unfamiliar. It was filled with several pieces of bulky medical equipment, but she was alone with Fraiser and two nurses. "Daniel…? Colonel O'Neill…?"
"Your teammates are just fine. Dr. Jackson is getting an IV and some stitches, and Dr. Warner is examining Colonel O'Neill's knee. We're just going to get a couple of X-rays here, and then you'll be moved back to the infirmary with them. Can you tell me where you hurt, Captain?"
Sam thought it might be easier to tell her where it didn't hurt, but she knew the doctor only wanted to know about serious injuries. "Ribs, right hand, the bite on my right arm, and my left knee. And I have a headache."
"Did you hit your head at any time?"
"No. Not that I remember…" Sam amended.
Sam grimaced. "All over."
"I'm not surprised," Fraiser smiled gently. "It's not unusual to have severe muscle contractions. Any numbness or tingling?"
"No," Sam said, fighting a sudden wave of sleepiness. "Not anymore…"
Tony returned with the warm blanket, and Dr. Fraiser covered her with it, tucking it in gently. Sam relaxed as the heat soaked into her body, deciding that she liked the bedside manner of the new CMO very, very much.
"Sweet dreams, Captain," the doctor said softly as Sam drifted off. "You were very lucky. We'll take good care of you."
Colonel O'Neill was sitting beside her bed when she regained consciousness again.
He smiled as she blinked at him sleepily. "Morning, Carter," he finally said.
"Sir…?" Hadn't it been late afternoon when they'd come back through the gate? She looked around, wondering if Daniel were nearby.
The Colonel saw what she was doing. "Daniel's fine. Fraiser sent him home about an hour ago. He told me to tell you 'hi.'"
"Thanks," she said. "I'm glad he's okay. I was worried about him on the planet."
The Colonel snorted. "Yeah, me too. How are you feeling?"
"Fine, sir," she answered automatically. And actually, after a moment's consideration, she decided that despite a slight headache, a dull ache to her ribs, and the discomfort of what could only be a catheter, she really did feel remarkably better than she had when she'd taken the header down the Gateroom ramp. Which made her somewhat surprised to note that she was still hooked up to a heart monitor and IV.
He snorted knowingly. "Right. She's got you on the good drugs. Well, no forced marches today, anyway," he said. "No nasty little lizards nibbling at your heels. In fact, Doc Fraiser says you get to spend the whole day in bed. And tomorrow, too. And possibly the day after that."
Sam swallowed, not sure how to interpret his tone. Mortified, she wondered if he was subtly reprimanding her for slowing them down on the planet. Unfortunately, she didn't know if she should apologize to him for it, or just leave it, trusting him to come out and address it directly if he wanted. He didn't look particularly upset with her. In fact, he looked almost… embarrassed.
"Listen, Carter," he said awkwardly. "I'm sorry I pushed you so hard on the planet. It was a tough call, a bad situation."
"Yes, sir," she said, thinking that an apology from her CO sounded promising for her continued participation on SG-1.
"We had to get out of the temple…back to the gate."
"It was a ship, sir," she corrected automatically, regretting it when he made a face.
"Temple, ship, whatever the hell it was. We were low on ammo, three of us were injured, and we had no idea when help might arrive. I didn't want to split up the team on a dangerous planet. Shit, I've seen Jurassic Park. I just wanted to get us the hell back home."
"Yes, sir," she agreed.
He sighed, fiddling with his crutches. "You're a good soldier, Carter. I knew you'd be motivated by the threat of failure. I rode you hard because I thought it was the best way to keep you going, and we needed you functioning for all of us to get out of there alive."
Sam stared at him. Good soldier… motivated by the threat of failure. She wondered if those words were entered on her psych profile somewhere, and the Colonel had read them. Certainly, it had worked. She groaned inwardly, realization dawning. God, he had played her like a first-year cadet…
Of course, that's what good leaders did. They knew how to motivate their people, to get them to perform to the best of their abilities under pressure. The Colonel had known she would do her best… give her utmost… to avoid failing in his eyes, and he'd used that knowledge to get her home safely. Ultimately it had succeeded, but she couldn't help but wish that she'd done a better job of living up to his expectations in the first place.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said slowly.
"About what?" he asked, clearly confused.
"I disobeyed your order, sir, and I slowed us down on the planet. You shouldn't have had to ride me hard, sir. I should have performed at a level that didn't require you to…"
"Ah ah!" he said, interrupting her, shaking his head in disbelief. "For crying out loud, Carter, if you hadn't disobeyed my order we'd probably be dead now, and I am NOT criticizing your performance. In fact, I'm the one who is trying to apologize here, so just…" He waved his hand distractedly, "Shut up."
Sam tried to decide if she should respond to the order with a "yes, sir," or if that would violate the command itself.
"Right," the Colonel said after a moment of silence. "I should get on with it. Anyway, Fraiser read me the riot act. Told me everything that could have gone wrong by pushing you and Daniel. I made a bad judgment call, and even though it turned out okay, I am sorry for putting you at risk." He took a deep breath. "I'm also sorry about separating your ribs."
Now it was her turn to look confused.
"Do you remember how they got hurt?" he asked.
Sam felt the heat rising in her cheeks, embarrassed to admit that she didn't. Finally, she shook her head.
"No, you wouldn't," he said slowly, a pained expression now on his face. "You were trying to get us out of the temple – ship - when you were electrocuted." He stopped, briefly breaking eye contact before continuing. "It was bad, Carter. I did CPR on you for… forever… before Daniel had the brilliant idea to see if there was some sort of med-kit still on board with a defibrillator or something. Of course, Teal'c had no idea what Daniel was babbling about, but he finally got the idea that we were looking for something to shock you with. He found an old Goa'uld torture device somewhere on board. He said such devices shocked the victim but were no longer used by the Goa'uld because they had an unfortunate habit of killing the person being interrogated. As well as other… unpleasant, lingering side effects… But we figured it wasn't going to make anything any worse, so we hit you with that a couple of times trying to get your ticker started again. Fraiser tells me it was probably a million to one shot that it actually worked." He flashed a smile. "Personally, I find it rather amusing - and ironic - that we successfully tortured you to life."
Oh my God, Sam thought, in shock. No wonder she felt like hell.
"Fraiser says your heart rhythm was unstable most of the night…something about v-tech arrhythmias and …" he gestured at the heart monitor irritably, "…other stuff I don't pretend to understand. She didn't know if it was caused by the torture device or the initial electrocution or a combination of both. That's probably why you kept passing out, incidentally… that and shock, of course…and the gravity and temporary oxygen deprivation apparently didn't make it any easier on your heart… but everything seems to have settled down, now. She can't find any evidence of any other aftereffects, so you'll need to tell her if anything seems off. Blindness, numbness, paralysis, severe headache, swelling hands or feet… that sort of thing. I'm sure she'll give you the whole lecture when she gets back in here."
When Sam didn't respond, the Colonel stood up, balancing on one leg until he got his crutches under him. "Anyway… you did good, Captain," he continued with a cryptic smile on his face. "I've put a letter of commendation in your file for getting us out of that… ship… under extreme circumstances. And defending us against mini T-Rex and rock monster on the way home. You did pretty damn fine work for someone who'd been dead for so long. Even Teal'c was impressed." The Colonel grinned down at her for a moment, clearly enjoying her surprise. Finally he frowned. "You took it literally, didn't you?"
She frowned. Had he been teasing her about what had happened?
"Shut up," he said. "I told you to shut up, and you took it as an order." He shook his head. "Carter, you're gonna have to learn to lighten up a bit. Relax. I'm only a hardass when it comes to the safety of my people and the success of the mission. You're doing a great job. Have faith in yourself." He turned to leave, making his way across the infirmary with soft clicks from his crutches. Before he pushed through the doors he turned to her again. "Permission to speak, Captain."
"Thank you, sir," she said a little breathlessly, hoping he knew what she meant. Thank you for not being angry with me. Thank you for telling me what happened. Thank you for giving me a commendation. Thank you for saving my life. She owed him so much.
Apparently, she owed him everything.
"You betcha," he said with an understanding smile, and then he was gone, leaving her staring after him in bemusement.
Sam couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.
"You're looking cheerful," Dr. Fraiser smiled, entering the room, a clipboard in hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Great," Sam said happily. "Wonderful. Spectacular, in fact."
"That's….good," Fraiser said with a curious smile. "Most of my patients aren't usually so… enthusiastic… after 24 hours like you've had."
Sam grinned. "See, that's just it. No one on Earth has ever had 24 hours like I just had. I was on another world… a million light years from Earth… with the best commander the U.S. Air Force has to offer… and a brilliant archeologist… and an alien… a warrior who used to command entire armies… And they're my team… My team! We found a spaceship… and fought dinosaurs… and saw animals unlike anything on Earth… And they saved my life, and I saved their lives, and… it's… it's incredible! Can you believe it?"
The doctor chuckled. "I suppose I hadn't looked at it that way. I guess I don't have to worry about you being afraid to come under fire again, then, when you're released for duty?"
Sam shook her head. "I can't wait to go back out. I can't wait to find out what we'll find next." It was true. The entire universe was out there, and SG-1 was the right team to tackle anything it had to offer.