It was cold. He'd lost her. He had to find her. Where was she?
Jack whipped his head around, his eyes blinked against the onslaught on heavy snow that stung his cheeks and stuck to his eyelashes. He vaguely registered Daniel on his right and Teal'c shuffling in the knee-high snow behind him, ploughing through it with his powerful legs. Daniel had long since disposed of his glasses, taking his chance with his poor vision than with the blindness that went with the clouded spectacles.
Jack's knees were screaming their protest at him, his breath was catching short with every inhale until he become dizzy with the lack of oxygen, but he had to keep moving. The evil that portrayed themselves as human were not far behind, the only thing keeping them at bay was the blizzard that would soon kill the SG 1 if they didn't find some shelter.
Daniel stumbled from exhaustion, flinging his hands out to catch himself only to sink and disappear quickly beneath the snow with a cry of anguish. Jack and Teal'c lunged themselves to his side and brought him up by his jacket, Teal'c took to the front and started to cut a path for Daniel to follow through the snow behind. Jack walked beside him, scanning the horizons.
SCREEEEEK KA KAAAAAA!
The call broke through the howling wind, Jack turned so he was manoeuvring through the white sheet backwards so snow wasn't beating against his face. He pulled his gun up wearily in the vague direction of the sound. They had been hearing it all day, the angry war cry of the Da'ui warriors.
"Jack! We can't handle this much longer!" Daniel cried through the gale "They are catching up!"
Jack nodded in acknowledgment and brought his eyes down in despair. They couldn't carry on, he was about ready to fall down and get whisked away to sleep not caring whether he woke up or not.
Then something sparkled at the corner of his eye, he crouched to retrieve a ring, it shone through the snow and against it, and the diamond was large and crude.
This was Pete's ring. It never would be Sam's; it didn't belong where it usually sat upon her finger.
She had been this way. She was near. Tracks veering to the left.
"Daniel! Teal'c!" Jack called "Head for that rock formation! I'm right behind you!"
Daniel squinted in confusion at Jack as he changed his direction and headed towards the left. Daniel tapped Teal'c's shoulder to indicate to stop and started to break his way through to Jack.
"Jack!" Daniel croaked as the wind altered and snow came into his mouth and caked the back of his throat. He spluttered and Teal'c laid a hand on his shoulder in comfort, he squeezed his eyes shut against the cold and the wind, desperate to be warm.
"Daniel Jackson, we must find shelter," Teal'c implored.
Daniel forced his eyes to look up but there was no sign of Jack anymore, the icy mist had enveloped him and Daniel had no chance of calling him through the roar of the wind and the sound of the hail drumming against their anoraks. He nodded and let Teal'c lead the way through the ceaseless storm.
Jack couldn't feel his hands; well he could, but not the individual digits only the stabbing pain that coursed through them. The gloves that were meant to protect them were soaked and the thin material, although supposedly water-proof, was not keeping the worst of it out. His arms were raised against the onslaught of the heavy snow, he vaguely registered the storm calming down but with the wind aimed directly at his face it was hard to tell. He kept his head down and only brought it up briefly to search his surroundings for his missing Colonel.
How he hated her. Diplomatic meeting his ass. He could be warm, in his office, doing his beloved paperwork "It'll be short, sir", "It's easy, sir", "Daniel will arrange all the diplomacy, sir, you just have to show your face," Bah! A routine diplomatic mission with SG-1 was rarely ever routine and rarely ever diplomatic.
Still he'd never forgive himself if something happened to her.
Pete's going to be so cross, she'd promised him she'd be home for the weekend not on some god-forsaken ice planet with a sprained wrist. Of course she'd promised him last week she'd be home, instead she decided on apologising to a bunch of territorial aliens that eventually just ended up throwing her team in prison anyway for trespassing.
This week had to be the best though. A band of warriors with a primitive look but a large amount of advanced technology offering a trade for women, not excepting that she was the leader of her team she was forced to bring the General to the planet to negotiate with them. Bad plan.
She doesn't even remember how they got separated or why she woke up in the snow, she only remembered flying, and not out of her own free will. She was hurled over the side of a cliff… albeit not a very large cliff but large enough; she can't even remember hitting the ground.
Pete hates the fact he can't be a part of her life, well she can't see him dealing with this even if he is 'trained' in the force. Would he start taking control of her work patterns? He could get even angrier at being left out though and getting stuck at home. But…What if she doesn't want him in this part of her life? This is her part. Should she even be marrying him if she can't share everything?
She brought the uninjured arm up to her dog tags where the ring swung in the wind and undid it and held it in front of her face to inspect it. Looking through the diamond at the snowy wasteland she suddenly saw everything much clearer than she had before and she stopped walking.
It was ugly.
It didn't hold any real feeling in it. Pete didn't know her well enough to know what ring she'd like so he went for the biggest diamond he could afford. He hadn't even tried to find out.
She didn't like diamonds.
She had made a stupid mistake, she just wanted a relationship, she had been lonely. The tears that started to slowly edge her way down her face stung and burned her face in the cold. She sat. She didn't have the energy to do anything else; she didn't care if the warriors found her now because it would be a relief. A relief to have some human contact even if it was aggressive (well as close to human you can get here), hey it might even be therapeutic to try and fight for her life. Something to take your mind off things, isn't it?
She took one last look at the hideous ring and threw it back the way she had came and stimulating herself she rose to her feet and plodded on through the rising snow.
The crimson shone out brightly against the white background. Jack must have been following the trail for the last 30 minutes with no sign of her but the droplets and gashes of blood occasionally along the snow.
Of course these weren't very reassuring. He was quite impressed actually that she had managed to carry on this long as well as being injured. He could only hope that this meant it wasn't that fatal.
The wind had died down but the snow was still resolutely coming down in big bursts, in some ways he was angry because this meant visibility had improved for the enemy but positively this also meant he could find Carter quickly and he wasn't as cold anymore. He could almost hear the cheers of gratitude his knees were howling…. if they had mouths and could talk.
Tripping occasionally on snow covered rocks he battled through the rising snow level, his teeth were chattering and when he tried to waggle his eyebrows he swore he could hear the ice that had collected on them breaking, not that he actually needed to waggle his eyebrows, its just something he did.
He needed to sit down; unfortunately he also needed to keep moving to stay alive. It was one of those age old battles between mind and survival…normal people have only once in a lifetime but not Jack O'Neill, no. He has them once a week.
He came to a point in the snow where it flattened into a circle, she had sat there but not for long. She knew she had to keep moving. He glanced over to where he had last seen Teal'c and Daniel moving off. Sam was moving steadily to the left and straying further and further out into the glistening snow and it was getting darker. The sun was getting red and angry as it splashed vibrant pink against the snow until he could hardly distinguish between the blood and it.
As it darkened further still, he found himself face to face with the edge of a cliff. In the diminishing light, the cold crept in. Jack was shivering and his fingers were blue. The tracks stopped against the wall. She didn't try to climb it, did she?
He heard something. Danger. Quick.
A sob. He heard a timid sob coming from his right. He followed along the edge of the cliff with his numbing fingers. The dark had totally enveloped the land and he could hardly see what was right in front of his face. Suddenly his hand met nothing, the cliff just stopped, he reached out further to find that he had found a crag in the rock face that could shelter someone from the snow.
"Carter?" he rasped. His throat was sore and dry despite the wet snow all around him.
"Sir?" he heard the weak voice say.
"I'm here," he said, quickly manoeuvring himself deeper into the crag to find her hunched up inside. She was cold, very cold. She had no gloves and the leg of her pants had ripped. That's when he noticed the blood. A deep cut was framed by the ripped material; Jack quickly unloaded his pack and brought out the first aid box. He cleaned the wound and bandaged it expertly. "Keep talking, Colonel," he said as he wrapped his arms around her and held her close. He could almost feel the heat escaping her body with every second.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said "I'm almost done,"
"What do you mean almost done?"
"I know you want me to stop working but I'm just finishing up these reports,"
"Carter, you're hypothermic," Jack said with a sigh "We're not at the base,"
"I…" Carter started but she was drooping, the cold was going to take her and there was nothing he could do but keep talking in the hopes that she would hold on.
"Do you remember, Carter?" he said "The briefing room? You came in with such a smug smile on your face, like you had just won the lottery. I knew right then you were going to be trouble for me. There was this smarmy, smart and beautiful Captain across from me and I had no way of dealing with you but I wasn't going to let you catch on to that. Did I do a good job?"
"Yes, sir," she mumbled.
"But…I guess…you knew anyway, didn't you?"
"You were so annoying,"
"But I got my own back. That dress was wonderful on you….blue is really your colour," Jack laughed. There was silence. He hugged her closer and huddled further into the crag. The wind whistled violently outside and whipped in briefly inside. "Carter?...Carter," he shook her a little "Hold on, ok?"
"Daniel's gonna find us. All we've got to do is get through the night. So don't fall asleep, ok? Just keep talking,"
"It can't…" she whispered.
"Well I'll talk for both of us," Jack said stubbornly "Just focus on my voice, everything's gonna be fine,"
"I don't love him," she said quietly.
"Well, she's going to be fine General," the doctor said "You had a lucky break,"
"Yeah, we're real lucky," Jack smiled. He looked across the infirmary from the door and settled his eyes on the peaceful shape in the bed. The doctor smiled and walked off to her various duties. He coughed and walked quietly over to her lying on her back, leg propped by a cushion. The white bandage that covered her thigh didn't seem to contrast against her at all. She was so pale.
"So Colonel," Jack said and she opened her eyes slowly. "Why are you taking so long to recover? By now I should be dragging you out of your lab by the scruff of your neck. What's up?"
"Bad week, I guess, sir," she smiled. Jack nodded in understanding and frowned. He reached into his pocket and clutched at the offending object.
"I…uh…found this," he said lamely and produced the ring. Pete's ring. Her face scrunched up in anger and tears came to her eyes.
"Thank you, sir," she said and made now effort to take it from him.
"You don't have to do anything you are not comfortable with, Sam," Jack said. The use of her first name brought her to snap her head up. "You told me…in the cliff…that, uh…you didn't love him,"
"I just don't feel like I should be getting married right now," she lied.
"Maybe you should tell him that," Jack said and placed the ring on the table beside her. He turned to walk away silently as she started thinking.
"Sir?" Jack looked over his shoulder at her. "When is it our turn?" She came out with it so suddenly that he wasn't prepared. He looked down at his feet and rubbed the back of his neck nervously.