For what must have been the fiftieth time that day, Sam looked up at the mantle clock. Her manuscript was nearly three weeks overdue and she'd promised her publisher it would be in by the end of the month. She'd had all week free of distractions to work on it, and if she didn't get it done…. She bent her head back to the laptop, determined to finish it.
Several hours later, Sam was nearly done. She typed in the last sentence: "Ultimately and inevitably, once the complexity was understood and the designs perfected, the potential of the reactor was limited not by potential power output, but by the scarcity of Naquadah with which to run it. That, however, is another story." She quickly reread her last chapter, edited a bit, and, before she could change her mind, sent the final segment of her manuscript to her editor.
"There," she murmured to herself, "that should make 'em happy." Since the Stargate program had gone public several years ago, she had been deluged with requests from various scientific communities for books on a multitude of topics, and, having retired from active duty herself earlier that year, she was finding filling all those requests to be more than a full time job itself. "Well," she amended to no one, "make 'em happy for the moment."
She looked down at her screen again, at the open document still sitting on her desktop, and reread the last line. Another story. Yeah, she thought, remembering all the times they'd tried to fill their need for that rare element, naquadah. Oh boy, did she have stories. Sam couldn't help but glance at the portion of her desktop wallpaper picture she could see beneath the word processor window, at the faces revealed there, and her mind wandered to one story in particular. To one time she might have lost it all before she'd even had it…
"Just a standard recon, my ass…." Colonel Jack O'Neill mumbled just loud enough to be overheard by the rest of his team.
Behind him, Major Samantha Carter glanced across at her teammate, Teal'c. What else was new? However, they were both good enough soldiers to refrain from the obvious response. Daniel Jackson, however, had no such restraint. "But Jack, if they really do use naquadah in those torches—"
The Colonel cut him off. "I know. That's why we're going. That's why General Hammond agreed to these negotiations. I'm just saying..."
"Maybe the fact that the village is so far from the 'gate is a good thing," Daniel interjected. "I mean, maybe it means the Goa'uld don't regularly harvest the naquadah."
"That is unlikely," Teal'c said. "This address was amongst those found on Abydos. It is more likely the settlement is located near the ore deposits to facilitate mining."
"Well, this road," Daniel gestured to the dirt path they were following through the woods, "does indicate some form of regular traffic between the village and the 'gate."
"Yes," Teal'c agreed, "this seems most likely."
"Great. So, not only am I missing the Cubs play the Cardinals, but I might play ball with a bunch of Jaffa instead?"
Jack glanced back at Carter. "You sure you need this stuff?"
"Yes, sir. I mean, the potential power output of even one of those reactors—"
He cut her off with a wave of his hand. "Uh-uh-uh… No. I believe you, Carter. And, more importantly, Hammond does. I was just hoping for beer and pizza instead of M.R.E.s for dinner…"
"Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll invite us to dinner." Jack glared at Daniel, who was only trying to be helpful. Unfortunately, they had not had much luck with local food in the past. "Or, not.. M.R.E.'s are good."
As it turned out, the villagers did invite them to dinner, which, to facilitate negotiations, they did in fact eat. It wasn't half bad, either.
Sometime late that night, Sam sat at the door of the tent SG-1 had been given to sleep in, pulling her turn on watch. She looked out across the moonlit village. There was a whole lot of nothing going on. She glanced back into the interior of the tent at her sleeping teammates. Well, technically Teal'c was Kel'no'reeming, but it meant much the same. Daniel, next to him, mumbled something, talking even in his sleep. She smiled, and her gaze traveled across the campfire to Colonel O'Neill.
He lay sprawled on his belly. His face, turned towards the fire, was clearly visible in what remained of its glow. The features which he kept so carefully controlled while awake were fully relaxed in sleep. The shadows cast by the dim light accentuated the curves of his brow and chin, the smoothness of his cheeks, the fullness of his lips --
Sam turned to look back out across the village. Nothing moved in the darkness and there were no sounds save the normal night noises which seemed to be heard on every planet they visited. She thought about the day's negotiations. Things seemed to be going well, the natives receptive to trading naquadah for advanced farming techniques and assistance setting them up. Unfortunately, Teal'c's initial assessment had been correct and most of the naquadah mined was needed as a tribute for the minor Goa'uld Mishta who controlled the local population.
Still, anything was better than nothing. She let herself look back into the tent once more. She hadn't been exaggerating when she'd explained to General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill how necessary obtaining more naquadah was for her continued experimentation with the naquadah reactor. She had almost exhausted her initial supply, and she couldn't bear the thought of waiting too long. The things they could do with such a powerful and small energy source – She smiled as she watched Jack sleep. Thankfully, he had understood the potential as well and, consequently, her desire to quickly obtain more of the rare mineral. If he hadn't supported her when General Hammond had suggested they wait until SG-9, the SGC's primary negotiators, had returned from P3X-571… Well, there was no knowing how long it might have delayed her experiments.
As if sensing her gaze, the Colonel stirred in his sleep. Before she could look away, his eyes opened, chocolate brown eyes staring straight into hers. Feeling absurdly guilty, she quickly glanced back outside, but not before catching the knowing smile which lit his face.
His voice drifted out to her. "Quiet night, huh?"
She nodded, still not quite trusting her voice. There was a smugness in his tone which made it clear he had gotten the wrong impression from finding her watching him.
"How long have you been on watch?"
She checked her Timex. The actual time was of course meaningless under the circumstances, but it was just over an hour into her hour and a half of watch. "Daniel woke me up about an hour ago, sir. Everything's been pretty quiet since then."
"Well, since I'm up, why don't I take over?"
"No, sir, I'm fine here. Why don't you try to get some more sleep?" She really hated it when he did that. She was perfectly capable of completing her turn at watch.
A rustling behind her made it clear he was completely ignoring her. As he sat down next to her, he tried to reassure her, "Of course, Carter. I just know I'm not going to get right back to sleep, and it's my turn anyway in less than an hour. I figured rather than both of us sitting here…" He shrugged helplessly next to her in the semi-darkness.
She glanced over at him, unable to resist smiling. "Thank you, sir. I am sort of tired…"
"Good." He patted her shoulder, and froze in the act. They both glanced down at his hand before he quickly pulled it back.
She sighed, getting up. "Goodnight, sir."
"Goodnight, Carter. Sweet dreams."