The first part of the chapter is the same, but the ending has been completely rewritten since the last one sucked. This one is better. I hope.

Chapter 8

"I saw a group of guards heading toward the gate earlier today." Sam said as the haze that seemed to surround her vision continued to retreat. "One of them looked like he might have been holding something over his shoulder, but I was too far away to see it clearly."

"You think it might have been Janet?" Daniel asked.

"It's possible. She's pretty small, so it wouldn't have been too much trouble for them to carry her. Sir, if it was her, we need to get there as fast as possible. She's got several broken ribs and I have no idea how much of that kind of manhandling she can take."

"How far are we from the gate?" O'Neill asked, helping her to her feet, where she stood swaying for a moment.

"No more than a couple of klicks, sir."

"Then let's get moving."

"Yes sir." Carter took a step and almost fell, Daniel catching her and supporting her weight.

"Sam, how much of this is yours?" Daniel was looking at her blood soaked clothes, concern etched in his bruised face.

"Enough to be a problem, evidently." She was feeling giddy from the stimulant.

"What happened to you?" The archaeologist was now staring at her leg and the large red splotch on her thigh.

"Later." O'Neill interrupted. "Carter, can you walk?"

"With a little help, maybe." She suppressed an entirely inappropriate giggle, telling herself sternly that she was not going to go into a possible firefight high on a dead guard's weed.

Jack maneuvered himself under her good shoulder, gave her wounded one a look, and they stared out toward the gate, and hopefully, Janet.

It was slow going. Sam's head was swimming, and she was limping heavily. She was still losing blood from her shoulder, though it had tapered to a trickle by this point. Jack and Daniel weren't in much better shape, having endured repeated beatings and almost no sustenance for the last fifteen days. They were weak, but they kept pushing, knowing that stopping was not an option.

The sky was beginning to darken by the time they recognized the last turn leading to the clearing where the gate was. They moved off the road and into the bushes, Daniel supporting and guiding a stumbling Sam. She managed to move fairly quietly to a position within the brush that allowed them a good view of the gate and put them only about 30 meters away from it. Which put the enemy about 10 meters from them. A tall thin man stood in the center, his red mask concealing his face and marking him as the leader of the ten or so others who flanked him, weapons ready, but looking cornered and nervous.

Jack caught sight of Janet crumpled on the ground at the tall man's feet and growled under his breath.

"I don't suppose you have any stun grenades hidden about your person, do you?" he asked Carter, who didn't even bother to answer. "Right. Okay, Daniel, take Sam's weapon and move out that way about a hundred paces." He pointed to their right. "I'll do the same over here, and we'll see how many of these bozos we can take out with surprise on our side. When you reach your position, count to five, then open fire. Sam, you stay put."

The major nodded and sank back against a tree to rest.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a worried glance and moved off to their respective positions. Jack counted to five, poked his upper body up over the rock he was using as cover and fired into the group, careful to stay well away from Janet.

Predictably, the grunts panicked, and rather than trying to figure out where the shots were coming from, they simply sprayed bullets in every direction and then ran for their lives. The ones that were still standing, at least.

But one man did not flee. The leader of the group had lifted Janet to her feet and was holding his gun to her head, shouting threats at the top of his voice.

She was conscious, Jack saw, her eyes wide with controlled fear and pain. She coughed and Jack could see blood flecking her lips. He moved silently back to Sam, Daniel meeting him there.

"I'll go make sure those runners have actually left the area." Daniel said and loped off. O'Neill watched him go, then focused his attention on Sam, still ignoring the red masked man in the clearing.

"You okay?" he whispered.

She nodded, putting on her good soldier face for him, and Jack grunted.

"Listen, we need to take this guy out." He put out a hand to help her up. "Come take a look."

She took his hand and hauled herself into a sitting position so she could look through the brush to the scene in front of them. Her voice was slurred and laced heavily with pain.

"What do you want me to do, sir?" she asked, a little bewildered.

"C'mon, Carter, you're one of the best shots at the SGC. You could take this guy out with your eyes closed."

"I don't know, sir."

"Sam, you've got to try." She looked up at him, surprised at the use of her name. "Janet looks pretty beat up. We need to get her home." He handed her the pistol, then supported some of her weight as she shifted to a kneeling position, her leg once again screaming in agony. Sam bit her lip, tears forming in her eyes. She wiped them away angrily and braced her hand on the rock. It was shaking so badly she couldn't even see thorough the sights, let alone aim.

"I can't do this, sir. I'm going to hit Janet!" she handed the gun back to him. "You do it."

"Not gonna happen." Jack nodded to his right arm, and Sam looked at it. Two gunshot wounds showed stark against his skin. "A couple of them got lucky."

"But sir..."

Jack heard the panic in her voice and tried to reassure her.

"He's a foot taller than her if he's an inch, Carter. Just hit him anywhere above her head and I'll rush him and take him out."

Unfortunately, the man had evidently had the same thought, for now he wrapped an arm around Janet's throat and hoisted her up so that her head was about level with his, and held on, ignoring her kicking feet and scrabbling nails as she raked his hand.

"Show yourselves, or she dies!" he bellowed.

"It's now or never, Sam." Jack said softly.

Sam was in turmoil. She knew that under ordinary circumstances she could take this guy, but the stimulant had worn off, and she could feel herself going into shock again.

Strong hands settled on her shoulders, and she felt a soothing warmth flow through her, quieting her hands, and calming her fears.

His voice whispered in her ear, no more than a breath "Take your shot, Sam."

She sighted again, silently thanking Jack for the touch, and knew now that she could hit whatever she aimed at. She also knew that she couldn't kill this man. He might still be needed for information.

"Shoulder." she murmured, letting Jack know he'd need to move in once she'd taken her shot.

Taking a final deep breath, watching her vision narrow with the familiar telescoping effect that heralded a sniper shot, Sam squeezed the trigger.

Blood exploded out of the enemy's shoulder, and his arm, still holding the gun, dropped uselessly to his side. He let go of Janet, who crumpled to the ground and stayed there, unmoving.

Jack lunged out of his hiding place and ran to where the man stood swaying, looking in disbelief at his useless appendage. Jack swung a vicious left hook and caught him in the temple. The man crashed to the ground where Jack unceremoniously kicked him in the head for good measure.

Daniel dashed into the clearing, then stopped when he saw Jack standing over the unconscious leader of the Socar.

"Well," he said, staring around at them all. "I guess this means we can go home now?"

"Yes sir." Sam said, slumping to the ground and watching with interest as her vision slowly faded to black.

Soft beeping sounds filled the air, pulling Janet from sleep, and making her moan as she regained consciousness. She laid still for a moment, listening to the sounds around her and trying to decide if she was still in any danger.

"Hey." A soft familiar voice sounded from beside her. Janet turned her head and opened her eyes a crack. Samantha Carter swam into view, and the doctor blinked, attempting to clear her vision. She tried to speak, but nothing came out, and she realized her mouth was dry as a bone. Sam picked up a cup of water and held the straw to Janet's lips. She sipped, then fell back, coughing and screwing up her face against the ensuing flare of pain in her side.

"Easy, Janet. Take it easy. We're home and you're safe."

Sam's words encouraged Janet to open her eyes all the way, and she slowly took in the sights and sounds of her infirmary. She felt tension begin to slide off of her in waves. She was home. They had made it.

"Sam." she croaked out, licking her lips again. "Are you okay?"

"Nothing a little time and physical therapy won't take care of." the major's tone was light, and Janet took this more than her words as a sign that everything was alright. "How are you feeling?" Sam continued. "You took quite a beating out there."

Janet closed her eyes and took stock. Yup, she still hurt. A lot. "I'm fine." she lied, looking at her friend again.

Sam snorted, then grimaced as pain tinged her features. "Bull. But you will be, don't worry. You've got an incredible staff here, Doc. You should have heard them talking while they worked on you. It's a good thing we have security on the gate or I think they would have gone through and finished off our culprit."

"You didn't kill him?"

"Nah. I figured they'd want him for questioning later, so I just got him in the shoulder so he'd drop you, and Colonel O'Neill took care of the rest."

"What's my condition?" Janet was tiring, and was alarmed at how much pain still coursed through her.

Sam saw her friend's grimace and signaled over her shoulder. One of Frasier's nurses came up and injected something into the IV in Janet's arm. She looked at her boss and touched her lightly on the shoulder.

"I gave you some more Morphine, Doctor. It should help." She smiled and turned away, but not before Janet caught the angry flare in her eyes at the sight of her injuries. She turned back to Sam.

"Tell me quick before I go under."

"Let's see." Sam said ticking her fingers as she recited. "Four severely broken ribs, one collapsed lung, cracked cheekbone, sprained ankle (it was re-injured when that moron dropped you after I shot him), and too many lacerations and bruises to count." her tone turned serious and she looked at the doctor with sudden gravity. "We almost lost you, Janet."

Even in her hazy drug induced state, the smaller woman caught the tone. "I'll be alright, Sam. Don't worry."

Sam smiled through wet eyes. "I know. But all the same, I'm glad you're okay." She leaned down and gave Janet a careful hug, then wiped at her face and turned away as Janet drifted off to sleep.

Six weeks later, they were back, Teal'c at their side and Prometheus in orbit, just in case. Sam's arm was still in a sling, and she walked with a barely perceptible limp, but otherwise showed no sign of what she had gone through. Janet was similarly improved, only moving slightly more carefully than usual, and occasionally putting a hand to her ribs as if to make sure they were still there.

Jack and Daniel were good as new, not having sustained any lasting injuries either from the explosion—they had been looking for the men's room, and so were much further away from it than the girls had been—or from their prolonged confinement.

As such, they were all able to enjoy a state dinner held in their honor, where they were informed that the red-masked leader they had incapacitated had been questioned with much success, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of most of the organization known as the Socar.

Apologies were given and received, trade ties were cemented and much shaking of hands endured before they were able to escape, begging fatigue.

"I'd like to make a stop before we go home, if that's all right with you, sir." Janet said, looking at O'Neill.

"Ella?" Sam asked..

"Yes. I'd like to thank her for everything she did for us. She risked her life by taking us in, and absolutely saved ours in the process."

"Sounds like a plan." Jack said. "Lead the way."

And so they walked through the city toward the neighborhood where they knew the nurse and her sons to live. The house soon came into view and they walked up to the door, the girls in front. It burst open before they could knock, and they were both enveloped in hugs that took their breath away, healing ribs notwithstanding.

Ella released them with a flourish and held them both at arms length, examining them with a critical eye.

"Well, don't you two just look like new! Come in, come in. And you've brought friends, have you? Well, all of you are welcome here, and I've just pulled a lalura pie out of the oven." She ushered them into the sitting room where Sam and Janet had spent so much of their time, and then disappeared for a moment before returning with several plates of pie. She set them down, but before she could serve out the plates, Jack stood up and took her hand in his.

"Ma'am, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the help and care you gave my team. We are forever in your debt."

She held his hand in both of hers and smiled widely at him, then looked over at Sam, winking. "This must be the Jack you spoke so affectionately of."

Sam's eyes widened. "I, uh, I don't remember speaking of him…" she spluttered.

Ella released Jack's hand and patted Sam's cheek. "You talk in your sleep, dear." Then she was off, her eyes sparkling at Sam's blush, serving them all steaming hot slices of lalura pie, which tasted surprisingly like raspberry. They sat and ate and talked, well at ease with this matronly woman and her hospitality. But too soon, it was time to go, and she walked them to the door.

Before they left, however, Sam and Janet turned to her, wrapped bundles held in their hands.

"What's this?" Ella asked, surprised.

"Sam and I wanted to give you something to thank you for all your help." Janet said, her eyes filling as her gratitude overwhelmed her.

"These are gifts from our world." Sam said, smiling. "We hope they'll remind you of us."

"Oh, child, I don't need a gift." Ella said, her hands over her heart. "I was happy to help."

"Nevertheless," Sam said. "We want you to have these." She and Janet handed over their packages, hugged their savior one last time, and then they all walked down the lawn and out into the night.

Ella watched them go until they were out of sight, then closed the door and moved into her sitting room to unwrap her gifts. The paper fell off the first one and she gasped. Purple crystals glistened in the light from inside a roughly hewn rock with a dark exterior. A note was wrapped around it. For you, Ella. May it always remind you of the beauty you hold inside your heart. Love, Sam. She turned the amethyst geode over and over in her hands, admiring its breathtaking beauty, then carefully put it down and turned to the second package. She unwrapped it and her mouth fell open at the glint of purest red shining through the petals of the single rose. For a long time, she just sat, holding the treasure in her hands, tears spilling down her cheeks as she read the note inside. Ella, this rose was picked in its prime, and will never die. It is my fondest hope that our friendship will be the same. May your memories of us be just as beautiful as our memories of you. Thank you for our lives. All my love, Janet Frasier.

After stepping back through the gate, Sam and Janet and the rest showered and changed and prepared to head home. The girls rode the elevator up to the surface together, talking of their plans to spend some time with Cassie that weekend, when suddenly Janet got very serious and put a hand on Sam's arm, stopping her for a moment.

"Sam, I need to tell you something."

The major looked down into her friend's dark eyes, noting the determination that showed there. "Sure, what is it?"

Sure she had her friend's attention, Janet plunged on. "You saved my life on that planet, more than once." She held Sam's gaze. "I want you to understand how much that means to me. Your courage and friendship are what got me through when I was being beaten. I will never forget that, Sam."

Carter was momentarily taken aback by this, but she smiled and said. "Janet, we don't leave our people behind. Even if we don't know them, we don't leave them. So how could I possibly do anything less for my best friend?" Then she wrapped her arms around the smaller woman, enveloping her in a hug that said everything she couldn't verbally express. "Besides," she said, pulling away and wiping her eyes. "You saved my life at least as many times as I did yours."

"I did not!" Janet exclaimed as they started walking again. "You dragged me from the explosion site, let me rest while you did recon…"

"And then you get captured!" Sam said, her laughter echoing down the hall. "Besides, you got that hunk of metal out of my leg, stitched me up when…"

Their voices faded into the mountain as they left, soaking up the friendship that would only grow stronger with time.