I'd Rather Die

WARNING: Major character death.

A/N: My thanks to AstraPerAspera for her support and sharing some of her brilliance with me. This was a WIP for some time before she leant me her muse loaded up with dark chocolate. I'd also like to thak her for her editor's eye. The best in the land and across the seas.

I'd Rather Die

By mara-anni

Sam and Teal'c crouched behind the wall waiting for the Jaffa patrol to pass by, their ears straining as they listened to the heavy marching of the steel boots fade away. Sam peered cautiously around the corner, her P90 raised and ready. Seeing no immediate threat she flicked her wrist indicating Teal'c should position himself at the opposite wall while she covered him. Teal'c stood and took the position without a sound, his Zat aimed down the hall. Sam straightened and proceeded down the darkened corridor, the flickering torchlight creating dancing shadows over the golden walls and floor. The two members of SG-1 silently leap-frogged their way through the Goa'uld structure with a coordination that spoke of their years in the field together.

The corridors were far narrower here than in the rest of the vast building and Sam felt her apprehension grow. She lifted a fist and pressed her back up against the wall, she didn't need to look to know that behind her Teal'c mimicked the action. Carefully glancing around the next corner she scanned the area. She concentrated all her senses, sight, hearing, even smell, but couldn't pick up any threat. Pressing her back against the wall again she glanced at Teal'c beside her. He looked uneasy too; his jaw clenched and he flexed the fingers holding his Zat. But he nodded at her, telling her he was ready.

Sam took a calming breath trying to shake off the bad feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. The mission had to be completed. She and Teal'c had planted their share of the C4 and were headed into one of the Control Rooms. The C4 was on a timer, but they had to disable the complex's emergency shield before bugging out. Otherwise the blasts would be contained by the base's automated shielding system doing relatively little damage. But this base and what was going on here had to be destroyed completely and they wouldn't get a second chance.

Sam peered around the corner again and, still unable to find any threat, she swept her hand forward and Teal'c stepped around the corner. The Tok'ra spy had assured them that this section would be deserted and so far his Intel seemed to be holding true.

As they rounded yet another bend they saw it. This narrow corridor widened into a large rounded area, against one wall of which rested the control console they needed.

Sam's anxiety grew with every step as they neared the space, but her steps and the hand on her weapon remained steady, her breathing even. Reaching the control area Sam crouched behind one of the rounded walls, training her weapon into the corridor from which they'd just come. Teal'c continued cautiously through the widened area and into another narrow hallway leading away from it. He returned after a few moments and with a nod told Sam the area was clear.

She turned as she stood and that's when she saw it; a slight shimmering up against the back wall. Without hesitation she squeezed the trigger of her P90, the sound deafening in the enclosed space and the bullets sparking as they ricocheted off the wall, hitting nothing.

"Teal'c," she called as she ceased the short burst. "It's…" But there was no time to finish her warning. She saw a flash of energy appear as if from nowhere and she knew exactly what it was. She also knew it was heading for Teal'c who was standing half a metre away from her.

"Teal'c!" she screamed as she launched herself at him.

Several more blue flashes appeared going through the empty air Teal'c had occupied as Sam and Teal'c landed with a heavy thud. Raising his Zat from under Sam's arm Teal'c pointed the weapon at the source and fired twice. The electric current of the Zat hit its mark, cascading over the figure and his cloaking device failed. Their enemy jerked violently before falling to the floor.

Teal'c gripped Sam's arm to help her up and off him, heard her quiet groan and noticed how limp she felt in his arms.

"Major Carter?" He moved her over to lie on the floor and his heart stopped.

"Teal'c…" Sam grated out weakly, "The shields. Open the panel underneath the console. Pull the green crystal."

Teal'c clenched his jaw, his temples throbbing. His chest was aching as he began to stand. He ducked away just in time as a staff weapon blast issued from the opposite corridor. Several blasts followed and Teal'c could now hear the stampeding of heavy boots echoing through the space.

He was out of time.

He reached down toward Sam. "Teal'c," she whispered as he hauled her up into a fireman's hold and sprinted back the way they'd come. He had no time for caution now; his team mate, his friend, was running out of time and he had to get her out of there.

Though it was only a few minutes, it felt to Teal'c like an eternity before he finally burst out of the building.

Tauri weapons fire assaulted his ears and he could smell the acrid scent of burning trees. He had run into the centre of a battle. They had been discovered. Teal'c keyed his radio as he ran toward the tree line, the smoke obscuring his vision in the dark.

"O'Neill!" he yelled.

"Teal'c!" came the tinny reply "What's your position?"

Teal'c kept running, trying to keep any jarring of Sam to a minimum. "We have exited the complex at the entry point and are moving south into the woodland."

"Carter come in," Jack's voice called over the radio.

Teal'c felt the jolt of those simple words uttered a thousand times from the mouth of his friend course through his body in tangible pain.

"O'Neill, Major Carter is unable to respond," he replied, somewhat surprised that his vocal cords still worked even as he kept running. There was a slight pause before the radio crackled back to life.

"Teal'c we'll meet you at the RV point. What's your ETA?"

"Five minutes."

"Roger that. Reynolds cover…" Teal'c didn't pay attention to the rest of O'Neill's orders. His focus narrowed on traversing the forest in the dark as he ran as fast as he could with one of his closest friends slung limply over his shoulder.

SG1SG1SG1SG1

"Roger that. Reynolds cover us then fall back to the Gate!" Jack shouted into the radio. "They're out!"

He shot a few more bursts into the enemy Jaffa.

Major Carter is unable to respond

Three more of the enemy fell.

Major Carter is unable to respond

He glanced to his right where he could see Daniel a few metres away, his own P90 shooting into the enemy ranks.

Major Carter is unable to respond

He keyed his radio. "Daniel fall back!" he shouted and began moving backwards, weapon still trained on the enemy.

Major Carter is unable to respond

He ducked as a staff blast flew by his head, exploding into a tree beside him. He twisted and fired at the source as the dirt and bark rained down onto the back of his neck, singeing the fine hairs there. He didn't feel it.

Major Carter is unable to respond

He squeezed the trigger steadily, spraying bullets into the enemy lines while he backed away.

Major Carter is unable to respond

He'd put quite a distance between them when he shouted into his radio again. "Daniel Go!" He watched in his periphery as Daniel broke off and ran through the forest as fast as he could.

Major Carter is unable to respond

He covered his friend's retreat with a few more bursts before pivoting and sprinting through the trees toward the cave that was their Rendezvous Point.

Major Carter is unable to respond

Jack didn't know how much time passed as he ran, Teal'c's words repeating in his mind. His lungs began to burn but he never slowed and soon he saw the gentle slope that concealed the secluded cave that was once part of a network of Tok'ra tunnels.

He burst through the thick vegetation hiding the entrance and ran toward the glow he could see further in. The battery powered field lanterns were still operating.

"I am sorry Teal'c. I did not carry a healing device with me. There is nothing I can do for her." Jack heard the Goa'uldish voice of the Tok'ra as he rounded the corner and pelted into the cave proper.

She was on the ground. Jack stopped short and looked into the eyes of the Jaffa. He was about to shout, to demand Teal'c's report. But the words died on his lips when he took in the countenance of his friend, registered the pity and grief when his eyes met his and heard all he needed to in his voice.

"O'Neill." Teal'c rumbled simply.

Jack's eyes shifted immediately to Sam and before he knew it he was on his knees next to her.

"Carter?" He called gently. She was so pale; there was no colour in her lips. He searched frantically for the wound but couldn't see it. He gripped her shoulders and lifted her as gently as he could, cringing at her soft moan of pain. He tilted his head to see her back.

His heart stopped and lodged itself firmly in his throat.

There was now a great, gaping hole, blackened by the cauterising action of the weapon where her lovely, freckled skin once was.

"Colonel?" she asked weakly. He couldn't breathe. He didn't want to breathe.

He moved her gently, but didn't put her mutilated back on the ground. Instead he shifted under her, laying her across his thigh, her head resting on his arm and he looked down on her.

"Carter," he croaked, clearing his throat before trying again. "Carter, you hang in there okay. We'll get you through the gate soon and old Doc Fraiser will patch you up good as new."

Her eyes fluttered and finally opened, gazing up at him. They weren't as blue as they should be, dimmed by the pain. It was the only part of her she could never hide from him. A small smile touched her lips "Not this time sir."

No! This wasn't happening! He wasn't losing her! He couldn't lose her. He'd rather die! He told her that. Just a few weeks ago he'd told her that.

"Damn it Carter! You fight this you got that! I won't…" His angry voice trailed away. He wouldn't what? He wouldn't live without her. He couldn't live without her.

She coughed in his arms and he held her to his chest until she settled. Gazing back down at her he used the sleeve of his jacket to wipe the trickle of blood that had escaped the corner of her mouth.

"Sam." He noted the pleading in his own voice as he said her name. He didn't care. He was pleading. Begging her not to leave him.

Tears welled in her beautiful eyes and spilled over her cheeks and temples as she met his gaze. He swiped them away. She lifted a weak arm and cupped his cheek softly. Her hand was so cold. "Sir," she whispered, the honorific imbued with such tenderness and trust that it might have been the sweetest of endearments. "I'm sorry."

What was she sorry for? For getting shot? For dying? For leaving him behind? He wanted her to take him with her. He felt her finger tips slide down his face; he grabbed her hand and pressed it hard against his cheek. "Sam, don't do this," he begged. "Don't go."

With her eyes still fixed to his he felt her chest shudder against him, her lips formed a word but she couldn't vocalise it. Instead he felt her last breath across his face as he watched the blue of her eyes give way to black and her hand slipped from his grasp.

"No!" Jack grabbed at her hand again, pressing it to his cheek over and over as it kept slipping away.

He finally tucked it between them as he leaned closer, pressing his forehead to hers, his lips connecting with the corner of her lips "No, Sam," he whispered, rocking her like he had done in those rare moments he was able to comfort her.

His world had narrowed as he'd held her and he didn't notice the few airmen that watched the scene from a distance. Too afraid to enter the main room. He hadn't noticed the way Teal'c had dropped to his knees at Sam's feet with tears flowing freely down his grim face or the way Daniel sat, his arms barely keeping him off the ground as he wept.

Instead he rocked her. His face still pressed to hers and his fingers running through her hair.

Until a lone voice intruded into Jack's world. A strange echoing voice, a familiar inflection that Jack would never trust. "Where did this happen?"

There was a long pause before Teal'c answered. But Jack didn't move to see the dark stare that Teal'c levelled at the Tok'ra. "We were ambushed at the shield console. By an Ash'rak."

The words drifted into Jack's mind and coalesced. Ambushed? Tok'ra intelligence had promised them that there was no way they would be detected, that they would encounter no resistance within that part of the compound. That's what they said. That's what they promised!

And suddenly Jack had something to grip onto other than the pain of his aching and hollow chest.

Anger.

Carefully he lay Sam's body down and pulled away from her, turning on his knees to look up at the Tok'ra. Fury bubbled up into his throat. His limbs shook with it.

He leaped at the Tok'ra and shoved him hard against the back wall of the cave, his hand wrapped around the man's throat.

"Colonel O'Neill," he rasped, pulling ineffectually at Jack's ever tightening grip.

"You said that part of the base was deserted!" Jack screamed in his face, his eyes burning with hatred. "You son of a bitch!" Jack slammed the man's head against the wall. "An assassin was waiting for them!"

"Jack stop!" Daniel shouted, having risen from the floor "This isn't going to help anything. Jack. Killing Blenath isn't going to bring her back!"

Jack noticed the catch in Daniel's voice as he finished. But he wasn't able to feel pity for Daniel right now. His own pain was choking him. His heart and soul had died with her and all he had right now to keep him breathing in and out was his rage.

"Maybe not, Daniel," he growled menacingly. "But it might make me feel better," he snarled at the Tok'ra as he squeezed further.

"O'Neill." Teal'c must have risen too. "We were unable to complete our mission." Jack's fingers froze but he didn't release his grip. "The resistance we encountered after the Ash'rak's appearance was too great."

"What?" It was Daniel again. Asking the questions Jack should have, finding out the status of their mission. "The shields are still operational?"

"Indeed." Teal'c's voice was grim. "The Ash'rak wore a cloaking device of some kind. He attacked before Major Carter could disable the shields. I believe a squadron of Jaffa lay in wait for his signal." Teal'c's voice softened and he approached. "I too am responsible O'Neill. Major Carter gave her life in defense of mine."

This had the opposite effect to the one Teal'c intended as Jack squeezed even tighter. He thought maybe he should be angry at Teal'c, that maybe he should wish Teal'c was lying there instead of her; but he wasn't and he didn't. Instead he was insanely proud of her – she was always getting everybody else's ass out of the fire. And then he was furious at her for the very same reason and the only outlet he had for his embroiled emotions was the neck he was currently crushing with his fingertips.

"Jack." Daniel pleaded, trying to get through to his friend "Blenath couldn't have known. If he was cloaked, invisible, then he could have been anywhere at any time. The Tok'ra couldn't have known."

But it wasn't the fact that the Tok'ra was innocent of blame that had Jack slowly loosening his grip on the Tok'ra's throat. Teal'c's words began to register in his mind. The shields were still operational and someone would have to complete the mission. But the C4 was set to go soon, too soon. Something else began to replace the fury burning in his veins. Hope. Or a twisted approximation of it. Those shields were coming down.

Jack loosed his hold on the Tok'ra's throat and stepped away while the Tok'ra collapsed gasping for breath.

"Beck. This is O'Neill. Come in," Jack spoke, suddenly calm, into his radio.

"Beck here," the captain replied.

"Status report, Captain," he demanded.

"Gate is secure, sir."

"Roger that. Stand by for withdrawal. O'Neill out." Jack toggled the radio again. "Reynolds?"

"Reynolds here, sir!" he shouted. "ETA to the gate is ten minutes. Second line is holding but we've got some heavy resistance here sir."

"We're done Reynolds, get our people through the gate. We're on our way. O'Neill out."

"Understood sir. Reynolds out."

And finally Jack raised his eyes and looked around the cave. He saw the silent tears still dripping from Daniel's cheeks. On the other side of him stood Teal'c, his eyes still red-rimmed and his jaw clenching convulsively. Jack extended his gaze and took in the silent airmen.

"Pack it up people, we're movin' out!" he barked. But none moved as if they were all rooted to their positions. "Now!" His angry bellow snapped the seasoned troops out of their paralysis and Jack watched the scurry of activity for a moment as they grabbed their packs and equipment. They'd be ready within just a few minutes.

He turned to Daniel when he heard him speak. "So that's it?"

Eyes shifting to her, he watched the medic place his useless kit on the cave floor and cover her with a rough grey field blanket. "That's it Daniel," Jack replied before striding away. He grabbed his own pack searching for the things he would need and heard Daniel continue behind him.

"But the shields…"

"The timer on the C4 is set Daniel Jackson." Teal'c answered. "There is not enough time to regain entry into the compound and escape again."

Jack shoved the extra clips into a vest pocket. An extra grenade in another and turned again.

His troops were ready and awaiting their orders.

"SGs nine and ten, and Blenath, you'll take the east exit for the gate. SGs five and one, west. Move out!" The SG teams faded into the shadows of the cave headed for home. Jack made for the west exit as he'd ordered when he noticed Daniel not following.

He turned to find him standing by her. "Daniel!" he barked.

"Jack. Shouldn't we…? I mean, we're just going to…?" His voice was weak.

"Yes Daniel. We are. Now let's go." He turned his back to Daniel, to her, and headed out of that damned Tok'ra cavern, but he paused before he rounded the corner and slapped the last brick of C4 on the wall.

They pushed their way through the vines and brush and back into the dark forest. SG5 would be standing-by a few metres in front of them, waiting for Jack's signal.

He knelt in the dirt and leaves, the others following suit, and turned to his two closest friends. "I'm gonna scout around to the north for a while," he told them, keeping his voice low.

"What?!" Daniel whispered incredulously.

"T, get everybody back to the gate and home, okay?" his eyes locked onto Teal'c's and he knew in that instant that the other man understood. Teal'c nodded once and Jack relaxed.

"Jack? What…?"

"I'll meet you at the gate, Daniel," Jack said cutting him off.

He rose smoothly onto his feet, keying his radio. "Move out SG Five, we're on your six."

"Roger that," SG5's team leader responded.

His friends moved past him, but Teal'c gripped his shoulder with a squeeze as he went by and Jack watched them blend into the shadows and disappear.

Then he fixed his eyes north, released the safety on his P90 and sped silently through the wood.

SG1SG1SG1SG1

Jack pulled at the casing and it came away easily. He placed it on the floor next to him and peered into the panel's mechanisms.

He'd made good time getting to the control room. He hadn't fired a single shot. The Jaffa were still rather occupied defending themselves against his men, they weren't looking for a single human going for a leisurely stroll in the forest. He'd stolen passed their ranks like a wraith, unseen and unheard.

He saw the green crystal, glowing dimly in its slot. He could almost hear her words again during the briefing as she exchanged techno-babble with the Tok'ra. There would be no more of Carter's lilting voice reverberating around the briefing room. Suddenly it was hard to breathe. It was the green crystal that would shut down the emergency shielding system. He pulled it and rose. Sure enough, the lights in the control console flickered and went out.

This is why she had come here. To do this. His gaze shifted to the offending crystal and he slammed it hard into the console. It didn't make him feel any better.

He checked his watch.

Three minutes before the C4 blew this place to hell and incinerated that cave.

He sat himself down against the back wall, elbows resting on his knees. He felt hollow. Like someone had torn out his chest, his heart, and now there was nothing there; nothing except the pain that comes with emptiness. Because once she was there, and she filled him. He didn't even know what it was to be alive until he laid eyes on her the very first time. Until he felt the electricity spark from her to him, and surge right through him. Until he felt a kind of recognition that he didn't understand whenever he was in the same room with her, but felt deep within that everything was right in the world when she was near. But now she was gone and she'd taken him with her.

Three minutes before the pain would finally end.

SG1SG1SG1SG1

One minute. Daniel's gaze shifted from his watch to Teal'c standing before the shimmering Stargate.

"Where is he?" Daniel asked, he was really worried now. Jack should have been back long before this. The rest of the SGC troops had already gone through the gate. Teal'c had volunteered to stay behind and wait for Jack. Though he'd told Colonel Reynolds that he would remain to witness the destruction of the…

Daniel gasped as he suddenly understood. His usually quick mind had failed to even fathom this. "He's not coming back is he?"

Teal'c kept his steady gaze out toward the Goa'uld compound just visible in the distance from the hilltop on which the gate stood.

"No Daniel Jackson, he is not," he replied sadly.

SG1SG1SG1SG1

Jack flipped the hood of his watch and checked the time. This had to be the longest three minutes he'd ever experienced. He tapped it vigorously. Thirty seconds to go and he could have sworn the damn second hand was slowing down. But he suddenly didn't care quite so much. He felt…he felt.

He lifted his gaze.

"Hey." He should be more surprised than he was he figured. But the pain in his chest was gone, filled instead by that familiar warmth. She was near.

"Hey." She smiled down at him. God he loved her smile. He'd do anything to see it.

"Aren't you supposed to be all glowy and wearing a white, flowing gown or something?"

Her smile broadened into a full fledged Carter grin, dimples and all. "Well I did consider it, but I know how you feel about clichés." He felt his own answering smirk split his face.

But he watched as hers faded slowly and her eyes saddened. She knelt in front him and he noticed that she actually was glowing. A soft warm light seemed to reflect off her and it made her even lovelier than she always was. Her luminous hair framed her beautiful face and her brilliant blue eyes.

"I didn't want this for you," she said sincerely.

"Yeah." He dropped her gaze.

He thought he felt a slight tremor in the floor beneath him, but couldn't resist the pull of her eyes. She'd always been like a magnet to him, he was forever finding himself standing closer to her then he strictly should have.

Yep…Carter definitely had magnetic properties. "I kissed you in the time loop," he blurted.

He expected her to be a little annoyed if not pissed, but instead she smirked at him, ducking her head and gazing up through her eyelashes. She was so damn beautiful.

"Just once?"

"Once or twice." He shrugged. If anything her smirk deepened.

"I thought maybe you did," she admitted. "So…"

"You kissed me back," he declared with a smug grin.

"You had your doubts?"

"I don't know. I don't know what I thought." He was nervous as hell the first time truth be told, after that…not so much.

"I didn't want this for you," she repeated. He should have known she wouldn't let it go so easily. Was it his imagination or was she moving steadily closer to him as she spoke? "I wanted you to be happy." Yep, definitely closer. He could feel her sweet breath on his face as she spoke. "I wanted you to live." Her voice was soft and tender, the one he didn't get to hear much, but always wanted to.

"I know." His voice cracked. And there was that magnetic pull again as his hand moved on it's own to cup her beloved face.

"I don't remember the time loops," she breathed, "Remind me?"

She leaned in and took his lips with hers, and he was convinced that he'd already died, because this had to be what heaven was like. She was gripping his face, one hand travelling to the back of his neck, her fingers raking through the hair at his nape and drawing him closer. His other arm rose to frame her face as he kissed her back.

He didn't notice the air getting sucked out of the room, making his lungs ache for oxygen. Instead he breathed her in. He didn't hear the high pitched shriek and then the roar and tremble as the building shook around him. All he heard was the soft moan that issued from her throat. He didn't see the inferno that came hurtling through both passages and heading toward him. All he could see were her deep blue eyes before he closed his and kissed her again. He didn't taste the bitter bile that travelled down his throat. All he could taste was her mouth and her sweet tongue as it wrestled with his. He didn't notice the sting in his nostrils from the pungent odour of flaming materials and burning flesh. All he could smell was that familiar scent that was Carter, something like vanilla, only better. He didn't feel the blazing heat that came before the flames, searing his flesh, his clothes turning to ashes while he still wore them and his skin melting off his bones. All he could feel was the smooth skin of her cheeks under his palms, her hair tickling his fingertips and her soft lips caressing his own

He was no longer empty, he was brimming, and in a way he had never known before. She was all around him and inside him and he was whole and he didn't notice or couldn't care less when his bones turned to dust.

SG-1

A/N: Thanks for reading. I'd love it if you would review.