A/N: This Campfire takes place following The Light,on P4X-347 about a week after the episode ends.
Episode synopsis: SG-1 finds a deserted Goa'uld palace, where a beautiful device causes suicidal tendencies. Before a cure is discovered, SG-5 have died of the effects, and SG-1 must wean themselves slowly over a period of weeks to avoid the deadly withdrawal symptoms.
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3.5 km from cave
"I can't believe you bet on me."
"Hmm?" With an expert flip of his wrist, O'Neill skipped another flat rock out across the water, tapping his finger on his leg as the stone bounced nine . . . ten . . . eleven times before sinking below the mirror-like surface. "Nice." Turning back to Sam, he asked, "What'd you say, Carter?"
Sam gazed across the small pool, an overlarge tidal pool fed by the ocean but not affected by its motion at low tide, as it was now. She watched the ripples from the Colonel's rock spread and merge, concentric circles reflecting the fading colors of the evening sky. Stuffing her hands in her pockets she said, "Your bet. With Daniel. I can't believe you did that, Sir."
O'Neill shrugged as he bent to pick up another rock. "What can I say?"
Blowing out a long sigh, Sam scuffed her boot against the ring they'd built on the sandy isthmus separating the ocean from the tidal pool and crouched down. The evening breeze had pretty much died off, so when she scraped her match across the back of the small container, the bright flame flared to life and quickly caught the dried sea grass she'd gathered and stuffed into the small pile of driftwood. Once the flames began licking at the wood she dropped down onto the sand and crossed her legs, watching as O'Neill continued his search for the perfect skipping stone.
She bit back another sigh, absently jabbing a twisted piece of wood into the sand at her feet, trying to get a handle on her irritation. She knew it was caused by withdrawal, just as she knew they were pushing their recovery from the effects of the Goa'uld device by straying so far from the cave. But the tradeoff was that neither of them would be tempted to throttle Daniel, who seemed to be more susceptible to loss of the dopamine-like effects, and whinier as a result. She really didn't do whining well at all.
After two weeks of slowly backing down the levels of the device, they'd been forced to increase it again when both she and O'Neill had gotten tremendous migraines and Daniel had been nearly comatose with pain.
The fire crackled as the flames took hold of the driftwood and began a slow crawl up the twisting, gnarled wood. Mesmerized by the creeping of the flames against the illusory movement of the weathered and deeply grained wood, Sam felt some of her tension seeping away. She stretched her back and deliberately tipped her head from side to side, flexing the muscles of her neck and shoulders before stretching out next to the fire. She rested her head on the palms of her clasped hands and watched the stars begin to dance against the backdrop of the darkening sky.
O'Neill, silhouetted against the quickly fading sunset, drifted into her line of sight. He stood watching her for a moment before circling the fire, moving again out of view. A muffled grunt and the rustle of fabric told her he, too, was settling down near her and the small puff of air and fine sand confirmed it as he flopped onto his back. He nudged her elbow and she tipped her head up to meet his gaze. "What's up?" He asked. "You can't really be mad about the bet, you were the one who opened the pool on Carson and that really large–"
"I'm not. Not really." Sam returned her gaze to the stars and blew out a slow, even breath. "I'm trying not to complain, because as duty assignments go, this isn't a hardship. Not really." She sounded, even to her own ears, as if she were trying to convince herself.
"What's not to like?" O'Neill's had waved in the periphery of her vision. "Marooned . . . sorta . . . on a planet, on the beach, plenty of food, courtesy of those fine folks at the SGC . . . "
"At least they've stopped sending through MRE's. I swear, I was gonna hit someone if we got another packet of 'chicken'."
"Quiet, I'm listing virtues here."
He waved her off with another sweeping gesture. "Think nothing of it. Now, where was I?"
"Yes. Exactly. Food. And all the libations a body could want, of any variety–"
"As long as it's coffee, tea, or water."
"Carter, you're ruining my mojo here."
Stifling a chuckle, she mumbled another apology which he again waved away. "As I was saying," he paused, almost as if he were daring her to interrupt him again. "Only the finest desserts the Air Force has to offer, not to mention dee-luxe accommodations. Really, what more do you need?"
"You forgot to mention your charming companions," she added dryly, well aware that they had both been balanced on the knife-edge of madness more than a few times the last few days. If not truly madness, something akin to it.
"Ah, of course. Only the very best of boon companions with whom to while away the hours."
"Yes. Boon." His voice took on a tone eerily similar to Daniel's when the other man was in full lecture mode. "As in from the mid-16th century, from Old French bon, from the Latin bonus, meaning 'good.' The early literal sense was 'good fellow,' originally denoting a drinking companion."
This time she couldn't stifle her laughter and it burst from her in a bright peal that rolled out over the whispering waves. She rose up onto her elbow and twisted to face him. "Wow, that was scary. For a minute I thought Daniel had wandered down this way." Sam watched him as he rolled onto his side and propped his head on one fist. He had a small, genuine smile on his face, an expression that he so rarely allowed free. "I hate to break it to you, Sir, but one of us is not a 'fellow,' and we seem to be short on the requisite 'drink' you mentioned.
"Quibbling, Carter. Let us not quibble."
"Yes, Sir." Sam, too, resettled herself, though she chose to roll onto her stomach, keeping the fire to her left and her head near O'Neill's. They formed a sort of right angle at the top of the small fire pit, the point furthest from the ocean's creeping waves. The gentle breeze played with her hair, blowing it across her eyes. Not wanting to move her chin from where it rested on her overlapping hands, she blew out a breath in an attempt to move it. When that didn't work, she frowned and tried again with no luck.
Before she could move, the Colonel reached out and brushed his finger along her forehead, lifting the offending strands out of her eyes. He dropped his hand and it fell to rest in the sand near hers. "Better?"
Sam's gaze was caught and held by his. The small fire danced merrily, bright flames teased by the intermittent wind into a twisting, sinuous dance that was reflected in the deep brown eyes that held her so still. What had he asked her? Was she better? Oh yes. Definitely. She was calmer. More centered. Still. And yet . . . suddenly more alive than ever before. Two weeks of being here, with him, had pushed her self control to the very edge. Their argument from that first day came back to her, when she told him flat out that she wouldn't be held to military ranks if they were stuck here forever.
Now, even knowing it wasn't going to be forever, she'd never been more tempted to throw it all aside. To lay it out there. To put aside all the unspoken promises, the veiled invitations, the stolen touches. She wanted to speak, to rip off the veil, and stop the stealing. She wanted . . . she wanted . . .
"Carter?" O'Neill's voice, though soft, was jarring.
Sam blinked, and suddenly she snapped back to who she was and who he was. To who they were. And to what they weren't. She sighed and closed her eyes, shutting out the sight of those enticing, inviting eyes, and nodded slightly. "Yes. Better. Thanks." She meant that for more than just his brushing her hair out of her eyes and knew he recognized that. Desperate for a change in topic, or simply a topic, she reached blindly for something . . . and hit on it instantly.
"So . . . you never did tell me what the bet was about. I'm assuming it had something to do with whether I'd join Daniel rather than taking a few days off?"
O'Neill flicked a glance at her and then returned his gaze to the fire. "You could say that."
She frowned at him, trying to puzzle out what she'd seen. Something . . . she had it. "Wait a minute. You were paying him. That means you lost the bet!"
"So . . . the bet wasn't if I'd take a few days off?"
"Then . . ." she frowned and shook her head. "I don't get it." She waited, watching him, wondering why he suddenly looked so uncomfortable. Finally, he mumbled something she didn't quite catch. "What?"
O'Neill grunted and looked at her. "Took you about four hours longer to request to join Daniel than I figured."
"Oh." But she still didn't get it, not really. And suddenly she couldn't find the energy to care. Sitting up, she wrapped her arms around her bent knees and stared out at the ocean. The light from the crackling fire kissed the edges of the waves as they rolled in, long, foamy cascades of flat steps that slid, tumbled, and faded into blackness. The unending ebb and flow was accompanied by the swish and sigh of the water pushed by the damp, salty wind. The sigh she blew out was snatched away on the tangy breeze. "It's endless, isn't it?"
"Carter?" O'Neill sat up and tossed another log on the fire.
Sam shrugged and said nothing. She suddenly felt as if she were going to cry and she had no idea why. She could feel O'Neill's gaze on her and blinked back the tears that threatened. It seemed so overwhelming sometimes. So impossible. Their mission to find a weapon to fight the Goa'uld, the need to find a way to keep their planet safe, and, perhaps the hardest of all, the absolute certainty that nothing could . . . or would . . . change for her, for him . . . or with him, until they'd accomplished the first two. Sometimes it was just too much. Despite her best efforts, she felt a single tear roll down her cheek.
"Sam." The Colonel's voice was soft, just a whisper above the breeze.
The warmth and understanding in that single, simple word was almost her undoing. She buried her head in her upturned knees and fought like hell for some composure, to regain some semblance of her normal strength and control. She never heard him move; a warm hand landed on her shoulder and gently guided her sideways into an even warmer shoulder.
She tensed for a moment, but when the hand on her shoulder squeezed, holding her in place, she gave in. For just a moment, she gave in . . . to the need for comfort from him. For warmth . . . from him. For an embrace . . . from him. Sitting there, leaning against Jack O'Neill, she took what comfort she could, allowing it to fill the empty places in her soul, to shore up her defenses, to give her the strength she needed to continue the seemingly endless journey.
"It's not endless."
O'Neill tipped his head down to meet her gaze. "That," he said, flicking a glance toward the ocean at his feet. "There's always an end, Sam. Always."
Sam sighed and, despite wanting to stay in the warmth of his half-embrace, sat up. She laid her cheek on her knees and studied her Colonel's features. He sounded so sure, so confident. But he couldn't know, not really, what she'd meant.
O'Neill's gaze was on the water, his normally fidgeting fingers at rest and lying still in his lap. "I mean it, Sam. There will be an end to this . . . to all of this." He turned to face her. "And when it does end, it'll be . . . amazing."
Sam's heart stopped. Her breath caught in her throat and she didn't move—couldn't move. Her eyes were captured by his, held there by the almost fierce promise in his eyes. For just an instant all barriers were down, all walls transparent. He was letting her see him, all of him. She wanted to believe him. Needed to believe him. "How do you know?," she whispered.
He studied her for a long moment before giving her a ghost of a wink. "Because it's you, and it's me. We're a pretty safe bet." His brow wrinkled slightly and he hastily added, "And Daniel and Teal'c, too, of course."
"But, what ab–"
"Sam . . ." The warmth and conviction in his voice was mirrored in his eyes. "Trust me."
And she did.
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Author's note(s): Thanks to Leiasky for finding the pea in the mattress. Sorry about the long delay folks. I am truly committed to finishing these through the end of Season 8; you'll just have to bear with a professional writing career and professorial duties taking over from time to time.