Disclaimer: Neither Stargate SG-1 or any ideas herein are mine. They belong to each individual owner and creator respectively. No money was made from the writing of this story.

Rating: Teen (I wasn't sure whether to rate this K+ (it would probably be a upper level K+) or T (it would be a mild T), so I went with T to be on the safe side). Rated T for language, sci-fi action, and improper misconduct (aka, do not attempt this at home).

Category: Drama/Angst

Summary: While working on a project at Area 51 with Rodney McKay, something goes wrong...what a surprise there.

Timeframe: Set between Season 5 and Season 6

A/N: The plan was to have this posted about 5 days ago...yeah, that didn't happen. 3 doctor appointments, a broken thumb, and color guard practice (the cause of said broken appendage) was just the beginning. Ugh...I've had SUCH a crazy week. Add to that the fact that I sent this story through and extra person before I felt comfortable posting it, and you find me posting 5 days late. Ah well, here it is now. Read, review, and (of course) ENJOY!

OH...and I think I've finally found my happy medium for page breaks - hopefully they (being the page breaks) will all look the same now!

Dedication: This is for Cdngater, who asked to see a different side of Sam. Thank you so much for the brilliant idea, and I truly hope I was able to do it justice.

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Project Hellfire

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The feeling pervading the still air in the Briefing Room was subdued. The empty seat at the conference table was made all the more apparent by the silent agony that was coursing through each of the three remaining members of SG-1, as well as the fact that furtive glances kept being drawn to the abnormally vacant space.

When General Hammond entered the Briefing Room from his office, his face was haggard and worn, lines from stress and anxiety lining his face that had been absent the week before.

Major Carter and Colonel O'Neill both stood to their feet as protocol dictated, although it was apparent that neither of their hearts nor their minds were truly in the motion; instead their thoughts were centered on the blatantly hollow feeling in the room that, up until just a few days ago, had been filled by a certain talkative archaeologist.

"At ease," Hammond ordered immediately, and the two officers promptly returned to their chairs, their gazed fixed on the bald general as he took his own seat at the head of the table.

"For what purpose have you summoned us here today General Hammond?" Teal'c asked, being the first to break the delicate silence that had settled over the small group.

"I have received word from the Pentagon that they wish for the naquadriah, which was brought to us by the Kelownan Jonas Quinn, to be integrated with the F302s currently in production at Area 51," Hammond explained.

"With all due respect, Sir, I don't think that that's a good idea," Carter interjected, looking at the commander of the base with all due seriousness.

"And why do you say that, Major?" General Hammond asked, placing his folded hands on the tabletop in front of him.

"Well, Sir, as you know, the naquadriah is extremely unstable," Carter began. "At this point we have absolutely no idea how it will react with our own systems when the two are incorporated. I really think that it would be best if it was more thoroughly tested before we attempt integration."

"And that is precisely why you are not going to be in charge of the project," said a new voice, the man to which it belonged entering the Briefing Room from the hallway. "The Pentagon believes that I would be much better suited for the task, especially considering the emotional…baggage…that came along with the procurance of the substance." And in walked a very smug looking Rodney McKay, his shoulder bag hanging at his side, his visitor's pass clipped onto his sweater.

Sam looked over at General Hammond, and incredulous look on her face. The only thing that he could do was nod and say, as calmly as possible, "Those at the Pentagon believed that you might be emotionally compromised when it comes to a project concerning the naquadriah. Thus they have placed Dr. McKay in charge of the project, which has been termed Project Hellfire."

"With all due respect Sir," Sam began, her face still the perfect mask of surprise and incredulity, "The circumstances upon which we procured the naquadriah we now have isn't related to Daniel-"

"The decision makers in the Pentagon seem to think differently," Hammond said, cutting her off. "Dr. McKay is the project head."

O'Neill shared an incredulous, as well as an exasperated, look with his 2IC, muttering "Well at least you won't be the leader in a project doomed to failure. I mean, what kinda name is Hellfire?"

That startled a quirky grin onto the major's face and Rodney, who hadn't heard the Colonel's remark, looked at her sharply and with a puzzled expression.

"This project is extremely important. It's not a laughing matter!" he snapped.

"I know, McKay," Carter growled, her serious, and currently rather annoyed, mask slipping over her features once again.

"So why are Teal'c and I here?" O'Neill asked, turning his attention away from the huffing McKay and focusing on General Hammond.

"You and Teal'c will be accompanying Major Carter and Dr. McKay as they go to Area 51, serving as part of the official escort for the naquadriah."

Teal'c cocked an eyebrow and O'Neill settling back into his chair with a sigh, although Carter looked a little happier about the whole situation, realizing that her team would be within radio distance of each other.

"When do we leave?" O'Neill asked, his foot tapping restlessly.

"As soon as Dr. McKay has enough time to speak with Jonas, who has agreed to show him his notes and teach him what he knows about the naquadriah. Any other questions?"

SG-1 shook their heads, each of their faces showing differing levels of agitation and annoyance, as did Rodney, although he looked more smug and excited than resigned.

"Very well then, dismissed," Hammond said, standing and turning to retreat back into his office.

Both Jack and Sam stood abruptly, coming to attention as their CO left the room, then slumped, glancing at each other and Teal'c.

"Sam, I need you to show me to this Jonas guy. Now please?" he asked, snapping his fingers. "We don't have all day."

"Whoever put him in a position of power is insane," Sam muttered, passing O'Neill on her way out the door. "Come on then," she told McKay, her eye roll apparent even in her tone.

"I almost feel something akin to pity for Dr. McKay," Teal'c said, standing as well. "Major Carter is already in a foul mood, and he has done nothing to appease her. Quite the contrary, I believe," he finished.

"Yeah, no kidding," O'Neill said with a sigh. "You go ahead T, I wanna talk to General Hammond about something. Meet you in the Commissary in a few minutes."

"Very well O'Neill," Teal'c said, bowing his head and disappearing out of the room and toward the elevator.

His hands shoved in his pockets, Jack walked around the conference table, going to knock on Hammond's closed door.

"Enter," Hammond called out almost immediately, and O'Neill went in.

"Sir, I understand what you're trying to do here," O'Neill said, coming to stand at loose attention in front of Hammond's desk. "And, honestly, the best thing for all of us isn't to just get us out of the mountain, but to put us back on the active duty rosters," the colonel continued, falling silent and watching the General closely.

Hammond sighed, looking suddenly much older, his eyes glinting with his own sorrow and internal pain. "I'm sorry, Jack, but this is the best that I can do for you. If anything, I'm sending you and Teal'c along so that you can keep an eye on Dr. McKay and Major Carter – you know how well the two of them get along."

O'Neill snorted, shifting on his feet as his eyebrows crept upward. "If you say so, Sir," he finally said.

"I know this has been difficult for all three of you," Hammond said kindly. "I think this is for the best; at least currently." To his surprise, the colonel didn't object; he merely nodded, his gaze hardening.

"Fine," was all O'Neill said and, seeing the brief nod from General Hammond, left the office to go join Teal'c in the mess hall.

J _-S_-T_-D_-

Sam led Rodney down to Daniel's old lab, letting his irritating blather wash over her and merely blend into the constant noise of the base. She hadn't truly forgiven him for his actions during the situation with Teal'c, and his showing up with his smug attitude and arrogant orders only served to give her reason to resent him all the more.

She only snapped back to reality when they reached Jonas's temporary work station, Sam sliding her key card through the reader. The door opened almost silently and, waving a hand to indicate Rodney to go in ahead of her, she followed the physicist into the room.

"You must be Rodney McKay," Jonas said, standing to shake the man's hand, deftly placing a marker in the journal he had just been perusing.

"Yes," McKay said gruffly, clapping his hands together and looking around himself. "Well, shall we cut to the chase? You were going to explain about the naquadriah," McKay prompted, looking at the fair haired young man with urgent expectancy.

"Ah, yes," Jonas said, turning to the table to grab a second notebook bound in leather.

Sam stayed, more out of courtesy than necessity, until Jonas's long lecture was done. Another hour passed, in which time McKay asked numerous questions, but then he finally stood.

"Alright then. I think I know everything I need to. Let's go," he said to Sam, leaving the lab without as much as a thank you to his tutor.

"Well," Jonas said, looking slightly taken aback. "He was most certainly, um…" he seemed to be at a loss for words.

"Enthusiastic?" Sam supplied.

"Yeah; enthusiastic works," Jonas said, sighing and rubbing his forehead. "I honestly don't see why they won't let me work on this project," he said suddenly, looking up and locking eyes with Sam.

Sam sighed as well, leaning against the table. "It probably has to do with the fact that you're from Kelowna," she said, a tired note creeping into her tone. "Not that they don't distrust you, precisely," Sam said hurriedly. "And it isn't that the SGC doesn't trust you – just the opposite. But our government is a little on the overly cautious side, and I don't think they relish the idea of letting you, who is practically a stranger to our land and ways, get a good look at the designs of our newest and most advanced technologies."

"Ah," Jonas muttered. "I suppose that makes sense," he said, leaning back in his chair and grabbing an apple and taking a crunchy bite out of it.

"Yeah, well, to be honest, I wish it was you working on this project, not McKay," Sam confided, then stood straight, smiling at the alien. "Well, I should probably go," she told him apologetically.

"Naw, I understand," he assured her. "And I still have a lot of reading to do."

With a small nod, Sam left the room, retreating to the Commissary to find something to eat.

J_-S_-T_-D_-

Twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours of figurative hell that had consisted of being forced to sit directly beside an obnoxious, arrogant, self-certain and, much to Sam's (and O'Neill's) extreme annoyance, infatuated man named Dr. Rodney McKay. Sam was fairly certain that, if she was forced to be in the same room with that man for another moment, she was going to scream.

Shortly after arriving at Area 51, Carter and McKay had met with the team assigned to Project Hellfire, Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill disappearing into the shadowy fringes of the assembly, something that, after only an hour of heated debate with the scientists, Sam wished fervently she could do as well.

"I'm telling you, this is a bad idea," Sam argued for what felt like the seven hundredth time in the last hour. "If we haven't managed to solve the instability, then the reactor will overload and explode. Which, as we have all agreed, would be extremely bad," Sam said, leaning forward, the agitation in her voice barely reined in. "Thus it being a bad idea."

"How else are we going to determine whether or not the problem is fixed?" Rodney asked, his own voice rife with condescension and superiority.

"I don't know, McKay, but the people in here are only the smartest on the planet. I think we could come up with something if we tried."

"Yes, well, no one has sprouted any ideas yet," he said with a smug grin. "This is the only thing that'll work."

"I'm going to go get coffee," Sam said, standing and shoving her chair back, exuding a frustrated sigh. She stalked from the room and Jack, who had been sitting in a chair outside the room, was surprised to not see fire streaming out of her mouth as she growled.

"Not going well I take it?" O'Neill asked, standing and falling in step with the major.

"No," Sam answered, sighing again, the tension beginning to drain out of her; her CO always seemed to be able to have that effect on her. "We think we may have solved the instability issue."

"Well that's good," O'Neill interrupted, trying to lighten her mood.

"But we have to way to test it," Sam concluded.

"Ah," O'Neill answered.

"McKay has this ridiculous idea about replacing the naquadah in a naquadah reactor with naquadriah, and attempting to power it up. The only problem is, is that if we haven't solved the instability, then the reactor will likely overload and explode; and if you think naquadah explosions are bad, then naquadriah explosions will be that much worse."

The two entered the mess hall, both of them snagging mugs of coffee on their way past the coffee maker. They settled down at a small table, sipping their beverages carefully as the rich liquid steamed.

"Any idea how much longer this is going to take?" O'Neill asked tentatively.

"No," Sam snapped, then sighed. "Sorry Sir. This whole thing is just…"

"Trying your patience?" O'Neill asked.

"That's an understatement," Carter informed her CO wryly. "I don't see what I'm doing here. All I seem to be accomplishing is making Rodney and myself all the more angry at each other. He refuses to listen to me or my reasoning. And not only that, but he won't even let me look over his work!" Sam exclaimed, her voice rising in volume all the while. With her tirade complete, she settled back into her chair, looking as if she was feeling much more her usual calm, collected self.

"Feel better?" Jack asked, a small grin tugging at his lips.

"Yes Sir," Carter replied sheepishly. "I should probably be getting back," she added after a moment's silence.

"Yeah," O'Neill replied with a sigh of his own. "But I want you out here to eat dinner with us at seven o'clock. Understand?"

"Yes sir," Sam replied with a grin, thankful for the excuse for her to get out of the room yet again.

Sam made her way back to the work room, thoughts milling around her head as she tried to think of an alternative method of testing the naquadriah. She still hadn't come up with anything substantial when she entered the room. The first words out of McKay's mouth, however, brought her crashing back to the here-and-now with cruel abruptness.

"The other scientists have agreed that the naquadah reactor idea is the only thing that will work." Sam opened her mouth to protest, but Rodney cut her off. "Sorry Sam, but it's the only thing that we can come up with."

J_-S_-T_-D_-

"They're going ahead and testing it." It was seven thirty, and Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were in the mess hall eating dinner. "Nothing I or Dr. Zvanut say will deter them. Thank goodness for that woman though," Carter added. "If it wasn't for Dr. Zvanut, I would have been overridden long ago."

"Well, when something goes wrong, you two will be the ones who can say 'I told you so'," O'Neill supplied cheerily. Sam snorted into her green beans, stabbing a forkful of them a tad harsher than necessary.

"At what time will this test take place, Major Carter?" Teal'c asked.

"It's scheduled for eight o'clock tomorrow morning down in the testing bunkers," Sam told him. "Why do you ask?"

"I would be most intrigued to see the outcome of this trial for myself," Teal'c told her.

"Sure. Both you and Colonel O'Neill can come if you like," Carter said off-handedly. "Although I'm not sure how much fun it's going to be. We'll all be up a good five levels so we can watch what happens from a safe distance."

"But if the naquadriah is so explosive, won't it take out the entire building?" O'Neill asked, looking genuinely interested.

"Actually Sir, no, it won't. We'll be testing it in a room secured with newly developed shielding technology. It should contain the blast."

"It still seems a bit risky."

"That's what I've been saying," Sam grumbled. "But no one ever seems to listen to me. At least," Sam amended, seeing the expression on her CO's face, "No one here does."

J_-S_-T_-D_-

"All systems are ready."

"Understood," McKay replied, glancing at the computer monitors sitting on the table in front of him. His eyes flickered across the gleaming screens, then he compressed the talk button on the radio that he had placed on the desk the moment before. "Everything seems to be in order. Come on up for the test start."

"Understood" came the reply, and then the radio went dead.

Sam sat in the chair beside Rodney, her face a controlled mask of blank emotions. To anyone who didn't know her well, she would appear to be at ease with the goings on. To O'Neill and Teal'c, however, it was quite clear that she was both angry and extremely apprehensive.

The door to the observation room opened and two scientists entered. One of them, the man, looked enthusiastic. The woman, however, looked less than thrilled.

"Everything's in place?" Rodney asked one last time, his face alight with excitement. The man nodded enthusiastically, the woman following suit a little more dubiously. The two of them then took up their places amongst the other scientists. O'Neill couldn't help but notice that the woman went to stand at Carter's side, the major glancing up at her and sending a fleeting, half smile her way.

Carter leaned over to Rodney, talking fast and quietly.

"This is the last chance to stop the test, McKay," she said urgently. "If the calculations aren't correct and the instability persists, then the reactor will overload and it will explode."

"Sam, it'll be fine. I've double and triple checked all of my work; it'll run smooth as butter," McKay assured her, his tone patronizing.

"You haven't let me check over the equations," Sam shot back immediately.

"Yes, well, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you aren't always going to get to do everything," Rodney answered her a beat later. "This is going to work. You are just jealous because something that wasn't your idea is going to succeed. And besides, even in the off chance that something does go wrong, the shields will contain the blast, and the only thing damaged will be the bunker room and the reactor."

"I'd wait until after the test to go making those kinds of claims," the scientist to Sam's left growled.

"Dr. Zvanut-" Rodney began, his eyes flashing, before someone else in the crowd cut him off.

"Everything is in the green. Are we going to begin?" one of the other scientists asked.

"Uh, yes, yes of course," Rodney said, turning to the consol. "Remember this moment ladies and gentlemen," he announced dramatically, keying his command code into the computer to begin the test.

"I'd rather not," Dr. Zvanut muttered to Carter, who grinned back, although there was no mirth in the twitching of her lips.

"Power fluctuations appear to be normal," someone announced, reading the monitors. "The naquadriah is holding steady."

Rodney turned to smirk at Carter and Dr. Zvanut when the voice spoke again, this time the tone carrying a very different quality to it.

"The naquadriah is losing integrity. The reactor is drawing too much power."

"What?" Rodney barked, his face beginning to turn red as he turned to the man and budged his way over to look for himself.

"Bring the shields up," Sam ordered, taking the initiative as Rodney flustered.

A chilling silence descended over the room and, in that split second, O'Neill felt the same thrill of unease and recognition of something dreadful about to come.

"Ma'am, the shields aren't responding to my commands. Diagnostics say they should be working, but I can't get them to activate."

"There's a manual override, isn't there?" Jack asked.

Taken by surprise, the scientist answered automatically. "Of course; the control panel is down on the twelfth floor."

Colonel O'Neill leapt forward, snatching the radio from the table by Dr. Zvanut, then bolting out the door. "Walk me through it!" he yelled on his way through the door, sprinting his way down the corridor.

Sam grabbed the second radio, raising it to her mouth hurriedly.

"Take the stairs, Sir, they'll be faster."

"Understood Carter," was all O'Neill said, but a second later, just before the radio went dead, the sound of the stairwell door opening and closing echoed across the link.

"We're all going to die," someone moaned, tension and fear almost tangibly mounting.

"I'm here, Carter. What do I do?" O'Neill asked a moment later, his voice sounding slightly out of breath.

"Explosion in forty-five seconds," someone warned, looking at the large, flashing red lights on one of the monitors. Someone started sobbing and someone else began to pray.

"Go to the control panel marked 4-D and open it. There should be buttons and a keypad. The large orange button on the top, right hand side of the screen should read 'Emergency Activation'," Sam told her CO, carefully maintaining her composure, her training kicking in and taking over.

Silence for a few seconds, then "Okay Carter, I pushed it. Now it's asking for an activation code."

Sam looked around deploringly, a flash of anxiety rushing through her and causing the mask to slip for an instant.

"Activation code is X43-ER2," Dr. Zvanut said calmly, taking the radio from Sam's hands and speaking into it.

Another brief pause, and then O'Neill came back on.

"It didn't work." His voice sounded slightly worried now, and Teal'c and Carter could hear the adrenaline in his voice.

"Four seconds!" someone warned.

"Enter! Hit Enter!" Dr. Zvanut practically yelled into the radio.

An electrical buzzing crackled over the radio, but then only silence. Deep underneath them, everyone in the room could feel the impact of the explosion hit the concrete. And then nothing.

"He did it!" someone shouted, and then everyone was laughing and crying.

"Colonel O'Neill, come in," Carter said, reclaiming the radio from Dr. Zvanut's hands. Only silence answered her order. "Colonel O'Neill, respond." Still nothing. "Teal'c?" Sam barked, the large Jaffa beginning to move forward almost instantly. She stood, pushing away the chair in which she had been sitting in violently.

The two members of SG-1 raced out of the observation room, racing down the deserted hallway toward the stairwell. Unnoticed by either of them, Dr. Zvanut and Rodney McKay followed them, Rodney's face paler than a ghost's.

It took just over a minute for Carter and Teal'c to reach Level 12, Teal'c pulling open the heavy door to the stairwell, holding it open for Sam as she darted through. The two of them continued down the hallway, which eventually opened out into a large, circular room.

Monitors and work stations covered the walls, the faint humming of technology filling the smoky room. An electric smell pervaded the still air, the fans installed in the ceilings kicking in and beginning to run on overdrive.

Teal'c took the left side of the room, Sam the right. They circled around the large hub in the center of the Control Room, both scanning the area for signs of the silent colonel. A shout filled the room as Teal'c knelt beside a prone figure.

Sam practically ran to his side, dropping to her knees as well. Teal'c lowered two fingers, feeling for his pulse. Without even hearing him say it, Sam realized that it was absent in the colonel. Panic raised its ugly head, although she quashed the feeling almost immediately, knowing that it would do no one any good. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the radio that he held loosely in his hand, speaking into it rapidly, as Teal'c began CPR.

"Get a medical team down here immediately. It appears that Colonel O'Neill has been electrocuted. He is unconscious and he currently has no pulse." She didn't even pay attention to the response, trusting in the fact that someone would comply with her orders.

Sam heard footsteps and she looked up, seeing Dr. Zvanut walking cautiously around the central hub, coming to kneel beside the fallen colonel as well.

"Is he…?" she asked tentatively. Sam mutely shook her head, correctly interpreting the woman's question, turning to look down at the prone figure of Colonel O'Neill; the other woman gave a barely perceptible sigh of relief.

Sam reached down to check the colonel's pulse; still nothing.

The clattering sound of the medical team exiting the elevator echoed down the concrete hallway, and Dr. Zvanut bounded to her feet, moving quickly to guide the doctors to the injured man.

"Come on," Sam whispered, her voice barely audible over the hum of the computers that filled the room. Teal'c continued his ministrations, his face set in its usual passive mask. "Sir, please; come on," Sam practically begged, leaning down until her face was a mere two inches from his ear, placing one hand on his shoulder. "Don't you dare give up on me; not yet."

It was as if something in her voice and touch triggered some sort of automatic response in the colonel. His eyes flickered and Teal'c, who had just reached up to check his pulse yet again, gave an involuntary, and rather un-Teal'c like, sigh of relief.

"His heart beats," Teal'c informed Sam, who almost felt like crying with relief.

Jack's eyes flickered open for a second, but then slid shut again as his eyes rolled back up into his head and he lapsed back into unconsciousness.

The med team raced to O'Neill's side, reaching down to put him on the gurney with Teal'c's help. With hardly a word, they wheeled him out of the Control Room and towards the elevator, their emergency medical training taking efficient control as they tended to their newest patient.

Sam and Teal'c followed close beside the gurney as it exited the room. However, just as they were entering the hallway, Sam felt someone reach out and grab her elbow.

"Sam?" a tentative voice asked. Carter turned to glare at the worried looking Rodney McKay. "I don't know what happened," he said, seeming to gain confidence when Sam didn't immediately start shouting. "It should have worked."

"What should have worked, McKay? The naquadriah or the shields?"

"Um…both?" Rodney said tentatively. "And the shields did work."

"You're right. They worked; they just didn't absorb the power correctly and sent an electric bolt into Colonel O'Neill."

"Sam, there's no way I can be held responsible for that-" Rodney began indignantly, but was cut off abruptly.

"No you're right, not for the shields. But I can, and do, hold you responsible for the entire episode with the naquadriah. If you had only listened to me in the first place-" Sam growled, her temper rising.

"If he dies-"

"If he dies, I will never forgive you," Sam spat, then ran to catch up with the retreating gurney, leaving Rodney to stand, flabbergasted, outside of the Control Room.

J_-S_-T_-D_-

Jack lay unconscious in the small hospital located in Area 51. He as to be transported to the SGC as soon as he was stable enough to be air lifted. As it was, his body was still out of homeostasis due to the severe electric shock that it had received. Twice already, since he had been relocated from the twelfth floor, his heart had ceased to beat, each time requiring another current of electricity to initiate its beating once again.

Carter sat in the small, extremely uncomfortable chair beside her CO's bedside. Teal'c had only just recently left the room, electing to go to the mess hall to obtain food for both himself and Sam.

The door opened with a squeak of the hinges, and someone entered the infirmary. Sam, expecting it to be Teal'c, didn't turn around until she heard someone cough experimentally behind her. With a nearly audible grinding of her teeth, Sam turned to face Rodney, her eyes flashing dangerously although the rest of her face was the perfect picture of innocence and patience.

"What, McKay?" she asked, her tone belying her seemingly placid face.

"Uh, hey Sam. Listen, I just needed you to go over my new calculations for the naquadriah experiment."

"Are you being serious?" Sam asked scathingly, her perfect angel façade slipping slightly.

"Um, yes?" Rodney replied sarcastically. "Weren't you the one that was so indignant that I didn't ask you to check over my work?"

"I'm busy, Rodney," Sam replied, this time the grinding of her teeth perfectly audible.

"Doing what? Watching over the lifeless body of some old man?" McKay asked, his annoyance abundantly clear.

Sam's vision flared red for an instant and she had to fight the urge to stand and slap Rodney right then and there. "I'm going to forget you ever said that McKay," she said warningly.

Apparently, he didn't catch the warning, for he ploughed on. "If he hadn't been trying to play the stupid Air Force hero, he would have never been caught in the electrical shockwave, and would thus have not been hurt."

Sam's clenched fist collided with Rodney's nose, the satisfying cracking of bone telling her that she had succeeded in breaking his nose. Blood began to sheet down his face, dripping down onto his shirt and staining it crimson.

"What was that for?" Rodney yelped, his hands going to his broken nose, his voice thick as the blood continued to pour.

"What the hell do you think it was for?" Sam asked heatedly, shaking out her hand as her knuckles tingled from the force of the blow. Her knuckles would likely be bruised the next day, but right then, she didn't care.

"All I said was that he was trying to be the stupid hero," Rodney said.

Only the fact that Teal'c had just returned from the mess hall saved Rodney from being Area 51's second patient that day. He lunged forward, grabbing Carter around the shoulders to keep her from laying into Rodney.

"Major Carter, I do not believe that you truly wish to follow through with your actions," Teal'c warned in his quiet, yet extraordinarily serious tone.

"Let me go, Teal'c," Sam hissed, her eyes locked on Rodney's.

"I will not," Teal'c replied, continuing to hold his friend away from the injured physicist a few feet away. "I think it best if you depart," Teal'c informed McKay, turning his cold, Jaffa glare on the moaning man. McKay merely looked at him, then turned away and strode from the room, whimpering softly as his nose twinged.

As soon as the door swung shut, hiding his figure from sight, Sam relaxed, taking in a deep, shuddering breath as the adrenaline leaked out of her body.

"Would you care to explain to me what transpired here since the time that I left to procure sustenance?" Teal'c asked as he and Carter sat in the twin chairs beside Colonel O'Neill's hospital bed.

"I'm officially in very big trouble," Sam muttered, gently massaging her knuckles.

"For striking Dr. McKay?" Teal'c asked.

"Yeah," was the monosyllable reply.

"Even if the man provoked you?"

"Yup. It's against the rules to hit a civilian," Sam said, looking over at her friend. "Like I said, I'm in really big trouble."

General Hammond sat in his office, his face buried in his hands as he thought about the ridiculously hectic last few hours. Colonel O'Neill had only just been transferred from the medical facility in Area 51 to the SGC infirmary, the rest of SG-1 accompanying him, Rodney McKay tagging along as well.

Just two hours ago, George had received a slightly surprising phone call.

"General Hammond? This is Colonel Radams of Area 51. I'm just calling to inform you of the misconduct of one of your subordinates – a certain Major Samantha Carter. Apparently she broke Dr. Rodney McKay's nose."

That had most certainly been the last thing he had been expecting from the other end of the line. In fact, for an instant, George had found himself speechless. True, he had known that Major Carter had had issues with the overenthusiastic doctor, but he had never dreamed that it would escalate to the point of physical contact. Apparently he had been proven wrong, however.

"Sir? Both Major Carter and Dr. McKay are here," Walter said, poking his head through the door.

"Thank you," Hammond said, dropping his hands to his desk and clasping them lightly. "Please send Major Carter in."

"Yes sir," Walter said, disappearing. A moment later, the blonde major appeared in the doorway, walking meekly into the office and shutting the door behind her.

"Would you like to tell me what you were thinking, Major?" Hammond asked, standing and coming to stand in front of her, his chest swelling with authority and his eyes sparking.

"No sir. My actions were unacceptable and inappropriate, sir, and are inexcusable." The answer was curt and abrupt, every syllable of it the perfect soldier's reply.

"You're right Major; they were, and I am very disappointed in you." George could see the faint flush in her cheeks, and he knew his words had bitten deep; but also knew that he could not go easy on her, albeit he saw her as a niece, if not even a second daughter. "I am removing you from Project Hellfire, and ordering you to stand down while you cool your head. Understood?"

"Yes sir," she barked, snapping to attention.

"Dismissed," Hammond snapped, and she left quickly. He watched her as she exited the room, knowing full well that he had given her exactly what she had wanted; well, almost – he doubted she would appreciate being ordered to stand down, which was basically a synonym for relax. However, to most it would appear to be a punishment, and anyone who knew otherwise would keep their mouths shut.

Through the windows, George saw Rodney peering anxiously inside. Hammond waved him in, and the young doctor quickly darted into the room.

Hammond returned to his seat behind his desk as McKay took one of the twin armchairs.

"You wanted to see me?" he asked, his voice slightly strange due to his broken nose.

"Yes, I did. Dr. McKay…" Hammond trailed off, attempting to find the best way to say what he needed to next. "You do realize that your timing was at the worst that it possibly could be, don't you?"

"What do you mean?" Rodney asked, his face the picture of confused innocence.

"Teal'c came in to see me earlier and informed me of the discussion between the two of you before you got your nose broken," George explained. "Dr. McKay, you do realize that Major Carter has just lost one of her best friends, do you not?"

"Of course; that's why I was put in place of the project." His voice suddenly died and he visibly paled as he replayed the conversation between himself and Sam. His eyes went wide as he suddenly realized exactly what he had been implying, as well as comprehending just how raw of a nerve he must have hit.

"Yes, well, you are no longer the leader of Project Hellfire. Dr. Zvanut has been chosen to fill your position," Hammond informed the flustered physicist.

"Wh-what?" McKay finally managed to squeak. "I've been…displaced?"

"That's one way to look at it. Those at the Pentagon believe that you took undue risks and have displayed an irrationality that they fear will jeopardize this project."

"Oh," was all Rodney answered, his eyes still resembling that of a praying mantis. "Well, if that's all then," he muttered dazedly, and stood. He nodded to General Hammond and left the office, still seemingly in his own world.

George shook his head as the door shut behind the retreating form of the brilliant, yet occasionally unobservant and slow on the uptake physicist, sighing as he put the incident behind him. His last thought on the matter was, He deserved that punch, and then he was back to reading reports and whittling down the massive stacks of paperwork that covered his desk like the Red Sea.