SG-1 S/J TEAM
Rating: T™© for violence and some adult word choices.
Warning: Contains some violence. I'm not one to use surprise shock value to get a reaction out of my readers, so believe me when I say that I doubt this particular warning is necessary, but just in case, if you have reason to be seriously concerned about potential violence in fiction, you may read the more detailed warnings, which definitely spoil several major plot points for the fic.
Categories: Ship, Het, Humor, Action, Romance
Pairing: Sam/Jack, also contains Sam/Pete
Characters: Sam Carter (primary), Jack O'Neill (primary), Daniel Jackson, Teal'c, Pete Shanahan (badfic version)
Spoilers: Mild spoilers into season seven, specifically Evolution, Grace, and Chimera. Set any time after Death Knell.
A/N: Comedy, with a heaping scoop of action and a dash of shippy fun. After roaring with laughter at the vast number of fics that feature hapless Pete getting everything wrong, or jealous Pete on a rampage, well, this happened. I blame Anne Rose for daring me. She's always daring me, so she only has herself to blame for the fact I'm dedicating this unlikely tale to her.
Credits: Beta credits go to Anne Rose, Lizzoid, Q, and Kizmet42. Sounding board services provided by Jade East. Thank you. As for the screencap in the title graphic, the blame is entirely my own. My apologies to David DeLuise. Research credits include www.ancientscripts.com, www.sg1.cz, www.scifi.com, www.godchecker.com, the Sanskrit Dictionary, The Origin of Life & Death by Ulli Beier, Reading the Past by Leonard Cottrell, Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries by David W. Page, M.D., The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould, and Stepping Through The Stargate edited by P.N. Elrod and Roxanne Conrad. A special thanks to Max Brooks, whose extensive research not only provided valuable information for this piece, but also just might someday save the world.
Disclaimer: MGM seems to have more sense than this, even though the same is not true for the SciFi Channel.
Please Note: This is not intended as a serious solution for The Pete Shanahan Thing. While I've tried to stay true to canon in all other characterizations, this particular version of Pete quite clearly left his marbles in a bus station, and then replaced them with bats. This angered the bats.
The day started out on an increasingly familiar bad note for Major Samantha Carter when, once again, her boyfriend presented her with an incorrectly prepared cup of coffee.
"Here you go, honey." Pete stared at her with the big dorky grin that she'd thought cute on their first three dates, and thrust the offending mug into her hand. "This is going to be great."
"Yeah, great." Sam could think of a few more accurate words -- awkward topping the list -- and not for the first time she wondered what she'd been thinking. She knew exactly what she'd been thinking, of course. On the advice of her own hallucination, she'd agreed to let her brother set her up on a blind date, and then forced herself to give him a fair chance.
Exactly what qualified as a fair chance was unclear, but then he'd gotten himself wounded over her when they captured Osiris, and she felt obligated to continue seeing him. He was sweet, he had a sense of humor, and that he seemed determined to make her happy was a good thing. She needed someone in her life, and that Pete knew about the stargate program . . . well that just made it that much easier.
Pity about his performance in the bedroom, though. The epic length of her dry spell aside, she remembered what it could be like. Chalk up one more disappointment in the new boyfriend department. Maybe she could get him a book.
Pete insisted on driving to the base, and Sam stared out the window, intently studying landmarks that she had passed daily for years.
"I'm so happy that Mr. Hammond agreed to this, honey," he said. "It's going to be fun."
"What was that, honey?"
"General -- not 'mister' -- it's General Hammond."
"Okay honey, I'll try to remember that. Wouldn't want to make a faux pas. Gotta make my girl look good, right honey?"
Sam sighed. If she'd thought, even for a minute, that General Hammond would take it seriously, she never would have passed along Pete's offer. Too late now. She tried to smile.
Daniel's eyes flicked from Jack to General Hammond and back again. In all likelihood, blood was about to be spilled.
"With all due respect, General, SG-1 usually gets into plenty of trouble without babysitting a tourist."
"Doctor Jackson specifically said he could use an extra pair of hands on this one," Hammond said.
Daniel cringed. "I was thinking more along the lines of SG -- "
"There's no one else available right now," Hammond said. "Besides, it'll give us a chance to justify that special clearance."
"Well, that's convenient," Jack said.
"I feel compelled to pack extra lanterns for this mission," Teal'c said.
Daniel turned to him. "Oh?"
"Do you not suspect they will be needed?" Teal'c regarded him for a moment. "Your notes indicated that this temple possesses many rooms yet few windows."
"True," Daniel said. He continued to discuss the temple with Teal'c, while they both ignored Jack's argument with General Hammond.
"Great!" Jack threw up his arms in defeat. "That's terrific. How about I just sit this one out? This guy can be my replacement."
"No one else can fill your shoes, O'Neill," Teal'c interrupted. "Of this I am quite certain."
Jack looked down at his boots. "Well maybe if they stuffed a paper towel in the toe."
Sam opened the door, the subject of all the near violence on her heels. "Sorry we're late, sir."
"So what size boots do you wear?" Jack demanded of the new arrival.
"For the mission," Sam explained, apparently sensing that allowing Jack to speak for himself was not the best course of action at the moment. She had a knack for that.
"Oh," Pete said, oblivious to the tension. "I take a seven."
Daniel nearly choked on his coffee.
"A seven, you say?" Jack studied Pete's feet with interest.
"Okay then." Daniel stood up and stepped between Jack and Pete. "I guess we'd better get you geared up."
Jack stood in the gateroom, fiddling with his gear to avoid eye contact with Daniel and Teal'c.
"Listen, Jack -- "
"Don't." He ignored the understanding on Daniel's face. "She deserves a life."
"Yeah," Daniel said slowly, but Jack's glare did its job, and Daniel left the rest of the thought unspoken.
Carter rejoined them. She was uncharacteristically late thanks to their shiny new fifth wheel, who trotted at her heels like a happy little puppy.
"Now honey, don't take the blame and get yourself into trouble," the fifth wheel said. "It's all my fault, Mr. O -- "
"Colonel," Carter interrupted.
"Colonel," the fifth wheel parroted. "Colonel O'Riley -- "
"O'Neill," Carter said.
"Right," the fifth wheel said, barely having sense enough to blush. "Colonel O'Neill. It's my fault we took so long, I had some trouble with these boots. I usually wear sneakers."
"Is that so?"
"We don't have very far to walk, do we?"
Jack sighed. He had a very bad feeling about this.
They stepped out into the sunlight of P4X-524, and Sam tried to choose between relief and disappointment at the lack of enemy fire. If someone shot at them, then maybe Pete would take things a little more seriously.
At least they had Daniel's musings to fill the silence.
"The images from the UAV include an inscription in the ancient Brahmi script that translates as 'Temple to the Life of the Dead' and yet this snake figure fails to match any figure in Hinduism or any other religion known to have existed in that region at the time. I tried cross-referencing it to Jain Symbols, on the off chance that it might be an archaic source, but I didn't have much success. Still, it looks vaguely familiar, if I could just put my finger on why . . . "
"Snake?" Colonel O'Neill asked. "We're not talking Serpent Guards? Reunions with Apophis never go well."
Daniel gave him one of those looks which always made Sam fight not to smile. "First of all, he's dead, and secondly, I said 'vaguely familiar,' which I have to say wouldn't really apply to Serpent Guards."
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"Who's Apapus?" Pete asked.
"Bad guy," Colonel O'Neill answered.
Sam smiled. That about covered it.
"So he has one of those things in his head?"
"No," Daniel. "He is -- or more accurately was -- the thing, in an innocent person's head. That's what you really should understand about the goa'uld. They're parasites who enslave their host bodies. They aren't the face that you see, they're the thing inside."
"So, you and that chick who blasted me? You've got a thing for her?" Pete aimed a knowing wink at Daniel, but fortunately wasn't close enough to add a nudge.
Sam shot Pete a look that he didn't seem to appreciate much, but since it shut him up she found it hard to regret it.
"Daniel," Colonel O'Neill said with a sudden enthusiasm. "Tell us more about this temple."
"We could be talking about an entirely new goa'uld," Daniel said. "Although from the looks of the place, one who hasn't been back here in centuries."
"Just so long as today isn't the day he decides to come back looking for his -- Carter, what is it we're here to pick up?"
"We don't know, sir. The MALP detected an energy signature and the UAV confirmed that the source is within the temple. The readings are consistent with that of a naquada-based power source, but we have no idea what sort of device we're talking about or what it might do."
"Terrific," Colonel O'Neill said. "That always goes well."
Their first glimpse of the temple stopped Daniel in his tracks. He'd known the size of the structure from the UAV images, but it still made an impressive sight.
Jack's reaction involved more annoyance than awe. "So, Daniel, this thing that we don't know what it is, that we're trying to find because it might be important -- or not -- it's somewhere in that little shack over there?"
Daniel nodded. "That's about the size of it."
"Size being a most appropriate word," Teal'c said.
"Honey, can't you just find it with your tricorder?"
Daniel raised an eyebrow at Pete, who was grinning expectantly at Sam, and fought the urge to glance at Jack. "Yeah, the thing is, tricorders aren't real. You're thinking of Star Trek."
"Oh, come on, Daniel, have a little faith," Jack said. "I'm sure Carter could whip one up. Right Carter?"
"I can track the energy emissions, sir. It's still a needle in a haystack, but I can make the needle glow."
Jack smiled. "Excellent."
Jack turned at the sound of Carter's voice and discovered that their fifth wheel had seated himself on the ground and was busily unlacing his boot. Jack wanted to be a good sport about Carter's social life, but spending time with this dolt was already wearing on his nerves. "Problem?"
"Just taking a break," the fifth wheel explained. "My feet hurt."
"Pete, that's not really how things work," Carter whispered.
"Don't worry, honey, I'm sure Colonel O'Riley doesn't mind."
"Sure," Jack said. "No problem. This is just the perfect place to rest." Jack gestured to the complete lack of cover. "We'll hang out, maybe take in an airstrike."
The dolt looked at the sky.
"Pete." Carter's voice included urgency and annoyance in equal parts, and her cheeks flamed red.
Jack thought she avoided his gaze, but maybe it was just that glaring at the fifth wheel required her full attention. In any case, the wheel was retying his boot.
"Honey? Give me a hand?"
Jack turned away from the sight of Carter pulling the moron to his feet. He didn't get what she saw in this guy, but Carter deserved a life, and who she chose to share it with was strictly her own business.
As they reached the temple, Jack turned to speak to Teal'c, and got an eyeful of the fifth wheel holding Carter's hand.
Hamster Wheel grinned. "It's big, isn't it honey?"
"Yeah," Carter agreed absently. "It's big." She let go of his hand in favor of her weapon, which caused him to wrap his arm around her.
Jack missed whatever she said next, but whatever it was, it made the idiot let go of her waist, and she turned to Daniel to ask about the location of the door.
"It could be hidden or sealed like the entrances to some pyramids." Daniel shrugged. "I really don't know. The architecture is considerably different from any known structure built on the Indian subcontinent at the time that Vedic Sanskrit was written in the Brahmi script, so we lack a basis for comparison."
"This thing's from India? Like the Taj Mahal?" Wheelbarrow Boy gawked like a tourist. "That's weird, isn't it honey?"
"It's not from India," Daniel said, displaying his trademark patience. "If I had to make a guess, I'd say that it was probably built by people from what is now India, who were taken from Earth as slaves at a time when the goa'uld held power on Earth."
The team fanned out to search for an entrance behind the overgrown weeds. Jack stuck with Daniel, knowing from long experience that mysterious ruins were his weakness, and signaled Teal'c to keep an eye on Carter. She could handle herself, she'd proven that way back on Abydos and a thousand times since, but anyone could make a mistake with a bumbling distraction attached to their hip.
Jack turned at the sound of Carter's voice and saw her brushing dirt from the stone.
"Way to go, honey!" Her bumbling distraction patted her back. "Is my girl a genius or what?"
Jack held his tongue and went to peer over Daniel's shoulder. Carter had found a groove in the stone, with some partially obscured symbols beside it.
"Well, that's odd," Daniel said.
"It's strange that they'd make an entrance this large and then seal it off like this," Carter said.
"No, not that," Daniel said. "The inscription. It says 'Namaste' -- it's a greeting, but it also means goodbye."
"Like aloha?" Jack asked.
"More like shalom," Daniel answered. "It expresses a great deal with a single word. Shalom is used as a greeting, but the full meaning is much greater, incorporating a wish for peace and good health. It carries a spiritual meaning. Namaste is similar. A more literal translation might be 'my soul greets your soul' -- it transcends the physical."
"So?" Jack asked.
"So," Daniel said. "It's an odd thing to inscribe beside a sealed doorway."
Jack shrugged. "They were goa'ulds, Daniel."
"I'm not so sure," Daniel said. "The goa'uld would not have used a word of such respect to address their subjects. I doubt they'd even understand it."
"Agreed," Teal'c said. "It is most unusual."
"It is a mystery," Jack said. "So. How do we get it open?"
Carter shrugged. "C-4?"
"I like the way you think, Carter."
Daniel offered only a token objection to the use of explosives, so they blew the seal on the door and wrestled the heavy stone out of the way.
They entered the temple as if expecting an ambush. As a rule, Jack never ruled out an ambush, but in this case his instincts told him that it was only a matter of time before something went very wrong on this mission.
Nothing moved in the dark building, but Jack made very sure of that fact before letting himself believe it. "So, Carter, how about making that needle glow?"
Daniel watched Sam struggle to calibrate her gadget, hampered as she was by her babbling puppy-dog appendage.
"Say, Pete?" Daniel asked. "Would you mind giving me a hand over here?"
Sam shot him a look of gratitude.
"If it's okay with my girl. Would you mind, honey?" Pete could obviously read Sam's mood about as well as a cocker spaniel could read ancient Sumerian, because he looked like he expected her to demand that he remain glued to her arm.
Or maybe he just hoped that she would.
"Of course not," she said. "Go help Daniel."
"Okay, honey," Pete said. "I'll be right over there if you need me." He pointed at Daniel, who stood maybe three feet from them, and leaned in to kiss her.
Daniel cringed. This had to be killing Jack.
Pete took the flashlight Daniel handed him and aimed it at the wall. "What's with all the snakes? I thought those people worshipped cows."
"First of all," Daniel said. "The Hindu don't 'worship' cows, they treat them as sacred. There's a difference. Secondly, not everyone in India is Hindu. Not now, and certainly not then. In fact, it stands to reason that the people who built this temple were quite likely not of the Hindu faith -- the goa'uld usually transfer their own worshippers to other planets, and a goa'uld would find it difficult to emulate the traits of a divine being as visualized by the Hindu."
The lecture did little to enlighten Pete as to the cultural diversity of the human race; the man had wandered up the corridor to shine the flashlight on something that Daniel guessed, based on the giggling, might involve nudity of some sort. It took only a brief glimpse to confirm the hunch.
Daniel glanced at Sam, who seemed too absorbed in her readings to notice Pete.
"Fertility figure?" Jack asked quietly, nodding his chin towards the still giggling Pete.
Jack rolled his eyes, then made a show of checking his watch. "Look, the sooner we find this thing and clear out of here, the better. Do you know anything that might give us a clue about where to look first?"
"If the device was actually of central importance to those who built the temple, that might mean that we'll find it in a central location." Daniel shrugged. "Without more -- "
"Got it," Sam said. "Looks like it's that way."
"Sweet," Jack said. "Good job, Car -- "
"That's my girl!" Pete said loudly. He practically leapt down the corridor to smack her on the back. "Way to go, honey!"
"Yeah." Sam kept her eyes focused firmly on her gadget. "Let's go find it."
Sam knew that Pete was just trying too hard. He did have that tendency, as he'd proven on their first date. She'd found it cute then, in a way, and he'd settled down eventually. Under the circumstances, he probably felt a little out of place. He was a nice guy, he cared about her, and she owed it to him to cut him a little slack.
Still, she wished he'd tone it down in front of her teammates.
The readings led them to a small, dark room in the heart of the temple. They ran their flashlights over the elaborate carvings on the walls. It would take Daniel days just to record all of this, let alone decipher it. The energy source seemed to be in a large stone box built into the floor in the center of the room.
"Sarcophagus?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
"It's about the right size," Daniel said. "We won't know for certain until we get it open."
Sam ran her light along the container as she circled it, searching for signs of an opening. She dropped down beside it for a closer look. "Daniel."
He crouched beside her and peered at the circular indentation that had caught her eye.
"You think?" she asked.
"I do," he answered.
Colonel O'Neill came to peer over their shoulders. "Tell me that thing's not supposed to turn."
"Sorry, sir." She tried not to look at Daniel, who was trying to hide a smile. "It looks like it turns."
Jack's flashlight beam played over the inscriptions on the wall. "So, we're gonna be here for a while."
"Look's like," Daniel said.
"Good," Pete said. He plopped himself down on the sarcophagus.
"Pete, no!" Sam leapt up, as did Daniel, who expressed much the same sentiment.
"What's the big deal?" Pete asked.
"Generally we don't sit on the alien artifacts," Colonel O'Neill explained. "Especially the ones that might explode."
Pete looked offended, possibly enough to start something, but Teal'c intervened. "If you require rest, might I suggest the floor."
Sam let herself breathe again when Pete took the suggestion. The last thing she needed was Pete embarrassing her even further by starting an argument, and she had to admit -- at least to herself -- that she didn't know him quite well enough to know if he had a temper. She glanced at Colonel O'Neill, who gave every impression of studying the inscription on the wall, although everyone knew better.
Well, everyone but Pete, and that just served to illustrate the fact that Pete had every right to feel out of place. She had to cut him -- and his nervous energy -- some slack.
She went back to examining the stone with Daniel, and together they found several more disks beneath centuries of dust. Deciphering a typical goa'uld combination lock would keep them here for days. Hopefully the device inside would prove worth the effort.
Jack gave the walls his full attention, because that beat the alternative. Behind him, he could hear the sounds of their fifth wheel pulling off his boots. He was determined to ignore that. If he noticed, he'd have to say something. He did not want to say something.
He wanted Carter to get a life, but this guy wasn't good enough for her. Not even close. That opinion, however, was best kept to himself. He owed her his support. Eventually she'd dump this clown, and find someone better. Someone who could make her happy. He never wanted her to doubt that he wanted that for her.
Carter deserved happiness.
"Honey? Sam, honey? I need a hand here."
Against his better judgment, Jack turned around and trained his flashlight on Carter's bozo. He was holding up one of his boots and shaking it. Jack watched, fascinated, as the man attempted to peer into his boot despite the darkness, and then failed to shine a flashlight into it, first dropping the boot and then letting the flashlight clatter to the ground.
"What?" Carter sounded annoyed.
Jack scolded himself for being pleased by that.
"I need you to hold my flashlight, honey," the idiot said, oblivious to Carter's tone of voice. "I need to fix my boot."
"I'm a little busy here, Pete." Carter turned her attention back to the sarcophagus.
The clown started banging his boot against the wall, bringing a shower of dust down on his head before peering blindly into the boot once again.
"Uh, Sam," Daniel said softly.
Carter aimed her flashlight at the fifth wheel just as he considered pounding on the wall again. "Pete, that might not be the best idea."
He blinked stupidly at her, and seemed to fully expect that she'd drop everything to fix his boot. "Honey?"
Even in the dim light provided by the lanterns Teal'c had set up, Jack could see that Carter's patience was stretched thin, and something had to be done before this fool brought the whole ceiling down on their heads.
"Teal'c," Jack said softly. "Could you . . . "
Jack tried not to watch as Teal'c crossed the chamber and held a flashlight for the dolt, who proceeded to pull the sole out of his boot.
"So," Jack said. "Carter. Daniel. Any progress on cracking that code?"
"It's been less than five minutes, sir."
"That's a no then?"
He knew better, but he really liked it when Carter laughed at him.
"Honey . . . " the dolt whined, spoiling a good moment.
They all turned to look at the fifth wheel as he tried to stuff the sole back into one of his boots. A wadded up paper towel fell from the boot. It lay on the ground, illuminated by the flashlight that Teal'c held, and everyone stared at it in silence.
"These boots are too big." Spinning Wheel stuffed the paper towel back into the boot. "You'd think that the Army would have a better selection of sizes."
None of SG-1 bothered to point out that they actually belonged to the Air Force.
Teal'c found Major Carter's choice of companionship unsuitable. She was a formidable warrior possessed of many admirable qualities; surely she could find someone more worthy of her affections. He watched Pete Shanahan fumble with the laces on his boots, and a possibility occurred to him.
Perhaps Pete Shanahan's very unworthiness explained why Major Carter had made such a choice.
Clearly, her feelings for O'Neill caused her to seek out this inferior substitute, because she found herself unwilling to give up her hopes for the future. Teal'c had witnessed the pain experienced by both O'Neill and Major Carter due to the rules of the Tau'ri in this regard. In his opinion, this current situation well illustrated the flawed nature of those rules.
A warrior fighting himself would not win many battles.
O'Neill decided that they should make camp, leaving Daniel Jackson and Major Carter to their work. Pete Shanahan complained when asked to carry Major Carter's pack. Apparently he found moving it to be too strenuous, despite the short distance between the two chambers.
Or perhaps the man was simply lazy.
Setting up camp was not a strenuous activity, and yet Pete Shanahan soon shirked what little responsibility he had been given in favor of heading back into the other chamber to pester Major Carter while she worked. Teal'c resolved to keep an eye on this man, lest his incompetence endanger their lives.
Daniel pitied the flashlight in Sam's white-knuckled grasp. He hardly needed such an obvious clue to notice her tension. In the many years they'd worked and fought side by side, he'd never seen her this obviously uncomfortable with a situation.
"Sam -- "
As if on cue, the situation wandered back into the chamber and shone a flashlight directly into Daniel's eyes. "Can I help, honey?"
"I thought you were helping Teal'c."
"I could hold your flashlight," Pete said. "Would that help, honey?"
Sam closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath.
Daniel heard what Pete missed. "You could help me," he suggested. "Count the rows of script on each wall, and once you're done with that, see if you can find any patterns in the symbols."
He knew that Pete's contribution wouldn't prove particularly helpful, but at least it would keep him busy, and with any luck quiet as well. Just what SG-1 needed on a mission -- an overgrown toddler to humor.
Sam smiled gratefully, and they went back to recording the inscriptions on the sarcophagus itself.
Daniel appreciated Sam's help on this kind of project. They worked well together, and even though ancient translations fell somewhat outside her field, she frequently made observations that proved helpful. They discussed the inscriptions quietly, sharing the hope that a mathematical pattern might emerge, since that would in all likelihood speed up the process.
"Hey honey," Pete said. "What are you guys whispering about?"
"Ancient mathematics," Sam said. "We didn't want to disturb your counting."
"That's okay, honey," Pete said. "I could always just start over. But no whispering secrets, okay?"
"The only one here with secrets is whoever's in this box," Sam answered, the lightness of her tone belying the look on her face.
Daniel raised his eyebrows at her.
"He's just nervous," she whispered. "He's feeling insecure."
"What was that, honey?" Pete asked.
"She said the sarcophagus is well secured," Daniel said. "I think we could all use a break. What do you say we check on dinner?"
Sam stood up and followed Daniel out of the chamber to 'check' on the MRE's. She'd taken about three steps when Pete bounded up beside her and wrapped his arm around her waist.
"So what are you cooking for dinner?" he asked.
"Cooking?" She paused to stare at him in the darkness.
"We're eating soon, aren't we honey?" he said. "My stomach's been growling for hours."
"We have MRE's," she explained. "They don't require cooking." She didn't add that most varieties were pretty much beyond the help of any chef in the galaxy. He could discover that on his own.
They continued into the main chamber, where the others had made camp. They were protected from the elements, and yet some outside light managed to filter in from the doorway they'd blown with the C-4.
She wished Pete would let go of her, but she felt a little guilty for snapping at him earlier, and she didn't want to hurt his feelings. Then she noticed the way Colonel O'Neill had his full attention focused on the MRE in his hand, and she gently but firmly removed Pete's arm from her waist.
She joined the rest of the team for some planning, now that it was clear that they'd be spending at least a few days here. Colonel O'Neill thought they should do a sweep of the whole temple before bed, and she agreed.
"Teal'c and I will take the passages to the west," he said. "You and Daniel can get the east."
"Yes sir," Sam said. "We'll -- "
"Aren't we going to eat, honey?" Pete's question bordered on whining.
"Go ahead and eat first," Colonel O'Neill said. "You and Daniel have been working, after all."
Sam turned around, and her eyes landed on Pete. He'd unrolled her sleeping bag and was fiddling with the zipper.
"Just zipping these together, honey."
Her face burned, and she crossed the chamber quickly. "Pete, that's completely inappropriate. Now please undo them."
"But honey -- "
"Pete!" She glanced towards her teammates. Daniel, bless him, was talking about the inscriptions on the sarcophagus with great enthusiasm, while Colonel O'Neill put a great deal of effort into pretending to care. She glared at Pete.
He blinked at her. He seemed honestly surprised by her reaction, but he gave in and started unzipping the sleeping bags. Almost immediately, the fabric got caught in the zipper, and he started cursing at it.
Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c took that as a sign to retreat, and they headed off to do their sweep of the building. Sam cringed at the look on the colonel's face.
"We might as well eat." Daniel appeared beside her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Remind me to tell you about my first night in the field with Sarah and Dr. Jordan."
She nodded and smiled a little, grateful for Daniel's friendship.
Daniel sat down across from Sam and tried to scare up some enthusiasm for his MRE. Watching Pete squeeze Sam's knee certainly did nothing to help his appetite. He got that she needed someone, and he even got why she seemed to give this guy the benefit of every conceivable doubt, but that didn't make it any easier to watch.
"So there I was." Pete paused in his narrative to shove another heaping forkful of spaghetti into his mouth. Or near his mouth, anyway. "Face to face with this thug, and he had a gun. So this thug is looking at me, right, like he's gonna kill me. And I said -- " Another bite of spaghetti. "And this is what I said, I said 'Are you looking at me?' -- just like that -- 'Are you looking at me?' and then he -- "
More spaghetti met its end. "Well he lifted the gun, right? But he was looking at me like he didn't know what to think -- distracted -- so I tried to kick the gun out of his hand, and the psycho shot me! Right in the shoulder. Can you believe it?" Pete waved his forkful of spaghetti around to illustrate his amazement. "Just a flesh wound. My kick messed up his aim. Pretty good story, right honey?"
"Yeah," Sam said, clearly not listening. "Daniel, do you think -- "
Pete seemed to notice that he didn't have Sam's full attention, and sought to rectify the situation by running his hand up her thigh.
It worked, in that it incited an immediate response from Sam.
She grabbed his hand, removing it from her leg with force and aiming a potentially lethal glare his way.
"Honey?" Pete attempted to hold the hand that had so effectively dispatched his from its owner's thigh.
Daniel pretended to be engrossed in his MRE, and successfully managed to ignore most of the whispered exchange that followed. He got up to dispose of his empty package just as Teal'c returned.
"Has he been injured?" Teal'c asked, indicating Pete.
"Not yet," Daniel muttered. He glanced at Pete, and noticed the copious red stains on the man's face and clothing. "Oh, that. He tried the spaghetti."
He knew that he was stalling. The west passageway and its chambers were secure. More than secure. Empty would be the most accurate description. He didn't need to double check any of it.
He gave the walls another once-over with his flashlight before heading back to the main chamber.
The fifth wheel had food on his face. That was the first thing he noticed. The second thing he noticed was the fifth wheel's hand, resting on Carter's knee like it belonged there.
He noticed that lots.
"Honey?" The fifth wheel leaned closer to Carter. "I could really use a foot rub."
Jack suddenly took great interest in the snakes carved on the wall.
"Sam?" Daniel said. "Shouldn't we get started on that sweep of the east passageway?"
Thank God for Daniel.
"Let's go," Carter said.
Behind him, Jack heard the unmistakable sounds of Carter jumping to her feet and checking her weapon.
"But my feet hurt," the wheel squeaked.
"Yeah, well, so they'll hurt more," Daniel said. "Let's go."
Jack might have smiled at that, but the image of that dolt touching Carter's knee hadn't yet faded from his mind. At least they would be gone for a while. He kept studying the snakes.
"Can't I just -- "
Carter cut him off. "Pete."
"Okay, honey, but you owe me for this." The squeaky wheel continued to whine about his feet as they left.
Yep. Snakes were fascinating.
Teal'c came to stand beside him. "You are tense, O'Neill."
Sam extracted herself from Pete for the third time. They should have left him back in the main chamber. Of course, then he'd be bothering Colonel O'Neill, and Pete was her responsibility. She owed it to her teammates to keep her date out of their hair.
Coffee-making and bedroom related inadequacies aside, she found Pete to be sweet and attentive, and she'd enjoyed his company before. If this relationship had a chance of working out, she needed to take the bad with the good.
Putting in time with her team was bound to make anyone nervous. They'd saved the world. Anyone would feel inadequate in comparison. Letting Pete's insecurity get on her nerves would not improve the situation. She resolved to be more patient with him, because snapping at him would only increase his anxiety.
"Look, honey!" Pete aimed his flashlight at a carving. "I think he wants someone to pull his finger."
That left her at a loss.
"Sam," Daniel said. "Come look at this."
She hurried up the corridor and trained her flashlight on the object he'd found. It looked suspiciously like a control panel from a goa'uld ship.
"What do you think it does?" Daniel asked.
Sam aimed her flashlight at the surrounding walls, searching for any visible technology. "Unfortunately there's no way of knowing, at least not immediately. It could control just about anything, possibly even a self destruct mechanism."
"Or it might not do anything, at least not any more."
Sam gave him a look.
He shrugged. "We could get lucky. It's been known to happen."
The stone around the panel was intricately carved and crumbling with age, partially obscuring its edge. Removing the casing to get a better look at the crystals would be delicate work. Daniel held the flashlight as Sam examined it in more detail.
"Hey, honey!" Pete bounded up to them, tripped, and sprawled across the temple floor.
Sam avoided the same fate only because Daniel caught her arm as Pete knocked her against him.
"Thanks," she said to Daniel. "Sorry about that. Pete? Are you hurt?"
"I think I broke my ankle."
Oh no. Don't be broken. Please don't be broken. Please don't be broken.
Sam examined the offending ankle as Daniel held the flashlight. "It's not broken. Possibly sprained, although it really doesn't seem to be swollen."
"What do you know about it?" Pete demanded. "It sure as hell feels broken to me!"
Surprised by his agitation, Sam gave it a second look, but she reached the same conclusion. "Sometimes a sprain can be pretty painful, but it's not broken -- "
"How do you know?" Pete asked. "It sure hurts like it, and you're not a doctor."
"Actually she is," Daniel said. "And before you complain that she's not a medical doctor, let me point out that Sam is a fully qualified field medic. If she says it's not broken, it's not broken."
"Are you sure it's not broken, honey?" Pete asked.
At her assurance, he let her help him to his feet, and then leaned pretty much all of his weight on her shoulder. She shot Daniel a look, grateful for the way he instantly understood what she needed, and with his help she dragged Pete back to camp.
Jack looked up as Carter and Daniel returned, carrying the fifth wheel between them like a sack of potatoes. Oh crap. Just what they needed: an injured -- and probably whiny -- fifth wheel.
"I think I broke my ankle," Fifth Wheel announced. "Although my girl here says it's just a sprain. Maybe it's one of those hairline fractures."
Yep, whiny. Peachy.
He watched as Carter bandaged an ankle that appeared perfectly healthy, at least to his untrained eye. Flat Tire demanded something for the pain, and Carter produced a little white pill that looked remarkably like an ordinary aspirin.
"Take this," she told him. "It should do the trick."
"Are you sure it's strong enough? Maybe I should take two."
"Colonel O'Neill only took one the time he had to walk six miles through enemy territory with a broken leg, not to mention a staff blast to the shoulder." Carter glanced at him. "One will do the trick."
Jack nodded, confirming her lie. "Trust me, one's plenty."
She stood up. "Sir, we could use your help in the east passageway. Daniel found what may be a goa'uld control panel, and I need to make sure it doesn't pose a threat."
"Sure thing." He shot Teal'c an apologetic look as they left him alone with Carter's mildly wounded yet remarkably whiny dolt.
Teal'c eyed the injured man with suspicion. Major Carter's subterfuge made it clear that this injury was of little significance, and the possibility existed that it was merely a ploy, although to what end remained unclear.
"An alien planet." Pete Shanahan looked around at the walls. "Weird about the snakes, huh?"
Teal'c said nothing.
"This is so weird," Pete Shanahan said. "It's like a movie. Isn't it like a movie?"
Teal'c studied him.
Pete Shanahan stared back at him. "Weird that you're an alien. Who would have thought that aliens were black, huh?"
"Yes," Teal'c said. "My skin is indeed darker than yours. How astute of you to notice."
"I'm not racist or anything," Pete said. "Sidney Poitier is a great actor."
"Indeed." Teal'c stared at him. Most people stopped talking when he did that.
"So, this is fun. Sort of like guys' night. We could play poker. Do you play poker? It's a little drafty in here. Hey, do we have any beer?"
"You wish to become inebriated?"
"Oh, come on dude! You can tell me. Don't you guys stash a little beer in those packs?"
"We do not," Teal'c said.
"Oh, I bet someone does." He shifted in the direction of O'Neill's pack.
"You don't want to touch that." Teal'c changed position and moved his hand.
Pete Shanahan's eyes followed the movement and came to rest on the staff weapon at Teal'c's side. He did not ask about beer again.
Jack held the flashlight while Carter and Daniel worked. He almost hoped the panel would turn out to conceal a self destruct device, forcing them to scrub the mission and drag the sack of potatoes back to Earth where he belonged.
"I'm sorry about Pete," Carter said. "He's just trying too hard -- "
"This is him trying?" Jack said. Oh crap. That had just slipped right out.
"He's not like this when we're -- usually. Usually he's different."
She's said usually -- twice, no less -- but Jack knew what she'd meant. Alone. The last thing he wanted in his head was even the vaguest notion of that loser alone with Carter. At least in the dark he could pretend not to notice Daniel's sympathetic glance, or Carter's reddening cheeks.
This sucked. In the past, there'd been plenty he couldn't say to Carter, but never before had it been so awkward that he couldn't find anything to say.
Daniel saved them all from the silence. "The first time I went out in the field with Sarah, I was trying so hard to impress her that I just dug myself in deeper with every word out of my mouth, and I got so nervous that I dumped an entire pot of stew all over Dr. Jordan's sleeping bag."
"Ouch." Jack winced in sympathy.
"I think I've got it," Carter said a moment later. "Daniel, if you could just hold this -- there."
The panel opened to reveal a number of crystals.
"Most of these look damaged," Carter said. "I think it's safe to say that whatever this controls, it's no longer functioning."
"So it won't blow up?"
"I don't think so, sir."
He hid his disappointment, and they gave the rest of the chambers a once-over before heading back to camp.
"I'll take first watch," Daniel said. "That is, if you don't mind, Jack. It'll give me a chance to read over my notes."
"Sure," Jack said. "You, then me, then Carter, and Teal'c last."
"You forgot Pete," Carter said.
I wish, Jack thought, but he managed not to say it. "Yeah, okay. Carter, then Pete."
"Thank you, sir. It'll help if he feels useful."
"Hey, honey! We missed you!" Pete patted the spot beside him.
Sam cringed at how close together he'd placed their sleeping bags, and wished she'd volunteered for first watch.
It took everyone a few minutes to settle down for the night, and Sam realized that she'd stalled about as much as possible. Sure, he'd spooked her with the whole zipper incident, but Pete wouldn't expect something here, in the middle of an alien temple with three of her closest friends in the same room. His zipper idea probably stemmed from some misguided notion of survival techniques, nothing more.
She slipped off her jacket and sat down to unlace her boots.
Pete crawled up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He kissed her neck.
"Pete," she whispered urgently.
She glanced at Daniel, who already seemed engrossed in his notes, and her eyes darted to Colonel O'Neill, who lay stiffly on his side, facing away from her. She twisted away from Pete with as much tact as she could manage -- which admittedly wasn't much -- and concentrated on her boot laces.
"Honey, how about that foot rub now?" Pete asked. "You owe me, after what happened to my ankle."
Daniel dropped his notebook, and made more noise picking it back up again than Sam would have thought possible.
Pete, in the meantime, scooted around and laid his hand on her knee.
"Pete," she said quietly. "I'm on duty."
"But honey," Pete said, not bothering to be quiet at all. "You can't be on duty twenty-four hours a day, that isn't fair. Can't we just -- "
"We need to get some sleep." Sam started to climb into her sleeping bag.
"You're not going to sleep with your pants on, are you?" Pete asked.
"Yes," she said, her patience growing thinner still. "As a matter of fact I am, and you should, too. If the goa'uld happen to show up, you'll want your pants."
Pete grumbled, and then thrashed around in his sleeping bag, apparently searching for his pants.
Sam stared at the temple ceiling in the grey light of the lanterns.
"Honey?" Pete propped himself up on one elbow and loomed over her. "Can't we at least snuggle?"
An ominous crunch -- loud and mysterious, yet definitely originating from Colonel O'Neill's direction -- echoed through the chamber before Daniel started coughing once again.
Daniel contemplated breaking Shanahan's arm. If Sam woke up and discovered that arm draped across her stomach like that, she'd probably do it herself. Jack, if he woke up and saw that, might skip right over breaking the arm in favor of ripping it clean off so he could pummel its owner to death with it.
That idea had its appeal.
The discovery that Sam was dating someone who treated her with such disrespect was quite frankly shocking, but Daniel doubted that it would last much longer. In the meantime, however, he hated to watch his friends suffer. He glanced at his watch. He only had about fifteen more minutes to figure out how to relocate the offending arm, because then he had to wake Jack up for his shift.
He glanced at his friend, who looked tense even in sleep, and sighed. Best to get this out of the way. He crossed the chamber, knelt down beside Pete, and physically lifted his arm.
"Hey -- "
Daniel clamped his hand over Pete's mouth. "Start showing a little respect for Sam's wishes." He kept his voice so low that he knew the other man had to strain to hear him. "Or else you and I are going to have a problem."
Pete stared up at him.
"Ew, and stop licking my hand." Daniel wiped his hand on Pete's sleeping bag. "Now go back to sleep."
He went back to his spot against the wall, smirking a bit at the glare that practically hit him in the back.
Jack usually enjoyed his time on watch. He liked the quiet, and he liked the peaceful look on Carter's face when she slept.
But not tonight.
Tonight he'd been on watch maybe fifteen minutes before the fifth wheel had stirred in his sleep and rolled up against Carter, his hand landing right in the middle of her stomach. That hand was about six inches from breaking Jack's rather tenuous grip on his sanity, and he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from it.
This dolt had some nerve.
The hand moved another inch closer to inciting homicide.
Jack considered waking Carter up early, just to make that stop, but since that also meant an awkward moment in which he'd have to face Carter while that bozo had his arm around her, he abandoned the plan.
He watched the hand. If it so much as twitched . . . It did. It twitched. And Jack, leader of the team that had saved Earth more times than he cared to count, really couldn't do much about it. Well, not much. But he could do something.
Jack found a pebble on the ground and chucked it expertly at the dolt's forehead.
The rock hit him squarely between the eyes, and the fool jumped up with a yell loud enough to wake the dead.
Jack lifted the notebook that Daniel had shoved into his hand earlier with a whispered 'just in case' that he'd refused to understand at the time, and made like the shout had disrupted his reading. He circled the chamber with the flashlight beam before letting it settle on the fifth wheel. "Bad dream?"
"Are the aliens attacking?"
No one rushed to answer him.
Carter seemed to be hiding a smirk behind her hand. "Go back to sleep, Pete. I think it's almost my watch anyhow."
Jack went back to his bedroll, secure in the knowledge that Carter was now a good six feet away from that hand.
Teal'c suspected that a wild animal had entered the temple, and he reached for his weapon before he realized that the sound he heard was in fact Pete Shanahan, loudly snoring while on watch. He was slumped against the wall, his head lolling to the side and his mouth hanging open. The flashlight he had dropped had rolled well out of his reach.
Waking him seemed pointless, so Teal'c left Pete Shanahan snoring against the wall and took over the watch himself. He knew that the Tau'ri shared the Jaffa tradition of shooting a warrior caught asleep on his watch, although he doubted a strict adherence to the policy.
Given what O'Neill shared with Major Carter, Teal'c did not believe that he'd shoot her boyfriend, at least not for an offense of this nature. The man did not appear to pose an immediate threat, after all, and he was not a member of the military.
Teal'c knew that O'Neill would do what needed to be done, regardless of his personal feelings, if it came to that. He'd seen him do so before at great personal expense, when the threat was immediate. In this case, it was not. However, Pete Shanahan could not be trusted with such a vital duty, and he would discuss this with O'Neill if they spent another night on this planet. Teal'c hoped that would not prove necessary.
This mission had grown wearisome.
The next morning, Daniel suggested that they examine the temple's outer walls in the daylight. "Some of the inscriptions were obscured by overgrowth in the photographs taken by the UAV. Since Brahmi is a script with which I have some familiarity, reading the full inscriptions might help me understand more about this culture, and that could prove helpful in deciphering the alien inscriptions on the sarcophagus."
"It's also possible that the outside of the building might reveal the presence of technology which could prove dangerous if we were to stumble upon it accidentally," Teal'c said.
Carter nodded. "That panel we found might not be the only one, and I'd like to know what it does."
Jack agreed, and the team gathered up the gear they'd need to spend the morning working in the sun.
"Honey?" The fifth wheel made a show of hopping the three feet to Carter's side before leaning heavily on her shoulder. "I don't think I can walk that far on my own."
Jack tried not to glare at the dolt, or smirk as he noticed that the rest of the team pretty much had that covered. His hands were tied, given what he had -- and didn't quite have -- with Carter, but he took comfort in his team's ability to pick up the slack.
The first thing that caught Jack's attention outside was the complete lack of cover should the planet prove less uninhabited than promised. "Teal'c, what do you say we take a walk. Make sure we don't have any would be troublemakers lurking in the bushes?"
He told himself that this little walk had nothing to do with the sight of the sack of potatoes hanging on Carter's arm. When it came to alien planets, 'uninhabited' frequently meant 'inhabited, but by people really good at hiding.' He had learned to be cautious.
"I wish to speak to you about Pete Shanahan," Teal'c said. "He is not to be trusted."
"He fell asleep while on watch last night."
"Oh." Jack scolded himself for hoping that Teal'c had uncovered some deep treachery, and not just more evidence of incompetence. "Well, he had his chance to be useful. I won't trust him with any more responsibility."
They circled the temple, alert for any signs of recent activity. Jack noticed the mark on the ground an instant before Teal'c pointed it out.
"Something was dragged from this spot," Teal'c said.
"Yep," Jack said. "And it was bleeding."
Sam followed Daniel around to the front of the temple, where she deposited her pack, as well as Pete. "Someone needs to keep watch," she lied. "If we get engrossed in the translation, we might not hear someone approach."
"Sure thing, honey," Pete said. "You can count on me."
She helped Daniel clear some of the brush. Parts of the inscription had eroded due to exposure, but they could make it out.
"Like I said before," Daniel said. "The name of the place translates to 'Temple to the Life of the Dead.' I'm just not entirely sure what that means."
"And the snake?" she asked. "You said that it looked familiar -- that it might mean something."
"That's what I'm hoping to learn," Daniel said. "Translating these other inscriptions should lead me in the right direction. Or at least a direction."
"If -- "
"Honey!" Pete called.
She considered ignoring him. He's injured, she reminded herself, and she tried to quell her annoyance.
"Hey, honey! I just thought of something."
She didn't quite dare hope he'd thought of something that could prove useful. "Oh?"
"Remember that movie we saw? The one with the great sword fight? Weren't they in India?"
"That was Japan." She turned back to Daniel.
"Are you sure honey?"
For some reason, Sam found herself reminded of her constantly bickering neighbors from the summer between her first two years of college. She'd never understood how they stayed together when they even squabbled over movies they'd seen. In retrospect, she doubted they had.
"So," she said to Daniel. "If the -- "
"Honey? Are you sure?"
"Yes, Pete." She closed her eyes and swallowed. "I'm sure that The Last Samurai was set in Japan."
Daniel, to his credit, didn't react at all.
"It was a great sword fight, though, wasn't it honey?"
"Sure," she lied, desperately ignoring the look on Daniel's face. Had she really found Pete's awkward nervousness cute on their first date?
"Honey, did I tell you about the time I got shot?"
"He'll get shot again if he tells it a second time," Daniel muttered through a forced smile. "And it won't just be a flesh wound."
Jack scanned the horizon as Teal'c examined the drag marks, and searched for any prints that might have survived. "Human?" he asked.
"I do not believe so," Teal'c answered. "It appears to have been too heavy."
"Peachy," Jack said. "So whatever did the dragging, it's capable of hauling off something too big to be human."
Teal'c nodded. "It went that way."
"That way it is," Jack agreed.
They followed the trail through the grass until Teal'c paused again and dropped down to study the ground. "I believe that it died near here."
"There is less blood now."
"And the thing that killed it?" Jack followed Teal'c's gaze to a stand of trees. "In there, huh?"
Jack pulled out his radio. "Carter."
"Teal'c and I found something." He gave her a quick summary. "Watch your six. We're checking it out."
The drag marks were even easier to follow in the wooded area, and they led straight to the tallest tree in the bunch. Bits of animal hair were snagged in the thorns of the bushes at the base of the tree. Jack approached it with caution, ready to zat anything that moved.
Teal'c peered up into the tree. "It appears we have arrived too late. It is gone."
Jack followed his gaze. The upper branches of the tree were mangled and broken. If something large had dragged its breakfast up there, then something equally large had removed it by force. From the looks of things, that hadn't proven easy.
They scanned the ground for signs of further dragging.
"Maybe it can fly?" Jack didn't like that possibility, but then again, he didn't like this much at all. Whatever had happened, it added up to a whole mess of somethings that were capable of an awful lot of dragging.
"O'Neill." Teal'c pointed to something on the ground, blending into the shadows just out of sight from the damaged tree.
Jack joined Teal'c beside the carcass of the largest cat-like animal he'd ever seen. It had an ugly wound on its shoulder, and its neck looked broken.
"It has not been dead long," Teal'c said.
"So," Jack said. "This isn't what got dragged up into that tree?"
"I do not believe so, O'Neill. This creature is still warm, and shows no signs of having been dragged."
"Terrific. Any guesses on what killed it?"
"I do not know," Teal'c said. "These tracks belong to this creature." He indicated the faint outline of a print. "There appear to be broken branches in that direction."
They scanned the area, moving slowly back-to-back, weapons drawn.
Teal'c indicated another faint mark on the ground. "Something recently departed these woods and headed south. I suggest we return to camp."
Jack nodded. "Good plan."
Daniel carefully recorded the entire inscription before attempting to translate it. He could tell from Jack's frequent radio contact that their outdoor time could get cut short pretty much any time, should the colorful local fauna choose to make an appearance.
The threat didn't bother him particularly -- Sam had his back, after all -- but he hoped he'd finish with the inscription before they had to run for their lives.
Oh good, Pete had more to say.
"Honey, do you think they're dinosaurs?"
Against his will, Daniel turned to watch Sam react to that.
"Maybe the aliens brought dinosaurs here, like a nature preserve."
"Yeah," Daniel said. "The goa'uld aren't really into ecology. Also, the dinosaurs died off sixty five million years ago."
"Colonel O'Riley said something big was on the loose."
"I think if he'd meant T-Rex size, he would have specified." Daniel turned back to his work.
"Did you hear the one about the dinosaur who stubbed his toe?" Pete asked.
"Probably not," Sam said.
"It was dino sore!" Pete giggled.
Daniel couldn't be bothered to groan, and caught Sam's eye as she winced. That, Daniel figured, was pretty much the nail in the coffin.
"I swear all I gave him was an aspirin," she said softly.
"It would be cool, though," Pete said. "Like in that movie. You know, that movie. The really cool one with the dinosaur."
"Pete," Sam said. "Maybe under the circumstances, you'd better head back inside. You might have trouble running on your ankle."
Daniel tried not to watch as Sam hauled Pete to his feet and led -- or more accurately half-carried -- the hobbling man back inside the temple.
Sam left Pete in the safety of the temple and hurried back to Daniel.
"I could fend off the dinosaurs on my own until Jack gets back," he said. "You know, if you want to keep an eye on Pete."
She rolled her eyes.
He shrugged. "Sam, you're dating a guy who thinks that Tom Cruise would win in a sword fight."
"I know he's been a bit much to take," Sam said. "He's sweet, though, and I wanted to give him a fair chance. I thought, I don't know, I thought his jokes would grow on me, like -- "
Sam felt the truth punch her in the gut. "Oh God."
Daniel looked sympathetic, but needled her anyway. "The difference is that Jack's jokes are funny."
She knew she wasn't hiding her emotions very well, because Daniel laid his hand on her arm. "I know it must be hard, trying to move on, given . . . well, you know."
Sam nodded, and fought the tears prickling her eyes. "I thought I should try, and not -- not use it as an excuse to keep my life on hold." She studied Daniel's face. "He says he's okay with it, but -- " She shrugged, unable to put her question into words, but knowing that Daniel would get it anyway.
He did. "Jack thinks he's okay. I think you know better than to believe that -- unless you're trying to make him jealous?"
"No, of course not." Daniel adjusted his glasses. "I know that's not who you are, but for a moment I thought it might explain your tastes."
She smiled a little at his attempted levity. "He's a friend of my brother's."
"Oh." He squeezed her arm again. "A fix-up. That explains the 'fair chance' thing. You really went above and beyond the call of duty on that one, you know." He raised an eyebrow at her. "Godzilla?"
"You're not going to forget this, are you?"
"Nope. Listen, Sam, in all seriousness, there has to be a solution for you and Jack."
"There is," she said. "We beat the goa'uld."
"Ah, it's settled then. We'll beat the goa'uld."
She laughed and gave Daniel a quick hug. "Think the key to that is in this inscription?"
"Only one way to find out."
Jack watched the sky, especially in the direction of the temple, but he didn't see any giant birds of prey circling overhead. With any luck, the wildlife would go on about its usual business and leave them alone.
For some reason, he had his doubts about that. Luck tended to forget about them until the fat lady finished warming up her voice and got her sheet music in order. Then luck would make a grand entrance, or more accurately luck would get itself dragged to their rescue, kicking and screaming, thanks to something brilliant Carter cooked up.
Jack's radar remained on high alert as they approached the temple. He could see Carter and Daniel, both bent over Daniel's notes as they did their genius thing, but at first he didn't see the fifth wheel. He tried to work up some concern, but failed, and then spotted him hovering around the door to the temple.
Yep, doing nothing. That was about right.
Carter smiled as they approached. "Daniel has everything recorded, sir, and I didn't find any signs of goa'uld technology on the exterior of the building."
"Is that good?" he asked.
"Okay, then. Lunch?"
Daniel showed Jack the morning's notes, more to provide a distraction than anything else, because the moment the team entered the temple, Pete hobbled over to wrap his arm around Carter's waist.
"I need to see my girl," he said, practically dragging Sam across the chamber.
Daniel watched Jack's eyes follow them. "So, big cat?"
"Yep." Jack fidgeted with the pen Daniel had tucked through the spiral notebook. "Big dead cat."
"Any idea what species?" Daniel asked.
Jack shrugged. "Big and black."
"There are black leopards in India," Daniel said. "I suppose it's possible that the goa'uld transplanted some of the native wildlife. Or of course it could be something native to this planet. Did it have any distinguishing features?"
"The creature resembled animals I have seen on many planets," Teal'c said. "Although unusual in size, I do not believe it would pose significant danger unless threatened."
"There is the little matter of what killed it," Daniel said.
"That is a mystery," Teal'c agreed.
Daniel glanced at Jack, who was busy pretending not to watch Sam with Pete, and exchanged a knowing look with Teal'c.
"So," Daniel said. "Any chance it was killed by dinosaurs?"
Jack turned back to him, eyebrows raised. "Daniel?"
"Yeah." Daniel shrugged. "Pete had this theory."
"Sam didn't -- "
"Are we eating or what?" Pete hobbled back across the chamber, one arm wrapped firmly around a somewhat guilty-looking Sam.
"Lunch," Jack said. "Right."
Daniel sighed. Hinting about the impending breakup would have to wait.
They sat down to eat and Daniel passed around the MRE's. Sam felt a wave of gratitude when he gave Pete a meal featuring a relatively benign hamburger patty instead of the treacherous spaghetti. She opened her own and forced herself not to pull back when Pete leaned closer.
Sam felt like a jerk. It wasn't Pete's fault that he could never compare to Jack O'Neill. What man could? Under any other circumstances, a swift end to the relationship would be best, but she couldn't very well dump a guy in the middle of a mission on an alien planet.
Unfortunately, putting it off meant . . . well, this. She hated the dishonesty of it. This whole mess was her fault, and it wasn't fair to Pete or to Colonel O'Neill. It wasn't even fair to Daniel, who spent their entire lunch break trying to keep conversation flowing in the least uncomfortable direction.
At the moment, the least uncomfortable direction involved the dead cat. "A leopard is capable of carrying prey as large as twice its own body weight up into a tree," Daniel was saying. "So there's really no mystery there. But as for what can kill a leopard as large as the one you described, and make off with its lunch? I think we have reason to feel some concern about that."
"So the wound," Daniel said. "Do you think it could have been made by a weapon of some sort?"
"The flesh was torn -- "
"Hey!" Pete complained. "Do you guys have to talk about dead things when we're eating?" He patted Sam's knee. "There is a lady here, you know."
They all stared at Pete.
Teal'c eventually broke the silence. "Major Carter has herself slain larger creatures."
"Yep," Colonel O'Neill said. "There are stories."
"I could share one," Teal'c said. "But I do not wish to interfere with your meal."
Pete's grip tightened on Sam's knee as he glared at Teal'c, and Sam covered his hand with her own, hoping to keep him from responding. She shot an urgent look at Daniel.
"Yeah," Daniel said. "Perhaps we should -- "
Pete bolted to his feet and stalked off, all traces of his limp disappearing in his anger.
"Pete!" Sam moved to follow.
"Sam." Daniel caught her hand. "Let him go."
Pete went as far as the doorway, at which point he apparently remembered the potential dinosaurs lurking outside. He dealt the wall near the door a brutal kick.
Sam cringed. That settled her question about Pete's temper.
Jack sighed at the fifth wheel's temper tantrum. He couldn't let this dolt waste rations in the field. He glanced at Carter, hoping she'd deal with it, but she seemed wrapped up in a non-verbal debate with Daniel.
"Pete," Jack said. "Finish your lunch."
For a moment, things looked tense. Then the fifth wheel returned to his seat and ate, shooting accusing glares at Teal'c the whole time.
Without conversation, the meal ended quickly.
Daniel said something about comparative something or another and headed off to the sarcophagus chamber. Carter took Pete with her to further study the control panel in the east corridor, and Jack shrugged at Teal'c. "We could go take another look at the dead cat."
"To what end?" Teal'c asked.
To the end of not hanging around here, Jack thought. "Another sweep of the west corridor, then?"
Daniel adjusted the lanterns and sat down on the floor to go over his notes. He was hoping that the inscription on the chamber wall might bear a similarity to the inscription outside. Not in language, of course, as the one outside was clearly Vedic Sanskrit written in the Brahmi script, while this one differed significantly. However, if they shared a phonetic root, it might provide a starting point for some experimental substitution.
Understanding this wall, with any luck, would mean they could open the sarcophagus.
In this case, the final goal mattered above any other mysteries here, because obtaining the device inside meant they could go home, which would thankfully mean the end of Pete. Maybe his friends had to wait for happiness, but they could at least avoid this particular misery.
He studied the wall, searching for patterns that could indicate repeated words, and counting the number of different symbols used. He hoped the language would prove phonetic, which would open the possibly of connecting it to another language, and hoped it was more than merely wishful thinking that made him lean away from the possibility of logograms.
As for the Sanskrit, muhurmuhuH . . . again and again walk the old?
A slight sound echoed in the chamber, and Daniel turned as a blur of motion smacked into the side of his head. Everything went dark.
Sam heard the shout and sprinted down the corridor, using her weapon to light the way. "Daniel!"
She took quick inventory of her surroundings, ascertaining that the threat had fled, before dropping to her knees beside him. "Oh, God."
His pulse was steady, and he was breathing, but she could see blood in his hair, and feel a nasty swelling growing on his forehead.
"Daniel?" She knew the answer, but asked anyway. "Can you hear me?"
"Carter." Jack appeared in the doorway. "What happened?"
"Something attacked him," she said. "Get my pack."
He was back within seconds, kneeling beside her as she shone a flashlight in each of Daniel's eyes. "How is he?"
"His pupils react equally," she said. "That's a good sign. We need to stop the bleeding." She rinsed the wound with saline, examining it closely for signs of skull damage. "I have to close this."
Colonel O'Neill held the flashlight as she temporarily closed the laceration with steri-strips. "What did this?"
"I don't know, sir. It looks like he was struck at least three times," she said. "I don't think his skull is fractured but we should get him back to the SGC."
"Is it safe to move him?"
"I don't know, sir. We should immobilize his neck in case of spinal injury." She bit her lip and looked at Colonel O'Neill for the first time. "There's really not much I can do for him here."
"Teal'c can head back to the gate and call for a medical team," he said. "We need to secure the area before whatever did this comes back."
"Major Carter," Teal'c said. "Where is Pete Shanahan?"
She realized with a sinking, guilty feeling that she had no idea.
"It's okay," Colonel O'Neill said. "We'll find him. He's probably in the main chamber anyway. Stay with Daniel."
She nodded, and sat watching Daniel breathe as the others went to look for Pete and get help. If Pete had gotten hurt -- seriously hurt, as opposed to slightly-twisted-ankle hurt -- then her guilt would have a field day. She took Daniel's pulse again, relieved that it remained steady. She gave his hand a squeeze. "Wake up soon, okay Daniel?"
Teal'c's surprised cry of pain echoed through the temple, followed by Colonel O'Neill's shout. Sam dropped Daniel's hand to reach for her weapon, and noticed Pete standing just outside the doorway.
"Watch him," she ordered, not waiting for acknowledgement.
She met Colonel O'Neill dragging an unconscious Teal'c.
"Carter, get his legs, will ya?"
She hurried to help. "What happened, sir?"
They carried Teal'c into the central chamber.
"He'll wake up on his own," Colonel O'Neill said. "How's Daniel?"
Sam examined him again. "The same. The force field?"
"Blocking the exit."
"Then I should suture this laceration."
"Ya, okay." He knelt down and held the flashlight while she got to work.
"He hit his head?" Pete asked. Sam had forgotten he was there. "Will he die?"
"He'd better not," Colonel O'Neill said. "If he dies again, I'll kill him."
Jack glanced towards the doorway. Whatever had done this to Daniel might be locked in the temple with them. "Pete, hold this."
He handed over the flashlight and moved to the doorway.
"Pete," Carter said. "Aim it more this way. Yes, like that."
Jack scanned the corridors.
A thump resounded through the chamber, and he spun around.
"Sir?" Carter said. "A little help?"
Pete's unconscious body lay in a heap beside Daniel's head. The flashlight had rolled out of reach, and Carter had both hands occupied with holding Daniel's scalp together.
"Oh, for crying out loud, isn't he a cop?" Colonel O'Neill retrieved the flashlight and held it, one eye on the door as Carter finished the stitches.
"I'm sorry, sir," Carter said.
She nodded towards Pete.
"I guess he doesn't like the sight of blood."
Teal'c groaned and sat up.
"Teal'c, buddy, how ya feeling?"
"Not entirely well, O'Neill, but I will recover. How is Daniel Jackson?"
"I don't know, sir. Without the equipment available at the SGC, I have no way of knowing for certain. We'll know more when he wakes up."
Teal'c climbed to his feet. "What has befallen Pete Shanahan?"
"He fainted," Carter said, rather dismissively, Jack thought.
The sound of an object clattering to the floor echoed through the temple.
"That's our cue," Jack said. "Carter, you about -- "
"Just one more . . . there."
"Good." He handed her the flashlight. "Teal'c? Let's move."
After assuring herself that she'd done everything possible for Daniel, Sam rolled Pete into a slightly more dignified position and took up watch at the doorway. At least the central chamber afforded a defensible position, but whatever had attacked Daniel was clearly capable of stealth.
Daniel was much harder to catch off guard these days.
Her radio stayed silent. She listened for any hint that Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c needed help, but she only heard the breathing of the two unconscious men in the chamber. Pete fainted at the sight of blood. Terrific. She had a few things to say to her brother when they got home.
They returned a short while later, and Colonel O'Neill held up a small statue. "Whatever attacked Daniel dropped this," he said. "We found it in a chamber in the west corridor."
"It has blood on it," Teal'c added.
Sam examined it. "The base is sharp enough to cause that laceration, but there's no way to confirm that this is Daniel's blood."
"I think it's a safe bet," Colonel O'Neill said. "Unless we're locked in this temple with two somethings that aren't particular about who they club over the head."
"Do we know where it went?"
He shrugged. "This place is full of hiding places, and most of the chambers have more than one exit."
"So, here's the plan. We hold this position until more of us are mobile, Carter does something about that force field, and we hightail it back to the gate."
Sam agreed. "I'll wake up Pete and we'll go get started."
"No," Colonel O'Neill said. "Take Teal'c. Nobody's going out there alone."
"Sir -- "
"Carter." He nodded slightly, but meaningfully, in Pete's direction.
She found the idea of leaving her commanding officer alone with her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend unsettling at best, but that didn't make a terribly valid argument. "Sir, I'd feel more comfortable if you had Teal'c to watch the door, that way you could keep a closer eye on Daniel."
"Wake up Pete," he said. "He can watch the door while I keep a closer eye on Daniel."
Sam knew defeat when she saw it. She crossed the room and shook Pete's shoulder. "We need you to keep watch."
"Honey? What happened?"
"Colonel O'Neill can fill you in," she said, instantly regretting it. "I've got to go."
Jack watched the slow rise and fall of Daniel's chest, and kept one eye on the dolt guarding the door. All the fifth wheel needed to do was stand there and pay attention, but Jack wasn't about to trust him to do it right.
Fifth Wheel had proven himself nothing but a liability so far, after all. Jack didn't have a clue what Carter saw in the guy, and he really didn't want to think about it.
"Got any potato chips?" Hamster Wheel asked.
"What?" Jack stared at him.
"Chips," Wheelbarrow explained. "Snacks. We always have snacks on stakeouts."
"In case it's escaped your attention, we're not sitting around in a nice safe squad car waiting to nab some petty thief. Something big and alien pretty much wants us dead. On top of that, Daniel needs a doctor, and we can't get him to one thanks to a force field. So no, it's not time for snacks."
"You think he's gonna die, huh?" The dolt didn't seem too torn up about it. "Do people die on these missions a lot?"
"Keep your eyes on that corridor," Jack snapped. "Unless you'd like to be the first -- "
Daniel made a sound, and Jack turned back to him. "Daniel?"
Teal'c followed Major Carter back to the outer door, alert for potential threats. They found the control panel for the force field almost immediately. The fresh damage from Pete Shanahan's burst of anger contrasted sharply with the rest of the wall.
"This won't be easy," Major Carter said. "The center of the panel is bent into the crystals, and part of it looks like it's lifted up beneath the stone."
Teal'c watched the darkness as she worked in silence for a while.
"I can't believe Pete did this," she said, anger in her voice. "Daniel needs a medical team. If he -- "
"Daniel Jackson will recover," Teal'c said. "He has done so many times before."
"I hope you're right, Teal'c."
"Do you have reason to believe that his injuries are severe?"
"I really have no way of knowing," she said. "We won't know until he wakes up." She turned to look up at him. "I could really use a second set of hands. Do you think -- "
"Carter," O'Neill said over the radio. "It's Daniel. He started to wake up."
Sam jogged back to the central chamber, her hand on her weapon, but mostly trusting Teal'c to watch her back. Fear for Daniel overrode all other concerns. "Sir?"
Colonel O'Neill moved out of her way as she dropped down beside Daniel. "His breathing changed, and he moaned a little."
She took his pulse, and then gently squeezed his fingers. "Daniel? Can you hear me?"
His fingers twitched in her grasp.
She smiled. "It's good to see you, Daniel. How are you feeling?"
"Not that good." He started to move.
She laid a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy. Where does it hurt?"
"Oh, the usual. Headache. A little nausea."
"Don't sit up," she said. "It'll make it worse. Do you remember what happened?"
"Someone hit me over the head with . . . was it a pipe?"
"Statue," Sam said.
"Are we talking Unas here?" Jack asked.
"I didn't get enough of a look," Daniel said. "So I take it they -- it, whatever -- is still on the loose?"
"It's worse than that," Jack said. "Whoever did it activated a force field. We're locked in here with them."
Sam cringed. "Sir, it was Pete -- "
"What the hell?" Pete shouted. "You're accusing me of murder!"
"God no." Sam stared up at him, shocked that he'd think that's what she'd meant. "I was talking about the force field."
"I didn't do that either!"
"You did," Teal'c said. "You were unaware of it."
"At lunch," Sam explained. "The control panel for the force field is beside the doorway."
"Peachy," Colonel O'Neill said.
Sam turned her attention back to Daniel. "Want something for the pain?"
"Yeah, that would be a good thing."
"Hey!" Pete actually stomped his foot. "Don't I even get an apology?"
"For what?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
Pete ignored him. "Honey, I'm waiting."
"Pete, we'll talk about it later." She turned back to Daniel.
"Fine." Pete stormed off down the dark corridor.
Colonel O'Neill sighed. "Teal'c?"
"I will follow him."
Daniel opened one eye experimentally, closed it for a moment longer, and accepted Sam's help when she offered him a drink. "Thanks," he said. "But you'd better go help Teal'c with the rounding up."
"I'm afraid I'd better," Sam said. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to order Colonel O'Neill to get it."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Daniel said. "I'll have him fetching me a five course meal the second you leave."
She laughed and touched his cheek, and then set off to fetch her wayward date.
"There aren't any broken canopic jars around, are there?" Daniel asked. "Because I don't remember that guy being quite that big of an ass before."
"Already ruled that out," Jack said. "Carter would sense it."
"I wasn't entirely serious," Daniel said. "But it's oddly comforting to know you've put some thought into the possibility. Any idea what has gotten into him?"
Jack shrugged. "I may have pissed him off earlier. Plus that fainting spell couldn't have been good for his ego."
"Fainting spell. Really." Daniel seemed amused. "Maybe he's figured out it's over."
"Come on, Jack. You can't seriously think -- "
Sam's shout echoed through the temple.
"Go." Daniel nearly caught the zat that Jack tossed at his chest. "I'm good."
Sam saw the blur of movement barrel into Teal'c just as she turned the corner. The light of her P90 showed her only a glimpse before Teal'c and his attacker rolled into one of the chambers and out of her sight. She called for help and sprinted after them.
An inhuman wail pierced the air, its echo filling the temple.
Teal'c threw off his attacker just as Sam reached the cluttered chamber, and she tried to keep her light on it but the maze of artifacts obscured her view. She saw little more than a glint of green eyes before she heard the solid thunk of it striking the floor on the other side of a large stone table.
She circled the table, searching for her target. She aimed at a large, dark shape, slinking low to the floor, but it bolted from the chamber before she got a lock on it. It appeared to have a tail, but other than that, she failed to make out any details. It vanished before she reached the next room, and she turned back.
He sat up as she reached him. Blood covered his face. "That creature was not an Unas."
Colonel O'Neill skidded around the corner. "Carter?"
"It disappeared into the next chamber."
"Don't know, sir. I didn't get a good look at it."
"I saw it," Pete announced. "It's a bear."
Sam had her doubts about that, but at least Pete was back with the group. She'd deal with him later. She was a little more worried about Teal'c. The laceration on his forehead was bleeding into his eyes and making it difficult to assess the full extent of his injuries.
"Well whatever it is," Colonel O'Neill said. "We'd better get back to the other chamber before it eats Daniel."
"Teal'c?" Sam asked. "Can you see?"
"I would appreciate your assistance, Major Carter."
Sam led Teal'c back to the central chamber, where Daniel had managed to prop himself up enough to aim a zat at the doorway. Beads of sweat glistened on his pale face.
"Ouch," Daniel said to Teal'c. "You too, huh?"
Colonel O'Neill and Sam helped Teal'c take a seat beside Daniel, and Sam got to work on his wounds. He had four parallel cuts, all deep enough to bleed profusely. The one that worried her most crossed his face dangerously close to his eyes, and it seemed to make it difficult for him to open them. Even if the eyes themselves weren't damaged, an infection in the area could compromise his eyesight, and even minor swelling could prove a serious problem while they were stuck here.
Daniel managed to hold the flashlight while she took a closer look.
"It looks like your eyes are okay," Sam said. "But we need to keep the swelling down."
"Honey," Pete said. "I'm thirsty."
She ignored him.
"Honey, I said -- "
"Yeah," Colonel O'Neill said. "Let's have a chat."
Jack gripped the fifth wheel's upper arm firmly and led him into the corridor.
"Ow! Let go! You're hurting me!"
"Good." Jack shoved him against the wall. "Now listen up."
"Hey! You can't treat -- "
"Your little tantrum put my team in danger. If -- "
"My taxes pay your salary!"
Jack clamped his free hand over the fifth wheel's mouth. "If you move so much as one inch outside that chamber again without my explicit permission, then I will personally feed you to whatever the hell it is that did that to Teal'c. Capiche?"
He expected a nod. What he didn't expect was for the dolt to lick his hand.
"What is wrong with you?" Jack wiped his hand on the loser's shirt and shoved him back into the chamber. "Stay."
"But I'm thirsty."
"Tough." He turned back to his team. "Carter? How's Teal'c?"
"I think he'll be okay, sir." The worry in her voice said differently.
She stood up and followed him to the doorway. "Whatever attacked him clawed him in the face. There's a risk of infection, and one of those wounds is pretty close to his eyes. We need to get him out of here."
"What're you saying?" Jack asked quietly. "He could go blind?"
"I don't think so, sir, but any swelling will at least temporarily impair his vision."
"I've got to get back to work on that force field."
"Yeah." He looked around at their team. Teal'c couldn't see, Daniel could barely sit up, and then there was the fifth wheel. His options sucked. "Take Pete with you, and watch your six."
She nodded and started to gather her tools.
Jack caught the fifth wheel's arm again. "If anything happens to Carter, I'll shoot you."
Daniel watched Jack fidget in the doorway, apparently frustrated that it was too narrow for proper pacing. "Jack, you're making me dizzy."
"You already were dizzy," Jack said. "You got clunked over the head with a statue."
"Good point. Listen, I think I could help Sam if -- "
"I thought you were dizzy."
"Right." Daniel sighed. "I've been thinking about the inscription -- "
The sound of raised voices echoed through the temple.
Jack grabbed his radio. "Carter?"
"We're fine, sir, just -- "
"Hey," Pete's voice interrupted. "I was talking to you -- " The transmission ended.
"Lover's quarrel," Jack muttered. "Fantastic. Have I mentioned how much I really don't like that guy?"
"If it brings you any comfort, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "I do not believe that Major Carter intends for their association to continue."
"Her patience with him has grown thin."
"Teal'c's right," Daniel said. "I think Sam's planning to end things when we get home."
"She kind of hinted." Daniel considered saying more, but he didn't want to directly break a confidence.
Raised voices continued to filter down the corridor.
"If we get home," Jack said. "That guy's really not making it any easier."
"You think you're so smart!" Pete bellowed. "You think I don't know! You and that Johnson guy have been all over each other!"
"I saw you," Pete said. "Whispering your little secrets and holding his hand. Don't think I don't know what that means!"
It took Sam a moment to realize he meant Daniel. "Pete, he's hurt -- "
"Don't give me your excuses! You women are all the same. One man's never enough."
"Pete -- "
"You think I care what you have to say? You're going to listen to me now!" Pete actually stamped his foot and waved a finger in her face. "It stops now, you hear me? You're my girl, and don't you forget it!"
"I'm not having my girl mess around with some muscle-bound G.I. Joe, not on my watch."
Only her anger kept her from laughing in his face. That, and the fact that she had a job to do. "Pete, we can talk about this later, right now -- "
"Oh no," Pete said. "You don't decide when this is over. That's for me to decide. I'm the man here."
"No, you're the civilian here," she said. "Follow my orders, and let me do my job. Our personal issues can wait."
"Listen, bi -- "
She caught his arm as he made a grab for her, and slammed him back against the wall, her arm pressed to his windpipe. "You listen. We will talk about this after we get out of here. Our lives are in danger. Everything else can wait. Okay?"
His lips flapped a bit, and she released the pressure enough to let him speak.
"This isn't over."
"No," she agreed. "It's not. But can we get to work?"
He nodded and she released him.
He looked almost contrite. "We'll talk later?"
"We'll talk later." She felt a little sick with shock. Lame jokes and whining were one thing, but the jealous temper tantrum had caught her a little off guard. Still, she had a job to do, and their options were limited. She set up a lantern beside the damaged panel. "Now keep an eye out for . . . the bear."
Pete shrugged, unconcerned. "Bears hibernate. It's probably sleeping."
Jack tried to ignore the rather loud argument between Carter and her loser. He paced. He scanned the corridor for hostiles. He asked Teal'c about his injury, and quizzed Daniel about his headache.
When the arguing seemed to stop, his anxiety only rose. He reached for his radio. "Carter? How are you doing out there?"
"Everything's fine, sir," she answered.
He refrained from checking in with her again for almost twenty minutes. By the third check-in -- after about an hour of work -- she started to sound frustrated.
"I could use an extra set of hands," she said. "This panel is wedged in pretty tight."
"Head on back," he said. "Fetch the rest of the gear from the main chamber while you're at it."
Carter arrived a few minutes later carrying both his pack and Daniel's. The fifth wheel staggered behind her with Teal'c's gear. His whining had turned ugly.
"You don't have any right to boss me around," he muttered at Carter's back. "And you'd better remember what I said."
Carter looked furious. She dropped the packs inside the door and went to check on her patients.
"Hey!" The dolt stamped his foot like an angry toddler. "What did I just get done telling you!"
"Telling her?" Jack raised an eyebrow at Training Wheels. "I bet that went well."
"What would you know about it? Huh? You sticking it to her too? I always wondered why the army let in girls but now I know all about -- "
A lifetime of military training propelled Jack's fist into Pete's jaw.
The dolt crumpled to the ground.
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"Yep," Daniel said. "Definitely better."
Carter turned from examining Teal'c. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"You tell me, Carter. Your brain usually works a lot faster than mine."
"By the way, Daniel," Carter said. "You and I are sleeping together."
Daniel blinked at her. "Goodie?"
Daniel claimed he felt well enough to stand watch, for a few minutes at least, so Sam and Colonel O'Neill went for the equipment Pete had refused to carry a few minutes earlier.
Sam dropped to her knees and started shoving Pete's scattered gear into his pack.
"He's not good enough for you," Colonel O'Neill said. "Not even close."
She gave a wry laugh. "Ya think?"
He joined her on the ground. "Not that anyone ever could be."
She stopped packing and caught his eye in the dim light. "Someone is. I just have to be patient."
He got it. She read it in his face before he looked away. "You deserve a life."
Sam laid her hand over his and waited until he met her gaze once again. "I have one."
"Ah, Teal'c?" Daniel spoke softly. Hopefully softly enough that the owner of the lopsided green eyes currently approaching from the west corridor wouldn't feel the need to hasten any attack it might have in mind. "We're about to have company."
The eyes moved slowly. The owner of those eyes appeared to have its head cocked, and Daniel guessed from its apparent height that it moved on four legs. He could hear Teal'c quietly speaking to Jack on the radio. Maybe they could trap it between them in the dark corridor.
It grew closer, stepping from near-complete darkness into the gray half-light filtering through the chamber door. Daniel raised his zat. It was definitely an animal, darkly colored, and carrying its head at an odd, disjointed angle.
It was big, and it definitely noticed the snack-sized human in the chamber doorway.
Daniel fired the zat. The creature leapt, and he fired again, rolling, barely avoiding sharp claws. Gunfire erupted as Jack and Sam ran down the corridor, and the creature fled.
"You okay?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, just, that was close." Daniel squinted up at Jack and pressed a hand to his throbbing head. "I was sure I hit it."
"Me too," Jack said.
"I saw Daniel hit it," Sam said. "The glow from the zat gave me a pretty good look at it."
"Good shot, by the way."
Daniel accepted the hand Jack offered and winced as his head protested against the upward motion. "Am I crazy, or was that a cat?"
"It looked like a cat," Sam agreed.
"Yep," Jack said. "Cat. Big cat."
"We're locked behind a force field with a hungry . . . I'm guessing leopard -- and it's invulnerable to zats," Daniel leaned back against the wall. "That seems about right."
"Any more good news?" Jack asked.
Cursing erupted from the floor behind the sarcophagus.
"Pete Shanahan is awake," Teal'c said.
"You hit me!" Pete shouted from the floor. "Wait till I tell my lawyer! I'll sue you so good I'll own the whole freaking army."
"Yep," Jack said. "You do that."
"You'll be sorry!"
"Doubt that," Jack said. "Now stop shouting. You'll attract dinosaurs."
Jack turned his back on the fifth wheel. "Daniel? Hold down the fort. Carter, you're with me."
"Hey!" The dolt clambered to his feet. "She's my girl, and she's not going anywhere with you."
Carter rolled her eyes.
"Okay." Jack turned back around. "How about this? She stays here with us, and you go see if the leopard's hungry."
The dolt blinked at him.
"No? Didn't think so. Stay." Jack adjusted his weapon. "Daniel? If he gives you any trouble, shoot him."
They headed off in the direction the leopard had gone, carefully scanning the corridor for what Jack hoped would be an unconscious cat. He knew Daniel had hit it, possibly twice. It should have collapsed instantly, but since it hadn't, maybe it had landed in a heap a few jumps from the door, masked by darkness.
No such luck.
The east corridor split off in two directions, with dozens of interconnected chambers leading off from it. They saw no sign of the cat.
Jack sighed. "Let's go fetch that gear."
"Too bad we can't barricade this somehow." Carter ran her light along the walls. "If the control panel Daniel found in the east corridor belonged to a force field, then maybe I could salvage the components and construct -- "
"Or," Jack said. "We could build a fire."
She smiled at him. "That would be much easier, sir."
Teal'c kept his eyes covered with a cold pack as Major Carter had advised. In addition to reducing the inflammation, this provided the added benefit of allowing him to ignore Pete Shanahan. He almost felt pity for Daniel Jackson, who did not share the same luxury, and was therefore forced to endure the man's company while they waited for O'Neill and Major Carter to return.
"You'd better keep your hands off my girl," Pete Shanahan said. "I don't like what's been going on around here. I don't like it at all."
"You don't say." Daniel Jackson possessed a great talent for diplomacy.
It was wasted on Pete Shanahan. "Hey, you'd better show me some respect!"
"I see." Anger seeped into Daniel Jackson's voice. "Like the respect you showed Sam earlier?"
"That's none of your business!" Pete Shanahan moved closer to Daniel Jackson.
Teal'c had no fear that despite his injuries, Daniel Jackson could defend himself, but Pete Shanahan's ranting might prove a dangerous distraction. Teal'c focused on any potential sounds from the corridor. He would not allow this fool to further endanger his team.
"A guy's gotta put his foot down," Pete Shanahan continued. "Else, a woman will get all uppity."
Teal'c's hidden hand tightened on his weapon. Hearing such words in reference to Major Carter filled Teal'c's mind with visions of Pete Shanahan meeting with an unfortunate accident.
Daniel Jackson's voice carried the same sentiment. "Uppity? Yeah, see, here's where you may be a little confused. Women are actually human beings, not property, and -- "
"She's my girl!" Pete Shanahan insisted. His voice grew louder, and certainly now carried into the corridor, where Teal'c could hear the approaching footsteps of O'Neill and Major Carter. "I'd better not catch you talking to her again, or -- "
"Hey." O'Neill had reached the doorway. "Looking for another fist to the jaw? Carter, you want to do the honors this time?"
"Sir," Major Carter said softly. Then her steps crossed the chamber and Teal'c heard her offering Pete Shanahan a canteen. The tone of her voice well masked the anger she certainly felt; it helped that she'd missed the most offensive of the man's comments.
Teal'c hoped that Daniel Jackson's assessment was as accurate as it seemed, because he found it unsettling to see someone whom he admired involved with such an objectionable individual.
"So," O'Neill said. "Here's the plan. We're going to keep a small fire burning in the doorway here. That should keep the nice kitty from paying us another visit."
"What do you intend to burn?" Teal'c asked.
"The larger pieces of the brush that Daniel and I cleared this morning are stacked just inside the door in the main chamber," Major Carter answered. Her voice grew closer as she explained, and her hand landed on his arm. "There should be enough to keep a small fire going for a few hours, anyway. Hopefully that will give Colonel O'Neill and I enough time to disable the force field."
Pete Shanahan objected loudly to the plan. "You're not running off and leaving me here again! I forbid it!"
Major Carter took Teal'c's compress and replaced it with a colder one. She started to speak, clearly determined to ignore the man's unreasonable demands.
"Hey! Look at me when I'm speaking!"
"Pete, please." Major Carter's voice sounded foreign, pleading, and not like the strong woman Teal'c had always known.
He felt his anger grow. A capable warrior such as Major Carter deserved a great deal more respect. He felt she should demand it, and failed to understand why she hesitated to do just that. She'd stood up to system lords. This man was nothing.
"Are you listening?" Pete Shanahan stamped his feet. "I said I forbid it!"
"Forbid?" O'Neill asked. Teal'c could tell that his patience had also expired. "See, I'm the only one here who gets to forbid things, and if you can't get that through your head -- "
"Are you threatening me?"
"Yep," O'Neill said. "I am."
"I won't stand for -- "
"Pete," Major Carter said. "I know the situation is making everyone a little tense, but just hang in there, and we'll be back to the SGC in a few hours. Okay?"
"I'm a civilian," Pete Shanahan said. "He can't order me around."
"Yes he can," Major Carter said. "Now please, can you just cooperate?"
Pete Shanahan muttered his agreement, but Teal'c did not believe he could be trusted to keep his word. No honorable man would speak to someone he claimed to love in such a manner.
Once they got the fire started in the central chamber's doorway, they took the time for a quick meal. Sam tried to ignore Pete's hand on her knee, a task which Colonel O'Neill seemed to find equally challenging.
Pete was apparently oblivious to the glares he received, and his confrontational mood dissipated once he started eating. He seemed relaxed. Cheerful, even. Sam wondered if his show of temper might be related to low blood sugar, or if she was just making excuses for him.
"Sam," Daniel said. "I've been thinking about the . . . "
Pete tensed and wrapped his arm around her thigh, glaring at his perceived rival and completely missing the look on Colonel O'Neill's face.
Sam attempted to remove Pete's hand from her leg, and he dug his fingers into her thigh hard enough that she'd probably have bruises. If she hadn't already made her decision, that would have done it. She pried his fingers loose and forced down any other reaction. "We'd better get back to work."
Colonel O'Neill quickly agreed, and they returned to the main chamber to disable the force field.
"So," Colonel O'Neill said. "What do you need from me?"
Loaded question, under the circumstances. She pushed all of that from her mind and handed him a screwdriver. "I need you to help me pry this panel apart. The way the metal buckled, it wedged itself under the stone. I can't get at both corners simultaneously."
He gave the chamber another pass with his flashlight before they got to work.
Prying the bent metal away from the crystals one millimeter at a time didn't require much thought. Sam's rebellious mind kept returning to Pete, and how she could be so blind as to get involved with that kind of guy. She knew better than to let her personal issues distract her while in the field, but for once her ability to compartmentalize everything seemed to be failing.
"Carter?" Colonel O'Neill asked softly. "You okay?"
She nodded and tried not to look at him, because they couldn't afford to have this conversation. "I'm sorry, sir."
"You're not responsible for his behavior."
She could have left it there. "That's not what I meant."
He studied her face, and she knew she didn't need to explain. "You don't need to apologize. You were right to try."
She didn't know what to say to that, so she turned back to the panel.
Jack wanted to say something to Carter. He wasn't clear on what he wanted to say, but since he couldn't say it anyway, that was missing the point. She felt guilty, and he wanted to put a stop to it. She deserved a life, and whether she got one or not, he'd always care about her. She certainly didn't owe him anything. He'd be happy for her if -- okay, he'd be jealous as hell, but that was no reason for her to wait forever.
Together they kept working on the panel, freeing the metal one millimeter at a time. Jack paused frequently to scan the chamber for hungry wildlife and statue-wielding locals. "I guess it would be too much to ask."
"I was just thinking that if we have to be locked in here with not one, but two things that want us dead, it would be nice if maybe they'd want each other dead too."
She gave him a brief smile that he felt in his gut, and repositioned the screwdriver. "They might, assuming whatever hit Daniel is the same thing that killed the leopard you found outside. Here, I think I've got it. Hold this, right here, and pull."
The metal popped out from beneath the stone with a screech of protest, and clattered to the ground.
"It's just that I don't recognize this configuration." She aimed her flashlight at the damaged crystals, and then at some writing on the damaged panel. "Or this language. I'm going to need Daniel."
"Can't we just shoot it?"
She shook her head. "It's already damaged, and the force field is working. My guess is that this is just the control panel. The power source for the shield itself must be located somewhere else."
"So," he said. "We broke the off switch?"
He ignored his urge to place blame -- or perhaps a fist -- where it was due. He wouldn't rub Carter's nose in the fact that her moron date had caused the problem.
"That's pretty much it, sir. We either need to find the power source for the shield, or repair this panel. Either way, I'll need Daniel to translate."
"Yeah, okay. I'll get him; you watch your six."
"I think I'll just keep my six to the wall, sir." She grinned at him, which did all sorts of things to his insides. "It'll be easier that way."
Daniel's head throbbed, and he was starting to think that had less to do with his concussion and more to do with Pete. The man would not shut up about Sam. Not that he had anything new to say. It pretty much all boiled down to repeatedly laying claim to what he viewed as his property.
"It takes a real man to handle a woman like that," Pete explained. "You've gotta remind them who's boss, or they'll mess around on you."
Daniel's hand twitched on his zat. The temptation grew with every minute.
"You'd better know what's good for you," Pete said. "And that's staying away from my girl."
"Yeah," Daniel said. "I'll be sure to do that." He spotted Jack in the corridor. "Force field down?"
"Not yet." Jack stepped carefully around the small fire. "Carter says she needs you for -- "
"No way!" Pete jumped up and waved his finger in Jack's face. "I'm putting my foot down! This guy doesn't go anywhere near my girl!"
"For cryin' out loud," Jack said. "Haven't you gotten it through that thick skull yet? You don't give the orders here."
"He's messing around with my girl!"
"Yeah." Jack rolled his eyes. "I see that happening. Daniel, how's the head?"
"Fine," he lied.
"Sure it is," Jack said.
"Hey!" Pete stamped his foot. "You can't just ignore me!"
"Well, a change of venue wouldn't hurt." Daniel accepted the hand Jack offered and climbed to his feet. "Let me just -- "
"Colonel." Sam said over the radio. "I've got company."
Sam watched the green eyes approach at a steady pace. The cat had its head tilted to the side as it watched her. It neither blinked nor hesitated as she slowly raised her P90. Her finger found the trigger and she took aim.
The cat moved into the patch of daylight filtering in through the doorway, its eyes still focused on her, and Sam fired. Her shoulder absorbed the impact of the weapon. She heard the sound of the shot.
The cat, however, continued forward unaffected.
She had to have hit it, and yet it didn't seem to react at all. She fired again, spraying the approaching animal with bullets, any one of which should have killed it.
It leapt forward, and she rolled to avoid its attack.
"Carter!" Colonel O'Neill fired on the creature as well.
Sam scrambled backward, clutching her P90 with both hands and using it to block the cat's attack. She caught it in the throat with the makeshift blunt weapon and shoved with all her strength. The animal fell sideways against the force shield in the doorway a few feet away. The impact sent it flying in a shower of crackling energy, and it landed in a crumpled heap near Colonel O'Neill's feet.
They both kept their weapons aimed at it as Sam stood up, and Colonel O'Neill poked it with his boot. He jumped back with a sound that for Colonel O'Neill was pretty close to a yelp of surprise.
The cat leapt onto its feet, sprinted past Colonel O'Neill, and disappeared into the darkness.
"Okay," he said slowly. "What the hell just happened?"
Jack turned to Carter for an explanation.
She shrugged. "Maybe someone's outfitted it with a personal shield of some kind."
"See," Jack said. "That's what happens when planets are supposed to be uninhabited. Not only are they inhabited, but the inhabitants turn out to be completely nuts."
Carter smiled a little. "You're not wrong."
For a moment, smiling back occupied his full attention. "Well then, I guess I'd better go get Daniel."
"No need," Daniel answered. "I'm here."
"Good," Jack said. "I'll head back -- leave you kids to the genius thing."
Carter and Daniel leaned over the crystals, and Jack set off to check on Teal'c. He found the fifth wheel lurking in the corridor.
"I thought I told you to stay in the central chamber."
"I'm not leaving that guy alone with my girl!"
"She's not your girl." Jack grabbed his arm. "She's my second-in-command. This is a military operation, not -- "
"Hey! Get you're hands off of me!"
"Not gonna happen. I'm through messing around with you." Jack shoved him back in the direction of the central chamber. "Do as you're told."
"Get out of my way! I know what's going on and you can't keep me from stopping it!" The dolt took a swing at him. Not a terribly effective swing, but it put an end to whatever remained of Jack's patience.
"For cryin' out loud." Jack shoved him back against the wall. "Nothing's going on."
"No woman of mine is going to ignore me when I put my foot down!"
"She's gonna put her foot in your ass if she hears you talking like that."
"She needs to learn -- "
"No," Jack said. "She doesn't. She's a whole lot smarter than you."
"No woman -- "
Jack shoved his arm into the dolt's throat. "What are you, a cave man? Being a woman has nothing to do with anything."
The idiot looked a little purple.
Jack let him go. "Get back in there and keep your mouth shut, or I'll shoot you."
"You can't do that." The idiot tried to push past him.
Jack grabbed him again, shoved him into the chamber, and pulled out his zat. "Ready to follow orders?"
The dolt blinked stupidly at the zat. "You wouldn't dare! Now I'm going to talk to my girl, and you can't stop me!"
Jack shot him.
Teal'c smiled at the sound of Pete Shanahan's unconscious body striking the stone floor. Only a fool would believe that O'Neill made idle threats.
O'Neill unsnapped a pocket. "How are you holding up, Teal'c?"
"My condition is improving, O'Neill." He lifted the compress and squinted at the figure on the ground. "In fact it has improved greatly in the last few moments."
"Carter and Daniel will have that control panel working in no time, so -- " O'Neill spun around as both men heard the slight rustle of the leopard stepping into the campfire.
O'Neill fired his zat but the creature continued to advance.
Teal'c climbed silently to his feet. If he kept from drawing its attention, he could catch it by surprise.
The animal held its head at an angle, unconcerned with the fire -- contrary to the stench of burning hair -- as it focused on the unconscious man that O'Neill now moved to protect. O'Neill tossed the useless zat aside and reached for his handgun just as the cat leaped towards him.
Teal'c moved quickly, blocking the attack with his staff weapon before the powerful jaws could lock around O'Neill's raised arm. The stench of burning flesh filled the air and flames jumped from the cat's smoldering leg to O'Neill's jacket. Teal'c ignored O'Neill's loud curse and threw his body weight forward against the cat, knocking it onto its side and firing his staff weapon. A gaping hole appeared in the creature's side, but it leapt to its feet. Teal'c tackled it.
"Hold it down!" O'Neill shouted. He grabbed its thrashing legs and bound them with plastic restraints.
The animal's leg was charred where it had stood in the campfire, and its head flopped at an unnatural angle. In addition to the staff blast, it had multiple bullet wounds and a gaping tear in the flesh of its shoulder. It continued to struggle.
"This animal is no longer alive," Teal'c said.
"Well it's sure as hell moving around enough," O'Neill answered. He had a hand clutched to his side and appeared to be in considerable pain.
"You are injured," Teal'c said.
"Ya think?" O'Neill snapped.
Major Carter and Daniel Jackson arrived.
"Sir!" Major Carter went straight to O'Neill.
Daniel Jackson glanced at his friend, and then down at the struggling creature. "It's moving around an awful lot for a dead cat."
"The tel'chak device had the ability to reanimate dead tissue," Daniel Jackson said. "A similar device must be active nearby."
Teal'c nodded. "That would explain the undirected nature of the creature's aggression."
"Terrific," O'Neill said, the pain of his injury evident in his voice. "That's just what we needed. Zombies."
Sam rushed to Colonel O'Neill, her stomach turning at the odor of charred flesh that she hoped like hell wasn't related to the pain she saw in his face. She caught his hand, gently pulling it from where he clutched at his side. "Oh God."
He had blood on his hand and the part of his skin visible beneath his scorched shirt looked black. "I'm okay," he tried to claim. "We need -- "
"Sir, I need to take a better look." Her hands shook as she gently lifted the burned fabric away from his side, grateful that for the most part it didn't stick to his skin.
"Ouch!" He protested. "Carter, that hurts."
"That's good," she said.
"What do you mean good?"
"Pain is a good sign," she explained. "Hopefully there isn't any nerve damage."
He grumbled, but he helped her pull off his tee shirt, or what remained of it anyway, and sat down on the bedroll she hastily spread out.
Daniel silently handed her a second blanket, which she wrapped around Jack's shoulders. Then she knelt down beside him for a better look at his injuries. It was bad, but not nearly as bad as she had first thought. The worst of the burn was on his side, and the portion that qualified as a third degree burn was relatively small, only spanning about five or six inches across. The blistering skin surrounding it probably hurt far more.
Judging from the looks of the ruined jacket she saw laying nearby, it could have been much worse. She shuddered and swallowed hard.
Sam hurried to thoroughly coat the burned skin with antibiotic cream, which made Jack flinch at the contact and hiss with pain. She forced down her own reaction. "Sorry."
"It's okay," he said. "Just hurry up."
She covered the area with moist gauze and bandaged it loosely. "Better?"
"Yeah," he said. "Thanks."
"It looks like the leopard got its claws into you." She gently touched the four parallel gashes running across his chest. "I have to clean these out or they'll get infected."
"Carter -- "
"Sir, you can't risk an infection." She wet a gauze pad with antiseptic. "If we're stuck here much longer we'll run out of antibiotics." She got to work on the first wound. "How exactly did you catch yourself on fire?"
"The cat," he said. "Darn thing walked right through the campfire before it jumped me."
She glanced in the direction of the dead animal, which continued to struggle against its bonds. Pete's unconscious body caught her eye. She'd noticed earlier that he was breathing, that he wasn't bleeding profusely, and that he didn't show signs of having recently been on fire. She wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know more, but she had to ask. "Did Pete faint again?"
"I zatted him," Colonel O'Neill answered. "He wouldn't follow orders."
She bit her lip to keep from laughing, but wasn't entirely successful, although when Colonel O'Neill smiled back she found that she wasn't particularly sorry either.
"So tell me, Carter, am I going to live?"
"You need to stay warm and drink plenty of fluids," she said. "Burns can cause dehydration and hypothermia, even if you feel warm."
"Yeah, okay." His eyes met hers just as she caught his hand again, and they both froze for a moment before she forced herself to check to see that the blood she'd felt on his hand earlier wasn't from yet another injury.
"I need to get back to work on the force field." She handed him some pain pills and a canteen.
"You need to get some sleep," he said. "We all do. You can try again in the morning."
Jack watched Carter move around the chamber, checking on their injured teammates and dragging Pete's unconscious body out of her way. He suspected that she blamed herself for the numerous ways this mission had gone awry, but she was really the one holding it all together.
They'd be screwed without Carter.
Daniel took the first watch, and busied himself with the notes he'd taken that morning, before everything had gone wrong. He said something about the engravings on the wall that Jack didn't even pretend to understand, and then lapsed into silence.
Carter settled down beside him, close, and offered him her jacket. "You need to stay warm, sir, and we can't exactly turn up the thermostat."
Her comment referred to the jacket, not her proximity. They often slept close to stay warm, and they never bothered to fret over how it might look. In a few hours he'd have Daniel beside him while Carter sat watch. It was common sense. Survival. Nothing more.
After years of such missions, he wouldn't have even given it a second thought, except he had just noticed that the fifth wheel had started to stir.
"Carter." He nodded in Hamster Wheel's direction.
She sighed and her annoyance showed in her face.
Daniel had also taken notice of the squeaky wheel's stirring, and had reached for his zat. Good thing someone was on their game.
Jack mentally kicked himself for not putting the idiot in restraints when he had the chance. The cat's timing sucked. One more minute and the fifth wheel would have been securely bound, instead of preparing to cause trouble.
"What the hell!" The dolt had barely managed to prop himself up before he started shouting. "You shot me with that thing so you could make time with my girl!"
"Pete -- "
"I don't wanna hear your excuses!"
Carter jumped to her feet and grabbed the moron's arm, dragging him out into the corridor mid-rant.
Jack started to follow, but the wave of pain made his head swim. "Daniel?"
He watched Daniel climb silently to his feet. At least Carter had backup if the shouting attracted any of the zombie-cat's friends, or if the fifth wheel turned violent.
"No, you listen up." Carter sounded pretty calm, considering. "Colonel O'Neill zatted you because you refused to follow orders, and that puts us all in danger, just like you put us all in danger when you kicked -- "
"You're blaming me now? Taking his side over -- "
"This isn't a game. Look at this. This is blood, from people I care about -- "
"Doing all three of 'em, aren't you?"
"How dare you!"
Then the corridor erupted with obscenities and Daniel bolted from the doorway. Panic overrode pain, propelling Jack to his feet. He made it to the door just in time to watch Daniel take one last shot at the figure fleeing into darkness.
"I'm okay, sir." She kept her back to him, scanning the corridor for the escaped dolt. "You shouldn't be up."
He reached for her and turned her to face him. "Damn it, Carter, he -- "
"He hit me," she said softly, turning away. "I let -- "
"Don't you dare try to think that any of this is your fault."
"Sir -- "
"Carter." He tried to get a closer look at her injury.
"It's nothing," she said. "Especially considering the day we've had. I got off easy compared to the rest of you."
"You've got me there." He tried to keep it light, but this was Carter, and the son of a bitch had clocked her in the eye. "Let's get back inside."
"I can't believe I let him land a punch," Carter said. "I should never -- "
"I wouldn't exactly call that a punch." Daniel bent down and picked something up out of the dirt. "Sam, he blindsided you with a rock."
Jack swallowed a curse and caught her chin with his fingers, gently tipping her face so he could get a better look. The swelling looked bad. "We'd better get a cold pack on that."
"Sir, it's really -- "
"Yeah, mine's worse. We've covered that. Doesn't mean that doesn't hurt, though."
"Let's go back inside," she said softly.
He forced himself to lower his hand from her face, and turned back towards the doorway. The pain in his side reasserted itself and the world started to spin. He reached out to the wall for balance.
"Just a little dizzy."
Carter immediately ducked under his arm, draped it around her shoulder, and wrapped her own arm around his waist, carefully avoiding the burn that he suddenly resented a little less. When they reached his bedroll, he let Carter fuss over him for a moment before he once again insisted that she take care of herself as well.
"Sir, I'm fine, and you need -- "
Teal'c handed over a cold compress and Jack lifted it to Carter's eye.
"Sir." She took the compress from him. "You can't afford to get chilled. Teal'c, how many more of these do we have left?"
"Carter . . . "
"Jack," Daniel said in that way that usually signaled impending death. "What are we planning to do about Pete?"
"Nothing," Jack answered. "Let him fend for himself. He hit Carter in the eye with a rock."
"Yeah," Daniel said. "But he hit Sam in the eye with a rock."
"Didn't I just say that?"
"Well the thing is, he's bound to come back. Do we have a plan?"
"Look, even given our current . . . " Jack glanced at his team. This mission was really not going well. " . . . situation, I think we can take him."
Carter smiled, which helped his mood.
Jack shrugged and caught her eye. What he really wanted to do was shoot the son of a -- but it was probably best not to make that the plan. "Zat him and tie him up in a corner?"
"Yeah," Carter said. "Sounds like a plan."
He studied her face, and pushed away the impulse to reach out and give her shoulder a comforting squeeze. If Daniel needed comfort, Jack wouldn't hesitate to give his shoulder a brief squeeze, but with Carter he hesitated, because with Carter what he really wanted to do was pull her into his arms, kiss the top of her head, and say all sorts of things that he had no business saying to her.
"He's never hit me before, if that's what you're wondering."
"Didn't even occur to me," he said honestly. "You'd mop the floor with him."
"I'm a little embarrassed that -- "
"Don't be." His arm found its way around her shoulders after all. "Nobody's a perfect judge of character. I had him pegged as an entirely different kind of ass myself."
She laughed softly and leaned into his embrace.
For a few minutes, he let more serious concerns take a back seat while he pondered a recurring mystery. They'd spent the last two days digging around a dusty old temple on an alien planet, hiking, and fighting off zombified predators, so just how did Carter manage to keep her hair smelling this good?
Daniel tried to give his friends some privacy by focusing on his notes, but the way Jack clenched his fist as he fought to control his emotions made Daniel's heart ache with sympathy. Nothing was more important than defeating the goa'uld, but even so, he doubted the necessity of some sacrifices.
Right now, though, he needed to work on deciphering this language. Then Sam could lower the force field and get them all out of here. He had to start someplace, so he decided to operate under the assumption that the symbols on the wall were phonetic, and that the language shared a connection with the Sanskrit outside.
He returned to the notes he'd taken that morning, and for the second time began translating the inscription. A few words had been too faded to make out clearly, and while he was familiar with the language, he wasn't fluent in it. That became increasingly apparent to him as his translation failed to make sense.
Again and again walk the old. He'd started to write that before the incident with the statue. The old who? The next word, translated as a boundary wall. The thought of the walls themselves moving -- perhaps closing in around them Hollywood-style -- gave him a moment's pause. Maybe it referred to the force fields?
Daniel was almost positive that the next word meant inside, or within. A force field was like a wall within walls, but no, that didn't seem right. Unless . . . he knew that Sanskrit was read left to right, but if he did the opposite and read this inscription right to left . . . Within these walls the old . . . walk again. The old ones walk again?
That made a little too much sense.
Daniel glanced at the deceased, yet valiantly struggling, leopard. Yep. The inscription made perfect sense.
As he continued to translate, now reading right to left, he discovered a warning. Within this temple, the dead walked again. The people who carved the inscription had wished to honor their ancestors, he'd gotten that much right, although since most cultures honored their ancestors that wasn't much of a leap.
This place, however, had not been built to honor the ancestors. It was in the act of sealing off this temple that these people had honored their dead. The people here had viewed the events -- the events themselves were unspecified -- which had occurred within these walls as sacrilege. They had revolted against a powerful one, a demon, and sealed his evil works inside.
The word he'd failed to recognize earlier now fell into place. Fam. Daniel had suspected that he'd find the name of the goa'uld within the inscription, and now that he knew the context, he knew he was right. He even recognized the goa'uld.
African mythology spoke of a powerful being who had defied the creator god Nzame and when punished had actually risen from the dead, causing great mischief and showing an interest in human beings that was atypical of African deities.
So was Fam within the stone sarcophagus embedded in the floor? Daniel found that unlikely. If the people had rebelled against him, and managed to somehow kill the goa'uld, they were unlikely to have buried him. If Fam had been inside the temple when they blew the door, then either SG-1 had let another goa'uld out into the galaxy, or he was still within the temple, preparing to knock them all in the head with statues.
Sam rested her head carefully against Colonel O'Neill's shoulder and tried not to dwell on the spectacular mistake she'd made in trusting Pete. Things would get messy once they got back to the SGC. Pete knew too much, and he had a temper.
Her eye stung fiercely, and she had to hold her head just right to avoid bumping it. She'd shifted repeatedly, looking for a comfortable way to rest her head on her arm, before Colonel O'Neill had pulled her closer.
"C'mere and keep me warm," he'd said softly. Then he'd looked at her in that way that showed exactly how much she meant to him, and guided her head into a comfortable position on his shoulder.
How she'd ever thought she could give him up was a mystery.
Maybe something was missing in her life, but it wasn't missing completely. This was enough. Or very nearly enough, because what she shared with Jack was real. Anything else would feel hollow, and deep down she knew that, which was exactly how Pete had slipped under her radar.
She sighed a little and felt his arm tighten around her. He wouldn't say anything, for which she was grateful. They didn't need the words. What she needed most was his support, and he never let her doubt that she had it.
Daniel spread his notes out on the floor. He was close to something. He could feel it. Knowing which culture this particular goa'uld had exploited helped. The Indian subcontinent didn't figure into it at all, which explained why he'd failed to add it all up before. A zoologist would probably identify their struggling carcass as being of African origin, rather than Indian as he'd first assumed, but his knowledge of leopards stopped well short of being able to match subtle variations in ear shape to specific subspecies.
He glanced at his friends. He couldn't tell if Sam was asleep or not, but Jack was awake, his thumb stroking her shoulder ever so slightly as he held her close. They needed that, probably more than sleep, and it was good that they were allowing themselves the luxury.
As for the Brahmi script outside, that its use had traveled to Africa wasn't much of a jump. Writing systems had a habit of following trade routes, after all, even without goa'uld intervention. Briefly, his mind tried to sort through possible evidence of linguistic relationships, looking for things that might support his theory, but Daniel wasn't writing a paper for skeptical academics. Jack wanted to know what the wall said, not why it happened to say it in this particular language.
Daniel searched for patterns that would allow him to compare the two sets of inscriptions, and when his eye landed on a particular set of symbols, he started his experimental substitution with enthusiasm.
Jack noticed the pain first, and with the next breath he noticed the warm weight on his shoulder. Carter. He ignored the pain. The last thing he wanted to do was move and wake her up. He glanced at Daniel, who was focused intently on the papers strewn around the floor.
Hopefully that meant progress.
The last thing Jack wanted was to be stuck here once Pete showed his face again.
He'd seen Carter with many bruises over the years, far worse than bruises, in fact, but this one stirred something dangerous in him.
She shifted slightly and raised her head. "What time is it?"
Getting a better look at her eye made it hard to keep his voice even. "It's not your watch yet. Go back to sleep."
She propped herself up and flipped open her watch. "You need more pain meds."
He really couldn't argue with that. His side hurt like hell. "So, Daniel, how's it coming?"
"I'm definitely onto something. I was wrong about the origin of this planet's inhabitants. They weren't from India at all, they were from sub-Sahara Africa. That's why I couldn't place the snakes before. I think they're actually representations of the snake god Nzombi, worshipped in the Congo around the time -- "
"Daniel. All this is helping us how?"
"I'm getting to that. You see, I think the goa'uld we're dealing with is Fam. He couldn't be killed, even when the creator god sent a great fire to punish him. Although burned, he continued to live. Just like our friend here." Daniel nodded towards the very active dead cat. "Buried alive after somehow surviving the fire, he managed to escape, and he was greatly feared among a number of African cultures. He represented wickedness, arrogance, and selfishness."
"So this is our guy?"
"I think so. Some stories say he was trapped within the Earth, his escape blocked by a great stone."
Jack nodded. "Like the one we blew up to get in here?"
Sam squinted at the small bottle she'd pulled from the med kit, which made even her good eye stream with tears. She wiped it angrily and focused on what Daniel had to say about his progress before returning to Colonel O'Neill's side with the pill.
The color tinting his face made her heart freeze in her chest. He looked flushed. The antibiotics were already running low, and if he developed an infection . . . she pressed her palm to his forehead. "Do you feel warm?"
"Now I do."
She had to smile at that, and her hand lingered on his cheek. "Sir. If you're running a fever -- "
"I'm fine, Carter. If anything I'm a little chilly."
Given the nature of his injuries, he was prone to both infection and hypothermia, either of which could make him feel cold, so this did little to reassure her. "Daniel?"
He put down his notes and joined her at Colonel O'Neill's side. "He doesn't feel warm to me, Sam."
"Oh for cryin' out loud, I told you, I'm fine!"
His outburst woke up Teal'c, which worked out, because she needed to check his wounds as well. She felt a new surge of anger at Pete as she looked at the swollen welts above Teal'c's eyes. If he hadn't run off in a snit --
"Pete," she said. "He must have been the one to hit Daniel with the statue."
Oh crap. The truth of Carter's statement turned Jack's stomach. He fought to keep the fresh anger from his voice. "How do you figure?"
"Well, sir, we know the cat didn't do it." She avoided his gaze, like the whole thing was her fault. "It makes sense, if he thought Daniel and I were involved. Besides, the way he reacted when I brought up the damage to the force field controls . . . "
"That doesn't necessarily lead to attempted murder," Daniel said. "Especially since there's still a goa'uld we haven't accounted for."
"Daniel's right," Jack said. "That's a bit of a leap, even after . . . " Another thought occurred to him, one he liked even less. "Daniel?"
"This goa'uld. He wouldn't be really old, would he?"
"How do you mean?"
"Oh, I don't know, older than the usual crowd. Apophis. Ra. Those guys."
Daniel got it.
Carter did too. "You mean old enough not to have naquada in his blood, don't you?"
"Fam does predate the Egyptian gods," Daniel said slowly. "But as for what you're suggesting, I don't think it's likely."
"But it's possible," Carter said.
"Anything's possible." Daniel sighed and adjusted his glasses. "Sam, he started getting touchy about you and I when we were first examining the sarcophagus. That was before he'd had any sort of chance to wander off alone."
Jack wasn't sure which thought was worse; that the fifth wheel was some goa'uld's latest victim, or that he really was just that much of a jerk. Either way, it hurt Carter.
"Pete Shanahan has proven himself untrustworthy," Teal'c said. "However, his actions are inconsistent with the theory that he has become a host. A goa'uld would have made an effort to remain undetected."
"Then there's the whole fainting thing," Jack added. "Goa'ulds can usually handle the sight of blood."
Daniel sighed. "I think what we're saying is, it was a gradual slide, not a sudden change in behavior. I'm sorry."
"No," she said. "Don't be. You're right. I guess it's better that . . . I shouldn't go looking for excuses for him."
"Hey." Jack reached out and squeezed her shoulder. "You weren't. I was."
"Thank you, sir." She treated him to a shaky smile and moved back to his side. "Pete may not be a goa'uld, but he's still dangerous."
"I think we've faced worse," Jack said. "Besides, he's lost the element of surprise. My guess is, he'll wander back with his tail between his legs as soon as he gets hungry. Our priority is the force field. If this Fam is hanging around, I'd like the option of hightailing it back to the gate."
"To that end . . . " Daniel's words trailed off as he returned to his notes.
Jack turned to Carter. "We should probably try to get a little more sleep before Daniel figures out it's not really his watch any more."
She nodded and settled into his arms again. He liked this part, even if the circumstances pretty much sucked.
The moment of peace shattered as Pete's scream for help echoed through the temple.
Carter shot to her feet and grabbed her P-90.
"Oh, crap." Jack climbed to his feet as well, his own weapon in hand.
"You two aren't going after him?" Daniel asked.
Pete screamed again.
"He's unarmed," Carter said. "We can't leave him to die based on our suspicions."
"Yes, we can," Jack said. "But whatever's after him will be after us next, and at least while he's hollering we can find him. Let's go."
Sam took point.
Colonel O'Neill followed closely. He tried to hide it, but she knew him too well to miss the signs. The pain from his injuries showed in his movements. He'd had a dizzy spell only a few hours ago, and he really wasn't in any shape to be mounting a rescue mission, but then again neither was Daniel or Teal'c, and she knew he'd never let her go alone.
She could still hear Pete shouting.
"He probably saw a spider," Colonel O'Neill said. "If he was in any real danger, he'd be dead by now."
She squinted into the darkness, her eyes watering unhelpfully. Damn it. Pete had caused this mess, had probably even attacked Daniel, and now they were risking their lives for him? She scanned the corridors with the light from her P-90, and strained her ears to pinpoint the source of Pete's shouts.
"Carter." Colonel O'Neill nodded to the left when she glanced back at him.
They approached the next doorway on the left with caution. Pete had stopped shouting, and they heard the slight scuffle of a small object sliding across the stone floor.
"Oh please," Pete whimpered. "Somebody help me please."
Sam signaled for Colonel O'Neill to pause, then moved quickly to the opposite side of the doorway. It looked pitch black inside the chamber. They entered on the silent count of three, both finding Pete with the light of their weapons, seated on a table on the far side of the room.
"Thought you could steal my girl?" Pete laughed.
"What the -- " Colonel O'Neill ducked as Pete threw a rock at him.
It missed, badly, and crashed into an ancient tapestry on the far wall. Pete laughed louder.
Colonel O'Neill aimed his weapon at Pete. "Hands up, or I will shoot you."
The tapestry crumpled to the ground in a slow-motion explosion of dust as a large animal galloped out from behind it.
"Sir!" Carter dived for Colonel O'Neill, shoving him out of the way as the animal slammed into her. She felt a blinding pain, and heard gunfire before the world faded to black.
"Carter!" Jack rolled up onto his knees in time to see the animal preparing to bite her. He fired, and kept firing as he scrambled to his feet.
The animal, which appeared to be deer-shaped, but massive, didn't seem to mind being riddled with bullets, but it bolted back the other direction when Jack struck it in the face with his P-90.
Pete fled the melee, still giggling with frenzied glee.
"Carter." Jack dropped to his knees, his fingers shaking as he felt for her pulse.
She groaned softly.
The breath he'd been holding escaped in a rush and he ran his hands gently through her hair, searching for bumps. "Carter, can you hear me?"
"Don't try to move." He tried to assess her injuries in the rather inconvenient light of his P-90 and caught sight of the blood seeping through her pant leg. "Can you tell me what hurts?"
"I'm fine," she tried to lie.
"The hell you are."
She winced in pain as she tried to move. "Okay, maybe not, but we can't stay here."
"No, probably not." He swore under his breath and shone the light around the chamber. They seemed to be alone, but that might not last.
He jumped up and cautiously shone the light in the direction the animal had gone. "Son of a -- " He flipped the light along the doorframe. There was no mistaking the tell-tale signs of jury-rigging. That hook was bent so that the tapestry would fall if hit. The dolt must have somehow trapped the animal and set the whole thing up.
"Crap." Jack caught the glint of an eye in the next chamber. It wasn't moving. Yet.
"Time to go." He backed slowly towards Carter. "Think you can walk?"
"Honestly?" The pain in her voice fueled his anger. "I don't think so, sir."
He picked her up and settled her in his arms, fighting off a wave of nausea as her body shifted against his burned side. From the way she struggled to stay quiet when he jostled her, he knew she was seriously hurt. He just prayed that moving her wouldn't make it worse, because the eyes were slowly advancing from the next chamber, and neither of them were up for another round.
Carter seemed to weigh a ton, although Jack knew better. The pounding of his heart echoed in his ears as he moved out into the corridor, sure the zombified deerlike thing would be on them any moment. Time seemed determined to do that thing where every second lasted way too long. He hated that.
He rounded the corner. "Daniel! A little help here."
Daniel sprinted up the corridor. "Want me to -- "
"Just watch our six."
It was better once Daniel joined him, but it still took too long to get Carter back to the central chamber. He lowered her onto her bedroll. "Carter, how're you feeling?"
"Not great," she admitted. At least she was conscious.
He stroked her cheek. "Hang in there. We'll get you fixed up, okay?"
He glanced at Daniel. "If Pete shows his face, shoot him. No questions."
"Trap?" Daniel asked.
"Trap," Jack confirmed. He gently ran his hands over Carter's ribs and belly, searching for damage.
"Sorry." He tugged gently at her shirt. "I need to -- "
He pushed her shirt up to reveal a large bruise on her side that was already starting to turn purple. His insides went cold. If she was bleeding internally -- "Well how about that, Carter." He struggled to keep his voice even. "We match."
Apparently he couldn't fool Carter, because she struggled to look for herself. She looked pale, beads of sweat forming on her forehead. "Looks worse than it is. My leg, though . . . "
Jack cursed himself. She could have bled to death by now. He took the knife Daniel held out and cut away her pant leg. His stomach turned violently at the sight and he swore.
"It's broken, isn't it?" She swallowed and closed her eyes briefly.
"Yeah," he said. "It's broken."
One end of the fractured bone stuck out through the bloody wound in her lower leg. Jack had seen many compound fractures -- not to mention things far more gruesome -- in a lifetime of military service, many worse than this, but this one hit him pretty hard. His stomach complained and he felt lightheaded.
"Okay," he said. "We need to set this and get a splint on it."
His voice sounded funny in his head. Possibly not just in his head, because Daniel seemed to notice too. "Jack?"
"I'm okay, where's the -- "
Daniel laid a hand on his shoulder. "Jack, I think you need to lay down."
"Daniel -- "
"Sir, it's the adrenaline," Carter said, her voice strained. "Come over here before we both go into shock."
He moved to her side, feeling very disconnected. He heard Daniel rummaging through the medkit and talking to Carter in a low voice. Carter seemed to be giving Daniel a crash course in setting broken bones. Amazing woman. Here he was, mostly healthy but lightheaded, while she sat there with her bones sticking out and rattled off instructions from field medic training.
Like she predicted, though, the nausea faded after a few minutes, and he could sit up again.
"How'd this happen?" Daniel asked.
"She was trampled."
"By a dead moose. Or a big deer. Anyway, something big and dead, with hooves."
He looked down at Carter, touching her face gently. "You should have let it get me, Carter. You're the one who knows how to set a bone."
"S'okay, sir," she said softly. "Daniel's got it."
Daniel nodded. He looked a little pale himself, but determined. "Jack, hold her still. And Sam, you should probably bite down on something. Teal'c?"
Teal'c left his post by the door and positioned himself at Carter's thigh.
"Sir?" Carter reached for his hand, squeezing it as he tried to hold her close without bumping her bruised side. She stuffed a bit of cloth in her mouth and nodded.
"We're ready," he said.
Her whole body went stiff as she grimaced in pain, and the sickening sound of bone sliding over bone filled the small chamber.
"It is done," Teal'c said.
Jack let out the breath he'd been holding. "You okay?"
The pain showed in her face, but she nodded.
He turned to watch the others apply the splint. "Make sure that's good and tight. We do not want to do that twice."
She rested her head against his shoulder and made no move to leave his arms, even after Daniel tied off the splint. That was fine with him. The close call had rattled him plenty, and he was worried about more than her leg. If the dead . . . whatever the hell it was, had kicked her in the stomach, she could be bleeding internally.
Daniel brought her a pain pill, and she moved away to take it. The fact that she didn't argue about rationing them raised a red flag in Jack's mind.
"Carter? Let's have another look at your side."
Again she didn't argue, laying back and dragging her shirt up out of his way.
He prodded gently, looking for signs of swelling or increased bruising. He didn't find anything, but then again he wasn't a doctor.
"Sir," Carter said. "I'm fine. See? It's just a bruise." She smiled a little and bit her lip in that way he found adorable. "You just want an excuse to check out my belly."
"You got me there." He had to smile then. Even freshly trampled by dead things, she had the greatest smile. He really wanted to kiss her. He played with the temptation for a moment, then bent down and gave her a peck on the forehead. "Get some rest. I think this is a pretty good excuse to stick Teal'c with your watch."
Daniel cleaned up the used bits of disinfectant-soaked gauze and repacked the medkit. They were dangerously low on antibiotics. Missions usually didn't manage to go so wrong that all four team members needed them. Compound fractures and third degree burns were both very susceptible to infection, and Teal'c's wounds had come courtesy of a dead cat. Daniel was the only one who could afford to stop taking antibiotics.
He'd been up most of the night, and now that Teal'c could see almost well enough to stand watch, he needed to get some sleep. When he closed his eyes, the untranslated inscription continued to run through his mind. If he could just match the phonetics to some other language, although at this point he had to admit his results were guesswork at best, then --
An eerie giggle echoed through the corridor.
Teal'c lifted his staff weapon and Daniel sat up slowly, his hand on his zat. He glanced at Jack and Sam.
Jack had opened his eyes and was slowly reaching for his P-90, although he seemed determined to avoid waking Sam, who was asleep on his chest.
The cackling grew closer.
"The plan?" Daniel asked.
"Shoot him," Jack said softly.
"Works for me."
Pete stopped laughing. For a moment, silence reigned. Then he switched to yelling. "Samantha, you owe me a breakfast, woman!"
Teal'c fired his staff weapon.
Pete's scream echoed off the walls, followed by a tirade of increasingly distant ranting. "You can't shoot me! My taxes pay your salary. I know my rights. Now where's my breakfast?"
Sam mumbled a question, biting her lip and wincing in pain.
"Your stalker seems to think we owe him some breakfast," Jack said. "Nothing to worry about. Teal'c scared him off."
"Good," she said. "We need to -- "
"You can't hide!" Pete shouted, clearly from a distance. "I know where you are."
"Doh," Jack muttered. "He's foiled our cunning plan."
Sam laughed softly, and Daniel smiled to himself.
Pete's shouts continued, but he seemed to stay put. Unfortunately, the noise put a serious kink in any sleep related plans.
"Our ranting friend is right about one thing," Jack said.
"It's time for breakfast."
"Breakfast?" Sam shifted against Colonel O'Neill. "That doesn't mean I have to move, does it?"
"Nope." His breath tickled her forehead. "I'm definitely against any plan that involves you moving." He brushed a strand of hair from her face. "How're you feeling?"
"Like I've been run over by a moose," she said. "How about you?"
"Couldn't be better." He gently squeezed her shoulder. "We've discovered a great new vacation spot. Active night life. Colorful local fauna." Pete's ranting about his tax dollars filtered down the hallway, followed by another blast from Teal'c's staff weapon. "There is a bit of a noise issue."
Daniel handed over the MREs.
"Look at this," Colonel O'Neill said. "Breakfast in bed."
Again she had to smile. "I could get used to this kind of service."
"If only," he whispered.
"I've been thinking about the animal that attacked Sam," Daniel said. "You didn't give much of a description before."
"It looked like a deer," Jack said. "Only bigger, like a moose. And dead. I didn't get a very good look at it. First there was all the falling and crashing, and then it tried to bite Carter -- "
"Deer don't bite," Daniel said.
"Well apparently zombies do," Colonel O'Neill said.
"You don't find moose in Africa, as a rule. Deer either. My guess is that it was probably an antelope," Daniel said. "A cape buffalo would have killed -- "
"Don't." Colonel O'Neill tightened his hold on her. "Don't even say it."
She glanced up at his face. The incident had shaken him up, and she wished she could say something to reassure him. She realized she'd missed whatever Daniel had just said. "I'm sorry. What was that?"
"Daniel thinks we were attacked by the cat's breakfast."
"It makes sense," Daniel said. "Think about it for a minute. The leopard killed it, and dragged it up into the tree. When the effects of the device reached the woods, it woke up. The cat was killed in the struggle, and woke up a few minutes later."
"The evidence we saw does fit that scenario," Teal'c agreed. "But why would they both come here?"
"The device," Daniel said. "They must be attracted to it."
"Here's an idea," Colonel O'Neill said. "How about we figure out how to turn it off before any more recently departed woodland creatures take an interest in visiting?"
"We have to get to it first," Daniel said. "I need a few more hours for that."
The thought of moving lacked appeal, but they needed to get back to the SGC. "I need to work on the force -- " She tried to sit up, but the wave of pain nearly overwhelmed her, and she fell back against Colonel O'Neill with a gasp.
She heard the panic in his voice, and truth be told she was a little worried herself. But just a little. She swallowed, fighting the nausea. "I'm okay, sir. I think I just moved too fast."
"Don't give me that, Carter." He steered her gently onto the bedroll and pushed her shirt up to once again examine the bruise on her side.
She didn't argue. She understood his worry, and would do anything she could to alleviate it. "Press harder," she told him as he prodded. She winced. "Now stop."
"I'm sorry, I -- "
She caught his hand. "No, that's a good sign. If it was serious, the pain would increase when the pressure lifted."
He didn't look convinced. "Carter, if you've ruptured your liver or something -- "
"It's not my liver," she said. "It's the wrong side. Now help sit me up. I've been thinking about the force field and -- "
"Daniel will have that box open in no time, and it'll be a heck of a lot easier to mess around with the force field if we aren't fighting zombies."
"You're right, sir, but if we're here too much longer we run the risk of running out of water."
"Yep." He sighed. "We should probably start rationing it."
"No sir. At least not you, not with that burn."
A fresh outburst from Pete cut off the discussion. "I'm not telling you again," he screamed. "Get your butt out here and bring me some damn breakfast, woman."
"Woman," Sam muttered. "Nice touch."
"He's a real peach." Colonel O'Neill caught her hand again and squeezed it, then helped her to sit up. "Hey Teal'c, what's the holdup on shooting that idiot?"
"Do you wish me to pursue him, O'Neill?"
"Could be it's another trap." Daniel barely lifted his head from his notes. "I'd suggest we let him come to us. And then shoot him."
"Daniel's right." Colonel O'Neill sighed. "We'll have to -- "
"I want my breakfast!" Some thumps followed. Pete was actually stamping his feet. "Sam, you'd better get out here with my breakfast right now!"
"Or we could put a grenade in some scrambled eggs," Colonel O'Neill said. "Could only help the taste."
He shrugged. "I'm just saying."
Daniel tried reading the inscription out loud. Partly to see how his experimental phonetics sounded, and partly to drown out the tirade at the end of the corridor. Teal'c stood in the doorway with his staff weapon, fully prepared to fire if Pete ducked his head around the corner again, while Jack and Sam discussed the supply situation.
To glean enough information from a completely alien language to operate the technology left behind by a dead society was a tall order, but Daniel had managed it before. The concussion was a bit of a handicap, though.
The yelling continued, then stopped abruptly with a scream of terror, only to be replaced with the sound of running and of objects crashing to the floor. Daniel rooted for the dead antelope. It made a lot less noise.
"So Daniel," Jack said. "Learn anything interesting?"
"I've been operating under the assumption that the Brahmi script outside is related to the alien language on this wall. Since the Brahmi here is read right to left, unlike the Brahmi found on Earth on the Indian peninsula, it follows that the alien language is also read right to left. I've been looking for syllable patterns that may indicate -- "
"O'Neill!" Teal'c raised his staff weapon.
The sounds of galloping hooves filled the corridor.
Daniel scrambled to his feet just in time to see Teal'c blast the dead antelope in the chest. The wound did nothing to slow the creature's charge, but it did add the smell of burning hair to the odor of two-day-old dead antelope.
The animal leapt with surprising agility for something so obviously dead, cleared both Teal'c and his weapon, and landed just short of Daniel. He threw his full weight against the creature, hoping to redirect it back out the door.
It didn't work.
He found himself pinned between the antelope and the wall, its horns inches from his throat.
"Daniel!" Jack grabbed it by the horns and twisted. "Move!"
The animal fell, its legs thrashing. Jack held onto its horns, maintaining his grip even after the animal flung him against the sarcophagus. Daniel looked around for a blunt object to use as a weapon, since the zat had proven useless before.
Daniel's notes scattered across the floor as one of the animal's legs knocked over his pack. He tried to dive for them, and got kicked for his efforts. At some point, Jack lost his grip, and the animal managed to regain its footing. Teal'c fired the staff weapon again, filling the small chamber with foul-smelling smoke and confusion.
Once again the animal was on the ground, its smoldering coat inches from the notebook with the inscription. Daniel reached for it, and one of the antelope's hooves connected with his wrist. He yelped, yanking his hand back, and heard Jack swear.
The animal scrambled onto its feet, this time aimed in the direction of the door. Jack shouted to Teal'c, and together they shoved the creature out into the corridor.
"The notes!" Daniel reached in the direction he'd last seen his notebook.
"I've got them." Carter looked pale, and she was clearly in pain, but she smiled and waved the notebook. She'd even managed to gather at least some of the loose pages.
Jack waved his hand in a futile effort to clear the smoke. "The one thing I've learned about zombies: Setting them on fire never helps. Is everyone okay?"
"Depends on your definition of okay." Daniel flexed his fingers experimentally and winced in pain. "Yep. Something's broken."
Jack sighed. "Peachy."
Jack watched Carter bandage Daniel's broken wrist. Things just kept going from bad to worse. "Did you have to get kicked in the right hand?"
Daniel shrugged. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
Teal'c had escaped this latest fray with barely a scratch, but Jack felt like he'd . . . well, like he'd wrestled an antelope. As for Carter, he'd seen her moving around snatching bits of paper from harm's way, and it was taking all of his self control to let her finish up with Daniel before he asked about her splint. If it had shifted in the struggle . . .
"O'Neill," Teal'c said. "Should we attempt to determine whether Pete Shanahan survived his encounter with the creature?"
"No," Jack said. "If he's alive, he'll start hollering soon enough."
"Not if he's smart," Daniel said.
"Carter makes a good point," Jack said. "He won't stay quiet long."
"In the meantime, I'll get back to work on the translation," Daniel said. "I wish I had more to go on. More examples of the language, perhaps something with a more tightly defined context."
"Like the writing on the control panel we found in the east passageway?" Carter suggested.
"Yes, exactly -- " Daniel said.
Jack shook his head. "No."
"Jack, this could be -- "
"The perfect chance for that idiot out there to throw rocks at us?" Jack asked. "A great opportunity to get attacked by zombies?"
Daniel sighed. "That panel could provide a valuable clue. We've got a pretty good idea of the types of phrases used on control panels, and if just one syllable matches up to a known language, then I might be able to read the inscription. Or I'd at least know I was on the right track."
"Or you'd get trampled by the antelope." Jack sighed. "We'll get the panel. After we know the current status of our friends out there. In the meantime . . . " He waved his hand vaguely, and settled down next to Carter. "How's the leg?"
"It's a good thing the splint's tight," she said. "How's your burn?"
It hurt like hell, but he saw no reason to tell her that. "Just peachy."
She pressed a hand to his forehead. "Feeling warm? Or chilled?"
"Neither," he said. "The zombie wrestling warmed me up."
"You shouldn't be exerting yourself, sir." She tucked a blanket around him.
"Tell that to the zombies."
She smiled. "You need to stay warm and get some rest while we have the chance."
It was a little nippy in the chamber, and he didn't exactly feel up to another round with the local fauna. Carter's body felt pleasantly warm against his unburned side. Very pleasantly warm. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and rested his cheek on the top of her head. "Yep, rest. That's the stuff."
"Sam." Daniel plunked himself down on her other side. "If you wouldn't mind giving me a hand? I seem to be one short."
"Of course," Carter answered. "What have you learned so far?"
Jack listened as Carter and Daniel quietly discussed the inscription. Phonetic whatevers failed to hold his interest, however, and Carter was so warm and comfortable and just so . . . Carter-like, Carterish, something. Daniel's droning about syllables continued as Jack tried to think of a word that properly embraced the magic that was Carter, and he found himself dozing off.
Sam hated seeing Colonel O'Neill in so much pain. With that burn, he belonged in the infirmary at the SGC. Truth be told, they all did. Her leg throbbed and she hurt in a variety of places, not the least of which was her left side. The way Daniel squinted at his notes told her that the effects of his concussion had yet to fade, and that Teal'c could even see was something of a miracle.
They needed that translation.
Daniel explained his methodology, sheepishly admitting which parts were merely hopeful guesswork. "Feel free to speak up if anything jumps out at you. I'm not exactly at my best."
She tried not to jostle Colonel O'Neill as she made some notes Daniel requested.
Colonel O'Neill shifted restlessly beside her, awake again and now apparently unable to find a comfortable position that avoided all of their various injuries and still allowed her the use of her right hand.
"Sorry, Carter, I -- " He started to move away.
"No, sir, just try to lay down -- no, closer, now put your head in my lap."
He settled himself across her lap, curling against her while avoiding her broken leg, and she wrapped the blankets securely around them both.
She smoothed his hair, keeping his head clear of her largest bruise, and rested her right hand on his shoulder. "Much better."
He mumbled his agreement, laughing a bit, and Daniel smirked at her.
Sam silently reminded Daniel that commenting on the situation was not in his best interest, although in truth she knew just how well he understood.
"So, where was I?" Daniel asked. "Oh, yes, these two phrases here. The Sanskrit phrase has seven syllables, and the number of distinct sounds can be divided into these phonemes I've tried to list here. This phrase in the alien language, which appears twice, seems to have the right number of symbols to convey the same number of sounds as the Sanskrit, so if I match the symbols . . . " He sighed, clearly frustrated at not being able to write.
"When's the last time you slept?"
"I dozed a bit during Teal'c's watch." He shoved the notebook into her hand. "Here, take out a new sheet of paper and copy that list of symbols. If I'm right, then when we match up a few more of these, we'll find that one of these words is Fam, the name of the goa'uld who built this temple."
"With simple trial and error -- " she began.
"The math's even worse than you think," Daniel said. "You see, languages can have as many as sixty phonemes, and they rarely have enough corresponding letters to match. The same letter can represent two different sounds, depending on context, and we have no way of knowing how many phonemes this language used, or if the symbols we've found so far represent a complete alphabetical sample."
"But what about the Sanskrit?"
"That I can read," Daniel said. "Well, most of it anyway. The long inscription we found tells the story of this place, or at least an abbreviated version of it. The goa'uld, Fam, showed disrespect to the ancestors -- the dead -- in an unspeakable way. It doesn't say how, but I think he was using zombies as slave labor, or possibly even as an army."
"An army of evil dead?" Colonel O'Neill mumbled from Sam's lap. "I suppose they're lurking around in here with us?"
"Some of them, quite possibly," Daniel said. "I think that's why we found the word 'Namaste' carved beside the sealed doorway -- as a sign of respect to those left within. Anyway, I don't think they're exactly evil. Without instructions, they'd probably just wander."
"Oh that's comforting."
"There's a good chance the bodies would have deteriorated by now," Sam said. "Even with this technology, organic matter can only last so long."
"Now see," Colonel O'Neill said. "That's comforting."
Sam smiled. "I try, sir."
A movement from Teal'c drew Sam's eye, and she signaled Daniel. Silently, they both watched Teal'c raise his staff weapon.
Teal'c watched the faint shadow at the end of the corridor. In the darkness of the temple, such a shadow could only be explained by someone carrying a light source of some kind.
"Sam, honey?" Pete Shanahan's voice seemed to tremble as it filtered down the corridor. "Can we talk?"
Major Carter rolled her eyes.
Teal'c prepared to fire at the first opportunity.
"Listen, honey, I'm real sorry I got so mad before. It's only because I love you so much. It makes me crazy, to think of you with someone else. I promise I'll try harder. It won't happen again."
"Where's he getting this?" Major Carter muttered. "From a script rejected by the Lifetime network?"
"The man knows his clichés," Daniel Jackson said.
The fool continued to shout his false promises, but he failed to show his face.
Major Carter and Daniel Jackson continued their discussion of the inscription. O'Neill remained silent.
Teal'c had never attempted to ignore an enemy before. The strategy struck him as oddly unsettling. After seven years beside the Tau'ri, he found it curious that they could still find ways to surprise him with unorthodox strategies.
He waited for Pete Shanahan to appear, and considered the options before them. Explosives might bring the roof down on their heads. Separating to confront their enemy directly meant exposure for his injured teammates. The situation was like nothing he'd faced before. The enemy's very lack of cunning presented a unique challenge.
"Sam, honey, please come talk to me." Pete Shanahan grew louder, if not closer. "I'll make it up to you, I swear. I'll buy you something nice, you'll see. Please, honey. Give me a chance. That's all I ask. Just give me a chance."
Daniel Jackson fell silent as Major Carter paused in her writing.
"So," O'Neill said, proving he was indeed awake. "Daniel. This whole zombie thing, does this mean vampires are real, too?"
Sam smiled a little. She redoubled her effort to ignore Pete and concentrated on transcribing Daniel's musings. She could tell Daniel needed some sleep, because for once she could write fast enough to keep up with the speed at which Daniel thought when translating.
Pete shouted louder. "Sam, honey, I'm hungry. Can't you at least give me some breakfast? We can sit down and have a nice meal, just the two of us."
"Yeah," Colonel O'Neill muttered. "That'll happen. If he's that hungry, he can eat the antelope."
"Sam, honey, I love you! Please talk to me. I need you, honey. Just give me a chance. Please, honey? Just a chance. That's all I ask. We can work this out, honey. I love you!"
Sam signed. "I need to go out there and deal with him."
Colonel O'Neill tensed in her lap. "What are you, nuts?"
"Sir, if he's hungry enough to -- "
"He's only missed one meal," Colonel O'Neill said. "It's not food he's after. He wants you."
"Maybe so, sir, but that's why I should talk to him. I can control him long enough for Teal'c to disable him."
"Maybe, but I've got two problems with that plan. One, you're injured, and two, he's crazy. Let him miss another meal, then I'll go have a chat with him."
"Sir, you can't take that chance."
"She's right, Jack," Daniel said. "This guy's clearly delusional enough to think he still has a chance with Sam. She can use that. You, on the other hand, I'm pretty sure he just wants dead."
"Well the feeling's mutual," Colonel O'Neill said. "And I'm the one with the gun."
Another barrage of clichéd lies filled the corridor.
Sam closed her eyes briefly. "I can't believe I ever thought -- "
"Don't," Colonel O'Neill said. "Don't for even one minute think that this is your fault. It could happen to anybody."
"Jack's right," Daniel said. "Some people are hard to read. This kind of thing happens all the time. Except for the part about the force field trapping us inside a temple full of zombies on an alien planet, of course."
"Of course." Sam smiled at Daniel, and noticed his bloodshot eyes. "You should probably get some sleep."
"You'll have to find your own pillow," Colonel O'Neill said. "This one's mine."
Sam bit her lip as her stomach did a little flip, and tried to ignore Daniel's raised eyebrows. "I could use a chance to go over the rest of your notes," she said, as if she always worked with her CO napping in her lap. "Maybe I'll recognize some symbols from one of the control panels."
Daniel just grinned at her, and she looked down to realize she'd been absentmindedly stroking Colonel O'Neill's hair. She kept doing it, reasoning that if she stopped, he might notice what she'd been doing in the first place.
She knew he was feeling the effects of his burn, because otherwise he would have sat up by now. To be honest, that scared her. They needed to get back to Janet.
Daniel's notes held the key. Fortunately she knew Daniel well enough to read them, because he'd taken her advice and gone to sleep. She blocked out Pete's intermittent shouting, tried to push her concern for Colonel O'Neill to the back of her mind, and got to work.
Jack felt lousy. Lousy enough that he lacked the willpower to move away from the comfort Carter offered; even lousy enough that he worried about his ability to deal with the loser currently shouting in the corridor. The alternative, though, was not an option.
He would not send Carter to face that idiot, especially with a broken leg. She could probably kick Pete's ass even with a broken leg, but he hoped to not test the theory. That idiot fought dirty, and Jack liked Carter in one piece.
Jack liked Carter, period.
Carter. Nice, warm Carter. He liked the way she kept running her fingers through his hair. It felt almost like they could afford to feel the things they felt. Moments like this made him nuts, but they were worth it.
Just having Carter in his life, that was worth any price.
If he felt a little less like crap, then he'd really enjoy this. Amazing how such firm, muscular thighs could make such a soft, comfortable lap. Firm thighs. Best not to think too much about firm thighs.
Yep. He was definitely going to have dreams about this later. Nice dreams. Really nice dreams. He looked forward to them.
Her fingers kept stroking his head, making him forget all about his aching muscles. Well almost. Her other hand rested on his shoulder. He liked that, too. He hoped she'd keep touching him, pretty much forever.
"Major Carter," Teal'c said. "The antelope has reentered the corridor."
Jack really hated zombies.
Sam reached for her weapon, not that the dead antelope minded bullets all that much.
Colonel O'Neill lifted his head from her lap and struggled to sit up. Her instinct was to order him to stay put, but another dose of trampling wouldn't help either of them heal. She helped him up, cringing as he grimaced in pain. He looked pale, and that worried her, but right now the impending zombie attack took priority.
"Daniel!" She reached over and shook him gently. "Wake up, we're about to have company."
He swore, which told her all she needed to know about Daniel's condition. They really needed to get back to the SGC.
"Can you stand?" she asked.
Both men grunted less-than-encouraging replies, but Daniel managed to get to his feet. He reached out to steady himself against the wall, and swore again as he remembered his broken wrist.
"Daniel," Colonel O'Neill said. "A little help here."
Sam could tell from the way Daniel watched his feet as he stepped around her that he was dizzy, and probably even seeing double. When he reached down with his good hand to haul Colonel O'Neill to his feet, they both nearly fell over. She watched them sway unsteadily against each other, and wondered about the wisdom of asking for a hand herself.
The options were limited, and staying on the ground to get trampled was the least appealing. Last time had proven a little too close for comfort. She bent her good leg and tried to lever herself up using the wall behind her.
Pain shot through her, and her effort to keep from gasping out loud must have failed, because Colonel O'Neill was beside her immediately. "Carter? You okay?"
"No sir," she admitted. "Give me a hand?"
With his help, as well as Daniel's, and a fair amount of pain, she managed to stand. All three of them leaned on each other for support, and Sam realized that their weapons were still at their feet. Not good.
"Teal'c?" Daniel said. "Could you -- " He nodded at the weapons.
"Those would be of little use," Teal'c said. "I suggest we resort to the strategy employed by Pete Shanahan."
"And that is . . . " Colonel O'Neill asked.
"Despite his obvious shortcomings, he has faced the creature at least twice and survived. He has done so by shouting and throwing various objects."
"Terrific. What do we have to throw?"
"Rocks." Teal'c nodded towards the small pile he'd gathered.
"I'm glad someone's on their toes," Colonel O'Neill said. "Daniel, give him a hand. I think Carter and I had better sit this one out."
Sam could feel him shaking as she gripped his shoulder for support. "Sir?"
"Later," he said.
Teal'c let out a deafening shout and hurled a rock, then ran into the corridor to strike their attacker with his staff weapon. Daniel shouted as well, flinging a second rock as he too moved out of their line of sight.
Sam hobbled forward, with Colonel O'Neill's somewhat clumsy help, and reached for the bloodied statue that Pete had used to attack Daniel.
"Good thinking." He looked pale, and he had started to shiver.
Their eyes met, and she knew they both wanted to tell the other one to sit this one out, but the circumstances prevented any such luxury.
The ruckus from the hallway drew their attention as Daniel shouted Teal'c's name, and then it was over, and the other two were stumbling through the doorway, bloodied and out of breath.
"It escaped," Teal'c said.
"Teal'c here tried to tackle it." Daniel opened the first aid kit.
"Oh for crying out loud," Colonel O'Neill said. "That wasn't the plan."
"I saw an opportunity," Teal'c said.
"You're bleeding." Sam tried to get a better look at his arm, but her leg wasn't ready to support any weight and Colonel O'Neill made a less-than-ideal crutch.
"It's nothing," Teal'c said.
"That animal you were fighting is dead," Sam said. "It's been dead for days. The risk of infection -- "
"Carter." Colonel O'Neill's voice shook, and Sam forgot all about the cut on Teal'c's arm. All the color had drained from Jack's face and he was trembling.
"Sir!" She helped him down to the floor, stumbling herself in the process. Her hands flew to his face. "My God, sir, you're freezing."
Her hand trembled as she took his pulse, her stomach lurching at just how sluggish it felt. She stripped off her shirt, adding it to the layers on the ground, and wrapped a blanket around Colonel O'Neill's shoulders. "Sir, I need you to take your shirt off."
His mumbled response nearly drove her to panic. She would not lose him like this, to hypothermia in a temple full of zombies. She yanked the shirt over his head, then wrapped her arms around him, guiding his head against her chest and his hands under her tank top to find the warmth of her belly.
He was awake enough to slide his hands around to her back so she could move even closer, and she fussed with the blankets, but they weren't enough. "Daniel, help me."
"What do you need?"
"Get under the blankets, up against his back. And take your shirt off."
Daniel followed her order. "Sam, your leg -- "
"Damn it, I don't care." She could feel her leg throbbing in protest of the treatment she was giving it, but at a distance. "It doesn't matter right now. Jack could -- " Her throat closed, unable to put the danger into words.
Daniel squeezed her hand where it rested on Colonel O'Neill's shoulder. "He'll be okay, Sam. We've been in worse situations than this."
Her voice failed her, and she closed her eyes. She concentrated on the way Colonel O'Neill's breath puffed against her skin.
"Sam, you're burning up." Daniel's hand pressed against her forehead. "That bruise Jack's been fretting over, it's not nothing, is it?"
"It won't kill me," she said. She left off the 'probably' part, but she knew Daniel could read between the lines. Truth was, the only thing that mattered at the moment was Jack's core temperature, and if she happened to have a fever, then she considered it a stroke of luck under the circumstances.
They needed all the breaks they could get, because this disastrous mission had taken on an ominous feel. For SG-1, facing death usually meant bucking the odds with the fate of the world at stake. That felt good. Worthwhile. Exhilarating even.
In those situations, the possibility of failure remained hypothetical, an academic abstract that rarely hit close to home. The odds were irrelevant, because they were just that good at their jobs. They could ride an asteroid through the Earth using alien technology modified on the fly, or escape exploding spaceships with seconds to spare.
That was what they did.
This, though. All Sam felt now was a sick dread as she faced the very real possibility of losing Jack. She held him tighter, as if she could keep him alive by sheer force of will. She wanted an enemy to fight. Hell, even a bomb with a ticking clock would beat laying here just waiting.
The longer Jack stayed unconscious . . . and it felt like an eternity. She fought back tears, and felt Daniel squeezing her hand again. "God, Daniel, we can't lose him, we can't, not like this."
"I know," Daniel said softly. "And we won't."
"When we lost you, that was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, but the one thing I held onto was that at least it was for something. You saved lives. But this . . . it can't be for nothing, it's just not right."
"Sam, listen to me," Daniel said as he launched into a philosophical pep talk.
But she didn't listen, because Colonel O'Neill had moved. "Sir? Colonel, can you hear me?"
"I died, didn't I?" His lips moved against her skin. "This is exactly how I've always imagined heaven."
Jack discovered a tempting expanse of warm skin beneath his hands, and pressed up against his chest. Not to mention the fascinating region where his head had been resting. He looked up to find Carter smiling at him. Not just smiling, either, but beaming, with a broad grin that really showed off her pearly whites. She had a sparkle in the eye that wasn't swollen shut.
She looked beautiful.
"Yep," he said. "Heaven."
"He needs water," Carter said.
For the first time, Jack gave some thought to the source of heat behind him. "Okay, maybe not heaven. My idea of paradise doesn't include spooning with Daniel."
"It's hardly my idea of a party either, Jack, but if I'd let you freeze to death, I think Sam might have shot me." The warmth shifted a bit and a canteen appeared.
Jack flinched at the cold draft hitting his back. "Hey, come back here."
"Sorry." Daniel settled back down. "Didn't think you'd miss me quite that fast."
"Don't get a big head," Jack said. "It's the blanket I missed."
"Drink slowly." Carter held the canteen to his lips. After a few swallows, she took it away. "You can have more in a few minutes."
He wasn't about to complain, not with the way she was grinning at him and touching his face.
"Your pulse is stronger," she told him. "But you still feel cold."
Daniel's hand appeared in the mix, spoiling the fantasy a bit. "He does feel warmer, Sam."
Jack caught that he'd missed something. "Carter?"
"It's nothing," she said.
"Sam's running a bit of a fever," Daniel explained. "It may be nothing, as she claims, but it does put her ability to judge your temperature in doubt."
He moved to check for himself, and got his hand tangled in her clothing. "Sorry, Carter, I uh -- " His attempts to extract the offending hand only made it worse. "Sorry, I didn't mean to try anything."
She laughed softly. "It's okay, sir."
"It is? Careful there, Carter, I might get ideas."
"Get all the ideas you like, just don't -- " She shook her head. "You scared me, sir."
The moisture in her eyes kept him from teasing her further, because he knew exactly how she felt. "Hey, c'mere."
She wrapped her arms back around him and pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
"Mmm." He rested his cheek against her skin. "The promised land."
She laughed softly again, and he was sure he heard her whisper 'someday' into his hair.
Sam made sure that Colonel O'Neill drank a little water every few minutes, but otherwise she had very little to do. The hypothermia had made him a little punchy and fairly compliant. His condition still worried her, but the vise gripping her heart had loosened.
Daniel had already fallen back to sleep. That helped, because what they needed most was the translation, which he couldn't accomplish with a concussion and a case of sleep deprivation. They also needed to neutralize Pete, but the last antelope attack had scared him off, at least for now.
When he came back, she had to face him. She was the only one who had any chance of resolving things with a minimum of violence, and what mattered even more was the fact that Pete was her responsibility.
They managed to get some sleep before the shouting started again. She'd worried that Pete would turn threatening again, if she waited too long to confront him, and she was caught off guard by her disappointment when he started begging once again.
"Please honey," Pete shouted from somewhere down the corridor, presumably out of sight since Teal'c failed to shoot at him. "I love you. Just give me a chance. That's all I ask. Just give me a chance, honey, please."
If he'd just attack like a ranting lunatic, hurling rocks and illogical threats, then she could shoot him. She couldn't stomach shooting a man while he whined, regardless of his lack of sincerity. She was a little uncomfortable with the fact that at least part of her really wanted to shoot Pete.
"I love you Sam," Pete repeated. "Please honey, just give me a chance. I'll make it up to you. I love you, honey!"
"That guy is really starting to bother me," Colonel O'Neill muttered.
"I need to deal with him," Sam said.
"Carter." He put his whole argument into the way he pronounced her name.
Two could play at that. "Sir."
He lifted his head to meet her gaze.
Pete continued to shout in equal parts about his devotion to Sam, and his desire for lunch.
Sam ignored the noise and focused on her silent debate with Colonel O'Neill.
The circumstances, specifically their physical closeness, made it just that much harder to keep their feelings out of this discussion. It was easier to ignore the fact that they meant the world to one another when they weren't wrapped in each other's arms, with his breath whispering against her skin and his fingertips feeling inappropriately wonderful along her spine.
So much exposed skin had no business feeling so dangerously natural. Being half-naked under a blanket with a colleague should involve some level of embarrassment, survival or not, but with Colonel O'Neill -- her CO for crying out loud -- it felt like home.
He sighed. "The idiot hit you with a rock, Carter. I know you could break him in half, probably even with that leg, but you need a better plan than none."
"Yes sir," she said. "I'm thinking that if I aim my flashlight at his eyes, it might blind him long enough for Teal'c to get behind him with a zat. Then if he -- "
"Or," Colonel O'Neill said. "You could just start with zatting him."
"Maybe, but you've already zatted him once," Sam said. "I doubt he'll get close enough for me to shoot him a second time."
"Yeah, sorry about that." He said it like he meant it. A little too much like he meant it, because it was ridiculous for him to regret that.
"Sir, you know that was the right thing to do."
He sighed. "I suppose."
Pete tried a new approach. "Sam, honey, if you'll come have lunch with me, then next time I'll let you choose the movie."
"That has got to be the lamest bribe ever," Colonel O'Neill said.
She smiled. "Actually, considering his tastes in movies . . . "
"Please, Sam. Just have lunch with me. I'll make it up to you, I promise. I love you!"
Colonel O'Neill flinched, and he shifted to check his watch. "We've now officially missed a check-in with Hammond."
"The force field might keep our radios from working," Sam said. "If they send a team -- "
"You're assuming the stargate's still there," Colonel O'Neill said. "Considering how the mission's going, it's probably been blown up by zombies."
Daniel groaned. "I'm betting on 'stolen by space pirates.' A stargate's probably worth a fortune in gold doubloons."
"Fundamental existence failure," Sam said. "That, or metal fatigue. Nothing lasts forever."
Colonel O'Neill raised an eyebrow at her.
"I disagree, Major Carter," Teal'c said. "I believe we will find that the stargate has been dragged away by undomesticated equines."
Colonel O'Neill smiled a little. "That's more like it, kids. Now how about a plan for capturing Loose Cannon out there and getting the heck off this planet?"
Jack hated the plan. Not that they exactly had a plan, not yet, but since the central element to any plan seemed to be using Carter as bait, he just went along and hated the plan preemptively.
"If we set a trip wire here . . . " Carter reached around him to point at the sketch in Daniel's notebook, and as a result of this reaching, Jack pretty much missed the point of everything she said.
"I could hide in the main chamber," Daniel said. "That would give me a clear shot -- "
"With your left hand?" Jack asked. "Not to mention a concussion. Maybe I'd better do the shooting."
"No offense, Jack, but you . . . well to be honest, you look even less up to the task than I feel."
"You saying I look like crap?" Jack knew that he did. That didn't mean Daniel could go around saying it uncontested.
"Now that you mention it."
"You do appear unwell, O'Neill."
"Well who here doesn't?"
Loose Cannon let loose with another tirade about his need for lunch.
"Him, unfortunately." Daniel said.
Carter sighed. "Daniel's right, sir. As far as we know, Pete hasn't been injured, and that gives him the advantage. We need to move while he's at least pretending to offer a peaceful solution."
"He's unpredictable," Jack said. "That makes him dangerous." He thought for a moment. "I think we need someone stupider than us to fight him."
"What?" Daniel asked.
Carter got it. "Like Thor. With the replicators. We're too smart to predict how Pete will react, because his thoughts don't follow a pattern we understand."
"There's some fungus near the ceiling," Daniel said. "I could ask it for advice, but I don't speak Fungusain."
"Honey, please talk to me. I'll buy you something pretty if you'll just bring me some lunch. Please, honey? I love you, honey! We can be happy, honey, if you give us a chance!"
"The fungus might not be stupid enough," Jack muttered.
The plan went forward, with Jack forced to play a minor role. In the shape he was in, he couldn't take down a moderately-sized turtle, and he wouldn't endanger his team by pretending otherwise.
So Carter hobbled out into the corridor to face the lunatic, with Daniel serving as a crutch. Jack wished her luck, and then got back to hating the plan. She'd be fine. Carter was the best soldier he knew. She could take this idiot apart without breaking a sweat. But he still hated the plan.
Daniel helped Sam lean up against the wall and bent down to set the trip wire. "You're sure you're up to this, because -- "
"I'm fine," she said.
He caught her eye.
"Okay," she admitted. "Not fine, exactly, but close enough. Can you tell I'm leaning on the wall?"
He studied her posture. "You look . . . casual."
She sighed and took the MRE from him. "It'll have to do."
"We've got your back. Good luck." Daniel hoped his confident grin didn't look as forced as hers, but her black eye was probably to blame for the unnatural appearance of her smile.
He headed back up the corridor, stepping around the dead leopard. It renewed its struggles and growled at him, which he found fairly unnecessary, because the smell alone would make anyone keep their distance. He ducked into an alcove beside Teal'c. It left something to be desired as a hiding place, but they had the darkness on their side.
"Pete?" Sam called. "I've got your lunch."
A flashlight, presumably attached to Pete, appeared at the far end of the corridor. It paused for a moment, and then in the absence of a staff blast, continued in Sam's direction.
Daniel's left hand tightened on the P90. He almost wished the man would give him an excuse to use it. That would simplify things.
Pete had nearly reached Sam. Three more steps would bring him to the trip wire. He slowed. "Where's my lunch?"
"Right here," Sam answered. She was good. Daniel could barely detect her anger.
"It had better be warm." Pete took another step and reached for the meal.
"It's an MRE," Sam said. "Warm isn't an option."
"I'll teach you to serve me a cold meal!" Pete lunged forward.
Sam drew her zat from her jacket just as Pete fell over the trip wire, exactly as planned. Her shot went wild as the zombified leopard -- suddenly free from its bindings -- unexpectedly dove for her throat.
"Sam!" Daniel and Teal'c ran to help, only to meet the charging antelope as it leapt over Pete.
Daniel was thrown against the wall, temporarily unable to breathe, and as he scrambled to his feet, he could see both of his friends locked in combat with zombified animals. He jumped into the fray and grabbed the leopard from behind as Sam struggled to escape from under it.
He saw blood, and hoped like hell it wasn't Sam's, but he didn't have time to investigate. Even dead, the leopard was a lot stronger than he was, and grabbing it from behind proved a poor strategy. He fell beneath its weight as it struggled, and everything went black.
"Daniel!" Sam yanked her knife from her belt and launched herself at the dead leopard. Pain tore through her, but she ignored it, because Daniel had just saved her life, and she needed to move quickly to return the favor.
The leopard had landed awkwardly, which bought Daniel a few seconds, as did the unnatural angle of the dead animal's neck. Sam reached it before the jaws so recently menacing her own throat managed to find Daniel's, jammed her knife into its neck, and yanked upwards with all her strength. While she managed to keep its teeth out of Daniel, actually decapitating a leopard proved easier said than done, even with its neck already broken, so it took an extended effort.
Pain flashed through her as the animal's body thrashed against her ribs, and it took all of her strength to hold it even marginally still enough. She sawed at its neck with the knife, panting with exertion, and nearly fell backwards when it finally came free. The head rolled away, the jaw still moving as it landed against the wall.
She shoved the twitching body off of Daniel and felt his pulse, then tried to determine if any of the blood that seemed to be everywhere belonged to him.
Pete, in the meantime, had sat down and started in on the MRE.
Sam ignored that, and turned to her teammate. "Teal'c!" She shouted. "Cut off its head."
Teal'c, still struggling with the antelope, grunted an affirmative, and she could just make out the glint of his knife against the animal's neck before the sound of his head impacting the stone wall echoed through the corridor.
Sam lurched to her feet, fell to her knees when she tried to use her injured leg, and seized the mangled antelope by the horns. Its legs flopped uselessly, broken, but she took no chances. Since Teal'c seemed to be breathing, she finished what he had started, sawing through the remaining flesh to free the head from the body. Only then did she check Teal'c more closely.
He was unconscious, but alive, and only one of his many cuts was bleeding profusely. She bandaged it quickly with a piece of her torn shirt.
"Colonel," she called. "I need -- "
Pete grabbed her by the hair. "You need to learn your place."
Sam still had the bloody knife, and she thrust it backwards into his thigh.
He bellowed, and yanked her back against him, hard. Her injured leg twisted and the world swam a bit, but she would not let her moron ex-boyfriend get the better of her.
She twisted the knife.
Pete cursed at her, and she could hear Colonel O'Neill calling her name from the central chamber. She needed to end this quickly, but Pete had other ideas. He yanked her hair again, and his fingers clawed at hers on the knife. She turned her head and bit him, which kept him from gaining control of the knife, but unfortunately it clattered to the ground out of her reach as well.
He hit her across the face, making her previously injured eye explode with pain. He started dragging her backwards down the corridor, and she fought to get her good leg under her body.
With one hard kick she almost regained her feet, and she twisted to throw her full weight against her attacker. He stumbled, but before she could press the advantage, his knee slammed into her much-abused ribs, and the nausea nearly overwhelmed her.
Colonel O'Neill's voice echoed down the corridor, and she tried to answer him, only to find Pete's hand clamped over her mouth and nose. Staying conscious became her priority.
Jack struggled to stand, leaning on the wall as the chamber spun around him. The sounds of fighting propelled him towards the door, and he called to Carter. His legs usually followed orders better than this. His team was in trouble. He needed to get out there.
The blackness swam in front of his eyes again, and he leaned his forehead against the wall, fighting it. If he passed out, he'd be no good to anyone. If that lunatic hurt Carter . . . or any of them . . .
It took too long. Lots longer than it should have taken, but Jack made it to the doorway. He spotted Daniel first, and dropped to his knee to feel for a pulse. The body of the leopard twitched beside him. Just the body. Its head seemed to be elsewhere.
There was blood everywhere.
Teal'c lay beside an equally headless antelope. A knife rested in a particularly large pool of blood nearby.
"Carter!" He didn't see her, or the idiot loose cannon. The beam of his flashlight landed on the plastic bindings that had held the leopard. It looked like the thing had struggled right out of its own skin to escape them, leaving gruesome bits of flesh behind when it pulled free.
Dead things didn't need all their skin. Another lesson he would rather not have learned the hard way.
Blood trails seemed to lead off in both directions, but Jack decided that a coward like Pete would flee towards more familiar ground, so once he made sure Teal'c wasn't dead, he headed for the west passageway.
That lunatic had Carter. He'd hurt her badly enough to drag her off. Jack strained to hear something other than the pounding of his own heart, and fought to stay on his feet despite the dizziness. He'd have time to pass out after he got Carter back.
He thought he heard movement, and ran his flashlight along the wall. Instead of meeting the ceiling, this particular part of the wall stopped about two feet short of it, creating a ledge. This was where he'd found the statue after the attack on Daniel. Pete must have stashed it up on that ledge before rejoining the group, only to have one of the animals knock it down.
That meant Pete could have used this ledge to reach a hiding spot of some sort.
Jack studied the wall. Scaling it fell somewhat outside his abilities at the moment. Then again, Pete was lazy. That meant there had to be an easier way to get up there.
Following the wall led him into the chamber where the antelope had trampled Carter. He explored along the wall where the tapestry had fallen, and sure enough, a second tapestry concealed a staircase. His flashlight landed on a fresh spot of blood, which told him he'd found the right trail.
If that lunatic hurt Carter . . .
Ranting filtered down the stairs, which told Jack that he had a fair distance yet to cover. It also proved that Pete was an idiot, but Jack already knew that. He reached a landing of sorts, and noticed that he could see down into the room where the antelope had been trapped. One mystery solved: Pete, in the process of hiding, must have seen the animal below and taken advantage of the situation. Jack had wondered how Training Wheels had managed to outsmart a dead deer.
The shouting continued, individual words becoming audible as Jack grew nearer. Individual words that, applied to Carter, filled him with a desire for violence. That Carter said nothing in reply -- well, that worried him.
He turned off his flashlight and crept up the last few steps.
Some gray daylight filtered down from somewhere, and as he reached the top of the stairs, Carter's eyes met his. The jerk had gagged her, and bound her hands. She shook her head slightly, indicating that he should back off. Her eyes darted towards the ceiling, and he looked up.
Something swayed gently up there. Quite possibly something that Pete intended to drop on his head. Who did this guy think he was, Wile E. Coyote?
Sam kept working her wrists against the nylon straps Pete had used to tie them. She'd have rope burns, but she was fairly certain she could get loose. Fortunately, he seemed to have missed cop school on the day they'd covered prisoner restraint techniques.
Pete stalked back and forth in front of her, ranting about her inadequacies and spraying her with saliva every time he faced her. Her primary sin was apparently 'uppityness' and Pete didn't like it one bit. She might have laughed, except for two things.
The first was Colonel O'Neill, crouched in the shadows near the top of the staircase and looking decidedly unwell. The second thing was Daniel's P90, which Pete brandished like a pointer as he explained the behavior of a proper girlfriend.
Fortunately, a good portion of this speech involved hot meals. Sam missed exactly how fortunate this was until Pete reached his next point of contention, and Colonel O'Neill's face showed some color for the first time in hours.
Jack had never realized just how much self restraint he had, until he held off on putting a bullet in Pete Shanahan's tiny little brain. There were too many risks, especially with the lunatic waving a P90 in Carter's face. In his current shape, Jack lacked faith in his ability to make an accurate shot, and bullets tended to ricochet.
He waited for Carter to free her hands. He'd provide the distraction, and she'd take this ranting moron apart. It was the best help he could offer. Charging in, guns ablazing, would only put her in even more danger, as would acting out of the fury this moron's words induced, so Jack focused on Carter's hands and tried to block out Pete's tirade.
The psychotic idiot made himself pretty hard to ignore, though. Had the fool even met Carter? Then he started in on his ludicrous accusations regarding SG-1's offworld activities, all of which were proven, according to the ranting, by the fact that Carter had hugged someone called Johnson.
That meant Daniel, apparently.
Carter yanked her hand free of the restraints, and Jack sprang into action. Or, more accurately, lurched. The wall helped a little, too.
"Hey," Jack shouted at Pete. "You don't really believe all that crap you're spewing, do you?"
Pete bellowed and charged at him.
Carter launched herself at Pete's legs.
Jack remembered the mysterious item swaying above them. "Carter! Look out!"
Pete dodged to the side, firing the P90 at nothing in particular, and Carter's dive sent her skidding into the zone beneath the potential anvil.
Jack ran forward, oblivious to the spray of bullets, and seized Carter by the jacket just as a loud snap echoed through the chamber. They tumbled across the floor together as the object crashed to the ground. His position half on top of Carter wasn't doing either of them any favors, and he started to lift himself off of her ribs.
Pete laughed like a maniac, and Jack felt the P90 press against the base of his skull. He froze.
"She's mine!" The idiot shouted. "She's mine! She's mine!"
"I am." Carter's voice shook. "But only if you let him go."
"Oh yeah? Why should I?"
Jack felt Carter's hand on his head, holding him rather firmly against her body.
"Because if you shoot him now, at this range, it'll kill us both," she said.
Pete jabbed him with the P90. "Get up so I can shoot you."
"Not really seeing why I'd do that, Pete."
"Because I said so!"
"Does that argument ever work?" Jack asked.
"Sir," Carter hissed close to his ear. "Don't move."
Another poke from the P90. "I said get up!"
He might have -- this nut was none too stable and Jack didn't much like the idea that he'd snap and shoot them both after all -- but Carter had an iron grip, and, he suspected, a plan. Carter was pretty good at plans.
"Pete," she said. "Why don't you put the gun down so we can talk this out."
Well that plan sucked.
"I told you!" Pete screeched. "You don't need to talk! You need to listen!" He continued shouting about all the ways Carter had failed him.
"Where's your sidearm?" Carter whispered in Jack's ear. Her hand left his hair to grope blindly along the outside of his thigh.
He shifted slightly to facilitate her search.
Pete, apparently oblivious to all of this, continued saying things that made Jack downright homicidal. This apparently required waving the P90 around, because he'd stopped pressing it to the back of Jack's head.
Pete let loose with a string of obscenities, not dead, but at least not firing the P90, and Jack rolled off of Carter and onto his back.
The idiot had dropped the weapon and was clutching his copiously bleeding shoulder as he hopped around cursing. It was a pretty good shot, considering, but now was not the time to admire Carter's marksmanship. Pete had turned his psychotic attention back to her, and she was on her back with a broken leg.
He charged at her. "You're dead, bitch! You hear me? Dead! I'll bash your brains out!"
Jack couldn't move fast enough, but Carter had it covered. She rolled and stuck out her good leg. Pete tripped over it, scrambled wildly, and fell head first over some sort of short stone wall. Really fell. Jack retrieved the P90 and shone it down into an impressively deep crevasse, at the bottom of which Pete now lay, his neck twisted to the side.
"Carter!" He dropped down beside her just as she sat up. "You okay?"
"Yeah." She nodded. "Is he -- ?"
"Dead," Jack said. "He's dead."
Their eyes met, and he needed to hold her; needed to touch her more than he needed to breathe. He wrapped her up in his arms and buried his face against her shoulder. She felt warm and alive. Wonderfully alive. It was over.
She squeezed his neck almost painfully. "That was too close," she whispered. "I thought . . . "
"I know," he said when she didn't finish. His own throat tightened as the last few minutes replayed in his head. Sure, SG-1 was used to the close call thing, but usually they at least saved a planet in the deal. This had been a little too . . . personal.
She turned her head, pressing her warm face against his cheek. Her eyelashes tickled. "We need to get back to Daniel and Teal'c."
He inhaled against her skin. Fought the urge to kiss her. Wished he could stay in this moment. "The zombies are toast."
"I know," she said.
"You did that?" He was impressed. Impressed, but not surprised. Not really. Just Carter being Carter, decapitating alien zombies with a broken leg. "Nice work."
She laughed a little. "Thank you, sir."
"Nice shooting, too."
"I missed the heart."
"Left handed, laying on your back, with your vision obstructed? That was nice shooting." He felt her shudder, and ran his hand up her back to cradle her head. "You did good, Carter, just like you always do."
Sam knew better than to dwell on what might have happened, but the image of Pete with that P90 pressed against the back of Colonel O'Neill's neck -- she shuddered again, and was grateful for the comforting arms around her.
From the way he held her, she could tell that the afternoon's events had hit him hard as well. She could feel him shaking as the adrenaline began to wear off. She drew back and pressed a hand against his face. "We'd better get back."
He nodded. "Think you can walk?"
"Maybe. How about you?"
"I'll give it a go."
With some effort, and a fair bit of pain, they managed to climb to their feet. They stood for a moment, unsteadily swaying against each other.
"Okay." Colonel O'Neill wrapped his arm around her waist. "Ready?"
"What about Pete?"
"He's not invited."
"We should check on him. I mean, if he's going to . . . " she let the words trail off.
"Rise again?" Colonel O'Neill stepped closer to the wall and peered over it. "Not so far."
"We don't know how long it takes," Sam said.
Colonel O'Neill ran the light from the P90 along the walls. "No exit," he said. "And it's at least three stories down. Unless zombies can fly, he's not getting out of there."
They started towards the stairs.
"Figures." Colonel O'Neill trained the light on the metallic object that had fallen from the ceiling.
"Am I crazy, or is that an anvil?"
The stairs presented the first major obstacle. Sam's injured leg refused to support any weight, and Colonel O'Neill admitted he was too dizzy to offer her much help.
"Sit down," she said.
"Sit," she repeated. "Remember sliding down the stairs as a kid?"
He looked at her like she was crazy. "I remember that it hurt like heck if they weren't carpeted, and these steps are made of stone."
"We'll just sort of scoot," she said. "Unless you have a better idea, sir."
He sighed. "Yeah, okay."
It felt silly, but after the past hour Sam found that she really didn't mind silly all that much. She scooted forward and carefully lowered herself to the next step. It jostled her leg slightly, making her wince, but it beat hopping.
"Dignified," Colonel O'Neill said.
She turned to find him smiling at her. "Your turn, sir."
He scooted down a couple of steps, and the absurdity of it made her smile as well. They continued down the stairs like that, and by the time they reached the main floor they were both out of breath, more from laughing than anything else.
"This isn't that funny," she said.
He climbed to his feet and reached down to help her. "Hey, we're not dead."
Sam laughed again. She took his hand, letting him pull her up, and stumbled against him when she tried to balance on one leg.
He caught her, his arm wrapping securely around her waist, and he took a half-step backwards to lean against the wall. His eyes met hers, and he smiled. "Gimme a minute, and then we'll try that walking thing again."
"No hurry," she said. "I kind of like it here."
"Oh?" His smile grew, and as she realized just what she'd said and exactly why she should have known better, she also found it difficult to be sorry about it, because she really liked Jack O'Neill's smile.
When he smiled like that, everything else just faded into the background, and she knew that they'd make it through anything the universe chose to throw at them. Those were the moments she cherished; the moments that grounded her, and that put it all in perspective. In these moments, they were simply them, and nothing else in the galaxy felt quite like that. She smiled back, and when his arm tightened around her waist, she stretched up, despite every warning bell sounding in her head, and brushed her lips gently against his.
His hand came up to tangle gently in her hair, and his lips found hers a second time. He took his time, kissing her slowly and deeply, making the world spin around her as he showed her exactly what she meant to him. His thumb stroked her cheek as he pulled back, and he looked at her with such love that her eyes stung with tears of joy.
"Just so that's clear," he said. "Now, we'd better get back to Daniel and Teal'c before they get attacked by vampire prairie dogs or something."
Daniel groaned. Everything he had seemed to hurt. He flexed his limbs experimentally and winced, remembering that his wrist was broken, and that he already knew that. He sat up, decided his ribs were also a little worse for wear, and nearly jumped right out of his skin as he noticed the twitching body of the leopard beside him.
Its head was gone. This gave him some comfort, and he set aside the worry that he actually found comfort in this for sometime in the future. "Sam?" He looked around. "Jack? Teal'c?"
Teal'c, he suspected, was that shape down the corridor. No, that shape was a headless antelope. But the shape behind it looked fairly likely. The blurred vision was starting to get old. He wondered if any of the dried blood on his shirt was his own.
His P90 seemed to be missing. "Well that can't be good." Further searching turned up a flashlight, which he aimed down the corridor to scan for other unconscious shapes. "Sam? Jack?"
Daniel climbed painfully to his feet and went to check on Teal'c. While he was at it, he borrowed Teal'c's sidearm, and set off to find the others. He found them moving slowly down the corridor, with Sam using Jack as a crutch, and Jack in turn depending pretty heavily on the wall.
"Daniel!" Jack looked awful, but seemed pretty chipper about it. "Have any trouble fending off the vampire prairie dogs?"
Jack shrugged. "Oh, just a theory I had."
"Right," Daniel said. "Are you two okay?"
"Just peachy," Jack said. "Nothing that about a month of fishing won't cure. Where's Teal'c?"
"Unconscious." Daniel eyed Jack dubiously. He looked anything but peachy. "How about Pete?"
"Dead," Jack said. "Carter shot him."
"Good." Daniel turned to Sam, wanting confirmation that she was okay with that, but she had her attention focused on Jack.
She seemed to agree with Daniel's assessment, because only once she had Jack settled under every blanket they had between them did she head out into the corridor to check on Teal'c.
"I'll have to immobilize his neck," she said. "I don't see any evidence of a spinal injury, but he hit the wall pretty hard earlier. Do you think you can drag him?"
Daniel was less than convinced that he could, but Sam couldn't even walk, so he had to try. He saw the way she winced as she bent over Teal'c, and worried about that bruise on her side.
She grimaced again as she stood.
"Sam." He nodded at her hand, which had gone instinctively to her injured side.
She sighed. "Cracked ribs."
"And there's a chance I ruptured my spleen, but that's not as bad as it probably sounds." She stopped short of asking him not to tell Jack.
"Take care of yourself, Sam. Jack needs you. We all do."
She smiled a little. "It won't kill me. Really. It might even heal on its own. It just . . . hurts."
"Yeah, I know the feeling." He managed to drag Teal'c back into the central chamber without further damaging his wrist, while Sam dragged herself to the first aid kit.
"We're low on antibiotic ointment," she said. "Everything else should last, if we get out of here in the next two or three days."
"We will," Daniel said with more conviction than he felt. "The translation should go a little bit quicker now that we're expecting fewer zombie attacks." He paused as an unpleasant thought occurred to him. "Sam? I don't mean to . . . but are we sure Pete won't be . . . back?"
"We're sure," Jack answered.
"Did you . . . " Daniel pantomimed decapitation.
"No," Jack said. "But he fell into some sort of basement. He's not getting out of there."
"Good." He glanced towards Sam, who was busy stitching a wound on Teal'c's arm. "Good thinking, by the way. With the . . . I should have thought of that. Zombies, in one form or another, are found in the mythology and folklore of cultures in all parts of the world, and one of the connecting features in all of these stories is the methods by which a zombie can be killed. For example, medieval Norse myths refer to a 'draugr' -- the corpse of a warrior returned to attack the living, usually resulting from an improper burial -- "
"Daniel?" Jack stared at him.
"So, good thinking," Daniel said. "And it reminded me that -- "
"Carter did it." Jack smiled his Carter-is-amazing smile, and Daniel counted his attention as lost, at least for the moment, so he kept his thoughts on Haitian zombie myths to himself.
Jack watched Carter patch up Teal'c and Daniel. She'd had to shoot her ex, and while the guy had done a pretty good job of killing any feelings she might have had for him, it still couldn't be easy. Being a good soldier meant doing what had to be done, but sometimes that felt pretty crappy.
Carter turned to him and smiled. Just a small smile, but it eased his concerns a bit, which was nice, because that freed him to dwell on the kiss they'd shared, and that was really nice. He'd kissed Carter. Sweet.
Her smile grew, and he realized that she probably knew exactly what he was thinking. He liked that it made her smile. Liked it lots.
She finished with Daniel and scooted over to lay her warm hands against his face. "How are you feeling?"
Her fingers made his skin tingle, and he hoped she'd climb under the blankets with him. Neither of those thoughts answered her question, so he just let it pass, and she didn't seem to mind, because she smiled again. She pressed a canteen into his hand and gave him some pills. "I need to change the bandages on your burn."
He let her fuss over him, because it was the only way to quell the worry in her eyes.
Daniel knelt behind her and handed her supplies as she worked. "That doesn't look good."
"It could be a lot worse," Carter answered. "Under these conditions . . . " She shook her head.
"Hey," Jack said. "I've got you to fix me up. What could be luckier?"
She smiled a little. "I'm sorry, sir, but this is going to hurt."
He tried not to wince as she applied more ointment to the affected area. "Save some of that stuff for yourself." He touched one of the more impressive scratches on her arm. Now that she'd removed her jacket, he could see several claw marks, as well as a number of bruises. He tried not to wonder which injuries were from her battle with the zombies, and which were Pete's handiwork.
"Okay, done." She took some fresh gauze from Daniel and taped it in place, then pressed a hand to his cheek. "Are you warm enough?"
Daniel leaned in to do the same.
"That depends." Jack glared at Daniel. "If I'm not, then which one of you is planning on warming me up?"
Carter smiled and shook her head, but climbed under the blanket beside him. Daniel settled down next to her a moment later, notes in hand.
"It almost has to be written right to left," Daniel said, waving towards the alien inscription on the wall. "If not, the inscription on the outer wall wouldn't be transposed. Bramhi is written left to right, which is why I thought this place was called Temple to the Life of the Dead, when in actuality it's Living Dead Temple."
"Of course it is," Jack said, rolling his eyes at Carter, which made her laugh.
"Anyway," Daniel continued, mistakenly under the impression that his ramblings were more interesting than Carter's laugh. "The representations of the snake-god Nzombi that we found on the wall in the main chamber make me suspect that what we might be looking at is a proto-language from the Niger-Congo family, which might explain the word order. Unfortunately there are literally hundreds of sublanguages, and most of them are tonal in nature, which makes any written translation particularly tricky. If we could hear it spoken -- "
"Now see," Jack said. "I'd like to vote against hearing it spoken, seeing as if anyone turns up to speak it, they'll most likely want us dead."
"Well there is that," Daniel said. "Anyhow, without hearing it spoken, I think the best course of action is to see the language in a more predictable context. Like, as Sam said earlier, on the control panel we found in the passageway."
"We don't need to worry about Pete any more," Carter said. "We could just start with the force field controls."
"Yes," Jack said. "We should do that."
"Not you, sir. You need to stay here and keep warm." She glanced over at Teal'c. That he remained unconscious obviously worried her. "Do we know when Teal'c last took his tritonin?"
"Just this morning, I think." Daniel started to move towards Teal'c, who groaned as if on cue. "Teal'c?"
"Daniel Jackson, is Major Carter -- "
"Right here Teal'c," Carter said. "You had us worried."
He sat up, with some help from Daniel. "I am glad to see you well," he said. "I believe -- "
A loud crash echoed through the corridor.
"Oh for cryin' out loud!" Colonel O'Neill said. "There's no way he got out of there."
"Maybe it's not him," Sam said, although she knew better.
"Oh it's him," Colonel O'Neill said. "No mere goa'uld could make such a racket."
"I have to agree." Daniel got to his feet. "Sam, where's your knife?"
She reached for it and cursed.
"It's in the corridor," Colonel O'Neill said. "Right smack dab in the middle of that big pool of blood out there. Can't miss it."
"Thanks, Jack. That helps." Daniel took Colonel O'Neill's knife and moved to the doorway.
Sam climbed to her feet, despite Colonel O'Neill's protest, and with a little help from Teal'c, hobbled over beside Daniel.
"So," Daniel said. "The plan is . . . "
"When he gets close enough, I'll shoot him in the leg." She clicked off the safety. "Then, when he falls, you two hold him down and get him into restraints."
"And then?" Daniel asked.
"And then we do whatever it takes to kill a zombie." Truth be told, Sam didn't find the idea of beheading her ex-boyfriend all that appealing, and hoped that Daniel would offer a better option.
"No setting him on fire," Jack said. "That never helps."
Pete, or rather the zombie that had formerly been Pete, moved slowly down the corridor, wielding what appeared to be the statue of a fertility god of some sort. He was making a strange, high-pitched sound.
"My God," Daniel said. "Is he actually giggling?"
The zombie grew closer at a steady pace, and Sam focused on his knee. A clean shot through the patella would bring him down, even though zombies were immune to pain.
It paused, and for a moment an eerie silence filled the corridor as the inhuman laughter stopped. "Jina," the zombie muttered. "Jina . . . mfalme mungu Fam . . . adui kuta kifo." It pointed at them. "Mungu Fam! Kifo! Kifo!"
Sam took careful aim, but Daniel caught her wrist.
"Daniel -- "
"What he's saying," Daniel said. "It could be important."
Sam had her doubts, but she'd learned to trust Daniel on these things. She kept her gun trained on the zombie as Daniel scribbled frantically on a notepad.
"Jina . . . mungu Fam . . . Jina . . . mfalme mungu Fam . . . adui kuta kifo," the zombie repeated. "Kifo! Kifo!"
"I think he's speaking Swahili," Daniel said. "His pronunciation isn't very good, but it could be an older form -- "
"Kifo! Kifo!" With a final piercing scream, the zombie launched itself at them.
Sam fired, but she missed its knee, and it didn't even notice a bullet in the thigh.
The zombie knocked Daniel aside and grabbed for her. Sam ducked its attack, while Teal'c struck it in the face with his staff weapon. She scrambled backwards into the corridor, her hand searching blindly for the knife she'd stuck in Pete's thigh earlier.
Teal'c grappled with the staff weapon, struggling to keep the zombie from wrenching it from his grasp. "Pete Shanahan is much stronger in death than in life."
"Why doesn't that surprise me," Daniel muttered, climbing to his feet. "Can you hold him still?"
"I am endeavoring to do so, Daniel Jackson."
Sam found the knife and scooted backwards in order to use the wall for leverage. If only the zombie would turn away from the wall, then she could get another shot at its knee, but as long as it remained where it was, the danger of a ricochet was too great.
Just as Daniel reached Teal'c, the zombie twisted violently, slamming the staff weapon into Teal'c's chest and knocking him to the ground. Daniel caught hold of the weapon, and for a moment seemed to have the upper hand, at least until the zombie struck him in the face.
Teal'c grabbed it by the leg, fighting to hold it back as it advanced on Sam. She raised the knife and prepared to dodge, but it slammed into her ribs hard enough to knock the wind out of her.
"Sam!" Daniel launched himself at the zombie's back, knocking it to the ground and struggling to hold it there. Teal'c still had it by the legs, and the three of them went rolling across the floor.
Colonel O'Neill appeared in the doorway, shouted at Daniel, and tossed him something. Then he bent down beside her. "Carter? You okay?"
"Yeah," she gasped. "Just -- " She waved towards the struggle.
"They've got it covered." He scooped her up in his arms. "Let's go."
As Colonel O'Neill lowered her onto the blankets, she noticed that Daniel and Teal'c were right behind them.
"You do realize the ceiling -- " Daniel began.
"Just do it!" Colonel O'Neill ordered.
An explosion shook the temple. Small debris rained down on them, but most of the ceiling remained in place.
"It is over," Teal'c reported. "The zombie is no longer a threat."
"Good," Colonel O'Neill said. "Carter, you okay?"
"I think so." She struggled to breathe more deeply. "Dying sure didn't lessen his interest in kicking me in the ribs."
The look on Colonel O'Neill's face made her regret her choice of words. "Let me see."
She nodded and tugged her shirt up out of the way.
Colonel O'Neill swore softly.
Jack swallowed hard at the deep purple bruise on Carter's side. It scared the crap out of him. Even once they got the force field down, the stargate was still half a day's hike -- more under these conditions -- and Carter needed a doctor.
"It looks worse than it is," she told him. "Really."
He met her gaze. "Yeah, maybe, but I'll feel a heck of a lot better when we get you back to Fraiser." He turned to the others. "Daniel, go get that panel you need so Carter can figure out how to get that force field down, and bring it back here. Teal'c, watch his six. The way this mission's going, we'll probably run into werewolves next."
"Sir, there's no such thing as werewolves," Carter said.
"Yeah, well . . . " He looked around for something useful to do, something that would help get Carter back to the SGC. He found the first aid supplies, and dug through them without really knowing what he hoped to find.
He turned to look at her.
"I'm fine, really," she said. "I know it looks bad, but truth be told, your burn is a lot more serious than this. It hurts, but that's all."
"You're bleeding internally, Carter, don't tell me -- "
She shook her head. "Not enough to matter. Not really. I wouldn't lie to you, sir. Now please, you need to stay warm."
"He's just lucky he's dead." Jack climbed back under the blankets and noticed the look on Carter's face. "You okay?"
"What if it wasn't his fault?" she asked. "I never sensed a goa'uld, but -- "
"The goa'uld don't generally sneak up behind people and beat them in the head; not their style. Pete, on the other hand, was all about hitting people in the head with blunt objects. Definitely his fault."
She sighed. "It seems so, but I wish I could be sure. He seemed sweet before, and yes, he was a bit . . . awkward, but I feel like maybe this wasn't him, and I let him down. He told me that he loved me, and I just wrote him off when his behavior changed."
"Like he even knows the meaning of the word," Jack said. "Listen, I understand how you must feel. When we get back, we'll do a little investigating. Maybe talk to his ex-wife. See if maybe he has a few skeletons you didn't know about."
"Thank you, sir." She leaned into his embrace as he wrapped his arm around her. "I was never in love with him, I just feel . . . like I need to know the truth."
"I understand," he said. "But I think we already do know. The things he said earlier . . . that wasn't a goa'uld, or the effects of some alien technology. That was a guy with an inferiority complex and a temper."
"I wish you hadn't heard all of that," she said softly.
"Hey." He turned to her, and made her look him in the eye. "Don't go worrying about that, Carter. Nothing that idiot had to say is any reflection on you, and you have nothing to be embarrassed about."
She shrugged. "It's been a long day."
Daniel and Teal'c returned with the panel.
"Any werewolves?" Jack asked.
"Not a one," Daniel answered. "Although we did see a rat."
"A dead rat," Teal'c added.
Jack wasn't convinced he wanted to know more. "Was it . . . ?"
"Oh yes," Daniel said. "Scampering around, not really bothered by the fact it was dead at all."
"Peachy. Can you read that panel?"
Daniel settled down beside Carter. "I'm sure that we can. Especially now that I have a better idea of the language we're dealing with. Pete -- or rather Pete's zombie -- was speaking a somewhat garbled version of Swahili. I think I got the jist of what he said, and if -- "
"Swahili?" Jack asked.
"More of a proto-Swahili," Daniel said. "It's part of the Niger-Congo language family, like I said before. Out in the corridor, Pete said -- "
"He was speaking Swahili?"
"It's probably something that Fam programmed into the device," Daniel explained. "Anyway, he said something like 'In the name of our king god Fam you will meet death,' and when I take into account the characteristics of both the Niger-Congo language family and the Brahmi script, it gives me a point of reference -- "
"Daniel . . . "
"It means I can read this," Daniel said. "Or at least I will be able to, if I just . . . " He started spreading papers out on the floor and stopped making sense.
"Figures Pete would have to die to actually do something useful."
"It's a riddle!"
Sam lifted her head from Colonel O'Neill's chest and took the paper Daniel was waving at her. "Is this in English?"
"I wrote it with my left hand," he explained. "That's not the important part anyhow. I just figured it out. The combination to the sarcophagus is the answer to the question on the lid. See?" He started to explain how he'd identified the consonant sounds among the alien symbols.
Colonel O'Neill ran out of patience. "Daniel! Just tell us what it says."
"Right," Daniel said. "It says, 'who is the god so great that he conquers even death' and obviously the answer is Fam, which means only someone who worshipped Fam would be able to open the box -- "
"Or us," Colonel O'Neill said.
"Well yes," Daniel said. "Or us. So we just need to arrange the disks to read 'Mfalme Fam' -- King Fam -- and it should open right up."
"And we're sure this is something we want to do?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
"It is what we came here for, sir," Sam said.
He sighed. "I suppose."
"Besides," she said. "We know it contains a power source. There's a chance it could be the one operating everything in the temple, including the force field, and we know that it's attracting zombies. If anything else has died in the area, it could be just outside the door when -- "
"Okay," Colonel O'Neill said. "That is a much better argument."
Jack held the knife ready as Daniel and Teal'c wrestled the lid from the sarcophagus to reveal a desiccated corpse. "I'm guessing this is Fam?"
Upon hearing its name, the mummy leaped straight up, its dried out body crackling as bits of it snapped off and tumbled back into the box. The head fell off and rolled across the floor.
"Well that was a bit anticlimactic," Jack said.
"Indeed." Teal'c stepped over and crushed the life from the symbiote as it attempted to wriggle free from the skull.
Jack shuddered. "Have I ever mentioned that I hate snakes? Give it an extra stomp, just to be sure." He turned to Carter and Daniel. "Goa'uld's dead. Can we go home now?"
They both ignored him as they poked at the device in the sarcophagus. Sometimes they were just such scientists.
"Get the case," Carter said to Daniel. "We need to pack it so that -- "
Jack sighed. "It makes zombies. Do you really want to bring it home?"
"If the technology is similar to that used in the tel'chak device, then studying it might provide the breakthrough that Dr. Lee needs," Carter said. "It must have healing properties to have kept the symbiote alive in a hibernation-state all of these years, and that could lead to medical applications which -- "
"Okay, okay," Jack said. "Pack it up. Just make sure it's off."
Daniel tried to ignore Jack's agitation as he worked on translating the panel. He knew what sorts of words to expect on a control panel, but unfortunately not in Swahili. Or, more accurately, proto-Swahili as written in an alien alphabet, so he had to do this the hard way, and transcribe it phonetically.
Hopefully the words themselves would jog his memory.
Jack watched him work, his arm around Sam and his entire manner broadcasting his impatience. Sam's injury had him worried, and Daniel shared his concern. Ruptured spleens fell somewhat outside his area of expertise, but he could tell Sam was hurting.
Instead of burying her head among the crystals in an attempt to figure them out before Daniel provided a translation, she was sitting quietly with her head on Jack's shoulder. That alone was telling.
"I wish I'd studied Swahili," Daniel said. "Now that I've got some of this alphabet sorted out, I could probably make sense out of this if I actually spoke more of the language." He read the first line out loud, sighed, and bent over the next bit.
His head throbbed, and he had to squint to read the small script. "This is taking longer than I thought."
"We noticed," Jack said.
"Are there any words on it at all that you recognize?" Sam asked.
He paused and scanned the panel as a whole. "Sam, you're a genius."
"Well we knew that," Jack said. "Tell us something a little less obvious."
"Fam. His name means power." Daniel pointed to the name on the panel. "Taken literally, that might mean that whichever crystal corresponds to this word is the one we want."
Sam pulled out two crystals and moved them to the empty spots Daniel had suggested. "Okay, try it now."
Colonel O'Neill threw a rock at the doorway. It bounced to the ground on the other side.
"Excellent," he said. "Let's go, campers. If anyone left their toothbrush back at the hotel, now is the time to forget all about going back for it, because we're going home."
"I think I'm going to need a little help, sir."
He came over and pulled her to her feet. Or foot, anyway. She leaned on his shoulder and he wrapped his arm around her waist. "We're getting good at this. Next picnic, the three-legged race is ours."
She blinked at the harsh sting of sunlight and raised her free hand to shield her injured eye as she scanned the area. A number of dead animals were scattered around the doorway.
"That thing is off, right?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
"They seem to think so," Daniel said.
Teal'c poked something with his boot. "They are not moving, O'Neill."
"Glad to hear it," Colonel O'Neill said. "Let's move out."
The static on the radio dashed any hopes of a rescue team scouring the planet for them, and the hike back to the stargate went slowly. Daniel and Teal'c were battered, bruised, and concussed, and they were the best off. They could walk, so they got stuck with most of the gear, while Sam and Colonel O'Neill focused on helping each other.
The daylight stung Sam's eye, and her leg would only support a little weight. She leaned on Colonel O'Neill's shoulder as they walked. His dizzy spells forced them to stop frequently, in contrast to their usual habit, and she reminded him that she needed to rest as well, fearing he'd push himself too hard and become dehydrated.
Truth be told, the ache in her side was sapping her endurance.
"Carter, you okay?"
She nodded. "Yeah, just give me a minute to . . . "
"I've got a better idea," Colonel O'Neill said. "How about we bunk down for a few hours?"
She didn't argue, grateful for his help as they sank to the ground. It had started to grow dark, which she hadn't noticed, although she now realized it had been a while since the sun had forced her to wipe tears from her eyes.
Colonel O'Neill pressed his hand to her forehead, and Daniel fussed over her as well. She tried to tell them she was fine, but they both ignored her, and she started to worry that maybe she was a little less fine than she thought.
"Daniel, you and Teal'c head back to the gate and call for help. I'll stay with Carter." No force on this planet or any other could move Jack from Carter's side now. Maybe she was just exhausted -- she sure had every right to be -- but if she was bleeding internally then she needed Fraiser now.
He pushed up her shirt and trained his flashlight on her bruise, but he couldn't tell if it had grown, and he didn't much like the idea of poking at it.
"Sir?" She raised her hand, and he caught it.
"Right here Carter. How're you feeling?"
"Don't forget to drink some water," she said. "You need to stay hydrated."
"Don't worry about me." He squeezed her hand and reached for the med kit so he could rummage through it again. He read each bottle in hopes of finding the one labeled 'instant cure for internal bleeding' but apparently they hadn't packed it.
"Sir, you need to stay warm," she said.
He met her gaze in the growing darkness, and decided that if he was going to pretend he wasn't completely useless in this situation, he might as well be close to her while he did it. "Yeah, you're probably right about that." He laid down beside her and fussed with the blankets. "Teal'c and Daniel will be back with help before you know it."
She moved closer, and settled her head on his shoulder. "This is nice," she said. "We don't spend enough time looking at the stars."
He wondered if she was trying to distract him, or herself. "We have enough pain meds, if -- "
"No," she said. "I'm fine. Good, actually. I'm sore, and tired, and yes, I'm probably bleeding a little, but it's not enough to worry about. We'll be home before it's dangerous."
He tried to believe her, but it scared him. His instinct was to protect her, but he couldn't protect her from this. She needed Fraiser.
The others had been gone an awfully long time, and he was just about to reach for the radio when he spotted their lights.
"Well it's about time! Where the heck have you been?" Jack looked around. "Where are the medics?"
"There's a problem," Daniel said. "The stargate won't dial out."
"So much for stargazing." Sam started to sit up.
"Hey," Colonel O'Neill said. "Where do you think you're going?"
"To fix the DHD."
He caught her hand. "Carter, I need to know. How long before . . . how long can you go without medical attention?"
She met his gaze. All of his feelings were there, written all over his face. He cared, a lot more than he was supposed to care, and her injury scared him. The news about the stargate had shaken what little control he had over the situation.
Her first instinct was to reassure him, but she wouldn't lie to her commanding officer about her health. "If I'm right, and it started bleeding again after the encounter with the last zombie, then I need to get to work before the blood loss makes me too weak, but I should have a day or two before it's life threatening."
He nodded. "Then let's go."
Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c practically carried her to the stargate, but they refrained from asking her how she felt every few minutes, which she appreciated. Colonel O'Neill made a special effort in that regard, although he couldn't keep the worry from his eyes.
Not much scared Jack O'Neill, but this did.
For her own part, Sam was equally worried about him. Either hypothermia or an infection could set in, and either one could grow dangerous quickly under the circumstances. Stress would only add to the danger. Daniel and Teal'c needed medical attention too, although to a lesser degree.
As they walked, she considered ways to bypass the DHD if it was somehow damaged. They needed a plan that Daniel and Teal'c could carry out, in the event that she lost consciousness before finding the answer, but except for manually dialing the gate -- a last resort at best -- every solution fell squarely on her shoulders.
Colonel O'Neill lowered her carefully beside the DHD. "What can I do?"
"Sir, you should get some rest. Teal'c and Daniel too. If we need to manually dial the gate you'll need your strength."
"No need for that, Carter. You'll have this thing fixed in a jiffy."
Daniel held the flashlight as she examined the DHD. None of the crystals appeared damaged, which she considered a lucky break. The prospect of manually dialing the gate seemed rather daunting, all things considered, but for the moment she decided to remain optimistic.
"It'll take a few hours to do a proper diagnostic -- "
"Better idea," Colonel O'Neill said. "Try the simplest thing first."
"I could try cutting the power," she said. "Rebooting can clear a whole host of problems."
"Then do that."
She located the master control crystal and pulled it out. "Two minutes should do it."
"One Mississippi," Colonel O'Neill said. "Two Mississippi . . . you know what, I think I'll use my watch."
She smiled. This was why she could never settle for less than Jack O'Neill. Nobody else could ever compare.
After a moment of sheer panic when the crystal balked at sliding back into place, they were ready to try the DHD again. They all held their breath as Daniel dialed, but this time the gate spun obediently, the chevrons locked, and the wormhole kawooshed to life.
"Okay kids," Colonel O'Neill said. "Let's go see Auntie Em."
Jack stepped through the stargate, Carter leaning heavily on his shoulder, and remembered just how much he liked the sound of his own boots on the metal ramp at the SGC.
General Hammond met them in the gateroom. He took in the sight that was SG-1, with Carter's splinted leg and black eye, the sling on Daniel's arm, the bloody welts all over Teal'c's face, and the assorted cuts and bruises that covered them all. "What the hell happened out there, Colonel?"
Jack looked him straight in the eye. "Zombies."
Hammond paused a moment. "Where's Shanahan?"
"Dead," Jack said. "But since he's responsible for most of this, I'm not all that torn up about it."
"What do you mean by responsible?"
"Oh, attempted murder. Fits of jealous rage. That sort of thing. He beat Daniel over the head with a statue and things just went downhill from there."
Medics appeared, and he helped get Carter settled on a gurney before claiming one for himself. He really wanted to throw a few zingers at Hammond regarding the natural consequences of bringing tourists to alien planets, but passing out seemed to rank higher on his list of priorities.
Sam woke up to the familiar smell of the SGC infirmary, and smiled as she opened her eyes to discover Colonel O'Neill in a nearby chair. "Hey."
"Hey yourself." He moved closer, dragging his IV pole with him. "How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good, actually. Do I still have a spleen?"
"Part of one. Fraiser says your diagnosis was right on the money. I should have known better than to doubt you."
She feigned hurt. "There was doubt?"
"There was . . . concern." His eyes said more than that.
"So how about you? You seem to be up and around pretty quick."
"Yeah, well, don't tell Fraiser," he said. "I sort of snuck out of bed."
She smiled and he smiled back, and it was one of those smiles. The kind she really liked.
"Jack," Daniel said. "I should have known I'd find you here. Janet's threatening to strap you to the bed."
"Been there, done that." He didn't show any signs of moving.
"By the way," Daniel added. "I thought you should know, General Hammond's getting anxious for our reports."
Sam cringed. This was one report she didn't look forward to writing.
Daniel glanced over at Sam as they pulled onto Interstate 25. He wasn't sure about this plan to meet Pete's ex-wife, but he recognized that Sam needed answers, and Jack had asked him to go with her, since she wasn't up to driving and Jack was in no shape for the trip himself.
Well, 'asked' probably wasn't the most accurate word, but Daniel would have volunteered anyway.
"Nothing that happened was your fault," he said. "You must realize that."
"I had to shoot him," she said. "I know that. He was an immediate threat, and I did what was necessary, but the fact is, he shouldn't have been there at all, and I can't help but feel -- " She shook her head. "If you or Teal'c or Colonel O'Neill started behaving like Pete did, I would have known that something wasn't right. We would have looked for a goa'uld or an alien virus or something, but I didn't even try to give Pete the benefit of the doubt."
"Sam, you gave him the benefit of every doubt. That tantrum he threw over his ankle -- which by the way healed awfully quick once he felt like giving the wall a good kicking -- was pretty telling."
"You're right," she said. "I know you're right. But I still need to do this."
He nodded and decided a change of subject was in order. "The last few days have given me time to do some research, and I've pieced together a theory on the history of P4X-524. I should have suspected Fam from the moment I saw the snake-figure on the UAV photos. It's clearly a stylized version of Nzombi, and of all the personalities in African mythology, Fam really sticks out as the most likely goa'uld candidate. Most of the African deities mind their own business and ignore human beings, but Fam was always popping up causing trouble, and his arrogance was his most distinctive character trait."
Sam nodded and even made the effort to make eye contact. "Sounds like a goa'uld."
"Anyhow, the people Fam took to P4X-524 were obviously from sub-Sahara Africa. They spoke a language that was an early form of Swahili, and at least some of them could read and write in Sanskrit, probably because it was a language used in trade. So when they overthrew Fam and sealed the temple, they wrote their warning in Sanskrit, because the fact that it was a trading language made it more likely that other people would be able to read it.
"I'm just guessing, but I suspect all of this happened soon enough after they arrived on the planet for at least some of them to return to Earth, which would account for the stories that Fam had been sealed in the underworld, his passage blocked by a great stone."
"That makes sense," Sam said. "What I'm really curious about, though, is the device. I'm hoping I get a chance to study it before it goes to Area 51, because I'd like to know how it relates to the sarcophagus technology we've found elsewhere."
Daniel nodded. "I'm guessing it might have been a precursor to the sarcophagus technology we've become familiar with, like the tel'chak device, or possibly it simply served as a replacement when a proper sarcophagus wasn't available. When Fam became trapped, he must have sealed himself into the box with the device, hoping that even though his host would die, it would sustain him until someone came along and opened it. He probably even rigged it somehow, so our presence turned it up to full power. I doubt he planned to be in there long enough for the corpse to dry out like it did, so he probably thought the device would allow him to act in his own defense if necessary, even from within his dead host."
"He probably had something rigged up to take the stargate off line, too," Sam said. "Do you think NASA ever has to deal with zombies?"
Sam had dreaded this, and the hour-long drive to Denver had only given her time to really work up a serious case of the nerves, despite Daniel's well-intentioned history lesson. She had to do it, though. She took a deep breath, braced herself, and knocked on the door.
Pete's ex-wife, a small woman with dark curly hair, opened the door. "Oh God," she said. "I guess you'd better come in."
"I'm Samantha Carter." Sam stepped through the door. "I -- "
"You're the reason he quit whining at my answering machine," the other woman finished for her. "And I assume this is his handiwork?" She waved at Sam's eye, and nodded towards the crutches.
"No." Sam said. "Well actually yes, but just this." She pointed at her black eye. "The rest was work related."
The woman nodded. "Look, honey. You can definitely do better. A lot better."
"I've gotta agree with you there," Sam muttered.
"If you want me to testify or something, my lawyer -- "
"No. That's not why I'm here."
"But you are here about Pete?"
"You might want to sit down."
"You mean he's dead? Can't say I'd be unhappy to learn -- he wasn't murdered, was he? Because if he was, I didn't do it."
"You're definitely not a suspect," Sam said.
"So he is dead? How?"
"I'm afraid that's classified."
The other woman snorted. "That figures. I should have known he'd go and do something really stupid one of these days. So are you just here to break it to me gently, or . . . "
"I needed to know if he'd been violent in the past," Sam said. "I think you've answered that."
"Three times," she said. "There were three times. The first time I took him back. Stupid, I know, but for better or worse, right? Can I get you anything? The coffee's not exactly fresh, but I don't think it's cold yet."
"No," Sam said. "I'm fine, thank you."
The woman sighed. "The second time, when he accused me of sleeping with the mailman of all people, I left. I didn't go to the police, though, because I figured they'd cover for him and take care of their own. So he tracked me down, and that was the third time.
"There was a hospital report that time, and I got a restraining order, so he was scared enough to leave me alone for the most part. Except for the whining, but that's what the answering machine's for, right? Oh, and he threatened me. Well, if you can even call it that. He actually told me that if I didn't take him back, he'd call my mom and tell her I'd kept a miniskirt in my locker in high school. Somehow I think I could recover from that bombshell."
Sam suspected that this woman could make a day out of complaining about Pete, but she had what she needed, so after politely listening to about ten more minutes of increasingly ridiculous accounts of Pete's antics, she excused herself and headed back to Daniel's car.
She felt somewhat better, not because this justified anything -- she'd reacted appropriately to a threat, she already knew that -- but because now she knew Pete hadn't fallen victim to some alien influence. He'd acted of his own free will.
That she'd been dating a psycho and had been too wrapped up in denial to notice rattled her a bit, but as Daniel patiently reminded her, she was done denying her feelings for Jack. They'd wait, or find a loophole, or something, but she was through lying to herself.
Jack fiddled with the letter. He'd written one just like it years ago, only then he could have said anything, because time would just loop again and erase the consequences. This time it mattered. He found that he said pretty much the same thing anyway, because it was the truth. Besides, Hammond would just tear it up. In fact, Jack pretty much counted on that.
He heard the front door click open, and smiled. Carter was back.
He put the letter aside and went to meet her. "How'd it go?"
"Good," she said. "You were right."
"I figured," he said. "Have a seat, I'll get you a beer."
He went to the fridge, and for a moment considered actual glasses, but decided against them. Carter, with a beer bottle to her lips, well that was hot. Why deny himself?
She looked nervous, perched on the edge of the couch, and when he passed her a beer she fiddled with it.
He fiddled with his, too. He pretty much wanted a perfect moment, and he had no idea how to make that happen. Of course he had Carter sitting on his couch, and that was a pretty good start.
"I wrote my letter of resignation," he said. Shoot. That was exactly how he didn't plan to say that.
"Sir, you can't! With all that's at stake, you're needed. Nobody's more qualified to lead SG-1 than you, and -- "
"You are," he said. "But that's not the point."
"Sir -- "
"I know the stakes, Carter. That's why I'm not planning to leave the SGC."
She nodded rapidly, biting her lip, and let out a shaky sigh. He could see a sheen of moisture in her eyes, although she tried to hide it by staring at her beer. "We'll beat the goa'uld," she said. "The progress we've made in the last seven years, it didn't even seem possible we could make it this far, and in another year -- "
"Carter." He put his beer down. "We're not waiting another year. Either Hammond finds a loophole, or I retire."
She looked up at him, her surprise showing in her eyes.
"I shot you once," he said. "That should tell me something. It would destroy me to lose you, Carter, but when the chips are down, I can do what needs to be done. What we share -- it's not going away, and it hasn't gotten Earth blown to smithereens yet."
Carter really did have the most beautiful smile he'd ever seen.
"I don't want to say we're above the rules," he said. "But how many times do we have to save the planet before we're above this rule?"
"Daniel had some suggestions."
"I could resign from the Air Force and come back as a civilian -- "
"No," he said. "I don't want you to give up your career."
"Sir -- "
"See? It's a part of you, Carter, and I kind of like all of your parts the way they are now."
"First thing tomorrow morning, I'm putting that letter on Hammond's desk."
"Sir, are you sure about that?"
"I am," Jack said. "He's not going to risk the safety of the planet over this. He'd probably turn a blind eye if we just went ahead and did whatever we pleased, but that's not how I want to do this. You're too important to me."
She smiled. He loved that smile.
"Whatever happens, we're a sure thing." He moved closer and started to wrap his arm around her. "Oh, one more thing." He sat back up and rummaged around on the coffee table.
"Sir." She laughed as she took the item he offered her. "This is a remote control."
"That it is." He pulled her close as they settled back against the cushions. "Just to show you what a great guy I can be, I'm letting you choose the movie."
A note from the author: This was not intended as an issue-fic but a number of reviews have expressed the concern that I dealt with the issue of domestic violence in a callous and/or unrealistic manner. That was not my intention, as the events portrayed here do not represent a case of domestic violence at all. Carter was finished with Pete the moment he crossed the line, showed repeatedly that she was more than capable of defending herself, and at no point felt trapped in the relationship. I agree wholeheartedly that in a realistic domestic abuse situation, it would not be so easy for the woman to walk away, but Carter was not faced with a domestic abuse scenario here. She faced none of the obstacles a battered woman would face in ending such a relationship: she has no children with him, is financially independent, and is physically stronger than her wannabe abuser. She wasn't in love with him, or tangled up in a codependent relationship with him, or facing any of the probably hundreds of possible emotional and psychological factors which could play a role in a real abusive relationship. Never did the situation allow Pete to achieve any emotional control over Carter. Pete was never in a position to effectively use any form of intimidation against her. Pete was never an abusive boyfriend because he never had the chance. Things ended, for all intents and purposes, the moment he threw his jealous tantrum. His behavior is more representative of a stalker, which is at least somewhat supported by canon, given the way he followed her around in Chimera. Finally, the character of Pete in this fic is a caricature as opposed to a realistic character, because this fic was not intended as a serious piece. Badfic!Pete is a badfic character inserted into an otherwise canon setting. He is not the Pete Shanahan of Threads, who walked away peacefully when dumped for another man.
As for the notion that Carter's failure to be a proper victim in this fic means that I look down on women who have faced domestic violence, again that was not my intention. Finally, as for the justification of Carter's part in Pete's death, she treated Pete as she would treat any other threat to her unit as an officer in the military. They attempted to capture him alive. That attempt failed. When he presented a very real and immediate threat to O'Neill's life, she took appropriate action. His life ended as a direct result of his own actions, and later revelations proved that his behavior was not influenced by any alien control. I feel both her actions and her feelings regarding them are appropriate to the character and to the situation.
If you are seeking accurate and useful information on the subject of domestic violence, I'd like to suggest looking somewhere other than in a sci-fi comedy featuring zombies. Perhaps you should try here instead.
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Stargate™©, Stargate SG-1™©, and related properties are Registered Trademarks of MGM Studios. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, January 2007.