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Fanfiction: One of Us - Part II

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

One of Us - Continued


 

Chapter 5

Thursday, 15.30 Earth time, P3R418

Vala felt the breath catch in her throat as she ran for the Stargate. It was a long way back and Vala was constantly aware of the danger of running into more Hunters. She could feel the bruises on her inner thighs where one of the men had forcibly pinned her down with his own knees. She pushed her churning emotions away. She’d gotten some good punches in and she knew how to fight but she was self-taught and that meant she was vulnerable against trained fighters. Maybe Sam would be able to show her some moves when the other woman healed…

Vala frowned. If only she’d had her Goa’uld healing device, she could have healed Sam’s injuries immediately. She knew the device was valuable and she guessed on some level she understood why General Landry hadn’t wanted her to take it out of the SGC but she couldn’t help feeling that it had been the wrong decision. If she’d healed Sam, the blonde woman could have been running alongside her. Vala wished Sam was with her so strongly that it surprised her and caused her pace to falter slightly. She wobbled on her legs a little as she rounded a corner and almost fell. She kept going. She knew Sam was counting on her to get the warning to the rest of their people before it was too late and Vala felt strangely beholden to ensure that she delivered the message.

The sense of responsibility and duty that suffused her still felt awkwardly strange to Vala, like new clothes she wasn’t quite comfortable in just yet. It remained somewhat of a mystery to her that she had chosen to stay at the SGC. She had given birth to Adria; had been used by the Ori to sneak an advanced being into the Milky Way galaxy and she had found herself in a unique position. She was certain she could reach Adria as her mother and stop the bloodshed. Or rather she hoped because as far as she was aware that was the only reason why the SGC had granted her a place. She found herself strangely determined to succeed; to prove that she was valuable; that she could be part of their elite; that she could be the woman she wanted to be rather than the woman she had become out of necessity.

Amazingly, for the first time in her life she also had someone who believed in her; Daniel. The thought of the archaeologist had a smile tugging on her lips. Daniel was without a doubt the best person she knew. Kind, thoughtful, compassionate if a little pompous and a little too serious; far too apt to take the fate of the galaxy if not the universe on his own shoulders but he was good. He seemed to naturally want to do the right thing; to be a good person. He inspired her although she had resolved never to tell him that, not even under the influence of alcohol, just as she had resolved never to tell him how genuinely fond and, heck, attracted she was to him.

Daniel had made it clear he wasn’t interested despite her teasing. She ignored the twinge of disappointment. When she had been forced into spending time on Earth after the mishap with a couple of Goa’uld prisoner bracelets before her whole trip to the Ori galaxy, she had pretty much offered herself to him on a plate and he’d turned her down. She had wondered at the time if he wasn’t in love with Sam.

He’d spoken of the other woman with such affection and fondness, had extolled her qualities and intelligence that Vala had figured he was exaggerating and must have a thing for her. Of course, then she’d met Sam and realised that the military officer was everything Daniel had claimed she was; a beautiful and brilliant genius who had a kind heart and, interestingly, a quirky sense of humour.

Sam had seemed to be everything Vala was not, Vala mused as she concentrated on running and keeping her balance; Vala had been insanely jealous. It had been clear on the Prometheus as they had watched the Ori’s first attempt at a Supergate that Sam was respected by everyone; they all turned to her for answers. It had occurred to Vala during the long months of her time in the Ori galaxy that while there had been an element of self-sacrifice in executing her plan to stop the Supergate, there had also been a great deal of pique and a large dose of ‘I’ll show them all,’ and in all honesty, she had truly believed that she could ring back to the Prometheus before the scout ship was destroyed.

She had worried about Sam initially after Daniel had brought her back to the SGC. She’d never really gotten along with women so it had been a shock when she’d settled into the SGC infirmary that Sam had been amongst the first to visit her. Even more of a shock that Sam had quietly told her that she couldn’t imagine what Vala had been through with the birth and Adria’s strange development, but that Sam was there for her to talk to if she needed a friendly ear. Vala hadn’t known what to do with the request and she’d haltingly thanked Sam and had never taken her up on it. Sam had continued to simply help and support her whenever she had needed it, whether it had been explaining the uniform or simply offering advice.

It was weird, Vala considered, as she slowed her pace a little; she knew she didn’t want to disappoint Daniel, but actually it was Sam who was the one person that she wanted to impress. Perhaps if she got the message back to the Beta site about the bomb, she would have the other woman’s approval.

Vala skipped over a log and skidded to a halt behind a rock. Ahead of her, the Stargate stood imposing and silent in the forest clearing. The area looked surprisingly empty. She knew better than to assume that it was. Her dark eyes narrowed on the tree-line surrounding the clearing. There was no sign of movement. No sign of any activity. She crept forward.

Nothing.

She took a deep breath and made a run for the Stargate. She stopped in front of the DHD and went to hit the first symbol. No, that was Earth. She pulled her hand back hurriedly. She frowned and hopped about as she tried to remember the Beta site address. She cast her mind back. She had been sitting with Mitchell in Daniel’s office as the SG1 leader took her through standard protocols…

‘So, these are the gate addresses you’ll need to remember.’ Mitchell pushed the photocopied paper across the bench towards her.

Vala frowned at the lines of symbols and pushed it back at him. ‘I already know the address for Earth.’

He pushed it back across to her. ‘You’ll need to learn these off by heart too. We don’t always gate directly back to Earth. In certain situations, we have to gate to the Alpha, Beta or Gamma sites.’

Vala flashed a smile at him. ‘But if I’m with all of you, surely I won’t need to remember them. After all, you all do.’ The paper travelled back to Mitchell.

‘You might be the first to the DHD and we could be taking fire.’

The paper made the journey back to Vala again. She picked it up with a sigh. ‘I have to remember all of them?’

Mitchell sighed and closed his eyes briefly. ‘Yes. All of them.’

Vala pictured the sheet of paper in her mind. ‘Beta…beta…ah!’ She hit the symbols quickly in order. The gate activated and Vala looked at the blue puddle with satisfaction.

She was inputting her IDC when she heard a yell behind her. She turned and her mouth dropped open…the Hunters were pouring from the tree-line; a dozen of them or more. She swore under her breath, sent the IDC and ran for the wormhole. An energy bolt crackled over her head, bullets hit the ground by her feet.

She threw herself into the blue horizon.

Vala landed with a crash on the Beta site ramp. She rolled down it as an energy blast sizzled out of the blue and impacted the wall of the gate room.

‘Close the iris!’ She yelled.

The snick of metal over metal sounded until the Stargate was completely sealed and a loud thump against the metal sounded ominously just before the wormhole disengaged.

Vala felt a strong hand grasp her upper arm and she flinched away before she recognised that it was Teal’c. She gave a weak apologetic look before her gaze darted away. The Beta site gate room was very similar to the SGC, located as it was underground; the main difference was the DHD. Vala’s eyes skipped over the bemused SFs, the Beta site leader, SG3, a number of Tarcadians still being ushered out into the wider complex of the Beta site, over Daniel’s frowning visage and the rest of SG1 before it zeroed in anxiously to the chest in the centre of the gate room.

‘Vala…’ Daniel began.

‘There’s a bomb.’ She blurted out. ‘In the chest.’ She was across the floor and opening the chest up before anyone could stop her.

‘What are you doing?’ Mitchell asked exasperated.

She scooped out the top layer of naquadah and froze at the crude device revealed.

‘What the hell is that?’ Mitchell asked. His eyes widened on the timer that was steadily reducing and was down to what looked like three digits.

‘Bomb.’ Vala said. ‘We ran into Porum and he told us there was a bomb in the chest.’ She gestured at it.

‘Did he tell you how to deactivate it?’ The leader of the Beta site, Colonel Davidson, asked urgently.

Vala shook her head and tried to catch her breath. ‘He was shot by the Hunters.’

‘Order an immediate evacuation.’ Davidson snapped at his XO. ‘And get a bomb disposal unit in here ASAP.’

‘I don’t think there’s going to be time, sir.’ Mitchell said as he knelt by the chest. ‘This thing’s getting ready to blow.’

‘If it blows, the naquadah will magnify the explosion.’ Daniel said worriedly.

‘It will destroy everything in an hundred mile radius.’ Vala confirmed helpfully with a wave of her hand.

‘We must stop the bomb from exploding.’ Teal’c said firmly.

‘I’m open to suggestions here, big guy.’ Mitchell said.

‘How about we get it away from the naquadah?’ Daniel suggested.

‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ Vala said.

Mitchell froze in the act of reaching into the chest to pick up the bomb.

‘Why not?’ Daniel demanded.

‘It could be rigged to explode if you try to remove it.’ Vala pointed out.

Mitchell reached into his vest and retrieved a pair of wire cutters. ‘OK, there’re some wires back here. Maybe I can just disconnect it.’

‘There are four wires, Colonel Mitchell.’ Teal’c observed.

‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ Daniel asked anxiously. ‘If you cut the wrong wire…’

Mitchell shot him a look before turning his attention back to the chest. The timer, such as it was, displayed two digits. They were out of time; he had to make a choice. His cutters moved tentatively toward the red wire…and froze. Maybe it was the black.

‘Try the blue.’ Vala suggested.

He shrugged and went to cut it. A flash of memory shot through his mind…

An alternate Mitchell, who had tried to steal a ZPM from their universe, on the ramp of the SGC, turning back toward the control room. ‘Hey! Mitchell! When the time comes, cut the green one!’

He’d been sure his other self was playing with him but Mitchell’s hand moved of its own accord and as the cutters snapped with a horrible finality around the green wire; he closed his eyes. He reopened them. They were still alive. He looked down at the device. The single digit was flashing; frozen.

‘You did it.’ Vala said wonderingly.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c’s voice held a similar note of disbelief.

Daniel slapped Mitchell’s back heartily and grinned at the Lieutenant Colonel as he stepped away from the device and allowed the bomb squad to take over.

‘Well, I’m no Sam but…’ Mitchell stopped suddenly and frowned. He looked around and his gaze landed back on Vala. ‘Where is Sam?’

‘She’s back on the planet.’ Vala confirmed, gesturing at the Stargate.

They stared at her almost uncomprehendingly.

‘You left her?’ Daniel asked astounded.

‘She was injured,’ Vala hurried to explain, ‘and there…’

‘And again. You left her?’ Daniel’s voice rose an octave as his blue eyes flashed at her angrily.

‘There’s no need to take that tone with me, Daniel.’ Vala said, straightening to glare back at him, although her stomach plummeted at the fury looking back at her. ‘I’m trying to explain.’

He gestured at her wildly. ‘How do you explain leaving an injured team-mate behind?’ He snapped. ‘Tell me.’

‘ Jackson…’ Mitchell tried to intercede.

‘Well, there was no time…’ Vala began hesitantly, her heart pounding in her chest as she searched Mitchell’s and Teal’c’s expressions for support and found none.

‘No time or you just couldn’t be bothered to help her?’ Daniel shouted. ‘We don’t leave our people behind.’

His words echoed off the walls of the gate room and had the members of SG3, the SFs and bomb squad shuffling awkwardly.

Vala paled but she held her position. Her chin inched up proudly. ‘Sam ordered me to get the warning about the bomb to you rather than stay behind and assist getting her to the Stargate. She knew there wasn’t time to do both.’

‘So now you’re blaming her?’ Daniel threw up his hands. ‘You’re unbelievable.’ He paced away from her.

Mitchell looked after him sympathetically and sighed. He rubbed a hand through his brown hair and looked toward the Beta site commander. ‘We’re going to need to go back through to P3R418 immediately, sir.’

‘Colonel, I don’t have the authority to make that call.’ Davidson said regretfully. ‘Vala was taking heavy fire when she arrived back and we’re not equipped for a SAR in hostile conditions.’

‘My team…’ Mitchell began.

‘I have orders to return your team and SG3 to Earth to debrief ASAP about the Tarcadian situation.’ Davidson reminded him. ‘I’m sorry, Colonel.’ He nodded at the SF standing guard over the DHD. ‘You can make your request to General Landry.’

Mitchell’s lips firmed. ‘Yes, sir.’

The wormhole engaged and the SF confirmed the IDC had been sent and received.

Mitchell nodded to SG3, Daniel and Teal’c who all made their way into the wormhole.

Vala tried not to feel hurt as they walked past without acknowledging her at all and she took a step onto the ramp to follow them.

Mitchell caught her arm. ‘You had no choice; they know that.’ He assured her. ‘It’s just…’ he sighed. ‘Sam’s important to them.’

‘I don’t know how to make this right.’ She blurted out.

He patted her shoulder as they walked up the ramp. ‘Landry will authorise the rescue mission.

‘I hope so.’ Vala muttered as they both slid into the blue horizon.

Chapter 6

‘They’re waiting for you all in the briefing room, Colonel.’ Walter Harriman greeted them as they walked down the ramp of the SGC.

Vala glanced at Mitchell who frowned at the Chief Master Sergeant.

‘What’s going on, Walter?’ Mitchell asked, careful to keep his voice low.

‘The IOA insisted on a briefing about the Tarcadians, sir, after receiving Colonel Davidson’s initial report about the evacuation.’ Walter informed him in the same hushed tone.

Mitchell glanced anxiously at Daniel and led the way through to the briefing room, taking the internal stairs up through the control room. Vala was surprised to see Landry, Jack and the IOA overseer, Richard Woolsey, already seated as she took a seat. She was gratified when Mitchell sat down on one side of her and Teal’c on the other. Daniel, it seemed, still hadn’t forgiven her and sat down opposite next to a frowning Jack.

‘Where’s Carter?’ Jack asked bluntly, noting the absence of the blonde military officer straight away.

‘She’s still on P3R418, sir.’ Mitchell responded immediately, his gaze slid to his CO; Landry. ‘We want to request an immediate return to the planet to retrieve her, sir.’

‘Perhaps you could give a brief explanation about why we’ve given refuge to large numbers of our enemy first?’ Woolsey interjected.

Mitchell looked at Landry.

The General glared at Woolsey but nodded at Mitchell. ‘Is Colonel Carter in any immediate danger?’

‘It’s difficult to say, sir.’ Mitchell said.

‘She’s injured and on a planet with assassins intent on killing her.’ Daniel interjected. ‘Yes; she’s in immediate danger.’

Jack’s eyes widened. ‘Injured?’

‘Assassins?!’ Woolsey yelped. ‘There were assassins?’

‘Yes,’ Mitchell spared Woolsey an impatient glance, ‘a group called the Hunters who were hired by the Tarcadians to kill us.’

‘Not all the Tarcadians.’ Daniel jumped in. ‘Just a small group.’

‘The Tarcadians hired someone to kill us…you?’ Woolsey repeated.

‘It may help expedite matters in regards to Carter, Colonel,’ Landry interrupted, ‘if you could start at the beginning.’

Mitchell shifted position a little and clasped his hands on the table in front of him. ‘When we got to P3R418, Daniel had the idea that it might be best to talk to the Council and see whether we could finally convince them the Ori were bad news.’ He began again impatiently. ‘So, he, Carter and Vala went to the Council.’

‘Who authorised that?’ Woolsey demanded.

‘Well, I authorised it.’ Mitchell said.

‘I don’t recall speaking to the Tarcadian Council as being part of your orders, Colonel.’ Woolsey retorted.

‘I authorised Colonel Mitchell and SG1 to pursue other ways of getting the naquadah.’ Jack bit out. ‘Now, can we move on?’ He gestured at Mitchell to continue.

‘The rest of us proceeded as planned to the meeting with the rebels to negotiate for the naquadah.’ Mitchell confirmed. He looked over at Daniel.

‘Right.’ Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose. ‘We talked with the Council leaders Harol and Yan. They’d already started to doubt the Ori when the Orici killed Harol’s son when they refused to give their men to the fight. They told us that the Prior had threatened to destroy the village tomorrow if they didn’t kill us on our next visit. That’s why they told us to leave and never come back; to protect us.’ He explained. ‘They intended hiding in the abandoned mines, hoping that the weapons of the Ori wouldn’t reach them there. We offered them sanctuary.’

‘They’re our enemy.’ Woolsey interjected.

‘No,’ Daniel insisted, ‘they’re a desperate people trying to find salvation after centuries of being ruled by the Goa’uld.’ He shifted position a little. ‘Unfortunately, a small group of the Tarcadians had arranged to pretend to be rebels and trick us into a meeting where they had arranged for assassins to kill us.’ His eyes briefly flickered to Vala. ‘Colonel Carter and Vala went back to foil the ambush on the others while I evacuated the Tarcadians.’

‘Which we did very successfully I might add.’ Vala jumped in.

‘The Tarcadians responsible fled the scene.’ Mitchell added. ‘We examined the bodies of the assassins and Vala recognised them as the Hunters.’

‘An elite army of assassins.’ Vala said as the table turned to look at her again. ‘Very deadly and expensive.’

‘We figured they would be after the naquadah and Colonel Carter discovered a tracking device.’ Mitchell gestured across the table. ‘She managed to modify one to create a jamming device that masked the naquadah. Unfortunately, the device also picked up on Carter and Vala as naquadah…’

‘From our time as hosts,’ added Vala helpfully.

‘…and the jamming device wasn’t able to mask the naquadah, Vala and Carter if they were in the same place.’

‘So you split up.’ Jack stated.

‘Yes, sir.’ Mitchell nodded at the general. ‘Carter and Vala took an alternate route back to the Stargate. We were all scheduled to rendezvous at the Beta site.’

‘So, what happened?’ Jack asked before Landry could get the same question out. They all turned to Vala.

‘Well,’ Vala fidgeted nervously with the end of one of her pigtails, ‘we ran into trouble.’ She took a breath. ‘We came across a group of Hunters beating up on the Tarcadian responsible for the fake meeting and Colonel Carter, and I, decided to help him.’

A look of understanding crossed Jack’s face; he knew Sam and knew she wouldn’t have stood by and let a helpless man be beaten by others. He nodded encouragingly. ‘Go on.’

‘We actually won that fight rather easily.’ Vala said with a hint of smugness. ‘We were telling Porum about evacuating his people when he told us about the bomb.’

‘The bomb?’ Landry questioned.

‘Hidden in the naquadah chest.’ Vala spread her hands out expressively. ‘Apparently, they hadn’t trusted the Hunters to be completely successful so had hidden a bomb inside the naquadah just in case and that it was due to explode.’ She wet her lips. ‘He was about to tell us how to stop it when he was shot by another group of the Hunters.’

Her eyes darkened with the memory of the fight and she focused on the table rather than look at anyone. ‘We ended up fighting hand to hand with three more Hunters.’ Her finger traced along the edge of the wood. ‘Sam won her fight and she shot the men who had me pinned down.’ Her voice was expressionless, devoid of her churning emotions at the memory of fingers grabbing at her, the knowledge of what would have happened…

‘Vala.’ Landry’s gentle prompt had her head snapping up.

‘Sorry,’ she apologised quickly, ‘Sam was injured; she’d sprained her ankle and taken a knife wound to her thigh. I helped her bandage it but then…we realised she wouldn’t be able to make it back to the Stargate and get to the Beta site in time for us to warn the others about the bomb. So, I left her,’ she took a breath, ‘and ran to the Stargate. I only just made it too.’ She noted. ‘There were Hunters everywhere.’

‘Vala managed to get to us just in time for us to stop the bomb.’ Mitchell concluded.

‘Thank God.’ Woolsey exclaimed.

‘A bomb surrounded by that amount of naquadah…’ Landry wondered out loud.

‘It would have destroyed the Beta site and much of the surrounding area.’ Teal’c said sombrely.

Vala nodded vigorously. ‘Sam said the same thing.’

‘Sir, with your permission, I’d like to take a team straight back through to P3R418 and retrieve Colonel Carter.’ Mitchell requested.

‘Permission granted. I’ll inform the Pentagon.’ Landry slapped the table. ‘SG15 and SG3 will accompany you.’

‘Wait a minute.’ Woolsey objected. ‘As much as I personally respect Colonel Carter, are you certain this is necessary?’

‘We don’t leave our people behind.’ Landry said firmly, glaring at Woolsey. He nodded at Mitchell. ‘Gear up, Colonel.’

They all moved off to gear up again and were back in the gate room, waiting for the gate to finish dialling.

Mitchell ran up to the control room where Teal’c, Daniel and Jack were gathered around a monitor. Vala hung back.

‘Chevron seven locked.’ Walter confirmed. ‘MALP is en route. Receiving telemetry.’

A fuzzy image appeared on the scene momentarily; the Stargate surrounded by a group of Hunters. An energy blast caught the MALP and the image disappeared.

‘MALP has been hit.’ Walter confirmed.

‘No kidding,’ remarked Jack, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Mitchell looked at Teal’c. ‘Stun grenades?’

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c commented.

‘You might want to go with some gas too.’ Jack said. ‘It’ll catch those nearest the gate and obscure you from those in the back and at the tree-line.’

‘Good suggestion, sir.’ Mitchell turned to Sergeant Siler by the door.

‘On it, sir.’ Siler ran off to organise the ordinance.

‘Good luck,’ Jack said, his gaze encompassing them all briefly, ‘and bring her back.’

‘We will, O’Neill.’ Teal’c promised.

Mitchell nodded at Jack firmly. ‘Yes, sir.’

‘Everybody, stand down!’ Landry yelled from the stairs. His voice preceded his arrival and they were all staring at him in shock as he entered the control room.

‘Hank?’ Jack asked bemused.

Landry met his eyes regretfully. ‘The rescue mission has been scratched.’

‘By whom?’ Jack asked bitingly.

‘The Pentagon and the IOA.’ Landry answered.

‘But, sir,’ Mitchell began.

‘In my office.’ Landry said bluntly. He led the way before anyone could argue. Jack was at his heels and the rest of SG1 just behind him.

Landry gestured for Vala to close the door and she did, leaning against it.

‘What’s going on?’ Jack asked with mock patience.

‘They won’t authorise the rescue mission.’ Landry stated as he stood behind his desk.

‘Why not?’ Daniel demanded.

‘Put bluntly; they’re not prepared to risk any further casualties in rescuing Colonel Carter.’ Landry explained.

‘That’s just a load of bull…’

‘Jack.’ Landry cut him off.

‘We can’t just be accepting this.’ Daniel protested.

‘I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes arguing with them.’ Landry confirmed. ‘Their minds are made up.’ He sighed. ‘Woolsey told them and the IOA that in his opinion there was still an opportunity for Colonel Carter to make her own way to the Beta site.’

‘She’s injured.’ Daniel pointed out.

‘And the gate surrounded by hostiles.’ Teal’c added. ‘It is unlikely she will be able to make her escape through the Stargate without assistance.’

‘And there’s every chance the Ori will turn up and blast that planet to bits tomorrow if she tries to wait them out.’ Mitchell added.

Vala remained silent; guilt curdling in her stomach uneasily.

‘Sir, with respect,’ Mitchell said, ‘you’ve said yourself Carter’s one of our best bets to win this fight against the Ori. We have to get her back.’

‘I don’t disagree with you, Colonel,’ Landry stated forcefully, ‘but my hands are tied right now. The IOA have said that any indication that we’ve authorised a rescue mission to P3R418 and they will pull the funding.’ He held up his hands. ‘I’m going to continue trying but in the meantime, you’re stood down.’ He took in their disappointed and despondent faces. ‘Get some rest.’

Vala filed out with the rest of the team, noticing absently how Jack stayed behind and the way the raised voices of the Generals could dimly be heard through the door as she made her way slowly to the elevator.

Chapter 7

Vala suffered through the medical check and Doctor Lam’s brisk concern about the position of her bruises. She showered and changed before she stopped by the mess and picked up a tray of food. Nobody was there and she ate in her room alone. For a while, she read some magazines, undisturbed and uninterrupted by anyone. She went in search of Mitchell to see if there was any news but she couldn’t find him in the usual places. Eventually, she headed for the control room where Walter had confirmed there was no change but he knew the General was still trying. She briefly wondered if she should stop by Daniel’s office. It was likely that was where the rest of the team had congregated and decided it against it. Daniel had made it clear that he didn’t want her around and she proudly didn’t want him to see how that hurt her. She retired for bed, dressing in a long, satin nightdress and lay awake in the darkness.

Sam’s pale and blood-splattered face, contorted with pain, haunted her every time she shut her eyes. How could she have left her? Vala berated herself. She should have stayed with Sam; maybe constructed some kind of sled that they could have used as a makeshift stretcher…they might have made it to the Beta site in time to stop the bomb if they had worked together…

She wondered if Sam was cold; if the other woman was still alive. She shuddered at the idea that the Hunters had found the blonde officer. The memory of hands grabbing at her, pulling at her had Vala tossing restlessly. She knew the other woman was a hell of a fighter and it gave Vala some comfort as she hugged her pillow.

Bizarrely, she figured that Sam would have been proud of the fact that Vala had succeeded with her mission. Vala had gotten to the Beta site and delivered the message; the bomb had been disarmed and there had been no explosion. She had done her duty. Vala pushed her hair back from her face. It was a small comfort.

Maybe she didn’t fit in at all with the SGC; maybe she was stupid for even trying. She was used to looking out for herself not caring for others and what happened to them. Survival was hard enough alone…and she was always alone. A tear leaked out of the corner of her eye and she wiped it away furiously, ignoring the loneliness that nibbled at her

It was so unfair, Vala grumbled to herself. If the roles had been reversed and she had been left on the planet, Daniel would have understood; he wouldn’t have been mad at Sam the way he was mad at her. Maybe it would have been better for the universe if it had been her, Vala mused regretfully. Sam would no doubt come up with some brilliant idea to save them from the Ori while she…well, she had the dubious honour of being the mother of a daughter who had just killed someone’s son…She threw back the covers and slipped out of the bed. She changed quickly and headed out into the SGC without a clear idea of where she was going; she only knew if she stayed another minute in her quarters, she was going to go mad.

Vala was surprised when she found herself in the corridor that led to Sam’s lab. She slowed as she approached the open doorway and peeked inside.

Jack’s head snapped to her. The General sat at the central workbench on a tall stool. For a second, he looked devastated before his expression smoothed out, leaving only a tired and grumpy soldier in its wake.

‘I’m sorry.’ Vala said formally, gesturing behind her. ‘I’ll leave.’

‘Stay.’ Jack invited her in with a wide sweep of his arm. ‘There’s plenty enough space for the two of us to brood.’

Vala was about to refuse but she was inside and taking a seat beside Jack before she knew she’d made the decision to stay. ‘I take it they haven’t changed their minds about the rescue?’

‘Nope.’ Jack sighed and shoved a hand through his short, grey hair.

‘What about the President? Can’t he…’

‘He’s in Europe.’ Jack interrupted her. ‘Meetings with Heads of State. Can’t be disturbed. Apparently.’ He shrugged. ‘General Landry’s still trying.’

Vala sighed heavily. ‘This is all my fault.’ She blurted out.

‘Your fault?’ Jack frowned at her.

‘Yes.’ Vala lowered her head dramatically to the bench and covered it with her arms. ‘Go ahead.’ One hand waved at him from above her hair. ‘You can start yelling at me now.’

‘Why would I yell at you?’ Jack asked with such a mixture of bemused frustration and annoyance that Vala’s head jerked up to meet his confused brown eyes.

‘Because I left Sam on the planet.’ She said slowly. ‘This is my fault.’

‘Vala, firstly, knowing Sam she ordered you to leave her…’

‘Well, yes, but…’

‘And secondly, it was the right thing to do.’ Jack gestured at her. ‘You had to get the warning to the Beta site.’

His complete absence of anger at her flummoxed her. ‘You’re not angry with me?’

‘Not at you.’ Jack crossed his arms. ‘I’m pretty pissed with the whole situation.’

‘But I left her behind.’ Vala stuttered. ‘And you don’t leave people behind.’

‘Not as a rule, no.’ Jack agreed. ‘But, honestly, if there are lives at stake and it can’t be helped.’ He shrugged again.

‘This is very confusing.’ Vala complained. ‘I mean, how am I supposed to know when I can leave someone behind and when I can’t?’

‘You just know.’ Jack stated.

‘But I don’t.’ Vala said almost panicked. ‘I thought it was the right thing because Sam told me to leave her and because of the bomb but then Daniel yelled at me and…’

‘And Daniel’s sorry he yelled at you.’

Daniel’s voice had them both looking toward the doorway swiftly where the archaeologist was stood leaning against the doorpost, his arms wrapped tightly around his torso. He straightened and took a step inside the lab.

‘Is that an apology?’ Vala asked bemused.

‘I jumped to conclusions when I yelled at you and I’m sorry.’ Daniel expanded. ‘I was just upset because…’

‘Because it’s Sam.’ Vala completed the sentence.

‘Because it’s someone I care about.’ Daniel corrected her as he slid onto the stool beside her. ‘And because it’s my fault.’

Jack and Vala stared at him.

‘How is this your fault?’ Jack asked astounded.

‘I wanted to go speak with the Tarcadians.’ Daniel said contritely. ‘If we’d all gone to the meeting…’

‘We would have been ambushed and, if we’d survived that, we’d have been blown to bits by the bomb.’ Vala retorted.

‘She has a point.’ Jack said mildly.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c filled the doorway momentarily before he entered. He stood beside Jack on the opposite side of the bench to Daniel and Vala.

‘Couldn’t sleep, Teal’c?’ Jack asked.

‘It is most difficult.’ Teal’c admitted.

Jack patted his old friend on the shoulder comfortingly. The General looked over at Vala. ‘Vala,’ he cleared his throat, ‘you said she was injured…’

‘A sprained ankle and a stab wound.’ Vala confirmed. ‘It was nasty but it didn’t hit anything vital.’

Jack gave a sigh of relief. His brown eyes held hers. ‘The doc said you had bruises?’

‘I’m fine.’ Vala hastily assured him. ‘Sam saved me.’

‘She is a great warrior.’ Teal’c said assuredly.

‘That she is.’ Jack commented lightly although his eyes remained worried.

The sound of footsteps running down the corridor had all four of them stirring worriedly.

Mitchell skidded to a halt in the doorway. ‘General Landry just got off the phone with the President,’ he gasped for breath as his bright blue eyes gleamed at them happily. ‘He had the President speak with Woolsey. We’ve got the go ahead for the rescue mission but only with volunteers.’

All of them moved as one; the rescue mission was back on. The sleepy SGC seemed to suddenly spring to life as gear was organised and the volunteers changed ready to head to P3R418.

Vala looked up from zipping up her vest to see a bemused Landry walk into the packed gate room. He looked questioningly at Mitchell.

‘You asked for volunteers for Carter’s rescue mission, sir.’ Mitchell said. He waved a hand from atop his P90. ‘Everyone here…volunteered.’

‘Hank.’ Jack greeted Landry as he stepped around the SGC commander.

Landry’s eyes widened at Jack’s BDU and weapon. ‘Jack?’

Jack grinned. ‘I’m volunteering.’

‘Glad to have you on board, sir.’ Mitchell said with a smile.

Landry looked around. His mouth dropped open slightly at the sight of Siler and Walter geared up, ready for battle. Landry looked over at Jack who simply smiled back at him.

‘What’s going on here?’ Woolsey’s strident voice sounded over the gate room babble.

‘They’re all volunteers for Colonel Carter’s rescue.’ Landry told him briskly.

‘But…but…’ Woolsey spluttered. ‘They can’t all go.’

‘You heard the President, Woolsey. Volunteers can go.’ Landry said cheerfully.

‘I don’t believe all these people want to rescue one person.’ Woolsey argued.

‘With respect, sir,’ Reynolds spoke up before anyone else had the chance, ‘there is not a single person at the SGC who would not willingly help rescue Colonel Carter. She’d do the same for anyone of us.’

Woolsey flushed; Samantha Carter had saved his life too.

Jack gave a nod at the SG3 leader. ‘Well said, Reynolds.’ He said firmly. ‘And this isn’t just about Carter.’ Jack’s eyes met Woolsey’s challengingly. ‘We’d all do the same for any one of us.’ He slapped his green cap on as the wormhole exploded out. ‘We don’t leave our people behind.’

Chapter 8

Jack headed for the control room with the rest of SG1.

‘The MALP is en route.’ The technician, Garrison, confirmed.

They looked at the monitor expectantly. The image flickered and stabilised. Garrison altered the vision settings and they could see the Stargate clearing with the same clarity as though it was daylight.

‘Are the Hunters still there guarding the gate?’ Daniel asked urgently.

‘Yeah,’ Jack tapped a blob in the background, ‘they’ve made camp.’

‘But no look-out.’ Mitchell noted.

‘There is one.’ Teal’c pointed at a lump behind the DHD. ‘He is sleeping.’ Disgust coated his voice at the sloppiness of the look-out.

‘Well, that works in our favour.’ Vala said happily.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c allowed.

Jack took the mike. ‘Carter, do you read?’

There was a long wait and Vala felt her heart sink at the lack of reply.

‘Carter, can you read me?’ Jack radioed again. ‘Sam?’

The speakers crackled to life. ‘Sir?’

They all breathed a sigh of relief and Vala smiled as Daniel slapped Teal’c hard eliciting a raised eyebrow from the Jaffa.

‘What’s your location, Carter?’ Jack asked with renewed confidence.

‘I’m hiding just outside the clearing for the Stargate, sir. It’s being guarded by the Hunters. I counted fifteen hostiles in total.’ Sam answered. ‘Did Vala…’

‘She made it the Beta site and got the bomb.’ Jack confirmed. ‘What’s your condition? You feel up to creating a little diversion?’

‘What do you need?’ Sam replied.

‘An explosion in the opposite direction to the Stargate in twenty minutes?’ Jack suggested.

‘You can count on me, sir.’ Sam said.

‘I always do.’ Jack quipped. ‘We’ll see you in twenty.’ He nodded at the technician and they disconnected the wormhole.

‘Are you sure she’s going to be up to creating a diversion?’ Landry asked bluntly.

‘It’s Carter.’ Jack said by way of explanation.

It was an anxious wait; they went over the plan and finessed it before they dialled into the planet fifteen minutes later. SG3 went first with SG15. They slipped silently into the darkness and took covering positions around the clearing. Jack and the rest of SG1 were next out of the wormhole and they took cover behind a rock. The rest of the volunteers sneaked into position and the wormhole winked out.

Jack checked his watch. ‘Now would be perfect, Carter.’

There was a massive explosion in the tree-line; an orange ball of flames that reached into the night sky and lit up the Stargate.

‘When Sam creates a diversion, she really creates a diversion.’ Vala commented as she swung around with the rest and started to fire at the Hunters who were pouring from the tents into the clearing.

‘Sam, what’s your position?’ Mitchell radioed.

‘To the right of your position.’ Sam answered. ‘On the edge of the clearing.’

‘Got her.’ Daniel said locating her with the radio signal. He pointed at the area in question.

‘Let’s go.’ Jack ordered. He was already on his feet and moving.

Vala kept pace with Daniel; Teal’c and Mitchell covered them from the rear. Jack was already with Sam when Vala and Daniel reached them. Sam’s hand was clutched in Jack’s tightly as he helped her move into a position where he could pick her up.

Vala knelt down beside her. ‘Wait.’ She said. ‘I have something that will help.’ She undid the zipper of her jacket and drew out the Goa’uld healing device. She focused on sending her energy through the device as she held it over Sam’s leg. It activated with a golden glow and Sam gave a low moan as she started to feel the torn flesh and muscle knit together. ‘That should do it.’ Vala said. She stood up and swayed. Teal’c steadied her and she gave him a bright smile. ‘Thanks, Muscles.’

Jack helped Sam to her feet and she tested her weight on her leg. He motioned for Daniel to support her on the opposite side.

Across the clearing, the Stargate activated as SG3 dialled home.

‘Guys, we have to go!’ Mitchell yelled as an energy bolt hit the ground where they were standing.

They staggered back across the clearing. Teal’c and Mitchell providing cover for them as Jack and Daniel helped Sam limp through the blue wormhole, Vala beside them. They moved quickly down the ramp out of the way as SG3 and SG15 raced through. Teal’c and Mitchell had stayed to continue cover fire and they were the last to return.

‘Close the iris.’ Mitchell yelled as he walked backwards down the ramp.

Sam was already being helped onto an infirmary gurney as Landry entered. ‘Colonel.’ He smiled at her. ‘It’s nice to have you back with us.’

‘Nice to be back, sir.’ Sam said tiredly.

Doctor Lam frowned as she examined her. ‘I thought you had a knife wound to the thigh.’

Landry looked at Vala accusingly.

Vala gestured apologetically. ‘I may have healed the stab wound to ensure our departure had the best possible chance of success.’

‘And who gave you the authority to remove the healing device from its safe?’ Landry asked.

‘I did.’ Jack, Sam and Mitchell spoke in unison.

Jack winced but smiled apologetically at Landry as he looked knowingly at all three of them. Daniel shot Teal’c a wry smile.

‘I still need to get her to the infirmary.’ Lam nodded at her medics and Landry moved out of the way as Sam was wheeled past.

Jack followed them out and Landry turned to the waiting gate room.

‘That’s a job well done, people.’ He announced. ‘We’ve organised an early breakfast.’ He grinned at the cheer that went up and disappeared back into the control room; the paperwork still had to be done.

Daniel turned to Vala. ‘You hungry?’

‘Starving,’ announced Vala.

Daniel suddenly looked at her sharply. ‘For food, right?’

‘Of course, Daniel.’ Vala grinned. ‘What else?’ She breezed past him jauntily.

Epilogue

Vala heard the knock on her door and scrambled off her bed to answer it, leaving the magazine she was reading behind her. She stared in shock at Sam. The military officer had been absent from the SGC for the previous week recovering from exposure, so Vala was surprised to see her but besides that, she didn’t think the other woman had visited her in her quarters before.

‘Can I come in?’ Sam asked. She brought her arms forward, revealing the bottle of wine and two glasses that she carried. ‘General Landry said I could bring a present.’

Vala stepped back and allowed Sam to enter.

Sam sat cross-legged on the bed and took the cap off the bottle, pouring a large glass of wine for Vala and herself. Vala climbed back onto the bed and took the glass from Sam a little cautiously.

‘Cheers.’ Sam said and presented her glass to Vala.

Vala tapped it gently with her own. ‘Cheers.’ She took a sip and watched Sam do the same. ‘So, not that this isn’t nice but…’

‘Why am I here?’ Sam asked. She set the glass down on the bed, keeping hold of it to prevent it from tipping over. She smiled a little hesitantly. ‘I wanted to say thank you.’

‘What for?’ Vala asked.

‘Healing me.’ Sam said simply.

‘I didn’t heal you completely.’ Vala pointed out.

Sam gestured with her wine glass. ‘You healed the worst of it. Actually, I wanted to ask you if you would teach me how to use the Goa’uld healing device.’

Vala raised her eyebrows. ‘I rather got the impression you didn’t like using it.’

‘I don’t.’ Sam admitted. Her fingers plucked at the coverlet on the top of the bed. ‘It hasn’t worked when I’ve tried in the past. My Dad and Selmak tried to teach me but they weren’t around for long enough stretches of time for it to make a difference.’ She shrugged. ‘I never had the benefit of seeing Jolinar use it.’

‘It’s weird, isn’t it?’ Vala murmured. ‘Being an ex-host.’

Sam nodded. ‘We’ve both survived though.’

‘Yes.’ Vala nodded and drank some of her wine. ‘We have.’

‘And we kicked butt back on the planet.’ Sam topped up the glasses.

Vala gestured at her. ‘You kicked butt. You should probably teach me some of those moves you used in exchange for the healing device lessons.’

‘It’s a martial art.’ Sam said with a smile. ‘And I’ll be happy to teach you.’

‘I take it you heard about P3R418?’ Vala asked.

Sam nodded. ‘General O’Neill told me before he went back to Washington that the Prior carried out his threat even though the Tarcadians weren’t there. On the plus side, the Tarcadians have agreed we can reuse whatever resources are left on P3R418.’

‘Is that a plus?’ Vala asked idly.

‘Definitely.’ Sam smiled wickedly. ‘The beam the Ori ship emitted caused a reaction in the naquadah, turning it into naquadria. We’ll have enough to power the ships we have for a long while.’

‘Wow.’ Vala blinked. She sat up a little. ‘Sam…’

‘Hmmm?’

‘I just wanted to,’ Vala took a large gulp of the wine. ‘I just wanted to apologise for leaving you behind.’

Sam stared at her in surprise. ‘You had to leave. If you hadn’t, the others wouldn’t have known about the bomb.’

‘I know but I didn’t realise that leaving someone behind was such a big deal.’ Vala stared at her wine.

‘Hmmm.’ Sam peered over the top of her glass at the brunette. ‘I tell you what, how about we add lessons on the rules around here and fitting in with Earth customs to our deal?’

‘I think I’m getting the best out of this deal.’ Vala noted. ‘Not that I’m complaining.’

Sam smiled. ‘I don’t mind.’ She took a sip of wine and gestured at Vala. ‘You know it must be strange for you.’

Vala looked at her questioningly.

‘Having to consider others.’ Sam said bluntly. ‘I get the impression you’ve been alone a long time.’

‘Yes…’ Vala’s voice faltered and she shrugged. ‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘Well, you’re not alone anymore.’ Sam pointed out. ‘You’re one of us now.’

Vala felt tears prick the back of her eyes at the unequivocal acceptance. She set the wine glass down to fan her face in a desperate attempt not to cry.

Sam set her own glass down and reached across to hug Vala. ‘Hey.’ She rubbed the back of Vala’s back briskly. ‘You’re ruining your image as a tough cookie.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be.’ Sam said. She eased back and handed Vala a tissue. ‘You should know as part of our first lesson in Earth customs that crying is completely allowed on a girl’s night.’

‘A girl’s night?’ Vala asked as she blew her nose noisily.

‘A girl’s night.’ Sam picked up the wine glasses. ‘It’s an Earth custom.’

‘So what else do you do?’ Vala asked, taking her glass back from Sam.

‘Drink wine,’ Sam raised her glass, ‘eat ice-cream, gossip about the boys,’ she gave a wicked grin, ‘and discuss the best way to kick butt.’

Vala smiled widely. ‘I think I’m going to like this custom.’

fin.


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