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Fanfiction: Salvage Operations

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S4 Point of No Return
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sam/Jack UST.  Team friendship.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Salvage Operations


Jack O’Neill breathed a sigh of relief as he followed Teal’c down the ramp. He glanced to his side to check on the man – or should that be alien – beside him. He shook his head a little in disbelief. He had originally written the funny little man off as a stereotypical conspiracy geek with delusions of being an alien but Martin Lloyd had actually turned out to be the real deal. He felt a pang of sympathy at Marty’s downcast expression; his home planet lay in ruins; a wasteland left behind after a war with the Goa’uld.

Jack’s eyes briefly moved to the remaining members of SG1 at the bottom of the ramp. The doctor had banned Daniel Jackson and Samantha Carter from the mission given they had been drugged earlier that day when Marty’s unfriendly compatriots had taken them hostage. He pushed away the memory of his sharp anxiety when his two team-mates had gone missing; of the guilty feeling that his decidedly personal decision to team the two of them had been a mistake; of the momentary panic at finding them tied up and almost unconscious. They were safe that was the important thing. His eyes rested warmly if fleetingly on his female team-mate and he tried not to notice the way Sam’s gaze remained fixed to somewhere over his left shoulder.

They were both trying to adjust back to their military relationship following a mission where their memories had been blocked and in their new identities they’d had no knowledge of all the reasons why they shouldn’t be close; no reason to know the love they shared wasn’t allowed. They’d luckily hadn’t taken that relationship further than a loving friendship but it had been a heck of a lot closer than they usually allowed themselves given their military ranks. Replacing the invisible barriers between them hurt more than Jack would ever admit and it was proving more difficult that he had anticipated.

Jack shoved his thoughts of Sam aside and pulled his cap off as they drew to a halt. He raked his fingers through his hair, disturbing the short grey strands, and waved the cap at his waiting commanding officer. ‘There’s nothing much there, sir.’

‘The Goa’uld destroyed the planet.’ Teal’c informed General Hammond briskly. His dark eyes were sombre and Jack wondered if the Jaffa was remembering his past as Apophis’s First Prime, of other planets that were laid to waste.

‘They did a bang up job.’ Jack added caustically.

‘I really can’t go back.’ Martin blurted out despondently. ‘It’s all gone.’

‘We’re sorry, Martin.’ Daniel said, his blue eyes gleaming sincerely behind his glasses.

‘Really sorry.’ Sam added.

Hammond’s face creased with compassionate understanding. ‘I don’t imagine that was an easy experience for you, son.’

‘What will happen to me now?’ Martin asked despondently.

‘Why don’t you get yourselves changed and checked out in the infirmary?’ Hammond said. ‘We’ll reconvene in the briefing room as soon as you’re done.’

Jack patted Marty’s shoulder. ‘Come on.’ He gave a sharp nod to the others and led the way to the infirmary, absently handing back his weapons on his way.

The post-mission checks were done swiftly and Jack hurried Marty into the locker rooms to change. Jack was impatient to be done with the day; he wanted to get home. He hurried a redressed Marty back to the briefing room as soon as he could.

The first thing he noticed was that Sam and Daniel weren’t present. Hammond sat at the head of the briefing table, evidently tackling a stack of paperwork that was spread out over the shining top.

The General looked up as Jack directed a nervous Marty into a chair and sat one side of him as Teal’c took the other. He caught Jack’s questioning glance at the empty seats. ‘I don’t believe either Doctor Jackson or Major Carter is needed for this debriefing.’ He explained.

Jack nodded understandingly. Neither of them had visited the planet and he had been the one who had spent the most time with Marty.

Hammond waited until they had completely settled before he set aside his pen and clasped his hands atop the folder in front of him. His piercing blue eyes pinned Marty who huddled down into the chair as though he was trying to disappear.

‘I’d like to begin by once again conveying my sympathies for the loss of your world.’ Hammond said seriously. ‘It couldn’t have been easy to have seen that.’

Marty nodded jerkily almost dislodging his oversize glasses. His fingers fidgeted with the zipper on his beige jacket.

‘There is the matter that you raised in the gate room, namely what happens to you now.’ Hammond continued smoothly.

Jack repressed the urge to slap Marty’s hand away from the metal tab as Marty pulled it up and down relentlessly. He reached for the jug of water in the centre of the table and poured a glass of water to distract himself, absently noticing that Teal’c had raised an eyebrow as Marty continued to fiddle with the zip. Jack wished Sam was present so they could share the amusement he felt at the Jaffa’s evident disapproval. He took a gulp of water.

‘I’m not averse to offering you a position with this command.’ Hammond said calmly.

Jack choked, coughing water over the table messily. He hurriedly dragged a tissue out of his pocket and mopped it up. ‘Really?’ He asked Hammond in complete disbelief.

Hammond looked at him pointedly.

‘Uh, no offence here, Marty.’ Jack said before turning back to the General. ‘But really?’

‘Colonel O’Neill’s right, General.’ Marty said with a regretful sigh. ‘I’m afraid I’m not very much of a soldier.’

‘You must have had some role on the ship? A technician, perhaps?’ Hammond said kindly. ‘I understand the ship we found was very advanced. We would appreciate any knowledge you would be able to share with us.’

‘I’m sorry but I don’t think I can help you.’ Marty said miserably. ‘I don’t really know how any of it actually works.’

‘I see.’ Disappointment flickered over Hammond’s round face.

‘I used to work in my mother’s shop before the war.’ Marty explained. ‘I was going to be a writer only I…’

‘Marty.’ Jack cut him off determinedly.

‘Well,’ Hammond said trying to maintain a positive tone, ‘I don’t see any reason why you can’t return to your life here on Earth.’

‘Really?’ Jack blurted out again, surprised.

Hammond glared at him.

‘Sorry, sir.’ Jack made an apologetic grimace.

Hammond sighed and turned his attention back to Marty. ‘You have an established identity. I don’t believe your, er, friends will bother you further. After all, if their concern was that you would give away their presence, well…that bird has flown.’

‘I guess.’ Marty said doubtfully.

‘I think it would be for the best.’ Jack said firmly. ‘Maybe you’ll settle here more now you know the truth.’

‘What do you think, Murray?’ Marty turned to the Jaffa on his other side.

‘I too believe this is the best decision.’ Teal’c stated clearly.

‘Obviously, we would check on you occasionally and we would expect you to keep the presence of the Stargate and this programme confidential.’ Hammond added.

‘Of course.’ Marty agreed quickly. ‘I promise you, General, I’m very good at keeping secrets.’

Jack exchanged a look of disbelief with Teal’c.

Hammond stood up and waved an Airman forward. ‘We’ll make arrangements for you to be taken home.’

Marty stumbled to his feet as Jack and Teal’c stood up either side of him. ‘I guess this is goodbye.’

‘I guess.’ Jack said, trying to keep his happiness at Marty’s imminent departure at an acceptable level in front of him.

Marty sprang forward and wrapped Jack in a tight hug.

‘Marty.’ Jack yelped.

‘I can call you, right?’ Marty asked desperately.

‘No.’ Jack peeled the smaller man off him.

‘I’m afraid the Colonel is correct, Mister Lloyd.’ Hammond said formally. ‘Any contact between you and Colonel O’Neill would risk the Stargate programme being discovered.’

‘Oh.’ Marty looked crestfallen. He turned toward Teal’c and the Jaffa stood stoically as he was hugged. ‘I’m going to miss you, Murray.’

Teal’c glowered at Jack who was trying not to laugh. ‘It has been…an experience, Martin Lloyd.’

Marty let go. He glanced at the General but refrained from hugging him. ‘Thank you. For everything.’

Hammond nodded.

They watched as Marty reluctantly made his way to the waiting Airman. He turned in the doorway and gave a tentative wave.

Jack waved back and gave a deep sigh of relief as the other man disappeared.

‘I suggest you both call it a day too. Your reports will wait until tomorrow. You’re dismissed.’ Hammond said generously.

Jack didn’t wait to be told twice. ‘Thank you, sir.’ He and Teal’c made their way into the corridor and waited for the elevator.

‘It has been a most unusual mission.’ Teal’c commented.

‘Yeah.’ Jack stuck his hands in his pockets. He glanced across at the Jaffa. ‘Who knew they’d be aliens living on Earth?’ His brown eyes twinkled as the elevator arrived and they got inside the small compartment.

‘I believe the magazine I was reading in the motel was most knowledgeable on the subject, O’Neill.’ Teal’c commented, his own eyes gleaming.

‘Don’t believe everything you read, Teal’c.’ Jack noted dryly.

‘Yet was it not correct?’ Teal’c pointed out as he clasped his hands behind his back. ‘Are there not aliens amongst you?’

Jack gaped at him a little. ‘That’s not the point.’

Teal’c’s lips curved almost imperceptibly.

‘Funny, Teal’c.’ Jack wagged his finger at him. They got out and started walking to the locker room. Jack’s pace slowed. He’d forgotten to do something; something important.

He hadn’t checked on Carter.

He stopped dead.

He hadn’t checked on Sam even though she had been taken hostage and drugged. And Daniel, he mentally added quickly; he hadn’t checked on Daniel either.

Teal’c looked back at him surprised. ‘Are you alright, O’Neill?’

‘Fine.’ Jack muttered. He gestured behind him. ‘I just forgot…something. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Teal’c nodded and Jack headed to the elevator. He was inside before he questioned whether he should actually check on Sam. It wasn’t unusual for a CO to check on a team member after a hard mission but maybe he shouldn’t. They were both struggling with putting some distance between them. He shoved his hands through his hair in frustration. The doors slid open and he stared at the corridor for a long moment.

Jack reached forward slowly and pressed the button to take him back up the mountain.

o-O-o

There was an eerie sense of déj vu as Jack took a seat next to Teal’c at the briefing room table early the next morning. Sam was already sitting across from him next to Daniel. He missed sitting next to her, Jack thought wistfully. He usually pulled his chair closer to hers, enough so that he could ‘accidentally’ touch her without it being too obvious or occasionally he’d catch the soft scent of her shampoo. Suddenly, she looked over at him as though she’d sensed his thoughts and their eyes caught. For a second, the same wistful longing shone back at him before she lowered her gaze to the table. He did the same with a gut-wrenching sense of loss that he was becoming accustomed to feeling. He wondered when it would stop.

Hammond’s office door opened and Jack got to his feet. The General waved at them all to sit as he took his usual place. ‘I’m sorry to call you in early but the Pentagon wanted this mission to happen asap.’

‘May I ask what mission?’ Jack said bluntly. ‘Sir.’ He added respectfully as Hammond looked at him.

‘The Joint Chiefs feel that we should return and examine Martin Lloyd’s home planet more thoroughly.’ Hammond explained.

Jack recognised his tone as being the one Hammond used when he had been given an order he didn’t agree with it.

‘General, the place was a complete mess. There’s nothing there. Nothing. Nadda.’ Jack gestured with his hand.

‘It is most unlikely that the Goa’uld left anything of value.’ Teal’c added. His point made, he leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his stomach.

‘The Pentagon feels differently.’ Hammond said evenly. ‘The initial data gathered from the ship the Colonel found with Martin Lloyd here on Earth has convinced the Pentagon that it would be worth exploring the planet. They were evidently advanced, capable of interplanetary travel. There may be documents or some other kind of data storage left behind.’

‘From what Teal’c described all the major buildings were in ruins.’ Daniel spoke up quietly. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I’m an archaeologist and I’m all for studying lost civilisations but this just feels…’ he paused as he searched for an appropriate description.

Jack felt compelled to supply it. ‘Like a colossal waste of time?’

‘Colonel…’

‘With respect, sir, I think the Colonel could be right.’ Sam flushed as Hammond’s surprised gaze snapped to her. ‘The MALP didn’t pick up any unusual readings that would indicate an energy source and the pictures we received show there are no buildings remaining in the immediate area.’

‘Believe me when I say I understand your point of view and your objections are noted.’ Hammond said wearily.

‘Um,’ Daniel raised his hand, ‘aren’t Sam and I still technically off the active list?’

‘Doctor Fraiser has cleared you.’ Hammond got to his feet and SG1 followed. ‘We have our orders, people. You leave as soon as you’re geared up. You’re scheduled to stay for twenty-four hours and return tomorrow. Usual check-ins.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Jack said morosely.

Hammond left.

Jack looked around at his unenthusiastic team. ‘Let’s gear up.’

o-O-o

Sam always took advantage of the moment when she assessed the immediate area to catch her breath. They might have gotten used to wormhole travel but it had really never gotten any easier. She kept a firm grip on her gun and ignored the weight of the pack on her shoulders as her attention fixed on her immediate surroundings.

Teal’c stood front and centre; staff weapon was at a diagonal angle indicating the Jaffa had not completed his own check but hadn’t seen anything to immediately cause alarm. She could see the Colonel just to the side of Teal’c, gun poised. Daniel was behind her, wiping his glasses on a handkerchief but she knew he was reviewing the clearing for danger the same as the rest of them. Gone were the days when the archaeologist would lurch out of the wormhole oblivious.

The staff weapon moved to a vertical position and Sam relaxed as her own check turned up nothing. She started to look at the surrounding area from a completely different perspective. Her eyes were already matching what she saw to the pictures from the MALP; the devastation was worse up close. She shivered. This world had been more advanced than Earth and it had been razed to the ground. She suddenly felt incredibly fortunate that they had defeated Apophis’s initial attack; had made friends with the Asgard which provided them with the bluff of their protection.

‘OK, campers.’ Jack said without turning around. ‘Any suggestions?’

‘We could follow the, uh, track.’ Daniel pointed at the remains of some kind of overhead transport system. ‘It would probably lead into the centre of the, uh, city.’

Sam refrained from the obvious question of what city…the rubble in front of them had to have been a city once.

Jack looked back at Daniel and nodded. ‘OK. Teal’c, take point. Carter, you’ve got our six.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam replied crisply.

They fell into a single formation; Teal’c followed by Jack with Daniel in the middle. She recognised it as their usual order when the Colonel was being cautious or sensing trouble; the strongest warriors at the front (and even she conceded that point), third strongest at the back with the civilian neatly sandwiched. It had the advantage in a frontal attack that the two people most used to dialling home would be able to retreat with the two most experienced soldiers up front providing cover while having a contingency for an attack from the rear.

She looked at the silent rocks and ruins. It was spooky but there was no hint of something that would have triggered the Colonel’s radar. Cautious, Sam decided. The planet had been destroyed by the Goa’uld after all. Of course the formation also provided a nice Daniel barrier between her and the Colonel.

Focus, Sam berated herself harshly. She was off-world and although there was no sign of trouble she knew how quickly that could change. She needed to keep her personal stuff back at base. Her blue eyes flickered to the Colonel. It would be easier, she acknowledged wryly, if the primary reason for her personal stuff had remained there too. She shook herself inwardly again.

This was exactly why the regulations existed; so soldiers wouldn’t get distracted by personal relationships and the multitude of issues that went with them out in the field, so they wouldn’t make decisions for reasons that had nothing to do with strategy or tactics to complete the mission. Sam sighed. When she’d first realised the strength of her feelings for the Colonel she had debated whether to request a transfer but then she had figured she was closer to all her team-mates than the regulations strictly allowed and she had somehow convinced herself she could handle it.

And she had.

Even when she had realised that the Colonel returned her feelings.

They had both agreed the mission and the team came first and she had been determined to meet her side of that agreement. Of course, there had been the incident with the armbands when he wouldn’t leave her and their subsequent za’tarc confessions but even then they had agreed to keep everything in the room, to continue on. She truly believed they had been doing OK; balancing their feelings and their positions.

Until the mission to P3R118 when they had been subjected to a memory block. They had forgotten the regulations, forgotten all the reasons why they shouldn’t get too close. They had primarily been friends but close friends who loved each other and knew one day they would be lovers. It had been a shock to regain their memories and realise the truth again. Their retreat from each other hurt. It felt like she had lost her best friend and in some ways, Sam acknowledged, she had. She liked to think that she and the Colonel were friends but actually being friends without the regulations had opened her eyes to how constrained their usual relationship actually was. It was difficult to go back to those constraints and remember not to touch each other too much; not to smile at each other or confide in each other…not to love each other openly again.

Sam’s eyes flickered to the Colonel. She wasn’t blind to the fact that Jack was hurting too. He kept up a good front – better than hers, she believed – but she hadn’t missed the wistful longing in some of the looks or the way he would catch himself about to touch her and draw back occasionally. She hadn’t been surprised that he kept teaming her with Daniel or Teal’c; had rarely visited her lab, or sat next to her in the few days they had been back. She knew he was giving her space or maybe keeping his distance; she knew they both needed it.

It still hurt.

Suck it up, Sam said to herself bluntly. She knew Hammond was looking to make sure they did make the shift back to their military relationship. If she wanted to stay on SG1, if they were going to do the right thing by their planet and for their mission, she had to get a grip. The problem was that holding to their duty and honour had been so much easier, she reflected, when they hadn’t known just how good they would be together; when they hadn’t known they as a couple would work. After all, they couldn’t risk the safety of the planet on an unknown…but now?

Nothing had changed, she reminded herself. Earth was still in danger; still at risk. SG1 worked as a team and was part of the reason why Earth stayed safe. Maybe that seemed arrogant but she believed it, believed that her team fully lived up to the maxim that a team was more than the sum of its parts. She would usually be the first to demur at the idea that she was irreplaceable but she figured where SG1 was concerned, replace one of them and that equation would change, and they couldn’t risk it changing for the worse. So, if her being on SG1 saved her planet from the kind of devastation that was all around them, how could she do anything but do what they were doing; trying to forget how good it had been between her and Jack and go back?

The path opened up suddenly into a large square. Sam’s eyes widened at the wrecked buildings on every side, and the remains of some kind of statue in the centre. It looked like they had reached the city centre.

‘Daniel?’ Jack called the archaeologist forward.

‘Jack.’ Daniel said, moving to stand beside the Colonel. He took off his glasses and peered at the buildings around them.

‘’Any suggestions?’ Jack prompted irritably.

Daniel shrugged. ‘If this was the city centre, some of the buildings are likely to be municipal and they would have records of some kind. It’s possible one of these,’ he waved at the ruins, ‘is a library.’

‘Great.’ Jack muttered despondently. He shifted his weapon and tugged his cap down harder. ‘Carter, Teal’c; you guys take the left. Daniel and I will go right. Stay in radio contact.’

Sam repressed the urge to grimace. He’d teamed her with Teal’c again. Big surprise. Not that she minded Teal’c; they worked well together and she was very fond of the Jaffa. It was just…she wondered if the Colonel would ever team with her again. She pushed away the thought and refocused. She fell into step beside Teal’c as they made their way to the crumpled walls to the left.

Three large buildings, Sam noted. The first hadn’t survived the Goa’uld attack at all; it was a heap of what appeared to be the planet’s version of concrete and steel. The second and third had more potential. The second was missing its roof and the upper floors. It didn’t look particularly safe. The third was mainly upright.

Without discussion, Sam and Teal’c made for the third building. Teal’c stepped up a lower window and peered inside. Sam examined the outside with a frown. The doorway had unusual lettering over the arch. Not English and she didn’t recognise it as Goa’uld or any number of other languages they had come across.

‘Teal’c.’

The Jaffa moved back to her side.

‘Do you recognise the language?’ Sam pointed at the lettering.

‘I do not.’ Teal’c said. He hefted his staff weapon and pointed at the window he had been looking in. ‘The building seems intact inside.’

Sam nodded and reached for her radio. ‘Colonel.’

The radio crackled. ‘Yeah, Carter.’

‘We’ve found an intact building. We’re going inside to take a look.’

‘Watch your step and check in every ten minutes.’

‘Understood. Over and out.’ Sam nodded at Teal’c. ‘Let’s go.’

o-O-o

Daniel watched as Jack lowered his hand from his radio. Given Jack’s grimace, he figured that the military man wasn’t all that keen on Sam disappearing into the ruins of a building even with Teal’c as back-up. He swallowed the urge to reassure Jack, knowing the other man wouldn’t appreciate being reminded either of his worry or of his less than professional feelings for Sam. He sighed and dragged his mind back to the mission.

The buildings in front of them were mainly upright but they did look as though they had been gutted with fire.

‘So, door number one, two or three?’ Jack asked lightly, gesturing at the doors in question.

‘Why don’t we try that one?’ Daniel pointed at the door to the building that looked safest.

‘Door number two it is.’ Jack pushed open the heavy wood and stepped into the gloom. He switched his flashlight on. Daniel scrambled in his pack for his and followed suit, hurriedly hoisting the rucksack back onto his shoulder.

The hallway was small; a narrow corridor led to the back of the building while a staircase disappeared upwards. There was smoke damage everywhere.

‘I think we should stay on the ground.’ Jack said. ‘I’m not sure the upper floors will take our weight.’

‘Maybe you should cut back on the cake in future.’ Daniel murmured.

Jack’s head whipped around and he stared at Daniel with reluctant amusement. ‘Funny, Daniel.’

Daniel smiled and started down the corridor.

Jack caught hold of his vest and stopped him. ‘Me first.’

The archaeologist made a sweeping motion with his arm in acquiescence. Jack moved forward. It got darker the further they travelled into the building. Creepy, Daniel thought and as much as he hated to admit it, he was glad of Jack’s steady presence in front of him.

‘You what’s odd?’ Jack said suddenly.

‘Your hair?’ Daniel retorted without thinking.

Jack’s head swivelled back to him and Daniel caught the glower on the other man’s face in the torchlight. ‘You forget your coffee this morning?’

Daniel shrugged. ‘Sorry. You were saying?’

‘There’s no bodies.’ Jack observed. ‘The whole walk here; nothing in the building. No bodies.’

‘Isn’t that a good thing?’ Daniel pointed out. ‘I mean, it’s creepy enough without decaying corpses.’

‘OK,’ Jack agreed, ‘but it’s odd.’

‘Not really.’ Daniel said absently. ‘The Goa’uld probably took any survivors as slaves and it looks like they decimated the planet. Fires probably took the care of any, uh, bodies.’

‘Well, I feel better.’ Jack said sarcastically.

‘That’s why I don’t think we’ll find anything.’ Daniel continued, ignoring the comment.

‘I thought you liked this kind of mission.’ Jack said. ‘You know poking around in ruins; learning about a lost civilisation; seems like your thing.’

Daniel shrugged again, forgetting Jack couldn’t see him. ‘We’re not here to learn anything; we’re just here to pick through the bones of this planet like vultures.’

‘Like we do every destroyed planet we come across.’ Jack pointed out.

‘We wouldn’t have considered coming here normally.’ Daniel shot back. ‘MALP readings showed nothing of interest; the pictures showed nothing but ruins. If we hadn’t known about the level of technology because of Martin we would never have come.’

‘Well, we’re here now.’ Jack responded brusquely.

Daniel opened his mouth to reply when the radio crackled.

‘O’Neill, come in.’ Teal’c’s low voice rumbled from the tinny speaker.

‘I hear you, Teal’c.’ Jack answered. ‘What’s your status?’

‘Major Carter and I are continuing to search the building.’ Teal’c reported. ‘We have been unsuccessful to date at finding anything which could be useful in our fight against the Goa’uld.’

‘Understood. Keep me informed. O’Neill out.’ Jack stopped suddenly. He frowned. ‘Do you hear that?’

Daniel moved closer to Jack. ‘Something’s beeping.’ He said with surprise.

Jack frowned. ‘I think we should leave.’

‘Shouldn’t we find out what’s beeping?’ Daniel asked as Jack pushed him gently back down the corridor.

‘Daniel, it’s never been my experience that anything good comes of beeping in a deserted building.’ Jack said tersely.

‘Oh.’ Daniel realised Jack thought it was a booby trap or a bomb. He picked up his pace. They burst out of the front door and back into the square in a rush. They got a cautious distance from the building before they turned back.

‘It hasn’t blown up.’ Daniel said adjusting his glasses.

‘Yet.’ Jack added. He took a breath and his shoulders relaxed a little as the building remained upright.

‘So.’ Daniel said. ‘If it’s not a bomb, it could be a power source.’ He glanced back at his friend. ‘Sam should probably take a look.’

‘Maybe.’ Jack muttered. He grimaced and pulled his cap from his head. He rubbed his grey hair furiously before slapping the cap back on his head. He began to reach for his radio when it crackled again.

‘O’Neill.’ Jack answered.

‘We have found documents, O’Neill. Neither Major Carter nor I recognise the language. We request Daniel Jackson’s assistance.’

Jack pulled a face and sighed before he depressed the button to reply. ‘We have something for Carter too.’ He paused. ‘Let’s meet back in the middle of the square by that statue. We can have lunch and compare notes. O’Neill out.’

There was a painful silence.

Daniel looked over at his friend as they began walking. ‘I guess I’ll be going to look at documents with Teal’c this afternoon.’

‘Yeah.’ Jack murmured, tugging his cap lower.

‘And you and Sam will investigate the beeping.’ Daniel continued.

Jack didn’t respond and Daniel took that as agreement. He hid a smile. It hadn’t escaped his notice that both his friends had been avoiding each other since they had returned from P3R118. He and Teal’c hadn’t mentioned anything but he and the Jaffa were both aware that there was a tension between the two military officers.

He guessed it was understandable; he knew the couple had crossed the line when they hadn’t known they had a line to keep. He didn’t know how far over they’d crossed and didn’t want to know in truth. He’d guessed they’d been told to get back behind the line even in his opinion there was very little reason for them to do it. He knew the military reasons; even understood them on some level but SG1 wasn’t a wholly military team and he didn’t think the rules applied to them. They worked well as a team because they were close but Daniel conceded that the military had a completely different view especially when it came down to a relationship between a male commanding officer and a female subordinate.

It had to hurt, he thought with a pang of compassion, as he looked over at Jack’s impassive face; at the deeply, carved lines that were held taut with tension. He tried to imagine how he would feel in Jack’s place; if he’d had to repress his love for Sha’re to adhere to rules and regulations, to complete the mission. He wasn’t sure he would have been able to, he acknowledged inwardly.

Daniel gave a sigh of relief as they neared the statue. Maybe it was a good thing Jack and Sam were going to be teamed together that afternoon, he mused. Maybe they would be able to use the opportunity to talk and get back to normal. He looked up in time to see Jack duck his head as Sam approached; as Sam’s eyes flitted over the Colonel before she jerked her gaze away.

God, Daniel thought fervently, he hoped they’d get back to normal because he wasn’t sure how much longer he could go on without saying something.

o-O-o

Jack looked at the corridor and wondered at the trepidation in his gut. He frowned. He had a good idea that the trepidation had more to do with the woman behind him than the potential bomb in front.

‘I’m picking up an energy reading.’ Sam said briskly. Her voice was perfectly professional.

If she could do this so could he, Jack thought determinedly. He pointed down the dark narrow corridor. ‘This way, Carter.’

They walked in silence until Jack drew them to a halt.

‘There’s definitely something there.’ Sam frowned at the instrument in her hand. ‘It has the same signature as the ship you found, sir.’

‘So, not Goa’uld.’ Jack checked, trying to keep his tone light.

‘No, sir.’

Jack nodded. ‘Well, at least we don’t have to worry about some Goa’uld booby trap then.’

‘No, sir.’ Sam agreed dryly. ‘Just a booby trap left behind by Martin’s people.’

‘Right.’

Sam started to examine the doorway with her flashlight. ‘I don’t see any wires.’

‘Me either.’ Jack noted. ‘It looks clean.’

They looked at each other nervously.

‘It could just be a power source, sir.’ Sam suggested.

‘Yeah, because our luck has definitely been going that way lately.’ Jack pointed out dryly.

She smiled faintly at him. ‘We could hook up some string to the door handle and open it remotely.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’ Jack agreed. He held the light while she rigged the door. They retreated to a safe distance and crouched down.

‘Ready, sir.’ Sam said.

‘On my mark.’ Jack replied. He nodded at her. ‘Mark.’

She yanked on the string and they both heard the door open.

Nothing happened.

‘Stay here.’ Jack ordered. ‘I’ll go and check it out.’

‘Sir…’ Sam began to protest.

‘That’s an order, Major.’ Jack said in a clipped voice, refusing to look at her. ‘We don’t need to put both of us at risk.’ He moved away before she could reply. One hand held his gun firmly; the other the flashlight. The door had opened up a large room; a meeting room of some sorts. It was remarkably intact despite some minor smoke damage. There was a large round table in the middle; seats placed around it. There was some kind of metal object in the centre and he could see a flashing blue light at its base; it was definitely the source of the beeping. He moved forward cautiously. He looked under the table but couldn’t spot any wires leading into the device; couldn’t spot any obvious explosives attached to it but he knew that he couldn’t guarantee that it wasn’t a bomb.

Jack sighed and reached for the radio. ‘Carter. It’s clear. You should take a look.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Her reply was instantaneous.

She appeared in the doorway so fast he half-suspected she had followed him down the corridor. He frowned.

Sam made her way over to the device and checked out her instrument. ‘This is definitely the source of the readings I’ve been registering, sir.’ She considered its position. ‘I’m going to need to climb on the table to get a better look.’

‘OK but go slowly.’ Jack cautioned.

She slipped off her pack and handed the Colonel her weapon. She slid onto the table, flashlight held awkwardly in one hand and crawled across.

Jack watched her progress, holding his breath. She finally reached the centre and bathed the device in light.

‘Carter.’ He prompted urgently.

‘Sorry, sir.’ Sam shook her head. ‘The device doesn’t have any markings on it and it seems fixed to the table.’

Suddenly, the building shook violently.

Jack was thrown to the floor abruptly and he watched in horror as Sam bounced over the surface of the table.

There was an ominous crack and Jack rolled away as a gap appeared in the floor.

‘Carter, get off there! Now!’ Jack tried to get to his feet and failed. He landed near to the increasing gap in the floor and scurried back. His gaze was fixed to Sam as the table cracked and collapsed inward.

She gave a cry as she slid helplessly across the polished surface and tumbled down the hole in the centre.

Down into the hole in the floor.

The table and the strange device followed after her.

‘Carter!’ Jack shouted her name helplessly as he crawled to the gaping hole.

The cessation of the earthquake sent the room into total silence.

‘Carter!’ Jack shouted again, trying to ignore the rising panic in his gut as he peered into the darkness and fumbled for his flashlight. He heard a groan. ‘Carter!’

‘Sir…’

He directed the beam to her thready voice. His heart seized at the sight of her; she was lying on her back; a section of table covered her legs; she looked barely conscious; her eyes were wide open and shocked. ‘Don’t move!’ He ordered brusquely. He reached for his radio. ‘Teal’c! Daniel!’

‘We’re here, Jack.’ Daniel replied quickly. ‘We’re OK.’

‘We’re not.’ Jack admitted roughly. ‘I need you and Teal’c to get to the gate and bring back a med team and a rescue team asap. The floor opened up and Carter fell through it. She’s conscious but it was a bad fall.’ He hoped he didn’t have to spell out the potential injuries for them.

‘On our way, Jack.’

Jack could hear Daniel’s worry in his short reply and somehow it eased his own. He looked over the ragged edge of the floor and ceiling boards that the earthquake had ripped asunder. ‘Carter, I’m going to find a way down to you. Just hold on.’

He reached for Sam’s pack and pulled out some climbing rope. He quickly secured it to a bolt that protruded from the floor and tested the weight. It would hold. He flung the rope into the gap, careful to avoid Sam. He placed the pack on his shoulders and gingerly lowered himself into the hole. He abseiled down to the next floor swiftly and made his way to Sam.

‘You know if you’d wanted to see the basement so badly, we could have taken the stairs.’ Jack said as he knelt by her side and yanked his cap off.

She gave a faint laugh which turned quickly into a groan as he heaved the table that had fallen on her legs aside.

‘What hurts?’ Jack asked briskly as he started to assess her condition.

‘What doesn’t?’ She gasped as he felt her ankles and legs for sprains and breaks.

‘Well, that’s a good sign.’ Jack assured her. He moved to examining her arms.

She gave an understanding grimace. Pain meant it was unlikely she’d broken her spine or neck.

No breaks. He was astounded. ‘I don’t think you broke any limbs.’ He gestured at her vest. ‘I should, uh, check your ribs.’

Sam pulled a face but she made no other comment as he unzipped her vest and jacket. He gently pulled her t-shirt up and checked the creamy skin for any signs of broken ribs or internal injury. There were none. He pulled her t-shirt down and reached back into the pack for the emergency blanket. The silver material was soon spread over Sam to provide her with heat before shock chilled her body.

‘My head hurts.’ Sam complained.

Jack frowned. ‘You probably bumped it when you landed. Follow my finger.’ He gave a nod as she faithfully tracked the path of his forefinger. He held up three fingers. ‘How many?’

‘Three.’ Sam dutifully replied.

‘OK.’ Jack breathed out in relief. ‘I’m going to give you something for the pain.’ He dealt with the injection – enough pain relief he hoped to take the edge off but not enough to knock her out – and sat back. ‘You’re lying on some kind of squishy material, Carter. I think it broke your fall so the good news is that you don’t seem to have any major injuries but I still don’t want to risk moving you.’

Sam sighed. ‘I understand.’

‘Teal’c and Daniel’ll be back soon with the cavalry.’ Jack reassured her. ‘You’ll be home in no time.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam said quietly.

An awkward silence descended.

‘What happened to the device?’ Sam asked suddenly.

‘It’s here.’ Jack pointed to a corner of the room they were in. The metal device lay in pieces; smashed beyond recognition. He gave a shudder. That could have easily been Sam. It took a moment for him to recover his voice. ‘It’s not working anymore.’

Another silence fell.

‘We should probably continue talking,’ Jack said finally, ‘just to make sure you keep awake.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam said tiredly. ‘What do you want to talk about?’

Her question dropped like a rock into a still pond. There were too many things they both wanted to talk about but couldn’t; wouldn’t.

‘Carter…’ Jack began with a sigh.

‘Guess it’s just as well I’m not scheduled to fly second chair on the 301 test after all.’ Sam commented hurriedly. The test flight of the new 301 glider was scheduled to take place the following week.

‘Yeah.’ Jack said slowly, accepting the topic with a brief flicker of regret. ‘I’ve been meaning to tell you that I was sorry about that. You should have gotten it. You helped get the thing built.’

‘I don’t mind.’ Sam murmured.

Jack caught her eyes in the dim light and shot her a disbelieving look.

She grimaced. ‘OK, sir. I might mind a little.’

‘I knew it.’ Jack said lightly.

‘But I always knew it was unlikely they would allow me to take second chair.’ Sam continued painfully. ‘You have more flight time and you, er, ah, you’re the senior officer.’ She didn’t the third factor that she believed had swayed the Pentagon in Jack’s favour; the fact that he was male.

‘Yeah, well…’ Jack didn’t really know what to say.

‘It could have been worse.’ Sam offered weakly. ‘They were thinking about just bringing in one of the top pilots and not using anyone from SG1 at all.’

‘Really?’ Jack grimaced.

‘I pointed out that Teal’c was the only person on Earth who had the ability to fly it.’ Sam remembered.

‘Of course you did.’ Jack smiled gently at her.

‘If it’s not me, sir,’ Sam continued tiredly, wincing, ‘I’m glad it’s you.’

‘Thank you, Carter.’ Jack said sincerely.

‘I know how much you’re looking forward to it, sir.’

Jack leaned forward. ‘Sure but I’d give it up for you.’ He said it unthinkingly.

Her blue eyes opened wide on his and he felt his breath catch.

‘I meant,’ he began slowly, trying to find the right words to explain that he would have stepped aside and given her second chair if it had been within his power to do so, although he wasn’t quite certain right there and then he hadn’t meant it the way it sounded either.

Sam tried to smile at him. ‘I know.’ She said before he could say anything else.

They looked at each other tentatively.

‘You know these last few days have sucked.’ Jack said abruptly, rocking back slightly.

For the second time in as many minutes Sam stared open-mouthed at him. He realised that she had probably believed he would never bring it up, would never talk about it. He had to admit he had surprised himself.

Her mouth snapped close but she didn’t say anything and Jack had just concluded that she wasn’t going to answer him when she spoke.

‘Sucked.’ She agreed softly. She glanced down at her prone body. ‘Actually, it’s still kind of sucking for me, sir.’

Jack gave a huff of laughter.

‘I guess it’s going to suck for a while.’ Sam offered sadly.

He nodded.

Sam winced and gave a breathy cry.

Jack couldn’t help himself. He reached forward and took hold of her hand. Her startled eyes flew back to his. He stared back at her unflinchingly. He needed to comfort her; needed the comfort of touching her, and he was tired of pretending. Her fingers tightened around his weakly.

‘Thank you, sir.’ Sam murmured. Her eyes shone with understanding.

A muscle tensed in his jaw. Jack nodded jerkily.

They sat in the darkness for a long while with Jack’s hand holding hers securely as the minutes and hours ticked by. He helped her drink water; fed her some chocolate. He didn’t let go of her hand.

Eventually, the radio broke the silence.

‘Jack. Are you there? Come in.’ Daniel sounded anxious.

Jack couldn’t blame him. ‘Here, Daniel. Carter’s doing OK.’

‘Colonel, this is Doctor Fraiser, sir. Can you describe the Major’s injuries?’

‘She fell quite a distance but nothing seems to be broken and she’s lucid. She’s lying still and I’ve placed the emergency blanket around her to keep her warm.’ Jack felt Sam’s fingers squeeze his. ‘I’ve given her one shot of morphine but she’s in a lot of pain, Doc.’

‘OK. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. You should be OK to give her another shot of morphine.’ Janet said calmly. ‘We’ll be with you shortly. Fraiser out.’

Jack took his hand away from the radio. His brown eyes moved over Sam’s pale face as he reached for the syringe and administered the morphine. ‘Looks like the cavalry’s almost here. We’ll soon have you out of here.’

Sam wet her lips. ‘I don’t know. There’re some things here I like.’

He stilled as he recognised the teasing words. Thera had spoken the same words to Jonah. Jack didn’t know how to respond; Jonah had known. But he wasn’t Jonah no matter how much he wanted to be.

Her lips twisted as she read the indecision in his eyes. ‘It’s OK, sir. Blame the morphine.’ She tried to move the hand he held and he kept hold of it. She looked at him inquisitively.

‘It’s not OK.’ Jack replied quietly. ‘It…’ he struggled for a word.

‘Sucks, sir?’ Sam suggested.

He gave her a crooked smile. ‘Sucks.’ He agreed.

‘Guys,’ Daniel’s voice crackled over the radio, ‘we’re in the square. We should be with you in five minutes.’

Jack held Sam’s eyes for a long moment before he answered. ‘Thanks, Daniel.’ He ignored the warning and kept hold of Sam’s hand. It wasn’t until he heard footsteps that Jack gently let go.

o-O-o

Sam opened her eyes and blinked at the bright infirmary light. She moved her head slowly, carefully. Her gaze snagged on the Colonel. He was asleep in the chair next to her; slumped down, his chin on his chest. His hair was in complete disarray. He looked adorable. She was more grateful than she could have ever expressed to find him with her; she’d half expected that he would have retreated again, trying to give them both distance.

She heard a snore behind her and turned her head. Daniel was fast asleep on top of the bed next to her. He was dressed in his BDUs and wasn’t injured so she figured he wasn’t a patient and was just keeping her company. Her eyes moved to Teal’c sat between the beds, perfectly still in kel no reem.

She moved position infinitesimally and swallowed the groan that the smallest adjustment evoked. She was bruised everywhere; only bruised though with a minor concussion. Janet had told her that she considered it a minor miracle that Sam had gotten off so lightly. Sam put it down to the sheer surprise of the fall keeping her relaxed when she landed; that and the empty boxes that had broken her fall.

Her eyes moved back to the Colonel and found his brown eyes looking back at her.

‘How are you feeling, Carter?’ Jack asked gently, sitting forward.

‘I’m fine, sir.’ Sam said automatically.

‘So you hurt like hell.’ Jack translated with a smirk.

She smiled.

He gestured at her. ‘Go back to sleep.’

She kept looking at him, unable to ask the question that hovered on her lips.

Jack held her gaze. ‘I’ll be right here.’ He promised.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam didn’t really need the order; she could feel her tiredness pulling at her again. She closed her eyes. Maybe the day hadn’t sucked quite so much. Maybe they had salvaged something on Martin’s planet after all.

fin.

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