Fallout
by indie

chapter one



Daniel rounded the corner full tilt, nearly knocking one of the SFs on his ass.  He didn't take the time to apologize, pushing the man aside as he shouldered his way into the infirmary.  He could see two beds with quarantine tents, but he wasn't close enough to tell for sure.  He had to be certain.  General Hammond assured him, but still, he needed to see it with his own eyes, he needed to touch them, to know.

"Daniel!"

He stopped, staring down at Dr. Fraiser's petite form, at her shockingly small hand centered in the middle of his chest.  He was oblivious to his own ragged breathing.  He sprinted nearly a mile across the barren, rocky terrain of M5C-862 to reach the stargate.  He hit the grate in the embarkation room at a dead run and was only now stopped.

"Daniel, I need you to relax," Dr. Fraiser was saying.  Her words were calm, but her features were taut with strain, her posture rigid.

"Is it them?  Is it them, Janet?" he demanded, one hand on her shoulder, in preparation to push her aside so he could see for himself.

A firm hand descended on his shoulder, stilling him.  "It is indeed MajorCarter and O'Neill, DanielJackson."

Glancing over his shoulder, Daniel finally allowed himself to relax.  Teal'c wouldn't lie.  It was them. Thank god, it was them.  Turning his attention back to Janet, he asked, "Are they?"

She took a deep breath, her lips pursing together before she made a small, terse nod.  "They're alive," she confirmed.  "I won't lie, Daniel, they're in pretty bad shape.  It looks like they've been through hell for the entire eight weeks they've been missing."

"Good god," Daniel cursed under his breath.

"Major Carter's injuries seem consistent with prolonged physical abuse, but Colonel O'Neill's … " Dr. Fraiser trailed off.  "We don't know what it is.  A disease perhaps.  There's little trauma from physical damage, a few defensive wounds, but he's on the verge of systemic organ failure right now.  Until we find the cause, they've both been quarantined."

Daniel swallowed thickly and took a deep breath.  "Please, Janet," he said softly.  "I know I can't get close, but I need to … I need to see them."

She studied him for a moment before smiling sadly and nodding.  "Only for a minute, Daniel.  I’m not kidding.  They need rest."

He nodded quickly, taking another fortifying breath.  Slowly, he crept closer to the tents, the thick plastic sheeting distorting their bedridden forms.  No doubt this was temporary and they would both soon be moved into private medical rooms.

Jack was closest to the door.  Daniel winced as he looked at his friend.  He'd seen Jack in some rough spots, but nothing so bad as this.  Not even when they life flighted him out of that crevice in Antarctica.  He could be a corpse.  His skin was a sickly yellow color, no doubt from the liver failure Janet alluded to, possibly kidney failure as well.  He was intubated, plastic piping sticking out of his mouth connecting him to a ventilator that was breathing for him.  Jack wouldn't have wanted this, Daniel knew.

Blinking quickly, Daniel stepped away from the bed and ventured deeper inside the infirmary.  Sam was two beds down, lying on her side, facing away from the door.  He rounded the bed, wincing again.  Every bit of skin he could see, which, granted, wasn't much, was covered in bruises of varying sizes and colors.  One of her eyes was swollen shut, her lips cracked and scabbed.  She was awake, staring blindly at the wall with her functional eye.

"Sam," he said softly.

She flinched at her name, but did not look at him.  He watched as one of the orderlies plunged a syringe full of what was no doubt something to help her sleep into the IV leading to her arm.  He was struggling for the words when Janet's hand gently closed around his forearm.

"Please, Daniel, it's time to go," she said softly, much more a concerned friend than the hard ass Chief Medical Officer.

Defeated, he nodded and let her lead him from the room.

***

“Sir, I’m not sure that General Hammond will give this issue the same ... priority, that you’re giving it.”

O’Neill frowned at his second in command for a moment before turning his attention back to the alien landscape before them.  It looked like 90% of the planets they visited, trees, trees and more trees.  Usually, he didn’t mind trees, but at the moment, they were driving him nuts.   “Carter, it’s the Simpsons.”  He wasn’t whining.  He wasn’t.  He was merely expressing his displeasure with the supreme idiocy of the Air Force’s resource management.

“Yes, sir, I know," she said in that tone of voice that meant she was humoring him – barely.  "However, I don’t think we can make taping a weekly television series part of Staff Sergeant Davis’s duties.”

With a snort of irritation, he turned away, heading up the sandy embankment. Carter followed.  Not laughing.  Definitely not laughing.

“Carter, I heard that.”

***

“What is Colonel O’Neill’s condition?”

Janet sighed, meeting General Hammond’s gaze across the briefing room table.  “Not good, sir,” she said.

Daniel shifted uncomfortably in his chair.  He had known what Janet was going to say, but hearing it announced to Hammond gave it a permanence that was decidedly uncomfortable.

“We’ve been unable to find any pathogen in either Colonel O’Neill or Major Carter’s systems,” Janet continued.  “This leads me to believe that whatever it was that is responsible for Colonel O’Neill’s condition is gone.”

“Well, that’s a good thing, right?” Hammond pressed.

“It’s hard to say, sir,” Janet continued, not looking in the least bit optimistic.  “The damage done to Colonel O’Neill’s body is severe.  Whatever caused it is gone, but now it’s up to his body to heal itself.  Honestly, sir, I don’t know if he can.  I’m having him moved to one of the medical isolation bays as soon as he’s stable.”

Hammond nodded and then sighed, leaning back in his chair, lost in contemplation.  Silence hung in the room for several long moments.  “We don’t have any idea what caused this?”

Janet shook her head sadly.  “It appears to be a disease,” she said.  “But we can’t find any trace of it.  All of the lesions on Colonel O’Neill’s body except for one appear to be a side effect of an infection.”

“All except one?” Daniel repeated, leaning forward as he looked at Janet expectantly.

Janet nodded.  “We found one lesion at the base of Colonel O’Neill’s spine,” she explained.  “It appears to be a puncture wound, but we found no residual chemicals or toxins around the site and not much trauma aside from the superficial damage.  Right now we’re not sure what it is.  For all we know, it could have inadvertently been caused transporting him back to the SGC.”

“What about a goa'uld?” Daniel asked.

Janet shook her head.  “In all of our experience, the goa'uld enter as closely to the cervical vertebrae as possible, needing to mesh with the brainstem in order to take control of their host.  Also Colonel O’Neill’s blood work is at its baseline for naquadah.  There are trace amounts, but as far as we can tell, it’s a hold over from his temporary blending with the Tok’ra, Kanan, and not the result of a more recent goa'uld implantation.”

Daniel winced, knowing how much Jack would have disliked her use of the word “implantation”.  But he wasn’t convinced of Janet’s reasoning and it obviously showed on his features.

For Daniel’s benefit, Teal’c said reassuringly, “I was unable to sense a goa'uld symbiote in either Colonel O’Neill or MajorCarter.”

“What about Major Carter’s condition?” General Hammond prompted.

“Sam is healing,” Janet said quietly.  “Physically, at least.  For all the superficial damage, none of her injuries were life threatening.  She had a concussion, bruised ribs and a fractured wrist.  All of her blood work came back clean, which was somewhat of a disappointment.  We were hoping that Sam might have had antibodies to whatever it was that infected Colonel O’Neill.  But she doesn’t.”

“Still no communication?” Hammond asked.

“No, sir.  I believe that Major Carter understands where she is and what’s happening, but so far, she has been either unwilling or unable to communicate meaningfully with anyone.”

Hammond took a deep breath, easily interpreting Janet’s politic answer.  “Do you think this is a case for Dr. Mackenzie?”

Janet looked down at the table top and nodded.  She knew that Sam disliked the base psychologist, but Janet also knew that her friend desperately needed help.  “Yes, sir, it might be.”

Daniel suppressed a groan, but he sank back in his chair, his eyes falling shut.  He knew it had been naive of him to think that just because Jack and Sam had been found alive that everything would be okay.  Of course, how many times had SG-1 cheated death?  They were damned lucky.  And now it looked like their luck may have run out.  Jack was dying and Sam was nuts.  Great.

***

“Sir,” Carter said, her eyes scanning the dense foliage as they walked through the thickly wooded area, “I offered to help you set up your Tivo.”

“Dammit, Carter,” he snapped.  “That thing is more complicated than an Asgard ship.  I don’t want it in my house.”

“Well, sir,” she pressed, trying not to snicker.  What?  Did he think it was going to attract Replicators?  “I could point out that with Tivo, you’d never miss your favorite show just because you forgot about daylight savings time.”

“For crying out loud, Carter, I wasn’t even on the damn planet.  How am I supposed to remember these things?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Major.”

“Sir?”

“Enough.”

She couldn’t prevent the laugh and despite his ostensibly bad mood, she was fairly sure she saw his lips curve into a smile.

***

Janet stood at the side of Sam’s bed.  The quarantine tent had been removed, but Sam still wasn’t responding.  Well, that wasn’t true.  It wasn’t difficult to get a reaction out of her, she just wasn’t talking.  Janet had been able to draw blood and X-ray her wrist, but attempts at a CAT scan were quickly aborted when Sam elbowed one of the orderlies in the throat rather than allow herself to be strapped down. Janet hadn’t pressed.  There were still deep bruises and abrasions on Sam’s wrists from where she had obviously been restrained during the time she was missing.  She wasn’t in any immediate danger, so a quick ultrasound was done to rule out goa'uld infestation and more comprehensive examination would wait until she was mentally stable.

“Sam,” Janet said softly, her voice quavering.  “General Hammond wants you to see Dr. Mackenzie.”

Sam blinked up at her.  The swelling around her left eye had receded enough that she could see out of both eyes, though the left one was still thoroughly bloodshot.

Very slowly, Sam pushed herself into a sitting position, tucking her legs against her body.  Janet forced her expression to be neutral, not wanting Sam to know just how fragile she looked at the moment.

“I need a shower,” Sam said.  Her voice was scratchy, rough, whether from disuse or overuse, Janet couldn’t be certain.  Neither was a particularly encouraging option.

“Of course,” Janet said.  “Let me call one of the orderlies.”

“No!”.  Sam cringed, both shocked and embarrassed by her obviously uncontrollable outburst.  Forcing herself to be more calm, she licked her lips and said, "Please don't call an orderly."

Janet couldn’t help but notice how she was shaking, probably from an overabundance of adrenalin in her system.  The mere mention of calling an orderly had triggered a fight or flight response.  This was bad.  “What about Daniel or Teal’c?” Janet offered.

Sam wouldn’t meet her gaze, but she nodded, biting down on her bottom lip.  “Teal’c,” she whispered.

***

They both stopped at the same time, all senses on heightened alert.  The colonel used hand signals to indicate they should hit the ground.  She did so immediately.  They waited for a sound, any indication of what it was that had startled both of them.  Minutes stretched out.

He eventually motioned her to his position and she crawled forward on her belly as quietly as possible.  He was looking over a ledge down onto a forested valley.  There was no discernable movement below.

He grabbed his radio.  “Daniel?”

There was nothing but silence.

“Teal’c?”

More silence.

He looked at her in question and she shrugged.  “The MALP indicated no signs of civilization, sir.”

“All right,” he said in a low whisper.  “Let’s get back to the gate.”

***

Teal’c waited on the small bench in the middle of the locker room while MajorCarter showered.  It was technically against regulations for him to be in the locker room while it was occupied by a female airman, but he understood why he was here.  He could hear MajorCarter’s body-wracking sobs quite clearly over the hiss of water.

She had allowed him to assist her to the locker room, but he hadn’t missed how she avoided touching or even looking at anyone else.  Her body had trembled and Teal’c couldn’t help but notice the painful thinness of her frame.  Dr Fraiser was correct.  MajorCarter was not well.  Her injuries may not have been as immediately threatening as those afflicting O’Neill, but they were no less severe.

Steam billowed out from the shower curtain and Teal’c knew that she had to be running the water as hot as possible.  Afraid that she might cause herself physical injury, he rose to his feet and stepped closer to the shower stall.

“MajorCarter?”

Her sobs continued and he had no indication that she had heard him.

She and O’Neill had been missing eight long weeks.

He well remembered his own punishment at the hands of Te'Rok.

He was Te'Rok's prisoner for two days.

MajorCarter and O'Neill had been missing eight weeks.

“MajorCarter?”

He could feel the heat rolling off the shower.

“MajorCarter, I am going to turn off the water.”

When she didn’t respond, he reached inside the shower and twisted the knob to the off position.  The immediate void caused by turning off the shower was startling.  Her sobs were the only sound, ringing clearly against the tiled surfaces.

Cautiously, he pulled back the curtain enough to look inside.  She was huddled on the floor, her legs pulled up to her chest, her arms wrapped around her legs.  Her forehead was pressed to her knees and she was rocking back and forth agitatedly.  His breath stopped at the sight.  As First Prime of Apophis, he had seen many horrors, inflicted a great number himself.  But having to see damage of this degree visited upon someone so close to him was agony.  Even his own father’s execution had been less brutal.

Every bit of skin he could see was bruised or scratched or torn in some way.  Her bones pressed against her flesh from starvation.  Someone had sought not to kill her, but to break her, in the most primal way possible.

He took a deep breath, but tears welled in his eyes and his voice cracked when he spoke in an agonized whisper.  “MajorCarter?”

She looked up at him, her own eyes full of tears.  Without conscious thought, he found a towel and wrapped her in it before lifting her in his arms.  MajorCarter was not Jaffa, but Teal’c could still appreciated her physical beauty.  She was a brilliant scientist, a fierce warrior and an attractive woman.  But as he carried her in his arms, he felt absolutely no desire.  He afforded her the same sexless, overprotective worry he would have given Rya’c.

He sat down on the bench, holding her close, worried that his grip might be causing her pain.  But she didn’t cry out, burrowing closer into his embrace, sobbing.

Teal’c held her for a long, long time.

***

The forest, which earlier seemed to teem with life, now was eerily quiet.  They moved at a steady clip, retracing their path back to the stargate.

“Sir, what about Daniel and Teal’c?” she asked, trying to be quiet, which was difficult with so much gear.

“Working on it, Major,” he replied tersely.  She had interrupted his train of thought and he was pissy.  He liked to play stupid, to pretend like everything he did was a knee-jerk reaction.  It wasn’t true.  Jack O’Neill was a planner, a strategist.  Even his buffoonery was most often part of the game.

***

Daniel perched next to Jack’s isolation room bed on an exceedingly uncomfortable stool.  He wondered for the thousandth time if this was how Jack had felt watching him die.  Jack was completely unresponsive.  Daniel could have waited in the observation bay in one of the more comfortable chairs.  Daniel had never been one to do the comfortable thing.

“The good news is, he’s not getting any worse.”

Glancing over his shoulder, Daniel smiled tightly to Janet.

“The bad news is that he’s not getting any better either,” she said dryly.

“There’s nothing we can do?” Daniel demanded, trying to prevent his tone from becoming snippy.  “What about the goa'uld healing device we have?”

“Who’s going to use it?” Janet countered, her tone sad rather than confrontational.  “Sam is in absolutely no shape.”

Daniel sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat.  He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “What about the Tok’ra?” he asked.  “What’s the point in having allies if they’re never around?”

She raised her eyebrows.  “I’d like to talk to the Tok’ra, actually,” she admitted.

He looked at her quizzically.

“I believe a symbiote would be Colonel O’Neill’s best chance,” she said.

Shaking his head, Daniel said, “He’d rather die.  After Kanan, I don’t think there’s any circumstances that would make him agree to another blending.”

“True,” she said, “but he’s at a point where he cannot make that decision.”

Daniel looked away, his vision once again concentrated on Jack’s face.  “Don’t ask me to do that, Janet,” he said.  He remembered reaching out to Jack, convincing Jack to make Jacob cease in his efforts to save him from the radiation poisoning.  “I won’t.  He wouldn’t want it.  He would choose death.”

“He still might, Daniel,” she said softly, her voice catching ever so slightly.

***

The gate was located in an open area as usual.  They left the trees, trying to take as much cover as possible in the large boulders surrounding the stargate.  Sam knew the moment they stepped into the open that it was a mistake.

She didn’t even have time to call out before everything exploded in blinding, screaming pain.

***

“Dr. Fraiser says you’re not eating.”  Mackenzie watched her, knowing she was trying to school her body language, but failing miserably.  She was shaking despite the jacket and she was forcing herself to meet his gaze.

“I haven’t been hungry.  Dr. Fraiser says it will take some time.”

He watched her throat move as she swallowed and he paused to make a few notes in her file.  Inwardly, he was impressed by her self-possession.  He knew a lot of airmen who couldn’t have gone through what Major Carter had to have experienced without completely falling apart.  But from a clinical standpoint, the fact that she wasn’t babbling incoherently in no way meant that she was okay.  She exhibited classic symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, even Dr. Fraiser had picked up on that.

“Have you been to see Colonel O’Neill?” he asked.

She flinched and then quickly caught herself, blinking as she tried to recover.  She couldn’t meet his gaze.  “No,” she admitted.

Mackenzie made a few notes on his notepad, knowing that she wanted to be anywhere but here.  Major Carter was an exemplary officer and she had been ordered to attend counseling.  He knew she’d follow that order to the very letter.  But in his personal experience with the Major, she was so closed off, so intelligent that he wasn’t going to be able to help her unless she truly wanted his assistance.

Which she clearly didn’t.  He knew that she was a fighter, a survivor, but he honestly didn't believe she had any hope of surviving this by herself.

“You were both tortured,” he said, his voice even and calculated.

She blinked several times.  “Obviously,” was her only reply and her tone stopped just short of being outright surly.  She knew she looked awful.  Intravenous fluids and a shower had helped a lot, but she still bore the bruises and abrasions of the last eight weeks.

“I need you to tell me about it.”

She took several deep breaths, her nostrils flaring as she fought to keep her emotions in check.  “We were taken prisoner by a minor goa'uld.”

***

“Ah, crap.”

“Sir?” she asked, knowing full well who it was.  But she couldn’t see.  And she thought there was a very real possibility that her head was going to split open at any minute.

“I am so sick of those damn shock grenades.”

“I’m not particularly fond of them myself, sir.”  Wow.  Talking didn’t cause her brain to dribble out her mouth.  Bonus.

“Can you see yet?”

“No.”

He sighed and she could hear something that sounded like the back of his head hitting the floor.  “I suppose I should be happy I didn’t get bit this time.”

She frowned.  “Sir, I’ve already apologized for that.”

“No, no Major, it’s fine.  I’m just saying.  Lord knows I already have enough scars.”

She refrained from calling her CO an ass.  He loved to bring up that damn scar.  And okay, so it was more than a little unseemly.  There were eight perfect little scars on his left hand from her teeth.  He never let her live it down.  (See, this scar, I got it when Mayborne shot me.  That one, I was running for cover on a mission in the Gulf in the mid 90’s.  Timer malfunctioned and I took a good chunk of shrapnel.  Now this one ... Oh this one is where Carter BIT me.)

It was a game, of course.  Most things were with him.  She knew for the record that his right hand was far more scarred than his left.  She also knew that most of those scars were the result of him banging away at a control console on Apophis’s unfinished mothership.

He never joked about those scars.

“Sir, I think things are getting lighter.”

***

Daniel frowned, looking down at a severely edited report McKenzie had submitted to General Hammond.  “I will definitely look into it, but there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of minor goa'ulds.  Trying to pin down which one could very well prove impossible without more information.”

“Any help would be appreciated, Dr. Jackson,” General Hammond said seriously.  “I need to find out what happened to my people.”

Daniel nodded and General Hammond left his office.  Glancing around, Daniel looked at the myriad books lining the walls.  He had no idea where to start.  It was a shock that Sam and Jack hadn’t been taken captive by one of the major system lords.  Daniel had suspected Ba’al to be behind their horrors, but instead it was some random, minor goa'uld without a name.  Great.  Now they had even less insight into the motivation for this atrocity.

Daniel could almost hear Jack.  “They’re evil, Daniel.  That’s what they do.”

But Daniel knew it wasn’t that simple.  If this goa'uld had killed Sam and Jack it would have been one thing.  Hell, if they had managed to escape, even that would make sense.  But they hadn’t escaped or been killed or made hosts.  They were released and very deliberately left somewhere that their speedy discovery and rescue was assured.  Their captor had wanted them to be found alive.  Why?

***

The light grew strong and stronger until they could both see.  What met them was a bit of a shock.

“They run out of gold leaf?”

Carter looked around the room.  She had been expecting to see the now familiar ornately metallic walls, the same glossy black floor.  But this was just a big concrete room.  Or at least a substance that approximated concrete.  “Maybe we weren’t captured by a goa'uld, sir.”

“So it’s not a goa'uld, they just happen to have Jaffa and shock grenades.”

She pushed herself into a sitting position, pausing while she waited for the world to quit spinning.  “Well, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen other life forms impersonate goa'uld,” she said.  “On P3R-636, Pryus had been impersonating a goa'uld for centuries.  And then the bounty hunter Aris Boch – “

He raised his hand and then used it to pinch the bridge of his nose.  “I get it, Major.”

There was a loud clanging noise as the heavy, dull metallic door – the only door in the room – was opened.

Sam didn’t have any words.

She was trying too hard not to vomit.

“Like you couldn’t have made your entrance while we were still blind?” Jack cursed, trying not to gag. “Jesus.”

***

Janet looked down at the lab results.  They were more comprehensive than the last panel she ran on Sam, but she still had yet to convince her to allow a CAT scan and MRI.  There was still no evidence of antibodies to whatever it was that had decimated Colonel O’Neill’s system.

Setting the report down on her desk, Janet rubbed her eyes and took a drink of the overly strong and revoltingly cold coffee.  O’Neill was still hanging on, his condition not improving, but at least not degrading either.  Sam was improving insomuch as she was talking.  But she still wasn’t really saying anything.  Her answers were evasive and terse.  She wouldn’t allow anyone but Teal’c near her.

Janet didn’t know what to do.  Glancing down, she once again looked at the results.  It took several moments for the data to register and for the coldness to curl in the pit of her stomach.

Oh god.

Grabbing the paper, Janet checked and double checked the results.  They’d run every panel imaginable on Sam so it wasn’t a shock that it had picked it up.

How had she been so blind?  Janet cursed herself.  She’d known.  God, she’d known.  But she hadn’t wanted to believe.

***

Sam couldn’t help herself.  The stench was overpowering and when combined with the sight ...  She turned around, retching up the contents of her stomach.

Several Jaffa entered the room behind the ... the ... whatever it was, taking up positions at his side.  The symbols tattooed on their foreheads were not familiar.

“Carter?”  O’Neill sounded like he was trying very hard not to follow her lead.

“I’m fine, sir,” she answered automatically, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.  Only minimally more composed, she turned around again to their captor.  Oh lord.  He looked ... She didn’t have words for how he looked.  He was human, or at least had been humanoid at some point.  Now he looked like a decaying corpse.  His skin was waxy pale, his eyes sunken, rheumy little beads in a too gaunt skull.  There were seeping sores covering most of his visible skin.  God, she could smell his flesh rotting and the stench was unbelievable.

The creature laughed, his eyes glowing.

“Well, that’s a new look,” Jack drawled.  “Usually you snakeheads are into flashier transportation.”

***

Janet stopped outside the door to the Sam's quarters.  She had asked to go home, but General Hammond was keeping her confined to base, at least until they figured out what was wrong with Colonel O’Neill.  Taking a steadying breath, Janet twisted the knob and stepped inside.

Sam was sitting in a chair that was situated next to the desk.  It didn’t escape Janet’s notice that in this position, Sam didn’t have her back to the door, whereas if she were sitting at the desk, she would have.

Her head snapped up from the laptop.  “Janet.”

“Sam, hi.”  She tried to be nonchalant.  “Got a minute?”

Sam blinked slowly.  Her manner was very deliberate.  She was trying to put on a veneer of normalcy.  “Sure, Janet.  Have a seat.”

Janet perched uneasily on the edge of the neatly made bed.  She figured it was probably neat because Sam wasn’t sleeping in it.  Or at all.  She looked like hell.  Oh god, Janet’s eyes pricked with tears and she forced herself to drop her attention to the folder she was holding.  Sam wouldn’t want her pity.

“Janet?”

“Sam,” Janet said, cursing herself when her voice cracked.  She swallowed thickly.  “Sam, when we did your initial exam, I didn’t do a pelvic.”

Sam was very quiet.  “That’s not standard procedure,” she finally said.

“Not on a routine mission, no.  It’s not.  But you weren’t on a routine mission.  You were an enemy captive for eight weeks.”

Sam stared at her, not moving.  But Janet could see her pulse racing.  “Sam, I need to know.  Were you raped?”

Sam blinked slowly, looking down at her hands.

“Sam?”

“Yes.”

***

The goa'uld didn’t respond to the taunts, merely smiling maliciously at them.

“What?” O’Neill baited.  “No threats?  No telling us how we’re going to die?  Come on, where’s the theatrics?  I feel like I’m getting short changed here.”

The smile remained the same.  “I have absolutely no intention of killing you Colonel O’Neill, nor you Major Carter.”

O’Neill cursed under his breath.  “I guess our reputation precedes us.”

“That it does.”

***

Janet motioned for Sam to sit up, which she did with alacrity, pulling the drape tightly around her legs.

Taking off her latex gloves and depositing them in the biohazard container, Janet said, “You’re only about five weeks along, Sam.  This is still well within the range for a medical abortion.  You won’t need to have a surgical procedure.  I can write up a prescription right now for Mifepristone.  You don’t have to have it filled at the base pharmacy -”

Sam held her hand up, silencing Janet.  Sighing, she pulled her knees up to her chest.  She rested her forehead against her knees.  “I just ...  I need some time, Janet,” she said wearily.

“Of course, Sam.  I didn’t mean to imply that you needed to decide this second.”  Janet frowned at her own behavior.  She knew that her friend had been raped, she just assumed she would want to terminate the pregnancy.  But then again, Janet couldn't begin to imagine the torrent of emotions Sam had to be experiencing.  “Sam, if there’s anything I can do,” she offered gently.

Sam looked up at Janet sadly.  “I just need some time.”

Janet nodded and stepped back from the bed, pulling the curtain so Sam could dress in privacy.  She headed back to her office.  She’d read Dr. Mackenzie’s reports and there wasn’t much in them.  Sam wasn’t divulging any meaningful details.  She and Colonel O’Neill had both been tortured, that much was readily evident.  Sam had now admitted to being raped.

Eight weeks.

God, what could have happened to them in eight weeks?  Janet shuddered at the thought.  Sam would survive, but the damage that had been done to her was extensive.  It was indicative of violent, sustained abuse.  It was bad enough when Janet knew that the abuse was physical torture, but to know now that it had also included rape ...  Her eyes welled with tears.

Personally, Janet couldn’t imagine Sam wanting a child conceived in such a manner.  Logically, she knew it wasn’t the child’s fault.  But if Sam chose to have it, would she be able to look at her son or daughter without remembering that torture?  Janet didn’t envy Sam’s position at all.

There were so many unknowns, so many things Sam wasn’t saying.  Janet wasn’t blind.  She knew that there was a very deep bond between Sam and her CO.  Everyone knew that.  And while Janet, General Hammond and the SGC at large trusted them to keep their relationship strictly professional, there was still no denying that they were close, best friends maybe.  Janet knew that if the situation were any different that Sam and Jack would more than likely be romantically involved.  But the situation was what it was.  They were high ranking military officers in direct line of command.  There was absolutely no wiggle room in the fraternization regulations.  So there was no romantic relationship.

But there were emotions.  Very real emotions.  Very real bonds.  Eight weeks they spent together being tortured.  Had Sam had to bear the added pain and humiliation of having Jack know she was raped?  Had some attempt of his to protect her ultimately led to his current, precarious physical condition?  If so, could Sam deal with that guilt on top of everything else?
 

***

“So what’s the deal?” O’Neill asked.  “You going to trade us to one of your prettier stepsisters?”

The walking corpse chuckled, unperturbed.  “I am Satish,” it said, smiling again.  Any effect of cordiality was ruined by the fact that you could see most of his jawbone through the rotting flesh.  “I do not interact with any of my ... brethren.”

“Then why do you want us?” Carter asked.  “If you’re not going to kill us or trade us for something more useful, what purpose do we serve?”

Satish’s eyes narrowed and he advanced slowly towards Carter who involuntarily recoiled.  O’Neill automatically moved to position himself in front of her.  Satish stopped, barking orders in goa'uld at the Jaffa.  Jack was roughly shoved aside by one of the Jaffa, his shoulder smashing into the wall, as two others grabbed Carter’s arms and pulled her to her feet, holding her still for Satish.

“Oh hell no,” O’Neill cursed, trying to break the Jaffa's hold.

Turning slowly, Satish once again smiled at O’Neill.  “Colonel O’Neill, your bravado is most amusing, as is your desire to protect your accomplice.”  Satish’s rotting fingers came up to gently grasp Carter’s jaw and her lips pursed together tightly as she fought to keep from retching again.  He sighed dramatically.  “No, no need to worry, Colonel.  I will not be trading you to Ba’al or Anubis or any of the other system lords you have so righteously offended.”

O’Neill decided to go for broke.  “So why not just let us go?”

Satish’s mood darkened perceptibly, one of his eyebrows arching.  His gaze never left Carter’s face.  “Thousands of years ago, I was the ruling system lord,” he explained.  “Until Ba'al, Anubis, Nirrti and several others  -- all of whom you have dispatched, allow me to thank you for that – cursed me with this vile affliction you see before you.”

“You’ve been like that for two thousand years?” O’Neill asked.  “Well, I guess it explains the smell.”  The Jaffa punched him so hard in the stomach that it dropped him to his knees.

“Insolence,” Satish crooned.  “How refreshing.  I always forget how young your species is.”  He turned, once again stroking Carter’s face.  “How much fire burns in your veins.”

***

It was late and even though the SGC was fully staffed around the clock, the wee hours of the morning were still the wee hours of the morning.  The alarms were fewer and farther between.  There was less traffic in the halls.  Teal’c would be in his quarters and Sam knew she could easily call him and ask for an escort.  But she didn’t.  She didn’t want anyone along for this trip.

There was an SF posted outside the isolation bay, but he merely nodded sadly to Sam and stepped aside with a deferential, “Major.”

The light was muted, but the room wasn’t dark.  There were a myriad machines lined up, all giving various readouts as to the colonel’s health.  She winced as she looked at him.  Her own injuries were beginning to heal, wounds scabbing over, bruises fading from black and purple to green and yellow.  The colonel looked much the same as he had when they were found.  If anything, he looked even more lifeless now.  Even more still.

Carefully, mindful of her still damaged hands, Sam pulled the stool closer to Jack’s bed.  She sat there for a very long time, watching the artificially assisted rise and fall of his chest.  The room was chilly and the cold easily crept through the worn BDUs she wore.  Ever so slowly, she leaned forward until she could press her forehead against the Colonel’s shoulder.  Somehow, she slept.

***

Satish’s fingers trailed along Carter’s jaw, down her neck until they reached the line of the black t-shirt she wore under her jacket. Her pulse quickened, adrenalin rushing through her veins compelling her to flee in revulsion from his touch.  But there was nowhere to flee.  So she forced herself to hold still, forced her mind to be rational.  The colonel was still on the floor, reeling from the vicious blow he’d been dealt by the Jaffa.

 “Such an amazing woman you are, Major Samantha Carter,” Satish said with genuine awe.  “But yet again, your species is so confusing.  You are their greatest mind, one of their most precious assets, not to mention a truly spectacular example of the female form and still they send you out here among the enemy rather than keeping you safe.”

“I am a Major in the United States Air Force,” Sam spat through gritted teeth, trying to ignore the rotting boney fingers pressing against her upper chest.

“You are a target,” Satish countered coldly.  “And a magnificent one at that.  Your enemy does not need to beat your species, they merely need to be patient until you hand them the method of your own demise.”

“Our species,” Jack parroted with disgust, pushing himself to his feet, “doesn’t sit still  while you snakeheads try to enslave the entire universe.”

“No,” Satish concurred with a little shake of his head.  “You don’t.  But – and I assure you this will soon become startlingly apparent – you would have done well to send the expendable troops into battle.”

“No one is expendable,” Jack snapped.  “We all do what has to be done.”

Satish seemed amused by this statement.  “All equal, are you?” he asked with genuine delight.  His hand ventured lower, pulling gently on the zipper to Sam’s jacket, urging it down.  “Somehow I doubt that, Colonel O’Neill.  Somehow I think that Major Carter is one of the least expendable warriors your planet possesses.  I believe that she is quite valuable to you in particular.”

***

The wormhole disengaged just as General Hammond entered the gateroom.  “Jake,” he said, holding out his hand, “good to see you.”

Jacob gripped his hand tightly, his features pinched.  “Sorry, George,” he said.  “I came as quickly as I could.  How are they?”

Hammond took a deep breath.  “SG-17 found them a week ago on P4X-967.  They were barely alive.”

“P4X-967?” Jacob asked.  “That’s on the opposite end of the galaxy from the planet where they went missing.”

“I know,” Hammond agreed tightly.  “And we recently established a scientific outpost on P4X-967.  SG teams had been over all that area multiple times and found nothing.”

Jacob’s lips pursed together.  “Someone left them there for you to find.”

“It sure seems that way,” Hammond agreed.

“I guess I don’t have to tell you how stupid it was of you to bring them back to the SGC,” Jacob said firmly.

Hammond frowned.  He understood Jacob’s censure, and even his coldness to a degree, but it made him dislike the Tok’ra just a little more.  This wasn’t some anonymous SG team they were talking about, this was Jacob’s daughter and Jack.  “According to Dr. Fraiser, they have no contagions and no naquadah time bombs.”

Jacob lowered his head and when he lifted it again, his features were more relaxed.  “It was a foolish move, General Hammond,” Selmack said.  “But regardless of his harsh words, Jacob is infinitely grateful.”

“I understand.”

***

“Hey!” O’Neill bellowed.  “You nasty piece of rotting snake.  If you need to pick on someone, pick on me.”

Satish’s fingers stilled and he turned his head to look at O’Neill.  “No need to worry.  I assure you that you shall get your turn.”  His fingers once again caressed Carter’s jaw and this time she couldn’t stop herself from jerking back in revulsion.

“I don’t get it,” O’Neill continued, trying to distract the goa'uld.  “You just said you don’t get along with your fellow snakeheads, so what the hell do you want with us?”

“Revenge, Colonel,” Satish replied.  “It’s quite simple.  After I was cursed with this affliction, I was able to negotiate an agreement with the reigning system lord.  In return for my loyalty and some of my more valuable abilities, I was provided an antidote to keep this,” he looked down at himself, gesturing with his hands, “horror ... at bay.”

A nausea swept over Carter that had nothing to do with the rotting stench of Satish’s host body.  “Ra,” she whispered.

“Yes, Major Carter,” he said, smiling cruelly.  “Ra.”

“Ah, crap,” O’Neill cursed.

“You see when you liberated those backwards Abydonians, you condemned me to this living hell.”

“We didn’t do this!” O’Neill snapped.  “Your snakey cohorts did.”

“True enough,” Satish conceded.  “Which is why I do not intend to kill you.”

***

The power of the blow slammed her head back against the wall with jarring force and she gagged as her mouth filled with blood, her lips split again by his fist.  He chuckled as she spit on the bare floor, her lungs heaving for breath.  Her shoulders ached and the constant biting pain from her restrained wrists was eating at her sanity.  She didn’t know how long this had gone on, but it felt like months.  Days bled one into the next.  There was no sense of routine, no way to mark the passage of time.  All that existed was this room.  This room.  And pain.

He leaned in closer and despite her best efforts, she recoiled.  She shivered in disgust as his lips touched the shell of her ear.  “Sam,” he crooned.  “Sam...”

She came awake with a start, spinning out of the chair and toppling to the floor of the medical isolation room.  Her father stood over her, his hands up in surrender.  “Sam,” he said again, this time more forcefully.

She took a deep breath, painfully aware of her racing heart, of the lingering terror from her nightmare.  “Dad,” she finally managed to say, shaking her head.

Cautiously, he leaned down and offered her a hand.  She forced herself to reach out and allow him to help her to her feet.

She stood and he stared at her for a long moment.  His eyes glittered with tears and his face fell.  “My god, Sam, what did they do to you?” he asked in a tortured whisper, pulling her close.

She allowed her father to pull her into an embrace, allowed her head to rest on his shoulder as he cried the tears she could not.  “I’ll be fine, Dad,” she assured him.  “I’ll be fine.”  Over his shoulder, she looked at Jack’s still unmoving form.

***

“There is little left for me in this existence save revenge,” Satish explained patiently.  “I can never reclaim my former glory.  My affliction is such that not even the regenerative powers of a sarcophagus can spare me this rotting death.”

“Ah, well,” O’Neill sighed in mock sadness, “I suppose it must be difficult.  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”

Satish laughed.  “We are indeed a vain species, Colonel O’Neill,” he concurred.  “So vain that we are often times blinded to anything but our own glory.  But, you see, my affliction has allowed me to move beyond that.  My glory is no longer important to me.  It has allowed me to focus on many more interesting things.”

“Like what?”

Satish took a deep breath and stepped back from Carter, nodding toward the Jaffa.  She didn’t even have time to react as they dragged her out the door.

“Hey!” O’Neill yelled, trying to stop them, but his own guard slammed him roughly against the wall again.  He glared at Satish with undisguised loathing.  “If you hurt her – “

“My bretheren,” Satish interrupted, “are so narrow minded.  They believe that killing you will stop your cause.”

That statement brought O’Neill up short and he stared at the creature.

“You are a formidable warrior, however killing you would only bring more to your cause.  It would only serve to fuel the fire that drives your primitive race.”  He motioned to the Jaffa who then grabbed O’Neill, pinning him against the wall.  O’Neill tried to fight, but it was useless.  The Jaffa was at least as strong as Teal’c.

Satish stepped closer.  “You are old for a warrior of the Tau’ri,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Thanks,” O’Neill managed to grind out. “But you’re not looking to fresh yourself these days.”

“You watched your son die,” Satish said.  The statement made O’Neill cease his fighting.  “You believe yourself responsible,” he continued.  “You believe that you have lived through the worst this life has to offer.”

O’Neill swallowed thickly, but didn’t answer.

“You believe you have lived far longer than you deserve, that your death, if it served to protect even one of your fellow Tau’ri, would be well worth the sacrifice.”

“Your point?” O’Neill growled.

Satish smiled.  “You shall find that this life still holds more pain for you than you can even imagine, Colonel O’Neill.  You shall find that even given the broken shell of a man you are today, you still have a great deal to lose.  You shall find that I do not need to kill you, nor your fellow warriors to destroy your cause.  I merely need to destroy you.”  He smiled.  “And Major Carter.”

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