A night off.
A whole night off.
For a brief moment Captain Samantha Carter stood in the conference room's doorway not sure what to do next.
She couldn't remember the last time she had nothing scheduled.
No crisis demanding her attention.
No experiment that Daniel needed her help on.
The first thought that sprang to mind was to ask Janet Fraiser if she could take Cassie out to the movies or something. Then it dawned on her that Janet had been working just as hard as SG-1 had been in the last few months and had spent precious little time with her foster daughter.
She knew Janet would want some time alone with Cassandra.
Entering the main computer room she spotted Daniel Jackson walking in,"Daniel have you seen Jack?"
The dark haired man shook his head, as he moved toward her, "Not for a few hours. You might check his quarters."
"Thanks."Sam replied before moving past the scientist out into the hallway.
Ever since she had met Colonel Jack O'Neill over a year ago she had wondered what the man did in his free time.
Ever since his son was tragically killed Jack had become a private person. Never letting anybody too close.
Except for the people he worked with.
To Sam the SG-1 team was family. She would gladly lay down her life to save the others and knew they would do the same for her.
Sometimes though she just wished Jack would trust her enough to open up.
A soft knock on the doorway of his quarters jarred Jack O'Neill from his memories. On reflex he almost shoved the precious picture back under his pillow but at the last second decided to keep it out.
"Come in,Carter."Jack said as he recognized the blond woman standing in the doorway.
Sam smiled as she entered the room,"Sorry to interrupt, Colonel."
Jack returned her smile as he turned to face her,"You're not. What brings you to my humble abode'?"
Sam moved to stand at the foot of the bunk,"Since General Hammond gave us the night off I was just wondering if you wanted to get out of this place for awhile. Maybe grab a pizza or burger or something?"
Jack almost refused wanting to spend this day in solitude. He had always felt it was the punishment he deserved for his son's death. Not having any family,or any friends to speak of outside of the military.
He shook himself,Carter didn't know the meaning of the day,no reason to punish her too.
O'Neill stood,"Sounds like a good idea,Carter. Sometimes I feel like if I sleep under these Florissant bulbs any longer I might start to glow in the dark."
Sam laughed as she led the way out of his quarters,"So who's driving? And where to?"
Jack dug his car keys out of the pocket of his leather jacket,"I'll drive and as for the destination, you'll find out when we get there."
The drive through the Rocky Mountains passed quickly for Sam. So much so that she hadn't realized how far they had actually gone.
She had been a little apprehensive that they wouldn't find anything to talk about outside of work,but they had discovered they had quite a few things in common.
"Denver?"Sam asked in surprise as the car's headlights splashed across a green highway sign.
Jack grinned at her reaction as he pulled the car onto an off ramp,"You have a problem with Denver,Carter?"
Sam shook her head as she settled back into the passenger seat,"No,I just didn't think we were going this far for dinner. Not that I'm complaining Denver's one of my favorite cities."
Jack nodded as he stopped the car at a stoplight,"Mine too. Always planned on taking my son skiing here when he was old enough."
O'Neill winced as the mood in the car took a drastic turn from friendly to awkward. Damn,this had not been what he wanted for the evening. Why had he brought Charlie up now?
Maybe it was because he was finally allowing himself to deal with what had happened.
Maybe he was finally healing.
Sam cleared her throat,"I didn't mean to bring up painful memories for you,Sir."
Jack looked at her even though the light had turned green,"We're off duty,remember? Leave the Sir at the base."
Sam smiled,"Yes,Sir. I mean,Jack."
"And don't worry about any painful memories."Jack replied as he made a left turn onto one of Denver's main streets,"Its all in the past now anyway,nothing can be done."
When the car finally stopped at their destination Captain Samantha Carter blinked in surprise.
This was the last place in the world she had expected Jack O'Neill to bring her to.
"How did you find this place?"Sam asked as the two got out of the car and started walking toward the front of the building.
"I stumbled across it by accident."Jack replied as he walked toward the railroad car which was now converted to a 50's style diner,"I was stuck in Denver one night a few years back when a flight was canceled so I decided to explore a little."
"This place is great."Sam exclaimed as she stepped into the 'Blue Moon cafe'.
Red and white booths lined the left part of the car while the other half was cleared for dancing,complete with a jukebox.
A gleaming white counter seperated the two.
Without thinking Jack slipped an arm around Sam's waist drawing her to the left side of the resturant where they were greeted by a waiter on skates.
"You have more coordination than I do."Sam said with admiration to the young red haired woman.
The waitress grinned as she plucked a small notepad from her apron,"In a place this small its not hard. Table for two? This way."
As the waitress turned to lead them to their table Sam didn't miss the fact that Jack had left his arm on her waist longer than he needed too.
Not that she was complaining,Jack O'Neill was a very handsome man. But also very off limits to her.
They both knew that.
Military standards being what they were.
Besides their friendship meant too much to her to compromise it by any silly romantic feelings.
"Do you need a few minutes to look at the menu?"The waitress asked breaking into Sam's thoughts.
Jack met her gaze across the table,"I think we're ready,or do you need a few minutes,Sam?"
Carter shook her head as she placed the plastic menu down on the table,"No,I'm ready."She turned to the waitress,"I'll have a double cheeseburger and a large chocolate shake."
The woman nodded before turning to Jack,"And for you,Sir?"
Jack handed her the menus,"That sounds good,make it two."
"I'll be back with your drinks in a few minutes."
As the waitress rolled away the jukebox switched records. Sam had been surprised that it had contained actual vinyl and not CD's as so many modern ones did.
A familiar Beach Boys song came over the speakers and Sam absently began tapping her spoon to the beat.
Jack smiled and picked up his own knife and fork,one in each hand, and pretended to be playing the drums.
Sam was almost falling off her seat with laughter as they went through two more songs like that.
Jack had even named their 'air band' calling them "The Shakeups".
Valerie,their waitress had arrived with their drinks just as 'Blue Moon' came on.
The waitress left saying their meals would be ready in just a few minutes.
Jack stood,gallantly offering Sam his right hand,"May I have this dance,my lady?"
Sam giggled as she stood to take his hand in hers,"Of course,my lord."
Once on the small dance floor Jack's strong arms closed around her and she leaned her head on his chest.
Jack gently rested his head on hers and closed his eyes as their feet moved to the slow beat. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt this relaxed.
Sam tightened her arms around his waist as she closed her eyes wishing that they could stay here forever. But she knew like Cinderella midnight had to come sooner or later and the real world would come crashing in.
But for right now she just enjoyed the moment.
As the song winded down Sam pulled back slightly so she could meet his gaze,"Thank you for tonight,Jack."
O'Neill gently brushed a stray blond bang away from her forehead,"No its I who should thank you,Sam. I needed this more than I realized. You don't know this but today is,"He cleared his throat,"Was my son Charlie's birthday. He'd be ten today."
Sam felt tears creep into her eyes,"I'm sorry Jack."
Jack tenderly placed his right hand under her chin,"Don't be. You made me realize that closing myself off is not what Charlie would have wanted. He'd want me to move on,to heal,and I think with your help tonight I'm finally starting to do that."
The sound of dishes clattering caught Sam's attention as she glanced toward their table,"Our food's here."
Jack nodded as he stepped away,"Right."He glanced at the clock on the wall above the counter,"We should probably start heading back after we eat,its almost eleven."
Sam nodded and led the way back to the booth.
At seven thirty a bleary eyed Daniel Jackson stumbled into the conference room. The young man barely acknowledged Teal'C as he continued on his mission toward the steaming coffeepot by the far wall.
"Good morning,Daniel Jackson."The alien said in greeting as he sat on the left side of the oval table.
Daniel sat down across from the black man,"If you say so."He muttered before realizing they were the only ones in the room,"Didn't we have a briefing scheduled for eight o'clock this morning?"
Teal'C nodded,"Yes,but I'm not sure if Carter and O'Neill are aware of the meeting."
Sleep still clogging his mind Daniel took a sip of the dark liquid,"Why wouldn't they be aware of it? Hammond broadcasted it over the speaker about ten last night."
Teal'C almost smiled,"Neither were on the base to hear."
What Teal'C was trying to say suddenly registered,"They left the base *together*?"
Before the former Jaffa could reply O'Neill entered the room followed close behind by Carter and General Hammond.
"Good morning,"General Hammond stated as he sat down at the head of the table,"I apologize for the unscheduled briefing but SG-7 returned yesterday with some very interesting survey information."
"During SG-7's mission,"General Hammond continued,"We discovered a planet we don't have on our map yet. One farther than we have explored before. Its in a crucial position if the Jaffa decide to attack Earth again."
"So in other words you want SG-1 to go there and plant a flag?"Jack O'Neill asked as he leaned forward in his chair,"Have we even sent a probe through to check the planet's atmosphere?"
Hammond nodded,"SG-7 accomplished that last night. The atmosphere's a little thin,but breathable."
"When do we leave?"Sam asked.
"Gear up and be ready to go in fifteen."Hammond replied as he stood,"Dismissed."
"Whoa!"Jack O'Neill exclaimed in surprise as he stepped out of the stargate and nearly fell fifty feet down a sheer cliff.
He heard the rest of the team start to come out of the vortex and held out his arm to stop their momentum,"Watch that first step guys,its a doozy."
"That was close."Sam said softly as she steadied herself moving back toward Teal'C.
"A little too close,"Daniel agreed as he came up to her left,"Why didn't the probe pick this up?"
"I think that answers your question,Daniel."Jack replied wryly as he pointed to the bottom of the cliff where mangled pieces of metal glittered in the sunlight.
"Well,"Sam began as she straightened her backpack,"If any of you ever wanted to visit Mars this is probably what you'd find."
"Amazing."Daniel replied as he took in the surrounding landscape.
Under the orange colored sun the soil appeared a dark red. The clifftop the stargate was positioned on appeared to be the tallest structure the rest of the land scattered with boulders and small mountains.
Jack gently grasped the back of Jackson's shirt collar pulling him backward,"Before we start exploring can anybody figure out how we get down from here?"
Sam gingerly moved between Jack and Teal'C walking the thin circumference of the cliff before she reached the rear of the stargate.
"Colonel? There appears to be a set of stairs over here."
The rest of the team joined her and O'Neill peered over her shoulder at her discovery.
"You call those stairs,Carter?"Jack asked with a grim smile,"They look more like modern art."
"There is no other way down the mountain."Teal"C stated softly.
Jack started to glare at his friend before he realized he was right.
"Alright,lets get off this rock.Then we'll figure out if there's any reason to stay here."Jack replied,"Teal'C you first,then Carter."
Teal'C nodded before turning around and moving slowly but steadily down the stairs.
"I think I see markings on the outside of that cave."Daniel reported as he gestured to a small group of mountains to their left.
Jack nodded following his gaze,"Okay you and Teal'C check them out. Carter and I will see if there's anything in this direction besides mars."
O'Neill and Carter walked in comfortable silence. Each keeping one eye out for enemies and the other on the tricky landscape.
Sam glanced down at the small handheld computer as it suddenly beeped,"Colonel,I think I found something."She reported kneeling next to one of the smaller boulders.
Jack knelt down next to her resting his palms on his knees,"Little green men?"
Sam smiled briefly before shaking her head,"No,minerals. The core of this rock is giving off energy residue like I've never seen before. This could be an unlimited power source....."
She trailed off noticing Jack's attention was no longer on her,"What is it?"
Jack placed a hand on her shoulder,"Is it just me or is that boulder turning a funny color?"
Sam glanced at the larger of the pair and saw that it was indeed turning from its normal red to a almost dangerous pink,"I think we should back away slowly."
"Too late."Jack replied.
In one move O'Neill turned shoving Carter several feet away in a tactic any football player would envy. Then he turned his attention back to the rock wondering if he had any time to disarm it.
Sam hit the ground hard the impact knocking the wind out of her. She recovered after a few minutes and scrambled to her feet.
"Colonel!"Carter called as she saw O'Neill move toward the glowing boulder.
She took a step forward to help him when all hell literally broke loose.
Teal'C stood watch at the foot of the cave while Daniel eagerly explored the markings on the cave walls.
"Well,they're not Greek,"Daniel muttered as he gently traced the outlines,"Not Egyptian......"
"Daniel."Teal'C said as he walked a few feet from the cave his gaze trained on the direction the others had gone.
"In a minute Teal'C,"Daniel replied as he moved farther into the cave,"These markings are strange. They're not quite petryographs, but they're not hieroglyphics either...."
Teal'C turned to face the cave entrance,"We must go."
It was then that Daniel caught the urgency in his friend's voice,"What's wrong?"He asked as he walked toward the cave entrance.
Teal'C shook his head,"I am not sure but we must leave this place quickly."
Daniel joined the alien at the cave's entrance just as an explosion rumbled beneath them,"Was that an earthquake?"
Teal'C studied the landscape before them a frown crossing his face,"I do not believe so."
A thought struck Daniel as he realized what direction the explosion had come from,"Jack......"He said softly as he took off at a run the former Jaffa hot on his heels.
Only Teal'C's quick reflexes kept Daniel Jackson from falling into the small crater.
"I hope they weren't here."Daniel said quietly as his brown eyes surveyed the rough crater that had clearly been formed by the earlier explosion.
The crater was half the size of a small car but the sides were steep roughly twenty feet high. Making any rescue attempt difficult at best.
"There."Teal'C exclaimed as he placed a hand on Jackson's shoulder gently turning him toward the opposite side of the crater.
"Oh God."Daniel replied softly as he finally saw what Teal'C had spotted. A booted foot sticking out from the rubble.
Too small to be Jack's.
"Sam."Jackson breathed as he started down the crater's side heedless of the danger.
That single command ricocheted through Samantha Carter's mind as she struggled back to consciousness.
Her chest felt like an elephant was sitting on top of it.
No matter how hard she tried she couldn't fill her lungs completely.
From somewhere she heard a voice calling her name.
Sam frowned as she struggled to recognize the voice.
The voice repeated its request but Sam didn't' have the strength to reply.
Blackness enveloped the young scientist like a warm cloud as Sam lost the fight to remain conscience.
Jack O'Neill groaned as pain shot through his rib cage. Jack opened his eyes and immediately regretted that action as his head throbbed.
Feet scurried around him causing Jack to freeze.
He listened closely his eyes still shut.
Too many to be Teal'C and Daniel and Carter.
Slowly Jack opened his eyes,images swam into focus.
He stared at the group of beings gathered at his feet.
Frowning Jack closed his eyes and shook his head as if to clear it. When he reopened them the beings were still there but Jack didn't believe what his eyes were telling him.
Ever since he had been dragged back into the military and introduced to the Stargate he'd seen a lot of weird things.
But this topped the list.
"Sam?!"Dainel called as his feet skidded and slid down the crater's wall.
Part of him knew that even if she was still alive she wouldn't be able to respond to his call,but he had to try.
It made him feel less helpless.
Finally there was solid ground beneath his feet again and Dainel's hands franticly began to claw at the pile of rock that buried his friend.
"Sam?"Daniel asked again,"Can you hear me? Its Daniel."
Teal'C was silently working beside him his enhanced strength making quick work of some of the larger boulders.
They had Sam's left arm and part of her left leg free but they still had a lot of rubble to clear away.
But it was enough for Daniel to know if Sam had a pulse.
"She's alive,"Jackson reported his voice almost giddy with relief,"Her pulse is thready though,we have to get her back to the base."
"Keep digging,"Dainel stated as he rose to his feet,"I'm going to check the other side of the crater for Jack. He has to be here somewhere."
Teal'C nodded not wanting to voice his fears that even Jack O'Neill might not have been a match against nature's wrath.
One of the creatures stepped forward and Jack still didn't believe what he saw.
Leprechauns for lack of a better description.
Except where the creatures of earth legend were solid these tiny forms were more light and color than mass.
More than thirty in number all gathered at his feet,waiting.
With a start Jack remembered the explosion. He looked around the small cavern gaining no sign of his friend's whereabouts.
"Sam?"Jack called in a hoarse voice as he leaned forward.
His voice startled the creatures sending several of them scurrying into dark crevices.
Jack froze,a few of the creatures remained,watching.
"Am I the only one here?"O'Neill asked awkwardly his voice echoing.
The creatures remained where they were,unmoving.
/Do they even understand what I'm saying?/Jack wondered but he had to find some way to communicate with them.
He had to know if the rest of the team was safe.
He had to know if his friends were safe.
Twenty minutes later Daniel returned to Teal'C empty handed and covered from head to toe with red dirt.
Jackson's face was grim as he knelt,"The only thing on that side is rock."He reported in a quiet voice.
Teal'C paused using one huge hand to wipe sweat from his forehead. He had succeeded in clearing the rubble away from the lower half of Sam's body and her head was free.
Only two smaller boulders remained.
"There may be nothing left to find."Teal'C replied softly as he went back to his task.
"I don't believe that."Daniel replied firmly as he helped Teal'c clear away the rest of the rocks,"Jack has to be here somewhere."
"She is free."Teal'C stated as he rocked back on his heels.
As gently as he could Daniel picked Sam up,"Let's get Sam back home then we'll return and look for Jack."
General George Hammond fought back the migraine that was starting to form behind his eyes.
He had finally managed to convince Teal'C to go with one of the docs to get examined.
Daniel Jackson however was quite another story.
The young man stood covered head to toe in red dirt just inside the infirmary's doorway. His uniform was torn in several places and his hands were full of tiny scrapes and bruises.
Hammond had tried every argument he could think of to get Jackson to take care of his own injuries, to no avail.
Jackson had only uttered one quiet sentence since SG-1 had returned,"I have to know at least one of them is safe,General."
Hammond shook his head slightly at the memory and turned his attention to the far side of the infirmary where Doctor Fraser and her team were working to stabilize Sam Carter's condition.
Fraser never looked once in their direction, which added to Hammond's concern.
He jumped slightly when a shadow fell across his. He hadn't heard the former Jaffa's quiet approach,"Teal'C."He acknowledged quietly.
The alien nodded,"General."He replied matching Hammond's tone,"How is Captain Carter?"
George turned slowly to face him glancing back at Jackson then back at Teal'C,"They're still working on her, no word yet."
Teal'C's dark eyes flickered to Carter's still form then back to Hammond,"Permisson to go back and retrieve Colonel O'Neill."
The older man nodded,"Alright but just you,I want Daniel to stay here. Take SG-3 with you."
Hammond's quiet statement had snapped Daniel's attention back to the current situation. He stalked over to where the two men were standing.
"General,I have every right to go on that rescue mission!"
Hammond placed a hand on Jackson's shoulder but Daniel shook it off angrily.
"I know you do,son, but Doctor Carter needs you here."
Daniel glared at his commanding officer,"I can help, I know where...."his voice trailed off for a moment,"I know where Jack disappeared."
Hammond nodded,"So does Teal'C. I'm sorry Daniel but my decision is final. Now why don't you let one of Doctor Fraser's team check you out?"
Daniel glared from one man to the other before giving in with a frustrated sigh.
He turned on his heel and exited the infirmary without another word.
Jack gingerly rose to his feet. He leaned against the rock wall his head feeling like one of the hangovers he'd had in his college days.
When he turned his attention back to the aliens they were in the same position.
Three balls of light and color stood in a triangle formation about ten feet away.
"I don't know if you can understand me,"Jack began quietly as he faced them,"but I need to know where my friend is."
He knew that Teal'C and Daniel had been a good distance away from the explosion so that increased their odds of being uninjured.
Jack shook his head as a memory of Sam surfaced. A memory of her blue eyes shining as she laughed. A memory of how good it felt to hold her in his arms.
He forced the memories away, he had to concentrate. Keeping a level head was his only way out of here.
Whereever here was.
Jack looked at the aliens as he raised his right arm to about shoulder height,"She's blonde, blue eyed, about so high."
With a sigh Jack dropped his hand when the aliens showed no response. /Where's Daniel when I really need him?/Jack thought wryly as he started to pace the small area by the wall.
Though he doubted even Daniel could communicate with this species.
Movement out of the corner of his eye caught Jack's attention. Whirling back to face the aliens he raised his gun.
The three aliens who had been 'floating' in the triangle formation had risen to about five feet. There they meshed together and started to solidify into a form.
"Your friend is no longer here."The aliens stated once it finished forming a human shape.
"Then where is she?"Jack demanded his mind not fully grasping the form the beings had chosen.
"She is gone."His son repeated.
Daniel Jackson sat quietly in the command center looking out the bulletproof glass window that faced the Stargate.
Teal'C and SG-3 had left just a few minutes before.
It killed him not to be going on that rescue mission.
Jack O'Neill had saved his life more times than he could count. Now when he had the opportunity Hammond wasn't letting him return the favor.
"Don't you have a patient that needs you?"Daniel asked softly his gaze never wavering from the stargate.
Janet Fraser stepped into the room her concern for Doctor Jackson's emotional state growing by the minute. She knew how much the SG-1 team meant to Daniel, meant to them all.
"I thought you'd like an update on her condition."Janet replied quietly as she paused in the center of the room. She had informed General Hammond of Doctor Carter's prognosis a few minutes before.
"She's alive?"Daniel asked in surprise. Not that he had ever doubted that Sam was a strong person. But part of him had assumed that not even Sam could survive all that rubble.
Janet nodded,"Yes, but the severity of her injuries has caused her to slip into a coma."
Daniel's eyes drifted closed. Maybe he was jinxed.....first Sha're, then Jack, now Sam.....every person he cared about he had let down.
"I need your help."Fraser said as she stepped forward.
Daniel wearily took off his glasses as he opened his eyes,"What can I possibly do? I have no medical knowledge."
"No,"Janet agreed,"But Sam needs you. She needs your friendship. I need you to come back to the infirmary and sit with her. Talk with her."
"I'll do what I can."Daniel replied as he stood and walked out of the room.
Jack swallowed hard to force his emotions down,"What do you mean she's gone?"
The alien face turned sympathetic as it stepped forward.
Jack jerked his gun toward the alien forcing it back. He had to keep reminding himself that it was an alien.
Even if it had decided to take the form of the most painful memory of his adult life.
"Your friend is no longer in this place."
A thousand images of different ways Sam could have been harmed flashed through O'Neill's mind but he forced them away.
He had to believe that after everything they had been through with the G'ould that she would survive a little explosion.
"Who are you?"Jack asked trying another tactic.
The alien stepped backwards as the other balls of light gathered at his feet,"We are called "S'molk."
Daniel didn't know how long he had stood there by Sam's bedside.
Didn't know how long he had stood before exhaustion finally claimed him and he sat down in the small metal chair.
He took off his glasses and set them down on a nearby cart as he wearily rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Part of him couldn't believe this was happening.
They had always known the Stargate mission was dangerous. They had always known that someday one or all of them might not return home.
But Daniel had never imagined that SG-1 would be destroyed this way.
Destroyed at the core.
Jack gone, presumed dead.
Sam near death, in a coma she might never come out of.
Swallowing hard Daniel scooted the chair closer to Sam's bed so he could hold her hand in his.
"Doctor Fraser told me to talk to you."Jackson began softly his voice barely audible above the steady beat of the heart monitor,"But I have no idea what to say,Sam. This is a living nightmare......Jack's gone, Teal'C's on a rescue mission where he could run into God know's what."
Daniel paused to look at his friend's pale face,"I really need you to wake up Sam. I need you to tell me what to do here."
Teal'C watched solemnly as SG-3 coordinated the small crater and started to block off sections.
It had been understood by everyone that when they stepped through the stargate they were no longer on a rescue mission.
Not that anyone had wanted to give up on Jack O'Neill.
Especially Teal'C, but even he couldn't ignore the evidence.
The combination of the explosion, and the thin atmosphere would be too much even for Jack O'Neill.
"Teal'C, we've found something."A marine called from the far left corner of the crater.
"Are you natives of this planet?"Jack asked as he tried to concentrate on the mission.
His 'son' nodded,"Yes, we prospered on this planet untill the G'ould came and made us slaves in the mines."
Jack blinked in surprise,"Mines? How could you....."
"The G'ould's discovered they could harness our life energy to blast the mines without wasting any of their materials or manpower."
"What do you want from me?"Jack asked as he finished looking around the cavern. As far as he could tell the only way out of this place and back to SG-1 was through the aliens.
His 'son' tilted his head to the right,"We wish to leave. You are our only escape."
Daniel Jackson glanced at the clock on the infirmary wall.
Nearly four hours since SG-1 had returned in pieces.
Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily.
There had been no word from Teal'C about Jack.
Or if there had been Hammond hadn't filled him in on it.
Not bothering to replace his glasses Daniel looked down at Sam's still form.
Fraser hadn't told him in so many words but Daniel could tell that Sam's condition had deteriorated in the last few hours.
Janet had told him to talk to Sam. To tell her stories, anything, just to let her know she wasn't alone.
But try as he might Daniel couldn't come up with any stories that didn't involve SG-1 or the stargate.
Or maybe that's what he should be talking about. Daniel hadn't told any of the stargate stories because he thought it would bring back too many painful memories for both of them.
But memories were what Sam needed.
Daniel rested his arms on the metal railing,"Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to teach Shar're how to bake chocolate chip cookies? She tried her best but we had to improvise on the ingredients....it was only a small fire....."
Teal'C set SG-3's findings on General Hammond's desk.
"How is Captain Carter?"Teal'C asked quietly after silence engulfed the room for several minutes.
Hammond gingerly touched the burned and bent dogtags that lay on the desk in front of him,"She's still the same."He looked back at the former Jaffa,"This was the only evidence you found?"
Teal'C nodded grimly,"Lieutenant Benson discovered them in a small crater near where we found Captain Carter."
"You found no other signs of a body?"Hammond asked not quite wanting to believe that one of his best officers was dead.
"General, we did every scan available."Teal'C replied trying to force aside his emotions,"If we knew what type of explosive device it was we might have had more of a chance to do a more accurate search. But we did the best we could with what information was available."
Hammond stood and walked slowly around the corner of his desk,"I know you did, Teal'C. You're dismissed. Doctor Jackson is in with Captain Carter."
The alien nodded and quietly left the office.
Hammond set heavily down on the corner of the desk as he glanced out the window at the Stargate below.
O'Neilll's death would be a great loss to this unit but that combined with Teal'C's report might be the final nail in SGC's coffin.
The government had been just waiting for an excuse to shut them down and the recent events might be just what they needed to succeed.
Jack frowned as he listened to the alien's demand. This did not sound good.
O'Neilll gestured to the sourrounding walls,"Unless you have some little magic escape route I don't see a way out of here. So I don't see how I can be of any help to you."
The Sm'olk in his son's form took a step forward,"All is not what it seems, Colonel O'Neill. If you promise to take us with you we will show you a way out."
Jack looked at the alien for a long moment. He knew he had no choice but to agree to their terms.
It was the only way to get back and find out what had happened to his team.
To find out what had happened to Sam.
O'Neilll nodded,"Alright, you have a deal. I'll take you back through the stargate."
His son smiled as he held up his right hand the palm facing outwards.
Jack started to put his own hand up thinking it was a ritual of theirs when he noticed the wall behind him begin to glow.
The rock wall turned a dark gold before shimmering into a soft silver and then finally disappearing all together.
Jack raised a hand to shield his eyes against the sunlight. Once his eyes readjusted he started walking toward the stargate hoping he wasn't making a mistake.
Janet Fraiser stopped Teal'C as soon as the former Jaffa entered the infirmary. The look on his face answered her question.
The brown haired woman placed a hand on his arm,"Teal'C....."
The alien looked past her to his teammates,"I do not require your services, Doctor Fraiser."
Before she could reply he moved past her to stand next to Sam's bed.
Daniel stood next to his friend,"Teal'c....did you find Jack?"
Teal'C's solemn gaze didn't leave Sam's still form,"I am sorry Daniel Jackson, what we found gave us no reason to believe that Colonel O'Neilll is still alive."
Daniel started to protest but the look on his friend's face made him stop and sink into the chair he had occupied earlier.
He knew that Teal'C wouldn't give up on Jack unless the evidence was overwhelming.
Daniel looked at Sam's pale face then back at Teal'c's grim one and sighed.
This was not how SG-1 was supposed to end.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
It just wasn't.
"Are you all coming?"Jack asked as he turned to face the aliens.
His 'son' shook his head as they walked away from the cave and toward the direction of the stargate. "I will send for them as soon as I know it is safe."
O'Neilll nodded as the cliff with the stargate came into view. He hoped against hope that the rest of his team would be their to welcome him home.
"Yes, Mr. President."Hammond replied crisply into the receiver as he sat behind his desk.
"But I still believe the rewards of the stargate project out way the dangers....Colonel O'Neilll would be the first to tell.....
/UNAUTHORIZED INCOMING TRAVELER!/
Hammond broke off his conversation as the taxlons began to flash. "I'm sorry Sir, but I'm going to have to call you back."
He hung up the phone and was out the door just as Simmons repeated his warning over the loud speaker.
/UNAUTHORIZED INCOMING TRAVELER/
"Did you think it would end this way, Teal'C?"Daniel asked quietly as he held Sam's hand tightly.
Teal'C sighed. "No, Daniel Jackson, I did not."He looked down at his friend realizing for the first time how thin and pale the younger man appeared. "Why don't you get some rest? I will sit with Captain Carter."
Jackson shook his head as he replaced his glasses. "Thanks, Teal'C but I'm okay...."
/UNAUTHORIZED INCOMING TRAVELER!/
Daniel exchanged a concerned glance with Teal'C before they both stood and quickly left the infirmary.
General Hammond had long ago learned to rely on his instincts and right now they were screaming at him to go against protocol. To leave the Iris open when they would normally seal it shut.
"Don't shut the Iris."Hammond ordered as he stood at the bottom of the stairs.
"Sir?"One of the techs prompted with concern.
"Just follow the order."Hammond replied sharply as he stepped forward.
"What's going on?"Dainel Jackson asked as he skidded to a halt next to Hammond both men's gaze locked on the stargate.
"We're about to find out, Doctor."Hammond replied quietly as Teal'C came to stand on the other side of the General his own weapon raised.
"Why aren't we closing the Iris?"Daniel asked quietly.
"Call it a hunch."Hammond replied simply.
Just then two figures stepped through the stargate. One was a young human boy of perhaps ten years of age.
The other was someone no one thought they'd see again.
"Jack!"Daniel shouted as he raced toward the ramp.
O'Neilll looked warily at the Marines and Teal'C who hadn't lowered their weapons yet. "Glad somebody's happy to see me."Jack replied as he turned to face his commanding officer. "General?"
"Who's your friend?"Hammond asked his gaze never leaving the boy.
Jack glanced back at the S'molk. "He's not what he appears to be, General, but I assure you he's harmless."O'Neilll replied as he glanced back at Danny. "Where's Sam?"
Jackson shot a look over his shoulder at Teal'C who lowered his weapon before coming to stand next to Daniel.
"What?"Jack demanded not liking at all the cold feeling starting to form in the pit of his stomach.
"Jack,"Daniel replied quietly as he placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Sam's in the infirmary."
To Jack it was an agonizingly long debriefing even though it only took twenty minutes to explain the S'molk to Hammond.
As he sat there filing the General in on what had occurred during the mission Jack's thoughts kept drifting to Sam.
Had she been injured in the explosion? Or did this happen later when he wasn't there?
From the looks on Danny and Teal'C's faces Jack already knew that what Doctor Fraser would tell him wouldn't be good news.
"You're dismissed, Colonel."Hammond stated snapping Jack's attention back to the matter at hand. "Teal'C can make sure our guest is comfortable."
Jack stood and nodded at the older man. "Yes, Sir."
"And Colonel?"Hammond called halting Jack in the doorway. "Don't give up on the Captain yet, she's a fighter."
Jack smiled grimly. "Never intended to, Sir."
Even though Fraser had told him what to expect when he stepped into the infirmary Jack wasn't at all prepared for the sight that greeted him.
Monitors surrounded Sam's still form.
Jack moved to stand by the foot of her bed and didn't move for several minutes. Daniel had told him that they had to dig her out of a mountain of debris.
Jack shoved that mental image aside as he walked around the bed to stand at her right side. He leaned forward and picked up her hand squeezing it gently.
"Now enough of this, Carter."Jack commented quietly his voice rough with emotion."You've had enough beauty sleep it's time to wake up."
Carter didn't stir so Jack reached behind him for the plastic chair he had seen earlier. He sat down never letting go of her hand.
Jack reached forward with his free hand and tenderly brushed her bangs away from her face. He couldn't help but remember how good it had felt to hold her in his arms at the diner. How time had seemed to stand still.
"You still owe me a dance, Captain."Jack stated huskily as he rested his elbows on the side of the bed. "I won't let you out of it that easily."
Daniel entered the infirmary an hour later to find Jack slumped in a chair one hand clutched tightly to Sam's. The young scientist smiled slightly as he came up behind his boss placing a cup in his field of vision.
"Thanks."Jack stated quietly as he took the small cup of coffee from his friend.
"You're friend is settled into the VIP suite."Daniel replied as he took a sip of coffee from his own cup.
"Okay."Jack acknowledged his gaze never leaving Sam's still form.
"She hasn't woken."Daniel commented quietly. "We nearly lost her once but Janet's team brought her back."
"I should've been here."Jack replied. "I was trapped in that cave and all I could do was wonder if I would have a team to come back to."
Daniel placed a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder. "One way or another Jack, SG-1 always seems to come back to each other, no matter what."
As if she had been listening to the whole conversation waiting for the perfect cue, Sam slowly began to come to. Jack jumped slightly when Carter squeezed his hand.
"Sam?"Jack asked as he stood watching her face for any sign.
Sam moaned as her nerve endings began to register the pain her body was in.
"Daniel, get Janet."O'Neilll ordered but Daniel was already out the door
"Sam?"Jack asked as he squeezed her hand. "Come on, you've come this far don't quit on me now."
After several long moments Sam finally opened her eyes. "Jack?"she asked hoarsely.
"Welcome home, Sam."Jack replied softly just as Janet entered the room."