Mind over Matter by Jo R
Summary: A small 'what if' for the season two finale/season three opener..
Rated: PG13
Genres: Alternate Universe or Reality, Angst, Episode Prologues & Epilogues, Missing Scene, UST/Friendship
Original Archive Date: 2003 Jul 6
Warnings: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 | Word count: 14077 | Completed: Yes | Published: Sep 01, 2009 | Updated: Sep 01, 2009 | Read: 1291
Story Notes: SEASON / SEQUEL: Season Three; standalone.

SPOILERS: 'In The Line of Duty,' 'Into the Fire/Out of Mind,' 'Fair Game.' Small spoilers for seasons 1&2.

ARCHIVE: Heliopolis, SJA, IB and Random Ramblings. Anywhere else, please ask first.

DEDICATION(s): Ruthie and Lynn, as always, for their unending support. Maz, Jillian and Suz - glad you SS's had a great New Year!! Jen, it's Friday and I don't see that fic you mentioned.. ;)
Chapter 1 by Jo R
=*=

Makepeace was going to kill her.

Captain Samantha Carter was aware of that as she made her way back to Hathor's base using the Tok'ra's underground tunnels. The Colonel was going to have her drawn and quartered and then she'd probably be subjected to a court martial, just for the sake of it, when they made it back to Earth.

*If* they made it back.

She had to be out of her mind, she decided as she glanced over her shoulder for the fifth time in as many minutes, making sure she wasn't been followed. For a fleeting moment, she wished Daniel Jackson hadn't been injured so she could have had some company but she pushed that thought away almost as soon as it came.

She was on a fool's errand and very possibly one that would kill her. She wouldn't want to involve anyone else in what she was going to do.

The plan, the *official* plan was that she would find the power source of the force shield keeping them from getting to the Stargate. The unofficial plan that had formed in her mind even as she was taking orders from Colonel Makepeace was that she had to go back for the other Colonel, *her* Colonel. Colonel Jack O'Neill, her CO and the man who'd ingrained into every member of his team over the last two years that no one should ever get left behind.

She would deactivate the force shield first, and then go look for him. She shuddered inwardly at the thought of what she might find in his place.

Last time she and Daniel had seen the Colonel, he was lying in a coffin-like box being given a symbiote. It was a nightmare come true, for all of them, and she doubted the Colonel would be lucky enough to be given a Tok'ra instead of a Goa'uld. Then again, it was the Colonel. Grimacing, she realised it probably wouldn't matter to him if it was a Goa'uld or a Tok'ra: a snake was a snake in any form and she knew he'd rather die than become a prisoner in his own body.

Was that why she was going back for him against orders? To grant his request if she was too late?

Swallowing the bile that rose in her throat at the thought, Sam forced herself to keep going. The thought of killing anyone made her feel ill; the thought of killing one of her teammates was a thousand times worse.

No. She wouldn't kill him. There were other ways..

Besides, quickening her pace, she remembered the information Makepeace had brought with him on the rescue mission that had gone wrong: there was a Tok'ra in Hathor's midst. Maybe they'd get lucky and whoever it was would get to the Colonel before she did.

Maybe everything would work out okay and they'd *all* be going home.

And maybe Hathor would have a change of heart and decide to use her powers for good instead of evil.

Yeah right.

Pushing herself forward, Sam felt immense relief when she finally made it back inside Hathor's base. Most people would be glad to get as far away as possible but no, she had to be different. 'Definitely out of my mind,' she thought as she crept through the maze of corridors, some pleasantly familiar like the ones at the SGC and some not so pleasantly familiar. There was no way she'd ever be able to have any hint of gold in her décor at home.

Relying on her instincts, Sam headed towards the mock-up of the SGC Gateroom. She was surprised to find no one blocked her route but guessed most of Hathor's Jaffa would be busy defending the Stargate and trying to capture her colleagues.

Hopefully they'd be unsuccessful.

Entering the fake gateroom, she was startled to see she wasn't alone. Raully, the female Goa'uld who had pretended to be a Doctor from the future SGC was there, barely standing, fighting to stay upright.

Pulling out her gun, Sam stared coldly at the Goa'uld, ready and willing to pull the trigger at the first signs of threatening behaviour.

" Forgive me," Raully spoke when she saw the Air Force Captain standing there with her weapon trained on her. " There was no other way." Her eyes flashed and she crumpled to the floor. " I am Tok'ra. I had no choice but to allow your friend to be taken. I was to set the controls on the chamber but Hathor interrupted me. I do not know if I succeeded or if I failed."

Pushing the thought about what it could mean for the Colonel to one side, Captain Carter forced herself to concentrate on her first task. " Trofsky's cut us off from the Stargate. There's some sort of energy barrier in our way and I believe it originates somewhere inside this facility. Do you know where it is?"

" That is why I am here." Raully gave a short nod and tried to get to her feet, strong enough only to ease herself up a little before falling back to the ground. " What you seek is hidden within this mock up of your Stargate facility. Pull that lever and the wall will move out of your way."

It didn't take long for Sam to do as she was told. As the Tok'ra said, the wall at the back of the room behind the mock-up Stargate slid slowly to one side, revealing the power source she'd been looking for. She wasted no time in taking of her pack and emptying it off the C4. Quickly and efficiently, she distributed the C4 throughout the room and rigged it up to the remote detonator she fastened to her wrist for safekeeping.

Heading back to where she'd left the Tok'ra, she was alarmed to see the woman lying fully on the floor, shaking violently with the force of the coughs wracking her body. Although unable to trust or like the woman completely, Sam still felt some remorse at having to leave her behind.

" I have to go and find the Colonel.. Will you be okay?" Kneeling beside Raully, Captain Carter could easily answer her own question. Blood stained the Tok'ra's lips and she knew that wasn't a good sign, even for someone with a snake in their head.

Nevertheless, Raully managed the slightest of nods. " My symbiote may yet heal me. You must hurry." Seeing the reluctance in the blond woman's face, she sighed heavily. " Your Colonel does not have much time. Go!"

She didn't need any further encouragement. Getting to her feet, she pulled on her backpack and headed out of the room. She vaguely remembered the direction of the room she'd last seen the Colonel in so that wasn't the reason for the dragging of her feet. The real reason was reluctance, and fear.

Raully remained behind, watching until the doors closed behind the captain. She hoped it wouldn't be too late, that Hathor hadn't noticed the controls had been tampered with.

She hoped her last act as a Tok'ra had not been in vain.

=*=

Finally finding the room the Colonel was in, Sam was relieved to find it was empty. Biting down on her bottom lip she went over to the controls and activated them, thankful for the first time that she had temporarily been a host to a Tok'ra so had a limited understanding of Tok'ra-Goa'uld technology.

The chamber rose from the cold steam and slowly moved towards her, settling in the place it had been when the symbiote was put inside. With a hand that trembled, she opened the chamber and stared down at the still form of her Commanding Officer.

Her hands worked quickly to untie the restraints holding him down and her mind worked over time as she tried to sense the presence of the symbiote. Was it there or was it not? She couldn't be sure if she was trying too hard to sense it or hoping too much that it wouldn't be there.

" Colonel?" She spoke to his unconscious form as she freed his hands. " I don't think it's there, you're going to be alright. I can't tell if.."

There was a strange sensation inside her. Her internal alarm had been set off.

Not sure whether it was coming from beside her or behind her, she decided to check if there was anyone else in the room, turning around only to come face-to-face with none other than the Goa'uld Hathor herself.

The Goa'uld in question didn't seem very happy to see her. Not at all. The redhead brought her hand up and effortlessly activated the ribbon device, sending a wave of sheer agony crashing over the Captain.

As energy wave after wave was sent from the Goa'uld's palm directly into her mind, Sam fell to her knees, unable to stop herself from crying out with the pain. Nothing she'd ever been through had hurt more: being stabbed, being shot, even being hit by a staff blast was nothing compared to the sensations being inflicted on her by the small machine fitted to the Goa'uld's palm.

Faintly, she was aware of Hathor talking to her. She could see her lips move but couldn't hear the words over the high-pitched wailing in her head.

" We had high hopes for you."

From behind the Goa'uld, Sam was vaguely aware of a shadowy shape rising from the coffin - she couldn't help but think of it as a coffin - and stand behind Hathor. Suddenly the pain she was being forced to endure stopped. All of the energy she'd been holding onto so she could fight drained out of her and she collapsed, only partly aware of what was going on.

The Colonel wrestled Hathor over to the bar next to the cryogenic fluid. " We would just like you to go away!" With those final words, he pushed her over the side, her scream unheard as he stared in shock at what he had done.

'Carter,' a little voice in his head reminded him. 'See how Carter is.'

Almost mechanically, he strode over to where she half-lay, half-sat on the floor, getting to his knees beside her. Grabbing hold of her arms, he pulled her upright, studying her face. She looked as dazed as he felt. " Carter!"

" Sir." Blinking sluggishly, her mind unclear, Sam stared at him as if she were seeing him for the first time. " What happened?"

Wasn't she supposed to be rescuing him? When had the situations reversed itself?

Drawing her into his arms, Jack O'Neill had never felt so relieved as he did right then. She was okay, he was okay.. He was freezing and battling with the voices in his head but that could be solved. " Oh, God." He couldn't stop the words from leaving his mouth as he tightened his arms around her, needing to feel her warmth. " Hathor's, uh, gone. She's dead."

Nodding against him, Sam was surprised when she didn't feel the need to draw away. Instead, she held onto him just as hard as he did her. " What about you?"

" Cold," came the immediate response. " I'm a little chilly but.." There was a pause. If she had been able to see his face, she would have seen his eyes widen just moments before they flashed with a soft, golden glow. " I'm me. I'm me."

There was something.. different in his voice. The inflections changed somehow and he was no longer shivering. Even without concentrating, she could tell something was wrong. Her internal alarm screamed at her and she pulled back sharply.

" Sir?"

" Carter?" Instead of questioning her puzzled expression, the man sitting in front of her smiled.

Staring at him, Sam gasped when his eyes flashed again. She tried to push herself away, tried to stand and run, tried to reach for her gun or just *do something*.. But she found she couldn't move. Her weary legs wouldn't cooperate and she just didn't have the energy to stand on her own two feet.

The Colonel - no, not the Colonel - advanced on her, having found a new source of strength and energy somewhere she didn't want to think about and grinned slyly.

The last thing she saw before darkness engulfed her was the back of his hand, moving rapidly towards her face.

=*=

She groaned softy, lifting a hand to bat away the pressure put on her cheek.

It continued, accompanied by a soft chuckle. It was like someone was gently patting her cheeks, and it was incredibly annoying. All she wanted to do was sleep..

" Car-ter.." Her name was said in a singsong way and by someone who was obviously amused. " Come on, Captain. Time to rise and shine!"

The voice seemed unbearably loud, echoing around inside her head, making her wince even as she struggled to decide whether to lapse back into unconsciousness or rejoin the living world.

Why did her head hurt so much, anyway? She didn't remember drinking heavily the night before so she shouldn't have a hang over.

The pressure at her cheek was back, a little harder this time, and she was surprised when she cried out at the touch. Why did her face hurt so much? It was like it'd recently bruised..

Memories flooded back. With a gasp, her breath catching in her throat, Sam opened her eyes and tried shuffling backwards, away from the man leaning over her. " Get away from me."

The Goa'uld in control of the Colonel laughed and shook his head at her, reaching out and easily catching her arms. He tightened his hold on them until she winced, grinning when she tried to kick him only to find he'd bound her legs when she'd been unconscious. " That's no way to greet your CO, Captain. Surely that deserves some kind of punishment.."

" You are not my Commanding Officer, you're not even human." Trying to free herself from his grip, she gave him the darkest glare she could muster.

" I am far superior to your Tau'ri race. I am Goa'uld." His grin never seemed to falter. " I am called Amadeo. Your Colonel now serves me. *You* now serve me."

Her eyes narrowed defiantly even though she was well aware of who was in control of the situation. Her training and her own stubborn sense of pride kicked in. " I will never serve you," she spat at him venomously. A weaker man or Goa'uld would have backed off. " The Colonel will never serve you, either. He's fighting you, isn't he? He'll never give in, especially not to a Goa'uld."

" You'd be surprised, Samantha." The smile he gave her was sadistic to say the least. " He doesn't call you that, does he?" His pleasure at the situation increased when Sam squirmed uncomfortably - not to mention the discomfort he felt inside his host. " You'd be disappointed to know how weak your Colonel really is. He gave in without a moment's hesitation. Of course, that was after I used his memories to cause him further distress. Do you know the pain he has experienced in his life? The tragedy, the loss.. He rarely spoke about it, did he? He is a very private man."

She knew the Goa'uld's words were true and it made her flinch. She hated to think of the memories that could've been used against him: his time in Iraq, various black ops assignments she couldn't and wouldn't even begin to imagine, and, worst of all, the death of his son. Colonel O'Neill hadn't spoken personally to her about it, what she did know had come from Daniel. She knew, however, how close the Colonel had been to ending his own life after Charlie's death and hated the thought that those memories and feelings were being forced upon him once again.

" The Colonels memories will only make him fight harder," Sam seethed between ground teeth, trying to ignore the leering way the Goa'uld was looking at her. " He's stronger than you think." She hoped she sounded more convinced than she felt; if there was anything that would break the Colonel, it would be his memories of his son.

Amadeo laughed at her and shook his head condescendingly. " Your confidence in him would be touching if it weren't so misplaced, Samantha. He is not as strong as you believe him to be." Moving closer he reached out and touched his cheek." He does not deserve your loyalty. You would be better suited to dedicate that loyalty to me."

She jerked her face away from his touch, glaring at him hotly. " I will never be loyal to a Goa'uld. Colonel O'Neill knows that and so should you."

A knowing smile curved the corners of his mouth. " I know everything he knows and even some things he doesn't want to admit. For example, he is uncomfortable with where this conversation is going. He does not like me calling you Samantha. He fears what I can and may do to you if you do not cooperate. He worries about the other members of your team as Trofksy holds them, awaiting my response."

Allowing her eyes to slide shut, the Captain tried not to listen to what was being said. She didn't want to be privy to O'Neill's private thoughts and fears and she didn't want to hear that the others had been captured. She found herself wishing that for once she could stop over-thinking but was unsurprised to find she couldn't.

" He also hopes you have a plan and that you will be able to escape me. I, too, suspect that you are hiding something." Amadeo's eyes flashed and he moved closer still, forcing her to open her eyes to watch him warily. " Perhaps you are hiding from the same truth your Colonel is, or maybe you have another secret you do not wish to tell us."

His cryptic comment only served to confuse and unnerve her. She felt none of the curiosity he expected her and refused to question him on it. Instead, she met his relentless gaze unflinchingly and waited for him to speak. A hand discreetly touched the band around her wrist, reassuring her that her plan, albeit slightly modified, was still possible.

Amadeo got to his feet and pulled her up by her arm. Her defiance angered him, so much more than he had thought possible. He guessed it had something to do with his hosts satisfaction at her response to him but had no idea why it angered him so. All he knew came form the genetic memories passed down through the Goa'uld and from those memories and feelings belonging to his host - two sources that were often in contradiction with each other. Amadeo himself had no personal experiences to call upon so found it difficult to completely understand the woman standing before him as well as his own reaction to her.

[So much for being all-powerful and all knowing. Guess it takes a few years to get used to being out of your Jaffa's pouch? What's it like in there, anyway? All soggy and dark? Mustn't be very pleasant. Then again, you didn't have to think too much. You were probably better off there.. Less responsibility, less confusion..]

" Silence!" Amadeo growled at the annoyingly insistent voice in his head. His host seemed to have recovered from the horror of being taken and had gained courage from Captain Carter's presence. While she'd been unconscious, the Colonel had been worried and Amadeo had prayed on his weakness, forcing him to confront other vulnerabilities the man tried his best not to acknowledge. " You will not speak unless you are spoken to."

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. It wasn't her imagination; Amadeo did seem distracted.. And she hadn't said a word so he can't have been addressing her.. " Colonel O'Neill? Sir?"

[Now she's talking to me so that means I can speak, right?]

Amadeo once again growled in obvious frustration.

" Sir, I don't know if you can hear me but if you can, please know that I won't leave you like this. None of us will. I'm sure General Hammond is planning something right now and as soon as the others are rescued, they'll come back for us. Daniel and Teal'c won't rest until we're all back home again."

[She's right, you know. Then again, Carter usually is. Daniel and Teal'c won't give up. *Ever*. Not until we're home, either alive or dead.]

" If you continue speaking without being invited to, the latter option may become too tempting to resist." The Goa'uld stared at Sam, a twisted smile playing about on his lips. " As for you.." He raised his hand and struck her across the face before she could react." You will learn to obey me the way a subordinate should. Surely you've had enough practise following O'Neill's orders."

Sam's cheek was stinging. She stared at him in disgusted anger, knowing she was going to have two matching bruises on her cheeks before long. She refused to show her fear, though. Amadeo would only feed off that.

[You son of a bitch! You hurt her again and I'll..]

" You'll what?" The snake inside him snarled, staring menacingly at the blond woman standing in front of him. " You are in no position to do anything. If you do not want to see her punished further, you will be quiet."

[...]

" Now," Amadeo tugged on her arm and pulled her towards him. " It is time for you to learn what your disobedience will cost you."

She stayed resolutely silent, meeting his stony gaze evenly.

[Disobedience? She's a human, not a dog!]

" I warned you.." Wrapping an arm around Sam's waist to keep her against him, Amadeo touched the device on his wrist and hand - a ribbon device. Where it had come from, Sam didn't know. She only had to hear a telltale screech to know what he'd done. In a few seconds, the two of them were engulfed by white light and whisked out of the room. " Now you shall pay."

They arrived at the Stargate, behind the force shield. Sam's eyes widened at seeing her colleagues on their knees, their hands bound behind their backs. They turned to face the rings at the sound of someone joining them, Daniel's expression horrified expression frozen in place when he realised the man with her was no longer the man he knew.

" Colonel Makepeace," Amadeo greeted the CO with a sly grin. " Colonel O'Neill is not impressed with your rescue attempt."

His jaw clenching, the other Colonel decided to ignore the Goa'uld. " Captain Carter," he ground out. " I thought I made it clear you weren't to go back for him."

Lowering her eyes, Sam chose not to answer. She winced when Amadeo chuckled, his breath warm against her ear, his arms tightening around her.

" I'm sure this wasn't part of her plan, Colonel," the Goa'uld grinned lazily. " But I agree she needs discipline. Perhaps you would volunteer to help teach her obedience..?"

He shoved her roughly to the side, showing her no sympathy when she landed on the ground with a dull thud. Instead, he all but ignored her, turning to Trofsky and barking a few orders in Goa'uld, letting the other snake know Hathor was gone and he was in charge.

Trofsky handed Amadeo a staff weapon and Sam watched in horror as the Colonel's body slowly but confidently made its way over to the others. Amadeo stopped in front of Colonel Makepeace, pointing the staff in the other man's face.

" You should learn to listen, Samantha. Your friends will die as a result of your failure."

At that moment, the Stargate began to engage. Averting her gaze from the scene before her, Sam did her best to ignore the confused exchange between Trofsky, Amadeo and the Jaffa. She pulled up her sleeve and pressed hard on the device on her wrist. Unfortunately for her, Amadeo had turned his attention back to her just as she did.

In the distance, the compound blew up. The force shield dropped and the Stargate activated. Something that looked like a big deathglider flew out of it as Amadeo dragged her back to her feet.

His hand went to his wrist, to activate the rings again, when Daniel spoke.

" Jack, no!" The archaeologist stumbled onto his feet, staring imploringly at the Colonel and Captain. " Don't. If you stay, we can help you. We can get you and Sam home.."

" Nice try, Doctor Jackson." Amadeo smirked as he touched the device. " Colonel O'Neill is not in control now."

Amadeo and Sam disappeared at the same time Bra'tac and two Jaffa stepped through the 'Gate. Daniel fell back to his knees, staring blankly at the place his friends had once been.

He stayed there even as the others moved, even as General Hammond and Teal'c approached him.

" Doctor Jackson, where is Colonel O'Neill and Captain Carter?"

He ignored the General's question.

" Daniel Jackson?"

Teal'c, too, was ignored.

" They're gone, General." Colonel Makepeace reluctantly came to stand beside the General, his eyes fixed on Doctor Jackson's stunned face. " Colonel O'Neill has been compromised, Sir. He's a Goa'uld."

Teal'c helped Daniel get to his feet, his gaze almost accusing as he stared at the Colonel. " And what of Major Carter?"

Makepeace shuffled his feet uncomfortably. " He took her with him."

General Hammond's shoulders tensed. His jaw clenched painfully, his eyes fixed on the inactive Stargate. " We'll debrief the moment we get home, Colonel."

=*=

The debriefing took place when the General said: the moment they got home. Makepeace watched longingly as his teammates headed to the showers and the infirmary, dragging his weary body in the direction of the briefing room. Doctor Jackson, he noticed, had been ushered to the infirmary immediately, escorted by Teal'c who refused to listen to the archaeologists protests that he needed to hear what was said.

Makepeace sank gratefully into his chair at the briefing room table, too tired to stay standing until the General told him to sit. Luckily, General Hammond didn't seem to notice or care as he too sat down heavily.

" What happened, Colonel?" The General's piercing eyes locked onto Makepeace's.

Shifting in his seat, Makepeace made himself as comfortable as possibly before answering the best he could. " Colonel O'Neill had already been compromised by the time we got there, Sir. SG-3 stayed behind to secure the 'Gate, the rest of us made our way to Hathor's base. We found Captain Carter and Doctor Jackson being led down a corridor by some Jaffa and neutralised their captives. It was then Captain Carter told us Hathor had made Colonel O'Neill a Goa'uld. Jackson seemed stunned but Carter was convinced we could rescue the Colonel."

" Is that how she was taken? You went back for him?" General Hammond's expression gave nothing away. Makepeace couldn't tell if that was what the General wanted to hear or not so settled for telling the truth.

" No, Sir." Clearing his throat, the Colonel pushed away the doubt that nagged at him. If he had agreed then to go back for O'Neill, maybe they would've got there in time to stop the Goa'uld from taking over. Captain Carter wouldn't have gone back for him later if they had done and maybe then it'd be the command team of SG-1 debriefing the General instead of him. Maybe. " By that stage we'd lost contact with SG-3. I thought it was best to try and get the rest of the team home than risk more casualties by going for Colonel O'Neill."

General Hammond nodded shortly. Militarily speaking, it was a sound decision. Personally speaking, Hammond knew if the situation had been reversed Colonel O'Neill wouldn't have hesitated in looking for the other man. 'We don't leave our own behind' was SG-1's personal motto and he hoped that it was the Captain's sole motivation for going back for her CO. " Continue, Colonel."

" The 'Gate seemed unguarded at first. There was no sign of SG-3 but there was no sign of the Goa'uld either. As we got closer, though, we encountered the force shield and the ring device activated. We realised then that SG-3 had been neutralised. We took heavy fire before the underground Tok'ra tunnels were revealed by one of the blasts from those towers." Makepeace closed his eyes as he remembered, the events replaying in his mind with disturbing clarity. " We walked through the tunnels hoping to get to the Stargate from underneath but the force shield was powerful enough to work at that depth. Captain Carter theorised about the power source and volunteered to go back to the compound with some C4 to blow it up."

" She went alone?"

Makepeace swallowed and gave a brief nod. For some reason, he found he couldn't meet the General's eyes. " Jackson offered to go with her but he was injured. I was going to send someone else but she pointed out that we'd need all the backup we could get if we were to keep the Jaffa busy until you could send reinforcements. She ended up going back alone, which made it possible for her to go against my orders and try to find Colonel O'Neill."

" Do you think she let her personal objective get in the way of the mission?"

The Colonel hesitated for a moment. His first thought was to say yes and ask that the General bring her up on charges for disobeying an order. His second thought was that it would be pointless to do that when she hadn't made it back to Earth and possibly never would. Besides, she had done what she was meant to. She'd just done something else as well. " No, Sir. She achieved what she had set out to do."

General Hammond gave another nod and motioned for him to go on, his thoughtful expression looking a little relieved to the exhausted Colonel.

" Anyway, we were cornered by the Jaffa in the tunnel and taken to the surface where Trofsky, one of the Goa'uld, was waiting. We had our weapons take from us and couldn't do anything but wait. Trofsky was calling for Captain Carter, threatening to kill us if she didn't reveal herself. That's when Colonel O'Neill used the ring device and arrived with Captain Carter as his hostage. He threatened to kill us to teach her obedience and that's when you arrived, Sir. Captain Carter must had planted the C4 before going to find the Colonel because she had a remote attached to her wrist and detonated it just in time. The Goa'uld in Colonel O'Neill grabbed her and used the ring device again to get them out of there. You know the rest."

" Thank you, Colonel." General Hammond gave him a grim smile. " Go and shower then get yourself to the infirmary. You're all on downtime for the next three days, I'll expect your report then. Dismissed."

Colonel Makepeace remained seated, his expression distant. He couldn't stop the events from playing over and over, his mind working overtime to try and find a way he could have made the situation different. One that would have had a better outcome.

" Colonel?" General Hammond's tone was softer, more understanding than the brisk tones of an Air Force officer. " Is there something else you want to tell me?"

" No, Sir." He shifted in his seat, staring at the tabletop. " I was just.. What would you have done, Sir? Would you have gone back for Colonel O'Neill or..?"

" As who, Colonel?" Hammond saw the wave of confusion pass over the other mans face and sighed heavily. " As yourself, I wouldn't have done anything differently. However, I understand Captain Carter's decision and can't fault her for it. SG-1.. aren't your average team as you well know. Given Colonel O'Neill's history, I'm not surprised that Captain Carter went back for him. They learnt the hard way not to leave our own behind."

Frowning, his interest piqued, Makepeace sat up a little straighter in his chair. " Colonel O'Neill's history, General?"

It was the Generals turn to look uncomfortable. " This stays between you and me, Colonel." When Makepeace nodded, Hammond continued. " Colonel O'Neill was once left behind. It was during the Gulf war, he had to watch his teammates leave him because they thought ht was dead and he had no way of letting them know otherwise. He was mission for four months, a prisoner of war for most of that time."

" So that's why he feels so strongly about not leaving anyone behind," Makepeace thought aloud.

" Yes, and during the last two years, it's a belief that's become instilled in the other members of SG-1." General Hammond swallowed, trying to ignore the bitter taste in his mouth. " It's also a common belief in SG-1 that they would all rather eat a bullet than become a host."

Alarmed, wide eyes met Hammonds. " You think that was Captain Carter's intention?"

" It's possible, Colonel. We won't know for certain either way until Captain Carter gets back. I trust none of what I've told you will leave this room."

" Yes, Sir." Pushing himself to his feet, Makepeace headed for the door, his mind brimming with thoughts and conflicting emotions. He blindly made his way to the locker rooms, wondering if the guilt eating him up inside would ever go away.

=*=

Amadeo and Sam arrived on a small cargo ship stationed above the planet after leaving the scene in front of the Stargate. Amadeo knew from his mother, Hathor's, memories that the ship was permanently cloaked above the planet in case they needed to make a quick escape.

He felt no guilt at having helped kill the woman who had given him life. Betrayal and deceit were common occurrences among the Goa'uld, he knew that. So what difference did it make if he did what hundreds of Goa'uld before him had done? He was one of them, after all. Alone with only a small mismatched army of Jaffa needing to make his own mark on the universe.

He planned to do that with the woman at his side.

His host had dozens upon dozens of memories and recollections regarding Captain Carter. She was a good soldier, a brave warrior, and, if Colonel O'Neill's thoughts were accurate, one of the Tau'ri's brightest minds. If she herself became host to a Goa'uld, she would make a very powerful ally.

He smirked, looking down on her. After arriving on the ship, he'd taken her to the cargo bay that had been decorated and furnished to act as his chambers - Hathor's originally. The Air Force captain hadn't said a word as he'd pushed her to the floor. She sat in the corner, staring at him coldly.

Yes, she would be a powerful ally - and a pleasant companion. Amadeo had access to all parts of the Colonel's mind, able to see his thoughts and able to feel the emotions connected to them. His host had conflicting feelings about the blond captain. There was a healthy amount of respect and a lot of admiration for what she did. As far as the Colonels conscious mind was concerned that was it. His subconscious mind was another matter. There was an attraction that the Colonel tried not to acknowledge but Amadeo could sense it was hard to ignore. Amadeo loved forcing his host to confront it, enjoying the discomfort and anger the Colonel felt as Amadeo probed deeper into the relationship between the two officers.

[Leave her out of it. Carter would rather die than take a snake like you.]

" She will not be given a choice, Colonel." Amadeo stared down at her as Sam's eyes widened. " You cannot keep me from doing what I please. You are insignificant; your voice will fade in time and you will submit to me just as she will."

[Not gonna happen.]

" That will never happen, I assure you." She crossed her arms defensively over her chest. " I'd rather die."

[Told ya.]

" You may get your wish, Samantha." Amadeo ignored the smug voice inside. " I am confused at your continued loyalty to our host and your people. Surely one so smart as yourself realises how foolish you are being?"

Instead of answering, Sam stared at him. To Amadeo, it felt as though she was seeing through him. His host, he noticed, was also strangely silent, almost as if.. Almost as if the two humans were communicating on some level, silently so that he couldn't hear.

Annoyed at feeling ignored, Amadeo grabbed her arm and yanked her up onto her feet, severing the eye contact between them. " From now on, my host is dead to you. He does not exist. You will learn to regret speaking of him." Amadeo shook her as he issued the command, viciously quashing the protests in his head.

" As long as you live so will he." Despite the painful vice-like hold he had on her arm, Sam refused to back down. " He's still fighting you, isn't he? That's why you keep talking to yourself; you're really talking to him."

" He is gone, Samantha! Do no delude yourself into believing otherwise or.."

" Or what?" Sounding braver than she felt, Sam couldn't resist challenging him a little, taunting him as she knew the Colonel would do. Maybe if she distracted him, the Colonel would stand a better chance at gaining control. " You'll kill me?"

[Watch it, Carter..]

Amadeo found her bravery intriguing. " You do not think I would?"

" I think if you wanted me dead I would be already." She tried to wrench her arm away but he tightened his grip, pulling her up against him. " Hey!"

His eyes flashed with anger as he backed her into the wall behind. " You think he's still in control to some extent, don't you? That's why you think you're safe, that's why you don't think I'll hurt you." Amadeo sneered, trapping her against the wall. " If your precious Colonel was still in control, do you really think he'd let me do this?"

He hit her before she could question what he meant. Her head snapped backwards with the force of the blow, hitting the wall with a dull thud. Her vision blurred for a moment or two and he hit her again before she had time to fully recover.

[Stop! Stop it, you sick, twisted son of a bitch! STOP!]

=*=

" She is alive."

[Barely.]

" You care a great deal for her."

[Shut. Up.]

" She will recover."

[She wouldn't have to if you'd left her alone.]

" I only did what was necessary."

[Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?]

" I do not like what you are insinuating."

[Yeah, bet you don't like the guilt you're feeling either.]

" I am Goa'uld. I do not feel guilty for my actions. She deserved it, she was trying to anger me.."

[So you decide to nearly kill her.]

" She had to be taught a lesson. She had to know you are no longer in control."

[I may not be in control but I'm having an effect on you. If I didn't, we wouldn't be having this conversation. If you could ignore me and shut out my thoughts, you wouldn't feel the way you do.]

" And how do I feel?"

[You care about her. Just like I do.]

=*=

He tried to ignore his hosts comment but couldn't keep it from repeating over and over in his mind. Of course, it didn't help that the Colonel refused to let the subject drop. In fact, he seemed almost as determined to force Amadeo into making an admission as Amadeo himself had been in trying to force a revelation on his host.

Amadeo hadn't expected to feel guilt or remorse at having caused her injuries. From his knowledge of the Goa'uld, it seemed he was the first. Hathor had certainly felt nothing akin to what he was feeling when she'd tortured and killed for no other reason other than entertainment. Nor had any of the other Goa'uld he had memory of.

So why was he any different? Had he not blended with his host in the right way? Was he too weak, allowing his host to influence him even when he wasn't aware of it?

Hathor herself had injured Captain Carter. The Queen Goa'uld had hated the blond woman, had planned to make her a host as revenge for thwarting her plans. Amadeo had been born before she'd attempted it but he knew that her plans had again been unsuccessful: Hathor had found Samantha trying to rescue the Colonel so had tried to kill her. His host had gone to the blond woman's aid and he himself had killed Hathor just moments before his host had reasserted himself briefly. The Colonel hadn't even noticed he wasn't in control at that moment; he'd been easily distracted by his own anger and confusion, believing mistakenly that he was the one with her blood on his hands.

He didn't feel sad that she was gone. He wasn't angry and he didn't hold either of the Tau'ri responsible. If anything, he was grateful to them. It was because Hathor was dead that he had the opportunity to rule instead of being someone who spent his life serving.

Amadeo did feel guilty for hurting *her*, though. Captain Carter hadn't deserved it, not really. Looking down on her through his hosts eyes, he felt remorse at being the one to cause the ugly bruises that marred her skin. He felt bad at having had to heal the internal injuries he'd caused to save her from death. He hated the pained grimace on her face as she fought to regain consciousness.

[If she dies..]

" She will not. I have fixed the worst of her injuries. She will awaken soon."

[She better wake up.]

" Or you'll what? Shout abuse at me from inside our head?"

[That's *my* head and that's *my* Captain you're drooling over so quit it.]

" You are awfully possessive of someone who is just a friend, Colonel." Amadeo grinned, eager to focus on his host's feelings so he could distract himself from his own. " Is there something you wish to share?"

[Just let her go, okay? You don't need a personal punch bag. You could send her home and move onto another planet. Hey, if you send her now, she won't be able to give the others any information at all..]

" And then this Doctor Fraiser you know can make sure she really is well." The Goa'uld rolled his eyes. " You cannot fool me, Colonel. Nor can you hide anything from me. You can't even hide from yourself."

[What does that mean?]

" I think you know."

[Well I know I don't so what does it mean?]

" You pretend you have no feelings for her, you hide behind protocol and regulations. You delude yourself into believing she is merely a colleague, perhaps a friend but nothing more."

[There isn't anything more between us. If you're so smart, you'll know that.]

" You deny the attraction you feel?"

[Physical attraction does not amount to there being something more than.. Why am I discussing this with you?]

" There is little else for us to do, O'Neill. You are too tired, too weak to fight me yet you refuse to relinquish control of your body to me entirely." A small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. " What else can we do while we wait for her to awake?"

[You could get out of my head and let me take her home?]

Amadeo laughed, a surprisingly warm sound that bounced off the walls and echoed around the room. " I am learning to appreciate your sense of humour."

[Good for you. Not many people do.]

" *She* does." Amadeo sighed when the Colonel remained silent. " Will you not admit that there is a distinct possibility that there *could* be something between you? That the attraction you feel could someday grow into something more?"

[If I do will you let the subject drop?]

" Yes."

There was a brief moment of silence.

[So you like my sense of humour, huh?]

=*=

The Stargate activated and lit the Gateroom in a blue glow. General Hammond stood at the window in the briefing room, staring down on the 'Gate anxiously, his fingers crossed behind his back in a gesture of hope.

His hope was short-lived.

Daniel and Teal'c returned through the event horizon alone. Daniel's shoulders were slumped, his whole posture screaming defeat. Teal'c looked up and met the General's gaze, shaking his head to show the mission had not been a success.

Turning away, disappointment eating at him, General Hammond sat down in his chair at the head of the table waiting for the two remaining members of SG-1 to join him. He wasn't looking forward to hearing what they had to say, nor was he anticipating a favourable reaction to their new orders.

" They were no help, General. It was a complete waste of time." Daniel Jackson sat down heavily in his own chair, his expression matching the despondent tone he used.

" The Tok'ra were most unhelpful, General Hammond." Teal'c calmly took his seat although the anger he kept restrained could be seen glittering in his dark eyes. " They refused to tell us where to find Jacob Carter and insisted they were too busy to help us recover Colonel O'Neill and Captain Carter."

General Hammond sighed and fought the urge to clench his fists or hit something. There were times he could understand Colonel O'Neill's opposition to the treaty with the Tok'ra. " Did they say when Jacob would be available?"

" No, Sir. We told them it was about Sam and Jack, that Hathor was dead and we needed Jacob's head to find his daughter.. They didn't care." Daniel sat back in his chair, a helpless expression in place. " Martouf was the only one who seemed interested in what we had to say. He said he'd try and get a message to Jacob but couldn't promise anything. Lantesh disagreed with him, said Jacob's mission is more important to the Tok'ra."

" Aren't Lantesh and Martouf the same person..?" General Hammond frowned and tried to get it straight in his mind. It confused him having to recognise one face by two names.

Teal'c answered with a curt nod. " Lantesh is the name of the symbiote, Martouf is the name of the host."

" So if Martouf is stronger, there's a chance Jacob will find out and come to help us." Daniel lifted one shoulder in a none-too-convinced shrug.

" I see." General Hammond sighed again and let his joint hands come to rest on the table. " I spoke to the President while you were gone. It seems he agrees with Major Davis at the Pentagon. The two of you are being reassigned to another team, Presidents orders. Your expertise is too valuable to go to waste."

Both members of SG-1 - former members of SG-1 - sat up straighter in their chairs. " Reassignments? What about Sam and Jack..? We're not giving up on them, General. You're not calling off the search..?"

" Unofficially, no." The General focused sharp eyes on the pain. " Colonel O'Neill is still out there; we can only hope Captain Carter is still with him and that she's still alive. All SG-units have orders to report any sightings immediately. If we're unable to contact our allies for help, they will be officially declared MIA in three days."

Daniel swallowed visibly and got to his feet. " Which team will we be joining, Sir? That is, if we chose to stay with the SGC?"

General Hammond blinked. " I hope you'll stay, Doctor Jackson. You won't be able to help find Colonel O'Neill, Captain Carter or your wife if you leave. If you stay, you will both be assigned to SG-3. Colonel Makepeace lost all members of his team in the rescue attempt."

" Is that all General?"

" Yes." Getting to his feet in unison with Teal'c, Hammond was unsurprised to see Daniel's back as he stormed out of the room. " You're dismissed, Teal'c." The Jaffa gave another short nod and made to follow his teammate, leaving the General to walk alone into his office, sinking down into his seat.

Just over two weeks ago, he had been trying to contact Jacob Carter to let him know his daughter was soon to be promoted. In a matter of days, the news had changed. General Hammond was waiting to contact his friend to tell him his daughter was gone.

=*=

He sat on the edge of the bed looking down on her. For reasons he couldn't fathom, Amadeo had decided to take a back seat and let him sit with her for a while.

Carter hadn't woken up. Even Amadeo was beginning to panic a little, wondering if there was an injury he'd failed to spot or maybe he was too immature to use the device properly.. Jack dismissed the Goa'uld's worries and focused on his own.

She hadn't woken up.

Pained expressions drifted over her features every so often but she still didn't stir. The mottled bruises that stained her cheeks gave him more cause for concern. In contrast to the colourful patches, the rest of her face was stark and pale.

" Come on, Carter." He reached out to touch her throat, relieved to feel a steady pulse beneath his fingertips. She was still alive, even if it was hard to believe. Her chest still rose and fell evenly, proving she was breathing but she still remained unconscious.

He didn't want to dwell on the feelings her condition encouraged within him. It was an area of his being that was strictly off-limits, never to be ventured into. Jack clung to memories of his ex-wife and his knowledge of the USAF regulations as a way to avoid having to contemplate the possibility of something else..

" *Sam*. Wake up, please." She remained oblivious, her eyes seemingly welded shut.

Maybe Amadeo was right; maybe he had missed something.

Maybe she was dying.

The doors to the cargo bay-turned-private quarters opened and Jack stood up. Amadeo immediately took control and stared expectantly at the intruder.

" A Goa'uld vessel has uncloaked," the Jaffa informed them emotionlessly. " It will reach us within the hour."

" How long will it take for us to arrive at our destination?" Amadeo narrowed his eyes, not suspicious of the Jaffa standing in front of him but curious as to whom would approach him. News of Hathor's death couldn't have spread so quickly that whoever it was had set out to find him.

" We are almost there, Lord Amadeo. Should we change our course to avoid exposing the whereabouts of your base?"

Shaking his head, Amadeo sat down again. He hadn't expected to have to make so many decisions; he assumed being an all-powerful God would mean someone else would make those decisions for him. " Find out who it is and what they want. We will land on Calarnia as planned."

" Are you certain, my Lord?" The Jaffa was surprised although he tried not to let it show in his posture. " If it is a System Lord.."

" You dare question me?" Rising to his feet again, Amadeo glared imposingly at the Jaffa, drawing himself up until he stood at his full height. " Leave us now and do not return until you know who it is."

" Yes, my Lord." The Jaffa hastily backed out of the room. " I apologise for the intrusion."

A heavy sigh escaped him as he once again sat down. It was harder than he thought it would be, controlling a host body, being in charge of others.. He wondered if perhaps he'd get used to it in time. After being joined with the same host for years, he suspected it would be less hassle and more enjoyable. Having two personalities in one body was wearing. Maybe once the Colonel accepted what had happened everything else would fall into place. Amadeo was certain Hathor and Ra and all the other Goa'ulds had been able to silence their hosts after their blending.

Something he would be able to but by that time maybe he'd chose not to. He was getting used to his hosts company, no matter how annoying it could get. In Goa'uld terms Amadeo was young, still an infant, and even with the memories of his ancestors, he was very inexperienced. Maybe he'd feel differently when he had a Queen of his own, someone else to talk to and debate things with..

[Carter is not going to be your Queen so get that idea out of my head immediately.]

" You are the one who gave me the idea, Colonel." Amadeo returned his gaze to the slumbering woman. " You yourself have convinced me she is the perfect choice. Beauty, brains, compassion, bravery, strength.. These are all qualities you recognise in her, qualities I wish my life partner to possess."

[Give her a snake and she'll no longer have those qualities. The snake you give her will be arrogant, cold, devious and untrustworthy. Give her a snake and she'll betray you.]

" Then I shouldn't give her a symbiote? I should keep her here with us as an unwilling partner who will someday learn to want to be with us?" Amadeo smiled slightly. " Your feelings are in conflict. A large part of you wants her to return to your world. A small part of you longs to keep her with us so we can ensure no harm will come to her."

[No harm?! She's almost dead thanks to you! She might still die!]

" It will not happen again," Amadeo assured him softly. " If she agrees to stay with us, as I believe she will, I will control my temper and we can do all we can to keep her safe."

[What makes you think she'll agree to stay? Because you're a snake with a difference?]

" A difference?"

[Most snakes don't have feelings, especially not for people who aren't Goa'uld like them. If I didn't know any better I'd say you were the one wit the feelings for her.]

" You are wrong, O'Neill. I do not love her yet I believe I could." Amadeo reached out to touch her cheek tenderly, feeling his host squirm uncomfortably at the contact. " As for the Goa'uld having no feelings, you are again incorrect. When a Goa'uld finds someone they can truly trust and care for, they will do anything to keep them. Samantha may escape gaining a symbiote for our first few years together but she will someday need one."

[She's not going to agree to stay so she won't need one *ever*.]

" Yes, she will." The Goa'uld removed his hand and sat back, studying her. " Her loyalty to you will keep her with us. And as I do not intend on having to replace her as our Queen, she will eventually take a symbiote so she can live as long as us."

A soft moan distracted Jack from making a comeback. Amadeo leaned over her, watching intently as her eyelids fluttered and eventually woke up.

Fear, pain and confusion were directed at him through her eyes. She did her best to move away, pushing herself off the side of the bed and standing on unsteady legs. " Stay away from me."

" Samantha.." Amadeo advanced on her, doing his best to appear apologetic rather than menacing. " Please, accept my apology. My temper got the better of me. It will not happen again, I promise."

" Goa'uld never apologise." Sam's eyes narrowed suspiciously and she took another step away from his advancing form, relieved when he stopped walking towards her. " What do you want?"

" We want you to be our companion, Samantha." He gave her a wry smile. " Well, I do. My host needs a little more convincing but it shouldn't take much. He is very fond of you."

Holding her chin up defiantly, Sam stopped when her back came in contact with the wall. " I will die before I let you give me a symbiote."

" So I've been told." Amadeo grinned. " You have time to get used to the idea, Samantha. You have several years before it will become necessary for a symbiote to extend your life and keep your beauty in tact."

" And you think I'm just going to agree to that? You think I'll willingly stay with a Goa'uld just because you promise not to hurt me again?" Her disbelief was written on her face. " You're insane."

He sat down, never taking his eyes from her. " I do not believe you will stay for me, I believe you will stay for your Colonel. Think about it, Samantha. You could be sure of his health just as we can ensure your safety."

" You expect me to sit by and watch you try and take over the universe? As you attack my home and try to destroy everyone who lives there?" She shook her head and stared at him disdainfully. " I won't sit back and let that happen and I know the Colonel won't either."

" What if I promise to leave Earth alone? There are plenty of other planets we can rule." Amadeo gave her a winning smile. " Just consider it, Samantha. Please."

" Why?" Her legs giving out on her, she let herself slide down the wall until she was sitting on the floor. " Why would you do that?"

He shrugged casually, still watching her, always watching her." Because I don't want to be alone. If I am to succeed, if your Colonel and I are to succeed and stay alive, we will need someone we can trust at our side. We.. I would like that person to be you. You are the only person asides from my host I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to." He held his hand up to stop her protests. " Think about it, Samantha. That's all I ask."

The doors open again and the same Jaffa stepped hesitantly into the room. " Lord Amadeo, we have made contact with the Goa'uld ship. It is Nirrti, my Lord. She has requested an audience with you."

" Very well." Amadeo nodded but made no attempt at standing. " Grant her permission to ring down to Calarnia. We will meet with her shortly." He paused and surveyed his Jaffa. " I assume we have reached Calarnia?"

The Jaffa bowed his head. " Yes, my Lord. We are preparing for our descent now."

" Good. You can go now." He got to his feet as the doors slid shut. " You have heard of Nirrti," he gazed curiously at the woman sitting on the floor. " You do not look pleased to see her although my host cannot explain why."

Wrapping her arms around herself, Sam felt the change in the ships motion as it started its descent. " Nirrti is responsible for wiping out a whole civilisation and an SG-team stationed there. A young girl, Cassandra, was the only survivor."

There was a pause as Amadeo began to search the Colonel's mind, only to stop when his host when his host gave him the information willingly. " Cassandra Fraiser. You care a great deal for her."

" Yes I do."

Nodding, Amadeo tried to give her a reassuring smile. " We will meet with her but will not invite her to stay for long. Whatever she wants will not be given to her. Maybe this will be our opportunity to prove my sincerity."

Sam didn't say anything. She simply stared up at him from her place on the floor, wondering if the Colonel was still somewhere inside, wondering if Amadeo had taken complete control and all was finally lost.

=*=

After their arrival on Calarnia, Amadeo insisted that he and Sam needed to be properly attired for their meeting with Nirrti. They kept the Hindu Goddess waiting, changing into the robes brought to them by Amadeo's Jaffa. With reluctance, Sam left the safety of the room Amadeo had given her, dressed in rich blue and purple dress robes.

Taking her hand, Amadeo led her to where Nirrti was waiting, noticing the surprise on the other Goa'uld's face when he arrived with his companion in tow. " Nirrti, we are pleased to make your acquaintance. Please, sit and be comfortable."

" With thanks, Lord Amadeo." Nirrti bowed to him briefly before gracefully taking the seat she had been offered. With eyes as sharp as an eagle she watched his every move, noticing the way he never let go of his partners hand and noting with interest the uncomfortable look on the blond woman's face. " Is it necessary for your.. companion.. to join us?"

" There is nothing we wish to hide, Nirrti. Whatever you say can be said in front of us both." Amadeo grasped Sam's hand more firmly, dismayed when her fingers remained motionless in his hand. " What is it you wish to discuss?"

Nirrti studied him for a few moments. She licked her lips and leaned forward, hoping to capture his attention for the duration of their conversation. " We have a proposition for you, one we believe Hathor would have accepted. The System Lords are becoming more selective as to whom they allow to gain power and control. Our plan is to take what we deserve without needing permission but to do his, we will need help."

" What exactly do you want us to do?" Amadeo arched an eyebrow, sharing his host's suspicion of the Goa'uld sitting before him. " Going against the System Lords is not a wise move, Nirrti."

" It would not be wise to do alone but together.." Her smile turned seductively coy, her eyes lowering demurely. " Lords Cronus and Yu would be easy targets. If we were to join forces, we could convince their Jaffa to join us. It would be easy to defeat Cronus and Yu if their slaves served us."

" How would we be sure you would not betray us?" His host was certain Nirrti would use them and then discard them and Amadeo had to agree. She obviously wasn't the trustworthiest Goa'uld he could enter into an alliance with, not if she was so keen to overthrow two of the other Goa'uld she already had a treaty with.

The charm in her smile was turned up a notch, her eyes locking with his and refusing to look away. " *You* would become our one and only Lord, our mate. We would take our place at your side as your Queen. We could rule together, Amadeo. We could defeat the System Lords and take what is theirs."

" Your offer is very tempting." Amadeo glanced at Sam out of the corner of his eye and found her staring back. " However, we will have to decline. We have already chosen our Queen and we do believe she will prove to be more loyal than you."

Nirrti's smile flickered. " You have chosen this specimen to be your Queen?" She eyed the captain critically, turning her nose up and what she saw. " She can give you nothing we cannot. We can help you gain respect and power. She is attractive, yes, but can she help you find your place among the System Lords? Would she be willing to put her own needs aside to ensure yours are satisfied?" She looked at him pitifully, crossing her arms over her chest. " Do not let you host influence your choice, Amadeo. We know at the beginning of any new blending there is conflict between host and Goa'uld. Chose your Queen to suit your needs not as a way to appease the one you control."

" You cannot know if my host and my Queen know one another." His eyes narrowed, his host falling strangely silent. " You have no way of knowing.."

" They are of the same race, are they not? It is obvious, Amadeo. You acquire both within a matter of days. It is clear they came from the same place." Her smile was smug. " One of your Jaffa informed us that they are both Tau'ri and that your Queen is not yet one of us.. It is not too late to chance your mind.."

" As soon as a symbiote is ready for implantation, she will take her rightful place by our side," Amadeo lied convincingly. " We will not chance our mind, Nirrti. Your time here has been wasted. I will have my Jaffa escort you to your ship."

Amadeo got to his feet, helping Sam to hers before leading her out of the room without a backwards glance. He ushered her away from Nirrti, down the hallway to her own quarters. After making sure she was inside, he headed back to where he'd left the Goa'uld Goddess, eager to make sure she was gone and would not be returning.

" Did he accept your offer, my Queen?" He froze just outside of the room, recognising the voice as being that of his Jaffa, the one who'd questioned him aboard the cargo ship.

" He did not but he soon will." Nirrti sounded convinced by what she said. " He needs to be convinced our plan is fool proof. He needs to have no other option open to him."

" What do you plan to do?"

There was the smallest of pauses. " Do you have access to the Tau'ri woman? Could you get her alone?"

" Possibly, my Queen." The Jaffa seemed to hesitate for a split-second. " What do you wish me to do?"

Her laugh echoed disturbingly around the room she was in and Amadeo felt his host shudder internally. " Kill her. Then Lord Amadeo will have to accept us as his Queen and after we accessed the information his host possesses, he will be destroyed and you will be rewarded for your loyalty."

" As you wish, my Queen. The Tau'ri woman will be dead within the hour."

Amadeo silently backed away from the door, doing his best to ignore the fury his host was demonstrating vocally in his head. As quickly and quietly as possible, he returned to the hallway outside the room Sam was in, staring thoughtfully at the door.

=*=

The door to her room burst open, making her jump. Sam quickly got to her feet, standing as straight as she could, her senses on full alert. Her shoulders slumped when she saw who it was.

Amadeo.

She watched warily as he closed the door behind him before turning to face her, his expression one of deep concern and concentration.

" What's wrong?" Folding her arms defensively, she stared at him, wondering why he glanced around the room as if it was the first time he'd seen it. " Amadeo?" He didn't answer her; he kept walking around the room instead. " Colonel?"

" Your Colonel is still present, Samantha, but we have little time so let us concentrate. Please." Amadeo stopped after a few moments, settling himself in a little alcove behind the door. " Do you believe we would be seen standing here by anyone who were to come in?"

Frowning, she looked from him to the door and back again, shaking her head eventually. " Probably not but why would you want to hide in my room..?"

Amadeo's head lowered for a second and his eyes flashed. When he spoke, it was with the Colonel's voice. " One of the snake's Jaffa has betrayed him, Carter. He's on his way here to kill you so snake-boy here has no choice but to accept Nirrti's offer."

" Colonel O'Neill?" Her eyes widened and she took a step closer. " Is it really you or..?"

" It's me." He gave her a brief nod, his hand reflexively tightening around the zat gun at his side. " Snake-boy thought you'd take it better coming from me."

" Are you okay, Sir? I mean, I know you're not but.." She stopped talking and stared at him intently, searching his face for any sign that she was either being deceived or that he was trying to hide something from her.

The Colonel shrugged, seeing the concern in the depths of her blue eyes and feeling uncomfortable because of it. Not because she was concerned, but because of Amadeo's thoughts on the matter. His symbiote was still having too much fun trying to get him to admit something he really didn't want to think about. " I'm okay, Carter. It could've been a whole lot worse. Snake-boy's pretty young, not very sure of himself. Are you okay? You took quite a beating.."

Guilt flared in his eyes momentarily and didn't go unnoticed. " I'm fine, Sir. And you didn't do it so don't feel bad."

" Easier said than done." He managed a weak, lopsided smile and motioned for her to sit down. " Look like you don't know what's going to happen."

Doing as she was ordered, Sam sat down on the bed and resumed the position she'd been in before Amadeo and the Colonel had arrived: her head buried in her hands, she closed her eyes and tried to think of a way to get both of them away home.

It wasn't long before the door opened again. She looked up to find a Jaffa she vaguely recognised standing there nervously, a zat in one hand and a dagger in the other.

" Can I help you with something..?" Sam got to her feet, refusing to give into the urge to look over at Colonel O'Neill, telling herself he was there and wouldn't let anything happen to her. Neither he or Amadeo would let anything happen to her.

Without saying a word, the Jaffa advanced on her. He aimed the zat in her direction and was about the fire when it was kicked out of his hand. The Colonel - or was it Amadeo? - stepped out of the alcove and stared the Jaffa down, aiming his own zat at the startled man.

" Did you think you could betray me and live to reap your reward?" It was Amadeo speaking, Jack having been forced to take a backseat despite his insistence that he should be the one who got to punish the traitor.

" My Lord!" The Jaffa took a step back, glancing wildly from Sam to the Goa'uld advancing on him. " I only do what I think is best of you! This woman cannot help your cause, Goddess Nirrti is strong and powerful.. You can wait until you have conquered the domains of the other Gods and then dispose of her once she has served her purpose!"

Amadeo tilted his head to the side, seemingly considering the Jaffa's words. At the moment the Jaffa let his shoulders relax, the Goa'uld tightened his finger on the zat and fired twice, then a third time. " Nice try," he said to the space the body had been.

Her eyes wide with surprise, Sam couldn't move her eyes from the floor where the Jaffa had been. For some reason, her mind wandered to Teal'c and she shivered, hating the thought that in another life it could have been his murder that she'd witnessed. Forcing her gaze up, she gazed curiously at the Goa'uld wearing her Colonel's face. " Now what?"

" Nirrti is still here." Amadeo moved towards the door, stopping only to pick up the ritual dagger the Jaffa had dropped as he died. " She needs to be dealt with."

He left the room before she could voice her protests. Left no choice but to follow him, Sam managed to catch up to his long strides by the time he reached the ring room. Side-by-side, they entered the ring room and for a moment, Sam felt like she was standing next to her Commanding Officer, not the Goa'uld who possessed him.

" Amadeo!" Nirrti paused in activating the device, a fake smile in place across her lips. " What a pleasant surprise.. Have you changed your mind about joining us?"

" No, but we've changed our mind about letting you leave alive." He let the hand holding the zat gun rise, ready to aim it at her, when she suddenly activated the ribbon device she wore and sent him flying backwards into the wall.

Nirrti's eyes flashed as she noticed Sam reach for the zat Amadeo had dropped and she delivered a second blow to the Air Force captain, sending her crashing into the other wall. Smiling at the sight of the two fallen bodies, she headed towards Amadeo, slipping a hand into her pocket and pulling something else out.

Sliding it onto her fingers, she stood over the stunned form of Amadeo, smiling sweetly at him. " We are sad it has to end this way, Amadeo, but if you are not with us, you are against us. We do not need competition from the likes of you."

The device on her fingers was activated. Amadeo gave a cry of pain as it sent a beam of hot energy into his brain.

Across the room, Sam lifted her head and realised with wide eyes what it was Nirrti was using against him. It was a device she was unnervingly familiar with, one that had killed the Tok'ra symbiote she'd once been host to and one that would have killed her if not for the Tok'ra's willingness to sacrifice itself.

She pushed herself up, trying to shake off the daze induced by the ribbon device and managed to crawl a little nearer. Nirrti was concentrating so much on killing Amadeo that she hadn't noticed Sam had moved.

Sam felt her hand touch something and looked down at the floor. There, beside her hand, was the dagger Amadeo had dropped. Swallowing to keep the nausea she felt at bay, she sat up and picked up the dagger. Squinting, trying to focus on her target, she held her breath and threw the dagger.

A cry of pain let her know Nirrti had been hit. Amadeo and the Colonel fell silent. Sam's arm gave out underneath her and she crumpled back to the floor. Nirrti glared at her but made no move to retaliate. The Goa'uld glanced down at the semi-conscious form at her feet and, satisfied that Amadeo wouldn't survive, walked over to the rings in the centre of the room.

" Pray that we never meet again," was the last thing Nirrti said. The rings descended and engulfed her in a white light.

" I already am." Taking a deep breath, Sam once again pushed herself up. She half-crawled, half-dragged herself across the room, stopping when she reached the Colonel. " Sir? Colonel?" Fearing the worst, she hesitantly reached out and let her fingers brush the skin of his throat, feeling a weak pulse but a pulse nevertheless.

Colonel O'Neill's eyes opened but Amadeo was the one who spoke. " Samantha." He licked his dry lips, his face breaking out in a cold sweat. " I am dying, Samantha. My host.. He tells me this has happened to you before, that you believe your symbiote saved your life."

" Yes, she did." Shifting closer, she managed to cradle his head against her knees, hating the pallor of his skin and the pain she could see lining his face and dulling his eyes.

" I will try.." His voice became a weak croak, the light in his eyes growing ever fainter. " I will try to save him, Samantha."

" Thank you." She gave him the smallest of smiles, the rising panic she felt warring with her confusion at the strangeness of the situation. His eyes drifted shut and his body tensed, tremors periodically wracking his entire being.

Amadeo died but the Colonel still fought.

For over an hour, Captain Carter sat with her Commanding Officer, willing him to fight harder and open his eyes. She found herself wishing they were back at the SGC, that Doctor Fraiser was there to help and monitor his condition. She didn't want to be alone with a dying man.

Eventually, his trembling subsided. Lying still on the floor, his head still cradled by her, Colonel O'Neill opened glassy eyes and tried to focus on her.

" Ca.. Car.. Carter?" It took three attempts after moistening his lips to say her name.

Unconsciously running her fingers through his hair in a soothing gesture, she gazed down on him through misty eyes. " I'm here, Sir. You're going to be okay. Amadeo.. He's dead, Colonel. And Nirrti left. It's going to be okay now."

He barely had the strength to nod, his body demanding he get some more rest.

Watching over him as he fell asleep, Sam both saw and felt the crystalline drop of salt-water fall from her eye and land gently against his cheek. " It's going to be okay."

=*=

They spent almost a full day in the ring room of Amadeo's base recovering. When they were finally able to get to their feet, they explored the rest of the building, surprised but also relieved to find it had been abandoned by all of Amadeo's Jaffa. In the last room they came across, they found what they were looking for: a Stargate.

Travelling first to the last known whereabouts of the Tok'ra, they were pleased to find a small group of the aliens were still there, packing away the Tok'ra's belongings. From there, they went to the new Tok'ra homeworld and used the IDC given to the Tok'ra to get home to Earth.

After spending a week in the infirmary, holding their debriefing there, Colonel O'Neill and Captain Carter were finally able to put the mission from hell behind them. They hadn't spoken about their ordeal, not beyond what was said in front of General Hammond and their teammates, and neither wanted it to be any different. Neither could let it be any different.

On their first day back, they stood in line on the ramp as the General and the Secretary of Defence addressed them and the rest of the SGC, congratulating everyone on the rescue attempt and congratulating SG-1 on the deaths of two Goa'uld.

" Before we finish today I have one other small bit of business. Please come to attention." General Hammond took to the podium after the Secretary of Defence was finished. All of the officers present did as he ordered and stood at attention, all but one exchanging puzzled glances with the person next to them. " From the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force in recognition of Captain Samantha Carter's outstanding work I hereby authorise her immediate promotion to the rank of major. Captain, step forward."

Stunned, it was only when Teal'c and Daniel joined in with the clapping of the rest of the SGC that Sam moved. On decidedly unsteady legs, she walked passed her team and stood in front of the General, feeling as though she were watching the whole thing from afar as he removed her Captains bar.

" The United States Air Force recognises that you have fulfilled tasks and duties well beyond the responsibility of captain." General Hammond motioned to the Colonel and he stepped forward, taking an oakleaf and pinning it on her left shoulder as the General did the same on her right. " It is with great pleasure that I bestow upon you the responsibilities, the respect and the rank of Major."

'My CO gets a Goa'uld and I get a promotion.' Forcing the thought out of her mind, Sam turned to him and smiled, saluting him as she knew she should. " Thank you, Sir." Turning to the Colonel, she knew he could see what she was thinking as he, too, saluted her.

" Well done, Major." The grin he gave her was meant to put her fears at rest and succeeded in doing so.

Smiling her thanks, she retook her place beside the rest of her team and waited for the ceremony to be drawn to a close.

" In closing, Major Carter's supervisor, Colonel Jack O'Neill would like to say a few words."

Nodding his thanks to the General, O'Neill walked slowly to the podium, pulling out a set of cards as he stood there. His gaze drifted over the waiting officers and eventually over the faces of his teammates, lingering on Major Carter for a moment. If it weren't for her, he'd be dead or worse, still a prisoner in his own body. If she hadn't gone back for him, Amadeo might not have redeemed himself in the end.

He knew she felt bad about what had happened, that she somehow blamed herself for letting him be 'snaked' so he needed to somehow let her know she was wrong, that it was because of her that he was alive. That was why he'd spent almost every waking moment since Hammond had confirmed her forthcoming promotion trying to put his thoughts into words so he could thank her and hopefully put her mind at ease. " Normally, I am a man of very few words.."

He didn't get to finish his opening line. There was a flash of white light and the Gateroom faded in front of his eyes, replaced by the dark grey interior of what was obviously an alien vessel. 'What now?'

=*=

The tension levels in the SGC raised a few notches after his return. They rose even more after Daniel had conducted a debriefing based on the information the Asgard had given them about which Goa'uld they were to expect.

Nirrti was among them.

The two Goa'uld she'd been plotting against with Amadeo were her companions.

" Checkpoints are now being sealed. Levels 3 through 28 are now off limits." The voice blared out across the facility, red lights began to flash and a high-pitched whining sound was heard throughout. The alarms had been set off to let everyone know the Stargate was being used.

Daniel led the way into the Gateroom, Sam and Jack walking at a slower pace behind him. The two officers exchanged a glance and a small smile, both trying to reassure the other that it would be okay.

"Chevron 7 is locked." The unnecessary announcement was made from the command room. " Off world activation."

The Stargate flared to life. The three members of SG-1 moved to stand at the base of the ramp, prepared to greet their visitors despite their reluctance.

Three figures emerged from the event horizon: Cronus, his eyes scanning the room haughtily. He didn't want to be there anymore than they wanted him to be. Yu seemed just as put out but not as angry as his companion.

Then there was Nirrti.

The frown she wore stayed on her face as she glanced around the colourless room. Eventually, her eyes strayed on the three humans waiting for them and the frown disappeared. Her eyes lit up on seeing the command team of SG-1, her smile growing at the way the Colonel stepped slightly in front of the Major, the warning look in his eyes amusing her.

" Welcome to Earth," Daniel intoned as the Goa'uld continued walking until they were standing in front of the three Tau'ri. " We hope to make your stay a pleasant one."

Nirrti smiled sweetly but said nothing.

=*=

The End.
End Notes: Now go watch 'Fair Game' and see if Nirrti seems any more evil.. After you send feedback, though, please :) Jo@ram32.freeserve.co.uk

This story archived at http://www.samandjack.net/fanfics/viewstory.php?sid=2142