A Little Fall of Rain
*Sir? We're taking heavy fire, we may not be able to hold position much longer!*
"Got that, Carter. Fall back to the 'gate, get as many people out of here as you can."
*What about you, sir?*
"We're okay for now, Fraiser's just patching up Peterson so he's safe for transport."
*We'll hold position at the 'gate as long as we can, Colonel.*
"You just get everyone back through safely, you hear me? We have a GDO, we can take care of ourselves."
"Just do it, Carter!"
Leaving her to deal with that situation, Jack turned back to Fraiser. "How's it coming?"
"Almost there, sir. He's lost a lot of blood but if I can just get this dressing applied..." She turned her attention back to what her hands were doing. "There, that should stem more of the flow."
"Long enough to get him back?"
"I don't know. But if we don't try now he doesn't have a chance."
"Then we move." Jack indicated the makeshift stretcher they had constructed. "Front or back?"
Janet looked down, not liking either option. Whichever end she took she would bear more of the weight than proportionally she should. There were few times her height was practically a problem, but this was one of them. O'Neill had a good foot on her. Nature dictated, gravity being what it was, that no matter how hard he tried the dead weight of Peterson would rest more on her arms than his. But there was nothing they could do. There was no one else.
"Doesn't matter. Let's just get on with this."
"Okay. Hand me your pack."
"Your pack. We can't leave it behind, and you're not going to carry it as well as bearing Peterson's weight."
"Sir, I -"
"No arguments! I'm sure you'd manage both if you had to, but you don't. We'll leave mine here. I'll take the back, and your pack." Jack, too, had realised the disadvantage of the difference in their heights.
"Yes, sir." Janet handed the colonel her pack, then moved to check on her patient one last time before they started moving. She was worried, and not afraid to admit it. The 'gate wasn't far away, but it was a trip straight through hostile territory. It was positioned in a large, flat expanse of land, an area that was now teaming with jaffa. The only way they were going to get any cover was to take the long way around. Of course, the long way meant more time stood between Peterson and proper medical care. Time was something Peterson didn't have in abundance.
Janet glanced back at the colonel, who was adjusting her pack to fit his physique. "Sir, you ready?"
He pulled on the last strap, and positioned himself ready to haul Peterson off the ground. "Yes, you?"
"Okay, on my mark. Three, two, one, mark."
They lifted, and adjusted their grip so it was as comfortable as it could be.
"Ready to go, Doc?"
"You know where we'll be heading?"
"To the tree line, then the long way round to the 'gate."
"Right. Let's move."
They walked in silence, for the most part. Peterson wasn't likely to regain consciousness this side of the stargate, and Jack thought only of making it across unfriendly terrain, as gently and quietly as possible, carrying a load that was heavy yet fragile.
He tried not to remember the rest of his team were most likely fighting for their lives.
Janet found herself trying to recall the last time she'd been required to haul an injured man through a battlefield. In all her years at the SGC, it had thankfully been an infrequent occurrence. As hard as it was to receive, assess, and treat SGC teams as they arrived back at the 'gate, where problems could range from the mundane and home-grown to the most bizarre and alien afflictions, it was rarely as gruelling as working in the field. Physically, mentally, this was the harder job.
Concerns out here were serious, never trivial. Never jovial. It was emergency medicine in its truest sense; patch them up and get them to where they could be treated properly, get them to the ventilators and the monitors and the sterile fields. You weren't looking for cures, you were looking for preservation of life. Everything else came later.
These were Janet's thoughts as they approached the tree line, and sounds of enemy fire filtered further into her consciousness. They were still fighting. Now an hour after Peterson had been left for dead, and the troops had moved on, the fighting round the 'gate continued.
Sam was out there somewhere. Holding for as long as she could, giving them time to get their man home.
"Sir, sounds like it's going to take longer to get around this than we thought."
Jack had to agree with her assessment. They were still too far away to see the area around the 'gate, but they could hear things a lot more clearly now. The sounds of staff weapons and zats, bullets and grenades were unmistakable. And a lot more intense than their last information had suggested. The fighting had increased.
"Keep moving, I'm gonna contact Carter."
Somehow, he managed to balance the stretcher and still reach his radio. "Carter, report!"
*We're holding position by the 'gate, sir, though I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to maintain. We're outnumbered at least five-fold, maybe more. Most people have made it back.*
"Can you get the rest of our people through?"
*We have minimal personnel left this side, but those we have are all within easy reach of the 'gate. We should be able to...*
It didn't register straight away. He dropped to the ground a split-second after the stretcher had fallen out of his grasp, an instinctual reaction to the shot he'd heard. As instinctual as the weapon now in his hand, aimed at the position of their attacker. He was ready, but he didn't fire. Didn't want to let them know it was worth another shot. There was no cover here. They hadn't made it as far as the tree line.
Carter had stopped talking only when she'd finished her sentence, her own broadcast preventing the weapons fire being transmitted down the line, and thankfully, too far away to distinguish this shot from any other.
Fraiser, he knew, was on the ground. He didn't know more. Couldn't risk moving to look.
Did nothing until his radio sprang back into life. *Sir? Sir, what happened?*
"Get though the 'gate," he hissed, "that's an order! We'll follow when we can."
*Yes, sir. See you on the other side.* Somewhere inside him, Jack found himself thankful she hadn't questioned his orders. The radio remained dead, and Jack remained stock still until he could be reasonably sure the jaffa had moved on.
He needed to be sure they had left them for dead, as they had already done once for Peterson.
The moment he felt secure, Jack ran round to Fraiser, relieved to find her still conscious.
"Where were you hit?"
"My side, my front, I don't know. It all-" she cut off and grimaced as she tried to move.
"Stay still, let me help you."
"It's all a little painful right now. Easing off though."
"What does that mean? Not that bad?"
"No. It's bad. Adrenaline."
"Right. Yes. How bad?"
Jack only needed to move slightly to confirm his suspicions. Peterson lay broken on the floor, the tell-tale signs of a staff weapon blast across his chest.
"Hey! Take it easy. It's not your fault."
"Doesn't make it any easier."
"I know. Now stay there, I'm going to fetch your pack."
Janet didn't have a choice. She doubted very much she could move right now. The colonel wasn't gone long, but it was in in his absence that it occurred to her.
She would have to tell him what was going to happen.
She would have to tell him that there was nothing they could do.
She would have to tell him that she was sorry, that she wasn't going to make it, that the injuries were just too severe...
She'd given the speech countless times before.
She'd never once imagined she'd be talking about herself.
"Okay, I'm back. What do we have in here? What do you want me to do?"
She couldn't do it. She couldn't just tell him. "Look and see what bandages we have left."
"You need any pain relief?"
"No, I'm good. We used all the morphine on Peterson. I don't think Tylenol is going to help. And anyway, I'm really not feeling it much."
"Okay. Well, there's not a lot in the way of bandages either. Same situation, I'm guessing."
"You're probably right. May as well leave it be, then."
"You're not bleeding?"
"Not externally. The staff blast did a good job of cauterising as it..." Janet trailed off, unable to think of a good way to describe the weapon ripping through her flesh.
"Do you want me to clean it?"
"Not going to be a problem, sir."
They both fell silent, neither knowing what to say at that particular juncture. Somewhere, the realisation that the fighting seemed to have moved further away drifted from Jack's unconscious to his conscious mind.
"Something's changed. You going to be ok if I go and see what's happening?"
"Sure, I'll be fine. Go."
Jack kept low as he moved towards the tree line, faster now that he had neither a pack nor the stretcher to worry about. He'd been right, there was no sign of continuing jaffa activity in their vicinity. He kept his weapon at the ready, but knew he wouldn't need to use it. Tucking himself in amongst the undergrowth, he assessed the situation. The fighting had increased in intensity, but the wormhole was still open and he could just make out SGC personnel going through from this distance. He stayed long enough to see the last person go through and the wormhole snap closed behind them. No jaffa attempted to follow, seemingly aware of their fate should they attempt it.
The last thing he did before turning and heading back to Fraiser was try his radio. He had to check if anyone had been left behind. Anyone but them.
It was a relief when he got no response, leaving him with only an injured doctor to concentrate on. He quickly made his way back, and set himself down beside her.
"Hey, you're shivering!"
"Hypovolaemic shock. My system's starting to shut down."
Jack routed around in her pack, looking for a thermal blanket. They'd wrapped Peterson in one earlier, but he knew she always carried two. "Here," he handed it to her, "you should have asked for this earlier."
"Probably," Janet admitted. "Could you help me with it?"
Jack opened the package, then spread the sheet over her trembling body. "You said you weren't bleeding." "I said I wasn't bleeding externally. I'm fairly sure internally is a different story."
"How much have you lost?"
Jack went straight back to the pack. "Do we have any fluids in here?"
"IVs? Not anymore."
Jack dumped the pack on the floor, then grabbed his flask. "Would this do?"
"No, Colonel, oral fluids won't help."
"Any way we can get this in through a needle?"
"Not without making things worse. Colonel, what did you see out there?"
"The fighting was concentrated round the gate, but our people made it back. I saw it close behind them. The area's still swarming with jaffa."
"No chance of getting through, then." Janet was thinking of him, not herself. "Sam?"
"She made it through."
"You saw her?"
"Yes." The truth was, he hadn't. But since his subsequent attempts to raise anyone on the radio had all met with silence, he had no choice but to assume everyone had made it through.
Janet certainly didn't need to know differently.
"You should find cover, in case they come back."
"I'm fine here. And I'm not leaving you."
"I know." He didn't need her to say it.
"There's nothing you can do."
"I'm in no immediate danger. The fighting stopped when the 'gate shut down, and the jaffa don't think there's anyone left to worry about back here. You will *not* be alone."
Knowing he wouldn't change his mind, Janet allowed her gratitude to show through. "Thank you."
"You're sure there's nothing I can get you?"
"You're not in any pain." He remained sceptical.
"Colonel, you've been hit before, I know you have. Even if I hadn't treated you for it, I'd have read about each episode in your file. You know how it feels."
"I know it'll hurt like hell later."
"Or it won't."
"Or it won't," he conceded. "You warm enough?"
"I'll cope. Don't remember feeling much colder though."
"Not even in Antarctica?"
"Different kind of cold." She smiled. "Liked that one better."
Jack found himself unable to smile back. "Can't say I like the memories associated with that particular experience."
"Sorry, sir. Didn't think."
"It's hardly your biggest concern right now. Anyway, I brought it up."
Janet started to nod her head, but the movement shot pain through her side so she instantly stopped. She looked up at the man sitting beside her hoping to convey in some other way that she understood, but was still sorry. He seemed to get the message, and for a while they sat in silence. Janet didn't speak again until the pain had returned close to its previous level.
"Colonel, I want you to know,-"
"Hey," Jack interrupted, recognising her tone of voice. "Don't you start giving me your last confessions. It's not time for that."
"I want you to know," Janet repeated. "If... if it wasn't for Sam, I might've..."
Jack sighed. Janet may not have managed to get her whole sentence out, but he knew what she was trying to say. And he knew she'd keep going until she had, if he didn't acknowledge it. She'd always been stubborn. They were alike that way. And she deserved the truth. "Yeah," he replied. "I know. I might've-"
"I thought you said you weren't in any pain!"
"I'm not, I wasn't, I just... It hurt when I took a deep breath."
"What does that mean?"
"I'm trying not to think about it."
The use of her given name made her look round with a start. "Things must be bad."
"Hey, you're the doc, you tell me."
"That's just it, right now I'm not the doctor. I'm anyone, anything, but." She turned her head away from him, trying to hide the emotions shining in her eyes. "I'm scared."
Almost without thinking, Jack reached out and brushed her hair away from her forehead. Janet's eyes flew back to his, questioningly. Jack could feel her body tense up.
"It's all right. Let me help you."
She didn't move, didn't falter, seemingly searching for something as she stared him down. Then she let herself relax, and he pulled her over to him.
"I'm not hurting you, am I?"
Jack shifted them both so that her head rested in his lap, his legs straight out in front of him. His hand on her forehead continued to gently caress.
"More than I have a right to be."
Jack guessed that had little to do with her injuries. "She'd understand."
"What on earth for?"
"That you have to do this. That you have to tell them."
Jack didn't reply.
"Tell Cassie I love her."
"Stop talking like that."
"If not now, when? I need to say this."
"Why? I know what you'd-"
"I need to say it," she repeated. "I know you know what I'm going to say, but I need to know I said it."
Jack sighed. "Okay, go ahead."
"Tell Cassie I love her. And yes, tell her I'm sorry. Tell Sam I'm sorry too, and that she knows what I want her to do to help her through this."
"Well, she should." Janet stopped to think, but was finding it increasingly hard to keep her thoughts straight. She knew who was next, she'd known until she was interrupted. Who was it? Don't think about the blood, don't think about the bleeding. Think about him. It was a him. "Daniel."
"Tell Daniel I didn't mean what I said to him last week."
Jack waited for her to elaborate, but she said nothing further. In fact, she looked a little dazed, a little disorientated.
"Janet, stay with me."
"It's hard, getting tired."
"Anything else you want me to say to Daniel?"
"No, that was it, just that. I think."
She took a moment, then put as much strength into her statement as she could. "Honour to serve."
She looked at him, opened her mouth, then closed it again. It wasn't coming out, wouldn't come out. She knew she had something to say but nothing was making sense anymore.
"Janet! Come on, stay with me, just a little longer." He wasn't giving up, wasn't going to let her go thinking he would ever give up. "Janet!"
"Everyone.... tell... love them..."
She raised her eyes to his, briefly, but she couldn't sustain it for long. He knew. He knew, and she knew. The worst was thinking how much she knew.
"We love you too," he whispered.
She was already gone.
He didn't know how long he sat there. Would never know how long he cradled her head, her body; how much time passed after he shed a single tear. His mind was blank until he heard the familiar sound of the 'gate opening, and even then he didn't move. If it was help, they'd come to him. They were too late, anyway.
He didn't outwardly react when his radio crackled into life.
*Colonel, do you read?*
She's here. She doesn't know...
*Sir? Janet? If you can hear me, please respond.*
"Carter, I'm here."
*Sir, you had me worried. The MALP showed no signs of Jaffa activity round the 'gate so we came through with SG-3. We've secured the area.*
"He didn't make it."
She paused. *Do you need help getting him back?*
Her voice was quiet, reverent, full of grief.
She hadn't really known Peterson.
Jack's voice caught in his throat.