ANOTHER DAY IN THE STARS
Samantha Carter walked in through her front door and dropped her bag and car keys onto the table. She was tired and her body ached all over. The last twenty-four hours had been hard going. All she wanted to do was soak in a hot tub for a very long time.
Without hesitation, she moved into the bathroom. Placing the plug in the tub drain, she turned the taps on full bore. As she started to fill up the tub, the swirling water brought back vivid imagery of what had happened that day. Closing her eyes briefly at the unwanted memory, she quickly turned the taps off again, deciding that a bath wasn't a good idea after all.
Without letting the water out, she wandered back into the lounge. Skimming through her mail, she came across her subscribed copy of the latest TV Guide. She was surprised to see 'Wormhole Extreme' plastered across the front cover, with two of the actor's photos prominently displayed. She flicked idly through the guide, not even reading what was on. She gave a sigh and the magazine landed with a loud smack, as it hit the table. Sam, not giving it another thought, made her way to her bedroom.
Opening her closet door, she lifted down her leathers. A smile of pleasure showed on her face as she laid them onto her bed. Turning back to her closet, she pulled out her boots. She stood for a few seconds thoughtfully eyeing her crash helmet. Deciding against it, Sam closed the door.
It was late afternoon and Sam pulled open the garage door with ease. Moving quickly to the back of the garage, she pulled on her gloves and then shrugged her leather jacket on over her lightweight black wool sweater. With anticipation, she pulled back the heavy tarpaulin that covered her 1940's Classic Indian. It had taken many downtime hours to restore this machine to its current condition. It gleamed in the late sunlight as she wheeled it out onto her driveway.
Pulling out a bandana, she firmly tied it around her mouth and nose. Swallowing a fly on the open road was not something that she wanted to repeat. The final touch was the wrap-around sunglasses that would protect her eyes from the wind. Opening the throttle slightly, she stood up and brought her right leg down and kick-started the machine into life. The reassuring rattle of the old V twin gave her a satisfied feeling, as it started first time. All the hours that she had spent on this engine, was paying off.
As Sam drove up Elm Street, she had no plan, no compass and no radio. No blue puddle to walk through and no one relying on her. Just Sam...and her machine...going nowhere.
As the wind whipped through her short blond hair, she listened to the steady throb of the machine as it swept along the road. Against her will, her mind drifted to what had happened over the previous twenty- four hours.
SGC - GATE ROOM
"Major Carter! You are late."
"Yes, sir. Sorry, it won't happen again, sir."
"See that it doesn't, Major."
That's all she needed this morning, not only was she running late, but her CO was in a crabby mood. Daniel Jackson was very carefully studying something in one of his pockets and Teal'c didn't even raise an eyebrow. He just stood staring ahead at the blue depths of the open wormhole.
She hadn't been late on purpose. One of the techs had spilled their coffee onto her latest report and she had to print it out again, as they needed the figures for this mission. Deciding to bite her tongue and leave well enough alone, she quickly checked over her gear before following the (said crabby) leader of SG-1, Colonel Jack O'Neill into the large blue puddle - the open doorway to an infinite number of different worlds.
With a smile that no one could see under her bandana, Sam remembered the feeling of excitement at the anticipation of finding large deposits of naquadah, the precious metal that they so desperately needed to protect Earth.
Sam continued to ride her bike, the wind seeming to blow the memories briefly from her mind as she took a left turn onto 2nd Street. She barely noticed what she was doing as she crossed State Highway 122.
They were climbing up a steep hill. The ground was rocky and hard to traverse. The bad mood that had occupied the colonel earlier, thankfully, seemed to have lifted. It had been a long hike from the Stargate, but the sun was shining and it was warm. She liked it, as it wasn't everyday that you got to work in the sunshine, when it was night time according to Earth.
Teal'c had taken point and she was watching their sixes. She could hear the easy banter that was going on between the colonel and Daniel.
"I don't care what you call them, Daniel. I call them rocks."
"They're not rocks, Jack. They are stone marble tablets, that were carved and carefully smoothed over, so they could be used to write on."
"That's what I said. Rocks!" He replied with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.
Carter smiled to herself at the old argument that seemed to always crop up when they were getting bored. She wasn't bored though. She was enjoying herself. The topographical photos, that the UAV had taken, had shown that there was a very good chance that there were high quantities of Naquadah in the hills. From her preliminary tests, which she had done soon after exiting the gate, she could tell that this planet had the potential to be an excellent mining site.
Sam found her thoughts coming back to what she was doing, as she came up to a tricky intersection. With surprise, she realised that she had travelled quite a way without even realising where she was going. Fortunately, it was in the right direction to get some gas. Sam drove along Westgate Road and turned left on to W. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd. It was a long, meandering road, which she took with ease on her bike. Slowing her bike down, she rumbled into a service station. As she stopped by the pump, her thoughts drifted back to PX 261.
Everything had been going fine, until Colonel O'Neill had disappeared from sight. They had stopped on the side of a steep grade and Carter had pulled out her instruments to test for Naquadah. One minute he was standing in front of her, trying to understand what she was saying about one of the instruments and the next he was gone. She only had a few seconds to wonder, as she too followed. Carter could feel herself falling down through the ground into empty air. She had a sense of a dark, hollow space. Then with a thud and an oouf, she landed. Just as she hit the ground, she heard the crack of a bone and a cry of pain. Knowing it wasn't herself, she looked down on whom she had landed. It was the colonel. He was clutching his obviously broken left arm.
Quickly rolling off him, she stood up. With a shock, Sam felt the rock beneath her feet give way again and she fell to the ground. Horrified, she watched her CO start to slide away from her. Throwing herself forward she grabbed hold of his good arm with both hands and held on, as they slid down another steep slope. It seemed like forever that they slid down, small pebbles and sand bouncing down alongside them. Fortunately, they started to slow down, just as she saw an outcrop of rock. Throwing her leg out as she passed, she was able to hook her boot over it and stop their descent.
Once again, the ground disappeared below the colonel. Thankfully, she had got a firm hold of the rock with her boot, as it was hooked into a crevice. Looking down below him, she could see the black swirling waters of an underground river. He was hanging in mid-air, only kept from falling, by Carter's firm grip.
"Hang on, sir. I've got you."
"Teal'c, Daniel!" Carter called in desperation. She didn't know how long she could hold onto him.
O'Neill turned his hand around and clasped Carter's wrist. Immediately, she could feel the strain lift off her aching fingers and hands. She looked down again at the swirling waters, which, if they fell, would mean certain death for both of them. As she felt the painful pull on her joints and muscles, her eyes slid across to look into the pain filled face of the colonel, his left arm hanging uselessly by his side. Trying to move his feet towards the rock face to get a grip, he swung himself nearer to it.
"Sir! Not a good idea." Carter called, as she felt the strain on her foot make it slip slightly.
"Can't reach anyway...where's Teal'c?"
"Don't know, sir. I think they are still top side."
Carter looked down at their hands clasped tightly around each other's wrists.
"I can't pull you up, sir."
Nodding in agreement, the colonel attempted to move his broken arm, so he could climb up. Immediately, Carter saw the sweat break out on his face. Then his eyes began to roll back into his head.
"Sir!" She shouted. "Don't pass out. Stay with me here...Sir?"
Carter had felt his hand loosening its hold. Then, thankfully, she felt his fingers tighten again around her wrist, just seconds before he opened his eyes.
"Still here, Carter."
"Glad to hear it, sir. You can pass out later. How's the arm?"
"Peachy." Came the sarcastic response.
The strain of holding onto him had caused sweat to break out all over her body. In horror, Carter watched her hands begin to slip along his arm as the sweat lubricated their grip. Suddenly, the rock that her boot was jammed into broke way. She released one hand and she grabbed the nearest support to stop herself from following the colonel down to the watery depths below. Fortunately, the rock that she wrapped her left arm around was firmly imbedded into the rock face, but she feared that it wouldn't help. The whole time, she could feel their hands slowly sliding apart.
It was such a relief when Teal'c helped haul the Colonel to safety, but before they had managed to get him up to a ledge, without warning the rock that was anchoring her to the side came loose. Just before she plunged over the side, she felt a large weight fall across her legs, holding her fast. Then, she felt strong arms pull her back from the edge to safety.
"Daniel...thanks." She said, still breathing heavily.
She watched safely from a ledge, as Teal'c and Daniel managed to continue pulling the colonel to firmer ground. He was in obvious pain and his arm hung at an awkward angle. She noticed then that all of them had injuries of some kind, though they had nothing as severe as Colonel O'Neill's injuries.
Teal'c and Daniel slowly lowered the colonel next to Carter on the ledge into a sitting position. Carter stared at him, but he seemed to be avoiding her gaze.
"Colonel, are you all right?"
"No, Carter." He replied, looking directly at her. "Can I pass out n..."
There was a thud as his upper body hit the ground, as he had gone too quickly for her to catch him. Luckily, he hadn't hit his head on anything but soft sand.
Carter checked over his injuries and took this opportunity to sort out his arm while he was unconscious. As she dressed and splinted his arm, she noticed that he had cut his head and had numerous cuts and abrasions on his arms and face, similar to her own.
It hadn't been long before the colonel started to come around. Teal'c had moved him up further away from the edge and they were all sitting beside his unconscious form, discussing what they were to do.
"Daniel, where did you guys come from?" Carter asked.
"We fell down too."
"Oh," she said, "so you don't know the way out of here, then?"
Daniel looked up at the opening, where all the bright daylight was coming from. "No. Not unless we could fly."
"Daniel, you are just full of joy and sunshine, aren't you?"
"Sir, how are you now?"
"Have been better, Carter. What's up?"
"Not us, apparently." Daniel muttered under his breath.
Choosing to ignore Daniel's sarcasm, the colonel slowly shifted himself into a sitting position. "Teal'c, have you found a way out?" He asked, as Teal'c had wandered off and was investigating something.
"There seems to be air flowing from the South, O'Neill."
"Ex...cell...ent!" He grunted out, as he attempted to stand.
Carter moved forward to support the colonel. "Stop fussing, Carter. I'm not ready to kick the bucket, yet."
"Permission to speak freely, sir."
"Permission denied, Major."
Carter bit her bottom lip, as she looked at the ground.
O'Neill looked directly at Carter. "Major Carter! Don't ever disobey an order again, do you understand?"
As she walked over to where Teal'c was standing, she couldn't hold the anger in. She muttered quietly to herself. "Don't ever do that to me, again," all the while trying to blink tears out of her eyes. By the time she had reached Teal'c her face showed no sign of her distress. She nodded to him as she passed and started up the tunnel. 'Maybe, just maybe, we will find a way out through here,' she thought, trying to forget what had just nearly happened back there.
Sitting on her bike she found her body trembling from the memory. Quickly dismissing it from her mind, she slowly climbed off the classic motorcycle. Her muscles complained, but after what they had been put through today, she wasn't at all surprised. Moving around for a bit, she waited for her body to relax. Choosing to do the job herself, she removed the cap and started filling up the tank. As she heard the gurgle of the fuel as it sloshed into the empty space, memories came flooding back.
They had been walking and climbing quite a distance. Carter had found herself avoiding the colonel, as it just made it easier to control her emotions. Both she and her CO had irretrievably lost their packs when they had slid down the slope, but Teal'c and Daniel still had supplies. There was another problem though - there was only enough water to last another day for all of them. The colonel ordered any remaining canteens to be refilled. Carter immediately went over to the river, bent down and lowered each canteen into the turbulent stream. The water gurgled as it flowed in through the opening. Sam knew that they could have both drowned in that freezing water. She closed her eyes to the vision of seeing her colonel floating face down, dead in the water.
"Carter! What's the hold up?"
With a start, she nearly dropped the container into the river.
"Right there, sir."
She pulled out water purifying tablets and dropped two into each neck of the filled canteens. The muscles protested as she stood up and shooting pain spiralled down through one of her legs. Stretching the kinks out of the rest of her body, she bent down and lifted the remaining two canteens.
"Sam, let me take those."
"Are you hurt?" He asked.
"Nothing, that a good soak in a bath wouldn't cure." She answered and gratefully smiled.
When they reached Teal'c and the colonel, Sam could see that the colonel was still in pain. His face was grey and drawn and he was half sitting, half leaning against a rock. They were discussing a way out of this maze of caves.
"This flashlight isn't going to last much longer and the lights on the P-90's won't either."
"It will soon be night." Teal'c replied.
Walking further into the caves, in search of a way out, had moved them away from the large hole above and the natural light it had allowed in. Now it was getting darker, as they moved deeper through the substratum.
"Sir, we seem to be moving down. Wouldn't it be a good idea to move up?"
As the colonel glanced her way, his face was devoid of expression. Carter had no idea what was going through his mind. Looking down at the ground, he sat there quietly thinking.
"O'Neill, the breeze seems to be coming from this direction." Teal'c was pointing to some rocks that were above them.
"Ok, Carter, you want to go up? Take point."
Teal'c removed his pack and pulled out some rope and made a harness to fit onto Colonel O'Neill. There was no way that he would be able to traverse these rocks without some help. Slowly, they began to move up the steep rock face until they came to a small opening where a soft breeze was coming through. It was hard going for all of them, but especially the colonel. It hadn't helped when his arm had banged, accidentally, on the hard rock. He lost his grip and fell backwards and found himself swinging in mid air. The language that had erupted from the colonel, almost made her smile and she would have done so, if he weren't obviously in so much pain. Daniel wanted to go back to help him, but she had managed to stop him, as it would put them all in further danger.
Once the colonel had finished his tirade, he quickly assessed the situation and reaching up with his right hand, he managed to grasp the rock with his fingers and pulled his feet onto a small ledge. Teal'c was then able to pull him over to where he was and then they proceeded up through the rocks.
The whole climb had been difficult, but they had managed to find an opening to the outside. Once they were on the surface, it took several hours to get back to the Stargate. They were lucky, as the only major injury was Colonel O'Neill's broken arm.
Each time Carter had tried to approach the colonel to speak with him, he kept finding a way to avoid any discussion.
After they arrived back at the SGC, he was whisked off to the infirmary. Carter went to have a medical check, then de-briefing, a shower and then home.
And now here she was, home. In Colorado Spri...
With a start, Sam realised that her tank was full, as she heard the tell tale click, as the shut mechanism engaged. Fitting the cap firmly back on, she handed the attendant the necessary bills and climbed back onto her bike. This wasn't working. She had tried to forget what had happened today, but all the time memories kept flooding back. Deciding to concentrate on her riding, she started up her trusty, old, cast-iron friend. She carefully merged back into the traffic, still not knowing where she was going. She turned north onto Weber Street. She was nearly into the heart of Colorado Springs now, but most of the busy traffic had finished as people had gone home for the day.
Her eyes were filling with tears and she had trouble seeing where she was going. Turning west onto a quieter street, she looked for a place to stop. There was a park just up ahead. Blinking the tears from her eyes, she concentrated on finding a secluded place to park.
Once she had stopped her bike, she sat there, not moving. She found herself beginning to heat up in her leather jacket, so she removed her bandana from her face and took off her jacket.
Sam still couldn't believe what the colonel had done today. Through blurred sight, she watched the Moms and Dads play with their children on the playground equipment. She knew that this was within her grasp. All she had to do was reach out and take it. Have a normal life with a husband and children and a house with a white picket fence. All could be hers. Could she risk losing that? She had nearly lost it today. She watched, as the parents packed up the children and took them home to their evening meals. Is this what she wanted? A normal life? Climbing off her bike, she wandered over to the empty playground.
Looking towards the west, she watched the sun slowly descend. She removed her shades and bending her neck back, she looked up at the darkening sky. By now the tears were flowing freely down her cheeks. Could she keep doing this? Could she keep putting him at risk? Looking down at the grass, she kicked the sod with her boot. She wasn't sure what to think, was she angry or sa...? She repeated her thoughts and went over what had happened, as Colonel O'Neill had dangled over the turbulent waters of the freezing river. Where he had been totally reliant on her to keep him safe.
In horror, Carter watched her hands begin to slip along his arm as the sweat lubricated their grip. Suddenly, the rock that her boot was jammed into broke way. She released one hand and she grabbed the nearest support to stop herself from following the colonel down to the watery depths below. Fortunately, the rock that she wrapped her left arm around was firmly imbedded into the rock face, but she feared that it wouldn't help. The whole time, she could feel their hands slowly sliding apart.
"Carter, let go!"
"No!" Came her shocked response.
"We will both fall, if you don't let go."
"I will NOT let go, sir. Just hang on a little longer."
There was a jerk as Sam's body moved closer to the edge.
"Major, you will." He ordered.
Sam watched their hands in horror, as the colonel released his grip from her wrist as he spoke the word 'will'.
"No!" She cried out.
In desperation, she clung tighter to his wrist, but even so, her hand slid slowly towards his. All through this time, she felt her body shift closer towards the colonel, as he dangled above the swirling waters.
Slowly, her hand slid up the colonel's towards his fingers. Sam's eyes travelled from her desperate grip to look into his face. She slowly shook her head at him, knowing that now it was too late for him to change his mind anyway. Just as his hand left hers a large brown hand clamped around O'Neill's wrist, stopping him from falling to certain death. O'Neill looked up and closed his hand firmly around Teal'c's wrist.
By now, Sam's whole body was shaking. "How could he?" She shouted to no one. Lifting her face up to the darkening sky, she could still feel the hot tears of anger roll down her face. "How could he put my life above his?" No one heard her, as the park was empty. Sam carried on her rant, but more quietly. "I know he is the CO, but he could have hung on a bit longer." Wiping her hands over her face, trying to remove traces of her anguish, she looked at the mountain range of The Rockies. "I can't be the cause of his death." Shaking her head, she whispered quietly. "I don't think I could live with that."
The sound of her cell phone brought a sudden halt to her anguish. Closing her eyes in frustration, she pulled it out.
"Carter." She was looking intently at the ground.
"Sir!" She sounded surprised.
"What did Janet say?" She asked.
"Six weeks down time! What, for all of SG-1? Oh...only for you." Her smile faded.
"Off world?" She listened intently into the phone.
"0600 hours. SG-9. Yes, sir." She answered smartly.
"Sir?" Sam asked tentatively into her cell phone. "I know you don't want to hear this, but... Sir?" Sam closed her eyes.
"That's all right, sir...tomorrow morning...yes...before I go off world...yes, sir." By now Sam was smiling quietly as she listened to her CO trying to get her to see him tomorrow without being too obvious about it. "Yes, sir. I will have the report done for you tomorrow. Goodnight, sir."
With a smile, she closed her cell phone and tucked it into her jacket. Looking west, watching the sun set over her world, she realised that this was what she had given up a normal life for. To defend and protect this planet from the Goa'uld. This was why she gave up the chance to be with the one that she loved. This was what made her kill and be put into life and death situations nearly every day. What she risked her life and what he risked his life for. Sam knew that she would never change him now. If she were honest with herself and if the situation had been reversed, she would have done the same as he had.
Sam walked away from the glow that still lit up the sky even though the sun had gone down. Reaching the centre of the park, she sat down on the cooling grass and waited as the sky began to darken around the edges. Watching silently for the first star to start winking at her, she pulled on her jacket. Even though she knew where to look, the first star still surprised her. Slowly, one by one, stars filled the night sky, filling it with brilliant points of light.
With a deep satisfied sigh, Sam stood up and turned around in one spot, gazing at the wonders of the Universe. The same Universe that she and her team travelled to. Zipping up her jacket against the night chill. Major Samantha Carter walked towards her Indian, opened the throttle and kick-started the engine. Pointing her bike towards South West, she swept down the street towards her home. Tomorrow would be another new day, with her team, in the stars.