Consumed By You 03: Burn
~*~Stars will fall from dark skies
As ancient rocks are turning
Quiet fills the room
And your love flows through me
Though I lie here so still
I burn for you, I burn for you~*~
Sunshine filled the room as Sam opened her eyes to its light and warmth. She lay in the large bed, still drowsy and very content. The softness of the sheets caressed her naked body. Someone else's body lay just a hand's reach away, and even so soon out of her slumber she already yearned for his gentle touch once again.
With a smile of anticipation on her face Sam moved her hand to run it along Jack's bare shoulder but when she touched his flesh her arm froze. His skin was cold.
Bolting upright Sam leaned over to peer at Jack's face, which was turned away from her. She peered at him and he stared back at her, and stared, and stared, and stared with eyes that did not quit seeing. His face was devoid of colour, save for the red, oozing, gaping wound of a Hyksos weapon in the middle of his forehead.
...and opened her eyes to the darkness of night and a stillness broken only by the harsh sound of her laboured breathing.
She placed a hand over her chest, as though doing so could will her heart to cease its frenetic pounding. She took a good look around, her head slowly turning from one side to another on the pillow. It was night. She was in bed. It was not her bed and she was not alone.
Unavoidably, her hand fluttered out to rest her fingers against Jack's arm, assuaging her need to reassure herself. He was warm and solid. He was safe. So was she.
Sam sighed and let her hand linger against the bare skin of his back as she relaxed and ran through the visualization techniques as suggested by Dr. MacKenzie. Soon both her heart rate and breathing had slowed to normal. She rolled over onto her side and snuggled in closer to Jack, slipping an arm around his waist and preparing to go back to sleep. It didn't surprise her when he shifted and his hand found her fingers, but she didn't expect to hear him speak in a low tone.
"Yes." Sam's voice whispered just below his ear. "Did I scream out loud?"
"No." Jack turned onto his back then rolled to face her. "But I heard you breathing." His hand moved to her waist then slid to the base of her spine, his fingers tracing circles on her skin, the sensation at once relaxing and stimulating.
"You heard me breathing?" Sam smiled, finding the idea of someone being so in tune with her both amusing and appealing.
"Well, you know, I always hear you breathing, but the way MacKenzie taught you is different."
"Right," Sam said, still smiling.
"Are those sessions with MacKenzie helping you?" The lack of light made it difficult to see Jack's face, but Sam knew his expression would be one of concern. She'd wavered on the idea of counselling, but after a few nights of holding her as she'd awoken shaken and trembling from her dreams, Jack had gently suggested a few sessions with the base psychiatrist might not hurt.
"I think they are, among other things." Sam moved to entwine her fingers around his free hand. "I don't have to sleep with the light on anymore."
"You've never had the light on here. You could have, if you'd wanted to."
"That's just it," Sam told him quietly. "I didn't need a light here, because I wasn't alone. But now, I don't need a light at home even when I'm there by myself, because I still know I'm not alone." Her mouth curved into a tender smile. "I have you."
Jack's hand moved up her back, pulling her closer in the process then resting at the base of her head. He guided her towards him but before their mouths could meet he whispered urgently, "You'd better get used to it, because I never want to let you go."
Sam's lips parted, willingly answering his declaration with her kiss.
"Let's try it again."
Sam nodded in agreement and stepped back to the designated spot, replacing her protective glasses before accepting the Hyksos weapon from Caelan. Lifting it into position she aimed at the target set up some distance away in their makeshift outdoor lab and focused.
They had spent the last several hours working with the weapon trying to gain knowledge of not only how it operated, but also its capabilities. Sam had had some difficulty at first -- as with the Goa'uld healing and hand devices, she couldn't always control it at will -- but as the morning melted into early afternoon she had found it becoming easier.
Her work with Caelan thus far had yielded a great deal more information than she'd been expecting. The most surprising thing was the knowledge that the intensity of the Hyksos weapon could actually be controlled by the person using it; so far Sam had been able to produce energy outputs with the resulting destruction ranging from that equaling a grenade blast to the hole she'd inadvertently blown in the wall of Caelan's lab several weeks earlier. Despite her efforts she had yet to produce a beam fine enough to match the distinctive mark SG-1 had noticed on the victims of P4R 284.
Sam felt the now-familiar build up of heat and energy throughout the entirety of her body before it was released in a palpable wave that left her shaky in its wake. The use of Goa'uld technology had always left her feeling a bit drained and the Hyksos weapon was proving no different; prolonged use of it was beginning to take its toll and Sam could feel her focus slipping, a fact that was reflected by the rather large, undefined hole in the target. They had been trying to narrow the focus of the weapon, something that required greater concentration. Sam suspected that she'd soon have to take a break.
"The duration and intensity of this blast were both lower," Caelan advised, studying his equipment critically. "How did it feel?"
"Unfocused," she admitted, moving to see the data for herself. She eyed the charred target. "It seems I was still able to do some damage though."
Caelan grinned broadly. "Just a bit," he cheerfully agreed. He cocked his head. "You've been firing this thing for hours. Maybe you should take a bit of a break?" he suggested.
Sam nodded and carefully set the weapon aside. "I'd like to study the data for a while," she confessed. "I think we have enough to work with for now." She pulled a chair over next to the monitoring equipment and reached for the laptop she'd brought with her.
They were deep in discussion over the significance of a power spike that occurred immediately before it discharged when a familiar voice interrupted. "How's it going, campers?"
Sam looked up, a smile stealing across her lips even before she saw him. "Colonel."
"Carter," he acknowledged with a barely detectable grin before he turned to her companion. "Balfour. How goes the research?"
"Quite well, Colonel O'Neill. With Sam's abilities we've been able to gather an astounding amount of data pertaining to the weapon's various functions. It's simply amazing."
"I've always thought so," Jack agreed, and Sam blushed when she turned to find his warm gaze on her when he spoke. She lowered her head, letting the threatening smile bloom. "So," Jack continued, bringing his hands together with a loud clap, "by my calculations you've both been working non-stop since this morning. How about you update me over lunch?"
"Sounds good sir." Although Sam wasn't sure which she found more appealing: the Taicligh dessert with which she'd fallen in love a few weeks earlier or spending an hour in company of the man with whom she'd fallen in love several years before. The combination of the two was simply too tempting to pass up. "We need to secure a few things before we can leave. Meet you in the dining hall in half an hour?"
"I'll see you there." With another faint smile in her direction and a final nod at Caelan, Jack sauntered off in the direction from which he'd appeared.
Sam watched him for a few seconds before turning back to Caelan, finding the man with a bemused look on his face. "What?" she asked, wondering what she had missed.
"You two," he said, gesturing from her to Jack's now barely visible form. "How long has this been going on?"
Sam gaped at him for a moment, then felt a blush spread across her cheeks for the second time in the past few minutes. "That obvious?"
"It is very sweet," he assured her. "I promise that no one will hear of it from me."
She merely smiled her thanks, too stunned and, she had to admit, a little too embarrassed to say the words. She turned back to the equipment. "Let's get this cleaned up." From the corner of her eye she saw Caelan nod and move to join her, and together they shut down the machinery and secured the weapon before leaving for the dining hall in companionable silence.
Sam trudged wearily behind her teammates as they made their way back to the Stargate, her frustration a heavier burden than her pack had ever been. Though the day had started out so promising it had done nothing but go downhill once she and Caelan had returned from lunch.
She had expected that their brief break would allow her enough time to relax and regain some of the strength she'd expended using the weapon all morning; as much progress as they'd already made Sam knew the ultimate goal was to duplicate the most destructive level of the Hyksos weapon. She also knew that in spite of her ever-increasing frustration at losing her concentration, she was the only one who expected more. Caelan was ecstatic at all the information they'd gathered; already an entire team of scientists was working on deciphering the energy patterns and how defensive shielding might be constructed against the devastating effects. Nonetheless Sam was still deeply disappointed in herself. Instead of the tightly controlled beam for which she'd been trying she had achieved little but general and unfocused outbursts that resulted in minimal destruction -- when she'd been able to get the weapon to work at all.
A hand glanced across her arm and she looked up, surprised to see they'd reached their destination. Jonas was already reaching for the first glyph, Teal'c standing nearby. Jack had stopped her a short distance away. "You're awfully quiet," he murmured.
Sam looked at their two teammates to be sure they wouldn't be overheard. "It's been a long day. I didn't accomplish as much with the weapon as I'd hoped to," she confided.
"Things seemed to be going well earlier."
"They were," she muttered sullenly. "But we didn't make any progress whatsoever this afternoon." She was well aware that she was sulking but didn't really care.
The activation of the Stargate effectively ended their conversation. Sam had the GDO and any delay would not only garner Teal'c and Jonas's attention but also cause some anxiety at the SGC as they waited to learn who was trying to come through.
Sam sent the identification code and then nodded the okay to the others. She dropped her arms to her sides only to find her fingers encapsulated by a familiar hand. Jack squeezed her fingers briefly and his eyes smiled at her warmly before he took a step back and gestured for her to precede him through the 'gate. It was only after Jonas and Teal'c had stepped through and they were alone that he spoke. "My place, 1900? I'll take care of dinner."
Sam smiled despite herself. "It's a date," she agreed, her spirits already buoyed by the prospect of spending the evening with Jack. Determined to put the frustrating afternoon behind her Sam stepped through the Stargate to home.
The stillness of the house welcomed Sam. She dropped her bag to the floor, tossed her keys onto the little table beside the door and kicked off her shoes. Taking a deep breath, she let it out on a contented sigh. As much as she wouldn't dream of trading her stolen hours alone with Jack for anything and looked forward to their dinner that night with a tingle of anticipation, she was still happy to have a short time alone to wind down from her trying day.
Sam went via the kitchen on her way to the back yard. She paused to grab a beer from the refrigerator and to also put away two wineglasses she'd washed and left to dry on the drain board a couple of days before.
Outside Sam collapsed into a chair, relaxing back and stretching out her legs, her drink close at hand. She closed her eyes, enjoying the still-warm evening breeze that gently ruffled her hair. She cleared her mind of all the equations, statistics and theories that had cluttered it during the day. It had been so frustrating, attempting to refine her technique with the Hyksos weapon and not making any progress. She could fire the hideous thing, she was beginning to gain an understanding of it, why couldn't she manage to duplicate the use of it that caused such agonizing death to its victims?
Sam fisted her hand and punched the arm of the chair. She had to figure it out! To do so would allow the Taicligh and the SGC to develop effective countermeasures against the weapon and defeat the Hyksos so no one would have to suffer their brutality again.
Sam could feel her frustration welling once more. With some effort she mentally slapped her thoughts of work away. She was on downtime, she needed to relax and very soon she'd be spending the evening with Jack. That final thought helped ease some of her tension. He was so good to her, in both body -- she grinned at those pleasant memories -- and soul.
Her mind somewhat relaxed once again, Sam took a long draught of her cold beer and gazed out into the yard. At the rear of it was a garden plot. While it was kept neatly landscaped, it was devoid of plantings. Sam hoped to put some flowers in there the next spring.
The garden wasn't completely empty anymore, however. The sight of a little, gaudy, ceramic gnome made Sam smile. One weekend she'd raised the suggestion of planting some flowers, saying the garden needed some life in it. Jack agreed. The next day he'd brought her the gnome.
"I want you to have *a gnome* here," he'd told her, his eyes serious and intent on her, his tone in complete contrast to the amusing nature of the gift.
Sam had caught on to his meaning and a warmth and a smile spread over her at the memory.
She was still smiling when she heard the sound of Jack's truck pulling up in the driveway. Even though it had only been about an hour since she'd parted with him at the SGC, she nevertheless felt the anticipation at seeing him bubble up inside of her. Grabbing her beer, she made her way inside from the deck.
She met up with Jack in the kitchen. At least, she assumed it was Jack, given that they were in his house. Only she couldn't quite see his face for the foliage he carried in front of him.
"What on Earth...?" Sam asked, her face blossoming into a delighted smile at the sight of the flowers. Cut flowers, all wrapped up in pretty paper from a florist shop, and there must have been at least a dozen of them in the colourful, lush bouquet. Their fragrance filled the kitchen with a heady, fresh scent.
Jack's face finally peeked out as he shifted his armload of greenery to set it down on the kitchen island.
"You had a rough day; I stopped to get you some flowers. Did you know," he began in a tone that made Sam aware the coming revelation was news to him, "that flowers have meanings?"
"I'd heard something..." Sam's voice was light with amusement and affection for him.
"Yeah!" Jack shrugged and gestured to the large bouquet. "Turns out I have a lot to say."
Sam smiled. "You're very, very sweet." She put down her beer and began to reach for the flowers.
"Ah-ah!" Jack's voice forestalled her and she snapped her hands to her sides. "I have to tell you what they mean."
He pulled a paper from his back pocket and after he'd unfolded it he glanced up at Sam's quizzical expression. "I got the woman to write it all down. Do I *look* like a gardener?"
"I don't know; I think I can picture you all covered in dirt and mud, maybe with me hosing you down and..."
"Yeah?" The grin that spread across Jack's face was decidedly wolfish. Then he shook his head. "Let me do this first."
His gaze moved to the pile of flowers for a second but then his eyes snapped back to meet Sam's. "But you hold onto that thought," he commanded with another quick grin.
His face then smoothed out to concentration as he turned back to the flowers. His hand hovered for a moment, then he chose a stem headed by a bunch of deep purple blossoms.
"This is heliotrope," he announced, frowning for a moment at the flower as if daring it to disagree. When it didn't, he looked up at Sam and handed her the bloom. "It means 'I adore you.'"
Sam accepted the flower in silence, a bit awestruck by the romantic gesture.
Jack glanced at his list again and then scoured the arrangement for his next pick.
"A pansy," he said, handing her the bright yellow and purple flower. "It means 'think of me.'"
The varieties of flowers in Sam's arms continued to grow and her feeling of lighthearted warmth for his sweet gesture was being supplanted by even deeper emotions. She accepted each flower with an increasing sense of wonder as his gift of flowers told her of his feelings for her.
Constancy and delicate pleasures. Faithfulness. Dignity and elegance. *Desire*. Friendship and gracefulness. Kindness and sacred affection. Those emotions were all represented in the language of the flowers. She could tell by the way Jack's voice had lost its initial tone of joviality that he was entirely serious about what he was 'saying.'
In short order Sam stood with a lavish and brilliant bunch of flowers in her arms, their beauty magnified by the feelings for which they stood. Though she hadn't imagined it possible, her own heart blossomed fuller in love for the man before her. The man who had one single flower remaining. He tossed his list aside and picked up that last representation of his affections, twirling it slowly between his fingers and thumb. Then he looked up at Sam, his intent gaze capturing hers.
She recognized the flower. Her breath caught.
"A red rose..."Jack began, his eyes not wavering from her face.
Sam knew. She *knew*. Her already busy heart beat with increased cadence. Didn't everyone know that a red rose...
"...means I love you." Jack declared solemnly.
There was a hush to the room as Sam absorbed this news and the accompanying surge of euphoria it brought to her senses.
She reached out but instead of taking the flower from him she curled her fingers around where his held onto the long stem. Shifting her armful of flowers to the side she leaned toward him as best she could.
"Those words mean everything to me," she told him in a voice quiet with reverence. Fighting to get the words past the sudden thickness in her throat she continued, "You are everything to me."
Their lips met in a soft kiss, one almost chaste in that it spoke of their raw emotions rather than any physical need.
When they broke apart Sam's lips curved into a tender smile. Jack's free hand came up over the flowers so that he could cup her face, his thumb slowly caressing her cheek.
"I meant it," he told her. "Every word."
"I know," she affirmed.
His face contorted with a new emotion.
"Oh!" Sam released her hand from his and stepped away, relinquishing her bouquet to the kitchen island so she could check his injury.
She gave a startled laugh, the levity of the situation diminishing but not destroying the intensity of Jack's freshly declared emotions.
Pulling the rose from his grasp, Sam laid it reverently atop the other flowers. A small bead of blood had welled on his skin and Sam brought his palm to her lips and kissed the wounded area.
"Sorry," she told him.
"Worth it." He drew her to him for a quick embrace, his hand stroking her hair as she lay her cheek on his shoulder. They held onto each other in silence for a moment, allowing the newly expressed deepening of their relationship a brief time to settle in.
"I also brought home dinner," Jack said finally. "I suppose I should go get it."
Sam raised her head and slowly backed out of his hold, her fingers trailing down his arms to ultimately capture his hands.
"I need to get the flowers in water." She squeezed his hands once before moving away.
Jack went to retrieve their take-out dinner while Sam routed around for a vase. She found a pitcher that would make an acceptable substitute. The sun still shone brightly outside, but it had nothing on the current radiance of her soul.
When Jack returned she was holding the pitcher. She watched as he set the bag of food down on the counter and busied himself removing containers.
"I got Italian. Pasta, salad and garlic bread. Sound good?"
When he received no response he glanced up at her with a questioning look. Sam stood motionless before him with the pitcher still in her hands.
"Sam? Italian? Good? Bad? Undecided?"
She just smiled. "I love you, too."
Jack took two quick steps toward her, pulled the pitcher away and plunked it on to the counter. Then he gently placed his hands on either side of her face and backed her up against the wall, kissing her until they were both left breathless.
Raising his face away but leaving his body pressed to hers, Jack smiled; his eyes shone with such warmth and light that Sam's attempts to draw air were even further taxed. Her heart reflected his obvious joy.
"As much as I'd like to do something else with you right now, I suppose you really should get those flowers in water."
"I suppose," Sam replied, her words at odds with the action of her hands beginning to creep up under his T-shirt.
"And I'd better get our dinner," Jack said, regret in his tone.
"Well..." Sam's palm was now sliding between them up his bare chest. "I do *have* to get the flowers in water. But dinner," she grinned, "can be reheated."
Jack mirrored her smile before dipping his head down for another kiss.
SG-1 plus Caelan Balfour were gathered around a table in a Taicligh war room at the request of Commander Kenzie, for whom they were currently waiting. The exact reason for this meeting hadn't been made clear and even Caelan claimed that he had no idea what was going on, only that most of the high-ranking officials had been holding council for much of the day. High Commander Tavish had even missed his practice session for the first time in months.
Jocasta Kenzie swept into the room followed by Tavish and the idle chatter came to a halt. "I apologize for keeping you waiting but our last meeting ran a little long. In a few moments I think you'll understand why." She gestured to Tavish and seated herself at the table as he began to speak.
"Early this morning one of our science teams reported some unusual activity on a planet we know to be deserted. We have since confirmed that a band of Hyksos has taken refuge there.
"It appears that they established a presence several months ago and given what we know of their migratory nature, we suspect that they will soon be moving on. As a result of today's meetings, we have decided to launch an attack against this group of Hyksos."
"The reason we have asked you here," Jocasta continued, addressing SG-1, "is that you have been a great deal of help to us since our first meeting and have expressed much interest in helping to stop the devastation wrought by our enemies. We thought you might be interested in joining us in our offensive."
Sam didn't even have to look at Jack to know what his answer would be. "Count us in," he told Jocasta, confirming her thoughts.
Jocasta smiled. "We were hoping you would say that." She pushed a few buttons and a 3-D landscape image appeared on a blank section of wall. "This is Laetoli," she announced. "It's a deserted planet that we occasionally use for scientific or military purposes deemed too dangerous to carry out on Domhan. It has been nearly a year since we were last there, except for the team that went yesterday which, as we have told you, discovered a group of Hyksos." She pressed another button and the image changed, displaying a ship reminiscent of Goa'uld design. "The scientists came across this Hyksos ship about half a day's walk from the Stargate. They estimate there are half-a-hundred of them on the planet. It also appears that the Hyksos are preparing to leave soon and so we must strike within the next few days."
High Commander Tavish took over. "We have already assembled a team of our best soldiers. Our plan is to use the Stargate to arrive on Laetoli late in its night cycle and reach the ship just before sunrise. We have discovered one weakness in the Hyksos which, though minimal, may work to our advantage: their eyes have difficulty focusing in the low light of dawn and dusk. We hope that the element of surprise as well as those extra few seconds needed to adjust to the light level will be enough for us to eliminate the threat."
Tavish drew to a close and Sam automatically looked at Jack for his reaction. He was already watching her and she knew that SG-1 would be hiking through an alien forest that night. "We'll have to confirm it with General Hammond," he said, holding her gaze for just a moment longer before returning his attention to their Taicligh hosts. "But I can say with relative assurance that we'll be there."
"Your presence will be a tremendous help," Jocasta told them with a small smile. "In the meantime, however, I assume you wish to return to Earth in order to speak with your general?"
"We would, thank you." Everyone present rose but Sam and Jack were held back by Jocasta.
"Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter. May I speak to you in private?"
Sam turned back to the commander, hearing Jack tell Teal'c and Jonas that they'd meet them in Caelan's lab in a little while. "Is there something else we can do for you, Commander?"
"Perhaps," she replied. "I was talking to Chieftain Balfour yesterday regarding your progress with the Hyksos weapon. I understand you are becoming quite adept in its use, Major?"
"I've had some success," she confirmed cautiously, wondering why the other woman would choose that moment to discuss a scientific experiment when they had a mission for which to prepare.
"High Commander Tavish and I were discussing this earlier. Major Carter, how would you feel about testing the weapon in a combat situation? More specifically, would you consider using it on tonight's mission?"
Sam was surprised by the request. She knew how important the weapon was to the Taicligh and how desperate they were for an advantage in the war but she hadn't considered that they would want her to put it to practical use so soon. It made sense, though.
She turned to Jack; as her CO he could veto Jocasta's request. It was probably the reason why he'd been requested to stay. "Sir?"
"It's your call, Carter. You're the only one who knows how well you can handle that weapon." His look was steady and she knew he was remembering her frustration of a few days earlier when she hadn't been able to get it to work. She was reminded of the beautiful flowers and all the trouble he'd gone to just to cheer her up. What warmed her most, however, was the confidence he had always expressed in her.
"I'll do it," she said, facing Jocasta. "I can't guarantee I'll be able to get it to work but I'm willing to try."
"Wonderful." The commander smiled at her. "I really do believe that your ability to use the Hyksos weapon against its own creators will turn the tide of the war in our direction, Major Carter. But until then, I know you have much to do in order to prepare for tonight." She led them to the door. "Please let me know if there is anything you require from the Taicligh. Otherwise, I wish you well tonight and will be here to greet you upon your return."
"Thank you, Commander," Jack said, and Sam echoed her gratitude before they headed to Caelan's lab to collect the other half of their team. In the relative privacy of the empty hallway he nudged her gently with an elbow. "Are you sure you're okay using an alien weapon on a mission?" he asked. "Nobody will think less of you if you don't think you're ready."
"I know," she responded. "But if I can just focus then I think it will be fine." She reached for his hand, their fingers entangling briefly. "Thanks, though."
He squeezed her fingers. "Anytime." Their hands slid apart as they reached Caelan's lab and, leaving their brief personal moment in the hall, they called for Jonas and Teal'c and headed for the Stargate.
"Everyone hold up."
Jack's raised hand and quietly issued order instantly brought Sam to a halt, as it did the rest of their team. Caelan had been assigned to SG-1 for this mission as a representative since it was technically a Taicligh operation. A squad composed entirely of Taicligh soldiers was approaching the Hyksos ship from another direction and was therefore out of sight and, by this point, also out of shouting distance. And that, she knew, was precisely why Jack had paused them. If no one else was within range then what was the source of the low voice heard ahead of them?
Jack signaled and the team of five melted into the surrounding trees. Caelan stuck close to Sam for two reasons, she knew; he needed her to interpret some of Jack's more "Earthly" orders, and he needed to keep an eye on the Hyksos weapon.
Hearing a faint rustling sound followed by a sharp crack, Sam readjusted her grip on the weapon and shifted slightly to the side in order to get a better view. Seeing nothing she glanced at Jack, who shook his head and gestured for her to stay put. He reached for his radio and moments later she heard his softly uttered voice by her ear. "Carter, I want you and Balfour to keep out of sight for as long as possible."
Not risking the use of her own radio Sam merely nodded her understanding of his motive; if the Hyksos didn't realize that they were using one of their own weapons against them it could work to their advantage. In the confusion of the initial minutes of the attack any use of her weapon could be mistaken as coming from their own people.
Caelan touched her arm and jerked his head in the direction from which the voice had been heard. There was a faint rustle of leaves in spite of the windless early morning. Obviously hearing the sound as well Jack signaled the rest of the team to ready themselves.
The attack itself was sudden though expected; one moment there was nothing but the soft sighing of leaves, the next the narrow space was blocked by a half-dozen Hyksos soldiers.
To remain crouched behind the tree cover as her teammates came under fire went against all of Sam's instincts but she forced herself to hold her position. She raised the weapon and looked along its sight, doing her best to block out her surroundings and concentrate on making it work. It took several seconds but eventually she felt the almost-familiar surge followed shortly by the explosive discharge.
The result was by no means one of her most impressive but it did the trick; the largely unfocused energy beam struck one of the Hyksos in the arm and across part of his upper chest, taking him out of commission. Feeling slightly more confident she turned her attention to another target.
By the time Sam had disabled her second opponent the remainder of her team had taken out three of the four other Hyksos soldiers. She trained her weapon on the fourth man, who in turn had his weapon pointing at an unsuspecting Teal'c. The pressure built and was about to release when behind her to the right she heard a weapon fire, followed by a groan of pain in Jack's familiar voice. She turned involuntarily towards the sound just as the weapon discharged and the shot went wide, leaving her target unharmed although apparently distracted by the energy blast, since she saw him turn slightly in her direction. Unable to stop herself Sam spared half a second to look at Jack, the quick glance affording her a small measure of relief. Though the light was low, supplied only by the single moon, it was enough to see he was well enough to start sitting up, and she'd seen no sign of blood on him.
Her worry temporarily assuaged Sam turned back to the lone remaining Hyksos. Only a second or two had passed since she had first fired at this soldier although it seemed considerably longer in Sam's eyes, and Teal'c was still in danger. Focusing once more on the weapon, channeling her worry for Jack onto her target, she was almost surprised by the strength of the energy that flowed through her before being released. The Hyksos dropped instantly. He did not move.
Sam's relief at having killed the soldier in time was short-lived; even as she was turning to check on Jack yet another energy beam was fired from behind her, narrowly missing her. She whipped around, weapon at the ready, only to find Jonas already taking care of a seventh Hyksos that she'd somehow failed to notice.
Sam simply stared at Jonas for a long moment, her attention finally being drawn from his face by a gentle tugging at the weapon still held tightly in her grasp. She turned her head slowly to see Caelan beside her, a look on his face that she wasn't sure she wanted to identify.
When he tugged once more at the weapon she released it, time suddenly snapping back to normal. She offered Caelan and Jonas a tight smile before leaving her protective cover and turning toward Jack.
He was half-sitting, half-leaning against a tree. She dropped to her knees by his side and restrained herself from reaching out to touch him. She was relieved, however, to note that he still appeared free of blood and that he seemed alert. "Are you okay, sir?" she asked, surprised by the steadiness of her voice.
He sat up fully with an audible groan. "Fine, Carter. I wasn't hit." He shook his head and Sam thought he looked mildly embarrassed. "I took a branch in the chest as I dove out of the way. Knocked the breath right out of me."
Giving into her urge to touch him she helped Jack to his feet with a hand on his arm and back. His eyes told her he understood what she was feeling but when he spoke his voice was pure military. "We still need to complete our mission, campers. The Taicligh team is counting on our backup at the ship and the Hyksos were undoubtedly alerted to our presence by the firefight. We need to be in position within half an hour."
"O'Neill." Teal'c's voice drew their attention and turning in his direction, Sam wondered why he was on the ground. "I have been hit."
Jack moved quickly to the Jaffa's side, Sam only steps behind him. The outer thigh of Teal'c's trousers was singed and blackened, offering an unwanted view of the bloody wound beneath. To her it seemed that he had only been grazed by the weapon but it still looked painful.
"Can you walk?" Jack asked him, already rummaging through his pack. He pulled out the med kit and pressed a bandage to Teal'c's leg, handing the other man the gauze and allowing him to wrap his leg himself.
"I cannot. You must complete the mission without me."
It took Sam about a half-second to understand his logic; they needed to complete the mission and although Teal'c wouldn't be able to help them, neither was his wound serious enough that he would have to be taken back to Earth immediately. They would have to leave him here and come back for him on their way back to the 'gate.
Jack merely clapped Teal'c on the shoulder as he rose, promising that they'd return as soon as they could, and in a matter of seconds the team was once more on its way to the Hyksos encampment. Sam found herself bringing up the rear with Caelan at her side, looking strangely excited about something. "Do you know what you just did?" he asked, keeping his voice hushed.
Sam looked at him blankly. What she had done? She had barely managed to hit her first two targets, her hesitation had almost allowed the third Hyksos to fire on Teal'c, and on top of that he had nearly been killed by a soldier that she hadn't even noticed. What about that would get Caelan excited?
He apparently didn't notice her lack of response because he continued talking. "That last shot produced a wound that exactly matches the ones the Hyksos use on their victims. You did it, Sam. You got it to work."
Sam forced a smile, not sure what to say. Instead of being elated at the success of the mission thus far she found her mind wandering back. The brief moment of hesitation was unlike her and could have cost Teal'c his life, all because of--
She ruthlessly cut off her train of thought. She was in the middle of a mission and now was not the time to let herself be distracted.
The remainder of the hike passed quickly and uneventfully and almost before Sam knew it they were crouched just behind the tree line looking at the Hyksos ship. Its similarity to Goa'uld design was more obvious now, the alien influence evident in its lines and colour scheme. From her position she could see six, possibly seven Hyksos moving outside the ship and presumably there were more behind and inside that weren't visible. There was no sign of the Taicligh soldiers but Sam hadn't really expected to see them just yet; like SG-1 they would remain hidden until it was time to strike.
From the corner of her eye she saw movement and turned to see Jack holding up seven fingers, Jonas giving a short nod of agreement. Seven Hyksos. Jack then signaled that three minutes remained before they were to launch their attack and motioned for them to take their positions. Sam nodded her acknowledgement and glanced at Caelan long enough to be sure he understood Jack's directions before making her way silently to a place where she could easily make her way out of the tree line when the time came. The scientist was just barely visible some distance to her right, Jonas to her left; Jack was too far away to be seen, lost in the dim pre-dawn light.
Sam alternated her glance between the Hyksos and her watch, its readout steadily approaching zero. Readjusting her grip on the weapon she stood fluidly and stepped into the field, peripherally aware of her teammates and shadowy figures she assumed to be the Taicligh team doing the same. And then someone fired the first shot and her world narrowed to her targets.
The attack itself was surprisingly swift and effective; either the Hyksos hadn't heard SG-1's encounter with their brethren or the Taicligh had underestimated the difficulty they had focusing in low light. In what seemed like only minutes to Sam all of the Hyksos had been taken care of with only a few injuries on their side. One Taicligh soldier had received a nasty-looking wound to his leg after being shot by a Hyksos weapon and Jack had been cut in the upper arm and received a few bruises during a hand-to-hand fight, but otherwise SG-1 and the Taicligh had escaped relatively unscathed. Unfortunately they had not been able to secure the Hyksos vessel; held off by the unexpected reinforcement of more Hyksos soldiers the Taicligh who were supposed to infiltrate the ship had been unable to do so before it took off, whether merely to orbit Laetoli or to leave the system altogether they didn't know. At this point it didn't really matter because either way the ship was well beyond their current arsenal of weapons.
The Taicligh decided there was nothing more to be done at the moment and informed Jack that they were returning to Domhan for a debriefing, which SG-1 was invited to attend. As a group they headed back toward the Stargate but before Sam could leave the clearing she was waylaid by Jack waving her over. She detoured to where he was standing a little apart from the others. "Sir?"
"I'm going to take Teal'c back to the SGC; his wound needs to be taken care of, even with Junior's help. Can you handle the debrief?"
It made sense that he would be the one to accompany Teal'c back to Earth, since he was the only other injured member of SG-1. "Of course, Colonel." She hesitated, wanting to apologize for her earlier mistake, but realized that now was not the time. Instead she started walking, and side by side they went to collect Teal'c.
Having seen the two men as far as the primitive road leading to the Stargate, Sam continued to watch them for a moment as they slowly made their way along. Jack supported Teal'c but despite his injury, her friend still managed to carry himself with proud bearing.
Turning away, Sam began her own short walk back to where they'd left Jonas and the Taicligh. She wasn't walking alone, however; now that she'd found a moment's peace all of the confusion and misgivings she had about that morning's incident began to cloud her thoughts.
Sam strode through the corridors of the SGC as rapidly as she could without breaking into a full-out run. She couldn't go charging into the infirmary with all her gear, so she did have to make a quick pit stop to divest herself of her pack. Having accomplished that chore, she was almost in sight of her goal. She hastily rounded a final corner, only to get drawn to an abrupt halt by a solid object barring her path.
Hands reached out to grasp her shoulders and steady her when she rebounded from the impact.
"Whoa, Carter! Have you got a Goa'uld on your tail or something?"
Sam met Jack's gaze. "I just got back from Domhan. How is he? Is he all right?"
"T's going to be fine. The shot didn't do any damage. It was actually pretty minor." Jack kept his hands resting lightly on her shoulders.
Sam's eyes fluttered closed and she breathed out a sigh. "Thank goodness." Eyes still closed she gave her head a shake. "I can't believe... I shouldn't have let that happen."
"What?" Sam's eyes opened to meet confusion in Jack's. "Sam," he asked quietly, "you don't think this is your fault, do you?"
"It is my fault!" Sam stepped back slightly so that Jack's hands fell away from her. "We shouldn't be talking about this here," she said with her voice lowering to a harsh whisper. "But the reason Teal'c got hurt is because I was too busy making sure *you* were all right. I lost my objectivity in the field."
"That's not what happened," Jack argued. "Of course if you hear a member of your unit going down you're going to assess the situation. It didn't mean anything different because it was me." Jack reached out his hands as if to touch her again but instead let them drop back to his sides.
"Once I had perspective on what happened I should have taken out the Hyksos that shot Teal'c. I didn't." Her voice quieted even more as she rasped out, "I was worried about *you*."
"You couldn't have taken out that Hyksos." Jack's voice was considerably louder than hers had been. "He was out of the range of your cover! Jonas shot him. *He* hesitated." Jack shrugged. "But he's not a soldier and he did a good job under the circumstances."
"But..." Sam frowned and shook her head. "I shot the Hyksos."
"You shot the guy who had his weapon pointed at Teal'c and was ready to finish off his buddy's work. You *saved* Teal'c."
Sam felt much of her tension drain away but she was not yet untroubled. "I still hesitated," she said stubbornly.
"It's been a long day." Jack's tone was gentle. "Why don't we just go home and relax and discuss it in the morning?"
"I am tired," Sam acknowledged. "I think I'd better just go to my house and get some rest." She managed a wan smile for him. "I have to go home sometime, or the neighbours will begin to wonder..."
"Okay." Jack nodded slowly. "Good night, Sam," he bade in a soft voice.
"Good night," she echoed, trying her best to ignore the regret in his eyes as he turned and walked away.
Sam drifted aimlessly through her house. Her mind was unfocused, her emotions were in tangles; she was unable to concentrate on any one task.
Rain beat heavily on the windows, the storm carrying none of the summer's warmth. Sam had built a fire to ward off the chill, though she thought most of the cold might actually be stored in her heart.
She returned to her seat before the fire, picking up the glass of wine she'd abandoned twice before. The fire and a single candle she'd lit were her only attempts at dispelling the gloom in her house.
It would be easy enough to flick on the light switch and instantly brighten her environment. If only the same could be done with her mind and her heart.
A sip of wine tasted bitter on her tongue and Sam left the glass behind for good as she rose again from her chair. She turned her back to the fire to wander over to the window. The pane of glass was cool where she rested her forehead against it as she looked out upon the rain driving hard onto the ground, the wind whipping the leaves and tree branches into a frenzied dance.
Her soul was in tumult equal to the storm.
Loving Jack O'Neill was easy. Being in love with him, under their current circumstances, was agony.
Their subterfuge, the hiding of their relationship, was wrong. But Sam knew her feelings for Jack, her love for him and their love for one another, could not be denied.
So where did that leave her? Where did it leave Jack?
Where were *they* to go from there?
She couldn't give up Jack. He was a part of her now; there was too much of him that had become entwined around her heart. Yet they couldn't keep going as they were. No matter the assurances Jack had given her about the incident during the Taicligh raid, Sam knew her every action was being coloured by her awareness of Jack and by her constant concern for his well-being.
More so than it had been before? Sam asked herself. She wasn't sure. Of course she'd somehow, in some way, always loved Jack. Maybe her total realization of that love was now simply making her second-guess her actions. Perhaps her emotions weren't actually affecting her job performance, it was just *her* worry that might be the case. She was tormenting herself over an issue that might not actually be a concern.
Therein lay the problem.
Sam straightened away from the window, reaching out a finger to trace a raindrop dashing across the other side of the pane. She needed to get some perspective on her situation. She knew, and had probably known deep-down from the outset, that the best thing either Jack or she could do for their relationship was for one of them to leave SG-1. The inevitability was simple catching up with them.
She wouldn't allow it to be Jack who left the team. It was his team and it was where he belonged. It needed *him*.
The thing was, right now SG-1 needed her as well. Simply by virtue of her permanent gift of a protein marker from Jolinar, Sam was the one who could help crack the mystery of the Hyksos weaponry. Doing so would help the Taicligh win their fight and eradicate any Hyksos threat against Earth. She couldn't abandon her work with Caelan or the Taicligh.
Sam turned suddenly from the window then slowly retraced her earlier path to her chair. She sat down and spent long minutes staring at the fire, considering. Finally she rose, banked the fire for the night and delivered her wine glass to the kitchen sink.
She went to bed. She'd want to get a good night's sleep in order to make her request to General Hammond in the morning.