TITLE: The Moment

AUTHOR: Pheral

E-MAIL: kamilshka@hotmail.com

STORY STATUS: Completed

SEQUEL/SERIES INFO: N/A

SEASON: Around four I guess

SPOILERS: None really

CATEGORIES: Action/Adventure, Hurt/Comfort, Drama

PAIRINGS: None

Content Level: 13+ for violence

CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, and Jack whumping galore!

SUMMARY: Upon encountering a new species, Colonel O’Neill has to put his team first yet again.

ARCHIVE PERSMISSIONS: ThePointOfOrigin site, Helio, JackFic site.

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, this story is for fun (I don’t think Jack enjoyed himself though) and I sure as hell didn’t get any money. No copyright infringement is intended and you can’t post this story anywhere else without asking me first damnit!! But I’ll probably say yes anyway, so go ahead and chance your luck kiddo.

FILE SIZE: 129KB

AUTHORS NOTE: Thanks to Ruth for the encouragement and help – it wouldn’t have been this good if she hadn’t pestered at the end! Feedback is always treasured, and constructive criticism always taken on board. Enjoy!

The Moment

O’Neill waved his hands and hollered frantically. He jumped up and down on the soft grassy verge and screamed at the hordes of figures with their backs to him. They twirled unceremoniously, their brutish arms flailing as they turned to face him, eyes wide in surprise.

A unified shout went out from among them and they broke towards him, sprinting forward and up the beginnings of the hill that lay below the plateau where Jack stood. He ceased his noise and span away from them, muttering as he launched into a run, ‘why am I always the one who’s running away?’

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‘Damn it,’ Daniel cursed, leaping to his feet as he and Teal’c watched floods of men follow Jack O’Neill towards the thick woods. He turned in the opposite direction to see Carter flapping her hands in anger as she jogged towards them.

P4X-819 had been presumed uninhabited from the MALP’s minimal findings, a forested, quiet planet within its four month winter. But SG-1 had found a people there. Hidden from view they had watched hundreds of hunched, dark figures within a huge pit, like a crater or volcano top. They seemed to be conducting some kind of crude ceremony and SG-1 had separated, trying to get a better overall view of the activities. Daniel had been drawing conclusions about the people’s apparently barbaric civilization when his attention, Teal’c’s attention and that of all the alien figures was diverted to Major Carter.

A part of the crater wall had collapsed, almost taking Carter with it, the rock crumbled loudly, rolling down the grassy edges and lifting every alien eye up to where Major Carter was scrabbling away from the unstable edge. An enraged roar had burst from the aliens, a deep nasty sound that made Daniel wince. But no sooner had that sound finished echoing through his ears than he heard Jack. The Colonel had stood, in full view, screaming at the top of his lungs, desperate to be heard and distract attention from the Major. And that he did.

Watching in horror as the aliens charged after their CO, Daniel’s mind still ticked away, observing that they were primitive in their attack – caring only for the moment, as they hadn’t sent any of their number after Carter. They were driven by their immediate senses and instincts and didn’t seem to follow a leader so much as act as a unified ‘one’.

His musings stopped abruptly as a gasping Carter reached them, ‘my gun doesn’t work!’

‘We may assume,’ Teal’c added, with an edge of concern, ‘that Colonel O’Neill’s sidearm is incapacitated also,’ he pressed the fire button on his Zat gun. Nothing happened.

Before they locked their minds into the why-for of it all Carter waved a hand, ‘He’s heading for the forest, come on, he might be able to lose them!’ and she set off at a sprint after her CO, not knowing what else to do.

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Foliage whipped out of the way as O’Neill charged full speed through the thickening woodland. Leaves and twigs were crushed underfoot as he noisily slammed one boot after another onto the ground, striding onward at an ever-quickening pace. His lungs were on fire with desperate need for oxygen as he heaved frantic breaths – timing them with his footfalls, beating out a rhythm of exertion as he ran. He couldn’t hear his pursuers, only his own tired gasps reverberating round his head and the rustling of the bushes as he crashed through them.

His walkie-talkie crackled to life, almost tripping him with surprise; he regained his footing and rhythm and grabbed it from his vest. Carter’s voice broke from its tinny speaker, ‘Sir – can you hear me? Colonel, come in.’

‘Carter,’ O’Neill gasped in an exasperated sing-song voice, ‘I’m a little busy right now.’

‘Right,’ Carter replied, thinking fast, ‘I suggest you find somewhere to hide Sir, they’re close behind you, you won’t outrun them. We’ll get help as soon as possible.’

O’Neill’s shaky voice practically shouted back, ‘just find a way to make our damn guns work!’

‘Yes Sir,’ Carter signed off and replaced her talkie.

She stopped then, crouching down on her haunches as the three panted to regain their breath. ‘Right, running ourselves ragged pointlessly is doing nothing. We can’t really help the Colonel in any immediate way now so we’d best focus on the big picture. Teal’c head back to the gate as fast as you can, you could make it in 2 days, get reinforcements and some weapons that don’t require power or electrical mechanisms. Hopefully they’ll work. Go wide of the wood and watch for more aliens, stay hidden. Daniel and I will stay and try to make these guns work and see if we can help Colonel O’Neill. Go.’

Teal’c nodded, needing no further information, and set off at a good speed, heading for the edge of the woods and the general direction of the Stargate. Carter watched him go and then turned back to Daniel, ‘lets find some cover and work on these guns.’

Daniel nodded and followed her, glancing in concern at the woods where Jack had disappeared followed by hundreds of aliens. He knew Sam was right that they couldn’t do anything but he hated just leaving Jack to fend for himself. He felt so helpless.

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Colonel O’Neill felt like he’s been running for an eternity and his adrenalin had run out years ago, he wasn’t so much running now as falling forwards, his eyes desperately searching for a likely place to hide. Just as they fell on a dense patch of brush that looked promising, his exhausted limbs failed him and he dragged a foot a little too low. It caught on a root and he stumbled, fell forward and landed heavily on his front, the air expelled from his lungs suddenly. Scrabbling to his knees he crawled, gasping for air into the dense group of bushes, forcing himself into their centre. The hard twigs scratched his face and hands as he curled up tight, trying to conceal every part of his lanky frame. Even with his camos he wasn’t sure that he was hidden well enough but he knew he couldn’t run any longer, he had no choice but to rest. He tried to slow his breathing, painfully aware of how loud it was in the silent wood.

It could only have been ten seconds that he’d been calming his breathing before the forest around him erupted into noise. Feet thundered the ground and shook beneath him as the aliens converged on him. O’Neill screwed his eyes shut in anticipation, holding his breath and willing the strange people to run straight past. For a second it seemed that they would, the front runners passed him at a tireless speed and he almost sighed with relief that he wasn’t immediately visible.

But then the thundering changed, he opened his eyes as the running seemed to stop but he still couldn’t see anything except leaves and twigs. He stayed absolutely still and as silent as possible as the wood around him got steadily more and more quiet. He knew the aliens still surrounded him but he could no longer hear them.

It was incredibly unnerving to not know what was going on or where his hunters were. For agonising minutes all he could hear was his breathing, every intake getting louder than the previous as he tried to keep still. His limbs were jumping from the abrupt change of running to stillness, they were starting to go numb as he fought to keep them still and quiet.

A strange scream shattered the silence and O’Neill jumped despite his efforts, something gripped his ankle hard and he twisted instinctively to get away. The vice-like grip gave a harsh yank and he was pulled out of his hiding place. A roar rose around him, deafening his ears and he looked up to have his vision filled with thick-skinned, warrior like figures.

Before he could untangle his vocal chords to introduce himself hands roughly hefted him to his feet from behind. He made to shake himself free but those in front of him crowded forward and he heard a deep growl before the largest man directly in front of him shoved a huge fist into the Colonel’s stomach. He curled forward with the force, making a faint retching sound as his insides were crushed. He felt hands tie his wrists behind him with what felt like cord or rope as he coughed and spluttered.

Without warning someone whipped his feet from beneath him and he crashed to the ground at the animals feet, jarring his jaw and tasting metallic blood against his tongue. He felt them tie his feet tight as well and coughed harshly,

‘Look, what…’ he started, but he was silenced as the largest again hit him, in the face this time, banging his head against the ground and crushing his nose mercilessly. He yelped, unable to bring his hands up to his face. Pain centred in his skull as a pounding headache and he felt warm blood flow down from his nose into his eyes, down his cheek and onto the forest floor,

‘Jesus Chri…’ again he couldn’t finish as another animal made a wild disapproving shriek and kicked him savagely in the side. O’Neill gasped and tried to absorb it, a hard thing to do when you’re hog tied, he noted. He figured that they didn’t like his talking so he stayed silent, trying to blink the blood from his eyes and breathing shallowly to limit the pain from his chest and stomach.

There was a fair amount of discussion going on now between the animals and although O’Neill couldn’t see much for the all the blood, he listened to the strange grunts and growls through which the animals seemed to communicate.

They were strange beasts, they seemed to have tough thick skin, almost like muddy pink elephant hide. They wore cloth trousers on their lower halves and tough looking but lightweight shoes. So, Jack decided, they must be pretty civilised, they make clothes and have a language and from the looks of their earlier activities they have organisation and communal practices. Just as Jack was beginning to feel rather like Daniel, and wondering if that was a good thing, the animals seemed to make their decision.

With angry ferocity, two of them grabbed O’Neill’s bound feet and pulled him forward to a sharp pace, they all moved with O’Neill being dragged along amidst them. Jack’s back dragged along the ground, his hands catching on twigs and rocks as the pace quickened to a jog. He held his head a high as he could, clear of the ground, feeling like a sack of potatoes. He didn’t know how long he could hold his head in that position. His mind turned to Carter and rest of SG-1, they were his only hope at the present time and he knew how far they all were from the gate so he couldn’t expect help any time soon. He nearly yelped as his knuckles bashed a sharp stone but he bit his lip, not wanting to anger these strange Neanderthals any more than he already apparently had.

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Colonel Jack O’Neill jerked awake, blinking madly to try and clear the dried blood from his eyes. When he could finally open them he didn’t see much – it was pitch black but he could make out stars so he figured he was outside. Upon trying to move his hands his body suddenly woke up and he groaned as pain assaulted him.

Everything was stiff, his shoulder joints had cramped from being held back for so long. He could feel his hands raw from the journey and his back was aching from a million dents and bruises. His head felt dangerously nasty at the back and he decided not to move it, he had no idea when he had passed out or how long they had dragged him like that, he hated to think of the damage.

Amidst all the strange pains, the thing that troubled him most was his thirst, he was parched and he couldn’t see any way he’d get any water if he was punished every time he said something. As his eyes adjusted to the dark around him he tried to look around him and eventually had to give in and roll his head to the side. He ceased the movement suddenly as nausea swept over him, making the ground sway beneath him sickeningly. Definitely a concussion, he thought, or worse. When the world stopped spinning he moved again and the nausea was bearable this time so he carried on.

To his left, some twenty feet away, a large group of the beasts were silhouetted against a large fire, sitting and grunting at each other. Typical night in with the lads, Jack snorted to himself. Behind them was a tall structure, and he saw another to his other side when he turned that way. He seemed to be in a basic kind of courtyard. Shifting his hands and feet slightly, and trying to ignore the agonising pins and needles, he concluded that he wasn’t harnessed to anything, merely hog-tied. Realising this didn’t make much difference to the hopelessness of his situation anyway, he closed his eyes and tried to think.

Then his exhausted mind latched onto something – his knife! He had dropped his useless gun while running but they hadn’t taken his knife! At least not while he was conscious, and he curled up, trying to detect its presence on his belt. With a little flexibility and some yelps of pain, he felt the knife sheath dig into his thigh and smiled triumphantly. He carefully moved his hands close to it and managed to grab the handle with stiff and bruised fingers. He drew it out slowly and rolled onto his side a little. He carefully twisted the knife in his hands, turning it onto the cord on his wrists and making small sawing movements. He could do no more radical movements than that and simply lay for a while, eyes closed and knife biting away at the thick bonds.

He had almost dozed off when his hands fell free and he dropped the knife as his tortured shoulders and wrists moved sharply. Jagged pain washed up his arms and he lay gasping for a few moments, trying not to cry out and attract attention. Slowly he brought his arms round to his front, mumbling obscenities to help him absorb the pulling agony in his muscles and ligaments. Blood flowed into his swollen hands as he rolled over onto his back and he bit his lip, slowly trying to sit up. His chest screamed at him from the effort and he fell back down again, swallowing with a dry throat, startled at his own weakness. He tried again, this time rolling to his left side and curling upwards in a sweeping motion, ending up sitting up finally. He sighed and started to struggle with the bindings around his feet, cutting all the lines of cord he could and finally freeing them too. His hands moving instinctively up to his radio he found that it was no longer clipped to his vest, he figured the beasts may have taken it, but decided it was more likely that it fell off during his journey to this place.

O’Neill placed his hands on the cool ground, letting the wet grass soothe his sore palms. He stared towards the fire for a short while, checking to make sure they hadn’t detected any of his movements. Once he was sure they were unaware he let his eyes wander the possible escape routes. He seemed relatively unguarded apart from the beasts at the fire and with his limbs free he allowed a little hope to flood into his stressed mind.

His eyes latched onto a thin gap between two building through which he could see more stars indicating a horizon and a clear way out of there. Growling softly he rolled onto his hands and knees and started very cautiously to make for the escape route, some forty feet from him. Every time he placed his weight on his hands his arms threatened to give out on him and trying to go easy on his battered shoulders he crept slowly forward. His breath was tense and his eyes darted from his escape route back to the fire, watching the beasts and willing them to stay put and not have to send out for more beer, or whatever they were drinking. His mind flared at the thought of beer, his saliva glands springing to premature life and he nearly moaned out loud at the severity of his thirst. He shook his head, feeling himself drifting from the task at hand and knowing full well it was due to the head injuries he had sustained.

Eventually, despite his fears that the beasts would detect him, he made it to the small corridor and lurched inside with relief, leaning back against the wall with exhaustion. His chest sang at him, begging him to stop and lie down, just to rest for a minute. He shook the thought away and looked to the end of the corridor, it was so dark he couldn’t be sure what was out there, but it looked like a clear space, maybe a field, and he could see far-away trees silhouetted against the stars in the distance. Whatever else it looked like, it sure as hell looked like freedom to him.

He leant back, peering up at the heights of the buildings, checking for any visible sign of beasts watching from the top. He saw no lights or figures and hoped that meant that they wouldn’t be able to see him when he crossed out into the open. Putting his palms against the wet wall and pushing, he managed to get himself into a standing position, with his torso resting against the wall. His chest ached from the stretching and he stooped slightly, to relieve the pain of muscles that had stiffened while he had been curled up.

Pushing off from the wall slowly and giving his head time to adjust to the balance, he stood alone, glad that he was still able to and feeling quite positive about the whole thing. He pushed the thought that he no idea where he was to the back of his mind, all he wanted to do was get out of danger and other things would follow in due time.

Swaying slightly, he left the corridor between the buildings and stepped out into the pitch blackness, squinting his eyes to try and see some indication of what was in front of him. His feet fell hesitantly on soft grass and he speeded up, anxious to get as far away from the structure and his captors as possible. It had crossed his mind that what with the animals’ sense of smell being so apparently good, they might miss his scent after a short while, but then again, he smiled to himself, after all that exertion they can probably smell me from here.

His brief good humour was whipped away with breathtaking speed as the ground seemed to disappear beneath his next footstep and he slammed to the ground, helpless to prevent a scream of pain escape from his lips as he slid dangerously down a steep slope.

His breath was taken away completely as he hit water hard, coldness sunk into his bones as he floundered, exhaustion and surprise weighing him down as his head slipped under the surface. He choked on the deep liquid, flailing desperately for something to haul him to safety. Kicking frantically, he knew he had no chance of getting his laced boots off and he had lost all sense of direction, he could see nothing in the darkness and had no idea where the bank was. His head slipped under again and he coughed on foul water, tipping his head back to get to the oxygen that hovered above. He splashed his hands violently on the surface, pushing himself upwards again, trying to swim in the direction that he thought he’d fallen from. But something in his left shoulder gave out, he felt it pop and he yelled, taking more freezing cold water into his mouth and lungs and sinking below the surface his eyes closed from the fiery agony that consumed his body.

Trying one last pathetic attempt to reach the surface, Jack fell further and further from the surface, everything black and cold. His mind fogged over as his lungs gave out and he took a first terrible lung full of water. He spasmed, shaking uncontrollably as his body rejected the water and cried out for oxygen, his teeth slammed together and a stream of bubbles burst from his mouth, a last enraged scream of dying agony.

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Something slammed on his chest.

And again, and again.

A relentless pounding, so sore and harsh as his mind struggled back from the blackness of the water.

Coldness gripped his consciousness and suddenly he remembered the anger, it flared back and he came to awareness, coughing harshly, hacking and choking the water from his lungs, expelling the putrid stuff onto the ground beside him as someone rolled him onto his side delicately. Delicately?

He dared to hope, and opened his eyes, still coughing painfully. It was still dark, either that or you’ve gone blind, his mind suggested nastily.

‘Sir? Breathe Sir, that’s it.’

His heart leapt as he recognised Carter’s voice and something inside him relaxed; now that he was reunited with his team the whole terrible day seemed to fade somewhat from his memory.

‘Carter?’ he gasped, releasing a fresh set of coughs and spitting some more water.

Major Carter took the P-90 from Daniel and set it on the ground, letting the light from it illuminate O’Neill’s pale face as he collapsed back onto his back again.

‘Oh my…what did you do to me?!’ he groaned, his chest feeling like it’d been crushed by a bulldozer, every breath wheezing in his throat.

‘You were… dead sir. I had to get your heart going again, sorry, I think I broke a few of your ribs.’

‘Oh for sure Major, for sure,’ O’Neill muttered, wincing. His mouth tasted of disgusting stagnant water and he spat again, trying to rid himself of its putrid staleness.

‘Can you walk Sir? We need to get out of here, somewhere safe where we can warm you up and let you rest.’

‘Mmm,’ Jack hummed softly, his mind desperately wanting to slip back to that place where he felt none of the complaints that his body showered on him now.

Daniel’s concerned but pestering voice brought him back to awareness. ‘No Jack, stay awake, we have to get out of here,’ and he felt arms under his, lifting him to his feet. He bit back the yelp that was eager to sound itself and worry his team more than he should, instead channeling the sound into grunt as he settled his feet on the ground and his arms over the two willing shoulders of his team.

‘Teal’c?’ he croaked through a raw throat as they started walking slowly through the darkness. He was getting sick of not being able to see the ground under his feet but understood the need to stay invisible.

‘I sent him back to the gate for help Sir, he should be nearly there by now, we’ll probably meet the reinforcements on the way back.’

‘How long has it been Major?’ Jack asked, intrigued by the idea that Teal’c could cover such a large distance in such a short time.

‘It’s been a day and half a night Jack,’ Daniel surprised him with his answer, and he raised his eyebrows sluggishly. His head injuries must have been worse than he’d thought, to have kept him under for that long.

Their pace quickened as they moved further and further from the buildings and the strange people that inhabited them and Carter’s worried voice brought Jack back to reality, he hadn’t even realised he was drifting and tried to concentrate.

‘Sir, you’re really shaking,’ she stated, rather pointlessly he thought.

‘Of course I am Major,’ Jack gasped with newly chattering teeth, ‘my entertainers hadn’t invented central heating yet and I’ve just taken the coldest bath this side of Russia. Let’s just get out of here and start a fire,’ and then he added, just under his breath, his voice tinged with sarcastic exasperation, ‘and throw me in it!’ He let out a huge shudder, his muscles starting to tense with the numbing cold that was claiming them.

He didn’t see the concerned look that passed between Carter and Daniel. Carter was worried about hypothermia and shock and was desperate to get her CO warm as soon as possible. His soaked clothes were freezing to the touch and could only be getting colder in the cool night air. Her eyes latched onto a nearby dip in the terrain and she directed their efforts towards it.

Jack watched his feet drag along the ground in a daze of exhaustion, managing only small attempts at actual footsteps, and his team dragged him onwards.

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‘Okay, easy, let’s put him down over here.’

‘God, he’s cold Sam.’

The voices drifted pleasantly through Jack’s unconscious, floating around timelessly as he rested in silence, his body in no way anxious to return to the world of the living.

‘I know, look I’ll go and try to find some dry wood for a fire. Get him out of those wet clothes and into our spare gear and our sleeping bags fast. I’ll take a look at him when I come back.’

‘Okay.’

The voices and sounds faded again and for a while there was nothing save occasional vague memories of what might have been pain.

But soon the blackness began to crackle and break up, it crumbled, broken by shards of consciousness. The feel of cold air on his face, dry rough fabric against his skin, blood coursing through swollen, damaged limbs.

Daniel watched Jack’s eyelids flutter and his bruised nose wrinkle slightly, as if in disgust at the sensations he was about to return to.

‘C’mon Jack, wake up.’

The voice assaulted O’Neill’s ear drums loudly and he dragged his eyelids open, latching onto Daniel’s face. Daniel smiled, ‘hi. Welcome back.’

‘Where did I go?’ Jack asked in a weak voice. His throat was raw from thirst and the rest of him didn’t feel too good either.

‘You passed out on the way here, we carried you the rest of the way.’

Jack cast his eyes over his surroundings. Daniel’s P-90 torch-light illuminated the small rocky shelf that they were on. It was overhung by another rock and some vines, well hidden from the rest of the forest and from prying eyes. Jack was wrapped in two sleeping bags, he could feel their heat thawing his shaking body and taking away the freezing numbness that had spared him the pain of many of his injuries. One of Daniel’s woolly hats was tight on his head, protecting his wet hair from the cool night breeze. His shoulder was throbbing along with his sluggish pulse, feeling like it was twice its normal size, and all his stressed joints were complaining, his back and chest on fire, their pain fluctuating with his breaths.

His head worried him most though, he recognised the strange cool line of pain that flared across his skull. It was so fiery that it felt almost cold, gripping his brain like an icy cheesewire. It felt like a skull fracture, and he knew what that felt like.

He swept his tongue round a parched mouth and addressed his most immediate concern,

‘Water?’

Daniel nodded, fumbling for his flask and holding it over Jack’s blue lips. He tipped it slightly and O’Neill caught the cool liquid in his mouth, closing his eyes as it slipped down his arid throat. His swallowing eased as he drank and Daniel let him sate his thirst, giving him small amounts at a time.

The flask finally empty, Jack smiled slightly, ‘Thank you,’ he whispered, his raging thirst satisfied for the time being.

Daniel put the flask down again and sat, looking over his friend’s tired face. He was pale, and this was exaggerated by the dark bruises that hung under each of his eyes, emanating from his bashed nose.

‘How did you get away from them?’ he asked, hoping to keep Jack talking and conscious until Carter returned. He began to assemble the sterno stove as Jack answered him in a rasping voice, ‘I woke up at that place, they seemed to have lost interest in me. I was able to untie myself and creep away.’ He furrowed his brow, ‘it was all going so well until the swimming lesson.’

Daniel ignored the last sarcastic comment and nodded, ‘that fits with their earlier behaviour. They seem to be very tied up with the moment, very instinctual. Probably what with you being unconscious they got bored with you.’

‘How rude,’ Jack muttered.

‘But probably quite helpful, it means that they probably won’t come actively looking for us.’

‘Probably?’ Jack asked, shooting Daniel a look through half closed eyes.

Daniel pursed his lips together and was about to retort when torch light glanced off the rock at his side. Carter slid down onto their shelf of stone, depositing an armful of dry sticks and mosses onto the floor. She sat down heavily beside them, sighing dramatically and turning to O’Neill, ‘hi Sir, how do you feel?’

‘Like a squashed popsickle Major, how are you?’ he replied through chattering teeth.

Carter pulled her P-90 strap over her head and set it on the ground, letting the torch light fall in Jacks direction. Then she scooted over to him, glancing at Daniel,

‘Could you get that fire started Daniel, while I check the Colonel out? And put some water on that sterno for some hot drinks.’ Daniel nodded and lit the small stove, watching its tiny flame leap into the darkness wildly, its reflected orange light bouncing off the walls of their hiding place in mad patterns. He started to gather the fire wood together in what he hoped was a vaguely fire-shaped pile.

‘I’m fine Major, just a little tired,’ Jack lied, as Carter leant over him and undid the first of the sleeping bag zips.

‘That’s what I’m worried about Sir. Can’t let you sleep until I know how you are, you’re awfully cold, and you could be in shock.’

As she opened the second bag, letting in a draft of cold air, Jack sighed in resignation.

‘Okay, but be quick, and no splinting.’

Carter glanced at him from the corner of her eye, letting her lips twitch into a vague smile at his black humour. ‘You want painkillers first?’ she asked, knowing full well what his answer would be.

‘I’m fine.’

‘Okay then, where needs attention?’ she asked, fingering the dry camos that Daniel had dressed him in.

‘Uh, my back I guess,’ Jack replied, resisting the urge to repeat that everything was fine. She was trying to help and had already started so he might as well co-operate if it made her feel better.

Daniel chimed in as his pile of wood collapsed, ‘His head is pretty bad at the back too Sam.’

Carter nodded, ‘okay then, sounds like we need to turn you over, can you do that?’

‘I’m not paralysed Carter,’ Jack spat sarcastically and then wished he hadn’t, shaking the regret and making a move onto his side. His shoulder screeched as he shifted and he decided to make that the next order of call for Doctor Carter. He felt her hands supporting him as his head span and he stopped momentarily, letting the floor settle back to its rightful place before slowly rolling onto his front, channeling the pain into a long breath as he settled on his chest and turned his head to the side.

Carter’s face twitched involuntarily as she saw specks of blood that had already soaked into the fresh camos. She took a hold of the bottom of the jacket and pulled it upwards revealing Jack’s battered back. It was covered in fully developed deep purple bruises and long scratches and cuts. She put a hand to his cold skin, surprised to feel him shaking. It reminded her of the dangers of hypothermia and she speeded up, grabbing the tube of antiseptic and gauze strips.

‘Well, does it look as bad as it feels?’ Jack asked quietly, drifting on the edge of sleep, trying to resist the temptation to curl up against the terrible cold.

‘You’re a work of art Sir,’ Carter replied sadly, dabbing ointment on some the worse cuts. Several had slivers of rock embedded in them, it looked like flint or something and they had already started weeping.

‘I’m just going to pull some stuff out here Sir, it’ll hurt.’

‘Do your worst Doctor Major,’ Jack breathed and brought his right hand up in front of his face, clenching it into a fist. As he felt the first tug he watched with despondent interest as his fist tightened and his knuckles went white. The second elicited a gasp from between his gritted teeth and he cut it short, not wanting to distract Carter.

Carter winced in sympathy as she tugged free a three inch length of flint from her CO’s back, throwing it to the ground in contempt and delicately taping some antiseptic covered gauze over the bleeding wound. Six winces later she had covered the worst of the wounds and pulled his jacket down over his freezing back. She hefted the sleeping bag up over him too, trying to give him as much heat as possible, ‘right, you’re back’s done, I’m gonna take a look at your head Sir.’

O’Neill grunted and tilted his head a little towards her, he knew it would be bad up there, he could feel the familiar floating that made him feel like he wasn’t quite attached to his body. That meant at least a concussion and he was pretty sure about the fracture, so he had his diagnosis all worked out before she had even removed his hat.

Cold air hit Jack’s head like an axe and he gasped quietly, not expecting the pain that such a simple action caused. He heard Carter pick up her P-90 and he saw the torch shine on the ground to the side of his head as she examined it. He heard her grunt and flinched suddenly as her fingers touched a tender spot and his abrupt movement sent waves of cold agony through the split line in his skull. He squeezed his eyes tight and tolerated her probing fingers. Finally, as he was teetering close to unconsciousness from the cold wheeling round his sore head, she finished and he felt the hat being carefully pushed down over his head.

Sitting back down again Carter took a good look at her CO’s face and his blue lips She reached out for his hand, clenched into a tight fist. Jack’s eyes opened slowly at the contact and let her open his hand, she turned it round and stared closely at the nail-beds before letting it go again.

‘What?’ he mumbled sleepily.

‘Cyanotic,’ Carter replied, and predicting rather than seeing his confused look, she continued, ‘cyanosis indicates that your pulmonary system is pushing de-oxygenated blood to your extremities, now; sluggish peripheral circulation can have many causes but unless you’ve spontaneously developed veno-occlusive disease,’ and she gave a little laugh, ‘I’d say that it’s a sign of…’

‘Carter!!’ Jack exploded, desperate to stop the tirade of medical terms that meant absolutely nothing to him. Carter stopped abruptly, then seemed to come to her senses,

‘Sorry,’ she shot him an apologetic look while simultaneously wondering just where she had heard of veno-occlusive disease and exactly why. She condensed her theorising into a Jack-sized portion and tried again, ‘cyanosis is when your nail-beds and lips go blue, it’s symptom of hypothermia Sir.’ Having doubts that in his current state he would understand even that, she simplified further, ‘it means you’re cold.’

‘I could'a told you that Major!’ O’Neill snorted suddenly, wondering if the whole confusing exchange had been for nothing.

Carter smiled. ‘There’s cold and there’s cold Sir. Here,’ and she held out a thermometer to his mouth, he opened and she popped it in, letting her hand fall back to the ground again, merely watching him.

She could feel herself going into a doze, they hadn’t slept since the Colonel had been taken and she was extremely tired, she was being sent to sleep simply by the exhausted expression on her CO’s face.

Daniel woke her from the trance as he yelped triumphantly. ‘Hey! There you go!’ he grinned at the fire, finally starting to spring to life. Carter smiled and moved over to the cooking sterno, watching the water bubbling inside the pan sitting on the flame. She sniffed through her cold nose and broke open a packet of hot chocolate powder, grabbing a mug from their supplies.

------------------------------------------

Jack O’Neill was finding it very hard to relax, he was more comfortable on his front for sure, he could hardly feel his back any more, but he was constantly shivering, his muscles tense and cold. He couldn’t seem to get warm and felt amazingly drowsy despite his inability to sleep. His head throbbed nastily and the pain seemed to have joined with that of his shoulder, linking them in a line of fire, beating out in time to his slow pulse. He brought his hand up to his face, trying to shield even that small area from the cold air, he was so cold. So cold.

------------------------------------------

Clutching his own hot chocolate, Daniel moved over to where Carter had just sat down, in front of Colonel O’Neill. He seemed to be asleep for the moment, his body shaking with the cold, and Carter carefully removed the thermometer from his mouth, frowning at its tiny readings.

‘Well?’ Daniel asked, peering at the thermometer in Sam’s hands.

‘Says 32 degrees C. That’s hypothermic, bordering on severe Daniel,’ Carter wrinkled her nose in distress as she tried to pull the relevant information from her tired brain. They had covered hypothermia in basic training but it was a long time ago and she realised that her concern was panicking her and preventing her from using her knowledge.

Shaking her mind sternly, she turned to Daniel, her eyes emanating detached professionalism, ‘okay, we need a hot water bottle, erm…’

Daniel cut in, ‘we don’t have a h…’

‘I know,’ Carter brushed his comment aside, ‘okay…we need something that will hold hot water safely.’

Daniel reached for his water flask, fingering it briefly and then throwing it down with a toss of his eyebrows. The plastic wouldn’t hold very hot water, he thought, or at least he wasn’t sure and that wasn’t good enough.

‘Oh!’ Carter said faintly, her mind hitting on something, she dove towards her rucksack while asking Daniel, ‘do we have any heavy duty tape? Can you look?’

‘Yeah sure,’ replied Daniel with a frown, curious as to her idea.

------------------------------------------

‘C’mon Jack, get up.’

Jack felt himself being pulled upwards and he grunted as his shoulder gave a warning shot of pain.

‘Well wake up then and help me you big lump!’ Daniel exclaimed in response to Jack’s expression of pain.

O’Neill opened tired eyes and heaved himself in the direction that Daniel was pulling him. He stopped in a sitting position, blinking in the light of the morning sun that sluiced down through the vines above him.

His head pounded as Daniel pushed a rucksack behind Jack’s back and he rested back on it, easing the tension from his stomach muscles. As cool morning air swept past his face he realised that he had stopped shaking. He was still the coldest that he had ever felt but he no longer shivered uncontrollably and he was glad for the merciful stillness.

Oddly, his stomach was the warmest part of him and he couldn’t think why. His attention was distracted by Daniel who seemed to be waving a mug in his face, ‘Jack, drink this.’

‘What is it?’ O’Neill asked, rescuing his right arm from the depths of the sleeping bags and reaching for the mug.

‘Sweet hot chocolate. Do you think you could eat something?’

‘Uh yeah,’ Jack replied, sipping the hot drink, wincing as he swallowed through a raw throat. As Daniel scrabbled inside his own pack for a food packet Jack turned his head to see Carter, lying curled up on the stone floor, sleeping soundly. He smiled, feeling a little guilty at using his team’s sleeping bags all night.

Shifting his hand to his stomach he felt a heavy weight there, it shifted when he tugged on it and he frowned, ‘what’s this? On my stomach?’

‘One of these,’ Daniel replied, holding up the foil food packet that he’d just filled with water for Jack.

‘Y’know,’ O’Neill frowned, lifting the sleeping bag cover and peering at the wrapped foil packet on his stomach, ‘normally food goes on the inside,’ and he pointed vaguely to his mouth.

Daniel shot him a small grin before explaining, ‘you were hypothermic Jack, we needed something to heat you up and Sam realised that we fill these with boiling water every day and they don’t break. We cellotaped one up and wrapped it. Only had to change it once all night.’

Jack grunted his approval, setting his own mug down and taking the food pouch that Daniel offered him.

‘How’s you head?’ Daniel asked casually.

‘I’m fine. We should move from here soon, try to meet the reinforcements half way,’ replied Jack, anxious to get his team to safety. Daniel nodded, reaching for his flask of water as he heard Sam stir.

Carter groaned quietly, her breath hanging in front of her in the cold air as she opened groggy eyes, ‘what time is it?’ Daniel poured some water into a mug for her as he answered, ‘it’s five-thirty in the morning.’

O’Neill choked through his food, ‘akk, if I’d known it was that early I wouldn’t have woken up!’

Carter smiled sitting up and stretched stiff joints, ‘you look better Sir.’

‘Thanks to your make-shift hot water bottle thingy. Nice thinking Major.’

‘Thank you Sir,’ Carter replied, receiving the mug of hot chocolate that Daniel handed over.

‘Have you had any success reviving our guns Carter?’ Jack asked, motioning to their P-90’s. Carter shook her head, taking a sip of her hot drink,

‘I can’t understand it Sir, I’ve taken them apart and I can’t see anything physically wrong with them. I have two guesses. One is that there is something about this planet’s magnetism that is affecting them. I figure it mustn’t affect Naquada or the gate wouldn’t work.’

‘What’s two?’ O’Neill enquired, hoping for more helpful answer.

‘Two, is that something or someone is protecting the planet – we’ve encountered species with the ability to disable our weapons before.’

‘I don’t see anyone,’ O’Neill countered stroppily.

‘Right,’ agreed Carter. ‘So, magnetism.’

‘Magnetism, great,’ Jack raised his eyebrows in despair.

‘Well sir, it could be worse. I’ve been thinking about it and if it is magnetism then I think the Stargate counteracts it. We were able to control the MALP when the gate was open so something was allowing it to function.’

‘But,’ Daniel cut in, ‘if it was some kind of guardians of the planet they might only disable weapons, and anyhow, what about our walkie talkies?’

Carter scrunched up her eyes in thought, ‘the walkie talkies are electronic whereas the guns have some magnetic function, plus they’re made of metal alloys and we really have no idea how an alien environment could effect them, so that would still fit with the theory.’

‘So how could it be worse Major?’ Jack asked, responding to her earlier comment, his eyebrows raised.

‘Well, if the Stargate counteracts it, the rescue team may be able to use their weapons with the gate active.’

O’Neill nodded slowly, trying to dissolve all the information into his sluggish mind.

Just as Carter was about to ask her CO if he felt able to move out, her radio crackled to life beside her,

‘Major Carter come in, do you receive?’

‘Teal’c!’ Carter radioed back, relieved to hear his confident voice.

‘It is I. Have you found Colonel O’Neill?’

‘Yes Teal’c,’ Carter nodded, looking to her CO, ‘he’s here with us. He’s okay for the time being, where are you?’

‘We have only just exited the Stargate, how far are you from our position?’

‘About two days Teal’c, we should be able to cover some ground towards you but you’ll have to do most of the work I’m afraid, we won’t be travelling fast. Teal’c, we’ve done a little theorising here and we think that this planet’s magnetism is interfering with our weapons.’

‘We ascertained this also. It seems to be proven as my weapon now functions and stays functioning until the gate is closed. We do not know how far from the gate this will last however, we will endeavour to reach you using your radio signals. We will contact you as we approach.’

‘Thanks Teal’c, out,’ Carter signed off, her brow creased in thought. ‘The Stargate must depolarise the air around it when it’s active,’ she met O’Neill’s vacant gaze and shook the thought from her mind. Right now they didn’t need scientific theorising, they needed to get home. She clipped her radio back on her vest decisively.

‘Are you able to move now Sir?’

O’Neill nodded, setting his finished food pouch on the rock floor and waving a hand to Carter, ‘finish your drink Major, then we’ll go.’

Daniel snorted, ‘as if she hasn’t had enough,’ and responding to a look from O’Neill he continued, ‘when we couldn’t wake you last night she was forced to drink your hot chocolate as well as her own,’ he shot a mock jealous look at Carter. O’Neill turned to Carter, ‘your dedication is extraordinary Carter.’

Carter smiled, ‘I try Sir.’

------------------------------------------------

Throw weight forward.

Catch weight on leg.

Throw weight forward.

Catch weight on other leg.

Jack had never realised before how much walking was really all about trying to not fall over. He felt like he was forever catching himself on the brink of collapse, he knew they can’t have been walking long but it felt like forever to his punished limbs. Add to the leg-swinging the fact that he had to remember to breathe too, and Jack was finding it all a bit much.

Daniel watched with growing worry as O’Neill stumbled for the third time in two minutes, and caught himself just in time. He slowed slightly, to let Jack get his pace back and then followed on as they trudged through the dense forest.

Carter was leading the way, guiding them towards the Gate and the reinforcements that were making their way towards them. She held her gun high, aware of the ever present threat of the inhabitants of the planet, she was determined to get her CO back to the gate in some semblance of one whole piece.

O’Neill walked between them, wearing dry camos and clutching a sleeping bag around his shoulders in an attempt to keep some warmth in his body. He stared at his feet as he walked, trying to keep to a rhythm as his boot tramped the hard ground. His eyes passed over small patches of frost hiding under leaves and roots, reminding him of the air temperature and making him long even more to feel the SGC ramp under his feet and Janet’s concerned gaze on his face.

His mind turned to her response when the events of the trip would be explained. Well, he thought defensively, it sure as hell beats the alternative; taking Carter back in pieces. His chest tightened and he gasped a breath, God Jack, remember to breathe, it’s kinda important, he chided himself and lifted his eyes, feeling the winter sun falling on his cold face.

Just as he was about to give in and suggest that a break might be a nice idea, Carter stopped, her radio expelling a spurt of static.

‘Major Carter? Do you read?’ asked a rushed voice that the Colonel didn’t immediately recognise.

‘Reading you, who is this?’ Carter replied, glancing back to her CO. He nodded to her, quite happy to let her do the communicating for the moment, he didn’t think he could manage breathing and talking at the same time.

‘This is Major Griff, we are unable to reach you, we were attacked upon entering the forest surrounding the Stargate. We’ve had to fall back…’

Unable to resist, Jack grabbed Daniel’s radio from his hand, his brow furrowed, ‘is Teal’c there? Is he okay?’

‘Colonel! Good to hear your voice Sir, yes Teal’c is here, he’s helping the others fall back, a few of my men have been injured, but we haven’t lost anyone.’ Colonel O’Neill could hear shouts and gunshots in the background as he slid down against a tree into a sitting position, clutching the radio. Carter sensed that he had finished and lifted her radio again, ‘do you have the situation under control?’

The reply came back slightly calmer than before, ‘yes. We can hold them off easily with our guns while we’re in the clearing, we just can’t enter the forest safely. I don’t want to risk my team.’

Carter nodded, ‘understood, don’t put yourselves at risk, just hold the gate for the moment, we’ll think of something. Out.’

Her radio fell silent and she moved over to her CO who was sitting untidily on the cold ground, taking uneasy breaths. ‘How are you feeling Sir?’ she asked in concern, knowing he wouldn’t like the question, or having to give an answer.

He wrinkled his nose in annoyance. ‘Irritated,’ he answered dryly, and then coughed harshly, wincing as his lungs protested. Carter rolled her eyes at his stubborn reply. She took a good look around, checking that the forest was fairly quiet and clear. Satisfied that it was safe to stop she sat down beside her CO, and Daniel did the same.

They waited patiently as Jack got his coughing under control and managed to get a few words out. ‘So, how are we going to get to the Stargate Major?’ he asked, turning the problem into his team’s waiting arms. The discussion officially opened, Carter started,

'it seems that trying to get through the forest would be suicide.’

Daniel nodded, ‘we have no idea how many more of those animals there are, there could be millions of them!’ Jack rolled his eyes at Daniel’s optimism.

‘Okay,’ said Carter, ‘so if we can’t get through them, then we need to get rid of them. Could we distract them with something?’

‘That would probably work actually,’ Daniel started. ‘They’re so dependant on ‘the moment’ that a big enough distraction or threat would probably remove all of them for long enough for us to leave. And we wouldn’t have to hurt them,’ he added.

Jack cringed, ‘Daniel, they beat me up, dragged me ‘til I passed out, starved me and then got bored. I want to hurt them!’ and he succumbed to another fit of coughing, holding his chest as his lungs radiated hot pain.

Daniel ignored Jack’s stroppy return and continued along their strain of thought, ‘what could we use – preferably not another person.’

Carter wrestled her eyes from her CO and turned to Daniel. ‘How about a MALP?’ she suggested absent-mindedly.

‘Or better,’ Daniel raised his eyesbrows, ‘your flying MALP – the UAV!’

‘That’s it Sir!’ Carter said, enlivening, ‘we get General Hammond to send through the UAV, get it to fly away from us and the gate and they’ll all follow, hopefully. Even if it fails electronically, it will glide for quite some distance – certainly long enough to get rid of the animals and probably even to fly back as the last of us enters the gate. It’ll out-fly the indigenous people easily!’

O’Neill nodded, gasping from his last coughing fit, ‘radio it through Major, let’s get out of here.’

Carter nodded, picking up her radio and hitting transmit, ‘Major Griff, Teal’c, do you receive?’

This time Teal’c’s voice boomed back, ‘Major Carter, I am receiving you.’

‘Good to hear your voice Teal’c, we’ve got a possible solution to the problem. We want you to get Hammond to send the UAV through the gate to distract the planet’s people so we can get out.’

‘This is indeed a good strategy, and limits the damage to all involved…’

Jack snorted angrily. ‘Why is everyone so keen on these guys?!’ and then, suddenly nautious, he turned and threw up, emptying his stomach of his breakfast. Daniel held him as he retched, his eyes screwed shut with tension and pain.

Carter turned a desperate face away from them, ‘Teal’c, get it done fast, and have Janet standing by for the Colonel.’

Teal’c recognised the urgency in her tone and made his reply fast, ‘it will be done, out.’

Carter put down her radio and watched as Daniel helped O’Neill lean back against the tree again. ‘Oh God,’ Jack breathed quietly, clutching his chest with his right arm. His breath was coming in audible wheezes as he tried to regain his composure. Daniel pulled the sleeping bag tightly around his friend, trying not to be too rough or aggravate his injuries. Carter took out her water bottle, ‘we’ll be out of here soon Colonel. Here, can you drink a little of this?’

O’Neill took the bottle she offered him and took a few hesitant sips before coughing again. He felt like even though he was taking in enough air, it wasn’t working properly somehow. He was needing to take continual big gulps which increased the pain emanating from his lungs. It had grown worse over the last few hours and now they were really hurting, protesting each breath that he took. Carter let out a long sigh, ‘I figure we’re only about ten minutes from the Stargate. We daren't go any nearer or we might run right into the middle of those animals. We can only wait for the OK from Teal’c’s end.’

Colonel O’Neill nodded, his head heavy with exhaustion; for a moment it looked like he was about to say something, but then he seemed to think better of it and stayed silent. Shivering against the cold, he pulled the sleeping bag tighter around him and closed his eyes.

-----------------------------------------------------

Jack O’Neill woke a little confused. He didn’t remember falling asleep but he figured he must have or he wouldn’t have been able to wake up. His own rasping breaths echoed through his sore head and he realised that he was lying down on his back. Voices and radio crackle cut through the silence.

‘He’s been sick Janet, and his breathing is sounding really forced.’

‘Has he been coughing? Dizzy?’

‘Coughing yes. I don’t know about dizzy, we’ve got him lying down sleeping at the moment. We’re trying to keep him as warm as possible.’

Doctor Janet Fraiser stood in the Gate viewing room, talking to Carter through the MALP radio receiver. She watched the teams of engineers in the gateroom as they frantically worked to prepare the UAV for flight, ‘it should be ready soon Sam. Keep an eye on him, he may be suffering from secondary drowning. All you can do is keep him warm, elevate his feet about five centimetres and make sure he keeps breathing. Don’t give him anything to eat, but let him drink if he can.’

‘Okay Janet, is he going to be alright?’

Janet nodded, ‘yes, you just get him back here fast and I’ll take care of him, I’m sure we can deal with it Sam, don’t worry. Out.’ Janet sighed, then left the viewing room towards the infirmary to assist in preparing for the Colonel’s arrival.

Major Carter clipped the radio back onto her vest and turned back to Daniel and the Colonel. She noticed that O’Neill’s eyes were open slightly and she moved over to sit down beside Daniel who was scribbling in a small notebook.

‘Won’t be long Sir, the MALP’s nearly ready.’

‘No rush,’ Jack replied dryly through harsh breaths. The ground seemed to be moving in a most unnatural way beneath him, and he decided it couldn’t still be his head injury making him dizzy.

‘Have a nice…chat with Doc?’ he gasped.

Carter moved down to his feet and pushed her rucksack under them to elevate them a little.

‘C’mon Carter, you know how I like to hear all the gossip.’

Carter sighed and sat down in front of him, ‘Janet thinks you might be suffering from secondary drowning. She says she can deal with it Sir, but we need to get you back.’

Daniel looked up from his writing, shooting a worried look at Carter, he had questions but not ones that he felt he could voice in front of Jack. Carter shot him a small comforting smile, realising what he must be thinking. She held her water bottle over to her CO, ‘try to drink Sir.’

Jack managed a good few gulps before he coughed this time. Carter winced on his behalf as he pushed the bottle away, ‘I would offer you aspirin Sir but Janet says I’d better not seeing as we’ll be back at the SGC soon.’

‘S’okay Major, I’m fine,’ O’Neill chanted – the line had become second nature to him in a crisis. No matter who was hurt, who was in danger, who was poking who full of holes, Jack was always ‘fine’. Carter nodded sadly at his standard spiel and started to repack things into her pockets. ‘Best get ready to move Sir,’ she commented, and Daniel put away his notepad.

As he reached for Jack’s sleeping-bag zipper, their radios crackled to life once again.

‘Major Carter,’ Teal’c’s voice rang out urgently, ‘the UAV is in flight and being pursued by the creatures, but we do not know for how long, you must use haste.’

‘Right, we’re on our way! Out!’ Carter replied, bursting into action. Daniel helped Jack struggle from his sleeping-bag and then shoved it into his pack. Hefting their rucksacks onto their backs, Daniel and Sam reached for their CO’s arms. Jack rose wobbily to his feet only to have the ground lurch beneath him, he was thrown off balance and the edges of his vision went grey as he crashed down towards the ground again.

‘Woah!’ Daniel caught him as he fell and without thought placed his arms round Jack’s stomach and hefted him onto his shoulders, taking off at a run. Jack gasped as the world spun, his head and chest were consumed with pain and everything slowly darkened to black for the third time that day.

-------------------------------------------

Seven minutes after Teal’c had watched the UAV burst from the even horizon of the Stargate, and seven minutes after the hordes of animals had run full pelt after it – roaring in rage – Teal’c was also running. Using SG-1’s radio transmitter he was running towards them, as they were running towards him. Several SG personnel followed in his wake but none could keep up as he ploughed through the undergrowth. His sharp eyes spied movement up ahead and his team mates burst from the forest, running fast. Daniel had an apparently unconscious Colonel over his shoulders and he looked exhausted. They met without words – everyone too out of breath to speak. Daniel lowered Jack from his shoulders and their strong Jaffa friend took him over his own as they made for the Stargate at a desperate pace.

One minute later SG-1 strode into the clearing, Teal’c’s long strides taking them to the Stargate in seconds. Upon seeing them Major Griff had dialled the gate and it whooshed open now. The blue surface settled back and they charged up to it together, not needing to say a word or break their pace.

The Stargate spat them out one by one onto the SGC ramp and Teal’c headed straight for the gurney that Janet Fraiser stood by, near the door. The Jaffa gently lowered O’Neill’s limp form down and an oxygen mask was instantly placed on his face. Doctor Fraiser set a stethoscope against his chest briefly and ordered.

‘Right, infirmary, let’s go,’ and she and her well briefed team of assistants moved away at speed.

Daniel felt someone pull him aside and there were shouts, ‘clear the ramp!’

‘Get out of the way!’

He and Carter and the other teams were swept hastily aside and for a brief second they waited by the side of the ramp. Then the UAV exploded from the rippling surface of the Stargate, hitting the ramp at speed and skidding down it, only stopping when it hit the far wall with a crunch.

The iris closed, the even horizon dissipated and the tension in the gateroom dissolved.

------------------------------------------

Jack O’Neill was getting used to waking up slightly confused, but this time there was a pleasant difference – no pain. He lay for a while, staring at the inside of his own eyelids, perfectly happy to not feel anything at all. Finally his peace was disturbed, as it always was, by Doc Fraiser’s insistent but patient voice, ‘come on Colonel, open you eyes for me, I know you’re awake.’

How does she know? Jack cringed, wishing that she didn’t. He heaved heavy eyes open and took in the scene.

Yup, there was good ol’ Doc leaning over him with a smile on her face. There was General Hammond looking fatherly. There was Carter looking overly concerned, Daniel looking like a tired, frightened twelve year old, and Teal’c looking like, well, like Teal’c.

General Hammond smiled, ‘Welcome back Son. How do you feel?’

‘I think,’ Jack commented with a rasping voice, ‘these drugs are here so I don’t feel Sir.’

‘And a good job too,’ Janet remarked, ‘you took quite a punishing. But the damage is repaired, you’ll heal Colonel, but you need rest.’

General Hammond nodded, taking that as his que to leave, ‘rest Colonel O’Neill. SG-1, de-briefing at fourteen hundred hours.’

Colonel O’Neill looked over his tired team with groggy eyes. ‘I think I’ll sit this one out kids,’ and he let his eyes drift shut, for once happy to be doing absolutely nothing.

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