Connections Part
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Fan Fiction Main

Connections Part Nine
By Tammy K
tkukuk@netscape.net
 

RATING: PG-13
WARNINGS: Violence, some profanity
CATEGORY: Hurt/Comfort, Drama, Angst
SPOILERS: A Hundred Days, Stargate the movie, minor references to Brief Candle, The Broca Divide, Children of the Gods, Cold Lazarus, Need, Solitudes, The Serpent’s Lair
TIME FRAME: Immediately after A Hundred Days
PAIRINGS:  A little Jack/Sam UST
SUMMARY: The team’s efforts to deal with the implications of what happened to Jack on Edora are cut short when a highly advanced society with the power to read and control their victims’ minds targets the Colonel and Daniel.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been created for entertainment purposes only and is in no way intended to infringe upon any copyrights associated with Stargate or Stargate SG-1.
All original characters and situations are the property of the author.  Please do not archive without permission.
URL: http://www.crosswinds.net/~latlk/connectionsone.html

***

With Sam in the lead, she and Teal'c hurried through the brush, careful not to walk on the open road.  They would reach the gate an hour or so.  Major Carter hoped for a clear path, but how likely was that.

***

Leaning heavily on the large staff weapon, Jack was frustrated by his own slow progress.   He could feel the infection spreading through his leg.  But he stood as tall as he could-that was his job as commanding officer.

O’Neill watched Garan with pride.  The boy had done just what he asked him to, no matter how scared he was.  Then there was Daniel, leading them like a real soldier.  It was a curious site to see: Doctor Daniel Jackson, zat gun in hand, taking point like a pro.

“Let’s take a break.”  Jack said, limping off into the bushes where he lowered himself onto a rock.  Tired and sore, he needed a momentary breather.

“How are you doing?”  Daniel asked as he sat next to his friend.

Jack grimaced.  There was nothing to say.  Instead he changed the subject.

“So how does it feel to be leading this merry band?”  He asked.

“Horrifying.”  Jackson answered.  He prayed nothing would happen while he was holding their only zat gun.

“You’ll be fine.  I doubt we’ll see much action.  Solomon’s guards probably have their hands full in the city.  But it’s important to be on the look out.”

Daniel nodded.  They had to be ready for anything if they were going to get home.

***

Sam and Teal'c arrived at the gate a little over two hours after they left the others.  Sam motioned for Teal'c to stop behind her.  Then she cursed under her breath when she saw five guards standing around the stone ring.

With their usual hand signals Major Carter sent Teal'c to take care of the two on the left while she would handle the two on the right.  Whoever was free first would take number five.

Teal'c nodded, his staff weapon crackling to life.

Then they split up and moved towards the gate.

***

“Alright, back to work.”  Jack struggled to his feet.  It was harder this time and his leg was on fire.  Garan helped him back onto the trail.

O’Neill smiled at the young man.  He would have made a great stepson.  He sighed.  He really had been on this lousy planet too long.  It was making him maudlin.

He really needed to get home.  And if it meant limping back to the gate on his bad leg, that was exactly what he was planning to do.

***

Sam had no trouble with the first guard.  Her laser blast caught him square in the chest.  But the second Nekaran got off a shot before she could fire, searing her left shoulder.  Carter staggered, but quickly recovered and fired, hitting him in the head.

Teal'c finished both guards quickly.  Then he and Sam both shot the fifth.  Neither saw a sixth man sneak away.

***

Jack’s head was swimming.  These were definitely the longest ten miles of his life.  He hoped Sam and Teal'c had not run into too much resistance.  Concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other he wondered how much farther they had to go.

Dr. Jackson looked back at his friend, he was red with fever and sweating, but he wouldn’t stop.  Daniel was getting tired.  The stress of the unknown was taking its toll.

Suddenly he froze.  Was that rustling in the forest?

Jack limped to his side.  “What?”  He whispered.

“A noise on the left.”  Daniel answered, his lips barely moving.

“Into the woods to the right.  NOW!”  O’Neill ordered softly.

Daniel helped the Colonel move as quickly as he could.  They squatted silently, each man listening for any evidence of an intruder.

“Are you sure you didn’t hear whatever passes for a small animal on this rock?”  O’Neill asked after a long silence.

“No, I’m not sure, all I can tell you is I think I heard a noise.”  Jackson whispered in return.

“Someone’s gonna have to check it out.”  Jack said as he got to his feet.

“I’ll go.”  Daniel clutched his zat gun, uncertain, but determined to prevent his injured friend from putting himself in harm’s way.

Colonel O’Neill knew that look in the linguist’s eyes.  He wouldn’t be able to talk him out of it.

“Alright, you win, just keep your head down!”  Jack whispered severely.

Daniel nodded.   “I don’t want me to get hurt any more than you do.”

Jack watched him go without saying another word. Instead he turned to Garan who had been listening silently.  “Garan, I need you to keep going.”

The boy nodded unsure what his mentor was asking of him.

“Can you get back to the gate on your own?”  Jack looked deep into his eyes.

“I think I can find it.”

“Great.  I want you to get going.  Daniel and I will follow as soon as we can.”

Garan listened carefully, looking to O’Neill for instructions.

“Stay in the forest, but be sure to follow the trail.  Go as fast as you can without making a lot of noise.  Is that understood?”

The young man nodded, his face clenched with fear.

“It’ll be just like exploring back home.  Stay calm and you’ll be fine.”  Jack continued as he stood, leaning on his staff.  The Colonel watched Daniel with satisfaction.  He was moving slowly across the trail, hunched over, keeping low.

“One more thing.  I need you to repeat this order to Major Carter exactly as I say it, OK?”  O’Neill was firm.

The boy nodded.

“Tell her she is ordered to get you through the gate and not to wait for us.  Repeat it to me.”

“She should get me through the gate and not wait for you and Doctor Jackson.”  Garan repeated, proud that he had remembered it correctly.

“Good job, now get going, stay low, keep calm, and look for the Gate a few miles ahead.  We’ll see you back on Earth.”  Jack smiled and touched the boy’s shoulder.  Then he watched him hurry away.

When Garan was out of site, O’Neill turned his attention to their intruder.  With the kid gone he and Daniel could handle the threat without worrying about his safety.  Jack limped out onto the road.  It was time to force their stalker’s hand.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are.”  He yelled, listening for a response with all his senses.

Daniel froze with the Colonel’s exclamation.

‘Damn it, Jack, why do you always do that!’  He cursed under his breath.  Just once he wished that O’Neill would let someone else take the risks.

The linguist heard a rustling in the trees.  He tensed, holding the zat gun in front of him.

Jack heard it too.  Now to draw it out, whatever it was.  “I’m waiting right here.”  He said, raising his arm.  “Come and get me.”

A laser blast hit the dirt a foot in front of him, staggering the Colonel as his lungs filled with dust.

“You can do better than that.”  He coughed.  “Why don’t you come out here and we’ll talk.”

“Very well, Colonel.  Here I am.  What shall we talk about?”  Solomon said as he stepped out of the forest.

O’Neill’s eyes were wide with surprise, then narrow with anger.  Why couldn’t he shake this guy?

“All of a sudden you’re speechless.  Maybe we can discuss how you and your friends destroyed an entire civilization.”

Jack recovered his composure, smiling at his enemy.  “You and your pals may call that civilized, but where I come from we did you a favor.”

“Indeed.  Now that I have you, perhaps I can recreate my empire.  Imagine Colonel, reliving the worst moment of your life fifty or a hundred times a day for eternity.”

Jack’s heart skipped a beat.  He would find a way to end his own life long before he allowed Solomon to reinsert him into the Chair.

“We destroyed your little set up, including the sarcophagus.  The show is over.”

“True, you did eliminate the main machinery-but there are several units in the outer city, all I need is a new power source.  And I’m sure another sarcophagus could be obtained off world.  Then of course, don’t forget I have you as my star performer.  We will be up and running again in no time.”  Solomon smiled at the flicker of terror on his prisoner’s face.

He threw Jack a pair of manacles.

“Put those on, or I will shoot you.”  His tone was harsh.

Jack picked up the chains.  He needed to stall so Daniel had time to get into position.

“And drop that staff.  I don’t want you to get any ideas.”  Jack hesitated and Solomon fired again, this time directly over his head.  He could feel the heat of the beam.

O’Neill knew he had a choice to make: Should he defy Solomon, probably prompting the Nekaran to kill him, or give up and bide his time for a later escape?  He would rather die than spend one more moment in the chair.  But in the end it wasn’t a difficult discussion at all.  Jack had faith in his friends.  They would get him out.

“Alright, you win.”  He dropped the staff.

“But I’m not going to get too far on this leg.”  The Colonel added as he struggled to maintain his balance.  “Your friend Cade loved his work.  Before I killed him, that is.”

Solomon looked genuinely sad.  “That’s too bad.  He was a very valuable tool.  After all, he kept you under my control for days.  If your friends hadn’t come to your rescue he would have broken you by now.”

Jack couldn’t argue with that.  He had been losing his resolve day by day.  He didn’t want to think about what would have happened if he had not heard Sam’s voice.

“Put on the manacles.  We will find a way to get back to Lacitta.”

O’Neill did as he was told.  It made his skin crawl to feel the cold steel restraints binding his wrists again.

“Now walk to me.”  Solomon raised the laser higher, emphasizing his instructions.

***

Daniel was finally in position behind the man.  He gasped silently when he saw his face.

Jackson knew he would have to make his move soon or Jack would be led away.

***

Sam and Teal'c waited anxiously for their friends to arrive.  Carter had to fight the urge to go back for them.  But she reminded herself that the Colonel’s orders took precedence.  It would do no one any good if they let their only escape route be overrun.

“They should be here soon.”  She said to no one in particular.

Teal'c nodded.  He had great confidence that they would be fine.

Suddenly Garan stumbled breathlessly into the clearing.

Carter and Teal'c took up defensive positions, ready for trouble.

“Where are the Colonel and Doctor Jackson?”  The Major asked, looking around for the rest of the team.

“Colonel O’Neill ordered me to go on ahead.  He and Dr. Jackson stayed behind to investigate a noise in the forest.”

“What kind of noise?”  She asked.

“I do not know.  Daniel heard something along the road so he went to see what it was.  The Colonel told me to go.  Then he followed Dr. Jackson.”

Damn, that sounded like an ambush!  Carter was getting worried.

“O’Neill also sent an order for you, Major Carter.”  Garan tried to remember the Colonel’s exact words.

“An order?  He’s not even here and he’s giving us orders.”  Carter smiled.  “What is it?”

“He said you are ordered to get me through the gate and not to wait for him and Dr. Jackson.”

She frowned.  Not the ‘don’t wait for me’ order.  After what had happened on Edora she could not accept it.  She wouldn’t let him do that again.

“Teal'c, take Garan through the gate and explain the situation to General Hammond.  Then hurry back.”

“What will you do while I am gone?”  He asked, unhappy to be leaving when the others were still unaccounted for.

“I’m going back down that trail until I find them.”

Teal'c nodded.  “I will return as quickly as General Hammond will allow.”  The Jaffa said as he led Garan toward the gate.  Major Carter waited until the Stargate had pulsed to life, then she headed off after her friends.

***

“Come now, Colonel, surely you can move more quickly than that.”  Solomon chided as he watched with some satisfaction as his captive struggled to hop across the path to him.

“Sorry to disappoint you, King Solomon, but this is it.  I’m gonna need some kind of walking stick or this is the end of the line.”  Jack could barely put his injured leg on the ground.  The pain was excruciating.

“You forget, I have seen your mind scan.  You walked nine days through the desert with a fractured skull.  I think you can manage a few miles on an injured leg.”

“That was a long time ago.  Before the grey.”  Jack quipped, stumbling forward.

“But you’ll do it now in hopes that your friends will come to your rescue again.  Where are they, anyway?”  Solomon asked, weary of an ambush.

“If you mean the teenager you sent to disable our getaway car, he’s gone.  Nice move by the way, using a boy to do your dirty work.”  O’Neill spat the words.

“The orb is an effective tool, as you well know.  I will use anything I have to in order to beat you.”  The chief continued.

“Thanks for the heads up.  As for my team, I ordered them to leave me behind.  My leg was holding them back.”  Jack growled with a smile.

“I’m not sure I believe you.  Would the good doctor really leave you here to be recaptured?  I wonder.”

“He would to save the boy.  Garan needed Jackson’s help to find the gate.”  Jack hoped that sounded believable.

Solomon thought it through.  The story was plausible.  But at the very least he knew Daniel would bring back reinforcements after he sent the young man through the gate.  He would have to gather up his prisoner and get moving.

Jackson could see the two men through the trees.  He was waiting for Jack to give him a sign, but the Colonel was almost within Solomon’s control so he would have to move.

***

Teal'c led the befuddled Garan through the shimmering gate and down the ramp.

“It’s good to see you, Teal’c.  Are you alright.”  General Hammond asked, motioning to his soldiers to stand down.

“I am well.”  The Jaffa answered.

George nodded, looking back at the empty gate.  “Where is the rest of SG-1?”

“They remain in danger on the planet.  Major Carter ordered me to accompany Garan to safety while she returned for Colonel O’Neill and DanielJackson.”

“Do you know anything about their physical condition?”  Janet came forward.

“Colonel O’Neill is in need of medical attention, he has a stab wound to the left leg and a staff weapon burn to the arm.  Dr. Jackson and Major Carter have small cuts and bruises, but are otherwise well. I must return to them.”

Teal'c waited impatiently as the General nodded.

“Dial the address, Sergeant.   I’m afraid all the other SG teams are off world.  I don’t have anyone to send with you as back up.”

“You have us, General.”

George looked to find Colonel Makepeace and the rest of SG-3 ready for duty.  With a nod from Doctor Frasier, he smiled.  “Very well, you four are restored to active duty.  Accompany Teal'c back to Nekara and assist him in whatever way necessary to bring the rest of SG-1 home.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”  Makepeace saluted crisply.  General Hammond returned his salute and watched them travel through the event horizon.

***

“You have wasted enough time, Colonel, now MOVE!”  Solomon grabbed O’Neill’s manacles and the chain reaction yanked him forward.

At that moment Daniel ran into view.  “Let him go.”  He yelled, bracing to fire.

Solomon laughed.  “As I suspected.  It’s good to see you again, Doctor.”

“I said let him go, or I’ll shoot.”  Daniel raised his weapon with a steady hand.

“Really.  Do you actually think you can fire before I kill your friend?”  The Chief raised his own weapon until it was level with the Colonel’s chest.

 “Don’t listen to him, Danny, shoot the bastard!”  Jack ordered. “After everything he’s done, we owe it to him!”

“How melodramatic.  But you forget, I have shared the good doctor’s thoughts.  I know he will not take a life.”

Solomon was feeling pretty sure of himself and that made the Colonel mad.

“Damn it, Daniel, don’t let this overblown windbag mess with your head.  Shoot him so we can all go home!”

The linguist gripped his zat gun. “You’re wrong about me, Chief Solomon.  After what you’ve done, I could kill you.  If we don’t stop you, we will be giving you an opportunity to use other beings the same way you’ve used us.  If you really knew anything about me you’d realize that I couldn’t live with that.”  Daniel could still feel the horror of seeing Jack lying dead in the middle of the Box.  It fueled his resolve.

“I see.  So you are willing to end my life.  I had hoped to share my consciousness with you for years to come so we could both enrich our minds, but perhaps I shall add you to the Chair instead.  Granted, your adventures are not as colorful as O’Neill’s but they may make for an interesting diversion.  As much as I have enjoyed our conversation...” The Chief suddenly pulled Jack closer.  “It is time for us to leave this planet.  Now drop your weapon, Doctor.”

Daniel looked into his friend’s eyes.  What should he do?

The Colonel decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.  He pulled backward will all his remaining strength, surprising Solomon and breaking his grip.  Falling hard on his side, O’Neill rolled toward his staff weapon as quickly as he could.

Solomon fired his weapon just as Daniel activated the zat gun.

Jack screamed as the laser tore through his back.  Momentarily stunned, he could only focus on one thought-ROLL!  Colonel O’Neill ordered himself to keep moving. He knew he had to get to the staff before Solomon could fire again or it was all over.

Rocked by Jackson’s zat blast, the Chief wavered, falling to his knees.

He turned his weapon toward the linguist, who quickly dove to the ground, avoiding the deadly beam.  Jackson hit the sand face first.  He could only watch helplessly as the zat gun bounced from his grasp.  Daniel scrambled to retrieve it before Solomon could fight off the effects of the blast.

Oblivious to the life and death struggle, Jack finally felt a hard object hit his side as he rolled.  It was the staff weapon.

Yelling with exertion as he rose to his knees, O’Neill grabbed the pole and activated it in one smooth motion.

Jackson reached his zat gun just as Solomon had regained enough strength to fire.  The laser blast was wide, kicking up a cloud of sand next to his right shoulder.

Daniel and Jack both fired, the staff blast and the zat both hitting Solomon at the same time.

He collapsed-dead.

O’Neill sagged to the ground, the adrenaline flowing out of him quickly at the sight of his enemy’s lifeless body.

Daniel scurried to his feet, running to the Colonel’s side.  “Oh God, Jack.”  He whispered as he looked at the dirty, bleeding wound on his friend’s back.

“At least we got the bastard.”  O’Neill muttered in a distant voice.

“Yeah, we did.”  Daniel smiled weakly, not sure what to do.  Without medical supplies there was no way to dress the wound.

“We have to get you back to the gate.”  He said finally, wondering how he was going to carry the Colonel himself.

“Go, get help.”  Jack ordered.

Daniel’s eyes flashed with anger.  “I am so tired of hearing that.  No!  I am not going to leave you here.  What if more guards come? Or wild animals?  You’ll be in deep trouble.  I am taking you with me this time.  End of story.”

Daniel stood and pulled his friend to his feet.

“It’s not your fault.”  Jack whispered through clenched teeth.

“What’s not my fault?”  Daniel asked absently as he tried to find a comfortable way to put his arm under Jack’s shoulders.

“Edora.  I ordered you to go ahead.  All of you.”

Daniel looked at his friend, struck by the weakness in his eyes.

“I know.  But you would never have left us there.”

“My job to be last.  Down with the ship.”  The Colonel almost laughed.

“That’s the Navy.  Let’s get going.  Just lean on me.”  Daniel pulled Jack closer to steady him.

“And don’t forget I left you on that pyramid ship to die.”  O’Neill mumbled.  He wasn’t proud of that fact, but maybe it would help his friend see that every decision is difficult.

“I know you did, but that was different.  I was dying.  You went off to save the world.  On Edora we left to save ourselves.”

“You followed orders…did your job…makes you a good team.  I feel guilty about that pyramid ship; you’ll feel guilty about Edora, but guilt fades.  We move on.”  Jack strained to walk forward.

“I guess that’s true.  But don’t ask me to leave you again.  I can’t do it.”  Daniel was firm.  There would be no repeat of Edora.  They would both make it back, or die trying.

“Thanks, if I don’t make it…tell Carter and Teal'c what I said.  No guilt.”

“You can tell them yourself.  Sam should be coming back for us any minute now.”  The linguist announced with more confidence than he felt.

“Fingers crossed.”  Jack whispered.  Then both men fell silent.

O’Neill and Jackson concentrated on moving forward, step by step.  The Colonel balanced the best he could on one leg, using the staff weapon as a cane.  But it was extremely difficult.  He was burning up, shaking with exertion.

Daniel was having a hard time maintaining his balance as well.  He could barely hold his friend’s weight.  How could they realistically hope to make it all the way to the gate?

***

Sam moved quietly along the Edoran’s trail.  She was getting worried.  Where were her teammates?

She tried to be logical.  Maybe they just sent the boy ahead as a precaution.  After all, Jack was so protective of Garan. He was like a son to him. Sharing the Colonel’s memories had given her new insight into his true state of mind.   It was easier to accept his love for both the boy and his mother.

The Major froze.  She heard a noise up ahead.  Tightening her grip on the zat gun, she strained to listen.

***

Daniel couldn’t take another step.  He sank to his knees, dragging O’Neill down with him.  “Sorry, Jack…” He gasped for breath.

“Rest…” The Colonel ordered.

Daniel let his friend sit as he fought to regain enough strength to keep going.

Maybe he should go back to the gate and get help.  After all, it was becoming more and more difficult for Jack to walk.  Soon he would be dead weight and Daniel would have to find a way to drag or carry him.  Neither seemed like a realistic option.

“Damn it, Jack, I don’t know what to do.”  He said in the direction of the sagging Colonel.

Jack opened his eyes.  They were red and watery, filled with pain and fatigue.  “Get help…I’ll hide in the woods.  No one will find me.”

Daniel took a deep breath, unsure what to say.

Before he could answer, they both heard rustling.  Too exhausted to do anything about more intruders anyway, they chose to ignore it.

“You’d be defenseless.”  The linguist continued.

“It’s time to face reality.  We won’t make it back without help.”  Jack whispered, closing his eyes again as the pain in his back spiked.

Daniel couldn’t argue with that.  But how could he leave his friend here to suffer alone?  He had no idea what to do next.

***

Sam waited until the noise stopped.  Unable to see beyond the strange red trees from her current position, she knew she had to make a move.  If there were more of Solomon’s guards in the woods it was time to deal with them.  Major Carter decided to meet them head on, use the element of surprise much as she and Teal'c had at the gate.  Running into the clearing at full speed she stopped in her tracks when she saw the identity of her unknown enemy.  Daniel and Colonel O’Neill were kneeling in the middle of the path!

Surveying the area to be sure they were alone, she hurried toward them.

Daniel saw her first.  “Sam!  Thank God!”  He cried with joy through teary eyes.

Jack had been drifting off, but Daniel’s exclamation brought him back.  “What?”  He saw her and thanked the heavens for yet another second chance.

“Major!  It’s about time.”

The Colonel’s voice was small to Sam’s ears.  As she came closer she saw the extent of Jack’s injuries and gasped.

“Are you alright?”  She turned to Daniel.

“I’m fine-a little beat from dragging 200 pounds through the woods.

“Hey!  175 tops!”  Jack muttered playfully.

“Trust me, Jack, it’s more like 200.” The linguist was so relieved he felt like he was flying.

Carter checked O’Neill’s back and cursed under her breath.

“What’s the prognosis?”  Jack whispered.

“We need to get you out of here.  Teal'c took Garan through the gate.  He’ll have Janet standing by.”  Carter added hopefully as she helped the Colonel to his feet.

“Lead on.”  Jack said handing Daniel his staff.  The linguist held it and put his zat gun on the ground.  He didn’t need the weapon anymore.  Sam was here and everything would be all right.

Major Carter took the Colonel’s right arm and together they set out for home.

***

Teal'c was relieved to find an empty field around the gate when he returned.  Colonel Makepeace surveyed the area then turned to the Jaffa.

“The rest of my team will stay here and keep the gate clear.  Let’s go find SG-1.”

Teal'c nodded and led the Colonel into the woods.

About 30 minutes later, the three members of SG-1 were dragging.  Sam and Daniel did all the work, their friend almost dead weight.  Suddenly Carter stumbled to one knee.  She braced herself to keep the Colonel from falling.

“We have to be getting close.”  The Major said as Daniel helped her back to her feet.

“Charlie, a gun is not a toy…” Jack mumbled, his eyes closed.

“I hope so.  He’s delirious.”

“I know.  There must be some fever, probably from his leg.”

Daniel nodded.  “Are you still with us?”  He asked the uncharacteristically quiet Colonel as they walked.

“What…Sara…where’s Sara?”

“Colonel.  Don’t give up on us.  We’ll get you home.  But you have to focus on the here and now.  Please have faith in me.”  Carter begged her commanding officer to fight for his own life.

For a long moment there was silence, but then they heard a tiny voice between them.  “Sure…” Jack muttered with a slur.  He didn’t quite remember where he was, but he recognized Sam’s voice.

“Good.  You were hallucinating.  You have to try to stay awake, Sir.”  Sam wanted to sound encouraging.  But it wasn’t easy.  Her CO’s skin was getting grey, and for the first time she worried that he was not going to make it.

***

Teal'c and Makepeace hurried down the path as quickly as they could.  But fifteen minutes later they still had not seen anyone.

“Are you sure they didn’t take a different route.  Maybe they ran into some trouble and had to change their plans.”  Bob asked, breathing hard in his attempt to keep pace with the Jaffa.

“I do not believe they would do that.  But if it became necessary Major Carter would have left an indication of their new plans.”

The Colonel nodded.  Carter was a know-it-all, but you could count on her thoroughness every time.

Suddenly Teal'c saw three struggling figures up ahead and broke into a run.

“Teal'c!  Thank God!”  Daniel exclaimed as he saw the large man speeding toward them.

“The Colonel needs to get back to the SGC as soon as possible!”  Sam said as she moved to get out of her friend’s way.

“Hi Teal'c.”  Jack said lightly while the Jaffa lifted him over his shoulder.

Soon Teal'c was running as hard as he could toward the gate.

Jack struggled to focus on his surroundings as he bounced on his friend’s shoulder.  Where were they going?  He shrugged, at least he didn’t have to walk anymore.

A few minutes later Teal'c stood before the gate.  Johnson had just finished dialing Earth and was entering their access code into the GDO.

Finally the Jaffa stepped through.

Well behind them, Daniel and Sam walked at a steady pace
.
“Can you believe that?”  Jackson grinned, impressed with the Jaffa’s energy.

“And at a full run.”  Carter smiled too, giddy with relief.

The linguist turned to Colonel Makepeace, who had been following in silence.  “Are you alright, Colonel?”  He asked, remembering what SG-3 had done at O’Neill’s home.

“Yes I am.  I..ah..just wanted to say I’m sorry about what I did to you and O’Neill.”

“Apology accepted.”  The linguist smiled.

Bob nodded gratefully and they walked in silence for over a mile until they could see the gate in the distance.

“We didn’t leave him behind.”  Daniel said finally as he put his arm around Carter.

“No, we didn’t.”  Sam was proud.  She had not let the Colonel down this time.

***

“Dr. Frasier!”  Teal'c yelled as he lowered the battered Colonel onto a waiting gurney.

Janet was by his side instantly, checking for a pulse and evaluating O’Neill’s condition.  Jack gazed around the familiar room with profound relief.  He was home.  Garan waited to the side, watching with a sense of helplessness.  The Colonel offered his hand to the boy.

“Glad you made it.”  O’Neill whispered, squeezing Garan’s hand.

“Will you be alright?”  Garan asked.

“Oh sure.  Don’t worry about me.  Tell your mom I’ll be fine.  I’ll visit as soon as I can.”  Jack said, coming to terms with his place as their friend and intergalactic neighbor.

“She will be pleased to hear that.  She has missed you.”

“Me too.”  The Colonel’s grip wavered so Garan laid the older man’s hand back on his chest.

When Janet finished her preliminary examination she rushed Jack to the infirmary without another word.

General Hammond was at the Jaffa’s side.  “How bad is it?”  He asked.

“I am not certain, but he is weak.”  Teal'c answered sadly.

The gate came to life and the rest of SG-1 walked through followed by SG-3.

Daniel’s heart was full as he took in the familiar gate room.  They had really made it home!

“Major, Doctor, it’s good to have you back.”  General Hammond hurried to their side.  “Report to the infirmary.  You too Teal'c.    We will debrief after Doctor Frasier releases you.”

“Thank you, Sir.”  Major Carter saluted and led her team to the medical center.

All three stopped when they saw Jack.  The Colonel was lying quietly on his side.  Sensing that he was being watched, O’Neill opened his eyes and winked at his friends.  They all smiled back, comforted by his good humor.

Doctor Frasier motioned to one of her nurses.  “Help Colonel O’Neill change into a hospital gown.  Then we’ll get to work on his injuries.”

The nurse nodded wheeling Jack into a private area.

Janet came out to speak to her three eager friends.

“How is he?”  Daniel asked.

“The Colonel’s vital signs are stable, so we should be able to treat him immediately.  The burn on his back is moderately severe.  I think it was a glancing blow.  But the puncture wound on his leg is infected.  Some antibiotics should take care of that.  Fortunately you got him back here in time.  None of his wounds are life threatening.”

“Thank goodness.  When can we see him?”  Sam said.

“You can visit with Colonel O’Neill while we clean him up.  But then I’m planning to medicate him so he can rest for a few days.”

“A few days?”  Teal'c was concerned.

“Yes, Teal'c.  Just because the Colonel’s wounds are not life threatening doesn’t mean they aren’t serious.  He is going to need a lot of rest.  Knowing his resistance to any extended time in the infirmary, I’ve decided that the best way to aid in his recovery is to help him sleep through it.”

The nurse wheeled O’Neill back into the examination room.  He was wearing a standard issue hospital gown, open in the back, and a pair of shorts for modesty.

Daniel gasped as he saw the Colonel’s leg.  It was definitely infected.  But his arm didn’t look too serious.

“You three can stay with him while we clean him up.  I’m sure Jack will appreciate that.”

“So will we.”  Sam was grateful for the chance to support her commanding officer.

“Actually I’m doing it for my staff as well.  Keeping the Colonel occupied should help us treat him without the usual arguments.”

All three of O’Neill’s friends nodded.  They knew how difficult he could be when he was forced to spend time in the doctor’s care.   Sam, Teal'c and Daniel followed Janet inside, eager to help ease his anxiety.

 “Hey kids, come to watch them patch up the old man?”  Jack whispered with a smile.  It was such a relief to see his team together again.

“We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”  Daniel smiled.

As the nurse inserted an IV to ease the Colonel’s pain, Jackson was surprised by his friend’s cooperative mood.  No snappy comebacks or struggles to sit up.

Janet moved behind her patient to begin dressing his back.  “I’ll need a roll of gauze and an alcohol solution to irrigate.  Colonel, this is going to hurt.”  The doctor apologized.

“You have my permission to proceed with extreme caution.”  Jack groaned, not happy with all the poking and prodding.  Separate nurses were also working on his leg and his arm.

“We’ll irrigate one at a time, starting with the leg.  That’s the most severe.”  Janet ordered, moving to the Colonel’s infected leg.

Jack braced himself.

“Aww…Damn!”  He cursed.  It hurt like hell.  There was nothing like a little alcohol in an open wound to get a person’s attention.  Jack had tears in his eyes by the time Dr. Frasier had bandaged his leg.

“That didn’t look so bad.”   Daniel put on his most encouraging smile.

“A piece of cake.”  Jack quipped in a rasping whisper.

“Let’s move to the arm.”  Janet was dispassionate.  She had to be.  Seeing her friend in such pain would make it difficult to do her job.  The nurse held Jack’s arm steady as Janet poured the alcohol solution over it.  The Colonel closed his eyes.  He had been through this so many times, but it was still hard to put on a brave face when the pain was so excruciating.

Finally they had covered his burned upper arm with analgesic crème and wrapped it lightly in gauze.

“One more, sir.”  Sam was the cheerleader this time.  Daniel moved closer to his friend, tears in his own eyes.   The linguist gripped Jack’s shoulder, trying to transfer some of his strength to his injured friend.

O’Neill looked at him warmly but without smiling.  They both knew it hurt.  There was no need to pretend it didn’t.

Carter and Teal'c joined their teammates, letting the Colonel know it was ok to show his pain.  His eyes said thank you.

“Colonel, I’m afraid your back is going to take a bit longer.  The wound is extensive and covered with sand.”  Janet restocked her supply tray.

“That’s ok, doc.  We can take it.”  He answered, renewed by the support of his team.

She began with a cleaning solution that cleared most of the blue sand from his wound.

O’Neill concentrated on his friends’ faces as his body burned.  Gathering strength from each other, they all stood together silently as the doctor worked.

About 15 minutes later, Janet finished putting the last piece of gauze on his back.  “Now it’s time for you to get some rest.  I’ll be treating your dehydration and malnutrition intravenously while you sleep.”

“Sleep…” Jack could feel the medication taking hold.

“Rest well, Jack.”  Daniel said as he released his friend’s shoulder.

“Sweet dreams.”  Carter added.

“No dreams.”  Jack whispered hopefully.  He smiled at Teal'c who nodded.

“Rest, O’Neill.”  The Jaffa added.

Then the members of SG-1 watched silently as their commanding officer drifted off to sleep.

Janet Frasier led them into the hall.

 “How is he?”  Sam asked.

“The injuries are severe, but manageable.  What the Colonel really needs is uninterrupted rest.  I don’t want him to be disturbed for a week or so.  That should be enough time for him to regain his strength.  If all goes well, I’m probably send him home at that point.”

All three felt a great weight being lifted from their shoulders.  Jack O’Neill had cheated death again.

“Now there is one thing I have to do to each of you before we go any further.”  Doctor Frasier removed a small metallic object from her pocket.  All three recognized it immediately.

“An alien orb was lodged in the brain of each member of SG-3 and it controlled their minds.  We were able to remove it with this device.”  Janet explained as she held it up to each of their ears in turn.  The doctor sighed with relief when nothing happened.

“Unfortunately we are well aware of that.  Makepeace and his men came to Jack’s house and put one of those in each of our heads too.  Luckily the Nekarans themselves removed them from us on the planet.”  Daniel said.

“And we used a similar device to dislodge one from Garan’s brain.”  Sam continued.

“Good.  I checked Colonel O’Neill when we got him to the infirmary.  It looks like everyone is clear.”    Frasier turned to Doctor Jackson.  “Daniel, why don’t you go get cleaned up before we give you a full examination.”

“She means you can get out of that ridiculous outfit.”  Sam smiled.

“Oh…well…thanks.”  Daniel was red with embarrassment.  He had forgotten about the tight gold suit.  He hurried off to the locker room, suddenly eager to change.

“Sam, come with me and I’ll give you a quick work up.”   Janet led the Major to an adjoining examination room.

Carter followed, still smiling at the site of Daniel scurrying away in his revealing gold spandex.

When they were alone, Janet turned to her friend.  She could see the exhaustion in her eyes.

“How are you doing?”  She asked in a friendly tone, her expression casual.

“Great.  We brought them home.  That was all I really wanted.”  Carter removed her large brown sweater and sat on the table wearing a light T-shirt.

“With all due respect, you don’t look ‘great’”

Sam’s face fell.  “It was a grueling rescue.  I guess I’m just tired.”

“Are you sure there isn’t more to it than physical exhaustion?”  Janet gently prodded as she checked Sam’s pupils with a pen light.

Carter hesitated.  But she knew it would all come out in their briefings anyway.  Maybe talking about it with a good friend first would make it easier to explain on the record.  “What we found on the planet wasn’t at all what we had expected.  I don’t know all the details, but the citizens of Nekara kidnapped Daniel and the Colonel to be a part of their virtual reality entertainment program.”  Carter began.

“Entertainment?  What kind of entertainment?”  Frasier asked.

“They had created a mind link with Colonel O’Neill and people paid for an opportunity to share his past experiences as if they were participating in them with him.”  Sam blinked as the light danced before her eyes.

 “My God.”  Janet was angry.  “Did Jack know what was happening to him?”

“Yes he did.  The Chair he was strapped to stimulated the memory centers of his mind so that he believed he was actually experiencing the past.”  Major Carter could feel her anger building again.

“He must have gone through hell.”    Doctor Frasier knew better than anyone how hard Jack had worked to overcome the past.  The idea that they would use those awful experiences for something so frivolous enraged her.

“He did.  I know.  I had to use the equipment.”  Sam lowered her head in shame.

“You shared his memories?”  Janet asked sadly.

“Yes.  In order to gain their confidence I let them hook me up to the device.  A moment later I felt like I had become Colonel O’Neill and we were trapped on Edora.”  Carter admitted, still feeling guilty

“What happened next?”  Janet asked.

“It was terrifying.  I could feel his helplessness.  He was so alone.”  Sam stopped to wipe a tear from her eyes with a shaking hand.  “Needless to say, I know now that I acted like a fool when I challenged his relationship with Laira.  I see what was really going on and I owe him a big apology.”  She took a deep breath and gratefully accepted Janet’s hand on her shoulder.

“You’ll have plenty of time to tell the Colonel you’re sorry after he recovers.”  Janet added as she prepared to take a blood sample.

“I know, but I was pretty hard on him.”  Major Carter looked away as her friend inserted the needle.  She could kill a Goa’uld at 10 paces, but she hated those long needles.

“I’m sure he understands.  He’s probably already forgotten about it anyway.” Janet smiled warmly.  She felt empathy with Sam’s dilemma.   “Now what is this on your forehead?”  She touched the metal triangle.

Sam had forgotten it was even there.  “Oh that, I think the Nekarans used it to focus brainwaves.  I had to have it implanted as part of my cover so I could access the Colonel’s memories.”

“It doesn’t seem to be deeply rooted.  I should be able to remove it with a local anesthetic.  Let me schedule that for later today.”

“Thanks.  Daniel and Garan will be happy to get rid of theirs’ as well.”

“I take it Colonel O’Neill had his removed on Nekara.”  Janet said.

“He ripped it off himself.”  Sam smiled at the memory of Jack’s defiance.

“I’m not surprised.  Jack always acts first and waits for me to patch him up later.”  Doctor Frasier bandaged the minor burn on Sam’s shoulder and touched her arm.  “Baring anything odd in your blood sample you’ll be fine.”

“Thanks, I really appreciate your support.”  She got up and hugged her friend.

“Thank goodness you’re all home.  If you need anything call me.”  Janet added, returning the embrace.

“I will.”  Major Carter left, heading for a hot shower.

***

Janet examined Teal'c next.  The Jaffa showed no signs of injury from his time on Nekara.

“Teal'c, you’re perfectly healthy as usual.  It’s good to have you back.”  The Doctor was always amazed at the alien’s healing powers.

“Thank you, DoctorFrasier.  I will retire to my quarters for Kel no’Reem.”

“Good idea.  I’m sure General Hammond will want to debrief you sometime tomorrow.”  Janet smiled as she watched the Jaffa close the door behind him.

***

Teal'c passed Daniel in the hall.

“Did you get a clean bill of health?”  The linguist asked, unable to read his friend’s stoic expression.

“Yes.  I am well.”

“Great.  I guess it’s my turn.”  He frowned.

Teal'c nodded.  “The doctor is waiting for you.”

“I bet.  Well, I’ll see you sometime tomorrow.”

“Sleep well.”  The Jaffa answered.

Daniel continued toward the infirmary.  It felt so good to be wearing his usual loose fitting fatigues.  He couldn’t have been happier to get out of that awful costume.

Before entering the infirmary, Jackson stopped to look at O’Neill through the glass.  The Colonel tossed and turned as much as the restrictive hospital bed would allow.  Daniel knew it would be a long time before his friend could sleep peacefully again.

“There you are.”  Janet came out of the room.

“I just wanted to see how Jack was doing.”  The linguist continued to watch the Colonel sleep.

“He’ll be fine.  Give him time.”   Doctor Frasier reassured him.

Daniel nodded.  “I hope so.  But everyone has their limits.”

“Colonel O’Neill is the most resilient man I have ever met.  The process may not be pretty, but he’ll get through it.”  Doctor Frasier knew more about Jack’s medical history than anyone on the base.  She had every confidence that the man would fight his way back to normal.

Daniel was quiet.  He couldn’t help but worry.

“Now, let’s get you inside.”  Janet led the way into the examination room.  Her patient took a seat obediently on the bed.

Doctor Frasier drew a blood sample then checked him for injuries.  “That separated shoulder seems to have healed pretty well.  How does it feel?”

“It’s fine.  Jack fixed it up for me.”  Jackson flexed his arm instinctively.

“Good.  You seem to be suffering from the same dehydration and malnutrition as Colonel O’Neill so I’d like to give you some intravenous fluids.  I’m also going to keep you here for a few days of rest.  If you like, I can put you next to Colonel O’Neill.  Just don’t wake him or I’ll have your head.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  Daniel smiled.  He lay back, happy to let Janet take care of him.

***

General Hammond examined the young face watching him as he took his usual seat at the head of the briefing table.

“Hi Garan, how are you feeling?”  He smiled warmly.

“Well.”  The boy looked exhausted and scared.  George decided not to push him for too many details of his ordeal.

“We were still on Edora when you were taken.  I’m sorry we couldn’t prevent that.”

“I do not blame you, General.  Their forces were strong.  I am grateful to have been rescued.”  Garan answered.  His mind was still reeling after his ordeal.

“In my career I’ve been in some pretty frightening situations, so I know how difficult it can be to put it behind you when you come home.”  George met the boy’s eyes.  “But you can go back to your life.  I just wanted to be sure you knew that.  It won’t be easy at first, but the more time you put between yourself and Nekara the better it will get.”

“I hope so.”  Garan could still feel the hopelessness of his capture and there was a nagging fear in the back of his mind that he would be taken again.

“Believe me, if you work hard to get back to normal it will happen.  You have a wonderful community there to lean on.”  General Hammond moved in close for emphasis.  “Your mother was terrified she’d lose you.  She’ll need your help to deal with that fear as well.”

“Yes, sir.”  The young man found Hammond’s paternal charisma comforting.

Doctor Frasier entered the room.  She smiled and sat next the Edoran.

“Garan, this is Doctor Frasier, she will be examining you before you are sent home.  I’ll turn him over to you, Doctor.”

“Thank you, sir.”  She turned to the boy.  “I’ll also be able to remove that thing from your forehead, if you like.”  Janet smiled as the Edoran nodded enthusiastically.

“Now follow me and we’ll get you a good meal.  Then a shower and a change of clothes before my examination.”

Janet led him to the commissary, feeling like a mother hen with a new chick.

***

Sam entered Stargate Command with a spring in her step.  A night in her own bed had been worth its’ weight in gold. She changed into her uniform for the first time in a week and it felt great.

General Hammond was waiting for Carter outside the locker room.

“Good morning, General.”  The Major snapped to attention.

“Good morning, Sam.  I’d like to speak to you in my office.”

“Yes sir.”  She followed the base commander, wondering what he wanted.

“Have a seat, Major.”  General Hammond lowered himself into his chair, then waited as Carter took a seat across the desk.

“I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done.”

“Thank you, sir.”  Sam beamed with satisfaction.

“I have another assignment for you.  I’d like you to escort Garan back to Edora.”

“Me?  With all due respect, sir, the last time I went there I didn’t exactly make you proud.”

“That’s true.  But you did save Laira’s son so it’s fitting that you should return him to his family.  I’m confident that you and Teal'c will represent the SGC and Earth with the utmost professionalism.”

Sam thought about it, maybe she was the best person to go.  She did owe Laira an apology.

“Very well, sir.  I will take him back.”

“Good.  Dr. Frasier has released him to travel.  I’ll have the Doctor and Garan meet you and Teal'c in the Gate room.  I trust you will be on your best behavior.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you.”

“Dismissed.”

Sam saluted and left.  She was thankful for the chance to make things right.  When she got to the munitions room she was not surprised to see Teal'c waiting inside.

“Major Carter.  I am pleased to see you.”  The Jaffa smiled, standing out of respect.

“Me too, Teal'c.  How are you doing this morning?”  Carter located her P90 and began checking it.

“I am well rested.  An evening of Kel' no’Reem was very beneficial.”

“I’m glad to hear it.  I know what you mean about the value of a good night’s sleep.  I could run a marathon.”  Sam smiled.

“I do not believe the people of Edora will require you to do so.”  Teal'c smirked.

“I think you’ve been spending too much time with the Colonel.”  Carter joked.  Privately she wondered if her friend remembered how badly she had behaved during their last visit to Edora.  The Jaffa would never say it of course, but she thought he must be worried that she would create another embarrassing scene.

In reality, Teal'c was not concerned.  He knew how explosive his Tau’ri friends could become.  It was one of the most interesting facets of their personalities.  Major Carter meant well but her feelings for Colonel O’Neill had created an impossible conflict within her.  Eventually the officer’s professionalism would help her come to terms with these emotions.

“Are you ready?”  Carter asked.

“I am.”  Teal'c answered, moving to the door.

Sam led the way, resolving to make things right with Laira.

Garan was waiting anxiously when they arrived.  Janet straightened his collar, satisfied that he looked presentable for his homecoming.  She had put him to bed the night before and had taken him to the cafeteria for a good breakfast earlier this morning.  Now she could send the boy home rested and in good health.

“Good morning, Major, Teal'c.  He’s all yours.”  Janet said.

“Take care, Garan.”  Doctor Frasier touched the boy’s shoulder before she turned to leave.

Sam was amused by her friend’s protectiveness.  Janet was always ready to take in strays.

“I bet you’re ready to get home.”  She said, smiling as the boy nodded.

“Alright, then let’s go.”  Carter turned back to the control room.  “Dial up Edora, Sergeant.”

Davis ran his fingers over the control panel, entering the address for Garan’s home world.

The boy gasped as each chevron locked and the gate surged to life.

“It is an incredible sight isn’t it?”  Major Carter said as she turned to Garan.

“Yes it is.  Thank you for taking me home.”  He said.

“It’s our pleasure.  Colonel O’Neill would have come with us, but he’s still recovering.”

“I know.  Will he be alright?”  Garan asked.

“The Colonel just needs a few days of rest.  Then he’ll be fine.”  Sam answered as the seventh chevron was encoded and the event horizon surged in front of them.

“I’ll go first.  Teal'c, you take the rear.”  She turned to the nervous young man, knowing this was only his second trip through the event horizon.

“Let’s go home.”  Carter said triumphantly as she led the way through the shimmering circle.   Within a few seconds they were on the planet Edora, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd.

“I see we’ve called ahead.”  Sam smiled at the attention.

Laira ran to Garan, embracing him with tears of joy.  “Thank the gods!  You are home.” She held her son at arm’s length, looking him over from head to toe.  “Are you well, my son?”

“Yes, mother.  Doctor Frasier examined me.  I am fine.”  The young man answered with more than a little embarrassment.

She held him close again, afraid to let go.

Sam watched as all of Edora gathered around Garan to welcome him home.  Carter couldn’t help but beam with pride knowing that she had kept her promise to find him.

Laira finally saw the members of SG-1 waiting at a discrete distance.  “Major Carter, Teal'c, thank you.  Please join us for a celebration.”

Sam smiled as pleasantly as she could.  “We would be honored.”  She said, following the group back to town.

There was a feast waiting for them, food lined the street with musicians playing and people dancing.  Sam couldn’t help but be caught up in the joyous occasion.  After all, they had something to celebrate too. They had found the Colonel and Daniel and both men were safe and sound back at the SGC.

She took a glass of nectar as offered and encouraged Teal'c to do the same.  The Jaffa complied, nodding thanks.  “Ummm, this is good.”  The Major said as she sipped the sweet drink.

The members of SG-1 were given seats at the head table.  Laira stood beside them and the crowd suddenly grew silent, waiting for their leader to speak.

“Thank you my citizens.  We have been blessed with the return of one of our sons.  Join me in honoring their rescuers: Major Samantha Carter and Teal'c.”

The crowd erupted as they stood.

“Thank you.  We did help Garan to escape.  But his bravery and heroism should not be forgotten.  He represented your people well.”  Sam said, turning to Garan.  The crowd acknowledged their native son with a hearty round of applause.

Garan beamed with pride.  It had been an incredible ordeal.  But survival had left him with a sense of accomplishment.  Now he would take his place among the adult men of Edora.

“We hope you will share our homecoming feast.”   Laira offered on behalf of the entire community.

“We will.  We honor all of you for your courage in the face of such odds.”  Sam was genuinely moved by their generosity.  Certainly she didn’t deserve such hospitality after her last visit.

Carter and Teal'c ate bread and fruit heartily, making small talk with the Edoran elders.  They spoke about the planting season, the difficulties of sheering livestock, Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson’s absence, gate travel, agriculture on Earth, and a variety of other incidental topics.

However Laira had not joined in the conversation.  The Major wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not.  She decided to wait for the other woman to make the first move before she tried to speak to her.

Finally after two hours of feasting, the meal ended and the joyous celebration spilled out into the street.

“Major, are you staying?”  Laira asked finally turning to look at her guests.

Sam was startled by her sudden attention.  “Ah, thank you for including us in your wonderful celebration, but we should probably get back.”

“As you wish.  Garan has told me of your rescue.  I will be forever grateful to all of you.”

Sam sensed an underlying question: Where was Jack?

“Colonel O’Neill was injured on Nekara, or he would have come with us.  He is recuperating in the infirmary.”  Major Carter said as casually as possible.

Laira’s face fell. “Will he survive?”  Sam didn’t notice when the woman touched her stomach absently.

“He will be fine.”  Teal'c answered.  “He only requires rest to recover.”

“Thank the gods.”  Laira smiled with a sigh of relief.  “ If you must go, may peace go with you.”  She turned to leave.

Sam took a deep breath.  It was now or never.

“Laira, could I talk to you for a moment?”  She asked, stopping the other woman.

“Of course.”  She said, looking at the Major cautiously.

“My behavior when we were here before-I’m sorry.  The implication that you had somehow tricked the Colonel into giving up his search for the gate was totally inappropriate and I regret having said it.”

Laira smiled.

“O’Neill is a strong man.  He chooses his own path.  He chose you-all of you-instead of Edora.  I wish it were not so, but he has chosen.  As for your words, I know they were spoken out of love.”

Carter was uncomfortable with the implication.

“Love...” She was red, her face burning at the vocalization.

Teal'c was amused with his friend’s struggle.  Love unrealized is still love.  Why couldn’t the Major just admit that to herself?

“Love of a friend and partner.  You do not need to apologize.  No harm was done.”

Sam smiled.  “Thank you.  I appreciate your generosity.  Fair Day, Laira.”

“Fair Day.”

Sam and Teal'c rose to leave.  The Major was relieved to have mended fences with Laira. She hoped they could be friends again some day.

Garan walked them back to the gate.

“Well Garan, I meant what I said at the feast.  You should be proud of yourself.  You were very brave.  It made our work so much easier.”  Carter touched his shoulder as they walked.

“Thank you, Major.  I will miss all of you.”  Garan spoke with a new level of confidence.  He was growing up.

“It’s certainly been interesting.”  Sam laughed as she began dialing home.

“Fair day, Garan.  Be well.”  The Major said as the last chevron engaged.

“Fair day.”  Garan returned, sorry to see them go.

“Be well, young man.”  Teal'c added as he and Carter stepped through the event horizon.

A few seconds later they were home.
 
 
 
 

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