9

One Too Many Planets Part 1

'Just remind me, Daniel, what this place was like the last time we were here?' Jack pushed the peak of his Air Force issue cap higher up his forehead, his dark eyes behind the shades constantly scanning 360 degrees. His inner warning antenna was sounding its silent alarm while the group, which made up SG1, paused on the medieval style bridge leading into the old walled town.

'A peaceful, feudal society; more concerned with tilling their fields and bringing up their families…..it's strange there's no one in the fields – no animals. I don't understand …..' The younger man's voice trailed off as he reached for his glasses, just about to remove a smudge which had been annoying him when the far too familiar, for his liking, sound of bullets went whizzing past his ear encouraging him to drop swiftly to the wooden floor.

With little in the way of protection all four returned fire though at what or precisely where they knew not. Having ordered a retreat to the Stargate, Jack and the remainder of SG1 scrambled unceremoniously back over the arched wooden structure until Sam's foot caught on an uneven plank and she hurtled forward, hands reaching out to break her fall, only to feel a firm hold taken on the scruff of her jacket followed by a severe yank which for a mere second had her legs flailing in mid-air until she was dropped onto her booted feet.

A gruff command. 'Lose the pack!' From the corner of her vision she could see her C.O. glaring at her as he gave her an extra push to propel her forward.

She could never answer as to why she looked back when she did, but on seeing the invisible force lift Jack off his feet and over the parapet she didn't hesitate, simply screaming his name as she followed him into the fast flowing waters below.

The shock of the ice-cold river all but took her breath as she dropped beneath its surface but kicking hard she pushed back up, eyes wide searching for her team mate, frantic to spot him yet aware her own energy was fading fast as her lungs screamed out for air. An urgent pull on her pack suddenly drove her up and her head emerged above water as she gratefully sucked in desperate lungfuls of oxygen, all the while dragged on by the insistent force of the river's current.

Furiously blinking the water out of her eyes she realized she was staring into a pair of black impenetrable ones and spluttered in relief as she realized Jack was holding on to her. Unable to speak they were forced through the foaming rapids barely missing jagged rocks which would have knocked them senseless had they had the misfortune to make contact. Countless times Sam went under but each time an iron hold on her arm heaved her back up, though she had little if no time to dwell on the savage countenance which continued to bore into her.

It seemed to Sam they twisted and turned in the ferocious grip of the river's current for hours but eventually it spat them out like a cork from a champagne bottle into a channel which immediately calmed into a pool of tranquil waters and, exhausted, they dragged themselves on hands and knees from its freezing grip.

Unable to speak, they lay face down, the muscles in their bruised and battered bodies incapable of responding to any electrical impulses from their exhausted brains. It was Jack who first moved, reaching over to push Sam onto her back, or rather onto her backpack. She grimaced as something in the pack dug painfully into her back.

'I thought I told you to get rid of that,' he growled weakly pushing at her pack.

'Sorry sir, …..no time…I saw you get hit and go over, so I followed,' she gasped pushing strands of wet, blonde hair out of her face.

'You wh-at?' he demanded incredulously, unable to believe his ears, his stern face darkening even further as he stared at his 2IC.

'You were hit, weren't you Colonel?' Sam suddenly began to doubt what she'd seen, her large blue eyes moving over him trying to spot an injury.

'Well I didn't choose to take a dive in below zero degrees rapids for the fun of it, Captain' he answered scathingly, 'with a backpack to weigh me down like a piece of lead!'

Ducking her blonde head, Sam was reluctant to accept that Jack wasn't actually thanking her for her action. 'How's the wound, sir?'

'Fine.'

Ugh oh, not in a talkative mood. 'Should I take a look?' she offered hesitantly, hoping to defuse the taut atmosphere.

'No!' he snapped, forcing his aching limbs to move. He groaned quietly and Sam's eyes widened in alarm.

Seeing the look, his tone softened a little as he tried to reassure her, 'I'm okay, Carter.' He toggled the radio at his shoulder and spoke into it without success; it was the same with Sam. He continued to look around, attempting to find his bearings in the wilderness of mountains and trees which surrounded them.

'Who do you think was firing on us, Colonel?'

'When I learn that, you'll be the first to know, Carter.'

'We must have travelled miles in the water.' offered Sam.

'Well, it looks like we'll have a nice, Sunday stroll back, doesn't it Captain?'

They tried retracing their steps by keeping as close to the river as was possible, but at times this meant scaling steep, rugged terrain whilst constantly being on guard, but against whom they were unsure.

Eventually, they found a suitably protected area to make camp under a rock face that offered them the possibility of building a fire without the danger of it being spotted. Their clothes were still damp so Sam quickly divested herself of her jacket, hanging it over a tree branch close to the heat.

'Colonel?' She held out her hand to do the same and with more care than normal Jack took off his own vest and jacket, wincing when he inadvertently moved his left side.

'Sir, I think I should take a look. I -.'

His voice tired, Jack waved a hand in dismissal 'I said it's okay, just a graze.'

Instantly Sam leapt up and began rummaging around in her backpack producing the med-kit.

'You'd better have a shot in case of infection.' Jack cringed at her enthusiasm.

Opening it quickly, her voice registered some disappointment. 'All but two of the phials are broken.' Carefully, she lifted one out, tearing open a syringe with her teeth and attaching the two parts together. 'This should give you some protection until we get back, sir.'

She flicked the syringe with her finger and, satisfied it was ready, turned back to Jack who, with a strained expression, was pushing up the sleeve of his T-shirt.

Sam suddenly looked contrite, a faint blush tingeing her cheeks in the fire's glow.

'Er, in order for it to be quick acting, sir, it needs to go in lower.'

Wary blue eyes watched her C.O.'s look of puzzlement turn quickly to irritation as realization struck home.

'Forget it, Carter.'

'But-.'

'No buts,' and realizing the unintended pun, Jack's mouth turned up slightly and his voice again softened. 'The arm'll be just fine – I'm keeping my pants on.'

Knowing further argument would be useless – already in the short time she'd been on his team she'd learnt enough to know when the colonel made up his mind, nothing could alter it -Sam efficiently administered the medication, disposing of the syringe by burying it safely in the ground out of harm's way. Making himself as comfortable as he could on the hard ground, Jack attempted to relax.

We haven't finished just yet. 'Sir?' She dropped her eyes to his side causing him to raise his eyebrows in exasperation.

'Oh, for crying out loud. Here!' He jerkily pulled up his navy T-shirt, glaring hard at his persistent 2IC. 'Satisfied now, Carter?'

Cranky means pain, lots of pain; snow will have to fall in the Empty Quarter before he'll ever admit to it. She bent closer, ignoring his sarcasm, her full attention on the wound.

'With respect, sir, I think it's a little more than a graze.' She looked up but just as quickly averted her eyes from his irritable scowl. 'I'll need to dress it.' And not daring to wait for permission, she reached into the med-kit for sterile dressings and paused with cream on her finger. She looked again into his black eyes which were now fixed on something past her shoulder.

'This may hurt a little, I'm -.'

'Get on with it, Carter!'

Okay, his patience isn't that great either.

His sharp intake of breath as she applied the yellow cream to the wound made her hesitate but his curtly whispered words, 'Finish it,' through gritted teeth urged her on. Once she'd applied the dressing she sat back on her heels admiring her work. His own caustic look, however, abruptly shattered her satisfaction and Sam quickly put the medical equipment away.

'It's lucky I had the pack, eh, Colonel?'

'Don't push it Captain!'

Mmm, still not forgotten that eh? Sam turned away, a gentle smile playing on her lips.

'What do you think happened to Daniel and Teal'c, Sir?'

'As soon as morning comes, we'll hopefully find that out.'

'If -.'

'Are you going to talk all night or can I get some sleep?'

Guess that means I take first watch.

Sam was content to take guard duty. She was still running high on adrenalin and reconnoitring their camp's boundaries allowed her to work off some of her tension. By the time she returned to the fire Jack was deep in sleep. A cold wind had begun to rise up so she took her own jacket, which was relatively dry, and covered him with it. She hesitated as she stooped over him, tempted to check the temperature of his forehead but knowing if she woke him he'd give her hell.

Deciding against her medical instincts, instead she added more kindling to the fire, then making herself comfortable against the stone face of the rocks she concentrated on the night sounds around her.

'Why didn't you wake me?' Jack was slow to sit up, his stiff side protesting at the movements, rubbing a hand over his stubbled jaw. He looked pale and exhausted to Sam but she knew better than to make any comment.

'I tried, Sir, but the injection must have put you under more than I'd anticipated.'

'Okay, okay.' He sat still for a few seconds longer, eyes closed until Sam pushed a tin mug into his hands.

'Coffee's up, black and sweet – just how you like it.'

'Thanks.' He inhaled deeply savouring the aroma and the warmth. 'And thanks for letting me sleep.'

So he hadn't been fooled by the excuse.

He didn't look at Sam as he said it but it still made her pause in what she was doing. It wasn't often the fiery Colonel Jack O'Neill verbalised his appreciation and her brow furrowed in consternation.

'How do you feel?'

He raised bloodshot eyes to hers and gave a slight nod.

Evasive as ever, I see. Well I'm ready for that. 'Can I -?'

He cut her off with an outstretched hand. 'Negative – we break camp in five minutes…..Ouch! Damn, that hurt!' Jack clutched his buttock glaring accusingly at his 2IC, who was trying her hardest to look contrite as she capped the final painkilling syringe and disposed of it.

She'd decided to spare him the 'you were in a lot of pain' explanation knowing it wouldn't go down too well and effected to do a 'Janet', hoping her apology would cut her some slack. 'Sorry, colonel. It really is more effective if inserted in the butt.'

Knowing she was right didn't make him feel any better. 'I don't know what they taught you in officer training, Carter,' he growled, 'but pissing off your C.O. isn't the most imaginative way to further your career!'

She watched him as unobtrusively as possible, but as their path grew more treacherous it became starkly obvious to Sam that Jack was struggling. His pale, drawn face and laboured breathing were testament enough to the pain he must be in and when Sam retraced her steps for a third time in under an hour, she found him leaning against a tree, shoulders slumped, barely able to stand. As she reached his side the strength in his legs seemed to evaporate and he slowly eased himself to the ground using the trunk to support him from keeling over. Sam dropped to her knees putting her hand to Jack's cheek, a deep frown marring her features.

'You're running a temperature – your wound must be infected. Damn!'

'Easy on the language, Captain.'

Ah, that O'Neill sense of humour kicking in. A faint smile touched her lips.

He accepted the proffered water then allowed his head to fall back against the tree. As Sam moved to check the wound Jack shook his head wearily.

'Help me up.' He held out his hand for assistance.

'You need to rest.'

'Negative – let's get to the Stargate.'

'Sorry, Colonel, but I don't think you're able to cover the terrain the condition you're in.'

She saw the flash of surprise followed by anger in his eyes and braced herself knowing she was about to be on the receiving end of the infamous O'Neill pissed mode.

Pushing his shoulders away from the trunk's welcome support he pierced her with an icy glare. Through his splitting headache he communicated his displeasure with biting sarcasm. 'Did I miss something while I was sleeping?...Feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken, Captain,' and here he laid great emphasis on her rank, ' but I seem to recall that when I went to sleep last night I was a full colonel in the U.S. Air Force.' His tone had hardened though the effort to maintain how disgruntled he was cost him in terms of energy.

'With respect, Sir,' and now Sam could feel a hot burst of colour rising in her cheeks, 'you are sick. Under such conditions I feel impelled to take over.'

'Impelled do you?' His outrage was evident, his flushed features contorting in pain as he attempted to rise, without success. 'What the hell gives you the right to disobey my direct order?' he spat viciously.

Sam flinched at his words but she would not be swayed. 'I need to find somewhere safe where I can see to your wound, hopefully find someone, a doctor who can -.'

'Oh, why don't you call nine one one?' he demanded sarcastically, flinging his arm out to the wilderness. If it was possible, his hard ass act got even harder. 'Let me tell you, Carter, your feet won't touch the floor when we get back to the SGC and I'm 'impelled' to put you on report.'

Staring down at him resignedly she shrugged. 'You do what you have to do, Sir.' And I'll do what I have to. And that means saving your life, no matter how pissy you are.

Refusing to back down from the grim scowl being thrown at her, her attention was drawn away by the deep rumbling coming from the overcast heavens. Casting her eyes up, she became aware of the sweeping black clouds scudding across the sky threatening to rain down torrents in no time.

'We've got to find shelter and that means going west.'

'The Stargate's north,' he countered defensively.

'I know, Sir and for what it's worth, I'm sorry.' She bent over, gently taking his good arm and pushing her own arm behind his back, under his shoulder she steadied him. Now is not the time to throw a tantrum. 'On the count of three: one, two, three.'

Over the next few hours Sam cajoled and sometimes cursed her C.O. to keep him going.

No one gets left behind, sir. You should know that!

And once the rain did come she turned a deaf ear to his orders and finally his curses to go on without him. She turned deaf ears to his entreaties and threats, colourful as they were, but she had to admit, as her screaming muscles protested the abuse, she was close, so very close to sinking down in the stinking mud beside him, allowing exhaustion to push her over into welcome oblivion.

It was just at that moment when her stubborn resolve began to waver that they literally stumbled into the wall of the well, both of them leaning over the ledge, gasping from their exertions. Lifting her tired eyes she could just make out the crude stone building almost hidden by the torrential rain. She turned to look at her C.O. , head bowed, eyes closed, face contorted into a grimace of pain.

He's far too pale. 'One last effort, Sir, just one, please. I can see some shelter.' Not waiting for any response she took his arm over her shoulder once more ignoring his grunt of pain and they half staggered and stumbled to the solid wooden door. Unable to use a hand Sam kicked at it with her foot too relieved when it opened to worry that no one appeared to be inside.

A quick glance round taking in the simple features of the cottage until her eyes alighted on the pallet in the far corner. As she lowered him onto the blankets Jack groaned through gritted teeth. 'Easy does it, Colonel. We can rest now.' She allowed herself the luxury of a minute's rest then with a sigh of exhaustion pushed herself off the edge of the pallet. Reaching down she pulled off Jack's boots gently bringing his legs up on the bed then carefully she undid the buttons of his vest and jacket easing them off his body.

She could feel the heat reflected from his body through his clothes aware he was shivering even as his body boiled. 'We've got to get you out of these clothes, Sir, they're sodden.' Having discarded her own jacket she moved to work on Jack's belt buckle only to find her hands swatted away.

'Go see to yourself, Captain.'

Annoyed, she stared into fever bright eyes which stared at her determinedly.

'Sir, you've -.'

As a sudden gust of wind entered through the now open doorway a firm voice spoke softly but clearly. 'He is perfectly right, child.'

Holy Hannah! Spinning away from the bed, Sam's hand automatically reached for her P90 aware that Jack had also attempted the same move but had collapsed back onto the blankets as waves of agony shot through his injured side. Vaguely aware of him uttering expletives her attention focused on the figure by the door and her movements stilled as she realized the rather stern voice belonged to a middle-aged woman, her iron grey hair pulled tightly into a severe bun, her short, stocky body covered in a simple blue shift. The stranger throw off her outer garments and moved purposely over to Jack's side, ignoring his unconcealed hostility which was turned on her with full force, stooping to put a hand to his forehead. He pulled away but the woman hardly appeared to notice.

'Why is he burning?' Her tone of voice demanded an answer and Sam, much to her surprise and Jack's irritation, found herself explaining.

None too gently she lifted up Jack's T-shirt and began to feel around the wound causing the injured man's already pale features to whiten as he twisted trying to escape the agonizing examination. When she eventually stepped back Jack exhaled in painful relief.

'How did this happen?' and then realizing that time was important, 'Tell me later. I will try to help him, but the Shaman may have to be called.'

'Shaman?' Sam was clearly relieved that she had found help but Jack's distress was keenly apparent as his dark eyes blazed with uncontrolled hostility. Mustering all his energy he pushed himself up on his elbow growling weakly, 'Hey, I'm here too, you know. I'd appreciate it if you didn't talk over me.'

Silver grey eyes bored into him. 'Is he always so peevish, or is it the wound and fever which cause this?'

You really don't want to know. Sam's silence spoke volumes and the grey-haired woman's eyes rose to the ceiling.

'Look, I'm sorry we entered your home uninvited, but the -.'

'It is of no consequence,' the older woman answered brushing aside Sam's attempts at apology. 'My name is Ragnar.' She smiled for the first time and appeared twenty years younger. Sam's own mother curled in copy.

'I'm Captain Samantha Carter and this is -.'

'Jack O'Neill – Colonel.' He had no intention, sick or not, to be ignored. All the same, he was forced to sink back onto the bed curling up in an effort to ease the stabbing pain shooting through his side.

'Enough of the pleasantries – you will both be requiring the Shaman if you do not remove those dripping clothes.' She pointed to another door. 'Through there you will find fresh clothing.'

Worried blue eyes fixed on the figure on the bed.'But the Colonel-.'

'I will see to Jack O'Neill, Colonel.' And Ragnar turned cool grey eyes on the man, refusing to be intimidated by his black looks.

'I can take care of myself ladies, just -.'

'Save your energy, you are going to need it.'

And with intense relief Sam acknowledged to herself that she was all too ready to hand over responsibility of her sick and injured C.O. to someone else and hurriedly moved to the other door. As she opened it she smiled ruefully as Jack vehemently protested Ragnar's assistance and closed her ears and the door to Jack's calling of her own name.

While taking off her soaking clothes, she'd heard enough through the closed door to wonder whether or not Ragnar would be able to handle a sick and ill tempered O'Neill.

She'd actually cringed as she listened to the colonel's indignant yell, 'Hey, get the hell off of those!' to be instantly followed by the unmistakable sound of a firm hand making contact with flesh, followed by a muffled 'Ouch!' And Sam decided her musings had been answered; it seemed Ragnar could handle herself and the colonel very well indeed.

She had shaken her head wearily, the hint of a smile on her lips and accepted that if she were perfectly honest with herself there had been a time or two or maybe even three or four – no disloyalty intended – when she had felt her hand itching to do exactly what it seemed Ragnar had wasted no time in doing. Still, from a self-preservation point of view she had decided that it would probably be a good idea if she took her time changing and going back into the room.

Go to Part 2