One Too Many Planets Part 2

Feigning ignorance of the skirmish that had taken place between her CO and the healing woman, Sam tried to ignore the disapproving look she was given as she reappeared in a simple dress similar to the one worn by Ragnar, but Jack's weak yet caustic tone left her under no illusions as to the mood he was in.

'Carter! Here! Now!'

She threw Ragnar a look which, had Jack been fully aware, would have had him disciplining his 2IC with the most demeaning tasks he could think of for the next twelve months. Ragnar, though, had her back to them busily throwing Jack's soaking uniform over a rack for drying. Approaching the side of his bed aware that he had been forcibly divest of his clothes and placed beneath fresh blankets, Sam now gave her full attention to her C.O.

'How are you feeling, Sir?'

'What the hell do you think?' he croaked peevishly, his eyes full of reproach until he turned to hurl invisible daggers towards the elder woman. 'Just keep her away from me. Is that clear?'

Sam glanced over her shoulder, a concerned look on her face. 'Sir, she seems to know what she's -.'

'Don't give me that crap, Carter,' his voice, though weak, began to rise in frustration.

'Give me those, please.' Sam jumped as Ragnar relieved her of her own wet clothes she was holding, returning to the rack.

Jack lay back on the bed, miserably aware of his naked state and feeling suitably defenceless other than the sidearm he kept beside his right hand.

'I need to get out of here,' he muttered to himself unaware that Ragnar had come within earshot again but she had no compunction in letting him know she had heard. She snorted derisively and bent low over the bed, her face mere inches from his.

'And how do you think you will achieve that, Jack O'Neill, Colonel?' Her grey eyes raked him witheringly. 'Take a look at his wound,' she advised Sam pointedly, her eyes never leaving Jack's flushed face and before he could protest she tugged the covers to his waist. Sam gasped as she saw the dressing she had put on earlier covered in blood and a distinct inflammation spreading beyond the borders of the bloody dressing. She stared into Jack's shadowed eyes and moved to check his forehead not surprised when he jerked away irritably.

'For crying out loud, Captain, stop hovering and can the mother hen routine.'

Ragnar's own eyes narrowed. 'It is good he has such spirit, but it must be channelled for greater things than his arrogant stupidity.'

Too weak to answer, Jack was forced to listen to her censure waiting for his 2IC to rise to his support. He continued to wait. None was forthcoming.

'I'm not sure why,' Ragnar spoke coldly, 'but I have a mind to save this insolent pup's life. I will enjoy the challenge.' And she returned Jack's glare. 'First I must search for herbs – healing herbs – some for the wound, some for the inner body. You, throw wood,' indicating to Sam a pile near the outer door, 'on the fire – fetch water from the well and heat it, lots. I will need much. When the water boils, bathe the wound.' As she spoke she began to put on a thick cape and finishing she threw some ropes to Sam.

Looking perplexed, Sam asked, 'What are these for?'

Ragnar turned back, her features devoid of expression. 'Bind him to the bed – the pain will be too intense.' And without another word she stepped out into the storm banging the door shut behind her.

Sam's appalled gaze was riveted on the closed door until a weak, breathless voice brought her back to the present.

'Get me my clothes,' and seeing the stubborn set to her face, 'that's an order, Captain,' he snapped with weak determination.

'Ragnar's right, sir, if she doesn't treat you then …,' she allowed the words to trail away.

The lines of pain around Jack's mouth seemed to grow deeper with every passing moment. 'Carter, I'm giving you a direct order, goddammit. If you don't-.' And attempting to sit up he sucked in a sharp breath, turning grey from the pain and exhaustion as the blood drained from his face. He fell back on the bed, frustrated by his weakness, clenching the sheet as he fought to control the agony raging in his side. In the end he had no energy to move away when Sam's cool hand lay against his forehead and he had no strength as his body slipped into darkness.

He yelled, trying to writhe away from the burning torture, struggling to break free from the iron grip he was held in, dreaming that Apophis was crushing him in a vice-like hold. He was vaguely aware of a voice he knew calling to him and as he pushed the black veil aside to greet consciousness, it merely served to change one nightmare for another as Sam replaced one cloth with another. Again he cried out jerking on his restraints only now realizing they were ropes which bound him by each wrist to the bed.

Half crazed, bloodshot eyes glared up at her glassily.

'Wha' the hell?'

'I'm sorry sir,' Sam was almost crying as she lifted up the cloth from his wound as Ragnar had instructed her. In anguish she watched beads of sweat pour down his gaunt face as he tried to bite back a sob.

'Let me loose,' he gasped and seeing the look in his eyes Sam reluctantly reached up and freed him from the bonds.

'Sir…I…'

'Get on with it!' he muttered, his jaw locked in grim resignation.

His hands, now free, clenched the covers, his head striking the base of the bed as he tried to control the waves of pain which washed over him threatening to bring up the coffee which still remained in his stomach.

'Are you done?' he cried as Sam rinsed the cloth once more in the still burning water. She winced as her own hands burned painfully and then laying the material against him once more, she watched in anguish as Jack writhed on the bed.

'Just one more-.'

'No! It's enough Carter!' Then more weakly, 'Enough.' He laid back, one arm covering his eyes the other clenched around the sheet, trying to control his erratic breathing. He stiffened as he sensed her approach him.

Aghast, she cried, 'No, it's a cool cloth. I'm just going to wipe your face.' Gently, she passed the soft cloth over his face ridding him of the sweat, tears and mucus which had all mingled on his clammy skin, then rinsing it in cool water she again passed it over his neck and shoulders, relieved that her actions seemed to bring Jack some ease from his torment. Aware that he was staring at her intently she smiled down at him.

'When Ragnar returns-.'

The spell of tranquillity was instantly broken with the mention of the name and a deep frown cut across Jack's features as he growled, 'I don't want-.'

His words were cut off mid-steam as the door was suddenly thrown open – Ragnar and a rush of bitter cold wind and rain following her in. She fought the door closed then turned back to the pair.

'What doesn't he want?' she demanded of Sam, throwing off her soaking cape.

'Why not ask me?' Jack challenged weakly.

Ragnar stared for a moment then seemed to dismiss him in the next second.

'Did you do as I asked?' and seeing the bloody water in the bowls she nodded in satisfaction.

'It caused him too much pain,' Sam explained trying hard not to picture Jack's face as she'd applied the boiling cloth to his wound.

The other woman snorted, her grey eyes flashing fire. 'When men start to bear children, then and only then will I acknowledge that fact. Now come here, child. Wash these plants carefully. This one needs to be crushed with a pestle and mortar and then mixed with this liquid. The other I will prepare myself.' And still ignoring Jack, Ragnar immediately turned to preparing the medication her patient would need. Every so often she gave Sam further instructions until, eventually, pleased, she turned to Jack who had curled up into a foetal ball hardly daring to watch what the two women were doing.

'This,' indicating Ragnar's own bowl, 'is to be applied to the wound every day. It must be done after the cleansing.'

'Wha – at?' Same looked aghast.

'No way in hell!' objected Jack weakly.

Ragnar put the bowl down and sat on Jack's bed examining the wound, poking and prodding, paying no attention to either their words or Jack's discomfort.

'Watch carefully, Samantha, You may have to do this tomorrow if I am called away.'

'Enjoying yourself?' he rasped out, refusing to give the woman the satisfaction of hearing him cry out, but it cost him dearly as his vision tunnelled and consciousness faded away.

Sam noticed that only when he blacked out did Ragnar's expression soften and then she stretched out a gentle hand brushing Jack's grey hair away from his sweat slickened forehead.

'Can you hold him up while I bind his wound?' And noticing the washed strips of linen that were to be used Sam proffered her own sterile dressings which Ragnar admired as she speedily applied them.

'From where did you acquire these, they are strange yet wonderful? Fingering Jack's dressing with a featherlike touch, she lay him back carefully on the bed.

'Where we come from these are used all the time in hospitals and -.'

'Hospitals? What are these hospitals you speak of?'

'They're special places where we take our sick to get them better.'

Nodding, Ragnar now turned her hand to another concoction. 'This is a herbal drink to be consumed by our sick one. When he wakes ensure he drinks at least one cup each time.'

Please tell me that it's going to have a heavenly taste and he'll just love it. And looking into the older woman's grey eyes Sam's insides sank with the knowledge that it would be vile and no way on earth or this plant was the colonel going to drink the stuff.

Seeing the dismay on her young face Ragnar explained, 'It will bring down his fever.' And reaching behind his head Ragnar carefully lifted him and put the cup to his lips. As the first drops reached his mouth, even unconscious he knew enough to reject the ghastly tasting liquid spitting it out and twisting his head away but the older woman proved adept at anticipating his every move, her patience eventually paying off when finally, she was able to allow Jack to lay back, the cup all but empty with most of it down the patient's throat.

Putting her hand to his forehead once more she continued, 'I would expect his fever to fall within the next hour and if we are lucky it will stay that way. He will sleep many hours and so, now, I think you must sleep too.'

'No, no, I can't do that, I'll watch the colonel.'

'Your Jack O'Neill, Colonel will sleep deeply. There is no point when you are so weary to be with him. Have no fear, I will watch over him while you rest.'

Sam slept the sleep of the innocents, too exhausted to even recall any dreams she may have had, and only awoke when Ragnar came into the room with hot water for her personal washing and her own dry clothes. She sat up, instantly awake, her concern for Jack foremost in her mind.

'How's the colonel?' she demanded rubbing her face to force herself to come fully awake.

'Awake and dressing.'

Sam looked up sharply and noticed for the first time anxiety in the eyes of Ragnar. 'Metal warriors with serpent's heads are moving through our lands again.'

'The Goa'uld!...We knew something was different when we got here but we didn't know it was them. What's -.'

'There is no time for talk, your mate is right -.'

'Mate?' Sam's voice and expression registered incredulity.

'Jack O'Neill, Colonel understands the import and -.'

Sam could not help herself and had to interrupt again. 'Look, Ragnar, he's not my -.'

'Later, we'll discuss everything later. They are not far behind, we must leave here. Now!'

Within minutes they were on the move, Ragnar leading them into the thick woods and well away from the tracks more frequently used by travellers. Raising her eyes to the grey skies, Sam whispered a silent prayer that the elements were not against them this day. Now her eyes were glued to Jack who moved with weak determination through the thick growth. Eventually Sam had to take the lead to slash away at the dense foliage blocking their way, saving her C.O. from the more strenuous activity. Still she noticed signs that he was not faring well though he himself spoke no words to indicate this.

'We'll stop for a break.'

Jack did not bother to raise his head. 'Keep moving,' he muttered.

Sam met Ragnar's eyes hoping for support.

'I know a good place just a little further,' said the older woman, rummaging in her large tote bag. She produced a brown looking leaf and held it out to O'Neal. 'Here, chew on this.'

Jack drew away from the offering eyeing it suspiciously, but Ragnar was insistent and pushed it between his lips. 'It will allow your body relief from its exertions even as you carry them out. Dare to discard that and you will feel the bite of my companion.' Sam's eyes widened in alarm as Ragnar waved her walking stick under Jack's nose eliciting a roll of dark, brown eyes. Chew!' She watched Jack closely to ensure he did not spit her precious medicine out.

As realization hit her, Sam's eyes grew even larger and the hint of a smile touched her lips. 'Col., I think you've just been given the equivalent of cannabis.'

Jack chewed, vaguely, aware of a lightening effect on his body and a lessening of the cutting pain in his side.

'Just don't expect me to roll you a joint when we get to this place.'

Having missed his dry sense of humour, Sam's smile grew.

They had to cross many paths as they followed Ragnar and, at those times, they were extra cautious. Twice they had seen troops of Goa'uld marching in formation and stayed well hidden beneath the undergrowth until the way was clear for them to cross.

Having learned from Ragnar that they had come for slaves to work the mines in some faraway place, it was imperative that their presence be well hidden at all cost.

She would never have spotted the hidden entrance if she hadn't been following Ragnar. It was so well concealed by lethal pronged bushes and trees that, for a moment, she wondered why Ragnar was so intent on taking such an arduous route. Carefully, the blue smocked woman used a broken branch to sweep away their footprints, erasing all evidence of their destination behind the thick growth.

The cold, dark, dripping walls of the tunnel were a welcome relief after the humid heat and, eventually they gave way to a small cave, with a labyrinth of tunnels leading off. They followed Ragnar as best they could, stumbling in the dark and then, suddenly, the elder woman was heard striking a flint and a torch of flames was lit revealing yet another cave-like room. This particular one had the appearance of being lived in; there were pallets with blankets laid out against one side and barrels of various sizes on the opposite wall.

As Ragnar lit more torches around the cavernous walls, Sam turned back to Jack alarmed at his flushed features and carefully led him over to one of the pallets feeling the clamminess of his skin beneath her fingers.

As she helped him lie down she offered words of encouragement with softly spoken words, 'Take a rest, sir. Sleep now and you'll soon start to feel better.'

He sank down with a half repressed groan escaping his lips, too tired to even remove his none military issue forage cap. Sam did the honours then pulled some blankets over him as he closed his eyes on the rest of the world..

'Give me half an hour,' he muttered and passed out.

Aware that Ragnar was moving purposely round the cave, Sam turned her attention reluctantly to the woman who was looking in barrels and closed jars.

'No one has been here for some time – I had been hoping others would have sought sanctuary here. The serpents must have taken so many.' Her voice sounded despondent – the first time Sam has seen her reveal such negative thoughts. She nodded her head in Jack's direction.

'How is he?'

Sam's brow furrowed in concern. 'Not good. I'm to wake him in a little while. He'll want to go over our position and will reconnoitre this place.

'Do you doubt I would bring you to this place if it were not safe?' Ragnar demanded crossly, throwing up her head in disgust. 'No serpents know of this place – there is no need for your - what is the word? – reconnoitre. Nor will he be in a fit state to do such a thing.' Again, Ragnar shook her head at Sam so that the younger woman ducked her head as if back at school, being given a stern rebuke by a disgruntled mistress.

'We don't doubt your word, Ragnar, please don't misunderstand us. It's just… it's our way. It's how we do things.'

'Do things. Hah! For such a people with advanced healing dressings, you are very slow in understanding your bodies' needs.'

And throwing off her cape, she lay it carefully down beside her bag.

'Your mate is to rest - if his body is to heal he must have respite.'

Not that again! Once more Sam's brows rose high when she heard how Ragnar referred to Jack.

'Ragnar, please, he is not my mate, I don't -.'

'You have no feelings for him?' Ragnar stopped emptying her bag, her grey eyes boring into Sam who could feel the blood rising in her face.

'No, I…I mean yes, but it isn't -.' Oh God!

'Enough!' sighed Ragnar, 'I have no time for your play of words. I see what I see – it tells me all I need to know.'

Sam blinked in astonishment for the moment lost for words.

'I will make him comfortable and then I will try and find the Shaman.'

'Shaman? Who is this Shaman?'

'Our healer. This journey has drained your m-an.'

Sam could see Ragnar was quite pleased with her correction though to Sam it implied very much the same connotation. She frowned but did not feel she could correct Ragnar again, and left it at that, concentrating now on finding out more on this healer.

'I do not know if my healing ways will be enough. We will see, but,' and now Ragnar's features visibly brightened, 'we have the healing waters.' She stooped over the recumbent figure, touched his forehead once more and straightened, rubbing her back and sighing.

'Healing waters?' She knew she sounded sceptical and wondered if she was getting too much like her C.O.

'Yes, come while he sleeps, I will show you.'

Taking one of the lit torches, Ragnar led Sam deeper within the maze of tunnels, never hesitating when the way diverged into two or three paths. Eventually Sam could hear a force of water falling, the sound echoing like an ocean's tide just as they entered another cavern where one side appeared to be a waterfall.

'It's amazing!' Sam stood still staring up trying to see where the water was coming from and to where it was escaping.

Ragnar had already started filling some pots and passed two to Sam to help carry.

'Hmm, it's good,' Sam brushed at the drops dripping from her chin.

'Of course – it is holy….Now come, before your O'Neill awakes and loses himself in this place.'

The thought had the effect of making Sam's face fall and she quickly followed, urging Ragnar on when she'd caught her up.

Her relief was evident when she set eyes on her C.O. even though he had awoken and started to explore the cave he was in.

When he turned away from the barrels he'd been examining to face them his voice sounded weak and petulant even to his own ears. 'Where've you two been?'

'Reconnoitring,' answered Ragnar rather proudly – the new vocabulary tripping off her tongue. 'And you shouldn't be on your feet.'

His eyes narrowed and his lips tightened as he stared at Sam not registering the older woman's words, so once Ragnar had relieved herself of the bowls she turned back to Jack with a determined glint in her eyes which made the colonel hesitate for just a second before he addressed his 2IC.

'What are our options, Captain?' He tried ignoring the resolute woman standing before him but she took a firm grip on his elbow and led him back to the makeshift bed.

'Your options,' replied Ragnar, giving Sam no chance to speak, 'are to do as you are told. You will lie down and rest,' she ordered sternly, her exasperation beginning to show.

Ignoring her orders, Jack attempted to shrug out of her hold turning back to Sam. 'I asked you a question, Captain.' His voice had taken on a sharp edge but it was as if Ragnar had never heard him speak.

Gently she tugged on his jacket lapel. 'Why don't you lie down before you fall down, my son?'

Rubbing a hand across his stubbled jaw, Jack willed himself to stay on his feet, irritation clear on his face. 'One, I'll decide when I'm ready to rest and two, I'm not your son!' He knew he was being juvenile but was too tired and in too much pain to care very much.

'Is your mate always this difficult and disobedient?'

'Excuse me?' Jack's raised brow would have done Teal'c justice as he turned from Ragnar back to Sam. 'What did she say?'

Oh no! 'Colonel, I think-.' Desperate to change the subject, Sam would dearly have wished to be anywhere but where she was right now, but Ragnar gave her no further chance.

'You commitment to your duty is commendable, Jack O'Neill, Colonel, but I believe your mother, if no one else,' and here she looked pointedly at Sam, 'would approve my tenacity.'

And without hesitation she gave the injured man a slight push which, under normal circumstances, would have had little or no effect, but in his weakened condition he was pole axed.

He cursed heavily under his breath, disgusted by his own weakness, as Ragnar dropped to her knees beside him.

'You have no need to hold back O'Neill. I've heard far worse from the mouths of females about to give birth.'

Ignoring his pain and not unhappy to teach him a lesson, she raised Jack's shirt and ripped off the dressing paying no attention to his hissing protest.

'If you insist on acting like a child I'll have no hesitation in treating you like one - as you should know well,' she whispered, suitably pleased to see his eyes widen warily. Even so it didn't prevent him attempting to sit up; Ragnar pushed him firmly back, snorting in exasperation and mumbling under her breath about ill disciplined men with more brawn than brains.

Her hands, however, were gentle as she inspected his side and when she'd finished she lay a hand on his forehead and cheeks wiping away his sweat and tears.

Kneeling next to Ragnar, Sam had watched her every move and having taken hold of one of Jack's clenched hands she bit her lower lip to stop herself crying out, so hard was the intensity of the man's grip. She took over bathing Jack's face once Ragnar had finished and Jack had relinquished his hold.

'We must repeat the cleaning using the water we've collected, and I must make a new mixture for him to take.'

Jack shook his head weakly from side to side, unable to contemplate again the horrors of the treatment Ragnar was suggesting.

Go to Part 3