Circle

Suns pounding relentlessly on his bare back and chest, Jack stopped to check on his injured companion. It had been an easy choice to make: rig the travois with a protective tent made of his jacket and T-shirt, or let Daniel bake. Given the archaeologist was already feverish from the huge and now probably infected gash on his side, he didn't want to take any unnecessary chances. Of course when he'd stripped to the waist he hadn't expected the second and third suns, which hadn't appeared until midday. Within minutes of their rising, he could feel his body temperature shoot up and his skin start to burn. Standard issue sunblock didn't appear to work against the rays at all, what little likely remained on his skin. He'd probably sweated it off hours ago, and he was beginning to get concerned about developing at least second degree burns. Setting the makeshift travois down on the ground, he crouched next to it and peered underneath the tent. Daniel's face was alarming pallid, two bright spots of unnatural red coloring his cheeks. Sweat soaked his hair and shirt, but Jack couldn't tell if it was from the fever or the just the heat from the suns. At least the cloth seemed to be blocking the harmful rays, his friend's slightly exposed side maintaining its pale complexion.
To completely understate the situation, they were in trouble. With a capital T. Jack took off his boonie, wrung the sweat out of it and shook his head ferociously. The salty droplets landed on the hard ground with hisses, providing needless proof of the heat. The old adage of frying an egg on the sidewalk on a hot day sprang to mind, and he vowed to never again complain about the heat on Earth. He jammed the hat back on, reaching for his canteen. There wasn't much water left, and they still had five miles to go before they reached the Stargate. He just hoped it wouldn't be too late.
A quick brush across Daniel's forehead made him frown deeply. Heat was radiating from the younger man, his clothes as drenched as Jack's own. He tilted the canteen to Daniel's lips, prying them open with his left hand. Water trickled from the container and dribbled down his chin. He quickly swiped at the moisture, dampening his fingers. Patting the archaeologist's cheeks with his slightly cooled hand, he sneaked a look at the wound causing the fever. He hadn't seen it coming; had gotten careless. Hell, neither of them had even been wearing their vests to provide a glint of protection from that warthog, reeking, monster thing. It had headed right for Daniel. Lifted him high into the air. Too late. He'd shot the beast but it had been too late. More of them had come from out of the ruins, heaving and snorting, with a strange green-brown goo coating their tusks. Nothing he could do but gather Daniel into a fireman's carry and run like hell.
Ran for at least two miles before he realized they weren't being chased, fueled by adrenalin and Daniel's moans. Had been lucky enough to have been holding his canteen and wearing a GDO but not lucky enough to grab anything else. No rations, no radios. No way to get help to them, so he had to bring them...him...to help. Jack shook his head, angrily expelling the replaying memories from it. It sure as hell wouldn't do him any good to dwell on thing he couldn't change. He'd made a critical error in splitting the team, and Daniel was paying for it. But he wouldn't allow his friend to pay the ultimate price. Worry about Daniel's, and his own, situation prompted him to wonder if Carter and Teal'c were all right. Something like this might have happened to them and he'd have no way of knowing.
Gathering himself, Jack took a tiny sip and capped the canteen. There wouldn't be enough to last the rest of the way, especially not when every step was sucking more and more energy out of him. Carter had guessed a day to be approximately thirty hours on this lovely resort and spa known as PR7 601. He wasn't sure but he'd be willing to bet those extra six hours were all daylight, which meant there was still a good four hours left to suffer. They didn't have that long and he knew it.
Again, he was choiceless. He needed to cover himself at least partially if he wanted to cling to the insane hope of getting them out of this. Giving up was not an option. Sizing up the shirt-tent, he thought he could keep Daniel's head and shoulders mostly covered using only his jacket. The younger man's clothing kept the rest of him reasonably protected, though Jack feared the fever was only being worsened by keeping him fully clothed. What he needed was shade and a way to cool Daniel down. Looking across the barren landscape, he had little hope of that. The only indication of habitation had been at the ruins site and around it's perimeters. Once he'd realized the creatures had lost interest, Jack had set Daniel down, futzing with the dead and petrifying trees, using the sturdiest branches he could find to construct the sled in which the younger man now lay. They never should have come to this planet. He'd been stupid to bring his team here.
Tearing angrily at the black T-shirt, he yanked it toward him. The jacket also fluttered down, exposing Daniel's face to the bright light. He didn't react at all to the change, and Jack swallowed. The T-shirt was so hot against his skin as he tugged it over his head that he got gooseflesh. Ignoring the discomfort, he quickly secured the jacket back over his friend and checked his surroundings one more time.
Everything blurred for a second. He closed his eyes, trying to give them moisture his body no longer seemed to be able to produce. When he opened them, clarity returned. He blinked, unsure what he was seeing was real. Standing, his stomach lurched as the world shifted. He blinked again. There. What was that? It looked...it looked like water. A lake. In the middle of a wasteland? Confused and excited at the same time, Jack latched onto the bier and headed for salvation.


"Should we not first return to the SGC to obtain protective gear, Major Carter?" Teal'c reasoned, eyeing his friend and teammate with concern. The unanticipated rising of two additional suns sparked immediate trepidation in the young major, and himself if he were truthful. Having been stranded on a planet with similar environmental conditions, both knew how dire it was to get home. It had been unfortunate they had been so far from the Stargate but they had made their journey back with relative ease, spurred by worry. Even so, he could see her fair skin beginning to blister. "It will do O'Neill and Daniel Jackson no good if we were to perish in an attempt to locate them."
Giving in to impulse, he stepped toward the pacing major and halted her movement with a sure hand on her arm. Startled blue eyes gaped back at him, her surprise transmuting into fear. Fear for their teammates. Upon the first sun's appearance, Major Carter had initiated radio contact with O'Neill, briefly explaining the immediate need for retreat through the Stargate. In the minutes of silence that had followed, Teal'c glimpsed a moment of panic cross the features of his companion. His own agitation had increased after repeated attempts to contact their friends failed, numerous scenarios had played through his mind. O'Neill was not one to ignore protocol. It had been apparent there was something wrong and so prompted, they had traveled as quickly as the heat permitted.
One matter which now bore a large weight on his mind was the possibility they would be unable to return for their missing friends. Their previous experience on such a world had proven it unlikely any amount of protection would be futile against such strong heat and radiation. Already, they had stayed too long. General Hammond would not permit Major Carter's presence on a rescue mission. Should he authorize such a mission at all.
"Just a few more minutes, Teal'c. I can't...we can't," Major Carter stuttered, clearly distraught at the choice which lay before her. She understood quite well the consequences of leaving PR7 601, Teal'c realized. She bleakly looked at him, then averted here eyes westward. The direction of the ruins at which they knew O'Neill and Daniel Jackson had reached. He also searched the landscape as she continued with uncertain certainty, "They'll come back. We just have to give them a little more time. You know those two. Always coming through in a pinch."
Although Teal'c wanted to believe the same, he could not. Reality made itself known all around them. No living thing could survive this atmosphere for long periods of time. This had obviously not always been the case but the facts now spoke only of desolation and death. He gave Major Carter another perusal. Their trek had been approximately half the distance O'Neill and Daniel Jackson had to journey, and she was exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion and definite burning. He could not allow her to remain planetside for more than one hour.
"Contacting the SGC for supplies and to inform General Hammond of the situation would be wise," he gently stated. The true level of her distress could be measured in the fact she had not already come to this conclusion. Teal'c narrowed his eyes as she noticeably stiffened. Or perhaps she had reached it, and rejected it for fear the general would order them to return. It was indeed likely he would do precisely that. Against his better judgment, he decided not to pursue the issue. His own fear for their friends acted against the stoic logic upon which he normally relied. Still, when it reached the point her health was also in jeopardy, he would have to insist they leave. "Major Carter, I would not recommend our stay here to exceed one more hour."
Knowing eyes turned to look at him again, filled with gratitude and increasing worry. She said nothing, only giving him a brief nod before turning back to watch the horizon. Teal'c watched her for a few seconds, saw her hand reach halfway to her radio twice and drop down. There was no way to determine what had happened to O'Neill and Daniel Jackson, and he feared they would never know. That perhaps was the most unbearable aspect of this situation; to never know whether any action on their part could save their friends, or to wonder forever if they were still alive. To cling to unreasonable hope.
Dark thoughts invaded his brain, pushing hope out with every passing minute. He and Major Carter stood side by side in silence, waiting. Waiting for an ending which would not be happy. Teal'c shook his head, angry with himself for succumbing to negativity. His companion was not wrong to hang onto that hope. O'Neill and Daniel Jackson had proven resiliency many times in the past. He must let go of the dread building in him. By some way or means, his friends would survive. He had to believe that.


Another fifteen minutes, that's all the time they had left. She knew Teal'c was right; could feel the damage the suns were inflicting upon her but she just couldn't give up on them. Neither the colonel nor Daniel would abandon her, not if there was still a chance. No matter how slight. Eyes never straying from their important watch, Sam paced. Energy should be conserved, but the action was automatic and vital. Kept her sane while her mind roiled. She knew the chances of survival were growing impossibly slim, especially considering it was likely one or both of them had sustained some type of injury. Her overactive imagination fed her many 'what-if' scenes, each one more gruesome than the last. Images of death.
Never should have happened. They should have anticipated the presence of multiple suns. Hell, she herself had estimated the length of the day and had commented on the lack of life. How could she have missed something so crucial? The colonel and Daniel were out in this because of her stupidity. Even without injury, they'd never make it back to the Stargate. Eight miles with those goddamn rays beating down. God, she wished they still had radio contact. Hope was fading and she really needed some sort of sign. She violently brought her canteen to her lips, choking a mouthful of water that tasted like sand. Sam closed her eyes tightly, madly wishing when she opened them she'd see her friends' silhouettes in the distance. Snorting softly, she opened them. Nothing. There was no way they could have survived this long. Her friends were dead.
Inching her left hand up to her radio, Sam thought to try and raise them one last time. Maybe something had happened within one of the ancient structures. Maybe they had both been unconscious within the relative safety and shade of a building. Maybe...no. She had to stop deluding herself. It was time to go home, half a team. Half a family. She shakily sighed, lifting her hand up to shade her eyes more than her sunglasses and boonie could. Searching for ghosts. Finding nothing but lifeless, tan landscape. She let her arm go limp, swinging it haphazardly down to her side.
Every part of her body and soul crying in misery, Sam turned away at last. Moving soundlessly past Teal'c, she focused on the DHD with a heavy lump in her stomach. Shock was protecting her from the worst of the emotional pain, numbing her mind so she progressed in a haze. She began inputting the chevrons for Earth, moving as if under water. She had not made it to the third symbol when a dark hand clasped hers urgently. Startled, she looked up into Teal'c's equally stunned eyes. He deliberately looked away, and she followed his gaze. There. Was it...oh God, it was! She forgot her task and her exhaustion, running toward the wavering, dusty figure and the sled he was dragging.
Laughing with slight hysteria, the colonel was shaking his head as she and Teal'c approached. He looked awful. Vibrant red colored all visible skin, lips were cracked and brown with dried blood. He was barely able to stand but kept walking, not even acknowledging their existence. She touched his arm, scared out of her mind at the reaction she might receive. He jerked to a stop, mumbling unintelligibly. Rather than looking at her, the colonel gently set down the travois and lifted the jacket protecting Daniel's unmoving form. She gasped at the sight, horrified to see a large cut on the archaeologist's side, infection obvious even without close inspection. Unable to tell if he was even still breathing, she leaned over, again placing her hand on her CO. He flickered his gaze to her, eyes hidden by sunglasses. His lips moved, so she bent closer.
"Truth? Are you real? Real...before saw you not real. Real?" he pitifully croaked. Sam swallowed and nodded, trying to think what she could do to prove it. He kept talking, disregarding everything except Daniel. "Not. Can't be. Danny, so sorry. Couldn't tried my fault. Should have killed it killed you me. Dead. Sorry sorry."
Even before the last word wrenched from his lips, he was collapsing. Sam lunged to catch him at the same instant as Teal'c. He fell through her arms into the Jaffa's. Without thought, they were moving. She took her CO's previous position, tugging the travois closer to the 'gate, heart beating faster than she thought possible. They were going home, all of them. A little rough around the edges...hell, a lot rough around the edges. But alive.
Alive and together.


Light assaulted dark, gradually but resolutely dispelling the shadows. Memories filtered though, fragmented and nonsensical. Pain. Insufferable heat. Jack's voice accompanied by frequent grunts of exertion. Rocking back and forth. Fire burning into and through him. Slowly, Daniel realized none of those things existed any longer. He was warm but not uncomfortably so and vestiges of pain teased but did not stab. Confusion increased as he tried to figure out where he was, how he had gotten there. Was he dead? Brow furrowing, he thought he remembered Jack saying they were dead. He didn't feel dead. Could smell. Hear. Voices, not Jack's. Female. Wait...Jack!
Cracking his eyes open in panic, Daniel was greeted by the relieved face of Sam Carter. She smiled reassuringly at him and turned her head away, calling to someone. He paid no attention, instead tried to raise his shoulders off of the bed. Infirmary? Of course. But where was Jack? Soft, firm hands pushed him back down and began poking and prodding. Irritated, he tried to worm away, eyes still seeking Jack. Voices told him to calm down, that everything was all right. He didn't believe them. Would only believe it if he could see for himself. Frustrated, he opened his mouth to ask for what he needed, surprised when only a raspy croak sounded. Sudden warmth flowed through him, his muscles relaxing through some unnatural force. He gave up, faded into black again.
Awakening for the second time proved easier. Daniel floated down, opened his eyes slowly and saw Teal'c towering at his bedside. Vaguely remembering the struggles from before, he muddily thought he should try another approach. He blinked as a female voice called for Doctor Fraiser. Sam? He tilted his head weakly, taking in her figure on the other side of him. Her skin was tinged pink, blisters covering her nose, cheeks and lips. Frowning, he lifted his uncooperative hand to touch her face. She captured it and put it back down, still saying nothing. Her eyes spoke. Oh...it had been bad. Very...where was Jack?
Nodding, Daniel licked dry lips. Instantly, Sam reached for a glass, dipping her fingers in it to withdraw ice chips and placed them to his mouth. Gratefully, he sucked on them until he thought he could speak. The hoarseness of his voice still caught him off guard. "What happened? Jack?"
"Daniel, you cut it too close this time," Sam began, pausing when a nurse butted in to check his reading and...ow. He looked down to find himself bare chested, a substantial gauze bandage covering his torso. That creature. Whatever it was. He reflexively shuddered, then tore his eyes away as the nurse peeled back the wrapping. Sam continued, moving slightly to allow him to see the sleeping figure of Jack O'Neill in the adjacent bed. "We're not really sure what happened, to be honest. Both you and the colonel have been delirious for a couple of days. It seems obvious, though, that you had a run in with some type of indigenous life. Your wound was massively infected. Almost killed you..." she trailed off, skin paling even under the sunburn. Daniel fumbled for her hand, wanting to tell her he was okay. She nodded. "The colonel wasn't injured but he pushed himself so hard to get back to the 'gate he's severely dehydrated and had heat stroke. Plus second degree burns over his back and chest."
Sinking back into the pillow, Daniel relaxed into the lethargy. He blinked sluggishly at her, regretful for the anxiety still haunting her eyes. Doctor Fraiser appeared over his shoulder, identical expression of relieved concern coloring her face as she gently slid closer to him. Checking him over, she said nothing and allowed the silence to remain hanging over the area. He turned to see Teal'c watching her every move, deceptively neutral. Bobbing his head at his friends, he struggled to find words to comfort them.
"All right," he whispered and waited for Teal'c to bow his head in acceptance. It wasn't nearly enough but it was a start. Even with only portions of the story told, Daniel understood what he and Sam must have gone through. He looked to her, squeezing the hand which still held tightly onto his. Purposely looking to Jack's sleeping form, he said. "We're all okay now."
More needed to be said but he could feel the tug of sleep pulling at him. He closed his eyes and found he was unable to open them again. In the haze before slumber, Daniel heard his friends begin speaking softly. Words of reassurance and comfort. Of family. When he woke, he'd find them still there and find Jack back with them. Knowing that, Daniel slept.
fin

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.