Title: One Step from Home

Chapter 1

The first moment he was aware anything was wrong, the flash flew so close to his face he thought it had singed his eyebrows. Then the air was filled with the sound of firing staff weapons and the returning fire of P-90s. Daniel, who'd been about to dial home, went flat to the ground as shot after shot spit fire around him, hitting the DHD and throwing dirt into the air. He pulled out his sidearm and lifted his head only to see what must have been two dozen Jaffa approaching from the tree line. He couldn't recognize the tattoos. Who were they and where the hell had they come from? As another staff burst came whizzing past, he pushed his face back into the dirt.
Jack started screaming at him to “Dial it up, Daniel. Dial it up!” He turned his head to his left and saw Sam and Teal'c by an outcrop of rocks, where they'd stopped to collect a last sample, taking on fire and shooting back relentlessly, Sam half hidden behind the rocks and Teal'c standing imperviously in the open as if he had some kind of personal shield. Without looking behind him, Daniel knew Jack had no cover. He shimmied to the other side of the DHD and pulled himself into a crouch, trying to make himself as small as possible, then reached up to start hitting the symbols with his left hand, his right still clutching his Berretta. Another staff blast came so close he felt the burn on his neck and he gasped, but he kept “dialing” until the woosh of the event horizon burst forth. He turned to Jack to wave him forward, and this time he felt the impact before he saw the flash and was thrown back against the ground hard enough to jar his bones and knock the breath from his body. His left arm shot bolts of pain to his shoulder. Shit, shit, shit, he thought, I'm hit, I'm hit.

Daniel looked toward Jack and saw him running forward. He rolled over and pushed himself awkwardly to his knees, his wounded arm hanging uselessly at his side, and searched wildly for his sidearm, which he'd felt fly from his hand when he hit the ground. He grabbed it and started firing toward the oncoming Jaffa, even though he knew they were too far away, joining Teal'c and Sam in covering Jack as he crouched and moved toward Daniel. And then Jack was down, not moving, just a few yards away, smoke rising from the wound in his back.

Without registering it, Daniel heard the simultaneous shouts of “Colonel!” and “O'Neill!” Daniel struggled to his feet, his breath coming in great gasps of panic and pain, the world spinning sickeningly around him, and stumbled toward Jack. God, he couldn't tell if he was alive or dead. He holstered his gun and hauled Jack up onto his back with his good arm, adrenaline giving him strength he didn't know he had, and started carrying his friend toward the shimmering gate. Jacks legs dragged behind him, and Daniel shuffled forward in what he knew was a ridiculous parody of a run. He looked back toward Sam and Teal'c, hoping they were right behind him, but they were still by the rocks, both standing now without protection, firing toward the fast approaching line of Jaffa. Without looking at him, Sam shouted over the din, “Go, Daniel, go!”

In what seemed like an eternity but he knew was only minutes since he'd felt the first blast, Daniel and Jack were in front of the event horizon. Daniel paused and looked again to check on his teammates and saw Sam and Teal'c, now backing toward them, still maybe fifteen feet away, firing without pause. Two of the Jaffa surged forward and were downed by their confident shots. Daniel felt that little shock, not for the first time, at the soldiers' ability to function when facing chaos and danger. And for a moment, as he turned to take that last step, he allowed himself to think that they might just make it. “Thank, God,” he thought, and then, “Please, Jack, be O.K.” But before he could raise his foot he heard a loud shout and a bellow of pain. And Sam's voice.

“Teal'c!”

--------------------------(Teal'c)--------------------

O'Neill and I became aware that something was amiss at the same moment. As Captain Carter attempted to attain another sample of the dry soil, a movement in the trees caught my attention. I raised my weapon and saw O'Neill, who was in the open approximately seven meters behind the DHD, do the same. Captain Carter, ever the vigilant soldier, tensed at my movement, stood and brought her weapon to bear, looking in the same direction. “Teal'c?” she queried.

It was then that a staff blast shot from the woods barely missing Daniel Jackson as he stood ready to “dial home,” as the Tau'ri put it. I was able to kill the offender. However he was immediately replaced by many other Jaffa marching forward and firing on our positions. Their tattoos were oddly obscured, and I was not able to determine whom they served. I counted 17, with others, still hidden behind the trees, approaching. We were badly outnumbered, but we were fortunate that on this planet the area immediately surrounding the Stargate was isolated and desolate, not affording the Jaffa an opportunity for cover elsewhere. Therefore they approached from only one direction.

However, that same desolate landscape provided little protection for my teammates. Daniel Jackson was on the ground, weapon drawn but not firing, staring toward the oncoming enemy. At O'Neill's command he rose to his knees and began pressing the symbols on the DHD so we might escape. At that moment several of the Jaffa focused their attentions on Daniel Jackson, and O'Neill, whose only cover was the dry long grass, crouched on one knee, firing back. Captain Carter had moved behind the outcrop of rocks near our position and was steadily firing as well. I stood before the rocks, as that was the superior position from which to destroy as many of the enemy as possible.

I sometimes fear that my time with the Tau'ri has made me less of a warrior. Where I could once do battle without emotion, I now find myself, on occasion, distracted by concern for my teammates. Emotion is fatal to a warrior and to the cause of his “god”; it is an early and oft-repeated lesson for a young Jaffa. Now that I fight for my own cause, along with those to whom I have pledged loyalty and friendship, I find I sometimes act precipitously, forgetting my early training. On this day, however, at that moment, I was able to push aside those concerns. The sounds around me faded, my mind became sharper, I saw only targets. The actions of my teammates were but part of an intricate pattern that shifted as conditions changed. The staff blasts arching toward me were insignificant flashes of light.

I believe O'Neill has referred to this phenomenon, when I have spoken of it in the past, as being in “the zone.”

I was aware of Daniel Jackson hitting the last symbol and the Stargate flashing to life. Captain Carter and I continued to provide cover to afford Daniel Jackson and O'Neill time to move for the gate and safety. As O'Neill was the most exposed, I concentrated on the Jaffa closest to his position. When Daniel Jackson suddenly rose and turned toward O'Neill, I shifted my attention toward my young teammate, but I fear I was not fast enough. He was struck and thrown to the ground. O'Neill dropped his pack and began to move toward Daniel Jackson quickly and, I believe, without sufficient caution. Captain Carter clambered over the rocks to stand beside me, and we both fired continuously against the oncoming enemy. We struck down many Jaffa, but there were too many to successfully stop. Their return fire increased in intensity, surrounding all of us with heat and blinding flashes. Captain Carter jerked back as a blast singed her arm, but she regained her stance and continued firing. She was close enough to me that, even above the deafening noise of weapons fire and the screams of wounded Jaffa, I could hear her shout of dismay when we saw O'Neill fall. I felt concern begin to gnaw at me, and my symbiote writhed nervously. I slowed my breathing and focused my concentration in an attempt to return to “the zone.” I do not believe I was successful, and for this I take responsibility for much that followed.

Daniel Jackson ran forward to aid O'Neill. He reached the colonel and, unmindful of his own injury, pulled the larger man onto his back and began to drag him toward the gate. I heard Captain Carter urge him on, while she and I continued to provide cover. We moved into position between the two and the oncoming Jaffa and began backing toward the Stargate. Several Jaffa broke forth from their line and ran toward us firing. Captain Carter and I dispatched them easily, but I knew it for the diversionary tactic it was. I looked quickly behind me, fearful that other of the enemy might have somehow gotten past us to endanger our injured teammates, and saw Daniel Jackson and Colonel O'Neill at the gate. I realized my mistake at that moment, but I was too late. A Jaffa rose before us from the long grass, and as I shouted a warning, he fired his weapon. I felt a searing pain in my abdomen, and then I knew no more.

 

Chapter 2

--------(Sam)----------

When Teal'c went down, I knew it was over. There was no way I could get Teal'c to the Gate and defend us both against the enemy. And there was no way I was leaving him. We were going to die here, on this meaningless planet, thousands of light years from the people we loved, thousands of light years from the worlds we cared about. And no one outside SGC would ever know, would ever understand how or why we died. At least Daniel was safe. In my gut I knew that Jack . . . that Colonel O'Neill was already dead from the smoking wound in his back. I wondered, briefly, if the colonel, Teal'c and I would all meet soon in whatever afterlife exists.

I cut down the bastard Jaffa who had shot Teal'c and turned my P-90 on two others approaching from the left. I went down on my right knee and kept firing. The air was thick with the stink of blood and fear and the metallic ozone smell of the firing staff weapons. My right arm pulsed from the hit I'd taken earlier. Teal'c lay still, it seemed barely breathing, on the ground at my feet. I squinted toward the tree line to see what more we were facing, but my eyes stung with sweat and grit and I could barely see 30 feet. What did it matter? We had stopped so many, and yet they kept coming. The humanitarian part of me, the part that Daniel was always telling me to listen to, wondered why I should keep killing, spilling the blood of Jaffa slaves who didn't know they had a choice to stop, when I was going to die anyway. But, and I'm not proud of this, the soldier in me wanted to take as many with me as I could, to punish them for killing Teal'c, for killing the colonel, for killing me. And then there was that little voice, the one yelling in my ear in the angry tones of Jack O'Neill himself, to keep going. “Don't you quit, Captain,” it ordered. “Don't you ever give up!”

So, laying down one last spray of bullets, I let my weapon hang and reached down to grab Teal'c under his arms. As I struggled to rise, I found myself spun around by a sudden impact on my side and fell to the ground. I felt and smelled my own flesh burn, and had a sudden surge of nausea, but I got back to my knees again. Just a flesh wound, I told myself, just another flesh wound, and almost started to giggle, even as I was shaking from the pain and shock. I thought I heard weapons' fire from behind me, but I knew I was hallucinating. “Damn you, Colonel,” I yelled at the voice in my head. “Can I quit now?” But instead I went again to reach for Teal'c. And then another impact came, but not from the front. Something banged hard into my back, knocking me forward onto Teal'c. I gasped and cursed my luck. They'd gotten behind us. It really was all over.

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

Daniel heard Sam scream Teal'c's name, and he felt a chill go through him. They'd been so close! Still trying to catch his breath and almost sick from the pain, he pulled back from the event horizon and lugged Jack around to look behind him, ducking in anticipation of the next staff blast. And there he saw what he'd known he'd see: Teal'c on the ground and Sam firing in his defense.

From the corner of his eye he saw a Jaffa take aim at him, and he dropped to the ground, dragging Jack with him, as two blasts went flying through the Gate above them. Daniel closed his eyes and swallowed a sob. He was so spent that Sam and Teal'c might as well have been miles away instead of just yards, and he really didn't think he could do it, he really didn't think so, but he knew he was going to try, or die trying. With a brief, “Sorry, Jack,” whispered in his friend's ear, he pushed the colonel into the event horizon (“Goodbye, Jack, soft landing,” he prayed), and then, in the one maneuver that he had excelled at in training—probably because it didn't involve killing or hurting anyone—he ducked, rolled away from the Stargate and came up running.

Unfortunately, just that effort was almost more than his stressed body could take. Miraculously, at least to his own sluggish mind, Daniel remembered to pull his Beretta from its holster. “Shoot,” he told himself. “Shoot your damn gun,” so he did, but he really had no idea if he was even coming close to hitting anyone. He set his gaze on Teal'c and Sam, who had started shifting strangely in and out of focus, and pushed himself forward. They seemed so far away and so . . .

Daniel tried to stop himself as he ran headlong into Sam's back, crashing down on top of her and knocking her onto Teal'c. The air rushed from his lungs and he thought his shoulder was being ripped from his body. Sam screamed and pushed him off her as if his weight were nothing, turning on him in fury. She raised her P-90 above her head to strike him, and he was certain she couldn't even see him. He lifted the one arm he could still move to try to protect his face and screamed back, “Sam! Sam! It's me!” She blinked and stared and lowered her gun. “Daniel?” she asked, sounding stunned, but before he could answer a Jaffa rose up behind her and Daniel, for once without thinking, turned his own weapon, still clutched in his hand above his head, and shot the man point-blank in the head.

“Oh, God,” a tiny voice wailed in his head, “Oh, God,” and then at Sam's orders they were moving again, Daniel and Sam both dragging Teal'c up, Daniel taking most of Teal'c's weight as Sam fired again at the Jaffa. Teal'c didn't move or even groan, and if it weren't for the slight rise and fall of his chest, Daniel would have been certain that he was gone. Daniel heard Sam shout to him about Jack, and he realized she hadn't seen him go through the Gate. “Home,” he told her, clamping down again on his fear that Jack had died even before he'd shoved him through. At his answer, Sam nodded briefly once and turned and took more of Teal'c's weight. “C'mon, now! Run!” she shouted. Daniel, too dazed to think for himself and for once happy to have an order to follow, shifted his grasp on Teal'c and started to move in step with Sam back toward the Gate. Teal'c's weight pulled at him, and he felt the renewed stabs of pain in his shoulder. It was so much worse than before, he thought. Shouldn't he have been past the pain by now? His vision started to dance around him, and he heard a strange rushing sound, and he wasn't sure he was really running, but then they were at the Gate. They were at the Gate! He and Sam, with Teal'c hanging between them, moved to step into that insanely blue maw, and Daniel finally let go of a tiny sob of relief because they were going home. They were going home. But of course it never worked that way for them, did it, because as soon as he formed the thought, he felt the bolt crash into him, shredding the material of his pack and shredding and burning the flesh and muscle underneath.

And as he felt the odd disintegration that was the wormhole at work, he thought, “Ah, I'm dead.”

-------(Sam)------

I erupted in rage at the Jaffa crushing me beneath his weight, and letting loose a scream of anger and despair, I shoved him off, rolled over and raised my P-90 to smash his skull. I've talked to Marines who've said that they've been so far gone in combat that they have actually “seen red,” but I never really believed them, thinking it was just more male bravado, something my father might say to embellish a story, but then and there, I really saw red. It was like looking at the world through a rain of blood. I started to bring my weapon down hard when what I was hearing registered in my brain. The Jaffa was shouting, “Sam, Sam, it's me, it's me!” I stopped myself, and my vision cleared and I saw Daniel beneath me. Daniel? I gasped. Why the hell was Daniel here? Didn't he go through the Gate? Where was the colonel?

When I think now about what Daniel did, how he came back for us as hurt as he was and as hopeless as it seemed, I feel nothing but love and respect and sorrow. Of course Daniel could no more leave us behind than we could him. But at the time all I could think was, Damn, him, for being so foolish, for coming back to die.

Before I could voice any of this, Daniel was raising his gun and firing, and I had a flash of panic that he'd been infested by a Goa'uld and was going to kill me and then Teal'c. But he shot over my shoulder and I looked back to find the Jaffa he'd killed. And then the soldier in me kicked in again. I had two teammates to get back home now.

Ignoring the pain and exhaustion and grief in Daniel's eyes, I shouted to him to get up and help me with Teal'c. He just looked at me helplessly for a moment, and I shouted, “Daniel, now!” and then he began to move, and I started spraying bullets at the Jaffa who were almost at our position. I stopped to reload and asked what I'd feared to ask before. “Where's the colonel?” I shouted, but Daniel, struggling with Teal'c's weight, didn't answer. “The colonel?!” I yelled again, and I must have been a little crazed because even if Jack was dead, I wasn't leaving him here either, and Daniel, hearing me this time, tilted his head toward the event horizon and gasped, “Home!”

I shot again toward the Jaffa, causing two enemy soldiers to duck down and, I hoped, slowing the others enough to give us a chance. I turned, grabbed Teal'c around the waist, the burn at my side almost causing me to stumble, and told Daniel to run, and we dragged our wounded friend over the craggy ground to the Gate, both of us, I'm sure, expecting at any moment to die. But then we were at the Gate. I briefly wondered if I were already dying and dreaming this moment, I had been so sure we would never get here, that we were never going home. Home.

As we took that last step, I felt a sudden jerk and Teal'c was almost ripped from my grasp, pulling me sideways and forward. It's going to be a rough landing, was my last thought before I fell through, still holding onto Teal'c for dear life.

 

Chapter 3

-------(General Hammond)----

As commander of this base, I have people whose job it is to alert me to meeting times or other important events, but there are certain things a good commander never needs reminding of: I know when each and every team is scheduled to go off-world, where they are going, the potential dangers and benefits of the mission, and when they are scheduled to return home.

On this day SG-5 had returned from an otherwise uneventful exploratory mission to a planet that had turned up some interesting flora; Dr. Richards in Botany thought the plants might have important agricultural benefits on Earth. SG-9 was continuing trade negotiations on PX4-3589 and wasn't due back for several days; their last check-in was optimistic, indicating that the talks were proceeding nicely. And SG-1 was finishing a two-day mission to collect samples on PX7-4624, where Captain Carter believed there was evidence of large naquadah deposits. While I wasn't sure that this was the best use of my premier team's talents, Captain Carter had persuaded me that it was useful for her, if only for quality control reasons, to sometimes do the collecting of samples herself. Colonel O'Neill had given his assent with one of his typical irreverent remarks, something to the effect of, “Sure, let's do it. It will give me a chance to catch up on my comic book reading.”

I smiled at the memory and glanced at my watch. SG-1 was due back at any moment. The mission should have been a cakewalk, as the colonel might say, but with SG-1, well, you just never knew, so I decided to wander down to the Control Room to see them come home. Yes, I know, I sound like a nervous parent sometimes, but in some ways I really do think of all my people, and I'll admit, SG-1 in particular, as family. As I walked up behind Walter, the Gate began to turn. Walter grinned and glanced back at me, reading my thoughts. “Right on schedule, sir,” he reported. I sometimes think Walter worries even more than the rest of us.

The last chevron locked, and the vortex spilled out above the ramp. “Receiving IDC, sir. It's SG-1,” Walter confirmed with a satisfied nod of his head. I put my hands behind my back and relaxed. “Right on time,” I remember thinking. “That's a good sign.” And we waited for our people to come through.

And waited.

A full two minutes ticked by, and nothing happened, and I started getting a very bad feeling. I leaned into the microphone and, probably unnecessarily, ordered the guards on duty to “Stay alert, people.” They shifted some, and raised their weapons a bit higher. Another minute passed and another, and still we waited. I turned to Walter. “Anything?” “No, sir,” he responded, and I saw that his grin had been replaced by a small frown. “C'mon, Colonel,” I mumbled under my breath. Major Ferretti appeared at my side. “Another mother hen,” I might have joked under other circumstances, but this time I remained silent. “Ah, the colonel probably had them stop to take in a hockey game, General,” Ferretti wisecracked, hoping to take some of the tension out of the air, but I could only manage a weak grin. No, I could feel it. Something bad was happening. “Major,” I ordered, “Get more troops down here.”

As Major Ferretti went to comply with my order, two staff blasts flew through event horizon, one harmlessly striking a wall but the other knocking one of the guards, Sergeant Ozawa, off her feet. Walter hit the alarm without waiting for the order, and the klaxons sounded. “The iris, General?” he asked, the anxiety over my answer raising his voice a little. “Keep it open, Walter,” I ordered as I heard Ferretti shouting into the phone, “Reinforcements to the Gateroom, reinforcements to the Gateroom!” and “Medical team to the Gateroom!” He then turned to me and said, “I'm going down there, General.” I nodded my assent, but ordered him to have the injured woman, who was conscious but obviously in considerable pain, removed and the medical team wait at the crash doors. Ferretti saluted and stopped by the airman on duty, demanding his weapon. The young man shifted his eyes toward me before complying, since he was the only guard on duty in the Control Room and under strict orders to never surrender his weapon. I gave him a small nod, and he handed his weapon over. As the major well knew, two of the new troops would arrive in the Control Room in seconds.

Before that could happen, one quarter of SG-1 came through the Gate, but we found no relief at the sight. Colonel O'Neill's limp form broke through the event horizon and rolled slowly down the ramp, coming to a stop only halfway down, as if someone had gently eased him through the Gate. I could not fathom the circumstances under which that could happen under fire. And where in hell was the rest of his team?

Major Ferretti, who had arrived in the Gateroom, rushed to O'Neill's side, ordering a Marine corporal, Pedrosian, I think it was, to accompany him. The colonel lay motionless on his back halfway down the ramp. It did not look good. Major Ferretti reached his hand to take a pulse. I saw him close his eyes, then he turned and looked at me and gave me a thumbs up. The colonel was alive, at least for now. A commotion at the crash door caught my attention, briefly, and I saw Dr. Fraiser arguing vociferously with the Marines at the door to let her in. To give them credit, they were able to stick to their orders against the onslaught, and a good thing it was, since at that moment two more staff blasts flew through the event horizon, one barely missing the corporal, who flattened himself to the ramp. The decision made for them as to whether to move Colonel O'Neill or wait for the medical team, Ferretti and Pedrosian grabbed the colonel by the shoulders and legs and carried him out of the line of fire. I ordered the Marines to let the doctor's team in to get Jack out of there.

“Stand steady, people!” I shouted into the mike, knowing they might face an armed assault through the Gate at any moment. I took a deep breath, aware that a different commander would order the iris closed, sealing the fate of the rest of the team to assure the safety of the base. But, damn it, we don't leave our people behind, and not one man or woman in the Gateroom would have expected us to do any differently.

By now almost fifteen minutes had passed since the wormhole had been established, and I cursed the physics that allowed travel only one way. Fifteen minutes may not seem like much, but in the heat of battle it can seem like an eternity. Were any of the rest of the team still alive? Were one or more of them keeping the enemy from the Gate? Who had sent Colonel O'Neill home? All I knew was that I would keep the Gate open for them until Jaffa started appearing in the Gateroom or the wormhole shut itself down.

I looked down and saw that the medical team had left the room, taking the colonel with them. Major Ferretti had joined the Marines and was pointing his MP5 steady at the Gate. An eery silence settled over the Control Room and the Gateroom as we waited for whatever was coming next through the Gate.

And then the event horizon rippled, and Dr. Jackson came flying through as if shoved from behind and rolled down the ramp in a fast-forward version of the colonel's earlier arrival. Before he reached the bottom, Teal'c and Captain Carter stumbled through after him, Teal'c seemingly pulling the captain with him. Teal'c went down face first, and his forward momentum almost catapulted Captain Carter ahead of him. She spun sideways and went down also, slamming her head hard against the wall of the ramp. Walter was already closing the iris as I gave the order. Several thuds sounded, letting us know how closely our team had been pursued, and then nothing. There was a moment of stunned inaction on the part of everyone present as we stared at the three members of SG-1, who all lay still as death on the ramp. Good God, what had happened? Had we lost them all?

And then my people were moving. Dr. Fraiser had had the foresight to send two more teams to the Gateroom, and they rushed to tend to our fallen comrades. That she had not returned herself, and that Dr. Warner was absent as well, did not bode well for Colonel O'Neill's condition, and I felt another stab of fear for my second in command. I watched as two med techs carefully put a neck brace on Captain Carter and slid a backboard beneath her. She never moved. Dr. Samson and Lieutenant Jules worked furiously over Teal'c, who appeared to have a serious wound to the area around his symbiote pouch. I found myself in the odd position of praying for the life of a Goa'uld symbiote, so that Teal'c might live. Two other med techs and Nurse Halloway were working on Dr. Jackson. They cut off his pack, which appeared to have been shredded, and I could see nasty wounds on his back and shoulder. The wound on his back was gaping and still trickling blood. Suddenly the nurse gave a shout and she and one of the techs flipped Dr. Jackson on his injured back and started performing CPR. I watched Major Ferretti, who had been standing nearby, steady himself on the wall of the ramp as he watched, and I found myself clutching the control panel and leaning forward. The med techs lifted Dr. Jackson onto a gurney while Halloway continued CPR, and they rushed him from the room. Two more gurneys, carrying the young man's teammates, soon followed. “Dear God,” I said. Walter looked up at me, then turned his head away, not wishing me to see the strong emotions playing on his face.

The rest of the Gateroom personnel, who had seemingly been holding their breath, began to move slowly, almost desultorily, about their business, the technicians checking for damage from the staff blasts, the guards putting up their weapons to return to their quarters or their posts. I needed to say something to help ease their burden. I walked down the stairs to the Gateroom and cleared my throat, and the men and women stopped what they were doing and came to attention. “At ease,” I stated, and then: “Ladies and Gentleman, I know you are worried, as I am, about our injured comrades. Know that they are in the best of hands. And know this, too. Your bravery and professionalism today made me as proud as I have ever been to serve as Commander of this base. I would like to commend you all. . . . Dismissed.” It wasn't much, but I hoped these few words, truly spoken, helped to lift the spirits of those young men and women who that day, and day after day, perform their duty with little regard to their own safety.

As they left, the cleaning crews entered to do their grisly job, and I shuddered, though I believe I hid it well. That blood belonged to people I. . . . It was my turn to turn my head and try to collect myself.

“Sir?” I looked and saw Major Ferretti, awaiting orders. “Go see how they are, son. I'll be along as soon as I can.” The major nodded gratefully and rushed off to the infirmary. I would join him soon, but I had a report to make to the President. I walked back to my office, dread tightening a vise around my heart. I had no idea if my people . . . my family . . . were alive or dead.

 

Chapter 4

--------(Janet)-------

When I left Dr. Warner with Colonel O'Neill, I was relieved that the colonel's injury was not as bad as it had looked. The staff had been shot from an angle, so there was some tissue and muscle damage, but nothing too deep, and I hoped, nothing permanent. His unconsciousness was due not primarily to his injury, as we had thought, but to trauma to his head that had not been immediately evident and, I surmised,was most likely from hitting the ground after he was struck. He'd have to have a CAT scan, but I was confident that it was a minor concussion.

My thoughts turned to the rest of SG-1, and I quickened my pace. I'd sent teams ahead of me to the Gateroom, expecting the worst, but I had a terrible feeling I would be needed too. I checked quickly on Sergeant Ozawa, who was resting comfortably, and hurried down the corridor from the infirmary. I was still somewhat angry that I had been kept from the Gateroom when I was needed before—I'm an Air Force officer, after all, not a civilian, and I know how to handle myself under fire—and I would be damned if I would let that happen again if anyone else needed my help.
Before I had gone more than a few steps, however, I heard the pounding of feet and the sound of the metal wheels of multiple gurneys coming fast down the hall, and around the corner came Julia Halloway on top of one gurney performing CPR.

Daniel.

I yelled back into the infirmary for someone to get the crash cart, then saw two other gurneys behind Daniel's, and I shouted back again for someone to get Dr. Brazini to come in stat. We were going to need more than one surgeon. Dr. Samson was running next to one of the gurneys shouting out to me that Teal'c's symbiote had been injured and what was the proper procedure for such a thing? He's new, and perhaps I shouldn't blame him for not being up to speed on alien physiology, but I felt a spark of irritation nevertheless and vowed to reevaluate his assignment to the SGC.

The third gurney, I could now see clearly, carried Sam, who appeared unconscious and had on a neck brace and a backboard. I hesitated for what I think was only the briefest moment, then clamped down on my fear for my friends and started shouting orders. I quickly and firmly told Dr. Samson to, very carefully (my God, was he even too green to know the danger a Goa'uld symbiote represented?) try to stop the symbiote's blood loss with a surgical bandage and then to get Teal'c stat to Dr. Warner, and I shouted to a shocked Airman Stanley, on guard duty near the door, to assist Samson the best he could—the young man had had the misfortune to be with me the last time Teal'c had been injured. Then, knowing Sam was in good hands with Susan Morelli, I ran back into the infirmary after Daniel's gurney and prayed we were not too late to resuscitate him.

 

-------(Ferretti)------

“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” I chanted to myself as I rushed toward the infirmary. That was bad. SG-1, as usual, has stepped in some major. . . . And Daniel. . . . A vision of the man I had met before the first Abydos mission popped into my head. Man, I hated him then. Some badly dressed academic who bumbled his way around the base walking into walls, and we were supposed to depend on him to get us home from this mission to another planet? I didn't trust him as far as I could throw him, but I trusted Colonel O'Neill, and while Jack seemed to hate the guy too, I sensed that in some weird way he also trusted the geek, even then. Or maybe that's just hindsight. I don't know. But by the end we all trusted Daniel, once he really did find the way home, and once he showed that underneath that geek was a man willing to die for us. Not to mention the man who ended up with the girl. . . .

But now Daniel was maybe dead. And the rest of the colonel's team (who, come to think of it, I also didn't like when I met them), they didn't look so good either. This was going to kill Jack . . . if Jack was even still. . . .

“Damn it, damn it, damn it!”

As I pushed open the door to the infirmary, I heard the buzz of the charged electric paddles, and I winced before I even looked over. “Clear!” shouted Dr. Fraiser, and then she applied them to Daniel's chest, the electricity shooting through him and arching his body. Nothing. “Again! Clear!” And one more time. I shuddered as Daniel's body jumped up from the table again. I looked away, afraid I was going to see them give up, and turned toward Captain Carter, who was beginning to come to. A nurse was calling her name, gently. At least that was a good sign. I saw that Sergeant Ozawa was sleeping soundly on the next bed and figured she must be drugged to the gills to sleep through this chaos. Considering this and trying to ignore the buzz of the paddles on the other side of the infirmary, I didn't even see the gurney rushing toward me as I stood like some dolt in the doorway. “Out of the way!” a tech growled suddenly, making me jump, and Teal'c was rolled past me, back out the doors to the infirmary; his eyes were open but didn't seem to focus. Dr. Samson was right behind him, his hands still bloody from treating Teal'c's wound.

Then a nurse, who'd seen me almost get run down, came up to me and said, “You shouldn't be here now, Major. You'll have to wait outside.” I considered arguing, but I heard the charge of the paddles and wasn't sure I wanted to be there for that, so I nodded and stepped back out the doors to wait as Dr. Fraiser again shouted, “Clear!”

------(Sam)------

Ahhhh. Ow. That really hurt. I opened my eyes a crack knowing before I did that I was back in the infirmary. The pounding in my head told me part of the reason why. I tried to shut out the din around me so I could remember what happened, and I became aware of other pains, in my shoulder and side. And of a voice calling my name. I tried to turn my head toward the voice and regretted it at once. “Ow.” I said, I think out loud that time.

“That's it, Captain. Wake up now.” I squinted up at the fuzzy image of the nurse—at least I thought it was a nurse—and closed my eyes again.

“What happened?” I asked. “Why can't I move my head?”

“We've got you in a neck brace, Captain. You took quite a nasty fall.” Fall? I thought, trying furiously through the pain to remember what happened.

“I need to see your eyes, Captain. Could you open them for me? You took quite a bump on the head.”

“I can tell,” I said, as the stabbing in my forehead threatened to split my head in two. I cracked open my eyes. The nurse was still too blurry to identify, and I wondered if this was what the world looked like to Daniel when he broke his glasses. At that thought, a feeling of dread filled me, and I found myself trying to sit up, but I was strapped to the damn board. My team. Where was the rest of the team? I was supposed to get them home!

“SG-1,” I gasped. “Where's the rest of SG-1?”

Nurse X put a gentle hand on my chest and said something meant to be soothing, but I didn't hear her because at that moment I became aware of the rest of the sounds in the infirmary. I heard a voice shouting, “Out of the way,” and the infirmary doors crashing open. And then I heard another, more chilling sound. I heard Janet shouting, “Clear,” and a buzz and the thump of a body jumping. Someone's heart had stopped. I pushed back against the nurse and struggled against the neck brace to see who Janet was trying to shock back to life.

“Colonel? Daniel? Teal'c?”

------(Janet)-----

We were about to shock Daniel for the fourth time when, thank God, we got a rhythm. I had been so sure we were going to lose him that I felt tears spring to my eyes when I heard the steadying beep of the monitor. We had him back, for now. “Injuries?” I asked Julia abruptly to hide my lack of professionalism. “Staff wound to the left shoulder and upper back,” she began, and I let out a hiss of worry. Who knows how much more damage we'd just done to a back injury by performing CPR and using the defibrillator? Julia, who understood both my reaction and that there was no alternative for what we'd done, continued without stopping. “The shoulder wound is cauterized and there appears to be some tissue and muscle damage.” The back wound was still bleeding when Dr. Jackson . . . when we had to start CPR. The staff blast appears to have traveled through his pack, so the wound had bits and pieces of debris, and was not cauterized. I was unable to further assess the damage in the time we had.”

I nodded quickly and we carefully rolled Daniel over on his right side, keeping his spine as straight as possible. The shoulder wound was ugly-looking, but Julia's diagnosis appeared accurate. Like Colonel O'Neill's wound, it would continue to be extremely painful and would take time to heal, and infection was a real danger, but it was not life threatening.

The back wound was something else again. I found it hard to believe that the staff blast had done so much damage even going through Daniel's pack. The blast had driven a hole inches into his back, and now that Daniel's heart was pumping again, it was beginning to bleed more. The skin and muscle were shredded and already showing some signs of infection. From the position, in the upper left portion of his back, just under the clavicle, I was hopeful that it had missed his spine, but with a staff blast, it was hard to be sure. And the damage from the internal burns was hard to assess. From the slight hitch in his breathing, which for the moment was steady, I feared that the blast had radiated outward and caused damage to his lung. We'd have to get him up to surgery, and I worried that if Dr. Brazini did not arrive soon, I would have to do the job myself. I ordered blood and urine, and Julia and I set about trying to stanch the blood flow and debride the outer part of the wound.

Then Daniel groaned and started to move. I went around the gurney to face him and held his head still. “Daniel,” I said firmly, “It's O.K., it's Janet.” His blue eyes opened for a moment and he said weakly, “Janet?” Then, “Not dead?”

“No, Daniel,” I said, “You're not dead, but you have to lie still.”

He looked as if he were going to respond when his eyes widened and he gasped. He started jerking spasmodically on the table as if in convulsions or suffering from electric shock, and his eyes rolled back in his head. Then he lay suddenly still, and his heart beat skipped once, then twice, then flatlined. Cursing, I grabbed the defibrillator and started again.

 

Chapter 5

Jack awoke slowly. He was lying on his stomach, head turned to the side, and he felt that all-too-familiar postsurgical hangover. Through the layers of drugs and the buzz in his head there was a muted throbbing in his back. He opened his eyes, blinking to clear his vision, and saw the ugly green of the recovery room. The tube from his IV hung across his sight and through that he thought he saw a figure in the next bed. He blinked his eyes again. Teal'c? Yes, it was Teal'c, lying in the bed next to him, watching him dully, almost without recognition. His abdomen was wrapped in bandages, a little pink of seeping blood showing through.

“Teal'c?” Jack whispered hoarsely, his mouth as dry as sand. He tried to lift his head to see better, but it felt like dead weight. “Teal'c?” he tried to call more loudly, but barely a sound came out. Teal'c blinked slowly but didn't respond. Jack heard the sound of footsteps coming around his bed, and a white lab coat blocked his view of his teammate. A hand lowered a spoon of ice chips to his mouth, and he took the cool moisture into his mouth gratefully.

“Colonel?” a voice from above the lab coat queried. Janet's voice.

“Doc?”

“Yes, Colonel.” The material scrunched and then Janet was kneeling down, looking at him face to face.

“Teal'c?”

“His symbiote was injured, but he's holding his own.”

“Damn. . . .” Jack knew that in Fraiser-speak that meant, “He's still alive, but we don't know if it will be enough.”

“Team?” he croaked, eyes scanning the room the best he could.

“What do you remember?” Janet asked.

He closed his eyes and tried to think past the fog in his brain but came up with nothing. The effort to remember taxed what little strength he seemed to have, and he felt himself fading out.

“Colonel?” he heard Janet's distant voice asking, but he couldn't gather the strength to answer.
Then just before he lost consciousness, a vague memory flickered through his mind. He heard the sound of weapons fire—the whine of the staffs and the deafening percussion of a P-90—and a voice whispering in his ear. It whispered only two words, but in those words he could hear a world of exhaustion, regret and fear. “Sorry, Jack,” the voice said. And then nothing.

“No . . . what?” Jack murmured, struggling now against unconsciousness, but drugs and sleep called him, and he surrendered.

 

---------(Teal'c)--------

My symbiote is weak and takes all its strength, and mine, to heal itself. The Tau'ri medicine does little to help the pain, but I welcome it as a reminder of my failure. O'Neill lies injured in the next bed; I do not know the fate of my other teammates, yet I fear the worst. Both Daniel Jackson and Captain Carter had already suffered injuries when I was wounded, and I know that if they had recovered sufficiently, they would be here at our bedsides. I do not know how I came to be back at the SGC, but I remember the enemy Jaffa approaching as I went down, and there would have been no time or opportunity to send more troops through the Stargate before we were overrun.
I can reach no other conclusion but that Captain Carter brought me through the Stargate after I was injured, yet I can not determine how she would have accomplished such a feat. She is strong and skilled, but I do not believe she, or perhaps any other, could have dragged me to the Gate under enemy fire and avoided greater injury or death to herself.

I hear a sound from the next bed, and I focus on O'Neill, who is stirring. He opens his eyes and calls my name, and I curse the weakness that does not allow me to reply. He appears agitated and calls my name again, and I can do nothing more than blink in response. I am thankful when I see Dr. Fraiser appear before him.

She tells him that I am “holding my own,” another Earth phrase that makes little sense to me, but from O'Neill's reaction, I suspect it is not good. I do not need the doctor to tell me this. My symbiote has never been so gravely injured nor I so weak.

O'Neill then asks the fate of the rest of SG1, and I notice that Dr. Fraiser does not answer his question. I feel great fear then, and my symbiote reacts, causing my insides to roil with greater pain. If my teammates have died through my failure to protect them, then my life should be forfeit. Yet . . . yet, if Daniel Jackson and Captain Carter still live, they may need my help to recover, as may O'Neill, and I might still have a chance to redeem myself in their eyes.

I slow my breathing and attempt to enter a state of Kel'no'reem. I will not fail my friends again.

 

Chapter 6

Warning: Major character death.

-------(Jack, two days later)-------

So.

Daniel died.

He died a big hero apparently, going back for Carter and Teal'c when he could barely move himself. That doesn't surprise me, of course. Daniel has died a hero before, after all, saving my life on the first mission to Abydos, watching our backs on the Goa'uld mother ship.

“Sorry, Jack,” he whispered to me, I realize now, before he pushed me through the Stargate, as gently as you would put a baby in its cradle if I can believe General Hammond. “Sorry, Jack.”
Sorry? Sorry? Sorry for being about to get his damn fool ass killed? Sorry for leaving this gaping fu**ing hole in the. . . ? I forget about the wound in my back and go to throw the mug in my hand against the wall.

“Crap! Son of a bitch!” I yell, dropping the mug to the ground and almost howling in pain. Tears spring to my eyes, and I let myself pretend they're all from the pain of my wound. A knock comes on the door, a passing airman asking loudly, “Colonel? Sir? Do you need assistance?”

I manage to grind out in a halfway normal voice, “No, airman. Everything's fine.”

“Yes, sir.”

Fine. Oh, yeah. Fine.

I look around my office blankly while I try to get a handle on the pain in my back. The calendar on the wall is turned to two months ago. The hockey trophy on the desk is dusty. There is a neat stack of folders awaiting my attention. I don't usually come here to hide. Usually, if I have to hide out on base, I go to . . . Daniel's. . . .

I lean my one good arm on the desk and put my head in my hand. I can't hide here. I need to go back to the infirmary. Carter is distraught and stuck there until she can stand up without falling down. It's a miracle her worst injury is a severe concussion, the way they say she came flying through the wormhole. Not like a baby being placed in its cradle, according to Hammond. Her two staff wounds are “superficial,” or as superficial as a staff wound can get, which, I can tell you, still hurts like hell.

And Teal'c. Teal'c was close to dead too. We could have lost them both. He scared me in the recovery room, staring like that, not able to speak. Warner patched him up the best he could, even patching Junior, I hear, but there wasn't much they could do until the snake finally healed itself and then began healing Teal'c too. I know T, though. He's not going to bounce back from this. He blames himself. When I told him about Daniel, how he died, he just stared at me and closed his eyes. He hasn't said a word since. Carter thinks that until that moment he had no idea that Daniel had come back for them. Until Daniel crashed into Carter on that planet, they both thought Daniel had gone through the Gate with me.

“Sorry, Jack.”

“Damn it, Daniel,” I respond in my head. “What the hell were you thinking?”

Carter says when she saw him back there, her first feeling was not relief that he had come back to help, but anger. She was furious that he was there when he should have been safe, that all three of them were going to die on that planet. So now, along with her grief, she feels terrible guilt. Daniel came back to try to rescue them, and she was pissed at him. Daniel was one step from home, turned around and ran back to what seemed like certain death to help his friends, and she was so mad, she wanted to save the Jaffa the trouble of killing him. And in her worst nightmares, she thinks he knew it.

“Damn it, Daniel. What were you thinking?” she might as well have shouted, but of course, we all know what he was thinking. We don't leave our people behind. You don't leave your friends behind. All of us would rather . . . die . . . than live with the knowledge that we had done that. So Daniel went back. He dragged my ass to the Gate, pushed me through (“Sorry, Jack”), turned around and went back.

And if he hadn't, Carter and Teal'c would be dead, or prisoners of some system lord we couldn't even identify, so how can we curse him? How can we be angry? Because he didn't make it?

Yeah.

And because he was Daniel. He could never get it through his head that it wasn't his job to be a hero. You talk to people, we save your ass, understood? He was a civilian. And he was . . . Daniel. Daniel, the man who, Carter says, looked horrified that he'd shot a Jaffa in the head, even in the midst of all that horror and carnage. What the hell was Daniel, who should have had his head buried in a book, doing playing the hero?

Ah, what am I saying? He went back the way he needed to, and it almost worked too. They made it back to the Gate, all three of them. As far as anyone can tell, Daniel was already stepping into the event horizon when he was hit. They were home.

And so now Carter and Teal'c are carrying around this giant load of guilt.

Carter? She protected our backs and then, already wounded twice herself, got an unconscious Teal'c and an already badly wounded Daniel home with Jaffa swarming them like ants. I know that it was her skill, her leadership, her utter determination that got the three of them back to the Gate.

No one could have done more.

And Teal'c? I can still see him standing there, in the open, no thought at all for his own safety, taking out Jaffa while Daniel dialed home. We would never have even seen the event horizon if not for his skill, his expertise, his complete fearlessness. Yet he'll carry that load of guilt for, for what, getting shot? For being too damn big for Carter to get back to the Gate on her own?

No. They were heros, all three of them.

And me? The one responsible for getting my team home safe? I got shot for not keeping my butt close enough to the ground. I saw Daniel go down, the Jaffa were closing in, and I thought like some idiot that I could sprint through all those staff blasts unharmed. So what happens? Carter and Teal'c have to risk themselves more providing cover while Daniel, a one-armed Daniel mind you, saves me. And Daniel ends up dead, Teal'c almost dead and Carter lucky she didn't have her brains mashed all over the Gateroom. Guilt? You want to know about guilt?
A sound comes out of me between a wail and a growl, and I sweep the stack of folders on my desk onto the floor. My back screams in protest again, and this time I can't even pretend I'm not crying. I'm on the floor, back against my desk sobbing. Damn it, Daniel! What the hell do we do now?

After a few minutes, tough, I manage to stifle the sobs. No. I can't do this now. Carter and Teal'c, they still need me. And this blame thing is a fool's game in war. I know that better than anyone. It's war. Men die. Good men die. Nothing changes that. Not the best planning, the best strategy, the best weaponry, the most righteous cause, nothing changes that. Men die. Daniel . . . died.
I don't know where we go from here. I don't know if I can even go out there and fight another day. I just know what I can do right now. I pull myself up and go to the sink at the wall. I stare at the mirror, looking at the awful visage staring back. I splash some water on my face, then straighten up and square my shoulders and turn to leave. I'm a colonel in the United States Air Force, and my team, what's left of my team, needs me. I open the door, relieved to find the corridor empty, and head toward the infirmary.

“Sorry, Jack,” his voice whispers in my ear.

Oh, God, Danny. So am I.

End

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