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					Heaven's Gate by Abby Eddey

Summary: As you die, they say, you relive your life. But is it the life you lived, or the life you wished you lived?
What O'Neill experienced between 'You can sleep now,' and 'It was an honor serving with you...' (Solitudes)
Categories: Jack/Sam Characters: Other Characters
Episode Related: 0117 Solitudes
Genres: Action/Adventure, Adult, Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Season: Season 1
Warnings: adult themes, graphic sex, sexual situations



Toward the Light

Floating -- wrapped in light -- white-on-white were the first sensations. Then, an earnest desire to gag, followed
immediately by crushing pain that, O’Neill noted with odd detachment, started somewhere near his right ear, shot
along his throat and burst in his lungs with each breath. Between breaths – lovely nothingness.

‘The trick,’ he reasoned, ‘is don’t inhale – worked for Clinton, didn’t it, or was it … Carter?’

The quip dissolved, half-formed, as the next pulse of life-sustaining air rushed down the tube in O’Neill’s throat,
lifting and expanding his shattered chest, as bone, tissue and nerves raged. Then, agony blinked out and the merciful
light reclaimed him.

Inevitably, the light took shape. Sun streamed through sheer white curtains. Curtains shifted slightly in a breeze.
The breeze carried cries of gulls, surf-smells and garden scents. People moved behind a filmy screen like bizarre
Indonesian shadow puppets he’d seen while stationed outside of Jakarta, or was it on PX-something?

O’Neill drifted, wrapping himself in the remnants of anesthesia. Reluctantly, he floated into semi-consciousness and
became increasingly aware of the “secondary effects” of survival. Too-tight bindings pinched and chafed. Thirst raged
and a spot on his right foot itched, furiously. Incessant mechanisms blipped and monitors chirped.

Disinterested, he observed the thousand indignities visited upon him, as a VIP beneficiary of modern medicine; or
perhaps a particularly prized side of beef; or maybe just the latest scientific wonder, man-cum-mouse-cum-lab-rat.
Whatever.

The primary effect – soul-numbing pain – had hung just at the edge of awareness, but the shroud of anesthetic
shredded and dissipated and it hit him in vicious a double-fisted assault. Like any mortal, he prayed.

‘God, let them come now; let them give me something; make it something strong; God put me out!’

O’Neill was in no position to help himself. Mittens of bandages on both hands prevented use of the call-button,
assuming his chest muscles could have lifted an arm to reach for it, or he could have turned his head or focused his
eyes to locate it. His right leg, suspended from the ceiling, pinned him to the bed as effectively as any Goa’uld
restraints. A hard plastic tube blocked his mouth and throat. No way to scream; no way to move. So, maybe he’d just
let go and die. He tried. With all his vast Irish will, he tried.

Then, through the pain, O’Neill saw the one thing that would spur him to fight for life, no matter the consequences.
Sara O’Neill. She crossed his field of view to the window and stood with her hand in her hair.

‘She always plays with her hair when she’s perplexed -- or worried,’ Jack thought with a guilty twinge, while
something deep inside drank in the sight of her.

Sara. She leaned against a windowsill and gazed at the garden beyond. She was older than he remembered and exhausted.
Yet, silver strands in her thick gold hair only heightened Sara’s earthy allure. Seeing her, O’Neill wanted very much
to live.

An array of monitors dutifully recorded O’Neill’s change in life signs. Alarms sounded at a remote station.

A slight breeze blew the curtains. Sara turned and, seeing Jack gazing at her, smiled and stepped towards him. “I’m
here, Jack,” she murmured.

O’Neill tried to reach for the wife he’d lost, but he heard a throbbing roar, like helicopter rotors. She was beside
him. Lips close to his face whispered, “You can sleep now.”

O’Neill felt a white form hover over him. It administered something strong and he tumbled back into oblivion.



2 - A Window Closes
As he tumbled, O’Neill replayed it. It had been cold, so cold, in the ice cave at the foot of the alien Gate. He
remembered shaking uncontrollably in relentless, bone-deep cold. Then came the blessed relief. Numbness cocooned him,
banished sensation and eventually banished fear as well, signaling to some still-functional part of his mind that he
was freezing to death.

Captain Samantha Carter had gone -- under protest and only because he had reinforced his direct orders with a
shameless plea that she obey his last command. O’Neill would manipulate people, even people he respected, if a
situation required it. He felt justified. Carter might survive. He was dying and he’d be damned if he’d let Carter
sacrifice even a slim chance at survival just to hold his hand.

So, O’Neill prepared to die alone on a nameless, god-forsaken planet, light years from home. Well, not completely
alone. Carter had discovered a Jaffa corpse entombed in the ice near the Gate. Poor bastard, what must he have gone
through?

Then, strangely, Sara was beside him. Across infinite space, she’d come to him, comforted him and told him to sleep.
Content, O’Neill let go.

It really ticked O’Neill off when he’d suddenly been rousted. He felt rough hands lift and unceremoniously dump him
onto a stretcher -- and it hurt. Was that General Hammond standing by the alien Gate? He looked like St. Nick in the
fur-trimmed parka. ‘Right, then this must be the North Pole,’ O’Neill’s unsinkable humor noted. ‘Someone should tell
him that is not a good look for him.’

Teal’c’s fierce visage had appeared and stated that O’Neill would not die. ‘Is that an order, big fella, a threat or
a friendly statement-of-fact,’ O’Neill wondered. The Jaffa looked pissed-off and O’Neill vaguely weighed the odds of
Teal’c kicking the crap out of him for screwing up.

Daniel Jackson was there, too. As usual, he’d be running around excitedly, probably overjoyed by artifacts. Maybe
he’d found Carter’s Jaffa-pop at the base of the alien Gate.

But, where was Sara?

The rescue team must have dragged the stretcher up the sheer wall to the cave entrance to a waiting chopper, O’Neill
reasoned. He clearly recalled a painfully bright sky and rotor wash. And the voice of General Hammond demanding, “How
much longer, Son?”

‘Not long now, George,’ O’Neill’s mind replied, ‘'til I’m out of here and you can find yourself a newer model.
Someone with a lot less mileage.’

But, how had they left the planet? He presumed they had used the alien Gate. Then, why a chopper?

O’Neill didn’t hear the Medic’s reply to General Hammond, as they shouted to communicate over the roar of the
helicopter rotors. “General, we’re all set to transport, Sir. We can try to stabilize them on the way. The Captain
will be fine, after we get some fluids into her and warm her up. But, your Colonel’s in trouble, Sir.”

“Well, let’s not stand here talking about it. Get on with it.”

“Yes, Sir! Everybody on board, we’re out of here!”

The bright red rescue chopper rose heavily into the summer sky over Antarctica, swung in a graceful 180-degree arc
and rapidly diminished to a pinprick of color in the stark blue-white landscape.

General Hammond peered intently down from the chopper window at an army ambulance. It tore through clouds of snow
toward the McMurdo helipad. The ambulance driver pulled to a halt, flung himself into swirl of snow and rotor wash,
crouching low to scramble under the chopper as it settled to the snow-covered pad. The General, the remnants of SG-1
and medics tumbled from the helicopter, unlashed stretchers and manhandled them to the ambulance. The ride to the
jumble of Quonset huts and high-tech electronic stations comprising McMurdo Station reminded Hammond of a
particularly tortuous ski run he meticulously avoided at Colorado’s A-Basin. He reached over to steady O’Neill’s
stretcher, motivated by both affection and a real concern that it might jar loose from the ambulance wall.

At the buildings, Hammond hung back, allowing the medics room to haul the two gurneys through the ambulance’s tail
and into the Station. Inside, the senior medic delivered a rapid-fire assessment to Doctor Janet Fraiser, chief
medical officer for the Stargate Command. “Your Captain is suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion. She was barely
conscious when we found her. We gave her plasma on the ride here. Her blood pressure is down; heartbeat slow, but
regular. Cuts on her face need attention and there’s frostbite and abrasions on her hands and neck and maybe a torn
ligament in her left knee.”

Fraiser nodded. “Thank you, Sergeant.” Bending to examine the battered form of Captain Samantha Carter, Doctor
Fraiser was all business. To a waiting team, she snapped orders. “Cut this gear away, start her on Ringer’s, apply
heat packs at her neck, underarms and groin, wrap her in warm blankets, please. Then, I want an MRI on her head and
spine, and the knee. If nothing turns up, we can clean her up and focus treatment on frostbite, dehydration and
exhaustion. Go.”

As Fraiser’s team wheeled Carter away, Fraiser leaned close to her friend for a moment, gently smoothed the matted
blond hair away from Sam’s eyes and whispered, “We found you in time, Sam. You’ll be fine,” then briskly turned to
her colleague at the second gurney.

“But, I’d tackle this one first,” the medic stated.

“How did I know?” Fraiser wondered to herself as the medic continued.

“Your Colonel looks like he jumped without a parachute. Whatever the hell he was he doing out there, he’s really
screwed up!” Fraiser’s icy glare stopped further conjecture cold.

“I know, Doctor Fraiser, he’s one of your people and it’s all very, very black, strictly ‘need to know’ stuff, sorry
for asking. Let’s see. He was out when we found them and he hasn’t regained consciousness; suffering from multiple
fractures -- right tibia, likely concussion indicated by the swelling at right temple, possibly fractured sinuses and
several ribs on right side. No sounds from right lung, indicating it’s probably collapsed. There’s blood in the mouth
and right ear. The right lung could be the worst of it. I think a rib punctured it when he fell, or was thrown, or
whatever happened to him. His breathing is shallow and labored; he’s hypothermic, hypoxic, pulse thready and blood
pressure too low. I tried to start him on whole blood on the chopper, but I couldn’t raise a vein. We got him on
warmed, humidified oxygen, immediately. We haven’t examined the right leg or the feet, but his hands and face show
frostbite, so I’m thinking he’ll lose the foot, maybe the whole leg.”

“We start on Colonel O’Neill, people,” Fraiser barked. As she helped wheel O’Neill into the stark surgery, she
directed her staff. “Cut this gear away. Start him on warmed whole blood. Use his left femoral artery if you can’t
find a vein. I want shots of the head, chest, spine, pelvis and leg; then stabilize the leg and prep him for thoracic
surgery. Be quick, people, but handle him carefully. Remember, rough handling can induce heartbeat irregularities in
an exposure victim. Move!”

“What happened?” O’Neill wondered dimly, only vaguely aware of gentle hands pulling at him. Clearly the Stargate on
P3X227 had malfunctioned, but Carter hadn’t been able to explain why. Well, she had explained but, as usual, not in
terms he could understand. In the best of times, Carter’s explanations of Gate-technology quickly outstripped
knowledge O’Neill gleaned from weekend reading, even more so when he was distracted by the sense that something, or
things, inside him were seriously out of wack.

As Carter had rattled on about misdirected energy streams, O’Neill’s attention drifted to his increasing shortness of
breath. It seemed worse with each passing minute. As Carter calculated the infinitesimal odds of a rescue party
coming to the right Gate, O’Neill guesstimated the length of the rapidly closing window of time he had to survive his
injuries and the penetrating cold.

What had happened? Carter, O’Neill knew, would find the key. With her formidable brain and dogged mindset, she would
solve this puzzle just as surely as she had found a way home for both of them.

Assuming they both made it. O’Neill forced himself to believe that she’s be fine. She’d be all right. She had to be.
‘God, let her be all right,’ O’Neill’s heart prayed as his mind raced on. He could not, would not conceive of any
other outcome. If he’s survived, she’d survived, end of discussion. It comforted him to believe Carter was near;
close by and getting the best possible care under Janet’s critical supervision.

O’Neill also knew that General Hammond would make it a top priority to find out exactly what had happened. Carter
would be the key. Hammond would weigh the urgent need for information against Sam’s need for time and privacy to
heal. O’Neill empathized with Hammond’s dilemma -- a dilemma dreaded by every good military commander -- whether to
press an individual, who’d been on-the-line, for information or to wait out of a sense of humanity and allow them a
little time to pull it back together. Would the need for details on the Gate malfunction outweigh Hammond’s deep-
seated decency and fierce desire to protect his people? O’Neill thought it just might. With (how many?) teams still
off world and an unreliable Gate offering the only way home, Hammond would almost certainly press Carter, albeit
gently, to tell him what had happened as soon as she could talk … and then berate himself for doing it.

O’Neill’s instincts were right. Sam was nearby. Even as medics swiftly cut her gear away and tucked hot packs in
place, Hammond conferred with Doctor Fraiser to learn how soon he could question Captain Carter. As her scrapes were
cleaned and patched, her frostbitten hands and wrenched knee bandaged, and an IV connected, Hammond walked
reluctantly toward the ER. Someone had just tucked thick, military blankets around Carter when General Hammond and
Doctor Fraiser appeared at her bedside.

The medical staff quickly withdrew at the General’s curt, “We need a few minutes here, people.”

Fraiser pulled a privacy curtain around Captain Carter’s gurney and leaned down to speak. “Captain, can you hear me?”
She received a weak response. “Yes, Janet.”
“We need your help, Captain,” Hammond explained gently. “Can you tell us what happened?”

Carter struggled to form words. “The Stargate malfunctioned. Daniel dialed Earth, but somehow the Colonel and I
arrived on … on an ice planet. We were thrown through, at… at terrible velocity. Daniel and Teal’c didn’t make it
through with us.”

Fraiser reassured her, “We got them, Captain.”

Carter nodded and continued. “The Colonel was injured. He was unconscious for hours. I could see that he’d broken his
leg. The Dial Home Device was buried in ice. We dug it out, but then … I couldn’t make it work. It should have
worked! But, I just couldn’t … make it work! And then …”

Fraiser soothed her, “Easy Captain,” but Carter raced on, unhearing, “ Then Jack – I left the Colonel. He ordered me
to take the last of the rations and find help, but there was no one, nowhere to go. He tried to save me.”

Hammond tried to reassure her, “We didn’t lose him, Captain. Colonel O’Neill is alive,” but Carter was rambling. “I
didn’t know how bad he was, until he started to cough blood. He wouldn’t let me examine his chest. Just said he was
fine. He passed out and then, I did. His right side was…sort of… buckled. He was delirious after that. It was so
cold. The field gear wasn’t enough. I used both sleeping bags and tried to keep him warm by huddling. The sterno was
gone. At the end, he didn’t even know where he was, who I was. He was speaking to Sara when he just … slipped away.”

Fraiser’s eyes met Hammond’s, “Sara.”

Hammond nodded soberly.

Fraiser touched Carter’s arm, “Thank you, Captain; Listen to me Sam, Colonel O’Neill is alive. We’ve got him. Try to
rest, now,” and turned to Hammond. “General, she should rest and I have to prep for surgery” before walking briskly
away.

As Fraiser entered the surgical prep room, medics surrounded O’Neill. “This is taking too long,” she thought then
barked, “Let’s move people!”

Someone had already cut away O’Neill’s web gear, neatly sliced the left leg of his fatigues from cuff to belt and
bisected his field jacket, shirt and undershirt in another deft slice, before tackling the laces and sides of his
boots with a small scalpel.

Another had just removed the makeshift splint and gingerly pulled and snipped away blood-dried material of his right
pant leg to reveal for Doctor Fraiser a shin and calf the color of spoiled meat. An orderly descended on the gurney
and removed the tattered shreds of O’Neill’s clothing and field gear with well-practiced detachment, heaping
everything into a medical waste disposal sack for storage and eventual transport out of the Antarctic. Finished, she
looked to the Doctor expectantly, awaiting further orders.

“I need a sterile covering here, please.” As someone draped a warm cotton blanket over the deathly pale body of her
patient, Fraiser murmured, “Okay, thanks,” dismissing them. Then, she leaned low over O’Neill, gently lifted his
right eyelid to shine a pen light into his pupil, then checked the left, all the while muttering to herself and the
microphone of a mini recorder pinned to her surgical smock.

“Right pupil fixed and dilated, indicating concussion, from when he”… glancing at the non-SGC medics “… hit the
ground.” She wordlessly palpated Jack’s neck, shoulders, arms and torso for a few moments.

“Neck pliable, okay!” Then cataloged his injuries, between spates of issuing orders for tests and surgical prep. “I
want to see those pictures people. Let’s get it done.”

She continued her quick, gentle explorations of the battered body she knew too well from terrible experience. “Yes,
distended; second, third and fourth ribs fractured on the right side, hemorrhaging.” Suddenly pleased. “Clavicle
intact. Good.”

“I’ll need a drain here. Yes, position it between the base of the right lung and the diaphragm. That’s right. And,
track the volume of blood loss, please? Let’s see it’s been five days…”

An SGC orderly joined her and worked in her wake, sponging away blood and filth, shaving and applying liberal amounts
of antiseptic in preparation for surgery. Another positioned hot packs to supplement the pre-warmed blood already
entering O’Neill through his left femoral artery.

Fraiser moved to examine O’Neill’s obscenely damaged leg and feet. “Okay. It’s one, two fractures of the right tibia.
It’s nasty, but the splint is a good job. Carter might have saved this leg, I think. Frost burn is severe on the
right foot, also bad on the left foot.” Stripping off her gloves, Doctor Fraiser snapped. “Wrap up those tests and
get me the results in the next 5-minutes. I’m scrubbing for surgery.”
3 - A Door Opens

General Hammond stood at a small observation window grimly watched Fraiser and her team. Hours passed, still he
waited at the window, until Daniel Jackson joined him. Turning to Hammond, Daniel gently put his hand on the old
man’s shoulder and handed him a cup of coffee.

“You got there in time, General. They’ll be fine,” Daniel said softly.

Hammond rubbed his eyes, nodded and brightened a bit. “Thanks to you, Doctor Jackson -- You and Captain Carter.
Captain Carter will be fine, the medics tell me. But, Doctor Jackson, they’ve been working on Colonel O’Neill a long
while, an awfully long while.”

They stood in silence for a long moment, before Hammond continued bitterly. “This is the worst of it, when there
isn’t another damn thing to do, except wait.”

Daniel, contemplative, responded, “Ah, General? That’s not entirely correct.”

“Oh? How so, Doctor Jackson?” Before Daniel could elaborate, Doctor Fraiser walked up to report, stripping off her
bloody surgical gown and gloves.

“General Hammond, Colonel O’Neill is in post-surgical recovery. We’ve done all we can for him, Sir,” she said
wearily.

Hammond and Jackson exchanged an alarmed glance and Hammond barked. “Is it enough, Doctor Fraiser, or are you here to
report that I’m going to lose my second-in-command?”

Fraiser, tired and testy, elaborated. “What I mean, Sir, is that we can’t do everything he needs. McMurdo Station
doesn’t have the facilities. We need to heliport him out of here, General, preferably to one of our Pacific Fleet
carriers.”

Hammond thought aloud. “The USS John C. Stennis is cruising the Tasman Sea. She might be within chopper range right
now.”

“Good, Sir,” Fraiser agreed. “From there, I suggest that Colonel O’Neill be medivacced to New Zealand. I understand
from the McMurdo medical staff, that they send cases beyond their care to a military hospital outside of Auckland.
There is a first-rate pulmonary unit there, General, and a decent burn unit. It takes all McMurdo’s worst exposure
cases.”

Hammond answered quietly. “I thought I’d take him home, Doctor. The United States military has the best medical
facilities in the world,” he paused, “and there is a question of security to consider.”

“With respect, General, no. A crushed chest and collapsed lung can’t handle jet travel. There is a real danger that
one of his breaks might form a thrombus. Sir, rough handling could still cause cardiac arrest at this point. Besides,
even if the Colonel could survive the flight, he simply can’t wait. He needs treatment ASAP. Auckland is the closest
facility, eight to ten hours closer than anything stateside, even closer than Pearl. General Hammond, I need those
hours, Sir.”

Hammond noted Fraiser’s determined stance and nodded. “I see. Thank you Doctor. I’ll make the necessary arrangements
immediately. Where is a secure telephone?”

Fraiser smiled. “I’m afraid it’s a radio set, Sir, but it’s secure and it’s right this way.”

General Hammond followed Doctor Fraiser down the hall, with Daniel tagging behind. While a radio technician made the
necessary connections, Hammond and Jackson had a moment of relative privacy. Daniel clearly had something on his mind
and presented it carefully.

“General, it looks like Jack isn’t going to just walk away from this one. I know him pretty well, and ... a long
recovery won’t be easy for him.”

Hammond answered brusquely. “As I see it, Doctor Jackson, he hasn’t got any choice in the matter. He’s damned lucky
we found him. If Carter and you hadn’t figured it out…. Well, I guess you know he owes you his life.”

Hammond pondered a moment, before continuing. “I don’t like the idea of leaving him behind, if that’s what’s
bothering you. It’s not good enough, Daniel, not nearly. I sent him out there.”

Hammond shook his head wearily and continued. “I send good people out every day, knowing some won’t make it home.
Somehow, I never thought it would be O’Neill. Jack’s damned talented, and he’s been lucky, until now. With his
natural aggressiveness, I guess I knew his luck might some day run out, but I never expected... this! A damned gate
malfunction!” General Hammond stopped in mid-sentence and rubbed his eyes again.

Daniel got the terrible impression the old man was near tears. Embarrassed, Daniel tried to fill the silence. “Me,
too, General.” Then, he suddenly snickered and Hammond glowered.

“I’m sorry General. It’s just… I really don’t envy Doc Fraiser. Jack’s not an easy patient.”

Relaxing, Hammond smiled. “No, he is not! The only way to keep Colonel O’Neill content is plenty of hard work. He
thrives on it and ... now. It’s going to be a long while before he’s back at it. If he ever is…”

Daniel pounced. “That’s my point, that’s what I need to talk to you about. If...” Daniel caught himself, “when Jack
comes out of surgery, he’ll be out of commission ... for a long time. And, we’ll be shipped home. Right?”

“That’s right, Doctor Jackson. I wish it could be different, but Sam’s stable and able to travel now. For obvious
reasons, I can’t leave Teal’c behind. Doctor Fraiser will accompany the Colonel, of course, for security reasons.”

Daniel rushed on, “I wasn’t thinking about you or Teal’c staying, General, although I’d like to volunteer to back up
Dr. Fraiser. I suppose you’ll want one of us with him, for security.” Changing tactics, he continued, “General, I
heard what Sam told Doctor Fraiser... about when Jack was delirious.”

Softly, Hammond replied, “You mean when we were trying to determine what happened?”

“Yeah. Sam said that Jack ... spoke to ... Sara.”

“That’s natural enough, Doctor Jackson. Sara was the Colonel’s wife, Colonel O’Neill still thinks of her, fondly.”
Hammond paused, flooded with grief at the memory of losing his own wife to cancer. “If anyone can understand that, it
is you.”

“I do understand, General. I also know Jack about as well as anyone can. When he wakes up, General, he’ll face a
difficult recovery. It will be long, painful, and dull. Sir, we all hope Jack will come through it. But, we don’t
know... we can’t know. In a worst-case scenario, he loses a foot or a leg, or he’s blind or even paralyzed.”

Hammond flared at Jackson’s brutally honest assessment. “Get to the point, now, Doctor!

Daniel continued, choosing his words with greater care, “The Jack O’Neill that I know copes by burying himself in
work... and danger… ever since losing Charlie and Sara. Who knows, maybe even before. He cracks wise when he’s
stressed, but when he hits bottom, which I admit is very rare, he turns to his family.”

Hammond was visibly depressed. “A family that no longer exists, Doctor. What’s the point?”

“General, you’ve seen his file. You know that, just under two years ago, Jack O’Neill was a burnout, on the verge of
… suicide.”

Hammond glowered at Jackson. “I’m not prepared to discuss Colonel O’Neill’s file with you Doctor Jackson. That is
confidential, and I don’t see the relevance… ”

Jackson interrupted. “The military, in its twisted logic, thought he would be an ideal leader for the first off-world
mission through the Stargate. They needed a man willing to pull the plug on Abydos … and himself. That was Jack. That
was why they invited Jack out of retirement.”

Hammond testily replied. “Colonel O’Neill would not have been my choice to lead the Abydos mission, if I had been in
charge. It was not my decision.”

Daniel, laughing, continued. “But, that’s the irony, General. The bastards were right! They reactivated a burnout,
expecting him to eat a bullet for them and he turned the tables on them, turns out to be the best man you’ve got!
But, I was there. It was touch and go on Abydos. General Hammond, he came so close...”

Jackson eyed Hammond, trying to read the Texan’s poker face. Unsure whether he was making any progress, he forged
ahead.

“Just a couple of months ago, when the ‘other’ Jack came through the Stargate from P3X562, trying to fix Jack’s
‘greatest injury,’ what did he do? He didn’t try to repair any physical injuries, even through Jack had a concussion
and was lying unconscious back on the planet. He tried to save Jack by finding his son, Charlie, by bringing back his
family. That motivation came from within Jack, our Jack, the real Jack. He’s not over the loss of his family,
General.”

Hammond had reached the end of his tether. “Well, what would you expect, Doctor? A man doesn’t just get over losing
his family, certainly not a man of the caliber of Colonel Jack O’Neill!”
“You’re right, General, but you’re missing my point. Jack never gives up, as long as there’s a job to do. But,
General, he’s facing months of nothing to do, boredom, pain and God-knows-what. Now, if he can’t return to SGC…
Frankly, Sir…”

Jackson’s voice petered out when he saw the blue steel in the General’s fixed gaze. He’d gone way over the line, but
it was too late to retreat. He swallowed hard, looked at his shoes for a moment, but then blurted, “I’m afraid what
he’ll do. And, General, as his commanding officer, you should be very concerned, too.”

Hammond lost it. “Concerned! I’m worried sick about him, Doctor. I sent him out there!” Then it sunk in and Hammond
stopped yelling abruptly, “But, suicide... No. Jack O’Neill one of the bravest men I know. He would never commit an
act of such cowardice.”

Daniel shook his head and stared at his shoes. “It wouldn’t be cowardice General,” he stated quietly, “far from it.
Jack will not sit around feeling sorry for himself. If he sees he’ll never be fit for active duty, never return to
SG-1, or any meaningful work, Jack will take action, General! Any action necessary to regain control of his fate.”

Hammond got it. “And, you’re hoping I can somehow cushion the blow. How?”

“We can bring Sara O’Neill to him. Maybe it will give him a purpose, some … hope.”

Hammond pondered the idea. “You’re probably right, Doctor, that Jack needs Sara. But, they’re adults. They decided to
separate. You and I can’t interfere with a decision they made of their own free will.”

It was Daniel’s turn to explode. “Excuse me for being blunt General, but the military has already interfered. You
guys messed up Jack’s life pretty thoroughly. My God, they enticed him to lead a suicide mission just weeks after his
son died. Exactly what makes you think he was competent to exercise free will in that decision?”

“That was General West’s call, not mine, Doctor Jackson. For what it’s worth, I think it stinks.”

“And, since then, with all due respect General, Jack has buried himself in your top-secret SGC facility a mile under
Cheyenne Mountain and you let him do it. How was Sara supposed to reach out to him? Did she even know where he was?
How can you say she freely chose to never see him again? And Jack! He’ll never forgive himself for Charlie’s death.
So, he can’t conceive that Sara might forgive him, or need him. Instead, he takes on the toughest missions, the most
risky assignments. And, you’ve got the perfect weapon -- a tough, loyal man with no thought of self preservation or
family obligations, just devotion to his team and his duty to SGC. Perfect!”

Hammond glowered. “What exactly did you expect me to do? Order Colonel Jack O’Neill into counseling? Even if I
thought that would do him some good, there’s no basis for such an order. He passes every fitness exam, physical and
psychological.”

“Jack’s not nuts, exactly” Daniel stammered “just … vulnerable.”

Hammond snorted. “Colonel Jack O’Neill! I last thing I ever thought I hear anyone call O’Neill is vulnerable!”

Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose and grinned sheepishly. “You know what I mean.”

Hammond, mollified, gave a small nod. “Yes, in fairness, I guess I do.” Then briskly, added, “So, Doctor, what,
exactly, do you want from me?”

“Nothing, General. Not a thing, except permission to try! And, ah, a ride home … now, if possible.”

“You’re going to find Sara O’Neill?”

“Yes.”

“And when you’ve found her, what then?”

“Well, she’s still listed as Jack’s next-of-kin. I imagine I’ll know as soon as I see her whether she still … cares.”

Hammond, horrified, realized the truth of Daniel’s assessment. “You’re right... and, my God, I notified her that Jack
is ‘MIA’ almost a week ago.”

Daniel, filled in, “And, if she does care, she’s been out of her mind ever since.”

Hammond snapped back into a no-nonsense professional. “Go! I’ll issue the necessary orders to get you to the USS
Stennis, which should be in position within the hour. From there a military jet will get you to the States.”

Daniel executed a sloppy salute, turned and jogged down the hall, calling back, “Thank you, General.”
Hammond shook his head. “Good luck, Doctor.”



4 - Paradise Lost

Doctor Daniel Jackson’s driver parked at the curb, in front of the house that Jack O’Neill once shared with Sara and
their young son, Charlie. Dusk had settled over the wintry landscape of a middle-class Colorado suburb. Cheery
Christmas lights shone from a dozen homes, but not from the O’Neill house.

Daniel sat for a moment gathering nerve and watching through the window. Sara was home, visible through a front room
window, probably the living room. A man that Daniel concluded was Mike, Sara’s father, washed dishes in front of a
window apparently over the kitchen sink. Mike glanced up as he dried a plate and stiffened. He’d seen the government
plates on the sedan.

Daniel got out of the car and quickly walked up the sidewalk. He heard Mike call out. “Sara?”

She answered from the other room, “Yes, Dad. The plates go over the stove and the glasses over the sink.”

Mike called again, “Sara, come here right now.”

Daniel caught a glimpse of Sara as she pulled back a curtain and saw the ominous military sedan. Her voice broke as
she called out. “Oh my God, Dad. It’s Jack!”

Mike’s answer was barely audible, although Daniel stood the door, by then. “Yes, God help him, I think it is.”

In a moment, Sara O’Neill had flung open the front door, just as Daniel Jackson raised his hand to knock. Face-to-
face with a wild-eyed, middle-aged woman, Jackson blurted, “Mrs. O’Neill? I’m Daniel Jackson, I work with your ...ah,
husband... with Jack.”

Sara glared at Daniel and demanded, “What’s happened to Jack? Have you found him?”

Surprised by her energy, Daniel was momentarily lost for words. Mike, seeing him hesitate and expecting the worst,
intervened. “Maybe you should come in Mr. Jackson.”

Daniel automatically replied. “Thanks, actually it’s Doctor Jackson.”

Sara, suddenly relieved, exclaimed, “Doctor! Then he’s hurt? Thank God. If Jack were dead, Dad, they’d send a
General, not a physician.”

Daniel, having recovered, explained, “Yes, Mrs. O’Neill. Jack was hurt, in an accident. It’s bad. But, we’re doing
everything we can for him and ... I think he’ll make it.”

Mike looked puzzled and asked. “If you’re still not sure, shouldn’t you be with him, Doctor?”

Daniel realized the mistake and clarified. “No, I’m his... friend. I’m a doctor of Archeology, not medicine.”

Sara filled in, mechanically, “With the Stargate Program?

Daniel gawked and then said rapidly. “I can’t talk about that, Mrs. O’Neill and you shouldn’t either. I’m here as
Jack’s friend.” Seeing Sara on the brink of exploding, he tried to appease her. “I’m not Air Force, Sara. I think
what the military did to Jack, and you, stinks. They never really gave you a chance, did they, after Charlie...died.”

Sara looked like she’d been struck and turned sobbing into Mike’s arms. Mike held her and, all his parental instincts
roused, sternly faced Daniel. “Doctor, I think you’d better tell my daughter what you came to tell her and then I’d
like you to go.”

“I’m sorry,” Daniel stammered. “I just wanted you to know we found Jack and ... If you want, I can bring you to him.
That is, if you’re willing.” Mike and Sara stared, thunderstruck by Daniel’s offer. Mistaking surprise for
reluctance, Daniel pressed on, “He needs you Sara.”

Immediately, Sara responded. “Where?”

“I’ll take you. I have a car outside and there is a military jet standing by at Cheyenne Mountain Air Station.”
Daniel looked at his watch. “Jack should be in Auckland, New Zealand, by now and is probably back in surgery. If we
leave now, you might be there when he wakes up.” Wordlessly, Sara went for her coat.

Mike took Daniel aside. “How bad is it?” Daniel spoke low, choosing his words with care, he reviewed O’Neill’s long
list of injuries, calculating to finish before Sara returned. Just as Daniel concluded, saying, “hard to know what
will happen,” Sara ran down the staircase and back into the living room.
She had put on a coat over her shirt and jeans and stood red-eyed, but ready to leave. Mike put an arm around her
shoulders and gave her a firm squeeze. “Call me if there is anything…”

“Mike, I’ll take care of her. I promise,” Daniel interjected and, after shaking his hand, turned to Sara. “Let’s go.”

On board the darkened military jet, Sara O’Neill sat in the dark, lost in private thoughts. The steady thrumming of
the engines mesmerized Daniel, on his second day of cross-hemispheric travel, bringing him to the verge of sleep.
Daniel’s head drooped, but he revived when Sara turned to him. “Dr. Jackson, what made you come to me, after all
these months?” Daniel rubbed his tired eyes and muttered dully, “Jack needs you. He’s my friend and he needs you. So,
I came.”

Sara, incredulous, wondered aloud. “How can you say that, Doctor Jackson. He’s been fine without me for nearly two
years! Even when we were together, Jack loved me, but he never really needed me, or anybody else, for that matter.
He’s always been… complete, all by himself, self-sufficient.”

Daniel, shocked by her frank assessment of their failed marriage, exclaimed. “ No, that’s not true, Sara.” He
quavered a moment, but then plunged on. “I know it’s private and you don’t know me. But, I know Jack. I was with him
on that first mission, after Charlie died, after he left. Sara, I know you can’t realize how hard it’s been for him
because no one told you. I’m pretty sure that the Air Force picked Jack because he wanted to die. They took advantage
of his grief and … guilt over Charlie’s death to recruit him for a … for a suicide mission. Sara, they ordered him on
that mission because they somehow knew he wanted… a way to atone. I think that if he hadn’t had to save me, Sara,
Colonel Jack O’Neill would have completed his mission, exactly as ordered.”

To Daniel’s surprise, and extreme embarrassment, Sara did not yield the point. Instead she attacked fiercely! “What
was I supposed to do? He left me, Doctor Jackson. We had just lost our son! It happened with Jack’s gun! I needed him
… and he just left! I’ve seen him once, in almost two years. And, that … wasn’t really Jack.”

Daniel sighed and rubbed his eyes again. “It must have been very hard and I understand you are angry. But, Jack
didn’t leave you. He was taken from you. He just hasn’t found a way back. If you want it, Sara, this could be the
way. Jack is of no use to the military for the foreseeable future, maybe forever. He’s alone and in trouble. As awful
as this is, it may be your chance. If you’re there, when he wakes up he’ll reach out to you, Sara, and never let you
go. No matter what it felt like, he didn’t leave you. He was taken. He has always needed you, never more than now.”

Years of grief and days of panic caught up with Sara O’Neill. In a voice as old as time, she sighed, “Yes, he needs
me, for a while, at least.”

Daniel pressed his advantage. “Sara. Jack was dying when they reached him and his last thoughts were of you.” Sara
looked doubtful and Daniel rushed on. “When we found them, Captain Carter had wrapped herself around Jack to combine
body heat.”

Sara frowned.

“Oops,” Daniel thought, “maybe I could have left that part out.”

He tried to recover. “It probably saved them both, Sara. But, Jack was in bad shape, delirious. He didn’t know it was
Carter. Jack thought it was you and ... he spoke to you. Somewhere in that thick head of his you’re still together,”
he finished weakly.

Spent, Daniel stared out the window. His plea was uncomfortably close to his most private thoughts about Sha’Re.
She’d been taken. She would never have left him willingly. If he had the chance that Fate was placing before Sara
O’Neill, he’d thank the gods for it! But, what would Sara do? He stole a glance. She had her head in one hand. He
couldn’t see her face. After a few moments passed, to Daniel’s surprise, Sara squared her shoulders, dried her face
on her sleeve and faced him with steel in her eyes. “Okay, Doctor Jackson, you want my help? I want something in
return. I want the truth.”

Daniel gulped. “Excuse me?”

“If you want my help. Tell me! What has Jack been doing for the military, since he left?” Sara’s voice was hard.
Suddenly Daniel understood Jack’s devotion to this woman. Still, he was legally proscribed from answering. And, he
reasoned, if her own husband can’t tell her, why should he, a relative stranger. Daniel shook his head slowly, “No,
that’s classified, Mrs. O’Neill. I can’t...”

Sara’s anger was like a physical blow. “You can, Doctor Jackson. I have a right to understand!” She continued
bitterly, “When Jack was running Special Ops behind the Iron Curtain, at least I knew something... from movies.
During the Gulf War, I pieced it together from the news. Even when he came back to me after four months as an Iraqi
POW, I felt I understood some of what he’d been through. This is different. It’s not just about losing Charlie. After
the ‘other’ Jack came to me, Doctor, I did see Jack, once. He came to our house the next day ... on orders to learn
how much I knew about the Stargate Program. It was awful, Doctor Jackson. I told him everything and he told me...
nothing. Again. He wouldn’t lie to me and ... he couldn’t tell me, so there was just... nothing to say. No matter how
much Jack and I loved each other, Doctor, a marriage can’t survive that kind of ... black hole. I need to know! I
have a right to know!”

Her fierce tone caused a Sergeant sitting a few seats ahead of them to turn slightly.

Sara paused and leaned her head on her hand, thrusting her fingers deep into the thick blonde hair, she continued
with hushed ferocity. “I’m not asking about technology, or strategy, or military strength, just the risks my husband
is taking and why he has to take those risks. What’s it all for? Tell me why! If you had a wife, maybe you’d
understand.”

Daniel felt a cold knot in his gut and his throat worked, but no sound emerged. He clenched his fist – hard -- and
tried again. “What you are asking me to tell you is classified, top-secret.” His voice was dry and the words came
softly. “That’s why Jack wouldn’t talk about it... It could mean courts martial, prison, even a firing squad....”

Daniel paused. Memories of Abydos and a dozen other worlds flooded in. O’Neill had risked everything, time and again,
trying to save Sha’Re. And there were other times when Daniel had been injured, or lost or cut off from the Team.
O’Neill never hesitated to risk all to bring him home, never mind the odds.

Daniel took a deep breath and committed himself to an irrevocable path. “Sara, Jack leads an elite team and is
second-in-command of a corps of troops in a top-secret program, called the Stargate Project. I’m on his team, so is
Captain Carter. An anthropologist discovered alien technology on the Giza Plateau, in Egypt, decades ago. A little
more than two years ago, I helped the US military make it work. Our Stargate is a portal, Sara, part of a network of
thousands of gates. These portals let us travel throughout the Universe.”

Sara, speaking to herself, repeated what she’d assumed was a ‘line of BS’ about the Gate. “A big metal ring of
energy.”

Daniel raised his eyebrows, “Exactly,” and continued. “The discoveries we’ve made.... But, as wonderful as the
Stargate system is, technologically, it is also very, very dangerous. On our first mission, we encountered a race of
aliens called the Goa’uld. Sara they parasitize human hosts. They kidnap you, take possession of your body, control
you, and (choking up) ... you live … you may live that way for millennia because, you see, they have the technology
to repair and maintain human bodies… indefinitely.

After life with a professional stoic like Jack O’Neill, Sara easily read the grief of a relative amateur, like Daniel
Jackson. “You lost someone! Doctor Jackson, I’m sorry...”

Daniel plunged on, “The Goa’uld have established thousands of colonies maybe hundreds of thousands, where humans are
their slaves, like we once were in ancient Egypt. Since our first mission, they know we can activate our Gate and we
are a threat to their power. We’re at war with the Goa’uld and they intend to re-conquer Earth.”

Sara asked reasonably, “Why don’t you just destroy the Stargate?” Daniel nodded. “The Goa’uld have ships, Sara,
spaceships."

Jackson mused. “The weird part is that we travel through the Universe and find entire worlds, wonderful things
through the Stargate. But, no one knows. The Shuttle Program continues and the Space lab and our satellites struggle
to reach other planets, while Jack steps through a Stargate in Cheyenne Mountain and walks on alien worlds. It’s
risky, but Jack O’Neill was born for this. He plays the Neanderthal, but he really far subtler than that. Jack’s a
natural explorer, an instinctive scientist and ... of course, a warrior. Yet, for all his military bravado, he’s a
diplomat.”

Sara O’Neill smiled mysteriously, leaving Daniel to wonder whether she was surprised, unbelieving or had always known
the many parts of her deceptively straightforward husband, as he continued to persuade. “More important than any of
that, Jack is a decent man. SGC needs him. If it helps you to know this, Sara, Jack has been decorated twice since
he’s been at the SGC. In a different kind of war, he would already be promoted out of the field and at the Pentagon,
a World hero, probably pulling down six or seven-figures on the lecture circuit.”

Sara smiled, shook her head sadly and lowered her eyes. “That’s enough. For Jack there never will be a different kind
of war. He’s always been a hero, Doctor, and the world has never known. It never will. That’s not why he does it, or
why I love him for doing it. Thank you, Doctor. You can count on me to keep my part of the bargain.”

5 - South of Heaven

Daniel and Sara slept deeply for the remainder of the flight, waking only after the jet had taxied to its gate at
Auckland airport. They disembarked, along with a handful of US military officers, and headed wearily for customs,
where an Air Force Sergeant greeted them with the necessary papers. After a brief exchange – concerning the import of
forbidden fruits, vegetables or insects and a meticulous inspection of their shoes by an agricultural official – they
were through. The Sergeant led them out the front door, through harsh sunlight of northern New Zealand summer to a
waiting a military sedan.
New Zealand surprised Sara. The Sergeant drove North out of the airport, hugging the New Zealand coastline to an
unnamed military hospital outside of Auckland. After the initial shock of sunshine and palms, New Zealand reminded
Sara in a thousand small ways of the United States, but different. It was as if she'd fallen asleep in the 1990s and
awoke in the 1950s. People seemed open and friendly, but carefully polite, almost formal. Beyond Auckland, towns were
small, sleepy and slightly seedy-looking. There were no signs of McDonalds, she realized, or Burger King, or any of
the dozen other International franchises that blot an American landscape.

As miles clicked by Sara O’Neill stared out the window, one hand buried deep in her silver-blonde hair. Blind to the
ocean vistas she considered the implications of time travel. Maybe somehow she’d traveled back into a more innocent
time. Considering her aim -- to resurrect a marriage rocked by tragedy and destroyed by secrets -- maybe her best
hope lie in innocence. She replayed cherished memories: Charlie’s first communion, his baptism. The day he was born.
The daft look of pure joy, pride and giddy relief on Jack’s face when he first held their new-borne son, Charlie.

They’d been so happy, then. Sara’s thoughts drifted on: their wedding day and the too-brief honeymoon, before that,
courtship. Oh, Sara blushed as she recalled their flirtatious first date and those breathless, embarrassing days
while she waited and wondered whether Lieutenant Jack O’Neill would ask her for a second date. Then, her lurching
butterflies when he did! The sun-drenched splendor of that Colorado autumn as she fell deeply, completely, blissfully
under the spell of Jack O’Neill, with his preposterously short hair, panther-lithe physic, smiling brown eyes and
quick, cynical wit.

Sara’s reverie was interrupted as the sedan, at last, pulled to a stop before a building that might have been a set
for General Hospital. Daniel took her hand, helped her out, and proprietarily held her arm, guiding her through the
corridors.

As Sara O’Neill entered her estranged husband’s hospital room, sun streamed through tall windows and onto a dimly
gleaming linoleum floor of the otherwise darkened room. Like the rest of the building, the room was antiquated, like
something from her childhood. Sheer white curtains shifted slightly in a breeze from an open window. Faint sounds of
ocean birds and surf and the scent of a garden wafted in with the breeze. As her eyes adjust to the gloom, Sara
hesitated. Daniel heard her sharp gasp and knew she was looking at Jack.

Jack O’Neill -- Colonel, warrior, twice decorated savior of planet Earth -- lay intubated, in a simple metal hospital
bed, a plasma bag hanging at the bed head. He was barely recognizable: his hands, arms, chest and face were heavily
bandaged. His right leg, in a thick plaster cast, stuck up from the sheets at an awkward angle, suspended by a cord-
and-weight contraption. Tubes snaked around him: one disappeared under the sheets from a plasma bag at the head of
the bed; another drained ominously dark fluid to a vessel on the floor at the foot of the bed.

Sara, a veteran of hospital visits, steeled herself and walked to Jack’s side, carefully took his heavily bandaged
hand, leaned over, stroked his unkempt hair and whispered. “Jack, I’m here Jack. I’m here now. Everything’s fine.
Just sleep.”

Daniel had planned to take Sara to a nearby hotel. Seeing it was not part of her plan, he slipped quietly away to
make arrangements for her to sleep in a nearby room, when she was ready.

Hours passed. Sara watched the moon rise over the bay and listened unthinkingly to the sounds of the hospital at
night. Quiet, efficient footsteps down the hall. Far-away beeping that abruptly stopped. The regular bleep of Jack’s
monitors, the only clue that this room isn’t, in fact, lost in the 1950s. At daybreak, the bay outside the window
turned lovely purple, then violet struck through with mauve, then faded quickly to silver. Someone brought her a cup
of tea, just as an impossibly red sun heaved over the horizon. She sipped it and waited, stroking Jack’s forearm, one
of only a few places she could touch without fear of hurting him. Sara leaned her head against his arm and rested her
eyes, just for a moment.

A raucous chorus of birds was making strange croaking calls, when Daniel Jackson reappeared. He started to walk into
the room, but witnessing this very private scene, turned to leave, but Sara was already awake and called softly,
“Daniel. Don’t go. Come in. You can keep us company.”

“How is he?”

Sara answered shakily, “I haven’t seen a doctor. The same, I think.”

Daniel took her hand. “Sara, have you been here all night? Come on let’s get some air. Doctor Fraiser will keep an
eye on Jack, while we are out. You won’t do him any good by wearing yourself out. We’ll just go for a half-hour, or
so, ok?” Sara nodded and stood stretching, while Daniel asked a passing nurse to notify Doctor Fraiser.

Sometime later, a nurse came into the room, checked Jack’s medical chart and fussed with the covers. She administered
medications through the plasma feed, when he moved, slightly brushing her skirt with the back of his heavily bandaged
left hand. Startled, the nurse called out, trotting briskly down the hall. “Doctor Fraiser! He’s awake. Doctor. It’s
the American flyer! He’s awake!”
Doctor Fraiser hustled into the room and leaned over Jack, speaking as she examined him. “Well, now Colonel O’Neill?
Welcome back! You’re in a military hospital in New Zealand. You’ve been here for three days now. Don’t try to talk,
Colonel. I’ll bet that tube bothers you. A little later Colonel, we’ll see if we can remove it. Ahh, you’re drifting
on me, again. Well, that’s the pain medication. So, you just relax. Nurse, we’ll have to be prompt with his meds, now
that he’s back with us.” Fraiser checked the chart against the monitors. “Let’s take a look at your vital signs,
shall we? Hmm.” As Doctor Fraiser fussed with the chart, Sara O’Neill walked into the room.

Seeing Fraiser concentrating on Jack’s still form, Sara walked soundlessly to the window where she could be out of
the way. She stood for a moment gazing over the garden to the sea, her profile illuminated against the sheer white
curtains.

Jack’s monitors went wild.

Sara turned to see Doctor Fraiser respond efficiently, checking her patient’s pupils. The Doctor was smiling.

Sara realized Jack was awake and took a step toward the bed. “Jack? Doctor, he’s awake?”

An alarmed watch nurse rushed in, “Doctor! His blood pressure and heart rate...!” But, Doctor Fraiser smiled. She was
very pleased! “No need for alarm, nurse.”

Turning to Sara, she smiled broadly and said. “It appears Jack recognizes you, Sara. That’s good news.” Giving Sara’s
hand a brief squeeze, she said. “I had hoped to fill you in on Jack’s condition, but how about if I leave you two
alone for a while. I will come back in a few minutes. Call immediately, if there’s any sign he’s in pain, will you?”

Sara nodded. “Yes. Thank you, Doctor.”

Sara dropped into a chair, bonelessly, like a marionette with her strings cut. She stroked Jack’s bristled jaw with
her fingertips, before whispering. “Jack?” But there was no response. The brief flash of awareness had passed. Sara
ran her hand back through her fair hair and waited.

She must have dozed, because when she opened her eyes, Jack was fixing her with a clear, hungry stare. He continued
to look deep into her eyes, then blinked hard.

'Are those tears?' Sara wondered. “Shh, don’t try to speak. Just listen. There was an accident. Something
malfunctioned on the Stargate. You know more about that than I ever will, I suppose. I was notified that you were
missing in action. That was a week ago, Jack. Doctor Jackson came to tell me they’d found you, and you were injured.
It’s bad, but you’re alive. Captain Carter set your leg. She saved you, Jack. There’s frostbite. Your right foot is
the worst. You had a concussion. You can see me?”

Wrinkles formed around O’Neill’s warm brown eyes.

“That’s good, Jack. And, you know who I am?”

His eyes smiled again.

“They told me you might not. You had a concussion. The cold had kept it from swelling, until they got you to McMurdo
Station. Then they almost lost you. You knew your chest was bad. They’ve finished working on your ribs and lung, and
now it’s just a matter of time.”

Jack placed his bandaged hand over hers and closed his eyes.



6 - Paradise Found

[6 Weeks Later]

Doctor Janet Fraiser sat resolutely at her keyboard, fingers poised.

“‘Physical Summary – Colonel Jack O’Neill. After seven weeks, Colonel Jack O’Neill is well on his way to recovery.’”

Doctor Fraiser noted in her current weekly report to General Hammond.

‘Colonel O’Neill recuperates remarkably fast for a 40-year old man, ’

‘Unfortunately, he has never learned to act his age!’

"Too peevish…unprofessional” she thought, struck the phrase and began again.

‘Excellent cardio-vascular and physical conditioning can account for his progress, to some extent. The Colonel’s
commitment to full recovery, however, must also be noted’…

Hmmm, could she say positive attitude? No, General Hammond knew Jack too well to buy that.”

‘Despite periodic lapses into depression…’

Strike that!”

‘Despite repeated outbursts of frustration (several in a day is not uncommon) that interrupt his schedule somewhat,
Colonel O’Neill continues to make better-than-expected progress in both strength training and physical therapy.
Balance is still impeded by limited use of his right leg. The issue of how much use he will eventually regain of his
right foot is still in question. This is a source of concern for the Colonel and for myself, as his physician (see
additional comments under Psychological, below). Physical progress is 30% ahead of schedule with the aforementioned
exceptions (see discussion of balance).’

There.”

Doctor Frazer reviewed the text, approved and forged ahead.

“‘Psychological Summary – Colonel Jack O’Neill. Psychologically, Colonel O’Neill maintains a strongly positive mental
attitude toward recovery, although he exhibits signs of apprehension normal to a man in his circumstances, as well as
a stubborn refusal (consistent with his well-established strength of personality) to discuss alternative options,
should full recovery not occur. The presence of Sara O’Neill is a major benefit to the Colonel’s physical recovery
due to her positive effect on his sense of well-being. Although…’

“How can I put this tactfully?"

‘The O’Neill’s appear to have a loving, if volatile relationship, it is… punctuated ... by periods of … extreme
contention’…

"Strike that… what’s another word for donnybrook?"

‘…Animated discussions of divergent points of view lead the Colonel to express himself, rather beyond the volume and
register considered the norm for civil social interaction.’

"Good!”

‘Colonel O’Neill remains a very private and self-directed person, as is to be expected. In his personal life,
however, Colonel O’Neill has undergone a dramatic change from the man I have known for the past 28 months. The change
is profound and generally positive, in that he has a far-better-than-anticipated attitude toward relaxation,
recreation and rest. I am very surprised at the lack of interest he shows in developments at SGC, but also relieved
in that this has allowed me to limit sedation to the minimum required to control pain. He still admits to pain while
breathing and lifting and makes occasional use of pain pills at night when his broken leg is particularly
troublesome. I expect leg pain will be increased when the cast is removed tomorrow.’

‘I also strongly suspect that Colonel O’Neill is not admitting to pain he feels during physical therapy, such as
strength training and range of motion therapy. I attribute this to his dedication to achieving a full and speedy
recovery and his view that pain medication might slow his recovery. This has been a long-standing misunderstanding by
this patient of the legitimate role of pain medication in treatment, as demonstrated in reports from the first day he
became my patient. As a result, I am administering 50% of his pain medications via food. I am taking this action
surreptitiously to ensure he receives at least the minimum dosage and to avoid unnecessary confrontations during a
period of relatively high physical and emotional stress.’

‘Future Treatment – Colonel Jack O’Neill. I intend to remove Colonel O’Neill’s cast tomorrow morning at 8:00 am local
time and begin therapeutic exercises to include light weight lifting and supervised swimming. Care must be taken to
avoid overexposure of hands, feet and face to UV-light as this will have a detrimental effect on recovery of these
frost burned areas. I intend to issue Colonel O’Neill equipment known locally as a rash-suit to prevent sun exposure
and SPF-30 sunscreen.’”

‘Prognosis – Colonel Jack O’Neill. At this time, I consider Colonel O’Neill is unfit for duty. His strength is
approaching 100% normal for a man of his age in the general population, but still well below his personal norms and
that required for return to active duty. Balance has not reached acceptable levels and he is receiving pain
medication that renders him unfit for service in any decision-making capacity and precludes the safe use of weapons
or operation of machinery. I am hopeful that Colonel O’Neill will achieve full recovery, however, this will not be
determined until a future date. He is scheduled for reassessment in one week. Submitted, respectfully, Doctor Janet
Fraiser, on remote assignment, New Zealand. ’”

Fraiser smiled and gazed out the window where Sara and Jack, leaning heavily on a cane, walk slowly along the shore.
Daniel, reading a book on the dunes in the foreground, watched them surreptitiously. Jack and Sara worked their way
along the beach, until Jack collapsed under a huge Kauri tree, laughing and pulling Sara down with him. Flowers
surround them. Lounging in the short grass, they dozed and talked until dusk. They sat with their heads close
together enjoying a cool evening breeze off the ocean, as Daniel strolled up. Jack noticed him first.

“Evening Daniel.”

Daniel smiled. “Hi Jack, Sara. Can we talk?”

Concern flickered across Sara’s smiling face, “Sure, Daniel. Is anything wrong?”

Daniel laughed and shook his head. “ No, it’s just time to go home, for me anyway. You’re on the mend now Jack and
Sara doesn’t need me here like... before.”

Jack was heartless, “Now that you know I’m not going to cash it in, you mean?”

Daniel blushed and protested. “Jack…”

Jack dropped the smart-ass routine for a moment and, his voice husky, interrupted. “It’s ok Daniel. You were right to
stay ... just in case. I’m grateful to you for bringing Sara and for everything. More than I can say. So, go home.
I’ll be along as soon as I’m up on two good legs.”

Daniel and Sara exchange a glance that communicates Daniel’s concern whether Sara can, in fact, cope with Jack alone,
and especially if his recovery doesn’t go as hoped.

She reassured him, “We’re fine, Daniel. When do you leave?”

Daniel tried to sound casual, “Tonight, I hope.”

Jack appeared indifferent, seeming to concentrate on playing with Sara’s neck. “Tonight, what’s the rush?”

Daniel looked uncomfortable. “No rush, really. It’s just the first available military transport home, and I’ve been
gone for nearly two months.”

Jack struggled to his feet. “Two months, yeah. It’s time you got back. Thanks for being here for us. It’s been swell.
Now get back to work, you bum. Carter is going to hate you for that suntan.” Then, uncharacteristically, he engulfed
Daniel an awkward bear hug.

Daniel’s reply was muffled in O’Neill’s shoulder, “Thanks Jack,” until he pulled back and, holding O’Neill
affectionately by his shoulders to help steady him, said, “You’ll be along soon.”

Jack replied a little too brightly. “Yeah, like the Kiwi’s say, ‘No worry, mate.’”

Daniel smirked and said, “Ah, Jack, that’s the Aussies. The Kiwis are always saying ‘brilliant’.” Then he turned and
hugged Sara warmly and she murmured. “We’ll miss you Daniel. Let us walk you up to your rooms.”

Jack shook his head. “I’m beat. Sara, you go ahead. If Daniel waits for me, he’ll miss his plane. Good trip Daniel.
I’ll see you back at the room Sara.”

As Sara and Daniel walked arm-in-arm back toward the hospital buildings, Jack leaned heavily on his cane and gazed up
at the emerging stars. He's thoughtful, putting pieces together. He mutters to himself. “C’mon, let’s get to bed.
I’ve got strange a feeling tomorrow will be a busy day.”

Sometime later Jack and Sara had settled in bed in the hospital. They had grown accustomed to sleeping together
despite Jack’s leg cast and remaining bindings. He nuzzled her lovingly, “Hmmm. This feels good. It’s the best part
of my day.” Sara smiled coquettishly. “I thought you were sleepy!” Jack leered and reached for the light switch. “Not
very sleepy …” Sara giggled. “In fact," he continued, "not sleepy at all.”

The O’Neills experimented with careful lovemaking. It was not an easy or especially graceful act, but after a
separation of years no one was giving points for style. Jack O’Neill proved his initiative and ability to overcomes
all obstacles to achieve his objective. Sara, an experienced wife motivated by too many years of separation, helped
eagerly to both their delight. Later, in afterglow, Jack stroked Sara’s hair. She smiled deliciously.

After a while, Jack rolled over and, holding Sara beneath him, looked deep into her eyes, “I have to go, you know.”

Sara was startled. “What? Go where?”

Jack kissed her deeply and continued. “Daniel wouldn’t have left unless there’s trouble. I have to go.”

Sara struggled to rise, but she’s pinned beneath Jack. “Jack, you can barely stand. What do you mean ‘go’? Go where?
Why?”

Seeing Sara getting angry, Jack let her sit up and continued. “He couldn’t tell me because I’m still not fit for
duty. But, I haven’t really tried to walk, have I? I’ve been so preoccupied... with us… that I haven’t really tried.
Not really.”

Sara was mad, now, and clambered off the bed. “You almost died, Jack. You almost lost your leg. You had a collapsed
lung, for god’s sake! You think you’ve been goldbricking?” She was crying and furious. “I almost lost you, you
stupid, selfish son-of-a-bitch!”

Jack followed her awkwardly trying to grasp her shoulders, as if physical contact might somehow help him contain her
fury.

Sara tooka swing at him, but Jack’s balance had improved. He ducked, grabbed her and folded her in his arms,
pleading. “Sara, babe, wait! I’m not leaving you again, not ever. I promise. Where I go, we go Sara. But, these are
my people. I’ve got a duty, to Daniel, to the team. Sara, you know him. He can’t keep a secret without a gun to his
head. He would have told me, if something small were bringing him home he would have told me. No, this is major and
he’s under orders to keep me out of the loop. So, I’ve got to be there.” Jack gave her a gentle shake. “I need your
help, Sara.”

The next day found Colonel Jack O’Neill and his loving wife, Sara, on a dusty, bumpy dirt road. Sara frowned as she
drove a military jeep down the wrong side of the road, along an isolated section of the New Zealand coast.

An hour earlier, Doctor Fraiser had removed Jack’s cast and soon after pronounced him ready for a new exercise regime
of swimming and strength training. It was the moment O’Neill had slaved for and now it held a new urgency.

Putting on his best bashful face, he’d asked to speak with Doctor Fraiser, in private. Intrigued, she’d agreed.
Sitting in her office, she was surprised at the man sitting across from her. Colonel O’Neill, her irrepressible
friend Jack, seemed pensive, even embarrassed.

“What can this be?” Janet wondered. Jack’s dark eyes were clouded and he looked… almost in pain. She gently tried to
offer a graceful opening, “Colonel, we’re friends, as well as comrades. Is this of a … private nature?”

O’Neill’s eyes widened for a moment in surprise. “A direct hit,” Janet crowed to herself. “You know you can tell me
anything and no one else needs to know, Jack.”

O’Neill started to speak, swallowed hard and muttered, “Oh for crying out loud,” pinching the bridge of his nose.
Then he rubbed his hand over his brow and quietly explained, drilling a hole in the toe of his left boot with both
eyes.

“This is hard for me to explain, Janet. You know about my son and you know that Sara and I separated and my record
shows we divorced.”

Doctor Fraiser quelled a thrill of excitement, could this be what she hoped?

“You see, Doc. We weren’t ever, really divorced. Sara and I, I mean. I got the papers. I just shoved them in my
locker and I couldn’t sign them.”

Fraiser’s face was polite and caring, and inside she was burning to hear where this unprecedented moment of candor
would lead.

“And, last night, I told Sara... I asked her to... whether she would be my wife. And … “ suddenly O’Neill’s face
lifted. He looked Doctor Fraiser straight in the eye and his face was absolutely radiant!

“She said ‘yes’, Janet. So”, O’Neill cleared his throat, the smile evaporated and he looked down again intently,
“what I wanted to ask… Is it absolutely necessary for me to be here to complete my therapy? Or, if maybe ... instead,
I could take Sara and drive to a beach cottage that some of the local guys told me about, a little way south of
here…”

Fraiser almost clapped her hands with joy as O’Neill stumbled painfully on with his personal request. “For a sort of
second honey moon.” His face lifted again and his eyes were pleading. “It would mean a lot to me.”

Janet Fraiser – O’Neill had her pegged as a romantic to the core – did not refuse. She pressed her best wishes on her
mortified friend, along with a strict set of instructions for completing his recovery and scribbled a release order
to allow him three weeks of unrestricted leave. O’Neill could manipulate people when necessary, even people he
respected.

Now, Sara drove and Jack looked tired, but determined. They didn't speak, as Sara pulled down a steep incline to a
pretty cove with a simple cabin beneath sweeping Kauri trees. Jack stretched and smiled, “Home Sweet Home.”
Sara was still peeved. “You must be out of your mind, Jack. What are we doing here?”

He smiled and squeezed her fist, still gripping the stick shift, “Therapy, babe, physical, psychological and
emotional therapy. Help me out, please.”

Sara helped Jack to a lawn chair and unpacked the jeep. While she worked, he slowly stripped off his shirt and pants.
Angry red scars lanced across his chest and right side. The skin on his legs and hands still showed dark patches of
frost burn. He pulled off his boots painfully. Wearing skivvies, Jack limped to the lagoon and plunged in, startling
Sara.

Sara spun toward the bay. “Jack? My god, JACK! Are you trying to drown?”

Calling from the water, he answered. “Keep an eye on me, Sara. I’ll stay close to shore, until I’m sure I can handle
this.”

Resigned, Sara O’Neill returned to unpacking. She glanced up watch Jack as he swam and swam for what seemed like
hours. Finally, he struggled to shore and stumbled onto the beach, shaking with exhaustion and cold. Sara ran up with
a towel and dried his back. Then, she wrapped him in a blanket and half carried him to the cabin.

****

It is another early morning in the cabin. Sunrise colors the bay peach and rose, as Jack hobbles stiffly onto the
porch in a military T-shirt and shorts. He starts down the beach at a slow trot. Sara, half dressed, sprints after
him, calling, “Jack, you can’t go alone. I’m coming. You could have at least taken time for coffee.”

Another day. Jack, looking much stronger, stands on the beach in shorts. Beneath his deepening tan, he still looks
drawn, but his movements are fluid as he starts a series of pushups. After a quick 50 he collapses in a coughing fit.
He is clearly in pain, but when he stops hacking, he starts again. Sara watches from the porch, concerned, but
resigned to her husband’s latest mission.

At sunset, Jack comes to shore from another swim. Splashing up to the shore, tan and as fit as ever, fading light
shimmered on his slick back and legs. Sara waits with a towel and blanket, and wraps them over him as he comes close,
just as she has every day for two weeks. Only this time Jack turns and sweeps her up in the blanket with him. He
presses his cool, strong, wet body against her, drinking in her heat. Then he bends and kisses Sara warmly along her
face and neck and then moves gently down. He nuzzles her breasts and her belly, and pulls her down with him, taking
his time as he opens her blouse and tastes each breast. They wrap together in the sun-warmed sand and make leisurely
love, as the moon rises from the ocean behind them.

At sunrise, Jack is at the stove. Sara opens a sleepy eye and slowly wakens to realize the cabin had been stripped
and packed. She rolls over and stretches like a cat, “Hmm. Smells good. What time is it?”

Jack comes to sit on the edge of the bed. Without thinking, his hands play along his wife’s sleep-warm body. “Still
early, babe. Are you hungry? After having everyone wait on me for so long, it feels good to do something, myself. I
never thought I’d enjoy cooking.”

Sara arches under Jack’s wandering hands and smiles up at him crookedly “How do you feel about baking?” Jack looks
down at her, puzzled. “What?”

Sara blushes. “You know, that terrible old saying about ‘something in the oven’?” She has Jack’s complete attention.
“Sara, what??” Sara watches his face, “We’re pregnant, Jack. I think it happened in Auckland, or maybe the first
night here.”

O’Neill pales and whispers, “A baby? My God,” and gathers her up in his arms, his face buried deep in her hair.

After a moment, Sara realizes Jack isn’t speaking. His shoulders shake, and then heave with silent sobs that seem to
wrack his whole body. She isn’t sure if they are tears of joy or if Jack is, at last, grieving for Charlie. Maybe
it’s both. So, she simply holds him, and soothes him. “Shh. It’s all right, Jack. Everything's alright.”



7- Lay Me Down

Two days later, Colonel O’Neill stands at attention before General Hammond’s desk at SGC.

Jack snaps Hammond a brisk regulation salute, “General Hammond. Colonel Jack O’Neill reporting for duty, Sir.”

Hammond beams, “Good to have you back, Colonel,” and returns the salute. Then, Hammond shakes O’Neill’s hand. “How
are you, Jack?”
Still at attention, O’Neill proclaims. “I’m 100 percent, Sir. Ready for duty.”

Hammond shakes his head. “Now, don’t give me that, Jack. Ten weeks ago, you couldn’t lift your head.”

O’Neill shoots him a determined look. “Yes sir, that’s true. But I’m fine now, Sir. Ready to get back to work.”

Hammond sits and motions O’Neill to a chair. “We’ll start you out slow, Colonel. I’m not sending you through the
Stargate two months after major surgery, and you’ll have to check out 100 percent fit with Dr. Fraiser before I do.”

O’Neill smiles. “The Infirmary was my first stop, Sir. Somehow, it wouldn’t feel right to start a day without
dropping my drawers for Doc Fraiser. I’m fully checked out, 100 percent fit.” Laying a fat manila folder before
Hammond, “here’s the good Doctor’s report, Sir.”

Hammond realizes O’Neill will not accept coddling, but he doesn’t like it. “Damn it, Jack. You’ll never take any
slack at all, will you! You and Sara just got back together. How’s she going to handle you going right back on the
line?”

O’Neill looks thoughtful for a moment, before quietly replying, “Sara cares about Daniel as much as I do, General.”

Hammond tries to look surprised, “What do you mean? What’s Doctor Jackson got to do with this?”

O’Neill loses his temper. “Sir, two weeks ago Daniel left New Zealand like a scalded cat. I’m not a braniac like
Carter, but General, I’m not stupid either. Something is up. I want in.”

General Hammond stares at O’Neill. He has the unnerving feeling he’s been checkmated and he didn’t know he was
playing chess. Sensing an advantage O’Neill continues.

“Sir, I busted hump to get in shape. First, I owe it to my team and the SGC. Second, I owe Daniel. Don’t tell me I’m
wrong, or too late. I can smell it. This place is gearing up, and I’m pretty sure it’s about Sha’Re. Now, I’m
standing here reporting for duty, General. I’m 100 percent. I’m checked out, certified, Grade A, Prime! So, what do
you say? Am I in, or out?”

Hammond answers softly. “In, Colonel. You’re in, of course. Welcome back. Briefing in 20 minutes. Stow your gear and
report to the briefing room with the rest of SG-1.”

Jack stands and snaps his second regulation salute in five minutes, “Yes, Sir.”

Hammond smiles and turns to the file from Doctor Fraiser. Glancing across the sheets, a phrase catches his eye:

“… Given the timing of the request (hours after Daniel Jackson’s departure), and recognizing that Colonel O’Neill has
never before requested any special privilege on his own behalf, I can only conclude that he’s acting out of concern
for SGC and intends to return to active duty at the earliest possible opportunity, probably within two weeks or less.

General Hammond, I am actually quite relieved by this action. It shows strategy, motivation and a willingness to take
risks. As noted in previous weekly reports, I was worried by the total disinterest Colonel O’Neill had shown in
Stargate activities over the past several weeks.

It seems that was a ruse and, frankly, I am relieved. Faced with the choice between challenging his motives -- which
I believe to be entirely honorable -- as well as his cock-and-bull story, or granting him leave for a trip with Sara
O’Neill during which I am certain he will devise an acceptable therapeutic regime (if too ambitious), I have granted
Colonel O’Neill leave.

I hereby accept full responsibility for Colonel O’Neill’s welfare and actions while off post and intend to mark him
for active duty whenever he decides to return…”

Hammond shakes his head. Doctor Janet Fraiser is no man’s fool! Someday O’Neill will learn that, hopefully to his
extreme embarrassment! Hammond smiles, “I hope I’m there to see it.” He allows himself a brief moment to contemplate
the pleasing scenario, before turning back to a stack of paperwork.



8 - To Sleep

The other members of SG-1 are already in the briefing room when O’Neill enters. Daniel looks haggard and relieved to
see Jack. Carter and Teal’c are jubilant. General Hammond takes it in, smiling as the team revels briefly, and then
brings the group to order. “Doctor Jackson, will you start the briefing for Colonel O’Neill, please?”

Daniel’s smile quickly fades as he speaks. “Jack, two weeks ago, Sam’s team made a major break through. She and
Sergeant Silas figured out how to tap Goa’uld communications channels across the System. Since then, we’ve been able
to eavesdrop on Goa’uld transmissions. Jack, we’ve located Skaara and Sha’Re.”
O’Neill raises his eyebrows and whistles softly. “Way to go Carter!”

Sam smiles -- pleased with herself -- then stands to point to a star chart on the wall. “They’re leading an invasion
force to attack a planet we visited just before your accident, Colonel. P3X189. The planet with all the raw naquida
deposits.”

“Celeste’s planet. Is that what they’re after?” O’Neill asks with the attitude of a man who knows the answer.

“Yes, naquida and slaves,” Daniel responds quietly.

Carter continues, “They plan to move forces to two jumping off points: here and here. From what Daniel and Teal’C
tell me about the transmissions they’ve translated, we can expect them to strike within the next few days.”

O’Neill asks. “So, we’ve warned them, right?”

Hammond looks unhappy. “Not exactly, Colonel. From information the Goa’uld have, they almost certainly have one or
more spies upon the planet.”

O’Neill’s temper flares. “So the people there have no idea!”

Hammond nods. “That’s right, Colonel. Besides, if we told them, what could they do?”

O’Neill, “They could leave!”

Hammond patiently smiles and replies, “Colonel, you know there is no way the Antonines could evacuate more than 60
thousand inhabitants through their Stargate in just a few days. We need a way to destroy those ships or we lose the
first real supply of naquida we have found.”

O’Neill frowns, “and about 60 thousand new friends.”

Daniel can’t restrain himself, “and our first real chance to free Sha’Re and Skaara.”

O’Neill suddenly looks very tired. “So, that’s the good news!”

Hammond smiles grimly. “That’s about the size of it, Colonel.”

Daniel rubs his eyes. “Welcome back, Jack.”

O’Neill smiles beatifically, “Yeah, wouldn’t have missed it for the world. What’s the plan? There is a plan!”

Hammond shakes his head. “That’s what we’re here to work out, Colonel. Ideas?”

O’Neill reluctantly volunteers, “Unless we plan to let the Antonines get slaughtered, we have to do something to
either scuttle their plans or find some way to distract the Goa’uld.”

He pauses to think. “When we took out Ra, we sent a nuclear device into his ship from the surface, using his nifty
elevator doohickey. Could we gate nukes to these planets and then send them up to the Goa’uld ship?” O’Neill smirks
wickedly, “Sort of… shaft 'em??”

Hammond ignores the poor pun. “We’re already on that, Colonel. But, it’s not that simple.”

Carter chimes in. “We use nukes. We transport them through the Stargate to the planets where the Goa’uld are massing.
Then, we arm the nukes and ... somehow... get them to bring them on board their ships. I haven’t figured that part
out, yet.”

O’Neill thinks aloud, rubbing the top of his head. “They have to want them. So, we put them inside something
valuable, something every Goa’uld wants.”

Carter smiles, “a kind of ‘Trojan Horse’ strategy, Colonel?”

Teal’c nods. “A shipment of naquida would tempt the Goa’uld.” Then he looks at Carter quizzically, “I have seen
horses. What is a Trojan?”

O’Neill glances at Daniel. “So, the Goa’uld grab the naquida and go boom. But before that happens, how do we get
Sha’Re and Skaara off those ships?”

Daniel finishes the thought, “And, once we have them, how do we deprogram them?”
Carter looks to Hammond for backing. “Sir, maybe the Tollan can help us with that piece.”

O’Neill is not buying it. “Why would they? All we did was save their lives.”

Jackson looks to Hammond, ignoring O’Neill’s pessimism. “General, the Tollan have vastly superior technology, for
that matter so do the Nox. If we can just get to Sha’Re and Skaara, I am sure they will help us save them.

O’Neill repeats, glancing toward Carter. “I wouldn’t count on the Tollan, Daniel. Now the Nox on the other hand are
good people.”

Carter glances back and suggests, “When we were on Cimmera, Kendra had freed herself from her Goa’uld parasite,
somehow. We could ask them for help.”

Hammond decides. “People, we don’t have time to decide exactly what we do after the battle. Our objective is to
destroy those ships and protect the planet. If, somehow, you can retrieve your wife and her brother Doctor Jackson,
you have my permission. Besides being the right thing to do, they could be an invaluable source of intelligence, if
we can find a way to reach them. But Colonel O’Neill their rescue is not your primary objective. Is that clear?”

“Crystal, Sir.” But everyone at the table knows O’Neill will move heaven and earth, if necessary, to bring his
friends home.

Hammond is thinking as he directs Carter. “Contact the Antonines and ask them for a shipment of refined naquida.
Teal’c, you and Sergeant Silar arrange for a way to conceal the two nuclear warheads. Doctor Jackson, initiate
communications with the Tollan and the Nox.”

O’Neill summarizes. “So, now we just have to figure out now is how to get Skaara and Sha’Re off the ships before they
blow.”

Jackson mulls it over. “Simple, we kidnap them. We get on board, overpower Skaara and Sha’Re and …”

O’Neill cuts him off. “That’s certainly simple, Daniel, simple, straightforward and REALLY stupid. It means at least
two of us will have to go aboard. How we gonna do that?”

Jackson rebuts. “Maybe we don’t need to go aboard, maybe we just need to be taken aboard. We could appear to be
captured, overpowered when they capture the naquida.”

Teal’c solemnly notes, “However it appears, we would in fact actually be captured, Daniel Jackson.”

Jackson and O’Neill respond simultaneously. “Thanks, Teal’c.” O’Neill shoots Jackson an ambiguous look, “Yeah,
whatever,” yet they continue to speak almost in unison. “I volunteer, General.”

Hammond glares from one Jackson to O’Neill, drilling the Colonel with his next words. “That’s the best we can come up
with, get captured and turn over two shipments of naquida? You’ll need to do better than that Colonel, Doctor!”

Carter suddenly gets a bright idea. “What if we’re dead, instead of captured?”

“Been there, done that!” O’Neill exclaims scornfully, “and Carter, being dead is not a better idea, believe me.”

Teal’c concurs. “The Goa’uld do not take enemy dead aboard their ships.”

Jackson jumps in. “OK, dying then, or just fine, but we suddenly expire after we are on board.”

O’Neill stares at him. “This just keeps getting better!”

Carter elaborates. “No Colonel, I think Daniel’s onto something. What if we are captured? Then, in captivity on
board, we seem to die.”

Teal’c is not impressed. “The Goa’uld will dispose of your body by ejecting it into space.”

O’Neill snipes. “I see no tactical advantage there, Captain!”

Carter plunges on. “Unless, we could be resurrected, somehow. It could be timed… or triggered by someone else on our
team! After our bodies are removed, a signal could be sent, or an antidote could be administered to revive…”

Jackson is with her. “Exactly! We’d have someone on board and unguarded.”

Teal’c changes alliances. “It could work.”

O’Neill alarmed, exclaims, “Or not!”
Hammond has been through years of briefings with these people and recognizes when they have reached an impasse.
“Colonel, do you have some better suggestion?” Seeing Jack shrug, he continues. “No? Then, Captain Carter, look into
the feasibility of this, work out the details with the medical staff.”

As people rise to leave, Hammond continues in a lower voice. “Colonel O’Neill, report to Doctor Fraiser in the
Infirmary.”

O’Neill responds wearily. “General, I’ve just been through all that.”

Hammond will brook no nonsense on this. “No arguments Colonel. And when the Doctor’s done with you, hit the rack.
That’s an order. Dismissed.”

O’Neill, peeved at having lost his stance in the briefing, snaps back. “Yes, Sir!” He has the uneasy sense that SG-1,
his people, has learned to perform without him. “Assuming, that is, that losing two honking piles of strategic war
materiel and then choosing to die can be considered performing!” Deep in a sulk, O’Neill stalks down the hall,
muttering, and swings around a corner into the SGC Infirmary.

O’Neill is so steamed that he doesn’t realize that Carter, Teal’c and Daniel trail behind him. As he enters the
Infirmary, Doctor Fraiser glances up from paperwork. “Hello, Colonel. Sit down please. Close your eyes, relax, and
take a deep breath, another … and another. Good.” While O’Neill submits to Fraiser’s exam, SGC staff quietly crowd
into the room.

Fraiser smiles and directs him. “You can open your eyes Colonel.” O’Neill does and finds a crowd of airmen,
technicians, marines and SG team-members surrounding him. Balloons and steamers have appeared and General Hammond
walks in laughing and hollers, “Surprise!”

Chaos ensues. O’Neill flabbergasted spins on Hammond. “What’s this?”

Hammond grins, enjoying a little payback on his unruly subordinate. “It’s a ‘Welcome Home’ party, Colonel.” Daniel
leans through the crowd to clap Jack on the shoulder and speaks softly. “You scared the hell out of us, Jack,” before
exclaiming loudly, “You owe us some fun!”

Teal’c bows his massive head in ritualistic grace, “Welcome back, my friend!” as Carter fractures protocol, warmly
kissing her commanding officer’s cheek. As O’Neill struggles unsuccessfully to compose himself, she continues, “and,
if I’ve been properly briefed, there’s another reason to celebrate.” Doctor Fraiser shows no mercy and seconds Sam’s
kiss, announcing to the crowd, “Doctor Jackson tells me that Sara and you are expecting?”

O’Neill spins on Daniel. “How the heck did you know that?”

Daniel looks innocent. “You glow, Jack.” As O’Neill seems about to commit murder, Jackson continues. “Besides, Sara
told me on the way here.”

Hammond chimes in gleefully. “You didn’t really think you could keep it a secret did you, Colonel?”

This is the last straw. It sends O’Neill over the edge, “On the way HERE?” as Sara emerges from the crowd. “I’m the
newest civilian Infirmary assistant. It seemed the most likely place to see you, Jack!” People laugh and, as the
O’Neill’s hug, kiss, the crowd mobs them.

Later, in O’Neill’s quarters Jack and Sara recline side by side on his narrow cot. Jack strokes Sara’s flat belly and
ruminates. “So, you know everything.”

Sara shakes her head. “I know enough, Jack. Not everything, but enough. You’re at war against the Goa’uld. You have
been for more than two years and ... (suddenly angry) and nearly got yourself killed in the process.” Sara sighs.
Being angry with Jack is an old habit. “I’m sorry. You could have died and I wouldn’t have even known.”

Jack murmurs. “You’d have known.” He tries to be businesslike, but his wife’s proximity is distracting. “I couldn’t
tell you. I still can’t talk about most of what I do, you know. Daniel shouldn’t have...” Jack gives up and kisses
Sara, “But I’m glad he did.”

Sara has a smile on her face, although her words are serious. “It’ll be like when you went into the Falklands, Iran,
and Iraq, and all those other dirty little wars no one ever hears about. But, I don’t care, as long as we’re
together, Jack. I went mad when you left.”

Jack looks at Sara, his voice carefully neutral, “I couldn’t face you. Leaving was selfish, I know. I told myself
that you might not even want to see me; you would send me away. I didn’t want to face you. Underneath all the
rationalizations, I thought ... If you wanted me ... then what? Was it fair, was it right... I could be in battle the
next day, but I couldn’t warn you. Is this fair to you, Sara?”
Sara shakes her head, matter-of-factly. “No. I’m a good person. I deserve better. What would be fair to be married to
the bravest, most honorable car salesman in Denver. ” Jack laughs and she continues on a serious note. “I finally
realized that it doesn’t matter whether it’s right, or smart or even fair. We don’t have any choice. I need you and
you need me. We don’t have another option.”

Jack holds Sara and wonders aloud. “ I can’t believe you are here. By the way, how did that happen?”

Sara looks smug. “Daniel suggested it in New Zealand, while we were waiting. General Hammond was worried that you
might say things to me, while you were recovering. So, Daniel had to admit that I already knew about the Stargate
Program. General Hammond was livid, but he eventually calmed down. The damage was done, so he decided the best way to
ensure my cooperation was to bring me into the Program. I signed a stack of papers, got clearance and here I am.
You’ve got such good friends here, Jack. I think General Hammond pulled a lot of strings.”

Jack chides her. “Gee d’ya think? You and Daniel didn’t give him any choice, unless he wanted to have you shot. And,
he feels guilty, I suppose. He still treats me like I’m made of glass. Sara, do you really think it will help you to
be here?”

Sara sighs. “It can’t be worse, Jack. Nothing could.”

Jack stares at the ceiling. “I’m going out tomorrow. I could be gone a few days. It’s a routine mission, nothing at
all to worry about.”

Sara is alarmed, but hides her concern by turning her face into Jack’s shoulder, as if to sleep, and pulls his arm
around her belly. “We’ll be fine, Jack.” O’Neill strokes her hair tenderly as a shadow passes across his face.

9 - My Soul to Keep

General Hammond walks briskly into the briefing room, crowded with members of SG-1, 3 and 4, and barks. “Report,
Colonel O’Neill?”

Jack reports. “ Teal’c and Syler have obtained two nukes and hidden them in the base of mobile transports filled with
refined naquida. We’ve rigged a remote device, so we can blow them from up to two thousand miles, or if we fail, you
can trigger them through the Stargate. Carter has leaked the location of the naquida through the Antonines, so
hopefully the Goa’uld will know we are coming and set ambushes. Our brilliant strategy is to get the nukes on board
by allowing the Goa’uld to capture the naquida. Daniel and Carter with one shipment, Teal’c and me with the other.
Once on board, Daniel and I will simulate death using Doctor Fraiser’s gizmos, ideally during interrogation. When
we’ve been out for fifteen minutes, or so, Teal’c and Carter revive us electronically. We are then unguarded and free
to assess the situation, liberate our backup and kidnap the local Goa’uld in charge. We hope they will be Sha’Re and
Skaara. Then, we find a way to transport off the ship back to the planet, and as we head through the Gate, trigger
the nukes. Simple, right Daniel?”

Hammond looks grave. He recognizes O’Neill’s wisecracks disguise the Colonel’s justifiably taut pre-mission nerves.
'Is he more tense than usual?' Hammond wonders. 'Maybe Jack is more worried than any of us about whether he’s ready
to return to duty,' but Hammond only states the obvious. “It’s risky, Colonel.”

Jack agrees. “Yes, it is General, for everyone,” Ticking off three fingers, he continues the briefing, “… but, it
accomplishes all our goals. First, we get the nukes onto the ships and blow them, halting the Goa’uld offensive.
Second, it puts us in position to free Sha’Re and Skaara, and third … well I guess there are just the two goals,”
O’Neill winds down.

Hammond moves on. “Colonel O’Neill, you’ll lead SG-3, and Teal’c will accompany you onto the ship; Captain Carter,
you and Doctor Jackson will accompany Colonel Makepeace and SG-4. Any questions? OK, people, the mission is a go for
0700 hours. Good luck.”

The gate room is full of SG Teams, MALPs and the shipments of naquida on Mobile Ground Transports, as well as SG1,
all awaiting the order to departure.

Jack strides in. He’s all business. “Time to saddle up, Teal’c. Carter, Daniel, be careful. I don’t want to have to
plan another rescue mission, especially without Daniel’s strategic insights.”

Conversation is cut-off as the Gate dials up – the chevrons lock in place. The Stargate belches a blue, swirling
vortex of energy. As soon as it stabilizes, SG-2 sends through the first of the MALPs, and follows it through with a
naquida shipment, Jack taking up the rear. As they disappear, the Stargate operator dials the second planet and SG-3
departs, with Daniel and Captain Carter taking their six.

O’Neill and his team emerge on the surface of P33471, awash with an orange glow. A strange weightlessness makes
movement almost effortless. 'Love planet-lite.' thinks O’Neill as he gets the team in motion efficiently. “Move out,
let’s head for cover, people. I don’t plan to make this easy.” Small puffs of orange dust rise around the team as it
moves in a loosely organized single-file in the direction O’Neill indicates, toward rising ground on the near-by
horizon.

Teal’c points ahead and advises O’Neill. “It is likely that Goa’uld forces already occupy the high ground ahead of
us. We will encounter them, if we proceed along this bearing.”

Jack grins and answers. “Yeah. Gives you kind of a happy, tingly feeling, doesn’t it?” He calls over to a technician
walking nearby, “What do you read on Goa’uld radio?”

A linguist reports. “We are definitely right in the middle of them, Colonel. The trick will be to make it look
realistic when we stumble into them.”

O’Neill comments, largely for Teal’c’s benefit. “Obviously, you haven’t seen enough blown missions. Screwing up
always looks real. Just look real scared and real surprised. Any questions watch me. I’m a great actor.” Suddenly,
all hell breaks loose as SG-2 engages a Goa’uld patrol party.

O’Neill provides cover fire and bellows. “Prepare to fall back. Move!” The rounds carry farther in the lesser gravity
and O’Neill adjusts his aim automatically, just as an expert marksman on Earth accounts for wind and elevation. A
second round of fire erupts around the SG-teams. As the rest of the team scrambles back, O’Neill takes position
behind the Mobile Ground Transport and its load of naquida.

Teal’c drops alongside him. “O’Neill, if that is hit by energy fire, it will explode.” Jack smiles and, between
bursts of his HK MP-5/M9 shakes his head at this. “Just keep thinking happy thoughts, Teal’c,” before sending a
furious volley of at the advancing Goa’uld, effectively covering SG-2’s retreat.

A dozen Jaffa slow, several fall, but the rest press forward with more coming from somewhere behind the horizon.
Teal’c and O’Neill fire fiercely. Energy blasts from oncoming Jaffa burst around them, sending bright lavender and
orange clouds of dust roiling. Finally, a staff weapon charge blasts through his protective cover, exploding rock and
debris and tossing O’Neill several feet backwards. Despite the reduced gravity, O’Neill collapses in a heap. Teal’c
scrambles to his fallen comrade, sending a fierce series of volleys from his staff weapon into the advancing Jaffa,
until he is flanked and hit by a zad gun blast. Jaffa overrun the duo. They seize the naquida and O’Neill, dragging
him away, as Teal’c struggles weakly. Still dazed from the blast, Teal’c is subdued, as well, and carried off.

Anxiously SG-2 observes the battle from the cover of rocks, and then retreats through the Gate.

Aboard Amaunet’s Goa’uld battle cruiser O’Neill sprawls, semiconscious, on the floor of a small cell. Blood trickles
out of one ear and he’s caked with orange dust. Jaffa approach. One enters the cell and kicks O’Neill to rouse him.
He doesn’t respond. So, they drag him from the cell, down a hall and drop him at the feet of their leader, Amaunet,
the Goa’uld inhabiting Sha’Re.

Amaunet steps down from her throne, her tone is like ice. “He is injured?”

The lead Jaffa stammers. “There was an explosion. He was hit by the blast...”

Amaunet sneers. “Fools. Wake him.” As Jaffa roughly drag O’Neill to his feet, he moans and tries to hold his head
upright.

Amaunet smiles. “Colonel O’Neill, how kind of you to rejoin us. I have a few small questions, for you.” O’Neill is
still dazed, but has recovered enough to say, “Go to Sokar.” A beefy Jaffa strikes O’Neill from behind with the butt
of his staff weapon, sending him sprawling.

Amaunet’s eyes glow. “You will answer! Prepare him.” O’Neill is dragged toward a set of manacles, hanging from the
ceiling. Before he can be shackled, O’Neill bites down sharply, gasps and his eyes roll back. His head lolls and he
appears dead.

“Suicide!?” Amaunet shrieks in disbelief. “These humans advance more rapidly than I thought possible.” A Jaffa kicks
O’Neill sharply in the ribs, but there is no response. “Already they sacrifice their best warriors … how tiresome.
Take that away. Bring the other.”

Teal’c crouches in the small metal cell. He reaches into his pouch and painfully removes a tiny transceiver. A light
is blinking, showing Jack’s status as “dead”. As footsteps approach, Teal’c presses a switch and the indicator light
changes from red to green. The guards round the corner and, as they began to unlock his cell, Teal’c charges the
door, calling out, “I die free!” In the ensuing struggle, Teal’c manages to drop the device and kick it away from the
cell. It slides down the hall, unseen, and out of site behind a pillar.

In the throne room on Goa’uld battle cruiser, commanded by Klorel, Jaffa stand over the motionless body of Daniel
Jackson, while Klorel ponders the circumstances of his death. “I know these humans. They do not sacrifice themselves,
or another without cause. This one holds a special place with Hammond’s first prime, O’Neill. O’Neill would not
permit a friend’s death without reason. Even after many months, O’Neill still seeks to release my pitiful host,
Skaara, nothing but an ignorant child. How much more must he value a learned scholar, such as this one? This makes no
sense. What can it mean? Bring me the woman. Immediately!”

On board the battle cruiser of Amaunet, O’Neill blinks, gasps and groans. Clutching his ribs, he painfully rolls to
his knees and struggles to his feet muttering, “How do they always know just where it hurts worst?” He quickly finds
a door and slips into the hallway.

In the throne room of Klorel, Carter hangs suspended from manacles. Daniel’s body had been removed. Klorel is
furious, “You will tell me, or you will die. What is your plan? Why was your Doctor Jackson sacrificed? What is your
plan?”

Carter appears defeated. “We were guarding the naquida. It was an important shipment. We need it. Jackson and I were
sent to ensure its safety.”

Klorel snarls. “Lies!” and signals the Jaffa, who rack Sam with energy weapons, she screams and faints. Klorel orders
the Jaffa to revive her and one drags Sam’s head aside by her hair and injects something into her neck. She blinks
and gasps.

Klorel advances and stands close to Carter, almost nose to nose, dragging her face to his by her hair. “I have your
friends, Captain. You will answer or you will watch while I will kill each of them: First, Colonel O’Neill and then
the traitor Teal’c. It will give me great pleasure.”

Carter pleads. “I’m telling you everything I know. Daniel and I were sent to guard the naquida shipment. I’m telling
you the truth. You don’t have Teal’c or O’Neill. I left them safely on Earth. I’ve told you all I know.” At a signal
the Jaffa hits her with another blast. Briefly, inexplicably Sam’s eyes glow. She raises her head, and in a Goa’uld
voice roars. “Enough.”

Klorel, shaken, steps back. “What is this?”

Carter glowers. “I grow tired of this farce. Release me, immediately. I am Amaunet, mate of Apophis. You will
comply.”

Klorel signals her release. “How is this possible?” he stammers.

“O’Neill and this one damaged my host, beyond repair, just before you obtained the naquida. Captain Carter foolishly
tried to revive my host and I took this body. O’Neill was unaware of the transfer and ordered her to the planet where
you took her captive. This host was strong. Only now have I gained control.”

Klorel bows and murmurs, “Honored Mother,” As Jaffa quickly release her manacles, she turns to the Jaffa. “Leave us.”
Klorel makes no objection and the Jaffa march out. Seductively, she turns to Klorel, strokes his cheek, murmurs. “My
son!” Then, Carter viciously strikes Klorel with her elbow, knocking him to the floor. As he lies dazed, Sam removes
his hand device and turns it against him.

Klorel rises to his knees, screams and falls forward. “Mother!!!” When Klorel faints Sam walks to a panel. “Jaffa,
cree. Bring the prisoner’s body to me, immediately.”

At the same time aboard the battle cruiser of the real Amaunet, O’Neill trots, painfully, down one hallway after
another, muttering to himself, “Oh, for crying-out-loud.” Teal’c hears his voice and calls to him, “O’Neill!”

O’Neill spins and tried to locate the source of the voice, “Teal’c?”

Teal’c calls again, “I am here, O’Neill.”

O’Neill finds Teal’c around a corner in the Throne room, alone and manacled to the ceiling. Teal’c has been tortured.

O’Neill grimaces, “Oh, God!” but Teal’c reassures him. “Do not concern yourself, my friend. I have not been harmed.
After I waited a sufficient time to convince them of my reluctance, I gave them the details of our plan and they
departed.” O’Neill is not fully convinced by Teal’c’s businesslike manner. “We have to find Sha’Re. Can you walk?”

Teal’c leads the way, “I can. This way.”

Teal’c leads O’Neill to the control room of the ship. They burst into the room, filled with a dozen Jaffa. But,
O’Neill and Teal’c have surprised them. After a fierce firefight, all Jaffa are quickly killed or stunned. Amaunet,
unprotected, stands facing O’Neill. Her hatred shines.

Amaunet growls. “You dare to challenge me?” She lifts her hand and targets O’Neill with her hand device. A beam
drills into his forehead. His knees buckle, but he hangs transfixed, in agony but unable to resist. Teal’c raises his
zad gun, but before he can fire a transport device activates and deposits Sam in the control room, accompanied by
Daniel, under guard, and Klorel, who is unconscious.
Carter’s eyes glow as she bows to Amaunet. “My queen! I bring you greetings from Apophis.” Carter straightens, turns
and promptly stuns a surprised Teal’c with her zad gun.

Amaunet hesitates. “You?” Carter bows deeply again, “A loyal subject of Apophis, my queen. I bring you these as proof
of fidelity. These, and information of the pitiful security and armaments the Tauri use to oppose us.”

Amaunet releases Jack from her beam and turns to Carter, demanding, “You will reveal everything!” Carter smiles
sweetly, shoots Amaunet and Daniel’s guard, and says simply, “Not a problem!”

As Carter bends over a dazed O’Neill and gathers him into her arms, Daniel rushes to Sha’Re. O’Neill is not moving as
Carter shakes him. “Colonel? Are you ok?” He blinks, finds himself with his head in her lap and scrambles to his
feet, shouting, “Carter, what the hell was that!?!”

Captain Carter, exasperated, stammers. “I can explain, Colonel, but not now. Let’s get out of here, while we can!”
O’Neill grasping the situation, snaps orders. “Right. Teal’c, can you walk? You run the transporter and the
detonation devices. Grab Sha’Re, Daniel. I’ve got Skaara. You too, Carter.”

Teal’c activates the ring device, just as they transport down to the planet, he flips a switch and both ships
disintegrate in nuclear blasts.



10 - If I Die

Sirens blare in the Stargate Control Room and a speaker announces “In-coming Traveler.” The technician at the control
panel nods to Hammond’s unasked question, “It’s SG-1’s code, General.”

Hammond breathes a quiet sigh, “Thank God.”

The Stargate activates and O’Neill, Teal’c, Carter and Daniel Jackson scramble through, dragging and carrying Skaara
and Sha’Re.

O’Neill calls out. “We need security here!”

Instantly Hammond activates the intercom. “Security forces to the gate room; medical team to the gate room.” As
Daniel and Teal’c help restrain Skaara and Sha’Re, O’Neill pulls a zad gun and takes Carter’s weapon from her belt.

O’Neill motions Carter to walk ahead of him through the doors of the Gate room. His voice is hard as steel. “OK, what
do you say we have that little chat?” Carter is alarmed but doesn’t resist. General Hammond walks rapidly to O’Neill.
“What is this Colonel?”

O’Neill glances at Hammond, but keeps focused on Carter. ”I’m not sure what this is, General, but there’s more in
there than Samantha Carter.” Carter glances at Hammond and stammers. “Colonel, I can explain.”

When Hammond says nothing, O’Neill continues, incensed. “I hope so! Colonel Makepeace, take her into custody.” A
puzzled Makepeace takes Sam away as Hammond turns and notes the bloody and bruised condition of his people. “Are they
alright Doctor?” Fraiser, ever cautious, replies. “I’d like to examine them, General.” Hammond concurs. “Report to
the Infirmary, SG-1. We debrief in one hour.”

Daniel, Teal’c and O’Neill have showered and changed, after being stitched and bandaged by Fraiser’s eager team. They
join General Hammond at the conference table and the debriefing is winding up. “Good job, SG-1,” Hammond beams. “You
destroyed two Goa’uld battleships and you brought out Skaara and Sha’Re, without a single casualty.”

O’Neill frowns. “We aren’t so sure about that, General. What about Carter?”

Hammond’s clear blue eyes drill into O’Neill’s. “I apologize, Colonel. I had to leave you in the dark on this one.
Captain Carter was acting under my direct orders. She was not possessed by Apophis, or any other Goa’uld.”

Jackson has caught on. “She’s carrying something, though?”

Hammond nods. “That’s right Doctor. Captain Carter is carrying a member of a group that calls itself the Tok’Ra.”

Teal’c explains, “The Tok’Ra are a race of Goa’uld who oppose the System Lords. They are legendary opponents of
slavery and only accept hosts willing to join with them.

O’Neill rubs his eyes. Maybe the pill he took hasn’t fully dissipated. “General, you ordered Carter to join with a
snake!” He feels like laughing, no hollering, no hitting something, correct that, hitting someone and glares at
Hammond, the flow of emotions clear on his all-too-honest face. “This is unbelievable.”

Hammond flushes under O’Neill’s fierce glare and gently tries to explain. “Captain Carter volunteered, Colonel. It
was decided that, in case you couldn’t get Skaara and Sha’Re back here with the Goa’uld Amaunet and Klorel inhabiting
them, that it might be necessary for Captain Carter to “remove” one of them, by releasing the Tok’Ra into the host
and attempt to bring the other back by force.” Hammond gives each of them a long look. “She acted under my orders,
gentlemen, at grave personal risk. She made the choice, but I made the call. I could see no other way.”

O’Neill is still fuming, obvious from his careful choice of words. “You had no choice. OK. And why couldn’t you warn
me, if I may ask, Sir?”

Hammond is prepared to accept O’Neill’s anger. “You were placing yourselves in the hands of the Goa’uld, Colonel. We
all expected you would be tortured. I couldn’t, in good conscience, place this information in your hands. In addition
to neutralizing your only backup, it would have placed Captain Carter at even greater risk.”

O’Neil explodes. “Greater risk? Carter is possessed by an alien! If that’s not enough, I nearly shot her! She scared
the hell out of me… for crying out loud!” At this last, Hammond and the others smile and relax slightly. Jack is
winding down, they can tell.

Daniel is more philosophical than O’Neill. “But… you didn’t, Jack. It worked. Now we just need to make the transfer.
The question is, will Skaara and Sha’Re agree?”

Teal’c interjects, “Will we give them a choice, General Hammond?”

Hammond shakes his head sadly, “Not at first, Teal’c, no.”

In the Infirmary Samantha Carter stands over Skaara, joined by a member of the Tok’Ra, a tall, ancient man wearing
loose robes and a self-contained expression. O’Neill and Daniel follow close on General Hammond’s heels as he marches
in and nods to the trio. Jack can’t stop glancing at Sam. She seems fine. “She looks great in fact,” he realizes,
before a superficial guilt stops him. As a married man, with a baby on the way, he has no reason to appreciate
Carter’s looks. Beneath the guilt, he prays, “She’s got to be fine.” But her lovely blue eyes glow white in a
recurring image that he cannot seem to erase.

Hammond looks at O’Neill staring at Carter with a mooncalf look on his face and sighs inwardly. Why must life be so
complicated for his friends? Then the General says simply, “Colonel?”

At this, O’Neill bends over Skaara, takes his face in his hands and forces him to look into his eyes. “I know you are
in there, Skaara. Don’t be afraid, please. Trust us. Trust me. We are going to remove Klorel, Skaara. I know you want
that, but you will die, unless… These people are members of the Tok’Ra. They are here to help you. One of them will
join with you to keep you alive after Klorel is gone. If, after the transfer, you want to be free, that’s your
choice. I’m pretty sure this is going to hurt. I’m sorry.”

O’Neill turns away and Daniel Jackson touches Sha’Re on the hand and says simply, “Trust me.”

Sam and Doctor Fraiser activate an alien device that the Tok’Ra male brought with him. It looks like a large version
of the hand device wielded by Amaunet against O’Neill only hours ago. A beam penetrates each of the skulls of Skaara
and Sha’Re. Strapped down, they writhe and scream. Monitors indicate that the Goa’uld are dying, but so are the
hosts. It takes a few minutes while the machine works. Finally Doctor Fraiser announces quietly, “It’s almost over.”

Just as the monitors flatline, Doctor Fraiser says, “Now.”

Sam bends over Skaara and presses her mouth to his. The ancient Tok’Ra does the same with Sha’Re. The hosts resist
violently for a moment and then lie still. Sam and the Tok’Ra collapse and are gently placed on gurneys. The monitors
show no life signs for a moment and, then, a faint pulse from everyone except the Tok’Ra. He has died.

Jack rubs his eyes and turns away, suddenly very tired. He looks up to find himself face-to-face with Sara O’Neill,
who takes his hand and gently leads him away.

11 - Before I Wake

Jack and Sara return to their quarters. A larger bed has replaced the cot and small feminine touches appear here and
there. Sara stands fussing with things on the table. “You couldn’t have explained any of this to me. I wouldn’t have
believed you.” Jack grins and quotes her. “I know, ‘I always could come up with some crazy story to avoid telling you
the truth.’ Right?”

Sara smiles and hugs him. “Right. But, I’ve seen it and I still can’t believe it. How can you live like this? Knowing
we are at war, while everyone else just goes on about their days like nothing is wrong.” Jack ponders and replies.
“Training, I guess. It gets to be a habit. And knowing that, if everyone else goes on about their business, we must
be winning.” Jack flops on the bed. Sara shrugs. “What’s next?”

“I don’t know. You never really know what they’ll throw at us next.” Sitting up suddenly restless, Jack announces,
“Hey, I’m going to check in at the Infirmary. Want to take a walk?
Sara smiles obligingly, “Sure. Are your ribs bothering you?”

Jack touches his side and grimaces, “Well, yeah, but mostly I want to check in on Carter and see how Skaara and
Sha’Re are doing. You’ll like them. They’re good kids, when they are themselves.” The O’Neills wander out, arm in arm
and saunter down the hall of one of the most secret military facilities in the world, looking for all the world like
young lovers.

Samantha Carter lies back, propped up on pillows bed when there is a soft knock at her door. “Yes?” she replies. Jack
O’Neill pokes his head in, “Carter, are you up for a couple of visitors?” Sara is right behind and says in a motherly
fashion, “Hi, Sam. How are you feeling?”

Carter smiles weakly and motions them in. “Not too bad. Tired. Come on in. I’m really tired. I feel empty. It’s
amazing how you can get used to having another person inside you.” Seeing a horrified look creeping into Sara
O’Neill’s eyes, Sam changes the subject. “Sara, how are you?”

Sara smirks proudly. “Fine. You know what you describe sounds a little like being pregnant! Only, no morning
sickness, I hope, Sam.” Carter smiles weakly and shakes her head. “No, thank heavens. No morning sickness! Just the
memories of …stuff.” Jack decides to jolly Carter up. “Any word on Skaara or Sha’Re?”

Carter shakes her head. “No. Not yet. They are still in secure isolation, until we are sure that Klorel and Amaunet
are gone and they decide whether they want to join the Tok’Ra. I don’t know what I’d do.”

O’Neill rubs his hair, uncomfortable with the entire subject. After a moment of gazing at Carter, he continues, “Ah,
Sam, there was something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

Carter stiffens. “Sir, I was under strict orders from General Hammond, or I would never have deceived you like that.”
O’Neill glowers. “You scared the hell out of me, Sam, when your eyes glowed! What if I’d been armed?” He bites back
the rest, aware of Sara beside him and finishes weakly, “Geesh! But… that’s not what I want to talk about. Sara, will
you give us a minute, please?”

Sara starts to leave. “Sure, Jack. I’m going to visit Janet. See you there?”

“Yeah,” O’Neill agrees, “Thanks, babe.” He turns to Carter. O’Neill is serious for once. He gazes at her silently,
gathering his thoughts. Sam finds it a bit unnerving. “Captain, I never got a chance to thank you, for everything you
did … for what you did for me.”

Carter tries to interject. “Oh, Colonel, there’s no need.” O’Neill cuts her off with a sharp look and continues,
choosing his words with great care and speaking distinctly, “Captain, I owe you my life. There is a need. If you
hadn’t been smart, resourceful and damned persistent, neither of us would have gotten home. And, I don’t know exactly
how to put this… you looked after me. The fact that I’m still here, where I want to be, doing what I’m meant to do. I
owe that to you. Life could have been pretty bad, if … things …

Carter rallies and cuts off Jack’s “what-ifs”, “I understand what you’re saying, Colonel. May I say that it was my
pleasure, Sir? Besides, I owe you, Colonel! After all the times you’ve pulled us through, we all owe you.”

O’Neill’s voice is husky, but he doesn’t look away. His sincere brown eyes drill into Carter’s, communicating more
than he can ever put into words. “Sam, I’m recommending you for immediate promotion to Major and a command of your
own. You should have had your own team long before this. I’ve been incredibly selfish. I held you back. I guess I
didn’t want to lose you, so I convinced myself that you weren’t ready, but …” he waved his hand vaguely. “I can’t
ignore all this. You can expect reassignment in a few days, if you want it.”

Standing briskly, O’Neill formally takes Carter’s hand. “Congratulations, Captain.” Then he comes smartly to
attention and salutes her, “It was an honor serving with you,” turns on his heel and walks out, before she can see
what is in his eyes.

O’Neill hears Carter call softly to his rapidly retreating back. “It was an honor serving with you, too, Colonel!”

Sara and Doctor Fraiser are deep in conversation when Jack O’Neill strolls jauntily into the Infirmary. “Ladies!”

Doctor Fraiser’s conversational smile is replaced by a look of profound concern. “Sara tells me your ribs are still
sore, Colonel. Let’s take a look.” As Jack strips off his shirt, and Doctor Fraiser examines him, he quibbles. “A
spy, my own wife!”

Sara answers in a lawyerly manner. “Technically speaking, I’m not you know, Jack. We’re divorced.”

Jack leers at her, “Single, and in your condition. What will Mike say?”

Sara giggles. “Oh, that’s easy. He’ll shoot you on sight, unless you make an honest woman of me, black ops training
or no!”

Jack winces as Fraiser hits a sore spot. “Ouch! I think you found the rib, Doc.”

Fraiser replies, “Let me tape those for you, Colonel. It should help.”

Jack continues speaking to Sara, as Fraiser bends to apply strips of medical adhesive across his bruised side.
“Besides you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re as married as you ever were.”

Sara is suddenly serious. “What?”

Jack looks at her steadily for a moment. “I never signed the papers and there is still a ‘Dear John’ law, you know.”

Sara flushes, “You never signed?”

Jack suddenly feels bashful, standing half-naked before Doctor Fraiser, confessing his undying love to his wife of
fifteen years. He covers with a half-hearted attempt at levity. “Well, I kept meaning to, but I needed them notarized
and, in a top secret government facility, it’s pretty tough to find a notary. So, I just didn’t. But, hey, I’ve got
them around here somewhere. So, if you don’t stop squealing on me to the Doc, here, I can always drive into town!”

Sara beams and hugs him. “Jack!”

O’Neill feels a sharp pain and tries to laugh it off. “Yow, that’s what’s wrong with the ribs, Doc!”

But, he stops grinning, realizing something is dreadfully wrong. Jack gasps, reaches for a gurney that rolls out of
his grasp. O’Neill feels himself tumbling out of Sara’s arms. Then, oblivion.

12 - My Soul to Take

Floating -- wrapped in light   -- white-on-white were the first sensations. Then, an earnest desire to gag, followed
immediately by crushing pain   that, Colonel Jack O’Neill notes with odd detachment, starts somewhere near his right
ear, shoots along his throat   and bursts in his lungs with each breath. Between breaths – lovely nothingness. The
trick, he reasons, is not to   inhale – worked for Clinton, didn’t it, or was it …? “Carter!”

Doctor Fraiser’s beaming smile floats fuzzily before him, “Colonel O’Neill, welcome back.”

“Where?” O’Neill wordlessly mouths the question.

“You’re at the SGC, Colonel. We got to you and Captain Carter in time. You’re going to be laid up for a few weeks
with that broken leg. But we found you in time!”

“How?” O’Neill mouths.

Fraiser smiles, “Doctor Jackson figured it out when Captain Carter tried to engage the second Stargate.”

Blearily, O’Neill listens, as Fraiser chatters on. “It seems the Gate you were using was struck by an energy surge
during transport. Teal’c and Daniel came through here, but you and Carter were diverted to a second Gate, in
Antarctica.”

O’Neill feels ice form in his guts. He tries to form the word, “Sara?” but Doctor Fraiser doesn’t understand and
continues her reassurances.

“Do you remember how our Gate used to shudder before we installed the vibration dampers? Well, so did the one Carter
was trying to activate. Doctor Jackson felt the shudder, noted the time and we used earthquake tracking technology to
determine the point of origin.”

“We found you outside of McMurdo Station and transported you here by air force jet two days ago.”

Fraiser glances up from the chart she’d been examining and is alarmed at the sudden agony etched in O’Neill’s
battered face.

“Colonel, what is it? Where is the pain?”

O’Neill’s stricken face is ashen and his eyes brimming. With massive effort he reasserts control and in a soft voice
asks, “Two days?”

The Doctor nods and reaches for a hypodermic loaded with painkillers.

O’Neill must know. He croaks, “Sara and my kid? Are they here?”
Fraiser’s brow furrows and she gently touches O’Neill’s shoulder. “No, Colonel O’Neill. As far as I know your former
wife still lives outside of Denver, but your son… You don’t remember?”

As tragic loss registers on his eyes, Doctor Fraiser sees that her friend does remember, that O’Neill remembers
everything. She cannot realize that, what he had lost he’d briefly found again, only to have it ripped away through
the miracle of modern medicine and superhuman efforts of his dearest friends.

“God, why couldn’t you just let me … sleep,” O’Neill rants irrationally as he tumbles back into emptiness, alone.

13 - Life After

When O’Neill opens his eyes again, it is with awareness of someone holding his hand. The tile ceiling comes slowly
into focus and then the presence of … who? He carefully shifts his gaze to the right. A blonde, tosselled head comes
into view, a head held in one hand, fingers visible through the tangle of waves.

Sam. Numb with painkillers, O’Neill simply gazes at her, feels her warm animal presence, her aliveness, beside him.
Her fingers entwine with his own in a grip that has cut off circulation to his fingertips. He doesn’t mind. He
doesn’t move, knowing he will make her start back if she knows he is aware of her. He doesn’t give a sign, not yet.
He lies perfectly still, smelling her shampoo and, under that, the indefinable female scent that is so … distracting
any time they are in the field for more than a few hours. Pheromones, chemistry, basic human signals exchanged
between a physically compatible male and female. Chemicals that don’t respect military rules of conduct and pay less
heed to whether a woman wears fatigues.

Sam has been there for more than a few hours, O’Neill knows, from her scent and her posture. Exhausted, keeping
vigil, by his side again … by his side still. “Thank God,” he intones with each breath. “I haven’t lost her.”

O’Neill considers Sam as she waits, unaware of his gaze upon her. She looks worried, as she plunges her fingers deep
into her thick blonde forelock – like Sara used to do when she was perplexed or … worried. O’Neill’s heart skips a
beat. “Like Sara,” reverberates, echoing between his heart and his drug-sated mind. “Like … Sara.”

As the realization strikes, O’Neill’s pulse quickens, racing emotions drive his heartbeat up suddenly. “Like Sara.
Like Sam.”

It wasn’t a dream. It happened. “Like Sara,” only it wasn’t Sara. “Like Sam.”

His memories were … “What? Hallucinations? Dreams? Maybe …” O’Neill realizes.

Still, some of it was real, something important, something ripped from his heart when Doctor Fraiser had said Sara
was not with him, hadn’t been with him. A feeling, a touch, a voice, a presence through the past months, or was it
moments? Something. He still feels it. “Like Sam. Like Sam.” It pounds with each pulse of his heart. “Sam was beside
me. She’s been here all along.”

O’Neill’s lips move slightly as he breathes her name softly, barely audible. “Sam.” Instantly, gem blue eyes lock his
gaze.

A brilliant smile, “Colonel?”

He tries to smile back, tries to speak again. “Been here long?”

“You’ve been here for two weeks Colonel. Thank God you’re back with us,” Carter blurts, her eyes brimming with tears.

O’Neill shakes his head imperceptibly, “You been here long?”

Carter blinks, rubs tears away with the back of her hand and smiles. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. I couldn’t
sleep, until I saw you wake up.”

“You look … tired, Captain. You need to heal. That’s an order.” O’Neill mutters as he slips back, falling again into
blackness. But this time he’s not alone and the blackness engulfing him has the comfortable warmth of rich velvet,
holding him close, protecting him, promising he will be safe, wrapping around him like the warm, strong fingers
interlocking his right hand.

FIN

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original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright
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posted:8/14/2011
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