Following Orders
by Suz suzvoy@tesco.net

Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.

Spoilers for 'A Hundred Days' and 'Paradise Lost'. 'Paradise Lost' episode addition.

Many, many thanks to Sesa for her assistance ;) (you want a raise?), and Ness for the title (and the things to make the title work ::g:::). Ta to Jenny, Denise and Lesley. Feedback would be appreciated.

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Thereís no reason that she needs to go with Jalen. No reason General Hammond needs to order that she go personally, no reason for her to travel through the gate, arrive at the Tok'ra base, and step inside the cargo ship.

She isnít *needed* at all.

Oh she makes something up - or maybe they do. Some excuse, something to do with 'expertise', as if the Tok'ra haven't been doing a very good job of scanning planets and moons themselves for a long, long time.

So they said sheís needed, even if it isn't true.

The journey takes almost two days, and it's half-way through the second day that she begins to realise how big a favour the Tok'ra did them the first time, just by going to scan the planet (even if they *hadn't* had the presence of mind to scan the moon too...but thatís something sheís going to rant about only after heís safely home).

Jalen keeps the conversation minimal; hoping Colonel O'Neill will be found safely, regret that she hadn't thought to scan the moon in the first place (ha!).

Even that's too much. She spends most of her time sitting in the rear of the cargo ship; analysing, dissecting her actions over the past month, trying not to remember how much it was like Edora.

Selfishly hoping there's no one like *her* with him.

Half-hoping that for once he's lived up to his threats and actually shot Maybourne.

Trying not to think about why Teal'c and Jonas have elected not to come with her, as badly as they wanted to see the Colonel.

Her ruminations are interrupted when Jalen calls for her just after she feels the shudder that indicates they've let hyperspace; they have arrived. As she comes forward, the Tok'ra warns that scanning the moon will take some time. There are a great many life forms, most likely animals, and separating out human life signs will take some time.

The panel beeps five seconds later.

She doesn't smile. When it comes to SG-1, the Tok'ra should know better.

Jalen guides the cargo ship smoothly through the atmosphere until it clears to reveal nothing but blue sky. She should probably be sitting down, should probably be appreciating the beauty (because subconsciously, as they fly closer, she is aware of how breathtaking it is), but she's standing, leaning by the side of the window, staring out.

Searching.

The sensors will pinpoint his exact position long before her eyes will, but she does it anyway.

They fly lower, sending a few alien birds squawking (though she can't hear them, it's easy to imagine the noise they make), and the beeping increases.

She leans closer to the window.

They're approaching water. Beyond that a clearing, holding vague structures, remnants of life and-

There.

The form is vague, but to her, unmistakable.

He's there. And he's sitting.

Alive.

Time blinks and before she's aware of it, the ship has been set down, the doors are sliding open and she's on the moon, not even trying to keep the urgency out of her feet.

It's warm, almost too warm as she feels the heat seep through her clothes but she ignores it, striding across the dirt towards him, getting closer, glorying in the sight of him: bruised, battered, bleeding, yet knowing it can't be life-threatening because no one close to death could possibly look *so damn good*.

He's grunting, grimacing as he stands, favouring his left leg, digging the large stick he's grasping in his right hand into the ground for extra leverage. She doesn't stop when she sees the blood that's soaked through his pants, or the makeshift dressing pulled around it.

She does stop when she's a few feet away from him.

She says nothing, staring.

He says nothing, staring.

She's breathing heavily; knowing it has nothing to do with running, suddenly understanding why she was sent alone.

It wasn't her who was needed.

Too aware of exactly what can't happen she holds his gaze, and says the one thing she can: "You're barefoot."

He shrugs, one side of his mouth flicking up in a grin so utterly *him*, that just for a moment it feels as if her heart stops. "You're not."

Faint groaning forces her to look away; alerting her to the fact that he's not alone after all. Maybourne is lying on the ground, looking worse than he does. She studies him for a while, biting down the urge to say something incredibly inappropriate in front of her commanding officer. Instead, she turns to look at the Colonel again, uncaring (and very much appreciating) the stubble sprinkled across his jaw. "You shot him?"

He nods, never looking away from her. "Twice."

The hand that has been barely brushing her zat gun drifts away. "Good."

Jalen arrives. After greeting the Colonel and checking on his condition, she helps Maybourne up without asking, causing the injured man to curse in agony.

Sam smiles as she watches him go.

Checking on the Colonel, she sees that he has turned away, staring down at his boots, and then out at the water. "Sir?"

"You missed it," He murmured, as it confessing something.

"Missed what?"

"Went fishing."

She's pleased that he still seems to want to invite her.

Pleased?

*Thrilled*.

Without saying a word, she ducks under the arm on the injured side of his body, making him let go of the stick. Wrapping an arm around his back, she waits for him to grasp onto her, and then they slowly make the journey back to the cargo ship.

The boots are left behind.

There's no small talk. He doesn't ask why it took so long, if he was even on the same planet. She doesn't ask what he lived on, how he survived.

They just walk, the fingers of the hand on the arm wrapped around him rubbing slowly against his side, the hand of the arm slung around her shoulders grasping firmly onto the top of her arm.

The pace is slow, as she deliberately matches her footsteps to his. Left, right. Left, right. Left, left, right.

One of them starts chuckling, and then they both are, and she's tired, exhausted, laughing even harder as they stop walking, the need to hold onto each other having nothing to do with injuries and everything to do with staying upright.

Jalen re-emerges from the cargo ship alone, and studies them with a frown. It only makes them laugh harder.

When it inevitably dies away, they've moved so much that they're facing, holding on to each otherís forearms.

God, she's missed him. Everything. The scar on his eyebrow, the way his hair sticks out as if he never combs it, how he holds his body, the way he smiles, the way he doesn't smile, the smirk in his eyes when he looks at her...

She's grinning up at him. Probably stupidly, but she's grinning up at him.

Sighing, the thumbs on both of his hands rub gently across her skin as he holds her gaze. "Bring me home, Carter."

It's not an order, but she treats it as one anyway.

~FINIS

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