Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them. I'm just borrowing, and will gladly put them back when I'm done.
I seem to be revisiting a lot of old stories lately. This one began many, *many* moons ago. Set in season four, I guess.
Many, many thanks to everyone that supported me through the writing of this story, especially the girls of SJ-1.
Spoilers for 'Children of The Gods', 'The First Commandment', 'Brief Candle', 'Solitudes', 'In The Line of Duty', 'Legacy', 'Shades of Gray', 'Nemesis', 'Small Victories', 'Divide and Conquer', 'Beneath The Surface', 'Point of No Return' and 'The Curse'
The sun was shining, the birds were singing...
Ah, crap. He was useless at this 'self-projection' mumbo jumbo Daniel had recommended. He was wet, he was muddy, and he was tired. How Carter kept that smile plastered on her face he'd never figure out, proven by the fact that she'd been doing it more or less non-stop for the last few years and he still had no idea how she did it.
Of course, he mused as she smiled in excitement at some new discovery, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"It has traces of naquadah!" She exclaimed, delighted as much as she was surprised.
The 'it' in question was some kind of statue. Less than a foot high, it was clearly humanoid in shape and covered in tiny inscriptions that Daniel found fascinating. At this particular moment in time, his face was in its armpit.
"Naquadah? But...it's a statue. What does it need naquadah for?"
"I don't see how it could require any kind of power source," Carter responded, looking between the statue and her technological doohickey. "I think it was just made with traces of naquadah in it. We know how resilient it its; clearly whoever made this wanted it to last. They must have been quite advanced."
And there was the mystery. They'd arrived on this apparently unpopulated - and muddy - planet, only to discover these caves, with walls that were far too smooth to be an entirely natural formation. So, their apparently unpopulated - and muddy - planet had once been populated by someone with at least some decent level of technology.
But where were they now?
He hated questions like that. They usually had nasty answers.
"Well, this language definitely has some similarities to a Goa'uld dialect but there are a few differences I'm having a hard time translating. Maybe an offshoot we haven't encountered before. Teal'c, have you seen anything like this?"
Teal'c - who had been standing guard by the opening of the cave, just in case - moved towards the cluster of people around the statue.
Jack, feeling appropriately like the fifth - or more accurately forth - wheel, stepped away to give them a little more room.
As Teal'c ummed and ahhed with the rest of them, Jack once again surveyed the interior of the cave. There was nothing he hadn't noticed the first time; smooth walls, a few 'tables' made out of stone which even smaller un-marked statues rested on top of.
That was it. No light source, apart from the natural light making its way in through the cave entrance. No tunnels, no further caves, just this one cave with some statues in it.
Daniel's face was now in the crotch area, and Carter was laughing at some comment Teal'c had made. Yep, these really were the missions where he felt his most useful. Still, at least he could spend his time looking at...his team. Yep, looking at his team, one of whom just happened to be Carter, who also happened to look very nice when she laughed.
Crap. He couldn't spend all of his time staring at her; she'd notice.
Desperate for something to do he picked up one of the little statues. It was maybe three inches long but he wasn't really paying attention. He fiddled with it a bit, as he tried to both look and not look at Carter at the same time.
It wasn't easy. All three of them currently had their backs to him.
Sighing, he placed the statue back on the table and clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. He was about to tell Daniel to get the camera out; they could record the inscriptions on the statue and he could translate them back on Earth where it was dry. They may have been in the protection of the cave for the last five minutes, but he could still feel the sogginess of his clothes, and the disgusting wet *something* in his left boot he was really trying not to think about.
"Daniel, is there anything you can do here that you can't do in the warmth and comfort of the SGC, in front of a roasting computer monitor?"
Jackson didn't move. "I don't know, Jack. Can you roast marshmallows over a monitor?"
Grinning, Carter glanced at her superior officer.
And then it happened.
He wasn't sure - would never been sure - what happened first, but that was when it started.
Carter's eyes widened, and his feet started to feel numb. Or, his feet started to feel numb, and Carter's eyes widened.
She was staring at him. Now his calves were numb. Then they were all staring at him.
He looked down and blinked, repeatedly, as his brain - not used to over-taxing itself - tried to comprehend what was happening. Tried to understand as the feeling swept up his body, reaching his thighs already. Tried to understand that he was turning into stone.
Something inside him woke up. He tried to move, tried to pull away from it, but it was up to his waist now and its relentless grip wasn't letting go. He tried to say something, mumble a suggestion, but he was rapidly descending into shock, barely aware that he was gasping and grunting in desperation as his mind was unable to comprehend that this could possibly be happening.
Jack looked up, finally, as it reached his arms, then his chest. They were moving towards him; her closest of all, shock evident on all of their faces.
"No!" He finally managed to force out, making her stop, not willing to let her touch him. If that somehow caused it to affect her too...he wouldn't let it. He tried to move back but only succeeded in partially lifting an arm before it completed its conversion.
Staring down at the frozen hand that used to be his, he could feel the 'it' clawing its way to the base of his throat. Knowing that in a few seconds he'd be completely unable to move - maybe even dead - he lifted his head and looked at them.
It had reached his eyes; they were blurry, growing blurrier and dimmer by the second but he could make out a subtle shift of movement.
His mouth had frozen saying her name.
This was impossible. This was biologically and scientifically impossible. She moved closer to him - it? Was he technically an 'it' now? - and stared, not knowing what to do or how to do it.
Okay, start with the obvious. She was in command now. "Daniel, go back to the gate and get help." She was still carrying her pack so she shrugged it off her shoulders and let it fall to the ground. She lifted a hand up to the Colonel's neck-
"Sam, I really don't think you should-"
He gave in, dropping his own pack and running out of the cave.
Sam's hand made contact with the Colonel's neck.
That was when it began to sink in.
No hint of a pulse. But then, if he really had been covered by or 'turned' into stone, he'd probably die instantly anyway, right? The chances of him still being alive weren't even worth dwelling on.
Teal'c. Teal'c was there. "Yeah?"
He was frozen, he was absolutely frozen and his eyes were open. His hand was raised, warning her to stay away.
"We should exercise caution. We do not want what happened to Colonel O'Neill to happen to us."
Smart man. They still had no idea what had caused this, although there were few suspects to choose from. Maybe the statues played a part. Or the strangely smooth cave walls. "Wait outside the cave, Teal'c. Don't touch anything you don't have to."
"Someone should stay here with him. He's my responsibility now."
That was something Teal'c understood. He argued no further and exited the cave.
Think. Explain. Answers.
This kind of behaviour in rocks was not unprecedented. There were crystals on Earth that grew, although none had this kind of astounding growth rate. But, this was an alien planet. Perhaps a closer study of the rocks would reveal some kind of crystalline compound.
But where had the growth started from? It certainly hadn't grown up from the floor and surrounded him; he wasn't attached to the ground in any way, merely resting on it. Besides, from the way she had seen it happen - no doubt something that would give her disturbing dreams for a while - it didn't look as if the 'rock' substance was covering him. It looked as if it were changing him.
How could he possibly still be alive?
Because he was. That was all there was to it.
Always keeping at least one eye on him, she fumbled half-blindly through Daniel's pack. Finding the camera she began recording, filming him from top to bottom in case there was some clue here, something they would notice that was missing later on that would hold an explanation.
"Say cheese," She mumbled, almost laughing and not knowing why.
Janet eventually arrived dressed in full hazmat with a nurse, six SF's, and a trolley big enough and sturdy enough to carry a rock...a person the Colonel's size.
Daniel was a step behind.
Nobody bothered greeting anyone, the first words out of Janet's mouth being "What happened?", even as she moved closer to the Colonel to begin her examination.
No doubt she'd already heard Daniel's version, but wanted to get as many perspectives as possible. Sam complied immediately, describing every detail she could remember, frowning deeper and deeper as Janet and the nurse searched for any signs of life and came up empty.
When Sam's story was done, Janet nodded absently, studying a piece of her equipment. "Has anyone touched him?"
"Me," Sam admitted, causing her friend to look up at her. "Briefly, just to try and find a pulse. I didn't have any luck."
Janet stood up from her crouched position, grabbing Sam's hands and studying them. "Have you noticed any odd sensations? Tingling? Pain? Heat? Cold?"
"No, nothing." Sam stared impatiently down at her own hands. "They've felt normal the entire time. Whatever this is, I don't think it's 'caught' by touch."
"Best not to risk it," Janet murmured, turning back towards the Colonel but speaking to everyone. "I don't want anyone touching Colonel O'Neill with their bare hands."
In reality, she was only addressing Sam, Daniel and Teal'c. Everyone else was in hazmat.
Janet made a quick survey of the area herself, searching for the cause. She pointed to the largest statue. "This is the statue you'd been examining just before it happened?"
Sam nodded. "The three of us were in front of it. The Colonel was...where he is now, although I've no idea if he'd actually been doing or touching anything. He certainly hadn't mentioned anything."
Again turning back to her patient, Janet conferred with the nurse for a few moments. Having made a decision, she nodded decisively. "Air men!"
The SF's who had been hovering outside the cave since their arrival peered inside.
Janet indicated towards O'Neill. "Bring in the trolley. I want to get him back to the base."
* Sam had to admit, had the circumstances been somewhat different it would have been easy to find this amusing. A man made of stone being hoisted up and strapped down onto a medical trolley - amid *much* grunting and groaning - and then being wheeled towards the Stargate on an alien world.
Yeah. Really funny.
She, Teal'c and Daniel had watched as Janet, the nurse and the SF's pulled the Colonel up onto the trolley, wanting to help but being told to say clear, just in case. Though they had hazmat masks if necessary, they didn't have the full body version.
The journey to the Stargate was conducted mostly in silence. Janet continued to reach for a pulse every few minutes but it was apparent to everyone that she was never going to find one. Not while he was like that.
Sam simply focused on getting to the gate. One foot, then another. Moving. Watching the grass, mud, water and trees pass by. Waiting every single second for the Stargate to come into view.
The problem was, she wasn't going through it. Not yet. As a precaution, Janet had ordered full contamination screening, so she and everyone who had come with her were going through first to make sure it was set up. They'd been in such a rush to reach the patient that they hadn't brought body hazmat for the rest of SG-1, but the Colonel had already been wrapped in a material that would protect the base - if it were necessary. Hopefully Janet would be able to determine that ASAP.
Most important was getting whatever had happened to him undone. Sam would gladly stay on this wet, muddy planet for the rest of her life if she just knew that would happen.
Sam dialled up Earth, and was relieved to see the wormhole form. Though there had never been any indication on this mission that there were any problems with the gate, it'd be just their luck if some fault had suddenly developed.
Entering the IDC into the GDO, she nodded to the eight people who were returning home. "It's done."
Moving slowly, the SF's carried the trolley carefully up the steps that lead to the gate. After they and the nurse had vanished, Janet turned towards Sam. "I'll contact you as soon as I can."
Feeling useless, Sam shrugged. "Okay."
Even through the mask, Janet's concern was obvious. "It shouldn't be long."
Again with the feeling useless. "Okay."
Janet hovered a moment longer, as if unsure of what to do next. Eventually turning away, she nodded to Teal'c and Daniel, then jogged up the steps to the gate, leaving a ripple behind as the only evidence that she had ever been there.
A few seconds later the wormhole shut down, and they were alone.
She had been examining the statue, joking with Teal'c and Daniel. Teal'c hadn't recognised the unknown symbols anymore than Daniel had. They'd debated the possibilities of what that could mean for a few minutes, when the Colonel had spoken up, obviously bored.
At the time, she was just slightly irritated. She wanted to figure this out. She wanted to know what was going on. But she also knew that he was her commanding officer; more than that, he was Colonel O'Neill. Her team mate.
So she'd let her irritation go, simply because he deserved better and - in all honestly - she couldn't really blame him. If their situations had been reversed, she probably would have found it a little dull, too.
He and Daniel bantered back and forth for a few moments, and then...
Then it happened.
That was it. She'd seen absolutely nothing that was obviously responsible. Hadn't seen him even do anything other than stand there and watch them.
She didn't know anything. And she didn't like it.
Add to that the fact that ninety minutes had passed without a single word from Janet, and Sam Carter was one unhappy camper.
Sitting on the edge of the steps, she glared towards the gate for the umpteenth time.
It was Daniel who had spoken; murmuring the greeting as he quietly sat next to her. Teal'c was standing guard - although from what, she couldn't possible guess.
"Hmph," was the entirety of her reply.
Stupid question. "Not really." She closed her eyes, internally berating herself. He was just being Daniel. That was what he *did*. Lifting her eyelids, she met his gaze. "I just want to hear something. Anything."
He understood: that much at least she should have taken some comfort in.
Naturally, she didn't.
Daniel sighed himself, looking away from her and turning his spectacled view towards the greenery surrounding them. "I keep...replaying everything in mind. Wondering if I missed something."
At least it wasn't just her. "I don't think we did, Daniel. He must have done something when we weren't looking."
"But there were only-"
He was interrupted by the sound of the chevrons locking.
Both quickly moved up and off of the steps instinctively, even though they would have been safely clear of the forming wormhole. Stumbling back, Sam awaited either a message telling them to come through, or - more frustratingly - a message telling her they'd have to wait longer.
Therefore, she was quite surprised when Major Griff's team stepped through in full hazmat. "Major," She acknowledged, anxiously waiting as all four members of his team appeared and the gate shut down.
He returned the greeting, holding a large carry case. "Major, I'm to provide you and the rest of your team with full hazmat." He nodded to his 2IC, Captain Lloyd, who held out another container that - at Sam's instruction - Teal'c took hold off. Griff continued speaking. "Once you're through the gate we're heading to the cave to take some of those statues back to Earth for study."
Daniel cleared his throat. "Uh, you might want to be care-"
"Using all due care and attention," Griff conceded. "We may not know for sure what caused this thing to happen, but we won't take any chances."
Sam frowned. "Do you know how to get there?"
Griff smiled without humour. "We've been given very good directions."
Taking that as a yes, Sam opened the case Teal'c was holding and began pulling the suits out. Within a few minutes they were all covered, joined by a running commentary from Daniel on how unflattering the hazmat suits still were.
Ignoring his attempt at humour - now just wasn't the right time - she immediately moved over to the DHD and started dialling. Again she felt the sense of relief when the wormhole formed, and she repeated the entry of the access code into her GDO.
When she was done, she looked at her team mates. "Let's go, guys."
Daniel and Teal'c moved towards the steps, the latter now holding the empty case as Sam headed towards the gate.
As she reached the top step, Griff spoke.
Impatient, she turned back. "Yes?"
He nodded curtly. "We will figure this out."
She couldn't help but nod in return. "I hope you're right, Major."
If she was tested, injected, scanned, prodded or examined one more time, she was going to punch the nurse on the left, drop kick the one on the right, and run screaming through the base.
Or at least give someone a really nasty look.
Eight hours. It had been eight whole hours since their return to Earth, and she still knew nothing. The moment they'd appeared they'd been whisked away into isolation where they'd remained ever since. They'd been decontaminated in ways even she hadn't thought possible.
And so far, no sign of Janet. Sam knew without asking that that couldn't be good.
So really, she did know something. It was just something she didn't *want* to know.
Finally, however, they were being let out. Daniel and Teal'c had already been cleared; they were just double-checking all of her results because she was the only one who'd touched the Colonel after...his transformation.
Not soon enough, the final tick on the final clipboard was made, and she was finally let out to roam the base, free of the hazmat suit.
She also finally got an answer to the question she'd been asking for the last eight hours.
"ISO room one."
It made sense, and it was typically ironic. All this time, he'd been just next door.
Knowing she'd never gain entry - not at the moment anyway, but she'd soon find an argument that would let her in - she made her way up the stairs that led to the observation area. As expected, Teal'c and Daniel were already there, watching over proceedings with General Hammond.
Daniel was describing what had happened yet again; from Hammond's reaction it was obvious he'd heard it before, but was attempting to glean something new from the story that he'd missed previously.
Sam didn't greet anyone, instead staring into the isolation room. A further isolation area had been set up which the Colonel had been placed inside. It amounted to little more than a larger version of the containment area she and Janet had used when they'd been studying Machello's Goa'uld killers.
She could see Janet now, working with four other people, all in hazmat suits. For one wildly insane moment, she was going to warn Janet that he wouldn't be able to breathe...and then she remembered. Shaking her head, she rubbed a hand over her face.
Removing the hand, she stood to attention. "General."
"I'm glad to see you've finally been cleared."
Thanking him, she eventually talked to her team mates. "Any news?"
Their inevitable negative answers were forestalled, when the sound of the isolation room door opening echoed into the observation area. Sam's head jerked round to see Janet stepping out. Resisting the urge to immediately seek her out, she remained where she was, knowing her friend would come to them. It made much more sense to stay where she was rather than crowd Janet on the stairs.
Within a few moments Janet appeared, having pulled her mask off and leaving her hair in a remarkably tidy state. Shoving the mask under her left arm, she moved further into the observation area.
She didn't look happy.
Hammond asked the question. "Doctor?"
She glanced towards Sam before concentrating back on the General, and giving her reply. "I have never seen anything like this, sir. He is *made* of stone. There is absolutely no doubt. It's as if someone made a highly detailed statue of Colonel O'Neill."
Sam refused to believe it, even having seen it happen with her own eyes.
"I know it is," Janet agreed. "But I also know that it's a fact." Turning her attention to everyone, she continued. "It's certainly not indestructible. We took a few scrapings and the results show that the stone he's made of could easily be found on Earth. The only difference to his composition is the presence of naquadah - but to be honest with you, I can't see how just the presence of that would turn him into stone. As far as I am aware, this is scientifically impossible - and yet there he is." She looked towards the isolation room, studying the hive of activity before her. "It's incredible."
That wasn't the word Sam would have used to describe it.
Nor Hammond, apparently. "Have you determined any threats from this 'stone' substance?"
"No sir," Janet shook her head. "Sam was right; whatever this is, it isn't spread through touch. I believe he can be safely taken out of isolation with no threat of the same thing happening to anyone else. We also have no idea how to reverse this transformation, or if it's even possible." She paused, sighing. "We're hoping the study of the statues Major Griff brought back will yield some positive results."
Dammit! This wasn't helping! They had information, but it wasn't telling them what they needed to know. Hammond was talking about the examination of the statues being underway under heavy isolation in another part of the base, but Sam was on another train of thought already.
He tilted his head towards her. "Major Carter?"
This was a stupid question because he would have volunteered any information already, but she still had to ask. "Have you come across anything like this, or even heard of anything like this in the history of the Goa'uld or Jaffa?"
"I have not," He answered regretfully.
Yet those symbols on the larger statue, according to Daniel, had been very similar to Goa'uld. In fact, some of them had been identical and there were only a few he didn't understand...
The man in question was frowning. "The only thing I can think of in comparison is the story of Medusa."
The name intrigued Teal'c, who clearly didn't find it familiar. "Medusa?"
"Uh, yes." Daniel repeated. "Medusa. According to Greek mythology, a woman who was so horrible to look at that anyone who saw her face turned to stone." He half-snorted, remembering something. "Apparently, instead of hair on her head she had..." His words drifted off as his eyes widened in realisation.
Much the same happened to the rest of the people in the room who were familiar with the story - which was everyone except Teal'c.
"...snakes," He finished finally, as everyone stared from him, to the Colonel, and then at each other. "Excuse me, I have to check something..."
Daniel had barely finished talking when he launched out of the room.
Sam was a heartbeat behind. "Daniel!"
He was already at the elevator, swiping his card. When the doors opened they practically threw themselves in, and he hit the button that would take them to his lab.
Sam didn't know what the hell was going on. The snake connection was obvious, but this...this was something else. She knew better than to ask what he was thinking - even though she was dying to - so waited impatiently for the elevator to complete its journey.
Eventually it did and they stumbled out, running through the few corridor turns that led to his lab. Reaching the room he didn't hesitate, heading straight for a specific bookcase at the far end of the room. Running his fingers along the spines of several dozen books, he pulled most of them out of the way, sending them crashing to the floor.
Given the mess his office was usually in, it didn't make much difference.
Apparently finding the right book he pulled it out and whacked it onto his desk, swiping yet more books and papers onto the floor. Sam at least had the presence of mind to grab his magnifying glass so it wouldn't end up shattering into dozens of dangerous pieces.
She managed to grab a glimpse of the title of the book - 'Greek History and Mythology' - before he swung it open, looking for something. She had no doubt it would relate to Medusa, but in what way she-
"Yes! I thought so, but I needed to confirm it."
"What? Confirm what?" Her hand gripped painfully onto the magnifying glass as she tried to peer over his shoulder.
He continued speaking, obviously quoting from the book. "'Medusa, the terrible monster who had laid waste to the country, was slain by Perseus while she slept, who avoided her true face by using his bright shield to see her reflection.'"
Sam frowned. "Perseus?" Why did that sound so famili-? Damn! That was it! "Perseus! As in Per’sus? High Councillor Per’sus?"
Daniel nodded. "As in the leader of the Tok'ra."
The magnifying glass shattered into dozens of dangerous pieces.
"According to legend," Daniel began, standing by the opposite end of the briefing room table, "Medusa was once a beautiful maiden whose hair was her chief glory. She also had something of an ego, because she dared to vie in beauty with Athena, and bedded Poseidon in a temple dedicated to her. The – obviously annoyed – goddess deprived Medusa of her beauty and transformed her hair into hissing serpents." Clicking a button on the remote, he turned as a representation of Medusa appeared on the wall behind him. "Apparently, she became a 'cruel monster of so frightful an aspect that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone.' She was also known as a Gorgon – one of only three. The other two were known as Euryale and Stheno, though Medusa was the only mortal. All had the ability to turn anyone who looked into their eyes into stone."
"Dr Jackson," General Hammond interrupted, drawing everyone's attention. Hammond, Sam, Teal'c and Janet were clustered around the table, having been summoned there at Daniel's request. "Are you really trying to tell me that Colonel O'Neill has been turned into stone because somehow – in the middle of that cave – he saw Medusa's face?"
Daniel hesitated. "To be honest General, no. I'm not saying Medusa actually existed, or that she was in that cave, or that she was a Goa'uld. What I *am* saying is that if you'll let me continue, I think I have information that will make this area at least worth investigating." Pausing, he shrugged. "It's not like we have any other new leads at the moment, and if there's the slightest chance that it could help Jack..."
Nodding, Hammond conceded. Though he had his doubts, they'd seen some pretty weird things over the last four years.
The lights were dimmed, and Sam was squashed up on her chair next to Janet, annoyed at this interruption. She hated not being able to do anything; she needed to calculate, measure, investigate, assess – *something*. Not sit in a dark briefing room, listening to her friends argue over the Colonel's fate.
Fortunately, Daniel quickly continued. "Enter Perseus," He clicked the button again, and a few lines of text appeared on the wall. Sam got as far as the different pronunciations – PUR-see-us or PURS-yoos, apparently – when Daniel pressed on. "In an attempt to rescue his mother from the clutches of the evil King Polydectes, Perseus vowed to kill Medusa and bring Polydectes her head. Favoured by Athena and Hermes, they provided him with a pair of winged sandals and a bright shield; the first so that she wouldn't hear him walking in and he could creep up on her as she slept, and the second so he could see her reflection without actually looking at her."
"Daniel Jackson," It was Teal'c, this time, who had a question. "This Perseus you speak of,"
"Do you believe him to be the High Councillor of the Tok'ra?"
Throughout Daniel's latest speech, Hammond's face had been growing deeper and deeper frown lines. No doubt having recognised the name himself, he'd at least been saved the trouble of asking the obvious question.
"Again, I don't know." Daniel admitted. "While the names are similar and can be pronounced in exactly the same way, it could just be a coincidence. However...one thing I've discovered over the last few years is the disturbing amount of coincidences there are when it comes to Earth mythology and alien bad guys."
No one could argue with that.
And he still wasn't done. "There's also something else."
"Something else?" Janet asked, faintly disbelieving. Sam suspected she was as impatient to get back to the Colonel as she was.
"Yes. Depending on your source material, there are a couple of different endings to the tale. One is that Perseus kills her, and after using the head in battle to turn his enemies into stone, he gives it to Athena who then places it in her own shield."
"And the other?" Hammond prompted.
"The other ending is that after chopping her head off, Perseus buries it in the marketplace..." He pressed the button a final time, and a disturbingly familiar landscape was projected onto the wall.
Sam came out of her squashed up position, balancing on the end of the chair, eyes widening.
Sam was furious. It didn't happen often, so it generally took a lot to make her that angry in the first place. This time all it had taken were two words: "Request denied."
She knew she was being childish (probably the Colonel's influence), irrational (definitely the Colonel's influence), and was completely over-reacting (ditto), but that didn't stop her barging into the infirmary to find the one person who'd be ready and willing to listen to her at her absolute worst.
The woman in question was leaning over a table by the far wall of the infirmary, reading something. A few feet away stood the Colonel's statue...no, she had to firmly remind herself. He *was* the Colonel.
Since being given the all clear, he'd been moved to the infirmary. It was felt that if he did somehow miraculously turn back it would be best to keep him as close to the infirmary as possible, where he could receive medical attention faster than anywhere else.
Having heard the commotion, Janet turned around and after seeing her friend's face, her expression rapidly changed from a smile to a frown. "Hey-woah, what the hell happened?"
"General Hammond won't let SG-1 take the Argos mission."
Realising that it wasn't a life or death situation, Janet relaxed. "Sam,"
"Look, I know it's the right decision, all right? None of us have had any rest since before we went to the planet. We've been awake for over twenty-four hours. Teal'c's' kel'no'reeming right now, Daniel's spread out in one of the guest quarters and-"
"You?" Janet interrupted. "What about you?"
"I'm not tired, Janet." She really wasn't. She just hated not being able to do anything for him.
"Sam," Janet began in her best motherly voice - a voice that Sam found simultaneously comforting and irritating. "The mission to Argos isn't going to be anything that requires your expertise. Questioning the locals, seeing if they've heard of Medusa, a little investigation...SG-6 can handle it. Your time would be much better spent getting some much needed rest - however awake you may feel," She quickly forestalled the inevitable argument. "Or, finding something to do. Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself will accomplish nothing, and frankly I'm a little surprised you've let yourself do that."
She was right, of course. As usual, Janet knew exactly what to say. Ashamed of herself, Sam looked on the upside: at least she wouldn't have to see that Kynthia again. What was it with him and women who dressed like strippers? "You don't mind if I go over the samples you took from the Colonel, do you?"
She knew Janet wouldn't be offended, even though she was effectively asking to double-check her work. Actually, Janet would have already double-checked it herself. This would probably be a triple or quadruple-check.
As expected, Janet waved a hand towards the equipment on the table she'd been leaning over earlier. "Knock yourself out."
"Thanks." Sam had intended to walk over to the table, pull the chair out, and sit down.
Only to allow herself to be diverted by Colonel O'Neill. Pausing as she passed him, she turned and stared up at his face. It looked so much like him.
Maybe Janet was right. Maybe – on some level – it was incredible. The kind of knowledge or technology that would be required to do this...
She'd been so worried about what had happened, that she hadn't been focusing on what *had* happened. The how, the why, the science of it. It was time to change that. "It looks just like him," She murmured, faintly surprising herself. She really hadn't meant to speak.
Janet replied quietly. "I know." A pause. "I've had someone keeping an eye on him every second that he's been here, just in case...something, anything changes."
Frowning, Sam looked over her shoulder and was surprised to be a SF standing in the corner, watching them. He'd done such a good job of being invisible that she hadn't even realised he was there. "That's gotta be a fascinating job."
Amused, Janet picked a clipboard up from the table. "He's definitely rubbed off on you."
There was only one nice, safe answer Sam could give to that: "Unfortunately."
The doctor indulged her with a smile. "What's happening with High Councillor Per'sus?"
Sighing, Sam finally moved away from him and pulled the chair out. "General Hammond has sent a message requesting an audience, but not the reason for it." As she sat down, she caught Janet's frown and gave the explanation. "Tannith's still there. This is one piece of information we don't want to risk getting back to Apophis just yet - if only because it might make him feel happy." The leader of SG-1...effectively dead. "We haven't heard anything back yet."
"I'm sure you will soon," Janet reassured her. "I have to go and check up on something; I'll see you later, okay?"
"Sure," Sam nodded. "See you later."
Smiling and still holding the clipboard, Janet marched out of the infirmary.
Watching until Janet had left, Sam then exhaled heavily and turned back towards the desk. A microscope, a few petri dishes, and various other scientific paraphernalia lay before her. She slowly began to work, but was constantly distracted by the Colonel. She'd pick up a test tube and see a glimpse of his reflection in it. She'd lift the lid of a petri dish only to see him staring blankly at nothing. She'd study something through the microscope, and find herself looking at him from the corner of her eye.
Typical. Even made of stone he was too much of a distraction.
Frustrated with herself, and maybe starting to feel just a little tired, she stood up and began to stretch her neck muscles. Spying the SF still lurking in the corner, she decided to give the guy a break and dismissed him. She'd be here for a while yet, and she could look after the Colonel as well as anyone else.
The SF argued at first, undoubtedly holding onto that sense of duty, but eventually gave in and left the infirmary. From the speed that he left with he was either very hungry, or badly needed to use the bathroom.
Sam had turned back to face the Colonel already, finding something new to study every time she looked at him. His arm that he had been warning her away with was lower than she remembered it being, but in all honesty she really hadn't been thinking clearly when it had happened. She half hoped that somehow, if it were just the two of them, he'd suddenly spring to life and everything would be okay.
He remained resolutely stone, almost as if he were doing it just to spite her.
Berating herself for such a ridiculous notion, she swivelled away from him as she undertook a yawn of mammoth proportio-
Someone's hand slapped firmly over her nose and mouth from the right hand side, and another wrapped around her midsection from the left.
Shocked at her sudden lack of access to air, she struggled, forcefully bringing the heel of her foot down onto her attacker's foot.
"Ow! Dammit, Carter!"
Colonel? Colonel?! He was okay, she knew he would be. Maybe whatever this was had simply worn off; maybe it was just temporary. She immediately stopped struggling, only to struggle again as she tried to turn around to face him.
He wouldn't let her, his breath hot against her neck. "Dammit, keep still! Listen, whatever you do, do *not*-"
Janet walked in and suddenly it wasn't a hand over her mouth, or a warm body behind her; it wasn't flesh against flesh, it was rough, hard stone, covering her face. Blocking her airways. Stopping her from breathing.
The MD's eyes widened in horror, even as she threw her clipboard aside and rushed forwards. "Sam!"
Sam didn't know what the hell had happened; all she knew was that he'd reverted to stone again, and the placement of his hand meant she'd lost the ability to take in air. She was already fighting against his grip, clawing at his hand, but he'd held her so close to him earlier that there was no way she was getting out.
Janet was doing what she could; tugging at the arm over Sam's face, trying to find something that would break the arm off, but there was nothing in reach that had that kind of power.
Sam's eyesight was beginning to fade, her lungs aching desperately for air. Her mouth moved instinctively trying to find oxygen, but there was nothing. His stone hand couldn't have been a more perfect seal.
Frantic, Janet broke away and hit the emergency button. The klaxons immediately activated and she ran out of the infirmary, searching for assistance. "Someone help me in here!"
Her chest was on fire; her throat drier than it had ever been as she fruitlessly tried to breathe-
And then the hand was gone. And then she was falling, hitting the floor, sucking up air, gasping, breathing, hearing Janet stampede back in with three other pairs of feet with her.
"Sam! Are you all right?" Hands were touching, checking, exploring.
Sam continued gasping, ignoring the hands to focus instead on the man who – although he was still made of stone – was now crouching down with his right hand just a few inches away from her.
"I'm fine," Sam batted the latest hand away, intent on studying the Colonel.
Janet wasn't having it. Since the 'incident', the doctor had had her forcibly moved to one of the infirmary beds, the only concession she gave being that Sam didn't have to lie down.
Sam teetered on the edge; doing the best she could to avoid the questions, fingertips, and medical equipment. Alas, even she wasn't enough against the might of Janet Fraiser, MD. In the end she conceded, but only because she realised she'd probably be able to study what was happening with the Colonel that much faster if she co-operated.
It was a few moments later that General Hammond barrelled into the room, immediately heading for her bedside, only to pause when he saw the new position the Colonel was in. Blinking once in disbelief, he then continued his journey and stood a few feet away from them. "How are you, Major?"
Sam continued to stare at the Colonel. "Fine, sir. I feel fine." Technically, that wasn't the truth. Her lungs were still hurting from the strain put on them earlier, and her throat was a little dry, but she reasoned that it wasn't anything serious by the fact that she was still alive.
"Glad to hear it. Doctor?" He immediately questioned, getting that second opinion he so loved to have.
Frowning, Janet moved her stethoscope away from Sam's chest. "It *is* looking good, General. Breathing has gone back to normal, heart rate is down, and if I don't let her start investigating the Colonel soon, I suspect I'll be unconscious on the floor in a few minutes."
Hammond found something worth chuckling about. "Very well, Doctor." Stepping away, he made his own study of O'Neill, crouching down a little himself. "You know, when I received your phone call I was somewhat doubtful that this had actually happened..."
Sam might have even found the pose funny if she hadn't been too busy thinking, theorising, wondering. She was only briefly pulled out of her thoughts by the sound of two sets of footsteps jogging along the corridor. As expected, a few moments later Daniel and Teal'c made their appearance.
It was Daniel who reacted first to the Colonel, coming to a dead halt and causing Teal'c to bump into him. "Woah...what happened?"
Slipping off the bed, Sam walked towards them but kept her gaze on O'Neill.
By now Hammond had straightened back up. "He...reactivated. He became human again."
Shaking her head, Sam slowly kept moving. "I don't know. I was in here alone, he grabbed me from behind, covering the lower half of my face. He was trying to warn me about something..."
"What?" Janet asked.
"I didn't get a chance to find out. You walked in and he turned-" back to stone. He'd turned back after Janet had walked in. She'd been too busy asphyxiating to realise the implication. "I need everyone to leave the infirmary, now."
Surprise was the least of the reactions she received.
Finally focusing on something else, she faced Hammond. "Sir, I was alone in here the first time it happened. Maybe it's as simple as re-creating those events." She held his gaze, silently pleading with him to simply accept her theory on this one.
He needed no further persuading. "Everyone out of here. Now."
They complied; Daniel, Teal'c, Janet, and the three SF's Janet had brought back with her earlier, who had apparently stuck around only to try and discover what the hell was going on. Sam couldn't blame them.
Nodding, Hammond spoke. "I hope this works, Major."
"Thank you sir; so do I."
And then he was gone.
She was facing the Colonel already.
"Sam?" That was Daniel's voice, echoing in the corridor. The image of seven people impatiently waiting just outside the doorway was almost amusing.
"Nothing yet," She responded. Okay, clearly she *really* needed to re-create what she'd been doing. "I'm trying something else." Giving the Colonel a good last look, she slowly turned away.
His voice again. "Are you-"
She turned back. He was stone.
So, that seemed to confirm it, although obviously more extensive tests were going to have to be carried out. Sam was thrilled. Though this wasn't a cure for his 'condition', it was the first real sign of good news.
"Was that the Colonel's voice?" Janet, this time.
"Yeah," Sam responded, stepping closer to him. He was standing up again; his right hand splayed open as if he'd been gesturing towards her. "I think I've figured this out. Just a minute."
Extending her arm, she carefully grabbed his right hand, shifting hers as much as possible so they almost fit together. Exhaling heavily and feeling strangely nervous, she closed her eyes.
And suddenly it wasn't stone anymore. It was warm, it was flesh, it was human, it was real, it was *him*.
His fingers moved, tangling with hers. "Carter?"
She couldn't have stopped the huge grin appearing on her face even if she wanted to - and why *would* she want to? Desperately wanting to open her eyes, to really see him, to really see that he was okay, she nonetheless kept them firmly shut. "You're back." For once she didn’t try to question it, didn’t try to figure it out. It just was, and it was perfect.
"Yeah," He sighed quietly. "But only when no one looks at me, apparently."
Frowning, she tilted her head to the left. "Are you aware of anything when you're...you're..."
"Venus De Milo's brother-in-law?"
Somehow, she grinned deeper. God, she'd missed that. "Yes."
She almost opened her eyes in surprise. "*Everything*?"
"Yeah," his thumb rubbed against the back of her palm. "I'm so sorry about earlier. You have no idea how frustrating it is not being able to-"
"Don't come in!" She yelled, suddenly, warning them off.
"Woah," Jack murmured. "That's an impressive set of lungs you've got there, Carter."
And she knew. She knew exactly where he was looking. At that point, she really didn't mind, and kept talking to the people outside the infirmary. "He's back again sir, but it seems to be only when no one is looking at him."
"Then...how are *you* looking at him?" Queried Janet's confused voice.
"I'm not. My eyes are closed." She gave them a moment to absorb the information and not - so she repeatedly told herself - so she could hang on to him for a while longer. "We're going to need some kind of partition in here."
Hammond responded. "We'll get on that right away, Major. I suggest you stay in there and get the Colonel up to date with everything we've learned so far. Colonel?"
"I'm glad you're back with us, son."
"No more than I am, sir. You have no idea how *boring* it is being a statue."
Sam smiled again, then listened as various greetings and expressions of relief came from Janet, Daniel and Teal'c. Soon enough Hammond started issuing orders, and within a few minutes, it was - as far as she knew - just the two of them.
"Do you mind if I sit down? I've been on my feet for God knows how many hours."
"Oh, of course!" Stupid. She'd been operating under the assumption that while he'd been stone he hadn't been aware of anything - that he had been, for all intents and purposes, dead. Unable to feel, unable to experience anything...
It served her right, for assuming anything.
"You're gonna have to...lead the way, sir."
Quite willing to do so - and quite amused, Sam suspected - he guided her to what turned out to be one of the beds. He waited until she was seated on the edge in case she needed any help, and then hopped up himself.
They were still holding hands. She needed the connection; not being able to see him, she needed the constant reminder that he was all right. His excuse she wasn't even going to think about.
"So..." He began after a few moments.
"So..." This was weird.
"This is weird."
She smiled. "Yeah. What happened in the cave? Did you do anything?"
It felt like he shrugged. "The last thing I did before talking to you guys was fiddle with one of those little statues."
As they'd suspected. It *had* been the only lead to go on. "Which one?"
"Uh...it was about three inches high. No symbols or letters that I noticed...I think it was supposed to be a woman."
"What made you think that?"
He hesitated. "It had...um, I'm gesturing here but you can't see. Trust me when I say it was a woman, okay?"
She'd realised how he'd known halfway through his sentence. "Ah. I see."
"Not with your eyes shut, you don't."
Okay, *that* she hadn't missed. "Sir..."
"That was terrible. Even for you."
"Look I'm sorry - really!"
Maybe she had missed it. She'd never, ever admit this to anyone - she barely admitted it to herself - but he could be really...cute, sometimes. She doubted he'd ever want to be classified as such, and made of point of vowing never to tell him that - unless he did something that really annoyed her one day. A thought struck her. "Did this statue have hair?"
His voice was confused, not seeing the relevance. "I don't think so."
Now it was *really* confused. "Nooooo..."
A serious attack of thirst suddenly assaulted her throat; no doubt a legacy from the earlier incident. "Sir, can you see anything to drink around here? I think my throat's waving a white flag."
"Sure," His concern was obvious as he let go of her hand, and jumped off of the bed. "If I'm not back in ten seconds, I've turned to stone again."
Despite his own threat of vanishing, he kept up a running commentary as he explored the room, helping her to follow his journey in her head. "Okay...there's a bed and another bed and - oh look! - yet another bed. A couple of small tables between them with no liquid-like substance to be found...a bigger table with some test tubes, some of those dish things, and one of those microscopes you're so fond of...hey, did that sample come from me? Doesn't look macho enough. And here's a-a-ha!"
Sam jerked her head towards his voice, and was rewarded a few seconds later when something passed in front of her face. "What's that?"
"I'm holding a cup of water up for you."
Of course - even with her eyes shut, it wasn't completely black. He must have been standing in front of a light source. "I can see you."
"You can?" He sounded dubious.
"Well...an area of darkness roughly shaped like you."
The cup moved, and what must have been the empty hand waved in front of her face. All she could see was a shaft of black moving from side to side, but occasionally one of his fingers would accidentally brush her face.
Driven by an impulse she didn't fully comprehend - maybe it was the anonymity provided by not being able to really see anything, maybe it was because not long ago she'd been Thera, maybe it was just because she was glad he was back - she lifted her own hand up, and only paused when it reached his face.
His hand stopped waving.
She didn't move further; content to just rest where she was. "There you are..."
"Here I am," He murmured, his hand coming up to rest against hers. He kept quiet for a while after that, and just stood there for a silent, unspoken moment.
Eventually Sam began to pull her hand away, only to take his with it as he kept a firm grip. She didn't object, simply taking the drink from him that he offered with her free hand, and carefully sipping at it as he quietly climbed back onto the bed.
When he was settled, and she'd had a couple of healthy gulps, he spoke.
Her hand tightened around his. "Much."
He had questions, of course. While he'd apparently been aware of everything going on around him, he'd still only heard some of the conversations about his situation – especially as they hadn't all been standing around in the infirmary when they'd been talking about him. Sam got him up to date with the lack of anything hopeful in his samples, Daniel's theory, and – as the Colonel put it – what the hell Per'sus had to do with anything.
After a while, she almost became used to the situation. Not that she'd ever actually want to be blind; but in almost darkness, touching his skin, hearing his voice...it was comforting.
When she finished telling him how little they knew and how much they were theorising, the conversation drifted into other subjects. Nothing that really mattered, nothing that was too important; except that it was – it was probably the longest and most revealing conversation she'd ever had with the man who didn't like to talk about anything.
And, ironically, she couldn't even look at him.
A small part of her wondered if maybe that was the point.
Eventually they were interrupted by a voice from the corridor. "Sam? Colonel?"
She turned her head towards the source. "We're still here, Janet."
"We have something we can bring in to give the Colonel his own area; is it safe to come in?"
"Give us a minute," Sam responded, turning her head back towards the Colonel. She already had a plan. "Sir-"
"I already know what you're going to say Carter, and forget it."
She'd known this would happen. "It will be a lot easier and faster than trying to hide you from everyone."
"I'm not letting it happen again – do you have any idea what it feels like?" He was determined to be petulant.
Lifting an eyebrow, she managed to look annoyed even with her eyes closed. "What – losing control of my body? Or the ability to move at will? Stuck inside my own mind? I guess you're right, sir – why would *I* have any idea what that feels like?"
She was momentarily surprised at her own vehemence, then decided to get over it. What happened with Jolinar was still an important and integral part of her – she wasn't going to ignore that for anyone.
Her comeback had certainly shut him up. He stayed silent for at least another thirty seconds, and Sam was determined she wouldn't be the first to crack.
Eventually, he did. And in a much quieter way than she would have expected from him. "What if it doesn't happen again?"
"You mean what if you don't turn to stone?"
His hand fluttered around hers, unsure if it wanted to hold tighter or let go completely. "No. What if I do turn to stone...and then I don't come back from it?"
Oh. Ohhh. Feeling absurdly guilty, she shifted until she was actually facing him. At least, she hoped she was. It was kind of hard to tell. "We've had no proof so far that you won't turn back. We've already seen it happen several times, so there's nothing to suggest-"
"I don't care about what anything suggests, Carter. I'm talking about luck. Pure, blind, bad luck. What if I stay like that forever?"
There had been times over the last four years when he'd reminded her of a child – mostly through acting immaturely. Right now, for the first time, he actually *felt* like one. It should have been impossible for a man who'd done more and seen more than anyone ever should have experienced, but his surprising vulnerability removed any remaining traces of ire. There was only one thing to say. "Do you trust me?"
"That's the stupidest of stupid ques-"
"Then answer it."
Good. "Then I promise you that if it *does* happen, and you *don't* come back, and we *can't* find a way to fix it...I will guarantee that you will *not* stay like that forever. By whatever means necessary." She didn't care who would want to experiment or investigate him; if it got to a point where she thought the suffering had become intolerable, she'd do whatever she had to – and damn the consequences.
Being Jack O'Neill, he understood immediately what she was saying. "Thanks,"
To some it might have seemed understated. To her, it was just how he expressed himself. She addressed Janet again. "Okay, we're ready in here."
It was Daniel who replied; no doubt Teal'c was out there with him too. "It'll probably be best if you move to the far end of the infirmary; then we only have to worry about cordoning off that area."
The Colonel answered before she could. "Nice plan, Daniel. I've missed the genius of Dr Daniel Jackson since I've been out of it. Or – more accurately – since I've been unable to get out of it. If you get what I..." He must have seen the less than amused expression on her face then, because he rapidly changed subject. "So let's do this, Carter!" Had he not still be holding onto her, Sam suspected he would have clapped his hands together in a typical show of false over-exuberance.
Without saying a word, he took the cup she was still holding away from her and – so she presumed – placed it on one of the tables between beds. Then, making sure she got down safely, he led the way to the end of infirmary. Sam had assumed she'd be going to help the others, but by the way he was still holding her hand he had other ideas.
And he wasn't the type to ask. That wasn't who he was. So he simply acted.
Just as she had needed the connection earlier, he needed it now – as they stopped walking, as he turned to face her, and as he moved his hand so that – although they were still touching – their fingers weren't intertwined. The message was clear: if he didn't return to normal, he wanted her to be able to separate herself easily.
"It'll be okay," She murmured, tilting her head back, fighting the urge to look at him.
"You said it would, so of course it will be," He answered with that usual false bravado. "Do it."
Squeezing his hand, she opened her eyes.
Wincing immediately against the light, her blurry eyes thought that just for a split second he was his normal, human self. And then it happened. Much faster than when he first changed, this was almost instantaneous. The hand she was holding onto was suddenly replaced with rock, and even though she had known it was going to happen, she felt the bitter sting of disappointment.
Lifting her shoulders, her determination settled in. "Now!"
What sounded like an army full of people hurried into the room; every conceivable foot sound was made; walking, running, shuffling, stumbling, and more. Some running in to lead the way and move whatever needed to move, those carrying in something heavy – probably the partition, or whatever they'd managed to get under such short notice.
There were a lot of orders, a lot of heaving, a lot of "Dr Jackson, would you *please* stop helping?", and a lot of pulling things across the floor.
Sam didn't move. Just as he had silently asked, just as she had silently agreed, she stayed with him, letting the people behind her do whatever they needed to do. In reality they didn't really need to rush as much as they were, but the less time he spent in stone the better disposition he'd be in. There wasn't much else that was going to cheer him up given current circumstances, so they were doing what little they could.
Janet's voice gradually became the loudest, which – and this wasn't necessarily a bad thing – wasn't in the least bit surprising. Given the aptitude she had for ordering people around, Sam had wondered on occasion why Janet hadn't headed for command.
And then she saw her with her patients, and understood.
After a surprisingly short amount of time, there was a definitive thump as something settled into place a few feet behind.
Janet's voice was only a few feet away. "Okay people, everyone behind this thing. Come on. *Move*."
"I am, Dr Fraiser."
"Don't argue with me Teal'c."
"I was not-"
"Teal'c," Daniel finally interrupted. "If I were you I'd concede defeat. This is one battle you're *not* going to win."
Sam chuckled even as Janet welcomed his assistance. "Thank you, Daniel. I think. Sam?"
"We're ready here."
Thank God. Her hand was starting to cramp. But..."No one can see the Colonel?"
"No. Just you."
"Okay. I'm trying again...now." Her eyelids fluttered closed.
Oh God, nothing was happening. He'd been right; he was never going to change back, and she was going to have to-
Smooth, firm, warm, skin.
She didn't allow herself to believe it until he spoke, the relief it caused being something that most definitely should have worried her.
He was bored.
This was of no surprise to Sam, Janet, or anyone else who passed by the infirmary to pay him a visit. It was well known and well documented that Jack O'Neill had the attention span of a three-year-old.
Okay, Sam mused. That might have been a little unfair to the three-year-old.
He'd undergone a variety of tests since the partition had been set up, and none of them had been easy. As Janet had discovered, trying to examine a patient while not actually being able to see him raised some major stumbling blocks.
Now, after he'd stated *very* loudly that he was bored, he was playing catch with Daniel. Sam had watched with some amusement as they started by lobbing the ball Daniel had procured from somewhere - probably the gym - to each other over the top of the partition.
That had ended when Jack had thrown it too far, and crashed it into something expensive. An action that was soon followed by his inevitable "What did I hit?"
Hell hath no fury like a Janet scorned.
They'd since be relegated to bouncing it off the wall to each other. By throwing it at just at the right angle, they could bounce it to opposite sides of the partition.
Sam was, it had to be said, extremely relieved. It wasn't a perfect situation, but it was workable; and most importantly, he could communicate with them. They could communicate with him.
It was the simplest of things that she was happiest about.
So, she didn't feel bad about making jokes at his expense - even if they were just in her head. It also helped to take her mind off the fact that Janet had no answers yet. She was still investigating, measuring, waiting, examining, comforting - all of the things a doctor had to do to effectively do her job. And there were still no answers yet.
Sam's ambivalent thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of General Hammond. It had been barely thirty minutes since his last visit - as the Colonel had said earlier, he was turning up with the frequency of a cheap ham radio. More accurately, he was just as worried about the Colonel as everyone else was.
The woman he addressed moved over from where she'd been standing, rifling through the contents of the paper folder she was holding. “Well sir, we’ve had some very particular problems trying to get the samples from him.”
Hammond nodded with understanding and some exasperation. “I can imagine.”
Janet smiled briefly. “Every time someone looked at him, he’d revert to stone again. In fact this,” She closed the folder and held on to it with one hand, while the other fished a clear plastic bag out of her lab coat pocket. “Is the result of what happened when I tried to take a blood test.”
Taking the offered bag from her carefully, Hammond examined the contents.
Sam was already well acquainted with them.
Frowning, Hammond handed it back. “Is it my imagination or is the needle...?”
“Short?” Janet suggested. “More specifically, it’s broken sir. The end of the needle broke off into his arm when he turned to stone after I accidentally saw about one inch of his wrist.”
“Into his *arm*?”
“Naturally I closed my eyes immediately and it came out of his arm right away. Although not without some complaint on the Colonel’s part.”
Sam’s lips pursed into a smile, even as she told herself not to. Though frightening, his reaction at the time had at least assured her that he was okay.
Janet continued. “We were eventually able to get the blood tests we needed with the Colonel’s help; with the proper instruction he drew the sample himself,” She explained, not commenting on the ruckus he’d caused over that, too.
“And what did you find?”
Here it came.
Sam tried not to get her hopes up, but it was useless.
“Nothing. In fact, none of the tests that have come back so far have indicated anything unusual. If I hadn’t seen it happen myself, I wouldn’t even know there was anything wrong with him.”
Dammit. Closing her eyes despite herself, Sam shook her head. “That’s impossible.”
“So you keep saying Sam – but the evidence is right *there* on the other side of the room. Look, I know that scientifically this is impossible, but for the sake of my patient I have to accept that somehow, it is possible. Something is causing this.” Turning slightly, she addressed Hammond again. “We’re still waiting for further results General, but my feeling is they’ll show nothing unusual either.”
“Bottom line, doctor.”
She hesitated, glancing between the two of them. “Whatever this is, it’s beyond our medical science. I know you’ve already sent a message to the Tok’ra sir, but I strongly recommend you contact our other allies; see if they’ve ever come across something like this or can do anything to help.”
Resolve settled across his features. “Consider it done, Doctor. Anything else?”
“Only the fact that the various samples we’ve taken have stayed ‘normal’. His blood, his urine. The fact that they haven’t turned to stone after being removed from his body could be significant – although admittedly, we don’t know how yet.”
Hammond sighed. “I have to get back to my office. Keep me updated.”
By the time he’d left and Janet turned to her friend, Sam was already studying the partition again. Daniel looked like he was starting to get agitated with whatever it was the Colonel was saying; his turns at throwing the ball were becoming increasingly violent.
“You know,” Janet murmured, surprising Sam who almost yelped. “If it turns out that this isn’t just a temporary thing, we’re going to have to find a more permanent location for him.”
Sam rested her hands on her hips, focusing on the ball.
“Keeping him in here for the time being is all well and good, but it’s not going to serve all his needs. Just going to the toilet is a major operation.”
“And then there’s his psychological needs.”
“He’s physically separated from everyone, Sam. You know what a tactile person he is. The situation would be enough to cause anxiety in anyone, but him? Add to that the fact that most communication is non-verbal, and it’s obvious that it’s not going to be an easy time for him. It’s lucky that he has you three.”
The ball had stopped moving – mostly because Daniel hadn’t thrown it back. By now Sam could hear their conversation – mostly because Daniel had raised his voice. “Jack, I need to go!”
“Why?” Clearly the Colonel was in ‘petulant’ mode.
“To try and help you! Teal’c’s already working on the translation of the markings on the large statue, but it’ll go a whole last faster if I work with him. It’s the only lead we have to go on to help you, Jack.”
Sam slowly started walking towards him.
The Colonel’s voice floated over one more time. “Five more minutes?”
Sighing loudly, Daniel was about to respond negatively when Sam caught his attention and pointed at the ball. Understanding, he handed her the ball and gave her a grin and a thumbs up before sneaking out of the infirmary.
Janet had already smirked, and was turning back to her work.
Moving into position, Sam carefully aimed the ball and then bounced if off the wall. As she’d hoped, she’d got the angle right; it bounced straight into the Colonel’s side.
He didn’t return it straight away, instead electing for a verbal reply.
And then the ball came bouncing back. There were a few close calls when one of them missed, but Sam rapidly found she was enjoying herself. It’d been years since she’d taken part in this kind of activity, and it was almost liberating.
Again, appreciating the simple things.
Then he spoke.
“Ask you a question?”
She should have told him she wasn’t Daniel. She really should have. Instead, she made her response from as deep in her throat as possible. “Uh-huh.” God, that sounded terrible. How was he ever going to fall for that?
With some ease, apparently. “Is Carter okay?”
“Daniel, you okay?”
“Uh huh.” Trust the Colonel to say that just as she’d been throwing the ball.
Thankfully – or not – he continued with his previous train of thoughts. “She seems a little...I dunno, freaked.”
She caught the ball, and held on to it. She couldn’t do this anymore.
Moving the few inches required until she was almost touching the partition, she spoke. “She’s just worried about you, sir.”
What easily qualified as a deathly silence fell over his part of the infirmary. “Carter?”
“Is that you?”
She grinned. It was so like him to ask for clarification of something he already knew. “Yes sir.”
“Ah.” More silence. “I thought something was up when Daniel suddenly got a lot better at throwing.”
She now had something to do – an assignment. In fact, an actual order direct from General Hammond. Unsurprisingly, accounts of the Colonel’s behaviour had made their way to him, and – after the Colonel had fallen asleep – the General had called her to his office.
She’d entered the room with some trepidation, worried that he wanted to see her regarding her own reaction to the situation. She’d been doing whatever she could to keep her behaviour professional, but had the sneaking suspicion that she hadn’t been successful.
It was with a definite sense of relief then that she saw the smile on his face.
“Take a seat, Major.”
She had done, then thanked him, then waited for him to speak.
“How do *you* feel Colonel O’Neill is faring?”
Surprised but pleased, she’d shrugged. “As well as can be expected considering the circumstances, sir. It’s fair to say that he’s desperate for something to do.”
“So I’ve heard,” Hammond had nodded, leaning back in his chair with a knowing grin.
Sam had smiled. “Yes sir.”
“As this is still the case, and morale is as important to me as physical well-being, I’m putting you in charge of Colonel O’Neill.”
It was, quite possibly, the last thing she’d ever expected him to say. “Sir?”
“You’re in charge of keeping him entertained. Of keeping him happy. Do you think you can manage that?”
It had looked suspiciously like he was trying not to grin...but that couldn’t possibly have been true. Why would he find it amusing? “I’ll, er, try my best sir.” Keeping the Colonel entertained? It would probably be the biggest project she’d ever undertaken.
“Good. But first...when was the last time you got some sleep?”
Time for some creative falsehoods. “I’m not really sure...” Never mind creative falsehoods; it had been a blatant lie. The last time she’d slept had been hours before they’d gone on the mission in the first place.
He’d stared at her, frowning. “Then get some sleep first, Major. I understand the Colonel’s asleep; there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.”
Not that she had, of course. Never mind that she now had something to really focus on, but there was also the fact that she just didn’t feel tired. Things must have been exciting enough lately to keep the very thought of sleep out of her head.
So, with a brain already filling with ideas she’d gone to her lab and started making a list. If she was going to do this, she was going to do it properly.
When she began to dry up she bugged Daniel and Teal’c for suggestions – although not for long. She didn’t want to interrupt their work in case it *did* hold the key to fixing whatever had happened to the Colonel.
And, she had to admit, she’d gone to see them as much to get an update on their progress as anything else.
Some two hours later – after a trip to his house, and the closest shop she could find – she entered the infirmary, wheeling a trolley through the door.
Janet wasn’t there – probably getting some much needed sleep herself – but the nurses who were still there working on solutions raised their eyebrows.
Sam shrugged. “Entertainment.”
A couple of understanding “Ohhhh,”s were the response.
Moving further into the room, she eventually paused when she reached the partition. “Sir?” She wasn’t sure if he was up yet or-
“I’m awake, Carter.”
Ah. “Is it all right if I come round to your side?”
“Uh...yeah. Just a sec.”
Frowning, she listened to some squeaking, then some movement, then an “Okay. Come round – and you can keep your eyes open.”
Confused, bemused and slightly amused, she guided the trolley around the edge of the partition, only to snort in laughter at what he was doing.
He was hiding under the covers.
A bed had been moved to his side after the original big re-shuffle, and he was now lying on it with the covers over every inch of him. She could see from the way the blankets were resting that he was scrunched up into as small a shape as possible, though his knee was probably objecting to the treatment because it kept moving.
The words came out before she could stop them. “That’s a good look for you.”
“You don’t think stone is in this year?”
Grinning, she pushed the trolley closer to the bed. “You didn’t sleep very long.”
The covers moved as he shrugged. “Being a statue is surprisingly restful. Not a lot of movement involved, I guess.”
He may have been joking, but he may also have had a point. “I suppose so. Anyway, I have brought you...entertainment.”
The Colonel’s head shifted. “Entertainment?”
“We couldn’t help but notice that you were...well...”
“Exactly. So I’m in charge of keeping your morale up.”
There was a long pause before the head shifted again. “Whose idea was this?”
The head shot up; in fact the entire body shot up and it was only at the last minute that he managed to keep the covers from falling off him completely. “Really?”
Sam frowned, watching as he moved something under the covers. What the hell was he doing? “Yes.”
And then it became clear. Covering the mattress was one sheet, and on top of him were another sheet and a blanket. He was pulling that second sheet free from the blanket and using it to cover his top half, while the blanket was falling to just cover his bottom half – he was doubling his area of movement.
This did, however, have the unfortunate side effect of making him look like a ghost from a Scooby Doo cartoon. “That’s...weird,” He replied, apparently having finished what he was doing.
The sheet-covered shoulders moved. “I dunno. Just...doesn’t seem like him. Anyway, what did you bring me?”
She glanced down at the trolley. “Well, we have-”
He head shot up. “What?”
A ghostly hand was reaching out in her direction. “Don’t tell me. I wanna see for myself. Okay, I’m gonna lower the sheet. You ready?”
Shaking her head, Sam closed her eyes. “Ready.”
She listened, hearing the sound of moving fabric, then the sound of booted feet hitting the floor. Wow, Janet or someone else was going to scream bloody murder about having those boots on her sheet-
“Carter, you all right?”
Why was everyone so concerned with her lately? “I’m fine. Why?”
“You have bags under your eyes.”
Oh, well, that was always nice to hear. “*Thank* you, sir.”
His voice was amused when he responded. “I’m just worried.”
That ‘cute’ word popped into her head again. “I’m fine, really. Don’t feel in the least bit tired.”
“If you say so...” He mumbled, his voice trailing off – probably as he began to examine the contents of the trolley.
Her theory was proven correct a few moments later.
“The National Whisperer?”
Obviously he’d found the pile of magazines and newspapers. “Teal’c’s idea.”
“Of course it is...you know, he keeps trying to convince me to buy the damn thing.”
She heard him slap the ‘newspaper’ down on top of something.
“Tell you what,” He began. “This’ll be a whole lot easier if *you* hide under the covers. That way I won’t have to worry about you accidentally seeing me. I don’t appreciate being stone, you know.”
“Seriously, Carter. I know you’re not intending to look at me, but these things happen. I mean geez – look what happened when Fraiser was trying to take that blood test. I’m gonna be having nightmares about needles for the rest of my life – like I didn’t already.”
That wasn’t a particularly realistic comparison. “I-”
“Please, Carter. You’ll be doing your CO a big favour. I’m starting to get paranoid about turning to stone again.”
Dammit. Did he have to ask so *nicely*? She sighed, half-admitting to herself that she’d lost the battle the first time he’d asked. “Okay.” The things she did for him...
She’d barely had time to think up a course of action before his right hand wrapped gently around her left arm, taking her towards the bed. Keeping a hand stretched out she soon came into contact with the edge of the mattress, and with his help was swiftly up on the bed.
She briefly considered taking her boots off, but since his had already been there, there was nothing hers were going to do that his hadn’t.
He’d pulled the covers off as she’d clambered up, and now he placed them over her; first the sheet, then the blanket, both covering her head.
“Done,” the Colonel eventually declared.
On cue Sam opened her eyes, and found herself staring at a white sheet. Yep, looked like this was working.
Moving away, the Colonel began talking about everything he found on the trolley. “‘Crosswords and Other Puzzles’...ooo, with a complimentary pen, too. Couple of newspapers...”
The bed was really, really comfortable. She’d never realised that about the infirmary beds before.
“A TV Guide?”
She blinked, stopping her eyes from going out of focus. “It’s not as useless as it seems. We should be getting a television here soon.”
“Cool. Magazines that don’t look particularly...” His voice died.
She knew what he’d found.
That had been a tough call, deciding whether or not to get that one. But, it was something he was interested in, and the goal here was to keep him happy. He eventually continued, as if he hadn’t stopped at all. “...good, except for this one about fishing...a deck of cards, some board games, a chess board...” His voice trailed off again. “Carter?”
She was busy trying not to smell the pillow. It was pretty hard considering she was in an enclosed space. “Sir?”
“Have you been to my house?”
“I thought that chess board looked freakily familiar.” He stopped speaking and Sam assumed he was done, but then he must have thought of something else because he spoke again. “Did you...find anything else?”
She knew what he was talking about, and decided to tease him. Just a little. “You mean apart from Twister?”
She could practically hear him rolling his eyes. “Yes, apart from Twister which, by the way, my knee hasn’t let me use for a good couple of years.”
Sam gave up and inhaled the scent he’d left behind, secure in her warm little world. “No, nothing else. I don’t know what you expected me to find.” She didn’t know about the hiding place. She didn’t know about the picture he kept there. She hadn’t noticed the finger marks on it.
“Nothing important,” He mumbled, before returning to his verbal inventory. “Hey, this one has an article on The Simpsons!”
Smiling, she closed her eyes. That was why she’d bought it.
Consciousness trickled slowly into her brain. She didn’t move or open her eyes, quite content to stay snuggled up to something as her brain began to remind her of where she was. It was clear she was on a bed, and – as her body began to wake up – that she still had her boots on. The familiar hum of machinery told her that she was probably on base and-
She was in the infirmary, and she was supposed to be looking after the Colonel, keeping him occupied. Instead, she’d fallen asleep on him.
Her body woke up fully then, and her eyes snapped open as she became aware of the firm body behind her.
She *had* fallen asleep on him.
It didn’t make any sense. She certainly didn’t remember him climbing into bed with her, or even the fact that she’d fallen asleep at all.
Okay. What she needed to do – apart from panic and not internally quote every regulation she could think of – was to analyse this the way she analysed everything.
Think. Explain. Answers.
Obviously, she must have fallen asleep. The covers were no longer over her face, so she closed her eyes just in case she somehow caught a glimpse of him. Turning the Colonel into stone at this particular moment in time didn’t seem like a good idea.
She barely remembered falling asleep, and she certainly didn't remember falling asleep *on* him so...
So, he must have moved there himself afterwards.
Why? Why on Earth would he do that? Their situation was complicated enough; he certainly wasn't helping matters by jumping into bed with...
No, she had to calm down. She was just freaking out because they were in bed together - something that wouldn't look good if Hammond chose this moment to walk in; especially as the Colonel would turn to stone a split second later. And if the arm around her stomach was any indication, she'd have some trouble getting up.
Okay. This was simple. She just had to move off of the bed without looking at him.
She could do this. She could.
She just needed to move...now.
That was weird. She was telling her body to move, but it apparently wasn't listening because she hadn't budged an inch.
Not even a millimetre.
In fact, it seemed her body was enjoying this entirely too much because-
Oh good God. It hadn't really been apparent before, but the way he was laying meant his face was near the back of her neck, so when he spoke...
Oh *God*, when he spoke...
This wasn't good.
"Yes sir." She assumed there was as still at least one nurse on the other side of the infirmary, so kept her voice low as she didn't want to risk anyone hearing. Fortunately they were so close together that they could get away with murmuring to each other.
"Thought you might have been; I could hear you thinking."
Trouble was, this wasn't good - this was *really* good. "Yes sir. I was kind of...wondering..."
"How we ended up like this?"
Neither of them had commented on the fact that neither of them had moved away yet.
Relax, relax. She exhaled gently, trying not to concentrate on the fact that his left arm was wrapped around her, that her back was pressed against his front, that his mouth was disturbingly close to her neck...
"Well, after you..." A pause. "...dropped off, I decided to read one of the magazines you brought, and as there was no where else to sit, I perched on the edge of the bed. I'd just got to The Simpsons article when you...grabbed me."
Her head jerked off the pillow, turning to the left. Remembering what would happen just in time, she closed her eyes even as she spoke. "I *grabbed* you?"
"Oh yeah," He didn't sounded particularly amused, which she presumed he would have been. "You shifted as you slept and - wallop. You grabbed me. Rather than risk waking you up - because you really did look like crap - I decided not to move. I guess I must have fallen asleep myself eventually and...here we are."
Her subconscious must have been conspiring against her. It must have. It was determined to make him talk as much as possible simply because...no. This was ridiculous. She wasn't some little girl with a crush; she was an adult, entirely responsible for her own actions.
So why did she still have her eyes closed?
Why did she still have her face turned towards him?
Why did she repeat the phrase he had just used?
"Here we are."
Was it simply because she *was* an adult who *was* responsible for her actions and knew exactly what she was doing?
She couldn't see him, couldn't see a thing, but she knew precisely what was going to happen.
Thrilled, terrified, excited, petrified, she stayed just where she was.
She could feel his breath on the side of her face now.
Her brain made one last desperate, useless attempt to stop it from happening. "We really should move a chair to your side,"
The automatic 'not-really-listening' response he probably would have produced was lost as their lips met.
Sam's brain waved a little white flag.
It knew it was wrong, it knew it was foolish, but it also knew it felt so damn good that just this once it was raising its hands in surrender and willingly marching into its enemies clutches.
Of course, Sam somehow managed to decide through the mush that was now her brain, that kissing him with her head turned around like that wasn't particularly comfortable. So of *course* she had to shift, of *course* she had to turn her body towards him, of *course* her hand had to play with his arm, then his side as she continued her extremely enjoyable exploration of his mouth and his body.
Somewhere between digging her nails into his skin and him nuzzling his mouth against her neck, it stopped being just enjoyable.
It wasn't as if she hadn't experienced it before, but it still surprised her at how suddenly it happened - as if someone had flicked a switch somewhere.
It stopped being nice and comfortable, and became something deeper, darker, and considerably more dangerous; the thing she'd always feared would happen should they ever had found themselves in this situation.
Only now she was revelling in it.
Her breath became heavier, shorter, harder as he did things that she'd barely-
"SG-15 to the briefing room, repeat, SG-15 to the briefing room."
They broke apart, mouths separating, breath still intermingling, as their brains finally began to work.
This was too far. Kissing in the first place had been idiotic enough, but this was rapidly heading somewhere else. Somewhere she wasn't about to go just yet.
Although, if that PA message had been broadcast just a little later...
It was best not to think about it, which wasn't easy when you were panting on top of a man was most definitely didn't have a sidearm in his pocket.
In fact, the only good thing about the situation was that she couldn't look at him. She knew from bitter experience to stay away from those eyes, so this was the only time she decided that being effectively blind might be an advantage.
"Umm..." He mumbled. "Wow."
Glad to know it wasn't just her - even though she'd really known it wasn't - she smiled. "Yeah." She was, however, incredibly frustrated, and the smile didn't stay for long.
Carefully moving off of him with his help, she eventually settled into much the same place she'd been in when she'd woken up, only this time she was facing him. Wrapping her arm over his front, she held tightly and willed the feeling to go away.
He must have been having much the same problem himself, but all she knew was that his right hand kept stroking her head and playing with her hair.
That wasn't helping, but she didn't tell him to stop.
"So..." His voice rumbled through his chest. "How are the boys doing?"
Understanding the need to focus on something else, she responded. "Last time I checked in on them they thought they had one of the symbols they didn't know translated - but it didn't make any sense, so Daniel assumed it was wrong."
"What did it say?" The hand that had been playing with her hair brushed over her arm.
Her hold loosened, her hand coming up to rest on his chest. "'Joviality'."
"*Joviality*? Isn't that a kind of weird ass thing to translate from a Goa'uld artefact?"
Shrugging, she rubbed her fingers over his chest. "Exactly what Daniel said - well, apart from the 'weird ass' part. He's come across nothing else like that since we first encountered the Goa'uld."
The Colonel's hand absently rubbed across her shoulder. "What's Teal'c say?"
"While he agreed they weren't sure about the translation, he did make a point of saying that 'the Goa'uld are capable of many things' before telling me to buy you the National Whisperer."
She knew he was amused because he pulled her tighter to him and - to her amazement - kissed the top of her head.
It shouldn't have amazed her. After everything that had happened in that bed, a little kiss on the top of her head shouldn't have meant anything.
But the very fact that it had come from him at all was enough to make it amazing.
It hit her then: she had actually made out with her CO. She, Major Samantha Carter, had seriously made out with Colonel Jack O'Neill. Something she swore she'd never do, and she'd happily gone along and done it anyway.
She grinned. And continued grinning.
"You're looking pleased with yourself,"
Sighing happily now, having calmed considerably since getting pretty well...well, excited earlier, she grabbed the hand resting on her shoulder and held it in both hands. "Then I guess I am. I mean I know I shouldn't be...but I am."
The hand wiggled in her hold, and she released it only to find that it returned to stroking her hair. "I know exactly how you feel."
God, what was she doing? This was - officially - the biggest screw up of her career. She shouldn't even be lying next to him; she should be running away, screaming, not cuddling up to her superior officer.
And no way in hell should she be savouring the memory of what they were doing earlier.
Smiling again, she ran her fingertips over the top of his chest-
"That's not helping."
Her hand stopped moving. "Sorry. It's just...nice, that you're not stone."
"Yeah, I think that's nice too. I can, however, be pleased about it without playing with your chest." He regretted it the moment it was out. "I really didn't mean that the way it-"
Chuckling, she turned her head towards his body. "You wouldn't think we could still get embarrassed."
"Please. I'm always embarrassing myself. I'm just good at hiding it."
She was tempted to ask for an example, when the familiar sound of Janet's shoes entered the infirmary.
"Morning Claudia," The MD greeted.
As that and other greetings continued, Sam's mind was racing. If she suddenly moved off the bed, they were bound to hear the sudden loud squeaking and the thump as she landed on the floor - even if she landed on her feet.
Of course, she thought with 'joviality', if she and the Colonel hadn't come to their senses, they could well have heard some loud squeaking anyway.
No, for now she was going to stay where she was. The odds of Janet looking around the partition were pretty low, as she knew what would happen to the Colonel if she did.
His arm tightened around her, and he placed another kiss on the top of her head.
"Yeah, I'm awake Doc."
"Good. How are you feeling?"
She knew he was grinning.
"Great. Terrific. I'm feeling..." He squeezed her arm. "...fantastic."
Man, he was just asking to get caught.
Janet's voice was understandably confused when she replied. "Well...that's good too. Is Sam there?"
"I'm here Janet," Sam responded herself.
"Great. When you get a minute, I want a word with you."
Uh oh. "Sure. Just a minute." She turned her head back towards his chest, and spoke quietly. "I have to go."
A sigh passed through his entire body. "Yeah,"
"I'll be back later."
"You better damn had be."
Grinning, she regretfully pulled away, removing her arm from him, and letting his arm fall away from her. Reaching out with her feet, her boots soon made contact with the floor and she reached out for the partition, feeling her way along to the end. Once she was sure she'd stepped around it, she opened her eyes.
Her eyes took a few seconds to adjust, but eventually - after a lot of blinking - she could see clearly.
Janet was frowning at her.
Janet was still frowning at her. "Are you all right, Sam? You look a little...dishevelled."
If she was fishing for anything, she wasn't about to find it. "Yeah, I fell asleep. Guess I have bed hair." Doing her best to act nonchalant, she rubbed a hand over her hair. "You wanted something?"
Janet was *still* frowning at her. "Actually, I just wanted to make sure that you *had* gotten some sleep - knowing how obsessive you can get with your work." She didn't say it, but the implication was there: especially where Colonel O'Neill is concerned.
"Well, I got a couple of hours at least, so you can rest easy. Is there anythin-"
The klaxons blared and the lights went mad.
Janet had already dashed off, just in case medical assistance was required. Sam took the opportunity to sneak back towards the partition and stuck her hand around it, intending to wave at him.
She yelped when he grabbed it. No doubt he'd moved when the PA went.
"Go," He told her. "I'll be here when you get back."
She squeezed his hand. "You better damn had be."
She arrived just in time to bump into SG-6 as they were heading out of the gate room.
Stopping herself from careering into Major Mansfield, she grabbed onto his arm for support. "Major? Anything?"
He didn't even have to shake his head. He simply looked at her.
Dammit. Throughout her various sojourns through the corridors and elevators of the SGC, she'd been hoping that it *would* be SG-6 and that they *would* be bringing back good news.
She was only half-right.
Letting go of Mansfield's arm she stepped back, and watched as they entered the corridor - probably heading off to the infirmary for their post mission check up.
Janet, who'd been lingering behind in the gate room, smiled gently and briefly rubbed Sam's hand before going after them.
Though she was doing her best not to let them, she felt like her shoulders were drooping. She wanted this fixed.
Hammond. General Hammond was still there, standing near the end of the ramp but looking at her. "Yes sir?"
"SG-6's briefing will be at 1100 hours."
She nodded. It wasn't usual for her to attend other SG Team briefings, but this was anything but usual circumstances - though she had a feeling the General was inviting her to attend without actually inviting her only because she wanted to be there. She wasn't about to object. "Yes sir."
Feeling slightly happier, she waited until he left before turning herself and leaving the gate room. She'd freshen up, have a shower, and then see exactly what SG-6 had and hadn't discovered.
"Nothing?" Hammond queried.
Mansfield shrugged. He, the rest of his team, General Hammond, Janet and Sam were in the briefing room. "The Argosian people were very friendly, sir. Welcoming, willing to help in any way; they even gave us a place to sleep. But they know nothing about Medusa, or Perseus, or Per'sus," He rolled his eyes. "In fact, the only 'mythological' Earth character they seem to know anything about or are bothered with is Pelops."
Sam hadn't been expecting anything. She hadn't. His expression when she'd bumped into him earlier had told her all she needed to know. That didn't stop the sinking feeling of disappointment.
It made sense, of course. Pelops was the one who'd been experimenting on the Argosians, while fooling them into believing he was benevolent. To ensure they remained loyal and content so the experiment could continue, he wouldn't want them to even be aware of any other potential 'Gods'.
And then along came SG-1, doing what they always did - or least trying to do what they always did. This time they'd been successful, even if it had been a close one for the Colonel.
"That's it?" She asked.
Mansfield met her gaze. "We did as thorough a search as we could of the area, and anything that might remotely be described as a 'marketplace'. We came up empty. Now," He swivelled in his chair to face Hammond again. "Given the right equipment we can go back and - assuming the Argosians don't mind - start some actual digging, but-"
The General interrupted. "We'll hold that option in reserve for now; wait to see if any of our other avenues run dry first."
"Yes sir." Mansfield obviously agreed that it was a step too far to go just yet.
In any case, the longer this conversation went on, the more convinced Sam became that they wouldn't find anything even if they dug up the entire planet.
Janet shifted in her chair, leaning forward. "*Anything* else?"
Sam didn't like the tone of her voice.
Mansfield shook his head. "Just that...they all hope to see SG-1 again. In fact, one woman in particular made a point of asking to see Colonel-"
"What about the statues, sir?" Sam interrupted, hoping no one had noticed the timing. Besides, it wasn't as if she could actually see him - no one could - so her request would naturally have to be denied.
Hammond hesitated, which was enough to make her even more depressed. "All results so far have found nothing unusual, aside from the presence of naquadah. That said, they are being very careful in their handling of the statues because they don't want to risk the same thing happening to anyone else. That could, conceivably, be restricting the results."
To Sam, in sounded almost as if he'd been taking lessons from her; 'could's' and 'conceivably's'. She didn't want to say it, but she had to. "I doubt that, sir."
He nodded sadly. "I know, Major. Doctor?"
Janet knew what he was asking. "I'm afraid there's been no further progress, sir. However, I'm hoping that comparing the results of the stone the statues are made of and the stone that Colonel O'Neill is made of when he, uh, 'turns', will provide something to work with. I've got people working on it right now."
"Very well. Dismissed."
While Hammond had returned to his office and SG-6 had zoomed off to wherever it was they were going, Sam and Janet lagged in the corridor behind them. The only reason they were doing so, to Sam's mind, was that Janet was walking incredibly slowly.
Which probably meant an 'important discussion' was about to start.
She really wasn't in the mood for this. She'd been so happy earlier and now the results of the briefing - or really, the non-results of the briefing - had almost made her feel like nothing good had happened at all.
The doctor nodded towards the storage room they were slowly passing. "Come in here for a minute, will you?" She didn't wait for a response, grabbing the handle and swinging the door open.
Sighing, Sam followed and patiently waited as Janet flicked on the lights, closed the door, and turned to face her.
She was frowning again and Sam realised - not for the first time - that she really wouldn't want to be Cassie after she'd annoyed her mom. "What is it?"
Janet had moved to her typical 'arms folded across chest' pose. "What the hell are you doing?"
She couldn't know, could she? "What are you talking about?"
"Sam, I'm not an idiot. You were breaking regulations in my infirmary."
There was no point in denying it, and she couldn't lie to her friend. She could, however, do some fancy footwork. "You have no evidence of that."
"Evidence?" Janet questioned. "Well, let's ignore the fact that I'm a doctor *and* a woman, and instead go with the fact that nobody's bed hair is ever *that* bad, and that when you came around the partition your lips were redder than a baboons as-"
"I'm worried about you! Gods knows everyone knows about this *thing* between the two of you, and we all do our best to ignore it. Previously I've made a point of not bringing it up unless *you* want to discuss it, but pulling stunts like this isn't helping."
Everyone knows? *Everyone* knows? It wasn't really a surprise. "Janet..."
"Sam," She stepped towards her, uncrossing her arms and extinguishing the anger that had never really existed in the first place. "I would love nothing more than to wish you a happy ever after. Whether he's a part of that or not is something that really can't be explored at the moment. You know that."
"I know. I do." She did, and God, was that a tear in her eye? How pathetic was that? She firmly blinked it away. "I know, Janet."
Janet smiled fondly. "Then what are you doing?"
Chuckling, Sam shook her head. "Losing my mind?"
"Been there," Janet admitted. "With Bill." It was obvious she knew from her own experiences that there was going to be no easy answers to this one. "Well, you can at least tell me what it was like."
Sam remembered, trying to think up an appropriate description.
She needn't have bothered. As soon as she started grinning Janet pursed her lips together and smirked.
"That good, huh?"
She was still grinning. "Oh yeah."
"I knew it! Daniel owes me twen-ty..." Janet's words faded as she realised what she'd let slip, and she desperately tried to back-pedal. "...sit-ups. Twenty sit-ups. He really hasn't been getting enough exercise lately. Oh look, is that the time? I really should-"
Giving in, she closed her eyes. "Yes?"
She really wasn't annoyed, even though she probably should have been. "So...you give me this big lecture about not giving in to...anything, and then you bet that I *will* give in to it and that it'll be good? How does that make sense?"
Janet shrugged. "I'm your friend and your colleague, so of course I'm going to try and talk you out of it, however, as I said earlier..." That rare, evil grin emerged. "I am a woman."
"When did you make this bet?"
"Oh..." Janet shrugged again, only this time a little too innocently. "A while ago. He does end up in the infirmary a lot you know. There isn't much else for him to do in there."
She probably had a point, and when Sam thought about it she realised she probably didn't want to know just how long ago that bet had been made. "I guess. Well, if we're done here I should probably-"
"Don't worry Janet, okay? What happened was just...an aberration. Probably due to the position we found ourselves in."
"'Position?'" Janet queried; eyes practically out on stalks before she forestalled the answer to her own question. "Wait, don't tell me. It's probably best that I don't know."
"Probably," Sam agreed. "But it was a unique situation, and you *have* made me face up to some...things I was ignoring. Don't worry. It won't happen again."
It was happening again.
She'd gone back to the infirmary with Janet to get the Colonel up to date, and had wisely remained on the opposite side of the partition to him. Not so wisely, she made the mistake of standing with her back against it, near the edge.
So, when his hand sneaked around the edge and grabbed a part of her body she wasn't expecting to be grabbed - though he later claimed it was an accident - she was extremely surprised.
Janet, having presumed they wouldn't risk doing anything again, especially with a nurse still in the room, had left to check on something.
The nurse in question was far at the opposite end of the infirmary, so Sam shifted a little closer to the edge. Janet's fears and doubts pretty much mirrored her own - but they were also pretty much ignored by her body.
His hand moved to a place that should have been less arousing - her wrist. He continued talking. "So...no luck, huh?"
"None," She squeaked, as the pads of his fingertips rubbed in circles over her skin. The nurse - Claudia? - was engrossed by something under a microscope. "Nothing on Argos and nothing strange in any of the statues. Although there are those traces of na-QUA!-dah..."
Mmm. Oh, that was evil. Especially as the nurse had looked up to make sure she was all right.
Sam smiled at her, and the nurse looked away again.
Tipping her head towards the edge, she whispered. "I am going to kill you."
"Well, you're already torturing me to death..."
"Me? I'm not even doing anything!" Realising her voice was getting louder, she faked a cough.
The nurse didn't look up.
"You're not?" He asked, his mouth so dangerously close to her throat that she closed her eyes. His hand moved again.
The nurse possibly known as Claudia stood up from her crouched over position. A quick whack at his hand scared it away just in time. Sam stood with her back now resting against the very edge of the partition.
Claudia smiled at her. "I have to go over these with someone else. I'll be back in a little while. I'm really not supposed to leave the infirmary empty, so if you don't mind..."
Perfect! "I won't tell anyone if you won't."
"Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it." Picking up a petri dish, she grinned at Sam once more and confidently headed out of the infirmary.
Sam watched every footstep, waiting for the very second that she was gone- And then she was where he was, closing her eyes as he grabbed her, clutching on to his arms, shoulders, head, as they kissed, stumbling with him as they fell against what must have been the bed, complaining when he pulled away from her only to smile again when she realised he was lifting her up so she was sitting on the edge of the bed, yanking at the bottom of his shirt as he came back to her, practically purring as he groaned at the feel of her hands on his skin, leaning back on the bed and pulling him with her, feeling his weight on top of her, wincing at but enjoying the faint wisp of stubble as he lifted her top and kissed her stomach, quickly pulling his head back up for another kiss, and all the while knowing she should stop.
"This is," She managed to gasp out. "Wrong."
His lips were back on her stomach, his hand slowly pulling her top higher and higher. "I know, I know, God you smell good. We should-"
"Stop, we really should stop," She whispered, then moaned.
"Bad, it's really-Jesus-bad. What are you...? Oh fu..." His hand grabbed hers, stopping it from where it was headed, pulling her arm over her head. "You don't wanna do that."
"We shouldn't be...doing any...of...thisssssssss..." Holy shit!
He was nuzzling, panting against her neck. "Really," Kiss. "Really," Kiss. "Naughty."
She laughed. She actually laughed.
He soon stopped that.
But she wasn't about to take that lying down. Well, in reality she *was* lying down and-
She pulled his head down to her mouth, whispering into his ear. "No fair," She could play just as dirty as he could.
He actually yelped.
"What the hell was that?"
She smiled impishly - at least she hoped it was. "A little something I've been saving for a special occasion. I think this qualifies."
He wasn't distracted for long; his mouth soon found its way back to her neck, his hands back to her chest.
Gasping, her head tilted back. "We really have to..."
His movements slowed. "I know."
Neither of them had any protection, and she had no idea...wait - this was an infirmary, wasn't it? They were bound to have something here. Pushing him up despite his complaints, she tugged her top down and adjusted her bra as best she could with her eyes closed. "Be right back," She whispered, then hopped off the bed and made her way to the other side of the infirmary.
No cupboard was left unturned, no drawer left unopened, no container left sealed. Eventually, she had to come to the horrifying revelation that she was in the only infirmary on the planet that didn't have any goddamn condoms.
Crap. Claudia was back. At least it wasn't Janet.
Head shoved halfway into an open cupboard; Sam elected not to come out into view. Her face would look decidedly...flushed, to put it mildly. "Just checking we had a full compliment of..." Her eyes locked onto the first thing she saw. "...sterile bandages. You can never check them too often."
"Yeah, I...okay," was Claudia's response.
Sam stayed where she was, and only risked moving when she heard the sound of glass on glass. Good. Claudia was going back to working on something.
Calmly walking to his end of the infirmary - and feeling anything but - she closed her eyes and stepped around the partition.
"Colonel?" She whispered.
"Hey," He greeted, his hand touching hers. "I'm just trying to...calm down."
This she understood, her fingers squeezing his until she was sure they were turning white even if she couldn't see them. The frustration was...quite something. "Yeah." Her body wanted to keep moving, keep touching, keep *doing*. "Probably just as well." That had been a pretty big line they'd been ready to cross.
"Yeah," He tugged her towards him and wrapped an arm around her, her head resting against his chest. "Probably."
It was official: she was addicted to Jack O'Neill.
The way he slowly walked to the bed with her.
The way he lay next to her, wrapping one arm around her, and using the other to pretend he was reading The National Whisperer.
The way he argued with himself and never said a thing. He might not have uttered a word, but she knew without a doubt that internally he was arguing over what to do and what not to do. The hand currently resting on the edge of her stomach kept moving near her chest, then remembered that wasn't a good idea and skittered away.
Then it would move back again.
The way he would, when he thought she wouldn't notice, turn his head towards her neck and inhale.
Invariably her eyes would close, her toes would curl, and her hands would itch to do something other than just lie there.
So she was reading a newspaper without looking at him.
Or at least she was trying to.
Either she'd suddenly developed dyslexia - and this being the SGC, anything was possible - or the hand moving, neck sniffing, and arm wrapping was so much of a distraction that it was transforming newspaper print into a confusing jumble of black blobs before her very eyes.
Wasn't this supposed to be the 'calming down' period? Wasn't she supposed to be relaxing?
His thumb not so absently rubbed across her stomach.
Ummm... "I have to go the bathroom." In reality, she was headed for another shower.
Moaning, protesting, complaining, he eventually let her go but only under the condition that he get to ravish her thoroughly when she returned, which kind of defeated the purpose of having the shower.
But, she agreed. The things she had to put up with...
The shower hadn't helped much.
It had initially - after all, she was a biological being whose response to the cold was pretty much the same as anyone else. However, as she dried off and starting getting dressed, she'd stupidly started thinking about the reception she'd get when she returned.
The way he'd...
...and touch her...
...and smile at her...
...and growl when she did just the right thing...
Maybe she shouldn't have been fighting against it. Maybe she should just be enjoying it.
Daniel was outside the locker room when she opened the door.
"Hi Daniel. Any news?" She'd never really realised how...nice to look at he was.
"No," He sighed. "There are a couple of symbols we just can't figure out, no matter what we try! I'm hoping the Tok'ra will be able to help us translate them - if they ever turn up. I'm kind of surprised they're not here yet..."
"Well," Sam shrugged. "You do have to remember we're not their first priority. For all we know, they could be in the middle of an elaborate plan to wipe out the Goa'uld."
"I guess," He pondered. "With the lack of communication we have with our 'allies', it wouldn't surprise me. How's Jack doing?"
That damn self-satisfied grin returned. "Good. Good. He's great."
Daniel nodded, apparently not seeing - or choosing not to see - anything amiss. It had to be an act. If he was in on that bet with Janet... "How's that 'keeping him occupied' work going?"
Ohhhh, did she have a few choice responses to that one. "It's going good. He's not as easily distracted as you'd think." Oh, it was *so* hard not to give the game away.
"That's great. I gotta..." He pointed towards the door to their locker room.
"Sure," She stepped aside and let him pass. "See you later."
And she was alone.
But not for long.
Humming happily to herself, she made her way through a few turns in the corridors, then reached the elevator. Swiping her card through the device that summoned the elevator, she patiently waited the five seconds it took to turn up.
When the doors opened she stepped aside, nodding at Sgt Wood who was already inside. Pressing the button for floor twenty-one, she stepped away from the panel - still humming.
Dum de dum dee duuum.
She was going to see him soon.
Dum de dum dum deeeee.
And they were going to have to find a solution to this - she knew that. There was a particular line they couldn't cross, no matter how much she'd discovered she'd wanted to earlier - much to her own surprise.
Dum de de dum deeee.
But, for now, she was going back into the infirmary, back to the bed, and back to smelling his skin.
Smelling his skin...
Her eyes closed.
The elevator stopped. Her eyes opened. Smiling at Sgt Wood - who looked like he was worried she was about to jump him at any second - she stepped out and walked towards the infirmary.
Only to run into General Hammond.
She stopped humming. This was much more effective than the shower. "General."
"Major. I've just been in to see how Colonel O'Neill is doing."
As suspected. "Yes sir." She subconsciously stood to attention, noticing that Janet was peering around the doorway of her infirmary. So, she was back. This really wasn't adding to her mood.
"He seems to be handling it quite well, don't you think?"
Wait. He wanted an opinion? Her mind was trying to make up for the cold shower-like properties of his presence by concocting some frankly bizarre images of exactly what 'ravishing' meant. "Uhhh-yes sir. He does." There. Didn't take much.
The General smiled. "Though I'm sure your efforts have a lot to do it."
Oh. Dear. God.
Janet was nearly asphyxiating with barely contained laughter.
"Thank you sir." Here it came... "I try my best."
Janet's already weakened defences crumbled completely, and she started laughing only to turn it into a coughing fit for the General's benefit.
He was already at her side, touching her arm. "Doctor! Are you all right?"
Claudia appeared behind her, frowning with concern.
"Fine," Janet croaked, waving everyone's hands off. "I'm fine. Just," She coughed a few more times for show. "Just someone...thing in my throat."
Sam pursed her lips firmly together. She wouldn't laugh. She wouldn't. Janet had already laughed/coughed again.
General Hammond, once convinced that his MD *hadn't* gone mad, and that she *wouldn't* die of hyperventilation, returned to his office.
Claudia returned to her petri dishes.
Sam remained where she was, still pursing her lips together.
Gasping for breath, Janet mock-glared at her. "That was your fault," She rasped.
Carefully un-pursing her lips, Sam frowned. "I didn't do anything."
The doctor wore a combination of her 'not buying it' expression and her faintly amused expression. "Uh huh. Tell that to the bed in my infirmary. I should put a plaque up: 'Here lies the bed that Sam Carter lied on, then lied about'."
"Don't be ridiculous," Sam whispered, making sure Claudia wasn't listening...before realising something and turning her attention back to Janet. "It was you!"
"It was me what?"
It *was* her! "You were responsible for...you removed all the..."
A phone rang. Realising it was the one in the infirmary Janet was all business, turning and running towards it.
Claudia was there already.
"Infirmary," A frown immediately appeared on her forehead. "How many? Okay, we'll be right there." Hanging up, she faced Janet. "Three people taken ill in the commissary, doctor. Suspected food poisoning."
Janet was already moving, gathering supplies. "Call Dewey and O'Brien in Lab Two; tell them to drop what they're doing and meet me in the commissary. Join me there yourself when you're done." She'd barely finished speaking when she hurtled out of the infirmary, whatever equipment she expected to use in her hands.
Picking up the phone, Claudia made the call.
Sam crept towards the other end of the infirmary.
Claudia hung up, running out of the room.
Hesitating, Sam knocked on the partition. "Avon calling." She slowly began walking to the edge.
"Any special offers?" His voice responded.
Sam shrugged, reaching the end. "Get two, get a third free."
"And a fourth and a fifth, I hope."
"You're very demanding. I might not be able to-"
He'd already grabbed her.
This time she was against the wall, then slipping down the wall, then knocking over the trolley of things that were supposed to keep him entertained.
*Ohhh*. So *that* was ravishiiiiiinnnnggg...
"We need to talk."
She winced even as she said it - it was such a cliché, and everyone knew how he felt about those.
He didn't comment on it, probably because it was *that* particular cliché.
While three people being sick in the commissary had been previously beneficial, they'd all since been moved to the infirmary. The sounds and quite disgusting smells had been enough to ruin the mood.
It also meant no one was paying attention to them.
They were sitting at the pillow end of the bed, side by side, with their backs against the wall.
"Okay," He murmured, squeezing her hand. "So talk."
It was one of the rare moments when she really wanted to be able to see him. "We can't keep doing this."
"And I'm not just saying that because it's the right thing to say and I need to salve my conscience, but I actually mean it."
"And even though it's extremely, *extremely*-"
She faced him without actually looking at him. "Then why aren't you talking me out of this? Why aren't you saying 'to hell with it'? Why aren't you-?"
He kissed her.
Surprised, she very nearly opened her eyes when he pulled away. "-doing...that...?"
A hand touched the side of her face.
"Because you're right."
She hated this. She loved this. Her feelings for him were so...extreme...that she'd swing wildly from one direction to another. She'd be fiercely reminding herself of the regulations, and the very next second she'd be wondering what he looked like wearing nothing but a novelty apron.
She'd be telling herself to stay away from him, then her hand would inexorably start playing with some part - any part - of his body.
Sighing, she rested her head against his shoulder. Maybe this wasn't so different from Jonah and Thera. Maybe simply because she couldn't see him, she wasn't really dealing with the fact that he *was* him.
She was hiding behind her own fake blindness.
And when he was back to normal - and he would be back to normal, there was no other acceptable outcome - it would be the same old routine.
Denial, regret, and following orders.
No, this wasn't fair. She wasn't just going to give this up simply because she was told to. Didn't she deserve something for everything she'd lost and sacrificed since coming to work at the SGC? Hell, when she came here she certainly hadn't even been interested in looking for a relationship. She and Jonas had recently crashed and burned, she'd been pretty much sick of men in general following that and her treatment at the Pentagon...
Then she'd walked into that damn briefing room, and discovered her new CO was an asshole who 'liked women', hated scientists, and gave anyone he didn't know a rough time.
When she subconsciously realised the trouble she was in, she instinctively headed towards men who - while seeming externally nothing like him - turned out to be much the same as him. Kind, considerate, caring.
The only difference was they didn't make her want to scream with anger on occasion; they didn't make her want to smack his head against a wall; and they didn't make her want to fight against everything she believed in. They didn't make her want to do things like...this...
Damn PA system.
It was, at that point, the last person she wanted to see.
They hugged briefly - as was her intention, not wanting to even risk that he might possibly realise that she was...less than satisfied.
After a brief - though very enjoyable - argument with the Colonel, he'd finally forced her to go and see who was coming through the gate. Arriving much too late to meet them in the gateroom, she eventually found the newcomer in the briefing room, talking to General Hammond.
It made sense that he initially came by himself - it wasn't as if Per'sus was at their beck and call, and he probably had other priorities to see to.
"Sam," Jacob greeted warmly as she pulled away before frowning, no doubt confused by her obviously depressed mood. She hoped he'd put it down to her being worried about the Colonel's condition. "George was just getting me up to date about Jack...something about him being turned to stone?"
He didn't sound particularly surprised, amused, or incredulous.
"That's right. And..." She glanced towards the General, who nodded. "...we think High Councillor Per'sus may know something about it."
That *did* made him sound surprised, amused and incredulous. "*What*? How?"
Resigning herself to the fact that, if this worked out, things would go back to the status quo, she gestured towards a chair. "Take a seat, dad. We've got a theory to tell you."
It was with a firm sense of ambiguity that Sam listened to Jacob's response: "I really think that if I went back and asked Per'sus about this...he would have no idea what I was talking about."
Huh. She glanced at General Hammond, whose brow was so deeply furrowed that he might as well have had his own First Prime tattoo.
She licked her lips, beginning to speak. "Look, I know it's just a theory-"
"Exactly, Sam - you don't have any proof. Well, the only 'proof' you do have is the name Perseus, which - despite the similarity - isn't even the same as Per'sus."
"What about the Argos connection?" Now that she'd decided what had to be done, she wasn't backing down.
"What connection?" He argued, leaning forward in his chair. "The current thinking is that the Goa'uld 'stole' or copied the ancient religions and beliefs of Earth, right?"
"Which is obviously why Argos was named Argos - Pelops must have liked the name for some reason. But just because *some* of the names and beliefs were stolen, it doesn't mean to say that *all* of them were - and it certainly doesn't mean there really was a Medusa walking around, turning people into stone."
God, what if...what if they'd been chasing a giant red herring this entire time? Well...what could they have done differently? With the facts they had, what else could they have done? "I..."
"Sam, in the entire universe, isn't it just possible that two 'people' would have similar names - and that was all? Nothing else in common. Just the names. And the Argos thing is just a coincidence."
Closing her eyes, Sam lowered her head. Daniel had said it himself; there were a disturbing amount of coincidences when it came to Earth mythology and alien bad guys.
It didn't mean that they were anything other than just coincidences.
They'd wanted an answer - any answer. So they'd grabbed the first thing that came along.
She said it. "Yes. It is possible."
He nodded. "Now I can still talk to Per'sus, but seriously; if he'd ever fought or come into contact with Medusa, we would have heard about it. That's the kind of information the Tok'ra exist on. I do, however, have my own theory. Can I see the statue?"
Daniel seemed to be having a hard time with the concept.
The man in question had wandered into the briefing room at the same time they were leaving it - taking a break from the translation (such as it was) - and had elected to join them on their journey.
Now, he, General Hammond and Sam were watching Jacob inside an isolation room, studying the statue and conversing with the scientists already in there.
Both Sam and Hammond had insisted that he wear a hazmat suit, despite his protestations - they weren't taking any chances.
"Yes Daniel, seriously."
He pondered that for a while, before responding. "*Seriously*?"
Sam was getting dangerously close to hitting something, and the closest thing to her was the man who kept repeating the same question. "Yes. Se-ri-ous-ly."
He blinked at the anger and teeth clenching in her response. "You okay?"
"Fine." Truth was, she wasn't. In fact, she was about as far from fine as she could get. And she knew why: she hated herself. Part of her had actually wanted...actually wanted the Colonel to stay the way he was. Trapped behind the partition, hidden away from the world, where she could do whatever she wanted.
Her little secret.
Apparently, Daniel wasn't going to give her much chance to mope about it. "So...not connected with High Councillor Per'sus in any way? Just a...a weird coincidence?"
"That's right," Her arms were folded tightly across her chest, watching as one of the scientists warned her dad not to look at the statue's face. He gave them the kind of response that immediately shut them up. "A wrong name at the right time. We presumed what we wanted to presume."
God, she felt like such an idiot. Chasing after that idea the whole time...
"Well," Daniel mused, obviously not as bothered by it as she was. "We do have to come up with some pretty strange theories around here on an almost daily basis. I guess it was time one of them turned out to be wrong."
His point struck home. They were only human - more or less - and even so, the number of times they failed were heavily outnumbered by the number of times they succeeded. If anything, they should be happy with their track record, not agonising over the times they got it wrong.
"I have a question,"
He was waving the statue about in his gloved hand as he spoke, much to the consternation of the scientists in the room with him. "Am I right in thinking that Jack turned into stone after looking into this things eyes?"
She nodding, frowning. They'd gone over this earlier...
"So," He began in response to her nod. "Has anyone even thought of doing the most obvious thing possible?"
He held the statue up, facing it towards them, and pointed to its eyes.
Sam's went wide.
She felt unbelievably stupid.
She felt unworthy of the names 'scientist', 'astrophysicist' or even 'human being' at the moment. She'd been so focused on finding a complicated solution to the complicated problem, that she'd ignored the most obvious solution:
Do it again.
"Seriously?" The Colonel asked when Jacob had told him the idea through the partition.
It was the one word question Sam was starting to get sick of.
They'd relocated to the infirmary, only now all of SG-1, Jacob, General Hammond, Janet and Claudia were present. They were going to have to start selling tickets soon...
Jacob's response was typically to the point. "It's not like you've got anything to lose."
The Colonel's response was just the same. "Yeah, other than the fact that maybe this time it'll make the stone thing *permanent*?"
"There's been nothing to say that's gonna happen, Jack."
"And there's been nothing to say that it's *not* gonna happen, Jake."
Sam recognised the expression of frustration on her father's face. "Dad, give me a minute." She nodded towards the partition.
He shrugged, apparently happy to let someone else argue with Jack O'Neill. "Sure."
Looking at Hammond for the extra consent and receiving it, she edged towards the partition and closed her eyes.
She wasn't expecting him to do anything. With the rest of his team, Janet, Hammond and her dad on the other side of the partition, neither of them were going to be stupid enough to risk anything.
Reaching the other side, she frowned. "Sir? Where are you?"
"Sitting on the edge of the bed."
She walked slowly over in that direction, reaching out with a hand. She was saved the bother when his hand wrapped securely around her wrist, guiding her the rest of the way.
Sam decided not to sit on the bed with him. Not after...things she really shouldn't be thinking about right now. She kept her voice low, hiding it from the others. "Why aren't you cooperating?"
"Hey, you know me. Stubborn to the last."
"Sir..." He couldn't play those games with her. She knew him too well.
He sighed. "I could be right, you know. It might turn me permanently."
"You could be, and it might," She agreed, because he was right. They really didn't know what this would do, if anything at all. "But it's either take the risk or stay like this forever; locked away where no one can ever see you."
He muttered something.
She imagined him shaking his head. "Nothing."
She'd definitely heard something; something that sounded suspiciously like...she grinned, moving her hand until their fingers were interlocking. "Didn't know you were so fond of my eyes, sir. I seem to recall you finding other parts of me more interesting." Good God - had she really just said that? Time to change the subject. "And if it does...happen. If you do turn...my earlier promise stands. I won't let you stay that way."
Another sigh echoed through his body-
-and that was when she realised it.
He didn't deny it.
He did, however, tighten his fingers around hers.
And she knew.
He didn't want to go back to normal anymore than she wanted him to.
"Sir," She fought against the sudden tightness in her throat. "You have to do this. We need you back on SG-1."
He said nothing.
She continued talking. "Do you understand what will happen if we can't find a 'cure' for whatever this is? Isolated from the rest of the world, unable to look at someone and have them looking back at you...what kind of life would that be?"
"But...you'd be there, right?"
Oh no, no, he couldn't ask that. She couldn't give him the answer he wanted. "I will be here no matter *what* happens. Please," Her free hand extended, coming into contact with the top of his head. Evidently his head was lowered. "Please do this." She almost added 'for me', but decided she sounded desperate enough already. She couldn't bare the thought that a man who thrived so much on movement and interacting with others would be confined to one place for the rest of his life.
Even for her.
A long, long time later, he squeezed her hand once more, then pushed himself off of the bed. "Okay!" He announced dramatically, typically at odds with how quiet he'd just been. "We're doing this. Jacob, if you'd be so kind as to pass the-ah, thanks." He stepped forward, taking her with him. Evidently her dad had stuck the case holding the statue around the edge of the partition. "Doc, you might wanna stand ready in case this thing does something, uh, nasty. You know, side effects."
"Right here, Colonel. Good luck."
Her sentiment was echoed five times over.
The sixth was by Sam, who - allowing herself one more moment - leant forward and pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Good luck,"
That sigh could be heard again. "Okay, what do I do with this thing?"
"Just do exactly what you did before."
"If you say so," He moved back towards the bed again, and Sam heard lots of clicks soon followed by a 'THUMP'. He'd probably just opened the container. "All right," He let go of her hand, not giving a reason - it wasn't necessary. "I'm doing this...right now."
"Yeah, I'm still here Carter."
Oh Thank God. "Have you done it?"
"Did you...feel anything?"
"No. But then I didn't feel anything last time. I guess there's only one way to know for sure...wait, wait a minute." This time she heard the sounds in reverse. "Okay. Do it. Open your eyes."
Exhaling heavily, breathing through her nose, she lifted her right eyelid.
And saw him. *Really* saw him.
She opened her left eyelid.
And he was still there.
He was still there.
He was *there*. And damn - how had she forgotten how attractive he was?
"I guess it worked," He murmured.
"I guess it did," She grinned, holding his gaze, looking at his face for what felt like the first time in years. "There you are." God he was good to look at.
A smile; lopsided. "Here I am." Clearing his throat, he stepped away - leaving her bereft but understanding there was no other way.
But she didn't know where to go from this - she didn't know if she could go *back* from this. She'd survived the za'tarc testing, she'd survived Thera and Jonah, but this...
The Colonel, of course, was dealing with it in typical Jack O'Neill fashion.
"Hey troops - did you miss me?"
"You have *got* to be kidding me."
Jacob didn't look like he was kidding, despite the faintly amused smile - but he had to be. If he was right, then it meant Carter and Daniel were wrong.
And they were never wrong.
Sure, he'd often argued with one or both of them because of a differing point of view, and he firmly believed they were wrong in that opinion...but when it came to actual science or actual mythology, he'd long learned not to doubt them.
And now Jacob was sitting around the briefing room with SG-1 and Hammond, telling him to do just that.
As if to reiterate Jack's thoughts, Jacob continued speaking. "I know you guys are usually right but...I'm not kidding, Jack. Daniel's translation of 'joviality' however, was essentially correct."
Jack's mind was still trying to work its way through everything Jacob had said over the last five minutes. "But...I mean...I...we...uh..." Finally, he just spat it out: "A Goa'uld *practical* *joke*?"
Unbelievable. "I get turned to stone...because some snakehead thought it'd be *funny*?"
"Well," Daniel interrupted. "I doubt that *you* were the specific target..." His voice drifted off as he looked towards Jacob for confirmation. He soon received it.
"According to the tests already performed on it by your guys in the lab, this statue," He pointed to the container, which was in the middle of the table, "is close to five hundred years old. I doubt that even the Goa'uld would know that far in advance what a pain in the butt you'd turn out to be."
Jack rolled his eyes. "You know that's not what I meant." He took the opportunity, as he rolled his eyes, to glance at Carter.
Daniel intervened again. "So, what does the rest of the translation say? This isn't anything I've come across before in relation to the Goa'uld."
Clearly he was eager to know more, and Jack couldn't really blame him - a snakehead with a sense of humour? Didn't seem possible.
A snakehead with a dark, sadistic, evil and murderous sense of humour - that he could deal with. A statue that blew up in his face, or released some kind of deadly toxin, would have made far more sense given their past experiences with the Goa'uld.
Still, this was the SGC. One thing he knew was that here, anything could happen.
Jack blanked out Jacob's words as he began responding to Daniel's question - something about this particular Goa'uld enjoying a good laugh - and again focused back on Carter.
Since they'd all left the infirmary - he could move, he could run (and he had done a few times, much to Hammond's chagrin) - she'd become quiet, withdrawn. She should have been asking questions, she should have been demanding to know how this was scientifically possible, because as far as anyone knew it was impossible - again with the 'anything could happen' theme.
Instead she was sitting on her chair, on the opposite side of the table. That was bad enough; she was always next to him. Her eyes moved, her head moved, she gave all the indications that she was listening to what was being said, but he knew her better than that. He knew her brain was currently doing a lot of thinking that had nothing to do with statues, stone, or funny Goa'uld's.
He knew because it was the very thing he was trying not to think about, which wasn't easy when the memories, sounds, sensations, kept-
He had to stop thinking about it. He had to stop thinking about how stupid he was, and how good it had...
He forced himself to focus back on Jacob.
"...certainly not a System Lord. All indications point to the fact that he was a pretty much unknown Goa'uld."
A perfect opportunity to speak up, to act like he'd been paying attention the entire time. "Who turned people into stone for kicks."
"Nonetheless," Teal'c said. "If neither the Tok'ra nor myself have heard of this Goa'uld, he could not have been especially important."
Jacob shrugged. "Obviously, with your permission George, the Tok'ra would like to study this and see if its effects could be duplicated - could come in handy in the middle of battle to suddenly turn your opponent into stone."
No one could argue with that.
"I'd also like," Jacob paused, "To check out the planet where you found the statue. There's got to be more to this cave with smooth walls."
Hammond got there first. "What makes you say that?"
Hesitating, Jacob eventually smiled - slightly. "On the bottom of the bigger statue there's some text that leads me to believe he was some kind of...businessman."
Jack blinked. "*Businessman*? What the hell does it say?"
Daniel spoke again, nodding. "We only got the word 'purchase'."
Jacob tilted his head towards Hammond; they'd obviously set something up before the briefing began. Producing the projector remote from somewhere he pressed a button and the lights dimmed. He pressed another, and the screen lowered over the star map. He pressed a final button and-
No. Freaking. Way.
Jack looked at Jacob, then back at the wall.
Huh. Seemed even the Goa'uld had lawyers.
He stared at the words again, disbelieving:
'If you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, please refer to the fifth moon of Regalia for a full refund.'
He was getting worried. He'd been summoned to Hammond's office, and he had no idea why. Well...he had *an* idea why, he just hoped it wasn't that idea.
Still, he'd know nothing until he actually went in there and found out, so lifting his hand up, he knocked firmly on Hammond's closed door.
Only after he finished did he realise how weird that was - Hammond's door was always open, metaphorically or otherwise.
Following the instruction, Jack grabbed the handle and swung the door open into the room...and saw that, along with Hammond, Fraiser was there.
Sitting opposite the General, she was facing away from him.
Whatever they'd been talking about, they were evidently finishing up. Hammond nodded a greeting at Jack, then turned his attention back to The Doc. "That's all, Doctor. Remember what I said,"
Nodding briskly, she stood up. "Thank you sir, I...I'll try to be more careful next time."
Hammond pursed his lips together; a faint smile trying to push it's way through. "Hopefully there won't be a next time."
He glanced at Jack, who was becoming increasingly confused with each passing moment.
Thanking him again, Fraiser turned away, stepped around the chair she'd been sitting in, and headed towards the exit - but not before casting a brief, but telling look. She managed to convey apology, fear, and a faint, faint smile in one glance.
And then she was gone.
"Close the door, Colonel."
This did *not* sound good, but Jack did as he was told.
"Take a seat, Colonel."
This *so* did not sound good, but Jack still did as he was told - resisting the urge to crack some joke about taking the chair with him.
Whatever this was, he was prepared to brace himself for a worst-case scenario. It was entirely his own fault. It was just...if it was *that*, he was worried about what would happen to her.
He couldn't care less about his own career. The fact remained that if he hadn't been working at the SGC, he would have retired a long time ago.
Hell, if they hadn't come looking for him, he would never have come out of retirement in the first place.
But then he never would have met her.
Hammond spoke, drawing his attention back.
"I'm granting you a leave of absence."
Well. That...was...interesting. "Umm, I, uh...thank you sir, but," Weird. "I haven't asked for one."
His superior didn't look in the least bit confused. "I think it's time that you did some thinking, Jack."
"With respect sir...thinking's all I've been able to do these last few days."
"Then do some more."
Surprised, Jack shifted in his chair. He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to the question he was about to ask, but it had to be done. "General, what's going on?"
Sighing, Hammond looked down at his hands as they clasped together on top of the desk. "Jack..." He looked back up, and met his subordinate's gaze. "You and...someone else who works on base...the two of you may have completely forgotten that there are security cameras that cover every inch of the infirmary, but Dr Fraiser didn't."
Hammond pressed on. "Dr Fraiser was discovered coming out of security control when there was no need for her to be there. Now, there's no immediate evidence that she tampered with anything, but..." The implication was obvious before he even said it. "It wouldn't take much further incentive to make me dig deeper. Am I making myself clear?"
Jack was still doing a bad impression of a goldfish, opening and closing his mouth with nothing coming out. How could he have been so stupid? Well, that was pretty much a given: the real question was, how could *Carter* have been so stupid? Didn't she know everything? Including how to touch him just-
-shit, what the hell was he doing? In Hammond's office for crying out loud!
His brain kick-started into a splutter. "Sir, yes...yes, sir." Shit, shit, shit! And what was Fraiser doing, covering their asses? He owed her big time.
"Good," Hammond pulled his hands apart and smiled, as if he hadn't just given Jack the biggest favour imaginable. "Then I recommend you go home and decide exactly where you think your career is headed - and where you want it to be headed."
How was he managing to be so vague, and yet get his point across so firmly? Came part and parcel with being a general, Jack supposed. "Yes sir. Thank you." His mind was still reeling. Hammond knew. He may not have had any immediate proof, but he *knew*.
And he was actually telling him to go. That sometimes leaving was the right thing to do.
Picking up a pen, Hammond opened up one of the folders on his desk, apparently looking all set to start some paperwork. "If there's nothing else Colonel, you're dismissed."
Jack's legs did the work for him instinctively, his brain still a box of white noise. They carried him away from his chair, away from Hammond, and towards the air outside that was so desperately needed.
Only to pause as his hand pulled the door open, and turn back towards him. "General."
He looked up. "Colonel?"
He should have been thanking him; for everything he'd done, and everything he hadn't done. But there were only two words that made their way out of his mouth:
Shaking his head, the left half of Hammond's mouth lifted as he lowered his gaze back to the paperwork and continued writing. "If I'm not asked to be best man, the karma alone will ensure that your next five lives won't be worth living."
He spent the next four hours sitting outside her house. The initial plan hadn't really been a plan - just to see Carter and figure out what, if anything, they were going to do.
Problem was, in his rush to get there he'd completely forgotten her dad was still on Earth.
So he'd spent four hours outside her house, sitting in his SUV, foolishly hoping that for some reason - any reason - Jacob would leave. Even for ten minutes. Just long enough so he could at least knock on the door, make a fool of himself, and leave.
He was quite content to stay there for another four hours, but stomach and bladder weren't having it. One of them was empty, and the other was disturbingly full.
Sighing, he started up the engine and drove away. There'd be other days.
Some thirty minutes later he'd taken care of both problems, and now he was moping in his house. Sitting on the edge of his sofa, he absently sipped from a bottle of beer, half-heartedly playing chess with himself.
Maybe...maybe this wasn't the right thing to do. Hadn't he made a promise to himself after Skaara was taken, that he would keep fighting even after they rescued him? To try and make up, somehow, for the years he had lost - even if it was never possible.
Thousands, probably millions had died as a result of the Goa'uld's actions or by fighting the Goa'uld - how could he give that up? How could he *not* help?
Someone knocked on his front door. Still clutching his beer bottle, he stood up from the sofa, walked to the door - and was somehow both surprised and not surprised to see her standing there.
She spoke first. "Hey,"
This was going well.
She tilted her head to the right, the edges of her eyes crinkling with humour - that much he could see even in the vague light filtering out from his lounge. "He got sick of you sitting outside my house. When I told him there was something I had to do, he understood. Although he wasn't especially thrilled."
Oh - so much for being Special Ops trained. "I see." Something she had to do? Inside his head he was doing cartwheels. Outside his head he was remaining depressingly realistic. "What is it that you need to do?"
"I, uh, God this is hard," She looked away, and he wished he could do something to help.
But damn him; he couldn't. Not yet. That wasn't who he was. He was far from perfect, and this was one of his many flaws. She had to see that - to understand it. "What is?"
Finding her resolve - and God, he loved her for that - she forced herself to look back at him and continue speaking. "I don't think I can...I don't *want* to go back to way things were. Somewhere in that damned infirmary," She laughed wryly, "Somewhere in there, some action, one *thing* - crossed a line. I don't know what or where it was, but it's the line up here," She pointed to her head. "The line that I told myself I never needed to worry about, because it was never going to go that far. Only it did. And it's the line I can't come back from."
The cartwheels had now turned into back flips, walking handstands, and somersaults. He knew; he knew it was up to him. He had to do something, say something - anything - that would tell her that he understood. That he got it.
Because he'd retired before. He'd stopped fighting before.
And the world hadn't fallen apart, the sun hadn't exploded, six billion people hadn't died just because he'd hung up his boots. He was just one guy, living his life. There were others.
She was starting to get anxious, and he wracked his brains for something to say. Eloquent speeches and grandiose gestures of love weren't something he was capable of, but it had to be something.
And it came to him.
"I'm never going to eat your cooking."
Stepping back, he opened the door wider. Confused, she followed him inside. He continued speaking. "I have a habit of forgetting things. Birthdays, Anniversaries...PIN numbers."
He closed the door, placed his beer on the side, then indicated for her to turn around.
Still frowning, she complied.
He began removing her jacket, his face close to her neck. God, did she even wear perfume? Was it just *her*? The jacket was off her shoulders, but unable to do anything else he placed a kiss on the side of her neck, thrilled when she shivered. He stayed there, closing his eyes, speaking into her neck. "After a particularly long and..." Another kiss. "...hot..." Another kiss. "...day, my feet aren't something I'd want to inflict even on Apophis."
Ohhhh this was getting hard, in more ways than one.
Forcing himself to move away, he stuck his hand out roughly in the right direction for the coat hook, knowing he'd missed when her jacket hit the floor.
She'd turned to face him, looking flushed already.
Brushing by her, he caught her hand in his, walking both of them into his lounge. Leading her to the sofa where she slowly sat down, he let go of her hand, and carefully lowered himself until he was kneeling in front of her.
Lifting up her jean-clad leg, he began unzipping what turned out to be...oh God, ankle high boots.
Trying to concentrate, he finished unzipping her left foot, and began tugging that boot off. "At some point," Lower the foot, lift the other foot, *concentrate*, "I'm going to start breaking wind in bed." The zipper rasped underneath his fingers.
"At some point," She responded. "So am I."
A real, honest-to-God, lack of sarcasm smile appeared on his face. Her right foot was soon free, and that boot joined the first one on the floor. He took a moment to survey the socks now before him.
Wiggling her toes impatiently, she cleared her throat.
Getting the message, he slowly peeled her socks off, chucking them over his shoulder to add that dramatic flourish. Geez, how did her feet look so small? He knew, realistically that they weren't - he knew what size boots she wore. But looking at them now, bare except for a few pieces of sock fluff, they looked tiny.
Resting his hands on the sides of her calves, outside her jeans, he knelt higher, sitting up, moving his hands up and along her legs as he moved. Her mouth was waiting for his, his hands resting near her waist, hers grabbing on to his upper arms. They kissed languidly, slowly, savouring every moment.
She broke away, eventually, and immediately began pulling his shirt off.
Chuckling, he nonetheless complied and lifted his arms up, to give her an easier job. "I think you're skipping a few stages here," He mumbled as his shirt lifted and obscured his face - and then it was gone, sailing through the air and probably landing somewhere near his television.
"I don't care," She told him, running her hands over his typically unruly hair that had probably just got even more unruly thanks to her enthusiasm.
Not that he was complaining.
Catching one of her hands, he pulled it to his face, turned the inside of the arm towards him, and kissed her wrist.
He had to shift, now; he knees were seriously objecting to the treatment he was giving them. "Stand up," He whispered.
She gave in without argument - probably the first time she'd done so since they'd met - and he was soon up next to her, relieved to take the pressure off his joints. Now was *not* the time to be reminded of how old he was getting.
Holding her waist, he turned her until he was standing behind. His mouth found its way to her neck again - God he loved it there, and so did she, apparently - and his hands wrapped around her, splaying against her stomach, until they found the top of her jeans. There was a metal button first; he took care of that soon enough, and his fingers located the top of her zipper.
Her right hand came up; touching his head, holding it closer as she arched her neck for his greedy mouth, running her fingers through his hair.
The zipper moved down with his fingers, his world full of nothing but the sounds of metal on metal, lips on flesh, gasps and sighs.
Regretfully, oh so regretfully, he moved away from her neck to pull her jeans down from her legs. They bunched around her ankles and she quickly stepped out of them, kicking them away.
He stood back up, greeted on the way with a spectacular view of her spectacular behind, and finished reaching his full height, when she turned to face him. Not giving him a chance to say anything, she pushed him back until he was sitting on the sofa. Straddling his lap - and making his mind explode a few times in the process - her lips descended on his.
It wasn't so languid anymore; the urgency was increasing, their mouths more desperate, hands questing further and further.
They moved, shifting, and somehow he ended up laying on top of her, on the sofa, his hands everywhere and nowhere, unable to exist in more than two places at once. Nipping at her lower lip, he pulled his head away before things got too out of hand - and that was going to be soon. His mind was dangerously close to losing any kind of coherent thought.
Just to look at her.
Just so he could look at her.
He rarely had the chance to do that so openly, so unashamedly.
Part of him might of thought they made a nice contrast; him naked on the top, she essentially naked on the bottom, but if any part of him did think that, he didn't acknowledge it. He was too busy admiring the amazing, beautiful woman lying beneath him; flushed body, unruly hair, and eyes that seemed to be getting bluer with each passing moment.
And he felt something. Not something physical, but something building up inside that had to get out, it had to because if it didn't then he'd known that he'd never said it, and even if she knew anyway, it would still bother him because *he'd* know that *he* hadn't said it.
He was actually going to say it, and it surprised the hell out of him.
"I love you."
And that was who he was now; not because of her, but because of the changes he'd undergone since meeting her. Still not particularly romantic, still not comfortable with saying it every day, but here, now, he could say it.
Her hand freed itself from his hair, and touched the side of his face. "I know."
He stared at her longer, not waiting for her reciprocation - he didn't need that - but just because he *could* look at her, and he *could* say how he felt and...
It was the best he'd felt in a long, long time.
Leave of absence his ass, he thought as she pulled his head down.
There was no way he was going back.
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