Stargate SG1 Fan Fiction ❯ Gift of Beaivi ❯ Gift of Beaivi ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Title: Gift of Beaivi
Author: A. Karswyll
Rated: T, language
Words: 17,480
Summary: Sam and Jack escape in a glider from a goa’uld and find themselves on an unknown winter world where Sam must fight a battle between herself and the forces of the world’s evil god. And it is a fight that Jack can only watch over. This story takes place in Season Six after episode sixteen ‘Metamorphosis.’
AN: Written for amaradangeli for GateWorld’s Sam Carter / Jack O’Neill Ship Appreciation Thread Secret Santa 2012.


Sam scrambled into the gunner’s seat of the death glider, boosted by the hand of the man behind her, as Wosret’s ha’tak shuttered.

“Watch yourself!” the Colonel barked as he finished hauling himself into the pilot’s seat and triggered the lift mechanism of the seats.

Smoothly—but far too slowly with the ship shaking apart around them—they were lifted up into the glider cockpit. With a hissing sound, the seats sealed up into the body of the craft and the cockpit displays illuminated themselves as the engine began warming. Her view clear again, Sam was able to see through the canopy around the bay. “Sir, the doors are open! Teal’c and Jonas are out!”

“Good,” the Colonel hit the hanger release and the glider dropped away to the open bay doors awaiting them below.

Sam jolted in the moment of freefall, the inertial dampeners not engaged yet, as they dropped and hit the bay shield and passed from the pressurised interior of the ha’tak to the open vacuum of space.

The Colonel opened up the wings and the glider’s gravity kicked in as the engines finished cycling up and went to full power. He gunned the engines full throttle and they escaped the mothership combusting behind them.

Sam twisted her head around, on the lookout for signs of pursuit—unlikely with the ha’tak blowing itself up—and flying debris from the ship itself. “Sir! Five o’clock—”

He banked hard to the side and the evasive manoeuvre saved their wing but sent them into a wild spin. As the Colonel pulled them up and out of the spin they found themselves facing the exploding ha’tak.

The exploding ha’tak and the blue expanding ring of a hyperspace window.

“Holy Hannah!” Sam stared wide-eyed. She’d never thought—imagined!—that a mothership exploding would trigger such an impossible reaction from its hyperdrive… “Sir, get us out of here!”

The hyperspace window raced outward like ripples spreading out on the surface of water and enveloped everything in its path. They only made it a few leagues before the edge of it caught them and then raced over them, enveloping them in the unstable centre of a blue hyperspace window laced with crackling white energy and they were flung into the depths of the galaxy.

It was a wild, rollercoaster of a ride.

Tossed and jostled through the nauseating white and electric blew of the unstable hyperspace window ended with a painful jolt. Spat out into the blackness of space within sight of a large blue and white world and two orbiting moons, Sam pressed a hand against her stomach in a futile effort to quell her nausea.

Sam felt like she’d been a pebble rattling around inside a tin can and thought it was a bloody miracle she hadn’t cracked her skull on anything being tossed around.

The nausea easing up her thoughts were on her teammates and she took a look around. She was pretty sure that Teal’c and Jonas had made it clear of the warped hyperspace window but she needed to see for herself that they weren’t out here. She prayed at the same time, if they had been caught, they hadn’t been tossed somewhere else into the galaxy.

All there was about them though was the openness of space against the backdrop of stars and a few floating pieces of debris from the ha’tak.

“Carter, you okay?”

“Been better,” she said honestly as she checked herself over. She had a few scrapes from when they’d been first captured by Wosret’s Jaffa but mostly she just had aches and bruises acquired in the escape. “You?”

“Crap-tastic,” the Colonel muttered. “Any idea where we are?”

“Checking now Sir,” she answered as she reached for the glider’s controls and engaged the scanning systems. Their situation in the glider was good as Worset, or her Jaffa, seemed to take real good care of their gliders as this one had a full gauge of oxygen and engines full of fuel and all systems responded smoothly.

“So what’s the news?”

Sam chewed her lower lip as she studied the scanning results and took time to double-check her translations and numerical conversions. “Do you want the good or bad news first?”

“Oh it’s been a crap day already, we’ll go bad first.”

“Well, the glider’s systems don’t recognize the area and from my calculation evaluating the star patterns… we’re, um forty-six hundred light years from Earth.”

“That’s just peachy,” the Colonel said sarcastically. “What’s the good news then?”

“Well, that planet ahead has a stargate on the northern hemisphere.” And boy, was she glad that the Goa’uld placed such emphasis on ’gates and their sensors were sophisticated enough locate the specific naquadah signatures from incredible distances.

“That’s the best news you’ve told me all day Carter,” he said happily as he engaged the glider’s thrusters and changed their trajectory, aiming for the planet instead of shooting past the outer moon.

“Even better than when I told you I could hotwire the cell door?”

“As good,” he affirmed.

She smiled a bit at that. But her half smile faded when she returned to studying the sensor’s telemetry as they flew towards the unknown planet ahead, the outer moon now in their rear-view mirror as the expression went.

Except for the shapes of the landmasses, the view of the planet ahead reminded her of seeing Earth from space. Blue planet enveloped in white cloud masses with its solidly white capped poles and the greens and browns of its landmasses becoming more defined as they flew ever closer. Closer to the planet the sensors started picking up life sign signals, spread across a fair amount of the planet actually, but all other results being returned were within limits of a pre-industrial world.

A few long moments later, as the planet and inner moon majestically grew ever larger in their view, the Colonel broke the silence in the cockpit. “What is it?”

“What?”

“You’re tapping your fingers back there. What is it?”

Sam looked down and realised with surprise, she had started to rhythmically tap her fingers against the armrest of the seat. With a grimace, she stilled her hand. “Sorry Sir. It’s just… just thinking about atmospheric entry.”

“Oh?”

“Just thinking about the entry angle.”

“Ah well, make sure you work that big brain of yours good on that. I don’t want to skip off the atmosphere and I don’t want to burn up in the descent.”

“Yes Sir,” she said and looking over the sensors telemetry again, returned to calculating their atmospheric entry angle through the atmospheric layers to the planet’s troposphere. The Colonel might not be able to hold a discussion about the laws of thermodynamics but he certainly knew how they applied to whatever situation they were in.

At least one good thing could be said about the rather un-aerodynamic design of gliders with their downward sweeping wings, their design for aerial and space manoeuvres meant they all had a superb thermal protection system. Excellent thing that. Because like the Colonel she had no desire to be incinerated in the superheated plasma shroud that would form around them when the atmospheric molecules began dissociating around the craft as the component atoms started ionizing.

In time the inner moon was behind them too and Sam had run through the entry calculations twenty-three times in her head from start to finish. She was a bit nervous, this being the first time she’d actually had to guide a glider through entry and the first time she’d been in one during such a time.

Then telemetry was reporting the planet’s surface was some three hundred klicks below them which put them pretty much in the thermosphere and she leaned forward in her seat and instructed, “Do a flyby up over the northern hemisphere Sir. I want better readings around where the ’gate is.”

“We good for that?”

“Fuel and oxygen are fine Sir.”

Silence descended in the cockpit again as the Colonel took them over the area. The minutes ticked by as she busily studied the telemetry readings on the geography around the stargate and made a few mental recalculations. The terrain around the ’gate according to the topographical scans was hilly bordering on mountainous that made choosing a landing point a bit tricky. They didn’t want to have to walk too far, especially as it wasn’t just cloud cover that made the northern hemisphere look white!

“So what now Carter?” the Colonel asked after a time.

Sam told him exactly how they were going to trim their speed, where the entry point was for the eight thousand klick long linear descent path for their landing point, and the angle they would need to hold the craft at during descent to keep from being incinerated.

Superb thermal protection system or not, too steep and they would still burn up.

He followed the first steps of her instructions and put the glider on the orbital path around the planet she’d calculated.

Sam watched as overhead through the canopy the star studded blackness of space was exchanged for the cloud covered landmasses of the planet as the Colonel turned them around on their y-axis which meant they were now upside down and backwards. Still on the orbital path, she couldn’t feel him firing the main thrusters to trim their speed because of the zero-gravity of space but she could see the results on the display before her as their speed was reduced.

They trimmed enough speed, their velocity dropping from a little over twenty-nine thousand klicks per hour to twenty-eight thousand klicks per hour and she gave the signal.

“Here we go,” the Colonel muttered, flipped them back around on the y-axis, and committed them to the descent.

Angling in, on the glider’s display the distance to the planet’s surface ticked steadily away as did the minutes.

Thirty-five minutes from landing and at an altitude of one hundred twenty klicks the wing tips of the glider began to glow with a pink light as the plasma shroud began to form. That meant they had entered a discernible atmosphere and ionization was happening.

The pink shroud of the plasma licked up the wings and Sam couldn’t restrain her giddy smile at the sight. It was beautiful and how cool was it that she got to experience this up close and personal a second time in her life? The first time in the shuttle had been awesome, and she’d half fulfilled a childhood dream of spaceflight with NASA, but the view through the glider’s canopy was a hundred times more spectacular.

Altitude was now eighty-five klicks and they were twenty minutes from the landing point. The ruby pink of the plasma shroud was flared far up the wings as the intensity of the heat peaked and craning her neck around for a look around back, she could see the plasma trail streaking behind.

Looking back at the display she noted that the thermal protection system was registering a contact heat that converted from the Goa’uld temperature scale to two thousand nine hundred twelve degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt steel.

Gradually the enveloping shroud of the plasma’s ruby pink light died and by forty klicks up was totally gone as their speed hit ten thousand klicks per hour. Below the white of the snow covered land of the planet’s north spread out before them dotted here and there by darker splotches of various features. Some she figured, by the concentration of life signs, were native settlements.

Sam felt the increasing drag on the glider as their speed dropped below four thousand klicks per hour even with the inertial dampeners working as they entered into a stable supersonic regime and conventional atmospheric flight was now effective. She breathed easier at that as she looked over the display.

They had survived atmospheric entry.

Now all they had to do was land.

She smiled wryly. That should be a snap as long as the terrain cooperated.

Four minutes from the landing point she’d picked out and they dropped below the speed of sound, which produced two sonic booms. Well, Sam thought with an internal wince, the people in the vicinity certainly knew about their arrival now.

The rolling snowy terrain rushed by beneath them as they flew towards the coordinates of the stargate. Then, looking tiny below, they could just make out the twenty-two foot high naquadah ring in the mountainous valley. There was no DHD in sight, but it was probably buried under the snow. Dark green pines stood like snow capped spears in the valley and crowded right up to the stargate platform.

Just their luck. There wasn’t enough room to set the glider down.

The Colonel banked left, towards the west, and below them the forested mountains flattened sharply to hills and then just as sharply to treeless tundra—the wide open space perfect for landing the glider in.

He banked the glider around again so they were facing towards the eastern mountains. As close to the tree line as was safe he eased the glider down to the ground like a helicopter and they settled onto the tundra with a gentle rocking motion.

Sam released a breath at the touchdown and relaxed back into the cushion of the gunner’s seat in relief. They’d escape Wosret, survived atmospheric entry, landed, and were just four klicks away from getting back to Earth. Not that they were home free yet by any means. Those four klicks were through snow—with them in regular BDUs—and an outside temperature of ten degrees Fahrenheit and the twenty-four klicks per hour wind took the temp down to minus seven.

Reflexively she shivered. No, she was not looking forward to the next hour or more slogging through the snow and cold. And those warm splotches on the glider’s telemetry display, grouped together in the cold terrain up ahead on the path to the forest was puzzling.

“Ready Carter?”

“In a minute Sir, I want to study the telemetry a bit more,” Sam answered as she looked at the glider display and puzzled over the scattered areas of elevated temperature that were being displayed. Everything else in the terrain was the same, winter cold, and looking through the canopy all she was seeing was the endless expanse of snow. With no answer evident at the moment she steeled herself to face the cold and agreed, “Ready now Sir.”

“Let’s get going then,” the Colonel said was remarkable cheer as he triggered the lift mechanism and their seats began lowering, chilly air from outside seeping up over them as the cockpit seal was broken. “Daylight’s a wasting!”

Hopping from the gunner’s seat she sunk up to mid-calf in the snow and with a sigh, she tucked her fingers beneath her arms to conserve warmth. As there was nothing else they could do with the glider, they left it where it was and set off for the tree line.

Away from the windbreak of the glider she shivered as the cold wind cut through the fabric of her pants and chilled her legs. The only sound beyond the wind was their boots crunching through the snow.

A few yards from the trees, they skirted around a peculiar feature rising up out of the snow. It was more grey than white and had a curious flowing organic look to it, like it had melted into shape and after studying it a bit Sam realized it was a lump of ice rising up out of the snow.

Ice?

Wait, those hotspots on the glider display—

There was a rumbling gushing sound from beneath her feet and then a hissing explosion of hot water shooting up through the mounded lump of ice, the wind taking the hot spray of the geyser away from them.

“Holy crap!” the Colonel exclaimed. “A geyser!”

“Sir, don’t move,” Sam instructed sharply. She looked around at the snowy landscape, a deceptive blanked of serene whiteness, and mentally matched up the telemetry to the terrain.

“Carter?”

“I think we’re in a hot spring field.”

“A what?”

“An area with hot springs. The uh, telemetry showed spots of elevated temperature compared to the snow when I was looking at the reading in the glider but I couldn’t figure it out,” she confessed.

“Grand, just grand. If we weren’t already freezing our butts off, we can get boiled too,” he said sarcastically. “Anything else in that telemetry?”

“Uh, no Sir. Everything else was within expected parameters,” she reassured.

“Good to know. How much further till we don’t have to worry about Ol’ Faithfull II or its cousins?” he waved a hand the geyser.

“We’ll be fine once we get to the trees.”

“Right, let’s get to the trees then. Is it safe for me to move now Carter?”

“Yes, you should be okay Sir.”

He ventured a foot forward, and pressing with cautious pressure into the snow he felt around for each step before moving forward. They covered a few yards and when a cap of snow collapsed back into the hot pool it had been covering, discovered their first hot spring as steam rose off the now exposed hot water.

As they skirted around it, Sam felt the ground beneath her feet give. She shrieked as the ice edge around the hot spring cracked beneath her weight and she plunged into the spring’s hot depths.

Coughing and hacking she surfaced. Seeing the Colonel at the edge of the hot pool she shouted, “No Sir, stay back! You might fall in too!”

“Damnit Carter!”

“It’s okay Sir, it’s hot but not boiling,” she reassured as she paddled in place and took stock. It was actually rather blissful after their cold hike. But she was now officially screwed. It was below freezing with wind chill, they had roughly three more klicks to go, and she was in soaked clothes.

“Okay,” the Colonel looked frustrated, “just… just stay there. I’ll go see if I can set up a camp or something and get a fire going to get you dried off.”

“Be careful Sir,” she called after him as he turned around.

“Yeah, yeah,” he tossed over his shoulder as he cautiously worked his way to the tree line.

When he disappeared into the trees Sam looked around the hot spring she’d fallen into with interest. Paddling cautiously, and hoping there was no alien life form living in this hot spring, she moved about a bit figuring out where the pool edge was and how she was going to get out.

A little under fifteen minutes later according to her watch, the Colonel tromped back through the trees and towards her.

“Okay, I made us a little spot and got a fire going.”

“You did? How?”

“Wosret’s Jaffa missed a few things in my vest,” he explained. Standing a few feet back from the edge of the open water he looked down at her considering. “How are we going to get you out of this?”

Sam swam to the left and grasped hold of the edge. She cringed a bit at the cold bite of the snow on the bank after the fifteen minute hot soak and hauled herself up and out of the hot spring. “Lead the way Sir.”

He gave her a swift appraisal and then led the way into the trees. The trees blocked out the wind but she could feel the cold start to creep in and a dozen yards in just as her teeth were starting to chatter they came upon the camp the Colonel had set up. He’d found a large pine with snow up to its branches and dug out around the trunk, creating a tree-base snow shelter with the trunk acting as a ventilation chimney for the small fire burning.

She pushed aside some of the boughs, crawled in and with her fingers stiffening with cold now, she started shucking off her clothes.

“I’m going to get more wood,” the Colonel said as he stripped off his vest, unbuttoned his jacket and handed it to her before putting the vest back on over his undershirt. “Here, this should help you keep a bit warmer.”

“What a-about you S-sir?” she stuttered as she took the jacket and gestured to his arms that were now bare.

“I’m not the one who’s going to crack teeth chattering so hard,” the Colonel dismissed. “Get those wet clothes off and get warm Carter, that’s an order.”

She gave him a stiff lipped smile at that and watched as he crawled out back into the snow bound forest. Making sure to set his blouse aside so it didn’t get wet, she finished stripping off all her clothes and spread them out around the fire.

Shivering, with her body aching from the cold and her head feeling muzzy, she wrapped his dry jacket around her and hunched close to the fire into a miserable ball to conserve heat and waited for the Colonel to return. She held herself tight and clenched her teeth to stem their chattering as she shivered.  Shivering was actually good as it meant her muscles were shaking to warm themselves up, but it sure was annoying.

A sick ball gathering in her stomach, she closed her eyes and endured the throbbing ache in her head. Nausea continued to press low in her stomach and as her awareness of the hissing crackling of the small fire faded, so did her consciousness.

  ***

Stooping lower, Jack followed the fur bundled natives carrying Carter from the stone line passageway into a stone lined room. He could hardly believe his luck at running into these guys and was pretty sure that if Carter was awake she could tell him exactly how minuscule the chance was of him encountering helpful natives in the woods.

Outside he could just hear the howling wind of the snowstorm that had blotted the clear blue sky into steel grey just as they had come upon this village with trails of smoke rising from the snow covered mounds of roofs. They’d been double lucky, to met up with the natives and get out of the snowstorm.

The first sight to meet his eyes behind the fire burning in the room’s central hearth was a large stone cupboard with four cupboard areas, displaying weird objects that he wouldn’t even guess at understanding. Flanking the hearth were knee-high stone ‘boxes’ mounded high with furs and as the two natives lowered Carter onto one, he figured they were the beds.

There was a flurry of movement from the people already in the room and one wizened old woman who had to be a least one hundred—her age evident in the heavy wrinkles of her face, but not hair as all the natives he’d seen here were white haired—approached him as the man in a bright white leather tunic strode over to where Carter was and took command.

Jack scarcely paid attention to the wizened woman who tugged off the blankets he’d been given to keep warm on the trek here. His attention was fixated on Carter and what they were doing with her as the furs she was wrapped in were removed, as was his shirt, and her naked body scrutinized.

Feeling himself flush a bit he kept his gaze high, to give her some modesty, and fought down the urge to stride over there and yank the furs back over her. They were just helping, he reminded himself. Yeah her sense of modesty would be totally outraged, but she was in a stupor—God, let it only be a stupor and not unconsciousness—and they were helping. Helping, he reminded himself again.

He couldn’t understand the natives jabbering but the tsking of the white tunic clad man as he examined Carter’s fingers and toes was universally understood and made his gut clench. Even from the distance he could see they were badly discoloured.

Shit, he annoyingly battered away the wizened woman’s poking fingers, just what he’d feared when he’d found her fingers white and blue when wrapping her up with the furs the natives had given him upon finding them in the forest.

Frostbite.

Damn it all to hell and back.

If she—no, he would not think worst case scenario. They had found help and she was going to be fine. Just fine.

The wizened woman barked at him and tugged hard on his vest again. Looking at her wrinkled face with a scowl she tugged on his vest and jabbered at him in her foreign tongue.

“What?”

She tugged on his vest again and jabbered some more.

“Look, lady, I don’t understand you or what you want,” Jack said in exasperation.

More jabbering as she pulled on his vest and this time she pantomimed pulling something over her head.

Oh, she wanted him to take the vest off. He couldn’t see a reason why, but he couldn’t really afford to get these guys upset and there wasn’t much of anything in the pockets—nothing that was a danger anyway—so he undid the zipper and slid the vest off his shoulders.

The wizened woman’s bright blue eyes widened at the zipper and when she took the vest from his hands and turned away from him, she was muttering beneath her breath as she poked at the fastener.

Relieved that had gotten the woman’s attention off him, he looked back at the natives tending Carter to see the guy in the white tunic finish smearing something on some of Carter’s fingers and wrapping them up in strips. The toes on one foot and fingers on her other hand were already bound in a similar manner.

Then furs were piled over Carter, leaving only her too pale face visible, and white tunic guy went to one of the shelves set into the stone wall and started gathering things from it. Jack took a step towards Carter but had to stop when there was a tug, again, on his shirt. He bit back a growl and turned to look at the wizened woman who was at him again, pulling on his shirt and jabbering and pointing at the fire.

Jack took a guess and stepped towards the hearth and Granny gave an approving nod and pulled him towards it. She pushed him down to sit by the fire in its stone kerbed square with other round stones warming at the edge and a collection of pots. A bowl of fragrant stew—that looked like chowder—was set in his hands and his stomach growled as it reminded him how long it had been since he’d eaten. Breakfast on Earth and no lunch since they’d been captured by Wosret’s Jaffa. So, hours.

He poked at the food with the provided spoon and reluctantly concluded that, even if it was drugged or had some other funky thing in it, he wasn’t in any situation to refuse it. Blowing on the first hot spoonful he gingerly started eating. The rich, strong taste of fish and shellfish confirmed that it was chowder but his taste buds couldn’t identify the main vegetable.

Jack kept half his attention on Carter in the bed across the room and the other on the natives bustling about. There were about five people left in the room, less when he’d first arrived but the extras had disappeared at some point. About the same time as the two men who had found Carter and him had departed he thought.

Of those left, two of the natives were Granny, who was jabbering beneath her breath as she bent over the stew pot, and the white tunic guy pretty much beside him, who he’d come to the conclusion was these guy’s version of a doctor.

He wasn’t happy about Carter being in the hands of some quaky native doctor—he wanted her in the infirmary, but he was hopeful. Considering the amazing medical things they had run into offworld and the fact that the people lived here, they were probably well versed in dealing with the dangerous of the climate, and who knows, might have some miracle native cure for frostbite.

The other natives in the room was another woman who looked to be about white tunic guy’s age, fortyish, if they aged like humans and not Jaffa, and the last two were gangly boys of indeterminable age from eleven to sixteen. Those three, like Granny, all wore navy blue coloured tunics with heavy red and white embroidery on the collar, shoulders, wrists and hem.

Finished with the chowder he started to set the bowl down and then snatched it back up when one of the bundles of fur beside him moved. A little head with a pointed muzzle popped up and yellow eyes peered up at him under floppy triangular ears. The small animal uncurled itself and the little fox looked expectantly up at him as it wagged its black curled tail.

Jack was taken aback at seeing the creature, especially its black and white piebald colouring and not the traditional fox red. Well foxes were more than just red in colour as silver foxes did have black coats with white hairs and crosses were interesting blends of red and black, but this little creature was clearly piebald.

The woman reached over and grabbed the fox by the scruff of its neck, the animal just curling up like it would had its mother picked it up by the scruff to move it, and she handed it to the youngest boy as she chattered and pointed at one of the box beds. Obediently the boy moved the fox to it and as he dropped the animal in, a couple more pointy little fox faces of assorted colours and patterns poked over the stone edge and surveyed the scene.

Well that was curious Jack thought as he finally did set the bowl and spoon down. He’d seen some interesting animals offworld but he hadn’t seen any foxes that were piebald and appaloosa. He hoped they didn’t have fleas.

White tunic guy finished grinding up some plants in the mortar and pestle by his side and add the powder to the bowl sized pot in the hearth before the native lifted his head and their eyes caught.

Damn, their eyes were blue, Jack thought as he looked into eyes that anyone would call sapphire in colour and not be fanciful. It was an unsettling combination with their pale skin and just as white hair.

The man spoke in his jabbering tongue and held his hand out towards him.

Jack barely kept the frown off his face as he looked at the man and the outstretched hand. “I am sorry I don’t know what you want. I don’t speak your language.”

Hand still outstretched the alien repeated, or sounded like he repeated, the line of jabbering he’d just said.

What Jack wouldn’t give to have Jonas here. Or a little bit of intervention from above, if Daniel deigned to show his glowing butt and give a bit of guidance. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand you. Do you speak English? Or, does anyone know about the stargate, the er, chappa’ai here?”

It wasn’t actually a futile question.

Carter had tried to explain it to him at some point—something called Clark’s Law he thought—but all he really got was that traveling through the stargate endowed frequent travelers with a universal translating ability. The exception of course was those first alien languages encountered which is why Goa’uld actually had to be learned by himself and other first ’gate travellers.

In short, if one of the natives had been through the stargate, he might be able to communicate something at least.

“Chappa’ai?” white tunic guy repeated with narrowed blue eyes. “Iwaw nyt Beaivi.”

Jack was surprised he actually understood that. Somewhat. It had been mostly Goa’uld—which he understood more than he pretended to the prancing snakes—and a word of the alien’s own language so the alien had basically called the stargate, the Ring of Beaivi. Considering that they’d run into other euphemisms for the ’gate it didn’t surprise him that these aliens would have their own. “Yes, the chappa’ai,that big stone ring that you can use to travel to other planets.”

“Tshen are one who shass pat’ryn?”

Jack worked through that, grateful there was more English than Goa’uld this time, and thought the man had asked if he was one who travelled the stars? His gaze flicked to Carter before back to the alien and he settled for the simplest explanation considering their language problems and as that sentence had been in a mixture of English and Goa’uld, answered in Goa’uld himself. “Ti’u.”

White tunic guy brought his outstretched hand to touch his brow and said in the same broken English and Goa’uld, “I am Hanno of Saame.” Pointing in turn to the four others in the room he introduced, “My hem’t Rana, my sons Feles and Doffa, and ahkku Girsti.”

Okay, wife, sons, he got and he wasn’t sure what ahkku was but he guessed grandmother or something. Pointing to himself Jack reciprocated, “Jack of Tau’ri.”

“Tak mal tiak mal we’ia wisdom seeker.”

Wisdom seeker? Jack grimaced in his head. Great, he was miss-communicating but not seeing any way of correcting it he diplomatically gave thanks, “Neter tua.”

Hanno gave a grave nod in response as his hand fell to his side and if the Goa’uld’s name for Earth meant anything to the alien, there was no sign of it in his expression or manner. “How did you and your woman come here? Those of clan Boazu who brought you to the village said they found you in the forest with your woman wet and with cold ill.”

Jack glanced over at Carter again and rapidly thought about how he was going to answer that sort of question. It was probably best if he did assert some sort of claim on her, or at the very least, not persuade the aliens otherwise in case of… of well a Shavadai Incidents as they’d taken to calling them. Or some other weird case of alien customs that then banished him to the other side of the village and away from her into some ‘men’s hut’ or something.

“She…” he looked back at his host, “her name is Sam Carter of Tau’ri. We were escaping from Jaffa when we found ourselves here. We were attempting to reach the chappa’ai when Carter fell into a hot spring.”

“Those hot springs,” Hanno asked intently, “where they betwixt the village and the path to the chappa’ai? And there were mounds of ice from waters that spray into the air?”

Jack recalled the layout of the snowbound land that he had had to walk through to get here behind the two men and their sled carrying Carter. “Yes.”

Hanno’s blue eyes went impossibly wide and a spat of alien gibberish spewed from him. Granny bowed her head and looked like she was murmuring prayers as the woman, Rana, clutched the youngest boy, Doffa, to her with a stricken look on her face.

Jack swallowed hard. Oh God, what had he just said wrong?

“Rohttu, Oh Beaivi curse the demon’s black name!” Hanno swore in a vicious tone, finally speaking words Jack could understand again as he contained himself. “Your woman is ill, ill not just with cold ill but ill with the poison of Rohttu that hides within the water of those pools.”

The knot in Jack’s throat sunk to his stomach. Their reaction had been about Carter. Poison? If it was in a hot spring, they probably meant bacteria or something.

“The poison has not struck her yet, but it will, it will as soon as the cold ill is chased from her limbs. We have medicine from Beaivi that cures the poison…” Hanno hesitated as the alien gave him a measuring look, “but not all who are not Saame are helped.”

The bowl of chowder Jack had just eaten was a hard lump in his stomach now. “But it does cure people?”

Hanno hesitated before finally saying, “It can cure.”

It was enough for Jack. It had to be enough. He wouldn’t let himself think otherwise. “What do I need to do? Do I need to get this cure from somewhere?”

“I have the medicines here,” Hanno answered, “and they take time to prepare but the poison will not strike until the cold ill is gone from her. The cold ill must be treated before Rohttu’s poison can be treated.”

Hanno turned to his wife and after a brief conversation she gathered up cloths that she wrapped around the round stones set near the hearth kerb, which she then tucked into bed with Carter.

Jack got to his feet and circled the hearth to the bed where Carter lay as the natives set about doing their things. He stood beside the bed and as the native woman smoothed the furs back into place he studied Carter’s pale face.

Rana gave him a small smile and then turned back to the rest of the room.

Jack slipped his hands into the furs and careful not to inadvertently touch something he shouldn’t, he found her too cold wrist. He adjusted her stiff arm a bit and placed his fingers against her pulse point. It took some time, but he felt a slow beat against his fingers and after time, felt more pulse beats. Her pulse was slow like her breathing, but at least her heartbeat wasn’t erratic.

Now all there was to do was wait.

And that’s what he worriedly settled into doing.

Jack moved from his spot standing by the bed only when his restless energy drove him to pacing. He sporadically checked his watch and watched the hours slip by, but mostly he marked the passing of time with the exchange of the warming stones tucked in bed with Carter for fresh ones warmed by the hearth.

Then, finally, Carter started to shiver.

The tight knot in his stomach eased as her limbs and body started to shake and shudder, going from small tremors in the beginning to shivering in violent waves. After another hour or more the violent shaking of her shivering was settling into quiet shakes and when he rested the back of his hand against her forehead her skin was definitely warmer to the touch.

As he lifted his hand up, Granny approached him from the hearth with a shallow lipped bowl in her hands filled with what looked like a very cloudy broth and after delivery a steady stream of chatter at him, held the bowl in Sam’s direction, mimed drinking it, and then handed it to him.

Jack accepted the bowl and wizened woman’s command and turned his attention to getting Carter to drink the broth. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he pushed the furs clear of her face and leaning over her, carefully coaxed Carter into drinking the broth.

She did so and roused a bit in the process with her unfocused blue eyes flicking over his face before sliding close again and then she slid into full sleep.

Granny took the bowl back and left him sitting on the edge of the bed. Jack settled a hand on Carter’s forehead again for an uncountable time that night and his thumb rubbed back and forth across her skin as he watched her steady breathing.

Warm.

Thank God.

Warm and normal feeling.

He withdrew his hand when Hanno joined him and looking as casual as he could, he got to his feet. It was he admitted to himself, a knee jerk reaction from the years of condition that had him carefully watching his interaction with Carter, even in the infirmary, especially when anyone else was around.

Hanno leaned past him and touched Carter’s forehead himself and then with a frown, withdrew back to his stuff set up around the hearth. In a moment he was back holding a pot of something that looked like wallpaper paste.

Jack gave the alien a puzzled look when the pot was handed to him. Not paying him any mind, Hanno tossed back the furs and Jack jerked his gaze up to the stone wall and away from the indecent amount of Carter naked skin exposed.

Hanno scooped up a mound of the paste from the pot with his fingers and chatting like some Gregorian monk began painting it down one of Carter’s arms.

Jack bit his tongue.

Literally.

Especially as he could see from his peripheral vision that after painting Carter’s arm Hanno was painting goop on more of her body.

Quaky medicine man practices or not, the natives had offered to help and he wouldn’t do anything that might jeopardise that. When this was all over and they were back on Earth he could tease Carter about the time she got a treatment of funky body paint—because Carter would get better and they would get home, Jack thought fiercely.

He’d thought the minutes had dragged by as Carter had recovered from her hypothermia, but that had been a breeze compared to how it crawled with agonizing slowness as Hanno chanted and painted. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck and he refused to look away from the stone wall.

Not soon enough for Jack’s nerves the chanting ended and the bowl was empty except for a few pasty smears. Relieved he dropped his gaze and discovered that he’d looked too soon.

He jerked his eyes back up but his brain could still see the vision of Carter’s pale skin decorated with paint; white lines ran down her limbs and swirled in and over the rest of the curves of her body and the bones of her throat, hips, and elsewhere were highlighted by the paint.

“The medicine is within her skin now.” Hanno reached over the bed and after drawing only one fur back up over her, drew off the rest and set them at the foot of the bed. “Now we must only wait for Rohttu to show himself.”

Jack looked down again and studied Carter’s exposed face, one short white line was drawn on her forehead against her brushed back hairline and a second longer one was drawn below that arched from the lobe of her ears. Not a good look for her at all and he hope that Hanno’s comment about the funky paint being medicinal was the gospel truth and not some voodoo supposition that meant the chanting was the medicine or something.

Carter was breathing normally and her pulse rate was normal and she was comfortably warm. She’d also gotten some food into her and with her out of the woods for now he could attend to some of his own needs. “Hanno, where is the, er, room with the toilet?”

Hanno took the bowl of body paint from him and called over the eldest boy. “Feles will show you.”

“Thanks,” Jack responded and followed Feles from the room.

They walked down the winding stone lined passage that was cooler in temperature than the room Jack had just spent the last hour in, but not unpleasantly so. Passing open doors he was able to see the hearths with the people around and that stone dresser against the far wall and Jack wondered if this entire place was subterranean. From the glimpses into the rooms, he wasn’t seeing the stone box beds either but it did look like the other rooms had beds in alcoves.

Turning into one of the doorways, it had a low burning hearth but no piece of stone furniture on the far wall of the room. Instead it was lined by benches with key shaped holes in them and groves ran through the floor and into the benches and rather looked like an ancient Roman bathroom which was better than a pit dug out in the snow.

Feles tended to the fire and left him to it. Jack did his business and none too soon as he discovered on his way out, not only were the toilets open to all with that darn open door, it was a communal toilet when a young woman popped into the room to use it and goggled him.

He would prefer it if only one set of blue eyes looked at him like that thank you very much. And right now, he’d much prefer them to just look at him with their usual healthy vitality.

Back in Hanno’s room he restlessly moved around a bit before settling down near the head of Carter’s bed and wearily rested against it. He dozed and when he jerked awake sometime later he discovered that everyone else in the room had gone to sleep except Granny who was sitting by the hearth with her eye on them.

Not sure why he’d woken he checked his watch reflexively and learned less than forty minutes had passed. Stiff from his slumped position, Jack rolled his neck and paused at the sound he heard. Rising to his feet he ignored the way his knees cracked and looked down at Carter as she murmured restlessly in her sleep. The white paint had discoloured or something as it was now pink in colour and was the same pink colour that infused her cheeks.

He laid his palm against an unpainted cheek and winced at the heat he felt.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

He’d hoped that Hanno had been wrong or something and that Carter hadn’t gotten infected from some hot spring bacteria. He didn’t know much about bacteria except that it was fought with antibiotics. If it was bacteria and not something else nasty like a parasite.

Feeling incredibly tired he sunk down and sat on the edge of the bed. He would give a great deal for them to be back on Earth and Carter safely tucked up in the infirmary in the Doc’s care. Not stuck on some backwater planet with some primitive natives he could barely communicate with.

Carter’s murmurings grew louder but not clearer as she tossed a bit on the bed. Jack leaned over her and slid her arms out from under the covers and tucked the single fur covering her up underneath her arms. She should cool off a bit like that, with more skin exposed to the air.

After a bit her murmuring died away and she seemed to slide back into a peaceful sleep though the high spots of colour remained on her cheeks and she still felt too warm against his hand. Placing his hand on her wrist, he pinched a fold of skin and checked her hydration level. The fold smoothed out quickly so at least she still had enough liquids in her but he’d try getting more in her in a bit.

Later that night after hours of his vigil and after he’d been able to get more of broth into her and was just finishing getting her to drink some plain water, Granny came over to him with another bowl. Unlike the shallow lipped ones with stuff for Carter to drink, this bowl was large and deep and had a sea sponge floating in the water. He tested it and found the temperature lukewarm which was the right temperature for sponging someone with a fever off.

Saying his thanks Jack took the bowl and squeezing out the excess water out of the sponge brought it to Carter’s forehead and wiped her down. It should help cool her down as she’d been burning with this fever far too long for his comfort.

Granny made a deep, outraged noise in the back of her throat and yelled at him in her gibberish.

Startled Jack looked at the old woman who was glaring at him like he’d just committed some taboo or something.

She snatched the sponge from his hand, dunked it in the water, and then after rinsing it out used it carefully on Carter’s forehead. She made sure that the sponge didn’t touch any of the body paint on Carter unlike his broad first swipe.

“Right, don’t touch the body paint,” Jack rolled his eyes as he accepted the sponge back from Granny who gave it to him with a pointed look. Then, under her hawk-eyed gaze he was careful when sponging off Carter’s head and arms to not wipe the sponge over the painted lines.

Not careful enough though when he brushed near a line on Carter’s collarbone and quick as lightning Granny smacked his hand sharply with two gnarly fingers.

“Ow,” Jack yelped involuntarily at the sharp sting and glared right back at Granny as she glared at him. Even more carefully now, Jack went on sponging Carter. After a very long time under Granny’s scrutinising and disapproving gaze she finally seemed satisfied that he wouldn’t wipe the paint again and she left him to it.

“Nosy old bat,” Jack muttered to himself as he wrung out the sponge hard.

It took a long time, and he roused Carter in-between to get her to drink to keep her hydrated, but eventually the water in the bowl was down to a shallow pool that the sponge could absorb totally and his shoulders, neck, arms, and lower back ached from the hours of work. His butt hurt too, perched on the stone edge of the bed as he was and desperately wished by this point that these people had chairs or even stools that he could sit on.

He dug the fingers of one hand into the muscles of his neck and tried to ease the sore tightness. It didn’t help much of all.

He sensed movement at his side and when he looked over he blinked at seeing the other woman beside him and not Granny. Twisting his head around he saw that the others were up too which meant it was probably morning. There was no way to mark the passage of time as the rooms were without windows and were just illuminated from the fire in the hearth and he’d stopped looking at his watch hours ago. Taking a look now he saw that the night had passed.

Rana took hold of his arm and pulled him to his feet. Wearily Jack stood and followed in her wake as she led him to one of the stone beds along the wall of the room and pushed him to it.

Yeah, he could do with a bit of a rest he thought as he sat down on the edge of the bed and leaning over with a muffled groan unlaced his boots. Pulling the footwear off Jack fell back into the mound of furs and he was vaguely aware of being covered up and he fuzzily thought that he would have a short nap.

Just a short nap before looking after Carter again.

That wasn’t what happened.

Later when Jack awoke and stared blearily up at the rafters overhead, draped with dried fished and other assorted plants, he cracked a yawn and sat up scratching a hand through his hair. He grimaced at the grimy feel under his fingers. Dried sweat didn’t feel the best and he hadn’t been able to clean up at all before falling into bed.

Looking around the room he saw Rana was beside Carter, there was a body in another one of the beds, and otherwise no one else moved around the room. Well, there was something else moving around as the foxes tumbled about on the floor each as they fought over what looked like a leather ball the size of a baseball.

Feeling the need for the bathroom Jack put on his boots and as he stood absently checked his watch to see how long his nap had been.

Crap!

He’d been asleep for nine hours! He hadn’t had a nap—he’d slept the damn day away!

Ignoring his need for the bathroom Jack strode across the room to the bed Carter lay in and found the fur from last night was gone and a light blanket had been tucked around her. The body paint had been changed too and was now lines of a thick near-red colour.

She looked worse.

And it wasn’t just the body paint.

Carter was flushed with unhealthy colour and her breathing was uneven with a raspy note underneath at times.

He fisted his hands against his thighs as he looked down at her. He’d slept nine hours. That meant Carter had had this fever for twenty-two hours, just two hours short of a full day. And he had no way of knowing what her temperature actually was—if it was just elevated a bit and would be okay in the long run or running dangerously high and brain damage threatened.

At least right now as bad as she looked, Jack consoled himself, she didn’t look much worse than Charlie had when suffering from childhood fevers. But God, he prayed he’d be able to recognize the signs of a fever running too high and he could get her into water, or out into the snow outside to cool her off.

His body sharply reminded him of its own pressing needs so he went and attended to them. On his return he detoured back through the passageway to the outside and found the snowstorm that had rolled in after them was still howling. Just great, he thought disgustedly and turned back down the passageway.

He heard her before he’d even gotten to the doorway: Carter’s voice rising and falling brokenly. His gut twisting up he hurried back into the room and found Carter tossing restlessly on the bed and broken phrases that didn’t make sense coming from her mouth.

Anyway, he didn’t think they were supposed to make sense but who was he to judge if “so the energy E of an oscillator of frequency f is given by” actually had anything do with “positive number is only one of its two square roots”?

He caught one of her flailing hands before it could smack against the stone bed frame. He was somewhat aware of Rana stepping away and leaving Carter totally to him. Holding Carter’s hand firmly in his but careful of the bandages still around her frostbitten fingers he soothed her as best he could, “Easy Carter, easy there.”

More scientific babble bubbled forth, her voice rising with each word like she was desperate to stress their importance, “From atmospheric penetration at around Mach 7 or more the plasma shroud persists down to about Mach 15,” and ended on a wail that was, “Sir!”

“Easy, Carter,” Jack set his other hand on her too warm forehead and rubbed his thumb across it, uncaring if he smudged paint, “I’m right here.”

More frantic technical aeronautics issued forth. Stuff he actually recognized—oh not the mathematical equations she said with it but the general info he understood. Most of it was focused around atmospheres and entry angles and it sounded like, if this was a reflection of what they’d gone through earlier, Carter had really sweated re-entry.

Ignoring the twinge in his knees he knelt down and leaned over the bed towards Carter, careful only to keep his distance so that her occasionally restlessly tossed head wouldn’t bash his nose.

“I’m here Carter, just relax,” he soothed and began murmuring other platitudes. What he said wasn’t important. What was important was that it was his voice was saying something.

In time either his touch or his voice soothed her and her restless tossing stilled and the intensity behind the jumbled technobabble faded as the words came less and less frequently.

“There were go Carter, all good and quiet now,” he said softly against her ear long after the last low murmur had passed her lips and it seemed like she was back in feverish sleep. “No more scares like this now, okay?”

Confident that she was quiet for now he rubbed her hot forehead one last time, loosened his grip on her hand, and straightened up. Wincing internally, he bit his lip against the groan that wanted to escape when his knees screamed at him after being locked in that position so long. He stood and gingerly flexed the aching joint and thought again that he really needed to get a chair or something. In the infirmary he would have had one which would have made it much easier to sooth her, or at least, left him more comfortable through it all.

Jack grimaced. But if they had been in the infirmary he probably wouldn’t have dared soothe her like he just had, with calming whispers in her ear and touching her so much.

He turned around and saw the natives around the hearth with dishes in their hands and eating, though the youngest, Doffa, looked more involved in playing with the piebald fox than eating.

“Come Jack,” Hanno invited, “you must care for yourself as much as you do your woman.”

He knew that was true so after giving his knees a few more minutes, he was careful not to hobble when he made his way to the hearth. He had a feeling that if it looked like he couldn’t handle it, his time tending Carter would be restricted, just like the Doc would do. He took a seat on ground and stretched out his legs to give them a break and he joined the family at their meal.

It was fish again, not chowder, but meaty smoked fish fillets and some purple tubers that looked like carrots and tasted like dill. There had been plenty of vegetables in the chowder too, so Jack figured three things: winter had just begun and they hadn’t gotten to the lean time yet for them, or they had a good growing season and could supply themselves well all winter, or they were well connected with trade and such and could supply themselves with food from the south.

After Rana had pushed a second serving on him Hanno struck up a kind of conversation with him. Kind of, in that Saame words were heavily mixed in with the English and Goa’uld and they spent as much time searching for ways of simplifying things to communicate as they did actual talking.

But he got the gist of what Hanno was saying and in turn, he was pretty sure that Hanno understood the basic of their escape from Wosret and them finding themselves on this planet.

Wosret had been one weird snake actually, seriously pissed at them but that wasn’t so strange. No, what had been strange was why: Wosret had a vendetta against them for killing Heru’ur never mind the fact that Apophis had killed that snake, not them.

Teal’c had attempted to explain why the snake was coocoo on that point and even called Wosret a ‘nanny’ but what type of snake would be a nanny? So obviously he’d misheard Teal’c.

In turn he was told about the Saame sun goddess of life Beaivi and the evil god Rohttu who Carter was ‘battling’. From the mix of impersonal and personal language Hanno was using Jack didn’t think they were real snake-heads, or alive ones that visited anyway. What interested him most, was when Hanno spoke of the stargate, the so called Ring of Beaivi, and the journey that the Saame man had taken through the ’gate in his learning as a noaidi.

Distracted when he felt something touch the back of his hand, he looked down to see the piebald fox inquisitively nosing around the hand that was resting on an outstretched leg.

A stream of Saame poured from Hanno and the little fox looked at the man before going back to investigating Jack. “Ah, pah,” Hanno said in resigned amusement, “that one is too curious. If he bothers you, push at him and say ‘Eret’!”

Jack turned his hand over and watched the fox as it nosed at all his fingers. “Does he have a name?”

Hanno nodded. “Ailu.”

The little fox lifted its head at hearing its name but when nothing else was forthcoming, returned to its investigations and pawed at the fabric of Jack’s pants.

“Ailu huh,” Jack said and the fox cocked its head at him too before going back to checking things out by jumping up onto Jack’s lap and with small mincing footsteps like a cat started walking down his outstretched left leg. “Whoa!”

“Ailu javohuvvat. Javohuvvat!” Hanno commanded and plucked the fox off Jack and handed it to his youngest son with a few sharp words.

“He wasn’t a bother,” Jack reassured his host, “he just surprised me.”

Hanno shook his head. “His training needs more work. Not supposed to jump onto person without word given.”

Jack could understand that so he nodded in response. The women began collecting the dishes that they had eaten from so he drained the last of his water from the bowl-cup and returned to Carter’s bed side. He was shortly joined by Hanno.

Like the time before, watching the man check Carter over reminded Jack of watching the Doc at work in the infirmary with a patient even though Hanno didn’t have tools like stethoscopes, penlights, or thermometers like Dr Fraiser had. The look Hanno gave him after Carter’s examination was also the look that Doc would give him when she had bad news to give and Jack braced himself.

“The poison still burns her… it would not a Saame.”

“You’re saying your cure didn’t work,” Jack said woodenly.

Hanno gave a shake of his head. “I have prayed to Beaivi that she would be cured like Saame but it is clear she is not Saame. I will prepare more for her.”

Jack swallowed when Hanno turned away and looked down at Carter. Her face was flushed and her colour was not helped by the two lines of near-red paint on her forehead. And now, she lay so still.

“Com’on Carter. You’re going to make it through. You’re going to be all right,” Jack reached down and he smoothed his hand over her hair that lay so lankly now and returned to his vigil.

The vigil stretched on for hours and blurred into days.

He saw more people now than Hanno and his family, but most were just faces as people cautiously poked their head through the doorway to look at them with avid curiosity and, sometimes after a few quick words exchanged with someone in the room, quickly withdrew. There were a handful of men that ventured in and sat for a few moments at the hearth and held low voiced conversations before leaving.

Besides that, there were a few interruptions to the monotony of the task of watching and sponging Carter off. Rousing her enough to get her to drink water or broth, or maybe they were both medicines, and then struggling to get them into her was one. Another was when Hanno chanted and applied more body paint and it got to the point that Jack didn’t even flicker an eyelash over the whole thing and just kept his eyes on her face.

The worst though was when she had the bouts of delirium.

She’d toss and turn and had to be watched so she didn’t injure herself. The odd ramblings of science he could take but when she hallucinated and shouted and yelled and begged—begged not to be hurt, begged for him—that was the worst of it.

Hearing her beg made it hard to force words past the lump that formed in his throat and made it hard to find words to soothe her in the first place. The natives tried to help, but Granny and Rana attempting to soothe in their language meant nothing to Carter and when Hanno tried soothing her in his pidgin of English and Goa’uld it had driven her into a hysterical screaming fit and she’d nearly thrown herself from the bed. So he talked himself hoarse and exhausted, tumbled into bed for a too brief nap before another attack and her shouting yanked him back to her side.

Worn out after soothing Carter back into a restless sleep for an uncountable time, Jack dragged himself to his feet and after forcing himself to focus on who was in the room with him, the women and not Hanno, he gestured that he was going out.

He made his way through the winding stone passageway that linked all the rooms together to the outside entrance where cold air and snow blew in. He needed the cold. It felt too hot in Carter’s sick room.

At the foot of the drift that had blown in Jack leaned against the rough stone work and stared blearily into the wall of white outside. The snowstorm, the very same one that had blown up after they’d come here, was still blowing.

From his pocket he withdrew Carter’s tags and fisted his hand around them.

Three days.

Three fucking days.

Three. Fucking. Days.

Carter couldn’t take this much longer.

He couldn’t take this much longer.

Grinding the palms of his hands and the tags into his eye sockets he pressed back on his emotions seething beneath the surface. God, why couldn’t they be in the infirmary with IVs and antibiotics! Palms still pressed against his closed eyes he slowly slid down the stone wall, unmindful of the hard edges and bumps of the rough stonework as it scraped against his back.

God.

Choking on his breath he forced himself to breathe normally. He had taken a dozen such breaths when he felt something nudge against his calf. Lifting his palms away he glanced down the passageway and saw no one but standing by his foot was Ailu.

The little fox with its white and black patches looked at him a moment and then sat down beside his foot and leaned against his leg.

Jack swore beneath his breath as he uncaringly thumped his head back against the stone behind him. Great, just great. Even a fucking fox could tell he was a basket case. Releasing a long ragged breath, he dropped a hand onto the fox’s head and absently rubbed at the floppy black ears.

In time his breathing was steady and he was calmer once he’d been able to wrestle his emotions back into the recesses of his mind. With a shiver he realised that it really was quite cold out here by the open entranceway.

Giving Ailu’s head one last pat, he stiffly got to his feet. Looking at the tags in his hand, he pulled the ball chain over his own neck where they settled against his tags, and feeling clear headed now with his emotions locked back down—and with Ailu trotting at his feet—he returned to Carter.

She was thankfully lying quiet in her sickbed and he was able to join Hanno and his family at the hearth for their evening meal. Clams or something was the main dish and the boys were certainly eagerly slurping them back.

More refreshed by the cold but still tired, Jack didn’t have the same enthusiasm but he probably enjoyed the rich flavour more as he took his time eating. In the end he probably had as many empty shells piled up as each boy did. Expressing his thanks to the women he took Hanno’s advice and headed for bed to get some rest before the next attack of delirium.

Jack woke later that night to a quiet room.

Lifting his head in the room dimly lit by the banked fire in the hearth he saw that the other beds were occupied and Granny was kneeling by Carter’s bed sponging her off. He twisted his watch around and saw that he’d actually gotten a few hours uninterrupted sleep.

He tossed back the furs and crossed the room and looked down at Carter. She was still flush and sick looking and the body paint was now definitely red in colour.

Granny beckoned him to take over and when he did the old woman tottered off. He dampened the sponge and wiped it in long even strokes across her feverish skin. Dipping the sponge back into the water he lightly stroked it down the unpainted column of her neck.

He was dipping the sponge again when she murmured restlessly and he tensed. She made a few restless movements and then quieted and he relaxed in relief and returned to sponging her off.

The bowl was almost empty of water when Granny tottered up again with a waterskin that she used to re-fill the bowl. She’d just finished capping the waterskin when she gave Carter a squinty, narrow eyed look.

Jack looked back at Carter himself in reflex. She wasn’t moving or anything, or restless so what had caught… he found himself leaning forward himself and peering questioningly at the body paint. It had been red, right? It had an orange tint to it now. But that could just be from the dimly flickering light from the hearth behind them.

No, it wasn’t just red with an orange tone. Jack watched as before his eyes, starting from her chest and head, the lines of red paint rapidly turned a brilliant and eye-smarting yellow. Surprised, he sat back and looked up at Granny, but she was gone.

Hearing words behind him, he turned his head and discovered where Granny had disappeared too. Across the room she was shaking Hanno awake in his bed with a voice that demanded attention. The man was quickly roused and just as quickly across the room to Carter’s bedside.

Hanno took one look at Carter and the yellow paint and ripped off all the covers as he bellowed in his language. That galvanized the rest of the family, groggy at being awaken from sleep by Granny, into action and the Rana and Feles dashed from the room.

“Hanno. Hanno! What’s wrong? What’s happened?” Jack demanded, catching the man’s arm when he turned away

“Too high, she is too high,” Hanno replied sharply as he yanked his arm free and hurried towards the shelf where the medicines were stored.

Jack heard a commotion at the doorway and when he looked over he saw a few faces he remembered visiting in the past three days standing there holding baskets or something, heaped with snow. Jack felt his gut clench so hard he felt like throwing up and he placed his hand on her forehead and felt how hot she was.

No.

No damn it.

He knew what Hanno meant now seeing the snow as the men hurried towards him with their cold burdens.

Carter’s temperature was too high.

Jack hovered at the side of the bed as with quick efficiency snow was packed around her.

The men with the snow weren’t the only ones arriving, as others followed carrying hand drums and reed pipes and after stroking up the fire for better light they all settled themselves around the hearth. The drummers started first, with a low throbbing beat that vibrated the bones and were joined by the high piping of the pipes that intertwined with the Gregorian chant from the men’s throats.

And so the drumming and the night stretched on without interruption.

Jack kept his vigil by Carter’s bedside and was the one that coaxed the needed liquids into her during the night. He also helped Hanno and the other men in replacing the snow that had become slushy with fresh snow that was periodically brought in. And twice more that night Hanno reapplied the body paint and Jack watch intently each time, but as night crept into dawn of the fourth day, the lines remained that bright, alarming yellow.

The only change that morning brought was Granny and Rana returning to prepare breakfast for everyone.

He accepted the bowl of food from Granny and ate without interest. He did note that the men ate in shifts, so that there was still a few drumming, piping, and singing when the others ate. Giving the bowl back to Granny he took a washroom break and returned to watching Carter.

She lay without moving amongst the snow. Her body marked by those lines of yellow and her skin that ugly feverish red.

He set his hand on her head and felt the heat beneath his palm as he rubbed his thumb back and forth across her hairline. It was more than he’d allowed himself the last time he’d come so close to losing her in Nirrti’s cells after the snake had played roulette with Carter’s DNA. Carter at least had reached out and leaned against him when he’d been too damn scared to reach out himself.

Because if he had, and taken her in his arms, and what had happened to the alien and the Russian had happened to her…

He swallowed hard and reminded himself, firmly, that it hadn’t happened. The snake was dead and Carter had been cured.

God he needed a rest. Especially if he was thinking of things he didn’t let himself think of.  Feelings and close calls…

He gave his head a shake and closed his eyes. His body was demanding rest as he’d been up for more than twenty-four hours and had just sporadic sleep punctuated by long hours caring for her before that but he didn’t even dare try and take a nap. Because if he did…

Carter might not be there when he woke up.

Opening his eyes again he gazed down and noted that it was time for the snow to be refreshed. He scooped slush snow away from her and dumped it into one of the buckets and ignored how cold it made his fingers. Reaching between her legs he paused with his hands in the slushy snow when his hand inadvertently brushed against her inner thigh and the line of paint shifted colour.

He studied the line but when nothing else happened after a minute or so, he continued replacing the snow. The paint must have reacted to his body temperature when he’d touched it and not Carter’s.

Packing the last of the fresh snow back around her legs, but keeping it away from her toes that were still wrapped in the frostbite treatment, he paused again as he looked up her body. That spot on the line of paint on her inner thigh had changed colour again.

Jack looked her over and after a minute of staring hard he would swear that spots on the body paint had changed colours from bright yellow to orange-yellow, her inner thighs for one and the underside of her left breast and a bit on the ribs on that side.

“Hanno? Could you come here?” he called the man over.

Hanno lowered the decorated drum he’d been drumming on and came over. He gave an approving nod when he saw that red was beginning to spread throughout the yellow. “It is good. Rohttu still holds her but she is not too hot now. When the ipmil mola is pale red we will remove snow.”

Jack closed his eyes and took a deep thankful breath that he released slowly. When he opened them again Hanno was looking at him critically.

“You must rest now Jack.”

Jack shook his head. The crisis might be past and Carter wasn’t in danger of getting her brain fried because her temperature was too high, but he was past being tired now and doubted he’d be able to get to sleep if he tried. He was grateful that beyond looking disapproving, like the Doc would, Hanno didn’t push the point and returned to his drumming.

To his ears the chanting was no longer as mournful, but more upbeat and happy now.

His watch marked that another hour passed and during that time the colour of the paint on Carter went from the bright yellow, to red, and down to a dark pink. Once the snow had been cleared away Carter was lifted from the bed and after the wet furs were changed for dry ones, she was thoroughly dried off and tucked in.

The men that had come to help, bringing snow or to chant, began to drift out now and after a while it was just Hanno and his family in the room with them again.

It was time to get some water into her and with the bowl-cup in one hand he slid the other under her head and tilted it up. Carefully trickling some water past her lips and down her throat, he set it aside and wiped the beads of moisture along her hairline away. He hadn’t thought he’d spilled anything but it seemed he had.

Sliding his hand out to lay her head back down he felt more moisture against his fingertips as they slid across the back of her neck. Wiping his hand off absently on his pants, he moved her arm a bit and checking, saw a sheen of moisture on her skin. He lightly touched it and then closed his eyes and bowed his head.

Sweat.

Carter was sweating.

Thank you God.

It was over.

He released a choked shuddering breath as he rested his fingers against her skin like a benediction.

The nightmare of the past four days was over.

He took a few more gulping breaths and told himself fiercely he wasn’t going to break. When he got himself under control again he looked up and found Granny beside him. She was busy looking Carter over but after a moment looked back at him and gave him a big warm smile that crinkled up all the wrinkles on her ancient face.

Granny patted him on the shoulder as she murmured happy sounds in her language and went and fetched Hanno.

“Ah, Blessed be Beaivi,” Hanno said happily after performing his examination, “the danger is past.” He called over his wife and after an exchange of words the sponge and bowl were whisked away for a set of towels.

Repeating motions that he’d done numerous times sponging Carter off to cool her down, Jack did again only now he was drying her off to warm her up. Carefully as always to avoid the lines of body paint that were now fading from a dark pink to the white. Many of the towels were soaked and changed for dry ones in the process and when she started to give a shiver here and there she was dried off good one last time and tucked underneath two furs.

“The poison of Rohttu is gone but the medicine has not been all given yet. That will take some days yet,” Hanno told him.

Jack nodded. That didn’t sound odd, considering that back home antibiotics had to be taken for a period of days. He figured, that the medicine the man had been administering was in the body paint because of its temperature sensing properties or the broth, or both and while the danger was past there was still the recovery to get through.

Still nodding he stood up and found himself tottering on his feet in time to his head nod. Damn, he really was tired.

“Now Jack,” Hanno laid a steadying hand on his arm, “you must rest.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jack agreed tiredly as he looked down at Carter.

“To give your woman rest you will use the bed of Girsti for the next two nights,” here the corners of Hanno’s blue eyes crinkled up as he patted Jack on the arm, “but you will be able to return to her bed after that.”

Jack flushed and looked away. “Yeah, uh, right.” Feeling as hot under the collar as Carter’s feverish skin had felt to his touch a few hours ago he made his way to the bed that would be his again for the next two nights and dropped into it.

Sleep. His brain could deal with this in the morning. Wait, it was morning he remembered fuzzily. In the evening then or whatever, and Jack tiredly turned over and burying his head in the pillow fell asleep.

  ***

Sam woke up and the first thing she felt was, well, she felt like utter and complete crap. Her neck and shoulder muscles were stiff and painful and her body just ached. She was cozy warm, with a particular wall of heat against her back and her toes blissfully warm as she lay in something incredibly soft but she just hurt all over.

Considering she hurt so much she expected to awaken in the infirmary but nothing felt like it at all. It wasn’t sheets against her bare skin and it didn’t feel like she had an IV line in or anything. Definitely didn’t smell like the infirmary either. No, the strongest odor in the air was wood smoke and with it fish and the vague smell of leather she thought.

The fuzziness in her brain wasn’t helping either as she sluggishly tried to remember what had happened. The last time she remembered aching anything like this was when Nirrti had… no, this couldn’t be it. Nirrti was dead right? Yes, Sam thought with some confidence. The goa’uld was dead. She remembered the Colonel telling her that as he’d picked her up off the cell floor. More memories formed and so she remembered being in the machine again and the blessed relief of that awful burning pain being soothed away… so why was she feeling like total crap now?

Her heart jolted when she suddenly felt whatever she was on giveaway like something had landed on it. Sam sensed movement more than felt it and then was acutely aware of something at her face. She wanted to look, but damn, she hurt.

Then, the wall of heat at her back moved too. Sam was suddenly and intensely conscious of the fact that the wall of heat was from a body tucked around hers and her feet were so toasty warm because they were resting on some rather hairy calves.

“Ailu javohuvvat. Javohuvvat!” the man said sharply as he shifted behind her, leaned over her, and pushed off the extra weight.

Her heart beat more frantically as she felt her stomach sink as nausea rushed up her throat. Oh, God no. Please, she was not feeling like shit in bed with some alien man and with no memory of what had happened!

“Silly fox,” the man continued—in English with the hint of a Minnesota drawl—with lazy affection, “you know you’re not supposed to be on the bed.”

Sam choked down a cry of relief at hearing his voice as she forced her eyes open. In her peripheral vision she could see that it was the Colonel leaning over her. Straight in front of her face though, peaking over the stone edge of whatever she was lying in and obviously very pleased with the way its ears were being fondled, was the triangular face of a fox.

A fox with a white coat, black nose and muzzle, a black splotch over one amber eye, and black ears.

Sam closed her eyes and opened them again but no, it was definitely a black and white fox looking at her.

“Carter?” the Colonel’s hand paused in its ear scratching.

Sam tried to speak, found she couldn’t so she coughed and was then able to say a wheezy, wavy, “Sir?”

She felt him shift his weight and then he was leaning over her more with his face rather close to her own she thought self-consciously as she stared up into his dark eyes. Those eyes were regarding her in turn with… scepticism? She couldn’t help frown a bit at that and asked tentatively, “Sir? What’s wrong?”

“Nothin’,” he answered as he peered down at her. “You awake for real this time?”

“Um, I don’t know what you mean.”

“Simple Carter, this isn’t the first time you’ve woken up,” he explained. “This also isn’t the first time you’ve spoken to me but you never remember it.”

Sam couldn’t think of a response to that, especially as she didn’t remember much of anything the way her brain was all fuzzy. “Sorry Sir,” she apologised, “can… What happened?”

“What do you remember?”

Sam thought and after few minutes was able to see something in her head. “We were captured,” she said slowly. “By… by a goa’uld, she… did Teal’c call her a nanny?”

“Yep,” he answered. “Nanny Worst-est.”

“Worset,” she corrected.

The Colonel’s expression softened as he looked down at her with relief in his eyes now. “Hey, that’s the first time you’ve done that.”

She gave him a puzzled look.

“Corrected me,” he grinned. “So yeah, we were capture by Worset and her Jaffa but you managed to rig the cell door, we destroyed the engines with a few blocks of C-4, and—”

“We escaped in gliders,” Sam said with certainty as she remembered more, “but got caught by the rouge hyperdrive field when Worset’s ha’tak exploded and ended up… are we still on the same planet?”

“Yeah, Saame or something.”

“Saame?”

“Yeah, it’s what the natives call themselves, or call the planet. Not sure which. They don’t exactly speak much English.”

“I remember there being life signs on the sensors,” Sam said softly. “How did we… end up with the natives?”

His expression closed off. “You fell in a hot spring and got sick.”

Sam furrowed her brow and struggled to remember. She did remember them landing in the planet’s Arctic circle and them not having any gear to speak of, so she guessed, “Hypothermia?”

“At first,” he agreed. “There was something in the hot spring though.”

“Bacteria?”

“Or something. You got a fever from it anyway.”

“Feels like it,” she confessed with a grimace. “So I was sick for a day or so?”

“Carter,” he spoke softly with an inscrutable look in his eyes, “you’ve been sick for the past two weeks.”

She looked at him incredulously. “Two weeks?”

“Okay, technically thirteen days,” he clarified. “You have the fever for the first four days and… it was bad Carter. It got real bad,” he said softly as he withdrew emotionally and physically by leaning back.

She tried to turn her head, to keep his face in view, but hissed at the pain that flared along her neck and shoulders from the movement.

“Easy there,” the Colonel said as he leaned back over her, a hand sliding under her neck as he helped her turn from her side onto her back. “You’re better Carter, but you’re not recovered yet.”

She gave him a grateful smile at being turned over and appreciated being able to see her surroundings more. Overhead she could see foodstuff on the rafters and the walls of the room were stacked stones. It also gave her a much clearer view of the Colonel and his chest that was bare except for the two chains of tags that hung from his neck.

Two chains?

Sam tried to feel the weight of her tags and felt nothing, so wincing at the pain of the movement and feeling how her arm shook as she moved it, she lifted her hand to feel her neck. She stopped though and stared at the line of white paint that ran down her arm and her fingers on her trembling limb. “Sir? Why do I uh, have this on me?”

“Hey, don’t knock it Carter. That’s their thermometer.”

“Thermometer?”

“Yeah, it changes colour with your body temperature.”

“Its thermal reactive?” she asked with fascination and moving her other hand, felt the white stain on her skin. “How does it work? What is it made of?”

“Jeez Carter, how should I know?”

She looked back up at him and gave him an apologetic look as she finished what she’d intended to do, which was feel for her tags. “Are those, er, my tags you’re wearing?”

The Colonel’s hand went to the tags hanging from his neck and he gave her an embarrassed look. “Yeah. Here, you can probably have them back.” Checking the writing, he pulled her set off and draped it back around her neck.

Sam shivered a bit as the metal, warmed from his skin, settled on her own skin. “So you were wearing them because?”

“Took them off so they didn’t get in the way when treating you,” he said.

She fingered the tags and then softly said, “So, two weeks?”

He looked away but this time at least he didn’t physically withdraw. “Yeah. The Doc… we’ll need the Doc to check you over when we get back.”

Sam swallowed down her worry. If he was saying that… what had she just gone through? Is that why she couldn’t remember anything? Couldn’t remember losing two weeks of her life? “How… When are we going home?”

“Hanno says soon,” he frowned a bit, “by the end of the week if my understanding is right. There is some big festival for their, er goddess I think, that is coming up and they’re all going to the stargate and taking us with them.”

“Hanno?”

“Their medicine man or something. Jonas would probably call him the shaman.”

“I thought you said they can’t speak English?”

“Hanno speaks a bit, and just as much Goa’uld, so we’ve been getting by on that,” he answered with a half shrug of a shoulder. Shifting his weight again, this time he began manoeuvring out from behind her and apologised every time he inadvertently jostled her a bit.

He got out of the bed and Sam was thankful to discover that the Colonel was not naked like he seemed to be, but was wearing knee length shorts of some sort that weren’t Earth made. She guessed that two weeks in the same set of BDUs could drive even the Colonel to wear native clothing.

“Hungry Carter?”

Sam felt her stomach growl appreciatively at those words. But her body was also insisting on other needs. “Yes Sir. But, um, actually, I have to go to the bathroom.”

“I’ll go find Rana,” he said and after pulling on leather leggings of some sort and a plain navy blue tunic, ducked out of the room.

Sam only had a few more minutes to observe the room and the other sets of beds like her own lining the room with the centrepiece being the hearth. Then a native woman with hair so blonde it was white and very blue eyes in a navy blue tunic and pants with red embroidery bustled into the room.

She found the woman, if she was Rana, didn’t speak a word of English or Goa’uld but had very gentle hands as she was helped to use the chamber pot and discovered at the same time, just how much of her had been treated with the native’s thermostat—which was all of her.

Exhausted by the exercise and tucked back into bed, Sam found it almost too much of an effort to eat the bowl of broth that was given to her. She wasn’t even sure, as she slipped back into sleep, if it was Rana or the Colonel that took the mostly full bowl from her.

When she awoke later, she still ached abominably but she felt a little more energetic. The Colonel wasn’t in bed with her this time, but sitting by the hearth with five blonde haired and blue-eyed natives and she was introduced to Hanno, his wife Rana, their sons Feles and Doffa, and Girsti—who the Colonel simply, and predictably, called Granny.

So, the next four days fell into a bit of a pattern. She slept and woke and ate and worked on her Goa’uld when she talked with Hanno. Their communication wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, and she often thought that Jonas would love talking to the man about himself and his people.

Each day she felt better, but she worried because while she felt better she didn’t improve a lot in other ways. Her body continued to ache and bending her neck could bring tears to her eyes. Still, she celebrated certain milestones, like when she was first allowed to use the bathroom on her own, when she got clothes, and when she was allowed to hobble out of the bed on her own and just sit by the hearth.

As for her and the Colonel, it sort of felt like something had changed between them at times when she caught him looking at her with an inscrutable look on his face, but the rest of the time it felt like nothing had changed. He was just himself and sharing the bed was like sharing a tent, only closer. And if there was more now… well, she didn’t let herself think on it.

The fifth day was different though. When she woke up, she found her BDUs neatly folded on top of her covers at the foot of her bed and Rana and Girsti were bustling about the room with more activity than usual.

She dressed and ate slowly and observed, from the number of people passing back and forth in front of the doorway, that everyone was unusually busy. This was confirmed as the hours passed and she saw the boys dash in and out with their foxes at their feet either carrying something or getting something from the room, but did not see the Colonel or Hanno once.

It was late, near evening, when the two men ducked through the doorway with the boys. The Colonel shed the native winter parka he was wearing to reveal his BDUs underneath and he dropped down beside her and after a gruff hello to her, dug into the dish handed to him with evident enthusiasm.

Sam asked after he’d finished his second helping, “What’s going on?”

“It’s the night of their goddess,” he answered, “and everyone’s getting ready for the trek to the stargate. I’ve been helping load sleds and stuff.”

“Oh, Beaiviidja,” Sam remembered Hanno speaking of the event, which from what the man said about the sun being at its southernmost point in the sky, was their winter solstice festival.

When the meal was done and cleared away the natives got dressed. Hanno’s outfit was particularly striking, all white with gold decoration with the gold thread embroidery and a heavy gold work collar. The women and boys clothes were much fancier too, with silver thread in the embroidery of the sky blue clothes they donned.

The Colonel dressed in the winter parka again and stooped down beside her, “Here Carter.”

“Sir!” Sam flushed red and exclaimed in surprise as she was lifted off the ground, blankets and all. “What are you doing? I can walk!”

“Stop squirming Major,” he said sharply as he adjusted his grip. “And you know Hanno doesn’t want you walking more than a few steps on those toes yet.”

Her cheeks still burning she looped her arms around his neck and she dropped her gaze. And while she grumbled, she made sure to do it only in her head and not out loud to the Colonel.

She was soon far more interest in looking around when he carried her out of the doorway and she got her first sight beyond the room she’d been restricted to. They wound through a stone passageway that was interrupted by other doorways that opened into rooms with those big stone dressers in the far wall and that, unlike the one they’d been in, had beds set in alcoves and not out in boxes.

She blew her breath out and watched it condense in a cloud of white as they emerged from the passageway into the outside. A field of torches was burning in the evening darkness and illuminated a mass of people and sleds and animals. Sam was incredulous that there were so many people living here.

The Colonel set her down in one of the sleds that had a reindeer hitched to it and more fur blankets were tucked around her.

Sam gave him a wild look as he straightened the topmost blanket. “I hope you’re not expecting me to drive this thing!”

He chuckled and his mitt covered hand patted her knee beneath the blankets. “No worries Carter, you won’t be driving. If you notice, it’s only got a lead line and no reins.”

“Oh,” Sam replied in relief. She hadn’t noticed, but then again transportation that involved livestock wasn’t her thing. Her thing had engines.

Fifteen or so minutes later, Sam wasn’t sure because she didn’t check the time on her watch, someone began drumming. The drum was picked up by other drums and then people began chanting and the torch lit procession began winding its way across the tundra. Doffa, who was now holding the lead of the reindeer pulling her sleigh, joined the chant and guided the animal forward. With a soft jerk, the sled started forward and slid smoothly over the crisp snow and the Colonel walked along side.

Sam craned her head around for one last look behind. To see what the homes of the natives looked like but she only saw were mounds of snow with smoky trails rising from the centre. So she settled back and enjoyed the reindeer ride. She couldn’t help grinning about that. It was four days before Christmas and here she was in a sled being pulled by a reindeer.

The mood was incredibly festive as they walked through a winter wonderland that glowed with the light of the two moons overhead. All the adults were singing and those that weren’t carrying torches were banging drums. Young children skipped and raced amongst the steadily walking adults and hopped onto sleds pulled by reindeer or people for rides when worn out.

Sam didn’t think they’d covered more than a klick when she saw, off to the side, a steady group of lights in the night that she realized was another torch lit procession. The other group grew closer as they progressed forward. Then, off to the other side another group appeared and in time, even more.

She couldn’t help but stare at the sight of the other torch lit processions. Usually the people they encountered off-world numbered only in the hundreds but the people on this planet clearly numbered in the thousands, if not more, if she went by the sea of torches she was seeing. The chanting continued as well, blending so harmoniously that she wondered if they all knew which song to sing or if the songs just all matched so well.

A few hours passed and the ground began rising mountainously as they entered a heavy pine forest and the light of the torches flickered and cast shadows amongst the snow laden boughs of the trees.

In time they reached a mountain valley that was illuminated by hundreds of torches from people that were already here. Here most of their procession halted as they spread out amongst those already present, but Doffa guided them forward till they could see the torchlight reflected off the worked naquadah of the stargate as it stood majestically in the night.

They were a few yards away when Doffa drew the reindeer to a halt. There were a few other torch carrying people, and sleds in front of them, but mostly their view was of the stargate and of the white clothed people drumming on hand drums and chanting before it.

Sam guessed all the people in white were shamans, considering their proximity to the stargate and their apparent control of the festivities. On the platform was a sturdy looking wooden rack that already had a number of objects on it. It reminded her of ’gate offerings that she’d witness elsewhere offworld, where the offerings were ‘sacrificed’ into the kawoosh of the event horizon.

Thus the night passed with the white dressed shamans leading the chants and dances that had the crowd of people lining the sides of the valley circling the stargate. She wasn’t wake for all of it, as she dozed off in the comfy cocoon of blankets on the sled, but she thought the Colonel was awake all night as he was awake and on his feet every time she woke up.

Waking from another nap, Sam cracked a yawn and realized that there was light on the horizon. Dawn had arrived.

Horns and pipes now joined the drumming and the chanting and the dancing of the shamans in front of the ’gate became more intense. With better light now, she could see that some of the shamans were whirling about with colourful objects of some sort or another held up in their hands. When one was raised high and caught a particular strong beam of sunlight creaming over the mountain her breath hissed out as she recognized what the large concave object was.

The central red button of a DHD.

Sam searched in front of the stargate, through the dancing shamans, and saw what she hadn’t been able to get a good look at in the night. She stared in dismay when she saw that the DHD was a gutted shell. She’d fixed DHDs, but she didn’t think she’d ever been faced with something as bad as what she was seeing now. “Sir!”

“Yeah Carter?”

“The DHD, they destroyed it.”

“Nah,” he shook his head as he crouched down beside her. “I watched them dig it out, it was like that already.”

“Then…” Sam swallowed. That meant that if they had reached the ’gate when they’d first landed on this planet, they wouldn’t have been able to get home. Not even with manual dial out, which always took the four of them, or Teal’c and the Colonel together. “We won’t have been able to dial home.”

His grim expression said he agreed. “Looks like we got lucky after all. Running into the natives.”

“How Sir?” she looked at him blankly.

He nodded towards the stargate. “They got the pieces Carter, the shamans. Hanno looks like he’s got the control crystal actually—little hard to miss that big red crystal—and remember Carter, Hanno’s talked about going through the ’gate. That means either they know how to put the DHD back together, or they know how to manual dial.”

Horns began blowing more intensely, reverberating through the valley, and the shamans converged on the DHD.  As the valley grew even brighter from the light creeping over the mountains, four shamans led forward a white reindeer and after smearing oil or something on its coat, lifted it up onto the wooden rack. Then, the DHD reassembled and clearly working as the inner ring of the stargate began to spin, the chevron’s engaged one by one.

Just as the sun rose over the mountain the event horizon kawooshed and washed over the sacrificial animal and disintegrated it and the wooden platform so that only four stakes remained. A mighty, approving roar arose from all the Saame at the sight and the four shamans stepped forward and set fire to the stakes.

The Colonel rocked back on his heels. “Not much longer to home Carter. Hanno told me that after the gift to their goddess is made, the journeys of the shamans begin and because it seems we are shamans of a sort ourselves, our ticket is booked and we’ll be home in time for Christmas.”

Sam was happy to be home for Christmas but frowned at the rest. “Why do they think that? About us being shamans.”

His mitt scratched behind his ear. “Well, I think it’s how Hanno heard it when I told him we escaped from Worset and her Jaffa—demons to him—and found ourselves here. From the way he talks, he seems to think that we escaped up from some underworld but didn’t make it through scot-free, which is why you got sick.”

She stared at him incredulously. “He thinks that? Really?”

The Colonel nodded and looked as baffled as she felt. He looked at the engaged stargate and then looked back at her, their eyes connected and he reached down and gave her leg a squeeze through the blankets. “Look Carter… after the Doc looks you over… whatever happens, you’ll be alright.”

“Yes Sir,” was her soft response.

“Good,” he said gruffly as he squeezed her leg again, and then colour on his cheeks from the hours spent in the cold night air or something else, he stood up and faced the stargate again.

Sam looked at him and the way home him beyond and felt a warmth in her chest that had nothing to do with the pile of furs she was cocooned in. Yes, even if the verdict that Janet gave her was a hard one to accept and live with, like the Colonel said, she would be fine.

Because she wouldn’t be alone.

-FINISHED



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