Title: Water in the Moonlight
Category: a/a, drama, suspense
Date: October 31, 2002
Summary: SG-1 falls victim to the frightening practice of an alien culture.
Warnings: Eh… language, as usual. Some mildly tense situations and equal opportunity whumpings.
Author's Notes: What you are about to read is a cheesy, predictable, plot-driven tale, and the author knows it. <g> In honor of Halloween (boo!), I present for your (hopeful) enjoyment, a fun, quick, escapist piece to get you in the spirit. Although, this story really has nothing at all to do with Halloween. I finished it about five minutes before posting it, and it is un-alphaed, un-betaed, and even un-reread by myself. Please be kind.
Jack inhaled as he stepped out of the wormhole and onto a solid stone dais on a world light years away from where he'd been just a few seconds earlier. While the trip through the stargate itself may have become habit, even occasionally mundane, it never ceased to amaze him just how familiar an alien planet could be. Maybe that was why he always seemed to notice trees.
Panning his vision over his new surroundings, Jack absently noted his team's activities while he surveyed the surrounding forest. Teal'c had taken up a position mirroring his own on the opposite side of the metal ring as Carter moved to inspect the DHD. Daniel leisurely took the few steps down off of the platform, squinting as errant rays of bright sunlight filtered through the canopy and into his eyes.
The wormhole disengaged behind him and the forest suddenly became eerily quiet. With the exception of a few bird calls and the sound of a light breeze fanning the leaves above their heads, the planet was silent. Jack turned to look at Teal'c, hoping to read some sign in his face that told him he had noticed something Jack had not, but all he saw was that the Jaffa tightened his jaw and his grip on his staff weapon. The observation did little to allay the wonky feeling building in the Colonel's stomach.
Squashing his uneasiness, Jack swallowed and tried to add a semblance of normalcy to the scene.
"So, Daniel…" he queried, stepping around the stargate to join the archeologist at the bottom of the steps.
"Yes, Jack?" Daniel replied, as he searched the high leaves for signs of animal life.
"Where to?" Jack asked, hugging his P-90 to his chest. Daniel lowered his gaze and looked back at him, confusion and irritation getting equal time.
"What're you asking me for? The UAV didn't pick up a single sign of intelligent life," Daniel replied. "Still not even clear on why we're here. Mineral samples, electromagnetic phenomena… oh, boy…" he added under his breath. Jack grinned.
"I heard that!" Sam said from several feet away, having completed her inspection of the DHD, which was a surprising distance away from the gate itself. "If you didn't want to come, you should have said something."
"I thought I did…" Daniel breathed to Jack with a hint of a smile. Jack coughed to hide a laugh.
"I heard that, too. Jeez, Daniel… every mission can't be about digging up ancient civilizations. It's my turn," Sam replied indignantly, though she was wholly unsuccessful at maintaining a straight face.
"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia…"Daniel mimicked. This time Jack didn't even bother coughing.
"Daniel, you've been spending way too much time with me." Jack said between laughs. Sam rolled her eyes and threw her arms into the air in exasperation before collecting her equipment and walking into the woods, following the signal emitted by the downed UAV.
"Carter! Hey, Major!" Jack called after her, sobering just a little. Daniel shook his head.
"Way to go, Jack," he said, patting the Colonel on the shoulder before heading out to follow Sam. Jack's jaw dropped.
"Hey, for once, it wasn't me, *Daniel*,"Jack said, turning to Teal'c for a little support. Predictably, Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow.
"May I ask you a question, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, as the two men fell into step beside each other.
"Shoot, big guy."
"Who is Marcia?"
Jack stopped walking and examined his friend's features. "Go ask Daniel," he finally replied before moving again, half jogging to catch up with Carter and Daniel and humming the Brady Bunch theme song.
All things considered, Sam was really quite the happy camper. It *was* her turn, for once, and she was thrilled to tears about the prospect of maybe discovering some new form of energy, a new infinitely useful metal or mineral… maybe even a breakthrough vaccine that would put an end to the common cold. Sam shook her head at her own ridiculous musings. But a girl could always hope.
And despite her earlier attempt at being sullen at the behavior of her teammates, she could understand the fact that not one of them really wanted to be on the planet, on this mission, following her to find a UAV that had crashed as a result of unusual electromagnetic emissions.
Just like the Colonel had been able to ignore her little 'stalk off alone into the forest' act. Sam cringed inwardly. Maybe the dramatic exit had been a little over the top. It wasn't like she could spend several years on SG1 and not have a sense of humor. Especially where the guys were concerned. Well, Daniel and the Colonel, anyway. For some reason, she felt that she could always count on Teal'c, at least, to unwaveringly take her side.
In the hour or so since they'd gated here, the Colonel and Daniel had fallen into an amiable silence behind her, keeping their eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary. Teal'c had made his way past them to walk beside her, taking up a watchful stance while Sam's attention was monopolized by the tracking device in her hand.
Every fifteen minutes or so, Sam had paused momentarily to collect a few soil samples. Granted, she performed that particular duty with regularity despite being spectacularly overqualified, but if she was really honest with herself, she could say that she actually enjoyed it. Taking samples afforded her a few moments in which she could forget about tracking odd energy signatures and the UAV and simply look around.
The forest had grown progressively darker and denser as the team traveled, though there was still plenty of light to clearly see by. The local fauna bore a striking resemblance to an anorexic Redwood forest. The brick colored trunks of the trees stretched a good 75 feet into the air, and were capped by huge, sprawling leaves. Gorgeous as the whole set up was, though, it lacked a bit in the creativity department. The bushes and vines woven throughout the forest had the same large, flat leaves. They reminded Sam of Maple, but with a slightly varied shape.
As she contemplated the densely grown area, she also came to realize that the place was a tactical nightmare, which would explain why the Colonel and Teal'c had seemed a little high strung upon stepping out of the gate. Sam couldn't help taking a careful look around and opening her ears to any unusual sounds as she stooped to take another sample, the little hairs on the back of her neck bristling as though they had been touched by a mild breeze. Sam shivered.
"Sam? Everything okay?" Daniel asked lightly. Sam smiled shyly at being caught in a daze and got herself back into gear, finishing her collection and standing up. Daniel smiled at her and handed back the tracking device he had been holding for her.
"Yeah. 'Course. Someone just walked over my grave," Sam replied. Daniel smiled before turning to follow the Colonel and Teal'c, who had already started walking again. Sam took one last look over her shoulder before picking up her pack and catching up with the rest of the group.
Teal'c's attention was riveted on everything happening around him. Or, more accurately, on the lack of things happening around him. The forest was quiet, save the sounds of the and the rest of SG1 and one or two birds. There appeared to be no wildlife on the floor of the forest, which troubled him greatly. He noticed that the rest of the team was more subdued than usual as well, having silently agreed to dispense with the normal conversation accompanying most off-world hikes such as this.
He heard one of his companions stop, and assumed it to be Major Carter wanting to take another sample. He turned to discover it had, in fact, been O'Neill.
He'd stopped and was standing still, with his hands at his sides and a puzzled expression on his face.
"Sir? What is it?" Major Carter asked as she and Daniel Jackson trudged up to flank O'Neill. He did not respond.
"Jack?" Daniel Jackson probed, tugging at the sleeve of O'Neill's jacket. The Colonel blinked then, and reached an arm across his chest, snaking his hand around to the back of the opposite shoulder. He plucked what appeared to be a thorn out of his jacket and slowly brought it to his face to examine it. He then looked to Teal'c, moving his mouth, but only succeeded at clearing his throat. Teal'c unconsciously tightened his grip on his staff weapon, then took a step forward and took the thorn from O'Neill's shaking fingers.
"Something's wrong…" O'Neill breathed softly, blinking hard. He slowly wiggled his fingers in front of his face, then tried to take a step, but faltered.
"Jack, are you alright?" Daniel Jackson questioned again. O'Neill drunkenly jerked his head toward him and blinked again before falling to his knees. "Jack! Sam, what's wrong with him?" Daniel Jackson caught O'Neill and eased him to the ground.
"Sir? Sir, can you hear me? Colonel?" Major Carter knelt down beside Daniel Jackson and O'Neill, taking the Colonel's pulse and checking the dilation of his pupils. "Daniel, I don't know. Teal'c, what is that?" Major Carter looked up and questioned Teal'c with her eyes.
"It appears to be a thorn of some sort, Major Carter. I believe it pierced O'Neill," Teal'c replied, and held it out to the Major.
"It is a possibility, Major Carter." She sat back on her heels and regarded him for a moment, then looked back down at O'Neill.
"Colonel?" She asked again, trying to get some response.
"Carter… Can't move…" he mumbled, barely moving his lips. Major Carter and Daniel Jackson's eyes widened in concert.
"We have to go back," Major Carter said. Teal'c nodded solemnly and assisted Daniel Jackson in lifting Colonel O'Neill to his feet, which proved to be a fruitless endeavor.
"I will carry O'Neill to the Stargate," Teal'c said. Major Carter nodded and pulled Teal'c's pack from his shoulders, easing his load.
"Right. Daniel, take point. We gotta make time, here, guys… get the Colonel back to the infirmary."
"Yeah. I guess this place isn't as devoid of life as we thought," Daniel Jackson replied, drawing his pistol and moving forward in the direction of the Stargate.
Major Carter nodded. "No kidding," she said softly, hefting her P-90 in her arms and furrowing her brow in concentration.
Daniel's arm felt weighed down by the Beretta in his right hand. He didn't actually take it out of its holster that often, and when he did, it felt like a foreign object in his grip. It didn't belong there, but he knew it was necessary. Something was definitely wrong with this planet, and Daniel really didn't care to be the next victim of whatever it was that had downed Jack.
He glanced worriedly back again at his friend's still form in Teal'c's arms. Jack's eyes were open and darting around, but the rest of him was still as death. Daniel shivered involuntarily before focusing his attention again on the forest. He had to keep watch.
He tried to listen for anything out of the ordinary, but truth be told, it was the fact that there was nothing out there to hear that was scaring him the most. The hairs on his arm stood on end and Daniel shivered again.
A second later, the still quiet of the forest was disrupted by a heavy grunt behind him. Daniel spun around only to see that Teal'c had stopped a few steps away. Jack's eyes had widened and Teal'c had a confused look on his face. Sam was pointing her rifle out into the forest, her eyes searching.
"Teal'c?" Daniel whispered, approaching his friend. Teal'c blinked then shifted his grip on Jack, but Daniel could see that shifting wasn't going to help. He got down on his knees and managed to break Jack's fall as he slid out of Teal'c's arms and gracelessly toward the ground. Teal'c was quick to follow. There was a thorn sticking out of the side of his neck.
"Shit," Daniel said, finally drawing Sam's attention. He looked up at her. "Teal'c's just been hit, too," he answered her unasked question.
"Shit," was Sam's breathed reply. "Stay down, Daniel." Daniel nodded and watched as Sam slowly turned around, carefully scanning the trees for any sign of danger. He barely breathed, hoping to hear *something* that might tip them off as to the direction from which any attacks may have come, but the forest was as silent as ever.
Daniel looked at Sam, then back out at the brush and finally saw something. A darkened shape against the green foliage, moving silently. He automatically reached for his gun, unsafed it, and fired. Sam spun at the sound and fired a few shots in the same direction as Daniel. She stopped after a couple of rounds, breathing hard and staring into the trees.
Daniel was gasping for breath, adrenaline pumping. He jumped when Sam crouched down beside him.
"How are they?" she asked quietly. He shook his head. "That bad, huh?" Sam sighed.
"What're we gonna do? We can't carry them both all the way back to the Gate," Daniel said, running his fingers through his hair.
"We'll just have to build a travois or something. We need to get them home," Sam replied as she tried to roll Teal'c off Jack. "This must be pretty powerful stuff if it was able to knock Teal'c out so fast. Daniel, what were you shooting at? What did you see?"
Daniel shook his head and was about to answer when he felt a small prick in his bicep. He looked down at his arm, only to see another thorn poking through the material of his jacket.
"Oh, no," Sam breathed, and leaned over to pull the thorn from Daniel's arm. He looked at her, his eyes afraid, but he didn't say anything.
"Think it's just a paralytic…" Daniel mumbled softly, and shifted his eyes to look at the Colonel and Teal'c. Sam followed his gaze and saw that both men's eyes were still open and alert. The Colonel's fingers were twitching slightly.
"Damn it, Daniel…" Sam eased him to the ground and grabbed his hand when he started to sway. "Shit."
"Go get help," Daniel murmured. His hand went limp in hers. Sam swore again under her breath and gritted her teeth. She stood up and poised herself to fire at the next motion she saw or felt.
Despite Daniel's request, Sam wasn't about to do anything of the sort. Her fingers curled around the barrel of her gun, her trigger finger tensing of its own volition. She fought to control her breathing, but was on the verge of panic. Her entire team was incapacitated, piled together in a rather undignified heap at her feet.
And they were still conscious. They could see and hear her, she was almost positive, and at the moment, she could think of nothing more terrifying. They could see and hear and feel, but they couldn't move, couldn't defend themselves. They couldn't fight back against whatever it was that had been stalking them.
"Not going anywhere, Daniel. And, Colonel… I know that if you could, you'd probably be ordering me to go back to the Gate, but, since you can't…" Sam said, both trying to comfort her friends and herself.
She stood there for several minutes, nearly holding her breath, just waiting for an attack. Suddenly, a blur of motion caught her eye. She fired a few rounds in its general direction, but whatever she had seen, it was no longer apparent to her.
"Son of a bitch," she sighed. "Okay, next… thing… I see is getting a bullet in the head," she grumbled through clenched teeth.
The next thing Sam heard, was her own breath catching in her throat.
"Ah, crap," she gasped, as she leaned down to pluck a tiny thorn from her thigh. Immediately, her left leg started to fail her. While she still could, Sam spun awkwardly, spraying bullets into the woods in all directions. If she was going down, she could at least try and take some of the bastards with her.
It didn't take long, though, for her fingers to loose the small amount of dexterity needed to pull a trigger, and her arms fell limply to her side as she fought to stay on her feet. Her P-90, still clipped to her vest, swung into her ribcage and its momentum was enough to drop her back onto her butt, then to her back. Her arms wouldn't respond to her brain's order to catch her before she landed.
She felt like she'd had a handful of muscle relaxants shoved down her throat. She struggled to claw her way across the ground toward Daniel's much lighter hand gun, which he'd dropped as he fell, hoping she might have more success with that. But with her fingers mere inches away from its handle, her muscles died. Her chin thudded into the packed dirt on the ground, painfully jarring her head and neck. Sam didn't even have the strength to wince.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Carter finally fall. He heard her hit the ground then struggle to move toward them, pulling and scraping the hard dirt, then everything went quiet. All he could see was the forest canopy, the last bits of the day's light streaming down between the leaves and branches. It was getting dark and Jack was in no way thrilled about it.
Unable to do much else, the four people laid motionless and silent on the ground. Jack was face up, lying on his back with Teal'c sprawled over his legs. Carter had tried to roll him off, but hadn't gotten very far. Jack could hear Daniel's breathing a foot or so away and Carter was just on the other side of Daniel.
They stayed there for what seemed like hours, Jack trying desperately to concentrate on listening to the forest. But there was nothing to hear. So, he tried instead to move. He started small, attempting to wiggle his fingers and toes. Occasionally, he managed the odd twitch, but could never really tell if it had been him, or just random muscle spasms.
And when a tight, angry looking face jumped suddenly into his line of sight, Jack would have given anything for another of those spasms. Preferably a severe one, originating with his knee and causing his boot to contact the alien's head. Hard.
The alien squinted and studied him, and Jack studied back, as best he could, considering he couldn't move his head. At first, Jack was actually more curious than anything… Daniel had been rubbing off on him far more than he was willing to admit… but that changed as soon as the little guy started jabbing him with something really sharp… probably to see if whatever was on those darts was really working at peak efficiency. Jack couldn't help a woeful mental chuckle at that… he could personally vouch for the stuff's effectiveness.
He could feel the alien's hot breath as he leaned in close to Jack's face, could feel the jabs to the various parts of his body acutely, yet with something of a detached objectivity. They hurt. They hurt like a son of a bitch, but what could he do about it? Frankly, the whole situation was really pissing him off. And it just freaked him out that he had yet to hear a single sound produced by his new friend, or any of the other natives that he could sense hovering over his friends.
That, and his nose itched.
Eventually, Mr. Happy must have been satisfied as to his incapacitation, and finally stopped poking him. Instead, he turned his head away from him for a second and a whole group of them came walking over. One by one, Jack saw them look down at him, then he felt Teal'c being pulled off his legs. Jack was too much of a hardened cynic to believe for any amount of time, that they were just trying to help and be friendly. This could not be good.
Half of his new entourage broke off from the pack and he saw Teal'c being lifted up and carried away. The natives were small, about 3 feet tall, not human… almost like demonic little pygmies with sharp, pointy teeth. They must have been remarkably strong for only 5 of them to pick up Teal'c. Again… not a good thing.
Jack felt himself being lifted soon after that. Eight or ten little hands pulled at the edges of his body, then hefted him into the air enough for them to actually get under him and carry his body above their heads. None of them grunted, none of them even breathed loudly or sighed. They didn't talk, either. He wondered vaguely what Daniel was thinking about them.
Daniel was not a happy camper. Not only could he not move, barely even blink, but there was suddenly a group of scary little creepy creatures huddled around him. Poking him with sharp objects in places he *really* didn't want to be poked.
His mind was racing with a million tasks all at once. Most of which included calming himself down, reminding himself that freaking out wasn't going to do anybody any good, and, of course, he had to wonder what was up with the… people they'd just met.
From what little he could see of their feet, and from the one face that had bothered to come down and scowl in his rather limited line of sight, he decided that they were aboriginal, primitive, and people he would probably not want to have over for dinner. Which birthed another unpleasant thought: what if *they* were dinner? It wasn't unheard of on Earth for some primitive cultures to practice cannibalism. Although, since they weren't of the same species, would it still be considered cannibalism? Or just plain old predation? Daniel did not like where this train of thought was headed.
He tried again to slow down his quickening heart as they lifted him up and twisted him around so that he was looking up at the high branches of the trees.
They were fast. He could feel himself moving, could feel the occasional twig scratch at his clothes or leaf hit him in the face. It was almost like he was floating. Like the people carrying him were barely hitting the ground with each footfall.
Then, taking Daniel completely off guard, they practically threw him back down onto the ground. He landed on his side like a sack of potatoes and gasped raggedly at the feel of a splash and icy cold water seeping in through his boots and pant legs. He slowly lowered his eyes to try and look down the length of his body, to discover that he was, in fact, on the shore of some body of water. A lake. And he was in the water up to his mid thigh.
Another splash drew his attention, and he saw Jack dropped about 3 feet away from him, facing him, then Sam, just on the other side of Jack. Daniel didn't see Teal'c, but that wasn't saying much. For all he knew, he was just behind him.
The natives walked away, then. Just left them there, alone. He looked at Jack, and could tell he was trying to convey 'What the hell?' with his eyes.
Daniel relaxed. This wasn't so bad.
This was bad, Sam thought. This was really, really bad.
They had dropped her in just such a way as to give her a pretty good view of the Colonel and Daniel, as well as the lake they were all partially submerged in, and she did not like what she saw.
At first, she *had* started to feel a little better, had a little hope. The natives who had brought them here had left, which had to be a step in the right direction. But after a few minutes, she started to feel the water creeping slowly up her body. When they'd dropped her, it'd only been up to her hip and about at the Colonel's kneecap. Now, it was up to her waist. Her hand lying on the coarse sand was completely under the freezing water and was starting to go numb, along with her toes.
She had to move, had to get her body responding, or she and the others were going to drown. And judging by the rate at which the water level had risen so far, Sam didn't think they had much time. As she tried again to wiggle her fingers, she vaguely remembered a few fun facts about this particular planet, for instance, it's very large, very near moon, which would no doubt be responsible for very dramatic tidal forces.
As the water climbed steadily toward her chest, her hand and arm had started to float, and were now riding the surface, moving with the small waves lapping against the shore. The only sound was that of the water, and it was eerie. Like she was dead. Like the men lying beside her were dead.
Sam stared out at the water, lit only by the brightness of the full moon and occasional star. There was a pattern to it, a rhythm that put her at peace, like the candles Teal'c used for his kel-no-reem, and she meditated on it, concentrated on it. She couldn't do much else.
And then, the pattern broke, and there was an errant ripple in the middle of the water. Something that didn't belong. Then she saw it again. Closer this time, approaching the people on the sand.
When she saw a third, alarmingly near aberration on the surface of the water, the waves had risen up past her breasts, to the point where she would probably have started floating, had it not been for her heavy and waterlogged gear still attached to her clothing. Within the same moment, she also saw the Colonel's body jerk. The motion was ugly, like the final fighting spasm of a body near death.
She didn't want to watch the Colonel die, so she looked back out at the water, and saw another ripple. Close enough, this time, for her to make out a very clear image of eyes and teeth.
When Jack's body suddenly went rigid, he wasn't prepared for it. It hurt. A lot. His hands clenched, his jaw locked, and felt his legs kick out against the water, which by now, had reached about to his sternum. He didn't know if his body was just finally shutting down altogether or if the sudden wakefulness of his muscles was a good thing. He saw Daniel watching him, and knew he was probably thinking the same thing, and without thinking, Jack smiled awkwardly, to tell his friend that so far, everything was okay.
At that, Daniel's eye's widened, and Jack realized what he'd just done. He tried it again, and his lips responded just as they should. The rest of him, however, was still a little harder to reach. He had to struggle to start relaxing his hands out of their cramped position, fighting both the poison in his system and the numbness induced by the water.
Jack took a deep breath and tried to speak, coughing and gagging as he did, but it was progress. He smiled again at Daniel, but he wasn't looking at him anymore… he was looking out at the water. Jack couldn't imagine what, at the moment and considering recent developments, could possibly be out in that lake that was more interesting than his own efforts to move. So, he followed Daniel's line of sight to see what all the fuss was about.
He jerkingly moved his neck and squinted… actually *squinted*, joy of all joys… and saw some kind of really unpleasant thing high-tailing it in their direction. Then the one thing was joined by other things and, if Jack was any kind of judge, they looked hungry.
They looked like snakes. Like very large snakes, but with fins and mouths full of teeth. They actually quite reminded Daniel of Goa'ulds, and that just made him want to scream.
And suddenly, everything made sense to him… the natives, the darts, the lake. And he realized that he had been right. They *were* dinner. This could all even be some twisted form of live sacrifice. How many times had those people done this before? Were they the first humans to be offered on the menu?
He fought to move, to twitch, to slither up the bank, but nothing happened. He looked back at Jack, who looked at him at the same moment. Their eyes locked and Jack had a pained expression on his face.
Daniel's heart sank when he realized what it said. Jack was getting better, but not fast enough. He couldn't pull himself away, yet, not to mention drag Daniel and Sam out of the water. Teal'c didn't seem to be around, but if he was, he doubted Jack would be able to move him an inch through wet sand.
He watched Jack keep trying. Slowly, Jack managed to move his right arm out in front of him. He curled his abs and tried to worm his body up the shore while clawing at the ground. He did move, slowly, but surely. Just not enough to pull life out of the jaws of death, and not fast enough to escape the creature slithering up next to him, wrapping itself around his legs.
Jack was looking down at the water, again, then his head lifted and he looked at Daniel with alarm. "Daniel!" he gurgled, eyes wild. Daniel looked down and saw one of the snake-things writhing up his own torso, head displacing the material of his collar and coming into contact with his neck.
Then Daniel tensed, much in the same way Jack had moments before, he imagined. The water around him splashed in response, and the creature balked and prepared to strike, sensing its prey might not be as helpless as it thought. Daniel subconsciously braced against the pain he knew was coming.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and waited, but instead of teeth, all he felt was a gust of air and a thud resonating through the body of the creature and into him.
Sam watched in horror as the large, muscular snakes attacked Daniel and the Colonel, forgetting about the water lapping into her nostrils and her own new friend, who had taken to exploring under her vest after tightening its length around her knees and thighs. She did have the presence of mind, though, to hope it would snag itself on her zipper.
She choked as she breathed in a nose full of water. She waited for the suspect wave to retreat before taking her next breath. A deep one. She thought it might be her last.
She was right. The next wave covered Sam's neck and threw water into her eyes. And it didn't recede. She panicked. She closed her eyes and shuddered, believing for the first time since they'd set foot on this planet that she was, in fact going to die. She wanted desperately to see what was happening to Daniel and the Colonel, and tried to look, but felt only the sting of the dark, dirty water in her eyes and could see nothing through the murkiness, save the toothy grin of her snake, whose head had finally popped out at the top of her vest.
Her lungs screamed for air and her chest heaved. Her body convulsed, which gave her a fleeting ounce of hope, but her muscles were still ignoring her, dealing only with the pain of coming back to life.
Sam didn't appreciate the irony.
Instead, she thought a prayer and squeezed her eyes shut against her body's strains for function and air, hoping that maybe some miracle had saved her friends' lives, that maybe somewhere Teal'c was okay, and that he wouldn't blame himself.
Teal'c was immensely satisfied by the feeling of clubbing the great reptile off of Daniel Jackson. He basked in both his returning strength and his victory. Daniel Jackson sighed and opened his eyes and Teal'c leaned down to grab his vest and pull him out of the water as the younger man involuntarily tucked into a fetal position. He then turned and offered O'Neill a hand, assisting him in crawling up the bank as he kicked away the snake around his legs. Teal'c helped by untangling the creature and tossing its girth aside.
O'Neill twisted and fell on his opposite side, looking away from Daniel Jackson and himself. Teal'c turned his head, scanning the beach, looking for Major Carter.
"Jesus," Teal'c heard the Colonel whisper. Teal'c spun and looked down the beach and finally saw a partial silhouette in the darkness. A shoulder, a forehead, and a crown of wet, blonde hair. Her boots kicked frantically in the water and the arm that had been floating plunged down, desperately seeking leverage.
Teal'c ran back down to the water, hoping he wasn't too late. He would never forgive himself.
She stilled as he reached her.
He lunged at the snake's head, grabbing it and pulling it away so it couldn't bite him or Major Carter, then wrapped his fingers into the back of her vest and pulled. She emerged coughing and sputtering, gasping for air, and Teal'c almost laughed at the pure joy her pained sounds garnered. She was alive, as were they all, and Teal'c was grateful from the bottom of his heart.
"Teal'c!" O'Neill shouted. Teal'c looked back at where he had left him and Daniel Jackson and smiled. He had managed to sit himself upright, leaning on his arms behind him. Teal'c crouched beside Major Carter and patted her firmly on the back, hoping to help dislodge any water still left in her lungs. She gave him a weak smile as she rolled from her back to her side, spitting out drops of water between labored breaths.
"She is alright, O'Neill," Teal'c replied, and stood, pulling Major Carter to her feet with him. She was unsteady and leaned heavily on him, and he practically carried her back over to where he had left his other two team mates higher up on the shore. As the slowly progressed, though, the practice must have done her good, for she grew more confident and capable with every step.
"Thanks, Teal'c," Major Carter breathed as he lowered her to the sand next to Daniel Jackson. Teal'c bowed his head.
"O'Neill," he reported. "We must make haste."
"They're still out there," O'Neill said thoughtfully, nodding.
"Indeed," Teal'c replied. O'Neill sighed, and held out his hand. Teal'c understood the gesture and leaned down to help the Colonel to his feet. O'Neill nodded a quick thanks, then reached down to help Daniel Jackson, who had already begun stretching out his worn limbs.
"How are you holding up, Teal'c?" Daniel Jackson asked with a grunt, as O'Neill pulled him up.
"My larval Goa'uld was easily able to counteract the poison, Daniel Jackson. I am well."
O'Neill smiled and shook his head. Daniel Jackson did much the same as he replied, "Why do I even bother asking?"
Jack hadn't had this much trouble running since the last time he'd come off a month on the injured list. He panted and strained, but knew he couldn't stop. His knees hurt, along with every muscle in his body.
He reached out an arm to urge Daniel to move a little faster. He was running next to him and starting to lag behind. Daniel ducked his head in response, and tried to put on a burst of speed. Carter and Teal'c were a step behind them, and he could hear Carter struggling for breath. He didn't blame her. Hell, they'd all just come this close to death, and now they were running the miracle mile.
It just wasn't fair, he thought.
Then, he couldn't forget the little band of scary pygmies that he knew were following them. He'd seen a few pygmy-shaped shadows in the brush, and was smart enough to know what they meant.
His team kept running. The area was becoming familiar again, and Jack hoped to God they were getting close. He knew his limits and knew that after a few more minutes keeping that particular pace, he'd fall over from exhaustion.
Finally, he saw the DHD and charged ahead. He literally ran into it, smacking the symbols as fast as he saw them. He pounded the red center crystal and the Gate activated. He looked back at Carter and was relieved beyond words to see that she had already started punching the code into the GDO. She finished and nodded to him when she got confirmation.
Daniel tiredly sauntered up next to him Teal'c pulled Carter through the Gate. Jack took one last look into the trees, and saw more alien shadows among them than he was comfortable with. He grabbed Daniel's collar and dragged him up the stairs, throwing him through.
Jack turned one last time and saluted the pygmies emerging from the trees with a smirk. Being the last human left on the planet, he felt it was his duty to shout a heartfelt "Up yours!" at the hateful little creatures as he backed into the wormhole.
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