by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: May 2003
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
CATEGORY: Action/adventure, angst, S/J romance, UST, hurt/comfort.
RATING: PG-13, language
SPOILERS: First Commandment
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Between season 6 and 7. Series sequence: Abyss Novelization, Sirikat, Fields of Gold, A Nice Quiet Week in the Country, Brothers in Arms, Shadows on the Moon, Parada, Light Duty, Snowbound.
SUMMARY: Unexpected severe weather leads to a struggle for survival.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
O'Neill had gone way beyond regret that he had decided to try to beat the snowstorm back to the stargate. He had left Jonas and Teal'c to continue their work translating temple inscriptions that pointed to a Goa'uld weapons cache while he and Carter made the trek back to the gate for supplies.
P8X-776 was coming out of an ice age, and the long winters were still severe. The snows were receding to unveil remnants of the Goa'uld civilization that had once flourished here. The stargate and some ruins were located just south of the furthest reach of the mighty glaciers, spared by good fortune to attract treasure hunters. No one was on-world to object, the people who had once lived here having long since gone through the gate in search of warmer habitations.
Neither of them had been too concerned when the temperature had started dropping and the low-hanging clouds had started to spit snow flurries. But they had still been a good ten miles from the stargate when the flurries had turned into a snowstorm, then a real blizzard.
They had been left with no alternative but to find shelter within minutes before whiteout conditions forced them to hunker down where they were. The roots of a fallen tree provided a wind break and they had dug a glorified foxhole, piling up snow for insulation.
O'Neill had radioed Teal'c and told him their circumstances and approximate position. The Jaffa had replied that he and Jonas had blocked off the temple entrance and that they would have no problems waiting out the storm.
He and Carter had set up to wait it out as well. They had got into dry clothes and had been reasonably comfortable in their sleeping bags out of the wind for the rest of the day. But then, after the sun had gone down, the temperature had plummeted to forty below. Their jail cell had turned into a death trap.
O'Neill commented, "Doesn't this bring back memories."
Carter laughed wryly. "Oh, yeah. At least you didn't break every bone in your body this time, sir, and we're not sharing the place with a freeze-dried Jaffa."
"Yeah, that's a couple of big improvements, I gotta admit," he grinned in the darkness. "OK, out of that sleeping bag. We're not gonna make it unless we keep each other warm."
They got out of everything down to tee shirts and underwear, and piled the clothes on top of the sleeping bags for extra insulation.
There wasn't even any pretence at embarrassment any more. Sam just naturally fit up against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. They held each other tight while their nest warmed up enough for them to stop shivering. They talked to stay awake, speculating about the weapons cache, trading SGC gossip, anything to keep from drifting into an eternal sleep.
The next thing O'Neill knew, he heard Carter's desperate voice as if from a great distance. "If we freeze in here, there's no way they'll find us before spring. We'll be MIA for two or three months. Do you want to put everyone through that? Wake up!"
An adrenaline rush born of pure fear woke him up in a hell of a hurry. "Shit! Sorry, Carter. I didn't even know I was going under."
"You scared me awake anyhow, Colonel."
"Yeah, me too." He could feel her heart pounding just as fast as his own. There was no way he was letting go of her any time soon. "Jesus, that was close."
"We're still here," she replied. "That oughta be good for another half-hour or so at least."
"Oh, yeah." He felt the warmth of her breath on his neck. "Carter?"
"If we're ever really not gonna make it...I mean really...to hell with the regs, okay? I gotta know I'm gonna have once. We are so not gonna go out in some stupid blaze of glory without ever going to bed together at least once."
She laughed, a very shaky laugh, but it was a real honest to God laugh all the same. "That sounds like a deal to me. Of course, we'll have to figure out some way to make Anubis or whoever give us at least an hour's notice ahead of time. If we only ever get once I damn sure want to do it right."
They both laughed till the tears ran.
"Carter, we've been a couple of freakin' idiots. Ever since that damn zat'arc test we've been worrying so much about what we can't have that we've never stopped to think about what we have already. Don't get me wrong. If it works out that we can be something more than colleagues and friends it will be the most amazing thing I can imagine...."
"But you don't get that without having this first," she said. Then, "Oh, crap, I think we're grown-ups."
"No way," he protested.
Finally being able to joke about the most important thing in their lives made it real but comfortably distant, like all the other milestones that made up lifetimes. For now, they were Colonel and Major, and they were living the only lives they could imagine living for the duration. When the time came, they wouldn't so much be changing their lives as completing them.
Sam decided if they did get out of this, the next time Jack asked her to go fishing with him, she was going to say yes.
Just not in the wintertime.
"Colonel, my feet are really starting to hurt."
"Yeah, mine too. Don't worry as long as it hurts. It's when it stops that you're in trouble." Careful not to let too much heat out, he got a heat pack out of his pack, activated it, shook it up to mix the chemicals, and put it down by their feet. "It won't help that much in this cold, but I guess it's better than nothing."
Carter shook her head hard.
"Still with me?"
"Yes, sir. Has it been longer than an hour since the last time I asked you what time it was?"
"OK, I won't ask then."
"It's a game, Carter. Best-worst-most. What was the worst landing you ever made?"
Carter said without hesitation, "Oh, in the Gulf. Some idiot in a hummer drove right out onto the runway in front of me. I hopped over him and came back down wrong, flipped I don't know how many times. Half the plane was scattered all over the runway and the rest looked like a balled-up piece of aluminum foil. It took half an hour to cut me out of there, but I got out of it with bruises. Obviously someone Up There intended for me to freeze my ass off under a dead tree!" She laughed. "What was yours?"
"On a mission I can't talk about, my spotter and I got out of a place we weren't supposed to be in a helicopter that didn't belong to us. Lonnie's the one who knows how to fly a helo, but he had a couple of bullet holes in him, and a shot of morphine. He tells me he'll talk me through it, there's nothing to it. OK, except we were landing on an aircraft carrier, at night, in a rainstorm. Did I say rainstorm? I meant a freakin' hurricane. Now you would think it would be easy to land something the size of a mosquito on something as honkin' huge as an aircraft carrier, right? But what I didn't think about and Lonnie didn't tell me was, they don't stay in one place. When we were coming down, the ship was cresting a wave, and ker-smack! We hit the deck like a rock. Then we started sliding sideways, and I was thinking, Jesus Christ, we're headed straight for Davy Jones' locker. I don't know how long it took to get us out of our restraints and get Lonnie out of that thing, but it felt like about a year. I was OK and so was Lonnie, except for being shot, I mean. But if I never have to fly one of those damned things again it'll be too soon."
"OK, you win that round!" Carter admitted. "What was the...most embarrassing thing you ever did on a date?"
"Now that's goin' back some. A guy in my outfit set me up with his sister. She might not have been a beauty queen, but she had her pride, and she didn't want to go on a pity date set up by her brother. So she switched places with her roommate. Her drop-dead gorgeous roommate. I didn't have a clue. So we're in this bar, and I'm thinkin' I died and went to heaven, when in walks my buddy. I don't know who was more embarrassed, me or him, but he sure learned his lesson about underestimating Tammy!"
Carter laughed. "You've got me there, too, sir. The most embarrassing thing I ever did on a date was to fall asleep in a fancy restaurant!"
"I should've known you never did anything embarrassing on a date. Let me think. Worst thing you ever did in high school."
"OK...you go first."
"No, that's not how you play the game."
"I can't think of anything."
"OK, OK, I got drunk on prom night and drag raced my dad's car, with my date and another couple in the car," he said. "When I sobered up and read the next day's paper, a guy and a girl in my class had wrapped their car around a tree--drunk and speeding. That could've been the four of us, too. Scared the crap out of me. I've never been behind the wheel of a car again after I've been drinking."
"Wow. That was bad."
"Yeah, it was. I must have been out of my freakin' mind."
"You were young."
"OK. So, now, Carter, what's the worst thing you ever did in high school?"
Carter wished she hadn't agreed to this game, but if O'Neill had told the truth, she had to. "My best friend and I cheated our way through our French final and I let her take the rap for it by herself."
"You didn't do that. Did she ever forgive you?"
"Oh, yeah, it was Heather's idea. She didn't want to put me through it with my father if he ever found out. As far as her daddy was concerned, she could do no wrong. He wrote a big check to the alumni fund and made it all go away. She went to the right college, married the quarterback and lived happily ever after."
"Whereas your dad..."
"Would not understand that the reason I didn't deserve an A in French is that I suck at French."
"Ah, hell, Sam. You were afraid of him." Right then, O'Neill could think of a certain snake-head who had a good swift kick in the ass coming to him.
"Neither one of us is the same person we were then. It wasn't that I was afraid he'd hit me or anything like that. It was that my world revolved around living up to his expectations of me. I was...Jacob Carter's reflection."
"You did, sir."
"I mean it," she insisted. "When I didn't shoot Jonas Hansen...and endangered everyone...it was the first time I ever really fucked up when it counted. I didn't know how to recover from that."
"For cryin' out loud, what were you supposed to do, commit hara-kiri or something? I'm not even sure I'd call it a screw-up. You were engaged to the guy. He might have listened to you. And even if you did--you make a mistake, you do what you can and you move on."
"Exactly, sir, that was the lesson you taught me."
"Y'know, I thought my old man was a real tough guy because he took a swing at me now and then, when I had it coming. But even when we were both sitting in the kitchen with beef steaks on our eyes and Mom screamin' at us for a couple of damn fools, I never doubted that he loved me for myself, screw-ups and all."
"Dad hurt himself a lot worse than he did Mark and me. We both eventually grew up and walked away from the abuse. Until Selmac straightened him out, he was a bitter old man who was dying alone with his pride. She saved his life in more ways than one."
O'Neill said, "If cribbing a French test is the worst thing you ever do in your life, I think Saint Peter will let you in."
"Yeah, I guess you're right, sir."
"Of course I'm right."
It had to be the coldest part of the night. Both of them had started shivering badly, and Carter was having a terrible time staying awake. She bit down on her tongue, trying to use the pain to keep herself alert. It wasn't working.
"Carter, I swear to God, if you let yourself go to sleep, I will."
"Now that isn't fair."
"Yes it is. This isn't my idea of fun. If you get to just drift off, so do I." He held her tighter, if that were possible. Every scenario he'd come up with that had them separated ended with something happening to him, not Carter. He couldn't think about that and do his job, so he just shut it out. But the worst memory he had wasn't what he'd gone through as a POW in Iraq, or what Ba'al had done to him, or even--God help him--Charlie lying dead. It was the time he'd had to shoot Sam. Sitting there with machines keeping her body alive. Knowing she had a living will and that he was going to have to honor it and order Fraiser to shut the machines off. Knowing it was the last order he would ever give. A miracle had brought her back to him then.
Carter didn't know whether to be angry about the blackmail, or scared, because she didn't know how much longer she could hold out, not even for the both of them. She deliberately kicked her half-frozen foot against a tree root. That hurt badly enough to wake her up, but the pain came from further up her leg, not from her foot.
"That goes both ways. My feet are frozen. I'm not going to try doing crippled unless you're with me."
"You're not gonna be crippled."
"You're not, Carter, I mean it!" O'Neill insisted.
Carter thought about getting out on a medical because they had to cut her feet off. She decided just to believe him instead of thinking about that any more. She fought for all she was worth to stay awake.
When she stopped shivering, O'Neill knew she was going to lose that fight.
Carter knew it too. "I promised you once. Do we still have time?"
He couldn't answer her in so many words, just kissed her, and she kissed back. Finally, he forced his voice to work. "If...if we don't...there's no way I'd rather go than making love to you. Kinda thought I'd be about a hundred at the time..."
"No, Sam, don't be." He kissed her again, letting everything go except this moment with her.
A noise broke into their concentration on each other.
"Carter, am I hearing things? That sounds like a snowmobile!"
She turned over and struggled to get over to where she could see out between a tangle of roots. A big blocky shape was visible in the moonlight.
"It's some kind of a snowcat, and Teal'c and Jonas are driving it!"
"Son of a bitch!" O'Neill whooped. He turned his flashlight on and they struggled back into their BDUs, then O'Neill reached for his radio. "SG-1-3, this is SG-1-9, we're dug in under a downed tree about 100 yards on your six, over."
Teal'c replied, "I hear you. I see an area just ahead where I can turn the vehicle around. SG-1-3 over."
Ten minutes later they were in the cab of the snowcat, gladly enduring the agony of slowly warming up as they headed back to the stargate.
O'Neill smiled at Carter. He could still feel her body tightly pressed to his, could still taste her kiss. "Y'know something, kids, your timing really sucks."
Misunderstanding, Jonas apologized, "I'm sorry it took me so long to figure out how to get it started." He went on to explain how he had finally cracked the puzzle and opened a secret door into the weapons cache below the temple. They weren't sure what they had yet. Most of the haul had been packed in boxes and they had loaded the crates and all onto the snowcat.
O'Neill and Carter listened, sort of, but mostly they just shared a silly grin. As usual, Teal'c just drove without saying a word, but O'Neill figured the Jaffa hadn't missed a thing.
They lay in neighboring beds in the infirmary. Their feet looked awful, with little rolls of gauze keeping their healing toes from sticking together. But Fraiser said that, once again, they could expect a full recovery. Tomorrow, she said, they could get up and walk around.
O'Neill watched the doctor go and tried to ignore the burning pain. He knew it was nerves healing and that a pain shot wouldn't help that much. So skip the damn needle.
Carter was itching to get to her lab and dive into the discoveries that Teal'c and Jonas had made. And he was going to get to hang out and pester her while she worked, one of life's greatest pleasures.
Carter sensed that he was watching her and turned over, smiling. Seeing her warm, safe and happy was the best medicine in the world. "G'night, Carter."
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