Title:  The Days of Wine And Raven

Author: katstales

Email: katstales@sbcglobal.net

Category: Hurt/Comfort; Angst; Drama; Action/Adventure

Warnings: Violence (some graphic); Language; Jack Whumping; Sam Whumping; Adult Situations; OC Death; DarkJack

Pairing: Jack/Other; Jack/Sam

Season: 7, prior to Heroes but after Chimera

Spoilers: Brocca Divide, Seth, Show & Tell, Into The Fire, The Devil You Know, The Curse, The Serpent's Venom, Double Jeopardy, Enemies, Metamorphosis, Fragile Balance, Chimera

Content Level: 18+"--no question about it!

 

Summary: After SG-1 visits a supposedly uninhabited planet, Jack finds himself not only fighting for his team, his career, his planet, and his life--but for his very existence as a human being.

 

Archive: Jackfic.com; all others, please ask first.

 

File Size: 372KB/ 41,510 Words

 

DISCLAIMER: Tragic though it is, I don't own 'em. Stargate Sg-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only and no money has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement intended. This story may not be posted elsewhere without consent of the author. Any similarity to real persons or Faery-Goddesses/aliens from other planets, whether living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Feedback: Yes, please!

 

Author's Note: This is my entry for the Jackfic-a-thon.  It's my first attempt to write any kind of S/J pairing in a story.  My apologies in advance to any shippers who find it lacking--I tried, really I did!  Many thanks to whoever provided the plot bunny--I had a total blast playing with it!  I can only hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.  Thanks to Dee, for all her hard work and for coming up with the idea for the Jackfic-a-thon--and, despite my initial panic attack, for giving me the perfect bunny to play with when I asked for something dark! <vbg> Thanks also to MUM for all her hard work in giving us a home for all the entries--along with a whole slew of other stuff she did behind the scenes!  And finally, thanks so very, very much to Anny for beta-ing this monster for me--and for keeping me from having a total mental meltdown at the beginning of it all!!

 

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The Days of Wine and Raven

 

Note: Leanansidhe is pronounced (Lan-awn-shee)

 

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rav·en   v. 1) To consume greedily; devour.

v.  tr. 2) To seek or seize as prey or plunder.

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The lone pair of sentries stared down in anticipation as the last chevron lit.  They looked at each other, nearly drooling over the prospect of visitors.  It had been over an Age since anyone had journeyed here through the portal.  There had been a very recent false alarm when only a couple of mechanical devices had come forth from the open portal.  The Mistress would be beyond pleased if living, breathing beings were to travel through this time.  The event horizon settled, bringing a momentary end to the usual eerie darkness of their world.  The duo watched eagerly as four human figures emerged.  There was only momentary disappointment when no others followed and the wormhole winked out of existence.  Aye, the party was small, but they would suffice quite nicely. 

 

The watchers exchanged a gleeful look, holding an entire silent conversation in the blink of an eye.  The younger male sentry immediately spread his large black wings and took flight; the older female stayed motionless on her perch high in the tree to observe.  Each of the four humans held a small portable light to brighten the roadway.  With the artificial lights to guide their path, the quartet seemed to be headed into the city toward the Anathema.  Merely thinking of the forbidden place sent shivers down her spine.  The Mistress would not be happy if they were to successfully venture there.  Her keen hearing allowed her to pick up their conversation with ease.

 

"We'll do a quick sweep of the area first, Daniel.  Then you and Carter can play with the toys to your heart's content."  This man was obviously the leader of the group, tall and lean with a hint of grey hair at the edges of his cap.  He moved with a graceful elegance that stirred the cravings deep within her.  But nay, she must resist!  One so fine as this would have to be left for the Mistress alone.  Still, there were three others in the group for her kin to share.  The fates had indeed been kind this day!

 

"I'd like to examine these stelae in greater detail, Jack.  There might be something the MALP footage missed."  This speaker was a younger man who wore strange clear circles over his eyes, though he didn't seem to have any trouble seeing.  Perhaps that was their purpose.  His hair was darker than the others and while he was nicely proportioned, he didn't quite manage the natural grace of the leader.  Still, she and the rest of the female autochthon alike would greatly enjoy having him.  If she did her job well enough, the Mistress might even allow her to be the first to have him.  Even from this height, she could hear their blood singing to her.  It was like a siren of the Old Ages, luring her to act prematurely.  It was only through a supreme effort of will that she forced herself to remain in her perch and observe them.  And wait she must, or explain her actions to an enraged Mistress.  She didn't want to even think about what punishment might be dealt her were that the case.  Nay, she would stay and complete her task.  A task that would be much easier if the leader would allow the young one's request.

 

The leader sent an assessing look toward the taller, dark-skinned member of the party, who nodded ever-so-slightly in return.  Well, this was quite odd.  He was not dressed as a servant of one of the Mistress's brethren, though he bore the mark.  The mark of a Right Hand, at that.  Oh, what a luxury he would be!  Dark skinned, he was slightly taller than the leader and the bulk of muscle was evident even under his strange garb.  There was no hair upon his head and likely none on the rest of his well-developed body if he followed the old traditions.  And somehow, she was certain he did.  Aye, having the being within to boost his limits, this Right Hand would be able to sate them for a very long while.  And the Mistress willing, she would be among the first to take of him!  The thought was almost enough to ease her lament over the forbidden status of his leader. 

 

Though no words were spoken, there seemed to be an entire conversation between the two during that one brief look.  Remarkably, the feeling was not of lord and servant, but one of equals.  Yet in spite of that, he seemed to defer to the leader as much as the others.  Even more peculiar, neither of the other underlings bore any marking.  Was the leader of the same kin as the Mistress?  Had one dared return after all this time?  If he were one of Her brethren, why was his mark absent from the two underlings?  Very curious, indeed.

 

"All right, but make it quick.  I get the feeling we're being watched and don't want us getting caught out with our shorts down."  The leader's words nearly caused the sentry to fall from her perch.  She blinked, eyes wide with astonishment. This leader did not sound nor act as any kin to the Mistress she'd ever seen.  Where was the arrogance?  The exaggerated air of self-importance?  And for that matter, where were the gaudy and flashy garments?  No brethren would ever willingly deign to be garbed as plainly as this, nor would one allow his servants to wear the exact same coverings--plain or not.  She noted with interest that the leader had sensed her presence even before the silent conference with the Right Hand.  His instincts were considerable.  The Mistress would be ecstatic when She finally got him into Her clutches.

 

"The MALP showed no sign of human habitation, sir."  Ah, finally the woman was heard and her voice held a very pleasing timbre.  She was quite attractive, despite the short length of her blonde tresses.  She was fairly tall for a human female and even though the garments did little to reveal her womanly assets, there was no doubt that she was female.  And such a lovely countenance did she possess.  Aye, her fellow male denizens would immediately be vying to have their time with this lovely morsel.

 

"Maybe, maybe not, but I'm telling you, there's something out there watching us.  Fan out and give Daniel a few minutes to look at his scribbles.  Then we're out of here."  Aye, for sure the leader definitely possessed the instincts of a highly skilled warrior.  The Mistress might well want to keep this one permanently.  Perchance She might even share him once before he was transformed.

 

"Okay, Daniel, time's up.  Got anything more?"

 

The younger man seemed a bit irritated, but answered immediately.  "No, Jack, nothing the MALP didn't show us.  But I'd still like to study them under better lighting."

 

The leader, Jack seemed to be his name, did not seem at all fazed by the young man's sharp reply.  "If all goes well, maybe tomorrow you can set up some of the bigger lights and do just that.  Now it's time to move out.  T, take point. Carter, you're next.  Then Daniel.  I got our six."

 

The sentry paused for a moment to ponder leader Jack's words.  Six of what?  Could they have found something to prevent her or any of her kind from taking them?  Could that be why the group was bold enough to journey here?  No matter, she had to act now and chance their defenses would not work on her.  The Mistress would be livid if she allowed them to pass completely unhindered.  It was unquestionably obvious the group was headed to the Anathema and if they reached their destination, no one would be having any of the strangers.  Although if they were brethren to the Mistress, they would not be able to activate the device within.  Still, no matter who or what they were, once within the structure, neither the Mistress nor any of her kind would be able to follow.  Those inside would have to come to them and there was only one way to assure that happened.  Her decision made, she silently took flight.

 

The group had already entered the main gate of the city and was nearing the library.  They would be at the Anathema long before the others could arrive.  She had to slow them down.  It was apparent that all four of the visitors were in very good physical condition, a fact which made her blood sing.  It meant they would last a long time once taken. At the very least, she needed to mark one of them.  She smiled as she approached leader Jack at the rear of the line.  This couldn't have possibly worked out any better, shy of them staying near the portal until the others arrived.  The air shimmered around her as she swooped in with claws extended.  She would not be seen, but the evidence of her presence would be undeniable.

 

Razor-sharp talons met flesh.  A scream of surprised outrage alerted the others, but it came far too late.  Skin and muscle rent, splattering glorious red human blood everywhere.  Chaos ensued.  The chatter of ineffective projectile weapons filled the air, but none of their offerings found her.  Bursts of energy from the Right Hand's staff joined the useless projectiles, but none of those passed anywhere near her vicinity either.  She soared higher, buoyed by the scent of the leader's blood coating her claws and the desperate cries of his underlings.  It had been so long since any of them had tasted such a delicacy!  Still, she fought the desperate urge to plunge back in to take her fill.  She firmly reminded herself that the leader was to be saved for the Mistress as she circled around for another pass.

 

Beams of light searched her out as she swooped down and in for a second attack.  She laughed to herself, knowing with absolute certainty that they would never find her.  Her prey had made it to his knees, his weapon's light futilely searching the sky with the others.  Then for the second time, claws dug deeply into their victim, lifting him well off the ground before flesh tore and sent him crashing heavily back to the ground.  The screams of pain were music to her ears, even as arcs of blue energy enveloped her.  While it did not slow her down nor injure her in any way, it did briefly reveal her position and the Right Hand was quick to take aim and fire.  The ball of energy came close enough to singe her wing slightly, but did not score a direct hit.  She regretfully abandoned plans for a third pass.  The game had quickly turned into one too dangerous to continue alone and it was still far too early for the others to arrive.  Reluctantly, she abandoned the attack and flew off to meet them.  She would have to settle for marking the leader and reporting to the Mistress.  The smell of his blood on her talons sent her mood soaring.  Aye, the Mistress would be most pleased with what she had found.

 

 

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"Jack!"  Daniel kept one eye on the dark sky and his zat ready while heading to the aid of his injured teammate.  He was dismayed, though not surprised to see the stubborn man trying to make it to his knees before a third attack ensued.  "Damn it, Jack, it's only targeting you!  Stay down and let us cover you!"

 

Dazed from the unexpected attacks, O'Neill ignored him and continued his struggle to rise.  He tensed and tried to strike out when Daniel's hand landed on his back, but it was a weak effort and the archaeologist avoided him easily.  "Sit down and let me help you, you're hurt."  To his great relief, Jack seemed to come to his senses and sank back to the ground.  Daniel fished in his vest pockets for bandages, but kept a wary eye on the sky, his zat open and ready.

 

"What the hell was that thing?"  Though he'd literally gasped out the question, they were all relieved that Jack seemed to be more alert.  His features remained deeply contorted from the agony of his injuries.  He tried to stifle the groans while Daniel tended his wounded neck and shoulder, but was not at all successful.  Refusing to give in to the urge to pass out, he stubbornly focused on the answers of his team.

 

"I have no idea, sir.  Until Daniel hit it with the zat, I couldn't see anything at all.  It must have some type of cloaking ability."  Like Teal'c, Carter was on high alert and continued to sweep the area with the light on her P-90.

 

"Indeed, O'Neill.  Had not DanielJackson managed to reveal the creature's location, I would have been unable to determine its whereabouts.  I believe it has now fled, possibly to alert others of its kind.  We would be wise to seek shelter immediately, before it returns."

 

Daniel frowned at Teal'c's recommendation.  "Sam, I think you should take a look at this.  Some of these are really deep.  I'm pretty sure they'll need stitches.  Maybe we should head back to the 'gate."

 

Before Carter could respond, Jack gasped and then spoke through gritted teeth.  "No, Daniel, Teal'c is right.  It's not as bad as it looks, just a few scratches and they can wait.  We don't know when that thing will be back or if it will bring friends along with.  We need to find shelter and then figure out a way to make the thing visible before we try for the 'gate."

 

Both scientists rolled their eyes at his attempt to downplay his injuries, but let it pass unchallenged.  "Sir, the building we think houses the symbiote removal device is only a block or two from here.  If we go there, we might be able to find some technology to use against this creature, too."  She waited for his answer, but he remained silent.  "Sir?"

 

"Sam!"  Daniel's alarmed cry sent her scurrying to the colonel's side, leaving Teal'c to serve as the lone guard.  His light illuminated the injured man, revealing a clammy, pale countenance.  Further scrutiny revealed shallow, rapid breathing and unfocused eyes.  Even as she reached for his wrist to take his pulse, she knew what she'd find.  As expected, the beat was weak and rapid.

 

"Lay him down, he's going into shock," she instructed.  "Get a blanket around him."  Before Daniel could comply, O'Neill's eyes rolled up in his head.  "Damn it, Colonel, don't do this," she muttered. 

 

With command now falling to her, she took only a moment to consider the situation before issuing her orders.  "Teal'c, you carry the Colonel.  I'll take point and Daniel, you've got our six.  We're going to try to make it to that building."

 

 

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"Incompetent fool!  We will never succeed in preventing them from entering the Anathema now!"  The female sentry cowered before the Mistress.  She had morphed into human form shortly after arriving back to deliver her report and drew her black cape closer around as the Mistress ranted.  "It has been over an Age since the humans last walked this world and you have allowed them to escape our grasp.  You will be punished for this!"

 

The sentry began to grovel in earnest.  "Please, Mistress, I beg of you!  You must allow me to complete my tale."

 

"Do you dare to presume to tell me what I should do, underling?"  The Mistress was nearly shaking with rage.

 

Realizing her mistake, the sentry backpedaled.  "Nay, Mistress, of course not!  I merely beg for the opportunity to present you with a gift and relate to you the rest of my experience."

 

"A gift, you say."  Though extremely angry, the Mistress was willing to be mollified.  "Very well, child.  Finish your accounting.  But heed my warning--you shall suffer my wrath should I not like what I hear."

 

The sentry rose from her prone position at the feet of the Mistress and extended blood-covered hands.  "I was able to mark the leader before being forced to flee."  She dared to move closer until her hands were right in the Mistress's face.  "I tasted not of him myself, but brought all back for you," she offered.

 

The first good whiff of the scent long denied Her had the Mistress greedily grasping at the offered extremities.  She eagerly sucked the sentry's bloodied finger into her mouth and closed Her eyes to savor the gore-coated digit as she slowly extracted it.  Her body tensed suddenly and Her eyes flew open wide with shock.

 

The sentry smiled, knowing her reward was sure to be a large one.  "Aye, Mistress, the essence of the Old Ones flows strongly within him."

 

 

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"How is he doing?"  Daniel asked as Sam taped another dressing in place on the back of Jack's neck.

 

Before she could respond, brown eyes slowly opened and the man himself answered.  "He's doing just fine, thank you very much."  He winced as he tried to get a good look at their surroundings, but the pain forced him to settle back without seeing much for himself.  The only thing he could tell for certain was that he was lying on something hard and wooden, probably a table, and missing his shirt and jacket.  He'd have to find his answers another way.  "Carter, report."

 

"We're in the complex housing the symbiote removal device, sir.  Teal'c is checking out some of the other rooms, but hasn't reported finding anything significant.  Daniel has managed to confirm the writings on the stelae at the 'gate.  This planet was once definitely inhabited by the Ancients. Or at least, this particular building was."  He could tell that she noticed his voice was a little weak, but it was steady and she said made no mention of it.  O'Neill looked past her to his right to find a wall of something looking vaguely like computer stations and immediately assumed that she'd been too distracted by them to work on the symbiote removal device.

 

"What about the device?" he demanded.

 

She hesitated before answering him.  "I don't know, sir.  I haven't been in to look at it yet."

 

His pained wince quickly turned into an annoyed frown.  "And why is that, Major?"

 

Carter gave him a defiant look in return.  "Sir, you've been unconscious for over an hour.  Daniel was right, the gashes on your shoulder are very deep.  I've been trying to get the bleeding under control."

 

Still annoyed, the colonel tried to get a look at his wounds.  He found it difficult to believe she'd be able to pass up those doohickeys for very long after she had finished playing nurse.  Or doctor.  Whatever.  And he wasn't hurt that badly.  He'd certainly know it if he was.  "So has it stopped now?"

 

Sam's tone was respectful, but it was obvious she becoming rather annoyed herself.  "Colonel, you need to remain still.  I've finally got the bleeding under control and if you move around you're going to start it up again."

 

Though suitably chastised, his irritation mounted.  "But it's stopped now, right?"

 

With a reluctant nod, she conceded.  "Yes, sir, for the most part, it's stopped.  But you're going to have to stay quiet and rest to keep it that way."

 

Refusing to acknowledge her warning, he growled out orders.  "Then maybe you should go have a look at the device and find us something to detect that…thing that attacked me so we can get out of here."

 

She stood, eyes blazing, and snapped off a curt "Yes, sir."  After assessing him for a moment longer, she nodded sharply to Daniel, then turned abruptly and marched off.

 

Daniel, who had remained a silent observer to the exchange, stepped forward and called him on his childish behavior.  "A little hard on her, weren't you?"

 

"Stay out of it, Daniel," he warned.  "Isn't there something around here somewhere that needs translating?"

 

"Jack."  Two could play at this game.  He wasn't about to yield to O'Neill's sharp tongue the way Sam was forced to do.

 

"Daniel."  Injured or not, Jack O'Neill would never back down.

 

He was determined to make O'Neill see reason once and for all.  "Look, all I'm saying is that you could have been a little less contumelious about it, that's all."

 

"Was not."

 

"Yes, you were."

 

"Was not."

 

"Were too!"

 

"Not!"

 

"Were!"

 

 "Not!  And I thought you were going to go find something to translate!"

 

"Fine.  Have it your way."  Seeing the futility in continuing, but mostly not wanting to further agitate the man and start his wounds bleeding again, Daniel finally capitulated.  Mumbling his doubts that Jack even knew what the word 'contumelious' meant, he went to gather his supplies from his pack and set to work.

 

He had no sooner settled in with a text than Jack again spoke, his irritation unmistakable. "Daniel."

 

"Yes, Jack?"  Daniel allowed his own exasperation voice in his reply.

 

"Somewhere else!  I don't need a babysitter."

 

Daniel heaved a weary sigh.  "As much as I might beg to differ on the babysitting issue, I'm certainly not about to volunteer for the position, thank you very much.  Take a good look around you, Jack.  We're in their version of a library.  Where else exactly should I be looking for information?"

 

O'Neill gingerly rolled to his back and finally took a good look to his left.  There were long tables in the center of the room, one of which held Daniel's notebooks and pens along with several thick books.  Spanning the two walls and on either side of the door were floor-to-ceiling shelves, all completely filled with texts of varying sizes.  Feeling rather foolish and not having a remotely appropriate suggestion for the linguist, he settled on simply ignoring the question.  "I'm going to rest for awhile.  Let me know if you find anything."

 

 

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Jack turned over in his sleep, having dozed right off after his little verbal tussle with Daniel.  He was so very tired, but something was beckoning him, impelling him to get up and leave.  He rose to a sitting position with a groan and waited for the room to stop spinning, the blanket covering him falling to his waist.  He shivered with the cool air on his naked chest and back, which set the pain of his injuries soaring to even higher levels.  He glanced over at the archaeologist, who was totally engrossed in the text he was studying.  Jack ignored the raging pain in his neck and shoulder and stood, again waiting, this time for his shaky legs to gain strength.  The compulsion to leave intensified and he found himself silently stumbling toward the exit, leaning heavily on the shelves as he went.  He paused when he drew even with his friend, wanting to say something, to call out to him.  He opened his mouth to speak, but no words would form.  He continued on silently, wanting to scream with pain and protest, yet unable to utter a sound.  He paused at the doorway, willing the other man to look up and notice him.  To stop him. 

 

Back at his table, Daniel turned the page of the hefty tome and paused only long enough to scribble some notes on the pad of paper next to him before returning to his perusal of the alien symbols.  He didn't notice the crashing thunder of the sudden storm anymore than he noticed his friend's unsteady exit.

 

Outside the complex, lightening danced across the sky in graceful arcs to the crescendo of accompanying thunder.  A lone red-haired beauty stood serenely atop a nearby hill, her fiery, waist-length tresses billowing gracefully around her.  Her gleefully evil cackle was all but lost in the din of the storm.  Her green eyes flashed and glowed an eerie electric white as she strengthened the urge luring her victim to her.

 

 

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Teal'c warily opened the door to the last room on the second floor.  It appeared this story had been the scientists' living quarters and his search of it had yielded nothing in the way of technology or weapons thus far.  He expected the same result from this final chamber.  Still, one could never be too careful when exploring off-world.  As if agreeing with him, a clap of thunder crashed loudly overhead.  Though it didn't startle him, it did make him uneasy.  He didn't like the suddenness of the storm.  There had been no indication it was brewing; nary a cloud had been in the dark sky upon their arrival.  There had been no stars visible either, only the perpetually full moon.  It was as unnatural as the sudden storm. 

 

He quickly surveyed the room before beginning a more thorough search.  It was much the same as the others.  A bed stood in one corner against the wall.  Next to it, a small cabinet that likely contained personal items belonging to the former occupant.  At the foot of the bed was a small wooden chest, where he would find blankets and other linens if what he'd found in the previous rooms held true here also.  There was also a tall wardrobe along the same wall as the bed, probably still full of clothing. 

 

He decided to start his search with the wardrobe and opened the doors. After sifting through the contents, he determined there was nothing within to help them.  It was exactly as the others.  Clothing and other gear was neatly hung, folded or stacked and waiting for its owner's imminent return.  He was certain these Ancient beings had either fled in haste without packing or the entire group had met an untimely demise.  Perhaps DanielJackson would be able to discover their fate from the writings they had left behind.

 

He moved over to start on the bedside cabinet next.  As he reached it, lightening flashed brightly outside and caused the room's lights to flicker.  Teal'c looked up and tilted his head.  Amid the loud symphony of thunder, he could hear the faint sound of a woman's laughter.  Curious, he crossed the room to look out the lone, small window.  Though it was too high for most people to easily see out, he had no trouble.  Lightning again flashed, illuminating a female figure atop a nearby hill.  His own eyes opened wide as he took in the glowing orbs of the woman as she stood with arms outstretched.  It was then he noticed a second figure struggling to the top of the hill where the woman waited. 

 

"O'Neill!"  He called out as loudly as he was able, but the colonel seemed not to notice.  Shocked, he watched his friend finally reach the top of the hill and fall into the woman's arms.  In the blink of an eye, he was out of the room and racing down the stairs.

 

 

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Daniel stood and stretched, stiff from hours of painstaking translation.  "Okay, I've got something, Jack."  He sifted through the pages in his hand, straightening the stack into a more orderly sequence.  "You're going to love this.  The entire city was dedicated to. . .an Irish. . ."  He stopped speaking when he realized that he was now alone in the room.  Frowning, he keyed the mike on his radio.  "Jack?"  He patiently waited for a response, but none came.  A stirring of unease passed through him and he tried again.  "Jack, you there?"  Still no answer from the leader of SG-1.

 

His disquiet at the lack of response grew, but he tamped it down and tried a different tact.  "Sam?"  For a third time, he query was met only with silence. His rapid conclusion was that the absence of any response from his teammates was probably a result of equipment failure, namely his, so he tried one final time.  "Sam, Teal'c, can anyone hear me?"  As with the previous attempts, there was no answer and his sense of dread increased.  His only option was to go find them and he quickly concluded Sam would be the most logical starting point.  She'd most likely still be working on the technology in the room at the end of the hall, whereas Teal'c could be anywhere in the complex by now.  Jack never handled inactivity well, not even when he was injured as was now the case.  Maybe he had tired of Daniel's total absorption in his work and gone to pester Sam, in spite of her admonition for him to remain still and rest.  The thought comforted him as he carefully folded the notebook pages and slipped them into his vest pocket on the way out the door. 

 

He pulled out his flashlight and started on his way to Sam's last known location.  Daniel shivered, in part from the chilly temperature and in part from the medieval castle-like feel of the place.  The architecture was unlike anything of the Ancients' they had ever encountered, but the technology and writings within were definitely Ancient in origin.  He had determined from one of the texts in the library that the original Celtic population had erected the building and given it to the visiting Ancient scientists for their research. 

 

Thunder rumbled loudly outside and he shivered again as he turned the corner to the final hallway leading to Sam's work area.  If he'd interpreted the correctly, the Ancients had left behind a device to remove a symbiote from its host, leaving the host alive and well.  The promise of that alone had been enough to gain authorization for the mission, but he was well aware the higher-ups were hoping for more.  Much more.  Even alone, however, the device would be a huge boon for their side in the war against the goa'uld.

 

The hallway he was traveling shook with the next burst from the storm, jolting him from his thoughts.  It was long and dimly lit, unlike the majority of the building's rooms, and it reminded him of the constant darkness outside.  Sam had explained in the briefing how conditions here were similar to those on P3X- 797, often referred to as the Land of Light.  Here, the city never experienced more natural light than from a full moon, but he'd tuned out the particulars of the exact cause as he rechecked his notes for his own presentation.  Both he and Sam had found it curious that only a small handful of the rooms had windows, though given what his translations had revealed, he now understood why.  He couldn't help but wince as he visualized Jack's reaction to that little bit of information.  They'd be hearing wisecracks for a long time to come, of that he was certain.  As he approached his destination, he was disappointed to hear no voices within.  Either Jack wasn't there or he was being rather uncharacteristically quiet.  Neither option bode well for the injured colonel.

 

He entered and was immediately relieved to see Sam bent over a low altar-like slab studying a hand-held meter of some sort.  Jack, however, was no where in sight.  "Hey, Sam.  Have you seen Jack?  I tried to reach him on the radio, but apparently mine's not working."

 

Sam looked up at him in surprise, the tool in her hand now forgotten.  "No, I thought he was resting in the library with you."

 

Daniel reluctantly admitted the truth.  "Ah, yeah.  He was.  But you know how Jack gets when he's bored, and you saw how he was when you left.  To be honest, I kind of tuned him out after awhile, so I guess he got annoyed and went elsewhere.  I'm sure he probably said something, but I must not have heard."

 

Sam smiled, her eyes twinkling with amusement.  "But that's so unlike you, Daniel."  She instantly sobered when she realized the implications.  "He may have started bleeding again.  We need to find him.  Fast."

 

Daniel gave her a dirty look, but his gut feeling that something was wrong kept him from responding to her teasing in kind.  "I know.  Look, if he's not here, then he's probably with Teal'c."

 

She nodded and keyed the mike.  "Teal'c, is Colonel O'Neill with you?"  She frowned when he didn't respond.  "Teal'c, this is Carter.  I repeat, we're looking for the colonel.  Is he with you?"  Again, the only answer was dead air.  "Teal'c, this is Carter, do you copy?"  The pair looked helplessly at each other while waiting for a response that never came.

 

"Maybe it's the storm," Daniel suggested.

 

"Storm?" 

 

As soon as Sam asked the question, Daniel suddenly realized that he could hear no sign of the storm that had been raging outside when he'd entered just a few minutes prior.  "Yeah, one blew in suddenly a little while ago. It was pretty intense. A lot of thunder and lightning, but no rain yet."

 

Sam looked puzzled.  "I haven't heard anything."

 

Daniel looked skeptical.  "You can't be serious.  That last peal of thunder a few minutes ago literally shook the building."

 

The look on her face clearly said that had the situation not been so serious, Sam would have thought he was trying to play a joke on her.  Her frown deepened.  "No, I haven't heard or felt anything."

 

Daniel shrugged.  "That's odd, because there's a heck of a storm raging out there.  Maybe this room is shielded or something?"

 

Sam nodded.  "It's possible.  That could explain why the radios aren't working in here.  And it's possible that the storm might be interfering with the signals outside."  Her conclusion reached, Sam traded her meter for her nearby P-90 and turned back to Daniel.  "Come on, let's go find them."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Bolts of lightning flashed brightly around him, pummeling the ground beneath his feet in symphony with the accompanying booms of thunder.  He fell heavily for the umpteenth time, jarring his knees and sending agonizing spikes of pain through his injured shoulder.  He was aware of the chilly air on his skin, though strangely enough, he did not seem to feel it.  He wanted so very badly to stop, to just lay there and let the darkness take him, but that damnable urge to press onward would not allow it.  He didn't really know where he was headed, only that he had to keep going, to make it to the top.  Despite the storm's light show, darkness swirled around him, spinning ever faster and robbing him of his equilibrium.  He had to keep his right hand on the ground for balance now as he stumbled ever upward, chest heaving from the exertion.  His foot slipped, sending him again crashing to the earth, his injured left shoulder taking the brunt of the fall this time.  He rolled to his back, cradling the injured limb to his body as tears of pain slipped from his eyes to trail down his sweat-dampened face.  After barely a moment's rest, he was turning back around and struggling to his knees, cursing the intense compulsion that forced him onward and upward. 

 

He literally crawled the remaining distance, until finally he crested the top.  Instead of flopping down and allowing the dark void of unconsciousness to claim him as his body demanded, he wearily struggled to his feet.  As he stood there gasping for air and swaying, he became aware of a beautiful redheaded woman standing before him, her arms open wide.  She was taller than he, with a curvy figure any woman would envy.  When his eyes finally traveled to her face, his inner voice screamed at him to run, but he was unable to look away from her glowing eyes.  To his absolute horror, he found himself moving forward until he was securely wrapped within her embrace.  Her hands lovingly caressed his bare back and shoulders, her touch igniting a blaze of passion throughout his torso.

 

"At last my pet, I have you.  It has been so very long since your kind have walked among us."  Her voice had a mesmerizing quality and he barely noticed when she ripped the bloody, sodden bandages from his neck.  Her laughter sounded loudly in his ears as she bent her head to the exposed wounds.  He shivered as her tongue slowly traveled the length of one of the gashes.  A renewed rush of warmth flowed over him, setting every nerve ending in his body on fire with blissful euphoria.  He closed his eyes and tilted his head to allow her better access.  As the storm continued its dance unabated around them, she reveled in her tongue's exploration of each open claw mark and the burning rapture within him increased.

 

She literally purred with pleasure as she reluctantly pulled back, savoring the taste of him.  "Oh yes, my sweet.  I am so looking forward to feasting on you more fully.  Come, let us journey to my lair where we will be more comfortable as we partake of each other."  She released him and held out her hand, smiling with lips crimson from her sampling of his vital fluid.  To his utter terror and complete dismay, he grasped the offered palm and found himself meekly following along.

 

His inner voice wailed.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Teal'c was nearly flying down the hallway in his desperate bid to get to O'Neill.  He nearly bowled the two other members of his team over in his haste, but did not stop to explain.

 

Stunned, Sam called after him.  "Teal'c wait!  Where are you going?"

 

"O'Neill is in trouble.  There is no time to explain."  He didn't stop or even slow down when he answered.

 

Needing no other explanation, the pair readied their weapons as they sped off after him.

 

Upon rounding the last corner and racing down the hallway leading to the exit, it was Sam and Daniel who nearly ran Teal'c down.  To their surprise, they found him standing with arms spread and preventing them from going through the doorway.  When a particularly bright flash of lightning struck nearby, the pair realized why their friend had blocked their path. 

 

Mentally counting off the figures standing in a wide arc just outside the door, Sam numbered them at over two dozen.  The colonel, however, was no where to be seen.  The group stared silently at the trio, few attempting to hide their eager, hungry looks.  She gripped her weapon tighter and dared to break the silence.  "Who are you and what have you done with the colonel?"

 

A dark-haired female stepped forward, but stayed well back from the doorway.  "We are what remains of the Sruthangiolla."  A fleeting look of sad regret passed over the creature's very human looking face.  "We have done nothing with your leader."

 

Teal'c pressed the issue before either of the others could speak.  "You know what has happened to our friend."

 

The creature's eyes left Sam and moved to the big Jaffa, her gaze frank, but piercing.  "The Mistress has summoned him and your leader has answered.  He now belongs to Her."

 

Daniel gasped.  "He's with Leanansidhe."  The female nodded, but her eyes remained fixed on Teal'c.  His heart fell and Daniel closed his eyes for an instant.  "Guys, we have to find him and get him away from her.  Fast."

 

"Who or what is Leanansidhe?"  Once again finding herself in command, Sam needed the facts.

 

The creature was still locked in a silent war of wills with Teal'c, so when she didn't answer, Daniel spoke up.  "According Irish-Earth legend, Leanansidhe is a beautiful vampire faery.  She gives inspiration to poets, but the reward for her service is death, or at the very least, captivity in her kingdom.  Like all vampires, she sucks the blood of her victims.  But instead of drinking it, she collects it in a huge red cauldron.  This cauldron is reputed to be the source of her beauty and the power of her poetic inspiration.  It is believed that she lives somewhere under the Irish sea, off the eastern coast of Ireland."  He looked from Sam to the native female for confirmation as he put forth his theory.  "But from what I've been able find in the library, I'm guessing that here Leanansidhe is a goa'uld.  A vampire goa'uld."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Jack had no idea where he was and with each step he took, the will to care lessened just a slight bit more.  He no longer noticed the thunder crashing or lightning shaking the ground beneath his feet as it struck nearby.  All that mattered was the redhead leading him to certain blissful nirvana.  He was light-headed and dizzy from his still-bleeding wounds, but the beautiful siren had a firm grip on his hand and kept him stumbling along at a brisk pace.  His inner voice persisted in railing at his physical body as they entered the cave and began a long trek downward, but he continued to ignore it.  His steps faltered on several occasions and sent him crashing to his knees, but she merely pulled him back up and resumed her brisk stride.  He remained oblivious to everything but her when they came to a doorway and entered a large, lavishly decorated room. 

 

He was completely lost in her beautiful, glowing, green eyes as she guided him to the luxurious bed and pushed him down onto its plush satin coverings.  The sounds of the raging storm could not be heard so far underground, but his heart was pounding nearly as loudly when she climbed over and snuggled up next to him.  Neither spoke as she slowly, sensuously trailed a finger across the firm muscles of his chest.  A rush of exquisite pleasure surged through him when the rest of her dainty hand joined in to caress the rapidly warming flesh of his upper torso, a delicious contrast to the cool, silky material against his back.  Her head bent to again taste of the fluid seeping from her sentry's claw marks and he shivered from the heavenly feelings washing over him.  She laughed, a low, throaty sound, which intensified the thrill pulsing through every cell in his body.  Her tongue trailed across the front of his throat and glided around to the other side, her hair flowing along like a silky veil to caress his chest. 

 

Just when he thought he could stand no more, O'Neill felt her teeth sink into his flesh.  Her bite unleashed a flush of such intense ecstasy that he thought he might die from it alone.  He knew on some level that this should bother him, but the orgasmic rapture he was experiencing prevented any semblance of cohesive or coherent thought.  His inner voice was screaming at him to push her away, but he paid it no heed, instead reveling in the intense euphoria she was causing as she drank the life from his veins.

 

Slowly, she pulled herself away from her feast at his neck.  She hovered over his face, smiling down at him with lips still dripping his red essence.  "Now my pet, we must both sleep.  You are strong and have consumed much of my strength."  Her voice was nearly purring with satisfaction.  "I have not had one as potent as you in many, many Ages.  Possibly not ever.  I so look forward to the full sharing of our essences."  She continued to smile, but positioned the edge of her tongue between her fangs and then bit down.  "But I must first sleep and replenish my energy.  So for now, my lovely, a taste of that which is to come."  Still smiling, she slowly lowered her lips to his. 

 

His mind had cleared enough to recognize the need to flee, but Jack found himself still unable to move or speak.  Gone were the feelings of pleasure and ecstasy, leaving him nearly sick with disgust and revulsion.  He felt her smile turn into a frown when he refused to yield to her tongue's demand for entrance, his only means of fighting her.  She pulled back sharply and glared down at him.  "While I do admire your strength and spirit, you will do well not to defy me." Her eyes flashed brighter and her hold on him intensified once again.  "You will now yield to me!" 

 

She crushed her mouth to his, again demanding entrance.  This time, despite his desperate attempts to deny her, his lips parted.  Darkness swam at the edges of his vision as he tried to find the strength to push her away.  Jack could taste the sickening sweetness of her blood as she plundered the depths of his mouth, his stomach turning.  After what seemed an eternity, she finally pulled away.  He desperately gasped for air as the darkness closed in.  Her heard her voice growing ever fainter and fought hard for awareness.  "Sleep now, my pet.  There will again be time for play after we have rested."  Her gleeful cackle was the last sound he heard as he gave in to the pull of oblivion.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Lightning continued to flash as thunder shook the ground around them, though neither the Sruthangiolla nor the members of SG-1 seemed to notice it as the standoff continued.  The spokeswoman had nodded to confirm Daniel's theory, but said nothing. 

 

Moments later, Teal'c was the one to break the tense silence.  "You will take us to our friend and allow us to pass unhindered."

 

She shook her head regretfully.  "Nay, that I cannot do.  Not only would it anger the Mistress, but my kin here will never agree.  It has been over an Age since we last feasted on pure human essence."  Murmuring and the nodding of heads among the others confirmed her latter claim.

 

"You're all vampires, too!"  Daniel stated the obvious, then let his curiosity have its say.  "Did Leanansidhe do this to all of you, turn you into vampires?"

 

The woman was completely taken aback at his question and finally turned her gaze away from Teal'c to look at the archaeologist.  She stared at him in disbelief, saying nothing, so Daniel pushed on, yelling to be heard over top of the raging storm.  "You're the original inhabitants of this planet, aren't you?"  He waited for her nod of affirmation and then continued.  "Look, we have allies, very advanced beings who might be able to help restore you to your original forms.  But we need something in return.  We need Jack.  You help us get him back and we'll do everything we can to help undo the damage she has done to you and your planet."

 

The vampire shook her head.  "It was not the Mistress who changed us."  She nodded toward the building they were in.  "Those did."

 

Daniel stared open-mouthed in disbelief.  "The Ancients?  You're telling us that the Ancients are the ones who changed you into vampires?"

 

The woman turned to the crowd behind her and gestured to someone in the rear of the group.  Almost immediately, a large, winged, bat-like creature flew off in the direction of the gate, seemingly unconcerned about the storm it was flying into.  The spokeswoman then turned back to the trio in the doorway.  "You do not believe."

 

Daniel looked briefly at Sam and then answered.  "I'm sorry, it's just that we have never heard of the Ancients doing anything so. . .so. . . deleterious before."

 

The sudden rustling of wings startled the three teammates as the departed vampire returned with a thick text in its claws.  After dropping the volume into the hands of the spokeswoman, it returned to the rear of the group once more. 

 

The vampire ran her hands lovingly over the book's cover, a melancholy look in her eyes.  She raised her gaze to stare at Teal'c once again, then suddenly tossed the tome toward him.  "Our story is within.  If you choose not to believe our words, there is a matching volume in the words of the Old Ones in their library.  I read it once, in the time before I, too, was changed."

 

Teal'c stared back at the woman, his eyes never leaving hers even as he handed the book off to Daniel.  Raising his voice to be heard above the raging storm, he challenged her.  "You will not take us without a fight.  Many of you will die."

 

The woman laughed.  "Your puny weapons will have no effect on our kind."

 

Teal'c smiled, a cold, feral look in his eyes.  "Indeed, theirs will not."  In one rapid, fluid motion, he hefted his staff weapon and primed it to fire.  "But this one most certainly will."

 

The woman stared hard at him, but did not back down.  "We have faced your kind before, First One.  You will provide a feast for many of us, something for which each of is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.  We have nothing to lose."  She dared to take one tentative step forward, their gazes still locked.  Suddenly, her brow furrowed and her eyes moved to his stomach.  "You wear the mark of a Right Hand, yet there is no being within to sustain you.  In spite of this, you are not ill or weakened.  Your leader is not one of the gods, yet you follow him.  You are a servant of the gods, are you not?"

 

Teal'c did not let his surprise show, instead allowing his anger to the fore. "I am Jaffa, however I serve no false god and will never do so again.  I have joined O'Neill and fight willingly by his side.  With the help of his kind, I will one day see my people free from the slavery and evil of the goa'uld.  It is they who have made it possible for me to live without a symbiote."

 

There was a loud, angry, collective gasp from the crowd of vampires.  The spokeswoman furiously looked up to meet his eyes once again.  "Do not think we will fall for such trickery!  It has been nearly an Age since the last of clan O'Neill was lost to us.  Nay, passing yourselves off as followers of the old chieftains will aid you not!"

 

Teal'c calmly gazed back, his staff weapon still primed and aimed at the crowd.  "I make no such claim, as I know nothing of your former rulers.  I merely speak of the O'Neill who is my friend and brother."  His look became intense, burning his message into her eyes as he continued.  "Heed my words, woman.  We shall not stop until our friend and brother warrior has been freed.  We will then leave this place.  Attempt to impede us and you will die; allow us to pass unhindered and you will live; assist us and we will attempt to assist you in return."

 

The spokeswoman remained unconvinced.  "Lies!  Surely you do not expect us to believe such a tale!  I observed you when you came through the Great Circle.  I know for a fact, from that one, that your leader is called "Jack.""  She pointed at Daniel, but did not take her eyes from Teal'c for even an instant.

 

Teal'c nodded slightly in response.  "That is correct.  However, his name is also O'Neill. Colonel Jack O'Neill, to be precise."

 

She shook her head.  "It is now we who do not believe you." 

 

Before Teal'c could respond, Sam jumped in.  "What if we could prove it?  You said you were watching us when came through the gate.  If you're the one who attacked the colonel, then you had to have seen a chain like this around his neck."  She pulled out her dog tags for the woman to see.  After the vampire nodded, Carter continued.  "These are our military's means of identifying us.  Our full names are stamped into them.  Please, find Colonel O'Neill and check his.  You'll see that his name really is O'Neill."

 

The vampire shook her head, her sorrow plain to see.  "Even were it true, it changes nothing.  We are a dying race.  Once the last human was transformed, we were forced to look to large game for food.  After a time, they then also ceased to be and we were driven to seek the smaller creatures of the forests to quench our need.  Now even those are no longer plentiful.  We need the sustenance your life fluid will provide."

 

"What if we can get you all the. . .food you need?"  Daniel closed the text he'd been leafing through while still listening to the conversation.

 

The woman seemed doubtful.  "You would send for more of your kind for us to feed from?"

 

Daniel hedged a bit.  "Not exactly.  We couldn't send for people, but we can send for a supply of fresh blood, enough to satisfy all of you.  Just tell us how much you need and let us contact our superiors.  In return, all we ask is your assistance in freeing Jack."

 

The vampire stared deeply into his eyes for a long time.  Finally satisfied with what she saw, she then turned to her companions.  "Take them to the Great Circle and allow them to contact their kin unhindered.  Do not allow them to go through, but wait for me there."

 

There was a cry of protest among the loud murmuring of the group.  "But what of the Mistress!"

 

The woman shook her head.  "The skies are again calm, meaning the Mistress sleeps.  You must go now, but do not allow your needs and desires free rein."  She carefully looked each member of the group in the eye before continuing.  "No one is to touch these while I am gone.  I will see you all at the Great Circle shortly."

 

She turned back to SG-1 with regret in her eyes.  "I will find your friend and bring him to the Great Circle."  Another chorus of gasps sounded behind her.  "However, I fear it may be too late for him.  The Mistress sleeps, which means She has fed from your friend.  If he has partaken of her in return, he will soon cease to be human."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Trembling, the sentry quietly entered the Mistress's lair.  She allowed a deep breath of relief to escape when she saw Her eyes were open and staring blankly.  It was not the glassy-eyed stare of death, which therefore meant She was merely deeply asleep.  She cautiously approached the luxurious satin-covered bed to gaze upon the man lying next to Her.

 

As she took her first close look at his features, it was all she could do to stifle a gasp.  She did not need to look at his tags for verification, for he was the very picture of her beloved Toryn.  Though his hair was grey to her Toryn's fiery red, there was no mistaking the facial features.  Tears welled in her eyes as she gazed down at the familiar nose and mouth.  Her hand reached out, fingers longing to once again trace the well-known jaw line, but she forced herself to stop just shy of making contact.  A lone tear trailed down her cheek when his eyes opened briefly, revealing the same beloved, deep sable as those of the man who still haunted her dreams after all this time.

 

She indulged herself in a few more moments of study, despite the danger.  This O'Neill was a good foot taller than her Toryn, but had the same lean and lanky build.  She did not know how she could possibly have missed it when she first encountered him.  Perhaps she simply hadn't wanted to see it.  Reluctantly, she concluded her study of him and looked over to examine the Mistress.  She was relieved to find there was no cut on either of Her wrists, her preferred method of exchange, which indicated She had not yet given him Her essence.  Finally, her decision made, she gathered him carefully in her arms and prayed the Mistress would not waken.  As silently as possible, she whisked him out the door and headed for the surface.

 

Back in her lair, the Mistress slept on.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Jack O'Neill slowly opened his eyes and waited for the world to come into focus.  When a well-known gray ceiling appeared above him, he knew instantly where he was.  "Ah, crap.  What did I do this time?"

 

"Oh, please! You are not going to try to claim you don't remember wandering off on M7C332--without weapons or backup, I might add--and ending up the local Goa'uld's very own personal Jack-snack?"  Daniel's smirking face moved into range of the colonel's bleary eyes.

 

Had he asked that out loud?  He tilted his head toward the archaeologist and groaned when the damaged muscles in his neck and shoulder protested.  "What?"

 

The familiar click of Janet Fraiser's heels interrupted the pair before anything more could be said.  She strolled up to her patient with a wide smile and reached for his chart.  "It's good to see you've decided to rejoin the waking world, Colonel.  You gave us quite a scare."

 

"Huh?"  He blinked slowly, still trying to clear the sleepy fog from his mind.

 

Janet's smile disappeared, and she turned a serious eye to him.  "Do you know where you are, sir?"

 

"SGC."  He wrinkled his nose, which brought the hint of a smile back to her face. "Infirmary."

 

"That's right, Colonel," she encouraged.  She closed the chart and clutched it in front of her with both hands.  "Can you tell me the last thing that you remember?"

 

He frowned for a moment and considered his answer.  "We were on 332.  Daniel got pissy because I wouldn't hang around the gate and let him look at the rocks.  Someone was watching us.  We started into the city, but got attacked by some invisible, huge, honkin' bird-thing."

 

"Oh, please!  I got pissy?  What about you?  In the library?" Jackson demanded.

 

Fraiser sent a warning look to the archaeologist before turning her attention back to her patient.  "You don't remember anything after that?" she prodded.

 

He frowned again, then gave a minute shake of his head.  "Got nothing after the huge, honkin' bird tried to grab me."

 

"Ah, actually it was a bat.  Well, not exactly a real bat, per se.  It was in reality a vampire who had changed into a bat.  And made herself invisible," he added helpfully.

 

O'Neill just stared incredulously, waiting for a punch line that never came.  "Oh, come on!  There is no such thing as vampires.  Especially not ones that turn into a bats and go around making themselves invisible."

 

Daniel nodded solemnly and tapped the side of his own neck before nodding toward the colonel's.  "Jack-snack."

 

Suddenly keenly aware of the bandage on the right side of his neck, his hand flew to the dressing.  Heart racing, he turned wide eyes to Janet.  "Doc?"

 

The tiny doctor again directed an angry look at Jackson before attempting to soothe her patient.  "Take it easy, Colonel.  You need to stay calm," she added with yet another glare in the civilian's direction.  "We're replacing the lost fluids, and we've stitched the wounds from the initial attack by the. . .bat.  You're fine."

 

"This is a joke, right?  I didn't really get bitten by a vampire."  He was still having trouble believing the news and waited for her to confirm his assessment.

 

She carefully shook her head, much to his complete shock.  "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm afraid this is no joke.  While no one witnessed the actual bite, you were found with two puncture marks and bruising directly over your external carotid artery.  You're also missing far more blood than can be accounted for from the wounds on the left side of your neck and shoulder.  As unlikely as it may seem, it does appear that you've been bitten by a vampire."

 

"But don't people turn into vampires after they get bitten?"  He looked frantically around the room, only then realizing that he was in one of the isolation units.  "That's why I'm in here, isn't it?  I'm gonna turn into one!"

 

"Jack, that's nothing but a legend--an earth legend, I might add--and it has no basis in fact."  The archaeologist refrained from going into more detail as Fraiser added her agreement.

 

"Daniel is right, sir.  From what we've been able to determine from the planet's inhabitants, there is no danger of you being transformed into a vampire simply from being bitten." 

 

Not completely mollified, he demanded more. "So you're sure I'm not going to turn into a-a-a. . ."  Unable to say the word aloud, his voice trailed off as his eyes searched hers for answers.

 

She directed yet another look at the archaeologist that promised extremely large needles in his very immediate future, at which point he wisely decided a swift retreat was in order.  "Ah, I think I heard my name being paged, so if you'll excuse me, I'll just. . .um. . .yeah.  I'll. . .see you later."  He backed cautiously toward the door as he spoke, but hesitated at the exit.  "I really am glad you're okay, Jack."  After waiting to be certain his friend understood and accepted the apology, he quickly took off down the hall. 

 

"So, Doc?" O'Neill demanded.

 

Janet shook her head in exasperation at the departed linguist and turned back to her patient.  "No, sir, you're not going to turn into a vampire.  The. . .creature who rescued you assured Major Carter that you would have to ingest blood from a vampire in order for the transformation to take place.  She said she found no sign of cuts or wounds on the vampire that. . .bit you.  She seemed quite certain that you hadn't been infected.  Once we got you back here and stabilized, we pumped your stomach and found no traces of any blood, indicating that she was correct."

 

The colonel looked doubtful.  "And we really trust this. . .creature?  How do we know for sure she's not lying?  I mean maybe she wants to see earth turn into Vampireville, too."

 

The petite doctor mentally sighed, cursing Jackson for forcing the issue out into the open so soon.  She had hoped that O'Neill would have been more recovered before the need to have this particular discussion arose.  "Admittedly, we can't know with absolute certainty that she was being completely truthful.  Which is why, just to be on the safe side, we're going to keep you under very close observation and do frequent checks for any irregularities in your blood for the next few days." 

 

"Sweet."  His sarcastic tone left no doubt he regarded the prospect of several days' worth of needles and constant scrutiny as anything but. 

 

She reached out and gently placed her hand on his uninjured shoulder.  "You're going to be fine, sir.  Really."

 

He managed a slight nod and finally allowed his own hand to drop away from his neck.  He stifled a groan and sighed as he leaned back into the pillows to ponder his situation.  Jeez, it was bad enough finding out it had been a bat that had attacked him, but to know he'd been bitten by an honest-to-goodness, real, live vampire?  That it had not only bitten him, but nearly drained him dry, from what he gathered.  It felt like they were talking about some really bad B-movie they'd all seen--only he'd slept through most of it.  He closed his eyes and forced himself to resist the urge to rub the bite area.  Fraiser watched him for a long moment, then patted his shoulder and prepared to take her leave.  "Try to get some rest, sir."

 

He made no reply, already drifting off into an uneasy sleep.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Daniel hugged the doorframe to Sam's lab and peered inside to wait for an opening to speak.  She was bent over studying something that looked like a tiny computer chip and was so engrossed that she seemed to not have a clue anyone was watching her.   Just as his patience was about to run out, she straightened and moved over to make some notes.  Before he could even move a muscle, she spoke.  "Be with you in a minute, Daniel."

 

He shook his head, smiling.  "You're getting as difficult to sneak up on as Jack and Teal'c, you know."

 

Now finished with her notes, she smiled back.  "Maybe you just need to work on your stealth tactics.  Hey, here is a tip for you: Never drum your fingers on the doorframe unless you want to be noticed.  It's a dead giveaway."

 

"Thanks, I'll be sure to keep that in mind," he answered wryly.  "So have you got a minute?"

 

She moved back to the table where she been working and began to clear away the tools she'd been using.  "Sure, what's up?"

 

He moved into the lab and spread a small stack of paper out over her now cleared table.  "I've been working on that text that the Sruthangiolla gave us, the one that tells their story.  I was wondering if you could take a look at these and tell me what you think."

 

"Sure, I'd be glad to."  Sam nodded and then began to read through the pages.  When she finished the last one, she looked up and whistled.  "This sounds like the Ancients were experimenting with nano-technology.  You should really get Janet to look at this."

 

"Yes, well, actually I was hoping you might be able to help me out with that."  He looked at her with puppy-dog eyes in a further attempt to sway her.

 

She snorted, all but dashing his hopes.  "I'm sure you were.  What on earth did you do to make her so mad?  I mean, for the past couple of days, she goes off at even the slightest mention of your name."

 

"Oh, you know.  The usual.  When Jack first woke up, he was asking questions and I. . .answered."  He shrugged nonchalantly and tried to deflect her attention.  "So, will you take it down there for me?"

 

She smiled and smugly replied, "Sure.  Just as soon as you tell me the real reason."

 

He sighed, knowing she had him by the short and curlies.  "Well, how was I supposed to know she didn't want him knowing about his being Leanansidhe's main course until he remembered on his own?"

 

She snorted again.  "Oh, please tell me you didn't!"

 

"Hey, I really didn't say much.  In fact, it was only two words."

 

"Uh-huh.  And exactly what two words would that be?"

 

He winced and then mimicked the gestures he'd made to the colonel.  "Jack-snack."

 

She laughed heartily, shaking her head.  "Oh, Daniel."  She then gathered the papers and headed out of the lab.

 

He walked with her in silence until the elevator doors opened.  As she stepped inside, he waved to her.  "Thanks."

 

She turned around and nodded.  Before the doors could close all the way, she caught them and called out to his retreating form.  "Hey, Daniel!  About Janet?"  She waited for him to turn completely around.  "Be afraid.  Be very afraid."

 

 

*******************************************

 

"Ow!  What the hell are you trying to do to me?"  The unmistakable bellow of SG-1's leader echoed down the hallway as Sam exited Janet's office.  The CMO hadn't been in, so she had simply left the translations from Daniel on her desk with a note.  She'd intended to head straight back to her lab, but quickly found herself changing course and heading to Colonel O'Neill's room instead.  As she neared his isolation room, the familiar roar again thundered through the hallways.

 

"Aren't you done yet?  Hey, watch it!  Ouch!  Where the heck did you get your training, Sadists"R"Us?"  There was no doubt about it, the colonel was definitely in rare form.

 

Carter stopped to survey the room before entering.  Inside, a young lab technician was nearly in tears as she finished drawing a blood sample.  "I'm s-sorry, sir.  N-normally, I-I'm very good at th-th-this."  The trembling woman quickly disposed of the gloves and needle she'd used, gathered her supplies, and left without another word.

 

Sam watched him peek under the wad of cotton that was supposed to be taped tightly against the puncture site, the scowl never leaving his face.  She took a deep breath to brace herself for battle and stepped into the room.

 

She put on her brightest smile and approached the grumpy patient.  "Sir, I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd drop by and see how you're doing."

 

His scowl lessened only slightly at the sight of her, and he didn't hesitate to inform her of his displeasure.  "Oh, everything is just peachy, Major.  I'm stuck in here twiddling my thumbs and staring at the walls, they come in and jab me with needles fifty million times a day, and the food royally sucks--that was not intended to be a joke, by the way.  What more could a guy ask for?"

 

He tossed the bloody swab into the trash, but didn't wait for her response before moving on.  "So what's up with you?  Anything interesting going on out there?  Nobody will tell me squat around here."

 

"I've been working in my lab, mostly.  We managed to get enough from '332 to keep me busy for quite awhile.  I'll spare you the details for now, though."  She smiled at him again, at which point he nodded in approval.  "Oh, SG-6 had a run-in with Olokun's Jaffa yesterday.  Lawson got the worst of it, a staff blast to the shoulder, but he should up and around in no time.  SG-13 just got back a little while ago from P7R 949.  They found Heru-ur's abandoned base, but it had already been cleaned out.  They found a few odd staff weapons and some zats, but nothing significant."  As she went on to give him a rundown on the other teams' activities, O'Neill gratefully soaked up every scrap of news that she provided.

 

They'd been chatting only a short while when a second visitor from the team showed up.  Sam's eyes widened in surprise to see Daniel stride into the room with a big smile on his face as he greeted them.  "Hey, guys.  What's up?"

 

"Finished translating already?" she asked skeptically.

 

"Not exactly," he hedged.  "More like taking a short break.  So I thought I'd come by here and see if there was anything Jack needed."

 

"In other words, he found out that Fraiser was at Cassy's school-thing, and it was safe to come down here," informed a smirking O'Neill.

 

Carter's eyes twinkled with amusement.  "Ah, that would certainly explain a lot."  Not one to hold a grudge, she turned to the archaeologist.  "Anything more on the nanobot research?"

 

 The colonel's good mood instantly evaporated.  "Nanobots?  Did you say 'nanobots'?  As in 'pesky little beggars that send a guy on the fast track to a premature geriatric joy ride' nanobots?"

 

"Yes."

"No!"

 

His visitors answered simultaneously, leaving him more confused than ever.  His 2IC was quick to jump in before he could demand an explanation, though.  "The Ancient scientists were apparently experimenting with nanobots on '332, but they weren't trying to accelerate the aging process, as happened to you on Argos.  We think they were attempting to find a cure for a disease that had reached epidemic proportions in the Sruthangiolla.  The text that we were given is pretty one-sided and a lot of details are missing.  We'll need the Ancients' side of the story before we can say with certainty what actually happened.  It would really help if we could go back and investigate the library in their compound," she hinted.

 

"Are you nuts?  Hammond will never approve it--and with good reason!  I don't believe you two!  You can't seriously want to willingly go back to a planet ruled by a vampire Goa'uld with a whole slew of vampire followers just waiting to suck you dry!"  The two subordinates shrank back at the fury of their commander's outburst.

 

When O'Neill finally wound down, Carter braved explaining further.  "Actually, sir, if we take a supply of fresh blood with us, the only problem would be the Goa'uld.  And it's not like we haven't gone up against Goa'ulds before," she reasoned.

 

"Not a vampire Goa'uld, Carter!  There is no way Hammond will okay a mission back there with that blood-sucking snake head still on the loose." 

 

Before he could rant any further, a nurse marched in with an arm full of fresh bandages and supplies.  "Time to change those dressings, Colonel."  She then turned to the two visiting members of SG-1 and informed them, "I'm sorry, but you'll have to step out for a few minutes."

 

"Excuse me, but we're not finished with our discussion yet.  Come back later," ordered the contrary O'Neill.

 

The nurse wasn't intimidated and refused to back down.  "I'm sorry, sir, but your discussion will have to wait.  Dr. Fraiser's orders."

 

"We'll wait outside, sir."  Carter grabbed Daniel and pulled him along out the door without waiting for a response.  The pair could hear their leader's curses even out in the hallway as they returned to their previous topic of conversation.

 

"We've got to find a way back to that library, Sam.  The Sruthangiolla weren't advanced enough to understand the mechanics behind the Ancients' technology.  If we are going to find a way to help them, we have to go back for the scientists' notes and reports.  Are you sure there isn't anything in what you brought back with us?"

 

Carter shook her head.  "No, nothing that I've found so far seems to be nanite-related.  There's still a lot to go through, though."

 

The nurse exited the room with the angry patient calling out after her.  "Just wait until I get out of here!  I outrank you, ya know!"

 

She rolled her eyes at the empty threats and gestured to the waiting visitors.  "He's all yours now, and you're more than welcome to him."  She then headed off to complete her reports, muttering under her breath about heaven and salvation from cranky colonels.

 

The pair hesitated before going back in.  They exchanged a silent look, shook their heads, and quickly made their way to the elevator.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Janet Fraiser tossed the chart onto the bedside table and stood with her hands on her hips as she glared at the man in the bed.  Her entire staff was in an uproar and threatening mutiny if something wasn't done, and done quickly at that.  She mentally counted to ten, then spoke with as calm a voice as she could muster.  "Is there a problem, Colonel?"

 

The scowl that had been on his face when she'd walked in quickly changed to a full-on glower--one directed solely at her.  "Problem?  Why would there be a problem?  I've got people waiting on me hand and foot, and the cuisine. . ."  He paused to glance at food-splattered wall, at the bottom of which lay the remains of his lunch tray.  "The cuisine is to just die for."

 

Janet sighed.  "Colonel, we've been over this.  The diet I've ordered will help your body recover more quickly.  I thought you agreed not to fight me on this?"

 

"For a few days," he reminded her.  "It's been a week."  His gaze again slid briefly to the mess staining the wall.  "And that agreement never included freezing cold, slimy, cooked spinach!"

 

She pursed her lips and frowned, but he jumped in before she could voice her doubt.  "Go ahead, check for yourself," he challenged. 

 

She rounded the bed and walked over to the ruined tray, then bent to pick it up.  Her eyes widened in surprise at the distinct chill of the plate, and she turned back to him.  Mutiny had apparently now gone beyond the threatening stage.  "I'm sorry, sir.  I'll see that this doesn't happen again."  Plate still in hand, she moved back toward the bed.  "I'll have a new tray sent up right away.  How about a compromise?  Maybe a salad of fresh greens with your favorite dressing instead of the spinach?"

 

He thought it over and then shot her another challenging look.  "Only if that includes a real cheeseburger--medium rare, with everything--instead of that shoe leather they're trying to pass off as meat."

 

She paused to consider the proposition, then upped the ante.  "Alright, if you agree to eat all of your dinner--and without complaining, too."  When his eyes drifted suspiciously back to his lunch on the floor, she was quick to reassure him.  "No more cooked spinach or cold food, I promise."

 

"Fine."  Despite her concession, the man sounded anything but happy about the arrangement.

 

She had to bite the inside of her lip to keep from laughing at him, looking for all the world like a pouting, sulky little boy rather than the senior air force officer he was.  She managed to keep her demeanor professional as she prepared to leave.  "Anything else?"

 

"You can let me out of here." He ground out, despite having just had the same conversation only a few hours earlier.

 

"Sir, we've already. . ."

 

He interrupted immediately.  "Look, you said the blood tests have all been normal.  I feel fine.  I don't need to be here anymore!"

 

"And I say you do need to be here!  We need to keep up the blood tests for another week minimum, and I want you here under observation for at least a few more days.  Please, just hang in there a little while longer."

 

"Ha, you admit it!  The only reason you're keeping me here is because of that damn vampire-nanobot thing--which your tests all say I don't have!  I'm telling you, if you don't  let me out of here, I'm so gonna totally lose it!"

 

"You could play some Play Station for awhile," she helpfully suggested.  "Sam sent all your favorite games down."

 

He glared at her even harder, then glanced down at his sling-encased left arm.  "Have you ever tried to play any of those mostly one-handed?"  Her guilt was plain to see when he brought that little detail to her attention, and he was quick to pounce.  "Come on, I want to watch television. I want to sleep in real bed with a real mattress--and I want to be able to eat real food of my own choosing for a change!"

 

"You have a television right over there, sir.  And Daniel even brought your Simpsons DVDs in for you."

 

"I've already watched all of my Simpsons collection--three times.  Each!  But hey, no sweat.  I hear Teal'c is bringing his Star Wars collection by later to watch with me.  Again.  And I swear to God, I'm not gonna be responsible for what happens if I have to watch even one of those damn movies another time!"

 

At the mention of yet another Star Wars marathon, Janet winced.  She couldn't help it.  Even the most vocal among her mutinous staff had commented on enduring the Jaffa's seemingly endless movie marathons--and they didn't even have to be in the room for the duration.  She sighed loudly, because as much as she wanted to, the doctor couldn't deny there was some truth in her patient's accusation and validity to his complaints.  In the week since his return, the colonel's blood tests had shown no sign of nanobots whatsoever.  Were it not for the quarantine, she would have released him long ago.  However, instinct was telling her that she should keep him right where he was--unhappy or not--despite those facts.

 

He seemed to sense her weakening resolve.  "I'll stay on base."

 

"Sir. . ."

 

"I'll stay in my quarters on base," he pleaded.  "At least I could watch ESPN."

 

She paused to consider the request.  She had to admit it, his wounds were healing nicely. Alone, they certainly didn't merit confinement in the infirmary.  And he could just as easily be monitored from his quarters where he'd be far more comfortable.  Still, there was that indefinable something that was making her hesitate.

 

Before she could answer, he tried one last desperate plea.  "I swear, I'll come straight back if I feel even the slightest urge to bite someone!"  He frowned slightly as he paused to consider what he'd said.  "Except for Daniel, maybe.  And Carter.  But only if she's with Daniel, and they start rambling on about going back to '332 and all that vampire-nanite crap again."  His focus had turned inward as he qualified his promise.  Satisfied with his answer, he nodded in approval.  "Yeah."

 

She had to cough to stifle the laugh that really, really wanted to escape as he turned to expectantly regard her.  When she recovered her composure, she found herself conceding to his request.  "Alright, alright.  I'll see if I can get you a VIP room--but you will be confined to quarters until further notice, and I want you back here immediately if you feel even the slightest bit off.  And if I hear so much as a single rumor that you've been spotted elsewhere or you're not there when it's time to draw more blood, I'll have you hauled back here so fast your head will spin!  Furthermore, you'll eat a healthy diet and stop harassing my staff,"  she added.

 

He immediately nodded his agreement.  "Stay in the room, come back if I start feeling off, only healthy junk to eat, go a little easier on your bloodsuckers.  Got it."

 

"Colonel," she warned.

 

He huffed in displeasure and glared back at her.  "Oh, alright, fine!  I'll stop hassling your little bloodsuckers. Happy now?"

 

She nodded in approval and picked up the chart she'd dropped on his table.  "I'll get that meal ordered and have a VIP suite set up.  We'll get you transferred after you eat."

 

She then made her exit, slowing just outside the door to listen.  As expected, she could hear him muttering.  "Power-tripping, needle-happy, Nazi tyrant."

 

She couldn't help but smile as she tendered her own parting shot.  "I heard that," she loudly called back.

 

"D'oh!" 

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Finally settled into his new quarters, Jack O'Neill turned off the television in disgust.  The game he'd so looked forward to watching was a lopsided affair and failed to hold his interest.  He'd left it on to catch a report on that evening's NHL games, which revealed that the Wild had lost to Anaheim by giving up five goals in the third period.  Nobody lost to Anaheim, for crying out loud! 

 

He carelessly tossed the remote onto the table and stood.  The colonel gingerly stretched his stiff muscles as far as his injuries would allow while he scanned the room for something interesting to do.  Finding nothing, he went on the prowl, picking up and then discarding anything and everything within reach.  Frustration continued to build until his breaking point was reached, whereupon he picked up the nearly full pitcher of water and hurled it across the room with his good arm.  His satisfied smirk at the sound of it shattering against the wall quickly wilted.  "Good one, O'Neill.  Now you've got a mess to clean and a broken pitcher to explain."  With a deep sigh, he went to retrieve some towels and begin cleanup.

 

When he exited the bathroom with the cloths in hand, he pulled up short, startled to find his 2IC standing wide-eyed in the open door.  "You need something, Carter?"  Not waiting for an answer, he briskly walked over to the debris-laden puddle and began to clear up the evidence of his tantrum.

 

"No, sir.  I was just passing by when I heard the noise and thought I'd see if you needed help."  He paused only long enough to shoot her a dubious glare which left no doubt he wasn't buying her story, so she quickly rushed on.  "Here, let me give you a hand with that."

 

She dropped to her knees next to him and picked up one of the larger shards of broken glass.  He snatched it away none-too-gently and snapped at her again.  "Damn it, I'm perfectly capable of cleaning up my own messes, Major!  Dismissed!"

 

Surprised by his sudden objection, she started when he grabbed the sharp fragment and felt it slice into her fingers.  Frozen in momentary shock, she held the bleeding digits in front of her and stared.  She recovered quickly and searched out his eyes, unsure of what to expect from him. 

 

He wore an equally shocked expression and was staring at her bloody hand, from which small drops were now falling to the floor and mixing with the watery puddle.  Horrified, he dropped the pieces of broken glass that he'd gathered and backed away from her, his eyes never leaving her hand.  When he eventually bumped into a chair, he finally raised his eyes to meet hers and then promptly fled to the bathroom without another word, slamming the door behind him.

 

Still a bit stunned by the entire incident, Sam regained enough of her senses to look around for something to stem the bleeding.  She grabbed one of the unused towels he'd brought for mopping up the water and wrapped it around her cut fingers before heading over to check on him.  She knocked loudly and then called to him.  "Sir?  Are you all right?"  She received no answer, and after several long moments, she tried again.  "Colonel?  I'm going to go now.  Are you going to be okay?"  As she'd expected, there was again no answer from the man within.  Feeling frustrated and helpless, she looked down at her bleeding hand and then back at the door separating them.  Reluctantly, she finally turned and left for the infirmary.  Maybe Janet would have better luck getting through to him.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Still holed-up in his bathroom, a badly shaken Jack O'Neill could hear someone sweeping up the broken glass and cleaning up his mess.  Relieved it wasn't Fraiser, he ignored the noise and was quickly lost in thought.  He knew he'd been edgy and foul-tempered ever since he'd been attacked on that damn planet, but he'd really believed it was due to his circumstances.  Attacked by bats and vampires, getting jabbed with needles several times everyday, plus being cooped up underground for way too long was enough to make a saint cranky--and he'd certainly never be mistaken for one of those.  But now?  Now he wasn't quite so certain, not after what had just happened.

 

That thought brought the image of Carter's bloody hand freshly to mind, which in turn sent him retching into the toilet.  He was horrified that he'd caused her injury, even unintentionally, yes, but he was even more horrified by the feelings he'd experienced at the sight of her blood welling and dripping from those magnificent fingers.  He could still feel the urge to reach out and take each one of those splendid digits into his mouth, to taste her life's essence and savor each delectable drop.  He could smell it so vividly, even now, calling to him like the sweetest perfume.  Repulsed by the feelings, he continued to heave, despite the fact that his stomach was now empty.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as he thought.  He hadn't wanted to bite her, after all.  That had to mean something.  He knew he should tell Janet, since he'd promised to tell her if he'd felt the slightest urge to bite anyone, and he still intended to keep that promise.  But he hadn't had the urge to bite Carter, so there was nothing to tell, right?

 

He suddenly felt completely exhausted, so he flushed the mess and moved to the sink to rinse his mouth.  After splashing some cold water on his face, he finally exited the room and made his way to the bed on increasingly shaky legs.  Feeling comforted by his reasoning, he managed to get his boots and sling off, but didn't bother to change out of the scrubs he was still wearing.  He then wearily climbed under the covers, and within moments, he was fast asleep.

 

A short time later and much to her surprise, that was exactly how an anxious Janet Fraiser found him when she entered his room and switched on a small lamp next to the bed.  A quick visual examination revealed a slightly paler than normal complexion and a slight flush to his cheeks.  She placed her hand on his forehead, but found it cool to the touch.  Next, she checked his pulse, which brought a muttered protest from the patient.  "Tired," he mumbled as he made a half-hearted attempt to pull away.  The beat was strong and steady, well within the normal range.  She hated to disturb him, but that niggling little voice was telling her something was definitely not right with SG-1's leader.  "Hey, there.  I heard you had a little problem earlier."  She kept her tone soft and soothing, hoping to draw him out before he woke enough to resist.

 

He blinked sleepily at her, unable to keep his eyes open.  "I'll tell her 'm sorry later," he offered, slurring the words.  Before she could reply, his breathing had again evened out and he was back asleep.  While his exhaustion concerned her, she did have to admit that he'd had a rather active day with the room change, and he was still recovering.

 

Despite her nagging worry, she reluctantly concluded that Carter had likely over-reacted and reached for the lamp switch.  "I'm sure Sam will appreciate that, sir.  Sleep well," she softly encouraged as she clicked off the light.

 

She paused in the doorway to look back at his sleeping form and frowned.  All seemed absolutely normal with him, but still the feeling that something was not right plagued her.  With a sigh, she wearily dropped her chin to her chest.  Maybe she would go have a look at his latest test results just one more time.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

The brisk air on his face was exhilarating as he soared up and away from the mountain.  The wind tickled his wings as it passed under them, and he would swear he'd never felt freer than this in his life.  He'd been stuck underground for so very long that he'd nearly forgotten what it was like to breathe clean, crisp air.  The heady scent of fresh pine faded somewhat as he flew away from the mountain and entered the city, but he reveled in it nonetheless.  He knew it was dangerous to venture there, but he was careful to stay out of sight of the few souls who were out and about at this late hour.

 

Though he hadn't consciously intended it, he soon found himself swooping down into the dark back yard of a vaguely familiar home.  Once firmly on the ground, his wings folded in on themselves and disappeared completely.  Just that suddenly, he was standing on two legs, totally human once again.  Wind chimes near the back door tinkled a familiar tone, and he knew instantly he was at Carter's place.  He approached the rear entrance silently and turned the knob, only to find it locked.  Frustrated, he searched his pockets for something to pick the lock, but came up empty.  The overwhelming need to get inside led him to punch out the pane nearest the lock with his fist.  The glass gave way easily, much to his surprise, and he was soon standing in her living room.  A quick check of the house revealed that no one else was present.  With a sigh, he made himself comfortable and settled in to wait.  And plan.  Yes, his conquest of Major Samantha Carter would be well worth this delay.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

An exhausted Sam Carter pulled up to the curb in front of her house and shut off the ignition.  Her visit to the infirmary had cost her valuable time on an experiment involving some of the technology they'd recovered on '332, and she'd had to stay late to complete it.  Unfortunately, it was a total bust.  She was going to have to go back and start from the beginning now, possibly even to the point of rethinking her entire hypothesis as to the device's function.

 

She exited the vehicle and slammed the door absentmindedly, cursing under her breath at the pain from her injured hand.  She used her good hand to open the gate, and as she strolled up the walkway, her thinking returned to the intriguing device she had just left.  She'd thought it was a new, compact power source initially, but that theory wasn't panning out.  It definitely wasn't a prototype, but perhaps it was a non-functional model.  With her mind still on the problem of the alien device, she slid her key into the front door and entered her home.

 

The lamp in her living room was on a timer, both for nights such as this when she worked late and to give the appearance of someone being home when she was off-world.  With its soft glow to light her way, she dropped her things heavily onto the counter that separated the kitchen and living areas.  In her dead tired state, she didn't immediately notice the flickering blaze from the fireplace--or her visitor.

 

The fire popped loudly behind her, the first hint that something was amiss.  She was instantly on full alert, adrenaline immediately chasing away her weariness.  She spun around to face the living area and was shocked at what she saw there. 

 

"Colonel!  What are you doing here?  Janet said she wasn't going to release you for several more days."

 

He took a sip from the wine he'd helped himself to and held out a glass for her.  "Um, I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by?" he offered hopefully.

 

"In the middle of the night, sir?"  Her skepticism was obvious from her tone, but he hadn't missed the chuckle she'd managed to contain before questioning him.

 

O'Neill rose from his seat near the fire and advanced toward her.  With the quirky little half-smile that he knew she loved, he handed one of the glasses to her and shrugged.  "Seemed like a good idea at the time." 

 

She smiled and shook her head.  "Seriously, sir, what are you doing here?  And how did you get here?  Your truck was still at the SGC when I left; there is no way you could have beaten me home."

 

He placed his nearly empty glass on the counter and rubbed a hand wearily across his forehead.  With a deep sigh, he reluctantly admitted the truth.  "I don't know, okay?  The last thing I remember was feeling tired and going to bed.  Then I was here, and you weren't, so I decided to wait."

 

"You blacked out?"  She placed her untouched wine on the counter and reached for the phone.  "We need to tell Janet about this.  We should also let base security know you're here before someone discovers you're missing and reports it--if they haven't already."

 

Before she could hit the speed dial number, he swiftly and silently snatched the phone from her grasp.  "No!"  When she tensed up and started to back away, he was quick to rein in his temper and explain.  "I mean, just wait a minute, will ya?  I think I remembered why I came."

 

Still wary, she kept her distance and simply nodded, saying nothing.  He took it as encouragement to continue, taking a small step toward her.  "I think I wanted to, maybe, kind of, apologize. Or something.  I think."

 

She seemed surprised at his awkward admission.  "For what happened earlier?  Sir, it was an accident."

 

He sighed again and his eyes went straight to her wounded hand.  "Maybe, but I shouldn't have been so short with you.  Or any of the times you visited me in the iso room--which I really did appreciate, by the way.  And Daniel said something about an incident while we were still on Planet Vampire, so I should probably apologize for that while I'm at it, too."

 

She started to smile at his feeble attempt at an apology, but her grin died when she realized he was still staring intently at the bandage on her hand.  She slowly, but firmly, moved it behind her back and out of sight.  "Apology accepted, at least for the things you can remember.  Somehow, though, it doesn't seem right for you to apologize for something you don't even recall.  But now I think you should give me the phone, sir.   I really need to call Janet and let her know what's happened.  Then I'll drive you back to the base."

 

He continued to stare at the spot where her hand had been, causing her unease to increase with each passing moment.  Finally, he seemed to mentally shake himself and look into her eyes.  "Fair enough, I suppose.  How's the hand, by the way?" He completely ignored her request, as well as the suggestion that he go back to the mountain to face the music.

 

She shrugged, but wasn't going to be sidetracked so easily.  "It'll be fine in a few days," she assured him.  "Now the phone, please?"

 

He didn't reply, but swayed alarmingly, as if he were going to pass out or collapse.  He grabbed for the chair, but it fell sideways, taking the others with it.  He then clutched at the counter with the hand holding the phone, dropping it as he struggled for balance.

 

"Colonel!"  She instinctively stepped forward and reached out to steady him.  When he grasped her arm and turned to face her, she was startled to note for the first time that he was no longer sporting the sling.  She raised her eyes to meet his, only to choke off a gasp of shock.

 

"What's the matter, dear Samantha?  Something wrong?"  Jet black eyes with large red irises gazed back at her, penetrating to her very soul.  The cold and inhuman appearance sent shivers down her spine, but his voice was mesmerizing, so deep and sultry that it made her want nothing more than to throw herself in his arms and let him do whatever he pleased to her.

 

She mentally shook herself and made a sudden lunge for the abandoned phone on the counter.   To her dismay, he was much quicker and stronger.  He stepped in behind her, pinning her to the island, and held the handset tauntingly out just beyond her reach.

 

"Sorry, but no, my deliciously sweet Samantha.  This is strictly a private party." 

 

She could feel the vibration of his chest when he spoke, and combined with that intensely sensual drawl of his, it was enough to make her feel lightheaded.  She took a deep breath in an attempt to recover her equilibrium, but his scent was just as erotically intoxicating as his voice and left her feeling even more off-balance.  She closed her eyes and tried to reason with him.  "Please let me go, sir," she ground out.  "You don't want to do this."

 

He laughed at her, a deep, rumbling sound that sent a jolt of pleasure straight through her as he pressed her stomach even further into the edge of the counter.  She shuddered, trying to resist his hypnotic pull, when his tongue snaked out to trail slowly from her ear down to her collarbone.  "Oh, but I do.  I've wanted this for a very, very long time."  He tenderly kissed her neck, then suddenly his sexy, sultry voice was right next to her ear once again.  "And so have you."

 

His words sent a rush of excitement directly to the pleasure center of her brain.  She was finding it increasingly harder to fight, to keep herself from giving into him.  "Please, sir, give me the phone and let me call Janet for you."

 

She could feel him smile against her cheek.  "Of course.  Anything for my dear, sweet Samantha."  Her eyes widened in fear as he closed his fist around the handset and crushed it with his bare hand.  He then dropped the useless receiver onto the island in front of her.  "There you go. One phone, as requested."

 

She hung her head and her shoulders slumped in defeat.  It was clear that he wasn't going to make this easy for her.  She closed her eyes and blocked out everything around her, especially his seductive voice and captivating presence.  It took a supreme effort of will on her part to ignore his husky, sensuous urgings.  Finally ready to make her move, she tilted her neck as if to offer herself to him.  His throaty chuckle nearly undid her, but when he began to kiss his way down to her carotid artery, she stepped hard onto his instep and followed up with a strong kick to his knee.

 

He spun her around, seemingly unfazed by her attack.  He again laughed at her, his obscenely dark eyes boring into her.  "So you want to play a little first, huh?  I can do that," he assured her.  With no further warning, he flung her over the couch and across the coffee table.  Sam was stunned when she landed on the floor in front of her fireplace, but recovered quickly and scrambled to her feet.

 

The colonel was quicker, though, and as soon as she was upright he grabbed her from behind.  "Having fun yet?"  He forced her around and smashed her cheek against the books lining her mantle, holding her there.  "I am," he declared.

 

"Let me go, sir," she grunted out.  She couldn't see anything with her head pinned, so her hands searched the shelf for something heavy enough to use as a weapon.  She finally settled on one of the thicker tomes, though she was doubtful it would be effective against his super-human strength.  She pulled it loose, sending the adjoining volumes crashing to the floor.

 

He laughed at her again as he moved his hand from pinning her against the mantle to grasp her firmly around the waist.  With his free hand, he swept the rest of the mantle's contents off to join the books Sam had dislodged.  "Are you holding back, Samantha?  Because, so far, you haven't been much of a challenge at all.  I must say, I'm disappointed."

 

She knew he was toying with her, so she ignored his taunting and gathered her strength to make her move.  In one fluid motion, she twisted around to face him and slammed the book she'd grabbed into his head with every ounce of strength she possessed.  As soon as she felt his arm loosen from around her waist, she quickly pulled away and scrambled over to her purse to retrieve her cell phone.  She watched him for a moment to be sure he was out while dumping the contents of her bag onto the floor.  Feeling reassured when he didn't move, she looked down to search for the phone.  Quickly finding it, she flipped it open and looked up again to check on him.

 

"Better.  But not quite good enough, I'm afraid."  She was shocked to find him standing mere inches from her, since she hadn't heard a sound that would have signaled his approach.  He took advantage of her surprise and snatched the cell phone from her hand.  "Now, now.  I thought I told you that this was a private party, Samantha."  With an evil smile,  he again admonished her.  "I'll get around to a little playtime with Fraiser later."  He then proceeded to crush the phone in his bare hand, exactly as he had the other.

 

She stood and began to back away from him in fear.  Her chest was heaving from both the exertions of their struggle as well as her emotions.  Her back found the wall that signaled the entrance to the hallway--and the front door. In one last desperate attempt, she quickly turned and ran for it.  She'd barely made it a few steps before she found herself slammed face first into the pictures lining the corridor.  She grunted at the impact and then swallowed a sob.  This was not at all the man she knew and respected.  True, he could be a cold-hearted bastard when the situation called for it, and he'd been known to be a total jerk on occasion, but he was never this cruel and uncaring.  Not with her.  There was no denying it any longer--she was now completely at his mercy.

 

He seemed to sense her defeat and sighed.  "Don't want to play anymore?  I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I suppose you're right.  Dawn will be here before we know it, and there is still so much pleasure to be had before I leave you."

 

His hands caressed her upper arms and shoulders, then moved forward to her chest.  She shuddered from the heat of his touch, even through her clothing.  He suddenly grabbed her outer shirt and pulled hard, sending the buttons flying.  She allowed a moan to escape as he yanked it down around her arms, exposing the low-cut tank top she'd worn underneath.

 

Somehow through the haze of building need and desire, she sensed an opening for escape.  Though her arms were trapped and useless, she couldn't allow the opportunity to pass.  Moving totally on instinct, she reared back as hard as she could and smashed her head into his. 

 

"Nice one, my precious.  I so love a woman with spirit."  Instead of releasing her, he chuckled and pulled her tightly against him. She could feel the blood dripping from his nose onto her shoulder.  When the fingers of his free hand began to trace designs in it and smear it across her neck, she felt another wave of intense desire burn straight to her groin.

 

"Tell me that you want this," his impossibly steamy voice demanded.

 

Jack O'Neill was a difficult man to resist even without the uber-sensuality of vampirism.  With it, neither she nor any other stood a prayer of refusing him.  Still, she was determined to give it her best effort--for both of their sakes.

 

When she didn't answer him, he began to again caress her upper arm and shoulder.  Without the barrier of the outer shirt, his touch sent a flood of ecstasy rippling through every nerve ending in her body.  She moaned, unable to stop herself.  "Tell me," he again demanded.

 

His hands continued to sensually wander over her upper body, causing the intense desire within to build to an undeniable frenzy.  "Yes," she sobbed.

 

"Yes, what?"

 

The ever-increasing need for him left her incapable of thinking of anything else.  All coherent thought fled her mind.  Only one thing mattered now.  "Yes, I want this.  I want you."

 

She could feel his smile as bent his head to trail kisses along her shoulder and up the side of her neck.  "Are you sure?"

 

She shivered, enraptured by the feel of his lips on her skin.  She wanted him so very, very badly.  "Yes, I'm sure.  Please, I need more," she begged.

 

His immediate response was a growl, coming from deep within his throat.  He turned her around and swept her up into his arms in one fluid motion.  "Not here," he commanded.

 

She was helpless with her arms still trapped by the shirt, but she no longer cared.  She leaned up to kiss him, and he returned the gesture, crushing his mouth to hers.  When she felt his tongue probing her lips, she eagerly opened to him.  She was so caught up in the building passion from the feeling of  his tongue exploring the depths of her mouth that she didn't even notice they were moving.

 

She whimpered when he pulled away to lay her gently on her bed.  She squirmed in an attempt to get free of the shirt binding her arms, but she only succeeded in tangling it further.  The only thought in her mind was that she had to get to him.  She stilled when she realized that he was staring appreciatively at her struggling form, and she couldn't help but moan with intense desire.

 

In the blink of an eye, he was on top of her, straddling her hips as he towered over her.  Those dark, red eyes no longer seemed cold or cruel to her as they admired her body.  He growled again as he lowered himself to claim her lips once more.

 

She reveled in the feeling of his tongue plundering her mouth, the feelings of ecstasy building steadily until she thought she couldn't possibly stand anymore.  When he finally pulled away to kiss his way across her throat, she sobbed at the loss.  She tugged at the tangled shirt confining her arms, frustrated that she was unable to free herself and pull him back for more.

 

When he found his way to the exact spot on her neck she knew he was seeking, she held her breath in anticipation.  She choked off a sob when he paused.  "You're mine now, Samantha.  All mine."

 

"Yes, Jack, yes!"  She mewled, nearly frantic with the need for him.  "Please," she implored him.

 

When his fangs pierced her skin, she was lost in a rush of the most intense euphoria she'd ever experienced.  Though some far-removed part of her brain knew that he was drinking her blood, she was completely caught up in the state of total and complete bliss he was causing.  Though they were both fully clothed, it was the most incredibly intimate experience she had ever shared, and she never wanted it to end.  Even when she began to feel light-headed, she wanted nothing more than to feel his mouth on her skin, sucking at her neck.  She felt a final burst of that most exquisite euphoria, a feeling so far beyond a mere orgasm that she thought she might explode.  

 

She barely felt him climb off and lay down beside her in the bed as she hovered between awareness and oblivion.  The low rumble of his voice in her ear sent another shiver down her spine.  "Sleep now, my delicious Samantha."  He leaned over to thoroughly kiss her one final time.  "Sleep well, for in the morning I'll be gone, and you won't remember any of this."

 

Too weak to protest, she finally lost the battle to remain awake.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

As soon as his eyes came into focus, Jack O'Neill knew he was in trouble.  The ceiling above was not the drab grey concrete of the SGC where he'd fallen asleep, and the mattress underneath him was far superior to anything the base had to offer.  Whether he'd been the one to leave or someone had removed him, he could not remember for love nor money.  At least he was fully-clothed.  That was definitely a good thing.  He tried to look around without moving his head, not wanting to alert any possible enemies that he was awake.  Unfortunately, none of the furnishings were familiar.  He carefully flexed the muscles of his legs, then his arms, and was astonished to note the total absence of pain from his healing wounds.

 

Hoping to catch any possible foes off guard, he leapt off the bed and to his feet in one smooth motion.  He quickly determined that the only other occupant of the room was on the bed he'd just left, facing away from him.  To his complete shock, he recognized the familiar profile and carefully moved around to the other side for a better look.  The fact that she hadn't moved a muscle, not even when he jumped off the bed, sent a jolt of fear straight to the pit of his stomach.

 

As he drew nearer, the moonlight from the windows bathed her in a soft glow.  He couldn't help but notice how very beautiful she looked.  Like himself, she was fully-clothed, though she did have what appeared to be a long-sleeved shirt tangled around one wrist, as she lay on top of the bed covers.  He frowned as he noticed a dark spot on the side of her neck and moved closer to examine it.

 

He stumbled backward in horror the minute he realized what he was seeing.  Right above her carotid artery were two very familiar-looking puncture wounds, a small drop of blood trailing from each.  There was also blood on her tank top, but it didn't appear to have come from the injury to her neck.  But how did she get them?  Sam hadn't been bitten on the planet and none of the planet's inhabitants had come to the SGC.  As he puzzled out the possibilities, he reached for the identical wound on his own neck, only to find that it, like his shoulder injuries, had suddenly and miraculously disappeared.  How could he have possibly healed that quickly?  Only one answer came to him.

 

Stunned by the most probable deduction, his mind reeled as it searched for another explanation.  No, it just wasn't possible.  His test results had all been normal, and Fraiser had assured him that he was okay, that he hadn't ingested any vampire blood.  And since that was the only way to be changed into. . .one of those, he couldn't possibly be the one who had attacked Sam.  His thoughts drifted to the incident back in his quarters. As he relived those feelings and his nearly overpowering urge to taste her, there was only one possible conclusion. 

 

He swallowed hard, unable to deny the truth any longer.  In spite of all the doc's reassurances, it had happened.  He'd turned into one of them. He had become a vampire.  And worst of all, he'd bitten Sam.  Oh, God, what if he'd gone too far, taken too much from her?

 

Though his instinct was to turn and run, he stepped forward to the bed again when he realized that he couldn't see whether or not she was breathing in the dim light.  His hand shook violently as he reached out to check her pulse, and he nearly collapsed with relief when he found a steady beat.  He thought it might be a little slower than normal, but it was strong and steady.  She was alive!

 

Assured that Sam was okay, he turned and fled the room.  He was so ashamed that he could think of nothing beyond getting out of there and didn't even notice the mess from their earlier struggle in his haste to get to the back door.

 

Once outside, he fell to his knees, gasping for breath.  He pounded the earth with both fists and growled in anger, venting his rage and frustration at what had happened.  He wanted to scream and yell as loud as he possibly could, but he somehow kept the presence of mind to stay quiet enough to not awaken her neighbors.  When his anger was spent, he collapsed onto his side.  With his chest still heaving from the exertion, he lay curled in the fetal position as he sorted his thoughts.

 

He had to go back to the mountain, no getting around that.  He couldn't risk losing control and blacking out again.  There was no way he would allow himself to be in a position where he could pose a threat to civilians.  He knew both Fraiser and Hammond would do all in their power to help him, but what good could they ultimately do?  There was no cure for him, at least not here on Earth.  Even if they did eventually find a way to cure him, his career was over.  He'd be facing certain court-martial for what he'd done to Carter--and rightfully so. 

 

And what if the NID caught wind of the situation?  Would the general have enough favors left to call in to be able to succeed in keeping him out of their clutches?  Was he even worth the price it would likely cost his commanding officer?  He'd gladly rot in prison for his attack on Sam, but there was just no way in hell he was going to allow himself to become an NID lab rat.  Nope, never gonna happen.  Try as he might to find an alternative, there seemed to be only one solution.  IF he could pull it off.

 

His decision made, he stood and stretched.  He debated driving back to the base, but he didn't seem to have his truck or a base vehicle here.  That meant he'd have to take Sam's car or bike.  He quickly discarded those options, unwilling to do anything that might cause her any further distress.  He debated going back inside and calling a cab, but then he'd be putting a civilian at risk.  No, he'd have to call for an airman.  They'd probably send a whole squad of heavily-armed SFs and scare the crap out of her neighbors.  Great, yet another wrong done to Carter that he'd be responsible for.  He should probably have Fraiser come and check her out, too, just to be sure he hadn't done any permanent damage when he'd. . .done what he'd done.  He looked up at the stars, seeking answers that didn't exist, and wished there was a way for him to just leave all this behind, soaring up there among them.  And suddenly, without him even realizing it, he was.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Dawn was breaking as he coasted down out of the sky.  When his feet hit the ground, his wings again folded into his body without a thought on his part.  He soundlessly made his way to the hatch he'd used to depart the complex and reentered the chute for his descent. 

 

Not knowing if anyone had detected his absence from the base, all of his senses were alert for any possible threat.  He put his ear to the door to listen for any sign of movement in the hallway, but heard nothing.  After several minutes, he slowly opened the hatch and stepped into the corridor.

 

To his immense relief, he was alone.  A bone-deep weariness set in as the adrenaline rush from attempting to sneak back in undetected faded.  He turned and headed for his quarters, wanting nothing more than to collapse and sleep for a week.

 

He managed to avoid all base personnel along the way and finally stood outside his room.  Again, he put his ear to the door and listened.  Detecting no sound from within, he smiled and quickly entered the room. 

 

"Colonel O'Neill, there you are!"  As he reached his bed, he was startled by a voice behind him and whirled around to face the intruder emerging from his bathroom.  "I was just about to let Dr. Fraiser know you were missing," the perky young tech informed him.  "I'm here for your morning blood sample, sir."

 

He calmly shrugged it off.  "I woke up and was thirsty, so I went looking for some juice."  He recognized her from previous visits, but couldn't quite place the name.  Cousins? Collins?  It was something like that, he thought.

 

The airman frowned.  "Sir, aren't you supposed to call someone if you need something?"

 

"Guess I forgot.  Must not have been as awake as I thought."  With a shrug of his shoulder, he flashed her his most charming smile.  Connelly, maybe?

 

The tech smiled back and strode over to him.  "Yes, sir.  I'm afraid I'll have to inform Dr. Fraiser, though, sir."  She reached for his arm and proceeded to tie the band around it.

 

"No, I don't think you will, Airman." 

 

She stopped swabbing his arm with the alcohol pad, mesmerized by his voice.  "Sir?"

 

He knew he had her from her tentative, confused tone and quickly deepened his hold on her.  "No one needs to know about this but us, Kenley."  The name finally came to him as he stared deeply into her eyes.

 

"But, my orders," she stammered.

 

"Sh," he crooned.   He put a finger to her lips, cutting off her words.  "No one but us."

 

He could feel her trembling as she nodded her agreement.  "Yes, sir," she whispered.

 

He took her arm and pulled her closer.  "Come here.  I need you, Kenley," he demanded huskily.

 

"Yes, sir."  She fell into his arms, willing to give him absolutely anything.

 

He smiled triumphantly and lowered his mouth to her neck.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

The persistent ringing of the telephone next to her bed finally pulled Sam Carter from her deep slumber.  She fumbled to find the receiver and answer it, not yet awake enough to notice her attire.  "Carter," she mumbled sleepily.

 

"Sam, you'd better get back here right away!" Janet Fraiser urged.  "The colonel's missing and. . . I'd better tell you the rest when you get here."

 

Instantly wide-awake, she sat up and gave her total attention to the doctor.  "I'm on my way."  She paused a moment, then couldn't help but ask about him.  "Janet, is he okay?"

 

There was a long silence on the other end of the line, giving rise to a growing knot of fear in her stomach.  "Janet?"  Her demand in the single word was clear.

 

She heard the doctor sigh, but there wasn't an immediate answer.  Just as she was about to ask again, Fraiser finally spoke.  "I don't know.  He's nowhere to be found and there's an unconscious airman in the infirmary."  Again, she hesitated.  "Sam, the airman was. . .bitten."

 

The tough soldier in her took over before she could panic and fall apart at the doctor's inference.  "I need to grab a quick shower.  I'll be there as soon as I can.  Let me know if anything happens before I get there," she commanded.  Without waiting for confirmation, she disconnected the call and hurried to the bathroom to get ready.

 

It was only as she was undressing that Sam noticed she'd apparently slept in her clothes.  Disturbed at the implication, she unbuttoned the cuff of the shirt that was trailing from her wrist and assumed she'd fallen asleep in the middle of undressing.  She had been exhausted when she'd left the base, but she didn't think she'd ever fallen asleep while undressing before.  As she shed her slacks, she found that she was unable to remember going to bed.  She could recall entering the house, but nothing after that until the phone call from Janet.  As soon as the tank top she'd been wearing joined the pile of dirty clothing, she noticed the dark stain on the shoulder area and snatched it back up again.  She knew instantly that she was seeing a bloodstain and immediately looked in the mirror.

 

Stunned, she was unable to do anything but stare at her own reflection.  The entire area around her mouth and nose were smeared with blood, as was one cheek and the whole side of her neck and upper shoulder.  Oddly, she didn't seem to have any wounds or marks on her face that would account for it.  She gasped and looked closer when she caught sight of the marks on her neck, raising a shaking hand to probe the skin around punctures.

 

She was reeling from the discovery and stumbled over to sit on the side of the bathtub before her shaky legs gave out.  There had to be another explanation.  It could not have been him.  He'd never do something like this to her, no more than she'd ever do it to him. 

 

Suddenly, images of him standing in front of his locker after their initial contact with the people from the Land of Light flashed through her mind. 

 

Her, grabbing him and kissing him.  "I want you."  And oh, how intensely she had, more than anyone or anything ever--before or since. 

 

His attempt to reject her.  "Carter, this is a little out of line, don't you think?"

 

Her, pushing him down onto the bench.  Her, straddling him, trying to thrust her tongue into his mouth.  "You want me?"

 

Him, resisting her advances.  "No, no. . ."  Her, stifling his protest with another desperate kiss.  ". . .not like this, not like. . ."  Her, doggedly cutting him off again and attempting to force her way in to explore every inch of his oral cavity.  Him, pushing her away and trying to discourage her.  "Carter! What's gotten into you?"

 

Her, ignoring his question and trying to silence him by again smashing her mouth to his.  The two of them rolling onto the floor from the bench, her determination to have him unwavering.  Him, rolling her over and ending up on top of her.  Her, unwilling to let go and desperately clinging to him. "It's about time you saw a doctor, Doctor."   Him, picking her up and carrying her to the infirmary, with her fighting him the entire way.

 

She let her head fall to her chest, fighting back tears.  Unable to wallow in denial any longer, she knew with absolute certainty that he'd fallen under an alien influence and done the unthinkable.  He'd attacked her, just as she'd done to him all those years ago.

 

She tossed the bloody tank top back onto the pile and stood to start the water for her shower.  She froze as she reached for the faucet.  What if he was still there, inside her house? 

 

Without a second thought, she ran for the bedroom and grabbed the gun she kept in her nightstand.  Still clad only in bra and panties, she slowly advanced to the door and began a careful, methodical search.

 

She gasped when she found the damage from their tussle, but her weapon never wavered as she continued her careful check of the house.  The back door was standing wide open, causing her to shiver violently from the cold air blowing in.  Her eyes widened at the sight of her ruined handset and cell phone, but she remained alert and continued on.

 

Once she'd determined that he was gone, she made her way back to her bedroom.  She replaced the gun in the nightstand and reached for the phone to inform the base of her situation.

 

Halfway through dialing, she stopped and replaced the receiver.  If she reported this, she'd be placed in quarantine like the colonel.  There was no way she'd be able to help search for him--or more importantly, to help find a cure for him--if she was locked away in some boring ISO-room.

 

She returned to her bathroom without calling anyone, her mind still cataloging the possible ramifications of her actions.  There was no proof that she was infected, but the amount of blood on her face and neck was far more than the small wounds on her neck would likely produce.  That meant some of it was likely his, and it was very possible that she might have ingested a small amount.  There was also the possibility that she could have absorbed a minute amount through the punctures.

 

She turned on the faucet and finished undressing, still pondering her course of action.  Going by the timetable that it took for the colonel to show signs of infection, she'd should have at least a week before she would become a danger to others.  She could always wait and begin to work on the problem, then turn herself in when or if she began to exhibit symptoms.

 

She sighed as she stepped into the tub and under the spray.  Given the sheer amount of data from the lab on '332, it would take far, far longer than one week to find the information they needed.  Unless Daniel found something specific to help them in the materials he was translating, there was no way they could find a cure before she became infected.  And what about the colonel?  There had to be something they could do to help him while they searched for the cure.

 

Having finished her shower, she turned the water off and reached for a towel.  Of course!  They could give him blood from the blood bank, just like they had done for the planet's inhabitants.  And if she were to become infected, she could keep working on the cure by doing the same.  Neither of them would be a threat to anyone else.  If only there was a way to be certain that the general would allow it. 

 

She quickly dried off and began to dress.  No, she simply couldn't chance it.  She'd suggest the colonel be given the banked blood, but there was no way she would risk being pulled from duty--and, most importantly, work on the development of a cure--by reporting her apparent attack.  It's not like she could remember any specifics to tell anyway. 

 

She pulled a black, long-sleeved top from her closet and pulled it on.  If she were careful, the turtleneck and makeup would easily camouflage the evidence.  By using the banked blood, she wouldn't be a danger to anyone and could focus her attention on finding the solution.  She'd inform Janet and the general after a remedy was found if she developed symptoms.

 

She couldn't fail him, not after everything they'd been through together over the years.  And she would not lose him, not to this or anything else.  Not now.  Not ever.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Jack O'Neill watched in relief as Sam Carter rushed into the infirmary.  By the time he'd realized what he'd done, leaving her in such a weakened condition, he was back here and too weak himself to return.  He should have called for help, but the thought never crossed his mind until after he'd fed from the airman in his room.  This damned vampire crap was really screwing with his mental processes.  At least he'd managed to figure out how to do that invisibility thing without changing into something inhuman.  That had certainly made it easier to move around the base and stay informed as to the actions that were being taken to locate and apprehend him.

 

He wearily rubbed a hand over his eyes.  All this stealth was taking its toll, too.  He could feel the urge building and knew that he'd have to feed again soon.  He'd been very careful not to take very much from the airman in his quarters.  He might not be able to deny his need, but he would make damn sure that no one was permanently harmed by his actions.  If only there were another way to get what he could no longer live without. 

 

That was why he'd come here, to check out the blood stored away for emergencies.  He wasn't sure if it would work or not, but he knew he had to try it.  He would not have taken enough to cause a shortage and put anyone who might be injured at risk.  And if it had worked, it would have meant he wouldn't have to risk harming anyone else.  Unfortunately, to his dismay, he'd found that Fraiser already had it guarded by a squad of SFs when he arrived.  There was no way to get at it undetected, and he wasn't going to risk being caught just yet.

 

That only left him one option, to continue getting what he needed from isolated personnel.  This was also becoming more difficult, as word had been spread for all personnel, both military and civilian, to avoid being alone at all times.  Damn it!  He so didn't want to do this.  He respected these men and women, and the last thing he'd ever want to do is purposely harm any of them.  The whole situation only reinforced his decision--he had to put his plan into effect as soon as possible, there was no other choice.

 

He was pulled from the guilt and shame over his actions by the sound of Fraiser's voice.  "Sam, are you sure you're all right?  You look awfully pale."

 

He mentally braced himself, knowing that the end of his career was about to unfold before his eyes. 

 

"Janet, I told you, I'm fine!  I just haven't been sleeping very well this past week, with everything that's happened."  He was stunned by Carter's denial.  Why the hell was she protecting him like this?

 

Before the doctor could question her friend any further, a nurse rushed into the room and called for her.  "Doctor Fraiser, Airman Kenley is finally coming around."

 

"Thank you, I'll be right there."  At Janet's dismissal, the nurse turned and went back to her duties.

 

"I'll be in my lab working on a solution.  Let me know as soon as you hear anything?"

 

Janet nodded as the two headed for the door.  "Promise me you'll take regular breaks and come see me if you start to feel dizzy or faint?"

 

Jack watched on with interest as Sam agreed before the pair went their separate ways.  He had just started to follow Carter when a nurse entered and headed for the supply closet.  Most noticeably, she was alone.  Knowing he'd not likely get another opportunity soon, he quickly changed course and headed to follow the woman into the storage area.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Teal'c swiped his card and spoke quietly into his radio.  "Seal blast door C-5 west."  He then proceeded down the corridor, sweeping the TER from wall to wall in front of him.  A pair of heavily armed SFs followed closely behind him.

 

As they turned the corner, a lone figure waited at the intersection ahead.  The unarmed man had his hands out to the side in an unthreatening manner.  For a long moment, no one said a word as they stared at one another.  Finally, the Jaffa broke the silence.  "O'Neill."

 

Jack kept his hands spread wide as he backed up a step to lean against the wall.  "Teal'c," he acknowledged.

 

The former First Prime kept the weapon trained on his friend, in spite of his seemingly harmless stance, as he cautiously approached.  "You must accompany us to see Dr. Fraiser immediately."

 

The colonel's pained expression and slight shake of his head told Teal'c what his answer would be even before he spoke.  "Ah, no.  Sorry, but that's just not gonna happen."  He frowned slightly as the trio continued to slowly advance toward him.  "That's close enough."

 

Teal'c immediately signaled the others to halt.  "Why then have you shown yourself, O'Neill, if you do not wish to surrender?"

 

Jack shrugged nonchalantly.  "Well, I was kind of hoping you would do me a favor."

 

"I will not assist you in any attempt to obtain more victims, nor will I aid you in any effort to escape in your current condition."

 

O'Neill shook his head, a sad expression falling like a shadow across his features.  "I'd never ask that of you, T.  I was just hoping you'd deliver a message for me."

 

Teal'c nodded, prompting his friend and brother warrior to continue.  "I'd like you to tell them all that I'm sorry.  I tried to find another way, I really did.  But I just. . ."  He shrugged as his words trailed off and he could no longer meet the Jaffa's eyes. 

 

After a brief pause, he took a deep breath and once more met the alien's gaze, his eyes revealing the depth of the pain in his heart.  "Tell Carter that I'm sorry.  I never, ever meant to hurt her."  His eyes shone with an intense sincerity that the colonel rarely displayed before he again found himself unable to look Teal'c in the eye.  "Daniel, too," he added, almost as an afterthought.

 

The Jaffa nodded almost imperceptibly to let his friend know that he would do him this small favor.  He returned the gesture and stepped away from the wall.  Looking deeply into the former First Prime's eyes one final time, he allowed his emotions to show in his own.  "Take care, my friend.  It's been an honor."

 

Teal'c eyes widened, knowing that O'Neill's farewell was meant to be final.  Before he could respond, one of the SF's took it upon himself to open fire with his P90 and prevent the colonel's escape.  O'Neill was slammed back into the wall by the force of the bullets, prompting an enraged Teal'c to immediately turn on the pair.  "Cease fire!" he bellowed.

 

The pair nervously looked past him to their downed quarry, but quickly returned their attention to the angry Jaffa.  The duo cowered as the former First Prime glared menacingly at them.  "You will not fire your weapons again unless you are instructed to do so." 

 

The two airmen swallowed hard.  "Yes, sir!"

 

Teal'c reached for his radio as he turned to go to his friend's aid, but was stunned to find the corridor empty.  He released the mike without speaking and quickly brought the TER up to sweep the hallway from wall to wall.  To his complete surprise, the only evidence that the colonel had ever been there was a large red smear where he'd fallen.  He again reached up to key his mike.  "Colonel O'Neill has been sighted on level 20.  He has been shot, but has managed to escape.  Please have a medical team standing by.  I repeat, Colonel O'Neill has been sighted on level 20 and has been wounded.  Proceed with caution."

 

He quickly moved forward to check the passageways on both sides of the intersecting hall, moving the TER to check the entire area wall to wall, from floor to ceiling.  The first hallway was empty, with no signs that the wounded man had passed that direction.  He whirled around and repeated the procedure on the other end of the corridor.  Dejected, he dropped the weapon to his side.

 

Even though he had been seriously wounded, O'Neill had somehow vanished without a trace.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Janet Fraiser dropped heavily into the chair in front of the general's desk.  She opened the folders she'd brought along and waited for his signal to begin.

 

General Hammond replaced the receiver in its cradle after finishing his conversation and turned his attention to the woman before him.  "All right, Doctor.  Let's hear it."

 

The doctor shifted uneasily in her chair.  "Yes, sir. Since the colonel was shot, there has been a sharp increase in the frequency and number of attacks, despite the warnings to stay with a group at all times.  We now have an even dozen staff members in quarantine as of 2000 hours.  Lieutenant Sanchez was found unconscious just after 1900 hours in a storage room on level 17.  He was unharmed except for two puncture wounds on his neck, just like the others.   Like the others, he doesn't remember how he was attacked, or by whom.  Also like the previous victims, he was suffering from a slightly lower than normal blood count, but is recovering rapidly and in excellent condition.  As of yet, none of the detainees are showing any signs of infection."

 

"Are we any closer at all to a cure for this?"  The weary commander leaned back in his chair as he waited for her answer.

 

"No, sir, I'm afraid not.  We're still analyzing the blood samples from the corridor where Colonel O'Neill was wounded, but the nanobots from those smears are no longer active and have begun to decay.  I'm afraid it will take time before we learn anything helpful.  Major Carter has been working nearly around the clock to find something in the data from M7C 332, but so far there hasn't been anything related to the nanobots or the disease they were supposedly studying.  Daniel is still certain there will be something of value in the translation of the text he was given by the locals, but so far he hasn't found anything useful, I'm afraid."

 

 The general silently studied her as he pondered his next action.   With a sigh, he leaned forward again and folded his hands in front of him on the desk as he gravely issued his orders.  "I want you to pull the SFs guarding the blood supply immediately."

 

Fraiser's eyes widened in surprise.  "We can't do that, General!  If there is an emergency while the mountain is under lockdown. . ."

 

Hammond held up a hand to halt her protest.  "Doctor Fraiser, I don't see that we have any other choice here!  I've already got twelve of my people in the isolation unit, and it's only been two days since Jack O'Neill first disappeared and this whole mess started.  We can't afford to lose anymore personnel to quarantine, even if they eventually prove to be uninfected."

 

"But, sir," she protested.

 

"Just hear me out, Doctor.  Repeated sweeps of the base using the TERs have turned up absolutely nothing since our initial sighting.  Now, Dr. Jackson has suggested that we set up a surveillance of the area around the blood bank using some of the TERs while the others are used to continue with the search.  Frankly, I think it's the best option we have right now."  The general waited for her protest, which was immediate.

 

She shook her head.  "I'm sorry, sir, but I have to disagree.  Until we know exactly how the nanites are rendering Colonel O'Neill invisible, we can't be certain that the TERs will even expose him.  We have four teams stranded off world until this is resolved, and if even one of those units encounter trouble, we could be looking at a serious problem if our blood supply is compromised." 

 

She fingered the edge of the folder in front of her before continuing.  "And as far as using that supply as bait, I'm afraid that I disagree there, also, sir.  Colonel O'Neill is far too experienced to be fooled by such an obvious trap, General, and we both know it."

 

The general nodded.  "Under normal conditions, I'd agree with you.  Let's just hope that either due to his weakened state or because of the alien influence, he is fooled.  For everyone's sake--especially his--we need to get him into custody as soon as possible.  Therefore, I'm ordering you to remove the guards from the blood bank immediately.  You're dismissed."

 

Janet Fraiser rose from her seat.  "Yes, sir.  I'll see to it right away."  She walked briskly to the door and paused, turning back to add one final comment.  "Sir, with all due respect to you, I'd like to officially go on record as being in disagreement with this plan."

 

Hammond sighed.  "As you wish, Doctor.  You have your orders."

 

She nodded.  "Thank you, sir.  I'll see to it straight away."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Jack waited until the sweep team had left the control room before entering.  He remained in the back of the room, which was staffed with a skeleton crew due to the early morning hour.

 

He was so very tempted to curl up and take a brief nap, but he knew his time grew shorter with each passing moment.  He was still weak from the wounds inflicted by the P-90, and the added strain of maintaining his invisibility only exacerbated the problem. There was no way he could possibly get enough to fully restore his strength from live donors without endangering their health--personnel he could lure to isolated areas were far too scarce.  It was a real temptation to risk a trip to the now-unguarded blood bank, but he resisted it, totally unwilling to chance being caught now.

 

When he was assured that the security teams were all far enough away, he stepped forward and approached the airman at the dialing computer.  She was new, and he found himself feeling a strange sense of relief that it hadn't been Harriman or Simmons at the controls.  After all they'd been through over the years, it would feel like the ultimate betrayal for him to have to take advantage of one who'd been here since the beginning.

 

There were two others in the room and he silently moved over to where they were huddled over one of the terminals examining data.  He gently whispered into both men's ears.  "It's time to take a break.  You have got to go to the cafeteria for some coffee and pie.  You will tell no one."

 

The pair froze instantly.  They said nothing, listening silently as he repeated the directions over and over.  A few moments later, they looked at each other and silently left the room, heading for the canteen as instructed.

 

The airman at the dialing computer nervously called to their retreating forms.  "Guys!  Hey, guys!  Where are you going?"

 

O'Neill was instantly next to her, kissing her neck and crooning into her ear.  "There is nothing wrong here.  The guys are taking a break.  They'll be right back."

 

The young woman moaned in ecstasy, remaining her chair as he deepened his hold on her.  "That's good.  You just sit here and relax while I take care of a couple of things."  He reached over and typed in several commands before turning it back over to the tech. 

 

His tongue traveled the length of her neck, causing her to shiver and tilt her head for better access.  "Yes, anything.  I'll do anything," she whimpered.

 

He smiled, kissing he way back up to her ear.  "Good.  Now, I need you to dial this address when you see my signal from the Gate room.  As soon as the Gate starts dialing, you will go join the others for coffee.  You won't remember anything after you leave this room,"  he instructed.

 

"Yes, sir," she whispered.

 

He licked his way back down her neck and bit down.  She groaned, lost completely in the feelings of euphoria he was causing.  He drank quickly, but took very little from her.  He didn't want to risk incapacitating her, leaving her unable to assist him.

 

She whimpered again when he pulled away from her, swaying in the chair.  He reached out to steady her and repeated his instructions to begin dialing on his signal.  Once satisfied that she would be able to comply, he turned and hurried down the stairs to the Gate room.

 

When he arrived at the base of the ramp, he looked up at her and nodded.  She returned the gesture and set the dialing sequence in motion.  She then rose and left the room as he'd directed.

 

She'd barely made it out of the room before the blast doors slid closed, sealing off the Gate room, as well as the control room, from the rest of the base.  He could hear the commotion out in the corridors as the security forces tried unsuccessfully to override the locks and enter.

 

As the last chevron engaged, he took one last lingering look around the room.  He fought to keep his emotions under control, knowing he'd never be returning.  With a fervent wish for the continued safety and well-being of all who served here, he turned and slowly made his way to the top of the ramp.

 

When he was nearly to the event horizon, a voice called to him from the control room.  "Sir!  Wait!"

 

He stopped dead in his tracks and sucked in a deep breath, startled by her appearance.  How had she gotten in?  He turned slightly, but did not look up at her.  She seemed to be alone, but he remained ready to run for the open wormhole. 

 

He took another deep breath, exhaling slowly, and shook his head.  "Sorry, Carter. This is the way it has to be."

 

She again called out again as he took a step forward.  "NO!  Wait!  I'm coming with you!"

 

His chest heaved with suppressed emotion as he finally turned to face her.  She was frantically typing, trying to override his commands and get into the Gate room to follow him.  He backed slowly toward the open stargate as he shook his head and choked out his reply.  "I'm sorry, Sam.  For everything."

 

Her head jerked up at his use of her first name.  He forced himself to look her directly in the eyes, and his heart broke at the soul-deep anguish reflected there. Her tears welled, threatening to spill, and he knew he'd never, ever forgive himself for the pain he'd caused her.  His feet were like lead weights, but he drove himself to continue moving toward the rippling event horizon.

 

His back finally hit the surface of the wormhole, breaking the spell.  She returned her attention to the keyboard, desperately trying to stop it from shutting down before she could follow him.  She didn't cease her efforts until the gate snapped shut and the room plunged into total darkness.

 

She knew instantly what he'd done and pounded the desk in front of her. "NO!"

 

Her protest could be heard far beyond the closed blast doors as she called to him.  When the lights returned moments later, the blast doors opened and the Gate room was flooded with SFs.  She didn't notice them, just sat staring at the idle Stargate as she fought for control of her emotions. 

 

Dimly, she became aware of a hand on her shoulder.  She turned to see who it belonged to and found Daniel looking at her in concern.  She tried to smile at him, but was unable to force it out.  Her voice broke as she tearfully explained what had occurred.  "He's gone, Daniel.  He's gone."

 

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

The sentries swooped down on him the instant he emerged from the Gate, causing him to lose his balance and fall backward.

 

"Why have you returned here?  Fool!  Much was sacrificed to free you from the Mistress.  Your reappearance has made that offering meaningless!"  The angry young woman glared at him as he rose from the ground and looked around.

 

The place was every bit as dark and dreary as he remembered, matching his mood perfectly.  "Yeah, well, I didn't ask anybody to give up anything, so get over it," he snapped.

 

He shoved his hands in his pockets and started toward the city, ignoring her and her silent companion.  Before he'd even taken two steps, the woman was again in front of him.  "The Mistress demands you be brought before Her immediately should you return.  You will come with me."

 

He could feel the Goa'uld compelling him to return to her, but it was faint enough for him to resist easily, despite his weakness.  His own anger rose as the standoff continued.  He crossed his arms and challenged the sentry.  "And if I refuse?"

 

The young woman looked at him with a mixture of anger and contempt.  "She has claimed you as Her own.  You must have known the fate that awaited you when you decided to return here," she spat.

 

O'Neill remained silent.  His only response was a slight tilt of his head and raised eyebrows.

 

His actions served only to irritate her even more.  Her anger got the better of her, eradicating what little patience she still possessed.  "She will come for you Herself!  Her anger will be great at your disobedience, and you will suffer greatly for it!"  It was clear from her tone that the young lady was pleased by the prospect of him being on the receiving end of such pain.

 

He smiled at her, his expression so fiercely malevolent and icy that it made her take a step back.  "Good.  Tell the bitch if she wants me, she'll have to come and get me."

 

Both sentries stared after him in wide-eyed shock as he strode past them and on toward the city.  When Jack disappeared from view, the pair looked fearfully at each other.  No one ever defied the Mistress.  They'd learned the hard way.  They all knew how horrible the consequences were.

 

The Mistress would not take the news of his ultimatum well.  Still, one of them would have to inform Her.  The duo gazed deeply into each other's dark eyes.  No words were spoken, but the male reluctantly nodded and slowly flew off.

 

His partner remained motionless, staring for a long while at the spot where she'd last seen Her Chosen.  Her sister had told her that this O'Neill had been different, but she hadn't realized just how different--not until he'd issued his challenge to the Mistress.  He must be ignorant of the wrath he would suffer, or he'd have never spoken such dreadful words.  To knowingly invite such horror was unthinkable.  She shuddered at the thought, unable to fathom why anyone would do such a thing. 

 

She replayed the scene in her mind, recalling the fierce hatred in his eyes as he'd ordered them to deliver his message.  In that instant, she knew beyond any doubt that he'd known exactly what was in store for him.  An audible gasp escaped her as a second, far more chilling revelation hit her.

 

The man did not care.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Samantha Carter slammed her goggles down on the table next to the technology she'd been examining.  She'd been feeling tense and irritable ever since the colonel had left yesterday.  Given the circumstances behind his escape, she'd been attributing her mood to his departure.  Now, though?  Now she knew for certain that it wasn't the sole cause at all.

 

She'd been working nearly round the clock, as had Daniel, in the attempt to find a way to eliminate or deactivate the nanites.  No one other than the colonel had been affected as yet, but there was no guarantee the condition would not spread to the SGC members from whom he'd been forced to feed.  When Janet Fraiser had arrived several hours earlier and insisted she take a break for something to eat, she had reluctantly agreed to accompany the doctor to the canteen.

 

She'd known something was not right the moment she'd gotten in the elevator.  It had been crowded, as it was near lunchtime, and many of the lab techs had also been ready for a meal-break.  As soon as the doors had closed, she'd felt like every nerve ending in her body was tingling.  She had been able to smell the sweat and perfume of every single person in there.  Even now, she would swear that she had heard the blood of each one rushing through their veins. 

 

She'd been about to panic, unable to deal with all the unfamiliar sensations.  When the car had stopped at the next floor to admit more passengers, she'd bolted through the doors with Janet hot on her heels.  Shaking, she'd slid down the wall and pulled her knees up, resting her head on them as her friend and doctor had demanded answers.  Their conversation was still fresh in her mind.

 

"What is it, Sam?  What's wrong?  And don't bother trying to tell me it's nothing!  You've been far too pale for days now."

 

Her quaking quickly abated once away from the crowded elevator, and she calmly looked up at Fraiser.  She knew her friend would see right through a lie, so she opted for a stripped down version of the truth.  "I don't know.  It was so crowded in there--too many people.  I-I just had to get out, that's all."

 

Janet pursed her lips, clearly not buying the explanation.  After a long pause, she had demanded more answers.  "Okay, so tell my why you've been wearing all those turtlenecks lately.  Ever since Colonel O'Neill first went missing, in fact, if I recall correctly."

 

Sam stood, feeling herself again.  She was beginning to get angry at her friend's persistence.  "It's been a little chilly in my lab, all right?  I think something is wrong with the thermostat, but I haven't had time to do anything about it with everything else going on."

 

The doctor eyed her skeptically.  "Okay, fine.  Let me see your neck."

 

Carter stared back at her, eyes wide with shock.  "What?"

 

Fraiser stood her ground.  "You heard me.  If there's nothing wrong, you won't mind my taking a look."

 

Furious that she was about to be exposed and pulled from her research, she glared at the shorter doctor, grabbing the shirt on both sides of her throat and yanking it down.

 

Janet blinked in surprise and stepped closer to examine her friend.  Once satisfied, she moved back.  "I'm sorry, Sam.  I don't know what else to say.  I was afraid that you were trying to cover for him.  You have to admit, your symptoms are identical to the other victims'.  And the timing is a pretty strange coincidence, too."

 

She hid her surprise with a silent shrug and used the pretence of fixing her collar to run her own fingers across her throat where only that morning had been two slightly-faded puncture wounds with a still noticeable amount of bruising around them.  To her amazement, the skin was now as smooth as silk, and she knew that if she looked in a mirror, there wouldn't be even the smallest sign of a blemish anywhere.

 

"You know, I really don't feel up to braving the crowd in the cafeteria. And for some reason, my appetite has all but disappeared.  I think I'll wait for a little while and then get Daniel to take a break with me."  She forced a smile at her friend.  "If that's all right with you," she clarified.

 

"Sure, Sam.  Just don't wait too long, okay?  You really do need to keep up your strength," she admonished with concern.

 

Carter had simply nodded and headed for the stairs, leaving her friend standing alone in the corridor.

 

With a heavy sigh, her thoughts returned to the present as she moved over to the small refrigerator and opened the door.  She reached in with a shaking hand and pulled out one of the dark bottles she'd stashed there the day before.  She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, working up the nerve to open it.

 

She slowly unscrewed the cap, her thoughts drifting back to her doctor-friend.  Sam knew she'd have to square things with Janet, but right now the more distance between them the better.  She couldn't risk the medical dynamo picking up on her symptoms, not until she found a cure for this cursed condition.

 

The smell of the red liquid inside the bottle sent her reeling.  She fought to keep from downing its sharp, tangy contents in one gulp.  The urge was beyond a craving--she needed the fluid and needed it now.

 

She slammed the lid back on the bottle and set it down, crossing to the other side of the room as fast as she possibly could.  No, it wasn't possible.  It had only been a few days, not nearly enough time.  Her eyes darted furtively around the room, taking in the scattered notes and pieces of technology from '332.  She needed more time--a lot more time.

 

Sam quickly calmed herself and slowly retraced her steps back to the counter holding the dreaded bottle.  She hesitantly picked it up and stared into the dark glass, finally admitting the truth she'd been denying ever since the elevator incident: she too had been transformed into a vampire, just like the colonel. 

 

She again removed the cap, as more unwanted thoughts churned in her head.  It worried her a little that her metamorphosis had happened so much more quickly than his.  However, there was still so much to do that she pushed the thought from her mind, determined to keep her condition secret until they'd succeeded in finding the cure. 

 

She resolutely lifted the bottle to her lips and began to drink.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Leanansidhe stormed back and forth in front of the cowering sentry.  "You have failed me, my trusted and loyal servant.  I asked such a small thing of you, yet you were not successful in your pathetic endeavors.  You force me to go retrieve my prize myself; for this you will be punished!"  She snapped her fingers, summoning forth the servants who'd been standing nearby as ordered.  "Lock him away with the other!  Allow him nothing without my command!"

 

The servants timidly stepped forward and took the sentry by the arm, leading him out of the room.  The Goa'uld paid no heed to the pitying looks they gave their brother, having already dismissed him from her thoughts.

 

She had known the visitor would be a handful--that much was evident from his attempts to resist her on his previous visit.  It pleased her greatly that he was so full of spirit, but in this, he had gone too far.  She'd been relishing the prospect of breaking him since she'd first tasted of him from her servant, but such open slander and defiance could simply not be tolerated. 

 

She fingered the ribbon device on her hand absently as she plotted his lesson.  Oh, he would rue the day he dared to defame and defy her!  She would have to be careful, though.  She didn't want to break that delightfully strong spirit of his too quickly.  Where would be the fun in that?  Still, he would have to learn immediately that it was not wise to ignore her wishes.

 

She lifted a bejeweled goblet to her lips and drank down the tangy red contents.  She replaced the cup on its tray and swiped an ornate napkin across her ruby lips.  With a satisfied sigh, she turned on her heel and headed for the surface.

 

It was time for his lesson to begin.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

A frustrated and weary Daniel Jackson burst into Sam's lab, followed immediately by their Jaffa teammate.  Not wanting them to see what she'd been researching, she quickly closed the laptop and turned to face them.

 

"I'm missing something, I know it!  I can feel it, but I just can't see it!" Daniel complained.  "And it doesn't help matters knowing that Jack is out there somewhere, probably in the clutches of some loony Goa'uld vampire!"

 

Sam's jaw clenched at the mental image of O'Neill in the arms of the woman from the hilltop that Teal'c had described to them.  "I know, Daniel.  We're all working as fast as we can.  It's just going to take a little time."

 

Jackson looked at her incredulously.  "A little time?  Jack is out there in the hands of a vampire Goa'uld--we don't have a little time!"

 

"I'm well aware of where he is and what's probably happening to him, Daniel!"  She turned her back to him, fighting to get her emotions under control.

 

The archaeologist was immediately contrite and moved closer to her.  He placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently in support.  "I'm sorry, Sam, I wasn't thinking.  I guess I got a little carried away there." 

 

When she didn't respond, he pulled his hand back and crossed his arms.  He heaved a deep sigh and shook his head.  "Of all the planets we've ever been to, why the hell did he have to pick that one to go back to?  He could have gone to a dozen different safer planets!"

 

It was Teal'c who spoke first.  "In fact, he could not.  M7C 332 was indeed the only safe choice for O'Neill."

 

The other two members of SG-1 looked at him in disbelief, with Daniel quick to question him.  "Safe?  How can a planet ruled by a vampire Goa'uld who has already claimed ownership of him be considered a safe choice?"

 

The Jaffa regarded the pair sternly as Sam nodded in agreement with the archaeologist.  "You do O'Neill a grave disservice.  He would never consider choosing a destination where his presence would present a danger to others.  Therefore, the only choice available to him would be to return to the planet where he was infected."

 

The former First Prime could see in their eyes the instant his teammates realized the truth in his words.  This time, it was Carter who spoke for the pair.  "You're right, Teal'c.  We should have known the colonel wouldn't do anything that might put innocents in danger."

 

Jackson quickly agreed.  "Yeah, sorry about that.  I guess I've just been so wrapped up in my own feelings and problems that I hadn't considered things from Jack's viewpoint."

 

The Jaffa arched an eyebrow.  "Then perhaps you should regard your own situation from O'Neill's viewpoint," he suggested.

 

The two geniuses looked at each other in surprise and shrugged.  "It couldn't hurt.  The colonel does have a way of seeing things at their simplest and getting to the root of the problem," Sam offered.

 

The team linguist nodded.  "Then I think I should get back to it with a fresh viewpoint.  Thanks, guys."

 

The two men left, but she waited until she was certain they would not return before she reopened the computer.  She glanced around the lab at all the charts and bits of alien technology she'd gathered from the planet and sighed.  She was more certain than ever that the answers she needed were on the planet, not here on Earth.

 

She returned to her research with renewed determination.  If the answers where back there, then she'd have to go after them.  That likely meant facing down the Goa'uld, and since the Goa'uld was a vampire, she needed to be certain which methods would be effective in defeating it--or even killing it, if need be.  She'd pretty much discarded most of the popular theories, including silver bullets and a wooden stake through the heart.  There was one method that was low tech enough that she might be able to pull it off, even if captured.  Still, she wasn't ready to pin all her hopes on it.  She would continue her research and plan her own escape.  She could only pray that no one got hurt in the process.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

The fiery redhead glared menacingly as the Earthling's body slammed into the stone wall.  "You will learn not to defy me, my pet.  Now tell me the symbols for your former home-world!"

 

Jack rose unsteadily to his feet, glaring back at her with equal vehemence.  "Go to hell, snakehead!"

 

She smiled cruelly as she circled his battered body.  "I can compel you to tell me, you know.  Why put yourself through all this when you know I will get what I want one way or another," she purred.  He really didn't care what she thought she was punishing him for.  It was enough that he knew that he deserved to suffer for what he'd put the innocent men and women of the SGC through before he was able to escape.  There was no way in hell he'd ever willingly give up Earth's address--even if its Gate was protected by the iris.

 

His body was weakening more with each passing moment.  He felt the urge to feed so strongly that it caused a physical pain in his stomach.  Then again, maybe the pain was from the many times she'd sent him crashing into the stone walls with her ribbon device.  He wasn't recovering very quickly anymore either, which most likely meant that the nanobots were losing the ability to function without the red blood cells they needed.

 

Exasperated by his continued refusal to cooperate, the impatient Goa'uld gave up and moved in front of him, staring directly into his eyes.  "You will tell me the symbols now," she demanded.

 

He fought her, tried to keep the words from forming, but she was too strong.  Once he'd given her the last symbol, she brought one of her jeweled goblets to his lips and allowed him the nourishment his body was so badly craving.  He drank greedily, unable to deny his system the fluid it now needed in such a totally different way.

 

Once the cup was empty, she let him drop to the hard floor while she replaced the container on the matching tray.  "See, my pet?  Good behavior is always rewarded," she admonished.  Her lip curled in a gruesome smile.  "Now your body may replenish itself before we continue."

 

He ignored her threats and curled into a ball, but his eyes followed her with a hatred that burned into her back.  "The address won't do you any good, you know," he taunted.  "They have a shield that won't allow you to pass through."

 

She laughed heartily.  "Do not attempt to deceive me, my pet.  Soon we will journey through your Chaapa'ai and feast on your former world's inhabitants.  It will be a glorious day for us all!"

 

He snorted at her overconfidence.  "Hey, you go right ahead, lady.  Just don't say I didn't warn you," he told her smugly.

 

Leanansidhe's mirth quickly turned into a frown as she studied him.  She quickly decided it was better to be safe than sorry.  "What is this shield and how does it work," she demanded.

 

He smirked, much to her irritation, but did answer her.  "We call it an iris.  It closes whenever someone dials in.  Won't open unless the right code is transmitted.  Anyone who tries to go through without the code goes splat when they hit the iris."

 

She glared at him again, her eyes glittering like diamonds with rage--and looking every bit as cold and icy.  "You will tell me how to send this code so that we may pass," she commanded.

 

Her anger deepened when he laughed in response.  "Even if I could, I wouldn't."

 

She stalked over and grabbed him by the chin, staring deeply into his eyes once more to compel him to tell her what she wanted to know.  He didn't attempt to fight her this time, knowing that he wouldn't be able to tell her anything useful anyway.  "The codes are transmitted using something called a GDO, and I don't have one here.  All my security codes were locked out as soon as I stepped through the wormhole since I was not authorized to leave.  I can't help you get in."

 

She screamed, venting her rage as she backhanded him across the face.  He flew backwards, blood flowing from his nose and a cut on his lip.  Once he regained his senses a bit, he sneered at her as he further taunted her.  "Told you it wouldn't do you any good," he chided.

 

Her rage was nearly out of control, and she knew she had to take a break to calm down before she inflicted more permanent damage to him than she wanted at this point.  She snapped her fingers at the servants standing by, her eyes never leaving her prisoner.  "Chain him!" she ordered. 

 

As her slaves did her bidding, she turned and stalked out of the room without another word.

 

As he hung there with nothing to do but wait, his thoughts turned to those back at the SCG--and specifically three individuals.  Daniel and Teal'c would move on with no problems, probably pretty quickly.  It was Carter that worried him.  She was the one he deserved every bit of pain the snakehead could dish out for hurting.  He mentally replayed the moments before he entered the wormhole, her suffering stabbing into his heart like a knife.  Yeah, he deserved everything the slimy snake could throw at him, all right.

 

As if she sensed his mental insults, his tormentor suddenly stormed back into the room, her eyes burning with rage.  "If we cannot travel to your world, you will tell me of the other worlds you have visited.  You will tell me of the System Lords, so that we may be certain to avoid the likes of Ra and his cronies," she demanded.

 

He mentally sighed.  Oh yeah, it was definitely going to be a long day. 

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Sam had stayed late in her lab again, planning the last details of her departure.  She reached into the refrigerator for the last bottle of blood and absentmindedly removed the lid.  She was totally engrossed in the printout she was reading as she brought the bottle to her lips and drank.  She frowned at the information, trying to decide what seemed off, but unable to find the answer.

 

She turned to go recheck the file on her computer and nearly dropped the dark glass container from which she was drinking.  "Daniel!  I-I didn't hear you come in," she stuttered.

 

Her teammate's brow was furrowed, and she knew instantly that he was puzzling something out.  He looked from her to the open laptop several times before he spoke.  "How long?" was all he said.

 

"How long?" she repeated, playing dumb.  "How long what?"

 

"Take your pick," he snapped.

 

Still flustered, she recapped the bottle and replaced it in the fridge.  "I don't know what you mean," she replied as she turned back to face him.

 

His gaze was stern as he stared at her intently.  "Stop with the innocent act, Sam.  Let's start with an easy one.  How long have you been infected?"

 

"Infected?"

 

He slammed his fist on the workbench, his eyes blazing with anger.  "Damn it, Sam, don't play games with me!  I've already lost one of my best friends to this madness, and now it looks like I'm going to be losing another.  Don't insult me by pretending you don't know what I'm talking about!"

 

Sam's shoulders sagged in defeat, but she still avoided his question.  "How did you know?"

 

He gestured to his own lips.  "Your lipstick isn't that red.  Then there are all the high-necked shirts you've been wearing, not to mention your paler-than-normal complexion and constant fatigue."  He turned momentarily to point to her computer.  "Plus, you'd normally ask me instead of doing this kind of research yourself," he explained.

 

She nodded, unsure what else to say. 

 

Daniel, however, wasn't going to be satisfied with less than the complete truth.  "So tell me, when you were bitten?  Was it Jack or did it happen back on the planet?"

 

She sighed heavily.  "Does it really matter?  What's done is done."

 

"Let's say it does matter," he retorted.  "Was Jack really the one responsible for putting all of those people in quarantine, or were some of them your doing?"

 

"Of course not!  I'd never let the colonel take the blame if I were responsible!"

 

"Okay.  So tell me--when?"

 

She crossed her arms and poked at the floor with the toe of her boot, unable to look him in the eye.  "It wasn't on the planet."

 

"So Jack did it?" he prompted.

 

She rubbed her forehead, not sure of what exactly to tell him.  "Yeah, I guess so."

 

He frowned again.  "You guess so?  Come on, Sam, I thought you were going to level with me!"

 

She finally looked at him, her own eyes sparkling with anger.  "I am!"  She took a deep breath to calm herself before continuing.  "I woke up the morning he went missing from his quarters and found the marks on my neck.  I swear to you, I don't remember how it happened!  There's nothing from the time I walked in the door until Janet called to tell me he was missing--it's all a big blank."

 

His frown deepened.  "Nothing at all?"

 

She shook her head.  "Nothing!  I don't remember him even being at my house, let alone any of the details of how it happened."

 

He pondered her explanation for a moment, then suddenly his eyes grew wide.  "It's only been a few days, Sam.  Jack's transformation took over a week.  Why?"

 

She turned away, too unsure of his reaction to be able to face him.  "I-I think we might have fought.  A little.  There was too much blood on my shirt and skin to have come solely from the bite."  She shrugged.  "I guess some of it must have been his, and somehow, it found its way into my system."

 

Daniel paled, his concern shining from his blue eyes.  "Did he. . .was he. . .?"

 

She shook her head.  "I already told you I don't remember anything!  Please, stop pushing me for answers I don't have!  I remember getting home and setting my things on the counter.  Then nothing until the phone woke me.  I was in bed on top of the covers, still wearing the same clothes as the night before."

 

"I'm sorry," he mumbled in apology.  Suddenly unsure as to what to say or do, his eyes began to wander around her lab.  It didn't take long for her open laptop to catch his eye.  He automatically began to read the screen, then whipped his head back around to face her.  "How long until you're leaving?"

 

"Soon."

 

He nodded.  "It'll be hard for them to find a cure without you."

 

She smiled for the first time since he'd entered her lab.  "They'll do fine," she reassured him.

 

He quickly returned her smile.  "Yeah, but it will take them a whole lot longer without you."  He looked down at his feet when she began to tear up.  "It's too bad they don't have a. . ."

 

She reached for his arm in concern when he stopped speaking mid-sentence, his eyes growing wide.  "That's it!  That's the answer!  I know how to cure you guys!  God, why didn't I see it sooner?"

 

Still holding onto his arm, she pulled him back when he started to leave.  "Daniel!  What are you talking about?  You found the cure?  How?  Where?"

 

His eyes danced with excitement.  "It was right there all the time!  I can't believe I didn't see it before!"  He pulled her over to a stack of photos next to her computer.  After searching through the pile, he pulled out the one he needed and pointed to it.

 

Confused, Sam frowned as she attempted to follow him.  "That's the stelae by the Gate, the ones that tell about the Goa'uld removal device."

 

He shook his head.  "We-I assumed they were referring to the Goa'uld.  The inscription doesn't actually specify the Goa'uld.  It says, "Come hither to our sanctuary and be freed from the taint.  Your autonomy and free will shall be restored to you."  It's so obvious!  Why didn't I see it before?"

 

She still wasn't quite following him.  "So, if they're not referring to the Goa'uld. . ."

 

He smiled broadly.  "The nanites, Sam.  The device is a way to remove the nanobots and cure the vampirism!"

 

Her smile matched his for a moment, then fell.  "There's only one problem, Daniel.  According to all the tests and readings I took, the device isn't working."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Jack hung limply in the chains as his captor circled around him, reveling in his pain.  She ran a finger lightly across his bruised and swollen cheek.  "If you are so reluctant to speak of the worlds you have visited, let us discuss the System Lords.  You will tell me what Ra and the others are up to these days."

 

She'd avoided using her ability for compulsion, wanting to instead break him using good old-fashioned torture.  She was counting on his need for blood to help with the process, but so far, he'd held his ground and refused to beg for it.  When he remained silent and didn't provide the information, her anger again went up a notch.  She resumed pacing in a circle around him, attempting to work off some of her ire.  It took a moment to regain her self-control, but she managed to quell the urge to use her powers and force the answer from him.

 

"You are an intriguing puzzle, my pet.  Tell me how you persuaded the First Prime of Apophis to abandon his post and join you."  She again stopped directly in front of him, running her hands over his exposed chest.  "Apophis must surely be furious with you!  How is it you roam so freely about the galaxy without fear of his retribution?"

 

Jack snorted weakly, his body nearing its limits of endurance.  "Why would I waste my time worrying about a dead snake?"

 

She stopped short at that bit of information and crossed the room to the table with the pitcher and goblets.  She quickly refilled his cup and returned to her position in front of him once again.  "So, you would have me believe that you have killed one of the gods?" she asked incredulously.

 

"Lady, I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you believe."  The effort of speaking left him gasping for air.  Still, he raised his head defiantly to look her in the eye and forced himself to continue.  "And you're not gods, just a bunch of body-hijacking snakes with severe delusions of grandeur and egos bigger than the Milky Way."

 

Her rage burned in her eyes, but she held her temper.  Seeing that he was at the end of his reserves, she held the cup to his lips and watched him eagerly down the contents.  It was just enough to barely keep him going.  Leanansidhe slowly sauntered back to replace the container on its tray, giving his body time to use the fluid he'd consumed.

 

She smiled seductively as she turned around to face him.  "Ra must be quite grateful to you for ridding him of his long-time enemy.  Though I'm surprised he hasn't attempted to conquer your planet.  It's not like him to leave such a threat unchallenged."

 

He smirked at her, his defiance still shining from his eyes.  "Oh, I wouldn't waste my time worrying about ol' Ra.  He's not exactly up to doing any challenging these days either."

 

The Goa'uld laughed as she started toward him.  "You go too far with this, my pet."  She walked behind him and began to massage his shoulders, leaning forward until her mouth was right next to his ear as she spoke.  "If you insist on continuing with these wild fantasies of yours, I shall be forced to punish you."

 

He clenched his teeth hard with the effort to ignore the effect her touch was having on his body.  Tendrils of pleasure warred with the pain from his injuries as her hands traveled over his back and around to stroke his chest.  Her voice again purred in his ear, heightening the sense of ecstasy.  "Now tell me truthfully, my pet.  How many of the System Lords have you really slain?"

 

Unable to resist her impulsion, he answered.  "I don't know.  I stopped counting them after awhile."

 

Enraged by his answer, she slipped around in front of him and grabbed his chin.  "How are you able to resist?"  She gasped as she looked into his eyes, seeing that he was securely under her spell and being truthful in his answer.

 

Her anger evaporated instantly as excitement began to build in its place.  "Tell me which of the gods you have terminated."

 

There was no hesitation in his answer, so firmly under her control was he.  "Ra was the first.  Then there was Seth, Hathor, Her'u'ur, Cronus, Marduk, and Apophis."

 

She frowned slightly at his response.  "Then I suppose Sokar has taken Ra's place as the most powerful of the System Lords."

 

His eyes were glazed with rapture from her continued caresses, but he instantly responded to her query.  "No, the Tok'ra blew up Netu and took out Sokar and his ship in the process."

 

She paused at that news, but not long enough to release him from her hold.  "So the Tok'ra are still out there making a nuisance of themselves.  Tell me, which other of the gods have perished?"

 

She began to trail kisses along his neck, her passion growing with his every word as he answered.  "Nirrti's dead.  So is Isis.  And Osiris was removed from his most recent host by the Tok'ra--don't know where they took him or what they did with him, though.  Svarog was zapped away by the Sentinel, don't know if he's dead or not."

 

She pulled back to again look into his eyes.  "Is that all?"

 

He nodded.  "All that I know of."

 

Leanansidhe smiled in approval.  "Good.  There is much planning to be done."  She leaned in to again kiss and lick at his neck.  "But first, a little pleasure."

 

She bit down and began to drink his blood, overwhelming his senses.  Too weak to handle the overload, his body began to shut down.  She pulled back abruptly, sensing his distress as his breathing became erratic.  Cursing, she quickly retrieved the pitcher of blood she'd been slowly feeding him and allowed him to drink it all.

 

She smiled as his eyes slid shut, pleased he appeared to be slowly recovering.  "Rest now, my pet.  For when you have regained your strength, we have plans to make."  Her eyes sparkled with excitement at the prospect.  "And you, my precious one, have many more gods to slay for me."

 

 

*******************************************

 

"You can take a break, if you'd like, Sergeant."  Major Carter smiled warmly as she took his seat in front of the dialing computer.  "This is going to take awhile."

 

Walter Harriman stretched, stifling a yawn.  The graveyard shift was his least favorite, and he looked longingly toward the staircase.  "I don't know, ma'am.  General Hammond did ask that I help you with the updates to the security overrides and dialing program."

 

She nodded, still smiling.  "Yes, and when I get ready to actually do the updates, I'll certainly be able to use your help. But first, I'm running a full diagnostic, and there's really no sense in both of us sitting around here waiting for it to finish."

 

"But we just did that a couple of days ago, right after Colonel O'Neill. . ."  He stopped short when her grin disappeared, and he realized exactly who and what he was reminding her about.

 

She covered her hurt almost immediately, her smile reappearing as quickly as it had left.  "I know.  I want to verify the results before I make any changes, though."

 

Accepting her explanation, he readily agreed to the offered break.  "Well, then I think I'll head to the cafeteria for some coffee."  He headed for the exit, only to stop and call to her when he got to the stairs.  "Would you like me to bring you something, Major?" he asked, recalling how stale the coffee up here tended to get during the late nighttime.

 

Absorbed in watching the data on her screen, she shook her head and waved him off.  "Thanks, but I'm fine, Sergeant."

 

She waited several minutes to assure herself that he was gone, then buried her head in her hands.  She had hated lying to him, but it was better than him finding out what she was up to.

 

She rose from her seat and gathered the gear that she'd stashed behind a console earlier.  Once kitted up, she returned to the computer to abort the diagnostic and enter her coordinates.

 

She entered the Gate room with the blast doors closing rapidly behind her.  Just as her CO had done several days earlier, she gave one last, wistful look around the room as the wormhole engaged.

 

There was one difference between them, though:  Samantha Carter planned full well on returning to the SGC as soon as possible--with her commanding officer.

 

She strode up the ramp and stepped through the Gate, totally disregarding the noise of troops trying to gain entrance.  There was only one thought occupying her mind.

 

One way or another, Sam Carter was going to find a way to cure them both--and SG-1 would be whole once again.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Jack eyed Leanansidhe warily as she offered him another cup of the blood sent by the SGC during their first visit in exchange for his return.  Though he was still hanging by his wrists in the chains, she hadn't returned to torturing or even questioning him any further--and that made him extremely uneasy.

 

He searched his mind for the details of the end of their last session, but came up empty.  She'd wanted to know about the System Lords, but had refused to believe he'd killed any of them.  Things started getting very hazy after that, and he had a feeling that he wouldn't like the events that his memory was denying him.

 

"Drink, my pet.  We have much to accomplish this day.  Plans need to be made as soon as possible."

 

He ignored the offered goblet, resisting her in whatever small way that he could.  "What kind of plans?"

 

Before she could respond, a servant scurried into the room full of apologies.  "Please forgive my intrusion, Mistress!  The Chaapa'ai has again opened, and the woman who accompanied this one the first time has returned!"

 

A lump formed in the pit of O'Neill's stomach at the news.  What the hell was Carter thinking of in coming here?

 

The Goa'uld demanded more information.  "Is she alone or does she bring additional warriors?"

 

The frightened little man's gaze never left the floor.  "No, Mistress, she is alone."

 

"Have her brought here to me immediately!"  Leanansidhe smiled cruelly and looked directly at her prisoner as she issued the order.

 

Though he showed no outward sign of it, O'Neill was quaking with fear.  Carter was alone?  What the hell was Hammond thinking in authorizing such a cockamamie plan anyway?  And why in the name of heaven had Daniel and Teal'c gone along with it?  Oh no, this was not good at all.  He had to find a way to get Sam out of here and send her back home--fast.

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

"You'd better have a damned good explanation for this, Dr. Jackson!"  General Hammond's bellow could be heard all the way down in the control room from his office. 

 

Daniel sank deeper into the chair in front of the general's desk, knowing he was in for quite a tongue-lashing.  Still, he had to defend his friend and teammate from being unjustly prosecuted when she returned--and he had no doubt whatsoever that she would.

 

He took a deep breath, preparing for one of the most important arguments of his career at the SGC.  "Yes, sir.  I didn't say anything because she had no choice, General.  Sam can't be considered AWOL, not anymore that Jack can."

 

"Colonel O'Neill was under the influence of alien technology when he left; therefore the case can be made that he was not responsible for his actions.  The same cannot be said of Major Carter.  Her situation is totally different," Hammond replied.

 

"Ah, actually, sir, the same can be said of Sam."  Jackson winced, waiting for the SGC's commander to again erupt.

 

"What the Sam Hill are you trying to pull here, Doctor Jackson?"  Hammond's response was even louder than the one moments earlier, as the archaeologist expected.  "I have no reports of Carter being bitten.  Furthermore, there has not been even one single report of a new victim since the colonel's departure, nor have there been any shortages from the blood bank since Colonel O'Neill liberated a unit just before his escape through the Stargate.  How can it possibly be the same?"

 

"Because Jack didn't take that bag from the blood bank, General.  Sam did."

 

George's gaze narrowed.  "And you know this for a fact?"

 

Daniel nodded.  "I confronted her with my suspicions yesterday, and she admitted the truth.  She told me that she woke up and found the marks on her neck the morning Jack disappeared from his quarters.  She didn't remember anything from the time she walked into her house until Janet called her the next morning."

 

"And you didn't bother to tell anyone?" he asked in disbelief.

 

"Sam was handling it fine with the banked blood.  She knew she'd be sent to quarantine if she reported it, but she knew it wasn't necessary.  She wanted to keep working on the cure.  She promised she'd go to Janet at the first sign that the bottled blood was no longer satisfying her needs."

 

The general tapped his pen thoughtfully on his desk pad for a moment before leaning forward intently.  "If what you're telling me is true, then Major Carter's transformation happened in less than half the time it took for Colonel O'Neill's metamorphosis.  I think it's time to consider the very real possibility that the planet's inhabitants were either lying or mistaken about one having to ingest infected blood to become a vampire.  If that's the case, we may very well soon have a dozen more vampires on our hands."

 

Jackson quickly interrupted.  "No, I don't think so.  Sam told me that there was a lot more blood on her shirt than could have come from the bite wound alone.  She thinks they might have fought, and that some of Jack's blood somehow got into her system.  That hasn't been the case with any of the other bite victims," he reasoned.

 

Hammond resumed tapping his pen on the desk.  "I hope you're right, son.  Unfortunately, I don't think we can afford to take that risk.  I'm going to have the security on the quarantine rooms doubled."  He ran his hand over his head, his weariness evident.  "God knows how we'll ever keep a handle on this if you're wrong."

 

Daniel smiled.  "Oh, I have a pretty good idea of what we should do."

 

Hammond looked skeptical, but nodded for him to continue.

 

"We send them to '332 with Jack and Sam.  That's where the cure is--Sam just needs to figure out how to get it working," he announced.

 

"What?  You mean to tell me that you've found a cure and you didn't say anything about that either?"  Again, the general was incredulous at the archaeologist's behavior.

 

Daniel nodded sheepishly.  "I only figured it out when I was talking to Sam yesterday, and I wanted to go back over my notes to verify my findings before mentioning it to you.  The device we went to study isn't what we first thought.  It has nothing to do with the Goa'uld; it removes the nanobots.  So as soon as Sam figures out how to get it working, she and Jack can be cured and Gate back home--and they won't pose a risk to anyone when they get here."

 

George found one flaw in Jackson's scenario and quickly pointed it out.  "It's not quite that simple, Doctor.  You're forgetting one thing.  There's a Goa'uld vampire ruling that planet--and she seemed pretty set on having the colonel for herself."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

"So, my pet, let us see what you have brought into our little clan," crooned Leanansidhe.

 

Sam Carter heard the obvious taunt in the Goa'uld's voice, as was intended.  She'd had to fight to suppress the gasp of surprise upon seeing the colonel's weakened condition when she'd entered behind the sentry who'd led her from the Gate.  Her vibrant blue eyes shone even brighter with icy-hot anger as she deduced that she was to be used to further torture her commanding officer.

 

She wanted to call out, to draw the woman's attention away from the colonel and save him further pain, at least for the moment.  Her eyes widened when she realized that her voice would not work, as some unseen force froze her vocal chords.

 

O'Neill raised his head, his eyes finally meeting hers, and she knew what was happening as soon as he challenged the demon.  "No, let her go!  Send her back, and I'll do anything you want."

 

The redhead laughed as she circled his chained form, totally ignoring the newcomer's presence.  "Have you learned nothing during your lessons, my sweet?"  She halted in front of him to run her hands lovingly over his firmly muscled chest.  "You will already do anything I want you to do, anytime I want you to do it-- no matter how badly you might want to refuse."  She leaned forward and kissed him.  "Won't you?"

 

His eyes glittered with hatred as he clenched his teeth in an attempt to keep from answering her.  "Yes," he ground out, despite his efforts to the contrary.

 

"Stop!"  Carter's anger got the best of her at the same instant that she regained use of her voice.  She immediately regretted her lapse, knowing it would only cause more distress to her fellow captive.

 

The Goa'uld smiled at her with an expression of pure evil before returning her attention to the man in chains.  "It would seem you are not the only one who needs to be taught, my pet.  I shall so enjoy having the two of you with me," she purred.

 

She again met Sam's gaze briefly, her eyes dancing with glee, before she turned back to O'Neill.  "Offer yourself to me," she demanded, caressing the captive man's chest and abdomen.

 

He growled in response, using every last bit of strength to resist her efforts to compel him to obey.  His body shook violently, but it wasn't long until his head tilted to the side, exposing his neck to her.

 

She cackled evilly in satisfaction before lowering her lips to his throat, sucking and licking her way to his carotid artery.  Her hands roamed freely over his body, staking her claim of ownership.  He remained still, moaning in ecstasy, as she bit down and began to suck his life fluid.

 

The major could stand it no longer.  She slowly, quietly slipped off her pack and opened it.  She held her breath, waiting for some sort of interference, but none came.  The sentry had retreated almost immediately after their arrival, but several servants stood statue-like near the exit.  None of them seemed inclined to investigate her actions or alert Leanansidhe, much to her relief.

 

She quickly located the object she was looking for and withdrew it, after which she silently lowered the pack to the floor.  The colonel's moans of rapture were becoming deeper and louder as the witch fed upon the already weakened man--which sent Sam's rage soaring to new heights. 

 

She forced herself to block out the noise and concentrate on the task at hand, pushing several buttons in sequence as she readied the gadget for use.  Once the tiny indicator light remained steadily lit, she slipped it into her pocket and spoke up.  "All right, I get your message.  You can stop now--or are you going to completely bleed him dry and kill him?"

 

The siren ceased her feeding and whirled around to face the intruder, smiling triumphantly.  "It has been many Ages since any as spirited as the likes of you have graced my domain.  It is easy to see why your kind have had such success in slaying the gods.  Your creativity in using such widely different tactics will serve me well.  With the pair of you to clear my way, I will soon be more powerful than Ra ever dared hope to be!"  So intent was she on gloating to her newest acquisition, the Goa'uld failed to notice O'Neill's erratic breathing.

 

Sam, however, immediately picked up on his distress.  She forced down the urge to alert their captor, knowing that she needed to permanently end this very quickly, and pretended to consider the other woman's plan.  "Well, there is this new thing I've wanted to try against one of the System Lords. . ."  She frowned, adding to the effectiveness of her deception.

 

"Tell me!" commanded the greedy parasite.

 

Carter smiled inwardly.  With a slight shake of her head, she feigned uncertainty.  "I'm not sure I can explain it."  Summoning her most sincere expression, she reeled in the hook. "It would be much easier if I could show you," she offered as she nodded toward an empty table in the corner.

 

"Very well, proceed."  The impatient would-be conqueror quickly strode over to the table as she spoke.

 

The major started to follow, but faked a stumble and fell to her knees after only a couple of steps.  "Sorry, I seem to be a bit clumsy today," she apologized.

 

Leanansidhe's impatience grew, along with her irritability.  "Come, get on with it," she snapped.

 

Sam nodded and climbed to her feet, slyly pulling the device from her pocket as she rose.  "It's really an amazing little piece of technology," she enthused.  The Goa'uld smiled in anticipation, eager to soak up all the details her captive could provide.

 

"There is a slight problem, though," Carter warned.  She held up the device and pushed one final button.  "It's a real killer."

 

The redhead's confusion was plain as she frowned, staring at the orb with its now rapidly flashing blue light.

 

The major threw the object at her captor and dropped to the floor, covering her head with both arms.  A small boom sounded through the corridors as the ground shook from the blast.

 

Leanansidhe screamed as the sphere exploded, and the entire area around her was instantly engulfed in flames.  She dropped to the floor and rolled in attempt to extinguish the blaze consuming her, but to no avail. 

 

Acrid smoke began to fill the room, as Sam had known it would.  A momentary pang of remorse for her part in the she-devil's painfully horrid demise was quickly quashed as she rose to her knees and crawled as quickly as possible to her commanding officer.  With a profound sense of relief, she found him just out of range of the growing inferno that enveloped the other side of the room.  Rising to her feet, she rapidly fixed the magnesium strips to the chains suspending his wrists above his head and lit them.

 

The smoke thickened, sending her into a coughing fit, but she caught him before he hit the floor and held on.  Colonel O'Neill was barely breathing, but also began to cough weakly as she pulled him toward the exit. 

 

Carter shivered with abhorrence as the burning Goa'uld's shrieks diminished.  By the time her death throes finally ceased, the major had dragged her precious burden through the doorway and into the corridor beyond.

 

To her dismay, the hallway was also filled with the toxic smoke.  She could barely see any further than a foot in front of her, but she continued to doggedly pull and tug him in the direction she recalled taking upon her entrance.  Coughing and gasping for air, Sam grew lightheaded and noted with alarm that the colonel's coughing and raspy breathing was becoming weaker with each passing moment.

 

She'd only covered a short distance when her strength gave out, and she could get him no farther.  Had she enough breath left in her, she would have screamed at the injustice of having come this far, only to be denied success.

 

Out of nowhere, a pair of strong hands appeared and lifted her into a fireman's carry.  She attempted to struggle, only to be admonished for her efforts.  "I am here to help you. I know a way that is clear of this bad air, but you must cease your resistance."

 

The major attempted to speak, but was thwarted by the incessant cough.  As if reading her mind, her rescuer attempted to reassure her.  "Do not worry; we have your mate also." 

 

She was unable to correct the mistaken perception of their relationship as darkness hovered at the edges of her vision.  Sam prayed they were being truthful with her, that they really did have Colonel O'Neill, as her vision tunneled to a mere pinpoint.   She heard a heavy door rumble open somewhere close by, but she had no strength to look for herself or question her benefactor.  There was only one thought on her mind as her awareness faded completely.

 

'Dear God, please let the colonel be all right.'

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

The ground was shaking violently beneath her as awareness abruptly returned to Samantha Carter.  The loud rumbling that accompanied the quaking gradually subsided, giving way to a buzzing noise.  Slowly, the buzz morphed into low voices, though not ones she recognized.

 

 

"His mate. . .to provide. . ."

 

". . .not our duty!"

 

". . .matters not if their kind. . .us nourishment!"

 

As her fuzzy-headed feeling cleared, she gradually realized that the owners of those voices were in the midst of a heated discussion.  Her mind searched for the usual answers to the obvious questions.  How had she gotten here?  Where exactly was 'here'?  What had caused the ominous earthquake?  Were the disputants friend or foe? 

 

Her eyes fluttered open, but sight brought none of the answers she was seeking.  Lighting was nearly nonexistent, but she was able to ascertain that she was lying in the corner of a room with rough stone walls.  The structure seemed familiar, though she couldn't seem to remember why.  The only light came from beyond the door, which she assumed was lit by torches because of the flickering shadows.

 

A small group of individuals she didn't recognize were silhouetted in the doorway, their features obscured by the dim lighting.  She debated calling out, but chose to remain silent until she was able to determine if they were enemy or ally. 

 

". . .cannot allow. . .to perish!"

 

". . .blinded to. . .look-a-like. . .your dead betrothed!"

 

A soft groan interrupted her eavesdropping, alerting the unknown debaters in the process.  She only realized that it had come from her when a nearby voice called to the others.  "The female awakens!"

 

Sam struggled to sit upright, intending to get into a better position to defend herself if necessary.  To her relief, the dizziness passed quickly, and the room immediately came back into focus.  She glanced to the side and caught sight of a prone figure.

 

She gasped as the familiar profile brought her memories of recent events crashing back.  "Colonel!"

 

She scrambled over to his unmoving form as quickly as she was able.  She noted that he was barely breathing as she reached to take his pulse.  Her heart fell when she found it to be as weak as his respirations.

 

A familiar voice startled her as she removed her fingers.  "His time grows very short.  He requires someone to share their life's fluid--or very soon, he will cease to be."

 

Carter was stunned by the frail appearance of the woman who had made the deal with them for the colonel's rescue during their previous visit.  "Um, right.  Okay, what do I have to do?"

 

She looked up to find a dagger in the native's extended hand as the woman explained.  "Make an incision on your wrist.  You must go deep enough for the blood within to run freely.  Then hold it to his lips.  With luck, he will be strong enough to take what he needs."

 

Sam stared dumbly at the sharp blade for a long moment, then shook her head.  "Wait!  Why can't we give him some of the blood stores that our people sent through?"

 

The spokeswoman swayed alarmingly, prompting another of the group to rush to her side to steady her.  She smiled gratefully and patted the newcomer's hand before returning her attention to the earthlings.  "Leanansidhe insisted that the entire supply be stored in her dwelling, under her control.  All that remained was destroyed in the explosion."

 

The major gasped in shock.  "No!  Oh, no!  I-I'm so sorry!   I'll contact Earth and have them send some more as quickly as possible.  I'm sure they'll replace it as soon as I explain the circumstances.  It shouldn't take very long at all."

 

The ailing sentry sadly shook her head and nodded toward Jack.  "Even that will prove to be too late for him.  Nay, if he is to survive, then you must give of yourself immediately."

 

Sam looked down and observed the colonel struggling to draw breath.  In that instant, her decision was made.  Without another thought, she grabbed the dagger and drew it across her wrist, cutting deeply as instructed.

 

Her blood ran in a steady stream as she brought the open wound to her commanding officer's lips.  He reflexively swallowed when the precious fluid accumulated in his mouth, repeating the action several times.  She was beginning to fear that it wouldn't be enough, when suddenly he reached weakly up and grabbed hold of her offered limb.

 

She shivered when she felt the suction of his lips on her arm as he greedily sucked down her vital fluid.  The feelings of ecstasy grew stronger with each passing moment as he fed from her.  She quickly reached the point of not caring how much he took from her, wanting only the intense feelings he was causing to continue.

 

A strong pair of hands abruptly separated her from Jack, leaving her feeling like she'd taken a sucker-punch to her gut.  She whirled around to reprimand the culprit, but the room spun sickeningly, and she nearly collapsed. 

 

The hands returned to steady her as their owner admonished her for her recklessness.  "Do not resist, foolish lass!  If you allow him too much, you will be in danger of perishing yourself!"

 

The spokeswoman's weary voice sounded nearby.  "Do not be too hard on her, Father.  She is untrained, as is her mate."

 

Before her father could respond, a ruckus erupted in the hallway outside.  The two natives exchanged a fearful look as a breathless messenger stormed into the room.  "Ladies, Lords!  The brethren have gathered and are demanding revenge against these for the slaying of the Mistress!"

 

A fatigued sigh escaped from the native leader.  "I expected as much, though I'd hoped we'd have more time."  She looked between her father and the messenger.  "Come, we must take these to the Anathema; it is the only way to keep them safe."

 

The father's reaction was swift and severe.  "Daughter, have you lost your mind!  We will be killed!  There is a reason that the place is forbidden, Lass!"

 

She shook her head sadly.  "Nay, there be not any danger now, Father, for She was the last."

 

Her father's eyes grew wide as the truth in his offspring's words hit him.  "Aye, Daughter, that She was.  Very well, I'll help you get these into the building--but I'll not stay there," he warned.

 

The messenger matched the older man's wide-eyed expression and nodded in agreement.  "Aye, I'll also help you, but I'll not stay in that damnable place, either!" he vowed.

 

Sam had listened quietly to the natives' conversation, intently observing O'Neill the entire time.  His breathing was deep and even, though he still hadn't regained full consciousness.  She touched her finger to his wrist, relieved to find that his pulse was growing stronger with each passing moment.

 

Unfamiliar hands lifted her under the arms and hauled her to her feet.  She caught a glimpse of her wrist in the process and was startled to find the cut nearly healed.  She had gambled that the nanites would be able to heal the damage from the toxic fumes emitted by the alien version of a Napalm bomb.  She hadn't expected them to do it so quickly, however.  Nor had she expected them to heal wounds so instantaneously.

 

The wall behind her rumbled open, jolting her from her thoughts.  As the messenger guided her to the opening, she didn't resist.  The leader and her father preceded them, with the colonel in a fireman's carry over the native man's shoulders. 

 

She couldn't help but feel a profound sense of relief, knowing they were headed to the Ancients' laboratory.  Finally, she could concentrate on fixing the machine and curing him! 

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

"What?"  A frustrated and weary Samantha Carter glared at the woman who had been instrumental in saving them.  This was the fourth time they'd ducked into a small room to evade the search parties.  The native woman's father and the messenger had gone to scout the way, leaving the major with the unresponsive colonel and the ailing sentry.

 

"The machine can only be operated by those who built it--or their kin," she patiently explained for the second time.

 

"No!  There has to be another way!"  As her mind desperately searched for possible alternatives, her eyes wandered over to where the colonel lay motionless.  He was already showing signs of a relapse as they waited for the all clear.

 

"Isn't there anyone among you who can operate the device?"  She turned her gaze to the native as the possible solution occurred to her.

 

"Nay, She was the last."  The woman sadly shook her head, her sympathy evident in her eyes.

 

"You said that earlier.  I assume you're talking about Leanansidhe?  What exactly does that mean--the last?"

 

A faraway look appeared in the sentry's eyes as her memories swept her into the past.  "The Mistress was not of our clan.  There was no demon inside her when she first journeyed here with her kin to study our plight.  She was so very different back then.  Her smiles were warm and genuine, her laughter infectious.  She had a way about her of making us forget, if only for the moment, that we were a dying race.  She made us believe in them, truly believe that they would find a way to cure the disease which plagued us, wiping out our brethren before our very eyes."  As she paused, a solitary tear trailed slowly down her cheek.  "We had not yet discovered the terrible transmutation that was taking place among our people as the result of their attempt to cure us."

 

She shook off the painful memories and continued her tale.  "No one knows for certain what set the ensuing events into motion.  One day everything was normal, with their scientists working diligently on the promised cure.  The next day, near mid-morning, the screaming and yelling began.  The noise was horrible and frightened even the most fearless of the brethren.  The explosions soon followed, causing the ground beneath our feet to shake like a charran bush full of quidjets. 

 

"Just when we dared hope it be over, there came the most terrifying thunder and lightning display ever seen on our world.  Those foolhardy enough to remain in the streets were shocked to see all of the scientists, save for one, rush out of their laboratory and run to open the Chaapa'ai.  It was awful, how they fought each other to escape the madness.  In the end, only one of them made it through the open gateway before she arrived and put an end to their attempts to flee."

 

She wiped the tear from her cheek before resuming her story.  "My father was among those ordered to dispose of the bodies.  To this day, he will not speak of the terrible things She had done to the visitors before they expired."

 

Sam silently contemplated the other woman's words.  Wow, Leanansidhe's host had been one of the Ancients.  It was a shame there had been no opportunity for one of their allies to remove the Goa'uld.  There was so much they could have learned from her--not to mention the fact that she could have activated the removal device and cured everyone. 

 

Her eyes once more wandered to the still form of Jack O'Neill.  She frowned as she noted his increasingly labored breathing.  There was no denying that his condition was worsening rapidly and that he needed to feed again soon.  She wasn't looking forward to providing his meal again, despite the rush she felt at the prospect of experiencing the incredible euphoria which accompanied the act.

 

"Maiti."  The native's voice startled Carter from her thoughts.

 

The major tilted her head slightly, her eyes open wider than normal.  "Excuse me?"

 

The other woman smiled.  "Maiti O'Kelly."

 

At the earthling's uncomprehending expression, she quickly explained.  "My name.  It has only now occurred to me that, in spite of all we have been through, I have never provided you with my name."

 

Sam nodded, finally understanding.  "Oh!  Well then, it's very good to meet you, Maiti O'Kelly."   Unable to stop herself, her eyes drifted back to O'Neill as she attempted to keep up the conversation.  "You have a very lovely name."

 

Maiti rose and slowly made her way over to the colonel.  After checking his condition for herself, she turned to Carter with a sad smile.  "He again grows weak.  He will need to feed again very soon.  I shall do my best to persuade Father or Eoghan to volunteer when we reach the Anathema."

 

The major shrugged.  "That's okay, I'll do it."

 

"Nay, you cannot!  It is too soon!  He took much from you during the first feeding, and you have not recovered.  Were he allowed to feed from you again so soon, your own life force would be jeopardized."

 

Their discussion was interrupted as the two scouts returned, bursting into the room.  "Quickly, Lass!  We must make a run for it!  The searchers are sending a party to block the entrance until they find us."

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

"Lay him on the platform," an exhausted Maiti instructed her father.  When he gave her a questioning look, she impatiently explained her reasoning.  "The machine will not work without one of the creators to operate it."

 

The native woman's voice was nearly drowned out by the pounding and shouting of the enraged brethren.  Sam was unable to speak, still breathing hard--a testament to how weak she was after the colonel's feeding.  She shivered violently, recalling exactly how close they'd come to being caught during their desperate bid to make it to the sanctuary as the pandemonium beyond the door continued.

 

Ever the good soldier, she quickly pushed her feelings aside and stumbled over to help get O'Neill settled.  She removed her outer jacket and bunched it up to cushion his head, then straightened the sleeves of the native shirt he'd been dressed in before she'd awakened.  Finally satisfied that he was as comfortable as she could manage, she reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from his forehead.

 

"Carter?"  His voice was weak, but steady. 

 

"Sir!  It's good to see you awake!"  She was surprised at the nearly-overwhelming joy she felt at the welcome sight of his captivating brown eyes.  She wanted nothing more than to reach out and stroke his cheek, but settled for a more appropriate gesture of clasping his hand.

 

"The snake?"  His gaze was piercing and intense as he demanded answers, but he made no effort to remove his hand from hers.

 

"Dead, sir."  She averted her eyes, suddenly unsure of his reaction to her violent method of resolving the situation.

 

"You sure?"

 

"Yes, sir.  I'm positive."  Though she answered without hesitation, even in his weakened state he could see that there was a problem.

 

"Spill it, Carter," he ordered, squeezing her hand in support.

 

She turned teary eyes back to him.  "I used one of the devices from P6J-792.  Her entire compound went up with her."

 

He whistled softly.  "Wow, you don't mess around.  Good work, Major."  He frowned when, in spite of the praise, she again refused to look him in the eye.  "Something wrong?" he asked breathily.

 

Too quickly, she shook her head.  How could she possibly tell him that she had eliminated the one person who could have cured him and made it possible for him to go back to earth?

 

"Carter!" he demanded.

 

"I'm fine, sir, just a little tired."  She stood, but kept a hold on his hand.  "You should get some rest, too," she urged.

 

Suddenly unable to keep his eyes open, he nodded reluctantly.  "Talk later," he vowed as he drifted off.

 

She grimaced, grateful that his eyes had already closed.  "Yes, sir," she answered dutifully.  She grudgingly lowered his hand to the platform and stepped away, intending to join the natives to discuss their situation.

 

She'd only made it a few steps before a loud humming noise filled the room, drowning out even the din from the angry mob.  She instinctively turned back to O'Neill, ready to rush to his aid if necessary.

 

To her surprise, his hand had slipped off the platform and was touching the control box.  She new instantly that he'd managed to activate the device--though how she had no idea.  Without a thought, she flew back to his side and knocked his hand away.  

 

To the dismay of all present, the machine did not turn off when the contact was broken.  Apparently, once switched on, it would not stop until the victim was cured.  Maiti's cry echoed in harmony with her own protest.  "NO!"

 

The native woman was babbling nearly hysterically.  "Oh, no!  This is entirely my fault!  I knew from the first encounter--I should have remembered!  How could I have been so careless?"  She turned desperately to Sam.  "You did not say anything!  Why did you not speak out?"

 

Carter's eyes glittered with rage.  "What are you trying to insinuate here?  Why didn't I speak out about what?" she demanded.

 

Maiti moved forward and clutched onto the major's arms.  "He carries the essence of the Old Ones, those who built this place!  But you said nothing, even after I told you that only his kind are able to operate the device!"

 

Sam stared at her as if she'd suddenly grown a second head.  "He's not an Ancient!  He's just a normal human being from earth!"

 

As soon as the words left her mouth, their most recent encounter with the Asgard on Loki's ship flashed through her mind.  The maverick little grey alien's words echoed in her mind.  "He was physiologically advanced enough to carry and utilize all the data from the ancient repository of knowledge."

 

"O'Neill is legendary."

 

Thor's explanation also came to her unbidden.  "A marker was placed in your DNA to prevent any attempts at genetic manipulation."

 

And lastly, the most damning words of all.  ". . .our scientists have already determined. . . you are an important step forward in the evolutionary chain. . ."

 

Carter hadn't even noticed the woman's father approach, so deep in thought was she.  Instinctively, she drew her hand back in readiness to fight, but caught herself before the first punch was thrown.  She stepped back, leaving the man to deal with his offspring.

 

"Stop it, Lass!  It matters not who knew what, or who did or did not speak up.  What is past is no longer of consequence.  We must now concentrate on finding a way to help him--he is the only one who can operate the device!"

 

Her eyes grew wide as the importance of his words hit her.  "Yes, Father!  You are correct; we must find a way to keep him alive!" 

 

She pulled away and turned back to the major, her eyes glittering with excitement.  "Can your healers restore him now that the nanobots are no longer sustaining him?"

 

Sam nodded eagerly.  "Yes, it should be a simple matter of getting him a transfusion and fluids.  If you can persuade the brethren to allow me to contact my superiors, I can have them send the blood for all of you and a medical team to treat Colonel O'Neill.  I'll give myself up to whatever form of justice they see fit, if only they will let me get help for the colonel first," she vowed.

 

Maiti's father was already out the door as the woman answered.  "If your healer can restore him, there will be no further demand for vengeance."

 

"What?  How can you be so certain?"

 

The native woman smiled reassuringly.  "The brethren are angered because they feel their only hope of a cure has been taken from them--not because of any feelings of loyalty to the demon.  Once they realize there is another who can help, they will drop their demands very quickly."

 

Carter found it difficult to accept that things could be that simple.  "They thought the Goa'uld was going to cure them?"

 

Maiti nodded.  "Asharia--the host--was able to persuade the demon to spare three of the scientists and set them to work on the cure.  It took them many, many moon cycles to repair the damage to this place and begin work.  They were instructed to build the device to respond only to Asharia, but they secretly disobeyed and made it to respond to any of their kind."

 

The major whistled softly.  "I can only imagine how Leanansidhe responded to that when she found out.  She did find out, right?"

 

The other woman nodded affirmatively.  "She flew into a rage and killed the remaining scientists.  After that, Asharia retreated and never surfaced again.  Still, there was hope among the brethren that one day she would return and persuade the demon to allow her to finish work on the cure."

 

It was only when Eoghan reappeared that Sam realized that the raging mob of the brethren had gone quiet.  "They've agreed!  Come, it is safe for you to contact your people now," he urged.

 

"Carter, no!"  O'Neill was now sitting on the edge of the platform, struggling to rise.   To his immense frustration, he was unable to make it to his feet.

 

"Sir!"  The major was at his side in an instant.  "Please just lay back and rest.  I'm going to send for Janet and then you'll be able to go back to earth."

 

"No!" he thundered, though his strength was waning.  "Might be a trap!"  He gritted his teeth, suddenly feeling dizzy and nauseous, but stubbornly remained sitting.

 

She shook her head.  "I'm sorry, sir, but I have to do this.  I'll be back as soon as I can."

 

Jack made a grab for her arm, but missed.  Before he could say or do anything more to stop her, she was out the door.  "Damn it!"

 

The room was spinning so violently that he was unable to discern who it was that guided him back down to stretch out on the hard platform.  He instinctively rolled to his side and began to heave.  Luckily, his stomach was empty, his system long since having absorbed the blood that Carter had fed him.

 

His frustration mounted as he realized that all he could do was lay there and wait for her return, but even that wasn't enough to keep him aware.  As he drifted off, his thoughts were only of a certain blonde major as he willed her to be safe.

 

'Damn it, Major, if you get yourself killed over a sorry excuse for an officer like me, I swear I'll find a way to kill you again myself!'

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Familiar voices floated around him as Jack slowly opened his eyes to look around.  He was a bit surprised that it wasn't the familiar drab infirmary ceiling looming above when his eyes finally came into focus.  Was he dreaming again?

 

Janet Fraiser's chuckle was music to his ears.  "No, Colonel, it's no dream.  You're still on M7C 332, but we're working on a way to get you back home soon," she promised.

 

"Crap!  I said that out loud again, didn't I?"  She nodded and laughed again as he winced, but he paid her no mind.  "Gonna have to work on that," he muttered.

 

 "You do that, sir," she replied, still chuckling as she patted his arm. 

 

The moment passed, and she immediately turned serious, studying him for any sign of discomfort.  "Do you feel up to a visitor, Colonel?"

 

He warily looked back at her.  "Depends.  Who?"

 

Her expression remained serious as she continued to observe him.  "Sam has asked to see you as soon as you wake up."

 

He sighed, but nodded.  "Yeah, go ahead and send her in.  We really should talk."

 

O'Neill decided that he did not want to be flat on his back for the coming conversation, so he forced himself to a sitting position.  This time the room stayed steady, but he didn't attempt to stand, knowing that he didn't yet have the strength, and that it would only serve to piss Fraiser off.  He winced at the IV lines now connected to his arm, but was relieved to find he had no urge to bite anyone.

 

"Colonel!"  He started at the sound of the tiny doctor's cry, but was determined to remain upright for the coming visitor.

 

He turned his most effective, puppy-dog-eyes look on Janet while pleading his case.  "Come on, Doc.  This isn't the kind of conversation I want to have lying down.  I'll stay sitting right here, I promise."

 

She relented just as Sam Carter appeared in the doorway.  "All right, Colonel, but only for a short while.  As soon as you're finished talking, you're to lie back down and rest!"

 

The major's heart jumped at the implications of his words, but she determinedly strode into the room.  She'd been preparing herself to face the music for several hours now while waiting for him to regain consciousness, after all.  She pasted a cheery smile on her face and went over to greet him.  "Colonel, you're looking much better."

 

He scowled, not looking her in the eye, and her heart sank.  So much for a pleasant beginning, she lamented.

 

"Doc, do you mind?  I'd like a word with Carter in private," he demanded.

 

Sam's knees went weak with relief as she realized his ire was not directed at her, but at the diminutive doctor.  She turned to Janet and nodded her agreement.

 

Fraiser pursed her lips and stared at her patient.  After a lengthy assessment, she folded her arms and turned her gaze to the female member of SG-1.  "Fine, but if he makes a move that can in any way, shape, or form be construed as an attempt to stand, I'm ordering you to do whatever it takes to get him back into that bed--including sitting on him if necessary!"

 

Janet realized too late what she'd said as both Carter and O'Neill stared at her with mouths agape.  A flush of embarrassment spread over her face as she quickly backed to the door.  "I-I'll just be. . ." she stammered, as she reached her destination and scurried off down the hallway.

 

Now alone, the two officers continued to stare after the departed doctor in shock.  Sam slowly turned to face her CO with a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face.

 

Jack abruptly closed his mouth and was about to pat the bed to invite her to sit next to him when he thought better of it.  His hand quickly detoured, making an exaggerated show of carefully straightening his IV tubing before finally turning his attention to his visitor.  "So. . ."

 

"So," she repeated.

 

He blew out the breath he'd been holding and tried again.  "So, Doc said something about a delay in going back.  What's that all about?  The NID chomping at the bit to get their hands on me?"  He braced himself for news of his impending court-martial, but couldn't bring himself to specifically ask about it.

 

Carter smiled, much to his great surprise.  "Daniel's working on it now, sir.  The Sruthangiolla are apparently very reluctant to let you leave."  She shrugged.

 

Jack did a double-take, stunned by her explanation.  That had been the very last thing he'd expected her to say.  "Excuse me?"

 

She swallowed hard.  "Well, the brethren are, um, totally refusing to allow you to leave.  At least, not until you've cured them.  Sir."

 

His eyebrows shot as far up his forehead as they could possibly go.  "Me?  Cure them?  Why on earth would they think I can cure them?"

 

She quickly explained how the technology would only respond to one of the Ancients, and how Leanansidhe's host had been the last surviving scientist.

 

Highly confused, O'Neill didn't understand the connection.  "So? And? Therefore?  What does any of that have to do with me?  I'm not an Ancient--I can't make that thing work anymore than you can!"

 

Carter sighed.  "Actually, sir, apparently you can.  And you did," she added.

 

"But I'm not an Ancient," he protested.  "There must be some mistake!"

 

She shook her head.  "I saw it myself, sir.  You may not be an Ancient, but whatever it is in your genetic makeup that makes you 'advanced' must be close enough to allow you to activate the device."

 

"But-but I'm not an Ancient," he protested feebly.  A sudden frown swept over his handsome features as his mind finally processed the first part of her statement.  "Hey!  What do you mean, you saw it?  When?"

 

She tilted her head and looked for any signs that he was toying with her.  Finding none, she explained.  "Right after we escaped the mob and Maiti's father placed you on the platform?  You had briefly regained consciousness and were drifting off again.  Just before I called the SCG to send the medical team."

 

At his nod, she continued.  "Your hand slipped off the platform and landed on the control panel.  The device activated and cured you.  I saw it happen."

 

His eyes widened.  "Wait a minute!  I'm cured?  Are you sure?"

 

She smiled broadly.  "Yes, sir, positive.  Janet ran some tests as soon as she arrived.  Your blood is totally clear of the nanites."

 

He looked at her doubtfully.  "That's what they said before.  You sure they're not just invisible or something?"

 

She shook her head.  "I'm sure.  I was able to read through some of the notes left here by the scientists.  The nanobots are not released into the bloodstream until they've reached a point of critical mass.  Once that happens, you're a vampire, and they can be detected in blood samples.  Janet agrees.  She did find them in your blood after the shooting at the SGC."

 

He sat in thoughtful contemplation, a companionable silence falling between them.

 

"Okay, so we get those folks on the rack, I hit the bug-zapper switch, everybody's cured, then we go home.  What's the big deal?"

 

"It's not quite that simple, sir.  The Sruthangiolla will die out completely within a couple of weeks if we can't find a cure for the disease that the Ancients originally came here to study.  If we deactivate their nanobots before that, we're sentencing them to certain death."

 

O'Neill's eyes again went wide.  "You mean they want me to stay here until someone finds them a cure?  Oh, that is so not gonna happen!"

 

Carter winced.  "Um, not exactly, sir.  They want you to stay until you find them a cure."

 

"What?"  His reaction was every bit the explosion she'd expected.

 

"Daniel is out there right now trying to convince them that you aren't a scientist, and that the cure will need to be left to the Tok'ra or the Asgard.  We're promising regular shipments of blood to keep them going until the cure is found, though--hopefully that will be enough, and we'll all be free to leave."  A sad look fell across her face at the thought of returning home, where she would have to face the consequences of her actions.

 

He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, no more excited about the prospect of facing the music than his 2IC.  "Right.  Home," he quipped unenthusiastically.

 

She immediately picked up on his hesitation and guessed as to the cause.  "Sir, you should know that General Hammond has promised that you won't be facing any charges for the things you did under the influence of alien technology."

 

He stared at her in disbelief.  "Carter, I disobeyed a ton of direct orders, took over the Control Room and the Gate, physically attacked over a dozen members of the SGC--yourself included--and went AWOL.  He can't just ignore all that!"

 

She countered his look with a stern one of her own.  "You were under the influence of alien technology, sir.  Can you honestly tell me that you would have done any of that had you not been infected with the nanobots?"

 

His scowl was answer enough, but he did grudgingly admit the truth.  "Well, no."  He sighed loudly, unwilling to totally admit defeat.  "There should be consequences," he insisted.

 

Rather than the irritation or anger that he expected, she looked hurt.  "So, you're saying that after the incident in the locker room after our first visit to the Land of Light, I should have been punished."

 

"What?  No!  Of course not!  You weren't yourself, Carter.  You were under the influence. . ."  He stopped abruptly, as realization of what he was about to say set in.

 

He dropped his chin to his chest and wearily scrubbed a hand across his face.  He heaved a sigh of defeat before meeting her smug-looking gaze.  "Fine, you win.  But I should at least apologize."  His face took on a pinched expression, looking as if he'd actually eaten the slimy iced spinach that Fraiser's nurses had attempted to foist on him during his stint in quarantine.

 

"So, Major, about my earlier behavior. . .I wasn't myself, but. . ."

 

"Sir, I don't even remember your earlier behavior," she interrupted.

 

"You don't?"  He looked at her with a completely perplexed visage.

 

"Nope, don't remember a thing," she clarified.

 

"Does this conversation seem vaguely familiar to you?" he asked, totally veering off the topic.

 

She thought it over a moment before replying.  "Um, yeah.  It does have a decidedly deja vu feeling to it," she agreed.

 

"So does this mean we can just skip the rest of it?" he pleaded hopefully.

 

She thought again before answering.  "Well, there is one part I don't think we should omit."  She had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing at his crestfallen expression.

 

"Which part is that?"  The look on his face was now guarded and wary.

 

"Well, I really should ask you how your wounds are healing," she explained.

 

"Wounds?"  His visage told her that he really didn't know what she was talking about.

 

"You were shot back at the base."

 

"Oh, that.  It was nothing.  The holes were all but healed by the time I went through the Gate.  There's not even a scar left to show for it."

 

"That's good news, sir.  I was concerned."  She smiled warmly.

 

"You were?"

 

"Of course, sir."

 

He waited for her to say more, but to his great disappointment, she didn't.  "Isn't this where you say something about tank tops?" he prodded.

 

She shot him a reproachful look.  "Sir!  I would have thought you'd know me better than that after all this time!"

 

Before he could apologize or respond, Janet Fraiser breezed back into the room.  "Okay, visitor's hours are now over.  You need to get some rest, Colonel."

 

Sam had already noticed the tiredness in his eyes and quickly retreated to the exit before he could protest.  Once there, she turned back around and smiled.  "Sir?  Just for the record?  I prefer men shirtless over in tank tops."

 

He stared openmouthed in disbelief, unable to even form a coherent response, while the doctor looked completely confused.

 

Carter's smile broadened, her eyes dancing mischievously.  She winked at him and then disappeared through the doorway.

 

Ignoring Fraiser's presence, he smiled and shook his head as he lay back down.  His eyes were closing as soon as his back hit the mattress, his mind on one thing.

 

Carter was so going to pay for that one!

 

 

*******************************************

 

 

Major Samantha Carter nearly collided with Lieutenant Sanchez as he exited the room after his turn on the nanobot removal device.  He grabbed her arms to keep her from falling and stuttered out an apology.  "I'm so sorry, Ma'am.  For everything."

 

At her slightly-confused nod of acceptance, he brushed passed her and hurried on.  After going several feet, he paused and turned around.  "I really thought he already knew, Ma'am."

 

Her breath caught in her throat as she realized what he meant.  She nodded dumbly and he continued on his way, obviously wanting to get as far away as possible as fast as he could. 

 

She took a deep breath and entered the room for her turn on the device, no longer eager to face her commanding officer.  His back was to her, but she knew that he had heard her come in.  He said nothing, didn't make any effort to acknowledge her presence--which had her sense of unease rocketing off the scale.

 

The uncomfortable silence stretched on, with no sign that he ever intended to break it.  Finally, she could stand it no longer.  "Sir?"

 

He whirled around so fast that she physically jumped back in surprise.  She swallowed the lump forming in her throat as she met his eyes.  Normally, he looked at her with a warmth that made her want to melt inside, but right now those eyes were anything but warm.  She shivered involuntarily at the cold rage that glittered there, a look she'd not seen in a very long time--and never before directed solely at her.

 

"Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded.

 

She couldn't continue to look him in the eyes and dropped her gaze to study the stone floor.  "I intended to tell you," she began, surprised her voice remained so steady.  "But you were injured, and then you were so out of it after the explosion.  Then we were running away from the brethren, and you were relapsing.  Then Janet and the medical team got here, and there was so much to do, I-I just. . .forgot."

 

"Forgot?  You forgot! "  He flung the cup he'd been drinking from across the room, causing her to flinch.  "I attacked you and turned you into a vampire, Carter!  How the hell is that something you can just forget?"

 

"Sir. . ."

 

"DON'T, Carter!  Just. . .don't."  He was literally shaking by now, so intense was his anger.  "Get on the table," he commanded.

 

She dumbly obeyed, not wanting to upset him any further.  Neither said a word as he moved next to the device and touched the controls to activate it.

 

The humming was every bit as loud as she remembered from his first unexpected triggering of the unit.  She found herself feeling very grateful for the noise, as it made conversation impossible and eliminated what would have otherwise been an awkward silence.

 

Sam sadly watched him retreat across the room as a tingling sensation washed over her entire body.  Under other circumstances, the feeling might have been pleasant.  The humming seemed to go on and on, though the tingling ceased shortly after it had begun.  Her eyes never left O'Neill, who stared blankly at one of the computer screens on the wall. 

 

Finally, right about the time she thought she could stand it no more, the machine fell quiet.  She was on her feet in a flash, wanting to say something to make things right again, but not knowing what that something was.

 

She'd finally worked up the nerve to approach him when he spoke, though he didn't turn to face her.  "You're the last one," he told her wearily.  "Tell Doc I'll be out in a minute."

 

"Sir. . ."

 

Again, he cut her off.  "I'll talk to Hammond when we get back.  I'm sure there won't be any problem with you transferring to another team," he informed her.

 

"NO!"  She was now the one shaking with rage--and disregarding all military protocols in her ire.  "Don't you dare do this to me!  You are not going to ease your guilt by kicking me off the team!  I won't let you get away with it!" she threatened.

 

"I'm sorry, Carter. You're right.  SG-1 needs you, and it wouldn't be right for you to transfer.  I'll leave.  Should have retired again a long time ago anyway," he announced flatly.

 

Further enraged by his little speech, she was across the room in a flash.  She grabbed his sleeve and spun him around to face her.  "How dare you!  You're not going to quit on us out of some stupid misplaced sense of guilt, do you hear me?  We need you out there!"

 

The intense anger in her eyes shocked him, though not as much as her words.  He'd been expecting her to be upset, even fearful of him.  How could she possibly trust him again, be able to work closely with him after what he'd done?  Dumbstruck, he looked down at his arm, to where her hand still clutched a fistful of his sleeve.

 

Her eyes followed his, and she abruptly released him when she realized what she'd done.  "I'm sorry, sir.  That was completely out of line.  I won't contest whatever charges you see fit to bring."

 

He stepped back and slowly slid down the wall to sit on the bare floor, drawing his knees up to his chest.  "I'm not bringing any charges against you, Carter."  He tilted his head back, resting it against the wall as he stared at the ceiling.  "God, what a mess," he lamented.

 

She slid down the wall to sit next to him, all the fight suddenly gone out of her.  "Yeah," she agreed.

 

He lifted an arm from his knees to run a hand over his face and up into his hair, stopping finally at the back of his neck.  Several moments of uneasy silence passed before he spoke again.  "I don't know how to fix this, Carter."  He turned his pain filled eyes to her, pleading for help.  "I don't know what to do here."

 

She closed her eyes briefly in relief before answering him.  "That's easy, sir.  We go back to being SG-1, just like always.  All four of us," she stressed.

 

He searched her eyes long and hard for any sign of fear or reluctance, but found none.  "You can do that--just forget that all of this ever happened?"

 

She nodded.  "Yep.  In fact, I already have.  I wasn't exaggerating when I told you I couldn't remember," she admonished.

 

"But. . ."

 

This time it was Sam's turn to interrupt.  "Colonel, did you have any trouble trusting me again after I attacked you in the locker room after the Land of Light?"

 

"No."  There was no hesitation in his answer, much to her relief.

 

"Well, there you are.  It's that simple."

 

"Oh.  Okay," he agreed softly.  He turned to study her one more time.  "Are you sure about this, Carter?"

 

"Yep, I am," she answered, not showing even the slightest hesitation.

 

She looked down, suddenly remembering her own uncertain future at the SCG.  Daniel had said the general was still deciding how to proceed regarding her behavior and failure to report the attack on her.  "It may not be up to either of us, though."

 

He shot her a questioning look.  "Explain," he ordered.

 

When she finished relating the story, everything from her actions to Daniel's account of his talk with the general, Jack jumped to his feet and began to pace.  "What do you mean, he doesn't know what he's going to do?  You were under the influence of the nanites-thingies just like I was!"

 

"I purposely didn't report the attack to avoid quarantine," she explained.  "I can't blame that on the nanites."

 

He rounded on her, eyes again blazing with anger.  "Bull!"

 

She was taken aback by his vehemence.  "Sir?"

 

"You heard me!  I said BULL!  Your transformation happened twice as fast as mine, yes?"

 

She nodded, unsure as to what he was getting at.

 

"Well then, how could you possibly have not been affected from the time you woke up that morning--at least to some degree?" he demanded.

 

She sprang to her feet, her eyes wide open.  "I-I never thought of it that way."

 

"Well, don't worry about a thing, Carter.  I'll be having a talk with Hammond about this right away.  It won't take long to set him straight, don't you worry.  There is no way in hell you are going to be facing any charges or disciplinary action over this mess!"   He shook his head.  "Nope, so not gonna happen!"

 

She smiled, a warm feeling settling over her.  Jack O'Neill was going to go to bat for her--and there was no doubt in her mind that General Hammond would never know what had hit him by the time the colonel was finished.

 

O'Neill had stopped his tirade and was staring at her, unsure as to exactly why she was smiling so broadly.  "We okay here, Carter?"

 

Though he hadn't thought it possible, her smile grew even wider and seemed to light up the entire room.  "Yes, sir.  We're very much okay," she agreed.

 

"Good.  I was concerned."

 

"You were?"  She shook her head at the fact that they seemed to be having this conversation for a third time.

 

"Sure."  He smirked in that extremely sexy way of his--the one that sent her heart racing a million miles an hour.  "Carter?"

 

"Sir?"

 

The smirk stayed firmly in place.  "You still got that sweet little tank top number in your locker?"

 

She grinned mischievously back at him.  "Well, that depends, sir."

 

"On?" he demanded.

 

"On which shirt you have in your locker," she retorted.

 

She brushed passed him to go assist the team in packing up, leaving a confused O'Neill in her wake.  Daniel had finally persuaded the Sruthangiolla to release the colonel, and they were bugging out ASAP now that everyone from the SGC who'd been bitten had taken a turn on the deactivation unit.

 

He called out to her as she reached the door.  "Carter?  Which shirt do you want me to have in my locker?"

 

She winked as she turned back to answer.  "None, sir.  Shirtless, remember?"

 

His mouth fell open as she raced out the door.

 

Damn!  She had gotten him again!

 

 

 

~The End~

 

 

 

The Assignment:

 

Time frame: None specified.
Pairings: Sam/Jack; Jack/other
Nice juicy vampire fic. Jack gets infected, gets home, no-one realizes....Sam gets bitten .... I want her struggling, then giving up to ecstasy then forgets it .... Jack gets lots of nibbles ! Good Jack whump.
Restrictions: Jack and SG1 must not die permanently. No slash.

 

Author's Note:  I did some research--I knew nothing about vampires!--and found three alternate theories on causes of vampirism at http://vampires.monstrous.com/vampire_origins.htm#_Toc522786645 that just screamed Stargate at me.  One involved nanobots, one involved Atlantis, and the third involved aliens.  When I found a myth involving an Irish vampire faery, well, that pretty much cinched the storyline. <g>  This wasn't exactly your typical vampire story, but I hope this plot bunny's originator enjoys it anyway.  I'd also like to thank said originator for coming up with the idea--I had a total blast writing it!  Not only was this my first vampire story, it was my first attempt to write a S/J pairing--so I have to extend my apologies to any shippers who find it lacking.  I really did try!  Much thanks also to Dee and MUM for all their hard work on this first Jackfic-a-thon, and for letting me play along.  And last, but oh-so-definitely not least, thanks to Anny, who pitched in to beta this and kept me from having a total mental meltdown at the beginning!!