Notes: I've made some rather extensive edits to the whole story, so I decided to delete the old thread and repost. This is the most complete and up-to-date version of the story so far. It is still uncompleted. Working Title: Enter The Abyss Pairing: implied Sam/Jack UST Spoilers: S7 Summary: What if the one price you swore you would never pay, was the only one that made sense? ************************************************ "Carter?" A staff blast slammed into the rock above the cave entrance. "We're pinned down, Sir. At least three, probably four Jaffa. I can't get a good..." Her voice cut off abruptly and there was a sudden flurry of motion as another voice rang out. "Get down!" He had a vague sense of two outstretched bodies diving for the floor. The warning sent his body spinning toward the half dozen Tok'ra huddled near the back of the cave. He was not even sure which Tok'ra he knocked over as he grabbed his own helmet with one hand while simultaneously wrapping the greater portion of his upper body across the host's shoulders and back of the neck. The Tok'ra grunted as they hit unyielding rock but did not struggle. It was heat and darkness and thunder as the world exploded. Before his mind had time to decide that he was permanently dead this time, an oppressive silence descended. Rock dust added a bitter edge to the air and the sporadic gunfire sound of rock on rock warned him that the sky was still falling. He lifted his head to cough the dust from his lungs. "Carter?" The Tok'ra he had tackled was not moving. Considering that Jack had more or less dropped a full 185 pounds on his head without warning, he was betting he was unconscious. Ignoring his ribs, Jack staggered to his feet and spun in the direction of the cave entrance. Reflex sent his body stumbling for the last known position of his team members and his mind into familiar patterns of habit and training. Keep moving. Emotions lost themselves in a glittering spiral of action, his body tracing conditioned patter of habit and training. They had been too close. The entrance to the cave was no longer there and a small mountain of rock rested where the floor used to be. Peripheral vision on his left showed movement and the part of his mind that remained active in the quiet center of the spiral noted that Ishta and most of her Jaffa were still alive. Too soon to tell whether the fallen were merely wounded or dead. It did not matter. They were not shooting or being shot. Ditto for the group of Tok'ra starting to move about behind him. "Carter!" He saw her a split second before he smelled the blood. Most of it probably came from the female Jaffa that Carter was lying over. The blood itself was secondary to the grey matter leaking from a fist-sized hole in the Jaffa's skull. Carter's helmet appeared intact and nothing he could do in the next five minutes would change whether she was breathing or not. Low-end humming, the droning hypnotic sound he always associated with bees on a summer day slid through his mind, tracing the spiral. Before he even had time to notice the emotions on the uppers layers, they were swept into the depths. Away from the colors. Away from where they could distract him or betray him. Just... Away. "Ishta! Check on Carter. Al'syn...can you sense Teal'c anywhere in this mess?" His body moved close to where he thought he had seen Teal'c go down and started hurling rocks out of the way. When no one seemed to react, he looked up to find all eight Tok'ra gathered around Carter, staring down at her with what appeared to be a comprehensive case of group shock. "Damn it Al'syn. Move your ass. If they use any more grenades the other half of the cave could come down." The Tok'ra male looked back at him blankly. Two of Ishta's Jaffa pushed past him and went to Carter. The remaining seven fanned out, hesitant to add their weight to the unstable pile. From the corner of his eye Jack saw one of the Tok'ra pull a healing device from a pouch at her waist and kneel to run it slowly across Carter's body. The device lit and the Tok'ra woman's face tightened. Jack swallowed tightly, then turned resolutely back to the ton of rock entombing his missing friend. "O'Neill..." He whirled as Al'syn grabbed him by the shoulder. The Tok'ra swallowed, then gestured in Carter's direction. "She will heal." He allowed himself one more look. Just enough to tell him that the Tok'ra told the truth. He swayed as the spiral started to tremble and he turned back to the rock. "O'Neill..." Carter was not dead. He ignored the sidelong looks and outright stares of the Tok'ra standing and watching him. Carter was not dead and neither was Teal'c. Not until he saw bodies three days dead and no sarcophagus in sight. He paused in his digging to glare at the Tok'ra still standing next to him. "Either make yourself useful or go away." Al'syn did not move. His eyes were intent on Jack's face and he had the strangest sensation the Tok'ra was searching for ... something. The feeling jolted his snake alert. An instinct or alarm or whatever it was that seemed to go off every time he was around the Tok'ra lately. Four years lately. Violence shimmered beneath reflex that wanted to react to a physical threat that Jack knew was non-existent. More or less. Two years ago he had finally given up trying to explain it and simply told himself that he had an unequivocal aversion to all things snake. He glared at the unhelpfully, immobile Tok'ra. "O'Neill...please. Let Bira heal your hands. We will dig." Al'syn - or the host - started to reach for Jack's hand, then stopped as the Tau'ri tensed. Immediately, Jack found himself the object of a pleading gaze that - for some reason - reminded him uncomfortably of Daniel. Bira stared at his hands while the rest stared at the dirt floor. The Jaffa watched curiously from the corners of their eyes as they shifted boulders the size of his computer monitor. None of them understood. "He is alive." The Tok'ra - as a group - avoided his eyes. "Al'syn..." The young host shifted unhappily. "He no longer has a symbiote, O'Neill. Even if he is still..." Jack grabbed the front of Al'syn's sand-colored tunic. Both men ignored the blood soaking into the fabric. "Get this through your head once and for all. Until I see a body, he's alive and he's waiting for me to dig him out. That's exactly what I'm going to do." Green eyes flashed and Jack jumped, nearly losing his hold on Al'syn's tunic. Flushing, he realized the Tok'ra had not threatened him. In fact, he was hesitating as though uncertain what he -the snake - wanted to say. The symbiote's voice sent that alarm of his into overdrive, the hollow echo sounding low and awkward, emphasis in all the wrong places and flat. As if he were speaking words that had been memorized without understanding and rehearsed so many times the meaning had been lost. It got worse when he realized that the Tok'ra - all of them - were waiting for his reaction. " No one gets left behind." A shiver worked its way down his spine and lodged somewhere in his gut. Al'syn's hands clenched in an involuntary reflex the symbiote could have controlled. Either Al'syn was deliberately letting him see it...or the host and snake were equally rattled together. Jack let his gaze sweep over the group of Jaffa watching curiously. They had continued digging, but Ishta was staring at the Tok'ra with an expression on her face he could not interpret. Deciding that whatever it was could wait, he unclenched one hand and patted Al'syn's shoulder approvingly. "Right. Now we're getting somewhere." As if that was some sort of signal, the Tok'ra headed en masse for the rock pile. They mingled cautiously with the Jaffa and Jack could feel eyes burrowing into his back as he gave in to common sense. Cursing every lost minute, he made his way over to the woman with the healing device. She glanced at him shyly as she concentrated on his torn flesh. Jack ignored the pain in his hands and focused all his attention on the group slowly moving rock. "Samantha Carter will heal from her injuries. Other than a slight concussion, she suffered predominantly from extensive bruising and some minor tearing to several muscles and ligaments which we have repaired. She will need several days of rest, but the damage will heal on it's own." Jack glanced at the still body of his 2IC. Ishta's Jaffa had removed the body of their fallen comrade and shifted Carter far enough from the rock pile to be safe, but otherwise had kept to the alcove. On brief reflection it was probably one of the safest places in the cave given the situation. He glanced down as the healing device stopped humming and flexed now healed fingers. He exchanged his blood-soaked gloves with a spare pair from his pocket. "That's good. Thanks." She looked a bit confused, and he felt her eyes following him as he stood and rejoined the searchers. He ignored the implications of her confusion and went back to work. Two hours later, the Tok'ra were still digging. They were both stronger and more sensitive to the presence of a Goa-uld symbiote than any Jaffa. Most of Ishta's warriors had been assigned to search the cave system for any exits - or entrances. For the moment, the radios were still working, and one of the search groups reported finding water, but no escape route. Jack kept digging. There was not a single person other than himself who actually thought Teal'c was still alive. It should have worried him. Instead, it simply made him that much more determined to continue. When Carter finally stirred and made her way to his side, he allowed himself one searching glance to make sure she was okay and then moved sideways to give her some elbow room. Bira protested, but a single glare from Carter was surprisingly effective in silencing her. Comparing her easy acquiescence to Dr. Fraiser's pit-bull attitude, Jack found one more thing to worry about. The two Tau'ri dug in silence and several hours faded into a haze of pain. Labored breathing. Screaming shoulders. Twice more, Bira demanded that she be allowed to heal their hands. The last time, she warned them not to get injured for another twelve hours while the new cells adjusted, because she would not be able to safely use the healing device on them for at least that long. Jack shrugged and went back to digging. When the rock shifted beneath his feet, his reaction time was slow. One moment he was examining a huge boulder; the next, the ground was shaking and moaning and rocks were grinding under his boots. He heard Carter yell and then they were both scrambling upwards to stay on top of the pile as it slid out from under them. For one moment he actually thought they had made it to safety, then the ground simply vanished and he felt himself falling. He had a split second to wonder whether Bira was going to be ****ed, then everything went dark.