The moon smiled down like the Cheshire Cat and like Alice, she had no idea which way to go.
It wasn't just this stupid trail she'd been exploring it was her whole stinking life right now; too many choices and no way to know which was the right.
'That's not true, Sam,' she told herself. 'You know exactly which way you want to go, you're just too afraid to admit it!' She stopped, shook her head, and stared in front of her.
She snapped out of her reverie and turned to face him. "Sir?"
"Whatcha thinkin'? Any reason for us to stick around this place?" He gave her one of his trademark grins that told her he was bored and well ready to call this mission. "Daniel's done with his survey of the ruins. You find anything humworthy out here?"
She flinched and he vividly remembered the last time they'd discussed the topic of humming. Pete. Her gaze fell to her shoes. "No, Sir," she all but whispered.
"Well, it's getting dark so I say we head back to the gate and call it a night."
They walked in silence, the General leading the way back up the narrow trail they'd been following. Neither of the officers had realized the extent of the incline or just how dark it had gotten until Sam tripped over something she couldn't see and almost fell into him. Jack spun around, reaching with an instinct he'd always had for keeping her safe, grabbing her collar as she fell forward toward the ground. Her face didn't slam into the ground the way she expected but it still ended up in the dirt as her forward momentum dragged both of them down.
He landed with an "Umph," on one of his bad knees. "You okay, Carter?" he asked grabbing her arm to pull her up.
She meant to say that she was fine. That was her response to everything right?
'Fine. Fine. Fine!' she wanted to shout.
Instead she heard herself say, "Damn it," as tears burned behind her eyes.
"Carter?" he asked again reaching for her face and wiping a smudge of dirt from her cheek.
"Sir, I . . . " 'Damn why is this so hard?' She looked away and made a move to get up and grimaced as she felt her left ankle give out. She could tell it was sprained the minute she tried to put her full weight on it and the General was immediately at her side as he noticed it too.
"Ankle?" he asked.
"Yes, Sir. I'm okay, it's just a little sprain," she said as she winced. Wow, she had almost believed herself. In truth, her entire foot was starting to throb and it hurt like hell but at least it took her mind off of the pain she'd been wrestling with all day in her head. She grimaced again as she tried to step forward and ended up leaning against a tree. She let her head fall back against the cool bark and closed her eyes as she listened to Jack talk into his radio. "Daniel? Teal'c? You copy?"
"Yeah, Jack, we're here. What's up?"
"Daniel, we're gonna take a little longer than expected to get back."
"Everything okay, Jack?" he asked, the concern in his voice evident.
"It will be. Carter took a spill on the trail. Looks like she sprained her ankle so it's gonna be slow going, especially with it getting so dark. Hold your position and you should see us within the hour."
"Okay, Jack. We'll leave a light on for ya."
"Thanks, O'Neill out." He looked at her leaning against the tree, pale but beautiful in the waning light. "You sure you're up to this Carter?"
"Yes, sir." Here it comes he thought, "I'm fine, really."
Yep. She'd said it. Those two words that let him know that things actually sucked but she'd ignore it for now and get the job done no matter what.
"Okay let's move out," he said as he put his arm around her waist and grabbed the wrist of her left arm as she put it around his neck. Sam grimaced again as they took the first few steps and they had to stop to readjust their packs and weapons to make their embrace a little less awkward and painful for them both. She already felt guilty about his knee, but noticed he didn't seem to be limping too badly.
"I'm sorry sir," she said quietly as they continued up the trail.
"For what Carter, not being able to see what's right in front of you?" he sighed, "It happens to the best of us."