Part 18: End of A Dream

Sounds.

Familiar sounds.

Beeping sounds, faint and rhythmical, which means I'm in the infirmary. I wonder what kind of incident has struck me this time. I've woken up in the infirmary countless times and have been clueless as to what had caused it. I guess I can add this one to my ever-growing list.

I open my eyes slowly, my head is pounding. It is painful but I can handle it.

"Carter," the Colonel's voice. I look up to him, he looks tired and lost. Something has happened to him, something big.

"Sir," I try to get into a sitting position. Oops, bad idea. My head is getting hammered big time. I close my eyes and raise my hand to massage my temple.

"Doc, she's conscious," I can hear him informing Janet, and then his hand is on my shoulder while the other is on my back, gently he guides me back to the bed, "Don't push yourself Carter, lay down." I'm more than happy to follow his order this time.

Footsteps, Janet's. Rapid and hurried.

"Sam, how are you feeling?" the petite doctor asks. I open my eyes to see that she is ready with her penlight, "Let's see." She shines it into my eyes, ouch, that hurts. I close my eyes again.

"Janet, I have a big headache, would you mind NOT doing that to my eyes, it doesn't help," I try to brush her penlight away.

"Well, considering what you've been through, that's a normal condition. Your eyes are also oversensitive to light ... I expected that. Any other thing that I should know about?"

"Let see, headache, check. Hypersensitive eyes, check. Big headache, check. And I think that about covers it all," I mutter.

There's a sigh of relief coming from the Colonel, "Glad to have you back, Carter."

"Did I go somewhere?" What is he talking about? Damn, this headache isn't getting any lighter.

He squeezes my hand, "Nothing to worry about. Try to get some rest."

"Can I have something for my headache Janet?"

"Sure. And like the Colonel said, try to get some rest."

"'Kay." And with that, I fade away.

---

When I wake up again, I see a lot of activity around me. They are talking, aloud. Thank God my headache has gone down a little, I guess Janet's miracle drugs have finally kicked in.

"Now, what's everybody doing here?" I ask while I attempt to open my eyes.

"Sammie, are you alright?" Dad sounds so worried.

"I'm alright Dad," I assure him. Wait a minute, Dad's here? "What are you doing here, Dad? Not that I mind having you here."

"Sam, you're awake," Daniel's voice, I look around to see where he is.

"I am glad to see you again, Major Carter," Teal'c, he is standing right next to Daniel, on my left.

"Do you remember what has happened to you?" General Hammond, I turn my head to the right to see him next to Dad. Concern is written all over his face.

I struggle to search inside my brain, trying my best to recollect the past events, "SG-1 and SG-7 went to P9Y T81, informed the locals about our intention, and then because Daniel wanted to study more about the Abel's chamber, I requested to prolong our stay there. And then ... they captured me, asking me to fix their planet's barrier. They separated me from Daniel and Teal'c. They did something to me, I can remember what, but they did something to me."

The images stop there, but there's something more. I just can't recall it.

"Are you sure that's all you remember, Carter?" The Colonel's voice, he's standing right in front of me, right at the end of my bed. His eyes meet mine.

I flutter my eyes closed again, attempting to drive the pain away from my head, "There's something else. A dream, a strange dream. I was someone else."

And then everything just clicks into place. "It wasn't a dream, was it?" the question came out even before I could comprehend the whole thing.

No one answers, so I know that it was the truth.

---

Violated doesn't cover what I am feeling right now. Someone did it again, took my life away from me, toyed with it as if it was a cheap thing, ripped it apart like it didn't mean anything, and played with it as if it were nothing. The pain in my head has not completely gone, but the memory -- Kisa's memory starts to flood my brain slowly. Thankfully, it was different from Jolinar's. That's the only good thing that came from all of this.

Kisa's is less violent and less vivid. No death, no blood, no dark secrets. Unlike Jolinar's, I never had a nightmare with Kisa's. Her memory is just a normal one. She isn't a warrior after all, just an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. She didn't deserve this any more than I did, we are both victims. Strangely, I found myself relating to her, as a woman. A woman in love. If I knew her in a different situation, we'd be in the café right now, having a girl talk about everything.

We both fell for a man. At least the Colonel harbours the same feelings as I do, even though we are not together. On the contrary, she had the relationship but never the feelings. That's why there were so many holes in her life, hollowness that she couldn't fulfil. As for me, even though I couldn't tell him what I felt openly, I'm content with what we have. A friendship to share and a promise to keep. It's all that we can have now, and it is more than enough for now.

I guess I'm the lucky one.

Janet had cleared me from the infirmary and General Hammond had given me a week downtime. Dad had been called away by the Tok'ra, some urgent matter that needed to be taken care of. But he promised me to visit as soon as possible. Janet and Cassie visited me every day. My team-members had been great, they came to basically live with me in my house after I was allowed to leave the base. Their excuse was that they missed me, I've been gone for more than a month after all. I couldn't turn them down, so my house has been transformed into a refuge camp. I only had one guest room, and they took turns taking that room. The sofa and a sleeping bag on the living room floor are their alternative resting places. We are SG-1, the flagship team of the SGC, the close-knit team that has gone through a lot as whole. We're the best, in battle, in intelligence, in making friends as well as enemies, and in guilt. But we live with it.

If they did this sleeping-over-because-we-missed-you a few years back, I would've thrown my door right in their faces. But now? Now I know better than to turn down the help that I need; I grumbled for sure, but then I let them in. I need them to stay sane as much as they need me to overcome their remorse. We didn't talk about it plainly as a group though, we just keep each other company and let the realisation sink in -- we're back together, for better or for worse. Man, it sounds like I am married to these guys. But I don't mind, really. Because with friends like that, I've survived worse. Fighting and arguing over what movie to watch, what take-out to order, who's going to have the bathroom first (not me -- I have an en-suite bathroom), who has to wash the dishes (not me -- I am the host), who has control over the TV remote ... normal things that I've been taking for granted are the things that have saved me.

Even though they are in my house 24-7, they never invade my personal space. My room is off-limits unless I invite them in. If I ever need to be alone, all I have to do is stay in there. They will check on me, of course, but they never press. It's nice, to know that someone cares about me, makes me feel less alone.

"Sam," Daniel is standing right in front of me.

"Oh, hi Daniel, take a seat," I motion at the spot on the grass next to me. I've been sitting in my backyard, looking at the night sky after dinner (it was pizza as the Colonel had won the rock-scissors-paper today). And the boys, bless them, had left me alone.

"What are you doing here?" he asks while he makes himself comfortable.

"Thinking."

"About what?"

I turn around and smile at him, "About you guys, actually."

He smiles back, "Really, nothing bad, I hope."

I chuckle at that, "Daniel, listen to yourself, you guys sleep, eat, breathe, shower, watch TV and argue in my house, almost tear it apart. Why would I have something bad to think about you three?"

He puts his arm around me and draws me to his side, prompting me to rest my head on his shoulder, "Glad to have you back, Sam. I missed you."

I look at nothing in particular in my neighbour's yard, "That's the funny thing, Daniel. I never felt like I've been gone."

I don't have my eyes on him, but I know that he's looking at me in confusion, "What do you mean?"

I take a deep breath, "It's like I've been dreaming. A very long dream. But ..."

"It wasn't a dream," Daniel finishes my sentence.

I draw one of my knees to my chest and hug it, "When I realise that it was real, I feel anger. But I don't know who to throw it to."

"You think too much."

I roll my eyes, "Like I never heard that before."

It's his turn to chuckle, "What I mean is ... just put all of this behind. Forget about it, it's all in the past," he tightens his hold on me, "What's important now is that you're here. With us. Don't beat yourself up over this."

"It's not that easy, Daniel."

"That is not what's really bothering you, is it?"

There's no point in lying to Daniel, he sees right through me, "No."

"She's not you, Sam. And you're not her. Just leave it like that, OK?"

And as easy as that, he took the words right out of my mouth, "How can you be so sure, Daniel? Even the Colonel is not that sure."

"Because the Sam I knew is more stubborn than the woman who spent her last two days on Earth trying to stop thinking about her past. The Sam I knew would linger on whatever dilemma that she had and sulk until she found a satisfying resolution," I could've sworn that Daniel let out a wicked smile.

"I don't sulk, thank you very much," and just to make my point across, I pull away from his embrace.

He laughs openly at that, "Sorry, but you get my drift right? You can learn from her, you know. To forget and move on."

Forget and move on. That sounds tempting, doesn't it?

"I'll leave you alone to think some more," Daniel rises to his feet and disappeares back into my house after he gave me a reassuring squeeze on my arm.

Think. I'm tired of that, yet I can't stop doing it. It's what I do, it's what I am, a scientist who thinks a lot. And the Colonel never stops reminding me of that fact.

"Major Carter," I look up to see Teal'c this time. Looks like they are taking turns to talk to me one-on-one. Poor Daniel, he must've drawn the short straw.

"Hi Teal'c, have a seat," I gesture at the spot where Daniel sat earlier.

"You are troubled," he states after he is seated.

It's that obvious huh? "Yes, Teal'c."

"Perhaps I can be of assistance," the stoic Jaffa offers his help, and how can I refuse that?

"Teal'c, do you see Kisa as me?"

He looks at me intently, "Although she was in your body, she is not you, Major Carter."

"Thanks, Teal'c," I give him a big smile in appreciation.

"Major Carter, why do you concern yourself with such a trivial matter?"

That's right, why do I? It's not like it's a big deal. Why does it bother me so much? More than having more than a month of my life snatched away from me? Oh God, who am I kidding? I always know the answers to those questions, "Because the Colonel saw her as me." There, it's out. It's not hard, is it? To get the truth out, I even feel a little bit better. I know I can trust Teal'c.

Teal'c only raises one of his eyebrows, "O'Neill's opinion is very important to you, is it not?"

"Yes, it is," I nod slowly.

"Then you should address the question to him," Teal'c has always had the simplest and most obvious solution to any problem. I envy him sometimes, he can be so straight-forward with anything. Unlike us, the 'Tauri', who run around in circles, confusing ourselves to no end when the answer is right under our noses. We, no ... I need to stop running away.

I put my hand on his arm and smile, "I will Teal'c. Thanks for your help."

He bows his head slightly, in his own way of saying 'you're welcome', "Do you wish me to send him for you, Major Carter?"

I have to laugh at that, oh yeah, they definitely were planning this. The three-meal-course of cheering-Sam-Carter-up. Daniel is the 'starter', he asks questions and sends a little direction here and there. Teal'c is the 'main course', he points out where my problem is exactly and tells me to deal with it point blank. I can't wait for the 'desert'. Tealc looks at me in confusion, "It was not intended to be a joke."

I bit my lip and hold the urge to continue my laughter to humor him. I know that Teal'c had developed quite a sense of humor, courtesy of hanging around the Colonel too much, "My apology, Teal'c."

The small smile on his face is precious, "I will summon O'Neill for you."

And four minutes later, the Colonel replaces Teal'c, sitting right next to me. The summer air is warm and gentle, the sky is dusted with millions of stars. I wonder how many of those stars we have visited.

"Teal'c said that you have something that you wanted to ask me," he casually starts up the conversation.

Do I dare ask the question of him? Because to tell you the truth, I'm afraid to hear the answer. Would it be better if I just swept it under the carpet and left it there to rot? Just forget and move on, like Daniel suggested. But then, it would not have been me, would it? I don't want to lose myself, I lost enough already, "Do you think that she is me?"

I don't look at him, because my courage has run out. It's easier this way, just to sense that he's right next to me and watch something else instead. He sighs, "I don't know. She acts just like you. She has your eyes. She looks at me just like you do. She talks like you. She ..." he never finishes the sentence, "How much do you remember?"

I remember everything, every friend that she had, every detail of her life, every corner of her mind, "Pretty much everything."

"I see."

We lapse into a comfortable silence. I'm still waiting for his answer. I know that he needs time to think it through; it's been hard for him as it has for me. I had not realised that he had moved from his position. Suddenly, I can feel his body from behind my back, and before I know it, his arms have already encircled my neck, his forehead rests on the back of my head, and both his thighs are at my sides, trapping me in my position. I tense for a moment before I relax into his embrace.

"When I first saw her, I wished that she was you ... because I was afraid. I was afraid that if she wasn't, then you were gone," his voice is quiet, but I can hear every single word clearly, "I meant what I said Carter. I'd rather die myself than lose you." I close my eyes and shiver as he says those words again. I reach his arms and lower them to my stomach and lay my own arms on his, to reassure him that my feelings have not changed. He continues, "Then she started acting differently, reacting differently ... but I kept fooling myself. Over and over again." He draws me closer, "And because of that, I hurt her feelings ...but I couldn't help it. She was so you ... but she was not."

His words should've confused me, but they didn't, "You're still unsure, aren't you?" I ask him softly.

His head moves and then his chin rests on my shoulder, "Yeah."

"Daniel and Teal'c are pretty confidant that she's not me," I tell him.

"They didn't spend as much time with her as I did," he reasons, "after she was back on Earth, she was completely changed. I guess it had something to do with Ba'ek ..."

Ba'ek, oh yes, him. "I left him behind." This was one of the most disturbing things that had troubled me. If she was me, then I could've plotted another way to escape from Cayan, but I didn't. I could've talked him out of it, but I didn't. I could've pushed him through the Stargate easily, but I didn't. I did the things that the Colonel could not tolerate, leaving someone behind.

"Excuse me?" there is incredulity in the Colonel's voice, his way of saying 'yeah, right'.

I look down to where our arms are, "Kisa would never of left her partner, and she wouldn't of said yes when you asked her to go with you. She would of stayed behind on Cayan when Hunsa asked her to. And she would not have agreed to go along with Ba'ek's plan."

He turns his head slightly so that his face is just buried in the nape of my neck. God, that feels so good. That makes me forget about everything, just about. "Do you really believe that?" he whispers.

Do I? "I don't know."

"If she was you, then she would not have cried so easily in front of me, she would not have asked *that* question as you would never put me in that difficult position, she would not have given up. If she was you, then why am I feeling like she was missing something? Why am I feeling so glad that you have your memory back?" I have no answer for that as the stroke of his hands on my sides eases some of my guilt away.

"Who was she then?" I wonder aloud.

"I don't know. But I'm glad that she was what she was. Because of her, you are here now."

Maybe Daniel is right. What's important is that I am here, with the people that I love. Maybe it's time to put everything behind me and move on. "Thank you ... for bringing me home."

I can feel his lips twitch to form a smile, "My pleasure."

I snuggle back into him, enjoying the rare pleasure of being in his arms. Because I know, when tomorrow comes, I have to wait for a considerable amount of time to have this opportunity again. The leisure that I won't forget for the rest of my time.

"I'm retiring," He's retiring ... wait a minute. What did he just say? I bolt out from him and turn around as soon as the words came out, almost knocking him down in the process.

"You're WHAT?" I almost scream there. If I were a Goa'uld, I bet my eyes would be flashing right now.

He straightens up his position, "I said I'm retiring. I'll hand in my resigning letter tomorrow to Hammond. You'll be the next SG-1 leader, by the way."

"NO," this is not happening. This can't be happening.

"No?" his face is a mixture between amusement and disbelief. There is a hint of disappointment as well.

"Over my dead body," I tell him more firmly this time.

His eyebrows jump up, oops, that phrase came out wrong, didn't it? "Sorry, bad example. I mean ... why? How? WHY?"

If he laughs any louder than he already is now, I swear I will smack him upside the head, superior officer or not. I stare at him long enough to make him stop, and then without warning, he spells it out, "Because I want you."

"I ..." whatever reason I have ready, it dies on my lips. His words caught me off-guard, big time. Oh wow, that was so ... right ... and great ... and nice ... and right. Okay, I'm stalling now. My brain has frozen right away. I can't think at all, but I can feel ... wondrous and amazing and incredible and wondrous, did I mention wondrous?

But sadly, I can't accept this. No matter how good it does feel. I stare at him straight in the eyes and sigh, I have to make him understand, "You know the Bliss?"

"The illusion thingy?"

"Yeah."

"What about it?"

So, he knows. "They offered me this. A chance for us to be together, but I refused it," when he said that he was tired, I had to agree. I am tired too, of waiting for 'us' to happen. But I know that the waiting will be worthwhile, because there's something that needs to be done, "Like I have to refuse yours now,"

There is pain in his eyes, God, I hate it when he looks at me that way, "What are you saying?"

Here goes nothing, "Even though Sam really wants Jack right now, Major Carter is not ready to lose Colonel O'Neill right now," that's right. If I am to become the SG-1 leader, I have to be ready.

The pain is replaced by confusion now, "Why not?"

"Because Colonel O'Neill is a great leader and the Major has big shoes to fill when he's gone. She's not prepared for that yet."

"Colonel O'Neill thinks that the Major is ready," he insists.

"Well, the Major thinks that the Colonel still hasn't taught her everything that he knows," he never deliberately prepared me for this position. The position that holds so much responsibility.

He is taken aback, and with an unsure voice he asks, "He hasn't?"

"No. Daniel and Teal'c's lives will depend on her decisions," I don't want to put their lives in unnecessary danger, "Colonel O'Neill has made some difficult decisions in the past, some that I know that the Major could and would not make." The Colonel had his own way of keeping us safe for all these years. Having him around makes me safe, and I don't think I am capable of eliciting the same effect from my team, "She needs to learn about that first, to make tough calls and stick with them. No matter what the repercussions are."

He takes my words to heart, "Damn." His shoulders slump slightly, acknowledging that I have a valid point. His hand comes up to tousle his hair.

I hate it when he's like this, unlike the man that I know at all. I have to do something, so I swallow a nervous gulp. Come on girl, you can do it. Let the man know that you appreciate his offer, "That's why Sam and Major Carter can make a deal."

His head lifts up slowly, his eyes searching for something in mine, "Really?" there is hope in the way he asks.

This is it, no going back after this, "Yes. Major Carter can have Colonel O'Neill prepare her until she's ready."

Yup, there's definitely a smirk on his face, "And what does Sam get?"

"She gets to fish with Jack every time he asks her," the smirk transforms into a full-fledged grin, "providing Major Carter doesn't have anything to do in her lab," and then the big grin disappears. Well, I can't let him have all the fun, can I? I present him with my most innocent face. It's nice to know that I actually have him wrapped around my little fingers.

The smile reappears on his face, "Very tempting. Don't Jack and Colonel O'Neill have a say in this matter?"

I love that smile, the one that he has every time he is in a good mood, a *very* good mood, "Of course they do. So ... what do they say?"

His hand is stroking his chin now, feigning a thinking pose, "Hmm, what do they say ..." and then the hand moves to scratch his head, "this is a very hard decision. Let me think about it for a moment, will ya."

I can only smile at his behaviour. He can have all of my time; he has me wrapped around his little fingers too, not that I mind. I watch him with my eyes as he's doing the same thing. Even when he's not doing anything, he is very 'enjoyable' to look at. There's a faint scar on his left eyebrow, he has told us so many stories about how he got it. Some are not as credible as the others. There's a dimple on his cheeks when he smiles. There's a ...

"You have a deal," I would've kissed him right now if he wasn't my CO. Hold that thought girl, you can do that as much and often as you like when this is over. I'm really grateful for his understanding, "Thanks."

And then he turns confident, *very* confident, too much cheerfulness to my liking, "Major Carter knows that the Colonel will put her through Hell, doesn't she? The training boot camp will look like a boy scout camping trip compared to what he has in store for her."

I cringe inwardly, although I wouldn't expect less from him, "Major Carter thinks that the outcome is worth the agony."

"If you say so." I really don't like the way he looks at me right now. He's undeniably planning a lot of harder, more difficult, and crueller ways to 'prepare' me when he can do it in a much more simpler way. He is an intelligent man, too bad he doesn't want to use it to his full potential. Shame, really. But that's okay, because it makes him the man he is now.

I know I'm supposed to let the conversation end here, but there's something about him that always makes me do something a little bit extreme, "Hey," I call him.

"Yeah?"

I pursed my lips deliberately, "I know that I said that I want to wait, but ..." and left my sentence unfinished to bait him.

"But what?" Gotcha.

"Can I have a sneak preview of your white dove tattoo?"

Finish

AN: The white dove tattoo is mentioned in Part 4. Finally, I've finished this story, but I think the sequel is on its way (just give me some time to plot the story) ... Tell me what you think about it. Thanks for all the supports that all of you have given to me throughout this story, especially to my beta-reader JayBee Bug. Also for all of you who had sent your reviews and feedback. Keep them coming ... :)

Blue-topaz@lycos.com

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