disclaimer: not mine, and never will be :(
rating/warnings: general audiences / nothing that isn't in the episode itself
notes: Sooooo this is my first SG1 fic in ~6 years - maybe more. Please be kind; I'm still not used to their voices, etc. again yet. I've been rewatching the series with my girlfriend, which is what inspired this... But, again, I'm practically brand new at writing for this fandom again, so please be kind.
in blood's wake
O'Neill finds Carter sitting in her lab. He opens his mouth to apologize, already taking a step back towards the door, when he realizes she has nothing in her hands and is staring sightlessly at her empty table. He frowns, hesitates, then reclaims his step.
"Everything okay, Captain?" he asks, folding his arms.
She seems to come to herself, starting a little and blinking owlishly when she looks up at him. "Yes, sir," she says automatically.
Her eyes betray her. They are empty and distant, lost to mist and time. She blinks again, and there is a flash—a breath, a heartbeat, an instant—wherein O'Neill catches a glimpse of pain. It is there and then gone, hidden once more behind the soldier's mask he has long known Samantha Carter excels at.
O'Neill sighs and comes fully into the room, perching himself on the edge of a lab stool across the table from her. "Bullshit," he says, leaning forward to brace his elbows on the table. "I think I know you well enough to know when something's wrong. Is it Jacob? I know there was some family drama—"
She shakes her head. "It's not that," she says.
O'Neill frowns. "Then what…?" He trails off in a question mark, leaving the end of his statement open for her to fill.
Carter sighs. "It's Seth," she says. "Well, his death."
O'Neill's frown deepens. "You wish you hadn't killed him?"
"No," Carter says, then frowns, a small crease of one between her eyebrows. "I mean no, I don't wish I hadn't killed him. And by that I mean I'm glad he's dead. It's just...how it happened—well."
With that, O'Neill knows what is wrong. He had seen Seth, body crumpled into the ground, stone broken on every side of him, blood seeping from his mouth and from his ruined chest cavity to stain his white robes a garish red. It had been gruesome and horrifying—and Carter had been the one to cause it.
Still, this surprises O'Neill. Even in the scant two years they have been operating as SG-1, they have seen horrifying things—things no human should see. Furthermore, Carter has killed men with her bare hands, has been body-to-body with them as the life left their eyes. While gruesome, this death seems less personal than that.
He tells her as much.
Carter's frown blooms and something dark and sinister creeps into her eyes. "This was different," she tells him. "It wasn't like killing someone with your bare hands. It was somehow...somehow worse."
"How?" O'Neill asks.
"There was this rush of power," Carter tells him. "This rush of exhilarating, glorying power that reveled in Seth's death, fed back from the burst of energy that killed him. Each time I use the hand device it's there, but this time it was worse—stronger, fuller, more real, almost. Almost like it knew."
O'Neill chews his bottom lip. "You mean it could feel his death?"
Carter nods. "Yeah," she says. "Somehow, it's like it knew what I had used it for. And it exulted in that."
"But it's just a device," O'Neill says. "It's not sentient."
This time Carter shakes her head. "No, it's not. But it almost has this awareness of itself. I suspect it's a connection to the naquadah in the host's blood, though I would need to study a hand device much closer to be certain." She hesitates, then adds, "Honestly, sir, it wouldn't bother me as much if I knew I wasn't crazy."
"Have you talked to your dad about this?"
"No," Carter says with another slight shake of her head. "I'm not sure he'd understand. He seems perfectly at home with using one. I'm not sure he'd get not being comfortable with it."
"You never know until you try," O'Neill says.
Carter shrugs. "You're right. Thanks, sir."
O'Neill grins. "No problemo. Now, if you're hungry, Daniel and Teal'c and I are grabbing dinner in town. If you wanna come."
Carter smiles. "Sure. Just let me change."
"You got it."
They eat dinner at O'Malley's, in a booth at the back of the restaurant. Sam and Jack sit on the outsides, Daniel and Teal'c by the window. Teal'c's hat, pulled down over his forehead, is printed with roses and daisies—a fact which gives Jack no end of pleasure.
"You really bought that thing?" he asks for the fifth time as they sit down at the gesture from their hostess.
"Indeed," says Teal'c. "Why does that seem to perturb you, O'Neill?"
"No, it's just—" A burst of laughter breaks Jack off mid-sentence. It takes him a few seconds to regain control of himself.
"It's just not what we would have expected from you," says Sam helpfully, shooting Jack a quick glare.
Teal'c raises an eyebrow—it disappears under the brim of his hat—and then shrugs one shoulder. "Flowers are most delightful," he says.
"You're not wrong," says Jack. "I just wouldn't think you'd want them on a hat."
"I like it," says Daniel, leaning forward to cross his arms on the table. He is seated next to Sam, and he glances at her with quirked lips. She grins in return—and Daniel sees something lighten in her eyes.
He had not even realized something dark was in them until that second.
"So," he says quickly, grabbing a menu from the end of the table where their hostess had left the stack, "does everyone know what they want to eat?"
He opens the menu, even though he already knows what he is getting—he gets the same thing every time they come to O'Malley's—and skims over the options. A few seconds later he closes the menu again and puts it down, uninterested. He glances over at Sam again, sees her reading the menu, and leans toward her.
She glances at him, eyebrows raised in silent question. Daniel hesitates, then mouths, You okay? at her.
She frowns, then shrugs. Yeah, she mouths back.
Daniel is unconvinced. Now that he knows what he is looking for, he sees something dark and unsettled buried deep within her eyes. He is not known to be the best reader of people, which has gotten him into trouble in the past, but Daniel knows his friends well—and knows when something is wrong with them.
He knows there is something wrong now.
Their waitress comes and takes their drink orders. She leaves, and talk turns to their narrow escape from Seth's lair.
"We really should have realized he would recognize you as a former host," says Jack, looking at Sam across the table from him.
"Even my dad didn't realize he would," she replies.
"That seems like something the Tok'ra should have known," Jack says.
"It would," says Teal'c. "However, it is rare for a host to survive its symbiote. They may not have known simply because it never has happened before that a former host came into contact with a Goa'uld."
"Yeah, but can't Jacob feel Carter?" says Jack.
Silence falls across the table.
"Maybe he didn't think Seth would get close enough to feel her?" Daniel suggests.
"Harem," Jack points out. "We knew he had a harem. And that Carter would probably join his harem when she was captured."
Sam pulls a face. "Thanks for that reminder, sir."
Daniel snorts. "Thankfully we got out before anything other than a few leg strokes happened."
Sam turns a glare on him. "Thanks for that reminder, Daniel."
Daniel laughs, and Jack joins in. Teal'c simply raises an eyebrow, though one corner of his mouth tips upward in the vaguest impression of half a smile. Sam just rolls her eyes, though she smiles too.
Their waitress arrives with their drinks. "Are y'all ready to order?" she asks in a thick Southern accent.
"I think so," says Jack, glancing at the rest of them. They all nod.
They order, and their waitress disappears into the kitchen. Talk turns back to their mission.
"I'm so glad that dad found his son," Daniel says. Nods ripple around the table.
"I really wasn't sure that was going to have a happy ending," says Jack.
"Indeed," says Teal'c. He seems to hesitate, and Daniel looks at him expectantly. "I had an interesting conversation with Jacob Carter about the nature of paternal relationships on Earth," he says at last. "It was most...informative."
"Informative doesn't exactly sound good," says Jack, and he glances at Sam.
"My dad has issues with my brother," she says. "You shouldn't take anything my dad said too generally, Teal'c."
"That is most relieving to hear," says Teal'c.
"What is your brother's problem with your dad?" Daniel asks.
Sam sighs. "Mark blames Dad for Mom's death—and then for being absent after her death too. Which, yeah, I get—he was absent. And he was kind of an ass about it. I was angry with him for a long time afterwards too; in fact, it really wasn't until Selmak joined with him that our relationship healed. But Mark never had a Selmak moment."
"Well maybe he can now," says Daniel. "I mean, he might not know it's a Selmak moment, but…"
Sam laughs. "Yeah."
Talk drifts off to their upcoming mission to P3X-2981. It is a delightfully convoluted and complex conversation, filled with code words and indirect metaphors and vague allusions, since they are in public and have to be careful about what they say. It is a fun conversation, however, in spite of that, and it lasts them until their food arrives 15 minutes later.
They eat. Daniel keeps a close eye on Sam, watching her cut her steak into tiny pieces—tinier pieces than normal. She only eats once it is fully cut, and then she only finishes half of it. She also only eats half of her mashed potatoes before pushing her plate away and draining her water.
"Would you like a box for this, ma'am?" their waitress asks when she comes by to check on them.
"Sure," Sam says with a smile. When she turns to Daniel to ask him a question, however, the smile is gone, and he wonders if it ever even reached her eyes—eyes that are stormy rather than bright, dark and carefully masked.
"Let's go play some pool," Daniel says, cramming his last few bites into his mouth. He ushers Sam out of the booth, then escorts her, protesting, over to the pool tables.
"You know I'm going to kick your ass," Sam says.
"I know," says Daniel. "But we need to talk."
Sam sighs and relents.
They play their first game in near-silence, speaking only to call their shots. As expected, Sam flattens Daniel in only a few minutes. Daniel laughs at his own blundering shots, and congratulates Sam when she sinks the final, black ball.
"Another?" Daniel asks.
"Daniel," Sam protests, "I don't—"
"Come on, Sam," Daniel says. "You know you enjoy beating me."
Again, Sam relents. Daniel is right; she does enjoy beating him—or anyone who is stupid enough to challenge her to pool.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Daniel asks, as he straightens from sending a solid-colored red ball spinning crazily into the side of the pool table.
"Why?" Sam asks, bending over to line up her shot. She sinks the striped ball into the corner pocket and stands. "Did the colonel put you up to this?"
"No," says Daniel. "I'm just worried about you."
"Why?" Sam asks again.
"Because you've been off all evening." Realization dawns on him. "Ever since we got out of the tunnels, really. You've been quieter than normal, and there's just something in your face…" He trails off.
Sam sighs and leans a hip against the pool table. "It's Seth," she admits.
"The way he treated you?" Daniel guesses.
To his surprise, Sam shakes her head. "No," she says. Then, softly, she tells him, "His death."
"What about his death?" Daniel asks. "I mean, you've killed people before."
"Never like this," says Sam. "This time it was...different. I tried to explain it to the colonel earlier. It was almost like I could feel his death."
Daniel frowns. "How is that possible? I mean, you did it with the hand device, didn't you? That's not the same as with a knife, or shooting someone point blank."
"Except it was point blank," says Sam. "And it was...it was different." She huffs with annoyance. "It's hard to explain."
"Hey," Daniel says, "it's okay." He cuts around the pool table and, reaching out a hand, grips Sam's shoulder. "If you need to talk, though, I'm here. Okay?"
Sam nods and gives him a weak smile. "Okay," she says.
There is a pause in their conversation as they put up their cues and turn back toward the table where Teal'c and Jack still sit. On their way back, however, Daniel pipes up again.
"Maybe you should talk to Teal'c about this," he suggests. "He might have some Jaffa insight into the matter."
"You're right," says Sam heavily. She smiles then, and the smile reaches her eyes. "Thank you, Daniel."
Sam drives Teal'c back to base.
"I have a question," Sam says, breaking the silence ten minutes into the drive.
"What is your question?" Teal'c asks.
Sam considers. Then, very suddenly, she asks, "Are there any...I don't know, Jaffa legends of Goa'uld feeling things through their hand devices?"
Teal'c frowns. "What do you mean, Captain Carter?" he asks.
"When I killed Seth, it was almost like I could feel his death through the hand device. Like the hand device knew what it had done. It was...I don't know," she says, frustrated. "It was like I could feel the hand device glorying in his death."
"There are stories of power-hungry Goa'uld who would murder entire villages with their hand devices," Teal'c says after a moment of silence in which Sam stews. "I always believed that "power-hungry" meant the power over life and death—but perhaps it was meant more literally. The Goa'uld are sadistic; it would not surprise me to learn that they orchestrated their technology to be able to feel the deaths of those they slew, and enhanced their perception of and reaction to it.
"Does this bother you, Captain Carter?" Teal'c asks after another moment of silence.
"Yes," Sam says honestly. "For a second all I could feel was Seth's last breath, his last heartbeat in his broken chest. And the hand device knew what had happened—or felt like it knew what had happened. It's like it knew I had just killed. And the rush of power, Teal'c… It was exhilarating. And then horrifying."
Teal'c reaches across the console between them and grips Sam's shoulder. "You did not enjoy killing him," he says. "Remember that. No amount of momentary exhilaration can change that fact."
Sam smiles half-heartedly. "Thanks, Teal'c," she says. "I appreciate it."
Samantha and Jacob Carter take the next day to drive to San Diego. They spend much of it conversing about inanities—life on the base and life with the Tok'ra, food, past missions, their lives before the Stargate program—until, at last, an hour out of San Diego, Sam speaks what has been weighing on her mind since she climbed into the car with her father early that morning.
"Dad?" she says, somewhat hesitantly.
"When you use a hand device, does it almost feel alive to you?"
Jacob Carter grins. "Yes," he says. "It's some weird Goa'uld technology thing—Selmak could probably explain it to you—but the short answer is: yes."
His head bows for a second, and Sam grabs onto the steering wheel to keep the car straight in its lane. When Jacob's head rises again, it is Selmak who speaks.
"The device connects with the naquadah in the host's blood," she says, voice ringing and echoing. "It augments and heightens the sensations felt by the host: power, death, life…"
Sam nods. "I thought it might be something like that."
Selmak's head bows, and again Sam grabs onto the wheel. It is her father who speaks next.
"Why do you ask?"
Sam bites the inside of her lip—a nervous habit she has never been able to get rid of—and says, "It's just…"
"Is this about Seth's death?" her father asks shrewdly when she hesitates.
Jacob sighs. "I've never had to kill with a hand device before," he says. "But Selmak has. She hates it too."
"I think it's incredible that the Goa'uld were able to make a technology that could augment emotions that way," says Sam, latching onto the practical, scientific aspect of the matter.
Jacob smiles sadly. "It is incredible—in a horrifying sort of way." Then, "Are you okay, kid? I know it's tough…"
Again Sam hesitates. Then, softly, she says, "Not really. But I have you, and the rest of my team. And that'll be enough."
"So how'd it go?"
O'Neill leans in the doorway of her lab, one hip propped on the doorframe and arms crossed.
"Better than expected," says Carter. "Mark actually let us into his house, and even talked to Dad for an hour. Dad got to meet his granddaughters—and I got to meet my nieces—and they made us cookies."
O'Neill grins. "Good," he says brightly. "And how about you? How are you feeling?"
"Better, now that I know I'm not crazy," says Carter. "Still not quite over it all, but...better."
O'Neill's grin turns into a smile. "Glad to hear that. You about ready to gear up?"
"Yeah," says Carter. "I just have to finish calculating the results to this test."
O'Neill straightens, checks his watch, then says, "You've got 20 minutes."
O'Neill straightens, hesitates, then says, "Glad you're feeling better, Carter."
"Thanks, sir," says Sam. She looks up in time to watch him turn and leave, the ghost of a smile on her lips. "Me too," she murmurs to his retreating figure, and then turns back to her test.
end notes: Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Please let me know! I'd absolutely love to hear from you - especially as I'm still really uncertain as to how I'm doing writing these folks again. Thank you!