SPOILERS : From S5.21 Meridian onward

DISCLAIMER : Stargate is the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. No infringement on copyrights and trademarks is intended. All original material is copyrighted to the author.

NOTE : Dream sequences should appear in italics.


Stars exploded.

Wherever she turned, wherever she ran, from system to system, all around her: young main sequence stars aged violently until they collapsed in on themselves; binaries that once danced around each other flung themselves together; giants shrunk back in on themselves; dwarfs with nothing left to burn grew, re-ignited, re-lived their lives.

Faster, faster, she ran, their destruction caught in her wake; chasing her, gaining on her, one by one they exploded with a final cataclysmic scream of unholy defiance. She roared her anger at the horror, the laws of space and time violated, billions of years, unbounded eons of life, gone.

Finally they overtook her, surrounded her. She was caught in a cage of stars, trapped, unable to escape, unable to stop.

She fell.

Sam woke, disoriented, shivering, her t-shirt damp with sweat clinging to her skin. A dazzling kaleidescope of light burned her eyes, her head throbbed, blood pounded in her temples. Reflexively she gulped and rubbed at her ears; her fingers coming away wet, sticky. At the corner of her mouth she tasted the tang of iron, blood.

She reached for the light switch, silently cursing when it failed to work. She fumbled her way to the door, confused, unable to imagine why the back-up generators and fail-safes hadn't kicked in. The emergency lights were out and there wasn't even the fluorescent glow...

The door was unlocked. She opened it a fraction... still nothing. The base was in complete darkness, absolute silence; but through the floor, through the wall, there was still the familiar vibration. If she'd woken up in the middle of a drill, or if the base had been compromised... even so...

Something warm brushed her arm. Sam jumped back in surprise, raised her hands, prepared to defend herself, ready to attack. Strong hands grabbed her, pushed her back, pinned her against the wall so fast she couldn't even struggle.

Her attacker used his whole body to hold her, all the while squeezing her wrist, over and over, slowly then quickly, rhythmically, the pattern as familiar as... Sam knew her own name, it was one of the first words she'd learned. As she relaxed the pattern changed.

"Jack," Sam whispered. "What...?" she started. "What?" she said, louder. Sam trembled in his arms as he squeezed out more letters. She squeezed her eyes shut painfully, shook her head in agony, shouting out his name but not hearing it. Her knees buckled as he let her go. The last thing she couldn't stand to know was the truth.

Sam woke to a world dark, quiet, and altogether antiseptic. She was warm and comfortable but confused. She'd fallen asleep, woken up, Jack had found her, there'd been pain, but not anymore. Strong fingers held hers. It had to be Jack – she wanted it to be Jack – he'd caught her and she needed to believe he'd want to – need to – stay with her.

She didn't know.

"What happened?" she asked, trying not to shout, but having no idea if she had. Jack's fingers tensed. "How bad am I?" She half-raised her free hand to her face, but couldn't bring herself to go further.

She waited anxiously; she knew it wasn't good, that it couldn't be good. The way he held onto her hand she just wanted to close her eyes and... realized it didn't make a blind... and she wouldn't even hear herself scream.

She didn't know what Jack saw, what she looked like, how much was wrong.

She was afraid to move... afraid to know what was gone...

... what was left.

But it was worse not being able to see him, see him hurting for her the way she knew he would, the despair on his face, the way he'd be looking to blame himself, all the things she didn't want him to do. "Tell me!" she shouted. She just wanted to know the facts, the truth, without the grief and the pity.

Her hand fell from his.

No: he'd pulled, wrenched his hand away, as if he couldn't bear to tell her. She knew his greatest flaw; she knew his sense of responsibility, of duty, of sacrifice. She knew his love for her. He couldn't tell her: no.

Her hand was empty. Her world was dark and quiet and the one person she wanted to believe in didn't have the faith to tell her. Her hand closed on a void, curled into a fist, nails digging into her palm.

But she wasn't alone. There was nothing to fear.

She wasn't afraid. She was strong.

Not alone.

Afraid.

The Unas glared, almost-human eyes glowing from the depths of his alien skull; teeth, sharp, bare, blood oozing from his mouth dripped from his chin.

He stood with his back to the stargate, surveying the destruction before him, barking out orders to the hundreds of Jaffa charging through the gate, storming through the temple.

A child, a girl, hung limp in one massive claw. Broken and twisted, her head hung from a flap of skin at the back of what had been her neck. Her face was crimson, her hair bright red, matted, soaked in her own blood. Her throat was gone, her spine jutted from her chest, split and ugly.

Still more Jaffa came. Still the Unas bellowed his anger. His great body trembled as his rage grew, as he shook the child until her head fell.

It landed at his feet unheeded, unimportant. Sam watched it bounce, roll until it lay still before her, staring up at her, pleading to her even in death.

A black quiet descended as dead eyelids flickered; as dead eyes turned, focused; as a scarlet tongue flicked through teeth that sparkled like rubies, licking lips as bright as cherries.

"Help me!" the girl called out. "Please!" she cried. "Help me! Please, help me! Help me," she sobbed. A single tear fell from her eye, spilled to her cheek, burning through skin, searing through bone, wisps of black smoke boiling up, an acrid stench rising from melting flesh.

"Mother," the girl choked. "I love you."

Sam screamed.

Alone – she fell – panic – arms flailing wildly – despair – legs kicking – fear – hands groping, clawing, clutching at nothing but air – empty.

Desolate.

Sam knew the jolt of an adrenaline kick when it hit her. And now she was coming down off a big one. A really big one, worse than anything good or bad that had made her keep going against whatever was thrown at her. But at least she usually knew why. She didn't even know what day it was.

Her body heaved, arms and legs stretched taut, her body arched, lungs burning, struggling to fill themselves. Hands grabbed her, held her, pinning her down. In the quiet, the darkness, Sam fought for control against the unknown, against herself and fear. She resisted the urge to struggle, to kick and pull against whoever thought they were helping, but she couldn't let herself relax against her better judgment. She held herself rigid, gulping in the recycled air, almost hyper-ventilating, risking unconsciousness.

But what else did she have?

Jack had found her too quickly, almost as if he was waiting for her to open the door so that he could... what? She was safe in the infirmary. If it was the infirmary.

If it was Jack.

Sam squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn't relax, not now.

She new the risks.

Something bit her arm. "Hey!" Sam shouted. Too much air exploded from her lungs, too fast, too hard. Her body went limp.

She'd lost.

"No!" Sam knew how weak her voice would sound as the sedative claimed her.