by Amy Hull AmilynH at comcast dot net
Spoilers: In the Line of Duty, Into the Fire, Frozen, Nightwalkers, Abyss
Sam sank heavily into the deep, comforting embrace of her couch cushions. Finally, finally she allowed herself to relax. The tension she'd ignored for the last few days began to dissipate as she acknowledged the ache that gnawed at her shoulders, neck, back, hands, and even her jaw.
One woman. One person. And she had been in command. It wasn't the first time, but this time, her responsibility hadn't been only for her people. The mission had begun as simple information-gathering--odd that she'd use "simple" for a murder investigation, but such was her life--and had escalated at the speed of wormhole travel to the fate of a whole town, the country, the world, the Stargate. One incorrect interpretation, one researcher's error, one degenerated or toxic formula, one misplaced word or look, and she would have been made a tool for the Goa'uld.
All that on her shoulders.
Kneading them, she cringed at the painful knots. Even her usual marathon computer and research sessions didn't make them right there.
One false move from disaster. She leaned her head back, feeling nerves in her neck pinch as she stared at the ceiling.
God, how did he do it, every day, with that cavalier, crooked grin? Her muscles started to relax slightly and she let her eyes drift closed.
She started awake to the high-pitched chitter of a Goa'uld. She reached for a sidearm that wasn't there, instinctively lunging away from the chilling sound. Her head bumped against the arm of her sofa and she kicked her feet out against something binding them. She scanned rapidly for the Goa'uld and slowly registered the dim shapes of her own living room partially lit by streetlights. Flinging away the quilt she didn't remember pulling over herself, she finally freed her legs and hips from the tangle. She sat up and took deliberate, deep breaths until she felt her heart gradually pounding less desperately at her ribcage.
Still shaking, she stood and stretched, then staggered down her hallway. She flipped on every light along the way, irrationally scanning for intruders, alien or human. Locking the bathroom door, she dropped her clothes in a heap on the tile floor. The steady stream of the shower helped wash away more tension and her breathing evened. Tilting her face up into the spray one last time, she slicked the water from her hair and froze, a chill spreading through her in spite of the heat of the water.
Just below the base of her skull. An almost imperceptible ridge. Trembling fingers worried the thin, unfamiliar pucker in her skin over and over, stomach clenching as she felt the scar Jolinar had not left on her body. The souvenir she hadn't gotten the first time.
Then she was leaning against the tiles, shaking violently, choking from the tightness in her throat and chest, from the tears and shower spray, not sure how long she'd been crying.
She'd forgotten how it felt. Not forgotten--she could never forget--but certainly not remembered with every muscle, every cell, every breath.
It wasn't so much physical pain, though she'd been peripherally aware of ripping pain both times as the symbiotes had cut through her flesh, wrapping tendrils around her spinal column, slicing through muscle and connective tissue, insinuating itself next to sensitive nerve endings. No, the physical pain was such a minor thing next to the crushing pressure on her mind, the suffocating suppression of every thought, the utter paralysis, the inability even to breathe voluntarily, the feeling of a presence rifling through her mind like a burglar ransacking a house and casually tossing aside anything not deemed adequately valuable.
Sam shuddered, gasping in response to the panic and terror now that she was not helpless to do so. Water spattered in her eyes and nose, accentuating the memory and feeling of suffocation, of the powerlessness of being forced into an intimacy where she could not hide any memory or feeling, no matter how private or shameful, no matter how she fought against and despised the intruder.
"A few minutes," she'd told them at the debriefing. A few minutes, each of which could have been hours in which this Goa'uld mocked her weakness, even in its own. Minutes in which she hadn't known if the failsafe would work, in which she'd believed it wouldn't, in which she'd wondered if the Goa'uld would recognize that she'd poisoned it and release its toxin to poison her in return, in which she'd seen herself used as a tool to turn the turn the Stargate, the country...hell, the whole world...over to whatever System Lord seemed most likely to provide the symbiote with power and slaves. A few minutes of desperate hope and terror, of mental hyperventilating that she'd had to swallow--hard--when the serum had worked and her mind and body were her own again.
And she'd asked--no, begged--the Colonel to experience that. Selfishly, she hadn't been able to let him die when there was an option to save him and she knew she could convince him.
She shut off the now-cold water, quickly toweled off, and climbed into her own bed, cursing the tremors even that warmth and safety did not quell.
She hovered in the observation room, pacing and chewing at a finger. Below in the infirmary, the Colonel was already stripped to the waist as Janet checked for injuries and a nurse started an IV. He'd been conscious when he'd staggered back through the Gate and it was unsettling seeing him now; he wasn't grousing, wasn't squirming or protesting, and although he appeared uninjured his eyes were closed and he lay utterly still.
Janet and the nurse shifted him onto his side. With his face turned away from her, all she could see was the thin white line that was the Goa'uld scar on the back of his neck until Janet, with a sympathetic glance up at her, pulled the privacy curtain.
Only a day after they'd returned from Steveston, the Colonel had been missing, had been taken, hostage in his own body, to an unknown destination by the symbiote she had begged him to allow to save his life.
SG-1 was now two for two; two members blended with a Tok'ra, two members controlled by that symbiote as if it were Goa'uld. Surreptitiously, Sam fingered her scar, scratching at it as if she could erase it. Two symbiotes each. One scar each. One symbiote dead in minutes for each. One...not.
It had been all she could do to control the overwhelming urge to take a swing at Thoran as he made his arrogant claim that the SGC was displaying anti-Tok'ra bias and divisive conduct.
As they had poured over Kanan's reports and the plans of Ba'al's base, her primary goal had become ignoring anything else. Ignoring Thoran's very existence. Ignoring that the reports that were their only chance of finding the Colonel was also the proof that Thoran had lied in negotiating for Kanan's life. Ignoring Thoran's transparent lie about needing to go to the council in person, though she'd indulged herself in smirking at it, and in quoting the treaty with a smug calm. Ignoring the niggling question of just how much more he and the rest of the Tok'ra had lied about to the SGC and themselves.
At least the puzzle of finding the Colonel had given her a focus, a way around the frantic feelings of helplessness and guilt. Of course, once they'd solved that puzzle and set the Goa'uld on each other--something that was always gratifying in itself--they'd been back to waiting. Trying to work in her lab had been futile; worry-generated nervous energy had driven her repeatedly to her feet, scattering her thoughts and focus as she'd waited to see what would happened because of what she had done, what she had asked of him. To see if he returned at all.
She hadn't been able to keep her hands still then and couldn't now, any more than she'd be able to work effectively if she abandoned her vigil for her lab. As she picked at the fabric of her pants and brushed at her jacket, she thought absently that it was usually the Colonel fidgeting aimlessly, pacing, in constant motion.
Janet moved back the curtain and Sam saw him there, covered with a sheet, still unmoving. Janet checked the monitors one last time and left quietly.
Sam heard the even click of Janet's heels behind her before the doctor's reflection joined her in the observation window glass.
"There are no serious physical injuries. He's resting with sedatives. The Tok'ra said, not surprisingly, that he'd been tortured, but that apparently Ba'al had put him in the sarcophagus and it healed his injuries. We won't know until we've observed him for at least a day if he's going to develop withdrawal symptoms the sarcophagus." Janet's doctor voice with its soft modulated tones was a comforting constant. Her voice hardened as she continued, "The Tok'ra refused to give us any information about Ba'al's typical tactics, so we're going to have to wait until the Colonel can tell us--and hope he will."
"The Tok'ra are concerned about giving out too much information and possibly endangering their operatives. They've been used to being the only insurgents for so long that..." Sam trailed off, her words weak and grasping even to her ears. She looked at her entwined hands to avoid the eyebrows Janet had raised dubiously.
Janet simply rested a hand on Sam's shoulder for a moment then left, the tapping of her shoes on the tile growing more and more distant.
Sam rested her fingertips on the cold glass of the observation window. She wanted to lean her forehead against it as well, but that would leave a noticeable mark, so instead she turned and moved slowly down the stairs to the infirmary, where she perched on a stool across the room from the Colonel's bed and stared at him while running over and over in her head the scant information they had.
No idea how many times he'd been in that thing...how many times he'd been literally tortured to death, what had been done to him. She doubted she would ever know.
She wasn't sure she wanted to know. If she knew, knew what it was he forgave her--because she knew without a doubt he would forgive her--that would make it even more unbearable.
She fingered her scar again, still not used to it. The Colonel had been so angry after Jolinar. He'd accepted that she was depressed, grieving, though he hadn't understood. She'd made the mistake of trying to tell him then what it had been like to be taken as a host, to be trapped. He'd been furious at how she defended Jolinar after what the Tok'ra had done to her. Ironically, now that he was the most likely to understand and relate to what it had been like, she could never talk to him about it. They never had personal conversations anymore, though part of her wished for them, especially now.
The selfishness of the wish bit sharply at her. Her only thoughts should be of gratitude that he was back, that he was physically sound, that he'd made it back so quickly, that the end result wasn't worse. That he wasn't dead. The thought of talking about their similar experiences was almost funny, the clash of the possible and the unlikely tasting of irony.
Kneading at the tension still pinching her neck, she ran her fingers over the scar again. It was just under her hairline, barely hidden. If she was careful not to get her hair cut too short, it would remain out of sight. Maybe then he wouldn't mention it after his inevitable reading of the report on Steveston. Maybe her casual tone in the report, the downplayed facts, would divert him like they had the others. Either way, after what he'd been through because of her, this didn't even merit a mention.
She looked to where his chest was rising and falling regularly under the sheet roughly in time to the soft beeping of the monitors and IV pump. She untangled her arms and legs, slipped from the stool, and silently approached the bed. His color was good--a result of the sarcophagus, no doubt--but tension showed in his face; even in deep sleep, and in spite of the sedatives dripping into his arm, his eyes darted beneath his lids.
Sam knew she could never say anything when he was awake; it would start a conversation she could not face and that neither of them could afford for so many reasons. She set her fingertips lightly on his shoulder and leaned forward, speaking softly.
"I'm sorry, sir."
Summary: After "Nightwalkers" and through the end of "Abyss", Sam contemplates and responds to those events
Spoilers: In the Line of Duty, Into the Fire, Frozen, Nightwalkers, Abyss
Disclaimer: I don't own any of it, yadda, yadda.
Author's Notes: Several comments and ideas are directly from Valerie, Abby, Lyta, Jackie, and A.j. Thanks, guys. Thanks to Abby, A.j., Cyndi, Denise, Jackie, Jennie, Julie, Little Red, Missy, Sel, and Valerie for the read-throughs and comments. Thanks to my children who, though they were particularly annoyed, tolerated me pulling our mini-van over to write half of this in a little notebook.