A Tale Of Two Women

So, Colonel.

Major

That bald man you were trying to remember...

General Hammond. It's all coming back.

Yes, sir.

'Sir'.

They were Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter, but a part of them was still Jonah and Thera and that part of them clung to the driftwood of their lives as slaves beneath the domed city on the ice planet. Freedom could be a terrifying thing.

They walked to the Stargate, side by side through a city which would shortly have to deal with the consequences of a plant without a labour force to work it. Major Carter wondered what the city-dwellers would do without the labour force. Thera wondered at the beauty of the city thus revealed.

It was a strange duality that she was going through right now. A paradox of memory lost and memory found. Thera had been no more than a construct into which they had squeezed Sam Carter, excising the parts they couldn't use and moulding the parts they could, yet the 'sense' of her remained in Sam's mind – like the remnants of Jolinar.

Jolinar, however, had been 'someone else'. Another personality, another person. The memories of Jolinar were very definitely not Sam's, however much they sometimes felt like Sam's memories. On the other hand, Thera was a subset of Sam Carter – a variation on a theme.

A glance at her companions – the Colonel, Daniel, and Teal'c – showed that they, too, were undergoing the slow process of reclaiming who they were and assimilating it with who they had been in the compound.

The Colonel caught her looking at him, and she dropped her gaze. "You okay?"

"Yes, sir."

It was an automatic response to his question, an automatic title which slipped through her lips to fall heavily in the tension between them.

As he had in Brenna's room, he kept looking at her. Although she wasn't looking at him, she could feel his eyes on her face. Then he nodded, almost to himself and kept walking beside her in silence.

So much to take in, so much which had changed – and so much which had not changed in their time below ground.

But they were going home now. They were leaving the slavery of life under the city and returning to their lives in the SGC.

They approached the Stargate and, at a nod from the Colonel, Daniel began dialling Earth. There was a MALP present, which meant the SGC hadn't totally given up on them after they vanished from earth. They could communicate with the General and have the iris opened so they could go home.

Back home. Back home to a place that Thera couldn't have conceived might exist in her wildest dreams, believing she knew only the dirt, dust, grime, and heat of the plant. To a world so totally different from the dark tunnels and the fire and sweat scent of the compound.

So the question caught her by surprise. The question offered up by the last remnants of Thera, dissolving fast beneath an onslaught of Sam Carter's memories. What is so different?

Sam frowned as the chevrons lit up before her eyes. Different? Between slavery under the city and working in the SGC?

Yes.

It seemed a foolish question at first. Sam's job in the SGC was challenging, unique, constantly changing. She learned new things, worked with all kinds of people, had the respect of her colleagues and her superiors.

It was a far cry from Thera who lived in dirt and smoke, required to work from dawn to dusk, prone to the interest of the men in the compound.

Or was it?

Thera's life had been bound by the rules of the compound: to work, to struggle, and, ultimately, to obey.

Sam's life was bound by the rules of the Air Force: to work, to fight, and, ultimately, to obey.

There is no difference, Sam. Your life as Sam Carter is controlled and confined as surely as Thera's life was controlled and confined beneath the city. More so in some things.

Her gaze was unwillingly drawn to the man who glanced over the straggling former slaves.

And Sam saw the truth of the matter.

Ultimately, she and the Colonel – and for that matter, Teal'c and Daniel also - had two options. Cling to the people they had been and hold onto their meagre scraps of existence, eventually being dashed to pieces by the rhythm of reality's waves, or try to reach the solid ground of who they had once been with all its attendant rules and requirements.

A choice that was no choice.

Jack and Sam were not free – no more than Jonah and Thera had been free.

It is an honour to serve with you.

It is my honour to serve.

The Air Force was the only life either of them had known, and it was both an honour to serve and on their honour to serve. Breaking the rules meant forgoing their honour and that was unacceptable. Proud people they were, yet humbled to their knees by the feelings they could regulate but not rule.

And maybe the service would be enough. The honour they steadfastly clung to would uphold them through the good times and the bad. They could be there for each other, although they would always have to balance the professional and the personal, but they could never be as much to each other as they might have liked.

One kind of slavery to another.

A kinder binding, but no less confining than had been their lot in the compound.

And maybe that was all life was about in the end. A series of choices where freedom was a myth – or merely an absence of a more obvious slavery.

Over time, Thera would dissolve into the woman Sam Carter had to be – a mirror held up to a woman who could not allow herself to feel more for the man who had been Jonah in another life. In some ways, Sam Carter would always envy Thera. Thera had been a woman who had not felt the pressure of her honour or the weight of her duty as she leaned against the shoulder of a man for whome she had 'feelings'.

Thera had been lucky.

Sam Carter had to live by a different set of rules.

The Stargate ignited in a burst of energy and light which startled the workers. There were gasps and a few squeals, but when Daniel started herding people through – beginning with his 'friend' Kegan – they went easily enough.

Blue light spilled over the gathering as the workers climbed the stairs and vanished through the Stargate's surface, and by its light, Sam caught his gaze, held it, looked away.

They were Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter and it would have to be enough.

And as the remnants of Thera began fading into memory, Sam wasn't so sure that the Major had the easier life after all.

Let's go home.

Yes, sir.

So they went home.

- fin -