By Strix varia
AUTHOR: Strix varia
CATEGORY: Angst, Hurt Comfort
SUMMARY: SG-1 is captured by a Goa'uld who singles Sam out for questioning
SPOILERS: Red Sky
WARNINGS: Rape, violence, torture, character death (of a non-permanent sort), language
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have no idea where this story came from, and it's not my intention to cause anyone great emotional distress with it, so please, please pay attention to the warnings. Although it has a "there-is-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel" ending, getting there involves a lot of suffering.
DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
There was only so much punishment the human body could take, only so much torture the mind could endure.
Jack had never been so proud of somebody under his command; so profoundly moved by courage and simple human endurance. Yet he knew that Carter was near breaking when she started crying names.
Daniel, huddled in his underwear in the cell beside him, was covering his ears. Teal'c, also stripped to his boxers, was pretending to be in kel-no-reem. Jack knew better. It was impossible to ignore what was happening in the chamber in front of their cells. Impossible not to hear, not to feel, not to imagine the horror Carter was suffering. She'd begged them not to watch, so they wouldn't witness her humiliation, her torment. Whiro had taunted them as they'd obeyed, turning their backs to their teammate as the Jaffa stripped her as she hung from chains attached to the ceiling. But Jack had seen it all in his mind's eye, the pain stick, the ribbon device, the whipping, the beating, the rape. They'd dragged her to the sarcophagus twice, but still they hadn't broken her.
None of the names Carter was providing belonged to Tok'ra operatives as demanded by Whiro. But the fact that she was crying out at all told him that she knew she was close to the line where she could endure no more, close to giving in. So she was giving Whiro what he wanted… names. But the names she provided were those of Sam's memory, not Jolinar's… and they were names dear to her, names that gave her strength to go on, perhaps, but of no use to the Goa'uld. Cassie, Mark, Jacob, Janet, George, Catherine…
Jack didn't dare look at Daniel now. He didn't want to know what this was doing to him.
The name was torn from her throat in agony, sounding more like a plea than a confession, and it wasn't until he tasted the bitter, coppery taste blood in his mouth that he realized he'd almost bitten through his lip.
Carter was sobbing now, begging Whiro to stop. "Please, god, n-no more…"
"I am pleased you recognize me as a god, Samantha, but I do not want the names of your friends," Whiro said. "I want the names of the Tok'ra."
Carter screamed again as a whip cracked, and she gasped desperately for air. "Garshaw, Martouf!"
Jack held his breath. Was it deliberate that she'd given a name already known to the Goa'uld… and another already dead?
Whiro purred. "That's better. More!"
"Lepton, Muon, Tau, Baryon!"
"More!" Whiro hissed.
Carter cried out in pain. "Lexell, Biela, Enke, Kohoutek, Hyakutake!"
The last two sounded alarmingly familiar to Jack, but he couldn't be sure they were Tok'ra.
Carter was whimpering now. "Please, no more… no more… s-s-swear… don't…know any more…" Her voice was fading.
"We shall see," Whiro said. The whip cracked again, but this time no sound came from Carter.
Jack prayed that she'd lost consciousness. Almost prayed that she was dead, but that would just mean another trip to the sarcophagus, followed by more never-ending hell.
"Shall we take her to the sarcophagus, my lord?" one of the Jaffa asked.
"No. Not yet. I want her friends to see her like this. To see the great Tau'ri warrior woman broken. To watch her die, being helpless to prevent it. To see what will happen to them, next." He laughed.
Jack heard the rustle of feathered robes approaching the force field at the front of his cage.
"I am surprised you have not begged for mercy for your companion," Whiro said. "I might have granted it."
Jack ground his teeth, finally turning to face the Goa'uld he hated more than he'd thought he'd ever hate another living being. He was shaking with anger. "You snakehead son of a bitch!"
Whiro smiled, his teeth white against his dark skin.
"You would not have granted mercy to Major Carter," Teal'c said, standing up in the cell next to him. "And our pleas would only have added to your pleasure in tormenting her." The grim set to his jaw told Jack that his friend would gladly tear Whiro's heart out with his bare hands. Briefly, Jack wondered if Teal'c had ever done that to someone before. This time, Jack thought he might like to help.
"Perhaps, perhaps not. However, I may consider sparing her this torture again if you decide to give me the codes to the iris on the Tau'ri Stargate."
"Go to hell," Jack said, knowing that he was damning Carter to more agony.
Whiro smiled again. "I am not the one suffering the torments of hell, Colonel O'Neill. It is your… friend… who suffers so." He turned, slowly walking back to Carter's side.
Almost against his will, Jack's eyes slid to his 2IC. She hung from the chains limply, crookedly, he realized…her left shoulder had obviously been dislocated. Her head hung forward so that he couldn't see her whole face, but her gold hair was matted with semi-dried blood. She looked thinner without her clothes on and shockingly feminine…fragile almost…long arms, prominent clavicle… his eyes moved down numbly, seeing far too much blood, too much damage, then focused on her long legs, no longer supporting her weight.
Blood mixed with bile in his throat. He thought he'd never again see anything that would wrench his soul as much as the sight of his son, Charlie, lying dead, but he was wrong. He stared at Whiro in helpless rage, unable to form words. Carter was his teammate, his companion, his friend, and he cared about her to a degree that bordered on the unprofessional. And this thing had systematically done everything it could to destroy her mentally and physically in the most painful, humiliating way possible. Charlie hadn't suffered long. But Carter had.
Whiro saw where his eyes had strayed, and his smile broadened. He trailed his hand slowly down her side, over the prominent curve of her hip, making designs on her skin with her own blood. "The codes to the iris on the Tau'ri Stargate?" he asked pleasantly.
"Never," Jack grated.
"Very well," he said. He turned to his First Prime. "Release her."
The two Jaffa freed Carter's wrists, and she collapsed to the cold floor.
"I wonder how long it will take her to die?" Whiro asked, toeing her inert form. With that, he swept out of the chamber, the two Jaffa following in his wake.
For several minutes, the loudest sound in the chamber was of Jack's heavy breathing as he watched the labored rise and fall of Sam's chest. There were at least a couple of broken ribs, there, he realized, beneath all the blood.
"W-why…why would he release her?" Daniel finally stammered, his voice hoarse, his cheeks damp with tears.
"It is psychological torture for us," Teal'c answered. "To see her free, to hope she can help us escape, and then to watch her fail and subsequently die."
"Oh… right… this is going to pleasant, isn't it?" Daniel whispered, turning away again.
"She's not going to fail," Jack grated. "Carter, wake up. You've got to get us out of here, Major!"
It was several minutes before she stirred, her eyes fluttering open at Jack's continued insistence. A violent shudder ran through her body, and she started shaking uncontrollably. Between shock and the chilly air in the room, it was no wonder. Jack's own bare feet were practically numb from standing on the cold floor.
"That's it, Carter," he said. "Come on. The control panel for our cells is by the door. You can make it."
Her head finally turned towards him, tears streaking from pain-filled, glassy eyes.
"Carter… Major… you have to free us from these cells. The control panel is by the door. You can make it!"
"You can do it, Sam," Daniel said.
Her eyes flickered to Daniel, and she frowned, her forehead wrinkling.
"Major Carter, you must reach the control panel by the door. It is this way," Teal'c said.
Her eyes shifted to Teal'c, and Jack could see recognition finally begin to dawn as she fought her way to cognizance.
"That's it, Carter… get us out of here so we can help you," Jack said. "The control panel is by the door."
"Panel?" she rasped, her voice hoarse from screaming.
Jack tapped the force field in front of him, causing it to shimmer. "The control panel for the force fields…" he said. He pointed towards it. "It's by the door."
"You have to help us get out of here, Sam," Daniel said, and Jack could tell that he was near tears himself.
"Panel," she repeated. Swallowing, she closed her eyes for a moment, then, with a low moan, rolled over onto her stomach. Jack winced when he saw the number of bleeding welts crisscrossing her back. She lay there – panting - for so long that he was afraid she'd passed out again.
Part of him longed to let her slip into the merciful oblivion of unconsciousness, but he also knew that that would mean her death. And most likely theirs, too. He thought perhaps the hardest thing he'd ever have to do was to urge her to continue, knowing how much pain it would cause her. "Carter! Stay with us! We need you, Major! You've got to reach the control panel by the door!"
She didn't look at him, but with agonizing slowness she started crawling towards the door, her dislocated arm dragging uselessly by her side. A red trail of blood marked her progress across the floor. Teal'c was right; this was the worst torture imaginable… watching her struggling like this, inch by heartbreaking inch…Jack could hardly stand it.
"You can do it, Carter," Jack said. "You can make it… just a few more feet!"
Teal'c and Daniel added their own words of encouragement. He was certain that her desire to help them was the only thing that kept her going. He was amazed by her strength of will, humbled by her courage.
She was visibly fading by the time she reached the wall beneath the control panel. Jack held his breath as she forced her broken body up on her knees, leaning heavily on the wall until she could reach up to activate the control. With a shaking hand, she pushed the buttons, and the force fields disintegrated.
Jack shot out of his cell as she sank down until she was sitting, Daniel and Teal'c close on his heels. Jack slid to his knees in front of her and took her head between his hands, willing her to look at him. Her eyes blinked open. "Hang in there, Carter," he said. "That's an order. We'll get you back home."
He barely heard the strained whisper. She was still staring at him apologetically when the life faded from those beautiful blue eyes.
"Oh god," he muttered, feeling the panic welling up inside. "Carter, no, don't do this!" He shook her shoulders, and her head lolled forward, eyes still staring.
Jack wanted to shout, to scream, to cry. He wanted to kill every last Goa'uld and Jaffa on the goddamn planet. "Sam…" he whispered, shaking her again, vision blurring. This couldn't be happening!
It was Daniel who reached forward with a shaking hand to gently close her eyelids. "Sam has soul to spare," he said, his voice sounding amazingly controlled. "And Whiro has a sarcophagus."
"We'll find it," Jack swore.
"Having freed Major Carter from her chains, it is likely that Whiro has stationed guards in the hallway as a precaution," Teal'c said. "We should attempt to draw them into the room and use the advantage of surprise to attack them."
Jack nodded, fighting the grief and anger that seared his heart and mind. He focused on the thought of getting her to the sarcophagus, mentally vowing that nothing would stop him from getting her there; reminding himself that she was no longer suffering. With shaking hands, he pulled her lifeless body away from the wall, laying her carefully in front of the entrance where the guards' attention would center immediately on her as they entered. "Daniel, get in your cell and call for the guards." He motioned for Teal'c take a position on the other side of the door.
Once they were set, Daniel began to shout. "Hey! Guards! She's dead! She's dead! God dammit, you've got to take her to the sarcophagus! Jaffa Kree!" Jack knew that Daniel wasn't faking the distress in his voice.
Jack grabbed the first Jaffa through the door and pulled him to the side to allow Teal'c to attack the next. Fueled by the violent rage that suddenly boiled through his system, he twisted the man's neck. Teal'c disposed of the Jaffa in his arms with equal ease. Jack tossed the body aside, preparing to deal with any others coming through the doorway, but none came. Quickly he checked the hallway. It was empty.
"We're clear," he said.
Teal'c handed him a staff weapon.
"Should we… uh… take their armor?" Daniel asked, pointing at the dead Jaffa. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm a little uncomfortable running around in nothing but my briefs."
"I think it would be unwise to delay," Teal'c said, handing Jack the other staff weapon. "The missing guards may be noticed at any moment, and we do not know when Whiro may decide to return." Kneeling beside Carter's body, he placed his hands beneath her shoulders and knees and lifted her, almost reverently.
"Right," Jack said, unwilling to place any more risk on Carter's chances of being resurrected than absolutely necessary. "Let's go. Daniel, any ideas on where the sarcophagus might be?"
"We passed it on the way here," he said, striding quickly forward. "This way!"
Daniel led Jack and Teal'c down the corridors of Whiro's ship, trying vainly to still the shaking in his hands. He tried not to think of Sam, of what had happened to her, concentrating only on the necessity of getting her to the sarcophagus and then escaping. There was nothing he could do to make this go away, nothing he could do to make it better. He had to cope… focus on the moment… hold himself together. For Sam. They had to get her out of here.
Much to his relief, they met no resistance on the way to the room with the sarcophagus, and they quickly took out the four attendants within. Daniel armed himself with a zat as Teal'c placed Sam inside the healing chamber. Briefly he toyed with the idea of stripping the bodies, but the thought of dressing in one of their grass skirts was hardly more appealing than staying in his BVDs. As he was considering at least taking a pair of sandals, Jack began zatting the bodies into oblivion.
Daniel started to protest, then bit back his words at the sight of Jack's face. "Crazed" wasn't exactly the right word to describe his friend because Jack knew exactly what he was doing, but there was a fine line between controlled fury and a berserker rage, and Daniel suspected that Jack was tiptoeing right along the edge. He prudently remained silent as the last body disappeared in a blue flash.
Teal'c took a watchful position near the door as the lid of the sarcophagus slowly closed. Daniel hoped this wouldn't take too long, but he knew that the damage to Sam's body had been extensive. Jack paced like a caged tiger. Daniel stood quietly, trying not to remember Sam's cries of pain, trying not to think. Numbness was good. Numbness was not panic. Numbness was not worrying about the future and how this horror would affect them all…
He shook his head, unwilling to pursue that thought. He rested one hand on the lid of the sarcophagus, the slight warmth and vibration against his fingers assuring him that the machine was working. He hardly dared to breathe, hoping against hope that it would save Sam's life. This had to work. It had to. The alternative was unbearable. He wanted to hold her, touch her, tell her how sorry he was that he couldn't help her when… He swallowed, choking on a lump in his throat. He needed to tell her how much she meant to him… her friendship… her compassion.
His hands started shaking again. Time crawled. He fought the urge to start pacing like Jack. This had to work. She had to be okay. They had to get her out of there, get her to safety. His breath caught when Teal'c jerked his head back into the room. "Whiro and his guards are heading towards the prison area," the Jaffa said calmly. "We must leave immediately."
Daniel gestured at the sarcophagus. "It's not done yet."
"We'll have to hope it's enough," Jack said. "How do we shut it off?"
"I don't know if you can," Daniel said. "It's kind of an… automatic thing…"
"Right," Jack said, aiming his zat gun.
"W-w-wait! What are you doing?" Daniel exclaimed, stepping towards him in alarm.
"Shutting it off. We have to get Carter the hell out of here."
"You don't know what will happen if you zat it with Sam in there. It may kill her!"
"And if we don't leave… NOW… Whiro is going to kill all of us in about four minutes!" Jack said, pulling the trigger. With a sizzle, the sarcophagus died. Jack began to pry open the lid with Teal'c's help.
Between the three of them, the heavy slab was pulled aside. It was harder to look at Sam's body inside. There was still a great deal of blood on her skin, a sure sign that the sarcophagus had not finished its work. She was deathly pale, and Daniel couldn't tell if she was breathing, but the ribbon device burn mark on her forehead and the wounds on her chest were half-healed.
"She's breathing!" Jack said beside him, relief evident in his voice. It would have to be enough.
With surprising gentleness, Teal'c lifted her from the sarcophagus. Daniel was hoping for some sign of life from her, but he was disappointed. Sam was completely limp.
"Let's move," Jack said. "Teal'c, any idea how we get out of here?"
"We must find a ring transporter. The nearest location would mostly likely be in the throne room."
"Well, we know Whiro isn't there right now, can you lead us to it?"
Teal'c nodded, already heading for the door. "I believe so," he said.
They ran, bare feet slapping against the cold corridors of the ship.
Amazingly, the throne room was empty. Daniel thought that Jack almost looked disappointed by the absence of guards, but he couldn't help breathing a sigh of relief as he searched the room for any sign of ring controls. He was unfamiliar with the pictograms on the wall. They had gated to a tropical location, and Whiro's servants were dressed much like the natives of various South Pacific islands. He suspected the symbols might be of Polynesian origin, but that knowledge was of little help.
"Hot damn," Jack said, holding up a GDO that had been lying on the armrest of the throne. "This will save us a trip to the Alpha site."
Shouts sounded in the corridor.
"We've got company coming," Jack said, moving between Teal'c and the door, readying his staff weapon.
"The controls are to your left, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said calmly, stepping into the center of a circle on the floor to one side of the throne platform. Sam, still unconscious, was cradled in his arms. "The rings are here."
Daniel spotted the controls even as Teal'c pointed them out. He pushed the button and ran to Teal'c's side, Jack close behind him.
The rings enveloped them as the door to the throne room burst open revealing several Jaffa as they disappeared in a flash of light.
They reappeared in the same small temple in which they'd been captured. As one, they ran for the entrance. Daniel staggered a bit when they dashed outside, temporarily blinded by the brilliant sunlight. Jack caught his arm, steadying him on the sandy path. The tropical heat felt good after the chill air of the Goa'uld's ship, and Daniel cursed the irony that a mission to such a beautiful location had turned into such a waking nightmare. They'd been so glad that Hammond had chosen SG-1 to go to this world…and now he'd sell his soul to have never set foot here.
"So much for our trip to the beach," Jack muttered as they jogged towards the Stargate, obviously thinking along similar lines.
The path to the Stargate was a mix of sand and small, black volcanic rocks. Daniel grimaced as he ran, feeling sharp edges tearing the soft skin on the soles of his feet. The pain was intense, but he pushed it from his consciousness, thinking how much worse it had been for Sam. A few cuts on the bottoms of his feet were nothing in comparison.
The Stargate was only a half-mile from the temple, on a low exposed hill overlooking the ocean on one side and the island rainforest on the other. Jack slowed as they approached. The path they were on ran through the forest, but the Stargate itself was in an open. If Jaffa were guarding it, they needed to be cautious in their approach.
Jack stopped them before they reached the edge of the forest. Motioning for them to remain in place, he disappeared into the forest to scout ahead. Daniel shifted nervously, waiting for him to return. There was no sound of pursuit… yet, but he knew it wouldn't be long before Whiro and his Jaffa came trotting down the path behind them. They couldn't have taken much time to organize a pursuit from the ship.
In moments, Jack returned. "There are ten Jaffa guarding the gate. They look like they're expecting trouble, but they don't look like hardened troops. Teal'c and I should be able to take them."
"Doesn't this seem a bit easy to you all?" Daniel asked.
"Do not look a gift equine in the mouth, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"Riiiight," Daniel said.
"All right, campers," Jack said. "Daniel, you take Sam so Teal'c can help me take out those Jaffa. Stay under cover until you're clear. If reinforcements show up, do your best to get to the DHD and get the hell home. Teal'c and I will cover you. Hopefully we're far enough ahead that we'll all get out of here before Whiro and his goons catch up."
Teal'c transferred Sam to Daniel's shoulders, and the archeologist fumbled with her limp weight, trying to shift her into a more comfortable, yet secure, position. Daniel was acutely aware of Sam's body; her skin was sticky from blood, and it felt cool and clammy pressing against his own. She smelled of sweat and blood. The wrongness of it on so many levels threatened to overwhelm him. His stomach roiled with nausea, and if he'd had anything to eat in the last 24 hours, he was certain he would have been sick. Guiltily, he realized that he was grateful Sam remained unconscious and hoped that she would remain so for at least a little while longer… until they got back to the SGC…home…where Janet could work her medical magic on Sam's poor body.
"Daniel, you with us?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, Jack," he said, swallowing. "I'll get her home." This much, at least, he vowed to do for her.
"Unscheduled off-world activation!" the alarms blared, startling General Hammond from the report he was writing.
Only one team was off-world at the moment, SG-1. And they weren't due back for another several hours. That usually meant one of two things: either Colonel O'Neill was bored, or SG-1 was in trouble. "Medical team to the gate room!" he bellowed, punching the intercom. Better safe than sorry. Dr. Fraiser would be relieved if she wasn't put to work. And seconds could save lives. He trotted down the stairs into the control room as fast as he could while still maintaining the dignity appropriate to his station.
"It's SG-1, sir."
"Open the iris."
A staff blast was the first thing through the event horizon. Marines ducked, those at the base of the ramp diving out of the line of fire.
That answered that question. SG-1 was in trouble. He should not have been surprised.
Three figures emerged from the shimmering light almost simultaneously, and Hammond heard Colonel O'Neill's voice hollering to close the iris, while Daniel yelled for medics.
General Hammond had watched his teams return bloodied, battered, carrying one another in any number of combinations, and wearing any assortment of equipment, tattered uniforms, or local attire. But this was the first time that they had returned in nothing but their underwear. And Dr. Jackson was carrying over his shoulders a very bloody body…with blonde hair. Dear God. He felt his breath catch, hoped it wasn't audible to the others in the control room.
To give Sgt. Harriman credit, the man didn't hesitate a second, slamming his hand onto the palm reader to close the iris despite the shocking sight of SG-1 in the gate room.
Hammond took the stairs two at a time. He had been raised by church-going parents. He'd grown up believing in God. Even as an adult, he'd maintained his faith while he climbed the ranks of the military. It wasn't until he'd joined the SGC to fight a secret war against evil beings who claimed to be gods that he'd grown to be more skeptical, to question his beliefs, especially after seeing first hand the wide-spread suffering that the Goa'uld spread throughout the galaxy. But right now he was praying to the benevolent and merciful god of his childhood that the body Dr. Jackson was carrying was not a corpse, and the sight he'd seen of bloody welts crisscrossing the shoulders of Major Carter were the full extent of the damage inflicted upon her body, that somehow her luck had held out once again, and she would escape with nothing more than a few scars upon her back.
As Hammond turned the corner into the gate room, Colonel O'Neill was ripping the sheet off a gurney to cover his 2IC even as Daniel and Teal'c awkwardly moved to lay her down. But O'Neill wasn't fast enough to hide a glimpse of bruised ribs, bloody legs, and bite marks. No, with a sinking heart, George Hammond knew that Samantha Carter's luck had finally run out.
But at least she appeared to be alive.
Dr. Fraiser started shouting orders as Teal'c gently pulled Colonel O'Neill and Daniel away from the gurney, allowing room for the medical staff to do their jobs.
"Are the rest of you all right, Colonel?" Dr. Fraiser asked, looking up at O'Neill.
"Yeah, we're fine," he said. "The blood is all Carter's."
"Colonel, report!" Hammond said, approaching the team as they watched Dr. Fraiser return her attention back to their unconscious companion.
Jack whirled toward him, and the mix of anger and anguish in the man's eyes struck Hammond. There was a bloody cut on his lower lip.
"It was a trap," O'Neill spat, tossing his staff weapon onto the ground in disgust. "A goddamn snakehead trap."
Hammond reflected that that was really all that needed to be said. He nodded. "Are you sure you're all right, Colonel?"
O'Neill waved his hand, dismissing the question, turning back towards Dr. Fraiser and Major Carter.
"Colonel O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and I have been deprived of food and sleep, but we are otherwise unharmed, General Hammond," Teal'c supplied. "The Goa'uld focused his attention upon Major Carter, seeking iris codes and the names of Tok'ra operatives from Jolinar's memories."
Hammond sighed heavily. "Do you know if Major Carter provided him with any?"
"She did not divulge any of the iris codes. And I did not recognize any of the names she finally told the Goa'uld, except those of Garshaw and Martouf."
Hammond grimaced inwardly. Damn. "I'll send a message to the Tok'ra. If you can, I want to know those names. Those individuals' lives may now be in jeopardy."
"I think I remember them all," Dr. Jackson said wearily, as Dr. Fraiser ordered the medical team toward the infirmary. "But… I don't think they were names of the Tok'ra."
"Do you know that for certain, son?" Hammond asked.
"I, uh, don't… know it," he said, running his hand through his hair. "I just don't think she'd tell him…"
"I agree with Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "I believe Major Carter would die before betraying the Tok'ra."
"Ah, hell," O'Neill said, turning around. "She did. Twice."
Hammond was confused. "What do you mean?"
"She died, twice, without telling slimeball a damn thing. And each time he stuck her in a goddamn sarcophagus and started all over again."
George Hammond thought he might be sick. He looked at SG-1 anew, appreciating for the first time their haggard appearance. He had a feeling this was one of those missions that would be impacting the SGC for a long time to come. "Regardless," he said nodding, "I need to warn the Tok'ra. Get me that list of names. Then I want all of you to report to the infirmary. Dr. Fraiser will need to know what happened. The full debriefing can wait. Dismissed."
They started to leave, but Hammond noticed something as they walked away. "Hold it, Colonel," he said.
"General?" O'Neill asked, looking annoyed.
Hammond pointed at three sets of bloody footprints on the cement floor. "Infirmary first."
The three of them looked down at their bare feet in apparent surprise.
"Damn," O'Neill said. "That's gonna hurt when the adrenaline wears off."
"Oww…ch," Daniel said, making a face. "Funny, my feet just…uh…started throbbing."
"I'll get a gurney, sir," a nearby airman volunteered.
The three of them sat shoulder to shoulder on the gurney as it was wheeled down the hall by two medics. Jack was glad that none of the personnel they passed seemed inclined to find it amusing that they were being carted around base in their BVDs. Apparently word had already gotten out, on this level, at least…that SG-1 had returned from another disastrous mission, and what had happened was no laughing matter.
Daniel was shivering, and Jack grabbed the blanket from the end of the gurney and handed it to him.
"I'd, uh, actually, prefer clothes," Daniel said, looking at the blanket.
"I, as well," Teal'c agreed.
"What do I look like, a seamstress? You'll just have to strip for Fraiser the minute we arrive in the infirmary, anyway" Jack said.
"That is a point," Daniel nodded, rubbing his temples.
Fraiser looked up from working on Carter when they were finally wheeled into the infirmary. "Colonel," she said, "I thought you said you were fine."
Jack grimaced. Janet didn't like being lied to. "Well…" he shrugged. "I wasn't thinking about my feet at the time." He stuck his legs out and wiggled his bloody toes at her, ignoring the pain it caused. "Hammond didn't want us leaving messy footprints all over the base. And there's the matter of this hole in my lip…"
"I see," she said, frowning at him. She gestured at the two medics who had carted them in. "Get their feet cleaned up and bandaged. You and Daniel will need to go on antibiotics, Colonel. God knows what you've been walking on."
Jack grumbled to himself.
"Colonel?" Janet asked.
He looked up.
"Can you tell me why Sam's wounds appear to be partially healed? You've only been gone two days."
"We put her in a sarcophagus, but we had to take her out again before it finished the job."
"We believe she died three times," Daniel said, matter-of-factly. "We know she was put in the sarcophagus three times."
"Oh…" Janet couldn't hide the look of concern that crossed her face as she looked back down at her unconscious friend. "I think you'd better start from the beginning on this one."
"They used standard torture techniques upon Major Carter," Teal'c said. "She was hung from the ceiling in shackles. She was beaten, raped, and whipped. She was subjected to the pain stick. She was then killed by the ribbon device. She was resurrected fully by the sarcophagus. She was then subjected to the pain stick and the ribbon device again, and again she was beaten, whipped, and raped. She then died a second time and was resurrected by the sarcophagus. After that, she was…"
Janet's face blanched, and she interrupted him. "I think I get the picture Teal'c. Thank you." Jack could hear the waver in her voice.
Teal'c nodded, impassively. "We did not have time to fully heal her the third time. You should check her left shoulder for damage, as it was dislocated. Several of her ribs were broken as well."
Janet nodded silently, unable to hide the horror in her eyes as she glanced at Jack for confirmation of Teal'c's story.
He gave the barest of nods, and beside him, Daniel started shaking harder. Damn. He swallowed hard. He was irritated by Teal'c's emotionless tone as he inventoried Carter's injuries. It was irrational for him to feel that way. Fraiser needed to know. The more information she had on Carter's condition, the better. Perhaps Teal'c didn't even know that rape was a sensitive subject in Tau'ri culture, that it just wasn't something you blurted out like that, where others could hear. Not even to the medical staff, trustworthy though they were.
Or maybe he just didn't want to hear it, because hearing it made it real. Undeniable. Not a bad dream. Not his imagination.
Sam had been raped and tortured to death. Three times.
He suddenly realized that Daniel wasn't shivering. Daniel was weeping.
"Son of bitch," he cursed, realizing that he was crying, too.
Janet scanned the test results for the sixth dozen time. It was a little after midnight, her patients were all resting comfortably, and she could go home. She glanced at Colonel O'Neill and Daniel. They'd insisted upon staying near Sam in the infirmary, and she'd agreed to it on the condition that they tried to get some sleep. The sedatives she'd given them had done their work at last.
It had shaken her badly to see both of them break down earlier. True, the Colonel had wrestled his emotions into check very quickly, but she'd seen the tears before he'd wiped them away along with a colorful stream of obscenities about the parentage of all Goa'ulds and reptiles in general.
Apparently they had witnessed Sam's torture, and she could well imagine how helpless they must have felt. Actually, she corrected herself, she couldn't imagine it, couldn't begin to imagine it. But she knew that she'd have to watch them carefully. They were obviously suffering from critical incident stress, and it could easily turn into PTSD if it went on long enough.
Of course, Teal'c appeared to be fine. She supposed he'd seen worse things in his life, perhaps had even helped Apophis torture people in such a fashion himself. But she would keep an eye on him, as well. She hoped he was meditating in his quarters. She needed him to help his teammates, to be there if they needed to discuss what had happened. And they needed to discuss what happened. She feared the post-mission briefing would not be nearly enough to be therapeutic, not this time.
She sighed. It was late, and she should go home. But she couldn't bring herself to leave Sam. Her friend's body chemistry was entirely out of whack, even for her. There wasn't a normal reading on the sheet of paper in front of her, obvious testimony to the fact that the human body wasn't meant to die and be resurrected again three times in so short a period of time. Though a sarcophagus had the seemingly miraculous ability to heal physical damage, there were still side effects and limits to what could be endured by a mortal human being.
Janet was horrified and appalled by what Sam had gone through. The half-healed physical damage was terrible enough, but the sarcophagus didn't heal the mind. In fact, it slowly but surely destroyed the mind. She knew Sam was strong and mentally very stable… she couldn't do what she did on a daily basis without that being the case… but this had obviously been an extraordinarily traumatic experience.
Torture and rape.
Of course, Sam had been prepared for the possibility of rape for a long time; she knew the risk was there every time she stepped through the Stargate. As she'd once pointed out to Janet, ancient cultures, with a few exceptions, were mostly male-dominated and misogynistic. It was a very real job hazard for every woman on an SG team. But understanding the possibility and experiencing the reality were two different things, and Janet didn't know if foreknowledge could truly prepare one for being repeatedly raped and tortured to death. It was the type of experience that could destroy a soul.
The numbers in front of her blurred, and Janet felt tears filling her eyes. There was no one awake to witness it, so she put the report down and allowed herself the freedom to cry, wondering if her good friend would ever be the same again.
It was 13:00 the next day when Daniel limped in and pulled up a chair next to Jack's in the infirmary beside Carter's bed. "Whiro," Daniel said, "The Polynesian lizard-god of the dead and evil. Known for inspiring people to do evil deeds."
Jack stared at him.
"I, uh…did some research," Daniel shrugged, rubbing the red spot on the side of his nose caused by his glasses.
"Oh," Jack said, turning back to Carter. He hadn't needed to do any research to figure out that Whiro wasn't a 'nice guy.'
They sat in silence for several minutes, the only sounds in the room coming from the machines monitoring Carter's condition. At least she was breathing well on her own so they didn't have to listen to the rasping rhythm of a ventilator. He hated that thing.
Daniel looked tired. Exhausted, really, despite the little sleeping pills Fraiser had given them last night. Actually, Daniel looked about like he felt. He sighed. "I think I'll… skip… that Hawaiian vacation I had planned this spring," he said, leaning back in his chair, straightening his shoulders.
Daniel smiled wryly. "Yeah. Kind of gives a different twist on the whole 'tropical paradise' thing, doesn't it? No wonder the Polynesians expanded their culture from island to island across the Pacific. They were probably just trying to escape."
More silence. More steady beeps indicating that Carter's body was still alive, her heart still ticking away with the strength and will to survive.
"Janet says she's in a coma," he told Daniel. "Her kidney and liver functions are off, too."
"At least her…" he waved his hand at Carter's head, "…brainwaves… are still good."
Jack was relieved that Carter's brainwaves were okay. Carter's brainwaves had always been special. Unique. Unparalleled. One of the best things about her. How many times had her brilliant brainwaves saved them? Saved the world? His gut twisted when he thought that Whiro might have put an end to that intelligence forever.
Thankfully, that hadn't happened, and Carter's brainwaves were fine. Her body would heal. These were good, important things. But Jack was worried about her mental health. Of course, Sam would try to rationalize it all when she finally woke up. She'd been tortured before, and she'd tell herself that rape was just another form of torture. She'd survived torture before, and she would convince herself that she would survive again. She'd pony up for the team and find some project to obsess on, to lose herself in thought and work so she wouldn't have to feel. There was a good chance she'd try to hide any emotions she felt for fear of appearing weak. She might fail miserably – she often did – but that wouldn't stop her from trying. Carter was a good soldier that way.
But Jack knew instinctively that it wouldn't work this time. This time it had been different. He didn't see how anyone could survive something like this and escape without… well, he wasn't a shrink, but, bad stuff happening. This would be hard. This wasn't something you could just walk away from. Hell, he knew he'd be seeing MacKenzie in the future just from having listened to it.
He closed his eyes. Jesus, Sam. This could be so very, very bad. The end of SG-1. The end of her career, if she couldn't - somehow – find a way to come to terms with it, quickly.
"She's strong," he said out loud, trying to convince himself of it. She didn't look strong, though. Teal'c looked strong. Muscle bound and big. By comparison Carter looked frail, gaunt… vulnerable. His mind flashed back to the vision of her hanging limply and crooked from her shackles. Broken.
Daniel looked at him, a myriad of emotions washing over his face. "Of course she is. She proved that…" His voice caught. He swallowed. Finally, he forced a smile. "Those names she gave… Muon, Tau, Baryon…they're subatomic particles. Not Tok'ra."
"Kohoutek…Hyakutake," Jack breathed in wonder, suddenly placing them, "Comets…" He almost wanted to laugh.
Daniel nodded. "Whiro didn't break her, Jack. She didn't betray the Tok'ra. And we'll help her through this."
Jack smiled, the action pulling at the two stitches in his lip. Yeah, somehow, they'd get through it… together. "Come on, Carter," he said, softly tracing the veins on the back of her hand with his fingers, hoping she wouldn't object to being touched by him after what she'd been through. "Wake up soon, Major… wake up so we can get you through this."
"Please…. Don't watch," Sam begged as the Jaffa began to tear her clothing off. She was trying to hide her fear, but Daniel could see the rising terror in her eyes.
In the cell beside him, Jack was shouting obscenities, pounding the force field with his fists.
"Please!" Sam said, as Whiro sliced through her bra with a knife, leaving a sharp line of blood across her breast. She met his eyes, and Daniel felt physically sick at the barely suppressed panic he saw there. "Daniel, please… don't watch this…!"
"Sam…" He breathed, unable to abandon her like that. He saw her gaze shift to Jack.
"Colonel, please turn around," she said, her voice mixed with anguish and disgust as Whiro licked the trail of blood from her chest.
Jack froze, staring at her face. "We're with you, Carter," he said, holding her gaze. "You're not alone."
Sam nodded, then cried out as Whiro suddenly bit into her. The goa'uld sliced downward with his knife, cutting the waist of her pants and the white skin beneath.
So quickly Daniel almost missed it, Sam kneed Whiro in the crotch, sending him backward with a cry of pain. Twisting in her chains she kicked the nearest Jaffa in the face and barely missed the second as he quickly stepped back out of reach.
Whiro straightened painfully, looking at his first prime sprawled on the floor, barely conscious. Daniel could see his fury as he raised his hand and blasted Sam with the ribbon device. Sam's head snapped back with the force of the blow, and her legs collapsed, her manacled wrists taking the full weight of her body.
"Shoot her feet," Whiro commanded the second Jaffa angrily.
Two staff blasts were followed by twin cries of agony. The smell of burnt leather and flesh filled the chamber.
Jack was cursing again, and Daniel watched in horror, unable to believe this was really happening…praying that it was just a nightmare.
The Jaffa hit Sam's ribs with the staff, hard, then her head.
"I will have you, Samantha Carter," Whiro said, letting his silk robe slip to the floor. "If you fight me, I will shatter your kneecaps next."
Sam was clearly dazed from pain and shock, but her searching eyes found Teal'c. "Teal'c," she said. "Please…"
Teal'c nodded. "O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, we must honor Major Carter's request." Slowly, he turned his back to her.
"Carter, you're not alone," Jack said, his face grim. He too, turned.
"How touching," Whiro smiled. "And I was so looking forward to having witnesses. It's far more… titillating… that way…" His first prime was staggering to his feet again. "Grab her legs," he commanded his two Jaffa.
Sam tried to struggle, but was stopped by more staff blows to the head and ribs.
She looked up, blinking blood from her eyes, and Daniel saw the agonized defeat there.
"We're with you, Sam," he said, turning away from her, his heart breaking.
And then Sam started screaming.
Daniel woke with a start, his heart pounding, sheets wet with sweat, Sam's screams still echoing in his head.
But she hadn't screamed, he told himself. At least not then. Only the sound of ripping cloth and Whiro's contented grunts filling the silence of the chamber had left no doubt in Daniel's mind what was happening to Sam. The screams had come later. Much later.
Daniel rolled onto his side, trying to steady his ragged breathing. He'd never heard Sam scream before. Not like that. They'd hurt her so badly…caused her so much pain.
Daniel hugged his knees, starting to shake uncontrollably, starting to cry. His friend shouldn't have had to endure something like that. Sam was such a good person. She didn't deserve it. She'd been so frightened…
He squeezed his eyes closed, trying to deny the horrible images in his mind. It took him a long time to finally get a hold of his emotions, but eventually he staggered to the bathroom to blow his nose. Finished, he looked at the clock in the bedroom, knowing that he wouldn't be going back to sleep any time soon. It was a little after 4 in the morning. Slowly, he pulled on some clothes.
At this hour, the base was quiet as he pushed the elevator button for the floor of the infirmary. Teal'c and Jack were already there, each in a chair on either side of Sam's bed. To his surprise, Janet was sleeping on the next infirmary bed. Jack and Teal'c looked up as he entered.
"Where's Cassie?" Daniel whispered.
"Friend's house for the week," Jack answered.
Daniel nodded, pulling up a stool at the foot of Sam's bed. She looked pale but peaceful. Free of pain and fear. That's what he'd needed to see…to get those nightmare images out of his head.
"Couldn't sleep?" Jack asked softly.
Daniel shook his head. "Nightmares."
Jack nodded knowingly. "Me too."
Somehow it made Daniel feel better to know that Jack was having trouble with this, too.
"I have been having difficulty achieving a peaceful state of kel-no-reem," Teal'c said quietly.
Daniel looked at him in astonishment.
"I have been experiencing auditory hallucinations of Major Carter's cries of pain," the big man continued.
Daniel snorted, mirthlessly. "That's what finally woke me up…"
"I keep hearing her begging me not to watch," Jack said quietly. "And then watching her die with an apology on her lips. An apology, for God's sake. After saving our lives." He shook his head. "Christ, this is screwed up."
They sat listening to the steady beep of Sam's heartbeat for several moments.
"It was Whiro's intention to make us feel helpless and impotent," Teal'c said eventually.
"Ya think?" Jack said. After a moment he added, "I tried to convince Hammond to let us go back and nuke the bastard."
"I'll push the button," Daniel said with quiet seriousness. He ignored the looks his two friends gave him.
Jack snorted. "Hammond wouldn't go for it. Too dangerous, he said."
"You would not want to be responsible for detonating and nuclear device and killing so many people, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
Daniel stared at Sam, remembering her voice as she begged for mercy… receiving none. He thought perhaps that Teal'c was wrong, this time, but he was oddly relieved that the opportunity to prove it would not be presented. Finally, he shook his head. He took Sam's hand in his own, squeezing it gently. He stroked her cheek. "Be well, Sam. We're here for you. Whatever you need, okay? Just come back to us."
Jack nodded. "Yeah," he agreed. "Who's gonna take care of the Stargate without you around, Carter? We need you, Major. And you're going to be okay. It's just gonna take some time."
Daniel appreciated Jack's quiet confidence, knowing that man would make it true or die trying. He looked at Sam's peaceful face. They couldn't help her in Whiro's palace. But they could help her when she woke up. They would help her when she woke up. Whatever it took. He nodded, as much to himself as to Jack. "We're going to be okay," he said.
Janet smiled to herself, listening to their quiet voices, relieved that they were having such an open conversation. It was going to be a long road, but as long as they continued to support each other like this, they would make it. She let herself drift back to sleep, one less worry on her mind.
Teal'c wanted to ensure that Major Carter was never left alone in the infirmary, so he deliberately reversed his rest cycle to enable him to keep vigil by her bedside during the long hours of the night. He did not want her wake up alone, or to the less familiar faces of the nightshift medical staff. Though Dr. Fraiser had spent the first several nights in the infirmary, she still had Cassandra to take care of, and Teal'c had assured her that he would call if Major Carter awakened.
It had been over a week now. Jacob Carter had come and gone, devastated that he had been unable to stay by his daughter's side until she awoke. But Jacob Carter, like his daughter, was a warrior loyal to his cause, and his skills were needed elsewhere.
Teal'c knew that Colonel O'Neill and Daniel Jackson were concerned that Major Carter had not yet awakened, but he was not. Her mind and body needed time to heal, and she had already endured enough pain through this ordeal. This was merciful. She would awaken when she was ready.
Dr. Fraiser had told him that it would benefit Major Carter to flex and move her limbs, and so he maintained an exercise routine for her. He flexed and extended first her left leg, left ankle, left toes, and then her right leg, right ankle, right toes. This was followed by long massages of atrophying muscles. He repeated the procedure on her right arm, hands, and fingers, but not her injured left arm, which was still immobilized in a sling. He did this several times over the course of the night, speaking softly to her while he worked.
He did not know if she could hear him while he spoke, but he hoped that if she could, she would find his voice to be reassuring. At times he was at a loss as to what to say to her, but he made a point to tell her what was happening on the base, how much he respected her, and the gossip he had overheard in the commissary. This night, he was describing to her a movie that he had watched with Daniel Jackson and Colonel O'Neill earlier in the evening entitled, "The Mummy." Daniel Jackson had soundly criticized the movie's portrayal of Egypt, but Teal'c thought that archeologist had missed the true purpose of the movie, which was not to educate, but rather to entertain.
Someone was tickling her foot.
And Teal'c was saying something about Daniel throwing peanuts at the television screen every time someone said the name Imhotep, which was being mispronounced. Apparently this annoyed the Colonel, who had insisted that Daniel clean his living room after the movie finished.
Her first thought was to wonder why she hadn't been invited to movie night with the team. Her second thought was to wish that whoever it was would leave her foot alone. Her third thought was to wonder what had happened… where she was… and why she felt like something Schroedinger might have dragged into the house.
Her eyes felt like they'd been glued shut, but she finally forced them open. She recognized the dull ceiling of the infirmary almost immediately. So… she'd been hurt. She searched her memory for any clue as to what had happened, but came up disconcertingly empty. Whatever it was, it couldn't have been good. She felt… well, she didn't normally swear, but nothing else that came to mind seemed quite as appropriately descriptive. She felt like shit.
"I believe both Daniel Jackson and Colonel O'Neill consumed more alcohol than was advisable for them," Teal'c was saying.
Her eyes strayed to the bottom of her bed where her friend appeared to be massaging her foot.
"Although I must confess it is interesting to watch them interact with each other when their inhibitions are lowered."
She blinked, trying to clear the film from her eyes. Teal'c should not be doing something as undignified as massaging her foot. She wanted to speak, to say his name, but her tongue was cemented firmly to the roof of her mouth.
"I am going to switch to your other foot, Major Carter," Teal'c said, gently putting her foot down.
She tried to wiggle her toes, and, gratifyingly, they responded, albeit not as surely as she thought they should.
Teal'c looked up immediately. Though it was hard to tell with Teal'c sometimes, she thought that he looked surprised to see her staring back at him. She tried to smile, knew she failed spectacularly.
"Major Carter?" Teal'c said.
"Teal…" There, her tongue was loose, and she'd said something. Sort of. She was so out of it, tired, unable to keep her eyes open.
She felt the blanket pulled over her feet, and a warm hand took hers and squeezed gently.
"It is good to have you back with us, Major Carter," Teal'c voice said. "You will be well again soon."
Sam was comforted. Questions could wait till later. She knew she'd be all right, because Teal'c said so. Teal'c didn't lie. She let herself drift back to sleep.
Sam wasn't quite ready to become conscious yet, so she ignored the voice.
"Sam, honey, please wake up."
Janet? Janet sounded worried. That wasn't good. But she was so tired…
"Come on Sam, you can do it. Open your eyes for me, all right?"
"Major, wake up."
The Colonel. An order.
Sam forced her unwilling eyes open, wincing as the light blinded her.
"Way to go, Carter!" the Colonel said, and Sam was glad she'd been able to make him happy by doing something as ridiculously simple as opening her eyes. Although, at the moment, it didn't really seem so simple.
"Hey," Janet said, her smiling face appearing in her field of view. "How are you feeling?
She grimaced, unable to speak. Her tongue felt swollen, and she wondered how long it had been since she'd had anything to drink.
"Thirsty?" Janet asked.
Sam nodded gratefully as Janet gave her an ice chip to suck on. She swirled it around in her mouth, thinking that ice machines had to be one of the greatest of all human inventions. "Thanks, Janet," she finally whispered when she had enough lubrication in her mouth to form a word. "What happened?"
She didn't miss the glance that Janet and Jack exchanged.
"What do you remember?" Janet asked.
Sam tried to think back, tried to remember how she'd been hurt. Again, she came up blank. She shook her head.
Janet gave her another ice chip. Bliss.
"P3X-721," Jack said. "Ring any bells?"
It didn't. Was that where she had been injured? "No," she said. "Should it?"
"What's the last thing you do remember, Sam?" Janet asked.
She searched her memory. Her head ached, and she was feeling pretty groggy, but she did remember nearly causing the destruction of an entire planet… "K'tau." What a disaster, that. How could she forget?
Janet and the Colonel exchanged a startled glance, and she gathered that maybe things were worse than they had thought. "Tell me," she said.
Janet knew what she meant. "It sounds like you may have post-traumatic amnesia, Sam. I'm not too surprised given the nature of your injuries, but K'tau was the mission prior to this."
Sam groaned inwardly. Amnesia wasn't good. It could affect her return to active duty. "What happened?" she asked again. Maybe if they told her, she could remember.
Janet hesitated, obviously trying to decide if it was wise to tell her.
Sam swallowed. "Janet, you have to tell me sometime. I'll just worry if you don't."
Janet nodded. "You were captured by a Goa'uld on P3X-721," she said carefully. "You…you were tortured, Sam."
Oh. Well. That explained a lot, now didn't it? Maybe she didn't want to remember. But come to think of it, the headache did feel a bit like the aftereffect of a ribbon device. "How long have I been out?"
"You've been in a coma for eight days," Janet said seriously.
Coma… Eight days… "Wow…" No wonder she felt foggy. She was fighting to stay awake. Then it occurred to her that she hadn't seen Daniel yet. "Daniel! Is he okay?" she asked, worriedly.
Janet smiled. "Yes, he's fine. I'm sure he'll be in to visit you soon. Sleep this morning, Sam. We'll start rehab this afternoon."
Sam smiled, relieved that her team was all right and still whole.
"Welcome back, Major," the Colonel said.
"Thank you, sir."
Jack was waiting for Daniel when he finally arrived in his office, carrying a cup of coffee from the commissary.
"Jack, what are you doing here at…." he glanced at his watch, "…this ungodly hour in the morning? I was just getting ready to go check on Sam."
"She woke up last night on Teal'c's shift."
"That's great! …Uh… isn't it?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah, I think so. Fraiser says she has…. some kind of… amnesia…though. She doesn't remember Whiro at all. In fact, she doesn't remember anything after K'tau."
"That could be a good thing…" Daniel said, thinking that it might be a lot easier on Sam that way.
"Yeah, except Fraiser says that she will probably start to remember things in the future. Hard to predict when, though."
"Ah…" Daniel nodded, seeing the implications. "So… Super Sam could turn into… basket-case Sam at any time…" Not that he meant any disrespect to Sam; combined, the team had enough emotional baggage to sink the Queen Mary on a pleasure cruise, and they'd all had their less than stellar moments over the years, including Teal'c. Truth was, Sam seemed to escape the emotional meltdown more often than not… Although after Jolinar… Is that how Sam would react to this, too? Shut down? Shut the world out?
"That was very well put, Daniel. Couldn't have said it better myself."
"I don't… particularly take that as a compliment, Jack."
"Do you think Sam is still awake?" Daniel asked, deciding that this could go on forever if he didn't change the subject.
Jack shook his head. "She's sleeping. But I think Fraiser is planning on starting her torture sessions…" Jack froze, realizing what he had just said. "I mean her rehab sessions… this afternoon." He shook his head. "Please tell me I didn't just say that."
"It's just an expression that we use all the time, Jack," Daniel reassured him. "No harm done."
"Hits a bit close to home this time, though, doesn't it?"
"Yeah. Thanks for letting me know about Sam," Daniel said.
"You bet," Jack smiled wryly.
Sam was staring at the half healed bite marks on her breast under her hospital gown as Janet changed her IV bag. "Janet?" she asked.
Janet looked up, saw what Sam was doing, and froze.
The fear in her friend's expression told Sam all she needed to know. Oh God. So… it had finally happened. A thousand questions flew threw her mind. How? Who? Had her team seen it happen? Had she screamed? Fought? Cried?
An image ripped through her mind, of glowing eyes leering at her followed by pain. Suddenly, she felt sick, violated.
Janet must have seen it on her face, because an emesis basin miraculously appeared even as Sam's stomach heaved. The effort shook her body, and she was left feeling weak and cold. Inexplicably, her feet throbbed with agony. Janet handed her a glass of water, compassion filling her eyes as she watched Sam clear the awful taste of vomit from her mouth.
"I was raped?" Sam asked softly.
"I'm afraid so," Janet said.
"Oh God." Her stomach heaved again, and the emesis basin reappeared. Sam was shaking uncontrollably, now. Her ribs and back hurt, and the crack of a whip echoed in her mind. "Oh God."
"I'm so sorry, Sam," Janet whispered, gently stoking Sam's hair before bringing another blanket to cover her with.
"Oh well…we knew it would happen eventually, r-right? Good thing I've kept up the birth control all these years…" She was still shaking despite the extra blanket.
"No, no, it's okay. Hey, I was prepared…" More images flashed in her mind, and she groaned, reflexively trying to curl into a ball. Her back protested in agony.
"Sam, Sam, calm down," Janet said urgently, a hand on her shoulder, holding her down. "You're going to tear the stitches in your back."
A whip cracked again, flaying her skin… a hand device began to glow… She shook her head. "No… no…!"
A soothing voice penetrated her nightmare. "Sam, listen to me. You're having a flashback. Look at me, Sam. Look at my face; it's me, Janet!"
Hands shook both of her shoulders, sending needles of pain down her injured arm. She became dimly aware that the beeps registering her heartbeats were racing together, and she was panting for breath. She stared into Janet's face as her friend spoke to her, trying to focus on her words.
"It's okay, Sam; you're okay. It's over. You're safe," Janet was repeating.
Sam tried to steady her breathing. She was safe. It was over. She was safe. She grabbed Janet's hand and held it like a lifeline.
Janet stroked her hair. "It's okay, Sam. It's over. It's over."
She stared into Janet's eyes, noting they were brimming with tears. A part of her wondered if she'd ever seen Janet cry before. Certainly not for her. Janet shouldn't cry.
She closed her eyes, swallowing. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her pounding heart. I can do this, she told herself. I have to do this.
"Shall I bring a sedative, doctor?" a nurse's voice asked.
When Janet didn't answer, Sam opened her eyes. The doctor was watching her intently.
"Hey," her friend said softly. "Are you in pain? Do you want me to increase your morphine?"
Sam shook her head silently. She wanted this to be a bad dream, to wake up in her own bed when the alarm went off, ready for a new day. She closed her eyes again, focusing on her breathing. She felt Janet sit on the bed beside her, still holding her hand. The contact was comforting and gradually her shaking stilled.
"Do they know?" she finally whispered, looking up at her friend.
After a moment's hesitation, Janet nodded. "SG-1, General Hammond, your father, and the medical staff who treated you when you arrived."
They knew. The important people in her life knew, and Sam couldn't begin to comprehend how this might affect her relationship with them. "Oh God, Janet," she finally sobbed, her control finally breaking completely.
This time she struggled into a sitting position, and Janet held her while she cried.
Jack and Daniel entered the infirmary to visit Sam, only to find her crying uncontrollably in Janet's arms.
They froze, the sound of her sobs bringing back extremely unwanted memories. Jack wondered if his face had paled as much as Daniel's. Without a word, they turned around again and left.
"Lunch?" Jack asked as they headed down the corridor.
"Yeah, uh… sounds good," Daniel replied.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack sat at a table in the commissary, pushing around the remaining heap of spaghetti on his plate with a fork.
"Think she remembers?" Daniel asked. He hadn't taken more than a couple of bites from his sandwich, Jack noticed.
He nodded. "Yeah." The spaghetti sauce was runny, rivulets of it spiraling towards the edges of his plate. It looked like the half-healed blood on Carter's body after they'd dragged her out of the sarcophagus. He forced his eyes away from his plate, seeing instead the blue of the tablecloth…reminding him of blue eyes staring at him vacantly in death…
His hand clenched on the plastic fork, snapping it.
Never once in her entire ordeal had Sam cried out for help. She'd known that they couldn't save her, and she'd known what it would do to them to hear her ask.
His stomach turned, and he pushed back his chair abruptly, heading for the garbage can near the door. Without apology he puked his guts out on top of half crushed Styrofoam cups and crumpled napkins. Once his stomach finished heaving, he stood up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He looked around. The commissary was silent, every face turned towards him.
"What?" he asked. "I just remembered I don't like spaghetti." With that, he turned and walked out the door.
There'd been no rehab session that afternoon after all, and Sam woke to dim lights in the infirmary. She felt drained… and a little disconnected from her body, probably the effects of the morphine Janet was giving her. But she was grateful for the freedom from pain.
"Good morning, Major Carter," Teal'c said beside her.
"What time is it?" she asked. Without windows or a watch, it was impossible to tell the time of day or night.
"It is 0530 in the morning."
She almost asked him what he was doing there at that hour, but of course he'd been keeping vigil by her side during the nights. And no doubt Daniel and the Colonel had been sitting shifts during the day. They'd be worried about her, worried that she would break down like she had with Janet, but not have anyone there for her.
She stared at the dull gray ceiling. She'd always thought of herself as a strong person… a good soldier… someone who could take the punches life threw at her with grace and dignity and keep on going. She'd handled being sold to Turghan… she'd survived being tortured… she'd faced certain death without batting an eye … she'd even recovered from Jolinar dying in her brain.
But as she stared at the faint shadows painted on the concrete above her, Sam Carter realized that she wasn't as strong as she'd thought she'd always been. The snippets of memory floating in her mind were terrifying in their intensity. Though the circumstances surrounding them were clouded, they paralyzed her with fear in a way that Jolinar's memories of rape and torture never had. And the unknown… the missing details… the dark abyss of emptiness where memories should have been… that scared her just as much, perhaps even more… What had happened to her? Had she broken under torture? Had she betrayed the Tok'ra? The SGC? What would happen if her memories finally returned? Could she deal with them?
They'd all been through enough training sessions about PTSD and combat stress to know the symptoms. It was an occupational hazard, and the military didn't want to lose good people to the ravages of stress if they could avoid it. The SGC attrition rate was already high. She knew that Janet would schedule her with MacKenzie or another mental health professional of her choice. The SGC had contracts with several different psychologists and psychiatrists in Colorado Springs including a rape and trauma counselor, but Sam had been lucky enough to avoid their services up to this point.
No more, though. She was screwed, literally and figuratively. She knew what was happening to her… she just hadn't anticipated it to be like this… this tangible fear, this panic lurking in the back of her mind. She'd expected to be stronger, to handle it better. With bitter clarity, she finally understood why so many people had fought long and hard to keep women from serving in high-risk combat positions.
That thought brought her up short. No. She couldn't… wouldn't…let this destroy her career. Jolinar had survived. She would, too. Failure was not an option. She couldn't run from this… couldn't let it beat her. For every woman who had ever demanded an equal opportunity to serve on an SG team, she had to pull herself together.
Easier said than done, she acknowledged. But she had to try.
She reached for Teal'c's hand and squeezed it. "Thanks, Teal'c. I really appreciate you being here."
He nodded, handing her a cup of water.
She sipped it slowly, dreading what she knew she had to face. Finally, she screwed up her courage, resolved to push forward. "Teal'c, I… I have to know."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow.
"Did I… was it… I mean…" Sam knew what she needed to know; she just didn't know how to ask without sounding… weak and insecure. Embarrassed. Needy. Maybe even childish.
"I will tell you whatever it is you wish to know if I am able to do so, Major Carter," Teal'c said. "You need only to ask."
Sam made a face. "I know, Teal'c. That's why I'm asking you and not… I mean… I know you'll give me the straight answer. It's just…it's hard… I only remember bits and pieces…"
Teal'c nodded, letting her know that he would wait patiently until she found the words. She took a deep breath. She could do this. She would ask; Teal'c would answer, and then she would deal with whatever the truth was.
She took another breath. "I didn't screw up on P3X… whatever it was, did I?"
"Yeah, on P3X-721. I mean… it wasn't my fault, was it? I didn't…let you guys down, did I?" There, she'd said it. Voiced one of many fears that somehow she'd done something stupid… had been responsible for what happened. Her self-confidence had taken a pretty big hit after what had happened on K'tau.
"You did not," Teal'c said. "We were captured by the Goa'uld, Whiro, as a team. Once arriving on the planet, there was little we could have done to avoid this. Apparently, Whiro was aware that we have been exploring the planets in this region of space, and he prepared a trap for us. It was Whiro who singled you out for torture first, knowing that you possess Jolinar's memories. He asked you for the iris codes and the names of Tok'ra operatives. You did not tell him any, even under great duress. It was, in fact, you, who ultimately freed us from our prison cells, thereby saving Colonel O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and myself from similar torture."
Sam stared at her friend, trying to process what he'd told her. She hadn't talked… it wasn't her fault… and she'd saved her team. It was almost too good to be true. "Really?"
Teal'c nodded. "I would not lie to you, Major Carter."
Sam smiled in relief, thinking that maybe she'd be able to look Daniel and the Colonel in the eye the next time they came to visit, after all. She hadn't failed them, or herself. Whatever the details, it had all happened in the line of duty, and she hadn't let her team down. She could live with that. She could build on that, find strength in it, perhaps.
"In my time as First Prime of Apophis," Teal'c said, "I witnessed many torture sessions. And yet I saw no one exhibit more strength and determination in resistance than you did, Major Carter. You have my utmost respect."
Sam was warmed and gratified by the compliment. Teal'c was not one to lavish undeserved praise on anyone, and his respect meant the world to her. She was a bit disturbed by the insinuation that he had witnessed her being tortured… had Daniel and the Colonel been there, too? Sam shuddered and fought down another bout of nausea.
"Are you all right, Major Carter?" Teal'c asked.
She nodded, not trusting her voice. "Thanks, Teal'c," she finally managed. "That means a lot. Really."
He nodded, sympathy coloring his dark eyes, and Sam thought he probably knew exactly what she was feeling… and why.
"Tell me the details, please?" she asked.
"Do you think that is wise, Major Carter?" Teal'c asked.
Sam didn't know if it was wise or not, she only knew that she could only see one way to get through this, and that was armed with the truth… the whole truth. She was a scientist, and for her, ignorance was not bliss. "I need to know, Teal'c."
Teal'c nodded. He had expected this response from her, but he was still honored that she trusted him to reveal this most private and painful information. It would be hard for her to hear, he knew, but she was strong and deserved the truth. So, he proceeded to describe the events of P3X-721 in greater detail. By the time he finished, he was holding a quiet, but shaking Samantha Carter in his arms, and the shoulder of his shirt was damp from her silent tears.
"Oh god," she whispered when he finished. "The Colonel… Daniel…"
Though she had not finished her thought out loud, Teal'c believed he understood what she meant. "Colonel O'Neill and Daniel Jackson have been greatly disturbed by the events that transpired, but they will recover, Major Carter. Furthermore, I do not anticipate that their relationship with you will change in any way. Unless, of course, it is to be more supportive of you in the near future, until they are certain you are fully recovered and do not need their assistance anymore. They have the utmost respect for you."
She was silent, and her silence disturbed him greatly. Could it be that she did not believe him? Or was she merely overwhelmed by the information he had provided? He placed his hands on her cheeks, gently pulling her away from him until she was forced to look at his face. His fingers trembled with emotion against her skin.
"You are a great warrior, Major Carter," he said. "You are a brilliant scientist, and a beautiful woman. This will not change our love for you." He willed her to see the truth of his words in his eyes. "You will survive this, and you will return to fight the Goa'uld with SG-1."
This time, her tears were not silent, and he pulled her close to him again as she wept.
Daniel pulled the curtain around her bed, holding a finger to his lips. He held up a small Starbucks cup with a grin.
"I love you, Daniel," Sam said. Janet would have a fit if she knew Daniel was bringing her coffee (which was decidedly not on the approved list of infirmary beverages), but SG-1 had become extremely adept at smuggling in goodies for each other over the years. Teal'c was, in fact, the best of the four of them, having at various times managed to sneak in everything from a large pizza to a six-pack of beer for the Colonel after he'd twisted his knee on a mission. But they each had their own methods (it was remarkable what one could stash in an empty laptop bag, for example), and Sam was quite certain that none of the nurses remotely suspected that innocent-eyed Daniel Jackson was actually smuggling in coffee to a patient.
"It's decaff, today," he said, taking a seat on the stool Teal'c had recently vacated. "I'll bring regular tomorrow, assuming you do well in rehab this afternoon. How are you feeling?"
"I'll be ready for another hit of morphine soon," Sam said. Her ribs, head, and back were still quite painful, and she was tired from her early morning session with Teal'c. "But, I'm doing better," she smiled, hoping Daniel couldn't tell that she actually felt like she might shatter into a billion pieces at any moment.
Daniel frowned, wondering if she was being honest with him. Finally he decided to take her at her word. "That's good," he said, wishing he hadn't sounded so surprised when he'd said it. Damn. He hated feeling uncomfortable around Sam. It wasn't right.
"Yeah," Sam agreed, but she avoided his eyes. "Good coffee," she said, after taking a sip.
"Yes," he agreed. "Of all the commercial places… I like theirs best. It's handy there's one on the way here. A good roast. Much better than the commisary's. The price isn't bad, although it's cheaper to make at home if you buy your own beans…" And could he sound more like a blathering idiot? It was lucky he hadn't started a discussion about the economic significance of coffee plantations on local Columbian culture.
He glanced at Sam and suddenly got the impression that she was trying hard not to laugh. That was a good sign, wasn't it? "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm babbling. And stating the obvious."
Sam did smile, then. "It's all right, Daniel. It is a bit…" she frowned, "awkward, isn't it?"
"But it shouldn't be," he said, firmly. "I mean… we're teammates. We've been through some pretty… amazing… and sometimes… horrifying…experiences together. We've seen each other at our best and our worst."
Sam nodded, and he thought she might be blushing. "Yeah… um, Daniel… for the record, I know what happened. Teal'c told me last night," she said, staring hard at her coffee.
Ah, but had he told her everything? He remembered the Jaffa reciting her injuries to the medical staff after they'd just arrived back on Earth. Well, yes, Teal'c had probably told her everything she wanted to know. And he supposed that Sam had needed to hear it, although it surprised him that she'd been told so quickly after she'd awakened. On the other hand, this was Sam, who lived on information like most people lived on food. She would have figured out quickly that they were hiding something from her. And that probably would have scared her worse than the truth. "I'm so sorry, Sam," Daniel said truthfully, "This should never have happened."
She smiled wryly. "Nobody ever said that life was fair."
"That doesn't take away the pain."
"No. I don't remember most of it, though. Yet…"
The word hung in the air like an omen.
"I wish I could forget," Daniel whispered.
"God, Daniel…I'm so sorry…"
He nodded solemnly, swallowing, unable to meet her eyes.
Her fingers found his. "I can't imagine what it must have been like for you…"
Daniel blinked back tears, cursing himself that she was trying to comfort him, and not the other way around. Wasn't he was supposed to be the strong one, here? He forced himself to look at her, ignoring the wetness on his cheeks. "I'm so sorry we couldn't help you, Sam."
She smiled softly, tears spilling. "You got me home, Daniel. You saved my life." She held up the coffee cup. "You're here for me now. I'm really very lucky, you know? To have such good friends. I know that there is absolutely nothing you could have done to help me, or you would have."
Daniel nodded, thinking that this was a perfect example of just how amazing Sam was, to be so understanding and forgiving. She placed unfailing faith in her team. He knew she believed it with utter certainty: if they could have helped her, they would have. And she was right. He desperately wanted to hug her, to squeeze her tight, to feel her safe and warm and alive in his arms. But he knew that doing so would cause her pain because of her injuries, so he resisted the urge, holding her hand tightly instead.
Sam sighed. "It's just so weird that I don't remember all of it. I mean, how does the brain just lose something like that? Something so…horrible and life-altering?"
Daniel hid the smile from his face. Now that sounded like Sam. He knew the awkwardness was gone. But he didn't tell her that she didn't really want to remember, that her mind was just protecting her from memories that could destroy her. He didn't tell her that it was probably better this way. He only wished his own mind would do the same for him.
"You have nothing to feel guilty about, sir," Carter said as soon as he sat down.
Jack looked at her in astonishment. Truth was, he had come to apologize to her, had, in fact, been working up the speech for the past hour about how he should have realized it was a trap, how he should have turned around and gone home at the first sign of Goa'uld influence in the tropical paradise. "Who's feeling guilty?" he asked innocently.
"You are, sir. You're… radiating it."
"Oh, so when did you invent a guilt detector, Major? I don't remember reading about that in any of your reports…"
She grinned. "Okay, Colonel, I'm sorry I misinterpreted your… obvious appearance of unease as you approached…"
Jack chuckled, glad that she felt up to teasing him. "No, you're right. I was coming to apologize. But you sort of spoiled the mood for the speech I'd put together."
"Speech? Oh, please, go ahead, I'd like to hear it."
"Nope. Sorry. You blew it. And it was quite eloquent, too."
"You? Eloquent? Did Daniel help you with it?"
"Carter, I'm hurt. I've often been told that I have a… unique turn of phrase…"
"'Let's blow this popsicle stand,' isn't exactly Shakespeare, sir," Carter smiled.
Unsure how to proceed after the lighthearted exchange, an awkward silence fell over the room.
"How are you, Sam?" he finally asked.
Her eyes widened slightly as she registered his use of her first name.
"I'm fine, sir," she said automatically.
He said nothing, just looked at her, letting her know that he knew she was lying, but that he wasn't going to push her. He could almost see the chinks in her armor widen as he watched. He could see the thoughts racing through her head as she fought some terrible internal battle.
"What is it?" he asked gently.
"I think… I think I n-need your help, sir," she finally stammered.
His breath caught in his throat, knowing how much that simple admission must have cost her. "Anything," he promised, taking her hand in his own.
She nodded, unable to quite meet his eyes. "I just… I don't know… How did you survive Iraq, sir?"
Jack smiled, hoping she wouldn't misinterpret the expression if she happened to look up. He was relieved, very relieved, because the question meant that she wasn't going to push him away, that she wasn't going to try to deal with this on her own. She was going to be okay. SG-1 would survive again. "Time," he said. "Time, counseling, and a lot of help and understanding from my friends and family."
She met his gaze, blue eyes seeking brown, and he read the unspoken fear there. "We'll get through this together, Sam," he reassured her. "I'm here for you, okay?"
She nodded, swallowing.
"You'll get your mojo back," he said, "And you'll be kicking Goa'uld butt again before you know it."
A hint of a smile teased her lips.
"You did good," he said, knowing she needed to hear it. "I'm proud of you."
She looked at him in surprise.
He smiled, squeezing her hand. "Get some rest, Major."
She smiled back. "Yes, sir."