Pairings referenced: Sam/Pete, Sam/Jack, Jolinar/Martouf Set: Post-New Order, but pre-Lockdown. Set right around/during Atlantis' Rising.
Archive: Please ask.
Summary: Miles of endless white sand, and she's supposed to be in Antarctica. Life sucks.
Notes: This has been sitting around, unfinished for a while. I think I like what's here now. (I had this whole stupid subplot that I tossed)
by ALC Punk!
White sand. Nothing but white sand for miles. And palm trees. With disgust, she noted the palm trees swaying gently in the salt-water-laden breezes. The gentle, lap at your skin type. It was very hard to feel resentful while sitting on a beach in the middle of nowhere.
But Sam Carter was seething with resentment, and hanging on to hers with tooth and nail and every piece of irritation she could muster.
She'd been exiled to paradise with no work, no laptop, no paper even--nothing but a jaffa guard and strict instructions to "recuperate from your recent experiences, Colonel." Well, fuck the doctors. She didn't need recuperation.
And she'd told them so in no uncertain terms.
They hadn't listened.
Even worse, the Colonel--no, wait, the GENERAL, now--the General hadn't listened to her. He'd simply listened to them, patted her on the head (figuratively) and sent her away.
She should be back there, in the mountain, helping to do the research on the Antarctic site.
Working. Working was good. It took her mind off of things. It occupied her waking thoughts and sleeping world so she didn't have to remember. She hadn't wanted to tell them that, but MacKenzie had guessed anyway.
He thought remembering would allow her to deal with it.
Well, he knew nothing.
The breeze slid across her skin and she shivered suddenly, cold. It had been so cold on the replicator ship.
But she wasn't thinking about that. Nope.
The General. This was his fault. He'd ordered her out here, on MacKenzie's recommendation. Well, when she got back, she'd prove that they couldn't live without her, that this was a mistake. Maybe the world would end while she was here.
Would certainly serve them right.
Something crawled across her foot, and she jerked back, falling into the sand and rolling instinctively.
Ah. The jailor speaks. She flopped into a cross-legged position, determined to ignore her descent from dignity. And her captor.
"I believe it would be time to apply sun screen."
As if that would fix everything. She almost scoffed at him, but she wasn't speaking to him.
The tube of Bullfrog appeared in her field of vision.
"Unless you wish to become sunburned, Colonel Carter, put this on."
It would serve them all right if she refused. If she sat here and burned her skin to a crisp and got sunstroke and heatstroke and a high fever. See, she could tell them, you don't want to make me go to the middle of nowhere with only Teal'c. But that might not be the best way to convince them she was in her right mind.
Sam was being childish. And she knew it.
But she should be back there. Research was something she was good at. It was what she did. And instead it was others--she didn't even know who. But, Felger, most likely, and McKay. God, she couldn't stand either of them and they were doing the job she should have.
Maybe being stuck in the middle of nowhere was better, she decided, a bit of humor surfacing. At least she didn't have them mocking her or trying to flirt.
Teal'c shifted, and she finally took the bottle from him and began applying the orange-scented goop. Sunburns weren't fun. And with the way the glare bounced everywhere (thank god for sunglasses) she would probably burn twice as fast.
He wandered off, and she put him from her thoughts. It wasn't his fault the General had ordered him here.
Once covered with sun screen, she flopped back into the sand and stared up at the empty sky above. Maybe if she just didn't think...
Sam spent the afternoon dozing and staring vacantly at the sky.
It had rather surprised her that she could do that, that some part of her could accept just letting it all go and believe in an idyllic reality.
Towards evening, she began to realize she was hungry. But it wasn't worth the effort of moving just yet.
Hunger was something she'd been ignoring for a while.
Oh, there had been food. She'd had to eat, just to keep the new SGC doc and Daniel and Weir from hounding her. Teal'c would sometimes bring her cake while she tried to work on something that could save the Colonel.
But she'd never really been hungry. Not while she'd known that there was nothing she could do.
And once she'd decided there was something...
Teal'c's voice interrupted her musings and she squinted against the evening light to see him. "Hey."
"If you are hungry, there is food."
Ooh. A jaffa after her own heart. It suddenly occurred to Sam that she'd been very sulky and rude towards Teal'c. And it really wasn't his fault that he'd been shipped to the middle of nowhere to watch over the crazy scientist lady. So, once she'd stood, she held out a hand. "Teal'c, I uh... I wanted to apologize."
"For what, Colonel Carter?"
"Acting like a spoiled child?" She suggested ruefully.
A slight smile touched his lips. "It is, as O'Neill would say, not a problem."
"Thanks." She really didn't deserve him. Probably, she didn't deserve any of them. If she were honest, she didn't deserve the sandy beach, the really great food she could now smell, or the cool evening breeze dancing over her legs.
She probably deserved the sand in her hair, though.
With a sigh, she began brushing herself off.
Where there was beach, there was sand. She could start her own greeting card company.
Dinner passed silently, with neither of them feeling the need to talk. Teal'c because he rarely did, and Sam because she was still harboring irritation at the world at large. And it was nice to not talk, to not worry she would say the wrong thing, to the wrong person.
Afterwards, she found herself wandering back out onto the sand and stood there, feet buried in the white grains, toes flexing slightly.
It felt... nice, to be here, she realized. Nice to be away from everything.
Even if she didn't want to be. Even if this felt futile and boring and something she never wanted to repeat.
Thinking things like that reminded her that she needed to call Pete. Let him know she was alive and well and currently far away.
Her cell phone appeared over her shoulder, and she nearly leapt from her skin.
An eyebrow was up as he studied her.
She fought the pounding in her chest, the adrenaline that had just slammed through her system, and concentrated on being right there. With her toes in the sand and her cell phone in front of her. She took it, half-smiled. "Thanks."
By the time she was breathing normally, Teal'c had wandered off again. Her fingers didn't shake as she dialed.
The voice that answered was bored. "Shanahan."
"Sam!" He sounded happy, now.
"Miss you." The words were out of her mouth before she could consider either their truthfulness or their impact.
"I miss you, too, darlin'." Papers shuffled, then he sighed, "Look, I have some leave coming up, I could come out there--"
"No." The negative was immediate, and she winced internally. "I'm fine. I miss you, but..."
How could she explain her reluctance to have him here? She couldn't even explain it to herself.
"Are you alone?"
"No. Teal'c's here." She looked down and began poking at the sand with the big toe of one foot. "He's... company." Comforting, she wanted to say. But Pete didn't know she needed comfort, and she would never tell him why.
"Ah." More papers shuffled, then it was his turn to sigh. "Not that I don't want to talk to you, Sam, but--"
"Right. You're working on a case. Sorry." She stopped the foot from drawing a heart and decided to start with hydrogen atoms.
"Yeah. Look, I'll call you sometime tomorrow, ok? We can talk for hours."
She chuckled, "You'll be bored."
A wave of tenderness washed over her. "Hey. Thanks."
She should call the General, she thought. And then she remembered that she wasn't speaking to him after he'd ganged-up with Daniel and the new doctor to exile her. A scowl crossed her face and she kicked at the growing naquadah atom, killing at least three of the neutrons and scattering the protons to the wind.
No, she wouldn't be calling General O'Neill. He'd just have to assume she was fine.
So would Daniel.
The sun was already up when Sam finally awoke enough to want to drag her suddenly lazy self from bed. Staring at the shafts of light which decorated her room, she wondered if they had all been wrong. They were probably expecting her to have nightmares and ghosts and visitations from memories that weren't her own (like they did after Jolinar). Well, hah. None. She'd slept like the dead, and felt completely rested now.
Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter did not get nightmares.
Although Sam Carter did, sometimes.
But not now. She smirked at the ceiling and sat up, stretching. It was a warm day already, and she hastily got up and shed her pajamas in favor of shorts and a tank top. Stepping to the open window she sighed in as the breeze danced around her now bare skin.
It was definitely a nice day.
She eyed the strip of beach she could see, and contemplated doing nothing. Again.
But her scalp suddenly itched, and she was reminded that she'd been laying in sand the day before. It was time for a shower.
Two days passed in this strangely calm and idyllic fashion. Two days where she had her feet up, her head back, and nothing on her brain. Except for nightly chats with Pete which became less and less about anything but trivialities. And dodging his attempts to come to see her.
She hadn't meant to snap and yell at Teal'c. It just happened late on the third afternoon.
"I should be back there."
Teal'c glanced up from the novel he was reading. Sam figured he'd borrowed it from Cassie. "You are exactly where you should be, Colonel Carter."
"Am I? Teal'c," irritated, feeling like her skin wanted to jump off of her bones, she stood, kicked at the sand. "I should be there, deciphering glyphs, helping them understand how the Antarctic outpost works. I shouldn't be lazing around on a beach for no reason at all!"
She stomped off towards the house, fuming.
Half a turn, and she stalked back, "Dr. Weir once told me I was the only authority they had on Ancient technology!" She snorted, kicked at her towel. "Well, look how long that lasted. As soon as Dr. Rodney 'I like dumb blondes' McKay shows up, she's all over him like white on rice! And I'm superfluous, unneeded. And, of course they need Daniel! Daniel, who never does anything wrong, and they--" She stopped abruptly, scared at the increasingly whiny tone of voice.
Teal'c was reading his book again.
She stared at him for a moment, suddenly struck by the fact that she sounded like a spoiled child, "Oh, god." Dropping to the sand, she ran her fingers through it, "I'm sorry, Teal'c, I..."
There was silence for a time, and then she sighed. "I think I'll go for a swim."
Fingers pulling at her skin, poking, sliding, then caressing. She wants to be sick, wants to throw up, but she can't. She has to finish this or she will never get off this damned rock.
He's so disgusting, raddled skin and breath that smells like dead animals, and his tongue--dear, god.
Sam jerked awake and stared up at the darkness above. Oh god. Shit. Jolinar. And, and--revulsion cascaded up her spine and she scrambled from the bed and ran.
Without bothering to flip on the light, she dropped to her knees and lost the lovely dinner Teal'c had cooked for them.
Jolinar, and fingers sliding over her skin, and--more heaves shook her and she retched until there was nothing left. Then she merely knelt there, her forehead on the rim, the porcelain cool against her heated skin.
This was what came of having time to think.
Of not having things that occupied her brain so completely that there was nothing left to process it with.
Someone was standing in the doorway. She didn't have to look to remember it was Teal'c, although for a nano-second, her brain decided it was Sokar and Apophis and Anubis combined.
Adrenaline tried to thread into her system. Stop that, she commanded herself.
There would be no shaking, no aftermath.
She refused to believe that this wasn't anything other than a normal nightmare.
"I'll be done in a moment," her voice was still thready.
"Take your time."
She turned her head and looked at him, "Don't baby me, Teal'c."
"I would never presume to do that to you, Colonel Carter."
"Good." Dragging herself to her feet was harder than she'd thought it would be. She stopped at the sink to gargle some mouthwash, then walked out into the corridor and headed for the main room. There was no way in hell she was going to sleep tonight.
At least, not now.
Teal'c, she noted, did not follow her.
She was thankful for that.
More white sand than you could shake a stick at.
Sam Carter was bored.
Correction, Sam Carter was god-damned double-dipped-chocolate-fudge-cookie bored. So bored she could almost eat red jell-o.
Aimlessly, she wandered around the house, trying to find something to do.
It was the first time she'd really investigated the place. The kitchen was a nice size, she decided, as she poked a head into the pantry and then riffled the drawers. Knives, forks, spoons, no pliers, no spare naquadah, no capacitors to play with. She heaved a large sigh and wandered past the dishwasher and refrigerator.
This was the seventh day since they'd gotten here and the fourth since the nightmares began. She wasn't sleeping for long anymore. And generally took cat naps in the afternoon, when the sun seemed to keep the memories at bay.
And that's what they were. Memories. Mostly hers, quite a few of Jolinar's more painful ones. And the few that Fifth had given her from her teammates who'd been tortured by the other replicators.
Memories dredged up and twisted and made to play, the immediacy drenching her in cold sweat and fear.
She hated them.
With a feeling of bitterness, she moved on to the living room. She was getting used to that with its giant TV set and cabinet full of random dvds and movies and sound system that was to die for, if you liked that sort of thing. The couch even had her shape in one corner, where she liked to curl up and watch infomercials until her mind shut down again.
The days all stayed the same.
Cold as ice, cold and wet, and she could feel replicators crawling across her skin while his fingers dug into her brain. "Hello, Samantha."
You left me behind.
Betrayal, anger, fear, and she could still feel the cold everywhere. Biting deep into her bones until she was helpless to do anything but scream, plead. "Please make it stop."
She didn't say that.
The irregularity intruded into the dream. "I didn't say that." Her own words echoed in the small bedroom, and her eyes snapped open. "He never broke me."
Scrambling from the bed, she headed for the bathroom. Waiting for the expected nausea, the expected moment with her head balanced on the cool porcelain. It didn't come. Her stomach remained quiescent, and Sam could suddenly feel her skin crawling off her body again.
Out. She wanted out of this confined space. Walking (almost running) warily out of the house, she stood on the porch. Further. The sand was cool on her bare feet, the grains itching only slightly. Farther. The water lapped gently at the edges of the sand, scalloping it in whorls and patterns that had a mathematical precision.
Her shirt was off, her shorts following, and then she was walking into the water, feeling it lap around her legs. Deeper.
When she couldn't stand, when the gentle swells were wafting her here and there, she stopped and flopped onto her back. Her spread arms and legs kept her afloat and she stared up at the star-studded sky. It was almost peaceful. Dark shadows and white pinpoints and colored nebulae that she might have visited. A giggle escaped her at the thought that the light from her visit wouldn't reach Earth for millions of years.
Still thinking, Sam, she thought, and closed her eyes. Her mind began to drift as her body drifted amongst the waves.
Cool sea water, warm salty air. Breathe in, breathe out.
Cold water on her warm and nightmare-heated skin.
Oh, so we're admitting they're nightmares, are we?
Cold was nice. Numbing.
Permeating every inch of her body, freezing, and this time the Colonel wasn't there to make bad jokes about his side-arm and share body heat. And she couldn't move, could feel a hundred little things crawling all over her skin. And she wanted to scream and claw her way out, away--
Teal'c's voice broke her from her paralysis and with a gasp, she started and sank under the waves.
Coughing and spluttering, she dragged herself back to the surface. "Teal'c."
"You appeared disturbed."
Disturbed didn't cover it, but she wasn't going to concentrate on that. Wasn't going to remember with a sudden clarifying guilt how easily she would have given up everything just to make the cold go away. "This is the women's locker room," she joked, her voice almost cracking.
He was floating not far from her, his gaze studying her face. A slight tilt told her he understood both the reference and the attempt to push away feelings for what it was.
Suddenly remembering that she was, in fact, naked, she instinctively wrapped her arms around herself. "Not that, uh... I sort of left my clothes behind."
An amused smile bowed his lips. "I could have left you to drown, I suppose."
"No, no, that's fine." She gestured with her head. "I just... should probably, uh, get dressed."
Teal'c seemed to consider this, his gaze turning away from her. "I would... wish you to do what makes you most comfortable."
"So, no heart to heart talk in the middle of the night while floating naked in the ocean?"
She had so meant that as a joke.
But the words took on a weight of their own, and Teal'c's gaze fastened on her sharply. "You are upset about the nightmares you're having."
"No, I'm pissed because I'm not in Antarctica."
"I've heard it's quite cold there this time of year."
A surprised snort escaped her. "You don't say." She looked away from the sudden knowing look in his eyes. "Look, Teal'c... I appreciate what you're trying to do, ok? But I... I don't want to talk about it. To anyone."
"O'Neill expressed much the same opinion to me."
Sam felt her eyebrows raise, "And when were the two of you discussing me?"
"We were not."
Blinking at the slight rebuke in his tone, it took her a moment to realize what he meant. And when she did, she blinked more. "Oh. They tried to get me to talk to MacKenzie, you know. And I just... I couldn't tell him anything." She wondered if she should feel guilty at suddenly being so completely self-centered.
Except that she was rarely selfish. So maybe it all balanced out in the end.
"So, Teal'c. How about going away so I can get out of here and put my clothes back on?"
He responded by gliding silently away from her. She envied him the easy movements in the water, and had to admire the way he cut his way through without disturbing more than a few ripples. Then she followed him, less silently, and with more effort.
Teal'c ambushed her with the phone two days after the night neither of them talked about. She assumed it was Pete.
Daniel. "Oh. It's you."
A chuckle echoed up the line to her. "Still sulking at me, Sam?" Daniel sounded completely relaxed with that idea. Like it was every day the woman he considered a sister disliked his guts.
"Come on, Sam, you know we were right. You'd been working too hard, and--"
"Daniel?" She interrupted, "I don't want to hear your stupid rationalizations."
"You should be happy you're not here."
"I'm not. I'm sad. And disappointed. Damnit, Daniel, Weir has said more than once that I'm the only person who can figure out this sort of crap. And I'm stuck--"
He interrupted her this time, "You're wrong. Well, not completely. Yes, we would love to have your help. But you needed a break, Sam. You'd been working too hard--even before Jack was frozen."
Oh. He so did NOT just go there. "That's not something I want to talk about."
They were both silent for a moment, then she sighed. "So... How goes it?"
"Well, we've made progress on some of the translations. This is definitely an outpost of the--uh, Smiths."
Smiths? Oh. She almost snickered. "Daniel? This is a secure line."
"Just, uh, checking."
Right. "Felger break anything yet?"
That did not surprise her. Suddenly, she was almost glad she wasn't there. "And Weir hasn't kicked him out yet?"
"Well, she's working on getting him transferred to the Pentagon."
Ooh. That could be nice. Felger having to work in the cut-throat dog-eat-dog world of the Pentagon. Yeah. She could sleep better at night knowing he was taking it--her brain was so not going there. "Ah."
"Really." They just wouldn't talk about freezing cold things, bugs, impenetrable force-fields, or the inevitable insomnia.
"I've got to go. Reickert's just come up with another interpretation for something we've been trying to decide on, and I need to go argue him to a standstill on why he's wrong."
"Yes, because the great Dr. Daniel Jackson can't be wrong." Ever.
"Ooo. Sarcasm. So, anything I should tell anyone?"
Tell Jack I said hi. The words didn't slip out. "Nope."
"Ah. Well, I'll tell Jack you said hi, then." She could SWEAR she heard a smirk.
Yeah. Little/older fake brothers so needed to die. Now. "Daniel..."
The click told her he'd hung up.
"Why..." She sighed. It really wasn't worth the effort to be pissed at him. Not, at least, until he was in range.
There were still bits of her she wasn't sure of.
It wasn't like her, she knew.
Normally, she dealt with things, and moved on. Logically, she could compartmentalize what Fifth had done to her, could set it into the box full of previous mental and physical torture, and be completely okay about it.
She would have, too, she was sure.
Except... Except there had been some things in what he'd done to her that made the way she looked at her life seem pathetic. But that was the simplistic logic of a machine, and human beings were never that straightforward.
Perhaps, in a way, MacKenzie had been right. She had needed time to think things through. To sift out the truth from the pain. She still wasn't planning on telling him that. If he ever asked.
The sun was shining on the second day of the second week (she facetiously wondered if it was the second hour, too) when Teal'c came to stand over her. "Colonel Carter."
"I'm busy." Being lazy. Or just being. She wasn't sure which.
"There is a phone call for you."
"Tell them I've gone to Bermuda."
"O'Neill says to inform you that he knows that, Colonel Carter."
Sam sighed. "Fine. Give me the phone."
"Carter." The General almost sounded tentative.
"Just wanted to--"
"I've been having nightmares." Sam blurted, then she froze, unable to believe the words had escaped her. She hadn't ever told Pete about them and here she was, telling her commanding officer. Yeah. Real smooth, Sam.
"Only natural." His voice was guarded now.
Something sank in her gut, and she forced her mind back to politeness. Back to reality and the mundane. "Sorry, sir. What did you want?"
"Nothing much. Just wanted to let you know that McKay will be using your lab while he packs his things." There was the sound of rustling paper, then he said, "They've found it, Carter. Atlantis."
"My lab, sir?"
"He seemed to think he'd need a staging area."
"Ah." Vaguely, she wondered if she was supposed to feel something other than a lack of feeling. Which was silly. "That's great, sir. I suppose Daniel's already asked to go?"
"Yes. And you're not going, either."
Of course not. She was a liability, a risk, a-- firmly stopping that thought, she tried to smile. "Ah. Well, I'll let you get back to work, sir."
"It's all right, sir. Here's Teal'c."
The jaffa eyed her, but took the phone and moved off, speaking to the General.
Sam stayed in the sand, staring up at the sky until the sun fell behind the horizon. Then she went in and ate dinner and went to bed. And tried not to think.
In the morning, Teal'c found her sitting on the couch, her arms wrapped around her knees.
"Would you like breakfast?"
"I want to go home." She looked up, meeting his gaze, then half-smiled. "But breakfast would be nice."
They ate waffles with syrup and butter, and Sam obscurely missed Daniel being there to pour a pound of cinnamon on his while drowning his toast in butter. She almost asked Teal'c to get the cinnamon out, but figured that was taking things a little too far.
Once finished, Sam took their plates to the sink and rinsed them. "I'm going to go pack."
He studied her for a moment, then nodded, "I shall arrange our transportation."
"Thank you, Teal'c." She smiled. "I know I haven't... been the best company."
"No." A slight smile touched his lips, "But it's understandable, Colonel Carter. I have not, on occasion, been the best of company."
"We're all childish, sometimes?"
Sam smiled at him, surprised to feel that she was almost genuinely happy, this time. "I'll go pack."
Her clothing wasn't all clean, but she packed it anyway. In doing so, she felt as if she were packing away her nightmares. Sam wondered, as she eyed her toothbrush and tossed it, whether she'd be leaving the terror here. Probably not. She had eight years of violence and emotion to work through. It had taken almost two weeks to sort out being tortured by Fifth.
A shiver went up her spine, and she packed away the horror with her socks.
Maybe it would lessen, in time.
Superceded by other things. The joy of discovery, command, even running for her life in rain and mud.
At least she'd be laughing when Daniel fell into a puddle.