Author's Notes: First, my apologies to anyone with Alerts on. I tried to keep the number of chapters low so I didn't spam anyone, but there are some natural breaks in this story I wanted to emphasize. This is the Sequel To Monkey Screaming. Part Three, "Silk and Chains" can be found at Heliopolis 2.
Oh...and I'm not joking about the rating. It's not NC-17 'cause no one actually has sex, but these are adults in teenage bodies and the issues they are dealing with are adult in nature. The language is also on the low-side of hard-core.
The stands were empty.
Ignoring the burning in her side, she ran for the Gate. That was how she thought of it these days. Running for the Gate. Her brain remembered, even if her body did not, what it had felt like. What she would need to be capable of doing. What she could not afford to lose.
The burn escalated, and she drew a practiced breath, forcing her body past rebellion. They had run further on P3R-478, carrying full packs and loaded weapons. It had been colder, too. A bloody bitch goddess of a world that had almost killed them half a dozen times. Running had been their only hope.
She lengthened her stride.
Two casually dressed teens in jeans and t-shirts wandered past the stands to lean on the fence separating the rough wooden benches from the school track. Hot fury and something she refused to name spiraled perilously close to the edge of her control. Rage carried her past the two of them: the one who knew her best, and the one who should have known better
Her feet slammed into the beaten dirt track, the pain almost welcome. At least it was real. She pushed herself to go faster, willing her body to accept the fact that she knew what she was doing. She was not even close to the edge of her limits, no matter what it felt like. She was hurt, not injured.
Her watch beeped, signaling the end of her running time. Sucking in what air she could, she threw herself into the last lap, pushing as hard as she could go. Her ribs screamed and her vision darkened dangerously as she barreled past the two watchers and slowed to a halt near the end of the stands. Sweat rolled down her face as muscles stretched to the breaking point shuddered and twitched, hovering on the edge of outright cramp as they adjusted to the sudden cessation of demand.
She stretched slowly, carefully, walking aimlessly in pointless circles to keep the blood from pooling. She shivered as the early morning breeze slid over her flesh. Before she could turn towards the benches, she became aware of someone stepping up beside her. Turning her head, she saw Jon's hand outstretched toward her. She stopped abruptly, and he danced aside barely in time to avoid running her over.
Bitterly she eyed the jersey dangling from his fingers. A harmless gesture of caring, she thought. Perfectly harmless, and perfectly worthless. Brown eyes skimmed over her body as if looking for injury, then politely returned to her face. Before he could say anything, his gaze was sucked past her shoulder and she did not even bother turning. It would be Daniel, also arriving late.
"You picked your extracurricular activity yet?" Jon asked, gaze bouncing back to her face.
She grimaced. As far as she was concerned, that was one of the most insane ideas Harper had come up with. Learn to socialize with other people, her ass. She did not socialize with her team as it was. The summer school courses they had taken to ease themselves back into the high school routine were bad enough. School officially started in another two weeks and Grade Ten would see them spread across different classrooms and different teachers. Harper wanted to reduce the time they had left with each other?
"Come on Alex, we have to reacquaint ourselves with the teenage mentality."
His hands scribed quotes in the air as his voice deepened dramatically.
"I think you're reacquainted enough for all of us," she heard herself say before she could censor herself. Military training cringed, but that same part of her was abruptly and defiantly glad. It crouched and waited eagerly for his response. Something. Anything that would let her see somebody other than this stranger wearing his body.
He frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Way too politely.
Tearing the jacket from his hand, she jamming her arms into it, pride and practice overcoming disappointed anger.
"It means I'm tired of wasting my time on people who can't even be bothered to show up," she snapped. Twenty minutes to shower and get to class. She did not even have time to argue with him. A fact he knew all too well.
Daniel tossed a gym bag onto the nearest bench and strolled forward, arms swinging as he stretched out in preparation for a run. She had a partial glimpse of his startled face as she pushed past him. She paused just long enough to snap an angry, "Nice of you to join us," on her way to the showers. She heard a questioning note in the rumble of his voice, heard Jon reply, but did not bother to turn back to the three men who should have been the most important people in her world.
Panic shivered beneath the iron control she used to hold herself in place. It had all been going so well, at first. Now it was falling apart, and the harder she tried to hang on to who she knew herself to be, the worse it got. Her family. Her team. Jon, Will, and Daniel. The one who knew her best. The one who should know better. And the one who could care less.
Twenty minutes later, life was not improving.
The water heater in the girl's shower room was broken and her hair blower had died. She stared at it with fury, wet hair hanging in sopping, dripping hanks around her face. Slamming her brush on the counter she ignored the odd looks from the girls getting ready for gym class and yanked the tin-snips from the first aid kit she obsessively carried these days. She supposed it was appropriate that the first patient to benefit was her mangled identity. Blades designed to cut metal and bone sliced through her hair before she could reconsider When it was done, she found some of her rage bleeding away as an almost familiar face appeared in the mirror.
Not exactly her face, but at least it was close to military.
A quick rub with her towel and she stared hard at her reflection. The short spiky cut revealed by the silvered glass was not cute or sassy. The blunt, awkward edges framed her eyes and lent her face a no-nonsense toughness not possible with long blonde hair. It had been a stupid idea, she decided, to grow it out. For better or worse, this was who she was. It had been for a very long time now, she realized.
Jon could damn well get used to it.
Tossing her bag over her shoulder, she strode from the room. Speak of the devil. She jerked to a halt as she caught sight of the lanky figure leaning casually against the far wall. The bell rang and the hallway cleared of jostling bodies. She glared at him, resenting the fact that she was late. Resenting that she had waited for him. Not Will. Not Daniel.
His eyes flicked briefly to her butchered hair, then ignored the change as unimportant. Of course. He straightened his spine, pushing away from the wall and pinned her with a deliberately calm stare that should have made her feel better, but did not. There was nothing of who he was supposed to be behind it. Her resentment and anger rose anew, an ever-present slow burn that defined her emotional state these days. Something in her warned her she was spinning out of control, but the part of her he had helped nourish kept screaming to push push push until he pushed back and revealed a weakness.
"You want to explain what that was, Alex?"
She eyed him consideringly. "You know what? I don't think I do," she said, moving to brush past him. He reached for her arm, letting go when she turned on him with a snarl. His hands went up reflexively to show open palms but now he was glaring too. About damn time, she thought with some satisfaction.
"You've been chewing my ass all week. Now you're starting on Daniel? I want to know why."
Her facial repertoire these days all seem to have been learned from him. Her eyebrows rose insolently. "Do you care?"
He rolled his eyes. "Jesus Alex, of course I care. We're a team."
"A team." she repeated thoughtfully, as if she had never tasted the words before.
He sighed, exasperated. "Yes, Alex. A team. My team. Your team. Our team. Or did I imagine the whole reason you did this in the first place?"
Those words were beginning to ring hollow. The words she had been longing to say leapt to her tongue and this time she did not try to censor them. "They're dismantling your team in front of you, Colonel," She practically spat the accusation in disgust. "And you don't seem to notice or care."
His eyes narrowed dangerously. Finally.
"Don't call me that," she said warningly.
An expression of sadness crossed his face. "You know it has to go down this way." he said softly.
She bared her teeth in something only Teal'c would have called a smile. "What happened this morning?"
The expression on his face altered slightly and he hesitated, then shrugged. "We got hung up. Early morning lab class."
Hung up. While she waited.
"I thought you and Will weren't allowed to be lab partners anymore," she said bluntly.
He grinned unexpectedly, bright emotion cresting with evil glee. "This was not exactly an official assignment. More like extra credit. Except we don't get the credit."
The sheer delight in his eyes as he contemplated whatever experiment the two of them had cooked up was almost enough to make her want to forgive him. Almost. Part of her desperately wanted to laugh. But he had blown off today's run to do it. The same way he had missed yesterday's run to help his real lab partner finish a report and missed Saturday's hand-to-hand class to see a movie with Daniel.
He was still training. He was just not training with her. Daniel missed more runs than he made and even Will was finding it easier to skip training sessions in favor of whatever devilry Jon invented for the two of them.
They were adapting nicely, she acknowledged bitterly.
She could not even explain how she felt to Harper. He thought she needed to move on. Create something beyond the team. She had tried to explain. She was trying. She knew things had to change. But lately her dreams were filled with screaming, and she had stopped looking in the mirror for fear she would see her reflection melting. Dorothy lost and broken.
She ignored the pleading look in his eyes. The one that begged her to forget the running. Forget the hand-to-hand. Forget everything she was supposed to be and come play Susie-Homemaker. Or at least her teenage equivalent. He was so close, standing there watching her. All she had to do was reach out her hand, and she could touch him.
He was right there, but she could no longer feel him. She could no longer see him, and the woman she was trying to hang on to, needed him. Needed to see the person he had forced her to become reflected back at her. She could give up being Samantha.
She would not give up Carter.
Every instinct told her she was teetering on the edge of a cliff. She was about to lose her balance, and if she reached for him, nothing would stop her as she fell screaming into the darkness below. Fingers of will she did not remember creating tightened her grip on what she knew. On who she was, refusing to give in. She knew. She knew she was the one standing on the outside, refusing to come inside. She did not know why she was fighting. Hell, these days, she didn't know who she was fighting. But be damned if she would let them win.
"Alex...?" he said softly, as she slung her gymbag and headed away from him.
She paused, turning her head just enough to show him she was listening, but not enough to meet his eyes.
"Don't call me that," she said.