Take My Hand
By Gen Varel
Relevant Episodes: In the Line of Duty, The Tok'Ra I & II
Summary: Sam confronts her buried memories and finally accepts her new self.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are not my property. I have written this story for the enjoyment of Stargate SG-1 fans all over the world. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary gain is expected.
Jack was already sick of this planet. He was pretty sure they would find no signs of humans around, given the state of the area around the gate, and he was tempted to end the mission early, gather up his team, and return home. He had been irritable all day, not in the mood for a hot, humid climate. But here he was, trying to be professional and complete the planet's survey to Hammond's satisfaction.
"Wow!" he heard Captain Carter exclaim from fifty feet away.
"What is it?" he asked dutifully, not really that interested. What she normally found fascinating usually left him wanting to go to sleep. However, he started to approach her obligingly. It was his job, after all.
"I'm not positive, but it looks like spider webs," she responded, pulling at something from the bark of a tree using her P-90.
He knew it! What could possibly be so interesting about that? "Really? We better radio Teal'c and Daniel so they can come running. They wouldn't want to miss seeing spider webs!" he commented sarcastically as he approached her.
Sam just gave him a patient look, "Just come over and see this. This is not like anything you've seen before," she requested tolerantly.
Jack finally stood by her side, looking up at the trees looming over his captain. The trunks were covered with a substance that, indeed, looked like spider webs, but much thicker, and bluish in color.
"This stuff is really strong. I was unable to tear any of it away, and it feels very flexible and soft, like silk," she commented, obviously enthralled by the discovery.
"Humph!" Jack responded, still bored to tears. He made a show of inspecting the material, touching it with his own weapon, making interested sounds, and frowning in concentration. "Nope! I got nothing! Let's go back!" he finally said, eliciting a sigh of exasperation from his captain.
"Aren't you even a little curious about what could have made this?" she was asking him, following him as he retraced their steps.
"Not really, Captain. And, please, don't tell me you want to go find out!" he begged, still walking.
"Of course not! Why would I? It's just a material that could be studied and that may serve countless purposes back on Earth. I'm sure those who invented glass and plastic also probably did it just for the heck of it, not because anyone would ever want to use…" Sam was rambling on behind her CO, obediently following Jack against her will. He stopped and turned abruptly, and she collided with his chest, taken off guard.
"Please, Captain, leave sarcasm for the professionals, OK? You don't do it very well," he scolded her firmly.
"Yes, Sir," she automatically responded, a little worried that he may be seriously upset by her lack of respect. He was, after all, her superior officer, and she had no business questioning his orders. She looked away, and Jack could swear he saw a pout start to take shape on her face. But she quickly caught herself and it was gone now.
Her contrite look made him feel guilty and he relented, mentally kicking himself the whole time, "OK, you win! We can search the area for a while, but if we don't find anything within half an hour, we are heading back. Deal?" he proposed.
"Deal!" she smiled. "He's such a softy, really," she thought, and she happily started back to the trees.
Jack saw her go with a deep sigh, "Scientists! Beware of all scientists! Especially pouting female scientists!" he was mumbling to himself, following her grumpily.
Time was almost up, and they still had found nothing, just more and more of the same substance, leading them away from the trees and onto the edge of a ravine. At least they were heading back towards the gate, to Jack's relief. Sam looked down and saw that the bottom was not that deep, and that there was nothing of interest there. She then looked across from the hole and skimmed the horizon. Again, nothing.
"Anything, Carter?" Jack asked from a short distance, where he was checking in the opposite direction.
"No, Sir," she answered, frustrated. "I guess we should head back," she admitted, starting to walk away from the ravine, looking back at the colonel.
Jack was looking away, checking out more of the material hanging from trees near him, when he suddenly heard Sam cry out. He turned to her instantly, but saw nothing where she had been standing just seconds before. "Carter!" he shouted, and started to run towards the ravine, fearing she had fallen over.
"Carter!" he yelled, looking down the hole, but finding no captain down there.
"Sir!" he heard her voice call out.
"Where the hell are you?" he asked, looking around him.
"I'm down here," she answered, then coughed a couple of times. "I fell down a hole on the ground… watch where you step!" she warned.
Jack followed the sound of her voice, carefully looking down where he stepped, and realized that there were a number of holes on the ground a few feet apart from each other. They looked like they had been dug out by some kind of animal, and covered lightly by debris.
"Keep talking, Carter! There're more than one hole around here!" he ordered her, walking carefully.
"I'm down here! You're almost on top of me, I can hear you," she responded.
Jack finally spotted her P-90 on the ground and found the right hole. He kneeled by it and peered down. He could barely make her out, just enough light penetrating the deep tunnel-like hole to be able to see her face looking up. "Are you all right?" he asked worriedly. She had fallen quite a distance.
"I think so, although I can't move much. It's kind of tight down here. Aside from the tunnel on top of me, there is one other tunnel perpendicular to it, leading away from the ravine. I can tell because I can see a little light coming directly from my right. It's really dark to my left, and it seems to go deeper underground." She coughed again, evidently bothered by the dirt and debris still falling on her.
"Let me drop a rope and I'll pull you out," Jack reassured her, taking the length of rope out of his pack.
"It may be easier to use the side hole, Sir. This upper tunnel is too narrow for me to climb, and I'm much closer to the one on the ravine's wall. I'll just crawl to it and you can pull me out," she suggested.
"OK, let me tie this down to a tree and I'll lower myself into the ravine. Start crawling," he agreed, and walked over to the nearest tree to tie the rope.
Sam started to crawl towards the light on her right, trying not to think of what kind of animal could have created the tunnels. She was only a couple of feet away from the end of the tunnel when she realized the hole was much too small for her to go through, and that there were some roots blocking her way out. She could already hear Jack outside, near the opening.
"Sir! Over here!" she called out, poking a hand out of the hole and waving. She felt his hand grip hers right away.
"Sorry, Sir. I didn't realize that the opening was so narrow. I guess we'll have to try to make it bigger," she apologized, feeling more than a little stupid.
"Well, that shouldn't be hard. The ground is soft and you're no Teal'c," he responded good-naturedly. Sam smiled in the darkness and started to push dirt out of the hole, but she then suddenly froze. She thought she heard something moving behind her, and she felt the hairs on her neck stand on end, spooked.
"Ah… Sir?" she called Jack, her voice thick with apprehension. "I think I have company. Could you dig a little faster?"
Jack didn't like the sound of that and picked up his pace, now pulling out his knife to cut away the roots that were in the way. Sam had started to push dirt out frantically, her small hands inefficient in the narrow tunnel. Jack pulled out his radio, now sincerely worried about their situation, "Teal'c, Daniel, respond!" he called anxiously.
"Daniel, here! Where are you guys? We've been waiting by the gate for the last twenty minutes!" he complained.
"Shut up and listen! Start running southwest to come meet us. Carter's in trouble! I'm hanging down a ravine trying to dig her out. Follow the rope!" he ordered.
"Copy!" Daniel responded immediately, and started running behind an already sprinting Teal'c.
"Colonel, please!" Jack heard Sam's nervous voice from inside the hole. "It's getting closer!" She sounded frightened. Not knowing what was behind her was the scariest part, and she tried to move her arm down her side to try to reach one of her weapons, but the tunnel's narrowness prevented her from doing so.
"Relax, Captain. You know I'll get you out. It's probably just a chipmunk," he joked, trying to settle her.
"Ahh!" she shrieked, "Something's got my boot! It's pulling me back!" she shouted, now terrified. Jack realized she had taken a hold of a thick root and was trying to hang on, her knuckles white. He instinctively grasped her wrist, holding on to her.
"TEAL'C! TEAL'C!" Jack screamed in panic, feeling his grip start to give. Whatever was pulling Carter away from the hole was extremely strong. He could see how scared she was, her huge blue eyes even larger in the darkness.
"JAAACK! Where are you?" he heard Daniel shouting from the distance. Jack was frantically trying to hang on to Sam's wrists with both hands now, his boots against the ravine's wall. Her hands were wrapped around his wrists in desperation and he was relying on the rope to hold his weight.
"DOWN HERE! HURRY!" he called back, hoping they could see the rope from where they were.
"AHHHHGH!" Sam screamed suddenly, a grimace of pain on her face.
"Carter! Hang on!" he shouted at her, feeling her hands start to loosen up.
"I… can't. It stung me! My leg…" she was saying, her voice growing weaker by the second.
"No! Don't let go! Carter!" he entreated, but he was loosing her. Her eyes glazed over and closed, her hands fell from his wrists, and she went completely slack.
"TEEEAL'C!" Jack screamed again. He could hear noises from behind Sam's inert body. Screeching sounds that he thought sounded infuriated.
"O'Neil!" he heard from above, and saw Teal'c looking down on him from the edge of the ravine.
"Teal'c! There's a hole on the surface where she fell through! You need to block it! Something's pulling her away from me… I can't hold on to her much longer!" he ordered, still managing to hold on to Sam. His sweaty hands, however, were slipping.
"I found it!" he heard Daniel shout. At that moment, a sudden, strong pull made him lose his grip on one of her wrists, making him lose his balance and scratch his face against the ravine's opening, still holding on to Sam's right hand, now well inside the opening.
"I'm losing her! Try to block the thing from retreating!" he was shouting frantically.
Daniel was scrambling to find big enough rocks to drop down the hole, but there was nothing that could effectively block the tunnel. Teal'c had quickly started to lower himself down the ravine, trying to reach Jack to help him pull Sam out, having reached the same conclusion.
"NOOO!" Jack screamed, feeling Sam's hand slip further out of his grip. He knew he could not hold on if the thing pulled again, which it did a few seconds later. "SAAAM!" he yelled, losing her hand, horrified at seeing her body being swiftly pulled deeper into the tunnel. He soon could see no sign of her. "PULL ME UP! NOW!" he ordered Teal'c, who was now half way down the ravine. The jaffa quickly scrambled back up and started to help Jack up.
"I saw it! It went through here! It was dragging Sam!" Daniel was shouting at them, kneeling over the hole Sam had fallen through. "Sorry, Jack! There was nothing big enough to block the tunnel."
"There are other holes around here! Be careful! We have to find where it took her! They all probably lead to the nest!" Jack warned them, checking out the other holes. They were all deep, but some were much bigger than others.
"O'Neill! This one seems large enough to accommodate us!" Teal'c called, kneeling over a particularly large hole, much farther away from the ravine.
"Daniel! Go back to the gate and dial Earth. Request a rescue team and a medical team. Then bring them back here. Teal'c and I are going down this hole, you got it?" Jack had a hold of the archeologist's shoulder, shaking him unconsciously as he shouted instructions.
"Got you, Jack!" Daniel answered, and started running toward the gate as if the hounds from hell were on his heels.
"I'll go first!" Jack told Teal'c, who had already tied his rope to the nearest tree and was on the edge of the hole. The jaffa just nodded and handed Jack the rope. The colonel wasted no time lowering himself down the hole, his flashlight in his left hand and his knife between his teeth.
Daniel had never run so fast in his life. His side was hurting, but he kept going until he reached the gate. The dial up seemed to take an eternity, but he was ready with his GDO by the time the wormhole was established. Moments later, he landed feet first on the ramp back at the SGC, holding his side and bending over in pain, out of breath.
"We need a… medical team… and a… rescue team… stat!" he managed to yell at a bewildered Hammond, who was staring at him from the control room. The commander did not hesitate and picked up the phone to order both teams to report to the gate. He then ran down to Daniel, who had collapsed on the ramp, trying to catch his breath.
"What is it? What's going on?" he asked the archeologist in consternation.
Daniel looked up at him from the ramp, panting, and tried to explain, "It's Sam…" he took a deep breath and continued, "She fell through a hole… and was taken by something… we don't know what… some kind of animal. I only saw a big… dark shape… I couldn't… make out what it was."
Daniel was now being offered some water by one of the soldiers at the gate, and he drank thankfully. Moments later, the two teams ran into the gate, got quick instructions from Hammond to follow Daniel, and started jumping through the puddle, the young man in the lead.
Sam was running recklessly through a dense jungle. She was terrified, but she did not know of what. She just knew she had to get away; she could not let it catch her! She had a hard time breathing, but she kept running until, suddenly, she found herself on open land, staring out at a large plain. Her fear instantly dissipated. She felt she was now safe, and she continued on, walking slowly.
She could see a figure in the distance. It looked like a person standing by a cliff. She took a few more steps and found herself much, much closer to the previously distant figure. She could see now that it was a very young woman. She was dressed in a flowing, amber color robe that molded to her petite figure as the wind blew against her. Her long, golden colored, straight hair flew behind her like a banner. Sam thought the young woman looked familiar, but she could also swear she had never seen her before.
Samantha did not dare to approach any further. She was somehow wary of the stranger, although she did not look in any way threatening. Sam had always felt self-assured in her ability to defend herself, but now she felt strangely vulnerable, defenseless. She started to back away, but the woman turned to her calmly and she instinctively stopped, held by dark, blue eyes that seemed to look into her soul.
The two women just stared at each other for the longest time, taking in every detail about each other. Sam found the woman/girl beautiful, in a gentle, unassuming way. A pretty, but fairly common face, was stunning in the sweetness of her countenance. Old wisdom shone in those dark eyes, and the young woman's half smile was friendly, making her start to relax.
"We've been waiting for you, Sam," the young woman finally spoke. Sam was surprised, and a little worried. "Don't fret, you are in no danger. We just want to talk, that's all." The stranger had not moved from her spot, but now Sam found herself only steps away from her. "Come," her placid voice entreated, "Come sit down with me."
Again, Sam did not remember having moved a muscle, but found herself seated next to the young woman, who was again looking out from the edge of the cliff. They were both perched on a large rock, and Sam could see a vast, fertile valley at their feet. There were many small towns, busy farms, and distant, large cities that shone under the sun. It was almost as if they could see a whole planet contained in the valley. It was a beautiful sight. "This was my home, Sam. I was happy here as a child. We had it all… then one day it was gone." The woman sounded unbearably sad, and her blue eyes rested on Sam's face, her unshed tears causing Sam pain, although she did not know her. Or did she?
"What's your name?" Sam asked tentatively.
"Rosha" the woman answered sweetly. Sam knew that name.
"Rosha" she repeated in her mind, trying to remember, and sudden realization hit her. Jolinar's host! Martouf's love! He had spoken of her.
Rosha smiled at Sam, endlessly patient. "You know me well, Sam. You will remember, when you are ready," she said gently, and Sam felt reassured, somehow knowing Rosha would never lie to her.
Jack was crawling on his stomach, still inside the now wider tunnel, with Teal'c following him closely. His zat gun was now in his right hand, his flashlight in his left, and the knife tucked safely away. "It's a good thing we're not claustrophobic," he thought. He could see ahead by the light of his torch, and he could tell that the tunnel was getting even wider as they went on. They would occasionally pass under perpendicular tunnels that let to the surface. Whatever this thing was, it liked having options.
Teal'c suddenly grabbed Jack's boot, "O'Neill, listen!" he said quietly. Jack peeled his ears and paid attention. They could hear noises from up ahead, and Jack turned off his flashlight for a moment. A swooshing sound could be heard from a distance, as well as an occasional scratching sound. In the darkness, Jack could now tell that there was some light ahead.
"I think we are close, Teal'c," he warned. Both men had their weapons ready, and proceeded to put away their flashlights. Jack continued crawling cautiously, trying not to make a sound. He slowly crept up an incline and the tunnel widened considerably, enough so that Teal'c could crawl up to his side. They reached an edge and very carefully peeked over it, grateful for the light that was pouring into the large cavern from numerous holes in the ceiling.
They both were horrified at what they saw at the bottom of the cave. It looked like a spider, but it had twelve legs, and it was the size of a St. Bernard. The first set, closer to its head, looked almost like hands, with at least ten long fingers on each. The second set looked like lobster's pincers, but they could tell that that's not all they were. Something was pouring out of those pincers, something white that looked like spider's silk. The almost round, blue/black body of the "spider" looked hard, like a crab's shell. Little hairs covered the head, and it seemed to have about ten eyes, spread all over it. At least, Jack thought they were eyes. They were yellow in color, and looked moist.
But the most terrifying sight of all was not the beast itself, but what lay at its feet. It was Sam's body, being slowly covered by the white substance the spider was spewing out. She was being held by two of the large legs, and she was being turned as more and more material kept piling on her. They could barely see her face, but Jack could tell, by how her head flapped around as she was turned, that she was still unconscious. "Thank God for small favors," he thought.
"O'Neill, this is how the animal saves food for later. There are other cocoons in the cave," Teal'c whispered, pointing at the different wrapped bodies in various corners of the cave. It seemed like different sized animals had fallen in the spider's traps.
"What do you think, T.? Distract the thing and shoot it? It needs to be away from Sam, we don't want to hit her. We don't know in what condition she's in," Jack suggested.
"Agreed," the jaffa responded. "I will distract the beast, you shoot it." Teal'c did not hesitate and started to move cautiously out of the tunnel, careful not to make any sounds yet. He moved away from Jack trying to circle the animal, which was still busy working on cocooning Sam. When he was in position, he looked at Jack and nodded.
Jack then got out of the tunnel, crawling in the opposite direction, and got as close as he dared to the spider. He made sure there was no chance of hitting Sam. He looked at Teal'c and nodded. At this, the jaffa stood up abruptly and screamed loudly, raising his hands like an attacking bear.
The animal reacted promptly, dropping Sam's body with a thud and turning on Teal'c, its pincers now up in attack mode. Long spines were now sticking out of them. Jack suspected one or both of those spines had been used on Sam when she had screamed that she had been stung. He thought the thing looked like a bull, its feet scratching the ground as if preparing to rush the screaming jaffa. Instead, Jack saw the animal take an unexpected leap toward his friend, landing only feet away from him. Jack fired his zat gun immediately, once, twice, three times, but the thing was still there. It was, however, momentarily stunned.
"RUN, TEAL'C!" Jack screamed, realizing the zat gun was not an effective weapon against this particular foe. He dropped the energy weapon on the ground and pulled out his handgun. Teal'c had wasted no time, which was wise, since the spider shook itself off and leaped again, blocking his way. Teal'c shot at it again with his own zat gun twice, but only to give himself enough time to pull out his handgun, just as Jack had done.
The spider was screeching loudly now, and its legs were twitching in rage. It was, however, hesitant to attack again. The thing was not stupid. The energy weapons had hurt it, and it seemed to be assessing its adversaries. Jack wasted no time. He fired at it repeatedly, hitting it with every shot. The spider screeched even louder and turned to leap at Jack, but Teal'c started shooting at it as well, hitting it with just as much accuracy.
Both Jack and Teal'c emptied their guns into the beast and replaced their clips without pause. They were both worried that the thing did not seem to be dying. It was still screeching in fury, but it had been slowly backed into a corner of the cavern, the two men approaching it carefully while they shot at it. They were aiming at its head now, and they finally stopped ten feet from it, ready to move in case it leaped again. Suddenly, the screeching stopped, and the spider seemed to get smaller, pulling in its legs and becoming very still, yellow liquid oozing from countless wounds.
Jack and Teal'c looked at each other warily, both unwilling to let down their guard just yet. "Teal'c, keep an eye on it. I'll go check on Carter," Jack ordered, anxious to tend to his captain. "Indeed," Teal'c responded in a growl, not taking his eyes away from the beast.
Jack ran to Sam's body, now completely covered in the same substance she had been so mesmerized by earlier. Her eyes were closed and she was deathly pale, and for a moment Jack thought they had lost her. He was able to feel for a pulse through the stuff covering her neck, it being fairly flexible. He was immensely relieved when he found one, although faint and slow.
"Is she all right, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked the colonel, his eyes still on the animal.
"She's alive, Teal'c, but her pulse is very weak. We have to get her out of here," he answered, looking around for an exit. He thought he saw one and he moved away from Sam's side to go investigate.
Teal'c was momentarily distracted by the movement, and looked to see where Jack was going. The moment he did that, the beast jumped, landing on top of the jaffa with a screech. Teal'c automatically dropped his gun and grabbed the threatening spines trying to reach him. He struggled to hold them away from him, and heard O'Neill fire his weapon repeatedly, closer and closer. Jack, two feet away from him, finished emptying his gun into the monstrous animal. "DIE, YOU DISGUSTING BUG!" he was yelling at it, his patience gone.
"O'Neill! You can stop now," the jaffa said calmly, pushing the heavy animal off himself with both arms and feet. It landed upside down, now completely still, its legs open and stiff. Teal'c just stood over it, looking down in disdain, and gingerly touching his badly scratched chest. Jack, however, pulled out his large knife and leaned over the thing. "I'm making damn sure this time," he said. He started hacking at the dead bug and did not stop until he saw the head roll away from the body. When he turned back to Teal'c, the jaffa was looking at him with a typical raised eyebrow. "Now it's dead!" Jack stated, putting away his knife and heading to the same spot he had meant to investigate earlier.
Daniel thought he was going to die, victim of a burst heart. He had jogged all the way to the spot where he had left Jack and Teal'c, the two teams right behind him. When they arrived, they saw no sign of the two men other than the rope they had used to lower themselves into the hole.
"JAACK! TEEAL'C!" he screamed into the hole, hoping to hear a response. The two teams dropped their burdens and spread out, searching for the missing people.
"Over here!" one of the soldiers yelled from about four hundred meters down the hill minutes later. Everyone ran to the man, who was now helping Teal'c carry a strange package. It looked like a light blue sack, but in the shape of a person. Daniel was appalled to realize it was Sam, completely wrapped in some unrecognizable substance. Only her face could be seen through a thinner layer of the stuff, and she did not look good. There were scrapes on her forehead, cheeks and nose from being dragged through the tunnels, and she was white as a sheet.
"Is she…?" he started to ask Jack, his eyes pleading for a positive answer.
"She's alive, Daniel, but she needs help fast!" Jack answered, hiking quickly. When Daniel realized what Jack was carrying in his hands, he jumped back, disgusted. "What the heck is that?" he cried.
"This is what took her. It's part of it, anyway. The rest of it was too heavy to carry. We thought Doc might want to inspect the head. It injected Sam with something. It's probably some kind of venom. Teal'c has one of its pincers. It's sure to have some of the stuff in it," Jack was talking as he walked. One of the medics had checked Sam quickly and stated that they needed to remove the stuff before they could help her. Jack had informed him that knives were no good against it, so they were headed to the gate as quickly as possible.
Daniel decided he had heard enough and lagged behind, walking next to Teal'c and the medic carrying the stretcher on which Sam's body now lay. He hardly took his eyes off her face the whole way to the stargate, praying that she would not stop breathing before they made it home.
Rosha was looking out towards her old home, the soft wind playing with her long hair, her eyes dreamy as she spoke to Sam, "I loved Martouf from afar for many years. I was too young when I first met him, only twelve years old. He was already a young man, a studious, serious, gentle, and beautiful young man. I loved him from the moment I met him, but he would just pat my head and smile at me when we saw each other. My mother knew of my feelings and spoke to his parents to arrange our marriage, but Martouf refused. He insisted that I was too young to know my mind; that I should wait to decide. But from that day on, he looked at me differently. Then he went away to study, and I did not see him for six years. But I thought of him constantly.
When he returned, I spoke to my mother again. She was skeptical, but she arranged for us to meet. When he saw me, when I saw the look in his eyes, I knew he was mine. So I just went up to him and said, 'So, are you ready to get engaged now?' And he laughed. Then he embraced me and told me, 'I have thought of you constantly for the past six years'"
Rosha was smiling, and turned to look at Sam, who was also smiling, listening attentively. "So you two were married?" Sam asked the gentle woman, and her sweet smile faltered.
"No. Then they came, the Goa'uld in their terrible ships, and destroyed our future together, our families, our world." Rosha sighed, then looked out again at the valley below, and it was now a barren, desolate place. Where shining cities had stood, there were only ruins left. The little towns were no more." Sam looked at the desolation and felt tears come to her eyes, anguish in her heart, feeling a terrible loss.
"Some of us escaped. We dug out the long buried gate, and went through it, not really knowing where we were going. But we were together, Martouf and I, and that was all that mattered to us. Many others came with us. Our leader was Sarush, one of Martouf's teachers, a wise and learned woman. Only later did we realize that she was much more than that. She was host to Selmac, and she had been hiding in our planet for many years. She eventually led us to the Tok'Ra, after searching for them for a long time. We joined their cause. We had nothing left except each other, and our hate of the Goa'uld."
"Selmac! My father's symbiote! I met Sarush before she died!" Sam was so engrossed in Rosha's story, that she had not realized they were not sitting on the rock any more. They were now walking through a forest, and Rosha looked older, but still young. Her hair was not as long as before, and there was a terrible sadness in her eyes. The young woman continued her story, "There were two leaders amongst the Tok'Ra that became our mentors. One was an older man named Karim, and the other one was a middle-aged woman named Malena. They had been together for a very long time. They were hosts to Lantash and Jolinar."
"Is that why you became host to Jolinar? Because she was your mentor?" Sam asked curiously.
"No. We were two amongst many that were mentored by these two Tok'Ra. Garshaw, whom you have also met, the leader of the Tok'Ra, had decided on two other, more experienced couple, to replace Karim and Malena when the time came. But then we were attacked. Our hideout was found, and many of us died trying to escape. Karim was mortally wounded, and his intended host had been killed. Martouf volunteered to be Lantash' host when it was obvious that he would die along with Karim. I protested. I didn't want to lose him, but he was adamant. He felt it was his duty. I am a pretty jealous woman and we had a terrible fight! I refused to share him with Malena," Rosha smiled widely this time, and her face changed dramatically. Where before she looked sad, she now looked mischievous.
Sam smiled back at her, but she was eager to know the rest, "So what happened?" she asked.
"Malena sacrificed herself. Although she had been host to Jolinar for a long time, she was willing to risk dying and allow Jolinar to leave her, so that I could become her host instead, and continue to be with Lantash and Martouf. No one wanted to allow for this to happen, not even me. I did not want to feel responsible for Malena's death, but she took me aside and begged me to agree. She convinced me that she did not want to continue living without Karim, that she was weary of the fight, and that she wanted to go away if she survived." Rosha was no longer smiling, and looked at Sam remorsefully, "You have to understand that I loved Martouf more than life itself, and I could not allow Lantash to die. So I finally said yes."
"So that's how Martouf and Rosha became hosts to Lantash and Jolinar. And, the planet you showed me, was that Malkshur?" Sam asked, trying to clarify.
"Yes, that was the name of our planet. From then on, Jolinar called herself Jolinar of Malkshur, to please me," Rosha answered. "Come, I want you to meet someone," Sam's new friend asked, and she proceeded to walk deeper into the forest.
They walked for a while, then the woman turned to a well-traveled path and arrived at a small village. Sam was reminded of gypsies. It was a village of tents, dark, handsome people, and large beasts of burden. There was music in the air, and everyone she met seemed friendly. Rosha approached one of the tents and called out, "We are here!"
The tent flap was pushed aside and a middle-aged, dark woman stepped out with a wide smile on her beautiful face. "Welcome, Sam! We can finally speak!" she greeted, happiness evident in her expression.
"Malena," Sam whispered, not really sure of how she knew the woman's name. Malena just nodded, and the three women were suddenly in the village no more. They were walking together again through the forest, Sam between Jolinar's former hosts.
"We don't know what to try next. Using a scalpel works but takes too long!" Dr. Frazier was fretful, staring at Sam's still cocooned body lying on top of the infirmary's gurney. The young captain was frightfully pale and her lips were slightly blue. Two young medics were patiently cutting away at the material surrounding her body. Only her head and chest were free so far, and they had been at it for hours. "I'm concerned about her leg, where Colonel O'Neill says she was stung. It could be infected already."
The medical personnel had hooked up monitoring machines the moment they could do so, and the beeping of the heart monitor was excruciatingly slow. "At least it looks like she's stable. Her brain waves are actually normal, and she seems to be dreaming."
"Have you been able to analyze her blood and figure out what she was injected with?" a concerned General Hammond asked. Jack was also there, the left side of his face covered by a bandage. Teal'c and Daniel were also there, hovering around the bed and feeling helpless. The big man's torso had been treated for the scratches inflicted by the spider's hard legs, and his symbiote was taking care of the rest quickly.
"I don't have those results yet, but I had the substances inside the pincer analyzed right away. The head of the animal only provided what I will call blood. One of the liquids from the pincer is definitely a kind of venom. There's another liquid that we have not been able to identify, but I suspect has something to do with this material covering Sam's body. Sorry, Sir, but that's all we have so far. We had never seen these organic compounds before."
"How about a laser?" asked Daniel suddenly, gazing thoughtfully at the two medics who were still cutting away. He had still been thinking of how to get Sam free of the cocoon.
The other four people stared at him, not sure what he was talking about for a moment, "Don't you use lasers in surgery to cut through tissue?" asked the archeologist, feeling like he had said something really stupid by the perplexed looks he was receiving.
"It's worth giving it a try. It will be tricky, but it may work," Dr. Frazier finally smiled.
"Go ahead, then," General Hammond agreed. "Let's not waste any more time. I don't like how she looks at all!" The old man then turned and left the infirmary. Janet got busy giving instructions and Jack turned to Daniel and actually smiled at him.
"I knew there was a reason why you were in my team," he teased the young doctor.
"What is a laser?" asked Teal'c, mystified.
"It's a…" Daniel started to respond enthusiastically, but Jack lifted a hand to stop him, "Ah, ah! Wait until I'm not around," he told the young man, then turned to Teal'c, "You're going to be sorry you asked!"
"You're thinking of Sam, Jack. I couldn't give Teal'c a long winded explanation on lasers if I tried," Daniel replied patiently, immediately feeling sorry when he saw the colonel lose his smile and direct worried eyes to his captain. She was now being wheeled out of the infirmary, followed by Dr. Frazier, busy giving out instructions.
"Good luck, Captain," he thought, suddenly wanting very much to be able to hear her voice. Even if it was to give an excruciatingly long explanation about lasers.
Sam felt strangely at ease with her two new friends. She felt as if she knew them intimately, although they had just met. The three women continued to walk through the forest in companionable silence until they reached a stargate, sitting lonely in the middle of a clearing, as most others always were.
The gate became active with a swoosh, and they stepped through it, as if that had been their plan all along. Sam stepped out on the other side to find herself in a desert planet, like many others they had visited. She was reminded of Abydos, but could see no pyramids. She could, however, see a long caravan winding its way through the golden sand, far away in the distance.
"This was my world," she heard Malena say. "Karim and I lived here almost one hundred years ago. When we married, we had never set eyes on each other before, since we belonged to different tribes. We were both nervous, but excited. For me, it meant that I was now the head of a household, and free of my father's control. He was not a very nice man," she clarified, making a face that made Sam smile. She smiled back, and continued, "Karim became a wealthy young man through my dowry. Although his family had status amongst their people, his brothers were many, and he had little to call his own."
The older woman started to walk away from the gate, then turned around and looked at the big stone circle in wistfulness. "We never knew what this lonely monument was. We just knew it was ancient and that it was somehow related to our origins. So we always conducted important ceremonies here. So here it was where we married, and here it was where the end of our people began."
Sam realized Malena had tears in her eyes. Her lips were quivering, but she continued her story. "Karim and I learned to love each other, and we learned well. He was the sun, the moons and the stars to me. He in turn used to tell me that he was a mockery of a man until he met me and loved me. We brought our first born here on his first birthday, for the ceremony that officially included him in our families' records. Both tribes were present, Karim's and mine. We were already celebrating with food, drink and music, when the stargate lit up. No one knew what to do. This had never happened before! So we just stepped back and watched as the frightening thing became alive and strange beings started to pour out of it."
Sam could feel Malena's fear and apprehension, even though those feelings were almost a century old. She closed her eyes, but did not try to shut out the woman's presence. She valiantly opened them again and watched her as Malena's tears ran down her cheeks, her sadness overflowing. "It was Apophis. His jaffas attacked us without warning, and they killed so many! Then they gathered the rest of us and systematically killed all the old people, and all the small children. My son was one of them," she cried, and Sam felt her heart was breaking. In her head, she could hear Malena's frantic screams of long ago, and she could see her son being set aside for execution. Sam started to cry, and she went to Malena to embrace her, the two women feeling the terrible loss anew.
"How much longer can she last like this?" Jack asked Janet, his voice almost professional, although still concerned. Dr. Frazier could tell he was struggling to hide his distress, and she gave him no indication that she knew his true feelings.
"We don't know, Colonel. It has been almost three days with no change whatsoever. This paralysis could last weeks, for all we know." She hated it when she could not make her patients better. Most of the time, she at least knew what she was fighting against, but not this time. This time the damage was done, and they had no clue as to how to mend Captain Carter's body. She was also worried about her mind. Although she could not know what kind of effect this venom could have on her brain, her brain waves indicated that she was experiencing some intense emotions while unable to move a muscle.
General Hammond was also there, standing next to Jack by Sam's bed, watching the patient. She still looked pale, with dark shadows under her eyes, her lips almost blue. But what scared the old man the worst was her stillness. She had not moved a muscle since she had arrived at SGC. Only her chest went up and down, her breathing deep but slow.
"We have to do something… anything!" Jack suddenly snapped, still struggling with his emotions. He felt miserably guilty. It was his fault. He had let her convince him to stay, to keep looking around for that beast. It had been his call, and he had blown it! Now they were losing her. Probably the most valuable person in all SGC, and he could do nothing but watch her die! He would not acknowledge that the loss would hit him in a much more personal level.
Jack's face reflected more of his feelings than he thought, and Hammond was concerned. This was the first time he had seen Jack come close to losing it since that awful time when they thought Daniel had burnt to death. "Take a hold of yourself, son. We're doing everything we can. At least she has not deteriorated since she arrived." He spoke to the younger man calmly, but his worried eyes were on Dr. Frazier, trying to find some hope in the doctor's eyes.
"We are still experimenting with the substances you brought back, and we still aren't sure how they work," Janet was saying. "We are trying to get an antidote to the venom, but it will take some time. The other substance seems to be what the animal used to cocoon its victims with. At least we were able to free her from it. We made it just in time to be able to save her leg. The infection on the puncture wound is nasty, but it's responding well to treatment." She glanced at the now free body of her patient, no traces of the bluish material left on her. "If it's any consolation, I think Sam was right. That substance may be the key to some important new developments in…" Janet was saying, when Jack's dark eyes stopped her in mid sentence.
"No, it's not any consolation, Doc! We should have stayed away from the damn thing, end of story!" he snapped. His eyes returned to Sam's face, his jaw tense. What new development in science could be worth Carter's life? He was angry with himself, Janet knew, so she did not take it personally.
"Why don't you and General Hammond go have some lunch and we'll talk in a couple of hours, when I have the latest experiment results back?"
Jack nodded gloomily, but excused himself, "I'm not really hungry. But I'll get out of your hair; I can take a hint."
Janet thought that Jack looked wiped out, but just smiled at him. "You can stop by later to check on her, Colonel. You should try to get some rest in the meanwhile."
"Please keep us apprised of any new developments, Doctor," Hammond requested as he also left the infirmary.
"Yes, Sir," Janet absentmindedly responded, glancing at her sleeping patient with a deep sigh.
Malena and Sam had cried together for a long time, their memories of everything the woman had lost that awful day flooding their senses and tearing their souls apart. Once their tears were spent, Sam felt Rosha's hands stroking her back, and she let go of Malena, who was now sad but composed. The woman took one deep breath and continued the story of her life.
"Karim and I were prisoners and taken to Chulak, where we were thrown in a large cell with many other captives. Only a handful of young men and women from our clans had survived, and some of them had lost their minds from grief and fear. But Karim and I had were together, and we sustained each other as the days passed. We somehow ended up with a surprising position amongst the prisoners. They looked at us for strength and leadership. Then one day we both were chosen by Apophis' First Prime, Bratac, and taken with a group of other chosen ones through the gate again. We were being marched up to one of Apophis' palaces in a distant planet, when we were attacked by a group of men. Most of the jaffas escorting us were killed, and we were liberated. As we made our escape, I saw Bratac lift his head from the ground, and smile at our retreating group. Only later we found that he had tipped the Tok'Ra off, and that he had arranged our escape."
"Karim and I became guests of the Tok'Ra, and we were asked where we wanted to go. But we had nothing left. Our families were dead, and we wanted to avenge the death of our son. So we decided to stay and join their struggle against the Goa'uld. Shortly after our arrival, young symbiotes became ready for implantation, and some of us volunteered to become hosts. That is how Lantash and Jolinar blended with us. It was a rewarding experience, but we also went through a lot of heartache and loss. We suffered together, and we rejoiced together, for almost seventy years. Lantash and Jolinar learned to love each other as deeply as Karim and I did." Malena sighed tiredly, she then continued. "Then the attack came, and Karim was mortally wounded. I wanted to die. Life had no meaning for me without him. Despite of Jolinar's strength, I could feel my own slip away as I saw him suffer in his deathbed. That was when Martouf volunteered, and I convinced Rosha to put me out of my misery. I survived the extraction, but not for long. And Jolinar almost died as well. It was a difficult process, but her will was strong, as was Lantash'. I only longed to join Karim, and I did days later."
Sam did not know what to say. Her sadness was overwhelming, and she now remembered Karim's face, a dark, strong man with manly features and very tanned skin. She felt deep love for this man, and this confused and scared her, just as it did when she thought of Martouf. She closed her eyes and shook her head, knowing the feelings were not her own. "I don't know if I can handle any more of this," she admitted.
Malena and Rosha looked at each other, and said simultaneously, "It's time for him."
"Jack, can I come in?" the colonel heard Daniel ask from his door. He had refused to answer it when he heard the knocking, but the young man, as usual, had been undeterred. He had stubbornly opened the door and was now standing there, daring the older man to send him away.
"Would you go away if I said no?" he asked irritably. He was lying down, the room in darkness, but he had not been sleeping. He had not been able to do much of that during the last five days.
"No," Daniel answered, predictably, and he did not move from his spot, still waiting to be invited in.
"What is it, Daniel?" Jack asked testily.
"I heard the scientists have been unsuccessful at finding an antidote," he commented.
"So?" Jack snapped.
"So I was thinking that maybe we need to go back to the planet," he suggested. At this, Jack sat up on the bed and turned on the lamp on his night table. He looked at Daniel, intrigued.
"Why would we want to do that?" he asked, somehow hopeful. Just as Sam did, Daniel sometimes could come up with brilliant solutions to problems. And Sam was not able to help herself, so he was willing to hear ideas from anyone and anything at this point.
"It's been five days, and we've been unable to find an antidote here. That thing was native to that planet. Maybe there are native plants that can provide a natural antidote, or we can find an animal that is resistant to its poison." Daniel knew he was grasping at straws, but they had nothing to lose. He waited patiently while Jack stared at him for the longest moments.
"Let's go!" the colonel suddenly said, and walked out of the room in a rush, letting the young archeologist try to catch up with him as he headed for Hammond's office.
Sam did not know whom the two women were referring to, but they were suddenly not in the desert planet any more. Now they were walking through woods again, and they could hear the sound of someone hitting something from afar.
"What's that?" Sam asked, apprehension invading her when she realized they were not in the same forest as before. This was a different place. The trees were very different from where they had found Malena, and the climate was much cooler.
"Don't worry, Sam," Malena reassured her. "There is someone else you must meet. Come with us," she cajoled, leading the way deeper into the woods. The hitting sound was much closer now, and they could hear a man singing a bawdy tune. Sam reluctantly followed the two women, and soon came upon a burly man chopping wood. He was neither ugly nor handsome, just a man. He was sweaty, and he kept chopping wood and singing until the three women were upon him. He then stopped, smiled at the newcomers and put the ax away, wiping his brow. "It took you long enough!" he teased.
Sam realized he was addressing her, and that the man looked very familiar. "Sorry, do I know you?" she asked, puzzled.
"You bet! You even kissed me once!" he continued to tease, a humorous smile on his face. Then Sam noticed the red tattoos on his temples. This was the Nasyan man she had tried to save! She had given him mouth to mouth in her attempts to revive him. He was Jolinar's last host before her!
"Ah! Now you remember! I was feeling a little hurt! All the other girls I ever kissed surely remembered!" he chuckled, and the two other women chuckled along. Sam could not help herself and joined them.
"I'm sorry, it's just that we did not spend that much time together," she apologized.
"Oh! How right you are about that!" he agreed. "We only spent a couple of months together, but we learnt much about each other during that time," he told Sam. "You surely know my name," he taunted her, winking at her. Sam was confused. She had not spent months with this man, of that she was sure. She had only spent moments with him, trying to save his life, at which she had failed. But he seemed sure she'd know his name, and a name did come to her out of the blue, "Caleb?"
"I knew you'd remember!" he laughed. "But I won't torture you any more. I know you probably have questions for me. Ask away!" he invited, pointing at the ground as he sat on it, as if getting comfortable for a long chat. Malena and Rosha did the same, and Sam felt she had no choice but to follow their example.
Sam smiled, a little uncomfortable at their attention upon her, but decided to take advantage of the opportunity and satisfy her curiosity, "OK! How did you become host to Jolinar? She had always chosen women as hosts before."
Caleb grinned and made a funny face, "I have to admit it was kind of weird having a girl in my head, but I found it had its advantages, if you know what I mean…" he winked again. "Although my wife never found out about Jolinar, she certainly enjoyed her presence in our bedroom!" he laughed good-naturedly, and Jolinar's other hosts laughed along, while Sam blushed, a little ill at ease.
Malena addressed Sam, still chuckling, "As you can see, Sam, Caleb has quite a naughty sense of humor, which drove Jolinar a little crazy at the beginning. But she learned to appreciate this particular trait of her host in time."
"Oh, I'm not that bad at all! But Jolinar could be sooo serious! I just had to have my fun with her whenever I could. Anyway, to answer your question," he decided to continue his story, "Jolinar chose me because there was no one else to choose. I found her during a hunting trip in the mountains."
At Sam's puzzled expression, he laughed and said, "I'll start at the beginning!"
Jack, Teal'c and Daniel had been trekking through the hot planet for hours, following the trail of another "spider". They had found the spider webs far away from the first ones, following Daniel's hunch that the beasts may be territorial. He had been right. Now they were looking for the telltale holes so that they could find one.
"What are we going to do once we find the animal?" asked Teal'c, looking at his two friends in turn.
"We have to observe it for a while. It may give us some clues to its vulnerability," Daniel responded.
"From afar," Jack clarified. "We don't want to tangle with another spider unless we absolutely have to."
"O'Neill! I see some holes here!" Teal'c warned.
"OK, T. Just watch your step and let's find the biggest one." Jack followed the jaffa cautiously, Daniel close behind.
"I see signs of struggle. The animal may have confronted something around here. I also see the yellow liquid that Dr. Frazier called blood," Teal'c said, kneeling on the ground and looking at broken limbs of trees littering the area.
"Let's follow the blood, guys," Jack ordered, and started to follow the yellow trail without waiting for the two other men to respond.
Caleb was comfortably leaning against a large log and seemed to enjoy being the center of attention while he told his story, "My hunting buddies and I had separated, trying to corner a stag, when I saw this smoking ship coming down from the sky. I saw where it crashed, and I ran to investigate. As you know, we had escaped the Goa'uld many years ago, and we were always afraid that they would find us again. I had to find out whether we needed to warn the village of a new threat or not," he justified. Then he continued. "When I arrived at the crash site, I realized the ship was very small, only able to accommodate two people. There was only one person inside, a pretty woman, very badly injured."
Caleb looked at Rosha, who was smiling at him, and said, "Yes… a very pretty woman. And you know I have a weak spot for pretty ladies, so I tried to help her, a little recklessly I found," he made a face at Rosha, and she explained further.
"Caleb tried to pull me out of the wreck, but I was trapped, and I knew I was dying. I also knew Jolinar would not be able to repair the damage in time, so I encouraged her to leave me for Caleb. She refused, insisting that she could save me, but I just knew she could not," Rosha looked sad again, reliving the difficult moment, but then she went on. "We were fleeing the ashrak, the one Cronus had sent after us to kill us. I had organized a revolt in one of his planets and had almost succeeded in overthrowing him. He wanted revenge. The ashrak had shot us down, and I knew he would land soon and try to find me. We had to hide, so I asked Caleb to come closer."
"I'm sorry, she said," Caleb interjected. "Those were the only words I ever heard from her, and then she held me close and I felt something go into my neck," he remembered, now serious. "I was terrified at first, not knowing why I could not control my body, why I could not speak, why I was running away from the wreck and the body of the pretty woman. I remember feeling terrible grief at leaving her behind, and I could not understand why. I remember meeting my friends down the mountain, where they had been looking for me, and wanting to tell them about the ship and the woman, but someone else was speaking for me. That person was telling them that I had gotten a little lost, and laughed along with my friends when they teased me about it. They had been successful and were already carrying the dead stag back to the village. I remember following them, screaming at them to help me, but they could not hear me."
Rosha picked up the story when she saw Caleb start to get a little emotional. "Jolinar kept control of Caleb for the first few days, until he finally let her in. Then she was able to make things clear to him, and he was able to see into her mind, as she could see into his. He graciously agreed to help her hide from the ashrak. Once his defenses were down, Jolinar was able to share with him everything he needed to know. She returned control of his body to Caleb, and he kept his word. He never revealed to anyone what had happened to him, not even to his family."
Caleb picked up the story, "Then SG-1 came. Jolinar wanted very badly to know more about you, but she warned me to be cautious. Then the sudden attack by the Goa'uld took everyone by surprise. We didn't know that the ashrak had already infiltrated the village, and that he had contacted Cronus the moment SG-1 had arrived. The System Lord must have been as eager to capture you as he was to capture Jolinar."
Malena now spoke, "You know the rest, Sam. Caleb was badly hurt, you tried to save him, and Jolinar invaded your body when they realized he was dying. He did the same thing Rosha had done. He urged Jolinar to survive, to continue the fight, despite of her disgust at taking an unwilling host. You know how she felt, don't you?" she asked Sam, her eyes encouraging her to open up.
Sam looked at Malena's entreating face, then at the other two faces staring at her expectantly, and sudden fear took a hold of her. "No! Don't, please! I can't…" she begged, standing up abruptly and walking a few steps away, her back to her three new friends. She closed her eyes, trying to hold back tears, and brought her closed fists to her face, somehow trying to hide from her dread. She did not want to remember! It was too awful, too scary!
A strong hand landed on her shoulder, and a soft voice whispered, "It's OK, Sam. Only when you are ready."
Sam tensed up, realizing that the voice did not belong to any of the three people she had been talking to.
Sam was running again, afraid again, and wanting very much to escape the company of her three new friends, and that other voice. Something was hovering close to her, breathing down her neck, and it did not matter how fast or how far she ran, it was still there, an unwanted presence. She was running through a plain, the tall grasses brushing against her arms, the hot wind punishing her face. It was getting dark, and she had no idea of where she was going, but she kept running, her breath ragged, her strength almost gone.
"Sam!" she heard, and she looked over her shoulder, but nothing was there. She slowed down, no longer running, but still moving swiftly through the prairie. She could not see anyone behind her, but when she looked up ahead, she saw the three people she had left in the forest, now standing in front of her, sad expressions on their faces. "NO!" she cried out, instantly backing away from them, but she had no strength left, and she just collapsed on the grass, breathless. "No, please! Don't make me!" she cried, her face on her folded arms, her body shaking. She knew she could not escape them.
She just laid there, her tears falling on the ground under her, until she felt Malena's soft touch on her back and her husky voice reassuring her, "You don't have to be afraid, Sam. We promise we will wait until you are ready. It will be up to you."
Sam looked up to Malena, and realized that she was now cradled on her lap. Rosha was seating next to them, and she reached out to touch Sam's cheek and wipe away her tears. Caleb was also there, next to Rosha, "No need to cry, darling. You have nothing to be afraid of. You are in control, as you have ever been since Jolinar died," he comforted her in a soft voice.
"I'm sorry," Sam apologized. "It's just that…" she started to explain, but Rosha interrupted. "You don't need to explain. We know," she assured her.
"We have waited a long time to share with you what you just learned of us," Malena explained. "You have kept up barriers in your mind that prevented us from coming through before. You are a woman that needs to be in control, and we understand that. But aren't you glad you know more about us? Didn't you ever wonder?" she asked Sam, reminding her of her late mother when she was trying to drive home a recently learnt lesson.
Sam sniffed, feeling a little guilty. Yes, she liked to be in control. She needed to be in control. Not only of her actions, but also of her feelings, and her thoughts. It was almost a requisite of her chosen profession and of her current circumstances. She could not allow herself the luxury of dreams. She lived for the present, solely focused on her mission and her career. Anything else was an unwanted distraction, even her feelings for… No! She would not acknowledge that either. It was hopeless, and painful. And that was why losing herself to Jolinar had been so devastating, so terrifying. Just the thought of allowing herself to go back and relive the experience scared her to death. Even though she knew Jolinar was a "good" symbiote and that she had died trying to save her, the memories of those events triggered in her a sense of panic.
"I don't know that I can do this. Maybe it's better for me that I don't," Sam tried to justify herself. "What good can it come from remembering? We already found the Tok'Ra, and we already became allies. My father is now one of them! What else do you want from me?" she demanded in desperation, pulling away from Malena and turning her back on the three of them.
Sam heard Rosha's sweet voice address her, "We just want you to allow her memories to come forth, Sam. Not everything at once, but what you need when you need it. Jolinar is gone. She can never harm you or control you. But her experiences can enrich your life as it enriched ours. She can be a powerful ally in your struggle. Don't shut her out!" Rosha begged.
"Nothing I have remembered of her and her feelings has been positive! Even her feelings for Martouf and Lantash have done nothing but cause confusion and heartache! Why would I want to remember someone else's life? I have enough pain in my own!" she shouted at them, desperate to drive them away.
"The trials in my life taught me much, Sam. I had to cope with things you can't even imagine. Your mission is challenging and dangerous. And it will become even more so in the future. How could it hurt to learn from me?"
Sam heard that eerily familiar voice behind her. It filled her with dread, and she would not turn around to face it.
"What's that thing!" Daniel whispered, revolted at the bloody sight before them. The three men were hiding behind trees, about one hundred fifty meters from a large animal, which was busily devouring something, tearing big chunks of it with its large canine teeth. The animal was fairly hairless, with tough, gray skin, and resembled a primate of some kind.
"It looks like one of your gorillas, but larger," Teal'c observed, not taking his eyes away from the beast. He was making sure they were still downwind from it, but they still could smell the animal despite the distance.
"What is it eating, can you see?" Daniel asked Jack, who was using his binoculars and peering through them in concentration.
"Bingo!" he suddenly said. "It's eating one of our spider friends! If that thing is immune to its sting, we want a sample of its blood," he said, still looking through the binoculars.
"And how the heck are we going to get a sample of its blood without getting killed?" Daniel asked in concern.
"That's what we brought these for!" Jack smiled at him, pulling out tranquilizer darts from his pack.
"I hope you brought enough!" Daniel responded, still not enthused with the idea. Teal'c just smiled at the young man's apprehension.
Sam refused to look at her. She could hear her behind her, but she continued to stare at the ground, trepidation overwhelming her despite her efforts to be brave. The woman was right. How could it hurt? She knew Jolinar was dead. Jolinar could not control her. Could she?
"No, I can't," the voice said, as if Sam had spoken aloud. "But I am always there, waiting for you to reach out to me. My knowledge is there. My experiences are there. You just have to be willing to take my hand," Jolinar entreated, her voice growing more urgent.
Sam was terrified of opening that door. She was not certain of why she was so afraid, but she knew one thing for sure. She could still taste the horror, rage and impotence she had felt while a host to Jolinar. At the time, she had been sure that she was possessed by a Goa'uld. She had not believed a word Jolinar had said to her. She had fought her furiously, her terror overwhelming her. She had felt violated, abused, and her thoughts could be described as nothing but hysterical. Jolinar had struggled until she had finally succeeded in achieving complete control, and she had pushed Sam down, drowning her protests, so that she could function and try to escape SGC.
Sam closed her eyes, wishing she could be somewhere else, away from Jolinar's voice. But when she opened them again, she found herself walking the corridors of SGC. She was heading to the briefing room, but it was not she in control of her body. She sat at the table and saw her friends chatting around it, oblivious to her imprisonment. "Jack! Daniel! Teal'c! Please listen! Help me!" she kept screaming in her mind, but no one heard. Jolinar kept her down, drowning her cries for help, and remained in complete control of Sam's body.
Sam could do nothing but watch. She took pleasure, however, in Jolinar's inadvertent mistakes when addressing the group. She waited for someone to notice something was wrong, for someone to see that it was not she speaking. But after a few puzzled looks, no one did, and she screamed in frustration and hate at the thing invading her. She closed her eyes in disappointment, and when she opened them again, she was in Janet's office at the hospital, holding Cassie in a hug. She felt the girl tense up in her arms and look at her in terror. "YES!" she cried, "It's me Cassie! Help me! Tell them I'm here!" she pleaded with her eyes. Then she was afraid for the girl when Jolinar realized that Cassie knew. Jolinar, however, was not angry, just worried. Sam could tell she was not going to hurt her little friend. She just wanted to scare her into keeping quiet.
Sam remembered the experience in detail, the harsh, threatening words coming out of her mouth and intimidating poor Cassie, making the girl cover her face and huddle in a corner of the office. She remembered when she heard Jolinar say clearly, "I'm sorry, Sam!"
"OK, I think this is as close as we should be. I can hit it from here, no problem," Jack said. "You guys be ready with your zats, just in case," he instructed his teammates. Teal'c was on his right, and Daniel hid behind a tree eight feet to his left, peeking at the huge animal in silence.
Jack aimed his rifle and shot the thing, hitting it on its back. The animal just swatted at the spot with its long arms, as if an insignificant bug had stung it. Jack looked at Teal'c in concern, and proceeded to shoot it again, this time twice, in quick succession.
The beast growled, now distracted from its meal, and swatted again at the darts, dislodging one and holding it in its ape-like paws. For the first time, Daniel noticed the long claws on them, and swallowed hard. The darts were having no effect!
The thing growled louder and looked around, got up and stood menacingly; ready to face whatever was attacking it. It sniffed the air and started to walk on two legs toward where Jack and Teal'c were hiding, growling at the wind. Jack wasted no time and shot it twice again. Big mistake! The beast spotted him and started to run on all fours, shortening the distance between them at an alarming rate.
"Daniel! Cover our backs!" Jack ordered, and started running, Teal'c by his side. The beast was now enraged, and had completely forgotten about his kill, now going for a new one.
"Teal'c!" Jack shouted; he then quickly kneeled down to shoot at the monster coming at him. He put three more darts into it, and the thing howled in fury, but did not stop. That was when Teal'c shot it with the zat gun once, then twice. The beast felt the electrical discharge and stopped in its tracks, now not sure it wanted to tangle with this new prey. It sat on the ground, in pain, and growled at them, spit flying out of its mouth, its eyes red. Daniel was standing behind it, ready to shoot if it got closer to his two friends. After staring at the two men aiming at it for a few moments, the beast decided they were not worth it and turned around, trying to get up and return to its meal, startling Daniel into shooting it once more. They saw it stumble, take a few wobbly steps, and then fall back on the ground, hard. The thing howled again and looked at Jack and Teal'c, who were now on their feet, watching it cautiously. The beast growled less loudly again, then fell heavily on its face. The darts had finally taken effect.
Samantha remembered how bewildered she had felt when she realized that Jolinar meant what she had said. She truly was sorry. And not only that, she was in despair. She hated what she was doing, and Sam had finally been able to feel it when she had stopped fighting her, stunned by her words. At the time Sam had thought of her as a "he", automatically assuming that Jolinar was male, since she had been in a man's body. And somehow, this had made the possession feel even worse, until she had heard those words.
"Yes, Sam. You know I am sorry. I hate doing this to you. You were an unwilling host, and I only took you in order to survive, to escape the Goa'uld. If you let me show you, you will understand why I had to hide," Jolinar had told her on her way back to the base, desperate to embark on the next mission and escape. Rosha's mad escape from the ashrak flew through Sam's mind in flashes. She could not, or would not remember more, but she knew Jolinar had been running for her life.
"Even if I can't find another host, I will let you go, Sam. I just want to be able to go home one last time, and say goodbye. I promise you!" Scenes of Martouf's sweet smile came to Sam's mind, his blue eyes looking at her in tenderness, the feel of his hands on her cheeks. And Sam finally understood, and believed. She stopped fighting Jolinar, and let herself rest. She blacked out, letting herself sink into oblivion, exhausted. "Sleep, Sam. It will be over before long," she heard Jolinar's voice in her mind.
When Sam awoke again, still prisoner within her own body, Jolinar had been talking to Jack. She had been trying to convince him to let her go. Sam saw that she was behind bars, and felt Jolinar's fear of being discovered and killed by the ashrak. Jack had not listened, and Jolinar had begged Sam for help. "Tell him, please! Ask him to listen!" And Sam had been released.
"Oh, God! He's telling you the truth. Please, Jack!" But he ignored her, thinking it was a trick. He was leaving her. "No, Jack, please! Don't leave me! Please, give me a chance! Don't leave me like this! Please!" Sam pleaded frantically. But Jack would not even look at her. He left, and Jolinar took over again, angry and frustrated. "What will it take?" she had asked Sam.
"Nothing we say is going to convince him to let us go," Sam had answered. She knew Jack would never allow a possessed Sam to go through the stargate. Despite the fact that she understood why Jack could not believe her, she felt betrayed and abandoned. Sam felt utterly alone, and her despair knew no boundaries. Jolinar tried to soothe her. "Sleep, Sam. When the killer comes for me, I don't want you to suffer. Sleep," she prodded, and then forced an unresisting, worn out Sam back into blackness, hoping to spare her pain.
But pain is what Sam had awakened to. Horrible, excruciating pain, as Jack called out to her, his concerned eyes on her pale face. Then she had blacked out again, only hearing Jolinar's whispering words, "I'm dying, Sam. The assassin won. But I will not take you with me. I want you to live, to continue your fight against the Goa'uld. We are joined forever in our struggle, and you must continue for both of us."
Jolinar's voice had faded, and only pain and anguish had remained. Sam had finally awakened in the infirmary, a relieved Janet by her side. She had seen Jack standing there, his anxiety heavy in his eyes. "You did it, Sam. You won," he had told her, proud of her. And she had felt ashamed. She had felt like a failure. She had failed Jolinar. She could have helped her, saved her, if only she had been more willing to listen. Her sense of loss had been unbearable, indescribable. And the worst part is that she had been at a loss of words in trying to explain it to her friends. So she had said nothing, and had suffered alone, in silence, until her body mended, and she was able to forget.
"God, that thing stank!" Jack was complaining as he showered, scrubbing his skin raw. Daniel and Teal'c were also showering in the next stalls, trying to scrub the smell out of their bodies.
"Yeah, but we did it! Now let's hope it's worth it!" Daniel responded, rinsing his hair for the third time.
"The beast had been stung at least twice from what we could observe. The venom must have definitely been in its bloodstream. I am certain that Dr. Frazier and the rest of the medical team will be able to determine what made it immune to the spider," Teal'c replied, just standing under the shower, letting hot water cascade down his body.
"Let's hope you're right, T. I don't know what else we could do at this point," Jack said gloomily, finally turning off the faucet and reaching for a towel. Daniel and Teal'c just exchanged knowing glances, aware of the colonel's despair, even if he was unwilling to acknowledge it.
Sam had not relived those days under Jolinar's control until now. She had buried her memories deep, in an effort at self-preservation, and she had been successful. Now they were out in the open, and all those awful feelings came flooding back. Sam started to sob, overwhelmed by them.
She was still sitting on the ground, still unwilling to face the voice at her back. But it was still there, patiently waiting. "You can face me, Sam. You have the strength to do so. You just proved that you do," the voice said gently. Sam nodded, knowing full well that she would have to face her sooner or later. She had come this far, so why prolong the inevitable? She started to turn slowly, hesitantly, tears running down her cheeks.
At first, she only saw a blurry figure standing over her, a hand extended in front of her eyes. Then she looked up into the familiar face looking down at her, and met her own blue eyes, understanding and compassion clear in its depths. Sam gasped, suddenly afraid, but her reflection smiled at her. "What did you expect, a snake?" The twinkle in her eye was her own. The now wide smile was the same one she reserved for Jack's jokes. And Sam finally understood.
Jack had never seen Doc more excited. Sam had been paralyzed now for six days, but they all could see, at last, a light at the end of the tunnel. The antidote had been processed fairly quickly, and it had been a complete success when given to the poor lab rats that had been injected with the venom. The trickiest part had been to come up with the right dosage, but they had been able to determine that as well.
Now they were ready to try it on Sam. Jack's heart was beating loudly in his ears. Janet was nervous, but wildly optimistic, and General Hammond was serious and circumspect. Daniel was standing against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest, revealing his apprehension. Teal'c was as calm as ever, watching Sam's face for any changes. Janet had injected the antidote into the IV, and everyone was holding their breaths, watching the patient expectantly. A minute passed, then two, then three, and Jack started to pace the room. Dr. Frazier only spared him a glance, and brought her eyes back to Sam's pale face. General Hammond directed a concerned gaze at her and was about to say something, when Sam's heartbeat suddenly picked up speed. Her breathing started to do the same, and Janet smiled. "It's working!" she whispered.
Jack now stood next to Sam's bed, his intent eyes on hers, wanting very much to see them open up. They fluttered, her eyelashes dark against her pale skin, and they finally opened.
Sam stared at her own face for a few moments, still surprised at seeing herself dressed in fatigues and holding out her own right hand toward her. This was unsettling, but it made perfect sense. Jolinar was not a snake, but a being that was now part of Samantha Carter, just as Rosha, Malena and Caleb were. Sam had been hiding from herself, unwilling to acknowledge her new reality, and she had been fighting a losing battle all along. No one could hide from herself forever.
Sam lifted her right hand, and placed it tentatively into the one extended toward her. She felt that hand pull her up to a standing position, and then realized that Rosha, Malena and Caleb were standing there, behind the other Sam, smiling peacefully at her.
"We are always here for you, Sam," she heard Malena say.
"When you need us, just whistle!" Caleb added, smiling teasingly.
"When you see him again, please tell him that I love him," Rosha asked sadly. Sam knew she was speaking of her love, Martouf.
The figures of her three new friends faded slowly into mist, and so did their memories, now at rest in Sam's heart. Jolinar's hand was still holding hers, her blue eyes looking into Sam's. "When the need arises, you will remember. All you have to do is take my hand," she assured Sam, also starting to dissolve into mist. Soon, Samantha was standing by herself, looking around at the now different landscape. It changed from one to another, like a film in fast forward, making her dizzy; many places, many faces, many voices, all at once becoming one. The only face that she was staring at now was her CO's. His deep voice calling her name, "Carter! Can you hear me?"
"Sir," she whispered, unbelievably weak. She still could not move, but she could see him and hear him. She could speak, although softly. She then heard Daniel's voice, "Thank God!" and she smiled, trying to turn her head and find him with her eyes. He saved her the trouble and came to her, holding her free hand. The other one was trapped within Jack's calloused ones, his grip much stronger than he realized.
"Welcome back, Captain!" she heard Hammonds' relieved voice say, and Janet suddenly pushed Daniel aside and became all business, checking her pupils with a light, and asking the nurse to take a blood sample. The young woman cleared her throat, not quite willing to ask Jack to let go of Sam's hand and move aside. He realized he was in the way, and reluctantly let go of his captain, stepping back without taking his eyes off her.
"OK, gentlemen," Janet authoritative voice requested, "please clear the room. We need to do a thorough examination of our patient now." There was no arguing with that tone, and a smiling General Hammond signaled everyone to leave.
Daniel was smiling too, following Teal'c out of the room. Hammond stood by the door, watching Jack, who seemed unwilling to leave, still staring at Sam's white face. "Let's go, son," he prodded, understanding the colonel's feelings. He hated losing people under his command as well, but he knew some took it harder than others. He knew Jack was one of the former.
"Yes, Sir," he murmured, and proceeded to follow the older man out of the room, glancing at Sam one last time from the doorway as he left.
"You scared ten years out of our lives, Sam," Daniel was telling the young woman, who was still lying on an infirmary's gurney, surrounded by flowers and a couple of Teddy bears.
"Sorry, guys," she told them in a still hoarse and weak voice. "It really was my fault. Curiosity killed the cat, and this time it almost killed me too," she half joked, in fact feeling quite guilty.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Carter. You know you would not have stayed if I hadn't allowed it. It was my call. It was risky, it backfired, but it all came out OK at the end. End of story," he commented dryly from his seat by her pillow.
"No, I mean it, Sir," she said now, seriously. "I'm truly sorry. I pressured you and I had no right to do so. I deserve what I got," she admitted.
"Don't say that," he replied sternly. "Don't you ever say that," his eyes were hard on her, and she felt chastised. "No one deserves what you went through, much less you."
Sam looked away, feeling uncomfortable with Jack's displeasure, and Daniel interjected, "You have to forgive Jack's grumpiness, Sam. He hasn't slept much over the past six days," he smiled, enjoying Jack's annoyed look.
"You're lucky that you actually saved the day, Danny boy," he replied obnoxiously. "If you weren't so full of ideas, I would have kicked you out of the team long ago," he teased, smiling at the end to temper his words. "You actually owe him your life, Sam."
"You'll have to tell me the whole story, Daniel, when I'm a little more clear headed," Sam smiled at her friend. "But Janet tells me that I owe the three of you my life, not just Daniel," she added, looking at Jack and then at Teal'c, who was sitting stiffly on a chair, much too small for him, at the end of her bed. No wonder the poor guy preferred to stand.
"Well, maybe," Daniel teased, looking at the other two men. "But what I'd really like to know is what you remember of the last six days… anything?" he asked curiously.
Sam suddenly became very serious, and seemed to lose herself in her own thoughts. "Carter?" Jack's concerned voice brought her back, and her eyes met his briefly. She then looked at Daniel again.
"Let's just say that I took an unexpected trip, during which I had to face something I'd been too scared to face before," she said cryptically.
The three men around her looked at each other thoughtfully, but only Jack asked, "Are you OK?"
Sam smiled at him gratefully, reaching out for his hand, and taking comfort in the warmth and strength she found there. Then she remembered someone had offered the same to her whenever she needed it.
"Yes, Sir," she responded, nodding her head, "I think I will be OK now." He squeezed her hand with a Jack O'Neill half-smile, and she felt blessed, knowing she had many more true friends than she had ever realized.