Disclaimer: Using the characters for fun, not profit. I'll put 'em back when I'm done.
Author's note: This is the sequel to My Andromeda fanfiction (dot) net/s/3181387/1/. Won't make much sense on its own.
Author's note II: Bit of a darker story, campers. More angst, self-injurious stuff, some not pretty. But the later chapters will be more action/adventurey and full of Sam being all right-ness. If you're easily triggered, you may want to wait until chapter three-ish to delve in. (Send me a message and I'll send you a synopsis of what you missed.) Also, there's more swearing. Lots more swearing.
Author's note III: I'm writing this for NaNoWriMo, so it's very possible that the infamous talking squirrels (who have managed to pop up three times in as many years) will make an appearance. Also, I'm not editing and I'm working on two other stories. ...hence the inevitable appearance of the talking squirrels.
Right. On with the show.
He wasn't sure if the smell or her hand on the knife had roiled his stomach more.
There had been so much blood.
So much of her blood.
He didn't remember calling the SGC or talking to Doctor Lam, or answering Daniel's phone call. He didn't know how much time had elapsed between using towels as tourniquets for her arms and the rest of SG-1 bursting through the door with the med team at their heels. He only vaguely remembered them tearing her from his arms, and, and--
Daniel and Teal'c and Mitchell's car,
passing, glaring headlights,
Mitchell and red lights and profanities,
tires screaming—accelerated too quickly,
nod and scurry of SGC personnel—
her body, pale and still and drenched in her own blood
They hovered in the hallway just outside the infirmary, saying nothing, staring into nothing, still and listening. Voices echoed out of the infirmary, overlapping, conflicting, convoluting each other and Daniel's addled brain struggled to keep pace.
A blood transfusion. Reconstructive surgery. These phrases he caught clearly; he sank to the floor, swiping his glasses from his face and burying his forehead in his knees. The position was fetal, but he couldn't care.
Mitchell muttered fiercely under his breath and kicked a nearby strut. "I need to get outta here," he said, addressing himself more than Daniel or Teal'c. "I'll be topside. Back in thirty."
His footsteps echoed down the empty corridor.
For a moment, Daniel wanted to follow him, but the air around him weighed his shoulders and sunk through his lungs. He was drowning. And he couldn't move.
He didn't know how long he had been sitting there—unmoving, immobile—when Jack staggered through the doorway and all but collapsed on the floor next to him. His skin was taut and sallow, his eyes sunken and his shirt was coated with Sam's blood, now dried. When he spoke, his words were almost mechanical.
"She fucking knew what she was doing," he told them softly. "Cut her forearms from wrist to elbow, right along the vein, deep." He swallowed harshly, the overhead lights glinting off the dried salt trails on his cheeks. "Slashed a couple more times across."
Daniel's eyes tumbled closed and he coughed around the swelling in his throat. "Not a cry for help," he muttered.
"Fucking filleted herself," Jack said, his voice catching, his chin dimpling. He covered his face with his hands and drew a deep breath. "God," he sighed and drug his fingers through his hair.
"Do either of you require a beverage?" Teal'c's voice, sudden and strained, caught them off guard. Both Daniel and Jack looked up at him; his jaw flexed, his eyes distant, before he leaned away from the wall.
"Coffee," Jack said. "A pot if you can swing it."
Teal'c inclined his head and left silently.
Daniel cleared his throat once, twice, before he spoke. "I, uh, I had breakfast with her this morning," he said. "She ate, even laughed a few times." He grimaced and chided himself. "I thought she was doing all right."
Jack grunted and opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by his phone rattling in his pocket. "Gah," he sighed, fishing for it. "I never figured out how these things work in here," he muttered.
"There's receivers all over the place," Daniel said, gesturing around them. "Sam did it a few months after she got here."
But Jack wasn't listening. His phone pressed to his ear, his eyes slipped closed as Sam's voice, ragged and desperate, filtered through the earpiece.
"J-Jack," she stuttered, her tone clogged by tears. "I-I can't—I need you to call me." She broke off as a soft keening erupted from her throat. Jack's face tightened. "I can't—anymore," she managed before her voice grew distant and whispered Ancient words tumbled from her lips.
"Goddamn it," Jack whispered, his face creased. When Daniel leaned towards him, his face questioning, Jack held up a finger; Daniel complied and fell back against the wall.
She was crying now, deep, wrenching sobs that tore her chest apart; Jack heard her fumble for the phone. "Please," she whispered and her plea cut him. "Please, Jack...I'm scared."
The message ended. She had called him three hours ago. His phone had been off and in his pocket, and he—he had been reclining in first class—wonderfully relaxed—sipping a bottle of Heineken.
But if he hadn't managed to catch that flight—
Hell, if the President hadn't moved their meeting to next Friday—
And if his cab driver hadn't known about the accident on East Fountain—
If they had hit just one more red light—
Jack looked up and into the stalwart eyes of Doctor Lam. "We managed to stop the bleeding," she told him, sighing. "And thankfully Doctor Fraiser had the foresight to collect several units of Colonel Carter's blood." At his quizzical look, she explained, "Because of the naquadah in her system, we'd be hard pressed to find her a suitable donor. I'd like to give her more than we have, but it'll be enough to stabilize her for surgery."
Jack frowned. "Surgery?"
Doctor Lam looked from him to Daniel, her face questioning.
Jack dismissed her unspoken inquiry with a wave. "He's family."
The doctor nodded and continued. "She severed several tendons in her left arm. We need to reattach them immediately if she's to retain full movement and rotation."
"She still has that Ancient-y healing thing goin' on, right?" Jack asked. "Won't that help?"
"Yeah, sir," Doctor Lam sighed, "it will." She paused for a moment, carefully considering her next words. "Sir, I'm not a psychologist, but I have obviously been reading her files. I think her healing ability is responsible for why she did so much damage this time."
Daniel's eyes widened and he sat up straighter. "Whoa!" he exclaimed. "This time? You mean this has happened before?"
Doctor Lam looked aghast, a hand fluttering to her mouth. "Oh god, sir, I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't—"
Jack shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Doctor. We do have greater concerns at the moment."
"Yes, sir," she said, still mortified, but continued. "I, uh, I think she wanted to—eliminate any chance of her body regenerating itself."
"Yeah," Jack whispered, his head falling limply from his neck. "You're probably right." They were silent a moment, Doctor Lam's words ricocheting through the corridor, devoid of other personnel at two in the morning, before Jack asked, "Can I see her before you take her in?"
Doctor Lam nodded. "Of course."
As Jack rose, Daniel asked, "You want me to come in with you?"
began to shake his head, but then reconsidered. "Yeah," he said
finally, offering Daniel a hand up. "I do."
Checkmate in two moves.
"Huh?" Cassie looked up from the board in front of her.
Cassie snapped her fingers away from her knight and seared into Jack, her brown eyes narrowing. Jack met her gaze and swallowed. "You're cheating, aren't you?"
He shook his head. "No."
"Not on purpose," he huffed and leaned back in his chair, rolling his shoulders in an effort to ease the throbbing in his head.
"You can't accidentally cheat," Cassie told him, mulling over the board again. "That'd be like accidentally having sex."
Jack groaned, burying his face in his hands. "You didn't just say that," Jack muttered from the depths of his palms. "I'm pretending you didn't just say that."
Cassie smirked and moved her knight. "The whole sentence or just the word 'sex?'"
Ask her about Kevin.
"I am twenty-two, Jack," Cassie told him. "Check."
"Doesn't mean you need to act like it," Jack muttered, running his finger over his lip as he surveyed his depleted armada of pieces. "Twelve was good," he said and moved his king. "You were cute at twelve."
Jack. Ask her about Kevin.
"I'm not cute now?"
Jack sighed and cocked an eyebrow at his chess partner. "I may not be a smart man, but I do the definition of 'rhetorical question.'"
Cassie laughed and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, her many rings sparkling as her fingers fluttered.
Cassie shrugged and inspected a fingernail. "I broke up with him. A week ago."
"Sam says it's about time."
"Yeah, well," Cassie sighed and reclined in her chair. "She was right about him. He just wanted arm candy and a steady lay."
Jack blinked twice before inhaling deeply. "Yeah," he muttered. "I miss you being twelve."
Cassie ignored him. "Checkmate," she announced and sprung from her seat, her eyes dancing. "You're buying tonight." She swooped in and planted a kiss on Jack's forehead. "I gotta run to work." She grabbed her scarf from the foot of Sam's bed before gently kissing the woman's cheek. "I love you, Sam," she said softly, the twinkle in her eyes now muted, and smoothed the hair away from Sam's face. "You're very brave," she whispered. Then her lips cracked in a wry smile. "And you better snap out of it soon 'cause I got a backlog of girl stuff I need to discuss and I'll be damned if I'm gonna talk about it through Jack."
"Thank god for that," Jack muttered and smiled at the face Cassie threw his way. "Chinese sound good for dinner?"
"Oooooh," Cassie groaned, her eyes rolling slightly as she leaned against the door jamb. "Judy Fu's sounds kick ass." She glanced over her shoulder towards Sam and grinned. "Did I tell you she brought me five quarts of Judy Fu's General Tso's chicken and Mongolian tofu, and two quarts of fried rice the last time she visited me at school?"
Jack's eyes widened. "Seven quarts of food?"
Laughing, Cassie nodded. "It lasted me through finals. Said her car smelled like Chinese food for weeks."
"I would think."
Cassie sighed and glared at her watch. "Okay, I really gotta go. I'll be back around eight." And she bounded out the door in a puff of perfume and wool.
As he started packing up his defeat, he asked, You okay?
He frowned and looked at her body lying on the bed, the various monitors beeping and blinking at intervals, and drew a settling breath. It's been a month, he told her. You planning on waking up anytime soon?
Don't know, she told him and he could see her shrug.
Funny, he said, standing to pack the chess set into her closet. I thought you knew everything.
Not here, she said and smiled, though the expression was dim and solely for the sake of smiling. Here I only know almost everything.
But you did. Know everything.
He could see her lips purse and knew, if she were physically aware, she would be avoiding his gaze. Theoretically.
And you don't remember?
She sighed. It's complicated.
I miss you, he told her. That's not complicated.
But it is.
Stop it, he told her, cringing as his tone bit his ears. Sorry, he said softly, I'm just—look, I know you're scared, but--
I'm not scared, she asserted. I'm just...not ready.
We won't let those whack jobs touch you.
Then what's the problem?
When she didn't answer, he sighed and grabbed his coat from the closet. I'm going for a walk. I hate hospitals.
"'Course you do," he muttered, throwing his coat on and cramming his stocking cap onto his head.
I won't be the same, she told him softly and his hand stilled on the door handle.
He was going to tell her she's not the same now, the procedure and defeating the Ori had changed her—as he knew they would. But perhaps she meant more than that. How's that? he asked.
She was quiet a moment, but he could hear the dull ticking of her thoughts as they flicked by. I can see it, in my head, the things that will happen if I come back into myself. She sighed and he thought he heard her throat catch. I won't be able to handle it.
God, he wished he could hold her, dive into her eyes, offer her comfort in some small, tangible way. What happens?
You know I can't tell you.
He sighed. Yes, he knew. Is it something—or somethings—we can handle together? You and me. We've taken down big, evil things before.
But they were corporeal, she protested. We could shoot them, strap C4 to their power cores and blow 'em to hell. We can't do that this time, save me having a lobotomy.
We'll hold that option in reserve.
Kidding. He paused outside the hospital's exit and drew in a deep drought of the crisp, late autumn air. He'd take a quick walk around the grounds, maybe stop off at Harvey's for a doughnut or three. Still haven't heard from the Asgard.
I told you we wouldn't. They're busy.
Yeah, I was hoping you'd be wrong.
You do that often?
More and more lately, he told her, and waved as Daniel, Mitchell and Teal'c drove past, Mitchell directing his SUV towards the parking lot. The boys are here.
Right. Got anything to tell them?
She paused, considering. Daniel's translation is wrong. 'Intaprofeum' means 'deep within,' not 'in the middle of.'
He frowned. Seems kinda picky.
Yeah, okay, he said and stretched his arms over his head, the dull ache in his head retreating somewhat under the influence of his activity. Anything else?
I'll go crazy.
All right, then, he said. We tell them nothing else.
That's not what I meant. If I wake up, I'll go crazy, lose my mind.
You'll be in good company.
Jack. I'm serious.
He sighed and fished his sunglasses out of his pocket. There are many shades of crazy, darlin'.
The bad crazy.
Okay, he began, but we know that, right? And because we know that, we'll be prepared and kick its ass. He waited for a response, but none was forthcoming. Right? He paused, still waiting. Sam? He frowned and stopped walking without realizing it. What aren't you telling me?
They're canceling the Simpsons.
She sighed. Yeah.
We are going to kick its ass, right?
I don't know. I can't see that far ahead.
He smiled slightly, her reticence suddenly making a little more sense. And that scares you.
She hmmm'd softly. ...maybe. A little.
Ahead, Daniel, Mitchell and Teal'c turned the corner and began walking towards him. So wake up and we'll find out together.
He could see her shaking her head. Not yet. I might be able to see if I can--
He sighed. Two more days.
Four, or I'll make it an order.
You will not.
She groaned, very obviously frustrated. Only you would try to order a comatose person into consciousness.
Yeah, but you're not in a coma, are ya?
She sighed. He had a point. Fine. Four days.
Grinning, he said, Excellent. I'll tell the boys.
No, don't, she said immediately and her insistence—desperation, almost—gave him pause. I don't want them there.
Just...trust me on this one.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel called, and then, a slight smile on his face, he said, "Hey, Sam."
"I'm doing it again, aren't I?" Jack asked, clearing his throat while he schooled his features.
Daniel nodded. "Yeah."
"It's like watching a silent film, sir," Mitchell said, smiling. "Just without the subtitles."
"Placards," Daniel corrected.
"Way less melodramatic, I hope," Jack muttered. "Oh," he said, turning to Daniel. "Sam says something you're translating is wrong." He frowned slightly. "What was it again?"
Daniel shrugged. "No idea."
'Intaprofeum' means 'deep within."
"'Intaprofeum' means 'deep within.'"
Daniel stopped and considered, mumbling words Jack couldn't place under his breath. After a moment, his eyes widened. "'Scuse me," he clipped out. "Need to make a phone call." And he strode several long paces away from them, throwing, "Thanks, Sam!" over his shoulder while he whipped out his cell phone.
"What was that about?" Mitchell asked, squinting at Daniel talking animatedly on his cell phone, his mouth moving entirely too fast for anything coming out of it to make much sense, Mitchell thought.
"Don't know," Jack told him. "I am just the messenger." Looking to Teal'c, he asked, "Doughnuts?"
Teal'c's eyebrow rose and disappeared under the shadow of his cowboy hat.
"Harvey's is just around the corner."
"Then let us make haste."
As Jack and Teal'c began walking, Mitchell turned and said, "Shouldn't we wait for--"
"Daniel Jackson will meet us there," Teal'c called over his shoulder.
"Damn," Mitchell muttered. "Must be some good doughnuts."
He had never seen her so pale. Not after Jolinar, or the entity, or even after the destruction of the Alpha site three years ago. Jack leaned heavily against her bed frame, his head falling limply to his chest.
And then he winced. They hadn't stitched or bandaged her left arm, choosing to leave it lightly butterflied in preparation for her upcoming surgery. Five gashes—five bone-deep, blood freeing, damningly precise gashes.
She fucking knew what she was doing.
He had no idea how she was still breathing.
He shook himself and reached out to caress her cheek, flinching when he contacted her chilled skin. Swallowing the sudden tickle in his throat, he bent and kissed her softly. "I love you," he breathed, imagining his breath warming her, allowing her some modicum of comfort despite her lack of consciousness.
God, had he failed her. Failed her spectacularly.
It only takes a second to die and he had left her alone for eighteen hours. Of course, she had insisted she didn't need a babysitter, she could take care of herself and Daniel did only live fifteen blocks away now so he could be at her side in three minutes flat. He had left her a note reminding her to call Daniel if the need arose but—
Part of him knew she wouldn't.
He shouldn't have left her. Even on his way out, his bag slung over his shoulder, his hat under his arm, he had known he shouldn't leave, that something like this could happen. She warned him, she fucking warned him. "I won't be able to handle it."
Goddamn. He never should have asked her to wake up.
"Blaming yourself won't help her."
As much as he loved Daniel, he really wanted to hit him when he said that.
Even if it was true.
"I know," he muttered and straightened, catching Doctor Lam's eye. "How long will the surgery take?" he asked.
"An hour," she told him. "Maybe an hour and a half. Not long."
He nodded. "We'll be in the commissary," he said, casting one more glance at Sam before leaving the infirmary, Daniel in tow. As he rounded the corner, a smile tugged his lips. Teal'c stood in the hallway, a foam cup in his hand and an entire coffee trolley by his side. "Good job, T," he praised. "You steal that from the kitchens?"
Teal'c frowned. "I stole nothing, O'Neill. Merely borrowed."
Jack smiled—tiredly, but still, he smiled. "Of course. Sorry, T."