The Long and Winding Road - Prologue THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
by Avalon (avalon99@telusplanet.net)
fanfic at http://members.dencity.com/avalon_online
PG-13, S/J, Prologue


NOTES: This takes place after "A Hundred Days"

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: As always, to Linda Campbell for the great Beta reading and for suggesting the title.

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Don't own 'em. 'Nuff said.

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
PROLOGUE: Halfway Down the Road to Lethe

It would all be over soon.

The pain that was slicing through Samantha Carter would end soon. It had to. She gasped as the Goa'uld ribbon device cut even deeper into her mind, shards of memories splintering away like glass.

"I take it you're Colonel O'Neill. Captain Samantha Carter reporting, Sir."

A crisp salute. Wanting to impress him...impress them all. Excitement and trepidation coursing through her. She was actually going to go through the Stargate, be part of the team.

More memories, blurring together...

...You know Captain -- this wasn't such a bad day after all...

...You did it, Sam. You won...

...Your first command. Cool...

...The MALP is worthless. You, I'll trust...

And later. Much later.

"You miss him, don't you?"
"Yeah."
"Is this a problem?"
"No. Of course not."

Liar. Exhaustion battering against her, warring with the soul-deep need to have him back. Later, the jubilation of defeating physics, of bending the rules of time and space to her own will. Relief. Eagerness. And apprehension.

"...so when the third MALP sent just a few seconds of telemetry we knew the Gate was horizontal..."

Confusion and a touch of hurt as the Colonel walked away. Pain blossoming inside as he moved toward her. Toward Laira.

"You must be pleased to be going home."
"No. I'm not."

Disbelief. And then the crash of pain -- the crest of a wave that fragmented her soul.

Realization. And denial. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't matter. It doesn't.

Two months later. A message from Edora. A conversation overheard in the hallway.

"Are you going to go back?"

"I have to, Daniel. Laira...said she needed to talk to me. I..."

"What's the matter?"

"Uh...well, there's the chance she might be pregnant."

A pause while the ruins of Sam's world floated down around her like ashes.

"I...see. Um...what about PX3-1142?"

"General Hammond's already given me clearance. It's a simple enough data-gathering mission. In and out. You guys will be just fine without me."

PX3-1142. Rain. Wind. Cold mist coiling around the Stargate and grey, eternal standing stones. And then, without warning, a movement to her left. Her internal alarm surging to life and battering at her mind like a caged bird. Goa'uld! Weapons fire. Then she was diving for cover, shooting back, allowing all the emotions bottled up inside free rein, turning betrayal and sorrow into aggression...anger...

A cry. Daniel vanishing down into the fog. No! Teal'c pulling him to safety, dialling out with one hand. The sound of her own breathing coming sharp in her ears.

Have to lay down covering fire, have to buy them enough time. Can't let...

A burst of light and pain, sudden and sharp, overwhelming her. Full and complete sensory overload. Engulfed by an inferno of agony, every nerve on fire. And then...nothing. Only the long and lonely descent into darkness.

Time. Being dragged back to wakefulness only to return to oblivion as the torment became too much. And questions. Always the unending questions.

"What are the codes to Earth's defences?" "Where is the hidden Tok'ra base?"

A fleeting glimmer of humour, gone all too soon. "Dantooine. They're on Dantooine."

Another explosion of agony. And then more. And more. Her soul fleeing to a hidden place deep inside her as they did...things...to her body. Horrible things. The realization that at some point soon, the need to stop the pain and horror would outweigh the need to protect Earth and the Tok'ra.

Memories of a conversation with the Colonel. Long ago.

"The movies get it wrong every time. Everybody breaks under torture, sooner or later. It's just a matter of time."

"So...what can you do to resist, Sir?"

"Lie. Lie as often as you can. Maybe then, when you do tell the truth, they won't recognize it."

And so she lied, desperately, creatively, constantly, doling out the truth one piece at a time, each one wrapped in a web of fiction. Truth and deception intermingled, tangling in her besieged mind until even she could not tell where one ended and the other began.

Time. It's just a matter of time. Seconds crawling by. Caught up in an undying eternity of now. How long? Days? Weeks? And finally, the moment when there was no more truth to give, no more facts to wrap up in the lies. The moment when Samantha Carter...ceased to be.

Apophis had what he wanted. He was killing her at last, his Goa'uld technology burning through her mind. Whole pieces of Sam, her past, her dreams, her memories, and her hopes -- all vanishing in the wake of the ribbon device like ashes on the wind. But some last part of her, the part that still wished desperately to live, despite the ravaged shell her body had become...reached out. For something. Anything. And in the last moments of Sam's life, a single memory resurfaced...

Happiness. The scent of alien flowers on the wind, a light summer breeze dancing in her hair. Blue sky and the bluer sea. Waves curling gently over water-smoothed pebbles and her friends close by. Daniel explaining a joke to Teal'c. Colonel O'Neill reaching a hand down to help her up, her notes tucked securely in her other hand. The moment before he released her, when she felt safe, secure, and happy.

He was letting go now, moving away, his fingers sliding out of hers. She tried to tighten her grip, to cling to him for just a moment longer, but it was too late. A lifetime too late. Her muscles would not obey her mind's commands...

"Jack!" she had time to scream once, silently...and then everything was spiralling away into a whirlwind of fear, pain, and loss...until the darkness claimed her at last.

END OF PROLOGUE