First Day Fears
When she was teenager she had a recurring nightmare about standing up in front of the whole school (whichever one she was attending at the time) and finding that she was completely naked. Every time she had to do a presentation or an oral exam or even stand up in class, she had the nightmare. All through high school she had suffered from it until it had faded away. The last time she'd suffered with it had been fifteen years ago. Fifteen years since she'd seen herself, short, dull blonde hair hanging limp past her shoulders, no breasts, no clue, stood in front of her entire school naked. They were always the same, different schools, different presentation but the same nightmare. Young Sam Carter was naked, except for her shoes, in front of everyone. She always had her best shoes on, shoes she hadn't worn since her mother's funeral. She always she her notes with her too, so she could cover herself up, standing frozen on the stage with pieces of white A4 pressed to her skin before she bolted out of sight, off the stage and out of the school.
She would wake up with a jump, hot and sticky with her own sweat and any fears she'd have about her upcoming presentation or oral exam would be intensified. She stammered and stuttered her through most of those situations and still come away with an A but most of the time she would be happy enough that she was dressed.
These nightmares were obvious enough to interpret, she hadn't needed her school appointed grief counsellor to figure them out, and she grew out of them as she grew taller and more confident and her breasts grew a couple of cup sizes. The nightmares faded away, no more nudity in front of the school, her teachers, her peers.
She hadn't expected the nightmare to ever return. Since joining the Air Force she hadn't really felt too nervous when standing up in front of people, college had made her confident in giving presentations, being an officer meant she participated in meetings with ease.
It had come back tonight though. Same nightmare, different setting.
She heard snippets of conversation, their voices as they talked about her, and Colonel O'Neill had assumed she was a guy. Typical but she was ready to correct him, walking into the briefing room with her mouth open, the words half way out of her mouth when there was a collective gasp as she entered the room. The dozen or so men that sat around the table had stopped mid motion and were staring at her. Major Kawalsky dropped his pen, Colonel O'Neill's mouth hung open and General Hammond cleared his throat and straightened his tie.
She was confused until she felt a draft whip across her backside.
Her bare backside.
She looked down at herself and saw pale pink skin instead of her dress blues. She was frozen for a moment, eyes dancing around the room with panic, wide and scared and she couldn't breathe. She locked her eyes with O'Neill and saw him trying to avoid looking at her, he looked directly into her eyes, angry, amused, embarrassed, she saw it all in his eyes. She was terrified. She really, really couldn't breathe, nor could she move. She looked down again and a strange thought went through her mind, she was really glad she had waxed.
On her feet she wore her best shoes. The same shoes she wore to her mothers funeral. They were pinching at her toes and the sides of her feet as she had long grown out of them, they were at least two sizes too small. That was all she was wearing but she was holding the file that had been assembled for the briefing. It still took her another moment or two before she pulled a few pieces of paper from the file and scrambled to cover herself up. No one was speaking. All heads were turned in her direction but all eyes were looking past her, behind her, at the floor, the table, anywhere else but at her body.
Suddenly she bolted. Dropped the papers, the file and ran as fast as she could in fifteen year old, too small, shoes, out of the room and then she was awake and falling out of bed. She was hanging onto the edge of her cot, trying to regain her balance, trying to breathe.
She hit the floor with a thud, the concrete cold on her bare backside and she panicked again, looking around to make sure she was alone in her quarters. She sat on the floor and took deep breaths. When she was calm again, she looked up and around at the time.
She was due in the briefing in three hours. Enough time for some sleep, or a run and a shower.
More than enough time to make sure she was dressed, fully dressed, completely covered from head to toe if need be.
She was nervous, time to admit it to herself. She'd been working on this project since the beginning, she'd been in denial too, that she wasn't nervous about this briefing, this posting, this mission. She'd gotten too comfortable in Washington and now she was under a mountain. Locked away.
Maybe the claustrophobia was back too. She wondered what Claudia would say. Her grief counsellor attributed everything to the death of her mother. Which was fine, expect she'd always been a touch claustrophobic. Just a touch, she hated to admit that she was scared of anything. And she'd already been regularly admitting she was terrified of public speaking as a teenager.
It was another five minutes before she got up off the floor.
She was scared that she would mess it up, scared O'Neill would be an ass like she was in her dream. scared Hammond would side with him. She was scared she wouldn't get to go through the gate again, scared she'd get sent back to Washington. Scared that she'd have to spend another three years working on numbers and not getting out in the field again. Scared she'd have to spend another three years wearing her dress blues everyday.
She was scared. Plain and simple.
Later, it was all the same and she could feel the panic rising in her chest. She smoothed her hand over her skirt, checking it was still there. The same voices, almost the same conversation and she had predicted correctly. O'Neill thought she was a guy. They always did. She took a deep breath, and checked her clothes again, checked they were there. When she walked in she wasn't ready but she jumped in head first with O'Neill anyway and survived. Fully clothed. No one was embarrassed, no one saw her bare backside.
The briefing turned out to be easy compared to travelling through the gate. She really should've been more scared about that.