When he'd heard (and he had, of course), he'd offered to write the letter to Kate Heightmeyer's mother himself. Which had been sweet of him, and tempting, but it wasn't Jack's job to write this letter. It was Sam's.
He had, of course, known she would refuse the offer. The rest of his email had been full of advice and a few reminders of what not to write.
Don't lie, just don't tell Mrs Heightmeyer that an alien entity had taken over her daughter's dreams and killed her.
It sounded impossible.
So far all she had written was 'Dear Mrs Heightmeyer.'
She had been trying, pushing aside her own selfishness that had popped up to say 'what about me, this is another person I've lost under my command!' to write a letter about a woman she hardly knew but admired all the same. Still, the document was almost a blank page in front of her.
"Colonel Carter, come in please." Radek's voice came in clear through the headset and she groaned before answering.
"We have a problem."
Those words, those cursed words, she thought with a twist of her lips.
"I'm on my way." She gave the email a quick look. Three words. It was a pathetic attempt and she was almost glad for the interruption.
Glad, until she arrived at the labs and was presented by a fading black and gray smog that was filling the corridors.
"What the hell?" She walked through the smoke, waving her arm about to try and see. "Radek?"
"Colonel." She could hear him but couldn't see him, until she bumped into him, causing them both to reach out and grab for each other to remain upright.
"What's going on?"
"We had a little accident," he said, leading her into his lab. "We were running an experiment and overloaded, well, everything."
The entire lab looked black through the clearing smoke.
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Rodney burnt his hand, but no one else."
"Good." She looked around. "Get a clean up crew in here, and I want a report on exactly went wrong."
She Sam took one last look at the blackened lab and left.
In the infirmary Rodney was sitting on a bed, his arm out and a forlorn look on his face, as Jennifer Keller wrapped his hand with a bandage.
"How's the hand?" she asked, looking at Jennifer but knowing Rodney would answer first.
"Fine, no thanks to Dr Fumbles," he said.
"Radek said it was an accident," Sam said, frowning.
"Yeah, an accident that he caused."
"No one is to blame for an accident."
"Then he did it on purpose!"
"Rodney," she sighed, "just... just write me a report."
"How?" he asked, sticking his hand up in the air, pulling away from Jennifer, who frowned.
"You'll find a way," she snapped, making both the doctors jump and she turned to walk away.
In her office, she paced, thinking the letter over in her head. She knew Mrs Heightmeyer had already been informed, she knew exactly what that was like. How it felt and how it went out, she'd been part of that envoy, full dress blues and a sombre look. She'd always had the supporting role though, she was never the one to say, 'I'm sorry', but she never forgot the first time. Lt. Millers body had had never been found, but missing in action was just as devastating as killed in action and Mrs Miller had cried so hard.
When she'd gotten back to the base, safe inside her quarters, she had too.
She felt pretty numb, which she figured might be for the best, it was hard to tell. Jack's email had been full of 'useful' tips about not putting too much emotion into the email. No mention of putting none in, but she wanted it to be more than just a basic sympathy letter.
She wanted to mean it, feel it.
She sighed, and turned to see Sheppard standing in the doorway of her office. "Sorry, am I interrupting something?"
"No, no," she smiled. "I was just thinking."
"Elizabeth used to pace too," he said with a sad smile and she nodded.
"I can imagine." She paused, wondering if she could talk to him about this, but sighed again. "Can I help you John?" she asked instead.
"Got a few requisitions, some rotation schedule, some reports, all for you," he said, waving a palm pad at her.
"Oh, thanks." She took it from her, and forced a smile out.
"You wanna talk about something?" Sheppard asked.
"No, I'm fine, I'll get back to you with this," she waved the palm at him.
"I'll leave you to your pacing then." She smiled at him, sitting down when he left the office.
She managed a short paragraph; the 'I'm sorry', the introduction, it felt like so much in so few words. When Teyla came in, she wore a look on her face that made Sam's heart jump and threaten to break.
"Teyla, have a seat." Teyla nodded and then look was gone, replaced by something cold, stony. When she sat, the door closed behind her, she didn't say anything and Sam let her have a moment to think, to compose herself. Sam knew the two women had been close, and she knew how if felt to lose your best friend.
"I want to take a short leave of absence."
"Of course," Sam said, smiling. "Whatever you need."
Teyla went to speak, leaning forward in her chair, but changed her mind and relaxed back again.
"What is it?"
"I did not think you would so readily agree," Teyla replied.
"You and Kate were close," Sam said.
"Yes." The word was washed out on a breath of air.
"I know how you're feeling right now Teyla, and whatever you need, take it."
"You lost someone close to you."
"I've lost a lot of people." She paused. "My best friend died a few years ago."
"Then you've felt this too?" she asked.
"It gets better," Sam told her.
"Of that, I am sure, but for now..."
"You need a break, from this place, I know.,"
"I went to stay with my brother after Janet died."
"Take some time, we'll see you in a couple of days or so."
Teyla stood, taking a deep breath, she was looking a little better already, Sam thought, but didn't mention it.
"Thank you, Colonel Carter."
She simply nodded and watched the young woman walked away.
Now she was feeling something, feeling for Janet what Teyla for Kate and while the feeling had dulled a little, had numbed and faded, it didn't hurt any less. She went back to the letter with a morbid zeal, telling Mrs Heightmeyer what a valuable member of the mission, expedition, group, team, crossing out each word until she found the appropriate term , trying to convey in words just how important Kate had been to Atlantis, to the mission and it's members.
Sam knew these things on paper, had though Kate exceptionally brave to come across the universe, unlikely to return, with scientists prone to be anal and neurotic, with military members who were chosen for these sorts of mission because they were a little crazy already. She couldn't say that in the letter and she was starting to wonder if there was going to be anything she could say that would really console this woman in any way.
She told her that everybody felt her loss keenly, that no one could truly replace Kate her and wondered if the woman would think it cliche. She knew it would be true for most of the expedition, for the people who had been on Atlantis since the very beginning, who she had helped get through the reality of being cut off from Earth.
Maybe Teyla should write the letter, or John or someone who knew her better than Sam did. A few weeks did not seem enough to be able to say everything Mrs Heightmeyer might want or need to hear. It was proving harder than she imagined, and she wondered if Jack's unwavering faith in her would be shaken if she couldn't do this. Not that he thought she was perfect, she knew that, but she was sure he thought she could do anything. Maybe this was easy for him, but she doubted that.
"Colonel Carter?" She looked up to see Jennifer Keller standing in her doorway.
"Dr Keller, what can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to see how you were doing," the young woman said, taking a step into the office. "Rough couple of weeks."
"I doubt it will get any easier."
"No, I guess not, I just wanted to say I'm here if you wanted to talk, I'm sure it's not easy being in charge. It's not easy being in charge of the infirmary."
"No, it's harder than I imagined. And I imagined it to be near impossible."
"To do or to cope with."
"Well, my infirmary is always open."
"Unless you want to get some lunch?"
Sam looked at the short letter on her screen and nodded.
"I could do with a break," she said, smiling.
Lunch hadn't helped, she felt a little sick, but Jennifer had, by chatting away in her nervous tones about Kate and what she'd done, and then about Elizabeth Weir, and how she would've dealt with the situation and the loss.
Not much differently apparently.
Which was a slight comfort, that maybe she was similar in some ways to the former Atlantis leader and that would in turn be a comfort to the people she was leading. Complicated but comforting. She sat back down on her desk, sat back and read the letter over again. She had the whole afternoon to work over this, barring any other explosive experiments. It wasn't just Rodney and Radek who had accidents. Hell, she'd discovered very quickly it wasn't just the scientists that had accidents. She and Kate had laughed about it a week ago, while they were getting to know each other.
She put it in the letter, how they was just getting to know each other. A little honesty, it had to be honest, some of it, if she was having to leave so much truth out.
Just a little honesty, and she wrote into the night, before she felt asleep at her desk, head on the keyboard, a row of random letters streaming across the bottom of her almost complete letter to Mrs Heightmeyer.
She sent a copy to Jack, to get his approval, because it was important that it was okay as far the Air Force was concerned, and finding that it was perfect, just perfect he said, asking her to add that if there was anything the Air Force could do for her, that she was to contact him. She wondered how many times he had made that offer since he had become General, how many times he had made the offer of support in his life, when he was so reluctant to take it for himself.
Sam had no such reluctance, she had gone to lunch with Jennifer, would email Daniel, and do one last thing with this letter, before trying to move on from loosing another expedition member so soon under her charge.
Get Teyla's approval.
The women were good friends, and while a General's approval was more than enough, and she was mostly satisfied with the letter herself (it was never going to be what Mrs Heightmeyer needed) she felt it important to get Teyla's opinion, after seeing the woman so broken in her office a few days before. It delayed the letter even further, but Sam rationalised things well, and if it helped Teyla, maybe it could help Kate's mother.
Just a little. Sam wasn't expecting much, and the entire thing had been an ordeal, an exercise in the worst parts of leadership. Like a test from above, if she believed in gods, to see if she were cut out for Atlantis, to see if she would stay after this, work through this.
Which was self centered, she knew, but she let herself think that way sometimes. Janet had said it was healthy, and Kate would've agreed, and it wasn't hurting anyone.
"You wanted to see me Colonel?"
"I've written a letter, to Dr Heightmeyer's mother, it's pretty much standard practice, as I'm her boss... was her boss."
"Elizabeth did the same, spent many hours in her office, writing such letters," Teyla said.
"Yes, well, I was hoping you would read it, as her friend, it would good to get your opinion."
"You are worried about the letter."
"I've never written one before," Sam confessed.
"Let me see." Sam turned the laptop around and pushed it towards the other women, sitting back to try and look more relaxed than she actually felt. When Mrs Heightmeyer read the letter, she be a galaxy away. Teyla, however, was barely two feet away. After a minute, Teyla pushed the laptop back and smiled.
"It is a very good letter," she said, and Sam pulled the laptop back towards her.
"Really?" She hated the lack of confidence in her voice, one letter shouldn't cause her this much anxiety, but it did and she really needed to know.
"It will bring Mrs Heightmeyer great comfort. Perhaps not right away, but I know she will come back to read the letter again, when the pain has lessened a little."
Teyla huffed out a little laugh.
"Thank you Teyla.." The woman nodded and left the office and Sam sent the letter, it was all she could give Kate's mother. But there was more she could do for her friends, and she chasing after Teyla immediately after to see if she wanted to get some lunch.