She opened her eyes
Sam hadn't died a lot of times.
She hadn't died on the rare whole family holiday to the coast when Mark, overconfident in his own swimming abilities and blasé about the power of waves had towed her just beyond his depth (and well beyond hers) in an inflatable dinghy. She hadn't yet learnt to swim properly (she could struggle across the shallow end without touching her toes to the bottom, just about anyway) and the swell of the unbroken waves rocking the boat was exhilarating and made her shriek with delight and fear in equal measure. She'd flapped the oars uselessly in the water in charade of rowing and Mark had looked proud and pretended that he wasn't struggling to tread water.
A particularly big wave hit the dinghy side-on and before she had even had chance to register the excessive tipping, Sam found herself in the water, below the surface in a suddenly calm and silent world. The waves had churned up the sand so that all she could see was the swirl of suspended particles around her. She stuck her hand out, hoping that it was up, but unsure. A long second passed and then she felt a hand, Mark's hand, close around her wrist and he hauled her in one move up out of the water and halfway back into the dinghy. Sam pulled herself the rest of the way into it and looked around. Mark was clinging to the dinghy's side too and it was half-full of water. The water around them was still full of people, all of whom appeared oblivious. She coughed, spluttered and pushed her long straggly wet hair from her face. Mark looked at her and then let go of the dinghy without a word so that he could start swimming back to the beach. Sam coughed again and sat in the centre of the boat in the trapped water in the bottom. It sloshed when the dinghy jerked after Mark's movements. It wasn't long before he was back in his depth and he was towing her more smoothly, but still at the end of the string. He pulled her all the way into the shallow water until the dinghy grounded. Sam shook when she climbed out of the boat and looked around for where their beach towels were. She still had a little water trapped in her throat that made her cough and she desperately wanted a drink of water.
"There you are!" They both heard their Dad and while Sam looked towards him Mark kept his attention focused on her. Dad was paddling along in the surf towards them, the foam splashed around his ankles and shins with each incoming wave that also obliterated each footprint he left on the sand. He was carrying a stick in each hand.
"I bought you a popsicle each," he told them and Mark finally looked at him before they both looked at the empty sticks. Dad looked embarrassed and stuck the sticks into the pocket of his shorts, "Guess I didn't think that plan through. What happened to you Sam?" He looked at her as she coughed and then tried not to, making an odd hiccup.
Mark wasn't looking at her, or her Dad anymore. He looked terrified and he held himself stiffly.
"I fell in the water," Sam said. It wasn't a lie, she couldn't lie to her Dad, but she didn't mention Mark either.
Dad frowned at her, "Good job Mark was there. You need to be careful Sam."
"Well, no harm done. Grab that dinghy and we'll get you ice creams. Mark can have one with extra sauce."
"That's okay Dad," Mark was looking intently at the sand.
"No, no, you deserve it. You're a good big brother."
Mark grabbed one side of the dinghy and Sam the other and they trailed lopsidedly up the beach. After only a few steps their Dad intervened to take Sam's side of the boat in one hand and her hand in the other.
"My little trooper," he told Mark fondly
She opened her eyes. There was a puddle below her that was murky and swimming with grey mud. Her hands were twisted back and tied to her feet and then the wall, holding her kneeling. She ran her tongue carefully around her damaged mouth feeling the lingering fibres of the rope they'd used to gag her. Looking down into the puddle in which she was kneeling she realised how thirsty she was. How long had she been here? How long was it since she'd last had a drink? She felt a slow trickle of blood run down her face from a cut above her eye. It tickled and annoyed her. Gently, almost gracefully, it dripped from her chin and splashed into the puddle, staining it. She was aware that her head should hurt if it was bleeding, but there was just a thick fogginess to her mind and everything else seemed to be hurting instead.
She flexed her shoulders as much as the rope would allow, trying to ease some of the pressure on her joints, and gasped. The movement re-opened the recently inflicted wounds across her back that had just begun to close and she felt the trickle of fresh blood down her side under her t shirt. She felt unreal, peacefully detached somehow, but the quiet and persistently rational voice in her mind (she'd never been able to turn it off) was insistent that she was in trouble.
"Crap" she whispered through her swollen lips.
Sam didn't die after she heard about her mom's death.
She thought she should. It felt like she could and she was aware that characters in books and plays did. However, they were fictional and she was unsure if that meant it wasn't really possible. If the feeling in her chest was any indication, all she needed to do was stop and let go and she'd simply die. She wasn't sure if it was scary or not and she hadn't mentioned it to her Dad, or to Mark. She hadn't said much of anything to anybody because she needed to work so hard to even breathe that she didn't have room to talk. She escaped to her room as soon as she could, which wasn't as soon as she wanted and crawled under the bed of all places. It was dark and small and it made her think of a coffin. Her mom would be in a coffin and Sam pressed her hand against the wooden slats only inches from her face and imagined what it would be like.
It would be so easy and it would stop hurting. Sam breathed in and out slowly. She did it again, and again, and again. She closed her eyes, exhaled slowly and let go.
She didn't die.
She blinked and when she opened her eyes the puddle she was kneeling in was stained red. She wondered why it was red when the mud on the floor was grey. It didn't make sense. She tried to lift her head. Her stretched and stiff neck muscles screamed their opposition to that plan but she did it anyway. Her head felt heavy and foggy and her vision swam with each small movement. Breathing hurt. She was thirsty and the inside of her mouth was sore. She was in a room, a cell, walls on three sides and bars on the fourth, all wood. She could probably have kicked down the bars if she hadn't been tied to the wall. How long had she been here?
She could hear voices but could see no one. The cell she was in faced another identical cell, which was empty, and she couldn't see further than that. She was aware she had been leaning forward, all her weight on her bound wrists and she tried to lean back to release some of the pressure. Her back and leg muscles protested, but she moved anyway and resettled her weight onto her bent legs. Her hands and fingers ached as blood rushed back into them and she bit back a gasp. She'd been in a village, they'd been negotiating. Was she still there? She was in trouble.
Sam didn't die of embarrassment when she was fifteen either, though she was sure she was going to when she finally plucked up the courage to ask Jason out on a date and he said no. Not just said no, he said it loudly and mocked her as if she was truly foolish for asking. He said in a suddenly crowded corridor and everyone heard.
Sam didn't die when she was investigated as part of a cheating scandal at the Academy. She didn't even associate with the others who were implicated in the cheating ring, but being the best was enough of a reason for people to be suspicious and malicious. She hadn't seriously considered doing anything dramatic, she was too tightly tied and wound the wrong way to do dramatic displays. She thought about it, but she knew she would walk away before she did anything drastic to herself and she would never walk away from the Air Force.
She blinked and when she opened her eyes the puddle in front of her had settled. The mud sulked below the red stained water. She stared at it. The liquid in the puddle was completely still and she realised slowly that the red was her blood. She flexed her muscles gently and groaned as pain shot through her entire body from strained muscles, bruises and cuts. Moving was bad, she wasn't going to do that. What had happened? She remembered grabbing and a net. They'd hit her with sticks when she'd put up a fight, until a poorly aimed blow had opened up her forehead and she'd lost consciousness. She was in trouble, she could feel it, or more importantly not feel important physical things that she knew she should. There should be more pain. Parts of her body were giving up.
The noise outside increased. It took her a while for her to register the change because everything seemed so distant. She snapped her head up at the unmistakable sound of a P90 and a staff weapon firing. The sudden movement was a mistake as her vision swam again and she felt herself sway sideways, the edges of her vision swept in and she strained with her ears instead. There was shouting outside now and the sound of people running. She heard screams as she attempted to stay both upright and awake. Her body seemed to be offering one or the other right now but not both.
There were running feet outside the building she was in and the sound of feet splashing in puddles and mud. A long shadow appeared in the space between the cells. Her head was down and she wanted to look up but it was taking all her energy to stay awake. Whoever it was made short work of the wooden bars of the cell and booted feet splashed into the red puddle below her. SGC booted feet.
She wasn't sure if it was a statement or a question but she couldn't answer anyway. He crouched down, an arm going round and taking her weight. It was Teal'c. She felt him moving and jerked as she felt metal on her wrists.
"It is okay," He reassured her quietly. She realised he was slicing through the ropes around her wrist with his knife and held still.
"Teal'c?" called the Colonel from somewhere out of sight. "I've got Daniel."
"I have located Major Carter
She leant against his shoulder and inhaled sharply as her arms were released. The stiff muscles protested and the movement pulled on the scabbed over wounds. She could feel the cotton of her t shirt stuck firmly to her back. The rope around her ankles was gone too and she clung to Teal'c as she tried to stand. It was mostly him pulling her into standing position rather than her own effort. The muscles in her legs screamed. How long had they been in that same position? It was difficult to work out how to stand on legs that were numb from lack of movement and kneeling in cold water for God knows how long. It was difficult to move anything and she felt a like a puppet with its strings cut.
Teal'c pulled her arm over his shoulder, his other arm round her waist and virtually dragged her outside. She stumbled, her feet scuffing in the mud as she endeavoured to bear some of her own weight. She could vaguely hear a P90 firing, but everything sounded a long way away.
"Damnit Carter," the Colonel swore as Teal'c helped her out of the cell. She tried to lift her head. The Colonel stood in front of her as a blurred figure only a few feet away but his voice sounded much further.
"What happened to her?" Daniel sounded rather alarmed. "They hardly hurt me."
"Later. We have got to get out of here."
Daniel moved to slip under her other arm, taking the rest of her weight and with Colonel O'Neill laying down covering fire they ran. Sam watched the muddy ground beneath them, trying to move her legs.
Sam didn't die on the Nox world, except she had. She'd felt the staff blast hit and her everything stop working. Since then she had replayed those sensations over and over in her mind. It was macabre, but it wasn't an experience that she would go through again (she hoped, she really hoped) and she wanted to learn as much as she could.
Sam didn't die.
When she opened her eyes she was looking at the ceiling of the infirmary.
She turned her head to the sound and smiled, almost as a reflex, though limited by her split lip and the continuing fogginess on her head. "Yes Sir?" she whispered. Her voice was croakier than she thought it would be. Colonel O'Neill was sitting on the bed next to hers and scraping out the bottom of a pot of jello with a spoon.
"Ah, glad to have you back. We were worried."
"I wasn't going anywhere Sir"
Janet walked over at the sound of talking and checked the monitors and IV Sam was hooked up to.
"You've a nasty concussion, a hairline skull fracture, cuts and bruises, and dehydration, but you'll be fine. You're lucky" She handed Sam a glass of water, which she gratefully accepted, and squeezed her hand gently where it rested on top of the blankets, partially obscured by the IV. There was a sternness in Janet's voice that suggested a great deal of bed rest and light duties in Sam's immediate future, but a tenderness in her voice and the touch of her hand that explained why Janet was one of the few people in the world who would actually succeed in getting her to go along with it.
"How's Daniel?" Sam asked the Colonel as Janet jotted something down on Sam's chart and then returned to what she had been doing before Sam had woken up.
"Oh you know, hardly a scratch on him. He's sleeping. What happened to you by the way?"
"I objected to being in a net." She answered carefully.
"Ever heard of picking your fights?" He suggested, but there wasn't a great deal of weight behind the suggestion. They both knew what he'd have done in the same situation.
"They started it," She whined slightly, but she was exhausted and it could be excused.
"And it looks like they finished it. Just glad you're ok." His voice softened with the last sentence and he smiled gently.
She ducked out of a response by drinking the water Janet had given her. The water was tepid, but delicious. She mentally chalked another tally up in the 'didn't die' column and smiled to herself.