A/N: Thank you for all the wonderful reviews, and I am so sorry for the long wait! College is eating my soul. I hope ya'll like this chapter!
All reviews are answered if I'm able!
Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate SG-1; I just borrow the characters and give them back when I'm done playing.
"Get to the gate, Sam!"
Daniel shoved her hard through the gate, crying out as the blast took him in the side and she watched in horror as he fell before she made it all the way through, too late to go back. Teal'c caught her on the other end as she dropped, her weight suddenly too heavy for her to bear alone, and she twisted her hands in his torn shirt, refusing to let go in case the universe wanted to take him away from her too. The white noise in her head blocked out everything except Daniel's final words, the look in his wide blue eyes as he pushed her, and the lack of fear that had always been there when it mattered. The warm, sticky feeling had her looking down at her hands where they remained twisted in the large Jaffa's shirt as he held her, and she choked at the sight of them.
They were covered in blood.
Sam jerked upright with a gasp, clutching the sheets with white-knuckled hands as she shook her head to rid it of lingering dream images. It had been a week; a whole damn week since Daniel pushed her through an open wormhole and didn't follow, and the nightmares were only getting worse. They were so real, like she was reliving the moment every night, only there were occasionally times when the whole bloody scene would be different in some small way that she knew wasn't right because she had been there, dammit, and oh god, she could never force herself to wake up before he died right in front of her. It always left her shaking and holding back tears, refusing to allow herself to cry.
It was her fault; she had left him behind, and she didn't deserve the privilege of tears to cleanse the gut-wrenching pain that gripped her every day. In some morbid way she welcomed the pain because it let her know she was still anchored to the here and now; that she hadn't drifted away to become something less than human that fought for life out of pure reflex instead of the will and want to live. She did want to live, most of the time. There was a tiny, traitorous kernel of hope that refused to be extinguished, always whispering in the back of her mind:
You didn't see them die.
It was all she had to cling to in the darker hours when she was left wondering why and Teal'c wasn't around to gently remind her that they kept fighting because they didn't leave anyone behind, no matter the rumors about their deaths. Her people were still out there, sitting in Goa'uld prison cells or hiding amongst the natives of whatever planet they had been resourceful enough to escape to.
Sam sighed, watching her breath rise on the crisp night air until it disappeared as she slowly eased herself out of the cot that served as her bed in the cramped quarters she shared with three other women. She would never admit just how disconcerting it was to sleep with them when she was so used to her boys after all these years. Even Cam's snores would have been a welcome change from the dead silence that tended to permeate the room at night or the charged atmosphere after she woke from a nightmare to find the other three had been woken by her movements, but were clearly uncomfortable with saying anything about it.
It was those nights, like this night, that she would slip away wearing one of Jack's old shirts that she had been lucky enough to find in her locker before they'd left, and the recent development of a pilfered pair of Daniel's sweatpants that had to be rolled up several times at the waist to fit. It was, she knew, probably a mentally unhealthy habit that bordered on obsession, but there weren't any shrinks on their make-shift base to psychoanalyze her issues, and no one else would say anything about it. They all had their own ways to cope.
How long had it been since she'd just sat and looked at the stars? They winked above her in an alien sky as she leaned back on her hands in the grass to study the strange constellations, wondering if any of them held knowledge as to the whereabouts of her missing family. She closed her eyes tightly, squeezing them shut against the tears that burned them as her throat threatened to close up in response to the pain that stabbed through her chest at the thought.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
First had been Jack and Cassie, gone without a trace when their planet had been annihilated by the Goa-uld. They had no way of knowing if one or both had survived the initial bombing only to be taken as a slave from the ruined surface as so many others had. She couldn't count the times she had run into a vaguely familiar face when doing raids on several strong-holds purported to contain tau'ri survivors. It left her in shock each time they encountered a goa'uld that had taken a tau'ri host, but also filled her with a renewed sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, her general and her adopted daughter had survived.
Every new loss was like a raging river, eating away at that already-weathered kernel of hope inside until it was dull and hanging on with nothing but stubborn whispers in the back of her mind.
Daniel had been the most recent in a string of catastrophic losses, her personal interest notwithstanding, his loss was a blow for them as a whole, given his experience and varying skills that had proven a great help since their relocation. He was a people person and, despite his own obvious skills in repressing emotional issues, had done his best to play the part of councilor to anyone who needed it. He had been part of her grounding force those first few weeks, along with Teal'c; both of them resolved to keep her focused and distracted from the grief they all felt.
"Mama always said there'd be days like this." She couldn't quite stop the bitter laugh as she sat up, burrowing into the clothing she wore. There was a kind of comfort there, surrounded on all sides by the scents of two of the three men that were most important in her life. She ignored the sting of the cold air against her skin, instead pulling her knees up to rest her chin on them as she stared out over their squat little camp.
"Oh, how the mighty have fallen." She knew he was there instinctively, as she always did, but didn't turn around. She didn't have to look to know he was watching her impassively, the only expression of emotion visible being that in his dark eyes, or the small lines of his face. She kept her eyes forward as she continued her line of thought.
"Taken out by the Goa'uld. It's a little ironic, don't you think?" After all these years, all the threats they'd faced and beaten, and it's the Goa'uld that finally gets them. It was irony, pure and simple. Then again, maybe they had just been arrogant all these years, assuming they could tear down the regimes of gods and get away with it. All that sacrifice over eight long years and it was wasted now, on a planet that was little more than ruined rock. She shuddered and burrowed deeper against the cold feeling inside of her that had nothing to do with the temperature.
The large Jaffa said nothing as he moved to sink onto the ground beside her, sitting indian style and just close enough so that their sides brushed together, sharing body heat to ward away the cold. She knew he was still watching her, studying her face as intently as he could in the darkness. It was mostly intentional on her part; she had taken to using the dark to hide the gaunt look of hollow cheekbones and haunted eyes. He was the only one she would accept concern and sympathy from, playing the stoic, apathetic soldier in front of the rest of the population these days.
"We have retrieved Colonel Mitchell." His voice was even, and once the words registered she sucked in a breath and turned, finally, to stare at him.
"The Tok'ra offered their assistance, and he will be returned to us tomorrow." She could just make out the minute signs of relief on his face. He had taken up watching Cam as some solemn, self-appointed duty, and losing him on that supply run had been hard for Teal'c.
"That's …good, Teal'c. That's really good." It would raise morale a little, to get back one of their own, especially since he'd been gone for nearly a month.
Still, she couldn't help but feel apprehensive about it, knowing what he had gone through in the short span of time he'd been a host. It wasn't something they'd ever prepared him for, having thought that problem neutralized by the time he'd come into the picture. Not that they ever could prepare anyone for that eventuality. There wasn't anything in the galaxy that could prepare a person for becoming a prisoner inside their own head.