The first night after Jolinar, she woke up screaming.
The nurses rushed in with sedatives and firm hands, pushing her back into bed as Jack watched from the sidelines, his feet frozen to the floor as she thrashed in the grips of a nightmare.
Slowly, the harsh sounds of her gasping breaths softened and her widened eyes slid closed under the guidance of the sedatives. A nurse remained behind to straighten her sheets and reconnect the wires and tubes Carter had disconnected in her panic.
Jack felt the feeling return to his legs and he stepped forward and slumped back down into the chair he had been resting in before Carter had screamed herself, and half the ward, awake.
"She's resting now, sir," the nurse spoke quietly as she gave Carter's sheets one last tug, "She should be out for a good few hours."
Jack nodded, "The, uh," he waved a hand at her IV line, "Drugs. They the good stuff that keep the dreams away or-"
"We gave her the good stuff, sir," the nurse flicked him a sad smile, "She won't wake up screaming again if we can help it."
Jack watched as the nurse left the room, then turned his gaze back to the pale form of his 2IC on the bed, and tried not to list the reasons why this was completely his fault. Flashes and images kept flickering through his mind; Carter bent over a man as ships roared overhead; her eyes flashing gold; the colourless face and lifeless body he had found in the cell; the terrified eyes of the little girl Carter loved most…
Jack rubbed the heels of his hands into his tired eyes. This wasn't something the doc could just give you a pill for and you got over it. Taking a snake in the head would mess up even the toughest of soldiers. Jack knew Carter wasn't just going to bounce back quickly from this. But he didn't know what to do, he didn't know what they were meant to do to help her through this.
Three hours later found Jack dozing lightly by Carter's bedside. Daniel would arrive soon to take over the vigil. The discussion the three men of SG1 had had following Carter's ordeal had been short and to the point. They were going to stick by Carter, see her through it and make sure she found her way back to the team. They might not know what to do, but just being there was a start.
Carter shifted on the bed and Jack frowned as he saw her right hand move to pull at the IV line on the back of her left wrist. He assumed that in sleep, the discomfort of having the IV was causing her to pull it unconsciously, but when he bent forward to still her movements, he noticed that instead of being asleep, Carter's eyes were open and focused as she pulled back the tape on her hand.
"Carter?" Jack easily pulled her hand away, "You should be sleeping."
Carter shook her head; she pulled her hand out of his reach and slipped the IV out of her arm without flinching. She smoothed the plaster back down over the small bead of blood that appeared on her skin and then moved to push back the covers, her intent to leave the infirmary clear.
"Carter stop," Jack stood up and placed a strong arm against her shoulder. Her silence was unnerving as she continued to ignore his presence, "Carter, don't make me get the nurses."
Her eyes flicked to his briefly at the threat. She stopped struggling against him and spoke so softly that Jack had to lean forwards to hear her words, "I need to go outside, sir."
Jack frowned, "It's 0400 hours Carter."
Sam shook her head, disconnected the wires that connected her to the machines by the bedside, and tried again to move past him. Jack once again easily blocked her exit. She avoided his eyes, steadfastly staring at the door that led to the corridor out of the infirmary.
"Help me or leave me alone, I don't care, sir, but …I'm going outside." It was the pain that was woven into her words that made up Jack's mind.
He sighed, "Give me two minutes to clear the nurses from the station and I'll make sure you get topside, Carter."
Sam relaxed back into the covers with a nod. He could feel her sharp eyes pinned to his back as he left the room.
When Jack returned, Carter was sitting on the edge of the bed, a dressing gown over the thin infirmary pyjamas and slippers on her feet. She stood up, her movements slightly clumsy, when Jack reached the bed. He looped his arm loosely around her shoulders, supporting her weight as he guided her out of the infirmary and into the elevator.
As soon as the doors closed to the elevator, Carter pushed away from Jack slightly. Her hand moved to press against the wall and Jack grew concerned as her breathing quickened and what little colour she had in her face drained to leave her looking white and shaken.
"Carter," Jack reached to where her hand pressed against the wall, "You okay?"
He started to seriously doubt his decision to help her out of the infirmary. What was he thinking taking Carter out of the infirmary only hours after she had almost lost her life?? Who knew what medical things were happening to her… Jack was about to press the 'stop' button on the control panel to take her back to the infirmary when Sam's surprisingly strong hand held him back.
"I'm okay," her voice was almost a whisper, "I just need to get outside."
Jack grimaced, "Don't make me regret this, Carter."
Sam didn't answer immediately. She concentrated on controlling her breathing and the insistent panic that threatened to overwhelm her, "I'll be fine once I get outside. It's the small space…" Her voice trailed off and Jack suddenly understood.
Days spent trapped in your own body, kept prisoner and unable to move, the feelings of claustrophobia must have been intense. Following her release from the Goa'uld, she'd been forced to stay beneath the mountain. Heavy grey walls set deeply into the ground without a window in sight. It was a whole new kind of torture.
Jack let out a breath of relief when they reached the surface, echoing that of Sam, who seemed to strengthen the closer they got to the surface. They passed through the checkpoints with few problems, Jack's stony glare and the threat of his rank and position enabling them to glide through with only a curious glance at the unusual dressing gown and slippers Carter wore.
As soon as they passed the final checkpoint and were through to the small clearing just outside the base, Jack stepped away slightly from Sam. She moved forward, tipping her face towards the dark sky, closing her eyes and breathing in deeply. Jack leaned against a conveniently placed tree, content to watch as Sam took in the abundance of space around her and her ability to move freely.
After a moment Sam knelt on the sparse grass on the ground, her fingers dug in to feel the dirt press against her skin. She breathed in the smell of fresh air and the cool damp earth around her. Opening her eyes, she watched as her fingers stroked small lines through the dirt, revelling in being able to control her movements, to do what she wanted without the unrelenting presence of another being in her mind.
For almost thirty minutes, Jack watched Sam as she moved with slow and deliberate movements through the small clearing. She was completely silent but for the sound of her breathing, calm and soft in the quiet early morning air. Eventually, though, Jack stepped forward, placing a gentle hand against her arm. If it were up to him, he would let Carter stay outside as long as she needed, forever even. But if Frasier got wind of their trip to the surface he doubted he could find a place to hide where she couldn't reach him with her needles.
"We should head back Carter." Jack expected resistance, but Sam seemed to understand that she needed to go back inside the mountain.
Jack kept one hand on Carter's elbow as they took the trip back underneath the mountain. The distressed and desperate edge to Carter's demeanour had softened somewhat, but Jack could still spot the lingering sadness and confusion in her eyes. Neither spoke, Carter seemed to prefer the silence, and Jack didn't know what to say, so he stuck to his instincts and they rode the trip down to the infirmary in a strangely comfortable yet distant quiet.
When they reached the infirmary Jack took Carter's robe and kicked her discarded slippers underneath the bed, hoping Janet wouldn't notice the distinct marks of dirt on their previously spotless material. He handed Carter a small towel from one of the many linen cupboards to clean her hands and then assisted the obviously fatigued woman back into the bed.
Her head dropped heavily onto the pillow and she curled up into her side and closed her eyes. Jack took his seat next to her bed, watching the lines on her face and counting the breaths she took as she relaxed into sleep.
"Thank you." Her eyes didn't open, but Jack heard the quiet whisper.
He smiled sadly, "You're going to get through this Carter."
Sam didn't say any more. Jack doubted their trip would result in Carter's immediate recovery, but it was a start. Sam was alive, she was Goa'uld-free and the team was beside her every step of the way. She would get through this, Jack would make sure of it.