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19 January 2012 @ 10:09 pm
Fic: Endurance Past the Point (7 of 19)  
Summary, notes, and warnings are located in the Table of Contents.



Part 7

The next few days took on a new pattern as the members of SG-1 tried to find some time every day to spend with Sam en masse, usually sharing mealtimes with her.  They had abandoned the twenty-four vigil rotation after she threatened to bodily throw Daniel out of the infirmary for treating her like an invalid.  She began to take a more active role in their conversations, talking as she toyed with her soups and mashed potatoes.  Eventually, they could cajole her into finishing whatever was on her tray, but she did it to please them rather than out of any appetite of her own. 

The advantage to them all leaving her alone was that none of them was around to see how drained she was after these interactions.  Staying focused on the conversation, ignoring the near constant headache she seemed to have, and trying not to jump anytime one of them touched her used all of her available energy.  Janet and the other medical personnel could obviously tell that Sam was fatigued, but it was easier to hide the extent from them, just like she hid the headaches. 

What she couldn’t hide were the nightmares.  The colonel had told her about her extreme physical reaction showing up on the monitor, so she wasn’t surprised when Janet would ask kindly, “More nightmares last night?” after a particularly bad night.  Sam would just nod and focus on trying to wipe those memories from her mind.

Finally, one morning Janet followed up the standard exam with a smile.  “It looks like you’re going to get out of here soon.  Maybe tomorrow.”

“Really?” Sam asked.

“Really.  I’m going to want you to stay in your quarters here on-base for the time being, maybe another week.  We’re still going to have to do daily blood tests and I’m going to be monitoring your weight gain and energy levels, but I don’t see any reason why you have to stay here.  And before you ask, I will authorize a return to light duty.  I know there’s no way I can keep you out of your lab.  But, Sam, light duty means light duty.  No all nighters, nothing physical.  Just research and lab work, right?”

“Right,” she nodded vigorously, regretting it instantly when the headache blossomed again. 

“Your return to duty is also contingent on your meeting with Dr. MacKenzie on an ongoing basis beginning this afternoon.”

The dull throb inside her skull beat double-time at the thought of sitting with the psychiatrist but she didn’t bother to protest.  SOP.  Military personnel subjected to emotionally traumatic hostage situations must be cleared by a mental health specialist to return to active duty.  And she wanted to get back out there, needed to with a burning desire that she hadn’t felt since Daniel had been picked over her for the first Abydos mission.  The intensity of her desire almost scared her.

Gripping her hands tightly to suppress the shaking, wondering whether it was the headache or the need causing the tremors, she simply nodded and asked, “What time?”

~SG1~

Sam tried her best to tamp down the automatic feelings of animosity at Dr. MacKenzie’s appearance.  Taking deep breaths through her nose, she smiled as he took a seat by her bedside.  In deference to her impending discharge, Janet had finally unhooked her from the monitor, so there were no little alarms or increasing beeps to give her subterfuge away. 

Settled, he pulled out a portable recorder, stated the date, time, and participants and began.  “Major Carter, first let me say how glad I was to hear of your rescue.  The entire SGC was pulling for you.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

“Obviously, Major, you understand the purpose of these sessions.  I’ve reviewed the report you submitted to General Hammond, so I have some idea of what happened to you physically.  But what I’d like to deal with here is the impact this experience has had on you emotionally.  Can you tell me how you feel about what happened to you?”

She concentrated on more deep breaths, trying to shake off her irritation at the absolute ridiculousness of the question.  Her annoyance passed and she answered.  “I... I don’t think there’s a word that even begins to describe how I feel.”

“I understand you think that Major, but I believe that your problem may be that you are not quite aware of what you’re feeling right now.  My job is to help you with that.”

And there it was: that oily condescension, the implication that she did not know her own mind, her own body.  She felt her heart beating faster and clenched the sheets in her fists, trying to control the anger that kept building. 

He noted her reaction but said nothing about it, moving on instead.  “Dr. Fraiser tells me that  you’ve been having nightmares.”

She nodded, thinking that she couldn’t wait to get out of here and enjoy even just a little privacy. 

“Can you tell me about them?” he prodded.

“Just memories, I guess,” she began.  “Of what happened.”  She kept her voice steady.  That was true for the most part.  He didn’t need to know that she had awoken last night, fighting the scream in her throat as Daniel and Teal’c had held her still in that featureless room while Colonel O’Neill drew ever closer, a predatory look in his eye as the hand device on his palm radiated its light.

No one needed to know about that.

~SG1~

The following morning Sam was surprised when one of the nurses came to check her vitals before her release.  After everything had been recorded and Janet still hadn’t shown up, she had to ask.  “Where’s Dr. Fraiser?  I would have thought that she would insist on being the one to give me the all-clear.”

“Oh, no, well, she left very specific instructions as to the conditions of your discharge; all of which you met by the way,” the nurse, Captain Richardson if Sam remembered right, said.  She handed Sam some BDUs and pulled the screen so she could change.

“Okay, but where is she?” Sam reiterated through the curtain.

“There was a Goa’uld attack on, umm... Cartago, I think.  All available personnel were sent out last night to assist the survivors.  Dr. Fraiser went with them.”

“What teams?” Sam asked, pretty sure she knew part of the answer by the obvious lack of hovering teammates this morning.

“SGs 1, 9, and 14, Ma’am.”

Sam felt a little twinge of jealousy, which she quickly chided herself was unbecoming.  She slowly finished dressing and pulled back the curtain.  “Well,” she shrugged.  “I guess I’m on my own.”

“I can walk you down to your quarters, Major,” Richardson offered.

“No, thank you, Captain.  I think I’ll do just fine on my own.”  She had no intention of laying around in her quarters all day.  First order of business was a shower by herself followed by a visit to her lab.

Her lab seemed cold, almost deserted, as she turned on the lights. The first thing that caught her eye was a medium-sized, black, multi-faceted device sitting on the counter.  A sticky note hung from it, the colonel’s writing advising her that this was the mysterious ‘doohickey’ and could she please work her magic on it.  She grimaced.  He probably thought he was leaving her a treat, but just looking at it made her headache worse.  She could feel the pain reaching little tendrils down her neck and rolled her shoulders, trying to loosen up, as she took a seat and looked at the object.

After a few minutes, Sam pushed the device aside in favor of the stack of reports that sat on her desk.  Absorbed in the details of what had been happening at the SGC in her absence, she jumped when she heard the knock on her doorframe.  General Hammond smiled as he walked in.  She stood.

“Please keep your seat, Major.  I just wanted to come by and see how you were doing.”

She eased back onto the stool.  “Very well, thank you, Sir.”  She gestured to the papers now spread across her desktop.  “I’m just trying to catch up.”

He nodded.  “I also wanted to apologize that the rest of SG-1 was not able to be here to today.  I know that they would have liked to help you get re-acclimated.”

“I know, General.  But really, that wasn’t going to be necessary anyway.  Has there been any word from Cartago?”

“Just a brief check-in.  The attack was over before we got there, so the focus has been on making sure that there are no surprises hidden near the village and humanitarian relief.”  She nodded, relieved to know that her team wasn’t in the middle of a firefight somewhere without her.  “I’ll let you get on with your work, Major.  And Sam, don’t work too hard.” 

She smiled warmly at his concern.  “Yes, General.  Thanks for dropping by.”  Turning back to her desk, she opened the next folder on the pile.

Janet had apparently been quite thorough in her instructions to her staff.  Someone from the infirmary came by her lab to make sure she got some lunch and then again at the end of the day, insisting that she leave for the night.  Feeling exhausted from actually staying awake for most of the day, she just got up and shut off the lights before heading back to her quarters, falling asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

The nightmares returned as she slept; the faces of Ugallu and his Jaffa morphing back and forth with those of her friends.  After a few hours she woke, terrified, screaming Jack’s name, but she couldn’t remember if she was fighting him off or pleading with him to save her.  She huddled under the blankets, looking around at the gray cement walls.  All of a sudden, they reminded her too closely of the cell she had been held in.  Why had she never taken the time to personalize her quarters? They were certainly stuck here enough.  But every other time, there had been at least one other member of her team to keep her company.  And now...

She jumped up from her bed and ran to the wardrobe.  Pulling out an extra set of sheets, she grabbed the duct tape she always kept in her desk and frantically started taping the sheets up on the walls. She tried her best to artfully drape them, but as long as they were up there, breaking up the endless flat wall, she really didn’t care what it looked like.  For several minutes, the room was filled with the sound of ripping tape and a chair being dragged across the floor so she could reach higher on the wall.  Finished, she stood in the center of the room, looking at white sheets on gray walls, waiting for some sense of relief.  Without warning, a sob burst out and then she was curled up in a ball on the floor, all the tears she had held back for weeks pouring out of her.

~SG1~

Next morning, Sam reported to the infirmary first thing, betraying nothing of her disrupted night.  Captain Richardson took her temperature and blood pressure and drew some more blood. 

“Dr. Warner was happy with the results of your blood test from yesterday and your temp is good.  Your BP is a bit high, but still within the parameters Dr. Fraiser specified, so I guess you’re good to go.”  She smiled brightly at the major.

Sam gently stood up.  “I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything from Dr. Fraiser?”

The captain shook her head.  “Not really.  I’m sorry, Ma’am.”

Sam shrugged.  “That’s okay, Captain.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  She waved as she left the infirmary.  Her stomach still aching from her crying jag, she opted to skip breakfast and headed straight down to her lab.

~SG1~

SG-1 and SG-9 returned through the gate around mid-afternoon, exhausted and covered in mud and blood from the rescue efforts.  Dr. Fraiser accompanied them along with the more severely wounded survivors.  O’Neill met the general at the bottom of the ramp.  “SG-14 is staying behind for the time being.  The inhabitants are understandably nervous right now.  The elders are discussing the possibility of burying the gate.  Of course, they’ll hold off on that until after their survivors are returned to them and we get our guys back here.  Otherwise, business as usual.” 

“Thank you, Colonel.  Everyone report to the infirmary to get checked out.  We’ll debrief in the morning.”  He saw the look of relief on O’Neill’s face.

“Thank you, General,” O’Neill replied with a little more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary.  He turned to the others.  “All right, to the infirmary we go!”

When they arrived at the infirmary, Jack automatically looked around for Sam.  Of course, she wasn’t there.  He did see that the survivors had already been situated in beds and Dr. Warner was waiting to start the post-mission physicals. 

Dr. Warner said, “Dr. Fraiser, let’s go ahead and get you cleared first.  If we are both working, everybody will get out of here a lot faster.”

Jack tensed.  He hadn’t wanted to go offworld, but that was the job.  He hadn’t wanted to be gone for two days, but that couldn’t be helped.  But he was jealously counting every minute until he could go check on his 2IC and this, well, something could be done about this.  He looked at Fraiser almost pleadingly.  “Doc?”

She smiled slightly.  “Dr. Warner, Colonel O’Neill has a pressing engagement.  Perhaps you should see him first.”

The colonel whispered, “Thanks Doc,” as he slipped past her to the exam area.

A quick exam and a slightly longer shower to remove the blood, grime, and odor that had accumulated over the last two days and he was on his way to Sam’s lab.  There was no point in even pretending that she would be anywhere else.  He stood in the doorway, taking a moment to appreciate the scene the in front of him.  He had wondered if he would ever get to see her sitting there again, completely absorbed in a project, oblivious to anything around her.

The device that Ferretti’s team had recovered was on the table, the covering removed.  He frowned a bit as he realized her attention wasn’t actually on the contraption.  Her eyes were shut and she was rubbing her temples.  In the dim lab lighting, her paleness stood out starkly against the black of her shirt.  If anything, he’d say that she looked worse than when he’d last seen her.  Time to knock off work, he decided.

“Hey, Carter.  We’re ba-aack!” he sing-songed from the door before sauntering into the lab.

She sat straight up so fast he was afraid she’d give herself whiplash.  Trying to mask the tension she was sure was radiating from every pore, she forced herself to ignore the pain in her skull.  “Sir, I didn’t know you were there.  When did you get back?”

“Well, pretty much just now.  Had my exam and took a shower, but then I came straight here.”  He picked up the covering piece from the device on her desk and started turning it over in his hands.  She snatched it away from him.  “How’s it going?” he asked, indicating the device.

She looked down at it, unhappily.  “I’m not sure, Colonel.  I don’t seem to be making any progress.  I think I’m just going have to try again tomorrow.”

Jack tried to keep the surprise off his face.  He didn’t even realize that the word ‘tomorrow’ was in her vocabulary. 

“Well, in that case, may I offer to treat you to the finest, belated ‘sprung from the infirmary’ dinner the commissary has to offer?  Daniel and Teal’c will join up with us soon.”

She started tidying up her workspace.  “Sure, Sir.  That sounds good.”  She finished replacing the cover and stood still, waiting for Jack to head out of the lab. 

He stood still for a minute.  She wanted him to take the lead, which wasn’t all that unusual; he was her CO after all.  But there was something different about this.  Before she would follow his orders, but she always had an opinion, an idea.  Often he felt like he was trying to keep up with her.  Now, she was still, just waiting.  It was eerie to see her so passive.  And he realized that she hadn’t once looked him in the eye since he’d walked in.

“Are you okay, Carter?” he asked.

“I’m fine Sir.”  She lifted her gaze to touch on his face but still couldn’t meet his eyes.  Sights and sounds from her dreams had started flashing through her head when she saw him standing there.  As much as she was afraid of seeing echoes of her dream when she looked in his eyes, she knew that it was an irrational fear.  She was much more worried about what he would see in her eyes.  He had always been able to read her too easily.

“Carter, look at me,” he said gently.  She forced herself to meet his eyes.  “No one expects you to be fine, you understand that right?  And if you’re not, you can tell us.  Just tell us what you need.”  He searched the shuttered blue eyes, wishing like hell that he could touch her, hold her, and soothe all the hurt away.

“Of course, Sir.”

He nodded and motioned that they should start down the corridor.  As they walked, he continued talking.  “I wanted to apologize for not being here yesterday.”

“You don’t need to, Colonel.  It’s the job.  I understood.” she responded, eyes carefully focused forward as they entered the elevator.  She changed the subject.  “How did everything go?”

They talked about the mission on the way to the commissary and as they got their food. They hadn’t been sitting long before Daniel and Teal’c entered the room.  They approached the table, a big smile on Daniel’s face and the equivalent in Teal’c ever-stoic expression. 

Daniel leaned down to give Sam a gentle one-armed hug.  “Sam, it’s so good to see you.”  He felt her tense beneath his arm and pulled away.  She gave him a wan smile.  “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m doing all right.  Just have a headache.”

Teal’c took a seat next to O’Neill.  “I am also pleased to see you, Major Carter.”

“Thanks, Teal’c.  It’s good to see you guys too.” 

They shared some light conversation as the guys ate and Sam pushed her pasta salad around the plate, grudgingly taking a bite when she noticed the colonel staring at her tray.  He continued watching her as they talked.  She was holding back, talking, but not engaging with any of them.  It was a marked difference from the last few meals they had shared.  Before she was discharged, she might have drifted off into her own mind every now and then, but when she was talking, she was definitely present. 

He wondered if she was angrier than she let on about them having gone off-world without her.  He hoped that wasn’t it.  Based on his conversation with the general the other day, that would be happening again, sooner rather than later.  SG-1 couldn’t just sit on the sidelines while she underwent months of recuperation.  But if it wasn’t that, what was causing her to distance herself from them?

As soon as Sam felt she had spent a reasonable amount of time with them, she excused herself, to the infirmary for her evening checkup.

~SG1~

Jack gave her some time to get checked out and then casually dropped by the infirmary.  “Doc, just wanted to make sure everyone checked out okay this afternoon .” 

“Yes, Colonel.  Everyone was fine.”  Based on the amusement in the doctor’s eyes and Carter’s patented repressed eye roll, he wasn’t fooling either of them.

He forged ahead anyway.  “Hey, Carter, you all finished here?  Why don’t I walk you back?”

They walked quietly back to her quarters and entered.  Jack took a few steps in and stopped, looking around appraisingly.  Sam winced as she looked at the walls and remembered her overnight activities.

“Doing some redecorating?” he asked.

“Oh, uh,” she stammered.  “Well, Sir, I don’t really know what to say.  I woke up last night and...”  She sat down in her desk chair, staring at the desktop, feeling incredibly foolish. 

He leaned on the edge of the desk.  “Major, did I ever tell you about when I came back from that Iraqi prison?”

“No, Sir.”  She was a little perplexed by his sudden topic switch.

“I spent some time at Walter Reed before I they’d let me go home.  You know the drill, checkups, psych evals.”  He grimaced.  “Sometimes it felt like I had just traded one prison for another.  So, I'm in the common room one night, because sleep just wasn't happening.  And there are these pictures on the walls, landscapes and ocean scenes and it’s all supposed to be calm and soothing.  And all I can think about is that I spent the last few months thinking I'd never see anything like that again and now I was stuck in a hospital and all I had were these fucking paintings.“

He paused.

“What happened, Sir?”

“Lots of splinters, Major, broken wood and glass.  I kind of lost it and tore every goddamn painting down, destroyed them all.” 

He rested his hand lightly on her shoulder.  She automatically tensed then allowed herself to relax under the warm weight.  “The nights are the hardest, Carter.  Believe me, I know.  Being alone, it’s no good.  I know you might feel like that’s what you want right now, but trust me.  It’s not going to help.”

The compassion and concern in his voice were nearly overwhelming.  There was a part of her that just wanted to break down and tell him everything, all the memories and the dreams and the insanity jumbled up in her head.  But the rest of her just rebelled at the idea.  “I know Sir, but I’m not ready yet.”

He nodded.  “That’s fine.  We do this in your time, Carter.  I just want you to know that we will get through it.”  He patted her shoulder and stood up.  “I think I’ll say good night now.  I have to head home tonight, but if you need anything, you call me.  No matter what time it is.  Even just to talk.  I’ll pick up.”

“Thank you, Colonel.”

A smile and he was gone.  She got ready for bed, comforted in the remnants of his presence as she slipped in between the sheets and fell asleep.


 
 
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