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19 January 2012 @ 10:34 pm
Fic: Endurance Past the Point (11 of 19)  
Summary, notes, and warnings are located in the Table of Contents.


Part 11

He walked slowly around her, a quivering mass huddled in on herself.  Her skin was marred by numerous lacerations, some old, some new and still bleeding.  She had long since screamed herself hoarse, but her eyes told him she still refused to submit.  He looked to the side, examining the array of instruments waiting for him.  He reached for a blade and felt its weight in his palm.  He knelt by the woman, tilting her chin up to look into her blue eyes as he raised the knife to hover in her vision.  


“Just answer me and this will all be over.”  His voice sounded foreign to his own ears as it echoed back to him.  

Her face set stubbornly, she jerked her chin from his fingers as she shook her head, bracing for the next cut.

He lowered the knife to her skin.

Summoning all his will, Jack woke himself from the dream with a strangled yell.  Chest heaving, he took in his surroundings immediately, relaxing when he realized he had fallen asleep sitting on the couch in his own living room.  Leaning his head back against the cushions, he pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, trying to block the image of a tortured Carter, trying to forget the feel of the knife in his hand.  

He reached for his half-drunk beer sitting precariously on the end table.  Feeling the now-warm bottle, he grimaced and left it where it was.  It was a wonder that he hadn’t had this dream last night after Daniel’s revelation about Sam’s nightmare.  He supposed that MacKenzie’s confirmation was the final straw his subconscious needed to create this scenario.  Every word of Carter’s report was burned into his brain.  Mix that with his own memories and you got a fairly vivid nightmare, apparently.

He pushed off the couch, trying to walk off some of the adrenaline surge.  He passed the empty spot where his photo of SG-1 had been until a few days ago.  He could still see it: Carter’s brilliant smile, her head slightly turned toward Daniel who had continued talking despite Fraiser’s exasperated pleas to smile for the camera, Teal’c and Jack on either side of them.  Teal’c wore a tolerant, slightly amused expression.  The camera had caught Jack in the split second before he rolled his eyes at whatever Daniel was saying.  It was one of Jack’s favorites, capturing so much of what he loved about his team.  

He wandered back to stand next to the couch, absentmindedly picking up the beer and swallowing the warm liquid.  He held the bottle loosely in his fingers, tapping it against his thigh, staring through the windows into the dark night.  Over the past couple of years, the nagging certainty had grown that eventually their luck would run out and they would lose someone.  They had cheated fate a couple too many times already.  But if he was honest, he had always assumed it would be him.  He’d wanted it to be him.  He would willingly die for any of them and the fact that he hadn’t had the opportunity to even try to save her when it counted burned in his soul.  

And now, she was still lost to him.  And again, there was nothing he could do.  He gulped the remainder of his beer with a grimace, left the empty bottle, and headed to bed.


~SG1~


Sam woke to the dried tracks of tears on her cheeks and the taste of blood in her mouth from her lip trapped between her teeth.  She turned over to look at the clock on her bedside table and was appalled to see that it was 1000.  She supposed that having two massive migraines the day before could be to blame for this unprecedented sleep-in.  Or maybe she was just hiding, trying to avoid what was waiting for her on the other side of her door.

Sam had returned to her quarters immediately after leaving the briefing room the afternoon before.  Daniel and Teal’c had both called after the meeting had ended to offer their company.  They had both politely accepted her patently obvious lie that she was tired and just wanted to sleep.  

She had had no real desire to sleep but couldn’t bring herself to face them, not yet.  She wanted some time to get used to her new self-identity as she tried on different names: traitor, pawn, sleeper agent, patsy.  She had sat on her bed and tried to review every moment since she returned.  Had she done other things to put the base at risk?  When had the disconnect within herself begun?  That line of thought was fairly quickly aborted as the circlets of pain around her skull contracted every time she thought too deeply about her recent actions.  

Looking for distraction, she had then occupied herself trying to devise a formula to determine exactly how long it would take for the entire base to learn of her situation.  Rumors spread like wildfire, particularly when they involved members of SG-1.  She estimated that it would take less than a day for all active duty personnel to hear about it and another week for word to filter out through the alpha site, airmen on leave, and teams on long-term missions.  Of course, she had to figure it all out long-hand because they had taken her computer away.

She stayed in her room as long as she could stand it.  Around lunchtime, she gave up and headed out the door.  She stopped by the infirmary where Janet was blessedly ultra-professional and efficient in her check-up and then went on to the commissary.  As she walked through the corridors, it became apparent that the rumor mill was running at full capacity, confirmed every minute she was followed by her SF tail.

There seemed to be a range of reaction from the people she passed.  There were some sympathetic looks, but most people just appeared uncomfortable, as if they didn’t know how to react.  People knew how to congratulate SG-1 on their victories and how to sympathize with their injuries and losses.  This didn’t seem to fit cleanly into those parameters.  However, it was the few blatantly hostile stares that she felt the most keenly.  Grateful for the years of practice, she maintained her impassive expression as she passed a former teammate of Major Boarman, whose eyes were cold and unfriendly as they followed her progress into the mess.

Her appetite fading by the minute, she moved quickly through the line, grabbing whatever looked mildly palatable, and took a seat at an empty table.  Every eye was on her but she refused to look around, to take count of common curiosity versus hostility.  She wondered if this was how Teal’c had felt when he had first come to Earth.  She hoped to god it wasn’t anything he might still feel now.

She picked at her lunch, wishing she had not chosen to eat here in public, but refusing to give in to the temptation to turn tail and run.  Even though she kept her eyes focused on her tray, she was aware when someone slid into the empty seat across from her.  Expecting the colonel or Daniel, her brow creased in confusion when she looked up to see Sarah Blaine.  

“Lieutenant?”

“I hope you don’t mind, Ma’am.  This seat was open.”  The younger woman smiled at her and began arranging her tray.  

Sam looked around at any number of tables with one or more open seats and then back at her table-mate.  “You know, Lieutenant, I’m technically not your boss anymore.  You don’t really have to...”

“Suck up?” Sarah offered.  “I’m not.  Just wanted lunch and maybe some conversation.”

Sam let out a short, humorless laugh.  “Well, conversation with me could land you in the doghouse, Lieutenant.  Thank you for the gesture but I won’t be offended if you want to sit somewhere else.”

Sarah just shrugged and finished chewing.  “So, you remember the other day when I was telling Sgt. Siler about that complete bimbo my brother is dating?”  Sam halfway nodded in a daze.  “Well, you won’t believe what they’ve gone and done now.”  And with that, Sarah was off and running on a conversational medley.  She would touch on a different topic every few minutes, innocuous things like family stories, celebrities, and non-SGC-related science.  If Sam failed to respond to a topic, she would wander to the next, until she found something that engaged the major for a few minutes.  

Sarah’s tray was empty before Sam was able to finish her lunch, but she just sat back and continued talking enthusiastically.  When Sam finished, they walked together to the tray return and toward the exit, practically running into Jack as they entered the corridor.  

Jack and the lieutenant exchanged formal pleasantries and then she excused herself to return to work.  Sam waited, hoping he would just continue in to lunch, but instead he leaned up against the wall, looking at her.

“So, Carter, how you doing?”

She shrugged.  “Well, I don’t think I’ve sold us out to the Goa’uld this morning, so... great!”  Seeing his wince, she felt a little sheepish for snapping and asked, “Too soon?”

He looked at her, trying to read the truth behind the public face.  It was unlike her to be so flippant about a situation this serious.  And he had to stop looking at every little behavioral anomaly as if it was a sign of her losing control.  Except he had to.  That was his job.  And at times like this, his job sucked.

“How’s the headache?” he followed up.

“Under control.”  She watched as a group of new trainees skirted past her, practically hugging the opposite wall.  Jack frowned, as unhappy with them treating her as a pariah as her seeming acceptance of it.  

He nodded toward the the retreating airmen.  “That happening a lot?”

She took a deep breath.  “Well, Sir, everyone knows.  It’s a little weird.”

“Any potential problems or is it just ‘Ewww, cooties’ like that?”

She paused just a split second longer than honesty required.  “No, just silly stuff like that.”

“Major?”

Her eyes met his.  “No problems, Colonel,” she said firmly, her eyes pleading to leave this alone, to not do this here in public, in front of an impersonal guard.  

He nodded.  “You let me know if that changes, okay?”

“Yes, Sir.”  

He shifted his weight, looking into the commissary.  “I’m going to go get some food.  I’ll see you around, Carter.”

She watched him walk away, feeling like the conversation was strangely unfinished.  It felt like she had something she was supposed to tell him but couldn’t remember.  She was tempted to call him back and see if it sparked anything.  Wincing at the increasing pressure in her head, she decided it wasn’t worth it to subject him to another incredibly awkward attempt at conversation and headed back to her quarters.


~SG1~


The next few days passed slowly for Sam, developing into a dull routine.  Despite the mixed reactions she had seen that first day, there were some friendly faces.  Daniel and Teal’c, obviously, but also Sarah, Walter, Siler, and Graham Simmons would share meals with her when she occasionally ventured out of her room.  It made it a little easier to endure the uncomfortable and suspicious looks.  

She hadn’t seen Jack since their difficult conversation outside the mess.  She understood his absence, or she tried to.  By staying away, he could maintain credible objectivity in decisions regarding her situation; he could protect her better from an administrative vantage at this stage.   She was sure that he was monitoring the daily reports from Janet and MacKenzie as well as getting updates from Daniel and Teal’c.  She did her best to ignore the little voice echoing in her brain that he had deserted her again; that he was just protecting himself.   




She spent most of her time holed up in her room, reading.  Daniel had apparently bought out a bookstore and was delivering books by the armful to her: historical analyses, mysteries, trashy romances, even books of crossword puzzles.  They were mildly distracting, but nothing like the thrill of trying to solve the puzzles of the universe.  

Afternoons were spent in frustrating ‘therapy’ sessions with Dr. MacKenzie that struck Sam as much closer to interrogations.  No matter what angle he seemed to take, they made no progress as to what Ugallu had done, what Sam was expected to do or how she was expected to get the information back to the goa’uld.  The more she tried to focus on the events from her captivity, the worse the headache, sometimes leaving her shaking and nearly blind with pain.  Janet had put her on a daily preventative dose of migraine medication, trying to alleviate the worst of the symptoms.  

She wasn't allowed a computer in any form but still felt the need to get some of her thoughts and ideas down, even though anything she suggested for the SGC program would be suspect.  She took to writing longhand.  She began to see the reason Daniel had held on to it for so long.  It was pleasantly focusing and almost sensuous, the paper, the pen, the slight scratching sound and the way the muscles in her hand would move.  She took to writing before trying to sleep, hoping to focus her thoughts and avoid the inevitable nightmares.


~SG1~


Daniel had let her know that SG-1 was heading offworld, although he was careful not to mention where or why.  Daniel was such a talker that it was obvious he was avoiding those particular details, but Sam thought it was sweet of him to try to include her as much as possible.  Her extended network of base friends helped to fill in their absence; somehow at least one of them was always available when she ventured out to common areas.  Conversation with them dried up after a couple of days.  Sam had little new to say and they didn’t have enough shared history outside of the cement walls of the SGC.  But Sam still appreciated their efforts and they provided a sort of a buffer between her and the rest of the personnel.

It was four days before SG-1 returned from their successful first contact mission.  They went through the customary post-mission processes with something close to their usual chatter and interjections, Hammond was pleased to note.  As they were heading away from the debrief, Daniel checked his watch and smiled.  “Hey, it’s just about dinner time.  Why don’t we go grab some food from that Chinese place Sam likes and bring it back?  We can surprise her.”

Teal’c nodded.  “I will gladly accompany you in this endeavor.”

They looked at Jack.  He wanted to go see her, had in fact thought of her to an unhealthy degree over the past few days.  He needed to make sure she was doing okay and to reassure her that they would find the answers.  But he couldn’t.  Not this time.  He couldn’t be her friend and 2IC of the SGC.  He shook his head, suppressing a sigh.  “I’ve got a ton of paperwork waiting for me, Daniel.  You guys go on.  Tell her I said hi.”  

With that he turned and walked away, leaving Daniel stunned.  He turned to Teal’c.  “Is that the same Jack O’Neill that was talking about Sam almost nonstop for the last four days?”  Teal’c didn’t respond, merely watched O’Neill’s retreating form thoughtfully.  “I mean it.  I tallied it up one day.  He couldn’t go more than an hour without mentioning her.  I don’t even think he knew he was doing it.”

“It is his decision, Daniel Jackson.  For now, we must go procure spicy shrimp and mixed vegetables.”

Still half wanting to go after Jack and trying to force him to change his mind, Daniel finally shrugged and they headed for the elevator.


~SG1~


When Sam opened her door to see her two friends standing there holding aromatic bags of food, she smiled widely, the first genuine smile to cross her face since they had figured out what was going on with her.  They all sat together around her small table and shared the meal.  While they ate, Daniel looked at her.  He was shocked at how much worse she looked even just after four days.  She was thinner and paler, the dark circles under her eyes much more exaggerated.  When she knew they were looking at her, she seemed to be close to normal, but in unguarded moments, when Daniel and Teal’c were talking to each other, he could see from the corner of his eye that her shoulders sagged ever so slightly and her hands shook as she lifted the food to her mouth.  The instant he turned his gaze directly on her, though, she pulled it back together.

They chatted while eating, mostly trivial topics, but as they were finishing up, she asked, “So, how’s the colonel doing?”

Daniel’s face fell.  He had been hoping that maybe Jack had just wanted to see her alone and had dropped by while they were picking up the food.   “He didn’t come by?”

“No.  I haven’t really seen him since the day after I was, um, diagnosed.”

Anger welled up in Daniel.  “I can’t believe he would be so...”  He looked to Teal’c for support but merely received an impassive glance in return.  He looked between the two of them.  “What?  Why does everyone seem so ready to accept that he’s not here.  He’s our friend.  He should be here!”

“Daniel,” Sam said softly, leaning forward with a sympathetic look.  And boy, did he feel like crap when he realized she was comforting him.  “His position on this base doesn’t allow for him to be personally involved in a situation like this.  I’m not sure that I would even want him to take the chance.”  She hoped that the last bit came out sincere as she was certain that she wanted, maybe even needed, him to come provide that personal support that she had come to rely on.  But she couldn’t have his team turning against him.  Even if she wasn’t officially his second anymore, she would present the united front and support his decision.

Daniel was confused.  “But you see me... and Teal’c.  And you have lunch with Walter and, and everybody.”

She shook off the now familiar buildup of tension whenever she focused on her condition.  “Daniel, you’re not the one that’s going to be involved in the decision making when it comes down to it.  Plus, I make sure that I never see any of you alone.  Daniel you have to understand the danger I present...”  She choked off, groaning, half at the pain suddenly flaring through her head and half in frustration as her ability to communicate seemed to shut down.  

Daniel and Teal’c were immediately at her side, gently lifting her and guiding her to the bed.  They could feel the shaking tension in her muscles and her breathing shallow and strained as the pain built.  They helped her lay down and then sat carefully on the edges of the bed, occasionally stroking her forehead or arms.  

She felt lost inside her own head, aware that they were right there but unable to reach out to them.  How long could she continue this way, ideas and images half formed in her mind that fled before she could see the details; thoughts that she couldn’t put into words even inside her own head, much less share out loud with those who might be able to help her.  Eventually, she knew it would drive her into a wholly mental world of half-formed memories, voices, and constant pain.

Daniel froze as he saw the look of desperation in her wide eyes.  “Sam, you gotta hang in there.  We’re going to find this guy, we’re going to find out what he did to you and we’re going to fix it.”

“Should we call Dr. Fraiser?” Teal’c asked.  

Daniel nodded and the Jaffa got up to place the call before returning to Sam’s side.  By the time Janet arrived, Sam was beginning to return to normal.  “What happened?” the doctor asked as she began taking Sam’s vitals.

Daniel answered quietly.  “She was telling us why...  She was talking about the threat she might pose.  And then, she was just in so much pain.”  He bit his lip, feeling guilty that it had been his insistent questioning that led to this.  He could still see a haunted look in Sam’s eyes as she sat quietly on the bed.  

Janet finished up her exam.  “Well, your pulse and blood pressure are still a bit high.  Are you still taking the medication I gave you?”  Sam nodded.  “Okay, then.  I don’t think there’s anything more I can do for you right now, unless you feel like you need to stay in the infirmary overnight.”  

She smiled as Sam shook her head as vehemently as possible given the remnants of the headache.  “All right, then.  But I want you to try to get some rest soon.”

She left and the guys hung around for another twenty minutes just to make sure that Sam was really doing okay.  Finally they too said good night and left her to fall into an exhausted sleep.