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22 January 2012 @ 10:44 pm
Fic: Endurance Past the Point (16 of 19)  
Summary, notes, and warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Part 16

Sam had been moved back to the isolation lab.  Janet and a medical team hovered nearby as Anise approached the bed.  Over Jacob’s protests, it had been determined that Anise was the best choice to attempt the de-conditioning, being less likely to be distracted by the pain it would likely cause Sam.  Jacob and Jack stood just far enough from Sam’s bed to be out of the way of both Anise and Janet.

Jack was quiet, as he had been most of the last couple of hours.  Following their earlier meeting, he had gone to the infirmary to check on Carter.  Janet had been happy to patch him up as he sat watching his 2IC.  She diagnosed bruised ribs, several lacerations, and multiple muscle strains.  She had recommended a long soak in the whirlpool, which she knew he had no intention of leaving to do, and given him pain pills which she knew he would not take until after the issue with Sam’s condition was resolved.  He had stayed in the infirmary, watching Sam in her own private hell, waiting for Jacob and Anise to come up with an answer.

During that time, Jack had tried to make his peace with the probable outcomes.  He knew that the chances of this working were low, but he just couldn’t seem to make himself say goodbye.  He wouldn’t give up on her, no matter how bleak the outlook.

Jacob looked around the isolation room and then up at the observation booth where Daniel and Teal’c both waited with Hammond.  “That NID creep isn’t here?” he questioned Jack, bringing him out of his reverie.  “I would have expected him to be drooling over this whole thing.”

Jack scoffed, not taking his eyes from Carter and Anise.  “Nah, he’s playing “Interrogator” with Ugly.  Thinks he’s going to get some information before we turn him over to you guys.”  They watched Anise slip the ribbon device onto her hand and begin adjusting it.  “Just to be clear, we absolutely have to use that thing?  We can’t use the healing one?”

Jacob shook his head.  “I wish we could, but we believe that the hand device creates a stronger neurological connection.  Again, if we had time to test these theories, maybe we could...”

“I know,” Jack replied.  

Anise looked over at Janet.  “I believe this will be more effective if you discontinue her medications.  I may need her help once I’ve established a connection.  It would be best if she were as alert as possible.”

Janet looked up to the observation booth.  The general nodded.  She stopped the morphine drip.  Almost instantly, Sam’s heartbeat increased and her body contorted in minor spasms.  “Whatever you’re doing, Anise, you need to do it now,” Janet said tersely.

Anise slowly raised her right hand, outfitted with the ribbon device.  A look of distaste crossed her face as she closed her eyes.  The stone glowed and a beam of light extended between her hand and Sam.  The room was filled with a tense silence as the observers fought their instincts to rescue Sam when she reacted to the pain of the device.  

Several minutes passed.  Anise’s face was taut with concentration, Sam’s with pain.  Finally, Anise stopped the device and lowered her hand.  She looked at Jacob with pity.  “There’s nothing we can do.  It won’t work.”

“What?” Jack exclaimed.  “You can’t just give up.”  He was mentally kicking himself for having trusted Anise with something this important.  

Janet quickly moved back in to adjust Sam’s medication levels but stopped when Jacob spoke.  “No, we won’t give up.”  He walked up to Anise and held out his hand.  “Give it to me.”

She sighed as she removed the apparatus and handed it over to Jacob, her thoughts that he was grasping at straws obvious to everyone.  She stepped away from the center of the room, standing opposite Jack.  

The room quieted again as Jacob turned control over to Selmak who engaged the ribbon device.  Even at the low intensity they were using, the effects were painful, and Jack clenched his fists with the effort of not interfering as Carter weakly tried to turn her face away from the beam.  Selmak had thankfully closed Jacob’s eyes to minimize his reaction.

Jacob could feel the device’s energy flowing but was uncertain of what to do next.  He called out, “Sam? Samantha?” and had no idea whether it was just in his head or if he had spoken out loud.  He thought he could hear her, as if from a distance, but it could have just been wishful thinking.  Deciding that he was wasting time just standing around, he opted to try some of that new-age-y visualization crap Mark’s wife was raving about on his last trip to San Diego.  He had to access Sam’s consciousness somehow...  he imagined himself taking a step forward, then another.  

As he did, it seemed that a bridge was unfolding before him in a grey mist.  He followed it and was now certain it was Sam he was hearing, screams and cries that would have broken his heart if he hadn’t been so focused on his mission.  The ‘bridge’ disappeared and he realized that he must be on Sam’s side of the connection; at least he hoped so.  The mist slowly resolved itself into a soft grey ground, furrowed and pulsing.  He raised his eyebrows.  Was he in her brain?  Shrugging, he decided that made sense, but he had no idea where to go from here.

He called out again.  “Samantha, can you hear me?”  He thought he heard a pause in the pained sounds surrounding him, and a feeling of confusion pulsed through the air.  “Sam, it’s Dad.  We’re here to help you.  You’ve just got to hang on a bit longer, kiddo.  And maybe point me in the right direction.  You know I never thought too much about psychology.”

This time there was a definite pause and he could swear he saw a brief light to his right.  It was quickly extinguished as he heard her groan of pain escalate into a guttural scream.  “Shit,” he whispered.  Of course, Ugallu’s suggestions were still trying to protect themselves.  “I’m coming.  Just hang on.”

He headed off toward where he had seen the spark of light, following imaginary neuronal pathways.  After a while (it seemed his sense of time was completely fubared in this environment), he saw something running alongside him.  As he focused on it, it became recognizable as a black vine, sharp with barbs and vibrating with some sort of energy.  “That doesn’t belong here,” he muttered and reached out to try to pull it away, but the barbs snagged and pulled at the surrounding ground (Sam’s brain, he reminded himself) and he let it lie for the time being.

Satisfied he was on the right track, and concerned at the amount of time he had already spent, he quickly followed the vine through the grey mass until suddenly he found himself facing a large, black mass.  Nearly a dozen viny tendrils were emanating from it in all directions.  He already knew he couldn’t pull them back, but he had to find a way to get rid of them.  

With a thought that he hoped no one ever found out he was doing this, he stuck with the visualization and found himself holding a bottle of weedkiller.  He applied copious amounts to the vine he had followed to this spot and saw it immediately turn brittle and start to crumble.  He followed the disintegration with his eyes as it ran down the length of the vine away from him.  He quickly and carefully repeated the procedure with each of the other offshoots.  He noticed that Sam’s screams quieted a little more as each ‘vine’ died.  As he came back around to the original spot, he could already see more sprouts trying to push out.  He faced the mass and concentrated all of his and Selmak’s wills on destroying the poisonous thoughts.  

He was fighting extreme fatigue by the time he finally saw it crumple in on itself, folding over and over until it had completely disappeared.  It was almost completely quiet now, soft whimpers echoing faintly in the air.  Around him, he felt a wave of gratitude.  He smiled.

“We did it, Sammy.  You’re safe now.”

“I love you, Dad.”  The words rang weakly in his ears as he felt Selmak pulling him back into his own consciousness.  A wave of weakness overcame him as he opened his eyes, having poured all of their combined energy into dismantling Ugallu’s conditioning.  He stumbled back, stopping when his legs hit the edge of chair that a nurse was trying to guide him into.  

Breathing heavily, he looked up at his daughter and paled.  Janet was hovering over her, performing chest compressions.  He felt someone next to him and looked over to see Jack.

“Did it work?” the colonel asked him.

Jacob shook his head wearily.  “I thought so.”  He looked back over to the medical team scurrying around the gurney.  “How long?”

Jack voice was dull as he responded slowly.  “About 15 minutes that you were... doing your thing.  Her heart stopped maybe a minute ago.”  

Together they watched as the medical staff went about their tasks.   Each second Jack expected to hear Janet call it.  Feeling his mask slipping more with each passing second, he dropped his head, studying the floor intently.  

Then he heard it.  Just one beep and it seemed that everyone in the room stopped.  He lifted his head to see Janet frozen in place, her expression torn between disbelief and a desperate hopefulness.  He switched his focus to the monitor where the small blip was already moving off the screen.  Then a series of waves replaced the flat line, a not-quite-rhythmic beeping filling the room, eventually settling into a steady pattern.  

Janet began a head-to-toe check of her patient.  Jacob and Jack were practically buzzing with the tension of physically keeping themselves out of her way.  Finally, a relieved Janet turned to face them and the observation booth.  

“She’s asleep.  Just regular sleep.”  She held up a hand.  “A state which I’d like her to maintain for as long as possible.  She has a lot of recovering to do.  I’m sure you all have some sort of debriefing to do and I know that some of you have some recuperation of your own to do.”  Her eyes pointedly rested on Jack.  “I’ll move Sam to the infirmary soon and you can sit with her, one at a time.  General Hammond, I’ll keep you apprised of her condition.”

Jacob summoned enough energy to walk steadily to the gurney and brush a kiss across Sam’s forehead before leaving.  As much as Jack wanted to at least touch her, he didn’t think it was a smart move in plain view of Hammond.  Settling for a long look at her face, relaxed and peaceful, as he followed Jacob out of the room.


~SG1~


It was quiet.  Sam could hear normal infirmary noises and slowly opened her eyes.  The lights were dimmed. It must be night.  She did a quick physical assessment, starting at her head and working down to her toes: no casts, no bandages, no acute pain.  There was an IV set up and she ached all over.  The curtains were pulled around her bed for privacy.  She searched her memory, trying to figure out how she got here.  There was something about her dad...

It wasn’t the first time she had woken in the infirmary with no immediate memory of how she got there, so she just settled back and let her mind wander.  Sure enough, her memory started filling in the last couple of months quickly enough, so that by the time Janet peeked her head through the curtains, Sam thought she had all of it except for how exactly she had ended up in here, and why she felt so different.

Janet’s smile when she saw Sam awake let her know that it had been a pretty close call, whatever had happened.  

Janet poured Sam a small cup of water as she spoke.  “You are a sight for sore eyes.  You really gave us a scare.  How are you feeling?”

Sam sipped the water before trying to speak.  “Just a little achy.  A lot achy,” she corrected herself.  “Thanks for whatever you did.  I’m a little fuzzy on the details still,” she admitted.  

She looked up as Janet shined a penlight in her eyes, then held her wrist to take her pulse.  “You will be achy for a while.  Your body went through some pretty rough stuff.”

The nagging sensation that had been simmering under the slowly building memories suddenly coalesced into a piercing, urgent awareness.

“Janet,” she gasped, looking down and realizing she was in the standard hospital gown and her clothes were nowhere in sight.  “In my pocket, there was a gate address.  You have to find it, get to the colonel or General Hammond.  I think it’s Ugallu’s location.”  As the words spilled out, she began mentally bracing for the onslaught of pain that was sure to follow.  

Janet put a gentle hand on her shoulder as she struggled to sit up.  “Calm down, Sam.  You already gave it to us.  Yesterday morning, actually.  They went through the gate this morning.”

Sam bit her lip in a mixture of confusion and apprehension.  “What happened?  Is everyone okay?”  She paused.  “And why don’t I feel any pain?”

Sam’s nervous concern started slipping away as she took in the easy-going attitude of her friend as Janet pulled up a chair and sat down next to the bed.  “You don’t feel any pain because your father was able to reverse the conditioning Ugallu had subjected you to.  Colonel O’Neill led several teams through to the address you provided.  They apprehended Ugallu with minimal resistance, as I understand it.  Daniel went in with a team behind them and found what we needed to figure out how to undo what the goa’uld had done to you.

“Everyone on our teams survived.  In fact, most of them are safe in their own beds right now.  There are two airmen and a marine staying here tonight, as well as,” Janet smirked as she pulled the curtain behind toward the wall.  There was Jack, apparently passed out, on the next bed.  

Sam was having trouble making sense of what she was seeing.  He was in BDUs, not a hospital gown, and Janet was obviously quite amused, but seeing him unconscious in the infirmary sent sparks of alarm all though her.

“What’s wrong with him?”

Janet shook her head.  “Bruised ribs,” she replied, dryly.  She had never thought she would see the day when Jack O’Neill voluntarily stayed in the infirmary in patient status.  Sam still looked confused.

“I know.  It’s unprecedented.  I gave him pain medication, which he pocketed until after we did your procedure.   Afterwards, I wanted you to get some rest, so I said only one person could visit you at a time.  Since your dad was here until just a little while ago, the colonel was spending a lot of time pacing in the hallway while your dad sat with you.  I guess he got tired of it.  

“So, he came stomping in, popped the pain pills, and insisted that he needed medical supervision while under the influence.  Truthfully, I’m just happy he’s finally getting some rest.  The last couple of days have been really hard on him too.”

All of a sudden the last pieces of her memory rushed in, hitting Sam like a ton of bricks.  “Oh my god, I kissed him!”  Her mind was filled with a cacophony of images and feelings: the feel of pressing up against the length of his body; the urgency of sharing the gate address; his lips and tongue, responding for the smallest moment to hers; the knowledge that these were her last moments.  She couldn’t even look at him.

Janet’s eyes sparkled as she nodded seriously.  “Yes, so I heard.”  Seeing the absolute mortification in her friend’s face, she took pity.  “Sam, most of what you did in the past few weeks, including the kiss, is being written up as alien-influenced behavior.  You don’t need to worry about any disciplinary action.”

“Well, that’s... good,” Sam replied quietly.  Of course, she was worried about that, but the question foremost in her mind was how the colonel would view it.  They had worked so hard for so long to ‘keep it in the room,’ and even then, it felt like some days they were just barely coping.  What would happen now?

She realized Janet was still talking, moving on to lighter topics, trying to put Sam at ease.  Pulling herself back to the present, she chatted with Janet for a while.  

Once Sam looked relatively relaxed again, Janet excused herself to update the general before she left for the night.  With a smile and a gentle hug, she headed back to her office, leaving the curtain between Jack and Sam still open.  

Sam looked at his still form, his chest moving slowly with each breath.  She had realized a few minutes earlier that he was actually awake.  After waiting a minute to see if he would stop the charade, she finally spoke.  “You can open your eyes, Sir.  She’s gone.”

His eyes stayed shut, but the ghost of a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

“Colonel!” she chided.

He cracked one eye open as his grin grew.  His first glimpse of her, her head turned toward him on its pillow, her expression tired but amused, almost took his breath away.  He’d always thought Carter was gorgeous.  But after all that had happened, after being sure he had lost her, to see her looking at him with that familiar mix of fondness and exasperation...  he had to take another second before he trusted himself enough to open both eyes and sit up to talk to her.

“How are you doing, Carter?”  He rubbed the sleep from his face as he talked.

“A lot better, Sir.  I hear you had a lot to do with that.”

He waved a hand through the air.  “Ah, I just did what I do.  It was really Daniel and your dad who did the heavy lifting.”

“Janet mentioned something like that.  What exactly did Daniel find?”  The scientist in her was excited by the idea of new knowledge, even though the rest of her wasn’t quite sure she wanted to know.

Jack looked at her closely trying to gauge her emotional state.  She looked good.  Tired, of course, but that was to be expected.  The bit of conversation he had overheard with Janet had been relaxed and easy-going.  No reason he could see not to go ahead and answer her questions.

“Well, it turns out that Ugallu wrote everything down.  Daniel found the journals.”

“He wrote...” she began to repeat his words, but her mind was already spinning into itself.  She felt frozen as the memories echoed:  Ugallu’s voice narrating his actions, each touch, each movement, as she waited helpless before him; his reaction to his own words only appearing to heighten his pleasure.  Those days, he could work himself into such a state that her only escape was losing consciousness or hiding so deeply inside herself she feared she might never emerge.  She could only imagine what he had written, what lurid words and provocative images he would have wanted to capture for his future enjoyment.

“Carter?” Jack said sharply.

She jumped slightly, but his voice gave her something around which to re-orient herself.  She shook her head, trying to clear it.  “Sorry, Sir.  I was just thinking.  Remembering.  It all seems different now; more intense, fresher.  Maybe all that stuff he left in my head, I don’t know, muted it somehow.”  She smiled weakly.  “I’m okay, I think.”

Jack was unconvinced, but not willing to push it right now.  He heartily believed in the value of some healthy denial, if for no other reason than it would let her choose the time and place to start to deal with everything.  

When he stayed silent, she continued.  “So Daniel found the answer,” she prompted.

Jack nodded.  “He reviewed the journals and found Ugly’s description of how he did it.  It was enough that your dad and Anise were able to figure out how to reverse it.”

“I think I remember my dad talking to me, telling me that everything would be all right.  I thought it was a dream.”  

“What about before that?” Jack asked, trying to maintain his casual demeanor.  God, don’t let her remember the pain, he prayed.

His heart fell when she didn’t answer, instead just giving him a look that went far beyond words.  

He nodded once.  Should’ve known we wouldn’t be that lucky.  “I’m sorry.”

Speaking of before that... Sam started trying to find the words to broach the subject of her extremely inappropriate behavior, but before she could voice anything, the outer curtain was pulled back to reveal Colonel Frank Simmons.  She stared at him, shocked, then shifted her eyes to Jack, who hopped off the bed to stand, glaring angrily at the intruder.

“Major!” Simmons cried delightedly.  “We heard you were awake.  I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.”

“What do you want, Colonel?” Sam asked.

“Just to see if you wanted to go ahead and leave now.  Fewer people around, potentially less embarrassment.”  He smiled nastily at her confusion.  “Didn’t they tell you, Major Carter?  You’re coming with me.”

“I don’t think so, Simmons.  She’s not going anywhere.  Not now, not later.  I will make sure of it.”  Jack’s voice was defiant as he took a step toward the other man.  

Simmons shifted his attention to Jack.  “You should be careful, Colonel.  It might start to look like you’re taking some rather undue interest in one particular subordinate.  That could raise some sticky questions.”  He looked at Sam.  “We wouldn’t want that, would we?”

Jack spoke before Sam could say anything.  “Leave.  Now.”

“Very well.”  He shrugged.  “But I will be back, with backup.  Last chance, Major.  Next time, I’m leading you out of here in cuffs in full view.”

Sam mutely shook her head.  She could only guess as to what was happening, so she had to take her cues from Jack.  Besides, hell would freeze over before she’d ever go anywhere with Simmons voluntarily.

Simmons’ faced darkened as he turned and left without a word.  Sam couldn't entirely suppress the shiver at his expression.  

Jack remained on high alert for another minute, as if he expected Simmons to come running back in and snatch Sam out of her bed. Finally, he turned back to her.  “I’m sorry, Carter.  I was actually on my way to tell you about the NID yesterday morning, but then there was kissing, if I recall correctly.”  He allowed a small smile to escape at that, but it disappeared quickly at the worried expression on her face.

“Colonel, I wanted to talk to you...  about...” she stuttered, feeling even worse about her behavior in the light of Simmons’ threats.  She had not stopped to consider the implications for him, professionally or personally.  Not that she’d had much time or brain-power to think with.

“Major, we will talk about that.  I promise,” he said softly.  He looked around.  “But not now, not here.”  She tried to interpret the look in his eyes, but he was standing too far away for her to get a good read.  

He started pacing.  “I can’t believe that they are still turning you over to the NID.  I thought that would go away now.  Don’t worry.  I’ll talk to Hammond.”

The general’s voice cut Jack off just before he and Jacob appeared.  “I’m here, Colonel.  What do you need?”

Jacob’s eyes brightened when he saw Sam and he quickly re-took his place next to her bed, giving her a hug before sitting down.  

“Simmons was just here, Sir.  He wanted Carter to go with him now.”  Hammond was smiling, apparently very amused.  “General?”

Hammond cleared his throat.  “I just got off the phone with the President, Colonel.  Based on Jacob’s report on his success removing the conditioning triggers, he has rescinded NID’s authority over Major Carter.  Simmons will be escorted off our base within the hour.”

“What will happen to me, Sir?” Sam asked the general.  

“Well, Major, we will need to keep you here on base for observation for a couple of weeks, just to confirm that you really are back to normal.  You will continue to see both Dr. MacKenzie and Dr. Fraiser on a regular basis.  And the NID will be officially looped in on status reports concerning your recovery.”

“And if everything is normal after two weeks?”

“I imagine you’ll be allowed to go home, Major.  We will work out the details before then.”

She smiled tentatively at the idea of going home.  She felt like she should be more excited by the idea, but was having a hard conceptualizing it.  ‘Home’ seemed like another lifetime, another reality, that didn’t quite fit her.

“Can you stay, Dad?” she asked.  

Jacob looked regretful.  “Sorry, kiddo.  I’m leaving tomorrow.”  She tried to keep her disappointment from showing.  “We’re taking Ugallu back with us.  I want to be part of the interrogation,” he said coldly.

“So, the President agreed to turn him over to the Tok’ra, General?” Jack confirmed.

“Yes.  We keep the library, they get the goa’uld.  We all share any tactical information gained from either source.”

Jack grimaced but kept his mouth shut.  The Tok’ra were not great on the sharing, but he was just happy to have the snake as far away from Carter as possible.  He glanced at her, holding her father’s hand tightly, chewing on her lip.  He understood why Jacob had to leave, but it was bad timing.

Dr. Warner suddenly appeared, Sam’s chart in his hand.  He looked surprised to see the three men around her bed.  “Ah, Generals, Colonel.  I just came to check on our patient before she sleeps,“ he said pointedly.  

Hammond nodded.  “I am very glad that you are doing better, Major Carter.  Please let me know if there is anything you need.”  He said his goodbyes and left.  Jacob was obviously settled in for the long haul, so Jack stood around while Warner did his thing.  

After the third glare from the doctor, Jack sighed.  “Okay, Carter, you get a good night’s rest.  I’ll bring Teal’c and Daniel by to see you tomorrow.”  He patted her shoulder and smiled.

She smiled back at him.  “Good night, Colonel.”
 
 
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