Floating in a world of fantasy, of magic, of illusion. It all feels oddly real.
I have friends, friends I've never met, yet who are closer to me than anyone I've ever known.
I go to places, meet people I know logically do not exist, yet I meet them, go there, talk, fight, win, lose.
I have the same dream every night. Different stories, but the same people.
Now, every night, I long for my dreams. I've taken to living in my dream world. The real world no longer exists for me. There I have a wife, and I once had a child. No more. My Charlie is gone, wiped out because I had a moment's carelessness. My wife and I have drifted apart. At night, she lies awake, sobbing. And I dream.
At first, I thought she was Sara. She looked vaguely like Sara, short blond hair, slim figure. But then I realized that Sara would never carry a gun. Sara would never fight, bleed, kill. Sara was a mother, and a good one. She wasn't a soldier, like SHE was.
As I dreamed more, the visions became clearer. I saw her clearer. I saw she wasn't Sara. Her face was younger. There were no blighted hopes, no destroyed dreams in that face. Only hope, and life and beauty. In the wake of Charlie's death, I followed that dream face, wherever it would leave me.
As I followed her more, I learnt to laugh again. I learned to hope again. I learned joy again, but only in my dreams.
Sara could see the change. She could see that I longed for sleep. I grew more and more distant as her face was replaced by the dream face. She knew. She accused me of having an affair once. In a way, I was. But there was nothing sexual about my dreams. In all of them, I never touched her that way. I think we kissed once, in a frenzied dream of light and heat and dark, and gods and monsters. A passionate, frenzied kiss. But, whoever this woman was, she was not the woman who kissed me. Even asleep, I knew that, and pushed her away. I took out my frustration on a friend, in a jealous frenzy. Jealousy had never been an emotion I'd been prey to with Sara. I spent the next few waking hours searching my soul, looking for the seeds of that frantic rage. I couldn't understand how I, who had always been so cool, so distant, even from those I loved, could care so passionately for another human being apart from Charlie.
I slept longer and longer, not even waiting for night to fall. I couldn't sleep that long naturally, so I turned to whisky to bring on the dark oblivion. I lived to see my dream woman. I longed to see her turn and smile at something I'd said, a childish, almost shy smile. I listened intently to her voice, explaining something I had no hope of understanding. I lived to touch her, and I know that one brief second of touching her was worth more than hours of passion in some other woman's arms...
She got me through the dark days of Charlie's inquest, the police investigation, the funeral. When the tragedy threatened to engulf me, I closed my eyes and thought of HER, her smile, her laugh, her intent frown as she concentrated. I was saved by remembering the look of absolute trust in her eyes when she looked at me.
I lived only to dream about her.
I survived only to find her.
Sara and I separated. As she left, she told me to stop living in my dreams, I would never return to life that way. I thought long and hard. I drank three bottles of whisky, and slept for a long time. There was no story in this final dream, just a series of images. Her, my dream woman, in a blue dress. Holding a blond child. Standing in a cell, her eyes glowing. Saving my life. Holding me close when it was so cold. Laughing at something I'd said. Agreeing to die with me, with no argument. Explaining something to me, and laughing gently when I can't understand it. Falling in love with her. Deciding not to tell her. Being with her. Protecting her. Living for her.
Then I woke up.
The dreams never returned after that. I recovered, slowly, and forgot all about her. All that remained was a slight memory of warmth, and friendship, and love.
"She is transferring from the Pentagon."
I look up in surprise. There's something achingly familiar about the voice, but her face is in darkness. She walks forward.
"I take it you're Colonel O'Neill." she says, with a smile that brings forgotten warmth to me. Then she snaps to attention suddenly. "Captain Samantha Carter, Sir!"
And I already know how this will end, because I've dreamt it all.