He killed me, or so I'm told. Jack pulled the trigger of the Zat gun on me twice. He killed me. But it wasn't me.
Why is it these alien entities always choose me? Why do they trap me in my own body, making me watch, a silent witness, as they emotionally torture my friends, as they torture Jack? The entity may have left my body but there have been many scars left behind. Many wounds that need to heal.
The same thing happened with Jolinar. Only with Jolinar, the majority of the wounds and scars were mine. I was the one who suffered most, although I'm not so blind to see that it affected my friends. That it affected Jack. But this time it affects him more. He killed me.
I'm getting out of the infirmary today. Jack - Colonel O'Neill - has apparently been with me every step of the way until today. I didn't know why. I vaguely remember being forced from me body, the fact that I actually lived within the SGC mainframe, that my consciousness was somehow transferred from my body startles, bewilders and scares me. As a scientist, I'm struggling to understand. As a person, I don't want to.
The point is that Jack killed me, and I don't remember it. I remember the first shot, I felt the entity's outrage and fear. It didn't understand why he shot me. It thought it was doing as he ordered it to. By the time he fired the second shot, the one that killed me, I already existed from outside of my body. I didn't die. The entity that took me over did.
Janet told me his guilt was palatable and his.. feelings were on display for all to see. As far as base scuttlebutt goes, General Hammond is said to have acknowledged he knows Jack has feelings for me. Something I would be afraid of, if my fear wasn't already being concentrated on Jack.
He killed me. Through his eyes, he pulled the trigger and shot me. Just as I shot Martouf. Only I didn't die, there's no resolution, and if my own experiences have taught me anything, and if I know Jack O'Neill half as much as I think I do, wherever he is, he's feeling a whole lot worse than I am. Guilt and self-disgust walk hand-in-hand when it comes to Jack O'Neill. He's beaten it many times over the years as an officer, and as a father. I just hope we can beat it together this time.
I manage to force a weak smile as Janet gives my arm a reassuring squeeze. I'm okay, Janet," I tell her, trying to force some certainty into my tone. It's not a lie. I am fine. Physically, anyway. Emotionally, I'm as confused as I ever have been. But I'm also worried, and concerned, for Jack. I need to find him. No matter what anyone's going to think once word spread, no matter what they say about us. I don't care about that at the moment. He needs me.
" Sam.. I want you to listen to me." Janet stops me from leaving with a hand on my arm. It's all I can do not to shake her away, I've seen enough of the infirmary in the last few years to last me a lifetime but the last week has been the worst stay of all. Suspicion was rife in everyone's eyes for the first few days, until they realised it was really me. What surprised me the most was that Teal'c remained the most suspicious. He thinks I didn't see the Zat he carried with him, but I did, and that hurt. " I want you to get some rest, take a few days," Janet is saying, in her best 'I'm your doctor but I'm also your friend' voice, the one she knows I usually give into. Usually.
" I need to go, Janet," I tell her softly, trying to put as much urgency and pleading into my eyes as possible. " Please. I feel fine, a little tired and.. frazzled.. around the edges but other than that, I'm fine." I give her what I hope is a reassuring smile. " I promise to get some rest. General Hammond's ordered me to take a week's downtime and I fully plan on taking it, believe me."
" I suppose you've had enough of computers for a while,." Janet smiles slightly, a little sympathetically as I see her memories of what happened wash over her face. I can see she wants to ask me more questions, like what it was like, but I know she won't. Partly out of respect for my needing time to come to terms with it, and partly because I think she knows I can't answer her. I can't answer many of their questions. I didn't even realise I wasn't in my body till they told me what happened when I was out of it.
Nodding and forcing a smile, I make a move to leave the infirmary, prepared to turn my back on my nightmare and help someone else with theirs, but she stops me by tightening her hand on my arm. Turning back to her quizzically, I'm a little startled when she draws me into her arms for a hug. Even more startling, as I hug her back, I feel tears prick my eyes.
" I'm so glad you came back, Sam," she whispers in a voice so strained I barely catch it, despite being so close. Pulling back, I see the reason is that her brown eyes are wet and bright with tears. " This place wouldn't have been the same without you."
Nodding, I can't seem to squeeze any words past the lump in my throat. I instead try to convey my feelings in a smile, and in another quick hug, before leaving the infirmary. The moment I'm out of the room, I concentrate all of my remaining energy on my task: finding Jack.
It seems everyone is surprised to see me up and walking, even though it has been a week. If I hear one more comment about Sam Carter being able to bounce back up from anything, though, I swear I'll scream. Either that, or hit someone and burst into tears. Jesus, since when did I get a reputation for being unflappable? I'm not Superwoman! Do these people really know me? Do they really think I'm so.. so.. unfeeling that I can just get back on my feet and brush myself off, putting another torturous incident behind me and carry on as if it didn't happen?
The only people so far who don't see me as some super-being able to withstand anything fate decides to throw at me are my team mates, Janet and General Hammond. Even Teal'c looks concerned when I stumble across Daniel and him in Daniel's office. In a way, his concern eases the pain I felt at seeing he didn't trust me.
They haven't seen Jack since yesterday either, and I'm starting to get worried. His car's still here so I naturally assumed he would be, too. The Airmen at the security posts haven't seen him leave, so I guess there's only one place left for him to be. On the surface.
And that's the thought that brought me here. I should have brought a coat, it's freezing, but I don't turn back and go into the mountain where it's nice and warm. Nor do I go to my car and drive to the comfort of my apartment. That's not where I want to be right now.
My body is telling me I need sleep, a message I get again as I trip, stumble and almost fall. When I look to see what I tripped over, I see nothing, again an indication of how the best thing for me to do would be to sleep. As usual, I ignore the signs and indications, and stagger around the mountain, away from the watchful eyes of the security posts, to a relatively private spot I know for a fact that Jack, that the *Colonel* I remind myself, often haunts. It's getting dangerous to call him Jack now, even in my thoughts. It 's a testament to how blurred the lines between us have become, and how they 're close to crumbling, if they haven't already.
A heavy, disappointed sigh escapes my lips as I fail to spot him with my eyes. I was so sure he'd be here, so sure he would have come here to escape his thoughts, just for a little while. I literally feel my face fall, all pretence of stability and my being able to handle this disappear as I turn my back to the stars, resigned to the fact I've let him down by not being able to find him.
" Something wrong, Carter?" His voice scares me and I start, gasping as I lose my precarious balance and start slipping to meet the ground. Or I would have done, had he not been near enough to steady me. As soon as I'm standing on my own two feet, his hands leave my arms and I wonder faintly why they didn't linger, as they would have done just a few weeks ago. Where the Hell did he spring from anyway? " You shouldn't be out here without your jacket," he chides me from his place at my back.
There's something in his voice that sets me on edge, a note of sadness, of guilt, of remorse. So I turn to get a good look at him, and have to bite my lip, hard, to keep back another gasp of alarm. In the dim light of the stars and the moon, I can tell that his eyes are red and blood shot. His face is pale and he's shaking, barely visibly, but I see it. He's shaking, and when he brings his eyes from the stars to look at me, I see all the recrimination in his eyes, and all of the fear. " Sir.." I take a step closer to him, surprised and mildly hurt when he takes a step back.
" Don't," he tells me in an almost ordering, almost pleading way, his voice barely a whisper, painfully hoarse, and it wavers slightly as he pulls his eyes from mine back to the skies above us.
" Don't what?" I venture, tentatively nearing him, taking baby steps, hoping he won't notice until I'm close enough to stop him from moving away again.
Jack still doesn't look at me, but I see something that looks suspiciously like a tear escapes the confines of his eyelids and track its way down his cheek, before its journey is cut short by his hand coming up to wipe it away. " Don't tell me it's okay, Sam. You can't say that this time."
" But it's true," I answer, trying to keep the desperation from my voice. I' ve seen that look before, countless times, on too many faces of people shrinking away from the outside world to dwell in the dark abyss that is depression. Hell, I've seen that look on my own face before, twice. Once when my mother died, and once when Jolinar took me over. " It's over, Jack. And it is okay." His name should feel foreign on my lips, but I guess it seems familiar since I call him Jack in my head. Another step, another inch of space closed between us. " I'm me again, I'm okay. You're okay."
He shakes his head in complete disagreement with my statement. " I'm not," he maintains evenly, if a little blankly. " I'm not okay," he adds in a whisper.
" Why not?" It's a stupid question but I need to keep him distracted, until I'm closer. Just a little bit closer. I know the answer already, he's reeling from the fact he shot me, trying to accept he killed me, or could have if I was still in my body at the time. Confusion starts to cloud my thoughts again but I angrily shake it away. There isn't time for that. " Why aren't you okay, Jack?"
For a moment, I think he didn't hear. Either that or he's ignoring me on purpose. Then he tears his eyes away from above to look at me, his big brown eyes haunted although there is a hint of the smallest of smiles playing on his lips. It fades quickly, though, but I saw it and take comfort in it, gathering strength from the thoughts that it might not be too late after all. " So it's Jack now? I kill you and we're on a first name basis?"
Ouch. Sarcasm. Typical line of defence, especially if you're Jack O'Neill. Oh, well. At least it answered my question and confirmed my fears. It is the whole 'he killed me' that's bothering him. As if it could really have been anything else. I don't know what to say to his comment about us being on a first name basis so I choose to ignore it. Addressing instead the most important issue. " You didn't kill me."
His eyes snap once again to mine, disbelief and then anger crossing his face as he glares at me in stubborn refusal to acknowledge what I'm trying to say. " I killed you, Sam! I pulled the God-damn trigger twice and *killed* you!"
" No." I shake my head and take another step, reaching out for him. " You killed the being inside my body. It *wasn't* me. I wasn't there to be killed."
He tries to shake my hand from his arm but I tighten my grip and hold fast. Not a chance, Jack. I'm not letting you go. Sensing this, or perhaps knowing me too well and realising that I'm just as stubborn as he is, Jack stops fighting and just stands there, as tense as a man can be, still and unflinching as I move even closer, finding a courage I never knew existed, something inside me persisting, encouraging me to do something I would normally never do. Well, these are anything but normal circumstances so I tell myself my actions can be excused. I put my arms round him and hold him, even as he remains steadfastly like steel in my arms, upright, unmoving. I rest my head on his chest and listen to his heartbeat, allowing it to quell the nerves and fear that still linger within me.
Times passes, I don't know how much. I count it in beats of his heart instead of seconds, and then eventually I feel a slight shift in his posture. His shoulders slump and his arms, which have been hanging listlessly at his sides, come up to encircle my waist. His head lowers and he rests his cheek against my hair split seconds before I feel the salty wetness of tears run from his eyes down my face. " I'm sorry," he whispers brokenly. " I'm so sorry."
No words I know will soothe his plight so I do the only thing I trust myself to do. I hold him, telling him silently that I'm here, and let my tears join his own. And that's how we stay as the horrendous ordeal draws closer to an end. It's not over yet, not by a long shot. The nightmares will no doubt plague his sleep for weeks, just as mine over Martouf sill plague me now. His guilt will not disappear over night and I get the feeling old wounds have been reopened by this incident but only time will tell.
In time, we will learn to accept, and in acceptance we will find that we heal. His guilt will diminish as the days pass and he realises he still has me, that I never left him, and his nightmares will fade in the light of a new day. And through it all, I'll be at his side. Helping him every step of the way, doing all I can, repaying him for all the support he has given me.
Hey, and who knows? Maybe in time the lines will be completely blurred, or maybe they'll cease to exist altogether. The walls between us have already started to crumble, they started to crumble after forced confessions in a closed room, and they crumble further with every near-miss, every time the fragility of life is brought too close to home, every time we realise that for now we're not living. We're just existing, waiting for the right time, waiting until existing isn't enough, waiting until we're free to live how we choose.