DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters, the show, or the concept, that honor belongs to Showtime, MGM, Double Secret, Gekko, so on and so forth. I'm just borrowing them for awhile and promise to put them away when I'm done. I do this for love of the show and characters, not for money. Please don't sue; aforementioned owners should feel free to borrow anything herein that they want.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Entity ended just way too quickly and easily for my tastes and so I had to do something about it <g>. The rewrite of this story still has a rather abrupt ending, but it's intentional this time real life trauma rarely gets wrapped up in a nice, neat package, so why should it be any different in fanfic? I owe thanks to Jae for her comments about the niceties of language hopefully I've managed to fix the one thing she had an issue with <g>. As always, feedback is welcome, and very much appreciated.
SPOILERS: um well Entity; also spoilers for In the Line of Duty, Divide and Conquer, and any episodes dealing either with Sam/Jack UST or Sam's connection to Jolinar.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEASON: four, an epilogue to Entity.
By ocean gazer
CMO Janet Fraiser tucked a sheaf of papers under one arm, freeing her other hand to gently push open the door to the de-briefing room. She wanted her entrance to be as unobtrusive as possible, since she knew full well that General Hammond and the male members of SG-1 were in the middle of a de-briefing the same de-briefing she was supposed to have been at about half an hour before. It wasn't like her to be late, but she'd wanted to finish the last of the tests she was running before reporting her findings. Considering that Major Samantha Carter the subject of said tests was the cornerstone of the current discussion, she felt comfortable being late, knowing she needed to bring as many answers as she could to the table.
She mentally pushed aside the awareness that dutiful reasons aside she needed to see the results for her own peace of mind.
Fraiser slipped quietly into the room, turning slightly to shut the door in her wake, when Hammond's low, bass voice broke off in mid-sentence to address her. His tone held more than a hint of worry, but despite the abruptness of the question, there was no hint of a rebuke for her tardiness. "How is she, Doctor?"
Janet flashed a tight smile at him, yet didn't respond right away. Instead she opted to take a seat next to Daniel Jackson, wanting to get herself settled before she started talking. She moved as quickly as possible, well aware of the impatient glances directed her way. Studiously avoiding the perusing gazes, she focused almost too intently on laying out the papers she'd brought into the de-briefing, using those few extra seconds to regain her composure. She wanted no, needed to be able to put on her most professional mask in order to get through this meeting. She'd been a little too open with her emotions already, and because it was uncharacteristic for the doctor, it made her profoundly uncomfortable.
Thankfully, the mask had only noticeably slipped while Colonel O'Neill was around, and he'd been far too preoccupied with his own feelings to pay any mind to hers. Normally, she didn't get emotional around the man, since sarcasm was the default mode they had in common. But under the circumstances, the intensity of his worry had crashed through the fragile sense of detachment she'd fought to keep in place. Despite the fact that she was human, she couldn't afford to lose her composure around the others couldn't afford to let people see just how deeply she was affected by what had happened. It was one of the prices she paid for being a doctor needing to keep her own feelings under wraps in order to help other people deal with theirs.
And at the moment, even had she not been a doctor, she would have been doing the same thing, keeping her feelings hidden as a means of self-protection. She just felt too raw to deal with well-meaning people constantly asking how she was coping with things how she was dealing with her best friend lying in the infirmary after a very close brush with death.
With a barely audible sigh, Janet brought her eyes up and looked around the table, letting her gaze touch briefly on each of the people seated there Hammond, Teal'c, O'Neill, and Daniel before refocusing on the general. "Well, sir, Major Carter is in serious but stable condition. Her vital signs are getting steadily stronger, and all the tests I've run indicate that there's no permanent physical damage to her body or her nervous system."
She paused, letting that information sink in, and mustering up a tiny smile at the openly relieved sighs making their way around the table. Even the ever stoic Teal'c had joined in. Clearing her throat to get the men's attention, she continued softly, "She's not completely out of danger yet, but at the rate she's improving, I feel certain that in time she'll make a full recovery with no lasting brain damage."
O'Neill, showing clearly that patience was not one of his virtues, interrupted, "So, can we see her?"
Fraiser shook her head emphatically, but she kept her voice soft and sympathetic. She understood his frustration all too well. "I'm sorry, but I can't let anyone see her just yet, Colonel." Before he had a chance to protest, she held up a hand to forestall him and continued quietly, "I know you want to be there, to let her know she's not alone and to remind her that she's safe. But, for her sake, I need to keep her calm and quiet, and right now, that means having as few people around her as possible. I don't want to have to sedate her to keep her calm unless I have no other choice. Given everything that's happened, I think it's best for her if she's as alert and in control of herself as possible without the influence of drugs."
Sam had once again endured the hell of being a prisoner in her own body and then had to endure the additional horror of being a prisoner inside the computer, her consciousness completely removed from the familiar confines of her own physical self. There was absolutely no way Janet was going to give her drugs that might prolong that hell if there was any way to avoid it. She remembered all too well the nightmares that had lingered after the other woman's experience as an involuntary host to Jolinar. Shaking off that thought, she added, "There are also some lingering physical side effects to having her brain taken over by that alien entity and for medical reasons, I need to keep her in isolation for a while."
"What kinds of side effects are we talking about, Doctor?"
She swung her eyes back to Hammond as she answered his brusque, concerned question. "There's still some significant swelling in her brain, and there are times when she doesn't have complete control of some of her physical responses."
Janet glanced around, seeing that her audience looked both alarmed and confused by her statement. She looked down at her hands and paused for a long moment, trying to think of how to best explain this completely unique situation, wanting to be sure the four men understood what she was saying. She wanted to ease their minds and reassure them, but she also wanted to give them accurate information. In her experience with medical matters, people were as reassured by knowing what was going on as they were by sympathetic platitudes. "The swelling is nothing too surprising, given the trauma to her brain, and I just need to monitor it, to make sure it's going down like it should." She shot another glance around the table, seeing that most of the alarm had faded, leaving confusion staring back at her.
"As for her physical responses " Fraiser trailed off, choosing her words carefully. "It's as if her consciousness is back in her body, but it's not completely in control yet. Her involuntary physical responses are doing exactly what they're supposed to for instance, her heart is beating regularly. Her voluntary physical responses, however, are not fully under her control yet. She might want to move her hand, but not be able to consciously direct those muscles to make them move. Given the incredible complexity of the human body and nervous system, Sam is getting things back under her own control relatively quickly. But it's going to take a while before she's fully reintegrated."
Daniel's confusion was obvious in his tone. "But when Sam's um mind came back into her body, she was coherent and able to talk." He paused and then continued uncertainly, his words coming slowly, making it clear he knew he was well out of his field of expertise. "So why was she able to control her speech if she can't control everything else as well? Since she wasn't able to talk while she was under the control of the entity, it just seems odd to me that she would so quickly have control of that, when she can't control other things. I mean, you were talking about involuntary responses, which doesn't exactly apply to speech."
Janet sighed, reaching up distractedly to rub the back of her neck. "I wish I could answer that, but this is the first time an energy based, computer-like being has entered the body and mind of a human being and the first time human consciousness has been transferred out of a human body and stored in a computer. Nothing in my experience has prepared me for this the only thing that comes close is the Goa'uld or Tok'ra taking a host and even that doesn't involve a transfer of consciousness just a suppression of it."
She heard a note of frustration in her own voice, but wasn't bothered by that particular display of emotion, since it was her normal response when she couldn't solve a mystery or come up with an explanation or theory about medical matters. "I have almost more questions at this point than I have answers. I can't explain fully why she can do one thing but not another. My suspicion is that it has something to do with what her brain perceives as being the most crucial things to focus on." She sighed at the utter inadequacy of the words. Of course, since this was all uncharted territory, no words could possibly be adequate to explain it. Unfortunately, that didn't make her frustration any less real, especially since this was about her closest friend in the world it wasn't some abstract or theoretical "what if?".
Taking a deep, calming breath, she decided to get back to basics. "Regardless of the reasons, you have to remember that she's had some incredible shocks to her system. It's akin to being struck by lightning in terms of the electrical disruption to her body when the entity took her over, though it wasn't nearly as severe. But unlike with lightning, there was also the removal and then the re-entry of her consciousness which was a huge disruption in and of itself. She's still healing from that physical harm."
Quietly, Teal'c interjected, "What of the harm to her mental and emotional state?"
And of course he would bring that up before she was quite ready to delve into the topic. Janet took another deep breath, forcing herself to keep her equilibrium. "Do you remember how she reacted after she was taken over by Jolinar?" A series of nods answered the question. "Well, she's in the same emotional state again. Withdrawn and depressed, mostly non-responsive."
She watched as an ever-so-subtle flinch crossed Teal'c's face and a clearly distressed grimace settled on Daniel's. Sparing a quick glance at the general who looked understandably grim she then found herself staring at O'Neill. It didn't surprise her in the slightest to see remembered pain in his eyes. And by the way he seemed to be hunching deeper into his chair and doing his own version of emotional withdrawal, she could tell that despite his desire to be there for Carter, he was going to have a very hard time going anywhere near the infirmary, even after Sam recovered enough to be allowed visitors. Janet had seen the hurt on his face after Jolinar's death, when his second-in-command wouldn't respond to him, wouldn't even look at him or acknowledge his presence, sunk deep in her own pit of despair. The fact that the blonde had acted that way with everyone save Cassie had done nothing to salve his bruised ego.
She felt a sudden wave of sympathy for the man's emotional pain, realizing that he cared as deeply for Samantha Carter as she did, though his feelings churned with a romantic and sexual attraction while hers were anchored firmly in the love and intimacy of friendship. Sounded like comparing apples and oranges, she knew, but she also knew that she and Sam had a closer relationship than that of many lovers they just didn't have the connection of sex to complete the picture.
O'Neill and Carter were close as well, and the blonde was clearly flattered by his attraction to her and rather in awe of his leadership and his skills. All the members of SG1 were close, due to the life and death nature of their jobs; but it still didn't compare to the depth of friendship between the women. They balanced each other and made each other better people, and they shared an intellectual and emotional compatibility that was rare. Her friendship with Sam fulfilled her more than any of her relationships with her lovers had more even than the halcyon days in her relationship with her ex-husband. And Sam had said the same was true for her as well.
Sometimes Janet wondered if they were both just attracted to each other and yet not willing to admit it to themselves, given the military and societal complications. But then she reminded herself firmly that there was more than one type of intimacy in the world, and relationships were far too complicated to be put into nice, neat little boxes with simple labels.
A soft sigh from the colonel pulled her thoughts back to him. She knew full well that her description of Sam's emotional state deeply disturbed him. He'd been at Carter's side during the entire "entity incident", and wanted to be there now to coax her back to normal and be able to feel closer to her because of it. But just as he hadn't been able to get through to her in the aftermath of the whole Jolinar incident, neither would he be able to get through to her now and he knew that as well as Janet did. And while she knew duty, if nothing else, would cause him to spend time in the infirmary with his second, she could see in his eyes that he was going to put up a very high wall around his emotions.
General Hammond, sharp as ever, picked up on the unfinished thought she'd started. "Mostly non-responsive?"
Janet felt a slight blush creep across her cheekbones. Her answer came slowly, and almost reluctantly, aware as she was of O'Neill sitting across from her. "Well, sir, she is responding to me. I've managed to get her to talk a little bit, and she'll actually look at me when I'm in the room with her, rather than looking through me as she does with everyone else."
She didn't dare glance at O'Neill, not wanting to see the look in his eyes. Though he would never have verbally admitted it, she'd seen traces of raw envy on his face before when she and Carter spent time together outside of work. It didn't take a great deal of imagination to see that he was jealous of their closeness, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. He'd never been able to cajole the major into going on a fishing trip with him or even on a simple excursion to the movies; she'd only go if Daniel or Teal'c or Cassie was there as well. And Fraiser had pieced together that it bugged the hell out of him that all she had to do was say, "Hey, Sam, want to ?" and the other woman was all smiles and ready to go. Ok, so it wasn't quite that easy to get the other woman off base and doing something unrelated to work, but the point remained valid.
While the blonde was flattered by O'Neill's attraction to her, she didn't share his feelings a fact that had been laid gently but bluntly on the table during the whole za'tarc testing fiasco. And Janet knew that Sam, responsible type that she was, rebuffed her CO's offers so she wouldn't inadvertently give him the wrong idea. Unfortunately, it didn't make his underlying feelings any less potent. That sense of jealousy made for a sometimes uneasy working relationship between Fraiser and the colonel anytime Carter was involved, though thankfully they were both professional enough that it had never yet become a problem.
Daniel must have seen something in his friend's eyes, because he started to ask, "Jack ?" when the general pre-empted him.
"Well, Doctor, in that case I'd like to assign you full time to Major Carter's care. I know you have a full set of responsibilities as Chief Medical Officer, but I trust there are people on your staff to whom you can temporarily delegate some of those responsibilities, particularly under the circumstances." He sighed softly and his voice softened, as it often did when speaking of the woman who was like a daughter to him. "No one should have to go through being possessed not once but twice by alien beings, and I want to do anything in my power to make it easier for her to get through this."
He coughed, apparently aware of how sentimental his words had gotten. His tone hardened a fraction as he refocused on the very practical aspect to wanting the woman to recover as quickly as possible. "After some discussion with the President and Joint Chiefs, it's been decided that the SGC will undergo a temporary, partial shut-down. We won't be cleared to be fully operational until we've thoroughly gone through our systems to be certain that entity hasn't left any more surprises. I understand that Major Carter won't be ready to return to duty for a while, and obviously we can't wait for her return before we begin that work. But since she understands the functioning of the Stargate far better than anyone else we have here and is one of the people most knowledgeable about some of the computer systems, her technical expertise is sorely needed. If you can help speed her recovery in any way, it will benefit all of us."
Janet simply nodded in response. She really couldn't think of anything to say.
A short, abrupt scream tore through the mid-afternoon quiet. Sam's scream. At the strangled sound, Janet dropped the paring knife she'd been using, letting it land haphazardly on the cutting board amidst a pile of julienned carrots and broccoli florets. She caught up a towel with which to dry her hands and headed quickly towards the kitchen door, throwing a glance over her shoulder to double check that she hadn't turned the stove burner on yet. Seeing that she hadn't, she tossed the towel onto the counter and practically ran for the guest bedroom, not at all reassured that after the abrupt scream there had been nothing but silence echoing through the house.
It had been a week and a half since Sam had been taken over by the entity, and three days since she'd finally been allowed to leave the infirmary. While she was almost fully recovered physically the still livid burn on her hand notwithstanding she was still less than fully recovered emotionally. Which wasn't at all surprising. Fraiser had decided with General Hammond's strong encouragement to take a leave of absence to care for her friend at home. The doctor was no more replaceable at the SGC than the major, but while Warner could temporarily fill her shoes in the infirmary, she was the only one who could get through to Sam right now. A rare time when the call of duty and the call of friendship were in perfect harmony. As Carter was still in too fragile a state to be around most people for very long, Janet had arranged for Cassie to stay with O'Neill for a while, which surprisingly had proved to be a fairly effective medicine for the moping colonel.
Now, if only she could find as effective a medicine to help heal Sam.
Fraiser raced into the room, skidding to a stop next to the bed, to find Carter staring up at her, panicked eyes huge in the too-pale and too-thin face. Glancing down, she noticed the woman's fingers were twisted in the sheets tightly enough to leave her white-knuckled. Janet settled herself carefully on the edge of the mattress, next to her friend, reaching out to smooth sweat damp hair off Sam's forehead. "It's ok, I'm here you just had another nightmare." She stated the obvious just so she'd have something to say, her voice low and lulling, the gentle cadence of the words intended to both soothe her friend and ease her back into waking reality.
Unexpectedly, she got a solemn nod. All too experienced in dealing with Sam's nightmares, she knew the other woman wasn't completely out of the grip of the dream yet, even though she was awake and aware enough to respond to her words. Murmuring a soft litany of "It's ok, I'm here," Janet lifted her hand away from her friend's forehead and repositioned herself more comfortably on the bed. She reached out and gently covered Carter's hands with hers, using her thumbs to lightly stroke the tense and rigid fingers that were still clenching the sheet like a lifeline, all the while uttering soft reassurances.
When she felt the fingers under her hands begin to loosen their grip on the sheet and saw the panic blinking out of those impossibly blue eyes, she knew her friend was finally fully awake. Janet sighed softly, a surge of relief flooding though her. It always scared her to see Sam like that so panicked and lost so vulnerable. And yet, she knew it was a precious gift to see that to be trusted with that vulnerability. Sounded like something out of a sugar-sweet Hallmark card, but the sappiness content didn't make the sentiment any less true.
Janet moved her hands away from Sam's. She braced herself on the mattress with one hand, then reached up with her other hand and once again began stroking blonde hair in slow, soothing motions. Now that the turmoil of the nightmare had calmed a bit, she allowed herself to study her friend, noting with a touch of surprise that there were tears welling up in the expressive blue eyes.
It suddenly occurred to her that this was the first time she'd seen such an overt display of emotion, other than the dream-induced moments of panic. Sam had been almost stone-like in her reactions after being rescued from the computer, and at first the doctor had thought it was yet another physical side effect from the trauma. It hadn't taken her long to realize that it actually was all a part of Carter's emotional withdrawal and depression. And so the sudden display of emotion was a little shocking, even though it also brought a profound sense of relief relief that her friend seemed to be slowly starting to heal. In a sense, Janet realized she'd been waiting for this, waiting for some sign that the other woman was ready to break down the walls around her feelings and begin to release them.
She continued the gentle petting of Sam's brow as she asked softly, "Want to talk about it?"
Janet was prepared for the other woman to say no, as she had every other time the doctor had tried to get her to talk about the nearly constant stream of nightmares. So she was caught ever so slightly off guard when the blonde started to shake her head, then bit her lip and offered the tiniest of nods. And she was further caught off guard when the thin trickle of tears slowly turned into a torrent.
Shaking off that momentary daze of surprise, she slid closer to the other woman, then turned so she was sitting with her back against the pile of pillows that lined the headboard of the bed. She reached out to her friend just as Sam twisted herself around and rolled over. Janet felt her friend's arms wrap tightly around her waist and then the blonde head burrowed against her thigh. She braced one hand on the woman's back, holding her close, offering support in a way far more real than words. With her other hand, she resumed stroking tousled gold hair, her fingers moving in slow, soothing patterns, all of her attention focused on her friend.
Janet could feel the harsh shudders wracking Sam's body as she sobbed, could feel the other woman's tears soaking through the soft cotton of her sweatpants. Murmuring a soft, sympathetic, "It's ok now let it go," the doctor just held her friend, letting her cry. They'd been in the exact same position before after Jolinar and while it was painful to witness such anguish, Janet felt honored that Sam trusted her enough to let down her guard so completely.
She felt the burn of tears in her own eyes, and didn't try to hold them back, just held her friend tighter, painfully aware of how close she'd come to losing her. And a distant part of the doctor's mind knew that she needed the emotional release she hadn't allowed herself the time or space to cry. She'd been too busy taking care of the other woman, too busy trying to help Carter heal after her ordeal since she was the only one who could. It was, perhaps, the ultimate irony that Sam was also the only person who could help Janet heal her own emotional wounds.
For long minutes, there were no words spoken. Touch and tears spoke more eloquently than either woman could.
And then the tiny sound of Sam's voice, muffled against Janet's thigh, broke through the spell. Words flowed in a broken whisper between sobs anger at O'Neill for shooting the entity when it released her as he'd demanded guilt that she'd caused yet another being to die to save her anger at herself for giving the alien a conduit in the first place guilt that they'd unknowingly caused harm to another world and fear overwhelming, incapacitating fear of being trapped and not being heard fear of dying because she couldn't communicate
Janet blinked back her last errant tears, feeling a weight lift from her shoulders not just because of her own emotional release, but because her friend had finally given voice to her fears and feelings. She continued stroking blonde hair in a soft, comforting rhythm, noting that Sam's sobs were abating, turning into deep and shuddering breaths.
She spoke softly, even though she knew that no words would be adequate to ease the fears and the guilt. "You did the best you could, Sam you tried to communicate with a sentient being rather than just destroying it there was no way you could know what would happen. And it isn't your fault that the entity died " She broke off there, the hand braced on Carter's back pressing tighter, as if she could convey all her thoughts and feelings via osmosis. Her eyes fixed on the blonde head and her voice softened even further 'til it was a bare shadow of itself. "I can't even imagine how scared you were I'm just glad you're safe now I couldn't bear to lose you."
Janet closed her eyes for a minute at the stark reminder in her own words of just how close she'd come to turning off the life support system how close she'd come to forever losing her friend how close she'd come to being responsible for killing her friend. Lost in her own thoughts, she was vaguely aware of the other woman moving around, and then she felt a bandaged hand and calloused fingertips gently caressing her cheek. Opening her eyes, she looked down to see Sam staring up at her, concern written starkly on her face and reflecting in her eyes. "I'm so sorry, Janet I haven't even thought about how how hard this must have been for you."
She heard the roughness in her friend's voice, a remnant of the harsh sobs. But the slowly stuttered words managed to bring a crooked smile to her face; it was so like Sam to be pulled out of her own pain and distress upon noticing someone else's.
Janet reached up and gently covered her friend's hand with her own, mindful of the injury there, then lowered their joined hands. She shook her head slightly, focused on Sam's intense gaze. "I can't say it's been easy for any of us but compared to what you've been through what you've had to deal with " She shook her head again, keenly feeling the lack of adequate language. "You've had enough to deal with without worrying about all of us as well. And what really matters is that you're safe and you're here and we're all going to be ok." As pep talks go, she knew it left a lot to be desired. Then again, she was a doctor, not a cheerleader.
She watched the other woman carefully, seeing that her words had eased some of the concern in those blue eyes, though the serious look on her face remained. In a voice full of innocent wonder, Sam said simply, "I am safe and we are going to be ok, aren't we."
It wasn't really a question, but Janet nodded anyway. Strange how the most simple and basic truths were sometimes the most powerful.
She continued watching Sam, seeing the thoughts scroll across her face, her mien still serious and troubled. In a barely audible whisper, her voice still thick and rough, the blonde said, "Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it if our going through the Stargate is worth all the damage we do and all the damage that's done to us. You know what I mean?"
The doctor nodded emphatically. Oh, how she knew. Janet had wondered the same thing herself on more than one occasion wondered if the technology and allies were worth the high price they paid some days for stepping through the Stargate. She'd seen too many good people die, seen too much innocence sullied, seen too much physical and psychological damage done to people she cared about. And Sam had confided in her about times when they'd brought harm to people on other planets inadvertently, yes, but no less real for the lack of ill intent. Was the gain really worth the constant need for secrets or the burden of making as many powerful enemies as they did friends?
Janet sighed softly as she stared down at her friend. There was no easy answer, had never been an easy answer. "I wonder the same thing sometimes. But we can't undo what we've started we can't just bury the gate and pretend nothing ever happened. We've gotten involved in what's going on out there and we can't just up and leave. Even though it doesn't always seem like it, we are standing up for what's good we're trying to make a positive difference. And despite everything, we do our best to not just run around without any concern for the consequences of our actions."
As a stand-up-for-your-principles speech, Janet knew it lacked for finesse, especially given the heavy undertone of "we don't have a lot of choice." But she was surprisingly relieved to see that the tension in Sam's face eased a fraction at the words and she felt the soft caress of the other woman's fingers against her own where their hands were still pressed together.
"I know." For a moment, it seemed like that was all Sam planned to say. Then she managed a soft, "We are doing some good out there. And as hard as it's been, I wouldn't give it up not if it meant losing Daniel and the colonel and Teal'c and Cassie not if it meant losing you. Your friendship is one of the most important things in my life and it makes all the other stuff worth it."
Janet felt her mouth twist in a smile and she reached out to ruffle blonde bangs. Sam had a definite knack for unerringly getting right to the heart of things, for managing to get right down to what was most essential. "I feel the same way I wouldn't change things if it meant losing your friendship." And in a moment of revelation, she realized just how true that was. The simple fact of friendship, of bonds forged by pain and loss and working together for the common good, was something that was truly priceless.
Seeing the way the other woman's face lit up in a smile at the words, Janet felt a huge sense of relief flood through her. It wasn't that a simple verbal reminder of friendship would make things magically easier for the other woman or erase the trauma overnight. But she could see that the words reassured Sam, and that was what mattered most. No matter what might happen in this life, neither of them was alone, because they had each other. Unwittingly, her friend followed her train of thought, speaking softly and reverently.
"Faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love."
Janet leaned down, kissing Sam's forehead. Her voice gentle, she said simply, "Amen."
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