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samcarterfic

"Feet Upon the Snow" by poohmusings

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August 29, 2006 | 09:27 pm | angst | drama
Posted by: surreallis in samcarterfic

Title: Feet upon the Snow
Author: poohmusings
Rating/Warning: PG-13
Spoilers: Mild spoilers for several S8 eps as well as what transpires at the beginning of S9.
Your recipient: Jenn / surreallis
Request details: "The team revisiting Ishta's people for whatever reason, and the female Jaffa courting her to stay with them because she offers so many skills to improve their lot. The boys being a little worried she might accept after all they've been through together. The ending, and where Sam stays, is up to you."



It was supposed to be an easy, innocent mission. Well, maybe not entirely innocent as General O'Neill did wonder if it was an elaborate 'booty call' orchestrated by Teal'c and Ishta. But when Ishta gated to the SGC and spoke of her sisters needing help getting settled on P7K-573, no one felt her request was all that out of the ordinary. And since Sam was the one who suggested 573 would be a suitable replacement homeworld for the women of Hak'tyl, she was more than happy to lead three SG teams and one medical team to the planet.

That, however, was all before her meeting with General O'Neill. It feels like an entire lifetime occurred before that meeting with General O'Neill.

"This isn't a reflection of your abilities, Carter. I want to make sure you understand that."

A dubious 'Really?' is what Sam wants to say, but she can barely breathe, never mind speak, so she nods and waits for the general to continue.

"And I told the president I thought this was a bad idea. But he said he's been getting a lot of grief, especially from Russia and China, about how we keep telling them we can't give them their own SG teams because we're overcapacity here. Yet there's SG-1 with only three members."

Sam exhales sharply in a cross between a snort and a chuckle. She can't believe they're going to make it seem like this decision is based on the fact he never got around to adding a fourth member to SG-1, and she never pressed him on the issue. Then again, at this point, nothing should surprise her anymore.

"When?" she asks, proud of how she keeps her voice from shaking.

"What?" The general looks surprised at her question, but he recovers quickly. "I ... don't know. A couple of months?"

She returns to nodding and cuts her eyes downward. So she gets two months -- maybe more, maybe less -- to continue leading SG-1. Then she'll get the rug pulled out from under her. Fantastic.

Elbows on his desktop, General O'Neill leans forward and says, emphatically, "You're a good leader, Carter. Don't doubt that. This decision to replace you is crap. And if it were up to me, I'd--"

"Are we done here?" She's up on her feet and making her way to the door without waiting for a response.

"Carter, don't--"

"Thank you, sir. I'll see you at fifteen hundred for our briefing on the provisions required for the mission to Hak'tyl."

"Carter, are you--"


"--out of your mind? Carter!"

Blinking, Sam focuses her attention back on the MALP camera. From the sound of his voice, she imagines General O'Neill scowling at her, the creases of his forehead furrowed in anger.

"I can assure you I'm not out of my mind, sir," she says, treading carefully. Or as carefully as she can, considering.

"Then why are you being so--" Catching himself, the general takes a deep breath before lowering his voice and asking, "Carter, does this have anything to do with what we ... you know, discussed--"

"If we're serious about making Hak'tyl as inhabitable as possible," Sam interrupts, praying her eyes are adequately communicating how much she doesn't want to discuss what he was alluding to, "that won't be accomplished in the next two days. We have the naquadah generators in place now, but it'll take days -- if not weeks or months -- to route electricity to the entire planet."

"The entire planet?" he echoes, his voice tinged with exasperation. "They didn't have electricity at all on their last planet and were fine with that. But now you want to light up the whole thing? Is that even feasible? And do they actually occupy more than a quarter of 573?"

"Does it matter, sir? If we have the resources, can we honestly think of denying it to them?"

"You're not a 'resource', Carter!"

Sam flinches at his outburst and hopes he didn't notice. "I'm staying here, sir," she reiterates for the fifth time since she broke the news to him over the MALP. "I'm not going back to Earth."

"Is that so, Colonel? Have you forgotten that I'm the gen--"

"I've made up my mind. You can't change it."

"This is-- Look." He mutters something unintelligible under his breath and appears to take that second to gather his thoughts. "You and all SG personnel have permission to remain on Hak'tyl for four more days. That's two more than originally slotted. You'll check in each day at oh-nine hundred. After the fourth day, everyone -- including you, Carter -- will return to Earth. End of discussion."

"Sir, you--"

"Four days, Carter. Don't push me."

She yearns to continue arguing, but knows that would do more harm than good at this point. Besides, he did give her an additional two days on the planet rather than sending in some Marines to drag her back to Earth.

"Yes, sir," she reluctantly acquiesces.

"And I suggest you spend the next four days thinking really hard about what you're asking, Carter."

"Yes, sir."

The instant their line of communication is broken, Sam walks away from the MALP, determined to ignore almost all of the general's orders. After all, what's the worse he could do to her? Not let her back on Earth?

*

On the first day, Sam tries to focus on all the improvements that need to be made on Hak'tyl.

"Teal'c and SG-14 are making good headway with the levee system. Things are going well with getting electricity to the village. You're working with Nesa on the laptops ..."

"She's doing great," Daniel offers when she pauses to consult the checklist in her hand. "Very attentive. Asks good questions."

"You know she has a crush on you, right?" Sam teases with a wink. "Probably why she's being so attentive."

"Ha."

Sam laughs, but takes pity on him and kindly changes the subject. "I was thinking we could do more work on the clinic tomorrow afternoon. I should be able to get the power up and running over there in the morning, so we can set up the machines Dr. Fredericks brought, calibrate them, and make sure they work properly in the afternoon."

"Okay."

Something in Daniel's voice makes Sam look up from her list. "What?"

He lifts his eyebrows and shrugs. "I didn't say anything."

"But you're thinking about saying something, so ... What?"

"Just wondering if we're going to discuss this."

"This?" she asks, playing dumb.

"You staying here. Permanently." She can tell he's studying her expression like he studies newly found artifacts. "You're serious about that, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Sam, I don't--" Cutting himself off, Daniel narrows his eyes before asking, "Does Pete have something to do with this?"

The mention of Pete almost makes her choke on her own saliva. "What?!"

"Or Jacob's death?" Daniel quickly suggests, although with less certainty than before. "I know both threw you for a loop, and it's completely understandable you might--"

"Breaking up with Pete and losing my dad was upsetting," Sam admits, forcing her voice to remain even. "But I've dealt with both, and neither has anything to do with this decision."

"Then I don't get it." Daniel throws up his hands. "This isn't you, Sam. You never abandon things. You don't. Not even when you should. But now you're going to abandon Earth? The SGC? I don't--"

"Wouldn't I be abandoning Hak'tyl if I returned to Earth?" Sam can't help but point out.

Daniel doesn't appear to appreciate her counterargument. "You're being facetious, and you know it."

"Daniel ..."

"No, Sam. I'm not going to stand by and just let this happen. If this doesn't have to do with Pete or Jacob, then does it have to do with what Jack tried to mention yesterday? Some meeting you two had before we came over here?"

"No, it doesn't--"

"What did you two discuss? What--"

"Daniel!" Sam finds herself clenching her jaw and has to take several deep breaths before she's able to continue. "The truth?" she asks, looking him directly in the eyes. "I do leave people."

"Like who?"

"Fifth."

"Fifth?" Daniel repeats with a roll of his eyes. "Fifth wasn't a person."

"Now who's being facetious?" she challenges.

"Your decision to leave Fifth behind was strategic. That's what your report said. That's what Jack's report said."

"No, Daniel," she says, hating how upset he is, "what's strategic is my decision to stay here. There's nothing left for me on Earth. Nothing."

She knows that's the most hurtful thing she could ever say to him, and is immediately wracked with guilt over it. Staying on Hak'tyl is selfish of her; of this she has no doubt. When she made up her mind to stay, she was aware Daniel, who so often wears his emotions on his sleeve, would take her decision the hardest and do everything he could to change her mind. But she can't let him do that.

When he murmurs a very quiet, very small "Oh," and cuts his gaze to the floor so she can't see the pain in his eyes, she accepts that she did what she had to.

Sighing, Sam raises her list to her eye line and says, "Now, about the clinic ..."

*

On the second day, she finds herself struggling to maintain her resolve.

"Will you not miss it? Your world?"

Startled, Sam looks over her shoulder and sees Cenna gazing up at her. The young girl's eyes are wide with curiosity, and her demeanor is completely void of the caution normally found in children her age.

"I don't know," Sam admits with a smile. "I haven't really thought about it."

"But what of your family? And friends?" Cenna presses. "You do not know if you will miss them?"

"I don't ..." Amused by how Cenna, of all people, is the first to ask her these important questions, Sam covers her mouth with her hand and pretends to cough to cover her laughter. "You're right, Cenna. I'll definitely miss them. But that's why I need you to help me make more friends here. So I won't be so lonely."

"But--"

"Cenna, are you allowing Colonel Carter to answer before asking her new questions?"

"Yes, Ishta," Cenna replies solemnly, bowing her head in respect to her leader. "I have been good, have I not, Colonel Carter?"

"Very good," Sam assures her as she reaches out and tousles the girl's soft, brown hair.

Cenna shoots Ishta a pointed look that says 'See?', but Ishta expertly ignores its mild impertinence.

"Neith is looking for someone to help her gather vegetables. Would you like to join her, Cenna?" Ishta asks.

"Oh, yes!" And with that, Cenna scurries off in search of Neith.

"I apologize if Cenna was bothering you, Colonel," Ishta says, shaking her head as Cenna's small body grows even smaller with distance. "I fear that girl's curiosity will get the better of her one day."

Sam laughs and falls into step beside Ishta as they begin an impromptu tour of the village's perimeter. "There's no need to apologize. She wasn't bothering me."

"I sense you are only being kind, Colonel. We've tried to be attentive and accommodating to her inquisitive mind, but it often leads her astray and I worry she will wander off one day without anyone's knowledge."

"Well, if she's interested in learning, I'd be happy to take her under my wing. I could ask General O'Neill to send me some books she may find interesting."

"Ah, the general." Ishta stops and turns to face her. Sam is surprised to see a playful smile pushing up the corners of her lips. "He would be willing to send you these books even though he does not support your decision to remain here?"

"He supports my decision," Sam blurts out in what she instantly knows is a fit of extremely wishful thinking.

Ishta's only reply is to raise an eyebrow almost as smoothly as Teal'c does.

"In his own special way," Sam amends with a grimace. But then she rolls her shoulders back and asserts, "I've made up my mind. It doesn't matter whether or not the general supports it."

Ishta nods, but Sam can't tell if that's a nod of 'Yes, I believe you' or 'No, I'm definitely not buying what you're selling'. Damn these Jaffa and their inscrutability.

"Colonel, while I support your decision and believe you do have much to offer us in terms of your knowledge and abilities, I, like Cenna, wonder if you will miss your world."

"I'm not going to--"

"Please." Ishta silences her by placing a hand on her forearm. "I do not wish for you to change your mind, but I also do not wish for you to regret your decision later. Only stay on Hak'tyl if you truly believe it is in your best interest. I have no doubt on this matter, but Teal'c does not agree."

Teal'c. Suddenly things begin to make a lot more sense to Sam. "Has Teal'c been giving you a hard time about my decision? I can speak to him -- tell him I was the one who approached you with the idea, not the other way around. He shouldn't--"

"Please," Ishta scoffs with derision. "Teal'c of Chulak does not influence my actions."

"And the general doesn't influence mine."

Their gazes lock on each other, and it is Ishta who breaks it first when she broadly beams. "That is good to hear. I hope you did not take offense to my questions. I merely wanted to be certain of your decision. My sisters and I are honored to have you join us."

"The honor's mine, Ishta. All mine."

As they resume their walk, Sam assures herself, once again, that her decision is right. Not just for her, but for all the women of Hak'tyl, as well as everyone on Earth. With her here, she can mentor bright minds like Cenna's and further strength the Jaffa-Tau'ri alliance. Yes, she is indisputably doing the right thing.

But if that's the case, a very small but persistent voice in the back of her mind asks, then why can't you shake the nagging sensation that you might be pulling a fast one on everyone, including yourself?

Regardless of what she does, Sam can't seem to quiet this voice.

*

On the third day, things go very, very wrong.

Sam opens her eyes and tries, for half a second, to get her bearings before pain sears through her body.

"Oh, god," she wants to scream, but all that comes from her mouth is an incoherent whimper.

Rolling onto her left side, she breathes shallowly through her mouth and curls her hands into fists as another wave of pain shoots through her. The last thing she wants to do is touch her wound, but she knows she has to in order to ascertain the extent of her injuries. With one last inhalation, she holds her breath, shifts onto her back, and begins an awkward probe of the right side of her torso. She locates a deep gash near her rib cage, possibly four -- maybe five -- inches in length, and her fingers are soon slick with her blood. When she can't take the pain any longer, she lets out a loud moan and her arms fall onto dirt and rocks with a thump.

She tries to remember exactly what happened. "We have never before ventured past this line of trees." Yes, she had been exploring Hak'tyl with Daniel, Teal'c, Nesa, and some of the other inhabitants of the planet. They had just entered new territory when ...

Sam struggles to hold on to the memories, but the pain from her injury has her synapses working on overdrive and she finds it hard to keep her thoughts straight. "Did anyone else hear that?" "Indeed." That's right. They were walking. There was a noise -- a rumble. Then the ground shuddered and gave way as she ... "Did you really think you could convince me that this illusion was my life? That I would just accept it?" "If it was something you wanted badly enough in your mind." Wait. No. That didn't ...

When she opens her eyes next, she's still lying on her back, her arms are still stretched out to her sides, and Fifth's voice has retreated to the recesses of her mind.

She must've passed out again.

Keep it together, Sam, she commands herself. Get help. Where are Daniel and Teal'c?

"Daniel!" she attempts to yell, but her parched throat rebels and all she's able to get out is a hoarse "Da!" Swallowing several gulps of air, Sam makes another attempt a second later and is rewarded with relative success as she hears something resembling her voice waft around her before fading away entirely. She waits -- hopes -- for Daniel's familiar voice to respond, but only silence answers.

"Teal'c!" she shouts this time. But again a breeze carries her voice away before a reply comes. "Nesa?"

Are they hurt? Buried? Dea--

No. Don't go there. Focus. You need to stop your bleeding.

Drawing her hands together, Sam pats her chest and breathes a sigh of relief when her fingers brush against the straps of her pack. Good. She was afraid she might have lost her pack at some point. In the first aid kit in the main compartment of her pack are four-by-fours of sterile gauze. She needs to pack that against her wound to stem the bleeding.

"You can do this," she whispers, her voice echoing in her ears.

As she tries to sit up enough to slide the pack straps off her shoulders, her injury roars to life and she almost passes out again from the pain.

"Oh god oh god oh god," she hisses, tears springing to her eyes and blurring her vision.

*

The roar of the crowd rings in her ears every time her head breaks the surface of the water. "Go!" "Go!" "Go!" "Go!" And every once in a while, she swears she can hear her name being called out as well. But she can't focus on the adoration of her fans. No, she has a race to win and she's determined to come in first this time.

Forcing herself to focus, Sam reminds herself to keep her stroke steady. She has a bad habit of churning against the water rather than working with it whenever she's in the middle of a tight race. At the last turn, the back-to-breast transition, she was the first to the wall. But now, out of the corner of her eye, she sees something dark -- Shannon's lucky swim cap, no doubt -- bobbing closer and closer to her from two lanes away.

She can't lose another race to Shannon. She won't.

And that's the thought lodged in her head as she reaches the wall, touches, and flips her body around for the final lap. With her chin tucked and her elbows locked to form a tight streamline under the water, she kicks with all her might and revels in the feel of the water carrying her forward.

When she slams her hand against the wall moments later and pops her head out of the water, she turns to see Shannon already celebrating another win.

Damn. Damndamndamn.

Heaving herself out of the pool, she shouts congratulations to Shannon and makes a beeline for her towel, her arms wrapped around her chest for warmth. She's pissed Shannon won again, but she shouldn't be a poor sport, right? Although it's becoming damn annoying that--

"Sam! Honey!"

Sam freezes in the middle of grousing and turns to see her father rushing towards her, a huge smile on his face. For a split second, she forgets he can't mind read and worries about the swear words running through her head. "Dad, hey, I can--"

"What a great race!" He's upon her now and looks like he'd hug her to death if it weren't for the fact she's a wet, dripping mess.

"Thanks." She smiles, but knows it lacks some sincerity. She's glad her father made it to her meet, but she really doesn't want to deal with him right now. Him or his exuberance.

He, however, must notice something is wrong because he narrows his eyes and points out, "You got second."

"I know."

"Second is good."

"I know, Dad." Sam brushes away some droplets of water dribbling down her forehead and works really hard not to roll her eyes.

"So you're not happy because ..."

"Who says I'm not happy? I'm happy. Ecstatic, even. See?" She forces her lips into an exaggerated smile of joy, and bares some teeth for bonus points. "Did you bring Mark with you? I don't see--"

"All right, young lady," her father beckons, curling his right index finger at her, "come with me."

"Dad, what--"

"Just follow me."

Padding after her father, Sam smiles and waves at various teammates as she gripes to herself about how this is just so uncool. Does he have to order her around in front of all her friends?

He eventually comes to a stop beside the outdoor showers, which are unoccupied.

"Dad, what are you--"

"Start explaining yourself, Sam."

"I don't--"

"You come in second and you're practically sulking as you leave the pool. What's going on?"

"I ..." Sighing, Sam draws her towel more tightly around her and looks away. "I don't think I want to be on the swim team anymore."

It's the truth. Sort of.

"Really." It's a statement rather than a question, and that, for some reason, makes Sam fidget under his gaze.

"Yeah, I don't-- I'm tired of it. Practices every morning and afternoon. And then all the meets." A whine intensifies in her voice with every sentence she utters, and it makes her wince, but she pushes on with her arguments despite it. "This is eating up so much of my time that I don't know if I can keep my grades up. And with this year being so--"

"Are you running away?" Her father asks this nonchalantly, but she nevertheless feels the sting of the implications behind the question.

"What? No! I--"

"If you want to quit swimming because you're tired of it, then I won't stop you," he continues, with the same neutral tone of voice. Sam wonders if any fifteen-year-olds have been known to spontaneously combust from embarrassment and shame. "But if you want to quit because you're scared or embarrassed about losing, then ... I won't let it happen. Carters don't run away when they're scared or embarrassed. We stay and fight."

"Dad, I'm not running--"

"Ah." He shushes her by raising a hand, the palm facing her. "Just think about what I've said before making a final decision. Okay?"

She wants to continue insisting his assumptions are wrong, but the truth is the truth -- even if she hates how her father is always able to suss it out.

"I'll ... Okay."

"Good." Still studying her face, her father smiles and winks. "I know you'll make the right decision, Sam, because Carters always hear me."

"What?" She stares at her father, thrown by the sudden incomprehensibility of his words. "Dad, that doesn't make any sense. What are you--"

"Can you hear me? Colonel Carter?"

Sam slowly slides her eyes open and is startled to see her father has disappeared. She can make out vague shapes hovering above her -- are they floating? is she? -- and her right side hurts like hell. She wants to ask where she is, but she's tired. So tired.

"Colonel Carter?" It's the female from before, the one whose voice she heard before everything changed, and her father left her, and ... "Teal'c! Dr. Jackson!"

"Dan ..." Sam mumbles, trying to pull herself away from the haze bearing down on her. "Teal ..."

"Be still, Colonel." The female again. "Your condition is grave."

"Ishta?" A different female this time.

"Yõ! We must get her back to the village. Tal'shak!"

"I'm so proud of you, Sam. You know that, right?" her father asks, reappearing by her side, his arm thrown over her damp shoulders. The familiar weight of his arm makes her smile.

"Tal'shak," she whispers as water rolls up to her feet, tickling her toes and beckoning her back to the pool.

*

She is dreaming of water -- of floating, of gliding -- when bright sunlight creeps through her eyelashes and compels her to wake. Brushing strands of hair away from her face, Sam opens her eyes and allows her gaze to skim over white walls (not hers), a patch of hardwood flooring (not hers), white sheets (not hers), and a light purple duvet cover (not hers). And even though she knows she should be scared about waking up in room -- and bed! -- not her own , she throws off the bedcovers without pause and stalks to the nearest mirror. One glimpse at her long, blonde hair and nightgown is all she needs to confirm her suspicions.

"Fifth!" she shouts, her voice shaking loose the last of the cobwebs sleep had left in her brain. "I know you're here! Fifth!" she yells again, this time out the bedroom door.

"He's not here."

She spins around at the sound of the voice and gasps when she sees herself sitting on the end of the bed with her legs crossed. The hair on this new Sam is her hair: short and slightly mussed, but Sam knows this woman isn't her or a mere copy of her.

"You," Sam hisses at the replicator version of herself.

RepliCarter -- as those in the SGC took to calling her after the incident on the Alpha Site -- shrugs, wholly unconcerned by Sam's ire. "You left him. Just like you left Pete."

"Fifth isn't here because I left him?" Sam asks in skepticism, choosing to ignore the comment about Pete. "That doesn't make any sense. He created this reality to trap me."

"But you broke free." RepliCarter says matter-of-factly, and Sam hates how pompous she is. "I'd say that's something you should be proud of, except Fifth should've been better prepared to prevent your escape. Then again, maybe Fifth just isn't very good at holding us back. He definitely didn't see my betrayal coming, but he should have since I'm you."

The insinuation makes Sam gasp, almost as if she's been punched in the stomach. "I'm not you," she whispers, drawing in a sharp breath.

"But you're not going to deny I'm you?" RepliCarter smirks, and Sam wants so badly to slap her. "That's interesting, don't you think?"

"Why did you bring me here?"

"Me?" Chuckling, RepliCarter plucks a loose thread off her black tank top before growing deadly serious. "You brought yourself here, Sam, because this is the scene of the crime. This is where it all began, more or less."

"I don't ... know what you mean," Sam says, even as she thinks she really does.

RepliCarter's insincere smile widens, almost as if she can read Sam's thoughts. "Fifth knew he couldn't hold on to you, especially not after what happened here. So he created me, thinking he only had to change a thing or two to stop me from leaving like you did. But he miscalculated how smart we are, didn't he?"

"I ..." Sam takes a tentative step backwards, a kernel of dread expanding in the pit of her stomach.

"Oh, c'mon, Sam," RepliCarter jeers. "Who do you think you're trying to fool? But fine, if you need me to spell it out for you, I will. Fifth changed me to be different from you, but I changed myself back. See, I knew that, one day, he'd leave me. Maybe he'd grow tired of me, or maybe he'd decide I wasn't a good enough copy of Samantha Carter. Either way, I knew he'd discard me and I couldn't let that happen. I had to ensure I'd be the one who discarded him. Sound familiar?"

"No," Sam mumbles, feeling like her heart has leapt into her throat and constricted her airway.

"Really?" RepliCarter asks, boredom oozing from her voice. "Still in denial? After all this time? This, Samantha, is what we do, what you do."

"No," Sam repeats, her hair swinging from side to side as she vehemently shakes her head. "I'm not you. I'm not."

"Your mother left," RepliCarter singsongs. "Your father left. And now the SGC is leaving you behind too, telling you you're not good enough to bring along."

"Stop it."

"You know it's the truth, Sam."

"No, it's not."

"There's no shame in it."

"No." Squeezing her eyes shut and covering her eyes with her hands like she used to when she five, she says, over and over again, "No, no, no--"

"Colonel Carter, it's Dr. Fredericks. You're safe. We found you. Please stop fighting me. I need to examine you."

Ice-cold fingers with superhuman strength pry her hands away from ears and Sam opens her eyes to see RepliCarter inches from her face. "You can't run away from this," she hisses.

Sam struggles to pull her hands out of RepliCarter's grasp, gasping in pain as the replicator's grip tightens.

"She's in shock. Let's get her hooked up to some IV fluids, stat."

"You can't hide," Sam slurs to the medical team before her eyes flutter shut.

*

"Carter!"

The shout has Sam lurching upright in her chair, then clenching her jaws. "Yes, Dr. Hershfield?" she manages to hiss through her gritted teeth.

"This," Hershfield strolls out of his office and holds up a thin stack of papers for her to see, "is a very good paper. I'm impressed."

"Thank you, sir," she says, beaming from the unexpected compliment. She accepts the proffered paper when he hands it to her and thinks that perhaps she's been too hard on him. Maybe he's not really such a pain in her ass.

"Make twenty copies of it for my meeting tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, but first, you left your name on the title page again. You know my rule about showboating authorship."

"I wasn't trying to showboat," Sam objects as she jumps to her feet. "I just wanted people to know who they could contact if they have any questions."

"If they have any questions, Carter, they'll call me because I'm the head of this department." He smiles smugly at her and it takes everything within her to refrain from smacking him across the face with her carefully researched and meticulously written paper. "Understand?"

"Yes, sir. Perfectly."

"Good. Now get going on those copies. We don't want to wait until the last minute, do we?"

"No, sir, we wouldn't." Sam flashes him a toothy, fake smile until he returns to his office. And the minute he closes the door behind him, her smile collapses and she mutters, "Prick."

"That's Doctor Prick, Sam. And don't you forget it."

The exaggerated rebuke in her officemate's voice has Sam spinning around and laughing. "Shh," she tries to hush through her laughter. "He might hear you, Anne."

Anne responds by rolling her eyes. "If he's as smart as he thinks he is, then he already knows he's a prick."

"Good point."

"That another paper you wrote but he's going to pass off as his own?" Anne asks, tipping her chin at the paper in Sam's hand.

"Of course," Sam says with a derisive snort. "It is what he does best."

Anne commiserates with a small smile, but that disappears when she asks, "What are you still doing here, Sam?"

"Um, I was assigned here?" she says in response, chuckling in an attempt to deflect the gravity of Anne's question.

"When's your commission end?"

"In four months," Sam meekly admits.

"And let me guess. You're gonna reup, but you're not gonna ask to be transferred somewhere else." Sam's slow but unmistakable nod has Anne heaving a gigantic sigh. "You're so much smarter than he is, Sam. If people knew you were the one conducting all his research and testing all those theories, they'd--"

"Probably not believe it," Sam cuts in. "He may be a jerk, but he's a well-known jerk with a lot of NASA connections."

"Hershfield's never going to help you get into NASA."

"That's not necessarily true."

"Sam ..."

"It's not!"

"Sam, c'mon." The seriousness in Anne's voice silences all the arguments in Sam's head. Anne is rarely serious. Sarcastic and irreverent? Definitely. But serious? Never. Somehow an earnest Anne makes Sam unbelievably nervous. "I know you want to get into NASA and Hershfield's practically best friends with the current director, but turning yourself into a slave isn't going to get you in there. And I know you know all this, so I can't figure out why you seem so scared to leave here."

The truth stings, but Sam finds herself nodding reluctantly. "You're right. About almost everything. But the thing is? I kinda like working here."

"Oh, Sam," Anne moans, the color draining from her face. "Please tell me that's not true."

"You don't need to make it sound like I just said I like kicking puppies," Sam replies with a laugh. "Yes, Hershfield's a jackass. But the research I'm doing here on spinwave technology and the effects of anti-gravity on electromagnetism? All the science we're constantly challenging and proving and disproving and expanding upon? I get the biggest thrill from all that! It's better than anything I ever experienced at the Academy. And I don't know of anywhere else I could transfer to that'll let me focus on this stuff."

Anne regards her with disbelief for a second, then turns to face her computer monitor, her expression one of amused bafflement. "You really are a geek, aren't you?"

"Hey! That's Doctor Geek to you, thank you very much," Sam counters in a near perfect imitation of Anne's earlier tone. "And are you really going to sit there and insist you don't get a high off what we do?"

Anne ponders this for a second before saying, "You need to wake up."

"Not this again," Sam groans.

"Wake up, Sam."

She smells coffee.

"C'mon."

And she hears the hum of nearby machines.

"You can do it. I know you want to."

Prying her eyelids open a millimeter at a time, her blurred vision clears little by little. Soon she makes out Daniel seated on one of the uncomfortable folding chairs she placed in Hak'tyl's new clinic, his head bowed as he appears to be murmuring encouragement to the cup of coffee in his hands.

"Daniel?" she whispers, her voice thin.

At the mention of his name, Daniel's head snaps up and he lurches towards her, almost spilling his coffee in the process. "Oh my god, Sam." He shakes his head and smiles broadly.

"Where-- Where am I?" she asks, the words large and cumbersome on her tongue.

"You don't remember?" His smile melts, concern spilling across his face.

"I ..." Everything is so unfocused, so far away.

"This isn't a reflection of your abilities, Carter." "We stay and fight." "This, Samantha, is what we do, what you do."

"Slide," she manages to say as a million thoughts -- memories? dreams? -- flood her mind.

"Yes." Daniel's smile returns and he grabs onto her left hand, squeezing it tight. "You got caught in one and got pretty banged up: concussion, bruised ribs, nasty cut on your side. But Dr. Fredericks has you back on the mend. We've been waiting for you to wake up before returning to the SGC. What do you say? Ready to go back to Earth?"

Earth.

"Carters don't run away ..." "You really are a geek, aren't you?" "I'm not you."

"Sam?"

For the first time in months, she actually does feel ready.

"Yes," she declares, squeezing Daniel's hand back. "Let's go home."

*

"Welcome back, Carter. How're you feeling?"

It's her first official day back at work since returning from Hak'tyl on a gurney, and she looks up from her computer to see General O'Neill awkwardly lingering in the doorway to her lab. She suspects his question is a mere formality since he probably kept himself well acquainted with every aspect of her recovery during the three weeks she was on medical leave. But she smiles and waves him in, happy he bothered to ask, formality or not.

"I'm doing well, sir. Thank you." Her hand drifts up to her healing side, almost of its own volition, and she adds, "Got my stitches taken out this morning. Dr. Fredericks says everything looks good and I'm cleared for active duty."

"That's fantastic." The general rolls up on his toes and beams; her smile widens. He seems genuinely happy she's doing well, and she's genuinely happy he's happy. This is definitely a far cry from the tense interactions they had via MALP while she was on Hak'tyl.

"Daniel and Teal'c'll be happy to hear the news," he tells her. "I know they've been itching to return offworld with you."

"And I'll be glad to lead them offworld, sir." Knowing she shouldn't but unable to stop herself, Sam drops her voice and asks, "Assuming I'm still allowed to lead them?"

"Oh, yes, of course," he stammers, his smile wavering. "SG-1 will always be yours to lead until I hear otherwise, Colonel."

"Right." She wrinkles her nose a bit at his addendum, but doesn't reveal any other outward emotion. "Thank you, sir."

Scuffing at the floor with the toe of his right boot, the general's demeanor does a sharp one-eighty as he shoves his hands into his side pockets and appears to be fascinated with something on the concrete. The smile is gone and has been replaced by a look of ... concern? melancholy?

After more than eight years of working together, she thinks she can read him pretty well, and she's almost positive he wants to say something to her but is stalling. Or maybe he wants her to say something to him, and that's why he's stalling.

That thought has her sitting more upright in her seat.

"Sir, I feel like I owe you an apology."

"What?" He stops in mid-scuff and looks at her in surprise. "No, you don't--"

"My behavior on Hak'tyl was irresponsible and disrespectful, and I had no right--"

"I think we both know the circumstances at the time were unusual."

"But that doesn't excuse my behavior. I'm sorry, sir."

He holds her gaze, and she hopes her candor sets him at ease. She means every word she said, and wants, more than anything, for them to return to normal. Or as normal as possible for the SGC.

"Apology accepted, Colonel," he says a moment later. "We've all said and done things we regret. I'm just glad you're back."

"Me too."

"Really?"

Sam's brows furrow as she's thrown by the bluntness of his question. Is he challenging her, or is he merely curious? But she recovers in less than half a second, and says, fervently, "Yes, sir."

It's the truth. Sort of.

She's filled with such an odd sense of déjà vu from the thought that she almost misses hearing the general's suggestion of grabbing Daniel and Teal'c, and all four of them eating some pie in celebration of her return to duty.

It's the sort of suggestion only he would make, and she loves him for it. But she knows there's something else she has to do first, so she expertly deals with the situation -- "Pie sounds great, sir. But could I reply to a couple emails first?" -- and waits for him to leave before returning her attention to her computer.

She is glad to be back on Earth. And in response the question she thinks the general might have wanted to ask her, she doesn't plan to ever repeat what she tried to pull on Hak'tyl.

When she was on Hak'tyl, she was running away; she was scared to be left behind. She recognizes all this now, and is glad things turned out the way they did because running away has never been her thing.

Opening her email program, Sam scrolls past a few unread emails and double-clicks on a message that piqued her interest when she received it a week ago.


Hey Sam. Greetings from Area 51.

Have you heard the latest scuttlebutt from here? Tom's announced he's stepping down as Director of R&D at the end of the month. Now everyone's stressing over who'll replace him. Will it be someone who's familiar with the program, or a complete outsider? You know how all that paranoia goes.

Of course, I'm sure everyone would immediately be at ease if YOU take over the position. (I know, I know. You're probably shaking your head no right now. Can't blame a guy for trying, right?)

Anyway, thought I'd let you know about Tom. Bring me back something cool to study when you're offworld next, okay?

Eric

Yes, running away has never been a solution to anything, she reminds herself as she clicks on the 'Reply' button and starts typing. But to face her fears and solve her problems by choosing to run to something she's always loved? That's another matter entirely.


Eric, you sitting down right now? If you aren't, then I think you better because you're not going to believe what I'm about to tell you.

Pausing to consider what she should write next, Sam rests her head in the palm of her right hand and softly says out loud, "Director of Research and Development at Area 51."

Yes, that's a title she can definitely live with.

-the end-

---------------------------------------

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Comments {20}

Melanie

(no subject)

From: million_moments
Date: August 30, 2006 07:46 pm (UTC)

*officially loves this fic*

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 5, 2006 09:51 pm (UTC)

Aww, thanks! There was much angst involved in its writing, so I'm glad you like it. :)

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Jenn

(no subject)

From: surreallis
Date: August 30, 2006 09:42 pm (UTC)

Ohhh, I love this! You took what I requested and created so much more out of it than I expected to get! And the boys were worried! And their affections for Sam showed through so strongly. *happy sigh* I loved the whole recurring theme with Sam wanting to quit something when she realizes she can't be the best. Ahhhh, our over-acheiving Sam.

Thank you SO much. :)

squee!

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psst...

From: anonymous
Date: August 31, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)

The title in the subject line is wrong. Would you mind fixing that? Thank you!

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 5, 2006 10:58 pm (UTC)

YAY! Do you really like? Really, really, really?

I know it's kinda ... weird in the telling, but the story refused to be told in a way that wasn't confusing. (And hey, without that extension, the story would have been even more confusing. *g*).

But I'm glad you like it! Eeeee! *snuggle*

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Denise

(no subject)

From: skydiver119
Date: August 31, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)

very nice fic. and you have to feel for sam, does she keep fighting or just cut bait and move on?

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 5, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)

Thank you! And you've nailed exactly what I tried to focus on with this story: Sam's hurt, but would she be running away if she tried to moved on? Glad you liked. :)

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scarimor

(no subject)

From: scarimor
Date: August 31, 2006 09:56 am (UTC)

Great angry and angsting Sam. I enjoyed her fight with O'Neill via MALP - very well done.

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 5, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)

Thanks!

I enjoyed her fight with O'Neill via MALP - very well done.

Hee! I had a lot of fun writing that scene, and the original draft of this story had more MALP interactions between the two. Unfortunately I had to cut most of it out because it became more about Jack than Sam, but who knows, maybe it'll reappear in a new fic sometime ... ;)

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siggy

(no subject)

From: siggy63
Date: September 3, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)

Poor Sam. It must be a devil of a job to be her. Really enjoyed the interactions with Ishta nad her people. You could understand why Sam would want to chuck it all in and stay. Fab, I really enjoyed it. thank you

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 5, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)

Thank you! I'm really glad you liked the whole scene with Ishta because I had a hard time writing that one. (Those darn stoic Jaffa. *g*)

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Great fic!

From: anonymous
Date: September 4, 2006 03:55 am (UTC)

Well written. Loved all of the different aspects of Sam and her history that you interwove into this story. - astrogeologist

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Karen T

Re: Great fic!

From: poohmusings
Date: September 5, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC)

Thanks! For some reason, this story refused to be written in a linear fashion, hence all the flashbacks and dreams. Am very glad to hear they worked for you, and you didn't find them too confusing. Thanks again.

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great story!

From: anonymous
Date: September 6, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)

That's all! Just wanted to say that I enjoyed it very much and look forward to reading more of your stuff.

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Karen T

Re: great story!

From: poohmusings
Date: September 7, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)

Thank you! Am very glad you enjoyed it. :)

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One Whose Honesty is Stronger Than Her Fear

(no subject)

From: amilyn
Date: September 10, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC)

This was fantastic. I really liked the merging and blending of the different memories, the way that Sam's external reality would pull her from one memory to the next as she was prompted by people trying to help her or wake her up. I absolutely adore the sheer NUMBER of Sam moments you gave us in the stream of memories and manifestations of her insecurities and fears. I think you did a great job showing confusion of her injured mind and the flow from one memory to the next...just excellent.

I like this also as an explanation for why she would take the job at Area 51 and feel good about it, feel like she was moving positively rather than running away.

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 14, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC)

Thank you! I'm so, so happy that you like how much Sam there is in this story because I kept freaking out over how this story just kept going on and on and on as I was writing it. (I wanted it to be around 10 pages total, but the plot refused to cooperate. *sigh*)

I like this also as an explanation for why she would take the job at Area 51 and feel good about it, feel like she was moving positively rather than running away.

The big, gaping hole behind why Sam exactly went to Area 51 has always bugged me. So when I saw a chance to "fix" that with this fic, I jumped at it. :)

Thanks again!

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nanda नान्दा

(no subject)

From: nandamai
Date: September 11, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)

I love all the characterizations in this. You even caught Ishta perfectly, though her part was so brief. And I love, love, love the backstory. And the way she storms out of the general's office, and then his discomfort at the end when she asks about command. And how she knows she has to hurt Daniel to do what she thinks (at the time) she needs to do. And Jacob! Jacob doesn't often come off as a great dad in backstory (including in mine) but what you've done with him here is really nice -- it fits in with the idea that he pushed her very hard and she internalized it, no matter how much pain it later causes her, and yet he did it out of love, and not unkindly.

There are too many "ands" in this comment.

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Karen T

(no subject)

From: poohmusings
Date: September 14, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)

Aww, thanks, n! I'm so glad all the different parts (and characters) rang true for you. Michelle told me in her beta that she wanted Sam to have a convo with Teal'c, just like she had one with Daniel. I gave her the middle finger for that 'cause it was hard enough tackling Ishta and there simply wasn't enough time (or energy, on my part) to tackle Teal'c as well. Heh.

And hey now, I love your Jacob. But thank you for liking -- shit, first typed 'licking' -- mine. *smooch*

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Minx, (n.) a pert girl, (adj.) saucy; impudent

(no subject)

From: _minxy_
Date: January 5, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)

Arrgh, am being thwarted in my quest to fb! Woe! Wanted to say, love the running/not running, love that the confusion of the structure supports Sam's confusion and that it isn't all suddenly resolved in a pat way. Feels very real like that.

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