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* TITLE: Travelers Return
* AUTHOR: Redbyrd
* EMAIL: redbyrd (at) mindspring (dot) com
* RATING: PG
* CATEGORY: drama, missing scene
* SUMMARY: Tag for Serpent's Lair, Sam's POV, "Later. I could cry later. Along with laughing, screaming and drinking something seriously alcoholic because after going AWOL, capture, escape, near-death, losing a good friend, and saving the world, I didn't know what I was supposed to be feeling."
* SPOILERS: Fire and Water, TBFTGOG, Within the Serpent's Grasp, Serpent's Lair
* AUTHOR'S NOTE: For awhile now I've wanted to do a tag for Serpent's Lair that wasn't the usual Jack/Daniel everybody-blames-themselves for not thinking of stargates-and-sarcophagi thing. Even I'm a little surprised to find that it's taken the form of Sam's POV and first person though! The title is a reference to Henry VI- "The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns" (death) - clearly not true of SG-1! The idea behind this is the comment Sam makes in Hathor that she has trouble feeling like one of the guys with her teammates. I didn't think that was resolved at the end of the ep.. in fact, when Hathor closes, Sam is in uniform helping Janet while all three men are in civvies, clearly about to go off-base. I pegged Serpent's Grasp as the episode where they finally all get onto the same page, for reasons that will be clear in the story.
The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Somehow, it wasn't until we had shaken hands, thanked the crew of the Endeavor and gotten into the car with its Air Force driver that it really sank in. We were still alive and going to have to face the music.
I was the one who originally brought up the possibility of courts-martial when we got back. The colonel said, "If we get back." That was the first I realized that he was taking Daniel seriously.
I'd been a little surprised that Teal'c had believed Daniel so readily, but he seemed to think an attack was a real possibility. It still seemed incredible to me that Daniel had actually experienced an alternate reality. But what other explanation was there? Daniel disappeared, we couldn't find him. He came back wounded, without his gear. And looking into Daniel's intense blue gaze, there was no way I could believe he was deliberately lying.
The problem was, even if Daniel had seen exactly what he said he did, he admitted there were differences. How could we be sure the attack would even be launched from the same place in this reality? By the time we watched Klorel greeting Apophis, I was making resolutions to test Daniel on Zener cards when we got home. I still don't understand why he was so convinced we were in danger, but I haven't ruled out a psychic gift.
Hadn't. God, Daniel, why didn't we listen to you sooner? Maybe if we had, we could have stopped Apophis some other way.
The car only took us as far as the airstrip. We were given a change of clothes and a few minutes to shower before we boarded our flight back to Colorado. There were MREs on the plane but only Bra'tac took one. The rest of us weren't hungry. Teal'c told me later that Bra'tac credited the rations with the success of the Tau'ri in battle. I guess he figured they'd make anyone fight harder, if only so they could go home and eat real food.
I must have dozed off on the flight back to Peterson, because it seemed to go by awfully quickly, and I had a crick in my neck when I sat up straight again.
The official car whisked us out of Peterson AFB and sedately traversed the curvy familiar road up to Cheyenne Mountain. I looked out the window. I couldn't see the colonel's face, but I knew he was wearing the blank buttoned-down expression that had barely left him since he realized against all the odds, we were going home. Without Daniel.
Bra'tac was quiet, probably thinking of the two men he had lost, and Teal'c's normal silence was darker and more withdrawn than usual. For all the horrors he has seen in his long life, losing Daniel hurt him. I'm not sure I'll ever understand the relationship between those two men.
You'd have thought that Teal'c would have found it hard to respect Daniel, the non-soldier of the team. Or that Daniel would never have been able to forgive Teal'c for the sins he committed before they met. And yet Daniel spends- spent- more time with Teal'c than anyone, teaching him, learning from him. And yes, even becoming friends.
The three men of SG-1 seem to share a tight exclusive bond somewhere way outside the normal boundaries of military friendships. Daniel is- was- the one who accepted me without question, but our friendship is mostly professional, despite the tears I cried over him when Nem took him.
The colonel called us family on Cimmeria, but it's Cassie, and perhaps Janet with whom I have that easy security. My teammates are some of the best people I know, brave, caring and strong. But for them, the search for Sha're and Skaara is their personal raison d'etre, not their commitment to the SGC. I never forget that as much as we've bled together, they're searching for redemption while I'm here for the cool passion of science and the burning desire to Know What's Out There.
When did I start wondering if it was worth all the sacrifices I've made for it? When I saw the deep and genuine love between Daniel and his wife? While I watched the colonel tenderly returning the crystal image of his son to its home? When I found that Teal'c had sacrificed his symbiote to save his son's life? Or perhaps it was the fear in Cassie's eyes when I left her in that awful room...
My teammates give me far too much credit for going back. I'd have a lot more self-respect and a lot less guilt if I'd decided to stay before I guessed that the bomb wouldn't go off away from the gate.
What do I know about family? My mom's dead; my father, brother and I barely speak. A few weeks ago, I was talking about Christmas shopping for my niece and nephew to Daniel. He asked if I was spending the holidays with them. And I had to say no. I wound up telling Daniel briefly about the mess that passes for the Carter family since my mom passed away. He is- was- a great listener, attentive and sympathetic.
It was only afterward I remembered the colonel telling me Daniel's parents had both died when he was young and he had no living family except by marriage. I'd never have known even that much except that it was at Daniel's wake and we were all a little drunk.
I tried to apologize for whinging, and Daniel waved it off with an earnest look. "You can't judge sorrow quantitatively," he said. "Losing people you care about just hurts." I guess he would have known.
It's funny, we'd known each other for eight months when we lost Daniel to Nem, and it still hurt like hell to see him die. Never mind it wasn't real, it felt real. That was only two months ago, and yet this is somehow worse. Different. More. What part of not trying to quantify sorrow did you not get, Samantha?
The guard waved us smoothly through the gate, giving Bra'tac an odd look for his metallic armor and skullcap. For the first time, i t occurred to me to wonder what he thought about the craziness that was the SGC. Not that it was going to be my problem much longer. I still had our impending courts-martial on the brain.
I climbed out of the car with the others, feeling like I'd been beaten. We'd all been too wired to sleep on the shuttle and despite my brief nap on the way to Peterson it was starting to catch up with me.
The major who had escorted us back from Edwards walked us to the checkpoint. More puzzled looks from the guards. The sergeant looked at his log, then back at the colonel. "I'm sorry sir, but I don't show you as having logged out."
The major interrupted firmly. "That's not your concern, sergeant. They're cleared."
O'Neill caught the man's eye and shrugged in a 'sorry' kind of way. Yeah, they were puzzled. We bypassed the card reader, since our ID was all in our lockers, twenty floors down.
We were supposed to have our handprints scanned the halfway checkpoint. Hey, we still have those, I thought. At least until O'Neill stopped and grimaced, holding up his right hand and saying, "I need to use the other one today." The guard nodded, typing in the commands that would verify the colonel's left handprint instead.
I gasped softly. His palm was bruised purple with a curved row of oozing toothmarks standing out red and swollen. I hadn't realized I'd broken the skin. That had to hurt like anything. I started to flush, "Sir-"
He gave me a quelling look. "Don't worry about it, Carter. I'll have Fraiser take a look at it shortly."
I stopped, still embarrassed about biting him. If it weren't for Daniel, he'd be teasing me unmercifully over it. If it weren't for Daniel. I suppressed a shiver. It still didn't make sense to me how he could have been so sure that this reality would be the same as the other one he'd experienced, but thank god he was.
I used to believe what I've been told all my life about how smart I am. Then I met Daniel. I may get from A to B and on through G faster than most people. Daniel just skips from A to J, giving us a hopeful look halfway through the explanation and saying, "So, you see where I'm going with this?" Even he can't-couldn't- always explain how his intuition led him to the answer. God. How long will it be before I can stop thinking of him in the present tense?
O'Neill frowned as the major punched the lowest level. "I'd have expected 27," he said. "For debriefing?"
I half-expected the holding cells on level 19 myself, but maybe we were going to get off the hook on account of having saved the world because the major said, "There's a bit of a celebration in the gate room, sir."
"Ah," was O'Neill's only comment.
Teal'c met my gaze with a certain amount of dismay while Bra'tac looked on with phlegmatic incomprehension Frankly, I'd rather they shot me, or barring that, wait until I'd slept for twenty hours. But I kept my mouth shut like a good soldier. Later. I could cry later. Along with laughing, screaming and drinking something seriously alcoholic because after going AWOL, capture, escape, near-death, losing a good friend, and saving the world, I didn't know what I was supposed to be feeling.
The elevator stopped at level 28 and Teal'c said something quietly to Bra'tac, then spoke to the major. I caught Hammond's name, and O'Neill's. Then we were walking through strangely underpopulated halls toward the gate room. At the door, the major waved us forward to walk in alone. When the door opened, I saw the room was crammed with people, standing quietly shoulder to shoulder. As we came in, they spontaneously began to applaud. I blinked hard to clear my suddenly swimming eyes. We saved it, sir. God, what we had done was insane. I wished Daniel could have heard the applause. Perhaps it would have made up a little for the hurt and desperation I saw in his eyes when we didn't believe him about the alternate reality.
I listened while General Hammond greeted Bra'tac formally and then the Jaffa was escorted from the room.
Then Hammond was turning back to us, with a smile that was almost smug. He said, "SG-1, there's someone who'd like to see you."
People turned to look toward the back of the room as someone pushed though, turning sideways to slither through a narrow space, head down, the shock of fair hair so familiar my eyes were widening even before I could see his face. "Daniel!" I sang out, astonished and happy and about to start crying again, this time for pure joy. How-?
Daniel was giving us his patented embarrassed, apologetic, I'm-sorry-to-be-so-much-trouble-look. I glanced sideways in time to see the colonel's face split in the widest grin I've ever seen from him as he stepped forward to seize Daniel in a definitely unmilitary hug. Okay, I've never seen Daniel smile like that either.
I hugged Daniel hard as soon as the colonel released him. "Are you all right?" I asked. "We thought you were-?" I broke off and gave the colonel a reproachful look, probably ineffective since I couldn't stop smiling myself.
The colonel didn't notice. He was still staring at Daniel like he couldn't believe he was real. The four of us stood very close together in the middle of the chaos. A captain from SG-8 slapped me on the back and muttered something congratulatory-sounding in my ear.
Daniel looked sheepish. "I got to the sarcophagus. Then I gated out.. there wasn't time to try and find you, I had less than two minutes before the whole place blew..."
"We tried the gate," I protested. "It didn't work."
"Not in hyperspace," Daniel agreed. "But when we're in orbit, we're close enough to Earth to-"
I suddenly got it and finished with him, "-use Earth as the point of origin. Why didn't I think of that?"
"It wouldn't have mattered," Daniel said with a shrug. "You still had to go deal with the other ship after I stupidly got myself shot." He smiled again, with something of the euphoria I was still feeling at finding out he was alive. "I'm just glad you thought of the gliders. For a ghastly few minutes there, I thought I was the only one who made it."
O'Neill cleared his throat. "Nothing like the, oh, last eight hours or so for us, when we were sure you were dead."
Daniel's brow creased anxiously and he looked apologetic again as O'Neill turned his disapproving look on his CO, who had moved toward us. Teal'c and I opened a space so he could stand close enough to be heard. "That's my fault, Colonel," Hammond said. "And I apologize. There was a great deal of confusion here what with returning the personnel from the alpha site, and by the time I remembered that no one had told you Dr. Jackson was here, you were already in transit with no secure communications link available."
Daniel put in ruefully, "And I didn't find out that no one had told you until about fifteen minutes ago."
"It was hardly a message that needed secure communications," the colonel said.
Hammond shrugged, "We also had other priorities. We had to debrief the Genesis personnel and then try to reestablish security containment on all knowledge about the gate. That's still ongoing,actually. You can help once you're debriefed and have gotten some sleep. "
"Gee, thanks, sir," O'Neill drawled.
That brought up something I'd nearly forgotten. "Um, sir," I asked hesitantly. "Does that mean we're not going to be court-martialled?"
Hammond looked like he couldn't decide whether to smile or growl. "Under the circumstances, no charges will be pressed. Which is not to say that we will not be discussing your actions in the formal debrief." Even Daniel looked suitably quelled at the serious tone. "But we'll be doing that tomorrow. This evening, we're celebrating still being here."
The colonel craned his neck to see where someone was maneuvering a table through the door from C2. Others followed carrying refreshments. "Is that cake?" he asked interestedly. "Sweet!"
The party seemed to have a life of its own. The four of us mostly stayed within arm's length of one another. Or rather, of Daniel. It reminded me more than a little of our behavior after we got him back from Nem, except this time Daniel was almost as anxious not to lose track of us as we were of him. He never really understood how hard we took the Nem thing. After all, he was absent for most of the excitement.
Someone, probably Ferretti, had ensured that there was more than fruit juice in the punch bowl. Some time later, I found myself hanging onto Daniel's arm as we headed to the elevator, a little hazy on whether I was helping support him or holding on to balance myself.
Somehow, I didn't feel the distance between me and the guys anymore. Not today. Why was it different? We'd fought together before, even died together.
"Nothing's different," the colonel said helpfully. "You're just drunk."
I hadn't realized I'd said that aloud.
"No," Daniel said, "That's not it." He was swaying sleepily, but true to form, kept talking. "Sam's always done her duty. But this was above and beyond." He smiled at me, the way he had at the colonel earlier, as if I'd done something marvelous. "You threw it all away, Sam. To help us. To help me. I shouldn't have asked you to. If I'd been wrong-- But thank you."
"You're drunk too, Daniel," the colonel said amiably. "Ignore him," he told me. "He's a cheap date."
But Daniel wasn't that drunk, and I suddenly got what he was saying. He was right. I've always done the best that I could, and if I did it for friendship, I also did it for duty and to uphold my sworn oath. But this- if Daniel had been wrong, the colonel and I would be in custody awaiting courts-martial right now. What was I thinking? I started to ask myself. But I knew. I was thinking that was my team going into danger. If they found trouble out there, I wanted to be on hand to help. And if they died, I didn't want to be the only one left. That thought made me clamp onto Daniel's arm so hard he winced. I loosened my grip. When exactly had I gone from liking and respecting my teammates to being willing to die for my friends?
We emerged from the elevator at the highest level of the complex, and I realized the colonel had navigated us to the back door, the access that led out onto the mountainside. There was a faint lightening in the eastern sky. The cold fresh air cleared my head a little and we all walked more steadily to the lookout, traces of early snow crunching underfoot.
I linked arms companionably with Daniel as we perched on a rock with the solid bulk of Teal'c between me and the wind and the colonel standing a half-step behind us, his hand on Daniel's other shoulder. We were going to have to let go of him sometime, I thought half-humorously, but not right now. Not with the shock of losing him, again, so fresh in our minds.
I thought about my teammates for a moment. The things they'd given up. Daniel sacrificed his career on the altar of truth and then lost his wife and his new home. There was nothing he wouldn't dare to get Sha're back. The colonel lost his family, saved a world and then lied to his superiors to protect Daniel and the people of Abydos. Teal'c turned on his own people and rejected his god to save a group of slaves. He chose to stake his future and that of his people on the slim hope that the fabled Tau'ri would help him free them.
Somehow, risking my career and my life on the chance Daniel was right seemed a little paltry beside all that. Or maybe I'm just painted on a smaller canvas than they are.
The sun crept over the horizon of our beautiful, beautiful planet, streaking the sky with rose and gold. We saved it. SG-1. Being in the Air Force always made me feel a part of something larger than myself. Now, being on this team makes me part of something larger than this country. This planet. Maybe this galaxy. Haven't we already changed worlds? Samantha Carter, peaceful explorer, member of SG-1. I think I'm prouder of that than of anything else I've ever done.
I had to think about something else or I was going to get misty-eyed again. "So, anyone started their Christmas shopping yet?" I asked brightly.
The colonel groaned. "I should have known you'd love the holidays. "
Daniel blinked. "Christmas? Is it that time already?" He counted silently on his fingers. "Oh."
"What is Christmas?" Teal'c asked.
"Daniel will explain, Teal'c," the colonel said, giving me a dirty look. "Later."
"We should get breakfast," Daniel said. "I could eat a horse." He unfolded his long legs and got up from the freezing rock, pulling me with him. My stomach rumbled loudly at the suggestion and so did the colonel's.
Teal'c asked in puzzlement if horse was served in the commissary and I giggled as the colonel led us back inside. Daniel began to rattle off an explanation of horse expressions; eating horses, being hoarse, wild horses... A week ago I was depressed at not being invited for Christmas at my brother's. Today- there's no place I'd rather be than right here.
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