(takes place after 'Into the Fire' and before 'Seth') by Judith Proctor
The bitter cold pierced his bones, chilling them to the marrow. Already, he'd lost all sensation in his hands and feet, and the numbness was spreading to his body. He struggled to move, but his limbs would no longer obey. There was pain, all encompassing pain, and a shrieking demand, from both his own body and the other, that he let go, give up the fight and relax into the welcome escape of eternal darkness.
She was there somewhere, though. He knew she was. She was warmth and she was life. He had to focus on that, keep her firmly in mind.
But what if she wasn't there?
O'Neill woke with a start and his hand reached out for the phone beside the bed, stabbing at a memory button. It was long moments before there was any reply, time enough for the nightmare to start fading and reality to seep in.
"Who the hell is that?" Carter's voice demanded, before he could replace the receiver.
What the hell time was it? Oh shit.
"Carter, I'm sorry. I didn't realise..."
"Sir, what is it?"
"It's cold." The words slipped past his tired consciousness before he could catch them.
There was a brief silence, but she was sharp, Carter wouldn't miss an easy ball like that.
"I'm coming round."
"Don't." But the line was already dead, humming gently in the silent night.
By the time the doorbell rang, he was fully dressed and had sharpened his laggard wits on a first mug of coffee.
"Carter, there's no need. I just had a bad dream, that's all."
"A dream with a goa'uld in it."
She could at least have had the grace to make it a question. Ah well, some days you just had to give in gracefully. "Coffee's in the kitchen."
He poured her a mug fresh from the filter and refilled his own, grateful that his hands were steady, grateful for something to do that delayed conversation if only by a minute.
"It's the loss of control," Carter said abruptly, "the knowledge that your body doesn't obey you any more."
He nodded, unwilling to commit himself to words. Sugar added to his own, he carried both mugs into the living room and set them down on the low table. Carter kicked off her shoes and sat on one end of the sofa, denim-clad legs curled under her. O'Neill took the other end of the sofa and allowed himself a brief moment to admire the view. Carter had lovely legs and the tight denims showed them to far better advantage than BDUs.
Coffee called. He picked up his mug and cupped it between his hands, letting the warmth seep into them.
"It was cold," Carter said quietly. "When I was being revived from the cryo-chamber, I could feel the temperature even though the process was quick, but I've no memory of being put into cryo-suspension at all."
"I have. That damn- Tell me about Jolinar."
He laughed, short sharp and ugly. "Because you and I are the only ones on this entire planet to have hosted a goa'uld and survived."
"You weren't taken over by it. I didn't sense naquada in you."
"I knew its damn name, Carter. I knew its thoughts. I know exactly what it wanted, what it would have made me do."
"But you fought it. If you hadn't successfully fought back, you would have been in even worse condition than you were. When the symbiote joins with a host, the naquada forms a complex organic molecule that binds to the host's body tissues. Strictly speaking, it's the complex that I can sense, rather than the naquada. The naquada must have been in your body, but in an inert form."
"When I want a lesson in biochemistry, I'll ask for one." It was good to hear her voice though, it relaxed him - she could have read the phone book and he'd still have felt better for it. "Tell me about Jolinar."
Carter gazed into her mug. "There's nothing much to tell."
"And I'm the Queen of Sheba."
She looked him right in the eye. "All right, it was terrifying. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
Not really. He could remember listening to Jolinar in the SGC prison cell, haughty and demanding. Then, as he was leaving, the symbiote released control and Sam had cried after him, called his name, begged him not to leave her like that. Leaving the room had been like slashing himself with a razor.
"I know," he said softly. "I didn't mean it like that. You fought her - you wouldn't be Samantha Carter if you hadn't. How did you fight? Did it make any difference?"
Before replying, Carter rearranged herself, pulling her knees up under her chin and wrapping her arms around her legs in a loose embrace. "I calculated prime numbers... I didn't even realise what had happened at first, not when we were on Nasya. It was when we got back to the SGC." She stared at her feet for a moment, then looked up at him. "Jolinar realised that she was in a place dedicated to destroying goa'uld and she took over. I realised later that it was instinctive self-defence, that she might have remained hidden for weeks or even months if she hadn't felt her life was in danger.
"I calculated prime numbers, to keep my mind occupied, to concentrate on something concrete. And then I got stuck, I couldn't think of the next one. And Jolinar gave it to me, told me the number. It was her way of trying to help me survive.
"After that, we reached a sort of understanding. She stayed in virtually full control, but gave me a vote in where we went and what we did - it was like watching through my own eyes as my body went through the motions without me. She didn't cut me out totally though. Kawalski said he remembered nothing from when the goa'uld was in control, but I remember everything." She shook her head slightly. "I can never decide if that makes it any better or not."
She had courage. That was what he'd always admired in her: courage and determination.
"And you, Sir. What did you do?"
He gazed at the ceiling over her head, trying to find the words. After all, she was entitled to them.
"I used the cold," he said eventually. "The snake wanted me to kill you and Daniel, so I found an appropriate memory of you alive, and concentrated on that."
He nodded. "You kept talking to me back there and as long as I could hear you, I had something to keep me going." He could feel the cold of the cryo-chamber again, refused to shiver. "As long as I could hear your voice, I knew we could get out, I knew it couldn't force me to kill you."
She gazed at him thoughtfully. "And now you're getting nightmares." And phoning me in the middle of the night hung unspoken between them.
He shifted awkwardly, unsettled by the directness of her gaze. How far could Carter see into him? He was never quite sure. The emotional bond between them was tacitly acknowledged, the strength they drew from one another in moments of extreme stress. He could hold her then, draw strength from her and give it in return with no thought of anything beyond the moment.
Here and now, it was different. They were alone in his own home in the middle of the night and he was becoming all too aware of other needs and desires that he normally shrugged aside with comparative ease.
What would happen if he reached out that short distance between them and touched her? Touched her in the ways that duty did not allow, in the ways that his body demanded. Did she feel it too? That driving need, programmed into humans by a million years of evolution, to come together as man and woman. The night's emotional intensity was making it worse. He wanted her. Who would know if he gave way to temptation just the once?
Carter wouldn't tell, even if she turned him down, but what would it do to their working relationship? She mattered to him, in too many ways for him to risk what he already had with her.
He breathed in deeply, seeking control.
"Carter, time to call it a night. We've work in the morning."
"Sir?" There were questions in her voice, too many questions.
He pulled the ragged shreds of himself together.
"Sam. Please. Just go."
Carter gave him the cassette tape in the morning, handing it over hesitantly in the locker room. "I don't know if this will help, but I was doing it for my nephew and never got around to finishing it."
O'Neill kept it unplayed, unsure of what to expect and uncertain whether he wanted to hear it at all, but when the dream awoke him again in the early hours of the morning, he pressed the key on the remote to activate the tape player and Carter's voice began.
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and
Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be
carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room;
and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four
chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little
bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar--except a small hole dug in the
ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds
arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle
of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.
O'Neill slept and dreamed of goa'uld no more, but from that day on, Dorothy was always a blonde.
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