Her mind had been a trap for too long. Sarah, after Osiris.
For a look at the scenery around the Air Force Academy, check out the Santa Fe Bike Trail;
, taken near Colorado Springs. (The trail actually runs through campus.)
Sarah sat at her window. She didn’t have much of a view—she could look down on a couple of trees, that was all—but it was better than thinking. Than remembering. Her mind had been a trap for too long.
The door behind her opened. “Hello, Daniel,” she said without turning.
“I’m sorry,” one of the nurses said. “Doctor Jackson isn’t here. Are you expecting him?”
“No,” Sarah said, flushing, as she turned to face the nurse. He was a pleasant fellow, always polite. Tall, broad-shouldered, lightly muscled; dark black eyes in an angular face, just like the Jaffa commander of the first Ha’tak Anubis had given Osiris. She’d tortured him with a ribbon device for his incompetence, delighting in her power as he writhed under her … Sarah yanked herself back to the present and swallowed down bile. She was not responsible for Osiris’ actions. She wasn’t. “I’m sorry.” She forced herself to meet his eyes. “I wasn’t aware I had any more appointments or tests this afternoon.”
He eyed her sympathetically, and she fought down a reflexive sneer. “I just thought you might want to go down to the physical therapy gym and work out for a while. Or take a walk outside. You’re not a prisoner, you know.”
“Thank you for the suggestion,” she said, smiling. She’d have smiled before, she thought. It was sometimes hard to remember. And how had she managed to forget their regular attempts to get her out of her room?
He smiled back. “Just let us know if you need anything.” The occasional attempts by the staff to make her “re-engage with the world” would have been more flattering—and far more effective—if she hadn’t known her psychiatrist was behind them. And given that no psychiatrist on the planet was experienced in treating a former host, Sarah had little confidence in her advice.
“I will,” Sarah said as he left. She turned back to the window. Did she want to take a walk? It seemed like a lot of effort, to get dressed in real clothes and out past the security on the Stargate Program’s section of the Academy Hospital. And it wasn’t like there was anything to do outside. She’d never been one for random, pointless walking. She could admire the trees from her window well enough. It wasn’t like there were even any fall colors to look at; the trees were all some dull species of evergreen.
Osiris would never have taken a walk for pleasure. Sarah stepped over to the closet, pulling an outfit out of the closet. They’d given it to her when she arrived; the psychologist had said something about “normality” and “self-confidence” and various other meaningless phrases, but Sarah hadn’t been in any kind of shape to pay attention at the time. The outfit was plainer and more casual than what she’d have chosen herself, but it was nothing like anything Osiris would have chosen, either. It would do.
“Evening, Doctor Gardner,” the security guard—airman—said as she approached the ward’s exit.
“Good evening,” she said, leaning over to sign the log that she was leaving the ward. Name, date, time—she glanced up at the clock on the wall. 1726, it said. She noted it down with meticulous penmanship, taking her time with the signature at the end of the line. Her spine prickled. She straightened deliberately, neither slowly nor quickly, and turned to face the exit. The short corridor between her and the door was lined with devices designed to detect the presence of symbiotes and other dangers of offworld origin, all designed unconvincingly to look like metal detectors and medical equipment. The naquadah detectors would be triggered, but the rest would stay silent and dark. Squaring her shoulders, Sarah strode through them towards the door.
Once outside, Sarah wandered aimlessly. The paths between buildings were filled with young men and women in uniform. None of them could understand what she’d been through. At least, she prayed that none of them could; this was a military installation in the same city as the Stargate was located, complete with a hospital wing specializing in offworld-related injuries; if any place on Earth besides the SGC was a prime target for infiltration, surely it was this place. For a second, she had to fight the temptation to dash back to the safety of the secured wards.
Sarah shook herself. She wasn’t going to give up that easily. The chance of any Goa’uld knowing enough about Earth to be able to recognize a military base for what it was were slim; even if one could, she wasn’t a very tempting target for possession. She began walking again, studying her surroundings for a distraction. The buildings, modern and efficient, were sprawled out at such distances from one another as Sarah had rarely seen on Earth. She’d spent her life largely in major cities, none of which had the space for such sprawl. It was so different on other worlds, which might only have a few hundred people on the entire planet; real estate was cheap in the rest of the galaxy. Movement above her caught her eye; she jerked her head up in time to see a small craft flying low over the campus. She pivoted to watch it, taking comfort in its solidly Tau’ri design. No awkward gold flying box, this craft; her breath caught in her throat as she turned far enough to see the mountains, rising up from behind the Academy buildings. They must be the Rockies, tall, imposing, overwhelming. Dominating the horizon. She blinked back a vision of a similar mountain range, topped with ha’taks. The sky above them was crisp and almost painfully clear, air untouched by smog or other signs of civilization.
“Are you all right, ma’am?”
Sarah jerked. A painfully young man stood before her, blue uniform crisp and neat, pristine and unthreatening in a way Jaffa armor could never hope to be. She realized she was hyperventilating and concentrated on slowing her breathing down. “I’m just not used to the high altitude you have here,” she said, wrapping her arms around herself.
“I know, it can be a killer when you’re new here,” he replied. “The air’s clean and clear, but there’s not all that much of it.” He watched as she got her breathing back under control. Apparently satisfied, he nodded. “Good evening, Ma’am.”
Sarah didn’t bother to respond, turning instead to face the street. She’d never seen anything like a Tau’ri automobile on any other planet. The cars were driving slowly, mindful of pedestrian traffic, on the wrong side of the road. She’d lived in America for years; she’d learned to drink coffee instead of tea and say “cookies” instead of “biscuits” and “trunk” instead of “boot.” She’d been happy, here.
Suddenly all she wanted was to go home where cars drove on the left side and the majority of buildings were old enough to be interesting as more than just concrete and glass boxes. And where the sky was too small to press down upon one so.
This wasn’t helping. She turned around to go back to the hospital.
“Doctor Gardner,” one of the nurses said as she passed the nurses’ station. “Doctor Jackson is here to see you. He’s waiting in your room.”
“Thank you,” Sarah said. “How long has he been waiting?”
Sarah nodded and walked down the corridor to her room. She took a deep breath as she grasped the doorknob.
He was standing at the window, looking out at the trees, arms folded in front of him. He was in civilian clothes, a sharp pair of chinos with a fitted blue sweater that probably brought out his eyes, instead of the uniform he seemed to be so comfortable in these days. She shook her head; the idea of Daniel in any kind of a uniform, or in clothes that fit and showed attention to how they looked, would have been almost laughable when they’d first met. “Hello, Daniel.”
“Sarah,” he said, turning to face her. “How are you doing?”
“It still surprises me, sometimes,” she said, closing the door behind her. “Having control of my own body, I mean.” She leaned against the door for a few seconds, before straightening. “It’s getting better, though. Better than the last time you were here.” He’d touched her, last time, and she’d panicked. It had been quite embarrassing, really, going almost mental from a gentle hand on her shoulder. Part of her reaction had been caused by surprise; she hadn’t been watching him, hadn’t noticed his hand coming towards her. Part of it … she didn’t know. But her psychiatrist had insisted they work on that reaction as part of her physical therapy.
“That’s good,” Daniel said with a smile. “You look nice, wearing something other than hospital scrubs.”
“Thank you,” Sarah said. “I missed you, Daniel.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, stepping away from the window. “We had a bit of an emergency at the Alpha Site. It’s taken care of, now.”
“That’s good,” Sarah said. It was possible that the emergency hadn’t involved an attack from Anubis, but given what little she knew of the SGC’s strategic position, that was unlikely. And she’d known nothing of the Alpha Site, whatever it was. Her knowledge of Earth probably hadn’t been a factor. It wasn’t her fault.
“Yeah.” Daniel cocked his head to the side, watching her.
She dragged her attention back to him. She’d learned quite quickly as a host that the best way to avoid going mad with guilt and horror was to tune out the world outside her own mind, as much as possible. She’d learned the trick rather too well.
“The, uh, the nurse mentioned you haven’t had any visitors or calls besides me. You can contact people, family, friends, to let them know you’re okay, if you want to.”
Sarah shook her head, wrapping her arms around her. “No. I couldn’t—they wouldn’t understand, unless I told them. And I can’t tell them what really happened. The cover story is so weak, I can’t imagine anyone would believe it. I don’t think I can face that, just now. I’m still feeling … a little too fragile.” She bit her lip. “They say that my brain chemistry is fairly well settled, now, and my therapist says I’m making good progress. They’re willing to discharge me, but I don’t know where I would go.” The words tumbled out of her, like water from a dam. “I can’t imagine going back to Egyptology, not knowing what I know now. It’s not academic to me any more, I know too much about it, I’ve lived it too much, I know the people whose stories are written on temple walls—hell, I’m one of them! But I spent eight years studying for my degree, and another eleven years teaching it, and I have no idea what else I’d do with myself, in or out of academia.” She forced herself to stop, looking aside, trying to regain control, forcing her fears down.
“Hey,” Daniel said.
She looked up to find him standing in front of her; she’d been too wrapped up in herself to see him move.
He raised his hand slowly, gently, making eye contact with her as he brushed her cheek. She let out a sigh as it made contact. “It’s okay to not have it all together, right now, Sarah. It’s okay.” He smiled at her, eyes glistening with empathy. “I’m here for you, and I will be as long as you need me.”
Sarah nuzzled his hand, luxuriating in the real human contact. There were times, these last few years, that she’d have killed for this simple touch. Or thought she’d go crazy from the lack of it. And then she’d been free, only to find that her body had become a different kind of unpredictable prison. Tears welled up, and she couldn’t hold them back any longer. She stepped into his arms, needing more. “You can do a lot of other things besides Egyptology; the SGC would love to have you—” he broke off as she tensed reflexively. “Or if you don’t want anything to do with Stargates, you could do something completely different.”
“What else would I do?” Sarah asked.
“You could … be a florist.”
“A florist?” She pulled back slightly and frowned up at him.
He shrugged. “You always liked flowers. And it’s completely different from anything you’ve done. Or anything Osiris did. Or you could do something else. The point is, you’re not alone, Sarah. I’m here, and the SGC has resources. We’ll help you get through this.”
She searched his face; he met her gaze evenly, calmly, with the kind of true assurance he could never have managed back in Chicago. Reassured, she nodded, and laid her head on his chest.
He rubbed her back, slowly, gently, and she closed her eyes, reveling in the physical sensation that was hers, and hers alone. She sighed, as tension she hadn’t even realized was there drained slowly out of her.
“Feel better now?” Daniel asked, and Sarah realized with a start that she didn’t know how long they’d been standing there.
“Yes, thank you,” she said, flushing slightly as she tried to pull away. “I’m sorry for crying all over you, Daniel.”
“It’s okay,” he said, loosening his hold on her. “It’s what I’m here for.”
“You’re here to be a human handkerchief?” she asked him with a smile.
“Well, actually, I stopped by to see if you wanted to get out of here for a while, get something to eat that isn’t hospital food,” Daniel said. “But I can do the handkerchief thing, too, if that’s what you need.”
Sarah gave a short laugh at his joke and he grinned back at her. His offer of being a rock for her to lean on was so tempting. She’d always taken pride in standing on her own two feet, in making her own way in the world. But she couldn’t help being grateful for his offer. To go out again, after the experience she’d just had.… But she wouldn’t be alone. Sarah looked over at the window she’d spent so much time sitting by. She wasn’t going to let Osiris win. And Daniel would be with her. She looked back at him. “Actually, dinner sounds really good,” Sarah said.
“Then let’s go,” Daniel replied.