Title: CagesAuthor: beatrice_otter Rating:
The Curse, ChimeraWord Count:
4,165Written For: yviwriting Betaed by: redbyrd_sgfic Prompt:
glimpses into shared pastAuthor's Notes/Summary:
This is a sequel to “Do Not A Prison Make
” (the story I wrote for yviwriting
last year), though it can be read alone.
November 5, 2004
I want to thank you for all the help you have given me over the last several months during my recovery. I haven’t always been able to express my gratitude properly, but please know that I have always felt it. I also want to apologize for all the times I teased you, when we were at the University of Chicago together, for being a Luddite by preferring to write by hand and type them later rather than using one of the perfectly nice computers the faculty were given. You said the feel of the movement of your hand over the paper and the smell of ink made up for the convenience and time saved by typing. I didn’t understand, at the time, but I do now.
It’s strange. I was never much for writing by hand, before—my handwriting was never the best and I soon grow impatient when I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the flow of ideas. And there’s no resemblance between Goa’uld computers and human ones, and if Osiris had had need of something in writing he would have dictated to a slave rather than writing or typing it out himself, so there shouldn’t be any lingering flashbacks or issues such as when I try to order food in a restaurant. But I find I would much rather write by hand and mail a letter the old-fashioned way, despite the inefficiency and expense, than type up an e-mail. I think it’s something to do with how satisfying it is to watch my hand move and know that I’m the one moving it, to be able to hold the letter in my hand and know that it’s real and mine and that when you receive it you will hold it in your hands in the same way, to know that this communication has weight and heft and reality. To know that I’m not trapped in my own head, screaming words no one else will ever hear.
And now I’ve made myself anxious, remembering. God, I hate that—I don’t want to be afraid, anymore. I want to be myself again, strong and funny and ambitious. I look back at who I was then, and it seems like I was a completely different person, Doctor Sarah Gardner. I don’t remember how to be her. Will I ever?
Mum and Dad took me out to eat my first night home, to a fancy restaurant. It’s the one they took me to when I got my doctorate; I know I have had problems in restaurants, but I was so happy to be home and I wanted to remember what it was like to be young and ignorant of the dangers in the universe, so I said yes. I’d been doing better, and with the jet-lag I thought I was too tired to react. I should have known better. I did know better; I just didn’t want to. I think what I was most tired of was letting Osiris control my life. After eight months as my own woman again, shouldn’t I be free of him? But the truth is, it isn’t Osiris any more, is it? It’s what’s in my own brain that’s the problem.
It started off well. We chatted—light catching up on what all our family friends and relatives have been up to while I was away. I’d told them I wasn’t up to anything taxing, and they were very careful to keep things easy, without pressure. There were a few bad moments—they wanted to press me on some of the details of the cover story that don’t make sense, Mum especially, but they did try and act like there weren’t any problems at all. I thought, you’re home, Sarah, you’re finally free and home. I was going to take the easy way out, order the filet mignon I’d had when we were there for my doctorate. No need to stress myself with too many choices.
Then the waiter came and everyone else ordered and he turned to me and all I could think of was how much Osiris had loved ordering people about on a whim and playing power games and my mouth closed up—I know it’s stupid, but I just can’t shake the revulsion of giving an order, even if it’s just for food in a restaurant. The reaction wasn’t as strong as it was when you first took me out to eat from the hospital, but worse than it was the last time we tried it before I flew home. I was gathering my will to order and was almost ready to open my mouth when Dad suggested the veal if I was having trouble making up my mind, or the roast duck, and I looked down at the menu and there were so many choices all laid out in front of me and I couldn’t remember what I’d decided to have and I couldn’t deal with making a choice and ordering it with all of them watching me and I excused myself to go to the ladies’ room so I could gather my nerves. Once I got there, I kicked the wall just to feel it hurt. I was so frustrated that I started to tear up—I’d been looking forward to being home, and here I was my first full day back having an “episode.” (I know what Doctor Pradeep said about my subconscious using my anxiety over having too many choices free me from the stress of having to give orders, which may well be true but knowing what’s going on doesn’t make a damn bit of difference while I’m going through it.)
Mum came in after me, wanted to see if I was all right. She said they’d ordered the veal for me, said she knew I’d love it, asked what was wrong. What could I tell her? She knows I was held prisoner, but not inside my own head. And even if I could have told her about Osiris, she would’ve thought I’d just gone mad. Archaeologist captured by terrorists in the Middle East is one thing; body-snatchers is quite another. She wanted to know what the terrorists had done to me to make me react that way. But I wasn’t together enough to come up with something she’d accept, in fact I almost came out and said that wasn’t what happened before I stopped myself, and I finally suggested we return to the table because there wasn’t any way we could have resolved that conversation. The rest of the meal was tense; I couldn’t keep my mind wholly in the present, and was glad when we left to go home. I went to straight to bed afterwards, and woke up the next day to find Mum hovering, trying to take care of me like an invalid. At first the care and attention were nice, but I’m not sick. I wish she wouldn’t act like I was.
At any rate, I haven’t had any incidents since then, but I’m scrupulously avoiding anything that might trigger one. I can’t do that forever, I know, but at least until I’m settled here and everyone relaxes. Mum and Dad’s tension is making me tense. It’s not helping. Maybe when Sheridan gets here next week things will be better.
I’ve gotten a journal and started writing in it, as Doctor Murphy suggested. I do enjoy the physical sensation of writing, but pouring out my thoughts to an inanimate object isn’t really helping. Too much like being a host, when no one could hear my voice. My voice, not the sounds Osiris stole from me.
But I do enjoy writing.
Your newly Luddite friend,
November 15, 2004
Colorado Springs, Colorado
This letter won’t be very long, I’m afraid—we’re in the middle of some restructuring here at work and just because your captor’s boss is out of the picture doesn’t mean all his friends are. But I was glad to get your letter, and you know you can tell me anything you need to and I’ll be here to support you.
I may not always have taken your teasing as well as I should have, in the spirit in which you meant it, but I wasn’t offended by it. Steven’s endless jockeying for favor and status in the department were far more aggravating. And I’ve learned to deal with far more annoying teasing in the years since, rest assured. Did you happen to meet Jack O’Neill while you were here? He’s raised obnoxious to a whole new level. Actually, I should probably thank you for preparing me to deal with him. So, thank you.
As to the other thing, you know I’ve never been what you were. That’s one experience I’m thankful has never come my way. But I have been through a lot of other things, day in and day out, for a long time, and I’ve seen others do the same. No, I don’t think you’ll ever be “her” again. I know I’ll never be the same naïve Doctor Daniel Jackson who knew “her.” For what it’s worth, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think if you give yourself a chance, you can take who you are now and grow into someone who’s different than you used to be, but just as strong and funny and ambitious.
You are strong. You never stopped being strong. Of all the things your unwelcome guest took from you, your courage wasn’t one of them. What you’ve suffered could break you. It hasn’t—anxious or not, you couldn’t have moved half-way around the world if it had—but it still can, if you let it. If you sweep it under the rug and try to forget, try to pretend to be the woman you used to be, it will. You have to learn to cope with all the things he left behind, and you can only do that by facing them. How you do it, I can’t really help you with. And if the shrinks could, you’d still be here where you can meet with ones who actually know what happened to you, even if they can’t understand it. If writing everything out longhand helps, then don’t fight it; you have other battles to fight and as problems go it’s not worth worrying about. Concentrate on things that affect your quality of life like ordering food in restaurants. Allowing yourself this outlet may make it easier to deal with whatever other problems arise; it may not. But I have faith in you, Sarah. And you know I’ll be here for you, whatever you need. I wish I could be there for you, but you know my work schedule can’t exactly be predicted ahead of time.
Speaking of “there,” how is England? Is being there helping? Has your family settled down now that you’ve been home for a few weeks?
November 27, 2004
I suppose from the roundabout references of your last letter I should be more circumspect about what I write. Do you think someone might be reading my mail? Apart from civil rights violations, I find I’m …sensitive to the idea of not controlling who hears my thoughts, just now. And despite all the things I am over-reacting to, still, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable feeling.
England has changed. So have I. I don’t feel like I fit here, but it’s no worse than in America. I suppose I won’t feel like I fit anywhere until I feel like I can fit inside my own skin. But that may take a while.
My family hasn’t stopped hovering. They’re all overjoyed to see me alive, but can’t stop prying into what really happened. God only knows what sordid story my mum will come up with next to explain everything. Remember when my brother Sheridan came to visit and half-convinced himself that Michelle down in the archives was smuggling artifacts out to the black market because she kept odd hours and liked fast cars? We laughed about that for weeks. Well, Mum’s worse, and it’s not quite so funny when she’s convinced you Americans either kept me locked up in Guantanamo Bay or Alcatraz and brain-washed me for some reason, or I was kidnapped by some serial rapist or something and the US is trying to cover it up, for reasons she’s never been able to explain coherently. The terrorists from the cover story have been almost completely forgotten about, except by Dad. Granted, those are probably more plausible to the average person than what actually happened to me, but that doesn’t make trying to dodge her questions any less stressful. Dad’s trying to keep her in check but Sheridan isn’t helping. He thinks I should sell my story—whatever it is—to the tabloids. It’s his way of trying to diffuse the situation, I think, but I’d much prefer he just let the topic drop.
You know how you suggested I work as a florist, when I was in hospital, just as something different to academia? Believe it or not, I actually am. Well, mostly desk work and handling customers and keeping things clean, but they’re teaching me a little about arranging things. One of Mum’s friend’s daughter’s works here, and one of the staff quit without notice and they were shorthanded, and Mum thought it would be good to get me out of the house so she suggested they let me fill in temporarily. I’ll be here at least until January; the owner doesn’t want to try and hire someone over the holidays. It gets me out of the house, and Angela (Mum’s friend’s daughter) has already assured me she won’t be reporting back to her mum about me, so I can relax a bit.
I wish you were here, too. I miss you. It’s funny, we broke up and it was awkward for a while but we managed to work together, and then you left and I honestly didn’t miss you much except when I wanted someone to commiserate with about Stephen or Doctor Jordan mentioned you. I didn’t think about you much for five years. Now, of all my friends in America, you’re the only one I truly miss. Isn’t that funny?
December 12th, 2004
Colorado Springs, Colorado
You don’t miss Stephen and his Porsche? Seriously, though, memory and emotion can be strange, sometimes, so I’m not surprised you’re missing different things and people than you’d have thought you would. To me, it seems like two lifetimes ago—with all that has happened since, with all the things I’ve seen and done, I don’t think of the University and our life there much at all, haven’t since I first saw the Gate. But I do think of you, constantly. I wish you were close enough to visit in person without taking a week off of work. (Which there’s no way I have time for—I can’t tell you what’s going on, of course, but your captor’s boss isn’t out of the picture, after all.)
I don’t think you have to worry about invasions of privacy. Not from the US government, any way. Seven years of this job has made me a little paranoid. I know for a fact the SGC isn’t going through your mail or keeping you under surveillance or paying any attention to you beyond your check-ins with the Academy hospital. (Though that will change if you go back to Egyptology—they’ll want to keep an eye on what you publish, to make sure that you’re not violating the confidentiality agreement.) The NID might be keeping an eye on you; it’s certainly the kind of thing they’d do, if they thought they could learn something from it. But they’re a little busy right now with internal affairs, so I doubt they can spare the effort. Not when the chance of getting anything they’d consider useful is so small. I’m sorry to have worried you. I suppose your government might be keeping an eye on you; they know about the program and what happened to you. I don’t know enough about Great Britain’s intelligence organizations and internal politics to guess how likely that is.
I’m glad to hear your new job gives you space to breathe. Believe me, I know all about using work to keep yourself from dwelling on your problems; there’ve been times, working here, that work’s been the only thing that’s kept me sane. You can’t put off dealing with things indefinitely, of course, but sometimes a little bit of breathing room makes all the difference in the world. I know when I first came here, after my wife Sha’re was captured, I was glad we had so few linguists and no other archaeologists or anthropologists, and once we hired them they all needed supplemental training. There was always something that needed to be done. And my dreams were almost as bad as my waking thoughts—I’d stay up working as late as I could, mainlining coffee, and then crash for a few hours before starting work again. I got an apartment, but I rarely saw the inside of it. I couldn’t keep that pace up forever; eventually Janet threatened to pull my Gate clearance if I didn’t start taking care of myself better—maybe even require me to see a psychologist if I wouldn’t agree to a vacation. (Janet—Doctor Frasier—was the one who supervised the Tok’ra when they took Osiris out of you. She died not long after you went to the hospital.) I tried to argue my way out of it, but Janet was tenacious and gave as good as she got. I took a week off and holed up in my apartment. Midway through the week, she showed up at my apartment with a meal and offered herself as a shoulder to cry on. It was the beginning of a close friendship. I miss her so much.
I remember Sheridan. It must be hard, being on the receiving end of that kind of paranoid speculation, particularly when there’s so much you can’t explain. Still, he and your mother are worrying so much because they care. They couldn’t help you when you needed it, and they had to grieve for you for a long time—they’ve probably been storing all this up since you disappeared. That probably doesn’t make it any easier to deal with now, but it may make a difference when you’re more recovered and they’ve had time to calm down. You’re lucky to have them to go back to.
December 23rd, 2004
I didn’t know Doctor Frasier well, but she seemed nice the brief time I spent in your infirmary before being transferred to hospital. I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds insipid, but it’s true. I think it’s good for me to remember that I’m not the only one in pain. It seems so overwhelming sometimes, and everyone seems so cheerful and ignorant and I just want to scream that everything isn’t fine, that I was kidnapped and abused and the ones who did it have enslaved the galaxy and Earth is in just as much danger as everywhere else and don’t they understand the world is different now? Of course, the world hasn’t changed, only me. But it helps to know other people have to deal with pain and sorrow, of all different kinds.
I’m finding it hard to be grateful for my family being here right now. Mum’s only getting worse—the more I try and avoid her questions, the more she’s convinced she’s getting close. She wants me to go see a therapist. I saw enough psychologists and psychiatrists and counselors in Colorado to last me a lifetime. None of them were particularly helpful, and any therapist Mum could find (who wouldn’t even have clearance to know what really happened and probably specialize in mid-life crises) would be worse than useless. But trying to convince her of that backfired. Now she thinks the reason I don’t want to talk is that I have Stockholm Syndrome, and am trying to protect whoever was holding me (and the “whoever” changes daily, sometimes hourly). I caught her going through my room looking for clues, thankfully before she found my diary. I hadn’t been writing in it anyway, but I burned it.
The idea that I might have any sympathy or identification with that … that snake, that psychotic murdering mind-raping bastard—it makes me feel sick. And I’m starting to fantasize about some of his methods for shutting people up because right about now I’d do anything to be able to spend a half-hours time in the house I grew up in without some idiot trying to stage an intervention or tip-toeing around me trying to hint at what they think is wrong with me with all the subtlety of a sledge-hammer. I don’t care if they think they’re doing what’s best—they’re not supporting or comforting me or anything, they’re attacking me every chance they get. They may not mean to, but that’s what it feels like to me. I’m only coming home to sleep, now. When I’m not at work, I go to the library and read, or to a museum or café or shopping or something.
I’ve been having trouble at work, too. I don’t know if it’s just stress from home spilling over or a new situation bringing forth triggers I didn’t know I had, but every so often a customer will come in with a bit of an attitude—nothing much, just a touch of arrogance, on a human scale not a Goa’uld scale. That “I’m just a little better than anyone else, particularly pretty blondes who can only get jobs as receptionists in flower shops” kind of attitude. And it just—I can’t smile and ignore it and take their order. The first time it happened, I almost chewed the customer’s head off. And it wasn’t till I was done with my rant that I realized part of what I was reacting to was Osiris’ arrogance, and taking it out on someone who just happened to be there. I don’t remember exactly what I said; I hope nothing came out that shouldn’t have. My boss took me to the back room and gave me a lecture on being nice to the customers and sent me home for the day to cool off. It did help a little, in that the next time we got a customer with attitude I was able to grit my teeth and not explode. Doctor Pradeep told me before I left Colorado that I would probably start having anger issues, and that it would be a good thing because it’s part of the healing process to let yourself get angry and let everything out, but all it’s doing is making me feel worse. I always had a temper; this is something else.
Going mad (in all senses),
December 28th, 2004
Colorado Springs, Colorado
If you need somewhere else to go, my offer of a spare room is still open and will be for as long as you need it. If you need money for a plane ticket, I would be more than happy to give it to you. Don’t worry about the expense, I don’t spend half of what I make, anyway. Hopefully in the future your family will be more reasonable, but if they’re actively getting in the way of your recovery you need to leave. If there’s anything else I can do to help, let me know.
January 1, 2005
Heathrow Airport, London, England
The camel’s back is officially broken. By the time you get this, I will hopefully be already entrenched in your spare room. Turns out, dear old Angela lied: she’s been reporting back to both our Mums. They know all about my outbursts at work. The three of them and Sheridan got together while Dad was out and staged an intervention, trying to get me to tell them what I was hiding. When I learned I didn’t have any safe place to be myself, I didn’t say anything. I just walked upstairs to my room, threw the few things I cared about in a bag, walked out the front door, and caught a taxi to the train station. This place isn’t home to me any more. I’ve just been too stubborn to admit it. I’m writing this in an airport lounge at Heathrow, waiting for my flight, feeling free for the first time since coming home. The only thing I will miss is writing these letters—perhaps I’ll start a new journal, or perhaps I’ll write to you even if we’re living in the same apartment? You’ve been the one sane thing in my life the last two months. Thank you.
I’ll see you in a few hours,