Summary: There's no map, no compass to the human heart
General Hammond gave SG1 a week's downtime so that Teal'c could complete his recovery. He went to the Land of Light to visit Drey'auc and Ry'ac. The Colonel disappeared up to his cabin and Daniel went off to help with a colleague's dig in New Mexico for a few days.
And Janet and I took Cassie to the beach.
The coast of Maine was beautiful, this area particularly unspoilt. It was still early in the season so we had the cove below our rented cottage pretty much to ourselves. There was a small beach, rock pools for Cassie to investigate, miles of grassy dunes. It wasn't particularly safe to swim, the sea temperature was still pretty cold and the currents were vicious but we could at least paddle.
I had made the decision not to bring my laptop with me, to forget about work for a week. But it would not forget about me.
Since my abortive attempt to access Jolinar's memories to find out more about the biology of symbiotes I had been plagued with dreams every night. Terrifying, baffling images - faces, places, feelings of terror, helplessness, anger, love. The nights where I got to sleep were restless. The nights where I actually got to sleep. It was starting to get to me, I was wound up tighter than ever. Janet had not said anything but I knew she was worried about me. She gave me space to work it through myself, to talk to her if I wanted but I knew things could not go on much longer before she had to intervene. She was the CMO of the project after all. My health and wellbeing was her professional concern.
It did not stop me resenting her slightly. I felt she was judging me: that everyone was judging me. I was a failure. I had been so determined to put a positive light on what had happened to me, on the havoc that Jolinar had writ with my life, my health, and lets face it, my mind.
I had spent most of the previous night sitting outside the cottage looking at the stars. For a change the nightmare had not been Jolinar's memories. It was about what had happened to Teal'c. Only this time the huddled pained figure in restraints being taken away by Maybourne's men for experimentation and a horrible death was me. And no one lifted a hand to help me.
Ridiculous, I know. I hope. In the light of day at any rate.
I was alone for the moment, lying on a towel on the soft golden sand trying to achieve some semblance of a tan. Janet and Cassie were down by the water's edge, collecting shells. Cassie found them fascinating. This was only the second time she had seen the sea. Her enthusiasm was endearing - and I hoped contagious. I really did not want my continuing depression to affect my daughter and my partner too badly.
I continued to watch them covertly, my head resting on my arm as I lay on my front. Janet looked amazing, so beautiful, barefoot wearing a bright yellow baggy tshirt over her swimsuit, the slight breeze ruffling her hair and billowing the shirt, offering me tantalising glimpses of her shapely figure. She was so incredible - and yet so ordinary at the same time. And I loved her. That I was sure of. Even beyond the images and phantom feelings that Jolinar had left with me. I loved Janet Fraiser.
And she loved me.
The warm sun on my back was comforting. The sound of the waves against the pebbles on the beach soothed me. I dozed in the spring sunshine.
He walked towards me, his vivid blue eyes wide, concerned. He was worried for me. "Jolinar." he said. "We must hurry."
And then the image was swept away. I was running through dark tunnels, the air hot, the stench of sulphur of death choking the breath from me. There was a light ahead, redgold flickering, a fire, flames, hellfire. Terrifying, but nothing compared to the horror behind me. I ran.
Water, bubbles in water not like with Nem, not like that sick twisted feeling whilst Daniel was gone. The water is full of light, the bubbles are warm. I am rising, floating. Someone is touching me. Gently, sweetly. A hand on my hip, my breast, lips whispering across my skin. "Rosha. my sweet Rosha."
A man's voice, a man's hands. His hands on my hips, open mouthed kisses down my belly, my thigh. "Rosha. I love you so much. so sweet. my sweet Rosha, my sweet."
I jerk awake. The hand resting on my hip is small, delicate yet strong. Definitely female. Janet. It was Janet. "Oh god." I bury my face in the towel again for a moment trying to get myself under control. As usual it wasn't the dreams, the images that were the worst thing it was the emotional responses they evoked. And I found the dreams of this man who had meant so much to Jolinar even more disturbing than the more horrific scenes that inflicted on my dreams.
"Hey. its okay, sweetie. Just me. was it another nightmare, another flashback?" Janet asked softly, her hands gentling over my bare shoulders, the nape of my neck.
I nod. "Intense," I breathe. I can still feel his touch on my skin, my body's response to it. I sit up. My bare arms are gooseflesh. Silently she hands me my shirt and I slip it on over my swimsuit, hugging myself. She watches me silently.
"Last night," she said hesitantly at first, then paused, spoke again with more resolve. "Last night you were crying in your sleep, Sam. You begged me to help you, not to let them take you away. That wasn't about Jolinar was it? It was about what happened with Teal'c." . My mouth dry, I nodded. "I dreamt that I was the one infected, that Maybourne was taking me away for study."
"And none of us tried to stop him," Janet said. "O god Sam, I."
I shook my head. "I know it was just a dream," I whispered.
"I understand, I think. You've put yourself in a strange and difficult place over this. Part of you wants very much to access Jolinar's memories, to put them to good use. Another part is afraid that if you do that you leave yourself open not only to the nightmares and flashbacks but also to people like Maybourne who want to exploit you for their own ends. It's no wonder you're not getting very far."
"I really believe that what Jolinar left with me could be really useful if only I could access it properly," I said. "But at the moment I feel so unsettled and confused. Nothing makes sense and yet." I could not find the words to say it. "Janet - what if I never learn to control this? I can't stand this much longer, the dreams, the feelings. It feels like." Madness, schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder. Sometimes internet search engines can be a dangerous thing.
"Sam, you are one of the strongest, sanest people I know," Janet said steadily. "You've coped with this better than anyone could have predicted. I'll help all I can, you know that. There are drugs we can use that might help block the flashbacks, at least give you a decent night's sleep. Or." she paused.
"It's risky. And it might not make things any better. We don't block them, we let them out, in as controlled an environment as we can. Remember when we did the drug sensitivity tests on you?"
I nodded, pulling a face. It had been an intensely uncomfortable couple of weeks. But after I had reacted badly against one of the drugs I had been prescribed to help me sleep in the immediate aftermath of Jolinar's death - one I had used before without any problems - Janet had instituted tests on all the medications that were commonly used in the SGC. We discovered that about a third of them were no longer tolerated by my changed metabolism, causing reactions ranging from rashes, vomiting, moodswings, paranoia, irrational behaviour, fevers, chills, anaphylactic shock (in one never to be forgotten case) and violent aural and visual hallucinations. As I said, it was a fun couple of weeks but by the end of it Janet had a list of medications on file that were safe for me to use - and another long long list of the ones that were not.
"I'm thinking we put you on a low dose of Nembutal. Monitored of course. We know the side effects to watch out for now - your temperature will go up, but it will also hold you in REM sleep for longer. Now, if you try to lucid dream on it, direct your thoughts and memories to Jolinar, it might just give you the breakthrough you want."
"Okay," I said, hoping my confident tone fooled her. The whole thing scared the crap out of me but I could not go on like I was. Not and retain my Active status.
"We'll talk it through when we get back to the SGC," Janet said.
I nodded. "C'mere," I smiled, sitting up properly and pulling her almost into my lap. She snuggled into me making happy noises. I laughed, bent my head to kiss her hair. As well as the usual `Janet' smell she smelt of salt and sun and ozone. Automatically, I glanced around to see where Cassie was and saw her still happily sculpting a castle in the sand just above the high water line. She had been quick to spot the potential of the damp coarse sand as a building material. Perhaps she should think of a career in architecture, I pondered, rather than following either of us. Currently she wanted to be a doctor like her mom. Or a pilot, like me and her uncle Jack. Some days she even fancied being an archaeologist.
She seemed to sense me watching her, looked up at us and grinned, waving. We waved back.
"This reminds me of a holiday we took when I was about eight," I smiled. Dad was stationed in England for almost a year and we went over in the summer break. Mom wanted to visit some cousins in the North of England and we stayed on the coast of Northumbria for a few days, just on the borders of Scotland. There was this long beach that seemed to stretch for miles and as I remember it we had it to ourselves, certainly for the first couple of days we were there. There was a castle on the cliffs above us and I madebelieve it was my kingdom. Me and Mark built a whole town in the sand, with canals and roads, everything. Then the third day we went there and there were several other families already on the beach and I felt so cheated. This was my special place and they had ruined it," I laughed. "I think I sulked the rest of the holiday."
Janet laughed, snuggled into me a bit more. "I'll bet you were a cute eight year old," she said softly. "All blonde pigtails and big blue eyes. I bet you had the Bambi look perfected even then."
"The Bambi look!" I protested. "I do not have a `Bambi' look." Oh I was so busted.
Janet just snorted with laughter. "Even Cassie's got it figured out," she said, then sighed. "She's worried about you, Sam. We both are. With everything that's happened these past few months - Jolinar, your dad."
"I'm doing okay, really," I said. "Because of the two of you. And the guys. And Dad and I have talked a few times. He's. it's difficult, you know. He's always been so strong, he's never lost a fight in his life. And I think it's beginning to dawn on him." There was no way I could finish that sentence. I buried my face in her hair again and just held her close for a while.
Our week at the beach was over all too quickly. We had spent most of the time just lazing around the cove but we had gone into Kittery one day to do some shopping and another day we had gone on a boat trip whale watching. Cassie was fascinated, loved the whole experience. Janet was almost as excited. I was seasick. Not my finest hour.
And now it was the last day. We were leaving for the airport in a little over an hour. After packing her gear at breakneck speed, Cassie had sped off down to the beach. I was just stowing the last of the gear in the car when she came running back up the path.
"Come see!" Cassie tugged at my hand.
"What?" I asked. "What's so urgent?"
"The tides coming in. You need to come see. Right now, Sam."
Shrugging at Janet, who looked as if she might know what was going on, I allowed myself to be towed down the path towards the cove. As soon as we hit the sand Cassie started to run and after a few seconds I ran after her.
The tide was approaching full, sizzling across the sand, climbing a little higher with every wave that broke. An area of beach about six feet square had been marked with white pebbles, set in a border. Inside the square were flowers picked out with shells, their stalks and leaves made out of seaweed. Carved out of the sand were the letters of my name. Sam. Set within a heart.
"For you," she gasped. "I want you to know, to see how much you mean to me, Sam. I wanted to make you happy."
"You make me happy every day, Cass," I embraced the young girl. "I love you so much." I looked up as the first wave broke through the border of rocks, water trickling into the channels carved into the sand, filling up my name. The sand sculpture started to collapse in on itself. "Ohhh!" I could not hide my disappointment. "We should have brought the camera."
"It's okay. I made it for you and you saw it. That's the important thing. It wasn't meant to last. We did it in art. `femeral..."
"Ephemeral," I helped her out.
"Ephemeral art. like ice sculptures or chalk paintings in the street. It's not meant to last."
"Well it was beautiful, Cassie. It must have taken you ages."
"It was good fun," Cassie grinned. "You really liked it?"
"I loved it," I grinned back.
The sand sculpture was almost completely obliterated now, the waves only inches from our feet. I sighed, gave my daughter another hug. "Thank you."
"Mom's waiting," Cassie nudged me, directing my intention to the top of the dune. Janet stood there, sunglasses on, she raised a hand and waved to us then pointed to her watch with an apologetic shrug. She was right. We had to get to the airport.
I slung my arm over my daughter's shoulders, she put her arm around my waist and we walked up the path. This week had been good for me. I had found my focus again - my love and my daughter, something to hold on to. And a memory that was uniquely mine to last me all the years that were left to me. Flowers made of shells and sand, the love of my daughter. Jolinar and the man who I had never met, yet who had come to haunt my dreams - they paled in comparison.
Janet was waiting by the car. "Well?"
"Beautiful," I grinned. "And even though its gone, I'll never forget."
LAUGHTER & FORGETTING by David Sylvian, from the album Gone to Earth
Running like a horse between the trees
The ground beneath my feet
Gives me something to hold on to
With the reins around my heart
Guided by hands that spread life before my very eyes
Well every hope falls down on it's knees in time
But I'm no longer lost
Every day, every second, every hour inside
Love's my only guide
Are these the years for laughter and forgetting?
Next: Something I Should Know