Summary: Janet is "lost", Sam can't find her, and she's running out of time.
Info: Don't hate me; one more chapter on the way!
"I don't know. I.. just... don't know."
"WHY, SAMANTHA? WHY?!? Mommy, why... why doesn't she love you?"
"I don't know, honey, I don't know, shh..."
"Are you not aware of your feelings and hers?"
"Why won't you let anyone love you, Sam?"
"I'm sorry, Carter. I'm so damn sorry..."
"I would have loved you Jack, I..."
"I don't know what to say."
San breathed deeply, heavily, shaking slightly. Memories echoed around her, slipping in and out of the white like smoke. Each one made her decision more complicated; none gave her an answer.
Her head told her that she was a fool, that she had been wrong, and now she was acting like a petulant child, to a ludicrous and dangerous degree. Her heart, though, said she was being perfectly rational. Another part of her was demanding that she remember that a human life now hung in the balance, and it wasn't her own.
"What am I supposed to do?"
She didn't have the time to decide. It had to be immediate, it had to be now. She could erase the remaining memories as fast she could, she could let time run out, or she could...
"She's in serious condition, Major. We found her on top, covering you from the worst of it."
"Sam, this isn't just your memory. This is Janet, the real Janet, I'm here."
Sam's head swam, the heat, and the words swiping through her.
"It's me, Sam. But not the Janet of this fantasy."
"What, Sam, don't remember what happens next?"
"The thought of us having children together, of being together, of... of making love...it all meant... nothing to you."
Her words were gravely and had nearly broken, barely making it out into the thick air. How had she gotten into those... fantasies? Teal'c, Sam assumed. She hadn't known he could do that, didn't know it was even in the realm of possiblity. Her fantasies, day dreams, hopes for the future... they had all felt more real than any dream, as real as any of the memories she had entered. And if Janet had seen those she'd chosen, certainly she had seen more. Sam was overwhelmed with emotion, embarrassment, concern, excitement and (much as she wanted to deny it) happiness. If Janet had still come after her, even after seeing everything...
Sam took a deep, steadying breath. She knew what she needed to do. She just hoped she still had enough time.
Janet blinked, and everything was gone. It wasn't blackness, it was just... nothing. One second she was somewhere, the next minute she wasn't. Just wasn't.
For a second, she had been terrified. When her body had begun to blink out, a bizarre feeling like static on a screen, image going in and out, she panicked, her heartbeat flickered and sped up more rapidly than she was disappearing. She had looked at Sam then, afraid she would never see her again. Mercifully, her fear had subsided just long enough, in a long, suspended moment, for her to take in every detail of Carter as Janet prayed she would remember. Then she was gone.
Now, she didn't know what she was, let alone where. She wasn't in her mind, she wasn't in Sam's mind. She really just wasn't at all.
She sighed. Or, rather, she thought she sighed. She couldn't feel her body anymore, and she was tired of trying to wrap her mind around that. She was conscious, she knew that much. But beyond that...
Maybe she could try and speak? She felt for her vocal chords, but there was nothing. She tried to think about speaking—
Whoa. That was bizarre, she thought. She heard her voice, loud and sonorous, as though she were speaking in a great hall, with marble everywhere, her voice bounding off of every surface. Yet she still couldn't feel her body, couldn't sense anything around her. All she could sense was this oddly warm, content feeling. Like she knew there was nothing in the world she had to worry about like... like she was loved...
Well, if this is what it felt like to get lost inside of her consciousness, it wasn't so bad. It would get a little boring, perhaps, she thought, but so what? Maybe Teal'c was wrong, anyway. If she was still... wherever she was... in a few minutes, then perhaps there was hope for her, hope that she could still be saved even if Sam woke up without rescuing her now.
Janet swallowed hard. She hoped she wouldn't have to find out the hard way.
Much as she wanted to believe she'd be okay, she had to be prepared for the fact that Sam might not come after her. Whatever had happened to her, Carter was not the same woman anymore, and she couldn't expect Sam to try and save her now, not after everything that had happened, and certainly not after the last moments they'd spent together. As much as it saddened her, it was a distinct possibility that Carter might just let them both... disappear...
And even if Sam did come after her, that didn't guarantee that things would get any better. In fact, it didn't even guarantee that Sam could save her. It wasn't as if Teal'c had gone over this with her before hand; he hadn't exactly been expecting Janet.
Now Janet was panicking, worrying not only about herself, but about everything else, especially Cassie. Would Sam be in any capacity to care for her when all of this was over? Would she even want to?
Janet couldn't feel the tears, but she knew they were there, somewhere, floating between existence and nothingness, a tear for every word she regretted saying, and every word she hadn't said, that she would never get to say, that she regretted even more.
Worst of all, she knew that there was absolutely nothing she could do now. Last chance was well done and over with. There would not be another try.
Either Sam saved her, or she didn't. Either Sam loved her, or she didn't. Either she was going to live or...
Janet sobbed freely into the nothingness, praying she would never have to experience the other possibility.
Sam sat in the whiteness, legs crossed, concentrating. For what seemed like an eternity, she had searched her mind for Janet, for any sign of something out of step in her memories, that might help her to find her. She had thought, maybe, she was simply stuck in a memory. Since her real self was no where to be found, Sam thought that, maybe, Janet was stuck in her mind, in Sam's memories and thoughts. So far, this theory had yielded no results.
"Dammit..." Sam cursed, her hands clenching into fists. She could feel the sweat dripping off of her brow, marking the passing of another few seconds with each drop. She couldn't just keep sitting there. She had to find her, and fast, or they were both goners.
It didn't make sense. If Janet wasn't in Sam's mind, and she wasn't back in her own mind, then where...?
Sam's jaw tensed, frustration almost derailing her as she attempted to tap into her dreams, too, her invented futures, hoping that, maybe, Janet had found her way into one of her fantasies. There was something terribly wrong, though, and Sam could feel it. Somehow she knew that Janet wasn't in any of her memories, thoughts, fantasies, dreams...somehow she just knew.
Fond as Sam usually was of the process of elimination, this left her with no more options.
"Alright," Sam said to herself, eyes still closed, only now it was just blackness inside of her eyelids instead of the flicker of images, scenarios. "She's not in my mind," she said aloud, "which means she has to be... to be..."
This wasn't working. Trying to figure out where Janet was, trying to make this about logic, it just wasn't going to work. Sam had to try something else, and thinking wasn't getting her anywhere.
"Janet... Janet...Janet..." Sam said it like a mantra, the syllables sounding like sandpaper and ticking clocks. The final "tuh" rang around her, filling her mind with echoing sound. "Janet...Janet...."
Sam saw Janet in the SGC... Janet at her house, drinking coffee... Janet crying in her arms when they'd lost Daniel... Janet sitting by her pool... Janet, smiling, laughing, crying, sitting, jumping, caring, being...
Suddenly, Sam felt her body swing away from her, toward these images, these thoughts. Sam squinted, the blackness in her mind taking on a new form. It twisted, swirled, until she could feel something around her, outside of her, changing, too. She concentrated, willing her mind to follow her body, and her stomach lurched as though she were falling from a great height. She did not open her eyes for fear of seeing the ground just before she hit.
Suddenly the motion stopped, and her entire body was thrown back as though she had been pushed to the ground. She had "landed", as far as she could tell while keeping her eyes closed.
She remained there for a moment, feeling the ground beneath her hands, beneath her entire body, testing it and allowing her head to clear. She was incredibly dizzy and her head was swimming with heat. Knowing she didn't have much time, Sam tried to sit up.
In the darkness, Sam opened her eyes, but could see nothing more than a reddish glow in the distance, maybe a hundred meters away. It wasn't a light so much as a tint to the darkness, but as it was the only indication Sam had that she was going in the right direction, she headed toward it, away from the swallowing black abyss that was all around her.
As Sam walked forward, she became increasingly unsteady, stumbling as she cut the distance between herself and the red glow in half. Her eyes, which were closing of their own accord, struggled to focus on her goal. If she could just reach it...
Sam tripped suddenly over nothing at all, her own feet, really, and she managed to gain her balance only long enough to trip again, landing on the ground hard.
Coughing, feeling the wind knocked out of her, Carter had to fight her body to get up. She clutched at her side, which felt bruised, and barely managed to steady herself out of luck. She stumbled forward another few steps before coming down on one knee.
Sam clutched her head, eyes blurs of black and red, mind a hazy mess. It felt like she had been drugged. She knew, though, what it really was. She didn't have much time. In fact, she had no time.
She had failed.
Sam lifted her head, and her vision swam. She saw as though she were moving slow motion under water, everything muted and diffused. Just ahead of her, she could see a blur of color, that red, looking like blood against the black nothingness all around it. As Sam tried to focus, the image only became more blurred.
"Sam," the voice said again, and Sam gritted her teeth, summoning all of her strength just to stand again.
"Janet," she said, not knowing if she was saying it aloud or if it was just in her head, but saying it just the same, "Janet...Janet...Ja...Jan...Juh..."
Sam leaned forward, taking one last step, and fell into the darkness.
Next: What Is Real