Convolutions Chapter 13. The Long Journey Home
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Sam was sitting on a bed in the infirmary, waiting impatiently while Daniel talked to Dr. Summers. She could hear their voices but not their words and her irritation level was slowly rising towards intolerable. She strained her ears to try and lock onto the whispering voices but could only make out a few words. 'Colonel? Why were they talking about Colonel O'Neill?' She let the thought simmer for only another moment before her brain yelled, 'Ok, enough!"
She twisted her body slightly and stood to her feet, moving towards the door in an easy, graceful movement. She stopped only when Daniel called out to her.
"Sam? Sam, wait! Where are you going?"
"There's nothing wrong with me, Daniel, I'm going back to my lab. I have work to do!"
"Sam, no! You need to let Dr. Summers check you out."
"Oh, this is ridiculous! I saw her this morning, Daniel and if there was something wrong with me she'd have found it then."
She raised her hands out to her sides and then dropped them quickly to indicate her frustration with the whole situation and Daniel in particular.
"Ok, then" he chimed in calmly, "you're fine. What are you going to work on?"
"In your lab...what are you working on?"
"The naquadah reactor, Daniel! The same thing I was working on before lunch!"
"Sam," Daniel's voice dropped to a low, soothing, melodic tone, "you don't have a naquadah reactor in your lab. It was sent to Area 51."
"Months ago. Look, Sam...your memory is Swiss cheese...and we're just trying to help. Please, let Dr. Summers check you out."
Sam stood looking into his eyes and considering his words. She knew that some of her memories were temporarily missing and suddenly realized that she wouldn't be able to clearly judge the situation. How do you know if you remember everything or not? You would have to rely on those around you, someone that had stored identical memories for confirmation. Facing that realization, she slowly nodded her head and returned reluctantly to the bed.
"Ok, Daniel, I guess you're right. I'm just anxious to get out of here."
"I know. It's ok."
Dr. Summers was already beside her preparing to take a blood sample.
"Just a little stick, Sam." Then she smiled warmly into Sam's troubled eyes. "What is it that you're so anxious about? What is it that you want to do?"
Sam pressed her lips together and looked at the two of them.
"I'm not sure. Something is nagging at me but I can't quite get it...it's almost clear and then it's gone."
"Is that happening a lot...not being able to hold onto a thought?"
"Um, no, actually, I feel fine but just this one thing keeps popping up, almost like an instinct...something I should be doing...I just can't remember..."
Daniel exchanged a quick look with the doctor as he crossed his arms and pushed his glasses against his face. He had a strong suspicion that the "something" was Jack but Dr. Summers had warned him not to fill in the blanks for Sam too quickly. It would be less traumatic if she remembered slowly on her own. Daniel agreed in theory but he also knew how upset Sam would be when she did remember.
"Ok. Well, don't worry. We'll find out what's going on. I'm sure it's just a bit of the reaction from the poison hanging on." She placed the vial on the tray beside her and inserted another, then patted Sam's shoulder comfortingly. "We'll take care of it. You're going to be fine."
Dr. Summers smiled warmly and glanced up at Daniel with no sign of concern on her face.
"Dr. Jackson, would you step outside for a few minutes please."
Daniel seemed to wake from some faraway place as he jumped a bit and stepped back.
"Ah, yeah...sure...I'll...I'll be right outside, Sam."
Sam just smiled vacantly and watched as Daniel drew the curtain closed around them.
"Ok, Sam, anything you haven't told me? Any unusual symptoms?"
"No, not really...I mean I know there are things I can't remember but you said to expect that."
"I did. And I wanted you to remember things on your own but I think there are a few things you need to know if you insist on working."
Sam raised her head quickly flashing a slightly wide-eyed look at Dr. Summers.
"For one thing, you're not a Major...you're a Lieutenant Colonel."
She watched Sam closely, letting her words sink in and then continued.
"Ok. I already know that you remember Colonel O'Neill. Do you remember Colonel Mitchell?"
"Yes, he was on the last mission with SG-1."
"Not just the last mission, Sam, he's the fourth member of SG-1."
"What? No. Then where..."
Sudden terror filled her eyes as she struggled to bring something forward from her brain. Anything, anything would be better than the blank space she kept running into.
"Where is Colonel O'Neill?"
Her lips were quivering and she couldn't seem to stop them, her heart was racing as her mind filled in the blanks with the worst possible scenario. She tried to remember the last time she'd seen him. Was he injured on a mission? Or worse? She was trembling as dark thoughts flooded her senses and she struggled to contain the emotion that they provoked. She hadn't forgotten her feelings for Jack or the regulations that dictated the boundaries of their relationship as she struggled to maintain control.
Dr. Summers grasped her hand quickly as she saw the signs of panic rising to the surface.
"It's ok, Sam. He's fine. Colonel O'Neill was promoted. He's head of Home World Security, that's why he hasn't been to see you. He's stationed at the Pentagon now."
"The Pentagon! But Jack would hate that. He'd never..."
Dr. Summers watched her carefully, almost able to see her mind searching for answers as she went on with the exam.
"Well, people change. Situations change. I think he's ok with it, at least he seemed to be the last time I talked to him."
"When was that?" Sam stared intently into her eyes, her forehead furrowed in thought.
"Well, it was...let's see...it was before your last mission. He came in for a physical before heading back to Washington..."
As she listened to the doctor's words a flash of memory flickered behind her eyes...Jack...in dress blues... She turned confused eyes on the doctor's face for a moment but she was busy with the needles and instruments on the tray so Sam stared over her shoulder and tried to focus in on the memory.
Disjointed bits and pieces slowly came back to her...her hand against his cheek, his arms around her pulling her close...dark eyes filled with strong emotion. Her cheeks flushed pink with the surge that swept over her but almost immediately the years of military protocol and emotional denial kicked in. It just couldn't be...neither of them would break that unspoken promise...no, it had to be something else...some stray fantasy fueled with the absence of real memory...nothing more than a dream.
Sam's forehead wrinkled as she tried desperately to hold on to the fleeting vision, to see every detail, searching for a valid memory. Then Jack's voice suddenly filled her head and she sucked in a startled breath as she heard his words, "I love you, Sam. I always will." His voice sent shivers racing along her spine and she quickly pulled away from the memory, jerking free of the doctor's gentle grasp in the process, more confused than ever as she turned her troubled gaze back towards Dr. Summers.
"You ok, Sam?"
"Um...yeah." She nodded her head but her voice wasn't the least bit convincing, not even close to dispelling her glaring confusion.
"Did you remember something? What is it?"
"Uh, no. Nothing. It must have been...I don't know. It was the colonel...except it wasn't...it's all jumbled. I can't make sense of it."
"Ok. Why don't you lie down and rest for a bit? Maybe we jumped the gun on this going back to work thing. Give your mind a break."
Sam stared at her wide-eyed for a moment before speaking. "But I feel fine..."
"Sam, in your opinion if you're conscious...you're fine. Now, come on, in you go."
"Karen, please, can't I just go home?"
Karen Summers stared at Sam for a long moment thinking about that question. She knew that home might be confusing at this point and that someone would need to stay with her. She shouldn't be alone when she discovered General O'Neill's clothes in her closet or a wedding picture by her bed. No, it was better to keep her here for a while and see what happened.
"Not yet, Sam, let's see how you feel later on, ok? And even then, I don't want you alone. I'll send off these tests and see if they tell us anything. Until then, get some rest."
"But...." Sam started to protest again but Dr. Summers had made her decision.
"That's an order, Colonel."
Sam shook her head and crawled onto the bed thinking 'How did Jack always manage to get out of this?' and suddenly that nagging feeling was back again.
"I'd like to talk to Ja...General O'Neill if...if he should...call."
"Of course, Sam."
She smiled and started back to her office as she made a mental list of the tests she needed to run. Daniel was waiting just outside her office door.
"I don't know anything new, Daniel. She seems to be remembering but she doesn't want to share and I can't force her to talk. Let's see what the tests have to say. For now I'm keeping her here so that she can rest and I can keep an eye on her."
"Ok, I'll be back later to check on her. But right now I think I'll try to contact Jack again."
"I'm sorry, Sir. General O'Neill is still missing..."
"General Baker, we must have a bad connection, I thought you just said, "missing".
"Alan, the United States government is not in the habit of losing its Generals! How the hell can he be missing?"
"When I woke up this morning, Alan, I was still the President of these United States and I am ordering you to tell me where General O'Neill is! No whitewash, no military secrets, where is he?"
"Sir...I...I don't know, Sir. As you already know, his aircraft dropped off the scope a few days ago and we've had no word since. We're searching the area but there's a lot of ocean to cover, Sir. We aren't even sure that the plane went down."
"What? Where else could it go, Alan?"
"Well, Sir, General O'Neill does have some very powerful friends."
There was a long silence as the president considered those cryptic words.
"Yes, I guess he does at that. Well, keep looking and keep me informed."
"I will do that, Sir."
"And Alan, he'd better have a damned good reason for not reporting in. If he's just snooping about the Middle East on a lark, well...you can tell Jack that I intend to kick his butt all the way to Schenectady when I see him!"
A slight smile crossed Baker's face but his voice remained calm and firm.
"Yes, Sir, Mr. President, I'll tell him."
Alan Baker replaced the phone in its cradle and didn't realize that he was speaking aloud or how worried he was about his old friend as he murmured. "Jack O'Neill on a lark?" He shook his head solemnly, "Never."
Nelson made his way quickly through the jungle being careful to cause as little disruption as possible as he moved. For more than an hour he'd been moving away from both the compound and Chavez, changing his course every few minutes with the goal of confusing whoever might be following. Now he turned again and doubled back on a zigzag course that would lead him to Chavez. With his primary objective achieved he wanted to get out of this jungle and the sooner, the better.
The sun was high in the sky and he was nearly melting from the humidity as he hurried across the jungle floor. His mind kept returning to the scene in the compound and he kept pushing it away, not wanting to remember. He had to get out of here and get help. He had to make sure the guards that had escaped weren't the same monsters that he'd just annihilated.
A new wave of nausea hit him as he remembered the boy, his young body crumpling to the ground like a discarded toy; his life cut short by the impact of his bullet. He was going to be sick. He stopped running and fell to his knees, retching out his disgust onto the dark green foliage. Then he drank from the canteen, slowly sipping the warm liquid and stopping when he felt sick again. He leaned back against a tree and let the memory play. Might as well face it now as later. He closed his eyes and watched the memory as it unfolded. His experience told him that it wouldn't be the last time.
Hours later as he neared Chavez' position he paused, clicking his radio once to warn of his approach. There was a long silence but finally the single click was returned and Nelson slowly moved in.
He removed the sniper's rifle from his shoulder and silently began to break it down, packing it safely back into the case that had saved Chavez' life. He could feel Chavez watching him but felt no need to speak and simply carried on with his tasks. When that was done, he began to gather leaves and branches planning to bury himself beneath their cover as night fell. He was exhausted and still sickened by the day's events but he was a soldier and soldiers did their duty; soldiers followed orders.
They had been lying still in the darkness for several minutes, both of them covered with the jungle's bounty, before Chavez spoke.
"It's done then."
It wasn't a question, just a statement of fact.
"I'm sorry, Colonel."
Nelson suddenly realized that Chavez felt guilty for being injured, for shifting what he considered his responsibility onto someone else. He took a deep breath before he spoke; making certain that his tone was even and emotionless.
"No need to be sorry. It's done. That's all that matters. Now we need to get home so...get some sleep and we'll head out first thing in the morning."
"Are you going to sleep, Sir?"
"No one followed you then?"
"There's no one left, Chavez. Now get some sleep."
It was quiet then. Only the sounds of the jungle night drifting around them as they dozed, each of them listening and just on the fringe of restful sleep. Each of them knowing it would be a long trip home.
"Can you just tell me if he's picked up his messages?"
"I'm sorry, Dr. Jackson, I can't release any information but I'd be happy to take a message for you."
"Sergeant, I'm not a spy you know! I'm a friend of Jack's. We've worked together for years and I have high-level clearance. Colonel Carter has been injured and it's important that I reach Jack!"
"I understand, Sir and I'll leave that message for him."
Daniel huffed out a frustrated sigh realizing again what Sam must have felt as she tried to reach Jack, tried to push past the wall of security that sequestered him.
"Ok, fine. Do you have any idea when he will return?"
"No, Sir, I don't have that information."
Daniel shook his head and threw his free hand into the air in exasperation.
"All right, Sergeant. Thank you."
Daniel replaced the phone and removed his glasses, rubbing his eyes in frustration.
"Is there no news, Daniel Jackson?"
"No, Teal'c. Dammit! Where the hell is he? What's going on that he hasn't even called to check on Sam?"
"His office can offer no enlightenment on his location?"
"Well, it's the military, Teal'c. I'm sure they know but they aren't going to tell us. Frankly, if it wasn't Jack I'd have given up long ago but..."
"I understand. O'Neill would not give up. He would persist until no options remained."
"Then we must not fail him, Daniel Jackson. You must not let your frustration at this situation distract you. You must continue your attempts to locate him, as would O'Neill."
"Yes, of course...but I keep remembering the day that he left. He was so...despondent. I'm afraid he may be deliberately avoiding contact with Sam."
"I do not believe that to be the case. O'Neill would not refuse to help Colonel Carter under any circumstance."
Daniel looked at his tall, confident friend. His loyalty to Jack was easily apparent and his faith never wavered. Daniel nodded his head in agreement and rose from the table.
"You're a good friend, Teal'c. Let's go check on Sam."
It was three full days before Nelson reached the coast. He had dragged, shouldered and carried Chavez every miserable step of the way, often gasping at the steamy jungle air. The injured man was sleeping most of the time now, he was dead weight and Nelson feared the infection that had set into his wounds was slowly depleting his life force. Nelson was exhausted and running dangerously low on reserve energy. He hadn't really slept for well over a week and the stress and exertion of carrying Chavez was beginning to show.
He needed a helicopter and he needed it now. He settled Chavez into a spot approximately 100 yards from the clearing and carefully advanced through the underbrush. It was late in the day and if he didn't get a message out soon they'd have to wait until morning. Nelson studied the landscape around them for any signs of life and was relieved when he found nothing. He had purposely chosen a different pick-up zone due to Chavez' injury. They wouldn't be running across the clearing and jumping in while the copter hovered, it would have to land for him to get Chavez aboard. The site from which they had departed was too close to civilization to risk such a landing, so he had moved his course further south to take advantage of the isolation of the jungle. It had become less dense as they neared the coast but it would have to do. They were both spent; it was now or never.
"Lone Wolf calling Archangel, come in Archangel."
He waited patiently for the radio signals to travel across the miles that lay between him and the aircraft carrier that was trolling innocently a safe distance offshore but there was only silence. Nelson looked around and wondered momentarily if they were still out of range or if the jungle was swallowing his signal before it cleared the canopy. He pressed the button on his radio and tried once more. When there was no answer he reached into a pocket of his uniform and pulled out a small device. He held it in his hand studying it for a moment before he held down the button and pulled the tab that activated the signal. All he could do now was wait. The emergency beacon was blasting a GPS signature into the atmosphere and anyone within range could pick it up.
He made his way back to his teammate and knelt beside him on the ground. If he'd been alone he would have kept moving, hiking, crawling whatever it took and he'd have made it back to the alpha site but carrying Chavez was a totally different story. As he stared down at Chavez he could see that he was either sleeping or unconscious, he wasn't sure which. He reached tentatively towards his forehead and could feel the heat even before his hand touched the skin. Instinctively he shook Chavez slightly and lifted his shoulders from the ground to help him take a sip of water. He continued to pour the warm liquid into Chavez until the man began to cough and then he eased him back to the ground, watching his eyes closely. There was little else he could do now except wait.
"You're ok, Chavez, just take it easy. Our ride should be here soon."
The man nodded ever so slightly and allowed his eyes to close once again as Nelson waited for help to arrive.
An hour or so later, Nelson jumped as his radio crackled to life and a relaxed, soothing voice spoke through his earpiece.
"Lone Wolf, this is Archangel. You requested assistance?"
"Roger that, Archangel. Room for two more?"
"That's a roger. Just say the word."
Nelson was already moving as he spoke, lifting an almost unconscious Chavez to his side. He pulled one of his arms across his own shoulders and grasped his belt tightly.
"Come on, Chavez, time to go home!"
Chavez mumbled but didn't really speak anything intelligible as Nelson used the last of his strength to drag them both towards the clearing. He couldn't hear the copter but he knew it was close; all he had to do was get there. The jungle was dark and Nelson stumbled, falling heavily to the ground with his burden. Chavez cried out in pain as his broken body slammed into the hard ground. Nelson quickly covered his mouth, smothering his cry until the pain returned to a tolerable level and then allowed him to rest a moment before moving again.
"Sorry, man but we gotta go! Just a little further."
He scooped Chavez up again and hung on, being careful not to stumble as they moved slowly towards the clearing. The bright flash of pain had revived Chavez and he made a valiant effort at helping to support his weight as they moved clumsily along. A few long minutes later they reached the clearing and Nelson moved close to a tree to give Chavez a bit more support and then reached for his radio.
"Lone Wolf ready and waiting, Archangel."
"Roger, Lone Wolf. We have you on our scope and are headed your way. Prepare for rendezvous."
"Roger that. Will require assistance to board."
"Roger, Lone Wolf. ETA two minutes."
He could hear the rotors chopping into the night air almost before the voice died in his ear and less than five minutes later they were aboard. Chavez was sprawled across the floor of the helicopter and Nelson was leaning back in his seat, staring into the darkness, totally exhausted but on his way home. The helicopter made a sharp turn and headed out to sea with its human cargo now safe and sound within its confines. Nelson listened to the comforting sound of the rotors beating against his ears and as the jungle disappeared beneath him, he closed his eyes in sleep.
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