[Moments of Adoration]
Lunchtime ficlet. Title from Carl Sandberg's "Have Me."
"I can do it, Sam. I can get Elizabeth back."
He is earnest and eager and so very sure, and it breaks her heart to watch his face harden a little more each time she shakes her head. Her response becomes a mantra: "Bring me a plan that has a chance of working, and I'll back you all the way."
And so he does. Sometimes she says no outright, before he can even get into the particulars. Sometimes they sit for hours and work and rework a plan until they can't stand the sight of each other. Sometimes she's so close to saying yes, yes you can go, go now, because even though it's still suicide, it's nothing crazier than what she's come up with before. But before she wasn't in another galaxy, responsible for 200 lives, for John's life, and Teyla's and Ronon's and Rodney's.
Sometimes she misses before so much it's like an ache in her gut that will never be filled.
It's plan number seventeen, version three, that breaks them both. Rodney and Ronon are in the infirmary, courtesy of the team's last mission, half the botany staff has been quarantined due to a contagious rash, the talks with the Ileythlad have broken down for the third time, and John has followed her on her midnight run. His words take on the cadence of their pounding feet as he dogs her heels for almost two miles.
"It's a good plan, Colonel," John shouts as she finally pushes harder and pulls away from him, and it breaks the rhythm.
Sam falters to a stop, bending to rest her hands on her knees and gulp down a few deep breaths. "It's not good enough."
His inarticulate cry of frustration echoes around them, and when she straightens, his hands are balled into fists. "You just don't get it, do you! You don't get what's happening to her!"
Sam's not exactly sure how her water bottle ends up smashed against the wall a few feet away from him, and John takes a step back when she says, "You don't get it. I'm probably the only person in the god-damned universe who understands exactly what is happening to her."
She leaves him standing there, water puddling around his sneakers, and she runs.
The next day he comes back, not contrite, but not reproachful when she opens her door to find him standing there. "Make me understand," is all he says.
And so she does. Out on the tiny balcony attached to her quarters, she tells John what she's never dared tell anyone: the exact details of how Fifth took apart her mind, over and over and over. Taking bits of her memories and leaving nightmares in their place. She tells him that even now, sometimes, when she wakes, she's never sure if it's real. If she's real. That she will walk through an entire day expecting to have the walls break apart and crawl over her skin when she turns the next corner.
When she falls silent, they both ignore that her cheeks are wet, and that her hands are shaking. "You know," John says, "all that is only going to make me try harder."
When he leaves he stands in front of the door for almost a full minute before he says, slowly, as if he's regretting the words even as they leave his mouth, "Will there even be something left of her to bring home?"
If she's strong enough, Sam wants to say. If we get to her soon enough. If, if, if ...
"Yes, of course," she lies, and they both ignore that, too.