Main ~ Authors ~ Production Crew ~ Promotion ~ About Chrysalis

Gravity

~splash_the_cat~

In the briefing room, Jacob settled into a chair, smiling gratefully when Sam set a glass of water in front of him before taking her seat across the table. "Thanks, kiddo." He cupped the glass, looking longingly at the pot of coffee on the table across the room.

*You're stalling.*

Ignoring Selmak and the expectant faces around him, Jacob took a long sip of water. *Can't a man take a second to mourn a vice he can't indulge anymore?*

"So, Jake. Didn't expect to see you again so soon. What's the word?" Jack asked, just as Selmak chided, *Jacob, waiting will not make it any easier on you or them.*

He hesitated still, until Sam asked, "Is there something the Tok'ra can do, Dad?"

Sighing, Jacob put the cup down, letting go of it reluctantly and meeting his daughter's troubled gaze.

"Based on our understanding of Dr. Fraiser's condition, we don't have any technological method of helping her."

"What about the healing device?" Hammond asked.

Jacob shrugged. "I can try, but given her current state, I'm not sure it will have any effect. It's likely that the damage she received is beyond the healing device's capabilities at this point. However, we... do have a symbiote in need of a host. But," he raised a hand, forestalling the sudden gleam of hope in Sam's eyes. "It's not that simple."

"There's a catch, huh?"

Jacob sighed. "Yes, Jack, there's a catch."

He'd always feared he'd be in this position for one of them. For Sam.

But never for Janet Fraiser.

"It's not... It can't be a temporary thing," Jacob continued. "Given the state of the alliance, and since it's not," he paused, knowing that no matter how he phrased this next part, it would never come out quite right, "since it won't directly benefit the Tok'ra in any way, they will not authorize using the symbiote just to heal Dr. Fraiser. They will, however, authorize a permanent blending. She'd have to become a Tok'ra."

Stunned silence fell over the room and Jacob stared into the glass of water, unwilling to see the reproach he knew would be reflected on their faces.

*We have done all we can, Jacob.*

*It's not enough, Selmak.*

*Despite your ties to the Tau'ri, Jacob, you cannot hold yourself responsible in this.*

*I don't have to. They do. She does.* "I'm sorry," Jacob said. He forced himself to look at them, look at Sam. She stared at her clenched hands, eyes bright and wet and filled with something he couldn't put a name to, but which sent a faint chill down his spine.

He wondered if she was angry with him.

He hoped it was just that.

*Jacob...*

*Selmak, I'm not in the mood for the Jiminy Cricket routine, okay? She's hurting, and I can't make it better. And that pisses me off.*

"We don't have to do this right now, do we?" Daniel spoke up, disrupting the budding argument between host and symbiote. "I mean, we might still hear from someone else. The Nox, the Asgard..." He trailed off as Sam shook her head.

"I tried, Daniel. Nobody can, or will, help."

"Dr. Warner is not sure how long she will remain stable," Hammond added. "He's worried about the possibility of infection. Any decision we're going to make needs to be made soon."

"But what decision can we make in this?" Teal'c asked. "As General Carter pointed out, it is not a matter of the Tok'ra simply healing her. We do not have the right to make such a decision without her consent."

"But she can't consent!" Daniel slapped his hands on the table. "What choice do we-?"

"We don't have one, Daniel," Jack said. "Like Teal'c said, we don't have the right to make this decision for her. We don't have any right to take that choice away from her."

Jacob caught the look that passed between Sam and Jack before they both glanced away; Sam once again staring at her hands, Jack glaring at Jacob before staring down at his own fingers drumming against the tabletop.

"Jack," Jacob said gently, "It won't be like... that."

"Yeah, sure, Jacob. That's what they always say." The bitterness laced through Jack's reply made Jacob's stomach clench. It was too easy to forget that Jack's bumbling antics hid so many deep emotions. "And what's with the whole 'become a Tok'ra' thing, anyway?"

"Given the current state of the alliance," Jacob sighed as Jack rolled his eyes, "they will want Dr. Fraiser to stay with the Tok'ra."

"Wow, the Tok'ra being petty. What a concept."

"Damn it, Jack, things are complicated! And Dr. Fraiser doesn't have time for me to explain Tok'ra politics."

"While the Tok'ra's offer is generous, Jacob," George Hammond's soft drawl broke the tension between them. "We can't make this decision without Dr. Fraiser's consent."

"So that's it. We just let her die."

"Daniel..."

But it wasn't the warning tone in Jack's voice that quelled Daniel. Sam laid a hand on his arm. Something in her clear blue gaze set off warning bells in the back of Jacob's head, and even Selmak shifted uneasily.

"If," Sam said, slowly, deliberately. "If there is someone, another host who will take the symbiote after it heals Janet, would the Council agree?"

"Sam, there isn't another host."

"Yes there is," she said with quiet determination. "There's me."

*****

"Sir, I realize it must seem like my judgment is clouded, but I do believe this will benefit everyone in the long term."

George Hammond sighed. He'd ordered Sam into his office after all hell had broken loose in the conference room with her announcement. He couldn't think with all the shouting and exclamations, and seeing Sam's pale face, he didn't think she would mind escaping the furor she'd just caused.

"Major..."

"Sir, please hear me out." Samantha Carter's determination was one of the things he'd always admired most about her, and he faced it here in full force. Nodding, he said, "Go ahead."

Sam sank into the chair in front of his desk. "Thank you, General." Taking a deep breath, she said, "I admit there are some... personal considerations influencing my decision. Janet is my friend. But she is also an integral part of the SGC, General. Her general medical expertise, as well as her long experience with the biological hazards we've encountered make her invaluable to the continued success and safety of the Stargate program. When balanced against the loss to the SGC if Dr. Fraiser dies, I think my proposal has merit."

He wondered for a moment how she could manage to fit it all into such cold, calculated terms, until he saw how white her knuckles were where they gripped the arms of the chair. It was cold and calculated, he realized, yet the emotion that drove her was anything but.

"You're hardly expendable, Major."

She gave him a small smile. "No sir, but it might help us in rebuilding the alliance to have another Tok'ra/Tau'ri blending. Maybe sharing our knowledge through my blending with a Tok'ra will start to ease some of the tensions. And I'm sure," she added, "that once things settle down, we can work out an arrangement with the Tok'ra that would allow me to continue working with the SGC in some capacity."

She made sense. Too much sense as she deftly used her experience as a scientist and soldier to make her point in terms he couldn't argue with, at least on logical or tactical grounds. "You're sure about this, Major Carter? Absolutely sure?"

"Yes, General. I believe this is the best option."

Hammond knew all it would take was a direct order based on the very sensible reason that she played too important a role in the Stargate program. But watching her - her mouth a tight thin line, eyes wide and anxious yet filled with resolve - he couldn't force the words out. "You know I can't make this decision directly, Major. It will have to be approved by the President."

"I understand that, General."

He nodded, feeling the weight of the last seven years settle over him. He really should have retired the first time they shut the SGC down. If he had, he could be on a golf course right this minute, or playing hide-and-seek with his granddaughters, rather than facilitating an act that would have repercussions he couldn't even begin to imagine.

But Hammond understood it - her choice and what drove her to make it. He'd spent too many hours over the last seven years waiting and helpless. "I'll support your proposal, Major. I believe the President will see the merit in it."

Sam's shoulders slumped slightly. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate your support."

"I know, Major." He just hoped he wouldn't come to regret giving it.

*****

"This is insane. She's insane!" Jack slammed his office door, almost catching Daniel, who was right behind him, in the face. Blocking the door with the flat of his palm and wincing at the sting of the impact, Daniel followed Jack into the room and gently pulled the door shut behind him.

A small uncharitable part of him wished Jacob hadn't used the healing device on Jack after General Hammond had ordered Sam into his office. At least Jack was a little easier to contain when he was only able to hobble.

"Jack," Daniel said, staying near the door as Jack prowled around the desk. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to be cut off from a convenient escape route. "You're not helping the situation."

"And why, Daniel, would I want to help the situation?" Jack stopped suddenly and fell into his desk chair, scrubbing his hands through his hair and covering his face. "What the hell is she thinking?!"

"That she can save her best friend." When that only earned him a dirty look and not another outburst, Daniel left the relative safety of the door and pulled up another chair and straddled it, leaning his arms on the back. "We really should have seen it coming."

"How the hell could we have guessed Carter'd suddenly up and volunteer to get herself snaked?"

"Because it's Sam. Because Janet's important to her. Because you know she'd do the same thing for any of us, under the circumstances." He paused. "You should understand that, Jack. You'd do it too, if it were me, or Teal'c... or Sam."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better about this?" Jack snatched up a pencil, worrying at it. "It's not like I want Fraiser to die, but this isn't right, Daniel."

Daniel sighed, wishing for a moment that his conscience hadn't nagged him into following Jack when he'd left the infirmary. "Look. It'll take a bit to set this up. We can keep trying the Asgard in the meantime."

"And if it doesn't work? If they don't call back?" There was a sharp crack, and two halves of the pencil clattered onto the desk.

Pulling off his glasses, Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd have one hell of a headache in an hour or so, judging by the sharp pricking behind his eyes. And sadly, he found himself savoring the idea; maybe it would distract him from the cold hard knot in his chest. "Damn it, Jack, you're not the only one who's upset about this!"

"Really?" Jack leaned back, linking his hands behind his head. "Because you seem awfully okay with it."

Daniel bit his lip, restraining the urge to snap back with equal scorn. Just as he knew there'd be no dissuading Sam from her decision, he knew that retreating into sarcasm and thinly veiled innuendo was Jack's only way of dealing with that decision.

Daniel also knew that responding in kind would only encourage him.

Taking a slow, deep breath, he said, "No, Jack, I am not okay with this. I don't want to see Sam do this any more than you do. She's my friend too." He waited, watching some of the tension drain from Jack's face, before adding, "But it is Sam's choice, and I can understand why she's doing it. We may not like it, Jack, but for her, it's the right thing."

He expected another outburst, another scathing remark, another trademark Jack O'Neill verbal right hook.

The harsh laughter he got instead alarmed him.

"Remember the last time you said that, Daniel? That you 'understood' what she did and that she'd made the 'right' choice? She died, Daniel. I had to shoot her and she died." Planting the palms of his hands on the desk he leaned forward, glaring. "So don't give me that philosophical crap. It doesn't make sense, Daniel, and I will never understand it."

"Jack..." Daniel stammered, but Jack was out the door before he could say anything more.

*****

The disconnect Sam felt, standing at the side of the infirmary bed and staring down into the still face of Janet Fraiser, almost made her laugh. She choked down the hysterical chuckle that swelled in her throat. "This is too weird. I feel like I'm in some episode of the Twilight Zone, with you lying there and me standing here..."

The soft hum of the respirator and the faint beep of the monitors gave an unsatisfactory reply, and Sam picked up one of Janet's limp pale hands, twining her fingers in the doctor's unresponsive ones. "The Tok'ra can help, but it's not an ideal situation. They have a symbiote that can heal you but..." Sam closed her eyes. "You have to promise me you're not going to be mad at me, Janet. There are a lot of people who need you here, and it's not like I'll be dying for you or anything..."

She couldn't help it this time; something halfway between a laugh and a sob broke loose and she clapped her free hand over her mouth. "I promise, Janet," Sam said after she wrestled her voice under control. "It'll be okay, really. I know what I'm doing and someday I hope you'll understand-"

"I sure don't."

She didn't look up until the soft tread of footsteps stopped on the other side of the bed. "Colonel."

Jack stood just inside the privacy screen that had been set up around the bed, staring at Janet. "I know she's your friend, Carter, and you don't want her to die. None of us do. But this idea of yours..." He finally met her eyes. "It's stupid."

"Why, sir?" Sam demanded, and when he didn't respond, asked again. "Why is it stupid for me to do this for her?"

"It..." Jack sighed. "It just is."

Sam laid Janet's hand down. "Sometimes I wonder, especially now, if I made the right choice, with Cassie."

"Huh?"

Smiling a little at his confusion, she said. "Back then, I told Teal'c he was way off base when he hinted that maybe I wanted to take Cassie. But he wasn't. Part of me did want to adopt her."

"Why didn't you?" Sam watched as Jack reached out, rubbing his thumb gently along Janet's wrist. She knew it was an unconscious action, a manifestation of his restlessness and grief. She remembered the way he had hovered around Daniel before Daniel ascended, rigid and hesitant because he'd been unable to touch his friend.

"Part of it was selfishness. I didn't want to give up SG-1. If I had, I would have resented it, and maybe her down the road. And even if I'd taken a position in the labs so I'd be on-world all the time, well, you know me. She deserved better than a part-time mother who still thought her career was the most important thing in the world."

"You'd have done okay, Carter."

"Maybe." Sam shrugged. "Sometimes, these days, I do regret not having that life with her. But Janet was good for her. Watching them together, I knew Cassie would have the kind of life and love she needed, that I couldn't give her." Sam fought the urge to pluck at the sheets; she'd never had the need for such aimless expressions of anxiety until she'd met Jack O'Neill. "She lost one mother, sir. I won't take another away from her, not when I can do something."

"This isn't like donating a kidney, Carter!" His sudden frustration broke the uneasy peace.

"And it's not like I'm throwing myself off a cliff, either," she said. "Why can't you accept that?"

He shook his head, disbelief etched across his face. "Because you are pretty much giving up your life, Carter. Do you honestly think that the Tok'ra are just going to let you continue on your merry way after you take one of them?"

"As I told General Hammond, I'm sure the Tok'ra will consent to working out some sort of arrangement eventually. When things… calm down a little." Sam ignored the flutter of unease in the pit of her stomach at his words. She hoped they would, but even if they didn't, she wasn't going to let Janet die.

"Well, that's the difference between us, Carter." Jack jabbed a finger across the bed at her, accusing, angry, and she found herself taking a step back in the face of his vehemence. "You've always been so sure of the Tok'ra, so sure that they'll do right by us. You've never wanted to see beyond good ol' boy Martouf, or what they did to help your dad, have you? Jesus, Carter, you have no idea what you're getting into!"

In the moments that followed there was nothing but the sound of the life-support equipment. The soft background murmur of voices in the infirmary had vanished in the aftermath of Jack's outburst, and Sam stared at him, shaking so hard that she had to lean on the edge of the bed to keep her knees from buckling.

When she saw a hint of apprehension appear on his face, something small and hard and painful deep inside her broke loose. Pushing away from the bed, she grabbed him by the arm and all but dragged him out into the corridor.

"I damn well do know!" Sam snapped once they were out of the infirmary. "Do you think I have forgotten any single second of what Jolinar did to me? The revulsion of knowing that she was willing to do anything to the people I cared about to get what she wanted, with my hands, with my voice, and all I could do was watch?" She struggled to get the words past the sudden swell of fury that tightened her throat.

"Carter, look-"

"I have looked. I know exactly what the Tok'ra are capable of, Colonel. I know more intimately than anyone but you." Sam felt a small uncomfortable stab of satisfaction at the way his shoulders hunched. "I knew what I was asking. Not all of it, not Ba'al, but I knew." She realized then that she was still holding his arm, her fingers digging into his skin, and she let go.

"You've never underestimated me, Colonel, in all the years you've known me. Except in this. And I've been okay with it, because I knew how uncomfortable the whole idea made you. But I'm not okay with it anymore. Not now. Not when Janet..." Sam blinked back sudden tears. "I'm doing this, sir, and I don't want or need your blessing."

Closing her eyes against the pain in his, she walked away.

*****

Her lab was dark, but he knew she was inside. The door slid shut behind him and he paused, letting his eyes adjust to the dimness. Soon he saw a figure hunched over the big worktable in the center of the room.

"Hey, Teal'c." Her voice was muffled, her face buried in her arms.

He picked up another stool and set it next to hers. "You had words with O'Neill." It wasn't a question, and she lifted her head, a tight, unhappy smile twisting her mouth.

"What did he say?"

"He said nothing to me. I saw him outside the infirmary a few minutes ago." Teal'c paused. "Given his expression, it seemed a reasonable assumption."

Sam snorted, her head falling back to rest on her arms, but turned to face him. "He's pretty mad at me, isn't he?"

"He is angry with the situation, Major Carter, not with you."

"Could have fooled me."

Teal'c laid a hand on her shoulder, disturbed by the bitter edge to her voice. It was out of place with everything he'd come to know about her. "It is the only way O'Neill knows to express difficult emotions," he said. "If you remember, he was much the same way after Daniel Jackson ascended."

"I know," Sam sighed. "It's just... I don't expect him to understand, Teal'c. Even though he'd do the same thing in my place. But I'd hoped..."

"It will take time, Major Carter, but I believe he will come to accept your decision."

"Do you?" she asked suddenly, sitting up and leaning her elbows on the table. "You and Daniel have been awfully quiet so far."

Teal'c hesitated and Sam caught it. "Teal'c?"

He shifted to face her. "I understand your need to do this, Major Carter, that it is required by your own sense of honor. And I admire and respect you for it, for the selflessness you have always shown in the face of another's need." Her cheeks flushed slightly and she ducked her head until Teal'c reached forward and gently lifted her chin. "I am proud to know you, Samantha Carter, and I will stand at your side in this and in anything you do."

"Thank you," she whispered, pulling away and scrubbing at her eyes with the heel of her hand. "It means a lot."

He smiled slightly when she snuffled into her sleeve. "But now I must ask you to do something for me."

"Anything."

"I do not believe that you have made this decision in haste, but I fear that you have not thought through all the consequences."

"Teal'c..."

He squeezed her hand, and she fell silent. "I do not doubt that you have considered the consequences to your friends, to Cassandra Fraiser, and to the SGC, but what about you?"

She remained silent, eyes wide and faintly confused, so he continued. "You have sacrificed much for your friends, for this war, over the years. I have witnessed your pain, and I would not wish to see you take yet another burden upon yourself, even for the life of one you hold dear."

Teal'c stood, squeezing her hand once more before letting go. "Perhaps, Samantha Carter, you have done enough."

*****

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Jack poked his head into Hammond's office, and the general gestured him to a chair.

"I just got word, Colonel. The MPs will be bringing Cassandra here in about two hours."

"Oy." Jack had volunteered to break the details to Cassie, but he wasn't exactly looking forward to it. Or telling her about Carter... "Does she know what happened?" He asked, mercilessly shoving that train of thought aside.

"Only that her mother was injured. Given the situation I was loathe to let any more details loose until she got here."

"Makes sense," Jack said. "We don't need to give the reporters any more help."

"No, but under the circumstances the President has put a hold on anything filmed by the documentary crew, at least until..."

"We know if Fraiser's gonna live or die? Nice of him."

"Colonel..."

Jack shook his head. "Sorry, General. I'm just kind of pissed off." He rubbed the back of his neck, wincing. "This whole mess..."

"I know. It's hard to take." Hammond paused, tapping a finger on his desk. "There's something else, Jack."

The hesitation in Hammond's voice spoke volumes. "I'm not gonna like this, am I?"

"The President approved Major Carter's proposal."

Jack sat bolt upright in his chair. "He what?" It had been his last hope: a direct order from the President saying it was as stupid an idea as Jack thought it was. "Does he have any idea what that means?"

"He understands that we save the life of a valuable member of the SGC," Hammond said, "and have yet another formal tie to the Tok'ra. The Joint Chiefs are very concerned about the alliance collapsing, Jack."

"And that's it? It's all good because we might be able to shore up the alliance? What about Carter?" Jack slammed a fist on the arm of the chair. "This is crazy, sir. We can't... she can't... What about SG-1? For that matter, what about the planet? What happens next time the inevitable bad comes along and she's not here to fix it?"

Sighing, Hammond said, "We'll deal with it."

"Yeah, sounds like a great idea." Jack was on his feet and halfway to the door when Hammond said, "Jack."

Hands balled into fists, he slowly turned back to the General, who regarded him with unnerving sympathy. "I know this is hard on you, Jack," Hammond said. "And I know that this is going to affect all of you very deeply. But don't take it out on her. She needs you."

Jack blinked. "Yeah, I guess."

Hammond gave him a small smile. "I'll let you know as soon as Cassandra arrives, Colonel. Dismissed."

*****

It was late enough that the mess was almost empty. Sam got a cup of coffee and a rather sad looking pastry before making her way to a back corner table. She managed two bites of the pastry before shoving the plate away; it tasted like cardboard.

The coffee didn't taste much better, but she forced some of it down. She hadn't eaten anything all day, and she knew Janet would have a...

"Oh damn." She put the coffee cup down and pushed it away, too.

"That bad?"

She jumped slightly as her father sat down next to her. "Sorry, kiddo. Didn't mean to startle you."

"It's okay, Dad."

"Well, you don't look okay," he remarked with paternal bluntness, and Sam groaned.

"That obvious?"

Sam stabbed at the pastry with a fork a few times, wincing when the tines screeched against the plate. "The Colonel... he disapproves."

"There's an understatement." Jacob muffled a snort when Sam glared at him. "Are you surprised?"

"No," she admitted. "But he thinks I'm giving up my life, and I'm not, really."

"What about what's-his-name?" Jacob snapped his fingers. "Pete, right?"

"We, ah, we're not seeing each other anymore."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"Sorry."

"Kind of hard to have a life out there that doesn't end up at odds with the one I have down here. It was nice, but it wasn't fair to either of us. And now..." Sam shrugged, giving him a small wry smile. "It really doesn't seem all that important, anymore."

He reached over and ruffled her hair. Then hesitated before saying, "George talked to the President. He approved your idea. And I talked to the Tok'ra. They agreed too."

"Oh." It wasn't exactly relief, but something eased in her chest, and Sam let out a huge sigh.

"Having second thoughts?"

"No." She glanced over at her father. They hadn't really talked since her announcement in the briefing room. "Dad, are you okay with this?"

He picked up her abandoned coffee cup. "I'm more okay than I thought I'd be." When he looked up at her again, though, it was Selmak who spoke. "I, however, am not."

Selmak took advantage of Sam's momentary surprise and continued. "Samantha, I understand your desire to help your friend, but you do not belong among the Tok'ra, child."

"Why not?" Sam finally managed to ask.

"I do not intend to demean the contributions you have already made to the Tok'ra, but you belong with the Tau'ri. This is where your contributions to the fight with the Goa'uld have the most impact." Selmak smiled slightly. "Far be it from me to speak ill of the Council, but I do not think they will utilize your skills appropriately."

Astounded by the Tok'ra's frankness, Sam said, "I don't understand."

"Too often they see Jolinar when they look at you, and I fear that will color any decision they make. I would not like to see you lost in a legacy not your own, Samantha. Especially when you have so much to do here."

The Tok'ra's words hit Sam hard, confirming the apprehension she'd always felt about her awkward relationship with the Tok'ra. "What... what does my dad really think?"

Selmak didn't respond for a moment, eyes unfocused, and then Jacob muttered, "Know-it-all busybody."

"Dad?"

Frowning, he said, "Sam, honey, I'm not sure what I think. This is all happening kind of fast, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," Sam sighed, gratefully leaning against his shoulder when he put an arm around her. "Do you agree with Selmak?"

"I guess." Jacob held her tight. "You've got a lot to do here, Sam, but I'm not going to tell you that I'd be entirely opposed to having you with us. A father shouldn't have to worry about outliving his daughter by a hundred years."

Letting her go, he got to his feet. "That shouldn't be part of your decision, though." He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, but it was Selmak who murmured in her ear. "But my words should, child."

*****

Bolting out of the elevator ahead of her escort, Cassie ran through the corridors, dodging startled Air Force personnel. One wrong turn later, she found her way to the conference room, all the dignity of her eighteen years discarded as she burst though the door and into the arms of Jack O'Neill.

"Jack, what happened? They told me Mom got hurt but nobody will tell me anything else!" She clung to him as he shut the door.

"Yeah, she got hurt off-world." Cassie let Jack push her into a chair and took the glass of water he handed her, gulping it down.

"What was she doing off-world?" She asked, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand and handing the glass back to Jack, who rolled it between his palms.

"There was a fight, and your mom was helping some of the wounded and she got hit by a staff blast."

"Oh no..." Her mother had once described the damage a staff weapon did. "Is she..."

"She's alive, Cass." Jack put down the glass and swiped his thumb across her cheek, smearing away a sudden swell of tears. "But she's not in good shape. She's in a coma, and the doctors don't think she's going to wake up without some extraordinary means."

Suddenly cold, Cassie asked, "Can... can I see her?"

"Sure thing."

Neither of them spoke as they walked to the elevator, though Cassie never let go of Jack's hand, drawing comfort from him, just as she had when Jolinar...

"Jack, where's Sam?" Cassie asked as the elevator doors closed. "She's okay, right?"

He ruffled her hair. "She's fine, Cass. She's... with her dad."

"I thought she'd..." Cassie noticed Jack staring control panel, watching the numbers blink as they ascended to the infirmary level. Something wasn't right. He was too still. "Jack, is something wrong with Sam?" Oh, please, not Sam too, she thought. Not Sam and my mom!

The elevator clunked to a stop and Jack stepped out, pulling her with him. But Cassie yanked her hand from his, refusing to follow. "Jack!"

She heard him swear under his breath, but he turned back. "Sam's okay, Cassie, it's just..." His hands settled on her shoulders. "The Tok'ra, they have a symbiote that can heal your mom. But because it needs a permanent host, they won't allow it to be used to just heal her. And since we can't make her a host without her consent, Carter... Carter volunteered to take the snake after it heals your mom."

"Wait," Confused, Cassie tried to pull away, but Jack tightened his grip. "What do you mean? They'll heal my mom, but Sam has to become a To'kra?"

"Pretty much. Someone has to take the symbiote permanently, and Carter, well, she's not going to let your mom die, Cass."

"But, she can't. Sam can't..."

"Cassie, it's the only option. No one else can help your mom, and there's not another host available. I hate this idea too, but it looks like this is the only way to save her," he admitted.

Cassie choked back a sob. Her mother, or Sam. How was she supposed to deal with a choice like that? She-

Someone has to take the symbiote...

Jack tried to pull her into a hug but she shoved him hard, slamming her hand against the button to close the doors as he stumbled out of it.

*****

Sam was peering into a microscope when Daniel glanced into her lab. Not wanting to startle her, he cleared his throat noisily.

"Hey, Daniel." She motioned him to come in. "Did you come to talk me out of it, too?"

"Nope. Pretty sure you've gotten enough of that already." He peered over her shoulder, trying to make sense of the jumble of tiny wires and circuits scattered in front of her. "What're you doing?"

"Honestly? Absolutely nothing." She waved a hand at the electronics. "Busywork distractions. And it's not even working." Burying her face in her hands, she groaned.

"Talk to me, Sam." Daniel leaned against the table, pulling her hands away from her face.

"I feel like that's all I've been doing Daniel. Talking. Talking to a bunch of brick walls. Well, one, at least," she relented.

"Let me guess. Begins with 'O', ends with 'Neill'?"

That earned him a snort of laughter, and he grinned a little. "So people are giving you a hard time, huh?"

"It's not so much that, Daniel." Sam sighed. "Other than the Colonel, everyone's been as understanding as they can be under the circumstances, even my dad. But no one seems to think it's a good idea."

"Well, in a lot of ways it's not, Sam. Wait," he said when she opened her mouth to protest. "It's not a good idea, but I agree with you; it's still the best one we have." Looping his arms around her shoulders, he rested his head against hers. "I'm not saying I'm happy about this. I'm not. I'll miss you and worry about you all the time. But," he added, "I know you'll still be you, even if you have a roommate." He tapped the side of her head.

"Thank you, Daniel," she said softly, and he felt a hand curl around the back of his neck.

"You know we love you, right? No matter what happens?"

She nodded. "I know."

"Good." He pulled away. "Want to get some-"

"Sam!"

Daniel realized it was Cassie only after she shoved past him. "I won't let you, damn it!" she was saying, breathless but firm. "Jack told me about Mom and the symbiote. You can't do this, Sam."

Daniel and Sam exchanged glances over Cassie's head, and Sam hugged her hard, stroking the girl's hair.

"Cassie, you don't understand. I have to. It's the only way to save your mom."

"No, it's not," Cassie said, and Daniel felt his stomach drop through the floor as she clutched Sam's arms and unknowingly echoed Sam's earlier declaration.

"There's me."

*****

"She's so still." Cassie tucked herself under Sam's arm, and for just a second, Sam felt the looming weight of thirty stories of earth pressing down on them.

Even though she'd known in some unfathomable corner of her soul that day that they were going to be all right, there'd been a cold curl of dread tight around her heart until she'd heard Jack's voice over the intercom.

Standing here, holding Cassie close, Sam felt it again.

"Were you there?" Cassie asked, pulling Sam from the memory. "When it happened?"

"Not right there. I didn't find out until later." When the panicked radio call finally sounded through the ringing in her ears from the battle. "Daniel was with her, though."

"Good. I'm glad she wasn't alone."

"Me too."

Cassie's presence and the soft beeping of the monitors calmed Sam, and she jumped when Cassie suddenly spoke. "I'm going to take the symbiote, Sam."

"Cass..." Her hands felt suddenly clammy. "That's not an option, Cassie," Sam finished. "It's not your decision."

"Why not? She's my mother, Sam. If anyone should do this, it's me."

"You don't have any idea..." The rest of the words echoed in her head, in the Colonel's voice. "Cass, baby, it just won't work. Janet needs you here."

"But we need you, too." Cassie's eyes filled with tears, and she said softly, "Sam, please. I can't choose between losing you and losing my mom."

Desperation clawed at Sam. "You can't... Cassie, she wouldn't want you to do this."

"And you think she would want you to?" Cassie shook her head. "Sam, you and Mom need to be here. I don't." She ran her fingers down her mother's face, and Sam went cold at the resolve in her eyes. "I'm going to talk to General Hammond and tell him I'm taking the symbiote."

With a last glance at her mother, Cassie left.

A few seconds later, Sam heard footsteps and a hand settled on her shoulder.

"Carter..."

She turned and blindly wrapped her arms around him. The tears she'd been holding back since they'd brought Janet back through the gate finally broke free when Jack did the same, his fingers pulling her head against his shoulder and tangling in her hair.

*****

"I've spoken to the President and explained the situation, and he's approved your request, Cassandra."

Cassie let out the breath she'd been holding. "Thank you, General Hammond." Across the table, the steady staccato beat Jack was tapping on the table increased, until Daniel reached over and clamped his hand over Jack's.

"Now what?" Daniel asked, ignoring the glare Jack directed at him.

"Well," Jacob said, "with your permission George, we'll take Dr. Fraiser and Cassie to the Tok'ra base. The transfer will take place there. It won't take long to get everything set up."

Hammond nodded. "All right. I'll have Dr. Warner prep Dr. Fraiser for transport."

"May we accompany Dr. Fraiser?"

"Of course, Teal'c," Jacob said, glancing at Sam, who was drawing tight neat circles on the pad of paper in front of her. "I think it'll be good to have all of you there when she wakes up."

"I want her sedated," Cassie blurted out. "I mean, after she's healed, I don't want her to wake up until after... I don't want her to try and keep the symbiote." She saw Sam's pen stop, the point digging into the paper.

"Okay, Cassie," Jacob said. "We can do that."

Cassie let the rest of the conversation wash over her, only half-listening as Jacob detailed what would happen next. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Sam start drawing again, tiny interconnected squares this time. Cassie remembered Sam doing that after Jolinar, filling up sheet after sheet with precise shapes when she thought no one was watching. Which had been better than the days where she did nothing but stare at a wall.

She had been so scared, seeing Sam like that.

"Cassie?" She started, swivelling around to find Jacob behind her. Everyone else was gone.

Jacob sat down. "You want to talk?"

"Not really." But a moment later she asked, "Do you think Sam will...?"

"She'll understand," Jacob said with a kind smile. "She's not going to be happy about it for a long time, but she'll understand. She loves you very much."

Cassie sighed. "I know." And that made it so much harder, in a way. "Tell me about the symbiote. Maybe if I can tell her, if she knows what the symbiote's like..." She trailed off, glad for the understanding she saw in Jacob's eyes.

"Well, her name is Aine. She's one of the older of us," Jacob continued. "Not as old or as wise as Selmak," he added with a smile, "but certainly one of the oldest and wisest. She was devastated at losing Neval."

"Her host?" When Jacob nodded, Cassie asked, "What happened?"

"Staff weapon blast. We're lucky we were able to save Aine."

"Just like Mom." She wondered how she could sound so calm about it. Shock, her mother would have said. If she weren't lying in the infirmary, dying...

The calm vanished and she sucked in a short, hard breath as her hands stated to shake.

"When can we go?"

*****

It was hard not to see Cassie as the little girl who'd painted sad pictures and refused to eat hot dogs in buns, especially when she gripped Sam's hand so tight, just as she'd done all those years ago.

Please don't go.

Their footsteps echoed as they stepped off the elevator and started toward the gate room.

"I'm scared."

The soft-spoken words were almost too much for Sam to take. "You don't have to do this. You know that, right? You know I'll take care of this."

"I know. But I do have to do this. For Mom. For you."

The gate room door loomed in front of them and they stopped, staring at it in silence.

"Sam?"

"What, Cassie?"

"Will you... will you stay with me, when it happens?"

Sam pulled Cassie close, hiding her face in Cassie's hair. "Of course." She had no idea how long they stood there before Cassie gently pulled away.

Smiling, Cassie reached up and brushed her fingers across Sam's face, wiping away the tears there. "We're very brave, remember?"

Sam wished she was. But she smiled back, kissing Cassie on the forehead. "I remember."

"I love you, Sam."

Faith had always seemed a small uncertain thing in the face of the empirical evidence and logical deductions that drove Sam's every thought and action until she found herself drawn back to a small, scared girl - against all logic, against orders, against everything that made Sam Carter who she thought she was.

"I love you, too."

*****

Standing in the control room, George Hammond fought a dizzying wave of deja vu, as the medics, silhouetted against the blue shimmer of the event horizon, collapsed the legs of the gurney bearing Janet Fraiser. Off to one side, Sam stood with Cassie, their fingers still tightly entwined, while the rest of SG-1 and Jacob hovered nearby.

He wondered again if maybe it was time to let this all go.

Below, Jack put his hand on Cassie's shoulder and she slowly nodded her head. Jack exchanged a look with Sam and turned away, and Daniel, Teal'c and Jacob followed him to the gurney.

Hammond watched as Sam smoothed back Cassie's hair before joining the others. At a nod from Jack, they picked up the gurney and followed Jacob up the ramp, their slow measured steps in perfect synchronicity.

This would change everything, Hammond thought as Cassie started up the ramp after them. But maybe it was time for a change. Maybe this would be something none of them ever expected. Something to give them all the hope that seemed so far away these days.

Jacob vanished through the wormhole, and then SG-1 carried Janet through. When Cassie reached the top of the ramp, she paused, looking up at the control room.

She smiled and waved.

A moment later she was gone.

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Written by: splash_the_cat
Betas: Michelle V. and Cal
Producers: LauraJo & Vicki

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http://chrysalis.janetfraiser.com/