by cgb

She was on her back staring up at the light. It was an odd shape, irregular in outline. She couldn't identify its source.

She blinked. Maybe it was the sun filtering in through her bedroom window? This made sense. This meant she was home and, quite sensibly, in bed. But she was cold, and her head hurt, so that couldn’t be right.

Something small and light fell into her eye. She blinked rapidly. It was rough and gritty beneath her fingertips - sand, or possibly dirt. The tears washed it away.

She decided she should sit up. She tried to move her arm and pain shot up her left side, from her chest to her neck. She'd broken something. She'd probably broken a few things. And her head hurt - really hurt. She found it difficult to focus, difficult to remember things, important things she knew she should remember.

And maybe that was why the big bright blur above her wasn't getting any clearer.

She could hear voices.

Yes, she was sure of it now - murmured voices, coming from somewhere above her, seeming to emanate from the light.

"I found something!" one of them said.

She strained her ears against the pain in her head. She could hear footsteps, people yelling.

"Get over here!" someone said. It sounded like Colonel O'Neill.

She blinked again and her eyes focused momentarily. The light was shining through a hole in the ground. She had fallen through the earth and was now lying on her back in an underground cavern.

She remembered. She'd wandered off on her own following a magnetic field distortion. She'd expected to find naquadah - or something similar. And this was probably a former mine so she had indeed chased her rabbit down the rabbit hole.

She tried to guess at the distance between the opening and her position. Twenty, thirty feet? Heck of a fall. She was lucky - or she would be if they found her.

She tried to call out, but the pain in her chest stopped her from drawing a deep breath. A stifled cry came from her mouth, it sounded like a whimper.

She closed her eyes again. God, her head hurt.

The light fell on her face. It was warm and somehow comforting. She forced the pain to the furthest corners of her mind and tried to imagine she was Alice lying in the Sun, waiting for someone to wake her and tell her that the rabbit and the rabbit hole were just a dream.

Her mind drifted and she remembered that first summer.


This was a time before. Before Jonas Quinn, before Daniel ascended, before the Russian's found the Stargate and before her father had cancer.

Before Jolinar.

This was a time of Sam Carter - Captain in the USAF and physicist privy to the most extraordinary development in Earth's history since Homosapius stepped out of the cave.

This was a time when it was still new - its slightest movement mesmerising, the way it bent and stretched depending on your perspective.

In those days they did things that were inconceivable to ordinary human beings. She took such events in her stride, the way a good soldier should. She was level headed and grounded - a paragon to those who came after her.

And then there they were, looking out the view port of an alien space ship at a big blue marble they knew to be home. She remembered she'd once dreamed of being an astronaut but the SGC gave her something bigger - something more incredible. Still, this was a sight she never expected to see.

And especially not like this.

They saved the world then and later it became a habit. But this time, this first time, it was unreal, impossible to comprehend.

After that there was a slow Summer and for a while, they pretended to be normal again. The SGC operated like an efficient military base. The CO worried about checks and balances and subordinates saluted in the corridors as she walked by.

The Colonel insisted on a break for the team and Hammond agreed. Teal'C rejoined his family, and O'Neill retreated to cabin in the hills. Daniel had "catching up" to do, as he put it, which left her as the only member of SG1 still on base.

She considered that it wasn't so unreal to them. Hadn't they done it all before?

That first year, when she had time to think about it, she felt alone.

She refused leave and chose, instead, to run isolated wormhole simulations in one of the SGC labs. They never could reproduce wormhole technology without the gate, but it didn’t stop her trying – even on a micro level.

The days were slow and the nights were even slower as she lay on an unfriendly bed, covering herself with a single sheet and watching the hours tick away on the bedside clock.

A week ago they saved the world. A year ago she'd never set foot through a Stargate. When she was a child she said words over and over in her head until they became unreal, words like "linoleum" and "anorak". So she tried repeating the word "stargate" in her head to make the simple word into something abstract - something that suggested the experience of taking a step across the galaxy as if it were that easy.

She'd repeat it to herself until she fell asleep.


Janet visited the lab. "What does it do?" she asked indicating the model on the screen.

"It's a micro-wormhole simulation. We've been trying to reproduce one ever since the expedition to Abydos."

Janet nods and takes in Sam's appearance. "You know, you look a little pale - are you feeling okay?"

Sam's eyes never leave the screen. "I'm fine. I had a rough night - weird dreams."

"Why are you here, Sam? I thought Hammond ordered you to take some time off?"

"He gave us the option - I think the Colonel is going fishing or something."

"You could use a week off, Sam." Her voice has an odd inflection - something Sam can't name.

She didn't want a week off - where would she go? She could spend more time in her home alone, staring at the ceiling in her bedroom and thinking of the galaxies upon galaxies just out of arm's reach. She thought about getting one of those glow in the dark sticker sets, because the dark above her seemed like a lie.

"I'm fine," she repeated. "I have work to do." And she noticed Janet bit her lip instead of answering.


Less than a day later, Hammond ordered her to take a holiday.

"Have you been speaking to Dr Fraiser, Sir?" She suspected the Doctor played a large part in the order.

"That's not important, Captain - what is important, is that you've been on duty for nearly 365 days straight and it's time you took a break."

"Sir, whatever Dr Fraiser told you, I'm fine and I have some projects I've been working on..."

"Have you seen your father lately, Captain?"

Her father. A subject and a person best avoided. She was never sure what to say to her father and her current position only made the situation worse. She hated lying to people.

"He's been busy, Sir."

"Take some time off, Captain. Go see your father, go shopping, go to the beach - just make sure you're not back here for a week."


"Dismissed, Captain."

She hovered in the office for a moment, hoping for a justifiable protest to come to her.

It didn't. "Yes, Sir," she said.


She emptied her locker piling books, shampoo, toothbrush and underwear into a bag along with her laptop. She left everything here now.

Sam turned at the sound of the locker room door opening. Janet appeared unsmiling and hiding her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. She had a way about her that suggested she never apologised so Sam didn't expect one now.

Sam turned her attention back to the locker. "This really wasn't necessary."

"I disagree."

Sam stuffed a hairbrush and a pair of sunglasses into the bag with exaggerated force. She was sulking and it was childish and petulant but she felt betrayed. Janet was supposed to be on her side.

"Is it that bad, Sam?"

She turned around and dumped the bag on the bench. "What are you talking about?"

Janet shrugged. "Well there must be something pretty awful about home - you're going to incredible lengths to avoid being there."

"I have work to do, Janet - there are things I could be doing. And besides, I like being here."

"Which is why you need a break. You can't make the SGC your world, Sam, it's not healthy."

"My world is unusually expanded, don't you think?"

"You need perspective. You need to hang out with real people..."

"How many civilians do you have for friends, Janet?"

"That's not my point - you need to hang out with people who..." Janet paused. Her eyes flicked to the floor and back again, barely noticeable. "You need to be normal for a while."

Sam sighed. She picked up the bag and slung it over her shoulder. "In that case, I'm going home - to my nice normal home and my nice normal bed in a nice normal suburb."

She walked out before Janet could reply.


The nights were warm and still. She sat on the bed staring at the alarm clock. The routine was: set the alarm just before turning out the bedside lamp. The waking hour changed in time with the scheduling of her missions, but it was always there.

She let out a breath. If a break in the routine was liable to affect her sleeping patterns then it was going to have to take a number. She flicked the switch on the lamp and slid beneath the sheets.

That night she dreamt about exploding ships - like fireworks in the night sky. It was a carnival and she was holding cotton candy and her mother told her not to let go of her hand but she did anyway.

And the explosions were frightening but not as frightening as the sea of arms and legs in front of her that didn't belong to her mother.

And everyone was watching the sky, watching the ships burst apart in blazing colour.

When she woke it was daylight.


Daniel called on the second day.

"Hey Sam, how are you?" He sounded too jovial. She was instantly on alert.

"I'm fine."

"Great! Great... Soooo... how's the holiday?"

"Fine. I've done all my laundry, and I'm thinking of re-painting the bathroom."

"Oh really? That's great, that's – very industrious."

She frowned at the phone. "Daniel did Janet tell you to call?"

"Um, no - no, I haven't spoken to Janet."

Daniel was an appalling liar.

"Well, when you report back to Janet be sure to tell her I'm fine and completely normal, okay?"

There was silence on the other end of the line. "Okay," Daniel said, eventually.

She looked out the window. The Sun was reflecting off the metallic roof of the neighbour's garage into her eyes. It was extraordinarily bright outside.


Cassandra was on holidays from school so Sam spent her third day with Cassandra. They sat on the floor with crayons and large rolls of paper drawing pictures of green suited people being chased by yellow-eyed monsters.

"I can't see gray..." Cassandra said eyeing her crayon collection, most of which was scattered across the floor.

Sam looked at the drawing. "Why do you want gray?"

"For Colonel O'Neill."

Sam laughed - and she realised it had been a while since she'd done that.

Cassandra talked about school, about her dog, about the fact that Janet wouldn't let her wear sandals with heels.

"Did your mother tell you what to wear?" She asked Sam.

"Yes, she did."

"Where is your mother now?"

She paused for breath. It never got easy to say. "She died. She was sick."

"Like my mother - my real mother."

"Yeah. Except it happened a long time ago."

"Did you cry?"


She never saw Cassandra cry. Maybe she did at first but by the time they found her she was in shock.

She knew that stage of grief too.

She took a piece of paper and a crayon. "This is a picture of my mother," she said and she began to draw.


Eventually she took to lying in the sun. She didn't read, didn't listen to music. Sometimes she poured a glass of wine and sat for a while watching the sun make its way toward the horizon, but on most days it was just she, lying on a rug, barefoot, staring at the sky.

She watched until the first star appeared, and then she waited until she could identify it, watching for movement - something unexpected.

Some days she tried to imagine space behind the blue sky. Space - a galaxy full of people and aliens and technology unimaginable.

Only a year ago it was all unimaginable.


Eventually Janet called and said she was coming over. "Why?"

"I have a day off - I thought I'd visit."

"Oh - sorry. Of course, Janet, come on over."

She was distrusting. She didn't mean to be. Her relationship with Janet bordered on familial. They share-parented a child. They discussed Cassandra's school grades, her friends and her participation in school events. But it was more than that.

She should have been able to do this.

Janet arrived with wine and fruit and canapes and a bizarre story about her ex-husband suggesting Cassandra was a child of his that Janet had been hiding from him.

Sam shook her head in disbelief and murmured appropriate things, like, "I can see why you left him."

And because Sam had grown used to the evening sun they sat outside on a blanket on the lawn and watched the sun getting lower in the sky as the afternoon wore on.

"I think you were right. I think this holiday has been good for me." It was an apology of sorts.

Janet raised an eyebrow. "Sam, I don't think you actually believe that - but it's good of you to say."

Sam raised her hands. "I just don't do this very well. I've never been the sit around at home and relax type."

"And your job is far from ordinary - I understand, Sam, really I do - but things are going to change, you're going to change, and if you don't practice grounding yourself now it's going to be even more difficult later."

Sam watched the sky. A helicopter passed overhead and she tried to make out the symbols on the side. A commercial charter perhaps. "I thought you had a background in infectious diseases..."

"My background is pretty extensive."


"Hum a few bars and I'll wing it." She smiled. Sam smiled too. "But Sam - this is not psychology - this is plain old good sense. Don't let this 'thing' consume you."

"Janet - it is consuming. This is big - we do things that affect the entire planet - other planets. You have a daughter who was born on the other side of the galaxy - don't you feel different?"

"Well sure, I do. But I still have to pay the gas bill at the end of the day."

Sam ran a hand along the side of her face tucking errant tufts of hair behind her ears. She barely remembered her life before this. Before an armed escort brought standing orders to her front door. Before she opened the envelope. Before she read word after word of Colonel O'Neill's report on the first Stargate mission, not quite believing it.

"Janet, what did you think - the first time you saw it?"

"The Stargate?"


Janet shrugged. "I didn't know what to think. I knew what it was, what it was for, and it was incredible, but I had to actually go through it to really appreciate what it could do."

"And then what did you think?"

Janet paused. "I was surprised at how easy it was. I expected to fall down it - like falling down a rabbit hole, Alice in Wonderland style. I'm still not sure that analogy doesn't apply."

"Or going through the looking glass?"

"That too." Janet turned onto her stomach and leaned on her elbows. She sighed as she did so. "What about you?"

"I expected it to be smaller."

"Really? But you must have known how large it was."

"I did, but my perspective had changed. I worked on models on computer screens. Until I saw it, I expected something smaller - something body sized."

"Hmm..." Janet lifted a hand to her neck and scratched. "Do I have a bight on my neck?"

Sam leaned in close to take a look. A small red welt was forming on Janet's neck just below the hairline. Sam touched it lightly. "A mosquito. I have some repellent inside - if you like I could..."

"No, no - it's fine," Janet said. She turned her head slightly to face Sam. Her eyes were big and brown. Like the shimmering event horizon of the Stargate they drew her in, invited her to step through.

She leaned in closer. She kissed Janet then. She kissed Janet and the world toppled down a wormhole. She came out the other side gasping for air, reminding herself to breath.

And Janet's hand was on her shoulder, pulling her close. She rose onto her knees to meet Sam. Her hands were in Sam's hair, on her neck, sliding down her clavicle and dragging a trail between her breasts.

Sam lifted Janet's thin, shift-life blouse over Janet's head. She slipped Janet's bra from her shoulders. She wanted her, wanted her naked before her, naked and vulnerable and desperate for her touch.

Her mouth lowered to Janet's nipple and she bit it lightly. Janet gasped.

Janet's hands were in the waistband of her shorts...


She blinked. That never happened.

It wasn't like that.

There was a summer and sun and the universe stretched out before her like the night sky. And there was Janet, lazily reflecting on life and its impossibilities in Sam's back yard.

But it wasn't like that.

She had been dozing. The sun was moving in the sky and its warmth was now on her neck. Half an hour, an hour possibly had passed. In her semi-consciousness state the memories and the dreams had mixed and the result was disturbing.

She wondered what it meant.

Her broken body reasserted herself and she was forced to acknowledge her current predicament.

She listened once again for the sound of voices. She heard none.

She took a deep breath, forcing herself to ignore the pain in her chest, and she screamed with all her strength.


There must have been a search party. They must still be looking for her. They wouldn't give up on her.

She closed her eyes and rested, letting the pain from her last effort dissipate.

And then she tried again. "Help!"

She kept trying. It got easier each time as she got used to the pain.

"Major Carter!"

She blinked. Was that real or had she imagined it? Without thinking she called out again. "Help!"

The voice was closer this time. "Major Carter!"

"Down here!" she yelled.

"Major Carter!" And this time she heard footsteps - the sound of someone running. "I heard something!" The voice yelled.

"I'm down here." The pain in her chest was searing, running from her chest, to her neck to the back of her eyes. She hoped to God they found her before she passed out.

And then the voices were right above her and they were all shouting at once. "Hold on Major," a voice said. "We're coming down."

She let out a breath and everything went black.


"How are you feeling?"

Sam took a deep breath. It still hurt, but the painkillers made the pain tolerable. She'd be grounded for a month or two, though, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that.

"I'm fine," she said. "Can't feel a thing."

Janet looked sceptical. "Your grounded until I say otherwise, Major. Don't forget that."

Sam smiled. How could she? "I won't."

"In that case, I guess you can go home - but you'll be flat on your back, Sam, no building a naquadriah reactor in your backyard."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Sam," Janet's face was serious. "I mean it."

Sam held her eyes for a moment. "I know."

She swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her beaten and bruised body protested and she grimaced with pain. Immediately she checked to see whether the Doctor was watching and was relieved to see Janet had her back to her.

"Sam?" Janet turned around.


"Do you remember what you said when they brought you here?"

Sam searched her mind. The time between falling through the Earth and waking up in the SGC was foggy. She remembered being found. She remembered waking up

"No, I don't, she said. "What did I say?"

"You said, 'Alice'."

Sam's breath caught in her chest. "Really?"

"Yeah. At first I thought you were delirious, and then it dawned on me - Alice fell down a rabbit hole, like you. We talked about that years ago - do you remember?"

Sam felt the worlds slipping past her, worlds that fell away as the wormhole drilled into the universe, tunnelling below a surface of strangeness and wonder, enemies and allies.

"I had this dream..."

Janet raised her eyebrows. "Yes?"

Sam wanted to tell her, wanted to take that final step across the threshold and find herself falling down the rabbit hole into the unknown.

"Sam?" Janet was staring at her expectantly.

"It's nothing," Sam said.

Janet shrugged. "Some other time."

"Yeah," Sam said. "Some other time."

She was about to leave when Janet stopped her. "I'll come by later - I'll bring a movie."

"That'd be great."


It was still daylight when she got home and she found herself staring up at the sky. It was deep blue, darkening slowly as the Sun set. She watched until the first star appeared and she went inside. Wonderland lay beyond the sky and Alice lived there now.


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