Sense Of
by Vanessa Nichols


Her arms are crossed, fingers biting into opposite forearms. Her feet ache from standing--waiting--and if oxygen were unnecessary she'd hold her breath and count wishes. She exhales slowly, measuredly, and knows she should be used to this, by now. After seven years... she SHOULD be used to it. Hardened, at the very least, to the possibility that this time... this time...

"Never gets any easier, does it, Doctor?"

Glancing up finds General Hammond at her side, features strained, and she offers him a tight look in return. "No, Sir."

The conversation dies swiftly, suffocated by a vacuum of nothing more needing to be said. They both face the window, movements synchronising even further when the telltale vibration starts. As chevrons start to glow, and the Stargate starts to churn, Sergeant Davis' voice rises from her left.

"Incoming wormhole," she resists a faint and swiftly passing urge to murmur 'duh' as the device locks and shudders and disgorges a horizontal waterfall. The iris slams shut. "Receiving IDC, Sir. It's SG5."

"Open the iris," comes the routine enough reply from the General, but she's no longer listening. Or paying attention. Or even registering the General's existence on the same planet as herself. Instead she's running for the embarkation room, almost braining Siler on the stairs as she trips and collides into him mere seconds before the ground would have caught her. Her mind is processing a hundred different injuries and diseases and cataloguing her already depleted stock of morphine.

Jonas has been unconscious for twenty-two days now. Teal'c dead for five.

She sends herself a mental memo: requisition more pethidine.

The Stargate shimmers and slurps and she skids--literally, not figuratively--to a halt just as Major Breamer appears at the top of the ramp, gun drawn. She holds her breath and considers taking up a religion so she'd know exactly WHO to pray to. She's met so many gods now; it's a little confusing.

"Stand down!" comes the barked order from above--General Hammond--and the SFs around her do exactly that. The Stargate bulges again and she lets that action distract her from noticing that Major Breamer hasn't. Stood down, that is.

Three figures emerge, two joined by hand to arm and stumbling, the third--Colonel Schroedel--armed like the Major before him. A final wormhole burp and Captains Leary and Arturo complete the sextet.

She mounts the base of the ramp frantically, desperate to reach Sam and Colonel O'Neill--the shaken and conjoined twins--only to find a P90 suddenly jabbing into her abdomen.

"Stay back."

Surprised into compliance, she actually follows the command for a second, body rocking back a half-step. Then medicine and concern and friendship and a thousand other thoughts push Major Breamer's request--and P90--aside and she steps forward again.

The P90 returns to her stomach, this time prodding hard enough--she knows--to cause a bruise. She glares. So does Breamer.

"STAY," he enunciates, "back."

The look in his eyes is more than enough--weapon be damned--for her to send herself another memo, scheduling a series of psych eval's for the Major. Her mouth opens to let loose with a few choice words and a command of her own but, before she can, General Hammond is at her back.

"SG5--stand down!"

The Major doesn't move. Nor, she realises suddenly, does the rest of the team who are also standing there with weapons raised. A Berretta is in Arturo's right grip, her left arm dangling unnaturally. Broken, she thinks quickly. P90's are in the Colonel and Leary's hands. A Mexican stand off, her mind blinks stupidly, in Colorado?

"Colonel Schroedel," starts the General, "tell your team--"

"No can do, General," comes the bitten off reply.

She focuses on Sam and Colonel O'Neill as Colonel Schroedel and the General begin, well, arguing. O'Neill's eyes are half-closed, rimmed with something that looks suspiciously like dried blood. His hand is clamped so firmly around Sam's forearm that she can actually see his knuckles whitening.

Sam, on the other hand, looks--physically--fine. Eyes a little wide, maybe, body a touch stiff. Of course, while Colonel O'Neill is standing with his form turned towards Sam's, head tilted slightly in her direction and features intense with concentration, Sam's looking around with a somewhat curious look on her face. As if looking for something, or someone, but not exactly sure what or who she's actually looking for.

Sam takes a step forward, Colonel O'Neill mimicking the action so swiftly that for a moment she wonders if they'd choreographed it. She follows their routine and steps forward herself, ignoring the P90 in her stomach even as her peripheral vision sees the Major's finger tightening near the trigger.

Oh yeah, definitely time for a psych eval, buster.

She hears an echo of safety's being clicked off and notes that, as the rest of SG5 draws in closer around Sam and Colonel O'Neill, the SFs are once again readying their own weapons.

"With all due respect, Sir," Colonel Schroedel again, "you can court-martial me all you like. No one is touching these two."

She shifts her torso so that her face is visible to the Colonel. "Mark," she implores, softening her voice and deliberately using his name, "they're hurt. Let me help them. The danger's over now and--"

"This isn't about danger, Doc," Schroedel snaps back without even looking at her, his gaze aggressively panning around the room. "And no one--not even you--is touching them."

The General starts barking, threatening and shouting again and she watches Sam start to sway a little. Her leg, she diagnoses, noting for the first time that the black on her friend's torn fatigues is not dirt. She wants to step forward again but is disinclined towards being skewered by a gun barrel.

Doors scrape open, feet pound on concrete. General Hammond again: "SG5, you WILL stand down!"

None of SG5 respond. Their weapons, tightly held, are answer enough by now.

Darts whirr, breaking the air, peppering the renegade team who are supposed to be heroes, who have brought Colonel O'Neill and Sam home after too long an absence. Fallen heroes, she amends, as the Colonel, the Major, and the two Captains sink to their knees reluctantly, guns clanging as they hit the metal ramp and fall from suddenly drugged fingers.

She slips towards a still swaying Sam, not at all convinced that Colonel O'Neill's grip on her arm will keep her friend upright. Her fingers brush ragged cloth and at the back of her mind it occurs to her that neither Sam, nor Colonel O'Neill, have said anything. At all. She puts her hand to Sam's shoulder.

And Sam SCREAMS. A bloodcurdling wail that makes her flinch even as Colonel O'Neill lashes out, his free arm careening into her face and sending her flying. Siler's not there to break her fall this time and she hits the ramp hard enough to make her jaw snap shut. She's bitten her tongue and the pain is excruciating but all she can do is slap her hands over her ears as Sam shatters her eardrums.

Eyes horrifically wide, she slants her gaze to the side. Colonel Schroedel is fading fast, eyes glazed as he watches her.

"Tol' ya not to tuch..."

And whatever else the Colonel had planned to say is slurred into oblivion.



She tries to tell herself that, as her infirmary swells towards capacity, it's going to get better. What 'it' IS, she's not entirely sure, but she knows that it'll be better. Soon.

"It has to be," she mutters under her breath and one of her nurses looks at her quizzically, voice harried with the pressure of the moment.


She shakes her head. "Nothing," she dismisses, turning back to the unconscious Arturo before her. The Captain's left arm is not broken, as she'd first thought, but rather dislocated at the shoulder. Popped out by an incredible amount of force she deduces as the nurse at her side cuts the fatigues from Arturo's body, baring a bruised and distorted limb.

She pokes and prods the dislocation carefully, wary of causing more pain despite Arturo's unconsciousness. God knows the sedatives pumped into SG5 won't last forever.

"Get this x-rayed immediately. If we're lucky..." she doesn't finish the sentence as the nurse--Frice, Annie Frice, Lieutenant--begins nodding. With quick, practised motions Frice raises the metal sides to the bed and motions for the SFs standing guard over Arturo to grab a rail each. As she steps back out of the way she watches as, under Frice's directions, the SFs wheel the stretcher out of the room.

One down...

For a brief, brief moment she just stands there, looking. Searching, perhaps. Captain Leary, the team's medic, is by far the best of the lot. A handful of cuts and bruises; all extremely superficial. If it weren't for the sedatives pumped into his system, he'd no doubt be in the commissary by now, enjoying a post-mission snack. Instead he sleeps the sleep of the drugged, another nurse routinely checking his vitals and his two SFs doing their best to stay out of everyone else's way.

Breamer and Schroedel are bruised, a little battered, and she has a sneaking suspicion that Schroedel's wrist is sprained. There's swelling there, and some redness--maybe twisted? She only glanced at it when the SFs wheeled his stretcher into the room and she adds to her mental paperwork by sending herself another memo: examine, more closely, Schroedel's wrist.

Breamer has, it was discovered, a scratch on his upper back, the petering end bisecting his left shoulder blade. Before reaching the blade, however, the cut is a touch deep. Already she can see Lieutenant Hodge butterflying that section and gauzing the rest. She nods approvingly, even though Hodge isn't looking anywhere near her, and prepares herself to rejoin the fray. Doctor Warner could use a hand.

Memo to self: call Cassie and ask her to take the ground beef out of the freezer. She's planning hamburgers for dinner.

Her elbow aches as she threads her way across the bustling infirmary, the limb still resonating from its collision with the side of the ramp. Her jaw, she knows, is already purpling with a spectacular bruise. Her tongue, thankfully, has stopped hurting for the most part though earlier, just after her 'fall', she had tasted blood in the back of her throat.

Warner's working over Sam. Like SG5, Sam and Colonel O'Neill were darted in the embarkation room as well, the General having little choice but to order the act when Sam refused to stop screaming--screaming, she thinks with a morbid chuckle, more like CATERWAULING--and Colonel O'Neill broke two SFs arms. They'd made the 'mistake' of coming within arms reach of Sam and himself.

She halts just beside Warner, watching as he pokes and prods her friend. The doctor looks up at her approach, nodding towards the patient. "Very little to report," he summarises for her. "Her upper arm's bruised--nothing that won't fade after a day or two--" he indicates the limb that Colonel O'Neill had gripped so very, very tightly, "--and she has a knife wound on her right thigh. Recent--probably only a few hours old."

She leans over and edges back the tourniquet that's covering said wound on Sam's leg. Blood wells and the flesh is torn, jagged. Hamburger. She wrinkles her nose as she replaces the gauze.

"Surgery?" she asks, and Warner nods.

"OR's prepping now. I don't think the femoral's been nicked, thank god--not enough blood--but it'd have to have come close. She's probably lost about one, two units since it happened."

She does the math and frowns. "That's all?"

Warner nods again. "I think the knife was in there for awhile. Plugging the hole, sotospeak."

She winces and lets Warner turn away from their conversation.

Turning away herself, she looks across the room to where Colonels O'Neill and Schroedel lie side by side. Forcing a path through the SFs and nurses she stands between the two beds. Colonel Schroedel wins the unofficial contest and she faces his stretcher first. Carefully she lifts the suspect wrist, probing the reddened flesh. Twisted, she affirms after a study. She captures the attention of Hodge, who has finished treating Breamer's cut, and waves her over.

"Ace bandage," she orders and Hodge nods.


A brisk heel spin and now it's Colonel O'Neill who receives her attention. Doctor Warner has already done a preliminary examination, she discovers, flicking through the chart that's been left on the edge of the stretcher. No visible wounds or bruising. Her gaze flicks up to the Colonel's eyes, the rusted rims causing her to frown. She scans Warner's report further and finds 'no signs of trauma' jotted in medical shorthand.

Her frown deepens and she replaces the chart on the bed. Grabbing a penlight and a fresh glove, she shuffles herself between the stretcher and one of the Colonel's guarding SFs. Definitely blood, she sees, brushing a fingertip over one of the Colonel's closed eyes. Dried flakes cling to her fingers and she rubs her thumb and forefinger together thoughtfully.

Leaning forward again she gently prises the Colonel's eyelids apart, flashing the penlight across the ball. She's no ophthalmologist but she's pretty sure that Doctor Warner's initial diagnosis is correct. Blood around the eyes, she repeats to herself, but no wounds or trauma.

The mind backflips as to how that can be. Looking up, she spies a tray on the opposite side of the bed and she snaps her fingers towards the SF closest to it.


The SF looks at her dumbly for a moment, and she opens her mouth to repeat the request, but then comprehension slips across his face. Hurriedly he leans over, selecting a slide and passing it to her. She separates the two glass plates and with a steady hand, places a collection of flakes on one of them.

Hodge nudges her accidentally as she finishes strapping Schroedel's wrist and she attracts the nurse's attention once again. "Get this to the lab, stat."

"Yes'm," Hodge nods, taking the sample and weaving a way out of the room.

She watches her go, the nurse sidestepping two wheelchaired SFs as she breaches the doorway. Pursing her lips, she steps forward to meet them, seeing--from her peripheral vision--Warner direct Sam's stretcher out of the room. Surgery, she recalls, and then busies herself with the job of casting broken arms. She dictates another mental memo, reminding herself to thank Colonel O'Neill for at least making the breaks clean.

By the time she's finished the infirmary has more or less calmed down. Breamer, Schroedel and Leary are sleeping off the sedatives still, their SFs grouped companionably nearby. The freshly casted SFs are being ushered into beds at the other end of the infirmary--she'll release them shortly, when the plaster has finished drying. Sam's still gone, she notes, but by now the Major should be in post-op. From Warner's brief summary earlier, she anticipates there being no problems.

O'Neill's still unconscious as well, his SFs in place. She heads towards a nearby phone, calling down to the lab. Results aren't back yet--which, to tell the truth, she'd expected as much--so she just asks them to hurry and hangs up. Her mental paperwork is shuffled quickly and she's thinking about calling the OR--to check on Sam--and Cassie--the meat still needs defrosting--when Arturo is stretchered back into the room and placed beside Colonel O'Neill.

Standard dislocation, comes the x-ray result--if popping one's arm out of a shoulder can be called 'standard'--so she garners the assistance of an SF and Frice--who has returned with Arturo--to grab the ends of a bedsheet. In no time at all the injury is 'fixed'. She unwinds the sheet from Arturo's torso and gestures for Frice to finish up. She has reports to start writing and a daughter to call. Suddenly, she's starving.

"No... oh, no, no..."

The mumbled negative surprises her initially, until her gaze drops to Arturo. The Captain is half-awake, eyes glassy, and she leans closer.

"Captain Arturo, can you hear me?" Her penlight materialises instinctively into her grip and she flashes the light across the Captain's vision. "You're in the infirmary--we've fixed your shoulder."

"Sed'tives..." slurs the Captain and she nods.

"That's right, we sedated you." She pauses. "Do you remember what happened?"

The Captain licks her lips, head lolling on the pillow, but does not look at her. Instead her gaze remains distant, focused at a point behind her. "No sed'tives... bad... no, no, no..."

She frowns and reaches down to grasp the woman's wrist, finding her pulse. "Captain Arturo..." she starts again, not at all convinced that the Captain's completely cognisant.

"No..." breathes out Arturo, eyes blinking ever so slowly, "bad... sed'tives bad... shouldn't have..."

She watches the Captain succumb once more to the drugs in her system, eyes sliding shut, half-formed words fading away. With a fresh frown firmly in place she straightens, snapping off the penlight. Sedatives bad? For a woman who should've been in considerable pain--that shoulder wasn't tapped by a feather--a negative comment towards pain relief strikes her as odd. Very odd.

She turns to leave and finds herself staring at Colonel O'Neill's sleeping form rather absently. She still has to make her daily call to the Academy Hospital, to check on Jonas' progress. Or, rather, lack thereof. More thoughts, her mental memo's, flicker across her mind. Dinner. Sam.

She thinks about Sam's leg wound. About her flyaway, reactionary, description: hamburger. Her stomach churns, appetite dissipating.

Forget the ground beef, she thinks, Cassie can order them a pizza.



Afternoon segues into evening as she grabs a coffee in the Commissary. Colonel O'Neill's labs provide interesting reading material and she gnaws on a stirrer thoughtfully. The blood is Sam's, but old. A few days AT LEAST. However it got on his skin--and she has no ready answer for THAT question--it's been there for awhile.

She closes his file and stares into her coffee cup blindly.

"Doctor Fraiser to the infirmary. Doctor Fraiser to the infirmary."

Training has her on her feet and out the door before the page has even finished echoing around the Base; airmen and personnel steering clear as she makes her way through the warren of hallways.

The infirmary is bustling once again and she spies Doctor Warner almost immediately. He's standing beside Sam's stretcher, writing in her chart, and she moves to his side, assuming the page to have been at his request.

"How is she?"

Warner glances up briefly, noting her arrival, and folds the chart to his chest. "Major Carter will be fine. Minimal damage despite appearances--with physical therapy, I'd estimate medical clearance within a month."

She releases fears she hadn't even realised she'd been holding onto and smiles. "That's good."

"It's better than good," Doctor Warner corrects her, "that knife could have done a LOT more damage. An inch to the right and the femoral would have been severed--"

She nods with the appropriate amount of gravity but inside she's doing cartwheels. Yay, Sam!

"--but Major Carter isn't why you were paged."

She faces Warner, a frown slipping into place. "What is it?"

Depositing Sam's chart on the edge of the bed, Warner leads her towards the other side of the infirmary. "Colonel Schroedel awoke a couple of minutes ago--he was quite insistent that he speak with you immediately."

She nods as they approach the Colonel's bed, the airman avidly staring across the room. His gaze snaps to hers, however, when she cuts across his line of sight and she smiles as she moves to his side.

"How're you feeling, Colonel?" she starts with a friendly, conversational tone.

"Colonel O'Neill," Schroedel answers, "you sedated him?"

Surprised by the non sequitur, she nods as she retrieves her penlight. "That's right." A brief pause as the light flashes back and forth. "You were all quite agitated earlier... wanna talk abou--"

Schroedel doesn't appear to be listening. "And Major Carter? Where is she?"

She snaps off the penlight and retrieves his chart from the end of the bed. "She's fine. Some minor surgery on her leg--she's recovering now."

"Surgery..." the Colonel repeats slowly, "she's sedated too?"

Sedatives bad.

Captain Arturo's slurred comment from earlier snaps to mind and she frowns as she lowers Schroedel's chart and stares at him. "Yes," she answers measuredly, "she's sedated."


The expletive surprises her as she watches Schroedel scrub his face with the backs of his hands. Her gaze narrows, "is there something about Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter that I should kno--"

The crash causes her to jump and she spins quickly, heart pounding with sudden adrenaline. Two SFs are struggling to their feet, an overturned crash-cart hampering their efforts, and she follows their gaze to where Colonel O'Neill crouches, feral-like, on his stretcher.

"Colone--" Her entreaty and step forward are halted by the feel of fingers enclosing her wrist and she glances back to see Colonel Schroedel shaking his head.

"Don't," he whispers, "tell everyone to keep their distance."

Her brow crinkles but--and she's remembering the Gate room now, and the two broken bones she'd had to cast--she turns back and holds up a hand as the SFs in the room all move towards Colonel O'Neill. "No!" she orders, "stay back!"

The guards freeze reluctantly. "Ma'am..." one of them asks questioningly, warningly.

She glances back at Colonel Schroedel who shakes his head. "Major Carter's sedated?" he asks again and she nods. The Colonel frowns, flicking his gaze between her and Colonel O'Neill. "Empty the room," he advises in the end, "but SILENTLY."

Her eyebrows shoot upwards with incredibly velocity. "What?"

The Colonel's voice is a harsh whisper. "Clear everyone out of here--everyone except Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter--and do it quickly, and quietly."

She stares at him for a long moment, searching his gaze, rolling his suggestions around and around her mind until all she can hear is a jumbled slur. Which, she thinks suddenly, is what this really is. Rambled advice from a man who's just spent the past few hours sleeping off narcotics that could conceivably send an elephant into dreamland.

She turns back, freeing her wrist from Schroedel's grip as she steps towards Colonel O'Neill's stretcher. "Colonel... you're ok... you're safe..."

With a dexterity she would never have ascribed to Colonel O'Neill, the man jumps from his stretcher, landing like a cat, head raised and tilted. The SFs in the room--while not moving any closer--nevertheless draw their weapons with an artless choreography. The sound of multiple safety's clicking off fills the infirmary and O'Neill visibly flinches as he crouches on the floor.

A sudden cry has her gaze flicking to the side, Arturo having just awoken. With her exclaim still echoing, the Captain visibly presses herself into the pillows, a terrified expression drifting over her features as her lips begin to soundlessly move. What the Captain's saying, however, she has no idea.

She takes a step closer to O'Neill; he skitters the same distance away from her. The SFs tense and she holds up her hand again.

"Colonel O'Neill," she starts slowly, cautiously, "Jack... do you know where you are?"

He's listening to something, of THAT she's positive, but she's beginning to think that that something is in no way HER.

"Clear the room, Doc," comes Schroedel's whisper from behind her. She ignores him; stepping forward again. Colonel O'Neill backs away. They repeat this three more times, an SF stepping forward when O'Neill bridges the middle of the room.

"Ma'am," he repeats.

She keeps a restraining hand up. "No!"

O'Neill's agitation is visibly rising; to quote Cass: he's freaking. She keeps up the soft voice, the gentle assurances, determined to break through his panic without the SFs using force.

"You're ok, Colonel, and so's Sam. She's fine now. We took care of her," she steps closer, frustrated when he moves away, "fixed her leg," she's at the end of Arturo's bed now; O'Neill is about three feet from her, "she's sleeping at the moment--behind you--" Schroedel groans but she's only focused on O'Neill as he seems to pause, seems to consider her words, eyes closing, "--that's right," she soothes, taking another step, pleased when he stays still, "she's sleeping, getting better, and when she wakes up she'll be--"

The word 'fine' dies on her lips as Colonel O'Neill lunges backwards. Quicker than she ever thought possible, the Colonel is at the other end of the room. He's half-crouched, half-standing only a foot away from Sam's bed, a gaggle of SFs following his path and raising weapons. The Colonel takes another step, bumping into a trolley and sending its contents flying--his eyes are still closed she realises with surprise--and the noise startles everyone.

In the tiny, so very brief, burst of silence that follows, she hears the faintest whisper from her left. It's Arturo, still mumbling under her breath, and the sotto-voce exposition--constantly looped--confuses her. "He can't hear... he can't hear... he can't hear..."

She refocusses on Colonel O'Neill again.

"It's ok, Colonel," intercedes Warner, taking over, but O'Neill seems to have stopped listening again. He turns in skittish half-circles, eyes closed, head tilted, and when his hip brushes Sam's bed, a collection of voices mesh suddenly.

"That's Major Carter, Colonel..." Warner starts, obviously trying for the same pause she'd experienced when she'd mentioned Sam, but he's shouted out by Schroedel, Leary and Breamer; the latter two having awoken during the Colonel's antics.

"Shut up!"



Even as she identifies these voices, Colonel O'Neill is clambering up onto Sam's bed, her friend's chart crashing to the floor. His hands are palming her body quickly as he crawls over her, and as she steps forward with the rest of the room, she can hear Warner shouting for the Colonel to watch out for Sam's leg. SG5 have gone silent, frighteningly so, and the SFs are shouting for Colonel O'Neill to get down.

Three try to pull him off Sam. All are sent flying as the Colonel fights back, still kneeling above Sam, arms and fists connecting hard with SF bones.

Cacophony fills the room, the chaos rising even further when O'Neill stops swinging for the SFs--who are now keeping out of reach--and starts hitting Sam. SAM! Punching her. Slapping her. Pummelling her. BEATING her. Her eyes widen unbearably as she watches and listens to the sounds of O'Neill's fists hitting her friend's flesh.

She's seen a lot. This is the worst she's ever heard.

There's a gunshot--loud in the sterile room--but the Colonel keeps on hitting. Another gunshot follows and she can only watch as blood starts streaming from the Colonel's upper back. With a groggy, reed-thin voice, Sam wakes from sedation, screaming. SCREAMING. Again.

The Colonel stops, fists uncurling as he presses fingers into her face, tracing Sam's open mouth. With a grunt he pitches forward, covering her, the blood on his back dripping down to stain Sam's bunched sheets. Her friend stops screaming with a suddenness that's horrifying.

Silence fills the infirmary.

It's the second worst thing she's ever heard.



Her hands, which are clasped just beneath her chin as she sits in the briefing room and waits for General Hammond to get off the phone, smell of disinfectant. It's a smell she associates with work--the art of medicine, the act of being a doctor--and she's long forgotten to dislike it. Long forgotten, she realises, til now.

He hit her, she remembers in a daze. Colonel O'Neill HIT Sam; beat her up, pummelled his fists into her flesh, slammed skin and bone into like. Right in front of her very eyes; mimicking all the telemovies about abuse she's ever seen, acting as though Sam were a mortal enemy who needed to be caused as much pain as possible before...

She swallows hard but keeps her hands at her chin, hoping that the toxicity wafting from her flesh will do what it has always done. Hoping it will replace the stench of horror, of disgust, of pain. She's a doctor, a professional, and her emotions and feelings are not needed right now.

General Hammond exits his office with a glare on his features and a tenseness that radiates from every line and curve of his body. "Tell me, Doctor, that Colonel O'Neill was NOT just shot in the back, in an INFIRMARY, as he struck a fellow officer repeatedly."

She had stood automatically at the General's entrance and she slips on the veneer of professionalism with disturbing ease. "The Colonel's in surgery as we speak--two GSW's to the upper right back. Doctor Warner's operating."

It's not the answer the General wanted, she knows, but if he needed to hear something else, well, then, he should have asked a different question.

"And Major Carter?"

She looks to her notes even though the information is seared across her mind. "Bruises, mainly, split upper lip--a couple of the stitches on her leg wound tore open but we've fixed that," she lists in response.

The General sighs and she stares at her notes.

"How did this happen?" comes the baffled question after a moment of brief silence. "WHY did this happen?"

She shakes her head. "I can't tell you that, Sir. Until just now, Colonel O'Neill had shown no evidence of being anything other than extremely protective of Major Carter. His earlier violence in the Gate room had been defensive; attacking Major Carter was completely unexpecte--"

"No," comes a foreign voice from behind her and she turns, as the General looks up, to see Colonel Schroedel standing at the briefing room door, "it wasn't."

She blinks with surprise at the statement and the Colonel's gaze slides from hers to General Hammond's.

"Permission to join this briefing, Sir?"

"If you can explain Colonel O'Neill's actions, son," the General huffs, "then you'd sure as hell better do so."

The Colonel nods, "yes, Sir," and steps into the room, his two SFs following. She turns back to the table and sits again, the General taking his customary chair at the head, Colonel Schroedel seating himself opposite her. His SFs stand behind him, stoically.

"Why did Colonel O'Neill attack Major Carter?" she asks promptly, seeing the General nod his agreement to the question out of the corner of her eye.

"Simply put, Doc," the Colonel answers, "he couldn't hear her."

For the second time, in as many hours, the Colonel's words recall something Captain Arturo had said: he can't hear, he can't hear, he can't hear. She dismisses the memory.

"Couldn't hear her?" the General repeats, confused.

Schroedel nods, "yes, Sir," and then looks to her again, "we made the same mistake, Doc, on P8T449. With sedating them, I mean."

She shakes her head at the seeming subject change--sedatives bad--and focuses on Schroedel's first answer. "I don't understand, Colonel. What do you mean 'he couldn't hear her'? That makes no sense! Allows no reason whatsoever for Colonel O'Neill to attack Major Carter. He could see that--"

Now it's the Colonel's turn to blink with surprise. "No he couldn't."

"Couldn't what?"

"See her."

The General leans forward and interrupts the by-play. "What are you saying, Colonel?"

"I'm saying," the Colonel answers slowly, gaze once more sliding to hers, "that Colonel O'Neill is blind."

"Blind," she repeats.

"Yes," confirms Schroedel, "and Major Carter is deaf," a quick pause and disbelieving head shake, as if he can't believe they don't already know this, "surely their test results, or whatever, have said so?"

General Hammond, who's currently sporting eyebrows somewhere between the top and back of his head, turns to her. "Doctor?"

She's flicking through her notes and charts and files rapidly but, as she already knows, "there's nothing in their results, General," she answers, "to suggest that Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter are impaired in such a way."

The General spins back towards Schroedel. "Colonel?"

Colonel Schroedel's features are strangely resolute. "Then either your results are wrong, or you haven't run the correct tests."

The implication is offensive and she bristles. The Colonel must realise this because he leans forward, tone urgent.

"Look, I'm not trying to offend you here, Doc. Honest, I'm not. But the facts are--Colonel O'Neill is blind and Major Carter is deaf. In the Gate room, when you touched Carter, she reacted by getting O'Neill's attention, and defense, the only way she now knows how. She screamed."

"But if she can see," General Hammond intercedes, "why scream? Doctor Fraiser wasn't trying to hurt her."

The Colonel's hands--the twisted left bandaged--raise defensibly. "Don't ask me to explain the no-touching thing. Major Carter screamed blue murder whenever someone other than Colonel O'Neill tried to touch her the entire way home. We learnt our lesson the hard way and took it to heart."

"Captain Arturo's shoulder," she comments, and the Colonel nods. "But why not fight back herself, if she can see?"

The Colonel shrugs. "Carter's been pretty much off-balance since we found 'em. Relies on O'Neill a lot for support--walking and the like. Leary said that was normal of sudden hearing loss--the off-balance part--so..." The Colonel shrugs again and, inside, even though she doesn't believe this whole deaf-and-blind thing yet, she's agreeing with the balance diagnosis.

She looks down at the new notes she's been taking since this briefing started--she's got a hell of a lot of question marks jotted down--and frowns. "You said you sedated them, on the planet?"

Schroedel nods. "The first night on the planet--we were concerned about their condition. Because Carter kept screaming when we got close, and Colonel O'Neill kept trying to brain those he could reach, we sedated them. We figured we were helping, you know? Getting them to rest and all. Leary examined them while they were out, pronounced them fine. Barely a scratch on them, though we attributed that to the sarcophagus Ba'al had been using."

She nods in time with General Hammond at that last comment. The Tok'ra operative who'd given them Sam and O'Neill's location a few days ago had told them as much.

"Anyway, Colonel O'Neill came to first. We probably didn't give him enough sedative or something. He was lying next to Carter, could feel her there, you know, but he couldn't hear her 'cause of her being all sedated still. Not to mention his own hearing would have been all muffled 'cause of the drugs in his system. Next thing we knew, he was on top of her, beating the crap out of her. Arturo was the closest--tried to pull him off of Carter--but he sent her flying. Force of the blow popped her arm right out of the shoulder."

She makes a note. "This happened two days ago?" she confirms.

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Why didn't you fix her shoulder? The dislocation was clean."

"Arturo didn't want nobody touching her arm--couldn't really blame her--O'Neill wasn't gentle or anything." Schroedel explains. "We tried to talk her round but short of using sedatives--and we weren't going to go near that barrel of fish again--we had no choice but to leave it up to her."

General Hammond interrupts again. "What happened to Major Carter--you said O'Neill was 'beating her'?"

The Colonel nods. "Yes, Sir. Kept hitting her--totally ignoring us, except to push us away--until she woke up screaming. Most godawful scream I've ever heard too, but as soon as she started up, he stopped. After awhile, she stopped as well. We left 'em be, for the most part, after that."

There's so much to the Colonel's story that doesn't make sense that she finds it hard to pick her next question. In the end, under no desire to be offended again, she tries for a measure of diplomacy. "You said they were fine when you found them--healthy?" The Colonel nods. "And that this would have been because of the sarcophagus?"

"Yes, Ma'am. The Tok'ra insurrection was in its final hours when we arrived on the planet. Makare led us straight to where they'd found Carter and O'Neill."

"And where were they?" queries the General.

"Ba'al's chambers. We saw Carter first--she was sitting beside the sarcophagus. Breamer went to her but as soon he made contact she went off."

"Where was Colonel O'Neill?" she asks.

"In the sarcophagus. When Carter started yelling, he popped up out of it like she was his personal alarm clock or something."

She makes a note. "So when did O'Neill lose his sight?" She tries really, really hard not too put air-quotes around those last three words.

"It was already gone, Doc."

She lays her pen down at that and folds her hands together across her pad. "But you just said he was in the sarcophagus when you found him."

"Yes, Ma'am."

She points out the flaw in his story with a surprising lack of I-told-you-so-itis. "Then the sarcophagus would have healed his eyesight."

"No, Ma'am."

She sighs silently--stalemate?--and lets the General intercede. "Did either Colonel O'Neill or Major Carter talk to you on '449? Explain what had happened to them?"

Schroedel shakes his head. "No, Sir. We tried questioning them but they were unresponsive."

"How unresponsive?" she demands.

"The Colonel grunted sometimes, Carter screamed a lot. That was basically the extent of their conversational skills."

"Did they speak to each other?"

The Colonel shakes his head and she knows--she KNOWS--he's resisting an eye-roll. "Being that the Major couldn't hear, and the Colonel couldn't see, their language was pretty much reduced to touch. Carter kept the Colonel constantly within sight and he made sure he was always close enough to hear her."

"Hear her screaming," clarifies the General.

"And breathing," Schroedel adds, turning back to her. "That's why I advised you to empty the infirmary. If there'd been silence--if he'd been able to hear her breathing--then there's the possibility the attack could have been avoided."

A remote possibility, she thinks, recalling his earlier statement about how O'Neill had reacted to Carter being sedated on the planet. "Major Carter's blood was found around Colonel O'Neill's eyes--" she starts and Schroedel blinks.

"That was Carter's blood?" he asks in surprise, and she nods. "Wow--I mean--I don't know. The blood was there when we first found them--Leary figured it must've had something to do with him going blind--" a quick pause, "CARTER's blood?"

She traces over her question-mark beside the eye-blood notation until the pen's almost going through the paper. Next? "What about the knife wound to Major Carter's leg?"

"We were on our final leg to the Stargate. Breamer tripped and bumped Carter. The Colonel freaked and tried to push him away. A scuffle of sorts broke out, during which Carter fell and bumped her head and got a little dazed. O'Neill grabbed a hold of Breamer's knife, cut the Major's shoulder to get him to back off, and then gave the knife to Carter."

She translates 'gave the knife to Carter' to fit with the medical evidence and winces. Pushing past that automatic response, she asks a question on Warner's behalf. "How long was the knife in her leg for?"

Schroedel raises his right hand, running fingers through stubby, blond hair. "Um, Colonel O'Neill took it out at the Stargate so... about three hours, I guess."

"Major Carter walked for three hours with a knife IN her leg?" General Hammond interjects, voice riddled with disbelief.

The Colonel grimaces, "walked, limped--none of us felt like a beating and neither she, nor the Colonel, seemed to care."

"General, Sir?"

The introduction of a new voice causes them all to turn towards the doorway, Walter Davis' features apologetic as he interrupts the meeting.

"Yes, Sergeant?"

"The Joint-Chief's on the phone, Sir. He says it's urgent."

The General nods. "I'll take it in my office, Sergeant. Dismissed."

Standing, Hammond frowns at both of them. "Colonel, we'll debrief your mission in full as soon as the rest of your team are cleared from the infirmary."

"Yes, Sir."

The General turns to her but she's already on her feet. "I'll order more tests for Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter," she promises, anticipating his request.

The General nods sharply and then disappears into his office, Schroedel excusing himself a moment later with similar swiftness. Left in the briefing room, she stares at her notes and question-marks and files and charts. Deaf, she thinks. Blind.


She drifts towards the phone at the back of the room absently. It rings seven times before a breathless voice answers.


"Cass, it's Mom."


She nods. "Hey." A brief pause as she reshuffles her mental paperwork. "Listen, I won't be home for dinner, hon, so you go ahead and order in--I'll fix you up when I get home."

She can see Cassie nodding, phone cord twining around teenage fingers as pizza toppings flicker through her mind. "Ok." Another pause, this time at Cassie's discretion. "Mom--is everyone ok?"

Her eyes blink shut for a moment and she can smell disinfectant again. Her emotions sterilise. "No, sweetie," she answers calmly, "they're not."



It's been thirty-nine hours and twenty-eight minutes since her initial meeting with General Hammond and she's still no closer to disproving Colonel Schroedel's declaration of sense-impairment.

Of course, she's no closer to medically PROVING it either.

"Doctor Fraiser?"

Looking up, she accepts the file from Frice tiredly, murmuring thanks under her breath. Flicking through, she studies the latest results until the letters and numbers start to swirl together; optical illusions floating before her eyes.

The illusion, she knows, is thinking that these results can help.

She closes the file, sighs, and decides to go for a walk. Maybe some fresh air will help.

The surface is busy, NORAD personnel coming and going, the sun coating the mountain with light and heat. She squints into the glare and tugs at her shirt collar as she walks towards one of the fences. Standing there, her fingers laced through the chains, she watches her little corner of the world. People, cars, trees, birds, asphalt, buildings, rocks, fences--everywhere she looks, there's something to see. A jeep backfires, a horn sounds. Birds screech and there's the muffled drone of car engines; soldiers talk in low voices and she's hearing a hundred different sounds at any given moment.

She's seeing and hearing life, and it's wonderful, but beneath her feet, several miles down, Sam Carter is screaming her lungs out and Colonel O'Neill is straining to get free of his restraints.

Memo to self: get your ass back down there and HELP them.

Her hands tighten on the fence as she answers back, "how?"

Sam and O'Neill are in perfect health. She's had an ophthalmologist brought in to examine Colonel O'Neill's eyes and an otologist to study Sam's ears. Both gave similar findings, stating unequivocally that there is nothing wrong with their patients. No damage to O'Neill's eyes, no infection in Sam's ears. They're completely and utterly healthy; as hale as can be.

Except for the gunshot and knife wounds, that is.

And the fact that O'Neill can't see a damn thing nor Sam hear a word uttered.

But, hey, apart from THAT they're a-ok.

"Doctor Fraiser, Ma'am?"

She looks over her shoulder to see a Lieutenant approaching. "Yes?"

"General Hammond's asking for you."

Nodding, she releases the fence. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

The General's actually standing there, waiting for her, when she gets off the lift. She falls in at his side automatically, and together they make their way through the Base. Naturally, they're going to see Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter, so she wastes no time in bringing the General up to date.

"There's absolutely no sign of infection, disease, damage or injury to either Colonel O'Neill's eyesight or Major Carter's hearing," she summarises.

The General nods to passing airmen absently as they walk. "So Colonel Schroedel is wrong?"

"I can't say that, Sir," she answers, shaking her head.

"Why not?"

She sighs as they pause in the hallway. The doors to Colonel O'Neill's room are to her left. Sam's to her right. "Because, Sir, despite all the medical evidence stating they're in perfect otological and optical health, the Colonel appears to be completely blind, and the Major completely deaf."

General Hammond looks at her with confusion and irritation. "Doctor, you just said there's nothing WRONG with them."

"There isn't."

"So why can't--"

She cuts him off, too tired to play the circle game again. God knows she's dizzy enough already. "At the moment my only theory--and it IS just a theory, Sir--is that these... impairments... are psychological."

"Psychological," the General repeats, dubious, and she nods.

"Yes, Sir."

There are at least a dozen 'how' and 'why' themed questions perched on the tip of General Hammond's tongue. And she knows this because her head is full of them too. Thankfully, however, the General spares her an echo effect and winces instead as Sam lets loose with another scream. It's muffled, through the concrete and steel, but still audible, and she closes her eyes at the hoarse, caustic tone to her friend's voice.

Her nurses have started wearing earplugs; she's considering following suit.

"Can't you..."

She anticipates the rest of the question and answers with a head shake. "Sedation is not a solution, Sir," a wry look passes over her features, "no matter what comfort it might offer her AND us."

He sighs. "Yes, yes, of course." A pause while they listen to Sam screaming. "Psychological?" the General repeats.

She shrugs and crosses her arms. "Maybe the Colonel didn't want to see something. Maybe Major Carter couldn't handle hearing herself scream. While there's no evidence of it--thanks to Ba'al's sarcophagus--it's likely the two were extensively tortured. Denying or repressing a sense may have been the only way they could foresee survival."

Sam fades briefly only to start up again with increased vigour. With concern and anger flooding his features, the General strides towards the door that leads to the observation deck above Sam's room and throws it open. "What the hell are they doing to her in there?"

She hurries after him and together they stare down at a restrained Sam. There's an SF in the corner of the room and a nurse seated a little away from the bed, writing on Sam's chart. The General turns to her sharply.

"No one's touching her, Doctor."

"No, Sir."

"Then why is she screaming?"

She sighs helplessly. "I don't know, Sir. With the exception of when O'Neill was," she tries to frame her response tactfully and fails, the memory still too horrifying, "attacking her, she's only ever NOT screamed when around him. In the Gate room, before I approached them, the two were quite... calm."

The General's gaze narrows. "Doctor, are you trying to tell me that two of my officers have become completely dependant upon each other?"

It's her opinion that SG1 has always had dangerous levels of co-dependency; this is just Sam and O'Neill possibly taking that dependency to a fun-filled and exciting new level. She resists, however, the temptation to actually SAY that.

Memo to self: in free time, find cure for sarcasm.

"It's another theory, Sir," she answers reluctantly.

Hammond turns back to look at Sam, frowning heavily. "Test it," he orders eventually.

She looks up. "Sir?"

He's already turned to leave but he pauses and nods towards Sam. "Your theory, Doctor. Test it. Put them in the same room together. If that'll stop Major Carter from screaming and halt the Colonel's attempts to break every restraint we have in this place, then I want it done."

"But, Sir..." she protests, "what if he tries to attack her again?"

The General sighs. "Then we'll know your theory is wrong." With a final look to Sam he opens the door and disappears into the hallway.

She stares after him for a long moment, Sam serenading her jumbled thoughts. Eventually, limbs heavy with dread, she walks to the phone and orders the move.

Memo to self: think up a new theory.

She doesn't get a chance to. In no time at all there's a dozen SFs in Colonel O'Neill's room, his restraints checked and tightened, standard-issue handcuffs adding to the deal. She follows Sam's stretcher reluctantly, fearful anticipation dogging her steps. Sam keeps screaming the entire time and when her stretcher finally breaches the Colonel's doorway, his agitation noticeably increases. The SFs in the rooms tense as O'Neill strains for freedom and it's with extreme apprehension that she orders Sam's stretcher to be placed parallel to his.

There's a collective breath-hold as they wait for Sam to stop screaming and for the Colonel to stop moving. Ten seconds pass, twenty, thirty. She looks over her shoulder to see General Hammond on the observation deck, watching. She turns back, forty, fifty. At one minute six seconds she opens her mouth to order Sam's bed out of the room. It's at that precise moment, of course, that Sam turns her head to the side and sees the Colonel lying there, beside her.

Her scream fades somewhat but no one relaxes. Twenty-nine seconds after that, Sam's voice trails away and silence fills the room. A group exhale breaks it momentarily as SFs and nurses breathe out in relief but the disturbance is momentary.

She looks back and up to General Hammond. He gives her his customary 'good work, Doctor' nod and she sends back her own 'thank you, Sir' nod in response.

Memo to self: belay last memo.

There's a loud ripping sound that causes everyone to jump, gazes flying to Colonel O'Neill's restraints. It's not him, however, who's pulled a limb free. Sam rolls onto her side, left arm extending to bridge the foot or so gap between the two stretchers. The SFs lunge forwards but before they can reach her, she's already started tugging at the Colonel's bed rail, her bed pulling up against his. Metal sides clang together and she lets go only to reach through the rails, her hand finding and gripping O'Neill's.

"Stop," she calls out, halting the SFs, "it's ok."

WHY it's ok, she doesn't quite know, but with the touch of Sam's hand, the Colonel has finally stopped fighting his own restraints. Colonel O'Neill tilts his head to the side, half-closed eyes facing Sam. She returns his 'gaze' diligently and silence once more descends on the room.

She dismisses the excess SFs; the two remaining guards moving to the corner of the room. Looking up again, she sees the General leaving. She should probably follow him.

Hodge takes a seat near the end of the beds, seemingly content to watch over the two officers. She wonders, absently, if the nurse has removed her earplugs yet.

Follow the General, she thinks, yet it's at the Colonel's bedside she stands. A thousand questions are running rampant through her mind and as she tries to sort them out, tries to decide which problem she should seek answers for now, she watches Sam watch O'Neill.

Then she closes her eyes and sighs.

Memo to self: you're very tired.

She leaves. Hammond's on the phone when she gets to his office so she paces the briefing room, overly anxious--though she's not entirely sure WHY--and seriously tired. When the General finally waves her inside she's actually worried that her conversational skills will have been reduced to gibberish.

They're not, thank god, and she and the General discuss--ad nauseam, and to no satisfactory resolution--the situation. Again. She leaves his office feeling not only tired, but drained. Utterly exhausted.

"Go home, Doctor," the General tells her kindly as he watches her go, "get some rest."

She nods her thanks and disappears. In her office, and on auto-pilot, she goes through her end-of-day routines. File this, sign that, requisition whatever. She calls the Academy Hospital and listens to the no-change report on Jonas, then rings Cassie and asks her to take the chicken wings out of the freezer.

Though it's in a different direction, she walks past O'Neill's--excuse her, O'Neill AND Sam's--room on her way out. Hodge and the SFs are still stoically watching the two and she realises, as she steps into the room, that the Colonel's asleep.

Lucky bastard, is the flyaway thought that crosses her mind as she stands beside his bed and stares down at him and Sam.

"HELL," someone shouts, hoarsely, and even as she watches Sam's lips move, and feels her body jump with sudden adrenaline, it takes a moment for the word to sink in.

"Hell?" she repeats dumbly, absently waving back the SFs who have leaped to attention, and deep down a little voice is dictating yet another memo. That voice, its memo, is saying that she should be a lot more surprised by this sudden attempt at speech, and a lot more 'oh my god, Sam, you spoke! can you hear me?'.

Memo to self, she replies: too tired.

Besides, Sam's not looking at her anyway. Doesn't even seem to realise that she's there. Sam's in a world of her very own. She's looking at Colonel O'Neill, watching him sleep, and seemingly engrossed with the very simple action of holding his hand.

Then Sam yells again, without warning, and there's a surprising gentleness to her voice, a reverence that belies the volume and roughness.

"HELL," a soft sigh, "IS VERY PRETTY."

It's an absurd thing to say; weirder still if it's actually some kind of description of Colonel O'Neill. So she doesn't understand the comment at all. Hell--to tell the truth--she doesn't understand ANY of this. A lump settles in her throat and the response that wells is, 'no, Sam, hell is NOT pretty'.

Hell is you being bruised and battered; it's the Colonel having GSW's to the upper back. Hell is what the two of you have been through, and what you're still going through. It's watching a Colonel and a Major in the United States Air Force remove--deny--repress--two of their senses so that they have more room for each other.

Hell is UGLY, and there's not a goddamn pretty thing about watching you hold Colonel O'Neill's hand as he uses his other to beat you.

But she doesn't say that. There's no point in saying that.

Sam's not listening.

So she clears her throat; watches Sam watch O'Neill.

"Yes," she lies to the vacuum, "it is."


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