Disclaimer: Characters are not mine.
Classification: Angst, Sam/Daniel (in a weird way), Sam/Jack (in a weirdly implied way), Sam/Pete (in a twisted way).
Summary: "It all fell apart, Daniel."
Author’s Notes: For the sake of this story, I’m assuming that more time passed between the end of the battle and Daniel’s return than was shown on the show. This fic fits into that missing period of time (which I’m making a few days—must have taken Teal’c a while to get back, after all, right? :D).
Many thanks to my fabulous beta, rowan_d
Broken Touch by annaK
They’re still alive. The clock’s stopped ticking down to infinity and it’s over and the adrenaline stops. Alive. Safe. Over. Distant voices of celebration fill the control room but her grin catches in her throat. Someone’s smiling at her but suddenly she can’t see, can’t process. Too much. Last few days she’s gained something she thought she’d never have and he’s beside her but his face is swimming, reaching out, name torn from his throat as the ground opens up, but too much is gone, all gone and too much of her family is missing and it’s her fault, God, it’s her fault.
Tears blurring *or is it her soul*, legs too weak to hold the guilt upright. Breathing out, heart beating, they’re all going to live and it’s okay, it’s okay, but she’s too tired of losing people. If the mountain had blown, they’d all be together. There would have been fireworks.
Dad, Pete… Daniel. Still out there, maybe, but all too late.
World blinks out. The General breaks her fall.
Blinking open, eyes heavy-lidded from silent nights of solitude, whispered segments of dreams still floating on the breeze. Arms reaching out, holding on, sinking into oblivion, touching talking knowing feeling.
Dreams slipping through cotton sheets and open windows, curtains drawn in spring morning breeze.
“What time is it?”
“Five thirty. You’ve been out for hours.”
Fingers on her cheek, whisper soft like April showers. Touch of lips on her brow and face heavy against the soft edges of a pillowcase. Feathers beneath and feathers in the wind.
“It’s okay. Go back to sleep.”
It was three days after the end of the world when she first woke up. She’d missed the fireworks. Craggy roads and twisted buildings and all she knew was the smell of sulphur in the air and the tang of blood against her tongue. Jack (she’s not sure when she started thinking of him as Jack—maybe when her dog tags started to singe her flesh and the word General tasted worse than the food she’d foraged from the trash) was in the mountain when It hit. She thinks (hopes, prays—though to what she’s not sure) that Teal’c was off-world. Daniel was by her side. She thinks he’s real, remembers confessions at a briefing room table that suggest the fact she can walk through him doesn’t mean she’s hallucinating.
Figured it out without Oma, this time, apparently. Go Danny.
She’s started thinking like Jack now, too. Ponders how long before she puts a bullet to her brain.
She licks the blood from her lip and wonders about the fireworks.
Fingers strong on her hips, grip too tight, blood pounding through her veins and she tries to breathe, tries to scream but the feeling’s too much and she’s over the edge and back to reality far too soon. Pete never used to do angry fucks. She thinks she’s taught him well.
Found him on her doorstep two weeks After, let him in with fingers broken and bleeding from days going through rubble. Searching for what, she’s not sure. Nothing but dust. Colorado Springs is a ghost town, not as decimated as the big cities but with something akin to images of Third World countries that she remembers from days of Television. Days when there was a Third World.
Seems Denver’s pretty much okay. She hopes that means San Diego’s still standing, hopes she hasn’t lost all her family, even though it’s likely it doesn’t matter. Hard to care about those you thought you loved when you’ve got no soul to do it with.
Pete was sweet, made her eat and held her tight, chased away the world with mouth and tongue and body, reminded her what contact felt like. Didn’t care when she screamed another man’s name.
They’re good at pretending. She taught him well.
Daniel tells her to go with Pete when he talks about heading back to Denver (relative civilisation), but the mountain (crater in the ground) still draws her like a magnet, rational mind abandoned in the face of the sudden Need to be close.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. She wants to drown in it.
Someone from the Pentagon shows up eventually (must have found some gas somewhere) and she’s half way up to Cheyenne pretending to still be Colonel Carter when the man beside her starts beeping.
Radiation. She’d have thought about that, Before.
They turn back, and she wonders if she’s already had a lethal dose or if she needs to go back for more.
You’re not the only one who gets to do it this way, Danny.
Last bottle’s dry and she’s wondering if there are any convenience stores that haven’t already been looted when Daniel takes the glass from her hand. Blue eyes like a hundred yesterdays and a sadness bone deep, and she leans towards him and doesn’t fall through.
Choked whisper “Daniel,” and his arms are around her (real, touch, human) and she thinks she’s dreaming.
She wakes up to warm flannel and dried tear tracks, and there’s a heartbeat below her cheek. Warm breath on her forehead and tender hands on her waist.
“You wouldn’t leave. I thought you could use some company.” Eyes crinkling and tone warm and soft and whisper breaths and she’s back in her lab, around a camp fire, and there’s so many questions, so many seconds on the clock but it’s okay, maybe it’s finally okay.
He’s different than he was before; stronger, calmer. Powerful. Ascending and de-ascending and knowing so much of the world, so much more than she could ever grasp. She thinks that would have bugged her, Before, but now is After and she’s finally got someone warm to hold at night, someone who chases away the demons with gentleness and love, and it’s still her Daniel underneath the newly formed (reformed) mortality, still quiet and patient and eyes full of a thousand depths. She drowns in him and she thinks she could maybe find peace.
She’s still waiting for the radiation to kick in.
It never does.
It was three months after the end of the world when she lay her dog tags on the remains of the mountain (her life, her family). Glassy eyed and hand firmly held in his, she said her goodbyes.
She still half expects Jack to come running round the corner, Teal’c a moment behind. But rising from the ashes is for the man at her side, not for them. She thinks she can accept that.
Eyes blinking against bright lights, brain foggy—radiation sickness?—and she reaches out for Daniel and feels a hand in hers. Warm touch, breath, cool sheets beneath, around.
Dog tags burning into her chest.
“We’ve got you, Carter. It’s okay.”
Infirmary lights and the taste of blood on her lip. Warm hazel eyes, grey hair. And, behind, golden brown skin and strong shoulders that have broken a thousand falls.
“Still missing, Carter.” Hand in her own squeezes tighter, Jack’s voice gentle and worried and it’s Not Possible.
Eyes close, mind drifts. Scattered thoughts and broken dreams, and a broken world and sulphur in the air and radiation in her blood and Daniel… Daniel.
“What time is it?”
“Five thirty. You’ve been out for hours.”
“It’s okay. Go back to sleep, Sam.”
“It all fell apart, Daniel.”
“I know.” Hands in her hair so gentle she aches.
“My dad… Pete… you.”
“It’s okay. I’ll be home soon.”