stringertheory: (Blue Deco)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: Picking Up the Pieces
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Sarah Gardner
Word Count: 1208
Categories: character study, drama, angst
Spoilers/Warnings: For Sarah Gardner's arc.
Beta: [profile] [personal profile] fignewton
Summary: She is coming back into herself slowly but surely.

When people asked her what it was like, the closest Sarah could come to explaining it was to say it was like coming out of a very bad fever.

But that wasn’t quite true. A fever didn’t make you do terrible things, didn’t make you lose complete control over your own body. You didn’t recover from a fever only to wake up screaming, clawing your way out of the memories of fever dreams.

No, it wasn’t really like a fever. It wasn’t like a coma either, the way everyone who couldn’t be told the truth believed. It was having a whole other life shoved inside yours, living another life from the inside looking out. It was a nightmare from which you couldn’t wake.

She often stayed up late at night just because she could, the way she had when she first went to university and could set her own schedule. It was those early days of heady freedom that she sought to replicate more than the nights of working until dawn, so caught up in whatever project currently held her interest that she forgot about sleep. It was the freedom to cherish her time that she wanted, not the ability to lose herself in it.

Sometimes she stayed up because she couldn’t sleep.

Sometimes she stayed up because she was afraid to sleep, afraid of the nightmares that would sneak up on her, afraid of waking up to find that freedom had been the dream.

She was free, but she wasn’t whole. Or she was whole, but there was something extra to her, a residual of the thing that had taken her over, haunting the dark corners of her mind. The scars from her time as a host were easy to identify, easy to deal with. They were the same as any former captive: skittishness, tentativeness, depression, fear, anger, sadness. But she hadn’t just been held against her will, she had been used against it, too, and those wounds were harder to heal.

She was at the supermarket one day when a woman with a cart full of children cut in front of her to get to cheap cereal on the bottom shelf. It was innocent enough – Sarah had paused for a moment to half-heartedly contemplate the merits of fiber versus flavor – and certainly had been done without menace. Before she knew what she was doing, Sarah had pushed her own cart slightly forward and grabbed the woman’s cart, effectively blocking her in against the Kellogg’s section.

“What are you doing?”

The words were cold and clipped and horribly familiar coming from her mouth, and Sarah recoiled the moment they were in the air. The shocked and terrified look on the woman’s face confirmed that her voice had sounded just as bad out loud as it had in her head. Sarah felt the blood drain from her face, taking with it the scowl she hadn’t realized had formed. One of the children in the cart started crying and Sarah shuddered. There was a cold pit in the bottom of her stomach, but the blood still pulsed hot with rage under her skin and her head swam with memories and emotions.

She muttered a quick apology and sped away, almost knocking over a display of fudge-dipped cookies in her haste. Avoiding making eye contact with anyone she passed, she abandoned her cart halfway down the canned goods aisle and fled the store.

That night, she dreamt of standing in the middle of the market, decked out in full Osiris gear, subjecting the nameless woman to torture under the hand device. She jerked awake in a cold sweat, disgusted with herself, and afraid of the tendrils of wild joy that followed her out of the nightmare.

Sometimes, she would start crying for no reason at all, or erupt into laughter that would veer toward hysterical. Sometimes she did both.

She had dinner with friends one night at a restaurant she hadn’t been to in years. They seemed to be talking about everything under the sun, but Sarah could tell they had carefully planned out safe topics, hoping to avoid anything that might upset her. As she sat, sipping wine and listening to their laughter, she watched a basket of bread being delivered to the next table over. In the low light, she could see steam rising from the loaves, small distortions in the air that seemed to dance in time to her heartbeat. The murmur of conversation, the clinking of silverware, the warmth radiating from the woman at her side – something twisted inside her, and she laughed and cried and couldn’t explain why when her friends asked.

Some days she couldn’t get out of bed. Some days she couldn’t get out of bed fast enough. And some days she felt so overwhelmed with options, so alight with freedom that she thought she might burst.

Dr. McKenzie told her such reactions were to be expected.

“It’s a little like recovering from a hormonal imbalance,” he explained during one of their sessions. “It will take a while for your emotions, so pulled and contorted by Osiris’ consciousness, to regain their former shape. Be patient.”

Sarah almost laughed at that. Patience was another thing she had trouble with, though it had never been a problem before. She didn’t like to stand still for too long now, couldn’t deal with staying in one place. Moving, always moving, enveloped in an almost frantic need for action, for proof that she could do as she pleased.

She also found herself talking more, desiring to speak and be heard. Patience again – she’d lost patience for interruptions and tended to talk over people or completely back away from conversations if others didn’t listen. It made for awkward moments, but she couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t be silent, she couldn’t be quiet, she couldn’t be in the background anymore. It was different from the way she used to be, able to watch quietly, preferring to observe first and contribute after. She was different in so many ways.

But there were small signs of her coming back into herself, the person she used to be blossoming back inside her, weathered but strong.

At her old favorite coffee shop, the colors and the smells felt familiar but wrong. A man, doughy and nervous in a cheap suit, was taking a long time to place his order and the line had backed up to the door. The other people in line were irritated and impatient. One woman, who couldn’t be older than a college sophomore, kept sighing dramatically and rolling her eyes. But Sarah watched the man in fascination as the seconds trickled past and he mulled over his many options, weighing his choice like it would decide the fate of the universe.

As she watched, she felt laughter bubbling up inside her, delight seeping through her skin. She started giggling and couldn’t stop, not when the few people in front of her gave her odd looks, not when the entire line – including the man, who had still not ordered – turned to stare.

Waving the looks away, she wove through the crowd behind her and back onto the street.

Then she headed toward another shop down the block. Just because she could.


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October 2015

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