by Suz

Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.

Spoilers for 'In The Line of Duty', 'Legacy' and 'Entity'. An 'Entity' episode addition.

Huge, huge, honkin' thanks to Christine, who's responsible for this whole darn story. Stop it, girl!

This one's for Anna.


She's been quiet since she was transferred back to the infirmary.

He watches her - sometimes when she's sleeping, sometimes when she's not aware he's there, but never, ever, when she or anyone else knows that he's looking.

Well...that's not exactly true.

Daniel and Teal'c pay her frequent visits. He knows because he spends most of his time around the corner from the infirmary, hiding when they - or anyone else - pass. Those are the times when he's free: when he can walk in after them and pretend he's been with them all along. That he and two members of his team had gone together to check up on the forth member of their team.

He's not sure Fraiser buys it. He's not sure Teal'c or Daniel buy it but they say nothing, treating him as though he'd been there all along.

And this is the only time he can look at her openly, unashamedly.

It's no different to when he tiptoes up to the doorway and peeks in, all the while worried that Hammond or some SF is gonna catch him.

She's just - quiet.

Yet it's different from Jolinar. He doesn't know how he knows that; just that he does.

She's released from the infirmary. Fraiser sends her home, insisting that a SF drive her there. He wants to volunteer but knows he can't, instead lurking in the infirmary, watching the bed with no Carter in it.

He and Doc discuss the possibility of McKenzie, but neither one of them has been particularly fond of the guy since the Lindris incident.

Okay - so he's *never* been fond of the guy, but instinctive dislike aside, McKenzie still has to work his way back into Jack's good books.

Besides, he knows for a fact that there's someone else she prefers talking to - if she feels like it.

He drives home, then calls for a cab to pick him up ten blocks from his house.

He waits outside the strangers front yard - part of him thinking he really should get to know whoever lives inside that house; he spends enough time standing outside it - and when the cab pulls up he opens the door and slides inside.

It's the same driver. It's always the same driver. By now he's learned to say nothing. When he first started to pick up this particular fare he'd usually start a conversation about something obscure without a firm grasp of the English language. Jack actually quite likes him, but prefers that he say nothing, like now: not asking him how his day has been, if he saw the latest Wheel of Fortune, or where he's going.

There's no need to ask him his destination.

He always goes to the same place.

The journey is made in a variety of ways - as per one of Jack's original requests, when he first started doing this. Today it's journey number three: the extremely scenic route. He doesn't care if it takes longer or if he's charged more, just as long as he gets there.

And get there he does; handing over the fee, then the tip, ignoring the obvious wink the driver gives him - as always - and stepping onto the sidewalk nine blocks from her house.

He waits until the driver pulls away, then begins walking along the sidewalk.

He keeps his head down; making sure his hat is on firmly, his hands shoved into his pockets, and his neck practically disappearing as his head sinks as low as possible into his jacket.

The walk is a nice one. On other evenings he's enjoyed it, but today he walks ruthlessly, with precision and care.

Her house comes into view eventually, and with one last glance he heads towards the garage. Walking alongside, his jacket brushing against the house, he makes his way into her back yard.

He circumvents her security - he's long since known how to - and reaches the back door.

He knocks once.

There's a pause, and the door opens.

She says nothing, just grasping the door handle as he steps inside.

The curtains are already closed as he walks into the living room. An open, chilled bottle of beer rests next to the sofa, and the FBI warning is on the television screen.

Taking his jacket off he sits next to the beer, and watches her. She's sitting as far away from him as she possibly can; on the big chair on the other side of the room, that matches the sofa he's on.

She tucks her legs up under her body and crosses her arms across her chest. She looks tiny, as if in just a few seconds the chair is going to swallow her whole.

He knows this sounds corny as hell, but right then he'd give anything to swap places with that chair.

But this is up to her. From hereon in, it's her call.

The endless stream of trailers finish, and the movie starts. Neither one of them watches it. Some two hours later the machine reaches the end of the tape and automatically rewinds, and the only source of light now is the static being cast from the television screen.

She still hasn't said a word.

Her gaze has, at least, moved from her own lap. In fact, it seems quite fixated with the static.

He's not sure how much time passes; an hour, maybe six.

Still staring at the television, the eerie glow reflecting from her face, she finally speaks.

She's not sure she believes in God.

He doesn't know *what* the hell to say to that one. Thankfully, he doesn't have to say anything.

She was...aware...when she was inside the 'memory mainframe', but that was all. No light, no dark, no colour, no heat, no cold, and no sense. Just awareness.

It reminded her of a tale a particularly malicious neighbour used to tell when she was growing up. Mrs Davenport had despised children, and delighted in scaring her and Mark with stories of there being nothing after they died. No light, no dark, no colour, no heat, no cold, and no sense - not even awareness.


And it terrifies her.

She thinks that's why so many people cling to religion as fiercely as they do - they *have* to believe there's something more, they *have* to believe that there won't be nothing. There will be a heaven, a Utopia, a *something*.

It's something he's actually considered, on occasion. A primal, secret fear shared by most humans, he imagines. Not that he knows, not that he's any great expert on the human psyche, but the fear of simply not existing has to stir something in almost everyone.

He can't comfort her, not about that. He can't guarantee that there will be anything when she eventually dies - and frankly, he'd rather not think about her dying.

So he tells her a story, something that happened a long time ago. For one minute, he was clinically dead. He stopped breathing, stopped beating, stopped thinking - all the things that are supposed to happen when you die - before they managed, through some miracle, to bring him back.

She asks him if he saw anything.

He didn't.

He can only find solace in the fact that at least he's alive when he's often thought that he doesn't deserve to be, when so many people should be alive in his place - when he even considered extinguishing that life by his own hand.

He has found at least that much solace, since meeting her.

She's the one who moves, sitting next to him on the sofa, grasping his hand and snuggling closer. He shifts, happy to oblige.

She doesn't say anything else, still not at ease, but better than she had been.

He rests his chin on top of her head, hugs her close, and shuts his eyes.


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