Summary: Sometimes, Sam danced.
Fandom: Stargate SG-1 (with significant borrowings from William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy)
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Brief mention of suicide.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Paper Cup by seimaisin
A/N: Thanks to clavally for the beta!
Sometimes, late at night, alone in the dim room at the top of the stairs, too late for normal humans to conceive of, Sam danced. It was a private thing, something she never shared with anyone. Even when she was sharing her bed, she kept it her little secret, the smooth black deck in its case underneath her thin mattress.
But, alone, late at night, she'd turn it on- it was old, the headset a holdover from her college days, the deck itself from her Dad's old collection, which she inherited after he left. (The Tok'ra didn't believe in technology or material possessions, only the snake god moving through them. Her father still showed up now and again, telling her about the loa, about how much they could help. Her loss.) She would press the electrodes to her forehead reverently; even though no one else could see, it still seemed disrespectful to slap it on like some cheap thing from the corner store. The net called her, sang to her, loved her; it only seemed right to treat it with love.
She jacked in, the net surged up around her, and she danced. Over fields of ICE, streaking across the black like a comet cut down from heaven, traipsing lightly over corporate infrastructure, needing no partner except the net itself, all around her. If anyone from the base could see her, they'd laugh themselves to death- Sam herself had written code that would make this place look like a child's discarded plaything- but she'd stopped worrying about that the moment her fingers brushed against the deck, half-buried among her father's old clothes. The net was her territory, her rules, her refuge. There, she could do as she pleased, with no repercussions. When she was jacked in, she didn't have to be a Defence Force officer, or a programmer, or a trapped explorer, stranded here so far away from the Gate.
Not that she wasn't those things- she had a kind of calm, certain love for them, inseparable as they were from this thing called Samantha Carter- but sometimes, she was somebody else. Everyone was when they jacked in, she supposed. It changed you, leaving meatspace behind, becoming nothing but an arc of light.
But this wasn't about escape. She knew that feeling too well- the one that made her want to press a whole pack of derms against her skin, the one that made her wish to leave the city and run far out into the wasteland, see how far she could go before she just gave out. Those wishes only came when she was broken, storm-tossed, laid low. When she jacked in? She only knew how to be content.
She flowed through the net like water running downhill, pushing aside a security system to get closer to one of Ono-Sendai's crystal spires. She could feel its security suddenly, slow and dangerous... it started to enter her body through her fingertips, snaking up and threatening to wind its way around her arms, her spine, down into her hips and legs. Her body tensed, top to bottom, as she felt the icy chill dance every so sensuously up her spine. It wasn't a very strong program, she knew, but here alone, it didn't matter. All that mattered was getting out, shaking it off as quick as it had come, freeing herself to go spiraling off in yet another direction.
Major Carter moved very purposefully. Major Carter was trained to document every procedure, recognize every possible litigation strategy, move only when it was safe. Major Carter read NDAs and actually paid attention. Major Carter would never dream of violating protocol. Major Carter gave up the Gate without any more struggle than was legally appropriate.
She thought about it sometimes, though.
She wondered what her old team would think of her, playing at being a console jockey. It had been so long since Colorado, so long since everything had gone to hell and they'd lost the Gate, since the government bombers had come and turned all her successes and failures into a pile of rubble, where a mountain used to be.
She still saw Daniel now and then, painfully scheduled meetings in coffee shops and upscale bars with reconstituted wood paneling on the walls. She could talk to him about it, maybe, and he'd make interested noises; but in reality, he'd look at her like a data set, like if she just settled for a moment, he could study her just like he'd always wanted.
Poor disillusioned Teal'c, cut off from his people and the loa both, Teal'c might actually get it, might even want to come with her. Maybe it would make him smile his reluctant, self-pleased little smile again. She never knew about him.
But Jack- Jack who she would never see again, Jack whose loss was like a physical thing that had settled deep under her skin, Jack who prided himself on being a hundred percent human and as technologically simple as he could possibly be, tough, ruined, beautiful Jack- Jack would never understand, and he'd never wanted to. He'd tolerate it, because it was hers, make snide little comments about it that were supposed to be funny, were supposed to show that he cared. But he'd look at her sadly when he thought she wouldn't notice, sorry to have it proven to him once again that they were from different worlds.
Speculation aside, she knew she'd never share the deck with anyone, especially now that she'd found the love of her life and lost him. (Some days, she couldn't even decide which one of them it had been- funny, giving Daniel, brave, silent Teal'c, Jack- but she knew the story wasn't supposed to end this way.) Samantha Carter didn't dance. The woman who danced only existed when she was alone, between Samantha and the deck, a string of ones and zeros with no form, no substance, no real substance anywhere. The woman who danced, who jacked in and rode the net, who knew how to move- she was a mystery to Sam, but she was a beloved one. She was a mystery that Sam wouldn't share.
She'd lived enough to know that she was only free when she was alone with her deck.
At night, when no one was watching, Sam danced.