They desperately need a shower by the time they get to a bar in Flagler, Colorado, and Sam is about ready to collapse from walking the last four miles. Overhead they can hear the fight in the sky, but no one in the bar seems to notice. The noise has become commonplace.
Elizabeth settles herself down into the booth, doesn’t notice the curious look she gets from a young man, but Sam notices it and meets his eyes. He meets hers too with a tip of his head.
Before Sam has fully slid into the booth next to Elizabeth, two beers are being set in front of them. “On me,” he says, and he looks rough, but he looks young, and he’s more than attractive.
Sam gives him a smile. “Thanks.”
He starts to leave, but she gestures with her head. “Sit down.”
He grins, like he was just waiting for her to ask. “One of those nights?”
“Something like that,” Sam agrees.
It’s dark by the time they follow him back to his hotel room, and the explosions in the air almost look like fireworks. It’s been seven weeks and six days and nine hours since the SGC was compromised. Sam keeps that kind of count in her head.
Before Dean opens the door, he says, “I have a brother. He’s been a little out of it lately, but he shouldn’t mind me bringing a bit of distraction back. If he does, he’ll find somewhere else to be.”
Sam nods, keeps holding Elizabeth up. Elizabeth hasn’t said much through this encounter, just a little nod when Dean asked if they wanted to leave with him, a little nod when Sam asked if she was sure. Now she rests her head against Sam’s shoulder, head turned away from the sky.
In the motel room, the lamp is on, and there is another young man stretched out over one of the twin beds. “Sammy, I brought company,” Dean says as he throws his keys on a chair. He takes his jacket off and puts that there too.
Before the war, Sam might have protested a little before he left. Now he marks his book, puts it down on the nightstand before he brings himself to a sitting position. “You look like you’ve been walking for a bit.”
Sam smiles, but her smile is tired. “We have.”
“Do you want something to drink?”
“We had something to drink,” she says. “But thank you.”
Sam, the other Sam nods, before he lays back on the bed. “Don’t make too much noise, Dean. We leave early tomorrow.”
Dean smiles at him, and for a minute he wonders if they really have been on the road that long, but then he turns to Sam and Elizabeth. “Mi casa es sus casa, mis senoritas bonitas.”
Sam takes off her own jacket without saying anything in response. Elizabeth watches her like she hasn’t seen this before. Dean reaches out to touch the dog tags she has hanging on top of her shirt, but she grabs his arm. “So you were military?”
“Air force. Yeah.” Sam pulls him over to the bed, and Dean grins as she pushes him onto his back.
“It shows,” he says before she crawls on the bed to straddle him. They both taste like beer when she kisses him, and the smell of stale cigarettes lingers over the hotel room. He has her shirt off before she can blink, but she doesn’t care. This isn’t love. Sam thinks dreams like that were over the minute she saw Daniel lying in a pool of his own blood.
Elizabeth crosses her arms near the door, leans against it, and from the second bed, the other Sam notices her. “You can sit over here while they…” He shrugs. “If you want.” She hesitates while she takes the offer, but her eyes are still on the bare of her Sam’s back. As she sits on the bed, he says, “It’s been rough”, and it’s half-question, half-statement.
“The worst is over.” She means strategically. Logically, the worst is over. The airspace is starting to get cleared. They might see the SGC again in a few weeks. At least where it was.
“But you lost someone?” Again a half-question, and Elizabeth nods even though she doesn’t want to. She can still see the fractured remains of her house, smell the burn left over from the Naquadah. She wonders if any of that smell was Simon, but the thought turns her stomach, and she has to close her eyes not to lose what little is in it.
Elizabeth opens her eyes when Sam cries out, turns to look at the way Dean’s arm sneaks between Sam’s bared thighs, takes in her arcing back. “I don’t know why I look,” she tells the other Sam.
He isn’t looking at them. He’s watching her face. “Maybe you’re trying to block out the other images.” There are other images behind his voice. She doesn’t know them, but they are there, even though he’s too young to have that sort of tone to his voice. Elizabeth finds herself leaning closer to him.
“Help me…” she whispers, searching his eyes. “…block them out.” He pulls her the rest of the way towards him, and his fingers dig at her hips as his mouth takes hers. Elizabeth can feel her heart pounding in her chest, as loud and irregular as the explosions outside. She wants to block everything out so badly, but she can still see the Goa’uld flooding the gate, can still hear Sam yelling, “I can’t shut it off! I can’t close the iris!”
Elizabeth tries to get closer. She pulls at his shirt, presses herself against him. She can feel the smooth meeting of their tongues. Can hear the staff blasts, the people falling in the gate room, the voice inside her that keeps saying You’re in charge. You let this happen.
She’s sobbing into his mouth, and her tears are hot against the Colorado night. There are Sam’s small groans behind her, and she takes those in, and for a moment, she lets herself believe they are hers.
Sam, the Sam touching her, the other Sam, stops. “Are you alright?” he asks against her hair.
She laughs. “Who is?” But she means, Don’t stop, and she says it by dropping her hands to his pants, letting her fingers work over the buttons.
He lets her, doesn’t say anything. They’re working on each other’s mouths again as she lowers him to the bed, working on her own zipper, and he runs his hand over her breast. Elizabeth wonders if they ever make it back, if she ever stops having the dreams, if she’ll want a normal relationship- if she won’t recoil from drawn out foreplay like it makes what’s she’s doing more of a betrayal and less of a survival instinct.
It’s hard for her to admit she never wanted it this badly when Simon was just rolling over, when it was just familiar. There’s need, five or seven kinds running through her veins, and Elizabeth is too tired not to answer to them all. She can still hear her Sam calling their name, low deep sounds that make Elizabeth picture her blonde hair sticking to her forehead, her head thrown back as her hips arch forward.
She knows the scene, and she’s too tired to really think about if she should, or if she shouldn’t be taking this Sam into her hand- he’s already hard beneath her fingers. The only hesitation is a “why”, but it’s a broken record, a clock-ticking that she almost can’t hear anymore, and she continues on despite it, spreading her legs as he rolls on top of her.
She catches a glimpse of Dean and Sam on the other bed, the dark tinted skin of his hands contrasting the white of her thighs, their fluid rocking, and Elizabeth sucks in her breath, wets her lips. She forces her eyes away as the other Sam messes with a condom wrapper, and she takes it from him, ripping it open with her teeth, still concentrating on not turning her head. Instead she catches shadows on the ceiling, flickers of light. Instead she hears explosions outside, but they sound far away.
Elizabeth closes her eyes to concentrate on how it feels when he enters her, the slide of flesh, the sensation that crawls up into her stomach, and for a moment everything else stops. She doesn’t wait for it to start closing back in before she starts moving, fingers curled in the thin hotel comforter, heels digging into the mattress.
He’s so young it’s hard to ask for something harder, so she doesn’t, just pushes harder, and she can taste the blood in her mouth before she realizes she’s biting her lip enough to break it. The metallic taste lingers before she swallows it and wraps one leg tighter around him.
It doesn’t make the images go away, but it makes them difficult to hold onto, so that she can only half-conjure the way the SGC lit the sky as it exploded, can only half-connect that to the burned smell of her house, can only half-remember Sam’s face as she found half of her neighborhood in ruins.
If she listens to the squeaking of the bad springs in the hotel mattress, shoves herself down harder onto them, closes her eyes tightly, she can only half-hear Sam say as she surveys the wreckage, “There is no home anymore.”
They’d walked for miles and miles. Her body still remembers, and her legs are already shaking underneath her. Her breaths are jagged, like her lungs want to just stop. Elizabeth ignores the half of her that wants to let them. She doesn’t know how to quit, not even now, not even when she can’t remember “why.”
The strain of muscles is burning, but it helps her forget. She feels the pleasure of forgetting as tightly as she feels the pleasure of anything else. Elizabeth can feel him go still before he shudders against her, and she’s almost relieved to have the chance to bring herself off as he rolls off her and watches.
It’s just a little bit less like betrayal that way.
Elizabeth removes her hand and slumps into the bed. The material is scratchy against her back. For a moment she just opens and closes her eyes slowly, watches the flicker of the world fading in and out. Finally she turns her head. “What were you reading?”
When she’s finished with Dean, Sam notices the other Sam crossing her legs, half-naked on the bed and watching him. It takes him a few minutes to place the look, like he’s taken something that’s hers, but it isn’t exactly unfriendly. Just straightforward.
Dean looks pleased with himself as he leans back. He shakes his head. “Aliens. I mean I’ve seen some shit in my time, but I guess I always thought little green men were the last children’s story I had left.”
Sam grins as she looks back at him. “All the fairytales gone now?”
“Something like that.” He takes a drink of a beer on a nightstand and regards it seriously. “I wouldn’t know what to do with them. I’m used to dealing with things that creep around in the shadows, and these guys- What were we doing, Sam?”
Sam widens his eyes at Dean with a cough before he smiles and says. “We were driving to see that… dog. That really big dog that dad was telling us about.”
“Oh yeah. That was a huge sucker. Near tore my throat out.” Dean gestures to his throat where there is a decent looking scar. “Anyhow, we were driving, and it’s on the radio, aliens invade Earth, we’re in some war, just like the movies.” Here his brother nods. “Except, I mean fuck, there wasn’t even a huge shadowy ship in the sky, just that annoying emergency broadcast service, some speech by Homeland Security, and then a few explosions in the air at night. Nothing’s different once you leave Colorado.”
“So you two came here?” Sam looks at him, raising one of her eyebrows. “You two came here looking for aliens?”
“Hell no.” Dean gives her a look like she’s insane. “I don’t know what to do with aliens. We came here looking for dad. We’d found him, but then he just disappears again, calls one night, says he’s in Colorado. Says it’s important. So here we are, and he hasn’t shown up.”
“So what’s your story?” Sam asks them from his place on the other bed.
“Classified.” She messes with the dog tags around her neck, and she traces over the name on it with her thumb before she looks back up. “So don’t ask.”
“Hey, that’s hot.” When Sam turns to look at Dean, he just gives her a grin. “I mean, I saw this porno once where a government agent-”
“Dean, just stop.” The other Sam gets off the bed. “Do you want some food?” he asks her as he pulls on his jacket.
She smiles at him. “Yeah, that’d be nice.”
Elizabeth is half-asleep when the other Sam gets back. He wakes her up when he sits down, and she watches him as he hands her a burrito. “It was the only thing open.”
“Thank you.” Dean has her Sam on her back, and Elizabeth and Sam ignore them as Elizabeth takes the first bite.
“I’m sorry I woke you up,” he says, but Elizabeth shakes her head.
“I have these nightmares all of the time anyhow. You probably saved me from having another one.”
“Yeah, I know how that goes.” He takes a bite of his own burrito. “So I know it’s classified, but what line of work were you in?”
“Well, I still can’t discuss that, but I used to be a diplomat.” Elizabeth smiles. “I thought I’d gotten used to war. I’d seen it. I mean, it happens all of the time, in Africa, in the Middle East, people fight, people die, it’s an everyday occurrence, but-” She shrugs. “I suppose everything I had to lose was across the ocean. I was never fighting to keep my home, to save my people. I was just trying to stop it. I was never in it.”
“That’s still some pretty heavy stuff.” Sam laughs. “Though I suppose those aren’t the right words for it.”
“There are no right words for it.”
“No.” He breathes in and then lets the air back out of his lungs. “No, there aren’t.”
They don’t say anything else as they eat. Eventually Dean wanders over to grab his dinner, tosses a burrito across the bed for Sam. The four of them are silent, listen to the explosions. “They usually quiet down around four.” Sam pushes a few strands of her hair behind her ear before she looks up towards the ceiling. The rest of them follow her example.
After she finishes eating, Sam leaves to take a shower. The other Sam tries reading his book, before he finally lies back down and closes his eyes. Dean looks at Elizabeth. “So what’s up with you two?”
“What do you mean?” She moves closer so that they can talk without disturbing his brother.
“Well, we’re brothers, we travel together. So what’s the deal with you and her?” He notices the look Elizabeth is giving him. “Hey, I don’t necessary mean that I’m asking if you two are ‘intimate’ or whatever. I was just asking.” He holds out his hands in a gesture of innocence.
“You wouldn’t understand.” Elizabeth pulls her feet onto the bed. “We used to work together, but you still wouldn’t understand.”
Dean nods like he can accept that answer. “You know, I would have thought you two were seriously screwed up before this mess started, but anymore everyone around here’s like that. Maybe no one does understand.” He shrugs. “No one understood me anyways.”
Elizabeth just shakes her head at him, which he smiles at. He’s still not wearing his shirt, and his jeans are half-hanging off him, and Dean notices Elizabeth’s eyes roaming over him. He smiles smugly. “Feel free to look.”
“I wouldn’t think I’d be your type.”
“I wouldn’t think Sam would be your type either.” For a moment, Elizabeth doesn’t know which Sam he is talking about. She never decides, so she never answers. “You should lighten up a little,” Dean says.
It makes her mad, and Elizabeth spins around so that she can glare directly at him. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He moves closer to her, pushes back her ear to whisper next to her ear, “Did it ever occur to you before this that every time you went to bed you might not wake up in the morning?”
She watches him suspiciously. He laughs, a rough laugh with just a hint of self-deprecation. “When I was eight, I slept in too late one morning. I must have been dead to the world. So when he finally gets me up, my dad tells me about this thing. It lives under your bed, and it needs seventy or so livers every twenty years to live. Loves little boys. He says to me, ‘Dean, there are fifty other goddamn things in this world just like that.’ He wanted me to sleep less soundly.”
Dean shrugs her off. “Anyhow, I spent my childhood closing my eyes before bed thinking about everything that could possibly happen to me before I opened them again. That’s how it feels like for you now, when you’re awake, and you think it’s never going to let up, but you just need to lighten up. Get some sleep.”
“It’s not just what’s going on.” Elizabeth wraps her arms close to herself, against the cold night, wonders how low the air conditioner is. She thinks about everything that’s gone, and she closes her eyes and tries as hard as she can to will it back into existence. “I just want it the way it was.”
She doesn’t realize she’s said it out loud until Dean says, “Isn’t that how you know you’ve lost something?” He sighs and pulls another bottle of beer off the floor, flicks off the lid with an opener. “I’m going certifiable, making connections with strangers in hotel rooms in small town Colorado. How many of these things have I had?” It doesn’t stop him from taking a swig and closing his eyes. “I’m turning into my brother.”
Elizabeth swings a leg over his, looks down at him as he reopens his eyes. “Do you still have trouble getting to sleep?”
Dean slides a hand up her thigh. “I think you could help me with it tonight.”
Sam leans against the doorway watching, the stream from her hot shower washing over her as it escapes from the bathroom and dissipates into the air.
Her hair is still wet, and it clings to her head. She can feel the beads of water fall off her skin, slide down her legs. It’s chilly being wet, autumn is starting to turn into winter, but she crosses her arms and keeps her eyes on Elizabeth.
Dean notices her for a moment, but he doesn’t seem to think much about it before he goes back to concentrating on the task at hand. If Sam listens, she can hear the last of the explosions before the Air Force will call them off at exactly 3:55 am. Seven weeks, six days, and sixteen hours. How many air strikes that is, she doesn’t want to try to calculate.
The dog tags weigh heavy against her chest, and she swallows. “When I finish this thing, Carter-” He was on the first air strike. He knew how to fly. They’d have made him go. “I’ll expect them back.”
Her fingers trace the metal. Elizabeth becomes a blur in her vision, but she wills the clarity back, takes a deep breath, leans farther into the door frame. Her fingers grip it hard enough she can see her knuckles turn white.
Instead of concentrating on them, she focuses on the white of Elizabeth’s thighs. She can remember touching them herself. They were in that hotel room, she’d gotten all she could from the ATM before the banks closed down, and Elizabeth had just sat against the wall, staring off into space.
Their houses were gone, the SGC was gone, and they were there in a hotel room, a hundred dollars on an Earth that they both knew couldn’t hold off a Goa’uld invasion. Sam had fallen to her knees in front of her, “Elizabeth.”
She’d looked at her, through her. “I didn’t know what I was doing, what I should have…”
Sam shook her hard. “You did what you had to do. We didn’t know Sanders was a host.”
Elizabeth was babbling to herself. “And now they’re gone. They’re gone.” Sam had held her to her chest as she cried, listening to racking sobs that Sam would be able to hear in her memories for weeks.
“I’m still here,” she whispered into Elizabeth’s hair, and it seemed to help. “You got me out, remember? You saved me. I’m still here.” She kept repeating it until Elizabeth took Sam’s face in her hands as if to confirm what she was saying. She was still crying, but Elizabeth actually looked at her, not through her, her eyes coherent.
She was the one who kissed Sam, but Sam was the one who touched her first, fingers removing buttons, right hand finishing that to snake up Elizabeth’s skirt. Sam’s mouth was on the bare skin above her bra as she ran her fingers over the thin cotton of Elizabeth’s underwear. All the while she still whispered small things. “I’m still here. I’m still alive.”
Elizabeth edged herself away from the wall, pushed herself up into Sam’s palm. Sam had her mouth over Elizabeth’s bra, didn’t bother removing it, just sucked on dampened material, feeling the twist of Elizabeth’s muscles underneath her.
Elizabeth’s groan jerks her out of the memory, and Sam pulls her hand away from her thigh, finally pulls her eyes away from the scene. She checks her watch. 3:57 am.
Her body feels wired, and she walks back into the bathroom, leans against the counter. There’s just a faint trace of purple under her eyes, but if she’d sleep it would go away. Her hair is getting long. She lifts it between her fingers, lets it fall back to her shoulder.
She closes her eyes before she lets her fingers slide back down towards her thighs.
There’s silence when Elizabeth wakes up, half falling off the bed, Dean sprawled out like a little boy over the rest of it. She hefts herself up and looks at the shades of dawn spreading over the curtain.
Sam is sleeping in a chair, bangs almost covering her eyes. Elizabeth slips her clothes back on, readjusts her shirt before she shakes her. “You about ready to go?”
Sam gives her a smile, “Yeah.”
The other Sam is still sleeping too. Elizabeth feels half bad for leaving them, but everyone knew the drill. She turns back to Sam, her Sam. “Tell me someday you’ll get tired of it.”
Sam pulls her close, kisses her on the forehead. “It was a special occasion.”
Elizabeth raises an eyebrow. Sam shrugs. “They normally aren’t that cute.” They both laugh a little, but it is half-hearted and they let the sound fade back out into the morning. Neither of the boys wake up as they shut the door.
Sam takes her to a small diner for coffee. She watches her out of the corner of her eye. Elizabeth catches her watching, but she doesn’t saying anything about it.
They are about the only people in the diner, so Sam puts her hand over Elizabeth’s, leans in close enough her nose grazes the skin over her ear. “Let’s get our own room. Let you take a shower?”
Elizabeth closes her eyes and nods. Sam takes just a minute to let her mouth brush over Elizabeth’s throat before she pulls back and sets the money on the counter.
They barely get to the hotel room before Sam pulls Elizabeth’s shirt off, throws her against the wall, hands running over her. Elizabeth just holds onto Sam’s arms, her waist, the back of her neck, whatever isn’t in the way and whatever she can find to hold onto to.
Sam traces Elizabeth’s shoulder with her mouth, pulls at her bra strap with her teeth. Her fingers press into Elizabeth’s side.
The night in the hotel room, they’d set how it was going to be. Sam had whispered it to her over and over, not in the exact words, but it had been clear enough. She’d stroked Elizabeth with her thumb until Elizabeth hadn’t been able to find the voice to call out anymore. Sam had rested her forehead against Elizabeth’s.
Her hands had written the words over Elizabeth’s skin that night. I survived, I’m here. With her mouth she’d traced the rest. And I’ll give up what I don’t have anymore, I’ll hold you here, but- With her fingers inside Elizabeth, her own heart beating fast. It will make you mine. I’ll have to be enough.
Sam says it now again, mouth over Elizabeth’s as her hands work at Elizabeth’s pants, and it is sort of a reclaiming, a retracing of territory. Sam with Jack’s dog tags dangling from her neck, the image of Daniel lying in his blood in the back of her mind, and a burnt down house where she’d told Elizabeth, “There is no home anymore.”
Elizabeth never asks why. Not about the men they pick up, not about where they are going or why Sam keeps circling back towards Cheyenne Mountain, though the latter is something she almost understands. She sometimes figures “why” is like “what if”, and it won’t get her anywhere.
Mostly though, it is the understanding of what Sam is saying to her, the shuddering awareness that strips down the whys and the wheres and the what-ifs. The way she can almost hear it when Sam runs her cheek against hers, Let me, let me be enough.
Elizabeth, with her eyes closed and her legs barely wanting to support her, with Sam occasionally nuzzling Elizabeth’s hair as she holds her in her arms, with warm tears running down her face, is saying with her silence, There’s just so, so much you can never make up for.