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The Indefinite Fine Line

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She's been working for... thirty-six? Forty-two? She can't even remember how many hours, but it's been one of those days, one of those days where she's tunnel-visioned, where she can't see anything else, where she needs this.

She woke up this morning with a fist burrowed in her sleep pants, her knees nearly curled up to her chest, and she knows, she knows what she was doing because her hand wasn't inside her underwear, because she liked the feel of the weight between her thighs, but she doesn't want to know. She can't -- this isn't --

There are some things that are allowed in this world she's in, and there are some things that are not, and she knows which category she falls into.

Breaking through barriers in the body everyone's seen her in is a lot less daunting than breaking through barriers in a body she doesn't even know yet, except in feeling and wanting and thinking that maybe there will be a day when -- when --

She pulls up another graph, taking a breath and refocusing her eyes. They feel dry, stretched to the edges of their tolerance, and the spasms in her neck are going to immobilize her sooner or later, but she can do it, she can push through; she's done it a hundred times before. No problem.

And it works, because the time passes in a vast blur. She churns out page after page of calculations, she runs simulations again and again just to be sure, she scribbles out furious notes that she hopes will be legible tomorrow, hell, that she hopes will be legible in the next five minutes when she'll need to reference them.

This is good. It's good, and this is what she hangs onto, this sense that she can string out the fine line indefinitely, that if she just keeps tapping into deeper and deeper reserves of strength she'll make it through. She has to make it through; there aren't any other choices.

But then she's looking down at those notes, and she can't read them at all, and they're smeared, they're smeared and blotched and she raises a shaking hand to her face and realizes that she's been crying, that they've just been slipping out of her eyes without her even noticing, because at the base of her palm she can feel how her collar's soaked, and the fine line snaps all at once, snaps like the support beams holding up a structure and she sits down, heavily, spine bending in and the breath feeling like it won't fill up her lungs.

She doesn't know how long she sits like that, staring vacantly into space, tears spotting her pants like intermittent rain. She hears quiet footsteps, and she can't even find the energy to hide, doesn't even have the energy to turn her head up and look.

"Colonel Carter," Teal'c says, and the relief that it's him is so intense that she smiles. "Are you all right?"

She opens her mouth, trying to reply, but it's so dry that she can't make a sound. Teal'c walks closer, kneeling down until he's eye level with her. She blinks, looking at him, trying to remember why she's done this to herself when he's looking at her like that, like he'll walk a hundred miles to make sure she's all right.

"No," she whispers, shaking her head, reaching out. Teal'c takes her hands, and his grip is so steady and gentle that it moves through her body like a balm.

She sighs, closing her eyes, her muscles unwinding.

She -- and she knows, there's the beginning of a spark that she doesn't fit Sam Carter, not really, but it's too much of a safety net to let go of right now -- begins to talk. She doesn't think that the words make sense, they're hardly even formed when they tumble out of her mouth, but she knows Teal'c won't mind. She knows that, right now, that's okay.