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The hardest part wasn’t watching them die, it was watching them change.
Kate had dealt with combat zones before, if she hadn’t the SGC would never have sent her, but never anything like this. This was war with no possible retreat, a continual siege against the unknown unpredictable horrors of the universe. In that first frantic year there was no time for anything but damage control; no time for subtly or learning curves, just the exponential stress and psychological duct tape to carry them through until she could tear out the foundations and rebuild them right.
The marines adapted the fastest, although no more easily, they just compressed their trauma into nice neat packages marked ‘open later’ and kept soldiering on. The non-combat military took their cue from the marines and from those civilians who’d long ago accepted the chaos of war into their daily lives.
She knew how to deal with those; how to keep them on the even keel that wasn’t ‘all right’ but wasn’t broken either. The ones she couldn’t deal with were the true civilians, those who’d never expected to live each day, each hour, each minute in constant expectation of disaster.
Some days she would have given anything to undo the past; tell the SGC no instead of yes. It had been the challenge, the lure of the unexplored that called to her from the far side of the universe, but it wasn’t worth this. Wasn’t worth watching soldiers and scientists tempered and refined, watching them let go of their ideals, morals, oaths… all in the name of survival.
They’d come through the gate solid in the knowledge that they were the Good Guys; white hats, white horses and a ‘great responsibility’ to save the world. That was gone now, leaving behind a brutal pragmatism and the realization that they were the Good Guys because anyone who thought differently had a habit of turning up dead. They were the galaxy’s last superpower and they used that ruthlessly as the years wore on. And if their hats had turned more black than grey, they didn’t seem to notice anymore.
She kept them afloat, kept them moving forwards, and some days she wondered if she wasn’t the biggest villain of them all.