DISCLAIMER: If I owned these folks, Heroes II would have had a significantly different ending. But, alas, this is not the case.
THANKS: go out to Xander, for the both the idea and the constant stream of encouragement, and Gail, for lots of edits and moral support.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Warning--if you don't want to read about an alternate Janet, this story is not for you. Herein, our lovely, heroic Doc Fraiser is dead. Story departs from canon at the end of Heroes II, so be aware.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILER: S7 up to Heroes II.
Apophis lashed out, raking the hand device across her cheek. His eyes flashed yellow. "You *will* tell me the address of the site. Now."
She laughed in his face, tasting blood as it dripped down her cheek. "No."
In his anger, the Goa'uld made a tactical error, which momentarily gave her the upper hand-- he grabbed her by the collar and threw her into the window facing the gate. The shatterproof glass lived up to its name by remaining in one piece, and she crashed to the floor, landing face down. The force of the blow was strong enough to knock the air from her lungs, but she stayed conscious, biting her lip to keep from crying out in pain. She would play dead.
"Jaffa," Apophis shouted, "take this Tau'ri filth to Teal'c. I want him to prepare her for interrogation." Moments later, two hands hefted her up and dragged her from the room, down the stairs, and into the hallway. She had no clue where she would be taken, but the first order of business was to escape. Estimating how much time she had left before the naquada reactor blew, she came up with roughly fourteen minutes. If she could only make it down the two floors to her lab, she might survive.
That is, unless she fell into a world that was worse off than this one. At the moment, that didn't seem likely.
Apophis and his Jaffa would struggle with the computer system for a while longer before realizing it was destroyed; she prayed the wipe would be complete when the virus ran its course. Not that it would matter, since the bomb five floors down would effectively annihilate everything within the mountain, and with luck, the mothership hovering above it as well. That's what she was counting on; what they'd all counted on when the evacuations began three days prior. Hammond was relying on her. "Try and get to the Alpha site, Major. We'll be waiting for you," he'd said, a meaty hand landing on her shoulder.
"Yes, sir," she'd replied, knowing she'd never see him again. There was no way she'd get there. She'd have to go it alone, either making it through the mirror or dying on the base.
As her feet dragged along the concrete, she considered the notion. She didn't dread death; she'd faced it so many times in the past three years, it almost felt easier to let it come, to let the next fourteen minutes pass without any more effort. No, she said to herself, no fucking way was she going to sacrifice everything and let Apophis win.
There, they were passing the elevator. No more hesitation, she thought, and put a steel reinforced boot through the Jaffa's armor at the knee. He howled, and she jammed a hand into his unprotected windpipe before shoving her palm straight at his nose. Driving upward, she felt the crush, and the blood spurting all over her. She ran, and only saw one armored Jaffa as she threw the door to the emergency stairwell open. She flew down the steps, taking four at a time. Oddly, instead of fearing for her life, she wondered why the hell those minions bothered with that clunky armor; she was ten times faster than they were.
Shouts followed her as she powered through the door. One more corner and she'd be there, but a burning filled her brain before she registered the staff blast to her shoulder. She was relieved it was her right arm again; if she got out of this alive, she'd still have her dominant hand mobile. Instead of losing speed, the blast spurred her on, as did the clanking footsteps following behind.
Finally, she pulled open the door and slammed it shut behind her, knowing she'd have only seconds before they'd get inside. Miraculously she'd left the controller on the top her desk. She flicked a button, and the mirror came to life. On the other side, a dark room waited. Over the past few days she'd flipped through dozens of scenarios, but this one was the most interesting to her-- the most mysterious. The quiet blackness made her decision a simple one. This would be her destination.
When Hammond had told her of the gravity of their situation, she'd volunteered herself to be the one to take care of the business at hand. There was nothing for her here except her military family, and even the closeness of her unit wasn't enough to fill her. She knew the mirror was the answer. Even though a team had had some trouble with the first (and only) trip to an alternate universe, she knew the device would be what would either save or kill her, in the end.
The door burst open, and she fell through the looking glass.
The Jaffa screamed in anger, and blasted his staff at the mirror. It went black, and she was shrouded in total darkness.
Again, the quiet struck her. She was resting on cool concrete, and for a moment, she laid her aching head on the floor, welcoming the chill after the furious heat of battle. Finally, she lifted her head and got to her feet, reaching out to feel whatever might lay in front of her.
With the motion, lights flooded the room, and an alarm screeched above her. So much for the blessings of silent darkness. Looking around, she realized she was in a storage room filled with Egyptian artifacts, file cabinets and boxes. She still had the mirror's control in her hand, and quickly she slipped it into the pocket of her BDUs, just in case. Checking out her surroundings, she realized she was most likely back on the mountain--but in a different version of it.
When she bumped a shelf, the staff burn on her arm screamed in agony, and she swayed weakly with pain. Swallowing to keep from throwing up, she leaned over for a moment, praying not to faint after making it this far. Taking a few deep breaths, she moved to the door of the room, and wondered how long she'd have to wait before something happened.
Not ten seconds later, the door slid open to reveal a solid line of soldiers greeting her with their P-90s locked and loaded, pointed in her direction. "Don't move!"
She raised her left arm but kept her right pinned to her chest, the pain preventing her from lifting it in surrender. This was the moment she'd waited for-- had she made the right choice? Would the darkness mean death, or a second chance at a life she had yet to really live?
"Holy shit," a soldier said. "Dr. Fraiser?"
Sam had been taking a weak stab at her book on wormhole physics when the call came through. The motion sensor had been tripped in the storage room holding the Quantum mirror, and she ran to the elevator to find out who (or what) had come through. She hoped she hadn't made a mistake in convincing General Hammond to keep the mirror on site; he'd wanted it taken back to the secure facility in area 51, if not destroyed. Sam preferred to keep it close in case they needed it in the future. For what reason she couldn't articulate, but she wanted it nearby.
Rounding the corner, she saw the line of men guarding the door to the room, guns drawn. "Stand down!" she heard someone shout. That sounded promising-- it wasn't likely a Goa'uld if they were standing down. At the other end of the hall she saw O'Neill trotting toward her destination as well, Daniel close on his heels. They were all such busybodies, she was surprised Teal'c wasn't with them.
They met at the door. "Hear anything yet?" Sam asked.
"Nope, just got the news," Jack replied. "Think it's another copy of you?" he quipped.
A space opened up amidst the line of men, and a small figure, apparently injured, was ushered through. A dark curtain of hair blocked the woman's face from Sam's view, but she was definitely female. Sam's stomach flipped, clenching in on itself for reasons she couldn't immediately identify. She was familiar...
Suddenly Janet Fraiser's deep brown eyes were fixed upon her, wide with surprise. The wave of emotion that greeted Sam was shocking in its variety; elation, anger, and shock all mixed with the unimaginable sadness that had settled on her nearly six months before when Dr. Janet Fraiser was killed in the line of duty. Her dearest friend was dead, but somehow here she was again.
"Janet," Daniel squeaked. "Oh God."
His voice brought Sam out of the haze she'd slipped into. She blinked a few times, taking in the person who was absolutely not the Janet Fraiser she'd known. Dressed in an outfit identical to Sam's own black shirt and green pants, she seemed taller and more muscular than her old friend. She was also injured. "Has someone--" She started again, clearing her throat. "Has someone called a med team?"
"Yes ma'am," Sgt. Adams replied. "Right after we recognized her."
"You have me at a disadvantage," this Janet said, and Sam wanted to cry at the sound of her voice. "You all seem to know me, but I don't recognize any of you."
Sam realized there was blood dripping from the woman's face. She pulled one of her father's handkerchiefs from a pocket and stepped forward. "Janet," she said, trying to keep her voice from shaking, "I'm Samantha Carter." She reached out and pressed the cloth gently to the face that had haunted her dreams for months. Janet flinched beneath her touch. "You're hurt," she said lamely.
The woman shrugged, and from the expression that followed it seemed as if she'd forgotten how badly she was injured. "I've been hit before, it's not bad. I must look a sight, though," she said, touching her fingers to Sam's hand as it rested along her cheek. "Those hand devices sure do leave a mark."
At that moment, Sam felt something odd; like a spark of recognition. Faint, but present nonetheless, it was unmistakable. This Janet had some form of naquada in her blood, but she wasn't a Goa'uld. Sam hoped.
Janet stared back at her, eyes narrowed, and Sam wondered if she felt it too.
A moment later, the med team arrived, followed by General Hammond, and Sam knew she'd have to wait to learn more about this woman who looked very much like her lost friend, but was surely not the same.
The blue eyes of the soldier, Samantha, beckoned to her from behind the shoulders of the medical team, but she'd have to wait. There was something there, something familiar that she couldn't put a name to. But it was pushed to the back of her mind when General George Hammond's face came into view.
"Would someone care to fill me in on the situation?" he asked, the familiarity of his presence so welcome that Janet felt a great weight lift from her.
"The sensor was tripped, and this is who we found, sir," said the man Samantha had called Sergeant Adams.
Hammond looked down at her, his mouth dropping open slightly in recognition. "Dr. Fraiser," he said quietly. "Well."
Janet was surprised to realize the man was at a loss for words. She knew she'd have to bring up the subject at some point, so now would be better than later. "I take it my double is here, on base. If so, I should go back to the mirror and try again-- I've seen the effects of entropic cascade. If you could clean me up--"
"No," Hammond interrupted. "Your double, our Doctor Fraiser, that is, she's... We lost her, some time ago."
Of all the things he could have said, nothing could have shocked her more. Why she could have accepted her own death more readily than a counterpart's was a subject she'd consider at a later time. "Lost her?" she said, looking for more details.
"She was killed in action," Hammond said. "Almost six months ago."
It felt like she'd been thrown against the wall. A medic pressed her to lay down on the gurney. Something stung her arm; she flinched away, but it was too late. The drug took effect almost instantly, and quickly Janet searched out the blue eyes that had gripped her so strongly before. She blinked, trying in vain to focus, until she found them once more. She recognized the grief now, and wished she could reach out to hold her hand.
Sam sat near the bed, unable to tear her gaze away from the sleeping form. The claw marks marring Janet's cheek had been treated with a salve, but the bruise on her forehead was turning terrible colors. Even understanding that this Janet was a totally different person than the one she'd known, it tore at Sam's heart to see her so injured.
A line of antibiotics dripped steadily from a bag above them, hopefully healing the damage done by the staff blast. Sam wondered how much this Janet had suffered in her own world, and how she'd gotten here. She hadn't spoken since she'd lost consciousness in the hall. Sam wished she'd wake up.
Hammond hovered behind her. "This was unexpected, Major Carter," he finally said. "I'm not sure if I'm relieved or angry that I listened to you about keeping the mirror on the base."
Sam turned to him. "I believe she'd be dead if we'd destroyed the mirror, sir. Whatever happens, I'm glad we were here for her."
He nodded. After a few seconds, he added, "It's going to be difficult."
Sam knew he was right. "We need to give her asylum, General."
"I've already put a call in. I'm not anticipating any problems in that area. But still..."
Sam understood. Hammond had taken Janet's death as hard as anyone. He felt he'd failed to protect their doctor, a healer, who never should have been in the line of fire in the first place. They'd all failed her, and it still bothered Sam that she hadn't been by her side when it happened. Maybe she'd have been able to do something--
"God, I forgot how much these burns hurt," said a gravelly voice from the bed.
Sam's head whipped toward the sound. It shouldn't have felt as good to see Janet conscious, but it did, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She smiled. "You're awake."
An eyebrow lifted. "You're quick."
The sharpness of the quip cut Sam more than it should have. "Sorry to state the obvious."
A sly half grin crept across the bow shaped lips. "I'm teasing you, Samantha. Believe me, I'm very relieved to be awake." Glancing over Sam's shoulder, Janet said, "General Hammond, you are a sight for sore eyes."
Hammond stepped forward. "You know me?"
"Yes, sir," Janet replied. "It's very good to see you, even though you're not, you know, you."
The general smiled. "I know exactly what you mean, Doctor."
"If you don't mind, sir, I go by Major. No one's called me doctor since the week after I got my PhD."
That perked Sam's interest. "What's your degree in?" Sam asked.
Sam could not have been more surprised. "Are you serious?"
Brown eyes blinked. "Um, yes?"
"I'm sorry, I just, I wasn't expecting that. Our Janet, I mean the Janet that I knew, she was a medical doctor, specializing in infectious diseases. She was never too up on the more theoretical aspects of the science we do here."
"A medical doctor?" Janet winced. "That's not really my bag. I have, shall we say, issues with needles, so I'm conveniently ignoring the one stuck in my arm. The pain meds are helping in that respect." Another lazy grin tipped Janet's lips, and Sam found herself fascinated by the shape of her mouth. It was so much the same, but Sam knew she'd never seen that expression on Doctor Fraiser's face, ever.
Hammond's voice snapped her out of the reverie. "Can you tell us the circumstances of your journey here, Major?"
"Yes, sir. We began evacuations of the base and certain factions of government and civilians three days ago, when Apophis' ship was detected moving in our direction. All personnel departed a few hours before I came through the mirror. I remained on base for two reasons: one, to send a virus through our network, designed to fry the server and everything attached to it as soon as someone tried to activate the gate. Two: to arm a naquada reactor powerful enough to take out the mountain and whatever ships were in the immediate vicinity. I had about nine minutes to spare before I came through the mirror. We didn't have a lot of preparation time, so I hope like hell it worked."
Sam was curious that Apophis was a player so late in the game in the alternate reality. "How long has your gate been active, Major Fraiser?" Sam tried not to grimace at the way the foreign title sounded coming out of her mouth.
"Nearly four years, but I didn't come to the project till close to three years ago. I'd taken leave from the service to do a fellowship at CERN, and when my year was up I was contacted by one General George Hammond regarding a top secret program in need of some fresh blood. That was the beginning."
"Were you working in theoretical physics with CERN?"
"Yeah. Who knew I'd be able to put into practice what I'd spent my whole life imagining to be true?"
"Sorry to interrupt your scientific discussion, Majors, but we do have some more immediate concerns. I take it that you have no plans on returning to your world in the near future Doc-- Major Fraiser?"
"No, sir. If at all possible, I'd like to request permission to stay on here. I know it's a lot to ask, and I'll submit to any tests or security checks you'd require of me. I- I have no where else to go."
The split second verbal stumble was the first moment that Sam got an inkling of the loss this woman had experienced.
The General's voice was calm and reassuring when he spoke. "Thank you, Major. I should have a final answer for you in the next few hours, but I'll be honest: I won't take no for an answer in this situation. I will do everything in my power to provide you with the opportunity to make your home on this world. Depend on it."
"I will, sir. Thank you."
"I'll take my leave now. When you're up for it, I'd like you to give an in depth briefing to myself and the members of SG-1. In the meantime, rest up. And don't worry, you're safe here, Major."
Janet smiled. "Thanks again, General."
He nodded once, and when he looked at Sam, she could easily read the message in his eyes: take care of her. He was gone a moment later.
Sam again focused on brown eyes that had softened with the General's departure. "He's a good man," Janet said. "A lot like the man I knew."
Not knowing any words to comfort Janet, Sam reached out and took her hand. When the dark eyes slipped shut only a few moments later, Sam knew she'd made the right choice.
The pain ripped through her shoulder, and Janet did her best to pull away from whatever was causing it. But it seemed the more she pulled, the worse it felt. Her throat was raw, and she opened her mouth to scream.
"Janet, wake up!"
Her eyes flew open. "Goddamn it!" She grabbed at her arm before she realized it was covered for a reason, coming fully awake and aware. "It hurts!"
"Okay, okay, I'll get someone!" Samantha insisted. "I'll be right back."
Panting from exertion, Janet nodded once. Seconds later, Major Carter appeared with a nurse, who quickly adjusted the valve on her IV line. "I'm going to be sick," Janet managed. A basin was thrust beneath her chin just in time, and she lost what little was left in her stomach. Sweat trickled down her temples, and she tried to catch her breath as Samantha wiped at her mouth and tucked her hair behind her ears.
Finally, a wave of relief swept through her. Her eyes rolled back in her head as the drug took effect, and her muscles relaxed instantly. She exhaled, moaning out her thanks before dropping back on the bed.
Janet heard Samantha flop back into the chair near the gurney. She opened her eyes and glanced over, noticing that the blonde looked rumpled and exhausted. It struck her that she had no idea what time it was, or why this woman had remained by her bedside. "What are you still doing here?" she asked.
Samantha blinked once before looking down at her hands. "I thought maybe I didn't want you to be alone."
The sentiment touched Janet. "I'm glad you're here."
"I can't imagine how hard it was to leave everyone and everything you've known behind. It must have been terrifying."
Shrugging, Janet replied, "Someone had to stay. I'm short on family, so I seemed like the most logical choice." She smiled. "Besides, I didn't have anything better to do."
Her weak attempt at a joke fell flat. "You don't have any family?"
Janet swallowed. "No. My parents and younger brother were killed when I was 14. Car accident. My grandparents raised me, and they died a few years ago, so, that was it."
"I'm sorry." She assumed from the surprise in Samantha's expression that her counterpart's family was alive and kicking. Janet didn't want to know the details right now-- the complications could be astronomical. Not to mention confusing.
"And you're not married?"
"Ah, no." Janet wondered if homosexual marriage was legal in this universe. Maybe she'd ask someone later, if she couldn't get her hands on a computer to do some research. "Not even a remote possibility."
"Oh." There was an awkward pause. "If you want some privacy I can take off--"
"No!" Janet said. "Please, stay. But it must be late, and if you don't mind me saying so, you look like you've been ridden hard and put away wet." The moment the words were out of her mouth, she wanted to take them back. A blush suffused her face--the drugs had provided a loose tongue as a side effect to pain relief.
Samantha ran a hand through her adorably tousled hair and grinned. "I'm okay. I got some sleep here, before you woke up."
"I didn't mean to wake you so suddenly. I get night terrors from the drugs sometimes."
"Dr. Warner mentioned he saw scarring on your injured arm. You said earlier that you'd been hit before. When did it happen?"
"Last year. A stray shot followed us through the gate when we were ambushed on MR-725. It was dumb luck that it didn't kill me."
Samantha's form stilled, and the faintly curious smile disappeared from her face. "Yeah."
Even with the drugs muddying her thoughts, Janet knew instantly what had happened to her double. "So your Janet-- it was a staff blast?"
Blue eyes were suspiciously bright as they stared back at her. "Yeah." Janet watched as Samantha tried to bring herself under control, but soon a river of tears spilled down her cheeks.
"I'm so sorry, Samantha."
Her lovely face crumpled for a moment before she wiped at the tears with a sleeve. "I'm sorry It's been months and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier." Her eyes met Janet's. "I don't usually break down like this, I'm sorry," she repeated.
"Don't apologize, please. I'm sure seeing her face on me isn't helping."
Sniffling, Samantha replied, "It's a little confusing. I've missed her so much, and now you're here... For a moment, when I saw you, I wanted to believe it was all a mistake. But it wasn't. I chose her uniform. I saw her in the casket." She let out a little sob. "God, it was so hard."
Janet felt tears sting the cuts on her face. She held out a hand, and Samantha grabbed it before coming closer to carefully enfold her in an embrace. Though they'd only met hours before, Janet again felt the connection forged almost immediately when their eyes first met.
Softly Samantha cried on Janet's shoulder, a smooth hand resting on her undamaged cheekbone. Janet ignored aching ribs and gently rocked her back and forth, wondering if anyone would mourn her loss the way this woman mourned the other Janet's. She doubted it.
Sam moved her head and groaned at the pain shooting through her neck. The angle she'd slept in had numbed the pinky and ring finger of her right hand, and she flexed them rapidly to try and get her blood flowing again.
Shivering from the chill in the room, she glanced around and saw that her new friend, if she could call her that, was asleep. She looked chilly too, curled up as well as she could despite her injury, so Sam set off to find a blanket to cover her.
She found only scratchy woolen blankets that looked like they'd been around since WWI in the med lab's storage closet. A few minutes later, she returned to the infirmary, armed with a down comforter from her quarters for Janet and a sleeping bag for herself. She knocked the thermostat up a few degrees before moving a gurney closer to the only other occupied one in the room.
As gently as she could, she spread the comforter over Janet's battered body. Her form turned under the new weight of the heavy down, and sleepy brown eyes looked up. "Tethys," Janet breathed. "Priem ta shree, tal ma."
The words echoed in Sam's brain as Janet's eyes slid shut. It was Goa'uld, she knew, but she was unable to translate. Dr. Warner had confirmed to Sam earlier that this Janet had a protein marker comparable to her own. She recalled the sense of recognition when Janet first stepped from the storage room, now even more curious to find out if it stemmed from an experience like hers with the Tok'ra. However, she guessed that Tethys was a name, and it wasn't familiar.
As Sam settled into her sleeping bag, she gazed at Janet's scarred face, so calm in repose. The mystery of Major Janet Fraiser deepened with each passing moment.
Thirst woke Janet eventually, and it took a few moments for her eyes to focus. There was a man sitting beside her bed, staring at her with a rather constipated look on his face. "Could you get me a glass of water?" she asked him.
"Yes, of course," he said, before clumsily pouring her a cup from the bedside table. "Here you go."
"Thanks." She sipped slowly, just in case. "Have we met?"
"No, actually, sorry. I'm Dr. Daniel Jackson." He held out a soft hand, and Janet shook it. "I'm on SG-1. Uh, that's what we call our primary gate team. Was it the same where you come from?"
"Yes, in fact. I was on it."
Daniel's eyebrows flew up, but the constipated look remained. "So you weren't a doctor?"
Janet was amazed word hadn't gotten out by now about her differing career path. "Not of medicine, but I have a doctorate in particle physics."
"Really!" Daniel exclaimed.
She smiled. He seemed an unusual sort. "Yes. I was promoted to Major last year."
"Interesting. Well. Since you don't recognize me, I take it I wasn't involved in your Stargate program?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Interesting," he repeated.
Janet drank some more water while thoughts flew across Daniel's extremely expressive face. He seemed to be working something out inside his head.
Though hesitant to interrupt him, she asked, "What happened to Samantha?"
"Oh, you mean Sam?" Janet nodded. "She's with General Hammond. They're working out the details of bringing you into the program. We haven't done this before, though we ran into a situation similar to yours a few years ago. Since you don't have an identity or a security clearance in this reality, there are some things they need to take care of."
"Does it look like I'll be able to stay?"
"Oh yes! General Hammond would have insisted. He was very fond of our own Doctor Fraiser-- there's no way he'd send you away if you wanted to remain here."
Grinning, Janet said, "This world seems as good as any. It's a lot more stable than the one I left, considering there aren't serpent guards all over the place." Her stomach spoke up at that moment, yowling noisily enough for Daniel to hear. "Sorry about that. I haven't eaten for a while."
Daniel got to his feet. "You're hungry, of course! I can get you something from the commissary. It's not haute cuisine, but it will fill you up."
"Sure. Is it morning?" The lack of windows or a watch left Janet with no clue of the time.
"Breakfast should still be on the menu."
"I'll take anything but cottage cheese." Daniel nodded and headed out. "Thank you so much, Dr. Jackson."
Just before he walked through the doorway, he turned back and said, "Call me Daniel."
Leaning back, Janet wondered how the scratches on her face were healing. She'd been instructed not to touch them, but they were starting to itch, as was her arm. "Lt. Harkins?" she called out.
Seconds later, he appeared. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Do you think I could get a mirror?"
He frowned. "Your scabs haven't really started healing yet. Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'd rather know if people are going to run from the room once they see me." Especially people like Samantha Carter.
He returned with a mirror, and Janet took a hesitant peek. Letting out a sigh of relief, she relaxed. "Whew. I thought it would be worse. Last time I was in the infirmary, my eye was the size of Texas. This is nothing." There were four parallel lines across her cheek, almost like a swipe from a big cat's paw. The bruise along her forehead wasn't bad either; it was already starting to fade from angry purple to brown. "Thank you, Lieutenant. I could use something to ease the itching, if you have it."
As Harkins applied the salve to her face, Daniel returned with a tray loaded down with food. When the smell of pancakes hit her, her stomach rumbled even more loudly than before. "Hurry up, Harkins, the monster must be fed!"
Daniel slid a tray on wheels over her bed, and Janet's eyes widened when she saw the amount of food he'd brought with him. Fruit, two kinds of bagels, pancakes, eggs, bacon, hash browns, orange juice, coffee and milk. "Is this all for me?"
"I wasn't sure what you'd like, so I brought everything."
His kindness warmed her. "Thank you, Daniel. Really."
She dove into the pancakes first, and though it was a challenge with one hand, she made do. During the meal, she learned more about Daniel: his history with the team, the loss of his wife, and the remarkable story of his death and eventual return to this world. It sounded unbelievable, but she'd seen so many unbelievable things in the past three years it didn't seem impossible.
Since she ate so slowly, she was only halfway through everything a half an hour later, and Daniel showed no signs of slowing down his storytelling. She'd recognized his intelligence almost immediately, and he appeared genuinely interested in becoming her friend. Even in that short time, she could see why he was such an integral part of SG-1.
She was shoveling hash browns into her mouth when Samantha and General Hammond arrived. "Hi Daniel, Major Fraiser," Samantha said.
"I have good news, Major," Hammond said. "We've received official word that you may stay permanently. There are still some issues we need to work out, but we want to induct you into the program here, if you're willing. I'm not sure where you'll end up, but we always have room for capable scientists."
A weight lifted from Janet's shoulders. "Thank you, sir." She was embarrassed to feel tears in her eyes.
"You're welcome, Major." He placed a hand on her good shoulder. "You're family now." The memory of her own General doing the same thing swam up, nearly choking her with emotion.
She wiped surreptitiously at her tears before they could fall, and Samantha offered her a tissue. "Sorry," Janet said.
Her three new friends waited till she'd composed herself. "What sorts of things will you need from me?"
Hammond replied, "As I mentioned earlier, a briefing regarding the history of your program, as well as some of your experiences as a member of a team."
"She was on SG-1 in her world, General," Daniel interjected.
Samantha's eyebrows rose, as did Hammond's. "With the way all three of you have reacted to that news, I take it my counterpart wasn't much of a soldier," Janet said.
Sam smiled. "She held her own more than once, but she was much more comfortable with a giant needle in her hand rather than a P-90."
Laughing, Daniel added, "Colonel O'Neill could tell you some stories about her ability to wield a needle with deadly accuracy. She did enjoy paying him back for his comments about her height."
Ah, that sounded familiar. "Really?"
"She never forgot *Napoleonic power monger,* and he paid dearly for that one for about four years straight."
Smirking, Janet said, "I'm not surprised. That's much more creative than any I've heard for a while, I'll admit."
"How are you feeling, by the way? You look much better than you did last night. Your bruise is already starting to heal," Sam said, reaching out to touch her hair, but hesitating before making contact.
"It's not bad. My arm is itchy as hell, but that will pass in a day or two. I could probably do the briefing this afternoon, if someone could get me an outfit that closes in the back." She was quite aware of her state of undress beneath her hospital gown. "After a shower, that is. Not to be indelicate, but I stink to high heaven."
"Okay, then," Hammond said. "Major Carter, perhaps you can help Major Fraiser with a shower and some BDU's. We'll convene for a briefing at fourteen hundred hours. See you then."
"See you, Janet," Daniel said with a little wave.
"Thanks again for breakfast, Daniel," she called out as the men left.
"No problem. Bye, Sam."
Samantha eyed the half filled tray of food still on the tray. "Did you share?" she asked.
"No, but he brought everything on the menu. Are you hungry?"
"I missed breakfast. Do you mind?"
"Not a bit. I'm full."
Samantha made room at the foot of the bed and pulled the tray closer to her. As she spread cream cheese on half a bagel, she said, "Can I ask you about something that happened last night?"
"There was this moment in the middle of the night, when I pulled a blanket over you. You looked up and said, *Tethys,* and then I think you said something in Goa'uld."
The dream came back to Janet at that moment. It took place on the first Tok'ra planet she'd visited, where she'd begun to really know Tethys. Her own memories blended with her former symbiote's, and she realized that Samantha Carter bore a vague resemblance to the Tok'ra. She couldn't decide if it was her coloring, bearing, or otherwise, but something of the major reminded her powerfully of her lover.
Her dead lover.
"I should start out by asking, have you met the Tok'ra?" Janet began.
Samantha nodded. "Yes. We've been in contact for more than five years now."
Janet blew out a breath. "Well, last year, I was on a planet, assisting in an evacuation, when I performed CPR on a fallen soldier. When my mouth touched his, something jumped into me, and we were joined."
Sam's eyes were enormous. "Oh my God."
"I know, it was strange for me as well. But it was a Tok'ra, not a Goa'uld. Her name was--"
"Jolinar of Malkshur," Sam said flatly.
Shocked, Janet could only nod.
"That must have been what I felt when we met. I knew you weren't Goa'uld, but I felt the protein marker she left with you. Did you feel it too?"
Frowning, Janet replied, "I felt something unusual, but how do you mean?"
Moving closer, Samantha looked intensely into her eyes. "Major, in this world, I was the one that Jolinar jumped into. She was hiding in a soldier on Nassya, and when he was near death, I happened upon her. She used me to leave the planet and escape the Ashrak that was chasing her. Until he caught up with her. Er, me."
A chill slid through Janet's body, and she fell back on the pillow. "Oh my God."
Samantha nodded. "Exactly."
"Then you must have known Tethys!" she said excitedly. "Is she still alive?"
"I'm sorry, who is Tethys?"
"Host to Lantash, the symbiote. Jolinar's mate. Did you know her?"
Sam's face fell, and Janet's heart dropped along with it. "I didn't know Tethys. In this universe, a man named Martouf hosted Lantash. He-- he was killed two years ago in an... in an accident."
The loss slammed into Janet nearly as hard as it had the first time. "And Lantash?"
Samantha looked as if she was struggling with a powerful emotion. "He and his new host died last year in a raid on a Tok'ra stronghold."
Janet's heart broke. She knew in her mind it was possible Tethys, or even Lantash, wouldn't be alive in this world, but the chance had been in the back of her mind when she chose to leave her world. She'd never loved anyone as she had Tethys, and a second loss felt almost impossible to take. Even though in her head Janet knew that their relationship began because of Jolinar's influence, that fact made it no less powerful. She covered her mouth and allowed a fresh set of tears to fall.
A hand squeezed her leg. "Did you know Lantash, or um, Tethys, well?" Sam asked.
Looking up at Samantha, she saw the loss reflected in her gaze. "Not well enough. We were only together a few months before Tethys was killed, and there wasn't time enough to find a new host. I begged her to allow me to blend with Lantash, but they both refused." Janet paused for a breath. "I never knew why."
"When you say you were *together*, do you mean..."
Janet said softly, "We were lovers."
Samantha swallowed, taking a break for a minute before she continued. "How long were you host to Jolinar?"
"Barely a day, but it felt like a lifetime."
Nodding, Samantha said, "I know what you mean." She scrubbed at her hair until it stuck out into seven different directions, giving Janet the first smile she'd felt for a while. "Was it the Ashrak?"
"Yes. He killed her, and I almost died as well. Jolinar-- she gave her life to save mine."
"It happened that way for me too," Samantha said. "But I didn't become, uh, involved with Lantash the way you did."
"Martouf must have been very different from Tethys. She was..." Janet recalled the softness of Tethys' eyes as they'd fastened upon her, and the way Jolinar's memories of their lovemaking combined to make the Tok'ra impossible to resist. Not that Janet had tried. "She was the most charismatic and beautiful woman I'd ever met. Actually, you-- you remind me of her."
Samantha looked shocked. "Me?"
"Yes." Janet left out the fact that she'd felt that same visceral attraction to her as she had to Tethys, but she figured the message was clear enough. "She was tall, like you are, and her eyes were the same blue, like the sky, or the ocean, depending on her mood. But her hair was longer than yours, so long that I'd wrap myse-- my hands in it," she corrected hastily. "Anyway, it's more a feeling than a true resemblance."
Sam cleared her throat, shifting in her seat.
"I hope I haven't made you uncomfortable, Major," Janet said, suddenly realizing that equating her new friend with her dead female lover might pose a problem.
"No, no, it's not that. I'm just... Surprised, I guess. I felt a very deep connection with Martouf, but the timing never seemed right to do anything about it. He was... very dear to me. Losing him was difficult." She looked away. "It was harder because I fired the shot that killed him."
Janet caught her breath. "Oh Samantha."
Sam threw herself on the bed in her quarters, emotionally drained. She's spent the past two hours comparing notes with Major Fraiser, and it was much more complex than she'd expected. Though they shared parts of a history because of Jolinar, their universes diverged following their respective joinings. Sam had calmly listened to the story of Janet's romance with Tethys, mourning with her when she explained how both Tethys and Lantash were eventually killed. Though it had happened almost a year before, Janet's grief remained a palpable force.
Sam had told her own stories about Jolinar, her father's blending with Selmak, and their experiences with Sokar and Binar on Netu. Eventually, she explained what happened with the Zatarc device, and the memories of killing Martouf came flooding back when she put them into words. Describing the experience with Lt. Elliott had been less emotional, but Janet's reaction to his eventual death, taking Lantash with him, had worn out both of them.
Pulling the comforter over herself without sliding under the covers, Sam set her alarm for 1:45. She had a couple of hours to herself, and she knew she'd need every minute if she wanted to survive the briefing later that day. If the morning had been tough, the afternoon would probably be worse.
Fifteen minutes later, Sam stared at the ceiling, unable to relax. Snippets of her conversation with Major Fraiser, or Janet, as she was trying to call her, kept running through her head. Hearing that Janet had become romantically involved with Lantash's female host Tethys had been... interesting. It brought up Sam's own insecurities about her decision (or non-decision) not to get involved with Martouf, and she wondered again if she'd made a mistake. Their situations had been different, but Janet had shared a beautiful past with Tethys, and she'd made it apparent that she would not trade a moment of it for an easier path.
That brought up another subject Sam couldn't seem to let go of: Janet, involved with a woman. Her new friend didn't have any hang-ups about loving someone of the same gender, and when Sam had asked if Jolinar's influence had something to do with that fact, Janet had replied succinctly, "No." Was this Janet gay? Had she ever been married like the other Janet? Did she leave someone behind when she'd come to this world?
Sam had even more questions now than before. It was going to be a long day.
Daniel turned out to be the one to help Janet find a shower and some BDUs. Following her marathon conversation with Samantha, she'd pled exhaustion, and when the major left, Janet had promptly fallen asleep. Fortunately Daniel had come to the rescue just in time, bringing her to the base showers (conveniently located in the same place as her own base's showers) and delivering clothes. He'd also helped wrap her bandage in the plastic provided by Harkins to keep the wound dry, and though it hadn't been spectacular, the shower had been refreshing.
"Is the base set up the way it was in your reality?" Daniel asked as he led her to the briefing room.
"Yep. So far it's all exactly the same. It's a little unnerving."
"I know what you mean. My first trip through the mirror was tricky, mainly because I didn't realize I'd left here till well after the fact."
"Really? Will you tell me about it sometime?"
Smiling, Daniel pushed up his glasses. "Of course. With pleasure." He gestured to a chair at the rectangular table, and Janet sat. She adjusted her sling carefully and glanced around the room, eyeing the planetary map with great interest. She'd definitely have to get a closer look at it later.
Her heart leapt in her chest when she saw the Jaffa enter the room, even though Sam had explained the circumstances of his presence on the team. Her last run in with Teal'c had not been a pleasant one, and she knew she'd have ended up tortured by him had she not made it through the mirror. Swallowing her initial reaction, she stood up to introduce herself. "Hi, I'm Major Janet Fraiser." It sounded silly to her ears, since obviously he knew who she was.
"I am Teal'c, Major Janet Fraiser. I am pleased to finally meet you," the huge man said.
His calm face unnerved her, but there was a smile in his eyes that she hadn't expected. "Thank you, Teal'c."
"Have we met before in your previous reality?"
Janet chewed on her bottom lip. "Yes, I'd uh, made your acquaintance some time ago."
Clasping his hands behind his back, he asked, "Was I a member of SG-1?"
"Well, no. You were still the First Prime of Apophis."
"That is regrettable. I can assure you, Major Fraiser, that you have nothing to fear from me." His hand enveloped hers in a warm grip, and Janet's anxiety was eased instantly.
She also found herself unable to sense the Goa'uld larva he must have in his pouch. "Are you that is to say, ah, do you have--"
"I no longer carry a Prim'ta, if that is what you are inquiring about. I take a supplement called Tretonin to help me survive without a symbiote."
"That's remarkable!" Janet said, truly astonished. It seemed every hour more differences were unfolding, and she had only barely begun.
"I hope to utilize this drug in the future to help free my people from the slavery the Goa'uld has forced upon them."
"That's a noble pursuit, Teal'c. I hope I can help you, somehow." It was easy to recognize that this Jaffa was nothing like the one from her world, who had once held a staff weapon inches from her head and would have killed her without regret if he'd been granted a few more seconds. "You aren't what I expected."
"Nor are you, Major. It is already clear to me that while your face is familiar, you are not. I look forward to experiencing the many facets of your personality."
Grinning at his formality, she replied, "Thanks. Likewise." Janet retook her seat next to Teal'c and watched as Samantha and Daniel took chairs across from her. Another man, craggy and handsome, took a seat near the head of the table and peered at her. This must be the Colonel she'd heard about, the one with a fear of giant needles. She stared back at him, and their contest was only broken with the entrance of General Hammond. Janet was almost disappointed; she was sure he'd have blinked first if they'd had more time. It was a challenge to hide the smirk that crept across her face.
"Thank you for gathering, folks. I'd like to start by officially welcoming Major Janet Fraiser into the Stargate program. Understanding that you'll need time to adjust to this world, Major, you'll have a week of downtime, subject to change depending on how it goes for you and the rest of us. I'd like you to use this time to explore the history of our world and become familiar with the circumstances of this universe. SG-1, I'd like you all to make yourselves available to the Major as a resource. Since most of you are unknown to her, it's essential that she learn all she can so when she takes her position on a team, she'll be as prepared as possible."
"If I may, sir," Samantha said, "which team will Major Fraiser be on?"
"That all depends on her past experience, Major Carter. I have some ideas, but I'll make my final decision at a later date."
Samantha nodded, meeting Janet's eyes.
"I'm not quite sure where to start, Major Fraiser. Why don't you begin with your entry into the Stargate program?"
"Yes, sir. I had been involved in the Fellowship program at CERN, studying superstring theory as it pertains to the development of black holes, wormholes and--"
"You have *got* to be kidding!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"Pardon," Janet said, irritated at the interruption.
"There's another one of you?" He pointed at Samantha. "We're only allowed one psychotically brilliant physicist per universe. You'll have to go back where you came from. I can't handle more of this science crap."
Janet curled her lip. "This *science crap* pays your rent, Colonel, among other things." She glanced at Hammond. "May I continue?"
The satisfied grin on the general's face said it all.
"Anyway, as I was saying..."
Janet was hoarse from talking so much, and she guessed the rest of the team was as well. They'd sat together for more than four hours, trading stories and delving into personal histories that gave Janet a brilliant picture of SG-1's life in this universe. It had been fraught with troubles, but more than not, the team had squeaked out of more impossible situations than Janet could've imagined. She heard the tale of her counterpart's death, and the heaviness in the air had been suffocating for those few minutes. The sorrow they all felt over the loss of Dr. Fraiser remained almost a living entity, and Janet found herself wishing for their sakes it had never happened. Guilt was a part of the sorrow, and that only served to make the team feel worse.
For her part, Janet could only tell them, "You know, your Janet and I never met, but I'd bet she knew exactly what she was getting into when she joined the service. She was willing to take the risk to serve her country, and Earth. Doctor Fraiser got a raw deal, and from what I've seen today, that's partly because she had to leave a family like this one behind."
That had struck the five other people around the table dumb. "I wish she was here," Janet continued, filling the quiet. "I don't think we're very much alike. I'd love to meet a version of myself who doesn't get sick at the sight of blood," she chuckled. "She sounds like a woman who put herself on the line because it was the right thing to do, who acted fearlessly in even the most dangerous circumstances. She gave of herself, and sacrificed everything for a cause she believed in."
O'Neill had stared at her in the silent room. "Sounds to me as though you're describing yourself, Fraiser."
Janet had felt her mouth fall open, struck by his observation.
"You may be a lot more like our Doctor than you think." It was an insight Janet would not have imagined Jack O'Neill making, and she realized she'd wildly misjudged him.
She'd played off any similarities between their situations; after all, Dr. Fraiser had died saving the life of another, and Janet had only abandoned one world to come to another. But the parallel remained with her, rumbling around in her brain as she walked down the corridor with O'Neill and Samantha.
"I'm amazed I'm hungry after eating so much this morning," Janet said.
"It's been a hard day. I think we could all use a pick me up," Sam said.
"Yes," Jack said with enthusiasm. "Who wants to go for a beer?"
That sounded heavenly, but Janet hadn't been granted leave from the base. In fact, she was almost positive she wasn't permitted to set foot outside the mountain. What would happen if someone who'd known Doctor Fraiser spotted her knocking back a few pints as if she'd never died? "God, I'd love one, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be holed up here inside the mountain for a while. I don't even have a driver's license, much less a car."
"Ooh, a good plan foiled by pesky details. The commissary will have to do."
"I need to check on something in the lab for a few minutes," Samantha said. "Why don't we drop you off at your quarters and then we can meet in the commissary in say, twenty?"
"All work and no play, Carter," O'Neill warned.
"Twenty minutes isn't going to kill you, Colonel. Major, is that okay with you?"
"Sure, just point the way to my new digs."
"You were going to be in guest quarters, but I thought it might be better if we got you some space on level 7, near SG-1's quarters. We don't stay on base that often, but it's a lot less, um, empty than level 25."
"Thanks, Samantha. That was very thoughtful."
They rode the elevator a few floors up, and Sam pointed out that Janet's door was only two away from hers. A few minutes later, Janet sat alone in a room lacking in both character and furniture. She had a bed, a chair and a night table, plus a dresser that looked as though it was built in Leavenworth circa 1978. The walls were bare. She did find some towels and two sets of BDUs on the dresser, undoubtedly Samantha's doing.
Looking around the room, the reality of the situation she'd managed to avoid thus far finally descended upon her. She had lost everything, literally. She owned nothing: no books, no CDs, no clothes, no shoes. She had no photographs of her family or friends, of important moments from her life that she or someone else wanted to keep and remember. Imagining her apartment, Janet thought of the Vuarnet sunglasses she'd forgotten on her coffee table the last day she'd been home. Three days ago, she thought. The few expensive things she'd acquired over the years were all either obliterated (if her plan hadn't succeeded) or would be given to charity when she didn't return. She supposed she'd be listed as MIA, not that many people would care. The Stickley that had been in her father's office--she hoped someone would take care of it. Same with the hundred-year-old teacups and china she'd inherited from her grandmother. Imagining them in someone else's hands stole the breath from her lungs.
Now she had a dresser, and a bed, and a chair. Not that she owned them.
A few minutes passed before she realized she was crying. There was a knock at the door, and she wiped her face quickly with a sleeve, realizing there wasn't even a box of tissues in the room. "Yes?" she said, surprised at how normal she sounded.
"Ready to make a dent in the fatted calf?" O'Neill said, swinging the door open. She wasn't sure if he noticed her state, but she suspected he wasn't quite as oblivious as he looked.
"You know, Colonel, I appreciate it, but I don't think I'm that hungry after all."
Sam poked her head in behind O'Neill. "What's up? Are you coming?"
"No, I should probably stay in and--" She looked around the room. There wasn't a thing available to help her come up with an excuse. "Sleep. I don't uh, want to get over tired because of my injury." She sort of shrugged her sore arm and winced.
"Aw, come on," Jack chuffed, "I know you're hungry."
Though Samantha's eyes narrowed as she looked at her, she said, "It's okay, Colonel. Let's head out. It's no problem, Janet."
"Carter, what are you--"
"We'll see you soon," Sam finished, pulling on Jack's elbow to lead him out of the room.
"Thanks. Have a good night," Janet said, partially disappointed at their easy departure.
Once again, the room was empty. Janet lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.
Sam shifted the heavier bag to her right arm. Her fingers ached from the weight, but she knew it would be worth it. She hoped she hadn't misjudged Major Fraiser's state of mind, because if she had, she was going to feel like a complete idiot.
She literally bumped into Teal'c at the elevator, hardly looking where she was going. He wasn't straining under his burden at all. "Hey," Sam said, grinning.
"Good evening, Major Carter. Would you like some assistance?"
"Thanks, Teal'c," she said, handing one of the bags to him. "Oh man, that smells so good."
"Patience, Major Carter."
She grinned again.
They found that O'Neill and Daniel had already met up in Daniel's quarters, so the little group gathered everything and headed down the hall.
Jack rapped on the non-descript door, and seconds later, it opened to reveal a bleary-eyed Janet. Confusion registered on her face. "Hi, what are you doing back here so late?"
"Late?" O'Neill boomed. "It's barely nine. Dinnertime, Major. Out of the way, we come bearing gifts." He pushed past Janet, and Sam slipped in behind him.
"What's going on?"
Daniel explained, "You weren't able to bring a moving van through the gate, so we brought you a few things. Sam got clothes--"
"Really basic stuff, since I don't know your tastes," she explained.
"--and toiletries, that sort of thing. Jack pilfered central stores for office supplies in case you want to set up a desk in here, and he got IS to give you a laptop."
Jack said, "And I brought snacks. Everyone needs snacks. Unless you don't like chocolate or peanuts, in which case, I'll have snacks."
Daniel continued, "I couldn't get a tv yet since the a/v guys were gone for the day, but we'll hook you up tomorrow. I did, however, bring some bedding that you'll actually be able to sleep on." He started pulling sheets and pillows from an enormous bag he'd dragged in. "I'm sure the colors aren't right--"
"Stop!" Janet said, looking pained.
Sam moved closer to her. "What's wrong?"
Janet looked as though she were about to burst into tears. "Why are you doing this?"
After a glance at her team, Sam smiled. "Because you're here." Janet didn't look like she was getting it. "Twenty four hours ago, you kicked Apophis' ass and left your whole world behind. We wanted to give you a few things to make it easier. I mean, look at this room--it might as well be a prison cell for all the stuff in it. Besides," she added with a sly grin, recalling something Janet had said earlier, "we didn't have anything better to do."
Teal'c stepped forward. "I have purchased many pizzas, Major Fraiser, as well as a significant quantity of alcohol, at the request of Colonel O'Neill." He set a case of beer down at Janet's feet. "Do not be afraid to accept these gifts, Major. We wish only to make your transition more pleasant."
Janet gazed blankly at the lot of them, and Sam placed a hand on her shoulder. When watery brown eyes met hers, for a moment Sam felt as though she would drown. "I don't know what to say," Janet whispered.
Sam took a breath to respond, but Jack cut her off. "Say you like pepperoni," he said, a hint of seriousness underlying the quip.
Janet laughed, and the tension broke instantly. "I like pepperoni."
Jack exhaled. "Thank God for that. Put those suckers down, Teal'c, before my stomach eats itself."
Janet lounged comfortably on her new bedding, keeping her sore arm raised on a few of the pillows Daniel had brought. She felt warm and surprisingly content considering the way her day had gone, but a little sustenance went a long way. She was sipping from a glass of water, having only had one beer to prevent getting an earful from the doctors she'd be seeing tomorrow. The boys had begged off a little while before, since it was closing on midnight, but Samantha stayed on, nursing a beer and chatting. It was nice to have good company, and it kept Janet from moping.
"I'm still not over the fact that you were host to Jolinar like I was," Samantha said, sipping from her bottle. "Of all the similar things that happened on your world, that's the one that's most striking to me."
"I know," Janet replied. "I felt it, when we first met. Tethys once explained that the markers left in my blood would help identify Goa'uld, or Tok'ra, as it were, but I hadn't met someone like you before, who had once been a host and survived."
"I felt it too. Besides, seeing you, it seemed like I knew you. But even after barely a day, I can tell you're not the Janet I knew."
The sullenness from earlier threatened to return at the remark, and Janet tried to fight it off. "In a bad way?"
"Oh, God, no!" Samantha exclaimed. When she sat up, Sam slopped a bit of beer out onto her black tee shirt without noticing. "You're just different. Your voice, your hair, the way you speak. And I never discussed physics with the other Janet, believe me. Her tolerance before glazing over was somewhere between Jack's and Daniel's. Also, you seem... tougher. And taller, for some reason."
Janet smirked. "It's the boots. I put lifts in, plus the soles are almost two inches high. In stocking feet, I'm about 5'1". Here, stand up." She got off the bed, and Samantha stood in front of her. She laid her palm atop her head, and drew it in a straight line across the empty space to hit Sam right below her collarbones. "See?"
"Wow, you are short," Sam said.
"Well, you're abnormally tall," Janet cracked. "What are you, six feet?"
"Not even, I'm 5'10"."
"Yeah, because that's so far from six feet."
They both flopped down into their respective seats, and Sam put her feet up on Janet's bed, crossing her ankles. "Anyway, you're more muscular than the other Janet. She did a lot of yoga, so she was strong and flexible, but you look like you lift weights."
"I do. I tried yoga, but I thought it was boring. All that tranquility drove me crazy. I'm much happier in the weight room, or doing martial arts or boxing."
"Teal'c will be happy to hear that."
"I doubt it. He could crush me with one hand."
Samantha shifted in her seat. "Are you... uncomfortable around him?"
Janet thought about it. "I'm not sure. A little, maybe. I'm not quite used to Jaffa walking around all friendly-like."
"Understandable. But Teal'c was really close with Janet, and I think he remembers that when he looks at you."
"How close were they?"
"She saved his life more than once, and she used to meditate with him sometimes."
"Meditate?" Janet had never meditated in her life. "Wow. That's uh... far out."
Samantha laughed. "Another difference," she noted.
"Anyway, I bet he'd love to train you in boxing once your arm is healed. You should mention it next time you see him."
That sounded like a nice idea to Janet. It would be good to get into a routine, so she wouldn't lose any muscle. Her height was a double edged sword: sometimes, the enemy would ignore her because they wouldn't see her as a threat, but other times, she'd appear to be the weakest, and therefore first to go. Training and martial arts gave her an edge. No Jaffa ever considered her as a worthy opponent until she'd disarmed him with a well-placed kick or punch. The one yesterday certainly wasn't expecting her to escape.
God, it was only yesterday. "I can't believe I was in another universe less than 48 hours ago." Sam was quiet, waiting for her to elaborate. "I mean, it's so odd. I had a whole life. I left it and came here, and now I have a new life. I have to start over-- new people, new rules, new stuff." She indicated the pile of clothes on the dresser next to the hacked radio that picked up stations despite their position deep inside the mountain. "I feel okay at the moment, but I... I don't know how it's going to be."
Samantha reached forward and took her hand. "It's going to be hard, and strange, but nice too. I don't know about you, but I had fun tonight. It's been a long time since I had fun this way." Looking down at their joined hands, she continued, "Losing Janet took away a lot of fun. She was very much like family to me. I spent a lot of downtime with her and Cassie."
Cassie-- the daughter other Janet had adopted. That was another experience they didn't share; in her world, she'd never traveled to Hanka.
"But I don't know... Tonight was good. Thanks for letting us raid your room."
Janet chuckled. "Are you kidding? Me-- turn down free food and drink, not to mention the stuff you brought? Not a chance. I was feeling pretty pathetic before you all showed up."
Sam nodded, as though she'd already known. "I thought that was the case. I would if I were you. Don't feel obligated to wear any of the clothes I brought you, by the way. I won't feel insulted."
"They're perfect," Janet assured her. They were too. Jeans, tee shirts, a few with printed slogans on them, some v-necked sweaters, and underwear made up most of the lot, and they were rather similar to her own wardrobe. "Besides, I'll probably have to wear BDUs while I'm on base."
"Not while you're off duty," Sam corrected.
"Oh yeah, the week off I'm supposed to take. Should be interesting. At least I have a computer now. Is there an ethernet connection in here?"
"Yeah. I'll set it up before I head out."
Janet found herself disappointed to hear Samantha was leaving, but she was happy she'd stayed later than the rest of the gang. Janet already felt a connection with this woman who had every reason to be unsettled around her, but wasn't. Though Janet surely could have hooked up the machine on her own, she didn't mind Sam taking care of it for her. It was kind of nice, this accepting help thing.
A few minutes later, the laptop was fired up and ready to go. "It's a Mac, I hope that's okay. You had Macs, right?" Sam asked.
Janet almost laughed. "Yes, we had Macs. I'm thrilled to have it. Thank you so much, Samantha." She looked at Janet, blonde head tilted slightly, as though she was pondering something. "Is it okay that I call you Samantha?"
A small crinkle formed between Sam's brows. "Yeah, it's fine. Different. I'm so used to being called Sam it's... anyway, I don't mind. But I should tell you, it may take me a little while to get used to calling you-- Janet."
Sighing, Janet said, "You don't have to call me that, honest. You can call me Fraiser, or Major, or, um, Jan," she said, grimacing.
Samantha cracked up. "No way! You should have seen the expression on your face just now." Sam continued laughing so hard she had to wipe her eyes. " I won't call you Jan. I'll figure something out. Maybe I should call you Alice. You did come through our looking glass."
Janet smiled. "Whatever you like."
Sam dropped her empty bottle in the half full case of beers Teal'c had left behind. "I'll uh, leave you to get some rest then. Thanks again for having us."
"It was a pleasure. Will you come by tomorrow?" Janet hoped she didn't sound desperate.
"Sure. I usually get breakfast around seven. Should I pick you up?"
Ignoring that the clock said it was already after midnight, Janet replied, "Yeah, that sounds fine. I'll see you tomorrow. And Samantha-- thank you again. For everything."
At the door, Sam watched her. "It's nothing." Then she was gone.
Sam fluffed her hair slightly in the back as she stood at the door, then for some reason, checked the hall to see if anyone had seen her do it. She knocked on the door.
A few seconds passed, and she knocked again. Nothing. "Major Fraiser?" she called out, listening for movement inside the room. "Huh." Sam considered she could be in the locker room, or anywhere on the base, but it was 7:00 sharp, and she didn't think Janet would be late. She knocked one last time, saying to the door, "Hey, if you're in there, I'm going to try the door, okay?" The knob turned, and she inched her head in to take a peek, finding Janet still asleep.
"Hey, sleepyhead," she said with a smile. "Rise and shine, I'm starved."
Janet didn't move. Frowning, Sam approached the bed, and her breath caught a little when she noticed a sheen of sweat on Janet's forehead. "Janet?" Sam touched her skin, and cursed at the heat she felt. Debating whether or not she could physically carry the smaller woman to the infirmary, she decided it was best to call for a team to come get her. Quickly she made the call, trying to stay calm, but she was worried.
A moment later, Janet's eyelids fluttered open. "Heeey there, Samantha. G'morning."
"Morning. How do you feel?"
"Feel?" Janet said, her voice low. "Oh, shitty. You know how it is. Besides, it's fucking freezing in here. These blankets Jackson gave me are crap."
Internally, Sam chalked up one more variance between the Janets; her old friend cut out the cursing when she adopted Cassie to set a good example. She'd slipped occasionally, but not often. "You have a fever, Major. We've got some med techs on the way."
"Fever? Bah. Never get sick." Janet sat up in bed, and Sam's eyes were inadvertently drawn to the Major's damp tank top. Or rather, the figure beneath the damp tank top. Yep, this Janet worked out. Sam shook her head to clear it. "Hey, Samantha?"
"Yeah? Listen, you should lay down," Sam said, trying to coax Janet back down to the bed, until she realized the sheets were damp as well. This was not good.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but you're looking *particularly* gorgeous this morning. Did you do something to your hair?"
Sam's thoughts were jumbled. "Uh--"
Three med techs unceremoniously invaded the room, armed with a gurney and various boxes of equipment. "What's her status," the first one demanded.
"The only thing I've noticed is a fever, so far. And possibly a little delirium." That one she wasn't so sure about, but better to assume that was the case.
"Okay, let's get her on the gurney."
"Hey, what are you doing? I can walk as well as the next guy. What's this gurney business?"
"Janet," Sam said calmly, "please let them take you to the infirmary. I think you have an infection."
Janet pouted. "But I'll have to miss breakfast! And your hair--"
"I'm coming with you right now. I'll even bring you breakfast if Warner says it's okay." By then, Janet was loaded onto the gurney, fidgeting against the tech's prodding. "Just relax, okay? You'll be as good as new in no time." She placed a hand on Janet's forehead, wincing at her temperature.
Sighing, Janet calmed a bit. "That feels good. My head hurts like a motherfucker."
Sam watched as the first tech's eyebrows hit the ceiling. "God, she really isn't like the other Doctor Fraiser," he said.
"Nope," Sam said simply.
Twenty minutes later, Dr. Warner pulled the curtain away from Janet's gurney. "We're giving her another round of antibiotics. I'm confident her fever will break soon, but right now, we just have to wait and see."
"Staff wounds usually cauterize on impact, but there's always a chance of infection no matter how well we clean and dress the burn. Plus it's hard to spot trouble in these cases unless physical symptoms present after the fact. Burns are tricky since the body's recovery responses tend to be identical to signs of infection, like fever or leukocytosis."
Sam filed that information in the back of her mind for later research. "So is she recovering or is there an infection?"
"Infection. A combination of penicillin and flucloxacillin should knock it out."
"Are you sure?"
"As sure as I can be. Major Fraiser is in excellent health, so barring unforeseen circumstances, she should be fine."
Sam took a breath. "Can I see her?"
"Of course. She needs rest, but I think a friendly face will help her calm down. She's, ah, very energetic, isn't she?"
Grinning at his polite turn of phrase, Sam said, "Yep. Thanks, Doc." She pulled a chair close to the bed and sat quietly. "Janet?"
Brown eyes popped open and blinked fuzzily at her. "Oh, hey, Samantha. How are you?"
The way Janet said the words sounded like she hadn't seen her in days, and Sam couldn't help but smile. "I'm okay. You're a little sick, though."
"Yeah, that's what they tell me. I think they're full of it, though, I feel fine. But I keep getting the chills. Could you get me another blanket or something?" Her teeth chattered noisily.
"The reason you're cold is because you have a fever," Sam explained, drawing a little closer. "We're trying to get your temperature down, and blankets might make it harder for your body to cool off. Do you understand?"
Janet wiped at her face with her free hand. She gritted her teeth against another shiver. "How long will it take?"
"The doctor said the medicine should start helping in an hour or so. He said the best thing is to keep you hydrated. They have you on a drip, but can I get you some water?"
"Is it hot?" Janet asked.
Sam felt even worse at the plaintive tone. "Um, no. But it's not really cold, either."
"All right. Only for you, though. Normally I'm a lot more disagreeable as a patient."
Sam poured some water and held the cup and straw near Janet's mouth. She drank only a little before her head fell back to the pillow. "God, I feel like shit."
Sam placed her hand on Janet's forehead, as she had earlier. "I know. I wish I could do something to help."
Janet licked her lips as her eyes fell shut. "Can you keep your hand there?"
"Okay," Sam replied, relaxing her arm on Janet's pillow. "You just rest. You'll feel better soon, I promise." She prayed that she hadn't just told a lie.
Janet pried her eyelids open and glanced around her bed. It was quiet, but she couldn't see more than a few feet in front of her because of the privacy curtain. She cleared her throat and tried shouting, "Hey!" but it came out more as a croak. Judging from the state of her mouth, she was either extremely hungover, or getting over something more serious.
A few seconds later, the familiar visage of Dr. Warner appeared. "Good evening, Major. How are you feeling?"
"My kingdom for a toothbrush," she quipped in all sincerity.
"We can do that," he said, making a quick hand gesture to a nurse.
"Do you remember Major Carter bringing you in this morning?"
"This morning? What time is it?" She'd lost more time than she thought, and hoped it was still... what day was this?
"Just past 4PM. You arrived at 7:03 this morning, sporting a fever of 103.6. We were lucky Carter found you when she did; it could've been much worse. You responded well to treatment, and I'd like to keep my eye on you till at least tomorrow, then we'll give you some antibiotics to take orally to keep your infection from returning."
"My shoulder's infected again?" she said.
"I should have warned you... Last time I got hit with a staff I was down for a few days with some bacterial thing. Did you give me penicillin and uh, flox-o-something?"
"Yes, we did. That brings up a good point, Major. I have no medical history for you at all, and it's clear yours is vastly different from the other Doctor Fraiser's. When you're feeling better, I'd like you to fill out a history of past injuries, illnesses, broken bones, that sort of thing."
"Sure. It might take a while though. I'm a little accident prone."
"No problem," Warner said, just as Samantha and Daniel appeared behind him. "Someone will be by with a toothbrush in a few minutes."
"Thank you, Doctor," she said. "Hey, you two."
"Hey yourself," Daniel said, seating himself at the foot of the bed. "Feeling better?"
"I guess. I don't remember this morning though. Was I in a lot of pain?"
Samantha answered, "Not exactly, at least I don't think you were. You were freezing though, and ah, you said your head hurt a lot."
Janet winced, wondering what else she'd said. She tended to get a little freewheeling when under the weather. "Did I hurl insults? Or take a swing at someone?"
Daniel laughed, as Sam replied, "Nope. However, the medical staff got a kick out of your colorful language choices."
Blushing slightly, Janet covered her eyes. "Whoops."
"Wish I'd been there," Daniel said. "How's your head?"
"Not bad. Thanks, Samantha, for carting me in here. Warner said I'd have been screwed otherwise."
"Sure. You gave me a little scare. Plus I had to eat breakfast by myself this morning in the commissary."
Oh yeah, breakfast, Janet thought. "I'll make it up to you." She stretched in the bed and sat up a little. "Did I miss anything fun?"
"Actually, no," Daniel said. "We're on hold for a few days, mostly to help you get acclimated, and to learn what we can from you. Now that Anubis is out of commission, things are pretty quiet."
"Anubis?" Janet asked. The name wasn't familiar to her.
Daniel looked at Samantha, who crossed the room to get a couple of chairs. "Get comfortable. This one could take a while."
Seven days, Sam marveled. She watched Janet across the table from her and couldn't believe it had only been a week since she'd arrived. Now when she looked at the familiar face, it was like looking at Janet's twin sister, rather than her alternate self. It was still a little strange, but the new nickname, Mac, helped. Her obsession with the G5 O'Neill purloined didn't take long to settle in, and now the whole team was calling her that. Mac, she said in her mind. It suited her. And it allowed Sam to think of her as a separate being from the other Janet.
Brown eyes caught hers, and Sam swallowed. "Sorry, I'm staring."
Janet blinked. "What are you staring at?" Her voice was soft, and it sent an odd shiver through Sam.
"Sometimes I don't think you look so much like the other Janet anymore."
Little crinkles formed around Janet's eyes as she smiled. "I'm glad to hear that. I hate to think every time you look at me, you feel the pain of losing her."
Sam shook her head. "I don't." Now it just felt good to see her each morning, and spend time with her during the day. "Anyway, do you really buy the whole Kerr ring theory? I've seen a black hole in action--"
"But even if those men were killed as time passed, which they probably were, who's to say that the Kerr ring wasn't there at the crux of the event."
"Yeah, but to compare a Kerr ring to the quantum mirror doesn't work well simply because--"
"So, you two really are the new Mac 'n' Tosh of the base, aren't you," Jack piped in. Sam hadn't even heard Jack come in, but there he was, looking at them both as if they were nuts. "Don't you ever get tired of talking shop?"
"Jack, some of us," Janet said dryly, "like to engage our brains once in a while."
Jack stumbled back, clutching his heart. "Oh, you're killing me," he choked. "Listen, Hammond just called. We got a package from your dad, Carter. He's arriving shortly with some company. You got plans?"
"No, sir. Just more quantum theory to debate." She was already looking forward to introducing her dad to Janet. She knew he'd appreciate her.
Janet said, "I'm supposed to stop in to see Warner-- I'm losing the pressure bandage today. I'll do it now, so I can meet your dad, if you think he'd have time."
Grinning, Sam replied, "Oh, he'll make time for you. Come on up to the briefing room when you're done."
"You bet. We'll finish this later," she said, pointing to the pile of papers and books on the desk between them. "See ya in a bit, Jack."
"Sure, Mac." Janet sauntered out, and Sam locked up her laptop. "She's something else," O'Neill said.
Sam looked up. "What do you mean?"
"I mean she's something else," he began as they made their way to the elevator. "She's not the same as Doc Fraiser, but there's a spark that's familiar. I like her."
Sam agreed. "Me too." Her mind wandered to what Janet was doing in the infirmary before she remembered her father. "Did my dad say anything specific about the visit?"
"Didn't get anything from Hammond. He might just want to say hi."
Chuckling, Sam replied, "I doubt it." They met up with Hammond in the control room, and Sam asked, "When does my dad arrive?"
"Shouldn't be long now. We're expecting some additional guests as well."
"Goody," Jack said.
Just then, the wormhole exploded in sound and light. "Incoming wormhole," the sergeant announced. "It's the Tok'ra."
"Right on time. Shall we?" Hammond asked, motioning toward the steps.
At the bottom of the ramp, Sam greeted Jacob with open arms. "How are you, Sam?" he asked.
"Pretty good. We've had an interesting week."
"Oh yeah? Same here. George," Jacob said, holding his hand out to General Hammond. "It's good to see you."
"And you, Jacob. What can we do for you?"
"It's more what we can do for you, I think. It's safe to assume the Goa'uld are regrouping, jockeying for power after the fall of Anubis. We have some new friends that are doing their best to combat that possibility."
"That's good news." Turning to the unfamiliar visitors, Hammond said introduced himself. "I'm General George Hammond, director of the Stargate program here on Earth."
A beautiful, fragile looking blonde stepped forward, her Goa'uld altered voice not matching the soft features. "Thank you, General. I am Anstice of Chaereas, and these are my companions, Adratos and Penthea. We are honored to meet those who helped vanquish Anubis."
"Welcome to our base of operations. This is Colonel Jack O'Neill and Major Samantha Carter, both of SG-1." Handshakes were exchanged, and Sam watched the three visitors carefully as her stomach rolled from the presence of the Goa'uld they all carried. She trusted her father implicitly, but it always felt a little strange to have new Tok'ra inside the base.
Hammond held out a hand, gesturing to the stairs. "Let's adjourn to the briefing room."
Sam stepped to the general's side, saying quietly, "I asked Major Fraiser to join us when she's through in the infirmary."
"Very good, Major. Her input is always welcome."
Jacob caught Sam's eye. He asked, "Who's Major Fraiser?"
"Well, about a week ago-- um, let's see. I'll start at the beginning. Remember that quantum mirror we came across few years ago?"
Janet adjusted the sling over her shoulder again, irritated that she had to wear the thing. She couldn't understand why PT was so important if she had to keep her arm still the other 23 hours of the day. The burn was healing well enough though, so she was grateful for that. Hurrying toward her destination, she wondered what Samantha's father would look like. She expected a tall man with heavy blond hair, piercing eyes, maybe green or blue, and a deep, kind voice. Basically, a male version of Samantha. She laughed to herself before stepping into the briefing room.
"Sorry I'm late, General," she said quickly, relieved that the meeting hadn't started in earnest. The team was seated together on one side of the table, and Janet noticed Sam tilting her head toward the empty chair next to her. Quickly Janet made her way there, and briefly glanced at the visitors across the table. For a split second, it felt as she was falling; then she really was falling, having missed the chair altogether. Time seemed to expand as her knees hit the floor hard, her mind hardly able to wrap around what she'd just seen. Or who.
"Mac? Are you okay?" Samantha was instantly by her side, helping her up, but Janet could do nothing except gaze across the few feet separating her from the face of her beloved Tethys. She heard voices offering to help, but her vision had tunneled to hold only one image. With the exception of much shorter hair, she was just the same; eyes, lips, nose, chin, and those elfin ears Janet had adored so much.
Tethys, meanwhile, stared back, confused, but she did not look away.
A hand came under Janet's chin, pulling her gaze from Tethys. "Hey, are you with us?" It was Samantha, more than mildly concerned.
"Uh, yeah." She had absolutely no idea how to handle the situation. Confess that a replica of her dead lover was seated across from her? Mention that she knew someone who looked like her? Pretend nothing had happened? Something in between, perhaps. "I'm okay." She drew away from Samantha's touch, and carefully took her place in the chair. "I don't usually make such a noisy entrance. I lost my balance."
Tethys nodded, still perplexed, but silent.
Hammond asked, "Do you need to return to the infirmary, Major?"
"No, sir, I'm fine." Except for wanting to burst out in tears and throw herself into Tethys' embrace.
"Major Fraiser," said the man seated next to Tethys. " I'm Jacob Carter, one of the Tok'ra. I trust Sam has filled you in on our situation?"
"Yes, she has," Janet replied, and it occurred to her that this man looked absolutely nothing like Samantha. "It's good to finally meet you."
"And you, Major. Sam's told me something about your journey here, but I'd like to hear more, if you don't mind." Janet nodded, hoping she could find her voice without breaking down. Jacob continued, "I brought some friends with me." He tilted his head in their direction, and Tethys spoke, meeting Janet's eyes.
"I am Anstice of Chaereas. It is... a pleasure to make your acquaintance." There was a question in her voice that Janet could not answer, at least not in this company.
"Yes," Janet repeated. So Tethys was host to a different Tok'ra, this one called Anstice. She wondered what her history was, and how she'd come to know Jacob Carter. How she'd ended up in the same room with Janet only a week after her arrival from an alternate universe.
Two hours later, Janet had calmed somewhat, and was trying desperately to look anywhere but at the woman across from her. She'd heard about Jacob and Anstice's shared goal of growing a coalition of Tok'ra to reach far across the gate map, and Janet had delivered her own truncated explanation of her arrival in this universe. During the meeting, Janet compared the woman before her to the woman she'd known on her world. Anstice was not at all like Lantash; she was cooler and more controlled, but just as brilliant, and her host certainly just as beautiful. Sapped of energy, Janet was relieved when the meeting finally ended.
Hammond said, "Tomorrow SG-1 will be cleared to jump to PX-421 for a visit with Anstice's coalition. Major Fraiser, I don't believe Dr. Warner has cleared you for gate travel, so you'll be staying here. If they're interested, one of the Tok'ra may return here and get you up to speed, if their group can spare someone."
Janet was about to protest that it wasn't necessary; she hadn't even been granted a place on an SG team, much less deserved special treatment. However, Anstice beat her to the punch.
"General Hammond, when your SG-1 arrives on Athan tomorrow, I will return here to converse with Major Fraiser," Anstice said, and Janet's heart jumped inside her chest. "Perhaps we may enjoy a fruitful exchange of ideas." Janet looked away from the pixie features fixed on her, acutely nervous about the prospect of one-on-one conversation.
"Excellent," Hammond finished, and Janet supposed that was that. "SG-1 and Major Fraiser, I'll expect you back at 0800 hours tomorrow morning. Thank you for your time, Jacob," he said, standing to shake his old friend's hand. The rest of the attendees followed suit, and Janet was inching away toward the exit when Anstice appeared in front of her.
"Major Fraiser," she said, her voice still altered by the symbiote inside her.
"Hi," Janet managed. "Uh, I mean, hello."
"I look forward to our discussions tomorrow. I find myself very... curious about your history."
"Of course," she replied.
"I also hope to learn why you had such an unusual reaction to my presence here today," Anstice said.
Janet looked at the floor. "I apologize for that. I just--" She stumbled over her words. "I knew your host in my reality. Tethys."
Anstice blinked in surprise, and instantly, she dropped her head. When she lifted it a moment later, the coolness of her gaze had disappeared. "You knew me?" Tethys said, her voice as soft and lyrical as Janet remembered.
Simply hearing it was like a boot to Janet's gut, and the overwhelming feeling she had upon first seeing her again returned. She pushed back the sting of tears, and said, "Yes. She was very like you. But not the same, I imagine."
"How did we know one another?"
"I-- I was..." How could she explain? "I was briefly host to Jolinar of Malkshur, and Tethys was host to a Tok'ra called Lantash. Jolinar died saving my life, and three months later, both Lantash and Tethys were killed in an ambush." Thankfully, she'd gotten the whole story out in barely two breaths.
Tethys inhaled in surprise. "In this universe, I believe Lantash and Jolinar were bonded."
Janet nodded. "It was that way in my world as well."
Reaching out, Tethys laid a hand on Janet's shoulder. "Oh," she said softly, her voice filled with sorrow.
"Hey," Samantha said, approaching, and not appearing to realize there was anything to interrupt. "Is... is everything all right?"
Janet stepped back, and Tethys' hand dropped to her side. "Yes, fine. We were just having a word about tomorrow."
"Major Carter," Tethys said, "We haven't officially met. I am Tethys. Anstice tends to take charge in most discussions of political importance."
"Tethys?" Sam raised an eyebrow.
This was one discussion Janet didn't want to have in the briefing room. "Ah, until tomorrow then?" she said.
"Yes, Major," Tethys said calmly, her eyes telling Janet they were far from finished. She held out a hand, and Janet had to take it with her left, making for an awkward farewell. The touch sent a chill all the way up her arm and through her shoulder. The Tok'ra nodded to Samantha and rejoined her group.
"*That* was Tethys?" Samantha asked, incredulous.
Janet kept it simple. "Yes."
"Wow," Sam said. "That's quite a coincidence."
Glancing at Sam, Janet replied, "As much of a coincidence as you and I both hosting Jolinar."
Watching Tethys cross the room, Sam nodded. "I suppose you're right. Are you okay?"
Janet huffed a little laugh. "Christ, I don't know which end is up, but I'll live. Thanks for asking." Running a hand through her hair, she said, "Mind if I take off? I could use some time to regroup."
"Yeah, sure," Sam said. "I'll just... come by later or something."
"Okay. Thanks." Janet left without turning back. The few minutes it took to get to her room were endless, and when she finally reached it, she locked the door behind her and laid on the bed. The blank ceiling was a comfort for a change, and she tried to empty her mind of the chaos running rampant. It didn't work.
A knock startled Sam out of her reverie. She glanced at the clock, noting the late hour. "Come in."
Janet opened the door and stepped inside. "Am I disturbing you?"
"Not at all," Sam said, laying her book on the nightstand. She'd left the only chair from her quarters in Janet's room the previous night, so she threw a pillow at the foot of her bed and said, "Have a seat."
"Thanks." Janet flopped down, holding the pillow tightly as she arranged herself cross-legged. "This was a strange day. I mean, they're all strange lately, but this one... was beyond what I'd expected."
"I can imagine. How are you doing?"
"Not so bad. Confused, I think, more than anything." Sam watched as Janet pulled on the corner of the pillowcase, obviously mulling something over. Finally, she burst out, "I mean, how the hell can you handle looking at me when I'm not the Janet you knew?"
Well, there's a place to start, Sam thought. "It's complicated." Janet waited as Sam struggled to put into words a concept almost impossible to articulate. "It was harder at first. But... when I see you now, you're just different. And I feel different around you."
It didn't look like that explanation helped Janet much. "What do you mean?"
Sam sighed. "I'm honestly not sure I can put it into words. Spending time with you, it's not like it was with Janet. We talked about totally different things."
"Well, for one thing, Cassie. We had a history-- raising her together, and being there for her when things went wrong. And we talked about our work, or at least how both our jobs intersected. We laughed a lot, even though she was serious so much of the time. I think being a doctor was her greatest gift, but it was a curse too. She took her work home, and when she lost a patient, she suffered. It was a huge weight on her shoulders, but she didn't talk about it much." That was something Sam had always regretted-- not being able to carry some of the burden. She'd done what she could by simply being there, but Janet lived and breathed saving lives, and some things she just couldn't share.
"Do you think Cassie's the reason you were so close?"
Sam thought about it. "Maybe, but we would've been friends anyway. When I met her, there was just something about her... You couldn't not like her. She sort of exuded this caring and compassion that no one could ignore. She was a healer, in every sense of the word."
Janet tilted her head back and looked at the ceiling. "I wish I could be like that."
Smiling, Sam said, "You have plenty to offer, Janet. I promise." Remembering Tethys, she added, "I don't think our situations are quite the same, though."
"Well, I wasn't in love with her. I mean, I loved her, but not the way you..." Sam trailed off. This would be curious territory.
Janet snorted lightly. "No, not the same. You're right." Meeting Sam's eyes, Janet said, "When you were Jolinar's host, and after, did you experience feelings that weren't yours, of loving-- what was his name-- Martouf, without even trying? Like it was beyond your control?"
With a sigh, Sam replied, "Yeah, I did." Sam had done her best to push down those feelings for a long time, but there was always a tension between herself and Martouf, a simmering energy that drew her to him time and again.
"When I met Tethys, I was overwhelmed. It may have been a mistake allowing Jolinar's memories to guide me to her, but I don't regret it." Janet shook her head, eyes closed. "She was so beautiful I could hardly bear it. I've always had a thing for blondes."
For reasons beyond Sam's understanding, she blushed when she heard the words. It took a moment for Janet to realize what she'd said. "I'm sorry--"
Sam cut her off. "It's okay. Really. It's not like I hadn't figured it out." Sam hoped she was right and hadn't made a total ass of herself. Her so-called gaydar wasn't very sensitive, and the military was no place to hone it.
Janet looked relieved. "Right. Anyway, I'll just have to learn not to associate the woman I met today with the woman I knew. Eventually." She gave Sam a wry smile. "This new reality thing is getting weirder and weirder. At least I have someone to talk about it with, who understands."
A little ball of warmth formed inside Sam, but she didn't know how to respond. It occurred to her that she felt slightly nervous, and the realization did nothing except make her *more* nervous. This was a new development.
As Sam pondered her anxiety attack, Janet sat up and asked, "Why are you here?"
"Why are you on base? Don't you go home at night?"
Sam shrugged. "We have to jump tomorrow, and I guess... I just thought you might need some company." It was true; Sam hadn't spent so much time on the base for ages. But lately she'd enjoyed her evenings in the lab with Janet so much that it seemed easier to stay than make the drive home for a few hours of sleep.
Janet's mouth tilted in a small smile. "You stayed for me?"
Feeling shy, Sam said, "Well, a little."
"You're a wonderful person, Samantha."
"Yeah, okay," Sam said, grinning and looking away so her second blush of the night wouldn't show.
"Thanks for the talk. I was feeling pretty... discombobulated. But I should get back to my room--we have a big day tomorrow, and I need some serious shut-eye."
"Me too. At least I'll be able to rest. I used to get so nervous before a jump, I wouldn't sleep. Now I've done it so much, it's like driving to the grocery store."
Janet looked at her from beneath wispy bangs, half smiling. "I wish I'd known you then; at the beginning of the project, I mean. I bet you were full of piss and vinegar."
Sam laughed. "Not quite, but I was pretty intent on making my gender a non-issue when I first came to the base. I don't think O'Neill quite knew what to do with me."
Peering at Sam closely, Janet said, "Did... uh, were you and he ever--"
"No," Sam insisted quickly. "Not once. There was... something there, but I don't think we're very suited for each other. I had someone for a while," she said, thinking of Pete, "but it didn't work out."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"It's okay. Just as well, really. I love my work, and until I find someone I'd rather be with instead of spending time in my lab, I'll be on my own."
For a moment, Sam caught Janet's gaze, and there was a flash of electricity she wasn't expecting. She swallowed uneasily.
"I'd better go," Janet said, standing and leaving the pillow at the foot of the bed. "See you in the morning?"
Sam licked her lips, trying to ignore the dryness of her mouth. "Sure, first thing. Commissary at seven?"
"Count on it," Janet replied before disappearing out the door.
Reaching across the nightstand, Sam picked up a photograph of herself, Janet and Cassie. She tapped her fingernail against the glass and murmured, "What am I getting myself into, Janet?"
Janet sat in anticipation of her meeting with Tethys, or Anstice in all likelihood, in the conference room on level 16. She couldn't imagine what exactly they'd discuss, but perhaps Janet would learn something important that would help SG-1. Earning her keep here at the base had become rather important to her over the past few days, and she wanted to give the General every reason to keep her. She doubted Hammond would be so cruel as to turn her out, but it wouldn't hurt to become a productive team member anyway.
She wiped her sweaty palms on her fatigues as the door swung open to reveal Tethys. Janet stood, unnerved a second time upon seeing her, managing at least what felt like an agreeable expression. "Good morning, uh, Anstice?"
"Good morning, Major Fraiser," Tethys said, the symbiote apparently silent for the moment.
Tethys smiled, and Janet lost her breath. It was nearly a physical pain to see such a familiar expression, but Janet did her best to ignore the emotions and maintain a clear head.
"I understand my appearance may be somewhat upsetting to you, Major; I honestly had not considered that issue yesterday when I suggested this meeting. I was merely interested in learning more about you, so if it is too difficult for you, please let me know--"
"Not at all, Tethys. Truthfully, it's more of a challenge to see you than I had expected myself, but I want to be as helpful as possible to the SGC and your own alliance, so please, have a seat. Any personal... concerns I may have won't be a problem."
Tethys tilted her head, blinking slowly. "If you're sure?"
"Absolutely," Janet said, seating herself with a silent but deep breath. "But I don't see what sort of information I may have that will be of any assistance. My timeline is significantly different than the one in this reality. We hadn't even defeated Apophis by this time in my world, whereas here, he was vanquished some time ago."
"Of course," Tethys said, "But your Stargate program had only been operational for four years, is that not correct?"
"Yes, that's true."
"Your actions in destroying your own facility and crossing through the mirror were very heroic, Major." Leaning forward to clasp her hands on the table, Tethys looked intently into Janet's eyes. "You were very vague in your explanation of your journey here yesterday. Personally, I would like to know more of the details. Whether or not they are pertinent to our security is beside the point. Your character is... of interest to me."
Of interest, Janet thought, considering the deep tones of Tethys' voice. Janet poured herself a glass of water and offered it to her companion, who declined. She sipped it slowly before sitting back in her chair. "What would you like to know?"
Tethys smiled, her eyes twinkling even under the harsh fluorescent light. "Everything. Your background, your experiences with SG-1... perhaps something about your relationship with my counterpart, if you wouldn't mind?"
Janet tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear. "Let's start with background, and we'll see where that takes us, okay?" She wasn't ready for anything more personal.
Nodding her head once, Tethys said, "Of course."
"I was recruited..."
"Hey Daniel, have you seen Mac around?" Sam asked.
"Not today, although we've only been back an hour, and I wasn't exactly looking for her. Is she missing?"
Sam shrugged. "I'm sure she's not, but she wasn't in the lab or her quarters. I was going to see if she wanted to grab dinner."
"Maybe she's already having dinner. Did you check the comm?"
"You're right, it's almost seven, I'm sure she's there. You wanna come too?"
"Sure, I don't have anything in the fridge at home anyway."
A few minutes later, Sam strode into the commissary, peering over the multiple tables of airmen and women. In the corner, a small figure with dark hair dined across from a familiar face: Tethys. Sam stopped so suddenly Daniel bumped into her back.
"Oops, sorry," he mumbled, adjusting his glasses out of habit.
"'S'okay," Sam said, unable to take her eyes off Janet and her companion.
"Hey, there's Mac, let's go say hi,"
"No," Sam began, stepping back, unsure why she didn't want to interrupt. However, it was too late; Janet had caught her eye and waved. When she mouthed, "Come over here," Daniel acquiesced, so Sam had no choice but to follow.
"Hi there, kids. Did you have a good day at school?" Janet asked with a cheeky grin.
"It was great," Daniel replied, taking a seat next to Tethys. He glanced at their visitor. "Your facility on Athan is much more advanced than I was expecting. We're used to seeing Tok'ra bases as strictly temporary, but it looks as though you've been there for some time."
"Yes," Tethys answered, "almost five years. We have been fortunate to avoid detection thus far, and with the destruction of Anubis' army, we have felt more confident about making contact with other races. Many of the Tok'ra on my council are more suspicious than those you have met in the past, so it's only now that we were able to come to an agreement about widening our circle."
"That's understandable. We've run into quite a few renegade Tok'ra, haven't we, Sam?"
Sam just nodded. She wondered if Daniel was considering Martouf a "renegade" like the other traitors they'd defeated.
"Samantha?" Janet said.
"Are you all right?"
Sam ran a hand through her already tousled hair. "Yeah, fine. I think I may head home though. I'm a little tired." And her mood had taken a dive over the past five minutes. Whether it was because of her thoughts of Martouf, or something about seeing Janet and Tethys still together, she preferred not to consider.
"You're going home?" Daniel asked, frowning. "I thought we were having dinner here."
"My head hurts," Sam said on the spur of the moment. It was as good an excuse as any.
"Maybe you should head back to the infirmary for a follow-up," Daniel said.
The infirmary, she thought, was empty of the one person she desperately needed to talk to. "No," Sam said, feeling more out of sorts than ever. "I'll see you tomorrow." She bolted, knocking her hip on one of the empty tables. Without turning to see if anyone saw, she continued out the door, and after a quick stop at her quarters, she raced off the base for the first time in over a week.
Janet stared into her empty soup bowl, lost in thought. Daniel returned with his tray and sat next to Tethys before digging in with gusto.
"Don't they feed you on missions, Jackson?" Janet asked.
With a full mouth, Daniel shook his head. "I haven't eaten since breakfast, actually. Didn't have time, there was too much to see on Athan. You really do have a fascinating infrastructure, and the library was beyond what I'd hoped for. I'd like to return again to learn more of your sect's history, with your permission."
Tethys dipped her head. "Of course. You have been very generous to me, allowing me to spend the day with your Major Fraiser here. I would be happy to return the favor. And perhaps--" Tethys turned to look at Janet, "the Major here would be willing to come with you, and see the facility for herself."
Janet flushed slightly, aware of the burgeoning attraction between them. The day had been more than pleasant, occasionally intense, and filled with small flirtatious moments. She'd learned much about the hard times Tethys had faced; she'd lost a lover of her own nearly six years prior when he was betrayed by a fellow Tok'ra. After his loss, she convinced her council to remove their group from the general, though admittedly small, Tok'ra population and carve out a space of their own. From that time, Tethys had single mindedly worked to preserve the security of their location, while still keeping track of the developments going on with the Goa'uld throughout the galaxy. She'd employed trusted operatives on many missions to ferret out information, and had herself worked undercover a number of times at great personal risk.
Even after only one day, Janet felt the old emotions bubble up to the surface, because this Tethys seemed very much like the one she'd known. While their conversations weren't as smooth and unforced as those between herself and her former lover, Janet figured the familiarity would come with time, if they were allowed the opportunity to get to know one another better. And Janet had every intention of doing just that.
"You know I'd love to visit Athan," Janet said. "I'd have to get cleared for gate travel by the General, but I'm very much interested."
"How long do you believe your injury will prevent you from traveling?" Tethys asked.
"Don't know, really," Janet replied, frowning at her sling. "Probably at least another week. My range of motion is sorely lacking at the moment, and the burn still itches like a mo-- uh, it itches a lot." Janet was pleased she'd caught the curse before it got out; she didn't want to insult Tethys. Daniel snorted into his water glass; he'd definitely heard the near miss.
"Perhaps I will inquire with General Hammond; I have something that may help you in that regard."
Janet shrugged. "I wouldn't mind getting off base. I haven't seen the sun, any sun, in almost two weeks. I think I'm experiencing vitamin D deficiency."
"Not to mention cabin fever," Daniel added.
"That too." As Daniel finished off his sandwich, Janet asked, "Do you know why Sam took off earlier?" She hadn't really wanted to bring up her departure in Tethys' presence, but she couldn't resist.
He shook his head. "Wish I knew."
"Do you mind if I call her from your quarters? I don't have access to an outside line yet."
"Absolutely. I'm almost done here, I can meet you there in a few minutes, if you want."
"Thanks, Danny. I'd appreciate it. I'm a little worried about her."
Tethys leaned forward. "Are you and Major Carter... close?"
Janet wondered if she detected jealousy in the woman's voice. "We are. She's been really wonderful trying to help me acclimate. Everyone has, really," she said, gesturing to include Daniel as well. "I don't think I could have chosen a better universe to come to."
Tethys smiled, her eyes softening. "I agree. I am grateful you came here as well."
Daniel coughed once, and Janet shifted in her seat. He'd definitely caught on to the tension between them. Janet decided it was time her day with Tethys should come to an end, before she got herself into any trouble. "Are you ready to go home, Tethys?"
The woman nodded and stood gracefully, while Janet wiped her mouth one last time. "See you at your quarters, Danny?"
"Sure thing, Mac," he said, standing politely. "Tethys, have a safe trip back."
"Thank you, Dr. Jackson. I hope to see you soon."
Janet barely heard his final, whispered comment, "As long as I have company, I'm sure you do."
Sam tipped the beer back, draining the last of it. She didn't typically have beer in the house, but there had been a six pack left from an O'Neill barbecue she'd never made it to, so she'd popped it in the fridge immediately upon arriving home. Laying the empty on the floor, she jumped when the phone rang. She assumed it was a telemarketer, so she let the machine pick up. God knew that was about the only thing the machine was good for; she didn't get many real messages anymore.
The high-toned beep sounded, and she heard an unexpected voice. "Samantha, hi, it's Janet. Mac, I mean. Whatever. I wanted to call you, and uh, tell you about my day, and find out how yours went, since I didn't get a chance to talk to you. Earlier. Uh, I thought you might be home, but I guess you're busy, or had plans or something, so I guess--"
Sam finally ran to the phone; she'd wanted to spend the evening wallowing, but couldn't resist the mild plea she detected in Janet's tone. "Hello?"
"Hi, sorry, I didn't hear the phone."
"What were you doing?"
Sam looked around her house, nothing coming to mind. "Watering the plants."
"Wow. Do you have a lot of plants?"
It was a lie, of course, she had no plants to speak of (except for the dead spider plant in her bedroom she hadn't bothered to throw out), but Janet didn't have to know that. "Yeah. They were pretty dry since I haven't been home much."
"Of course. How's your head?"
"I thought you said you had a headache?"
"Oh, I do. I did. I uh-- the drive home must have cleared it."
There was a pause on the other end. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Sam said, going to the refrigerator for another beer. She doubted this would be a very long conversation at the rate she was going.
"You sound... It doesn't matter. I just wanted to see if you had a minute to talk. It was... a wild day."
Sam slumped back on the couch. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. I know it's fast, but God, spending time with Tethys... I already feel like I could come to care about her a lot. More than a lot."
Sam's stomach knotted. "Really?" she croaked.
"There's just something about her that's so familiar--"
"You mean her face. Her face is familiar."
"But it's more than that," Janet insisted. "It's a feeling I have, like I was destined to meet her again. It's kismet. What else could it be?"
Janet laughed. "Spoken like a true cynic. I really feel connected to her in a way I haven't felt to anyone for a long time."
Sam scratched her head, cradling the phone between her ear and shoulder. "Janet, have you thought that you may feel that way because she looks like someone you used to be in love with?"
"What kind of a question is that? Of course I've considered it."
"Well, I mean, it's only been one day. You might want to give yourself time to get to know her--"
"I already know her. She's almost exactly the same as the Tethys I knew. We talked today, all day. Her life experience is nearly identical-- everything matches up until the time she was blended with Anstice instead of Lantash."
"But still, she's not the woman you knew."
"How would you feel if an alternate Martouf walked back into your life? Wouldn't you be drawn to him, even if he wasn't a host? If he had long hair, or a beard, or different colored eyes? You can't tell me you wouldn't care for him just by virtue of who he appeared to be."
Sam swallowed. This conversation was heading into murky waters, and her facilities weren't at their sharpest. "That's a different situation, Janet."
"Oh right, I forgot. You were too afraid to let yourself love Martouf."
Struck dumb, Sam couldn't speak. There was nothing but a stunned silence on the other end of the line. Gripping the neck of her beer bottle tightly, she croaked, "I'm gonna go now."
"Shit, Sam, I'm sorry. That came out all wrong. Please, forgive me--"
"I'll see you tomorrow." She hung up.
Janet paced in the lab again, as she had been doing sporadically for the past two hours. She hadn't slept much or well, worrying over the stinging judgment she'd hurled at Sam. Finally at 4:30 in the morning, she'd come to the lab, hoping to get lost in her research. She found little success.
The door swung open, and Sam walked in, hardly looking up.
"Samantha, I'm so sorry," Janet said, stepping right up into Sam's space. "Please, please accept my apology. What I said was stupid, and absolutely not true."
"It's no problem, Janet. Let's just move on."
"But Sam, I made a bad call, trying to compare our situations--"
"Janet!" Janet had never heard such a chilly tone from Sam, and it frightened her. "Forget it. I'm over it. It's not going to be a problem."
Panic set in; Janet felt on the verge of losing literally her only friend. Sam was her connection to this world, the one person she trusted and related to on both a personal and professional level, and one crass comment could destroy everything. "But it's a problem for me," she pleaded. "I feel terrible."
Sam seated herself in her chair and looked back at her. "I'm fine, Janet. Let's just... get to work." She turned away to focus on her computer screen.
Janet sat down on her stool, a burden landing solidly on her back. She had to find a way to make amends.
A few hours later, a call came in from General Hammond. "Yes, sir, hold on," Sam said. "It's for you, Major."
Janet bit her lip, never hating her title more than she did at that moment. Picking up another extension, she said, "Yes, sir."
"Major, we've had a request from the Tok'ra base on Athan for your presence. I know you haven't been officially cleared for gate travel, but if Warner can check you out, I'd like you to make the jump. We want to keep communications open with this group, and it sounds like they've pegged you as a liaison. Are you up for the job?"
Watching Sam's shoulders hunch over her keyboard, Janet wanted nothing more than to get away. "Yes, sir, I'd be glad to. I can head to the infirmary right now."
"Thank you, Major. Report to my office when you're finished."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." The line clicked off, and she hung up. "I'm uh, headed to Athan today. They've put in a request for me for some reason." Sam mumbled something she couldn't hear. "Pardon?"
Sam finally faced her. "I said I'm sure you'll have a nice time. If you see my dad tell him I say hi."
"I will," Janet replied. "Well, see you."
"Bye." Sam swiveled away from her.
Janet tried not to slam the door on her way out.
Sam didn't respond, lost in the motion of the speed bag.
"Hey," O'Neill said.
She stopped the bag from swinging before turning toward him. "What's up?"
Jack sat on the ab machine seat right across from her. "I was going to ask you the same thing. Haven't seen you in almost three days, and here it is, 9:00 at night, and you're going all zen with the speed bag. What's the deal?"
"No deal, sir. I just haven't had the chance to work out much lately, and--"
"Aw, cut the crap, Carter. What happened between you and Mac? Slauson saw her take off out of your lab like a bat outta hell the other day, and she's still hanging out on that planet that looks like a dry version of Death Valley."
Sam felt her hackles rise. "Why do you assume it's my fault she left? Hammond asked her to take the mission, she took it. That's all I know."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "So something did happen."
"Goddamn," Sam cursed, smacking the bag once more for good measure. "We had a fight, okay? She pissed me off, and now she's gone, and I probably screwed everything up."
"Hey, relax, Carter. Look, whatever went on, I'm sure it's fixable. But you can't walk around like a zombie all the time because your new best friend went over to the dark side. We need you focused if we're going to stay ahead of the game. You're the one that keeps us ahead of the game, in case you've forgotten."
Sam wiped at her brow with her wraps. "I'm sorry, Colonel. I'll... work it out."
"Okay, good. Now, since I'm feeling warm and fuzzy after that resolution, were you fighting about that Tok'ra operative who was in here visiting our new Major?"
Straightening slightly, Sam said, "Why do you ask?"
"'Cause I was *in the room* when Mac first saw her. That wasn't an 'Oops, I tripped,' moment. It was an 'Oops, my world just imploded' moment."
Sam stared at O'Neill. Sometimes he seemed like a goon, and other times his acuity was so sharp it startled her. "They knew each other. Or rather, Mac knew the counterpart of the host. Tethys."
"Knew her pretty well, I take it."
Sam stiffened even further. "I wouldn't know, sir."
He nodded. "Doesn't matter. It makes sense that she'd gravitate to a recognizable face since she left behind everyone she's ever known. I mean, that would suck. A lot."
Oddly, Sam hadn't thought in those terms. She'd been so focused on the hurt she felt, at both the fight and the sense that she might be pushed aside, that she hadn't considered how much simple comfort Janet might draw from Tethys. "Shit."
"Don't worry about it, Carter. Davis mentioned she checks in daily at 7, so if you *happen* to be in the control room then, it won't seem unusual." Jack stood and stretched. "Let's spar tomorrow. I want to see if your hook's gotten any better since last month. That work for you?"
"Yeah," Sam said, already planning her morning around the 7:00 hour. "Thanks, sir."
"Don't sweat it. Now get a shower. I can smell you from over here."
Janet spat out the sand that blew into her mouth, even more irritated now than she had been fifteen minutes before when leaving the Tok'ra facility. How Tethys had put up with the dry conditions for five years was beyond her. The grit was bothering her eyes, and the aridity was giving her nosebleeds every few hours. She couldn't wait to get back to the base and take a long, humid, very hot shower.
Coming upon the Stargate, she began punching in coordinates on the DHD. When the wormhole exploded, she waited a few seconds before sending her code. Standing in front of the MALP the General had generously allowed her to bring along, she waited for the signal to come through.
Less than a minute later, Hammond's face appeared on the screen below the camera that transmitted her own features to the video feed on earth. "Good morning, Major. What's your status?"
"Things are good, General, with the exception of the sand in my shorts," she quipped.
With a smile he tried to hide, he asked, "And the relations with the Tok'ra? Have you been able to discern if they're open to an alliance with the Jaffa?"
"It's possible, sir, but these Tok'ra are tough nuts to crack. They're used to an insular community guaranteeing protection, so it's going to be a challenge. Having Jacob here is helping though. Any word on the Jaffa?"
"Teal'c has been negotiating on Chulak, and he's informed me we'll know their intentions by end of day tomorrow. Are you prepared to stay there another couple of days?"
Janet ran a hand through her hair, shaking some dust free. "Only if you send me a humidifier. I think I've lost two layers of skin since I've been here."
At this the general laughed, replying, "If you had someplace to plug it in, I'd be happy to."
"Okay, then, when I come up with an adaptor I'm holding you to that. Anything else going on?"
"Yes, you have a visitor who wants to say hello. Hold on." Hammond moved away from the camera, and Samantha took his place, looking nervous and unsteady.
"Hi, Mac," she said.
"Hey, Samantha." Janet's heart sped up.
"So you're all right over there?"
"Yeah, I'm good. You?"
"I'm okay. But I wanted to tell you, uh..." She looked around at the people undoubtedly standing just out of view, "I'm sorry about what happened the other day. You didn't deserve it."
Janet let out a huge sigh, releasing the tension that had gripped her since the moment she'd stalked out of Sam's lab. Smiling, she replied, "Thanks, Sam. I'm sorry too."
"We'll talk more when you're back, okay?"
"Sure, that sounds good."
"Okay." Sam looked much happier than she had when she'd first sat down, and it warmed Janet from the inside out. "Sir, anything else?" Sam asked off screen. "Nope, there's nothing else on this end. Is that it on your side?"
"Yep. I'll check in tomorrow, same time."
"Great. Maybe I-- I'll see you then, too."
Janet grinned. "Okay, see you tomorrow."
"Fraiser out." She watched Sam's face a few more seconds till the MALP lost the signal and the screen went black. Her mood on the walk back to her temporary quarters on Athan was significantly cheerier than the walk to the gate, and she was already making a list of what she had to tell Sam the next time they had a chance to speak for more than thirty seconds. "Yo, Adratos, what's for breakfast?" she asked, striding into the makeshift lab she shared with the other Tok'ra.
He bristled at her familiarity, which only made Janet want to poke at him some more. "I do not eat breakfast," the man said, turning back to his work.
"Well, I'd like some cereal, Fruity Pebbles to be specific. And I could use about a gallon of drinking water, 'cause otherwise I'm going to start losing molecular cohesion."
He turned back to her. "You make no sense. The Tok'ra do not require food as often as ...*humans* do. If you are not interested in working, please excuse yourself." He practically sneered at her.
"I bet Tethys would join me for breakfast," she said cheekily.
"*Anstice* will not need to sustenance. If Tethys joins you, it will only be because she pities your weakness."
"You are charming as ever, Adratos. See you in a few." She left him alone, chortling over his arrogance. It struck her as hilarious, even more so because his egotistical attitude seemed to be so widespread among this community of Tok'ra. She wondered how Tethys had escaped the personality trait, but if she was honest with herself, she'd seen suggestions of it over the past couple of days. It was of no consequence, she told herself; she knew Tethys' heart was honest, and that was most important.
Their time together had not been as frequent as she'd liked; Janet had been immersing herself in the history of the Tok'ra, with Jacob's help, while Tethys had her own political dealings to handle. She found herself enjoying Jacob's, and Selmak's, for that matter, company very much. Janet saw Jacob as a brilliant mind, a great diplomat, and a kind father who wished he could spend more time with his kids. Selmak was wise, forthright, and rather impudent toward this sect of Tok'ra, which only made Janet love him more. He didn't stand on ceremony, and while he clearly sought this group's support, he would not sacrifice his integrity to get it. She had a little while before she was to meet him for their morning chat, so she dropped by Tethys' workspace to see if she was available to join her for a meal.
Peeking around the corner of the open door, she said, "Morning, stranger."
"Good morning, Janet," Tethys answered. "Are you well?"
"Very well," she answered, her palms already starting to sweat at the sight of the woman. "I wondered if you'd have breakfast with me? I hardly saw you yesterday."
"I've been very busy with the Council. We've been deep in discussions, as I'm sure you know," she said, deftly removing a crystal from her workpad and filing it away. "I should inform you they are not ready to commit to an alliance with the Tau'ri yet, and certainly not with the Jaffa. Adratos informed me you were not-so-subtly inquiring about our estimation of the rebel Jaffa yesterday. Is this true?"
"Well, sort of," Janet answered, surprised word had gotten back to Tethys so quickly. She had only mentioned the Jaffa in passing to Adratos; it irritated her that he'd picked up on her purpose so easily. "But it wasn't, in fact, an inquiry-- I merely asked if he'd heard much about their achievements. I didn't realize he informed you of all our topics of conversation."
"There's no need for you to suggest we become aligned with the Jaffa, Janet. It's not an option for us. Now, I have something to discuss with you."
"Wait a second," Janet said. "Why isn't it an option?"
Tethys stared at her curiously. "They are Jaffa. Slaves. It's simply impossible."
Sitting across from Tethys, Janet frowned in confusion. "They're slaves who have risen up from nothing to defeat a number of major system lords. They are a proud and powerful race."
"They have only achieved success with the help of the Tau'ri. They are valuable as foot soldiers, but undoubtedly one of their leaders will want to become a member of our Council. That is unacceptable."
"Tethys, I can tell you in all honesty you're underestimating them without reason. Jacob Carter told me of the alliance they forged--"
"An alliance broken by the very pride you spoke of." Tethys took her hand gently to caress the palm. Janet looked away, drawn in by the touch, but unable to forget the words she'd just heard. "Janet, please, don't let this ruin a perfectly lovely morning. I'll make you a deal-- I'll be happy to discuss these issues further with you at another time, once our alliance with the Tau'ri is set. Perhaps your passionate defense of the Jaffa will convince me I've been incorrect in my assumptions."
Meeting blue eyes, Janet asked, "Seriously?"
"Of course. Your passion is something I've grown quite fond of. There is nothing I would rather experience more."
The double entendre achieved the desired effect, and Janet flushed. Almost against her will, Janet found herself smiling back at the blonde. "I'm not sure I believe you," she said.
"Trust me," Tethys said, continuing to stroke Janet's palm.
"We'll see." She didn't want to let go of the subject, but she could see she wouldn't get anywhere today. She'd worry about it later. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
Tethys smiled fully, and Janet's breath caught. "I wondered... would you allow me to heal your shoulder entirely?"
"Pardon?" Of all the things Tethys could have brought up, this was most unexpected.
"I have recently procured a healing device. I believe you are familiar with the concept?"
Janet's eyebrows lifted. "Of a healing device, yes, but I'm not sure how I feel about someone using it on me."
"You did not have this experience in your other world?"
"Not really. I did heal someone, once, but I was sort of channeling Jolinar at the time, so the memory is a bit, ah, fuzzy." Years ago she'd healed Colonel Jenkins following their run-in with Seth, but she'd been so unnerved by the whole thing she'd left the device in storage and never brought it out again.
"I would be honored if you would permit me to assist you, Janet. I promise, I will not harm you in any way. Trust me," she repeated. Her eyes seemed to hide nothing as they pleaded with Janet, so finally, she nodded.
"Okay, I guess." Janet looked around. "What exactly should I do?"
Tethys crossed the room to open a cabinet. "It would be easier for us both if you removed your shirt, at least enough to reveal your injured shoulder."
Remove her shirt, Janet thought. Interesting. It made sense, however, so quickly she unbuttoned her top and slid it down her back. She hoped Tethys could work around the bra; she was nervous enough around the woman without having to be completely naked.
"That will do, Major," Tethys said, and Janet blushed again when the Tok'ra licked her lips as eyes ran across her exposed flesh. Tethys held out her two hands, one sheathed in the device, and closed her eyes in concentration.
Warmth spread through Janet's shoulder, followed by an intense sensation similar to the pins and needles she felt when waking a numb appendage. She shivered as the glow spread further down her arm, and her jaw dropped as the flesh seemed to re-knit itself before her eyes. Heat seemed to build inside her, and as she watched the planes of Tethys' face, she was stunned by the wash of arousal that followed. Her nipples hardened, and she felt more turned on than she had been in months. Slowly Tethys brought her hands higher, and the light swept across Janet's cheek. There was a slight sting, and Janet realized the last of the scars left by Apophis were healed.
Finished, Tethys exhaled a long sigh and opened her eyes. Janet, paralyzed by the beauty standing above her, simply blinked. Quickly the hand device was replaced in its cabinet, and Tethys came to kneel before Janet. "Are you well?"
Janet swallowed, cursing the goosebumps that had risen all over her body, especially across her exposed skin. It was only when she pulled her shirt into place that she realized the range of motion on her right side was restored. "Hey, wow!"
With a smile, Tethys stroked Janet's arm. "It was a success."
"Yes, it's amazing!" Janet lifted both her shoulders and rotated her arms, pleasantly surprised at how wonderful she felt all over. "I'm very impressed."
Janet gazed into blue eyes, and was struck at the size of the pupils. Tethys' reaction to the healing was similar to her own, if the look on her face was any indication. The longing she'd felt for so many years came roaring forward, and she was unable to resist reaching out to caress the other woman's face. She was so dear; the small laugh lines around her mouth, the faint freckles dusting her nose, the lashes so long they left shadows under her eyes. Fate, said a small voice in the back of Janet's mind, it was fated for you to find her again.
Tethys leaned forward, and Janet tilted her head to accept the kiss, her heart in her throat. There was a soft press of familiar textures, and time seemed to slip as the woman's fragrance inspired a potent sense memory. The kiss itself was... not quite as she recalled, but she reminded herself that years had passed, and everything from before seemed different in this new perspective. When the kiss ended, Tethys pulled away and looked into her eyes. "Was that acceptable?"
Janet chuckled, the tension between them evaporating. "Yes it was. Do you mind if we just... leave it at that for the time being?"
The blonde head dipped in supplication. "I am at your service." As Tethys stood, long fingers twined with Janet's for a moment, squeezing briefly before letting go.
"You will pardon me if I am somewhat awkward. It has been, shall we say, some time since I have pursued another."
Janet grinned slyly. "Is that what you're doing? Pursuing me?"
Tethys fluttered her eyelashes, her mouth curving seductively. "Only if you are receptive. If you are not, I am only, as the Tau'ri say, testing the waters."
Laughing once more, Janet stood and stroked a petal soft cheek. "I think we can safely say I'll be receptive."
"That is good news."
"I should, uh, probably grab breakfast, since I have a meeting in a little while with Jacob. Or Selmak, whatever. Thank you again, so much, for healing my shoulder. It feels a thousand times better."
"It is my pleasure. It is unfortunate you do not possess a symbiote to aid in your healing."
"God, what I wouldn't give to have that talent," Janet said over her shoulder. "I'm so clumsy I'd like a symbiote just to heal my sprained ankles."
Tethys' eyes brightened for a moment. She smiled and nodded, and Janet waved as she left the room.
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