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.
Sam hefted her overloaded pack higher on her shoulders, grateful they were nearly at the base. The day she'd spent in the Tok'ra facility six days before hadn't been as windy, and she had to pull her goggles tighter to keep the sand out. No wonder Janet was having so much trouble.
Janet's message that morning had informed them that they were as close as they'd probably get to negotiation, so SG-1 packed up and headed to Athan. O'Neill wasn't the greatest envoy they had to offer, but with the help of Daniel and herself, they had a shot. Teal'c knew already the Tok'ra would not be receptive to him, but no one had even considered asking him to remain on Earth. If they weren't willing to compromise, it was a no-go.
Finally, they made it to the main building, and pushed through the heavy metal doors with relief. Janet was waiting there with Tethys, Jacob and the two other Tok'ra whose names Sam couldn't recall. "Hey, kids, welcome to 21st century dust bowl!" Janet declared, grinning widely.
"Hey, Mac, glad to see you haven't blown away out there," O'Neill said, shaking Janet's hand. "What's the plan?"
Sam watched Tethys out of the corner of her eye, but she made no move to direct SG-1 in any way. Instead, Janet said, "We have a few minutes for you to stow your gear and get some water. Try and stay hydrated if you can. The sandstorms have been getting worse since day before yesterday."
"I feel like I'm on Tatooine," said Daniel.
"Agreed," Teal'c added.
"Tatooine?" Tethys said, a question in her voice. "I know of no such planet."
Sam smiled, meeting Janet's eyes. Apparently Star Wars was as much a part of Janet's reality as this one, judging by her knowing look. "It's just an expression," Janet said, touching Tethys' arm. Sam frowned.
"Come on," Janet said to the team, and she led them into a small room to put up their gear. Sam lingered, hoping Janet would stay behind for a moment, and she was pleased when she did. "How are you, Samantha?"
"I'm fine. And you look... different. The scratches on your face have completely healed."
Janet touched her cheek. "Oh yeah-- Tethys healed them with a hand device. And my shoulder too, check it out." She lifted her right arm and swung it around wildly.
Against her will, Sam found herself uneasy at the rapport of Janet and the Tok'ra, but she pushed it down. Janet was healed, and that was the important thing. "Wow, that's great. I-- I brought something else that might make you feel better too. It's not a healing device, but it could help."
"Yeah." Sam dug into the top of her bag and, with a mild flourish, produced the plastic piece of machinery she'd worked on the day before. "Ta da."
Janet stepped forward and took it, her brow furrowing. "Um--"
"It's a humidifier. A little naquada generator provides the power, so it should work for at least three weeks before the energy source has to be replenished. You just need water, and it should add at least 30% more humidity to the air in a 500 square foot space."
Staring at her, Janet stood unmoving. "You made me a portable humidifier?"
Sam wondered if she'd misunderstood Janet yesterday. "You told Hammond that you were having trouble with the dryness of the air--"
"So I just, you know, made it."
With a sigh, Janet looked down at her new piece of equipment. "Thanks," she said softly.
Worried over the reaction, Sam stepped closer. "You don't have to use it, I only brought it so you'd--"
"Sam," Janet said.
"I'll use it." Chestnut brown eyes watched her carefully, a look Sam didn't recognize crossing Janet's face.
"Okay. If you're sure."
"Hey, girls, you can have a coffee klatch later," O'Neill said, sticking his head in the door. "Let's go."
"Yes, sir," Sam said. "You can leave that with my stuff till we're done." Janet set the machine carefully next to her pack, and they left together for the meeting.
That night, Janet sat on the floor of her quarters with her face directly hovering above Sam's gadget, inhaling cool, moist air for the first time in a week. It felt so good she wanted to cry. Sam's thoughtful gesture had moved Janet beyond what was logical, so she'd played off her reaction as best she could.
The meeting had gone... well enough that afternoon, though the Tok'ra were being difficult, as usual. Again they dismissed the notion of the Jaffa as an ally, even with Jacob's assertions that his own group had been making headway with the rebels. Anstice had been the least argumentative, and Janet truly believed she would be willing to reconsider the alliance at a later date.
Anstice had done most of the talking today, and it struck Janet again how different this symbiote was from Lantash. Janet couldn't put her finger on the uneasiness it caused in her, but she admitted she was relieved once Anstice had gone away, leaving Tethys in charge once the meeting had adjourned. They'd had their meal with SG-1 and given the team quarters to stay the night, so they could resume talks the following day. Janet wondered if she'd see Sam before she fell asleep; she'd missed their late night discussions.
Right on cue, she heard a knock. Janet quickly got up and slid the heavy door open, only to find Tethys holding two cups of something steaming hot in hand. "Hey, come on in."
"I have brought you some tea to help you sleep. Selmak told me humans often need a soothing beverage before bed to relax them, so I thought it might assist you." Tethys held out the cup with a shy smile, and Janet took it.
"That's very sweet, Tethys. It smells wonderful." She gestured to the seat next to her on the makeshift couch.
"It's made from a root we grow on my home planet, though I don't indulge very often. I travel home very rarely, so I try to ration as well as I can."
Janet was touched. "That's very generous, Tethys. I appreciate it." She sipped slowly, surprised at the sweetness that met her taste buds. "It's delicious."
"I'm glad." Tethys drank from her own cup, until she looked up, confused. "What is that sound?"
Grinning, Janet pointed. "It's a humidifier. Sam made if for me. It's powered by a tiny naquada generator, can you believe that?"
"Have you been suffering from the climate here, Janet?"
"Only a little. Nosebleeds, dry skin, that sort of thing. Nothing serious."
Tilting her head, Tethys said, "You should have informed me. I could have had one of the large humidifiers from the greenhouse brought in. We have over a dozen of them on the grounds."
Janet shrugged. "It's okay, this one works fine for my quarters." Plus she liked the idea of Sam spending time creating something with her in mind.
"I'll have one of the machines brought into the conference room tomorrow."
"Please, don't," Janet said. "It's not necessary, I promise."
"But it will make you more comfortable. I only want you to be happy here, for as long as you can stay."
"Well, I expect to be going back to the base with the team when the negotiations are over." Janet drank from her cup, the gentle flavor warming her stomach pleasantly.
"Perhaps there will be some reason for you to choose to stay here, Janet."
Eyebrow lifting, Janet said slyly, "Now what reason would that be?"
Moving closer, Tethys licked her lips. "Me." Without preamble, their lips met for a second time, and Janet found herself lost in the touch, past and present combining to sweep her up in the moment. The cup was taken from her hands, and though their lips parted briefly, they rejoined a second later. Pressing her hands to Tethys' face, she ran her fingers along the smooth skin, following the line of her neck up to the graceful shell of her ears. It was like coming home to a memory she long believed lost.
Time flowed over them as Tethys moved against her, until a tapping at the door broke the silence. Opening her eyes, Janet shifted out of the warm embrace, wiping her mouth with a grin. "Uh--"
"I suppose you feel an obligation to get that?" Tethys said, brushing her short blonde hair back into some semblance of order.
"I should. It could be business." Not to mention she wasn't sure if she'd ever stop kissing this woman without outside assistance. "Be right back."
Hoping her mouth wasn't too swollen, she slid the door open a few inches. Sam stood before her, still in her fatigues. "Hey."
"Hi," Janet said, unconsciously pulling her collar closed.
"Do you have a second?"
"Sure, come on in." She pulled the door open further, and Sam stepped inside.
She stopped suddenly when she saw Janet already had company. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "I didn't realize."
Tethys stood quickly. "It's nothing, Major Carter. Major Fraiser and I were just finishing our discussion, were we not?"
Janet cleared her throat. "Absolutely." She prayed she wasn't blushing too hard.
"I'll bid you both goodnight then," Tethys said, moving toward the door. Softly she brushed against Janet's hand, out of Sam's line of sight. "Till tomorrow," she whispered, touching Janet's mouth once with her finger before disappearing out the door.
Sam turned around once the door closed. "I'm sorry I interrupted... whatever."
"It's fine, Sam. It's probably better that you did. I think I'm already in over my head," Janet admitted, brushing a hand through her hair.
"How do you mean?" Sam sat on the crate across from the couch, glancing uncertainly toward the place Tethys had vacated.
"Well, uh... let's just say that if you hadn't knocked, I'm not sure I'd have spent the night alone."
Janet was more than surprised to see the bright flush on Sam's cheeks, spreading all the way to the tips of her ears. "Oh," she nearly squeaked.
Unable to hide her exuberance, Janet flopped back on the couch. "I don't know, Sam, it's like the years have just fallen away. I look at her, and sometimes it's like we haven't even been apart."
With a frown, Sam said, "But she's not the woman you knew."
Waving her hand dismissively at the repeated remark, she said, "I know that. God knows Anstice is no Lantash, but still, at the core, they've almost identical. Aside from the occasional air of superiority, she's just as I remember." Sam looked down at her lap, seeming unable to respond. "Samantha, I need to tell you something. It's important."
Finally, Sam raised her eyes.
"That night we fought, I never, ever meant to imply that you weren't brave enough to love Martouf. I snapped at you, when you were giving me perfectly good reasons not to get involved with Tethys too quickly. But I've been here nearly a week-- I know her now. She really is a good and honorable woman."
Sam looked away, lost in thought. "I trust your judgment, Janet." Her eyes slid shut. "You were right, though, at least partly. I was afraid of loving Martouf, like you said." Janet watched her carefully, sensing there was more Sam wanted to say. "I didn't have faith in the feelings Jolinar left inside me. They didn't seem real, even though they were so strong. It felt as if I'd be doing Martouf a disservice by going to him because of Jolinar, instead of loving him as myself. But now... I wonder if I wasn't afraid of having my heart broken again."
"Aw, Sam," Janet said, coming to kneel before her. "That's understandable. I had no right to accuse you of something much more complicated that I can fathom. Your life has been so different from mine, and you did what was right for you. Can you really forgive me for being so thoughtless?"
Sam exhaled. "You're forgiven. I'm sorry for how I reacted."
Janet smiled. "Well, at least now I'll know in the future that when the temperature drops below zero in your presence, you're probably annoyed with someone. I'm just going to try to keep it from being my fault in the near future, okay?"
Nodding, Sam replied, "Okay. Um, I should go, I think. Have to be up early tomorrow."
Standing, Janet ignored the cracking of her knees. "Yep. We've a long way to go with this crew. I believe they're worth it, though. They've been extremely creative in staying out of sight--we can learn a lot from them."
"I'm sure you're right. Can we catch breakfast tomorrow?"
"Yes! Finally, someone to share a meal with. These Tok'ra eat about half as much as I do, and they sure as hell don't enjoy it. Come by after 7, okay?"
"I love my present. It's working beautifully."
With Sam's departure, the room was quiet again, save for the gentle hum of white noise that would soon lull Janet to sleep.
Sam turned on her side for the fourth time, trying to get comfortable on the cot that seemed just a little short for her frame. Faint light filtered in around the edges of the heavy curtains, at least giving her something to focus on. The room was quiet, the air cool, but she was unsettled.
Janet was on her mind.
She'd finally admitted to herself that the "Tethys situation," as she'd come to think of it, was bothering her for a multitude of reasons, but it confused her for just as many. Janet was falling for someone she hardly knew, mainly because she'd loved her counterpart. But wasn't that the same reason Sam had felt so close to this Janet so quickly? Though she'd shown so many differences from her old friend, it was almost like Sam was hard-wired to care for her. It was bothersome; she wanted to know her feelings were distinct for each version of Janet, and she wished like hell she could have both of them in her life.
The old pain surged in her belly, reminding her of the violent events of six months ago that still gave her bad dreams. Janet's loss felt like a physical wound that had not healed, and she knew it never would. A tear trailed down her nose, sliding into her hair. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to focus on her current concern, which was that her new friend seemed to be slipping away.
She wanted Janet to be happy, obviously, but she didn't trust Tethys. She had no reason not to; her dad had told her that the Tok'ra had been nothing but accommodating since he'd known her, but something still felt wrong. Sam certainly understood how Janet could come to care for her so quickly, but still...
Turning over on her stomach, Sam sighed. It would be a long night.
Janet was just pulling on her shirt when she heard a strange scratch at her door. Quietly, she cracked it, and smiled. "Morning."
"Hi," Tethys whispered. "I know it's early, but I wanted to see if you would join me to watch the sunrise."
Nodding, Janet said, "Give me one second." Quickly she pulled on her boots and cammo overshirt, since it was likely to be a chilly morning. It was still dark, but as soon as the sun came up, the chill would be gone almost instantly. She took a last gulp of moist air before shutting Sam's little humidifier off. It was the first day she hadn't woke up with a nosebleed since she'd arrived. "Ready."
Minutes later they were trekking hand in hand across a sandy plain, the air blessedly calm. Climbing a dune, Janet huffed with exertion, thinking she'd really have to get back to working out now that her shoulder was healed. Finally, they settled in a place Tethys seemed to recognize. Soft lips kissed her ear, and Janet leaned happily into the body next to her.
As the sun rose gradually over the horizon, Tethys spoke. "You're so beautiful, Janet."
Sighing, Janet replied, "So are you, Tethys."
"I knew the first moment I saw you that there was something between us; that you were special." Tethys trailed a finger up her arm. "We can become a powerful pair, you and I."
Janet smirked. "Powerful? I never quite considered that as a part of my future, but I suppose."
"Soon we will find you a symbiote to blend with, and then we can truly be together."
It had the same effect as a bucket of ice water dumped over her head. Janet pulled away from the gentle embrace, choking out, "Pardon?"
Tethys looked hopeful. "Once you are a host, then you may remain with me on Athan. You will be the connection between our peoples, Janet. Imagine what we could do when you are Tok'ra."
Frowning, Janet said, "What are you talking about? I don't want to be a host. I never intended to be one to Jolinar in the first place, but it was beyond my control."
Tethys' brow crinkled in confusion. "But Janet, you have to understand, I could never bond with a simple human."
Slack jawed, Janet replied, "*Simple* human?"
"Of course." Tethys stroked the hair at Janet's temples, and she couldn't help but flinch. "When you die, there will be no one to carry your memories and experiences to a new host. Your lifespan is brief, and I would be left alone when your time came to an end, just as I was years ago when I lost my mate. You cannot really expect one such as myself to expend the effort of loving again when nothing would come of it, can you?" Tethys placed her hands on Janet's shoulders. "Besides, as a Tok'ra, you will be stronger, faster, more brilliant than you could ever be on your own."
It was literally as if a veil lifted from Janet's eyes. The arrogance echoed in Janet's mind as she repeated Tethys' words in her head. "You're really not her," she whispered.
"The one I loved," Janet answered, astonished she'd allowed herself to be so blind. "Tethys. My lover. My love. She died, and I convinced myself you were the same. God, I'm an idiot."
"Surely the Tethys you knew would have believed as I do. Ultimately, your relationship would not have lasted unless you had blended with another Tok'ra."
Janet wanted to crumble. "You're wrong. In all the days we spent together, the subject never came up. Her heart was true, and loyal, and open. You... are not mine. You never were." She pulled away.
"Janet, don't do this. You said yourself you would like to have a symbiote to prevent further injury. It will extend your life."
"I didn't mean it seriously!"
"We *can* be together--"
"No," Janet said. "Never." She laughed to herself. "My stupidity goes beyond what even you might imagine it is. I can't believe I was thick enough to assume you were the same woman she was. My Tethys," Janet paused to touch blonde bangs, "was everything I wanted. And I was everything to her, exactly as I am."
"But Janet," Tethys said, catching her hand. "Please. We could learn to love one another. Give us a chance."
Janet leaned forward and kissed the soft cheek, trembling. The shock of everything was causing a physical reaction in her, and she only wanted to get away so she could fall apart. "Please don't let this damage our hopes for an alliance. I'd never forgive myself." Blue eyes stared back at her, incredulous at the rejection. "I misled you, Tethys. But no more than I misled myself. I'm sorry."
She walked off in the sand, turning only once to watch the breeze lift blonde hair that had lived in her memory for so long.
Sam knocked on the metal door, wincing at the slight pain it caused in her knuckles. "Mac?" she called out when there was no response at first.
Eventually, she heard a faint voice call out, "Come in."
Pulling the door open, she stepped inside, surprised to see Janet staring out the window, lost in thought. "Janet?"
"You are now free to say 'I told you so.'" Janet's voice was flat. Dangerously so.
Moving closer, Sam asked slowly, "Why would I do that?"
"Because you were right. You tried to tell me that this world was different, that Tethys wasn't who I thought she was. I made an ass of myself, Sam. I thought I could love her, but I was seeing a ghost of someone long dead." Janet's mouth twisted as she held back tears.
"Aw, Mac, I'm so sorry." Sam wanted to offer comfort, but judging from Janet's tense posture, she wasn't sure it would be accepted.
"I just wanted *one thing* for myself, of all the things I lost, you know?" Janet whispered, tears finally sliding down her cheeks. "I made myself believe... when I didn't know her at all."
Janet snorted. "She wanted me to become a host."
Frowning, Sam snapped, "What?"
"I wasn't enough for her as a 'simple human.' Not smart enough, or fast enough, or powerful enough. As a Tok'ra I'd be a worthy partner-- a political figure with close connections to the Earth Alliance. She thought I was beautiful, but didn't want to waste her time loving someone with a life span so much shorter than her own."
That knocked the breath from Sam's lungs. "I--I can't believe it. That arrogant bitch!" Sam spat.
Janet laughed through her tears. "I wish I could share your attitude. I just feel like a goddamned fool."
That galvanized Sam. She crossed in front of the window and carefully enfolded Janet in an embrace. "That's not true, Janet, not at all. Caring about someone is never foolish."
Gentle hands came around Sam's waist to fasten at the small of her back. "Even when the person I care about is a dead woman?"
Pulling back enough to look Janet in the eyes, she replied, "Especially that. You have nothing to be ashamed of." Tears continued falling, and Janet crumpled into Sam's shoulder at last. Sam wrapped around her, trying to envelop the whole of her small figure. She wanted to shield Janet from every hurt that would ever come her way, and her protective instinct flared as she heard a knock on the door. Neither of them moved until there was a second knock. Sam held Janet's shoulders for a moment and said, "Stay here."
Janet nodded, keeping her back to the doorway as Sam opened it enough to see who it was. Daniel peered in, and Sam inched the door open a little more. "Hey, Daniel."
"Hey-- ah, Sam. You look... like you're not happy about something. What's up?"
"It's just a little... misunderstanding with one of the Tok'ra. Janet's having kind of a bad morning."
"Anything I can do?"
"Um, maybe bring something back here for her to eat before the meeting." It occurred to Sam that they had to be in the conference room, facing Tethys, in less than half an hour. "Shit, this is going to be a hard day."
Daniel made the face he usually did when he knew there was something seriously wrong, but didn't want to pry for details. Quietly, he said, "Okay. Be back in a minute."
Sam nodded. "Thanks." She closed the door softly.
Janet sniffled behind her. "Did you tell him?"
"No. But he was worried about you." Sam found herself wanting to wrap her arms around Janet from behind, but she made do with simply placing a hand on her shoulder. "He cares."
"He doesn't even know me. None of you do." Watery eyes looked up at Sam. "I'm not your Janet."
At that moment, staring into brown eyes so deep with pain, Sam solved the conundrum she'd wrestled with the night before. "Listen, Janet, I don't know all the details of your life...those can come later, if you want. But I know your heart; I have since the moment I set eyes on you. Call it a hunch. And you might not realize this, but I can care about Doctor Fraiser and you at the same time. One doesn't preclude the other."
Janet's face contorted for a moment, fighting tears. "Do you really think so?"
"Yeah," Sam managed.
Sobbing once, Janet slipped back into Sam's embrace. A muffled voice murmured, "I wanted it to be her."
Sam held on tight. "I know." She slid her fingers into thick, soft hair, inhaling the scent. "I know."
Teal'c's dispassionate voice fed her punches, and Janet blinked to clear the sweat from her eyes. "Four five three," he said. "One two one three... Slip slip four five. Again. Again. Again. Time."
Huffing with effort, Janet backed off, wiping her brow ineffectually with a slick forearm. She was exhausted, and had no idea how long they'd been at it. Though she knew she shouldn't gulp from her water bottle, it was impossible not to. Her stomach rolled, and nausea caused her to bend slightly at the waist. Breathe through it, she told herself. Don't throw up on the mat.
"Major Fraiser," Teal'c said a few moments later.
"Yeah?" she replied, still gasping slightly.
"We will spend our session tomorrow in meditation."
Janet felt her eyebrows lift, and she straightened up. "Meditation? I don't do that stuff. This is relaxing enough for me."
"Nevertheless, tomorrow you will join me, and I will teach you the basic tenets of kelnorim."
"Teal'c, I understand you want--"
"Major Fraiser, our current activity is not achieving what you desire, which is to forget what happened on Athan almost two weeks ago." Janet flinched. "Meditation will not allow you to run from your emotions, but you will be able to channel them effectively, and eventually exorcise your demons. However, I would also recommend you seek out a counselor for assistance."
She was too surprised to be offended. "You think I need a shrink?"
His face never changed expressions. "I believe you are suffering greatly from your transition to this reality, and ignoring that fact is not helping you or anyone else. Though it is not my place, I feel compelled to inform you that there is a possibility you will be assigned to SG-1 in the near future, but if you do not pass your psychological exam, you will be prevented from joining the team, and eventually barred from gate travel."
Floored, Janet gaped at him. "SG-1? The team is full. And what the hell do you know about my psych exams?"
"As I said, it is not my place. However, I care about your future here, Major, and I care also about your emotional well being." His voice softened marginally. "Please, accept this advice in the spirit in which it is given. I want only to make your life better."
Wiping again at her brow, Janet relented. "You don't think I'm adjusting very well?"
"As well as can be expected. But all of us, General Hammond included, can see you are in distress."
Looking away, Janet felt the weight pressing on her again. "I ought to be able to handle it, Teal'c. I don't want to be weak."
Teal'c stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Rejecting aid from those around you is the weaker choice, Major. Let us start with one session of meditation tomorrow, and we will go from there."
Janet found herself nodding, more unsure of herself in this moment than she had been the entire month she'd spent in this reality. "Okay," she said softly.
"Very well. That is enough for today. Now, we must stretch."
She pulled off her gloves and unfastened the velcro from her wraps, allowing Teal'c to remove them from both of her hands. She felt somewhat dazed; knowing that everyone had noticed her melancholy was unnerving, since she was so sure she'd hidden it well. Samantha was the only person she'd expected to be tuned into her emotions, but she'd kept a respectful distance. Sam's presence was the one thing that kept Janet from pulling her hair out on a daily basis, but life on the base had grown more difficult since the team's return from the failed negotiations on Athan. It was like she was mourning all over again, except this time for the loss of her world, rather than just Tethys. Being trapped indoors all the time wasn't helping, as she had yet to be cleared to leave the base.
Janet allowed Teal'c to be in charge of her cool down, and slowly he arranged and stretched her limbs enough to give her some kind of release. Her muscles warmed and softened under his attention, as he pushed her further than she would have pushed herself. Eventually, she found herself breathing in concert with him, and she could feel the endorphins rushing through her system. As she breathed in and out, she sensed a connection to Teal'c she hadn't experienced with anyone in a long time. When he stretched her arms out like wings, his chest pressed lightly to her back, she exhaled tension she hadn't noticed she was carrying.
Long minutes passed in silence, until Janet felt drained of all energy. Teal'c grasped her hands and brought her to a standing position. "Are you able to attend to yourself in the locker room, or should I take you directly to your quarters?"
His attentiveness warmed her. "I can make it, Teal'c. Thank you," she said sincerely.
"You are welcome... Janet. Until tomorrow."
Sam tried not to grin as she swaggered down the hall, but it was tough, considering the news she had to deliver. Fortunately Hammond had been more than agreeable to her suggestion, so it hadn't taken much maneuvering. If this didn't perk Janet up, she didn't know what would.
She knocked on the door to Janet's quarters, and her smile slipped when there was no answer. After another knock, she figured the news could wait a little longer. Heading back to the elevator, she turned the corner and stopped. Walking toward her was Janet, dressed in the tank and workout pants Sam had bought her. However, Sam hadn't quite imagined the effect the outfit would have, since it left little to the imagination. Perfect curves drew her attention, and her eyes slid down the lithe form with more interest than she could hide. Sam swallowed against a suddenly dry mouth.
"What's going on?"
"I-- I wanted to come see you." Sam turned and walked along with Janet back down the corridor.
"Um... I had this idea." She scratched her neck, aware that it had gotten very warm in the last thirty seconds. "Did you just work out?"
Janet hesitantly answered, "Sort of. Well, no. I'm trying meditation. With Teal'c." She unlocked her door, and left it open for Sam to follow her in.
"Really? I thought you didn't go in for that sort of thing."
"I don't. Didn't." Janet tossed her towel into the hamper. "But Teal'c talked me into it, and I'm finding it pretty... enlightening." Sitting on the edge of the bed, she untied her shoes. "I saw Dr. Calhoun this morning too."
"Wow." Sam hadn't known Janet was seeing the base psychiatrist. "How was it?"
"Not so bad. She isn't as annoyingly shrink-ish as I was expecting." As Janet inspected her nails nonchalantly, she asked, "Do you think it's silly?"
"Me seeing a shrink."
Sam sat in the chair across from the bed. "No," she replied seriously.
"I was hoping you'd start going. I didn't want to say anything." Janet's mood hadn't been the brightest lately, but Sam hadn't known how to suggest she speak to a professional.
"Teal'c was the one who talked me into it."
Sam laughed. "You're kidding. I don't think I remember the last time someone uttered the words 'Teal'c' and 'talk' in the same sentence."
"He's surprisingly profound when he wants to be. In very short bursts." Janet reached over to flick on the humidifier Sam had given her before reclining on the bed. "What did you want to talk to me about anyway?"
It made Sam smile to see Janet still using the humidifier, but she tried to stay focused. "I spoke to General Hammond about a request I put in last week."
"Do you... want to leave the base and maybe hang out at my place tonight?"
"It's all cleared, if you don't have plans."
Janet sat up. "Don't have plans? Don't have plans, she says! You're offering me a night of freedom, Sam. This is fantastic!" She clapped her hands together once, clearly thrilled. "The simple pleasure of being in a car again... Seeing the stars, breathing fresh air." Hopping up from the bed, she asked, "When do we leave?"
Chuckling, Sam stood. "Whenever you're ready."
"Less than five minutes." In a whirl of activity, Janet pulled out a duffel bag and started throwing things into it. Turning to Sam, she asked, "Can I spend the night?"
"Sure. You have 24 hours of leave, so you can take as much of that as you want."
"Oh, I'm taking advantage of every second you can put up with me, Carter, so don't plan on coming back here till tomorrow night."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam saluted. "Just knock on my door when you're ready, okay?"
Janet hadn't been kidding; less than five minutes later, she arrived at Sam's door wearing jeans and a tee-shirt, raring to go. It was oddly pleasant to Sam seeing Janet outfitted again in the clothes she'd bought for her. They suited her perfectly, not to mention fitting like a glove. Licking her lips, Sam deliberately avoided checking Janet out, feeling rather like a nerdy schoolgirl with a crush on a popular cheerleader. No longer could she fool herself into thinking she wasn't attracted to the woman, but it struck her as odd considering she'd never considered the other Janet that way. They'd been close in the extreme, but sexual attraction hadn't been an undertone between them.
However, it did seem strange to look at Janet and feel that tug, so she did her best to bottle it up. Whether it had to do with worrying what Doctor Fraiser might think of Sam admiring her double, she couldn't be sure.
When the lift doors opened at the surface of the mountain, Sam had to jog to keep up with Janet as she raced for the exit. They passed guards who grinned at the exuberant Major as she waved at those who glanced her way. She practically threw herself outside into the cool night air, breathing a huge sigh as she finally set foot on the pavement. "Heaven!"
"It's not bad, is it."
"It's wonderful." Janet stood still in the fading light of an early spring dusk, inhaling air scented faintly of flowers and pine. Sam watched as she opened her eyes to gaze at the clouds near the horizon, grey turning to white and pale blue. Finally, she looked to Sam, the grateful expression saying everything. "This is good."
Sam headed for her car, and felt an arm come around her waist. She lifted an arm to casually drape it across Janet's shoulders, while the warm body pressed closer against her side. "Nice night," Sam said.
Janet glanced up, keeping in step. "Thank you, Samantha."
Anything for you, Sam thought.
Exiting Sam's Volvo, Janet marveled again that the woman even fit into it. "I love this car, Sam. Do you do the maintenance yourself?"
"How could you tell?"
"Oh, probably because it's in perfect condition despite the fact that it's... oh... more than thirty years old?"
"So I'm a little anal about my transportation. Could you expect any less?"
Janet's first peek at Sam's home was yet another surprise. "It's adorable. And to be honest, I didn't think you'd have a house."
"It was my dad's, and when he went off with the Tok'ra, he put it in my name. It was weird, because I'd spent so many years in this tiny little apartment, so living in a house again took some getting used to."
They walked up the steps onto the porch, and Janet glanced around at the quiet neighborhood. "It's nice, here." Stepping inside, Sam took her jacket and hung it in the closet while Janet got acclimated. Everything was clean-- no socks on the floor, dishes in the sink, or piles of papers on the coffee table. "You're a Virgo, right?"
Coming up next to Janet, Sam replied, "Yeah, how could you tell?"
Grinning, Janet replied, "Lucky guess." She noticed the light blinking on the answering machine. "Ooh, you have a message. Want to listen?"
"It's probably a telemarketer." Sam pressed play.
"Hey, Sam-- it's Pete," the caller said, and Janet immediately saw Sam's posture stiffen. "I know I shouldn't be calling, but I was in Colorado Springs today, and hoped I'd catch you, but you're probably working like you're always working. Yeah. Um, anyway, I really wanted to see you... I'm sorry about what happened, you know? I'm just, really sorry, and I want to make it up to you, so if you--"
Sam stopped the message and pressed delete.
Janet touched Sam's arm as it lay on the countertop. "Want to tell me what that was about?"
Shaking her head once unconsciously, Sam said, "That was Pete." Janet waited. "We went out for a while, last year. He-- we broke up."
"I found out some things... Things that I wasn't thinking about when we first met. He knows about the Stargate program, but only because he had me checked out through the FBI and followed me for two days trying to figure out what I do for a living."
Janet nodded. "And?"
"And that wasn't that big of a deal, but it turns out he's kind of possessive. And jealous. You know how guys are."
"Well, I've heard," Janet said with a wry grin.
Sam laughed once, a forced chuckle, and Janet wrapped her hand around Sam's forearm more firmly. "Yeah. Anyway, I tried to break it off, but he didn't want to let go."
The tense note in Sam's voice put Janet on alert. "Did he... hurt you?"
"No, no, nothing like that. But I had a hard time for a while, and he didn't understand what it was like. When Janet died, I mean." Sam stared into space blankly. "I couldn't share that with him, or anyone who wasn't part of it. It wasn't that I didn't want to, but I literally couldn't."
Quietly, Janet said, "I understand."
"He didn't. It drove him crazy. He wanted every part of me, and I couldn't give it all. So it ended."
"I'm sorry, Sam. Really." Janet laid her head against a tense shoulder till Sam turned and hugged her. Sam's chest lifted and fell in a great sigh.
"I'm the one who's sorry, Mac. Tonight was supposed to be all about you getting out and enjoying yourself."
"Hey, one call from an ex can't ruin our night, can it?"
With a final squeeze, Sam pulled back. "I hope not." Glancing around the kitchen, Sam seemed to remember where she was. "Want a tour?"
"Sure." Janet let Sam lead her through each room, all the while pointing out pictures of her family and friends. There were a handful of photos of people she recognized, and only one of her counterpart with Sam and Cassie. She picked up the framed image, looking for differences between herself and the woman in the picture. "Her hair was so short."
Sam touched the face behind the glass. "Depended on the day."
"What do you mean?"
"She had a different hairstyle every other month. She changed colors too-- red, brown, sandy blond-- you name it, she did it. She was one of those people who could look good no matter how she wore it."
Janet touched her own hair. "I haven't changed mine in a while." She felt a little self-conscious about the white streaks growing in, but figured hair color wasn't high on the list of military priorities. "I hate being so grey. Makes me feel old."
"If you want, maybe we can stop somewhere tomorrow and get that taken care of."
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Not at all. You have free reign till tomorrow, so we can do whatever you like."
"That might be nice. Besides, I've got serious split ends. You know, saving a planet can do serious damage to a girl's hair." Sam chuckled, and Janet set the picture down. "Is that the only picture you have of her?"
Sam tilted her head thoughtfully. "No, I have an album, mostly of SG1, Cassie and Janet. Did you want to see?"
"Maybe later." She didn't want Sam's mood to droop any further, so she moved on to the next room. "Hey, where all your plants?"
"I thought you had plants. All I'm seeing is a sad excuse for a spider plant over here."
"Oh, right." Sam looked blank. "I had to toss most of them, I don't have much of a green thumb."
Janet smirked. "Uh huh. Well I bet if we cut this baby back and give it a little new soil, it might survive. That's going to be my project for the night."
Though she seemed uncertain, Sam replied, "Okay."
Janet picked up the plant and turned to her. "What I meant to say is that it's going to be my project for right now."
"Oh. Um, I think I have soil in the garage or something. And you wanted scissors?"
Fifteen minutes later, Janet had repotted the small plant and left it in the sink to drain out excess water. "I bet in two weeks, you get new growth," she predicted.
"We'll see. I'm telling you, I have bad plant luck."
"Everyone's luck changes once in a while, Sammy. Have a little faith." She washed up, and saw that it was nearly seven. "What's for dinner?"
"Did you want pizza, or something a little fancier?"
"Pizza sounds good."
Sam grinned. "Great. There's beer in the fridge, by the way. I'll just place the order."
Janet waited to hear what Sam would order, and was surprised when she rattled off the exact ingredients she would have chosen. "Wait," Sam said into the phone before glancing at Janet, "do you like peppers and mushrooms? I know you like pepperoni."
"Sure." Janet breathed a sigh of relief-- she was wondering if Sam had forgotten who she was with. The night the gang had delivered pizza and supplies to her room had slipped her mind, but apparently not Sam's.
"Okay, half an hour. Thanks." Sam took the beer Janet offered her and tipped it back. "That's good."
"No kidding. I haven't had a drink in almost a month." She followed Sam into the living room, choosing a recliner while Sam flopped on the couch. "This living on base thing is really cramping my style."
"Hopefully you'll be able to get a your own place soon."
After taking another sip, Janet said, "I don't know. Hammond hasn't mentioned it to me. I'm beginning to think I'll be sunlight deprived indefinitely."
Sam did her best to look reassuring. "I bet they're working on it right now. He knows it hasn't been easy for you, especially after the whole... ah... thing on Athan."
With a self-conscious grin, Janet asked, "So even General George knows what an ass I made of myself with Tethys?"
"No," Sam said seriously. "At least I don't think he knows specifics, but I'll admit, you seemed a little different after we came home."
"That's funny, I thought the same about you. You seemed... distant."
Sam gazed into her beer bottle as if it had the answer to the unspoken question. "I wanted to give you some space, I guess. You had such a hard time after Tethys, and honestly, I didn't know how to fix the problem. It felt like there was nothing I could do to help." She finally met Janet's eyes. "I'm sorry if I made you think I didn't care."
"It's okay, Sam. There wasn't anything you could have done, if that makes you feel better. Dr. Calhoun said what happened probably amplified 'the natural period of mourning when a person experiences large scale trauma.'"
"You told Calhoun?"
"Had to. She knew there was something I wasn't telling, and after a while, she pried it out of me," Janet said with a smile. "She can be very persuasive, just sitting there, waiting for me to confess my deepest, darkest fears."
Sam nodded. "You definitely experienced large scale trauma."
"Poor Calhoun. My situation isn't exact covered in the annals of psychiatry, if you know what I mean."
"I doubt most of her patients' problems on base are anything she could really prepare for. I... talked to her a little bit after Jolinar."
"Yeah?" Janet was surprised Sam admitted to seeing a professional.
"I was really depressed for a while. Cassie was the one who got me through the worst of it, but Hammond wouldn't let me back on the team till I started talking to someone."
That jarred Janet's memory of Teal'c mentioning an upcoming opening on SG-1, but she didn't want to bring it up in case Sam hadn't heard anything. She would have to be patient, and hope she'd be in the loop by the time any real news came down the pipeline. Catching a glimpse of sadness in Sam's eyes, she said out of nowhere, "This is pathetic."
Sam chuffed out a laugh. "What?"
"All we're talking about is sad stuff. Pete, Janet, Jolinar, Tethys... I thought we were supposed to be relaxing and enjoying my one and only day off base for who knows how long!"
That brought out a real laugh, and Sam leaned forward to tap her beer bottle against Janet's. "You're right. Cheers. Brighter subjects, okay?"
"Absolutely. You mentioned the possibility of watching a movie... Do you have anything here?"
"Oh, yeah. I don't have many DVDs, but I rented a few, and borrowed a bunch from Teal'c as well."
Janet nearly choked on a mouthful of beer. "Teal'c?"
"He's got quite a collection. I'm not sure how he gets his hands on them all-- maybe mail order?"
"Who knew?" Janet said. Sam dumped a pile of discs on the coffee table, and Janet inspected the selection. "Let's see, no, no, maybe, no... I've never seen Moulin Rouge. Have you?"
"Nope. It was one of those movies I always meant to watch, but then things came up, and I was on base a lot, so I missed it. We can put that in the queue."
Janet spotted a title she hadn't seen in at least twenty years. She held it up. "Is this Teal'c's?"
"Yeah. What's it about?"
Grinning, Janet replied, "Teal'c as a closet Streisand fan. I'm never going to let him live it down. I can't remember the exact plot, but I do recall something about a Chinese dragon and people driving off a pier into the San Francisco Bay."
"Thank God we watched this first. I don't think I could handle going to sleep depressed tonight," Sam said, wiping her eyes a last time. She was mildly embarrassed to have cried for the final fifteen minutes of Moulin Rouge.
"Me neither. It was really good though," Janet said, sniffling into a tissue as the credits rolled.
Sam got up from the couch and grabbed the nearly empty pizza box. "Well, we'll have leftovers for breakfast."
"Or a midnight snack," Janet grinned.
"You really are a glutton. And since you are, do you want another beer?"
"I do if you do."
Sam turned to look at her. "That sounds like a dare," Sam drawled.
"No, a dare would be me offering to drink you under the table doing tequila shots. A beer is just a beer."
"Tequila shots, huh?"
Janet licked her lips, eyes drifting to a point slightly south of where Sam expected her to look. Something told Sam the attraction she was feeling was not as one sided as she'd imagined. "Yeah," Janet said, and Sam wished like hell she knew what the other woman was thinking.
Swallowing thickly, she headed for the kitchen and said over her shoulder, "We'll save that for another night." The image of licking salt from Janet's neck before downing a shot came to her mind, and the force of it nearly buckled her knees. Opening the refrigerator to get the fresh drinks, she stuck her head inside the door a little further to cool her rising temperature.
Thirty seconds later, she was back on the couch, reclining happily. "This is nice," she said.
Janet smiled lazily. "It's so exactly what I needed, Samantha, I don't know how I'll be able to thank you."
"It's good for me too, you know. It's refreshing to have company."
Snuggling down to get more comfortable in her seat, Janet said offhandedly, "I know for a fact you could have company a lot more often if you really wanted."
Sam cleared her throat. Was Janet implying what she thought she was? "What?"
"Half the base is in love with you, Sammy. You can take your pick."
The insinuation wasn't quite what she'd hoped. "Come on."
"Well, I like my current company, if that's all right with you."
Brown eyes blinked at her. "It is."
"Good, then." She felt the blush start creeping up her neck. "Ready for the next movie?"
"Sure," Janet replied softly.
Sam got up to change the disc, happy for the momentary distraction.
The ruckus onscreen continued, but Janet wasn't paying much attention, instead preferring to focus on a sleeping Sam. Her face was soft and unlined, her head tilted at what looked like an uncomfortable angle.
Leaning forward, she used the remote to mute the television and stop the film, turning the channel to the evening news. As she watched the talking heads, she stretched full length in her recliner, relishing the silence. At the base, there was always an undercurrent of sound, whether it was voices in the halls, unauthorized gate activations, or the constant hum of power keeping the base operational. Sam's home was quiet except for the sound of deep, even breaths.
Janet's eyes slipped closed as her mind drifted, and she deliberately tried to avoid thinking about going back to the base the next day. She'd mentioned missing the "simple pleasures" of life to Sam, but it was the lack of freedom to do as she pleased that was the real challenge. While the military was an overtly schedule oriented way of living, the Stargate program was much more lax, fortunately. Though she used to spend most of her free time at work, it had been her prerogative to do so; had she wanted to go off and enjoy herself elsewhere, she could have. Now, she felt trapped in her quarters, the low ceilings causing occasional bouts of claustrophobia. Calhoun said that was to be expected, but didn't offer any solutions.
This felt like a solution, though. If she could talk Hammond into letting her off base one night a week, she imagined she could survive. As long as she had Sam to keep her company.
She got up, deciding it was time for both of them to head to bed. Gently she perched on the couch, not touching Sam, but watching. Just the image of her face, so trusting and kind, seemed to center Janet. She reached out to brush wispy bangs away from her forehead, and murmured, "I had it all wrong a few weeks ago, Sammy. I think fate brought me here to find you."
"Hmm?" Sam mumbled, shifting her body to press against Janet's hip.
"Hi," she said.
"Hey. What time is it?"
"Just after eleven."
"God, three beers and I'm out like a light. I'm getting old," Sam breathed, stretching like a cat.
"I wouldn't say that." Somehow, Janet's hand found Sam's, and their palms pressed together naturally.
"I missed the end of the movie."
"We can watch it tomorrow, over breakfast."
Sam's sleepy voice made Janet smile-- she was only half awake. "Come on. I'll tuck you in." She stood and encouraged Sam to follow her down the hall, still holding her hand.
Teeth were brushed, clothes were changed, and Janet peeked into Sam's room through the open door. The woman stared out the window, illuminated by sodium lights from the street, and Janet was transfixed. She leaned against the doorway, waiting-- but for what, she didn't know.
Eventually, Sam moved away and noticed Janet. "Hey, did you get everything you needed?"
"Yeah," Janet replied. "I'm here to tuck you in."
Sam grinned. "I forgot."
Pointing to the bed, Janet said, "Get in there."
"Yes, ma'am." Sam slid under the covers and pulled them up, and Janet sat on the side of the bed for a moment.
"Good night, Samantha. Thanks for putting me up."
"You're welcome. Any time."
Janet found herself wanting to lean down for a kiss, but instead just brushed Sam's bangs back again, trailing one finger down her hairline. "Sleep well."
"You too," Sam whispered.
Janet headed to the guest room, heart hammering loudly in her chest. Something was happening between them, but she wouldn't rush. Slow and steady, she repeated, slow and steady.
Sam watched Janet flip through a magazine in the hairstylist's chair, foil covering a significant portion of her head. "With your hair like that, I find myself wanting to call you Eunice." They'd watched the second half of their movie that morning, and the goofy character names were fresh in Sam's mind.
Janet looked at her from under one archly raised eyebrow. "I prefer Burnsie. And that means I get to call you Howard."
"Fair enough, Burnsie."
Sam giggled, and Janet went back to flipping through the magazine. They'd made an unspoken, mutual decision to leave the pizza in the fridge for breakfast, and instead Sam did her best to whip up some eggs and bacon. It had turned out well, for a change, and they'd devoured everything while watching the film. "How much longer does that stuff have to stay on?"
"A few more minutes." The relaxed expression disappeared from Janet's face. "Do you have to be somewhere?"
"No, not at all. I'm in no hurry. Just curious." Brown eyes narrowed, as if trying to gauge her honesty. "I swear," Sam laughed, and stood up from her semi-uncomfortable chair. "I might run across the street for a coffee, though. What can I get you?"
"I don't need anything, thanks."
Sam pursed her lips. "I didn't ask what you needed, I asked what you wanted."
Janet's smile returned, the one that Sam had made her mission to keep on her face all day. "Mocha something, or caramel. A latte?"
"Done." She wasn't sure if there was such a thing as a mocha caramel latte, but she'd do her best.
Ten minutes later she had a mocha latte with extra caramel in hand, and some kind of mocha chai latte for herself. Though usually not too daring in the coffee department, she was feeling inspired. When she entered the salon, Ezra the hair guru had removed all the foil from Janet's hair, and was styling it somewhat out of Sam's line of sight. She waited patiently, sipping her drink.
When the hairdresser turned Janet's chair around with a flourish, Sam nearly dropped her drink. The effect was stunning; red and gold highlights replaced the grey, the cut layered into a snappy flip instead of a shapeless one length do. "Wow," she said.
"Do you really like it?"
Sam blinked. "Yeah. Wow."
Ezra, Janet's new best friend, smirked. "Oh, honey, she likes it," he drawled. "Takes ten years off you, easy. Don't forget to dry upside down, and use the wax just like I showed you."
"Yes, sir," she said, never taking her eyes off Sam. "Is that for me?" She pointed to the cup in Sam's hand.
"Uh, yeah. I forgot. Here." Sam handed it over, hoping her mouth wasn't hanging open.
Ezra fussed with Janet's hair some more, while Sam wondered if this new hairstyle thing was really such a good idea. She was having a hard enough time hiding her attraction, and it was only going to get worse now. Fortunately, the style didn't remind her much of the other Janet's-- she had rarely gone red over the past few years.
Janet stood and kissed Ezra on the cheek. "Thank you so much, Ezra. It's amazing what a little color can do for a girl's self-esteem." She paid at the salon counter with some of the stipend Hammond had given her recently. Though she wasn't receiving an official paycheck yet, the general made sure she didn't have to rely on friends like Sam for loans for anything she needed.
"Ahh, I feel like a new woman." Beaming, Janet approached Sam and took her arm. "Thanks, Sammy."
"Are you sure you like it?"
Sam pressed a hand against the finely shaped fingers tucked into the crook of her arm. "I love it." Stepping out into the bright sunlight, she tipped her sunglasses down onto her nose. "We have a few more hours before you turn back into a pumpkin. Is there anything else you want to do?"
With a sigh, Janet said, "Let's just sit and enjoy our coffee for a few minutes in the sun."
"Okay. Are you sure you'll be warm enough?"
"I'll live if you will."
Sam took a seat next to Janet, and they soaked up some rays in 48 degree weather, Janet happy to be outdoors, and Sam happy to be by her side.
Janet waited patiently, at attention, in front of Hammond's door. She wasn't sure what the subject of the meeting was going to be, but she was nervous about it nonetheless. "You can sit, Major, if you like," Tony said from behind his desk.
"It's fine. I've got too much energy as it is," she said sheepishly.
"Okay. He should only be a minute."
Janet nodded, taking a deep breath. In her head, she tried a short meditation Teal'c had taught her, but she was too distracted for it to work. Finally, Tony looked up. "Go on in, Major. And relax, you've got nothing to worry about." His warm grin did much to ease her mind, and she wished like hell he'd said the words when she'd first arrived.
Inside, she was taken aback to see both the general and Colonel O'Neill, both rising from their chairs. "General, Colonel." She saluted out of habit.
"At ease, Major."
"Thank you, sir." She followed the men's lead and seated herself next to O'Neill. "What can I do for you?"
"My first order of business is to tell you how pleased we've been with your progress," the general said. "You've been with us a few months, and though it was rough at the beginning, we believe you've fit right in with this motley crew of soldiers and scientists. In fact, at this point, it's hard to believe we managed without you before your arrival."
Never one to turn down a compliment from her superior officers, Janet said, "Thank you, sir. I've been... very happy." It was the absolute truth; over the last weeks, she'd become more settled in her skin than she had been at any time in her former reality. There, she'd been lonely much of the time, never quite feeling like she belonged. She'd excelled in her studies and career, but with the exception of Tethys, she'd been relatively unsuccessful in personal relationships. Now, she'd come to value friendship more than ever, and her growing attachment to Sam Carter had a lot to do with that.
Hammond continued, "On three separate occasions, you've substituted for injured soldiers on off-world missions, and each time you've done extremely well. You're a solid team member, and your intelligence, strength, and know-how make you a valuable resource for all of us."
"Aside from the fact that you shoot a P-90 like nobody's business," O'Neill interjected.
She chucked. "Thanks, sir."
"As I was saying," Hammond continued, ignoring Jack's quip, "you're too good to stay away from the field for much longer, and we have a opening on a team you'll fit very well in."
Janet waited, anticipating.
"It's SG-1," Jack said.
Though Teal'c had mentioned the prospect to her long ago, Janet was still dazed by the news. "Are you adding another position to the team?" she asked.
"No. Colonel O'Neill will be relinquishing his spot to Major Carter. She'll be leading the team as soon as her promotion becomes official."
Janet smiled brightly, proud as hell of Sam. "That's fantastic. She deserves it." But with Jack off the team and taking over at the base, she wondered about Hammond. "Sir, if the Colonel here is going to be--"
"I'll be retiring at the end of May," Hammond interrupted, and Janet's heart fell. The general had been the one familiar face she'd known when she first arrived in this universe, and it felt like a physical blow to realize he'd be gone soon. "My grandchildren are growing like weeds, and I'd like to spend some time with them before they forget I'm around."
Remembering the way her own grandparents had been there for her all her life, Janet understood. "They'll thank you for it someday, General."
He nodded. "I'll be leaving you in the capable hands of Colonel O'Neill, soon to be General."
"Congratulations, sir." She tilted her head. "Are you sure you'll be able to let go of the gate, Colonel?"
He sat back in his chair, "Aw, you know, I think I've seen enough of the universe. I won't mind watching you and Carter take over saving the planet for a while."
Hammond said, "We'll be transitioning you onto SG-1 in three weeks, Major. I've been keeping tabs on your practice on the firing range, and with Teal'c training you, I'm confident you'll make an excellent addition to the team. At that time, there will be an official ceremony to induct you into the program, as well as to promote Major Carter."
"Mind sharing the spotlight, Mac?" O'Neill asked.
"Not at all. I hope it won't bother Sam."
"On the contrary-- she suggested the idea herself," Hammond said.
"Oh." Janet smiled, unsurprised at Samantha's generosity. "Sounds like a party."
"It will be," Jack assured her.
The general stood. "Thank you for your time, Major, and I couldn't be more pleased that things worked out this way. For all of us."
Janet stood along with Jack. She reached out to shake Hammond's hand, responding, "Me too, sir. Thank you." She punched Jack in the arm. "Thanks, Colonel."
"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Get outta here and find Carter. She's been dying to tell you since she heard the news yesterday."
"Dismissed, Major," Hammond said. "See you at tomorrow's briefing."
"Yes, sir." Soon she was racing down the stairs, too impatient to wait for the elevator. When she came to the lab, she swiped her ID card and burst through the door. "Howard, you're going to be a Colonel!" she crowed.
Sam cackled and immediately came toward her, catching her up in an embrace that swept her off her feet. "Welcome to SG1," she exclaimed. "Thank God they told you, I was about to go crazy!"
"Sam, I am so happy for you."
"And I'm happy to have you with me on the team. When Jack said he was leaving, I panicked, until the General said he had a good idea who to fill the space with. I was afraid to suggest you for the position, because I didn't want them to think I, that I--"
"I know what you mean," Janet said. This was going to be an interesting situation-- having the woman she cared most about in the world as her superior officer. The thought hadn't occurred to her until that moment, but there was no one she'd rather have watching Sam's back than herself.
The energy between them had been simmering lately; she'd caught Sam eyeing her more than once, but she never seemed embarrassed about it. Instead, she'd just blush a bit, watch her for a long moment, and turn back to whatever she'd been doing. It was... intriguing to say the least. "Do you think it might cause a problem?"
Sam frowned. "You mean us, the way we are, cause trouble in the field?"
Janet was charmed by the vagueness of Sam's description, *the way we are.* "Yeah."
"Well, Daniel, Teal'c and Jack are three of my best friends. They know me better than anyone. It worked for us, it can work with you."
Nodding, Janet said, "I hope so."
"Janet, as far as I'm concerned, there was one choice for SG-1, and you're it. Both Hammond and the Colonel agree. You belong here."
Sam said the words with so much conviction, she believed. "Okay."
Sam lit the last candle and waited, holding her breath in the otherwise dark room. Her heart pounded in anticipation, knowing it wouldn't be much longer. As the wax started to drip down the candles, the door swung open. "Teal'c said the craziest-- what is this?"
"Happy birthday!" Sam said, pleased she had really surprised Janet.
"Oh my God, what day is this?"
Knowing Janet tended to lose track of the days since she rarely left the base, there were two surprises planned: one, a small, private celebration for just the two of them, and two, a larger party for Janet's friends on the base. "Hello, it's the 10th, silly, your birthday!"
"Oh my god," she repeated. "I didn't even realize!"
Laughing, Sam said, "I figured. Now come here and blow these out before they set the sprinklers off!"
Janet grinned crazily and leaned over the candles. She closed her eyes, her mouth set in a straight line, before exhaling a gust of air large enough to blow out all the candles. Of course, the loss of candlelight left the room in darkness. "Oops," Sam said, fumbling for the desk lamp. She switched it on to the lowest setting and asked, "Did you make a wish?"
"I did. And that's all you need to know."
"Okay, I won't pry. But was it a good one?"
"Oh, it was a very good one," Janet said, and Sam wondered if she was imagining the note of suggestion lingering beneath the innocent words. She chewed on the inside of her lip. "Where'd ya get the cake?" Janet asked.
"I made it."
"You baked me a cake?"
"Yeah. But the icing's from a can-- my cooking skills only go so far."
"Oh, Sammy, you are sweet." Janet came around the table and swiveled Sam around on the stool to embrace her. "Thank you."
Sam held on, dropping her head on Janet's shoulder for a moment. When Janet pulled back, she tilted Sam's chin up. "Why the long face?"
Shaking her head, Sam assured her, "It's nothing."
"Uh huh, that's a good one. Tell me what's wrong."
Looking down at the space between them, Sam felt the words bubbling up inside her. "Your birthdays are on the same day." Her eyes began to sting, but she tried desperately to push tears back. Today of all days, she needed to focus only on the present, but the past kept coming back to haunt her at the damnedest times. Janet melted back into her arms, and Sam let the tears come. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, trying to catch her breath. "I wanted this day to be about you, because I'm so happy you're here. But I just couldn't help thinking of her too."
A soothing hand rubbed her back. "I'd never ask you to forget her, Sam-- I owe her my life. I lost everything, and it was only because she died that I was able to start again, in a safe place where people care about me. And though it doesn't mean anything, I'd trade it all to bring her back. For you."
Hearing those words made Sam pull Janet even closer, and her knees closed around slim hips. She clung tightly, whispering, "I'm glad you're here, Janet. I don't know what I'd do without you." They stayed pressed together, Janet's nose finding a resting place in the crook of Sam's neck. The feel of warm breath on her skin seemed to calm her, and her tears slowly abated. She found herself rocking back and forth slightly, running her fingers along Janet's spine.
She had no idea how much time had passed when her computer dinged with an instant message. They both jumped, and reluctantly, Sam opened her arms and straightened up. She cleared her throat. "Let me, uh, just check that." Exhaling slowly, she brought up the message, though she knew who it came from. "It's Daniel. He wants you to go up to the conference room on 16 to look at something."
Janet ran a hand through her hair. "Is it a surprise party?"
There was no point in lying. "Yeah."
Laughing softly, Janet smiled. "Think they can wait a few more minutes?"
"I'll tell him we're not done here yet." She typed a quick return message, and got an affirmative answer from the party planner. Turning back to Janet, she said, "I really am sorry, I didn't mean to be so maudlin."
"Hey," Janet said, taking her hand, "this is the way things are. I don't want you to keep that stuff inside. I wouldn't mind if... well, if you told me about her, when you were in the mood to."
"You mean about what she was like?"
"Sure. Funny stories, or crazy things that happened, or just about who she was. If you want to talk about her, that is. Maybe that would help keep her alive, in your memory."
"You wouldn't think it was... weird?"
Janet chuffed. "I know weird, Sam, and this is not it. This is you, talking about a friend who's still a part of your life, and always will be. I'd like to know her better. I mean, I share so much with her-- a birthday, a face, a voice-- but I still feel like there's more to understand. Imagine how you'd feel if you suddenly found out you had a long lost sister, but she'd passed away. You'd still want to *know* her, wouldn't you?"
Sam nodded. "I think so."
"Anytime you want to talk about her, feel free."
Smiling, Sam touched Janet's cheek. "Okay." She sighed, and hopped down from the stool. Rummaging under her desk, she glanced over her shoulder. "I have some things for you. Want them now or after the party?"
"How about later? Gives me something to look forward to. And cover that cake, I'm having it for dinner."
Later, Sam felt a little buzzed from the champagne served as a toast in honor of the big day. The drink always made her a little lightheaded, even after only one glass. She watched as airmen and women surrounded her friend, listening with rapt attention as she told a story. There was something Janet had, some kind of personal charisma that drew people in like moths to a flame. The other Janet had had it as well, but Sam admitted, she'd often been uncomfortable as the center of attention. The job was probably the culprit; there were very few days that Janet hadn't focused most of her attention on either some looming medical issue, or concerns over raising Cassie.
Despite going through one of the most traumatic losses Sam could imagine, this Janet seemed to be light of spirit, and everyone around could sense it. Her ready smile drew attention from both men and women, and Janet had told Sam that more than one airman had expressed a romantic interest in her. Sam had been relieved to know that the interest was not returned.
She'd finally realized that her negative reactions surrounding the "Tethys situation" had been largely based on jealousy. Whether it was romantic jealousy she hadn't thought so much about, but over the past few weeks, it was becoming clearer. She was falling fast for Janet Fraiser, and she suspected it might be mutual.
Buying a birthday gift had been difficult, even though Janet owned next to nothing. She didn't want to go overboard; she left that to SG-1. They'd bought her an Ipod, and filled it almost to capacity with music collected from nearly two dozen volunteers who donated their digital CD collections. Clothes, gift certificates, a digital camera, and oddly enough, cooking equipment were all presented to her during the party, and she was thrilled.
Instead, Sam had tried to think small. During the party, she'd given Janet a fitted Marvin the Martian tee shirt, which she'd immediately pulled on over her regulation black shirt. There were two another gifts she didn't want to give in front of everyone. They weren't suggestive, but Sam didn't want to draw any undue attention to herself.
She sipped at her champagne, and Daniel approached. "Hey, Sam."
"Hi. You did a nice job with everything. The food was great."
"Well, you can't go wrong with appetizers and champagne."
"You're awfully quiet."
Sam shrugged. "I don't know, I'm just not in that big of a party mood."
"Thinking about Janet?" Sam looked at him. "Doctor Fraiser, I mean."
"Me too. I wish we could have both of them here. I know that the laws of physics wouldn't have allowed it, but it doesn't stop me from thinking it would've been great to see them together. They'd have been quite a pair."
Sam smiled, trying to imagine it. "Yeah."
A flash went off in Sam's face. "That's going to be a good picture," Janet said, waving her new camera at them. "Can I get in on that action?"
"Sure," Daniel said, making room for her. Janet handed her camera off to Lieutenant Harkins and stepped between Sam and Daniel, putting one arm around each of them. Sam hunched down and held Janet around the waist, tilting her head close so they'd all fit in the shot.
The flash went off.
Back in the lab, Janet sliced a huge chunk of the chocolate cake Sam had made onto a plate. She dug in with Sam sitting across from her, waiting nervously for her reaction.
Fortunately, the cake was delicious. "Oh Sam, it's fantastic. Have some."
"No, I shouldn't."
"What, are you worried about your girlish figure? Unacceptable." She cut a piece for Sam, and slid it over to her. "You should enjoy the fruits of your labor."
When she took a bite, her forehead crinkled. "Wow. For a first effort, it's not bad."
Janet sat back, pondering that little piece of information. "The party was nice. I love my shirt, by the way." She looked down into the giant face of Marvin, brushing a cake crumb out of his eye.
"I, uh, I have something else for you. A couple of things, really."
Janet put her fork down. "You're spoiling me, you know. I've gotten way too many presents today."
"They're not much, just little things I thought you might like."
Sam got up and opened her desk drawer, removing two small wrapped packages. "Open this one first."
Janet grinned at the perfectly folded gift-wrap that seemed exactly like Sam. She carefully pulled at the tape, revealing a book; an old one at that. Turning it over, she paused briefly before finding her voice to read the title aloud, "'Through the Looking-Glass.'" It was illustrated, and had been worn and obviously loved by its past owners.
Janet touched the cover. "It's lovely." The significance was not lost on her.
"Now this one." She handed Janet a smaller box that fit in the palm of her hand. It was wrapped as meticulously as the other. After removing the paper, she lifted the lid of a velvet box. A small, silver ring lay inside, the intricate design catching her eye.
"It's a Celtic knot, see, the design is made up of one continuous thread."
Janet picked up the ring and slid it on the ring finger of her right hand. It fit. "It's beautiful, Sam."
"Daniel told me the ancient Celts believed that all life was interconnected, and that the physical and spiritual realms are tied together through death and rebirth." Sam met her eyes, and Janet was deeply moved by the emotion she found there. "I thought it was appropriate."
Janet stood and came around the table, sliding into Sam's arms. "I love it," she murmured in her ear. She kissed a soft cheek once, and a second time, before pulling back. Sam's mouth hung open slightly, her face so still it seemed like she wasn't breathing. Janet leaned in and kissed her lips. When she moved away a few inches, she felt Sam's quick exhalation of air. Janet kissed her again, more slowly, and Sam responded. She paused to breathe, and their mouths met a third time, while Sam's arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer.
Janet pressed her forehead to Sam's, fingers sifting through the ends of blonde hair. They stood that way, sharing one another's breath. Sam swallowed, and said, "Happy birthday."
Running her thumbs along Sam's temples, Janet said, "You're wonderful."
Sam smiled shyly. "You are too."
At that, Janet moved in for a hug, laying her head on Sam's shoulder with a sigh of contentment.
"So, you ready to get out there and explore the galaxy, Major Fraiser?" Sam asked as Janet tied the lace of her boot.
"Absolutely, Colonel. How's it feel to have a new rank?"
"Not bad. Strange, but I'm happy about it." She'd been promoted the day before, and Janet had officially been welcomed to SG-1. They were traveling to PF-156 tomorrow, and Sam was thrilled to be officially leading the team for the first time. Upon their return, there was a blowout planned at Hannigan's that would be well attended, Sam was sure. She selfishly hoped like hell nothing would go wrong on this mission; she had big plans for the night of the party. "I'm happier still that you're on the team now."
Janet straightened up and sighed. "I've uh, been wondering about that."
The tone didn't bode well. "Something wrong?" Sam sat next to her on the locker room bench. "If there is, I should know about it before we head out tomorrow."
"I'm not worried about anything, exactly, but I've been concerned about you. Us. Together." Janet ran a hand through her hair. "I'm not saying this right."
Sam shook her head. "Talk to me, Janet."
Janet finally met her eyes. "I shouldn't have waited so long to bring it up, but I, um, we're... Now you're my commanding officer, and you lead the team. I care about you, Sam, so much. More than I probably should. But I can't stop, and to be honest, I don't want to." As Sam noted the similarity of those words to ones she'd heard years before from Colonel O'Neill, Janet reached out to stroke her hand. She continued, "If it's too much to handle having someone on your team who's in love with you, tell me, and I'll request reassignment. I can talk to Hammond, tell him I've had second thoughts, that I need more time. He'll understand."
Sam's brain had stalled at "in love." She blinked, vaguely wondering if she'd heard correctly. "Pardon?"
Half-smiling, Janet said, "Do you really need me to repeat that whole thing?"
"How about just the part about being in love."
Janet dipped her head, looking up through her eyelashes. "Well, I am."
Sam caught her breath at the feeling that swept through her, sending chills down her arms. She swallowed down the lump in her throat and said, "I love you too."
A blinding smile was her reward, and Sam grinned back like an idiot. She covered her cheeks with her hands, embarrassed at the blush flooding her cheeks. Janet laughed and finished tying her other shoe before swiveling to straddle the bench. "So, that clears things up. Partially."
"But like I said, you're my CO. Can we pull it off?"
Sam rubbed her hands together and thought for a moment. "Two years ago, I would have said no. I told you about the, uh... thing between Colonel O'Neill and I, and that was something that neither of us felt comfortable moving forward with. When Janet died, I was lost for a long time. But when you came, everything changed. The sun looked brighter, food tasted good again, I remembered how to laugh. And then you went off with Tethys."
Janet nodded. "Not one of my saner moments."
"It was totally understandable, you know I realize that. When you came back from Athan, I didn't want to let you go, no matter what happened. Whether or not we ever got together, I'd still have fallen for you. I'm willing to take the chance, Janet. You're worth it."
Exhaling a long breath, Janet slumped. "I'm so relieved. I feel the same way. I just didn't want to screw things up. After what happened with Tethys, Calhoun *recommended* that I try and communicate better with my loved ones, so I wouldn't end up blindsided again."
"Sounds reasonable to me."
"She's awfully smart for a shrink."
"Will you, uh, tell her about me? Do you think there's any risk?"
"I've been unspecific so far, but considering I spend most of my time with you, she's probably figured it out. She also pointedly mentioned that her sister's partner gave birth to a baby boy last year, so I guess we're in good hands."
"Wow, I didn't know. That's nice." Sam found herself wanting to lean forward and kiss Janet. After all, they'd declared their love for one another without even a hug. "Um, is there anything else you're concerned about?"
Janet laced her fingers together and cracked the knuckles. "Yeah. I've been thinking about when I'll be able to spend the night at your house again. I've been thinking about that a lot."
Sam's heart skipped at least two beats at the change of subject. "How about after the party Friday night?"
"Good. I can't wait to sleep in a real bed again."
Sleep was the last thing on Sam's mind, and she'd bet her life it wasn't on Janet's either.
Janet threw back a shot, courtesy of Colonel O'Neill, and slammed the empty glass down on the bar to much applause. She was trying her best not to get tanked, but considering the speed at which the drinks were coming, it was a challenge. Sam was a few feet away, chatting with Daniel and a lieutenant Janet didn't recognize, and she found herself wishing the blonde would sidle up and put an arm around her waist. That would never happen, certainly not with the way things were in the military at present, but it didn't stop Janet from craving it. She turned the ring on her finger, thinking of the endless knot tying her heart to Sam's, and vice versa.
Now that General Hammond had granted her permission to leave the base whenever she was off duty, things were going to change. The paperwork he'd handed her earlier gave her even more to look forward to. Somehow, he'd convinced the government to pony up for a down payment and then some on a home in the suburbs, only a couple of miles from Sam's. The general had been concerned she wouldn't want to accept the gift, but in all honesty, Janet was relieved not to have to go house hunting. The place was twice the size of the apartment she'd paid rent for in her other reality, and if Hammond was being truthful, it would be ideal for her needs. Two bedrooms, two baths, a garage, a kitchen, appliances, and best of all, yards in front and back. Janet hadn't had a yard larger than a postage stamp since she was a child living with her parents and brother in Oregon, years ago.
A military man had left the property vacant some months prior, and when Janet arrived through the quantum mirror, Hammond had petitioned the President personally for permission to put in a bid, to somehow make up for all Janet had sacrificed. Everything seemed to have fallen into place without any help from Janet, which was remarkable considering the trouble she'd gone through over the past four months. To suddenly have a viable identity, including driver's license and social security card, seemed too much to ask for, but she had them.
Jack slid another shot down the bar, and it landed directly in Janet's hand. The surface of the drink was on fire, and the chanting around her grew exponentially as she examined it. A voice whispered in her ear suggestively, "Drink it." Sam blew out the flame over her shoulder, and Janet glanced at her briefly before downing the concoction in one swallow.
It was hot going down her throat, and Sam's breath behind her ear caused her nipples to harden. The alcohol wasn't helping her to control the desire to kiss Sam senseless, and the woman's presence behind her was about to send her into the stratosphere.
Though they'd shared only a few kisses since her birthday, the tension had grown enormously between them since then. Pushing Sam into something she wasn't ready for was not on her agenda, but the warm air on the back of her neck led her to believe she wouldn't have to try very hard. Turning around, she cleared her throat. "I have to use the restroom," she murmured, and willed Sam to follow her.
"Hey, where ya going?" Jack cried as she left the bar. "I was just about to buy you a slippery nipple!"
"Keep that one for yourself, Jack," Janet replied, unsurprised at his hijinks. "Be right back."
Sam did follow her, and when they got into the restroom of the bar, Janet paused to look at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were dark, the pupils enormous. Whether it was from intoxication or arousal she couldn't tell, but Sam stood behind her and watched her carefully. A hand fell on Janet's shoulder, one fingernail scratching down the back of her neck. "You're coming home with me tonight, aren't you?"
Nearly breathless with anticipation, Janet said, "If you'll have me."
"Oh, I will," Sam purred, glancing around for evidence of other occupants in the tiny room. "Let me know when you're ready to leave."
Janet leaned her weight on the sink. "I'm ready now, but I think it would look a little strange if we left our own party after only twenty minutes, don't you?"
Sam's alluring grin made her blink. "Yeah, probably." A hand clutched at her hip briefly, then disappeared. "But soon, okay?"
Nodding, Janet agreed.
When Sam left, Janet dipped her head and breathed deeply. She dampened a paper towel and pressed it to her forehead, trying to cool off.
Two hours later, Janet feigned drunkenness coupled with exhaustion as an excuse to depart. Though the three drinks she'd inhaled upon arrival had worn off, Sam had imbibed only diet soda, so she would be driving them home.
"You need to get a tolerance now that you're a part of SG-1," O'Neill mumbled, a little too close for Janet's comfort. His breath reeked of whiskey, and Teal'c and Daniel flanked him in case he fell over.
"Another time, Colonel, I promise."
"Yeah, you'd better. Colonel Carter, take care of her, you got it?"
"Yes, sir." Sam looked strangely at O'Neill. "That rank is going to take a while to get used to."
"You'll adjust," Daniel said, and nodded to her. "Have a good night, Sam. Janet."
"Night," Janet said, and Sam's hand landed on her lower back, steering her out of the bar. She swallowed, amazed at the heat generated by only a few fingers' contact through the thin fabric of her shirt. They made their way through the packed parking lot to the classic Volvo, and Sam opened Janet's door for her. Quickly Janet hopped inside and unlocked the opposite door. As soon as Sam slid into the seat, Janet leaned over and kissed her, fast and deep. Her tongue pushed into the warm cavern of Sam's mouth, and a gentle hand cupped her head to tilt it just so. She was breathing heavily by the time they separated, and the tiny groan Sam emitted drove her crazy with longing. "Hurry," she whispered.
Sam started the car and knocked it into gear immediately. Janet was afraid they'd left skid marks in the parking lot, but she could hardly see through the haze clouding her vision. Every atom of her body was on alert, and it seemed each of her senses had magnified. Her skin was oversensitive to temperature, her hearing caught every hitch in Sam's breath, her nose recognized the scent of arousal in the air, and her mouth... she could still taste Sam's flavor on her tongue. If they didn't get to Sam's house soon, there was going to be a problem, because Janet was going to tear her hair out.
She couldn't remember wanting to make love to someone so badly in her life.
Finally, Sam pulled up to the curb outside her house and yanked up the brake. Without considering the ramifications, Janet maneuvered herself across the seat and straddled Sam's lap, fastening their mouths together instantly. She could hear Sam whimpering as slim hips thrust against Janet's weight. Hands pulled too hard at her hair, but the sharp ache only served to heighten Janet's arousal. Sam took command and lurched forward, and they both jumped a few inches when the horn on the steering wheel yelped in protest. Janet's eyes flew open to see Sam blinking back at her, shocked at the interruption. They panted into each other's faces, till Sam finally managed to say, "Maybe we should go inside."
Sam's hands shook as they unlocked the door; she couldn't concentrate with the weight of Janet's breasts pressing against her shoulder blades. All she could imagine was the way they would feel, skin on skin, no barriers between them.
She fell inside when the door swung open, and Janet followed, slamming the door shut hard enough that a picture fell from the wall inside the entryway. A moment later Janet was on her, ripping at her shirt, and buttons flew in every direction. Sam pulled the torn fabric from her shoulders, walking backwards, trying to keep her hands on Janet every second. She'd had good sex in the past, great sex even, but she hadn't felt such intense *need* in her life, as if she didn't get Janet's bare body against her own in the next thirty seconds, she'd lose it.
Stumbling over her feet as her trousers fell to the floor, Sam shook them off over her socks and shoes. Somehow she managed to pull Janet's shirt over her head, only to nearly collapse at the sight of full breasts held in place by a thin scrap of fabric that masqueraded as a bra. Someone else had bought that bra for Janet, Sam was sure; she would have remembered the look of it, the feel of it. Her hands made contact, and for the first time she felt the weight of another woman's breasts in her hands. She groaned, maybe, or sighed; she couldn't really hear much past the pounding of her heart.
Hands reached beneath her underwear and grasped her rear, and Sam couldn't help but bend and flex beneath the touch. Still staggering towards the bedroom, she kicked off her shoes and simultaneously yanked Janet's pants down, falling to her knees to ease them off, along with Janet's shoes. Instinct allowed her to completely disregard her lack of experience; she pressed her nose between Janet's legs, the apex of which was miraculously at the perfect height while she was on her knees. Raking her bottom teeth across the damp material, she felt Janet's knees give out, and Sam's mouth followed her to the floor.
Ignoring the fact that they were lying on the hall carpet, she grabbed Janet's panties and pulled them off, immediately retaking her position at the center of her pleasure. Muscular legs opened for her tongue, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she registered the constant stream of begging coming from Janet's mouth, the way her fingers pulled at her head, asking for more, and more. Sam's hands found bare breasts, the bra having disappeared somewhere on the journey, and they felt full to overflowing as her mouth caressed and sucked and lapped with dedication. The liquid flesh was red and ripe beneath her kiss, the rhythm pushing her to places she'd only dreamed of. And then Janet was wailing, holding her head in place as the fluttering under her tongue commenced and continued long past anything Sam could have hoped for, prayed for.
She drank the honey that flowed, however foreign it may have tasted, only wanting to coax more from the source. But she was denied the pleasure by Janet, who sat up and heaved Sam onto her back, pulling at the clasp of her bra with both hands. Janet seemed frantic with need, and Sam did her best to help, removing the material herself. Then a mouth latched onto one nipple, and Sam's whole body reacted, her nerve-endings screaming with ecstasy at the sensation. Deft fingers disappeared beneath her panties once again, sliding amidst a gush of wetness and heat. Sam banged her head against the wall, but she hardly felt the pain as two fingers trapped her clitoris, massaging, pulling at her core. Then lips replaced fingers, and there was a press, push inside along a patch of flesh that had her clawing at anything she could reach. She may have screamed, but her mind wouldn't process anything except physical sensation. Her heels dug into the carpet, hips rutting against the pressure of Janet's mouth and hands in a wild ride that she thought would never end, until the rapture took hold, and she shattered into a hundred thousand pieces, scattering all over the hallway floor.
Sam lay still, her heart pounding so hard she could actually see her dog tags vibrating as they rested on her chest. The sound of her own gasps for breath mingled with Janet's as the other woman lifted her head to rest on Sam's thigh. "Goddamn," Janet said hoarsely.
Sam snorted softly through her nose, unable to do much else.
They lay motionless for a while, catching their breath, till Janet finally tilted her eyes in Sam's direction. "Hey. You there."
Sam looked into Janet's eyes, black in the dim light. "Yeah?" she exhaled.
"I love you like crazy, you know?"
Smiling, Sam blinked lazily at her. "Can you move up here?" Slowly, Janet crawled north, coming to rest her weight on Sam's body. "I love you so much, Janet. With my whole heart."
They stayed still for a while longer, till finally, Janet said, "Do you love me enough to carry me to the bedroom? I don't think I can walk."
Sam laughed, her voice echoing loud and long in the empty house.
A hand stroked along Janet's spine, up and down, just brushing her skin in the most delicious way. She'd woken some time ago, lying half atop Sam's body, their legs twined together. Though there was a disparity of height, Janet had felt more than comfortable. Her head was pillowed on an ivory breast, and she trailed her fingernails along Sam's ribs.
The room was bright; it had to be at least 9 or 10 in the morning. They'd made love long into the night, only collapsing once they were too tired to try for more. The night had been sweet, but the morning seemed sweeter as Janet rested contentedly in Sam's arms.
"Want to go see your house today?" Sam asked, her voice so low it was almost a whisper.
Janet tilted her head up. "Yeah. I ought to look at the place I'll be living, when I'm not here, at least." She sat up a little higher once she got a look at Sam. "My God, your eyes are incredible."
Sam touched her face. "What?"
"In this light, they're so blue, bluer than I've ever seen them. They're beautiful."
Janet watched Sam's cheeks redden, shaking her head at the modesty of her lover. "You're adorable."
"Stop it. You are."
"Face it, Howard, I'm going to be paying you a lot of compliments in the future, so I suggest you get used to it."
Sam giggled. "As long as you call me Howard, I won't mind so much." Sam reached out and stroked above Janet's lip. "I like this," she said.
"Your philtrum. It's very... attractive."
Janet reached up to her mouth, pushing Sam's hand out of the way. "This divot? Even though it's too deep?"
"It's not too deep. It's perfect." Sam leaned forward and touched her tongue to the small indentation before kissing Janet thoroughly. They parted on a mutual sigh of pleasure.
Lying back down against Sam's chest, Janet thought for a moment. "You call me Janet all the time now, instead of Mac, like Daniel and Jack. Can I ask why?"
Sam shrugged. "At the beginning, when I first knew you, I told myself I was worried that you'd think every time I said your name, I was thinking of her. But after a while, I realized that *I* was the one afraid to think of her. Mac was easier. Now, though, you seem like yourself. Janet. Does that make any sense?"
Janet nodded. "Sure. I hoped it was something like that."
Sam rubbed her shoulder. "I know who you are, Janet. I know you."
"I might need to hear that once in a while, if you don't mind."
"Anytime. I love you."
Janet leaned up for a kiss. "Love you." She laid her head back down, noticing in the brightness that the spider plant she'd cut back a while ago had sprouted a half dozen offshoots already reaching for the floor. It reminded her of the garden she'd always wanted to plant, if she'd only had a yard. "Now that you mention it, checking out my new digs sounds nice. Hammond gave me a set of keys last night, before Jack started buying rounds of Jello shooters for the waitresses."
Laughing, Sam replied, "I'm impressed Hammond lasted that long. I doubt he wanted to see the future head of the Gate program quite so shit faced."
"I'm sure it's nothing he hasn't seen before."
"You're right about that. Our second year holiday party, Colonel O'Neill combined beer and egg nog, and Janet got enough blackmail footage with her video camera to guarantee cooperation in getting physicals for at least six months."
"She used a video camera?" Janet was impressed. "Wow. A girl after my own heart."
"Yeah, it was great. She even picked the bathroom lock with a paper clip to catch him worshipping the porcelain god..."
"Hey, can you lift that a little higher? You're going to clip the front step if you're not careful, and if you break my new bed, I'll knock your block off," Janet said firmly.
"Yes, Ma'am," the nervous airman answered, hoisting the frame up a few more inches.
"Aw, Burnsie, your scaring the poor pup," Sam said, watching Janet work.
"He'll live," she said sarcastically. "But that bed cost me a fortune, and I want it in one piece." Glancing behind her, Janet said, "I expect you'd feel the same way."
Sam pressed her lips together briefly, trying not to grin. "Okay, you got me. It's a great bed. But why'd you get a California king?"
"You have to ask?" Janet raised her eyebrow.
Frowning for a moment, Sam thought about it. "Oh. Oh, right." She smiled. "Thanks."
"Well, it's not my fault you're so goddamned tall. I can fit fine in a double, but I don't think that would work very well."
Thinking about their antics of the past ten days, Sam agreed. "Probably not. I wish I could thank Hammond for giving you clearance to move freely away from the base."
"Me too, but that might be a bad idea."
Sam shifted gears, preferring to steer the conversation clear of romance while in the presence of a dozen military men. "The living room is already shaping up. I love the lamps you found-- where did you get them?"
"Some vintage store downtown. The guy gave me a good deal, so I'll go back when I figure out how to decorate the spare room. I'll admit, it's strange to start from scratch when trying to fill up a house. I mean, I have an *empty* basement. I don't think that's happened to me since... well, ever."
It was true; Janet had more vacant storage space than Sam could fathom. Coming empty handed to a new universe caused many problems, but having room for ancient grade school projects and overwhelming numbers of Christmas ornaments wasn't one of them. "You know, uh, my basement's still full of my dad's stuff, from before he left. I've been keeping all my things in boxes in the spare room. Since you have the space, would you mind if I moved some of them over here?"
Janet turned to her, face blank. "Are you sure?"
Sam sensed her apprehension; somehow, the idea of Sam keeping some of her things at Janet's implied a permanence to their union neither had discussed. But Sam thought maybe it might make Janet feel a little less alone if her house wasn't quite so empty. "I'm sure if you are."
Half-grinning, Janet said, "Okay then, pardner, you're on. But only if I get to look through your baby pictures and high school yearbooks, please. I'd like to see how my girl grew up."
Sam smiled and covered her forehead. "I don't know, Janet, that's asking a lot. I was kind of a... geek."
"But a gorgeous one, angel. I want to know every part of you, and that means pictures of you with Coke-bottle glasses and a retainer."
"Hey, I only wore head-gear for six months."
"Ooh, you make it sound so sexy." Janet glanced at the front door. "Hey! Watch the doorframe, Lieutenant! Don't think I won't make you do the touch up job yourself." Keeping her eyes on the lieutenant as he eased in the new breakfront, she said, "Bring your things by whenever you're ready. I can help, if you want."
"I'll get my stuff together once all your things are moved in and arranged. I don't want to complicate your set up."
Meeting Sam's eyes, Janet responded, "I don't think that's possible, Sammy. I'll always have room for you."
Janet leaned against the back of the elevator, listening to the hum of the machinery as it lifted her and Sam to the surface of the compound. Looking at Sam out of the corner of her eye, she decided now was as good a time as any to bring up what she'd been worried about. "Sam?"
"After the briefing, when I spoke to Jack, he mentioned something to me I need to tell you about."
Sam glanced at her quickly, a flash of worry skirting across her face. "Okay."
"It's not a big deal, but apparently Tethys' council contacted your dad, and they want to try again with negotiations. They felt the original decision to call everything off was made in haste, and they want to see if we can come to some kind of agreement." Janet had long felt guilt about the situation; though Tethys hadn't come right out and said anything after their argument, she suspected the end of their brief relationship had put an end to the possible treaty. "They want me, and the rest of SG-1 to be a part of it."
"Oh." Sam pushed open the front doors, holding one for Janet to come through. She said nothing more, and Janet decided she was going to pull the feelings out of her no matter what.
Sam chuckled. "Yes?"
"I don't want you to be upset about this."
"I'm not upset."
"You sound upset."
"I'm not, I'm just..." Janet waited for her to elaborate. "Okay, I'm a little upset."
"Sammy, I don't mean to presume, but you have no need whatsoever to be jealous."
"I never said I was jealous."
"Sure, but it would be only natural if you felt threatened--"
"Threatened? I could kick her ass. And I will if she tries to push you around again."
Janet felt oddly proud that Sam was so irritated, but she set that emotion aside. "Listen. The feelings I had for Tethys were my way of trying to recreate the past. It didn't work, and with good reason. I didn't love her; I loved a version of her that doesn't exist. It was a fantasy. Now, you, on the other hand, are real. You're my present and my future. And I just wanted to make sure you knew that when the talks started up again, because we're going to be involved."
"Wait a second," Sam said, as they arrived at the car. "How come O'Neill only told you?"
Janet shrugged. "I think he figured out that something went on between Tethys and I. He wasn't specific, but he said he wanted to give me a little time to get used to the idea."
"Huh. Who knew O'Neill could be so sensitive?"
"Oh stop, you know Jack's not a stupid man."
"Yeah, yeah. Hop in." Janet opened the door and slid into the seat. As she turned to fasten her safety belt, she felt Sam's hand on her cheek. "Hey."
She turned to see Sam leaning across the seat. "I'll try not to be jealous, as long as you promise not to fall in love with her."
Janet smiled. "I promise."
"Or kiss her."
"Or do anything with her involving physical contact."
Janet lurched forward and kissed her, slipping her tongue into Sam's mouth for a lengthy tangle. Finally, she pulled away, a little breathless. "Sorry, I know we're supposed to wait till we leave the grounds, but sometimes you're just too adorable to resist."
Grinning, Sam maneuvered back into her seat and started the car. "All right. I'm okay with it."
They didn't make it five feet out of the parking spot before Sam put the brakes on. "Shit."
"We have a flat."
"Thanks for the ride, Jack, I really appreciate it," Janet said.
"No problem, I'm glad I hadn't left yet. Need a lift tomorrow?"
"Nah, Sam can pick me up, can't you Sam?"
Amused at Janet's mildly suggestive tone of voice, Sam replied, "Sure, Janet. I'll call you in the morning."
"You getting a car anytime soon, Mac?"
"Once I'm a little more settled in, I'll get around to shopping for one." She opened the door and stepped out into the rain. "Thanks again, sir. Sam, call me." Janet made eyes at her, the meaning of which Sam interpreted as, *Get your ass back over here as soon as you can.* "Bye." She slammed the door, and Sam watched as she scurried up the front steps.
For some reason, the kiss they'd shared in the parking lot had whetted her appetite, and as soon as Sam had started the car, she'd had one goal in mind: to get Janet naked and in her arms as soon as possible. The obstacle of the flat tire only served to ignite Sam's desire, and when she'd found her spare was flat as well, her frustration level skyrocketed.
The ride to her own house was interminable, but she managed to stay focused enough on Jack's line of conversation so as not to be totally rude. "She sure knows how to kick butt," the colonel continued. "You think Teal'c taught her that leg sweep she used to take down Reynolds last week in training?"
"Maybe. I'll have to ask her." Janet was taking over some combat training classes, lightening Teal'c's load. She had a knack for hand-to-hand fighting, and it was fascinating to watch her demonstrate. Fascinating, and not a little alluring. Sam thought back to the image of Janet circling her prey, skin damp with perspiration, tee shirt clinging in all the right places. She'd known she ought to be watching to gain skills, but it had been impossible to ignore the swell of Janet's breasts and hips as she'd crouched and spun on the mat. Sam felt a bit like a letch, but when Janet had caught her eye after she'd downed her opponent, the dark gaze told her Janet knew exactly the effect she was having on her new lover, and she liked it. A lot. That night that followed had been a long one.
Sam shifted in her seat, crossing her legs.
"You okay, Carter?"
"Yes, sir. Just looking forward to getting out of the rain."
"You sure you don't want to grab a beer?"
"Thanks, sir, but you have fun with Daniel. I'm beat." They pulled up in front of Sam's house, and she braced herself against the wind that whipped around them "I really appreciate the ride. I did *not* want to spend the night on base just because of a flat tire."
"And a flat spare. You're slipping, Carter. What happened to the woman who changes her own oil?"
Sam laughed. "I still change my own oil, sir. The spare was a fluke."
"Yah, right, I still say you're slipping. Now get outta here and relax. No reading about weird molecules tonight, got it? That's an order, and I'm almost a General now, so I really mean it."
"Yes, sir," she mock saluted. "No work tonight, I promise. Good night."
She ran up the sidewalk and took cover under the eaves, looking over her shoulder to see Jack's truck meander down the street and turn the corner. Quickly she rushed inside, going directly to her bedroom. Clothes for the following day were thrown into a bag alongside some recent purchases, and soon she was speedily navigating the slick streets in her Mustang, a woman on a mission.
Janet had awakened her libido with a vengeance. Sam was prone to stretches of abstinence, mostly because of her job, but now that she'd had a taste of Janet's flesh, she didn't foresee any dry spells in the immediate future. Goosebumps rose on her arms as she imagined the velvet touch of skin on hers. Pulling up to Janet's house, she didn't even notice the enormous puddle she stepped in getting out of the car. Her mind was on one thing, and having it was the focus of all her energy.
Before she could even knock, the door opened to reveal Janet, still fully dressed in her fatigues. Sam practically jumped into her open arms, tossing her bag aside with one hand and shoving the door closed with the other. She lifted Janet's body and hoisted her against the wall, finding her mouth with accuracy and intent. Sam was gratified to feel powerful legs wrap around her hips, and before long, they were grinding together in a rhythm that could be mistaken for no other.
But she wanted more, and soon she slid Janet to her feet, and in one smooth move, turned her around and pressed her, face-forward, against the wall. While Janet's hands spread wide on the freshly painted surface, Sam pulled up the black shirt blocking her touch, and with one hand, flicked open the front close of Janet's bra. The other hand was busy unbuttoning green pants, and before she could even get the zipper all the way down, she shoved her hand inside. Janet's rear jerked against Sam's pelvis, and wet was all around her fingers as she combed through neatly trimmed hair to reach her goal.
Lush hips were already undulating against Sam's, and she met the pace with delight. "Inside," Janet whispered, and Sam did as she asked. With a loud groan, Janet's head snapped back against her shoulder, and the stretch of her long neck was too inviting to ignore. Sam scraped her teeth along the tendons, allowing to the sound of Janet's pleasure to fire her own. She bent over slightly to find a new angle, still caressing one of Janet's breasts to the cadence of her other hand.
Janet cried out, and suddenly another set of fingers tangled with Sam's between her thighs, encouraging them to press harder. "Yes, oh Sam, yes," Janet chanted, breath coming in short pants that said she was nearing the edge. When she craned her head and looked up, Sam kissed her, their tongues meeting gracefully despite the height difference. Then Sam felt the crush of muscle around her fingers, and Janet reared back with a howl that sent a rush of sensation through her entire body. Janet jerked in her embrace once, twice, a third time, before slumping her head against the wall, breathless.
Sam kept her hands still, heart pounding so hard it felt as though it would fly out of her chest. She waited calmly, but only moments later, Janet squirmed in her arms, pulling Sam's soaked hand from its damp haven. She twisted and dropped to her knees, tearing open the zipper of Sam's pants and pulling layers of fabric down to her knees. Instantly Janet's mouth was between her legs, and Sam braced herself against the wall, already so close she could taste it. Grunting with exertion, she looked down and met Janet's eyes. Hands gripped her hips hard enough to bruise, and she felt herself begin to crest. With a great roar, she hurtled over the precipice, and before she knew it, she was coaxed into a second explosion by unrelenting lips and tongue.
When she opened her eyes, Janet wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Mm," she said with a cheeky grin, and Sam burst out laughing. Awkwardly she fell to the floor, the pants around her knees impeding the journey. Janet tackled her and fell into her arms, wriggling to find a comfortable position in their half dressed state.
After a few moments, Sam said, "What is it with us and hallways?"
Janet cracked up. "I have no idea, but it works for me. I hung some pictures since the weekend. You like them?"
"Yeah. But um, we marked up the wall a little." She pointed with her chin, and Janet rolled over to see two sets of fingerprints, one looking distinctly damp, on the cream paint.
"Maybe no one will notice."
With a sigh, Janet raised herself up, her shirt looking strange since her bra was unfastened beneath it. "We could move this into the other room. I made a fire and everything."
"Sounds very romantic. We--"
A knock at the door interrupted her. Sam panicked, terrified that O'Neill had for some reason come back to Janet's house to check on her. "Hey," Janet said, shaking Sam out of her trance, "it's just dinner. While I was waiting for you, I ordered from that Italian place around the corner. But we should, uh, zip up I guess." Quickly they got off the floor, and Sam went to the kitchen as Janet paid the delivery person. She hoped the guy wouldn't notice the distinct smell of sex hanging in the air.
As she washed her hands, Janet came up and wrapped her arms around her. "I got that pine nut fettuccine you liked last week. Is that okay?"
Turning in Janet's arms, she replied, "Perfect." She bent for a kiss.
"That was a pretty nice way to start the evening, I'd say," Janet said, nuzzling under Sam's ear.
"Yeah..." Sam wondered if she'd been a little too aggressive. "Was it, um, did I push too much?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I didn't even say hi when I walked in the door," Sam said.
"I liked the way you said, hi, personally." She paused, before saying seriously, "Sam, I can assure you, I want you as much as you want me. Unless you hear the word 'no' come out of my mouth, I'm game. And when it comes to you, I don't think there's much I won't do," she growled, sliding her hands down to squeeze Sam's ass.
"Really. You have some ideas?"
Despite the fact that the woman looking at her had just given her a mind-blowing orgasm or two, Sam blushed. "Well, I was doing some research last week, and I... uh, bought some stuff."
Janet pressed her lips together, tiny dimples forming at the corners of her mouth. "Some stuff."
"Yeah. It's in my bag."
"Go get it. Dinner can wait."
"Don't move," Janet said, her voice low and intense.
She watched the movement of a pale throat as Sam swallowed, hands motionless above her head. "Okay."
"Shh, stay quiet, quiet as you can."
Janet's heart thudded noisily, wetness flowing freely between her thighs. She hovered over Sam, their breasts just brushing together in a way that made Janet drool faintly. Her hand traced down one long thigh, and Sam flexed the muscle unconsciously, but didn't move. Janet slid a pillow beneath her hips. "If you don't like it, tell me."
Sam nodded quickly, visibly reassured at the words. Janet knew her nerves were on edge, but only because she was heading into relatively unknown territory. She kissed Sam's knee with tenderness. "Relax, angel," Janet said slowly. "It's going to be so good."
Exhaling sharply, Sam reacted when she felt the first press of the new appendage at the vee of her legs, lifting her hips. "Be still," Janet said, and pushed, oh so leisurely, inside. Sam gripped the slats of the headboard, clearly trying her damnedest not to budge.
When Janet started to move back and forth, Sam whimpered though her lips were pressed together. Janet brushed her hair across Sam's chest, and fastened onto a nipple when the body beneath hers arched instinctively. Heat arced through her, the pressure of the toy she wore combined with Sam's subdued reactions driving her higher and higher.
Janet raised Sam's knee further, coming ever closer, a line of sweat rolling down her chest as she thrust. Meeting Sam's eyes, Janet panted wildly, finally saying, "Let me hear you, Sammy." Immediately, Sam grabbed Janet's head and pulled her down for a rough kiss, wrapping endless legs around her. She groaned continuously, and when Janet pressed a hand between their bodies at the hottest point, Sam shrieked as she jerked up, coming in a release fierce enough to spur Janet's on. She let out a shrill cry of her own, arching sharply as she peaked in an orgasm so intense it blocked out everything else.
Her body continued to thrust gently as the aftershocks thrummed through her, and gradually she came to rest atop Sam's heaving chest. Slender fingers threaded in her hair, caressing the back of her neck. Though Janet didn't want to break the spell between them, she was somewhat uncomfortable with the harness cutting into her hip. Easing back, she pulled away from Sam, who gasped softly at the loss. After pulling the straps down and off, she tossed the toy on the floor and reclaimed the spot she'd abandoned. One hand found its place between lean, muscular thighs, and she pressed a kiss to Sam's sternum. "Love you," she whispered, and smiled when she heard Sam echo the words. Once settled, she listened to the beat of the cherished heart under her ear, and closed her eyes to the sound of rain.
Half asleep, Sam pressed her nose against warm, sweet flesh, tucking in so her forehead was flush with the nape of Janet's neck. She smelled so good, and her lush body was smooth and soft beneath her hands.
Someone nudged Sam's back. She ignored it-- no one else was in the house. Eventually she felt the prod again, like a finger pushing at her hip. Squinting against the light on the sidetable that apparently she'd forgotten to turn off, she looked over her shoulder.
Janet sat on the bed, her back up against the headboard, legs crossed casually at the ankles. She wore a labcoat, stethoscope, regular uniform and those ridiculous heels she'd worn every day, up until the last...
"Janet?" Sam said, rolling over slightly, her right arm still trapped under a warm body. "I mean, Janet?"
Silently, Dream Janet-- for she could only be a dream-- smirked at her, an eyebrow mischievously rising as she took in the scene. "Lucky girl," Dream Janet said, her voice knowing.
With a sigh, Sam replied, "I know I am."
Dream Janet leaned to hover over Sam. "I didn't mean you, silly."
Sam couldn't help but smile, sadness welling up in her. "I miss you every day, Janet."
So slowly as to seem unnatural, Dream Janet's hand rose up and pressed to Sam's sternum, above her heart. "I'm with you, Sam. Always," she whispered. Heat spread from that place on her chest, as though Janet's hand was literally sinking beneath her skin and stretching out inside her body. "Always."
Sam jerked, her eyes flying open. Her face was still pressed against Janet's damp neck, and she felt the body in her arms shift to look back. Janet squinted as she glanced back. "You okay, angel? God, I didn't even notice we left the light on."
"We must have." Janet blinked, then peered more closely at Sam through slitted eyelids. "You have a funny look on your face."
"I-- I had a dream. About Janet."
Knowing instantly what she meant, Janet turned over in Sam's arms to face her, propping her head up on one hand. "What happened?"
Sam swallowed. "I felt something nudging me awake, and I turned over and she was sitting right there, on the edge of the bed."
Nodding once to encourage her, Janet said, "Okay."
"She said she was with me, and pressed her hand inside my chest, under the skin."
"Oh... Well, did it hurt?"
"No. It was strange-- like heat spreading out in every direction. It felt... nice. Like she was still here."
Janet pressed her hand to that exact space on Sam's breastbone. "She is here."
Her heart pounded against the gentle hand, the similarity of the present mingling with the dream still fresh in her mind. "I love you," Sam said simply.
"Love you. Always."
Janet opened her eyes. Lines of sweat dripped down her temples, and again she marveled at the heat the room took on as they meditated. She wondered how long she'd been out; there wasn't a clock around for her to check.
Not a minute later, as if he sensed her awareness, Teal'c emerged from his meditation calmly, blinking once. "You are improving. It has been almost thirty-seven minutes."
Slightly taken aback, Janet frowned. "Are you sure?"
Eyebrow raised, she wiped her face with a cloth, not bothering to ask how he knew. "That's my longest session yet."
"Correct. How do you feel?"
Pausing, Janet thought about it. "Great. Refreshed, but a little tired."
"As you should be. It is late; you should be preparing to depart with Colonel Carter."
"You're right, but I'm not supposed to meet her till 7, so I have a few minutes."
Teal'c watched her. "You have changed much since your arrival here, Janet."
"You think so?"
"I do. You are better able to channel your aggression. You have also achieved a state of tranquility I did not expect. You are at peace."
Janet smiled. "I am."
"I believe it is the love you share with Colonel Carter that has allowed you to find this peace."
Janet looked down, realizing she shouldn't have been surprised that Teal'c had sensed the change between herself and Sam. It certainly made things easier for her not to have to explain things. "You're right, Teal'c. I love her very much."
"And she loves you."
He nodded again. "Long ago, I often wondered what prevented Colonel Carter from becoming involved with Colonel O'Neill. Over the past months, I have come to believe she was waiting for you."
Janet blinked, the intensity of his sentiment sending chills through her body. She'd thought herself, many times, that fate had delivered her into Sam's waiting arms, but to have another person believe it was almost too much to handle. She shook off her bout of shivers and said, "I hope you're right, Teal'c. I am concerned about one thing though. Will it affect SG-1 as a team?"
She waited for him to elaborate. "Um, is that a good yes or a bad yes?"
"You and Colonel Carter keep no secrets, is this true?" Janet nodded in agreement. "You hide nothing; you desire only to protect. As your friends, Daniel Jackson and I feel the same towards you and Colonel Carter-- we would do anything to protect you. I do not think such affection will harm us, and in fact, will only help us be more productive as a unit."
Relief flooded Janet. "I'm very glad you feel that way, Teal'c."
"As I am pleased you have found a mate, Janet. Colonel Carter is a worthy partner, and I believe you will share a long and happy life together."
She laughed nervously. "We've just begun a deeper relationship, Teal'c."
"That is no matter. You love as one."
The words echoed out of the past, taking on a new meaning. "Yes. As one."
"Hey," Sam said, coming up to walk alongside Janet.
"Hey," Janet replied, tilting her head sideways with the half-smile that made Sam want to kiss her.
"Did you, uh, talk to Teal'c?" She admitted only to herself that she was anxious about Teal'c's reaction.
Sam sighed. "And?"
"He already knew."
"Yep." They turned the corner, heading for the elevator. "What about Daniel?" Janet asked.
"I had a hard time keeping him from bouncing off the walls, he was so happy."
Janet chuckled. "Wow. That was a lot easier than I was expecting."
"I know!" Daniel had been more accepting than she could have hoped; he seemed to think they truly belonged together. "He wants us to have dinner some time, off base."
Glancing at her, Janet nodded. "I'd love it."
Sam gathered her courage to tell Janet the thing that had been bothering her most. "I realized something when I was looking at the calendar earlier." Janet waited. "Cassie's coming home in a few weeks. She knows about you, about your presence on the base, I mean, but not about this. Us."
Janet nodded. "Do you want her to know?"
"I think so. I don't want to lie to her. But it might be strange for her to meet you. I'm not sure if I want to tell her about us right away, if that's okay."
"Whatever makes this easier, Sam. We'll go at the pace you're comfortable with. You're the closest thing to a mother she has now, and the last thing I want to do is cause trouble. You've both suffered enough."
"You won't cause trouble, Janet. But I'll admit, I'm nervous."
"With good reason. Let's get the over the hump of us meeting, and then we'll worry about everything else, okay?"
""Kay," Sam said, relieved she'd gotten the idea off her chest. "So, what do you want to do tonight?"
Janet shrugged. "Don't know."
"Have anything in mind?"
As they stepped into the elevator, Janet replied, "Doesn't matter, as long as I'm with you."
They stood side by side against the lift wall, and Sam nudged her with an elbow. "You're too much."
Brown eyes met Sam's, wide and honest. "It's true, Sam. I don't care what we do if we're together."
"That's funny," Sam said. Janet trailed after her as the elevator doors opened. "I feel the same way."
Sam's grin was matched by Janet's sweet smile, and walking out into the world, they were embraced by the fragrant warmth of a summer night.
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